Monday, December 8, 2014

12 Reasons Someone Might not be dead

12 Reasons Why Someone Might Not Be Dead
By : Jesse C Cohoon
Surprise! The person coming out of the shadows is not dead. Here are a dozen reasons why this might have happened, and the reasons for their return. Keep in mind with this list, that there may be significant overlap between these items.
1.      Faked Death: In a fantasy setting the faking could be done with an illusion, a golem crafted to look like the individual who was supposedly dead. In modern times it becomes considerably more difficult in that you have to change medical and dental records of the person. 
2.      Kidnapped: This can show up in a few ways:
a.      Unable to return: Maybe they’re being held in some sort of zoo for others to go and stare at. Perhaps they’re chained to the wall, their life force being used as some sort of magical battery. Or, worse yet, they’re being kept as someone’s personal play thing.
b.      Stockholm Syndrome: In this case the kidnapped feels sympathy or may even wish to stay on their own accord. They may watch their family from afar and see that they have moved on and not wish to cause the heartache that their return would cause after the length of time they’ve been gone. 
c.       Accidental kidnapping: as the name implies, it wasn’t the plan of the kidnapper to take away the individual kidnapped. In modern day cases this can be seen with a carjacking, and there’s a baby in the back steat. A fantasy example is Valka in Dreamwork’s How to Train Your Dragon 2, where she is taken away by the dragons. The accidental can turn into either of the two, above
3.      Trapped Somewhere: This could be as simple as being trapped in a landslide or avalanche, taking a fall that would be impossible to survive, or in the case of Gandalf the Grey being caught by an implacable foe.
4.      Mistaken Identity: The antagonist might have an identical twin or cast a glamour on someone to look like them or it could be that someone happens to look enough like them to fool the players.
5.      Left: Consider these 3 options:
a.      Didn't realize they were missed. Maybe someone has been gone so long that everyone assumed they were dead because they had too much there to leave behind. If they were alive, why haven't they returned by now?
b.      Unable to return: Maybe they were a part of a group of survivors from a flood, a war, or a fire and they felt that it wasn’t safe to return, but there wasn’t a “safe meeting area” to determine who got out alive and who didn’t.
c.       Unwilling to return: Maybe the character just had a bad argument and has determined that they’d never return home. Perhaps the character has too many bad memories of the place. It could also be that there’s nothing there for them, and thus going back would be useless.
6.      Resurrected/ Reincarnated:
a.      With Full memories: The person remembers everything that has happened in their present life until now
b.      As a totally new individual: Sometimes fate “wipes the slate clean,” and the ‘core’ of the person remains the same, but everything else, including memories, are different.
7.      Badly Injured/ Sick & Left to die: maybe someone was left to die because they were badly injured or so sick that others thought it impossible that they could survive, and they were rescued/ healed somehow.
8.      Amnesiac: a person who doesn't remember their identity, could easily wander off and become someone else, never running into anyone they previously knew. Can overlap with being badly injured.
9.      No longer Seen/ Recluse: If a person’s decided to abandon society and live in a creepy old house that has seen better days, eventually people are going to declare you dead and your house may become a target of vandals
10.  No Body Found: Maybe the character survived a shipwreck (or other mode of transportation), botched teleportation spell, or a building’s fire and it’s presumed that the person is dead.
11.  Undead: The character has survived as some sort of intelligent undead: a vampire, lich, ghost, etc.
12.  Final Shot/ Dying speech: after a character is thought to be dead they are able to give one final telling blow, or give a parting speech/ piece of advice before passing away. If an enemy does this once, the PCs will make *sure* that their enemy is dead before moving on!

Why are they back?
1-2 Revenge: They are miffed at the characters for some reason. Maybe they were left for dead. Maybe they felt abandoned. Or it could be that they are dying and the characters are the cause of it. Or perhaps it could be that they misread the situation.
3-4 Wants/ needs to reconnect: They are gone for awhile and they have a desire to reconnect to their roots. Maybe they heard news of a wedding or death in the family. Maybe they’re sickly and need to reconnect for medical reasons to get treatment for a debilitating disease. 
5-6 Accident: They run into people they know/ knew from before totally by accident
7-8 Something Changed: Something changed internally, maybe they stopped being mad at the people. Maybe they wanted to let them know they weren't really dead. Or maybe they're BACK from the dead! Or, conversely something changed externally – in that there was a job loss, a sickness that they could cure if they were “alive” again, etc. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Good Unexpected Events…And Twists to them to Make them Not as Good

Good Unexpected Events
…And Twists to them to Make them Not as Good
By: Jesse C Cohoon
Here’s a table that you can use to genuinely reward your players… but also gives a way of throwing a wrench into the works to make their rewards bite them in the end!

