Category Archives: Fluff/Inspiration

Ship Names

During the AD&D games I ran at the last Marmalade Dog I needed a good ship name, and didn’t have a good one, so I asked the players, and got a great one, the Storm Witch.

I then decided that I could make a table to come up with other usable names.

The most basic such table is a list of adjectives and a list of nouns and roll a die for each column.

Of course, with adjectives you have colors and other descriptors. Powerful action oriented descriptors are cool, like the Flying Dutchman, or the Red Witch (Wake of the Red Witch).  Ships have the idea of motion and speed. A name that foreshadows a very fast ship is only fitting if the ship is fast. A slow merchant would tend to have a name evoking reliability or stability, or perhaps a humorous name. A pirate ship would most likely be renamed to something more suiting. a naval ship would have something indicating power, like Dreadnought, Dauntless, Intrepid, etc.

Certain colors tend to give an image of ferocity, danger, dread, etc.

Use the name to draw forth a description for the figurehead. For example, when the player suggested the Storm Witch, I immediately had an image in my head and could describe the figurehead to the others. A woman with hair blown about by the winds of storms.

Some ships might have a single name, like the Dragon, and others could have longer names. Come up with naming conventions by different nations or races. Elves might name their ships after stars or trees. Different human nations might emphasize something different with their ship names.

Below are some tables to mix and match and give ideas for naming ships. This could apply to naming water borne ships or spaceships.

Adjective/Noun (d10)

  1. Flying
  2. Soaring
  3. Sea
  4. Dusty
  5. Red
  6. Fast/Quick
  7. Sun
  8. Flaming
  9. Smoldering
  10. Smoking

Noun (d8)

  1. Witch
  2. Waif
  3. Spirit
  4. Sprite
  5. Dragon
  6. Kraken
  7. Merchant
  8. Maid

Sea Related Words

  1. Sea/Ocean/Waters
  2. Mist
  3. Wave
  4. Surf/Surfer
  5. Surge
  6. Storm/Tempest/Thunder
  7. Foam
  8. Deep/Depths/Abyss
  9. Whirlpool/Vortex/Eddy
  10. Maelstrom
  11. Aurora
  12. Wind/Squall
  13. Calm/Becalmed/Stagnant
  14. Shore
  15. Isle/Island
  16. Murky
  17. Shallows
  18. Reef
  19. Shoal
  20. Fathom

Ship Related Words

  1. Sail
  2. Oar
  3. Deck
  4. Plank
  5. Keel
  6. Mast

Crew Related Words

  1. Hand/Sailor/Crew
  2. Mate
  3. Captain
  4. Owner
  5. Carpenter
  6. Rigger
  7. Master
  8. Chief

Navigation

  1. Star
  2. Sun
  3. Moon
  4. Compass/Sunstone
  5. Sextant
  6. Astrolabe
  7. Eclipse
  8. Twilight
  9. Dawn
  10. Dusk
  11. Midnight
  12. Morning
  13. Evening

Type of Ship

  1. Merchant
  2. Galley/Bireme/Trireme/Longship
  3. War
  4. Pirate/Buccaneer/Privateer
  5. Escort
  6. Whaler
  7. Trawler
  8. Cruiser
  9. Caravel
  10. Corvette
  11. Ironclad
  12. Galleon

Sea Creatures

  1. Squid
  2. Octopus
  3. Turtle
  4. Whale
  5. Kraken
  6. Barracuda
  7. Shark
  8. Eel
  9. Ray/Manta/Mantaray
  10. Crab/Lobster/Crustacean
  11. Clam/Oyster
  12. Snake
  13. Crocodile
  14. Manatee
  15. Dolphin/Porpoise
  16. Trout/Bass

Other Creatures

  1. Harpy
  2. Hag/Nag
  3. Witch
  4. Dragon
  5. Wolf
  6. Chameleon
  7. Lizard
  8. Bird/Sparrow/Eagle/Hawk/Buzzard/Gull/Albatross
  9. Mermaid
  10. Nymph
  11. Horse/Mule/Pony/Stallion
  12. Cow/Bull/Bison/Buffalo
  13. Sheep/Ewe/Ram
  14. Deer/Buck/Hind/Roe
  15. Camel
  16. Hippopotamus/Behemoth

Weapons

  1. Spear/Javelin
  2. Sword
  3. Lance
  4. Dagger
  5. Trident
  6. Net
  7. Shield/Buckler
  8. Bow/Arrow/Archer/Bolt

Things

  1. Skull
  2. Rock
  3. Bone(s)
  4. Timber(s)
  5. Sand
  6. Fire/Flame
  7. Jewel(s)/Jeweled/Bejeweled
  8. Silver
  9. Gold
  10. Copper
  11. Quartz
  12. Opal

Colors

  1. Blue/Azure
  2. Green/Verdant
  3. Red
  4. Yellow
  5. Violet/Purple
  6. White
  7. Black
  8. Grey
  9. Brown
  10. Orange

Patterns

  1. Plaid
  2. Striped
  3. Barred
  4. Dotted
  5. Variegated
  6. Changing
  7. Pale
  8. Dark
  9. Scattered
  10. Hidden
  11. Mystery
  12. Geometric

Descriptor/Modifier

  1. Flying
  2. Soaring
  3. Sailing
  4. Fast
  5. Unvanquished/Undefeated/Victorious
  6. Indefatigable/Untiring/Persistent/Patient
  7. Fearless/Dreadnought/Dauntless
  8. Mighty
  9. Powerful
  10. Reliant

List of Pirate Ship Names

List of Royal Navy Ships – With links to ships that start with each letter of the alphabet.

