Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of our readers! The holiday will delay our posting, but we'll have it out in no time. In the mean time, read an article we wrote years ago. When written, very few of these ideas were included in Fletnern. Now most are represented!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I was expanding on some of the recent history for Fletnern, and I had a semi-emotional feeling. I was writing about the Vile Ones, the tribe of orcs who were the tops dogs. (If you read 13 Tribes, you will see that the Crooked Swords are now the top tribe.) Anyway, to me, the Vile Ones should instill fear in the hearts of the commoners around the city of Parnania. Now how to get that feeling into the players?
Reputations are a funny thing in role-playing games. The characters know far more than the players ever could. This means that when you’re introducing missions, you need to say things like, “You’ve known about and feared the Vile Ones tribe your whole life. These orcs are known as the best warriors and the most ruthless mercenaries in the Central Plains.” Of course, if you say that, most players immediately start arguing that their characters aren’t afraid of anything, least of all some orcs, but the truth is, this tribe of orcs dominated the region for a generation. Even the most skilled warrior would have a little twinge in the pit of his gut when the Vile Ones are mentioned. He probably lost family members to their assaults.
Then I thought - well, is it fair that I assume that everyone knows who these guys are. After all, the orcish army was huge; would every peasant know the Vile Ones. Yeah - I think so. The story tellers and news bringers of that time would want to tell the most exciting stories, so they would enhance the reputations of the major players. In modern times, everyone knows who the KGB were (are?). Think about the Iraqi Republican Guard. Before Desert Storm, the news media portrayed these soldiers as the most dangerous military on the face of the earth. Afterwards they are best remembered by the joke - Iraqi guns for sale, only dropped once. Are either of these valid - of course not! They are both exaggerations, but with enough storytelling, they are believed.
In my games, the players normally don’t care what the reputation of a group is, if they have a reputation. I write all this cool background stuff, and people seldom care. (Look back at my last entry about how huge Fletnern is, and it might explain why they don’t care. They simply cannot know it all.) What they notice is when a group doesn’t have a reputation. If they never heard of them before, then they know they’re insignificant.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Where’s Fletnern?

Anyone who has bought our products likely knows of the world of Fletnern. Fletnern is the flagship setting for most Board Enterprises products, even when the products are generic. (They truly are generic, but the examples typically come from Fletnern.) So what’s the deal? Well, you can see cheat sheets and starter guides for free at, but even that isn’t the “world”.
I’m a big fan of Ed Greenwood. I love the way he developed his histories. Eons ago, I had the great pleasure to have lunch with Jeff Grubb at GENCON. I was probably not even old enough to drink, but he was short on time (between signings and booth work) and was willing to have lunch with me if I was wiling to fetch it. Between that 45 minutes and several articles he had written for Dragon Magazine, I came to understand what he had done with the Forgotten Realms (as well as MSH, Gamma World and some others). He had taken a huge filing cabinet full of Ed’s disjointed notes and turned them into a coherent book describing a world/campaign setting. Oh, I’m sure Ed helped too, but Ed had been the idea man and Jeff the producer.
What does this have to do with Fletnern? Well, I’m an idea man without a producer. Fletnern is about 1,200 pages of disjointed ideas kept on dozens of computer files and one or two file boxes. There is actually a page in there entitled “lost cities”. No, this isn’t like El Dorado, this is cities that are mentioned in some place in the files, but I have no idea what I was talking about or where that city is supposed to have been. OK, at least half of them are places I renamed, but which new city are they?
See how disjointed this is? That’s how those 1,200+ pages are. And that count doesn’t include the campaigns that likely have setting information in them. I realized a decade ago that Fletnern was too big to publish, so I started to write it up not as a setting book, but instead as The Encyclopedia Fletnernia. Cute, huh? You think I’m off on another tangent, but I’m not. The world of Fletnern is so well developed, that it has ceased to be a marketable product. In order to make it marketable, I would have to cut it down to the point where it was no longer a strong, unique world. I am considering, just writing the Encyclopedia and selling it for $10 despite the fact that its 400 pages long, but I still don’t know if that would be marketable.
So the answer to the question, “Where’s Fletnern?” is simply - it’s stuck in pre-publication because I’m incapable of reducing it to a readable book. I hope you continue to enjoy the free stuff we give out on it, and if the demand increases, you just might see that massive encyclopedia hit the distributors.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Baker’s Dozen Tribes

Earlier this year we announced that we would produce 100 Towns, Book of Wishes, A Baker’s Dozen Tribes, and 100 Daggers. Well, we’re 75% of the way there. A Baker’s Dozen Tribes is available on RPGNow and e23. This book is a pretty detailed look at thirteen different humanoid tribes. Humanoid can mean anything you want from kobolds to orcs to giants to ogres to cavemen, whatever! What matters is the culture, tactics and equipment - all laid out and easy for you to drop right into one of your missions. So why buy this? Well, start with, it’s $1.99. OK, not the best reason, but a good one. Better yet - Ever want to plunk down several dozen orcs, but you hate how generic they are? Use one of these and they won’t be generic any more. Ever have some humanoid tribe come up as a random or wandering monster? What do you do with that? Well, give them a little depth by using these tribes. Stuck for what to do with a corner of your world? You get the picture.
As for 100 Daggers - It’s postponed. We’re still trying to finish 100 Bar Drinks, but the @#$%ing memory stick ate it, and its currently being rebuilt. Yes, I had backups - but they were a week old and had less than half the book. Just venting!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Cost of Magic

Check out The Cost of Magic, an article from BE writer John Josten on the GMS Magazine site. John is likely to do several articles for these guys because we think they’re cool!

Campaign Calendar

I am always stressing, here and in my books, that the world does not revolve around the adventurers. As a way of forcing that issue, I like to make out a calendar for the year (in the game world). That way, I have certain major news items happen, no matter what is going on in their lives. These typically aren’t the major wars and battles, but more of the softer side of life. For example - One of the main characters in our longest on-going campaign is a major noble. As such certain things are expected, such as attending weddings and other social gatherings. Right now it is the first month of the game year, and I’m planning the noble weddings for the year. As the year goes on, adventures and other missions might put this character on the other side of the world when a socially important wedding is occurring. That causes drama in the character’s life.
I think about this like Stan Lee did for the early Spiderman stories. You know how real life kept interfering with his adventures? He also had to figure out how to pay the rent. He got fired from his job(s) if he kept vanishing into a broom closet to change into his superhero suit. The question is - Do you want your adventurers to have lives like Batman, where every social gathering that occurs is really only an excuse to have the PCs start a mission, or do you want them to have to role-play realistic characters that have back stories and players who are strongly attached to them? (All anti-DC statements are directed against the DC comics from decades ago and not necessarily recent movies that make up all of what some of you youngins know about comic books.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Patrons of Adventure

I believe very strongly that adventuring parties need patrons or sponsors. Here’s my thinking: The local Duke’s daughter has been kidnapped and he needs someone to go rescue her. So he turns to this group of cutthroats who answered an ad in a bar somewhere and entrusts them to return his daughter to him safe, sound and still virginal. WHAT!?!? But that’s how adventures often times work, right? Someone needs something very important done and they hire a group of mercenaries that they have never met, but that they believe can and will kill for them in cold blood. Is that really who they want to trust? How many adventures start with, “I need you to do something for me, but you have to keep it a secret.” Right - Someone important has a secret to keep, so they trust a stranger, let alone a group of strangers?
I think adventuring parties need a sponsor or patron - a person or organization that frequently employs them. This lets the employer come to trust the group, and perhaps on occasion vouch for them to other organizations in need of help. But who am I talking about?
Merchants are probably the best for this. They have money and frequently need mercenaries for a variety of reasons. They are also masters at organization. They have allies among other merchants and often into the political arenas, so they can “lend” their teams to others.
Churches are good too. They may have various needs and are unlikely to have the right style of people who can take on the more dangerous or violent tasks. They also have allies among the other churches who might have needs as well.
Obviously, political powers can be patrons too, but they usually have standing armies of their own. This means that the jobs they need done would have to be something the army cannot handle on their own, which may put a heavy influence on what will and won’t work intelligently.
Let me give an example: The players find a treasure map on a mission and decide they are going to sail to the deserted island and dig up the treasure. They now need to go to the docks, find a ship and/or a captain, likely hire a crew, arrange for supplies and logistics, possibly worry about the import tariffs that will exist when they return and a whole slew of other really boring things that the PCs are probably not cut out to take care of in the first place. However, if their patron says, “I want you to go retrieve a buried treasure”, the patron will have already taken care of the ship, crew and supplies. If you let the PCs do it, what’s to say they won’t hire Long John Silver and his crew of pirates? While the patron is arranging for the ship and crew, he probably has arranged for the players to stay at a particular hotel and handled many of their living expenses.
Patrons shouldn’t make the campaign boring, but they help to pull it all together. When a new patron approaches, he will likely want to try them out on something less important and as he grows to trust them, then he uses them for the really important and profitable stuff. If they show loyalty back, they will find themselves tied to the patron and embroiled in whatever intrigues affect the patron (allowing for more adventures). A campaign shouldn’t have just one patron. Maybe after proving themselves useful to the Mayor, he tells the Baron about them, and later, the Baron tells the King, and as they grow in experience, they get passed up the chain of command.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What’s a Noble to Do?

