Shipboard weapons in sci-fi

Science fiction is filled with a ton of great and fantastic options for exciting storytelling and perhaps none of those options are as common as Space. There are so many wonderful things  about space that I want to devote a whole article to that it’s hard to pick where to begin. I’m going to start with a topic quite important to most people playing any tabletop game. Weapons. Specifically I want to talk about spaceships, spaceboard weaponry and the effect it has on diverse weapon options.

               A single breach in a bulkhead or wall can mean depressurization and death. Which means the ideal weapon aboard a spacecraft is not likely to be a high powered energy gun, or some sort of handgun that shoots armor piercing grenades or a laser sword. This creates a need for a wide variety of very different weapons. From a  gaming perspective this means there are a lot of potential ways of justifying weapons that might otherwise fall by the wayside in a futuristic campaign.

                One common category of shipboard weapons could be sensory weapons like flash grenades and sonic pulses and nausea rays that disorient, blind, or stun the target. Even chemical sprays and gasses that knock out foes could see common use. In the modern day these sorts of weapons are used to disperse crowds, abuse the innocent, and disable dangerous criminals. This category could also include psychic weaponry that disables the targets mind directly. All of these weapons could be specific to certain common alien races, or more widely reliable, but there are always going to be exceptions. It might be impossible to blind a creature with no eyes, while a creature that is mostly a giant sensory organ could instead be killed by a conventional flash bang for example.

               Another category is binding or restricting devices. This could be throwable shackles/handcuffs that latch onto a foe, or small metal spheres that when hurled expands into a writhing mass of cables and wires. At which point it’s basically become a high tech nets, though conventional or electrified Nets could work as well, especially if made of a superstrong cable. And then there are force field generators that could be used to create a box or a prison, or even just a tactical shield like a modern day SWAT officer. More esoteric variations include gravity well generators that create a centralized point of gravity that pulls people towards them. Instead of generators one could use gravity nullifiers that cause their targets to float about uselessly without some way to adhere to the walls of the ship. And then there are chemical sprays that fire a liquid or gas that rapidly changes to a solid. this can either be a very hard durable solid like a concrete foam, or something much more sticky, or even slippery. Any of the three makes for an excellent deterrent. Trapping a foe in place or making them unable to move or get away without falling over. Or imagine a handheld 3-D printer that can fire spools of super heated or chemically unstable thread that rapidly hardens into steel or titanium or diamond. These weapons may all require some cleanup after use, but it’s a lot easier to dissolve a known chemical compound than it is to completely replace a ship or section of hull. And some of these devices may even be used to make immediate temporary hull or system repairs.

               Then there are lethal weapons that don’t risk breaches. This can include melee weaponry such as swords and knives and staves. These melee weapons are easy to control and deal little damage to a hull or glass but can still dispatch an unarmored or lightly armored foe. And of course these weapons can be enhanced with more advanced technology, vibrating blades are particularly common, as are ones sheathed in flames, electricity or kinetic force fields. It is of course important that these advanced weapons don’t become strong enough to actually destroy the windows and hulls, otherwise they’re only marginally safer than ranged weapons. My advice here is to pick really cool designs for melee weapons and just roll with them. The diversity of real world melee weapons speaks volumes about how much humanity values look and feel and uniqueness over uniform efficency.

               Then of course there are even more unconventional weapons. Psychic weaponry that attacks a foes mind, time disruptors, trained packs of alien hounds, aggressive nanite swarms, well programmed attack drones or robot guards, and even conventional firearms programmed not to fire if they detect that their shot will hit the hull. These help round out the huge roster of dangerous deterrents for anyone thinking to board a vessel. The important thing is that it in some way can stop, hinder, or kill an opponent without doing the same to the ship.

               What all of this truly serves however is allowing a massively diverse range of weapons that might otherwise be hard to justify in a futuristic setting. Each of these weapons is fascinating in its own right and serves to make threats so much more varied and diverse than simply blaster cannons and lasers. And of course as always when it comes to sci-fi, don’t limit yourself based solely on what you see here. Keep your mind open to the possibilities that advanced technology allows!

Sci-Fi in Fantasy

As I alluded to in my previous article, Sci-fi can be so much more than robots and spaceships. In fact even traditionally fantasy specific games can be sci-fi. The two are not incompatible. Allow me to weave some ideas for a sci-fi fantasy setting.


With a thought a mage focuses and is connected to a great humming web of magic. Millions of mages the world around sending spells and tidbits of arcane lore to each other using raw magic as the conduit. For the cost of a few motes of spell power the casters mind obtains the incantation they're looking for. A few words and gestures are fed directly into their mind and their hands and voice follow along automatically. Perfect casting every time. Even the humblest of spellcaster can access ancient forgotten magic as long as they can pay for it with their own arcane essence. The  Spelltender elementals, carefully trained and mindless constructs of magic, filter and sort this magic. The mage focuses on finding good offensive spells, ones with casting components that they already have. But with a frown they expand their search to include spells with material components within 100 miles, and once they choose a spell a simple unobtrusive illusion visible only to them forms a glowing line directing them to where they can get the missing ingredient.

 The warrior places her palm on the wooden door. The dragon leather glove she wears grows warm and the reptilian eye on the back of its palm opens. She sees with the prowess of the dragon, detecting each foe in the next room. A lightly armored goblin packing three different wands. Three orcs, one wearing an animated suit of armor, the other two brandishing finely machined falchions. She formulates her plan,  wordlessly she directs the two small, and rather expensive, homonculi to action. They each grab one of the small magical spheres from her belt. One would fill the area with a potent cloudkill, ideally it would eliminate her foes. The other would create a powerful and deafening sonic blast. Cut off sight and sound and then attack anyone that survives the initial assault, focusing on the goblin with the wands.

"Planar date, 332836.5 Our journey into the depths of quadrant E of the elemental plane of  wind proceeds smoothly. Our Vessel, "The Intrepid" continues to provide all that we need without waste, without loss, and without the need for other fuels. If I live another thousand years I'll not have had every meal our ships' conjurors drives can produce. Our mission is to go forth bravely into the infinite unknown of the planes, to seek out new life and new civilisations. Though our vessel brims with powerful arcane cannons, force wall generators, and invisibility technology we hope to never need any of it. Our people have long ago passed the need for violence, and now we seek only peace, understanding, and knowledge."

These are just three simple little prompts that can help you take your fantasy game and add a light, or even heavy dose of sci-fi into it. By using magic as a substitute for technology, and monsters for aliens, it's simple to take many common tactics, storylines, and plot devices and use them in your existing fantasy game. Hopefully this has helped make your game a little more exotic.

Sci-fi Month

It's May, and thoughts of space are in the air. So this month's theme is written in the stars. This is Sci-Fi month! All month long we'll be talking about space, science fiction, technology, and their places, uses, and adaptations.  So to get us started let's take a look at what makes something science fiction and some of the common ideas and themes of the genre.

