Jan 212013

Regular readers of the blog will know that I love taking part in the RPG blog carnivals. TheyRPGBlogCarnivalLogocopy1-227x300 give a great opportunity to rethink something in a new light, or take the time to consider something completely new. As a writing exercise, they can really get the creative juices flowing too. Usually though, I drop them as mini blogs near the weekend to keep my readers entertained for the weekend, and also to give people a new excuse to head on over. In blogging terms, I’m still pretty new at this and need to everything I can to build up an audience.

This week though, I couldn’t help but take the time to do Kobolt Enterprise’s blog carnival its full justice, as it fits in nicely with one of my own new year’s resolutions. You see, when I started this blog, it was partially to get some practice at writing for other people. I have always enjoyed writing, and would look forward to any opportunity to do so, even from a very young age. Up until recently though, unless you happened to be in a game I was playing, you would never see what I had to write. I love writing player diaries, and on occasion I have had people tell me that they find them very enjoyable to read.

These people are friends though, and it’s easy to convince yourself that that’s the only reason they have for being so positive. And when you start thinking like that, it’s very easy to convince yourself that no one who isn’t a friend would ever want to take the time to read anything you’ve written. The blog has given me the confidence to try this out though.

Sure, I’m no blogging superstar just yet, but the feedback I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. So as the end of last year approached, I thought about what I could do to put some more writing in front of people and see what they thought of it. Truth be told, I’m having a lot more fun writing the RPG blog than I thought I would. It turns out that spending years either side of the screen has given me some experiences that not only do I enjoy writing about, but others seem to have a grand time reading. So, I will not be stopping writing the RPG blog, in fact, I won’t even take space away from it on this site. Instead, I’m going to reopen the doors of my old WordPress account, and use that as a vehicle for sharing my prose fiction.

Don’t worry though if you only come here for the role playing talk, a lot of my ideas are inspired by what happens around a table, or by conversations that take place on this – and other – blogs. I won’t bombard followers of this blog with links to the other site; I don’t want people put off by what at present is simply a vanity project. What I will do is subtly mention when something new goes up over on the other site, and point people towards it if they want to take a look. If you do decide to take a look, I would love to hear what you think. And I don’t mean that I’m looking forward to gushing praise. I mean that no matter what you think of it, I want to know. I have been writing in a vacuum for some years now, and that doesn’t do a writer any favours at all. What I need is input back.

With no further ado then, I direct you towards my new home for fiction, with a story that comes on the back of something that bugs me more than a little bit, and was heavily inspired by a certain blog post from a few weeks past. I present to you my new beginnings as a writer with, Last Night, it all Went Wrong.

Jan 172013

This mini blog is part of Gnome Stew’s New Year, New Game challenge. It will all be posted on the actual page, but I wanted to pop it here too so I can put in all the links for people to follow to get a better idea of the type of game it will be.

Game: Kuro

Adventure: Ravaged.

My Sunday night game group fell apart recently, and since then the efforts of myself and two others have been directed into getting a new group back together. It seems appropriate that this will happen soon in the new year, and that my first choice will be a game none of us has had any experience of before. The game in question is Kuro, and I’m going to be GMing it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, more than one of the gamers in our new group has never role played before, and another is still a relative novice. That means that if I pick a system that no one has payed before, we have a level playing field. Secondly, Kuro just looks amazing; it fits into two of my perfect game slots, covering both cyberpunk and horror.

What will the game be about?

The demise of a wealthy family. All the PCs will be off the same large and sprawling family that has managed – so far  - to stay on top after the Event. That will all change quickly though as their fortune gets destroyed through mismanagement and corporate attacks. The players will then be forced to fell from their ivory towers, taking what they can carry plus any onboard cyberware they’re lucky enough to possess, and try to escape the body jackers who will be after them for anything of value that can be used to pay off the family debts. Will they go into hiding, seeking refuge with criminals and other unsavoury characters? Will they fight back, trying to right the injustice, and hopefully figure out what laid them so low in the first place? Due to the open world nature of my game plan, it all rests in the PC’s hands. But even as they work to put their plans into motion, the supernatural nature of world they live in will be pushing against them. For the first time, they will be unable to hide away from its horrors.

