Thursday, September 18, 2014

Game Props Part 4: Fantasy Billboards

I've posted about my fantasy billboards I've used in the past.  Here's a post from 2009 and revisited the subject again in 2013.  Well I am doing it again.  This was probably one of my better ideas (although there wasn't a huge selection to chose from) to develop a community billboard the players could use.

We played at my house at the time and I had a section of the wall covered in notices, ads, announcements and sometimes threats.  The players would come in before the game and read through the billboard.  It gave them a focal point right away.  It engaged them into game without even starting.  It was a lot of fun and players really enjoyed it. 

I've google ganked from my own blog to show you some examples of what I used in the past.

First off we have an ad for siege weapons (misspelled, I wish I could say I meant to do that, but...) there were several merchants who would advertise their ware or skills here.


If you look down three pictures (the one with 3 small ads in it) you'll read a lady is asking for people to help find her husband.  None of the players bit on the adventure hook.  A few weeks later this note appeared.  It was interesting to see their reaction.  Just because they did not interact with the event did not mean things stood static. 

 
A weird ditty that might get the adventurers interested, but there is no information on where or who put this up.  However, if the players did show interested they would have had to camp the billboard to see who wrote it.


A simple announcement.  It blended in with the other announcements.  But it was an important plot point during that game session.


A mercenary band looking for work, then the initial note of Linda who wanted someone to help find her husband, but no one came and lastly, a note from a fanatic.  Fanatics posted often. Just like on Google+.


Janon was my rogue reporter.  He posted one-page commentaries of what was going on in City-State.  There would be a new Janon piece every week.  It was a ton of fun creating a fantasy TMZ.


Simple list of wanted people.  Once in a while I might mention a name that they would see on the billboard and they would all scramble to see if it was up there.  Sometimes they forgot that more than one person can have the same name.  It happens.  


There is some work upfront developing a billboard, but after the initial set up you can add a few pieces here and there to keep it fresh.  Just run with any idea you have.  Be weird as you want.  You can lace them with plot hooks, clues and develop storylines.  The effort I put into mine paid off huge and I know a few of the players still yap about it and it's been over 10 years.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Game Props Part 3: Coins

Nearly every fantasy game uses a gold, silver, copper monetary system.  And we talk about them some more.  I only did this once, but it seemed to have a significant effect on the players and that was to throw a money pouch onto the table as the offered reward.  It's one thing to say, "And if you do this heroic thing the lord will pay you 250sp as a reward."

Meh.

But!  Try this.  Find an old Crown Royal bag (you know you have one somewhere) or a regular old dice bag, fill it with pennies (more on this later) and "If you do this heroic thing the lord will pay you..." then drop the bag of coins on the table.  There will be a visceral reaction.  There is something about the sound of metal coins thudding, followed by the clicking and sliding of metal on metal.  Now the players are no longer dealing with an abstract.  They have the coins sitting in front of them.


I know there are many coin props out there.  I just don't like plastic.  While it might have the look, it's the sound and weight that sells it.  There also metal coins available out there.  But for me, I haven't found any I like and they are a bit pricey.  Many of them look great, but they often have weird denominations on them and that doesn't work in my game.  I don't want a 5 scrawled on a silver coin.  A silver coin is just that, a silver coin.

A more affordable option is raid your coin jar for its pennies.  Get some silver and gold spray paint and go to town.  Copper, well since they're pennies...   If you want to get really fancy smancy you can take a hammer to them and squish them a bit.  Make their shape a little wonky.  Doing this gives you an inexpensive way to bring a cool prop to the table.

As I mentioned before, using dice bags are cool as money purses.  Or if you have someone at home that can craft some homemade ones even better.

While I have only used the coins during one adventure, it was very cool to see the players react to the actually coins being presented to them.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Game Props Part 2: Maps and Scroll Cases

I think maps were the first props given out in the TSR modules.  Some sort of players map you could copy and give to them.  Always a copy because 1) you don't want to defile your adventure module 2) the players grubby Cheeto stained hands and dexteritys of 4 would spill pop all over your map. 


Getting that map was very cool.  I don't remember what adventure module it was, but getting that map broke through a wall.  We had an artifact from the game we were playing.  Sure Monopoly had its fake money, but that wasn't a game of the imagination.  D&D, having that first map handed to you made the game that more interesting.

So of course what soon followed were homemade map handouts.  I think most of you grognards out there can back me up on this one.  To age the map we would take a lighter and burn the edges.  Never mind that it might be drawn on notebook or graph paper.  It was important to get that cool aged edge.

a properly google ganked image of the lighter edge technique

What happened more often than not you'd burn the entire map because you couldn't get the fire out.  Or you would burn off a section of the map that you wanted to keep.  Making aged maps was not for sissies . 

