Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #497
5 Things Driving Across the Country Taught Me About DMing
This Week's Tips Summarized
5 Things Driving Across the Country Taught Me About DMing
A Brief Word From Johnn
Two Sentence City Encounter Contest Ends Next Week
To celebrate upcoming Issue #500 for Roleplaying Tips we're
holding a contest: two sentence city encounters. To enter,
send in city encounter seeds and ideas 1-3 sentences long.
Each encounter should contain some conflict to make it
interesting to play. For example:
A shadow demon is summoned to assassinate a bard during a
performance. The bard sings of the mistakes, ineptness and
evil deeds of the PCs. Do they intervene when the attack
What Can You Win?
All told, there are 20 prizes up for grabs.
Multiple entries are welcome, and each give you more chance
to be randomly drawn for a prize.
And thanks to Trechriron for the support by posting about
the contest online at various sites!
Email entries now to email@example.com
News: "My First Gen Con" Series and Contest at KQ
Until the end of July, RPT sponsor Kobold Quarterly is
running a series of guest posts by well-known people in the
games industry, writing on the topic "My First Gen Con."
They are also running a contest where you send your "My
First Gen Con" story in 300 words or less. The author of the
best entry as judged by the Kobold staff will win $100 in
credit at the Kobold Quarterly booth at Gen Con Indy 2010,
and $50 spending money at the Con! (You must visit our booth
at this year's Con to receive your prizes.)
Deadline for entry is July 20. More details.
Have a game-full week!
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Reader Tip Request: Car Chase Tips & Rules
Do you know of a simple way to run a generic car chase? I
know Spycraft has a decent way, but it is more or less
specific to that RPG. I'm looking for something that can
work in CoC, Hero, Spirit of the Century, or whatever.
Richard, you can find some car chase tips at
However, it's been years since that topic came up, so let's
ask if anyone has more tips or generic rules.
Readers, if you have any car chase tips or rules, send'em to
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5 Things Driving Across the Country Taught Me About DMing
By Hannah Lipsky,
You might have noticed that I haven't been around for the
past couple months. That's because I've been in the process
of uprooting my entire life and moving it from one edge of
the continent to the other.
I did this in the most relaxing way possible, by which I
mean taking five days to drive a Honda Civic with a friend
and all of our worldy possessions in it across the country.
Never one to let a few months of turmoil keep me from
thinking about gaming, I've compiled a list of experiences
from my drive that you can apply to your campaign.
1. Four Backup Plans is Not Enough
I have the good fortune of having friends all across the
country, and wasn't planning on staying in any hotels during
the course of my drive. This plan was strongest in the
Denver area, where I know five different people. I made
plans in advance with one of them, and let a couple of the
others know I might be nearby. What could go wrong?
As it turns out, five different things. Two friends were out
of town, one had other guests, and the other two were
unavailable for other reasons. Well, at least there's plenty
of hotels around. Right?
Wrong. There was a huge marathon in Boulder the next day,
and every room in every hotel in a 50 mile radius was
booked. It took us another couple hours of driving north -
over pitch black mountain roads - to find a place to stay.
What did this teach me about DMing? That even the things the
PCs most rely on should occasionally fail.
Maybe a trusted informant is out of town when they need his
information. Someone else has borrowed the scrolls from the
library. There's been a run on healing potions and the
alchemist is clean out until the next shipment in a month.
Perhaps the PCs can even face the same situation I did, and
come into town weary from dungeon crawling only to discover
that there's a grand tournament taking place and every inn
is full. They'll have to camp outside the city walls, or
press on to a nearby village.
2. Ohio is a Police State
We were driving on Memorial Day Weekend and had been warned
that local cops and state troopers would be out in force.
This prediction held true in Ohio, where we counted over 20
officers, but then declined sharply in the neighboring
There were only a handful of police in Kansas, and none at
all by the time we got to Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. In
fact, the law in Utah appeared to be that all vehicles must
exceed the posted limit by at least 10 miles per hour at all
Aside from avoiding Utah next time you take a road trip
(going that fast in twisty canyons is not as fun as it
sounds), how is this helpful for you?
