Frightening February Day 2: Mask

3 mask based plot hooks for any horror ttrpg. May be slightly disturbing.

Some of the most terrifying horror movie icons of all time wear a mask of some sort.

Content Warning: Occult, gore. Please use discretion when viewing this article. Thank you.
Photo by Jess Loiterton on Pexels.com

Plot Hook 1: The Investigators (PCs, Hunters, etc) come across pictures of a figure wearing what appears to be a voodoo mask. Soon, bodies start turning up brutally murdered. At each scene is a picture, an artist’s sketch, or a replica of a voodoo mask. After some research, clever investigators will tie the murders to an ancient ritual mask stolen from a nearby cultural museum.

Plot Hook 2: It’s Halloween in a quiet suburb. Parents are being urged to keep their children at home this year. Police are on high alert. The last three years have been plagued by grisly murders committed by someone going door to door in a rubber Ronald Reagan mask. An other worldly parasite lives in the mask and has figured out that it can safely move about and feed on Halloween night.

This year the clock is ticking before it gets to someone the PCs deeply care about. It is unknown whether or not there is more than one parasite in more than one mask. IF the group is clever, they may be able to question the parasite before it detaches from its host. The host is basically a zombie that died 5 years ago.

Photo by JJ Jordan on Pexels.com

Plot Hook 3: A nearby bank president is throwing a masquerade ball to celebrate his daughter’s engagement. However, the daughter’s jilted former lover is a practitioner of evil magic. When he learned of the masquerade, he placed a horrific curse on the masks to be handed out at the start of the ball.

At the stroke of 10:00, just before the unmasking, a curse will permanently bond each mask to the wearer’s skin. Any attempt to remove the mask will result in the wearer’s flesh being torn from their face. It’s up to our heroes to stop the unmasking and/or reverse the curse.

Frightening February 1: Cats

Cute, furry, loveable and very weird. Miss Mia will do her feline best to earn the trust of the group. Just be aware things might get bizarre when no one is looking.

Miss Mia was an ordinary Siamese cat, or so we thought…

This is a set of plot hooks for any horror game. No content warnings here because Miss Mia might be aggravating, but she’s still an adorable kitty cat. She would never actually hurt anyone beyond possibly a bite or a scratch if seriously annoyed. Violence of any kind should activate a sort of Keeper’s fiat or intrusion. Maybe Miss Mia secretly has the ability to turn herself into a puff of smoke or a ghost.

How it begins: (Preferably a modern setting.) One day, as one of the PCs is attempting to leave home, this adorable, fluffy, lovable nine pound kitten walks straight into the dwelling as if she’s always lived there. She will then sit down in the middle of the living area and meow softly to be fed. She purrs quite loudly and lovingly if anyone approaches.

Miss Mia is a Siamese cat, maybe a year and a half old. She wears a black collar with a silver bell. The collar has a silver cat on each side of the name plate that says, “Miss Mia” on it. The collar also has a vaccination tag on it, but the clinic is not evident. The city doesn’t have a vet on file for her and she’s not microchipped. IF the character in question has a roommate or significant other, they might instantly latch onto the cat due to the cute factor.

One thing is for certain. Miss Mia is determined to stay. Even if the character tries to take her to an animal shelter or some such, she will either show up at the character’s residence the next morning OR show up at one of the other characters. She always walks into the PCs homes as if she has always lived there.

Things seem pretty normal at first. Once she has made herself at home and endeared herself upon any/all cat lovers in the house, things quiet down considerably. Miss Mia is usually friendly to strangers and downright affectionate if petted. A treat will get kitty to sit in someone’s lap or lay with them for hours. She’s really friendly and loveable for the most part.

Miss Mia LOVES kids. She will purr for any child under the age of 18. She will sit in their laps, play, beg for food, snuggle- anything a regular cat would tolerate from children times ten. She would NEVER harm a child or allow one to be harmed while present. She is super possessive of everyone’s kids and any cats that are around. (*Other cats have an irrational tendency to follow her as if she was their mother.)

The Keeper must pick one member of the group to earn the absolute dire scorn of Miss Mia. For whatever reason, maybe the character is more of a dog person, maybe Miss Mia doesn’t like the way this characters smells, but she’s genuinely not happy about this character’s presence. Miss Mia will hiss or growl at this one specific character every time they enter a room with her and no one else. If they approach, she might even claw or bite.

Otherwise, Miss Mia is a pure treasure of a kitty for a loving home. She does normal “cat stuff” like shedding, sharpening her claws on the couch, sleeping a lot, and being super cuddly. She demands food at least two or three times per day, but isn’t a fussy eater. She loves to climb and explore the tops of furniture and high shelves, open cabinets and closets. Miss Mia likes to chase mice, birds, and even random shadows.

