Todays tweeted weapon is a whip called Foulscribe.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 10.19.14Someone fashioned a bull-whip from the flesh of a demon, curing that flesh into leather strips and then weaving them together to make the weapon. The name comes from the additional effect that when the whip scars a persons flesh it does so in a distinctly legible pattern. The whip scars profane and diabolic text into it’s victims skin. Some times the wound will be a single word, other times as long as a sentance or couplet. Some phrases are more common than others. Foulscribe can be as random as a fortune cookie or as personal as an apt insight into the victims darkest fears.

This text may be prophetic, or quotes from some evil tome. The words may not be in a language the victim understands, or it might be gibberish. In any case any attempt to read the wound, even accidentally, will result in some loss of sanity. Night terrors may haunt those who cannot understand the words on their skin. For the scholar that manages to piece together what the scar says even greater dementia awaits.

Scaring over the words, or carving them out of the flesh won’t work. The words appear to be wounds to the soul that come through time and again whenever the flesh heals. Foulscribe’s words always appear as the top most scarring.


fashioned a bull-whip

from the flesh of a


Leading Questions

Who is evil enough to put into motion a plan that ends with this weapon?

Was the text scarring effect deliberate or a scary accident?

Can we assume the demon didn’t survive the process of making Foulscribe?

If the demon did survive, or was responsible for the creation, is it seeking the weapon?

Today’s tweet is a little on the surreal side, if you didn’t notice.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 11.20.30A firearm that is, itself, a representation of the concept of Gun-ness has subtle abilities that work well in games that play with the narrative element of reality. This gun won’t fit in all systems and settings. So lets take a look at why and where it will.

image_2First lets examine the power this gun has. By being the ideal of guns any characteristic a gun can have this gun has: A pop up scope, a laser sight, a safety switch. Even contradictory features such as a six shooter’s barrel and an automatic’s magazine could be found on this gun. Yet it still works. It can be a shotgun, sniper rifle, machine-gun or two shot derringer. It can be any gun you expect and it can be as full of ammo as you imagine. Great to start with but that’s not all.
This gun defines what other people expect guns to be like. It can leak characteristics onto other guns.

Everyone knows guns have safety catches, not all guns of course but most modern ones. But if the Concept Gun has a safety catch then so do other guns, and if you imagine your safety is on then so is theirs. The concept gun can run out of ammo, and as such if it is empty then other guns will be empty.  The concept gun can jam, and if it is jammed then so too are other guns around it.

As you can see this Platonic Ideal Power Set drifts significantly away from real world physics. It would be suitable for games such as Mage, Over the Edge, Esoterrorists, Unknown Armies; also settings like The X-files, Fringe, Ghostbusters, Warehouse 13, The lost room and even many super hero settings.

Having an NPC antagonist use this gun to inconvenience the players, would be the best way to introduce it. Potentially giving them a few other platonic ideal items, or even the utility belt of Ideal Gadgets.

Over all this can be a tough one to comprehend, so dabble in this area of surreal with care. But in the right hands and right setting this kind of narrative device can make for interesting stories.

Wiki Link

Today’s tweet suggested there is a land where Kings cannot be killed except by a special sword. Enchantment on that sword and the bloodlines of the region’s royal families link them in a very intricate way.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 16.25.17 There was a time when assassination was rife. No nation had the stability to grow or prosper. Younger siblings seeking the throne would poison their older brothers and foreign nations would take out the king to weaken the nation. At this period’s darkest time a light of reason shone out. A great mage visited the palaces and castles of each kingdom and placed upon the blood lines of the kings a blessing. They would be protected from any form of assassination, ensuring that there would be stability in the throne rooms.

That mage also enchanted a sword. This sword was immune to the enchantment and could be used to kill kings. Anyone wielding the sword must have the conviction that they intend to kill a king, or else it will not allow itself to be drawn. Any attempt to use the sword for anything that does not threaten the life of a monarch is resisted by the sword’s animation. If the wielder is attacked the sword will allow them to defend themselves but only if they are fulfilling it’s one purpose. But it only allows attacks that threaten the king.