To start off, science fiction is ironically more of an art than a science. It's something that is felt more than tested for.  The same quality, depending on how it is explored and presented can make something sci-fi, or not.

A story about internet monitoring, hacking, and privacy invasion in the modern age could easily be science fiction. Even if it contains only real, currently existing technologies. There's nothing futuristic, impossible or advanced about it yet the story is still about technology and its impact.

Conversely something like Dragonball Z features robots, androids, cyborgs, aliens, space ships, and time travel, but it's still not quite something most people would call sci-fi.

In a fantasy game like DND adding in a Revolver, and a Robot, and even a boat that can sail through space doesn't make it science fiction. And yet using only magic you could make your fantasy game into a sci-fi game. But I'll cover that more in another article.

The things that make up a science fiction story change over time. The nuts and bolts so to speak are different. What used to be "The Ether" and Lightning and radiation and chemicals has been replaced with hacking, cybernetics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing and quantum theory. The new impossible sciences are always growing and changing as fast as we expand what is possible. It's not the technology itself that makes Sci-fi, It's the exploration of that technology and what it means.

To me, science fiction is the examination of technologies and capabilities that are, were, or could be. Really good science fiction makes you consider the far ranging implications of what people are capable of. We know that you can't just staple a body together, zap it with lightning, and make a living being. But Mary Shelley's Frankenstein didn't suddenly become a fantasy story. Because it explores the repercussions of the modern Prometheus. It asks the question of if it's right to create life, what ones responsibility to that life is, and how such a life might experience existence. The same story is even more relevant today when we're so close to the process of cloning humans. Technology does not determine sci-fi.

This exploration of science can be done in many ways, it can be an adversary, or a tool, it can be benign or benevolent or malignant,  it can be subtle or overt. But we'll go over all of that later in the month. So consider that something to look forward to in the future.



Cool action

So, you’ve just gone through a tough dnd encounter. Enemies slain, xp gained, treasure get, but it feels somehow unfulfilling. Everyone just kind of stood around and attacked. You had cover, and interactable terrain, and lots of options, but none of it got used. The whole fight might as well have been in an empty room. I hear this problem come up a lot, but I’ve found other people too quick to blame the players. There’s a simpler truth.

Pathfinder does not incentivize, and often even penalizes, being cool. Sure, dashing around behind the enemy to attack from their blindspot is neat, but it actually just provokes an attack, keeps you from full attacking, and gives no bonus. Trying to disarm or trip a foe without the right feat provokes an attack, and the benefit is vastly outweighed by losing your ability to attack that turn. Flipping a table over for cover is stylish, but only of minimal value. For the same action you could drink a potion that would provide a similar bonus to ac but last much longer and follows anywhere you go.  Throwing a chair at someone is awesome, but when you have a sword on hand it’s kind of lackluster.

So it’s hardly fair to blame players for not using stylish but ultimately inferior tactics. Which is why I have introduced a “Cool action” into my game. This is an extra action that players can take on top of normal actions, but can only be used for stylish things. This can be an attack with an improvised weapon, a combat maneuver, or an interaction with terrain (such as by flipping a table of cutting or a rope or the like). But the important part is that this is meant to be a less tactical option. If your party fighter is built specifically for disarming then making a disarm attempt is not a stylish or cool action because they’re optimized for it, it’s what they would be doing anyways. The goal should be to encourage players to do things they wouldn’t otherwise be doing. This helps mix up combat, making it more diverse and interesting and rewarding players for thinking of fun clever permutations on combat.

This system takes a little bit of getting used to as you and your players think about what a good use for their cool actions might be and what would be an abuse of the system. Once you’re adjusted however this system allows a plethora of fantastic opportunities to help spice up combat. And don’t be afraid to let some of the villains be stylish too, turnabout is fair play after all. Hopefully this has helped make some of your blander encounters out there a lot more engaging.

Multiplying your possibilities

Hey all, It's whatever Wedensday, and you know what that means! It means whatever I want it to mean. And this week I want to share a story about game design with you, one that leads to a very important tip. I've been hard at work putting together some content for an upcoming play test and I wanted to go through the whole process with my players. I wanted them to be able to create characters and pick and choose using a bunch of different abilities for the content I'm making. It was a fairly low level game and I have about 80 pages. each page had three or so abilities on it. I had about 240 abilities, which was a pretty good selection.  I had a few hours left to work on things before people arrived. Each of these abilities had a cost to use, A cost to learn, a time required to use it, an element, a range and prerequisites. What I could have done was make probably three or four new abilities, maybe even five if I hurried. But I had a much better way to expand the number of options.

I instead wrote four abilities that could be taken to modify other abilities. You could now change the cost of learning a technique by taking on a weakness, you could make it take longer to use in exchange for reducing the cost to use the power, you could make a technique faster to use by raising the cost, and you could ignore some of the normal requirements in exchange for increasing the cost to learn it. Because these modifiers could apply to nearly every single technique, each one created a vast number of options. Now instead of 240 abilities, there were effectively 1,200. Now of course, there naturally would be many combinations that weren't as likely to be chosen, but they still existed. So by the time the players arrived to test, I had a massive plethora of customization, just from adding a few modifications.

Almost anyone is familiar with this sort of ability creation. DnD 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder all use metamagic's extensively to create millions of theoretical spells. (If you count, Silent Magic missile as different from magic missile). And some systems like Gurps and Mutants and Masterminds are built so completely on these abilities that they present infinite options.  

As a game designer, these concepts are so incredibly useful for rapidly expanding possibilities that they should not be overlooked. But there is a danger to these sorts of things as well. If every player had, for example, 12 abilities, it would have taken 20 sessions to test all 240 abilities I had before. But by adding those four modifiers, it would now take a thousand sessions to playtest each combination once. And that's not even counting abilities that can be modified by more than one thing. If your system is carefully designed, and these modifiers are made with a lot of consideration, you can estimate that most of these new abilities will be benign. But if you want to test everything you need to be careful of how much theoretical content you're creating without actually writing. Look for and think about special outliers that might be unbalanced if combined with the right modifiers, and never stop looking at your own content in new ways.

Hopefully this has been helpful for all you up and coming home brewers and game designers.


Style points

Alright, April is officially style month, and I'm gonna start it off by firing a hot houserule at ya. This is something called a "Style Point" that we use at my table. It started off as a class feature for a class I was writing, but now It's grown and mutated into a house rule all its own.

The basic idea is this: Everyone starts off the session with a "Style Point" and you can spend that point to take a non offensive action at any point you want. Including in the past, as long as it can't be proven that you didn't, and if doing that action needs a roll, such as a skill check, you automatically get a 20 on the roll. This should be used to do something cool or exciting rather than boring and practical. For example

"As the assassins burst into my room I roll out of bed. I'm going to spend my style point and pull the wand of lightning bolts I had stashed under my pillow so I can blast these fools on my turn."

