Sunday 24 February 2013

Eight Ways to Run a Game Online

Technology has done many interesting things to the tabletop RPG market. There are many applications, programs, platforms, and tricks to enhance your games with technology. Unfortunately, I think the internet and technology have taken more away from the game than they have given if not used properly. At its core, a tabletop RPG functions best on the tabletop, in person, with your best friends role-playing their hearts out. Yes, I know many people enjoy online games (and I do too), but the fastest, most efficient, most entertaining, and overall best games I have ever partaken in were always live and in person.

I plan to use this article to illustrate some of the many interesting things you can do to game online, but my favorite way to game has always been in person with friends.

1. Play-by-Post: Probably the most prolific platform out there are the play-by-post games. At first glance they appear to be an excellent means of gaming with like-minded people from around the world. Unfortunately, most gamers quickly find that play-by-post games take both a lot of time and a lot of work. Play-by-post games simply don’t have the turn-around time that an in-person game has. A single battle can take a week. I’ve run games that took several years to get to the second level of experience and make it through a couple of adventures. Many sites also have stringent rules on who can join, game set up, dice rolling, and other nit-picky things which can lose you even more time. I always try to run my play-by-post games fast and loose to compensate for their already slow nature. I find eliminating (or doing yourself) of the dice rolling can also speed up the game marginally. It has been my experience that most play-by-post games die off and/or lose players on a regular basis. The advantages are interesting as well: you can potentially get many players all of whom are incredibly creative and different than your normal group, all action in the game is essentially ‘logged’ in text for later reference and reading which is really nice, and it’s a nice bit of writing to look forward to at the end of the day. While Wizards of the Coast has a nice board, I also really like DND Online Games which has a fantastic community.

2. Play-by-Email: This isn’t my favorite way to game online, but some people enjoy it. In principal it sounds like a neat way to run a game (you check your e-mail anyway). However, I find it’s even harder to communicate and reference existing material by e-mail. On a forum board it’s all there in one thread whereas in e-mail it’s a bit harder to find. Also, it doesn’t get the exposure to potential new players and readers that a forum game would get. Other than that, play-by-e-mail games are very similar to play by post games.

3. Instant Message: The obvious remedy to a slower play-by-post game is an instant message game. However, the instant chat comes with several drawbacks which may not be at first obvious: 1. it’s hard to coordinate people over time zones, 2. Text still takes longer than speech, 3. Records of past events are sometimes not recordable, 4. if anyone else is in the chat there could be interruptions.

4. Dedicated Servers: There are several servers dedicated to just role-playing games. Some of them come with hosts of very cool features like: virtual tabletop, miniatures, dice rollers built in the system, private messaging, and logs of past instant chat events. It is possible to run a whole adventure in an evening with one of these sites provided everyone is well-prepared and the adventure is relatively short such as 4 scenes. It’s still slow compared to an in-person game but lightning speed compared to some play-by-post games. Oddly, play-by-post games still feel more ‘real’ to me. One of the best I’ve seen is FableTop. However, the lack of consistent players to join in a game combined with the non-customizable dice rolling give it a few things to be desired.

5. Social Media: It’s technically possible to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, web pages, or other means to run an RPG. I know a fellow who runs a mass-scale RPG on Twitter and I used to run a game on Yahoo Groups. Overall, I didn’t find the experience to be on par with play-by-post or a virtual tabletop, but it’s something to consider. The advantage is everyone is on those sites anyway, the disadvantage is the massive potential for distraction with other things.

6. Google Hangouts/Video Chat: This is probably the closest I’ve ever come to the thrill of an actual in-person game. The combination of seeing the facial expressions and gestures of the other games, speech, text and visual aids, and real-time play make for an experience almost like that of actually being there. It still feels funny to be gaming with a computer screen and not real people. There are still technical hiccups as someone tries to hook up a document for everyone to see. It’s still a pretty cool means to game.

7. Video Games: These don’t usually seem like the ideal environment to get a game running. While the server and instant chat are cool, the game itself tends to be a distraction to the players in the game.

