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Shadowrun 4: A New Matrix Paradigm

From time to time I like to play around with game design elements of RPGs (and other games, often miniature games) that I really enjoy. Over the last year, I've played a lot of Shadowrun 4th edition and I've grown to count it amongst one of my favorite RPGs. To be fair, Shadowrun 4th has its share of flaws, but I do believe it is probably the apex of Shadowrun's RPG design in its foundation. One of the major flaws holding Shadowrun 4e back from achieving a higher level of quality is its Matrix [...]

From the Front Lines: On Duels

You got yourself into another fine mess. Just couldn't keep your mouth shut. You were warned the Rodian was sensitive about his weight, but you had to make a comment. So now, in front the only cantina in which you could hide, you are front and center in a loud event. Standing ten meters in front of you is the fat Rodian, staring you down. Your palms start to sweat as your hand hovers over the pistol in your thigh holster. As the tension grows, the Rodian makes a move for his pistol and you draw yours...

Duels in Star Wars [...]

Meet 32, Adv 2, 5/4/13

This was the final big fight of the campaign. The way I had envisioned the adventure was that Sisspak and his 2 other yuan-ti were the equivalent of the Bogey man, terrifying to hear about but you don't want to meet them ever. They wander about, fast, genius level intelligence, but merely observers unless they are physically assaulted.

Kronig and his chamber was always the lynch-pin.

Easiest way to get to the Altar of Hestia was through the former lord's panic room, across the parapet, and down the north-east tower to where the spymaster had set up the altar [...]

It's Official, Britain is a nation of cannibals!

Yes, it’s official folks, Great Britain is a nation of human flesheaters! It must be true, it was in the Daily Star! But on a serious note, it does make one wonder, that really how many people around us can actually admit to thinking the same as a few of the questions posed in the […]

Episode Preview: Turncoat!

Image credit: ajcotton / 123RF Stock Photo

This article is a preview of the show topic for Happy Jacks RPG Podcast Season 09 Episode 20. The show will be recorded on Friday, May 24th at 8:30pm Pacific Daylight Time. You can listen live at happyjacks.org/live.

As is often said, the plans you come up with as a GM are often thrown out the window once the players sit down to play.It is especially dangerous to give the PCs access to your main villain — even if they don’t yet know he’s the villain.

It’s even more challenging when the villain is a turncoat: [...]

10 Arab sounding names

  1. Azeezeh el Qatrata
  2. Agala Askah
  3. Dhamamis ibn Ksarnen
  4. Makbiya ibn Jawfja
  5. Walid al Yabnen
  6. Babrak ibn Ksaris
  7. Jaffar al Muada
  8. Nadir el Muidj
  9. Hadrata ibn Ashel
  10. Wahran el Arreria

Discussion: When Do You Finalize Your Plot?

Early discussion for this week. Sorry, but I hurt my right wrist so typing is a bit more awkward than it normally is. My prompt for this discussion is when do you feel is best for finalizing the plot for your game? Now, granted, the plot is generally in flux as the game goes through, but key features usually need to be set for things to progress in some semblance of order.

For me, personally, it usually happens about 4-5 sessions in. The sessions before that I have an idea in mind, but I tend to just scatter mysteries [...]

A Look at Thieves' World

In Sanctuary someone is always awake especially when others are sleeping.

Most people that play RPGs have a favorite setting. Mine is the city of Sanctuary from the Thieves' World Anthologies. It is a series of twelve books with short stories by different authors all taking place in the same setting of Sanctuary. The first was published in 1979 and the last one was in 1989. There was a short revival done in 2002 but I'm going to talk about that in a later blog post.

A friend of mine gave me the first book to read about 1988. So, I was [...]

Add Numbers and Hexes to a Map

Someone recently asked how do you add number labels to a hex map. The answer will vary depending on what sort of software one is proficient in. This task will seem simple to some, and very complex to others depending on how much image manipulation one has done over the years.

For demonstration purposes, I will be using GIMP. But the principles involved are the same for any image manipulation program (Photoshop, PaintShopPro, etc...). They key element to creating hexes and numbers for an image is using what is known as "layers". The process is to add a layers [...]

