Wednesday, June 21, 2017


A lot of game masters have experience with dungeons but have trouble writing investigation or horror adventures--especially ones that aren't railroady--and very few pre-written commercial modules help with that.

Here's a way to write investigations and visualize how they work for yourself--it combines the idea of a Hunter/Hunted investigation set-up with the idea of the criminal conspiracy organizational charts cops use--(which Ken Hite calls a "conspiramid" in Night's Black Agents).

It visualizes the possibilities in an investigation as a dungeon:
So, first, you have The Horror--this is the final boss, the supernatural or at least bizarre thing that is revealed after all the investigating is done. You probably already have in mind what that is. Imagine it as occupying a room in the center of a dungeon.

Around that you have the "Gatekeeper"--this is the NPC or the building or whatever that you encounter right before the final horror. This could be the crime boss who keeps the werewolf in his basement or the cultist wizard that summons Cthulhu or, yes, like Dana in Ghostbusters who brings forth Gozer.

The point of the Gatekeeper is they are a mundane front that, once encountered, triggers the appearance of the horror.

Picture the Gatekeeper as occupying a set of halls around the Horror. You can move through those walls when investigation reveals new information. Think of information as literally the key. You unlock the adjacent "room" with information.

Don't worry about those little rooms in the corners yet, they'll be explained in a second.

So outside the Gatekeeper's room we have other connecting rooms that the PCs have to get through before they have enough information to get to the boss. 

I put some examples: a pawn of the boss, their lawyer, etc. You can also move laterally, like investigating the boss' lawyer might lead the PCs to the sub-boss, etc. This is fine. The point is whatever they're doing be fun, not that it be efficient.

You can wrap the center in as many layers of these adjacent "buffers" as you want.

The outer layer of "buffers" are the first things the players can do when investigating the situation. Imagine the PCs beginning outside and moving inward. In this example, the players can interview the victim directly, search the crime scene, do research on the place where the crime took place (like in the library or on the web), or ask their contacts about it.

Different "entrances" lead to different parts of the conspiracy.

The outermost ring is the "room" where players start--discovering there is a crime to solve.

The orange spot in the lower right is some pizza cheese stuck on my scanner. It's not that important.

I haven't yet talked about those little boxes in the corners. These are kind of "secret rooms".

These are where the dangerous people and things associated with the crime lurk. They do two things:

A) They attack the investigators if they get stalled in their investigation. This keeps the game moving.

B) Their attack brings the investigators closer to the center of the investigation.

For more detail on how and why this works, check out Hunter/Hunted

Here's an example:

Our investigators start out having heard of the suspicious decapitation of Bunny Monrovia, cherished uncle.
 They begin to comb through the internet, looking for information about Bunny's work and possible enemies he might've made in the experimental entomology business.
They figure they'll interview Bunny's wife, Capybara Monrovia (victim), she tells them Bunny's best friend was Sweetwater Baize, a kindly fellow who helped Bunny out and always brought Jelly Bellies for the twins.

Sweetwater Baize warmly welcomes the PCs into his abode.

They can tell he's hiding something but don't manage to question Sweetwater's suspicious butler, much less sneak upstairs and find the hideous mantis creature that once was Sweetwater's sister or figure out anything much about Sweetwater.

Dinner seems to drag on, the GM is getting restless.

So out of the "attack" box the GM conjures the Mantis Cultists, who Sweetwater calls in to deal with these meddling kids. They strike hard...

...but not hard enough. The players defeat them, learning in the process that the mysterious butler was actually the head of the mantis cult.

The players can now confront him (the Gatekeeper) and he can unleash the hideous beast (The Horror).

To walk you through the analogy with a dungeon a little clearer, I made the actual investigation more complicated than it needed to be.

This "dungeon" is the same structure but a little simpler for a GM to write--it has 3 initial methods of investigation and only 3 kinds of buffers between the crime and the Gatekeeper.

To create a whole campaign, imagine this is the top view of a stepped pyramid seen from a helicopter--all you have to do is add more "steps" to the pyramid.

This investigation advice will be cleaned up and expanded for the Demon City project. To donate to it, go to the Demon City Patreon here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Complex Luck of Charlotte Stokely

2:15 PM

"...I'm just saying: you've died three times in this dungeon already Stokely and every time you did you were either hungover or drunk."

