Play games. Tell stories. Have fun.

Friday, May 29, 2015

100th Post! and d100 Fantasy Monsters

Wow! I've only been at this for a few months, but I've already reached my 100th post.

I've had some positive feedback on my content, and even if I hadn't, I'd still want to keep posting it here. It keeps me constantly striving and coming up with new ideas, and I'd like to think that folks might still get some use out of the stuff I post.

Anyway, in honor of this, the 100th post of Gather 'Round the Table, I would like to present a table of 100 fantasy monsters. Each monster has a name, a special quality or ability, and three other abilities rated from 1 to 5 (1 is weak, 5 is strong). They are not particular to any system, but hopefully they will give you a starting point to stat them out in your RPG system of choice. Enjoy!

d100 Fantasy Monsters

  1. Slime Soldier – Brainless – Jelly Body 2, Spear 1, Slimeball 2
  2. Kobold Firebreather – Fire Breath – Cloud of Smoke 2, Stone Knife 3, Dodge 2
  3. Orc Warscribe – Enchanted Quill – Shielding Scroll 2, Blasting Scroll 1, Stunning Scroll 4
  4. Troll Runt – Self-Healing – Stone Club 4, Dodge 1, Enraging Roar 2
  5. Impling – Whispered Suggestion – Invisibility 3, Fireball 3, Summon Demon 1
  6. Gremlin – Resourceful – Crafty Trapmaker 5, Spiked Club 1, Dodge 1
  7. Fungoid – Mold Spores – Spongy Flesh 2, Stone Hammer 2, Puff Pod 3
  8. Dragonet – Steam Breath – Magic Initiate 1, Iron Claws 3, Tough Scales 3
  9. Glass Soldier – Near Invisibility – Shattersword 4, Shardshield 2, Refract Magic 1
  10. Stone Goblin – Tough Hide – Rock Throw 3, Cave Camouflage 3, Rocky Punch 2
  11. Fossilized Skeletal Tyrannosaur – Bones of Stone – Bite 5, Hunt 3, Dodge 1
  12. Ember Skeleton – Aura of Fire – Fiery Sword 4, Fireball 2, Dodge 3
  13. Bashe (Flying Serpent) – Reflective Scales – Tail Swat 4,  Lightning Breath 4, Dodge 1
  14. Burnt Soul – Soul Drain – Shadow Claws 2, Veil of Shadow 5, Smoldering Breath 2
  15. Demonic Necromancer – Summon Skeletal Fiends – Blackfire 4, Rotting Touch 3, Phantasmal Shield 2
  16. Quartz Dragon – Refraction – Breath of Shards 5, Buffeting Wings 2, Near Invisibility 2
  17. Lion Demon – Terrorizing Roar – Jade Skin 4, Energy Claws 3, Pounce 2
  18. Nether Elemental – Empty Soul – Void Touch 5, Create Spawn 2, Intangible 2
  19. Servant of Sobek – Shapechanger – Clamping Jaws 4, Swift Strike 3, Thick Skin 2
  20. Shadow Devil – Grasping Shadows – Intangible 4, Swarm of Shadows 3, Blackfire 2
  21. Deathless Watcher – Eternal Gaze – Soul Warp 3, Deathly Visage 3, Aura of Terror 3
  22. Goat-Headed Demon – Fiery Hooves – Fiery Warhammer 4, Ram 3, Dodge 2
  23. Maelstrom Rat – Entropic Aura – Dissolving Bite 4, Chaos Breath 4, Dodge 1
  24. Maelstrom Bat – Erratic Teleportation – Screech 5, Veil of Chaos 3, Sonar 1
  25. Glowing Golem – Aura of Radiance – Radiant Blast 4, Metallic Skin 3, Slam 2
  26. Mechanical Dragon – Soul of Steel – Flight 1, Adamant Scales 5, Steam Breath 3
  27. Bone Elf – Deathless – Marrow Drain 3, Summon Bone Demon 4, Dodge 2
  28. Goblin Skulker – Shadowsight – Poisoned Daggers 4, Stealth 3, Dodge 2
  29. Hobgoblin Harbinger – Shadow Familiar – Cursed Blade 5, Aura of Despair 3, Dodge 1
  30. Bugbear Tormentor – Soul of Shadows – Umbral Wand 5, Aura of Pain 2, Shield of Shadows 2
  31. Orc Wrestler – Knockout Hold – Iron Grip 3, Choking Submission 4, Dodge 2
  32. Half-Lich Warlock – Fiendish Phylactery – Withering Ray 5, Unholy Armor 3, Dark Ritual 1
  33. Ash Mage – Choking Cloud – Wall of Ash 3, Smokeshield 3, Smoldering Staff 3
  34. Fangmaw Hound – Bone Armor – Grinding Maw 5, Pounce 2, Spine Throwing 2
  35. Octobrain – Dark Genius – Paralyzing Tentacles 4, Dodge 4, Mental Shock 1
  36. Shriekbat Swarm – Echoing Shrieks – Swarm Mentality 4, Cloud of Wings 3, Disperse 2
  37. Floating Skull – Invisible Body – Fiery Eyebeams 4, Adamant Skull 4, Poison Breath 1
  38. Cyrrphus (River Serpent) – Hypnotizing Eyes – Slippery Skin 4, Bite 3, Geyser 2
  39. Obsidian Salamander – Burning Skin – Burning Breath 3, Commanding Voice 5, Dodge 1
  40. Lightning Windcat – Static Aura – Lightning Bite 3, Pounce 2, Dodge 4
  41. Rumbler – Stony Hide – Rolling Charge 4, Boulder Camouflage 4, Dodge 1
  42. Volcanic Tortoise – Aura of Heat – Snapping Mouth 3, Impenetrable Shell 5, Fiery Footsteps 1
  43. Troll Titan – Towering Rage – Gargantuan Fist 4, Instant Regeneration 4,  Horrid Stench 1
  44. Meteor Dragon – Aura of Wild Magic – Plasma Breath 4, Silver Tongue 3, Diamond Scales 2
  45. Psychic Vampire – Hidden Thoughts – Psychic Drain 5, Mesmerizing Eyes 3, Dodge 1
  46. Fiendish Medusa – Unholy Aura – Devil's Gaze 5, Fiendish Vipers 2, Dodge 2
  47. Ooze Dragon – Amorphous Form – Acidic Blood 3, Poison Breath 2, Dissolving Maw 4
  48. Sand Elemental – Aura of Grit – Disperse 5, Blistering Punch 3, Sandblast 1
  49. Golden Bear – Dazzling Form – Golden Hide 3, Iron Claws 5, Roar 1
  50. Wolfbat – Haunting Howl – Canine Fangs 4, Pack Tactics 3, Dodge 2
  51. Amber Spider – Perfect Sight – Hardened Webs 5, Venomous Bite 2, Stoneskin 2
  52. Weretiger Ninja – Tiger Form – Silent Pounce 3, Flurry of Shuriken 1, Dodge 5
