Apr 27

Storm & Shield: Cosmic Crisis Winner


Storm&Shield LogoThank you to everyone who entered, voted and generally promoted the contest. Voting is now closed, and the winner has been notified. I am now able to announce the winner on Tales of a GM.


Hanna’s Plan

The chosen plan for Hanna Crip, and the greatest challenge facing newly-elected Tessa Starwind, is False Goddess by Emil Vahlgren.


Emil wins $20 DriveThru credit generously provided by Chris Kentlea of Ennead Games. This prize also includes a bonus copy of one of Ennead Games many titles. Great titles such as Starship Kit – Volume 1 – Name & Registration.


Starship Kit

Starship Kit

Over the course of this contest, I have been featuring a range of titles from Ennead Games. There was a strong fantasy element through these titles, but Ennead Games also have a SF range.


Starship Kit – Volume 1 – Name & Registration is the first of a series of titles dealing with starships. The DriveThru page describes this pdf as follows:


But first you need a Starship to do this and you will need to know the ship’s name & registration. This is where this part of the SSK comes in handy.


Find Starship Kit – Volume 1 – Name & Registration at DriveThru [affiliate link]


Ennead Games

The Journal moves on

So, many congratulations to the winner, who has been sent email notification. I am now working on the Storm & Shield: Cosmic Crisis pdf.


I hope to have it uploaded to my DriveThru page in the next few days.


Thank you all again for your support through the contest.


The next stop for the Warlock’s Journal is with Michael Christensen at Tiny Gork.


See the Warlock’s Journal page for a full list of all the contests.


Happy Gaming



Apr 26

Countdown to Diceni: 1 Week


DiceniIt is nearly time for Norwich’s very own gaming convention. Diceni is on Sunday 3rd May, at The Forum, Norwich.


As this is my local convention, I shall be joining my Players at The Forum next week. The current plan is to combine the trip to Diceni with the weekly game.


The Diceni website has further details about games and traders.


I will also take this chance to chat with the staff at Athena Games, one of the Norwich gaming stores. We still need more Players for our ongoing campaign, and this is a good opportunity to recruit some new faces. I am sure our game is not to everyone’s taste, but there must be some more local Players who would enjoy a narrative game.


Only one week to go until Diceni!


Will I see you there?


Happy Gaming



Apr 25

Last call for Cosmic Crisis votes


Storm&Shield LogoVoting for the latest Warlock’s Journal Contest will soon be closed.


Have you had a chance to vote? Time is running out. Do not miss the opportunity to decide which of the five potential plots will threaten Storm & Shield Prime.


A select band of planar scholars are being gathered to analyse the texts and determine which is the true threat from Hanna Crip.



So what is at stake? Apart from the future of the cosmos, of course.


Once more, I have secured some incredible prizes. Ennead Games has kindly agreed to sponsor this round of the Warlock’s Journal. Along with $20 DriveThru credit, the winner can pick one of Ennead Games’ titles as a bonus. So, let us take a look at one of the books the winner could choose.


Insult Dwarven

Insult Generator: Dwarven Insults

This pdf by Ennead Games is another in their Insult range. I have used something similar in one of my games, and I know how much fun they can be.


A customized set of fantasy insults is a great way to add colour to a character.


The product page on DriveThru describes the book as follows:


Dwarfs are known for their colourful use of the common tongue, especially when it comes to insults. Sometimes these are meant in jest, with some dwarfs known to use words as a weapon to rile up and anger their opponent into making a mistake.

The Dwarven Insult Generator is for those who wish to make the opponent tear their beard in frustration, bite their hammer or win a game of “Insult your opponent”.


Find Insult Generator: Dwarven Insults on DriveThru [affiliate link]


Ennead Games



I have prepared a short pdf listing the candidates, along with the title options.


The entries have been arranged alphabetically by name. These names are used in the Voting Survey, so make careful note of your favourites. The voting is explained at the end of this post.


Download the Cosmic Crisis voting pdf here:

CC Voting pdf



Voting for the contest is via Survey Monkey. You will be asked to vote for your FIRST choice and for your SECOND choice for plot. If there is a tie with the First choices, and only if there is a tie, then the Second choice scores for the previously tied entries will be added to their overall score to determine a winner.


