Posted in Misc.

Arkfall Quickstart Resources to Celebrate New Game Day

Today is 2/2 and is the very first New Game Day. In honour if this celebration, I’ve released some quick-start and quick-play resources for my new rules-light science-fantasy game – Arkfall. If you’re looking for a new game, Arkfall is one you can get for free and play immediately.

Want to know more about Arkfall? Check out my original Arkfall post, or just download Arkfall for free.

To help players get started super-fast, I’ve made the Quick & Dirty Heritage Generator which randomises and speeds up one of the slower (but fun!) parts of character generation.

And for the GMs, Finding Work on Arkfall is a handy one-page reference lets you generate jobs on the fly for the players. It even includes a table for what happens if they don’t take the job.

Here are some Google Drive mirrors if any of the above links don’t work (and these following links will always be up to date, thanks to Google’s re vision system:

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Posted in Adventures

Pumpkin Seeds: Halloween Adventures

All Hallow’s Eve descends upon your game,
Time to mix things up, not keep them the same.
Find below three adventures scary,
Players all, ye best be wary.
GMs cackle in the night,
Prepare to give PCs a fright.

Scarecrow Jack

Jeepers Creepers. Where'd ya get those teeth?
Jeepers Creepers! Where’d ya get those teeth?

In an isolated rural town during Harvest’s End celebrations, the PCs find the body of a well-off farmer, throat slashed with a sickle or scythe, teeth and eyes removed. Soon, the crops begin to spoil and bleed, and vines and scarecrows come to life and attack villagers.

Pumpkin carving and pumpkin-head scarecrows are common now, but many have forgotten their gruesome origins. Yet some villagers whisper these attacks are the work of Scarecrow Jack, a poor pumpkin farmer who made a pact with the spirits for good harvest but then kept it all to himself. Legend has it the spirits strung Jack up with pumpkin vines, and plucked his eyes and teeth so he could not see or taste his harvest.

Scarecrow Jack is back to ruin Harvest’s End! But why now? And where is Jack?

During the chaos of a large attack, the PCs confront a hooded figure: an eyeless, toothless undead villager, able to control the vines and scarecrows.  Anyone slain and with teeth and eyes removed, becomes an undead pawn of Scarecrow Jack, soon rising – again and again – to exact Jack’s revenge, targeting those better of than Jack was in life, especially farmers.

However, the PCs notice that one of the poorest farmers in town is missing. Sensing a kinship with the downtrodden man, Jack’s spirit took over his body. The PCs must find this man and put him to rest. But he – and all villagers slain and remade in Jack’s image – will rise again until the carved pumpkins that now host their eyes and teeth are destroyed.

Darkest Dungeon

This seed is directly inspired by the trailer for the upcoming video game Darkest Dungeon.

Deep beneath the surface, the PCs traverse a dark and eerie dungeon that they soon realise is a little different than most. Natural and magical light sources barely work, flickering and casting disturbing shadows across the dank stone walls. Even night vision fails under this surely supernatural darkness. Lights sputter out and must be relit or recast, but in the intervening darkness, the dread and the horror comes.

Whispers and scurrying sounds, a brush against the leg or shoulder. The feeling of someone standing right behind you, but then the lights come on and your allies are all within sight. Psychological  horror tortures the PCs as they travel deeper into this dungeon, still encountering no monsters, but hearing sounds just around the corner.

What will they find at the deepest pit of this dark hell? Why is this dungeon so much scarier than the others they’ve seen? Is the dungeon alive? What does it want from them?

Can the PCs succeed, when the dungeon itself is the enemy? Can they fight their own fear?

Masquerade

Attending a noble ball, the lights flicker and a body is found on the dance floor. The victim is still breathing, enough for these last words: “Don’t trust anyone… the shapeshifter…”

Guards lock down the noble mansion, keeping all the masked guests inside until the murderer is discovered. But, as more and more people die, how can the PCs trust each other, knowing that one of their number could be the shapeshifting murderer?

