Sunday, October 1, 2017

introducing the Dog

Man's best friend.

If they only knew.

A playbook for Apocalypse World that puts the player into the role of a psychic dog, heavily inspired by the novella A Boy and His Dog by Harlan Ellison.

letter size
legal size

Friday, September 1, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Regurgitation

I preferred Twin Peaks when it had a tired, saggy second season that ended with the bad guy winning!
I have almost total and complete non-interest in finishing Twin Peaks. The resurrected show is not fun to watch, it's boring, and, most importantly, it's frustrating.
I am fairly confident that one could take all 18 episodes of The Return and edit out all of the fluff and silence and scenes with "Douggie" to a two hour film. Perhaps they should have.
It's only funny in moments where there is literally nothing happening, and only then it's amusing because you're aware that David Lynch is fucking with you. Every time a conversation lags or the camera lingers on a face for more than five seconds or we see somebody tie the laces of their shoe, you can think "Wow, David Lynch got paid to make this?"
It's hard to elevate trash by being trash. Nothing about this new show is appealing.

Yet, I can't stop watching it.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Apocalypse World (actual) playbooks

Look what I made!

These are actual books with flippable pages, designed to be used by complete newbies to the game of Apocalypse World - or even new to tabletop gaming in general.

I've been MCing two games for the last few months, one with players who are well-versed in Apocalypse World and the other with a group of guys who have never played a tabletop role-playing game before. The newer players really prefer these books to the standard letter-size playbooks, and even the seasoned players who prefer the traditional 1st edition trifold playbooks have started gravitating to these flipbook-style playbooks. After the last few sessions, almost everyone in both groups has asked for one of these.

Note: I made a few adjustments to the writing of the traditional playbooks
click these pics to embiggen

1) the CREATING YOUR playbook section is more illustrative and explanatory. There is a step-by-step description for making a character out of the playbook on the back cover - and pages are numbered so everything is easy to find. The phrasing here is often what I say to new players, and rather than hand them a playbook that doesn't have these statements in text I inserted the statements into character creation. That way, I can just hand them the playbook and they'll have fewer questions.

2) under GEAR the word "fashion" is replaced with "clothing" to avoid confusion with the earlier use of the word "fashion" under LOOK, "clothing" is what you're wearing and "fashion" is how you're wearing it.

3) START OF SESSION moves are notated on the first page of text. This helps remind players that this is what we do when we start. LIFESTYLE is explicitly placed before CHANGING HIGHLIGHTED STATS or START OF SESSION moves (if any) based on how I personally MC the start of my games. Also, I never remind players to change their highlighted stats, I allow a player to remind everyone - you might be surprised how often it doesn't happen when you don't mention it.

4) BASIC MOVES are in the very center of the playbook so the book can be spread easily to look at them. ADVANCED versions of the MOVES accompany them with the choose-style circles that are present with a playbook's MOVES, so when players do advance the BASIC MOVES they can notate for themselves which MOVES they have ADVANCED.

5) lots of empty space for note taking and extra moves and shit. Because not every playbook afforded a lot of room, every one of these playbooks has a page dedicated for NOTES!

6) END OF SESSION move is on the last page of text before the back cover. This helps illustrate to players that they should be aware of the BARTER and HARM MOVES as well as the GANG and VEHICLE moves, since these take up the pages just preceding the END OF SESSION move.

7) these don't have artwork! When I first started making these I just didn't have time to scale the artwork onto the covers as I was more concerned with making these playbooks functional and printing them off for my players. Consequently, I've found my players use the covers to draw their characters or sometimes use the extra empty space for more notes. So, I'm leaving them blank for you too.

8) no BATTLE MOVES! This isn't really different, but I thought it was worth pointing out because I made an entirely separate playbook for the BATTLE MOVES! However, I don't print off enough for all of the players. If you've got 5 or 6 players then only keep out 3, if you've got 3 or 4 players then only keep out 2. This keeps the players constantly having to share or exchange the BATTLE MOVES when they come into play, and as an MC I really like watching this happen.

9) not really a thing but I made a CHARACTER MOVES playbook that incorporates all of the moves from the expanded playbooks, and I only printed one of these off - forcing players to share, yes, but I also keep the CHARACTER MOVES book next to myself during play for my own reference.

How to print and fold them: remember you can click these pics to make them bigger

Print double-sided, if your printer does this automatically then just select "flip on short edge" when you're printing. This pic shows what my printer specs look like before I print these off.
If your printer doesn't flip the paper automatically then obviously you're going to have to do this yourself. It's a little bit of a chore, alternately you could just print all of these single-sided and then have twice as many pages, but that's a waste of paper and you really won't need that much blank space for note-taking.

Every two pages has a line, fold along this line and (noting the page numbers) line up all of the pages in their proper order. Voila! An Apocalypse World playBOOK!

Staple them along the outer line if you want to get real fancy.
Be careful though, if you don't align your stapler properly you can fuck up the pages.

I fold the pages before I staple cuz I think it's easier.

Here are the links:
the Angel
the Battlebabe
the Brainer
the Chopper
the Driver
the Gunlugger
the Hardholder
the Hocus
the Maestro D'
the Savvyhead
the Skinner

the Battle Moves
the Character Moves

the Child-Thing
the Faceless
the News
the Quarantine
the Show
the Waterbearer

Sunday, August 6, 2017

state of the nerdwerds

I stopped blogging about my individual games, mostly because the history is getting too convoluted for both. Characters are running around the map, doing their own things, sometimes a player doesn't show up and we just ignore that part of the game world's drama, and I just found relaying a lot of that information tiresome. Especially for two games!