Gary Con Panel – Goodman Games – How To Write Adventure Modules The Don’t Suck

I have played a few DCC funnels at conventions and a few modules at the gaming table. I’ve even been a player in a play test of a module. I can’t mention that, but if my name shows up in the acknowledgements, you’ll know which one(s).

DCC seems to have a lot of interest in their modules, so I wanted to hear what their designers had to say. If I never have a published module, at least I can use the information to help design my own sessions, and games at conventions.

The panelists were Joseph Goodman, Michael Curtis, Jobe Bitman, Brendan LaSalle, and Bob Bledsaw, Jr. There were 20-25 in attendance, among whom were 3 women. When it came time to ask questions, only one of the women asked a question. That’s a significant ratio. What I wonder, is were the other two just there with their male S.O.’s, or were they really gamers with an interest in such things. Just my musings, no data to back up any of it.

What follows are just the transcription of my hastily scribbled and sometimes illegible notes. There are a lot of good points here for planning adventures in your own games, in addition to developing modules for publication.

Joseph Goodman started off by telling us that they have done this seminar multiple times before, and this time wanted to start off with each person telling what things inspire them.

1.) Things that inspire us to get a good output.

Michael Curtis

  • All writers are readers
    • Always have a notebook when reading – make note of certain words that evoke ideas, feelings, etc.
    • Follow up on ideas an author does not pursue.

Jobe Bitman

  • Movies, especiall humor.
  • Camping & hiking
  • New museum
  • New locations and feeling what the experience is like and relate to a fantasy world setting.
    • For ex. hiking is hard work, and there’s no way characters pack all the stuff they say that they do.

Brendan LaSalle

  • Big reader
  • Movies
  • Good TV
  • Poetry
  • Music – Heavy Metal Power Cords
  • Steals a lot of bad guy lines from comic books.

Bob Bledsaw, Jr. (Insight on how his dad prepared for campaigns & modules, from all the materials he left.)

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heilein, A. C. Clarke, poetry
  • Actually running campaigns
    • Notebooks filled with names of inns, NPC’s with brief designations, random monsters, and names & backgrounds for magical items.
    • Village book, fantastic weapons, Temple book, etc.
    • His father didn’t like to lead players.
    • Look at an inn as each class. How does a mage see this inn, a cleric, a thief?
    • What about a monster or obstacle is a problem for a cleric?
    • Leave world open

Joe Goodman

  • Goes to places with unique features
    • Elephant seal hatchery – they are 2,000 pounds and the size of a VW.
  • Monarch butterfly breeding ground – view through fantasy lens
  • Hurst castle
  • Wild zebras on beach near California coastal highway.
  • Alcatraz was a military island citadel before it was a prison.
  • Art and comic books

I think it was Brendan LaSalle who said these two things.

  1. Read Strunk & Whites Manual of Style once per year.
  2. Read what you have written out loud, or have someone read it to you with the Last Draft. If it doesn’t read well, it won’t play well.

A common theme was to playtest a module multiple times to get the flow and pacing right. You have to know how it will play out before you publish it. Someone said if it is a TPK every time, then it’s too hard. If about half the party survives, then it’s about right.

2.) One thing they love and one thing they hate.

Brendan

Love: Brilliant little detail, for ex. Legacy of Savage Kings has a dragon in a cavern with the coins of his treasure lovingly stacked along the wall.

Hate: No matter what happens, you can’t change what happens. He gave examples of NPC’s you can’t kill, or some other thing that no matter what they do it won’t change. It is better to think of what will happen if they kill this NPC, etc. Trust your DM (who will run the module). ALWAYS put the players center stage as the main characters of the story.

Michael

Love: Enjoys ambiguity to cause reader and player to imagine options, avoids set in stone. Leave it up to recipient to fill in the blanks.

Hate: Story should emerge and not be stuck in a narrative since it is a participatory game.

Bob

Be a storyteller, not a story dictator.

Jobe

Hate: Really long details with buried information the DM or player’s need. Make it easy to find.

Joseph

Players are the audience, but the GM is the customer. Word count for GM/Judge is wasted, 1-2 pages at most. Pages should be for the benefit of the players.

3.) How bring ideas together?

Bob – List of Hobbits, only with warrior sounding names. His father’s notes were rich in lore from the books he read.

Michael – Pick three things and create a riff on it. Then come up with a brief synopsis, elevator pitch.

Brendan – Do like Shakespeare – Steal/steal/steal. What if it is a murder mystery?
Take random ideas and throw them at specific thing for the background to see where it goes and what happens.
He is a firm believer in a crappy first draft, just get it done, then refine it.

Michael – If nothing else, do something that you enjoy and are passionate about. Find a way to make it an adventure.

Bob – Don’t let your own misgivings stop you from paying or publishing.

Joseph – Get practice, especially with random stuff.

Bob – Some people have favorite modules that are not what is the most popular. Someone will like it, even if not everyone.

4.) How break out of the linear mindset?

Michael – Don’t make decisions for the players, just set the scene.

Bob – If there is an intriguing hook, it will draw them in.

Mike – For publication there is a set word count. How might players overcome this obstacle. Come up with 3 or 4 things.

Brendan – Billy goat Gruff, but 25th level character. Create a setting and villains. You can’t cover all your bases. Trust your GM.

Joseph – Mental checklist of

  • Player choices
  • There is a chance for every player to shine.
  • Visual Descriptions – Use hulking humanoid instead of just saying orc.
  • No ziggurats – New and exciting ideas.
  • Good title
  • Good summary  – Focused enough to do a 2 or 3 sentence description – elevator pith.

