Jan 31

FebShoMo Launch


All through January I hosted the RPG Blog Carnival, which was my third year hosting. This is always a lot of fun, and a great opportunity to connect with bloggers. Today is the last day of the Carnival. The draft of my final duty, the summary post, has already been written.


To compensate for the loss of the Carnival, I wanted to create another event to run on the blog. Thus FebShoMo was born.




The title is short for February Shorts Month. The project is for writers, storytellers and GMs, which equates to much the same thing. Do you have notebooks full of ideas just waiting for expansion? Lists of story elements, or kernels of ideas?


FebShoMo is a chance to develop these scribbled notes into outlines together. In this way, we will have a better idea about their worth. Are these ideas enough to carry a whole story? Perhaps they simply need to be woven into another plot, rather than bear the whole narrative burden themselves.


By the end of the month, we should have a collection of plot outlines ready to develop further. These could be the foundations for short stories, books or just a cool plot for your campaign. Hopefully outlines will inspire you to do more with the idea.




The challenge for the month is to develop one idea per day. I hope to turn every idea into a 300 word outline. The exact nature of the outline may vary with each idea. Character portraits, plot breakdowns or even a collection of telling phrases all qualify. The important point is to translate that brief idea into 300 words, or more.



Weekly Plan

One of the reasons I chose February was because it is a short month. However, the way the month neatly divides into four weeks also appeals. My FebShoMo will split into four parts, each generating seven outlines. This process will give me variety, allow me to test different methods of idea generation and hopefully produce a more varied range of outlines.


In FebShoMo I aim to explore several improvisational methods, as this relates closely to the way I run RPGs. I may as well try to be a better GM as well as a better writer through February. The current plan for the month is:

  • Week 1 – Fairy Tales, using random cards from the Once Upon a Time card game
  • Week 2 – Expanding ideas from my “What If . . .” list
  • Week 3 – Science Fiction or Fantasy outlines, drawing from my Skuld cards of fantasy art
  • Week 4 – Character portraits built from Rory’s Story Cubes dice



Taking Part

It would be great if you join me for FebShoMo. You are free to plan your weeks as you desire. I am interested in learning any new methods for generating random combinations of ideas, and seeing how they develop.


Please leave comments here linking to your contributions, or for any of the outlines I post on the blog.


Happy Brainstorming



Find the full list of FebShoMo posts on the project page



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    • Dale Jennings on February 4, 2017 at 7:16 pm
    • Reply

    Love this idea Phil. I haven’t managed 300 words a day, just some short 100 word (ish) punchy ideas. My four week breakdown:

    Week 1 – people
    Week 2 – places
    Week 3 – plots
    Week 4 – props

    That’s the way I tend to breakdown my games now, 4 “P”‘s – people, places, plots and props.

    I’ll post an update at the end of week one. Four NPC’s done – three to go 🙂

    Thanks for the inspiration!

      • Phil on February 5, 2017 at 12:53 pm
      • Reply

      Hi Dale,

      Thank you so very much for participating.

      You are quite right, 300 words is too much for an RPG outline.The important part is to have a target length for the brainstorming, and preferably one which pushes you beyond the “easy” first thought.

      Those are four great categories for RPG prep. By props, do you mean in-game objects, or handouts for the Players to study?

      Are you using random input to help with the brainstorming? What source are you using for that?

      Thanks for sharing, and best of luck with the rest of the project

    • Dale Jennings on February 7, 2017 at 7:18 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Phil,

    These have all been whatever’s come into my head. Just waiting for that “lightbulb” moment, and going from there. Some of these are cliche, but hey, who doesn’t love a cliche, right?
    By props I meant in game objects, shiny things for the players to find.
    I haven’t found I’m stuck yet, but if/when I am, I intend to use Rory’s Story Cubes for inspiration. Perhaps just three of them to inject some randomness into the creation process.

    So without further ado I give you the first weeks capsule NPC’s – these are just brief “snapshot” ideas. System agnostic, no stats… They can be a starting point for a plot or whatever too. (What, When, Where, Why?)

    NPC1 – Gabriel the prophet aka. The Man in the White Suit
    The man in the white suit. A virile 50-something with pure white hair. Powerfully and athletically built.
    Gabriel the prophet is but one of the men in white suits. There are many more, all bearing the names of angels. They all possess great powers.
    In fantasy this is magic. In sci-fi psionic. In modern great skills etc.
    He may be a great ally, or a cunning enemy. Which is yet to be revealed…

    NPC2 – The Mask
    The mask is a non-descript person (man/woman) in his/her 20/30/40/50’s??
    A master of disguise, able to become almost anyone. A natural mimic, and intuitive master of languages. He/she would make a fantastic ally, or a formidable enemy. He will study a target for days or weeks to learn every gesture and nuance, until her mimicry is almost 100% accurate.
    The impersonation is so good even close friends and family have been fooled into believing the imposter.

