jameson (ST)

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  1. Lat's talk about Initial Costs. The Cypher System Rulebook details Initial Costs on page 195. Briefly, Initial Costs are an upfront cost of pool points to even attempt a task. Normally tasks in Cypher System are free unless they are an Ability with a cost, or the character uses Effort. This can be offset by Edge. Initial Cost comes right off the top. You want to shove that door open? It's a level 4 task and has an initial cost of 2 Might just to try it, any Effort adds on top. It's important to note that Edge can only be applied once per task attempt and so if you have an Edge of 1 and apply Effort to the aforementioned task you end up spending a total of 4 Might (2 Initial Cost, plus 3 for Effort, minus 1 for Edge). I think Initial Costs are underutilized. I cannot recall the last time I saw them at the table as a player or in a written adventure. I must even admit that I don't make use of them very often. I should though, and so should you. Initial costs are a great way to held GMs control player resources. Cypher System characters are quite robust. Pool points and Edge make it easy for players to execute certain kinds of tasks at will or with very little cost. Likewise recovery rolls are easy and plentiful early on, and further extend the characters' resources. Moderate use of Initial Costs can help a GM to either deplete character resources or to help make one in-game choice a little less attractive than another. Consider if you have two ways that characters can progress out of a current scene. One is easy but leads to a planned ambush or other trouble. The other avoids the trouble. You could make the other option harder, or you could give it an initial cost that must be paid. So the players can choose the easy but risky option or the harder costly version that is safer. I'm going to make an effort to start using Initial Costs more. I think it has the possibility to make games better and allow me as a GM to substitute costs for difficulty levels. Most importantly I think it'll help me control player facing resources. View the full article
  2. Image Source: http://franklinchan.deviantart.com/art/The-City-Of-Palaquin-608925394 "Tell me again about how the gods saved the city papa," Hiella pleaded as she wriggled under the covers. "OK dear, ok, but tomorrow something different," Wollace said softly. "Long ago, the old titans, those that came before the gods, lived in another realm and helped the people who worshiped them. Our city was a great center of their worship, and all the titans looked upon our ancestors with favor. The great temples held festivals and worship days and offered sacrifices to the titans and in return the city received their protection and grace. "Many years passed. Many centuries. The city grew and the titans remained pleased by the devotion that the city gave them. The city was blessed, and obviously the favored home of the titans when they were on the mortal plane. "None know what happened the day the titans died, or how a divine could even die, but there was a great sound of thunder from across the ocean. Soon a wave of water unlike any ever seen by man or divine came rushing over the ocean. The titans knew that whatever disaster had befallen the west was divine in nature, and would claim them as well. The four greatest patrons of the city sought to protect their worshipers and together they expended the last of their considerable might to raise the city above the water and out of reach of the great wave. "The titans all perished that day, but the four who saved the city did not disappear. They became stone and continue to hold the city aloft to this day." Wollace leaned down to kiss his daughter on the head, "And that is how the titans saved our home." View the full article
  3. Monday Story Seed - Sultan Wednesday Nuts & Bolts - RPG Blog Carnival - Exit Stage Left Friday Gods of the Fall - In Praise of Page 32 View the full article
  4. I'll stop using this art as soon as I get tired of looking at it. OK, so let's talk about page 32 of Gods of the Fall. I'm going to start by directly addressing Monte Cook Games, author Bruce Cordell, and any other RPG publishers & writers paying attention: Do more of this. Page 32 is a literal page from the Book of the Dead Gods. It contains a hymn to Avi the Sun, the words of Mudarak's Song, and a passage from Samiel 2:17. Page 32 is look directly into the game setting and directly at a document that a character in the game may be familiar with. More than this however Page 32 is a window into everything that the author cannot write into the text. It implies the content of an entire book in terms of style of writing and style of prose. In a game about fallen gods and new gods it gives us a glimpse at the way that the old gods were worshiped and a glimpse at how the new gods may likewise find themselves revered. This one page is, in its own way, worth as much as the rest of the setting section. It does something that the remainder of the setting information cannot do, which is provide a sense of immersion. It does this not by telling us about the world, but showing it to us directly. This is certainly not a new and unique way of presenting setting information. White Wolf made excellent use of such techniques in its Aeon product line back in the 90's and early 2000s by way of presenting massive in world records from the internet (or similar) or newpapers and other print media. This was then backed up by more traditional encyclopedia style world building. There are a few pages in The Strange presented as Estate case files and introductory packets. Games like Shadowrun and Interface Zero have presented their encyclopedic world