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Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #461

Introducing New RPGs



This Week's Tips Summarized 

Introducing New RPGs

Introducing New RPGs

For Your Game: 10 Secret Agents

New GM Advice @


Johnn Four's GM Guide Books

Castoffs and Crossbreeds Now Available

Your guide to half races for your 4e game is now available! This 24-paged supplement is packed with 12 new crossbreeds, guidelines for you to make your own, and the demiurge - a new potential source for half races in your campaign.

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A Brief Word From Hannah 

Bards Everywhere You Listen

While brainstorming ideas for a project, I hit upon a novel way to create a bardic character: imagine the narrator of whatever song you're currently listening to is a bard.

Country songs and soft rock will probably yield characters similar to the stereotypical bard: flamboyant and passionate. But what about hard rock, heavy metal, or musicals? Imagine if Blind Mag from Repo! The Genetic Opera were a medieval bard, or the narrator in the song Bad to the Bone.

Great Post-Apocalyptic Music

A while ago a friend introduced me to Protoman: The Megaman Rock Opera. I rediscovered it a few weeks ago, and have been listening to the music almost non-stop. It's a great inspiration for any kind of post-apocalyptic setting.

Their website is unfortunately kind of unnavigable, but here's one of their songs.

Chaotic Shiny's Monster Contest

Johnn mentioned it last issue, but I thought I'd put in a plug in my own words. I'm running my first ever contest at Chaotic Shiny. I'm excited, and I hope I'll be able to run more of these in the future.

Create a monster with the random monster generator on the site, stat it up (preferably 4e style, but any system is fine), write some fluff, and send it in. The contest runs through September 26, so there's still plenty of time to enter.

We have a ton of awesome sponsors, including Johnn, who's offering some of his ebooks. At the moment, there aren't too many entries, so if you do enter, you're almost guaranteed to win something.

Monster contest rules and FAQ.

Hannah Lipsky
AIM: DemonIllusionist

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Introducing New RPGs  

by Jim Davenport

There comes a day in even the most die-hard groups when someone discovers a new game system and wants to try it out. How do you introduce that game to your players in the way that gives it the best chance of survival and the best chance of fun for your players?

Here are a few tips, assuming your gaming group is experienced and not new to RPGs.

  1. Share the Excitement

    First of all, you need to find what it is about the game that excites you. Is it the topic? The milieu? Something about the rules mechanics that just feels fun?

    What drew you to the game is what you need to bring out for your players. Let them know ahead of time what you love about it so they know to focus on that aspect.

    If the draw of the new game is its topic, and that topic is based on a movie or book you loved, encourage your players to view/read the same source material. They can start out with the same level of depth on the milieu as you do, and they will be more likely to enjoy the game.

    Hold a viewing party if the inspiration is a movie or TV series. See if they're as fascinated as you are by the latest "group of people hunting down supernatural monsters that the rest of society doesn't want to believe exists" show. If they are bored, you have not chosen wisely, Padawan.
  2. Study Up

    Assuming your gang is interested in the topic of the game, make sure you are familiar with it.

    Read through the rule book and understand the mechanics of character generation, combat resolution, skill use resolution, magic/supernatural events, roleplaying rewards, character advancement, etc.

    Determine if each section is pretty straightforward or if there is a nuance or method you think is worth noting. Write it down.
  3. Make an Introductory Adventure

    Create a small adventure that hits on the sweet spots of the milieu. You shouldn't plan out a whole campaign since the group might not like the new game, but you don't want to just throw down a tavern and make them brawl.

    Make the adventure something that can have an initial climax in one session, but with potential to extend to a couple more sessions if people are excited about it.

    If your group is very familiar with the setting, or if character creation is of particular interest in the game, go through character generation together at the table.

    Otherwise, make pre-generated characters that best exemplify the range of characters the game is designed to handle and takes advantage of the cool stuff in the rules. Nothing too complex, but rich enough to give each player a few different things their character can do well, and some hooks for roleplaying.
  4. Have Answers Ready

    So you have an adventure and characters. You might be tempted to make handouts of the basic rules of the game. Generally those expand and expand until you have a dense page that no player will really decipher. And it distracts from the game.

    Make one for yourself if you wish, but let the players funnel all of their rules questions through you. What do they do to attack a pirate? How can they check to pilot the spaceship? How do they search for secrets?

    Each of these is a question to you so be ready with the answers, clear and simple. Answer them quick without a lot of explanation of the mechanics so the story doesn't bog down.
  5. Teach the Rules

    Once you've played a session or two, let the rules wonks in your group borrow the rulebook to satisfy themselves.

    If the group votes to run longer in the game system, then you can shift your focus to teaching them the system.

    If the rules are complex, then everyone should be buying their own book and learning from that. If the rules are simple, then you can consider cheat sheets or index cards with the key rules for those who need that sort of reinforcement.