Is cool and interesting. Using the point to have stashed a magic item in a useful easily retrievable place in the event of enemy attack is a great use for this power.

"I attack the enemy, thats a +6. Oh actually +8 because I am gonna use my style point to cast bull strength before we entered the room." That's boring and not a good use of style point.

But something like "As he goes to strike me he finds I defend not with magic, but with my bare forearm, blocking the blow as rage fills my eyes. He realizes I  don't intend to engage in the spell battle he has in mind. I'm already deep in the sway of my Transformation spell, making me a deadly warrior."  Could definitely count as a use of a style point, as long as the player hadn't cast a spell since the time they declare having cast Transformation in the past.

After all the point is to be stylish and exciting, not to give minor tactical benefits. The other important thing about style points is that when you do something really cool, you get back the style point, but you can never have more than 1. This is to prevent players from hoarding them and holding on for too long and encourages them to use those points when they have an idea.

I've found this system really encourages players to get creative and not worry too much about their limitations, since anything is possible if you have enough style. The other benefit of this system is that it's very easily adapted to any kind of game no matter what the base rules are.

Homebrewing Basics

In honour of the announcement of Pathfinder 2nd edition, Duck and Roll is celebrating March as Homebrew month! We’ll celebrate all the homebrewers who intend to vigilantly keep pathfinder first edition running long into the next decade. All month we’ll be looking at how to homebrew, why you should, and what makes it truly exciting. To start off we’re going to take a look at the basics of homebrewing.

To start off, let’s look at the simplest part of making your own content for your favourite tabletop RPG. First and foremost you need a core idea for what you are trying to create. Ideally you want to be able to summarise whatever you’re making into one or two sentences. If it takes more than that to express the basics, you might need to focus more tightly.

Once you have a basic idea of what you want to make you need to establish some familiar ground. It’s important to be able to relate whatever you’re making to another official part of the game. Some systems make this incredibly easy. Making anything new in world of Darkness comes with a beautiful framework already in place for you. Working through a system like pathfinder it can be useful to find a similar class to compare yours to, or a feat or feat chain or item ect you can match up with side by side.

Once you have something to compare to, you can start thinking about how you’re deviating from the most similar work and why. You can think about stylistic differences, about mechanical rules permutations, and about adding, removing, and changing other major qualities. All of this is to better suit your core concept.

Now that you have your first draft, look it over. Read over everything you have, and how it works. Does it stand up on its own? Is it free of typos or other copied and incorrectly altered text? Does everything make sense, even for someone who isn’t familiar with the original material it was similar too? And lastly does it match your concept? If anything isn’t satisfactory, go ahead and change and reword it.

Finally you’re ready for the most intensive and fun part. Playtesting. First, make something using your new content. A new character, a monster, a dungeon. Whatever it is, make something with it and see how it feels. Did making the character run smoothly? Does the NPC feel right and make sense? Did anything give you trouble or make the creation process more difficult? Fix those things. Now do it again different. Make a character stronger or weaker, or a different dungeon with the same device or trap, or another character who uses the item differently. Does everything still hold up? Have all the problems been smoothed out? Good. Repeat one more time from a third perspective, with a third different use.

Now that you’ve tested out your content, you like it and you think it’s done it’s time to watch it be handled by others. Get someone else to use and test your content, as many people as possible, as often as possible. And take notes of what people ask you, what they think, and what they do and want to do but can’t. Now you have to carefully make sure to sort out the valuable and important ideas, from the irrelevant. Sometimes people will have incredibly useful of insightful ideas, other times they might not really have any clue as to what they’re really asking or suggesting. Remember, your final product is yours, but the more people can use and enjoy it, the more rewarding it will be.

Hopefully this has been a helpful outline of the basics of how to homebrew your own content for whatever your favourite game may be.

Love as Motivation

In my previous article: The power of love I briefly wrote about  how love could be a powerful motivating force. I'd like to really focus in on that idea for this article and look at the many ways in which love can motivate. These motivations are not necessarily all heroic or noble mind you, and they can easily serve to motivate a villain or anti hero as they could anyone else.

Courting: Courtship, the winning of romantic love through great displays, is a classic of fiction. The knight slays the dragon to win the hand of a beloved noble. The street tough robs a jewellery store to get something nice for their cute new gang member. The smuggler battles a galactic empire to impress someone. The mad titan who wishes to impress death itself with a grand sacrifice of lives. The things that people do to impress and win the love of others can be grand gestures indeed. Almost all creatures can feel love in some form or another, and that feeling can drive one to achieve impossible goals, for better or worse.

Impressing others: I was strongly tempted to put this under courting, or to even just call it "Friendship courting" but regardless of the name the concept is the same. This is something I really don't see enough of, and I quite want more. The idea of wanting to make new friends or impress the ones you have through huge displays of prowess, or dedication, or brilliance is a underappreciated form of motivation. There is no doubt that it is absolutely an expression of love however. This can also extend to wanting to impress or fit in with a group, whether that's the party, military organization, religion or cult.

Protection: What wouldn't you do to save someone you love? Many of the greatest stories ever told are those of heroes battling to defend their  loved ones from a threat vastly beyond their own means to combat. A knight battles an army of ghouls and ghosts to save their beloved from a demons grasp. A parent with a very particular set of skills sets out to save their Taken child. The world is in danger and it just so happens that a heroes loved ones live on the world. A rare illness, and an even rarer cure far away. This is an absolute classic motivation, but it also extends to the love of one's self. Sometimes merely surviving is a goal all of its own.

Revenge: Vengeance is an incredibly powerful force. It's a desire that knows only a destructive goal of making someone else pay for what they did. It can often occupy the same space and masquerade as justice, allowing it to take the shape of a noble endeavour. Taking vengeance for harming a loved one is an incredibly relatable goal. Everyone has at some point been wronged only to want desperately for the person who hurt them to pay for what they did. The reason is that this is classified as vengeance, and not justice is that real justice is indifferent to who was harmed. The burning down of /anyone's/ house is cause for justice. The burning down of /your/ house is cause for vengeance. And this article is specifically focused on the context of love and loved ones.

Loss: When a loved one vanishes from our lives, the love we felt doesn't go with them. Grief, pain, sorrow and loss can be very powerful motivators. Doing anything and everything possible to honour the ideals and memories of the fallen. devoting ones self to making sure no one ever feels this pain again. Finding a way, any way to make the pain and hurt go away. Loss is the most complex motivation covered here because people handle it so differently. It's not an attack against ones loved one, it's not a burning desire for revenge, it's not the need to have someone else love you. Loss is a pain of the heart, with no clear solution, no way to break it down and understand it. It is for the person in pain to decipher and resolve in whatever way they can.


Love and the Species

Many campaigns and games are filled with very different and unique races, species, and offshoots. Often times these groups have their own cultures and identities. With such groups it would not at all be uncommon to see very different types of love, or different ways of expressing that love.  And even if your game is only one kind of race there is certainly the potential for different cultures to poses different customs and ways of handling love.  So let's take a look at some considerations for how societies and races handle love.