2:39 PM

"You walk down to where the dog and the ape are licking the stairs and you slip--roll a Dex save--falling down the lard-smeared stairs and landing on some caltrops taking....4 points of damage. The dark elves snicker from the darkness"

"They demand you hand over the children of Torgos Zooth to them"

3:02 PM

(Karolyn) "I'm gonna intimidate the remaining ones!"

"Roll and--What do you say?"

"I ask--why are their ears so round!...NATURAL 20!"

"Ok, they saw you walk down the stairs, then you walked back up the stairs, they set up an ambush, slathered lard and caltrops all over the steps, called up 5 friends, they outnumbered you more than 2-to-1 and you kicked their asses and called them 'round-ears' --the remaining ones run"

3:10 PM

"Down on his knees he's like 'Please! We simply wanted to ransom them back to Torgos Zooth!"

"Take us to him!"

5:08 PM

"Ok, Stokes that puts you at -1 hit point, roll d100.........Instant and demoralizing death, all allies present must Save or be stunned with shock for one round. The Chameleon Woman's machete crosses your throat, your head flies up spinning this way, your headless body spins the other way..."

5:17 PM

"Ok this is Jessica she's my new character."

"What are y'all doing?"

"Well we still have to find Torgos Zooth and return his kids to him, where is he?"

"They said in the Almery"

"Let's go to the Almery"

"This is the Almery, this whole section of the dungeon is called the Almery"

"Jessica gonna yell 'Hey Torgos Zooth, we have your kids!'"


"..oooth ooth ooth' the walls echo and the DM rolls a wandering monster check"


"Ok...d100....Oh my god..."




"14--look Zooth wanders in."
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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Burning Wheel Is The Best Comedy Game On The Market & That Is Not A Joke (retropost)

Usually on Retropost Weekends I put up a post that's old and didn't get read that much because it, too, was put up on a weekend. This time, however I thought I'd put up one that actually got passed around quite a bit. Because it's funny.

Also note, playing Burning Wheel wrong was so fun we kept doing it for like 3 more sessions.

Original post below:

Note: Oh dear, somehow this has gotten linked to a Burning Wheel forum under the heading "

D&D With Porn Stars Plays BW...and it didn't go so well"

...which I find baffling. Other than the internet connection cutting out at the end, it went fine and was fun.

Unsurprisingly, the same thing happened when we played 4e--I said it was fun and I would like to play again and some kind of internet brain damage kicked in and people read it as "it wasn't fun and I won't play again". People are dumb as toast.

So we tried Burning Wheel*

*(What is that? An arty version of D&D that a guy wrote...Ok, anyway...)

(Harald) GM: So there's a village and the Duchess is sending you out because there are demons there and it's disrupting the trade route...

Zak (Sorceress): So wait, she's worried about it disrupting trade but not about like all these villagers?

GM: Well, you know she's a Duchess and so is above the hoi polloi and she doesn't really care but...

Cole (Elf): Does that trigger my elven Grief that she's so callous to the plight of these poor villagers?

GM: You could roll for Grief if...

Z: Well what if I like say to the Duchess like, hey, you gotta kinda y'know wink wink like you're really worried about these poor orphans because, these elves, they're sensitive...

GM: Well she has some Falsehood, so... (roll roll) Ok, you are convinced it's all about the orphans and their plight. Is there anything else you want to do before you go?

(Mandy) Dwarf: Yeah I need a grappling hook.

Z: Yeah, aaaand a grappling hook, and a net and a rope and...

C: And lard! I heard you humans have uses for this substance.

Z: Yeah we need lard.

GM: Well this would be a resources check...

Z: Well I got zero.

C: Me too.

M: Me too.

Z: Yeah and there's like 3 circles for debt and taxes and...

GM: Well you can try to get someone to lend you the money...

C: I have Oratory--Can I like make a speech in the public square urging the citizenry to fund our expedition?

Z: We can help if we have related skills, right? I have Rhetoric, I'll be like "make aaaaan...Ethical Appeal Argumentum Ad Demonium and...Oh and I have Falsehood, can I tell him to be like 'Oh this Sorceress' poor uncle was gnawed upon by demons...'

C: I can't lie or I'll become Sad.

Z: Fuck, Um, ok, I'll just lie and say my uncle was gnawed by demons and...

