Saturday, December 31, 2011

Who’s the Best GM?

For those of you with community activist groups seeking to abolish role-playing games, don’t link to this post! This is not a very favorable look at role-playing games and their game masters, because it exposes the one kind of person who makes the best GM. That kind of person is a liar.
Successful liars and GMs share many of the same character traits. After all, fantasy is fantasy, whether you are creating a world of elves, trolls and magic or coming up with a story about where you just spent the last four hours. I am not suggesting that every marginal GM go out and start lying for practice, but maybe by watching a few less than honest people, you might pick up a few pointers. Let's do just that:
A good liar/GM has to be able to tell a story. Facial gestures (especially eyes) are extremely important. Tone fluctuations can also serve to make the story more entertaining and thus keep the listener from concentrating too much on the subject matter. Actors tell lousy stories, because they include too much detail. Liars, know just the right amount of detail to include to make the story pass inspection without raising suspicions. It is the level of detail and generalization that makes a great story.
Lying is an important part of GMing. How often has an inexperienced GM rolled to see if a thief can sneak-up on a party, only to alert them that something was amiss? Good liar/GMs roll often behind their screens and convince the party to be on their toes at all times. GMs also need to lie to the players to prevent their characters from knowing too much. Even if it is as simple as not telling them when they did not detect a secret door, poker-faced GMing is vital.

End of the Year

December has not been a consistent month for us on this blog and we’re sorry. With vacations, holidays and general sugar comas, things have been a bit spotty. New Year’s Resolution: Get better about being consistent!
So the news of the day is The City of Rhum! It is available at RPG Now, now! Just click the link. e23 is likely on vacation, but we’ll post that link as soon as it is live.
This is the base for the other Rhum supplements. It is long on culture and generalities and short on details, prices and stats. We’re only charging $2.49 because some of the information in the book has been seen in the other supplements. Yes, we know some is a repeat - That’s why we cut the price on it! We’re hoping you will understand that and not feel cheated in any way.
This is also a reminder that if anyone buys all three of the Rhum supplements (Welcome to Rhum, Warrior Guilds of Rhum and Lost in Rhum), we will happily send you a combined price list from all three. The benefit here is that you can drop it into your spreadsheet program and search it or sort it, unlike our pdfs. I’d call it free, but you paid for the three books, so it’s not really all that free.
Early in 2012 - expect Royalty. Royalty is A Baker’s Dozen Royals, 100 Nobles, and 100 Castle Staff. Everyone you should need if your players go wandering into a castle or other noble event. We set them up as though there were two political structures - The one we use in Fletnern (The Council of Barons) and a more generic feudal one. Look, the hierarchy doesn’t matter. What you really want is a couple hundred NPCs that fit in a castle. Think of it as a wandering monster guide for the palace. Sure you could try and make up every noble cousin, uncle, and half mother in law as well as all their retainers, or you can take the easy way out and get Royalty!

The City of Rhum is now available on e23. Click this link to go there.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Council or Commission?

We’re wrapping up Royalty and I’ve been thinking more about the Council of Barons. Why did I do that again? What was the point? I was trying to remember if I set it up like the NY mob’s Commission. After all, they replaced the boss of bosses with a council. Effectively a king was replaced. Not only that, but the other bosses have some say in who succeeds the current family heads. Oh and there is the thing about each baron having an heir (an underboss) and a vice roy (the consigliere). Sounds like it might be a direct lead in, huh?
Actually, I remembered where I came up with the idea. It was the NFL. The NFL owners set up the rules, but each is his own owner/king in his own city. But they cannot just sell their teams. They need to get the others to agree. That was the basis for the Council. I know – weird.
I think it comes down to the Iron Law of Oligarchy. (See, a little bit of research can yield some great results in game mastering.) Any way, the Iron Law says that (in my words) all organizations, no matter how democratic they may seem will eventual devolve into oligarchies – that is rule by an elite group of people. Take this as an example – Look at the Congress of the USA. Are there really two parties in Washington each representing their constituents or is there one party, the party of incumbents? Do unions represent their members’ interests or are they out there simply to increase their membership in order to benefit the small number of union officials? No matter what the original intent, in the end it is a small group of people who wind up wielding the power.
Who’s running your kingdoms? Not just the king himself, but the people who run the king. Are the nobles controlling who sees the king? Are the merchants in control of the king’s wealth? Are the generals controlling the king’s safety? Who picks the next king? I know it sounds like the king’s oldest son will, right? Not necessarily. Think about the whole Henry the 8th thing. His successor was a mess, but after him, it was even crazier. The only point is that even in an established line of succession is only as good the power brokers who allow it to run or not run. Besides, the political games can be almost as much fun as the other violent games!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friendly Competition

I’ve been thinking of a way to pit members of a party against each other without requiring them to duel to the death (usually bad for party harmony that death thing). It’s actually pretty easy. They are likely all members of their appropriate guilds - Soldiers Guild, Mages’ Guild, Thieves’ Guild, or whatever. All you have to do is find something they all want. Not something really important, something worth bragging rights. The queen lost her crown on a hunting trip. A thief stole the battalion’s colors. A rat ate the princess’ ring and ran off into the market. Something like that.
Well, the party really doesn’t care about all these bragging rights, but their guilds do. Instead of partnering up with their buddies, their party members, they join up with their guild mates to return the crown or colors or ring. More than likely they are running through the city, so even if they wanted to go around killing each other, it will really be frowned on. The whole point is to get them to use their non-killing skills to be the first to accomplish the task or retrieve the object. It’s all about the competition. Who will win? Who will come out on top? Which guild will prove itself the best, or at least the coolest?
They’re tough to run. You need to keep your players away from each other so one team’s clue doesn’t tip off the others, but you’re up to that. You have to make it difficult for each kind of team - combat, magic and stealth. But when it’s all over, they’re going to love you for it!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

100 Professions

In case you haven’t noticed, 100 Professions is now for sale on both e23 and RPG Now.
Buy it at e23 Buy it at RPG Now
Here’s how you know if you want this book:
Eons ago in one of the only rule books out at that time, there was a flat rule that said something to the effect of it costs 100gp per level per month for the character to live. Really? Based on what? Does that include the PCs steeds? Does it include the steeds if it’s a dragon or just a horse? What about if he owes 50 horses? What if he is experimenting in magic? What if she is a noblewoman? What if he is a beggar?
If a rule like 100gp per level per month either makes sense to you or seems to be a useless complication, please do not buy 100 Professions. You are clearly a gold farmer who is only playing an RPG for the action and really do not care about the story. That’s OK - Free Country and all. In the immortal words of Chuck Berry - Live how you gotta live baby.
For those of you who want more character development, more story line, more background, more PC/NPC interaction - 100 Professions was written for you. It gives 100 professions (surprising, right?) with descriptions, skills needed, how common they are, and how much you should expect them to pay. Why? Because every adventurer I have ever GMed for spends all their money on gear. No, really, ALL their money! They do not leave any for room and board. 100 Professions allows you to give them part time jobs when they are between the big mercenary work. Not a lot, but enough to keep a roof over their head and a couple of meals in their bellies. It also gives you as the GM a chance to give them contacts and lead them into all sorts of new missions, simply because you now know how they are filling their days. If you and your players are content that every single mission starts with - So you’re in a bar and this guy walks up to you, - well, I guess you don’t care how they fill their days.
Seriously, 100 Professions was written for the mature GM who doesn’t have a ton of time to handle these extra things. For $1.99, you can figure out what your players do with themselves during the in-between times. You can also think about each of these professions as being contacts that your PCs might need to get to know or NPCs you need to add into your world/city. As with all our 100s, this book is intended to give you the spark you need to fill a gap that you might not have worried about yet. With that spark - GMs really can run their games better and faster!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Need a ton of inspiration?

Remember that song We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel? The whole song is him going through a huge list of people and events that shaped American culture over the last decades. I was thinking about that song and decided to challenge myself. I will be going through the entire song and creating some manner of reference in my world (Fletnern) for each of the references in the song.
For example: Marilyn Monroe - Actress, tragic, affair with president - in our world. In Fletnern: Ammora Villishephska was a famous opera singer in Parnania. She was young, beautiful, and gifted with one of the most powerful soprano voices ever heard. Not surprisingly, she caught the attention of the Prince Governor and they began an affair. When Garnock’s army showed up at the gates of Parnania, The Governor even had her brought into the palace for protection.
During the actual battle, the Governor’s wife became very disturbed that her rival was amongst those being protected. The Governor was not willing to throw her out in the streets, but he couldn’t take Ammora with him when they decided to flee, so this beautiful opera singer, star of the entire city was left in the palace, virtually unguarded when the enemy came storming through the gates.
Now the rumor is that the Governor took her with him or somehow had her safely evacuated from the city. But she disappeared after the attack. The Governor was set up elsewhere, but Ammora was never seen again. No one in the royal family ever spoke of her, and it was known to be a taboo subject, so the mystery remains - What ever happened to the famous opera star?
As Ammora hid in the palace, she was discovered by a troop of soldiers. Assuming she was a noblewoman, they brought her to their commanders without allowing any harm to come to her. One of the commanders recognized her for who she was and immediately had a detachment escort her back to his villa in Garnock. There she still lives today. She’s much fatter and older, but she can still belt out a song like nobody’s business. She has been maintained as a concubine - a “slave wife”, but her life has not been that horrible, and at this point she has developed a rather severe case of agoraphobia. She does not want to be returned. She wants to live out her life as the pet and sometimes lover of a rich Lat general.
OK - for all you gold farmers out there who couldn’t care less about history or interesting mysteries in the social culture, Ammora still makes a fantastic adventure spark. What if someone (magically or naturally) gets a hint that she is alive? You can’t send an army to get her back; that would attract too much attention. They’ll need adventurers to “liberate” her. But once they get to her, she will not want to be taken from the villa. Oh, and don’t forget this guy is a general. So he may be past his prime and an easy battle. Anyone taking her will find his entire regiment hunting them down.
OK - one down, a LOT more to go.
and when that’s over, I might give Tim McGraw’s Southern Voice a try.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shopping

