Wednesday, March 31, 2010

[Blogs] Deeper in the Game

The Deeper in the Game blog posted something interesting a couple of years ago: Sharpening up your con game.

The article has four good points. I won't recap them except to say preparation is essential for a four hour game.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

[Characters] Bennosuke

I used this character in my friend's Savage World of Solomon Kane game a few years ago. I thought that a young samurai in Europe would be a cool concept.

Bennosuke is based on the famous Miyamoto Musashi and part of the character background I came up with included a missing father and being hunted by some European powers.

Shinmen Musashi (Bennosuke) no Kami Fujiwara no Genshin, of the village of Miyamoto
Human, Male, 11 years old
Novice + 1 Advance

Bennosuke was born 11 years ago in the village of Miyamoto, in Japan. Last year, his Daimayo ordered his father to go to Portugal to deal with the Jesuits. Benno accompanied him. While there, his father disappeared and he found himself in Algeria, on a quest to find his father. He joined up with the other PCs after a bit. He is unaware that the Jesuits are after him.

"Respect the gods and buddhas; do not rely on them"
"There are four Ways in which men pass through life: as Gentlemen Warriors, Farmers, Artisans and Merchants."

[1] Agility d6
[0] Smarts d4
[2] Spirit d8
[0] Strength d4
[0] Vigor d4

[free] Luck
[M] Great Luck
[2m] Common Bond
[Adv] Beast Master: large Black Raven

Youth [M]
Hunted [m] (variant of Wanted - unknown to PC)
Loyal [m]

[2] Fighting d6
[2] Shooting d6
[3] Guts d8
[1] Intimidation d4
[1] Notice d4
[1] Languages d4

Katana (long sword), STR+d8, min STR d6 (can't use effectively in combat yet)
Wakizashi (short sword), STR+d6
Tanto (dagger), STR+d4
Yari (spear), STR+d6, min STR d6 (can't use effectively in combat yet)
Shenshu (bow), 2d6
20 Ya (arrows)

Tetsu-hitai (metal forehead protector)
Kimono and other japanese clothing

Monday, March 29, 2010

[In The Game] The Curly Effect

Ever feel like you're playing like this? So excited to game, you make an ass of yourself and your compatriots have to constrain you?

I do.

I get so excited to game I starting doing the equivalent of "N'yuk, n'yuk, n'yuk."

Don't worry, I usually calm down. Usually.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

[My Collection] Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes

If you've played Flying Buffalo's Tunnels and Trolls, you're familiar with Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes, because they share the same combat rules and a few other things, like Saving Rolls.

Originally published in 1983 and written by the great Mike Stackpole (an excellent game designer as well as the publisher/researcher of the Pulling Report), the game improves upon Tunnels and Trolls by adding skills while still keeping the rules-lite nature of the base system.

I only played a few games of this in the early 80s (as opposed to the many, many games of Tunnels and Trolls) and managed to find a copy a decade or fifteen years ago. Look to for a good review of the book.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

[Resources] Quidquid Latine Dictum Sit, Altum Videtur

As the quote above, everything said in Latin sounds profound. Latin quotes or phrases in your game could be very cool, whether you're in a superhero game or a 1930s mobster drama.

Find a bunch at Latin Mottos, Latin Phrases, Latin Quotes and Latin Sayings.

Friday, March 26, 2010

[Pods] The Durham 3

The Durham 3 is one of my favorite podcasts and I hope they start recording again and pull out of their podfade. Their format is short, most shows don't top a half hour. They have a bit of a talk about various topics before they play, then they break and play the game (off-recorder) and then they come back and recap the session. So it's not an actual play podcast but a comment on actual play podcast.

Their last episode (#66), they talked about their session of Dust Devils, a Wild West indie game by Matt Snyder (I picked it up from Indie Press Revolution a couple of years ago), but their game was set during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, so they called the game Frost Devils. The episode has some write-ups for the game, including color and black and white character sheets and play notes. Some of the variety of NPCs are Wyatt Earp and William Jennings Bryan.

Check out a couple of shows of The Durham 3, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: The Weather Boys

Weather Boys ("WMAL Radio")

Location: WMAL Auxillary Radio Transmitter, Bethesda, MD. North of the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) between Greentree Road and Fernwood Road, at the WMAL radio tower fields.

Population: 25
Military Strength: 15
Military Resources: 1 M4A4E8 Sherman Tank, a few civilian vehicles, some small arms but mostly bows and crossbows.

Treaties: Spook Hill, UFP, FFA, Arlington Hall, Pentagon, The Dead Kennedys, Treaty Hospital, Mennonites

Enemies: Skinheads

Resources: Small industry, as well as technology (electrical and power) They extensively farm the field around the radio station and have a mechanical wind generating power station.

Trade: They trade mainly weather and agricultural information, and as a result are very important to most communities, who subsidize them.

General Reaction: +10

Background: These survivors are comprised mostly of scientists, meteorologists and radio technicians. They were the first on the air after the Ruin and have remained a stable influence throughout the metro area. Most communities rely on their weather reports to avoid radioactive- and biologically-contaminated rain. They run a radio program every four hours for a half hour, providing the whole D.C. area with information about weather trends, bio-contaminants, news and fallout areas. They have set up several weather stations in friendly communities and use these to determine weather trends, fallout locations and drifting bio-contaminants.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

[Resources] Linen Armor

The Archaeological Institute of America recently reported in a study that Alexander the Great and his men used a similar armor to modern Kevlar, made of laminated linen called linothorax.

This armor was "probably composed of either quilted fabric layers or laminated layers of fabric using animal-based glue (such as rabbit skin glue)."

Dr. Gregory Aldrete and Scott Bartell wrote in a recent paper that "a 1 cm thick linothorax, usually consisting of around 11 to 18 layers (depending on thickness of thread), would have provided all the necessary protection to its wearer in order to survive an arrow or slashing attack."