8. Website: At first, it seems like an ideal place to run your game. Why not just use your personal website to run a game? You have text, administration control, ability to put in pictures and media, etc. This is how I started out with online gaming and it didn’t seem to work well at all. In retrospect it was kind of obvious: exposure. Unless you’re running Amazon or Wizards of the Coast it’ll probably be really hard for people to find your website to play the game. Even if they ‘do’ find the website, they’ll probably hesitant to join in because of feeling more secure on a dedicated server like DnD Online Games. This method seems to work best with personal friends and people you invite to join into your games. Generally though, people go online to find new gamers not to game with people they could play with in real life.

Tips and Tricks

1. Show Up: Try to post, PM, text, or run sessions consistently and on time. Nothing kills a game faster than missing scheduled times of play. Even a very slow turn-around like 1 post a week is better than sporadic posting over a few days and then nothing for three weeks. I’ve run games where I simply posted by myself as the GM on a regular basis and within a short time had a very large number of players. Simply showing up consistently is often something a lot of players are looking for because of the high mortality rate of play-by-post games people can join in on.

This principal applies equally to instant message games. Sometimes people just pop onto the server to see if anyone’s around. If you give up after 5 minutes you’ll automatically miss the next potential three players who visit the site over the course of 3 hours. However, I’m not saying to waste time, just that giving up too soon can potentially affect your game.

2. Get an Easy Dice Roller: There are probably fifty billion dice rolling applications both online and off. Choose one which is easy to use and does what you want. One of the most frustrating things about an online game is messing around with dice rolls. Spending a week to roll one attack roll and then rolling a 2 can be incredibly frustrating for players. I tend to either let players roll the dice themselves, or roll all dice myself to save on time. This may not suit all players.

3. Be Clear about Everything: Because you’re not face to face with your players it is far, far easier to be confused by things and unclear to each other. Try to be even more thorough than usual when explaining things and outlining what you will and won’t accept in your games. In a normal game a player can just ask for an explanation. In a play-by-post game a single explanation post can lose everyone involved a few days of playing time. This rule applies equally well to describing the setting and other things along those lines.

4. Be Swift: This applies on so many levels I probably can’t explain them all. The primary drawback of nearly any online game is the turn-around. You must accept that the game will run far, far slower than you’d like. I know it’s frustrating, but if you can accept it you can enjoy the unique virtues of online gaming.

5. Become a Good Writer: Most online games rely upon your writing skills to implement properly. Improving your writing, typing, grammar, and other such skills will make your games more enjoyable for your players and for yourself. I personally enjoy writing itself, RPGs, storytelling, and gaming. That should technically make me a prime candidate for online games, but I still enjoy the ones in real life better.

I've also been told that a few advanced resources are out there such as TabletopForge for Google Hangouts, and a few other professional grade virtual tabletop programs. Currently those programs are beyond the scope of this article. If you're interested, feel free to go ahead and try them out.


Sunday 17 February 2013

40 Random Encounters

Whenever you’re lacking inspiration or need a last minute encounter in the middle of an adventure, cry. Otherwise, it’s always handy to have some random encounters lying around. I always create my own and usually in a 20-part master list entitled “Random Awesomeness Generator” or similar. In combination with just about any adventure, they can make for a memorable and often bizarre experience. Ah, the tales I could tell. However, this article was entitled 40 Random Encounters not 40 Vague Reminisces which have no Bearing on Anything.

That said, reminisces are what this game is all about, right? I recall long ago I had a 1st edition wizard who had 1 hit point, a dagger (actually, a staff which did 1d4), and a single magic missile spell per day. When my GM asked what character I wanted to play, I volunteered my wizard without much hope of survival or a fun gaming experience. Boy was I ever wrong. Not only was the wizard totally awesome, but he encouraged some great ingenuity. I had to push enemy guards off the castle walls to infiltrate the castle, out dis a rival 30th level wizard, and steal a broom made of solid gold. Not only did Thodar (the wizard) survive, but he thrived. The GM wasn’t terribly impressed, but it’s one of my favourite ‘Ha ha, I did this’ stories.

The below random encounters have been formatted so they can be dropped readily into a dangerous part of the adventure, and they shouldn’t become overly suspicious if rolled multiple times. As always, use your best discretion. It’s also worth noting that in the kind of games I run, credibility is very low on the hit list of things I want to accomplish.

1. A trio of wizards. They try to take out the party so they can steal their magical gear for bartering with rivals out for their necks.