information layered within the guise of matrix posts by various hackers, complete with snarky comments. I'm sure there are numerous more. My first time through Gods of the Fall I paid this page little more heed than I did any other. I was intent on devouring the book, and wringing as much out of it as possible in the form of raw information. Page 32 stuck in my mind though and when I was planning my first session I decided to read directly from that page when I ran a scene featuring an Adherent street preacher. The effect was, I think, tremendous, as the passage sounded like something from an actual prayer book to the players. Could I have done this on my own by writing my own poem, hymn, or such? Perhaps, though I doubt I would not have been half as successful at hitting the style, and less than that at the content. More to the point though I didn't have to. By providing in-setting material I was able to immerse the players with very little effort. So, to my fellow players and GMs, go read page 32 again. And maybe a second time, and consider what it tells you about the setting, from inside the setting. And to the RPG writing and publishing folks out there, consider including more of this in future products. These glimpses at the setting from within can do more to immerse your readers than a dozen pages telling us about the setting from the outside. View the full article
  5. I wanted to follow up my prior post about planning scenes based on the purpose they serve with another tool I use when planning: determining how the players can exit the scene. As I see it, no matter the circumstances of a scene, there's really only two way out, defined exits and undefined exits. A defined exit is a fixed & finite way out of the scene. This could be as simple as finding a way to open the door of the jail cell that the players are currently prisoner within. Or it could be as complex as a negotiation scene where the exit is the end of negotiations (regardless of how they end). Defined exits are more commonly associated with adventures that are linear in design (such as a dungeon where each room only has a finite number of entrances and exits). An undefined exit is ... undefined. It's an open ended problem that the characters (and thus the players) are free to "solve" however they choose. This could be a scene of sneaking into an enemy stronghold (do they go in via the sewers, by impersonating the guard, climbing the wall?), or even a combat scene (they could win, run away, perish, something else, or even a combination of those). Undefined exits can be associated with more open or "sandbox" games and allow the players to have a greater degree of creative control over the game. Don't mistake my words for implying that undefined exits are in some way better than defined exits. Think of it more in terms of your control over the flow of an adventure. If you plan a scene such that it has only one or more defined exits you have better control over how the scene will transition to the next. This will allow you to plan up front and require less improvisation in play. On the other side, a scene with undefined exits encourages player creativity and can allow for the adventure to go into directions that even the writer hadn't planned for. This will require some more improvisation, but can also be more rewarding for the GM running the game, as they will be able to experience the surprise of the players' solution to the scene. Another thing to consider is that knowing what kinds of exits one scene has allows you to better plan the entrances for the next scene. If you only have a single defined exit then there should only be a single way into the next scene. Conversely having a number of defined scene exits, or a scene with undefined exits, requires that your next scene (or scenes) be planned accordingly. Again, this can be more work up front, but help ease play at the table. Transition for scenes with undefined exits may also require improvisation, with no real way to plan for every contingency. Understanding scene exits can help you plan ahead and plan accordingly. It can also help you know how much improvisation you'll need to plan for, and help you determine how your adventure will flow from scene to scene. View the full article
  6. Image Source: http://franklinchan.deviantart.com/art/Value-Studies-596330001 I quieted my horse and looked across the glass-smooth waters of the River Inra. The sultan's palace loomed on the other side of the water like a man-made mountain, illuminated from behind by a gibbous moon. I tied the horse up under the arching curve of the bridge. Stealth was now my greatest asset and the darkness my ally. I checked the straps on my clothing and gear and then slowly entered the waters of the river. The dry-stone in my pocket would keep me from getting wet, which was especially handy as I didn't want to leave dripping footprints for the palace guard to follow. The air-stone in my mouth allowed me to dive under the surface and stay there for the two thousand paces of river that I needed to cross. Magic was handy stuff when you understood how to make the runes work for you in the simplest way possible. These two single rune stones had cost me barely a dozen crowns, a mere fraction of what a runed up weapon or item would cost. As a bonus the engraver had known from my request that I knew exactly what I wanted; haggling for price had been easy. I emerged from the river and stowed my air stone away while I stared upward at the walled foundations of the palace. Twenty feet high and patrolled day and night, the wall was formidable. I let out a low twittering whistle and was rewarded a short time later by a length of knotted rope that descended not ten feet from where I was