Polar Adventures

The Polar Vortex has dipped into our neighborhood here in Alberta once again.

I took this screenshot from my weather app the other morning:

I tried to Photoshop it, but it froze! Ba dum bum.

Speaking of cold, today I just released the next GM Cheat Sheet: Polar Adventures!

Many of the GM Cheat Sheets roughly map to biomes. Arctic, forest, swamps, and so on.

Why do I care about biomes as a game master?

Well, firstly, I enjoy designing my own monsters.

We can get a lot of inspiration for monster design from figuring out where they live.

Now here’s a chicken and egg question for you. When building monsters, do you do the crunch first, or the fluff?

I like to do the fluff first. It’s easy to get bogged down in the mechanics. And, in my experience, by the time I’ve designed all the rules, the monster that’s come out the other side is kind of boring.

Also, for the cool stuff like what Actions it can take, I often get writer’s block with a mechanics-first approach. I know I want it to do 6d6 damage, but’s that’s pretty boring at face value, pun intended.

So I start by thinking about where a critter lives to help me design its actions. For example, how does it survive? What does it eat? Is it an apex predator, further down the pyramid, or even prey? Is it sentient? Cunning? And so on.

Take, for example, the Winter Hag from the Polar Adventures GM Cheat Sheet. Knowing this critter dwells in the frozen depths of the arctic, I brainstorm these ideas:

  1. Very furry and blubbery to protect from cold. Walrus-like maybe?
  2. It eats fish and seals called Paul McCartney.
  3. It can charm polar bears, or maybe train them as animal companions.
  4. Big feet like snowshoes for easy travel across the ice and deep snow.
  5. Frostbite — cool name for an attack.
  6. It can hurl anti-fireballs — cold balls that freeze foes.
  7. Maybe it can create freezing fog to obscure itself.
  8. Causing hypothermia must be a chilling power.
  9. What about animating vicious snowmen?
  10. A heart of ice. Literally, maybe?
  11. Can it change shape into snow or become a blizzard? Snowshape.
  12. Snow blindness. It has black eyes or dark cheeks to protect it.

As you probably know, the key to great ideas is to splurge out a bunch of ideas. Most will be garbage. But a few will be awesome. So, brainstorming d12 potential Actions my monster can take or features it might have, based on its biome, gives me a foothold into its Laws, Legends, and Lore (my lingo for mechanics, world details, and adventure hooks).

From blank paper to biome to fearsome witch of the north.

Ok, I’ll end it there. I only got through my first tip about why I care about biomes today. I’ll give you my next tip tomorrow. See you then.

Also, if you are interested in the GM Cheat Sheet Bundle, the deadline for that is Friday midnight Eastern. Use them to build instant adventures or fuel your monster designs!

Have more fun at every game!

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