2. Bounty hunting orcs. They’re talking about how weak and stupid humans are as the PCs approach them unawares.

3. An odd, impenetrable wall of fire circles the party.

4. A load of dead bodies lie on the ground here. Who knows why?

5. A small bag of gold lies here, apparently, unguarded.

6. There is a thousand foot tree nearby with a small astral diamond hidden in the canopy.

7. The wall here shoots 6d6 lightning bolts. The corridor is also probably trapped with fireballs and other deadly things.

8. A classic magical fountain lies here. Anyone who drinks of it gains super strength or something else random like that. If anyone gets smart and tries to make it portable, it loses its power and probably wipes your mind when you drink it, too.

9. Grunts and shuffles echo from beyond. Here there be a giant hamster.

10. A merchant stands in the dungeon here. He’s selling a wide range of goods most adventurers would be interested in even though his main clientele for the past 10 years have been undead ghouls and skeletons.

11. An alien spaceship comes by and abducts the party. After that they perform genetic experiments on them and drop them in Antarctica with weird, super-hero powers.

12. A portal appears and teleports the party to the age of dinosaurs or some other random part of the universe.

13. A locked, magical, and impenetrable door leads to nothing but a blank wall. It is inscribed with mystic runes which, when deciphered, read: “Ha ha, you’ll never find it.”

14. A lost farmer is looking for his pig here. This makes sense seeing as this is the castle of the Demon Vampire Colony.

15. The players discover a deck of many things and a deck of Munchkin. If they try to play Munchkin they get instantly disintegrated and the deck explodes in their faces.

16. A female vampire falls in love with one of the party members and is convinced his name is Edward. If the rest of the party doesn’t save their friend, he may be kidnapped by Bella.

17. The party discovers a laser rifle. Unfortunately it only has 5 shots left.

18. Pit trap! It has spikes at the bottom too. Also, the top closes up, is coated in contact poison, scorpions dump from the walls, and the room floods from the bars in the floor. Did I mention the electrical trap on the bars?

19. A vast treasure hoard behind a simple secret door. It is completely un-trapped, unguarded, and it’s not fake or an illusion. The party are now all billionaires.

20. A very stupid peasant is stuck in a bit of mud. He screams for aid. If any of the party saves him his name is John Nodwick Piggles and he’ll follow his new ‘master’ forever.

21. Snow drifts from the ceiling of the room and angelic Christmas music plays in the background. Then nothing happens.

22. A goblin challenges the party to a fight. He has 5,000 ants who all use ‘aid another’ on him and have the magical power to add +1 damage per round to one ally’s attacks. The goblin laughs maniacally and then returns to his home dimension as an immensely powerful genie. He ridicules the party for picking on those weaker than them, but gives them three wishes anyway. The three wishes all have twisted meanings.

23. The party runs into a group of elves bickering with a group of dwarves. It’s up to them whether to start a massive war or buy everyone drinks.

24. The party finds a bar and a brawl starts. It turns out all of the patrons are actually disguised arch wizards and the bar brawl quickly turns into a massive nuclear weapons fest.

25. A bird steals one of the party member’s magic rings and doesn’t want to give it back. If the party kills him it turns out he has a little baby bird which the party must now take care of or suffer the million experience point penalty for ‘cruelty to animals’.

26. A very powerful giant invites the party out to a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.

27. A powerful, neutral wizard curses everyone in a town with different and bizarre curses which cannot be lifted by the normal means. He’s quite insane, and it just so happens the party is visiting his town today…

28. The party runs into the “killer rabbit” from Monty Python. No reason why, really.

29. A magical book will boost one character’s strength by three points. However, the book requires that everyone within 100 feet of the reader must be defeated in hand to hand combat and the victor of the scrum be named the ‘winner.’

30. Frost demons attempt to freeze the party into ice cubes and then sell them as wall ornaments to the princes of the fire kingdom who want a refund when they melt and come back to life.

31. The one person with knowledge to save the world is killed by the villain in front of the party. To restore him to life they must do something more difficult than a simple raise dead spell. They must travel to the underworld and confront a three-headed dog or something like that.

32. An evil wizard attempts to turn all the party into mice and then puts them in a huge maze which they must race each other through to win their freedom. A cat is also tossed in for good measure. The wizard turns everyone back to normal before anything serious happens and then laughs.

33. An NPC(s) offer the PCs a game of chance in which the odds are actually rigged in the party’s favor. When they win, the NPCs act angry, but are secretly overjoyed to get rid of the ‘hot’ money or items.

