#RPGaDay2021 – Tactic

Gamers come up with some peculiar tactics, from tying a halfling to a pole to check for traps, to unleashing the wrat of a flaming donkey on a dungeon complex. Occasionally they even come up with good plans. There’s something of a lack of basic dungeoneering tactics in most RPGs, which is fine when they’re narrative-based and hand-wavey ones, but spells doom for supposedly experienced knights and assassins in more hardcore games.

One of the few RPGs to really delve into the tactics of dungeoneering, was Dragon Warriors, the old Corgi paperback game that has been reincarnated in more modern days.

Here’s a few examples of being surrounded, exploring corridors, guarding against multiple opponents, etc.

#RPGaDay2021 – Map

Here’s an (incomplete) map of the northern part of Kanotag, the world of Erotech (Link NSFW)

#RPGaDay2021 – Scenario

I wrote a very successful set of Adventure Seeds books, which can provide endless inspiration when you need to come up with a scenario fast.

I’m famous in my more regular RPG circles for coming up with plots and ideas within about 30 seconds to 5 minutes, which is great if you’re an improvisational GM, but can be tricky if you’re not.

Here’s my top 5 ways to get some quick and dirty inspiration for a scenario…

1: PLAGIARISE

Steal ideas. It’s a game, not a magnum opus. Nobody is going to come after you for using a plot from a film, book, comic or TV series. The players might recognise it, so you’ll have to change things up a little, but even so they might enjoy playing through something familiar and applying their own solutions. Extra tip, bad films and trash novels make some of the best inspirations. Less people have seen them, and you can do a better job than ‘Sharnado’.

2: MUSIC

Grab an album, if you still buy your music impressed onto plastic, or go look at a track list for an album you like on Spotify or something. The track names and themes, the lyrics, can quickly inspire a scenario or series of linked adventures.

Let’s take the album ‘Powertrip’ by Monster Magnet for example, and see what we can make from it, assuming we’re playing a more lighthearted SF game.

Track 1: Crop Circle: The inciting incident is finding strange patterns and power signatures on a planet. Something powerful was here and may have mutated the wildlife.

Track 2: Powertrip: After their conflict with mutants or whatever, they discover some of the residual energy themselves and find it can induce mutations or psychic manifestations.

Track 3: Space Lord: We meet our villain, the Space Lord is threatening a nearby world with the same reality-warping powers they saw a hint of earlier.

Track 4: Temple of Your Dreams: Investigating, not powerful enough to take the Space Lord on directly, they find a ravaged trail of reality-warped planets. Only one area on one planet seems unaffected, because the monks on that world know the secret of the Space Lord’s power. A psychic-active drug that can turn anyone into a powerful supermind.

Track 5: Bummer: Engaging in pursuit of the Space Lord again, they follow a wake of destruction. Noting seems able to stand in his way.

Track 6: Baby Götterdämerung: The Space Lord has left ‘children’ in his wake, powerful mutated creatures with a fraction of his own power. They must be taken out to continue pursuit.

Track 7: 19 Witches: More aid arrives in the form of a sisterhood of sexy, orgone-powered psychics who offer to accompany the group and help shield them from the Space Lord’s power.

Track 8: 3rd Eye Landslide: They must make their way through an insane, reality-warped psychoscape to reach the real, physical Space Lord.

Track 10: See You in Hell: The final, physical confrontation with the Space Lord.

We don’t even need the last few tracks.

3: FRANKENSTEIN

Take two sources of inspiration and ram them together. This works in Hollywood all the time. ‘Alien Versus Predator’, ‘A romantic drama where the man is a bee’, ‘He-Man, but shit’. This might well be plagiarism again, but combining two stolen ideas often (but not always) can result in a mysterious alchemy where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

4: THE NEWS

What is in the news today? Constantly changing events and a 24 hour news cycle can throw up inspiration all the time. Twist it around a bit to fit the game setting and Robert’s your mother’s brother. EG:

“Turkey: Foreign tourists evacuated as wildfires threaten resorts”

An ancient Djinn has been released from its clay pot and has laid waste to the land around it. The players are firefighters, toiling to put the fires out, when they encounter this supernatural threat and struggle to survive.