Then it starts getting strange. Miss Mia is very normal for a cat her age. Playing with string, looking cute, and sleeping during the day. She gets along with any other animals in the house, but dogs seem to have an unnatural aversion to her. Even large dogs will whimper in her presence and immediately attempt to leave the room, or lie down and hope she goes away.

IF Miss Mia is allowed to roam outdoors, she will bring back “gifts” in the form of dead birds or mice and leave them in the owner’s’ shoes or on their pillow. She will also hunt and eat spiders in the house. But that’s not the most unusual thing she does.

When no one is home and Miss Mia is left unattended for more than half an hour, freaky things begin to happen. Roll 1d12 or choose from the list:

  1. All of the kitchen cabinets are open. Contents strewn everywhere.
  2. Any holy books in the residence are knocked onto the floor. They may be slid underneath furniture.
  3. All of the picture frames in the house are knocked face down and cracked- including ones that are in drawers, etc.
  4. Every electronic device with a speaker is on and cranked to full volume.
  5. A neighborhood dog is found paralyzed and comatose in front of the house. Puppy eventually recovers. It cowers in the presence of Miss Mia if they ever encounter one another.
  6. Blood and feathers are strewn all about the house and someone has a “present” waiting on their pillow. Miss Mia couldn’t have possibly gotten out nor the bird could have come in.
  7. A ring of salt appears around Miss Mia’s bed. There is more salt than could have been in the shaker found next to the unbroken circle.
  8. Every room in the residence has something knocked over as if a much larger cat or large dog had gotten a case of the zoomies. Even rooms that are closed and locked are affected.
  9. A bag of flour lies exploded on the kitchen floor. There is a cat-shaped mark in the middle of it and flour paw prints everywhere. Miss Mia is covered head to toe in flour. She doesn’t seem particularly remorseful.
  10. All of the bottles of shampoo and other hygiene products in the bathroom are open and their contents all around as if they were squeezed.
  11. Socks lie all over the middle of the living room floor in the shape of a pentacle. At least we know where the missing socks went.
  12. Everything in the house is unplugged. There are no teeth marks on any of the cords.

Some investigators might get the bright idea to set up cameras to watch Mia while they are gone or sleeping. Like most cats, Miss Mia is nocturnal. She gets the zoomies at 3:00 AM every night like clockwork. She chases what appears to be a shadow all over the residence. At 4:00AM the chase concludes as she goes and lies down on top of her favorite human or outside their door.

Miss Mia will walk right up to hidden cameras as if putting on a show. Sometimes she will bat at the camera or back up to the lens and then sit in front of it. Other times she will roll around in front of the camera or prance about to show she knows exactly where it is.

If an investigator watches enough footage, they will discover Miss Mia chasing shadows around the residence at other times. With enough observation, they may even see what appears to be a shadow taunting Miss Mia out of a sound sleep to initiate a chase. Other times it appears a shadowy figure is petting Miss Mia. She will purr and roll over on her back for tummy scratches for this particular shadow.

On very rare occasions, Miss Mia will appear to walk through walls or just vanish right in front of the camera. (Never with people in the room.) Sometimes she will get the zoomies and run through more than one wall or disappear and reappear in random places.

She also appears to menace other cats, dogs, etc when no one is around. Miss Mia prefers to back the other animal into a corner and then just stare, as if daring them to try to pass her.

One of the most astounding things Miss Mia might do is hock up a hairball. It’s a normal cat thing until the hairball skitters away on its own like a millipede. Miss Mia won’t be in the mood to chase it. If the hairball is caught and examined, it’s just fur, food, and cat barf.

Miss Mia is yours to do with as you choose.

Is she secretly a servant of the Goddess, Bast? Perhaps Miss Mia is secretly possessed by demons. Maybe she is actually a ghost or some other paranormal occurrence made manifest. (an older name tag under the Miss Mia nameplate says “Miasma.”) Whatever she is, it is not openly or outwardly malevolent.

Miss Mia does make for a good red herring during ghost hunts and possession cases. Was it the house or the cat? Could exposure to Miss Mia be causing other supernatural forces to come forward? Was she a witch’s familiar or even a witch cursed forever to live in a cat’s body?

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Have fun if you decide to welcome Miss Mia into your next horror themed game.

Frightening February Writing Prompts.

Design a TTRPG character, NPC, villain, plot hook, monster or encounter around each of the following themes. Feel free to interpret the prompts any way you wish. There are no wrong answers.

January might have left some of us in a mood for something a little different from medieval fantasy.

Design a TTRPG character, NPC, villain, plot hook, monster or encounter around each of the following themes. Feel free to interpret the prompts any way you wish. There are no wrong answers.