The existence of the sword was kept secret, by an order of monks that keep it hidden away in a hard to reach/quest appropriate area. They do not object to the sword being used, allowing petitioners to carry the sword out of their care. They watch and retrieve the sword whether the attack succeeds or not. They only care that the sword not be unaccounted for.

Quest Ideas

The party are hired to steal the sword with no idea of it’s purpose. The monks would probably be hooded figures with sharp combat skills ready at a moments notice to defend their hide out and the sword.

The major villain of the campaign is in truth the rightful king by birth, but was stolen away by a dark cult as a baby. While he continues to plot against the nation, a questing bunch of adventurers discover that the only way to kill him is with the King Killer

The party find a letter warning of an attack on a mysterious monastery, and try to get to the location before the approaching raiders from a neighbouring country. They arrive too late but a dying friar explains the importance of tracking down the sword.

Today’s tweet about Litterbug gets a little more detail –

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 12.16.55A team at Quasar Inc. working with the hero Mentor have been working on ways to improve conditions in the city. From the very highest of priorities to the very lowest. One of the technicians, a Sandra Gallup, has been working on a project off the books, a micro-cluster nanite droid that can identify and collect trash and rubbish. It achieves this by using some of Mentors tractor beams and force field projectors. The droid identifies trash and then tractor beams it into the force field. It places the rubbish in into locations that allow it to take on useful forms/shapes that help it to get around the city and collect more trash.

Litterbug started small and was a kind of pet that scooped up dust bunnies and other dirt and trash around Sandra’s office. But it got out into the rest of the facility and before anyone knew it the amount of trash it had gathered was larger than the prototype was intended to have access to. As it moved with the bulk it created small accidents which produced more trash until eventually it upset a more sizeable experiment and caused a major explosion. The resulting building damage and debris was scooped into the droid’s forcefield significantly increasing it in size.

The heroes are alerted to an explosion at Quasar Labs in the science park and arrive to find a large debris monster stomping through the blast crater and away towards town. Litterbug is following a subroutine that has not been available for it to fulfil before and is heading towards the city dump to deposit it’s collected trash. It has no idea of it’s size and will flatten a number of other buildings along the way, continuing to increase in size as it goes.

Today I’m going to expand on the Supervillain tweet from this morning.

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 11.25.35

What if Ada Lovelace was cryogenically frozen in a bodysuit of steampunk valves and pipes. She has bonded with the steampunk cryosuit and lost her mind through the process. Imagine the Borg Queen but in a victorian outfit. Something like a skin tight diving suit that has lots of cogs and gears, and tubing to carry coolant. She has some of Herbert West’s research and some of the Technology from Dr Munoz from Cool Air. Her condition provides her withan array of ice powers and an affinity with mechanisms. I see her being called Ice Queen.

Ok so lets bring her into the modern world – Her body is discovered in a collection of victoriana found on the ruins of the Titanic. That kinda thing is never good but at least they didn’t bring Jack with her. Lets also posit that she was secretly Charles Babbage’s lover. They had arranged that Babbage was supposed to join her but he died before he could be preserved. Her motives are part mechanical, part maniacal. I hinted in the tweet that she wants to reanimate Babbage in a robot body. She’s in luck, they saved Babbage’s brain. (I always wanted to say that).

They saved Babbage’s brain.

(For real) Half of Babbage’s brain is preserved at the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons in London. The other half of Babbage’s brain is on display in the Science Museum, London. So she’d need to break into both of these locations. Ada will attempt to steal the half of his brain from the science museum, and then the other half from royal college. When the two parts are united she will join them with a difference robot and resurrect him. What the pair will get up too once they are reunited I leave to you.

Cheesy Comic Book Titles 

The Ice Queen Cometh
Brain Freeze
A Robot with a Difference


Ada Lovelace
Charles Babbage
Herbert West
Doctor Munoz

The last class in this weeks five outlaw characters is the warrior.