Thinking back on historic nobles - In a lot of ways we think of them as soldiers and tax collectors. But if you read some of the histories closely, you find out about the kings granting this deed of land and that deed of land to the nobles. Sure, sometimes these were just tracts of land filled with sharecropping peasants, but sometimes it was more. Sometimes it was towns or villages. Sometimes it was mills.
I’ve made no secret that the nobles in my world are also merchants. I think this makes really good sense. I think the lesser nobles would have controlled the mills, so that not only did they collect the tax on the crops, but then they also get a share of the profits from milling the grain. This works even better when the noble lord is the soldier and his younger brother is the miller. But extend it - The nobles control all the land so they make perfect ranchers. Think back to the Old West where the ranchers controlled the law in the towns and no one could stop their cattle herds from wandering into corn fields.
In Fletnern, the major noble activity is the crafting of wines. They own the vineyards, they control the serfs, and they are the ones making the wine. Of course, if they produce enough wine to export, they are going to be the ones transporting it, and likely taking others along with them for the ride. After all, they have private armies, why not split the army during times of peace and send half to protect the caravan from bandits?
Don’t stop here. Think of all the commerce driven mainly by land ownership. Quarries, mines, any water powered mill, lumber camps, shipyards. The logic is this: If nobles control most of the land and some guy discovers a diamond mine, wouldn’t the noble who controls that land simply take over, no matter what agreement he originally had with the prospector? And if he didn’t control the land, he’d contact his buddy the king and have the land granted to him and then kick the prospector out. If it’s a valuable enough diamond mine, the king might even send an army to help the noble take that piece of land away from the neighboring king.
I’m not saying that only nobles can be merchants, but when you’re the one who gets to make the laws, why would you be content to simply collect taxes, while others got rich, especially if they might be getting richer than you?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Great Material

In our book Character Foundry, we set out the concept of “Great Material”. Surround yourself with great ideas and they will spark ideas within you. Further, you can take bits and pieces from other things and incorporate them, making your job as GM easier and often times better. An example was using the annoying friend from an old sitcom and marrying him to the real estate broker from a current movie to make an NPC couple you need in a city. Poof - You know what they look like, sound like, and probably how they will act in many situations. But when do you do this? You do it for the really big games.
Take our merchant war. There are so many characters buzzing around this thing, many of which have never entered into play before. How does a GM intelligently guide the NPC actions and reactions? By knowing the characters. But you can’t do that (at least not easily) for three dozen made from scratch NPCs. Giving some of these new NPCs personalities from movie characters, I can far more easily think, “What would Draco Malfoy do?” This does a couple of things - Mainly, it gets me there quicker. Also vital - It stops everything from being logical. What a boring and easily defeated world you would have if all of your NPCs were logical. Sure, the smart move might be to forgive and forget, but if the NPC is brutal and vindictive, that ain’t gonna happen! Maybe some NPCs are cowards and even though they have the might to force their will, they might be afraid to risk it. Or the reverse might be true, and the character might be the world’s greatest bluffer and his assumed might is really all illusion (maybe literally).
Personalities aren’t that important for NPCs you expect to be killed before they utter a sound, but for the big games, especially the ones that don’t involve a “dungeon”, you need to know more about the bad guys!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

So What’s Legend Quest

New readers of this blog may be wondering what this Legend Quest thing is we keep talking about. Legend Quest is a high fantasy, pen and paper RPG published in the early 90s. We have been maintaining and updating the system the entire time, not that it needed much tweaking. LQ uses a simple rule: Attribute x 10% + Skill Level x5% = % Chance of Success. While this might sound overly simplistic, it is the consistency of this rule that makes the game hugely dynamic. By applying the base CoS (“chance of success”) rule, the GM can determine what the chances of nearly anything are. In most games, when a player wants to swing from the chandelier, grab the crown off the king’s head, and land on the narrow window ledge, the GM is at a loss for what chance such a thing has. Not in LQ, that’s simply three CoS tasks.
A couple of other points - There is bleeding damage, so if you get knocked around, you want some healing magic or first aid, before you keel over. Armor wearing requires skill, and it blocks damage. More strength does more damage with a weapon, but every weapon has a top end. Magic makes you more tired, so there’s none of this loss of memory stuff. The game is intended to keep the thresholds to a minimum. There isn’t a point at which suddenly some character automatically gets a new power. But there are no classes either. It’s a point based character creation, and you can make any type of character you want! Forget those rules about who can and cannot use healing magic -anyone willing to train in it (by spending experience) can use it.
The bad guys are different too. Each monster is created similarly to the player characters. Our best example has always been three tigers used in a jungle adventure. One was a stealthy stalker who attacked from surprise. Another was an almost berserk attacker who pounced first and attacked violently with its bite. The third (and last) was more of a bluffer. He had an incredibly intimidating roar, but not a whole lot to back it up. Needless to say, after the first two, they avoided the third, risking natural dangers like quicksand and snakes rather than encounter another tiger.
Bottom line: If you want a complicated melee system, with no role-playing, find a different system. Legend Quest is set up to make melee, range, magic, stealth, and social skills all fairly equally important, though clearly not at the same time. It is a true role-playing game, and not just a way to handle magical battles. We hope you’ll check it out!
Legend Quest on e23. Legend Quest on RPG Now.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Merchant War in Forsbury

There is a merchant war brewing in Forsbury. Since most people do not know much about Forsbury or how their merchant wars go, let’s lay out some of the chief players:
The Fist of Forsbury - The top five cartels in the city, allied against all external forces (loosely allied)
The Masterhill Cartel - Second generation cartel dealing mainly in standard goods desired by the largest number of people. Run by Yemour (the bad cop - the manager and tyrant) and his brother Herlol (the good cop - salesman and smoother). One of the largest land based cartels in the world when judged by volume of goods.
The Davvissen Cartel - Founded by the current owner, Caitlin Davvissen. Caitlin has an advantage as she has recently become the Baroness of Forsbury. Caitlin is a former adventurer (termed by some an “assassin”) who set up a major ivory harvesting operation and used it to fund her start-up cartel. She specializes in high end goods for the wealthy.
The Frumpt Cartel - Freddy Frumpt is a slave trader descended from slave traders in Garnock. He relies on his aristocratic manner and his large army to maintain his safety and alliances.
The Polnoska Cartel - The oldest cartel in Forsbury. They focus their efforts on the shipping of foodstuffs, including their own manufactured sausages and other preserved meats.
Travelers’ Cartel - not as much a wholesaler like the others, Travelers focuses on moving people across the continent with carriages and coaches. Run by Seddy Buxxing, Travelers also focuses on entertainment venues in various cities. Travelers is in many ways the outsider among the Fist of Forsbury due both to his different business and his frequently underhanded business dealings.

The Competine Merchant House - This cartel is run mainly from Brinston but has offices in Nanerette and Forsbury. The accusation is that the Competines hired bandits to attack a Masterhill caravan. Zeleid Competine runs the cartel from Brinston, but has placed his only son Zeke (actually Ezekiel) in Forsbury to run things there. Zeke is the one accused of hiring the bandits. Both are known as ruthless business men.

The situation - The Masterhills bid higher than the Competines to buy some porcelain goods from a factory near Parnania. This is a standard Forsbury tactic - overbid to win the business then later on, lower the price paid once the producer feels they have no other alternatives. While carrying its first shipment, the small caravan (only four wagons and about 13 men) was attacked by seven bandits. While seven against thirteen may seem like bad odds, the bandits were overly confident in their leader, a fireball wielding mage. After the first fireball exploded, the Masterhill snipers knew exactly who they needed to kill and fast! Meanwhile the Masterhill wizard (hey! no fair you having a mage too!) opened up with thunderclaps. The Masterhills made short work of the bandits, capturing five (though the crossbow bolt peppered mage was beyond hope). Fortunately, the Masterhill wizard was also able to cast some healing and no Masterhill guards were lost. The surviving bandits swear they were hired by Zeke, at least that’s what the dead mage said. Was Zeke really such a sore loser that he would attempt to arrange this attack? Is he such a bad tactician that he fumbled it so thoroughly? Is he acting alone or is this the opening salvo in a major Brinston vs. Forsbury merchant war?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Emotion of Wishes

We’re usually not emotional while blogging, at least we don’t start that way. This is different. Board Enterprises has been in business for closing on 20 years now, and with the e-publishing of Book of Wishes, it feels like we’re finally “back in business”. Hey, we’ve made really good money with Grain Into Gold and some of the other generic supplements, but having both Legend Quest and Book of Wishes available on line means our system is out there and available again. It’s not just that the core rule book and most popular rules supplement are available - This blog has shown that Legend Quest isn’t a stagnant system, but is living and breathing with rules explanations and options. We’re not resting either. More like basking with pride. OK, that’s done, time to get back to work. more “100s” coming out soon!

Monday, October 11, 2010


I love ruins. I know; they can be cliché, but I love ‘em. It comes from actually having read Jungle Book and Tarzan and the City of Opar. Whether it’s a ruined temple with a vault of incredible wealth in the basement or a vast deserted city filled with minor clues as to what really happened to the mighty inhabitants. I guess it’s because I think it’s a lot more plausible that people would wander around in a massive ruined city than they would find an underground dungeon stocked with monsters. (Sorry if I’m being a buzz kill.)
How much do I like them? An entire continent on Fletnern is now a ruin filled archipelago. I wasn’t satisfied with a ruined city, I needed a ruined continent. The biggest adventure setting I ever made? The ruined city of Ballogfar - Capital of the Goblin Empire. Ballogfar was actually a fairly well constructed idea. I wanted a big ruined city - but what to fill it with? Avoiding the whole Shangri-La idea of a lost city filled with people, I wanted a true ruin. So the only thing that survives for 1,000 years is undead. Of course, I could have gone for the whole animals moved into it, but that wasn’t the spooky ruin vibe I wanted. So what happened? Well, the ogres, orcs and goblins lived together in a caste system, but then the orcs and goblins rebelled against the ogres. That seems logical. So the ogres pressed on with some goblin slaves and a force of crafted undead slaves. That too seemed reasonable. But having an army of zombies walking around eventually bred a plague within the city, wiping out most of the ogre population and most anyone who wandered into the city. This justifies the massive size of the city (it once housed tens of thousands of goblins, orcs and ogres) as well as the reasons it hadn’t been found (those who found it were dead of the plague before they could return to civilization).
Of course, you don’t need that massive size - a ruined temple works great! Religious folks built a temple and a small village around it. The temple is probably stone or brick, while the homes were wood. When the neighboring cult wipes out this cult, their temple is seen as taboo. One hundred years later, the jungle has swallowed the village and nothing remains, except the temple, now filled with snakes and that one fabulous treasure that served as a embodiment of their god. (Don’t tell the adventurers that the jewel is cursed - they’ll figure that out later!)

