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Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #311

More Waterborne Encounters & Events


This Week's Tips Summarized 

More Waterborne Encounters & Events

Readers' Tips Summarized 

  1. Vampire Podcast
    From: LimeCat a.k.a. Dustin Allen
  2. Bottle Rocket Shafts
    From: David B. Goode
  3. But I Read The Monster Manual!
    From: Leslie Holm
  4. Homemade Telescoping Mini Stands
    From: Andy Cowell
  5. RPG Cliches Resource
    From: nwmike
  6. Use A Timer To Create Random Failures
    From: Anders
  7. Image Sources
    From: Nathan Lamothe

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1 on 1 Adventures #3: The Forbidden Hills PDF Release

XRP has released a new title in the 1 on 1 Adventures Line. 1 on 1 Adventures #3: The Forbidden Hills is an adventure designed for 1 GM and 1 player (level 5-7 Barbarian or Ranger) but is adaptable to a standard 4 member party. Starvation looms for the people of the Wolf tribe! The elk have all but disappeared, and into The Forbidden Hills you must travel, heart full of hope and anger....

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A Brief Word From Johnn 

Eberron Campaign Ends

I recently ended my young Eberron campaign due to lack of time. Roleplaying Tips Weekly, writing on GM Mastery: Holiday Essentials, and a Temple of Elemental Evil campaign squeezed out the bi-weekly campaign, unfortunately. Now folks I game with have started using the "Johnn" expression, as in, "Don't Johnn my campaign," or "Don't Johnn next game session." LOL. I suppose that means to shake your fist at the sky and swear by the gods that the good die young. Or something. I take it to mean -500 EXP next session when used. ;)

Forgotten Realms Campaign Begins

While I don't have time to GM two campaigns, I do have time to GM one and play in one. A friend at work and former player in my Eberron campaign offered to fill the void and I jumped at the chance. Now, I am a crusty old guy with acerbic temperament and a sharp tongue. My character is too. :P

I have learned some people are geared toward GMing, and some toward playing. I'm definitely the former, as I find playing difficult sometimes. I guess I'm used to being busy and active all the time, having control, running several NPCs and critters, managing encounters and plot threads, and so on. As a player, I must learn to take my turn, be supportive, and be patient. I'll let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile, I'll be busy studying this: Ludanta Retero Blog: Player Skills

Don't Johnn your campaigns!


Johnn Four,

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GM Mastery: NPC Essentials - $11.95 + 5% cash back!

NPC Essentials is a collection of tips, techniques, and aids designed to help game masters inject detailed NPCs into any role-playing campaign. Inside, readers will find advice on designing, role-playing, and managing NPCs during the entire lifetime of their campaigns. Also included are NPC archetypes, encounters, charts, and an example NPC-centric adventure. Written by Johnn Four of and Dragon magazine fame, and illustrated by V Shane.

GM Mastery: NPC Essentials at RPG Shop

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More Waterborne Encounters & Events  

In this sequel to Issue #307, here is another batch of ideas, seeds, and hooks to use for ocean, lake, river, and coastal encounters. Thanks again to the creative folks of the GMMastery Yahoo! Group for your contributions.

  1. One ofthe crew members kills an albatross, and an epic poem ensues -
  2. Vigil gets severe sunstroke
  3. Crewman catches an unusually large fish
  4. Other ship sporting same flag spotted in distance
  5. Natives waving from an island thought uninhabited
  6. Captain invites PCs for lunch in his cabin
  7. Fishing boat spotted with sleeping fisherman
  8. Fish jumps to gobble flies
  9. Frog croaks loudly
  10. Someone bathing
  11. Something causes large ripples on the water
  12. Several dead fish float by
  13. Fisher seen fishing with dynamite (or fireballs)
  14. Three words: Loch Ness Monster
  15. Abandoned fishing rod floats by
  16. Unexpected, unexplained absence of flies
  17. One of the crew is shirtless, revealing an odd tattoo
  18. Rainstorm in the distance (looks like a grey curtain on the horizon)
  19. Wild animals seen grazing on opposite banks
  20. Kingfisher plucks a fish from water
  21. Otters at play
  22. Salmon swimming against current
  23. A hugechunk of red clay falls in upstream turning the water blood red
  24. Herd of large animals fords across river
  25. Crocodile spotted lurking
  26. Log drivers take their haul downriver
  27. Beavers/animal building a dam
  28. Group of enemy warriors gather on the bank
  29. Flying Dutchman
  30. Dragon flies by
  31. Dragon catches fish
  32. Land animal on driftwood far from land
  33. Penguins (some are tropical)
  34. Distant volcano has littered the sea with floating pumice rocks (gravel to desktop computer in size)
  35. Glass fishing float
  36. Coconut floating
  37. Guano deposits on bank
  38. Flashing light on the horizon
  39. Ship flags are ripped off in the wind
  40. Crewnotices subtle changes to the ship. The till is smaller, the doors larger, ladder rungs spaced farther apart, ropes thicker
  41. A swarm of bugs lands on the ship
  42. Minor leak requires bailing
  43. Harbour pilot boards the ship to guide it into port
  44. Something interesting plummets over a waterfall
  45. Children run along the river shore waving at the crew
  46. Fishing nets pull in unknown fish, creature, or item
  47. Person tossing refuse overboard is swarmed by gulls
  48. Someone's peg-leg breaks
  49. Irritable parrot plucks out sailor's eye, lending humour to the cliche
  50. Rainbows after rain showers
  51. A group of aquatic humanoids want to trade
  52. Green flash of light at sunset
  53. Waterspout passes nearby
  54. Hailstorm
  55. Worm infestation of ship's beams
  56. Shooting star or meteorite strike
  57. Thegrog barrels all spring leaks, but drinking water remains; who's to blame?
  58. Cargo crates turn black (mildew); owners despair
  59. Mast boom knocks someone overboard
  60. Vermin abandon ship and drown
  61. Ambergris floats on the water
  62. Becalmed: no wind
  63. Castaway's signal fire spotted
  64. A submarine volcano boils a section of water, venting noxious fumes
  65. A pod of dolphins and a great white shark are locked in mortal combat
  66. El Nino; weird weather conditions occur, causing the people on the ship to act stranger
  67. A huge, roiling mass of thousands of tentacles - they are actually poisonous snakes mating
  68. An earthquake occurs and the river starts flowing backwards for several hours
  69. Orcas attack other whales
  70. Sick Whale thrashing on the surface
  71. Whale bumps ship repeatedly (trying to get attention or eating marine growth on the hull)
  72. Blood in the water (recent mass feed)
  73. Sail sighted and vanishes; repeat
  74. Sounds of battle drift over a calm sea
  75. Near barren floating island
  76. Bell heard to ring repeatedly (sign of ship distress)
  77. Breakers sighted in open sea
  78. Phosphorescent water around ship - milky sea
  79. Feeling of general unease passes among the crew
  80. Feeling of happiness passes through the crew
  81. Partly filled barrel drifts by (rum, water, holds a baby)
  82. Jetsam floats by a bit at a time (trunks, barrels, crates, etc.; the kind of stuff a ship in distress would jettison but will float)
  83. General flotsam floats by (planking, spars, barrels); signs of a ship that sank)
  84. A boat with one person in it
  85. A sudden calm in the middle of brisk weather
  86. A boiling of the sea within sight of the ship (underwater detonation)
  87. Persistent thumping heard in ship for 1d4 hours; cause never found?
  88. Crewman goes missing for 1d4 days; reappears like he never left and has no memory of the time he was gone
  89. Apparition of a sailor lost on a previous voyage
  90. Dead sea monster, sharks tear it apart
  91. A makeshift raft or a ship's escape boat with or without survivors
  92. Coffin floating on the water
  93. An uncharted island
  94. A fog bank
  95. A navy
  96. An experimental submarine
  97. A beacon on the shore disappears and/or a new one appears
  98. Very low tide grounds the ship
  99. Veryhigh tide complicates the loading/landing of goods in a port and passage under low bridges
  100. Ice winter threatening to catch (and crush?) the ship in ice
  101. Tall cliffs with bird nests
  102. A burned or otherwise ruined bridge across a river
  103. Distant lightning storm at night
  104. An unknown vessel shadows the party's craft, shearing off if challenged
  105. Badsupplies discovered in the ship's stores, making a landfall necessary
  106. Something horrible floats to the surface
  107. Overboard sailor saved by sea creatures
  108. Supplies dwindle and rationing becomes strict
  109. Strange sailor superstition triggered
  110. Dangerous sea monster attempts to communicate
  111. Compasses behave strangely, cloudy sky, navigation hopeless
  112. A rain of mice, beetles, toads, serpents, or fish
  113. Visions in the clouds that only some of the crew can see
  114. The captain makes a questionable decision
  115. The entire ship is swallowed during the night by an immense beast
  116. Stars black out
  117. Someone falls from the crow's nest
  118. Someone crushed by a yardarm
  119. Passenger acts up, seemingly without cause
  120. Someone has committed a crime on board and everyone is a suspect
  121. Friendly scrum turns deadly
  122. A hatch seals shut and won't open
  123. Iceberg spotted; source of water and/or foes?

