Category Archives: Bubbles

By the Campfire

The road from their last camp had been tiring. The halfing hadn’t shut up the entire time, the two humans reminded her unpleasantly of her father’s enforcers and the half-elf… there was something about the half-elf that both attracted and repulsed her. She was glad, therefore, when they set up camp for the night and the halfling wandered off with their guide to find firewood, wittering away about the carrot soup his mother used to make and asking if any of the local herbs would be good in it.

“I’ll find some food.” The taller of the four women, Sonja, muttered, dropping her pack on the floor and stalking off into the night.

“So will I.” Muse turned as the half-elf crept away, reading a desire to be alone in every muscle of the young woman’s body.

“So that leaves us, I guess?” Muse said, a smile playing on her lips as she reached for her pipes. “How about I play a little tune to get you in the mood for cooking, Chef?”

Telari, a brusque human woman who, as far as Muse could tell, didn’t know how to smile had distinguished herself as a cook the first night they had made camp and hadn’t taken well to Muse’s nickname. She glared at the young tiefling and sat down, her legs crossed and loose robes arranged comfortably around her.

“I’d rather you didn’t.” Her voice was stern and uncompromising. “Meditation is easier when it is as silent outside, as it is inside.”

Muse shrugged, her tail flicking idly from side to side.

“Suit yourself.” She slid her pipes back into their pouch and drew a dagger from its sheath instead. The dark metal drank in the light of the setting sun and she started to sharpen it, rubbing the whetstone along the blade. She whistled quietly to herself as worked, a sea shanty she had heard once on the docks of Zazesspur.

She heard Lovefoot before she saw him, the halfling’s voice carrying easily on the still air.

“-and that’s how Mr. Crabapple lost his chickens.” Their guide grunted. “Anyway, I’m hungry. Let’s get this fire lit so I can cook something.”

Muse smiled widely as she saw Telari stiffen slightly. The monk opened her eyes and stared at the halfling in horror for a fraction of second before standing.

“I was thinking I’d make a stew tonight.” She said. Lovefoot thought for a second and then nodded.

“Okay. I’ll save Mrs. Halfthorn’s recipe for a rainy day.” Telari nodded and began laying the fire.

There was a quiet footstep behind Muse and the young tiefling flinched, turning to see Myca approaching, the edge of her tunic lifted to form a pocket of sorts. A few nuts fell from the pile of whatever was in there as she walked past.

She watched the half-elf move with an awkward grace, her profile striking in the rays of the setting sun, and then returned to her dagger, finishing it to her satisfaction before sheathing it with a flourish.

“Thirsty work, hunting.” A clear voice called out from the encroaching darkness as Sonja strode into the firelight, a brace of rabbits over her shoulder. “Where’s the wineskin?”

Muse reached into her pack and pulled it out.

“Catch, your Ladyship.” She said, throwing it to the statuesque woman.

Without breaking stride, Sonja caught the wineskin, pulled the stopper out with her teeth and downed a mouthful of wine before dropping the rabbits to the floor next to the intricate wooden structure Telari had built. Wisps of smoke began drifting in the air and the monk walked to her pack and pulled out some pots and small leather pouches which Muse knew contained her supply of herbs and salts.

They watched the fire grow swiftly as a light breeze picked up, and sparks began dancing on the air around the iron pot nestled in the flames. Muse volunteered to collect some water from a stream Sonja had noticed nearby and when she returned, Lovefoot and Telari were in a heated discussion about the correct amounts of basil and thyme to drop into the rabbit stew.

She noticed Myca was sitting slightly away from the rest of them, her brow furrowed and her teeth worrying at her lower lip.

“She’s not cut out for this.” Sonja said quietly, her usual ebullience missing from her voice. “She’s seen some horrors, but the open road and the desert? They aren’t in her blood. Not like they’re in yours and mine.” Muse looked at the red-haired woman, surprised by her insight. Sonja shrugged, the metal scales sewn into her clothes jingling slightly. “Mercenaries have to be able to know who they can trust in a fight. I look at you and I see the open road, a wanderlust that can’t be sated, and a darkness, a willingness to do what must be done. But her,” she gestured at Myca, “I see the forests and a desire to belong, for family. This isn’t the place for her.”

