Secret Identities in Superhero RPGs.

Not every superhero has the luxury of a million dollar sportscar with tinted windows to safely costume up in.

There are no phone booths in the cellular age. Where do you put on your costume?

The (not 1960’s TV) Batman has it pretty easy. His secret identity is a necessity. I mean, he’s no Tony Stark, right? Multi-billionaire, world renowned playboy Bruce Wayne has too many people he’s trying to protect. Whereas Stark has the money and the company but it’s okay being the world’s most well known Avenger?

Peter Parker might be a better example. For most of his career, he had that whole “greater responsibility” and a newspaper editor who made Spidey public enemy number one. Police might have a few questions for the guy under the mask. See also collateral damage from superhero brawls. Villains might track down sweet Aunt May or Mary Jane and then things would get grim.

Back in the early days, the phone booth thing was cool for Superman, but nowadays super speed makes a changing booth unnecessary. Flash never really had to worry about costume changes, nor does anyone tapped into the Speed Force.

The Power Rangers kinda scream “obvious” at a hundred yards.

Think about it. Six kids, dressed every day in the same colors as their corresponding Ranger, running into trouble when everyone else is running away? Slugging it out with their outstanding martial arts talents against putties and gruesome monsters out in the open? How does no one figure it out?

Admittedly, the Rangers have this neat kid’s TV thing we call plot armor. Anime and sentai live action characters capitalize on the panicky and oblivious people around them. One of my favorite lines from old Speed Racer was “There’s something about Racer X that reminds me of my brother Rex.”

No kiddin, Speed? Really? Maybe because it is your brother? Anime tropes are easily imitated or emulated in RPGs.

How does this translate in gaming terms?

Most players are smarter than the old Speed Racer writers thought the audience was. Really how well the players maintain their characters’ secret identities or don’t is up to them and the GM. This could be established as early as Session Zero if the group wants to go there.

It could be a simple rule of characters’ secret identities are always considered safe. It could be as harsh as someone or something is always looking and your character will be exposed at the earliest opportunity if you’re not careful. Personally, I like the middle ground of your character’s identity is reasonably safe as long as you don’t transform in front of a large crowd or a camera.

My Power Rangers RPG group is afforded plot armor in terms of maintaining their secret identities so long as they don’t make it too obvious. It’s a little tougher when there’s a camera literally on every smart phone and street corner but I’m not going out of my way to call anyone out for hanging with same five other kids all the time.

Gotta have that one good secret identity scare from time to time.

If the character’s secret identity is a big deal, then that should come up in a story occasionally. Maybe some villain is out to ruin our hero by unmasking him in public. Maybe the hero has to unmask nationally in front of Congress to support some metahuman registration bill. Maybe a supervillain will blow up the orphanage if the heroes don’t reveal themselves in public by noon tomorrow. My favorite is the characters unwittingly Morphed in front of a camera while it was recording and now the reporter has a decision to make.

Otherwise, heroes in the comics sometimes do go public. It’s all circumstantial and fun. There could be several stories for both an individual character and the team in a superhero RPG revolving around one character going public. What if reporters started hounding all of their friends and family trying to figure out who else is a superhero? Is anyone around the newly public hero ever going to be safe again?

Hope you’re having a lovely week. Thanks for being here!

Has WotC Plum Lost They Minds?!?

Why is WotC rehashing the same old not-so-great campaign settings when they could be coming up with some new material.

Still trying to decide what to make of this year’s release schedule so far.

Wizards of the Coast is almost trying to shoot themselves thoroughly in the foot this year, in my opinion. First, they drop a box set containing one new release and two books most of the fan base already has. Then, another Matt Mercer ego balloon, because we all need another Critical Role book. Bleh. Next on the hit parade is the return of an old classic, Dragonlance. Later this year they’re talking about the return of Spelljammer. I hear Planescape is on the horizon, too. Why WotC? Why?

In fairness, I don’t hate any of their releases other than that whole three book collection nightmare at the start of the year. They really didn’t think that one through. Obvious money grab. I would have thought they would be beyond it, but… sigh.

Dragonlance returns!

Glad they seem to have worked out their differences with Hickman and Weis. The latest Unearthed Arcana contained info on some of the Dragonlance classic material all the fans will undoubtedly be clamoring for. I don’t oppose this idea. I can’t say I’m going to buy into it, though. There’s nothing new here, guys.