White Dwarf Wednesday #65

What was the RPG scene like 28 years ago? Tales of the RPG market in decline! Rules vs. Role-playing! New Star Trek! New stuff from Tolkien and Herbert!  Hmm.  Doesn't sound too different from today to be honest.  Let's get the details in this edition of White Dwarf Wednesday with issue number 65.

#65 has a place of honor in my collection. Honor that is if you consider it one of the issues where I decided that WD just wasn't as good as it used to be.  I know such things are highly subjective, especially considering the source of [...]

Disney Dance-Off with the Star Wars Stars

"Witness the power of this fully armed and operational dance team?"  This might wind up being our Donny and Marie Star Wars Special moment of shame but the screen caps below should convince you to watch anyway.  Set YouTube to Hi-Def, Rebels and enjoy!

More Micro Maps

A couple of weeks ago I posted a “micro map” that I drew because of the #micromapmonday thing. Thing… that’s a great word eh? Anyways. I realized that I really wasn’t taking the challenge to heart with that map – the goal of drawing something quite small.

So this past Monday I drew the following map for micromapmonday:

Micro-Map 1

The quarter is there for scale, so you realize that the map is significantly larger on most monitors than it is on paper (unless you have a really tiny monitor and quite high resolution).

The map was a real challenge to draw. I’ve never worked at that scale before, and close-ups show how rough the lines really are. My hand was totally cramped up by the time I was done. Then I realized the actually scary part – there isn’t much less detail on this map than on most of my maps drawn in my 4 x 6 mapping book. But I could put 6-8 of these on a single page in my little mapping book. Oi!

But then I realized there were two problems with the map that I posted above.

Mainly, it didn’t stick to the theme of this week’s micromaps – “habitat”.

So I [...]

The Valravne

My players: If you want to be surprised by things in the game, probably don't read this entry. I'm not saying these guys are coming, but just in case they ever DO. Valravn CLIMATE/TERRAIN: Forests, Battlefields FREQUENCY: Very Rare ORGANIZATION: Solitary ACTIVITY CYCLE: Any DIET: Carrion INTELLIGENCE: Low (5-7) [lesser] or Genius (17-18) [greater] TREASURE: None ALIGNMENT: Any evil (


I need to do more of them.  I've got a small backlog of products I've been given or bought over the past few months I need to review.  A few of them off the top of my head are +Zzarchov Kowolski's The Gnomes of Levnec, +Erik Tenkar and +Michael Garcia's Minor Magiks & Miscellaneous Arcana Volume 1, and Slaughtergrid from +Rafael Chandler.  Great stuff.  And I recently received an interesting product from +Paolo Greco I need to read over.

I'm hoping to post The Gnomes of Levenc later tonight.  It's a good one. 

Prestigious Roles: Breaker

This pdf is 5 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so what do we get?

Order of Black Earth: a player faction for Shadows over Vathak

The first player faction-offering for the Vathak-setting is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Expansion Packs for Star Trek: Attack Wing

In March, WizKids announced plans for Star Trek: Attack Wing, a new board game in its Star Trek Heroclix line.  Expected to be released in August during Gen Con Indy, the game uses miniatures and the same FlightPath maneuver system as the Star Wars X-Wing game from Fantasy Flight Games.

Games will be played on Star Trek space maps distributed via an organized play program and will be sold in non-blind configurations with three-ship starter box sets. However, despite sharing the same mechanics system, the Star Trek: Attack Wing game is not compatible with Star Wars X-Wing.

Just this past Monday, WizKids announced eight single-ship expansion packs for Star Trek: Attack Wing.  The first expansion packs for the game are:

  1. Federation U.S.S. Reliant Expansion Pack.
  2. Federation U.S.S. Enterprise Expansion Pack.
  3. Romulan I.R.W. Valdore Expansion Pack.
  4. Romulan I.R.S. Apnex Expansion Pack.
  5. Klingon I.K.S. Gr'oth Expansion Pack.
  6. Klingon I.K.S. Negh'var Expansion Pack.
  7. Dominion Kraxon Expansion Pack.
  8. Dominion Gor Portas Expansion Pack.