5: MAKING IT UP AS YOU GO ALONG

Just start with something, anything. It doesn’t have to be original or clever. Then just roll with what the players say and do. Something as simple as a goblin attack on a farm. If they look for something on the dead goblins, let them find a note, maybe suggesting that the goblins have been ordered or paid to make the attack. Who hired them? Let the players speculate and apply the best idea they come up with, and just keep doing that until it’s over.

#TTRPG – Wightchester Preview – Enosh Square

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Enosh Square

Ramshackle buildings of wood dominate the space of the square, skeletal and blackened, ripe for demolition and rebuilding even before the dead rose. It is like a hangover from the early half of the century, before the great fires turned people to the favour of stone and brick. It is a choked tangle of alleys, loose cobbles and filth-strangled gutters. Even if you were amongst the rotting dead, you do not think you would choose this place to spend your days. The rookeries that were once crowded with workers are now home to true rooks and crows, that put up a squawing clatter at sight of you, which brings a returning moan from the dead.

The Shambles

The whole of the square is dominated by the great wooden buildings that once housed the destitute and the poor. They are crumbling, broken and rotting wood littering the streets, the oiled paper windows of most of these verminous rookeries have long fallen away, admitting the elements to the interior and washing the detritis of people’s lives out into the gutter. A pair of rusted scissors here, a faggot of twigs there, a crudely carved doll with a mop of soggy wool for her hair, tugged by a rat along the dirty cobbles.

Rome House

Two floors high, this house seems to be amongst the smallest dwellings here, though it is squat and broad – like a trunk or crate. At some point the wood was whitewashed, but this is now stained brown and grey and peeling away in great flakes that flutter in the slightest breeze. The door hangs open, mouldering wicker and rotting scraps of leather scattered down the bowing wooden steps.

A simple hall, with steps running up one side to the upper floor, drives through the house from one end to the other. Four doors mark it, two sets of two opposite each other down its length. All their doors open. Black mould climbs the walls and the floorboards creak ominously, soft, damp and pliable under your feet.

The woodden steps are on the brink of collapse, anyone entering by the steps at the front or rear of the house must make a Dexterity Save against a DC of 10 or have them splinter and break, suffering 1d4 piercing damage.

The floorboards throughout the building are also rotten, and will give way under heavy weight or vigorous action one time out of six (Roll 1d6, it collapses under the people fighting or very heavy individuals, with a 3/6 chance of breaking through the floor below as well, suffering 1d4 damage for each floor – since the sodden wood breaks their fall).

Ground Floor: Reception

This room seems to have been a place for taking off and leaving one’s outer clothing, and the muck of hard work. The floor is board, but it could be mistaken for a dirt floor, so caked in the mix of plaster, paint and mud. A half dozen pairs of shoes – curling from damp and flowering with blue mould – are lined up in front of two wooden benches, and there are hooks on the walls as well, hanging with smocks and tunics. A rusty iron heating stove stands in the middle of the room, the dirt around it stained orange and red.

Loot:

  • [ ]One day’s worth of coal.
  • [ ] None of the clothing or leather is recoverable, lost to mould and rot.

Ground Floor: Parlour

The wet wooden door is hanging off its hinges and crawling with woodlice. Past it you see a simple room, clean but soaking floorboards, two tables – a card table and a larger, square table set with bowls and spoons of wood. The parchment windows are long torn away and the damp has dissolved the deck of cards on the table into wet, swollen pieces. They’re only recognisible from the disembodied heads of the paper royalty.

A stone-lined fireplace hasn’t protected its ashes from being washed out into the room – a thin grey muck that stretches halfway across the room. The firewood teems with insects, like the door, broken down into wet splinters.

Loot:

  • Inside the bend of the flue is a missing brick, wherein is stashed a small bag of 5 silver pieces and 9 copper coins. A tiny key also nestles amongst the coins.

Ground Floor: Room 1 (Force the door DC10)

The next door is open but a crack, the wood has swollen with the damp, tight into the frame, though it was already open, giving plenty or purchase. A nest of twigs is tangled against the door, fragments and pieces of wickerwork.