5.) Bad guy development

Leave as many decisions as possible up to the players.

Base on someone you don’t like.

Don’t lock the front door to the dungeon.

Don’t leave necessary information in an inaccessible place.

No lock without a key. This can be a secret door, or another way around the obstacle. Always a way around it.

Brendan – Once you decide what he is, Imagine as your character or you personally. Such as a dragon or necromancer.
What will you do to stop adventurers?
What will you fail at?

Q&A

How get into the situation?/Start the setting for the adventure? (This was my question. I have trouble getting a good starting point for adventures.)

Brendan – In media res [In the middle of the action/story.] especially for a module, one-shot, or convention game.

Joseph – Robert E. Howard – In media res.

Brendan – Let the players screw themselves. Maybe they are all clerics, so they need hirelings to fill in the gaps. Always have a situation that requires dealing with magic.

Jobe – 1.) Be comfortable with system you are using, and just knowing the system might give you an idea.

2.) Avoid crating bottlenecks, have some secondary way to achieve the goal. A “key” to every lock doesn’t have to be literal.

Joseph – Easter Egg – Some benefit to players that test everything and one room *. Game changers – Players wreck the story line, handle it at the table.

Word count/size?

Brendan – Have a set number of encounters for four hours. For a convention setting, 6 to 8 encounters for four hours. Most modules can be played in four hours.

Jobe – Word count – Write as expressively as possible in the lowest word count.

Joseph – c. 10,000 words is about 16 pages in the format of Goodman Games’ modules.

How develop balance in a module? How do you know you have it right?

Brendan – Playtest/Playtest/Playtest as much as you can before publishing. Run at conventions, local game store with people you don’t know. A minimum of 3 times to playtest, once with friends, twice at conventions, no upper limit really.

Michael – Six months after it is released, you will know if the balance is right.

Jobe – If more than have killed, then still needs work. If less than half killed, then it’s probably pretty good.

Bob – Be prepared for anything. There should be enough source material to plan for unexpected things players do. Always leave a way out of a tough situation, but don’t make it easy.

Mark Hunt – An Interview – The Return of GangBusters

I knew +Mark Hunt from G+ and just happened to meet him at +John Reyst’s Open Gaming Store booth. I recalled seeing a post about Gangbusters, but it had not clicked that it was back. Mark has a license to the GangBusters game! I first learned of Mark with his prolific postings of items for White Star. Many know him for his DCC setting Drongo.

Mark was signing a Gangbuster’s box, and it had the look and size of what I remember from 30+ years ago. The guy asked Mark to sign it and I was really puzzled, thinking it was an original boxed set, until Mark explained that it was his game.

We talked about collaborating on some things in multiple genres/rule systems, one of them being Gang Busters! Wow! I haven’t played in 30+ years, so I guess I need to brush up on the rules….

I did a phone interview with Mark on Saturday, March 12th. Before I started asking interview questions, he mentioned that he is good for the next 3 or 4 years of putting stuff out on a regular basis.

Interview Questions

When did you get your start in RPG’s?
Summer 1979. D&D Red Box and Blue Box. One day in Jr. High, we talked about it in the  Lunch room & met up after school.

What games have you played?
Call of Cthulhu, AD&D, probably hundreds since then. Powers & Perils, Champions, you name it, I played it. I have played every year since then. I once played Champions two years straight.

What games have you ran?
I have ran pretty much just about every game. Which helped a lot with game design, you have to play games and know what is out there, if you want to make games.

I’ve been running GangBusters since 1983. I have enough stuff on hard drive to fill a dozen books without even trying.

What games do you still play or run?
GangBusters, D&D, Swords of the Empire, DCC, Basic, Swords & Sorcery, C&C, Call of Cthulhu, and boardgames, just games, our group tries to keep playing.

How many women players have you had in all of your games?
Dozens, our first group had women back in 1979, and 3 or 4 at a time all the way to the present. It’s easy.

Does you wife play?
No

Does it cause problems?
No, she plays computer games, some are RPG’s, just not table top.

What does she think of your endeavors?
She likes it, especially when they start cashing in. I take what I make and roll it into producing the next game.

Have you ever had a woman GM?
Yes, a few. They are just like everyone else.  I’ve played all over the world so I had all the kinds of game masters that you can think of.

You played all over the world because you were in the Air Force?
Yes for six years and it included the1st Gulf War. We used to play Twilight 2000 in Germany back in the 80’s. A game where we go to war with Russia and get stranded in Europe when it happens. We used all the strategies and tactics we knew, and we had more authenticity than most people.

You seem to have an eclectic taste in genres and historical periods, do you find it hard to focus with so many different irons in the fire?
No.

Why not?
I like to read all kinds of stuff. I know a lot about this, this and this. If there is something you need to know, read a book. My dad says, They hide things they don’t want people to know in a book. A game designer should always be reading, and learning more stuff.

You got your start, at least in my experience, of publishing ships, classes, and supplements for White Star. Was that your real start?It was actually Drongo, then Planetary Transmission and some free items for White Star.

NOTE: Drongo is a DCC compatible setting.

I know you have a Napoleonic era game in the works, and other things, what can you tell us about that?
Swords of the Empire will be ready by the beginning of next month. People can follow on the G+ page and watch development of it, and see how it has changed and evolved. I revise based on feedback from others’ comments in the community.

The latest project seems to be a runaway success – GangBusters.
Is that a game you played back in the day?
NOTE: See above, he’s been playing and GMing it since it came out in 1983.