I run two games, and we've been playing every week. Every Saturday and Sunday I've just been busy MCing these two Apocalypse World games.

Last week one of the players finally used the lost move. This is Apocalypse World and lost does something funky: when you whisper someone’s name to the world’s psychic maelstrom, on a hit they come to you, with or without any clear explanation why. The player had been thinking that when he used the move, it would call the person to you in real time, and they would have to travel that distance to get to you. He used lost on another PC and I had the other PC just show up, next to his Skinner's side. He hit a 10+, so I just treated the result similar to bonefeel. The psychic maelstrom cracked a little and brought the other PC through.

That was fun!

I'm going to need a break from MCing soon. I've been buying components to build my own PC and once they've all arrived I want to spend a weekend just putting it together and setting it all up. I haven't had a really decent PC in almost a decade, and this one will be, well, if you know anything about computers you can see my part list on pcpartpicker - the only thing I have left to buy is the monitor.

New computer means new games. Most importantly, it will be fast enough to run the programs I want to use to make my own games. I have ideas for making little test games using gamemaker and unity. I used to make mods for Neverwinter Nights, way back in 2002 and 2003, and I want to get back into making things. I have ideas.

Consider this a state of the union for my blog. I've neglected this blog quite a bit because I'm not always gaming, and even when I am gaming it feels exhausting to just write up game sessions. I haven't been writing for the last month, and I don't want to lose that mental muscle. I want to get back into the habit of writing, even if it's just once a week. Going forward when I write something I'm going to talk about it here, when I work on my video games I'm going to write about it here, and when I play a game - even just a video game - I'm going to share that here.

Meanwhile, I have been working on this one project...
...I'll share more about it once its finished.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

threats for Apocalypse World

these are some threats I've used for my Apocalypse World games, merely transcribed from my original notes, I've reused some of these two or three times but sometimes I change the names

Whitney ♀
Warlord: Prophet (denounce & overthrow)
12-yr old girl, dark skin, piercing eyes
Cast: cultists +obedient +savage +violent, Teapot♂ Kettle♂ Piehole♂ Stuffing♀
Whitney always has 1-armor
when Whitney wants something and speaks to you roll+cool, 10+ it's cool, 7-9 the stick, 6- the carrot & the stick
when Whitney speaks to a crowd roll+cool, 10+ she doesn't turn on you, 7-9 she leaves you out -1forward, 6- she points to you as a threat
3 o'clock - Whitney offers jobs
6 o'clock - Whitney demands obedience
9 o'clock - her cult grows, in number or strength
10 o'clock - pledge loyalty to Whitney or die
11 o'clock - her cult spreads out to other settlements +influence
12 o'clock - her cult is everywhere, non-cultists are hunted/killed

Doctor Faustus ♂
Grotesque: Mindfucker (craves mastery)
Cast: current patients +stupor, Plumbob♂ geezer, Roark♂ burn victim
Faustus uses an Angel kit on PCs (they roll) with +1stock for 2-barter
Faustus has experimental treatments: complete healing in less than a day but you owe Faustus a favor
Anyone who owes Faustus barter/favor has -3ongoing vs Faustus
Faustus dies at 3-harm; when Faustus dies, all of his former patients take 2-harm ap

Jackson Indifferent
grotesque: cannibal - craves satiety & plenty (doesn't eat meat ever, satiety is not being bothered, plenty is peace)
shaved head, short, glasses, gloves
Jackson Indifferent doesn't get harmed by brainer gear
when Jackson touches you roll+cool, on 10+ Jackson fixates on you, on 7-9 answer 1 question, on a miss Jackson knows what you know
when Jackson fixates on you and you give him something roll+weird, on 10+ take 1harm ap and you felt Jackson in your head, on 7-9 you're at -1ongoing unless you submit to Jackson's desires, on a miss you can submit to Jackson as 7-9 and he can inflict 2harm ap whenever until you submit

Honest Jon ♂
Grotesque: Perversion (craves chaos)
when you want to buy something from Honest Jon roll+sharp, 10+ he's got it and it's for sale at a fair price, 7-9 he's got it but choose 1:
• he's gonna charge you extra
• he's using it, why do you need it?
• it's hidden in a cache somewhere dangerous
6- the MC chooses 1 above and "that's gonna take some time"
when you read Honest Jon, unless you have read a person advanced, you may only ask questions from this list:
• who do you trust the most?
• who is your weakest link?
• what's worrying you right now?
• how can I get you to take an interest in me?
• what are you looking for here?
• where was your last big score?

the Fetch ⚥ - idea from Zak Sabbath's blog
Grotesque: Perversion (craves overthrow)
pick an NPC and ask a player "where do you think they hang out?" their fetch is in that location
all rolls in the presence of the Fetch (including help/interfere) are made with roll+weird instead
3 o'clock - the Fetch offends someone important
6 o'clock - the Fetch invites violence
9 o'clock - the Fetch actively starts shit
10 o'clock - the NPC is killed and the Fetch replaces them, new threat!

