Another Day in Middle Earth

Image result for lord of the rings online logo

[NOTE:  I hadn’t really planned on writing another installment so soon, but Rivendell proved to be pure comedy gold.]

The Sword that Was Broken – Part I

Milkweed:  “Hail Aragorn, son of Arathorn, known as Strider”

Aragorn:  “Greetings Milkweed Pie-Runner!”

Milkweed:  “Don’t start.”

Aragorn:  “My friend, a momentous decision is at hand!  It is time for the blade that was broken to be reforged!  For the good of the Free Peoples and Middle Earth I need you to…  to…”

Milkweed:  “Yes?  Yes?”

Aragorn:  “Take this note over to the smith of Rivendell and get an estimate.”

Milkweed:  “Oh.  Okay.  But I happened to notice your Fellowship companions Legolas and Gimli just outside this room.  Why don’t you have one of them do it?”

Legolas:  “Elk.  So tired of elk.  Every day – elk, elk, elk.”

Gimli:  “Spiders.  Spiders. Spiders.  Spiders.  Spiders.”

Aragorn:  “They’re busy.”

Milkweed:  “Very well then, it shall be as you desire.’

(Whistles for horse.  Rides to Rivendell)

Milkweed:  “Greetings, um, Hemeldir – forge master of Riven…”


Milkweed:  “What?  The forge master of Rivendell is a Dwarf?”


Milkweed:  “Nothing!  I just thought that Dwarves and Elves didn’t get along.”


Milkweed:  “Right.  Anyway, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, known as Strider needs Elandil, the sword that was broken, reforged and would like a price estimate, including labor and parts.”


Milkweed:  “Son of Arathorn, known as Strider.”


Milkweed (mounts horse.  Rides back to Aragorn son or Arathorn known as Strider)

Milkweed:  “I bring news from Hemeldir forge master of Rivendell!”

Aragorn:  “Greetings Milkweed of the…”

Milkweed:  “No.”

Aragorn:  “Greetings Milkweed!  What news?”

Milkweed:  “Hemeldir says you can’t reforge the sword without a maguffin.”

Aragorn:  “There are few who have the knowledge of such elder things.  You must go at once to see L.  Ron.”

Milkweed:  “Don’t you mean…?”

Legolas:  “Elk steak.  Elk ribs.  Elk burgers with elk fries on an elk bun.  Elk sandwiches.  Fried elk.  Baked elk.  Elk tartar.”

Gimli:  “Spiderspiderspiderspiderspiderspiderspiders….”

Milkweed:  “Never mind.  AWAY!”

(Gets on horse, rides to Rivendell, goes to Last Homely House)

Bilbo:  “So there we were – goblins to the left, goblins to the right, goblins in front, goblins everywhere.  Gandalf was ready to give up, but I says to him, I sez…”

Milkweed:  “Out of my way you old coot!”

(Goes to library)

Elrond (writing):  I’m going to make you as happy as a baby psychlo on a diet of straight “Oh what is it!”

Milkweed:  “Oh mighty Elrond, I…”

Elrond:  “That’s ‘L. Ron!”

Milkweed:  “Oh what the hell…  Greetings mighty L. Ron.  I have come on behalf of Aragorn son of yadda yadda.  He needs to know where to find a maguffin to reforge his sword.”

Elrond:  “Aragorn has far too many thetans.  He needs to be cleared.  Let me share with you the good news of Scientology and how it cleared a man named Estel.”

Milkweed:  “Oh boy.”

Elrond:  “We were in Tinnudir, near the ferry…”

Milkweed:  “Uh huh.”

Elrond:  “The ferry to Tul Ruinen cost one copper piece…”

Milkweed:  “Yeah, yeah.”

Elrond:  “I had a piece of Huorn heartwood tied to my belt – it was the fashion in those days….”

Milkweed:  “We know, grandpa.”

(End of Part I)

Another Day in Middle Earth

Image result for LOTRO logo

[Author’s note:  lately I have been playing a lot of Lord of the Rings online MMORPG.  It’s certainly fun enough, but often relates rather strangely with both the original books and the movies.  Milkweed is my Hobbit Burglar, who is really more of a Hobbit Assassin who steals things, given the frequency with which she has to kill stuff.  I haven’t met Galadriel in person yet, but I imagine that the conversation will go something like this (though probably with some other type of critter replacing spiders)]

Galadriel:  “Come [MILKWEED], look into my scrying pool.  There you will see many things that may come to be, and may learn much!”

