Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #495
Prep Faster, Breathe Easier + City Encounters Contest
This Week's Tips Summarized
Prep Faster, Breathe Easier + City Encounters Contest
A Brief Word From Johnn
New Contest to Celebrate 500 Issues
I received many emails for ideas on how to celebrate 500
issues. Thanks very much. A few I've noted and will tackle
in the future.
We seem to be on a roll with contests lately. I just
received the first round of edits for the pick pockets
contents contest (thanks David!) and I'm still chugging away
on editing the combat hazards entries (thanks to Rick for
One of the suggestions was from Daniel at www.steamcrow.com who said we should do 500 of something, such as 500 random
city encounters. That's pretty ambitious, but it sounds like
a great idea. Let's do it.
I've got some prizes lined up, as well, to further celebrate.
How We'll Get to 500
Send in city encounters 1-3 sentences long. Any genre is
welcome, no game rules required. Each encounter should
contain some conflict to make it interesting to play.
- A poisonous animal has slipped into a potter's store and
the owner hires the PCs to kill or capture it without
breaking any of his wares that line walls and shelves.
- 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
- A nervous merchant hires the PCs to escort him and a
wagon load of goods to the port where his customer waits.
Thieves wait until mid-way through the exchange to take
advantage of the chaos of port crowds and potential argument
of whose gold was just stolen - did the exchange take place
before the attack or not?
The theme for prizes this time is "take your pick."
NBOS software. Winners pick which product they receive.
Kobold Guide to Game Design. Winners decide if they want
volume 1, 2, or the just released volume 3. (PDF)
GM Mastery books. Take your pick of Inn Essentials, Holiday
Essentials or NPC Essentials. (PDF)
Contest closes July 20. Multiple entries give you more
chances to be randomly drawn for a prize. Plus, if 100 RPT
fans submit just 5 entries each, 500 entries should be a
snap! Let's try to hit 500 random city encounters to
celebrate RPT #500.
Email entries now to email@example.com
Playtest Request From A Reader
RPT reader Erik Luken of Arkayn Games is looking for
playtesters for his upcoming fantasy RPG. Interested parties
can email Erik at [email protected]. He will send you
a PDF of the game, along with a brief note of what he's
looking for. All participants would be acknowledged in the
For more information visit: www.arkayngames.com
Natural Daylight Bulbs Helped
Awhile ago I asked for tips on improving my dark basement
gaming area. We plan on renovating the basement, so I didn't
want to make serious changes that would only get wiped out
in the future. I eventually decided to take Dominic
Crawford's tip for a stroll:
Extra bright full spectrum bulbs for existing sockets.
There are three things that make this a viable option.
First, it's as simple as it gets to replace light bulbs. You
can use a brighter fluorescent bulb than regular incandescent
bulbs in most fixtures since they use less electricity for
For example, the bulb linked above uses 30 Watts of power,
but puts out the equivalent of 125 Watts of light. Since
typical ceiling light sockets are max of 100W of power, this
will yield more light per bulb.
Being full spectrum is important, because this simulates
daylight more closely. Incidentally, this is great for
people's miniature painting stations!
More on why this is better can be found here, on How Stuff Works.
So I purchased a couple of full spectrum bulbs from Home
Depot and installed them. My wan yellow game area is now a
pleasant white. I think the sun would be offended if I
called it daylight down there, but the bulbs do make a
difference. 14% less dingy is a win in my books!
So, if you have a dark area, try these fancy shmancy full
Have a game-full week.
Return to Contents
Chaotic Shiny Generators
Chaotic Shiny is a generator site aimed at people who write,
game, or live in fantasy worlds of their own creation.
Grappling with writer's block? Need a character on the fly
Want to flesh out a setting with some detailed religions?
Chaotic Shiny is the site for you.
There are currently 70+ generators, including 4e D&D PCs,
magic artifacts, poisons, religions, taverns, civilizations,
city maps, names, adventures, and more!
