Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cover Revised

New Version

Old Version

After some feedback and my own dissatisfaction with the original cover I went with white lettering with backed by black to make the title pop out more.  Easier to read.  I changed my GM Games label.  Although it is nearly the same in both I had my black square with red lettering. 

Micro-Adventures Anthology Vol. 1 is being sliced up by cruel and vicious readers.  I want them to take their time to saw off the nasty bits.  When I get those back I'll send it off to RPGNow and Lulu to get print proofs.  This will be a digest size book.  I'll offer it in print and PDF through those stores.  I'll have to look at Tabletop Games and see what I need to do there also.  Hoping for a May release, but more likely June.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Found Locations

I recently completed a micro-adventures, Old Warren Castle.  I called it a found location.  A concept that is not unfamiliar in the gaming world, especially in the vast MMO video games.  The party is exploring an area or headed to somewhere when they find a ruin, cave, mine or natural landmark that they just find along the way.  These are locations that have no known history.  No known history yet.  Or there is no real history, but there is folklore about the location. 

I like to include several of these when I draw a hex crawl map.  I'll place a symbol of some sort to signify that there is special/unique there something there.  I've got a thing for large, stone swords sticking into the ground.  Something that might get the party's attention.  I may write a couple of lines of what they find.  "The remains of some sort of temple.  Seven pillars remain standing within a stone field."  If the party decides to explore then I'll rift off my description.  What I may have thought of as just an oddity to break up the landscape, the players might find some sort of significance to it.  And as a GM oyu have to figure out when a rock is just or rock or is it a tablet with sacred script.  

I use these sites for various reason, here is a short list of some of what I can think of.  But the best way I can describe a found location is, it tells a small part of the story about the land. 
  • Historical information.  Maybe some sort if hint of the culture that existed.
  • Help with current quest.  I'll plant helpful information or a minor item or two that could help the party with their current quest.
  • Just something interesting.  The location or thing has no real significance.  It is an oddity whose reason for being there is lost.
And I give a little experience award for finding these locations.  A little bump for exploration and investigation.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

WiP Cover for Micro-Adventure Anthology: Possible Giveaway

I've been tinkering with assembling an anthology of my micro-adventures.  I sent away a copy an editor to clean up most of my messes.  Tonight I was trying to figure out what the cover would look like and t his is what I came up with.  Overall I like it, but I am not against hearing possible ways to improve it.  If your suggestion is used I'll send you a copy of it once I get it finalized.

Let me know what you think and if you have a suggestion let me know.  Thanks.

Developing A Plan on the Go

As a player you are often called upon to develop a do something.  I use a variation of the Marines motto: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.  Sometimes the plan is dictated by the adventure, but there are many times when the goal is clear, but the tactic is left up to the party.  In my most recent sessions, the party was given the task to inform a thieves guild that they needed to earn their units (a specialize form on currency used by the Consortium) not steal them.

Another night it was a simple fetch mission, grab the DNA and bring it back and get paid, but it got more complex when we were attacked as we left.  With a new (what we thought might be new) buyer we could choose to sell it to him for more.

Both of these situations we were going in blind.  So you make stuff up as you go. Sometimes it actually works.  Most of the time it fails in various degrees.  And the way I tend to roll, my average of level of failure is quite spectacular.

First thing as a player I try to define the goal.  The basics.  What is it we need to do?  In the examples:

  • Let the thieves guild know they needed to earn the credits.
  • Steal DNA bring it back.
Next thing I attempt to do is assume possible problems.  I know assume is bad, but more often than not that's all we got.  
  • The thieves guild might not like that.  Be ready for an attack.  Not sure how many there are.
  • Its in a crashed spaceship so expect other looters, integrity issues with the ship and of course returning with stolen DNA the possibility to getting caught.
So with the goal defined, assumptions we prepare for, we head in.  At this time we assess the real situation.  This is about when everyone's plan goes to shit.
  • It is not just a thieves guild, it also an assassins guild.  Yipee.  We meet them at their private base of operations so them letting us leave alive has decreased drastically.  But the leader is talking to us.  So maybe, just maybe, we return with limbs intact. 
  • There is someone watching us.  It appears that there are looters in the ship before we arrived.  Those watching us are waiting for us to leave the ship.
We have what we prepared for and what we have what is actually there.  Now is the time to adapt.  Use what we have come with to solve the problems we face.

