Tag Archives: RPG

RPGBA Carnival – Unusual Dungeons – Wrap-Up

May comes to an end, and so does the Unusual Dungeons RPG Blog Carnival.

After a somewhat slow start, we’ve had a number of submissions:

James Introcaso was the most prolific contributor this month, supplying us with a series about a prison for dragons:

And from myself:

Phil, from Tales of a GM, is taking over for June – with the appropriate subject “Summerland” (Summer in RPGs). Take it away, Phil!

(And of course, if you’d like to read up on past carnivals or check on future subjects, head on over to the RPGBA Carnival archive page.)

Sewer Worms

I had heard the rumors for years, but it wasn’t before one of these… things ate our remotely-operated robots during an inspection that I believed them. One moment, the dark, gloomy sewer was in the camera’s views, the next a slithering shape rose from the murk – a circular, black mouth with glistening white and razor-sharp teeth, and the robot went offline.

Luckily we had the recording to show our bosses, and so the follow-up inspection team was well armed. Two guys even made it back. Now that part of the city sewer is off-limits until we can find a solution and I will certainly not laugh the next time a colleague tells me of the horrors he has seen.

Sever Worms are grow to be 2-3 meters long (6-10 feet) and have a diameter of about 70 cm (2 feet). Their skin is chitinous and segmented, glistening brown or black. The head is bulbous, with two small, beady inky black eyes on its sides and a wide, circular mouth with white, triangular and very sharp teeth.

The worms live in a city’s sewers and feed on rats and other vermin. They have good reflexes and can achieve bursts of surprising speed, which helps them catch the smaller rodents. They do not normally venture out of the sewers, though they can sometimes infest very dirty basements, sewage plants, or nearby swamps. Thus, they are not normally dangerous, unless someone is fool-hardy enough to invade their territory. They will attack humans and, while they can’t actually swallow a human entirely like a snake swallows its prey, they can easily bite off a leg or arm. Smaller children might easily be killed, however. In addition, the worms do carry nasty diseases, and exposure to a sewer environment will also infect large open wounds.

Sewer worms are “just” strange animals, or monsters, and not in any way supernatural. They possess no sentience or intelligence, but their appearance combines with the claustrophobic environments and can easily panic a man.

Sewer worms are genderless and reproduce by laying a large number of eggs in hidden spots; the eggs hatch after several months. Sewer worms are not above eating their own young, and the hatchlings do attack and eat each other as well.

Statistics

Strength: High
Agility: Medium
Endurance: High
Intelligence: None – Animal
Weapons: Bite / Swallow, risk of infections
Armor: Some

 

Things that Go Bump in the Night

RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallThe Blog Carnival – this month hosted by Of Dice And Dragons – is dealing with Things That Go Bump In The Night – or in other words, the strange horrors and creepy-crawlies that lurk just outside your field of view in the darkness. What I am trying to say is, it’s Halloween time! And, although I got a late start, I am going to try and catch up. I have some notes on strange creatures on file that I will post about in the next ten days.

Meanwhile, here are three suitable articles from my archives:

 Update, Nov 1st: My posts on this subject were:

You can find links to all other posts in the Carnival on Scot’s Wrap-up post.

Some assorted links:

 

Enderran Epic Moment in Gaming

I haven’t actually played an RPG in a long time (I’d like to get back into it, in the unlikely event that any gamers in Berlin, Germany read this) and consequently I do not usually have much to contribute to the RPG Carnival. However, I feel I have an anecdote for this month’s topic, “Epic Moments In Gaming”:

Back in 1992, we were running a GURPS Fantasy campaign, set in the first incarnation of Enderra (yes, the namesake of this site). During one session, the players explored a dungeon found under a local tavern, where slavers were keeping kidnapped citizens imprisoned. They were cooperating with the main antagonist of the campaign, an evil wizard. In one room, a group of the wizard’s henchmen were summoning a demon. This was really just intended for color – the players were supposed to pass this room quietly by, as the enemies were clearly way too powerful for them.

I hadn’t quite gotten the hang of player psychology then.

The group’s mage announced: “I cast a fireball, as powerful as I can make it, and center it on the demon that is materializing!”

Everybodye else: “Noooooooo!”

The fireball incapacitated or killed the mages summoning the demon, but did not harm the demon at all – it being completely immune to fire damage. It quickly devoured the mages, then escaped the dungeon, sparing the players – it had other plans, and besides, they had freed it, and that put it in a good mood. The players completed the dungeon and then escaped through the tavern, which by this time was ablaze.

Over night, the fire spread and burned down half the harbor district. Volunteers who had arrived to help fight the fire had been found mangled and partially eaten. The players decided to flee the city by boat that very morning.

The campaign ended, and a few years later we revisited Enderra. The timeline had advanced by a thousand years, and in between the terrible Demon War had devastated the lands. (This was my way of retconning the world to conform to my current notions of what a fantasy setting should be like.)