Pretty cool. I'm probably going to include this armor in my next game.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

[Labyrinth Lord] The Emperor's New Clothes: an Ashford Valley Adventure

I published this short adventure last month for my Switching to Guns 'zine. Let me know what you think.

The Emperor's New Clothes: A Get Ready, Get Set, Go! Labyrinth Lord adventure set in the Ashford Valley.

Get Ready:
The PCs fall in with a wanderer named Yingo and walk the same path for a bit. After leaving them at a wayside shrine, Yingo discovers an old jacket made of wolf fur (actually a were-wolf pelt) and puts it on, turning into a weak version of a were-wolf. Over the course of several nights, the PCs are hunted by Yingo!

Get Set:
The PCs are wandering from one adventure to the next and are a fair distance from the nearest town. Along the way, they meet a fellow wanderer name Yingo. He's an odd fellow, dirt poor but always looking for money or goods to trade for food and drink. He'll work if he has to but prefers to "live by his wits" as he's fond of saying. The PCs can't tell how old he is, he could be between 30 and 50, but he's got a lot of knowledge of the region they are in, as well as lots of history and heraldry and jack-of-all-trades knowledge, and so could provide the PCs will a lot of new adventure leads. Best of all, Yingo likes to tell the PCs "I'm named after a famous ancestor of mine, Yingo the First, an Emperor, you know." Unfortunately, he can't rightly explain what empire that Yingo the First ruled, it changes with each telling.

Yingo stays with the PCs for a day or two, showing off a brass arm brace he found a few days ago in a field. If pressed, he'll admit it was a grave but "they's been dead a long, long time so it's all right, they won't be missin' it." He helps out his new friends by finding good spots to camp, near streams teaming with fish, shrubs with berries and moss patches with edible and safe toadstools. After a couple of days with the PCs, he wanders off a trail, saying goodbye without a look back, waving his hand over his shoulder at them.

About an hour later, Yingo is in an old, abandoned wayside shrine where he finds an old wolf fur jacket. He puts it on and becomes a were-wolf, not a real one, though. This one is vulnerable to normal weapons. And he goes after the PCs for lunch! Along the way, he runs into a small wolf pack that is starving. A quick show of teeth and soon Yingo had a bunch of lackey wolves.

Over the next couple of hours, the PCs are convinced that something is stalking them. A lone PC will be attacked and bitten (or killed, if possible) by one of the normal wolves. As night falls, the were-wolf makes an attack. During this combat, Yingo will bite a PC until he takes 1 hit point damage then he'll run away, disappearing into the forest. One of the PCs in the fight will notice the wolf has a brass arm brace on the same arm (leg) that Yingo had it on. The rest of the night, the PCs are attacked as necessary by Yingo and the other wolves.

The PCs may believe that they are being attacked by were-wolves and this may lead to some very humorous acts to prevent "infection." If one of the PCs ends up dead and not guarded, the wolves will sneakily drag him away, which could lead to further belief that he wasn't dead but had turned into a were-wolf! If the PCs lack wolvesband and look for it in the forest, an elf or wizard find some on a 1-2 on 1d6 and all other races and classes find it on a 1 on 1d6. Dodging the wolves while doing so should be a chore. Unfortunately, wolvesbane doesn't effect Yingo like a normal were-wolf (see below).

After a nearly sleepless night, if the PCs return to where they left Yingo the next day, they easily find the wayside shrine and Yingo's pack, plus a piece of the were-wolf pelt jacket. They might put it all together and realize that Yingo is under a curse! Can they arrange a trap to capture Yingo and free him from the were-wolf pelt jacket?

Notable NPCs:
Yingo the Wanderer; No. Encountered: 1; Alignment: Neutral; Armor Class: 7; Hit Dice: 1d8, Hit Points: 3; Attacks: dagger (1d4); Save: NM1; morale: 6.

Yingo wearing the Were-wolf pelt; No. Encountered: 1; Alignment: Chaotic; Armor Class: 5; Hit Dice: 4d8; Hit Points: 19 (including Yingo's 3); Attacks: Bite (2d4); Save: F4; morale: 8; Special abilities: none of the usual were-wolf abilities.

Yingo is a friendly wanderer, spending most of his time collecting this or that to trade. He'll run away rather than fight and doesn't have much to his name. He treats anyone he "bonds" with (like the PCs) as a brother and doesn't steal from them. He hears many tales and is a good source of information, some of it is true.

As a were-wolf, Yingo is more bold than usual, willing to fight to get tasty food like the PCs. He has an overwhelming urge to kill and eat them that can't be sated until they are all dead. If the PCs manage to capture Yingo, they can figure out how to remove the jacket fairly easily. But doing so will require them to get within biting distance. Since Yingo isn't a regular were-wolf, he's not immune to normal weapons, nor can he transmit Lycanthropy through bites. As a side effect, wolvesbane does not affect him, so any attempt to use it fails!

If the PCs hit Yingo enough to drop him to his normal Hit Points (3), then he's knocked unconscious and the jacket can be removed without harm to him (that means the jacket has 16 Hit Points until it is "dead."). If they do 19 or more points of damage, Yingo is dead.

If the PCs manage to save Yingo, he'll be very grateful. The jacket is destroyed while removing it but it may be worth something to an achemist. If the PCs fail to free Yingo, he'll wander the forest around the wayside shrine, killing and hunting until he is destroyed or freed from the curse. The Necromancer may bind him to his service at some later date, allowing the PCs to finish Yingo either way.

Weak wolf pack; No. Encountered: 1d3+2; Alignment: Neutral; Armor Class: 7; Hit Dice: 2d8+2; Hit Points: 9, 9, 8, 7, 7; Attacks: Bite (1d6); Save: F1; morale: 8 or 6 (for 3 or fewer wolves, including Yingo).

This wolf pack is very weak and hungry. They chanced upon Yingo and he easily dominated them. They work for him, at least for now. They prefer hit-and-run tactics and going after the weak (or small) members of the party. They'll run away rather than fight to the death.