“Maybe not. But I think she’ll surprise us all. There’s a steel there, a resolve I haven’t seen in many people.” Muse smiled, her pointed teeth glimmering in the fire light. “Besides, the road has a way of dealing with the weak.” Sonja grunted and moved to sit by the fire as the argument began to die down.

“I believe it’s your turn, Muse.” Telari said absently as Lovefoot skipped away from the fire, whistling a nonsense tune to himself.


“To tell us why you’re here.”

“Oh. It’s not really an interesting story.”

“Nevertheless, we’ve shared our stories.” She said, gesturing to Sonja with a long-handled spoon. Muse sighed and pulled out her pipes.

“I’m doing this my way then.” Sonja laughed.

“I’d expect nothing else, tale-teller.”

Muse blew a few, eerie notes on her panpipes. A slow stream of smoke and cinders fell to the ground as the notes faded and three orbs of lavender light emerged as the smoke dissipated, floating to revolve slowly around Muse’s neck. Her skin took on a violet hue as their light combined with the fire illuminating her lavender skin.

“I don’t know my parents. I grew up on the streets of Zazesspur, far away on the coast to the north. A city of elves and men, one such as I was frowned up. Bearing the mark of a devil,” the orbs split up and drifted to float around her horns and balance on the tip of her tail, “and living on the streets, my opportunities were few and far between.”

The orbs moved slowly back to her throat and sank into the skin, forming a line of light from her clavicle to her jaw.

“So, I learned to sing and tell tales, to dance and to smile, to play and to charm. An honest urchin can live more consistently than a dishonest one. I was not rich, but nor was I poor.”

The balls of light pulled together in her throat and drifted outwards to become a humanoid shape, roughly as tall as an adult male.

“One evening, as winter drew in and the nights turned cold, Marvolo found me. The master of a travelling troupe, he needed a muse, an inspiration to bring cheer to his players once more. I became his Muse. I learned the ways of the road, the songs of many people, the magic of the stage.”

A tear fell from her quicksilver eyes.

“Until the day tragedy struck. Marvolo’s right-hand man, a man I trusted as a brother, betrayed me. I heard them arguing in the dead of night. He intended to sell me to a thief-lord, to be used as a pawn in some unknowable game.”

The orbs separated and turned a violent crimson, two floated to Muse’s eyes where they burned brightly and the third sank into the tip of her lashing tail.

“I am no-one’s pawn. I am not a toy to be used by others. I am my own person, now and forever more, until the Nine Hells freeze over and the Abyss swallows us all. So, I ran. I took everything I owned, and I ran.”

The lights faded as she blew another series of notes on her panpipes, the cloud of cinders and smoke dripped again in a caliginous mass from the ends of the pipes and wrapped itself around her throat. When she spoke again, her voice boomed in the still night air, her tone ominous.

“I ran to Seawell, I ran to my future.”


Café Diem

First off, I admit the title is a terrible pun, but this is my website and I can call the articles whatever I want.

Secondly, I’ve done some re-arranging of the site navigation, and it’s hopefully a little easier/less cluttered now, if you have any thoughts or opinions on it, please let me know.

Anyway, onto the main point of today’s update.

Just under a year ago, I started DMing a 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons campaign in my local board-game café (Sugar and Dice) and, over that year, I’ve noticed a few differences between running and playing games at home, versus doing so in a public environment. Today’s update will focus on a few of those differences and how I cope with them. As ever, if you have any thoughts, or criticisms, feel free to leave them below.

Right off the bat, the most immediate difference is the noise level. Being in a café, albeit one where everyone is there for a similar reason and not just to have a discussion or an argument, talking loud enough to be heard over the activity from nearby tables or the sounds of playing pieces hitting the board can sometimes detract from the game. Certainly, for someone like me, someone who is unsure of their ability to accurately portray voices or the subtler nuances of description, having to concentrate on being loud enough to be heard takes away from my confidence to try different voices and more atmospheric scene setting.

In order to get around this, I tend to focus on what I’m good at (accents and speech patterns) to convey different character types and personalities. By doing that, I’m able to give a performance I am happy with and portray the disparate characters that make up my world, whilst also immersing my players as much as possible in the game.

