October 15

October 2015 Blog Carnival: What Walks Into Town


This month the host is Scot Newbury of Dice and Dragons .

It’s been a few months since I wrote for the carnival and when October rolls around I seem to have a dozen or so ideas rattling around in my skull which is the perfect thing for this months carnival.

Picture the scene, a small 1950s town in California where things seem to be perfectly normal on the outside but beneath the town has a dark underside.  The residents go about their daily lives blissfully unaware that in a few days a time traveller will appear that will set a chain of events in motion which if unchecked threaten to unravel the fabric of space and time firstly by killing the family and friends of this stranger;  then slowly erasing the whole world from existence.

Our time traveller finds himself stranded in his new time, his time machine requires a specialised fuel to power it and that is something that is very hard to come by in the 1950s.  If there is one thing in his favour is that when he landed he did so at the edge of town so his arrival goes largely unnoticed by the general population; the only contact he has is with a deranged farmer who was convinced he came from outer space to eat his brain.

Also, since he has travelled through time and not space he can blend in with only a few odd looks from the locals, his clothing is slightly different and made from an advanced fabric, he speaks in a strange slang which is unknown to the good people.  Conversely there are things here that are alien to him;  auto-mobiles are very low tech and all appear to be stick shift and not the automatic vehicles from his home time.  People gather at the bandstand to listen to music being played, this structure has a very different use in his time; this is very much the era of live music, the theatre and going to school dance; even getting a simple shave or h.aircut can be entertaining with a quartet of barbers to hand.

After a chance encounter with a friend from his own time he is made aware that every interaction he has causes ripples that subtly alter the time-line around him; he has become like a butterfly flapping his wings here and a storm occurring over there.  A second accidental encounter means he meets his own parents and must atone for the damage he has caused to their relationship or else the aforementioned doom will befall him.

All the while he wanders he has knowledge of what is to come, maybe not to all the residents of this sleepy town but there are a few important people here and there with an important part to play in the future of this town.   So our poor traveller stuck in his past must tread a fine line or risk upsetting the cosmic apple cart.


When I wrote this I was going to reveal the identity of the traveller as it is based on someone but then I realised that it would spoil the set-up of the mysterious stranger and this would no longer be What Walks Into Town but Who Walks Into Town. So take what I have given you, change it if you will and use your own time traveller rather than mine.

I won’t stop you having a guess if you want in the comments below but even if you guess right; I won’t publicly acknowledge it.

May 31

RPG Blog Carnival May 2015 – Unusual Dungeons


This month the subject of the carnival is Unusual Dungeons, hosted by Enderra.

I’ve never really done much dungeon delving as either player or gm, so I found this a bit of a tricky subject to write about.

I’m all for making a dungeon an interesting environment rather than another 1o’ by 10′ room with an Orc and a pie in it, although it is an interesting concept adventure by Monte Cook and I have the t-shirt to prove it 🙂 .

The only real dungeon that appealed were those constructed within a tesseract, a strange construct that can defy logic and also cause insanity as everyone tries to get to grips with exactly how everything connects.

Given enough time, graph paper, inspiration and a book like Central Casting Dungeons I suppose I could create a believable excavated dungeon for the players to explore.  There are also other books which can help you stock a dungeon with monsters and treasures or even create an organic realm like How To Host A Dungeon does.

If you’re really stuck for time, use a crossword puzzle for a dungeon map, now that’s an interesting design as crosswords are designed with a degree of symmetry in them and if you throw in a teleport trap or two you could move them from corner to corner without them realising what’s been going on.


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April 30

RPG Blog Carnival April 2015 – The Combat Experience


This month the subject of the carnival is The Combat Experience and it is being hosted by RPG Alchemy.

Love it or leave it combat is one of those parts of the system that has more than it’s fair share of table time so finding a system that the players engage with is something that is always something I look for.

At school I studied fencing and attended an after school fencing club, the romantic ideal of swinging a blade was what attracted me to the idea. Since then I’ve always checked to see how a combat system models something as simple as feints, parries and riposte.

When I started gaming combat was something I enjoyed, as it gave me an outlet to swing swords or blast away with rayguns.  I remember finding Pheonix Command and relished looking up on the various tables to see where someone had been shot.  While this appealed to me as a games master it was very time consuming for the players as I had to perform a few calculations and look up the result.