It is my firm belief, after writing several books on fantasy economics and cities, that you cannot give the players a true shopping experience in game. No amount of effort would allow you to honestly list everything that could be purchased in a fantasy store in a fantasy city. OK, that is probably too broad a statement. The raw materials manufacturers would likely only have up to a dozen products and therefore could be detailed. This is the miller, the weaver, the brewer. Take the miller. Many people would think - The miller sells flour. Done. But even the miller would have wheat flour, probably in different styles, such as fine and course. He would also have corn meal, likely white and yellow. He might have buckwheat, grits, pancake mix, or even farina. What about rolled oats or possibly wild rice? While he’s at it, does he have his own farmland? Is he growing things himself, or possibly making maple syrup or honey? and that’s just the miller.
Imagine the cart of the common peddler. He has been picking up things for years, selling what he can. His cart would be filled with endless bric-a-brac. He would likely have things he bought from a tinker (forks, springs, hinges), stuff he picked up from the smith (nails, small tools, maybe horseshoes), some food items (jerky, fruit preserves, mustard), some leather goods (wine skins, belts, laces), some personal items (comb, brush, cup, pen), and a whole bunch of little wooden items that he carves while he travels from town to town (figurines, toggles/buttons, pipes). How do you decide what he has? Worse yet, what if it is a major store? What if it is a jewelry store? Are you able to document every stone, every setting, every bracelet, ear ring, bangle or bauble? If it could be done, it would not be worthwhile!
OK - so now what? Do you give up? Do you tell the players they cannot have anything, because you don’t know who has it? Of course not. My suggestion? Use a game system that allows for scrounging. Then, just let the player roll for his character. If he wants a ruby ring, have him roll to find one. Obviously it will be far more likely to find one in a jewelry store than in a feed store, so have him first scrounge up the jewelry store, then scrounge up what he wants within. If she’s looking for a leather long sword sheathe, she probably wants it custom made, but with a good scrounging, she may be able to find a serviceable one without waiting. Is she willing to take what she finds or does she have her heart set on a green dyed one? Well that affects the scrounging.
There are two advantages to this - #1 - Less work for you as GM trying to figure out your stores. Now you just say: Jewelry store, specializes in rubies and gold, but also carries other gems. That’s easy enough to use when they are scrounging. #2 - Since you’ll never write down everything they want, this allows you to be more capable of meeting their needs. When the wizard wants a robe made of purple linen, you just scrounge to see if he can find one. Oh, and by the way, just because they didn’t find it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Scrounging can be tough, and things sometimes get overlooked.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Killer Dungeon (Part II)

So - back to the halfling rebel base:
The tunnels are well defended, so let’s talk about the rest of the complex. First off, the other rooms are not so completely cramped. There would be a couple of rooms where the ceilings might go as high as 5-6’, but offered the chance, the defenders would not fight in those rooms. What are the rooms for? Well, there are definitely barracks rooms. The rebels have some non-combatants down here with them, so women and children are housed. There will need to be some manner of kitchen, which requires that there be a smoke outlet. The thought was that the chimney would go up a tree, letting the smoke out amongst the branches/canopy, so it would be dispersed by the time it floated up, making the smell likely apparent, but not the tell-tale sign of smoke.
Most importantly, there are two laboratories. We said that everything in the complex could be explained. Now, we assume that the rebels could get weapons (spears, daggers, crossbows) but the labs build their traps and brew their poisons. Think about the advantages that the big adventurers have over the little halflings - They are faster - We took that away with the low ceilings. They do more damage - We took that away with the narrow halls. They are probably better fighters - We took that away with the narrow halls and the wider guard posts. The halflings are better with agility based weapons, thus we gave them the ability to shoot crossbows. Major spells will likely be slowed down by the twisting and turning tunnels - and explosions are as likely to kick backwards as they are to move forward.
So what do the halflings need to really even the score? They need to do more damage. How do they do that? Well, almost every weapon they’re packing, including their traps, is poisoned. It doesn’t have to be the killer kind of poison, just something that can bump up the damage when they hit, making every movement forward that much more dangerous for the invaders. The point is to be a nagging increase, not an all out death “spell”, but to be honest, either will work.
Meanwhile, the halls, the doors, the chests, the walls, everything is lined with traps. The traps can be simple: toothed jaw traps (bear traps), foot traps with punji stakes, trip wires to crossbows, nothing hugely clever, but add some poison, and all of a sudden, it’s a dangerous encounter.
That’s about the end of where I had gotten. The one issue I haven’t decided on is magic. How much, if any, would I give the halflings? Would they have some moderately powerful healers? Illusionists? In this crazy tunnel scheme, an illusionist can cause a lot more harm than a sorcerer. Alchemists? Don’t want to give the invaders anything they can use against the rebels, so that might not be right. I like the idea of some sort of “golem” that the halflings don’t care about. These weren’t supposed to be evil guys who were willing to kill each other. More like fanatics willing to die for their cause. Then, you could send a golem, skeleton, wind up robot, something out to fight in melee, without worrying too much if it caught a poisoned bolt in the back. With all the “evening of the scales” we’ve tried to do, the halflings would still be horrid in melee, so this could give them a better chance of fleeing.
What do we hope you’ll take away from this? Well, that if you think about it a little, moderately powerful defenders should be able to take on powerful invaders pretty easily. You just need to give them a chance to play to their strengths while taking away the strengths of the other guys. You don’t have to be out to kill every player character (and I was really out to do that with this dungeon). Just remember - the hardest fought battles are the ones the players remember the most!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Killer Dungeon (Part I)

I think most (fantasy) gamers start by going into “dungeons”. Dungeons are actually easier on the GM. He knows everything, and the players are contained to a limited space. Pretty quickly, things move to a “wilderness adventure”. These seem more realistic, because we all know that nobody actually builds dungeons. But with the added freedom comes a lot more difficulty for the GM. Now there is terrain, and nothing to hold the players into a restricted area.
Having disrespected dungeons, I think we all remember them fondly. That’s why I ran “The Killer Dungeon” many years ago. I gathered all my best traps and encounters, put them into one dungeon, and held a tournament. (The prize was a tiger’s eye topaz - we thought it was pretty cool!) Immediately after running that Killer Dungeon tourney, I started writing the next one. I never got to run it, but here’s how it went. I still think this is the most deadly dungeon setting in the world.
The main concept is that this is a base of rebel halflings. They are living in underground tunnels based in many ways on the VC tunnels. Nothing was going to be included that could not directly be explained by the people in the base itself.
Let’s start with the tunnels or hallways first. Assume that the halflings are 3’ tall. The tunnels are triangular shaped (flat floors, peaked ceilings). From an engineering sense, this is supposed to be one of the strongest ways to build a tunnel. So the peak will be 3’8”. This allows a 3’ halfling to run down the middle of the tunnel without having to watch his head. It forces human sized people to crawl on all fours - you likely couldn’t even crouch. The tunnels are only 3-4’ wide at the base. This is intended to leave enough room for halfling shoulders, but prevent anyone from swinging a slashing weapon. No magic swords, no axes - should severely cut down on most any adventuring party. The halflings inhabiting the base rely on crossbows and spears, with knives as backup weapons. Therefore they should be able to fight in the confined spaces. Remember - the big invaders are on their hands and knees; they may not be able to use their hands for combat or possibly even magic in the hallways.
To protect the hallways, there are guard posts. Basically, they widen the hall to 10’, giving the guards the ability to hide behind the tunnel walls and shoot their crossbows. I also like the idea of a defender using a pole arm to fend or basically block the hallway. Should someone try to force past him, he can use the pole arm to stab and slash, and the invader would have a very difficult time trying to get past. Sure, he likely would have the strength to rip the pole arm from the halfling - IF he had the room to maneuver and was standing on two feet. In a confined space, he’s a sitting duck for the spear or blade.
The hallways are also trapped. We’ll get into that later. But assume that the invaders come down the tunnels, manage to storm a guard post, and the halflings go off running. First off, halflings should be slower than humans in a sprint, but the halflings are sprinting and the humans are bear crawling. That evens the odds considerably. As the halflings run down the halls, they avoid the traps, because they know where they are. Put enough corners into the design so that invaders learn quickly that blundering around a corner often means a crossbow in the face. This also prevents the invaders from seeing the defenders avoid the traps. Meanwhile the guys retreating are dropping caltrops or even broken glass. While the broken glass only helps against people in cloth or leather style armor, the caltrops will poke through chain mail - like the chain mail glove. This isn’t only a distraction, but a possibility of messing up a warrior’s attack hand.
Meanwhile, the halfings have stout doors and the previously mentioned twists and turns. They can hide their lights (or rely on that mystic heat vision that every non-human has in some games). This allows them to listen and watch for the invaders’ lights. Typically the invaders’ lights will give them away long before the defenders give away their position.
OK - This is already too long, so we’ll end here and finish up next time.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Coins of the Road