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Hopefully, these tips are helpful if you're considering introducing a new game to your home crew.

Jim Davenport Dragonlaird Gaming

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Shadow Planar Adventure

Open Design is seeking a few patrons and playtesters to help design a 4th Edition D&D adventure called the Court of the Shadow Fey. Written by Wolfgang Baur with input from gamers, the Open Design adventures are multiple award-winners that are great to play because of their tested, collaborative design.

Bring your best ideas and see them turned into a fully- realized adventure with your name in the credits!

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For Your Game: 10 Secret Agents 

by Cheka Man with permission from Strolen's Citadel.

  1. The Agent Provocateur

    This agent has thoroughly infiltrated the group he was sent to, but he has decided to bend and in some cases break the law. He has incited the group to greater levels of violence than before he entered it. Whilst many of the members of the group have been arrested by the police before they can do their dastardly deeds, some of them escaped capture.

    His handlers suspect what he is doing but let him get away with it, partly to avoid blowing his cover and getting him killed, and partly because they are corrupt themselves.
  2. The Bumbling Fool

    This person knows almost nothing about the country or its customs. He does things like trying to order hard liquor from pubs when the pubs only sell beer.

    If he does not start behaving properly he will soon be placed under arrest, and what in peacetime only earns a few years in prison is a hanging offence in wartime.
  3. The Child

    Although not actually a child, this vertically challenged person has used plastic surgery and some skilled voice acting to impersonate a young child of 9-13 years old. This allows her to go places others can't and overhear things, as no one pays attention to a child listening in. Even if caught she would only be told off for being somewhere forbidden instead of being arrested.
  4. The Double Agent

    Captured by a rival secret service and facing the gallows, this man was made an offer he could not refuse. Either hang, or become a double agent and feed false information back to his spymasters, along with the odd tidbit of real information so they don't find out what has happened. He regrets what he has done but sees no other option to stay alive.
  5. The Mentally Challenged

    This person is eloquently capable of impersonating those of lesser than average intelligence, right down to the shambling gait, vacant stare and lisp of speech. Often willing to work for a mere pittance of what others demand, this spy can employ themselves in janitorial services easily, using a mop, bucket, and scrub brush to go where most would not be allowed. Not to mention going through the trash for valuable intelligence.
  6. The Sleeper

    This agent infiltrated a rival secret service more than three decades ago, and in all that time he has never been activated. As a result, he has risen to be the deputy head of the secret service with access to the records of every agent, every informant and every code and code word.

    When he is activated, his information will be devastating to the rival secret service. Before activating him his handlers must figure out a way to get him back to his home country alive, where he will be well rewarded.
  7. The Mata Hari

    This beautiful female agent used to be a professional singer before she was hired to win valuable secrets from high- ranking military officers through pillow talk. She is unhappy with her lot, not because she feels in danger of being revealed as a spy and executed, but because the generals that she interacts with are all rather old and fat, instead of the dashing young officers that she expected.
  8. The James Bond

    Less of a spy as such and more of an assassin, this man is one of the few secret service operatives with a license to kill. He has faced down and killed several major international villains and prevented terrible acts from taking place. None of those on his hit list are world leaders, however, as there is an unofficial convention that world leaders do not send assassins to kill each other.
  9. The Idealist

    Whilst most spies are paid well for risking their liberty, and in some cases their lives, this agent has turned down money and does what he does because he thinks the country he is spying for is better in every way then the country he is betraying.

    He hopes that one day he will be able to get citizenship in the country he is spying for as a reward, and immigrate there.
  10. The Discontented

    This person started spying out of frustration at not being promoted as fast as he thought he deserved to be, and because he thought his bosses were not listening to him enough.

    He does it just to get back at them, and for the money he gets as a reward - not through any sense of idealism.

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Want more? 30 Agents at Strolen's Citadel.


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New GM Advice @ 

Campaign Mastery

Read the blog of Johnn Four and Mike Bourke that discusses game mastering advice and issues.

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Be sure to subscribe to the blog to get the latest updates sent to you:

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Johnn Four's GM Guide Books 

In addition to writing and publishing this e-zine, I have written several GM tips and advice books to inspire your games and to make GMing easier and fun:

Inns, Taverns, and Restaurants - new

How to design, map, and GM fresh encounters for RPG's most popular locales. Includes campaign and NPC advice as well, plus several generators and tables

Adventure Essentials: Holidays

Advice and tips for designing compelling holidays that not only expand your game world but provide endless natural encounter, adventure, and campaign hooks.

GM Mastery: NPC Essentials

Critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning guide to crafting, roleplaying, and GMing three dimensional NPCs for any game system and genre. This book will make a difference to your GMing.

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