Friday, October 1, 2010


I’m working on a book concerning the nobility of one of the core regions of Fletnern. The idea is to present a very large number of nobles and their employees - but present them as personalities, not as game statistics. More - The hope is to present this same group of people as two completely different styles of government, showing that you can take personality driven characters and add them to any game world or game system. A lot of these characters I “know”, because I use them a lot. While writing, it is becoming clear to me that they will be seen as “evil”.
Let’s take the top dog, Edward Highell-Forsbury. He is coming off as a laissez faire, philanderer with little concern for his citizens who see him as a “hanging judge”. So I need to rewrite him. He is in fact a very complex character. He is himself a business man, one of the largest cattle ranchers in the world. He is also one of the most powerful political figures for hundreds of miles in any direction. It is true that his morals would be considered incredibly low by most Americans, but are pretty much on par with Hollywood, except for the fact that he actually likes his wife. He also has a sense of duty, not to any individual subject, but to his subjects as a whole. He has twice risked his own life in wars to defend his allies (truly defending the region as his lands would have eventually been at peril as well). He did this out of his sense of duty, an honor code that he follows begrudgingly. He uses his political connections to advance his business dealings, but typically as a means of defeating rivals and not as a means of bilking his customers. He’s not a nice guy, but is he evil?
Let’s take a different example. Take a business man who has amassed a fortune through intelligent business deals, peppered with insider knowledge and political contacts. So far it seems the same, right? But this guy isn’t a nobleman. He’s not using his contacts, but instead bribing high and low level political figures to change the laws to benefit him. Once he’s really wealthy, he starts to change the game. When his fortunes turn, he uses his amassed fortune to bribe and extort those political figures into raising taxes in order to enable him to recover his losses - losses that had nothing to do with the tax paying subjects. He then goes on to begin what can only be termed a marketing campaign to convince the poor farmers who are paying the higher taxes that their crops are being taken in order to save the kingdom, when in fact they’re only being used to prop up his bad business deals. I think this is evil.
Our first nobleman played by different rules than his subjects. He had every advantage and made use of them. But he was still willing to do what needed to be done to preserve the lives and livelihoods of his subjects. The second guy (who I hope you see represents a few current people, who’s names I will give you if you really want) is really the selfish one. While he too plays by different rules, he has no concern whatsoever for the commoner, and honestly believes that preserving his wealth is the “greater good”. The problem is I don’t know if I’m dealing with an actual difference or just a difference of degree.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


With Book of Wishes about to be released, we wanted to go over a couple of things in the book. Let’s start with familiars. Most fantasy enthusiasts are familiar with familiars. These are the little spell casting assistants that some spell casters make use of, but should one die, the magical and emotional toll is severe. It’s so severe, that we don’t think you should take your familiar into combat. That’s not really what they’re for. You’ll notice that there aren’t any sorcerer familiars - That’s because those guys throw fire balls at each other. Fireballs kill familiars, and that would wipe out the sorcerer pretty effectively!
Druids, conjurers and necromancers can have familiars. With the conjurers, it makes the most sense - summon your familiar and have it aid you in the bonding of some more powerful creature. With druids, it is a little more of the forces of nature concentrated in one of nature’s creatures. The druid familiars can be a little tougher than the others, especially if you choose a wolf or something like that, but to have your familiar attack in melee would be the height of stupidity. Necromancers are more like the conjurers - especially the undead masters. Here the familiar would assist in making the skeletons and zombies more powerful.
So how do you sneak in a familiar when you want one in combat? Well, protect it. Familiars need to be in physical contact with their spell casters. This rules out non-corporeal forms, but if you wanted to bend this rule, that would be a great defense. How about an arcane tower? Very good defense, but the familiar does count as an area of effect and is not considered part of the spell caster. How about ingenuity? I once had a familiar that posed as the necromancer’s shadow. Sure, he had two shadows, but when guys bust down the door and start flinging arrows, that isn’t the kind of thing they notice. In fact they never did. So I changed it up. The next time, I gave the necromancers a second shadow, and told them about it. This time it was a decoy. The familiar was actually the little gargoyle looking thing on the necro’s cane, and therefore in his hand the whole time.
This article also made me think - How about giving an illusionist an illusionary familiar? Any mage worth his salt would immediately attack what he thought was a small, easily killed familiar, wasting precious attacks on the illusion and not on the illusionist. Ooh, I have to use that!!
Are these it? By no means! In the description of the necromantic familiar it says, “A normal familiar will take...” Guess what? Yep, we’re implying that there are “non-normal” familiars out there.
Take our advice - You don’t want to take 4-40 points of damage, just because you took your cute owl familiar into battle with you and someone who thinks better than you do shot it with a lightning bolt!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fletnern Question

How interested are you, our loyal readers, in following the progression of the war in Fletnern? (We know there are loyal readers out there because we get the site stats every month, so don’t try to hide!) It will take a very long time to play out, so updates would likely be monthly.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Heroes - Really?

The victors write the history books. I think the vast majority of us will agree with that. So what makes a hero? The motivation post got me thinking - Is hero worship a motivational force. Well, who do they “worship”? Let’s look at American heroes - but from a vantage point of if they had LOST.
George Washington - A favorite of mine when I want to infuriate someone - First - Washington was a “commoner” that many people of his time wanted to establish as King (of America). Therefore if the British had won the American Revolutionary War or the Minor Rebellion of 1776, Washington would be that commoner who tried to make himself king. He would also be the war criminal who broke every law of decency when he acted like a heathen and attacked a good Christian company of soldiers while they were observing the solemn holiday of Christmas. After his horrifying breech of the established armistice, he was promptly spanked and sent running back across the river. Let’s not forget the slave owning and the “funny” hemp growing.
Benjamin Franklin - an eccentric madman who invented a couple of clever contraptions, but nearly killed himself in his research on multiple occasions. Spent years as the French Court Jester in his silly fur garb. (always depicted like a white savage)
Nathan Bedford Forrest - Already a hero to some and villain to others. Was he the first Grand Wizard of the KKK or was he a military genius who might have won the Civil War for the Confederacy had he been given a chance.
Rosa Parks- - Some loony crab ass was arrested for causing a disruption on the bus. And then she would promptly be forgotten.
JFK - war hero and new hope for our nation (at that time) or philandering son of a rum runner who never accomplished anything in political office. A beautiful example of it all matters who is writing the history books and how they wish to portray someone.
Are these my opinions? No! at least not all of them. The point I am trying to make is NOT that these people had flaws, but instead it is only the way that we remember history that makes someone a hero or one of the forgotten masses. I think that has a huge impact on the ways heroes should be treated in fantasy worlds. It is less the feats accomplished then it is whether or not the song(s) about him are good tunes.
We could go on for days, but think about some of these guys who are typically remembered as villains, but were someone’s hero in their day: Hannibal, Napoleon, Rommel, Pete Rose, Jim Kelly (see you don’t remember - four consecutive Super Bowls, but no wins). Our apologies to Jim Kelly who has never been a villain to anyone, but is simply used to demonstrate what happens when you don’t get to write the history books.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How to restrict magic items

For those games where the only magic items (or the only cool magic items) are given as treasure by the GM, restricting magic can still be challenging. How do you give them stuff without giving away incredible power? Here are a couple of ideas I had:
Give them winged bracers. This gives them the gift of flight, but they cannot use their arms while flying. Sure they can scout, but they cannot swoop in and hack with a sword. The concept is that trying to fly and fight would be like trying to fight while kicking with both legs - You are going to wind up on your butt!
A magical item that allows you to grow to giant size. Instead of giving the puny human giant strength, make him grow in order to get it. That can be a restriction in and of itself. Furthermore, the body cannot take the strain of becoming huge all the time, so there is a “cool down” between uses of the giant sized abilities. You could have the cool down based on Endurance, where a higher Endurance had a shorter cool down, but I think it would be more fun to based it on Willpower (or Wisdom or whatever) How many warriors do you know with a ton of Willpower?
The magic item has trapped the spirit of waterfall off Mount Kickapu. In order to access the item’s massive water based powers, you must first attune yourself to the spirit, by going to his home atop Mount Kickapu. I like the quest driven magic items. Another is to give them a minor powered sword, but if they plunge it into the eternal flame on the altar of Rsnefaria, it will gain far more power.
The challenge is always to give the bad guys stuff that the heroes have to fight against without necessarily giving those items to the players after the game. Maybe they’re not willing to travel to Mount Kickapu. How many encounters does an enemy giant man have to last? One. How many does the PC need to survive? Lots! Therefore limiting the item’s activation grants more power to the enemy than it does to the player.
Any more ideas?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Adventurers vs. Soldiers