Understanding love: There's a lot that can be learned just by looking at how people quantify love. Take a society that believes there's only one kind of love. They may experience a great deal of trouble and confusion when it comes to identifying their feelings, especially towards close friends, lovers, and family. They may realize that these are different kinds of love, and yet without an understanding of why; they may face many uncomfortable experiences in life. Meanwhile a culture that has 1,000 kinds of quantifiable love speaks of a very emotionally intelligent people who have an easy time quantifying their feelings. Likewise there may be races with no understanding of love and how it works, whether they be incapable of it, or even incapable of any emotion.

Expressing love: Sometimes saying how you feel can be very hard. Races and cultures can have many different ways of expressing ideas. A vampire experiencing something close to love might choose to enslave or torture the object of their fascination. Meanwhile someone else might write a nice letter or e-mail. Perhaps a Dwarf would create a gift for their beloved, while an Orc might take to bullying or teasing them, intending it to be harmless. Other's might not know how to express their feelings at all, and that can be every bit as painful and confusing as not being able to understand. Some groups might have varied and clashing romantic ideals, others might have a very formal and well documented courting system. Also consider the symbolism of love. Is  love represented by a heart? A Kidney? A sea sponge? Are lovers seen as waifish whimsical poets and young idealists? Or is the archetypical lover someone older, experienced, nurturing and supportive?

The rules of love: "All is fair and love and war" but does this hold true for all peoples? Every society has customs and beliefs about who, how, why, and when you should or shouldn't love someone.  Some might contain love to within the same social caste, or even only to someone of a different caste, or to people  above or below a certain age, or of only the same or different species. There are of course also rules for conducting courtship. Is it taboo to hit on a friend's ex? To seduce away their spouse? To date a friend's great grandmother? These rules and values become moral touchstones for a civilization. They speak volumes about how to view love, life, and themselves, and the world around them.

The differences of love:  Even more dramatic than how they pursue and quantify love, some races may experience it differently. Perhaps a long lived race only feels love for anything in relatively short intervals of time. They love passionately for a few years before completely shedding those feelings. Perhaps a race loves incredibly easily, every bit as committed as a more slowly built bond.  It's also possible there are some beings that cannot feel real love at all, and instead are only capable of lust and obsession.  You can also create brand new kinds of love that most people might never even consider a possibility, or envision a culture or race that only feels a single type of love.

Hopefully this look at love among different cultures and species has sparked some ideas or a new take on a classic ideal.

The Power of Love

Something to consider when planning a campaign is exactly how powerful is love? This can mean a number of different things depending on the game and setting and style. But any game in which there is love will eventually find it tested and measured in some way. The strength of love can be a big part of conveying your theme. So let's take a look at the ways that you can express how weak or powerful love is in your particular game.

What people will do for love: This is a simple but important question. What will someone do, or endure, for love? Will they risk their life? Their wealth? Their immortal soul, if they have one? Is this a game where someone will sneak across miles of war torn battlefield to be back with their family? Is this a game where there's "Another one in every port" and yet you lie awake at night thinking about the one that got away?  Does your setting value love as a reason, as a driving force? Or is it seen as foolishness to choose love over responsibility or ones own gain. If you tell a member of the police, the space rangers, or the city guard "Please, it's for love" how do they react? Will you be met with a harsh stonewall and a grim rebuff? Or do they offer a personal escort, because they'd do "Anything for love"

The Authority of love: I love respected? Is it revered? Is it a well known fact that true love is the greatest force in the world? Think of the authority that love holds in a story like The Princess Bride. The difference between a healer turning someone away and bestowing a literal miracle is the fact that true love was in danger.  Can you justify refusing a marriage to a wealthy noble because you cannot love them? There are many who style themselves as champions of love, those who will do anything under the authority of promoting love and happiness and see it as a divine duty.  And in some games love itself may actually be a true sentient force that can make demands.

The mechanical power of love: In the vast array of RPG's it's hardly unthinkable that love can provide a very real quantifiable power. A super hero who gains strength, speed and stamina in accordance with how loved they are. A priest of Love itself given divine magic by the bonds that people form. A changeling that feeds primarily on love has everything in the world to gain by promoting it.  Growing strong on real love and drunk on romantic dreams. And these are all just mechanics that can already be found in games. It would be easy to create extra bonuses or rules for benefiting the idea of love in your campaign. For more on this check out the article: Mechanical power of love!

Mechanical effects of love


If you want to really sell and promote love in your game you can help re-enforce that idea through some customized mechanics. Many players identify much more strongly with quantifiable values rather than abstract emotional ideas. Some games already include mechanics for love and motivation, while others have systems easily adapted. Here I provide a small selection of love based rules for  several of my favourite role-playing games. Most of these mechanics will benefit from having the players pick a specific number of people/places/things that they love, usually from 1 to 3 at the beginning of the game, but it can vary from campaign to campaign.

Pathfinder/ 3.5: Both of these systems have a hero point/action point variant option already in place. The easiest adaptation is simply to allow the players to gain an extra point they can use only when acting in the name of a strong love. Alternatively you could allow the players to receive a +4 on an attack, save or skill check as long as it relates to protecting and furthering their love.

World of Darkness: Love can be used as an excellent addition to the Vice and Virtue system. Consider allowing the regaining of a willpower when protecting or impressing someone's loved one. This mechanic is exciting because it's not just when they're in danger, it can also be for trying to impress them or improve your relationship. This means it functions as a virtue, but also a vice. Even lying to make yourself seem better to the person you fancy might qualify for a willpower point, provided of course that lie can blow up in your face later.

DND 5th edition: his is a pretty easy one to guess. Fifth edition really only has one major bonus to apply, and that's our friend Advantage. Consider allowing a player each to get advantage on any one roll as long as it relates to something their character loves and values. This system is extra easy to implement since a 5th edition sheet already has a spot for bonds and allies and allegiances, making it a snap to define who is or isn't an acceptable loved one.

Savage worlds: Another easy system with a great built in rewards system. Give each player one extra special Love Bennie that they can use only in situations relating to their character's love. Simple, easy, and encourages the players to have their characters feel strong about someone or something.

Mutants and Masterminds: Another great system with a built in hero point system. Simply reward an extra hero point when someone's loved ones are in danger and watch the heroic expressions of love unfold.

Whatever Wednesdays: Nested monsters

So, I'm starting a new thing this month, it's called "Whatever Wednesdays" Where I cut away from the month's theme so I can bring up any old topic that Is on my mind.

This time I want to talk about what I like to call "Nested monsters". I can't take credit for this idea, I've seen it in a very few 3.0 and 3.5 monsters, but more recently I've seen it used very well by one of my closest friends and sometimes DM's. Yes, even I get to be a player sometimes.