Potential problems

With inexperienced players, I may have to jostle the group along a little more than with a seasoned group, but any trials on my part will be a learning experience for them. I hope…

Jan 112013

That title is probably going to take some explaining isn’t it…

As some of you will know, I spend a wee bit of time on the sub Reddit for RPGs. It’s a great way to get questions answered and come across some great little developments you might otherwise miss. A day or so back, I spotted a question based thread asking what the strangest sentence you’ve heard your players say was. I racked my brain for a while before remembering a certain game of Unhallowed Metropolis.

tumblr_m6a16nCEZP1qz7t0xo1_1280The plot was loosely inspired by something that I read on the back of a book. I never read the actual book, but I liked the idea, so I just figured out a way to make it work within the setting I was using at the time. The short story is a powerful and unhinged psychic wandering the city, infecting those close to him with a hate so powerful they are incapable of controlling it. This is a game world that has more than it’s fair share of horror, including creatures similar to that designed by Dr. Frankenstein, werewolves, ghouls, vampires, ghosts, and of course Zombies.

For people reading this who are familiar with the game, I know that they’re usually referred to as animates, but the word Zombie is a bit better known, so I have paraphrased the original quote. So, while walking down the street a couple of player characters who were out on business of their own, and totally unaware of the devastating psychic miasma that they narrowly avoided, spotted something unusual to say the least.

A young mother with child in a perambulator stopped suddenly to attend to her young charge, who had become agitated and was making no small amount of noise. As the mother looked down at the infant, her face changed from compassion to rage, and I shall spare my readers the brutality of what followed. The young lady was eventually restrained, but not before more than one life was lost to her ferocity.

When the dust had settled, and the group regathered at HQ – a lovely little Gentleman’s club in the west end if I recall – they debated this strange occurrence, trying to discern a motive for the horrifying behavior of the young lady. An early suggestion was that she may have contracted the contagion that turned living people into living-dead people, and had succumbed to it most unexpectedly. This was quickly dismissed, as one of the characters pointed out: “It couldn’t have been an animate, animates don’t punch babies”.

You may now be asking yourselves why I have shared this with you? For one, it struck me as odd that that one comment has become the second highest rated thing I’ve put on Reddit – first place still belongs to the TPK blog for their sterling article on lone wolf players – considering its unmistakably savage nature.

Secondly, I was curious to what my readers would have answered to that very same question. So post below with your own strange but true things said at the table, and feel free to expound on the story as I have.

Dec 312012

I hope you have all had a great holiday so far. I’m not sure if I have, as I’m writing this early, as I’m fairly sure that the spirit of the season – in my case, rum – will affect my ability to maintain a blogging schedule. So what I have for anyone out there who decides to check up on me today is a short list of three things that I want to accomplish in the new year. Lets start with the one that concerns this blog shall we.

The last six months have been fabulous for me. I’ve been a gamer for a very long time, and most of my close friends have been brought into my life because of this hobby. The blog has given me the chance to make a whole bunch of new friends, digitally so far, but with luck I will meet some of you someday, and share a drink or two as we talk level based game play pros and cons. So, I am going to commit to maintaining my weekly schedule for the whole year. Every Monday a new RPG related post will pop up on this page for your reading pleasure, or your money back. I’m also going to reinvigorate my old WordPress page, for a slightly different purpose; I’m going to try my hand at prose fiction writing.

Having tried a few different things in the past, I think that designing role playing games and adventures might not be within my skill set. I still have plans for the card game – more on that later – but when it comes to creating role playing things, I much prefer a free form creative process which means the adventures make little to no sense when committed to paper. What I have always enjoyed doing though is writing stories. For a long while now I’ve been thinking about taking the plunge, so come the new year, I’ll be putting something up – hopefully once a week, but I may revise that later – over on the other page. A lot of what I write is role playing inspired, or at least genre fiction, so I hope a few of you will head on over on occasion for feedback. I mean that too, like it or not, I want to know what people think…

Secondly, and this is just for me, I want to get back into shape. I moved house recently, and shifting things out of the house was notably harder on me than moving it in a couple of years previously. I know that time marches on for us all, and I’m going to be 35 in less than a month (28th January, if you want to send me something ;p), but I think that with a bit of effort I can make some improvements, and that’s no bad thing.