  53. Frozen Shadow – Aura of Fear – Freeze the Soul 4, Shadow Shapes 4, Snow Summoner 1
  54. Violet Slime – Burning Ooze Trail – Cloud of Acid Gas 4, Sizzling Globule 3, Gelatin Armor 2
  55. Stone Wolf – Mountain Howl – Stonefang Bite 3, Hidden Predator 3, Rocky Hide 3
  56. Two-Headed Eagle – Two Brains – Eagle Eyes 5, Razor Beak 3, Dodge 1
  57. Mountain Viper – Dissolving Venom – Gaping Maw 2, Granite Skin 3, Quick Strike 4
  58. Misty Panther – Cunning Malevolence – Aura of Haze 4, Pounce 4, Claws 1
  59. Floral Elemental – Distracting Scent – Quick Regrowth 5, Entangling Roots 2, Thorny Grip 2
  60. Biting Book – Bibliophage – Camouflage 5, Sharp Snap 3, Dodge 1
  61. Screeching Frog – Mighty Leap – Shattering Screech 4, Numbing Mucus 2, Dodge 3
  62. Clockwork Dog – Wind-Up Key – Mighty Bite 3, Tireless Chase 3, Brass and Leather Skin 3
  63. Wood Wyrm – Plant Growth – Sopoforic Breath 4, Barkskin 4, Bite 1
  64. Faceless Knight – No Vulnerable Spots – Heart of Iron 4, Double-Edged Sword 3, Armored Skin 2
  65. Frost Roc – Blizzard Harbinger – Biting Winds 5, Frozen Feathers 2, Snap 2
  66. Dread Zombie – Feverish Consumption – Relentless Pursuit 5, Deadly Grasp 3, Dodge 1
  67. Soul-Scarred Vampire – Aura of Domination – Diamond Skin 2, Touch of Terror 4, Blood Drain 3
  68. Eternal Lich – Multiple Phylacteries – Desiccating Touch 4, Aura of Damnation 3, Skeletal Form 2
  69. Onyx Scorpion Swarm – Thousand Stings – Burning Venom 2, Hardened Chitin 4, Pinching Claws 3
  70. Tattered Spirit – Cloth Possession – Semi-Corporeal 1, Choking Grasp 4, Disguised Form 4
  71. Gray Troll – Joyful Spirit – Thick Fat 3, Featherstep 3, Mighty Bellow 3
  72. Moor Hound – Spirit of Horror – Spectral Eyes 3, Phosphorous Bite 4, Dodge 2
  73. Marsh Hulk – Spirit of Rage – Invulnerable Skin 5, Trollish Strength 3, Grapple 1
  74. Shapeless Shadow – Null Presence – Intangible 5, Soulless Touch 2, Shape Shadows 2
  75. Tashite (Man-Vulture) – Carrion Aura – Touch of Blasphemy 4, Rotting Gaze 2, Hardened Feathers 3
  76. Thoggian – Unspeakable Visage – Strangling Tentacles 4, Paralytic Spit 4, Dodge 1
  77. Canyon Spider – Unbreakable Webbing – Slow Venom 2, Unhallowed Strength 4, Dodge 3
  78. Fungal Matriarch – Regrowth – Spawn Fungoids 2, Cloud of Spores 5, Dodge 2
  79. Deep Linnorm – Paralyzing Gaze – Stone Scales 3, Venomous Saliva 3, Perfect Scent 3
  80. Dirt Dragon – Burrow – Jaws of Rock 5, Wide Claws 3, Dodge 1
  81. Icy Angler – Wisplight – Whirlpool 3, Giant Jaws 4, Heavy Scales 2
  82. Floating Fuzzball – Aura of Adorability – Hover 2, Psychic Drain 3, Duplicate 4
  83. Steelframe Golem – Skeletal Structure – Unbending Strength 5, Agile 3, Cold Cunning 1
  84. Brass Golem – Echoing Aura – Trumpeting Blast 4, Brass Staff Combat 4, Dodge 1
  85. Ursowl – Sagacity – Tearing Talons 5, Dodge 2, Hooting Bellow 2
  86. Giant Sparrow – Perfect Flight – Enthralling Whistle 4, Sharp Talons 1, Flighty Dodge 4
  87. Ricepaper Shadow – Silhouette Form – Steal the Heart 4, Freeze the Body 3, Dodge 2
  88. Withered Hand – Aura of Revulsion – Skittering Crawl 2, Draining Ray 2, Fatal Grasp 5
  89. Hovering Orb – Freezing Gaze – Dodge 5, Icebolt 3, Implant 1
  90. Radiant Ghast – Blinding Aura – Blistering Light 4, Flash 3, Dodge 2
  91. Leviathan Squid – Ancient Beyond Memory – Aura of Madness 4, Touch of Death 3, Deep Magic 4
  92. Colossal Gyo – Titanic Toughness – Hellfire Breath 5, Crushing Tail 3, Shattering Roar 3
  93. Maggot Man – Beyond Death – Corpse Breath 2, Aura of Rot 4, Word of Corruption 5
  94. Blade Demon – Slayer of Gods – Unhallowed Blades 5, Cursed Gaze 1, Impervious Skin 5
  95. Leonine Tortoise – Unrelenting Strength – Terrain Shell 5, Massive Jaws 4, Ocean Magic 2
  96. Cosmic Visitor – Alien Mind – Perfect Telekinesis 5, Telepathic Domination 3, Mental Shield 3
  97. Living Quicksilver – Shapeshifter – Form Weapon 4, Repair Damage 4, Create Spawn 3
  98. Shadow of Fire – Body of Smoke – Flaming Whip 5, Firebrand 3, Call of Shadow 3
  99. Lady of Ice – Word of Command – Irresistible Charm 5, Wand of Frost 4, Shield of Fear 2
  100. God of Undeath – Divine Presence – Word of Undeath 5, Shield of Fear 4, Sword of Pain 4

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Interesting Superpower Pairings

Yesterday I wrote about uncommon superpowers in general, but today I want to talk about interesting superpower pairings. What I mean by that is the idea that a character has two (or more) powers that are unrelated and don't necessarily mesh well together. Giving a character diverse powers not only makes that character more versatile, but also gives the player (or the GM) more room to find alternate solutions to a problem.

For example, giving a character super strength and super toughness is a common pairing, but what about super toughness and empathy (emotional telepathy) or super strength and control of winds? Now you've got a character who stands out among other super strong or super tough heroes, and you've given that character extra versatility to boot. Also, you can stretch your creative muscles to find a theme and a name that encompass both of those powers.