it's fucking cold (landscape: prison - contain/deny egress)
push terrain, display something for all to see, hide something, bar the way, disgorge something, take something away
howling winds (terrain: exposed place - expose to danger)
inflict harm, stall someone, hide evidence
blizzard (terrain: shifting ground - cost someone their bearing)
inflict harm, isolate someone, bring someone somewhere

the Deep Ravens gang
brutes: hunting pack (victimize the vulnerable)
Dex - gaunt druggie with a fedex truck (tells stories, make them buy)

Monday, July 10, 2017

apocalypse worlds

I've been running two Apocalypse World games for several months now, one is on Saturdays and the other is Sundays, different players, different worlds, different plots. I've really struggled with the Sunday game, half of the threats have been eliminated and I'm at a loss for what to do. I started to make some of the minor NPCs more relevant in the last session, but the players tend to forget the NPC names a lot too, makes it more difficult to really suck the players into that world. Though now that I think about the Saturday group took some time to create interesting developments as well, most of the NPCs were easy to ignore at first, and the biggest threat was one of the players. But we've also had some player migrations with the Saturday group, cycling through the cast of characters a little, making it hard to form lasting relationships.

I really enjoy playing both games for different reasons, but feel like I might have to drop one soon. The creative energy needed to run two games has been cutting into my standup comedy, and I already felt I needed more momentum to write material. I've started doing a weekly interview podcast and I try to stay two episodes ahead of schedule, and I'm part of a monthly show now as well, though I often feel like I'm just a little too slow compared to the other writers. I probably just need to get more sleep.

Joesky tax? Here's something I just wrote this weekend
the Fetch ⚥ - idea from Zak Sabbath's blog
Grotesque: Perversion (craves overthrow)
pick an NPC and ask a player "where do you think they hang out?" their fetch is in that location
all rolls in the presence of the Fetch (including help/interfere) are made with roll+weird instead
3 o'clock - the Fetch offends someone important
6 o'clock - the Fetch invites violence
9 o'clock - the Fetch actively starts shit
10 o'clock - the NPC is killed and the Fetch replaces them, new threat!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Heck You!

Dear Batman,
You've been travelling for several days with Jonesy.
Aquaman and Leech have taken you upriver and today you're within sight of the SatCom Relay Station! Roll+weird.
On a hit, you know what Jones is!
On a 10+, you can ask any question and if the psychic maelstrom can answer it, it will.
On a miss, something has unnerved Leech and Aquaman and they've gone further upriver to scout out the area without you.
Love & Kisses,
Your MC

Jones is a spirit of the maelstrom

Dear Cynnymyn,
Since you sacrificed two of your cousins, the rest of your family has been struggling with its morale. Roll+weird BEFORE you roll+fortunes.
On a 10+, choose 1. On 7-9, choose 2:
• someone from your Family has gone missing (I choose who!)
Joe's Girl and some of her Burners have been hanging out with your family, this can't be good
Grome has declared your family to be outcasts, you have to leave Last York otherwise roll+fortunes is at -2
On a miss, all 3 and your followers are breaking apart! You have to fight your family to maintain order. Right now!
Love & Kisses,
Your MC

Oprah went missing, later on Cynnymyn let his family butcher and devour Oprah and Joe's Girl

Dear Jonesy Sundown,
You've been travelling for several days with Batman.
Aquaman and Leech have taken you upriver and today you're within sight of the SatCom Relay Station! However, it's currently occupied by a gang, they are well-equipped and probably violent, they've been here for some time. Roll+hard.
On a 10+, choose 2. On 7-9, choose 1:
• there are no traps set up inside
• the gang is not dug in, they can be removed with guile and cunning... or by getting incredibly lucky!
• the leader is unpopular and ineffectual, the gang will split up and leave if he gets killed
On a miss, none are true. Raw deal!
Love & Kisses,
Your MC

None are true!

Dear Ooplar Grand Cherokee,
It's been a few days!
Have you burned down Gnarly's place?
If yes, take 2-barter - pretty easy huh?!
If no, tell me why you haven't.
Then roll+cool.
On a 10+, choose 1. On 7-9, choose 2:
• you're all out of fuel. Time to buy some!
• the survivors of Gnarly's gang know where you are, and won't let themselves be caught off guard again.
• your APC won't start up. It's time to dig in for repairs!
On a miss, all 3. Good luck!
Love & Kisses,
Your MC

the APC wouldn't start, but Gnarly's gang was caught off guard

the big questions now are:
will JC Jason catch Batman and Jonesy before they can use the SatCom Relay?
how long will Grome's patience with Cynnymyn last?
who will be upset that Ooplar murdered everyone in Gnarly's gang?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Guaranteed Destiny

Dear Batman,
Look up the following battle moves:
stand overwatch
• do single combat with someone
• you're the mouse
• board a moving vehicle
(road war move, technically)
For this session only, the first time you attempt that move, you'll get an experience point (in addition to any other experience point you might earn for having a stat highlighted).
Love & Kisses,
Your MC