Milkweed:  “Um, okay.”

[Milkweed gazes into the scrying pool]

Galadriel:  “What do you see, heroic hobbit?  What does the scrying pool foretell?”

Milkweed:  “I see…  I see…  spiders?”

Galadriel:  “Indeed,  brave hobbit, it is your fate and your charge to slay ten of these creatures.”

Milkweed:  “Slay ten spiders?”

Galadriel:  “Yes.  Slay ten spiders.”

Milkweed:  “Is it important?  I mean, there’s that thing with the black riders and…”

Galadriel:  “And my elven wisdom reminds me that Celeborn is seeking spider poison glands.  If you remove them from the spiders you kill and bring them to him, you will be given a reward!”

Milkweed:  “But isn’t all of middle Earth in danger from Mordor?  Shouldn’t we focus on…”

Galadriel:  “Wait!  There is more!  Cut the legs off the spiders and bring them to a mysterious stranger at the local inn, and you will gain renown with the elves of the forest!”

Milkweed:  “What?  Ick!”

Galadriel:  “I also foresee that while you are battling the spiders, you should scour the land for wood and deposits of metal, so that your crafting abilities may increase!”

|Milkweed:  I don’t recall reading about Frodo doing this stuff.”

Galadriel:  “Frodo is 105th level.  You’re barely level 30.  Maybe by the time you are done with the spiders you will ding 31.  Now get out there and bring back some spider poison sacs.  Celeborn is making a bisque!”

League of Extraordinary Felines: 1856

Image result for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying


For this year’s League of Extraordinary Felines game at Big Bad Con, I am looking to switch systems.  While I really like M&M, I find it difficult to teach and run in a four hour timeslot, so I am looking for something easier.

My first attempt at doing the game with the same characters in a different system is “Marvel Heroic Roleplaying”.  I just finished taking a run at all the characters so I thought I would put them up here for perusal and critique.

A few notes on the design:

Every character has the “Feline” powerset, which consists of six powers.  Generally, three of them are at d6 and three of them are at d8, though in a couple of instances I have reduced one down to a d4 to boost another to d10 (could have boosted a d6 to a d8 instead, but it never worked out that way.)

Almost every character has a second powerset with three powers, normally rated at d8, though in some cases I dropped one d8 to a d6 and improved another power to d10.  In cog cat’s case I gave the character 1d10 and a bunch of d6s for extra powers.

Each powerset got one SFX and one limitation.  There were two reasons for this – the first was because the characters are supposed to be closer to super agents than superheroes, and the second was because the character sheet template would have  required me to write in 6-point font if I used more than one.

Specialties either went for 1d10 Master and 1d8 Expert or three 1d8 Expert specialties.

Because I want one of the issues of the game to be infighting amongst the League*, pretty much everyone has some sort of milestone that brings them into conflict with others in one way or another.  There will be a couple of milestones pertaining to the adventure as well, so the conflict averse may dump their more contentious milestones in favor of something more story driven if they want.

Because I had requests from Tabitha Twitchet’s players to make the character less complicated, I evolved the Cog Suit so she can be the League’s equivalent of Iron Man.  I also added wings to the Dinah picture this year.

So – here they are:

White Heather

Fate Accelerated Ehdrigohr

Image result for EhdrigohrImage result for Fate Accelerated

After running a test game and getting feedback from the players, I decided that converting Ehdrigohr to Fate Core was a bit too complex and confusing, so I took a look at the simpler and easier to teach Fate Accelerated.  That seems to have worked well, though I have yet to playtest it.  I modified the Fate Accelerated system somewhat to make it better fit with my vision of Ehdrigohr:

  1. Increased base Refresh to 4
  2. Added one “2” stress box to all characters
  3. Developed a magic system to fit the setting

#3 was the most time consuming, and I confess that I didn’t make a comprehensive attempt, but only got some generalized ideas and worked out the mechanics for each character individually.  In Ehdrigohr magic is highly differentiated based on the Mysteries (Elements, Essences, Natures, Principles), each of which is subdivided into four “Ways”.  Finally there are traditions of magic that personalize the way a given character performs magic.  All in all it is a very colorful system with a great deal of variability even for casters within the same Mysterious Way.  But it did require a bit of modification to fit in with the streamlining design theory of Fate Accelerated.  Here’s what I came up with off the top of my head.