Over a year ago, we promised that the next Grain Into Gold supplement was on the way: Coins of the Road. This supplement was supposed to expand Grain Into Gold and add all manner of additional products, mainly things that would be used as trade goods and therefore could be used as treasure, cargo, loot, or whatever (stuff adventurers care about). The problem is that every time we start developing the concept, we splinter it into several books.
Well, the Coins of the Road as a generic book was splintered too far. There just isn’t enough valuable information that GMs will care about. Most of the stats were already in Grain Into Gold, and the narrative read more like Wikipedia.
So - what do we plan to do? Well, to a point scrap that project, but not entirely. All the information about caravans and shipping is good stuff. We think GMs want that stuff, but it isn’t a whole book. So we’re going to forget about the generic book and publish Coins of the Road - A Guide to Fantasy Trade Goods. Sounds the same doesn’t it? But it isn’t. We’re going to put the good cartage info in the same book as all the brand name stuff from Fletnern, including some of the “fantasy” products. Fantasy products include everything from “dwarven steel” to mastodon ivory. We’re going to try and avoid the magic items, as that just doesn’t seem to fit, and it is typically game specific. We’ll likely avoid gem stones and alcohol as we covered booze in 100 Bar Drinks and will cover gems in Facets. However, we are likely to follow up Coins of the Road with 1000 Coins of the Road - a d1000 book basically giving you a random table for randomly determining what you would find on any caravan or ship.
OK - So we’re delaying the book again! But we’re releasing 100 Professions and Royalty in 2011. Urban Developments and City of Rhum could still be 2011 or early 2012. Coins of the Road will most likely fall mid-2012.
Oh - We’re plotting out the release of Legend Quest - Modern. The thought is publish the core rules (as last seen in The Forgotten Hunt), then publish source books for the three campaign worlds that were planned: The Forgotten Hunt (dinos), Convergence - An Alien Armageddon (yep, that would be an alien invasion), and Dark Hour (more of a noir with magic environment). Not sure that 2012 is doable for all that and the couple of 100s and Bakers’ Dozen books we’re hoping to finish, but we’ll see. We always bite off more than we can chew!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sorry about that...

For those of you who noticed, our blog went away for a couple of days there. Just a silly misunderstanding between us and Google as to how old “Board Enterprises” was, and whether the company was allowed to have a web site. Silly thing is that Board Enterprises was started in 1991, and should be allowed to vote. Don’t know how they’d draft it though.
Anyway - That’s behind us and everything should be running smoothly from here on!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Unlikeable Characters

I’ve come to notice that I normally don’t use characters (NPCs) that I don’t like. I’m not really talking about not using straight warriors because I prefer magical types, but that happens too. I’m talking mainly about personalities. If I don’t like the mission giver, I tend to drop writing that mission in favor of ones where I like the known associates. I know I’m missing something here.
GMs have to include characters they don’t like. Think about most stories (TV, movies or books). The good guys do not always like each other. They may have completely different goals, but still want to do the same missions. More to this point, they might be completely different personalities. Even different personalities than the GM. Yep - you need to play against your own personality. If not, then not only do you become boring (a one trick pony), but you become predictable. That’s the big fear! You as a GM cannot be predictable. Kiss of death! If they know what to expect, every one of your twists and sub-plots will be telegraphed.
Covering more ground here than planned, but it needs to be said: GMs need to play against their type. Use NPCs that are different from you, different from your personality, different from your style of play. If you don’t remember to keep this sort of variety in your campaign, you’re doomed. (OK, that was a little overdone, but I hope you get the point.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Assassins

Some of the other bloggers are focusing on assassins this month, and I always have an opinion.
I respect that there are the sneaky, poison using bad guys willing to knock off a target or two, but history shows assassins in a different light. Obviously modern assassins use firearms, but I do like using the sniper crossbow guy. They only work if your critical rules allow for called shots - or extreme poisons, but nothing beats a bolt appearing in the king’s throat as if from no where. I’m also a big fan of the duelist who finds a reason to challenge the target to a duel and then kills him in a “fair” fight.
But I think the most useful assassin in life and in games is going to be the bruiser. Call it assassination, call it “saving the world”, call it execution - whatever; the best way to off somebody is to have some huge guy come barreling through the door and kill him with some massive amounts of damage. You know all those missions where the “good” characters go racing into the temple of some “evil” god and slaughter the priests, especially the high priest. Yeah - that was a “mission” and not an assassination. Whatever you call it, someone was paid to kill someone else.
I know what you’re thinking - This guy has it all wrong. We’re the good guys. Assassins are a whole different thing. But think about it really. If you are paid to go and kill someone, you are an assassin. Even if the bad guy is a dragon or a giant - you are still an assassin. Oh, we can dress it up in different names, but it’s still there. Just because you had to cut your way through forty guys and traps to get to in, you’re still an assassin.
So when you’re thinking about the rules that assassins follow - You need to be thinking about the entire range of hired killers, and not just the sneaky ones with poison.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What’s it All About - Part 2

OK - so building on the last blog - how do you get your players passionate about their characters? I think you need to make them “cool” or at least quirky. So how?
Don’t give them a massively powerful magic item! Do give them a quirky magic item. What do I mean? Give them a new item with some history - either a historic relic, or owned by some historic guy, or maybe possessing the soul of some historic guy? Standard stuff from out of the book is easy, but if you can put something together that is going to be more fun, then you’ll hook them. I think items that either don’t always work right, or give incredible bonuses, but only in very restricted settings are great for this. Maybe I’ve always had masochists for players, but they love when an item produces the wrong effect at the wrong time. You’re the GM - play it up and make it funny! Plus - when it does work correctly in a tight spot - the tension the player feels when he’s figuring out what is going to happen really adds to whole game. Be warned - If you introduce five really cool items into a campaign, chances are that the party will sell two or three of them. Before they get into the fun of the item, it may seem like a nuisance, but once they “own” it, they’ll come around fast.
Have you put them up against memorable enemies? Just as the characters have to be interesting, so do the enemies. Not to be too much of an advertisement, but if you need memorable enemies - check out our Baker’s Dozen Villains supplement for some decent ideas. Or Baker’s Dozen Tribes for groups of cool enemies.
OK - so what else? Last week we said that the characters needed backgrounds. Use them! If the character is a veteran of some war, have the next mission giver be a veteran of that war, maybe even an old buddy. Or make the bad guy a rival who is an alumni from the same magic university. Have the victim be a priest from their hometown. If the backgrounds and histories of the characters are only sitting on the page and don’t come into the campaign, then they’re really not achieving their full potential. First, this makes the campaign come alive, in that the player can start to feel that things matter and the world grows. Second, by using their history, you are building their history. It doesn’t have to be every time, but every once in a while, it can really help. Make sure you rotate between the various characters too. If Johnny’s history keeps getting built up but no one else’s does, then it’s going to annoy the other players.
The last thing is to take this sense of building history and run with it. Whether it is the pre-generated history of the characters or what happened in their first couple of missions, build on previous campaign issues. If the characters go from one mission to another without any ties, they are going to start to see everything as separate, even if they use the same character. That’s not building a history for that character and not building the passion for that character within your players.

Friday, September 2, 2011

What’s it All About?

So what’s it all about? What is the secret to being a great game master and keeping your players coming back time after time? There’s a lot to it! The interaction between the group has to be fun - typically because they’re friends. The atmosphere has to be fun. Not too tough for most people, but it’s just not as much fun playing in a crowded cafeteria as it is in the basement of your buddy’s house with maps and posters all over the wall. A really good campaign setting or location can bring them in too, especially if you as a game master have the gift of describing things well to make them feel like they’re really there. But I think the one thing that really makes a campaign memorable is the characters.
Characters make the game. They make the story. They suck the players in and hold them there. I strongly believe that there was nothing special about the Harry Potter stories other than some really compelling characters. I don’t know how she did it (or I would copy it), but she created characters that people really wanted to care about.
OK - So you’re not a billionaire author - How do you create characters that are compelling enough to keep your players involved? Well, first, they need to be more than “Fighter Level 3”. They need to have some substance to them. A little bit of background, a little bit of quirkiness - they go a long way! It’s one of the main reasons I’ve steered away from class based games and into skill level games - you can craft a character instead of flopping into an established role.
There are tons of tricks, and we’ll probably get into more of them in the next post, but there is one thing that so few GMs are willing to do: Kill off a character. If you see that one of your players is really not liking his character - kill it off! Maybe you work with the player - promise him a new character of the same level/experience if he lets you kill his character as part of a murder mystery or something like that.
Look, there are times, when a character should just walk away from the party. Maybe he’s a religious guy and wants good things, but the party keeps assassinating the enemy. Maybe he met a princess in an earlier adventure and proper role-playing would have the character go off to be with her. Maybe you just don’t like the character and can use some excuse like one of these to have him leave and be replaced. Maybe suggesting killing off the character was overdone - you can always retire him in a different manner. The point is - do not keep characters around that cause boredom, anger, disruptions, or just apathy. We’ll try to come up with more ways to grow interest next week.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Retcon as a storyline

