Play games. Tell stories. Have fun.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Secret Organizations

So, your PCs have wandered into town and are nosing around, eh? What better way to reward their nosiness than to let them discover a secret organization?

These hidden operatives work from the shadows to accomplish their purpose, hiding from not only the PCs, but also the other people in the town. Their mysterious goals may not be clear yet, but their existence cannot be denied.

But wait, what is this organization called and how do they recognize one another?

Secret Organization Name

1. The Circle of the Deathly Rose
2. The Order of Moonlight
3. Children of the Gathering Storm
4. Sisters of Adamant
5. The Silent Sinners
6. The Thrice Blessed
7. Bearers of the Cleansing Shadows
8. Weepers in the Unending Night

Badge of Membership

1. A silver crescent pin
2. A white hat
3. A copper necklace with a yellow stone
4. A spur on (only) the left boot
5. A false beauty mark below the right eye
6. Hair dyed a very specific, dark shade of red

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Down with the Wonderful Queen

As you know, I'm participating in National Game Design Month this year, and I'm writing a one-page RPG every day of November. I'll publish the whole collection before the end of the year, but until then I'd like to share a few of them here on my blog.

I'm uploading this one a little late, but only because I am busy working on the other games and hadn't found the time to format it before now.

So, without further ado: Down with the Wonderful Queen.

Down with the Wonderful Queen title

This is another sort of light-hearted game, not unlike Tentacular Spectacular. While the mechanic is very straightforward, it also isn't the most important part of the game. You'll notice, too, that there aren't instructions for who your characters are or what this setting might be like. My hope was that players and GMs would fill out the world a bit as they played the game. The most important part, to me was the dynamic surrounding how the players talk about the royal family.

I hope you enjoy this game, and if you do (or even if you don't) let me know.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tentacular Spectacular

So as I've said, I am participating in National Game Design Month this year, and I am designing a one-page RPG every day during the whole month. I am going to post a few of them here on the blog during the month, and then by the end of the year, I'll make the whole collection available.

Today's one-page RPG is called Tentacular Spectacular.

This was a lot of fun to make, both for the theme and mechanics. The theme was fun for obvious reasons: the players get to indulge in wonton destruction and mayhem. The mechanics are fun (I hope) because you get high customization of which dice you roll. And, of course, the most interesting bit of mechanics (in my mind) are the trait rules about adding to your character portrait and the Tome.

So go download if for free right here. If you like it, let me know. If you play it, definitely let me know!


Monday, November 2, 2015

NaGaDeMon 2015

It's NaGaDeMon time already! (That's Nation Game Design Month if you don't know.)

This will be my first time participating in NaGaDeMon, but I'm going to go all out. My plan is to design a one-page RPG every day this month and release them all as a compilation before the end of the year. I'll post a few of them here on my blog, and I'll be sure to post updates as I come across interesting theme and mechanics ideas, too.

Just so you know, I am taking significant inspiration from Grant Howitt's work (especially The Guild of Orpheus) and from John Harper's Lasers & Feelings and Danger Patrol.

I'm not going to post a new one-page RPG today, but I will whet your appetite by reminding you of my extremely rules-light RPG, The Challenge System, which you can download here for free.

One-page RPGs released so far

Friday, October 9, 2015

In the Vaunted Halls of Heaven

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Twitter and asked folks to send me very specific fiction genres.
"Call me Slamdrew. Dr. Dunkenstein was my father."

I don't know what I expected, but these are two of the responses I got:

I guess I asked for that, right? To be fair, it's the kind of response I would have given if someone else had asked. I asked a question, and those were legitimate answers. Unfortunately, the reason I was looking for fiction genres in the first place was so that I could do another genre mash-up.

So, here I am with two genres, much more specific than I had anticipated, and a self-set goal of combining them. Now, I did get some other suggestions, and I could have used those. But to me, that would have been taking the easy way. No, I would take on this challenge, and I would beat it.

In case you haven't figured out where this is going yet, spoiler alert: I did it. After several false starts, I managed to reconcile these two genres into a single, brilliant (if I do say so myself) idea. You're welcome.

In the Vaunted Halls of Heaven

In 1966, at the height of the space race, the USSR sent up a dozen capuchin monkeys in secret in the Voskhod 3 as part of a long-term viability test. Unfortunately, they lost contact with the spacecraft and assumed that the life-support systems had failed alongside the communications array. The government erased all records of the launch of the spacecraft and cancelled the Voskhod program.

Over the next 100 years of space travel and exploration, the little USSR pod went unremarked. The Russian government had projected when and where it would return to Earth, but either the calculations were lost or there was no one around to keep an eye on them, because when the Voskhod 3 did not descend from orbit, no one noticed.

Aboard the Voskhod 3, the monkeys not only survived, but thrived. The experimental atomic reactor kept the station going, but the small, steady aura of radiation induced strange mutations among the capuchin population. Their lifecycle shortened, and mutations quickly led to a much more advanced creature than was sent up. In only 30 years, they were already developing noticeable intelligence and advanced society.

By 2066, the capuchins aboard Voskhod 3 had evolved human-level intelligence and had begun collecting orbital debris to expand their own craft. When they observed a series of bright flashes, followed by a cessation of all electronic signals, they understood what had happened to the humans below: global thermonuclear war.

They were shocked, then, when in 2076, they received a new signal from the surface. The capuchins had long ago developed their own language, but they still spoke several major languages of the humans. But, although the signal came in a human language, the message was not human. In their rush to save themselves, the humans had developed very advanced nanoscopic technology. Unfortunately for them, they were still in the testing phases when disaster struck.

The beings on the other end of the signal were lab rats and mice that had been successfully augmented by the nanotechnology and had survived the destruction of human civilization. However, though these rodents were intelligent, they lacked the century of experience and cool reasoning that the capuchins had developed. The rodents believed that their nanotechnology was magical, and that they were now in contact with divine beings.

After much debate among themselves, the capuchins decided not to clarify the rodents' mistake, and assumed the mantle of deities. They had amassed a significant quantity of surveillance equipment, so they could look down on many parts of the world below, and even see through the layer of dust that coated the atmosphere.

Another 20 years passed in this way, with the nanotech-enhanced rodents spreading across the mostly barren surface of the Earth under the guidance of their heavenly guardians. But the capuchins were busy with their own projects, and while they did observe and influence the rodents, that was not their greatest focus.

Perhaps they had learned too much from humanity, or perhaps all civilizations are simply doomed to fall to their own hubris eventually. The last divine message was sent simultaneously to all magicians around the world: "Heaven is under attack. Ascend through the skies and come to the aid of your gods." Along with the message, the gods delivered blueprints and a location.

It has been months since the last mouse prophet or rat wizard was able to make contact with their gods, though their magic still works. Now, a team of brave warriors, clever tinkerers, stealthy (hopefully reformed) thieves, powerful mages, and wise priests are ascending to heaven in the divine craft to find out what has dared to attack their gods.

Can they survive the dark, echoing halls of the strange space station built by the capuchins? Are any of them still alive? And what bizarre experiment caused the station to deliver its final message, an automatic SOS?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Drow (Dark Elves) Treasure

Everyone loves to hate the drow. These dark elves are superior to humans (and all other surface dwellers) and they know it, which makes it all the more fulfilling to foil their plans and beat the tar out of them.

But once the drow are beaten, what do they leave behind? You could take the Baldur's Gate route and have their equipment dissolve in direct sunlight, but that seems like a rip-off of the highest caliber. And drow can't just be carrying +1 scimitars and potions of cure serious wounds right?

In that light, I present to you a pair of tables to randomly generate some drow treasure.

Drow gear

  1. Dridersilk armor
  2. 2d10 shadowcold arrows
  3. Bladed staff with obsidian blades
  4. Necklace of giant teeth
  5. Onyx ring with the crest of a powerful family
  6. Barbed nets with venom
  7. 1d4 fungal poison gas pods
  8. Underground transport disguised as a bullette
  9. Lantern that illuminates only living creatures
10. Sealed spellbook

Drow spells

  1. Deepfire
  2. Strangulation
  3. Phantom stalker
  4. Shadow pit
  5. Burst of spiders
  6. Touch of blight
  7. Undo healing
  8. Aura of subversion
  9. Corrupt blood
10. Cloak of whispers
11. Crown of hate
12. Assassin's bell

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Low-Level Loot: Part Deux

Months ago, back in May, I posted a set of one-line rewards called Low-Level Loot. The idea of these rewards was to provide GMs with some interesting, non-mundane treasure to hand out to players. After all, mundane treasure is, well, mundane, and standard magical items are astoundingly expensive.

Of course, the d20 system has a (mostly) careful balance of expected gold rewards, magic item costs, and magic item power. So, by handing out nonmundane rewards, you are messing with that balance. But I find—especially at low levels—balance can be easily shifted, even in the middle of a session, to make up for PCs having an unexpected advantage.

The other way to avoid that unbalancing aspect is to take existing mundane rewards and reskin them into something fantastical. I've talked about this before, and I still think it is a great way to give your PCs cool stuff without getting into many issues with balance.

So, here are a handful of interesting treasures for low-level d20 characters, a mix of modified and reskinned items.