A few months into this new campaign, the players rescued a wizard from an extraplanar prison on an ice world. They did not recognize his name – Darka Terem – from the first campaign, but after his demonic guardians had been defeated and he was free, he told him that he had been imprisoned there after having walked into a trap. He and his friends, companions and hired mercenaries had been fighting in the Demon War.

“It was a terrible war,” he told them. “And it had all happened so suddenly, after a single demon got loose in the port city Ellienhaven. Never found out where that beast came from but it burned half the town down and escaped before anybody could find it and defeat it – and then it called in the legions of hell that almost destroyed our world.”

The characters obviously had no relation to the events of the first campaign. But my players looked at me, and you could see actual shock on their faces.

“Oh shit,” the guy who had played the wizard in the GURPS campaign said. “That was our fault, was it not?”

That moment alone repaid me for years of hard work as a game master…

World-Builder’s Toolchest

I use the following for my worldbuilding:

Software!

  • LibreOffice – Free, cross-platform, can export PDF – what more do I want?
  • PagePlus X6 – Ah, yes. A (relatively) inexpensive software that handles layout (relatively) well
  • Inkscape – For vector drawing (mostly maps but also some diagrams)
  • FreeMap – For mind-mapping
  • The Gimp – Bitmap graphics editing (the background for my star map was made with this, for example)
  • Subversion – for creating backups; any other solution will do as long as you have one that actually works.
  • Google Earth – For reference, and for testing out my maps on a sphere!

Alternatives:

  • If you have enough money (or can get it inexpensively, say, on a student’s discount) the Adobe creative suite might be a better substitute for some of the above, but I am not wealthy enough to buy them.
  • MS Office is an adequate replacement for LibreOffice, and OpenOffice is a decent replacement.

Websites!

  • Well, anything from my link sections really – Plus Wikipedia.
  • News websites like the BBC or CNN or Google News are the best sources for plot ideas ever invented. A newspaper will do, too, if you are stuck in the mid-20th Century.
  • WordPress for blogging. Other blog providers will work too, pick what you are comfortable with, but personally I can recommend WP.
  • Cartographers’ Guild is worth its weight in gold and then some.

Physical Tools!

  • Lots of paper for sketching out ideas and taking notes – sometimes a quick diagram with a pencil is the best way to work on something, because it frees you from distractions
  • Binders into which I sort those, plus “WIP” printouts of maps and so on. Never throw anything away that you might use at a later time.
  • Cheap inkjet printer/scanner for WIP prints and for scanning stuff if I need to. Will replace this with a cheap color laser/scanner combo device as soon as I have the spare money for it.
  • Small Wacom Bamboo tablet (buy the largest tablet you can afford and can fit on your desk if you intend to do graphics or mapping at all. Trust me. You will never look back.)
  • Tons of reference books – A lot of expert knowledge is not or not easily accessible in digital form yet, and books often contain a lot of photos and other pictures as well that you won’t easily find online. Do not be afraid to check out the kids/teenagers’ section – those books are lighter on the details, but usually contain a lot of cool pictures.

Other stuff!

  • I use the “post it” notes function of my iPhone to take notes on world-building when I am on the road, then email them to myself every now and then.
  • Write down everything, every idea you have – every cool name you hear – even if it’s just individual words or one-liners. Sort them at home – I have several huge collections of ideas, name lists, and so on.
  • Make backups of everything! – My PC has 2 Harddrives that run as a Raid 1 (meaning if one dies, the other still contains all data) plus all my data is in a subversion repository that I synchronize securely to a server in a datacenter in Bavaria. If you don’t want to – or can’t – run your own infrastructure, there are plenty of cloud storage providers nowadays. Just make sure you are comfortable entrusting your documents to a third party – read their terms & conditions carefully.
  • Always respect copyright. Don’t use what you do not have explicit permission to use. This is both out of respect for the original author, but also because of copyright laws – breaking them can get you into hot water nowadays. When in doubt, ask your lawyer (and I am not kidding). When I collect stuff for inspiration (images, text, etc) I always save a plain text file with the same name as the work itself (but with a .txt extension) which notes author, source URL, and what license the work was released under. That way, when I go back to it months later, I know if I can put it on my blog or not, for example.
  • Whatever office suite you get, learn to use it. Use styles instead of manually formatting, automatic table of contents, foot- and end-notes, and so on. You will spend a lot of time in there; make your documents the cleanest to use you can. You will thank yourself later.
  • I am not a fan of fractal map generators. The maps they create look cool at first glance, but they are decidedly not natural, and this breaks suspension of disbelief quickly.

What do you guys use? Any tools or software you use that’s not on the list?

I’ve been digging through old files all day working on… something. During that digging, I unearthed something very interesting. According to documents from 1998, Enderra saw its first game session on October 23rd, 1993. Now, I will probably never be entire certain if that’s right, but it was a Saturday – and the files and the folder look like they were evolved from my very first notes about the world.