While Phoenix Command handles gunfights and the aftermath of being shot I was very disappointed by the hand to hand side of things; even with the hand to hand supplement things never got any better.  Millenniums End also had a novel way of doing things, align a template over a silhouette of a person and then you could work out where you hit.  This also worked for hand to hand and I remember an afternoon of two players consistently kicking each other in the groin for what seemed like ages; the happy spree was broken up when one of the combatants switched locations and axe-kicked his opponent in the head.

I even tried playing Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) but I was confused more by the game mechanics than the combat system, add percentage this to skills etc.

Warhammer 1st edition had a pretty solid combat system that was only slightly wonky but did cater for hit locations.

In the end I decided that I preferred a system that gave me the detail if I was after it, something the narrative games like FATE cater for and the system is a lot more cinematic and pulpy which is something I always enjoy playing with.




March 14

RPG Blog Carnival March 2015 – Best GM Ever


The subject of this months Blog Carnival is Best GM Ever and is being hosted by Creative Mountain Games

Over the years I’ve only played with a handful of gamesmasters, some of whom have been very good while one or two I haven’t got along with as we have very different ideas and playing styles.  I would like to think of myself as a good gm and that is something one of my players was telling me after each session; his feedback was really good and I’ll admit is was something of an ego boost for me.

So it is hard for me to pick out one specific GM and say they are the best overall since each have had their own unique ways of doing things.   One of my friends managed to create such a spellbinding atmosphere, it was almost like being hypnotised and we were rudely snapped out of this state when a door in his house suddenly slammed shut; I don’t mind admitting that I jumped out of my seat when that happened!

During the Cyberpunk Night City Blues campaign there was one particular session that really sticks out as I managed to weave two or three sub-plots into a scenario along with the main plot for them to discover and I received some very positive feedback about that.

When it comes to crafting my own scenarios I tend to go with the three act model as this works really well for me and gives room for creation of sub-plots.  This style also works if you decide to play a pulp based game and I cribbed plenty of advice from the Lester Dent Master Plot formula, if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a read and I was able to use this advice to create a random pulp adventure generator.  I’d like to share it with you all, but as it’s based upon a few commercial products I can’t as not only would it violate copyright, it could also hurt the sales of them.



February 22

RPG Blog Carnival February 2015 – How and Where I Write


This month the Blog Carnival is being hosted by Leicester’s Ramble.

I’ve always loved to write and have done so every since I could pick up a pen and scribble down my thoughts; .  growing up I ensured I kept a pen and paper in my possession in case an idea or inspiration strikes me and I can quickly capture these thoughts before they escape.

One thing I have always needed is a creative streak to get going and I find I’m at my most creative when I’m sick; something that has caused me to write about new campaign settings including the discussion on prisons as settings.

As I’ve got older and the technology has matured I’ve moved on from giving myself writers cramp and I remember getting the first typewriter to help me get things down on paper.  From a typewriter I moved onto primitive word processing software on the computers I owned or had access to.

For a brief period I carried around  a portable cassette recorder as I was convinced that this would help me become more productive; alas it didn’t but I did learn a valuable lesson about using tape, only record somewhere quiet and free from distractions, lest you get people trying to shout near you and ruin your recording.

These days I use my phone to jot notes down or compose blog posts while on the move and this method finally works for me since I now have something readily to hand to enable me to note stuff down.

At home I use a word processor to do my writing and my writing space is cluttered but mostly distraction free; I have a number of game books on my shelves I can reference if I need to and have pdf copies of other books for inspiration.

When it comes to writing I tend to note down a lot; during games as a player I always keep a journal and can be found updating it when the time comes.  As a GM I still create but all the extra stuff I don’t need tends to get filed away until opportunity comes knocking at my door and I have something really special I can pull out and polish before using it.  I tend to discover the gems while looking through notebooks and folders in a drawer but most of the time I seem to discover the same old stuff I had written and forgotten about.

A case in point was the Colony campaign idea which was a group of text files and I hated to let something that good go to waste.

I started this blog as a way of dealing with the death of a player, someone who was very dear to me and I wish we had had the chance to play more; he would have become one heck of a player if he had been given the chance to do so.  Plus the act of writing has helped me deal with his loss, even though he won’t read what I write, I do this blog for my benefit and not his.

Time for me to go back to the word processor and think about the next blog article I want to tackle 🙂

January 24

RPG Blog Carnival January 2015 – A New Year, A New World


This months carnival topic is  A New Year, A New World hosted by ContactLight and is about new worlds.  It seems like a perfect opportunity to do some more work on the on hiatus Star Trek Colony game I wrote about a few months ago.  Based upon the blog stats, the Colony idea seems to be a popular one with the people who stop by and read it.