Hopefully the table below will give you a fuller understanding of what I mean and encourage you to come up with your own superpower pairs.

Interesting Superpower Pairings

  1. Super speed and super hearing*
  2. Dynamic camouflage and flight**
  3. Teleportation and animal speech
  4. Super strength and dreamwalking
  5. Acid spit and technopathy
  6. Ice powers and fire powers
  7. Self-healing and poisonous touch***
  8. Super agility and sonic scream
  9. Super scent and eye lasers
  10. Empathic projection and invisibility

* The Hare or Jackrabbit
** The Phantasm or Clear Skies
*** The Virus or Bacterior

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Uncommon Superpowers

If you're playing a superhero (or supervillain) game, let me lay out the powers everyone will be tired of seeing.
  • Super strength and/or toughness
  • Super speed and/or agility
  • Flight
  • Self-healing
  • Laser blasting (eyes, hands, etc.)
  • Telekinesis and/or telepathy
  • Fire powers and/or ice powers
  • Money and/or gadgets
  • Phasing through matter
  • Super intelligence and/or planning

Obviously, my initial comment was a generalization and the powers I listed above cover a wide range of abilities and possible characters. I am not saying don't use those powers, but I would caution you before giving them to all of your super-powered antagonists. Instead, try to find or create some less common superpowers. Here's a list of my suggestions, which include modified and otherwise obscure superpowers.

Uncommon Superpowers

  1. Morph into an animal
  2. Change text by touching it (physical and virtual text)
  3. Shrink objects by 50%, permanently
  4. See 10 minutes into your own future
  5. Poison creatures with a touch
  6. See emotions as colored auras
  7. Learn the history of an object by touching it
  8. Turn into a cloud of particles and reintegrate with a thought
  9. Plant mimicry (not plant control)
  10. Absorb kinetic energy

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Modern Monsters

I'm a fan of the urban fantasy and modern horror genres. That would include (in my book) shows like Supernatural and books like Inner City: Gargoyles. If you're a fan of that kind of work in those genres, today's table is for you. And even if you're not a fan, you can always drop a monster into your modern espionage game for a Halloween session* or tweak it a bit and add it to your fantasy setting.

Spring-Heeled Jack: A leaping legend from suburban London, the spring-heeled jack is so named for his incredible jumping ability. This figure is often described as wearing a dark coat or cloak, or even as having black wings. Some legends give him sharp claws, glowing red eyes, and even the ability to breath fire. Other legends mark him as much more human, saying that (other than his hideous wings) he looked very gentlemanly or that he could speak proper English. In the early twentieth century, spring-heeled jack made the leap from the England to New England as rumors spread of sightings along the north Atlantic coast.

This creature could make an appearance in an urban fantasy campaign as an antagonist who leaps into the second or third stories of homes and terrifies inhabitants before leaping out again. Perhaps it feeds on fear or even simple mischief, since there are few accounts of spring-heeled jack doing anything truly monstrous.

Servant of Sobek: Sobek was a god of fertility, kings, and charms in ancient Egypt, but he still influences the modern world through his servants. Sobek often took the form of a man with a crocodile head, and his servants take the full form of crocodiles. Every year there are sightings of alligators in the sewers of large cities; to the untrained eye, an alligator and a crocodile can look similar, and, indeed alligators are native to North America, where most of the sightings take place. Really, though, these are the servants of Sobek, using the sewers to move from place to place with ease as they go about the tasks set for them by their god.

The servants of Sobek work best in an urban fantasy campaign that features other mythological deities, especially other ancient Egyptian gods. The servants of Sobek follow the mysterious orders of their god, but they occasionally attack a lone human wandering in the utilities system. Rarely, these creatures may even enter a home through the sewage system, if their master so commands it.

Vulpine Spirit: These ghostly foxes are native to North America and are quite different from the kitsune spirits of China and Japan. A common figure among sleepwalkers, lucid dreamers, and those with seemingly prophetic dreams is the appearance of a shadowy foxlike spirit. The vulpine spirits are not violent themselves, but they are frequently a portent of impending danger. Sightings of vulpine spirits are virtually impossible to confirm because those who claim to have seen it are usually dead within a week.

The vulpine spirits fit into urban fantasy campaigns with other ghostly spirits, but they could also make an interesting detour from physical monster hunting. If the vulpine spirits themselves are not dangerous, why do they portend death? Perhaps they are themselves fleeing a more powerful and dangerous devouring spirit, and they appear to dreamers either to plead for help or to offer sacrifices as a distraction to the devouring spirit that chases them.

*Yes, I know I'm writing this in May, but it'll be Halloween once a year, every year, for as long as this site exists.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Challenge System (Download)

You may have seen my post on the Challenge System back in March. It's a very simple RPG system that I designed. I've had a bit of feedback on it, so I decided to format it as a PDF and make it available to download.

You can get it here or through my Downloads page.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Genre Mash-Ups

I love a good crossover or mash-up, and I'm not the only one.

I think that part of the appeal (especially in RPGs) is to create something new, but retain the ability to make easy reference for new players. If you create an entirely original setting idea, then you have to explain a ton of details to everyone just to establish the basic concept. But if you start with a mash-up setting, then you can explain the basic concept with a few words. For example, Shadowrun can describe itself as "Lord of the Rings meets Neuromancer," and people who know those references will have an immediate idea of what kind of world it might be.

I occasionally pull specific examples for mash-ups (see my cyberpunk-Star Wars idea), but generally I prefer to use basic genres, like paranormal and noir. Once I've picked a couple of genres, I isolate a few key elements and see if there's any overlap or stark contrast, and if there is, then I can create a basic framework. After that, it's just a matter of zooming in to the level of detail I want.

Here are a few of my favorite genre mash-ups ideas.

Genre Mash-Ups

Renaissance Resistance: Roman gods return in 1502 to rule Italy through death & fear. Leonardo da Vinci leads the rebels. (clockpunk / dystopia)

Steel and Flesh: Merciless scientific guilds rule from ivory towers. Cyborg rebels follow a bushido and defend the people. (transhumanist / samurai)

Hack the Devil: PCs are hackers with arm-mounted Enochian keyboards that they use to hack reality and counter the forces of Satan throughout the solar system. (paranormal / sci-fi / cyberpunk)

Solar Civil War: Cadets are the only hope for the Union Alliance when the Liberty Confederation ambushes the Solar Fleet. (historical / space opera)

W.E.I.R.D.: In ’47, the Bureau acquired alien tech. Now, 10 years later, they’ll have to use it to stop monsters from Faerie. (paranormal / atomic age)

Trojan War Heroes: Legendary Greek heroes go to Troy by themselves to defeat the Trojan army with their unique fighting styles. (wuxia / mythic)

A Fistul of Neurons: Old West lawbringers arrive in the cyberpunk future and attempt to bring their own style of justice to the dystopia. (western / cyberpunk)

Press Start: PCs are classic video game characters who must recover the pieces of the Genesis Code before an alliance of villains can reboot the universe. (adventure / humor)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Diamond Mind (Download)

Good news, everyone!*

I have transformed my Diamond Mind campaign spark into a five-page campaign overlay. It is free to download in PDF format here and on my brand-new Downloads page.

