Monday, February 23, 2015

Change One Thing

Change One Thing
By: Jesse C Cohoon

In looking at many areas of creativity, it looks like the authors, artists, programmers, and so on look at the world around us and ask themselves “What would happen if I changed one thing?” The one thing that they change may be insignificant, but it’s enough to be able to send ripples throughout the world. How far and wide they spread, is up to you, the DM.

Here are 12 simple changes that you can make to any system:
1.      Magic
a.      No magic. There is nothing that the universe can call magic. Everything is science, or explainable in some way.
b.      Limited magic: Maybe magic exists, but is limited in nature because of the system that supports them is damaged somehow or in need of repair.
c.       Different rules of magic: maybe the only magic is elementalism, psionics, music, or item based.

2.      Divinity:
a.      No gods. The gods are gone; they have abandoned the planet, never existed in the first place, or are simply powerful mortals that gain power by belief.
b.      Different gods: maybe the gods that are recognized are different than the gods that actually are worshipped, are not able to be understood, or are not as powerful as people assume.
c.       No Divine powers. Clerical powers are unknown.

3.      Monsters
a.      No monsters of X type. Either the world never had them, they died out, or they exist – sealed away somehow, have been in hiding for years. This can be expanded to be no monsters whatsoever and the only thing that exists are humanoids and animals.
b.      All monsters of X type. Maybe the entire campaign is based around beholders and all the encounters are cultists, and various types of beholders or those that had been altered by them. Similar things could be done with many different types of monsters.
c.       Different monsters: make your own monsters for your campaign.

4.      Shrouded in darkness. Either the sun died out, there is a permanent magical darkness, or the planet does not rotate around the sun, and so one half is in constant daylight, where the other half is constantly in darkness. In a world enshrouded by darkness, would the moon always be out? Would undead or were-creatures rule the world?

5.      Different governments: Instead of being a classic feudalism/ monarchy (hereditary or elected)
or an some type of democracy consider the following:
a.      Aristocracy: Rule by elite citizens.
b.      Geniocracy: Rule by the intelligent
c.       Kratocracy: Rule by the strong
d.      Meritocracy: Rule by the people who are selected on the basis of people's ability, knowledge in a given area, and contributions to society.
e.       Technocracy: Rule by the educated or technical experts
f.        Dictatorship: Rule by an individual who has full power over the country
g.      Bankocracy: Rule by banks;
h.      Nepotism: rule by families of power
i.        Kakistocracy: Rule by the stupid;
j.        Kleptocracy: Rule of thieves
k.      Corporatocracy: rule by corporations
l.        Ochlocracy: Rule by the general populace;
m.    Ergatocracy: rule by the workers
n.      Kritarchy: Rule by judges/ law enforcement
o.      Netocracy: Rule by social connections;
p.      Plutocracy: Rule by the rich;
q.      Theocracy: Rule by a religious elite
r.       Anarchy: society without a publicly enforced government
s.       Magocracy: rule by the magical elite
t.        Bureaucracy: Rule by a system of governance with many bureaus, administrators, and petty officials
u.      Federalism: Rule by a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people.
v.      Cybersynacy: Ruled by a data fed group of secluded individuals that regulates aspects of public and private life using data feeds and technology having no interactivity with the citizens but using "facts only" to decide direction.
w.     Parliamentary system:           A system of democratic government in which the ministers of the executive branch derive their legitimacy from and are accountable to a legislature or parliament
x.      Nomocracy: rule by word of law
y.      Uniocracy:  Rule by hive mind.

6.      Modern Invention. Pick an invention, figure out how that invention would affect the game
world if it were introduced, leaving everything else the same.
a.      Telegraph/ telephone: wires that allow messages to be transmitted over long distances
b.      Internal Combustion engine: trains/ cars, ships
c.       Mechanics of Flight: airplanes / blimps
d.      The Printing Press: Books for the masses; literacy
e.       Farm equipment: being able to plant/ harvest more food over a larger population
f.        Firearms: the ability to shoot accurately over a larger distance

7.      Change of the outcome of a war. If the other side won, how would life be different? How would the world be different Germany won WWII or if the English won the war of American independence?  

8.      The change of race. Instead of humans being the most powerful race, what would happen if Elves or Gnomes ran the world for some reason?

9.      A change in Political Leadership. What would have happened if the other political party got into office? What would happen if the coup succeeded?

