Well the holiday season is mostly over – but I’ve spotted a couple of leftover goodies at the bottom of the ol’ bag of holding! Let’s drag them out and see what we’ve got.

– Floor tiles and fantasy buildings: Courtesy of Billiam Babble (who himself creates some excellent floor tiles of his own that are not all free but well worth what he’s charging) is a link to the Black Ronin Roleplaying Games website, which has a bunch of free dungeon floortiles, sci-fi floor tiles, and fantasy wargame buildings that are yours for a click.  If you like what you see and get some use out of it, consider buying some of their other products (only two are available at present – river tiles and street tiles – and they are very reasonably priced) and keeping an eye on them for upcoming releases.

Character development: Someone on Google+ asked about tables that you can use to build backstory and life events for characters, and I mentioned the  Central Casting books which usually provide some very crazy results, but are a goldmine for ideas. While searching for a link for more info, I discovered that all three books in the series are available (legally) for free on scribd – Heroes of Legend, Heroes Now!, and Heroes for Tomorrow. You can read each online or download them as TXT or PDF files. Start rolling on tables and making notes the way Jacquays intended, or just leaf through them and see what catches your eye – either way, you’ll get a more colorful, interesting character in the end. (EDIT: My friend Marques asked if Central Casting: Dungeons was also available, and it is! I didn’t even know that one existed, and it looks like a pretty neat supplement for fleshing out a dungeon crawl. Grab it, too!)  (Sorry guys, looks like these aren’t legal after all. My apologies to the authors and publishers.)

– Lastly, there’s this marvelous thing – Dave’s Mapper, a widget that spits out random hand-drawn dungeons. You can make a dungeon from a mix of different artists, or narrow it down to a few or even just one, then export the result to PNG to print out and stock with monsters, traps, and treasure. It’s a lot of fun to play with.

Enjoy, and I’ll be back soon to talk about this year’s New Year, New Game project!

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Here’s another Christmas freebie from DTRPG. It’s Nick the Mall Santa, a bonus character for the Survival Horror board game that includes a printable figure that can be used with any modern horror, espionage, or crime RPG. Print him out, put him together, and let him sort out the naughty and the nice!

Get your Mad as Hell Mall Santa at DriveThruRPG.

I’ve always said that the only thing that could make Christmas better is if it were scarier. Like he read my mind or something, Michael Tresca gives us a short list of Holiday Horror Scenarios for Tabletop Roleplaying Games.

It’s an Examiner link, so you’ll have to swat away a few ads to get to it, but there are some pretty nifty ideas to be had here.

Here’s a clever AND nifty tutorial for making classic blue-grid dungeon maps using Microsoft Excel and Paint – Drawing Dungeon Maps in Excel – A Quick Tutorial.

While I personally would probably use a graphics program instead, this is a great alternative for those who don’t have the experience with them, or find them to be too “fussy.” (And I agree quite a bit with that latter opinion, sometimes…)

 

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It should be pretty obvious by now that I am a big sucker for any product that helps inspire creativity and improvisation, and generally makes the GM’s job easier – and I’ve been lucky enough to happen upon many in recent years.

Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game could be a candidate for one of the best GM tools ever, at least in my book. It is a 300+ page collection of NPC personality sketches that is not just a list of characters, but a collection of tools to adapt them to your own campaign and use them to the best advantage. It’s not only a book of NPCs, it is a book on how to NPC.

The entire first chapter is devoted to GMing advice – making NPCs memorable, “re-skinning” NPCs from one genre to use them in another, polarizing elements of the character to make them unique – and most importantly, how to not overdo it (these are supporting characters after all, and should never steal the show from the real protagonists).  The lists of traits and “invisible keywords” at the end of this chapter, and the explanation of how they were used, will prime any imaginative GM to immediately begin customizing these NPCs before they even get to them.

After that comes the parade of NPCs, divided into three genre categories (fantasy, modern, and sci-fi), each of which are divided into sub-categories (villains, neutrals, and allies). Each NPC is fleshed out in an array of descriptors – Name, Capsule Description, Quote, Appearance, Roleplaying, Personality, Motivation, Background, and Traits. The descriptions are very concise, to keep the most important and functional elements of the character in the foreground. Many of the NPCs could easily be adapted to other genres with a bit of fiddling and tweaking (and advice for this is supplied in Chapter One).

If all of this wasn’t enough, the book contains a “name ribbon” running through it – a one-line list of names running along the bottom of most of the pages that a GM can quickly reference if a character name is needed on the fly.

While looking through this massive collection of character backgrounds, I found an additional use for it, as I caught myself coming up with story ideas to draw them into. I’m even tempted to challenge myself and choose some at random (they’re all numbered) and try to write a plot around them!

As a side note – I was pleased to discover that it was inspired by one of my favorite Dragon magazine articles of all time – “The 7 Sentence NPC,” by C.M. Cline. It appeared in the August 1992 issue, and I’ve kept a photocopy of it in my RPG binder for many, many years now.

I really can’t recommended this collection enough for any serious GM’s reference library. If I had to come up with a negative about Masks, it would be this – it’s entirely too big to fit into my RPG binder. I’m probably going to have to invest in a good tablet PC that can display PDFs.

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I’m not sure how I missed this on Gnome Stew when it was first posted, but I’m glad I caught it through a more recent post – John Arcadian explains The 3-3-3 Approach to Quick Game Prep. It sort of reminds me of Dr. Rotwang!’s  Adventure Funnel, another great tool for prepping adventures quickly.

Both are awesome, and you should definitely print them out and put them in your RPG binder for future reference, as I have done.

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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!