Monstober Day 27: Judge.

It’s all fun and games until you go from “Not guilty” to “Please lock me up.”

A Monster of the Week challenge.

Intro: A Reptilian hybrid in Des Moines, IA has managed to wriggle her way up through the ranks and become a judge. She’s now dispensing “justice” according to what her Reptilian masters have ordained. Unfortunately, she’s also become more bloodthirsty as time goes on.

Day: Judge Julie Latch lets certain specific criminals loose on orders in a plain white envelope given to her by her courtroom deputy. Her overseers give the orders, she follows them. Some of the criminals who are released are of special interest to the Reptilians. Anyone who questions Judge Latch is silenced by outside influences and manipulations.

It comes to the group’s attention that someone who was recently arrested because of their actions has just been released from jail on a technicality.

Shadows: Judge Latch starts questioning some of her orders. She becomes increasingly annoyed that some of the worst criminals are, in fact, being cycled through her court and given a free pass. Something begins hunting criminals down shortly after their release.

Sunset: Judge Latch excessively sentences a criminal to jail against her orders. Her overseers order her to take administrative leave. Her three hench people depart with her. A conflict between Reptilians and hybrids begins. The human pawns are caught in the middle.

Nightfall: Latch and her crew start killing and possibly feeding on criminals in the streets at night. It becomes obvious enough that the local news catches on before the Overseers can cover it up. Curfew is ordered by the Office of the Mayor. Police begin to actively patrol the streets, making it more difficult for anyone to do anything after 6:00 PM

Midnight: Latch and/or her hench people get caught on camera eating one of the criminals she let out on a technicality the week before. The Reptilian apocalypse begins. SCP has to be called in to contain the situation before it gets completely out of control.

This is my first go at creating a true MotW timeline. I still haven’t quite mastered monster generation. More on that when I get it figured out. Thanks for stopping by. More to come.

Promptober Day 21: Folklore

Folklore stories are super useful in RPGs. I totally recommend looking up history and lore in your own area. Sometimes it’s very enlightening outside of TTRPG contexts. I also recommend checking out some creepypasta stories on YouTube or other video app for inspiration and shivers.

Folklore has a lot of meaning in RolePlaying Games.

The strongest common feature of both Folk stories the RPGs is oral tradition. Stories of yore become folklore, passed down from one storyteller to the next. For example, my father told a story about a ghost raccoon that seemingly vanished into thin air in roughly the same place every time hunters got close. That story has passed down for three, maybe four generations now for certain.

The main difference is in RPGs, is we have oral tradition and storytelling, but purely based on fictional events that we create ourselves. Which is not to say the stories we create will never be passed on. Any time a gamer starts a story with “This one time in ____ game, we ran into …”

Every major RPG celeb I’ve ever met always starts the conversation with, “I don’t want to hear about your character.”

Let’s face it, every gamer has a favorite character that they usually default to talking about. I have campaign stories I love to tell, but I kinda read the room first. But I know game designers and TTRPG writers have heard a lot of stories and have tons of their own.

The Internet has kinda spoiled us.

Cell phones, laptops, social media, and search engines have sort of modified modern folklore. It’s not as much an oral tradition any more. The stories of everyday life throughout spreads and short videos have replaced longer oration and gatherings around the campfire. Prior to the Internet, it was TV and Radio.

Our #TTRPG stories still show up on blogs from time to time. I use many of them for two things. I create tons of folklore when I’m worldbuilding my fantasy campaign. I also do research on local history/folklore for Monster of the Week RPG to base various bizarre events upon.

Fantasy RPGs come alive with mythical folklore.

I know a lot of worldbuilding advice tells campaign creators, “Don’t go bonkers with pages upon pages of backstory.” However, I don’t believe that is totally correct. Even if I jot down one or two lines about a town or a landmark as my group encounters it, I still come up with some kind of local lore for it. In the real world, everything has a story behind it. Some are just more exciting than others.

Modern Horror games benefit from some research.

Almost every horror movie makes mention or even creates a story about some kind of Urban Legend. Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jigsaw, and so on all have stories surrounding them, their creation and their misdeeds. Halloween is the best time of year for local folklore because a lot of people have stories about the haunted house up the block or that thing they saw in the woods.

