The Trick is to Keep Breathing

The title of this post comes from a great song done by the group Garbage back in the 1990s, but definitely applies to dealing with certain conditions in a science fiction setting. Breathable atmosphere is one of those things most creatures require to survive. In the human case, we tend to like a good mix…

The Gravity of the Situation

Dealing once again with a science fiction setting after so many years of being focused in the realms of fantasy, I’ve been forced to deal with several things I’ve not really pondered before as a game designer. One is the application of gravity. One of the many alien races we’ve come up with so far…

Magical NPCs for Support Roles vs. Player Roles

With the last post, there was a comment from Tom Harrison on Google+ that I had to ponder a bit… Tom’s input was… “Ok, so here’s my beef. Why does this NPC need a class? Why not just offer a set of services and put a price on them? Because that’s really what it’s going…

Why is the dungeon there in the first place?

So you’re setting up your next session for your campaign and you need a dungeon… You’ve pulled together a dungeon map already: maybe you used the Appendix A table set from the Dungeon Master’s Guide at Wizards of the Coast and created one from scratch or you found an amazing map from cartographer Dyson Logos…

A Random Start To Random Dungeon Design

Whether you go with analog randomizers such as physical dice or coins or their digital counterparts, I’ve been fascinated by the flexibility of the traditional random table. Ever since reading Appendix A: Random Dungeon Generation in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide way back in the early 1980s, I was hooked. And I didn’t really realize how…

20 Dungeon Ideas to Explore

Lately I’ve been hung up on the concept of the traditional “dungeon” in RPGs. Sure, occasionally we might explore the maze of tunnels beneath a castle that actually was a dungeon – meant for the trapping and torture of individuals who worked against the royal folks who lived in the castle itself – but how…

Staging a Scene vs. Detailing a Location

Last Friday I took apart a great Dungeon Crawl Classics module from Goodman Games and attempted to put it in terms of production elements. Words, pages, artwork, etc. Today I want to approach it from a different point of view. IMHO, the OSR movement seems to swing the design pendulum from story- and character-motivation-heavy modern…

Naming the Nameless

We all know that names have power. As GMs, we leverage names to invoke feelings of dread, comfort, and security… A few examples… Ravenloft evokes images of dark, Poe- or Lovecraft-inspired evils. The Forgotten Realms evokes the ideal of a storyteller’s paradise, full of places to discover and explore with a history. And the Shire……

Game Fodder: The Brothers of Rasil

Lately I’ve been working on a new Insta-NPCs product about bandits and have been using it to inspire some writing. Though these aren’t your traditional bandits, the brothers cause a certain amount of philosophical trouble on the roads and I wanted to share… I used the product to create the following collection of terms: Purpose:…

Using Scarcity, Abundance, and Enough to Inspire Settings and Encounters

Recently I had an opportunity to ponder how economics plays into the development of an area. It was a thought that first occurred after reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond many years ago – but I hadn’t really been at a point where I could ponder how it applies to game mechanics or writing…

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