(roll roll)

C: Yeah, I see your crude falsehood and it makes me Sad.


C: Anyway I make a speech.

Z: Tell them our Stretch Goal is a ten-foot pole.

C: 2 successes.

GM: Ok, well you get a rope and a big barrel of lard.

Z: Excellent! Dwarf: strap this barrel to your back it will amuse me.

M: I can roll it.

Z: Fine, roll it, like an ape.

C: Friends! I will carry the lard!

Z: Ok, you carry the lard, let's go. It's two days East, right?

GM: So, elf, you sing the Song of Paths?

C: Yes but I am really bad at it.

(roll roll)

C: Yeah, I uh...

Z: There's a Song?

GM: You're lost. Dwarf, sorceress, you see the elf is missing and there is a trail of lard...

D: We pursue him.

Z: Hey, guy, just go this way, ok. It's... How many suns are in this world?

GM: One.

Z: And it rises in the East and sets in the West?

GM: Yes.

Z: Ok, so yeah, friend Elf, simply walk away from your shadow in the morning.

C: Yes, well, in the land of Elfheim it is a perpetual dusky rose colored sunset so...

Z: Right, totally, I'll write you a new song, uh, it's called "Walk This Way".

GM: Is the song Beautiful?

Z: Wait, if it's Beautiful the Dwarf will like try to eat it, right because of Dwarven Greed right? It's not Beautiful.

C: Well I am learning in the human world that sometimes things are not Beautiful but they are Useful.

Z: Yeah, "Walk This Way" the song of the Arrowsmiths. It's not beautiful, it's just y'know, if you're driving a truck and it comes on the radio it keeps you awake.

C: We have no trucks in the Elven lands, we all ride on magic deers that...

Z: Yeah, I mean carts I mean...Anyway follow us.

C: Of course! Lead the way!

GM: Ok you come to near the village but you are not there yet because the elf got lost so you have to camp. And you see this most beautiful white deer you have ever seen...

M: I have to roll on Greed...

(roll roll)

M: I chase after it.

GM: What do you want to do with it?

M: I guess I want to...I want to chase it away from the demons.

GM: So you don't want to possess it?

M: Possess it?

GM: It runs off into the forest.

M: I pursue.

Z: I just, like facepalm while making breakfast.

C: Shall I retrieve him?

Z: Uh...that it gonna like give you a panic attack, friend Elf?

C: I will pursue! On my long and striding legs!

Z: Fucking nuthouse.

C: You do not seek to pursue and frolic with the beasts of the wild?

Z: Uh, you think he's, like, frolicking with it?

C: Of course! It is a magnificent beast! Hold, soon I'll return.

Z: Crom.

GM: Ok, you get the dwarf back and enter the village...

and then there were some villagers and they were lying and that made the elf Sad again and they tried to lock him in a closet and then we talked to a guy and then his wife stabbed him and Mandy tried to Persuade her to get off and I tried to add my Rhetoric Skill to that like "Hey, really get off" and some Prometheus goo came out of her nose and everyone was Shocked and then there was a bear with no eyes and then the G+ connection got all screwed up because Harald was in a hotel.
Original post with hilarious comments here.

Friday, June 16, 2017


So, yeah White Wolf released new Vampire rules & an adventure yesterday
and people started talking

What indeed?? They wondered

Across the web fans tried to figure out what White Wolf was getting at
with these grotesqueries

This, for example, really struck people as strange

(Something Awful's site replaces "fucking" with "loving" for some reason)

Here's the byline on the adventure.

That's the random encounter table in the Vampire adventure.
You might recognize this.
Oh here's a picture of Kenneth Hite from when we were in Sweden

Oh that's something Ken said once.
....about Vornheim

Oh and that's Martin's Facebook. He mentioned 2 days ago,
his home groups' still playing this campaign.
And here's Ken tweeting

Another fan theory.

Here's Martin being interviewed

Here's Martin talking more about what he plays at home

Oh here's a picture of me working  at the White Wolf Entertainment's table at the Indiecade
showcase at the E3 game convention this Wednesday next to a painting I did for them

"I think the controversy over what the R in OSR stands for is settled.
The R in OSR means "Fuck you, we won."
-James Edward Raggi, author of Lamentations
of the Flame Princess,
May 24, 2017

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