34. A psychotic (and dogged) law enforcer is after the party for the wrong reasons. He thinks they did something they didn’t or has completely mixed up their identities with known criminals. They must find out why he’s so tough and the secret serum convincing him of their guilt before he convinces the proper authorities and has them jailed.

35. A stampede of extraterrestrials and powerful monsters run past, clearly in a great hurry to get somewhere…or away.

36. A mad hermit predicts the doom of the universe unless paid one copper coin. Oddly enough, the only thing which can stop the giant meteor is going back in time and giving him the coin before he winks and disappears.

37. Powerful creatures have come to the dimension of earth to hunt. They take trophies and look like Aliens even though they act like Predators. Superman comes to stop them.

38. A woman mistakes one of the PCs for a powerful prince and tries to flirt with him to become heir to his kingdom. Bonus points if the PC actually is a powerful prince.

39. The party is shanghaied into being “Ghostbusters” because the local government has no one else to turn to (or blame).

40. A powerful (and good) vampire hires the party to keep his vacation uninterrupted by people trying to stake him through the heart. Unfortunately, all the vampire’s hateful rivals want him dead and see this as an opportunity to get him killed seeing as he’s going to a tropical island far away from all his minions and a dark castle to hide in away from the sunlight.

The usefulness of the above random encounters is debatable, at best. However, I’d also like to wish you a Happy 2013!

...More Random Encounters 

Sunday 10 February 2013

The Differences between Fictional and RPG Heroes



There are many differences between the heroes in novels and those you play in an RPG. While you might envision your heroes as you would the main characters in a book you’re reading, there are some key differences which quickly set them apart.

1. Training under a Master: Usually, your character shows up to the game fully trained and ready to kick the posterior of evil. Only rarely is your character trained by a wise old master who then subsequently dies. In most fictional stories, the opposite is true.

2. What you do when the Enemy is Defeated: When a fictional hero defeats the villains he usually heaves a sigh of relief, and praises his luck in defeating his foes and surviving. When a PC does the same he usually first insults the enemy’s lack of ability or a chance to succeed, and then loots the bodies.

3. A New Quest…: When a fictional hero is set upon some great quest his first instinct is to either bemoan his fate or say, “Yes, my liege, it would be my honor.” When a PC is in a similar situation he will usually first say, “What’s in it for me, king chum?”

4. Treatment of NPCs: Being an NPC himself, a fictional hero will often treat ‘others’ as he would normally treat people. PCs tend to have a more jaundiced opinion of anyone who’s not themselves. This can result in decreased evaluation of allies, relegation of important NPCs to ‘henchman’ status, disregard of the king and laws of the land, wanton looting of everything in sight, and responding to any ‘insult’ by any NPC as tantamount to a declaration of war on the party.

5. Upon finding themselves in Jail: While a classic fictional hero will usually bemoan their fate and think they’ll never escape, a PC will often moan and ridicule the GM and then become bored until an easy means of escape is hit upon.

6. Magic Items: When a fictional hero finds a magic item it is with a sense of awe and wonder. The item is often treated with the utmost respect and fear. They will be lucky to have half a dozen magic items in their possession and each one will be unique and powerful. Often, though not always, a PC will have 36+ magic items and care for each of them about as much as he cares for an annoying hamster his sister owns.

7. Fear: Fictional hero: just about all the time. RPG hero: never, or for entirely the wrong reasons, e.g. “Agh, the chips ran out!”

8. Upon entering a Room…: A fictional hero will admire the d├ęcor, and look for someone to talk to. An RPG hero will ‘loot the premises’ and then look for secret doors no matter how strange it would appear to do so under the circumstances.

9. Walking about the Countryside
: A fictional hero will often ride a horse, or stick to the woodlands to avoid detection by those who want to find him. An RPG hero will walk down the center of the road, yelling at anyone nearby, and with sword and shield drawn in ‘ready pose’ at all times.

10. When meeting a Villain…: A fictional hero will often try to outsmart or kill the villain. If he’s hiding behind a pillar, he might trade an insult or two with his foe before doing silent battle. When the PCs come upon a villain they will probably first ridicule him to some great length and then charge at him.

11. Division of Loot
: A fictional band of heroes will often give the treasures to the people who can best use them. A group of PCs will often ‘split’ the treasure to the letter to avoid blood feuds.

12. Upon seeing a Monster: Fictional Hero: Run away. RPG Hero: Attack.

13. Romance: Fictional story: pivotal. RPG adventure: irrelevant.

14. Non-combat: Fictional: comprises 95% of the story. RPG: comprises 2% of the story.

15. When the guard on the wall says “Who goes there?”: The fictional party is probably wearing hoods and makes up an excuse as to why they’re here to trade and they’re from Alaska. The RPG party proudly proclaims their names and deeds to some great and then demands the gate be raised or they’ll storm the castle.

16. When they know they’re going to Die
: Fictional heroes will often bemoan their sorry fate. RPG heroes will often become angry at the GM for rigging the adventure against them.

17. Upon miraculously Surviving
: A fictional hero will often be awed at their luck and forever grateful to whatever pulled them through. An RPG hero will probably yawn and get on with the business of the adventure. If they happen to owe this bit of luck to some NPC they’ll become annoyed with him because they don’t like being indebted to people.

18. When there’s a group Problem
: Two fictional characters who have a problem will probably talk about it for 15 chapters and then gaze evilly at each other for the next 15 chapters. At the end of the book they’ll hug and make up. Two RPG characters who have a problem with each other will often draw swords and see “Who’s da man.”

19. Base of Operations
: Fictional character: their house. RPG character: flying, invisible, super-fortress capable of space flight and leveling whole cites. It’s also trapped to kill anyone who enters and the players kept the map to themselves so when the GM says someone went in their fortress they can take over the role of GM and say, “He fell into a pit trap there.”

20. Music, Good food, Drink
: Appreciated by a fictional character for their various virtues of taste, comfort, and art. Appreciated by a PC for their various magical bonuses and allowing them to enter a drunken bar fight.

21. Background
: Fictional characters will often have a background too elaborate to describe in under 150 pages. This will include their father, mother, family, uncle, pet parrot, pet monkey, who their mortal enemy is, and what happened to them on the farm when they were 15. A PC, unless forced otherwise by the GM, won’t often have a background. If they do have a background it will probably go something like this, “My entire family was killed by orcs and dragons so no villain can use them against me and I have a good excuse for killing dragons and orcs. My uncle, before he died, left me a load of treasure and magic items. My character can’t remember his name.”

22. Appearance: Fictional character: blue eyes and lightning scar. RPG character: Bad-ass with spikes on his boots to kick people with.

23. Personality
: Fictional character: complicated, wimpy, and often resulting in large interior monologues and internal conflicts of interest. RPG character: Lawful Good guy who steals all treasure and magic around, covets xp, destroys anyone in his way, and arbitrarily does pretty much whatever he wants.

24. When Powerful…: A fictional character will often help those in need, pledge his sword to a higher power, aid in large battles, and confront any villains he can get his hands on. An RPG character will often use great power for personal profit and gain, to show off, and to toss fireballs at random trees.

25. When Weak…: A fictional character will stick close to powerful NPC allies to help him on his quest and train him in sword fighting. An RPG character will complain until the GM hands him some sweet magic items.

26. Magic: For a fictional character, magic is mysterious and powerful, only to be used with extreme caution. For an RPG character magic is something like a candy-dispensing machine, click the right button and the right result comes out until you run out of quarters and have to sleep on it.

27. Undefeatable Evil: A fictional character will become witless trying to figure out how on earth they’re going to beat their great foe who’s so much more powerful than them. How can they be expected to do it alone? An RPG character will snicker and load his shotgun.

28. Description and World Lore: In a fictional story, this is used to flesh out the environment and create a real place in the imagination. In an RPG it’s often used to figure out where the bad guys and treasures are so you can squash and steal them.

29. Allies: Fictional characters often view their friends and allies as their most powerful, useful, and prized possessions. PCs often view allies as a liability or people who can walk into traps for them.

30. Unknown Magic: If a fictional character doesn’t know what some magic thing does he’ll often bring it to a trusted and wise old wizard. He’ll also ask all his friends what it does. A PC will often shake it, look for words at the bottom, and point it at various NPCs in the hopes of figuring out what it does by accident and saving the fee of consulting a wizard.