Even better is this lovely folklore-esque invention of Creepypasta. I know it’s a big thing on YouTube and elsewhere. People love scary stories. That’s why I love games such as Monster of the Week and SCP. They give us an excuse to pull out the scary stories in a way that doesn’t make people poop themselves and stay awake all night while camping. RPGs also don’t require a massive special effects budget and stunt actors the way horror films do. Creepypasta stories come to life in RPGs. I haven’t even mentioned Call of Cthulhu.

If I were to ever use Randonautica, I would be doing a lot of research on where this thing was taking me. A lot of freaky things are usually discovered at the end of a Randonautica adventure and I don’t like being caught completely off guard. I hear Rando is pretty much the next Ouija board, something else I don’t want to randomly fool around with. (*And advise everyone to use their own discernment as to whether or not Randonautica and/or Ouija are safe.)

Folklore stories are super useful in RPGs. I totally recommend looking up history and lore in your own area. Sometimes it’s very enlightening outside of TTRPG contexts. I also recommend checking out some creepypasta stories on YouTube or other video app for inspiration and shivers.

I hadn’t intended for this to become an entire article, but it’s an interesting subject. Folklore and story hooks/prompts go hand in hand. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate it. Have a great week.

Promptober Day 31: Forbidden Books.

This seemingly innocuous cookbook contains a variety of strange recipes that range from bizarre, maybe disgusting, to poisonous and all the way up to powerfully cursed. It may save lives in a pinch or even provide PCs some magical benefits. On the other hand, these recipes could lead to lots of trouble.

Sure we’ve heard of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, but what other scary books are there?

A few ideas for fantasy TTRPG book generation:
The Book of Shadows. Every witch has one. Some more frightening than others. Some hags would certainly have these on hand. An adventurer brave (or foolish) enough to interpret such a book would be privy to new spells. But at what cost?

Manual of Golem Creation. This tome contains all of the information needed to build a golem of one specific type. The question becomes how far would someone to go build one of these monstrosities?

Toben’s Spirit Guide. (*Editor’s Note. This book was inspired by a reference in the original 1984 Ghostbusters and subsequent RPG franchise. It can be found here.) This book contains references to dozens of spirits, ghosts, wraiths and spectres. For the unaware, it may also contain ways to summon them.

Spellbook of the Crazed Apprentice. This book was written by the seemingly unremarkable apprentice of a certain famous wizard whose title ended in “the Mad.” (*Watching out for copyrights on this one.) The apprentice improved upon or even perfected some spells. A player character casting them might suffer ill side effects.

Diary of a Death Knight. This simple journal holds an insidious secret. It contains the tales of a renowned paladin, his fall from prominence, and his eventual embrace of evil. Reading this book has a chance to corrupt or even convert a knight or warrior into one of these foul beings.

The Dark Cookbook. This seemingly innocuous cookbook contains a variety of strange recipes that range from bizarre, maybe disgusting, to poisonous and all the way up to powerfully cursed. It may save lives in a pinch or even provide PCs some magical benefits. On the other hand, these recipes could lead to lots of trouble.

The Alchemist’s Almanac. This book contains a variety of potion formulae. It is invaluable to alchemists and witches alike. Some versions of this book may contain twisted recipes for foul mutations and poisons as well. Characters may wish to use new formulae at their own risk.

The Book of Extradimensional Portals. This book is extremely thick and exceedingly rare. It contains magic rituals and in some cases locations for opening portals to other planes of existence. There is also a convenient appendix in the back containing banishment and portal sealing spells. One would be well advised to read the entire entry on any given portal before undertaking opening one.

The Accursed Memoir. Similar to the Diary of a Death Knight, this tome details a wizard’s creation of a phylactery and transformation into a lich. Wizard characters reading this can follow its step by step instruction to become a lich at their own peril. The last entry in the memoir describes the rush of power and further desire to gain even more power by becoming a demilich.

The Duplicitous Tome of the Diabolical Illusionist. (*This would make a good dungeon reward.) This tome is written in ink that glows faintly of magic. Some of the spells are illusory script. Some are sigils and glyphs intended to harm the reader. There are also powerful spells for an illusionist wizard who doesn’t lose their very mind trapped within its pages.

