Some Sample Art: Charlie's Orcs


And another sample of what I did last weekend!
What do you think? Would Charlie prefer these or his Angels?

Also for the upcoming Starter Dark Dungeon set. And now for some DTP work.


Random RPG Thoughts #10: Reincarnation in Role Playing

 Just read a nice practical piece on using Reincarnation in 4E by DMG 42. It's pretty good. Here the players actually cooked up a set of rules and convinced their game master to pre-roll their new characters they would eventually reincarnate into if they would die.
Nice twist.

About a year ago I did a series about how to use Reincarnation in your games for the Blog Carnival on Death, and I think it's still a beautiful area of exploration for your games - whether you remember past lives for yourself, or not. And whether you liked Battle Star Galactica with reincarnating Cylons or not.

So I figured I'd call your attention again to the series.

The Joys of Reincarnation deals with the more practical sides of working with reincarnation of (player) characters in your everyday campaigns. How do you go about it?

The Shock of Reincarnation deals with the role playing aspects. How does it feel to remember - and do you inherit the skills and memories of your previous incarnation? 

And The Secret of Reincarnation deals with integrating the concept in your campaign universe - how commonplace is the knowledge, are there brotherhoods or sisterhoods protecting the secret, does everyone reincarnate - or is it a freak magick thing?

Art: by me - the grand Duchess wakes with a shock from a Reincarnation bath

PS Rob Schwalb seems to have a nice post on this too, but I can't check that right now, as his site does not respond. Maybe by the time you read this, you can.

Some Sample Art: Should I dress Them?

Beware of the Shadows.
Some sample art for the upcoming next publication: 
a real Dark Dungeon 2nd edition starter set.


And this was the original quick setup, which you may remember:

What do you think... dress them up?


Pick #77: Charlie Brookers GameSwipe

Maybe you haven't seen the British rants of Charlie Brooker yet, maybe you have. As a master of not too subtle and subtle yet nasty but true comments on just about everything, he has not only turned to movies and daily news, but also to video games. Someone posted these on the net - enjoy and learn something new along the way.


Pick #76: MUDs were there before the MMORPGs!

To translate: Multiple User Dungeons were there before Massive Multiple-player Online Role Playing Games. Think you're new with an internet-addiction chatting and hacking away in EverQuest or WoW? In the nineties we already had the text-based MUDs.

And I'll tell, I've known quite a few junkies... Although most MUDs were free, and kept up by many volunteering programmers, flat fee internet was not so common. So, we experienced rather hefty phone bills instead.

What is a MUD? It's a text based adventure mixed in with an online chatbox like MSN or the one on Facebook. Or just imagine an old style adventure like Zork, and connect dozens of players in the same game. That's about how it looks. While you explore the many rooms and chambers of the MUD, you can converse with everyone else online in the environment - and "emote" to your hearts desire. You can do everything up to and including MUDsex... if that's the kind of shared texted fantasy drawing your fancy.

But most of the time MUDders are leveling and building their community, just like regular MMORPGers. Many made friends in far away places, and some eventually met and visited eachothers real countries. So, you can't say MUDs aren't social activity.

Maybe there are less of them than used to be, but MUDs, slightly graphic or more often completely textual still exist. Here you can find some top MUD sites to try.


OSR Experiments #32: Jeff's 20 questions for... a not quite Dungeoneering type Campaign setting

Answering 20 questions seems to be an OSR hobby! Well, here's Jeff's famous 20 questions, for my current Nirdday games. Nirdday is a dark fantasy world, with elements from the 15th through 19th centuries. And it's not a regular dungeon world at all! I think my gamers haven't seen a single halfling in over a hundred games, and hardly ever entered an underearth crypt or ... wait that's not true, they do go in underearth settings sometimes. But not extended ones.