  1. Cats.
  2. Mask.
  3. Witching Hour.
  4. Ouija Board.
  5. Pentagram or Pentacle.
  6. Tarot Cards/Playing Cards.
  7. Vehicle. (Wagon, car, plane, etc.)
  8. Insanity.
  9. Disappearances.
  10. Doll or Puppet.
  11. Zombie(s.)
  12. Chocolate/Candy.
  13. Slasher.
  14. Love.
  15. Grave.
  16. Blood.
  17. Coyotes/Wolves.
  18. Found Footage.
  19. Asylum.
  20. Aliens.
  21. Eldritch Horror.
  22. Skeleton.
  23. Creepy Pasta.
  24. Vampire.
  25. Cult.
  26. Potion.
  27. Hook. (Hook for a hand, fishhook, meat hook, etc.)
  28. Survivor.

Remember February 14th is Valentine’s Day for those who celebrate.
Be extra kind to one another out in the real world.

Who We Gonna Call?

Last post for January. I managed to squeeze in a random table for DsM RVS.

1d12 agencies the Des Moines Remote Viewing Society can call for backup if needed.

Keeper’s Note: Some of these agencies come at a high price- not usually in cash, but in terms of return favors. And if you have to ask- Yes, it’s really those guys.

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to person living or dead on this list is purely unintentional.

Choose one or Roll 1d12 and consult the chart below:

  1. Dr Philately or Dr Franklin at the SCP Foundation Field Office in Nebraska.
  2. Dr Amanda Bronson, Professor of Paranormal Studies, Miskatonic University.
  3. James T Smith, PhD Director or Pacific Northwest Research Studies, WA.
  4. Ivan Markov, University of Moscow. (Actual degree or dept unknown.)
  5. Codename “Sgt Rock.” Dan’s contact at the DIA. (Real name unknown.)
  6. Detective Darren Friendly of the Des Moines Police Department.
  7. Stephanie Kolchak: Des Moines Register *WSFM Desk.
  8. John Smith, frequent caller to late night paranormal radio shows.
  9. “Deep Throat” aka Dan’s Contact in the CIA somewhere.
  10. Lisa Simpson, Department of Homeland Security.
  11. Dr Simon Hanes, Remote Viewing instructor.
  12. Rhonda Jennings, NASA data analyst.

*Weird Science and Frickin Magic. WSFM isn’t just a radio station.
There is no FBI contact listed because Lewis is in the group.
This was done as a random table in the event a lead needs to be generated at random. A couple of these contacts are a built-in plot hook on their own.

Contact lists for Tom and Brenda might be published later. Tom knows a lot of very strange people locally. Brenda knows some pretty far-out individuals from her time as a professional Remote Viewing instructor. Also, having formed as an Internet group initially, everyone in the original DsM RVS knows dozens of people online. Most of Dan’s contacts are around during Des Moines After Dark.

Disclaimer: People and events depicted herein are fictitious and intended for entertainment use only. Any similarity to persons living or deceased is unintentional. There is no Des Moines Remote Viewing Society. This is a work of fiction. No one was harmed in the making of this blog.

Why I Say, “It’s Over For Now.”

Hi. Not the article I planned to write today. Someone on Twitter asked if I was done with my conspiracy theories. Someone also asked why I say we’re not done yet when it comes to Wizards of the Coast. Because WotC isn’t done with us. Sure, we won the OGL battle, but look what’s not being discussed in the open.

Wizards of the Coast didn’t just give up.

I’m trying not to be a Debbie Downer about this whole D&D Open Game License debate. In fact, I’ve been doing my best not to say anything that might jinx it. Family, I’m sorry. I’m still staring at the chalkboard because something just doesn’t quite add up about this whole affair.

Yes, we should cherish this as a victory for #OpenDnD and I am truly happy that System Reference Document 5.1 is now under Creative Commons License. I am filled with joy that we can continue on with OGL 1.0a in perpetuity, creating “Old School” Dungeons & Dragons content for 3.5 and 5E. It’s great. Truly, I’m celebrating it as a big win for us- i.e. the fans and content creators.

What’s a group of weasels called?

WotC? Maybe it’s Hasbro? The real answer is, “boogle” or more importantly, a “sneak.” As in, they’re sneaky.

I find it a bit tough to believe that anyone stupid or cunning enough to turn the entire TTRPG industry on its ear for most of January would just roll over and give up,. It’s too easy. Yes, they were under significant pressure with the cancellation of D&D Beyond subscriptions. Yeah, the fans were super irritated with WotC. Supposedly WotC reacted to feedback from the community.

I have serious trust issues with large corporations. Truthfully, having lived through the 1980s and being fired by one, I just can’t bring myself to ever trust a corporation again. I’m aware of what it sounds like. I can’t believe or trust anything WotC says until certain executives are gone. Even then, I’ll always have doubts.

Huzzah! The OSR is saved. Case closed. Right?