Want a cool new idea? Want to introduce a cool new mastermind bad guy but you can’t just have him appear out of no where? Think back to a couple of previous missions, better to use ones that your players might not remember as well (maybe because they are from a long time ago). The best ones are the ones where the players didn’t really get to the bottom of your real plans. Now, you just change the background.
Here’s the idea - OK, last year you set up this whole story line about slavers, but your players got all sword happy and killed everyone before they realized which one was the leader. They hacked him down along with the rabble and barely noticed he had better stats. Now you introduce the mysterious money man (bad guy) and he tells the players how upset he was when they busted up his slavery operations last year. See - now you have a new big bad as, and you built him a background that already makes him your players’ enemy. (Well, and him their enemy.)
It’s normally called ret-con: retroactive continuity. It’s like when they made up all this stupid stuff about Spiderman’s parents being spies. No one planned that when they started the story, but they thought it was a good idea later on. Please come up with something better than long lost parents being spies! You can always add stuff on to someone’s background. The players are seldom great at building full backgrounds, but adding to their background is #1 kind of a cheesy because it’s their background (you didn’t write it, and they often get territorial) and #2 the easy way out. By rewriting your own missions, you have far greater freedom and knowledge.
I’m a big fan of the “permanent” enemy. Now, if you never had an enemy that kept coming back, you can build one. Mr. New Bad Guy can now be really upset that your characters destroyed his slave operation and those bandits and that thief who stole the art work. You know you can hit it the other way too. The players think they were hired by a scared old lady, a sheriff and a knight, but in fact they were being manipulated by the powerful high priest who was testing the team to determine if they were both made of the right stuff and of the proper moral fiber. In fact he has controlled a major part of their adventuring career. It might upset them and make them feel like patsies, but it should still impress them, and there was no chance of them detecting the deceit earlier, because you just thought of it now.
Why? Why do this? Why make the adventures link together in mysterious and over blown ways? Because it is a campaign and not a series of unrelated “module” adventures. Because getting your players angry about what is happening to their characters gets them invested, invested in a manner in which they want to keep coming back to game sessions time and time again. Besides - It’s fun!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Winners or Losers

I’m often conflicted about letting the “good guys” (the players) always win. First off, it seems odd. I mean nobody ever wins all the time. There should be times when they suffer setbacks. But these are the players, and truth be told, people don’t want to spend their entertainment time losing. So can you make it challenging enough to make it thrilling, but still allow them to win all the time? I don’t think so.
But then the problem is pride. If faced with a situation that they truly cannot win (at least with the strategy they are using), will they retreat? Will they blunder forward killing characters off, or will they move away to fight another day? Depends on the players, but there are a lot of them out there who will not bother to break off, no matter how bad it is. These folks are usually pretty pissed when their characters die too, even though most GMs would perceive this to be the players fault.
You want the keys to the kingdom? You want the best GM advice ever? Here it is: There are more of them than there are of you. What’s that mean? It means if you place them in front of an unsolvable puzzle - at least one that you don’t already know the way out of, then they are still likely to come up with a solution. This works! Challenge them, but not in a life threatening way. What happens if they fail? Well, in some cases, they may need to go get more guys - hire some NPCs that have talents that they don’t have. In a lot of situations, they will come up with some crazy way to use the spells or abilities that they already have in ways you never would have thought of and might be able to win through that way. (You can often be a little more lenient here, especially if it adds to the story line.)
If you know how to beat it, then the players who know you are very likely to figure it out. After all, they know you, and probably know how you game master. If it is more of a challenge, and not simply an unwinnable fight, then failure (should it come) is not lethal, so they lose, but their characters are still alive. Of course the challenge can easily be - How do we get past an army 1,000x bigger than out party? Let’s hope they don’t start by rolling for initiative.
There’s a cop out here too. If you know how to beat the trap/puzzle/challenge, but they don’t figure it out, then after the game, some players are going to see this as you taunting them. “You couldn’t figure it out! All you had to do was ...” OK, for some of you GMs, they might be right and you were taunting them. But if they get all frustrated and ask what they were supposed to do, and you say, “I don’t know. I thought you’d figure a way out that would make it work, but I didn’t have an easy solution.” How do they argue with that? In fact, you’re complimenting them and saying that they (at least collectively) are smarter than you are.
Into each life a little rain must fall, even PCs. Make them work a little harder for it, even if that means they fail. Unfortunately, this might mean that you have other stuff planned for them. If they give up on one mission because you made it a little too hard, they aren’t going to be too happy about sitting around staring at you. Oh, and don’t gloat! It’s bad for their egos!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Products?

Just a quick blurb about 2011 products - We’ve been in this small press arena for about 30 years now. When we went to GENCON, we made sure that our newest, hottest item was prepped and ready to debut at the show. Well guess what - so does everybody else. In order to avoid having our latest and greatest products lost in the mix of other debuts, we’re holding on to some stuff. Once the con season dies down a bit, expect to see several items come rolling out in fast succession.
Board Enterprises has continually provided high quality products without spending gobs of money on art and without spending gobs of money on advertising. You the customer who has found us benefits from that. The guys who have not yet found us do not, but we’re working to let them know about us too!
Just wanted you to know there is a plan; we have been writing and playtesting, but you won’t see it for a little bit more.

Going to the Bench

There’s a thing I’ve always wanted to do, but never really succeeded at: developing a “bench” for an adventuring team. The idea is likely based on some of the superhero stories I watched and read as a kid. When the Justice League needs to go underwater, they make sure they get Aquaman involved. (OK - I hate Aquaman more than I hate Hal Jordan) If the Avengers are going to go into the Neutral Zone, they probably call the Fantastic Four to come along. If you’re playing Warcraft, and you need a tank for an instance, someone logs off their main warlock and comes back on as a Warrior Tank. So why don’t we do that in pen and paper RPGs?
Well, because we invest so much time and love into our characters. Also because GMs are hesitant to write missions that require certain character types for fear of annoying their players. Few of us have as much time to play as we would like. To spend time getting a less powerful character up to a mid range just so you can have a bench seems like a waste of precious gaming time.
But as a GM you can do it. Here’s what I mean: Let’s assume that your party is strongly established in some city, but they’ve moved into that realm where their missions are quite often world saving type things that have them wandering the globe. What happens in their home town while they’re off defeating a demonic invasion in a distant desert? Well, someone must step up, or their home town will be a ruin when they return.
Here’s what I think we all need to do - Establish an NPC party of adventurers who handle the small stuff when your PCs are away. Here’s why I think this is fun (but remember - I’m a role-player, and not a gold farmer): So your main party of PCs goes off and saves the world from demonic invasion by slaughtering hundreds of demons wholesale and then invading the pits of hell to destroy the gate opening device, barely escaping with their lives. They return home to find that their home town is having a parade in honor of a team half as powerful as they are, because that mid-powered team just captured an orcish warlord and drove off his men. Of course, they’re thinking - “Hey - demons are a lot tougher than orcs!) “And we killed them. Those guys just chased them all over the region where they’ll continue to cause little troubles.” But the issue is, that the demons and that battle were on the other side of the world. The orcs were here. The locals only know or care about the local orcs, even if the demons would have enslaved the world.
If you’ve been reading this blog you have likely seen that I love to torture my players. Making them the saviors of the world, but then have to take a back seat to some local group of pansies - ah, pure GM bliss. You can build anything you want off this. Maybe the moderates worship the PCs, but nobody really gets it. Maybe the PCs have to clean up the NPCs’ messes, but the NPCs’ keep getting the glory. Maybe they have to team up. Maybe they start working for different political parties and will clash, but can’t outright kill each other in the streets.
Drama! It can be wonderful!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Gods and Demi-gods 3 - Tricking a god

So when I set out to write a blurb on gods, I was thinking about restricting a god’s knowledge of the world. I mean - Are they all omniscient (all seeing)? Odin had to give up an eye to become all seeing, and he was the only Norse guy with that power. Can gods only be “looking” in one direction at a time? If so, could a mortal create such a fuss in one area of the world that the god shifted his or her attention to that area and missed the fact that the mortal was stealing from them on the other side of the world?
Depending on how you handle the gods, maybe someone praying on the burglary side of the world could alert the god, though it might be too late. Maybe the god has a flock of angels or demons who are keeping tabs on things while his attention is diverted, but again, will the follower be able to warn the god in time? I love this concept - tricking a god. I mentioned the diverting of altar sacrifices before. Clearly that one stuck with me too. What about gods forming false alliances with each other? Wouldn’t their followers then form alliances too? Would the priests feel they had been misled by their gods if the joined with other, just to hear their god betrayed the other god? I guess those are the costs of worshipping an evil or untrustworthy god.
Just remember that gods typically have better or at least longer memories than mortals. They might be pretty vengeful if they’ve been tricked in an important way; oh come on, they’re going to be vengeful no matter how they were tricked. They might not be in a position to do anything about it, but they’re going to be mad. That should be fun too!

