Sunday, July 31, 2011

Consequences of Beer, Both Real & Imaginary

Barfight Knockback Table

(When a blow connects, attacker or defender may trade two points of damage for a roll on the knockback table--d12)

1. Table--reflex save/dex check or fall over
2. Chair (as table above)
3. Patron--look up and smile--charisma check or get attacked by patron, too
4. Patron holding glass--take d4 minus 2 damage plus as 3 above
5, Serving wench holding tray full of drinks--take d4 minus 2
6. Over the bar--you are now behind the bar. Any knockback behind the bar causes d4 damage from falling bottles.
7. Dartboard--take d4 minus 3.
8. Window--take d4 minus one from the glass plus reflex/dex check or fall through it.
9. Stag's head mounted on wall--take d4
10. Stairs or slippery rug, take d4-2 plus dex/reflex check or fall down stairs/down on rug
11. Shelf with something ornamental but heavy on it take d4-1
12. Sleeping pub dog. Reflex/dex check or trip over, plus charisma check or it attacks as a 1 hd monster

Hey, It's Sunday...

Z: You know what's cool?

Connie: What?

Z: Being awake.

C: Yeah? I mean, I just started but maybe, like, after I try it for a while I might get into it more.

Z: Oh, totally, like, in the beginning it's like What's up with this? I don't really get why people are so into it, but then like, after a while you realize it's kinda cool like you can do stuff like, say, stuff you said you were going to do the day before...

C: Oh yeah, totally, I can see that.

Z: Yeah.

C: What time is it?

Z: 2:45 pm.

C: I was up late. We were drinking.

Z: Really? So like you weren't totally sober when you posted at 5:45 am on Google+ Hey, we're jamming, who wants to hang out?

C: No, I was not.

Z: So...I imagine it'll be a bit before you're over to play.

C: Maybe...3:45.

Z: Yeah, maybe.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Google+ Video Chat Games: Tips and FAQ

Constantcon is in effect. We got a whole gaggle of people on this thread signing up to run games via Google+ video chat this week.

Figure I'll address some things that've come up...


-The video's a little fuzzy, if you want to show players a diagram or something, maybe use sharpie.

-Jeff's good idea: Once you have players for a game all ready to roll, create a new "circle" containing only the players in that game. Start a thread and have them post their character basics in that thread.

-Remember: just because you're in a given time zone, not all your players have to be. People keep weird hours.

-Alexander Osias points out you can use this to schedule time zones. You may think "oh, I'll just use a time zone map" because maps are friendly and fun. But beware: daylight savings time makes things all screwy. Use something with a brain.

-If you have a blog and are running a game that isn't full yet (or would like to start up a weekly game), I suggest putting a little widget in the corner of your blog (if you have one) describing the game and saying all the details you put in the Constantcon comment thread.

-2 hours seems like a good time. Though allow some lead time for character generation if it's a system with meat on it.


-Why should I announce when I'm running a game here? Why not just announce it on G+?

Because, even assuming everyone who might want to play in your game is already in your circles, G+ still isn't perfect: on your feed, if one person in your "Online RPG pals" circle announces "Hey I'm starting a game in 2 hours" and then 12 people announce "Hey, here's something WOTC did today that pissed me off and/or a picture of my cat", then your game will get buried in peoples' feeds.

Even if every gamer in the world eventually gets on G+ and adds you, until G+ finds a way to tag posts (and everyone uses that system) and/or people stop wanting to tell other gamers that they have a cat there will have to be an outside sorting mechanism for games starting up. This is the mechanism.

-Is there some certain game system I should run?

Run whatever you want. Please run whatever you want. Sooner or later someone's gonna try it, you might as well be a pioneer. GURPS, OD&D, FASERIP, FUDGE, Mechanoids, Kill Puppies For Satan--whatever makes you happy.

Tips: 1) Be prepared to explain the mechanics as you go along, many people will be new no matter what system you use--this isn't that hard. 2) If you like to keep your life simple, start with a rules-lite system. 3) The only hard part is character generation--if it's D&D-related you can just tell people to give you race, class and 6 stats before the video session starts and smooth out translation issues then. I do this all the time, it's easy.

-Isn't playing with people you don't know weird?

Yes. That's why it's fun. If the game sucks you can always say you hear your mom calling and have to leave.

-How long is Constantcon going on?


-Can I start a campaign?

Yes. You can do whatever you want. Stop asking.

-I want to do a game where______ is that ok?

Yes. Everything is ok. It's your con, too.

-Would anybody out there maybe possibly be interested if I ran a game of_____?

Yes to whatever you were about to say. Pick a time and post it. If nobody else is interested, I am. I'll play anything once.

-I see all the guidelines
here about how to announce that I want to GM a game, is it ok if I just, like, totally ignore some of those guidelines?

Sure, just prepare for the possibility of people not signing up for your game and don't complain that I didn't warn you and that this G+ game thing is totally bogus and nobody loves you.

-Hey, I'm up to GM anything whenever, can I just announce that and wait for the game to assemble around me?

Well you can, but it will make scheduling really hard and take forever and require a million emails back and forth and re-announcements once you have a time and de-announcements to say you are no longer available "whenever" because you have games scheduled now and...

So if you actually want to roll you may be better off actually saying a day and a time if nothing else.

Remember: The more specific you are about when you are running your game, the faster shit will get itself organized. If you're worried people won't be able to make that specific time, just say like "3-5pm(flexible)"and if anybody wants to change it they'll hit you up.

-Can I just say I'm available to GM any time?

No, because you're lying, because you sleep, and maybe work or go to school. If your free spirit just cannot be contained to one hour, at least put a range of hours you are available (in two different time zones, as usual). If you say "I am available whenever" then you are begging several questions--do the community a favor and answer them up front so as not to generate more noise (as opposed to signal) than you need to. Anyone answering your thread is immediately going to ask what hours you're awake
--please realize that ahead of time and deal with it.

-Help, I'm having technical issues with G+!

Post here. Or, if you can, on G+. People will probably help you out. If I don't comment it's 'cause I don't know.

-How's the video quality?

It ain't Stanley Kubrick--but do you need Stanley Kubrick? It'll freeze for a second here and there, but relax, you'll live. Audio's pretty good.

-Why do I have to send you an email saying who I am on G+, why not just add you?

"I always thought it must be quite handy being called John."


"You can tell when you're going nuts."

"Sorry? I don't follow.”

"I mean, a real sign of megalomania, when a John starts thinking that
'John' will do. 'Hi. It's John.' Or: 'Yours ever, John.' So what? Everybody's called John."
Martin Amis "The Information"

Plus if your screen name is DisplacerBeast28 and your G+ name is Fred Walsh I am not going to make the connection. And if I don't then I won't know who you are or why you started following me (art fan? porn fan? somebody's ex-boyfriend? Spambot?) and I will not add you to my "Online RPG People" circle.

A lot of people who follow me on social media are anonymous citizens who don't want to be followed back or play RPGs.
So if you want in, please send an e-mail to zakzsmith at hawt mayle dawt calm and type your actual Google + name into the text of the email using the letters of the alphabet if you want to be added. "Hi, RPG, Fred Walsh G+" is enough. "Hi, add me on G+" isn't.

-I'm shy.

Wear a mexican wrestler mask.

-Won't that Constantcon thread you keep linking to eventually get hopelessly long and confusing eventually?

Nope. Once a week I am going to close comments on it and post a new one where people can post games they're running that week.

-Wouldn't it be cool if James Raggi, James Smith, and James Maliszewski
all agreed to GM games in one week and called it JamesCon?


-Do I need a webcam?

No, you could just use a mike. Do be aware that webcams are like 10 bucks though.