Monday, March 22, 2010

[My Collection] The Supercrew!

I picked up The Supercrew a while ago and have been busy learning how the system works by making some interesting foes. Some of these are posted on The Fortress of Solid-Rules as well as various threads (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

One that I particularly enjoyed making was this one:

Undead Queen Victoria!
  • 4: Super power: undead lich queen
  • [_] Re-roll the Dice: we are not amused!
  • [_] [_] Change one roll to a 5: necromantic blasts
  • [_] Change one roll to Effect 2: undead immunity
Toughness: 5

Sunday, March 21, 2010

[Blogs] The Mule Abides

I found The Mule Abides a while ago and have been reading it and enjoying it. A post from February, however, was very interesting - Don't Roll Your Hit Points Until You're Hurt.

It's a pretty cool idea on making hit points more dynamic. I think that I'll give it a try!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

[Books] The Queen of Attolia

The second in the Queen's Thief series from Megan Whalen Turner brings the Thief into a war between two powers. I'm not going to spoil it for you, read it yourself. It's an excellent addition to her very cool setting and with even more thiefy goodness.

Work is kicking my @$$

Sorry I haven't had the time to respond to several cool comments by people, but work and home life have been kicking my ass. No worries, though, because I have almost a month worth of written stuff already prepared for this blog and ready to go, automatically!

I hope to actually have some time this weekend to catch up. So, thanks for reading, don't despair and I'll respond in a day or two.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: Spook Hill

Spook Hill ("G-men," "Mr. FBI")

Location: Pooks Hill, Bethesda, MD. Extends along Interstate 495 south to Jones Bridge Road, between Old Georgetown Road (State Route 187) and Conneticut Avenue (SR 185), incorporating the Naval Medical Center and National Institutes of Health.

Population: 1700
Military Strength: 600
Military Resources: 3 M60A3 Main Battle Tanks, multiple civilian vehicles, plenty of small arms and ammunition, plus the capability of making more.

Treaties: The Weather Boys, Treaty Hospital, FFA

Enemies: UFP, Skinheads, The Agency

Resources: Spook Hill has small farming capabilities and large herds of cattle. Their main resource is the Naval Medical Center. They also extensively scavenge all over D.C. and are allied with several Free Companies.

Trade: Mostly foodstuffs and medical equipment and services.

General Reaction: +05

Background: These survivors are composed of mostly Department of Justice employees, the majority from the FBI, and a fair number from the NSA. The community has grown in size and strength, but now contends with the UFP to the west for space and dominance. Open war with the UFP has not yet occurred but tensions are growing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

[Sorcerer] Character Sheets

Christopher Kubasik's Blog, Play Sorcerer, has an excellent PC sheet for Ron Edward's Sorcerer on his January 20th entry.

(Part of the reason I found Play Sorcerer in the first place was the effort searching for different character and demon sheets for the game).

I think the font and layout are very cool and I plan on using it in my game. If only he would post a demon sheet in the same font, I'd be happy!

(There was a rough apprentice version of the game on the website but it's gone now. Maybe you can find it elsewhere on the 'net).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

[My Collection] The 23rd Letter, Part 2

I emailed Matt Johnston, author of The 23rd Letter, some questions about Crucible Design and the games he wrote and produced.

Asshat Paladins: Is Crucible Design currently defunct? Any plans to bring it back?

Crucible Design published two games (The 23rd Letter, SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis). What happened to Qabal, Capital, Frontier, Supers, the sequel to the SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis and DoA projects and were there any plans for an ERIS system stand-alone book?

Where does Zombi fit in here? Is Zombi part of Crucible Design?

Matt Johnston: The 23rd Letter, SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis XDO and Zombi were all published under the Crucible Design imprint. Crucible Design itself was really just me with some friends providing colour text and as folk went off to do their own things, I moved everything to LateGaming.

The other projects - they exist on paper, on small snippets which I post to the LateGaming blog intermittently. So, at some point more of them will appear.

An ERIS standalone book is entirely possible - most likely as a PDF?

I've wanted to do more but I hate working alone. If I found a collaborator or three, things would come out faster as I work better with deadlines and working alone means deadlines are flexible.

AP: I found the Tripod website for Crucible Design. Is this site going to be updated any time soon?

MJ: No, the Tripod site is dead, has been for years. was the main web site but the chap updating it let the domain lapse.

AP: Do you know how popular your games were/are in Ireland and the UK?

Do you know of any groups that are still playing your games? Do you hear from die-hard fans?

Do you still play your games and do you run them or demos of them at local conventions? What local conventions do you go to?

MJ: We don't tend to visit conventions any more. It's nearly 10 years since Zombi was published and I think everyone moved on. There were hundreds of books sold in the US by Key 20 (for which we never got paid - which is a sore point).

To be honest, I've not been on the gaming scene for a long time. My day job is pretty immersive and I tend to just have a small group here in Belfast.

As for popularity - we had a couple of fan sites, I never saw a bad review and every now and then I bump into someone who has a book.

AP: I assume in the late 1990s, printing costs were very high. Did you print a whole bunch at a time or go with small print sets?

What lessons learned would you pass on to others wanting to print their own games? And with the rise of Print on Demand, will that change your publishing options?

MJ: We usually printed in runs of 500. This was the optimal point of the curve that we could afford. At the time most of us had jobs but we also had mortgages and a really poor selection of printers locally. I'd have a hard time recommending people give it a go with anything but vanity or fun as the expectation.

I'm not entirely struck on PoD. It seems expensive. But I wouldn't say no.

AP: Yours was the first RPG game company that I had heard of in Northern Ireland, are there any more?

MJ: Nearside Games were based here. And Wasteland Games straddled the border between north and south.

AP: What is the RPG gaming scene like in Ireland and Northern Ireland?

MJ: It had a massive upswing in the 90s - I was heavily involved in the local clubs and recruited aggressively - meaning the local Uni club went from 25 members to about 300 in two years. The club is still large but partly due to incorporating Anime and Computer Games rather than just being an RPG and Wargaming club.