Point fingers, have NPCs go a little crazy, and split the party as much as possible (and consider physically splitting the players when the PCs split up). Slip notes to each PC in full-view of the rest, just to keep them guessing. Say things on the notes, like:

  • You swear you saw the paladin was drinking… doesn’t she have a vow of sobriety?
  • Where was the rogue when the lights went out?
  • Weren’t the druid’s eyes green before?

Keep this one handy, too:

  • You have been replaced by a shapeshifter. Your PC is fine, but trapped somewhere else. Act naturally. Slide this back when alone with someone, to replace them too.

If it weren’t for the murdered victim fighting back and a shapeshifter lashing out, nobody would have realised what was happening: party-goers are being trapped in mirrors and other reflective objects. When a PC sees a shapeshifter in a mirror, roll a secret perception check. If they succeed, they see something wrong with the reflection of the shapeshifter.

Perhaps the PCs will work out what’s going on, perhaps they’ll all become shapeshifters before then. If they do, then wait a little while to let the paranoia continue, then swap perspective to the trapped PCs and see if they can escape their mirror prison to thwart their doppelgangers and free the other party-goers. Whatever happens, fun is ensured.

Other Halloween Goodies

All over the Internet, there are Halloween posts rising like zombies from a grave.

Enjoy your goodies! Now I wish you: good night, good gaming, and Happy Halloween!

Posted in Tools & Techniques

Generating Plot Hooks Through Play

Generating plot hooks through play is easy and makes the hooks relevant to the PCs. Any time you spot an interesting loose end or stone left unturned, make a note of it. Next time you need an adventure hook, look at your list for inspiration. You’ll spend less time working on hooks and the PCs will enjoy them more because they’ll be personally relevant.

Repercussions from play

Consider the repercussions of the PCs’ actions. While the adventure may seem like a success, there are bound to be people it hurt or disadvantaged, or some other potential adventure it set in motion. Think of the ripples coming from their actions. Follow them out. Who benefited? Who was hurt? Think outside the box. It doesn’t have to be something you’ve planned in advance, just something that makes sense now. Here are some examples:

  • The cult the PCs wiped out isn’t quite gone, and now its more subtle and slippery survivors are out for revenge and they know the PCs’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • After the PCs cleared the old keep of monsters, bandits took up residence there. They’ve fortified the place and are harassing the nearby roads and towns.
  • The youngest member of a group of thieves the PCs killed has a distraught mother seeking justice for her son’s death after he fell in with a bad crowd.

Repercussions from backstories

PCs’ can even be affected by the repercussions of things that happened before the game even began. Pay attention to their backstories for cues.

  • One of the PCs states they’re descended from a long line of human nobles. Now elves who were driven out of their homelands by her great-grandfather are out for revenge.
  • The party’s fighter wields an ancient dwarven sword. The rightful owner wants it back.
  • On the straight and narrow his whole life, the bard whose brother worked for the mob gets a visit from a few “friends of the family” who make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Using hooks to generate hooks

The more you look for hooks during play the more instinctive it becomes. You’ll eventually be able to notice them without actively trying and maybe even bring them into play on-the-fly. Once the PCs take the hook and start following it, they’ll begin generating more and more hooks as they go, giving you fodder for future adventures. Especially in sandbox settings, this gives the PCs’ some scope without limiting their actions.

Posted in Settings

Setting: Spark of Youth

Here’s an outline of another campaign setting I’ve been working on. Feel free to use and alter it as you wish. If you do use it or have some ideas about it, I’d love to hear them.


Inspiration: Ender’s GameLord of the FliesDark Angel, Neon Genesis Evangelion

It is said that the spark is in all of us, yet by the end of puberty it is gone. It is not known why, but children have a strong connection to the power of the spark. It flows in them in ways still not fully understood by adults.

Very young children use the spark sporadically, for play and their own simple purposes, without thought. As children grow older, they begin to understand their powers better, using them consciously and with more control. Around age 10 for girls and 12 for boys, Transition begins.

Children undergo many physical and psychological changes during this stage and it is when their spark is at is peak, very powerful and unpredictable.

Transition is a stressful and strange time for children and many lose control of their magic as the power flares and fluctuates, burning brightly before it is snuffed out entirely. Girls usually complete the Transition by ages 15-17, while boys usually complete it by ages 16-18. After this, the spark is dead forever.

Because adults are unable to harness magic, children are highly valued for their abilities. Many children do not utilise the spark effectively and are more dangerous to themselves than others, or are merely an annoyance. However, children of particular talent and power are recruited into harsh military programs to perfect their control over the spark and harden them into tools of war. Children are taught from a young age that fighting for their faction is the highest honour and the greatest deed that one could hope for. Propaganda floods the schools, homes and streets, and armies recruit children as young as 8 to train to fight their horrendous battles.

Every year, new drugs are trialled in attempts to keep children young and keep their spark alive for as long as possible. Experiments are conducted upon children’s brains, leaving many permanently damaged or worse, in attempts to unlock the secrets of the spark. Some believe that it is the mental state of children that is the key to their power, and so they experiment on the mentally disabled as an alternative route to the answers they seek.

Schools are hotbeds of propaganda but some children catch on or have different ideas and sow the seeds of rebellion. Such children meet in secret after classes to discuss what the adults are really up to, what the war is all about, how they are developing in their talents, and what they will do to avoid being recruited. Groups of children roam adult cities and towns as rebels, vigilantes or criminals, using their powers however they see fit.

Rumour has it that there are hidden towns out in the wilderness populated entirely by children. Gangs of teenagers rule these child towns and the children live however they can free from the control of adults, but left to their own devices to learn about the radical changes they are going through.

Growing up is hard enough, but children must deal with the normal trials and tribulations of puberty – sexuality, friendship, bullying, and growing up – as well as the great unstable power that they wield, its consequences and the reality of life after the Transition: when their power fades and they find themselves as young adults in a world that considers them past their use-by-date.

Posted in Settings

Setting: Hang Ups

Hang Ups is a random idea I had for a campaign setting. I haven’t played any or read much of InSpectres, but I have the feeling that Hang Ups could serve as an alternate setting for that system. Primetime Adventures, Spirit of the Century, Savage Worlds, or Otherkind Dice would work really well too. I’m looking forward to playing this one with my group this year for a few sessions.

Here’s the elevator pitch:

Emergency services are inundated with calls that they terminate because they appear to be pranks or non-emergencies. Stuff about aliens and werewolves. That kind of thing.

That’s where Hang Ups comes in.

They’re an independent (and not technically legal) group that intercepts these abandoned calls and sifts through them for seeds of truth. Armed with their knowledge of the paranormal, they respond to potentially legitimate calls to help those that the authorities ignore.

Hang Ups is a rag-tag group of people with various reasons for chasing after crazy-sounding emergency calls. Some might be bored, some might be slackers in this for a quick buck (ha, good luck!), others might be UFO nuts, disgraced scientists, or former law enforcers or agents who got kicked to the curb for looking too deep. I imagine that you’d have a very diverse group of people at Hang Ups. Also, they probably just work out of a warehouse, apartment or basement.

Getting the Call

I see this game as a good one for getting players involved in building the story. I plan to begin sessions like this: first, I’ll ask who’s the Operator for this game. This position will rotate through all the players. The Operator roleplays listening in on the emergency calls. In-game, it’s a pretty boring job and the character will probably be sitting there for hours on end until they find a call that might be true. But out of game, it should be a lot of fun.

What happens is, each player roleplays some NPC placing a call to emergency services. As the GM, it’s your job to ask a few questions to dig for a little information, and then brush them off as a prank caller. It’s the privilege of the Operator to select which call to take. Get a few calls from the players, and then when the Operator has heard them all, or hears one she really likes, she should jump in and “pick up” the call.

After this, the player who placed the call gets to fill in some sketchy details from the NPC, who is likely frightened/drunk/dishevelled/etc. The Operator gets to ask questions. Other players can offer questions, but it’s up to the Operator whether she asks them now or not.

Here’s an example of Getting the Call:

GM: “Okay, so it’s Joe’s turn to be the Operator this week”
Joe: “Sweet! Okay, I’m on the couch, kicking back with the headphones on”
GM: “Alright. Montage time. The calls are rolling in. There’s the usual junk, but a few perk your interest…”

[GM looks around the table for anyone with an idea. Clara puts her fingers to the side of her head like she’s on a phone.]