Kender? We already kinda have that figured out. Draconians? Uh, we already have them. Several ages of lore where there doesn’t seem to be any room for any characters outside of the novels to really do much? Again. We have FR for that.

I think WotC is banking on the fan appeal, but I think they’re missing a big hunk of their target audience. Yes, the Dragonlance novels are epic. No one is denying the greatness of the old material. Heck, I still have my old 1st Ed AD&D Dragonlance book along with the 3rd Ed stuff. It’s all good, but not really what 5E needs at this juncture.

Spelljammer?!?

What the actual flying fish f*ck made them decide to resurrect this technicolor nightmare? Seriously? Are they that desperate? What’s next? Chronomancy?

I’m sorry if I’m trashing on someone’s favorite campaign setting. Please accept my apology. But I don’t seem to recall Spelljammer being all that terribly popular to begin with. I fail to understand why they can’t just let that one stay dormant.

Have they finally run out of ideas for D&D 5E?

If they were going to dredge up campaigns from the past, why not go for Birthright, Oriental Adventures (Kara Tur,) or Dark Sun? Yes, there are all the accusations of racism and gender bias in the old campaigns. So what? No offense to anyone, but the same kinda thing exists in just about every campaign setting from the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Okay, Greyhawk, Mystara, Masque of the Red Death, Al Qadim, and Jakandor all got passed over for their own 5E return so far. I can see it. Truthfully, I can see the same apologist mentality that’s being applied to Birthright and Kara Tur going for a lot of the old settings. Agree with it or not, that’s how they’re running things.

Here’s an original idea- why not build an all new, original Fifth Edition setting? Maybe something that doesn’t have Critical Role attached to it in any way? Sorry, I’m picking on Matt Mercer again. But how hard can it be for WotC to bring some fresh ideas to the table instead of trying to bring back the same old, somewhat nauseating ideas that played out in 1989?

There are dozens if not hundreds of campaign settings floating around out there in 5E already. You can find a setting for just about anything you’d ever want to run. Cowboys, undead, ninjas, pirates, and dinosaurs are all over the place in 5E. Why does WotC insist on rehashing old second rate titles?

Maybe I am an Old Grognard?

Yes, I do occasionally chuckle at poking old Matt Mercer’s fanbase with a stick. Matt would never stoop to reading my blog or contacting me directly, so I don’t worry. I don’t mind Critical Role, as I’ve said before. But CR is not the end-all and be-all of D&D campaigns. Trust me. They can do better.

Is WotC trying to cash in on the OSR movement? Maybe. Although I see OSR as more of a response to all of the “new” rules changes that have come out since 1st Ed or 2nd Ed AD&D. I know us “old” OSR folks have a bad reputation for being what one younger gamer described as “racist, homophobic and fascist Nazis.” While I DO NOT espouse any type of hatred based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, I will say I’m “old.” I also don’t embrace fascism, socialism or communism, to be honest. I don’t do extremes. Not in my games, not in real life.

So, what is WotC’s angle here? Why are they bringing back RPGs that were left of the Best-Left-Forgotten Shelf? (Gratuitous Rescue Bots reference.) I’ll be watching for something new and improved to happen hopefully before 2024’s new edition.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great week. See you again soon.

Avoiding Red Ranger Syndrome Power Rangers RPG

Why does the Red Ranger always get all the cool stuff? What’s the rest of the group for?

Team yawns together. “Well, Red’s here. Guess we’re done.”

We see this kind of thing in the TV series all the time. The Red Power Ranger gets the cool upgrades. Who gets Super mode first? Red. New Zord? Conveniently it’s painted red. Who gets the big, shiny new weapon upgrade first? You guessed it- Red. Why does a Red Ranger need the rest of the team?

No, really. Why? I mean, I get they’re usually the team leader and all. That’s great and all. But, why not let another part of the Ranger Spectrum have some fun.

This is not a new phenomenon in RPGs, either.

Who does the story naturally seem to revolve around in the Star Wars RPG? It’s usually the Jedi if there is one. It’s not the player’s fault usually. They just want to play a cool character.

The same thing tends to happen in Supers games. We can’t all be Captain America or Superman, right? My campaigns back in the day tended to revolve around the Wolverine character. Marvel fans all around the table. Go figure.

It’s not the player’s fault.