  • The various Mysterious Ways are generally taught only to a relative few (though of course among PCs it’s pretty common).  It requires a Stunt dedicated to learning to do any sort of magic.  This is usually combined with membership in one of the many Societies of Ehdrigohr (like Crow, Dove, Jay, Owl, etc.) but doesn’t have to be.
  • Each of the Ways is a specific form of magic, and is based on one of the character’s Approaches.  If I was going to expand on this I would list the Approach needed for each Way, but for this I just picked one that seemed appropriate for the character and their magic.
  • The Mysteries determine which characters can Help others in casting magic.  Any character who knows one of the Ways of a given Mystery can Help another character in casting their spells.
  • Characters who know magic get one use of their magic for free each episode.  Paying one Fate Point allows a character to use their magic for the remainder of the scene.  (I’m not sure about this one – it’s something I really want to playtest to make sure that the spellcasters have enough juice.)
  • Failing a Magic roll costs Stress equal to the difference between the Difficulty number and what was rolled.
  • The various traditions modify how an individual casts magic in some way (reducing stress, specifying who the character can and cannot Help with their magic, etc.)

Overall I think that despite being a lot simpler than the Fate Core version the Fate Accelerated version will work quite well.

RPG-a-Day: Day 4

Which RPG have you played the most since August of 2016?

Image result for Dungeon World

It must be Dungeon World, since I have been slowly poking at my hack of it for Land of 10,000 Gods for much of the past year.  It has been an interesting experience, and has made me respect even more the work of all those authors out there who have provided so many excellent roleplaying products over the decades.

RPG-a-Day: Day 3


I have been gaming since around 1977.  The ink of roleplaying games is in my blood.  I eat polyhedral dice for breakfast and I breathe that new book smell.  The scratch of pencil on paper, the sound of dice hitting the table, and the texture of erasable battle mats are life.  My fingers are stained with the paint of many miniatures, and a thousand thousand stories new and old abide in my memories.

I don’t find out about new roleplaying games.  They find out about me.


RPG-a-Day, Day 1



Related image

Great, expansive, imaginative, colorful science fantasy trapped in a doomed and clunky system, Fading Suns has always been a favorite of mine, but never with the original rules.  I would play it in Heroquest, Fate, or some other, easier system.

Runner Up

Image result for Ars Magica RPG

Great setting, great magic system, and supplements full of depth and color.  If only they could put together a combat system that worked and rules for down time that didn’t make me feel like I was doing my taxes.  Honestly I can’t think of another system to run it in, because the good parts of the rules are really, really good and no other mechanics I have found really simulate the magic system the same way.


Image result for Fate CoreThis is more difficult for me because I have several go-to systems that I like .  In truth, Fate isn’t my favorite in terms of mechanics but it edges out other systems in terms of ease of teachability and widespread familiarity by the people I usually game with.

Runner Up

Image result for Powered by the Apocalypse

A solid system built around choices and consequences, with a large variety of settings to choose from.


Related image

Rules mechanics are simple, if not thrilling in themselves, and the setting is highly evocative and fun.  Plus, you can play a whale.

Runner Up

Image result for Heroquest Glorantha

I think I could really like this setting if I played with someone who was well versed.

Gender Roles in Ehdrigohr

Image result for ehdrigohr images


[PRELIMINARY WARNING – cishet guy here.  You have been warned]

I’m going to be running Ehdrigohr as one of my Games on Demand games at this year’s Big Bad Con.  Ehdrigohr is primarily a fantasy horror and adventure game, but within it are some interesting social nuggets that I wanted to explore a bit without making the game “about” them.  Though it was originally created using the Fate system, I wanted to run my game with the newer Fate Core rules so a few adjustments and modifications to the game system, and particularly character creation, became necessary.

One nugget of interest to me was the way Ehdrigohr treated the concept of gender.  Though somewhat muddled and buried in an obscure section of the rule-book,  the gender concepts of Ehdrigohr cultures, which don’t map directly to the gender concepts of the real world, got me thinking a bit.  On the one hand, Ehdrigohr isn’t a game about gender exploration, it’s really a game about fighting horrible monsters and being heroic.   On the other hand, the unique cultures of Ehdrigohr (which the author based on Native American myth and culture) are something that I felt really SHOULD be incorporated into my game in order to give it the proper feel, and done right the gender rules from the original might give players  some of that feel for their characters.  Moreover, Big Bad Con has a well-earned reputation as a safe space for supporting games that can deal with personal issues.