As you can tell from the last post - I’m working on an upcoming war in my game world (Fletnern). There is a good chance that if a major battle breaks out, it could be “adventurers” vs. soldiers. So what? It matters. The adventurers will likely have seen more action than the soldiers, and will therefore be assumed to be more “veteran” and have better skills. But they also need to be skilled at a whole number of things, where soldiers can be a little more focused on their martial skills and still do OK. Therefore skill-wise, they are likely equal.
Adventurers often have magical weapons. That should give them an advantage. But on Fletnern, some of the troops do supply some of their soldiers with magical stuff too. Still, slight advantage to the adventurers.
Most of the soldiers will be doing this because they have some patriotism, whereas the adventurers may have opinions, but will likely see it more as a job, a job they can get just as easily in another town. Fierce loyalty vs. mercenary greed. Advantage Soldiers.
Here’s the big one, and one that will howled at by the various players (and maybe you too): Soldiers drill in tight formations. Adventurers don’t. Adventurers often use long swords and battle axes, whereas soldiers will be tightly packed with spear and shield. In following commands, in moving as a unit, as staying within the boundaries of the camp (and not getting picked off), in not getting in front of the firing archers - the soldiers have a definite advantage. An advantage so great, that it should be able to wipe out the adventurers.
But wait - look at most FRPGs and you’ll see that “men-at-arms” are low level and lack any real power. It is the adventurers that should rule the day. Well, if that’s what you’re FRPG says, you need a new game! I’ve already admitted that the more experienced adventurers would have more skills than the soldiers, and might even be better weapon’s masters than the soldiers, but the efficient fighting force that acts as a unit will be vastly superior to a ramble of skilled swordsmen running all over the battlefield getting in each others’ way. Sure, I’m exaggerating a bit, but let’s think about a modern example. African/Arab pirates against a modern naval vessel. Yeah - fire a grenade and run! Is that what this fantasy era battle will look like? Could be!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


So I’m thinking - What motivates people? Why was I thinking that? Well, to explain why people take certain actions. I may or may not be setting up Fletnern for another war or series of wars and I wanted to pretty firmly establish goals and desires, so I could better determine actions once the war started to blow out of control.
Greed! Greed motivates. Greed is good! OK, maybe not, but it is abundant. But believe it or not, there are other things that motivate people.
Ego. Tons of people will make stupid choices, just to preserve their ego or reputations. Bruise someone’s ego, and he’s more likely to be an enemy forever than if you’d simply stolen from him. Then again, stealing from him probably bruised his ego as well.
The need to be accepted. In intense situations, this is love, but people will still act simply to belong to a group. Think all the protesters at a rally believe the nonsense their chanting? Not all! Some are there just to be part of the group.
Well, if love, then hatred. Hatred isn’t a logical thing. It’s usually based on fear of some sort. It brushes up against ego too. Fear of being second best can often be enough to cause hatred, so it also goes along with jealousy, but so does greed. Darn! It’s all interconnected!
Religion. Let’s open this one wider and say “culture”. To some people, they will take certain actions simply because they are conditioned to, or because their moral system says they are the right thing to do. For better or worse, these people are the least likely to change their minds, because they are convinced they are “right”. Ain’t no stoppin’ that!
Looking back at these, any of the seven deadly sins would make a good motivational force. We already have avarice, pride, wrath. Hey even sloth can be a motivation - this guy just does not want to have to expend any energy. (“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”)
Mental defect. Let’s not leave out the idea that some people are simply not capable of making choices that are good for them. Whether this is some idiot who get’s in a bar fight because he’s drunk or a mass murderer who starts a war just to see the carnage, some times the motivation is simply that the guy ain’t playing with a full deck.
So who cares? So what? Here’s why it matters - A war is coming. The war is likely to be fought because the wealthy guys want their wealth secured against the up and comers. Meanwhile, there will be armies in the fields. Why are they there? To make the wealthy wealthier? No way. They are there because they are convinced that their cause is just and the other guy’s cause is unjust, and if they don’t fight today, their rights and their possessions will be stripped from them tomorrow. They’re probably right by the way. What will others do? Will the allies come? If so, will they have a different agenda, and will it affect the course of the war? This is the kind of war where allies will likely be working both sides. It is only by understanding the motivations of each group beforehand that I as the GM will stand a chance of producing a campaign that is both interesting and makes sense!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How Much is Too Much?

I am plagued by this question, pretty much every time I write. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to learn that most people, even those who like and buy our stuff, thought I was over the line into “too much” quite frequently. Then again, when you’re not the one coming up with the stuff - too much is OK. It gives the reader a sense of what’s going on without really caring about the extra “wasted” work.
The big problem is trying to get the balance right in the “how much is more than I wanted to read” category. If I flub it there, then people don’t want to buy Board Enterprises stuff any more. Still, I think that line is way past the line most GMs would draw for themselves.
So how much is too much? We gave you the weights and dimensions on coins in a free supplement. That went pretty far. We described an orcish tribe’s gear down pretty far - but I always hate that that stuff isn’t in the games. (If a bandit is wielding a sword forged in a nearby city, you need to figure out if they gave it to him to cause trouble or if he stole it from a good guy. Without knowing where the sword came from, you don’t stand a chance of figuring this out.)
I guess like so many of these things, it comes down to play style. If you play an RPG with some role-playing, you might want to investigate your enemies and find something out. If you just hack and slash, then no one cares except for how much you can get for it. Our products have a way of picking their players.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Designing part 3

Do the rest of you find the writing part easy? Once my brain gets hold of an idea, it just keeps developing it until the next idea crowds it out. This is good - in that I have some fairly decent ideas mixed in with a couple of losers. This is bad in that every new idea crowds out the earlier ones and if I didn’t write them down, they are typically gone forever. ADHD or whatever they want to call it this year - and yes that was a professional diagnosis, not just my mother.
I think one of the main reasons the writing is easy for me is that I have a fully developed and functioning world. I’ve been playing around with Fletnern for closing on 30 years now. OK - 30 years ago, it probably sucked. I know things were blatantly wrong. I recently found notes from 25+ years ago where on the same page it listed a historic war and the participants and the founding dates of some of the cities. Apparently two cities were involved in a war BEFORE they were founded. That takes skill.
But seriously, it works now. When I have good ideas, they fit into the world fairly easily. Yes, I do credit Legend Quest with a lot of that because it is the full RPG, and not just a magic system or a combat system. Add to that the whole Grain Into Gold economy structure, and its like a skeleton that I can hang meat on any time I want. Great framework makes for great substance. (I think I just called myself great. I’m OK with that!)

Designing continued

I thought back to “what is probably the oldest book that has yet to see the light of day?” Monsters and Other Menaces! We advertised Monsters & Other Menaces back in 1991 when LQ first came out in its first edition style. Dark Hour was there on that flyer too, but I’ve always felt that The Forgotten Hunt was in many ways Dark Hour, just without the magic. M&OM is like All that Glitters. It was way too massive. It was to have starting characters, new monsters, new conjured creatures, new rules for important monsters (dragons at least). So will it ever be published? Let’s see how Book of Wishes does!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Game Design

You’ve heard me bitch about formatting and other things that go into putting a book out for sale, but I’m not sure I’m making sense. Here’s my process: I come up with an idea for a book. I come up with probably 5-10 ideas every week. I write them down. I think about them a little bit. Some of them, I start writing outlines for. Time goes on. The list of books grows. I jot down more ideas. After a month or so, I usually wind up combining ideas because some of them are just too similar.
Once I decide that the idea didn’t suck, I start laying out the book. For me, the writing is easy. When I was doing magazine articles, I always use to say, “I write at least two pages a day. Give me some direction and I’ll write two pages a day for you.” {Side bar - I am looking at ways that I can put several of the magazine articles out as pdfs on the web-site - likely for free.}
Now, some ideas grow or shrink with time. All the Glitters is the best example. All that Glitters was intended to be the Legend Quest treasure supplement. It would include everything from a bigger better list of everyday items to a discussion of treasure (mainly gems), possible random charts and tons of new magical items. Yeah - That would have been about 600 pages. All that Glitters is now: Grain Into Gold (the economy), Coins of the Road (trade goods), Facets (gems, including magical uses), All that Glitters (treasure that is not necessarily “normal”), Coins of Fletnern (all the specs on the coins themselves), and a magical item supplement that I’ve never liked any of the names I have for yet.
OK -So I write the thing - the easy part is done. Now I have to edit it. Even if I am using outside editors, I still read the book at least three times. The first is to make sure it says what I want it to say. I have a tendency towards massive run on sentences, so here these get trimmed, sometimes. Then I read it for continuity and editing (punctuation, sentences that don’t sound garbled, etc). Then I really edit it, looking for spelling and grammar. Then I let the software edit it, showing me what it thinks are spelling and grammar errors. That’s not really reading, since I don’t see all the book.
Then I have to format it. Now, a lot of formatting was done during writing. I developed the chapters, I decided whether to use a list format (like 100 Towns - which is selling REALLY well, thank you!) or a text book format (most of our two column books) or possibly: ”story book” (one column - most of these have died off). I also have to figure out how to make the headers look, what to do about the page numbers, any art work, etc etc etc etc. By the time I’m at this stage, it’s mainly how do the pages look. Chapters typically start on the top of a page. There shouldn’t be any huge patches of white in the book. Then I upload it into Adobe, and have to start the formatting process all over again. Included in this is the need to re-read the book for the fourth time, because sometimes Adobe puts letters on top of each other and other oddities that look really stupid.
After all that, the book is read to publish, but only if I have a cover picture and a sales description set.
The moral of this story is this - I have a lot of books written, or mostly written. That is the easy part. Getting from written to published is the hard part. Then sitting back and watching a product I worked that hard at not sell well - well, it isn’t very fun. Fortunately, Legend Quest, Grain Into Gold and now 100 Towns sell really well!