    NPC3 – Mr Whispers
    This information broker is spoken of in whispers in all corners of the globe.
    It’s said he has information on everyone and everything, for a price. Sometimes he refuses to sell at any price, other times he will give away information freely.
    If there’s an end game to it all the only one who knows isn’t telling – even in a whisper.

    NPC4 – Dr Havoc
    Rumour has it this man can get you any weapon in the world. He has contacts in military and political services worldwide who help him appropriate anything from handguns to helicopters. He is often seen where wars are fought, many think he orchestrates and starts them. They’d be right too.

    Twist – the wars he starts are for the greater good.

    NPC5 – Harry Houdini
    Taking his name from the great escapologist points to one aspect of this mans abilities. The other side is equally compelling – the ability to get IN anywhere too. The lock hasn’t been invented that can’t be circumvented, the system built that can’t be infiltrated by Houdini. In and out of anywhere – for the right price.

    Twist – Harry is short for Harriett.

    NPC6 – Worm/Mole
    Short, fat, round glasses. Torturer extraordinaire with the worst personal hygiene you can imagine. He is without doubt one of the most twisted individuals ever to walk the world. He does however have talent for knowing exactly what will cause the most fear, terror and pain in anyone he works on. If he has a fault it’s that he enjoys his work a little too much…
    NPC7 – Winston (Clay)
    Black taxi driver. Also finder of people and things. Imagine Morgan Freeman with a flat cap and Rastafarian accent and you can almost see Winston. Also imagine him modelled on Max (Escape from New York), and you’ve got the idea…

    NPC8 – Merlin the Wizard
    Old, grey and wise. Think Merlin/Gandalf and you’re there. In fantasy he’s a classic high level sorcerer. In scifi/modern hell be a user of psionics and/or gadgets. He can offer advice and wisdom to the worthy. But beware those who incur his ire…

      • Phil on February 16, 2017 at 10:29 am
      • Reply

      Hi Dale,

      Response version two, as the blog ate yesterday’s effort. *Sigh*

      So, great work here, Dale. There is nothing wrong with re-visiting some classic tropes for fantasy characters. I am sure the Players would enjoy conversations with these tropes. Indeed, the GM may have a lot of fun with classic GMCs.

      Of course, there are plenty of original ideas here too. Several of these people have great plot hooks bound up in their descriptions.

      Thanks for sharing

    • Dale Jennings on February 14, 2017 at 7:04 pm
    • Reply

    Well it’s the end of week two, and guess how much I’ve accomplished? Virtually nothing I’m afraid. Despite the best of intentions, and some intriguing ideas for locations I haven’t written anything, other than a handful of words for location ideas.
    Life has intervened, work etc. got in the way, and my determination and effort hit almost zero too.
    I also realised I missed the point somewhat in part one. Having re-read the intro I didn’t actually provide any “hooks” with the NPC’s from week one: So nothing that actually leads to an adventure. I need to remedy that.
    I thought I’d share this to show a) it happens sometimes and b) I still intend to participate.
    The plan now is to game tonight, then tomorrow, re-invigorated and enthused, play catch up. (I’ve already set a reminder to do so). So that’s it for today – more to follow!

      • Phil on February 16, 2017 at 10:50 am
      • Reply

      Hi Dale,

      So, let’s try this one again, too.

      Sorry to read you had limited success over week two. I know just how that works.

      Firstly, even a few rough notes can be enough to jog your memory when it comes to improvising a location in the middle of a game. You may have achieved more than you think, and a lack of longer notes does not mean you have failed.

      Pleased to note you are still enthused by the project. I am having a lot of fun brainstorming outlines. Switching over the source of inspiration has helped greatly with this process.

      Best of luck moving forward

    • Dale Jennings on February 15, 2017 at 10:00 pm
    • Reply

    GM Writing – week 2 – locations

    So this seems to have gone from a GM writing exercise to a stream of consciousness, letter to a friend kind of ramble. It’s all good I suppose because I’m writing something. I’ve also begun to realise this past fortnight just how much effort is involved in writing regularly (or even attempting to!). It really does require dedication, effort and discipline. Anyway I’ll go back to part one (NPC’s) as, and when, time and inspiration allows.

    For now I want to try to expand on a short list of locations as follows:

    Haunted house
    Outer space

    This is a list I scribbled down when I first thought about locations; a mental gurgitation of ideas. I was originally going to try and give an outline for these locations for use in adventures. I changed my mind, and decided it would be more fun to try and mix it up a little. So, I’m going to use Rory’s Story Cubes (the original “orange” set), for additional inspiration and see what happens.