Low-Level Loot

1. Healer's Rod: A slim birch rod, approximately 2 ft. long, with a glass orb at one end that is attached to the rod by copper wire. The wielder gains a +2 bonus to Heal checks. The wielder can also expend a charge to attempt a heal check as a full-round action, if she meets or exceeds DC 15, the target is healed 1d4 hp. The rod only has 10 charges, and when it is out it no longer provides the +2 Heal bonus.
2. Wardstone: A heavy glass orb with traces of silver within. While holding the Wardstone in one hand, the wielder gains a +1 shield bonus to AC, but also suffers a -1 penalty to Balance, Climb, Hide, Jump, Move Silently, and Tumble due to its weight and uncanny ability to glow or hum at just the wrong time.
3. Glove of Force: A white leather glove that magically changes to fit the hand of any Small, Medium, or Large humanoid creature. While wearing the glove, the wearer can make unarmed attacks up to 15 ft. away (this provokes an attack of opportunity). The wearer can also attempt to trip or disarm targets up to 15. ft away; the wearer gains a +2 bonus to attack rolls to disarm a target. If the wearer fails at a trip or disarm attempt, she can allow the glove to fall at her feet to avoid being tripped or disarmed by the opponent.
4. Circlet of Assault: A brass and leather headband inscribed with old runes and set with a single, off-center pearl. The wearer of the circlet can use a standard action to send a bolt of blunt energy at a single target up to 50 ft. away. To do so, she must place a finger on the pearl in the circlet and concentrate. The wearer makes an attack roll, and if the attack hits, deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Random Encounters: Mythical Mountain

Time for another set of random encounter tables! This is the last of the "new" genres, so now I will go back through some genres I've already addressed and create tables for new locations.

As always, the goal of these tables is to allow you to create an interesting encounter in a genre (mythical, in this case) at a specific location (here, a mountain). Hopefully, these tables are reminiscent of classical mythologies, and they inspire you to create a memorable, mythical encounter.

Mythical Mountain

1. A mountain goat with a snake’s head
2. A tribe of tiny mouse people
3. An eagle with two heads: one head spits fire, the other exhales sleeping gas
4. A gigantic earthworm that can eat granite
5. A winged tortoise who speaks only in rhymes
6. A humanoid creature made half of tree and half of rock

Environment feature
1. A dark cave is lit only by a glowing stalactite.
2. A narrow cliffside path crumbles away at the edges.
3. A long canyon is prone to rockslides.
4. An abandoned shrine has an aura of death.
5. A bank of black, impenetrable fog is rolling down the mountain from above.
6. A small spring burbles nearby, and the sound it entrancing.

1. Half-vulture, half-wolf creatures swoop down out of nowhere and attack everyone.
2. A bolt of lightning strikes the creature.
3. The ground shakes, and a deep voice bellows from nearby, "Who disturbs my slumber?!"
4. The creature transforms into a tall humanoid with antlers and ram's hooves.
5. A warrior leaps out, seemingly from nowhere, and tries to slay the creature.
6. The creature begins fading, and hurriedly marks a strange symbol in the dirt.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Troll in the Dungeon!

In case you aren't familiar with Harry Potter, there is a part in the first book (and movie) where a teacher runs into the crowded great hall and shouts that there is a troll in the dungeon. The school erupts in panic and hijinks ensue for the heroes.

This is far from the most interesting or creative way to introduce a problem to your characters, but if you use it sparingly, it is effective. What better way to galvanize your PCs into action than by having an NPC burst in on them and scream that danger is nearby. Bonus points if that NPC immediately faints so that he or she cannot provide any other useful information.

This is a very silly exercise, but here are some more urban fantasy threats that could appear in unlikely locations.

Troll in the Dungeon

1. Zombies in the kitchen!
2. Imps in the chimney!
3. Nixies in the vents!
4. Goblins in the bathroom!
5. Minotaur in the hallway!
6. Efreeti in the back seat!
7. Dragon in the atrium!
8. Vampires in the elevator!
9. Witches on the veranda!
10. Gorgon in aisle 5!
11. Dark elves in the storage shed!
12. Sirens on the sound stage!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Stolen Movie Plots, Ready for Use

So, on one of my favorite RPG blogs (DMing with Charisma), there is an article about designing a game session in 60 minutes. As part of the article's advice for planning a session in an hour, it contains a segment for determining the plot arc for the evening.

Go to your bookshelf, DVD case, video game collection, whatever place you have that stores creative media. Look over what you have and grab a few items with which you’re familiar.[...]Given what you’ve grabbed, consider each and boil it down to its most basic conflict. This is the plot you’ll use for your session [...] For these purposes the heroes and most of the setting are irrelevant. We only want a conflict and perhaps an antagonist, so ignore everything else.
When we look at [The Avengers film] very, very broadly, looking at the villain and conflict gives us “a magician appears to herald and lead invaders”. That’s the sort of thing you want because it gives you a lot of wiggle room.
This is my favorite part of the article, and I come back and read the article in its entirety every few months (or so it seems to me).

In fact, I like the idea so much, that I have spent some time going through a number of the movies on my own shelf and breaking them down in the same way. These villainous plots are suitable for adaptation into an array of settings, and I encourage you to go read the article yourself and then take a look over your own favorite pieces of fiction.

What can you see beneath the surface? What great plot awaits adaptation? I've provided a list of my own (which contains some psuedo-spoilers), but I'd love to hear from you about how you were able to break down your favorites.

Villainous Plots

  1. Invincible warriors search for a magical item. (The Fellowship of the Ring)
  2. A traitor unleashes an army. (The Two Towers)
  3. A hermit tries to steal a magical item. (The Return of the King)
  4. An assassin appears in an unfamiliar land to kill an important woman. (Terminator)
  5. A warrior seeks a power source hidden in a person. (Thor: The Dark World)
  6. A councilor plots to kill everyone who might ever oppose him. (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
  7. A war priest seeks information about a powerful weapon. (Star Wars IV: A New Hope)
  8. A merchant army invades a peaceful community. (Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace)
  9. A corrupt politician fabricates a massive war. (Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones)
  10. A prodigious warrior betrays his order. (Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith)
  11. A prince plans to wed an unwilling woman. (The Princess Bride)
  12. A skilled assassin seeks fugitives at any cost. (Serenity)
  13. A politician gains the unthinking obedience of the military and seizes absolute power. (Divergent)
  14. A ruthless politician tries to unlock an ancient secret. (Insurgent)
  15. Militant cultists follow a globe-trotting trail to an ancient artifact. (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Wandering Traveler

PCs tend to do a lot of traveling, especially in fantasy games. This could be part of the legacy of epic quest stories like The Lord of the Rings and the quest for the Holy Grail by King Arthur and his knights. It could also be because we want our games to have a large scope, covering many different lands and cultures.

Or it could be that we just want an excuse to use the Ice Troll Berserker and the Sand Dragon in the same adventure.

At any rate, until PCs get to be quite powerful, travel generally entails walking or riding across the lands. And on those travels, the PCs are likely to meet other travelers. After all, the world is a big place, and unless there is a very good reason, travel would not be uncommon. And when travelers meet, the least they can do is exchange rumors as they pass, right?

Wandering Traveler

1. A merchant caravan hauling exotic spices and oils from a faraway land
2. A minstrel with a broken lute
3. A vagrant beggar wearing a tattered red cloak
4. A priest/priestess willing to bestow blessings upon those in need
5. A con artist trying to sell worthless trinkets as magical charms
6. A patrol of royal knights who are in a hurry
7. An adventuring party with darkly mirrored members
8. A dragon with injured wings


1. The monarch of the neighboring kingdom has fallen ill.
2. Dark elves are preparing to wage war.
3. An unnaturally powerful storm is on its way from the coast.
4. A cyclops has been seen in a forest a day's travel from here.
5. Gnome explorers have uncovered the City of Stone Mothers.
6. Wood elves are falling into comas with no explanation.
7. The mayor of the nearest town is offering a bounty for locks of dwarven beards.
8. Local halflings are holding an eating contest to choose their new leader.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Six-Word Sparks XII: Miscellany

It's been a while since I posted any six-word sparks, so I thought it must be time once again.

Six-word sparks are phrases that get straight to the core idea of an adventure, setting up its most important aspects. Using only six words prevents the spark from becoming a full story before the players get involved. That limitation serves as a strength, allowing the story to develop alongside the PCs' actions, rather than in spite of their actions.

Six-Word Sparks

1. Townsfolk fall asleep; sorcerer demands payment.
2. Swordmaker forges "unbeatable" sword, holds competition.
3. Living tornado ravages countryside, approaches city.
4. Merchant seeks mercenaries: Ghost Canyon shortcut.
5. Dogfolk mistaken for werewolves and persecuted.
6. Desert spirits drift northward, bringing sandstorms.
7. Dogs start disappearing from local homesteads.
8. Corpse-covered barge floats into wharf.
9. Stray cats gather in alleys, planning.
10. Beneath the lake, diamond knives glitter.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Random Encounters: Superpowered Sewer Tunnels

As with previous random encounter tables, this is designed to be able to generate an interesting random encounter in a specific genre at a specific location. Hopefully, this will be more relevant to you than simply handing out a d100 table of completely random encounters that leave you with wildly disparate (or even impossible) encounter elements.

In this case, the tables below should generate a dynamic encounter in a superheroes setting in the sewer system below a largish city.


1. Nuclear-powered android
2. Four-armed alien princess
3. Squad of blaster-wielding goons
4. Anthropomorphic crocodile
5. Rat-themed supercriminal
6. Rogue vigilante

Environment feature

1. The stench is debilitating to anyone with a nose.
2. The area is a maze of branching tunnels and hidden alcoves.
3. The water is much deeper than it looks.
4. The tunnels open into a cylindrical room, where the wastewater flows in a series of waterfalls.
5. Detritus of every kind litters the walkways of the tunnels.
6. The walkways on either side of the tunnel are far apart and linked only by long wooden boards laid across the water.


