How to Moderate a Role-Playing Game, Part 2: Supplies

By Jordan Campbell, Director of Game Development, Flying NightBear Games

Follow this series of blog posts on moderating a role-playing game, with specifics about Beyonder. Your own fantastic adventures lie ahead!

Before you get started, you need to have the right gear.  Here are some of the essentials for moderating a game, as well as a few extras that are nice to have.

  • Lots of extra scrap paper and pencils.  A sharpener wouldn’t hurt either.
  • Your own copy of the rules, either physical or digital.  For Beyonder that is Beyonder: The Science of the Six.  Your players may have their own copies but you should probably have your own on hand.  My copy has frequently used pages marked with sticky tabs for quick reference.
  • Your own copy of the bestiary, either physical or digital.  For Beyonder that is Imbehnhi’s Bestiary: Being a Traveler’s Account of Our Continent and Her Creatures.  Generally your players should not have a copy with them unless their characters have knowledge of the creatures.  Eventually your players will likely come to know most of the creatures in the world, at which point they will have to make a conscious decision to separate their knowledge from their character’s knowledge — but if they don’t have access that will put that issue off for a while at least.
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    An early version of a character sheet

    Character sheets for any other creatures you plan to have appear in your adventure.  They can be non-player characters (NPCs) or creatures, either from the Bestiary or ones you have made up.  Follow the link for a printable Beyonder character sheet.  You can also look at the Play page on our main website which has more information on how to put together a character sheet.

  • Sometimes it is helpful to have a list of some of your players’ key Talents; you might want to make a roll on their behalf without their knowledge.  This might include Perception to see if they notice something, Insight to notice if someone is lying, Scholarship to check if they would recognise the significance of something, and Luck just in case.  If you really want to keep your players on their toes, you can get in the habit of making rolls at random intervals so they don’t know which ones are real.
  • Maps, maps, maps!  It is really helpful to have visual aids, especially in situations such as combat, where spacing matters.  A map can be anything from a quick sketch on the back of a napkin to a series of table-sized charts, drawn in fine detail and to scale, and added to for years (as was the case with the original Beyonder maps).  It is often helpful to make your maps on graph paper and to create a standardized scale that you use throughout your games.  Another fun thing to do if you are having your players repeatedly explore parts of the same place is to have a master copy of the maps for yourself and to have the players create and keep their own maps as they explore.
  • Tracking Wheels are nice for complex situations and when timing matters.  In Beyonder we have a printable Tracking Wheel for keeping track of the play order and the amount of time that passes before an action resolves.  
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    Choose some small objects to keep track of where players are. (These are from the early days of Beyonder!)

    How do you keep track of where people are on the map and tracking wheels?  Tokens of some sort are very helpful.  I like to have two tokens for each player, one for the map and one for the tracking wheel.  Ideally this is small object or figure that the player uses each time.  Some of the markers used by early Beyonder players included small sea shells, cufflinks, pewter figurines, and animals carved out of wood, and even pieces from unused board games.  Start collecting little objects now and you will have enough in no time.  It is also good to have extras to represent NPCs and other creatures.

There is a lot more to this whole Moderator gig than this, but we will take a brief pause for now and let you digest it all.  

 

Coming soon: How to Moderate a Role-Playing Game: Part 3, How to Lie Well

GERC: Non-Guild Energetic Investigation (NGEI)

The NGEI is an important branch of the GERC, but it is kept relatively quiet; while it is not an official secret, most people outside of the GERC have no idea it exists. The NGEI’s job is to study and classify the so-called “magic” performed by Sorcerers, and to track the various sorcerer sects that still exist scattered throughout Tamarra.

A century ago, as the 4900s just began, the NGEI was on a course to eliminating sorcery completely, due to an extreme wing in Frestehal that was attempting mass extermination of sorcerers. Decades after this cultural genocide began, they had whittled the magic-using population of Tamarra to a fraction of what it used to be. The focus of the NGEI today is  almost entirely thanks to Landra Farrier, a human Charismatic who quietly opposed this extremist Guild-led extermination. Farrier argued that because the Sorcerers’ population was so well controlled, the Guilds would be better served keeping the small remaining population alive for study. Surely the “savages” could turn up useful Energetic knowledge that the “civilized” Guilds could appropriate for themselves.

Landra knew that if she was too vocal in her opposition to – as she repeatedly called it – “the obscene atrocities committed by the Guilds in Frestehal,” she could end up in prison, or worse. She spent decades of her life organizing and running a system of support networks and hiding places for sorcerers, keeping them one step ahead of the most extreme Guild factions. Farrier also occupied an important position within the task force set on eliminating the sorcerers, gaining her information from the inside.