Once you make your way inside there isn’t that much to see. A small bench with rusted tools, bundles of wet wicker, a few unfinished baskets. It seems that the person who lived here – sleeping on a rotten pallet of straw and blankets – used it as their workshop as well as their living space. Many of the people here may have been doing the same.

You can preview the full article on my Patreon

#TTRPG – Postcards from Avalidad RELEASED!

Postcards from Avalidad is a darkly surreal Tech-Noir game setting and adventure context for Punk (included) and Actual Fcking Monsters.


Avalidad combines cyber, bio and psi punk to create a Burroughsian nightmare world of decadence, drugs, Libertarianism, violence, glamour and oppression.


You will delve into the strange lives of Avalidad’s celebrities, fiscal royalty and seedy underbelly in this unique game setting.

HARDCOPY

PDF DOWNLOAD

#TTRPG – Mork Borg – The Ignoble

You are caught between the peasantry and the nobility, neither one nor the other. Arrogant and cruel to those lower on the social ladder, bitter and resentful to those who are higher. You have carved out a place for yourself in running estates, as an advisor or majordomo, but acceptance into the higher echelons is always beyond you. With the social order upturned, you have a chance for true greatness.

Begins With: 3d6 x 10s and d2 Omens, HP: Toughness + d6

Soft Living: Roll 3d6-1 for Strength
Eaten-Up with Bitterness: Roll 3d6-1 for Toughness
Wormtongue: Roll 3d6+2

Abilities

You start with a single ability.

Slippery Customer: All your Defence rolls are made at +1
Cloak of Office: All your Presence rolls to interact with people are made at +1
Penny Pincher: Anything you buy costs one less silver piece.
Oaf Henchman: A loyal retainer of limited intelligence but great strength. Agility -2, Presence -2, Strength +2, Toughness +2, random armour and weapon. 8 hp.
Blade Henchman: A loyal retainer of great skill but also great vices. Agility +2, Presence +1, Strength -1, Toughness -2, random armour and weapon. 3 hp.
Conniving Henchman: A disloyal and clever retainer, egotistical and treacherous. Agility +0, Presence +3, Strength -1, Toughness -2, random armour and weapon, 2 hp.

Previous Role (Choose or roll 1d20)

1-2 Advisor
3 Bailif
4 Chamberlain
5 Chancellor
6 Courtier
7-8 Estate Manager
9 Head Servant
10 Herald
11 Keeper of the Wardrobe
12 Magistrate
13 Marshal
14 Moneylender
15 Reeve
16 Scribe
17-18 Steward
19 Treasurer
20 Valet

#TTRPG – Postmortem Studios Announces new Safety Tools for ‘Safety Tools’.

“Who’s there?”
– Endorsement from Gag Halfront

The prototypes of our new gaming safety tools have arrived and seem to be in good order.

The Joo Janta 2000 Offence-Proof Isolation Hood is an improvement on the previous Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses, where a milisecond of terror could be percieved before the glasses took effect, and terrifying sounds could be heard regardless.

The hood has been specially designed not only to prevent you from seeing anything that might alarm you, but to completely insulate you from potentially offensive sounds, sights and even smells.

Snug and safe within your Joo Janta 2000 Offence-Proof Isolation Hood, you do not have to worry if games turn lewd, horrifying, engaging or exciting in any way. You will be completely deaf, blind and have no sense of smell, oblivious to twists and turns of plot, conflict or character interaction. Simultaneously the hood will allow you to nurse your quirks and minor mental tics into full blown, unchallenged psychopathologies, while also preventing you from ruining anyone else’s fun.

The Offence-Proof Isolation Hood will be available for $50.00 ALD, plus postage and packing (not available on Vogsphere, Arium or the Frogstar System. Delivery to parallel realities incurs a surcharge of 10%) . Smug sense of self-righteousness not included.

Perks:

  • Completely impermeable to anything offensive.
  • Finest Arcturan Mega-Calf leather.
  • Complete deafness, blindness and sense-of-smell blocking guaranteed.
  • Never be offended, perturbed, scared, horrified, excited, engaged, titilated or stimulated ever again!

The online version, for use in Virtual Tabletops, and compatible with all forms of online play can be downloaded HERE for free.