We thought it was big and popular because we were at the centre of it. It was still small and niche (a bit like the internet at the time).

AP: Do you still game and hang out with the other members of Crucible Design (John Fleming, Eamon Watters, Mark Lamki, Lesley McLarnon, I assume Colin Johnston is your brother)? Have they published any game material on their own or with other companies?

MJ: Eamon is in Japan. John, Mark, Colin and Lesley all got on their lives and remain in Northern Ireland. None of them published anything. I was always the most prolific writer and that didn't change.

Hope that helps!

Thank you, Matt, for letting us know what's up with Crucible Design and the 23rd Letter.

As I mentioned in Part 1, Late Gaming has The 23rd Letter, Zombi and SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis XDO at the bargain prices of £9.99, £7.99 and £7.99 (+ £2.50 shipping each). Check them out!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

['zines] Latest Switching to Guns available now!

Issues #19 and #20 are now available on my Switching to Guns website.


Before I started this blog, I wrote bits of info about what I was thinking on my Switching to Guns website. In an effort to streamline the 'zine page, I've removed these posts and placed them here, in their rough and tumble form, for posterity.

January 24, 2010: I've started my own gaming blog named Asshat Paladins. I figure others have done so and so why shouldn't I? Will this keep me from my 'zines, you may well ask? Rest assured, more Switching to Guns is due soon.

January 13, 2010:
Happy New Year! More
Switching to Guns and Get Ready, Get Set, Go! Labyrinth Lord adventures set in the Ashford Valley coming soon.

December 26, 2009:
New issues of
Switching to Guns are now available.

Issue #16 is the last of the Deep Forest Road adventures (#5) for my Ashford Valley
Labyrinth Lord setting (don't worry, there will be more Ashford Valley adventures to come).

Issue #17 is a bit of a blast from the past, a brochure I made about a hole in the ground that you may want your PCs to visit.

I've also updated the
Switching to Guns Extras, with Gnome Trouble, another Get Ready, Get Set, Go! Labyrinth Lord adventure set in the Ashford Valley.

December 20, 2009:
I've been working on
The Supercrew Papers and added a bunch of characters, foes and situations from a variety of threads on Don't worry - I'll get back to publishing Switching to Guns issues pretty soon!

December 15, 2009: The past couple of days, I've posted a bunch of characters (specifically write-ups for the Watchmen) as well as some opponents for the Supercrew RPG by Tobias Radesater on So I decided to build another page for this growing site called The Supercrew Papers devoted totally to the Supercrew RPG.

December 15, 2009: I finished my class, turned in my take-home Final yesterday.

This class was the last one (Lucky #13 over the course of 4 years!) I had to take in order to finish my Masters in Engineering (from the University of Washington) while working full time in the largest building by volume in the world.

When my grades come in next week, I'll be "officially" done. I'll walk in graduation next June.

I'm done with school for a while now (negotiations are underway with the girlfriend with respect to continuing to get a PhD).

Expect more updates to the 'zine soon.

November 28, 2009: I'm a reader of a wide variety of gaming blogs and other gaming sites and there are lots of cool ideas, monsters and treasures out there. I often think "that would work great with my Ashford Valley
Labyrinth Lord setting" so I've added the Ashford Valley News page to link to those sites. Check it out!

November 19, 2009: I've added a page for my Switching to Guns Extras, including my Get Ready, Get Set, Go!
Labyrinth Lord adventures set in the Ashford Valley. I posted my first Get Ready, Get Set, Go! adventure on, Goblinoid Games, Giant in the Playground, Steve Jackson Games and ENWorld forums when I announced my issues 14 and 15 in October. Be on the watch for more as I've got several in the planning stages. If you use them, let me know!

October 31, 2009: My subscribers are a loyal bunch and I provide them with largess in appreciation. They always get the 'zine before I post it here and if I'm trying something new (or trying something old), they get that, too.

Many in Academia believe that there are only 48 issues of my excellent old 'zine,
One Thousand and One Nights and One Night RPG Campaign Design 'zine. Well, that's not entirely true. I published two more issues (one in March and the other earlier this month) just for my subscribers.

So, in honor of Hallowe'en, and with the backing of the Corvis Babbage Cliological Society Board of Trustees in association with Wooden Leg Named Smith Productions, I present the last two official issues of
One Thousand and One Nights and One Night RPG Campaign Design 'zine:

Issue #49 Issue #50

There won't be any more of those, folks, so get them while you can.

And if you are interested in joining my subscriber group to get my
Switching to Guns 'zine before I officially post it and maybe other cool stuff, send me an email at 1001nightsand1night (at) gmail (dot) com and tell me you want to join to get all the free stuff, prizes and prestige!


October 28, 2009: Another couple of issues of
Switching to Guns Ashford Valley Labyrinth Lord setting for you, continuing the adventures along the Deep Forest Road.

Issue 14 starts with the PCs meeting a dwarf with a problem: his gold mine is next to an abandoned manor house in the Deep Forest and he's got some trouble.

Issue 15 has the PCs meeting another dwarf who is a witness to orcs attacking bandits to save a merchant caravan. Have the orcs become the good guys?

September 28, 2009: Switching to Guns and One Thousand and One Nights and One Night RPG Campaign Design 'zine have been mentioned in the latest All Games Considered podcast (Episode No. 113). I'm a big fan of All Games Considered and hosts Mark Kinney, Mags and Carol (and past host Chris) so thanks very much!

I'm currently in negotiations with Christian Walker of Iridia 'zine and Destination Unknown blog to collaborate on some gaming stuff. We'll let you know what we come up with!

A comment page for the site will remain what it always is: send me an email at 1001nightsand1night (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll post it.

September 13, 2009: A bit of time since the last update. Here's another set of my Labyrinth Lord Ashford Valley setting issues, this time the first two of five adventures along the Deep Forest Road:

Issue #12: More info on the Ashford Valley's mysterious Runestones. A merchant, some robbers and a band of orcs mix it up and an ancient curse changes everything. Can your players solve the mystery?

