25 March 2013

Monday Monster: Castoff Golem

The Dungeon World crew has launched an online tool for building monsters. It's very cool and also doubles as an ever-growing monster manual. I decided to take it for a spin and you can find what I came up with below.

This tool took all the pain out of monster creation for me. I like coming up with ideas for monsters, not figuring out the stats to make them work. All I had to do was come up with a cool idea, check some boxes and write a few Moves. My only complaint about the tool right now is that I can't do line breaks.

24 March 2013

The Sewer Solution

Sanitary Sewer
Sanitary Sewer (Photo credit: K e v i n)
Sometimes I GM myself into a corner, I can't help it.  I have never been the meticulous type that plans in detail or crafts elaborate set pieces; although, occasionally I wish I was.  I am the kind of game master that flies by the seat of his pants and relishes in batting the curveballs pitched by others at the table. Unfortunately, sometimes that means I GM myself into a corner.

In the ongoing Dungeon World campaign that I run my group of players traveled to a desert city, Lambatar, to seek out a forgotten treasure trove beneath the city. My mistake was giving the city an extensive sewer dungeon crawl. Nobody at the table said anything, but it wasn't long before I started thinking about it. How does it work? Where does the waste go? It isn't getting flushed out into an ocean or river. They can't be sending it into their drinking water supply. Is there some kind of gigantic, thousand year old septic tank?

I scratched my head over this for a while. I couldn't go back on this city I had created. I had told my players there was a sewer and they had already spent some time exploring it, I was stuck with it. Naturally, I started looking for a way to make it work. My solution? A link to the elemental plane of water. That's right, Lambatar was exporting their waste to another dimension. It was a good solution, one that explained how the sewers worked and where a city in the middle of the desert was getting their fresh water. It also allowed me to mix in some non-standard encounters into the sewer environment. I was riding high on my fix all week while gleefully imagining the fun I could have with unusual dungeon stock. Unfortunately, players always have a habit of throwing those curveballs.

The dungeon crawl began smoothly enough, the PCs battled their way through thieves, traps and collapsed tunnels. Everything was going my way until a chuul I had placed in the sewage managed to drag two characters into the water. They defeated it, but lacking any kind of swimming skills they were soon swept up in the increasingly strong current as they rushed towards the hole that lead to you know where. Before long they were swimming in much larger waters and I needed to do something unless I wanted to drown two player characters in order to justify my desert sewers.

Enter the tritons, roman inspired, militant and none too happy about the waste that has been pumping into their territory for centuries. They saved the drowning PCs in exchange for their aid breaking into Lambatar. This is where things started to go off the rails. The players were happy to aid the tritons, having no real attachment to the city or its inhabitants and even once they realized that the first wave of triton tidecallers were up to no good they made no effort to stop them. What is a GM to do, and how do aquatic monsters invade a city in the desert?

The tidecallers brought in the tide. They widened the rift between planes and let loose the waters of their home dimension. All said, something like 1000 cubic kilometers worth of water came pouring through and that was more than enough to allow the tritons to go about their grisly revenge. The players? They were fine, caught up in getting their own revenge on a drug lord and were lucky to be high enough above the city to avoid getting washed away.

And that's the story of how one simple decision on my part lead to a city in the middle of the desert being flooded and invaded by mermaids.
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11 March 2013

Campaign Pitch: NW Mounted Monster Hunters

In all of my years of playing, reading about and otherwise enjoying RPGs I have come across very few games or campaign settings that are set in Canada. There are definitely some out there, most notably as supplements for games such as RIFTS, oWoD and Deadlands; however none of them really have any kind of connection to the Canadian identity or history outside of superficial elements (cold weather and polar bears). Maybe there isn't much demand for games set in Canada, but as a Canadian I'd really enjoy a romp around our history with a good campaign. I have had an idea for just such a campaign percolating in my head for some time now and I'm going to hit you with my pitch.

NW Mounted Monster Hunters

It is 1880s Canada. The winters are harsh and the land is wild, dangerous and aware. The Northwest Mounted Police ride out to protect the land and its people. There are things out there in the dark forests and forgotten valleys, shadowy things spoken only of in the myths and tales of native peoples. There be monsters living out there in the wilds and they don't see any reason to hide from this latest wave of men trying to make homes in their hunting grounds.

The NWMP might act as a police force and they do police the land, but their real mandate is to hunt and kill the monsters that pray on men. The campaign would follow a group of new recruits as they hunt down monsters of all kinds and the campaign, should it last, would occasionally place the PCs at historical events which had been given a supernatural twist, such as the Klondike Gold Rush or North-West Rebellion. The game would also jump forward in time between hunts so that we could follow the characters as they get older and also so that we could hit more major events.

What Game Would I Use?

There are for potential games that I would use to run NWMMH. Whichever game I  ultimately picked would depend on the players I had sitting at my table. In no particular order the games are:

  • FATE
  • GURPS Monster Hunters 
  • Call of Cthulhu 
  • World of Darkness
  • Dogs in the Vineyard

All of the above would require some adapting to make work. FATE would be the easiest to get going. GURPS and CoC would be the more deadly options, but would require the most work to get going. nWoD sits in the middle somewhere. DitV is a weird one that I hadn't been considering until I started writing this; however, I think that the style of the game fits with what I have in mind for this campaign. It would be trivial to replace Mormons with NWMP and go from there.

I guess Deadlands might work as well, especially if I used that supplement I linked to way at the beginning of this post. I'm not really a fan of classic or D20 Deadlands, though.

How Would I Run It?

I would want a game where it costs the PC's dearly to win the day, but not one that is hopeless. I see this as a game where limb loss is much more common than outright PC death. The game would be equal parts sight-seeing through Canadian history and action-horror. Think CoC, only most of the game is outdoors and the party is made up of highly competent rifle and frontiersmen. It would be Monster Hunter Alpha set in the late 1800s and without all of the American south trappings. The campaign would be episodic in nature, with each session being a self contained adventure surrounding a specific monster.

In a perfect world the game would continue until the formation of the RCMP and at that point I would like to retire the characters and the game. From there I would like to like to fast forward to a monster hunting RCMP unit in another point in time (Could be any interesting period of the 1900s or even present day.) or move on to an entirely different game.


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