Return to Contents
Prep Faster, Breathe Easier + City Encounters Contest
by Hannah Lipsky
There are tons of tips for how to be a better DM. Most of
them involve a lot of time: carefully planning out
encounters, documenting plot threads, tracking down the
perfect NPC portrait. But even the least prepared DM has
still invested a fair amount of time into the game. Many
suggestions add to that time considerably.
I realized awhile back that all the extra map making,
monster token creating and terrain sculpting were making me
dread each week's session. I believed that if I could do
extra prep, I should; I owed it to my players and to myself
to be the best DM I could be.
Sure, I love gaming, but before the game there were a couple
extra hours of printing and cutting and searching, hours
that were hard to carve out of my already busy week. Gaming
slipped from each week to every other week, then to as
little as once a month.
Then I realized something - my players liked the tokens and
terrain, but they liked it even better when we could game
every week. My extra prep time translated into extra fun,
but was it enough extra fun to make it worth it?
Below are some of the techniques I've adopted to get the
most in-game fun out of every minute of out-of-game prep
1. Bottle Cap Minis
I have some minis, and for a while I found, printed out, cut
out, glued, carefully cropped and numbered images of the
monsters my party would be fighting.
This took up my time in several ways: not only all the work
to create them, but sorting them out before each encounter,
and planning encounters carefully to ensure I'd created the
right tokens ahead of time. I was using up prep time, using
up game time, and limiting my choices.
So I switched to bottle caps. I'll put down similar-looking
ones for similar enemies, and try to vaguely match the
theme. Caps with pictures of eagles on them become griffons,
and that sort of thing. For large enemies, I cut out 2"x2"
squares of cardboard and put a bottle cap on that.
I know my players miss having pictures of goblins in front
of them, and being able to point at the number on the token
and say, "I target goblin #2." But I know they don't miss
waiting an extra minute before each battle for me to find
the right tokens, and it's not much harder to say, "I target
the Blue Moon on the left - that's the goblin with the
Yes, tokens are better and more fun than bottle caps. But
now I have several extra hours a week that I can use to make
other fun stuff for the game, or just to relax. I no longer
have to scramble for the right token or mini, and I can
represent any monster the players might encounter.
Was the switch worth it for me? Definitely. Is it worth it
for you? That's up to you.
2. On the Table? It's Terrain
If I'm using bottle caps instead of tokens, what about those
beautiful maps? There's nothing quite like a hand-sculpted,
hand-painted castle or dungeon. Those epic battles get a lot
more epic on paper models of ships or around a ski boot
modified to look like the foot of a colossus.
That's great and all, but that takes a lot of time and
money. If you have it, that's fantastic and your group will
surely appreciate it. If you don't? You can still have fun
battles with exciting terrain.
Spare pens and pencils become the walls of buildings. Dice
become sculptures, pits or obstacles. Empty boxes of
chocolates are pitted walls or tree stumps. Rubber bands
laid down next to each other are rivers of lava that cross
the battlefield. Pixie sticks are tenuous rope bridges
across the chasms.
I'm not saying you need to scour your house to find the
right impromptu terrain. I'm saying, just don't clear off
the table as thoroughly before you game.
3. Table Books, Prep PDFs
A minor but frequent annoyance was schlepping all my books
around the house. I kept them upstairs on a bookshelf in my
room, took them over to my couch whenever I was preparing
for a game, then brought them down and spread them out on
the table whenever it was game time.
The maps kept ending up in different places. I always had to
scramble for the right dice bag. Pens and pencils floated
around constantly. When the game was over I'd have to schlep
it all back. Sound familiar?
I finally gave up and cleared out an area on our game shelf
downstairs. All the books, maps, minis, pens, pencils, dice
and sundry go there at the end of the game. At the start of
the game, I take them out and move them the five feet to the
table. If the other DM who lives with me wants to borrow my
DM screen for his game, he knows where to find it - and
where to put it back.
But how do I prep without my books? Well, I use my laptop
for prepping anyway. I type up plot notes and NPC stats,
then print them off. So now I use .pdfs of my gaming books
to prep. I don't have to move my books around, and I still
have all the information I need.
