May 142013
The cover is simple, the adventure is thrilling...

The cover is simple, the adventure is thrilling…

The name De La Poer may be familiar to some of you. He was a real person, who appeared in one of the finest series of steampunk novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I liked the name so much, I stole it for an Unhallowed Metropolis game I once ran, and totally planned on turning into a full adventure. I never got round to that for a couple of reasons. Firstly, something that big would need a system behind it, and I have no permission to use the UnMet system for such an endeavour. Secondly, it was a very big undertaking for some one so new to the field of adventure writing.

This doesn’t mean I’ve stopped thinking about doing so, just that I’m changing my methods slightly. Instead of one huge adventure, I will be taking key scenes from the entire story arc, and doing them as stand alone two-page adventure seeds. I have taken one of the final scenes as a trial run, just to see how it works, and will be putting more out as and when I get the idea down to just a couple of pages. They will not be released in order, but when they’re all out there, I will be making them available as a bundle on DriveThruRPG, along with an extra sheet detailing how they all came together.

If the thought of that interests you, then by all means wait a while, and grab the whole lot for a cheaper price so you can take a look at the whole picture. If you’re a bit impatient though, the adventure that takes place in an old abandoned mine is now very much ready for you take a look at. As with all my stuff, there are no stat lines as there is no system tied to it, but the basic idea is totally covered, and I even introduce you to a monster of my own creation in this one. Either click the image to the left, or the following link to head straight on over, and don’t forget that the link in the sidebar takes you through to all of my DriveThru products.

May 132013

So, in my last weekly game, we lost a character. I have written recently about death in Role Playing Games, and I’d like to think I managed to fulfill my own short criteria. The character bowed out with a greivous head wound in a high pitched battle with the US secret service, as government operatives were torturing a prime suspect in an abandoned night club, and a Senator was fleeing the scene on a pleasure boat.

For people who don’t know this, the Cyberpunk 2020 combat system is actually pretty brutal. I have changed a couple of bits of it to give it a slightly more cinematic feel, but it still has the possibility to drop a heroic character with a single round from a handgun. Although I am always happier when the combat is more interesting than that. We’d already seen it happen once, but due to the very high tech medical aid that’s available the character in question got better, and was only out of action for a few days. Still injured when they got back into the fray, so they had some negative modifiers, but future science is almost as good as magic when it comes to healing, or at least, that’s how I see it.

Not actually Diesel, but close enough...

Not actually Diesel, but close enough…

This time, the dice gods were not happy, and the first attempt at healing actually made things worse, meaning that the second attempt failed, and what with time passing, there was sadly nothing to be done.  Diesel died. He died well, and it has created some already kick ass role playing with some of the remaining characters. Mainly talking about Ed Winchester here, but others have really brought their “A” game to the table with regard to role playing.

What a lot of you might not know is that my game is almost over. I had a fixed time frame to run this game, and I expected it to last me until June, and that’s coming up fast. The party – or what’s left of it – have been given an option to get closure on their plot, and the choice about how they want to see it resolved. There’s more than one power block in play, and the characters could end up siding with either, or going it on their own. But what to do with the ex-Diesel?

This close to the end, it seems a bit of a waste of time and effort to create a whole new character, and the player has admitted that she doesn’t really see the point of it. I tend to agree, so instead, I have picked one the main antagonists from the campaign, and since he was at death’s door when they found him, he was no real threat, giving the player free reign for some challenging role playing. All I need to do is drop in a few bits of information that Christ had been keeping from everyone that are crucial in bringing the storyline to its apoplectic finale.

And this is the crux of this article: What do you do when a player character bites the big one? Does your answer change depending on system, or even on when the character dies in the story arc? DO they come back as level one – if the game supports such a thing – or of comparable power to the current characters? Do you feel comfortable handing control of an important NPC to player whose character had been happy to see them die? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on this, and the comments box is just down there.

May 102013

As threatened, we have a new podcast up on our podbean page. Although the timing may not be perfect, we do love talking about some scary movies. As regulars to this blog would know I do love all manner of scary things, posting repeatedly about horror role playing games. There’s a whole bunch of love given the legend that is Bruce Campbell in this episode, along with talking in some detail about the various incarnations of the Halloween movies.

A word of warning though, this  – like all of our podcasts – is very much not safe for work. We use bad language is what I’m saying, not that we get naked.

