Sunday, April 28, 2013

What’s in a Name?

A rose is rose, right? Nope! A rose is NOT a rose when it’s called a turdling rose. Nobody is going to plant that! I am trying to put together several campaigns that can be used as campaigns or as backgrounds going on behind the scenes while the rest of your campaign is moving. One of them involves a group of jungle dwelling races making war on some of their mountain neighbors. I’m not that great at making up names for things like this, so I was playing around with some ideas and started with “Jungle Fury”. It kind of sounded like a bad 1930s movie set in deepest darkest Africa, and that wouldn’t be so bad. So I Googled “Jungle Fury”. Oops! Apparently that was a whole Power Rangers thing. I am NOT going to publish something that shares a name with the Power Rangers. It’s bad enough that that horrible show that no one watched stole the name of our main FRPG. (Yes, Legend Quest the game was published in 1991, well before the failed adventure documentary series was conceived.) So - Learn from this. Before you use a title that you think fits perfectly, Google it. You might find out it is the slang term for a deviant sexual act, or worse, for something associated with the Power Rangers.

A Permanent Enemy

So maybe this is just a thought exercise or maybe it creates a really cool enemy for some campaign: So there is this street rat. He becomes a runner for a minor gang leader in town. The adventuring party is hired by the local chamber of commerce or merchants’ guild to put an end to these thugs. They defeat the gang leader in his lair, but the kid escapes. Maybe they don’t even notice. The kid then starts running errands for an evil wizard. He becomes the wizard’s apprentice and learns some spells. When the party defeats the wizard, the apprentice bamfs out (or escapes in some other fashion). Maybe he gets away with a few choice magical items as well. Maybe one of them the party was expecting would be there, so when it doesn’t show up, they know something is up. So next he finds a major warlord trying to get some magical power. He helps this guy, but the warlord hates that the kid is such a wimp, so he beefs him up. This time when the party comes the warlord rushes them with some huge sword/axe (attracting all the attention and allowing the kid to once again escape). Now you have a fighter/mage/thief, and he decides to become the villain himself instead of relying on others. Not only is he pretty powerful at this point, but he has learned what doesn’t work. He should be able to come up with clever plans, not just the one-dimensional ones used by his previous bosses. Further, he has seen the adventuring party and likely knows who they are, what their skills are, and how they tend to fight. This way if you as GM “cheat” and design things specifically to defeat your players’ characters, it is fair and just because the kid has seen them fight three times. Just remember - One bad guy always gets overwhelmed by the multiple good guys. One guy who can do it all will not be able to defeat the party singlehandedly, though he stands a much better chance at it than just about anyone.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


I love the idea of scavengers, people who take anything they can find and make it into something useful for them. In many ways, I guess I am one too. I can’t stand to throw things away, and I often find new uses for old things. Nowadays this is no longer looked on as odd, but instead as a form of recycling. In Fletnern, the ultimate scavengers are those who still live in the Great Archipelago. Thousands of years ago, the titans (in the midst of a civil war) destroyed the continent and thus accidentally formed the Great Archipelago. Those who still live there are constantly using “artifacts” from the titans to form their tools and weapons. One of my favorites was when a race of 12” tall winged women used diamond shards as arrow tips and gold jewelry to fashion chain mail. The party went looking for a golf ball sized diamond, only to find it had been destroyed in order to make arrows and other weapons that were used against them. Elsewhere I have raiders, goblins, who really don’t have any technology of their own. They steal stuff from the humans and then use it to better their own arsenals. The first thing they do when they raid a house is to hit the kitchen. Not only do they find knives and such there, but they are looking for the spoons. They flatten them, then straighten them, then sharpen them, for arrow points. Hmmm. Do I have a fixation on arrow heads? Anyway, these are just the tip of the iceberg. Use of metal serving platters for breastplates, cooking pots for helmets (I know not too original), an oak table top as a shield, metal barrel rings to strengthen wooden shields, plus all the kitchen objects (like tenderizers and rolling pins) as weapons and clubs. I don’t know why I enjoy this stuff so much, but there’s nothing more fun to me than when a goblin raider whacks a knight upside his pretty helmet with a meat tenderizer and scores some real damage. (Right now most of my original play-testers probably thought back to that one ogre woman who cleaned their clocks with a frying pan, after they had defeated all the “warriors”.) Sometimes silly works - then it’s great to have scavengers. Sometimes, a little thought here can allow some primitives to have something very useful, and then scavenging becomes a real tool for a GM. After all, if the enemies are only packing scavenged stuff, the adventurers won’t have much to sell, and then scavenging is a great game balance factor. Don’t forget to have the non-combat strength kitchen items break more often. The random factor keeps everyone jumping then. You never know. The scavenger chief might have put a treasure map up on the wall of his cave like it was art work. You never know when a scavenger’s misunderstanding of what he has will be the basis for the adventure itself.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mutant Animals

