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Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #488

GMing Gods, Demons And Immortals

Tips on running encounters with all-powerful beings.
Plus tips on how to prepare for game sessions using my loopy method.


This Week's Tips Summarized 

GMing Gods, Demons And Immortals

GMing Gods, Demons And Immortals

Loopy Session Planning

For Your Game: 10 Musicians


Explore Lost Civilizations Beneath the Waves

Brave the perils of the Underdeep as a water mage, a net fighter, or a sorcerer of tainted, oceanic bloodlines with Sunken Empires for Pathfinder RPG! This new sourcebook from Open Design offers resources and inspiration to run exciting undersea adventures in any campaign.

Take a deep breath and make the plunge--buy Sunken Empires at the Kobold Store.

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A Brief Word From Johnn 

Back up your game data

A quick reminder to make copies of your stuff - computer files, Google Docs, character sheets, websites and anything else you would miss.

Two Goodman Games 4E crawl reviews posted

Grant Howitt submitted two reviews that are now available at the RPT website. If you play D&D 4E and like dungeon crawls, you might be interested in learning about:

Riddleport Session #5 - Plots Thicken

Last game interesting developments I planned seemed to go over well. First was the unexpected assassination of an NPC who had a business proposal on the table for the characters.

The Slaying of Butan

It seems the inn the PCs inherited was used as a safe house by mages seeking to escape Riddleport. The Order of Cyphers mage guild has stringent membership rules that give it a lot of power. Apprentices often find themselves sold off to wealthy merchants and nobles as slave-like house mages. Poor parents sell smart children to The Order, which trains and resells them once they hit third level. Pirates will return with captured mages or intelligent prisoners for sale to The Order.

Those who fear such a fate need to get out of Riddleport undetected. Butan, a Mwangi mage who escaped via the inn with help from the former owner a year ago, returned in Session #3 with an offer. If the PCs continue on with the safe house, he will arrange regular boat transport to Mwangi and will take care of the escapees.

The PCs parleyed with Butan for quite awhile and used all their skills and spells and powers to root out whether Butan was a good person trying to help, or just a profiteer. Unfortunately, Butan had a good poker face and the meeting ended with the group wanting to think his offer over.

The point is moot now, because Session #5 started with Butan getting attacked and murdered in his room at the PCs' inn. Fortunately, the group was able to catch a glimpse of the killer and identify it as a shadow demon - a creature adept at magical movement. The demon left a dagger with a spider design in Butan's back. This calling card was also used when Saul - the NPC who left the inn to the PCs in his will - was assassinated a few days ago in his room.

Astrinus's Amazing Offer

In Session #2 a kindly old man introduced himself to the PCs as the new owner of the building next door. He leads a philosophy that says the gods are not divine but instead just powerful beings who keep Golarion in thrall for their own selfish ends. The PCs detected that Astrinus was overwhelmingly evil, yet they remained civil.

The building is being renovated and will be the new headquarters of a club whose members can gather to debate the gods and the nature of the universe. The PCs were invited to be members, but they politely declined.

In Session #5, Astrinus invited the group over for tea and a special offer. With reluctance, the PCs paid him a visit. During the friendly meeting, Astrinus offered each PC a Raise Dead contract. If a PC signs a simple document saying he agrees to join Astrinus's club, then he will bring them back from the dead at any time if the character's body can be brought to the club headquarters.

Quite an offer! Who would not want a second chance in case of an accident or worse?

Two PCs agreed to sign. Others are mulling it over. The paladin feels he now has a new burden to protect his friends from succumbing to Astrinus's evil trickery.

False End

In Session #1, a member of the Order of Cyphers hired the PCs to venture outside the city to a nearby estuary and return with a lock of dryad hair. The group was worried the task might exceed their current abilities, so they delayed going on the quest.

The PCs' inn has a few guests. One, unfortunately, was Butan. Another is a strange old rat-lady who is the former owner of the building Astrinus purchased. Now that she's rich from the sale, she is staying at the inn until she can book passage to Cheliax where she has family.

The only other guests right now are The Iron Oak - an NPC mercenary group. They left on a mission in Session #2.

