Monday, July 14, 2014

An introduction to Geomancer's Dungeon

Last week, I wrapped up the first installment in the Jade Regent adventure path, and wanted to pass along some of the things I did to make the game work for my gaming group, Geomancer's Dungeon.

I'll start by describing our group's gaming style and the room we play in, so the rest makes sense.

We have seven people in our gaming group: all male, all adults, ranging in age from late twenties to mid-sixties. Everyone has extensive years of gaming experience. We have gamed together with this team since June 2011, but have played in other campaigns together since, in some individual cases, as far back as 1995. Many of us played ICE's Rolemaster up until 2011, when we made the switch to D20/Pathfinder.

We play in the basement of a single academic in his mid-sixties. His name is George, hence the name of our group: Geomancer's Dungeon. We've been gaming at George's since around 2004, and since then, he's rennovated the room to suit our needs. Our DM screen is an old tool bench with a flat-screen mounted on one side so players can see stuff from the computer, and another monitor and keyboard raised above a desk where DMs can put stuff. We are very, very spoiled.


The Geomancer himself, back in 2005, the year of the big renovation.
The room is filled with shelves, which are filled with map packs, flipmats, Dwarven Forge, cardstock models, prepainted, unpainted, and painted minis, and sundry fantasy knick nacks.

There are a ton more figures on these shelves now, and they are never this well-organized once a campaign is under way.

The computer is mostly there for running Combat Manager, which has changed the face of gaming for me. I use Combat Manager to make combat move fast. Fast combat means more time for roleplaying, and my group loves to roleplay. If you need some tips on Faster Combat, take Johnn Four's online course. It is also a game changer.

Our style of gaming is cinematic - we talk about our gaming sessions like they are episodes of a season of television: "The ratings just shot up," or "the fans won't like that." Since I ran a Freeport campaign from 2011-2012, we've begun our games with "opening credit music." It's a way to focus everyone's attention. No one talks during the credits - they focus on getting into character. We also have a system called "reshoot," where we can take back a roleplay moment by "reshooting the scene." We don't do it a ton, but it's helpful when you have a "should have done that" moment.

We use minis and battle maps whenever we can, but don't rely on them exclusively. They just make the question of "am I in the room?" or "where am I in relation to the giant bear?" superfluous.


I have run gaming music since as far back as 1991, the year Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves came out. That was our gaming music back in the 90s, but since then, technology has allowed me to be more sophisticated with how I bring soundtracks to the room. I'll post about that next week, as it is a conversation unto itself, and can best be related by me telling you what I used for the Jade Regent campaign (which was one of the biggest preparatory challenges). We have a devoted stereo in the gaming room, and the sound is controlled from iPhones, iPads, or the computer itself. I used the computer for this campaign, as I was combining soundtrack with ambient noise from a site called ambient-mixer.com.

We bought the entire adventure path for Jade Regent late last Spring, while we were running another campaign where we played through a bunch of Pathfinder society scenarios and stand-alone modules, rotating GMs every new scenario or module. Since I stopped being in that rotation in May 2013, I was able to spend six months prepping to run the first Jade Regent module, The Brinewall Legacy. Six months to prepare for a campaign is a gift. A beautiful gift.

It took us 13 sessions with approximately three hours each game to complete The Brinewall Legacy. We game bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and started in January of 2014. As with our Pathfinder scenario campaign in 2013, we will rotate GM duties between 5 of the 7 players. It's the first time we've tried to complete an entire Paizo Adventure Path, and it will be interesting to see how the rotation works out. Inasmuch as running the Brinewall Legacy has been one of the most fulfilling GMing experiences I've had in my 30+ years behind the screen, I'm looking forward to being a PC again for awhile. With our rotation, I won't be back in the GM's seat for at least a year, possibly two, which is why I want to take the opportunity to share what I learned for those who are planning to run the Jade Regent campaign.

So next post, I'll tell you about the first step I take when preparing for a game: constructing a playlist of background music!