Town guards are usually either a tiny footnote in the
background, or part of the main plot. Why not use them to
bring towns to life? Whenever the PCs approach a city,
figure out or roll for how many guards they are and how much
petty crime there is.
One town might have guards on every corner, while another
could have rampant pickpockets and con artists and nary a
guard in sight. Even if there's nothing special for the
party to investigate - no fascist baron in the first town,
nor corrupt mayor in the second - it'll still make the place
a little more interesting.
3. Your Prices May Vary
Gas prices. Need I say more? Cringe-worthy in some states
and jaw-droppingly low in others, they're always worth
paying attention to.
Why not have something similar in your game? Maybe healing
potions have been going up in price lately, but you can
still find them cheaply in some areas. Perhaps the same is
true of ale, or grain for horses, or anything else the party
will have to stock up on regularly.
Get some dice - at least one Fudge die with the +, - and
blank will work great - and roll them whenever the party
comes to a new town. Say, +/-1d6 gold to the price of a
potion, or +/-1d10 silver to the cost of a barrel of ale.
Your players will learn to be on the look out for lower
prices, and buy as much as they can when they find them.
The same sort of thing might even apply to lodging - a good
inn in a cheap city might cost less than a cot in a filthy
hovel in the nation's expensive capitol.
4. Vary Your Supplies
I love root beer. Since I've mostly given up on caffeine,
it's one of the few carbonated beverages I can still drink.
And no one really dislikes it. So when it was time to load
up the cooler for our trip, we filled it with root beer. We
drove through a lot of dry regions, so we were sipping
drinks almost constantly.
You can probably see where this is heading. After five days
of drinking root beer nonstop, I was sick of it.
Even the grittiest of campaigns that track every detail of
rations and encumberance probably don't take into account
how annoying it is to eat and drink the same things day
There's a couple of ways you could use this in your game. If
it fits your campaign, you could apply some sort of penalty
if the party stocks up on nothing but the cheapest, most
bland hardtack it can find. But a perhaps more interesting
way to handle it would be in the reactions of NPCs.
Isolated villages might not have much use for gold, but
prize what to them are rare and exotic foods that the PCs
picked up farther back in their travels. Likewise, the local
brew of a small mining community might not cost much more
than water while in the mountains, but be more valuable than
silver to people living on the plains.
It's not about the quality - it's about tasting something
5. Murphy's Law of Weapon Transportation
I own a lot of swords. While most of my friends think this
is awesome, most people who aren't my friends usually
respond with confusion or alarm. That's why I kept my swords
hidden during the drive.
Then we got to a hotel and had to move our stuff into our
room. I walked from the parking lot to the room carrying my
backpack, and no one was around. Carried my clothes and some
small items of furniture, and no one was there.
But the trip where I was just barely hanging onto my
shortsword and had a bundle of larger swords under my other
arm? Yeah, that's when the maid was leaving the room next to
The same thing happened moving into our apartment. Clothes,
furniture, computers, and the parking lot and hallway are
dead. Falchion over one shoulder and escrima sticks in my
other hand? Several families with small children passed me
on the way to the elevator.
Melee weapons might be more common in the time periods
during which most campaigns are set, but the average PC
still carries a lot more armament than is typical.
If Murphy's Law of Weapon Transportation applies to your
PCs, the times when they least intend to cause trouble are
going to be the occasions on which the most alarmed
civilians will take note of them.
Walking casually on the way to the market? Surely someone
with that much weaponry intends on robbing it. Trying to
gain entrance to a gated city? The gate exists exactly to
keep that sort of suspicious ruffian out. Hoping to offer
aid to a stranded merchant caravan? Yeah, that's just what
the bandits who were outfitted exactly like you said they
were doing, too.
* * *
Comment from Johnn: By the fact you wrote this article,
Hannah, we can assume you completed your trip successfully.
