Dec 31, 2012

Notes: A Chronical of Deaths and Demises

Just some notes mostly for myself but also open for interested parties. A log of my players' characters and deaths.

 Character Name_Race & Class_(Order of Death)Manner of Death_Player
  • Buxby_Halfling Cleric (of Weirdunn)_(3rd)Punctured by guards' arrows in an attempt to escape imprisonment following the seige of the Fort Obora_"D"
  • Nero_Human Assassin_(1st)Decapitated as an example to the others during an interrogation by illusory lizard man who was actually the illusionist Zaldar_"S"
  • Locke_Human Ranger_*Remains Alive*_"M"
  • Willhelm_Human Fighter_(4th)Cut down in a duel outside of Riverton_"W"
  • Ienzo_HalfElf Illusionist_(2nd)Swarmed by frenzied skeletons in the dwarven ruins north of the Hobbit Hills_"P"
  •  Camilo Cortez_Human Assassin_(6th)Killed by Boone in Orcish slave pits_"Li'l D"
  • Anson_Human Wizard_*Player moved away. Officially remains alive though retired.*_"T"
  • Decanus_Halfling Druid_*Remains Alive*_"P"
  • Boone_Human Rogue_Zombified_"D"
  • Hector_Human Paladin_(5th)Sacrificed by Orcs to the evil goddess Vessa)_"W"
  • Tark_HalfOrc Barbarian_(8th)Heart cut out and eaten in Vessan Well_"W"
  • Don_Human Assassin_(7th)Fell 15' into pit of deadly hybrid monsters and eaten_"Li'l D"
  • "Tet"_Human Monk_*Remains Alive*_"W"
  • Castiel_Human Cleric_*Remains Alive*_"G"
In Word Chart Format:

   D         S       M         W           P        Li'l D       T        G
Buxby Nero
Buxby Nero Locke
Buxby Nero Locke Willhelm
Buxby Nero Nocke Willhelm   Ienzo
Buxby Nero Locke Willhelm   Ienzo    Camilo
Buxby          Locke Willhelm   Ienzo    Camilo
Buxby          Locke Willhelm   Ienzo    Camilo Anson
Buxby          Locke Willhelm                Camilo Anson
Buxby          Locke Willhelm Decanus Camilo
                     Locke Willhelm Decanus Camilo
Boone          Locke Willhelm Decanus Camilo
Boone          Locke                 Decanus Camilo
Boone          Locke   Hector   Decanus Camilo
Boone          Locke   Hector   Decanus Camilo
Boone          Locke                 Decanus
Boone          Locke    Tark      Decanus   Don
Boone          Locke    Tark      Decanus
Boone          Locke                 Decanus
Boone          Locke     Tet       Decanus
Boone          Locke     Tet       Decanus                          Castiel
                    Locke     Tet       Decanus                          Castiel

Dec 24, 2012

Game Summary: Dec 21, 2012

So while Earth was busy not ending, here is what was going on in the land of Hommund:

The players had just gotten through with spending a week in the Hobbit Hills training the militia, failing to seduce a mute nymph, and taking lots of drugs they caught some bandits smuggling, when they set out to see if the tunnel up to the Tsuran Plateau (where the elven forest is) had finally been cleared by the dwarf they hired to do it, Roderick.

So they set out traveling, fought some undead in the Elf's Ear Gorge, Boone got bitten but not seriously injured, but more distressingly began to go into withdrawal, having been the one most partaking in illicit substances and failing his CON save. So no one thought it was too weird when he started getting a fever and the sweats... right up until he turned into a zombie and they had to bash his head in.

RIP Boone.

Turns out there are a lot of zombies around, as they found more biting at Roderick's heels where he was mutilated and strung up from the ceiling of the cave entrance to the tunnel, "turn back" carved into his severed arms.

The obvious solution being to press on, the party did so, eventually emerging in the midst of some seriously inclimate weather and then moving further into the valley, where they killed some more zombies and met some wild men who kindly gave them some herbs and pointed them in the direction of the elven forest.

The next day they were promptly captured by elves.

Some Very Nice Links

These are some ideas and tables I want to store here where both I can find them and others might take a look.