The second problem caused by the noise level is player engagement and focus. With so much distraction around, I’ve noticed that my players appear to struggle with focus sometimes. I know that I do when they are discussing their next steps, which naturally leads to clarifications and wasted time. Part of how I deal with this is trying to speak louder and slower. My default manner of speech is quiet and fast, which is something that is less than ideal in the café environment, so I’ve made it clear that I’m happy to repeat things as needed, but something I’ve started trying to do is maintain eye-contact (not something that comes naturally to me) as well as switching my focus periodically to other characters, or to the group as a whole.

The other problem linked to this, certainly with D&D, is visualising combat. I’m typically someone who enjoys the theatre of the mind aspects of encounters, despite my aphantasia, because I’m more interested in telling stories of awesome action and flashy combat, instead of accurate positioning and ranges. The problem with this is that because the noise level can hinder player focus, when my descriptions aren’t good enough, or a player is distracted by something nearby, the flow of combat gets interrupted by clarifications or questions about the preceding turn. I’ve taken the obvious route to get around this by using a battle-map and miniatures (one of my players made Lego minifigs of the PCs, all of which are amazing) to help provide a visual aid during combat and I usually end up using my dice to explain positioning out of combat when my description is lacking, or if the players don’t understand what I mean.

On the other side of the equation, however, is the community of the café itself. Most of the time when I’m running my game, there is at least one other session running nearby that I can half-listen to for story or character ideas, or just to help improve my morale as a DM. But more than that, I know that if I have any questions about rules, there is usually at least one other DM nearby that I can ask about their interpretation of a situation or edge case scenario or get their opinion on a custom monster. And finally, of course, there is no real shortage of players if I need a guest spot for a single session, or want to mix things up for a short time.

So, while DMing in a café certainly has its drawbacks, by focussing on your strengths and adapting your usual approach to running encounters, you’ll find the community aspect of playing in a more public environment has hugely beneficial effects.

I may return to this subject in a future post, but for now, I hope I’ve been able to give you some insight into the unique problems surrounding playing rpgs in a café setting.

Prophecies of the Elements

Here is a selection of prophecies to inspire your own story hooks in whatever tabletop rpg you are playing, or to provide an ambiguous plotline for you to incorporate into your own games.

I would be interested to know what you, or your players, make of them, so please let me know in the comments.


When the sun burns green,

And the trees sing in an unknown breeze,

A faceless man will bring a rose from the East.

When he reaches the tower and gifts the rose to a woman of unmatched knowledge,

The winds of the Great Plains will sweep over the land and bring plague with them.


At the dawning of the new age,

An age of blood, steel and smoke,

A child will be born.

To her, will the secrets of the Ancients be given,

To her, will all the skill of the Children of the Stone be taught.

When she is of age, a great calamity will befall the house of Hask.

Only a gift of the earth, purest of the many Azure Crowns, will save it.


As the sun and the moon meet,

As the seas fall calm and the animals sleep,

As the plants in the field wither,

He shall come unbidden.

A stranger, cloaked and playing a lute,

With hair of fire and tongue of silver.

He will charm all who see him,

And destroy all who follow him.

He brings the cold, cleansing fire of death.


There is a cave in the middle of the world,

A mouth of broken stone and trailing plants.

A bear lives in the cave, her fur matted and hide scarred.

The world-bear carries the weight of the world on her shoulders and guards the fortunes of all.

At the height of its powers, a great empire will challenge the moon for supremacy of the night.

It will win, and the moon will fall, shattered into a hundred pieces.

As it dies, the seas will rise and wash into the cave, drowning the bear.

My vision sees nothing more,

Save a bear skull bobbing on a tide of blood.

The Great Bee-trayal

In Honey Heist, a one-page RPG by Grant Howitt, found here, the players take the part of criminal bears pulling off the heist of the century to steal as much honey as possible from HoneyCon. The party I had the pleasure of guiding through the halls of this hallowed convention consisted of;

Iorek Byrnisson – a polar bear Hacker

Sir Arthur Bearington – a sunbear, one half of the Brains

Bjorn  – a sunbear and the group’s Muscle

Lan Xiongmao – a panda, the other half of the Brains

The party were given the following briefing by their unseen benefactor:

A newspaper clipping:

The Geistburg City Council is proud to announce, in conjunction with Arthur Richardson and Midas Events, the arrival of HoneyCon 2018! Events include; a mead brewing contest ($2000 grand prize), small pet show and competition, bee-keeping tutorials and demonstrations and a one-night performance from Queen Bee-yoncé herself.