Another technique people use was using tea to age the paper.  I don't know about you, but I didn't have any tea in my home.  I had Coke.  Coke doesn't work.  1) it made everything sticky.  I hate being sticky.  2) the carbonation ate away paper fibers if you used the wrong kind of paper or 3) it devoured the ink off the page so it was an indecipherable mess.

use tea, as you can see there is no disintegration and it won't be sticky, very important
 If you wanted to get really fancy smacy and you'd almost be dabbling in arts and crafts at this point was making a map/scroll case.  I used a use paper towel thingy.  I colored it with paint, do some sort of half ass design and wa la.  Problem was I was never smart enough to figure out how to cap the ends.  So I would roll my freshly singed map inside and hope it didn't fall out.

This concludes Part 2 of my Gaming Props series.  



Sunday, September 14, 2014

I Got Zombie Signs!



I went to the Halloween store with the wife.  She pushed buttons and then ran away in case the display jumped at her.  Displays were very cool and expensive.  Near the back I found these two zombie signs.  Metal signs.  I've been digging the tins lately and I think these will look nicely on my wall.  We met a couple inside the store and they asked where we got them.  I told them where they were, but that we had gotten the last one of the Zombie Research Facility.  The girl said "That's the one I want." 

Not today woman.  It's my zombie sign.

Game Props Part 1: Tarot Cards

I decided to do a short series on gaming props I've used in my face-to-face games.  Just some simple props that add to the atmosphere of the game.  To kick things off I'm starting with tarot cards.  I dug through my chest of cards and I see I have seven different decks.  I'm not a tarot card reader, but back when I was much younger and had hair, I collected them because they were cool.

The first time I used tarot cards in game it was to simulate a Deck of Many Things.  In the beginning this went over well.  Having the physical prop was too much for them not to dabble.  In the 1st Edition DMG there is a guide to using a regular deck of cards.  I used the Rider Tarot deck at the time.  And I assigned cards as close as I could to the cards identified in the Deck of Many Things.  Today you could use WotC DoMT generator or buy an actual Deck of Many Things.

While I was looking at all the cards I put off to the side I would see their design and think of different boons or punishments.  I wrote a post years ago called Deck of Many Things and Then Some, it provides an excellent example of what I ended up doing.  I made a Deck of Many More Things.  Here's an example.

Hazardous Journey
Tarot Card: 6 of Swords
Playing Card:  6 of Spades

Upon the players next journey any random encounters during the journey will not be random.  The encounter will occur and GM selects the most difficult creature/situation available on the list.  The creature will focus its attack on the character who drew the card.

Note: The GM will have to decide how many encounters the player will need to endure.  To activate this card the character should be going someplace that will at least take one day to travel.  

With the advancements with virtual table tops these days you could to something like this virtually.  Although there is not replacement for the tactile experience.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Question: Who Haven't You Rolled Dice With But Would Like To

There are a ton of good folks out there in the blogosphere.  My Friday question is who of the bloggers out there, ones you haven't played with yet, would you most like to sit down with and game.  Your group is 4 to 6 players and name who would be the GM.  I'm not talking about celebrities or historical figures, just folks you know from blogs or being on-line. 

Here is the list of guys I've played with on-line.  All the ones I can remember at least.
+Rob Conley
+Chris C.
+Ken H
+Daniel McEntee
+Rhandom A
+Joshua Macy
+Erik Tenkar
+Douglas Cole
+Peter V. Dell'Orto
+Zzarchov Kowolski
+Shoe Skogen
+Michael Garcia
+Jason Sholtis
+Al Krombach
+John Larrey
+Dan C.
+dylan hartwell 
+trey causey
+Patrick Wetmore
+B. Portly
+Olman Feelyus 
+Gus L 
+Joe D

So all those guys would  be eliminated from this question.  Many of the people I think of are ones I've known for a long time and haven't had the pleasure to roll dice.  So here's my group.

+matt jackson
+Christian
+Tim Knight
+Boric Glanduum
+Dyson Logos
 +Simon Forster

I'm going to go with Christian being the GM.  We'd play at his house because he always makes incredible food for his players.

There are another hundred or more I could have added, but this is only for your top 4 to 6 at this time.

So who would you choose?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tavern Rumor People

There are often rumor table to be found in adventures.  Here's a short, random list of the Tavern Rumor People that can spill the information.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Get Your 4 Issue Subscription to The Manor



Where's it going?