This might not be viable if the books you use aren't
available in PDF, in which case consider photocopying the
pages you most often reference. It's been a significant
time saver not to be always moving my books around and then
looking for where I left them last.
4. Reuse Random Encounters
My party used to fight a lot of hyenas. The PCs got
demolished the first few times, but slowly got to the point
where the sight of hyenas didn't quite fill them with raving
terror. A couple months later, I was unprepared for a
session, so a I threw a few hyenas at the party again.
Unsurprisingly, the now higher-level party mopped the floor
with the hyenas.
They loved it.
That encounter showed them, more than anything, how much
they'd improved over the course of the campaign. Both in
levels, and in terms of tactics.
Now I make a habit of occasionally reusing challenging
encounters to show them how much better they've gotten, and
to let them take a break from tough fights.
When the monsters constantly scale with the party it's hard
for them to feel like their power level has changed at all.
Reusing old encounters fixes that, and gives you a few
encounters' less of prep to do.
5. You're Done
Never cancel a game for lack of prep. Sure, prep can make
your game better. Prep usually does make your game better.
Players appreciate well put together sessions and elaborate
props. I'm certainly not discouraging you from pouring hours
of prep into your game; if you have the time and it makes
you happy, go for it.
But your players would rather you wing a session with bottle
caps and scraps than have to miss a game because you were
afraid it would be less than perfect.
Return to Contents
Still Playing in that Same Old World?
Are you looking for a new game world or keen to reinvigorate
your enthusiasm for fantasy? Then you'll want to look at The
Bloodsoaked Lands. This 23 page interactive pdf presents a
gritty rules-free setting usable with any game system and
includes maps, backgrounds, organisations, adventure hooks,
player opportunities and hyperlinked glossary terms. Every
purchase also gives you access to bonus material.
Remember imagination is Limitless, isn't it time you set
The Bloodsoaked Lands
Return to Contents
A Different Guide To Adventure Writing
By Jared Hunt
In response to the excellent article by James Edward Raggi IV
in RPT #489.
I enjoyed James' article and he makes a lot of good points.
I couldn't help but feel, however, that his article presents
a method for adventure design that could be considered
adversarial. While many groups will relish this style, I
know there are many people who enjoy a different type of
game. This article follows James' layout but presents an
opposing viewpoint that may or may not fit the needs of your
Success and Failure
The most important thing to remember when constructing an
adventure is it should be fun for everyone. You're playing a
roleplaying *game*, after all. As a GM, your job is to
ensure that every element you include is calculated to
achieve that goal.
You have absolute power at the gaming table and can bequeath
success or failure at any time. Using this power too much
will remove incentives to play well. Not using it at all
ignores the potential this power has to improve the flow of
the story and increase the amount of fun experienced by
An important part of GMing a game is deciding when to fudge
the dice. As a player it sucks to die to pure bad luck
despite having a good plan and solid tactics. The
possibility of death should always be present, but it should
be reserved for occasions of poor planning or foolishness
rather than random chance. Having an entire storyline
collapse because of a single poor dice roll is not fun for
anyone. Conversely, feel free to have certain actions
succeed despite poor dice rolls if the player put a lot of
thought or exceptional roleplaying into them.
So what are the consequences of deciding to play this way?
The party is just lost and sitting around because they
didn't find the secret door that leads to the next section
of the dungeon? No problem. It either doesn't get explored
or you place the contents somewhere else another time.
The party missed a vital clue and has no idea where to turn
next in a murder investigation? Maybe an old contact calls
them with a tip. Maybe the killer gets away. No matter what
happens, the important thing is to either provide the
players with the information or move on quickly. Your
players are not professional, trained investigators -
providing a little outside assistance allows them to
celebrate their characters rather than making them feel
There are too many options to choose from, the players are
disorganized and can't agree on an option and look to the GM
for guidance? Easy. My favorite solution is to call for some
sort of diplomacy check from each character and allow the
player with the highest score decide what to do next. This
may not please all your players, but chances are you'll have
fewer people using Charisma as a dump stat in your next
One of the big advantages of this style is your hard work on
an adventure never goes to waste. It is important to realize
that, to the human mind, the illusion of choice is exactly
the same as real choice. It only becomes an issue if you
tell the players what you did. As long as they aren't aware
that the room they just searched in this building is exactly
the same as the one they didn't explore in the last
building, they'll be happy to uncover the clue or find the
treasure, and you'll have saved a bunch of work by not
having to reinvent the wheel for each game session.