Thus, PLEASE vote differently for the two selections, as I shall check the voting records. I will disregard ALL the votes of any entrant found to be voting the same way twice. There have been instances of repeat voting in previous contests held on Tales of a GM, so be sure that I will be checking.


Remember, vote DIFFERENTLY for your first and second choices.


Click here to vote


Voting closes 26th April.


Yes, TOMORROW! Although as with the deadline for the original contest, voting will not be closed until some point late Monday morning, UK time. Do not miss your chance to decide the fate of the cosmos. Have fun choosing the next threat facing Storm & Shield Prime.


Happy Voting



Apr 24

RPG Blog Carnival: The Narrative Combat Experience


RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallThe new month brings a new host to the RPG Blog Alliance Carnival. However, April’s Carnival is tinged with sadness, as this is the final month of the RPG Blog Alliance.


Last month the host was Mark, at Creative Mountain Games, and I wrote about two notable GMs from my gaming past.


The new host is Sam at RPG Alchemy. The theme for this month is the combat experience. Sam describes the theme at his blog as follows:


Anything related to the combat experience in your roleplaying games is fair game! Exciting combat is an integral part of gaming. Many gaming systems and settings lend themselves very well to dynamic, engaging, and fun combat. I want to hear about your experiences as both a gamemaster and player regarding combat in your roleplaying games!


Narrative Combat

As regular readers of Tales of a GM know, I run a narrative-style game. This principle applies to combat, as with all other parts of the game.


I have run enough RPGs to know narrative combat differs from traditional combat. The freedom offered by the narrative approach allows us to run short, exciting combats. This essay will explore some of the advantages we have found through adopting this approach.


HeroQuest 2 Combat

But first, a quick overview of the way HeroQuest 2 handles combat. The rules divide all contests into two categories: simple or extended. The difference between the two revolves around the importance of the contest to the story. The mechanics do not care whether the issue is a fight to the death, or the struggle to read a complex scroll.


The extended contests are closer in style to the traditional RPG combats, so I shall focus on this part of the rules. In HeroQuest 2 an extended contest is a series of opposed ability rolls. The winner of each roll inflicts a number of Resolution Points on the loser, according to the level of success achieved. After five or more RP are sustained, the recipient is knocked out of the contest.


Generally, this means five or more rounds in an extended contest. However, better rolls can take out an opponent faster. We have found enough detail here to recreate the back-and-forth of a film action scene, without the process dragging out too long.


Freedom of Action

The first great benefit of adopting narrative combat has been the freedom of action it allows. Firstly, HeroQuest works the same whichever abilities are being used. If it can make sense in the narrative, then Players are free to use any ability they choose. Physical, mental, magical and social abilities can all be used in a contest run with the same mechanics.


This mix-and-match approach allows the story to run the combat, not the mechanics. If it makes sense for the Hero to overcome the enraged warrior with caustic wit, then HeroQuest can moderate this contest. The power of an insult to defeat a warrior is a powerful theme in Celtic tales, yet not something easily resolved in many game systems.


Dynamic Descriptions

The no-holds-barred approach of narrative combat can be reflected in the dynamic descriptions we use in the game. If a Player can imagine something, and it would make sense in the story, then it could happen. Many of the flamboyant, stylish actions of Wuxia films easily translate into narrative combat.


I know it is not the only way to run a combat in an RPG, but I want the action scenes in my games to resemble the action scenes I enjoy in a film. Let us consider one of the greatest genre fight scenes: the duel between Westley and Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride.


At its core, the scene is two men fighting with rapiers. But, do they stand still, trading blows in turn? No, it is a balletic dance around the ruins, exchanging witty banter and switching rapiers from one hand to another. The progress of the duel reveals more about the characters, and does not end with the death of either combatant.


Could this only be run as a narrative combat? Clearly not, but a more simulationist approach would probably miss some of the finer details. Aside form the fundamental difference that the fight was not a duel to the death, there are other parts of the duel which, I believe, work better using a narrative approach.