Congrats on the migration. It sounds like you levelled up a
bit and took a few ranks in Philosophy (Cynicism). :)
Town status and events is a neat idea. Varying prices,
product shortages, missing services. Sounds like a good
topic for a future RPT contest. It would be cool to have a
table of 100 Town Events to help make the setting just a bit
different each time the PCs hit town, or stay in town for
more than a few days.
My Riddleport city campaign, for example, could use some
setting-based conditions to keep the day-to-day interesting
on another level.
Thanks for the article!
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For Your Game: 10 Bottles of Wine
By Magus of the Citadel,
30 Bottles of Wine
Wine is an old beverage, only younger than beer and water in
terms of human history. Wine just needs fruit, water and
yeast, as well as a little time to ferment. Raw wine, that
hasn't been aged, is called grappa and is usually cheap to
get and of poor quality.
Most wines derive their name from the location where they
are grown, such as Porte, Burgundy, and Marsala. While it is
a common notion that wine is only made of grapes, wine can
be made of any sugar laden fruit. In the southern United
States, wine can be found made from strawberries, peaches,
blueberries, and less than commonly known grapes such as the
muscadine and scuppernog.
Some Thoughts on Race and Wine
Humans are likely to be the most prodigious producers of
wine, being the race most commonly associated with mass
agriculture. Most of the wine for sale or in circulation
will be human made.
Elves would make better wines, having greater experience and
delicate senses, but would always fall behind humans in that
their wine is produced via horticulture rather than
agriculture. They let the grapes grow where they will,
rather than creating vineyards.
Dwarves, long time ale and beer drinkers, would remain so.
Grapes don't grow well in mountainous terrain.
Orcs and goblins would likely have wine as well, but rather
than organized efforts, each clan, tribe, or band would have
a few members who know how to make some stout home-brew.
Quick Wine Basics
The standard wine bottle (a rather modern notion) is just
shy of 1/5th of a gallon, or one liter. The dimple in the
bottom of the bottle is called the punt and has been given a
variety of reasons for existing, ranging from the technique
used to blow glass bottles, to strengthening the bottle, to
being used as a guide by servants, pointing with a thumb
inside of the punt.
- Piccolo - quarter-liter
- Demi - half liter
- Standard - 1 liter
- Magnum - 1.5 liter
- Double-Magnum 3 liters
- Imperial - 6 liters
- Sovereign - 25 liters
There are a large variety of other bottle sizes, such as the
20 liter Solomon, the 12 liter Balthazar, and the 9 liter
Salmanazar. All of these bottle sizes are named for biblical
kings and such, and would fit rather awkwardly in a standard
genre fantasy game. As such, I only included the generic
named sizes. The Demi and Piccolo (half and small,
respectively) are easy enough to rename into another in game
language. A Demi could be a Halflinger, or a Hobbit, and the
Piccolo could be a Kobolder or some-such.
This is a popular wine, foremost coming from the Ermengarde
valley in Nahalast prefecture. It is a ripe and full bodied
wine best served slightly chilled. This wine is seen as a
status symbol of sorts among the gentry and the nobility,
and serves as the baseline of what is acceptable in polite
company, and what is plebian wine.
2. Turhin Red
Turhin is a cheap wine made from whatever grapes are left
from the pickings in the Turhino river vineyards. This
includes the grapes that were rejected for other wines, wild
grapes, and anything else that might be dumped into the
mixture. Given the size of the region, a large amount of
this wine is made every year, and sold only in wooden casks.
Generally it is sold to taverns, brothels, and slum hostels
and is of uniformly poor quality.
3. Daidaugh Wildwine
An expensive wine with a complex taste, Daidaugh is made
only from wild grapes found growing around the druidic copse
at Daidaugh Hill. Very few bottles are made and most are
consumed by the druids themselves, but the few that are sold
command a hefty price on the market due to scarcity.
This wine is generally reviled by elves and friends of the
forest as it is aged in oaken barrels made from treefolk.