  • Fairly simple, while they talk, I shoot them in the chest.  Take out the lead guy and the meatheads usually go away.  Not head guy, no pay.  
  • Since they aren't killing us they are interested in what we have to offer.  I play that angle up and stay calm.  Going gorilla will only get us killed.  Let them know if they agree lots of shiny things will follow.  
And lastly is to overcome and succeed as best you can.  Not all victories are black and white.  Sometimes getting out with your hide intact is the best you can expect.  And there are times when a situation presents itself where you can improve the outcome.
  • I was able to convince the guilds that it was in their best interest to join the Consortium.  It helped that I dropped a situation where an entire village was consumed by a volcano overnight.  That fact, along with the promise of allying with someone who could gain them more money made their decision easy.  The original goal was just to get them to stop stealing the units.  So this was a win+.
  • Found a number for the buyer for the DNA.  I figure we could double cross that bastard and then sell it to our original buyer.  Turned out to be the same buyer.  We extort him for the full pay because we offer him not only the DNA he wants, we offer all of them that we stole.  Instead of getting 1000 credits we scored 3500 credits.  Win+
Yeah, I realize in both these situations that we ended up exceeding our goal, its probably because I've blocked out all my failures.  It helps me to break it down in these steps especially if a goal or situation is stretched out over a few sessions.  My memory sucks so breaking it into smaller parts helps me keep focused.

Time to roll some dice.  I'm feeling lucky.  No 1s will be rolled.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Selling Your Loot Part 3: Gems & Jewelry

The adventurers return from their journey with sacks full of gems and jewelry. They sort through, divvy up what they want to keep and then sell the rest. Depending on how detailed a GM wants to get and what system you are playing, I'm guessing most adventurers are not going to have much of an idea the value of the gems or jewelry. In most adventures there will be a value listed, two emeralds worth 50gp each and a pearl broach worth 100gp.  And so on.  For someone who wishes to add a little depth to the selling of these precious stones please take a moment to read my simple and complex systems.

Simple:  The simple version is to give 50% of the value for finished stone.  Those that need to be cut 25%.  Jewelry is a finished product and depending on the condition a merchant will give 50% of the value or if it is a rare piece up to 75%.

Complex:  Gems and jewelry are fickle things.  Their value goes the way of trends or fashion of the times.  Emeralds may have been in last year, but don't be caught wearing those this year.  This year topaz is all the rage.  So I use a simple equation.  The value of a gem that is trending is worth 50% more, those that wear last year's favorite suffer a 50% loss.  The one exception to this is diamonds.  They never decrease in value.

I use this sub-system of selling to add a little flavor to a campaign setting.  Those nobles and richie riches like to show off that they can keep up with the others.  Or surpass them in superficial displays of wealth.  And it adds a little stratgy for the jewelers and gem buyers.  Maybe they chose not to buy gems that were last years because they don't want to get stuck with them.  Or you have a thrifty merchant who is buying all the emeralds up at a lower cost and willing to wait the years for them fall into favor once again.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Inspiration from Camp Full of Crap

This past month has been a killer.  Work has been kicking my ass and not even taking my name.  Work just grinds its heel into my testicles and leaves me whimpering.  I think I am on top of it now.  I had the misfortune of having two audits scheduled around the same time.  I must have angered the gods.  The audits have gone fine, exceptionally well overall, but fuckn' hell it takes me down.

But fuck them, time to get back into a gaming groove.  I've been watching random weird shows on YouTube lately, not that there is anything else on there.  I'm a paranormal show junkie.  Love them.  Although I would put my ass in the camp of 'you are full of crap' I'm still fascinated by it all.  I would love to see something that would convince me to pull up stakes from Camp Full of Crap and join the much more interesting, Camp Holy Shit This is Real.

Despite all the creaky noises, unintelligible radio static and ghosts farts they capture, these shows give me ideas.  They usually tell the story of why places are haunted and that is where the gold is.  And you damn well know there is going to be a fucking sacred Indian burial ground nearby.

The stories are about murders, lost dreams, and usually just plain misery of some sort served up in various ways.  There never seems to be a haunting in the Happy Miller House where ghosts sing songs, do nice things, massage your feet and fetch an ice tea from the fridge.  Ghosts general seem to be of the dickhead variety.

But the dickhead, unwise, twisted and vile are characteristics that make up antagonists in game.  I'm not sure I've ever read an adventure where the kind and friendly Millers are big boss at the end of an adventure.  Sure there are some that appear that way and end up being spawns of the dark gods, but I am not talking about I?

So here we are at the haunted house of farmer Johnson.  His three bedroom house is haunted by shadow people and a feisty ghost in the kitchen who likes to open cabinets and turns off the stove.  Shadow people are sort of the equivalent of orcs in ghost world.  They are everywhere and they are always dickheads.  Now what is haunting the house is only mildly of interest.  Why they are there is the meat.