standing. I made my way to it and climbed, wondering if I would pay off the guard or be arrested. Fortune favors the bold, they say, and tonight was a night to be bold. The guard was alone, and a small sack of coin made him smile and wander off. I took to a skulking trot in the shadowed streets and slowly made my way toward the palace proper. It was walled off from the rest of the island, but I already had a plan. A nearby building, slightly taller than the wall, was an easy way up. A long pole in segments, was a slightly less easy way over. I quickly broke the pole down as I crouched among the crenelations and surveyed the courtyard. The servants entrance was my next goal, one for which I already had a key. It took time to get down from the wall. There were guards that needed to be avoided and by the time I made a quiet sprint to the servant entrance the moon was noticeably farther along its path. I unlocked the door with my key and crept inside. The smells of the kitchens, even this late at night made my stomach grumble. I ignored it, moving quickly and quietly, following the directions I had memorized. There was no lock on this door, and while plain, it was a heavier door of finer material than the others in here. I opened it and stepped from the drab realm of servants into the richly appointed realm of the sultan. Plush carpeting and velvet curtains, and gold everywhere. I smiled at it all. Slowly I moved down the wide hall, thankful that in the dead of night there were only a few sconces lit, and those far between. At last I came to a set of golden double doors, and pushed one of them open. The room beyond was dark and with a sigh of relief I slide inside, closing the doors behind me. A single candle burned in a gold and glass candlestick, but my eyes were well adjusted to the dimness of the light and I was able to cross the sultan's sitting room to the bedroom door with ease. The bedroom was lit only by the moon's light through the windows, illuminating a massive bed of carved and gilded wood. A single form lay on the bed, it's shape softened by the covers. I stole over to it and looked down into the face of the sultan's wife. "Hello my love," I whispered to her. View the full article
  7. Unless your gaming group is HUGE you probably only have 3-6 players and therefore 3-6 emerging gods. That's not a lot. It's not nearly enough to fill the kinds of multitheistic pantheons that are implied within Gods of the Fall. Luckily there are always NPCs! NPC gods are written into the book in spots but there is also plenty of room for your own creations. These NPC gods can be incredibly useful for a number of reasons. They can be remnants of the past who have survived and act as patrons or antagonists. They could be new gods who are further along the road to godhood and can offer advice and aid to the PCs, or become bitter enemies who don't want to share the divine power gained from worship with other gods. They could be equals, gods to be who are following the same path and who act as allies or enemies. And lastly they can be up and coming gods who have not yet advanced as far as the PCs who need help and are potential friends, or who need help because they are a potential danger. There's a lot of options there. Godly survivors of the prior age will have to wait for another column, that's just too much of a topic, but the rest are worth discussing here and now. These NPCs, like any, may be freind, foe, or merely neutral. The important thing with these characters, as with most every NPC, is to give them enough detail and personality to stand out. These are gods and should have strong motivation tied to their godly journey and their dominions. They need to make sense. They also need to not be cliché. Don't make your NPC antagonist gods all be gods of death, war, violence and the like. There's no reason why you can't twist a dominion into something antagonist by taking an extreme stance that would oppose the PCs. A god of nature who operates like the Afterworld's version of a militant Greenpeace would make for a great antagonist. So too would a god of health who euthanizes the sickly, or a god of hearth who refuses to allow people to leave their homes. The opposite spin is also true. Player character gods may find unexpected allies in gods of their dominion's opposing force if those NPCs approach their domain in interesting non-cliché ways. A god of death who is not bloodthirsty but instead seeks to have death seen only a natural part of the cycle of life (as I got to watch +James Walls play in a game). A god of war who understands that without peace to stand counterpoint war becomes meaningless. A god of trickery who adheres to a strong code and deals fairly & honestly if you follow his ways (think of how traditional Faerie would act). "Older Siblings" Early on in your game the characters are more likely to meet gods who are closer to apotheosis than they are. As allies these NPCs can be invaluable, offering advice and guidance to the characters based on their own experience. If they come along early enough they may be able to provide a copy of the Seven Prophecies, or even guide the characters toward finding their dominions. The trick is to make sure that these NPCs provide assistance but don't monopolize the story or do the player's work for them. Older god antagonists can be great. As enemies they can be terrible to behold and challenging to defeat, flush with power beyond that of the characters at that point. Defeating one may be able to fulfill a labor if they have fallen from their path and are working against the seven prophecies. They also may be ways that the GM can introduce artifacts to less exploration prone characters; relics that have been uncovered but