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

RPG-a-Day: Day 27

What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Image result for writingI’m thinking of this in that “You are on a desert island and you only have essential tools” sort of way.

It would have to be writing materials of some kind.  I think that would be even more important than things like randomizers.  Randomizers you can make out of coconuts or fish bones or something, but stuff to keep records with is far harder to produce (although, take just a moment and imagine the Lascaux cave paintings as a chronicle of some group’s RPG campaign – it’s pretty awesome!)

“Crit. for 27 pts. damage!  You’re dead Bob, and for God’s sake wear pants next time!”

I’m not really a big fan of bells and whistles.  Since I run mostly a) online where physical tools are not all that useful, or b) at conventions where any tools I decide to bring I have to lug around all weekend, I really prefer to go minimal whenever possible.  I am partial to good quality character sheets though – particularly when I can get the players to actually fill them out and update them…  wait, that never happens*.  I think mostly it is a holdout from the old days of complex character sheets when there was so much technical information about the character that as GM I needed a standardized place to look for the information.

Image result for GM screen

After character sheets I love a good GM screen.  Again I think its largely a throwback to the days when there were a million zillion charts to keep track of and it was nice to have them all in front of me.  These days I like the GM screens that you can slide charts and tables into.  I honestly find the layout of a lot of GM screens to be baffling – they frequetly have charts and tables that I never use featured prominently, and charts and tables that I DO use crunched down in a corner on the lower right side.  They also waste up to 50% of their available space putting a big illustration on one side announcing the name of the game system – which totally makes for an awesome photograph of me as GM with my head poking above the illustration at conventions, but is USELESS for anything other than my ego.

While I am on the subject, let me just give some Kudos to Green Ronin, which actually supplies some extra double-sided, laminated charts for Mutants and Masterminds that are suitable for putting into those plastic table sign standie things.  This was an act of sheer genius that I am surprised hasn’t been widely copied.  Even if you don’t want to invest in plastic table sign standie things, most conventions now have them sitting around holding table signs, and you can easily procure a couple for your convention game.  I invested in some, and one of the big reasons that I am running “League of Extraordinary Felines” at Big Bad Con this year in the Mutants and Masterminds 5th system is that I can plunk those charts on the players side of the GM screen and everyone at the table can have access to them without having to flip through books or squint at the screen.  Damn that was a fine idea.


*My beloved wife is a notable exception to this.  As a player, I confess that I am not.

RPG-a-Day: Day 26

Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Not sure that I like this question.  It seems biased in favor of large RPGs that have lots of splat books, adventure books, etc.  There are lots of little RPGs out there which come complete, or nearly complete unto themselves that don’t provide anything by way of resources that are completely left out in this particular question.

But OK.  Not every question has to be applicable to every roleplaying game I guess.

Image result for ars magica 5th edition rulebookArs Magica has unbelievable resources.  the writers are all very smart and very dedicated to the game.  Many of their supplements read like Masters theses on a given topic edited into game form, complete with lists of references.  The game has attracted and inspired a large number of Medieval historians and enthusiasts who have in turn showered the game with love which shines through in the number and quality of resource books produced over its five editions.

Image result

Appealing to a broader audience than Ars Magica, the Fate system has really blossomed in terms of resources since it’t most recent reboot as Fate Core (and Fate Accelerated).  With numerous setting books now out, as well as toolkit books and compendiums of articles on Fate and how to tweak it, Fate gives roleplaying enthusiasts great options at every level of detail, from those who want to simulate a pre-published setting to those who want to create their own.

Ars and Fate are interesting to compare in terms of their resources (and design philosophy) because they are such opposites.  Ars Magica has a specific setting and focuses everything on defining/broadening out that setting in very specific ways.  Fate, on the other hand, is largely independent of setting and focuses on giving GMs and players the resources they need to apply the rules to a setting of their choice.  Whichever you are looking for, however, there is no denying that these games have quality resources available for them.

RPG-a-Day: Day 25

What is the best way to thank your GM?

Image result for Dungeon Master

Run a game for them.  Seriously.  GMs almost always want to be players – they love roleplaying so much that they are willing to take on the extra duties and responsibilities of writing the scenarios, buying the books, distributing information, drawing maps, and wrangling conflicting schedules all so that you all can play.  But deep in their hearts, GMs WANT to play too.  And you should make that happen from time to time.  Because if you don’t they will eventually burn out and then there will be no fun for anyone.

Of course, not everyone has the skill set or the willingness to get behind the GM screen and actually run something.  For those who don’t –

Image result for Treasure

It doesn’t have to be money of course.  Take them to your FLGS and let them pick something out, and then snatch it from their cold, heartless hands and pay for it.  Buy them a cool new game aid they don’t have.  Sponsor a kickstarter in their name.