1. A rush of filthy water comes crashing through the tunnels.
2. A blast of super-cooled air rolls down the tunnels, freezing the rushing wastewater as it goes.
3. One of the nearby grates spews a gush of wastewater tainted with mutagenic chemicals.
4. The walls, floors, ceiling, and rushing water all flicker and disappear, revealing the interior of a large alien vehicle.
5. Black-clad ninjas armed with electrified blades ambush the PCs and the creature.
6. The cries of a child echo from somewhere, but the tunnels can carry sound a long way…

Friday, August 21, 2015

Random Encounters: Pulp Jungle

It's been more than a month since I made a Random Encounters post, so I thought it was high time to put up some more. As usual, the idea is to roll once on each table and use the results to generate a random encounter for your session.

Today's is a jungle encounter in a pulp setting (think Doc Savage or Indiana Jones). Enjoy!


1. Squadron of jack-booted thugs
2. Action archaeologist
3. Ruthless treasure hunter
4. Pair of hunting panthers
5. Swarm of killer bees
6. Native guide

Environment feature

1. A raging river cuts through the jungle.
2. The canopy above is so think that this area is as dark as night.
3. A narrow rope bridge spans a deep, rocky chasm.
4. A large stone head radiates an aura of dread.
5. Thorny vines hang down through the area, and their thorns are thoroughly venomous.
6. A circle of quicksand takes up most of a clearing.


1. A second creature arrives with contrary goals and/or motivation of the first (roll again, even if the result is the same).
2. A group of violent baboons swings down from the trees, angry and territorial.
3. A strange horn sounds loudly nearby.
4. A low-flying hot-air balloon drops a rope ladder into the area and someone calls out to the PCs to climb.
5. Wind blows the scent of burning vegetation from nearby.
6. A masked woman on horseback gallops into the area wielding a pistol and a curved sword.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Elves vs. Orcs

I've already talked in depth about orcs before, but this time I want to address a broader concept: elves and orcs. In standard fantasy clichés, elves and orcs are mortal enemies, and have been so for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I'm not here to say that this particular cliché is wrong to use in your game—only you and your players know what's right for your game—I'm just here to expound upon this idea a bit.

So, if your setting has a bitter rivalry or an ancient war between elves and orcs, these tables can help you flesh it out and make it relevant to your players.

Racial Traits

If a player has an elf or orc PC (or if you have an important elf or orc NPC), roll on this table to give that character a direct tie-in to the elf-orc opposition.

  1. My parents were soldiers who died fighting [elf/orc] warriors.
  2. I spent years in an [elf/orc] prison camp, performing hard labor and watching others die.
  3. I witnessed bloodthirsty [elf/orc] warriors slaughter an [orc/elf] village full of noncombatants.
  4. My best friend is an [elf/orc] pacifist.
  5. I am a spy for the other race.
  6. I believe [elves/orcs] are inhuman monsters, unworthy of breathing the same air as my people.

The Feud

This rivalry between orcs and elves has been going on for at least a little while, but what started it? Which side cast the first stone, and why? Roll on this table to find out.

  1. Elves desecrated a sacred place where orcs used to commune with their ancestor spirits.
  2. Bloody Urulla, queen of the orcs, slew Eshra Ling, the elf king, in a duel.
  3. The Lost Princess of Orcs (her name is no longer remembered) left Star-upon-Earth (an elf princess) at the altar.
  4. Gurug Two-Hand (orc) accused Aelenn of Silveroak (elf) of cheating after losing a game of cards.
  5. Elven prophets spoke of the coming of eternal darkness unless the orcs are all killed.
  6. Orc politicians convinced their people to strike the elves before the elves—who they claimed were preparing a magical superweapon—could destroy them.

Status Quo

You know how it all started, but what is going on now? What are the elves and orcs doing about it? Roll on this table to find out.

  1. Orc envoys are holding peace talks with elf negotiators on neutral ground.
  2. Elf battalions are engaged with orc warbands in many places, but neither side has an advantage.
  3. A massive orc army has penetrated deep into elf territory, and elf guerrillas are trying, and failing, to slow its progress.
  4. Elf priests and magicians are unleashing the full might of their magic upon the orcs, which is destroying the lands around them.
  5. Elf diplomats are trying to secure alliances with other nearby powers, and orcs are on the march toward elven lands.
  6. Orcs are fortifying their defenses, and elves are embroiled in a border war with another nation.

Monday, August 3, 2015


There are many ways to begin your RPG campaign. Many of these methods draw from other forms of fiction: older and more established forms. There are many tropes that come from movies and books. Sometimes, those work well for RPGs, but not always.

RPGs are their own medium, and borrowing tropes and ideas from other media doesn't always work. The interactive, collaborative nature of RPGs clashes with many of these traditional tropes. You cannot dictate your players' actions (or their characters' actions) once the game has begun, not without their approval and buy-in, anyway. So, any narration or opening action has to take place before the game actually begins. The idea here is that if you want the game to begin with a prison riot, don't start it three days before the riot and expect the players to sit on their hands; start the game as the riot begins.

More than just setting the game up before it begins, you cannot narrate the PCs actions beyond one or two simple ideas. Saying "you arrive in Sunshine City and decide to join the Adventurer's Guild; your guildmaster orders you to join the first mission that comes up" sets out several actions that you decided for someone else's character. That might not be what they feel their character would have done after entering Sunshine City, or even after joining the Adventurer's Guild.

Instead, use ideas like "You're on your first mission for the Adventurer's Guild of Sunshine City." The end result is the same, but now the players have more agency to decide what led to this opening. It lets them explain how they came to be there, rather than you telling them. Not only that, but you can jump immediately into the action (or at least into the player-driven narrative) with less GM exposition up front.

Here are some ideas that take the above concept to an extreme. They will help you, your players, and their characters jump straight into the action of a new adventure.

Beginnings (in media res)

  1. At the entrance to the Tomb of Princess Titania, the spirit guardian bids you enter and wishes you good fortune. The map should be reliable, at least the half of it that you have.
  2. As the port disappears over the horizon behind you, you find yourself wondering whether the legends of spectral pirates and ravenous sea serpents are true.
  3. The masked woman leads you through the destroyed prison wall, back out into the city, which is burning in many places. She says, "The creatures came at sundown, as was foretold."
  4. The escape pod hits the ground with a jarring impact amidst the bluish vegetation, and the last emergency distress signal from the orbiting cruiser cuts off with a burst of static.
  5. The words of the Queen of the Vernal Court still echo in your mind, "The medusae hunt you; your only refuge is in the Dreamworld."
  6. The subway screeches to a halt. "End of the line," tumbles from the crackling speakers. This is by far the worst part of town, but the email definitely said 1:00 am. It also said some other things, things that you'd pay dearly to keep secret.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gen Con 2015

That special time of year is upon us. That time when our hearts turn to Indianapolis, and many of us come in droves to share our passion in person. But not everyone can go to Gen Con; I am lucky enough to live within an hour of Indy, and even I can't always make it.

If you are going, I can only hope that you'll get a chance to play some great games; and if you aren't going, play some great games anyway! In that vein, I'm sharing some one-shot ideas along with a set of dead-simple mechanics. Go wild and have fun!

The Mechanics

Characters have just three attributes with scores of 1-10: grit, knack, and luck. Every action comes under the purview of one of these three attributes. The players begin with 20 points and distribute them among the attributes however they wish, with a minimum of 1 point in each attribute.

When a player takes a difficult action, they roll a d12, and if the result is lower than the most applicable score, they succeed. If the result is equal to or higher than the score, they fail. But they can change a failure into a success by subtracting one point from that score temporarily. Points lost this way are restored either between each scene or once per session, depending on the intensity of the adventure. Note: Success and failure have no mechanical effects, only narrative effects.

In a direct conflict, both participants roll a d12 and subtract their score from the result. The lowest result wins. If the participants tie, the conflict immediately ends in a draw; they must find another way to resolve the situation.

The Ideas

Fanciful Façade: The beasts of the Zhisu Forest love tea and games. They often challenge one another to elaborate contests with strange enchanted artifacts for prizes. Beneath the whimsy, however, all of the animals live in terror of the cruel Emperor of All Spirits.

Academy of High Arts: Adolescent, hormone-filled royals from around the world are gathered at the Academy of High Arts to be trained in combat, etiquette, & magic. What could go possibly wrong?

Enemy of My Enemy: The alien overlords rule Earth, and the average earthling lives as a slave. But in the shadows, mutant werewolves, hacker vampires, and drug-addled warlocks follow their own rules, fighting back against the extraterrestrial oppressors.

Divine Intelligence Agency: Mortals wield magic relics stolen from the divine realms. They use the relics to perform covert ops among the gods in order to thwart armageddon.

The Drakkenlords of Ruàn: Ruthless barbarian sorcerers are the last survivors of Ruàn, a ruined kingdom. They seek bloody vengeance against the monstrous warlords that destroyed Ruàn—the 12 Drakkenlords.

Crouching Cipher, Hidden Data: Disciplined Denshi warriors practice the art of Algorithmics against a coalition of black hats known as The Night. The Night secretly runs the world from behind their screens, but in the online Ethereality, the Denshi fight back.

Monday, July 20, 2015


Dogs: one of the most devoted companions of mankind for around the last 30 millennia. I have two dogs. There's a fairly decent chance that you have a dog. And it's almost a guarantee that one of your close friends or family members owns a dog. So, why don't we see more of humanity's best friend in our RPGs?

