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22 minutes | Dec 8, 2020
Episode 053 - "Has It Been a Year Already?"
Hard as it is for us to believe, Gemstone Shards has been online for a year now, so thank you for listening! On today's episode, we briefly review what we've discussed in this season's episodes, what we enjoyed the most about recording the show, and pat ourselves on the back for hitting this important milestone!
28 minutes | Dec 1, 2020
Episode 052 - "World Building with Sean K. Reynolds, Part Two"
On today’s episode, Gregory and Mike continue their interview with game designer and developer Sean K Reynolds! If you haven’t already listened to Episode 051, “World Building with Sean K Reynolds, Part One”, you’ll definitely want to go back and do so before streaming today’s episode, as our conversation resumes midstream.
27 minutes | Nov 24, 2020
Episode 051 - "World Building with Sean K. Reynolds"
We wanted to write something clever to introduce today's special guest, game developer and designer Sean K Reynolds, but we honestly couldn't come up with anything more intriguing than his entry on the "Team" page at Monte Cook Games, his current employer, so here it is verbatim: Sean K Reynolds grew up in southern California. After finishing his chemistry degree he took a radical left turn and started working in the game industry. He’s been a webmaster, game designer, developer, freelancer-wrangler, and many other jobs that can’t be described in one or two words. He’s worked on a couple hundred books for a half a dozen RPGs (including Numenera and three editions of D&D), designed videogames, taught classes on game design, written plays and musicals, run online game conventions, judged international talent-search contests, and had bit parts in geeky movies like Gamers: Dorkness Rising and Attacking the Darkness. He draws, paints, and sings with moderate skill, and is passionate about helping people and introducing others to the wonders of gaming. He lives in a haunted building in Seattle, Washington with his cats. We're excited to welcome Sean to the show, and hope you enjoy our conversation!
27 minutes | Nov 17, 2020
Episode 050 - "Once More, With Feeling!"
As we approach our fifty-second weekly episode, we thought we'd take this opportunity to look back on five important themes that have emerged during our first year on-air! Join Gregory and Mike as they discuss where story comes from, letting your players help build your world, the ripple effect, and more!
25 minutes | Nov 10, 2020
Episode 049 - "A Chat with Bruce Cordell, Part Two"
On today's episode, join Gregory and Mike as they continue their conversation with game designer and novelist Bruce Cordell! If you haven't already listened to Episode 048, "A Chat with Bruce Cordell, Part One", you're going to want to go back and do so before streaming today's episode, as our conversation resumes midstream.
27 minutes | Nov 3, 2020
Episode 048 - "A Chat with Bruce Cordell, Part One"
Ever dreamed of building worlds for a living? On today's episode of Gemstone Shards, Gregory and Mike yield the floor to someone who's been doing that full-time since 1995, novelist and game designer Bruce Cordell! In eighteen years at TSR and Wizards of the Coast, Bruce wrote adventures and supplements for four editions of Dungeons & Dragons, including classics such as Gates of Firestorm Peak, The Sunless Citadel, and the Origins Award winning Return to the Tomb of Horrors. Since 2013, he's been a Senior Designer at Monte Cook Games, where he’s designed and written for game systems including Numenara, The Strange, Gods of the Fall, and more. He's also written ten published novels, most recently Myth of the Maker, a novel of The Strange.
30 minutes | Oct 27, 2020
Episode 047 - "So, Where are the Bathrooms? Part Three"
Now that we've given our fantasy city a reason to exist and decided who lives there, it's time to delve a little bit deeper. What do all those people eat? What do they drink? How do they earn a living? Oh, and what happens to the biological and household waste they generate? On today's episode, Gregory and Mike continue their look at what goes into creating believable urban environments for your fantasy world!
28 minutes | Oct 20, 2020
Episode 046 - "So, Where are the Bathrooms? Part Two"
On our previous episode we talked about building dungeons that feel like real places, even if they contain fantastic features. Now it's time to look at your towns and cities! While urban areas and dungeons might not seem to have a lot in common, you actually need to ask many of the same questions when you're developing them: What is their reason for existing? Why are they at that particular location? Who lives there? Join Gregory and Mike as they discuss the elements you'll need to build believable urban environments, places that feel so real your player characters will want to buy a house and settle down there!
31 minutes | Oct 13, 2020
Episode 045 - "So, Where are the Bathrooms? Part One"
Okay, we probably should have called this episode "Building Believable Dungeons", but the title actually asks an important question. What does a dungeon, be it a cave complex, ruined temple, or pirate stronghold, need to feel realistic? As a world builder, you want your dungeons to challenge your players' in-game skills, not their ability to suspend disbelief! Join Gregory and Mike as they discuss things to consider before you send your party on their next dungeon crawl!