It’s good enough for me. October 23rd is now officially Enderra Day. And it gives me 1.5 years to prepare some sort of celebration for its 20th anniversary.

Plot-a-Day: Ten Uses for Asteroids

Asteroids. Big lumps of rock and metal floating in the endless void of space. The Dawn probe is about to enter orbit around Vesta, where it will stay a year before moving on to Ceres.

The Andiope Doublet (Image credit: ESO)
The Andiope Doublet (Image credit: ESO)

So I was wondering: What can you actually do with Asteroids? They seem pretty useless, but here are some ideas:

  1. Prisons: Try to escape from a ball of rock a few hundred kilometers in diameter, literally out in the middle of no-where. Good luck.
  2. Mining: Some asteroids contain valuable metals or minerals or even tiny primordial black holes, and could be a source of conflict if more than one party claims them.
  3. Warfare: Use them as a military base or crash them into a planet. It ensured victory over the dinosaurs.
  4. Secret hideout: Pirates, spies, alien invaders, mad scientists, religious fanatics, the Space Mafia, rich eccentrics, anybody who wishes to remain out of the limelight for a while may set up shop on an asteroid.
  5. Space ship: Hollow them out, put in quarters and a big drive system, and ride a chunk of rock to the stars. In theory you could even use the rock of the asteroid itself as reaction mass.
  6. Waystation: Use it as a refueling and resupplying depot on your way to the outer system, or assemble your first FTL ship using that asteroid as a base.
  7. Monuments: What better place for the grave of your early space heroes than an asteroid cemetary?
  8. Natural Hazard: Very dense asteroid belts might actually pose a hazard to spaceships. The asteroid belt in the Solar System doesn’t; but it’s a staple of Space Operae to posit belts where asteroid tumble about chaotically and close enough to each other to constantly bump into one another. If a belt is created within the story’s timeframe, say by destroying a planet, it could become a new hazard to hyperspace lanes or what have you.
  9. Doomsday: In fiction, asteroids have a habit of constantly crashing into Earth or other inhabited planets. The players could either be helpless to stop it, and need to deal with a society gone wild in expectation of doomsday, or are heroic heroes that get sent into space to help Bruce Willis blow up that approaching menace.
  10. Mystery: Back in the days, people thought the asteroids might be the left-over of a fifth planet that was ripped apart. They don’t have enough mass, among other things, so this seems no longer plausible. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true in your fictional universe – and it might be the origin of asteroid belts in other systems. The players could hunt for artifacts from the fifth planet, prevent a similar fate from befalling Earth, could encounter Aliens in cold sleep, survivors from the catastrophe; or they could travel back in time to prevent the disaster (or, in a twist, cause the disaster in the first place to keep the timeline intact).

What other uses could asteroids have in adventures? How have you used asteroids in your games or stories?

Plot-a-Day: The Forbidden City

China was recently hit by a scandal: It turned out that the rich & powerful of the People’s Republic had a “rich man’s club” going – and used one of the most famous of China’s sites as their club house: The Forbidden City. This came to light after artifacts – on loan from Hong Kong – were stolen.

The Forbidden City used to be the palace of the Emperor of China. As such, it is one of those iconic sites with a lot of history that just lend themselves to all kinds of adventures.

Forbidden City, by Saad Akhtar
Forbidden City, by Saad Akhtar

The Club could aim to…

  • …set up a new political system in China, and the PCs are there to spy on the conspirators or to even stop them by assassinating their leader. Of course the PCs could be members of the conspiracy, too, and find out who the government infiltrator is before he signals for the start of a raid by special forces.
  • …ensure Cthulhu or another Old God rises when the stars are right. The Forbidden City is an ancient Site Of Power, so the dark rituals performed there are magnified a thousand times in potency. The PCs need to stop the ritual from being completed, which is made more difficult by the fact that all these rich guys enjoy strong government protection.
  • …enjoy themselves in all kinds of carnal and evil ways. For example, they could be doing illegal drugs and employ the services of girls kidnapped all over China – or even the World – and forced to work as prostitutes. The PCs were hired to shut the whole thing down – or at least rescue the pretty, young daughter of their patron.
  • …bring about an end to the world financial system, creating a neo-communist utopia. Only James Bond can stop them – and since he has been cancelled, that task falls on the shoulders of the PCs.

ForbiddenCity's Location in Beijing
ForbiddenCity's Location in Beijing

Naturally, no matter what you decide, China is rich in interesting locations that you could add to your adventure. Some quick ideas off the top of my head:

  • The Great Wall
  • Qingdao is an interesting mix of European and Chinese city, and its super-modern high-rise buildings are home to many rich Chinese.
  • Tibet with its monasteries
  • Xian – home of the Terracotta Army
  • The Gobi desert

Enjoy.