  1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion? - Most Nirdday priests are Crosstian, which is a kind of Roman Catholic Christian, with celtic influences and more space for female priests (or even a Papess). The more outlandish Elder religions are more remniscent of Ancient Roman religion.
  2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment? - in most towns or cities there is ample opportunity.
  3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended? - if you pay enough, many blacksmiths may try. But the best are from Solingen and Toledo Salamanca.
  4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land? - most of these are dead, or supposed to be dead. Legendary is the AceceRex, architact of the magick walls that imprison Nirdday.
  5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land? - legendary are Feara Azriaz and Blade Ringwood. Both pretty ancient player characters, first played in the '80-ies.
  6. Who is the richest person in the land? - These are the de Medici and Fugger families - much like in real life 16th century.
  7. Where can we go to get some magical healing? - the Grey Friars, priests of St Rafael may help you.
  8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath? - in most cases you go for help from the Grey Friars if you want to live, or the priests of St Michael if you really want them dead. The Order of Leopold is specialised in slaying vampyres.
  9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells? - most magick users are either schooled in Dagon (ImperiMor), Samaris (center of the world) or Monmarche (Dominio). Magick users are relatively rare. And yes, learning new disciplines either needs old tomes, finding new masters or going to the academy.
  10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC? - most cities have one or more of these.
  11. Where can I hire mercenaries? - In Ferdan you can hire plenty just about everywhere. That's part of Ferdan's problem - too many old soldiers left from the wars of destruction, wanting a job.
  12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law? - for non-nobility, non-guard many cities outlaw swords. Magick is typically frowned upon, but it only becomes illegal if it's witchcraft. And whether it's witchcraft is often decided by nasty people in charge or nasty inquisitors.
  13. Which way to the nearest tavern? - across from the church.
  14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous? - killing old dragons may gain you a real reputation. Killing old elves will also give you a reputation, but it may turn out to be lethal for yourself. Killing orcs is often thought a necessity - until you find out orc women look like pretty human women, and some orcs aren't that warlike after all.
  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight? - Ferdan is on the brink of a civil war. Skirmishes are on the borders of many provinces. ImperiMor has just been taken over in a coup d' etat - and a rebellion is building, starting to wage war from within.
  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes? - Samaris has a well known arena, and so do Brethan and Capital. Ferdan, where most adventures are based has no arenas, but there are regular jousts, duels and tournaments all over the place.
  17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight? - oh... yes. Very much so.
  18. What is there to eat around here? - German cuisine (Ferdan), French cuisine (Keo), etc, etc. But also maggots if you prefer.
  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for? - many, especially stuff lost in the pre-Arrival wars.
  20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure? - beg you pardon? You might want to look for the lost hoards of Vaal. Except that they say its soil is contaminated with doomstone.
Cheers Jeff! I didn't expect I could give answers making sense, but it wasn't hard after all.

Random RPG Thoughts #9: Fooling around with Artwork

Figured this weekend that my new Dark Dungeon RPG Starter Set needs more artwork. If I go from 25 pages to 80 in lay out, while adding only some ten pages in text, I want more pictures.

So, I just fooled around a bit with some iconic art to make the basis of a drawing of my own... Cheers.


Pick #75: Role playing takes another twist with Fiasco!

Before, I lamented that there is no real role playing game to play with "regular" folks. You know, people who consider themselves normal? People who wouldn't dare to associate themselves with niche, nerdy or geeky games? Or perhaps people who would love to, but are scared away by the sheer complexity of many of these games?

Well, maybe a game which goes a long way to attracting a more "regular" crowd might be Fiasco.

Fiasco is game-master-less, story driven role playing for three to five players, designed to play in a few hours. Each game should play out like a new movie by the Coen Brothers, such as A Simple Plan, brother Where Art Thou, or Fargo. A story, in other words, where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong - but in a comedy-dramatic kind of way. I guess you could easily do a Sopranos style game too, if you want.

Fiasco was written by Jason Morningstar (and Steve Segedy), has won several awards, was translated in Italian and Portugese, and has loads of free scenarios and aids to download.

To be honest, haven't tried it yet, but it looks very different, and very good. I'll keep you posted once I playtested it!


Movies for Gamers #16: Pirates of the Caribbean, Stranger Tides is maybe better RPG material than it is a movie

Finally we watched the fourth Disney installment of Jack Sparrows Saga. And we concluded what we were already told by many friends: this movie is not very good. It could have been, but it's not. And that may exactly be what makes it interesting for gaming. A game with the given story elements might be better – if these elements are played out better than the movie.

Eh.. haven't seen it?
For those who haven't seen the movie, Pirate Jack Sparrow is caught by the King in London, to make him find the Waters of Life. But because Jack then would have to work for his old enemy …, he escapes and ends up captured by his ex-girlfriend and zombie captain Blackbeard, who also happens to look for the Waters of Life. To make things more complicated, the Spanish are also looking for the same dew – so it's a triple party race.

Why isn't the movie working? Because there are quite a few loose ends, failed jokes, and because the whole movie feels like a railroading adventure. It has to move forward into the action at any cost, in a direction that not always seems to make sense. Jack's father appears out of nowhere for one, and then disappears for the rest of the movie. No conflict, no answers, just an odd way to give plot information. Jack's father! What could you have done with that? Why drop it in and then forget about it?