My best guess is that people don't like to see violence against cats, dogs, horses, and other common, domesticated animals. This extends to books, movies, video games, and (I would bet) tabletop games, too. And because violence is the central focus of many RPGs, real-life animals are less likely to be involved so that we don't have to deal with violence against them. It's much easier to fight hell hounds and night mares than Great Danes or Clydesdales.

But say that you want to include dogs (or other animals) more frequently in your game. After all, lots of people own dogs in the modern world and throughout history. If dogs exist in your setting, why shouldn't they be as common? To that end, here are some ideas for introducing dogs in your campaign.

Dog Names

If you've got dogs, you've gotta have names, right? And if you don't want to use Fido, Rover, Rex, or Spot, here's a quick table of ideas.

  1. Runda
  2. Argos
  3. Valla
  4. Zunn
  5. Stoic
  6. Laika
  7. Hruntling
  8. Brutus
  9. Chevron
  10. Stella

Dog Duties

So, now your PC or NPC has a dog. What exactly does that dog do?

  1. Supports someone with a disability
  2. Keeps watch
  3. Herds other animals
  4. Hunts game
  5. Tracks humanoid prey
  6. Performs
  7. Fights
  8. Delivers aid and/or messages

Dogs in Combat

This is less of a random rolling table and more of a list of ideas and suggestions. But you could just roll and go with whatever comes up, if time is pressing.

  1. Fight (solo): The dog has its own combat statistics and is controlled by the player or the GM. It can be the target of enemy attacks and spells.
  2. Fight (coop): The dog attacks alongside its owner, granting a bonus. It cannot be targeted by enemy attacks or spells.
  3. Hide: The dog knows to find safe shelter during combat, placing it safely out of the reach of enemy attacks and spells. It returns to its master after combat.
  4. Handwave: During combat, everyone pretends that the dog does not exist. It does not attack and cannot be the subject of attacks or spells, even ones with an area of effect.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Adventure Sites: The Tavern

It's been a while since I posted any adventure sites. Last time, I had a theme, and I created a few locations for that theme in different genres. I thought it worked well, so I'm trying it again.

These adventure sites are designed to fit into the cracks of a campaign. Each site is a single location that has a few sections, a few encounters, some rewards, and a hook. Drop these in at the nearest part of your world that matches the location, dangle the hook in front of your players, and let it go from there.

The Golden Loin* (fantasy)

Location: In the bad part of town, near an important contact's meeting place
Areas: The bar, the kitchen, the cellar
NPCs: Niana Barule (shady barkeep), Kolie (musical prodigy), Saffron (brute bouncer), Jeb (unlucky patron)
Obstacles: Saffron doesn't allow anyone to enter with weapons or magical implements, Kolie's music is mesmerizing, Niana slips sleeping potion into the drinks of anyone who asks too many questions, a hungry troll is chained in the magically soundproofed cellar trying to eat Jeb
Rewards: The chains that bind the troll are magical, Kolie would make a potent ally if charmed away from Niana's wickedness, a keg of powerful sleeping potion can be found under the bar, Jeb will thank his rescuers with gold
Hook: A muffled scream can be heard from the bar, but it is empty when the PCs enter.
* This is not a typo on my part, though it may be an in-world mistake that stuck.

Twenty-One Gun Saloon (old west)

Location: In the center of town, across from the church
Areas: The bar, the kitchen, the upper floor rooms
NPCs: Rodrigo [friendly barkeep], Madame Sufani [deadly dancer], Lola "Quicksilver" Turner [notorious outlaw]
Obstacles: Quicksilver's outlaw gang is spread out among the tables and chairs, Madame Sufani is an expert swordswoman and friend of Quicksilver, Quicksilver is the fastest shooter for 100 miles
Rewards: The reward for Quicksilver is very generous, Quicksilver's infamous silver pistols are custom-made and worth a small fortune, Rodrigo will be grateful to have Quicksilver's gang dispersed
Hook: The PCs see Quicksilver enter the saloon, and immediately see a wanted poster for her.

Event Horizon (science fiction)

Location: On the recreation deck, near a well-used entrance
Areas: The dance floor, the bar, the storeroom, the back room
NPCs: Niffra Zinar [scared teenager], M'kot [professional gambler], SM AL-One [android bartender]
Obstacles: The entrances for Event Horizon are one-way energy walls that can't be used from the inside, Event Horizon's auto-security drones fire stunblasters at anyone committing violence, M'kot wants to play a high-stakes game to give the PCs a chance to win back Niffra's card
Rewards: Anything else the PCs can take from M'kot's winnings is theirs, SM AL-One offers a round of free drinks for ridding Event Horizon of the unwanted gambler, Niffra's parents are influential people
Hook: As the PCs walk by, a hidden door opens and Niffra calls quietly for help getting her parents' credcard back from M'Kot.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Random Encounters: Steampunk Marketplace

Another in my series of Random Encounter posts. In these posts, I include three tables: one for the creature, one for an environment feature, and one for a surprise to be delivered during the encounter whenever you see fit. I hope that these three elements can actually generate useful random encounters for your game.

In order to be particularly useful, though, the tables have to be fairly specific. So, each post is geared towards a single genre and a single location type. Today, you can generate a random encounter in a marketplace in a steampunk setting.


1. A cloaked figure wielding a pair of long, crackling knives
2. Urchins playing football or rugby
3. A boisterous snake-oil seller
4. A corrupt law officer looking for trouble
5. A charistmatic speaker rallying an increasingly angry crowd
6. A desperate fabric vendor trying to make ends meet

Environment feature

1. Loose cobblestones can trip up the unwary.
2. A large glass and steel box houses a mechanical fortune teller.
3. A deteriorating stone fountain sprays water into a fine mist.
4. The various stalls are filled with valuables and improvised projectiles.
5. A nearby factory churns out heavy smoke that darkens the whole area.
6. Large steel gears (exposed for maintenance), turn and grind.


1. A horseless carriage barrels through the area, heedless of pedestrians.
2. A gyrocopter crashes to the ground, its pilot injured but alive.
3. A squad of heavily armed officers burst into the area, looking for a child.
4. One of the vendors announces a huge sale, and the crowds stampede that way.
5. A mechanical bird swoops down and begins pecking feverishly at the creature.
6. The creature stops moving and begins making a mechanical grinding sound.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

More Genre Mash-Ups

As I have said before, I love crossovers and mash-ups. Whether you're talking about two IPs being merged together or simply a story that calls on multiple genres. There are all kinds of great reasons to use genre mash-ups: to compare the societies of two distinct time periods (like noir and American West), to take current political ideologies to their extremes (dystopia and political thriller), or just because you want to see a cyborg hacker wielding a laser sword fighting a giant robotic monster (transhumanistcyberpunk, space opera, and kaiju).

Some genre mash-ups are so common that they are already existing genres themselves (like epic fantasy or science fantasy or post-apocalyptic survival horror). But that doesn't mean that there isn't room to explore within those genres. If you can extricate the separate aspects of the base genres, you can recombine them in new and/or exciting ways.

With that, I present to you another collection of genre mash-ups.

Genre Mash-Ups

Vikings in Hell: Maniacal Vikings set sail for the afterlife to rescue the chief’s daughter from the Devil himself. (epic / fantasy)

Regime of Steam: Queen’s Elite were spies, until National Tinker’s Party came to power; now they’re steampunk dystopia fugitives. (political thriller / steampunk)

Web of Dreams: Outcast demigods eat lotus blossoms to enter the Dreamworld and undermine the Pantheon and its corrupt gods. (mythic / cyberpunk)

Bodies and Minds: Doppelgänger invasion is preceded by radiation burst that triggers psychic abilities in 0.01% of the population. (sci-fi / paranormal)

Achilles’ Eleven: Reborn mythic heroes must steal ancient relics from a globe-spanning criminal organization. (heist / mythic)

War of the Worlds – 65M BC: The asteroid was an attack! A ragtag team of sentient dinosaur survivors fights Venusian invaders. (alien / prehistoric)

Horror Among Thieves: The Thieves’ Guild steals relics from around the world to fight a secret war against the Old Ones. (heist / fantasy / survival horror)

Spaceships, Spies, and Spells: Near-future spies wield tech and magic against the alien invasion going on in the shadows.  (spy-fi / fantasy / sci-fi)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Six-Word Sparks XI: Royal Escapades

Saving peasants and fighting underlings is suitable for common adventurers with no grace or social standing. But in the aristocratic courts, the affairs of the nobility and the royalty are the purview of adventurous princesses and meddlesome princelings. For them, only the proceedings of their equals are worth drawing a blade, nocking an arrow, or whispering ancient spells.

Six-Word Sparks

  1. Bounty hunters seek rebel lizardfolk princess.
  2. Gnome illusionist makes royal palace vanish.
  3. Sorcerer-prince blamed for failing crops.
  4. Children summon ancient emperor's fiery spirit.
  5. Innocent(?) dwarf noble flees elven justice.
  6. Noblewoman challenges king to royal duel.
  7. Orc tribes make peace with baron.
  8. Psychic stone giant becomes Dwarven king.
  9. Apemen hide while the Prince schemes.
  10. Disowned prince sells secrets to enemies.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Planet and System Names

If you saw yesterday's post on Alien Race Names, you may have thought, "What? Only alien names? Isn't he missing one of the biggest naming categories in science fiction?" Right on the nose, of course. Just as important as alien race names (if not moreso) are the names of the various planets and star systems in which sci-fi games take place.

If you are using licensed IP, such as Star Wars or Star Trek, I recommend just digging up the wiki for those settings or looking at your local library for a relevant encyclopedia. It's likely to be easier than making up names, and it will help your game feel like it's really set in those universes. And, of course, if your game is only set in the Sol system, I'd suggest looking up the names of the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, since there are enough orbiting bodies in this system for plenty of adventures. Finally, you might simply take the Stargate SG-1 route, and give everything an alphanumeric designation, such as PJ2-445 or P3W-451.

