Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Street Art or Urban Monster?

So is this a piece of creative street art or an urban monster?

Alan Garner has put together a collection of old folk tales, title appropriately enough Collected Folk Tales. Yesterday on G+ we had a great discussion about what kind of world it might be where such a creature existed. Then I started to read Alan Garner's book (which I'd picked up because of fond memories of Weirdstone of Brisingamen). The first story in the collection was this one.


There was a hill that ate people. The Rabbit's grandmother told him never to go near it. So the Rabbit went to the hill, and shouted, "Gobbleknoll, swallow me! Come, devour me!"

But Gobbleknoll knew the Rabbit and took no notice.

Later that day, a group of travellers came by, looking for a place to shelter from the rain, and Gobbleknoll opened his green and ferny lips, and the travellers thought that they had found a cave. They went in, and the Rabbit slipped close behind them. But the hill felt hairy pads on his tunnels, and before the Rabbit could reach the middle, Gobbleknoll threw him out, and the grass shut.

The Rabbit went and hid behind a tree, and a few days later a hunting party arrived at the hill just before night, and Gobbleknoll opened again. This time the Rabbit used magic art, and took the shape of a man except for his ears, which he tucked down his shirt, so that they would not brush against the roof and make Gobbleknoll sneeze.

He went down long and horrid passages, until he came to the hill's stomach, and there were the remains of all the victims, and some who were not  yet dead.

"Hey hey hey!" shouted the Rabbit. "Why don't you eat? You leave the best! Here's a delicious heart. What's wrong with that?"

Gobbleknoll set up a dismal howling, for it was his own heart that the Rabbit had seen. And the Rabbit knew this, and took out a knife, and stabbed the hill dead. The ground split, and the blue sky lit the deep hollows, and the living came out and wept before the Rabbit, and wanted to give him power and ricxhes. But all the Rabbit would take was Gobbleknoll's fat, and he went home with it on his back, and he and his grandmother were fit to burst from it for many days. 

Buy the book here

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tales from the Inn

The last blog post was all about randomizing your adventure by creating lists of objects. In the post I went and created a bunch of lists that were related to each other. In this case it was items that you might see in that standard of fantasy gaming, the inn. I then took out a d10, rolled on each list to get a handful of elements and posted the element list to my stream on G+ to see what people would come up with.

I love this kind of brainstorming because the adventure hooks/writing exercises that I end up with are all different and cool.

The Elements:
Name: The Flying Pony
Occupants: A bard and the Captain of the Guard (I decided to roll twice to have a few more elements)
Innkeeper Description: Tall and skinny with a long scar down his face
Notable Items: In the corner are two large bookcases full of books
Secret: You know that the innkeeper is the leader of a gang that kidnaps people and holds them for ransom.
Special of the day: No special, but the pie is half off

Along with the elements I came up with a handful of questions that needed to be answered. Why is the inn named The Flying Pony? What is the Captain doing there? Is he part of the gang, or is he there to investigate/arrest the innkeeper? How did the inn keeper get his scar? Why does he have two large bookshelves? Does his gang have a name? How many people are in it? Who are their primary kidnapping targets?

The Creative Geniuses

Laston Kirkland:
the flying pony? why It got it's name back when Johanson was doing all tha' alchemestery stuff.. well, seems he was collectin' tha' white stuff you find at the bottom of old manure, an' mixin' it with charcoal and brimstone, and makin' bags of powder.

well he had three big sacks of powder stored on tha' cart, and some damned fool dropped a candle... well we all ran fer it... but Shem the Pony was still hooked up to tha' cart,

The bags all made a trurrible racket when they went up... and pushed that cart straight down... well, seeing as Shem was hooked up to tha' other end in front of the wheels... well, he went straight up...

Landed on tha' roof of this here building, not a hair harmed on him... Took us a hell of a time gettin' him down... 

B'for that, the place was called the dancing cups... but, tha's another story.

My response: Why was the place called The Dancing Cups?

Well you see The Captain over there knows we got some side business going on... Doin’ a little trade on things the Captain would rather we din’t... So he thinks he can slow us up by parking his fat on top o’ tha’ stool by the fire, and watchin’ us like an owl watches a snow bank... just waitin’ fer tracks he can pounce on.

Y' see. One of them things we do a little tradin’ fer is elf-wimsy powder. Put a little bit in wine, and yer drunk in two sips.

So, we got a couple wimsy cups we hand out to people we don't particularly like, and no one particularly watches out fer. who’re about ta make fine sailors on an outbound ship for a year or two, whether they like it or not, after we seen what they have in their pockets.

So anyways, the captain one night sees us givin’ free drinks to a farmer or two, and starts to put tha’ wheels on the cart in his head. He comes over demanding to taste whats in the farmers cup....

Well woudn’t you know it, that’s when alla sudden Johanson thinks fast, and does a little hand trick or two, and now the cup in fron’ of the farmer hain’t the one that was there before... and the one he had is behind Johansons back.

The Captain catches a little in the corner of his eye, and wants to know what in hell Johanson’s got behind ‘is back... and tha’s when I skipper the cup over to Jimmel. Soon enough, them farmers start to think somethin’s fishy, and want to know what the hell is in the cups too. and so we start swapping cups all over the inn... back and forth, back and forth. The farmers and the Captain on one side, and us on t'other.

Till finally, turns out WE forgot which ones was the wimsy cups ourselves. and the Captain know it.

So he makes us all sit at the long table, an’ hes got ever’ full cup in the room on that table... and he starts makin’ us drink from ‘em one atta time...

Ands wouldn’t ya know it... THAT’s when that table there starts to shake somethin’ fierce. knocking ev’ry cup right onto the ground, dancin’ 'em all empty.

Now some say it's a trick that Johanson knows that made the cups dance.

And some think it was me and Jimmel with a knee under the table bobbin up and down.

And some say it was an earthquake.

But I’ll say this right now... There hain’t been a time I was so thankful to see a cup dance than at that there moment.

And right then and there I changed the name of tha’ Inn to The Dancing Cups

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Things in the Inn: Fun With Random Tables

When you talk about random tables with gamers you get a wide variety of opinions on the matter. Personally I love them, simply for the randomness they can provide and sheer terror that they can invoke in your players. Even if you don't use them in your own games I think it's a good idea to create them on a regular basis. Random tables force you to think about a particular topic and come up with a bunch of different options. For example if you were creating a "Random city encounters" table and came up with a dozen different items that's great for you as the GM. You may never use the table, but now you have a dozen different encounters bouncing around in your head that you can whip out when you need them. I also think that thinking about a subject like that also exercises your mind so that you'll be able to come up with things on the fly if your players go off the rails.

As such I present random tables related to Inns. Roll a d10

1.) The Flying Pony
2.) Easing the Badger
3.) Iron Horseman
4.) The Fat Lady
5.) The Rushing Boar
6.) Nine Warrior Lodge
7.) The Sword & Lance
8.) The Cheerful Rat
9.) The Waystone Inn
10.) The Lame Dancer

Creating NPCs with depth

More and more I've come to the conclusion that the best possible plot generator for a campaign is fully fleshed out non-player characters. Knowing who the major players are and what their relationships are to each other informs the next stop of the process which is plot generation. 

The traditional method of developing characters is to fully flesh out everything before hand. This requires a great deal of work by the GM, and in my view it's boring. I like "discovering" relationships just as much as players do (probably more). In other words I'm more of a "connect the dots" kind of guy. To help out with this method of character generation I created a way of setting up relationships between NPCs by using a deck of poker cards and playing a hand of Texas Hold 'Em with yourself.