Gods and Demi-gods 2 - Communication

The last line of the last post got me thinking - How do the gods communicate? I think most of us assume that priests and priestesses spend a lot of their time in prayer. Why? Well, in my game, prayer grants adoration to the gods, which is in many ways their food and energy. So by praying, the priest type person is feeding his or her god - give a little to get a little. OK, but in modern times, most of us religious types believe that our God hears and answers our prayers. Now I’m not suggesting that every morning during prayer time, a major god needs to pass along pieces of advice to each of his priests, but if the god wants something done, shouldn’t he communicate that?
In my game world, anyone who has spoken to a god is referred to as a saint. If you dream that your god wants you to retrieve a long lost artifact and you survive the mission - you get to be called a saint (assuming that your religious folks believe you). Dreams are good, but sometimes a little too blatant for these major players. Subtlety can work too. I have set out the various “tools” that the various gods use, so that their priests can better understand when their gods are actually speaking to them. A war god’s tool may be fire. Maybe his followers burn their enemies’ homes after defeating them. If this were the case, then a will-o-the-wisp type lure (flying fire, always too far ahead to catch) might be perfect for this god to deliver one of his followers to the site of a battle. Doesn’t matter why the god wants them there, just how he gets them there.
There are all sorts of ways this can work. A magical or knowledge god might see smoke or water as their tool, and then they show their followers images in the smoke or water when they need to let them know stuff. These tools work the other way too. If a war god’s tool is earth, then when he sends a message of his anger, it will likely be in the shape of 30’ tall earth giant, and not in the form of a plague of locust. Yep, they communicate things in bad ways as well as good ways.
Don’t forget the inadvertent or lucky communications either. True believers see their deities as controlling things that are most likely random events. Who knows, maybe they’re right. Maybe it was a god’s will that the tree would fall down in the wind storm and crush the house of that sinner. Maybe it was the will of a god that he got lucky at the card table just when he did. Just because most folks are non-believers and think it was just chance isn’t going to be enough to dissuade a true believer. Just because the GM and/or player knows that it was simply a die roll that caused something to happen, doesn’t mean that the character has to understand that in game!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gods and Demi-gods

There are all sorts of ways that games handle their deities. Some assign stats to them as though they were just really powerful characters. I hate that. I’ve read a lot of myths, and I don’t recall Hercules or any of the others killing any gods. Once you assign the amount of damage it takes to kill one, you are just asking the PCs to go and try (and probably succeed).
I’m all for limiting the powers of the divine. I wrote an article on it. (Find it here.) Unable to skew the game towards the player characters = good! Able to be killed = bad! At least in my measure.
So how do you keep them in check? Well, look at that article, I think that lays it out pretty well. If you want your characters to “kill a god”, I think you need to set up the god’s (or whatever) avatar on the world, and let them kill that. That way they have attacked and killed a divine creature, likely ruining his plans, but still they have not actually eliminated a divine creature that should be beyond such silly little things like death. Now if the king of the gods wants to kill a god, well, that’s another story!
I like the myths that treat the gods like they are a dysfunctional royal family with intrigues and enemies outside the pantheon. If one pantheon is in power (either in a region or across the world) I like putting in little upstarts who are looking to steal their piece of the pie without being assaulted by celestial hordes. In one campaign, the “god” of rats wanted to become the god of cities, and set out to diminish his rival’s power until he could usurp his place. In that campaign, there were also some tricks played where lesser spirits were sabotaging some of the gods’ altars in order to redirect the sacrifices to them, directly stealing power, though in truth relatively small pieces of power.
These are the types of power plays that mortal characters can get involved in (intentionally or accidently). Here is where the gods can play a direct part in the campaign, but without all the lightning bolts and thunderous voices.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What’s “Better” - Weapons

Walk through a hardware store and you’ll find a row of hammers, a row of saws, and a row of power drills, all priced differently. So which one is better? The most expensive one, right? Why?
Let’s concentrate on the hammers and saws and other hand tools, because they are going to make a better analogy when I switch this conversation over to weapons in a fantasy game, which is clearly my intent. Why is one hammer more expensive than another? Most likely, it is in those things that are not immediately noticeable, at least not to the untrained eye. Is the grip better than the other one, less slipping? Is the steel a higher grade; is there less chance of it breaking? That’s the one we normally concentrate on. In our early supplement Legend Quest - Optional Weaponry (RPGNow or e23), we established four grades of weaponry: ornamental, standard, tool, and combat ready. Ornamental covers those “weapons” that were never intended to be used, like the swords old men wear at church functions or a “knife” that is actually a letter opener. The standard grade is what you would expect to find around a normal house - the knife you use to cut your steak. Tool grade is where they start to get tougher: the high quality knife a butcher or chef would have around their kitchen. Lastly, the combat ready is those knives you would expect Seals to have strapped to their thighs during a mission. The only major difference here is the sturdiness of the weapon - how well it resists damage. Let’s face it - a sharpened letter opener could be stabbed through someone’s heart and kill them almost as easily as a Seal’s blade. Damage isn’t the question - durability is.
We get back to the eternal “So What?” question. Why do you as a GM care if a weapon is standard or combat ready? First off, I have used these grades to help in loot. Do you want to arm some poor commoners, but you don’t want to hand over a treasure trove of resale steel to your PCs? Give them bows and hand axes that are of standard grade. No self-respecting weapons shop would take used, low quality weapons. Plus, it makes sense. Need to help your PCs get their weapons and equipment for those first few missions? Let them buy sub-standard weapons. They can always upgrade after they start to be successful. Should all their weapons be “combat ready”? No. Tomahawks and cudgels would almost never be “combat ready”. More likely tool grade. Not only is a cudgel made out of wood, making it weaker than a sword, but it’s barely crafted at all. Similarly, swords would almost never be crafted at standard grade, unless by con men in a traveling show.
Why else? Well to keep your adventurers on their toes. These guys are supposed to know what their doing when it comes to the tools of their trade. Have they neglected to train in skills like Appraise and Weaponcraft? Adventuring is not the same as fighting. Adventurers should be rounded in a way that soldiers and sentries never have to be, and even some of those guys would have the skills required to judge weapons. It’s really not about screwing your party over; it’s about maintaining an element of surprise and reality.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Nomads

Well, home from summer camp, and you know what it made me think about? Nomads. No, really. Spend a week without air conditioning and you start thinking about spending your summers in cool places and your winters in warm places. I’m not talking about the nomads who walk their herds or flocks from place to place so they can eat (more “modern” and still in existence today). I’m talking more about the hunters who followed herds or the gatherers that move from harvest to harvest. Probably a lot of mixed hunters and harvesters there; that’s why they were called hunter-gatherers. (OK, it doesn’t really matter which type I’m talking about.)
How did it work? Well, at its most general level, they moved to where the food was. There’s a Sam Kinison joke in there for you old guys. Let’s say they ambushed the migratory cattle herds as they were moving north with the spring, then they shifted position to harvest the wild beans. Next they went to where the summer succulent fruits grew, but they hurried to the site of the wild tubers and then on to the winter squashes at their height. Before winter sets in, they’re canoeing through the swamps collecting the wild rice, only to arrive in the citrus groves for the winter. OK, I haven’t checked to see if that would work, but it sounds good. There could also be stopping to hit the salmon runs or gathering eggs and meat from some ground birds when they hit their nesting season.
OK - back to the ultimate question - Why? Why do you care? Well, it seems to me that established farmers know how much space they need, and likely have it. To go to war with another country would be a major issue, and keep them from their crops - not something they would want. Even their nobles, who gather taxes on the crops, wouldn’t want them away for long periods. But the nomads have to move from place to place in order to eat and survive. Boy would they be pissed if they have a two or three year wandering cycle and they return to find one of their required spots is now a colony of cotton farmers. They might travel through established fields. They might deplete a certain type of prey animal in a region, but only on a three year wander cycle, so the animal has a chance to build numbers again. If that prey animal is now part of the permanent settlers’ diet, they aren’t going to be happy about the nomads “stealing their food”.
It’s all about perceptions, and those conflicting perceptions causing strife. Two groups of nomads might vie for the same resources. Nomads and permanent dwellers might compete for the same foods or space or water. This would be far more likely to cause problems that need to be solved by battle than those of established agricultural cultures. In a way, it is the same argument fought by the cattlemen and farmers of the USA’s “Wild West”. The cattle herds needed to roam, but then the farmers started putting up all these fences that got in the way of getting the herds to water. Instant conflict - the kind you might want to hire some hired guns, I mean adventurers, to straighten out! Just an idea, or several.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Time Fun

Summer is here and thoughts turn to summer camp. (Just go with me on this one.) Summer camp - that time of the year when all of the urbanites and suburbanites all flock to the woods to experience that which they don’t know. You know the wilderness and all that.
So what would they have done in our fantasy world? They already know the wilderness and rural life. So you know what they did? They went to town. No really. They went to town - They went to the faire. OK - faires were more common in the fall - after the harvest, but they served much the same purpose as a summer camp. The rural folks would go to the big town (or city) and take part in the faire. They’d go to experience that which they didn’t know.
What did they do? Likely they competed. Who had the best apple pie, the biggest pumpkin, the best goat? Games of speed, strength, maybe skill. They also come to see the latest in craftsman’s products, the things they can’t handle on their own - fine fabrics, major tools, maybe some particularly fine tools. Maybe they’re buying seed, either seed they didn’t have or seed in hopes of crossing with some of their own. They are buying, eating, visiting, and having fun; exploring everything the big town/city has to offer.
I love faires - county fairs, state fairs, ren faires. I’ve always wanted to write one into the game world, but they either get too big or too small. I remain convinced that big fair festivals are a great add to any game world. Concentrating all the NPCs together in a smaller area brings all their drama and storylines together. A great place to start adventures - a good place to buy some new stuff - a great place to meet new NPCs or touch base with old contacts. As soon as I get it together, you’ll see it. Anyone want to offer free ideas?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fixing Literature