The Justicars

The Justicars.     In the society of the Rune Shamans there are ten (10) tribes that hold the secrets of Occult.
  • Runed Tribe Of Mythrenus.
  • Flametongue Tribe Of The West.
  • Sealed Tribe Of The East.
  • Berserk Tribe Of The North.
  • Exorcist Tribe Of The South.
  • Soul Tribe Of Infinity.
  • Arma Tribe Of The Desert.
  • Keepers Tribe Of The Temple.
  • Golden Tribe Of The Cities.
  • Barrier Tribe Of The Tower. These tribes altogether form the Rune Shamans. These people are considered Red Blooded but their Deep connection with the runes have made their bloodline transform into something more special. As if the power of some Runes is passing through their Veins.
    Occult though is not a racial ability, it a secret well kept and [...]

The Gassy Gnoll: The Impermanence of Thought and How To Use It to Beat the Block

The Gassy Gnoll has been tired lately and had far too much time to think when he should have been sleeping. This is hardly ever a good thing when it happens. But for some reason he’s been very philosophical and introspective of late. Recently that led to a strange train of thought…

How would you characterize an idea that just pops into your head? Was it deliberate? Were you brainstorming and trying to generate ideas of a particular type? Was it accidental and just a stray thought while you were off doing something else? Either way if you’re anything like me, [...]

Avengers Animate Again!

The first trailer for Avengers Assemble, Marvel's animated replacement for Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Appears, thankfully, to be more of the same - rather than going the juvenile Ultimate Spider-Man route, but more in line with the design aesthetics of the live-action movies.

If you're in the States - and haven't already downloaded the first episode for free from iTunes - Marvel's biggest heroes (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Falcon) reunite in the one-hour preview of Marvel's Avengers Assemble this Sunday (May 26) at 11am ET inside the Marvel Universe block on Disney XD!

According to Marvel's website:
"The special one-hour preview ... includes the first two episodes from the series, The Avengers Protocol Parts 1 and 2. When Captain America is apparently destroyed by Red Skull, Iron Man re-unites the team to try and avenge his friend and stop Red [...]

Chill - Things (Pacesetter)

This is a book that I have very little experience with. I never GM'd Chill so I never had much call to read or look at this one. It is for the most part a bestiary of some new monsters combined with rules expanding the powers of those that oppose the agents of SAVE. It is 64 pages long and was released in 1984. This is one of the books that seems to exist in both versions of the game with the same title.

From the back of the book:

"Contained within this book are 64 pages of terrifying new Creatures and Evil Way Disciplines for use with the CHILL role-playing game."

Daily Cosplay

Man of Steel Trailer #4

We're the very best at being BAD guys

Dr Sutcliffe is Harrowed, which is something both Hatch and Murphy seem to have accepted surprisingly quickly. They've gone out to get him meat and new clothing as if he was your perfectly ordinary convalescing OAP.

Not that any of us still have any sort of clues as to what has happened to the lady we're trying to find. Instead, we decided to have a closer look at Hexaco. We thought maybe we could sneak in, decided against it and tried to think of new lucrative business ideas to branch out to - like extortion and kidnapping. Then we ended up going to see one of the Hexaco people mentioned in an article about the "sabotage" in the swamps.

For some reason (i.e. money), we ended up accepting his offer of ridding the swamp of the swamp monster before the end of the week (in-game, it was Thursday) [...]

Recipes Wanted

Are you a role-player, board-gamer or card-gamer?We'relooking for the best recipe you’ve used to feedyourfriends on game night. Anything fromsimple snacks orfinger food (not actual fingers please),to D20 shaped muffins, full meals or “health potion” cocktails.   Your recipe will feature onrisingphoenixgames.com, so please include your name and a short bio. We'd love to [...]

Fixing Plot Holes

The game I'm tinkering on for game chef is about jumping into a time-stream and correcting reality.

It's just struck me....without too many spoilers, it's probably due to watching the season finale for the most recent Doctor Who series.