Issue #13: A bunch of Rangers are overdue in the forest. Will the PCs find them in time? And why are two Bugbears wandering around the woods?

August 5, 2009: I recently got 3 kittens (all brothers and about 100 days old), so I've been up to my ears in cat toys, feeding the hungry boys and playing cat games. However, I wanted to post several more issues of Switching to Guns.

Issue #10 has the actual play notes from a Savage Worlds Slipstream/Iron Lords of Jupiter game I ran late last year. It was a fun, fun time.

Issue #11 continues the Fae Portland setting for Changeling: The Dreaming from Issue #1. Enjoy!

July 10, 2009: Here's issue #9 of Switching to Guns. This issue is the 5th High Bridge Road adventure, dealing with a former Bugbear lair, taken over by ... well, you'll just have to read it and find out!

June 13, 2009: Finished with my finals, so here's the latest issue of
Switching to Guns. This issue, #8, deals with the return of the Elven Brothers from issue #5, in the 4th of the High Bridge Road adventures.

May 18, 2009:
Happy Mount Saint Helen's Day! 29 years ago today, that Old Dame of Washington state blew her top and what a show it was. In honor of this momentous display of nature's sheer might, I present you with another of my Ashford Valley adventures.

The bandits taken care of in issue #5 and #6 with much hacking and whacking, so issue #7 has a new menace: A cave in the woods, formerly a grave, now housing some undead beasties and other dangers. (I call it "The Burrow" and, yes, I know that I made a mistake there. No access to wikipedia while writing led to this sorry end and a laziness that doesn't want me to correct it keeps it the same).

April 19, 2009: Another adventure for my Ashford Valley setting is contained in issue #6. Continuing with the Bandits from last issue, if any survived, they're hiding out in their lair, an old tower in the woods. Can the PCs end the bandit menace once and for all?

April 6, 2009: I've decided to use
Switching to Guns to expand on my Labyrinth Lord Ashford Valley setting. I've created 5 adventures for the High Bridge Road and I've got plans to have another 5 adventures on the Deep Forest Road and 5 each for the towns (Ashford, Clifton, Sooton and Tradetown) plus an two adventure tie-up of the campaign (that's 32 adventures!). Also, I'll be including some info on the people, religions and culture of the valley.

April 5, 2009: I've been working on the 'zine quite a bit and here is issue #5: Bandits on the High Bridge Road, an adventure in my Ashford Valley
Labyrinth Lord setting.

March 9, 2009: Issue #4 is the start of a Chat-based game I'm running for some friends at work. I'll be using the Labyrinth Lord system, a retro-clone D20 game from Goblinoid Games, and the adventures will take place in a little valley I created called the Ashford Valley (I've included a map). I also plan on posting some of the actual Chat play from the game (I've included the first session in the side-bar). I plan on a whole series of issues on adventures in and information about this valley, so keep coming back for more!

February 27, 2009: If you read Iridia 'zine, check out issue # 91. Yes, that issue was written by ME! Wow!

I was reading over at Story Games about the Indie Contract. The author states: "What it boils down to is this: If you're not designing for everyone - for the People Out There who aren't on SG or The Forge or whatever - it might be a good idea to tell them that."

Well, here's my indie designer statement: I write these 'zines for fun. I'm not doing this for everyone. They might not be for you. But, if they are, and if you can get something out of it, even just 1% for your own game, that's great. Thanks for reading and maybe someday you'll let me know what you think.

[In The Game] My ideal Forgotten Realms Campaign Kicker

I've been a fan of the Sons of Kryos podcast for a while and one of their earlier podcasts featured Jeff and Judd talking about Jeff's Forgotten Realms game which started with Elminster crucified and found by the PCs.

What a way to make the Forgotten Realms your own. That's a great Bang.

I like that - straight from the beginning, change the landscape of the NPCs to the point where what the PCs do is great and the NPCs are second fiddle.

So what would be my ideal Forgotten Realms Campaign Bang?

Whatever system I'd use, I'd start with the PCs traveling through Shadowdale and witnessing a mighty magical battle between an unknown baddie and Elminster. When the smoke cleared, the combatants would be gone and in their place would be two babies. Which is Elminster and which is the bad guy? What do the PCs do? Especially when they learn of the twin prophesies:
  • that the two children will grow up to become the twin-fathers of the reborn goddess Mystra, or
  • that one child will destroy the world while the other child ascends to becomes a god.
Just a thought that's been banging around in my head for a while now.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

[Books] The Thief

A lot of fantasy novels have a thief in them but none are as compelling or as surprising as The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. This is an excellent novel and the first of a series written by Turner. I heartily suggest every good fan of RPG thieves to give this a read and then incorporate the knowledge gained into their next character!

Friday, March 12, 2010

[Sorcerer] Von Neumann

Name: Von Neumann
Player: BW

Telltale: Circuit board fused on right arm

Stamina: 1 (chemically heightened)
Will: 4 (user/manipulative)
Lore: 5 (mad)

Cover: 4 (inventor)
Humanity: 4
Price: Scarred (-1 to casual interactions)

Kicker: Power cell stolen by recent customer.

Demon Name: Alfred
Demon Type: Parasite (Arm)

Telltale: Black talons on the hand

Binding strength: -2

Stamina: 4
Will: 6
Lore: 5
Power: 6

Desire: Corruption
Need: Drink human blood

  • Armor
  • Boost Stamina
  • Fast
  • Special Damage (talons)
  • Vitality

Thursday, March 11, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: The Free Companies

Washington, D.C. has between thirty and fifty bandit groups operating in the metro area at any one time. The smaller groups have around 4 members and the larger up to 20. They are indifferently armed and armored, some have permanent bases but all range across the whole city. If any one of these groups has survived alone in the District longer than 5 years, then they are not pushovers.

