Gah! Just Let Me Drive!

At some point, you absolutely must cater to the GM. What do GMs need? If the game involves slaying monsters and grabbing loot, it’s probably best to have a book with monsters and a GM’s book detailing all kinds of cool loot. That mentality of “set up everything for the players and tell the GM to wing it” is going to go stale pretty fast.

I’m having an egoic moment, but I have to say something as a fan and “Old Grognard.”

First impression of a game should not elicit shock and dismay.

I’m not going to name and shame any game companies, but I noticed the 2022 release schedule for a new RPG that just released this year. For a brand new game with a brand new system, this thing looks anemic. I’m incredibly underwhelmed by what I’m seeing. If it were my company, I daresay we’d be doing things a little differently.

Maybe it’s the drooling fanboy in me. Maybe it’s the writer talking. It could be the guy that’s been on the retail end of the RPG industry for years. I just have a sinking feeling that this company could do better with a flagship release. The second half of the book made me cringe. The subsequent releases made me start looking at other games again. My quest for “the One” may yet continue, sadly.

Honest disclosure: I’ve never run a game company.

Most of us can probably say the same? However, I have seen dozens of companies come and go over the years. I have an RPG collection on paper larger than I can easily catalog. Then there’s pdfs. Let’s just say I’ve seen a lot of game settings in a lot of systems. Could I do better? Maybe.

Here’s the thing. I’ve seen some definite winners over the years. Games that came out with a solid core book or books and followed up immediately with things they know fans will be clamoring for. Some games even go so far as to promise certain expansions in their core rules because they know there just isn’t room to cover depth and breadth without creating a 700+ page nightmare to the tune of $65.00 or more.

For example, if a new modern combat game comes out; after the core rules, what does everyone likely want? Well, if you’re like me the order is usually first guns, sometimes a setting book, next vehicles, and then a GM’s book. Then the order probably depends on the setting. You have various factions, cyberware, hacking rules, monsters, magic, and so on to consider depending on the game.

What did I see?

Without naming and shaming, the company in question flopped hard on their first release. The core book was lacking and a bit mediocre. The system in question is a solid B+, the art is an A-, and the rest is pretty lackluster. But then it got kinda mopey. I can’t give too many details because I want to teach and not offend.

What would I have done differently? So far the writers have done a great job catering to the players. The art for a game is make or break in a lot of cases and they did that fabulously. The question I think the company needs to ask is, who’s running the game?

At some point, you absolutely must cater to the GM. What do GMs need? If the game involves slaying monsters and grabbing loot, it’s probably best to have a book with monsters and a GM’s book detailing all kinds of cool loot. That mentality of “set up everything for the players and tell the GM to wing it” is going to go stale pretty fast.

Maybe it’s because we’re in some freaky modern era of game design?

I think there is a LOT more to designing an RPG that just handing everything to the players and oh, yeah that person behind the screen. Unless you’re branding the game as GM-less or some other wacky players-only mechanic, that person behind the screen is important. That person behind the screen is going to need a lot more than a screen last I checked.

I’m going to go more into depth on this in my next article. There’s a lot more to pulling together a first product release and subsequent supplements than anyone could really cover here in one article. The problem is, I have a pretty fair idea of how to do it, but not the resources to actually build a company and release an RPG. So, I’m playing armchair quarterback for now.

Have a lovely day. Please stay safe. Thanks for being here. See ya soon.

New Power Rangers RPG Random Threats

General Gnarl’s main henchbeasts are on tap today.

Today we’re diving into some of my Lightning Force Rangers campaign bad guys. I’m starting off with the freakiest of the bunch, General Gnarl. His lieutenants are designed around a horror/ooze theme. Not all of the lieutenants listed will be used this season, hence the random table.

A little bookkeeping first. Unless we are specifically referring to a Monster of the Week, all creatures working on behalf of the bad guys are now called, “Threats.” This comes following Renegade Con and the appearance of the “Fan Preview Guide.” Dunno why we’re calling it that, but hey- we’re cool.

Renegade did us a solid.

They also did us another solid with this little tidbit in their FAQ:

We finally have a formula for generating new Threats.

That having been said, here is a list of General Gnarl’s monsters presented here in name only. Stats to follow at a later date if/when we ever figure out how the OGL works with this game or if there even is one…

Please roll 1d12 and consult the table below:

  1. Necrolord Abominus: Raises zombies (Putties, but mud and bone.)
  2. Oozemaster: Slimy abomination determined to spread goo everywhere. Yuck.
  3. Bonehead: Dude is literally a giant skeleton. Shoots cool eyebeams. Hard to hit.
  4. Boiler Belly: Metal monstrosity with a belly full of green fire and a door to blast it with. Superheated when angry, which is quite often.
  5. Zitius Maximus: Rubbery monster covered in small holes capable of spewing nasty slime. Slime turns people into gelatinous masses. Mega mode is volcanic.
  6. Wrecking Ball: Ball of solid metal with arms and legs. Uses the chain on his head as a weapon. Super tough, not necessarily super smart. Arm chain tentacles?
  7. Achoo Chu: Somewhat comical train with a huge nose. (Think Thomas the Tank Engine costume.) Spreads an incapacitating disease called the “Sneezles” causing uncontrolled sneezing in its victims. Disease is cured when monster is defeated.
  8. Double Fist: (Picture Hitmonchan from Pokemon made of solid metal and a smooth head.) Has four arms. Boxing beastie that doubles itself when damaged.
  9. Tri-Cycler: Three headed Centaur with two small wheels in the back and one huge wheel up front. Cannon on the back.
  10. Spawn Camp: A walking, talking miniature log cabin that releases small, bipedal humanoid minions. Has a mortar on its back.
  11. Gas bag: A hot air balloon shaped humanoid biped that sprays sleeping gas everywhere. Its noxious odor is also capable of stunning people.
  12. Gunnarl: Gnarl’s shorter, pudgier version of himself. Carries a gun almost bigger that he is. Acts and talks like Gnarl only in a smaller, cuter voice.

Bonus Table: Serious Damage.
Please roll 1d12 and see what any give threat might be able to shoot:

  1. Heat Ray
  2. Freeze Ray
  3. Lightning Bolt
  4. Laser Blasts
  5. Cone of Fire
  6. “Toxic” Gas
  7. Force Blast
  8. Projectiles (Spikes, arrows, shuriken, bullets?)
  9. Explosive Projectiles (Cannon balls, propane canisters, etc)
  10. Energy Beam (Pure power, plasma?)
  11. Sonic Blast
  12. Acid.

Game stats to follow. Have a great week. Thank you for visiting.

Scheduling: The Great Hobgoblin of Tabletop Gamers.

Have trouble scheduling your game? You’re probably not alone. It can be done, though.

This has come up many times at my table, as I’m sure it has for practically everyone else.

Me: D&D this weekend?
My Wife: Swim Meet Saturday. Lesson plans and housework Sunday.
Me: (Crying, sighs.) Next weekend?
My wife: Maybe? Little League starts soon. Haven’t heard from coaches yet.
Me: (Now ugly sobbing openly.) What…what about the weekend after that?
My wife: Spring break, so probably? We do have a list of projects to do around the house…
Me: June? How’s June looking?

LOL! I’m kind of picking on my poor wife a little, but you can probably see where I’m going with this. It’s tough to find a good gaming time, especially on the weekends. That’s with all six people involved living under one roof. Do I ever try to schedule anything outside of the family? Not very often, no.

One possible solution:

Shorter sessions, sandwiched in more often. Sunday night dinner and D&D. I expect almost daily Power Rangers games over Spring Break that only go an hour or two at a time. Prepping these is pretty easy. The only hard part is leaving the map and the minis out with three cats in the house. They like knocking the PC’s minis onto the floor for some reason.

More sessions more often also makes combat a little tougher trying to get everyone to remember what they were going to do. If I time it right, we start combat at the beginning of the session and end it before the end of the session. That might be most of what we do, but it works. I also finds it helps the younger players to stay engaged when the action and the story are constantly moving for most of the session.

