Category Archives: Advice

Game Icons

I am probably very late to the game but I just discovered Game Icons back in April. I was of course familiar with story cubes but had not really got on with them as a plotting device. Game Icons and I seem a much better fit.

I suspect the difference is that when I rolled story dice I rolled them all and then had too many pictures to try and string together into a coherent adventure.

Story Icons on the other hand are themed so I can limit the icons to the genre I am writing for and I can roll for the number if icons I want or need.

I have always been a fan of the Mutant Year:Zero mechanics and it turns out that the d666 is the perfect companion to game icons. I can drag and drop icons directly from game-icons.net into a table with the numbers alongside and create a custom set in a matter of minutes.

I have been using them not only for creating in adventures but also for the motivations and inner thoughts for NPCs in those adventures. As an example I have a lady in waiting NPC in an adventure I am writing. I rolled two icons and got a wheel and a shield. I took the shield to mean that she was protecting something and the wheel to mean change. Suddenly that lady in waiting is part of a plot to overthrow the royal family. It is entirely possible that that will never come up in the adventure but it is also sitting there and should a character suddenly decide to use telepathy to find out what she is thinking they are going to be in for a surprise.

For me the big advantage is that I don’t have to sit here and be constantly inspired. The game icons are the inspiration. As a side benefit the adventures I am now writing a greater richness and depth if the players choose to explore those depths.

If you haven’t tried using game icons there is a neat tool at Tangent Zero where you can randomly generate game icons and I have attached a spreadsheet with the d666 numbers in the first column and you can drag and drop icons directly from either Tangent Zero or from game icon.net.

I hope these give you as much enjoyment and inspiration as they do me.

Kickstarter: RPG Smith

This is just a quick update to let you folks know that the Kickstarter campaign to fund the RPGSmith (check out my article about it) GM features is now live. They need about €22,125 to add new functionality to their web application. Following are the GM features they want to add if the fundraiser is successful:

    • Create and manage campaigns (similar to Rule Sets in the current player version).
    • Invite player accounts to join their campaign.
    • See their player’s character’s dashboard.
    • Make updates to anything on their player’s characters, including character stat values, inventory, etc. (If allowed by the Player)
    • Make updates to the Campaign settings (such as creation/removal of character stats, new items/spells/ abilities, updates to the default dashboard, etc.) which would be automatically updated for the PCs.
    • Provide a chat interface which all users joined to the campaign can use to sending private or public messages with anyone else in the campaign.
    • Share handouts, images, and other information with the players through a document sharing interface.
    • Build and control a campaign page of tiles visible to the players where the GM can store text, notes, images, counters, and other tiles.
    • Provide all users in the campaign access to share Dice results in real-time.
    • Have access to a campaign dashboard similar to the mock shown below. This will give GMs a high-level view and instant access to content they control in their campaign.

For more information on RPGSmith and the fundraising, check out the Kickstarter page.

Easy NPC Reactions

Michael recently posted about the 3hex style of starting a game off easily with minimal prep.

I thought I would share a technique that makes for interesting and sophisticated ‘common’ NPCs but without having to do any real prep. It can also lead to some interesting spin-off adventures in its own right.

The technique is based around a cross reference between all the NPCs as you create them. I use a spreadsheet but any grid will do. You list the NPCs across the top and down the side and block out the point where they cross reference.

The point of the grid is to map out the attitudes between all the people you have created. The actual numbers should reflect the system you are playing so in B/X, for example, -3 to +3 would be about right as that reflects the Cha characteristic bonuses. If you were playing Zweihander then -30 to +30 would work well or -4 to +4 for FUDGE and FATE.

Here is an example for a small town.

So in this case any interactions between Captain Flack and the Pugh twins would be at +2 (reading across) because he likes or respects them, but the Pughs do not really care one way or another about Flack (their reaction modifier is ±0) but between Captain Flack and the Mayor is as -2 and Philby (the Mayors manservant) is -3.

The Mayor doesn’t have any strong feelings towards Flack (±0) but Philby is at -2 so it looks like the animosity lays there.

The numbers in this case were simply 1d6-3. What this gives you is a layer of social cohesion between all the NPCs in a town without having to prep and write complex back stories.

As a GM you can ‘lend’ these reactions to the PCs when they get caught between two NPCs. For example Captain Flack asks the characters to carry a message to the Mayor. He does this to avoid going there himself. If the characters have to ask to see the Mayor via Philby he is much more likely to make them wait around and just be plain awkward if Philby knows they are carrying a message from Flack.

As GM you can use this same grid to construct all sorts of small town politics. Let us look at Dora Minton, Chippy Minton’s wife. Philby has a +3 reaction to Dora but Flack has a -3. They are at totally opposite ends of the scale. Was that the source of their falling out?

Chippy Minton has a -1 reaction mod towards his own wife but she is at +2 towards him. Does that sound like he is angry at her for something and she is desperate to make amends?

This table/grid can be a source of town gossip, local tension or even great assistance to the characters. It is fast to build on the fly. If you create an NPC you can quickly rolls a couple of D6 to see how he or she is regarded by their peers. You do not need to complete the whole table at once. If the characters ask at the tavern about a place to stay you can quickly check the reactions between barkeep and two inn owners. Maybe he like one much better than the other?

I find this grid to be a really useful ‘no prep’ way of adding a layer of depth to towns and villages and the NPCs that inhabit them. If an NPC goes missing who do the local gossips start to blame? Who do you need to win over to resolve a local rivalry?