I didn’t list the Ogrenomicon, the Book of Ogres that I’m working on for Dungeon Crawl Classics. It will appear in the portfolio section of this site as soon as its ready. It’s my labor of love.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be catching up a lot of #Monstober and a few #Promptober entries in November. Lol! I appreciate your patience.

Promptober Day 29: Abandoned Locations.

In my game, Des Moines Remote Viewing society used Randonautica to find remote viewing targets for Brenda Hart, the group’s resident psychic and most gifted remote viewer. It was a good source of interesting new cases as well as leads on the ones the group was working on.

This is prime Monster of the Week fodder.

How to use an app like Randonautica without ever installing in real life: Create a series of tables describing how far one has to travel from current location, in which direction, and what they find when they get there.

In my game, Des Moines Remote Viewing society used Randonautica to find remote viewing targets for Brenda Hart, the group’s resident psychic and most gifted remote viewer. It was a good source of interesting new cases as well as leads on the ones the group was working on. The potential for spooky encounters in abandoned locations has always fascinated me.

DsMRVS also used Ouija boards a few times in an effort to locate specific spirits, but such attempts almost always inevitably backfired. Ouija boards are often employed in abandoned places to get a better sense of history of the sites. Of course, in MotW that usually involves a demon, angry witch, ghost, cryptid, or interdimensional being of some kind. Des Moines is legit chock full of abandoned locations in real life, so converting them to fiction for the setting is all kinds of fun.

For the record: I know of several abandoned locations in the real world. I do not go in them. I would also never throw down a Ouija board near them. You just never know what’s on the other side. That’s my opinion as a paranormal researcher and Extraterrestrial enthusiast. Do not F around and find out in some of these abandoned locations. You might get surprised.

Disclaimer: Please DO NOT ENTER an abandoned location in the real world unless you have the owner’s permission! No owner = No permission. Too many investigators get hurt, arrested, or go missing entirely while on abandoned properties. If you find an abandoned house, car, sewer entrance, or mine entrance in the real world- DO NOT GO IN THERE! The physical dangers alone should be discouragement.

This was one of the best prompts all month. I could go on for hours on this subject. Thank you for stopping by. As always I appreciate you being here with us. #ttrpgfamily Much love.

Promptober Day 24: Moon.

Closer inspection of the fourth planet in the system does not reveal any significant threat. However, careful examination of the third planet’s geosynchronous moon reveals cloaked bases, monitoring equipment, docking bays and the fact the the entire moon is a hollow sphere designed to watch over the Earth-like planet’s development.

“On the outside, it looked like an ordinary moon, but then we became suspicious.” Capt. Molly Daniels. USS Peregrine.

Today’s prompt is actually inspired by some real life theories about Earth’s moon. However, kindly bear in mind there is little more than a modicum of scientific backing for any of it. Our real moon “rang like a bell for over an hour” on seismic sensors when struck with a lander. To be clear- This IS a work of FICTION.

(Systemless) space game plot idea: The group comes upon a moon in geosynchronous orbit around an Earth-like planet. Sensor data indicates the moon is a normal, lifeless, meteorite-blasted rock. However, the moon is emitting electromagnetic signals coming from somewhere nearby. There are also ships coming and going from the system that seem to just disappear.

The planet’s government(s) are concerned about a potential invasion that they originally believed might be staged from the fourth planet in the system. They are a relatively new space-faring society and would be ill-equipped to fend off any kind of serious threat from outside of their own star system without help from the Federation (Or whatever larger organization the group represents.)

Closer inspection of the fourth planet in the system does not reveal any significant threat. However, careful examination of the third planet’s geosynchronous moon reveals cloaked bases, monitoring equipment, docking bays and the fact the the entire moon is a hollow sphere designed to watch over the Earth-like planet’s development.

Where things go from there is ultimately up to the GM. Is the civilization inside the moon benevolent? Perhaps sent to watch over the fledgling planet’s growth? Or is it a monitoring station to assist in a full scale invasion? Could it be a waypoint for refueling ships for a larger space navy elsewhere? Maybe it’s a galactic meeting place for races in all of the neighboring systems. The possibilities are immense.

Happy gaming! Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate you.

Promptober Day 16: Dark Clouds

The setup for this fantasy RPG adventure is simple: Find what’s causing the storm and put an end to it. The group’s quest is to search out whatever magic or artifact has put a curse on the town and stop it. The bigger question might be why is this happening at all?