Years later, the NGEI have kept the spirit of Farrier’s mission alive. They study magic-using cultures anthropologically and Energetically, gleaning what knowledge they can from them, but they also keep this information staunchly out of other hands – except, of course, for the watchful discretion of Acquisitions & Archival. While rumors say that the NGEI’s libraries include specific spells and rituals of some power, their most valuable assets are undoubtedly information. The NGEI has collected data – so the whispers go – on the inner turnings of the Law that lives in Naldrin, a kind of “law elemental” that arose as the result of centuries of bureaucracy so intricate that it became its own, vast, sorcerous ritual. They also have some information on the geography of continents that supposedly exist beyond the spines of the oceans – information which they may possibly share with the Sojourners. The locations of sorcerers’ tribes, or anything else that could be used to harm them, are kept under lock and key.

The current division head of the NGEI is Terma Lanchet, a human Mystic who is perhaps more beloved than any other division head. Her researchers have nothing but love for her; she runs a tight administrative ship, and manages to keep the RDG pleased with the non-growth of sorcerous tribes while assiduously avoiding any violence against them.

How to Moderate a Role-Playing Game, Part 1: the Basics

by Jordan Campbell, Director of Game Development, Flying NightBear Games

Follow this series of blog posts on moderating a role-playing game, with specifics about Beyonder.  Your own fantastic adventures lie ahead!

Moderating is Key!

Got your character? Your Powers? Your friends seated around the table? Ready to play? Not quite! Your adventure would slam to a halt without a Moderator.

Beyonder test play

Playing Beyonder with some friends

We at Flying Nightbear Games have spent many years (decades even) creating the world of Beyonder and making it as complete and immersive as we could.  The vast majority of our products are directed toward supporting the Player Characters (PCs) as they explore the world of Beyonder —  but there is another key member of your gaming team: the Moderator.

Moderators play a crucial role any Beyonder game (you may have heard this role called a game master or dungeon master in some other games).  They breathe life into the world that your characters inhabit, and they serve as your guide through and connection to that world.  Whether you are a seasoned gamer or totally new to the RPG genre, the role of the moderator is always the most challenging, but also the most rewarding.  So, how do you moderate?  And more importantly, how can you do it well?  Let’s explore this challenge together…

What’s the Point?

The main thing to keep in mind when playing Beyonder (or any RPG for that matter) is that it is a game.  Unlike many games you have played, the goal of this game is not to win.  In fact the only way to “win” the game is to have a good time playing it.  

What exactly a “good time” means can look very different depending on who’s in your group.  For some people, a light-hearted game where emphasis is put on creativity, rather than being a stickler for every rule, might be the best way to play.  Or maybe what floats your boat is meticulously calculating the chances of success and figuring out the ideal combination of Powers to become extra mighty.  Usually the sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle, but it is up to the Moderator to set the tone and adjust to fit the needs of the group.  Feel out your players and ask for feedback as you go.

Study Up!

As the Moderator it is often, but not always, your job to be an expert.  On what, you ask?  On just about everything.  You need to know the rules and the setting, and all the people, creatures, locations, and history of the whole world.  To learn this, you should read the rulebook (Beyonder: The Science of the Six) at least once.  We tried to make it fun and interesting, so we hope you will enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it.  You should get to know the cosmology of the world and the setting, at least around the area where your adventures will take place.  You should get acquainted with the creatures of the world, or at least the ones that you plan on using for now.

That sounds like a lot of work.  Luckily, you have a rule up your sleeve that will solve all of your problems:  the Moderator is always right.  The FNB Games team has worked to make the inner workings of Beyonder clear and consistent, as well as to provide a ton of background on the planet Ethem, the continent of Tamarra, and many locations on the continent including Tarnath, Naldrin City, and Jowea.  Everything about the game has been carefully worked out and tested for balance in ways that may not be apparent at first look.  That said, if after careful consideration you decide to deviate from canon, that is fine.  If you want to make up your own creatures, do it.  If you want to make up your own cities, do it.  If you want to change a rule, do it.  And if your players say you’re doing it wrong, just remind them: the Moderator is always right.

Modern Top RPG games and Off the Rails System of a Table Top Game

Modern top rpg games offer a lot in terms of gameplay and visuals as well as audio and immersion. Most people often forget that before all the graphics and all the magic, it started with the simple table top game. Table top games required the imagination of the people playing the game as well as dedication in the immersion and the retention of the character. Table top games lasted for a long time, and fostered closeness within players. Continue reading

GERC: The Sojourners

The Sojourners are a kind of meta-division within the GERC, a group that blends a touch of scout and cartographer with a dash of masochistic derring-do. They recruit from all other disciplines, Guilds, and fields of research so that they can effectively investigate all types of phenomena.

