Here is an entry for the 200 Word RPG Challenge. It’s a game to play with my daughter, a serious scaredy cat. Whenever we play D&D she just wants to stay in the town and hang out with her mom or go to birthday parties. I’ve tried to turn that into a story telling game. All you need are a bunch of Shopkins to play. If you don’t know what Shopkins are, lucky you. (All you need to know this: The core mechanic of Shopkins is not knowing which one you’ll get.)
Grab four Shopkins for each player in the game and put them in a bag.
The youngest players draws a Shopkin from the bag. Everyone should say, “Happy Birthday!” Today is this Shopkin’s birthday party! On a sheet of paper write down her name. Place the Shopkin on the table: she’s waiting for her friends to arrive.
The player to the right draws another Shopkin from the bag. The first guest has arrived! Write her name down and flip a coin: on heads the guest is one of the birthday girl’s best friends forever; on tails she is a mean bully. Note this down. The players now act out a scene involving the party goers. If the birthday girl stands up to a bully during a scene the bully is now one of her best friends forever.
Continue to draw guests till you have drawn half your Shopkins. The next Shopkin drawn is the birthday girl’s mom. She’s got the cake. Everyone sing Happy Birthday!
Each Shopkin drawn after this point is someone’s mom. They are here to pick up their kid. Make sure they leave with a loot bag!
Players, don’t get too attached to your characters, because the game isn’t about them—the game is about the warren. Individual rabbits are cheap and the continuity of the warren is everything. Death is explicitly on the table and will occur as the fiction demands, so breed early and often. Your kits are your legacy (and the pool from which you will probably draw your next character).
Think of the game as a generational saga rather than an heroic narrative. Although your characters may well be leaders, poets, and scofflaws, they are still at the bottom of the food chain in a world determined to kill them. Perhaps their children can finish what you so bravely started. Generational play is great fun, and having a strong connection to the warren as a living community pays great dividends over time. You’ll start to care about its health and goals, and build a mythology around the exploits of previous generations. And, despite all these lofty assurances, in the end making up a new rabbit takes only minutes. - Marshall Miller, The Warren.
The Warren is a Powered by the Apocalypse game about rabbits—picture Watership Down.1 I’ve tried to play it a few times with my daughter, though without much success. My daughter is a scaredy cat. She doesn’t like games with conflict or danger.2 Most RPGs aren’t particularly interesting without either.
The Warren is full of writing I could imagine being pulled right out of an old-school D&D book. Stories about rabbits are often stories about survival and horror. Watership Down is very much in this vein. Your rabbits struggle against the world, and many will die so others may live. One can picture running some real meat grinder games playing a by the book game of The Warren.
I’ve wanted to run a session of this game with people closer to my age for a while now. Bully Pulpit Games has published several “playsets” (basically very terse setting documents) to help kickstart games of The Warren. They’re all quite good, but sometimes it’s fun to make your own.
Of course anyone can do anything he likes with Carcosa. There is no One True Wayism about Carcosa, nor is there an “Official” Carcosa. My attitude towards my creations is that of Gary towards D&D in 1974, not Gary towards AD&D in 1982. — Geoffrey McKinney on Dragonsfoot
World of Carcosa is a playset for The Warren that is set in the doomed world of Carcosa. If you have been reading this blog you know it’s one of my favourite settings for D&D. I’m not sure what the Venn diagram is for people interested in Carcosa and people interested in a game about rabbits. Perhaps it’s very small. This is for my people!
I haven’t had a chance to run this playset yet. Buyer beware!
A brief recap of one of our games: “I thought my daughter might like a game about rabbits. She was sent out for carrots and narrowly avoided an owl! That was too scary, though, so she decided she’d just play the predators and the rabbit she made is now a turncoat working with the humans after eating a soup that made her evil.” A few weeks later I tried playing with her again: “In this session she is searching for cutie rabbits to also convert to evil. She also travels in an invisible bag carried by her human friend so foxes and owls can’t get her.” ↩
I’ve had to start making dungeons for my players to explore. Unsurprisingly, that’s something that comes up with some frequency in a game called Dungeons and Dragons. There is lots of advice on this topic from people much smarter than myself, which I now collect conveniently in one place for your edification as well as mine.