Finally, and this one is a bit more of interest to my readers than my physique, I’m going to spend the year concentrating on getting my card game off the ground. I’ve made some good contacts over NaGa DeMon, and had universally positive feedback. That’s not enough though if I want to make a go of this. So, I’ll be getting a better working version of my game ready to print and play, along with forking out some dough to get a professionally made promo set for me to take on the road. I will be doing what I can to hit as many places as possible that will let me play my game, and with luck, putting copies of it into the hands of others who will do the same for me. By next November I hope to have my eye on a kickstarter project for it, or have it in the sights of an actual game design/development company, so I can start work on an expansion. This one is a lofty goal, but as the great one once said, ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this little post, and if you’re a regular here, thank you so much for your continued support. I hope to keep providing content for you that you want to read, and are happy to share.

Happy holidays from the Shortymonster!

Nov 302012

As people may be aware from a previous article, I’m currently running a Cyberpunk 2020 game set in The City of Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan series of comic books. Last week, every one of my players sent me a write up from the point of view of their characters. I’m going to share the links below, not to highlight how awesome a GM I am, or well I’ve weaved together a narrative, but to show how taking the time to look back at the events and write them up is time well spent. Each person has done such a good job of finding the voice of their characters, and has approached the story in a unique way. Take a look below clicking on the character name, and remember; they’re all writing this after the same session.

Flux. A slightly mentally frail demolitions expert.

Tom ‘Buck’ Rackham. A comic book loving used to be accountant with a slight fetish for comic book hero ‘Buck Steele’

Ed Winchester. Local anchorman and reporter.

Leo‘. Technological savant suffering from selective amnesia.

2d Lt Aaron Walker. A USAF pilot with a slight drinking problem

Vaughn Donovan. Stage magician extraordinaire.

I hope you enjoyed that little interlude, and if you want to keep up on events, my players tend to post their stuff roughly once a week.

Nov 182012

Just over a month ago, I rolled past the 10,000 hit mark on this blog, and if you missed it, I offered anyone of my readers an NPC that I would write for them. Just a description and a background, but no stats, and let them use it in their games.

Well, over the course of the month, 34 of you wonderful people took me up on my offer, meaning there are now 34 more free range organic Shortymonster official NPCs in the world. You can check them out by clicking this link and scrolling down through them. For now that is. I’m about to start work on getting them down onto a pdf document – with images and everything – each character tagged for its primary genre, and others that it could work in with a little tweak. Some of them are setting specific, so I will also be tagging those too.

This wouldn’t have been as successful without some support from stars of the RPG online community, a few of them I have already thanked here. A couple of others are also worth mentioning, so check them out too.

The Tower of Archmage has opened up the chance to contribute to one of their latest design ideas on their blog. With the NPC I created for them being one of several star port merchants, if you have any other ideas, head on over and get in touch.

The Dragon’s Flagon is another blog with a distinctly OSR feel to it. That being said, those amongst you like myself who find themselves somewhere between old school and new school can still take a lot from his writing.

So, was this a good idea? I ruddy loved it! It was a great way to stretch some creative muscles, and I’ve heard back from a lot of people that they loved the ideas I gave them. Not only did the NPCs have a bit of background information about them, I also tried to include at least one hook in each too, as a little bit of inspiration for plots. I actually found out this morning that a friend of mine has taken the NPC I created for him and used it to get a lot of his plot ideas tied together. I had so much in fact, that I think I will do this again.

That means that each November will be free NPC month here at Shortymonster. The same deal as before; you don’t have to ‘Like’ my Facebook page, or subscribe to the blog, just drop a comment bellow the article in question, with as much or as little info as you think I’ll need, and I’ll write something up for you.

In terms of what it did for the blog – and I can’t stress enough that it wasn’t just this – A little over a month ago I had 10,000 views in just over four months of blogging. As I write this, that number is over 18,000. That’s a hell of a climb in one month.

