December 2011

(Did I say I was wrapping up the series with that last post? Ha! Here’s a SURPRISE CHRISTMAS ENCOUNTER for you!)

So let’s say you want to run a toy-themed RPG this holiday season, but you’re looking for something that isn’t all sweetness-and-rainbows… something with a bit of an edge to it.  And let’s say that the holiday season has almost completely wiped you out financially, and you only have two bucks left to your name. WHAT EVER WILL YOU DO?

As always, I have your answer.

Toypocalypse is an RPG Geek 24 Hour RPG Competition entry by Trevor Christensen, and the mutant child of Toy Story, Small Soldiers, 9, and Lord of the Flies. The humans of the world have vanished, and all of the toys they left behind have become sentient and created their own societies in an abandoned world.

Characters are defined by the type of toy that they are, as well as their Condition, Facets (advantages and disadvantages), Movement, and Cognizance (which of the senses the toy possesses, including a choice of supernatural senses). Roleplaying is encouraged with social roles and public and private character goals, all of which reward the player with Pneuma points that can be spent on activating powers, getting bonuses to future skill checks, and absorbing damage. The system uses d6, d8, d10, and d12. Attributes are defined with dice (d12 is the lowest level, d6+6 the highest), and task resolution is a simple die roll + modifiers, versus a target number that must be met or exceeded.

As you can imagine, there is not a lot of background here, since the entire package was created in 24 hours, but there is a lot of potential for some great stories. The core themes of the game are oppression, revolution, and freedom. There are brief mentions of the types of governments that the toys have created for themselves, the dangers of the wilderness (including pets that have gone feral) and even a religion that some of the toys follow. The rest is up to you.

Check out Toypocalypse at DriveThruRPG.



Made of clay, but ready for ADVENTURE!

I’m running low on quality material for my 1d12 days of Christmas, so I’d like to wrap up the series with one last holiday-related post, in which I take a time-honored holiday tradition and turn it into a mechanic for a roleplaying game!

The dreidel is a small top, usually made of wood, that is used in a game played during Hanukkah. It has four sides that are marked with the Hebrew characters נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hey), and ש (Shin), and is usually played with foil-covered chocolate coins or other tokens.

Players start with a collection of the coins and take turns spinning the dreidel, following the direction of the Hebrew symbol that ends up on top:

Nun – nischt – “nothing” – the next player spins
Gimel – gantz – “all” – the player takes the entire pot
Hey – halb – “half” – the player takes half of the pot, rounding up if there is an odd number
Shin – shtel – “put in” – the player puts one or two in the pot

The last player with coins or tokens in their collection is the winner of the game.

Of course, when you or I look at something like a dreidel, we don’t see a top. We see a four-sided die.  And when we think of dice, we think of other ways we can use them for games… don’t we?

So here it is, my quick-and-dirty dreidel-based roleplaying game. Bring your own genre and theme – I’m just giving you the system. This is my first ever RPG design, ever. It’s terribly derivative. Don’t hate me for that. I’m not that good at game design. Improvements, suggestions, house rules, and constructive criticisms are very welcome… but please be polite.

EQUIPMENT: A dreidel or 4-sided die (three of either would be even better), a large quantity of chocolate coins (or tokens, glass beads, etc.) You can make your own paper dreidel here, if you’d like to keep it real.

TO PLAY: All players make a character by writing some sentences down about the character, and giving each of these qualities a rating from 1 to 3. Your total ratings cannot be higher than 12.

For example:

Bradley is a very good guitar player (3)
Bradley likes to play soccer (2)
Bradley knows a lot about inventing things (3)
Bradley can run long distances (2)
Bradley likes to debate about things (1)
Bradley is lucky (1)

The GM and some players get together to tell a story (holiday or Hanukkah themed stories would be best, but do as you wish). Each participant (including the GM) take a pool of nine coins for themselves, and leave an open space within reach of all players for the story pool. When a player wants to perform an action in the story, they tell the GM what they want to do, which of their qualities they would like to use to do it, and how many dreidels they would like to spin – they can spin as many as their quality rating, but the more they spin, the more of their coins they risk.