But, if you're looking to create unique(ish), original(ish) names for your planets and stars, here are some tables to get you started.

Planet and System Names

First half

1. Ivo-
2. Maka-
3. Dörre-
4. Musta-
5. Bète-
6. Guisi-
7. Sulu-
8. Uftúra-
9. Homma-
10. Nsâto-

Second half

1. -rana
2. -far
3. -molo
4. -táza
5. -legas
6. -wîle
7. -ban
8. -thàn
9. -kat
10. -läch


1. Blue
2. Bright
3. Neo
4. New
5. Far
6. Alpha


1. Cluster
2. Beta
3. Minor
4. Major
5. Tau
6. I, II, III, IV, V, VI, etc.

Basic names

1. Heinlein
2. Adams
3. Butler
4. Asimov
5. Clarke
6. Verne
7. Le Guin
8. Vonnegut
9. Bradbury
10. Lem

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Alien Race Names

In science fiction RPGs, I find that one of the hardest aspects in the creation stage is coming up with good names, especially names for alien races. The name has to sound just right, and not only that, it also has to fit the characteristics of the alien race. Unless you're running a humor game, having a race of spike-covered warmongering alien soldiers called the Loofies is going to be problematic.

So, I present to you some tables for creating a name for your alien race.

Alien Race Names

There are a few different ideas presented here. I present some full names, some first halves, and some second halves in each table. Use one wholecloth if that works for you, or mix and match until you find something that sounds even better.

Warrior Race
1. Raxites
2. Drongians
3. Kor-
4. Vreth-
5. -ozites
6. -tans

Technological Race
1. Zenzar
2. Xellorans
3. Grat-
4. Ath-
5. -ulie
6. -ips

Scholarly Race
1. Mellians
2. Siskeels
3. For-
4. Nab-
5. -ophans
6. -i

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Monstrous Encounter: Bugbear

Most humanoid monsters have some level of intelligence and civilization, even if it is crude compared to humans or elves. Goblins and kobolds, orcs and lizardfolk, even the minotaurs and trolls have language and tribes. Bugbears are the exception to that rule.

For today's post, I'm going to talk a bit about a spin on the bugbear. In Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, they don't have much to distinguish them from any other humanoid monster. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to explore them and put out some useful content.


Bugbears are generally larger than humans, though not by much. They stand between 6 and 7 feet tall, and their hairy figures are often stooped over lower than that. Skin tones, fur color, and eye color varies wildly from one bugbear to the next. They lair individually, except during a 6-month mating period every few years. They will fight to the death to defend even a single bugbear cub. They prefer dry, dark areas, and often collect more food than they will eat. Bugbears are incredibly dangerous. They are strong and fast, with large teeth and long talons.

Physical description

1. A humanoid figure, about 6 feet tall but noticeably hunched over, staggers into the light. It is covered in dark red hair, thick and coarse, and its sunken eyes are pale yellow. Its movements are quicker than you'd expect for something of its size.
2. The creature looks up, the white fur around its mouth matted and stained with blood. Its eyes are completely black, and its yellow claws are stained with the life of the unlucky creature its hunches over.
3. The goblins scatter, opening a steel cage door as they do. A roar echoes from within, and a human-sized creature bounds out. Its fur is dark blue and its eyes are silvery-white, but not with blindness. It snarls and pounds its chest with clawed hands, preparing to charge.
4. But the last soldier is not an orc at all. It is humanoid figure, but stands almost 7 feet tall and is covered in patched brown fur. The orcs have strapped studded armor around it, and grafted iron blades onto its arms, making the beast even deadlier.


1. Just beyond the line of shrubs is a small garden area. An enclosed gazebo sits in the middle, well shaded from light and protected from rain. Lying in the gazebo is a yellow-furred bugbear sleeping atop a pile of fern branches.
2. The house has been abandoned for months, according to the villagers, but there are clear sounds of snuffling and movement from within. A peek through one of the shuttered windows reveals a black bugbear pawing at a cellar door, until it turns to the window.
3. The tunnels suddenly widen into a cavern, and light is coming from somewhere ahead. The floor in this area is sandy and littered with bones. Silhouetted in the exit against the midmorning light is a bugbear.
4. The trail leads directly to the campsite, as expected, but apparently the small, shady clearing has been claimed since last autumn. The fire pit has been dug out and a small clutch of colorful, mewling bugbear cubs wriggles in the dirt. A couple of large, angry, green-haired bugbear parents move to stand in front of the cubs and let out a pair of bone-rattling roars.


1. Bugbears have dragged off an entire herd of sheep over the last few days.
2. A bugbear has taken up residence in the prince's secret summer home.
3. A furrier is willing to pay handsomely for the pelt of a golden bugbear.
4. A bugbear cub wanders into the middle of a small village.
5. The local hedgewizard accidentally transfigures himself into a bugbear.
6. The King's Guard train against captive bugbears, but now several of the creatures have escaped into the city.
7. The Woodcarver's Guild will pay a bounty for each confirmed bugbear kill in the local woods.
8. A tribe of wild halfling warriors have tamed a family of bugbears and ride on their shoulders into battle.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Location: The Old Keep

A few miles outside of town is the old keep. You know the one. It was made by an ancient kingdom long ago and has been abandoned for many years. Legends about the keep, its content, and its inhabitants abound. Only one thing is certain: adventure awaits anyone bold enough to explore it.

The Old Keep

The keep is made of stone and fairly small. It doesn't have a wall surrounding it, but its few towers or small buildings are connected to each other, leaving a small open-air courtyard inside. The keep is in disrepair, perhaps covered in vines or moss, but it is (mostly) intact.

1. A band of orc bandits being manipulated by an imp
2. A poltergeist who is bound to the building until its ancient murder is solved
3. A few grumpy ogres or trolls who occasionally come out to hunt
4. A small tribe of fox-people who have turned the keep into a small trading village

1. An ancient sword bound with the magic of the stars
2. A few dusty tomes that tell of ancient prophecies and rituals
3. A hoard of coins and jewels hidden in a secret cellar
4. A cursed shield that leads its bearer into danger

1. The keep was built by dwarves who filled it with cunning traps and secret chambers.
2. Elves once lived in the keep, so their magic still lingers in the stones.
3. A young noble disappeared into the keep many years ago, never to be seen again.
4. A recent storm struck the keep, causing a wall to partially collapse or a tower to fall.

1. During storms, spirits of thunder and rain descend to the keep and hunt anyone foolish enough to be there.
2. The most famous bandit in the last 30 years hid is treasure somewhere in the keep.
3. An ancient bird-spirit lives in the keep and will grant wishes to visitors, if they are worthy.
4. The keep guards a door to the underworld, and on moonless nights, the restless dead haunt the halls.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Random Encounters: Post-Apocalyptic Ruined Building

This week I realized that I've left some important RPG genres out of my Random Encounters posts. So before I start cycling back through the genres with new locations, I want to hit up those remaining big genres, starting with today's: post-apocalypse.


1. Leather-and-steel clad raiders armed with spiked baseball bats and shotguns
2. A gigantic frog with acidic spit and/or mucus
3. A barely alive scavenger covered in bite marks
4. Radioactive mutant zombies!
5. An unhelpful maintenance robot
6. A large, black-feathered vulture with fire breath

Environment feature

1. A wall collapses onto the area.
2. Concrete rubble falls from the ceiling at random intervals.
3. Auto-turrets dot the walls and react to quick movements.
4. A pool of irradiated slime illuminates the area with a greenish glow.
5. Purple fungus growing in the area sends out psychic tendrils to manipulate the unwary.
6. A working juke box plays old music that echoes eeriely throughout the building.


1. An old—but still fully functional—tank crashes through the wall.
2. A pack of mutant wolves comes around the corner.
3. All of the building's old electronics and lights suddenly flash on and start working.
4. The floor rumbles and then mechanically separates, revealing a hidden underground chamber.
5. Bounty hunters (or trophy hunters) arrive to capture or kill the creature.
6. A wave of poisonous gas rolls through the area coming from outside.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dragon Hoards

Dragons are everywhere in fantasy settings. Big dragons, little dragons, dragons that climb on rocks, they've all got one thing in common: they love treasure! They love treasure so much, that they collect it into huge piles and lie on it. But what's in that trove after the PCs have negotiated with, killed, or driven off the dragon that created it? In addition to the usual piles of coins and jewels and the magical equipment coveted by PCs, a dragon hoard is likely to contain some other items of immense value.

Dragon Hoards

  1. A full set of goblets, bowls, and plates made from astral crystal
  2. A silver-coated wooden chest with gold inlay filled with copper coins
  3. A golden owlbear skull
  4. Twin daggers made entirely of ruby
  5. A thrones and bones set with pieces of onyx and pearl
  6. A mithril throne engraved with a list of ancient kings and queens
  7. A pouch made of minotaur-leather and filled with glittering mind gems
  8. Dragon-sized cutlery made of platinum-plated steel
  9. A stained-glass image of a dragon, except the "stained glass" is actually incredibly thin sheets of colored gemstones
  10. A tapestry woven of gold and silver thread with an adamant frame

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Culture Concept: Nemeads

As I've already discussed, fantasy cultures are often flat and transparent copies of real-world cultures. I am trying to develop a method of creating cultures that results in cultures that feel more vibrant and less stereotypical. Yesterday, I posted on a winged giant culture called the stormwings, today I'm presenting a humanoid lion culture called the nemeads.