While GMing, I had to go through a description of what Senses skill is and how it applies. (PCs as caravan guards getting jumped.) Figured some of you might want to understand the way we see it. Hopefully no surprises:
Senses is typically used defensively, in other words - as a resistance. Therefore, if a sentry is actively aware, the person trying to sneak up on him should roll their attempt at being stealthy and resist it by the sentry’s (K +SEN) x 5%. Use of K x 10% + SEN x 5% really shouldn’t happen, though of course it does.
If you were to use your Senses as an active skill, you would take a combat round. Eventually, your eternal vigilance would result in you passing out, and thereafter not protecting your caravan. When would you use it? Well, if you heard a noise in the darkness and were trying to see what it came from, that would be an active Senses task. Of course, anyone using Senses constantly would on average fumble every 20 turns or about every three or four minutes
So, how do you know if the sentry is actively aware? What do you use to find out if the sentry wandered off or fell asleep? Well, asleep is different, but to determine if the sentry gets to use his or her SEN skill levels or not, I think you give him a Etiquette task but use Willpower as the base attribute. The assumption here is that disciplined sentries will have ETQ. If the sentry is undisciplined, there is a greater chance that he will not follow his orders and either be somewhere else or day dreaming. Now missing sentries cannot resist sneaking, but day dreaming ones can. Where an alert sentry resists at (K +SEN) x 5%, ones who miss their alertness roll will resist at (Kx5%) -10%. The “-10%” is for distraction. Now if for whatever reason, you want to have the two sentries arguing over which jousting champion is going to win at the tilting yard tomorrow, well, the distraction value should go way up.

Scheduling Blog

OK - There are some things I’m good at, but updating this blog on Saturday mornings does not seem to be one of them. In an effort to be consistent and predictable, let’s change the scheduled update to “Weekly, on or before Monday”. If I’m going to be gone all weekend, I might update on Friday. If I remember on Sat. morning, I’ll do it then, but I should be reliable enough to get it done on or before Monday. As a peace offering, here’s two posts:

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Selling Magic Items

Question for you GMs out there - Have you ever let your PCs sell magical weapons? What about spell books? I don’t think this is too rare; I think it is common in most games. What happens to those items? If the party fights a demon summoner and finds his spell book, they would most likely sell it if they couldn’t use it (and maybe if they could). So some guy buys the book (and probably kills the middle man). He is now rampaging in the PCs homeland with demons. They put him down and get the book again. They’re stupid - they sell it again, of course, since the last guy is now dead, no one will pay well for it because they understand there is danger. So they sell it to a “passing merchant in a bar”. He either is or off loads it to a truly dangerous man who summons the demons as part of a major assault on the government of the city. #1 - the players seem to be endangering themselves needlessly. #2 - Shouldn’t someone (like someone afraid to buy the book) tell the government that the party is at fault for the demon invasion?
OK - go the other way - They dump a whole bunch of magic items on some merchant and he sells them to whoever he can - like the bandits who the players will be fighting next. Does the party just keep arming their opponents? At some level they will think how smart they are for selling the same items over and over again, but that would imply that you aren’t making the missions hard enough.
A while back in one of my campaigns a vorpal claymore came home from a mission. Most of the party was quick to try and sell it, but a couple of them said, “No way! I’m not going against someone with a vorpal claymore!” Funny how the melee types did not want to sell it, but the mage types weren’t worried. Hmm, there may be a moral in that somewhere.
Even fantasy characters have to learn - there are consequences to every action.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Violence part two

It occurred to me that some of you might know Fletnern and be wondering what I plan to do to cause this world war. The two big ideas I have are:
Myork has an army sitting in Scaret ready to rampage. Neither Garnock nor the Wembic Empire could withstand it on their own, but together, they would likely defeat it. Do the orcs and the Lats form an alliance or do they fall prey to the Anglic knights bringing liberty to the rest of the continent?
The on-line campaign experienced the invasion of giant ants. It took a great part of the Wembic Army to defeat the first wave. (Oh, you didn’t realize that was only the first wave?) Now the Wembic Empire is going to need a lot more help to fight back the major assault. I’m not sure if the first wave is all that will hit the main line Fletnern or if I need to have the main assault hit too. What happens to the mighty Wembic Empire if they throw away their strength saving the rest of the continent? Who would dare side with them even if it meant life or death? The truth is I think I have to destroy the city of Kaudelt if the main invasion comes through. That’s the rub!
For you real old timers, you might recall “The Divine Mission” a romp through the future of Fletnern. By accomplishing the mission (actually missions), they undid something in the past that prevented the Cult of the Three Priests from taking over the world. Same principal.

Some Really Good Violence

Ever want to put some really good violence into your campaign world, but fear that it will disrupt what you’ve worked so hard for? Try an alternate universe! What in the H E double hockey sticks is he talking about?!?
As many of you know, my world is Fletnern. It was started about 30 years ago (man that hurt - thinkin’ I’m that old). I have built and nurtured this world for 30 years, and the thought of having a massive world war that will likely kill a bunch of main characters (at least NPCs) and completely change most of what I have going currently is scary to me. Oh, I’d love to see it, but I don’t are risk it.
Then it struck me - parallel universe. Hey, if it works in the comic books, it should work here. A couple of minor changes to give it a slightly different feel, and advance a cold war into a war on the brink of exploding. Then, a friendly neighborhood time traveling titan (yes, I have more than one in the world) and the player character (or party of PCs) is replacing a recently assassinated version of himself on a different, but seemingly similar, world. Now, I can have my huge battle, and after the character takes part in the big war, he/she/it can go home - back to the normal world that still exists as I designed it, but with fond memories of ripping the world apart.
I have to tell you - I love this idea so much, I’m going to use it a lot more than once. Not only does it work fantastically well for one campaign, but it helps me keep one campaign’s huge action from completely disrupting another campaign’s normalized action.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Have you been watching Burn Notice? If not, you should. That is good TV! That’s not the point of this blog. The point is Barry, the money launderer. Barry is one of Michael’s contacts. Barry is not a nameless, faceless contact who simply supplies everything that Michael needs. He is an NPC that often needs to be convinced to help. In fact recently, they have pretty much had to bribe him every time, but he is willing to take a bribe (not always money) in order to commit crimes and put himself at risk. That is what a contact should do. Any other felon (non-contact) would not be willing to commit crimes for a bribe, at least not a reasonable one.
As I remember, Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch was the same. (S&H was BAD TV!) He never really wanted to help them, but with a couple off threats or a bribe of some kind, he coughed up the information they needed. Of course, if the bad guy was an enemy of his, then it came easier. (I haven’t seen S&H in decades, so forgive my memory.)
A lot of games have contacts as part of the game rules “Every character starts with two contacts”, but few of them ever really describe what these contacts are supposed to do. Are contacts willing to come with on missions? Are contacts willing to give the characters loans? I think Barry and Huggy are perfect examples. They are willing to put themselves in some danger for people they know and trust for some sort of reward. Example: I trust you well enough to tell you where the drug dealer lives if you give me $50. I would not tell someone I didn’t trust even for $50 because the drug dealer would find out and come shoot me.
But are they stagnant? They shouldn’t be. If your contact is an officer of the law, and the player character hands over an important criminal to the contact, maybe he gets a promotion. If the contact is a fence for stolen goods, and the player character kills the other fence in town, then the contact is going to have a really good year. The opposite is true too. If the fence tells the player where to find a thief, and the player kills the thief, the fence is likely going to have fewer people he can buy from.
These changes can be good and bad. A promotion gets a beat cop off the streets, and tougher to get street info from, but it will help him get other info, assuming he still deems it a good idea to deal with the player. These contact examples I’m using may seem like modern examples, but it works in fantasy too. City guards act remarkably like modern police. In many campaigns, enchanters are not willing to deal with characters who are not their contacts. Who would be dumb enough to sell a magical sword to a barbarian who is trained in using it to kill? Why would the barbarian not kill him and take the stuff from him? Some spells might be dangerous to cast or illegal. It would be nice to have a long range teleporter as a contact if the city guards are chasing you.
The reason I want you to care is that contacts greatly enhance the role-playing aspects of the game. They bring the city settings to life. Don’t let them be sycophants and don’t let them be meaningless. Let them become minor recurring characters that can really add life to the campaign. Once you do, they can often become mission givers as well!

100 Towns

Well, we said we were going to be better about pushing out product this year and so far so good. 100 Towns just hit the electronic shelves at RPG Now and e23. Seriously, this is not just a simple little list. It’s 20+ pages of brief descriptions of 100 different kinds of towns. It’s what you need in a form you can read in a minute. Yes - this is for you Mr. GM off the cuff! Oh - and its $1.99, so it’s in your price range!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