Well, in Session #5 they return. Bursting through the inn entrance in song and revelry, they have the body of a female fey creature hoisted in the air. They keep chanting, "We killed the dryad! We killed the dryad!" Looks like the PCs can scratch one quest off their list. Dang!

But wait. As the characters get a closer look at the body, they spot webbed feet and hands. And thin, shiny scales. Too bad the Iron Oak took the head off already for collecting their bounty. A few skill checks later and the group discovers the poor creature is not a dryad at all. The quest lives on.

Patting the members of the Iron Oak on the back and offering them free drinks, the party rubs their hands in glee....

Have a game-filled week!


Johnn Four,

Campaign Mastery

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Advanced Adventures #14 now in PDF & coming to stores soon!

The Verdant Vault of Malakum is an OSRIC(tm) module designed for 4-6 adventures of levels 8-10. Hidden away in the vast jungle are the remains of a long dead kingdom led by mage- kings. The tomb of the greatest and most sadistic liege lays waiting for discovery among the lush green. Now available in PDF and coming to stores later in May!

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GMing Gods, Demons And Immortals  

1. GMing Gods, Demons And Immortals 

By James Yee

Gods, demon lords, imps, immortals. The names bring up images of powerful beings whose mere presence changes everything around them. Stories abound of hapless heroes facing such beings and coming out on top, normally through some bit of trickery or quick wits.

So how do you run one of these over-powered beings and still give the players the sense of accomplishment and the memory that such encounters create?

First decide the flavor or theme of the encounter. No encounter with a powerful being should be taken lightly. These beings have the ability to completely save, screw up, or raise the level of your game for your players.

Is it a violent encounter? A revelation or conclusion encounter? Perhaps it's a Puck encounter? I'll go into detail on these three, and afterwards you'll see how most encounters will fit into these categories; but feel free to come up with your own flavors using the ideas and tools I'll present.

Are you a god?

From modern day Ghostbusters to pint-sized female mages, many major stories end with a climactic battle against an impossible opponent of godlike abilities. On the face of it, these hostile encounters are campaign enders, as no PC should be able to kill something this powerful.

That is why, if you want to have an encounter like this, you'll have to come up with a few ways the PCs have for a chance of winning.

Step one for encounters like this is the lead-up. This is normally done throughout your entire campaign and it should all lead toward this goal.

Have your PCs take on messengers, gatekeepers, and minions that all leave clues as to the identity of the powerful creature in question. Also provide hints and clues to your proposed solutions to taking on this creature.

Step two is coming up with those solutions. Sometimes it'll be something simple like a major spell or item of power that you've had your PCs quest for and only THAT object can take down the creature.

Perhaps it's the summoning ritual itself that can be reversed, or its streams crossed to force the being back where it came from. Maybe the PCs have to kill the mortal form and ignore the big invincible being trying to kill them?

Do not be too obvious with these ideas. For instance, if it's an item of power maybe it doesn't work as you think. A powerful sword could be the item of power but it breaks upon striking the monster. The handle could then be shown to produce a magical sword of light with the metal blade merely a facade to protect its identity.

After you've come up with your solutions, put your PCs through hell and back discovering them and rushing to fight their enemy.

Set-up a major set-piece for this encounter. The top of a skyscraper, the ruins of a major city, the top of a mountain during a thunderstorm. This encounter is a major deal and your PCs will be expecting a lot, so go Hollywood on them and pull out all the stops.

Draw out any pre-fight dialogue you can to savour it. Have fun with it. As GM, you are playing an all-powerful being and the PC's are merely flies buzzing about you!

In encounters like this you want to emphasize the being's total disdain for PCs (or at least any danger they might present). This also comes in handy if your PCs are being a little dense and can't figure out how to use the Dust Buster of DOOM to take on the Cyclone Demon. Have the being not attack for a round or two, whatever it takes for your PCs to figure things out. They can even spill the beans "accidentally" on how they can be defeated. "You silly mortals will never seal away my ashes again!"

Another attitude to take could be sorrow and confusion. A godlike being that is totally surprised his "children" would want to destroy him. Or a being who wants to bring about world peace, by putting everyone to sleep forever, might be a bit confused as to why anyone would fight that. "Why do you resist me? I only want what's best for you!" This attitude also gives the PCs a chance to win, because the being wouldn't be going "all out" as to not destroy that which it wants to "save" or "help."