Kidnapping Package for 5E

Actually its a package that goes way back and edition friendly.

Last night we were playing 5E and plotting to capture a mage who killed one of our party members and had been doing evil things in general.  Our current party is actually made up of moral and good guys.  It's been a while since I think we have had a good group.  We tend to play morally ambiguous characters.  No pressure to be proper.

Rewind, we were sitting at the tavern discussing a plan to capture the mage.  The night before I decided to buy a couple of things, a couple would be a Criminal background specialty.   My guy, Sidwin the Sharp says "Don't judge me guys, but..." he pulls out a hood with a leather strap to secure it around someone's neck.  A leather gag strap that included a object that fit into the mouth to keep someone from talking/screaming/spitting and it was also equipped with a buckle to secure it to someone's head.  One size fits all.  And lastly a good pair of shackles. 

Total cost: 25gp

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Evidence Before the Court is Incontrovertible

So today I bring you evidence of an awesome mail day.  While the post box looked normal, dull gray as always, inside it contained treasures.


We have four items standing judgement.  All wrapped in inconspicuous packages awaiting the reveal.


Exhibit A: A postcard map from +Simon Forster.  Simon is obviously guilty of producing cool maps.  The man cannot help himself, but the severity of his punishment will not be diminished.


Exhibit B:  An off-white greeting envelope. 






Inside is the 3rd issue of Crawling Under a Broken Moon by +Reid San Filippo.  As one witness stated, "Reid is a guilty bastard."  Without a doubt he is guilty of producing a fantastic zine.


Exhibit C:  A simple looking envelope with surprising heft. 


Hmm, still more secrets.  Cardboard protected.


Wrapped in paper.


Ah, it is obvious guilt.  A steal off of eBay for the Thief's Handbook.  In this case, I to am guilty of this one.


Exhibit D: A bound cardboard box. 


Some try to conceal their guilt by wrapping it in plastic and soft, squishy sheets.


This is the most damning evidence I've seen in quite some time.  +John Stater's Monster Tome for his Blood & Treasure game and +Courtney Campbell's Hack & Slash Compendium.

After looking at all the evidence it is clear this mail call is guilty of being awesome. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Zine Fatigue & Subscriptions

I released my 7th issue of The Manor a couple of weeks ago and the fatigue hit me over this past weekend.  It's an odd thing, but not uncommon.  I go to my day job, work there anywhere from 40 to 50+ hours a week.  At night, I work on gaming stuff about 10 to 15 hours a week and add an additional 10 hours average over the weekend.  That number gets higher at release time.

With the release over there is this weird lull in production.   Usually I have three things going at once so if I get stifled on one project I can work on another to keep me going.  But I noticed a couple of weeks after a product release I just need to take a step back and take a breath.  Hell, I didn't even go to my Monday Night gaming session this week. 

Like I said, this is not uncommon.  But I still find it strange to need a break from gaming.  With that said I have one piece done for the next Manor, a micro-adventure nearly done (and an idea for a series of them) and a project that needed completing a while ago.  In addition, I've been messing around with modern, supernatural themed type adventures. 

A Random Topic Change
Another subject I wanted to bring up was subscriptions.  I just fulfilled my first subscription.  It was a six issue run and at times I wondered if I would ever get there.  But I was talking with a fellow ziner, +Daniel Sell who produces the wonderfully creepy Undercroft zine, and we were discussing subscriptions.  And it got me to thinking of doing another round of them.

I wanted to just get an idea if there would be much interest.  Here's how I would handle it this time around.
  • Like last time I would open subscriptions for a window of time.  I don't want to have to manage staggered subscriptions.  So if I opened it up again the subs would all start with issue #8.
  • This time around I would do a 4 issue subscription.  Seems less daunting and I have a better chance of completing them before the post office increases their rates.
  • I haven't worked out pricing.  I'm thinking $16 for 4 issues for US folks and then on up for Canadian and other worldly orders.
 If you would be interested in a subscription let me know.  I'll work on it this weekend.  I've put up a poll to the right. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

GM Games August Sales Report: A Nod to the Artists

July 22nd saw the release of The Manor #7.  The great thing about this issue is I got to meet and work with several people I'd never met before or hadn't spoken to before.  I mean +Jim Magnusson comes out of nowhere and just kicks ass all over the place with his creepy cover and fantastic interior art.  Then I meet +Jarrod Shaw, again out of nowhere, and he provides me with the coyote and mind flayer picture.  Both them were great to work.  I threw them out generic ideas and they ran with them and produced some amazing stuff.