One of the optional rules that was designed years ago, but never published (boy there are a lot of those!) was the concept of the “natural”. It started with Convergence aka Alien Armageddon aka that modern LQ game with the aliens. One of the races was a snake centaur - torso, head and arms of a man (sort of) with the body of a snake. Some of these guys had natural defenses: poison fangs, tail spines, some sort of carapace; but the natural defense had to be taken at character creation. This was something they were born with, not something they could train in later. This started me down the road of other things you’re born with. One of the first was a 10 point skilled called “Noble Birth”. Yep - It’s what you think. In a role-playing setting, knowing whether the person is of noble birth can matter. No, not in combat, but Legend Quest is after all a role playing game and not simply a combat system. There was also the 10 point skill - Natural Beauty. These were the people so darn pretty that it affected their social skills. It could be good or bad, because it’s not like ugly folk like those who are vastly better looking. Natural Beauty led to Exceptional Natural Beauty (OK, that’s not the name, but I still haven’t figured out what I want to call it). The exceptional one is a 25 point skill and is twice as good as the other one. These are like the Helen of Troy folks where entire countries go to war to get them back. (Side bar - Don’t you hate when they put some skinny chick in as Helen and tell you how gorgeous she is, when you’re thinking, “Damn girl, eat! There are 14yo boys with more chest than you.” - Please excuse the inappropriateness of that last comment.)
Well this led to Royal Birth - a 25 point enhancement of noble. It also led to the concept of “naturals”. Everybody’s brain is wired a little differently. Some folks pick up certain things better than others. Why not have a character who had a natural affinity for a particular skill? Think magical power or swords. The idea is that the character would get the first skill level for free and every skill level afterwards would be cheaper to buy. Of course this would come at the cost of buying the “natural” talent. It can still only be purchased at the start of the character. To be honest, I haven’t figured out the point cost of this nor the benefit. I haven’t had enough new characters being played to play test the game balance of it. I have thought about just assigning (randomly) natural skills to every character and not telling them until it seemed appropriate. Everybody has to be good at something, don’t they?
Oh, there’s more. What about 0-point skills? Here’s what I mean: You would pick from one of the following faces: Attractive (mild - not like natural beauty), Plain (nothing special), Baby (good for carousing and acting innocent, but bad for leadership), Everyman (the kind of person who very easily melts into the crowd), etc. The idea was to start forcing the players to define their characters a little better, while not distorting the game. These “faces” would be very mild in effect, but there would be an effect. Yeah, there would be Ugly and Sinister too. Sinister - great for intimidation, bad for carousing.
So - Take this as a sneak peek at the optional rules, should they ever come out. First - Book of Wishes. It has been formatted and we’re checking the formatting and some edits now. Some of the artwork is showing shadows and our print guys cannot figure out why. (Not there in the original product, but magically appearing in the pdf version. VERY frustrating!) Anyway, at long last, we seem really close. BoW will hopefully show that while we’re doing a lot of generic stuff, we have not forgotten LQ, nor will we ever!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Dark Side

Assuming you’ve read our stuff (particularly Forge of Imagination), you’ve seen that we strongly support the concept of taking ideas from others, but making them your own. There’s a “dark side” to that:
I admit it - I’m a child of the Star Wars generation. I remember playing on the front porch of a guy who later became a play tester for us (wow - that one is a convoluted story) marveling at his new Boba Fett figure. I saw all three of the original movies in the theater with my parents because I wasn’t old enough to drive. So I guess it makes sense that when I think of spells, I envision laser beams. Cast a life drain spell, I see a laser beam reach out and strike the bad guy. Cast a fireball, I see a laser beam that explodes at the far end. But it really shouldn’t be that way. I’m working really hard to change my way of thinking. I’ve decided that spells should (as often as possible) look more like clouds. Magic is supposed to work outside of material physics, so a congealed, amorphous shape with power in it, seems to fit. It’s kind of H. P. Lovecraft too.
Or how about this - a rip in the fabric of space. I really wanted to use “rent in the fabric of reality” but that seems too flowery. I’m working on the stats because while writing this I thought of a cool spell: Ghoulish Hand - conjurer spell - This spell causes a rent in the fabric of reality through which a ghoulish hand emerges to claw and tear at an enemy. The hand will appear at one of the least advantageous points for the target (usually behind). The conjurer opens the portal for the hand, then the hand will attack as well as it can. The conjurer needs to sustain the spell but not direct it, unless he wants to move the portal, then he must take an action to close and reopen the portal. This is an action, but does not require a new casting fatigue or success roll. See, no laser beams.
The other thing I want to do is have precognitive sword fighters. The problem is that it keeps making me think of the Jedis, and I don’t want that. Imagine how cool it would be to be able to use mentalism to predict your opponent’s moves and then counter them. But I don’t want guys walking around saying, “These are not the halflings you are looking for.”
Don’t succumb to the Dark Side. Keep other people’s ideas out of your game (unless their from Board Enterprises of course! and of course unless you have made them "your own"), and the game will run a lot smoother! Come to think of it, maybe I should keep other people’s stuff out of the blog. Nah!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Running on those heels ...

No this isn’t a Sex in the City review!
Running on the heels of what kind of gamer are you - are you a solo gamer? We had some mail last week asking about LQ for solo play. Truth is, we have thought about it. The problem is it is very difficult to find a happy medium. LQ is designed to be a dynamic system where anything can happen and the system can give you the CoS (chance of success). With solo play, you either write for what you think is every contingency, or you dumb it down to three choices. So you either waste boat loads of time writing or you ruin the original intent of the game. OK, so I’m being WAY overly dramatic.
Truth is - I think that in today’s gaming world, there may be a nitch for solo play, even though we would be competing strongly against the high graphics computer games. Any feed back? As always, we’ll react to what we think our customers want!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What kind of gamer are you?

We run into a lot of different kinds of gamers. Some love the types of things we talk about: cultures, cuisine, trade goods. Others have no idea why anyone would care what happened outside of an actual battle. Let’s give you a little insight into the Board Enterprises way of looking at RPGs: We think they are role-playing games! We think that when you make a decision you shouldn’t rely on your overly mathematical sense of the rules, but in what makes sense for your character. Honestly, we’re not into doing voices and acting out everything that happens, though we know people who go for that kind of thing.
By the way - here’s how you know you’re role-playing and not acting like yourself: Imagine you’re walking into a biker bar where everyone is wearing red bandannas, and you put a blue bandanna around your head. Can you imagine doing that? If you can, you’re likely dead, so I guess you’re not reading this. OK - Different. You and your friends have entered an old abandoned house on a dare. They all say, “You go first”, and you do, without thinking, without trying to convince someone else to, you just go. Your characters do this kind of stuff all the time. No sane person does this. That’s how you know that the actions you choose for your characters are different than the actions you choose for yourself, thus, you are role-playing.
So - Why does this matter? Going back to the famous discussion I had with a magazine editor - I submitted an article in which I described the use of magical healing outside of combat - how would it affect the culture and the urban environment? There was also a thing in there about the use of age altering (youth) magic and other magic used simply for the purposes of beauty. The article even had stats on the modern health care and beauty industries. The editor was convinced that this was some sort of April Fools article. No one could possibly care what happened with magical healing outside of combat he insisted. Well, those of us who role-play - we care. The magazine didn’t last a year, but we’re still here. Maybe that proves something.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hundreds of 100s

At risk of appearing obsessed with numbers: (OK - I am, especially when they represent cash) Expect the Baker’s Dozen supplements to be interspersed among some 100s. Likely first up is 100 Towns. Now we’ve seen supplements that are quite literally 100 names of communities, and they take up one page. That’s not what these are. These are going to be 100 _____s with brief descriptions. Right now the 100 towns book is over twenty pages long, but admittedly, the chart format leaves a lot of white on the page.
Anyway - We asked you what you would want a Baker’s Dozen of, so - Anything you’d like to see 100 of? Towns is definitely first, but we’re eyeing daggers and swords to come soon, likely still this year. Our goal is to put out things you want to see, so we’re more than willing to listen.
As an update, here is legitimately what I think you will see available for sale this year. For us, this is a huge list:
100 Towns, Baker’s Dozen Tribes, Book of Wishes (Yep - first draft of formatting is completed), 100 Daggers (or Swords)
Possibles: The core of City of Rhum (kind of the base on which you can hang the other supplements), Coins of the Road - the follow up to Grain Into Gold that will supply trade goods (more later), d1000 - Mercenary’s Greed (a huge random chart for determining loot carried by the bad guys, including ways to alter it so even d1000 will never get stale), and Urban Developments - a method for creating communities that works exactly the way Grain Into Gold created economies.
On Coins of the Road - This thing has been started and restarted about seven times. The issue keeps being that it is too {expletive deleted} huge. We’ve had to pull out all the discussion on gemstones and make Facets. We’ve had to pull out all the discussions of brand name goods (that relate directly to Fletnern). We’ve had to pull out all the magical items. We’ve had to pull out 90% of the write-ups on the merchant houses and cartels (again mostly Fletnern related). We’ve pulled out the travel time information that was also specific to Fletnern. End result - It’s coming. It will specifically be about “standard” trade goods, with few references to Fletnern and very few rule comments.
We seldom talk only about our products, so tune in next week for something more in line with the flavor of this blog!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tim the Trapper - A story of empty cabins

I wrote this up for a book on the lifestyles of adventurers (as in how much do they cost and what repercussions are there). Well, it got really long and didn’t fit the book anymore, so rather than throw it out, I’m sharing it with you.
Let’s take Tim the Trapper for instance. Tim comes to the big city with his winter pelts in early spring. He makes a killing selling them to the furriers and he is richer than he has ever been before. Then he goes to the inn and discovers how much they want for a room. Several harsh words later, he decides that he is a tough guy and he would rather sleep under the stars than pay those prices. Evening comes, he settles down and has a nice night in the light woods about a mile from the city.
The next day, he explores the city, buying gear and replenishing supplies. He returns to his campsite, but this night it rains. The next morning, he continues his shopping, wet and not as happy. During the day, he meets Milo the Merchant. Milo is selling fire wood, and Tim cannot believe how much Milo is asking for pieces of wood. I mean, come on, they’re just lying around out in the forest. So Tim comes up with a plan. The little furry creatures are shedding and mating, so it’s not a great time to trap them. So he decides to stay here for a while. He’ll gather wood, bundle it and sell it in the city, just like Milo. So Tim brings a dozen bundles to the city, but only sells three. The next day, he lowers his price and only sells four. That’s when Milo spots him. “Hey Tim,” he says, “I notice that you’re trying to sell your fire wood. Tell you what I’m gonna do. Rather than both of us standing around here all day, you go out and get the firewood, and I’ll sell it and give you half.” Well, Tim isn’t a bookkeeper, but if Milo will sell 12 a day, and give half to Tim, then Tim will still be far better off than getting all of 3 sales. So the deal is made.
Throughout this time, Tim has been improving his campsite. First he set up an awning to keep off the rain. Then he built up the fire pit into something more resembling a fireplace. Then he put up some log walls. Before you know it, Tim has built himself a crude cabin in the woods. Tim sells his firewood to Milo for a couple of weeks, but Tim is getting hungry and he hates paying the huge prices in town for his food. So he goes off for a week on a hunting expedition and brings back enough meat that he can preserve some. He brings his firewood to Milo, but Milo has already found another sucker who will go out into the woods and bring back fire wood for him, and he only wants 40% of the profits, so Tim is out of luck.
Disgusted by the whole urban drama, Tim returns to the wilderness to continue his life of hunting and trapping, leaving his cute little cabin behind. If Tim had succeeded, he would have left his cute little cabin in the wilderness behind.
The point of this little theater was to explain that in the wooded areas around fantasy cities, it would be common to find campsites and even cabins. Some might be in use, while others would have been abandoned. Any woodsman with the slightest bit of survival training would easily know how to build some manner of shelter, even if easy to find caves were not scattered across the countryside. While these shelters would likely fall in on themselves after a couple of years, there should be enough of them around that they would make common random encounters in the wilderness. If you need to, think of them as homeless shanties. They may not be everywhere, but if you know where to look (likely close to the stream), you’re going to find them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A little help here?

