Thursday, January 12, 2017

Play Anything: Other Side of the Screen in 2016

In 2016 I managed to play (not GM) more sessions in a single year than I have in at least a decade. I played more different games than I ever have in a year. I had 39 sessions spread over 21 games. Most offered solid experiences. At least one I have absolutely no memory of. I had the most sessions with Rolemaster (nine). It could/should have been more, but everyone’s schedules kept colliding. I present my list below, followed by some “awards” for the year.

In alphabetical order:
  • 1%er: The Outlaw Motorcycle Game
  • Belly of the Beast (Playtest Version)
  • Dungeon World
  • Godbound: A Game of Divine Heroes
  • Golden Sky Stories
  • High Strung
  • ICONS Assembled
  • InSpectres
  • Lovecraft Academy (Playtest Version)
  • Masks
  • Monster of the Week
  • Ninja Burger
  • Rolemaster
  • The Shab al-Hiri Roach at Hogwarts
  • The Sprawl
  • Swords Without Master
  • Touch of Evil (Playtest Version)
  • Tweaks
  • Urban Shadows
  • World Wide Wrestling: The Roleplaying Game
  • The Yellow King RPG (Playtest Version)
Game Where I Was Most Out of Sync with the Other Players at the Start
I had a character concept I thought fit with the setting. But I hadn’t listened well or really thought about the set-up. My guy ended up being incredibly difficult for the GM to hook in and I did no favors with my play. I had a lot of backstory in my head I didn’t get to the table, so I seemed more off than interesting. We fixed that for the second session, but I still feel crappy about that first one.

Game Which Made Me Immediately Order the Hard Cover
I don’t know what I thought this’d be when I agreed to play. Maybe fantasy OSR with a couple of additional feats? Instead our characters had the awesome right out of the gate. Not in a power-gamer way, but more play at a different scale. It gave me most of what I wanted Exalted to be. The book itself compounded that. It has great material and amazing campaign generation tools. I hadn’t checked out Kevin Crawford’s work before. Godbound’s the pinnacle, but it got me to look at Scarlet Heroes, Stars Without Number, and eventually Silent Legions. Godbound’s great and if nothing else, you should download the free copy.

Game Where I Used the X-Card
Rich offhandedly said they used teeth for currency. Nope. Welcome to my nightmares.

Game I Had Most Head Canon About
I dug this game about garage bands trying to make good. In particular I liked my character. We had a pushy player in session one, but I finally got some serious spotlight in session two. It took us a long time to grok the mechanics, and even by the end I don’t think we had it completely right. I’d like to go back and maybe tweak this to how I had it in my head. A travelling band game’s one of my “White Whale” RPGs.

Game That Left Me Hungriest for More
Touch of Evil
This collaborative horror rpg has a weird and wonderful scene-framing structure. You move through stages with different structural effects and limitations in each. The designer said it needed several sessions to work. I can see that. You move along a road with branching choices. We only managed the first several steps.

Game I Thought I’d Hate, but Then Dug
I’ve no desire to watch Sons of Anarchy. It has no appeal; the romanticizing bugs me. Even if things go bad for the characters, it offers more gloss than cautionary tale. But that’s my own hang up and tastes. I signed up for this because I wanted to play more Gauntlet City Limits (see below). Despite my reservations, I enjoyed both sessions. I loved the other players’ choices and moves. It had a great PC dynamic, but beyond that the system clicked. That surprised me.

Game Which Ended Up Being Very Different Than I Expected
When I read The Sprawl, I got in my head a vision of a highly abstract mission game. Any particular scene resolved with a single roll. An operation would be a series of narrated obstacles. A single check settled any combat. Don’t ask me why I thought that. When we actually sat down to play I had a moment of cognitive dissonance. The Sprawl is abstract, in the PbtA mode. But it isn’t like- I don’t know- Kingdom or something. I enjoyed the sessions but it weirded me out a little. How could I so misread based on expectations. I went back and found that yes, The Sprawl is more granular than my imagined version. I want to run it now so I can see exactly how it works under the hood.

Game Where I One-Hit the Big Bad
Let me tell you about my character. [insert long-winded description]. And then I rolled open-ended twice on the Large Creature Critical Table in the Magic Weapon Column. I got a 250+ and blew the giant sorcerous lobster apart!

Game with Best Action Sequence
I can’t really do it justice. But essentially our stealth food-delivery agents got called in to drop off an order in the middle of Die Hard. Awesome office-themed carnage.

Game That Wasn’t My Cup of Tea
Not sure exactly why. We had a couple of players I enjoyed and would play with again. But we also had one who kind of didn’t get it. And had the X-Card been on the table, I would have hit it a couple of times. The play felt fitful; stops and starts that didn’t hold together for me. I know many smart people dig this so I want to give it another try. Does my reaction come more from that session or the game itself?

Game with Most Engaged and Active Play
I played this at GoD Gen Con. Every moment I felt energized and excited to see what came next. Great group who did a superb job of playing off one another. I hope I gave a good impression of myself. I had such a good time I fear I jumped in too often. But that may be my usual social anxiety. Anyway, a fun game with a satisfying story arc.

Game Made of Joy
I’d been wanting to try this out, but I hadn’t looked closely at what you actually did in play. Our role as animal spirits in a rural Japanese town surprised me. As did the conflict resolution approach. But the session sucked me in. We had an enthusiastic GM who kept things moving. It offered a great last game before we headed out from Origins on that Sunday. I’m still thinking about how to do a Harvest Moon hack for this.

Bonus: Cool Idea
Gauntlet City Limits
Rich Rogers created a “shared universe” city for his Tuesday night online games for The Gauntlet. Players in any session make up a neighborhood, building it up piece by piece. He’s run a bunch of games in this setting: ICONS, InSpectres, Don’t Rest Your Head, Cat, and more. It’s a smart approach that makes use of the medium. You have an episodic structure where players can drop in and out. But there’s a reward for those who play several games. They pick up on the references and connections. They can also bring in elements of their created neighborhood. A good thing that he’s continuing in 2017.

Any awesome, ambiguous, or absurd games you played in 2016?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Gauntlet League Wrestling: Road to the PPV

The gaming I’m most excited about is Gauntlet League Wrestling. I’ve mentioned World Wide Wrestling on the blog before. I picked it as my favorite game of the year in 2016. And that’s from someone who never cared for wrestling growing up. But it’s a tremendously fun rpg. It took one session at Origins to hook me.

Because I dug it so much, I wanted to set up a full season campaign online. I decided to do that as part of the Gauntlet Hangouts. I’m doing eight sessions, culminating in a PPV event. I wasn’t sure if the Sunday morning slot would work, but we’ve got all the sessions filled. We have a dozen different players over eight six-person games. That means we’ll get an awesome mix of wrestlers and stories. I only hope I can do it justice.

I need to thank Joe Zantek for giving me some advice when I first started thinking about this.

We’re using all the WWW gimmick playbooks available right now. That’s twenty-five options. To make it easier, I assembled a one-page listing with their blurb descriptions. I marked those from * to *** for their challenge at the table. (You can check that out here). I also put together a quick cheat-sheet, based on things I picked up after a couple of plays. It’s incomplete. For example, I didn’t have space to get into the Announcer rules. I’d appreciate any feedback from WWW vets.

Besides the new wrestlers, we’ll be using a couple of options from WWW: International Incident. They’re pretty simple. The first is The Hunt Protocol.
“Ignore the Advance option “gain +1 to a stat.” Instead, if a player wishes to raise one of their wrestler’s stats, they need to use “take a Move from another Gimmick” to find an appropriate Move. Each Stat has multiple Moves that raise it by +1 distributed amongst the Gimmicks; this way there’s some specific flavor built into the decision that can impact the wrestler’s concept.”
That’s a cool idea and I like how it has you look over other playbooks. As the Creative, I’ll also be using the new options for match types and audiences (Deathmatch, Indie, etc). They’re nice arrows to have in my quiver of Creative moves. I’m not using the Mythic Moments option, but only because I’m already complicating things.

But the big idea I’m using from International Incident is that promotion have Tags & Troubles. These show the promotion’s character and give inspiration for moves during play. The book has some great suggestions. Storyline events can change these elements during play. I dig that the “Over” wrestler gets a chance to change up those tags at the start of a session.

Gauntlet League Wrestling has gone through several transitions and has multiple smaller local branches (GLW: St. Pete, GLW: Houston).  The promotion’s just coming off a big shake-up, with injuries and incidents shifting the roster. To know more about the current state of things, you can check out The Hooded Luchadore’s recent fan video talking about the last PPV. He names names and doles out rumors.

TAGS: Cable Deal, Large War Chest
TROUBLES: Chaotic Writers’ Room, Shadowy Masters
BELTS: Tag Team, Demolition Master (The DM Championship), and the big one: The Gauntlet which is given to the MC: Master of Conquest.

I’m super stoked about this. Despite being a wrestling newb, I’ve loved every WWW game I’ve been part of. I’m looking forward to running for vets and new players. I plan to record sessions and maybe do highlight video summaries. Or I could just post the Hooded Luchadore’s updates. 


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Silent Legions: Doctor Explosiones vs. The Mad Painter

I ran two sessions of Silent Legions as my last game of 2016. That’s Kevin Crawford’s OSR Loftcraftian toolbox game. It has a simple system, mostly the same one powering many of his other releases (like the amazing Godbound). But Silent Legions isn’t just a CoC-style investigation game. Instead it’s a toolbox for creating your own Mythos -- elder gods, aliens, cults, relics, tomes-- and using them in a sandbox horror game. It also isn’t a Cthulhu game, instead it provides amazing random generators to build an experience that feels like one. That means even CoC vets remain uncertain about what they’re facing. Crawford's smart use of walk-throughs for many the many tables keeps the book together.
And at the back of Silent Legions there’s a one-page set of Luchadore variant rules. They’re one of several bonus pieces that came from Kickstarter backer requests. These rules make the characters closer to Godbound’s heroes. Heroes can dish out and take serious punishment in combat. They’re still limited on skills, saves, and sanity but they can go toe-to-toe with the baddies.

To run my two sessions for The Gauntlet’s TGIT Hangouts, I worked through all of the book's tools. That splits into two parts. First, generating the Mythos itself. That includes the pantheon, an alien race, an otherworldly place (called Kelipots), a cult, and an alien artifact. The second part, adventure creation, builds on that. Silent Legions is intended to be a sandbox game. You generate a region, a set of locations, and then troubles in those places. Then you can drill down to generate ideas for a specific scenario for the evening.

Below you’ll see what I generated. Most of it’s the raw material I created.  Crawford’s book covers fleshing those details out. But since I’d only be doing two sessions, I just generated the basics for outline and inspiration. At the end I sketch out the my scenario built on this. There’s a ton of unused material. I really only worked with two the nine locations generated. I could easily run a longer weird investigation game from this. You can check all that out below. If you want to see the Actual Play videos, I’ve posted them (Session One, Session Two). If you just want to hear the group’s thoughts about play, we take couple of minutes on that at the end of S2 (2:11:30 time-mark).

Theme: Malevolence and Violence
Five Deities, all connected to the same pantheon. Aspected: The gods each have multiple aspects with different apparent personalities.
  • Ungycrig Kegil: Empty Sky Diviner
  • Sharp-sided W’thoth: Sultan of the Greys
  • Cxidaoath: Bloody Thirsting Serpent
  • Burning Rnyc’mu: Smoking Disease Seer
  • Yaim-Zu: Ravening Feaster of the Wastelands
  • Arrived within the past thousand years or so.
  • Not known because some humans work to assiduously clean up evidence.
  • A selection of alien technology kept by human heirs remains.
  • They were colonists seeking to expand their species’ influence.
  • Humans are wondrous and utterly fascinating to them.
  • Some animals are secretly under their control.
  • Their human minions ran wild and slipped their control.
  • They lost influence when those human minions ran wild and slipped their control.
Dark Ways of this Race
  • They prefer to work through human agents and catspaws.
  • They have an advantage through knowledge. They know what others have forgotten.
  • They’re in this region because this location provides ideal spawning material for them.
  • They fear rivals. Some other aliens threaten their destruction
  • They control minions through bribery. The pay is far more than minions can earn.
  • They admire devotion and blind worship by those beneath them.
  • They hate faith and piety, hating human religions and having none themselves.
Physical Form
  • Congery of geometric shapes: roiling mass of infinite tubes. Parasitic eggs, poison, viciousness, slenderness. Weeping sores.
  • Digitigrade arms. Small mouths on hands. Mantis-like head. Flayed skin. Obese torso. Fanged Jaws. Metallic Tentacles.
  • Liquefies its food. Shrill and piping voice. Moves as if to strange dance. Feeds on the Sick and Weak.
  • They inject an enslaving ichor in prey, forcing a Mental Effect save or the victim becomes their helpless thrall.
Thuagn, The Monstrous Underhaunts
  • An Earthen Swamp which is a Home for Dark Things. What flora there is resembles animals. What fauna there remains is insectile.
  • There is a population here inspired by a twisted version of Pre-Columbian New World (Aztecs, Incas, Mayans). They’re frozen at this technological and cultural level, the very nature of the Kelipah keeping them locked in place.
  • The people only exist in settlements scattered around the region.
  • Despite that rigidity and dwindling populace, they possess a striking technology, indistinguishable from magic. They hide any real magic they possess from strangers.
  • Thuagn is ruled over by an autarch. His reputation keeps any and all in line.
  • As a culture they possess hatred for any who show weakness. The rulers desire more strength and throw themselves into strange rituals and sacrifices to gain the attention of their dark gods. Outsiders bring a panic to the people- they fear their presence may disturb prayers and supplications or even bring the wrath of their gods upon them.
  • Ritual Tribute to the leaders dominates their production.
Pact of the Illuminated Messenger
  • This cult was founded within the past few decades, being a recent formation. An artist driven by visions of something vast created it. It met resistance from the common folk and rural peoples who dreaded their exactions and sacrifices.
  • The earliest recruits numbered the desperate, wretched, and outcast of the society. They had violated the laws and customs of their communities and families and had been cast out as a result.
  • The original artist who founded the cult was a washed up hotel landscape painter. He wanted to be the next Thomas Kinkaide. Instead he found mystic truths he used to blast the reason of cultists. So far they’ve managed to hide in plain sight as a seemingly harmless group of artists and craftpersons.
  • The cult itself is coldly rational, using the cult’s powers as a mundane tool. They meet in a repurposed school used as an arts center for the region. While the founder once held control, it has become an acephelous group, acting according to alien compulsions. They have cells which share agendas and purposes.
  • The cult wants to create an enormous atrocity or disaster. They have vast amounts of mundane wealth. That’s come from a relentless network of market manipulations for their eerie paintings and crafts. Ebay provides their backbone.
  • The most knowledgeable cultists serve an avatar of their patron, almost uncontrollable in its terrible power and summoned only in dire need. It is summoned through paintings. They have at their disposal a reporter who pretends they’re really just investigating.
Mask of the Unchanging Shadow
  • What do the legends say? Nothing. It is completely absent from occult literature. Despite that, it was was part of the defeat of a great eldritch abomination.
  • It was created roughly a thousand years ago by an outer deity for nameless ends. It is said even its creator has no idea why they made it. But it was hurled from its maker in a magical accident.
  • Like all such objects it bears a curse. But this one is more minor and annoying than destructive. It causes users to be especially weak against the undead. But that triggers seemingly at random. It is said that magical spells of dispelling will end the curse’s effects.
  • The item itself is a mask. It is said to be able to soak up a massive amount of harm. But that protection is limited, being only effective against blunt weapons and fists. Still it projects all of the wearer’s body from such harm. The potent magics can only be used once a day, for about an hour. When struck, the body lands with no visible effect. In order to use recharge the item after a use, the bearer must spend their own HP.
Region: South New Mexico
Senseless Violence
The locals can’t seem to get enough of killing each other. The homicide rate is enormous for a site of its size, and the local police seem largely incapable or uninterested in checking the violence. The bloodshed might be largely restricted to a certain class of people or certain criminal groups, with the local cops indifferent to who kills who among them. At other sites, it might be endemic through the population, or even the product of a corrupt police department.
  • Enemies: Police chief-slash-gang boss, Illicit arms supplier, Homicidal criminal warlord, indiscriminate vigilante
  • Friends: Police internal review investigator, Outside government inspector, Local peace campaigner, Local being hunted by killers
  • Schemes: Seize a cache of military weaponry, Get their enemies disarmed by the law, Kill a troublesome politician or cop, Make a near-military assault on an enemy-held neighborhood
  • Secrets: Firearms are stringently regulated for the law-abiding, The gangs are proxy armies for feuding politicians, The cops are just one more gang with restricted turf, The gangs are seeking to seize full control of local government
  • Places: Heavily-trafficked gun shop, Emergency room full of bodies, Constantly-active funeral parlor, Scene of a random drive-by shooting
Buried Power
A blind and terrible power is buried or otherwise sealed away at the site, and a cult desires to remedy this confinement. The power may be an unnatural wound in the fabric of the world, a gate to a strange Kelipah, or an alien intellect that chafes at its imprisonment. The power has drawn a group determined to liberate it, even if they don’t fully understand their own strange urges, and their efforts may range from physical digging to the enactment of rituals.
  • Enemies: Obsessed archaeologist, Cultist construction company owner, Maddened local occultist, Alien minion of the trapped power
  • Friends: Owner of the land over the power, Rare book collector, Curious geologist, Heir to the family keeping the power sealed
  • Schemes: Physically excavate the entity’s prison, Perform the rite that will break the ancient seals, Arrange the bloody deaths that will awaken the power, Foolishly seek to bind the power to their own purposes
  • Secrets: The power creates a subtle but unnatural effect on the surroundings, The power is sealed by several important objects, The power grants gifts to those who seek to free it, The locals retain legend of the last time the power was free
  • Places: Ancient buried chamber, Park with strangely charged atmosphere, Hidden ritual room, Tightly-secured digging site
Crushing Despair
The locals have given up. Whatever the cause, they no longer have any hope for the future, and seek to numb themselves with transient pleasures and destructive distractions. Corruption, crime, loss, and oppression are seen as inevitable facts of life, and they will resist any attempt to persuade them otherwise as merely a cruel attempt at deception.
  • Enemies: Purveyor of chemical distractions, Predatory loan shark, Political machine boss, Heartless industrialist employer
  • Friends: Crusading preacher, Embattled community leader, Successful expatriate returned home, Local determined to break free
  • Schemes: Quash a troublemaking local leader, Spread a profitable addiction among the locals, Shut down a project that risks empowering locals, Discredit a source of hope as a mere trick
  • Secrets: The local elites rely on a crushed populace, The locals were once rich and important but lost it all, Faith and community were ruined by a sequence of betrayals, Constant plans for renewal always disappoint
  • Places: Abandoned church, Decaying crack house, Riotous illegal drinking hole, Street with half the houses empty
High End, Gated Community. This is what I focused on.
Massive Ritual
The site is being primed as the location of a truly enormous ritual. Building geometry, street layouts, concentrations of people and industry, and other features of the location are being brought into harmony as part of a tremendous work of occult power. Some rituals may require the entire physical geography be molded, while others might only need the right masses of people enlisted. The resulting effect may be subtle, but its successful execution is bound to result in some sort of terrible summoning, lasting curse on the land, or warped apotheosis for the high priest who enacts the rite.
  • Enemies: Crazed Masonic architect, Occult-wise tycoon, Mayor-cum-high priest, Diabolical performer
  • Friends: Resident displaced for rite, Relative of new cult enthusiast, Engineer concerned over senseless digging, Conspiracy theorist who's right
  • Schemes: Arrange carefully-coordinated local disasters, Seize a local building that's a linchpin of the rite, Destroy a local structure that interferes with the spell, Create a large-scale "celebration" that triggers the magic
  • Secrets: The ritual has already failed with impending dire consequences, The ritual’s preparations cause echoes of eldritch anomalies, The ritual is embedded in part of a public celebration. The ritual masquerades as a performance or public art piece
  • Places: Baffling tangle of streets, Strangely-gutted building, Defiled church, Huge concealed ritual chamber
Has a Dollar General
Migrant Tensions
The site has recently received an influx of migrants. Some might be looking for better jobs, while others might favor the local climate, low taxes, cheap land, or some other point of allure. For small communities this influx can change the character and culture of the town overnight, provoking fear and anger from locals who see themselves suddenly becoming political, cultural, or racial minorities in their own homes. These tensions can easily provoke antipathy or outright violence.
  • Enemies: Bigoted local reactionary, Colonization-minded migrant leader, Ruthless native social elite, Migrant political machine boss
  • Friends: Resident with ties to both groups, Cooperative group leader, Peacekeeping police chief, Local religious leader
  • Schemes: Migrants seek to take over local government, Natives try to effectively outlaw the migrants' culture, Migrants try to drive out natives from "their" neighborhoods, Natives seek to terrorize the newcomers
  • Secrets: One group considers itself plainly superior to the hick / infidel / one-percenter / atheist / prole others, The migrants have no other real choice of places to go, The natives are being swamped by newcomers, The migrants want to make the place the same as the one they left
  • Places: Newly-built migrant social club, Native-only bar, Old house full of new people, Shop catering to a different language or culture
Orogrande (SR 54)
Kratos Defense & Security, Middle of Nowhere RV Park, Trader Jerrys
Vast Graft
Theft and corruption are a way of life among the site’s leadership. Every ambitious local knows that the fast track to wealth and power is to get a position with the local authorities. These men and women methodically plunder the taxes and government grants they receive, keeping the lion’s share for themselves and passing out smaller tastes to those businesses and people who cooperate with their wishes. Even heinous crimes can be hushed up for a bribe.
  • Enemies: Glitteringly corrupt mayor, Cynical neighborhood alderman, Political machine bagman, Graft-enriched construction company owner
  • Friends: Distressed government accountant, Frustrated tax collector, Suspicious outside investigator, Cheated local business owner
  • Schemes: Loot a charity for personal profit, Cover up the dangerous corners cut in an important local infrastructure building, Buy off or kill a persistent troublemaker, Protect a murderous lackey who makes them money
  • Secrets: The locals feel no outrage over the graft and consider it only normal, The machine steals from one disfavored group in order to finance amenities for another, Local criminals are untouchable as long as they pay "taxes", Most civic construction is somehow dangerous due to malfeasance in building it
  • Places: Crumbling stadium, Impure water purification plant, Building stripped of its interior fittings, Luxuriant government building
Sierra Blanca Peak
Located on edge of the Mescalero Reservation
Darkened Door
There is a portal to a Kelipah somewhere at the site, most likely to a particularly unpleasant one. Something may be creeping through the gate, or it may be under the care of a devoted cult, or the portal may be sealed for now but weakening under the effects of time or a cult’s machinations. The Kelipah beyond may not even be miscible with human existence, and whatever comes out is certain to be unwelcome among the locals.
  • Enemies: Escapee from a hellish world, Seal-breaking cult zealot, Local possessed by a will from beyond the gate, Blindly reckless sorcerer
  • Friends: Heir to a seal-guarding family, Local aware of illegal digging, Victim of a Kelipah escapee, Scientist picking up odd readings
  • Schemes: Reach a precious artifact in the Kelipah, Escape from the Kelipah into a delicious world, Widen the door to absorb a building or whole town, Infect local reality with some aspect of the Kelipah beyond the door
  • Secrets: The door is not to a Kelipah but is to a different time or planet, Opening the door will cause great local destruction, The door is accessible only when the stars are right, The door is one-way
  • Places: Mossy overgrown arch in the forest, Abandoned subway tunnel that sometimes isn’t, Alleyway that twists in alien ways, Nexus of cabalistic streets and monuments
Lost town off of the Sacramento canyon
Black Altar
A place of dread holiness is present at the site, a locus for the power of an outer god or other ineffable power. This altar may predate human settlement of the area or it may have been constructed more recently by devout servitors. It forms a place of pilgrimage for the faithful and tends to warp local residents in ways pleasing to its patron deity.
  • Enemies: Demented cult leader, Dream-driven native, Awakened alien high priest, Otherworldly avatar of the deity
  • Friends: Afflicted local resident, Concerned native clergy, Relative of a new cultist, Archaeologist who’s discovered too much
  • Schemes: Destroy a structure that’s sealing away the holy site, Perform a mass ritual around the altar, Recover a removed piece of the altar, Summon an avatar of the patron deity
  • Secrets: The altar has innocently been incorporated into an important building, The faith has infected a local church, The altar is calling cultists from distant places, The altar is changing the natives in subtle ways
  • Places: Ill-litten unnatural cavern, Desolate glade, Hidden conjunction of tunnels, Secret chamber in a major building
Wofford Lookout
Overlooking White Sands Proving Grounds
Disaster Site
The location was the site of a major disaster. A recent calamity can still be felt, while older disasters were so profound as to permanently scar the site. The locals have tried to accommodate to the new conditions, but many find it difficult, and much that was important here was destroyed or damaged in the event. Fires, floods, earthquakes, plagues, hurricanes, or droughts might all have marked the site.
  • Enemies: Religious zealot blaming the sinful, Local official using the disaster as a power-grab excuse, Slum lord housing evacuees, Greedy "collector" of damaged goods and land
  • Friends: Determined aid worker, Local trying to make a new life, Disaster relief official, Wearied medical worker
  • Schemes: Plunder wealth left unguarded by the disaster, Mobilize the unhomed for a dark cause, Blame an unpopular group for the catastrophe, Use the trouble as cover to eliminate existing authorities
  • Secrets: The disaster was man-made, Local elites are stealing the aid, The aid or reconstruction officials are incompetent, There's reason to think the disaster will happen again
  • Places: FEMA camp, Neighborhood scarred by the disaster, Ragged reconstruction site, Ruined monument from before. 
The Iron Society
They serve Cxidaoath, the Bloody Thirsting Serpent. They’re more openly malefic and destructive. They sacrifice and rather than transform or indoctrinate. They’ve adapt bastardized Aztec rituals and use that as a kind of cover for their work. They’re at the root of violence in Almagordo.
Pact of the Illuminated Messenger
Cult in the service of Burning Rnyc’mu, Smoking Disease Seer. The cult described above. Primary antagonist for the first adventure. They’ve made the arrangements in Cloudcroft, building the community that way for their ritual.
The alien race mentioned above. They serve Yaim-Zu, Ravening Feaster of the Wastelands. They’ve been infiltrated into this area for generations. The Roswell incident arose from their conflict with their rival alien race. Tied to the incident at the Wofford Lookout.

Default scenes of the Hook, the Introduction, the Investigation, and the Resolution.
Beginning from resolution: A hidden Place contains the key to a Scheme. The Place’s existence and the nature of the key is revealed by the investigations, and the PCs must reach it and obtain the crucial object by overcoming the Enemy’s vigilance and concealment.
Three Investigation
  • The Actor has been killed or kidnapped, and an agent of the Enemy is serving as an impostor to ensure that any inquisitive troublemakers are aimed in the wrong direction. Overcoming a challenge will clue the PCs that something is wrong.
  • The clue is tied up with a local Secret, such that finding it means discovering the Secret and drawing attention from those that don’t want the Secret revealed.
  • A Friend is actively trying to get the clue to the PCs or other related allies, but their attempt is being hindered by the actions of the Enemy or some intrinsic challenge to the exchange.
A Friend from the site sends word asking for help due to intimations of a Secret or a recent Crime involving them.
The PCs have screwed up very badly and angered the wrong Enemy. A small group of professional assassins is stalking the PCs and will strike at the most inconvenient time possible, but are more interested in dropping them all than doing control shots.
The Enemy is massing their physical forces to stop the PCs, visibly gathering thugs, cultists, followers, or other agents.

Investigator Challenge
Infiltration: The site is set back with little cover for an approach to it.
Finding an Object: It’s buried beneath a drift of unimportant objects.
Scholar Challenge
Information: Information written in a rare ancient language.
Hidden Fact/Needed Skill: Repair the object that hides a vital clue.
Socialite Challenge
People Want: They want a thing, and someone else stole it from them.
People Fear: They fear their professional negligence will be shown.
Tough Challenges
Hostile: A victim of occult powers transformed into a monster.
Environmental: Toxic dust or residue taints tools or objects within.

OK, so here’s what we’ve got based on those notes:
The Pact of the Illuminated Messenger have been working to craft their plan, a mixture of illumination and madness. Eventually they hope to enact a ritual to spill that madness across the region. To that end they have spent years in a couple of operations. One of those has been the creation of their paintings. They’ve created a regional phenomenon, based on the art of Gabriel Zoido. He’s a Thomas Kinkaide-like figure, the secret master of this particular faction.

Zoido has become a kind of avatar for the infectious madness of his master, Burning Rnyc’mu. He’s become transformed- which has become a problem in some respects. It means that Zoido has become a kind of recluse, still churning out his “masterworks.” These are accessible, lovely, and compelling Southwestern landscapes. They’re super-appealing and have a collectible aspect to them. His Am-Way like network operates to sell and distribute these.

But these paintings conceal something more sinister. Many of them are painted over dangerous works of art: done with special pigments and a vision of the abyss. Then others go through and paint these appealing landscapes upon them. They conceal much but work in some of the original colors and elements. Many of these paintings are actually portraits of what Zoido has become.

In order to do this work however, Zoido’s crew needs artists. They’ve begun to burn through them at an alarming rate. So they’ve turned to kidnapping in some cases and art recruitment in other places. They’ve offered scholarships for low-income art students, they sponsor contests at local schools, and generally cast their net wide.

It was not this net that caught Alana Rubio. Instead one of the cultists spotted Rubio’s talents. She’s a grade-school teacher, but on the weekends goes to local art fairs and shows to do sketches and caricatures. At one of these, a cultist forced on her a Zoido painting, even though she regarded it as trash. She took it home on a lark, hoping to use the frame. The cultists then used the picture to track and kidnap her.

Alana’s father, Arturo Rubio, discovered Alana’s absence. He’s contacted the police and raised a ruckus. In a stupid move, one of the cultists tried to run Arturo off the road—convincing him that something more sinister was afoot. And so through a friend of a friend, he heard about the Luchadores and their skills. He suspect’s he’s being followed or watched—so he surreptitiously goes to the PCs dressing room during their match to leave a note. He then goes to his daughter’s small house.

There he’s ambushed and killed. He’s replaced by one of the Painted Ones, a doppelganger with limited skills and abilities. The cultists are engaged in other activities and will come later to pick up the body. The Painted One’s merely a distraction. He can summon other painted horrors should he need to.

  • Alana Rubio’s vanishing
  • Arturo Rubio’s efforts
  • The Strange Paintings—one of them standing out as weird. Perhaps the body of Arturo Rubio painted in it?
Next Steps…
  • The Cultist Who Gave Her the Painting: Isaac Huff. Works as a salesperson for the Zoido Galleries.
  • Attack on Arturo Rubio: Police notes. Not taking him too seriously. Semi-corrupt cops. Tracing damaged vehicle back. Able to link it to the Ziodo Arts Center in Alamagordo.
  • Vanishings of Other Artists: Strange pattern in the area.
  • The Zoido Group: Philanthropy
  • The Zoido Workshop: Just outside of Cloudcroft. Chemical evidence.
  • The Cloudcroft Community: Suburban area. The Zoido Estate. Center of the location for the group.
  • Location a tome of unspeakable knowledge: The Sketchbook of Cristóbal de la Cavallería
  • Dominica Barnett, Faithless Reporter and Agent for the Cult
  • The Painted One and Children’s Painting Nightmares
  • Attack by Rudo and associates, hired anonymously. Street Toughs.
  • Nameless Painting Horror.
  • The Cultists. Zoido as Sorceror. The Avatar of their God.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Many Names of Gamemasters (2016 Update)

Over the last few years I've collected the wide range of "interesting" names rpgs give to the person running the show. To celebrate the end of this awful year and close out with slightly edited filler, I present an updated list of these titles. 

GM’s my preferred term (because that’s what I do).  On the other hand, to me a DM or Dungeon Master, is someone actually running Dungeons & Dragons. That's a matter of taste and experience I suppose (or I'm just plain wrong). For each I've listed just one example system, even when that name appears in several games (Storyteller, Narrator, Director). Additions in red. Many were suggested by my excellent colleagues on the original list at RPG Geek.

Feel free to suggest any I may have missed!!!

With GM as #1 and DM as #2, here are 138 others...

