Sep 01

Sigil PD: Chapter 27, Part 1

Character (4) head


A Sigil maze, a frenzied lamprey & reduced game prep


Saturday’s roleplaying was hugely fun for me, and the Players seemed to enjoy it too. After some initial discussion, the Players were happy to pursue the infiltration plot. From this point, the story expanded very naturally.


The session ended with the Heroes in an “abandoned” maze. The lone Hero has sent a giant lamprey into a frenzy with blood poured from a strange chalice. Meanwhile, the backup Heroes have the infinity worm guardian bearing down on them.


Trouble the Players trigger themselves is always satisfying. This is the kind of plot generation I love, where the Players do all the hard work for me. The current situation ensures I have very little game prep this week. I am grateful for this, as time is short.


Primarily I have the usual post-game admin, and the session outline. I also need some rough abilities for the two attacking creatures. Beyond these relatively simple tasks, there is not much else to prepare.


With luck, we may have another new Player join us next week. I really hope this can happen, as we need a larger group ready for the extended paternity leave of one of the regulars. The endless struggle for new Players continues.


Happy Gaming



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


Sep 01

GM on Pinterest 07: The Forest Council


Forest Council


Deep in the Greenwood lies a secret glade where magic floats in the air. This is the home to the forest council. The three members of the council represent all the inhabitants of the Greenwood, debate issues and guard the borders against threats.


Grandfather Oak is an awakened tree who has lived in the Greenwood for longer than any other creature. These days, he rarely travels beyond the Council Glade but he can walk abroad if roused. Within the Council, he is the voice of restraint. Grandfather Oak prioritises protecting the woodland environment from incursions by the neighbouring cultures.


Bronze Hoof is a powerful stag, and master of a large herd of deer. He represents the animals of the Greenwood on the council. Bronze Hoof is the most impetuous member of the council, and urges a quick solution to any problem. The struggle to master his herd has made him quite belligerent, which is often reflected in the direct solutions he proposes.


The final member of the forest council is Princess Mab. She represents all the fey and bipedal species within the Greenwood. Technically, her mother, the Queen, should attend meetings. However, the Queen believes serving on the council will prepare the Princess for rulership. Thus, Mab is faced with the daunting task of building a consensus between the opposing views of the other two members.


Secrets of the Forest Council

  • Grandfather Oak is slowly dying, but is unwilling to train up a replacement. He fears all the other trees are too impetuous, and would allow Bronze Hoof to dominate proceedings with his short-term views.
  • Bronze Hoof enjoys the debate of the council, but takes little heed of its rulings. He is convinced that Grandfather Oak cares little for what happens out on the borders of the forest. Therefore, Bronze Hoof unilaterally pursues his own policies regardless of what the council decide.
  • Princess Mab secretly wants to replace Bronze Hoof with his mate, White Tail. She is waiting for the right moment to reveal Bronze Hoof’s actions, and present a motion to have him replaced.



Find me on Pinterest


The Forest Council can be found on the Wildwood Board on my Pinterest page


An additional copy can be found on the Tales of a GM Board.


Image Source

I found this awesome image by Jean Baptiste Monge on the website Its Art Magazine.

Happy Gaming



This series features a cool image uploaded to my Pinterest page, combined with a short piece of text where I brainstorm how to use the image in a game.


See the dedicated GM on Pinterest page.


The previous article in this series was The Oasis Beast.


Aug 30

Writing Goals, 30th August, 2015


TalesOfAGM CrossHi Everyone,


Here I am, back on schedule again. I have postponed the blackberry picking until tomorrow. We are off out on another family trip today, so I want to post this early.


Previously on Tales of a GM:


  • 1.5 hours – Primary Goal – Smolensk pdf
  • Bonus Goal – Crestfallen RPG research
  • 2 hours – Social Media – Visit different Forums and write five posts or comments
  • 2 hours – Write long blog post
  • 30 mins – Weekly Task – Website
  • 30 mins – Fiction – Prepare reading drafts


It was a bit of a mixed week for me. I simply could not find the motivation to re-start a big project like the pdf, so I used my time to further the research for the Crestfallen pdf. This will be due in the autumn, and it is imperative that I complete my first long assignment to time. Therefore, the more time I invest in research now, the easier it will be to meet the autumn deadline. I am near the end of the reading I planned, so that is good progress.


Despite the disappointments of the Smolensk pdf, the rest of the week was fine. The boys were not too disruptive, and we played a lot of Magic. However, I am feeling drained by the weeks of almost constant childcare. This week they return to school on Thursday and I am ready for a break. I am eager to return to my writing, but I must wait a little longer.


On a more positive note, we had a fun roleplay session on Saturday, again with three Players. My wife may have found me a fourth Player, just as one of my regulars is about to take extended paternity leave. HeroQuest may yet be saved!


Moving on, the plan for this week is much the same as last week. After such a long period of childcare, I am rewarding myself with some quality time on Thursday and Friday. The following week will be dedicated catch-up time, for now I think I deserve a little break to re-charge.


  • 1.5 hours – Primary Goal – Johnn Four Table
  • Bonus Goal – Crestfallen RPG research
  • 2 hours – Social Media – Visit different Forums and write five posts or comments
  • 2 hours – Write long blog post
  • 30 mins – Weekly Task – Plan
  • 30 mins – Fiction – Rewrite first drafts


The end of the long holiday is so close. One last chance to spend quality time with the boys.


How was your summer?



