I’m running probably the biggest sale I’ve ever done from now through Dec. 18. It’s the gifting season, so if you’re looking for something new and cool for a friend (or just for you, I won’t tell) this is a good time!

https://ndpdesign.com/online-store

Not only is everything in the store 20% off, I’m closing out some items. In particular, all of my limited edition shirts are on deep discount, some for as low as $3! They’re all going away at the end of the year so this is the last chance to pick up “Summer” King Cuerno, King of Darkness EVIL, or any of the World Wide Wrestling shirt designs.

All discounts are already in the store listings, and use code WINTER2017 at checkout to get free US shipping on orders of $35+. This includes PDFs in the total, so (protip) you can stock up on the back catalogue in digital and get free shipping on the one book you want!

Stay warm, friends.

Hey Fraser Simons​ I’m about to enter The Veil. I’m ready to have my mind blown with the miracle of augmented reality!

…actually it’s super underwhelming but it’s inevitable that this will be awesome in my lifetime. Right now I’d be happy to get the little demo 3D model of earth to come into focus.

Family Values

Because it’s Thanksgiving weekend, here’s an essay on a topic I’ve been thinking about a while.

Maybe the single biggest event in my life that has shaped how and why I play RPGs was becoming a parent. It is a life changing event, and given how big a part of my life tabletop games are, it was inevitable.

What being a parent has brought to my play is an acute awareness of the presence and absence of children in a game: the world, the setting, the situation.

The first time I ran Sagas of the Icelanders, I decided to just litter the community with kids. Any given household with a man and a woman, I’d ask or propose something like “so how many kids, then? Say between three and eight?” And if there was pushback, like they went below three, I’d follow up with something leading like, “So what do folks think is wrong? What’s the gossip? What are you doing to change that?” Stuff like that. And then on my big crazy relationship situation map, every homestead would have lots of little circles for every kid. They’d outnumber adult characters 3:1 or more.

On the flip side, playing a SotI game sans kids would feel weird and empty to me. Did everyone just arrive? Did some fever kill all the kids? How many women are pregnant now and when are they due? I’d try to fill that gap hard with something, anything.

Slip over to a more traditional fantasy game and that awareness is still there. In our Torchbearer game, the party was underground for, what, four sessions? Five? Lots. And of course, they’re on the job in a very dangerous place. So when they finally crawl out with their meager loot and limp into the crossroads town, kids everywhere. It’s a jarring and important division between their day job life and real life.

The world is full of kids. It’s how we keep going. I’m not even talking about het couples, here, although I have a blind spot I’m working on regarding non-het relationships that are, you know, just part of the background. And if they have kids in their families, well, that brings up interesting questions in any setting. Anyway! Not the point of this. I’m just talking about including children if you have even the faintest hope of creating a world that feels real and lived in.

I’ve sat at and listened in on puh-lenty of traditional fantasy tables, largely before I was a parent. And it didn’t seem weird at all to have a town populated only by adult professionals (blacksmith, tavern owner, The Mayor, guards, barmaid, whatever) and a total absence of even the tiniest hint of family life. Or what about mission-oriented futuristic stuff? Pull into the starport in a Traveller game and head over to the bar/jobs board/TAS, no kids to be seen anywhere.

Unless of course they’re a plot device.

I’m not sure what the child-equivalent trope is to fridging but fuuuuck it happens, doesn’t it? The wizard’s minions have murdered your unnamed, faceless children and now you seek vengeance. Or the dumb Fallout thing: your kid has been kidnapped, and now you wander around doing stuff for what feels like years that has little or nothing to do with finding your child. I can tell you, as a parent, I would not be building communities and assembling sweet powered armor.

So it seems to me like gaming settings are divided between carefree child-less free agents (frequently single as well), and messy, real worlds where kids exist and are important. You kind of see it in genre media as well. The slave community in Stargate is filled with children, giving Ra’s child attendants a chilling vibe. Star Wars: A New Hope has zero children at all, making Mos Eisley a very traditional fantasy town. But obviously family life is important in Rogue One, and additional kids run around in the background on Jedha, making it feel like a living community. Mostly kids are just imperiled by super showdowns in Marvel and DC movies, but at least they’re there (the near-total absence of family life in most supers stories is a whole different topic, and it’s why The Incredibles is maybe one of the finest supers stories ever told).