The wine itself is mellow and nutty. It is an expensive wine
since the winery only has a few barrels that can properly
age the wine. The rest of the wine, which is similar in
taste, sells much cheaper and is simple Rhoh Red.
This blood red wine is made by the orcs of the Lynnian
steppe from the fruit of the Ada tree, a fruit much like a
pomegranate, but somewhat larger. The wine itself is almost
syrupy in consistency, and slightly adhesive. Orcs drink it
in large amounts, and sometimes use it as a flammable
weapon, throwing burning bladders of it at wooden defences
and squads of human infantry. If cut with water, Adat makes
a palatable beverage.
6. Rast-Apple Cider
Ciders are all made from apples or pears, but are
essentially still wines. Rast-Apple cider, made from a
peculiar golden apple, is a popular if expensive beverage.
It is good for easing illness of the stomach and gut as well
as never leaving a hangover. To ensure that the cider is
legitimate, a single seed is left in the bottom of the
7. Darkim Black
A red wine so rich and opulent that it is almost black in
color, Darkim is the preferred wine of tieflings and
darkling kindred. The grapes are watered with a mixture of
blood and water, and fertilized with ground bone. The plants
are thick and lush, the wine is fragrant and a pleasure to
drink. In most regions, Darkim is considered an illegal good
and is confiscated and destroyed, and Darkim vineyards tend
to be put to the torch when found.
8. Ilta Lynath
Often called the wine of bards, Ilta Lynath is made with
extra potency, and after quaffing several glasses, even the
most lead-tongued bumbler feels moved to sing and recite
epic poetry. While the elves generally record this in their
multi-volume books of prose, most human ramblings are
quickly forgotten or become popular tavern songs. The wine
itself is a passably good red wine with a smooth velvet
finish and a warm citrus aftertaste.
9. T'puuli Hastras
A sacred wine, the elves only make seven bottles of it a
year. The vintage is made exclusively by a single master
vintner, each given as a gift to an elfin lord or lady. The
wine is considered the height of wine-making, and in the
rare instances when a bottle reaches the open market, the
price is astounding. This has happened twice before. The
first time the bottle sold for close to 3200 pieces of gold,
and disappeared into a lord's wine cellar. The second time,
the bottle was sold, stolen, resold, and then six dozen
bottles of counterfeit was discovered.
10. Kalakhammer Honeywine
One of the few wines made by dwarves, Kalakhammer is made
from honey, cardamon and blueberries. The pale blue beverage
has a potent spicy flavor and is more of an experiment among
the Kalakhammer clans than a major consumable. They export
most of the wine, the principle buyers being jaded humans
looking for something different.
Get 20 more wines.
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WWII Supers Campaign Ideas - Reader Tips
In RPT #496 I posted a tip request from a reader looking for
help starting up a WWII alternate history super hero
campaign. Here is how your fellow readers responded.
10 Campaign Ideas
From: Jerry McWaters
Idea 1: Have the party hunt for artifacts or gold treasure
in Egypt or Romania, since Romania has massive gold mines.
This could bring in Vampire/Werewolf into the game if he
already has the material or necromancers bringing undead to
deal with the intruders.
Idea 2: What if Hitler is an immortal and he is actually
Machiavelli or Napoleon in disguise? And the party finds
something related to the truth. Hitler was obsessed with the
Idea 3: PCs help the Resistance fight against any of the
three factions. Just loot Star Wars, change the Empire to
#3, make it land-based, and there is plenty of stuff there
and the players won't know about it.
Idea 4: Shake it all up. The party members are actually
German patriots believing their government is right. And
they are fighting to stop invaders. In their minds, the US
would be terrorists.
Idea 5: Japan creates first WWII armored suits (mechs).
Idea 6: "The Dirty Dozen" but PCs are unknown to the
majority of the military. How to do their job without our
boys thinking they are the enemy, and not killing our boys
when they target the supers?
Idea 7: Look through comics and make the Avengers/Justice
League any group of a WWII movie.
