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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May 1

RPGBA – End of an era

Today marks the end of an era in gaming blogs, the RPGBA has ceased operations.

It wasn’t long ago that I joined and I posted this article last year about it.  I shall certainly miss the benefits it offered which was the traffic it generated for the blog, the rss feed and the sense of a wider community.

Scot Newbury of of Dice and Dragons has picked up the mantle with the rss feed and a Google+ group so see you at Google+ .


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 🙂

December 27

RPG Blog Carnival December 2014 – With A Twist


This month the Campaign Mastery blog plays host 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.



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 .

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……………

September 13

September 2014 Blog Carnival RPGBA Blog Carnival: The RPG Blogging Community


In the beginning…..

This months carnival host is the Dice Monkey and they want to talk about the blogging community; something I’m proud  of.

I started an attempt at blogging a little over five years ago with an abortive blog on the blogger platform to chart our progress through the Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign and for one reason or another my blog never materialised.

Then I sort of fell out of favour with writing, I guess I got a bit disillusioned with it.

Fast forward a few years and the creative urge hit me again so I revived the idea of a gaming blog and decided to write once again.

Thats when I realised that once I had written something I needed an audience, someone to read my writing and I looked at ways I could publicise it.  The web had moved on from the early days of webrings and free hosting but networks were becoming popular and I could see that once you had joined a network you could become a part of that community.

The RPGBA was the first network I applied to and I’m glad they took me aboard.  Not only did I like the fact that I was part of something bigger than myself, the blog carnival meant I could collaborate with other network members on similar topics, like this one. Back in May I hosted my first carnival article about Star Wars.

It seems that I got more traffic via the network than I do through search engines and that makes me somewhat happier.

So if you like this article, please comment on it and let me know what you think.

August 28

August 2014 Blog Carnival – Devious Dungeons



This months carnival is being hosted by Mind Weave Role-Playing Platform and they want to know about dungeons.

A confession.

In all my years of gaming the groups I have played in haven’t really done much in the way of dungeon crawling, our fantasy adventures tend to be wilderness or urban themed with the usual mixture of combat, problem solving, barge burning  and diplomacy.  That’s not to say we haven’t done them, they’re just a rarity.

The one dungeon that I do love more than all the others is the first one I ever ran in module B1: In Search of the Unknown; the Caverns of Quasqueton .

The great thing about the dungeon is that is had advice for a novice DM as well as letting you stock it yourself from the charts and tables in the back of the book.  These charts had treasures; both magical and mundane plus monsters appropriate to the level of the characters.  This ensured that although the general layout remained the same, you could never be sure what lurked in the next room.  On top of this there are several unexplained events so that the dungeon retains a magical quantity.

I found it the ideal starter dungeon and this is why I will come back to it time and again for the nostalgia and the happy memories of me running it.


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