The idea is simple. Take a monster and put another monster inside of it. When the first monster is killed, a second one emerges. A magma elemental is shattered and out comes an earth and a fire elemental. A zombie is felled only to have its chest explode in bats. The skeleton suspended inside a gelatinous cube is actually an animated skeleton. You get the idea.

When creating this type of encounter the first thing to think about is what makes it different from fighting a pair of enemies. Firstly, it's different because it's not expected. the first few times this happens it might be a complete surprise. The party thinks they've won and then suddenly a monster explodes onto the scene, attacking them just when they thought they could relax. The other main benefit is that it allows the players to focus on one foe at a time, but still deal with the same number of creatures. This makes the overall encounter easier than facing two foes at once. You can also use this to fake out your party. A wolf explodes into a hellwasp swarm and suddenly staying grouped together and using melee weapons becomes a far less viable tactic.

Naturally an encounter like this needs to have some adjustment to the CR, but it's a very easy one to make. Having one creature inside another raises the cr of the encounter by 1 if both creatures have the same CR. so a cr 4 monster that explodes into a CR 4 monster when slain is a CR 5 encounter. From there all the regular adjustments apply. If there are two such nested monsters of that power the total CR would by 7. We can also then create a mixed nested monster. a CR 4 monster might instead explode into 2 cr 2 monsters, or a CR 3 and a CR 1, and so forth. And it goes without saying to always base things off the strongest monster, regardless of if that's the monster inside or outside.

This same formula can also be used for multi stage boss fights. An ogre beaten down and then overcome with a sudden surge of ferocious power, selling its soul on the spot and becoming a half demon might heal entirely and gain new powers, essentially becoming a whole new enemy, and as such this same formula would be appropriate.  Big sweeping multi stage fights are a hallmark of great videogames, and exist in many forms through movies and literature and I think it's only fair Pathfinder get a shot at it too.

Try this system out and see where it takes you, hopefully it can lead to some great encounters.



There are few forces as powerful as love. There is no world, no place or time or story that is devoid of love in one form or another. Without love there is no action, no movement, no desires, no goals, only stagnation. With that in mind this month's theme is Love. All month long we'll be looking at how love fits in your campaign, why it matters, what forms it can take, and what it can do, and we'll look at some great ways to utilize it.

So if we're going to talk about love, let's talk about all the different forms of love, and some related ideas that can serve similar roles to love.


Romantic love: This is one of the most common types of love that people associate with the word. Romantic love is a beautiful and powerful force. It is a devotion to another person that exceeds even ones own personal needs. Romantic love is something different from sexual attraction, even if the two are often related they can both exist without the other. Romantic love can be entirely chaste or celibate, it can be directed at once or more people and may or may not be reciprocated. It's also possible to feel a romantic love towards something inanimate or of a lesser intelligence, but these types of feelings are almost always unhealthy in some way for the person feeling them.


Platonic love: The most common form of love in most roleplaying games. Platonic love is the powerful love you feel for friends and companions. The desire to spend time with the people who make you the happiest. Longing to hear your friend play their music, wishing your brave leader were here to help guide you,  already knowing what your smarmy criminal friend is going to say, but wanting to hear them say it anyways.  Platonic love is a powerful form of friendship, the formation of a strong bond with someone else that you'd risk your life for.


Love of something: This kind of love is to take incredible exhalant enjoyment in something. This is an often underappreciated form of love and yet it can be every bit as powerful. The child who grows up watching horror movies works hard and saves money and then winds up making those movies when they grow up. It can be something as simple as a security blanket that you'd run into a burning building for. It can be complex as a certain feeling evoked by a set of circumstances that are nearly impossible to explain. This love is one of the keys to making a really real feeling character.  Love of something can also include dedication to an ideal. A hero who puts justice and goodness above them self has a deep love of those ideals.

Familial love: This type of love is one of duty and obligation. It's a love that one must feel. In most cases one must love their family. They are the people who raised you, who take care of you, who you have known longer than anyone else. More than the other's it's also a love of forgiveness. Familial love includes the idea that no matter what you say or do, it can still be repaired and healed and forgiven. These powerful traits however can also be dangerous. Sometimes family doesn't deserve to be loved. Sometimes they use that obligation as a weapon to trap and harm you. The idea of always forgiving can easily be turned into the idea that you need to be forgiven for something. Familiar love is something that is forced and foisted onto someone involuntarily. The idea that you have no choice but to love your family, any family, no matter what is powerful, but that power can be for good or ill.

Obsession: Obsession isn't true love, but rather a twisted mirror of love. It's a need, a driving consuming overwhelming focus on something. Obsession is dangerous because it cannot self sustain. It is fire that always needs to burn something to survive. Obsession is like addiction. The high is always followed by the need for a greater high. You think you love someone so you watch them, and watch them, and watch them. Soon watching isn't enough, you need something of theirs. A discarded piece of trash, a dropped key, a towel they left behind. You have it and it makes you happy, you feel fulfilled, but then it fades. It's not enough to hold that towel, you need to dry yourself with it. You need to keep that trash forever and build a monument to it. You need to feel that key sliding perfectly into a lock. You use the towel over and over again, afraid to wash it for fear of loosing that high, but it eventually becomes too appalling to use. That stolen piece of garbage rots or decays away and you need something else to replace it. You change the lock on your house to match that key, but soon you lose the giddy thrill you feel every time you lock or unlock it. Then you're looking through their trash, you're following them to the gym to get a new towel, you're using the key to open their lock. It never ends, it never fades away, the obsession just keeps burning. This is an incredibly powerful narrative tool for players and storytellers alike.


Lust: Lust is not love but is often confused or associated with it. Lust is a powerful desire for something. The most common use of lust is a sexual desire or a desire for sexual satisfaction but one can lust for anything. Lust is similar to obsession though much more manageable. One can lust for something, achieve it, and then turn their attention elsewhere. Lust can be dangerous if it's too powerful, if it causes someone to ignore their own or someone else's needs. The key different between lust and love is that love is putting someone or something else first, lust is putting the need for something ahead of anything else.

Ready Made Religeons

In previous articles we've covered why you might want religion and gods in your game, and some different models you can have for them in your setting, now let's get down to some examples. In this article I'll present a selection of premade religious ideologies and pantheons that you could use for your own games. Each of these also serves as a framework for a campaign on it's own.


Lords of the earth:

The world has been carved up by the gods, powerful spiritual beings that rule over their domains by granting powers to their followers. A god of the sands and scorching heat sends their missionaries into the mountains to spread their faith and influence. Soon the solid stone of the mountains begins eroding, dissolving, breaking down into sand. And without those mountains the desert winds will blow even farther. Elsewhere a sea god sends great crashing waves upon the beach day and night. But each wave scoops away a little more of the soil, a little more of the land bound world. Faithful forest followers plant trees and saplings and till the earth, growing the reach of their own god as far and wide as they can. These gods may have names and histories, or they may be something far more ancient and primal, but their influence is real and palpable as they struggle to tear another few yards of dominion from each other.