-I need a G+ invite!

Complain here. Motherfuckers will hook you up.

-Who rolls the dice in a videoconference game?

It's up to the GM. The GM can roll all dice, you can use the dice robot app on the Dragonsfoot forums (you have to register) (I'm sure someone who isn't me can explain it), or you can just all roll your own dice and trust each other because we're grown-ups here.

-Is there some ap that allows me to do (some crazy thing I want to do on G+ chat)?

I have no idea. Maybe ask people on G+.

-Wait, why are there no comments allowed on this post?

Comment here.
It's more efficient.

-I like you, Zak, but I don't want all your weird readers hitting me up for my game. What do I do?

Then post your GM schedule game on your blog. And tell me you did so I can decide if I want in.

-I am grumpy/antisocial/a luddite/just really busy. Will you ever shut up about G+ games?

Yes, soon. It's just all this is in a delicate stage right now and I would like to give this opportunity the attention I think it deserves.

-When are you playing, Zak?

I get up whenever and am generally awake until 4am pacific time/noon london time. My schedule is totally unpredictable, especially on the weekends, but since I paint and play simultaneously I might roll whenever.

-Are the girls playing?

Yeah. Though their schedules are even weirder than mine. But, like, Connie played in a G+ game like 2 days ago.

Use This Stuff, It's Good, I Know I'm Gonna

So, the judging of the "Vornheim: Hack This Book" contest is complete. It really was harder to judge than I expected--I promise I'm not just saying that: I decided if I'm going to use a given table or hack, it has to win a prize. So more people won prizes than I expected. If there is ever a second edition of the book, I will try to get some of this material into it. Seriously.
Let's start with the
5-way tie for third place:

-Kiel Chenier's "Random Tavern Entertainment" table should liven up your local dive and maybe give you some plot hooks on the way;

-Marquis de Carabas' re-skinned a huge chunk of Vornheim for use in a modern day “Vampire: The Masquerade” setting. Although I don't play Vampire probably somebody who reads this does--and it's hard to imagine them not finding at least some of his massive pdf useful--so he gets a prize;

-Next, the indefatigable wrathofzombies deserves a prize for his gruesome and inspiring "Grave Diggin'" table, perfect for those times when neither you nor your players knows what's supposed to be in that coffin;

-Adam's "Random Criminals" table gives you about 100 more (slightly neurotic) NPCs to play with;

-Steve of Bevedog's "Vornheim Communication Networks" is the kind of thing I wish I'd thought of when I wrote the book. And now, thanks to him, I have the opportunity to pretend I did.
Now, second place goes to Jeremy Duncan's "Rival adventuring Parties" and "Rural Innn/Tavern" tables, which are interesting and thorough enough that a lazy GM could probably get a whole session of adventures out of them without much effort.
first place goes to Dan Voyce (quoth Connie: "That Dan Voyce is pretty creative") for his "Theater Amphisbaena" location, which I already posted and which I will be chopping to fit Vornheim Earth-Prime momentarily and also for his less-gigantic but still entirely disturbing and more-original-than-you'd-think-at-first "Nasty Little Idols" table, which I now reproduce here.

By Dan Voyce (click to enlarge)If you won a prize, email me. I know you know my address because you already used it.

And Happy Birthday Gary. We still play your game.

P.S. Wanna play via videochat? At least three DMs have posted games they will be running on the Constantcon thread already as of right now and a few more are threatening to. Check it out. (If you're interested in running or playing please do post there, not here, it'll make everybody's life way easier.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ConstantCon 2011 Starts Now

1. We are going to play a Google + game at midnight tonight (July 26th, no wait now it's the 27th--that is, very soon) (ADDENDUM: just finished it). Come play with us. If you don't know what a Google + game is and why it will revolutionize the hobby, look at his last post.

2. Hack Vornheim contest is closing in about 24 hrs.

3. If you are interested in DMing a Google + game this week with other people who read this blog please leave your pitch in the comments below. Include this information:


Time (describe the time you're available using at least one western hemisphere and one eastern hemisphere time zone so peeps can figure out whether they're around).



Do we need to bring anything? (like, say, a 3rd level character) and anything else you think might make your pitch intriguing--setting, etc.)(if your ruleset is unusual, it may be best to tell everybody to just show up with stats, a race and a class and smooth out the specifics once the game starts rolling.)

Contact info: Please include a way people can contact you other than Google + so that you can tell who they are when they request you and you can discuss details if they're not already one of your G+ contacts. If your name is like "Jack Wilson" realize there's 200 of you on Google plus and you'll need to supply some alternate information if G+ users are looking for you. (I'm the Zak Smith with the black and white picture and the asymmetrical haircut).


Skooky McDungeonface will be DMing a Red Box game in Greyhawk at 1pm Italian time/4 am Pacific time next Tuesday. Bring a 4th level PC and she can be reached under the name Skooky dawt McDee at yahoo dawt calm.

More tips and FAQ here.

I'll play pretty much whenever I'm awake since I can paint and play all day.

Check back with this thread or subscribe to it since, if we're lucky, people will post games all week.

4. Happy Birthday, Gary.

Calendar here (click "agenda" on the upper right for the most useful view) All these are given in Pacific Time because Google Calendar seems to only be able to give me one time zone.

You May Now Play Whatever Whenever Forever

Despite all the rot we talk on these blogs, we all know there are only 2 real problems with RPGs:

-it's hard to find players, and

-even if you have players, it's hard to throw a game together on the spur of the moment since someone has to be mentally ready to GM.

D&D With Porn Stars is happy to announce:

These problems have been solved.
Thank Google + free multiperson video chat. Let the RPG renaissance begin. Play any game any time from anywhere with anybody.

Me and some D&DWPS readers rustled up an insomniac's pick-up game of D&D (Labyrinth Lord, technically) ex nihilo last night:

I said "Hey who wants to DM?"

Il Male stepped up.

Then got 2 other players, made some Labyrinth Lord PCs and then we rolled--took less than an hour from "Ok, who wants to play" to "Alright, roll characters".

And this was, note, in the dead of night, when hardly anybody comments on this blog.

Antion was a halfling, Graham (no blog yet) was a dwarf, and I was a wizard named Gruesome. Il Male did an ace job getting us rolled up and equipped fast.

We ran from some skeletons, talked to a corpse hanging from a tree, fought some goblins (I wish I could roll as well as I did last night all the time--didn't have to use my one spell once) then met a baffling witch who fucked up Graham's shit with a riddle and so I had to shoot her in the stomach.

IMPORTANT: If any other PCs want to rescue us in subsequent Google + sessions: we are trapped in the northmost (?) room under the weird looking tree behind the graveyard. We have 25 gp and will split it with you in exchange for our freedom!

Check it:

Like I said: Google + has free multiperson video chat built right in. If you have a camera on your computer (or just audio) and anyone you know anywhere is on Google +, you can get in on The Neverending Con.

If you're like me and your eyes glaze over when you see computer stuff, let me walk you through it:

So step one is get a Google + invite from a friend.

Step Two: Once you get that you show up on the site and go "looks like facebook" then you leave.

Step Three: Forget you have it until you decide it's time to play GURPS Supers at 3 in the morning with someone in Madagascar who must be a good DM because he likes Motorhead as much as you do, at least judging from his comments on your blog...

Now what:

So once you have Google + you can get to your page by clicking like so...

...which takes you to a very Facebook-looking page. Here are the important bits about this page:

-there's a green button on the right that says "start a hangout" which you can use to start a video session (only if you're not already in one on Google +)(though you can use Google + and Skype simultaneously--the people will be able to hear each other).