Have you ever read something - a comic book, a novel, or even watched a movie - and said to yourself, “That’s stupid!” You’re an hour into something and all you can think is, “This character should have had _________ instead.” Maybe you hate that Tarzan is so damn good. Maybe you hate that the Invisible Woman has force fields. Maybe you just hate Hal Jordan! (Come one -We all like just about every other Green Lantern more than Hal. If you actually like Hal, seek help.)
You know what you get to do as a game master? You get to fix those things! You can fix anything! Say you think that Waterloo was a blunder based on the French aristocracy (and their refusal to take orders from a commoner). Put that into your game world - Fix it any way you want. Maybe the nobles were forced out or the army. Maybe the first noble who acted superior was shot/executed and the next one was smarter. Maybe they just weren’t so damned French and actually listened to the messenger.
There’s a famous series of web sites about “what I would do if I were an evil emperor” or something like that. You know - train your storm troopers to shoot straight, stop delivering monologues, actually shooting the good guy so he doesn’t have a chance to escape. The lists go on and on. Go ahead and use those. But when you do take an existing story and make it your own by twisting that part that irritated the nonsense out of you, think it through. If the bad guy shoots the hero instead of letting him escape, does the hero become a martyr? Do thousands rise up in his wake to oppose the evil lord? Does the hero kill a subordinate at some point, but now that subordinate is going to have time to try and off his lordship? Sometimes things will swing exactly the way you want, but sometimes, your twist can lead to something even more interesting. Yes - I read What If by Marvel Comics and I loved them. Remember - changing genres is the easiest way to make a story your own without giving too much info to the players.
Most of the opinions in this segment are exaggerated -except for the one about Hal Jordan - he stinks!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cool Stuff from Actual History

OK - So I’ve been reading Anabasis by Xenophon. The only reason I started is because I discovered that it was in some ways the inspiration for the movie The Warriors - a truly excellent picture!
Anyway, I’m not liking it all that much, but it has had me looking up some other junk on the history of warfare. I think this should be part of pretty much every GMs list of things to do. Here’s a couple of examples as to why:
Did you know that the elephants Hannibal used were not the African elephants we know today but instead some much smaller species that was “only” 8’ tall. They aren’t that much smaller than “forest” elephants, but these are not those huge African elephants you think of. Still - 8’ at the shoulder isn’t 13’ at the shoulder, and you can see a person riding it more like a horse. Still a formidable steed. Now I just have to figure out the stats.
This does play into one of my favorite things: Making an idea my own. Now I get to create a “new” animal. Maybe I’ll add plains elephants who are 7-8” at the shoulder and live on grass, not trees. I already made up my own kudos as the main prey animals for the Central Plains, maybe these elephants will be for the Southern Plains mingled in with the antelopes. Eons ago, I created a pigmy elephant (I think they are the Island Elephants). These little guys are never more than 4’ tall (at the head), but because of the gold deposits they are eating, their tusks get marbled with gold. Hey - It’s a fantasy game!
One of the things I’ve pulled directly from Anabasis is the continuous discussion of providing for the logistics of the army. You can’t carry enough food with you, so you have to pick it up as you go. Sometimes you pillage them. Sometimes you buy them. Sometimes you might even be able to harvest them, but wow that would slow you down. Reading how ancient soldiers failed miserably at hunting ostriches was pretty funny!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fans and Fan expansions

I’m being a little presumptuous here, but that’s me –
There are people out there using the world of Fletnern as their campaign world. Sometimes I interact with them, but not that often. As you would expect, they are developing things within my world, making changes, advancing story lines that I haven’t touched, etc. but the truth is, I’ve been living part time in Fletnern for about 30 years now, and I have good portions of the next 150 years (in game) figured out.
Why am I bothering to say this? Fortunately I have not yet run into this, but the day may come when some GM using Fletnern or some other thing that I have written will come back and insist that I stole his or her idea(s). It won’t be true, but they may not see that from their perspective.
What I’m saying is this – I hope everyone out there uses Rhum, Fletnern, Legend Quest, etc etc etc, but if you fear someone (even me) stealing your ideas, don’t tell people about them.
I was young and dumb once. I play tested some major games for a major company, and I shared all sorts of ideas with my contacts at the company. One of those “game designers” stole my ideas and published them, and because I was young and dumb, there was nothing I could do about it, well, nothing but start my own game company and outlast him. Because of my own issues, I flat out wouldn’t swipe material from one of my customers – maybe from a friend, but only after telling him about it.
So – You can trust me, but still, don’t tell me everything if you think there’s any chance I would “borrow” it. Don’t trust other folks either, not with the jewels of your creation. It’s tempting though. Gamers love to talk about games. You can tell everyone everything, but don’t get annoyed if one of those writer-blocked “game designers” decides that you’ve got better stuff than he’s got that month. Them’s the breaks!
P.S. - I’m no longer bitter about a 20+ year old theft. I really haven’t been for years - since the company he worked for went belly up. I Googled him though. Turns out that those who can’t, teach - Yep, he works at a college “teaching”.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Merchant War vs. Military War

You’ve seen the posts where we discuss the current merchant war brewing on Fletnern. I’ve done “real” wars before – You know, thousands of soldiers charging across a plain against thousands of soldiers. Truth is - I don’t think that role-playing characters belong in the middle of several thousand soldiers. Few if any games handle that well. The glass cannons become the only effective pieces and the warriors are reduced to shields for the mages.
So why a “merchant war”? Well, when the really big firms/cartels/merchant houses go at it, they are:
1 – very likely to hire adventuring type people – including assassins and small unit fighters
2 – very likely to be sneaky and mean if not outright evil
3 – very likely to have a lot of money
4 – very likely to be fighting against similarly odd groups of enemies as opposed to a huge number of reasonably identical soldiers
OK – 2 and 3 are likely in either type of warfare
We’ve talked about militaries retreating before - it’s not easy. Merchant wars lend themselves to smaller battles, often fought in city alleys or warehouses. If anything, they favor the subtle mages; fireballs will bring in guards from every neighborhood, but a disintegrate spell will do the job quickly and quietly. Adventurers fighting a merchant war can make a major difference, something they really shouldn’t be able to do in the major military actions.
Watch how our current mini-campaign work itself out. You’ll see what I’m talking about!

Role-players vs. gold farmers

You’ll see a lot of my posts have to do with adding a bit of role-playing into role-playing games. Who’d a thunk, huh? The truth is, I get it. There are a lot of players out there who couldn’t care less about the role-playing aspect. They get annoyed when the GM tells them they need a character history, and they only care about the gold coin value of that really cool ruby necklace. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to classify the two styles, and the best one I can come up with is borrowed from the on-line MMO games: role-players vs. gold farmers.
If you play a MMO, you’ve likely seen them. (OK, if you play a popular MMO, then you’ve seen them.) These gold farmers are the jerks who wait for you to engage an enemy so they can grab the treasure behind the guy. They likely have bots running their characters, and they only care about the accumulation of stuff. Are they all in China? Probably not. A lot of them are similar to the rest of us, but they’re people that never even notice the art of the scenery in the game.
Don’t get me wrong – I may role-play by trying to figure out what a particular character would do in a particular situation, rather than try and figure out what the best strategy is from a die rolling point of view, but I’m still a little freaked out by the guys who have a different voice for each one of their characters. We all have our levels of involvement! Some folks might want cool sounding treasure and think it is wonderful for the mood and scene, but they still only care what it’s worth. I’m sure that there are a lot of folks out there who think the fact that I have documented what is on the heads and tails side of each major coin in my world is an enormous waste of time, but there are a lot of folks who think it’s pretty cool too. (If you do, check out Coins of Fletnern - it’s FREE!!)
So – From now on, when I refer to people who think more like me, I’m going to talk about “role-players”, knowing that there are extremes and moderates among us. When I talk about “gold-farmers” I’m going to be talking about those guys who know exactly what they need to hit an 18’ dragon while it is flying at 112” off the ground at 23mph in a light breeze, but have no idea what the name of their home town is.
I’m not set in stone on this! If someone has a better name than “gold farmers” I’m willing to be open minded.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How do they gamble?

I often think about things in the real world and try to figure out how that would happen/work in my fantasy world. Silly little ideas about clothes later grow into the culture impacts of fashion. Too often we (myself included) forget that the fantasy world would have to be enormously different than the modern world. Here’s one that occurred to me:
Gambling: Cards would have to be the gambling style of the nobility. Why? Well because there was no mass production. A deck of cards should be an extremely expensive item. Each card would be a hand painted or inked work of art. Plus, what are they printed on? At best (cheapest) they are probably painted on slivers of wood – slivers that are exactly the same size and thickness. Cutting things that thin is not an easy (inexpensive) task. All this bubbles up to a deck of cards being very expensive!
So if only the nobles are playing cards, what are the commoners playing? Well, probably dice games. Two dice (d6 for all us gamers) are easy to carry around, and they work in most settings, probably even dirt. All sorts of dice games can be played with 2d6, often the kind that can be started or stopped very quickly, such as when a legion takes a 30 minute water break while marching.
What else? Well, in the bars there would be darts. Chess would likely be a nobility game because of the cost of a hand carved set, but checkers could be more reasonable for the commoners. Dominoes or other tile games might be more of a middle of the road (middle class) type of game, because they would be cheaper to produce than a chess set but more than checkers. (Think dominoes; mahjong seems too expensive.) Some tile games are based on card games, and might be a substitute.
What’s it matter in your campaign world? Well, it doesn’t if your game draws no distinctions between the haves and the have nots. In most cultures, the wealthy/nobles will always want to demonstrate their “superiority” over the lesser folk, even those lesser folk who have risen to high position (perhaps by killing dragons and taking their vast treasures). How? Well, the common warrior may be a great craps player, but have little idea how to play poker or chess. The snobby nobles will attempt to exclude or embarrass him because of this. Yeah – it’s a role-playing thing. If your players and your world have no role-playing, well, then I guess it doesn’t matter to you, but are you really playing a role-playing game then?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Why doesn’t anyone run away?