The last lonely god:

There was a time when divine beings were many, their power and knowledge was wide spread and they influenced many aspects of reality, some working together, others playfully rivaling and countermanding each other. And then a terrible fate befell them. Something came for them, hunting them down and destroying them. Was it a god of murder? Of hunger? Of death? War? Or perhaps it was something altogether worse than a god, something more wicked still. But one survived, a single tiny frightened little god. A god of whispers, or gentle wind, or illusion. It's too late for the other gods, but the mortal world can still be saved, can still be warned, but what is a silent little god to do? Only the most subtle manipulations will allow them to remain undetected. A shift, a face, a detail hidden in an illusion. A tiny weak voice when everything else is quiet, a gentle breeze where none should be. Is this enough to warn the mortal world? And even if it is, what can they possibly do against such a foe?


The sun kindler:

There is a god who keeps the sun burning. A terrible and powerful god that holds all of life in its hands. The god has named itself ruler of all the world for all eternity. But the kindle for the sun, the wood that keeps the blaze alight is the power of mortals. The greater the power of the mortal the longer they burn, and the weaker a mortal offered, the more that must die. But isn't it convenient that for the world to live requires the death of the only ones powerful enough to threaten this one god? Isn't it strange that all history of the time before the sun kindler was lost, and in a great fire no less? The other beings known as gods have long ago fled, been imprisoned, or silenced in other ways. Of course there are those who preach a secret "truth" that this god lies, that the sun will always be the sun. There are those who would stand against this god. But why does it seem that these creatures are all blood drinkers and dark elves who fear and hate the sun.


As below, so above:

The gods grant their abilities only who possess qualities for which they are known. The gods of duality and symmetry bestow their blessings only onto those born as twins. The God of Malice and hatred bestows power only to those mad with deepest hatred. The gods see only their own traits in humanity, and believe, or require, that only those like unto them should obtain their own power. This creates a world where priests are like unto their very gods becoming more and more like deific avatars than their own selves.


When gods sin:

Perhaps the gods are not perfect by virtue of being gods. Perhaps they are gods by virtue of being perfect. The gods up above gain power through the bestowal of their weakness and frailty onto others. A god of healing bestows their fear and disgust onto their followers to make themselves brave and dauntless. An ocean god gains great speed beneath the water, while one of their followers instead sinks even in the saltiest brine no matter how they struggle. The gods in their great realm are peaceful and wise because their greed and envy and wrath and pettiness are shunted onto the very people whom pray to them. But to ease this burden the gods grant a mote of their own power to their followers. Of course power as great as the gods comes with vices and sins just as great, and the world is made more sullied and dangerous even as the godly realm becomes more perfect and peaceful.

Types of religeon

When adding gods to your setting it's often helpful to look at how these religions are organized and how wide spread they are. To that end we're going to look at a few different organisations of religion that you could use for your setting.

Monotheistic: Your setting has a single god. This concept seems simple but it allows for a staggering variety of options. Your one god may be all power and all knowing, carefully orchestrating all events to a perfect and precise end. Or your god may have but a single ability that allows them to affect the world. Perhaps your god only has the ability to decide where a soul goes once it leaves the body. In a high fantasy game you could have a god that can only interact with the world by granting spells and being magically contacted. Likewise a god that can only control random events,  the path of a burning flame, the subtle flow of still water, or dreams could all make for fascinating religions. Imagine how different a faithful could be if they could only hear the word of god in the blowing breeze, what places would they worship, what would their temples look like?  A monotheistic setting may or may not have a massive organized religion, but if it does, see the "One religion" section below for some ideas for how it might look.

One religion: A singular religion encompasses most or at least a huge portion of the world. Select a single specific pantheon and apply it as the gods of your entire world. This setting benefits from the ability to greatly explore a single religion. Because there's one faith it's easy to give it a lot of depth and detail and to explore it fully. Of course the downside is that it limits your options. If your pantheon doesn't have a god of frost then you might have trouble making use of your cool ice priest concept. A monotheistic religion is much more likely to have great power and influence, which can make them either fantastic backers for the party or can have them serve as fine villains. Of course our real world has many large powerful influential religions, to give all that power to a single group would make quite a powerhouse indeed. Monotheistic religions are generally very neat and organized with categories and classifications for their gods, faiths and practices. At least that's how they /appear/. In truth a huge religion is likely to have many splinter groups, many "blasphemers" who believe in a slightly different religious canon. Not to mention separatists who want to further fragment their religion. Adding to all of this are isolated preachers and priests who have little connection to the church itself, but use its power and influence to spread their own beliefs.

Several large religions:  Most world's aren't likely to have just one religion. Normally people grow and develop separately with their own cultures, languages, customs and religions. Some parts of the world may have different pantheons or worldviews and depending on the setting even entirely different and equally real gods. The advantage of this is that you can always squeeze in another religion or god if you need to. You can also create conflicts between various religions, as is so very common in fantasy and reality. The downside is that you may have less chance to fully flesh out all the faith's of your world. The more there is to cover the less attention you can give it naturally.

Tribal and local gods: This breaks the gods down even farther. A particular village may have a local spirit of the fields or wheat. A small clan of goblins may worship a fire god that one of them thought they saw once. Even a single roadside shrine may have a "god" dedicated to it, however small and weak it may be. This makes the status of godhood  more attainable, more real, more visceral. A hunting god might actually hunt you through the woods and could, wit planning and skill, even be overcome. This method allows you to use godly foes and encounters even at low levels, and to sprinkle in the supernatural or divine anywhere. The downside is of course that if your gods are smaller and weaker, more akin to spirits, then eventually the notion of a god begins to hold less weight in that setting unless great care is taken.

Hopefully this has provided a few examples of types of religions you can use in your setting. Stay tuned for more on the subject of gods and divinity.

Gods in games

Many games and campaigns have at some point an important place for gods and religion. Whether it's the power a cleric draws from, the motivation of an ancient crusade, the new age of technogods, or the god king emperor of Mankind, there's always a place for gods. November's theme is gods and religion and we're going to kick things off by discussing why these things are vital to almost any game you want to run and how we can take those needs into consideration.  


Mechanical necessity: Some games or systems have gods as nearly a necessity. They have class features, perks or other qualities that draw directly from a divine source.  While other systems may be able to get by without a god, it would certainly dramatically alter the tone of such a game.

Character development: Religion is often a major factor in people making life changes. There are many stories of redemption, sobriety, and spiritual healing that are linked to finding or embracing religion. And likewise there are many tales of heroes falling, and the weak minded being corrupted and turned by dark gods and evil powers tempting and seducing them.

Cosmological:  While not every campaign setting necessarily needs a deep and intricate and well documented cosmology, but when one is required gods are oft involved. Gods can hold a cosmology together, serving to explain where things came from, who rules them, and who designed such a very nicely constructed multiverse.