-If one of your friends has started a video session, there will be a green button allowing you to join in under their name, where this Larry Page guy has his message written in the picture. Click it and you're in.

This is what a video session looks like (only perhaps the people in your session may look a little less...festive...than the models in this Google PR photo I found on-line.) Anyway, important bits to remember are in red:

A-Hitting this button will make a little text chat window appear in the margin which allows you to type shit to the other people there. It's good for keeping track of dimensions of rooms, PCs names, etc. Also, if it's hard to hear someone talk you can type something in. Usually the audio's pretty good, though.

B-Hit this to invite new peeps to the session. You can do it by name or by "circle" (Google + name for a ton of people you've put in the same category)

C-This button theoretically lets you all watch the same youtube video but it doesn't seem to work yet.

D-The program senses whoever's talking and makes their head big. (Beardy is talking here, apparently). However, if, for example, the GM is holding up a map to the screen and you want the big camera to stay on one person, just click on their little head. To switch it back, click the little head again.


-Some people get asked to download a plugin when they first start a Google + vid chat and can't join until they've done it. After you download it, you should be cool.

-The thing freezes occasionally. (4 times in 2 hrs for 5 seconds each time with us, probably because we had a player in Italy) If this happens, just use the text chat thing in the corner for a few seconds while it unfreezes.

Personally, since I sit at a desk painting all day most days and can play tolerably well while painting, I predict I'll be using this a lot. If you try to add me on Google + please shoot me an email (zakzsmith at hawt mayle dawt calm) to say what your screen name on there is so I can add you--I get a lot of random requests for random reasons but if I know you're from the gameblog I will add you on to the right "circle" rather than to my "who the hell is this?" box.


If you are interested in DMing a Google + game this week, please get your pitch together: Day, Time (describe the time you're available using at least one western hemisphere and one eastern hemisphere time zone so peeps can figure out whether they're around), system(s), level, do we need to bring anything? (like, say, a 3rd level character) and anything else you think might make your pitch intriguing--setting, etc.) and I will put up a new post tomorrow where you can leave your pitches for this week in the comments (I want to give everybody a day to sort of let it sink in.) Please include a way ppl can contact you OUTSIDE of Google + so that you can tell who they are when they request you and you can discuss details.

Playing a game at midnight Pacific tonight. Comment on my most recent Google + post if you're in.

Please Comment If You're Awake

Insomniac like me?

Live in the Eastern Hemisphere?

I'm doing a little experiment--please post if you're up and at leisure.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Notes On Stuff + Only A Couple Days Left for the Hack Vornheim Contest

-Gary Gygax's birthday's coming up: July 27th. Meaning the Hack Vorheim Contest is almost over. Send in those hacks soon.

-Went down to comic con last minute (didn't expect to) with Satine for work (meetings with some people at One Of The Big 2 about maybe making something for them). Had fun at the Chessex table: didn't go in for all the shiny candy dice but did pick up: d8 result weather die, d8 random race die, d12 random class die (they make ad&d, 4e and 3.5 versions, so far as I can tell), a d12 random hit location die (not sure exactly what mechanics to use it with yet) and, most exciting, some blank dice. (This stuff mostly availble here, I think mostly. The actual Chessex site is useless.) Me and Connie and Cameraman Darren had fun writing our names on the d4 and playing "if-your-name-comes-up-you-have-to-tell-a-true-story".

-Did not buy the random monster die (1-in-12-chance of getting a dragon? mmmm...not so much) or the random trap die (tempting but it's too small--really hard to read)

-other comic con notes:

Flash on a Segway. Slower than a normal man!

just like the Adult Video awards, everybody in the industry congregates at the same hotel bar every year. unlike the Adult Video awards...well, everything else.

best and/or worst possible costume not sure: large gentleman, Next Generation Trek officer's suit, Alien facehugger completely covering his face. Grinning maniacally the whole time.

some guy told me out of nowhere "hey, you should grow half a moustache!"--I look at this guy:
nametag: Scott Shaw!. I go "Holy Hell! you taught me to read!"

Boba Fett's taller in person

"Hey, this is the artist I was telling you about"
Superman editor: "Your stuff is really great. If I put you on Superman they'd crucify me, but still--amazing work"

"Excuse me, is that a costume or are you actually hot?"

D&D events all day. thought about it. thought about it. didn't.

Con begins with me getting up at 6 so my friend can stand in line to buy a new Mattel toy and ends with Justine Jolie telling the Penthouse Pet of the Year to have sex with me.

-I decided that since having half the players skype in totally works in play, I can do something I never thought I'd be able to do with all these no-regular-scheduling-logic-known-to-mankind entertainment industry types: schedule gainm unilaterally whenever I want. No scrambling around each time we wanna play to see who has work and who has to flake. If you show, you show, and if you don't I have enough other people scattered around the country who play that we'll have at least 3 PCs rain or shine any day for any game. Very excited. Super excited.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Where The Hell Have You Been, Flake? table + Midkemia Cities Review

By far the most interesting rules in Runequest's classic Midkemia: Cities supplement are in the "Character catch-up" section. These rules tell PCs who have missed a session or two what they've been doing during that time. Since they are unique and interesting and address a problem that comes up in my campaign all the time, I hereby shall hack them down to useful size (they are originally written as a whole "mini-game"--they are re-envisioned here according to the efficiency-und-utility-uber-alles Vornheim ethic):

Where The Hell Have You Been, Flake?

Roll d100 or d100 per session missed or d100 per in-game week or month missed, depending on what's appropriate for your campaign. When the table calls for a "random NPC" or "random aristocrat" you can use any random NPC table you like, I personally will be using the ones in Vornheim... (Contents of this table adapted, quoted and largely bit from the work of Stephen Abrams and Jon Everson with a little bit added and a lot speedified by me. If they or any relevant copyright holders have a problem with that I'll take it down.)

1-7 You are offered a dangerous mission. Offered= number just rolled x200 gp for it. Now choose whether to decline or accept the mission. If you decline, that's it. If you accept, there is a 35% chance of death. Roll. If you survived, you also gain 100 x D20 experience points.

8-12 You've been sick. Spend 20 minus your constitution score x 100 on keeping yourself supplied and in comfort. If that's more than you've got or you're a cheapskate subtract d4 from all physical stats for today.

Results 13-23 in bold indicate you offended someone, roll d6 to see who: 1- Random aristocrat 2-3 random NPC commoner, 4-rumormonger who damages your local rep (-2 to local charisma rolls), 5-someone who cursed you (roll a random curse), 6-an entertainer who satirizes you (-2 to local charisma rolls)
13-Bumped into them on the street
15-Imagined slight
16-protocol error, bad manners, or lack of respect
17-interfered w/ plans
18-NPC jealous of PC's success
19-NPC doesn't like how PC looks
20-NPC was just in a bad mood
21-religious argument
22-NPC jealous of PC's spouse, family, lover , etc.
23-NPC misunderstands PC

24-29 Accused of crime, charisma roll to escape conviction. If convicted, pay d8x100 gold to get out. If you don't have it or are a cheapskate you are a fugitive from justice starting now.

30 You have been doing research. Make an intelligence roll. If successful, you may ask the DM one question about any current mystery in the campaign and s/he must give you at least a clue, if not the answer.

31-35 Thieves. Lose d% of your cash.

36-38 A friend of yours (a random common NPC) offended someone. Roll d6 and consult the red text above to see who. If you don't help your friend, there is an 85% chance to offend him, If you do help him, the offended party is now offended by you as well.

39 A friend of yours (a random aristocrat) offended someone. Roll d6 and consult the red text above to see who. If you don't help your friend, there is an 85% chance to offend him, If you do help him, the offended party is now offended by you as well.