Absolute Judge (Mechanical Dream)
Action Guide (World Action and Adventure)
Administrator (Top Secret/SI) 
Adventure Master (Dragonraid)
Airedale (Knights of the Road, Knights of the Rail)
Animator (Toon)
Antagonist (ΑΓΩΝ)
Ape Master (Terra Primate)
Arbiter (Archetype) 
Author (Age of Empire)
Bartender (Tales from the Floating Vagabond)
Big Mac Daddy (StuperPowers!)
Booker (Kayfabe)
The Boss (Low Life)
Campaign Master (Star Ace)
Cannibal-in-Charge (Cannibal Contagion)
Caretaker (Small Things)
Castle Keeper (Castles & Crusades)
Cat Herder (Call of Catthulhu)
Cavemaster (Cavemaster)
Chill Master (Chill)
Chronicler (WitchCraft)
City Planner (Nightlife)
Consul (Super Dungeon Explore)
Continuum Master (TIMEMASTER)
Control (Agents of S.W.I.N.G.)
Corporation (Merc)
Corpse Master (Rotworld)
Creative (World Wide Wrestling)
Croupier (Fastlane)
Cryptkeeper (The World of Tales from the Crypt)
Dawg Master (Dawg the RPG)
Dealer (Dust Devils)
Demiurgo (Lex Arcana)
Director (Night’s Black Agents)
Dispatcher (Ninja Burger)
DJ (Spirit of '77)
Dolphin Master (Everything is Dolphins)
Dorn Keeper (Dorn)
Editor (Pandemonium)
Editor-in-Chief (Rotted Capes)
Engineer (Steamfortress Victory)
Everyone Else (Everyone is John
Evil Mastermind (Scared Stiff)
Excursion Master (Excursions into the Bizarre)
Fairy Godmother (I’m a Pretty Princess)
Fairytale Teller (Wiedzmin- trans. from the Polish)
Fate (The World of Synnibarr)
Fixer (Leverage)
Galaxy Master (Starfaring)
Game Control (Spycraft)
Game Moderator (Wild Talents)
Game Operations Designate aka GOD (The Legend of Yore)
Game Operator (Legacy)
Game Organizer (Dystopia Rising)
Game Shepherd (Spiritual Warfare
Game Sheriff (Dzikie Pola- trans. from the Polish)
Gamekeeper (Tales from the Wood)
Gamesmaster (Victoriana)
GeekMod (Way of the Geeky)
General Management (Time & Temp)
Ghostmaster (Ghostbusters)
Grand Master (Witch Hunter: The Invisible World)
Grey Eminence (Agone)*
Guide (Don’t Look Back)
Hand of Fate (The Secret of Zir’An)
Hazard Master (Perilous)
Hollyhock God (Nobilis)
HōLmeister (HōL)
Host (Ironclaw)
Interrogator (InTERRORgation)
Journey Master (Dangerous Journeys)
Judge (Marvel Super Heroes)
Jump Master (Jumpers)
Karma Fate Destiny Master (Refuge in Audacity)
Keeper aka Keeper of Arcane Lore (Call of Cthulhu)
Kennel Master (Woof Meow)
Labyrinth Lord (Labyrinth Lord)
Lead Narrator (Valiant Universe)
Leader (Shadows of Esteren)
Lejend Master (Lejendary Adventure)
Loremaster (The One Ring)
Maelstrom (Maelstrom Dreamers)
Magister/Magistra (Kata Kumbas)
Maim Master (F.A.T.A.L.)
The Man (Starchildren)
Market (Red Markets)
Marshall (Deadlands)
Master Creator (The Secret Fire)
Master of Ceremonies (Apocalypse World)
Mastercyb (CYB: Gioco di ruolo in un lontano futuro)
Mayor (Kobolds Ate My Baby)
Meister (Das Schwarze Auge)
Mission Director (Recon)
Moderator (Blue Planet)
Mutant Lord (Mutant Future)
Mythguide (Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth)
Mythmaster (Mythender)
Narrator (Houses of the Blooded)
Navigator (Mermaid Adventures)
Operations (Wilderness of Mirrors)
Operator (Qi: Living Energy)
Overlord (Descent)
Overseer (Catacombs)
Parser (Parsely) 
Playwright (The Play's the Thing)
Producer (Primetime Adventures)
Programmer (Engine Heart)
Project Director (Morrow Project)
Prophet (The Seventh Seal)
Puppet Master (Puppetland)
Quest Master (QuestCore)
Rattenmeister (Ratten!)
Referee (Traveller)
Runner (Rune)
Scenemaster (Non-Essential Personnel)
Seneschal (The Riddle of Steel)
Sensei (Chi-Chian RPG)
Sherpa Guide (Sherpa)
Sholari (Skyrealms of Jorune)
SIEGE Engineer (StarSIEGE)
Skeptic (Dude, Run!)
StarMaster (Space Opera)
Story Master (Dungeons the Dragoning 7th Edition)
Storyguide (CthulhuTech)
StoryHost (Enter the Shadowside
Storyteller (Vampire: the Requiem)
Superintendent (Panty Exposion)
Superuser (Freemarket)
Troublemaker (Flatpack)
Umpire (Lace & Steel)
War Master (Weird Wars)
Watcher (Marvel Heroic Roleplaying)
Watchtower (Smallville)
WorldMaster (Adventure Maximum)
Wulin Sage (Weapons of the Gods)**
Zargon aka Morcar (UK) (HeroQuest)
Zombie Master (All Flesh Must Be Eaten)
*Eminence Grise in the original French
**If I were to run Weapons of the Gods, I would require that the players address me as the Wulin Sage at all times.

Others I missed?
Have a great New Year-- please, please, please be safe in this coming year.