What made you decided to go for a license to GangBusters?
It was just sitting there and I just asked if I can use it and it went from there. If I like it, there has to be others that like it. If I can sell enough and it can pay for the effort I put into it, all the better.

Is it an exclusive license, that is, are you the only one licensed to do anyting with GB?
So far, I’m the only one out there. I’m working on several things, just making stuff work. I can’t go into more detail at this time.

How hard was it to get the license to do this?
More or less I just asked Rick Krebs and he was receptive. I can’t get into any details on that either. There is stuff [other famous IP] that people can probably pick up if they put in some effort to research it. It is not impossible, is the best I can say.

What did Rick Krebs say when you asked him, was he excited?
Others had talked to him and it never went anywhere, so I showed him what I can do and he purchased it and reviewed it. When the writer likes it and says keep doing it, that’s a seal of approval.

Why the twist with the “Weird Tales & Paranormal Investigations?
Actually it existed in the original setting. In Polyhedron magazine, they had an adventure with giant bugs that took over a farm. I did not create it out of thin air, it existed in some shape or form in the original game.
The original game talked about various ideas for how to expand it. All I did was expand it. I read all the articles where they mentioned GangBusters. I am making it modular so you can use or not, or expand or not, cause at the end of the day it is still a game of cops & robbers. If you can’t find an adventure after a night of watching TV, with so many police procedurals that are on now, I can’t help you, NCIS, X-files, etc. Warehoue 13, Thin Man, etc. There is so much that fits.
Me – It’s seeing the connections.
Mark – Exactly. I increased the book size to show what you can do with it. It doesn’t have to be just gangsters. You can do journalists. The Incredible Hulk is about new reporter chasing the Hulk cross country. The players  could be a pool of reporters in an Enquirer type organization.
Me – GangBusters is set in the same time period as H.P. Lovecraft was writing.
Mark – I’m staying away from the Cthulhu mythos, there is more out there than just that.
If you want to play Call of Cthulhu play it, it’s a great game. If you want to go in different directions, play my game. Play GangBusters, there is enough out there to keep you busy

I really like the NPC card decks, what was your inspiration for those?
Old police mugshots. I make cards with mugshots, with enough stats to run. I made the first 18, then another 18, and eventually I’ll have a full deck of 52 cards. Literally take a card and you are ready to play. At Gary Con I passed out cards, and said, this is what stats mean and we were up and running in minutes. NPC’s, bad guys, players, etc. They are small and portable. Once you know the rules that’s all you need. Keep it in your wallet and you’re ready to play whenever and wherever. [See this YouTube video for a sample of the cards.]

Me – They make a great tool for a pick up or convention game for pre-gens. There was a lot of buzz from those who played in the games Mark ran.

It’s been mentioned on the G+ TSR GangBusters Community, that you plan to do a Kickstarter. I know that you have a goal to have everything ready before the Kickstarter and to keep it manageable. How much can you tell us about that?
I’m still working on it. Eventually there will be a box set, hard back book, GM screen, and modules, plus add ons will all be figured out and done. So once we hit our goal and are funded, I will order and ship. I did a test run of box sets, and people are impressed with what I have now. Some have shipped to Spain, England, all over world now. I hope a Kickstarter will help it reach a bigger area.

When might we get wind of the Kickstarter?
Depends on when I get done with something in the background – I can’t talk about it – then preparing for the Kickstarter will start to speed up.

What is the secret to your prolific output? I ask, because it is an amazing story that just floored me. I was giving you a hard time at Gary Con to slow down because you’re making the rest of us look bad.
Last year was my last chemo – I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and going through treatments. I said to myself, “If this is my last year, I’m going to do what I want to do,” and I literally drove myself to do these games, even if only 5 words in a day. After a year, I had a lot. I just hacked it out piece by piece. “Never give up, never surrender,” as they say. Marks’ wife can be heard in the background: “He’s not going to do anything else. By Grapthar’s hammer….”
To the outside world it appeared like I was cranking it out fast, it seemed like a lot real fast. As they say, an overnight success is ten year’s worth of work. A lot of games that blew up were simmering in the background and no one paid attention until they got done.

You mentioned you were seeking a license to do a game with a big name, and well-know IP, but it fell through. 
Any clues to other IP’s you have your eye on? (Probably not, since you don’t want to spoil it.)
Exactly. I’m always looking for more stuff, but can’t mention them, so I don’t get scooped. If it’s not being used, why not? A Lot of stuff is just sitting quietly. It’s not hard if you do the work and ask. The worst they can say is, “No.”
Drongo for DCC is mine and I can always go and do a BX version. As long as I don’t compete with one of their [Goodman Games] products it should be OK.

Any hints about projects coming up?
Oh geeze, let me look at my hard drive. I’ve thought about one or two retroclones, but will mention those when the time is right. I don’t want it all at once, that is, I want to spread it out. Cloaked Avengers is a new class for GangBusters in the next month, like the Shadow. You can add to an existing GangBusters game with mysterious powers. I’m also working on a WWI alternate history for GangBusters.  I plan to stage so it’s not out all at once, and do one or two adventures to flesh out stuff  I already have.

Joe’s Diner was 6 or 7 pages, then 18, then 32, then I made little booklets. The PDF is automatically updated, so it’s done. The only way to get it in book form is in the boxed set.
Me – That’s a smart way to drive sales.
Mark – Exactly.

Have you seen all the talk about yesterday’s press release about the new TableTop Library site?
Yes. I’m thinking about trying to sell stuff there, it’s one more avenue for sales.