We also put out a call for guests with interesting things to talk about who might want to talk about them with us. Just give any of the episodes a listen before you volunteer though; we have very adult senses of humour. And if you’re looking for all the links to things we discuss, you should join in our Facebook page as we pop them up between episodes to keep people entertained.

May 092013

This is my first real post for one of the new menus I’ve fitted to my home page. After this, each time I put something out that has my brand on it, I’ll post about it here, with links so anyone who is interested can quickly and easily find what they’re after. The aim is to put out a two page adventure seed once a week. Sadly that’s not always going to happen, as with this week. A long Bank Holiday weekend with my beautiful girlfriend, needing to put some finishing touches to my card game so it can hopefully get another play test this evening, and working some odd shifts has set me back a couple of days. Hopefully though, normal service will be resumed next week.

For now, I offer a rundown of what is available so far on DriveThruRPG, all crafted at Shortymonster Industries.

System Neutral NPCs. This one pretty much says it all in the title, but the back story is fun, so I’m going to share it with you. When I hit my first big mile stone on the blog, I wanted to thank everyone who had taken the time to head on over and check me out, so I offered to write up one NPC of their choice. Just prose, and based off as little information as they wanted to give. This ranged from “pirate character” to “Star Wars universe trader on a space station”. All of them were fun, and special mention has to go to the father who had me write up his son as a kick ass fighter in a fantasy game. While it is true that you can grab all of these for free by trawling through the comments section on the original post, I just figured that it’d be easier to collate them all together, and correct a few niggling bits of bad grammar and spelling so that they looked good, and package them up for anyone who needed a bunch of ideas in one bundle.

Death at a Funeral. This one has a slightly bigger price tag than all the other stuff, but it took a hell of a lot more work to get it ready. It is a larger adventure, with non player characters sketched out, and even includes maps. And if you’ve been following some of my other posts, you’ll know I suck at maps, and really don’t like drawing them. The adventure is inspired by a tournament game I ran a few years back using the Unhallowed Metropolis system, but since I have no working relationship with the fine folks at Atomic Overmind (yet) a lot of the specifics had to removed, and turned into a generic game of alternate Victorian horror. I think I managed it quite well, and since it has been played about a dozen times in the writing of it, and the tournament, I know the game works. If you fancy the idea of playing Victorian ladies and gentlemen on the hunt for an underground and unknown foe, as you struggle through undead creatures and humanity at its worst, then this might be just what you’re looking for.

The Midnight Priesthood. I can’t actually take 100% credit for this one, as the original idea was a game my girlfriend ran. I liked the basic concept, but thought it would play better in a standard fantasy setting though. The idea itself is of an organisation who effectively take a monthly tax of one child. The settlement it all happens in is happily complicit in this arrangement, and the players take on the role of adventurers knowing nothing of the reasons behind this barbaric practice. There is a reason for the madness, but even the people of the town have no inkling as to the actual dark and terrifying truth.

Murder Incorporated. This one is based on actual historical fact, but massively altered by the addition of some elder gods and Lovecraftian horror. It started with watching an episode of the West Wing, when we discover that one of the main characters’ Father was an hit man for the Jewish mob. I just loved that idea, and it stayed squirreled away just waiting for inspiration to hit. As I started reading more and more Lovecraft, I realised that it was a very good match, and would significantly alter the dynamic of the investigators if they were constantly questioning whether what they were doing was morally acceptable, or even if the methods they were using justified the end result. Possibly the most fun thing to have written so far, but there will be more to follow as I move forward.

Speaking of which, I have two other little bits on the go at present, that should be making a DriveThru appearance in the near future. Another long form adventure, this time in a Cyberpunk world, and a short horror adventure seed set down an old abandoned mine. For regular updates, email subscribe to the blog, or head on over and hit the Facebook ‘Like’ button.

May 082013
First bit of actual mapping. No grids used, as I don't tend to worry about running that kind of combat unless the system supports. Flip it over though, and all kinds of hexes and squares are available.

First bit of actual mapping. No grids used, as I don’t tend to worry about running that kind of combat unless the system supports. Flip it over though, and all kinds of hexes and squares are available.

The biggest use far. Keeping notes and initiative in order. Wipe clean makes this way easier than scribbling things out when fluid combat changes the order of things.

The biggest use far. Keeping notes and initiative in order. Wipe clean makes this way easier than scribbling things out when fluid combat changes the order of things.