If you have any feedback (including questions and constructive criticism) please contact me via Twitter or email (

* I hope you read that in Professor Farsnsworth's voice.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tavern Meals and Talking Points

Having just finished my big(ish) breakdown of the Diamond Mind campaign spark, I'm going to post something simple today.

Your PCs walk into the tavern and ask what's on the menu. Sure, most places will probably serve things like turnip soup and rabbit stew. But wouldn't it be nice to surprise the players with something of interest next time? It might spark some role playing with the barkeep or the cook, and it could even lead to a side quest. These tables will get you started.

Tavern Meals

1. Blackwood hen stew
2. Grey acorn bread and goat cheese
3. Frostleaf salad with a glass of elven snow wine
4. Dwarf cakes
5. Warg shank with a pint of aged grog
6. "Hagwich" and fried potatoes with a mug of "witch's brew"

Talking Points

1. The main ingredient in this meal is found in a dangerous region and sells for a fortune.
2. This meal is famous for its health-boosting effects.
3. The cook is brand new, and this is the first time this meal has been served.
4. Only the toughest (or only the classiest) people can properly eat this meal.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Campaign Sparks: Diamond Mind (Adventure Hooks)

To wrap up my Diamond Mind campaign spark breakdown, I'm going to present a list of adventure hooks. Ideally, any one of these hooks could lead directly into the main story about Joseph Chamberlain, Archibald Spire, and Facet. Each hook also has a question or two to spark the GM's imagination and drive the hook into a larger adventure of its own.

Adventure Hooks

The Faceless Man
A street urchin runs out in front of the PCs' cab. She claims to have been nearly kidnapped by a man with no face.
 - Who does he work for? Why kidnap a penniless urchin?

Red-Letter Day
Mouleraine Windham-Smythe is looking for someone to investigate Chauncey Whig. Mouleraine believes that the threatening letters being left in his office are the doing of Chauncey.
- Why is Mouleraine being threatened?

Nails and the Hammer
Nails is sending messages throughout the Underground looking for runners, muscle, and gearheads. Nails has a new plan, but no one else in the gang knows all of it.
- Who else might show up to work for Nails? Spies for other NPCs?

Locke and Keye
Dory Locke is planning a serious heist against a wealthy politician. Dory is looking for a team to help overcome the politician's serious security in exchange for a split of the take.
- Why doesn't Dory choose a less secure heist? What has she got against this politician?

Industrious Espionage
Chrissy Plain is discreetly look for outside talent to help with an undercover investigation of the Northern Coal Company.
- Why can't Chrissy do the undercover work herself? And why is the investigation so covert in the first place?

Writing on the Wall
Dustine needs an extra set of eyes and ears to try to catch the person who keeps leaving ominous messages on her wall during the evening rush.
- What do the messages mean? Why are they always left at the same time?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Campaign Sparks: Diamond Mind (NPCs)

Now that we have setting and locations out of the way, it's time to populate those places a bit with some NPCs.


  • Archibald Spire is an ingenious inventor with a one-track mind and no idea how to run a business.
  • Chauncey Whig is a pompous man-at-arms at Parliament. He is aggressive, and he's a stooge of Joseph Chamberlain.
  • Christianna "Chrissy" Plain is a tough, tall redhead with sharp mind for security. She is the head of the Queen's Most Distinguished Personal Attendants (her personal agents). Chrissy is level-headed and is a crack shot with any firearm.
  • Dory Locke is a telekinetic thief with a clockwork arm designed by Spire. She is a professional thief, but she lives modestly on a few big thefts per year. Dory is generally kind, if a bit forgetful.
  • Dustine Mélange is the amiable owner and barkeep of Clatter. She always seems to be surrounded by a calming aura.
  • Facet is an enigmatic telepath with designs to rule over all of London.
  • Joseph Chamberlain is a charismatic politician with serious influence over Parliament, but not over the Queen. He is strongly against extranaturals and wants them expunged from England.
  • Martin is a poor vagrant in a shabby grey cloak. He has a knack for disappearing, and people have a hard time remembering him after he leaves. He sells information in the Underground.
  • Mouleraine Windham-Smythe is a keen-eyed politician in the House of Commons. His dark skin makes him stand out, but not as much as his critical voice.
  • Nails is a gritty gang leader and an excellent sword fighter. Nails is ex-military and runs the gang with precision.
  • Queen Victoria is the clever and intimidating monarch of England.
  • Whisper is an empathic assassin who feels the pain and fear of targets.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Campaign Sparks: Diamond Mind (Locations)

Even though our setting isn't large compared to most RPG campaigns, we still need to establish specific locations within it. Our villains need somewhere to hide, our PCs need somewhere to rest, and our encounters need someplace to happen. We don't need much detail for most of these yet; the GM can fill them out with specifics as necessary.


Abandoned Tunnels
The various tunnels between abandoned stations in the London Underground are the homes of gangs, vagrants, and rats.

Bosom of the Sea
This large, raucous pub is out among the wharfs and serves mostly sailors and laborers. Its customers are loud, unruly, and often violent, but criminals are known to meet here to make secretive deals.

This cramped pub is located in the artisan's district, and so its clients run the range of working poor to lesser politicians. Clatter is so popular thanks in part to its inviting atmosphere and friendly barkeep.

Clock Tower (Big Ben)
The famous clock tower of the Palace of Westminster. Deep in its clockwork innards, the mysterious extranatural assassin known as Whisper keeps his lair.

The Diamond Star
This high-class restaurant is actually in a zeppelin that circles above the Hightower district. Aristocrats, politicians, and wealthy businesspeople meet here to discuss matters of great importance. Unknown to all, the powerful telepath Facet hides in the Zeppelin, slowly manipulating the minds of the most powerful women and men in London.

Northern Coal Tower
This is one of the tallest buildings in the Hightower district. It is owned by the Northern Coal Company, but many of its floors are leased out to other purposes. In fact, its uppermost floor is Joseph Chamberlain's personal penthouse.

Northern Coal Warehouse
In the heart of Whitechapel, this large building stores most of the coal burned by the many power plants in the district. It is an old building, converted to a warehouse only in the last few years, and has an entire subbasement that its workers know nothing about. That subbasement is Joseph Chamberlain's secret headquarters, where he is keeping Archibald Spire and building his Queen Victoria automaton.