The GM who creates a world without children is like the player who creates the orphaned loner.

Some thoughts on where and how to add kids, particularly if you’re not a parent:

* If you want settings that feel vibrant and real, there will be children present. Fantasy settings especially should feature energetic children of any age that can walk literally underfoot anywhere and everywhere. Sci-fi settings of course have kids too, although they might be less present in professional settings. But there are still families. NPCs know and love people.

* Don’t make child endangerment a go-to plot tool. It’s lazy and gross. But don’t ignore the fact that damned near any parent will be irrationally protective of their offspring, PC and NPC alike. Kids are not ever “acceptable losses” in anyone’s cold calculations.

* Children are not stupid, but they are terrible at risk assessment.

* Kids have their own social networks as well, and will be just as loyal to their circle as they are to their own families. This just escalates with age.

* Look at including a variety of ages. Newborns are a huge pain in the ass, but at least they’re immobile. Pre-tweens are both super-mobile and exceptionally poor at risk assessment. Teens want to act like adults but lack most of what they need to be independent (other than the will).

* All kids are impressionable by every adult they come in contact with.

Have a nice Thanksgiving weekend.

Children’s Games
Painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1560

The Warren
The Abandoned Golf Course

I ride past this abandoned golf course on one of my favorite road bike rides here in Phoenix. Yesterday I was inspired to do something with it! So here’s a Warren World I doodled up.

Now…I have yet to actually play The Warren, but looking through the rules again and the existing Worlds has given me a good idea of how it looks in play. So, anyway, enjoy. Maybe I’ve made a grave error! LMK if you have recommendations (Marshall Miller, Jason Morningstar, fans, whatever!) and I’ll update.

World of The Abandoned Golf Course
The abandoned golf course is a desolate wasteland. There are impassible walls on three sides, the sounds of humans beyond often drifting over the wasteland at night. On the fourth side is a road. The cars that appear on it are sudden, unannounced, and implacable. It isn’t known if anyone has ever made it across, nor what lies beyond. The waste is wandered on occasion by coyotes, neighborhood dogs and feral cats on the ground, and hawks and owls in the sky. Young, unpredictable humans also stumble across it from time to time.

The whole area was once lush and green, with trees for shade and a small pond for fresh water. That time passed years ago. Now all that remains are the ghosts and memories of this lost paradise. Some nights, when the ghosts seem to outnumber the survivors, curious kits or brave (stupid) adults too far from home go missing. Some say the missing join the ghosts’ ranks and appear among them.

Meanwhile, the elders say the recent appearance of slow humans – older, thoughtful, constantly measuring and staking and walking — means the warren’s days are numbered.

Questions: The Warren
* Is the Warren heavily populated, down to its last few holdouts, or something in between?

* Under what circumstances do the ghosts come out? And what do they want?

* Who is responsible for patrolling the wall? What information have they brought back?

* Why doesn’t anyone go near the last living palm tree?

* What stories do you tell of what happened to your lost green paradise?

* What happens when someone burrows under the walls?

* Is the warren leadership more concerned with the ghosts, the humans, or the predators?

* What do others say lies across the road?

Questions: Relationships
* Who most recently lost a loved one to the ghosts? Who did they lose?

* Who do you rely on to watch your back when you go out into the wastes?

* Who believes they can speak to the ghosts?

* Who is advocating the warren make its exodus early (now!), before it’s too late?

Question: Situation
* Was Sage taken by ghosts or a more terrestrial threat? Who misses Sage the most?

* What does your warren need to retrieve or learn from the abandoned (haunted?) warren across the waste?

* What’s the plan to drive away the curious adult humans?

Question: Stakes
* What do the ghosts need to be released from this place?

* Where will the warren go when the humans bring their apocalyptic machines?

* How will the rabbits handle disagreements about where to go next?