A third example attitude is total oblivion. The being doesn't care or pay any attention to the PCs. Perhaps it's just the deamon's hand coming into the PCs world and hence it has no clue, or care, as to what it's doing. Or it's a being that doesn't think like the PCs and hence couldn't communicate if it wanted to. A sentient hurricane is still a hurricane after all. Perhaps the being isn't programed to respond to outside stimuli and just goes on with its mission. The Doomsday machine merely responded to attacks automatically; it doesn't care who is on the planet it's eating, it just eats it and goes on.

Make sure when the being is defeated it's not a simple flash and it's over. Come up with a nice afterwards and epilogue to go along with this epic encounter. Even if it's hugging and back slapping while covered in toasted marshmallows, make it a memorable moment for all concerned.

I am the great and powerful OZ!

Perhaps your all-powerful encounter is more of an informational or conclusion encounter. The all-knowing immortal or the great and powerful wizard may only want to talk. These encounters can be a good way to start or end a campaign. How often you plan on encountering these beings influences how much work you have to do.

First, work on a strong description of the being. From the scent of sulfur in the air to the emerald shade of his giant floating head, it's the details that will sell this being as knowing far more than the PCs ever will.

Mannerisms and speech patterns are key to making a talky character like this be more interesting than reading from a book. Do they stutter? Or make grand pauses or overly dramatic gestures like they were preaching to the PCs instead of merely talking? Perhaps they have an accent or a limp. These details are good for every NPC you want the PC to remember, but are doubly so in extremely powerful NPCs since they are supposed to have so much power over the PCs' lives.

Next, you need a good reason to have this character around. It can be as simple as being the final stop of the campaign, it should be something that means everything to the PCs.

Is this being their only way home? A way to bring back a lost loved one? How about returning a fellow PC to their body? More than a simple wise man archetype, you should use a powerful being like this for a major reason that will change everything about your campaign, either by kicking it off with a bang, or ending it well.

Talking encounters like this give you a wide range of tone and attitudes to play with, and is by far the most varied of all the encounters with super beings. As such, you should think what drives this being and how it sees the PCs.

Is it a kindly fatherly type or an old thinker put upon by noisy kids? A caged animal who grudgingly helps the PCs? A slave trapped in a bottle who is only allowed out to perform a simple task? Or someone pretending to be all-powerful so as not to lose their place in the world or their life? Every reason produces a different tone and attitude. Here are a few examples.

Jack in the Box

The basic Wizard of Oz idea. Your all-powerful being isn't anywhere near as powerful as it claims to be. While the being can be wise and helpful, it must always be wary of others figuring out the truth.

Encounters like this are normally flashy and boastful as the Jack tries to keep the PCs off balance. Include a hint of wariness or hastiness to prevent the PCs a chance of catching on.

These can be fun encounters to run, as it is a subtle game of cat and mouse between GM and PCs.

Decide how much of an impact learning the truth is. Can destroy a kingdom or just give the PCs leverage over the being?

The old worm

This is usually a powerful and dangerous being who doesn't care too much about the PCs. It could be an ancient dragon, a guardian, or a creature content being left alone for the next hundred years.

The key to these encounters is the being doesn't want the PCs around, but at the same time isn't riled up enough to actually want to do anything about getting rid of them, not much anyway.

These encounters are usually cranky, short tempered, but tinged with restrained aggression. The being could grumble about "eating noisy meat sacks" or complain about "massive intellect wasted on stupid questions." If you've got pushy or annoying PCs, these encounters should be able to become combat encounters. If you poke a dragon often enough it will eventually eat you!

The Master

Strange and mysterious masters-of-some-theme, these characters have various opinions of PCs depending on how much they know them. Some will be kindly and fatherly, wanting to help the hapless fools, while others will be grouchy and unhelpful until the PCs prove their worth in some way.

Another way of using these is to never give a straight answer, as that is too easy on the PCs. Replies should be vague and mysterious, giving answers that even if looked upon in a mirror while standing on your head will still make no sense.

Usually a safe and effective powerful being, they can be used regularly without being too over the top. Be prepared to have these beings pull off something to prove their abilities, especially if you've used a Jack-in-the-box in the past.

The Genie in the Bottle

A confined or coerced being of extreme power. Encounters are usually formal and to the point. "You've got three wishes left" or "State your business." Most beings in this category have no patience for mortals or whomever has control over them, they just want to get out or be left alone.

Encounters are usually tinged with hatred or a desire to escape. The Disney version works here with a happy-go-lucky character who tries to make the best of a bad situation by being silly and over the top. By and large these encounters are brief but game changing. Use them sparingly.

A talky encounter with a powerful being is a great way to shake up a campaign if you're willing to put in the effort to make them worthwhile. They need to be more memorable than most of your NPCs, and always appear to be more powerful than the PCs. They should change the flow of the game and make the PCs wish they'd either never met them or can't wait to see them again.

I always keep my agreements, sir. Look... we're nowhere near your vessel.

Puckish characters have been around even before The Bard decided to create that fanciful character. These beings are usually tricksters who tend to complicate things more than actually cause harm to people.

Make no mistake about it, though, these beings are extremely powerful and deadly. Some can play with the minds of men like a baby with a ball of string, while others can literally move objects light years in seconds. Others have the ability to grant wishes or to answer any question, but never quite as PCs expect.

Use beings like these to lighten things up or make them challenging depending on your needs. If your players have just finished slogging through months of dungeon crawls or trench warfare, a run through a candy land created by a sugar crazed being might be a nice change of pace. If the PCs are starting to get full of themselves and laugh in the face of your carefully laid plans, throwing a trickster at them who makes them take on something completely beyond their experience can be just the splash of cold water you need.

Another good thing to create for your Puck character is a shtick. Something strange and unusual they always do that's a bit of a signature for them. Do they always speak in rhymes? When they use their abilities does it always create a flash of light? Do they have a sweet tooth? These little touches should be decided early on and always used so the PCs start to know who is messing with them.

Most of the time these characters should be untouchable, no matter how much the PCs may want to hurt them. Though if you'd like they can be killable, in which case they should just require some odd way of taking them out, such as learning their true name or driving an old piece of wood through their heart.

Allowing them to be hurt but just having it cause no long term damage is another interesting way of using a Puck character. A cat that always comes back when killed, or a being who is constantly banished only to return another day are some quick examples.

No matter how annoying or silly you make the character, make their powers real, even if used in a silly way. If the being tosses the PCs in candy land, then the chocolate might be acid or the candy canes might act like guns. Getting beat up by a gingerbread man could be just what an uppity PC needs to get his head turned on straight.

In the end, while the Puck should be nothing more than an annoyance, it should still be an annoyance that has a real chance of causing serious harm to the PCs. The attitude and tone of these beings is usually determined by how deadly you want them to be.

Plucky and Quirky

This default version of a Puck-like character. A trickster and meddler, this being is usually bored or otherwise unhappy at the moment and sees the PCs as a fun diversion. They can be childlike and literal, often using the PCs own words against them, or tossing them into fanciful settings based on the PCs' own culture.

Some will create constructs or summon up real people to fill in their "plays." Others make games forcing the PCs to "play along or die." These beings can be deadly or silly depending on what the GM needs.

Puppet Masters

These beings are often dark characters but can also be playful or misunderstood. They control the minds of others or force others to do things for them through threats of violence, such as keeping their children hostage or another loved one.

These beings try to avoid direct confrontations, preferring to speak through their proxies. As such, encounters with these beings can actually occur dozens of times before the PCs realize they're encountering a powerful being.

Direct encounters with these beings should be rare, perhaps only the final reveal after the PCs have fought their way through hapless puppets or tracked down the whereabouts of the mastermind.

Depending on the source of this being's abilities, a final encounter here can end up as a combat encounter or a talky one or both. These can be as dark and sinister as you like or just plain sad. Who wants to kill a kid who's been using dolls to keep himself company for years?

Idiot Savant

These big beasties are barely sentient or very young, and are usually accidentally bad or destructive.

A baby dinosaur might just want to play and trashes an entire room, or the rock golem doesn't notice the five doors it walks through to return the item it was sent for.

The beings can be fun reoccurring characters that can be useful, but only if the players are smart about it. Perhaps you need to bribe the beasty with a tasty snack, or get the PC that it likes to ask it nicely.

Whatever it is, encounters with these beings should be fun and light-hearted, with a touch of "duck and cover" thrown in to keep the PCs on their toes. Any damage these beings do is accidental or incidental.

Having a devil dog as a best friend could have its uses, so be wary of letting the PCs keep these beings around permanently because they can easily unbalance a campaign. Conversely these encounters can become dangerous fast if the Idiot is angered; striking out with blind rage and unrestrained power can be bad news for any group of PCs.

* * *

Super powerful beings can be a rewarding addition to a campaign if used properly. The biggest hurdle is they can become a crutch for GMs and PCs alike, so use them sparingly and in specific situations.

Take a look in your favorite books and movies and see how they use powerful beings as major encounters. Feel free to steal liberally from these sources, but be warned, your PCs read and watch movies too.

Go out there and challenge your PCs and ask them if they are gods or not. Just remember there's no good answer to that question.

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Loopy Session Planning 

By Johnn Four

My method of session planning is simple. Some might call it loopy. It lets me get done what I can between sessions without the trap of planning too deep into one thing so everything else is left undeveloped. If I run out of planning time before a session starts, my system gives me a foothold on numerous fronts so I can still GM with confidence.

I've explained this process in the ezine before, but new subscribers might not have read the archives. As this is how I'm currently GMing, I thought it might be valuable to long- time readers as a refresher to consider for your own game, to disagree with, or try parts of it mixed with your own thing.

Step 1: Create Buckets

It's critical to have a place to capture all your information. Your game notes system cannot be part of the problem. You need a simple setup that works for you so when you generate ideas, designs and plans there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place.

Your buckets might be software, GM binders, index cards, Post-It Notes, notebooks or some combination of these options. No matter what, get this figured out before your campaign starts.

If you are mid-campaign and struggle with managing all your game information, stop right now and flesh out your information buckets system, else you will always be hampered by this problem.

Step 2: Create a Session Plan Template

Just like your information system, you do not want to re- invent how you will plan for each session. Create a session plan template to make prep easy so you spend all your time working _in_ your system instead of working _on_ your system.

I use software for my buckets, so I created a blank session plan template and copy and paste a new version for each session. If you use paper, you can print out or photocopy blanks to fill out.

My template has the following items in it:

  • Session # I like to track how many sessions we've played in a campaign. It also makes sessions and logs easier to reference.

    Plus, my group has a betting pool going on right now for when there will be a TPK. I bet session #15. As I'm the GM, I'd place my money on that session, if I were you.
  • Real world session date This gives me a deadline to work with.
  • Who's coming This gives me a contact list for each session. When the session actually happens, I remove names of absentee players who didn't end up making it.
  • In-game calendar start date At the beginning of the session, what's the game world date? Noting this helps me keep my timeline straight.

I'm using a new game world - Golarion by Paizo Publishing - and I have not memorized the months and weekday names yet. So I typed out the days, months and year into a text string in the template. I just remove everything but the current day and month names to create a fast date.

Well, that's not technically true. I leave the string intact and keep it at the bottom of the template. I paste the names I need to create the start date. Having the string handy during sessions lets me diarize new dates quick.

Here's what I use for Golarion:

Moonday Toilday Wealday Oathday Fireday Starday Sunday ## Abadius Calistril Pharast Gozran Desnus Sarenith Erastus Arodus Rova Lamashan Neth Kuthona 4710AR

  • Log This is where I store my notes as I GM the session.
  • Threads Here is where I do the meat of my session planning. All plot threads, big and small, get listed here.
  • News In this spot is one section for out-of-character news (e.g. real world news, campaign updates, schedule updates, player news, status updates) and one section for in-character news (rumours, gossip, clues and information).

Removing all the commentary, my session template looks like this:

Session #: Real world session date: Who's coming: In-game calendar start date: Log: Threads: News OOC: IC:

Step 3: List All Threads

Template copied, pasted and ready for next session, I list out all the campaign's current plot threads - old and new.

By thread, I mean everything that might generate an encounter next session: upcoming one-off encounters, major plot threads, minor plots, side-quests, and so on.