First - When I say “mutant” animals, I am not talking about ones who shoot concussion force beams out of their eyes or have three unbreakable claws that extend from their fists. Sorry if I roped you into this blog unfairly. (Though I do need to say that Cyclopes is SO much cooler than Wolverine!!) By mutant, I mean - not like what they are on Earth. I put mutant animals in my world for two main reasons: First, I want the animal to fill a gap that it really doesn’t fill on Earth, but would still be really cool in the game world. For example: Nanerette is a river town, but I always think of it as being sort of like New Orleans. I know, Brinston is the city on the delta, but it is more like Paris, and Nanerette is the city on the river, but more like New Orleans. Anyway! So for Nanerette to be more like New Orleans, I want there to be some manner of alligator or crocodile to scare the locals and provide reptile skin leather products. Don’t judge me; it’s what I wanted for that town. The problem is that Nanerette is way too cold in winter to support alligators or crocodiles. So I mutated the caimans and gave them a special power: Fletnern caimans can hibernate through the winter. Boom! Now, I can have reptiles in the more temperate zones. I can have caiman hunters who go out after several different sizes of caimans (right up to the 125lb indigo caimans). This allows me to have the culture I want and the products I want in the region I want. It’s a fantasy world, and if one can believe that dragons can fly, you have to believe that caimans can hibernate. The other reason I use mutant animals is to add variety. I do this for a number of reasons, but the main one is to keep the players a little bit more off kilter. When they see a blue furred cat moving towards them through the night, they don’t know what it is. Every boy who grew up in Garnock knows that is a lion - lions near Garnock are blue and have almost no mane. But the players don’t typically know that. The lions in the Southern Plains are golden like we expect from Africa, but the ones farther north are a really deep midnight blue - perfect for stalking prey at night around the swamps of Garnock. (But not in them, as the lions still aren’t big on the whole stagnant water thing.) Extra variety helps on all sorts of stuff - extra products to put on caravans, making different regions seem more different, and the previously mentioned, fighting guys who know the rule books better than I do. I may have written them, but didn’t memorize them. There is a third reason, and it’s sort of a cop out. If I say that this is an indigo caiman who lives in the Slyvanian Forest, no one can say - “You misunderstand caimans. In fact they would never act like that in real life.” Well, this isn’t real life. It isn’t even Earth. It’s my game world, and I may have based the animals on something similar on Earth, but they are not the same. That way, they are whatever I decide they are! My gorillas eat meat and so do my pandas. Take that Mr. Nature Channel!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Gods and Demons

Gods and Demons is now available at both RPGNow (also Drive Thru RPG) and at Steve Jackson's e23. You know the gods of your world, right? Do you? Have you figured out the enemy’s gods? Do you know the evil spirits looking to plague the world and gain power through the suffering? Even the low powered ones? Are you starting to think, maybe you could use a couple hundred more ideas? Here are 100 gods and 100 spirits and minions. You can add any or all of them to your campaign world, because they are described as personalities. This generic supplement is specially designed to fit into any fantasy role-playing game because it is not dependent on stats and rule books. This is an interconnected collection of divine creatures from multiple pantheons - often rival pantheons. And you won’t be left stranded. If your game doesn’t have rules on gods in the game or you don’t like your rules, there is an alternate set of rules on how gods and spirits work in the appendix. This supplement contains 103 pages of content for less than $4.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

That which makes me smarter

You know that old saying about that which does not kill me only makes me stronger? I feel that way about knowledge. The more I learn, the better it is for everything, especially game mastering. I watch all sorts of BBC, PBS and History Channel stuff. I especially like the “worst job” series. They gave all sorts of information about actually living in the olden times that I can use in my world. Whole cultures I have sort of ignored now have filled me with ideas. Some of them include: the Aztec swords (macuahuitl). I knew about them, but I didn’t think about them because they don’t fit that paradigm of what “fantasy” is. I have since put them in my game, both made from obsidian and using shark’s teeth (little shark’s tooth daggers that do tearing damage for my feral island halflings). Also Aztec - the chinampas or floating gardens. They built up raised platforms in the swampy areas often anchored by trees. The mud was built up and up until it was above the level of the river water. Now you have farmland where once you had only river bed, and a constant flow of irrigation. I gave it to my Arabian Nights based culture, and it works great to explain why they could build a big city in a desert (by a river). For prehistoric cultures, I fall back on a “camp” I went to as a kid. I participated in an archeological dig where we were pulling out artifacts from ancient Indian villages. I learned all about flint, flint napping, long houses, etc. What’s the point? When you’re a GM, you need to do everything - build a world, build cultures, build NPCs, build adventures. The more you know about everything, the better you do that. So when you’re setting up a night’s game, don’t let yourself get too key-holed into “fantasy” stuff. Use all of your knowledge and it will become a much cooler game for you and your players.

Magic Strategy for Legend Quest

In Legend Quest, spell casters have to balance how much power they use by the amount of fatigue they can endure. For this reason, I love halfling spell casters. They get a +1 to Willpower (as compared to humans) thus giving them an extra 6 points of Fatigue. They also get a boosted Agility giving the best shot at winning initiative. But how to balance? For those folks a little later in the game (experienced), the best thing to do is to get a power talisman. Here’s why: Let’s take the disintegrate spell for example. 1½P damage for 1D fatigue, or 2-15 damage given for 1-10 fatigue points taken. That’s still great if you can hit two targets, but not as much if you only hit one. However, with a +1 Power talisman, this becomes 3-30 damage dealt for 1-10 fatigue taken, hitting 2 guys, that’s 6-60 given for 1-10 taken. Now you’re really cooking with gas! As you can image, the benefits start to dwindle as you cast more powerful spells. If you cast your disintegrate at a power level of three + one for the talisman, then you get 6-60 damage done for 3-30 taken. Still not bad, but you’re only doubling instead of tripling. If the spell caster knows a major spell, like disintegrate or sunburst, they can probably keep up this type of attack for a while without fatiguing themselves into oblivion. Hitting with a Pow 2 disintegrate is still big damage, and because of the talisman, my halfling sorcerer (assuming a Willpower of 7) can keep it up for 7 or 8 consecutive turns. That is a really big deal! especially if he’s hitting two guys every turn. Summary - Just because you have four power levels doesn’t mean you have to use them all every time. Keep some “dry powder” for the next fight.