GM: “Emergency services. What is your emergency?”
Clara: “Uh… hi. Um… there’s something outside my house making these weird noises”.
GM: “Could you describe the noises?”
Clara: “Yeah… like, um… growls. But they don’t sound right.”
GM: “What do they sound like?”
Clara: “I don’t know… it’s not a dog, I don’t think. Maybe a bear? But it sounds sick or something. I can hear it moving in the bushes! My neighbour, he’s been working late nights on something in his garage. I see smoke and light and stuff coming from there and sometimes I hear animal noises. Wait… there it is again! Please send someone, quick!”
GM: *click* [Hangs up]

Joe: “Ooh, is he making a monster? Hmm…”

GM: “Emergency services. What is your emergency?”
Gavin: “Yo, dude. Dude! They’re, like… everywhere, man! Seriously!”
GM: “Sir, could you please explain the nature of your emergency”
Gavin: “Everywhere, man. All these… like… cocoon things, you know? Some nights they’re there. Some night’s they’re not. They’re there now, though. They glow and stuff. Oh… no way! No way! Some of them are hatching or something! What the hell is that!? Dude, you gotta get someone over here! Hello?”
GM: *click* [Hangs up]

Joe: “Haha, these are great!”

GM: “Emergency services. What is your emergency?”
Beth: “They’re in the computer!”
GM: “Madam, could you please explain the nature of your emergency”
Beth: “Beings… of electricity. I see them, crackling. It’s stormy tonight. That’s when they come out. It’s like… glitches in the computer screen. But also, my lights go on and off. Uncle Mort says it reminds him of something, the way it flickers. He’s been having dreams, he says, in the storms. My phone rings and I hear crackling. I feel like they’re watching me. I just got home and saw my lights flicking on and off. I can’t find Mr. Fluffy… what’s that burning smell?”
GM: *click* [Hangs up]

Joe: “Awesome, guys. I think I’m gonna go with cocoons. I wanna know what’s hatching out of there!”

Gavin: “Yes!”
Clara: “Cool. I liked that one too!”
Beth: “Aww, we’ll have to wait till some other time to find out if Mr. Fluffy is okay. I’m in though. Sounds good!”

GM: [in a recorded-sounding voice] “Please hold, you are being transferred to Special Priority Emergency Services Unit”
Joe: “Special Priority Emergency Services Unit. Sir, could you tell us more about these cocoons?”
Gavin: “Yeah, no worries, man. You really gotta see this…”
[Here, we ‘fade to black’. It’s assumed that the caller keeps explaining what little he knows about the situation, but it’s the GM’s job to come up with these details on the fly to keep the players excited and guessing. That’s half the fun for everyone: players make the seed of the story and the GM improvises as the game progress.]

Answering the Call

After you get the call, you respond. Here is where the real fun begins. Who knows how legitimate the call is? Can it be explained with science? Is it really something supernatural? Will the real authorities end up on the scene too, having never heard of this ‘Special Priority Emergency Services Unit’? Is the threat a physical danger? Can the Hang Ups take it down with whatever weapons and tools they legally (or not) have managed to get their hands on?

Most importantly, how are they going to get paid, this time? Are they going to ask for a ‘call out fee’? Will they take something valuable as ‘evidence’? Will they admit that they’re a group of vigilantes who need to keep food on their table?

Once the mission is done, the Hang Ups head back to base, swap Operators and do it all again.

When I present this to my players, I’ll explain most of this as we go. If you know of a system that’d be good for Hang Ups, or if you give it a shot, feel free to chime in below. I’d love to hear any other comments too or potential calls. I think I hear the phone ringing…

Posted in Settings

Demonsea: Ships of the Demonsea

Avast maties! It be Talk Like a Pirate Day! To celebrate we be postin’ a piratical article about the colourful characters ye be likely to meet if ye be so bold as to venture into Haulshore: a treasure-hunter’s paradise in the Demonsea campaign settin’. We’ve even got a big campaign seed for ye, and hooks for each o’ the captains. Ye could also use this here article for some other world, but if ye arrren’t privy to the secrets o’ the Demonsea, cast ya eyes yonder to read of a world of demons, pirates and adventure on the high seas!

Haulshore is a sunny bustling seaside town in Darbrin. It has auction houses aplenty that pay good coin for all manner of exotic artefacts brought in from the sea and far away lands. Pirates, explorers and adventurers consult maps at taverns such as the Jolly Dagger and recruit crew members here for daring expeditions. Such crews often bid on items at the auction houses too, as many of these artefacts – be they engraved shields, horned skulls, battered journals or what have you – also serve as maps to even greater treasure for those who know what to look for. You won’t always find the same ships at Haulshore – they’re usually off on adventures – but it is a frequent port of pirates.

Right now, some very notable captains have docked in Haulshore and are looking for new crew members. Everyone seems interested in a secret auction in the back rooms of the Jolly Dagger – something too precious to be shown in the auction houses. It is an ornate shield known as Sarrek’s Voyage. Engravings and threads of gold depict the ancient hero Sarrek at various stages in his epic voyage: the Battle of One, the Battle of Many, Respite, the Ascendancy, the Stranded and so on.

Exact locations of the events depicted on Sarrek’s Voyage are unknown, but it is said the ancients built a temple at each point. Rumour has it that taking the shield to each temple will show the way to the next location and ultimately, the final resting place of Sarrek: a mythical holy city of treasure and wonder lost for thousands of years!

Broken Shackle

Captain Hodric ‘Red’ Bragg is a ragged portrait of a cutthroat pirate. His gut is heavy with grog, his thick black beard full of lice, his teeth yellowed or replaced with gold and his reddened skin leathery from sun. His crew is a bunch of murderous criminals with nowhere else to go and no moral compass to guide them.

Very few women ever join his crew and those that do have to be tough as nails to survive, and even then the Broken Shackle is not an inviting place for females – or for civilised males. Below deck, the three-masted black and brown galleon smells like grog, piss, blood and sweat. It has a large filthy brig for any foe who survives an onslaught from the ship. On deck there perches a black cannon that has obliterated more than a few enemy ships.

Bragg’s crew has some good divers who quickly loot their sinking foes. The crew also contains one incongruous man named Lorne. He is well-dressed, well-spoken and seems very out of place here. Whispers say that he may have once sailed with the Fierce Sharai, but there is bad blood between them now and Lorne is the recruiting officer for the Broken Shackle.

The Broken Shackle’s crew pillage and plunder. Their average missions include raiding unfortified towns, scuttling or capturing courier and merchant ships and generally causing havoc that reaps rewards of gold, grog or women. Lately, though, Bragg has been sending his crew on more and more raids against smugglers. What do they have that he wants so badly? The Red Captain has been getting redder recently, it seems – some say it’s not the sun at all, but that Bragg has been hiding an addiction to Ambrosia – the red liquid rumoured to be made of demon blood – and has fallen off the wagon. Perhaps now is the perfect time for mutiny?

Seventh Chance

Captain Jenny ‘Fishnet’ Shemmer is a strikingly beautiful woman. Her lustrous red hair, long legs and good looks are the talk of the town whenever she comes ashore. However, she is as dangerous as she is pretty. It is said that Fishnet got her nickname when she strangled to death the former lascivious male captain of the Seventh Chance with her stockings.

It is well known that Shemmer sails both ways and seems to only recruit attractive and alluring people. Because of this, her entire crew consists of beautiful men and women who are also deadly in combat – if they weren’t before joining the crew, they quickly learn to be under Shemmer’s harsh and domineering rule.

Shemmer likes control and hates being showed up. She holds a grudge like no other and will commit considerable resources towards vengeance. She loves her ship, the Seventh Chance, and since winning it from the previous captain she has made the two-masted galleon into a work of beauty. Polishing and painting the ship are common chores for the crew and the vessel is flawless, save for one massive scar down the side of the ship that reaches so high it mars the railing on the bow itself. Shemmer sometimes sits and strokes the splintered wound on the railing, thoughts of revenge dancing behind her eyes.