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 09.59.48I had thought about a highway bandit but wanted to come up with a character that had more of a reason to go on adventures. The tweet describes an arena warrior that has run away from the gladiator slave camps and is delving dungeons as a way to stay out of sight and to use their skills. I imagine the warrior would have experience fighting many of the monsters you expect to find in a dungeon, having faced many beasts in the arena.

Some kind of tattoo on their skin might mark them as owned by a wealthy family, like a racehorse but a stable of arena slaves. Visits to large towns and cities would be difficult, a disguise would be needed to avoid detection. City guards would react badly if they catch an escaped “killer” and consider them a danger to the public.

The idea of arena slaves also introduces the idea of slavery in general. Something that could prove uncomfortable for some players. But if it fits in your group then take a few queues from Spartacus and other sources. Try to work out if the fighter cares about the emancipation of all slaves or just their own freedom. If they do lead a rebellion against the slave industry then the leaders of that industry will want to deal with that uprising quickly.

For a fantasy world moving through the emancipation of  its slaves read the Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg.

In the second tweet of this weeks characters I suggested a Cleric that steals unholy relics.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 16.47.35The zealot that steals the icons and trophies of false gods from neighbouring faiths makes for an interesting dungeon crawler. I like to work some element of faith into a cleric’s character, asking the question – Why do they go adventuring? In this case a driving force for that decision is returning with and ritually destroying unholy relics. Like a religiously motivated Indiana Jones, this character goes into forgotten shrines and dungeons to retrieve objects of power that should not be.

I can imagine this studious clerk studying heretical manuscripts and forbidden tomes to learn the whereabouts of the lost Hand of Vecna. Quests to retrieve more tomes and further clues for the locating of these items would also motivate the character.

The actions of such a priest would eventually cause difficulty, border crossings might get troublesome when the Missing Eye of Io turns up amongst the items in your luggage. Enemy faiths may know of the cleric by reputation, prophets and seers may point him out for stoning as you walk through the streets of foreign cities. Even deities may pay unwanted attention if their artefacts are being purged in high enough numbers.

And then the rest of the party may take issue with their cleric zealously destroying all the best magic items. The Sword of Bheleu might be a fine blade for a fighter but it must be destroyed in the eyes of the cleric. There should be plenty of interaction with the party, with the cleric proving themselves indispensable to counter the animosity felt by the other Player Characters when their favourite toys get smashed to pieces.

This week I’m tweeting 5 PC ideas all of which will be thieves or outlaws.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 13.44.40

In the first tweet I imagined a dilettante rogue, with a touch of Casanova and the Scarlet Pimpernel. A rascal who worked his charms on The Queen of Thieves, an NPC I imagined as the head of some society of thieves. That leaves a lot of room to imagine what kind of title “Queen of Thieves” is and the kind of society she leads. Our hero has cut all ties with this society by stealing from the woman at the head but their involvement in his story is still implicit. In my mind the Queen is a rogue done well, a shrewd woman of less years than would be expected. She has brought together a parody of a royal court where she maintains a network of criminal activity that spans a significant portion of the campaign setting.

The Queen of Thieves sent out a gang of enforcers to bring our hero back, as he has stolen a jewel encrusted heart. Whether this is an actual gem or a lie tied to the truth of her heart being stolen by the PC I leave to be settled later. But the GM will gain an antagonist group that can be thrown at the party in the shape of these bounty hunters. If the party successfully repels the first wave of thugs then the price on their rogues head may increase and more groups will try to collect.

The bounty will begin as a hidden detail, with only the closest members of the Queens court being aware of the scandal. As the rogue evades capture or further thwarts her attempts at capturing him the bounty will be made more open. Eventually every thief and cutpurse in the land will know about it, and before too long mercenaries and other groups of adventurers will be drawn in.

The rogues value to the party may falter if not played with care, but it makes a nice change to being wanted by the city guards.

No doubt there are other ways to go from the starting point – let me know how you would have developed the story.