Spire's Studio
This small shop is almost hidden at the edge of the Whitechapel district. This is where Archibald Spire is known to create and sell his magnificent clockwork creations. Spire is often busy working, however, so his shop is open only rarely.

West Whitechapel Plant
This is the largest of the power plants in Whitechapel. Before the construction of the Northern Coal Warehouse, it had a connection through the London Underground in order to receive coal quickly. This small tunnel, although it is blocked, is the closest connection to the Whitechapel Station.

Whitechapel Station
This Underground station was closed more than a year ago. In that time, a major gang has taken control of the station and now uses it as a headquarters.

Friday, May 15, 2015

One-Line Rewards: Low-Level Loot

I'd like to take a quick break from my Diamond Mind project, today, and hit on an unrelated topic that has been on my mind lately: low-level loot!

When I play D&D (or other rules-heavy systems), I almost always start my players at level 1 or 2. I do this for two reasons: 1) I am usually teaching at least one new player the game, and 2) I like the kinds of stories you get at low levels.

But here's my problem: I love handing out cool loot to players. Playing a mid-level D&D game gives you the versatility to hand out all kinds of interesting treasure and rewards. PCs have enough power of their own that even a relatively big reward isn't going to throw off the balance of power that much. And I have the option of handing out lower-level treasure in larger amounts, too.

At low levels, though, I generally feel very limited to what I can distribute. Too much gold throws off the balance quickly, and even a single magic item can double the effectiveness of a single character. And handing out mundane items is, well, mundane. What's more, the default magic item costs (which are well balanced for mid- and high-level characters), are unbelievably daunting to low-level characters. After all, 50 gold pieces for a simple healing potion seems ludicrous when you see how easily the party cleric, bard, or druid can cast the same spell.

So, rather than make drastic changes to the existing pricing structure of magic items, I've done my best to create a treasure chest of low-level rewards. Things that are really cool for players, but that don't throw off the balance too much. The key here is not just giving out weak loot, but giving out a mix of useful rewards that have a strict time limit or a drawback. You can also reskin mundane items into more imaginative rewards. The blasting wand is just a reskinned shortbow without the need for ammunition.

So, without further ado, and for you to read and/or steal at your leisure, low-level loot!

Low-Level Loot

1. Silver acorn powder: Heals 1d4+1; -2 penalty to Dex or Str (randomly determined) for 1 hour
- When you apply silver acorn powder over the course of 1 minute (instead of as a standard action), it heals the full 5 hp, though the recipient still suffers the Dex or Str penalty.
2. Amulet of far speech: The wearer can communicate with anyone else wearing an amulet of far speech within 1000 feet.
3. Ring of smoldering coal: As a free action, the ring produces a small flame, as a tindertwig. It also grants +1 damage to all fire spells cast by the wearer.
4. Dwarven oil: This oil burns twice as long as regular oil in lanterns and lamps, and it can be used to coat a melee weapon (or 10 pieces of ammunition). Once ignited, the weapon deals +1d4 fire damage for 1 minute.
5. Fireroot ointment: Grants 4 temporary hit points for 5 minutes.
6. Blasting wand: Blasts a thin bolt of energy at a target; 1d8 piercing damage (x3 critical), 60 ft.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Campaign Sparks: Diamond Mind (Setting)

Now that we've established our mood and genre (and influences), it's time to flesh out the setting.

London: City of Clockwork Science

In the year 1897, London is a glittering pinnacle of Western civilization. Horseless carriages, powered by charged gears and coils, rattle down the cobblestone streets; zeppelins, loaded with wealthy passengers, float back and forth between London and the Continent; men and women ride elevators to the top of tall towers and place projected-image tele-calls to the other end of England.

The average Londoner probably works in a power plant; she'll be shoveling Scottish coal*, cranking levers, winding coils, oiling gears, replacing cogs, or monitoring output. Other Londoners work in towering offices, routing tele-calls or calculating the cost of a Watt of power or a pound of Scottish coal compared to various global currencies.

Crime and poverty are still a problem in London, though not to the extent that they once were. Unfortunately, those people living in poverty or driven to crime are even more marginalized and ostracized than ever. They've created an underground culture (literally underground), and they're becoming more bitter by the day.

The governing district of London looks much the same as it always has. Government buildings are slow to change. This district is quite busy, however. London is the center of technology and culture in Europe; so the leaders in London have serious influence over not just England and the Continent, but the whole world.

The new money and jobs of London have flowed into the so-called Hightower district like water flowing downhill. Except, in this case, it appears to be flowing uphill. The Hightower district is named after the enormous towers of iron and stone that loom over the city.

This is a poor district, mostly of working-class folks. There are a number of power plants in the district, and dozens of low-rent apartments. Crime is higher here than any other district, but it is still safer than the Underground.

The London Underground
On the street, travel is noisy, but clean and quick. The low cost of winders (nickname for horseless carriages) means that nearly everyone can afford to drive or take a cab across town. The result of this is that the London Underground still operates, but it has fallen out of favor and is rarely used by most people. The lower elements of society (criminals and the poor) have mostly been driven underground: literally. The London Underground is so empty that many closed-down stations have become the home of gangs and beggar communities.

*An enormous vein of coal that burns virtually smog-free was discovered years ago in Scotland and still puts out enough coal for all of England, and then some.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Campaign Sparks: Diamond Mind (Genre and Mood)

Hopefully, you saw yesterday's Diamond Mind campaign spark. If not, quickly check it out and come back.

Good, now that you're familiar with it, I'll restate my goal: I intend to break this campaign spark down over a series of posts, and rebuild it into a fully fledged outline, ready to be statted out into your RPG system of choice.

Today, I am going to briefly discuss the genre and mood of this campaign spark. I do this first in order to make sure that everything that follows fits together and feels like it's part of the same campaign.


As I said in the original post, this campaign spark mixes steampunk and paranormal.

I'm going to define a steampunk setting, at least for these purposes, as one with Victorian values and advanced technology that uses simpler mechanisms. In Diamond Mind, the London of 1897 is know as the "city of clockwork science." It has horseless carriages, zeppelins, gyrocopters, elevators, iron warships, tanks, and projected-image telephones. I think steampunk usually also has an undercurrent of filth and exploitation, but in Diamond Mind's case, that niche is filled by the paranormal aspect.

I'm going to define a paranormal setting (again, for these purposes) as one in which magic and monsters exist alongside the mundane, but normal people are unaware of these fantastical elements. Already, in Diamond Mind I have broken this definition, but that's because the setting is on the brink of a change. Up to this point, the "extranaturals" have been nothing more then urban legends to the vast majority of Londoners, but now they are swiftly becoming a reality.