First there is the witty banter. Is this just trash talk, or a separate form of attack, running parallel to the glittering swordplay? I believe it is the latter, and the overall progress of the duel should take into account this verbal interplay. Next, there is the competitive acrobatics. A traditional RPG has a way to model these physical actions, but could struggle with wrapping the outcomes into the overarching duel.


Finally, the duel ends with Westley knocking out Inigo with the pommel of his sword. This could be portrayed as non-lethal damage, but needs to be tied to the overall progress of the fight. This glittering duel involves swordplay, wit, acrobatics and finally non-lethal damage. It would take a narrative game to combine all of these as a single process.


Varied Outcomes

Consideration of the classic duel in The Princess Bride leads me to what is probably the greatest asset of a narrative combat system: the variation in outcomes. So many simulationist combat systems are geared towards the binary outcomes of win or die.


Some add a morale system, adding flee or surrender into the mix. It is my experience that very few Players would accept either of these options. Given such a “death-or-glory” attitude from the Heroes, it is no surprise that TPK is such a widely known acronym.


Taking a broader look at combat in RPGs in general, they represent a crisis in the story. An escalation of events to a point where decisive action must be taken by the Heroes. This gives them the status of a branching point in the story, for why take such decisive action if the plot cannot be changed by these extreme measures.


So, if combat is such a branching point, then why are there only two outcomes for the Players? Once combat is joined, typically either the Players die, or win by killing everyone else in the room.


Would you accept any other part of the story to only ever have two outcomes? Is this not a rather narrow approach?


Narrative Outcomes

The beauty of a narrative combat, in contrast, is the broad range of result it offers. Just as there is huge freedom in choosing how to fight the combat, so too are the outcomes equally varied. This is especially true for a system such as HeroQuest, which has graded results built into the mechanics.


I have written before about the nuanced contest outcomes in HeroQuest.


If an extended contest, not just combat, is the highlight of a story, then it ought to have multiple possible outcomes. This should reflect the abilities used by the Heroes to overcome the obstacle. If an opponent was defeated by social skills, then a social penalty should result.



In a game about story, such as an RPG, then the freedoms found in a narrative approach to combat keep the options open throughout the process. Not only are the Heroes free to choose which abilities to use during the combat, so too is the GM free to narrate an appropriate result.


Have you tried to run a narrative combat? How did this affect the way the Players engaged with the story? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.


Read all the current entries to the April Carnival at RPG Alchemy.


Happy Gaming



The RPG Blog Carnival is now organised by Johnn Four at Roleplaying Tips.com.


Something for the Weekend next week: Player Brainstorming


Apr 24

Kickstarting Epyllion: Epic Dragon RPG


April has been light on Kickstarters I wanted to back, but I have still one to tempt me. Epyllion is a Dragon Epic RPG by Marissa Kelly. The campaign page describes the game as follows:


Epyllion is a tabletop roleplaying game (RPG) where you play dragons in a dragon-centric world. You are the sons and daughters of the Dragonlords, mighty rulers who need your help to investigate rumours, solve problems, and discover the truth of a growing evil in the land. Along with your fellow dragons, you and your clutchmates will protect Dragonia from the Darkness and discover the true value of friendship. While you play, you’ll explore what dragons do, building on what each of you adds to the story, and exploring the meaning of friendship for yourselves.



How cool does that sound? Right from the origins of our hobby, dragons have played a central role. They are even cited in the name for the grandfather of all RPGs. So why has it taken so long to put them in the centre of a game, and make them PCs?


The wait is over, for Marissa has done just that in Epyllion, another game powered by the excellent Apocalypse World engine. It is so cool to have the chance to play a dragon! I am not sure how to weave this into the continuity of my campaign, but the setting is so interesting I shall have to try.


Funding for Epyllion closes early Monday, 4th May. This campaign has already stormed past its funding target and is rapidly working through the Stretch Goals. Unlocked goals include both extra AW playbooks and bonus entries for the Encyclopedia Draconica. This campaign is already great value, and has the time to grow even further.


Support Epyllion for an epic dragon RPG.


Happy Gaming



The previous Kickstarter I recommended was Blades in the Dark, by John Harper, an RPG about thieves building a criminal empire.


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