The World.

I spent a long time trying to come up with a name for this world and the ones I selected had already been used in the Trek canon so in the end I just gave it a numerical designation and left it at that.  I mentioned before the problems I had trying to generate a world that wasn’t too Earth like but not too hostile an environment for the players to explore.

I planned on giving them the maps I had generated and ask them where they wanted to situate the main colony site. It was also a nice way for the players to do away missions to likely landing sites once they had completed an orbital survey.

With away missions I could reveal little by little the secrets that this world had, give the players clues and let them write the adventures for me based not only upon what they found but by listening in to their table chatter.  Give them the ability to create the sort of things they wanted to do and also weave them into the over arcing meta-plot I had devised.

We’re not alone.

The campaign was going to touch upon a couple of important points; firstly that the characters weren’t alone on this world, there was a civilization here before them a race of reptiles that had been in suspended animation and that these terrible lizards would be awoken by the second event.


Why use lizards?  Mainly because they are an adaptable species and are suitably alien to make nasty opponents.  Yes, I could have used something arachnid like but I didn’t think they were as cool as lizards to use, what looks cooler?  A giant spider the size of a house or a dinosaur?


Technically this should be the first major campaign event but the reptiles are listed first because this is the main thrust of the campaign.  The war would be a second thread, where a peaceful planet would be devastated by an invading force of Cardassians as the war with the Federation intensified.  At first there would be a series of guerilla actions against the colony before things heated up.


There would be a number of scenarios that could be used to end the campaign, I would play it by ear and see which ones the players would prefer.


I hope you found this an interesting idea for a game.  If you want me to devote more time to fleshing out this world, leave me a note in the comments.




December 27

RPG Blog Carnival December 2014 – With A Twist


This month the Campaign Mastery blog plays host http://www.campaignmastery.com/blog/creeps-up-behind-you/ With A Twist .

Sometimes you need to do something with the characters to keep the players on their toes and throw them an unexpected surprise or two.  I may have perpetrated a bait and switch in my time and this is by far one of my favourite techniques to challenge both the players and myself as I have to be prepared for the results of my actions.  I don’t do this all the time otherwise it would lose its impact and the players would come to expect it so it would no longer be With A Twist but rather mundane and the norm.

Take the classic damsel in distress, what if the damsel is really an evil character who has charmed or cajoled a dragon into taking her hostage and what if she wants to inveigle herself into a position of power?  By having a group of misguided adventurers rescue her she can achieve these goals or some other nefarious plot?

How about an adventure in the fabulous Dream Park or some other similar reality where holographic recreation is an accepted pastime.  Having the characters enter a scenario before having it glitch and replaced with an entirely different adventure can cause some people to relish the challenge but you may have a player cry foul and yell for the exit so that they can play something they want to.

I have mentioned before about doing a similar thing with Twilight 2000 and All Flesh Must Be Eaten and this is still an idea I would like to explore with the right group of people.  Until then I shall keep working away at my current ideas until something comes of it.



November 23

RPG Blog Carnival November 2014 – Races


This month the Blog Carnival has a new home over at Johnn Four’s site http://www.roleplayingtips.com/races-rpg-blog-carnival-november-2014/  and he has the honour of hosting this months topic : Races.

I’ve got quite a few systems sitting on my shelves and for the most part all the pseudo-European Medieval fantasy worlds have the same sorts of non-humans inhabiting them; this I can sort of tolerate but they also appear to have the same racist outlooks on life.

Take for example Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and Goblins.  In many of these books these three races all hate each other but no reason or explanation is even given;  I would hazard a guess that  the popularity of Tolkien’s works may be the core influence here.   This gives a rather similar feel to each world where no thought is given to why they may hate each other.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay does give an explanation as to the rhyme and reason of the hatred.  I can see Dwarves and Goblins hating each other as they exist in a similar niche, just like the Elves and Orcs.  Why then do Dwarves and Elves hate each other since in the cookie cutter fantasy realms they don’t occupy the same regions; Elves like the surface and the forest, while the dour Dwarves toil away deep in the bowels of the Earth.

Adding racial hatred doesn’t mechanically unbalance the races but gives you a wealth of roleplaying opportunities to embrace.

In a recent game I played a Half-Elf who was raised by the Elves and so he had a hatred of them as they treated him as a second class citizen and he had a hard time being accepted as he was caught between two racial divides.  It was tricky to pull off but I found it very satisfying to be able to rail against the expected norms of a Half-Elf.