Anything else you want us to know about?
Hit me up on G+ if you see me, and help out get the word out, Swords of the Empire, GangBusters , Fantasy game – no name yet. Everything is just falling into place so fast it is ridiculous. I might have Boxed sets [of the yet to be named and released fantasy game ] at NTRPGCon.

GangBusters boxed sets and T-Shirts, and Swords of the Empire boxed sets will definitely be at North Texas RPG Con.

– – –

Mark is a really nice guy, easy to talk to, and inviting. Other aspiring game designers were asking him to look at their stuff, and he was looking forward to it. He knows game mechanics. Just wjile talking about general ideas, he had an idea for something. Being in his presence, I couldn’t help but be infected by his enthusiasm for games. If we lived in the same town, I’d find a way to play in his games.

Mark is enjoying life and riding this dream of designing games and having a blast while doing it. I expect to hear exciting things in the coming weeks.

Kickstarter Update – My Backed Kickstarters and Their Status

I figured that I would take a break from my posts on Gary Con and do a long overdue update on the Kickstarters I have backed. The stalled, the failed, the late, and the in process.

My oldest outstanding Kickstarter is City State of the Invincible Overlord. It has a lot of issues, and November, 2015 marked a year that it was behind. Erik Tenkar posted an article on it today, so I won’t re-hash it here. I pledged at the $40 level.

The Great Kingdom is the next oldest project that I backed. It is D&D Documentary #2, that is stalled in legal limbo with D&D Documentary #1. I’m out $50 for this one. If I could, I would give my $50 to D&D Documentary #3, that I wrote about here.

Grimtooth’s Ultimate Traps Collection was slated to deliver in July, 2015, as per the information on the Kickstarter page. It was overly complex in my opinion, as there were multiple hard cover books, each with different content, essentially each a different book. While I have seen pictures on G+ of some who have received theirs, I must be in the group getting theirs with the second round of shipments. While it is late, I’m not worried as others have theirs. I backed at the $50 level.

The Planet Mercenary Roleplaying Game is one I backed for one of the options instead of the game itself. I read Schlock Mercenary, and like the 70 Maxims, so went for the hard back book. As per the last update, we may be seeing that soon.

I backed the Metamorphosis Alpha: Epsilon City at the $95 level. My ability to resist these things is tragically low. If only my blogging or other endeavors matched the outlay for these things…. It was slated to deliver in March, 2016, but it won’t hit that target. I think it will eventually deliver and be an awesome product.

The most adventurous level of backing for any Kickstarter is the Marmoreal Tomb at $150. It was slated for March, 2016 delivery, but is not going to hit that target. Both Ernie and Benoist had the flu and other minor delays. There are regular updates on the Facebook page of The Hobby Shop Dungeon, and the Kickstarter page. I know it will eventually deliver.

The B/X Monster Reference Index is another one by +Peter Regan. It was short, limited stretch goal changes, and I already have it. I’ll do a separate post on its awesomeness.

Fifty Fantastic Functions of the D50 by Goodman Games and the GameScience d50. This was a quick Kickstarter and delivered lightning fast. I got Lou Zocchi to sign it at Gary Con. There are lots of cool ideas in this book.

I backed the original ACKS and hadn’t backed any of their other Kickstarters until now. This time, I went with Lairs & Encounters. I must say, the preview of the lair maps are awesome! I backed at the $50 level. It is slated to deliver in March, 2016. Even if it slips into April, I won’t be disappointed.

I’m not much of one for card games, but the original Dungeon Solitaire rules intrigued me, so I gave into the KS for Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls.  I went for the $50 level for two decks. the art alone is awesome! It is slated for June, 2016 delivery and so far, everything is on track.

Because +Peter Regan is involved, I gave in to the Black Hack. As I was writing this article, I got notice of the need to fill in my survey. The PDF coupon will be sent to my email soon. This is slated to deliver in April. I backed at the 8 pound level, about $13 I think it was. I have no doubt, barring an issue with the printer or mail, I will get it on time.

I gave into the cuteness of the Baby Bestiary Vol. 2 and Vol. 1 Reprint. It funded on March 8th, and is slated for delivery in August, 2016. It was cool to see all the art in progress. I look forward to this. I gave in to the $75 level, since I missed volume 1.

Finally, there are three Kickstarters that are in their final days and weeks.

World Architect Cards are cool cards for building locations for a new world, or running a figure out what’s there style hex crawl. The fund drive ends March 16, so there’s still a couple of days to get involved. I went for the $35 level, which includes all the stretch goals. They need almost $500 for the final stretch goal: Layered Tiff Files Released to all backers at $10 and above.

The ABCs of RPGs – Books and Coloring for Adults and Kids! is a bunch of cool art. I’m a grandfather, so my granddaughter might like this when she is older. I also got one for myself. I hope I can get more in the future, if I am ever blessed with more grandchildren. The two coloring books and two activity book option is $30. The funding for this one is solid. If they get another $40,000, they’ll do it as a board book. Delivery is slated for August, 2016.

Finally, I have backed a gemstone dice Kickstarter, Cat’s Eye Gemstone Dice Polyhedral Sets, d6’s, & d20’s. I went in at the $45 level. The funding drive runs through March 30, and they are not yet halfway to their goal of $12,500.  Delivery is slated for June, 2016. I won’t be sad if this doesn’t fund. Yes, I want cool dice, but I went a bit overboard adding so many new Kickstarters to the list.

The year is young, and I need to hold back, in case there is something I just can’t do without. Just remember, I don’t have a problem….

 

 

More Variation on Magic Items

The last two days I wrote posts on magic dishes here and here.

This got me to thinking about ways to mix up magic items so that they are not the same rods, staves, wands, rings, scrolls, or expected miscellaneous items as listed in the DMG or other resource.