The Sojourners are named for exploration, and they use a variety of approaches. This can mean mapping out the continent, or accompanying other researchers to Strange & Far Away Lands. It sometimes means plumbing the depths of Ethem’s lung (one of the many “organs” that are responsible for natural phenomena across the hibernating creature that is our planet), going into the woods to find out who made that horse the size of a barn, or inspecting the strange Sorcerous qualities that seem to be embedded in the laws in Naldrin.

It is in large part because of the Sojourners that maps exist of the oceanic spines, vast tracts of turbulent Six-State Energetic “storms” that span unbroken from south to north in the oceans on either side of Tamarra. These spines have been Tamarra’s barriers to the known world for millennia, as they prevent any ships or other vehicles from passing them. The Sojourners constructed Energetic dampening vessels that allowed them to ride the (extraordinarily dangerous) outskirts of the western and eastern spines over the course of about one month.

The information that the Sojourners collected on the Energetic signatures contained within the spines are not a matter of public record, but they did release maps of the spines’ back-and-forth wendings as part of their public cartographic archives. Many people on Tamarra considered the spines the borders of the worlds, and why wouldn’t they have? But everything changed when the Nulentians attacked. This invasion of an unknown race from the seas to the east made a lot of people question their conception of what the world was – and that is a story for another day.

The head of the Sojourners is Lihanu, a heolas Mystic/Umbrist whose name translates to “The Half-Lit Moon.” While hsur* ageless heolas face would never show it, Lihanu is supposedly quite old – perhaps over 100 – and has traveled to a distant northern plateau beyond the Icy Wastes, a place known as Ethem’s plexus. Few have traveled to the plexus, but it is rumored to be a place where Tamarra meets with eight other continents.  If true, this might allow for travel to other parts of the world without having to circumvent the spines.

* The gender-neutral pronoun used for heola.

The Functioning of the Guilds

The Guilds, which teach Channels how to master The Six Energies, are one of the most powerful forces on the Tamarran continent. While they largely stay out of mundane politics, they are still a massive organization, and require a good deal of structure just to run.

While many think of The Guilds as one monolithic entity, they are actually six separate organizations, each with some unique traditions and rules, under one umbrella. However, in the interest of Energetic research, and of supporting all Channels across the continent, The Six Guilds have established ways of working together (described below), and consistently showing a united front.

Guild Governance

The Guilds of the Continent are governed by a central body known as The Guild Council, made up of six individuals who are the head of their respective Guild.  They operate out of the Central Guildhouse in Tarnath, and meet with each other on a biweekly basis (or more frequently, when necessary).

The Guild Council is also supported by an Advisory Board and an extensive staff of wards. Wards (sometimes called “foundlings”) comprise most of the non-channels in the Guild structure. They come from all of the Ten Races (and sometimes other species, as well), and are generally brought into the Guilds at an early age and given training and education. There has been some controversy over the practice of taking in these wards. Some charge the Guilds with forcible abduction and brainwashing, while others contend that most of these individuals are orphans or otherwise abandoned and lost children, who are given opportunity far beyond what their lot in life would have otherwise offered. But this is a discussion for another day.

Within each individual Guild a head Channel has top authority, making all necessary decisions.

Funding

Each local guildhouse is responsible for collecting tithes and other sources of income from individual members, with the regional guildhouses ensuring collection from these guilds themselves. They then pass on this funding to the Guild Central Council, which allocates the money. Some of this funding goes towards special departments, such as the GERC and the Aegis of The Six, but the majority of it is divided evenly amongst The Six Guilds.

Research

Since each Guild specializes in one Energy, research efforts are primarily handled by each Guild individually, with cross-Energetic research projects being the province of the Guild Energetic Research Coalition. (See previous blogs for a more in-depth discussion of the GERC.)

Security

Security is also a shared matter for the Guilds. Guildhouses are generally built together — either in one building, in the case of smaller locales, or in a single large compound, for more important centers.

The Guilds make use of Energetic effects in their security, and depending on their size and importance, Guildhouses are assigned security forces from the Aegis of The Six — often a number of combat-specialized Somans and Evokers, supplemented by Mentarchs specializing in detection. Some guildhouses also provide their own security personnel, drawn from member volunteers. All Guildhouses have at least some non-Channel guards (drawn from the Guild’s wards) dedicated to their security. These guards, too, are members of the Aegis of The Six.

The Central Guildhouses are also the home base of the Enforcers, making them some of the safest places on the Continent.