Once more then, thanks to everyone who has helped out with this, either through sharing my offer with your own readers, asking for an NPC for me to write, or just heading on over to see what all the fuss was about. I’ll keep on blogging as long you lot keep on reading, and once a year – to let you know how much I appreciate you all – I’ll do this all over again.

Nov 162012

This blog isn’t even six months old, but I’ve already learnt a whole bunch about the hobby I love, that playing games in it for over 17 years never taught me. Most of these are just odd little words and phrases, but I thought I would put them down for other people who want to get involved in this awesome online community, but have no idea what a whole bunch of the stuff that gets talked about even means. The headings will link out to larger articles on the subject, if people want to delve deeper than this list dares to go.

OSR: Old School Renaissance. Basically it boils down a gamers who have a preference for old school RPGs. What constitutes an old school RPG? That’s a little harder to pin down, but the basic ethos seems to story over rules, and the freedom to make the game the way you want to play. I admire the movement, but I cut my teeth on more modern games, and haven’t really played anything old school bar a short delve into Hackmaster. A great game which quite rightly gets a fair bit of praise from the OSR folks.

Grognard. At its most literal, it means ‘old guard’ or old soldier. In my time gaming, I’ve recently been referred to as a member of the old guard of the gaming society I’ve been a member of for almost two decades. In RPG terms though, it can mean someone who has a fondness for older editions of games who have been playing for a long time, and who would probably think of themselves as being part of the OSR.

GrognardlingAt first I thought this was some kind of Grgnard/halfling husbandry incident, but it turns out, it’s actually a name for people who love old school gaming, but are fairly new to the hobby.

Flail Snail. More than just a rather peculiar fantasy RPG monster, it’s also a way of gaming that allows for cross system characters to end up in the same party. I really like the sound of this and might give it a go at some point.

Murder Hobo. This is something I had experienced, but had no idea that there was a name for it! Imagine a bunch of player characters who see the world as their own playground, and the most fun games involve killing anyone who looks at them funny, and moving on before they have to face the consequences. What you have there is a pack of murder hobos.

Hex Crawling. This is actually a old way to game, but one that had managed to completely pass me by, apart from a vague understanding of it being like a dungeon crawl, but above ground. I can’t really do it justice, here, so please follow the link. Suffice to say, it has interested me a lot recently, and I think as way of running an RPG it has a whole heap of benefits.

The Secret Santicore. Sadly, this has closed for the year, but it’s a great little idea. Everyone asks the Secret Santicore for something RPG related, and offers something back. magic then happens, and people get what they asked for! I’m sure there’s more than that, but i don’t want to spoil the magic for the kidlings. Seriously though, this is such a great idea, and sums very effectively what I love so much about the role playing community online. people creating things for other people, just for the joy of creating it.

So there we go. A far from exhaustive list, but feel free to add anything else you like to the comments below, or even correct me if I have misunderstood anything.

Nov 112012

For November, Triple Crit is taking the reigns for the RPG Blog Carnival, and their topic of choice is about how the writing process affects, or is affected by the game. I have stated in previous blogs how little I actually write down when I’m GMing. This has lead to a separate writing project stalling pretty much completely. When I ran a long campaign that I recently considering turning into a published adventure, it was very hard indeed to get down in words the choices that the players made, as I had so little to do with most of them. This is because I ran a lot of the game on the fly, and knew that if I had stuff written down I could end up getting bogged down in following my own plot. I think I would like to get back round to the project once I have a bit more writing experience under my belt, but at the moment I have a few other projects up my sleeve that are taking up time, and have a higher chance of baring fruit, creatively  and when it comes to them seeing the light of day.

Today then, I want to talk about writing done as a player. In the balance of things I think I have spent more time on the player’s side of the screen, and this has done me a lot of favours when it comes to GMing. I tend to run the kind of game I would like to play, and people seem to respond to that in a highly positive way. When I’m playing a character that I can sink my teeth into, the notes I take during play – that usually exist only as a reminder of names and places to me as a player – end up being the basis for longer prose pieces that I write up just for the fun of it. Until recently, I never entertained any idea of them seeing print in any format other than a thread on a forum. But right now, with the blog and a few other writing projects, my confidence as a writer is growing. A big obstacle to publishing adventures from a game though is that you own so little of the intellectual property you’re writing about.