Ultimately, it’s up to the GM to make sure ALL of the players at the table get their time in the spotlight and everyone gets even screen time. The other players at the table also have a part to play in speaking up if someone is hogging the limelight. It’s on the players as much as the GM. If things get out of hand, ultimately it’s up to the group to fix it together.

It wouldn’t be much different if it were D&D. If every storyline that comes up seems to somehow revolve around the barbarian character and he gets all the cool magic loot, the rest of the group is going to get pretty annoyed fast. Three sessions of that and the group is going to probably want to have a serious chat with the DM. Or the group will break up and let the DM and the barbarian’s player hold hands every Tuesday night until the campaign ends.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Cheesy slogan, but true nonetheless. It happens all the time on the Power Rangers TV series. Despite the fact that Red gets all the cool shinies, the team still sticks together through the magic of TV scripting. With the RPG, the players stick together through the magic of the shared experience around the table.

My campaign pledge to my Power Rangers RPG and all of the other campaigns is to always let everyone have a turn in the spotlight. The Blue, Green, Yellow, Black and even Pink Rangers will get their shiny new upgrades.

Super mode might well go to Blue first in our series. Green will get the new weapon first. Pink is likely the recipient of the first new Zord. Red will still get something cool just not first or shiniest, maybe.

May the Power protect you! Seriously, have a good week. Thank you for being here.

Making Characters by the Binder Full?

Am I the only GM that insists on making a ton of characters for myself just to get a feel for the system?

Am I the only GM that likes to make characters, too?

When I’m trying out a new system to see if I want to run it, I make characters. I make enough to have an entire party. I know how people tend to have a distaste of pregenerated characters, so most of my good characters become really overly crunchy NPCs.

This has its upside, though. It gives me readily available party members to fill in for positions in the group that no one likes to play (cough-healer-cough.) In a pinch, it might also give me a foil for one of the characters, a competing dungeon party, or even a bad guy.

Hidden benefit to making tons of characters.

First, it gives me an idea of how to make/explain characters for a new system. Second, I can read a system and know pretty fast how it runs. Making characters helps me catch some of the nuances I might have missed. It also helps me learn the design process for the game itself so I can build new character classes, spells, items, etc. Last, it does give me a building block to help the players if I get in a pinch.

If I have new players, or if my players are new to the system, having generated a ton of characters helps me teach them the best way of going about it. Most of us know D&D, but not every game runs character generation the same way. I even build cheat sheets on blank character sheets for some games. Anything involving point buys for attributes probably has a heavily annotated character sheet in a folder around here somewhere.

Second, I’ve read a TON of game systems. I can read a few lines in the first few chapters and have a pretty good read on how the game is going to work. But actually creating a character helps dig into the nuances of the system. I learned a lot about ICRPG making characters.

Third, it truly does help build better balanced and fun new classes, items, spells, equipment, etc. I’ve had three or four games where I started building classes right after I made a couple of characters. For example, in Bare Bones Fantasy, I built a warrior and a cleric. Right after that, I designed five or so flavors of samurai, ninja, Wu-Jen, Kensai, Monk, Wuxia and a bunch of other stuff. I had the same experience with ICRPG. Good games. So flexible.

Last, having a pile of characters lying around helps me if a player gets in a pinch designing their character. Not all character creation systems are created equal. Some are super easy to pick up. Others… there’s a lot of help needed. (I’m looking at you, Role Master, Mythras, and Traveler.) Having a couple of characters to just hand out so that people can just jump in and roll dice is a huge advantage, especially if it’s a pickup game. It’s also a good tool for players to see what a completed character sheet looks like to copy skill lists, equipment, spells, etc.

The more interesting the system, the more characters I tend to make. It’s fun exploring enough options to crew a starship or raid a dungeon. Sometimes I even have a party of characters handy for designing dungeons, not as pregens, but as a group of guinea pigs, err… “test subjects” to see if an encounter is balanced to my liking. I can’t predict everything, but it’s good to know if my Roper/Rust Monster/Goblin sharpshooter room is going to be deadly enough.

Hope you’re having a good week. Please, stay safe. Remind your loved ones that they’re loved. Thank you for being here. See you soon.

Please Put Me In Charge For a Month or Two, Part Two.