I’m taking some grief on Twitter because I have a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding WotC and the Great OGL Debacle of 2023. Remember, I’m only crazy until I’m correct. The term “conspiracy” was cooked up by a certain government department that wanted it to have a negative connotation.

Sure, we can theoretically keep making Old School Renaissance/Revival/Regrowth/Re-whatever until Hell itself freezes over. And that’s great. People might not realize it yet, but 5E pretty much became part of the OSR the day One D&D was announced. (If you listen closely, you can hear the old fartz starting to panic at that notion.) WotC’s endgame was never about prior editions. They’ve already made it clear.

Yes, mission accomplished. We can keep making older edition stuff forever under OGL 1.0a and SRD 5.1 CC-BY-4.0. That’s lovely. WotC theoretically threw us a bone. Reasons why will likely remain a mystery.

Remember, WotC “doesn’t see editions any more.”

Yeah. Because they want One D&D to be the only game we’ll ever play as far as they’re concerned. (*My opinion.) The heck with all those older editions. One D&D with its big, gnarly, fancy-shmancy digital platform is where it’s at now don’t cha know?

The reasons WotC gave in look spontaneous. Sure, maybe it’s the fans. Maybe it was Hasbro. Maybe it was all those cancelled DDB subs. OR maybe they’ve got another plan. There are a LOT of things WotC has not addressed yet.

I’ll play angel’s advocate for a minute. Hasbro was under a lot of pressure to deal with WotC. Hasbro stocks took a dip. Media attention was on the OGL for a minute. The new D&D movie, Honor Among Thieves is coming out. Critical Role was getting some attention from Amazon. Cynthia Williams and Chris Cao are still pulling the strings.

Oh look. Smoke & Mirrors.

WotC gave us the old pen and paper D&D on a platter. Sure, make all the OGL stuff we want. BUT- What if, just what if, that was never their endgame? They want One D&D to be the only Virtual TableTop in the industry. They want One D&D to be a lifestyle brand. D&D players are their cash cow.

What if they aren’t worried about the OGL because they have ways around it? Sure, make all the OGL stuff we want. Plaster “5E” on everything. What if Wizards of the Coast owns, or is planning to own OneBookShelf and Roll 20? What if WotC went out of their way to make sure the new D&D Beyond website was pretty much the only way to purchase old D&D pdfs?

Rumor has it that Chris Cao, one of the guys pulling the strings at WotC, doesn’t even see physical books as a concern going forward. He thinks they’re just nostalgia. Merely collector’s items. Chris Cao hasn’t even played D&D as far as we know. He thinks it’s like a mobile app or a computer game. (*according to WotC employees.)

What if WotC is planning to squeeze out Friendly Local Game Stores, Amazon, and independent book dealers? WotC wants to make it so all roads lead back to their new digital platform. Think about what it might do to the TTRPG industry if Hasbro or WotC has a veritable monopoly on electronic and physical book distribution.

Itch.io and Paizo.com are going to get more traffic. Great. All of our indie games and content that used to be on DriveThruRPG.com and DMsGuild.com might have to go through WotC or a website owned by Hasbro. More money in the corporation’s pockets. We can create all the content we want, but if we want to sell it, we’d have to either do it piecemeal all over the internet or go through WotC.

Just what if all those Hasbro layoffs were used to free up some capital available for the purchase on OneBookshelf? Sounds kinda far out. Then again, if Linda Codega hadn’t broken the story about OGL 1.1, none of us would believe the reality WotC would have had us living in back in early January. Put nothing past WotC at this point.

It’s all just my opinion, speculation, and conjecture.

Make what you will of it. I still think we’re getting played by Wizards of the Coast. I think Williams and Cao are smarter than we give them credit for. I think Chris Cocks at Hasbro is smarter than we give him credit for.

I hope I’m wrong about all of this. We almost witnessed the collapse of our beloved hobby industry. We could still be fighting just to keep the OGL alive. I’m just thinking of the journey from the travesty that was OGL 1.1 to where we are now. How is WotC going to recover?

Sure, maybe D&D Beyond gets a few subscribers back. According to the rumors, Chris Cao doesn’t even like DDB. The new Unreal Engine powered VTT and accompanying website are supposed to replace it anyway. New platform, new subscriptions. D&D Beyond will soon be a decaying relic.

Sure, maybe they sell a few more movie tickets to Honor Among Thieves. Maybe Hasbro saves face on with Paramount. I mean, I’m not going, but maybe somebody will.

Sure, maybe WotC saved face with the fans. They might even sell some of those “collector’s books” they’re putting out. And maybe DMsGuild continues to sell those pesky pdfs to keep the cattle, err…fans happy as far as the stockholders are concerned. Maybe Hasbro stocks will stabilize next quarter.

Darn straight I don’t trust WotC. We all need to remain vigilant. I’m telling you, family, it ain’t over yet. Sure, #OpenDnD won the day. Hallelujah. But we ain’t done with WotC’s shenanigans.