So I thought to myself, “lets give it a try!”

This article is about my current thoughts on incorporating gender ideas into my Ehdrigohr game.  Feedback is welcome, particularly from the non cis, non-hetero community.  For this issue in particular, I am outside my areas of expertise, and perhaps even outside my comfort zone a little – which is good because it pushes me to learn, but potentially bad because getting it wrong can result in hurt.

BACKGROUND – Gender Issues in original Ehdrigohr

Image result for ehdrigohr imagesOne of the big, driving factors that all cultures on Ehdrigohr share is the protection and nurturing of children.  Ehdrigohr is a hard world – its got lots of monsters, unforgiving climate, and continual friction between tribes that often breaks into conflict.  Infants and children are weak and vulnerable, and without extreme measures their mortality rate would be higher than the population could maintain.  The  bearing, nurturing, and protection of children is therefor considered one of the most important things that a person can do.  If it takes a village to raise a child here, on Ehdrigohr it takes a whole society.

At the same time, Ehdrigohr societies have mostly avoided becoming patriarchal.  Women are not relegated to a secondary status as baby factories and men are not let off the hook for child care (Ehdrigohr doesn’t cover this in detail, but I imagine that abandoning your children, or children in your care, is one of the worst crimes one can commit).

In Ehdrigohr there are four recognized genders.  Male, female, two-spirit, and gatherer.  They are not well defined in the rules in terms of who fits in which category, although one can make some guesses based on the names of three of them and extrapolate from there who fits in the fourth.  The mechanical effects of gender are limited to use of the magic skill, with a particular stunt based around magic available to each gender

BACKGROUND – Gender Issues in Fate Core Ehdrigohr.

Image result for ehdrigohr imagesThough the gender identities in original Ehdrigohr were interesting, I was uncomfortable about a couple of things.  First was their nebulous definitions – is a trans person considered to be their physiological gender or their identity gender, for example; and as a group, who are Gatherers?  Also, why set it up so gender matters to some characters and not to others?

There were also issues related to the mechanics of the gender stunts that made them problematic for one-shot convention play.  All of the stunts in the original Ehdrigohr were time sensitive – they only worked at specific times (summer and during the new moon, for example).  While the idea of a single adventure spanning a year certainly got the wheels turning in my head, it concerned me that the original descriptions might leave some of the gender powers unusable, while others might be highly useful based on when an adventure was set.

In the end rather than trying to beat the gender rules from original Ehdrigohr into shape to fit the Fate Core system and my vision, I decided that it would be best to simply take the idea of alternate gender identities from the original Ehdrigohr and use it as a springboard for my version of Fate Core Ehdrigohr.  I wanted a system that was inclusive (covered everyone), positive (you get good things for whatever gender you choose and the only down side is not getting the good things from other genders), and simple (using Fate Core rules, without having to come up with complicated new mechanics).

I started off with the importance of children on Ehdrigohr.  Child bearing and child rearing have been one of the defining factors of gender for most of history, so it seemed like a good place to start, and moreover Ehdrigohr is a place that places extreme importance on children.  But I DIDN’T want gender to be based on traditional physiology-based roles as in real life where people with uteri are often forced by circumstance and societal mores to be baby factories and people with penises are often granted wide latitude and dispensation for not taking responsibility for the children they produce.  I also wanted a system that wasn’t perfect, that had problems, not because I wanted to include a lot of gender issues in my game, but because I didn’t want to paper over the gender issues that cause so many in our own society to be treated disrespectfully with some Utopian ideal.

Based on these criteria, I came up with the following for Fate Core Ehdrigohr.

The societies of Ehdrigohr recognize three separate genders, but these genders are not based on physiology.  Rather, they are specific and ritual roles that people adopt and commit to based around the role they wish to play in bearing, caring for, and protecting children.  The three genders are

  • Bearers – these are people who wish to conceive, bear, and raise children.  This isn’t a job, so much as a social responsibility they take on.  This is the largest gender in Ehdrigohr society.
  • Gatherers – orphans are very common in Ehdrigohr society.  The dangers of the land, coupled with social pressure to defend the children at all costs too often results in parents perishing while their children survive.  Gatherers are those who are for whatever reason not willing or able to bear children, but are willing to adopt the children of others and/or assist Bearers in the raising of their children.  They are teachers, childcare workers, adoptive parents, etc.
  • Hunters – these are people who for whatever reason, do not bear or  directly care for or raise children.  They support the community’s children indirectly by donating a portion of their labor (or money in the cultures that make use of it) to support the community’s children.  In situations such as “the village needs to run but someone needs to stay behind to hold off the monsters”, they are also the ones who stay.