As a GM/writer, I would rather have two or three monster books, a guide full of advice for GMs along with new items or NPCs, and a setting guide rather than a GM screen and a bunch of prefab modules. Why? Because I’m probably going to tailor adventures to my campaign and the characters. No premade module I’ve ever seen/run has ever fit directly into the game for our characters specifically.

I have some thoughts for a new game company that I would love to share more directly with them.

I know roughly how arrogant I sound. But, I’ve been around a while and I have a pretty good gut instinct when it comes to the RPG industry. Some things are like any business. Some things are like any publishing business. Others resemble the retail industry. Still others yet are a platypus unique to the RPG business.

That’s where I come in. I love a good platypus, or rather RPG. There are formulae at work. You’ve got players, obviously. You’ve got a GM in most cases. In some instances you have fans of whatever setting or genre the game is based on. There’s lots of moving parts here.

Every game company I’ve ever seen grapples with at least one of the big three components I just listed. Most game companies tend to overlook the poor Game Masters for some odd reason. Do we GM in a vacuum?

Here’s how I would do it for the GM.

Telling the GM to make up everything is not an OSR mentality. Honestly, it’s just plain self-sabotage for game companies. Maybe there are just too many GMs out there saying, “I usually toss out the rulebooks and make up my own.”

If a GM says that about your game, your product? Y’all have a problem. That means a company can make up anything it wants, but chances are, it’s lost some potential buyers. RPGs function on word of mouth advertising as much as anything. If the GM is tossing your rules out, it’s pause for concern that you’ve lost your audience. (Except good old D&D, but that’s a deeper rabbit hole.) If a GM loses faith in the product, what message does that send?

Remember, most game companies aren’t WotC/Hasbro. Most companies don’t have a big money actual play podcast/animation franchise on Amazon Prime. Most game companies really can’t afford to have their initial product releases flop horribly or they will not be around for another year to do it again in all likelihood. Likewise, if a GM is pulling in books from other games or pitches the system out the window, the sales on future supplements might not look so good.

Here’s my theory.

Really, the formula is simple. Start out with a solid core book that includes literally anything/and everything basic within reason that players and GMs alike are going to need. Unless you’re dropping a two or three volume set, it is best to include all of the character creation, system, combat, gear, spells, monsters, and items in one book. It is highly advisable to include GM basics in every core book such as how to create adventures and adjudicate the system because not everyone is a 40 year veteran GM. That first book has to be dynamite!

Then, the next releases are pretty crucial. My angle is support for the GM. Is a GM screen crucial? No. Is a book full of monsters going to help? Oh yeah.

New GMs especially need something to keep the game from becoming stale and redundant. Trust me, reskinning the same orc, skeleton, or goblin a hundred times over gets pretty droll after a while. Giving out the same +1 glowing shortsword of orc detection, likewise pretty boring.

Modules are okay, but if you set GMs up for success within the first few releases, modules are icing on the cake. Yes, it’s okay to have a module available early on to get players interested in the game for the first time. But after that, the GM is on his/her/their own anyway. Please set the GM up for success!

If a GM says good things about the core book, and buys into the next three or four books down the road, word will spread about what a wonderful game it is. It’s not set in stone, but a lot of people do look to the GM when it comes to what books to purchase next. This is really crucial if the players are new to the hobby.

Sourcebooks aimed at players are cool, but…

As a GM/writer, I would rather have two or three monster books, a guide full of advice for GMs along with new items or NPCs, and a setting guide rather than a GM screen and a bunch of prefab modules. Why? Because I’m probably going to tailor adventures to my campaign and the characters. No premade module I’ve ever seen/run has ever fit directly into the game for our characters specifically.

As a side note, if your game is not specifically a miniatures wargame, figures are probably not mission critical. Many fine RPG systems run off of minds eye theatre or rudimentary blocking with coins, dice, or tokens. Minis might look shiny, but the real RPG money is in the books/pdfs. *Unless we’re talking about Games Workshop.

The player driven stuff is great. We all love new character options, spells, weapons and magical gimmicks. I mostly go after that stuff to see what I can loot for ideas and to get an impression of what the players are likely to want next. Some things catch my eye as a drooling fanboy, such as all things mecha.

Okay, enough about my obsession with giant robots. New game companies can still benefit from listening to old veterans. No one has all the bases covered. We’re all human, and as such, prone to errors. Living is learning. What works for my game company may not work for someone else’s.

Have a great weekend. Thank you for stopping by. See ya soon.

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.

%d bloggers like this: