A blogger’s dozen (Part III): 13 ideas for RPG articles

Installment no. 3 from a sweeping-out of an attic full of junk – specifically, ideas of the “Hey, this would make for a good blog post or magazine article” persuasion.

For your consideration, the latest batch of 13:

27. “I’ll show them all! With this Helmet of Funny Helium Voices…”

Write up the sort of ridiculous cursed item so beloved of dungeon fantasy games – together with an explanation of why a wizard put so much effort and money into creating it.

The curse could of course be unintentional, the result of a botched enchantment. Even then, a write-up of who the enchanter was, and what she was attempting to create, would be interesting.

28. The Exotic Southwest Spice Trail

Create a trade route for your favorite game genre. Pick two cities or other map points, note what is traded between those points, and detail why that trade is particularly easy or desirable.

The idea may not sound too exciting, but trade routes are good for both player motivation and GM adventure fodder.

29. The Ogre-Infested Damp Malaria Trail

Create the opposite of the above: Write up a trade route that could exist, with an explanation for why it doesn’t (war, natural barriers, dangers, etc.). Add some ideas on how enterprising traders could get business flowing. (This makes for good “The king has a mission for you” fodder.)

30. “You rolled a supervisor’s review”

If your game system offers PCs mundane, off-screen jobs, create a weekly or monthly roll for interesting happenings and outcomes. (If such rolls already exist, augment them with more varied outcomes.)

Example: In GURPS, most job descriptions detail one bad outcome for a critical failure. Spice up that repetitive “take 1d injury” with multiple possibilities: varied injuries, equipment loss, job loss, time loss, and so on, as appropriate for the job. Many of the outcomes could involve second rolls against other skills and abilities. Also toss in some good things  – extra income, promotions, skill points, etc.– for great successes!

Bonus idea: How about writing up a high-risk, high-return job roll for the shady occupation known as “Adventurer”? This is what PCs who shun real employment could roll against during game months between adventures, representing the abstracted outcomes of un-specified explorations, minor dungeon delvings, etc.  

31. Simplified systems

Take something complex in the rules, and explain how you simplified it.

Example: Depending on your game system, things like automatic weapon fire, resolution of wrestling actions, or determination of combat order may involve a lot of rules and checks. Describe your house rules for simplifying one of these.

32. “You meet in a tavern that’s actually interesting.”

Your default PC meeting place doesn’t have to be the generic tavern at the clichéd crossroads near the nondescript town close to the adventure-ish land that’s invariably a frontier border. Write up the classic tavern (or saloon or starport) – with a big difference that makes it memorable. 

Examples: The tavern is inside a docked ship, or is in a magic-free zone, or requires that all newcomers pass a challenge before entering, or holds boxing contests in a center ring, or is packed with undercover law, or caters only to Dwarves and smaller, etc.

33. “Yeah, this here is the Staff of Orcus. He never stood a chance.”

Describe an awesome team tactic that lets PCs take down powerful foes. This could be a skillful use of tactical combat rules, a particularly awesome combination of spells, or anything that’s surprised you in a game.

34. Ways to tame Enemy-type disadvantages

Traits like Enemies and Hunted make for fun bits of character color, but can be a pain for GMs. ([Rolls dice…] “Yes, it’s none other than your enemy, Prince Dastardous!… er, here in the Lizard King’s swamp… eight thousand miles from Castle Dastard…”)

Write up several ways that GMs can keep such traits relevant, even when they stay in the background of a session.

Example: If the game rules indicate that an enemy-type relationship comes into play, but the GM doesn’t want to interrupt the ongoing plot, alternate rules could suggest that the PC starts the session with a serious wound (a skirmish before the adventure?), or suffers a social penalty throughout the session (the evil rumor-mongering of a rival?), or takes a hit to the wallet before the session (expenses on the road, shaking off hunters?), or suffers an attack by bandits (who followed a “Wanted” sign issued by the enemy). The arch-rival could also take actions “back home” that the PC won’t even learn of until after the current adventure: the enemy seizes the PC’s home, turns an NPC friend into a spy, etc.

35. “Who you callin’ ‘Orc No. 3’?”

Take a race or society, real or fictional. List a few dozen names for PCs and NPCs. These could be fantasy or alien names from your own imagination, or nicely researched names from the real world. (No more “The Spanish prince’s name is… uh… Carlos?”)

(Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but while plenty of good game supplements already offer such lists of names, I for one always want more.)

Bonus points: Write a bit about how the culture’s naming system works, i.e., the meanings of common names or parts of names, the ways that names reflect family lineages, etc.

36. Mundane treasures

Take some normal weapons, household goods, or other mundane items, and describe “masterwork” or other unique versions useful for trade, treasure, or just showing off. Don’t forget suggested value! 

37. Travel and survival kits

Pick a dangerous environment: arctic, desert, jungle, dungeon, asteroid, etc. Write up the travel and survival kit that PCs should take when adventuring there.

38. Conditional spell effects

Write up variations of spell effects, based on surrounding conditions.

Example: Detail how summoned elementals might differ according to the condition of surrounding air (stormy, fair, etc.), water (fresh, salt, polluted, etc.), earth (sand, clay, rock, mud, etc.), or fire (wood bonfire, propane torch, etc.). A sea-level air elemental might be stronger but slower than a high-altitude counterpart. A fire elemental summoned from lava might exhibit hints of earth powers. One summoned from a funeral pyre might reveal a connection to the deceased, or something even stranger…

39. Symbiotic relationships

Write up some interesting relationships among races/animals/monsters in a game world (or a region of it). 

Example: Blue Vultures seek out potential prey (like tasty PCs!) from high up, then lead manticore prides to the targets in the hope of dining on scraps later. 

Smart players will learn to take advantage of these relationships (for example, magically controlling Blue Vultures to fly over an enemy camp, luring the hungry manticores to the foes).

And yet more to come.

There will be a IV.

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