Sunday, January 25, 2015

Creating Coherent RPG Adventures From Random Elements

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Obviously, what you want, as a tabletop RPG designer or GM, ultimately, is to come up with a few good solid components to make a coherent adventure. Sadly, even the best "adventure generator" you find online or PDF or book you buy, can provide you with elements or the skeleton of a framework, but the content itself, the specifics, often do not lend themselves to combinations.

There are good, creative designers and GMs that can work with about anything and make awesome adventures with the strangest ingredients, but that type of genius may not come that easy to the rest of us, me especially. But I do want to discuss and hopefully give an example of how this type of thing CAN be done - it IS possible, but it isn't magic - it does take effort and some rather unintuitive conclusions and leaps of deduction, to make a plot.

Among other things, I've created a random plot element generator, for lack of a better term, uncreatively titled, "22,000 Count Word Generator", which you can find here:

Video version of this article

The linked Youtube video version of this article is here: [LINK]

The Audio is here: [LINK]

Now first off - I created this primarily for inspiration, so in its most basic form, it just spits out random things - adjectives, nouns, whatever, in no particular order or relation. From there I tried to refine it a bit and built one option to give some structure - a person or thing, an action or verb, an event or other thing - to sort of artificially give some hierarchy of usefulness to the random words. Then I decided to make both viable, so when you generate info with it, it may give you one style, or the other. And overall, this is of variable use - you can get crap no matter what, or some may be compelling. Both are set up in the form of Acts and Scenes, with a few scenes per Act, as per the standard narrative story or plot structure. Ideally, the elements of each would make sense and tie in to others, but as it is, these designations of "Scene 2, 3" are really just suggestions.

Let's just start with the first page I get, and we'll see what works and what doesn't, and what we can do with what works. Here is the first of the result sets that my generator gives us.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Top Six RPG Elements Video on Youtube

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Table Scraps: Top Six RPG Elements: via @YouTube
Table Scraps has reviews, humor and other videos on tabletop board, card, dice and RPG games. This is a collection of a few different "top six" lists generated by some "toys" I made and have online. NPCs, useless items, wrestling movies, scene/plot elements, just to name a few. I'd love to get feedback from anyone on this! Enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Mac wants the what?" Cafe Press Scifi-Horror Merchandise - Perfect for Christmas!

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Here is my new "Mac wants the what?", scifi-horror, flamethrower-and-tentacles section of Cafe Press items. Give that special someone a shirt, mug, sticker or sexy thong (a Thing thong?) for Christmas!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Room - The Coloring Book

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Hello movie lover, you have found the right place! This is THE ROOM - THE COLORING BOOK! Well, it's the first section of the phenomenal hit by Tommy Wiseau, where Lisa winds up in Oh Hai Mark's lap. Download it for your kids today!

Download [The Room - The Coloring Book]

Saturday, June 28, 2014

New Online Convention Aug. 16,2014: P&PGCon!

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PPGCon I (Pen and Paper Games Convention) is taking place at in the Chatroom and its various game rooms, and will feature many live text-chat games, as well as possibly some using the chatroom-based voice feature. The chat has exploding dice, card draws, a good selection of game rooms which can host a solid amount of different games at once and alternating all through the day, as well as special guests.

Pen and Paper Games Convention I (Aug. 16, 2014)

Join us in the chat room on the first P&PG Mini Convention on August 16th,2014, where great DMs host one shot games for you! We have practically every genrecovered to choose from! The gaming site caters to roleplayers and gamedesigners alike looking to test their games. With over 20,000 members thissite is one of the few that has an active forum and chat room. You can look forplayers in your area, enjoy tabletop games online in the chat room or in play bypost format. You have friendly staff that will help cater to your needs and tonsof discussions on all types of topics.

Come in and have a great time and look for the chat room on August 16th to play great games or just hang out!

More information can be found at

Please feel free to sign up to be a GM or player, and if you're feeling really civic-minded and want to help encourage and promote gaming and fellowship and help players and GMs find new avenues of opportunity, please plop a banner on your site, print out and put up a flyer at your local gamestore, library, laundromat or any other public place, or mention and link to PPGCon on Facebook, Twitter or whatever else you use - thanks!

SEPTEMBER 20th 2014
OCTOBER 18th 2014
NOVEMBER 15th 2014
DECEMBER 20th 2014
JANUARY 17th 2015

PPGCon Flyers (please print out and place in appropriate areas to help promote PPGCon!)

Register as a GM (register at, fill out info for game you want to GM)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Way of Approaching RPG Design

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Once you are confident you have established your dream for planning, what reality you want to make available to your players, to seize and personalize this world through their characters, you have your initial steps to designing a game that is not just "playable" but is a true interaction and activity, with respect to and for the players themselves.

How then is the best way to allow this, while retaining useful but non-invasive structure which serves to accompany as a subtle, contributing guide, acknowledging the heroism and greatness of the characters but also the players themselves, and which provides an opportunity for players to push their characters from already accomplished and satisfactory heroes as envisioned by players, and rise to new levels not even considered by the players, to excel in a way only possible through in-play decisions and significant choices pregnant with potential.