These bandits are collectively called The Free Companies. From scavenging, to highway robbery, to midnight raids into danger zones, if it can be fought, stolen, conned, or snatched, they do it. Most of these companies work for one or more of the stable survivor communities in the District, but some are willing to trade from anyone, and others will kill for the slightest advantage.

On the whole, though, the mad and insane ones don't last very long, as they have a tendency to self-implode or fight someone stronger. The vast majority tend to get along or at least remain neutral to each other, since most of them have enemies among the metro communities, so there is a tentative peace between them that is occasionally broken with extreme violence.

This doesn't make any of them boy scouts, but over the years the groups have been developing a culture similar to the Caribbean pirates of old - They consider themselves a law unto themselves and most adhere to "The Rule."

"The Rule" depend on the company, but most all agree to uphold these adages among themselves and within cross-company interactions:
  • "An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life."
  • "A moral scoundrel may occasionally do what duty requires."
  • "I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. "
  • "Never insult anyone by accident. "
  • "Merchant and pirate were for a long period one and the same person."
In the event that one of the companies causes trouble that rolls down onto all the other companies, then a great banding together is done and the offenders are "retired, with prejudice." This possibility make most leaders of Free Companies willing to work with each other so that everyone can get out of it with a profit and lives intact. They are all aware that they don't have the membership to withstand drawn out warfare - they are the little fish in the big ocean. The majority of the District communities can make their lives very difficult but they are useful to doing the dirty jobs that these communities don't want to waste resources on.
  • Fighting between crew members could be punished by death or marooning both men.
  • Pirates who brought women disguised as men aboard ship were threatened with death.
  • Sexual assault was punished with death.
  • Drinking during watch was punished by death.
  • Gambling for money was forbidden.
  • Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    [In The Game] Fear and Dependents

    "All men are islands. And what's more, this is the time to be one. This is an island age."
    - Will, About a Boy

    There is an ongoing trope in gaming about the loner PC. No family, no friends, no past entanglements that the GM can hold against him.

    I think most of this is the result of fear that the GM will screw the player over and lack of a social contract. No man is an island, despite what the movies say. All of us, even the least of us, have some connections, somewhere.

    I've played in games and played PCs that have no past relationships defined explicitly or implicitly. And it hasn't hurt the game. But there are a lot of systems out there, like GURPS, that have Dependents (with the capital D) as a Disadvantage, worth points to improve your character on creation. That means the GM has the right and obligation to mess with them.

    Why choose dependents, when it's easier (and less stressful) to choose a disadvantage like overconfident or greedy or honest? Those really don't take any work and the points are effectively free, while dependents force players to behave in certain ways not in their control.

    But relationships, past and present, are real things to us as human beings. None of us could survive without having them, either professionally, personally or romantically. We all have someone.

    "Every man is an island. But clearly, some men are part of island chains. Below the surface of the ocean they're actually connected." - Will, About a Boy

    Have you heard of Dunbar's Number? It's pretty fascinating. According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar, the maximum theoretical cognitive limit for stable social relationships is 150. That's counting all the relationships in your life if I understand it. And 150 is a pretty big number for small brains like ours.

    We're social animals. Gaming is a social activity. Not to draw any Venn Diagrams here, but if you counted up all your family, friends, gamer friends, work friends, aquaintences and old High School friends, could you reach 150? I think I could (simply because my large ethnic family).

    If each of us has 150 social relationships of some level or another, have we ever met anyone with no such relationships? No, because we all know that even "loners" have a few friends. Even the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, had family who cared about him, including his brother David who turned him in. And, face it, any self-proclaimed loner is either a poser or a nut. We all think it even if we don't say it. Why would we play that?

    "I was in some strange territory. Was I frightened? I was petrified." - Will, About a Boy

    As I mentioned earlier, players fear that the GM will use the PCs friends and family against them so they don't mention them or use the system to get points to define them. Given the choice between choosing dependents or overconfidence, the majority of players would choose the later. We players have been burned too many times by the GM and we GMs have done the burning. Admit it.

    So let's negotiate. Let's verbalize a social contract that the players and GM can use to include friends and families of the PCs into the game.

    First, the player has to be upfront and tell the GM what he's comfortable with and give him some leeway (i.e. you can't kill or hurt my PCs brother outright without my permission but you can use him to blackmail/threaten me into doing something, or get him involved as a dupe, or witness something that brings my PC into the scene).

    Second, the GM has to hold to that agreement and periodically check in with the player to see if the verbal contract can be changed (hey, I got an idea about your brother ...). Building trust is important but the GM also should also include the dependent just as a matter of course, without it being part of the adventure (you got a call from your brother and he needs you to call him back ...) which (hopefully) will lead into further adventure (his company's looking for an investigator and he put your name forward, expect a call).

    Finally, the player needs to involve his dependent himself by bringing him into the session, either as a source of information (my PCs brother got beat up by some thugs after wandering into a possible drug deal at the local library and my PC wants to investigate) or a bit of background color (my PC spends the weekend in Vegas with his brother).

    "Oh, please, just shut up. You're wounding my soul." - Will, About a Boy

    Even past relationships and dead relatives can bring in the adventure. A few years ago, I ran a Colonial Gothic game where one of the PCs had a dead wife and the player had left the backstory was sketchy. I used that info and filled in the blanks, saying that the frontiersman PC was in business with a man who later betrayed the PC, his wife and his wife's tribe to the British, and that man was in Boston, now a Lieutenant in the British Army. The player agreed to the additions to his backstory and had an instant reason to get involved in the adventure.

    Past relations can be everything from old lovers, friends of the family, childhood friends or old rivals. And dead relatives can still bring problems down on the PCs - a common fiction trope has the enemy of a father returning to exact revenge on the son. Even if the PC is a loner, the GM can spring that one on him, which is especially good if the PC is an orphan who never knew his parents.