are being used or abused can be taken as trophies. Defeating a more powerful NPC god may also provide a way for characters to gain followers or establish their own following from those that had been oppressed. Peers Allies and enemies. Peer gods can provide much needed help against powerful enemies like greater Ravers or even unique foes like the Hellmaw or the Nightwolf. They can also join the pantheon of the characters and provide plot hooks via their own quests. Likewise, peer goods can, with assistance from monsters or followers, provide credible threats to the characters. More to the point antagonistic peer gods can often provide thematic contrast to the players, standing in opposition and acting as foils by using their dominions to hold the world back instead of redeeming it (or the opposite if running an evil game). Those that Follow Eventually the players will gain the chance to do for younger gods what they may have had done for them by providing guidance and aid to those who follow them. This allows the players and GMs a chance to show how their characters will welcome, or rebuke, upcoming gods who need their help far more than they are able to provide in return. Regardless of how you use your NPC gods try to keep in mind their place in the world and how they will interact with the PCs as well as the world. These gods are movers and shakers in the world, regardless of their level of power and they may both shape the interactions of the players directly and indirectly. Similarly don't allow the PCs to be the only gods in the world, it's important both thematically and for game play and story to have peers, mentors, and neophytes to help populate the setting and make it as rich as possible. View the full article
  8. Welcome once more to the RPG Blog Carnival. You can find the kick-off post here, at Tabletop Terrors. This month's topic is "Rethinking Encounters." Obviously that's pretty open to interpretation so today I'm going to look at how I decide to include a scene in my game. Before I get started I should also note that I don't think of them as encounters but as scenes, because RPGs are like movies with an unlimited budget that you and your friends screen in your mind's eye. Also because a scene can happen without the group "encountering" anything at all if you do it right. The Why of the Scene When it comes to planning a game session or a written adventure I can lump scenes I use into one of three things categories based on their purpose in the overall narrative. That narrative is often times confined to a session, but can be as easily scaled up to a campaign if longer term planning is your thing. Plot point - a.k.a. slave to the story The best game sessions, adventures, and campaigns have a story to them. These stories may be loosely defined, like an open world "sandbox" game, or very tightly written, like a any number of published adventures and campaigns, but regardless there's a story at the heart of them. When it comes to adventures and game sessions these scenes are the ones that push that story along. They might be the kickoff scene where the players are hired to rescue a kidnapped princess. They could be a bridging scene, where the players find the princess and find out that she wasn't kidnapped but instead ran away from her uncle who wants to usurp her throne. Or they could be the denouement where the players finally defeat the uncle and restore the princess to her throne. You really can't have a story without a couple of these kinds of scenes. Hopefully sometime after the initial idea and before they game table these scenes evolve from obligatory story advancement into something cool that pulls the players in or keeps them interested. These are also the scenes that you can't cut for time. If you find that you got started late and only have 3 hours instead of 4 to run your session you can probably skip that scene where the party has to find a way across a collapsed bridge, but you really can't leave out the scene where the princess tells the party about her jerk of an uncle. I try to keep my plot scenes to about 1 per hour of play. So for a weekday evening session I'm probably using only 3 and keeping my plot somewhat simplistic compared to something I might plan for a 4 or 6 hour weekend game. Session Balance - a.k.a. keeping everybody engaged Nobody likes to be bored, but depending on your players you may have to juggle very different personalities and very different interests. You may have some players who want to do combat all the time, others who want to deal with social interactions and role-play, and others who want to explore and solve riddles. Your plot point scenes will have one or more of these aspects of course, but you may want to inject additional scenes to play to the goals of the other players. By ensuring that that everybody gets a chance at their preferred game flavor you can stave off boredom at the table. If you know your group well enough you may be able to run a whole session without combat, or intrigue, or whatever, so long as the campaign is well balanced to suit all the players. However sometimes an intrigue faced session may still call for a late night ambush by assassins that the combat focused player will love. Inspiration - a.k.a. the cool scene Basically these are scenes that are specifically included because of their cool factor. For me this could be a really cool boss fight that the rest of the session/adventure is designed to build up to. It could also be a cool set piece like a rooftop chase, or battle in a unique locale, or with a unique enemy. The point here of course is that I think the idea is cool and that it gains entry on that merit. These scenes often take on aspects of session balance or plot points, but that comes after the initial idea. Often these ideas are the kernal for a whole adventure to be developed. These scenes often also need to be made to work in the narrative either as plot points or as a way to balance the kinds of scenes to appeal to all your players. It's also possible to back into the cool. Maybe you are planning your big finish with the players confronting the evil duke. This could be in a throne room, but it could also be on the palace's parapets, with winds whipping through the air and the only thing between the characters and a deadly fall being the crenelations of the castle walls. View the full article