I think it's safe to say that the mood of Diamond Mind is a dark one. Not grim, like a post-apocalypse setting, but dark. After all, there exists a whole class of people who possess powers that terrify the rest of humanity, and the extranaturals, in turn, fear for their life if their powers are revealed.

But, it does still take place in a city that calls itself the pinnacle of Western civilization in the midst of an age of innovation. So, you know, it isn't all that dark.


The influences here seem really obvious to me, and I'll call them out briefly and discuss them.

X-Men: I've never read the comics, so what I'm referring to here is the first and second X-Men movies released by Fox. Particularly, the extranaturals feel like X-Men's mutants; especially if a law gets passed early in the campaign that affects the legal status of extranaturals. To that end, it's a story about a society that is learning to fear the other and/or about a society that must learn to overcome that fear and accept the other.

The Great Mouse Detective: This movie is definitely steampunk, and the main plot of Diamond Mind is stolen from, an homage to, eerily similar to that of The Great Mouse Detective. That said, Joseph Chamberlain has a very different villainous style than Rattigan, and Whisper the empathic assassin is definitely a much more serious threat than Fidget the bat.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Campaign Sparks: Diamond Mind (Spark)

I know I just shared an interesting campaign spark yesterday, but it got me thinking about other ideas. In particular, I wondered what the actual process would be for transforming a campaign spark into a full campaign outline, including NPCs, locations, adventure hooks, rewards, etc.

So, I'm going to start with a brand-new campaign spark today, and then I'll start taking it apart and filling in all of the empty spaces. By the end, my goal is to have a full campaign outline that someone could (theoretically) lay over the top of their favorite RPG system and use.

But, as I said, I'm going to start with just the simple spark itself. This one is a mix of steampunk and paranormal, and stars Queen Victoria, a psychic thief, and several sinister plots.

The Diamond Mind

In the summer of 1897, London, the city of clockwork science, prepares for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  Amidst the excitement are worried rumors: extranaturals—people with psychic powers like empathy and telekinesis—are becoming more common and more dangerous.

Joseph Chamberlain, well-known politician, has kidnapped Archibald Spire (the renowned clockwork inventor) and schemes to replace Queen Victoria with an automaton.  Chamberlain employs the empathic assassin Whisper as his right-hand man.  Whisper knows nothing of Chamberlain’s full plot: to use the clockwork Queen's authority to wipe out all extranaturals.

Dory Locke, a telekinetic thief with a clockwork arm, turns to the players to help her rescue Archibald, her friend, and uncover the plot.  The scheme goes deeper than even Chamberlain realizes; he is being controlled by a powerful telepath, Facet, who plans to take unopposed control of London once the other extranaturals have been wiped out.

The Breakdown Posts

Genre and Mood (and Influences)
Adventure Hooks

Monday, May 11, 2015

Campaign Sparks V

Campaign sparks are short, detail-filled nuggets of inspiration. These 100-150 words form the basis for a GM to create an entire campaign. They include a few NPCs, a few setting elements, a conflict, stakes, and a twist. The goal is to spark a GM's imagination and go from there.

The Color of the Magi

The Rose Empire is similar to historic Japan, but with magi instead of samurai.  The incarnation of black magic—the black magus—is born into every generation and always dies by age 20.  Fallen Leaf—the current black magus—plans to break this cycle by harnessing his future reincarnations to gain immortality.

Fallen Leaf seeks the Rote of Ages and the Sign of Ages to enact his spell.  White Sand—a monk learned in magic but not a magus herself—recruits other magi to find the Rote and Sign before Fallen Leaf.  The roads are made dangerous by bandits such as Petal of the Blooming Orchid, a crimson magus.

When the Rote and Sign are united, White Sand reveals the truth: she is the black magus, and she used magic to manipulate Fallen Leaf, the white magus.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Random Encounters: High Fantasy Tavern

In case you've missed my previous comments on random encounters, I think there's definitely a time and a place for them, but you've got to keep them interesting. To that end, I've been posting these table combos. Each set has a focused genre and a specific location.

These tables, for instance, will generate a random high-fantasy encounter in a tavern.


1. A drunk elf with a dramatic story
2. A belligerent, racist halfling
3. A pair of bickering half-orcs with visible red auras
4. A hooded figure, skeletally thin but at least 7 feet tall, sitting alone at a table
5. The door crashes in and undead pour into the room
6. An old woman in rusty armor and a wizard's cap clutching a treasure map

Environment feature

1. The floor is not hard-packed dirt, but soft, lush, dark green grass
2. The lighting is especially dim; only a few candles on the walls illuminate the room
3. The ceiling collapses, wood and plaster and thatch crashing down
4. A barrel of strong dwarven whiskey breaks open, leaking across the whole floor
5. A large hearth fire burns brightly in the center of the room
6. Large, brass chandeliers hang from thick rafters over heavy wooden tables


1. A wyvern head, mounted on the wall, comes to life and breathes fire.
2. The drinks were all poisoned! Everyone who had anything stronger than water suffers.
3. Parts of the floor give way, and heavily armed kobolds climb out and attack!
4. A happy-go-lucky gnome buys drinks for everyone and starts belting out drinking songs.
5. A team of pickpocket street urchins runs in, distracts patrons, and robs everyone blind.
6. The bartender starts getting sick, and then a demon bursts out of his chest.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Positive MacGuffins

How often in modern RPG settings (and in movies and books, for that matter) are the MacGuffins and plot devices weapons of war? And if, by some miracle, they aren't nuclear codes, missile schematics, super-soldier serums, or plain old guns, they're financial algorithms, political blackmail, or computer viruses.

Those can make great plot devices, and but there's no positive follow-up from that. Those nuclear codes and blackmail go back into secrecy, and the guns and algorithms just go to someone else (usually). I call these negative MacGuffins, because their default state is neutral, and they can only become dangerous (negative).

What I want is for the PCs' actions to make a real difference in their world. I want them to recover something that will make the world a better place, and soon. So, I came up with these positive MacGuffins. Their default state is positive, so as soon as they're recovered, they immediately start having a positive impact on the world. A few weeks after the PCs recover these, they'll be hearing about them on the news. And some of these MacGuffins might even be making a difference in the setting by the end of their next adventure.

So, even if these particular plot devices don't strike a chord with you, think about the ways that you can incorporate positive MacGuffins into your own games and let your players make a positive change in the setting.