Playing this way means that the game won't just stop at any
time because a random disastrous result brings the mission
to an abrupt end. If things in the game have gone badly for
the group, allow a few characters to die or get captured.
They should feel the pressure of their bad luck or bad
choices, but a TPK is rarely the most fun option.
Every adventure must have situations that directly and truly
threaten the goals and values of the characters
participating. This will usually, but not necessarily,
involve a threat to their lives as well. If there is no true
threat, it is not an adventure, it's a tour.
As long as it fits the premise and style of your campaign,
feel free to create situations specifically designed to kill
characters. This often comes in the form of a monster or
trap that's way too tough. Avoid "save or die" situations
though. Killing characters off through arbitrary situations
where their fate is decided by a single roll is not the way
to encourage players to invest in their characters.
When you create especially deadly situations, make sure the
characters have plenty of warning. This accomplishes two
- It tells them that the world isn't scaled so they can
- It prevents them from stumbling into a lethal situation
and feeling like there was no way they could have prevented
Choices in an adventure are made meaningful when the players
believe they are significantly altering the flow of events
taking place. An adventure should never dictate a
character's choices (or their thoughts or feelings).
I stand by my statement, however, that the illusion of
choice is exactly the same as real choice so long as the
players believe in it. This may sound dishonest, but it is
actually just good storytelling. Everyone participating in a
roleplaying game is willingly suspending their disbelief in
many ways to make the game work. Respecting and using that
suspension of disbelief is what makes a great GM.
Another hallmark of great storytelling and great GMing is
the posing of interesting and engaging choices. The best of
these are always forced on the heroes - either forcing them
to choose between things they want (but can only have one
of) or between things they don't want (but have to choose
I strongly support the trend in adventure design to provide
prompts when players are stuck. This causes the entire group
to be biased toward action, and provides a strong incentive
for the players to work *with* the GM. The players retain
control of their character destiny by choosing how to react
to the prompts, but it keeps you from having to deal with
the player who might otherwise be bored because nothing is
The GM's job is to facilitate (not provide) excitement for
her playing group. She is responsible for the setting and
can therefore cause virtually anything to happen. If the
players are taking no actions and not interacting with the
setting, the GM should feel free to have the setting take
action itself via the environment or through NPCs. Allowing
the players to sit around idly ignores the options a GM has
and is a waste of everyone's time.
Many groups enjoy a "scout the next room, ambush the
beasties, collect the loot and retreat back to camp and get
spells back" method. If they're really enjoying this
pattern, great! It's still worthwhile, however, to mix
things up with wandering monsters, traps that isolate them
from camp and time-sensitive encounters. Allow the group to
dictate what is most fun for them, but don't allow them to
With few exceptions it's not usually worth keeping a strict
record of time or encumbrance. While it's possible that the
decisions players are making would reduce their characters
to a snail's pace, don't feel obligated to punish them for
it. Remember, this is a *game*. If everyone is having fun,
don't mess with it!
So, you've heard a bunch of philosophy. Now it's time to put
it together into a kickass dungeon! (Of course, these
principles can be applied to non-dungeon environments as
well, if you're into that kind of thing.)
The first thing to remember is the usefulness of thinking in
terms of encounters. While adventures should be flowing,
natural sequences of events, encounters allow you to
organize the discrete portions of the adventure in a
manageable and fun way.
The simple fact is that the time between encounters is
usually pretty boring, and you should feel free to think
like an action movie director and skip to the exciting
parts. Some GMs get caught up in trying to create tension
during movement between encounters but, more often than not,
it simply kills the pace of the adventure.