A seemingly never-ending storm hovers like a curse over an otherwise quiet seaside village.

The setup for this fantasy RPG adventure is simple: Find what’s causing the storm and put an end to it. The group’s quest is to search out whatever magic or artifact has put a curse on the town and stop it. The bigger question might be why is this happening at all?

To make matters worse, the same monstrous magical entity that placed the curse of the storm upon the town is making things worse out in the water. The sea begins to churn violently, putting an end to most travel or fishing for all but the largest galleons. Sharks and giant squid lurk in and around the storm.

As the situation grows more desperate, so does the reward. Soon the town finds itself under siege by Locathah or some other angry sea folk because their home under the waves has been disturbed. They’re not responsible for the curse and they’re just as angry as the villagers.

Thanks for stopping by. Have fun!

Promptober Day 18: Mysterious Messages

A man begins furiously typing a document in his word processing program. He knows he saved it, but can’t find it. He has no recollection of what he typed or why.

A short collection of plot hooks for Monster of the Week and/or Shadowrun.

  • In the midst of a video call, the computer/phone crashes and comes back up with a screen full of 8 digit letter and number sequences.
  • A security guard wakes up in the middle of the night and begins writing out strings of binary on his bedroom walls.
  • Each night a small, square metallic plaque with symbols etched into it is left on a character’s doorstep.
  • Piles of rocks appear around a character’s door each morning.
  • A man begins furiously typing a document in his word processing program. He knows he saved it, but can’t find it. He has no recollection of what he typed or why.
  • A woman makes a video of herself speaking in Ancient Sumerian. The translation is cryptic and Japanese is the only language she knows.
  • A young gang member spray paints a collection of symbols on a wall instead of the tag he originally intended, having no idea what they mean or why he did it.
  • A character goes to check an innocuous email from a friend only to have the screen go to static. Several numbers and letters appear in that static. It’s a web address buried deep in the Dark Web.
  • Each character has a dream involving the same word of phrase repeated over and over. When combined, the sentence is a clue to hidden treasure, or a deeper mystery.
  • A farmer stumbles outside to find a series of crop circle style symbols etched into her yard.
  • An entire night’s video footage from a stakeout is erased and replaced with the sounds of the characters’ halves of a conversation with someone who isn’t there.
  • The wooden trim of an old house has Norse runes scratched into it all the way around certain rooms. The messages are cryptic, but coherent

Promptober Day 15: Spooky

A thick mysterious fog coats the land and conceals new, terrible, vicious apex predators. Where did it come from?

Haunted houses are great for jump scares, but have you ever seen fog rolling down the river at dusk?

Many years ago when I was still fishing on a regular basis, I stood out on a sand bar and watched as the fog came rolling right down the river at me. It was a bit unsettling at the time. I’ve since seen it from above on a bridge, on the river bank, and from farther away. It’s not as unsettling now, but I remembered thinking then how thick and mysterious it looked.

The pitch: A thick and mysterious fog covers the well known lands of a fantasy world. Rather than being a strange weather event, it lingers for days, even weeks and limits visibility to 30′ or less even during the day. People have forgotten what the sun looks like except from the highest towers. To make matters worse, new and terrible predators hunt in the fog, ravaging village and countryside alike.

A call for adventurers go out to find the origin of the mysterious fog and put a stop to it. Or find a safe trail to lead the village people out of the fog assuming one can be found at all. A sandbox/hexcrawl adventure series.

Would You Play in This Campaign?

What starts out as any other medieval forest fantasy game rapidly turns into a battle across dimensional planes to stop the Demon Emperor and his horrific army from rampaging across their world. The group will pretty much be all that stands between the dimensional conquerors and an innocent world full of otherwise good people. The PCs will also set the narrative for future campaigns.

Against the Shogun of Darkness

The first campaign set in my newest campaign world, but not the only one.

Campaign Pitch: What starts out as any other medieval forest fantasy game rapidly turns into a battle across dimensional planes to stop the Demon Emperor (Final name and title to be determined) and his horrific army from rampaging across their world. The group will pretty much be all that stands between the dimensional conquerors and an innocent world full of otherwise good people. The PCs will also set the narrative for future campaigns.

This campaign can be set in almost any fantasy world, but realize failure means the group sets a chain of events in motion that will undoubtedly rewrite canon and change the way the world develops.