31. The Grand Finale
: The grand finale of a novel is usually some ultimate moment where the main character discovers a truth about himself in an interior monologue. After self-shrinking himself, he often finds it ridiculously easy to torch the villain he thought was so powerful. A PC will probably realize he’s late for supper and leave. By next week, he’ll have forgotten the whole thing and delay the game for half an hour while you explain it to him.

Sunday 3 February 2013

Fed Up of Rolling Dice for High Level Players?

Are there times when you’re rolling more dice than role-playing? The players are asking you for modifiers and spell rulings more often than being creative? This tends to happen at high levels of play when the players have accumulated a fair number of spells, abilities, skills, and magical items. The game may get to the point where you’re doing more math than game playing.

Advancement is cool, advancement is fun. Gaining levels, new powers, and magic items is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. However, the price of all these new powers is a trend to be less creative on the players’ parts. It takes a very clever GM indeed to keep high level players challenged and creative.

While there are many fine solutions to keeping your high level players occupied, this article will only cover the solutions offered by a friend of mine. These solutions have no correlation whatsoever to what I’d do in a similar situation, which would probably be to a) chuckle evilly, and b) roll a lot of dice.

1. Switch Settings: If the players are forced to enter a land or realm where their powers and skills are dampened, it could give you enough time to get a feel for the game again and regain the flow. It also allows your players to be a little more creative and try quirky strategies like they always used to when they were at lower levels. Magic items might cease to work, spells and powers cease to function, and it’s possible that player’s characters may even forget some of their most useful abilities and skills for a while. As you get back into the flow of the game you can start to phase back in all their powers, potions, and items.

2. Equally Equipped Enemies: You can also land your heroes with a group of opponents who are equally decked out with magical gear. This tends to create more of an aggravated explosion than anything else (I find). It might be preferable to just let thieves steal all of their items.

3. The ol’ 4-for-1 Dice Trick: Instead of adding all the modifiers, rolling all the dice, and making an informed decision; you can always just fake rolling 1d6 and give all the players the same result based on that one roll. For example: “Okay, I rolled a 2 for your group, guys. The troll clobbers all of you like the Rock and then does a pile-driver on the mage. You all take 20d6 damage…Yeah, you too, Mike. I don’t care if you were 200 ft. away in a pillbox with your crossbow.”

Well, I think that about covers that. Please keep in mind that the above was a friend’s idea and the below was mine. That way, you can direct the appropriate ridicule to each of us individually. Thank you.

Winterizing your RPGs

With Christmas just around the bend, you’ll probably be wondering just how you can make your RPGs feel like Christmas without actually losing the flow of your game. Have no fear! I have compiled a list of thoroughly useless ‘Christmas’ themed items for your perusal below. Instead of actually being creative yourself, you can feel free to steal them all and use anything you want in your own games to get that Christmas Feel.

1. Snow: Obviously, if you’re running a Christmas-themed adventure there should be snow. Just like if you were running a Thanksgiving adventure you’d put in a turkey (who runs Thanksgiving adventures, honestly?). Legitimate use of this: the party must hunt a feral beast in the far north of the campaign world. Stupid use of this: the party’s Hawaiian island comes under the siege of frost giants who cause it to snow for no apparent reason.

2. Elves and Dwarves: It should go without saying that you should include Elves and Dwarves in your Christmas-themed adventure. Not only are they traditionally suited to the genre, but your players will have no ends of fun cracking jokes about them. The dwarves have the suitable beards, and the elves have the correct name.

3. Sleighs and Reindeer: This should be relatively easy to work in. If the party is already going up north it should be a simple matter for an old chubby guy in a red suit to say, “Your horses will freeze, you’ll need some of these babies. Also, you’ll need a sleigh. 5,000 gp, please.”

4. Snow Men: I’m thinking the kind that kill you. Probably like the abominable snowman. Regular happy snow men don’t usually aid in adventures much unless it’s as a very bad joke. Stuff that wants to kill you, on the other hand, is usually well-received by the players.

5. Presents: The obvious solution is to just hand your players 100 dollar bills for participating in the game and wish them Merry Christmas (or some other festive greeting like ‘Ave!”). For GMs will less money than time, you can make a Christmasy map for them as a handout. For GMs with no time or money (all of us, really) you can just have some NPC give something to the PCs as a gift.