Think of your adventure design as a loose flowchart. Each
encounter has ways in, options for interaction (e.g. combat)
and ways out. Try to anticipate the most obvious actions the
players may choose, but realize they'll usually surprise
you, and be ready to improvise.
One of the greatest appeals of the dungeon environment is
that each part of the encounter is pretty defined: the door
is the way in, fighting the monsters and taking their stuff
is the interaction, and the next door is the way out. The
further your adventure strays from pure dungeon-crawling,
the more you have to be ready and willing to adapt.
Any situation that involves combat and deadly traps could
result in character death. This shouldn't be happening
constantly, but it should be possible if the players are
foolish and hasty. When it happens, try to come up with a
replacement character as soon as possible. It might be
necessary to stretch willing-suspension a little, but the
important thing is to get the player back involved.
Make sure your adventure contains challenges for every class
in the party, but avoid throwing out challenges they can't
reasonably overcome. While this is obviously not realistic,
it rewards the choices players have made with their
characters and makes for a much more fulfilling experience.
Avoid creating challenges that require a specific spell to
overcome. This is especially true if it will mean the party
has to retreat and camp so they can memorize the correct
spell. This sort of design slows pacing and encourages
players to agonize over every spell choice. Conversely, if
you have a player who loves this sort of guessing game, feel
free to reward him for his attention to detail by having
cool ways for him to use spells that might otherwise have
been considered "useless".
Be sure you have lots of variation in your encounter design.
Mix up encounters with lots of weak enemies, encounters with
a single powerful foe, a few moderate enemies and so on.
Create groups of enemies that can support one another in
combat. Incorporate traps and environmental hazards into
your encounters. Make sure the residents of a location take
full advantage of natural features. In short, keep the
players on their toes.
When the battle is over, give the players their rewards. A
treasure that can't be transported is not a reward at all.
It's just annoying. It might be amusing to disguise the
value of a piece of treasure once in awhile, but overuse of
this trick is just frustrating for your players.
Random encounters can be a wonderful tool. They add variety
to adventures and keep players from feeling too safe when
they're in a dungeon environment. A few fun options to keep
in mind for your random encounter table:
- Environmental hazards like rock slides, floods, lightning
- Neutral and non-combat encounters with potential allies or
- An obviously overwhelming encounter the party needs to
Keep in mind the other advice in this essay when using
random encounters. They exist to increase the amount of fun
everyone is having. If you roll something on your chart and
judge that it isn't appropriate, either roll again or treat
it as a no encounter result.
For the most part, if you roll a random encounter that
you're sure will prevent the party from finishing the
adventure, it's probably better to ignore it. The point of
the game, after all, is to allow the players to bring their
characters to a satisfying climax for the adventure.
Allowing a random event to spoil an epic conclusion is poor
Return to Contents
RPG Micro Reviews
via the Yahoo GMMastery group
Thanks to Al Beddow and Eric FitzMedrud for reprint
3d6 roll low for skill tests, d6 is all you need for the
game. Every little thing is built using the same system,
from a butter knife to a transgalactic passenger liner.
That's also it's flaw. In 5th ed., a simple umbrella was
There are two levels of play, heroic and super-heroic. In
fantasy/modern, the lower point value, Heroic, where you pay
for your gear in money not character points; and higher
point-value, Super-Heroic, where your gear is paid for with
your character points.
Warning: This game uses 12-second rounds broken into 12
segments. Your speed determines how many times you act in a
round AND which specific segments that is (and those are
called your "Phases"). Not bad, but if all you know is d20
takes some adjustment.
3d6 roll low for skill tests, d6 is all you need for the
Third ed. had a great library of generic and setting specific
books. But SJ Games had a horrible time with quality
control, and reprinting a book with a newer looking cover
that people bought thinking it was an update.
Compendiums I and II came from tiny rules that had a
different implementation across dozens of books and were
finally consolidated into those books of rules.