Names
Rabbits: Juniper, Thorn, Mesquite, Dust, Jefe, Maria, Amarillo, Buck, Caliente
Birds: Hawk, cactus wren, owl, mockingbird, finch
Other creatures: teenagers, surveyors, escaped house dogs, feral cats, bats, scorpions, snakes, coyotes, ghost rabbits

NPCs
Lanky, the only living rabbit who remembers when this place was green
Trait: Tired
Tell meandering stories that never seem to end
Wander out of the warren, thinking everything is the way it was
Recall every detail of every inch of the waste, for a bit of food

Casper, a poofy white housecat who fancies himself a hardened killer
Trait: Proud
Strike a pose and demand you recognize his badassedness
Start shit when he’s clearly outmatched
Try to be stealthy (while white and poofy)

Cactus Wren, one of flocks of them that come and go
Trait: Chatty
Drop an interesting hint about what they’ve seen beyond the waste related to a future threat
Swarm unguarded bird-friendly food (seeds, crumbs, etc.) en masse
Zip out of sight

Predators
Victor and Maribel, coyote couple
Trait: Cunning
Voices: hipsters entirely consumed by their own cleverness
Spring elaborate traps
Get distracted by easier prey
Get wound up in their own schemes

Vieja, murderous ghost rabbit
Trait: Lonely
Voice: Whispered lullabies
Gather or summon additional ghosts
Lure or drag victims back to the haunted warren
Rage when she’s ignored

Aiden, Aiden, Aiden and Caiden, suburban teenagers
Trait: Energetic and unpredictable
Voices: tough-guy voices cracking with adolescence
Follow rabbits everywhere
Try to trap a rabbit
Randomly destroy entrances and whatever else they lay their hands on

Threats
The Ghosts
Intent: To draw the last survivors into the haunted warren across the waste

* Sage’s body is found in the wastes, completely untouched but dead nonetheless. Her expression is frozen in terror.

* Someone sees Sage and she seems perfectly healthy.

* Facing despair at the dwindling resources, several rabbits wander out into the night when the ghosts arrive.

* The ghosts come into the warren itself, luring the remaining rabbits from their burrows out into the moonlight and toward the haunted warren.

Redevelopment
Intent: To settle whether the abandoned golf course can be put to better use

* The older humans wander across the wastes, hammering flagged stakes everywhere.

* Trucks arrive and pull up trees, stumps, and bushes, denuding the wastes in a single day.

* Construction vehicles arrive.

* The warren is destroyed by machinery.

Dwindling Resources
Intent: To starve the rabbits

* Stores run empty sooner than anyone expected.

* Hoarders are discovered.

* A final desperate scavenging mission is proposed.

* The rabbits cannot find anything else to eat here.

Custom Moves

Speak to Ghosts
When you try to speak to a ghost, increase Panic by +1 and roll +Shrewd. On a hit, they understand you. On a 10+, they will talk back. On a miss, choose one: you’re so terrified you can’t move until the ghosts leave, you fall into a trance and the GM tells you where you wake up, you cannot resist panic until you return to your burrow.

Scavenge for Food
Each day, every rabbit must scavenge for food. When you have time and safety to look for edibles, roll +Strong. On a hit, you’ve found enough for yourself to eat. On a 10+, it’s something dropped by the humans (adults or kids), dense and delicious and more than enough to share. On a miss, take -1 ongoing this session.

Additional stuff about the actual location: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/ahwatukee/2016/08/15/phoenix-golf-course-eyed-100-acre-ahwatukee-farms-development/88411720/

History and fantasy nerds are you READY TO RRRRRUMBLE?

Most interesting and accomplished bastards of history and fiction!

In this case I mean actual bastards, ie, illegitimate offspring with partially noble heritage, men and women alike (although damned if I can think of any women).

What makes them interesting? What did they accomplish?

Go!

Nothing in tabletop gaming makes me feel older and more out of touch than the popularity of liveplay. I cannot make it fit in my head at any level.

https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/16/16666344/dungeons-and-dragons-twitch-roleplay-rpgs-critical-role-streaming-gaming