Once exiled from the world of pop music, the Queen has returned and is set to take the world by storm with the release of her new album, Bee-hive Yourself. Book your ticket now to avoid disappointment.

For those conscious of security matters, the convention centre boasts a state of the art security system and an impenetrable vault, kindly provided by Securotech.

In a handwritten note:

Alright, listen up, bears.

We got a job.

Client wants us to bust into HoneyCon and steal as much of the good stuff as we can, as well as arranging a private viewing of Bee-yoncé’s comeback performance.

He’d like her unharmed and as calm as possible, but it’s a bear-eat-bear world out there, so I’ll be happy if she’s alive when you get back to base.

Arthur Richardson is a known weak point, the man craves money and influence. Lean on him if you want to.

Secureotech’s system is a series of hidden gas vents that spews out anaesthetic if the alarm is raised. The vents are only in the public areas, so try to avoid those once it hits the fan.

As for Geistburg, the place is creepy. Ain’t no two ways about it. You might see things that make you question your eyes , but keep ‘em on the prize and we’ll be richer for it.

Overpaw, out.

The game began with the party stealing a posh car to suit Arthur and Xiongmao’s status as bears of standing.

[GM Note: The rules include an optional hat table, Arthur was wearing a top hat and Xiongmao was wearing a crown]

Their first obstacle was the gate guard, a bored-looking man asking to see passes to permit entry. Arthur managed to persuade the man to let them in through growling and gesturing in a foppish manner.

After leaving the car, the party were denied entry to the main convention centre (an old plantation manor) because of their lack of passes. The party had determined, through the skill Sense Honey, that the largest honey stashes were in the house. One stash (the biggest) appeared to be underground, and another appeared to be at the back the house.

After a short conversation, it was decided that Iorek would hack into the security system and print them all-access passes. The closest computer on the network was in the gate guard’s hut and so he snuck in as Arthur and Xiongmao distracted the guard. His attempt at breaking into the system failed, shorting the network and causing a brownout. This attracted the attention of the guard who, unable to see in the dark hut, was able only to react to Bjorn’s feeble attempts at subduing him. He collapsed after Iorek swatted him with a paw and Bjorn stole his hat and radio.

There was some alarm as another guard turned up to investigate the source of the brownout, this one wearing a fancy badge in addition to his hat and radio, and soon enough George had been taken of.

“George” and “Robert” (Iorek and Bjorn posing as the guards) used the authority of their hats to get some passes from the next group of visitors under the pretext of accepting them as a method of entrance.

Using these passes, the party was able to enter the house and start looking around. They quickly found the locked security door leading into the kitchen and Arthur tried to break it down while “George” tried to get the access code over the radio. He was told that the code was written in a book in the main security office and was on his way there when Arthur tripped the alarm.

After a back and forth on the radio, the alarm was disabled and the party broke the door down as “George” went to get the code. They explored the kitchen and found a set of stairs leading downwards, probably to the largest stash of honey. They followed them and encountered a locked door with a keypad.

“George”, meanwhile, was on his way to the security office. Once there, he tore the page containing the vault access code from the notebook (when the officer nearby noticed, he explained that he was very clumsy) and attempted to copy the information from the page in his paw onto  a clean page in the book. He then returned to the kitchen and found a collection of warning signs (Wet Floor, Open Flame, Bears, and Danger of Electrocution) and set up the “Warning! Bears!” sign to stop people following them. He re-joined the party and found that the vault access code did not work on the door in front of them, so he hacked it open/broke it and opened the door to reveal a wine cellar.

After searching the cellar, including pulling one of the wine racks over to see if the wall was fake, the party gave up and left, just in time to hear a radio broadcast concerning a report of the sound of broken glass and a request for someone to check the door in the cellar. With that prompt, they managed to find the secret door hidden behind a wine-rack.

Using the vault access code, they opened the door to reveal a huge, steel hatch with three tumblers on it. Correctly guessing the code to be 833 (BEE), the bears managed to open the door and find the collection of finely aged honey within.

[GM Note: As I improvised the whole thing as we went along, when Arthur’s player suggested that was the code, I found it such an elegant solution that it worked. My original idea was they would try to crack each tumbler].

