Ryan McRae

Ryan McRae

Creator of Burn the Tavern Down.
Bringing Creativity Back to Gaming.

BTTD: #5

tl;dr: Hostages, Game Nights, A Little Pocket Notebooks, A Secret Announcment

Situations Rarely Felt in RPGs: Hostages.

I’ve been watching a grip of the TV show Homeland. In the show (not a spoiler, it’s been out too long—you had your chance) there is a hostage situation.

It got me thinking. How do you handle a hostage situation in a fantasy realm? I guess your fighter that usually is first in a fight has to take a backseat—and your wizard’s combat spells have to be tucked away.

Can a rogue get away with a rescue?

Can your cleric get some help from the gods? Can a druid summon use creatures of the woods to assist?

Who is taking hostages? An orc? A goblin? An evil cleric? Why can’t they go to their fellow evil comprades? Do they want to defect? Did they screw something up and this is their last ditch effort?

Who is taken hostage? A helpless member of royalty? A rich merchant? It makes a difference on how your characters will react and what they get out of it.

This puts your characters in a situation that gives them real consequences if they screw it up. They have a countdown and if they miss it—it’s not a great situation.

Maybe the goblins need some arcane item and your characters have to fetch it. But what your characters didn’t know is that the goblins are trying to appease some bigger bad person with whatever they have to get, so if your characters screw up the goblin thing they have another thing to worry about. If they deliver the item, then they have a bigger thing to worry about. I know, right?

Try to take a step away from the dungeon crawl and try something with a big, big time constraint like a hostage situation. Let the sweat commence.

Game Nights, Community and Togetherness

I want to be super clear on something.

I believe most people should have a regular game night. And it can be with your kids, your neighbors, your buddies, etc. It can be live and in person or virtual. Something regular. Something ongoing.

I believe gamers are a tribe. And Seth Godin in the book Tribes explains it this way:

tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.

Sure, we might not have a leader, but in tribe speak, I’d call the person who hosts, the “leader.” I’ve kept a regular game night with various geeks for years. We’ve gone on cruises together where we just played games. I’ve hit the convention circuit with my buddies and played a ton of different games (and I’ll talk about gaming conventions at some point. Hold strong.) But we did it together.

The comaradrie, the rolling of the dice, and the game boards that get folded out and folded up has brought a joy to my life that few other traditions have. Sure, I fire up the good ol’ Xbox and Switch and escape for a bit, but to be around a board game with my friends is something exceptional and special.

If that’s something you want to try, to have a regular game night, I’d suggest twice a month. I’ve met regularly on a Wednesday for years. Sometimes it’s a Friday night (post work, but the next day is Saturday!) and rarely a nice Sunday afternoon.

Find 2 or 3 friends—invite them over—have chips and drinks ready and give it ago. Two or three years down the road it will be something you are extremely grateful for. Sure you’ll make mistakes or you’ll play a game where you are trees—and your friends aren’t really down with trees. There are other games out there. Just keep inviting. Keep showing up.

If you have questions about a game night, shoot them to me.

Keep a Notebook Handy

I could wax eloquent about capturing ideas and how to best do it. The only real solution I have found is having a Field Notes Notebook around, a tiny little repository for my random ideas. Some of them are for gaming. Some for fiction.

But the ideas just get slapped into my head and I have to put them down. Sure I could bust out my phone, but I wind up being distracted or look like I’m disengaged—so I just jot it down with an actual pen or pencil in my notebook. I usually transfer them to Notion at some point.

For example:

  • Scarecrows are coming to life and harming farmers. The Crow King is responsible—he is angry that his children starve.
  • Some swords have maps hidden in their hilts.
  • What if magical weapons run on souls—this sword needs orc souls to power its magic. Once it starts running low, it will hunt for any souls available. Better find some orcs then.
  • A terrible curse would be an allergy to gold.
  • A robot has become sentient and only an autistic girl can communicate with it.

They can’t all be winners, mind you, but an active list keeps my creativity flowing—and it helps me generate idea after idea—keeping my creative juices flowing.

Here’s a little sneak preview of something.

But I won’t say exactly what. Here.

Alright. See you next week. Keep rolling.

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