Haste Podcast: Penny Arcade Switches to Pathfinder, Dungeon A Day, D&D Secrecy.

[Episode 26]


New campaign of the month is here, and a new comic so check them out! Also, be sure to send us any topics you’d like to see us cover – get them in front of us any way you want and we’ll try and cover them!


Dungeon A Day Closes Down

Recently, some more bad tidings have come to the land of RPG’s. Hate to follow up bad news from last week (HERO), with more bad news this week but there it is. Sounds like Monte Cook handed the site over to Super Genius games back in 2010, but financially it’s not working out so they have to abandon ship. Keep in mind this is just for Dungeon A Day and not Super Genius games entirely. Sit will remain up until at least April of 2012.

Penny Arcade Switches to Pathfinder

So in case you haven’t heard, the guys at Penny Arcade have switched to Pathfinder. Dedicating a series of blog posts, and 7 comics to the topic so this is huge, not only for Paizo but WotC as well. They explain that the game was fun but as it goes on it becomes mechanically dysfunctional and they also found that their players were focusing far too much on the power cards instead of interacting with each other and the world around them.

Premise Concealment and the Overvaluation of Secrecy

Robin Laws gives us a short blog post about the roots of Secrecy in tabletop gaming that of course, tie all the way back to D&D. Micah and I discuss secret doors and more, and does everything in gaming need to be so secret?

Tip Corner

Keep all the XP for the various players on a single wiki page. Every time XP is awarded, update the page. Make sure you track the following:

  • XP for each player
  • The last time the page was updated (ie. ‘this is up-to-date as of Dec 12’)
  • If you’re diligent, it can become the de-facto XP listing. If your players have a discrepancy on their sheet, unless they have a good excuse then what is on the XP page is the law.

Twitter Question

@SupersaijinKyle asks: Do you prefer creating your own world for a game or would you rather take a campaign setting and carve your own niche in it?

Listen to find out!

Music Credits | Intro: “Prelude” ~ LukHash | Outro: “Stande Alone” ~ LukHash |

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  1. To add to “you need to bash clues over the characters’ heads” :

    Totally. It’s been my experience playing and running that players (including me) will not pick up on the clues and details that the GM feels are obvious. The game world exists mostly in the minds of the GM and players, so there are going to be differences in how each person sees things. On top of this, the players can only hold so much data in mind at once, so lesser details (and even important ones) will be quickly forgotten. GMs need to be straightforward to keep players on track.

    • Perception of the game world is always an issue, and the more I play the more I lean towards this school of thought. The important clues should be obvious, not gamestopping. Throw in a dash of something extra, if someone misses it – oh well. But when that happens we’re right back at “why bother putting this in?” Which directs back to the philosophy expressed below by Jeff, to which I totally agree as well.

  2. You know…it’s funny that you mention “secrets” in dungeons in this podcast. I can see your point, but the flip side to this is Gary G’s (as in Gygax) outlook on secrets in a game. It’s a bit more selfish (or maybe selfless when you consider the work that goes into it), but also holds a promise of accomplishment. (take Lost Temple to Tharizdun as an example)

    Gary used to build all sorts of very difficult-to-find pieces into his modules and games. When he was asked about that specific practice he said (paraphrasing here) that they were rewards for player’s diligence and out-of-the-box thinking. I get that. I like the idea in concept. But in play? I’m iffy.

    You’ve got to admit though, being rewarded for that type of diligence is one of the coolest feelings in the game as a player. It’s certainly rare…But when it happens? Very cool.

    BTW, I like the podcast guys. Just about a “lunch” long…brief and entertaining. Nice job.

    • Thanks for listening, and commenting, we’re really glad you’re enjoying the podcast!

      I do agree with you on the special little tidbits, the little diamonds in the rough that get found really do make it feel awesome to be a player. I’ve had a few of those moments myself, always something you’ll remember. Its just the big clues and things that need to be present to move the story forward that need to be blatantly obvious, IMO. Otherwise things just get drug out to the point that no one is having fun around the table.

    • I also like the idea in theory, but I’ve never seen it executed all that well. Maybe Gary G could do it, but I surely can’t.

      It seems like the kind of thing that would work well in published adventures, where someone else goes to all the trouble of laying out the dungeon and the GM just picks it up off the shelf and flips through it. If the players miss something, oh well, no big deal.

      Or, if dungeon design and puzzling out all kinds of traps and such is really fun for you, then go for it. But, if you’re at all like me, and want to only spend your GM prep time on things that will get used, be aware that secret doors and such are often just a time suck.

  3. I love the art of game mastering and the current crop of podcasts that keep me thinking is wonderful. Thank you for your own offering, here.

    I have to argue that secret doors don’t have to be wasted work. Players might entirely fail to discover an area, but that doesn’t mean that area couldn’t be recycled in another location. Alternatively, if there is something behind that door specific to the adventure, merely in theme or in revelations necessary for completing the scenario, then the GM has a responsibility to manipulate details on the fly. You don’t have to succumb to arbitrary design where the players’ rolls mean nothing because you’re railroading them toward a desired goal. You just need to be flexible on occasion.

    Let’s say a secret door’s discovery is integral to your campaign. Players can’t travel through 3 miles of catacombs making new search checks every 30 feet. As a GM you can’t rely on discoveries in that manner; you have to provide hints. There could be a draft, tracks in the dust, sounds emanating from beyond, any easily noticeable clue that can be woven into your narrative. Those clues should interest your players, nudging them toward a closer look and the chance to think as their character.

    Player intuition should never be compared with a character’s perception of the game world. Characters should always be given the benefit of the doubt in regard to their capabilities. When a ranger or detective or time agent is skilled at grasping new information that you are itching to disseminate, the players should be prompted by your description of the scene.

  4. I’m currently running Gary Gygax’s Temple of Elemental Evil and although I do follow the use what is written and mess with it rule of DM’ing I’ve noticed that the secret doors usually aren’t the only way to get to a location (there are usually many secret doors or other ways to get to the same area). The secret doors in ToEE are often used as escape exits for monsters, or ways to loop around and flank the party without the players noticing. Diligent or lucky players may find these secret doors and be ambushed less often, but usually the secret doors aren’t there to be found by the PC’s. They are there to be used by the monsters who inhabit the dungeon.

  5. “Player intuition should never be compared with a character’s perception of the game world. Characters should always be given the benefit of the doubt in regard to their capabilities. When a ranger or detective or time agent is skilled at grasping new information that you are itching to disseminate, the players should be prompted by your description of the scene.”
    This is a great statement, and I agree completely! We, as game masters, are the ones to prod, cajole, and yes, sometimes sledgehammer points- our perception is not universal.