40 A family member of yours offended someone. Roll d6 and consult the red text above to see who. If you don't help this family member, there is an 85% chance to offend him/her, If you do help the offended party is now offended by you as well.

41-48 You made a new friend. Roll a random common NPC contact.

49-50 Long lost family member shows up. Friendly. Roll a random occupation for him/her.

51 You made a new friend. Roll a random aristocrat contact.

52 Offer of marriage from (Roll random NPC) of lower social status. Wedding, should you choose to accept it, is in d4 days. If you accept, roll d100: less than 15 means a family member killed you in your sleep, more than 75 means you receive that number x20 in dowry/gifts.

53 Offer of marriage from (Roll random NPC) of same status. Wedding, should you choose to accept it, is in d4-1 weeks. If you accept, roll d100: less than 15 means a family member killed you in your sleep, more than 50 indicates you receive that number x100 in dowry/gifts.

54 Offer of marriage from (Roll random NPC) of higher status. Wedding, should you choose to accept it, is in 2d10 weeks. If you accept, you have offended two random aristocrats and receive d100 x 300 gp in dowry/gifts.

55-57 Dude, someone just gave you d20x100 gp.

58 You are under surveillance by an assassin.
59 You are under surveillance by a spy of a foreign power.
60-61 You are surveillance by thieves casing your place to steal stuff.
62-65 You are under surveillance by the town watch
66 You aren't under surveillance but think you are.

67 You return to action with a mysterious glint in your eye. During this session (and this session only) you may totally pull some crazy, situation-specific bullshit out of your ass to save everyone in a desperate situation ("oh, I have an extra crossbow right here...") but only if you can entirely explain how you ended up with this item/ability/characteristic, etc. in 15 seconds realtime or less. And you can only use it once.

68-69 You got mugged (lose whatever you regularly carry) and tossed into debtor's prison by cops who assumed you were a beggar. Gain a criminal record and d12 x 10 lice.

70-72 You got mugged (lose whatever you regularly carry).

73 You witnessed a secret ceremony. DM figure this out or just roll one of the local religions and assume their pissed at the PC for the foreseeable.

74 You help out some fancy type. Receive a title (d4: 1-duke/duchess 2-Baron/baroness 3-Lord/Lady 4-Knight--Sir or Dame)

75 Your living quarters become infested with vermin.

76 A small bug befriends you. You choose what kind.

77 A small, useless, dumb furry animal (no stats) befriends you. Pick what kind.

78 Somebody gives you a horse. It had a badass name of your choice and maximum stats for a warhorse.

79-81 Recruiting push: You may join the military as an enlisted soldier.

82 You may join the military and get up to the rank of NCO before the next adventure starts

83 You may join the military and become a commisioned officer before the next adventure starts

84 Your place burned down. roll d100: under 50, you saved your stuff, 50-95 you saved a random half of it.

85 You learned to speak a new language (but not read it) pick!

86 You learned to read a new language (but not speak it) pick!

87 Someone asks to be your servant for 4 gp a week. They're pretty cool, it seems like.

88 You meet the person of your dreams. There is a 40% chance that he/she feels the same about you, and a 25% chance that he/she already is married.

89 You have a dream. Roll 1D8: on a result of 1, a deity tells you of a quest that you must undertake. There is a 40% chance that this dream comes from a god. If it does, and if you ignore it, there is a 60% chance that the displeased god kills you. On a 2, you see your own death, which so distracts you that for the next four weeks you treated any successful befriendings as offendings, instead. On a 3-5, you have a prophetic vision which so catches you up in worrying and telling people about it that there is a 20% chance you lose your job if you have one. On a 6, the dream was so involved that you slept the entire day, with a 30% chance you lost your job if you have one. (This one is awesome and verbatim from the book)

90 You are asked to write a book detailing your adventures for publication. A handsome advance is offered: d20x 100 gp.

91 You discover an amazing new recipe for mince pie.

92 You are complemented on your shoes. It goes to your head. -2 to charisma checks because you just keep talking about them but +2 to hit and +3 to damage against anyone who insults them.

93 The town watch or other police agency enters your living quarters. Roll 1D10: on a result of 1-3, they are looking for a fugitive; on 4-7, they are searching for contraband or stolen items; on 8, they are conducting a census; on 9-10, they are thieves casing your house

94 Your place is condemned. You have 2d6 days to find a new one. If, like so many adventurers, you lack a permanent residence, then you have accidentally dyed your hair a color to be decided by the player to your left and don't have time to dye it back.

95 You have a major argument with a spouse, lover, or random intimate you just met. Roll charisma. Failure indicates a woman scorned. Or a man. Or whatever.

96 Death in the family. Pick a family member to die. If they're an NPC already active in the game, the DM can choose to overrule you, and pick someone else.

97 As 96. Plus you are expected to be at the funeral.

98 You have been impressed into the military. You can join, become a fugitive, or buy them off for 1d6x100 gp.

99 Called into court as a witness, you have a 30% chance of being offered a bribe of 1D6 x50 gold pieces to speak in favor of a guilty defendant. Roll a random NPC,to learn who is on trial. If you testify against him/her, there is a 25% chance s/he is offended. If you help him, there is a 35% chance that you will befriend him. GAMEMASTER NOTE: if the player-character lies to free the defendant, there is a chance that others might take special interest in the player-character.

00 You have an accident. Roll 1D10: on a result of 1-2, you received bruises that will last 1D4 weeks; on 3-4, you were seriously burned and should treat the incident as an illness for 1D6 weeks (see 8-12 above) and you lose 10% of your charisma, appearance, physical beauty, etc.; on 5-6, you suffered a major cut or a lost a tooth, etc., reducing your charisma, appearance, physical beauty by 20%; on 7, you broke a bone requiring 1D6 weeks recovery; on 8-10, in addition to bruises and burns as above you must pay 1D20 x10 gold pieces for damages or be accused of a crime.

Short Review of Midkemia Cities From The Point of View of The Guy Who Wrote Vornheim and Thought Doing That Was A Good Idea:

There's a lot of interesting detail and some useful ideas, but the format of the tables assumes either:

-During prep you want to roll 6 times on tables with only 6 results to decide (say) what kind of inn you got rather than just deciding "this inn sucks and has bad food"--and do those 6 rolls for each inn individually until you've filled a map, or

-In mid session you are going to roll 6 times on 6 tables in the middle of a game right there in front of your players and god and everybody and this will be totally worth it because the PCs are not just going to go "Ok, so it has medium food, good beds, and 24 customers--most of whom are priests and townspeople? Let's try the next inn..."

Plus many of the tables are for such minor things (details of stables, f'rinstance) that there's no advantage to having them in "slow table" format. It's not like it's a suspense building exercise : "And...there are...roll roll, modifiers...3 employees!" The advantage (when there is one) is the tables are simulationally weighted to produce maybe realistic results but that is only noticeable if your players are visiting like 10 stables in short order and that implies you're rolling 4 times (plus modifiers) for each stable 10 times in the middle of playing a game and that's not exactly my idea of a good time.

In short: all this kind of stuff seems to have been stuff they didn't think about and so it unfortunately limits the usability of the tables in prep or in play.

That said, there's is much of interest here, especially if you're hacky. Like for instance the "Missions" tables: As written, you roll three times and end up with "Seduce..a thief".:which is a little bit of a drag because you are still left trying to figure out which thief and why--which would appear to be making you do almost as much work as if you had to think up a mission from scratch anyway without the table. However, if you take, say, the original "verb" results from this set of tables (which I now reprint here):

1 Free...
2 Capture...
3 Guard...
4 Assassinate...
5 Find...
6 Transport...
7 Lure...
8 Incriminate...
9 Seduce...
10 Terrorize...