    Location 1 – haunted house
    Rolling three cubes at random gives me a fountain, a spirit and scales (like the scales of justice).
    The obvious story (to me) is the spirit of a drowned woman, haunting the house in which she met her demise, waiting to exact justice for her murder. Perhaps she wants to drown the descendant(s) of her killer(s).
    Trying to mix them up a little I could have a justly murdered woman (she was completely evil in life), having to haunt the house until her spirit is overflowing, like a fountain, with tears.
    Now the haunted house awaits the next set of intrepid explorers to brave its’ doors…

    Location 2 – underground
    Three different cubes rolled yield a “happy” face, a pair of masks, and a small child with a monster’s spirit inside (evil spirit).
    The happy face, and child suggest a small happy child (boy or girl), quite young and innocent. The masks and evil spirit suggest he is possessed by an evil spirit, or demon.
    OK, so young Jack, or Jill, has been sleep walking, scaring his parents half to death. Every night he gets up in the night to go and visit a cave nearby. “Hells Cave” has a dark and ominous past; suicides, robbery and murders have all occurred here. This cave was either the resting place of an evil spirit, an entrance to hell, or some other demon infested plane. Jack/Jill has become possessed and now labours with his/her little body to free the rest of demanity (did I just invite a word? Did I?), that are still trapped there. Of course to do so (s)he’ll need to provide hosts for the trapped horde…
    Now the parents have turned to friends for help. Scared and desperate they plead you help sweet little Jack (or Jill)…

    Location 3 – underwater
    This time the dice turn up an arrow, a rainbow, and a river under a bridge.
    An ancient legend has it that if you can shoot the rainbow which begins at the river bridge you can gain access to the underwater kingdom, and live there until someone finds the arrow, when you must once more return to the land of mortal men. Beautiful merfolk live beside their god and king (insert appropriate God (Poseidon?)), here under the water. They too have a legend – a hero will come from the land on two legs to walk where they cannot, and rescue their race from certain doom…
    Guess who was hunting for dinner near the rainbow bridge soon after a recent spring shower?…

    Location 4 – volcano
    Dice – a speech bubble, or idea, a magnifying glass and an alien.
    Following a recent eruption, scientists have been stupefied to find that amidst the lava flows, words have been appearing, in a variety of different languages. What could these strange messages mean, who is sending them, and how? Surely the unprecedented ability, or technology, to manipulate lava like this has never been seen before. Now they require a party of fearless volunteers to investigate further; they will surely become famous throughout history…

    Location 5 – outer space
    Dice – a magnet, a book, and a pair of masks (happy and sad)
    Hmm. This is proving a challenge of imagination to link! That’s part of the fun of course.
    Recent violent fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field herald a sixth mass extinction event, unless a solution can be found quickly… Having exhausted all conventional means to resolve the crisis, and growing increasingly desperate, the Earth council turn to ancient texts, which suggest the answer may lie in space, between the worlds. Certain passages from classical Greek texts are provocative, to say the least. What could these strange and cryptic writings mean? The only hope for Earth lies with a band of unlikely heroes, who must unlock the puzzles within the thousands of years old writing, during a race against time for the fate of the world…

    Location 6 – swamp
    Dice – tree, “unhappy” face, airplane
    In the far future the Earth is ravaged by climate change. Due to the devastation wrought by generations of stupid humans the world is now largely uninhabitable nightmarishly hot swamp. Trees rise thousands of feet in this hothouse world, and the remnants of humanity eek out a living flying forever over the surface. To set foot amidst the swampy surface is to surely die. Yet a group of convicts must do just that, because the build-up of greenhouse gases mean that flight will soon become impossible; and if there’s a solution it lies in the old ruins of the ancestors…

    Location 7 – city
    Dice – I went for broke on this one and rolled all nine dice from the story cubes basic set; I’ll try to incorporate as many as I can. The results – A pyramid, spirit, torch, fountain, dice, house, bee, lightning and an eight pointed arrow star (the chaos symbol from Elric).
    Phew! Here goes…
    Under the great pyramid lies the last city, at its’ centre the last fountain. Since all the bees died out, and the crops failed all the houses are built down here now, forever in darkness, but for the torchlights powered by the constant lightning storms that ceaselessly batter the world above. Men must live alongside the spirits of their former fellows, due to the Lords of Chaos which hold sway among the people gathered here. For men now do not truly die, but forever linger, dis-embodied and frustrated spirits, full of spite and bile. Every year the Great Dice Game decides which of the cities inhabitants will go to join the ever swelling ranks of desperate spirits, as the dwindling resources are barely enough for all now.
    There is a legend though, of better times to be had in the “old world above”, if there are men and women with hearts and minds of steel willing to risk everything to see if it’s true…

    So that’s my meager effort for week two of the FebShoMo GM writing challenge. Seven locations, kind of, anyway. One for each day of last week. I hope you find some inspiration, and maybe this’ll spark off an idea or two of your own.