4th solves a lot of that by being focused on what is put
out, although not nearly at the pace originally promised. My
only problem was with the "Powers" book, which is where
things like super hero powers come from. The first few pages
sound like double-speak to me.
Note: Either way, the GM must first carefully go through all
the advantages, disadvantages and skills to weed out what
they don't want, and to set tech levels and scope for the
latter. The "symbols" on advantages don't tell the entire
Example: 4th ed. ability to 'eat less' can take you from just
twice a day at lowest level to like once a month or more at
the higher point costs. Not a symbol on it and I got stuck
with a player wanting to eat once a week so he could save on
Warning: One second rounds, not six-second rounds. If you do
NOT get this across to your players you will have problems.
I've had to re-teach a few people how to play when a
certified SJGames MIB and GURPS GM ran games for people and
they were literally cursing at the company months later.
3rd and 4th ed. had/have them. Free download or you can get
reprinted for free but you pay shipping. 32 pages. Not bad.
Roll the two dice indicated by the applicable skill and
ability, roll high. Uses a standard set of D&D-like dice.
Nice little system. Floating Target Numbers (TN) and you
roll two dice determined by your attribute and skill as
called for by the GM. Lots of great stuff for Serenity. I
have it all and use it in my Savage Firefly and Traveller
Serenity games (conversion to these systems aren't that
There is even a generic core book out, but as I understand
it, people buy which of the three games they want. Meant to
be light and fast paced. Action points.
Roll the one die as indicated by the applicable
skill/Ability (plus Wild Cards get the extra separate d6),
roll high. Uses a standard set of D&D-like dice.
Excellent system from the people who brought you Deadlands.
There is a "Savaged" Deadlands from the company called
"Deadlands: Reloaded". Similar in char creation to Cortex,
point buy for die size on abilities and skills, you take
Hindrances to get Edges.
Experience points are based on how much was
accomplished/session length, not on what you kill. Every
five skill points you can buy an Edge or raise a skill or
two (depending on what you choose to do) or even raise an
ability one die.
Only one die is ever rolled for skill or attribute (Trait
roll), but players and specified "wild cards" (named NPCs)
all get to roll an additional d6 with their roll to attack
or use a skill, and the d6 result can replace your regular
die if it is better.
Target number is always four, and every four you get above
that is a "Raise," which makes things more effective.
Note: This is a game where the core rulebook is $10 and in
digest form. The Fantasy Companion and Super-Hero Companion
are digest form at $20, but very worth it.
Savage Worlds Lite
Available in the free downloads currently called "Test Drive
v6." You can also download for free the Savage Worlds-based
rules for miniature games, which follow the core SW very
Roll 2d6, modifiers always on the die roll, 8+ is always a
success. d6s only required to play.
The newest incarnation of the classic and original Sci-Fi
RPG. Based off the classic rules to keep the purist happy,
with plenty of updated and new material for the modern
gamer. Your character doesn't die in character creation, but
you have a character with a full background by the time you
The game originally was rules and setting tied together in
one set of rules. Now it is rules and setting separate. Of
course, the original setting has influence on the current
rules, but the split allowed Mongoose to create d20-system-
like OGL/SRD for people to publish within the mechanics.
Combat is fast and furious with plenty of role play
Warning: NO experience system. Your character is living out
their life in the universe, making their way and fortune (or
not). You improve skills through training, which if you
bother, can be done fairly easily. There are other settings
for the system put out by Mongoose (like Judge Dread) and
other companies are publishing for it as well.
Mongoose sells a "Book 0" (just like the old days) for $10
(I forget what the PDF goes for.) Buy the PDF of the main
book, you get light years more for the small price increase
over the printed Book 0.
4dF (that's 4 fudge dice that are 6-sided with 2 blanks, 2
minuses, and 2 pluses on each die) run the game. Attributes
and skills are adjective based, typically on a 7 point range
including Terrible, Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good, Great, and
Superb. These can be modified as the GM sees fit.