You roll up a ring of invisibility, but what else might it be besides a ring? How to decide?

You can make up a table and roll (Go ahead, I’ll wait while you make a table….)

Oh, good, you’re back.

Another way to do it is when sitting at your desk or table or other location prepping for the next session, or at some other time between sessions and prep time, look for an ordinary every day item. What might it be? If you keep your work area spartan, you may have few choices. If like me, you best efforts to minimize falter when things get busy, you might have a wealth of things to choose from. Letter opener, paper clip, business cards, pen, pencil, eraser, coffee cup, index card, scissors, ruler, flashlight, battery, eraser, etc.

Go to your junk drawer in the kitchen and see what unexpected thing is in there.

Generating ideas doesn’t have to come from rolling dice or struggling to come up with yet another idea to round out your table to roll up something.

What is the weirdest thing your locker mate in high school ever had in the locker?

What object(s) did your grandparents or in-laws have that stood out until you got used to them? They might be the item you think of if you imagine being inside their house.

Go to a flea market or swap meet and make a list of all the things that catch your imagination.

A meat grinder that plays Danse Macabe and animates d12 skeletons once per day.

A feather duster that causes a gust of wind once per day.

A frying pan that is +2 vs. all who rob or invade the home.

A cutting board that functions as a lid to a portable hole. You can fit a lot of scraps in there….

A piece of furniture that functions as a portal to another world….

CAT 5 cord of strangulation or tripping.

I need to remember to keep a list of things I see that are ordinary but would make an interesting magic item. I made a list in Evernote, since I use it for all kinds of other lists.

More Magic Dishes

Yesterday, I wrote about magic dishes that neutralize poison.

Today, I present a list of different abilities sets of magic dishes might have.

  • Neutralize Poison -Cursed will poison those who use them
  • Neutralize Disease* – Cursed will Cause Disease
  • Healing – from cure light wounds to total healing and regeneration.
  • Self Cleaning Dishes – Either wipe/scrape clean, or they grow legs and take themselves to the wash bin. (Think sorcerer’s apprentice….)
  • Information Dishes – Dishes with various information gathering qualities. Clairaudience, clarivoyance, ESP, telepathy, etc. that allows the owner of the dishes to learn something from the guests using the dishes.
  • Transmutation Dishes – The next person to eat an identical meal off the same dishes takes on the appearance of the prior person. This will last until they eat another identical meal from the same dishes. Imagine the problem of a broken or missing dish!
  • Polymoph Dishes – These dishes will polymorph those who eat off them into the creature or object in the artwork on the dishes.
  • Raise Dead – Not useful for the dead, but a way to deal with the undead. Only helpful if the undead eats from the dishes. Only undead that eat can be affected.
  • Destruction – Death, slay living, finger of death, power word kill, disintegrate, etc. Whoever eats or drinks from these dishes….
  • Teleportation – Matching sets of dishes that teleport you to the location of the twinned set. Some sets have a third (or extra set) that one carries and allows to go to any of the others in the set.
    Special variation allows teleporting within a chain of dishes. Some chains require a one way flow, that is, one can only go forward or back one set in the chain. Other chains allow going to the location of any dish in the set, however, if the name, location, or other keyed descriptor is not named when the pre-teleport feeling comes on, the location is random.
    Obviously, the dishes must be taken to the desired location, via normal travel, or other means.
    Pre-Teleport Feeling: Euphoria, Nausea, Itching, Sneezing, Flatulence, Blindness, Hot, Cold, flashes of light, super abundance of floaters in the eyes, etc.
    NOTE: Sets lost on the bottom of the sea, or in a dragon’s lair could prove interesting.
  • Abilities – Those who eat from them gain one point of the specified ability. This could be the primary ability of the class, a specified ability, or a random ability. The same set only works once on an individual.
  • Wishes – Very rare, just another way to store wishes. Requires eating off the set and making a wish. The number of wishes will be finite.
  • Permanency – Makes the next spell a spell caster does permanent, if it makes sense.  This will allow a finite number of such castings.
  • Nystul’s Magic Aura – Introduce a set and this can be the next set your players find.
  • Ability/Class Stealing/Swapping – Eating the same meal from the same plate as the prior person will allow stealing from them or trading your abilities with theirs.  A powerful wizard who knows someone else is more intelligent might steal or swap intelligence wit them. An assassin who really needs to do well in a jog, swaps classes with someone. What to do with the other? You can’t kill them if you want their class back?
  • Body Switching/Mind Swapping – A la Freaky Friday, Star Trek, etc. A mad wizard might have all the guests switch minds with others, perhaps switching with the last group who ate off the plates, who are originals passed from one unsuspecting group of travelers to the next. Are the bodies of the originals still alive? What of all the other minds and bodies? Just what will happen and how will the complex mix up ever be straightened out? This smells like a DCC module…..
  • Animated Dishes – Dishes run amok with a food fight. Without the correct magic word, or some other defined circumstance, the diners cannot eat in peace. The dish ran away with the spoon…. For example, if you do not say something outlandish, as cued by the host saying something like, “I have pink fluffy underwear with unicorns on it.” The guests must say something equally outlandish or their dishes will fight them for their meal. If multiple guests fail to say something outlandish, their table service will “war” with each other, or band together to gang up on their respective diners. The mischief starts slowly and builds up.

*Special note on dishes that cure disease, there is a variation that requires the next person to use the dishes to take on the disease. The intent is that a monk or other immune to disease eat to “re-set” the dishes to be used again. A rare variety would require someone to eat off them within a set time or a plague of that disease breaks out.