    We live in a world filled with relationships, not to things or organizations, but to people, past and present. Developing these relationships will lead to a better gaming experience. And build trust between players and GMs.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    [Sorcerer] Scry

    Name: Scry
    Player: KW

    Telltale: Gold hour-glass pupil.

    Stamina: 3 (specialized combat training)
    Will: 3 (zest for life)
    Lore: 4 (solitary adept)

    Cover: 3 (ex-commando)
    Humanity: 2
    Price: Cynical (-1 to all Humanity checks)

    Kicker: Scry and her crew was all set to escape but when she showed up at the meet-up, they were all dead.

    Demon Name: Ingvar
    Demon Type: Parasite (Eye)

    Telltale: Blood red eye

    Binding strength: +1

    Stamina: 3
    Will: 7
    Lore: 6
    Power: 7

    Desire: Mayhem
    Need: Unknown to Scry

    • Boost Stamina
    • Confuse
    • Cloak
    • Hold
    • Perception (city-sense)
    • Special Damage (blood-red lightning)

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    [My Collection] The 23rd Letter, Part 1

    Back in 1996, Crucible Design published a game about psychics and psychic powers called The 23rd Letter. I was looking through my collection recently and came across it (in fact, the second revised edition, from 1997, is the one I have).

    Crucible Design was the first and only RPG game company from Northern Ireland that I had ever heard of and their games have now transitioned to author Matt Johnston's blog Late Gaming.

    Looking around the net, has a sole review on it and a few other bits (1, 2, 3) and there is precious little elsewhere. Looking through Matt's Blog, there are about 10 posts (from 25 Feb 2008 to 8 Nov 2008) that include some really good content for the game. His blog has a bunch of other stuff, including a pretty cool Narnia/WWII crossover blurb.

    (I wrote several questions to Matt about his games and Crucible Design, it's past and present, and he was kind enough to answer. I will post our discussion in Part 2.)

    The 23rd Letter was available from Key20 before they blew up in 2009 but you can still get it from Late Gaming (over 100 in stock) at the bargain price of £9.99 (+ £2.50 shipping ~ about $19 US). There's also a download page (including a PC sheet and the unfinished but still useful Projects Sourcebook) and two other games to buy (Zombi and SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis XDO).

    If I recall correctly, I heard about it sometime around 1998 (probably by reading that sole review on and managed to find a copy at a game shop when I visited by sister in D.C. around 2001. At $16.99 (I think it was in the sale bin so I probably paid much less than that) and 72 pages, it wasn't a big purchase. I believe I looked through it briefly and stuck it in my miscellaneous games box.

    Now, nearly a decade later, I found it and decided to take a read. Maybe I'll even run a game.

    Who knows? You can't read my mind.

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    [Sorcerer] Bill Forks

    Name: Bill Forks
    Player: BB

    Telltale: Ornate neck tattoo

    Stamina: 5 (scrapper, natural vigor)
    Will: 4 (high self esteem)
    Lore: 1 (naif)

    Cover: 5 (NY Cabbie)
    Humanity: 3
    Price: Still in Denial (-1 to any first roll when dealing with demons)

    Kicker: Saw last fare get killed by gangers, now they're looking for him.

    Demon Name: The King in Yellow Cab
    Demon Type: Object (automobile, yellow cab taxi)

    Telltale: Headlights manifest pupils

    Binding strength: +1

    Stamina: 7
    Will: 8
    Lore: 7
    Power: 8

    Desire: Competition
    Need: Cassette Tapes

    • Big
    • Cloak
    • Cover: Race Car Driver
    • Fast
    • Hold (in the cab only)
    • Transport
    • Travel

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    [Blogs] Ghosts of Pat Pullings Past

    The Other Side Blog, by Tim Brannan, recently posted about a murder tenuously linked to D&D by the media (back in February).

    I'm not going to rehash the case or lack of journalism but the best thing about the whole mess was Tim's comment: "Next thing you know someone is digging up old Pat Pulling again and TLN is showing "Mazes & Monsters" in heavy rotation."

    Morbidly, I thought of what sort of game an undead Pat Pulling could be present in.

    Sure, it's not a nice thought. And I feel very bad about thinking it. Pat was a real person with a family who loved her and so on. And I was raised not to speak ill of the dead.

    But how better to honor her than to have an undead Pat Pulling attacking the PCs during some modern day ritual?

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    [Sorcerer] Escape from New York One-Sheet

    "In 1988, the crime rate in the United States rises four hundred percent.

    The once great City of New York becomes the one maximum security prison for the entire country.

    A fifty-foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem River and down along the Brooklyn shoreline. It completely surrounds Manhattan Island.

    All bridges and waterways are mined.

    The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. There are no guards inside the prison, only prisoners and the worlds they have made.

    The rules are simple: once you go in, you don't come out."

    "Attention. You are now entering the Debarkation Area. No talking. No smoking. Follow the orange line to the Processing Area. The next scheduled departure to the prison is in two hours. You now have the option to terminate and be cremated on the premises. If you elect this option, notify the Duty Sergeant in your Processing Area."

    "Some of them have cars. They took old junkers that were left behind, converted them to steam. We think they also may have a gasoline source in there, and power, greenhouses, rigged-up generators, some areas have streetlights.

    The Crazies, live in the subways, complete control the underground, the night raiders."

    Sorcerer: Escape from New York

    "Shoot a cop
    With a gun
    The Big Apple is plenty of fun"

    Setting: New York Maximum Security Penitentiary, Manhattan Island.

    In the early 1980s, the crime rate in the United States went through the roof. The island of Manhattan was sealed up into the largest, and only, maximum security prison in the country. Criminals are transported and incarcerated in the prison for life. There are no guards in the prison itself, the criminals have the run of the place. The guards are all along the containment walls around the island and all the waterways and bridges are mined. Escape is impossible but many try and die in the attempt. Either that or die in the city.

    "Stab a priest
    With a fork
    And you'll spend your vacation in New York"

    When: Now.

    The prison has been in operation for over twenty years. Plenty of time for children to have been born into the life. Plenty of time for some sort of society to exist, including those built by the hard case criminals and the murderers.