I decided to be nice

Dear Cynnymyn,
You and your followers have retreated to Last York to lick their wounds. Before you roll Fortunes, choose 1:
• for this session only, when you read a person, roll+weird instead of +sharp
• for this session only, when you make the harm move you roll at -2
• when you roll Fortunes, take +2 to Fortune
Love & Kisses,
Your MC

for one session only

Dear Jonesy Sundown,
Staking out the boneyard has affected you deeply, choose 1:
the boneyard has quickened your psychic development, for this session only, if you "get a new brainer move" it only takes 4 experience to unlock the improvement
the boneyard has shown you visions of important people around the area, add +1HX with everyone and I'll also tell you one of Grome's and Shark's secrets
Love & Kisses,
Your MC

this won't happen again

Dear Ooplar Grand Cherokee,
Anyone who helps you take out Gnarly and his raiders, will get +1HX with you for helping, and you will also get +2HX with them (+1HX when they first agree to help you and +1HX again at the end of the session; also, you don't need to tell anyone what you get out of it)
HOWEVER! For this session only, if you take Gnarly out without anybody else's help, you'll get 3 experience. Storming his compound might get you killed, but if you could lure him out...
Love & Kisses,
Your MC

Thursday, May 18, 2017

where four Apocalypse?

I haven't updated in awhile. Oh well.

The "city" of Partyville was designed by my players using the Apocalyptic Settlement Generator I made. Cards that were set aside were 'drug dealers' 'overgrown park' and 'entrance to sewers' - all of these things are ALL OVER the place in Partyville.

When they placed the 'dogyard' the players were describing these hell hounds that were immune to bullets and were spreading out into the "rich" part of the city. This is the first time I've said "Are you sure about that?" in years. Years! Point blank I said "You know, if you want the world to have ferocious bulletproof dogs from hell running around, I have no objections." and they quickly relented.

A lot of NPCs got killed. But some new NPCs have taken the stage.

Whitney is a 12-year old girl that everyone at the farms just south of the city listens to, and worships. Since Tum Tum got killed she wants to restore order to Partyville by any means necessary.

Doctor Faustus is a medic with a few experimental treatments that work surprisingly well. Both Snow and Jere-Mi sought healing from him.

Pamlico is a prostitute who works for Noah, and Noah is a madam who gave BLAKKSNAKE shelter and respite after his last fight.

Dog Head is the last living lieutenant who followed Tum Tum and even though he wants to give BLAKKSNAKE some payback, he mostly just wants to flee Partyville as fast as possible.

As for the PLAYERS' characters?
Dart is gone, officially, and is now relegated to NPC status - he's currently enslaved by INDIGO
T-REX has been captured by whoever killed Fleece (protip: I know who it is, nobody else does)
Crushed V disappeared at the same time
Snow is broke, so she got hired by Dog Head as an enforcer
Jere-Mi is repaying their debt to Doctor Faustus by acting as a combat medic for Dog Head
BLAKKSNAKE has been threatening everybody's lives and trying to find whoever crucified Bob Marley, but her gang is about to be raided by Dog Head


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Apocalyptic Settlement Generator

I made these cards for creating an apocalyptic settlement. I brainstormed a list of things you might find in a post-apoc settlement and out of that I assigned priorities to different items. Every settlement is probably going to have a Bustling Marketplace, right? But not every settlement is going to have an Entrance to Sewers or a Metalyard filled with scrap. The lower priority items went on later pages.

Here's the link to my Apocalyptic Settlement Generator - inspired by a post of Dyson's.

With the pages printed off, the players take turns drawing a card and placing it somewhere in the settlement. You can also "burn" a card, meaning you put it aside or rip it up or whatever and then the settlement either has NOTHING like that or it has a TON of those things or similar features. I did this with my group and the first card to get burned was Drug Dealer, which meant there were drugs everywhere and they were easy to find/buy.

It should be pretty easy to print off the first 2 pages and just use those, but additional pages should be good for adding custom details or expanding into a huge sprawling city. The last page is blank so you can add places you think you might need (also, with an editor you can go into the last page and just add items with the vtks_good_luck_for_you font).

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Apocalypse World character sheets

While I've been on vacation in Canada I've been working on this project in my spare moments: character sheets for 2nd edition Apocalypse World playbooks

For now I only have the Angel finished (link to download) but the template I worked up in scribus is easy for me to modify, it's only a matter of time before I have all of the basic playbooks finished. If you'd like a copy of the scribus files, contact me and I'll email them to you.

Now I have to go update the playbooks page with this link as well

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Apocalyscotia 3: some shit goes down!

confronted Gnarly to pay for protection but Gnarly told him "the money comes from Tum Tum, take it up with him"
she took her beef directly to Tum Tum and led her gang into Partyville
boarded Tum Tum's pleasure barge and declared "I'm not paying you shit!"
before Tum Tum could raise much of an objection, she opened fire and annihilated Tum Tum's gang
trapped in his cabin, Tum Tum attempted to negotiate for some kind of truce but BLAKKSNAKE stormed the room, killing Tum Tum and ending the fight... for now

stormed a rebel stronghold with Brock and managed to walk away with no injuries
brought 5 prisoners to Jere-Mi's infirmary
struck out on her own, hiring Tesla for a ride to Fresh Fruit
Pliny offered to sell her a stolen bike, but she began walking instead, ultimately hoping to make her way to Partyville

woke up on the rocks outside Rutherford
worked their way back and found Hardtack bleeding to death, Hardtack spoke of wolves before being abandoned to die
crossed paths with Snow and Brock, Brock ordered Jere-Mi to return to their infirmary
when they returned they cleaned their blood-stained and ransacked infirmary, though nothing of value was missing
found 2 of Brock's prisoners were infected with the same disease that killed Foxtrot
opened their brain and found that the "party favors are the disease"


Crushed V?
neglected Angelique, who leaves for Bolivia
travels with T-REX to Rutherford

argued with Crushed V
traveled to Rutherford looking for car parts, but the only ones available are in Bolivia

is that it?
Snow got infected by the same disease that killed Foxtrot
Tum Tum's gang dispersed, but they won't forget what BLAKKSNAKE did
Nutmeg was seen stumbling about, bleeding from the stomach, nobody helped him
Prince, a member of BLAKKSNAKE's gang, picked up Tum Tum's rifle-chainsaw
the wind read Crushed V's mind
Jere-Mi, Crushed V, and T-REX all headed back to Partyville

how many NPCs died during this session?
between 35 and 40

how many of those NPCs had names?

what happens next?
how widespread is the disease?
where did Dart disappear to?
what are the "wolves from your soul"?

The Black Wing Furled

The high priest of Tiamat, Thord Skül, led his congregation of a dozen disciples in their ceremony. The helmet weighed heavily upon his shoulders, crafted from a giant's skull and dipped in iron then riveted with spikes around the temples. He struck an imposing figure in the crackling glow of the sword. Encased in its own protective shield of lightning, the Sword of Cuiraecen hovered in the center of the chamber but was impossible to reach without being scorched by the thunderous light around it.

The Termaxian sorceress, Ellora, watched from atop the highest ridge within the cauldron of black volcanic rock. Her fingers brushed the dirty pages of her spellbook, hanging from a strap across her shoulders and wrapped in the skin of an elf wizard she had slain herself. The demonic hounds she had summoned patrolled the ridge around her, to give warning of any interlopers who might interrupt the ritual. She finished chanting the incantation which would enshroud Thord's staff with a poisonous aura.

The disciples of Tiamat faltered, their droning chant shattered by the scream of an attacking swordsman, "I'm gonna cut your balls off!" He had launched himself from above Thord, along one of the ridges above the flat disc of volcanic rock where the sword hovered. The blonde warrior landed, sinking his axe deep into Thord's shoulder.

Our "heroes" confronted the cultists as they were performing a ritual and though they were split by the terrain and circumstance, and very nearly died in the attempt, the cult was slain.
Ooplar Junior beheaded their leader, Thord Skül, and compelled a surrender by throwing Thord's head at a group of disciples.
Big Bertha strategically retreated while pelting her pursuers with arrows.
Edgar Childbanger kept his friends alive with healing and made prodigious use of Atgir, the spear of Saint Sigrid
Two disciples were taken prisoner and marched back to Silverhead Keep, where they were barred entry. The Castellan had issued an arrest warrant for Sir Richard Fitzwell III, charged with assault of a militia officer. be continued!

The Lightning Sword of Cuiraecen
1d10 damage, close, 1 weight
...anyone of Chaos or Good alignment may pick up the sword freely, other alignments suffer 2d6 damage upon first touching the sword
...while carrying the sword, the bearer has the Chaos alignment in addition to any other alignment they already have; if the wielder is already of Chaos alignment they receive double XP awards at session end
...when you point the sword at a foe and speak the name of Cuiraecen, roll+STR
on 10+, lightning arcs out of the blade, striking your foe and dealing 1d10+STR+WIS damage, ignoring armor
on 7-9, lightning arcs out and deals 1d10 damage
on a miss, the arc of lightning strikes something else unexpectedly

Friday, March 17, 2017

"really, are you sure you want to do that?!" something I found myself asking repeatedly during the last session.

from left to right
Sir Richard Fitzwell III
the Ranger and his wolf companion, Killory Klinton
Ooplar Junior the Fighter
Edgar Childbanger the Cleric
Big Bertha the Thief

They got ambushed by goblins, and during the fight Ooplar got trapped down a ravine. Big Bertha and Sir Richard spent their time performing trick shots to pick off the goblins while Edgar stuck to healing his comrades.

Ooplar explored the goblins' home, which was very obviously a former wizard's underground lab, while Big Bertha interrogated and tortured the last living goblin above ground. They pretty much ditched the place when they found the last remnants of that wizard's experiments. Edgar cast Speak With Dead quite a bit, so maybe I should keep littering areas with corpses - he discovered a teenager who had been murdered by his "friends" but the whole group collectively sighed and moved on to the caves.

They re-entered the caves where they rescued Mariya from and explored further, finding a library and a tomb - both of which I ripped off from Servants of the Cinder Queen but repurposed as a Rjurik paladin who served Cuiraecen. They BURNED DOWN THE LIBRARY after reading one book and waking the Stone Guardian. Then they plundered the Tomb without heeding any warnings.

We left off with them hearing screams of dying men and the howls of dogs coming from the corridors outside of the tomb...