Any effect that one can imagine can be in magic dishes from benign to horrific. Any magic item from the DMG or other source could have its properties mirrored in a set of dishes, or any other less than usual device. It doesn’t have to be a full set of dishes. It could be only he plates, goblets, or spoons.

Different religions might have their own special chalices, patens, or other special dishes for some of the more powerful/ritual magic.

Healing someone of lycanthropy requires eating the ashes of a hard to obtain plant or tree bark, etc. but must be eaten off a special plate that cannot leave the walls of the temple where it is housed.

Where to go from here? Take any innocuous, every day item and transform it into a magic item. A chamber pot that heals all who rub its sides would be a well disguised item for that purpose. Make an item as far removed from its magical purpose to hide it even more.

Speaking of chamber pots – one that teleports or disintegrates waste, or purifies water from liquid waste would be interesting…. Where does teleported waste go?

 

Translated Wrong

Today, over at OSR Today, for Table Tuesday, they had a table about being translated into another existence.

When I read the title, I was expecting something about language translation.

It got me to thinking, so I came up with the following:

How close did the language “expert” get their facts? Was it a rush job? Are they not as skilled as they claim? Is the translator under the thumb of someone opposed to the party? Any reason you can think of for something to be wrong.

  1. Direction wrong. Varies from exact opposite direction, to slightly off, such as North-North-West instead of North West.
  2. Structure/Location wrong. Instead of a castle it is a hovel, instead of a dungeon it is a cave.
  3. Size wrong. Instead of a huge ancient red dragon, it is a young adult dragon. Instead of a hill, it’s a mountain, or a mountain range.
  4. Color wrong. The evil wizard wears blue robes instead of black robes.
  5. Name wrong. The name of a person, place, or thing is off just a little. Jan instead of Jane, vial instead of vile or viol (I played with a guy in high school who rarely grasped the difference.), H2S04 instead of H20, etc.
  6. Wrong race. Hobgoblins instead of goblins, ogres instead of pixies, make it good. Wyverns instead of dragons, etc.
  7. Wrong alignment. The person who has the information they need is of a different alignment. Perhaps it is the big bad himself, as yet undiscovered by the players, and only the big bad knows how he can be stopped.
  8. Wrong generation. They need Junior, and not the decrepit Senior. Or they need the skilled senior, and not the ineffective Junior.
  9. Wrong map. The translation might be spot on, but the translator either goofs and give you the wrong map, or is of ill intent and gives them a map to a very bad place.
  10. Scope wrong. Numbers are involved and they are a few orders of magnitude in the wrong direction. The fabulously huge treasure of gold and jewels, is a big sack of copper coins and some cheap garnets. Or the small patrol is actually an army.
  11. Language wrong. The translator is confused by a similar script of a branch language, but various vowel and verb form changes have any translation with the translator’s knowledge being wrong about everything.
  12. The next map the player’s find already has a translation on it that they can read, but it is wrong in one or more of the above points.

I think this is an interesting idea, and I’ll see about adding to it in the future.

Near Misses – Thieves

I had an idea for thieves picking pockets from an experience prior to my last game at UCON. The idea coalesced as I was in that dreamy, glad to be sleeping state before I woke up this morning. (I’m off all week; so I got to sleep in today to recover from both low quantity and quality of sleep the last few days.)

As I have mentioned in at least one other article, my Dad was a locksmith and I was drafted to help from the time I was about 13 until I went off to college. Dad gave me my own basic set of lock picks. I thought it would be fun to plop them down at a game, if I ended up running a thief.

I was getting stuff out of my bag, dice, paper, pen, pencil and other things so I wouldn’t have to keep rummaging in my bag during the game and slow things down. I was wearing many layers, including a jacket sort of like a hoody with out the hood. It has packets inside next to each outer pocket.

I put my picks in my pocket, or so I thought. I felt both sides of my hand feel fabric, so I thought it was in my pocket. I had just placed something else in that pocket and realized that I was about to drop it between my jacket and shirt instead of my pocket, so I corrected. I then checked and my picks weren’t there, so just as I was getting ready to bend down to get them, +Laura Rose Williams says, “Here, Larry, you dropped this,” as she hands it to me.

This morning in my dreamlike pre-wake state, this idea hit me, and I can just see a thief picking someone’s pockets and rolling 1 or 2 under what they need. So from now on, I will rule that a thief doing this, gets what they were after, or at least something, and they “pocket” it. Some kind soul will see them drop it and come up and give it to them in full view of all around. The “FUN!” will then ensue.

I did not play a thief as planned, +Laura Rose Williams wanted me to play a wizard along with her, which I did. So I got out my picks after the game to share what I was prepared to use as a prop.

SKILL LEVEL OF THE CITY WATCH/TOWN GUARD

Here are some ideas for how to determine the skill and effectiveness of the city watch.

Skill Level:  d6
1.) Incompetent – Due to being corrupt, apathy, ignorance, stupidity, asshole, drunkard, or combination.
2.) Raw Recruit – Means well but doesn’t know all the tricks. Makes mistakes out of ignorance and inexperience.
3.) Experienced – Doing this a while and had seen a few things. – Depending on level of motivation knows how to avoid reprimands and extra duty.
4.) Veteran/Seasoned – Doing this a while and had seen a few things.
5.) Skilled – Shows leadership potential, energy, drive, thoroughness.
6.) Leadership Quality – Waiting for an opEning, or just good at the job and doesn’t want the added responsibility.

NOTE: A bribed in the pocket guard may not be incompetent. They may be very skilled and do their job correctly, accurately, and conscientiously, except for the one/group who owns them. They could be owned by threat of force rather than being bribed or a willing member of the network. Being under a charm or suggestion is also a possibility.