Successes thresholds are set by the GM. "You need a Great
result to succeed" and you roll the dice (with results from
-4 to +4) to modify your skill to find out if you reached
the result. That is, a +1 on a "good" skill would give you a
The system was designed to be generic enough to easily run
everything from Bunnies and Burrows to Superheroes once a
conversion algorithm is developed by the GM. Capable of
handling every kind of character creation method you would
like, from narrative to point buy.
Major differences in capacities, like the variation in
strength from a bunny to a human, can be handled using
different narrative scales for the different types of
creatures. (For example, ogre strength is +1 compared to
humans, so even a mediocre strength ogre is a match for a
fair strength human).
Modifiable for the level of realism, crunchiness, or
narrative base you would like. The modifiability is the
major strength and weakness of the system. Once you begin to
tinker, to get exactly the right system that you have always
wanted, you'll just keep tinkering and tinkering and
The basic set is free, which includes one simple form of the
game called 5-point Fudge. You can also purchase the 10th
anniversary edition with a lot of additional specialized
combat rules and equipment lists.
I used Fudge to adapt Broomstix, and my 6-year old and I
played Quidditch with it. It can be that simple if you want
it to be.
I have to admit I've never played this system but I love it
anyway. It is the core rules for Ninja, Pirate, Monkey,
Robot and Dead Inside.
2d6 to run the system, which uses simple narrative based
qualities to determine the capacities of the character. For
example, I might be an Expert Paleontologist, an average
Father, and a Poor Mechanic. Something core to my
Paleontology skill like identifying dino bones I use my
skill as is, but if I tried doing something less core to
that skill like writing poetry (something an educated person
might be able to do but not well without more experience) I
might receive a penalty for.
The game includes a mechanic for getting a bonus on rolls
for being more descriptive of your actions called "being a
badass." The mechanic for resolving conflicts can be applied
to anything from convincing the police officer to not giving
you a traffic ticket to combat.
This game is only as flexible as you are willing to take
narrative gaming. There aren't equipment lists or monster
bestiaries. This is a system about telling a story in
whatever genre you are looking for.
It really doesn't get much more lite than a 13 page core
Unfortunately, I've only played 3rd edition. In 3rd edition
you played Troupe Style, which means everybody has a mage
character (Gandalf stuff where spell duration is until the
next moon and you could shrivel acres of crops in a few
seconds), but you take turns GMing. When it's your turn you
do not play your PC.
Players also have Companions, which are like D&D characters,
and officers to the Grogs. The whole group shares Grogs,
which are like grunts.
In a typical adventure, one player's Magi is chosen to take
part and everyone else uses their Companions. The whole
group shares the Grogs that come along like an RTS video
game. Though, we tended to adopt them as personal PCs as
Actions are d10 based. Combat is more cinematic, less
tactical. It's usually fast because stuff is lethal and
healing is slow.
Magi learn verbs and nouns and match them up to cast spells
ad hoc (Wonder Twin Powers activate!) or by using the pre-
fab spells supplied in the rules. Spells start weak and get
up to level 50.
In addition to the cool Troupe style play, the group shares
a Covenant. This is the home base, like a massive tower in a
remote forest or a cave complex beneath a city. The covenant
is the true character in the game, and a campaign is
expected to last 500+ years in game time. So, goal #1 is to
make the Covenant survive then thrive. Goal #2 is to achieve
your magi's missions and goals (often accomplished through
research and sub-plot, not by adventuring).
The way we played, Companions were Goal #3. Being D&D
grognards, we enjoyed seeing these PCs adventure, get
rewards, gain skills.
The game is set in Mythic Europe, but we played in a
modified Greyhawk setting. It's intended there's a balance
and inherent tension between nobility (with their generals
and armies), the church (and its powerful divine miracle
casters and followers) and the magi (who are very powerful
individually but get hunted down by the other two factions
with torches and pitchforks).
There are many other cool aspects to the game that drive
plots and character development.
Return to Contents
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:
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
Advice and tips for designing compelling holidays that not
only expand your game world but provide endless natural
encounter, adventure, and campaign hooks.
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.
Return to Contents