We suggest that the Joo Janta 2000 Offence-Proof Isolation Hood is worn with shoes, to prevent pain from treading on dice.

(5e D&D effect – Advantage on all saves against sight, hearing or smell based attacks, as well as fear effects and anything else the DM deems appropriate. Disadvantage on anything that requires using your senses. Habitual users no longer get Advantage, but get Disadvantage when not wearing the hood).

#TTRPG – No Longer Associating with Chronicle City or Angus Abranson

Henceforth I will no longer be associated with Chronicle City or Angus Abranson.

I have many fond memories of Angus, staying at his home, talking with him and Dave Allsop late into the night about SLA Industries and plans of various kinds. Visiting him at the Leisuregames store and playing opposite his characters in the Camarilla LARP society.

When we went into business together it seemed like a good idea, I had secured some funding and wasn’t sure how to proceed. Angus’ contacts and my creativity seemed like a good combination. Unfortunately we both fell into a deep depression – amongst other problems – and the company never achieved even 1% of what it could have before we ran out of time and money.

I wish I could say I feel no ill-will, because of those fond memories, but unfortunately it has become increasingly apparent that, while I have strayed true to my guiding principles and ethical standards, others – including Angus – in the industry and around it have not.

This is not just about the recent blow up around the new TSR company. I have been under sustained reputational, personal and professional assault since 2010, with little or no support from friends and co-workers. Friends and colleagues stand up for each other, in my world, those who don’t probably aren’t truly friends.

I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror without shame, and I can’t do that if I compromise on my values of truth, fairness, equality and creative freedom. Unfortunately much of the RPG industry and its community no longer share my values, or even tolerate them. There’s a climate of fear, self-censorship and social-media expediency over truth and creativity that I simply cannot abide.

It’s hard to maintain a friendship, or professional working relationship, with anyone who compromises on those things that I hold most dear. Equality, creativity and truth. It’s hard to maintain a relationship with anyone who goes along with the mob.

Truth is, many of my relationships have been strained over the last ten years, personal and professional, and I’ve eaten a lot of shit and forgiven a lot of personal betrayals and abuse to maintain those friendships. That shit-eating and tolerance, too often, hasn’t been reciprocated.

I am utterly done with being let down by people I would have fought tooth and nail for.

I am fortunate to have found more friends and colleagues who share my values and value my commitment to principle. This isn’t to say it’s not hurtful to lose old friends and colleagues, it most certainly is. Rather it’s to say that it’s time to commit more to the newer friends in my life who share those principles and values, even when we disagree. To associate with new friends and work partners who will defend and share my values, and me, as much as I will them.

If any of those I’ve fallen out with in the past few years care to apologise for what they did and to recommit with at least some of the values I hold dear, my door will always be open. Meanwhile, in all my endeavours, I will continue to prioritise the importance of truth, creativity and ethical professional conduct. Mob or no mob.

Zang.

PS: Here’s the content of a FB post I put up recently, which explains my mindset around this.

A Note on the Smearing of the ‘Unwoke’ in #TTRPG Spaces

(Just said to Skip Williams, RE: The Woke Vs Slept war in TTRPGs, worth saying more widely I think.)

I feel that you are mischaracterising a lot of the concerns by giving them an easy label and smear. This post also whiffs of implicit bigotry, just going the opposite direction to usual.

There’s a significant portion of people concerned bout the way things are going, for the same reason we were concerned about Pat Pulling, or the Vampire Panic, or Jack Thompson, or Anita Sarkeesian.

There’s a significant number of people smearing the inventors of the games, and the games of the past – from a position of ignorance and perversely, and wilfully distorted perception.

D&D wasn’t Satanic, Heavy Metal didn’t make people suicidal, and games (as a whole) weren’t murder simulators. The ceaseless accusations of racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia etc are spurious and having a negative effect on the craft, far more than BADD ever did.

We need diversity in design, topic, genre, rules, approaches, emphasis. Turning every game into Captain Planet doesn’t increase diversity, it diminishes it. We’re also sacrificing simulationism, verisimilitude, suspension of disbelief, historicity, consistency and hyperreality for no real gain.