I have seen random tables for why a character goes missing.

When a player can’t make it, we usually have a few options. The character becomes an NPC for the day. Tedious for the DM, but effective.

The missing player’s character trips going down the stairs to Room 1 (of 73) to the dungeon, sprains his ankle, and has to go sit with the horses. Works great for extended absences especially. I’ve literally seen random tables with results such as this.

One of the other players agrees to run the character for the absent player. I don’t love this plan for several reasons. The first being the player running multiple characters can easily get distracted. Second, the other player can never seemingly run the character the same way the original player does. Last, if the absent player’s character dies or ends up in a relationship with a bugbear, there could be some friction among players afterward. (Yeah, that happened.)

I’ve seen a variant on this where we all ran the missing character by proxy for the missing player. The character would literally have sounded schizophrenic with four different people helping with their decision making. And combat was messy that way. Not to mention the whole group got to look at the character’s sheet including all the character’s dirty little secrets. When the player came back the next week, the metagame reckoning was fierce!

Understanding is really the key.

IFF you are so lucky as to have a group of adults, planning a consistent game night is a heap easier. If everyone knows game night is always going to be on Tuesday from 5:00-10:00, then it’s easier to schedule weeks, even months in advance. It also gives the DM a consistent night to prep for. If people can’t make it, they know the following week is still going to be there. When everyone involved understands the plan, it usually leads to consistent game nights. I suggest discussing it during Session Zero.

Adults often have families, including those pesky little people running around everywhere. 😋

I kid. I kid. No, really. I have four of them from 15 all the way down to 6 years old. That encompasses a lot of activities. School always comes first, of course. My wife teaches Special Ed Behavior Disorder kids, so she’s pretty busy even when she’s not in school. Having a family group is a blessing and a curse.

I’m glad I’m not currently helping with conventions or running much of anything outside the house, even online. It’s crazy how many things come up during the week even outside of Little League season. We have swimming, band and orchestra concerts, award dinners and all kinds of things come up every week. That’s also assuming everyone is healthy. What do we do?

We’re not every family, but we do miss a few game sessions here and there. Kinda sucks, but responsibilities are what they are. I try to squeak in a session or two on the weekdays and there’s always plenty of time to write, design, and read during the downtime. At least some of the housework gets done when I’m not chasing them around, too. Ya know, I used to think be unemployed would give me more time?

Drinking coffee keeps me sane.

Game on! Have a good week. Please stay hydrated. See you soon.

Let’s Talk About FUDGE-ing It!

Here’s the awesome fact about FUDGE: It can be used to substitute for ANY RPG System. I’ve seen people adapt preexisting character sheets from other games into FUDGE. You can be as ridiculously detailed as you want, or as easy going as you need with this game. Not only does this game suggest ways to deal with attributes and skills, but it actively encourages you to borrow from other games! Is that amazing or what?

FUDGE is a derivative of FATE from Grey Ghost Press.

As of this writing it is still available FREE on Grey Ghost’s website. I highly recommend everyone go get a free copy of this game and see what it can do for you. I know a couple of other GMs that swear by this system for a lot of things.

This is the title page of FUDGE.

It’s a little older TTRPG, but I think every GM who has ever gotten frustrated with another game system should really give it a look. It’s also a great jumping-in point if you want to design your own RPG from scratch. It’s kind of like GURPS only far less crunchy and as easy to learn as you want it to be.

FUDGE has elements that will look familiar from other games, or possibly we wish they did.

[Editor’s note: I’d give a nickel for good old Matt Mercer to plug this game, but WotC would probably have a conniption fit.]

Here’s the awesome fact about FUDGE: It can be used to substitute for ANY RPG System. I’ve seen people adapt preexisting character sheets from other games into FUDGE. You can be as ridiculously detailed as you want, or as easy going as you need with this game. Not only does this game suggest ways to deal with attributes and skills, but it actively encourages you to borrow from other games! Is that amazing or what?

