Extra Little Character Building Questions

We've now completed character generation for On the Edge of Exile, but we're yet to play the first session (that's next week). The players are still fleshing out their characters, so in that spirit, I wrote a few little questions to help them build backstories that will inform the campaign, and the themes, that we're going to explore.

Also, don't worry, I'll post write-ups of all the characters once they're finished and we get started.

These questions are optional, of course, but they act the same as the Extra Little Worldbuilding Questions, but for player characters, rather than the GM. It's a good idea for GMs to come up with their own pointed (and loaded) questions for their own campaigns, so that they better fit the themes, but I hope my list gives you some inspiration.

  1. Who are your parents? Where are they now? Do they know what you are? Do they know where you've been sent? How do they feel about that?
  2. Do you have any siblings? Where are they now? Which ones do you remember fondly? Which ones bring up complicated feelings? Anger? Jealousy? Hatred?
  3. Who was your best friend? Where are they now? Why aren't they here with you?
  4. Who was your worst enemy? What did you do to them to inspire them to follow you? What lengths will they go to to get payback?
  5. What dream did you hold, that now slips through your fingers? Is it gone now, forever? What would you do if presented the chance to get it back?

Hammer & Anvil—Crafting in WFRP2e

In 2014, I wrote a blog post called "I Hit It With My Hammer... Constructively" in which I outlined a hack for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition. At the time, I was very happy with it.

But I have grown since then, as a GM and a game designer, and as such it's time to release a revision. This revision started small, and quickly grew into a mini fan-supplement much like my last one, Tides of War.

And here it is! I hope you enjoy Hammer & Anvil!

Hammer & Anvil is an unofficial fan supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition focusing on crafting. This system seeks to add a deep yet simple system to the core rules of WFRP that enables crafters of any variety to ply their trades. With some small substitutions, this system could be used with any roleplaying game.


Download Hammer & Anvil now!

Tides of War—Mass Combat in WFRP2e

With On the Edge of Exile on the horizon, I've been thinking about mass combat in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition, again. Hacking WFRP2e has always beenpassion for me, so I dove straight into this, and came up with the following.

I hope you enjoy Tides of War!

Tides of War is an unofficial fan supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition focusing on mass combat. This system is broad enough in scope, and general enough with mechanics, that it could easily be adapted to any RPG system, fantasy or otherwise, with minimal modification.


Download Tides of War now! 

Extra Little Worldbuilding Questions

Because my On the Edge of Exile campaign has had to be delayed for a few weeks, I've been going 'round in circles thinking about it. What this tends to mean is I write far too much about it, realise I don't want to plan/plot everything out, and then perform a cull. I'll add stuff, then trim it back, over and over again.

During this process, I've been thinking about some worldbuilding questions that rarely come up in guides to flesh out a settlement. These are pretty minor things, and not every settlement needs them all answered, but having an idea of them will help you stretch the verisimilitude of wherever the PCs go. Also note that for larger settlements - towns and cities - you can answer these per district or neighbourhood.

  • Who cuts the people's hair? 
    • A barber; 
    • The lord's ex-manservant; 
    • A communal hair-cutting circle; 
    • Everyone's Nan?
  • Who pulls teeth when they break or hurt? 
    • A barber-surgeon; 
    • The bartender (because they have a heavy door and string); 
    • They get in a brawl at the tavern; 
    • The local priest of the healing god?
  • Who maintains the well? 
    • A young chap with nothing better to do; 
    • A chartered guild of well-workers; 
    • The guards; 
    • A retired mason?
  • Who settles disputes? 
    • A travelling judge; 
    • Whichever outsider merchants are in town; 
    • A Mafioso; 
    • The lord's children, learning their command?
  • Where do people go when they want to relax? 
    • A back-alley dice game; 
    • A local pub; 
    • A drug den; 
    • A serene garden?
  • Who do people turn to when they have a problem? 
    • A local crime boss; 
    • The constable; 
    • A wise village elder; 
    • A kindly priest?
  • Who does everyone know you can rely on and trust? 
    • An honest bar fly; 
    • The bouncer at the pub; 
    • The sergeant of the guard; 
    • The Robin Hood-esque local pick-pocket?
  • Who does everyone revile or make fun of? 
    • A known thief; 
    • A disgraced ex-guardsman; 
    • The noble lord; 
    • The opportunistic mayor?

As a general rule of thumb, think about the things you do every day, and how the people in your world would fill those same roles. Every time you're out and about, think about how someone in your world would do the same. Where do you buy groceries, or do you grow your own? Who do you turn to when a button falls off your shirt, or do you stitch it back on? Where is everyone getting the thread, and the needles, if everyone sows their own buttons?

As I say, these aren't necessary questions to answer - but they are a useful tool, and they can make boring errands in your everyday life less boring! 

On the Edge of Exile: GM Tools

Now it's time to discuss the tools I'll be using to run this campaign. I'm a huge fan of tools, and I find their inclusion in a game drastically changes the flavour of its play. That's what I'm hoping from each and every one of these tools!

There are three categories of GM Tools that I'm using for On the Edge of Exile: Org Tools, Prep Tools, and Play Tools. There aren't many of them, so I'll be talking about all of them here. This discussion will be about what I'm using, and why I'm not using alternatives.