    "Rob a bank
    Take a truck
    You can get here by stealing a buck"

    Sorcerers are: criminals to connect with the entropy of the universe in order to feed their basest of needs and individuals who use their vision to change their world.

    "This is bliss
    It's a lark
    Honey, everyone's coming to New York!"

    Demons are: the entropy of the universe in forms that can interact with the real world.

    "No more Yankees
    Strike the word from your ears"

    Lore is: a mix of criminal knowledge and pop-culture, watching the tea cup as it smashes to the ground and seeing the Entropy that can never be turned back.

    "Play the roulette
    There's no more opera at the Met"

    Rituals are: actions that feed into the Entropy of the universe, either through creation of mad art or music or destruction.

    "This is hell

    This is fate
    But now this is your home and it's great"

    Humanity is: compassion and respect for human life.

    In the Rotten Apple, life is cheap. Criminals rule the roost and it's a dog-eat-dog prison. More and more crazies are made by men and women who lose their humanity to complete savagery.

    "So rejoice
    Pop a cork
    Honey, everyone's coming to New York! (1)"

    When Humanity reaches zero: you've become a Crazy.

    You'll either join in with other Crazies, living in the subways as a night raider, or go it alone. Life as a Crazy is nasty, brutish and short. Survival is dog-eat-dog. And few last long but do a whole bunch of damage to others before they shuffling off this mortal coil.

    "Once you go in, you never come out."

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    [Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: The City of Presidents

    The District of Columbia has a long history, filled with tales of great men and women, great conflict, and great sacrifice. But forget about that. All that was swept away, as most man-made societies, in the flash of war. The history of this town is not in most survivors' minds, the present and the future is, though.

    Twenty-five years after the Ruin, people are still fighting to survive: the environment, disease, pockets of bio- and chem-agents, radiation, wild animals, other humans, and even their own baser instincts. The town is a mess and it keeps getting worse.

    The metro area once held over 5 million people, now barely 50,000 scratch and survive on it's corpse, fighting for any advantage for their people. About a dozen or so stable communities are spread across the rotting canvas of this once great city.

    D.C. was a town of politicians and lobbyists, government employees and hangers-on. After the Ruin, the surviving structure of the government splintered into different camps and communities. The Pentagon is still there, probably the most powerful group, but unable to act much beyond their own borders. The FBI had some survivors as well, they retreated to Pooks Hill and the ertzatz CIA in Langley? They're a joke, but a deadly one. And even the Kennedys have returned to Washington, too. Didn't you know that?

    But government wasn't the only thing in the District. There were people with businesses, neighborhoods tied together by ethnicity and religion, doctors, lawyers, indian chiefs, conspiracy theorists and political kooks. Now there are Commies to the west and Mennonites to the south, skinheads and gang-bangers and murderers and thieves.

    Whatever their past or present, each one of these groups are vying with the others for limited resources, each trying desperately to survive. More and more, some are succumbing to banditry and violence, supporting rough men of their own to get the job done. These brigand groups are collectively known as Free Companies.

    The Free Companies raid with impunity, scavenge like rats and run through the streets with abandon. Some are very dangerous, all crazies. Some have goals and beliefs that would make your hair curl. Others are just trying to get by, supporting their families. All are to be watched. Few are to be trusted, even by those communities that support them.

    But not all is conflict and warfare. Oh, no. It's not the city of taxation without representation anymore. Most of the communities realized the benefit of some cooperation, so Treaty Hospital, at the Old DC General Hospital, still works, guarded by the smart majority of the population. The FFA, the food growers, are another community protected, otherwise the city would starve. The Weather Boys keep the town appraised of the wind and the fallout. Sure, D.C. never got hit but New York did and so did Philadelphia. Bad winds coming from those towns.

    But what will the winds of change bring to the District? Most folk think History is something that happened yesterday and doesn't really help them today. The old world is becoming a place of magic to the young and the tall tales grow with each year. Dreams of a meal have replaced dreams of a re-built America. But there is hope in the Ruin. And maybe America and D.C. will rise again to greatness.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    [In The Game] Who Are You?

    “The unexamined life is not worth living.” - Socrates

    A link on brought me to Paul Graham's article Keep Your Identity Small. He makes a convincing argument that people who have identified with specific ideologies have a difficult time arguing about religion and politics that deal with those ideologies because they are personal.

    I think it can also apply to RPGs. There are plenty of gamers who self-identify with one product or set of gaming thought or specific authors. They argue endlessly that others are playing the games "bad wrong fun." I've done it myself.
    • Do you consider yourself a traditional gamer? Do you eschew indie games?
    • Hardcore power gamers are the only ones that have fun!
    • Are you an indie gamer not interested in the hack-and-slash of D20?
    • Have people accused you of being a casual gamer, like it's a bad thing?
    • Damn those LARPers! They're not real gamers!
    There are plenty of blogs and articles about how we balkanize gaming into sub-groups from an already small niche. Do we split up or just step back, take a deep breath and realize that we're all gamers.

    After reading this article, I have to honestly ask myself: who am I? And who do I identify with and why?

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    [Blogs] Play Sorcerer

    Since I've been reading over (and running a one-shot campaign of) Ron Edward's Sorcerer, I found a blog by Christopher Kubasik called Play Sorcerer. Christopher's January 24th entry has several cool settings, including Hidden Gods.

    The artwork is very evocative and the setting just plain rocks on toast. I love reading how people are using Sorcerer and have learned a lot about the game from reading the various settings available for it.

    Check out the Play Sorcerer blog, it's a very cool one.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    [Vids] Foyle's War

    I picked up the box set of Set 1-5 of Foyle's War at Costco a couple of weeks ago and managed to get the gf to join me in watching them. The show is a cop drama set during World War II, in Hastings, England. So far, we're on Set 1 and really enjoying it. If you are running any type of WWII game set in England, it's a good show to watch for adventure ideas.