Idea 8: D-Day with German supers and possible Japanese
allies awaiting at Omaha beach.
Idea 9: Keep the villain non-super, just a regular
government official. Lots more scarier, plus possibility of
enemy supers defecting to escape forced enlistment.
Idea 10: CIA is operating sooner. How would they respond to
a supers agenda? Could use X-Men story lines there.
Use the Godlike RPG
From Mark of the Pixie
I would strongly advise Sean to check out "Godlike", a great
WWII supers game.
Even if you don't use their system (which is quite nice),
they have a lot of stuff which helps set tone and atmosphere
for a WWII supers game.
[Comment from Johnn: Good call, Mark. That reminds me of
Dennis Detwiller's 12 WWII tips in RPT #171 ]
I usually played (mostly DM) for a superhero themed game and
this request is right up my ally. Though my heroes were
modern time (year 2000), I would send them to the past on
occasion, so I feel that some of my ideas and villains here
would work for Sean.
One of the biggest villains that I had, which really wasn't
a villain to my heroes, but kinda "Grey" neutral, is a woman
genius who was immortal.
Her name was The Langolier (yes, I liked the name from that
Stephen King movie). She was originally born in the 1600's
France and was brought up in a socialite and royal
environment. She has that sophisticated, superior attitude
and air about her and speaks in a thick French accent. She
wears elegant dresses, has long blonde hair, and is thin and
She is immortal, doesn't age, and after the French
Revolution she left France and escaped to Germany. She
called it home, in exile from her family estate outside of
Paris. She continued to develop her social skills, learned
many languages, sword play, fencing, education, science,
She helped Germany when they went to war, created weapons,
tanks, planes, machine guns. She was a Nazi in WW2,
developing many of the zany war machines that came out of
that war. She was not publicly given credit, as women were
not regarded with that level of respect, but she worked for
Hitler in the background, advising many high Nazis. Her goal
was to aid the Nazis in taking over France, which they did
with her help. Revenge for the French Revolution and driving
her out so many years ago.
She is power hungry, but has a much bigger ego. Most PCs can
goad her by verbally attacking her stature in society, her
upbringing, her intelligence, etc. She is the type to come
after the PCs directly without henchmen, using many gadgets
she invented to fight them. She does have Nazi SS henchmen
she commands, but they usually do menial tasks she does not
have time for.
Sean will have to adjust Langolier for his version of his
game. As with mine, it followed our current timeline and the
Nazis lost the war. In my game, Langolier is a war criminal
my heroes are after and run into sometimes. She's now trying
to re-start the Nazi movement, with modern technology.
Robots, lasers, rockets, cloning Hitler, engineered
super soldiers of true Aryan blood, etc.
Another villain I have is the Red Guard. Similar to Iron
Man, a Soviet soldier in a mechanical suit that was used in
the Soviet campaign against Germany in WW2. But unlike
Ironman, this suit is big, bulky, rusty, red, has a sickle
and hammer crest on the front, and a rocket pack on the back
that trails black sickening coal smoke when he flies.
The suit looks terribly scary. And it's meant to be that
way. It has a lot of weapons on it: tank-killer cannons,
missiles, machine guns. Imagine if the Russians make a T34
tank into a suit of armour for a man; this would be it, and
then made it scary as all hell!
The voice is heavily mechanized as he doesn't reveal his
face to talk, just a speaker (booming, distant like a
propaganda speaker on a tower). He speaks with a thick
Russian accent, and for added terror, when he flies around,
he can emit an air raid siren to terrify people on the
The armour is thick and hard, and it was meant to be
involved in heavy tank battles with the Nazis. He is slow,
and it will take time for him to power the suit on, or to
Another villain I had, which was discovered and created by
The Langolier, is called Die Kriegerin (The Warrior Woman).
She is the spirit of a Valkyrie in the body of a specially
chosen German woman.