Training:
Similar to skill level is training. Are there regular drills? Are the guards familiar with the laws and do they apply them correctly?

Performance:
The way the guard goes about performing their duties will have a big effect. Are they too lenient or brutal in their enforcement? Guards that are too lenient, too strict, or too brutal will all have a negative impact on how the citizens view them.

Condition of the guard: d8
-Individually, at a particular post or roving squad, or the entire town. A post might be a specific gate, tower, neighborhood, etc. Festivals, celebrations, and quality of leadership can also affect this.
1.) -Alert – paying attention
2.) -Unobservant
3.) -High Alert – Monster incursions, assassination attempt, etc.
4.) -Nervous
5.) -Apathetic
6.) -Drunk
7.) -Drugged
8.) -Incapacitated

Motivation: d10
1. ) -Eh, it’s a job
2.) -I love my job and want to be the best!
3.) -Bribed – Will only go along as long as they don’t get caught.
4. ) -On the Take – Irregular payments from an individual or an organization.
5.) -Blackmailed – Item or loved one at risk. Remove the risk and the motivation changes.
6.) -Charmed – May have been charmed by an adventure party or the local wizard. Perhaps a town with a powerful wizard in charge has charmed all the town guard to make sure he isn’t interrupted, root out the thieve’s guild, etc. What happens when they make their save? Is there charm a potion in their food or drink?
7.) -I live here and so does my family. My job keeps them safe.
8.) -Conscript – I don’t want to be here, but I have too.
9.) -Bully – Likes telling others what to do.
10.) -Plant/Fake – Group of NPC’s have impersonated/replaced/joined the guard for some unknown reason. Monsters seeking to take the city, rob a tomb or temple, take out rivals, doppelganger, demon, etc. Will fit in so as not to be noticed. May not be able to withstand magical scrutiny, a la known alignment, detect magic, true seeing, etc.

Morale:
As usual, the level of pay, training, and rewards from management will affect morale. A detail on the gate to the rich part of town would most likely have a better morale and be more likely to do a good job. A small town in the midst of a drought, famine, monster incursion, military invasion, or other economic downturn might have guards that feel helpless and who won’t stand and fight. In addition to the backstory developed by the DM, the events unleashed on the campaign by the players could have far reaching and unintended consequences.

Strictness – The Law/Chaos scale is helpful to a degree. This can vary from a simple, stay out of trouble and don’t get the town leadership’s attention. The extreme would be any law broken must be attended to and the appropriate judgement and penalties distributed. Would a bar fight get you run out of town or locked up for a period of time? What if you got in a fight with a rival? Would it result in a price on your head? Are the town guard law enforcement officers looking for sources of revenue through fines for infractions of a huge legal code, or keepers of the peace looking to keep thing quiet?

Location – A border town whether it is between kingdoms, or the last bastion of civilization in the area will tend to have guards that are more alert. If not, the town is easy pickings for invasion/infestation. However, border towns can still have a poor quality of guard overall. Cities on the interior of a kingdom might have lax guards who have grown soft and are not up to an invasion or monster incursion.

Equipment – The type of weapons and armor and it’s quality will have an effect on the effectiveness and morale of the guard. If all they have is a badge and a nightstick, they won’t be of much use against a fully equipped party. If they all have plate mail, they won’t be up to a foot chase against unarmored miscreants.

If the gates, portcullis, battlements and walls are in disrepair, it will have some effect on morale. If there was an illusionist in power, a permanent illusion to hide the true condition of the walls could make a big difference to morale. As long as guards weren’t falling through holes, or walls were collapsing, it would work, Mysteriously injured and missing guards would have the opposite effect.

Quality of Officers – This will be similar to the skill level. A new lieutenant due to a political appointment, might want to do a good job but be incompetent from inexperience. Or they might just view it as an opportunity to order people around, and not really get the nature of the duties and responsibilities of the guard. Internal politics of a town or city could influence this also.

If officers are bullies and unresponsive to the needs of their men, this will impact morale. If there is cause for fighting on the walls, officers could have the equivalent of being fragged. For example, the men could fall back in fighting and let them fall, or push them over the wall.

Group Dynamic – Is the guard as an organization honorable and do their best to keep order and keep the town safe? If there is corruption, is it limited to a single gate or neighborhood, or is the whole guard corrupt? Does the corruption go all the way to the top? For example, if the thieve’s guild owns the town guard, do they also control the leadership? Is the leader of the town secretly the guild master of the thieve’s guild?

Popular Sentiment – How does the town view the guard? Are they corrupt, but keep the peace and keep the town safe? Or are they corrupt and a burden to the town? Is the leader/government of the town in on the corruption? Do any problems that get out of hand draw the attention of the nearest feudal overlord, or the king?

Other Groups – In addition the religious institutions, merchants,  guilds, farmers, and others with a stake in how the guards perform their duties. Will the leader of the main temple get involved? Will the mages guild decide to step in for the good of the town, or their own motivations?

How do all the motivations and goals of all the various groups that make up the town or city mesh? If all the groups in a town are more concerned with their own group’s agenda rather than the safety of the place, the guard may not be the best. If most of the groups understand that if the town is not safe that it doesn’t matter what their group’s goal is, then the guard is likely to be better funded and trained.

If town is only a placeholder of civilization to rest and resupply between forays into the local dungeon, then you may not need much detail on the guard. However, if you plan on a lot of city/town adventures, you will want to think about how all of these things inform what kind of guards the PC’s will encounter.