Oct 21

Prep in Progress: Chapter 28, Part 2

TalesOfAGM Cross


Family time, the Wiki & a good schedule


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


Once again, the weekend was a complete failure for any kind of game prep. Assorted chores and family time took up all the weekend. I only managed to squeeze in a little writing by getting up around 5:30. The early morning moka pot is very enjoyable, but somehow I never found any time for the game.


This actually leads me to two conclusions. Firstly, I should take a careful look at my priorities to see if the game prep ought to be taking on a higher level. Secondly, should I actually bother with the Wiki at all? For now, I do not want to abandon the Wiki. I cannot think where I shall find the time to keep it regularly updated, but as I am not prepared to abandon it, then I shall just have to manage.


So, if I am going to keep the Wiki, then I really need to take a look at my weekly schedule, and see where the Wiki can fit in. This schedule has proved invaluable at advancing my writing, so there should be a way to squeeze in the Wiki too. It is half-term next week, with increased childcare duties. So, there will be less writing. However, I could use the time to also look at my schedule in a little more detail, and see what I can tinker with to fix the Wiki backlog.


Meanwhile, I also need to prepare for the game on Saturday. I am too busy tomorrow, so for this week my scheduled game prep will be on Thursday afternoon. First priority goes to completing the write up of the last session, which is woefully late. Next, I need the usual session outline to be finished. Then, I think it will be a simple case of drawing together a few tools to use, and then I am done. There is a lot of prep that was not used from a previous session, which I can use for this week. All of this means a light burden of game prep.


Could this be a chance to work on the Wiki? Fingers crossed.


Lesson for You Prep

A good schedule can find you time in the week that you might otherwise not use.


Happy Gaming


Oct 20

The Inner Council Contest Ends Tomorrow


Storm&Shield LogoTime is FAST running out for the latest round of the Warlock’s Journal Contest.


See here for a full list of the Warlock’s Journal Contests.


I have an excellent prize to give away. Would you like a copy of the superb Ennie-winning NPC Essentials from Johnn Four?


For an overview of NPC Essentials, see the Roleplaying tips website.


So what do you need to do to be in with a chance of this great prize? Easy, design a member of the Storm & Shield Prime Inner Council. This is a group who span the dimensions, with a hand in every world. Elite, well-funded and highly organised, agents of Storm & Shield can be found almost anywhere, in any environment.


Can you design the next leader of the Inner Council? In 300 words or less? By tomorrow?


Then I want to hear from you. Email your entry to Phil@talesofagm.com and be quick. The Closing Date is October 21st.




Full details of the contest can all be found on The Inner Council page.


Remember, you really need to write quickly. I look forward to reading your entry.

Best of luck

Oct 17

Trollbabe and Scale: Examples of Heroic Power, Part 1


A third look at the ideas of Ron Edwards expressed in his game Trollbabe.


My first article considered the concept of Hero as a nexus of change.


The second in this mini-series discussed the use of scale in Trollbabe.


The article for today was written in response to an email from Johnn Four who asked for some more examples of the ten scales. We are all using scale in our games, although perhaps without being aware of the concept. A half-familiar concept can be a little tricky to understand, so hopefully some examples will help.



trollbabeFor 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.


Scale in Trollbabe

Ron summarizes scale in Trollbabe as follows:


“The extent of actions and effects in the fiction”


In other words, scale represents what the Hero can affect, and the impact of the changes that the Hero can inflict on the setting. The higher the scale, the greater the impact of the Hero’s actions.


If the Hero attacks an army, what impact can she have?
Slay a few individual soldiers? Rout a company? Shatter a regiment?
Or could she take control of the entire army?


The outcome is determined by the scale of the Hero. If everyone understands the current scale of the game, then shared expectations can be met and the GM has an easier time pitching plots to the Players.


Scale and Numbers

In working through these example, it is clear that the scale of a group of Heroes may not be the same as for that Hero alone. The presence of several Heroes in one place acts much like a force multiplier, and allows the group of Heroes to face greater threats than they could deal with individually.


Thus, for the typical game featuring a heroband or adventuring party, it may be necessary for the GM to track two sets of scales. On the one hand there is the Individual Scale, that assess what a lone Hero could achieve. Individual Scale can be useful to apply to the side-quests that an individual Hero may choose to pursue as part of the overall plot.


Secondly, there is the Campaign Scale, which reflects what the group can achieve, and determines the overall level of challenges faced by the Heroes. Campaign Scale is likely to be about two steps higher than the Individual Scale, for the typical game. However, it is for each GM to decide upon the exact numbers. These examples are just to give you a flavour of the scales, and the way they may impact on the game. As always, Your Game May Vary.


Scaled Examples

To illustrate the principles of scale, here are four examples of each scale in action. To put these examples into the context of the game, I shall use three archetypal characters: a rogue, a mage and a warrior.


For the social- and skill-based examples we shall be following the career of Anlaf, a young rogue. The combat examples will show Theano as she increases in power. Finally, the magic examples will be taken from the career of Ragnarr the Storm Mage.


My final example will be aimed at the GM, and consider the types of plots that each scale suggest. These plot examples consider what may be at stake in the story, and what types of opposition the Heroes may face.


Ten Scales

So what are these scales? Trollbabe only has seven scales, but I have extrapolated upwards to expand the scope to fill all the likely options for a game. The examples are given for a fantasy game, but the principle also remains true for modern and SF games.


For this article, I am only looking at the first five of these scales.


1 An Individual

One person, or at most a few people.


At the first scale, the Heroes will only have a very limited impact on the setting. Anlaf can sweet talk a free loaf of bread from the baker, or pick the pockets of an individual in the street.


Meanwhile, Theano can fight a single soldier at a time. This would equate to handling two goblins, or perhaps a pair of dogs. Even a band of thugs would be too much for her at this scale, as she would be overwhelmed by their numbers.


Ragnarr at the first scale is only capable of spells affecting one person, most likely himself. Cantrips and low-damage shocks of lightning would be his limit. Defensive spells would be common, or ones with no duration against a single target.


For the GM, this first scale represents the most personal of plots. A child lost in the woods, or a chapel haunted by a lone ghost would be good examples. The Heroes can only affect one or two people in the setting, so focus in on one person’s problem. There can be great personal drama at this scale, so there are opportunities for the Heroes to shine even when their powers may be limited.


2 A Family

A small group of linked people, such as a small heroband or adventuring party.


Now his power and influence is starting to grow. Anlaf has progressed to burglary, where he can steal an entire family’s property. Indeed, he could be the leader of a small gang of thieves, or perhaps a band of street urchins. His powers of persuasion have scaled up too, so he could cheat a table of card players.


Theano is now so proficient with her spear that she can easily take on a trio of city watch, or a handful of goblin raiders. She could be the leader of an adventuring party, or a pair of loyal clan warriors. Perhaps she is an outlaw, hiding in the forest raiding a cruel overlord’s lands.


Meanwhile, Ragnarr the Storm Mage has progressed to small area-effect spells. His lightning bolts can hit a handful of opponents, although perhaps only at close range. He will have at least one apprentice at this scale, and possibly a small base of operations.


The plots at this scale now have a wider scope. Instead of the lone child, the GM can pitch a story affecting a whole family. Interpersonal drama between linked individuals offers lots of potential for personal conflict, and thus roleplaying. For a more combat-focused game, then small groups can be used to challenge the Heroes, which opens up lots of tactical possibilities.


3 An Extended Family

A larger group of linked people, such as the crew of a ship, a company of soldiers or a street gang.


At this scale, Anlaf could now lead a full street gang with a dozen or more members. He could be an entertainer, capable of enthralling a tavern-full of patrons with tales of daring. Or he may be raiding merchant caravans.


Theano has risen to the level of leading a company of soldiers, or her village’s warband. She might be a pirate raider, with a crew of fierce warriors. Or she may simply be a proficient warrior, capable of cutting down a whole barbarian raiding party.


Ragnarr will see the power of his magic slowly grow. His chain lightning could strike down multiple opponents. His reputation will grow, and he may now have a small tower and staff to guard him as he researches his spells.


For the GM, the number of opponents in the plots is steadily increasing. Lesser foes may take on the status of minions, as the warriors are capable of dealing with larger numbers. Instead of a single, numerous opponent, you could challenge the Heroes with two smaller groups, and the Heroes caught in the middle. As scale increases, so does the complexity of any social conflict that the Heroes have to resolve. Roleplaying opportunities multiply as the number of people in the network increases.


4 A Village

Or a group such as a regiment of soldiers, or a Guild.


The career of Anlaf the rogue could now take him into Thieves Guild politics, or the workings of the local Trickster Cult. Alternatively, he is now raiding the Merchant Guild headquarters, or perhaps the manors of nobility. Likewise, his powers of persuasion have taken him to the point where he can befuddle an entire village with his nefarious schemes.


Theano the warrior is now commanding ever larger groups of soldiers, or burning whole goblin settlements. As a sea borne raider, she is now commanding a large ship, or perhaps a small flotilla of longboats. In combat she is a powerful force on the battlefield, certainly the champion of a regiment.


At this scale, Ragnarr is also a powerful force in combat. He is now capable of dealing with many opponents as the area effect of his spells increases. Ragnarr may be the leader of a Guild of Mages, or running a school of Magic. If he is operating from a base, then he will have a larger staff, more apprentices and a sizeable guard retinue.


Once more, the scope of plots for the GM has expanded again at this scale. The actions of the Heroes can now affect an entire village. Films like Seven Samurai and 13th Warrior all revolve around a village. Or, the Heroes maybe involved with running a village or small tribe, making the choices that affect how the village will survive through a harsh winter, or resolving the feud with the neighbouring tribe.


5 A Town

Or a small army.


Anlaf could now be a corrupt mayor running an entire town for his benefit, or the head of a mobster family running a district within a larger city. He would be capable of a massive heist to bankrupt an entire town. Perhaps he is a mesmerizing speaker, leading a small army of followers through the countryside, like a wandering Dionysian cult of personality.


At this scale Theano could be a clan chief, leading a small army of barbarian warriors. Or she may be the commander of a city watch, or simply the general of a small army. Theano will be a force in national politics and a frightening presence on the battlefield.


Ragnarr the Storm Mage can now unleash spells powerful enough to defeat a small army. He may be the Governor of a Town, or perhaps the commander of a unit of Battle Mages capable of defeating many times their number in combat.


For the GM, this scale allows plots that threaten more people. A Chaos Cult seeking to corrupt an entire town, or an invading army of barbarians would be suitable plots now. Politically, the stage is now an entire town, and the outlying villages, or perhaps one district of a city.




Due to the length of this article, I have split it into two parts. Yes, this is the SHORT version. Return next weekend for the second instalment, where the scale goes from six up to ten. These scales are the stuff of epic tales.


What examples of scale have you found in your game? Share your experiences in the comments below.


Happy Gaming


Something for the Weekend next week: Trollbabe and Scale: Examples of Heroic Power, Part 2

Oct 17

No Prep, No Progress


TalesOfAGM CrossSome weeks, despite my best intentions, real life intervenes and my writing schedule has to suffer.


This has been one of those weeks, due to a variety of factors. My primary role is to be a full-time Father, which takes up a lot of my time and energy. Having my wife off work for a few days also had an impact on my schedule. I really do find that if I cannot maintain momentum through the week, then the writing will suffer.


Writing has been a struggle over the last few days. I am pushing as much as I can, but the schedule had to shrink, and the game prep was cut. Fortunately, there is no game this weekend, so I can afford to do this. I shall try to catch up a little over the weekend, but that remains to be seen.


So, no Prep in Progress for the latter part of this week.


It should be back next week, as I prepare for the next game session.


I hope you have all been having a better week.

Happy Gaming

Oct 16

Reading Around: Corporia RPG


The previous Reading Around was the Theoi Project, an incredible online resource for the world-building GM.


CorporiaToday I have a different type of reading suggestion for you. Earlier this month I received an email from Mark Plemmons offering me a review copy of Corporia. I do not normally write reviews, but I had a very pleasant email exchange with Mark. So I decided to try my hand at a more conventional review. Or at least, a short review.


At the start I should make it clear that I received a free copy of the game. Plus, I have only read the rules, rather than played them. So, this is a reading review, not a playing review. Thus, I felt that this was a suitable article to include in my Reading Around series.


Corporia is an RPG combining elements of cyberpunk, corporate culture and Arthurian myth. The introduction describes the game as follows:


The world is slipping into chaos — and it’s all your fault.
As a new Knight of the Round Table in a regimented corporate metropolis, your mission should be clear-cut: fight for justice, bring freedom to wage-enslaved citizens and restore the ideals of chivalry and honour. Unfortunately, the rebirth of the knights also awakened the old magics — the primeval forces that once ruled the ancient times but dwindled and vanished with the rise of science. Now you struggle to hold the line between the forces of Order and Chaos, each striving to control the other. Your benefactor, corporate CEO and reborn knight Sir Lancelot du Lac, provides the means to combat the obvious threats, but there are other challenging dilemmas to resolve.


This is an interesting and original premise for a game. The Corporia core rules include a description of “The City” as a setting for the game. The style of the writing conveys the themes of the setting through the frequent use of corporate terms, such a Human Resources for character generation. Sections of the book also reproduce an issue of “The Quest” magazine and a “Visitor’s Guide to The City” as samples of in-game material. These both succeed at conveying the style of the setting.


The pdf of Corporia is 211 pages long. I was particularly impressed with the high-quality photographic art, that often combines corporate images with Arthurian weaponry. The layout of the book is very appealing, and these photos also serve to convey the style of the setting. It is refreshing to see the art in a book support the text so closely.


Corporia is available to buy through DriveThru [affiliate link]


The Rules of Corporia

This game is very much in the style of f20 games, with attributes, classes and an extensive list of skills, traits, weapons, spells, etc. This is not the style of game that I run, so I really cannot comment on how the rules work. However, you are able to review the rules yourself thanks to a free Quick Start Guide that Brabblemark Press offer. If you are intrigued by the setting, then you can try the rules for free, and see what you think.


Corporia: Quick Start Guide is available free from DriveThru [affiliate link]



Corporia has a unique premise, presented in a clear, atmospheric style. If the setting appeals to you, then you can even try-before-you-buy with the free Quick Start Guide.


Thanks again to Mark for the free review copy.


Happy Gaming

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