Narrative: Gods are powerful beings who come with a mythology, a grandeur, and often insight beyond anything a mortal can access. This is why they are often great quest givers, plot hooks, and motivational factors. Gods can also be rallying points even when they themselves aren't involved. A dying god rallies a whole country behind the cause of salvation. A newborn god may be putting all the other religions on edge.

Opposition: Gods and religions make for amazing villains. An overzealous church on a crusade is enough of a foe to fuel an entire campaign alone. A god makes for a fantastic final villain for a game as much as a priest of a knight makes for a fine foe at any point. Not to mention the countless sea of stories driven by evil cult's. An enemy driven by religious zeal or backed by a wealthy and powerful organisation is already halfway to being great before even fleshing them out.

World building: Designing a world means creating places and people that feel alive and believable, and people for better or worse tend to seek out religion. People look for a higher meaning to things in their life and believing in a god provides that meaning. Likewise religion has played a huge role in world history and society today. When you create a world and characters in it, faith and divinity can serve as an inexhaustible well of inspiration and ideas.


Hopefully this has shown a few good uses for gods and religion in your setting, stay tuned all month long for more specific details on how to work with these elements

Haunted mansion adventure

                So we've looked at why you might want to add some fear to your campaign, and we've looked at a few options for doing so,  but I've always found examples to be more beneficial than just lessons. So I want to tell the story of a little fear centric game that I ran for my players.

                The basic idea was simple, run a Halloween 1 shot that would give my players a good nervous time. And I went about it in grand fashion. I'd run a nice self contained haunted house adventure for them. The goal was to escape the mansion and find the key to the gate around the mansion grounds. I knew I wanted to give them a fright so I put a lot of thought into how to do that.

                Step 1 was to take away the sense of familiarity. My players are quite savvy when it comes to the games I normally run and I wanted to take that comfort away. I considered running something I rarely use, a call of cthulu or a savage worlds perhaps, but I didn't want too much focus on the rules. So I created my own simple system instead. A few different skills that also worked as defenses, and instead of a health stat there was more of a wellness stat, it covered not only physical, but also mental health. I wanted a game where you could be scared to death or madness.

                Next I made some very basic "classes" each one with different skills and each with a unique ability. A jock, a skeptic, a nerd, and a comedic releif, The Jock could resist physical injury but was weak to fear. The Skeptic could handle fear better by denying some supernatural events. The comedic relief could make a pithy quip to restore some wellness to players, and the nerd had abilities to help progress through certain areas easier but was vulnerable to both fear and physical danger.  And then came the crowning glory. At the start of the game, each player received an envelope that foretold how they would die.

                The cards read as follows: Exanguination, Buried alive, Burned to death, Drowned. My players asked what that meant. Would they take double damage? Die instantly? How severe were these methods of dying? But they got no answer. Each player now had one thing to fear especially. And that meant every time their threat came up they were spiked to high alert. I mention a broken window, or a kitchen knife, and exanguination player tensed. Bathrooms were a drowning waiting to happen according to drowning player. And it also meant that no one could or would handle every problem. The jock wouldn't try to "tank" their weakness, for fear of dying from it outright or being horribly maimed. Likewise the other players couldn't just rely on who was healthier or most likely to succeed on every problem because their weaknesses added a dangerous variable. Even more than that, it gave them something real and specific to fear and made them constantly searching for how their weakness might get them.

                 To heighten the constant dread, I made each player their very own hand written card with their weakness. Something they could hold and touch and feel constantly in their hands, physical and real. The goal was to make them constantly on the lookout and on edge for their weakness and it worked wonders. Everyone was fidgeting, nervous, and tense the whole game, focused on their wellness damage and constantly alert for any sign of their fatal weakness.

                By the end of the game, everyone had a blast, and my players still talk about this game from almost 10 years ago even now. Every year they beg me to run it, or something like it again, and I very well just might. Hopefully you'll be inspired to run your own terrifying game for your players by taking a few ideas I've talked about here, or heck, just lift the whole concept if you like. As long as everyone has fun you can't go wrong.

How to scare your players

So last week we talked about why you might want to add a dash of terror to your games, so now let's talk about some ways to do just that. Making your game scary is very difficult as I've talked about in the past,  but here are a few good ways to get started.

Challenge: This method I've covered already a little bit. Make the players feel outmatched and threatened. I don't just mean the sort of general feeling of being weaker than someone, like standing near an important or powerful npc or person. I mean have something far deadlier than the players trying to kill them. An ancient vampire prince against their new turned whelp. A retired boxer in the presence of an ancient writhing horror from beyond the shadow of the world. A low level hero being chased by a raging T-rex. This is a situation where it's actually a good idea to try to use metagame knowledge against the players. That player who memorized the monster manuals is going to be way more scared of a monster 8 cr higher than them. A world of Darkness veteran is not going to handle the presence of something called a "True fey" nearly as well as a first timer. Of course, it should be said, don't get your players into a situation like this without at least two good ways to get them out alive!

The disturbing: Frightening and spooky imagery and symbolism are abundant in horror based media, and for good reason; they work. The little things, the things the players can't explain, can't really get a grip on, the things for which there is no answer are often the most haunting. When the ranger on watch realizes the night has gone utterly silent, there's nothing they can do but wait. When the hunter preparing to face the vampire prince  finds even fresh milk curdles in his coffee, it can only be taken as a grim omen. There are no limits to the number of creepy and haunting events. One of my favourite books, Heroes of horror, has a huge abundance of them, but almost any good horror media has plenty to work from. The important thing is that these small bits of mood setting don't become quantifiable, identifiable, and overpowering. If the Hunter spends an entire day trying to figure out why his coffee curdles, you've sidetracked the big battle. Likewise the ranger who goes out looking for animals should be promptly redirected back to their watch (possibly after a long enough search that something slipped past)

The unknown: People, and especially players, fear what they do not understand. Nothing is more sinister than being acutely informed of how little you know. This can be anything from a pitch black room, to knowing something invisible is watching, to having just enough information to know something changed. A protagonist walks across the room in the dim light only to stub their toe on their end table. They know without a doubt that it has been moved, but no one should have been inside. A cough in an empty room. A single subspace radio signal stating only "do not proceed.".  Being injected or slipped something before the culprit escapes. There are any number of ways to create a sharp sense of dread and terror just by creating a simple X factor for the players to worry about. Their imagination will always be better at scaring them than you could ever be.

The unexpected: Sometimes all it takes is a shock to put some fear in a players heart. An enemy, neither exceptionally challenging, nor disturbing, nor unknown can still become quite a terror when found under one's bed. Something sudden, something unexpected that deviates from the plan is a spectacular way to instill some unease in a player.

Hopefully this article has led to some fun and thrilling times for your group. Stay tuned for more articles all month long.