As a GM: I kept the goblins simple and didn't make their attacks particularly threatening. I could have made the first scenario a lot more deadly but in the moment I felt like that would have been cruel. Even the surviving goblins in the underground lab acted defensively and never engaged the PCs. I won't hold back next time.
When they burned the library, they ended up missing out on some magic scrolls, a magic item, several maps, a secret passage, and several books that explain what's important around here. Kind of amusing since I know one of them has read my advice for playing.
I think the next session will have to serve as some kind of finale. Either they will have to definitively stop the Termaxian wizards, stop the Tiamat cultists, or they'll all have to die in the attempt. They also managed to piss off Cuiraecen, the deity who is most influential in this region, that will definitely have come up in the next session!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Apocalyscotia 2: read the sitch

what is it?
the current map for my Apocalypse World game

what are these places?
Gofuckyourself is a lighthouse where the Battlebabe lives
Rutherford is a smallish town run by Brock, some dude who does not inspire a lot of loyalty, the Angel lives here
The Lodge is the former home of the Christmas Cult, now the Chopper's gang (and the Driver) lives there
Fresh Fruit is a small community (6 houses) with a hydroponic farm, owned by Gnarly
Partyville is run by Tum Tum and his gang of murderers, he maintains control by throwing parties almost every day and keeping people drugged up, also the Savvyhead lives here
Bolivia is run by Royal, he's more disciplined and discerning than any of his neighbors

from left to right

what's up with the Skinner?
Crushed (V)elvet spent all her time in Partyville, dancing and partying, since Tum Tum knows how to have a good time, she spotted a mercenary named Angelique up from Bolivia and seduced her

what's up with the Savvyhead?
T-REX spent most of his time walking back to Partyville from Bolivia and when he got there ended up having sex with Crushed (V)elvet (while Angelique watched) instead of working on his laser battery

what's up with the Driver?
Dart helped BLAKKSNAKE take over Fresh Fruit, but then drove into Partyville to fix his muffler, he got laid, then he went to check on a brewery that BLAKKSNAKE's gang had taken over but found everybody dead or dying, upon exiting he got ambushed (and captured) by Tum Tum's gang

what's up with the Chopper?
BLAKKSNAKE's gang doesn't like hanging around one place, they're incredibly nomadic and sometimes they're split up or members are just plain missing, whenever he wants them to do something he's gotta make sure they're all there, but he managed to get all of their attention to ride into Fresh Fruit and offer "protection" to Gnarly

what's up with the Angel?
Jere-Mi is running an infirmary for Brock, but she found an infection going around and some people have already died from it, when Brock got ambushed by some of the rebels Jere-Mi just hid in her infirmary and took some drugs but then opening her brain knocked her unconscious and she woke with some weird bruises and blood on her hands

what's up with the Battlebabe?
fearing that she may get attacked at the lighthouse Snow has decided to stock up with some heavy weaponry but without much luck, Brock tried to get Snow to fight his battles for him and doesn't care how Snow does it, but Snow won't waste time unless Brock coughs up serious coin, meanwhile Honest Jon has anchored just off Gofuckyourself and sold Snow a gun for a fair price

what were the big things you did as MC?
1) tried to give everyone equal time even though they're split up across the map
2) talked about how a tabletop role-playing game is essentially a conversation, so if one person doesn't pay attention it's up to everybody else to bring them up to speed and corral their errant behavior

what story elements did you introduce?
1) somebody named Indigo has been asking about BLAKKSNAKE's gang
2) expanded Royal's guards so they're more like a mercenary force, right now they're hunting T-REX
3) looked through crosshairs at the rebellion against Brock's rule
4) made both Tum Tum and Gnarly seem like real chill dudes in their own ways

what rules did you introduce?
1) gave BLAKKSNAKE a new move
where's the beef?: when you call your gang's attention, roll+cool. On a 10+, they're all here, more or less. On a 7-9, some of them are off somewhere, it will take time to get them all here, -1 to pack alpha or fuckin' thieves. On a miss, more than half of them are off somewhere, -1 to Size until you find a way to get them all back (minimum Size of Small).
2) gave Snow a new move
bad news bears: when you defend Gofuckyourself from attack, roll+sharp. On a 10+, pick 2. On a 7-9, pick 1:
- you're prepared, you deal +1 harm during the fight *
- you're fortified, +1 armor *
- choose a stat that is not highlighted and highlight it *
* all of these bonuses end once Snow exits Gofuckyourself or Gofuckyourself is breached
On a miss, no bonus, because Gofuckyourself is getting breached right now!
3) introduced a brain-eating disease
but you don't need to know any details about that right now!

Monday, March 6, 2017

it's not *technically* D&D

I was asked if I would DM a game of Dungeons & Dragons for a group of friends (who're also standup comics), many of whom had never played before, and I agreed, but wavered on which rule set to use for awhile. I told them I was thinking of running Swords & Wizardry and a few of them revealed that they didn't like the talk about math and probability that I was launching into. I hadn't really prepped for a role-playing game in months, almost a year, so I started looking at all of my possibilities. I wanted to make everything simple so we could just get set up and start playing right away with little explaining of rules and a minimal list of choices.

I had almost given up and just said to myself "Fuck it! I'll just run 5th edition, complexities and all!" but my urge to play a system I enjoy won out... Dungeon World is a D&D-shaped hack of Apocalypse World, and Freebooters on the Frontier (FotF) is an OSR hack of Dungeon World, so... I'm running Freebooters for them! Using slightly modified versions of Maezer's character sheets, I've been running a game for about a month now.

Ooplar Junior is the Fighter
Edgar "IT'S JUST A LAST NAME!" Childbanger is the Cleric
Big Bertha is the Thief
Sir Richard Fitzwell III is the Ranger

During character creation I made use of Dyson's Totally Not A D&D Fiasco to tie all of the characters together. This worked really well, and everybody enjoyed it! - even as the choices became more limited.