I was talking to a very wise friend of mine today about converting a well-known mecha and magic rpg into FUDGE. You can use the scaling in FUDGE to cover everything from superheroes to giant space robots. Magic is but a footnote here, too. Yeah, there’s spells and then there’s scaled up spells!

Much like FATE and other universal core systems, you can customize everything.

Sure, borrow from D&D if you like. Or, if that’s not your jam, as may be the case with several members of the community these days, you can make up all your own skills spells, items, and powers. This game encourages players and GMs to get together and combine their brain powers into a giant… well, you get the idea. Grow your game world and campaign the way YOU want to see it.

Like the Elves in Pathfinder? Great, use em. You like the Wolfen in Palladium? Great, add em in. It takes seconds to stat most things up once you’ve been playing FUDGE for a while. Jedi? Easy. You’re literally a couple of power suggestions away. Magic sword? Easy. (Almost as easy as ICRPG, but we’ll cover that another day.) Basically, if you can describe it, you can build it.

Please be thoughtful when building items, spells, and such. GMs will still want to keep some kind of balance, probably… We’re funny that way, us GMs. We want you to have fun, but please don’t one-shot all the monsters with your Wand of Orcus Fireball cannon-thing? Please? That Tarrask had a family. (Typo intentional to protect the innocent.)

Fair warning, combat can be super deadly or a bit abstract depending on how your GM wants to play it. If Mr Tarask steps on your character, well, that might be a Superb wound and back to character creation you go… Much like firing an anime style missile volley onto the Snurfs village. (You get the idea.) Pelting a mech with snurfberries and little tears will still prove futile.

One thing I should mention is that with the way this game comes together, you can use it to emulate many different genres. Space Opera like Star Wars is a good example. You don’t have to go through every book and movie and stat out every single creature and vehicle unless you really have that kind of time. It works superbly for anime style play; being as bold and outrageous as you’d like. You can also emulate Toon style slapstick comedy with just a few rules modifications. Whatever you come up with, you can FUDGE it.

It is so remarkably easy and fun to build things with FUDGE. Please go check it out. I had forgotten how much I love playing around with these mechanics and I love any excuse to pull out my FATE dice.

Hope your week is going well. Please, stay safe and be kind to all you meet out in the real world. (No Snurfs of any kind were harmed in the making of this blog. Their little mushroom houses grew back with a little magic. All is well.)

Naturally Talented People

My original comment was if you gathered a handful applicants applying for a specific writing job at (well known RPG/TV show) you could start your own company.

A while back I commented that if you gathered the applicants for any given job in the RPG industry, you could start a company.

**Disclaimer** This is nothing against anyone I may be working for or with in the future. Everything is fine, honestly.

My original comment was if you gathered a handful applicants applying for a specific writing job at (well known RPG/TV show) you could start your own company. I stand by this statement because within any given five or six applicants for a writing job, you’ve got enough combined skills and experience to write a book, create artwork/ maps, promote the book, start a Kickstarter, and sell the thing. It’s really not a surprise that this sort of thing has already happened.

Actually, I think the bigger question is: Why doesn’t it happen more often?

I can speculate quite a bit on this. I know one person who is doing exactly this. He’s bringing together writers, map-makers, and artists while doing all the editing and promos himself. Kudos to him for all of that hard work. I think it would be a lot tougher to do it while holding down a 9:00-5:00 job and raising a family.

I think that’s a lot of what happens in the industry with a lot of us part time, amateur game designers. I used to see a lot of absolutely brilliant games on the convention scene that never went mainstream because it’s pretty tough to support a family and stay afloat without a steady income.

If COVID 19 has taught us anything, it’s that we can be largely cut off from society and still contribute something meaningful.

When I think of lockdown time, (I live in a state with a Republican governess, so we had frightfully little of it,) I think of spending more time online, watching live streams and watching the Virtual Tabletop industry blossom. It goes without saying a lot of small companies and independent writers began to flourish around that time, too. Now it’s just a matter of keeping the ball rolling. Online sales of electronic books, especially pdfs are still going strong.