Seeing how much honey was in the vault, the party decided they would need a bigger car and Iorek left to steal a people-carrier from the car park whilst the others boxed up the honey with boxes from the wine cellar. As they finished, the security team watching the camera feeds alerted the supervisor to their activities and they deflected all suspicion, by telling her to alert the Secureotech facility in the city that they were moving the honey in response to a possible threat. With that done, they hid the people-carrier in the car park once more and proceeded to the second part of the heist – Bee-yoncé.

It was no difficult task to find the stage, and the entrance to the backstage area, nor was it difficult to convince the two bodyguards standing outside the door to let “Robert” and “George” (now played by Lan Xiongmao) in as part of a security check. With only six doors to choose from, “George” quickly found Bee-yoncé’s dressing room and opened the door to reveal a bee-sized replica of the building they were in, a glass box outfitted with speakers and a screen hooked up to a microscope, and another bodyguard.

It was around this time that Iorek removed his hat (revealing the fact that he is a bear to all nearby onlookers) and began to create a disturbance, terrifying the guards at the backstage door. Bee-yoncé immediately flew into the glass case, where the microscope turned on and revealed a queen bee in a tiara, and “George” convinced the bodyguard with them that he should go and help deal with the bear whilst they carried Bee-yoncé to safety. He agreed and handed the glass box over to them.

The three bears still disguised as people made their way back to the carpark where it was decided that “Robert” (still played by Bjorn) would drive the honey to their rendezvous while Arthur and “George” took care of Bee-yoncé. As the people-carrier was hidden further into the carpark, Arthur and Xiongmao left the Con first and drove to meet Iorek (swimmingly frantically through the bayou that surrounded the convention centre) at the rendezvous, unaware that Bjorn had been seduced by a life of crime and intended to take all the honey for himself.

As he drove past the rendezvous, and left them to realise his betrayal, the bee in the glass box flew up to a tiny microphone and said,

“I wonder if this ever happened to Bee-yoncé?”

Funeral Songs

Unplanned hiatus + Christmas break = tumbleweeds.

Hopefully, I can get back into my update schedule, so for today, we have a selection of funeral songs to inspire your world-building or to add flavour to a ceremony.

I will probably write more in the future, but for now, enjoy!

A Daughter’s Lament

You, who made me
You, who taught me
You, who helped me,
I weep for you

I weep for our past
I weep for our family
I weep for our loss
For a future not to be

A future of loss
A future of darkness
A future of hope diminished
A world with one less life

One less ember burning
One less breath of wind
One less smile to brighten a day
One less parent to raise a child


From the Stone

From the Stone, to the Stone
From the fire, to the forge.

As our hearts are made of iron,
So are our spirits made of steel.

There is nothing we cannot endure,
No struggle too great or small.

We are the Children of the Stone,
The world is our canvas.

Our life is granted to us by the Earthfather,
And it is taken by the Skymother.

Upon our death, we find peace,
An end to the struggle of life.

Where there is death, there is sadness,
There is pain and there is grief.

But turn this pain inwards,
Use it to temper your steel.

Grow stronger from it,
Become more of who you are.

This world will not mourn them,
It will not mourn you.

We are Children of the Stone,
From the Stone we come,
To the Stone we go.


Walk In Their Sight

We mourn you, you who have gone,
We are the many who knew the one,
A bright star passing through the night,
Burning strong in Ivellios’ esteemed sight.

You graced our lives with your love,
Given form by Her Grace above.
A light in the darkness burning strong,
A note on the wind from an unknown song.

As Vaella showed us the mercy of the Divine,
A golden nectar sweeter than any wine,
You brought a smile to our lips and hearts,
As pure as that of any lovers’ arts.

We mourn you, you have gone,
We are the many, who knew the one,
We thank you for teaching us of death,
And we remember you with every breath.

Walk in their light with our blessings, friend.

Role-playing 111 – Common Mistakes

Apologies for the unannounced hiatus. Things will be irregular for a few weeks due to personal life occurrences, but should even out in the new year.

Whilst the following article is aimed primarily at new GMs/DMs, the points raised here are ones that I have to remind myself of constantly. Before starting, I want to stress that there is no wrong way to GM and that nothing in this article is intended to be judgemental, merely helpful. Another thing worth remembering is that I don’t have all the answers, all the experience I draw upon to write these articles is solely my own and your experiences may differ.