Building on the last post - Why doesn’t anyone ever run away? I’ve touched on this before, but how many times have good guys or bad guys run away when in a FRPG battle? The problem is that without games geared to players acting defensively, it is usually suicide to back off. I know a lot of game systems that hand the aggressor a free shot (often undefended) if the enemy retreats. Think about the comic book villains. If they couldn’t retreat without hero whacking them for free, well, a lot of story lines would be different.
I think this is most glaring when you think of larger scale wars. If wars were fought like FRPGs then they would last about an hour. Once everyone was there, they would whack each other until one side was dead, or more likely both sides were dead. There’s none of this - retreat because of bad positioning. There’s no battle and withdraw and battle and withdraw. By FRPG standards Lee was an idiot during the Civil War, though Grant does seem to have been playing.
I really think that one of the major reasons this stuff doesn’t happen is that GMs don’t have time to properly prepare maps and scenes. If the GM fully knew what the terrain looked like, then either side might decide after a couple of bow shots that they were going to get shanked and high tail it out of there. Who has the high ground? Who has cover? Are there any places to hide? Dips? Ditches? Boulders?
Look, I get it. Especially having grown up in the flat lands, I don’t put culverts and hills into my maps, because they are tough to manage. We don’t sell mapped out locations, but maybe we should. Maybe it’s worth buying a fully detailed map of a place, so you can better run the area. Maybe just zooming in on Google Earth will get you there too.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Merchant War 3

OK - So the Brinston Merchant Houses have been spreading all manner of propaganda against the Forsbury Cartels. A lot of this stuff is about how they’re all over extended and cannot pay their bills, but some of it is to try and minimize the abilities of the entire region. People like to think their rivals are stupid and weak, and the propaganda war is playing on those feelings. But it appears that they went too far.
One of the rumors is that last summer’s war was a loss for the Council of Baronies. (Forsbury is one of the baronies.) The war was against a group of spiritualists who used some massively powerful magics and tried to take one of the baronies as their own. (Centuries ago it was their ancestral homeland, so they felt they had a right.) The Barons beat them, but not according to the story tellers in Brinston. In rumors short on details, it sounds like the Council lost the war and a sizeable piece of its territory to a weak adversary.
Now we’ve talked about motivations here a lot, and this is exactly the kind of motivation that works - They’ve pissed off the Barons. While Baron Forsbury was already “all in” with his cartels, the other Barons are now branding themselves as merchants and therefore assuming that any attacks against Council merchants are against them as well. This isn’t farfetched at all, since each of the Barons is a merchant. Honsdeck is a Cattle Baron, Cifisdoan runs coal mines, and others control corn, cotton and other plantations. If Brinston really is coming against the merchants of the Central Plains, the Barons will be affected, and one by one, they’re all agreeing to help the cartels in whatever way they will need to.
In other related news, a night club owner in Brinston who was rumored to be a blabber mouth was killed “by robbers”. They didn’t hit his strong box, slit his throat from ear to ear (no other marks on him), and a new owner was in place the next morning. Yeah - Sounds like robbers to me. Good investigative work there Brinston! Then again, that’s one information source that Forsbury won’t be able to use.

Offensive vs. Defense

It seems to me that most FRPGs are all about offense and not enough about defense. What do I mean? When’s the last time one of your players used cover as he advanced on a foe? Do your players want super powered weapons or super powered shields? (OK, they want both, but which one more?) Which has better bragging rights: I did 400 points of damage or He swung at me six times and never touched me? If your players are balancing a good offense with a good defense, then I think you’re in the minority. Even adult players would rather be bare chested barbarians than shield and armor types. What about the whole “glass canon” mage types? It’s not that they never consider defense, it’s just that the standard defensive strategy is to bring a healer.
My biggest problem with this is the shield rules in most games. Shields in most games are a flat modifier to defense. In Legend Quest, you use your shield levels, so you can be a skilled defensive fighter. Not surprising seeing my biases. In college, my character was known as the “damage sponge”. I was a paladin with way too much armor, who would keep the bad guys busy while my damage dealing friends knocked off the other bad guys. Now a days, the computer games have taught us the value of a “tank”, and yes, I often play one.
I think it comes down to an experience I had in my late teens. I have to say I was more of a leader than a follower in my youth (hopefully now too). We were somewhere we should NOT have been, and the other guys looked at me and said, “You go first.” Man, that sucked! While this was going on, we accidentally walked into an even more dangerous situation, and I was the dude in front. (The statute of limitations has likely passed, but I do not want to give details for fear of encouraging bad behavior in others.) After that it has always occurred to me, that no matter what the standard party formation is, it takes some balls to stand in front, especially if you expect that a lot of nasty guys are going to try and kill you.
My point is simply this. In real life, people avoid getting hurt. They do this by hiding behind barriers, advancing in covering teams, using shields and other protections, and countless other means, not all of them all that beneficial. It just seems that characters should do the same. No, it’s not as heroic, but it might add a level of strategy to your game that could be very interesting!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dominoes

The whole sugar/wine shortage thing is really more about cause and effect than about imports. Brutal slavery led to a revolt - makes sense. A revolt led to a loss of an important product - makes sense. Loss of something vital led to an uprising - makes sense.
What about your adventuring activity? What if your PCs go out and destroy a horrible slave trading business that has been stealing farm girls and turning them into cotton picking slaves? Well then there will no longer be those cotton picking slaves, which means there will no longer be cotton, which means that cloth and clothing will become either scarcer or really more expensive. This may not end a king’s reign, but your player characters will have just affected the economy of their homeland.
Game example that happened in Fletnern - What if your PCs come up with a way to hunt and kill a large number of mastodons? All of a sudden, ivory is flooding the market. Well, pretty quickly, the price of ivory nose dives, and their hauls, while still valuable, are no longer as valuable. This probably wasn’t that important of an issue, but I do have to keep track of the fact that ivory will never again be as valuable as it indicates in my own rule book.
Think smaller - campaign starting mission is to wipe out the wolves that are harassing the shepherds in the region. OK, they succeed and kill dozens of wolves for the bounties. Well, next year, either the deer and other prey animals are going to have a population explosion or some more dangerous critter is going to move into the wolves’ territory. Same if they wipe out a neighboring group of bandits, outlaws or raiders. Soon enough someone is going to move in there.
This can actually be easy for you as the GM. Draw up a ruined castle. Stock it with low level bandits. Send in the PCs. A year later (game time), restock it with mid-level orc raiders. A year later all this bloodshed has caused some undead to drift out of the castle’s catacombs and they are now terrorizing the countryside, possibly with their cult of freaky followers. One map, three adventures, the dominoes all fall in line.
The moral of this story: Don’t let your players’ actions happen in a vacuum.

What happens in the colonies matters!

I was reading up on the slave trade as part of the merchant war that is building in intensity. I’m not going to argue the historical fact of this, but according to a fairly academic source, the brutal nature of the French Caribbean sugar plantations (huge slave colonies) caused the slaves to revolt. The slave revolt turned Saint-Domingue into the free state of Haiti. The loss of Haiti caused a shortage of sugar in Paris which in turn led to riots. It was these riots that turned the French Revolution from a high minded endeavor into an authoritarian regime (the government needed to crack down on the riots, and then never let up).
Doesn’t matter if it’s right (though it likely is) -It’s still a heck of a story. It made me think - What imports are going on in various areas that if someone were to “turn off the tap” would cause rioting? I mean - we’re not talking about blocking flour, we’re talking about sugar. Sure it’s a need, but it’s a lot more of a want. Booze came to mind. If you have a region that is a major wine drinking culture (or beer) and all of a sudden they can’t get their alcohol, you’re likely going to see some discontent. Now discontent doesn’t turn into riots without overcrowding, but still.
Why do you need riots? Why do you need stuff like this? You having any trouble motivating your characters to get involved in the politics of their homeland? This is a mini-campaign in the making: Wine has become scarce in the home city. The last few merchant ships that would normally have had it have been carrying grain instead. The news is that there was a bad grape season in the wine country. After several months, the stores have been depleted, and the alternatives are also running low. The country’s national dish requires wine, and there just isn’t any to be had. The king is getting nervous, because a mob just burned down a wine distributor’s warehouse when they found it empty. The city is fraying at the ends. The party needs to go get some wine and deliver it safely. Along the way they learn that this was in fact just a ruse by the wine producers to cause unrest. They are stockpiling wine barrels which they will deliver as soon as the king’s evil cousin is put on the throne. Could a revolution succeed simply because the people wanted wine and one king could give it to them while the other couldn’t? Depends on how much they love their wine! Governments have fallen over lesser issues.

Monday, April 11, 2011

How Big 2

One of our faithful readers who usually comments in emails and not in the blog asked if there had ever been a major fire or disaster in Rhum. Certainly there have been disaster: fires, plagues, etc, but nothing major enough to wipe out more than a couple of neighborhoods. That was until the war 26 years ago. When Garnock advanced north, taking first Parnania, then Nanerette, then setting their sights on that little nothing town called Rhum, things went poorly. The majority of the city was outside the “walls”. The only reason the wall lasted was that the maze of streets and buildings surrounding it prevented an organized army from moving against it. Besides the siege itself, the battles were mainly skirmishes. By the time help arrived and the combined armies battled, Rhum was in ruins.
Rather than rebuild their not so fair city where it was (mixed in with some hills), they decided to move the entire city about two miles to an open plain with a strong running stream. While some of the buildings were literally dragged the two miles, most of the buildings in Rhum are less than a generation old. That was part of the dilemma; Rhum was supposed to have been built “too big” so it could grow the population, but how big was “too big”.
Right now I’m still feeling good about the size and density. Most likely before we release The City of Rhum, I’ll have sketched out one of the residential neighborhoods and I’ll feel better about whether or not the density works. The Narrows is a neighborhood that has always been described as similar to London, where the people built the upper floors bigger than the street level floors, so there is very little air between the houses, even those across the street from each other. Depending on how that works out, I’ll know a lot more!