The player then spins that amount of dreidels (or rolls d4s), and chooses the best result from the spins (or rolls) from the following table:

Shin (Put) / 1 – Total failure – GM has full control over the story, and describes some kind of penalty that the character now suffers. The player must put coins in the pot equal to the amount of times they spun the dreidel.

Nun (Nothing) / 2 – Marginal failure. GM has control over the story, and describes a moderate failure for the character.

Hey (Half) / 3 – Moderate success – Player has limited control over the story, and describes how their action succeeds. Player takes half of the coins in the pool (rounding up) and adds them to their pool.

Gimel (All) / 4 – Total success – Player has full control over the story, and describes how their action succeeds, along with a bonus result. All coins in the pool go to player’s pool, and the player may choose to give some of the coins to other players (limit 2 per player) without having to pay the GM (see below).

 A player who is out of coins is out of the story somehow – unconscious, incapacitated, imprisoned, or suchlike (the GM decides). Other players can bring them back into the story, but they must donate coins to their pool to do so, at the cost of 1 coin to the GM’s pool. (So if a player wanted to donate 2 coins to an unconscious character to bring them back into the story, they would have to pay 2 coins to the GM as well, for a total of 4 coins paid).

And there it is – a dreidel-based RPG rule system! Special thanks to my buddy Stormbringer for inspiration, and to Jared Sorensen, S. John Ross, and any other RPG designers that I have stolen ideas from.  If you try this out and enjoy it, please let me know!



Well, it looks like you’ve managed to avoid any encounters for a couple of days… it’s time for a DOUBLE ENCOUNTER, I think!

First, Michael Tresca at The Examiner gives us d2o Modern stats for Krampus (as if you haven’t had enough Krampus by now!)

Then, at the very bottom of your stocking, down among the nasty little bits of candy cane and lint from Christmases past have accumulated, you find this terrible little creature – Horror for the Holidays, a compact collection of festive horror stories, compiled by Nuelow Games. It features Locke, Lovecraft, Machen, and Poe, along with stories from HM Croker, Bret Harte, Hume Nesbit, and Edgar Wallace, in a pulp-styled package. It’s great for curling up with by the fire while enjoying a cup of eggnog and listening to something horrible and blasphemous scratching at your windowpane.

That should keep you busy for a little while. Now roll a save versus poison for that mistletoe that Big K just forced down your character’s throat!

I worry for whatever is on the other end of that rope...

What’s this? Another holiday random encounter? As you pull a card from the Deck of Many Things, you encounter…

More Krampus! This time he comes to you in the form of a free 3-page PDF from Nevermet Press, a system-neutral holiday NPC for you to download, convert to your favorite system, and let loose on your campaign!

Have your PCs been naughty? Then it might be time for them to get a lesson from our favorite Alpine Christmas Demon! Download Krampus – a system neutral holiday NPC here!

Epic Christmas adventure! And like any good gift, it's free!

It’s here! Another completely random day of the 1d12 Days of Christmas! As you reach into Santa’s Bag of Holding, you pull out…

It Happened One Christmas, a free adventure for one of my favorite RPGs of all time – Faery’s Tale, from Firefly Games. In it, Father Christmas enlists the aid of some of the fair folk to help a village that has come under a terrible curse from a a nasty prince. It even includes a new faery type (Christmas Elves) for the characters to play.

The adventure is a bit on the short side, but could easily be beefed up – in fact, a section at the end contains several suggestions for extending the story. One of them even gets Old Man Winter involved, and I can think of a bunch of other characters from Christmas lore (*cough*Krampus*cough*) who fit right in to the story.

If you have young people who are interested in trying out roleplaying (or you’re interested in gettting them interested), Faery’s Tale is an excellent choice for an introductory game, and this adventure would be great as their first one ever.

Or you can play it with all grownups. It’s okay. No one will judge you. We’re all friends here.

Download it from Firefly Games right here: It Happened One Christmas

He knows if you've been naughty.

Christmas and RPGs always seemed to have a connection to me, ever since I asked for the World of Greyhawk set back in 1982 and actually found it under the tree that year (and made a tradition for a few years after that of asking for at least one D&D book from my family, and chuckling as they share the tale of what they had to go through to get it).