We find out fifty years ago Great Farmer Johnson was married to a Hungarian gypsy woman named Betushca, a rotund woman with a gift of channeling the spirits.  They had nineteen children, one day two of the youngest died when one of the other children was possessed by a spirit Betushca had channeled, and the child threw boiling water on the two sleeping children.  Grief stricken by not only the deaths, but by the possession of their other child and a possession that Betushca caused.  A darkness was planted in her.  She became non responsive except during periods of uncontrollable rage and crying.  One night Betushca awoke and took a knife to kill her possessed son seeing no other way.  Before she could complete the task, Farmer Johnson shot and killed her.

Grim?  A little.  I made this one up to make my point.  This story becomes the vehicle for the adventure.  It grounds the supernatural events so they make sense.  Give them purpose.  The two shadow people could become the dark spirits Betushca attracted that feed off the misery.  And the ghost in the kitchen could be Betushca herself trying to right the wrong she caused.  She opens the cabinets to alert anyone in the house that the shadow people are here.  And she turns off the stove so no one will get hurt, residue memory leftover from the death of her children.

Now I have a setting, Farmer Johnson's House.  I have some critters, the shadow people/dark spirits.  And I have a twist, Betushca trying to warn others and right her wrong.  And what an adventure designer needs to do is develop the current situation.  Why do the adventurers need to adventure here.  Maybe Farmer Johnson the Third is living at the house and one of his children has become a homicidal monkey.  The local priest is terrified to enter the house.  The last time he was there he was attacked by a shadow person and got a boo boo on his back.  FJ the 3rd needs help, and the adventuring party is brave and has a reputation of kicking the asses of dickheads, alive and undead.

Or some other hook to grab the adventurers attention.  The more you blend the adventure in with the history the more interesting the adventure.  If you get a chance watch some weird ass paranormal shows on YouTube and write an adventure.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Big Concept in a Tiny Cabin

With a title like that you would think this was an epic adventure or something.  But this is just a tiny cabin, barn, underground room and a god-like being whose experiment could change everything.  Epic things come in small packages. 

John Carpenter has his Apocalypse Trilogy (The Thing, Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness) where the movies foreshadow the death of the world as we know it.  All fantastic movies, go see them if you can.  This adventure is in the same vein.  Powerful forces are planning on reshaping the world.  In Carpenter's case  those forces are evil.  In mine, one could argue that my catalyst for change is a good guy (Zazriel), but lacks the imagination and forethought to understand what he is doing might destroy the very think he hopes to save.

Maybe I am getting too philosophical, but I like the idea of an antagonist that has good intentions, but doesn't realize that what he is planning could have disastrous results.  And maybe the party can convince Zazriel otherwise, maybe not.  Brute force won't work.  If they can't convince the Zazriel they will have to learn how to survive what he has done.

Poisoning Chaos could be a catalyst for a campaign world changer.  If you need a reason to nuke your campaign and start fresh without having going back to nothing, Poisoning Chaos can give you that reason why things are familiar, but everything is different.  And it also gives the players a role in exactly how it ends.

I hope you enjoy Poisoning Chaos folks.  I want to thank my new patrons.  I've had a recent up tick in patrons which I very much appreciate.  And headlocks to all my old crusty patrons who keep me going.  This adventure will be a half sheet laminated version that will go out to all my $2.50 and above patrons at the end of the month.  Everyone else can grab the PDF for free on my patron page.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Charcoaler's Ransom: A Mix of History and Gaming

I think nearly all gamers are amateur historians, mixed with a few professionals.  Because the genre most often used in RPGs is fantasy and that fantasy is generally based in medieval Western Europe (and recently, several other cultures have been included).  The great thing about this is the plethora of books available on that certain time in history. 

One of the things I like to do in game is research small things in history.  A society, a custom, or in this case, a profession.  The charcoaler was critical to a lot of industries.  I considered how isolated they worked and how easily it would be for a party, or in this case a bandit king, Margesh Blackblood, to paralyze an economy of an area by simply taking out a group of charcoalers. 

I read up on how to create charcoal, what the camps looked like, and how they seemed to be the first to be into forest restoration.  It was an interesting read and I thought would make an interesting backdrop for an adventure. 

The Charcoaler's Ransom is what was created.  An adventure where combat is a losing action.  The party will discover that if they attempt to solve the problem with force they will find themselves in the very rare position of being overwhelmed.  I created a situation where there are no good guys.  Not really.  Owen, can be a sympathetic villain in some ways, but in the end, he is a bandit who obeys orders even if it is to kill.  And poor Samuel, the star of the show, well, it won't end well for Samuel no matter what the players do. 

The Charcoaler's Ransom is available for free on PDF at my Patreon page.  If you like what you read consider joining and getting print copies at the end of the month.  My $5 patrons will receive a print copy of this adventure on cardstock as the end of the month along with anything else I whip up by then. 

Enjoy the adventure.