If I was to include any of the adventure, the GM takes credit for creating the basic plot. If I write about a published game world, all of that belongs to other people. Even the other player characters were the creation of other minds. My latest shot at this though could actually work. A couple of friends of mine are in the final stages of writing their own system and game world, and have given me permission to use characters/places/kitchen sink from the world they have created. I need to get the rest of the players on board to letting me put words in their character’s mouths, as one thing i didn’t do was record the session to recreate the conversations verbatim.

This here is what I’m currently thinking about turning into a real bit of writing. Please don’t judge it too harshly, as it was written just for fun. The character who narrates this is actually illiterate. The idea eventually became he was telling the story to journalist after the end of the adventure. Within a few months of game play, it became pretty obvious that we were involved in something big, and that people would want to know what actually happened.

As a bit of practice I have in mind a basic little story of the character’s past, his time spent in the army. This way I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes and the other players can take a look at what I’ve got and see if they’re comfortable with me writing about their creations. For now, this little tease will have to do, but I promise to share anything I write up with all of you.

Nov 052012

I’ve touched on Warbows and Murder Strikes so far, but this week, we’re going to take a look at something a bit more advanced; gunpowder weapons firing balls of lead. Although these are a lot less prevalent in fantasy RPGs, I do know they exist, as well as in Pirate themed action and adventure games. Feel free to take as much or as little of this advice to apply to your own games, as some of it may be a little too real, and could take away from the fun of it all.

Because these weapons are far from common, and most fantasy games prefer to stick closer to a late medieval time frame, if they do show up, most people don’t actually know too much about them. Lets start with some basics then. Loading the weapon – and for this I am assuming that the barrel has not been rifled - takes a professional soldier whom has been drilled extensively, roughly twenty seconds. Feel free to work out how many combat rounds that is, and then decide you probably don’t care that much for realism in this subject. I don’t blame you, but if you are going to shorten that time, don’t make it too silly. Allow for well trained characters to take feats or advantages to reduce this some. Just remember, what the character is doing is dangerous, and rushing leads to mistakes, which could lead to severe trauma and death.

The reason for this is that you will setting off a small explosion in a narrow space very close indeed to your face. Even when it works fine, expect to have a soot blackened face, with pock marked scars from the black powder in the priming pan. Also, be very careful with the ramrod: grip it with finger tips and not a fist. If you get an accidental ignition, life’s easier with shorter fingers than no hand.

Once loaded, the gun is usually fired immediately. This is because the ball will not be lodged firmly in the barrel, and holding the gun pointed vaguely downwards could allow it to roll out. Even too much jostling before firing will dislodge the shot and mean that it will not receive the full force of the explosion, exiting the barrel at sub-optimal velocity. There are ways round this, but they are not risk free. You could force a lump of drying mud or clay down the barrel to hold the shot and powder in place. If it’s too dry, it will have little effect, coming loose just as easily; too wet and you run the risk of getting the powder damp and causing a misfire and a blockage. This will destroy the weapon, and do considerable damage to its wielder.

When fired, an Indian Long Pattern musket or pistol was horrifically inaccurate. At the battle of Waterloo alone, based on rounds fired, less than 5% hit their target. The pistols were only accurate at incredibly short ranges: typical duels at twenty paces were called off with honour satisfied if three rounds were fired by each participant and none hit. This happened more than you would think. In battle, the muskets were only effective in volley fire, and even then, only at close range. Holding fire “’til you see the whites of their eyes” was very good advice, as firing early was a great way to waste powder and shot. the reason for this was the shot was a lot smaller than the barrel, and when fired would have plenty of room to rattle along inside it before coming out in the vague direction it was pointed.

The way around this was to rifle the barrel. You know that great of James Bond as seen down the barrel of a gun, that looks like a camera? The lines you see are the rifling. This is done to put a spin on the round, making it travel in a straighter line through the air. To be truly effective however, the round needs to fit the barrel much tighter. Before advances in weapon design and the invention of cartridge shots, the way to do this was to wrap the ball in leather. The grooves would grip the material, spinning the round as it left the barrel, drastically increasing accuracy and allowing for sharp shooters.