This post is a bit late in its arrival, as I’ve been strangely busy this last week, but don’t seem to have actually got much done. Mostly just playing around with the new look home page, and adding some functionality that should make it easier to navigate. One thing I’ve been noticing recently is that the more I have on my plate, the harder it is to locate the older posts when I need them. So, the new layout is to benefit all of us.

Take a look at the upper left for some menu buttons, and they should do things. Not too much at the moment, as I’ve only just started getting stuff sorted, but it should make life easier.

So, a couple of weeks back I got sent a rather nifty little GM aid. I didn’t really get the chance to play with it much on its first outing though, as there wasn’t even a hint of combat during that game. For the last couple of weeks though, there has been a few hairy situations – one of which lead to the character death of my Girlfriend’s psychologically broken Techie and demolitions expert – so I thought I’d take the time to show how useful it was, and really highlight how phenomenally useless I am at drawing maps. My players have now taken to asking for more maps of insignificant places, just to laugh at them. There will be a lot of pictures in this post, and sadly none of them include cats.

And if the combat expands, you just fold out another layer of Noteboard, and keep on adding to the fun.

And if the combat expands, you just fold out another layer of Noteboard, and keep on adding to the fun.

Interior of the club, used when needed...

Interior of the club, used when needed…

That’s mostly what got rolled out last week. yesterday was another day though, and another game in the same campaign.

Club hidden, for people who didn't need to see it. Maybe because they were dead.

Club hidden, for people who didn’t need to see it. Maybe because they were dead.

The situation was a direct follow on from the previous game, and luckily, all I had to do was fold the Noteboard back up and pop it into the bag. At the start of the next session, I just o0pened it up, gave a quick recap, and once again reminded people which end of the boat was the pointy one, and we were off. Wonderful extra bit of use though was adding an interior to a building for a couple pf brave souls. I just flipped another bit over, and sketched out the rough details of the inside, and could then easily flip back for everyone who was still outside or dieing from a head shot…

As you can see, it was very helpful indeed, but did nothing to make my map drawing skills improve, Maybe they offer that as an optional extra.

May 062013

I read a lot of books. In this I’m sure I have a hell of a lot in common with almost everyone who plays RPGs. One of the authors I used to read a lot by is Stephen King. I mention him as a fan of his work, but mainly of his short stories rather than novels. In these smaller works of prose he writes with a sense of urgency, and doesn’t use a sentence when a word will suffice, and very quickly gets to the of the horror.

In his novels, he has the time to fully explore ideas and concepts, and for an awful lot of his written work, this is done masterfully. I am not picking out any particular novel though, because when I say most of his work, I mean most of any individual novel. The thing that has effectively stopped me reading novels by Mister King is that he doesn’t seem to know when to end the story. Two examples that I have read in recent years are Bag of Bones and It. Bag of bones may not be quite so well known, and it’s easy to see why. The story is OK, and moves along well, but we don’t get any startling new ground broken. And then, he ends the story well. Maybe not a happy ending, but it satisfied me greatly as a form of closure. For some reason there then followed two more chapters.


Click image for creepy creepy stuff…

It” is a slightly better known story, mainly due to the stellar performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the movie adaptation. The novel is amazing, and I know of a friend who simply couldn’t finish reading it alone at night. It is a huge read, coming in at a tome like 1300 plus pages, but once again I can tell you that a big bunch of stuff at the back end is almost totally pointless. We get a great resolution to the story, or at least as good a resolution we could expect when dealing with eternal evil. What follows is just uncomfortable and unnecessary padding.

And it’s this kind of thing I want to talk about today. In a previous game I’ve run I ended up having to write a couple of endings just because I wasn’t too sure what my players would do. They had the chance to take the money and run, and the consequences of that action would mean the horror would come to find them. I ended up being in a position to bribe them into taking on the final job, and they got a huge cataclysmic ending at an abandoned country manor haunted by a ghostly child with enormous powers. And that’s pretty much where I ended it.

I then gave them a very brief description of the return trip back to base of operations and what life was going to be like afterwards, but that was all, and it took me less than ten minutes. What I didn’t do was have random encounters on the way back to the City. I didn’t have them role play the meeting once more with the troops that defend the walls of said city from undead incursion. All of this certainly happened, but it would add nothing to the sense of accomplishment that my players were feeling.

Even the stuff I did talk about was largely derived from what they said they wanted, and I think this is the way I’ll be taking it next time my campaign ends. Instead of running through quickly what happened to them, I’ll open it up, and let the players take the time to think about what their characters would do once the dust has settled. Part of my worries that the characters will suddenly become the super awesome bunch of people they have always thought they were but never quite managed to become, but that’s selling my particular group of gamers short. I think that they would relish giving their characters an end that they felt they deserved, and since the tone of the game has been fairly consistent, I know I can trust them to maintain that, even when it doesn’t really matter that much.