Ooplar Junior fought in the militia with Sir Richard Fitzwell III
Sir Dick was in an assassin cult with Big Bertha
Big Bertha and Edgar Childbanger both carry a curse they acquired from an angry witch they robbed
and finally, Edgar shares a home with Ooplar

Then to start them off I read this:
The war in the south is threatening to spread northward. The duchy to the east has begun to grumble about past grievances, and the regent needs all of her most trusted advisers and scholars to counsel her in these troubling times.

You are not one of them.

Mariya Saisset is a sage that the Queen wants to consult with and, due to a personal connection you have with her, Count Oliver has commissioned you to venture north to Silverhead Keep to track her down. She traveled to the northernmost province some months ago and hasn't been heard from since. A message sent to Silverhead Keep has not been replied to and the worst is now feared.

You have been tasked with finding the sage, Mariya Saisset, and returning with her to Castle Haestead in the capital city, to an audience with the Queen. If Mariya has perished then her remains should be secured and brought back to the castle. You are being gifted a small retainer of silver coins and a riding horse to accommodate your travels, and will receive 100 gold coins from the Queen's coffers upon a successful return to Castle Haesrien.

Then I let the players draw randomly from a set of cards I had written with random backgrounds of how their characters knew Mariya, with little bonuses for them once they found her.

  • Big Bertha had traveled with Mariya deep into the elven forests of the southeast, finding Mariya would reward a permanent +1 to Wisdom
  • Edgar Childbanger had trained under Mariya's guidance for several years, finding Mariya would reward a permanent +1 to Charisma
  • Ooplar is only eight years younger than her and he grew up alongside Mariya, finding Mariya would reward a permanent +1 to Luck
  • Sir Dick is a close friend and confidant and was named the godfather of Mariya's daughter, finding Mariya netted double XP (effectively) for the session

  • With minimal prep and a short setup, we had a standard "go rescue this NPC from danger" kind of quest. Over the last three sessions, the players made their way to Silverhead Keep, got a venereal disease from a prostitute, got cured by a friendly elf sorceror, broke into an undead elven tomb (and then ran away with an artifact!), explored a nearby cave, stumbled upon cultists prepared to sacrifice Mariya and her two assistants, almost drowned in a flash flood, got into a fight with guards at the Keep, ran into members of Big Bertha's cult, and are about to be ambushed by goblins.

    I'm not running an adventure, per se, but I'm using the castle from Keep on the Borderlands, a nearby mountain with a dungeon and Termaxian wizards from Dwimmermount, and Tiamat cultists from Zak Sabbath's blog pretty much following what would be a prequel to Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and all of this is set within my own version of the Birthright campaign setting!

    Right now they're keen on destroying those pesky Termaxian wizards but, as I said, they're about to be ambushed by goblins!

    Here's the current map:

    Sunday, February 26, 2017

    a new edition; a new game

    There's a new edition of Apocalypse World, and with the new edition I felt like maybe I should update the playbooks I wrote. I haven't (yet) but what I have done is start playing again. I was told by one of my friends that Apocalypse World was her favorite tabletop RPG and so I offered to MC a new game as long as I didn't get too many players - the last time I GMed there were 8 people playing and that's just too many in my opinion. Somehow I only managed to whittle it down to 6 players, but yeah, I'm playing/MCing Apocalypse World again.

    I wanted to keep the game simple at first by only using the core 11 playbooks - Apocalypse World Basic - since half of the people in this game have never played Apocalypse World, or tabletop RPGs in general, before. I did a little prep for the game by making little intro cards for each playbook. I took the first few pages of the Basic Refbook and edited out the page numbers, then printed them off, cut them out, and taped them to index cards. Like so:

    One player was disappointed he couldn't start out as a Show, but in all honesty I hadn't even looked at the Extended playbooks yet and I wasn't comfortable using the extra stuff until after we had established a basic game, he ended up choosing a Skinner.

    the Cast
    Jere-Mi as the Angel
    Snow as the Battlebabe
    Crushed (V)elvet as the Skinner
    Dart as the Driver
    T-REX as the Savvyhead
    BLAKKSNAKE as the Chopper

    Using a similar technique to when I started the Apocalyscotia game I handed a stack of picture cards to the players and said "Take a picture, lay it down, and tell us something about this location" and we went around the table - each player placing their picture next to an already-placed picture - defining a few communities as we went.

    It was a fun first session, with lots of good details brought in. I tried to keep my questions directed at the characters rather than the world or what was in it. And I got contradictory information from some players which helped generate a few of my 'first session' stakes questions.

    Bringing it, MCing the fuck out of this #apocalypseworld game!

    A post shared by Patrick Henry (@nerdwerds) on

    In preparation for upcoming sessions, I read through the Extended playbooks - Apocalypse World Extended - and noticed that the Basic playbooks have advice for playing them but the Extended playbooks don't, so I wrote a few extra lines for each card before I printed them off. But there are only 6 Extended playbooks, and 4 fit on a single page, so I wrote up quick advice descriptions for two of the playbooks that I've written...

    ...and that sort of commits me to updating these playbooks now!

    Also, what sort of advice did I write for the Extended playbooks? I'll show you.