  • Nemeads are humanoid lions who live in a fertile savannah and worship a wide pantheon of nature deities.
  • Nemeadan society is feudal, and property and titles are passed down two-fold: fathers to daughters and mothers to sons.
    • Nemeadan nobles are responsible for the defense of their land and for paying tribute to the monarch in the form of money, supplies, or soldiers.
    • Nemeads without titles either work the land as serfs or train as soldiers.
    • All nemeads receive basic combat training at a young age, even those destined to be serfs.
  • The nemeadan society is ruled by a monarch who is elected in a council held among all nobles every five years.
    • The nemeadan monarch is advised by a high council of three: the Speaker, the Marshal, and the Treasurer.
    • Nemeadans often war with other nearby nations and peoples.
  • Nemeadan religion is centered around a large pantheon of gods and goddesses of nature.
    • Nemeadans are strong and organized, and their deities teach them that the abundance of nature is a gift to the strong and bold.
    • The gods and goddesses also teach the nemeadans that a life without struggle is not worth living, and that all peace is only temporary.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Culture Concept: Stormwings

Today's post is a brief examination of a fantasy culture. Most fantasy settings I'm familiar with stay in the "safe zone" of mapping their cultures to medieval Western European cultures and modernizing them a bit. Sometimes, there's a stand-in "Native American" culture that irreverently smashes together dozens of unique indigenous cultures. Or there's a "samurai-era Japan" culture that obsesses over familial honor. Those fit snugly into the old Planet of Hats trope. I hope that my own fantasy cultures do not fall into that trap, but I can leave that for others to judge.

I'm presenting my culture in bullet points, 1) because that makes it easy to absorb, 2) because that makes it easier for others to build off, and 3) because it is just a concept at this stage. So, I present for your judgment, modification, and use: the stormwings.


  • Stormwings are 30-feet-tall, winged giants who live in cloud communities above a vast scrubland and revere a long-dead god from whom they claim ancestry.
  • Stormwing society is strongly communist, and goods and resources are proportionately distributed among communities based on population. Their economy is based on raiding and tributes.
    • Stormwings collect tribute from the creatures that live below them in the scrublands and actually worship them as gods.
    • Stormwings perform long-range raids on distant cultures by moving an entire cloud community to hover over the foreign lands.
  • Stormwing society is led by a god-emperor called the Chosen. This is the stormwing who can claim and "prove" closest descent or union with the stormwings' dead god: Ythian.
    • Stormwing communities are led by cousins or other family members of the Chosen.
    • Upon the death of the Chosen, the stormwings hold trials of proof to determine who should be the new Chosen.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Random Encounters: Unexplored Sci-Fi World (Again!)

So, I had a lot of fun the last time I did the three random encounter tables for the Unexplored Sci-Fi World. I enjoyed the outcome so much, in fact, that I've decided to do another set with the same theme. All you have to do is roll 1d6 for each table and use the results to design your own encounter.



1. A cloud of glowing, sentient orbs the size of golf balls
2. Rubbery slime-beast with strangling tentacles
3. Jackal-headed humanoid with telekinesis and telepathy
4. A holographic projection of a humanoid with rudimentary AI
5. Cave dwellers that seem to be human
6. Huge serpents that spring up out of the ground

Environment feature

1. A hail of burning meteorites strikes the area
2. A patch of thick vegetation that grows back within moments of being cut is in the way
3. A pool of thick, black tar bubbles in the area
4. A heavy bank of fog hangs in the air
5. Light rain drizzles down, pinging against metal somewhere nearby
6. A wide fallen tree provides cover


1. The creature is only a projected aspect of a more powerful, dangerous entity
2. A swarm of tiny, ravenous ant-like creatures bursts forth from the ground
3. A metallic net emerges and sweeps everyone into the air
4. Energy blasts whiz overhead as armored soldiers come through the brush
5. The creature flees from a bellowing roar that comes from behind
6. A crack of thunder precedes a lightning storm

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Six-Word Sparks X: Noncombat Adventures

A lot of RPG adventures and campaigns revolve around violence. In fact, nearly all the content of this blog itself is violence-centric. Granted, the violence in my own games is directed at dangerous creatures and murderous villains, but it's still a lot of violence.

But not everyone wants that. Sometimes, I don't even want to deal with violence in my games. There are lots of interesting and exciting scenarios you can play out without using violence, and with today's six-word sparks, I hope to illustrate a few of those.

Six-Word Sparks

  1. Centaurs hold centennial games; everyone welcome.
  2. Elves begin sailing away en masse.
  3. Desperate priest warns of falling stars.
  4. Black rain dissolves stone, nothing else.
  5. Apprentice magician accidentally becomes permanently invisible.
  6. Restless spirits worry usually unreliable prophet.
  7. Tiny city discovered inside crystal sphere.
  8. Town drunk talks about treasure map.
  9. During thunderstorm, rain stops in midair.
  10. Merfolk abandon oceans and breathe air.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

More High-Tech Weapons

I've got a short post today that's a sequel to this one from February. I had another burst of inspiration for high-tech weapons, and thought I'd share a few more ideas.

More High-Tech Weapons

  1. Superheated plasma magna-lance
  2. Matter entropy inductor rifle
  3. Ambient sonic amplifier
  4. Instant transducer cannon with DNA-coded targeting
  5. High-cycle energized particle cannon
  6. Anti-proton grenade ("p-bar grenade")

Monday, June 1, 2015

Reskinned Monsters

Back in April, I talked about the idea of reskinning mechanics. This was probably not a new concept to you, but I hope that I expanded your idea of its scope. It's not just about calling taking the stats of an Ogre and describing it to your players as a Cave Troll, though that it still a fine use of reskinning.

I love reskinning mechanics so much, that my current campaign is almost entirely reskinned stuff from the Dungeons & Dragons SRD. I'm having a lot of fun with these, and I thought that some of my monsters would be worth sharing as examples.

Reskinned Monsters

Kobold –> Bronze Salamander: The change here was incredibly minimal. The kobold became a kobold-sized reptilian humanoid with brass-colored scales and a nondamaging aura of heat.

Dire Rat –> Cloudcat: I changed the Dire Rat's Swim bonuses into Jump bonuses, and more importantly, I reskinned its disease to Static Accumulation: targets accumulate static electricity from the air and suffer Dex and Con damage. And now, instead of a filthy rat that every level 1 adventurer must deal with, I've got white-furred mountain lions with static electricity bouncing along their bodies.

Kobold Fighter –> Bronze Salamander Mage: I'd already reskinned the race, all I needed now was the class. I turned the longsword and chain shirt into spells (spirit slash and lesser warding), and I made its longbow into a sparkwand. The mechanics are all the same, the only difference is that the sparkwand doesn't have ammo, which I don't track anyway.

Human Zombie –> Rumbler:
 This is always much more dangerous than I remember it being at low levels, so I finally decided to use it that way. I reskinned it as a dwarf-sized rock monster. The DR still works; I just changed it from slashing to bludgeoning. And as a rock monster, it still makes sense that it only gets partial actions. Now I have a stout, heavy, tough rock beast suitable for inhabiting the mine full of very valuable brightsteel.

Friday, May 29, 2015

100th Post! and d100 Fantasy Monsters

Wow! I've only been at this for a few months, but I've already reached my 100th post.

I've had some positive feedback on my content, and even if I hadn't, I'd still want to keep posting it here. It keeps me constantly striving and coming up with new ideas, and I'd like to think that folks might still get some use out of the stuff I post.

Anyway, in honor of this, the 100th post of Gather 'Round the Table, I would like to present a table of 100 fantasy monsters. Each monster has a name, a special quality or ability, and three other abilities rated from 1 to 5 (1 is weak, 5 is strong). They are not particular to any system, but hopefully they will give you a starting point to stat them out in your RPG system of choice. Enjoy!