OK - What’s the deal? It took a new guy from Latvia to notice that the BE website’s product links were busted. Oh I’m sure the guys at One Bookshelf told me they were changing the site around, but you know, didn’t seem relevant at the time, I’m sure. Anyway - if you notice something wrong, let us know. We’ll fix it. No, that is not a request for an exhaustive list of everything you disagree with or find grammatically incorrect on every book, but a little heads up about the big stuff would be appreciated. We can take a little criticism (but only just a little, OK?).

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Baker’s Dozen ... WHAT?!?

So hopefully you read last week’s entry about our new supplement A Baker’s Dozen Villains. We are in the process of wrapping up several other Baker’s Dozen projects, but the question is, “What would like to see?” Some of the ideas are setting, people or characters, stuff, or even plot lines. But if you have good ideas, we’ll listen! The next planned one will hopefully be out shortly. (No, really, soon, not like the time between our last product postings.) It will deal with 13 different groups that all tie together. We think it will be a good way to get some of the ideas we have out there without breaking your wallet.
The Baker’s Dozen supplements are exactly what Board Enterprises is all about - We give you great content without wasting your time and money on the stuff you don’t need. Yeah -Art is the #1 thing that wastes space and makes a supplement cost more. This is the internet - If you’re looking for fancy art, check out any one of the artist sites where incredibly good (but typically unemployed) artists showcase their stuff. It’s free, and if you find something you really like, most of them offer purchase plans for posters and what not. Meanwhile, buy our supplements when you want content.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Baker’s Dozen Villains

It’s been a bit since we posted new product, but we’ve unveiled a new product line: The Baker’s Dozen. The point of these products is going to be 13 well defined characters or environments that you can drop into your world or campaign. These are strong starting points that you can use. Not only are they great to start adventures, but they are suited for using in series of adventures, to keep the flow going. Here’s the advertisement we posted:

Need some major bad guys to give your game a little boost? Maybe your players aren’t exactly the law and order types, and they need some allies or employers. No matter which side of the fence you find yourself on, sometimes you just need some villains. Here are twelve thirteen heavies ready to mix it up. Their backgrounds and current organizations are spelled out so they’ll be ready to drop into your campaign at a moment’s notice. These aren’t your run of the mill monsters; these are intelligent enemies acting in intelligent ways in a fantasy environment.
Whereas in other supplements we’ve given you ideas that you can flesh out on your own, here we’ve done the extra leg work for you. This is the first of Board Enterprises’ “Baker’s Dozen” supplements. Each will give thirteen immediately usable characters, locations or items that you can use without wasting time on rules changes, etc. Not only should these characters be a strong addition to your world, but they will help you by sparking more ideas for future adventures, characters and even campaigns.

You can buy it either at RPG Now or at Steve Jackson’s e23. It is intentionally only $2, so it’s easy on the pocket book. Let us know any ideas you have for future Baker’s Dozen supplements. We have a few in the works and are hoping to bring them to market relatively quickly.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Quick Nashville update

While no one working for Board Enterprises was directly impacted by the flood, the entire region has been indirectly affected. Many meetings and events have been rescheduled, and getting around was very difficult during the beginning of the week. Our apologies, but simply in covering for stranded folks, there has not been time this week to get a blog entry out. Call it an act of God excuse, and say a prayer for those who lost everything.

Friday, April 30, 2010


No this is a rambling post (OK maybe it will be) but it is a post about randomness and its place in gaming. GMs are given random charts all the time, but are they any good? We believe that d100 random charts get old about the third time their used; not necessarily the third die roll, but the third mission or session in which they are used.
So are they useless? Well no. You’ve seen our opinions about “all you need is a spark of imagination”. Well, random charts are good for that. Roll a bunch of times. See what makes sense; throw out the rest. You can also keep them a little fresher if you cross out everything that comes up. Then, when the chart is half crossed out, just get a new one.
We are working on three separate d1000 charts. We’re testing and modifying, but we are hoping that a d1000 chart might not get old. The time between similar results should be distant enough that it doesn’t seem like the “same old same old”. Will d1000 be enough? Even if our earlier guess of three times and old news is true, then does this mean that it would take 30 times in order for it to get old? Well, that seems OK. How many campaigns run more than 30 missions anyway?
We’ll keep you informed. Of course, its likely to kill us to try and legitimately format a d1000 chart.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Teleport Tunnels

I’m looking at the enclave sorcerers in the Book of Wishes and I have a question for you active game masters out there: Can the principal spell caster pass through the teleport tunnel or will his movement into the tunnel cause it to collapse? Here’s what it says in the book:
Teleport tunnel is a very useful tool for the enclave sorcerers. It creates a tunnel (the size of the area of effect) with one end at the principal caster and the other end at the auxiliary caster. Only two spell casters can be involved in the casting of this spell. The principal caster is the one who initiates the spell. This caster begins casting towards the other. After one turn of casting, the other sorcerer becomes aware of the teleport tunnel and has to open his or her end. The principal caster must use four power levels, while the auxiliary caster only needs to supply three. If the auxiliary does not respond, the principal will begin taking sustaining fatigue, even though the spell has not yet been cast.
Once the tunnel has been successfully opened, anyone or anything can pass through the tunnel and instantly be transported from one end to the other. Through these means, large amounts of people or products can be transported. This tunnel works much like the other teleport spells except that it is maintained. If either of the casters drops the sustaining of the spell, it will fail. The spell cannot be resisted.

By the description, it sounds like he could take a free walk into the tunnel as long as he was sustaining it. I would collapse the tunnel behind him, because it is “between” the two casters, so it cannot be behind the principal caster. Well, for that manner, could the auxiliary caster enter his own teleport tunnel? The rules don’t specify, but I have always assumed that they couldn’t. What do you think?
For those of you not familiar with the Book of Wishes, it is only currently published in hard copy. It has been re-edited, but the layout work has not yet been done to convert it into a pdf. Since the book has a lot of art, the layout work is pretty intense. We hoped to have it on our distributors’ sites reasonably soon.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Magical Theory

So hopefully those of you who have been reading this blog are starting to understand our theory on role-playing. Basically we believe that the adventurers should be out there doing wild and wooly things while the rest of the world moves forward on its own. That means that mundane stuff is going on all the time and the adventuring somehow fits in the cracks and gaps. We don’t have to dwell on the mundane stuff, as long as we know that there are NPCs out there doing it.
An Example: Just like in our culture, there are tons of people spending their lives debating things that the rest of us couldn’t care less about. In the game world, it would seem most likely that other than religion (well religions because there are so darn many gods), magical theory would likely be one of the most debated things. Take a comet ball for instance. The spell description itself says that the mage rips a fiery stone from the heavens and hurls it down at the mage’s will. I don’t want to get into the physics of it, but to actually rip a meteor or asteroid from space and hurl it down to the Earth in a matter of 10 second or less would likely be moving the rock at light speed or faster. Of course, not everyone (in fact probably no one) in the fantasy world would understand meteors or the speed of light, so they might argue this is possible. Others might argue that the comet ball was moving at magically fast speeds. There might be angels who anticipate the need for comet balls and set them in motion hours before they are needed, and the mage is simply guiding them. Maybe the comet ball is coming from the elemental dimension of earth. Maybe the comet ball is traveling through hyperspace or using space folding techniques. Maybe hyperspace and the elemental plane are the same place.
Do you as a GM or a player, care which of these is true? Well, not really. Do you need to debate it during one of your gaming sessions? Absolutely not! So does it matter? It doesn’t matter, but if you know that there are people employed by magical universities to research and try to figure out silly theories like this, than you have just built a better, more realistic, and even more interesting game world for your players. Well, and for you!
Will these ever matter? They might. If the debate is which is more powerful divine magic or sorcery, well those kind of arguments have a habit of spilling over into feuds, duels, and other civil unrest. Even if the comet ball debate ended in a fist fight, it would likely only be interesting and not important. Yes, we’re all picturing two weakling mages arguing over whether comet ball angels exist while they wrestle on the floor of an empty lecture hall. OK, maybe that was just me.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stable/Inn Campaign