And then, instead of rolling on the table they've got (16-"warrior" 17-"non-human" etc.) roll on a table full of detailed NPCs that fit your setting (like, say if you have Vornheim, then roll on the Random Aristocrat or Random NPC table) then you've got yourself a hook with enough meat that you can think something up quick: "Assassinate Yzonde DiArmond who despises the sun, is chief advisor to the regent, is nervous sweaty and sloppy and is married to Duke Ozgord of Hogg".

Uh why? Because she's too sloppy and has fucked up, or the client hiring you is a sun-worshipper... And by who? Ozgord, maybe. Or a rival for Ozgord's affections. Ok, done.

Also, the section of advice on building realistic populations and spreads of buildings for towns and cities is good if you're into that sort of thing, though know it is just guidelines rather than any kind of fast-gen rules.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cruel Consequences On The Isle of Oth

The top of this character sheet pretty much sums up what's going on. Click to enlarge..
After sailing thither for no reason on the stolen-and-renamed HMS Tastycakes, the PCs are on the Isle of Oth which is a cursed island city full of people who can't leave: ancient exiled creatures who once offended the gods and the (very depressed) descendants of their servants.

It runs on a sort of democracy, they elect a new ruler every four years from among the heads of the most powerful factions on the island.

One of these heads happens to look exactly like Connie since it's her half-sister.

(Did you know Elf genes are ultradominant, so half-elf half-siblings on the elf side look almost like twins. Now you know.)

-Girls' plan: have sister win the election, kill the sister, replace her with Connie, get the Fourfold Alchemical Crown (worth humongous gp, 4 pieces of which are unlocked for the coronation and stay together for a year--pieces are lead separately, gold together), and therefore get mad xp and/or rule the island.

Winning the election requires gaining the support of the powerful and influential entities in the corrupt city (most of whom are, secretly, monsters of one kind or another). The electoral math is hardly Nate Silver territory, the smart money says: kill 3 of the entities or persuade 2 of them to support your guy and you win.

Persuasion generally requires agreeing to do D&D-type stuff for the entity in question.

-First session on island here: they shuttle around figuring shit out until Frankie just decides to up and kill somebody 'cause, hey, that's fun.

-Second session: on account of logistics and Mandy being sick (in real life), there is 0% overlap with players present during previous session. Leaves Connie and KK in charge, they promptly decide to find the entities known as The Lovers (arbitrarily chosen) and ace them. Which gets them down in a dungeon.

-Third session: Maxim Magazine comes over to photograph us for an upcoming feature. The idea is they take pictures while we play. So--in order to make the pictures look right--we play (with huge primary-colored bowls of kids-birthday-party snacks everywhere that most of the girls would never eat like giant cheezit balls and whatnot and someone telling me to sit up straight every ten seconds and everyone else topless and Mandy and Satine up on a big chair where they can't reach the dice and Kimberly having to keep a table leg strategically placed between the line of her ass and the camera).

(These are atypical and inconvenient conditions under which to attempt to master a dungeon, I tell you what.)

But basically we manage to get everybody in the same place and we get in a round or two of fighting with a giant centipede and a pair of rust monsters courtesy of Otherworld minis.

-So then now this session:
Kimberly and Connie in real life and Mandy and her brother (via Skype) down in the dungeon.


Some notes:

-Prepping to DM the Isle of Oth is hard. In addition to all the complexities of a city, several locations in it are effectively full dungeons, less than a session's travel from each other. Since none of these dungeons are fully detailed yet (and I lassitate to detail them, as I may never use them) it requires either constant improvisation or accurately guessing where the PCs will end up.

-Plus the players are unpredictable. As noted, for example, Team First Session and Team Second Session had zero overlap. And of course the girls were never what you'd call long-term-goal-oriented. Due to all this ADD&D complete changes in strategy or target are possible from session to session, and since nobody's trapped in this city, just up and leaving is totally always an option.

-Plus even besides that nobody can remember anything. Mandy has the best memory for plot details but also has massive migraines lately (and plays through them) so even her usually polydentlike grip on the ever-mutating plot is more tenuous. Recapping is no problem, but this makes the handle on possible strategies and options for dealing with the situation overall a little wiggly.

-This session specifically was actually mostly just everybody finishing hitting the centipede and rust monsters. It actually seemed to get more interesting as the rust monsters starting eating weapons and the tactics got weirder. Evan had a lot of fun pulling the rust monsters' tentacles out of their faces.

-Skype: Rather than use the Dragonsfoot dice-robot or other electronic means, KK and Connie just rolled Evan and Mandy's dice for them. This actually worked oddly well (from the DM p.o.v.) since--with four people--this meant at least half the party was doing something all the time. More and more I think: the ideal combat system would involve everybody rolling dice for one reason or another as often as possible. Preferably simultaneously.

-Mandatory Adult Interlude:
KK (putting the phone down): "I'm doing a gangbang!"
Z: "How many guys?"
KK: "4 guys!"
Z: "You look so happy"
KK: ""It's cool, I told them my dream team, my A-list of guys and she was like 'Oh they're all busy that day' but then she was like 'Hey that's a good idea' so she's rescheduling the whole thing. But then Mark (KK's agent) is like, 'Reschedule? I hate doing work, why didn't you just say you'd bang whoever they sent over, I mean if I as a woman I'd take every fucking cock in..."
Mandy: "Uh, Evan, is mom home?"
Evan: "Ummm...I don't think so."

-This thing happened: go down into the dungeon, fight, decide fighting in dungeon is hard, leave dungeon, get more supplies, ostensibly in order to return to same dungeon later. Totally typical of stereotypical Old School D&D-style play, this hardly ever happens with this group. They usually go in and stay in. Rust monsters, I guess. They spent a lot of time buying clubs and other nonmetallic things.

-(...while I walked the dog. So glad I threw this and this together. Speeds up the inevitable and constant rebuying of warpets and lamp oil.)

-The dungeon's built around and slowly spirals toward a deep, dark central pit. Into which Connie--a session or two ago--idly tossed a hypercube (#97 here) so I am as eager as they to see what's going on down there now.

-Speaking of gratuitous plot-hook-mitosis-on-account-of-Connie, she was then all "Hey, can we do that thing where we drink and then roll and then things happen and we get experience points?"

-Yes you can. Results:

Connie was set upon by two thieves, which wasn't much of an issue since everybody managed to kill them right after they showed up, however it was almost a disaster since, ok:

1-thief one backstabs Connie
2-thief two rifles through her stuff, stealing various items
3-DM, not trusting Connie to read off all items, takes character sheet and gingerly crosses unusual items off her sheet using a single line per item
4-Connie angrily blacks out items with sharpie...
5-...while friends rescue her and kill thief
6-Connie gets stuff back, realizes she no longer can tell what it was since she blacked it all out
7-Quoth DM: "Oh well"
(moral of story: you can drink, and your character can drink, but if you both drink at once, have someone keep an eye on your stuff)
8-After much squinting, Connie reconstructs lost items and reference numbers.

(Reference Numbers: I do this "You find a scroll of unknown origin, write #68 on your page" then when they use it I can look it up and don't have to remember from nowhere which mystery scroll Satine found at the bottom of a well a year ago based on a hasty transcription of an ad hoc description)

KK insulted a local person of rank...roll roll...turns out to be head of the local constabulary. Which in this context would be Connie's candidate-sister.

Mandy got arrested, failed her charisma check, and will probably be on trial for drunk and disorderly next session.