  9. Image Source: http://romanrazgriz.deviantart.com/art/circle-596823626 "Hurry up! Come on!" Naerl said, tugging her brother's arm to try and get him moving faster. "Naerl, I'm sure whatever you found isn't going to disappear in the extra moment it takes to walk there like a civilized person." Horion said, gently chiding his little sister. He was older by almost a decade, and with their mother gone and their father often locked away with his studies Horion was as much partent as sibling at times. "Don't be such a grown up!" Naerl yelled over her shoulder as she broke away and scampered across the lawn. She stopped at the thickly overgrown hedge that marked the end of the lawn itself and, as far as Horion knew, the edge of the manor house's grounds. "I found a thin spot and you won't believe what's inside!" Horion frowned, he began to wonder just what Naerl had found. He thought back to when he was her age, seven years old, and always crawling about in the wilds outside the small house they'd lived in before their mother had died. Strange rocks, curious insects, and secret spaces had consumed his carefree life then. That had ended little more than a year later when Naerl had been born and their mother had gotten sick. At last their father had won out and brought the family to his family's manor house with the hope that the nearby city would yield up a healer with sufficient skill to save his wife from the sickness. That hope had proven to be in vain, and Horion had lost both parents. His mother dead, and his father now engrossed in his studies of who knows what. Horion and Naerl had been raised by relatives and nannies, and Horion had gone from a curious and excited child to a reserved and serious premature adult. "This way!" Naerl cried, bringing Horion's attention back to the hedge. There was indeed a thin spot, and by the looks it may once have been an intentional opening. Nearl was small enough to crawl through the thinnest part near the ground, leaving Horion to push his way through, the branches scratching and clawing at his robes. Beyond the hedge he took a moment to straighten his clothing before realizing that instead of an overgrown wilderness he was standing in what seemed a carefully constructed clearing. "It's a maze!" Naerl breathed excitedly, "And I found the center. You won't believe what's in the middle! C'mon!" Naerl grabbed his hand and tugged and this time Horion found himself following her as fast as she was going. The maze was a blur of carefully trimmed hedgerows. wild and unkempt but still navigable. Horion quickly lost his bearings to a seemingly endless parade of left and right turns. Pulled along in Naerl's wake he could only follow and hope that she knew her way. Suddenly the narrow and winding maze fell away into a large clearing nearly ten paces across. The ground was covered in low crawling ivy and dead brown leaves except in the middle where a portion had been cleared. An arrangement of concentric circles of stone around a central disc. Naerl pulled up at it's edge and pointed, "What is it?" Horion stared at it for a long moment. What indeed, he thought to himself. "Let's me see." He bent down and touched one of the outermost stones. At his touch a glyph formed in glowing energy upon the surface and Horion drew his hand back so quickly that he fell backward, leaving Naerl giggling. "It's a rune, but ... it can't possibly be." He moved forward on his knees and reached out for one of the inner rings, touching a stone there which also displayed a glowing glyph at his touch. The second glyph lasted only a moment before fading. Horion saw that both glyphs were now faded and he swallowed hard, "It's a rune lock, like on father's study door." Naerl looked at the vast lock and then at Horion, "But daddy's lock only has eight runes!" Horion nodded, "And this one must have nearly a thousand." He looked at Naerl, "What could possibly be so important as to be locked behind a thousand rune lock?" View the full article
  10. OH NO, what happens next? That's what came to mind when I sat down to start writing this blog/planning this session. I almost always do these things simultaneously. The blog post provides the motivation to plan the session ahead of time and writing the blog at the same time as I plan ensures that I document what I want to do. But here we are at the 3rd session and I'm not sure where to go. It's not that I don't have ideas for the campaign, but that I want to expand the game organically and after the last session I'm unsure exactly of where to go organically. Which means I need to run an RP heavy player driven session and see what shakes loose. The characters are outed as demigods with the Adherent population of Somorrah but they are also still very much mortal and their equipment is somewhat depleted after the trials they went through. So I'll go ahead and give them time for shopping and time for some role playing that doesn't hinge on preventing or getting into combat. The players were (justifiably) concerned about the Reconciliators who remained and were going to be gunning for them. I think