Since there are fixed points in time and space throughout the game..immutable facts that must occur, then why not run the whole narrative like that.

Lots of people like to pick plot holes in movies...a great many plot holes come into the story because the movie needs to be cut down to a manageable viewing time of 2 [...]

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Hallo Detschland! Fiasko zur RPC 2013

Pro-Indie. Mit dem Indie-Rollenspiel Fiasko beschert unsder kleine feine deutsche Herausgeber (Fate to Go, Barbaren, Spielleiter)Jason Morningstars – kreative – Perle.Die Verffentlichung der bersetzung erfolgtzurRole Play Convention 2013.

Normalerweise halte ich mich bei deutschen Publikationen aufgrund persnlicher Vorbehalte hufig zurck und Dominik vom Rollenspiel-Almanach leistet auf diesem Feld hervorragende Arbeit, aber bei Fiasko springe ich ber meinen Schatten und empfehle klar einen Blick auf diese inspirierende Ideenwerkstatt zu werfen.

Fr Nicht-Messebesucher besteht die Mglichkeit zur Vorbestellung.

Ein Spiel um Macht, Ehrgeiz und miserable Selbstkontrolle


Fiasko ist ein Spiel, das von Filmen wie Blood Simple oder Fargo inspiriert wurde. Ihr werdet whrend der Spielsitzung [...]

Dancing WIth Wolves part 3

Some 3 years ago, I played two sessions of Runequest campaign, then for some reason I stopped with it, but I always wanted to come back.
Here are these sessions:
Part 1

Part 2

Finally I got a chance to go on with the adventures of Dragonfly, using 9Q guidelines and Runeuest engine. Random idea generators are mixed through game....

Q1 What looming hostility inherent within the setting unexpectedly comes into conflict with the heroic motivation, threatening to worsen over time?Be the GM first: Lightning /Meteor the rumor spreads that a meteor stone was [...]

The Art of the One-Shot Character

Today's guest article is by Angela Murray (aka Orikes), an occasional graphic designer, a sometime photographer, and one of the voices over at Rogue Princess Squadron, a new gaming blog put together by several female authors. Though she's been gaming for years, GMing is still a new love in her life. Thanks, Angela! In an ongoing campaign, the character sheet is in the hands of the player. It's their baby, their lifeline into the game world. They often put a great deal of time and effort into keeping track of the information they need in the way that works best for [...]

More on fairies

Many fairies find employment dressing as pirates, and acting as pets fortalking parrots.

I'm In A Different Hobby Than Most Gamers

At least, that's how I'm starting to feel. I don't want to feel that way. It's just that the more I begin to look at various gaming forums again, the more I start to feel a disconnect from the attitudes and philosophies of many gamers. It reminds me of  reading Facebook and one of my friends or family posts something intolerant and ignorant. I start to feel like "the other" among people who, by all rights, I should feel open and comfortable around.  It's statements like "story games aren't roleplaying games", or "I just want to play a character and not [...]

Solar Winds

The sun dwells in constant turmoil. Massive storms rage across her surface as she burns with the fires of orc. She generates powerful magnetic fields that rise from her surface in gigantic loops, clawing into the dark reaches of space to collapse back upon themselves and fall into the gulfs of flame beneath. Often these massive loops clash together and rip one another apart hurling charged particles out from the sun at such speeds, 400km/sec, that they break free from the Ra's wrath and hurl into deep space.

These are the solar winds.
They rip through the Darkling Skies [...]

Time Heroes - The Kickstarter Launches!

After months of preparations and waiting, the time has finally come! I've finished the beta draft and the quick-start packet. Sadly, due to separation from the original Time Heroes artist, the quick-start packet is currently artless (though Justin was kind enough to allow me to keep the logo, which is awesome!). However, it still exists, which is ok by me.

Due to this separation, I found myself in a position to find a new illustrator for the project. I was lucky enough to contact none other than the extremely talented +Melissa Gay who has worked on varied projects from the Dresden [...]

What Are Monsters?