Let's begin at the top:


Org Tools

Org Tools are those that help me organise the campaign, both internally and externally. They help me frame my notes, and communicate to my players.

Game Bible

Previously, I have recorded my notes in so many different formats, that I've pretty much seen every format of this (at least, every format that I'm aware of). Put simply, a Game Bible is a document that contains all the information that it's pertinent not to forget. That doesn't mean it contains literally everything, but that it contains the main stuff. Little details are lost at the table, and to memory, and that's fine. Big stuff goes in here.

So what does it look like? At the moment it has three sections: The Valley which discusses any important locations, and the regions in terms of their tags, Threats which holds all of my Apocalypse World style complications and story threads (discussed more in Prep Tools), and Dramatis Personae which holds records of all the major NPCs and custom monsters or groups.

Now, why did I go this route? Previously I've used wikis or a curious program called MyInfo to plan campaigns and host their notes, but I find with that structure it leads to waffling - it becomes difficult to use the information at the table. With a single document, I am forced into brevity, otherwise it becomes impossible to use during play. No more than a page per Threat. No more than a stat-block and tags for NPCs.

Facebook & Messenger Groups

Whilst in the past I have used Trello, a wiki, and Obsidian Portal to host the player's hang-out area, I have found each has its problems. Trello isn't well suited to interactions in the way I'm looking for - discussions and banter, planning for future sessions, etc. and Obsidian Portal is, well... Let's just say it took them 2 years to respond to a support ticket, and then after I cancelled my subscription charged me for the following 2 years anyway. There's some history there! Wikis are also a little too dispersed, and they only really work if everyone is keen on filling them out. I no longer believe in giving my players homework, so I'll be avoiding that.

That leaves me with Facebook and Messenger. All my players are already on the platform, and we can now customise them pretty extensively. The Messenger thread is being used for short form discussions, and the group is used more like a forum. Simple!


Prep Tools

Prep Tool are those that help me prepare for the next session, naturally.

Threats

I have made a list of Threats, ala Apocalypse World which will be the main impetus behind the campaign. The idea is that each area or potential story in the game has a Threat, made up of a name, a type, a drive, several moves with some preferred moves, a description, and progress markers. The moves are ways for me to have the Threat act, and the progress markers are what will happen if the PCs don't intervene. I can't give you an example of one without fear of my players seeing it, so I'll make a fake one here:

The Evil Child
Craves mastery.
Will the Evil Child corrupt the town?
Moves:
  • Do something evil.
  • Kill someone.
  • Make someone take the fall for badness.
Progress:
  • The Evil Child tricks someone in town into adopting them.
  • That person's business - a tavern - starts to boom with the greatest beer on tap.
  • A few people have gone missing, but most people in town are in such a drunken stupor for most of the time that they don't notice.
  • The Evil Child uses the missing towns folk as a sacrifice to become even eviler!
The idea is that, when I need to know the next thing to have happen, I just look at whatever Threat seems to be interesting the players the most, and I tick it forward until they intervene.

Goals

I will be requiring my players to tell me what they intend to do before the following session. This won't be a blow-by-blow, but a general "We're heading to Seidenstopp to find out what the go is with this residue" vibe. I want them to form something like goals ala Burning Wheel but not as strictly. I will be awarding XP based on if they meaningfully work towards their goals, rather than for any other reason, so it's in their best interests to have a think about them!


Play Tools

Play Tools are those which will be used in situ in play - the ones which I will have printed either behind the screen, or in front of the players.

In-Game Calendar

I'm far from a Gygaxian GM, and I believe almost the opposite of this little nugget:
YOU CANNOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.
But for this campaign, I am using an in-game calendar. This is part Org, part Prep, but mostly Play. I want the players to be the ones writing in this thing, noting when events will occur, and planning their travel around that. I'm not going to be too cruel on the GM side of things, and (as mentioned with Threats) I won't have things scripted purely by a clock. I will reveal dates when it is interesting to reveal them, and it's then up to the players to record and follow them.

Speaking of which, I intend to jump forward the calendar by 2-month chunks every milestone of play (the players will be in control of when this is, but it will be guided by me on the basis of something significant happened). Sometimes these will be longer jumps, depending on how many sessions it has been since the last jump. Each jump will constitute a settlement phase.

This Fantastic Character Sheet

I love character sheets, and often hate the standard sheets that come with most games. I don't know what it is, but almost universally, official character sheets suck. Indie games are usually the exception to this. *shrug*

So, for WFRP, many years ago I discovered this sheet! This is the one the players will be using.

A Bunch of PDFs

I also have a bunch of old PDFs from my hey-day of WFRP play, most of which I don't know where they came from, and some whose origins are now lost to the void of the Internet. Strike to Stun, Winds of Chaos, and Liber Fanatica were definitely the sources of many...

Empire Weather for determining weather during travel phases - bad results will incur penalties to condition when they are travelled.

The Book of Imperial Names for many of my naming and settlement shop needs.

The Appearance of Morrslieb which I will roll in advance, which will count as an out-of-the-players-hands encounter generator - bad moon = bad luck!

And Total War a fan made supplement for mass combat which is (sadly) pretty poorly edited, but the core is great. It's inspired by Legend of the Five Rings's mass combat system, which was one of the greater parts of that system.

And that's it! It's a lot of tools, but together, they'll largely automate the running of this campaign. Next time, well, I guess the game will have started!