this drove a lot of the discussion and RP of the session even when it was not the direct topic. I'll also press a round of RP with Raehcha. She may be persuaded to accompany the group, but she also has her own motives: she know's that the Shwalg orks could be civilized under the leadership of somebody strong enough to change their savage ways, and she knows an ork who could do just that. But first the Fire King's dominance over her people needs to be brought to an end. This turned out well and the characters were really wishy washy about their divinity which pushed Raehcha to decide that if they didn't believe in themselves they weren't ready, and maybe never would be. She did offer to wait for them outside of Athsayor if they changed their minds and for a good portion of the session it looked like they would join her. But ... Once in town, whether to stay or just to re-supply, I'll drop some other prospective storylines. After all I do want to start setting up for adventures to come. Looking at the "According to Prophecy" sidebars is a good way to grab adventure ideas thankfully! I'll probably drop mention of the following into the game as "bait" ... Tablet of Fate (pg 68)I had the group overhear a pair of Bibliomancer's trying to hire a guide. They reacted based on their backstories and ultimately decided not to help these guys kill themselves. Lost Explorer's (pg 42)I switched this one around a bit and had Yama be the one asking for aid instead of the one needing aid. I thought it would play better if they were rescuing an unknown and not a famous person. They decided to go this way and that's the story that will drive the second arc forward. Each of these have potential to draw the group to a new geographical location (and likewise if they decide to help Raehcha) and also provide means to begin fulfilling the obligations of a god. In addition, because Somorrah already has a new god in the person of Visheidon (pg 48), depending on how things play out I may have him seek out the players, or allow them to find him should they want to look. I didn't end up not needing to use Visheidon. He's a part of the setting and so if & when the PCs next get back to Somorrah he'll be around to use if I need him. My goal will be to see what the characters want to do with their situation and figure out how to use that to move forward into the 4th session and eventually into second tier. So my plan is basically to wing it. Let the players direct things to some extent, and maybe toss their way a few RP encounters. The first few sessions were heavier on combat and I want to back off a touch to meter the overall game. I think we got a good session if a bit short at just over 2 hours. There was lots of RP and discussion and plenty of questioning if they were gods or not and what that meant. I hope I can carry this forward into the next arc and see how they react to events around them and how they change events they take part in. View the full article
  11. Get it now from DriveThruRPG Firstly, let me state as clearly as possible that this review is for the currently released 28 page version of How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck, and should not be confused for a review of some kind of leaked or previewed version of the forthcoming 160 page How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck that is currently on Kickstarter. I've been told that aside from the title and the subject the old and new versions don't share any text. I can't verify this at the moment, but let's go forward with that as gospel. Back the new edition on Kickstarter Now, all of that said, my intent in reviewing this was, in part, to get an idea of what to expect with with KS edition, and determine if I wanted to toss my hat into that proverbial ring. I'm somewhat, invested into Kickstarters and trying to back the monetary value of my outstanding pledges to something a bit more manageable you see, but Goodman Games puts out some good stuff, and so I want to make sure I don't dismiss this out of hand either. Ergo, a review of the original version. Note: This is not DCC exclusive advice. It really can apply to ANY and ALL RPGs. Vitals Published By: Goodman Games • 28 pages • $6.99 • B&W PDF What's In It? Nine articles by Joseph Goodman, Chris Doyle, Brendan LaSalle, Adrian Pommier, Rick Maffei, Mike Ferguson, Jeremy Simmons, Ken Hart, and Andrew Hind, that are written for GMs and writers working on adventure design. Each article broadly covers a different subject, from how to get the most out of puzzles or villains, to the importance of writing for your audience and proofreading. I went into this as both a GM who is always looking for solid advice, and as a writer who has two adventures published at this point and is trying to understand how to make my next even better. I got my $7 worth for sure. Every article had something useful to take away. Something that had never occurred to me, or that having pointed out plainly made me look back and see how I could have done something different in an adventure I wrote that would have improved it. I think that the stand out articles for me were the following: Things I Look For by Joseph GoodmanThis is more a bulleted list from a publisher, but it was eye opening to understand how a publisher who has hundreds of adventure modules in print looks at things. It also made me see at the highest level how to attack the "problem" of adventure design. Designing Planar Adventures That Don’t Suck by Andrew HindI'm guessing that could easily be the title of it's own book, but as a short essay it still managed to convey the importance of setting your scale and scale for inter-planar adventures appropriately. Villains by Rick MaffeiYou'd think that after 