    Faceless are the scariest dudes. Their moves are brutal and unrestrained, and make them blatantly indestructible. If you want to strike fear into the hearts of others, play a faceless.
    Warning: you might play off your mask as an eccentricity, but don't be surprised if you still don't make too many friends. Even avoiding it, your mask will make trouble for you. Stay vigilant.

    Waterbearers are unique, controlling an abundance of water, or maybe it controls them. If anybody plays a waterbearer, the game’s going to have an immobile treasure that removes thirst. If you want to be the one who controls it, it better be you.
    Warning: don’t be a waterbearer unless you want the responsibility. Or maybe just keep the water for yourself.

    Quarantines have memories that slowly open new opportunities and possibilities. Your stasis facility can also give you power and independence. If you want to have a say in how the Apocalypse shaped this World, play a quarantine.
    Warning: you're a fish out of water. Being from the Golden Age means you may be cornered by questions you can't, or won't want to, answer.

    Child-things have really creepy but strong abilities, and a couple of fun moves that push what characters are capable of. Child-things also get, in the form of their den, a small measure of safety and security starting out. If you want everybody else to be a little spooked by you, play a child-thing.
    Warning: the fucking wolves are coming!

    The news runs a radio studio, with all that implies. They're more fun to play than a hocus and less powerful than a hardholder, but more dangerous to the status quo. Play a news if you want to change the world.
    Warning: problems are going to find you. Running a radio studio means people will be listening.

    The show is a vibrant and messy thrill seeker. Their music is potentially game-changing, but they're symbiotic, forever linked to another player's character. If you want to be the center of attention, play a show.
    Warning: you always have a leash, and the holder reaps what you sow.

    Monday, January 30, 2017


    I quit playing games, cold turkey. I cancelled the game I was GMing and stopped making any attempts at attending other games. I switched jobs and am no longer working the graveyard shift. Why? In June of last year, I started performing standup comedy and writing & performing jokes has increasingly occupied more of my free time.

    There are only a few consistent open mics where I live but after months of attending them with new material every other week I think I could probably perform 10 minutes of comedy if I was prepared. I doubt how good the entire routine would be, some parts are strong and some are weak, but if I had to fill time then I'm confident I could fill 10 minutes with jokes that I know, that have mostly worked, and have a tenuous connection to one another.

    The central problem to performing standup is that at the main comedy club open mic (where normal non-comic people go) I only get to perform in quick 3-minute chunks. When I write I often have a bit that lasts beyond 3 minutes, and when I rewrite I'm often spending time trying to whittle it down to 3 minutes. Crafting one-liners, or lots of laughs in a short amount of time, is the hardest thing to do and I do the opposite of that. I have been compared to Norm Macdonald more than once. That is, my bits are long and rambling and usually punctuated with cute or witty affectations leading to a primary punchline for the entire bit. The other open mics throughout the week offer more than 3 minutes, but only 4 or 5 minutes, and since I am always crafting material to work within 3 minutes I often find myself calling the MC back up to the mic before my time is done.

    For a few weeks I was writing pieces with rather weak jokes and I felt like I had already hit a rut. I think perhaps I am still trying to find my standup "voice," but increasingly I've tried doing things that are weird or esoteric. I changed my shirt during one routine and I pretended to order a pizza and get into an argument with the person taking my order in another routine, and recently I started doing a set where I pretend to have an angry flashback. These were at least entertaining even when they weren't getting laughs.

    I have had several comics tell me they're initially confused when I begin a routine that doesn't seem like traditional standup. To that I usually reply "Well, you're gonna have to raise your game a little then." Except it is entirely understandable. Doing something strange or confusing can throw people off and it takes time to analyze a piece before it can really rest on the stage. And thus the dilemma, performing strange material within a 3 minute time period that can be grasped quickly and still manage to be humorous.

    When I first started I felt like maybe I just suck at the comedy game. I can get laughs at the comedy club, but with the other comics most of my material falls flat and I began to feel that if I can't get the comics to laugh then maybe I'm just a hack. Then, in October, when I was considering quitting, Louis CK walked into the comedy club, he settled into a seat literally arm's reach from where I was sitting and I barely had time to process what was about to happen: I was about to perform standup comedy in front of Louis CK. I had just enough time to think about whether I should change what I was about to do. I had material that I knew would work, but I wasn't prepared for it and I had less than 3 minutes before I would be called up to the stage. I had prepared to do my weird "order a pizza" bit and then this thing about the election where I have a conniption and the words coming out of my mouth all begin to slowly cohere into a single shouted growl. I decided to just do what I had prepared for and if it bombed, oh well.

    I got laughs, it worked better then I expected, and I was emboldened after the pizza bit because I could hear Louis CK guffawing loudly at the back of the room. When I walked back to my seat he reached out and stopped me in my tracks, shook my hand, and said "That was great! Good job." and all I could do was sheepishly say "Thanks" and sit back down. I got the impression he wanted to say something else to me, and I felt like saying more, but by now all of the comics knew he was in the club and they had begun gathering near or behind his seat like a crowd trying to glimpse their new prophet, and I didn't want to be just another comic intruding on his space. But to have the guy who is considered the top of the industry stop me to tell me he liked what I did, you can't imagine how great it feels.

    I've been doing this for half a year now and I've always wanted to write sketch comedy, my old youtube account is a testament of my wrecked attempts at this, but somehow I feel closer to doing that now than ever before in my life. All it took to get my muse back was standing on a stage to tell a few jokes.