1)      Party: A group of NPCs get together to throw a surprise party for the characters (and if the players were too nosy, they'd ruin the surprise)
Twist (d4)
a.      The PCs are the main dinner course for a group of monsters disguised as humanoids
b.      The PCs are mistaken for someone else, and they ruin the surprise for the actual recipient
c.       The PCs are mistaken for someone else and must pay the group back for the time and expense they undertook for the party  
d.      The party is actually a ruse to capture the PCs while they are unprepared.   
2)      Help from the shadows: The characters have a person who has been helping them from the shadows, but doesn't want to reveal his identity just yet, and it's a surprise who it is
Twist (d6)
a.      The “help” actually is one of the PC’s old rivals or a much stronger enemy, and do it to lure them into a false sense of security.  
b.      The “help” is someone who the PCs find annoying or someone who the PCs blew off before, but is doing it to win their favor.
c.        The “help” is someone who is deathly ill or injured, doing it to prove they “still have game.”
d.      The “help” is one of the PC’s relatives who’s watching over them because they don’t want to admit that the PC grew up and can face dangers alone.
e.       The “help” is in terms of political maneuvering, bribes, payment of debts, etc., and when it gets to a certain level, they’ll want to have the PCs back them up in some nefarious way, and they won’t have any choice.
f.       The “help” is in terms of stashes of things the PCs need laying around (weapons, healing items, food, etc.) that the helper left lying around so that the PCs could escape or get out of a difficult situation, and now want help on a larger scale then they provided.  
3)      Enemies become friends: Someone or something that was or would have been a foe becomes their friend because the PCs helped them out or some other reason.
Twists (d4)
a.      The situation is a ruse or trick, so that they can entrap the PCs
b.      The change was only brought upon by a magic item, for instance a “helm of opposite alignment.”
c.       They lose a friend in the process
d.      They lose their class abilities for associating with the enemy.
4)      Honored: Rite of passage. The PCs are honored for some rite of passage (a wedding, funeral, or coming of age ceremony) that is seldom seen by outsiders
Twists (d4)
a.      While attending the function the PCs are charged with a crime against the entire people by their sacrilege.
b.      There is an enemy that wants the ceremony to fail/ be disturbed in some way. The PCs need to figure out who it is and how they want to disturb it.
c.       The PCs are expected to perform a part that they were not told about and that is offensive to them. Do they comply to remain or do they leave?
d.      The community finds the PC’s presence disturbing and asks them to leave. Which is more important: the honor of their friend who invited them, or the request of the community?   
5)      Won a lotto/ contest/ prize: The PCs win a great sum of money, are entered (and win) a contest of some sort, or win a prize
Twists (d4)
a.      The PCs get an unexpected rival for the prize.
b.      The prize is alive (a person or animal) [d6]
                                      i.         The person/ animal love each other on sight and have to be told to cool their affections of “get a room.”
                                    ii.         The person/ animal doesn’t like the PC who won them for some reason, but the PC likes them and must win their trust/ affection
                                  iii.         The person/ animal likes the PC, but the PC doesn’t like them for some reason and must win his/her trust/ affection
                                  iv.         Neither the PC nor the person/ animal like each other and are must work together for some task  
                                    v.         The person/ animal and the PC hate each other on sight and immediately begin fighting.
                                  vi.         The person/ animal knows the PC from before and it is quite awkward
c.       The PCs get an enemy because he/she wanted the prize more than they want/ needed it.
d.      The PCs are stalked because they have it in their possession and don’t realize its worth.  
6)      Favor of the Gods (d3)
1.      For the next X# of (time period) the PC can choose to reroll any die and take the better of the two results.
Twists (flip a coin)
a.      For an equal amount of time, the PC has the curse of rerolling and taking the worst of the two results.
b.      The PC has a permanent penalty to one stat
2.      For the next X# of (time period) the PC can choose to add a bonus to their roll for any skill, check, or ability.
Twist (flip a coin)
a.      For an equal amount of time, the PC has the curse of taking a penalty for any skill, check, or ability.
b.      The PC has a permanent penalty to hitting or damaging the enemy.
3.      You get a +X to one stat permanently  
Twist (d3)
a.      The PC has a permanent -2X to another stat
b.      The PC is cursed; all skill, check, or ability rolls (except the one so boosted) are at the same level of a negative.
c.       The PC’s armor never works as effectively, incurring a –X penalty.