Connie fell in love with...roll roll...a succubus. Which, conveniently enough, there already is in Oth.

Evan got a disease which (roll roll realms of chaos)...made his legs really big.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ein Kleines Problem Mit Einer Hexe-Modul

So after trawling eBay for, like, ever I finally scored a copy of one of the rare TSR "6" series modules that was pulled off the shelves during the Satanic Panic of the early '80s. Y'know, the ones with the photo-illustrations?

Anyway, due to extensive water-damage it's pretty hard to read and I have no idea what any of this stuff is supposed to be--do you?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

8 Steps To Pimp Your Lair

I just found this article from an old issue of Interior Design Monthly that some of you might find useful, which I now re-print here in its entirety:

8 Steps To An Utterly Fabulous Lair

Now folks, we know you've all had some monster clients in your day--but believe us when we say that you don't know what it's like to have a monster for a client until you've had a monster for a client. Forget celebrity nurseries and corporate HQs--nothing can match the earful you'll get from a mind flayer if the pool of myelin-dissolving ooze isn't just so.

Villainous lairs are one of the most challenging projects an interior optimization professional can take on. Here are some basic questions we always ask a monster before we get started working on a lair for him, her, or it:

1. What does the client need/want?

What is it collecting? Food, books, souls? Chalices? Does it need a purpose-built room to collect all these knickknacks? Probably at least one. A filing system? What information is it trying to extract from prisoners, and so, therefore, who are those prisoners? How are they kept alive? All this is can be answered by the simple question: what does the client want?

Rookie lair designers frequently make the mistake of thinking: security security security, but remember: monsters want things too.

2. What's the technology level of the client?

Most clients will want deathtraps. Not all clients can afford deathtraps. Upon being told this, some of these will then immediately want hurttraps. Often, however, we recommend steering them toward alarm-traps for the best long-term results.

3. What's the magic level of the client?

This is huge, people. Sure they want a wizard lock, everyone does, but the technical know-how is hard to come by. Be sure the client keeps his or her plans realistic, or you know who'll get blamed in the end. And try to tailor the magic to the client--those cannibal Drow are going to have a much easier time with a foe's-blood-sacrifice-lock than with some randomly rolled off-the-rack job. A little more work, sure, but it'll be worth it in word-of-mouth.

4. How self-sufficient is the lair supposed to be?

You know the type: "I want a puzzle here and an anti-grav trap there and wandering monsters there and a moat and..." Because, you know, they've seen the Beholder had it on Cribs and now they want it, too. Suggest maybe an aqueduct or sewage tunnel and you just get blank stares. Like Oh how boring.

Stress to your clients that functional parts of their lair can be interesting features in themselves: a muck creature that purifies the water is going to have a stomach full of interesting minerals, a lightwell (properly guarded of course) can provide a home with a wealth of medicinal and carnivorous plants. In the Mount Saint Michel cathedral in France they had a pulley system for bringing supplies up to the monastery via a giant hamster wheel powered by a running prisoner--you don't get much more evil than that.

Bottom line: finding out where your villains' daily food, drink, sanitation, and supplies are going to come from can be a spectacular and efficient way to add variety and depth to any fortress or subterranean domicile.

5. Who are you afraid of?

Yes, yes, we know you want guard posts and traps but who are you guarding all that loot from? If you live in the Valley of the Smoke Elves we don't really need to be splurging on the sleep spell fountain now do we? Your regime of math riddles is very clever but it only makes sense if you're only afraid of stupid people stealing your stuff.

6. Why doesn't everybody come in here?

So you have a lair stuffed with unimaginable riches. Do people just not know? Are you far from civilization? Is the initial layer of doors nigh-impenetrable? Are there rumors of an ancient curse? Are there unseen archers who strike down any who approach? This is important to know, as you're only going to want to put the good stuff (chandeliers, vintage furniture, unincubated prezygotes) behind at least the first layer of security, if not the second.

7. How ok are you with vermin?

We know: ew. But seriously, if the client doesn't care if there's mauve slime growing on the sconces, why should you? Hell, suitably infectious or carnivorous vermin can be the organic center of a whole security system. Your mother may not approve, but your clients will thank you for all the gp you just saved them.

8. Does anybody else use the lair besides you?

Really? Really? Are. You. Sure?

A lot of clients have visitors they don't know about, and not just rats and spiders. Goblin scavengers, astral searchers, norkers, meazels, ghosts of former inhabitants, you name it. Don't get halfway into a project before realizing one of the client's henchmen is a wereboar and needs a place to keep a pile of chewed bones. Tip: the bigger a lair is, the bigger the chance something's going on your client doesn't know about. There's nothing more embarrassing than having a client discover a hidden passage and following it to a secret chamber and finding out you've done absolutely nothing with it.

So there you go. Ask those 8 questions and the lair will pretty much build itself. Good luck!


In other periodical-related news, the new Fight On! is out, featuring some seriously impressive content I tell you what from what I've read so far in the couple hours since I got my copy.

Table of Contents
Champions of ZED (Daniel Boggs) 3
Fast Company II – Nonhumans (Schroeder & Shieh) 11 (read this. Extremely useful.)
It’s All in the Cards (Michael Curtis) 12
The Tomb of Kaman-Doh Rey’d (David Coleman) 17 (featuring cool robot pictures by Netherwerks and Lawrence Raymond)
The Apen (Andrew “The Venomous Pao” Trent) 20
Geologians (Tim “Sniderman” Snider) 22
The Witch Doctor (Scott Moberly) 24
Knights & Knaves (Barber, Green, Rients, & Cal) 25
Grognard’s Grimoire (Erin “Taichara” Bisson) 27
The City State of Dusal Dagodli (Gabor Lux) 28
The Darkness Beneath (Heron Prior & David Bowman) 32 (Fucking awesome.)
Education of a Magic User (Douglas Cox) 44
Doxy, Urgent Care Cleric (J. Linneman & K. Green) 45
Sir Tendeth (Tim “Sniderman” Snider) 46
Creepies & Crawlies (T. Snider and Jeffrey P. Talanian) 60
Monstrous Ecology (Ron Edwards) 63
Random’s Assortment (Peter Jensen & Random) 64
Curses Gone Wild! (John Laviolette) 65
Artifacts, Adjuncts, & Oddments (Jason Sholtis) 67
Treasure Types (Simon Bull) 68
Dungeon Modules: The Rondo Rooms (Jeff Rients) 69
Pigdivot! (Chris Robert) 72
Where the Action Is (Zak S.) 80
Merlyn’s Mystical Mirror (Gabor Lux & Jo Kreil) 84
Notes from a Master (James M. Ward & Tim Kask) 86

And now I turn it over to Calithena:

The print version is available here:

and the PDF is available here:

To encourage you to check us out, we have put two other products on SALE along with the release of Issue 12. These prices won’t last forever! The Fight On! Compiled Compilation +4, combining our first four fabulous issues under one cover, can currently be purchased for $19.99; and Roll the Bones, our well-reviewed collection of fantastic fiction, is available for just $14.99. We’d be honored if you checked one or both out!

The compilation is available here:

and Roll the Bones is available here:

If you buy by the end of the day TOMORROW (July 15), you can save even more on all of these – lulu is offering a site-wide discount of 20% off everything with the coupon BIG (BIG305AU, BIG305UK for some foreign readers), making this one of the best times to check us out for the first time or check back in if you’ve missed a few issues! While you’re at it, check out some other lulu gaming products – there is a ton of good stuff on there from all kinds of producers.

What I Know About The World

Cut'n'paste sketch map of known world in my current D&D campaign. ("sketch" as in a "rapidly executed piece of art not intended as a finished work". As in "this isn't a hexmap of the world, I don't need one for all this geography for my current campaign, may make one later"). Click to enlarge...