Thanks for stopping by and humoring me with all of my crazy ideas. I promise we really are going to get back to gaming. The dust will settle eventually and we can have some fun. I appreciate you.

Post Number 300 IN A ROW!

THANK YOU!

Wasn’t sure I’d make it this far.

Thank you! ALL of you! If you’re here reading this, I appreciate you. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.

Here’s to the next 300. I may never take a break. I dunno. I’m still having too much fun.

This happened two days ago. Thank you!!!

Wizards of the Coast Gave In. WOW!

Wizards of the Coast finally gave the fans what they want and content creators what they deserved after a hard-fought #OpenDnD campaign. Thank you all for your hard work. Happy gaming.

Honestly, I’m still in shock and cautiously optimistic.

I want to wait until the dust settles a bit and take a little time to rest before I get into why I think they capitulated to the fans’ demands. I don’t think it’s all as black and white as some would imagine. Yes, I still have some theories I want to test, but that can wait.

Today we celebrate! Let’s get back to gaming. Let’s get back to writing TTRPGs and talking about them. There is peace across the realm. Rejoice!

My plans for 2023 and this site are changing.

I’m still going ahead with the Des Moines Remote Viewing Society campaign for Monster of the Week. I have developed a new sort of fondness for this game over the past month. I feel like experimenting outside of the fantasy genre might be nice once in a while. DsM RVS will also live on in fiction and possibly an SCP RPG crossover.

SCP is one of my new obsessions. I’ll be putting up a review soon as well as creating a branch office for the SCP Foundation in my Des Moines Remote Viewing Society fiction. The systems might not mesh up, but the game concepts still can. SCP works just as well in Monster of the Week as it does its own game.

Horror gaming aside, I have some new and old TTRPG ideas.

I’m excited to be continuing my space game with giant robots and new frontiers. Still working on a name. I think I might be switching back to an old, familiar base system for some things. I learned some things while attempting to build my own game system. I might be bringing back some ideas from the Big Robots, Cool Starships game I was working on 25-ish years ago.

I had also been working on a Mekton Zeta campaign setting back in the day. I also stumbled upon a classic TTRPG called Marauder 2107 while I was looking for some things in my archives. I might be building a Cypher System game based roughly on a combination of Appleseed and Chrome Shelled Regios anime series. Cypher System gained a lot of my love and respect during the whole OGL crisis.

I may never trust Wizards of the Coast again, but they’re not Renegade Studios.

It’s true WotC and Hasbro are still the big slimy megacorp they always were. Hasbro might own Renegade and several associated Intellectual Properties such as Power Rangers, GI Joe, and Transformers, but I’m ready to ease up a little bit.

I still want to make some GI Joe and Transformers RPG content for free and put it up here on the site. As I stated recently, we waited 30+ years for those two RPGs. I’ll be darned if I’m passing up an opportunity to enjoy them. Essence 20 is still a really good system.

I’m also still bringing back Power Rangers RPG campaign Super Lightning Force. I want to do some sort of Tommy/Jason David Frank tribute. I think it’s going to involve retiring the green or white Ranger costume with honors.

Going back to my superhero gaming roots a bit.

Even though January royally knocked the wind out of my sails in terms of RPGs and wanting to work on them, I am still looking forward to some ICONS RPG action. I am working on creating a campaign similar to the DC Batman Animated Universe. Anyone else miss those cartoons? Imagine a small, newly formed team of superheroes dedicated to stomping out injustices and keeping the city safe from costumed super villains for the first time. Until recently all of my supers games contained the notion of the characters being legacy heroes.

Back to Fantasy RPGs, too.

I’ll still be putting out magic item and creature goodies for old school D&D, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and even Pathfinder 2E . PF2E is going to be the basis for my #Dungeon23 game. I hear it’s getting popular now for some reason… hmm. (*LOL!) As much as I despise what WotC did to the OGL and turning the entire industry upside down for a month, I can’t deny I still LOVE D&D.

That said, I might never touch One D&D again. (*More on that later. I’m done talking about WotC for a few days.) I’ll still run 5E for the kids. I think we, the fans and content creators, are still going to be using 5E for a very long time to come. I’m not going to tempt Law of Attraction by saying more than that.

I’m also digging out one of my quiet favorites, Operation White Box from Small Niche Games. I really enjoyed this when it came out. Now that the OGL crisis has abated, I think I’ll go back to using it. I had been considering a WW2 game using the Cypher System. I like WW2 gaming because there are hundreds of stories to tell. Plus the good guys and bad guys are pretty easy to identify.

It’s good to be back in the saddle writing games again.

