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

Why this again? Because I still have a couple installments’ worth in this odd series of idea fodder for RPG bloggers. As in, “stuff that would make for good RPG blog posts, but which I’ve already dabbled in or am not likely to get around to dabbling in, so maybe someone else will“.

As always, the ideas will be pretty old hat to many RPG bloggers. But who knows, maybe one or two will suggest an interesting article for your blog.

66. Resource list for a setting or campaign recipe

Is your game system packed with books and supplements? You can help out GMs by suggesting which resources to combine for a given setting, game style, or campaign.

GURPS offers a perfect example: with so many books published, a newcomer in particular can feel lost trying to figure out what books to bring together for a Shaolin-monks-in-steampunk-China game, or a globetrotting-big-game-hunters-in-the-pulp-era setting. Work up out some “recipes” for an interesting stew of books, and put ’em out for readers.

(Idea: Your write-ups might borrow the format that GURPS character templates use for skills, categorizing books by Primary, Secondary, and Background importance.)

67. Handy load-outs

A load-out is a detailed list of gear for some specific characters and/or purpose, complete with weight, cost, and any other stats that matter. For your favorite game system, work out some load-outs for common PC and NPC types. These can include load-outs for non-humans: what does a typical orc soldier carry in the field? Or even animals: what’s a quick grab-and-go load-out to equip the horse of a PC on the go, combining saddle, blanket, sidebags, maybe a feed bag and shoeing equipment, etc.? GMs and players alike will appreciate your combing through those equipment lists on their behalf.

68. Index to scattered resources

Pick a topic for which your game system has resources scattered among several books, and create an index. This could be an index to vehicle write-ups offered in numerous books, an index to detailed campaign settings found in different supplements, or whatever interests you.

Example: GURPS players will of course be very familiar with the weapon tables in Basic Set, and probably the extensive tables found in Martial Arts and tech supplements like Low-Tech and High-Tech. But there are also unique weapon offerings available in After the End 1: Wastelanders (concrete-tipped rebar for the win!) and no less than a half-dozen oddball weapon tables in Action 5: Dictionary of Danger, to name just two books.

Likewise, GURPS wizards looking for the broadest grimoires possible will have scrutinized Magic and similar magic-themed books, but how many would think to glean specialist spells from works as diverse as Infinite World: College Januari and Underground Adventures?

69. Non-treasure caches

Whip up several caches of “stuff” – not treasure, but supplies, equipment, discarded stuff, etc. – that might reasonably be found in a dungeon room, an abandoned campsite, wherever. A pile consisting of usable pots, broken flasks, a frayed whip, cheap jewelry, a good jacket, and dodgy travel rations may not be exciting, but a GM can drop such package into a bare location to quickly give it life. And players always find interesting uses for the most trivial things . . .

70. Chronic gnome-onia

Invent a few diseases that affect non-human races in your game. The maladies may or may not be terribly serious, but their effects will probably be interesting. Treatment might even mean seeking out specialist physicians. (Which could require a dose of rare goblin-icillin, meaning a journey back to healers in the home town of Düsseldwarf or New Ork . . .)

71. Fantasy metals

Create a few fantasy metals with interesting properties: a metal more beautiful than gold, a metal that repels magnets, a transparent metal, and so on. They’re good as generic treasure, or as materials for gear that PCs will want.

72. Fantasy minerals

Create a few fantasy minerals with interesting properties: a sand that burns with bright light, a mineral that generates oxygen in water, an odd rock that crashes like thunder when broken, etc. Again, these are fun for PCs to find, sell, and use.

73. “We’re all . . . uh, cousins?”

List several ideas a gaming group can use to answer the key initial question of any campaign: Why are the PCs together?

It’s not a pressing question if the PCs are all operatives of the CIA, or founding members of the Justice Avengers League, or fellow students at the magical minstrel college (Harbard University). They’re put together because that’s what organizations do.

But if the PCs are independent adventurers, soldiers of fortune, or general murder hobos, it’s nice to have some explanation for why they’re a group. Are they all survivors of a decimated military unit? Ol’ buds from Farmville? Random tavern patrons pronounced partners in fate by a mysterious oracle?

Surely you have some better ideas than those. Write ’em up to spur a gaming group’s imagination.

74. Casting Dispel Cliché

Make a big list of overused adventure or setting tropes in your favored gaming genre, and suggest replacements for them. (Or defend them. Or just make fun of them. : )

(Fantasy? Let’s see . . . the old man with arrow in back and a map clutched in his hand . . . the return of the once-defeated Dark Lord . . . the continent-spanning Ye Olde England atmosphere . . . ) 

Here’s an article that addresses what I have in mind. There’s plenty of room to write more on the topic, though!

75. Campaign seeds

Write up a few campaign seeds. These are like adventure seeds, but with information for kickstarting a whole campaign: the campaign theme and goal, who the PCs are, why they’re together, etc.

(All you need to do, really, is take that big list of original campaigns you want to run but fear you never will – a list we all have – and share outtakes from it with your readers.)

Example: GURPS books offer a lot of campaign seeds, from the Infinite Worlds mega-setting’s many worlds (each a potential campaign setting of its own) to the multiple campaign frames presented in GURPS Zombies: Day One. As such examples show, write-ups can be as brief or as in-depth as you like.

76. Dungeon DJ

Have you found the perfect music (sound-effects track, etc.) to set the mood for certain scenes at the table? Share your favorite playlist for dungeon battles, action chases, marketplace dealings, whatever. (Many GMs know that this is harder than it sounds. The seemingly perfect tune can detract from play if it’s too popular, or generates a big discussion of the movie that featured it, or otherwise distracts everyone.)

77. “Oh . . . I should tell you, there’s this one teensy little thing . . .”

For your preferred game, take some super-expensive piece of gear that PCs would kill for, but is way beyond the typical group’s collective pocketbook. Offer a version that’s actually affordable – for reasons.

A perfect target is vehicles that exhibit a bit of age and a lot of . . . character, let’s say. Detail a model that lets a GM play the shifty-eyed seller: “Sure, this baby’ll take you to the Frontier Systems . . . ’cause you guys will be smart enough to power down the deflectors in a gravity well, right? And you look like the kind of smart buyers who know to take it easy on RedstarXIII lateral thrust systems, and who don’t need some expensive starport certification to tell you that a lil’ ol’ infestation of spinoxxes was properly cleaned out . . .”

78. Galactic League Antaran full-contact curling

Create a simple in-game system to resolve a sport or other game, whether real or fantasy – a system more interesting than just “roll DX to win”, yet simple enough to resolve in minutes. This can give PCs something fun to do between dungeons or galactic quadrant patrols, beyond the usual PC activities of buying/selling gear and regrowing limbs and what not.

The system doesn’t have to concern itself with the actual rules of a real sport; likewise, a fictional sport can overall be as ill-defined as you like. Just try to capture some flavor. (Bonus points if your fictional sport’s overview is at least twice as sensible as quidditch.) Depending on your game system, you may be able to borrow from existing systems for complex tasks, or even mass combat rules. Or just make up anything that combines luck, abstract team quality, and the ability for PCs to make a difference through varied abilities.

Example: To abstractly game a sporting match in GURPS, it’s easy enough to make a roll vs the relevant DX-based Sports skill of a relevant PC, and let that result stand for the team outcome. But what about strength and fitness and alertness and other factors that could come into play? And how does the GM resolve the outcome if more than one PC takes part? Is there some way to make things more interesting by bringing multiple abilities into play, without getting more complex than a quick handful of rolls?

I’ve worked up a little system for rolling the outcome of a fictional sporting match; see it here.

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