Monday, April 4, 2011

So what are the enchanters doing anyway?

As I’ve mentioned before, I once had a magazine article turned down because the editor thought I was kidding. The article was how magic (and this was magic from that really big FRPG that everyone played at least once) could be used to beauty and health care - two HUGE industries. Obviously this still bothers me. So many GMs believe that enchanters are going to hide themselves away in their little labs crafting huge swords for their buddies to use. That’s ... what’s the word ... stupid? ... dumb? ... ill-conceived? Whatever!
What would a mage (or alchemist or enchanter, etc.) lock himself away in a tiny tower for? Money? OK, yeah, that would lead to big hulking swords. But I think they’d be a lot more likely to do it for personal power, fame or knowledge; and to a mage, all three of those tie together. The more knowledge the more power and the more power the more fame. Look, these guys aren’t studying so hard just to become flunkies to some sword swinging dolt. They want to be “the man”. So what do they need to do that? Well, some of them would be developing new battle magics. But I think that a lot of them would be like modern research scientists. They would be trying to find that next thing, that next development in magic that would be the start of a new generation of magic or a revolution in the way magic is practiced.
So what is the enchanter doing? I think he’s trying to use his magic to learn more magic. He’s experimenting; he’s researching. I just finished watching the entire series of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The whole series comes down to the fact that some alchemists were trying to gain immortality, so they created a life - a homunculus. The homunculus helped them figure out how to gain immortality, only he tricked them and gave the immortality to himself. What’s my point? Well, that magic types develop their magical powers for themselves. The alchemists basically summoned up a demon in hopes of learning from it. Learning what? Learning more magic.
In my world I have created a few magic items and enchantment spells that actually help alchemists and enchanters make stuff, either easier (faster) or more powerfully. While I have to admit that I haven’t exactly created hundreds of items (only a few), I think the reality of a fantasy era would be that there were a few spells that helped the military, and a ton of spells that helped the researcher.
My last point on this - Think about the wizards in movies. You walk into their lab and books are floating in front of him because the desk is so cluttered. Little creatures wander around stirring pots and watching over his experiments. Remember Merlin in the Sword and the Stone? His “best” magic was to shrink his entire home/library so it would fit in his satchel. He didn’t create magical swords, just knew where to find them. If you think about it from the wizard/enchanter’s point of view, you’ll make them more selfish, more self-centered, and develop more magic for magic’s sake, not for a warrior’s sake!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Relating Grain Into Gold to Reality

If you multiply it out, the rules in Grain Into Gold seem to indicate that the fantasy farmer and his family (of mother, and two children) can produce enough food to feed themselves and seven other people. This means that just over one-third of the people were engaged in farming, but all the history books tell us that nine out of ten people were farmers. In some GIG circumstances, this number can go as low as 20% of the people were farmers. So what’s the deal? Well, it’s simple, though the math isn’t. The 1 in 5 or 1 in 3 numbers are dependent on a couple of issues. First, they assume that farmers only grow food. This obviously isn’t true as farmers also grow cotton, linen, sheep and goats for wool, hemp and various other textiles. They also grow spices, and though spices may not contribute to the “food” of the region, they were important crops that took labor and land. The farmers also grow all manner of specialty items such as tobacco, coffee, tea, indigo, etc ad nauseam. We didn’t even start on wine, beer and hooch.
Second, the Grain Into Gold production rates specifically do not take into account things like plagues of locust and droughts. Think of how much more food a farmer has to produce and store if every seven years a plague of locust wipes out pretty much all of his crops. This isn’t a silly notion, but part of the cycle of life. OK - so Americans may only have to worry about insect plagues every 17 years, but these farmers did not have insecticides to fight off these plagues. What about droughts? Depending on your definition of drought, they can occur as far apart as every 20 years or as close as every seven.
OK, so you need to plan out your world. You’re thinking - My world’s locust/cicadas are different from Earth’s, so I’m going to make them appear in huge numbers every ten years, because ten is an easy number to work with. And in this region of the world, where it’s usually pretty hot, I’m going to have a minor drought every ten years (easy math) and a major one every 20. So 1 in 10 years brings a reduction of 75% of food production (locusts), 1 in 20 bring s a 50% reduction (minor drought) and 1 in 10 brings a 80% reduction (we’re not planning to hit them for a minor drought and a major drought in the same year, so they’re really every 20 each). These events cut an average of 14% off the farmer’s production every year.
Lastly, and we’re not going to do the math on this, what about all those bandits out there? A nice calm country may not need to worry too much but an area that needs adventurers is likely going to see frequent bandit or orc attacks. Those damn bandits never just steal your stuff, they typically have to burn the crops and buildings. Not only are the crop lost, but if the farmer needs to spend time rebuilding, that’s time he likely isn’t growing stuff. What about taxes? Funny how I put bandits and tax collectors in the same paragraph, huh? Yes, the farmer is producing food, but the local lord is going to take some of it. This doesn’t change the fact that the local farmer is producing enough food for lots more people than live on his farm, but it shows how the redistribution happens. If the farmer is taxed at about 30% (20% civil and 10% religious), then his family of four is directly “sponsoring” one and a third governmental/religious person. Let’s look at our 3 out of 10 people are farmers. Well, 1 out of 10 is likely religious or supported by the religions. (Do they foster the poor?) 2 of 10 is government, likely one is a bureaucrat and one is a soldier. We just identified 60% of the population without including those who produce textiles or luxury goods, none of the miners, none of the craftsmen, and probably none of a lot of folks I’m not thinking of right now.
One final note - I never pretended that my fantasy worlds are like Earth at any age. Fantasy worlds need to be more than “The Middle Ages”. Whether it is magic or superior technology or the existence of elves, don’t let your players dictate something they learned in their history books. Earth history does not control your fantasy realms!

How Big?

If you’re reading the Rhum Supplements, you’ll read that each sector is 1,000’x1,000’. That makes the city more than five square miles inside the wall. With 40,000 people, that puts the population density somewhere around that of a modern suburb - a nice suburb. That was never the point. The density I’m finding for ancient London and historic Paris are both pretty close to 87,000 per square mile. Let’s remember that London burned because of its narrow streets, and how many plagues did Paris have due to its overcrowding?
So the answer should be somewhere in the middle! We’re ret-conning all the Rhum supplements. Each sector will now be 500’x500’. That brings the size of the city down to one and a third square miles and the population density up to about 30K per sq. mile. That’s about the density of NY or double the density of some of the parts of Chicago I lived in. That makes sense - All I have to do is half the size of the houses that a family of 4.3 lives in, and shrink the streets a bit. Hey some of them can still have gardens, just not big ones. I’m a lot happier with this!
Look for the City of Rhum, the base upon which you can hang the modules, some time when the weather gets warmer.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How old?

So I have been going through some boxes that are cluttering up the office. The idea was to image all of my hand written notes so I can throw out the paper, but still have the stuff on them. I’m up to scanning over 600 pages, so it is a fair amount of “stuff”. So I’m trying to figure out if any of this stuff is already in a file somewhere, and I’ve been opening up files on my computer that haven’t been touched in a while. How long? 20+ years. Yeah, creepy! Forsbury was created over 20 years ago, and the campaign we started there at that time is still running. Fletnern has been around for about 30 years, and Rhum and Brinston were the first cities. That doesn’t bother me as much; I guess because it hasn’t been one set of characters running the entire time.
Have I learned anything? Sure - type everything into the computer when you start, so you don’t have to scan or re-type it later! Thank goodness that Adobe makes cutting and pasting images simple!
Last week I posted about permanent enemies. One guy who we normally classify as a permanent enemy (even though he is now more of an ally) is still active in the campaign. When did he show up? the third mission! Not too many of my NPCs have survived and stayed interesting for two decades. (OK, there is a handful, but probably not too many more.)
Why am I doing this, the whole scanning thing? Because there are a couple of things I want from these old adventures. Some include towns and places that I put a little time into, but then didn’t use again. I’d like to get those on the maps and have them available for future use. Same with a couple of new monsters and spells. Every game/campaign can always use more of those. Some of the stuff isn’t old adventures, but instead notes and ideas I was generating. Some of them are even good.
I’m a better writer and game master than I was 20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean I should take that old source material and allow it to come back to life. Maybe a little polishing is needed, there are still a lot of diamonds in that rough! That reminds me of the review Legend Quest got in Dragon Magazine all those years ago: A real gem of a game. One of the best systems I’ve ever seen.

100 Bar Drinks

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Don’t get confused. This isn’t some cheesy one-page thing with some names on it. This is 20 pages of drink descriptions. There are tons of beers, wines and the hard stuff, including some things that you might not have considered. There are even a few magical drinks.
100 Bar Drinks is probably the best representation of Board Enterprises and our products. Our products are focused around the folks who are interested in something more than melee rules, and our stuff isn’t intended for 11 year old kids. Check it out and get a flavor for what we do! (pun intended, though not a very good pun obviously)