Here is an example. The items will not mean anything to you as they are pasted from an actual session plan, but I just want to show you a real life example to give you an idea of how I record things in the Threads section.

  • Black Daggers
  • Warehouse - goblins
  • Beggar children - Tam
  • Sahuagin
  • Warehouse - trapdoor
  • Green Daggers come to collect payment
  • Butan
  • Pit Fight #2 for Crixus
  • Saul's Murder
  • Raston wants to be Crixus's agent
  • Repercussions for all the gather info checks
  • Order of the Iron Oak
  • The Beggar Master - PCs want revenge?
  • Commander Toeral's Favour

As I use software, I bring forward the list from last session's plan via copy and paste. I remove anything that was resolved, and then add new items that developed or whose time has come.

Step 4: Prioritize What Will Happen First

In case I run out of planning time, I work on what will most likely trigger first next session. I go through my list and organize it into two groups:

Group 1: Will happen for sure. (Well, as certain as anything can be in an interactive game.)

Group 2: Could happen, but it's unlikely or uncertain.

In each group, the least likely to happen goes to bottom of the list.

There is no guarantee what I plan gets into play, or that what I do not have planned will not trigger. I've found prioritizing things works well though. It is rare I need to improvise a whole session these days because I get caught 100% off-guard.

Continuing my example, here is my ordered planning list:

Group 1 - Most likely to happen

  • Warehouse - trapdoor
  • Warehouse - goblins
  • Green Daggers come to collect payment
  • Butan
  • Pit Fight #2 for Crixus
  • Saul's Murder
  • Raston wants to be Crixus's agent

Group 2 - Could happen, not likely

  • Black Daggers
  • Repercussions for all the gather info checks
  • Sahuagin
  • Order of the Iron Oak
  • The Beggar Master - PCs want revenge?
  • Beggar children - Tam
  • Commander Toeral's Favour

Step 5: What Is The Next Step For Each Thread?

I run through my list, top to bottom. For each I ask, what is going to happen next? Most of the time it's logical. The PCs will take an action: visit a location, talk to an NPC, attack a foe, use a skill or spell or special ability.

Sometimes a list item gets high priority because it's time for an NPC or faction to act instead of being reactive to the PCs. This type of next action is easy determine - what will they do next?

I jot at least one answer beside each item.

  • Warehouse - trapdoor: PCs enter 5 room dungeon
  • Warehouse - goblins: PCs enter 5 room dungeon
  • Green Daggers come to collect payment: PCs negotiate or use force
  • Butan: Meeting - he presses for an answer
  • Pit Fight #2 for Crixus: Halcos confirms match
  • Saul's Murder: PCs open locked chest
  • Raston wants to be Crixus's agent: he's spotted watching Crixus train again, meets with Crixus
  • Black Daggers: they pay a visit to issue threats or try to ally
  • Repercussions for all the gather info checks: ambush if can catch 1 or 2 PCs alone
  • Sahuagin: attack again
  • Order of the Iron Oak: return victorious, PCs will question what they were up to
  • The Beggar Master: PCs want revenge? PCs will spy on or confront
  • Beggar children - Tam: pending
  • Commander's Toeral's Favour: pending

'Pending' is code for me to keep an eye out as play develops for opportunities to trigger this thread. Sometimes I do not need to take on an active planning stance. I can sit back and insert a thread when the time is right.

For each next action in Group 1 I get my ingredients ready to GM. I design, create the encounter, draw a map, create some NPCs, figure out rewards, stat block monsters or NPCs, fill out the dungeon, and so on.

If I have time, I go through the list again, but just for Group 1, to figure out the second next action, if any. Some threads will be resolved once the combat is done, the dungeon explored, or the quest ended. For threads still open after the first next action, I will list the next step and design or plan that.