6. Christmas Weaponry: The first question in the powergamer’s mind when hearing ‘Christmas Adventure’ will be what they can loot from Santa’s Workshop or some equivalent. The promise of jingle bell grenades, holly potions, and wreaths of invulnerability will do loads to enhance the Christmas spirit for the powergamers. Popular weapons for the bad guys can include: flamethrowers, killer snow men, killer trees, and masses of wrapping paper enchanted to suffocate you.

7. Music: Don’t bother, it’ll just make any player currently working in retail insane. Instead, try to include the Grinch or someone else of much Christmas merit who can potentially sneak into the party’s fortress and wreak havoc as he steals everything undetected except by that little girl who he lies to.

8. Shopping Sales: It’s a possibility that the party could find a rare, teleporting magical bazar which shows up once every hundred years to offer discount pricing on magic items. The only problem is that about a million flying carpets have crowded out the parking lot and all the other wizards are shoving to get the last wand of mega-death. Training your ‘auctioneer’ voice and shoving the players a few times while yelling might enhance the ‘commercial’ spirit of Boxing Day.

9. Christmas: I’d personally avoid using actual real Christmas stuff in your adventure. This would be similar to a recommendation not to use real-life people as NPCs in your adventure. Not only might some people object, but you would probably be better off celebrating with your family, anyway. If you’re going to play an RPG in the festive season, you might as well ham it up and make fun of Frosty the Snowman instead.

10. Have the Players Freeze to Death: Hardly anything beats that warm feeling of satisfaction you get when you inform the whole party they’re starving to death, out of water, and freezing to death. Having them drop cool items from frozen fingers, go delusional, or fall over repeatedly is also great fun. If they actually prepared for the cold weather, you can always hit them with one of those unpredictable and often lethal winter storms you’re so fond of. If they build igloos, they’ll probably be immune to this because they actually do work.

11. Skating: Having at least one scene with everyone on skates on some large ice surface is usually amusing. Feel free to throw in half-pipes and jumps as well. Bad guys who can freeze anything they point their ray guns at could be interesting, too, especially in a warm climate where they’re freezing all the local landmarks and all the locals too.

12. Food: This should be relatively easy to implement. Just have the players invited or imprisoned by anyone and forced to eat truffles, chocolates, and Christmas oranges. Punch is optional but should also cause temporary amnesia or something else magical and amusing.

13. Druids: If you want to be all historical, you could have the party ambushed by crazed druids who want to sacrifice them to the Gods so that the winter will be abolished and the people can get back to planting and harvest. I’m not sure this is a particularly good idea, especially for the druids.

14. Ghosts: Having the party visited by three ghosts (all of whom want to kill them) could be an interesting twist. Instead of trying to get them to change their greedy ways (practically impossible) the ghosts simply get nastier and nastier as they attempt to bump the party off. Having the ghosts out to an apple dunking competition may temper their ire.

15. Scrooge: Having a 20th level wizard version of Scrooge foreclose on all the party’s property could be interesting; probably because they owe him nothing in the first place.

16. Family Gatherings: After or during the adventure you could potentially have the party required to meet their entire extended family. Not only would this be painful and embarrassing, it would probably be no fun to role-play and all your players might quit. If you like this idea, you could also have the mother-in-laws follow the party around for the entire adventure and berate and ridicule them about every tiny action they make. This is, of course, optional and doesn’t reflect in the slightest what an actual mother-in-law would do in the same position. Players also probably have access to nifty means of escape such as flight, teleportation, and invisibility. See the above portion of the article for advice on how to remedy this.

I hope you enjoyed the Christmas 2012 edition of this column. My household is currently under mass siege and I have absolutely no time for writing this article. Its very existence is a surprising paradox. I’d like to apologize in advance for any typos or omissions. I don’t have the time to correct more than a dozen times. Merry Christmas and Happy 2013 Everyone!

What's with Challenger on Google Currents?

Image Courtesy of Google Currents
Hi Everyone,

I've recently noticed the Challenger RPG Website Feed on Google Currents is acting up a bit. The feed doesn't appear to be updating and somehow a random picture of an old man and some desk has ended up in the middle of the Cool Pictures post. I've contacted Google Currents, but they've basically said 'tough luck' and I've done all I can think of at this point.

Sorry for any inconvenience. I'm hoping the problem will blow over and Google will fix it up. In the meantime, the regular RSS feed appears to be working great in Google Currents still.