Narratives, step dice, ladder structures of values, linked attributes, freeform details and embellishments all are possible, and can be made to form themselves int a vision, if only interpreted and fixed with finesse and grace by the designer. Only you can know your vision for the basic complexity, and if, for example, you want to provide freedom to players without needing a lengthy document, so considering the various existing short approaches known to you and available to study, as well as related or derived similar methods, and also the very real possibility of completely new ideas of operation, would seem to be the step you're at.

Having started on this path, now you face the challenge of imparting this easily and making this approach to play appealing to players - what will make them WANT to do it, to learn and play by your framework - what can you offer to them, what is important to them, what will make not just the characters but the players *great*?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Using Role-Playing Games to Teach a Language?

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Recently on the Pen & Paper Games forum, someone mentioned he or she was teaching English to some Japanese students using a simple custom board game and asked about the possibility of using an RPG to do the same, without it seeming "too linear". I find these kinds of topics really interesting, so I replied - I hope it was helpful, and would welcome any thoughts on the topic by readers here.

 I can understand you mean you don't want it to be railroady, but teaching people a language through the medium of gaming has different rules (in my opinion) because like math is a universal language, so too is is physics and the law of cause-and-effect, inertia and sequence.

You WANT situations and solutions to be linear to a great extent, I would think, so they can associate what they know as the phrases and concepts and words in their language for some actions, to be easily understood and readily identifiable by their analogues in the language being taught, so they'll know that the "cut the rope" action in English has the same effect on the suspended weight to open the door, that they would intuitively know as the phrase and action for their language.

You want to firmly establish similarity and counterparts to give them a definite grounding in the basics that will make them feel confident and excited to try to come up with and discover and learn new things and concepts and ideas, language-wise - advanced phrasing to escalate their progress, so they can be proud to know they've moved from "stand on log" to reach a shelf to "fill bottle with rocks" to get water, deepening the complexity of actions and relations of objects and situations, and easing into things naturally.

I'd recommend looking into the concepts of "token parsing" used now in many games but most notably in early text adventure games like Zork, that delved into the idea of verb-object examination and conjugation, with one example coming to mind, "The phrase 'put on fur coat' means something entirely different than 'put fur on coat', which we'd rather not guess at". There were some really good magazine articles of the times, and a "How to write computer adventure games" book (metal spiral bound) that insightfully considered varying complexity from the simple "verb object" (take sword) to "tell Joe to get the gun and follow me" and how to program the game to interpret that natural language structure that Westerners would intuitively type.

There are "skill challenges" as I understand it, for D&D and Pathfinder that relate to specific skills or abilities that are needed to be used to overcome obstacles, that could help slowly expand understanding of new terms or references, within a limited scope that you as the instructor choose, mostly puzzle-solving but with set criteria, like the group must generate 5 successes in 10 turns before the stone guardian arrives - somewhere in the RPG books, the rules and such for these are buried but I don't play d20 so I'm afraid I can't be more specific.

Simple one or two-scene scenarios, like very short role-playing game sessions, could also work, probably a single main challenge that all the players/students could contribute to, and then a few other smaller ones that individuals or smaller groups could break up into, to solve. Relating to a very simple exercise in imagination which might also be useful in your purposes, I wrote an article for Strolen's Citadel about a creative visualization exercise that probably a lot of gamers have never done:

My 7th grade science teacher did an exercise for the whole class to just close their eyes and imagine they were an animal and a storm was rolling in, and imagine what they would do, where they would go, and then she asked a few people to name the animal and describe its size and movements, which seems like would be a really good exercise in working on the familiar basics your students are learning, in an imaginative way.

Lastly there is a free game called Wushu Open (also a commercial version) by Dan Bayn that you might be able to modify for your uses, that relies on success rolls in the game being informed by how many details/embellishments a player adds to their actions, so "I hit the guy" or "I jump the pit" gives you one die to roll, but "I run forward and leap at the guy, spinning in mid-air with a kick to his chest" or "I take a few steps back and sprint forward, yelling as I spring over the chasm" gives you maybe 4 dice to roll.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Roll20 Token Actions (for Solomon Kane/Savage Worlds)

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Hello there neighbors, I've put up a short video demonstrating one way you can use Roll20's Token Actions, which I didn't understand the nature of until very recently. This video covers the free browser-based virtual tabletop (VTT) roleplaying game application's Token Actions macro feature as implemented for the Solomon Kane/Savage Worlds campaign I run online.

The video involved things like a player choosing one or more targets for a certain type of attack, and rolling Fighting against the target('s) Parry, which the program references from the enemy's Character Sheet in the Journal tab. I'm very impressed with Roll20's progress and features and am pleased the Token Actions are so much easier than I thought they were at first. The techniques I use in the video can easily be applied to any other game system, even board or card games, so if this sounds intriguing, I urge you to please check out my video and Roll20. Thanks for reading and watching! -JP

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lots More Random Toys and Generators Added!

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Check out the Toys Page here for a summary of all the different things available or go straight to the main Toys and Generators site for all kinds of fun and generators, from gems and items to animals, potions, wrestling moves, monsters, locations and more!

Please feel free to drop me a line or comment on any of these. Got a suggestion for a type of generator? Tell us what you'd like to see - who knows what could happen! Have fun!