Positive MacGuffins

1. Voracious grass seed that absorbs a tremendous amount of CO2.
2. Rice packed with a week's worth of vitamins and minerals.
3. Inexpensive soy loaded with compressed proteins that unpack during digestion, providing energy for a couple of days.
4. Water-efficient millet engineered with as much protein and iron as a steak, with a fraction of the calories and cost.
5. A nanoscopic implant that monitors vitals, including white blood cell count and various enzyme levels, and provides immediate feedback in the case of a medical emergency.
6. Fast-growing tree that absorbs potent amounts of heat and produces a thick sap that can be used for biofuel.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Six-Word Sparks IX: Sci-Fi Secrets

The high-tech advancements in science fiction have a profound effect on secrecy, much like the effect of magic on mysteries. Not only do the secrets themselves become grander and more dangerous, but the method for keeping them hidden becomes much deadlier and/or more complicated.

These secrets, for instance, could cause galactic panic. And in some cases, that panic may already be widespread, and the secret is the key to stopping or reversing it.

Six-Word Sparks

1. Explorers investigating micro-nebula haven't returned.
2. Strange signal emanates from star's heart.
3. Warping indicates hidden mass affecting travel.
4. Ancient shielded station finally lowers shield.
5. Powerful AI goes offline: sabotage suspected.
6. Supermassive black hole collapses, reveals planet.
7. Nanoatomic particles discovered; nanoverse portal opened.
8. Exotic radiation washes over peaceful planet.
9. Closer and closer stars are exploding.
10. "Quantam Zone" spreads, physics go haywire.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Play Today – Rebellion: Shadow War

Two days ago was May 4th, also known as Star Wars Day. You may have expected a Star Wars related post from me, and if you did, you were disappointed.

That's because I was holding out for today, May 6th, also known as Revenge of the Sixth!*

Today's post, in addition to having a Star Wars theme, is the first of a new category of posts. The idea of these Play Today posts is to present a ready-to-run game session. Ideally, these posts will provide the following materials: a basic setting, pregenerated PCs, NPCs, organizations (where applicable), a few locations (with a varying degree of detail), and a couple of plot hooks.

For the inaugural Play Today post, I'd like to delve into my Campaign Sparks and flesh out my Rebellion: Shadow War idea from March.

Rebellion: Shadow War


Wushu: Black Belt Edition is a rules-light, action-oriented game that will be perfect for a low-prep game.

Basically, every time a player describes her character's actions, those actions happen as described. Then, the player rolls a number of six-sided dice based on how descriptive she was (more details = more dice). Those results are compared to the character's most relevant trait, and if a die is equal to or less than the trait number, it's a success! Most threats require a number of successes before the scene can move on.

There are additional details such as dividing your dice between offense and defense, encounters with Nemeses vs. Mooks, and weaknesses. For that information, I suggest you go pick up Wushu: Black Belt Edition or check out the (outdated but still good) Wushu Open.


It's early in the life of the Rebel Alliance, and the rebels are trying to get organized and recruit members. The Empire is busy cleaning up the last of the Separatists, but they've become aware of the existence of the rebels.

The Alliance, the Empire, and the Separatist remnants are all fighting over the Datanet, a hyperspatial network of information and communication. The Datanet is housed in the core of Coruscant, which is why all three factions have serious operations going on there.

Player Characters

Rhea is a rodian mercenary with a checkered past.
= Chi 3
+ Light weapons expert 5
+ Criminal contacts 4
+ Grappling unit 3
- Nobody trusts me 1

Joran Selkayim is a neimoidian thief with a long list of grievances against the Galactic Empire.
= Chi 3
+ Neither seen nor heard 5
+ Poker-faced liar 4
+ Concealed weapons 3
- Sticky fingers 1

Nyla is a young wookie hacker trying to make a name for herself.
= Chi 3
+ Hacker prodigy 5
+ Wookie strength 4
+ Intimidating presence 3
- Naïve kid 1

Xanathe Tharandon is a bothan sniper who is officially AWOL from the Imperial Army.
= Chi 3
+ One shot, one kill 5
+ Sarcastic banter 4
+ Imperial Army gear kit 3
- Can't see the forest for the trees 1

Blazinda Ossaki is a human mechanic with notoriously bad luck.
= Chi 3
+ Knack for repairs 5
+ (Almost) Everybody likes me 4
+ Amateur sharpshooter 3
- Just plain awful luck 1

Tags is a clone veteran demolitions expert who lost both legs in the war.
= Chi 3
+ Commanding presence 5
+ Explosives can solve any problem 4
+ Tactical mind 3
- Cyborg stigma 1


Commander Hadess Surk is a human officer in the Imperial Army and is in charge of policing the Datanet for rebels and rebel-sympathizers. She has sweeping authorization over the Datanet and its security, and she doesn't like to be challenged, especially by those she considers subordinates.

Sekai Tanel is a mon calamari hacker and a minor crime lord. He runs a syndicate of information brokers, hackers, and tech thieves. Sekai knows his place in the criminal pecking order, but he has a plan to take control of the Datanet and become the criminal overlord of Coruscant.

Bans ni Mikar is a human patroller with the Coruscant Planetary Police. She is doing her best to fight the thriving criminal underworld of Coruscant, but so many of her colleagues are corrupted that she can do very little. She isn't a rebel herself, but she does have her concerns about the new Imperial government.

Neesu Ardoss is a geonosian Separatist agent. He leads a cell of deep-cover Separatists working on Coruscant. He has a variety of skills, and he's putting them all to use working on a plan to gain control of the entire Datanet.

A102-X is an Imperial Intelligence agent. Her species is entirely unknown, and she is equipped with tech far beyond anything else currently available. She is completely calm, persistent, and ruthless when following her orders.


Imperial Intelligence is the covert branch of the Empire's operations. They have almost unrestricted power to act against external or internal threats. Imperial Intelligence is not a large organization, but its agents are well trained and well equipped. Agents in Imperial Intelligence are generally nameless, preferring alphanumerical designations.

The Alliance for the Restoration of the Republic is the official name of the Rebel Alliance. This small, but growing, band of people are trying to bring down Emperor Palpatine and the Galactic Empire. At the moment, however, they are focused on recruiting members and staying hidden from Imperial forces, especially the shadowy new Imperial Intelligence branch.

The Imperial Army are the ground soldiers of the Empire. The Imperial Army has a headquarters on Coruscant, but it also has a number of secondary bases and offices scattered around the planet. Imperial soldiers consist mostly of clones, but recruitment has begun for non-clone soldiers. The Imperial Army as a whole is not concerned with policing Coruscant, or even the Datanet, but they are focused on finding the last of the Separatists and stopping the rebels before they get traction. The Imperial Army also manages the defense of the Imperial Government Complex.

The Coruscant Planetary Police (CPP) are the primary security force outside of the Imperial Government Complex. They patrol the skies and streets of Coruscant, but they have no special authority over the Datanet. They've got orders to report possible rebel activity, but not to engage. Corruption runs deep in the CPP, and very few officers aren't on the payroll of one crime lord or another.