20+ years of GMing I'd know a thing or three about villains, and yet I was struck at how obvious and yet unknown to me the idea of contrasting sub-bosses was until I read it. Oy, how I could have made my Gods of the Fall adventure "Thirst" even better! Verisimilitude by Adrian PommierI've written my own thoughts about this issue before, but usually from a specific subject base standpoint. This essay goes toward a more general all-encompassing approach and it works. It makes an argument for applying some simple logic rules to designing your adventures and encounters and even your dungeons. Closing Thoughts Overall this little PDF really impressed me. More than once I wished I had read it a year ago. More than once I read something and found myself realizing that I'd made poor design choices in the past. I got something out of each of the nine articles and I suspect that most people will. Even if you just write for your own use at the game table I think you'll find some useful advice in here, and if your desire is to write for publishing this is one heck of a $7 investment in my opinion. Look at this also convinced me to kick in for the Kickstarter edition, which is probably all the review that it really needs. The $25 bucks for a 160 page version of this with all new content seems like a no-brainer investment. I doubt I'll ever be hailed as a great writer of modules, and I'll almost certainly never be able to quit my day job, but if I get even half of the "revelation per page" density out of the KS edition I'll still be justified in my backing it. Score: 100% - I almost never give perfect scores, but there is literally a wealth of advice in here if you are open to finding it. View the full article
  12. Image source: http://frankatt.deviantart.com/art/Take-Her-To-A-Peaceful-Place-628405236 I leaned over the rail and watched the world go by. The famous two levels of Lake Yibba. The waters of the upper basin spilling over and down into the lower lake. I could hear the thunderous sounds of the falls below as a soft rumble under the louder sounds of the ship. The creak of the wood and snap of the sails along with the sounds of the crew going about their own business. I blew into my hands to warm them; the air up here was cool and crisp. I turned from the vista and located the captain. Shen was standing alone atop the aftcastle, hands clasped behind her back staring off into the distance. I shoved my hands into my pockets and slowly made my way aft. I must have looked drunken as I made may way to see the captain. I hand no legs for air travel and the swaying of the ship caused me to stumbled to and fro. Swallowing bile I finally managed to grab rail beside the captain, envying her steady as stone stance without any kind of handhold. "Good day to you Captain," I offered as cheerily as I could manage. "Mister Barrow," she replied. After a moment she turned her head toward me slightly, watching me from the corner of her gaze while maintaining a commanding gaze over the remainder of her ship. "How may I help you today?" "Just curious when you expect we'll dock at Landsfall Port?" I was anxious to put something solid and unmoving under my feet. More, I was anxious to take the rune tome I'd recovered to the Aetherist's Guild for study. "Soon enough. Well before sundown." She considered for a moment, perhaps seeing the consternation on my face, "Fret not. The Dart will be moored no later than third bell after midday Mister Barrow." "Thank you Captain. I merely yearn for the Spires of Diamond once more," I lied. View the full article
  13. So last week I talked a bit about how the content of the Deeps was kinda a guideline and that it wouldn't mess up much if you changed it to suit your taste or campaign. One thing discuss was the idea that maybe there are more than five Deeps in your game.... Five seems to be a somewhat arbitrary number. We know that the Afterworld is coming out of a Fall and hasn't been utterly buried and locked in magical stasis in favor of a new society of intelligent sea otters. Side note: Intelligent sea otters would make for a badass coastal kingdom in just about any setting. So from that we can assume that there have not been exactly five Falls prior. It's possible that only certain actions of the gods cause the creation of a Deep. Or maybe there's something special about the Deeps that is unrelated to the Fall itself. Who knows? I don't ... except where my own personal version of the game goes. So armed with that information why not expand on the idea of the deeps? Why not have six deeps? Or sixteen? The world is like an onion and the more layers you peel away the more you uncover, at least until you finally find the heart. It takes 20 total Advancements to "max out" and reach Tier 6. Optional rules for play beyond Tier 6 do exist and in a game about Gods that could certainly be a viable option, at least for a bit. A GM could set up twenty unique Deeps, and instead of the usual Advancement via Experience hand out Advancement each time the group moves to a new, deeper, tier. This could mean playing for a few sessions without advancement while the PCs try to escape the current tier and move to the next, but if your group is looking for an epic campaign in both scope and length, this is one way to do it. Granted, added fifteen new deeps is a LOT of work for the GM, and the gimmick might wear out its welcome before the campaign could come to a close, but it's certainly possible. It's equally reasonable to just add a couple of Deeps. Heck you could just take a narrative "out" and say that after many weeks of exploration the groups have reached the Xth deep, skipping right over a bunch of other deeps. This lets you add to the setting, perhaps for a future