There are a lot of optional rules in the most current version of the game. Alternate ways of reading the damage dice, building settlements, simpler vehicle stats, ammunition types, and new ways spend altruism points. I will admit, part of this is the difficulty of me winnowing stuff from my game. It seems such a shame to just redact these options away, as they can be useful tools for your game. Its all a matter of defining your monsters.

One school of horror holds that monsters are things beyond your means and reason. Fears you can't placate, negotiate, or truly overcome. [...]

May to Z: M

Morrigan the Raven. The glossy haired wife of Beorngardt and mother of Fhionna Firehair/Fireheart.

Derived from the Gaelic name Muirgen meaning "born of the sea" and/or the Irish Morrighan meaning "great queen". Muirgen is said to have been a mermaid for 300 years and reborn on land as a human. Morrighan was a goddess of war and death who could take the form of a crow.

Her true birth name is unknown, even to her. She suffered amnesia after her vessel was attacked and burned by pirates.

When she was just a small girl her fisherman [...]

In-House Gaming

For the past few years, my gaming has been restricted to our Monday Night Gaming Group (via Skype). Our in-house gaming group ground to halt when the offspring half of the group up and went to college, leaving the rest of us to foot the bill. My wife and I have talked about starting up our in-house gaming group again, even if it ends up being just the two of us.

We are looking at two very different games, Trail of Cthulu and Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies. Trail of Cthulu is a Pelgrane Press game, written by Kenneth [...]

Star Wars Rebels: The Rebellion Begins

When the popular series Star Wars: The Clone Wars was cancelled, recent LucasFilm purchaser Walt Disney Co. ("Disney") promised a new Star Wars animated series that would be set in an era as of yet unexplored by any previous Star Wars movie or TV series. Star Wars Rebels is Disney's attempt at fulfilling that promise.

Today, Disney announced that it had already commenced work on the upcoming new animated series Star Wars Rebels.  The new series will be set in the 20-year period between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.  This is the time when dread sith lord Darth Sidious ruled the Empire and his efforts were focused on securing the Empire's iron grip on the galaxy by hunting down the remaining Jedi knights.  This also the time when a fledgling rebellion against the Empire was born and began to take shape.

Simon [...]

Dangerous Encounter: I See You

 For this encounter, the PCs will need to be tasked with locating some very special, very efficient medical assistance.
  • One of PCs could be infected with a slow, but ultimately fatal disease.
  • A powerful NPC could be seriously injured, and his underlings demand the PCs' assistance to "fix 'im."
  • A medical shaman may ask the PCs to investigate rumors of a miraculous Bygone device that can heal almost any illness or injury.

Regardless of how the PCs are hooked into the quest, the Mutant Lord should eventually let them hear legends of such a miracle device in the ruins of a Bygone medical [...]

half-life of gaming lust

After flirting with several different game systems lately, I am now conducting a scientific experiment: how long will it take for me to get sick of Vampire: the Requiem, and by implication, other games that I get momentarily infatuated with? (The answer: I was fed up with the presentation and authorial voice instantly. But maaaaaaybe there’s a game worth playing hidden in between the schlocky writing?) I ask this because I was recently enamored of Star Frontiers and then Gamma World, only to have those feelings quickly dissolve within a few days.

star frontiers: what am I doing here, captain

Our group [...]

Better Barbarian Rage for D&D/Pathfinder

Barbarian by Cushart (http://cushart.deviantart.com)
Okay, so not too long ago I tossed out my thoughts on how the classes were implemented in the most recent playtest version of D&D Next, including the Barbarian.  D&D Next still has the rages per day mechanic, but I've never liked that approach.  Giving barbarian players X rages per day leads to a lot of careful tactical/strategic thinking about how to best spent those rages.  Thinking?!  No, it's a RAGE!!!!  Barbarians shouldn't be doing a lot of pansy brainiac strategizing about rages.  They should explode and rampage all over the place.  Sure, they may [...]

Tuesday Magic Item -- Strawberry of Desire

Some foods are rare and only found in the most magical and unusual places. One such place located on a high plateau, is said to be the garden of the goddess of desire that fell to Earth with her death, where it is always spring, the plants and trees always heavy with fruits. The strawberries from this garden are especially sought after as they can reveal to those who consume them what they truly desire.