Aug 28

Body Sparks: GMC Body Language


Spark coverMy weakest area as a GM is my portrayal of GMCs. Thus, the most relevant part of the comprehensive Guidance chapter of Sparks was the GMC advice. This essay will expand upon Jason’s suggestions.


I have written before about the ideas of Jason Pitre found in Spark RPG:



Spark RPG

Before the bulk of the essay, a quick look at the game itself.


Spark was designed by Jason Pitre, and published by Genesis of Legend Publishing in 2013. This storytelling RPG spotlights building worlds and challenging the characters’ beliefs within those worlds. The introduction describes the game as follows:


The Spark RPG is about imagining, building, and exploring fictional worlds. It gives you all of the tools and guidance you need to create an evocative and engaging Setting. It shows you how to find inspiration and collaboratively build a world with your friends. Most importantly, it teaches you how to create a place that each of you find compelling.

The game is purpose-built to foster creating dynamic, custom Settings. You can work together to create a world that interests all of you, one that gives you a context for rich stories.


I previously posted a lengthy review of Spark.


Spark is available to buy through DriveThruRPG [affiliate link]


Body Language in RPGs

One section of the Guidance Chapter in Spark highlights ways in which the GM can make use of body language to portray GMCs. Jason suggests three ways to utilize body language:

  • Describe
  • Portray
  • Define


Describe stance of GMC

The first option is to describe the body language of the GMC. Consider the personality, or role, of the GMC, then describe the character embodying this trait through their body language.


For example, a greedy GMC will always be eating, while a dangerous warrior could be found cleaning her nails with a dagger.


Use this body language description as a short-cut to allow the observer, and thus the Players, to make a prediction of the personality of the GMC. This table gives you a few stances to illustrate the concept.


d12GMC stance
1Chewing food
2Cleaning fingernails with dagger
3Clenched fists
4Flexing muscles
5Hand resting on sword pommel
6Plays with coin purse
10Sucks teeth
12Wild Gestures



Portray GMC

The next application of body language in an RPG is through the portrayal of the GMC. The GM uses their own body language to improve the presentation of the character. Once again, link these actions to the character of the GMC, to create memorable interactions.


So, the nervous guard is portrayed biting his lips. Alternatively, the aggressive barmaid is shown with clenched fists.


These are basic actions, but simple enough to present at the table and enhance the portrayal of a GMC. The table below gives you some starting techniques.


d12GMC Portrayal Technique
1Bite lips
2Clench fists
4Furrow brow
6Hunch shoulders
7Lower eyelids
8Point finger
9Smile broadly
10Stand tall
11Tilt chin forward
12Touch face repeatedly



Define GMC

The final use of body language is as a physical marker of the GMC. These are not actions the GMC is performing, rather they are physical traits which help the Players recall an individual. So often Players seem to skip over the names of GMCs, but a distinctive physical trait will stick in the memory.


For example, you could make the shopkeeper’s blackened teeth a central part of their personality. Their breath might stink, or they may endlessly chew on the sweet leaves which rotted away their teeth in the first place.


The traits on this table are the defining characteristics of the GMC, so feel free to improvise associated behaviour and personality traits. Overemphasize these physical features to make them memorable for the Players.


d12GMC Defining Trait
1Blackened teeth
2Broad shoulders
3Bulging muscles
4Bushy eyebrows
5Facial scar
6Hollow cheeks
7Long fingers
8Missing ear
9Pale hands
10Pox scars
11Thick nose
12Thin lips



During your Game

The mechanical values and personality of GMCs receive plenty of attention in RPGs. As Jason suggests, there is plenty of scope to bring body language to your game too.


To implement these ideas, it is best to choose just one area per GMC. Do not overwhelm your Players with too much detail. Use these tables as a starting point to bring alive the physicality of the GMCs you portray.



The body language of a GMC can be described by the GM, acted out, or used as the defining characteristic of a character. Where possible, use a trait which represents something important about the personality or role of the GMC. The tables in this article are really only a starting point: enough to help you with your game tonight, and as a springboard for brainstorming your own traits.


What traits would you add to the list? Do you use actions when roleplaying your GMCs? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.


Do you need more Tales?


To receive notification of my next long essay, please sign up to Whispers of a GM, my weekly-ish newsletter.


Happy Gaming



Something for the Weekend last week: A Second Year Review


Something for the Weekend next week: Playing-by-Forum at RPG Geek


Aug 27

Sigil PD: Chapter 26, Part 4

Character (4) head


Shortened prep time, scanning & bonus plot elements


The various demands on my schedule only left me with an hour for game prep last night. I was under even more pressure as I discovered I had not completed all of the administrative tasks for the last session. So, the early part of my prep was spent catching up with the admin.


Once that was out of the way, I focused on the next story arc. I now have an instigating incident, along with some potential later scenes. This feels like a solid base for the plot. However, there is always room for a little more. I probably should create some additional encounter elements. If I produce new ones regularly, then the available options at a session will slowly expand. I should include more Sigil-themed elements to help reinforce the setting.


I ran out of time, yesterday, before I could scan in any documents. As the sessions go past, I end up with lots of old papers in my GM folder. To remove the need to carry these about, I like to digitize them. Usually, the longest part of this process is setting up the scanner, then clearing away afterwards. Assuming the technology will work for me. I hope to have the time to scan in some documents tonight.


Ideally, I will also create a couple more plot elements tonight too. Even two more will expand my options for the next session. As ever, after a break I am excited to be gaming again at the weekend.


Happy Gaming



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


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