I hope I have provided you some inspiration for to use in your games. If I have, please support me here: and visit my blog

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Cure to an empty room

The Cure to an empty room
By Jesse C Cohoon

Instead of having an empty room in a map how about one of the following d12 choices
1) It's a trap. The exit seals and the following happens (roll a d8)
A) The room fills up with [d4] a) oil b) sand c) poisonous gas d) water
B) nozzles come out of the wall and spew fire to all the characters.
C) shards of glass or metal spheres that combine to become golem
D) The floor drops out beneath the characters, and they fall into a pit with [d4] a) spikes, b) snakes or other small dangerous creatures c) some sort of harmful substance such as a contact poison, mold or jelly d) nothing - just falling damage
E) The ceiling/ walls starts to collapse in on the characters inside or the room itself is a mimic
F) A monster is summoned that must be defeated in order for them to escape. 
G) The room becomes a slide and takes the characters to another place in the dungeon
H) The room separates the characters from each other, giving different challenges to each. 
2) Secret passage.. Where the passage leads is up to the DM
3) it's a library.  Roll on the following table: [d12]
A) Arcana (ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, cryptic phrases, constructs, dragons, magical beasts)
B) Architecture and engineering (buildings, aqueducts, bridges, fortifications)
C) Dungeoneering (aberrations, caverns, oozes, spelunking)
D) Geography (lands, terrain, climate, people)
E) History (royalty, wars, colonies, migrations, founding of cities)
F) Local (legends, personalities, inhabitants, laws, customs, traditions, humanoids)
G) Nature (animals, fey, giants, monstrous humanoids, plants, seasons and cycles, weather, vermin)
H) Nobility and royalty (lineages, heraldry, family trees, mottoes, personalities)
I) Religion (gods and goddesses, mythic history, ecclesiastic tradition, holy symbols, undead)
J) The planes (the Inner Planes, the Outer Planes, the Astral Plane, the Ethereal Plane, outsiders, elementals, magic related to the planes)
K) Erotica - books about sex
L) Races - useful information about different races in the game.
4) a thick layer of dust that causes the characters to start to sneeze and wheeze, causing penalties for attacking and defense
5) a garden. If underground, consider how the vegetation is getting enough light to grow. If above ground, consider it being a solarium, or greenhouse. 
6) A zoo. Captured creatures are in cages, a good many of them obviously dangerous.
7) A sanctuary of some kind, provides travelers with [d6] a} safety, as per the Secure Shelter spell b) those inside the room don't attract notice of wandering monsters c) accelerated healing: all normal damage is healed d) bonuses: characters taking refuge inside, grants a bonus for X number of hours after having left e) divine relief: all penalties disappear after spending X number of hours inside f) divine relief 2: all diseases, maladies, and curses are gone after spending X number of hours inside the sanctuary.
8) Interesting features [d4] a} Natural: stalagmites, stalactites, other stone features b) interesting architecture, possibly of a lost era c)  visual effects: the room acts as an optical illusion d)interesting but dangerous [d4] [1] ice [2] lava [3] poisonous swampland/ stagnant water [4] fire
9) common household items [d6] a) bedroom set (bed, table, lamp, comfortable chairs) b) a kitchen/ dining room c) a bath/ swimming pool/ steam room, etc d) an office (desk, chairs, some books, if in a modern era, a computer, printer, etc) e) living room (couches, seats, TV [if in modern era]) f) oddhouse/ bathroom     
10) a fighting arena/ gymnasium: this could be as simple as a boxing ring, all the way up to free weights/ machines designed to strengthen the users. 
11) Another dimension or time.The doorway is a portal to another dimension. Other rules of gravity, magic, etc may apply. Or a doorway into another time (past or future)
12) Teleport. The doorway teleports the characters, causing them to be someplace else entirely. Is what the characters see the actual place it transports them to, or is it an illusion?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A look at character attributes and race

A look at character attributes and race
By: Jesse C Cohoon

In most games in order to create a character you need to possess certain levels of various character attributes. But instead of saying that “due to X race (or monster) not having an attribute level of Y, it’s not playable” why not look at various attributes and find interesting ways of working around the deficiency.

Strength defines how much a character can physically pick up and carry around with them. It also defines how easy it is to burst out of bindings, how far the character can jump, gives a chance to bend bars, break doors, and gives damage bonuses (or penalties) to certain weapons. This attribute may be referred to as Power or Brute Force in some systems.

If a character’s race has a strength score of 0, they may be immobile because their body won’t allow the muscles to move. A real life example might be a paraplegic, or perhaps a deathly ill person. A fantasy equivalent would be something like a “brain in a jar.” But an alternative way of looking at strength might be to say that the character has no physical form in which to lift an object, and any object not treated with substances that allow ethereal creatures to manipulate it wouldn’t simply work.  