The Seventh Chance favours bounties of jewellery, artwork and other beautiful things. Whenever they can, these are the prizes they seek. Beautiful new crew members are also sought out and any ships or even towns that strike Fishnet’s fancy will often become the target of ruthless and relentless attacks until she has what she wants. Most of the rest of the crew’s time is spent tending to the ship and tracking down those who have wronged the crew and captain.

Freerunner

Captain Seth ‘Breezer’ Tallow is a lanky young man, spry and full of wit and good humour. He is incredibly laid back for a pirate captain and other crews sometimes call the Freerunner the ‘Party Ship’. His people are relaxed and spontaneous, making them unpredictable in combat and allowing them to excel in unexpected situations. However, their attitude means that they don’t plan ahead a whole lot and just ‘breeze’ through life taking advantage of opportunities that come their way.

Breezer’s crew could probably achieve great things if they put their minds to it, but few of them ever bother. Most are highly intelligent, but bored with lives of discipline. Breezer offers a life with hammocks on deck and tropical drinks and card games most of the day. Because of Breezer’s lax policies, his ship is a haphazard vessel patched together and barely staying afloat. It is one of the fastest ships on the waves due to it’s design, but after even a short skirmish there is a chance of sinking.

Being an opportunistic captain, Breezer has made a lot of enemies. He’s avoided many more thanks to the quick thinking and glib tongues of his crew during short cons. Breezer’s even pulled one over on Shemmer a few times – he doesn’t think she’s on to him, but he can’t be sure. Whether Shemmer is involved or not, one particular mark Breezer struck at long ago has teamed up with a more recent mark, tracked him down and is about to start some trouble. Meanwhile, the ship is in desperate need of repairs.

Fierce Sharai

Captain Dasharah ‘Ransom’ Kalkaran is a fit, bald Kalrashi man in his mid-thirties, lean, tall and looming. Dasharah is a serious but friendly and reasonable man who understands the importance of structure and discipline, but also knows that people need to cut loose every now and then – especially when hunting demons. The Fierce Sharai – meaning Fierce Queen in Kalarashi – is dedicated to protecting the world by hunting down demons, cultists and artefacts that could be used to strike back against the demons in the Burning War back in Kalarash – or securing those that could be used by demons.

Because the captain is Kalarashi and the ship’s cause is close to his people’s hearts, many other Kalarashi are drawn to this multicultural crew. Dabrish are the minority aboard the ship, but not by much. Generally, the crew is very accepting and there is little racial tension as everyone has much greater threats to contend with, in the form of demons. Criminals find their way onto the Broken Shackle, but many outcasts have a home on the Fierce Sharai, as the captain has a soft spot for these people, being an outcast himself.

Dasharah’s nickname, ‘Ransom’, comes from the fact that he is more likely to ransom prisoners back than kill them. Some say, however, that the true origins of his nickname are much more intriguing. The Fierece Sharai, golden in colour, was originally a royal Kalarashi treasure ship and rumour has it that Dasharah stole the large swift vessel – laden with a sharai’s ransom in valuables – and fled his homeland. It is unclear what drove Dasharah to this course of action.

Perhaps he was banished for committing some horrible crime or maybe he discovered a dark secret during his time as a royal guard and could no longer bear to serve his sharai. Whatever happened, everyone – especially rival captains – have their own opinions of the event and scandal surrounds his departure. Regarding nicknames, it is said that Shemmer finds Dasharah quite appealing and has given him a second nickname: ‘Handsome Ransom’.

The Fierce Sharai’s missions are much more dangerous and exotic than some of the other crews, due to their frequent encounters with the demonic. In Darbrish waters, they are more likely to come across cultists or demonic artefacts than true demons, but they have sighted a hellship or two in their time.

One member of the crew, a waif of a woman named Esmala is demon-touched and receives prophetic visions, though some say the demons can see through her eyes. Sarrek’s Voyage supposedly leads to a place that holds a mighty weapon that could be used for or against demons. Dasharah wants to get there first to use the weapon to fight against the demons, but he knows the other captains have their eyes on Sarrek’s Voyage too.