I’ll still be talking about happenings in the TTRPG industry from time to time. I think there was a lot of low key bonding going on during the month of January. I know I discovered a half dozen new YouTubers I want to watch as a result. There are still stories to cover and fallout from the licensing talk. #ORCLicense #BlackFlag

I’ll also be coming at you with monthly writing prompts. Fantasy February is still on the way. I’ll also be dropping some free scenarios for various games. I have yet to write a d12 table this month. Gotta fix that. I love any excuse to roll d12s.

I’m also reworking parts of my site. My goal is to make the site easier to read. I’m also changing up logos, banners, etc. I hit a huge milestone yesterday and another big one is coming tomorrow.

Thank you so much for stopping by. We couldn’t have done what we did in January without dedicated, hard working TTRPG family. If you’re reading this, you probably ARE family now. I appreciate you. Happy gaming.

Please continue to be kind.

TTRPG Conspiracies Part 3.

If Wizards of the Coast is truly bent on taking over the industry, they need to eliminate or acquire OneBookShelf. Would the Reptilian Overlords at Hasbro allow such an acquisition with the whole community up in arms over the OGL? Remember, DnD Beyond subscriptions are being cancelled all over the place. Money to throw at this RPG thing might be getting kinda tight at Hasbro. On the other hand, the powers that be wast D&D to be their billion dollar lifestyle brand. Poor DnD is “under monetized” these days.

Hang onto your tinfoil hats. This one is pretty far out.

This particular hypothesis is going to be more controversial than others I have posed. So far I’ve been pretty hit-or-miss with the Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons Open Game License controversy. Let’s go even farther out onto the limb.

Everything from here on out is mostly speculation. I don’t know anyone inside WotC or OneBookShelf (DriveThruRPG.com, DMsGuild.com, etc.) These are my observations along with some of the leaked information about WotC from various sources during the OGL 1.1 scandal. Believe me or don’t. It’s fine.

We’ve all been tiptoeing around the question.

What’s going to happen with Roll 20 and OneBookShelf before the One D&D launch in 2024? Certainly, all that’s going on with the OGL either 1.1 or 1.2 must be affecting them. Right? I know I’m not the only one who wonders.

Of course, everything is happening behind closed doors, so all we can do is ask questions. Admittedly, I’m asking them into the void that is the Internet, but at least I’m asking. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for some of these conversations that are going on in the TTRPG industry behind closed doors.

Tinfoil Hat time.

Pretend you’re one of the head honchos at Wizards of the Coast. You’ve purchased D&D Beyond because it’s the nearest digital platform that bears the D&D name. You’re looking to dominate the electronic (pdf, e-pub, etc) market as well as the Virtual TableTop market. Call WotC a lot of names, stupid isn’t necessarily one of them.

Roll 20 partnered up with OneBookShelf last year. Most of us would agree that Roll 20 is probably the next biggest VTT platform. DriveThruRPG.com is probably the biggest seller of pdfs. It’s also noteworthy that WotC does a LOT of business through DTRPG/OneBookShelf. DMsGuild.com is a OneBookShelf subsidiary.

If Wizards of the Coast is truly bent on taking over the industry, they need to eliminate or acquire OneBookShelf. Would the Reptilian Overlords at Hasbro allow such an acquisition with the whole community up in arms over the OGL? Remember, D&D Beyond subscriptions are being cancelled all over the place. Money to throw at this RPG thing might be getting kinda tight.

WotC is already half way into buying OBS/Roll 20.

DMsGuild already shares 20% of the profits with WotC. We know from Kickstarter that WotC was cutting sweetheart deals to certain companies during the failed OGL 1.1 implementation. What if, just what if WotC cut a deal with OneBookShelf?

When things go live in 2024 with One D&D’s Digital platform, OBS/Roll 20 is either going to be rolled into WotC or their biggest competitor in the market. I could easily see WotC assuming absolute control over The DMs Guild and pulling the rest of their product from OBS minimum. More likely all OBS/Roll 20 profits are rolled into WotC. Roll 20 will probably vanish from the face of the Earth if I am guessing correctly.

We already know WotC doesn’t care about the fans.

It wouldn’t be out of their character for them to absorb the largest pdf distributor in the TTRPG industry. WotC has already turned the entire industry on its ear with the OGL 1.1 scandal. Would it really be unthinkable to screw literally everyone on OneBookShelf communities by absorbing the whole platform? I personally wouldn’t put it past WotC at this point.

It’s really no different than Elon, Lord of the Bots, taking over Twitter. We’ve seen that big business pretty much always gets what it sets its sights on here in the United States. Hasbro/WotC is certainly big business when the next closest competitor to D&D makes about a tenth as much money annually.

Thinking about this, why wouldn’t Hasbro want the biggest competitor in the digital market and by far the largest distributor or e-pub, pdf, etc. Why not make probably 75% or better of the companies in the TTRPG industry come to them to sell pdfs? All TTRPGs are indistinguishable from D&D, right?