A-Desert full of old ruins and cryptic Sumerian Lovecraftiana. Anything in any CoC game I run will have an analogue or origin here. Shadows. Tentacled horrors. Runic dweorganisms. Tiamat.
B-Opium-dream Exotic Pseudoasia: start with Yoon-Suin and see where it goes from there. Yak-men, crab-men, mollusk gods. If players keep going east from there there's ninjas and what-all.
C-Arabian Nights country. Thieves, walking demons, dune stalkers. May leave this for Mandy to do when she gets around to running some more games.
D-Githyankified Egypt. Tombs. Nile--as in the band. Khopesh swords. Insect gods. Children of En-Gorath. Curses.
E-Sea full of Sinbad-esque stuff. Harpies. Pirates. Aspidochelone? Rolangian Ettins.
F-Harsh, Chaos-damaged pseudoSlavia with freaky Eastern European fairytale elements. Witches. Ogres. Hobgoblins.
G-Realm of the NegaTsar. (Art in this area by Oleg Denysen.) Nine-headed winter wolves. Clockwork golems. Murderous clocks. Mastodons.
H-Sea of Ignorance and Pain. Scattered cold islands and island-fortresses, including the Oth teratocracy, where my players are now. Cannibal mermaids. Sea serpents. Jellyfish men.
I-Puzzle palace of Tetrus Imperious. Shifting passages. Traps. Confusion. Riddles.
J-Pseudo-Hungary/Romania with Dracula-Bathory war taken from James Raggi's Transylvania 1600 idea. Masked armies. Blood omens. Pikes.
K-Hungarian fairytale forest. Murderous trees. Talking beasts. Straw men.
L-The Reach. Vancian alchemy, lightning wizards, automata, pterodactyls, blue orchids.
M-Fortified megalopolis separating Whitey from the Decadent East. Full of generations of insane crusaders. Relics. Curses. Armor golems. Despair.
N-A green and pleasant land.
O-Goblin Kingdoms. Boschoforms. Carrion crawlers worshipped like gods. Tricks. Inversions.
P-Things are all Pendragon and whatnot here. Enormous roses isolated in the forest. Elegant dragons. Black knights. Whispering snakes.
Q-Fairy land. Possibly via Mandragora. (As drawn by Virginia Sterret and Kay Nielsen.) Pixies, brownies, sprites. Contracts. Magic eggs. Etiquette.
R-River of Unfathomable Despair. (It's just a river.)
S-Some sort of abstracted symbolist zone where there's weird magic effects and a big maze (like in the picture). Indescribable creatures. Queens. Kings. Pages. Knights.
T-Vornheim and environs (everything from here thru Z is on this map and briefly detailed on page 3 of that book I wrote.) Wolves. Crows.
U-Bellet Osc. Lunatics. Black swans. Lich King.
V-As-yet-unnamed half-frozen sea. Crawling with ice raiders in scarves and insect-like wind-masks. White worms. Ice foxes.
W--Nephilidia. Locathath. Algoids. Blind albino piranha.
X-Nornrik: White elves and frost giants.
Y-Deathfrost Mountain. Undead armies.
Z-Last known location of Bluebeard the Pirate. 7 Magic Dwarven pirates.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"It's also funny watching morons froth at the mouth"

--James E. Raggi IV

So there's me and James Raggi talking about games on a podcast again. This time it's The Game's The Thing. As usual, it starts with me and James doing our whole salesguy catalog spiels and slowly transitions into advanced GM theory and drunken namecalling so if you just want that stuff, feel free to skip ahead.

On to the serious business:

Is there any RPG that does initiative like this:

-Each side rolls initiative (one die for all the PCs, one die for the GM).

-The winning side has one character go (if it's the PCs, they just choose among themselves who'll go first)
-Then the losing side has one character go
-Then the winning side has one character go...
etc. etc. the side with more characters has the leftovers all go at the end.


I've never played that way but it seems like it combines the tactical complexity of having individual initiative with the simplicity and "hey everybody put those Cheetos down and pay attention" quality of group initiative.

And Now A Word From Natalie Dee

Play whatever. It's ok.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

This Is Good. And Not That Hard.

A GM comes in, prepared, and gives the players options: 3 or 4 or 12 or 30 or infinite options.

The players usually choose one.

This leaves the GM with all the paths not taken. Plus then the GM plans the options for next time, beginning where the PCs left off. And since these options genuinely are options, then, almost by definition, most won't be chosen.

This leaves a lot of extra material. Even if it never gets used, it's there.

So the GM needs a notebook. Full of ideas or stats or places or all three.

It can sit there, and half of it doesn't get used. And it isn't really good for much else, in that form: it's campaign notes. They can't be turned into anything else useful (a book, a movie, a didactic puppet show) without even more work.

So you have it sitting there lonely, between some pages.

Or you can put it up here, on the web. Then people look at your notes--which you pretty much have to make anyway--and talk about them and maybe write back and maybe give you new ideas and suddenly your own backburner and unused ideas bounce back with some new spin on them and you think of a way to use them again. Or maybe you notice someone else has an idea like that, only better.

So the ideas breed. What would've been junk is now alive. And even if you can't use it maybe someone else can.

The point is: GMing and blogging are usefully related in a way that blogging and a million other things you might blog about aren't. I do a lot of things besides play D&D, but for the most part they don't get better or more fun or more efficient when you talk to people about them all day. (Had an art debate today. 5 hours and nothing anyone--including me--said is at all relevant to what I need to do next to the big slippery red and black thing covered in paint lying on its back in front of me right now.)

The point is: this is good. This thing we do is good. Even if you don't get anything out of the last thing you posted, maybe the next GM down does, and maybe they'll repay the favor.

And it doesn't have to be a big deal. I remember reading this old "content lite" post--just the Monsters and Manuals guy writing about his top 10 favorite monsters--and suddenly a whole bunch of things clicked into place. Not because of just that one post, but because I'd been reading everything he was doing--the atmosphere he'd been creating--and then, suddenly, Oh yeah, I see how Mind Flayers are supposed t0 work now. And--I'm sure--to him, it was just some stuff he assumed. Just a different angle on the same stuff is enough.

GMing is...maybe "hard" isn't the word, after all some of the dumbest people you know can do it...but it's a challenge. You set yourself a challenge, or your players do. This thing, however, doesn't have to be. It's just a conversation we're having.

Grab some chicken wings, sit back. "You like Gelatinous Cubes? I hate Gelatinous Cubes! One time there was this Gelatinous Cube and..." and that's all you have to do. Just pull up a chair and talk. Nobody worth a good goddamn is expecting James Joyce here, and if you can write like James Joyce, for Christ's sake don't waste it all on a D&D blog.

If we read you, we know a little about how you roll. If all you have to say today is "I really want to use a giant crayfish this week" that's fucking fine. Maybe that, in the context of everything else you've said, explains more than you think it does. I know if Canecorpus is into giant crayfish, it means something different than if Max is.

This isn't hard. This shouldn't be made hard, you're not being graded, just show up and show us one more way to come at this thing.

Because it is good. It is good to know more. It is good to know how many ways it can be done. It's a hobby. Maybe today's idea is dumb. So what? Maybe someone can turn it into not-dumb. Life is long. Talk.