For example,

  • Warehouse - trapdoor: PCs enter 5 room dungeon; ends
  • Warehouse - goblins: PCs enter 5 room dungeon; ends
  • Green Daggers come to collect payment: PCs negotiate or use force; NPCs likely to get mistreated so report back to Street Boss and get assigned temporary muscle to go back and teach PCs a lesson
  • Butan: Meeting - he presses for an answer; if agreement reached he departs (sched reminder +30 days) else pending
  • Pit Fight #2 for Crixus: Halcos confirms early in day with Crixus; ends
  • Saul's Murder: PCs open chest; ends
  • Raston wants to be Crixus's agent: he's spotted watching Crixus train again, meets with Crixus; training session and new match arranged and announced

Step 6: Keeping Looping

For as much time as I have, I keeping looping through Group 1 planning next actions and creating required game elements (people, places and things) to game those out.

After the third or fourth loop Group 1 items usually reach an end or get too uncertain to be worth spending more planning time on. At this point I include Group 2 items in my planning.

Most times a couple loops consumes all the time I have to spare on campaign planning, and next session arrives. I do not reach too far into the future.

If a large gap of time occurs though, perhaps due to session cancellation, then I'll divert to sandbox creation: world building, villain and faction building, special rewards planning and so on.

* * *

That's it. One step at a time, one thing at a time. If I have a crazy period between games and only get a couple things planned, that is two more items ready to game than I had at the end of last session. That is a win, in my books.


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For Your Game: 10 Musician NPCs 

By Dragonlordmax from Strolen's Citadel with permission

1. The Master

Few can play this man's instrument of choice as well as he, but fewer still can match his arrogance and disdain for those of lesser talent. He is always finely dressed and equipped with a masterful instrument.

2. The Cheater

Although he plays masterfully, this man possesses neither the innate talent of the prodigy, nor the remarkable experience of the Master. Rather, he has made a pact with some dark power in exchange for his skill. He now owes that power his loyalty - and his soul.

3. The Untouchable

A nobleman or even a member of the royal family, this man has no talent, yet insists upon playing at every opportunity. Unfortunately for those with ears, his rank makes it impossible to refuse him. Those who try find him easily insulted and quick to express his anger.

4. The Killer

An assassin of nobles, this man's flute is a blow pipe, his drum a bomb. His seeming preoccupation at the time of the murder prevents his becoming a suspect. At least his victims are treated to some lovely music before they die.

5. The Competitor

An above-average player, the one thing this man loves above all else is a challenge. He'll compete in any musical competition and attempt even the most impossible piece of music. He strives not for the glory of victory, but for the thrill of the challenge.

6. The Spy

This musician, who happens to be a personal favorite of His Lordship, is actually the employee of another noble. Even as he entertains, he gathers information that his true master is certain to find interesting.

7. The Brawler

A hot-tempered tuba player, this musician is one whom no tavern owner wants to have playing at his establishment - unless he seeks to collect insurance money, that is. This man's tuba is more often seen swinging through the air into some poor chap's face than it is at the Brawler's lips.

8. The Wizard

A remarkably expensive individual to hire, this mage uses magic to create beautiful, otherworldly sounds, which no normal musician can match. As such, he is always in demand. Unfortunately for him, the local Entertainer's Guild isn't quite so happy with his recent successes.

9. The Novice

Although this young man is still learning, he is sufficiently competent to be worth hiring, particularly to strapped-for-cash nobles. Unfortunately, he has little experience playing before an audience, and his nerves will likely get the best of him.

10. The Inclined

This man does not play on stage, and does not, in fact, regard himself as a musician. But he is, and it is deeply ingrained in his mind. Frequently, he accidentally makes music through everyday activities - he idly taps his silverware against his glass, creates a melody through the shifting of furniture, or orders cannons fired in a pleasing rhythm during battle. He does not realize he does this, but it is a part of him nonetheless.

* * *

20 more musicians await you at Strolen's Citadel

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Johnn Four's GM Guide Books 

In addition to writing and publishing this e-zine, I have written several GM tips and advice books to inspire your games and to make GMing easier and fun:

Inns, Taverns, and Restaurants - new

How to design, map, and GM fresh encounters for RPG's most popular locales. Includes campaign and NPC advice as well, plus several generators and tables

Adventure Essentials: Holidays

Advice and tips for designing compelling holidays that not only expand your game world but provide endless natural encounter, adventure, and campaign hooks.

GM Mastery: NPC Essentials

Critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning guide to crafting, roleplaying, and GMing three dimensional NPCs for any game system and genre. This book will make a difference to your GMing.

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