The Langolier found some old Norse Mythos texts and a shrine
on how to imbue the spirit of a Norse God into a mortal and
set-up the experiment. (Presumably to do this to herself to
have godly power, but she wanted to test this out first on
someone else. She's not stupid! LOL.)
A German girl was chosen, who was as pure Aryan as possible
for generations and generations, was a virgin, blond hair,
blue eyed, etc. The ceremony took place and the girl was
imbued with massive power from the heavens.
Once all the fire and explosions of mystical energy
subsided, there stood a woman, not a young girl, standing
around 8 feet tall, athletic, muscular, toned and beautiful,
wearing golden armour and a sword around her waist. She
spoke only in Nordic (which Langolier knew and could also
speak), and found that it was the spirit of a Valkyrie that
joined this body, not a god.
But still, this worked out well for the Langolier, as Die
Kriegerin is motivated by death and gathering souls for
Valhalla, and would use her Valkyrie powers to accomplish
this. Being told of the war (from Langolier's Point of View
of course), Die Kriegerin was more than happy, honour bound
and dedicated to assist her Nordic Germanic people in
repelling the "evil" single Christian god invaders of the
She is strong, her sword emits a powerful energy beam, and
her Valkyrie Armour is indestructible as it comes from
Valhalla and forged by gods. She will become weak after
prolonged fighting, as it is a weakness in the human body
she is fused into. But she will only need to rest to regain
her strength. She is totally devoted to Germany as it's a
northern country similar to Norway, so trying to negotiate
or reason with her will not be successful.
In my game timeline, the allies were aware of Die
Kriegerin's presence and spend a lot of effort to kill her.
The Battleship Bismarck was her flagship, and was sailing to
France to pick her up to transport her to attack America,
which is why England was so determined to destroy Bismarck
Other big campaigns, tank battles and air wars were launched
when the allies found her leading a German army and tried to
destroy her. The war with Germany turned to the allies when,
on a massive air campaign, they successfully bombed her
unconscious and captured her. With Die Kriegerin no longer
able to aid Germany, they eventually lost the war. She
remains in captivity in suspended animation hidden somewhere
in a deep dark bunker to keep her knocked out as the allies
and the modern world do not want her released ever again.
Hope this helps. Good luck!
5 WWII Myths
From Max N.
My letter will sound a bit offensive, but I am trying to
tone it down. As a Russian I am offended by Sean's
suggestion of running a campaign where the Soviet Union is
part of the Axis.
To be more constructive, I suggest every DM out there trying
to run a WWII campaign should read the following cracked.com
5 WWII Myths
Still, I wish Sean luck with his game and I hope I didn't
sound to angry or trollish. WWII with supers is a great idea
if done right.
A Russian and a roleplayer
Get Player Input, Figure Out Campaign Style
From Rob Corrina
The setting you came up with sounds extraordinarily worthy
of a campaign. I hesitate to give specific suggestions since
I am ignorant as to your aesthetics and sensibilities.
I will say that, if you plan to run the players as a team,
then I recommend letting them pick from a list of jobs, such
as leader, pilot, etc. I have had success with this.
Also, if you need fodder for the campaign, I think you
should poll your players, perhaps one on one. I think
surprise is over-rated. You never know what ideas your
players might throw in, but every idea opens doors.
I think you might also want to decide what narrative your
campaign is most similar to. Is it filled with spies,
intrigue and coups like Frank Herbert's Dune? Are the
heroes' noble intentions and plans for revenge doomed to
failure and death as seen in the works of Frank Miller? This
might be a good area to poll your players about.
You may want to alter some rules to fit the narrative you
decide on. For example, the A-team was taken prisoner in
almost every episode; you may have a rule that if the team
losses a certain percentage of their hit points or armor
points that they automatically get captured. (Queue daring
Also consider the culture of this world and its war. Why is
no enemy killing the players when they are weakened, knocked
out, or trying to surrender? Are the players also expected
to give quarter to any enemy who asks for it? Is there some
sort of exchange? i.e. 'These guys let me live last time.'
In a nutshell the world should have its own morals.
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