Saturday Night, 1 AM, Party In Echo Park

(Pretty much the exact transcript)

CC:"Hey, Mickey's Malt Liquor!"
Z: "Want one?"
"Yes sir I do."
"Cheers, girl."
"You're trying to get a picture of the pinatas?"
"Yeah. It's gonna come out too dark....
...yep. They're looking at me and they're llamas."
"Lemme see. Oh but that's nice. Ok, ok ok--you want to play a game?"
"Ok, I'm going to look at every picture in here and you tell me why it's there."
"I'll endeavor to be entertaining and/or informative."
"Good. So this..."
"That's a crossbow and it's in there in case I ever have to draw one."
"...And you've forgotten there's the internet?"
"Don't judge me, woman. On occasion I am in an airport in like some square state and I need to draw a crossbow. Such is life."
"You got a light?"
"Cool. Ok--whatthefuckisthis?"
"That is a thingy that you spin and it makes combination animals in a Canadian museum. I took it because it reminded me of this book this guy I kinda know was making."
"He's making a flippy animal book?"
"It's like a Dungeons and Dragons book and there's monsters and you can flip them and make new ones."
"You can make your own monsters in Dungeons and Dragons?"
"I can. I don't know about you."
"Shit I'll make all the monsters. So how do you know this guy?"
"He sent me one once."
"Because of my D&D blog, people send me stuff sometimes."
"Oh, that's so sweet. Is there a lot of people who like trade things and stuff? I bet they're all like a bunch of sweethearts."
"Mmmmm...most of them. Man, I sure hope the pregnant-dress goes out of style."
"Oh my god, me too. I don't get it. Stop it you American Apparel model wannabe bitch. Ok ok, back to this. Who's this guy?"
"Robert Williams. The painter. You know he did like the painting on the inside of Appetite for Destruction. He's at this debate for the magazine I work for--which reminds me I gotta fucking do that debate again in the morning. Standard bar?"
"I'm there. Ok: that's...Mandy and some girl because well why that's obvious, and that, too, and...
what's that?"
"A sea cucumber. Because sea cucumbers are cool."
"And that?"
"Mikey from Eyehategod because Eyehategod is cool."
"And that's you with blood coming out of your ear and I'm not going to ask, and...and this?"
"It's this drawing this guy I met in New York made for a game he was running. Like D&D but with superheroes."
"He seriously made this just for the game? That's so, like... That's wild--I have to play with you guys sometime! So he drew all that? How does the game work? It's like..."
"You...ok, so there's like the game master who is sort of like...Ok, it's kind of like a video game and everyone is playing except one person is the game master which means they're like the video game itself. They tell the other players what's going on."
"How do they decide?"
"Either make it up or roll dice, depending. I mean there's different rules for different ways to play, but basically you just sort of...the game master picks but then certain things are purposefully left to chance. Different things in different versions."
"Well I saw the video. I think I get it, but so you can do whatever you want?"
"Kinda. Like this guy is running a superhero game so in order to show his players what kind of world they're in he made this whole binder full of superhero information for them with pictures he did. So for that game, everything in that binder is true."
"That's so fun! You want another one? And you just met this guy because you both run these games?"
"Yes ma'am I do. And yes I did."
"That is like a lot of effort they must be like really generous people."
"So some of them are jerks? How do you know, like what do they do?"
"Oh, y'know it's the internet. Some are vociferously opposed to the way other ones write down what they think about playing Dungeons and Dragons and so they like will bitch."
"A lot? Like every day? Like did they bitch today?"
"Man. It's Saturday night, they should get off the internet and get laid."
"That is an interpretation of the available facts with which I am entirely in agreement, C.C."
"That is cum on someone's face, and I know why you took that, that's a painting, that's...ok, what's that?"
"That is a close-up of part of Watts Towers which I took because I thought it looked neat and also I was thinking I might turn it into a dungeon."
"Like for the game?"
"Yeah--like I would color code it--like say the aqua was one thing like a trap and the black was something else and each one was a room, and..."
"We so have to play, ok? I'm serious."
"Yeah, no problem."
"Ok, that's Alex, I know why you have a picture of Alex, that's Drax, that's a hot dog because you like hot dogs, that's whatshername the black girl with the ass....what's that?"
"That is a little cardboard model of the inside of the Enterprise the writers on the show used to figure out where people were so the script continuity would work right."
"Neat...ok that's Mandy and Nadia...did she...uh...?"
"Those are real, those are not."
"I like those."
"Hey, everybody appreciates quality."
"It's true, isn't it?"
"And quantity."
"To quantity."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

D6 Cluster Table: Bandit Lair

Long day. 4:54 am, just got home, can't sleep. Here's another kind of building tables using the d6 cluster building-generator method.

Bandit/Goblin/Raider Lair

Out-facing numbers (exterior of lair):

1-Locked Door w/trap
2-Concealed Entrance/exit
3-Arrow/observation slit
5-Locked door
6-Chained guard animal/monster

Up-facing numbers (inhabitants)

1-Chained guard animal
2-d4-d10 soldier-types
3-Boss+d4 henchmen
6-Sleeping soldier-type

Interior numbers (start with the first room and move out from there. Each combination describes what is in the next room in that direction.)

1-1 Hall w/tripwire (alarm)
1-2 Hall w/ tripwire (spikes, pit, green slime or other attack + alarm)
1-3 Hall w/tripwire (snare net, captures victims)
1-4 Hall w/ lines of arrow slits--75% chance someone is looking through
1-5 Water with movable bridge. Bridge is tied up on far side.
1-6 Hall w/ murder hole in floor or ceiling
2-2 Guard or guard animal with ambush prepared. Will attack first PC through door
2-3 Rats-filled store room
2-4 Treasure! (If this is close to the entrance it must've been hastily dropped due to some drama you'll have to make up further inside the complex)
2-5 Sleeping quarters
2-6 Empty room
3-3 Trapped door
3-4 Locked door (strong lock)
3-5 Locked and trapped door.
3-6 Locked and alarmed door.
4-4 Locked, trapped, and alarmed door.
4-5 Alarmed door (Opening door knocks over a bell, etc.)
4-6 Creepy little makeshift mini-chapel to disturbing god
5-5 Prisoner(s)
5-6 All doors into this room are secret and there's treasure inside
6-6 Kitchen/firepit/food storage

Friday, July 8, 2011

D6 Cluster Table: Home That A Villain's Just Fled Into...

Here's an example I rigged up for this building-generator method.

Random house that a villain just ran into...

Out-facing numbers (exterior of the house):

3-Locked door
4-Locked window
5-Second-floor window
6-Second-floor locked window

(Lowest outfacing number is a door if neither a 1 or 2 has been rolled.)

Up-facing numbers (Type of room)

3-Dining room
5-Living room/parlor/common room

Interior numbers (start with the first room and move out from there. Each combination describes what is in the next room in that direction.)

1-1 Locked door--empty room
1-2 Locked door--empty room
1-3 No door--empty room
1-4 No door--empty room
1-5 Door--empty room
1-6 Door-empty room
2-2 Villain with ambush prepared. Will attack first PC through door
2-3 d4 NPCs who live there, unaware of intruder
2-4 d4 NPCs who live there, heard but did not see intruder
2-5 NPC who lives there, saw intruder and is hiding
2-6 NPC who ambushes PCs, thinking they're burglars
3-3 NPC just killed by fleeing villain
3-4 Barking dog
3-5 Slippery carpet on hardwood floor-- dex check/save or fall. Villain may then attack.
3-6 Villain went this way--pieces of broken glass everywhere, act as caltrops
4-4 Locked door, Villain behind it
4-5 Locked door, cowering homeowner behind it
4-6 Door hastily rigged shut by villain
5-5 Villain with ambush prepared. Will attack first PC through door
5-6 Heavy furnished shoved in front of door to impede PCs
6-6 Villain's set room on fire as obstacle

(Is it possible the villain isn't in the building once the PCs get there? Sure.)