10.  Different climate/ area:
a.      Heat/ no rain: This is the world of Frank Herbert’s “Dune”
b.      Heat/ LOTS of rain: This would be an entire world that would be Aztecs, Hawaii or parts of the African continent
c.       Cold/ blowing snow/ glaciers: The world of Ice Age movies or Cro the cartoon
d.      Underground: What would happen if for some reason all the races were forced underground for some reason?
e.       Space: The vastness of space can bring some interesting challenges.
f.        Mountains: If a few scraggly grasses, the heartiest of trees and moss has a difficult time growing, would there be enough soil to grow crops. The further you go u, the thinner the air would become. How would whatever was up there adapt to them?   

11.  Changes in senses:
a.      Enhancement: if a race has exceptional hearing or sight, or could balance without problems no matter what how does that help them?
b.      Dulled/ unusable senses: what would happen if a race was totally blind or quite hard of hearing? How does that affect their lives?
c.       Different senses: Perhaps a group of gnomes can see the future as but don’t experience the present? Maybe dwarves feel the steadiness of stone in a way others cannot.  

12.  Changes in scale: what would things look like if the people were the size of ants? A room   
becomes an entire dungeon because they have to navigate the cracks in the floors. A normal sized rat becomes a real danger. Also enlarging something can cause an equal amount of danger. A normal sized lizard is of no consequence; a giant lizard suddenly becomes quite the danger. Even a bite from a regular sized spider for those not allergic to it is an inconvenience. A spider the size of a horse is a different matter entirely!

If you like my writing please +1, comment, like, and reshare it with other groups or people! Donations also encouraged on

Friday, February 20, 2015

Don’t Throw That Paper Away!

Don’t Throw That Paper Away!

By: Jesse C Cohoon

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “What in the world do I need
these old papers for? They’re garbage!” But hear me out. They can provide a bit of interest to your game if you let them.

Use advertisements

  • To price things out. But instead of using today’s prices, make up prices that would match the era that your game is in. This can even work for futuristic campaigns where certain items are harder to come by and are more expensive.
  • As a visual guide. Sometimes instead of describing something in detail, you just clip a picture and hand it to your players saying “this is what was stolen.” The same idea applies to wish books and sales catalogs as well.
  • As a clue. This is especially handy during a murder mystery investigation. Perhaps the person who was killed was struggling with his killer. As they struggle a part of the advertisement got torn and, unbeknownst to the killer, it’s on their person somewhere – maybe in a coat pocket or in their shoe… or maybe the corner was left behind and it’s up to the players to match it.
  • As Transportation. In C.S Lewis’ book “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” a painting sucked three characters into the land of Narnia. A similar thing can be done with those “you can win an all-expense paid vacation” flyers that are sometimes handed out at business events. In The Strange roleplaying game, I think this would be a neat way of transporting the characters around, particularly if they didn’t have control over where they were going or when it activated.  
  • As a Food Guide. This is a nifty idea for more modern settings. Many fast food restaurants hand out flyers which have their menus. Use them when the characters go into restaurants to order food.  

Use Course Manuals

Course manuals are another way to give interest to your gaming world. Most of the time such manuals would be for a university, but in the video game, “The Last of Us,” there are also manuals for weapons, first aid, and survival, which increase a player’s skills. In a fantasy world there might be course manuals on how to do magic, lift things with your mind, or improve use of armor.

Use Magazines & Newspapers    
Newspapers and magazines can provide interest to your game on a particular subject, from a particular point of view. If the game is in a current setting they could be laying around in libraries, offices, on bookshelves, and on newspaper stands. If you feel ambitious you can even make up headlines for the players to see.

In a fantasy setting you can bump the technology up a bit by introducing the
movable type printing press, and daily papers could be printed, spreading the player’s fame far and wide if they do notable deeds.

In a modern setting you might have newspapers blowing around. In setting hopping game like The Strange, a newspaper can even tell you a bit more about the date and particular setting you happen to find yourself.  

In a post-apocalyptic setting, you might have old newspapers laying around dated to the day of the apocalypse, which can give clues as to what happened and why, providing clues to time travelers to see if it can be stopped.

Business Flyers & cards
Business flyers and cards say a lot about the people handing them out. Do they look shoddy, as if they’ve not been cared for? Or are they made out of shiny, thick card stock paper? How are the materials handed out? As if the information is important, as a ceremony like the Japanese do, or is it simply laying on a table waiting to be picked up by anyone who passes by. 

If you like my article, please comment, +1, or visit my patreon site at