Bloodwave

Captain ‘Bloody’ Bertha Harding is a hardbitten fearsome woman who makes Shemmer look like a kitten. Bloody Bertha is burly, battleworn and stout. She is not short, but not towering. She is middle-aged at least, but her exact age is hard to determine and anyone who has dared ask is now dead. Bertha is widely known to be heartless and ruthless. Her crew are crazy, bloodthirsty monsters too, and she is the only one who can control them. Nobody messes with Bloody Bertha.

Her ship is a massive cannon-laden heavily-armoured vessel, painted red – rumours say that the paint is the blood of her enemies and “Bertha will paint the ship with you!” is a common warning to fellow crew mates or a threat to enemies. The Bloodwave is so well armed and armoured that ramming other ships is definitely an option and the scars on its hull are testament to the battles it has won.

Nobody knows how new recruits are chosen for the Bloodwave, but what is common knowledge is that the ship’s recruiter is also an infamous and effective torturer, possibly an outlaw inquisitor wanted for treason. Rumours told by men now dead at Bertha’s hand proposed that one of her rival captains was actually her child. Dasharah is out of the question, but could Bragg, Shemmer or Breezer really be related to Bloody Bertha? If so, nobody is letting the secret out and they all seem just as terrified of her as anyone else. Or is that just a show? Could one of them be working with her? Or is their relationship even more fuel for the fires of rivalry?

Bloody Bertha is a woman obsessed, it seems. Her ship, the Bloodwave is the toughest ruddy ship on the sea, but she isn’t satisfied. Word has it that Bloody Bertha is looking to capture herself a Hellship. Only she would be crazy and ballsy enough to try to board and take a hellship: these ships sailed straight out of Hell, lashed together from flesh and bone, leaving a trail of sulphur-smelling steam in their wakes.

Some believe the hellships are colossal demons themselves, and more than one half-drunk half-insane sailor has told tales of catching a fleeting glimpse of a hellship through a thick blanket of steam and swearing that a huge yellow eye peered back from the bow. How much of this is true is unclear, but it’s all damn scary and Bloody Bertha doesn’t seem phased in the least.

Casting Off

PCs starting off in Haulshore have plenty of opportunities for adventure. Which crew will they join? Do they admire the ship’s captain or share his or her goals and desires, are they just there for the riches, or are they joining as spies or so they can mutiny? Do they have any ties with the other ships’ crews? What trouble and advantages will this lead to? How interested are they in Sarrek’s Voyage? Do any of them have connections to demons? Maybe one has seen a hellship before or perhaps they are inquisitors or demon-touched.

You should make sure to let PCs make knowledge checks and talk to the ships’ recruiters, because whichever ship they end up on, it will make quite a difference – even if all the captains are after Sarrek’s Voyage. Pirate ships are great, because they are mobile adventure locations. Don’t think of them just as a means of transport from one adventure to another. Lots of exciting things can happen in the middle of the ocean, thanks to the variety of interesting NPCs stuck together in a relatively small area.

The descriptions above talk about the crews in general, but there are always crew members who break the mould – there might be some nice people, like Lorne, aboard the Broken Shackle, surely Shemmer can’t be a task master all the time (right?), maybe there are a few really dedicated long con grifters on the Freerunner, there are definitely some nasty people on the Fierce Sharai amongst all the other accepting crew, and who knows what really goes on behind the fortified hull of the Bloodwave?

Remember, too, that pirate crews are large and the PCs might not meet everyone straight away. That allows you to introduce new NPCs later, even in the middle of a voyage. Pirates die too – especially in Savage Worlds – and recruiters will need to gather more crew, meaning new NPCs – good and bad – will be joining the established crew from time to time. Connections with other ships also make for interesting hooks when you inevitably run into a rival pirate crew.

Whatever you do, make it fun and exciting! That’s the spirit of adventures on the Demonsea!

Posted in Tools & Techniques

Reusing NPCs

I was reading this post about reusing NPCs over at the Spirits of Eden and I realised I had a lot more to say than could fit in a comment. So thanks goes to Wyatt for inspiring this post on the topic.