In the way back when The Manor was just an idea, blank folded papers with no words, my biggest worry was the art.  I have no ability to draw.  None.  And as Christian Walker's Loviatar was my inspiration, +Jay Penn did the art for every issue.  I did not want to produce something that lacked the standard Christian had established.  But I wasn't sure how to find and contact artists and I had nothing in my piggy bank to spare.  And here's what makes the OSR so fucking cool, before long I had offers from top-notched artists like +Jason Sholtis and +Johnathan Bingham offering to help me with my zine.  And since then I've had several artist assist making my The Manor a fun read.  Look at this line-up of artist that I've had the privilege to work with.

+Jason Sholtis has the cover art in the 1st and 6th issue of The Manor.  Did interior art for issues #2, #3 and in #4 he did a mini monster collection for me.  Without hesitation, Jason is one of the main reasons why The Manor has been successful. 

Emily Burnette did the cover for #2.  She was a co-worker who did fantastic portraits.  I saw her doodling during a boring training and afterwards asked if she would like to draw for me.  She was thrilled to participate.  Her portrait of Hugo and his crew are some of my favorites. 

My wife did the cover and interior art for issue #3.  First she made a skeleton who looked very happy.  Jazz hands happy.  I said, "Ummm, can you draw a scary skeleton?"  The next skeleton was frowning and looked sad.  I asked, "Why does this one look sad?"  She replied, "Because someone took his blueberry muffin."  So we had a few glitches to work out.  I really like her style, I think if I write an adventure for young ones, her artwork will be perfect.  She loves to draw cartoons.  And maybe the adventure will about finding the sad skeleton's blueberry muffin. 

I recruited another co-worker, Mike Varhola, to help me with some artwork.  He's another doodler during training (that doesn't sound right).  I guess the lesson here is don't doodle next to me or I'll put you to work.  (Hmm, that doesn't sound right either).  Mike worked his butt off trying to get the picture just right for me.  Originally he was just going to do the cover, but then drew this other picture that just came to him and I saw it and said you just gave me the conclusion to the adventure.

Issue #5 I was able to recruit +Jay Penn himself, the man who inked all the art for Loviatar, to do my cover.  I gave Jay this simple photo of a door and asked him if he could make it creepy...ha, hell yeah he did.  I loved it.  Jay even sent me the original art for it.  I have it hanging on my wall now.

Issue #6's cover was done by the already mention Jason Sholtis, and OSR alumni did some creepy ass artwork for me, +Dylan Hartwell.  His pictures set the mood to the adventure perfectly.  Dylan also did all the art work for Knowledge Illuminates.  This is again, is one of those times, where I thought the adventure I wrote was good (I liked it at least), the artwork just brought it to another level.

And finally the latest issue #7, getting to work with +Jim Magnusson and +Jarrod Shaw has been fantastic.  Probably too good because I plan on recruiting them again!

Oh.  Yeah.  This is supposed to be a sales report.  Here are my numbers for July.  There is of course,, always a big jump in sales when there is a new release, even at the end of the month.  I had a total of 4 sales until I released Issue #7.  For the month I has total of 103 sales. 


Friday, August 29, 2014

Bar Scene: "What My Name? What's My Name!?"

You walk into the tavern, it's an open air structure.  A simple eight pole building with a low hanging roof to shield patrons from the light rain.  There are obvious repairs to the roof.  There looks to have been a small fire as one of the poles is charred.  You can see the squatting bodies hunched on low stools and tables. 

You duck under the roof's edge and once inside you see a large sign hanging from the peak of the roof.  A snake slithers out of a knot hole its tongue out and in the shape of a figure 8.  You recognize it immediately as a thieves guild symbol for a safe house.

Folks look at you without looking at you.  Some hide their faces behind a tankard and others assess your motives with quick glances.  The bartender, Max, glares at you.  The giant man makes no attempt to hide his contempt.  You approach.  Out of the corner of your eye you notice a man you've seen in the pits numerous times, you think his name is Chun or Dunt or something simple, he moves around to flank you.

"Get out," Max mumbles.  He reaches under the bar and brings out a mace.

You stand a few hand spans away from Max.  You look him in the eye.  Unconcerned the mace is waving close to your head.  "Are we going to do this again?"  You ask.  Chun or Dunt is no longer in your peripheral vision.  

"Get out now," Max slams his mace on the bar.