Dungeon Design and Stocking - with examples! — Gus from Dungeon of Signs has a very thorough post outlining how he makes dungeons in a “naturalistic” way. He tries to imagine how the dungeon might end up in the state it is in when the players show up. He isn’t a big fan of funhouse dungeons and an over reliance on randomly stocking things.
Map Design Thoughts — Gus, being the hardest working man in the OSR, also has a blog post taking a look at how he approaches creating maps for his games in the first place. The discussion about map size and complexity as a form of time management is interesting.
Nitty Gritty of Dungeon Design — Patrick Wentmore, author of ASE, has a very mechanical approach to dungeon design, that feels like an interesting contrast to Gus’s approach.
Random Dungeon Stocking — Related to the above, Delta provides a good overview of the random stocking rules from the various editions of D&D.
Megadungeon Practices - Dreams of the Lich house gives a good overview of the things to consider when building a megadungeon you expect to be the main source for adventure in your game.
I do things like Patrick Wentmore. I have a little program that spits out what should be in each room using the rules from the Moldvay basic book. I’ll then try and think up what each “monster”, “monster + treasure”, etc might be. I’ll sometimes shuffle things around, or place important monsters or treasure ignoring the suggestions from the random rolls. Oftentimes it is fun trying to figure out how things might fit together, what the unguarded treasure might be, etc.
No doubt there are countless more posts on this topic out there. What do you suggest someone look at for inspiration or ideas?
Rolling 3d6 to randomly determine a characters weight is probably a stupid idea. No doubt Gary Gygax included a realistic table to figure this stuff out in the 1e DMG, which I should have used instead. So it came to pass that my character in Nick’s Dungeon Moon game weighs 60 lbs. That’s pretty small. I figured my LotFP specialist would be a 10 year old chimney sweep turned adventurer. In the next session of our game the character hired a retainer. I wanted to hire a torchbearer so my character could carry a bow and arrow around, like a lost boy. I decided the person he hired would be his babysitter.
Tasked with taking care of their young stewards, babysitters are a strange breed of adventurer. Many a child has gone off in pursuit of treasure and danger, followed into the mythic underworld by their attentive babysitter. Often torchbearers and porters, the babysitter is the unsung hero of many an epic poem.
The prime requisite for a babysitter is Wisdom. They receive a 5% bonus to earned experience points if they have a wisdom score of 13-15, and a 10% bonus if they have a score of 16+.
RESTRICTIONS: Babysitters use six-sided dice (d6) to determine their hit points. They may wear nothing more protective than leather armour, and may not use a shield. They may use blunt weapons only. Saving Throws and XP progression as a Thief.
SPECIAL ABILITIES: Babysitters are hard to surprise, and so begin the game with a +1 bonus to avoid being surprised. Babysitters have a +2 to all reaction rolls. This value increases by +1 every 3 levels versus humanoids, to a maximum of +4. They ignore any penalties they may have for having a low Charisma score when making reaction rolls. Babysitters have a 2 in 6 chance of finding hidden doors and passages and in picking locks. These values increases by +1 every 4 levels.
I bought a new printer a few months ago that lets me print double sided. Shortly after I started printing my own little booklets. A lot of RPG material is available online, formatted to be made into digest sized books. I find making booklets relaxing.
Lacking a long-arm stapler made the process tricky. Normally I would fold all the pages in the booklet and then bind them together. For thicker books I would saddle stitch them with some waxed thread. For thinner booklets I would punch holes for staples and then push the staples down by hand. That worked reasonably well.
A couple weeks ago I stumbled on the MAX HD-10V Swivel Booklet Stapler. It’s a fancy stapler from Japan whose shaft swivels 90 degrees. This lets you staple the spine of the booklet from above and below the book, rather than the side, using what amount to a pretty small stapler. It works incredibly well. What’s more, the stapler is much cheaper than your typical long-arm stapler. If you print your own D&D booklets there is no reason not to own this stapler.