If you plan on playing a character who uses a black powder weapon, I would strongly suggest you find a rifle rather than a musket. It makes you significantly more effective without forcing you to join in the volley fire. In realistic terms, the disadvantage of this was a longer reload time, as the shot would have to be forced down the barrel because of the firmer fit. For the sake of fun, this can easily be ignored though. Since these weapons would be hand made, the basic weapon would certainly be a musket, and a rifle would be a master-crafted affair.

If you’re the GM it might also be an idea to assume that your player characters armed with firearms know how to maintain them. Keeping track of how often they strip the weapon to clear powder from the touch holes, how regularly the change the flint to ensure a spark, and how clean they keep the grooves of the burning leather that sticks inside them.

One final note now, on bayonets. They are usually socket mounted, meaning they can be taken on and off in a few seconds by someone with experience, and act similar to spears in close combat. Their added benefit is that they can be wielded as knives, with the longer bayonets used on rifles closer in length to a short sword. If you have an entire unit equipped with these weapons, they could all fix bayonet and form square, holding them pointed outwards like a very pointy wall. Although effectively stalling them, and making it harder to load and fire, no horse, no matter how experienced its rider, will willingly charge at the square.

I hope some of the above was useful to you, and please remember that all of the above is optional, and if you would rather ignore it, I take no offense at all. I’m just happy to get any chance to use my History degree…

Nov 022012


I love a good blog carnival, and with the nights drawing in here it seems fitting to join in with this one, hosted by the lovely people at Dice Monkey. The premise is a simple one, just something that can be used in RPG with a winter theme. With that in mind, I have decided to explore some of the perils of winter in a Neo-Victorian horror setting: one of my favourites. Although I’m sure there’s plenty of fun to be had as the nights draw in, my mind turns to the things take advantage of the shadows.

The Nights are Getting Longer. That means that there’s more time for skulking nocturnal predators to hunt. Feral vampires that stalk the Underground for victims are seen more and more on the streets. The chittering and howling that warns that they are close all the more prevalent, as well to do folks hide inside with a roaring fire. The man of the house leaning forward to increase the gramophone volume to better drown out the screams of pain.

Even more worrying is the threat of the cognisant leeches  They know how to blend in with polite society, and can been seen at early evening gatherings instead of only turning up late at the Gentleman’s club. The long dark helping to protect their identity as mass murderers and agents of corruption.

Snow Mixed with Smog. Pollution is what London breathes as it pumps through the engines and industry of this Modern age. Walking out without a full face respirator is a sure way to enter the grave early, and in considerable pain. But as the toxic filth in the air, solid as soot, mixes with the icy precipitation, it enters the water table. Gets in the eyes. Covers the homeless as they lay sleeping in dark alleys… Come the morning it looks almost beautiful, as it settles white with no pollutants to stain it. Within hours though, it is a grey sludge, covering everyone who walks through it, seeping into clothing through the smallest of gaps, and melting to reveal the corpses of those who met their ends during the night…

Hunger. With winter shutdown for most factories, and the spirit of giving and philanthropy put on hold for a season of indulgent excess, those on the lowest rungs of the social ladder find it the hardest to keep their families fed. At night, in the pitch darkness, the Ghouls hold their meat markets. For a few coins, a bag of greying flesh can be purchased, taken from hands that more resemble claws. It’s probably a bad idea to question its providence. At this time of year, you’re lucky to get hold of horse meat, but somehow the Ghouls can always provide. And next winter, there will likely be a few more of their number, though they cannot reproduce…

Silence. The snow and the fog muffle all noises in the city. For those in the west end, with manor houses and high walls topped by barbed fences, this is a luxury. The sounds of industry hidden from their delicate ears. For others, it allows the predators of the city to move unheard. To get right up behind you, so the first things you notice are the breathe at the nape of your neck, and the cold steal tickling your Adam’s apple. And with footsteps muffled by fresh snow fall – your sight and hearing hindered by thick fog – you get no warning at all as hands more bone than flesh take you firmly by the collar, and teeth close around your skin with inhuman strength….

Winter is coming, it’s going to be a dark one.