    Take your game to the next level – Dale.

    PS – total editing time – 80 minutes. After spending a week trying to write, once I actually started the ideas just spewed out! I feel much happier now I’ve gotten something written.

      • Phil on February 17, 2017 at 11:52 am
      • Reply

      Hi Dale,

      Yes, writing to a schedule is not as easy as it first appears. I definitely feel it is worth the effort, and your productivity will improve. Keep to the plan, and you should see the results.

      Creating a location with the Rory Cubes has really worked well for you. Linking the random cubes to a fixed location probably helped. Too much freedom does not always work well with improvisation. Your experience makes me excited to work with my Cubes for the final week.

      You have great ideas here, and I really hope you can use them in an RPG, as a reward for your efforts.

      Keep pushing

      PS Is there really a Moorcock chaos symbol on the Cubes? That is so cool!

  1. I feel here like an ant looking up to you, the giants. 🙂
    Really, I confess not having run a campaign longer than four or five sessions. And even that I did with a ruleset most gamers hardly know about, Minimus. On top of all that, I’m more into GM-less storytelling RPG’s…

    What am I doing here, then? Honestly, making an effort to get unstuck in creating a setting for a sci-fi game, to incorporate in my small forthcoming book on using real life fire hazards in games.

    Why that? Y’know, just got fired from my recent job as a fire security tech… Decided to use that crap for greater fun. Making roleplaying games a bit more fun. Started on some examples, which started looking more an more like a mini-setting that could be played on its own, or inserted in a greater game, be it Star Wars or any Traveller game.


    A mining planet (#4 in a remote star system), let’s call it Hellfire for now. Poisonous atmosphere, acidous water, scarce local lifeforms. An interstellar mining corp (name missing yet) based on planet #3 has found rare minerals and valuable metals here. It is four years since they established a small mining base which has grown into a larger complex with several thousands of personnel. The City is half-built under a dome at a hillside, near a small spaceport. Several mines are located at a distance less than 100 miles around.

    Some months ago an economic crisis hit the home planet, demand dwindled, and prices followed. Doesn’t look good in face of having brought here 200 new well-paid workers and engineers. How to avoid bankruptcy? We’re still importing half of food necessary, since hydroponics are not yet working fully. There have been riots for delays in paychecks and canceled vacation trips to the homeworld. Criminal groups are on rise, work safety has fallen below any acceptable limits.

    Now I’m looking forward to generate decent factions wit lots of story seeds. Trying to milk some inspiration from what you are writing here. 🙂 Phil, you mentioned Narrative Outcomes table in another post, and I’m curious what it is.

    Meanwhile, I’ll play with Rory’s and cards from ALONe.

    To the next post!

    • Phil on February 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Guntis,

    Great to hear from you. Sorry about your job problems. I am sure 2017 will bring you better luck.

    Hellfire sounds great as a setting, and would fit perfectly into Traveller,as I recall the Imperium.I hope the FebShoMo project will help you create the story seeds you need for factions, plots, characters, etc. The combination of Rory Cubes and cards should work great for you.

    As for the Narrative Outcomes table, have you read the articles in the Improv Gaming series, such as this one:


    Or did you want a more concrete example?

    All the best with the brainstorming

  2. Oh, actually I hadn’t visited your site for a while, and found the invaluable Improv Gaming articles only after posting my comment… I read them all. Cool! One day maybe you would produce a video series with practical demonstration how you do it.

      • Phil on February 19, 2017 at 1:59 pm
      • Reply

      Hi Guntis,

      I am so pleased you found the Improv Gaming articles useful, Once my current major pdf project is complete, I would like to bundle the Improv articles together into a pdf.

      I am not so sure about a video, but it is something to keep in mind. Last year I toyed with the idea of a podcast, but the coffee shop we play in makes for very bad sound quality. I also struggled with the technology required, so perhaps video is not for me.

      Although who can tell what the future may bring.

      Thanks for sharing, and best of luck with your improv

  3. Video is quite possible. It’s an experience I’ll better discuss in G+ Gamer Lifestyle group.

    • Phil on March 18, 2017 at 4:38 pm
    • Reply


    I also tracked down additional RPG story seeds posted at the 6d6rpg blog:


    This was the first post in a series at the blog.

    Happy Gaming

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