game, but not add to the immediate work or the length of the campaign. Why add more Deeps? Well, I suppose there's two big reasons: to add length to the campaign, and to expand the scope of the setting. I've clearly demonstrated the former, but what about the latter? Well the whole idea of Gods of the Fall is somewhat cyclical. Gods rise, rule, Fall, and are replaced by new gods who repeat the cycle, rising, ruling and in time Falling once more. If we choose to assign direct correlation to the Falls and the Deeps this means that there have been five Falls, and five prior wolds locked away beneath the earth. If you do subscribe to this view adding more Deeps means adding more Falls. This implies the world is older, it indicates that there have been far more gods who have perished, failing to learn from the prior Falls and failing to break the cycle in some way. It means that the characters stand at the cusp of a new cycle, not one that is five incarnations long, but possibly far, far more. Perhaps the Anhilation Seed still rests in the Fifth Deep, and perhaps it is not a unique catalyst for the Falls but merely the most recent. There could be dozens or hundreds of Deeps beyond the Fifth. The character may never set foot in these long ago crypts for dead worlds, but knowing that they are there will add weight to their struggle for survival. View the full article
  14. This month's carnival host +Phil Nicholls suggested I post a list of potential omens suitable for Numenera as a follow up to my post last week, which I thought was a really weird and interesting idea. Ergo, I set myself to 1d20 worth of Numenera omens! The basic format here will be number, omen sign, omen meaning. If I need to deviate from this I'll make note of that somehow. A wild Seskii is following you. Danger from wild predators. Seskii are drawn to humans enough that they may even intervene if they have been treated well. A Philethis sighting. A common omen, such as it is. Most people assume rightly that it means something important is about to happen; the tricky part is figuring out what thing is actually important. Red lightning on the horizon. This is commonly held to indicate when the datasphere will go mysteriously silent for a day or three. The green band of the moon being absent during the night of the midsummer full moon. A poor harvest season is coming.A child born with gills in the Beyond. If the child lives it means great fortune for them, if it dies it means flooding rains are coming.Purple light at dawn. You will encounter an ultraterrestrial that day.An intact dessicated amphibian in the road. The Iron Wind is coming.Oily black rain. Good fortune for craftspeople. Biting ones tongue. You will find shins today.A dud cypher during a new moon. You will lose a limb soon. Finding a shin in your meat. Disease or other illness within the next month.Seeing a cloud shaped like a creature. A warning from the datasphere to beware of said creature.One of your oddities cease to function. In Ghan this means stormy weather is coming In the Beyond this indicates that you will learn something significant soon. One of your shins begins to blink. The datasphere has an answer for you, though you may not yet know the question.An all white Shanu crossing your path. Bad luck for the rest of the month (lunar cycle).A falling star (meteor) in blue. Fair weather.An all red bird in winter. Death.Your drink loses it bubbles/head/aroma quickly. You will meet a new freind soon.Breaking mirror by accident. You will discover a lie or secret soon.A sweet taste in your mouth after using the datasphere. The knowledge you gained will come to bad ends. View the full article
  15. Image Source: http://hbdesign.deviantart.com/art/P208-641292648 One hundred strong rode out against the Raver. One hundred brave souls against the corruption of a fallen god. They rode out to the plains of Maredo, banners snapping in the wind. One hundred horses stamped at the earth and rolled their eyes in fear. A sound like thunder as one hundred times four hooves churned and stamped the earth. The hundred formed up a line five hundred feet long and arrow straight. One hundred lances rising into the air like the proud vanguard of a limbless forest. A grand knight rode at the center of the hundred; a knight that ninety-nine others all agreed was without fear or flaw. The grand knight narrowed her eyes as the creature rose from the broken barrow. The Raver was madness incarnate, a broken soul that refused to die. Fueled by the remnants of divine power the Raver continued on following the pained and insane whims of whatever drove it to act. The knight acted on reason and compassion driven by a living human soul. The knight and the Raver were inimical opposites. One hundred knights, brave and true, charged across the field. One hundred knights wheeled to and fro stabbing and lancing and crying out at their foe. The Raver shrieked. It cried forth with madness and pain and its touch was ruinous on the minds of the one hundred. Knight turned on knight in madness fueled frenzy and soon the one hundred were broken on the field. At last one knight stood true and alone against the Raver, she stood firm, her boots planted in the muddy churned earth. All around her companions fought each other as madness confused friend for foe. The Raver charged the knight but the knight stood fast. Her weapon she dropped, her helm she threw aside, and her arms she opened wide. The knight caught the Raver in an unbreakable embrace and neither rebuked its madness nor fell to it. Instead she understood and she accepted and she offered balm. And in that way the Raver was defeated, not with weapons and anger, but with compassion and understanding. View the full article