In addition to their practical roles in society, each of the three genders also have ritual roles to play – particular parts they sing in communal songs, dances and stories that are theirs alone to tell, patterns which only they can weave into baskets, rituals and prayers that are theirs alone to enact, sacred spaces that are theirs alone to maintain.

The system isn’t perfect and has issues that could be explored in longer-term games, but I think it is good enough for a one-off.

MECHANICS – gender rules for Fate Core Ehdrigohr

Related imageAs previously mentioned, I don’t envision my game as being primarily about gender issues.  Consequently I want a simple and easy-to-use mechanic, one that is distinctive between the three genders, but doesn’t involve the players having to learn a lot of special rules about their characters.  I also want it to be something that the players can select for themselves based on what they feel most comfortable with (or most interested in trying) so I don’t want it tied to specific character sheets.

My plan at the moment is to treat a character’s gender as a selectable stunt Extra, which players select for their character at the beginning of the game.  It is treated as an Extra so it doesn’t cost any Refresh to have.

The stunts are

  • Bearers – because I am a Bearer, once per session I may activate my Mystery Aspect for free on an Overcome action, and gain one Fate Point.
  • Gatherers – because I am a Gatherer, once per session I may activate my Mystery Aspect for free on a Create Advantage action, and gain one Fate Point.
  • Hunters – because I am a Hunter once per session I may activate my Mystery Aspect for free on a Defend action, and gain one Fate Point.

(In Ehdrigohr the various aspects of the essence of existence are known as the Great Mysteries.  Those who study the Great Mysteries extensively are able to manipulate them and become spell-casters, but in addition everyone has at least one Mystery Aspect that can be invoked like other aspects, and which is inherent to heroic characters – an instinctive link to primal creation which allows characters to go beyond their physical limitations.)

I like these particular stunts because 1) they are simple and easy to understand, 2) they are thematic (Bearers get that “I can lift a car off my baby” ability, Gatherers can inspire others through their actions, and Hunters become particularly good at hopeless last stands allowing others to escape).  I added the ability to regain a Fate Point because it is unusual in Fate Core to get a Fate Point for being more effective – usually players earn Fate Points for being less effective – because I wanted another opportunity for players to earn Fate Points, because I wanted to give players interesting choices for their gender stunt (“Do I use my stunt now on a roll of minor consequence because I need the Fate Point, or do I save it for later?”) and because thematically it seemed appropriate for the universe to reward people for taking on their symbolic and ritual responsibilities.

My current idea is to fill out a few 3’x5″ index cards for each gender role, giving the basics of their responsibilities in society and the stunt that they get for that gender role, and then just let players pick.

MORE – Expanding Gender Roles in Fate Core Ehdrigohr

Obviously these rules are just a bare skeleton of what could be done with gender roles in Ehdrigohr.  There is a lot more societal flavor to be worked out (what are the rituals specific to each gender?  What sort of identifying dress or marking do they wear?  What are their songs?  Are there differences between specific gender roles between the various cultures?  How do stratified Edhrigohr cultures such as the Mic’talan, who practice slavery, resolve gender roles between stratum in their society?  How easy is it to change gender roles?  What happens to people who transgress their gender role?).  There is certainly a lot that can be done with gender roles in terms of how the various genders interact with the Great Mysteries (are there any gender roles that have particularly close ties to a particular Great Mystery, for example.  What spells and abilities from the Great Mysteries are proprietary to a given gender role?)  But I think that these simple rules, as they stand, will be enough for a one-off game.  Of course if the plot takes me in a direction requiring more development of the Ehdrigohr gender roles I can always put more depth into them.

Misha B

Just your friendly neighborhood ego striker.

ED WRITES STUFF (and nonsense)

I used to have a lot of blogs. Now I have one.

monochrome moments

a view through a black and white window

Ming Wang Photography

Memory to Remember

Ed Writes Poetry

Words on a webpage

Doubting Mark

An atheist's adventures in a land of faith

Living Sustainably

Sustainable living in the 21st Century

The Reef

An aging geek girl's personal blog

Pastor Chris Owens - - Musings, Rants, and Reflections

My thoughts on following Jesus in the here and now

Art for the Sake of Art

The Art Club Site