Wyatt was writing about stock characters that he reused in different campaigns. I’ve done this several times and my players love it. I find that my players become even more intrigued when the NPC has been through some noticeable change since the last time the players saw them.

I’ve been using the “same” RPG world since I started running games, but there’s a reason “same” is in quotation marks. Some of the adventures in this world happened thousands of years ago, so the landscape has changed but legends of the PCs’ adventures live on and so do some NPCs.

Really Old Friends

Mondo was one of the first major NPCs I ever made. I was new to roleplaying games and I wanted him to be awesome. So, of course, he was a powerful wizard who felt the need to show off his talent by having automatic spells cleaning his room and making potions, using mage hand to pull books off shelves, and so on. He had a cloak that reflected the current state of the sky above him, even if he was inside. He even had a pet pseudodragon. See? Awesome.

Grindor, on the other hand, was a travelling merchant with a giant bag of holding that contained his entire market stall and all his stock. He had an orc bodyguard, but was very friendly to the PCs. He even loaned a powerful sword to a trustworthy adventurer who really needed a leg up in a coming battle.

Skip ahead several thousand years and Mondo and Grindor are still around. When my wife discovered this, in game, she was very intrigued to find out why her first PC had faded into myth and legend, but her merchant and wizard friends were still going about their business.

These days Mondo has eschewed his ostentatious magic and lives in a cottage outside a large city. Mondo’s “awesome” cloak is gone, but he still keeps a small amulet with some of that fabric stretched over it to remind himself – and PCs – of how things used to be. His pseudodragon is long dead but its ghost keeps the old wizard company.

Grindor also carries on and while the PCs haven’t found out why he’s still around, I’ve got it worked out. What they do know is that he’s friends with Mondo. These ancient recurring NPCs have got to stick together.

Grindor also has a bigger shop now and some new assistants. His orc bodyguard is dead, but he now has an intelligent stone golem and a small freckle-faced girl helping him out. My wife is very suspicious that this could be her long-dead character’s descendent. No comment from me. New fodder for new stories.

Familiar Faces

I realise that most GMs won’t be progressing their world thousands of years. So here are a few more examples that have only half played out so far, but that I have high hopes for in the future.

Theo was the central NPC in a solo campaign I ran for my wife. Theo was the overworked understaffed captain of the guard and my wife’s character was his confidential informant. At the end of the campaign, Theo retired with ideas of starting up a detective agency once he spent some time relaxing.

Sooner or later, I’m going to need a detective NPC. Who better than Theo? My wife will love seeing him again and it’ll be great to see how he’s changed. Is he still trying to get the job done with an empty wallet? Is the new life less stressful? More stresseful? Maybe he’s still on vacation, fishing from the piers but can’t keep himself away from the job and starts unofficially investigating crimes that the guards don’t want to touch.

Another example is Sidney, a character I pre-generated for one of my players who just ran with the concept, playing him really well. He was a paranoid little man, working for an oppressive government. His pockets were full of stolen government stationery and coasters in a pathetic attempt to stick it to “the Man”.

Sidney was used in a one-shot flashback game reminiscent of the movie he Hangover and was very concerned about all the crazy things he had done the night before. “Do you know how many regulations we’ve broken?” At the end of the game he fled the country and his government.

When we next meet him will he be just as paranoid? Will he be a super cool spy? Will he be out of the business? He could be in deep with the criminal underworld, bringing his paranoia back in full – and this time with good reason.

Other Methods & Final Thoughts

There are lots of other ways to reuse NPCs. One of my favourite and most successful NPC (and PC) reuses involved a Parallel Universe, but I’ll save that for another post. I’ve also got some related advice on using NPC surnames and traits to create believability, so I’ll post about that soon too.

As you can see, I’ve got more to say on this topic, but this post has become rather long. I’ll finish up by saying that reusing memorable NPCs is a great way to create believability and verisimilitude in your world. On top of that, your players will love seeing these characters again, especially in a different light.

Have you ever reused NPCs in your games? What about “retired” PCs? What other methods do you have for reusing NPCs? I’d be interested to hear anyone’s thoughts.