Dexterity tells how fast a person can avoid hits, how well they can perform legerdemain, ride a mount, how well they balance, how quietly they can move and how easily they can wiggle out of constraints. Some systems call this stat Agility, Finesse, or Quickness, which also gives this attribute a sense of how fast a character can travel.

If a character’s race has a dexterity score of 0, they may be a plant rooted in place or a statue rooted in place. But just because a character has a dexterity of 0 doesn’t mean that they are useless. Perhaps they are a computer program that in and of itself doesn’t have any movement, but when put into a body that they can control, they have the dexterity of the body that they possess. Another possibility is that they are a tree, but have the entire network of the forest to be their eyes and ears and limbs for them.

Constitution is the prime indicator of a character’s health. Sometimes it’s listed as Endurance, Vitality, or Resistance. Constitution tells how long a character can hold his or her breath, how long and how well they fare after strenuous activity, how well they can fight off disease, and, at least in D&D how well they can concentrate.

A character with a constitution score of 0 would find it difficult to move, as any exertion would be tiresome. They would also be quite sickly, in that their bodies could not fight off infectious disease. On the other hand, maybe the character’s health is tied into another system altogether. Maybe the character is undead, and such things wouldn’t bother them the way that they would a living creature. Maybe it’s a construct of some kind that doesn’t need a constitution score to function.

Intelligence showcases a character’s smarts. In some systems, this attribute may be listed as Reason, Mental or Education. Whatever it’s called, this attribute is the cornerstone to what a character knows, and how much they know. The higher the character’s intelligence, the more they know, and the more they can figure out.    

A character with an intelligence of 0 would be acting on instinct alone, and thus difficult to play as a part of a group. All a character’s skills, the ability to use language, their ability to think about future actions becomes nonexistent. But in some unique circumstances such a character might be playable.  Maybe the character by themselves has no intelligence such as an individual ant or bee in a colony, but the mass has intelligence because it makes decisions as a cohesive whole. The question is what happens when the lone soldier in such a situation gets cut off from the input of the others?  

Wisdom is an attribute which tells how easily fooled the character is, how perceptive they are, how well they inspect their work, and how well they can survive in various circumstances. This attribute is   sometimes called willpower in other systems is how    

A character’s race with a wisdom score of 0 would be incredibly na├»ve, believing anything that was told to them, no matter how ludicrous. They probably would not have any common sense. They might not be able to control their base impulses because they wouldn’t have the wisdom to do so. They would be extremely susceptible to magic, having no guards against such. The closest thing that comes to a race with a Wisdom score of 0 in current published works would be Dragonlance’s Kender.

Intelligence vs. Wisdom Zacharythefirst put the difference the following ways:

A character with a High Intelligence but Low Wisdom might be incredibly book smart, but continually makes poor decisions, is absent-minded in the extreme, and tends to miss "little picture" stuff in favor of "big picture" stuff. This is the incredibly learned wizard who basically needs a handler wherever he goes due to his eccentricity. One example might be Walter Bishop from the TV show Fringe, if that makes sense.

A character with Low Intelligence but High Wisdom might be considered a dullard by society's standards, but has some matter of insight, or might be very attuned to the smaller things in life. This person might be illiterate or might be an idiot savant, but they have a way of picking up on the simple, straightforward solutions that other people miss, perhaps because they're going for the "big picture" stuff.

Charisma can be looked at in several ways. One way might be a simple awareness of social situations, and the ability to manipulate them. Another might be linked to a person’s appearance. A third might be how tame and wild animals react to the character.

Depending which way of looking at charisma one uses, a character’s race with a score of 0 might be interpreted in a variety of ways. For instance a race might be totally socially blind and thus have either a severe case of Asperger’s syndrome or Autism. If this is the case, they might have a few moments of clarity and then they slip back into their own world.

If Charisma measures a race’s (true) appearance, a score of 0 would make anyone seeing then permanently insane. In cases like this, maybe the race has developed various ways of disguising their appearance. In the case of appearance it could be that the person is filthy, and doesn’t take care of their hygiene, has bad breath, missing teeth, messed-up greasy hair and soiled clothing.

On the other hand, if Charisma represents the way animals react to the character’s race, this can be played out in a number of ways. Perhaps the animals sense that there is something “unnatural” about the character. Maybe the character’s aurora disturbs them and it makes them uncomfortable. It’s also possible that the character was mean to animals in the past and animals sense that about them. Depending on the exact situation, the animals may seek to flee from the character, or attack.  

Instead of saying “no you can’t play a race with any of these deficiencies,” why not see how to make the fact these can add interest to your game?  

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