Not to mention WotC said they “don’t see editions” when it comes to D&D in their video intro to One D&D last year. It’s going to be a lot easier to not see any other officially published material from older editions if WotC takes over the DMsGuild. One way or another, WotC seems extra determined to clamp down on third party D&D creators and get those juicy royalties.

I want to be wrong on this one.

As far as I know, no one from OneBookShelf has commented on the OGL debacle or any deals with Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast. NDAs all around, I imagine. I doubt we’ll hear much until closer to 2024 on this one.

I see WotC as wanting to dominate the entire TTRPG industry. Who will win the TTRPG Wars? Will all TTRPGs become D&D?

If this does go down and Hasbro sucks up OBS/Roll 20 however they do it, what does the rest of the industry have to do? Other platforms such as Itch.io and Patreon will soon get a lot more popular. But there is only one DriveThruRPG. What could possibly replace it if it goes away forever?

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Next time let’s talk about printed products.

I Feel Sorry for Renegade Studios.

I WAS a huge fan of Power Rangers, GI Joe, and Transformers RPG before big brother Hasbro ruined the TTRPG industry for many of us by causing the Dungeons & Dragons Open Game License debacle. I can’t support anything owned by Hasbro any more. Wizards of the Coast can’t be trusted right now. Hasbro can’t be trusted right now. @renegadestudios falls under the Hasbro umbrella. Sorry, family.

The fallout of the Dungeons & Dragons Open Game License disaster will probably affect it’s Hasbro cousin.

Renegade Studios makes RPGs and Board Games for a myriad of settings. They’re the current producers of Vampire, Hunter, and other World of Darkness properties. They make board games for Power Rangers, GI Joe, Transformers, My Little Pony, and more. I used to be a huge fan of some of the RPGs listed.

Power Rangers RPG was my jam this time last year. I loved running solo and small group RPG adventures in the Power Rangers Lightning Force campaign I was building. I’d even go back to it if I weren’t conscientious of the fact that Renegade is owned by Hasbro. The hobby and game industry, in which I participate is already being dominated by this huge corporation. Why do they want life to be hard on their potential customers?

It sucks that Renegade, who were off to such a great start, have to suffer because of their bigger cousin.

Wizards of the Coast is doing the best they can to appease Hasbro. I get it. All these little subsidiary companies have to earn their keep or be absorbed back into the larger corporation. Or worse- shut down completely. We went over three decades without Power Rangers, GI Joe, and Transformers RPGs. (Official ones, anyway.) Their losses are going to be mourned.

Vampire? Hunter? Now we’re into what used to be big names in the TTRPG industry. I could kind of see World of Darkness surviving via the Storyteller’s Vault courtesy of OneBookShelf. But new official material would probably go away unless Hasbro got the bright idea to do something with the Intellectual Property.

Hasbro is being boycotted right now. I would even go so far as to say canceled by outraged Dungeons & Dragons fans. The OGL 1.1 scandal sent massive shockwaves through the TTPRG industry. The message is clear: We, the fans, can no longer trust Wizards of the Coast or parent corporation, Hasbro.

The people at Renegade have to be feeling the pain, too.

If you’ve been in the roleplaying game space long enough, you get to know people. You meet fans, make friends, even lifelong companions playing games. Friendly Local Game Stores, conventions, friends from random pickup games online can be spread out all over the place. It seems like most of us know someone that works for a game company from social media, or wherever.

The people that make up Renegade Studios are like that, too. Many of them are not new to the industry. Very likely they know some Wizards of the Coast employees and Third Party Content Creators as well. Many of these creators are probably in contact with one another. I’m guessing all of these folx, WotC employees included, probably know freelancers in the industry, too.

Freelancers and small time TTRPG content producers are probably getting hit the worst by this OGL flap. Until a new OGL is, umm, ratified? Approved? Rammed down our throats by WotC if I had to guess. Until there is an official new OGL pick-a-number, a very large number of game companies hang in the balance.

I’ll say it again. Use your own discernment over who to support in the industry.

My personal preference is to let Hasbro and both of their TTRPG siblings twist in the wind. I won’t spend a dime with them until things change dramatically. We might be talking about 7th Ed D&D before I’ll buy another WotC product. My kids will all be getting board games and TTRPGs from every company that’s not associated with Hasbro in 2023. (I was looking forward to the relaunch of Axis & Allies from Renegade. Oh fcking well.)

I think the financial crunch Hasbro was already finding itself in at the end of last year was already hurting Renegade. Personally, if I had Power Rangers, GI Joe, and Transformers RPGs? Y’all would be sick of hearing about sourcebooks and adventures for all three. I mean an egregious number of sourcebooks. I’d be begging Hasbro to let me put WotC to shame right now.