Directors Cut vs Final Cut
One possibility is that the film was longer before it reached the final cut. That's often the case. The director and writers aim for a complex and interesting story, lasting three hours in screen time. Often such a version is part of the contract, called “director's cut”. Then come in the producers, and they say “great”, but they also decide to cut the film back to a two hour slot. To do so, they have to cut a few scenes – possibly a third of all that's there. Why a two hour slot? Because that way you can have two shows each night instead of one, and rake in more money. That's the idea, at least.

Unfortunately, cutting out scenes might not only mean cutting whole story lines, but also cutting out the logic of the movie. Or at least the sense of depth and meaning. The first Highlander movie is a notorious example, where the American (short) version was a horrible mess of decapitations. The European version actually had drama and philosophy left. Most of Ridley Scott's movies are also cut to pieces like this – but he found a way out: his more meaningful Director's Cuts now typically arrive on DVD half a year later. So watch the Kingdom of Heaven in the long version only, not the cut down one.

Railroading Movie into Sandbox Adventure
Will there be a more sensible version of Pirates IV? I won't hold my breath for it, but I can wonder about what the movie might have been like. And I can turn (parts of it) into an adventure. Blackbeard's ship, with snakelike ropes dancing to the tune of his sword are a wonderful gadget to use. The scorned ex-girlfriend who impersonates one of the heroes, and might still want him is also a great NPC (no, there's no chemistry between Cruz and Depp, so imagine another duo instead). The mermaids are beautiful to use. What kind of world would there be behind those alluring yet deadly creatures?

And best of all, you could leave the players to choose more of their own path. You might make more of a sandbox-like experience of the elements. Of course, you can have a clock ticking, and both Blackbeard and the Spaniards going for the Waters of Life. But you could also allow more freedom in how, when and where the players fit in. On their own ship? On all three ships? With the Spaniards?

And then there's intriguing questions for your adventure to answer. Like... why was the Spanish ship balancing on top of a high cliff? So, if you see the movie, figure how you can chop it up and use it.


Random RPG Thoughts #8: Sharing Worlds in an MMO ain't easy...

“Help me! Help me!” The player shouted over the channel, and my sister in law quickly jumped into the fray. Except that there wasn't any. “Where are the monsters?” she panted, confused for a second. Then she realized. She'd already done this quest, so the world had changed for her. No monsters left for her to see. Invisible. She was on another timeline. “Looks like you're on your own” she said - “In MY world this town is already rescued. You have to kill the monster yourself.”

What happened to my sister in law, was in an MMO, a computer moderated shared fantasy world. Although shared is a big word here, as it seems. Players can shout at one another, but the group effort was suddenly gone. Not so shared in this case. That was a change from before. Then you could always help eachother.

But before, though you could help eachother, the world never really changed. You could rescue a town as many times as you liked, because it would be threatened by the same monster again and again. Like trolls from a freezer, monsters and enemies were respawned everywhere. Maybe then the world was sort of shared, but you couldn't really change it.

C'mon, real sharing can't be that hard?
So why don't the programmers allow you to let one person win the quest, and let the others have bad luck, and have em rescue someone else? That's what they try in some other MMOs, my brother tells me. But the problem is, that people pay to play in an MMO, so they won't be pleased if there is nothing left to do because someone else was there first. So even in this other MMO, the evils do respawn, after a longer while.

That's the problem with shared worlds, preprogrammed ones at least. It seems to be very hard to really share them, and have a unique gaming experience for all players at the same time. So in practice you may end up playing alone, and just meeting in the lobby. Or you play in a world where you don't make a difference even if you are umpteenth level, because everything trollspawns after dying – including you yourself.

I don't know, but it looks like MMOs are in need of an other way of generating stories and quests. At least to capture my attention or limited spare time. Which may be possible. Just have to figure a way how.

How about Tabletop Sharing Games?
Most tabletoppers don't share their games with other Game Masters. With Dark Dungeon we did do so, for about fifteen years. Eventually we scattered again as core GMs got into real jobs or emigrated across the ponds. We didn't have paying customers, we didn't have quests everybody needed to do (although we tried), and we didn't have respawning monsters. But we did have similar problems.

Sharing the world and allow players to change the world - or even let all GMs change the world turned out to be scary. Most GMs didn't care to do world-shattering stuff. But those who did seemed to be unable to communicate or compromise on what would happen. Most of the time it went well enough (I guess I just overruled some of them), but at one point the older players became really frustrated. And that was because the younger players spawned all sorts of horrible creatures, armies and treasures where the older players had already saved and solved the world and wanted... well, to be seen as heroes. They didn't want a new spawn of monsters for a new groups. Or at least they wanted the same respect from the new players as they figured they had fought for in the old groups. And the new groups, they wanted respect too. That was less easy than it sounds.

So, sharing is something we seem to seek out. But also something that's hard to do.