The Emperor and his minions will introduce several new items and monsters to the game.

The entire campaign is planned for 12 episodes, with an episode lasting one to three sessions. The first two and the last two sessions are intended to be played in order, but otherwise, the DM is free to play the rest of the encounters in any order they wish. Episodes 11 and 12 can be moved up as needed. Episodes 3-10 can be skipped or shortened if preferred. There will be a lot of potential for character development lost in the middle, however.

The first two chapters included with the campaign will describe my world (to be named later.) This is intended to give the players some background and a feel for the world they will be trying to save. While monsters and evil things lurk in the shadows of dungeons and cities, there are good things everywhere. There are faeries, unicorns, good dragons and kind-hearted folk everywhere. Yes, there are bad people, as well, but fortunately, the hero populations keeps their numbers in check.

The PCs start out in the quiet village of Blooming Fern. It’s a quiet logging and farming community. It’s on a river which provides for commercial opportunities and plenty of fish. Daily life is quiet for the most part and other than the constable and a few night watchmen, a large police force is simply unnecessary. The mayor and the town council of elders make fair decisions and rulings, acting as both political leaders and judges for disputes and sentencing criminals. All are fair, hard-working, family fold with property and local businesses.

*Editor’s notes: This campaign idea was based off of some rough notes I scribbled into my calendar notebook. As I’m getting ready to switch notebooks, I found it and thought it might be cool to throw out there. Thank you to all who responded via #ttrpgTwitter

It’s pretty rough yet. Lots of revisions and changes before it would be a full fledged game.

Mining Old Books for New Content.

This trick works for more than just the superhero genre. Fantasy games, such as D&D, have far more modules already produced. Sometimes it’s as simple as updating the monsters and loot to the most current edition, which could involve some number crunching. However, if one is to choose a rules lite system such as ICRPG or Easy D6, conversions go very fast.

I keep a lot of old RPG books around that aren’t in PDF.

Good old MSH Reap the Whirlwind.

GM Tip: Never throw an old RPG book away. The same can be said for old modules, even homebrew ones. Please believe me when I say, “Never underestimate the value of an old module.”

The old adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure applies in this case. Take an old Marvel Superheroes Module like, Reap the Whirlwind, take the word “mutant” and change it to however supers are referred to in one’s own campaign and convert/add stats accordingly. Viola! Instant adventure for a couple of nights.

It’s one reason I favor simpler superhero games such as ICONS. They’re much easier to convert old Marvel and DC modules with. Games such as Mutants & Masterminds or Champions are a lot stat intensive and porting in all the baddies takes time and temperance.

Excavate those buried gems!

This trick works for more than just the superhero genre. Fantasy games, such as D&D, have far more modules already produced. Sometimes it’s as simple as updating the monsters and loot to the most current edition, which could involve some number crunching. However, if one is to choose a rules lite system such as ICRPG or Easy D6, conversions go very fast.

The same can be said for converting non-D&D adventures into other game systems. I know someone who really likes the Warhammer Fantasy setting, but doesn’t care much for the rule system. Solution: convert everything to D&D by approximation. One of my current projects is pulling old Basic D&D modules over into Dungeon Crawl Classics for my own use.

I’ve seen the Star Frontiers Crash on Volturnus module used as a Star Wars D6 adventure. I’ve seen Call of Cthulhu modules run in Beyond the Supernatural and D20 Modern. (Call of Cthulhu actually has a D20 variant, but the modules were original system.)

Wait, there’s more!

If you really want to expand your horizons as a GM, you might consider running modules across different genres. Call of Cthulhu investigators stumble into what looks an awful lot like a D&D dungeon full of monsters, riddles, and deadly traps. Star Wars characters have to go up against a rogue group of stormtroopers that have broken off of the Empire under the leadership of a maniacal megalomaniac with a skull shaped red mask. D&D characters suddenly find themselves up against Cthulhu cultists.

The possibilities are truly endless. If you’re a low prep GM and you have become adept at “winging it,” then this style of grab-n-go module prep might work very well for you. I’m more of a high prep GM, but I keep a LOT of old adventures around, especially D&D, that I can pull into my current game to run as a side trek or maybe as a one shot if key players are missing.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found this useful. Happy gaming!

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