A Campaign for Algernon

Posted: 7th January 2014 by in Advice

qrcode.19068104I used to have a high opinion of myself. I felt my GM skill set was pretty good, and based on the feed back my players gave I thought this was a fair assessment. This was at a time in life when my confidence would have been in it’s early fragile and developmental stages. So in school and through my early adult life I developed a good grounding in role playing and games mastering.

So I thought.

Life moved on and though I graduated, moved Jobs, relocated and married I still played and ran games. I still do. I’ve matured through the years and I have changed, my tastes have developed and I need different outcomes to fulfill my sense of achievement. After a game I can feel the positive vibe from my players but my own assessment of my performance during the session will be a little more critical.

In the time it took to prepare for a game I build up expectations. Key scenes are built into the scenario, and then when I run the session I fail to present them fully, or even at all. My major NPCs have notes describing their behaviours, habits and accents, but in the rush of play I’ll forget to portray those elements. After the session I get to look back over my notes and scold myself for all the ways I have let the hobby down, the manner in which I failed to propel the hobby into new heights of mastery.

And it took me some time to realise that there is a reason I am so judgemental about my performance as a GM.

I listen to a number of gaming podcasts. My ears are filled with tips and tricks about how to improve my games, it is a flood of good advice. And my appreciation for those improvements has outdistanced my ability to implement them. Too many methods are competing for my attention and none are getting the investment of time required for me to develop them as a habit.

As much as I may want to pin the fault here on the role playing podcast community I can only blame myself.

In wanting to improve my game I am taking the right steps, I just need to better plan how I’m going to dance across the minefield of disappointment.

It takes focus, as with any skill. You can’t master all the methods in one leap, plan out how you want to implement a piece of advice. After making a list of the ideas that you think you’ll be applying pick one out and focus on that. Apply it over time and with some care. Work that one tip into your game regularly and develop a habit of using it often.

For instance I need to get into the habit of being a “Yes, and…” GM. Don’t be a control freak. When the players come up with new ideas let them follow through with their plans. Accept their input and encourage innovation. Improve the game for them by showing they have some control over the outcome and plot.

After that I’m going to take a look at the many apps and programs available to control atmospheric music and sound effects, as a background for my games. Find one that works in your gaming environment and develop the concentration and familiarity to implement that along side your other gaming habits.

Just one change at a time.

Don’t feel that you have to become a grand master at the art over night. Baby steps can lead you to new heights. Also learn to be less judgemental, get some honest feed back and hear it. If your players are having fun then you are doing a great job.

In Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon” the main character Charlie is given heightened intelligence. A level of awareness that develops into a curse. Listening to the podcasts Happy Jacks, Fear the boot and others may have opened my eyes to how I can improve, but through them I’ve lost some of my enjoyment. Now I want to reclaim that lost innocence and it may be too late. Instead of retreating into ignorance I need to embrace the alternative and, like Charlie at the end of the book, I need to invest in trying to learn new skills and measure up to the lofty ideal.


Magic the Gathering; love it or hate it; opened up a whole new gaming experience to hobby gamers twenty years ago today.

On this day in history…

Now I can’t say I was opening magic cards on this day twenty years ago, but I do remember opening my first pack. It was a few weeks before my brothers birthday, (that year I presume) and we were in Nottingham looking for something he’d like for a gift.

We spotted the shelf display for Magic the Gathering (Alpha Starters), in the original arcane book design boxes, and I offered to buy him one there and then, as it looked like it might be something fun.

The store had only sold one other starter, so Dave got the second box of Magic in town. When he opened it we realised you needed a box per player – so I quickly went back in and got the third box.

We were playing within hours.

Trading out whole colours so we could play our favourites.

A week or so later we found the guy who had bought that first deck, he hadn’t found anyone to play, we gave him a couple of games and swapped a few cards.

Years later we realised that meant Dave and I were the first people to play Magic the Gathering in Nottingham. At least that’s how I tell it.

On August the 2nd this year there will be a global effort to share the experience of opening magic cards. Wizards have a page discussing this check it here.

PS: Oh I let me brother have the first turn, so if you want he gets the ultimate Kudos there.