Now that that is all out of the way, my topic for this week is one I’ve wanted to write about a for a while; common mistakes made by the inexperienced (and experienced) GM. It is a topic I will definitely be returning to in the future, but for now I will be talking about drawing comparisons to other GMs and expectations of player progress.

With the (frankly welcome) rise in popularity of role-playing games, and in particular D&D, on services like Twitch and YouTube, there is a wider awareness of GMing styles and tricks. Part and parcel of this is greater visibility for the GMs running those games, usually people who prove to be extremely popular among their audience and who prompt people to begin GMing their own games. This is all well and good because a wider awareness of storytelling tricks and good practice can only improve the hobby, but with this increased visibility can come an increased pressure to perform to the standard of the GM onscreen.

This, especially for first time GMs, is nigh impossible in most cases, but can result in the GM feeling like they haven’t done a good enough job for their players. This is something that I am guilty of, and something that can adversely affect the game.

While there is nothing wrong with imitating another’s GMing style, and certainly there is nothing wrong in cherrypicking the parts of their style that you enjoy the most, it is important to remember that everyone has different strengths, weaknesses and styles. I know that, for example, voices aren’t my strong suit. While it is something I am working on, I try to focus to what I can do (create believable characters and a living world to fully immerse the players) instead of slowing the game down by doubting my abilities. That, really, is my best recommendation; try to accept that you probably won’t be good at everything your first time around, focus on what you can do to keep the game, and the story, flowing.

At the end of the day, the hobby is all about having fun, not comparing yourself to others. I cannot stress enough that every GM, and every game, is going to be different.

My second point is one that even GMs with more experience than I struggle with, namely expectations regarding player progress.

Sometimes, certain aspects of the game mechanics themselves will stymie game progress, but most often the players themselves will either breeze through your carefully crafted plot, or get hung up on the smallest of details. The easiest way to deal with both of these problems is to prepare more than you think they will be able to get through in one session, even if it is just a rough outline.

For the former situation, this means that you have a good idea of where things are headed and where they can go next and for the latter, this means that you have enough material prepared that you can flesh out at a later date without worrying about running out of detailed plot.

In both circumstances, in my experiences, the ability to improvise and react to player choices is incredibly useful. This is almost entirely because you will never be able to predict which aspects of your game your players are going to pick up on and explore, so from time to time (or most of the time with my players) you will need to be able to elaborate on things without slowing the game down. That said, don’t be afraid to ask for time from your players. Explain to them that you didn’t have anything prepared and they should be understanding about the matter. You do have a whole world to prepare, after all.

On top of improvisation, having a vague idea of the direction the plot could take is always useful, as is having a good idea of what items might be useful later on. Both of these things will allow you to seed the campaign with hints that hopefully point your players towards future possibilities. One of the dangers of doing this is forcing the players in the direction you want them to go, so called ‘railroading’, as opposed to giving them agency so please be on the lookout for that.

Player agency is, of course, a very important part of the hobby and should be respected where possible.

Ultimately, the game you run is yours, no-one else’s. Find your own GMing style and experiment with preparation to find the sweet spot of prepared material vs. improvisation (Mike Mearls, one of the D&D team, has a rule of thumb that you should spend no more than half of the expected play time preparing material).

If you have any advice to offer first time GMs, feel free to leave it in the comments below.



The village of Rustwell is small, barely 200 strong. Its population is a mixture of hunters, miners and guides for the local pilgrimage route.

Situated in the foothills at the base of the Wyvern Crags, the village takes its name from the rust coloured waters of the well it was built around. The iron rich countryside nearby has provided mining opportunities for generations of villagers and has attracted newcomers to the area for the last fifty years.

The village itself is roughly semi-circular, built against the base of the roaring waterfall that pours down from Iron Rock, the tallest mountain for miles. A large pool at the base of the waterfall provides a secondary source of water and a defence for the village’s valuables and stores, hidden in a cave behind the torrent of water that falls endlessly into the pool and drains away into the cave system beneath the village.

A few farms on the edge of Rustwell provide most of the food the village requires from their fertile fields, but every few weeks, some of the villagers travel to the nearby market town of Shepherd’s Hollow to trade for more.