Neesu's Cell is a Separatist remnant holding out on Coruscant. They were a deep-cover cell set up to gather intelligence and to convert Coruscant citizens for an eventual Separatist uprising, theoretically to coincide with a full-scale invasion. They have been very unsuccessful converting citizens, and now that the Confederacy of Independent Systems has been defeated, their goal has shifted to gaining control of the Datanet for their own purposes.


The Imperial Government Complex is the home of the Senate, the Emperor's office, and thousands of Imperial Army soldiers and guards. The Imperial Government Complex also contains the official planetary records, including the maps and schematics regarding the location of Datanet Core access sites.

Tanel's Bar is an innocuous bar among dozens of others on the lowest levels of Coruscant. It is not a wretched hive of scum and villainy; it's much worse. The bar is staffed by Sekai Tanel's thugs, and Sekai himself usually hangs out in a hidden room beneath the bar, where all of his data-access equipment is hooked up.

The Datanet Core is located deep below the surface of Coruscant. In fact, it encircles much of the planet's core, taking its energy from the heat and motion of the molten metallic core. The Datanet Core is enormous and ancient, older than the current incarnation of Coruscant as a city-planet.

The Imperial Army Secondary Base C is the home of Commander Surk and her battalion of soldiers. It has some automated defenses, but is mostly protected by the soldiers that live there. All of Surk's info on the possible rebel presence on Coruscant is located here, on a terminal not connected to the Datanet.

Plot Hooks

Separatist Hunt: The PCs' commander within the Rebel Alliance has sent them to Coruscant in order to investigate the existence of a cell of Separatists believed to be active on the planet. The commander wants to the PCs to find out what the Separatists' plans are and see if they can be recruited.

Neesu is trying to gain control to the Datanet Core because he has discovered Datanet's great secret: it commands an army of ancient destroyer droids. He believes that if he can gain primary access to the Datanet, he can use the army to found a new Confederacy and restart the war.

Neesu has employed Sekai Tanel, a minor crime lord, to do most of his dirty work. Tanel has his own plans, though Neesu is aware of them and is not concerned.

Gameplay Ideas
- PCs must find Neesu and his cell. All leads point to Sekai Tanel and his bar.
- Sekai, his goons, or his data-access gear can point the PCs to an underground system of tunnels inhabited by giant, carnivorous serpents, but also the secret HQ of Neesu's cell.
- Neesu and his cell have nearly gained access to the Datanet Core, thanks to Tanel's resources and criminal contacts. In fact, Neesu is already on his way down in a tunneler.
- Neesu must be stopped from gaining control of the Datanet Core and commanding the ancient army of destroyer droids. But will the PCs take command of the destroyer droids themselves? Or does the Datanet have other plans?

Hide and Seek: The PCs are stationed on Coruscant to keep an eye on the Datanet and to try to recruit new blood whenever possible. Unfortunately, Imperial Intelligence has discovered their existence and assigned an agent to hunt them down: A102-X. She conscripts Commander Surk, her unit, and her resources in order to drive out the rebels.

Commander Surk takes great offense at this, and is attempting to find the rebels first herself. A few of her soldiers remain completely loyal to her, in spite of A102-X's authority, and Surk is using them to scour the area for the rebels. Surk has also recruited a number of CPP officers, including Bans ni Mikar, a local patroller who knows the area well.

Bans ni Mikar doesn't like working for Commander Surk. And while she doesn't know about A102-X, she definitely wouldn't like her if she knew about her.

Gameplay Ideas
- PCs must flee their current HQ before a seemingly unstoppable A102-X finds them.
- The PCs track their attacker's origins to Imperial Army Secondary Base C. Neither Commander Surk nor A102-X are there, but either the soldiers or the info terminal might be able to shed some light.
- Bans ni Mikar catches up with the PCs, and insists on finding out the truth. She knows where Commander Surk is holed up, and she's got an access card to get in.
- Commander Surk has taken refuge in the Imperial Government Complex since A102-X arrived. She is in a low-security guardhouse on the perimeter. Surk has finally dug up A102-X's commander: the Datanet Core itself!
- PCs must gain access to the Datanet Core through the schematics found in the Imperial Government Complex. Once there, they confront A102-X and find out why the Datanet wanted them found in the first place.

*I have been told that the actual day is Revenge of the Fifth (on May 5th), but I don't buy it. Sixth sounds so much more like Sith; plus, Cinco de Mayo is on the 5th, and I need that time to celebrate the defeat of French troops. Take that, France of the 1800s!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Legendary Monsters

I was going to wait a while before I did another follow-up post to my Unique Monsters post, but I was feeling inspired. So, I decided to share some legendary monsters.

The difference between a unique monster and a legendary monster can be a bit blurry, but the gist is this.
- A unique monster is the only one of its kind.
- A legendary monster is famous among its kind, whether or not it is the only one of its kind.

So, not all unique monsters are legendary (since some may be entirely unknown), and not all legendary monsters are unique, though they stand out among their kind. Legendary monsters make good fodder for early-game rumors and late-game encounters. I get particular joy out of building up a legend throughout the game, and then (eventually) paying it off with an epic encounter.

Legendary Monsters

1. Fahs, psychic vampire
2. Miasme, the bone elf
3. Sk'ar, hobgoblin gladiator
4. Fantasma, awakened elephant clairvoyant
5. Irondark, dwarf ninja
6. Malfeasance the Blightbringer, unbound half-fiend dryad necromancer
7. Doom, half-lich warlock
8. Trag, the ogre were-dire-boar
9. Gorgonash, the troll titan
10. Lillith, the infernal medusa

Monday, May 4, 2015

One-Line Rewards: Primitive Magic

Today I've got some more one-line rewards to share. Those are interesting magic item summaries in around 140 characters. My original plan was for these magic items to fit into any system, so I leave out mechanical details. The basic idea is to outline the magic item in a single line and let GMs design the mechanics for their systems.

This group of magic items fit well in a game of low-tech magic. They come from a world of stone, bone, and blood.

One-Line Rewards

1. Ember Knife: A black, stone knife lined with glowing orange fissures. With a strong breath of air, it will burn bright and hot.
2. Shaman’s Mace: A willow branch topped with a snake’s skull. It's held together by enchantments, and it burns with soulfire.
3. Skald’s Cup: A crude, clay cup. Whoever drinks from the cup after sunset gains the gift of fair speech until dawn.
4. Scarred Talon: On a leather necklace, a 4-inch yellowed talon with scratches along it. The talon opens a window into the Underworld.
5. Trollward Amulet: A thumb-sized piece of amber glowing with inner fire. It can repel trolls and trollish creatures with a word.
6. The Spotted Stone: A rough, fist-sized, grey rock with 7 yellow spots. The rock’s owner has unbelievably good luck.