Jan 30

Kickstarting The Forgotten Monk: A 13th Age novel


13th AgeKickstarter has been quiet for me recently. However, another great campaign has appeared which I want to share with you all.


The Forgotten Monk is a 13th Age novel by Greg Stolze. The campaign page describes the game as follows:


The Forgotten Monk tells the story of a man under a curse. His past has been stolen, and he wants it back. Fortunately for him, without memories to distract him, he’s exceptionally observant. He soon falls in with a cavalry unit that finds his ability to see through lies, spot tiny clues and pick up on minute discrepancies quite useful as they try to fight crime in their corner of the Dragon Empire.

Arrayed against them are three semi-giantesses, a crazy halfling death cultist, the Crusaders’ sinister and smarmy local captain, a love-maddened alchemist, dwarf cops, a charming drunkard dog-thief, an elf in disguise, a blinded arch-demon in chains, and the bizarre Mantischorgoth. Allied with them are a singing orc, an indecisive elf, and a flying carpet that doesn’t like heights, all woven into a story of strong friendships, deadly hatreds, ingenious criminal mysteries and baffling affairs of the heart.


I have previously backed 13th Age in Glorantha.


I love great fantasy and SF novels, which can often be a source of inspiration for GMs. All manner of plots and characters can be lifted from a good book, and The Forgotten Monk looks to be full of compelling characters. Just reading through the synopsis above gives me ideas, and this is without actually meeting any of these characters in the book.


Both paper and digital versions of the book are available. Funding for The Forgotten Monk closes Wednesday, 25th February. This campaign has already doubled its modest funding goal and is working through the Stretch Goals. These are adding short stories to flesh out some background details, 13th Age stats, and even a bonus abyssal font.


Support The Forgotten Monk for an epic tale of awesome characters.


Happy Reading


The previous Kickstarter I recommended was Play Dirty 2: Even Dirtier by John Wick, more advice for GMs.


Jan 30

Trollbabe and Re-rolls: Part 2, Upping the Ante


trollbabeToday’s article is the second part of my exploration of the re-roll mechanic in Trollbabe. My focus in part two is on the way Ron requires the Player to risk greater consequences for their Hero when making their re-roll. This essay is my ninth look at the ideas of Ron Edwards expressed in his game Trollbabe.





For those of you who have not read the earlier articles in this mini-series, here is a quick overview of Trollbabe.


My 110 page pdf is the second edition of Trollbabe, released in 2009. Ron Edwards is perhaps best known for his game theory writings at The Forge, but he also designs RPGs.


Trollbabe focuses upon the actions of female half-troll warriors. The setting is a hybrid of pop culture and the Norse sagas. The mechanics are very simple, but Ron devotes a lot of time explaining the theory behind his narrative-driven mechanics. There are also plenty of examples of how to play the game, which help to explain the concepts.



Re-rolls in Trollbabe

As part of the contest resolution mechanics in Trollbabe, there is the option for the Player to invoke a re-roll. This option is available when a Hero fails at a task. There are two conditions tied to this re-roll. The first is the requirement is for the Player to choose from a diminishing number of narrative options and improvise how the selection from the list helps their Hero.


This aspect was discussed at length in the previous article.


The second condition on the re-roll is the escalating consequences of a failure.



Additional Risk

Alongside the requirement to add narrative to the story, there are more serious consequences arising from choosing a re-roll in Trollbabe. The basic presumption within the game is that the Hero is inconvenienced by a failed roll. The exact nature of this inconvenience is open to GM interpretation, a topic beyond the scope of the present article.


However, should the Hero fail the re-roll, then the condition of the Hero advances to injured. As the term suggests, this is a more serious condition. I would interpret this to mean a wound of some description, something which negatively impacts on the Hero’s capabilities within the game, and would require time or magic to heal.


Regardless of the exact interpretation, the situation has clearly worsened for the Hero. The narrative moving forward would reflect this injury.



A series of Re-rolls

Ron further ups the ante, by giving Players the maximum of three re-rolls. Each re-roll requires a separate item from the narrative list discussed last week. Thus, the occurrence of multiple re-rolls is very limited.


Every time a re-roll is invoked by a Player, the potential consequences on a failure are increased. If the second re-roll is failed, then the Hero is incapacitated. This is not the same as dying, but now the Hero is totally at the mercy of their opponent.


The parameters for the third re-roll are slightly different. At this stage, the Hero has already failed to achieve their goal three times. Thus, this third re-roll will not affect the outcome of the initial goal as that contest is clearly beyond the capabilities of the Hero.


Instead, this third re-roll is about who narrates the dire outcome for the Hero. If the Player can win this contest, then they retain some influence over the fate of their Hero. This roll cannot alter the fact that the Hero is incapacitated. Rather, this roll is about describing the exact fate of the fallen Hero. Consider this the difference between the enemy capturing the defeated Hero, and a band of allies surging onto the battlefield to drag away the bleeding body.


The Final Sanction

If the Hero fails the third re-roll, then the GM’s description of their fate stands. This is likely to involve capture, or some other humiliation at the hands of the victorious foe. As the Player escalated the situation by invoking multiple re-rolls, then this is going to be a serious twist to the narrative.


However, Ron does offer up one last, fateful option for the Player. After failing a third re-roll, the Player has the choice to simply declare their Hero dead. Give the reputation of some GMs, there often can be a fate worse than death.


John Wick, I am looking at you!


Choosing the Ultimate Sacrifice

My experience of narrative games suggests character death is infrequent. Even the worst outcomes from contests tend to leave the Heroes on death’s door. This always leaves room for a high-stakes race against time to save the mortally wounded Hero.