Marshall Yannick – the village leader. A retired military officer, Yannick moved his family to Rustwell in attempt to escape the memories that haunt him. Confident and proud, he is an honourable man who has led the village through some tough times.

Hera Yannick – Marshall’s daughter and the village’s physician. As confident in her abilities as her father is in his, Hera serves as the village’s main source of medicine and is also the head of the village guard. Bandits in the nearby mountains have pushed against her forces more than once and have been beaten soundly every time.

Artur Helmsson – the owner of the Cracked Anvil and the village blacksmith. Artur originally settled in Rustwell as a spy for the largest of the local bandit groups but has recently begun to question where his loyalties lie. Many in the village consider him a good friend and a skilled bartender and craftsman.

Aria Larain – the village’s priestess. Few know that Aria turned down a senior position within her church’s hierarchy to follow her love to Rustwell. Even fewer know that she has eyes only for Hera, who she met briefly when Marshall brought his family through the city she was working in on his way to Rustwell. All, however, know of her endless patience and compassion. (Please note; Aria’s sexuality is not her sole defining feature, it is merely a highlighted facet of her character intended to create an interesting plot hook.)

Brand Eront – the head miner. Brand is a blunt, but wise, man of middle age and is well respected among the community. Under his careful leadership, the mines have prospered in recent years and there are rumours that he is considering opening a new working.

Plot Hooks

Rusthold, the abandoned keep further up the cliff, has recently been claimed by an unknown group of people. The village has sent a representative to begin friendly communications but are waiting for an answer.

The local bandit gangs haven’t been seen in a while. The villagers hope they have been driven off, but there are rumours they are simply massing for something large.

Marshall Yannick has been receiving reports of strange occurrences on the outskirts of the village, so far his investigations have found nothing. A few of the farmers think that something supernatural is occurring.

A few of the children playing near the waterfall have told their parents about voices calling to them from the water. No-one is sure if this is youthful imagination, or something more sinister.

A recent cave-in caused several deaths and many injuries. A few of the miners believe that it was not a tragic accident but the work of a saboteur.



Role-playing 303: Communication Skills

In earlier articles in this series (301 and 302), I briefly mentioned how role-playing games can improve your communication skills in the work place. This week, I’m going to cover that particular subject in more detail.

I’ve already explained how role-playing helps you communicate better and in a sympathetic manner, so today I’m going to talk about how it helps you react to social situations, use written communication methods to convey information clearly and read people in order to make it easier to communicate with them.

If, like me, you are not comfortable in social situations, there is a phrase you should always bear in mind; ‘fake it, until you make it’. I’ve been applying this for years when it comes to appearing confident in front of others, and to some extent it works. I’m never going to be good at small talk, that is simply not a skill I possess, but I can act confident for long enough that I feel it, for a short time at least.

Role-playing has played a large part in this. A few years ago, I decided to break from my usual characters and rolled up the bard I speak frequently about here in an effort to force myself out of my rut and into a more… socially comfortable mind-set. It was, to some extent, effective. Role-playing that kind of character has taught me about the social cues I display and the behaviours I fall back on when under pressure. Knowing these things allows me to monitor my reactions to other people in conversation and tailor them according to the situation. This isn’t a fool-proof plan by any means, but it helps me to react to things in a much calmer, controlled manner.

When I feel the panic and social anxiety starting to kick in, I let myself slip into my bard’s mind-set, rather than my own. This, obviously, is a learned skill and takes a certain amount of self-confidence, or a willingness to push past the discomfort. What I have realised, and what I believe is the big takeaway here, is that if you have a ‘library’, so to speak, of personalities to draw upon, as long as you take only those aspects which are helpful and which you have learned from, you’ll be able to deal far better with situations that throw you off-balance, or make you uncomfortable.

My next point will likely come more naturally to people who run role-playing games for others, as opposed to those who play them, but will hopefully still prove useful to anyone reading this.

Writing adventures (whether one-shot games or longer storylines) teaches you the importance of concise summaries (of the relevant happenings from any given game session), coherent notes (whether world building or in terms of planning) and a consistent style. The purpose of any game, in my opinion, is to draw the players in, make them invested in the world in which their characters exist and to maintain a sense of continuity. In order to achieve these goals, you must maintain a consistent style in your storytelling, as well as be able to refer to your notes on a subject days, weeks etc. after the fact and recall any relevant information. Being able to do this in a professional context is invaluable.