If you think about it, even a Pay What you Want title or even $.99 goes a long way when you have little-no overhead beyond time invested. It’s not like the grand old days of RPGs when you had to send submissions to Dragon in the vague hopes of getting noticed and published. Add some social media moxie and free advertising to the mix and you can pull in some good money.

You can also work miracles without a few million viewers on YouTube or a major show on Amazon Prime. I know I’m a bit ‘critical’ of everyone’s favorite actual play show, but I’m sure one minor detractor isn’t going to dissuade people from tuning in every week. Good for them. More on that in another article.

Hope everyone is having a marvelous weekend. Stay safe. Take care. Be back soon.

Dimensions in Character

A few tips and examples for new players when creating characters. Please keep it simple. I can’t stress that enough.

Player tip: Keep it simple!

I wanted to put out a very common piece of advice for new players in any RPG. Please do yourself a favor and keep your character’s personality, backstory, and description as short and uncomplicated as reasonably possible? You can fill in or retcon some details as you go. GM’s typically don’t want to see a six page backstory that is going to trap them into some sort of convoluted plotline that only serves one character.

Keep it open ended. Keep it simple. Work with the party. If you want to play the angsty loner, then you’d better have good motivations for getting with the group and staying with them. If you have six solid, separate, distinct personality traits on your character, please make sure you can play them all without sounding schizophrenic. (Unless one of them is “schizophrenic.” )

It’s okay to play a one or two dimensional character. You can have a knuckle dragging barbarian with a club whose only real motivation is food. There’s a lot of room to grow. “Oog like pretty lady. Okay, where food?” is a great opening for character growth. As a GM, that’s gold right there. Now we have an opening for Oog the Barbarian to excel at something besides hitting stuff. Now Oog might be motivated to try to win the heart of the fair gnome princess instead of just trying not to step on her trying to get to the banquet table.

It’s okay to play a dwarf fighter who lives to shoot his crossbow and hit stuff with an axe. Suppose the elf bard in the party wants to teach him how to dance? Now there’s a subplot. GMs like that because we don’t even have to step in and it’s golden. That way the next time the PCs appear at a court function, the dwarf doesn’t have to guard the horses outside.

Which is a lot easier than having a backstory for the fighter that was tragically orphaned at birth, then his adoptive parents were eaten by two different dragons and his long lost sister turned out to be a witch… It’s not so terrible saying your character had a relatively normal and stable childhood. It’s okay to make a character that is angst free and can trust people, too. Just because you’re a shifty, shady rogue, doesn’t mean you have to treat other characters like dirt.

Not all of us are cut out for the cast of Critical Role. Don’t get me started. I’m no Matt Mercer and I don’t expect anyone, especially a new player, to act like their character is ready for their own animated series. If you can do a voice for your character, awesome! If not and you just manage to tell me what you want your character is doing, we’re good!

GMs and other players are a good source of inspiration and character development! Please, as long as you’re putting in the effort to show up, pay some attention, and have fun, that’s all we can ever ask. Just try to participate when you can, roll some dice, have your character sheet mostly in order and be a part of the group. Honest, the rest will fill itself in.

You can’t get it wrong. Go easy on yourself. Enjoy the game.

Until next time, stay safe. Please try to stay healthy. Game on.

Game On!

I’m trying this out. I’ve been a GM/Guide/DM/Judge for over 35 years. That long? Yikes! But I’ve been collecting, loving, writing, running, playing, eating, sleeping, drinking, and dreaming tabletop rpgs for many, many years.

So, I think I’m overdue to write about my gaming thoughts and gaming ideas. And by no means am I an absolute authority on all things gaming. Plenty of people might disagree. I’m not well-published yet, but I’ve been published. It will happen.

I took some serious time out. I have kids, wife, and three cats. There are some serious time issues there. Little League, swim meets, oh, and work… Who has time to play an rpg for 6 hours per night once per week?

So, old gamer guy moment. RPG’s are/were/ALWAYS will be my life! Never, ever give up on your dreams. I might not be Gary Gygax, but I’m going to be known. Keep watching.

We’re going to roll some dice and blow stuff up. Keep watching! Huzzah!

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