d100 Fantasy Monsters

  1. Slime Soldier – Brainless – Jelly Body 2, Spear 1, Slimeball 2
  2. Kobold Firebreather – Fire Breath – Cloud of Smoke 2, Stone Knife 3, Dodge 2
  3. Orc Warscribe – Enchanted Quill – Shielding Scroll 2, Blasting Scroll 1, Stunning Scroll 4
  4. Troll Runt – Self-Healing – Stone Club 4, Dodge 1, Enraging Roar 2
  5. Impling – Whispered Suggestion – Invisibility 3, Fireball 3, Summon Demon 1
  6. Gremlin – Resourceful – Crafty Trapmaker 5, Spiked Club 1, Dodge 1
  7. Fungoid – Mold Spores – Spongy Flesh 2, Stone Hammer 2, Puff Pod 3
  8. Dragonet – Steam Breath – Magic Initiate 1, Iron Claws 3, Tough Scales 3
  9. Glass Soldier – Near Invisibility – Shattersword 4, Shardshield 2, Refract Magic 1
  10. Stone Goblin – Tough Hide – Rock Throw 3, Cave Camouflage 3, Rocky Punch 2
  11. Fossilized Skeletal Tyrannosaur – Bones of Stone – Bite 5, Hunt 3, Dodge 1
  12. Ember Skeleton – Aura of Fire – Fiery Sword 4, Fireball 2, Dodge 3
  13. Bashe (Flying Serpent) – Reflective Scales – Tail Swat 4,  Lightning Breath 4, Dodge 1
  14. Burnt Soul – Soul Drain – Shadow Claws 2, Veil of Shadow 5, Smoldering Breath 2
  15. Demonic Necromancer – Summon Skeletal Fiends – Blackfire 4, Rotting Touch 3, Phantasmal Shield 2
  16. Quartz Dragon – Refraction – Breath of Shards 5, Buffeting Wings 2, Near Invisibility 2
  17. Lion Demon – Terrorizing Roar – Jade Skin 4, Energy Claws 3, Pounce 2
  18. Nether Elemental – Empty Soul – Void Touch 5, Create Spawn 2, Intangible 2
  19. Servant of Sobek – Shapechanger – Clamping Jaws 4, Swift Strike 3, Thick Skin 2
  20. Shadow Devil – Grasping Shadows – Intangible 4, Swarm of Shadows 3, Blackfire 2
  21. Deathless Watcher – Eternal Gaze – Soul Warp 3, Deathly Visage 3, Aura of Terror 3
  22. Goat-Headed Demon – Fiery Hooves – Fiery Warhammer 4, Ram 3, Dodge 2
  23. Maelstrom Rat – Entropic Aura – Dissolving Bite 4, Chaos Breath 4, Dodge 1
  24. Maelstrom Bat – Erratic Teleportation – Screech 5, Veil of Chaos 3, Sonar 1
  25. Glowing Golem – Aura of Radiance – Radiant Blast 4, Metallic Skin 3, Slam 2
  26. Mechanical Dragon – Soul of Steel – Flight 1, Adamant Scales 5, Steam Breath 3
  27. Bone Elf – Deathless – Marrow Drain 3, Summon Bone Demon 4, Dodge 2
  28. Goblin Skulker – Shadowsight – Poisoned Daggers 4, Stealth 3, Dodge 2
  29. Hobgoblin Harbinger – Shadow Familiar – Cursed Blade 5, Aura of Despair 3, Dodge 1
  30. Bugbear Tormentor – Soul of Shadows – Umbral Wand 5, Aura of Pain 2, Shield of Shadows 2
  31. Orc Wrestler – Knockout Hold – Iron Grip 3, Choking Submission 4, Dodge 2
  32. Half-Lich Warlock – Fiendish Phylactery – Withering Ray 5, Unholy Armor 3, Dark Ritual 1
  33. Ash Mage – Choking Cloud – Wall of Ash 3, Smokeshield 3, Smoldering Staff 3
  34. Fangmaw Hound – Bone Armor – Grinding Maw 5, Pounce 2, Spine Throwing 2
  35. Octobrain – Dark Genius – Paralyzing Tentacles 4, Dodge 4, Mental Shock 1
  36. Shriekbat Swarm – Echoing Shrieks – Swarm Mentality 4, Cloud of Wings 3, Disperse 2
  37. Floating Skull – Invisible Body – Fiery Eyebeams 4, Adamant Skull 4, Poison Breath 1
  38. Cyrrphus (River Serpent) – Hypnotizing Eyes – Slippery Skin 4, Bite 3, Geyser 2
  39. Obsidian Salamander – Burning Skin – Burning Breath 3, Commanding Voice 5, Dodge 1
  40. Lightning Windcat – Static Aura – Lightning Bite 3, Pounce 2, Dodge 4
  41. Rumbler – Stony Hide – Rolling Charge 4, Boulder Camouflage 4, Dodge 1
  42. Volcanic Tortoise – Aura of Heat – Snapping Mouth 3, Impenetrable Shell 5, Fiery Footsteps 1
  43. Troll Titan – Towering Rage – Gargantuan Fist 4, Instant Regeneration 4,  Horrid Stench 1
  44. Meteor Dragon – Aura of Wild Magic – Plasma Breath 4, Silver Tongue 3, Diamond Scales 2
  45. Psychic Vampire – Hidden Thoughts – Psychic Drain 5, Mesmerizing Eyes 3, Dodge 1
  46. Fiendish Medusa – Unholy Aura – Devil's Gaze 5, Fiendish Vipers 2, Dodge 2
  47. Ooze Dragon – Amorphous Form – Acidic Blood 3, Poison Breath 2, Dissolving Maw 4
  48. Sand Elemental – Aura of Grit – Disperse 5, Blistering Punch 3, Sandblast 1
  49. Golden Bear – Dazzling Form – Golden Hide 3, Iron Claws 5, Roar 1
  50. Wolfbat – Haunting Howl – Canine Fangs 4, Pack Tactics 3, Dodge 2
  51. Amber Spider – Perfect Sight – Hardened Webs 5, Venomous Bite 2, Stoneskin 2
  52. Weretiger Ninja – Tiger Form – Silent Pounce 3, Flurry of Shuriken 1, Dodge 5
  53. Frozen Shadow – Aura of Fear – Freeze the Soul 4, Shadow Shapes 4, Snow Summoner 1
  54. Violet Slime – Burning Ooze Trail – Cloud of Acid Gas 4, Sizzling Globule 3, Gelatin Armor 2
  55. Stone Wolf – Mountain Howl – Stonefang Bite 3, Hidden Predator 3, Rocky Hide 3
  56. Two-Headed Eagle – Two Brains – Eagle Eyes 5, Razor Beak 3, Dodge 1
  57. Mountain Viper – Dissolving Venom – Gaping Maw 2, Granite Skin 3, Quick Strike 4
  58. Misty Panther – Cunning Malevolence – Aura of Haze 4, Pounce 4, Claws 1
  59. Floral Elemental – Distracting Scent – Quick Regrowth 5, Entangling Roots 2, Thorny Grip 2
  60. Biting Book – Bibliophage – Camouflage 5, Sharp Snap 3, Dodge 1
  61. Screeching Frog – Mighty Leap – Shattering Screech 4, Numbing Mucus 2, Dodge 3
  62. Clockwork Dog – Wind-Up Key – Mighty Bite 3, Tireless Chase 3, Brass and Leather Skin 3
  63. Wood Wyrm – Plant Growth – Sopoforic Breath 4, Barkskin 4, Bite 1
  64. Faceless Knight – No Vulnerable Spots – Heart of Iron 4, Double-Edged Sword 3, Armored Skin 2
  65. Frost Roc – Blizzard Harbinger – Biting Winds 5, Frozen Feathers 2, Snap 2
  66. Dread Zombie – Feverish Consumption – Relentless Pursuit 5, Deadly Grasp 3, Dodge 1
  67. Soul-Scarred Vampire – Aura of Domination – Diamond Skin 2, Touch of Terror 4, Blood Drain 3
  68. Eternal Lich – Multiple Phylacteries – Desiccating Touch 4, Aura of Damnation 3, Skeletal Form 2
  69. Onyx Scorpion Swarm – Thousand Stings – Burning Venom 2, Hardened Chitin 4, Pinching Claws 3
  70. Tattered Spirit – Cloth Possession – Semi-Corporeal 1, Choking Grasp 4, Disguised Form 4
  71. Gray Troll – Joyful Spirit – Thick Fat 3, Featherstep 3, Mighty Bellow 3
  72. Moor Hound – Spirit of Horror – Spectral Eyes 3, Phosphorous Bite 4, Dodge 2
  73. Marsh Hulk – Spirit of Rage – Invulnerable Skin 5, Trollish Strength 3, Grapple 1
  74. Shapeless Shadow – Null Presence – Intangible 5, Soulless Touch 2, Shape Shadows 2
  75. Tashite (Man-Vulture) – Carrion Aura – Touch of Blasphemy 4, Rotting Gaze 2, Hardened Feathers 3
  76. Thoggian – Unspeakable Visage – Strangling Tentacles 4, Paralytic Spit 4, Dodge 1
  77. Canyon Spider – Unbreakable Webbing – Slow Venom 2, Unhallowed Strength 4, Dodge 3
  78. Fungal Matriarch – Regrowth – Spawn Fungoids 2, Cloud of Spores 5, Dodge 2
  79. Deep Linnorm – Paralyzing Gaze – Stone Scales 3, Venomous Saliva 3, Perfect Scent 3
  80. Dirt Dragon – Burrow – Jaws of Rock 5, Wide Claws 3, Dodge 1
  81. Icy Angler – Wisplight – Whirlpool 3, Giant Jaws 4, Heavy Scales 2
  82. Floating Fuzzball – Aura of Adorability – Hover 2, Psychic Drain 3, Duplicate 4
  83. Steelframe Golem – Skeletal Structure – Unbending Strength 5, Agile 3, Cold Cunning 1
  84. Brass Golem – Echoing Aura – Trumpeting Blast 4, Brass Staff Combat 4, Dodge 1
  85. Ursowl – Sagacity – Tearing Talons 5, Dodge 2, Hooting Bellow 2
  86. Giant Sparrow – Perfect Flight – Enthralling Whistle 4, Sharp Talons 1, Flighty Dodge 4
  87. Ricepaper Shadow – Silhouette Form – Steal the Heart 4, Freeze the Body 3, Dodge 2
  88. Withered Hand – Aura of Revulsion – Skittering Crawl 2, Draining Ray 2, Fatal Grasp 5
  89. Hovering Orb – Freezing Gaze – Dodge 5, Icebolt 3, Implant 1
  90. Radiant Ghast – Blinding Aura – Blistering Light 4, Flash 3, Dodge 2
  91. Leviathan Squid – Ancient Beyond Memory – Aura of Madness 4, Touch of Death 3, Deep Magic 4
  92. Colossal Gyo – Titanic Toughness – Hellfire Breath 5, Crushing Tail 3, Shattering Roar 3
  93. Maggot Man – Beyond Death – Corpse Breath 2, Aura of Rot 4, Word of Corruption 5
  94. Blade Demon – Slayer of Gods – Unhallowed Blades 5, Cursed Gaze 1, Impervious Skin 5
  95. Leonine Tortoise – Unrelenting Strength – Terrain Shell 5, Massive Jaws 4, Ocean Magic 2
  96. Cosmic Visitor – Alien Mind – Perfect Telekinesis 5, Telepathic Domination 3, Mental Shield 3
  97. Living Quicksilver – Shapeshifter – Form Weapon 4, Repair Damage 4, Create Spawn 3
  98. Shadow of Fire – Body of Smoke – Flaming Whip 5, Firebrand 3, Call of Shadow 3
  99. Lady of Ice – Word of Command – Irresistible Charm 5, Wand of Frost 4, Shield of Fear 2
  100. God of Undeath – Divine Presence – Word of Undeath 5, Shield of Fear 4, Sword of Pain 4

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Interesting Superpower Pairings

Yesterday I wrote about uncommon superpowers in general, but today I want to talk about interesting superpower pairings. What I mean by that is the idea that a character has two (or more) powers that are unrelated and don't necessarily mesh well together. Giving a character diverse powers not only makes that character more versatile, but also gives the player (or the GM) more room to find alternate solutions to a problem.

