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Which Kid Touches the Giant Robot?

Three kids are playing in the woods when they stumble upon a towering metal figure, sprawled in a crater. Who will touch it first? There are dares and double-dares, scuffles, poking sticks, and finally double-dog dares, until one kid reaches out a trembling hand to touch the shining metal figureā€¦ and disappears. Long before I […]

Ben Robbins | September 13th, 2021 | , , , | 1 comment

Grand Experiments: Bloody Morder

I’ve seen strangely proud GM’s say “oooh that game was so intense a character jumped off a cliff to escape THE HORROR!” But here’s my question: the player is deciding what the character does, so is that player responding to the fiction or the GM? Is this the dramatic moment of despair the GM proudly […]

Ben Robbins | April 2nd, 2020 | , ,

West Marches: Layers of History

“Run the simulation in your head: who moved here, what did they build, what happened to them, and then what came next?” Logic is the cornerstone of a sandbox. If things make sense — if there’s an internal consistency to what’s there and where things are — then players can make good decisions. Paying attention […]

Ben Robbins | June 29th, 2018 | | 8 comments

West Marches: Secrets & Answers (part 1)

Writing about world-building in the expansion to Microscope got me thinking about West Marches again (more on that in part 2), so I’m taking a break from my kickstarter to answer some questions that have piled up. Some of these ideas I’ve mentioned before but never elaborated on. Other bits are things I’ve never talked […]

Ben Robbins | July 27th, 2015 | | 32 comments

Dear West Marches

I came to Wizard’s Creek, but there was no wizard I went to Pike Hollow, but I didn’t see any pikes I looked in the Golden Hills, but I didn’t find any gold So why the hell did you expect me to know there was a centaur in Centaur Grove? –pre-emptive euology of Revor, barbarian […]

Ben Robbins | July 23rd, 2015 | | 1 comment

Grand Experiments: Eclipse is a Robot!

“You are members of a shadowy government conspiracy to assassinate the President and derail the proceedings to have the US join the League of Allied Nations. To do this you have tracked down and taken control of an experimental weapon created by a secret government project.” “Due to a glitch this device believes it is […]

Ben Robbins | May 5th, 2009 | , , , | 4 comments

Not So Grand Experiments: the Battle of Chuck E. Cheese (part 2)

(continued from part 1, of course) We’re told that the premise of the scenario is that our two teams have boarded an abandoned freighter and are vying to gain control. The goal is simple: wipe out the other team and you win. Theoretically this is only the first scenario and we may play through others […]

Ben Robbins | November 21st, 2008 | , | 9 comments

Not So Grand Experiments: the Battle of Chuck E. Cheese

I’ve said it before: bad games are often more educational than successful games, and if that’s the case it stands to reason that catastrophic failures can be downright enlightening. Games like the Battle of Chuck E. Cheese. I wasn’t the GM this time just a player, and not even a regular player, just a one-time […]

Ben Robbins | November 20th, 2008 | , , | 2 comments

Grand Experiments: We’ll always have Lorngard

As far as grand experiments go this one was pretty short: one game session in the middle of an ongoing campaign. Even though the experimental part was over pretty quickly it became a sounding board for the characters for years to come. Like swinging a hammer at a vase, it all happens pretty fast but […]

Ben Robbins | May 27th, 2008 | , , , | 2 comments

West Marches: Running Your Own

Alarming fact: brave GMs all over the place are taking up the torch and starting their own West Marches games. Scary isn’t it? I’ve already had some private email conversations about how one would actually build and run a West Marches of their very own. Maybe you’ve got the bug too. Early symptoms include a […]

Ben Robbins | May 12th, 2008 | , | 313 comments

Not So Grand Experiments: Dream Cantos

A wizard discovers a strange tome with tales of adventures in far off lands. When he sleeps that night, he finds himself transported to those lands and confronted with those adventures. But he need not face them alone, for faithful companions from far and wide are summoned in their dreams to stand by his side… […]

Ben Robbins | January 24th, 2008 | , | 2 comments

The Enemy Within

Heaps of games have one big thing in common: the player characters wind up being a team because it’s easiest to run a game if they stick together and are on the same side. Genre or not, it’s the result of the pure logistics of having people at the table. But what if instead of […]

Ben Robbins | January 21st, 2008 | | 2 comments

Grand Experiments: West Marches (part 4), Death & Danger

As I’ve said before (and any of the players will tell you) West Marches was dangerous by design. Danger encourages teamwork because you have to work together to survive. It also forces players to think: if they make bad decisions they get wiped out, or at least “chased into the swamp like little sissy girls” […]

Ben Robbins | December 9th, 2007 | , , | 34 comments

Grand Experiments: West Marches (part 3), Recycling

Did you read part 1 and part 2 already? No? Go do that. Running frequent on-demand games is a lot of work, but because the campaign was set in a fixed region there were ways I could maximize the reusability of some material I prepared. Recycled Maps: Evolving Dungeons Maps were a good example — […]

Ben Robbins | October 26th, 2007 | , , | 10 comments

Grand Experiments: West Marches (part 2), Sharing Info

Players sharing information was a critical part of the West Marches design. Because there was a large pool of players, the average person was in about a third of the games — or to look it the other way, each player missed two-thirds of the games. Add in that each player was in a random […]

Ben Robbins | October 22nd, 2007 | , , | 15 comments