IIRC a lot of this outreach doesn’t seem to be working. The gender etc proportions are (again, IIRC) worse than they were around the 3rd Edition era, but that was probably the tail-end of the Vampire effect. Expanding the audience makes sense, doing so by cannibalizing and sacrificing your existing audience does not. Let’s try to steelman both sides of this debate, shall we?

#TTRPG – Wightchester Preview – Cathedral Park

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Whitchester Cathedral dominates the skyline of the city, like a great grey spike, reaching drunkenly into the sky. Up close it seems cyclopean, dizzying in its height. The area around the cathedral is open ground, grass and mud, punctuated by grave markers and sarcophogi of the great and good. This, in turn is bounded by skeletal trees and the attendant buildings that service the grand church, alleys and gates granting access to the profane, from this domain of the sacred.

The Cathedral was where many sought safety and assistance when the city began to fall, overwhelming the otherwise defensible building and causing its downfall. Religious faith was no protection from the dead. What was once the holiest of places is now amongst the unholiest.

Without upkeep and repair it is slowly crumbling, crumbling and flooding as it sinks into the wet ground beneath it under its own weight, but it is also one of the few more open areas in the city, where you can see the enemy from a safe distance.

Encounters: There should always be some wandering dead, scattered throughout the open area of Cathedral Park. Perhaps 2d6 walking dead.

Whitchester Cathedral

The Cathedral is an enormous slab of a building, built of grey-blue stone, adorned with statuary, crenelations and stained glass. Half of the leaning spire is clad in crumbling scaffold, wood and rope creaking and swaying with each gust of wind. Crows and pigeons perch on the high walls and statues, cooing and croaking as they stare down at you.

The ground here is damp, the floor of the cathedral – and its surrounding paving – a good foot lower than the surrounding soil and covered in puddles of filthy water. Defiant ivy has begun its relentless creep up the walls, with the greenest, brightest shoots beginning to spread across the lower windows and choking the drainage.

The enormous, iron-bound doors of the entrance are partially open, the bar splintered. Saints and bishops stand impasive and powerful, graven in stone while the sound of unearthly moaning echoes out from the nave.

The building is, perhaps, 500 feet long by one-hundred feet wide, with the transepts extending another fifty feet out from the main body of the cathedral. The tower is 150 feet high, with the pointed spire extending another 100 feet into the air above that.

The building is largely constructed of blue-grey limestone, brought from the Southern coast. Much of the exterior wall is filled in with great patchwork constructions of mortar and flint, creating a riot of blues, grey, white and black – when the walls are wet. This provides a great many hand and footholds, though they are shallow, slippery and frequently sharp.

The building is surrounded by paving slabs of the same grey material, creating a walkway around the outside of the entire cathedrals, and between it and the chapter house. Many of these slabs are sinking into the earth and are at wonky angles, the gutters and troughs for draining water are similarly disjointed, creating puddles and soggy earth all year round.

Statuary

The statuary that adorns the cathedral depicts, primarily, gargoyles and angels. It can be hard to tell which is which, as many of the angels are more accurate depictions of how they are described, than merely winged humans. Many have multiple pairs of wings, multiple faces, many eyes or other manifestations that can look monstrous to those without a proper biblical understanding.

The main door is flanked by the statues of two previous bishops, Bishop Beckyngham and Bishop Tyndall, depicted in their robes and with dour, pious expressions. Above them, wings spread over the top of the door, is a more conventional depiction of an angel, with a halo of radiating spikes – like spear-tips.

The Gate

The gate is some twelve feet high, split in half. It is made of thick, English oak and bound and studded with iron. The wooden panels have been painted a dark blue, but are encrusted with bloodstains and dented by some great, external pressure. The wooden bar that secures the gate – from the inside – is splintered, again as though sundered by some great external force. If replaced, the door could be secured against the dead.

The Nave

Sickly, coloured light penetrates the irriguous interior of the cathedral through its stained glass windows that run down either side of the nave. From here you can see almost all the way to the presbytery, past the high altar. A gallery runs around the building, up above the nave and the vertiginous, vaulted roof yawns above you, echoing every sound you make over and over again. Here and there water drips through broken roofing, to echo around the cathedrail. Crows and pigeons flap and sport amongst the arches, blaspheming the house of god with their droppings and raucous cries. Scattered and fallen pews fill the centre of the hall, covered in dried blood and torn shreds of cloth.