Such strawberries are not without price but they are very expensive.

Strawberries of Desire

These strawberries and beautiful and plump, ready for eating and on the verge of [...]

Al-Qadim - The Inn of the Last Scion

Party investigates Inn in the desert called "Inn of the Last Scion". Inside they find several brown robed individuals. The individuals turn and look at the party. They are found to out be zombies. After a fight with the zombies the party goes to leave only to run into a gelatinous cube blocking the door. On the table was a grain sack. The party paid no attention to the grain sack. Later they found that the Inn belonged to a mage named Mar'zhal Scion whom apparently the Jaz's character Francis is related. After the catfolk ended up putting both arms [...]

You Can't Be Wrong

So a while back I mentioned I was going to something big and fun near the end of May?

Well looks like it is coming faster than I thought.

Gotta get ready!

Invictus Groom & The Auction House

For those who don't know much about Vampire: the Requiem, the vampires within a particular court are generally split into five major factions (called covenants).  One of these factions, the Invictus, style themselves as nobility with extravagant titles, liege lord / vassal connections, and a focus on having lots of top quality servants.  Some of these servants are fed vampire blood to make 'ghouls', which has nothing to do with consuming dead flesh and everything to do with becoming besotted with the kindred that feeds them (love at third drink) and being addicted to vampire blood.
The Invictus have a [...]

The Winner of the Razor Coast PDF For Swords & Wizardry Is...

The votes are in. I'm glad the final decision wasn't in my hands, as it wasn't an easy vote by far.

(the winners need to contact me at tenkarsDOTtavernATgmailDOTcom so i can get their gifts to them)

The random winner voter of a $5 RPGNow Gift Certificate is:

+Timothy Brannan 

Coming in at third place in the voting, qualifying for a $5 RPGNow Gift Certificate is:

Capheind for his entry The Mad Priest of Shebaba, and his vessel, the sepulcher of Shebaba.

Coming in at second place in the voting, qualifying for a $10 RPGNow Gift Certificate is:

+Tim Shorts for his entry The Ghost and it's Captain Cleaver Blackshaw.

Coming in at first place, winning a [...]

Guardians Chronicles, by IELLO

I am trying to scale back on my Kickstarter related contributions (or expenditures, if you ask my accountant).  However, since I just received my rewards from one of the Kickstarter projects I helped fund (Kickstarter: The Dice Tower), I decided to fund another one.  The lucky receiver of my money is Guardians Chronicles, by IELLO.

Guardians Chronicles is a 2 to 5 player semi-cooperative game.  One player assumes the role of evil Super Villian Pr. Skarov.  The remaining players assume the role of one of several superheroes, each with unique powers.  There are a different number of scenarios.  Each scenario poses different objectives and challenges for the Superheroes.  For example, a particular scenario may require that the Superheroes defeat three of Pr. Skarov minions and also stop the Super Villian from launching nuclear missiles that will reign destruction upon civilians.

The concept of Guardians Chronicles is not new.  In [...]

Porphyry - Initial Thoughts

Over the weekend I was able to peruse through a copy of Porphyry - World of the Burn and form a few thoughts.  I don't play Tunnels & Trolls so I'll just be pilfering from this as a setting book.

The setting is a post-apocalyptic hellscape, where it appears technology fell to something eldritch and supernatural  ("The Burn"),   which has left a world that has advanced from monks and knights to somewhere between pirates and cowboys with remnants of robots and tanks.   What surprised me most of all though was how this was kept from the first [...]

A Little Bit of Battletech

Back in March, I ran a classic Battletech scenario at the local gaming convention (Madicon). Jeff, of Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog, posted about the game today and it inspired me to talk a little bit about the experience and about some general Battletech musings. First, not to steal his thunder, but I ran a pretty […]

It's Official, Britain is a nation of cannibals!

Yes, it’s official folks, Great Britain is a nation of human flesheaters! It must be true, it was in the Daily Star! But on a serious note, it does make one wonder, that really how many people around us can actually admit to thinking the same as a few of the questions posed in the […]
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