Not only does it allow you to build effective relationships with people you do not ordinarily see face to face, because they are able to quickly understand who you are through your writing style, register and tone, but you will also be able to convey the importance of information by altering your writing style, something that your correspondent won’t be able to pick up on as easily if you don’t have a consistent baseline when contacting them.

The importance of concise summaries is more related to the presentation of information, than it is to the actual way in which you communicate, but remains important here nonetheless. As in the context of the game, being able to accurately produce concise summaries of information allows you to quickly and clearly convey your message, without confusing the matter with an abundance of extraneous information. Naturally, of course, some people prefer to have more facts than fewer, and you will have to tailor this approach accordingly, but being able to do it is an invaluable talent to possess.

My final point is related slightly to something I discussed above; role-playing allows you to familiarise yourself with a wide variety of personalities and character types which gives you the ability to understand people more quickly than you otherwise might. This isn’t a comprehensive psychological process, nor is it fool-proof, but it does help. If you understand a person’s behaviour, you can gain an insight into their motivations, and might even be able to work out what they want, whether out of life or at that current moment, which allow you to communicate effectively with them by tailoring what information you tell them and the manner in which you put it across.

To some extent, being able to read people like this does rely on learned experience and gut instinct (I know I’m only just starting to get a feel for it) but people I have spoken to recently have explained, in great detail, the value of being able to do this.

The main point of this post, I believe, is that role-playing allows you to build a ‘database’ of character types and personalities that you can draw upon to help you in social situations, or to help you read people and alter your communication with them accordingly, and that it helps you to develop your written communication skills. All of these things can make you better at your job, and they are all things that can be taught to other people, but ultimately, they’re skills that are useful in all aspects of one’s life.

Remnant: Roleplaying in the World of RWBY

In celebration of RWBY volume 5 beginning tomorrow, I’ve decided to throw open the doors of my game design archive and am proud to present the playtest rules for ‘Remnant’. ‘Remnant’ is a tabletop roleplaying game I designed a few years ago but never did anything with.

It is my hope that it proves at least moderately enjoyable for the fandom, and I’m happy to receive any thoughts, comments or criticisms on this website or at the contact e-mail provide on the About page.

Disclaimer: Remnant is not endorsed by Rooster Teeth in any way.  Views, opinions, thoughts are all my own.  Rooster Teeth and RWBY are trade names or registered trademarks of Rooster Teeth Productions, LLC.  © Rooster Teeth Productions, LLC.

Anyway, now that’s all over with, Remnant can be found here.


Plot Hooks 4

I’ve broken from my usual formula this week, instead of grouping hooks by genre, I’ve grouped them by a person/societal group of interest. As ever, of course, these plot hooks can be used as writing prompts (there is a good deal of crossover between role-playing and writing), one-shots or as a seed for a whole campaign.


Person of Authority (PoA)

Something has been stolen from a local PoA, but when the player characters find it, it isn’t what they expect.

The local PoA has been missing for a few days; they were last seen on the outskirts of town during a charitable parade.

The local PoA has sent bounty hunters after the player characters for a crime they do not remember committing.

A recent power struggle has left the player characters in the enviable position of choosing the next PoA.

A family member of one of the player characters has recently been courted by a local PoA, but said PoA seems too good to be true.


Those Shunned By Society

A local beggar has asked the player characters to help them find a friend the player characters found on a recent adventure. When they visit, the friend has disappeared leaving behind a single white feather.

An orphan claims to know a secret that could destroy one of the player characters.

A local street gang has been making hostile advances towards someone the player characters like; at first glance they appear to have been paid off.

A disease is spreading through the local homeless population and affecting no-one else.

When a known thief is found inside the house one of the player characters, they claim to have no memory of how they got there.


A Passing Stranger

One of the player characters finds a body which disappears when it is reported.

Someone has been following the player characters and tidying up their loose ends.

The player characters run into someone who knows them all, but who they have no memory of.

An ex-lover of one of the player characters is being threatened by persons unknown. The threats are intensely personal and seem to be escalating.

When the player characters find someone on their adventures, they don’t realise how much trouble their new associate is in.