But, alas there are no Movie Universe Sourcebooks, vehicle guides, adversary sourcebooks, season sourcebooks, adventures like crazy or even a fan content policy. The GI Joe and Transformers RPG could have the crossover sourcebook from Hell if they wanted to. Renegade could be doing crossovers the fans have wanted to see for years, and they’re dribbling out little board game releases and fairly inconsequential adventure books for all these Hasbro licensed properties. Tis sad. The OGL debacle and heat from Hasbro is not helping at all.

I am sincerely hoping things turn around for Renegade in the coming year.

I would love to go back to writing Power Rangers stuff for FREE. I had some GI Joe adventures in the outline stages for this year. I so want an excuse to run Transformers with my kids. None of this will happen until the OGL disaster gets straightened out. Hasbro can my and themselves while they’re at it. I’m ing mad!

Thanks for stopping by. Keep fighting the good fight. Please keep the OGL battle fresh in everyone’s minds.

#OpenDnD
#DnDBeGone
#StoptheSub
#DnDONE emphasis on “DONE!”
#BoycottHasbro
#BoycottWotC

Dimensions in Character Part 2

New game, new character, new ways of doing things. If you’re trying out a new system, why not play something completely opposite of your regular fare? Do something new while doing something new. Bend, twist, and try to explore character creation in new and fun ways.

One year ago I wrote an article about character backgrounds.

I think it’s important to revisit that topic since a lot of new characters are being made these days. Myself included, by the way. I’m popping out characters for all sorts of things I want to try. It’s a great way to get introduced to a new game.

As a GM, it also helps to make a few characters so you can help the players make characters during or after session zero. It also gives a chance to survey the core or players book in a little more depth. I don’t know about most GMs, but I hate getting blindsided when someone creates a completely broken character.

When I started with Pathfinder 2E a few short years ago, I went out of my way to come up with characters that would push the character creation rules to their breaking point. No, I don’t mean straight 18s and max hp.

Balanced characters aren’t always fun characters.

Some of my favorite characters have been the ones with quirky stats. Dungeon Crawl Classics is a perfect game for this because of the 0 Level funnel. The even funnier part is when a character with the dumpiest stats possible lives to become an epic adventurer. There are a lot of nice things to be said for random rolls. Bad dice rolls make a player explore things their character is terrible at as well as the one or two excellent ones,

For games with stat buy or points distributions, I don’t recommend min/maxing. I know a fair share of players probably do, Then again, my tried and true method of taking the average stat and then distributing the rest of the points evenly doesn’t appeal much after the first character. It helps really learn the system and character creation, though.

It can be a lot of fun to do weird things that the system doesn’t specifically recommend. I love moments of “It doesn’t say I ‘can’t’ do it so much as it just doesn’t recommend it.” Hi, I’m a werewolf with a high degree of acting skills on the character. It doesn’t exactly break the game, but people will ask why all around the table.

Likewise it’s also fun to distribute attributes and/or things that a “normal” character for that type would never logically do. My rogue in one game is a pro at flower arranging. It just sounded funny. I have a Champion character in Pathfinder 2E that hates heavy armor.

Strange bedfellows.

Think about how many movies or TV shows where the main characters wouldn’t have likely associated with one another had it not been for tragic and bizarre circumstances. It’s okay to play a heavily nuanced, square peg in a room full of round characters so long as there is a motivation to be with the group. Odd or dire circumstances make for strange bedfellows.

If you plan to play an oddball character, work it out with the GM and the group ahead of time. Cooperation goes a long way. It’s one of those cool things to bring up during Session Zero to avoid throwing a total curveball at the group.

I was once in a Star Wars game where our two newest players were a pacifist farmer and a civil engineer. How did they get lumped in with a bunch of fighter pilots, commandos, and gruff smugglers? We probably should have worked it out ahead of time. (Cringe.) Rebellions do make for strange teams, though.

Final thoughts.

One doesn’t have to make a statistically broken min/max character for every game. Sometimes having a strange, quirky character with a lot of personality and diverse skills is a lot of fun. As a GM, I love that kind of stuff over the maxed- out 300 lb combat gorilla. Sometimes freakishly random just makes for a more interesting role playing experience, especially in a game system that’s new to almost everyone at the table.

I encourage everyone making new characters to go out on a limb for a change. If you’re the shy, quiet character type- make the raging, muscle-headed barbarian for once. If you are a min-maxer, roll random or just drop skills the archetype wouldn’t normally use. If you’re used to playing totally freaky characters, make a normal-ish, well-rounded everyman character. Break out of your normal shell and experiment with new personalities and unusual character builds,.

Role playing is about experimenting with character types and personalities different from our own. If you can be anything, why not be a pixie ninja with a serious dislike of the un-dead? It’s okay to play weird characters. I dare say most GMs will love you for it.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Keep on gaming!

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