What about the rest of you; how have you handled the ending to a long campaign? If anyone was left alive of course…

May 052013

As some of you are no doubt aware, I have recently dipped my toes into the podcasting world. Well, I just wanted to start making slightly more regular updates on the progress of this endeavour, so I have added a drop down menu to my home page, and from now on, each time a new podcast goes live, I will be adding a link to it in the form of a new post, and you can access them all via the menu. It’s not a drop down fella, so just click through to get all podcast related posts on one handy page. Or at least, that’s the plan.

Since this is the first such post, I’ll give you a quick run down of the episodes we have for you so far, but expect a slightly fuller update once I get into the habit of posting them all on here each fortnight. Yeah, sorry we don’t do it weekly, but until we have the time, and can afford to upgrade our Podbean account to give us more space, you’ll just have to be patient on the off weeks.

If you want regular updates and links to the topics we discuss, there’s also a Facebook page, dedicated to our ramblings.

Episode one saw us break ground on the podcast, and mainly discuss our mutual loathing of the influence that Stephanie Meyer has had on the world.

Episode two had us discussing pirates, super heroes and bizarrely terrible reviews for classic movies.

In Episode three we invented out first catch phrase, rolled out our theme music, and discussed terrible food ideas

Episode four was all about the music, and how much we loved being into metal as teenagers in the 90s

Episode five introduced a brand new wang based regular feature, and a very questionable condiment range.

May 012013

Until I can get some more play testing done on Excitement and Adventure, there’s not much else I can do with that particular idea. Sadly it’s hard to convince people to take the time and money required to print and cut out an entire card game just so they can offer feedback to a blogger looking to make his first game. So it may surprise some of you to learn that for my next game design project, I’m still trying to get a card game idea off the ground.

The reason for this is simple: it’s the kind of game I love to play, and still massively easier than doing a whole board game that I’d need people to create and test out for me. And the benefit of a card game is that once I have a version of the second iteration that I’m happy with, I can make a proof of concept for a considerably cheaper than a board game. Also, as anyone who has checked out my DriveThruRPG offerings will know, I do not have a flair for graphic design.

undertakeranimateThe new idea is actually taking the basic system for the first card game, and with a few tweaks to fit the setting changes, reinventing it as a more short term combative game of land grabbing. The inspiration for it comes from an RPG campaign I ran a while back about reclaiming lost areas in a post apocalyptic Neo-Victorian England. For people unaware of it, the game took place in the world of Unhallowed Metropolis. In the game I ran the players were outside of London on a specific contract to reclaim a family estate that had been lost to not only a powerful spiritual entity, but also a horde of the undead.

For the card game though, the players would be staying within London, each taking on the role of a private Reclamation firm. The goal would be to travel to the various lost districts of London and destroy the various foul abominations that reside there. These include not only the Animate dead that are the prevalent threat in most ares of the city, but also Ghouls that dwell in the London Below, Vampires that haunt high society at night and nest in rookeries during the day. genetically enhanced super soldiers gone crazy and wolf like are also at large, along with Prometheans and other aberrations that occur when science and the supernatural collide.

The payers will have various tools at their disposal, such as hired goons and the latest in Aethric weaponry, along with spiritual aid in the form of mediums and ghostly containment devices. They will be limited on just how much they can take on any one job, so will need to plan carefully, but what can’t really be taken into account is the other players. They will have cards designed to slow down their opponents, with either random phenomena or targeted attacks when their rivals are at their weakest.

The only problem with this plan is that I will need the permission of  Atomic Overmind to actually make this game in any format other than a freebie fan made affair. Although this would be great for a lot of people, the only way it would work would be for the gamers who want to play it to print off their own cards, and as mentioned above, this is easier said than done. And if Atomic Overmind aren’t in the market for a kick ass card game based on a massively popular property they own – and if they take a look at just how well the Lovecraftian spin off games are doing for Fantasy Flight Games, they really should at least consider it – then I can always design my own world, and try again to get the play testing done and put the game out with DriveThruCards. Which at the moment is the what I expect to do once I have the first game ready to be launched upon the public.

So there you have it, a pitch that isn’t really a pitch, but I would be interested to know what people thought about the basic idea.