For example, giving a character super strength and super toughness is a common pairing, but what about super toughness and empathy (emotional telepathy) or super strength and control of winds? Now you've got a character who stands out among other super strong or super tough heroes, and you've given that character extra versatility to boot. Also, you can stretch your creative muscles to find a theme and a name that encompass both of those powers.

Hopefully the table below will give you a fuller understanding of what I mean and encourage you to come up with your own superpower pairs.

Interesting Superpower Pairings

  1. Super speed and super hearing*
  2. Dynamic camouflage and flight**
  3. Teleportation and animal speech
  4. Super strength and dreamwalking
  5. Acid spit and technopathy
  6. Ice powers and fire powers
  7. Self-healing and poisonous touch***
  8. Super agility and sonic scream
  9. Super scent and eye lasers
  10. Empathic projection and invisibility

* The Hare or Jackrabbit
** The Phantasm or Clear Skies
*** The Virus or Bacterior

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Uncommon Superpowers

If you're playing a superhero (or supervillain) game, let me lay out the powers everyone will be tired of seeing.
  • Super strength and/or toughness
  • Super speed and/or agility
  • Flight
  • Self-healing
  • Laser blasting (eyes, hands, etc.)
  • Telekinesis and/or telepathy
  • Fire powers and/or ice powers
  • Money and/or gadgets
  • Phasing through matter
  • Super intelligence and/or planning

Obviously, my initial comment was a generalization and the powers I listed above cover a wide range of abilities and possible characters. I am not saying don't use those powers, but I would caution you before giving them to all of your super-powered antagonists. Instead, try to find or create some less common superpowers. Here's a list of my suggestions, which include modified and otherwise obscure superpowers.

Uncommon Superpowers

  1. Morph into an animal
  2. Change text by touching it (physical and virtual text)
  3. Shrink objects by 50%, permanently
  4. See 10 minutes into your own future
  5. Poison creatures with a touch
  6. See emotions as colored auras
  7. Learn the history of an object by touching it
  8. Turn into a cloud of particles and reintegrate with a thought
  9. Plant mimicry (not plant control)
  10. Absorb kinetic energy

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Modern Monsters

I'm a fan of the urban fantasy and modern horror genres. That would include (in my book) shows like Supernatural and books like Inner City: Gargoyles. If you're a fan of that kind of work in those genres, today's table is for you. And even if you're not a fan, you can always drop a monster into your modern espionage game for a Halloween session* or tweak it a bit and add it to your fantasy setting.

Spring-Heeled Jack: A leaping legend from suburban London, the spring-heeled jack is so named for his incredible jumping ability. This figure is often described as wearing a dark coat or cloak, or even as having black wings. Some legends give him sharp claws, glowing red eyes, and even the ability to breath fire. Other legends mark him as much more human, saying that (other than his hideous wings) he looked very gentlemanly or that he could speak proper English. In the early twentieth century, spring-heeled jack made the leap from the England to New England as rumors spread of sightings along the north Atlantic coast.

This creature could make an appearance in an urban fantasy campaign as an antagonist who leaps into the second or third stories of homes and terrifies inhabitants before leaping out again. Perhaps it feeds on fear or even simple mischief, since there are few accounts of spring-heeled jack doing anything truly monstrous.

Servant of Sobek: Sobek was a god of fertility, kings, and charms in ancient Egypt, but he still influences the modern world through his servants. Sobek often took the form of a man with a crocodile head, and his servants take the full form of crocodiles. Every year there are sightings of alligators in the sewers of large cities; to the untrained eye, an alligator and a crocodile can look similar, and, indeed alligators are native to North America, where most of the sightings take place. Really, though, these are the servants of Sobek, using the sewers to move from place to place with ease as they go about the tasks set for them by their god.

The servants of Sobek work best in an urban fantasy campaign that features other mythological deities, especially other ancient Egyptian gods. The servants of Sobek follow the mysterious orders of their god, but they occasionally attack a lone human wandering in the utilities system. Rarely, these creatures may even enter a home through the sewage system, if their master so commands it.

Vulpine Spirit: These ghostly foxes are native to North America and are quite different from the kitsune spirits of China and Japan. A common figure among sleepwalkers, lucid dreamers, and those with seemingly prophetic dreams is the appearance of a shadowy foxlike spirit. The vulpine spirits are not violent themselves, but they are frequently a portent of impending danger. Sightings of vulpine spirits are virtually impossible to confirm because those who claim to have seen it are usually dead within a week.

The vulpine spirits fit into urban fantasy campaigns with other ghostly spirits, but they could also make an interesting detour from physical monster hunting. If the vulpine spirits themselves are not dangerous, why do they portend death? Perhaps they are themselves fleeing a more powerful and dangerous devouring spirit, and they appear to dreamers either to plead for help or to offer sacrifices as a distraction to the devouring spirit that chases them.

*Yes, I know I'm writing this in May, but it'll be Halloween once a year, every year, for as long as this site exists.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Challenge System (Download)

You may have seen my post on the Challenge System back in March. It's a very simple RPG system that I designed. I've had a bit of feedback on it, so I decided to format it as a PDF and make it available to download.

You can get it here or through my Downloads page.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Genre Mash-Ups

I love a good crossover or mash-up, and I'm not the only one.

I think that part of the appeal (especially in RPGs) is to create something new, but retain the ability to make easy reference for new players. If you create an entirely original setting idea, then you have to explain a ton of details to everyone just to establish the basic concept. But if you start with a mash-up setting, then you can explain the basic concept with a few words. For example, Shadowrun can describe itself as "Lord of the Rings meets Neuromancer," and people who know those references will have an immediate idea of what kind of world it might be.

I occasionally pull specific examples for mash-ups (see my cyberpunk-Star Wars idea), but generally I prefer to use basic genres, like paranormal and noir. Once I've picked a couple of genres, I isolate a few key elements and see if there's any overlap or stark contrast, and if there is, then I can create a basic framework. After that, it's just a matter of zooming in to the level of detail I want.

Here are a few of my favorite genre mash-ups ideas.

Genre Mash-Ups

Renaissance Resistance: Roman gods return in 1502 to rule Italy through death & fear. Leonardo da Vinci leads the rebels. (clockpunk / dystopia)

Steel and Flesh: Merciless scientific guilds rule from ivory towers. Cyborg rebels follow a bushido and defend the people. (transhumanist / samurai)

Hack the Devil: PCs are hackers with arm-mounted Enochian keyboards that they use to hack reality and counter the forces of Satan throughout the solar system. (paranormal / sci-fi / cyberpunk)

Solar Civil War: Cadets are the only hope for the Union Alliance when the Liberty Confederation ambushes the Solar Fleet. (historical / space opera)

W.E.I.R.D.: In ’47, the Bureau acquired alien tech. Now, 10 years later, they’ll have to use it to stop monsters from Faerie. (paranormal / atomic age)

Trojan War Heroes: Legendary Greek heroes go to Troy by themselves to defeat the Trojan army with their unique fighting styles. (wuxia / mythic)

A Fistul of Neurons: Old West lawbringers arrive in the cyberpunk future and attempt to bring their own style of justice to the dystopia. (western / cyberpunk)

Press Start: PCs are classic video game characters who must recover the pieces of the Genesis Code before an alliance of villains can reboot the universe. (adventure / humor)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Diamond Mind (Download)

Good news, everyone!*

I have transformed my Diamond Mind campaign spark into a five-page campaign overlay. It is free to download in PDF format here and on my brand-new Downloads page.

If you have any feedback (including questions and constructive criticism) please contact me via Twitter or email (

* I hope you read that in Professor Farsnsworth's voice.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tavern Meals and Talking Points

Having just finished my big(ish) breakdown of the Diamond Mind campaign spark, I'm going to post something simple today.

Your PCs walk into the tavern and ask what's on the menu. Sure, most places will probably serve things like turnip soup and rabbit stew. But wouldn't it be nice to surprise the players with something of interest next time? It might spark some role playing with the barkeep or the cook, and it could even lead to a side quest. These tables will get you started.

Tavern Meals

1. Blackwood hen stew
2. Grey acorn bread and goat cheese
3. Frostleaf salad with a glass of elven snow wine
4. Dwarf cakes
5. Warg shank with a pint of aged grog
6. "Hagwich" and fried potatoes with a mug of "witch's brew"

Talking Points

1. The main ingredient in this meal is found in a dangerous region and sells for a fortune.
2. This meal is famous for its health-boosting effects.
3. The cook is brand new, and this is the first time this meal has been served.
4. Only the toughest (or only the classiest) people can properly eat this meal.