The nave is the broad, main hall of the church that runs from the entrance to the transepts and the high altar. Two rows of columns run along either side of the nave, helping to support the upper gallery and its wooden panels. The central area is open to the high arched and vaulted roof above, dizzying in its spiraling patterns and arcs.

There are twenty-two stained glass windows, eleven in the northern wall, eleven in the southern wall, each depicting a scene of martyrdom. Each also has a second, round window above it, admitting more light onto the gallery.

Northern Wall (West to East)

1. The Massacre of the Innocents – Babies and children impaled on spears.

2. John the Baptist – His severed, bloody head, surrounded by a halo.

3. Saint Stephen – Bloodied, with a stone balanced on each shoulder and atop his head.

4. Saint James the Greater – Bloodied, driven through with a sword.

5. Saint James the Just – Bloodied, carrying a club in his hands.

6. Saint Peter – Crucified upside-down.

7. Saint Paul – Decaptitated, holding his own head.

8. Saint Andrew – Crucified on an ‘X’-shaped cross.

9. Saint Matthew – Impaled by spears.

10. Saint Philip – Crucified on a tall cross.

11. Saint Thomas – Bloodied, driven through with a spear.

Southern Wall (West to East)
1. Saint Potninus – Surrounded and torn at by wild beasts.

2. Perpetua and Felicity – A woman and her servant, pierced by swords while a cherub looks on.

3. The Scillitan Martyers – Twelve faces looking up at a bloodied sword.

4. Saint Justin Martyr – Decaptiated, with an axe close by.

5. Saint Polycarp – Burned at the stake.

6. Saint Timothy – Blooded and battered on a pile of stones.

7. Saint Mark – Depicted hanging from a rope.

8. Saint Simon the Zealot – Depicted severed in half at the waist.

9. Saint Barnabas – Being burnt at the stake.

10. Saint Bartholomew – Stripped to the waist and covered in bleeding whip marks.

11. Saint Jude – Bloodied, decapitated, bearing an axe.

Encounters: It is easy for the dead to enter the Cathedral and to mill around inside, but less easy for them to get out – the other entrances and exits being locked and blocked. The dead seem drawn to this place, as though still considering it to be a place of refuge. There should be 2d6 random undead within the area. Note that zombies from other areas of the cathedral will be attracted by noise, and may join in any attack.

Loot:

  • [ ] Beeswax Candles (Long): 1,500 in stores, chests and cupboards, (several hundred in candlesticks and candalabra).
    [ ]Beeswax Candles (Votive): 500 (stored near and set in racks to the north and south sides of the nave).
  • [ ]Tallow Candles (Beef/Mutton): 500 (cheaper candles, set in candlesticks and sconces in the nave, many nibbled on by mice and rats).
  • [ ]Multi-Wick Oil Lamps: 12, hanging from the ceiling, six on each side of the nave.
  • [ ]Kegs of Lamp Oil: 24, in stores and chests.
  • [ ]Brass Candlesticks: 100.
  • [ ]Brass Candalabra: 12, hanging from the ceiling, six on each side of the nave.
  • [ ]The Poor Box: 485 copper pieces, 15 silver pieces, 4 gold pieces.

Choir & Presbytery

The benches for the choir stand two deep on the north and south of the junction between the nave and and transepts. Before them are the pews for the great and good, the gentry from before the city fell, closer to the altar, and to God. It is dark here, shielded from the windows, the candles burnt all the way down into rippling overflows that spill onto the floor. Gilt and brass glitters in the patchy light, reflecting off the geometrically carved choir screens. Before the high altar, and to its side, up a short set of stairs is the pulpit, graven in the shape of a boar and picked out in gold, behind both a stone screen, silver and gold on light grey stone, carved with stars, sun and arches.

The choir stands at the junction of the nave and transcept, in the westernmost part of the crossing. This is the area in which the choir sings, and the wealthy elite of the city would attend services. A once-rich rug of mouldering red, lays across the centre of the area, soggy with damp.

Encounters: 2d10 child zombie choirboys, others may have wandered away. 1 zombie priest and 1d4 other random zombies.