Another great option – thank them publicly on social media.  Tell people how much you enjoy their game.  Generate buzz about it.  Say good and kind things.  Give compliments.  They’re free and they mean a lot.

Finally, give them food.  GMs tend to eat like Zoidberg in Futurama.  If they are going to run a game that takes hours of preparation time for you, at least feed them.

Image result for Zoidberg



RPG-a-Day: Day 24

Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.


Image result for Sophie Lagace

Disclaimer:  so far as I know she isn’t really a PWYW publisher.  She writes for Evil Hat.  And Evil Hat has been very good to us.  looking through the list of questions, this may be my last opportunity to shamelessly plug her work, so by God I am going to take it.

Attention Fred Hicks:  please don’t have me murdered in my sleep.  I want to be awake for it.

RPG-A-Day: Day 23

Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

RPG layout has never been something that made my jaw drop, except in the very few instances where it was jaw-droppingly BAD.  This is extremely unfair to hard-working editors, but for me – and I think for a lot of people – bad editing and layout gets noticed and good editing and layout simply disappear into the flow of the material, letting the reader read without confusion or struggle.  Good editing and layout are EXTREMELY IMPORTANT – they organize the flow of ideas into a framework that is easy to follow (or they don’t).  Good editing and layout will usually not sell an RPG, but bad editing and layout can certainly tank one.

All that being said, here are some things that I look for in a well-written RPG:

  • Table of Contents AND Index:  they are NOT INTERCHANGEABLE!  Look, I know that a good index is an art form – deciding what topics go in and what topics stay out is something that all game designers should put thought into.  But you need both.  Table of Contents lays out the outline for the book and gives the reader an outline of what is to come so that they can begin to grasp the overall flow of the work (and as a side note, I hate TOCs that just list “Chapter 1”, “Chapter 2” etc.  All that tells me is that the damned book has chapters.  But I digress).  The index allows the reader to look up specific topics that may be partially covered in several places in the book.
  • Font – please pick a readable font.  Yes, you and your twenty-something friends might be able to read the 6-point font, and it is mildly impressive that you have taught yourself to read wingdings as text.  But older, lesser mortals want to read your work too, and you want them to give you money.  So put the work in some form of legible text, pretty please?
  • Art – hand-drawn pen-and-ink art can be extremely evocative.  It’s my preferred form of RPG art (not for me the lavishly illustrated full-color art of Pathfinder and D&D.  Give me sketch art any day!).  That said, it is generally a bad – a really bad – idea to use sketch art for things that require a detailed examination – like dungeon maps for example.  Yes, they look really cool.  But arguments about whether the flaming pi/crusher/spike/poison/dehydrator death trap is in a single square of extends into multiple squares can lead to fist fights and back-stab maneuvers.  Also, you may like your handwriting, but others may find it less legible when it is converted into a reduced scale print map of your scenario map.
  • Organization – character creation stuff should be in the character creation chapter.  Skill resolution should be in the game mechanics chapter.  World information should be in the world chapter (and yes you can smatter it elsewhere to hold the interest of the readers, but all the important stuff needs to be in the world chapter, and all the rest needs to be put in the index so everyone can find it).

    Now I haven’t really answered the question, so let me mention a little game with innovative layout.

Image result for Lacuna RPG

Nope.  Not going to say another word about it – check it out.

RPG-a-Day: Day 22

Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

Image result for Fiasco RPG

Low/no prep games such as Fiasco and Powered by the Apocalypse are easiest for me to run because, well, they are low/no prep (the category rather says it all I suppose).  There are story games that push the envelope of “what is a roleplaying game?” like Questlandia and the Quiet Year.

Almost any game CAN be low/no prep if you are sufficiently familiar with the rules and have put in some time preparing in the past.  I used to run Champions with little preparation because I knew the system so well.

RPG-a-Day: Day 21

Which RPG does the most with the least words?

I have had a rollicking good time with Vs. Outlaws, both as a GM and as a player.  Small enough to fit into a CD case, yet amazingly complete, Vs. Outlaws gives you everything you need to ride the range as a cowboy, fighting criminals (or the law) and doing all those Wild Westy things you want your character to do without becoming bogged down in a long, tedious, and nonsensical rules system (I’m looking at you, TSR’s Boot Hill!).  Plus, you can actually order the rules in packs, so you can hand them out to your players and everyone will have a full copy of the rules!

The game is solid, playable, and streamlined.  Because when it’s high noon and you’re standing on Main Street ready to skin your smokewagon, you don’t want to get bogged down looking up rules.

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