23 minutes | Oct 6, 2020
Episode 044 - "Building an Unbreakable World, Part Two"
Running a high-level game can be challenging, especially if you haven't had a lot of experience doing it. While you can't predict when a powerful player character will do something that stretches your abilities as a game master, you can build your setting in a way that prepares you to handle their actions in an effective and believable way. Join Gregory and Mike as they continue their discussion on how to create a world that scales to meet the needs of your game, regardless of your adventuring party's level! This episode is a continuation of Episode 043, "Building an Unbreakable World, Part One", so you'll want to listen to that one first, if you haven't already.
25 minutes | Sep 29, 2020
Episode 043 - "Building an Unbreakable World, Part One"
As we discussed in our previous podcast, while it isn't really possible for high-level gameplay to "break" Dungeons & Dragons or any other major fantasy RPG, it very well might break your story or even your setting if you haven't planned ahead. In our next two episodes we're going to talk about building a scalable world, one that can handle whatever your players characters throw at at, whether they're novice adventurers wielding rusty daggers, or exemplars of their classes, ready to challenge the gods themselves!
30 minutes | Sep 22, 2020
Episode 042 - "'X' Breaks the Game!"
If you've played fantasy role-playing games for any length of time, then you've probably heard someone complain that "'X' breaks the game", where the value of 'X' might be anything from "high-level player characters" to the Wish spell. On today's episode, Gregory and Mike discuss some of the common values of 'X', whether it's "the game" or your story that they're breaking, and what you can do to prevent it from happening!
24 minutes | Sep 15, 2020
Episode 041 - "Building a Believable Economy, Part Four"
As it turns out, we had a lot to say about expanding your game world's economy beyond the basics, and what had been intended as a single episode quickly became two! On today's podcast, Gregory and Mike will talk about several more advanced economic concepts, including banking, coinage, and taxes, and how they can make your world deeper, richer, and more believable! Today's episode picks up immediately following the end of Episode 040, and you'll want to check that one out first, if you haven't already.
14 minutes | Sep 8, 2020
Episode 040 - "Building a Believable Economy, Part Three"
Now that we've discussed ways you can construct a simple but believable economy within your game world, it's time to look at ways to expand the basic economic model we introduced in our previous episode. Join Gregory and Mike as they discuss trade routes, value added manufacturing, and how broadening your world's economy can create believable new adventure hooks and increase immersion for your players!
31 minutes | Sep 1, 2020
Episode 039 - "Building a Believable Economy, Part Two"
On our previous podcast, we looked at how developing a realistic economy for your game world benefits both you and your players. Now it's time to make it happen! On today's episode, Gregory and Mike discuss the four essential elements of a basic economy, and offer a simple blueprint for building a believable regional economic structure based on those elements.
25 minutes | Aug 25, 2020
Episode 038 - "Building a Believable Economy, Part One"
In our last three episodes we discussed the importance of having a believable ecology for your game world, even though it usually lurks quietly in the background of your gaming sessions. Now it's time to look at your setting's economy, which likely plays an important role in almost every adventure you run. So how do you create an economic system that feels realistic without bogging yourself down in minutiae? And is it really going to be worth the effort? Tune in to today's episode and find out!
28 minutes | Aug 18, 2020
Episode 037 - "Building a Believable Ecology, Part Three"
On our two previous episodes on ecology, we looked at building believable natural environments for your game world. But what happens to your setting's ecology when you add fantastic elements like spell casters, dinosaurs, and advanced underground civilizations into the mix? Can an ecosystem populated by magical plants and animals still feel realistic? Join Gregory and Mike as they discuss what makes a fantasy ecology believable, plus examine the role that sentient species play in your world's ecosystem!
24 minutes | Aug 11, 2020
Episode 036 - "Building a Believable Ecology, Part Two"
On this week's episode, Gregory and Mike resume their look at what goes into creating a believable ecosystem for your game world, including how to avoid immersion-breaking errors when selecting flora and fauna for various environments your player characters may encounter. Please note that this is a continuation of a discussion from our previous podcast, and will be much easier to follow if you've already listened to Episode 035, "Building a Believable Ecology, Part One."
30 minutes | Aug 4, 2020
Episode 035 - "Building a Believable Ecology, Part One"
Developing realistic ecosystems for your game world can be a thankless task, and if you do it right, your players probably won't even notice. So why bother? Join Gregory and Mike as they discuss how ecological errors can break player immersion, what your player characters should (and shouldn't) expect to see in different biomes, and why polar bears don't belong on tropical islands!
31 minutes | Jul 28, 2020
Episode 034 - "Clocks, Calendars, and Timekeeping, Part Two"
On our previous episode, we discussed how effective timekeeping systems improve your game and the world you've built to host it. But how do you make that happen? We're glad you asked! On today's episode Gregory and Mike discuss what's involved in creating a believable, easy-to-manage calendar for your game world: where to start, pitfalls to avoid, and how your timekeeping system can help make your setting feel unique! While this is our second episode on the subject of timekeeping, each episode can stand alone, so it's not necessary to listen to Episode 033 before enjoying today's podcast. It's definitely worth checking out, though!
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