Fear at the Table

It's October, and that means it's time for a very special theme month. This month's theme is: Fear. The sheer terror and trauma that can accompany a truly gripping life or death adventure. Fear is a simple concept that all of us have felt and experienced, butsomehow when we move it into a roleplaying game it seems to get very complicated.

Let's start with the uses of fear at the table. From there we can explore all sorts of other themes, but we want to start with the basics. Let's look at the reasons to inflict fear at the table, both on players and their characters.


Excitement: The easiest reason to give your players a fright is for simple enjoyment and fun. People like being scared to some degree and under the right situations. In most roleplaying games there's a strong focus on victory, on success, on planning to be accomplished. But when you take that focus away, when you make them wonder if they can win, if they can even survive, then you've really changed the game. A terrifying monster, a deadly trap, a sudden betrayal, these sorts of things snatch away the comfort that many games are built. Instead players are thrown intoan excited rush to find a way to get back in control.

Advancing the plot: Fear is the simplest of all motivations, and as a storyteller it is your job to motivate players. When your party needs a reason to go on to the next quest, that reason often falls to fear. The only way to defeat the necromancer, the only cure for the spreading plague, the only jump gate out of a collapsing star system, these are quests for survival, driven by fear. This use of fear is very easy because you only have to scare either the players or their characters in order for it to succeed.  To some degree a great number of adventures are built on this premise.

Tactical effects: Of course a number of games also use fear as a status effect or condition, which I'll talk about in another article. Though obviously different systems will have different rules it's fairly universal that fear effects are meant to debuff and drive away opponents. They also serve as a flavourful way to inflict certain statuses. An attack that pushes everyone back, like a giant wingbeat, feels very different from an effect that scares you into fleeing the same distance.

Tone: Sometimes fear exists just to set the proper tone for a game. A murder mystery is hard to do when everyone is laughing and making jokes. A bit of nervousness, anxiety, and tension can help create the ideal atmosphere for your game. This is perhaps the hardest to pull off but also the most rewarding use of fear at the table and I'll be covering more of it soon. Sometimes the difference between a casual beer and pretzels game, and a gripping thrilling campaign is a sharp sense of danger, importance and weight.


So now that we know some of the best reasons to include fear it's time to actually get into the real guts of the issue. Keep your eyes peeled for more spine tingling articles coming soon!

Change of System

Continuing on with this month's theme of change, today we'll be talking about changing systems. I've known a great many gaming groups and one of the first things that gets asked upon meeting is "What do you play". And then the battle lines are usually drawn, and the edition wars begin, and everyone hoists the banners of their favourite systems. Sometimes though I'm lucky enough to see players speak frankly and honestly about the games they play and why they play them. This can often lead to a lot of excitement and curiosity. There are a lot of gaming systems out there and I always find it energizing to tell or show someone something new. That all being said; a different system is by definition, different and there's a lot to consider about a new system. So let's take a look at how a group can deal with a change in system.


A new setting: Many games have vastly different campaign settings from each other, often by necessity. Even if the rules were the same, going from a fantasy setting to a modern one can be very jarring for some players. Let alone moving from something like a world of darkness game into say a Starfinder game. Even smaller changes to a setting like going from Greyhawk to Eberron can be very hard to get used to. For a game master, the most important thing is to be gentle with your players. It can be very easy to read or write a lot of setting information only to forget that these things aren't common knowledge. It's also important to consider player dedication. Only the most devout playerswill put as much attention into learning about your setting as you. Think like an exam writer, every question and test should be based on things that you have personally had the players deal with and address. For players new to a setting, think about some of the important basic aspects of the setting and how they apply to your character. If your character is a "Asteroid miner" think about what sort of life they lead. Most importantly, ask questions of your storyteller. If you think the job is basically low class dangerous grunt work akin to a coal miner, double check the case. It may be more like an ice road trucker, doing just a little bit of extremely dangerous work and getting paid enough to need only a few such jobs a year.  Remember, when it comes to an entire world different from our own, it's going to be impossible to explain, think of, or remember everything in one night. Take your time, allow for mistakes and do over's, and be patient with each other as you explore a new world together.


New rules: This is going to be one of the major things to get used to when switching systems. When people talk about a new system, most often they're talking about the rules and all their differences. The most important thing to realize is that no system will be your old system. Everything else you play will be different, which can mean better, or worse, but usually it means both. Different systems will be designed for different things. A call of Cthulu game is not likely to have the best rules for computer hacking for example. Likewise a gritty world of darkness game might not have as much detail in say the intricacies of sword combat. If you judge a game based on how well it does something that it's not trying to do, you're gonna have a bad time. Instead look at what the system is designed to do really well, where it puts the most attention and focus. Go into a new system with an open mind. It can be easy to find 1 or 2 weird rules and pick them apart and hold them up as sign of a flawed system, but nobody has ever made or played a perfect game. It's also really important to highlight what you like and why. Even if I'm running a pathfinder game, I might still grab the house and army management rules from the song of ice and fire rpg. I'd use those rules because, imagine that, the system is really good at house management and war. Even a bad system has a few good things to offer, and a great system might be full of ideas you can incorporate into other games. Just like getting used to a new setting, the most important thing is to be patient and to give your best effort to learning the new setting and understanding that mistakes will happen. And that applies to players and GM's alike. Sometimes a rule is misunderstood, sometimes the errata contains something vital, and some rules are just not for every group. My recommendation is to see if you can find videos of someone explaining the rules, including examples and the like. Five minutes of example can make more sense than five hours of just reading. Maybe a rule you thought was stupid actually had a really good reason that only makes sense when you view the game as a whole. Or it could just be bad rule, every game has them, and learning which rules to ignore is as much a part of a tabletop game as learning which rules to follow.


Newstyles: This kind of ties into the previous two things, but many games have dramatically different approaches. Imagine playing a world of darkness game like a DND adventure, kicking in the door, killing with impunity, stealing the loot and moving to the next enemy. You would get killed or arrested very quickly because it's a modern mostly realistic setting. Similarly, a call of Cthulu game where you try to negotiate with or politically outmaneuver cultists is likely to end with you kneeling at the altar of a great old one or being force-fed a sacrificial knife. A game tends to have a sort of unspoken way it's generally meant to be played. How severe the consequences of your actions are, how dangerous the world is, how powerful your character is, and more can vary a lot. It can take time to feel out how a game should be played, what the atmosphere should be like, and what sorts of things are acceptable and not. Luckily everyone at the table is there to help each other out and come together to find the real fun of a game. Make sure to be open minded about a new game style. If you're used to hack and slash adventure and your group wants to put on some sombre roleplaying, give it your best try even though it's different. You never know, you might actually really enjoy it.


If you keep these things in mind when changing rules systems, you're sure to have a more fun, open, and educational experience. Seeing a new game with eyes wide open and an accepting attitude can improve not just your new campaign, but all the games to follow as you pick up bits and pieces of great gaming philosophy.