I would suppose that Half-Orcs have it worst of all, being a creature born of two normally warring sides, trying to fit in would be a real challenge to play.

While we’re at it, why stop with pairing similar bipedal creatures, why not have two different races and mix them together?  You may baulk at this idea but is this any stupider than a creature that is half-owl and half-bear?  You could always use the excuse of a  magical experiment gone wrong or what about a Frankenstein’s monster composed of bits and pieces stitched together and animated by a magical ritual?

If you wanted to do a similar thing in a sci-fi game, depending on what technologies are used you could easily do it, accidents with matter transporters seem to be fairly common in one TV show so why not use that as an excuse?


Using roleplaying like this though should be handled carefully and thoughtfully before you decide to embark on a character like this as there is always the temptation to push the envelope, you don’t want to have your PC swear and curse just because you say its “in character” as I find this is a poor excuse.  Treat it like a seasoning, you don’t want to over salt something as you can ruin it.  Going back to the Half-Elf, he never directly attacked other Elves, he just acted superior to them and made a few cutting remarks in their presence.

Until next month.




October 4

October 2014 Blog Carnival: Things that go bump in the night


An explanation.

In the previous post I described something that is mostly true, cobbled together from my childhood and sprinkled with a little artistic licence.  If I had told it straight it would have been an insight into nothing more than my psyche, a little embellishment though added the extra spice to it.

In case you’re wondering I did have that poster and it did freak me out each and every night it hung on my wall and it did eventually get replaced.

If you want to scare your players though, you do need to take something very familiar to them and spin it slightly; Hollywood has made fortunes featuring  haunted; houses, bottles, dolls, paintings, boxes and nightmares from beyond.  Heck someone made money from nothing more than two people in a house recording themselves on video cameras.

So a haunted poster is a great idea to freak your players out with; brought to life by the wishes and dreams of a small child, perhaps even a small demonic child 🙂 .  You could even say that the poster is a portal between two worlds and that when the stars are right; correct ritual performed in front of it or even certain times of the year, those trapped within the poster are free to wreak havoc upon the living.

There is an excellent scenario for Call of Cthulhu in a haunted house which works because of the set-up; it may or may not be haunted, that’s up to the Keeper to decide.



October 2

October 2014 Blog Carnival: Things that go bump in the night


This months carnival host is Scot Newbury http://ofdiceanddragons.com/october-2014-blog-carnival-things-that-go-bump-in-the-night/ .

This is a true story……

I shared a room with a monster.

Many years ago when I was much smaller I had a nice inviting bedroom to live in and things were good; it was a happy place for me to live and play with my toys.  The downside was that we lived in a block of flats and my parents really wanted a house of their own to live in.

One day they got their wish and we moved into a new terraced house in a new estate and initially things were good.  Until I got some new posters.

At the time the Muppet Show was a very popular show in the UK and I loved it to bits, so imagine my surprise when my parents got me a Muppet Show poster featuring Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, with a shot of Animal grinning inanely into space.  I liked that poster and it faced my bed; slowly as time wore on I thought that the smile was merely a façade, I could see the evil grin every night and I became convinced that he was watching my every move.

It didn’t help that his eyes seemed to follow me around the room.  Each night I would stare at this demonic creature convinced that one night he would detach himself from the poster, slowly walk over to me with his three legged gait; before slowly consuming my soul.

As the months wore on I got increasingly frightened by his countenance and made excuses to try and delay going to bed, each time I would peek around the door and stare at this thing leering back at me.  I guess I could have asked for the poster to be taken down but that would have been wrong of me to do so.

The insanity raged for a few more months, I was starting to believe that the image was whole and that Animal was there just holding his head up like you do for those sea-side cut outs where you poke your head through.

Then one day I snapped, I managed to convince my parents that the posters were getting tatty and they replaced them with posters of the A-Team instead.

The real terror was to be had later on after the posters had gone and been rolled up into a cardboard tube.  Our house was relatively new but still had a few quirks.  I became more aware of a ghostly sound; footsteps from the loft.  I was the only one who could hear them each night and they sounded like something was prowling about up there; I imagined it was Animal trapped in his prison seeking vengeance on me.

The whole sage came to a dramatic head shortly afterwards when the water tank burst and that’s when I realised I had heard water dripping into the tank; normality seeped back into my life and I went on being a happy child again.

I even found my stored posters and unravelled them to look at them and reassured myself that they were normal posters; until I got to the picture of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, they were all still there looking happy as ever, but where Animal should have been was just a black empty void……………