Looking for something a little different? Here’s my newest idea for a new campaign. Feel free to steal it for your own use (but come on, no publishing it OK).
The party is related to each other in some way - probably cousins. They are all contacted by someone that their mutual grandperson has passed away and left them a piece of the family stable or perhaps inn. As they all return to the ancestral home, they begin to work to at the run down inn hoping to rebuild it to its former glory. Sounds dull? OK, here are some adventure ideas:
* A horse in the stable escaped and the party must go out into the wilderness in the dark of night to find it. While they likely will not encounter dangerous animals, walking around a forest in pitch black is a dangerous thing (traps, holes, branches, streams, etc). They need to get the horse back before dawn in order to avoid the bad publicity of having lost the thing in the first place.
* Rustlers stole the cattle the inn planned to butcher and serve. First the party needs to hunt some game to serve, then they need to hunt thee rustlers.
* A guest turns out to be a werewolf, but how do they determine which one and how do they stop him/her.
* An elderly guest dies at the inn and they bury him, only to learn later that they buried him with an important item that other people are now searching for.
* The barmaid has been kidnapped - was it the jealous boyfriend or the group of bandits nearby?
* Someone left a horse at the stable, promising them that if they could sell the horse, he’d let them keep X%. Of course, the horse was stolen shortly thereafter. Was it stolen? or was the “seller” the thief?
* An escaped slave has found his way to the inn, but the slave hunters are right on his trail. Hand him over or help him hide? If they help him hide, do they become part of an underground railroad that pits them against a major slavery group?
* The ghost of grandpa is now haunting the hotel - how to get rid of him without destroying his eternal soul?
There is a strong part of me that feels that this has a Scooby Doo feel to it. Adventure just keeps finding the poor owners of this hotel, but that is true of a lot of campaigns. No, there likely won’t be any major battles with dragons or flaming broad swords, though of course a dragon could decide to move in nearby and need to be killed or chased off. This could be a very fun campaign. If you need more adventure, have the inn become very close to the battle lines of a major war. Maybe it would become the field HQ for a large military unit, and then maybe a hospital for the enemy after they take the region. The players would likely be caught up in the fighting, but do they want to takes sides or simply try to preserve their livelihoods while the two distant governments fight all around them.
Need more? Know all those “The City Alchemist needs a special ingredient in order to make a special antidote” quests? Now they are “The cook needs a special spice or the special of the week will fail” quests. Quest givers, like the poor woman who lost her husband to the goblins while he was carrying a map of a gold mine, now stumble into the players’ public room instead of a miscellaneous bar somewhere. All sorts of interesting people will pass through, many of which will need help.
Off the wall can often be the best campaigns. Making the characters worry about their home also has a way of anchoring the players to their characters and making them incredibly memorable.

P.S. Sorry for the late post - tech glitch over the weekend. Last time I try an automated update.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


You know, more and more of these posts are coming out of me trying to teach my young sons how to play. One of my sons was reading the book Castle by David Macaulay. I told the older one that he too should read the book. “But, isn’t that...informative?” Gasp! No! Not that! Heaven forbid! Ok, enough of that. Yep! It is informative. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you don’t have the information contained within that book, you should not be running a fantasy role-playing game that in any way mirrors feudal Europe, which, let’s face it, most of them do.
I’m not saying that this is the quintessential book that must be read, but the information in that book is needed. The book Castle is just the easiest way I know to gain that information.
So forgetting the book - how much research is required to run a game? I do tons of research; probably way too much. Other guys are running things with absolutely none. Where’s the happy medium? I’m interested in your opinions. I think it depends on the education and personalities of your players. Some re-enactors need to have everything exactly right, and the slightest coat of arms out of balance ruins the game for them. I’ve even had arguments a couple of times where I insist that Fletnern (my game world) is NOT Earth and therefore the development of certain technologies would not have followed the same course. For some realists, that isn’t good enough. So again, where is the middle ground? Does it matter if you place a swamp next to mountain and a desert? Maybe not. Does it matter what the mass of the planet’s moon is and how that mass would affect either the gravity while standing on the moon or the rise and fall of the tides? Probably not. Should there be some sense of realism? I think so.
Here’s a big one - If 10 coppers = 1 silver and 10 silvers = 1 gold, does that make sense compared to our modern sense of money? No way. Does that mean its wrong? Maybe, maybe not. This is not the planet Earth we’re dealing with here, and maybe the supply of gold and silver are completely different on that planet. So is game balance and ease of monetary conversion so important that we can ignore this sense of reality? Yeah, I think it is.
Here’s my completely unscientific answer to how much research is needed: Enough that your players believe that within that world, this is reasonable, but not so much that you feel like you have homework every night just so you can have fun one day a week.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Switching Genres take 2

OK, so the last post was why Westerns are good. Here is why others are not so good:
Super Hero stories - Too often the super hero is a solo act. Too often the villain is a solo act. Few fantasy role-playing games are set up for fight, escape fight again. They’re kill or be killed. That doesn’t work as well with superhero stories. Also, the hero(es) often gain power in astronomical proportions. The hero doesn’t gain a better weapon, he learns to channel his inner self and go from throwing small flames around to going super nova. That doesn’t work for extended campaigns. The action pacing is often very good though.
Fantasy stories - Too often the hero is a solo act or a hero with less important followers. Too often the players see the similarities immediately. Too often there is one super powerful weapon - not the kind of thing that groups of friends can share. Often the action is paced wrong and the hero and his lady love are important aspects.
War stories - They typically use “parties”; this is good! They are kill or be killed; which is good! Typically they are far too dramatic, with massive amounts of character building and not the right action pacing for a RPG. Sometimes, TV series can be useful for mission ideas (Think Combat! or Rat Patrol). The enemies work because they are always the same. Trying to get a plot line where your party members HATE the enemy, but its a new enemy every week? Yeah - nope.
Off genre action - This is some of the best ground, but it depends on the movie. A classical space opera might work, unless its all about one hero, though you’ll never hear me say anything bad about Flash Gordon. Some of the pulp action stories, typically about Wild Africa - can work nicely, but they do rely on their location for some of the mystery and suspense. That can be extremely difficult to reproduce. Of course, there is no better hero than Allan Quatermain, and in his first two books, he does travel with a party. It comes down to the same issues as we laid out here. As we all know, a sci-fi movie can be a classic Western style, or a war movie or a super hero story. Victorian, Future, post-Apocalypse, they really don’t change what we’ve already listed.

Switching Genres

Sorry for the delayed post - I was out of town. Better yet, I’ll be gone again this weekend, so I’ll post both now. It was a two-parter anyway, so it sees to fit.
We fill a lot of space in some of our books (most notably Forge of Imagination and Character Foundry) talking about switching genres. So what works? I think that flat out, the best genres to borrow ideas from are the Westerns. They work perfectly for fantasy games. Now, I’m talking about John Wayne style Westerns here, not those Clint Eastwood ones. Unless your gaming group likes to spend hours staring intimidatingly at one another, forget most of the Clint Eastwood stuff.
So why do they work? Well, first off, there is typically a “party” or at least a pair of guys or the hero gathers together a posse. You know, a party, like a standard fantasy game. Then there is the pacing of the action. Westerns have some of the best pacing. Small events turn into bigger events, which get confused with other things, until the big climax. Plus the villain usually has a small army of guys. Let’s go to an example:
Imagine a typical Western - Two buddies stop by a small town and have a drink in a bar. There they see four guys jump one guy in a bar fight. They help him out, and get embroiled in his problems. The victim tells the heroes who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Beautiful adventure development without the unrealistic, you walk into a bar and a guy hires you to go...
At this point, the villain might appear and try to turn the good guys to his side, but since he hasn’t done anything really villainous yet, they can’t just go kill him. Likely there is some side mission that needs to be done - the good guy’s boss needs medicine that he is carrying, the victim guy was in town to meet a string of ponies, etc. This provides another action packed encounter when the players are fighting the villain’s minions. Eventually, the good guys (your players we’re assuming) need to fight their way through all of the villain’s minions until they get to him and kill him. Sound familiar?
What else? Well, how many times have the good guys escaped from some bad guy trap. Just as they look over their shoulder and say, “I think we lost them” the entire Sioux Nation comes riding over the ridge. The Indians don’t have anything to do with the good guys or bad guys, but they still serve as enemies. The same thing can be said for the desperate struggles against the environment. Whether its trying to cross a raging river or survive travel across a desert, these man vs. nature encounters are great as well. Hey, throw in a burning barn if nature isn’t going to fit the bill.
I guess this all makes better sense if you’ve read Forge of Imagination, but I think you’ll still get the drift! (RPG Now Links)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lower Level Bad Guys

I was making bad guys to throw against some younger kids (8-12) who want to play Legend Quest and it occurred to me - Why would really minor bandits be warriors? Look, there are kids who grow up wanting to be soldiers. They play soldier, they watch soldiers, they get into military academies, and then they become soldiers. These guys are going to be warriors through and through. OK, so they will learn some auxiliary skills, like carousing and maybe a foreign language, but by and large it will be combat skills and those skills that promote good military life (etiquette, weapon craft, maybe senses, etc.)
What about our rabble of bandits? Did they decide at a young age they wanted to be bandits? Probably not. Did they grow up playing bandits? Well, maybe yes. Did they go to a bandit academy? Nope. So what skills should they have? Well, if they are low level bandits, they probably tried to do a number of other jobs first. Maybe they were porters, common laborers, maybe caravan guards, lumberjacks, bartenders, cotton pickers, or all of these at various different times. I went with these guys tried to make it under a number of jobs, but kept getting fired for not working hard enough. Slackers seem to be more inclined to turn to banditry. I figure they were lumberjacks longer than any of their other minor professions, so they wield axes (tool strength), and the one guy who worked as a caravan guard also has a bow. Are they weak in combat? Sure, but they’re supposed to be - they’re starter bad guys.
Gotta tell you - I’m really proud of these losers. They make sense. These are exactly the type of guys that would try to pull off this job and get killed for it. They are tougher than a typical farmer, enough so that most people would hire mercenaries to protect them from them, but not offer enough money to get the really good mercs, just the starter ones. I’m also really happy with the LQ character creation process that allows me to create guys like this quickly, and not have to pigeon hole every character like he spent his life in a gladiatorial training camp. Try it - You’ll like it!