Yet, at certain times in a narrative, there can be an opportunity for a dramatic death. A heroic last stand, where the veteran warrior holds off the rampaging hordes long enough for her allies to escape. The option in Trollbabe to allow a Player to choose the death of their Hero enables these sacrifices to occur. These are the stories which will be shared by gamers for years to come.


On a lighter note, after three failed re-rolls, this may be time to punish some dice.



Risky Re-rolls in Your Game

This mechanism can be introduced into any game. You will need to make it clear to the Players how the consequences of failure increase on subsequent failed rolls. This is likely to involve increased damage of some form, so tailor this according to your chosen rules.


Likewise, you will need to impose a limitation on how often the re-roll can be invoked. If you do not, then the Players are likely to demand every failed contest be re-rolled. The narration list method from Trollbabe adds to the narrative, but it does not have to be the only method. Bennies, tokens or a flat number per session could all be used.


Narrating the Re-roll

The final point to raise on this issue is how to narrate the re-roll situation. Essentially, the Hero is facing a temporary setback: the failed roll. I would narrate this setback, but avoid making it resolve. The troll has raised it’s club and is standing over the prone Hero. The starship is diving towards the surface of the planet.


Think of the narrative in terms of a film. Events have taken a turn for the worse, but there is still time for the Hero to save the day. This is the key, make it clear how the current situation threatens the Hero, but do not move the narrative so far along that serious harm has actually befallen the Hero.



So, the re-roll mechanic from Trollbabe balances the risk of greater consequences with the chance for the Player to roll better and win a seemingly lost contest. The narrative list method from Part 1 is used by Ron to limit the frequency of these re-rolls.


How could re-rolls have changed your game? Would you want this mechanic for your campaign? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Happy Gaming


Something for the Weekend next week: Variant HeroQuest 2 Character Generation


Jan 29

Sigil PD: Chapter 7, Part 2

Character (4) head


Wiki update, Player handouts & campaign plans


The game prep yesterday was short but effective. I wrote yet another issue of The Sigil Courier, only leaving me one issue behind. If I can sort this before the weekend, then I will be up to date with the Wiki for the first time in many months. While the Wiki is only a small part of the GM process, the freedom from the backlog will be very liberating.


I have also been reading around about how to GM investigative games. Given the collaborative nature of the Tales of the Hero Wars campaign, I will not map out the answer to each mystery. I should like to bounce ideas off the Players, and adjust the solution on the fly to match where the Players are leading. This is not to say that the Players will be right every time, but I am certainly looking for a Player-lead approach.


To this end, I have sourced some cool handouts which I shall review on the blog soon. My current plan is to include a first handout as part of the initial mystery, and see what the Players make of it. I am far from ready to run a game just yet, but the ideas are starting to come together.


The game on Saturday should complete our character generation, and may include some additional location brainstorming. I also want to consult with the Players for some ideas of the highlights they would like to see for this campaign. I cannot promise to deliver all of them, but some group brainstorming at this stage can help spark some ideas.


Happy Gaming



The Prep in Progress series are short summaries of my prep for my ongoing campaign The Tales of the Hero Wars.

Jan 28

Tales of the Dice 03: Blogging


03 Blogging


Yes, a new character!


The photography did not work as well for me today, but the shadows are not too strong. More practise required.


The second issue, Laughing, can be found here.


Happy Gaming



Click on the picture for a larger version.

Jan 28

The Sigil Courier: Chapter 4


The Worst and the Best

Sigil Courier

Delve Season, 1034.

The Harmonium Strikes Back!

After a hard-hitting expose of the Factions of Sigil in The Sigil Courier last week, the Harmonium has responded.

Witness the power of the press, made manifest.

Fighting back at claims of The Grand Bazaar being flooded with dangerous artefacts, the Harmonium invited The Sigil Courier to witness the activity of the Department of Artefacts, Souls and Potions. Based in dilapidated Precinct 43, ASP is dedicated to the control of dangerous imports into the City of Doors.

ASP is lead by Captain Tamid, who controls a boisterous team of Investigators. As befits a tripartite Department, there are three senior Investigators who specialize in each of the core specialities of ASP. The Artefact specialist is Ethex Uakay, Eosif of Winter is the Souls specialist and Nalet of Steam has the role of potions specialist.

There is also a team of general Investigators in ASP, to assist Captain Tamid. The inevitable Gilas of Lower Ward is a walking siege engine. Equally aggressive is the gun-toting Malim of the Doomguard, so called for his impressive arsenal of weapons. Veteran Telur Doorkeeper and Ledeb of Niflheim each bring their own skills to the work of ASP. Newest recruit Heled the Greenhorn has plenty of Investigators to learn from.

Precinct 43 is also home to an extensive support team to help the Department investigate all manner of crimes throughout the city. Denil and Ethoy provide the closest support for Investigators. Young Denil is at the cutting edge of investigative technology, as he is capable of sketching out crime scenes to produce a “visual record” of any location. Meanwhile, surgeon Ethoy can examine a corpse for physical clues to the “cause of death”. Finally, Winterberry the Hunter manages the so-called Dimension 13, a “secure warehouse” of confiscated items.

There is also a general support team within the Precinct. Sergeant Barop the Gatekeeper runs the Stationhouse Desk. The disturbingly pale chef “Chunky” cheerfully produces all manner of meals at all times of day and night.

Read the in-depth report on Pages 5, 6 and 9.


Happy Gaming



The Sigil Courier series are the session summaries from the Sigil PD cycle of tales in my Tales of the Hero Wars campaign.

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