"Do you want me to do this another way?"  Your patience is fading.  You turn and see Chun, you've decided that was his name, he's stooped down with a dagger in his hand.  The stupid little man.  Chun has a habit of choosing poorly, but that would end.  The palm of your hand gripped the familiar blackened wood handle of your throwing axe.  It took no effort at all to free it from your belt.  With a practiced motion the axe took flight, it spun on its side.  Not good for accuracy, but good for quick, short distances.  The axe planted deeply into Chun's forehead.  He looked surprised for a moment.  He dropped his dagger and fell to  his knees.  Blood flowed between the skin and the blade, covering his face.  Nearby, patrons stood and moved out of the way.  Chun desperately grabbed for a stool.  You didn't see the point, but dying men do have odd behaviors during their final moments.  It looked as if Chun wanted to scream.  His mouth went wide, but then he just stopped.  Eyes open and vacant.  Now he just bled.

The crowd quieted.  Death was nothing new under this roof.  The floorboards were saturated with lives.  But you only wanted something simple, a questioned answered.  A person found.  But it was never that simple.  Never.  Someone needed to die.  Again, you turn to Max who still held the mace, but his expression was no longer one of anger or contempt, but he now looked impressed, a bit more agreeable.  Max put his mace down and poured a full tankard of ale.  "I'll go get him."

You nod.  The ale is welcome.  Two men grab Chun to drag him away.  Before they do you address them.  "My axe."

The older man, he had thieves guild written all over his wrinkled face, struggled to unwedge your axe.  He approaches you with the wet axe.  "You didn't have to kill John.  He may have been a drunk, but he never hurt no one."

You take you axe and put it on the bar.  "Hmm, strange.  I though his name was Chun."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: The Overrun Mines


The Overrun Mines was written by +Shane Ward under the 3 Toadstools Publishing banner.  It's a low-level adventure, for 4 characters of levels 1+ using the Labyrinth Lord & B/X rule systems.

Price:
.50 cents

Physical Make-Up:
Available in PDF only.   It is 15 pages long.  1 for the cover, 2 for maps, 6 for the adventure, 1 for author bio, 2 for pre-gen characters and 3 for the OGL.  It's well organized and easy to read.  It uses a two column format.  For the PDF is is formatted on regular sized paper (8.5" x 11"), but I printed mine out on zine form (shocking I know) and I can read it fine.

Art:
There are 5 pieces of art, including the cover.  Shane grabbed them from openclipart.org.  The art is simple and small.  While the art doesn't add to the adventure it helps break up the text giving it a light and fun look. 

Setting: 
Shane has kept the details generic so you can place it into your campaign easier.  A mine near a town.  It's all that it needs.  And you'll be shocked to hear that the adventure is underground!  There are two levels of mines to explore.

Premise:
Mines have been overrun...like the title reads.  But there is a twist to it.  Something I could definitely play on in my campaign.  I won't go into details to spoil the fun. 

Extras:
 Rumor Table
There is a rumor table, which is very good.  There is a lot of little things going on and if the players take the time (and the ale) to listen they'll get a pretty good idea of what is going on and what to expect.


Resurrection Rules
heh, you gotta love an adventure starts with a set of rules for when your characters die.

Underworld Day Rules
An interesting addition, a table of random effects from spending time in the underworld.  Each player rolls a d20 each day to see what boon they receive or what penalty they suffer.

Maps:
There are two simple, line drawn cave maps.  Shane uses some crosshatching to help define the areas.  I would have liked to have seen a darker pen to make them pop a little more.  While there isn't much detail, there is enough that a little more definition would have helped.

The Adventure:
An underground adventure that consists of two-levels, with 22 encounter areas.  I think a party should be able to get through the adventure in a single session (2 - 4 hours). 

My Opinion:
I think Shane captures the essences of an old school adventure with The Overrun Mines.  He keeps the adventure straight forward.  A GM can pick up this adventure and run it in five minutes.  But like a good old school adventure, GMs can integrate the adventure into their campaigns and add the layers of intrigue into it with little effort.  There is a political slant to this adventure that I could see myself run with.  What's also fun about the adventure is there are several different types of encounters.  The players will have a variety of things to hack at.  And there is enough elements within to keep every class busy.  It would be handy to have a diverse crew when entering the mines.  I like the touch of having the pre-gen characters in the back.  With them, running a pick-up game would take no time.

Grab yourself a copy of The Overrun Mines at RPGNow, it's only .50 cents.  While you are there, also check out his other short adventure, The Caverns of Ugard.  It is a PWYW product.  It's a 12 room underground adventure with the added bonus of his entry, Assault on the Thieves Guild, Shane's One-Page Dungeon 2014 entry.