So with that in mind, I bring you 1d12 Days of Christmas – a random amount of Christmas-themed Quixotist posts. Who knows how many you’ll get, or when they’ll happen?

For the first one this year, I bring you Krampus! If you haven’t heard of him yet, I’m pretty sure you will – in Alpine countries, Krampus is a demonic creature who accompanies St. Nicholas on his night journey, punishing the naughty children by giving them switches (or even hitting them with them), and sometimes even capturing some of the very naughty ones in a little cage slung over his back.

Krampus entered my family’s Christmas mythology the moment we first learned about him, and now along with cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, we leave some meat for Krampus (though since raw meat is usually dangerous to leave laying around, we stick to beef jerky).

Of course, just the idea of a monster connected to Christmas appeals greatly to gamer-type people like ourselves. as you would expect, lots of roleplayers have incorporated Krampus into their games in one way or another. Recently, I had the opportunity to do an illustration of Krampus for Berin Kinsman’s blog – so if you play Pathfinder or D&D 3.5, you can now add Krampus to your own personal Monster Manual. Enjoy!

If you’d like to learn more about Krampus, visit his Wikipedia page and the wonderful

And there’s your first 1d12 Day of Christmas. When will your next encounter happen? Only the DM knows…

I’ve always enjoyed collections of tips and advice for playing and running roleplaying games (as should be evident from the links I post here), and I always seem to find something in them that benefits my games. “How to be an Expert GM” from Avalon Games is an informal essay on improving GMing skills and presenting an enjoyable roleplaying experience to the players. The writing is a bit casual, but the advice is sound, and it gave me a few points to ponder about my own GMing style.

The subjects covered here include crafting the theme of your campaign, giving your players motivation, playing without adventure hooks, using props, and more. Any GM can find useful advice here, but I think it would be most beneficial to moderate or inexperienced gamemasters.

Check out How to be an Expert GM at DriveThruRPG.

This PDF is part of an extended “How To” series from Avalon that includes How to Make a Great Character, How to be a Great Player, How to be a Great GM, How to Make a Great Dungeon, and How to Make a Great Campaign. There’s also a bundle of the series (minus Expert GM, but including the Fantasy Maker Handbook, reviewed below) available at DriveThruRPG.

The Fantasy Maker’s Handbook is a workbook for creating your own fantasy world. Each page contains topics for the GM to consider about the fantasy world they would like to create, and the idea is to fill in the spaces on each page as ideas are developed. While the title says “fantasy,” this is a tool that could be used for any kind of world-building, even alternate history or real-world settings in undiscovered lands. It could also be used for fleshing out sections of an existing campaign world.

There isn’t much in the way of tips, suggestions, or guidance in the workbook – the direction you take is entirely up to you. This is simply a series of subject areas such as flora and fauna, weather, politics, and technology (to name a few) that you may want to consider when detailing your world.

Included in the package are blank grid and hex pages for mapping out specific areas or the entire globe, blank lined paper for taking notes, and an image file of parchment, presumably for printing out and using as a prop.

Check out Fantasy Maker’s Handbook at DriveThruRPG.

Edison Force is a setting supplement for QAGS (Quick Ass Game System) set in the early 1900s, combining weird science with the real-world vision and inventions of that era. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison team up to create a mobile weapon that will defeat the forces of Marshovia from invading Florida, and eventually form a special force to hold back any future efforts against the United States – the Edison Force.

This short and sweet package for the QAGS RPG rules comes complete with player archetypes Ex-Soldier, Daredevil, Aviator, Junior Inventor, and more), weird science equipment from the 1900s (a lot of guns that shoot lightning, as you would guess), sample skills, gimmicks, and weaknesses, as well as a sample adventure – Edison Force Versus the Martians, in which the Force is called to investigate some strange walking machines in the Arizona Territory.

The GMs section includes historical characters from the era statted up for play, and there’s a great section of inspirational books to get you into the proper mindset. The art and layout are very good, as I’ve come to expect from Hex Games. It’s a small package (37 pages), but it would make a great one-shot campaign for any gaming group that is looking to try something different and unique.