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Chat with Johnn - June 14

I'll be hosting an online chat at on June 16. Any and all are welcome to swing by with bricks, bouquets, questions, tomatoes, or just to say hi. Exact time in the evening is TBA. See you there!

Psionics-Anlarye IRC Network: Roleplaying Tips Chat

Readers' Tips Of The Week: 

1. Vampire Podcast 

From: LimeCat a.k.a. Dustin Allen

Hi Johnn,

I've written to you before, noting a lack of White Wolf information, but I wanted to write this time to inform you about a new podcast I am running on a weekly basis. is the address and it's called the Podcast of Darkness.

Our focus is on White Wolf games, specifically at the moment Vampire: The Requiem. We'll be participating in games over the air at some point and continuing the process of fleshing out the White Wolf materials.

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2. Bottle Rocket Shafts 

From: David B. Goode

re: Roleplaying Tips #310: Airborne Minis Tips

Hey Johnn,

I wanted to share a useful tool for battle mapping: bottle rocket shafts (the non-exploding portion of a bottle rocket).

They're cheap, sturdy, thin, about 10 inches long, and can be bent into semi-circles or other shapes. They make great markers for walls or roadsides, and can also be used in place of dowels for many of the Airborne Mini Tips.

Of course, the downside is that you can generally only purchase them a few times a year, and the bottle rockets becomes somewhat unstable without them....

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3. But I Read The Monster Manual! 

From: Leslie Holm

My players have read the monster manuals--all versions and all expansions--at least as many times as I've read Lord of The Rings. And they know them better! So, when I say "You see something that looks like a giant brain with a vicious beak and 10 dangling tentacles," I hear, "Eisel, would my character know that's a Grell?" Even if I say no, that player still has the knowledge, and consciously or subconsciously, uses it to battle the creature.

My world now has an ancient tower that once housed a brilliant wizard whose main hobby was creating and altering creatures. There was a horrible battle hundreds of years ago, and he was defeated and cursed into an undead creature, unable to leave the room he's in. All of the creatures he was working on were trapped as well. Now the traps are failing and the creatures are being revived.

That Grell the players ran into just happens to be a sentient being now, whose only aim in life is to have its tentacles scratched. On the other hand, the house cat wandering around purring has poisonous needles embedded under its fur and would be almost fatal to anyone petting it.

For this portion of the adventure, at least, no player knows what to expect from any creature. And it's my hope that even when they leave the tower, they will bring some of their lack of surety with them.

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4. Homemade Telescoping Mini Stands 

From: Andy Cowell

re: Roleplaying Tips #310: Airborne Minis Tips

You forgot telescoping antennae!

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5. RPG Cliches Resource 

From: nwmike

Cool web site of RPG cliches: The RPG Cliche List

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6. Use A Timer To Create Random Failures 

From: Anders

In the real world, little things occasionally go wrong, and I find it hard to recreate this bit of realism within my games. People trip, ropes break, and a million other little things can throw an interesting wrench into plans at any time.

In RPGs though, it's easy to forget to include these things. Everything in the world is always running too perfectly, and it isn't as interesting as having little failures once in a while. While dice are fair, they usually indicate bigger events than something like a car ignition failing.

A fun way to include this in games is with a random computer timer. At random intervals a few times throughout the session, it plays a tone, and the very last thing someone did fails in some small way. If characters were speaking, the last three seconds or so are redone with a mistake. If they were running, they just lost a shoe. If they were shooting, their gun just jammed.

A random buzzer could have other uses as well. Any ideas on how to implement one?

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7. Image Sources 

From: Nathan Lamothe


I've noticed your listing of image sources for whatever.

Have you found yet? All of it is interesting, and some of it would be useful for gaming atmosphere.

Another site is Kenn Brown's work at Mondolithic Studios. Much of it is more cyberpunk than fantasy, but still very cool. You'll likely recognize some of it from magazine covers like Sciam and Wired.

Love the newsletter.

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D&D Player's Handbook II - $31.46 + 5% cash back!

A follow-up to the Player's Handbook designed to aid players and provide more character options.

The Player's Handbook II builds upon existing materials in the Player's Handbook and is specifically designed to expand options available by providing new material and increasing the uses for existing rules. Included are chapters on character race, background, classes, feats, spells, character creation, and character advancement. New rules include racial affiliations that make race matter as a character advances in level, new character classes and alternate class features for existing classes, new feats, tools for rapid character creation, and additional organization and teamwork benefits -- an option first introduced in Dungeon Master's Guide II and Heroes of Battle.

D&D Player's Handbook II at RPG Shop