Zak Smith always has some interesting ideas and here some useful table for NPCs:

This blog doesn't update anymore but these tables are amazing. I liked this sort of background generation in CP2020 and here it is again more appropriate for a medieval fantasy setting:

A big timesink:

Some monster ideas:

 A couple helpful tables:

A houserule to think about:

Dec 20, 2012

A Latin Game

So nearing the end of the semester, I'm looking to write a short adventure to share a one-shot with some fellow Latin students.

Since they've never played, I figure I'll generate a couple characters of moderate level for them centering around a Classical Roman theme. Our studies have so far revolved around the Aeneid, just completing Book VI, so I was thinking of doing a variation on Aeneas' descent to the underworld, with the two players as Aeneas

 and the Sibyl at Cumae,

a fighter and cleric respectively.

Does anyone have any ideas for a Classically themed game and maybe some classes for Roman archetypes? These are first-time players so I want to keep things simple but also give them a full run of what the game is about, so combat, problem solving, roleplaying, the whole deal.

For anyone interested in the story I'm thinking of using, here is some stuff about the Aeneid.

Oct 23, 2012

Game Summary Oct 18, 2012

They enter the Vessan Well.

They have black over their eyes like the mimes, which they cannot remove.

They are lost in a forest w/in the Well being hunted by tigers.

They meet a strange man in an iron mask named Arud (guest player Sam E)

Aline, the elf girl they found earlier, gets killed by some tigers.

Arud starts flipping out, Boone is scared shitless and stabs him in the back.

Arud takes off his mask and turns out to be one of these. Roll initiative.

Everyone goes down, even after Locke tackles Arud 30 feet out of a tree and both barely survive. They each get one last shot to hit Arud as he cuts them open to eat their hearts.
Tark fails. Heart eaten. Dead.
Boone succeeds and kills Arud in the neck with his dirk.
Everybody sleeps for a long time to get back health and spells and, weakened, go one and eventually find the passage to the next level, where:

There are lots of magic pools and zombies behind a fence such that they must be released for the players to succeed.

But Decanus finds a handy spell to kill them all, they waste a lot of time trying to neutralize acid, and eventually give up and leave the room.

But not before Decanus and Boone drink a pink potion. The effects of which are so far unknown. (More on that later when they figure it out.)

Locke, Boone, and Decanus remain.

Another Gameplay Recording

The adventurers venture into the giant petrified worm in search of the entrance to the next Well of Vessa.

As we begin, they are about halfway through.

Then they spend a long time on a fire trap,
find an elf girl,
fight a Bear-Octopus,
senselessly slaughter some mimes,
and finally enter the Well.

But you can hear for yourself:
My brother plays Boone in the place of his usual player.

Oct 1, 2012

The Art of Worldbuilding and Why It's Not

So my group has been playing for about a year now; maybe more, maybe less; and are all around level four.
Which is absolutely fine: we've all enjoyed the progress and no one seems to mind being "low" leveled, though granted most of my players hadn't played before this campaign.
The real point is that DnD is a long-run game, at least when you play it right. And by right I mean good ol' OSR style. Because what's the point if you never get to see any improvement? But my opinions on that are old news and I digress;

So I have laid out almost all of the continent of Hommund, which should encompass levels 1-20 or so. Which means that, at the current rate, it would take my party five years to explore all of Hommund. I have also drawn up four other provinces, for the most part yet to be populated with dungeons but still existing either incomplete or as concepts and maps.

This point brings me to the real gist of this post: Worldbuilding will never be an art.

At least not in the traditional sense.

See, obviously it takes a great deal of creativity and imagination and some talent to build an entire world. It takes creating ideas, having the patience to flesh out each idea, a knowledge of the rules you are writing for and the ability to create elegant systems that all match your aesthetic, and a persistent conceptual vision.
But the problem is: no one will ever appreciate this the way they appreciate a painting, or a movie, or as closely as possible a long novel.
Because an entire world cannot be easily consumed. No one ever reads the whole Silmarillion.

Traditional art has always been something that one can easily consume within a reasonable unit of time with relative passivity. The problem with DnD is: to most people, five years (at very least) is not a reasonable amount of time.
And then comes the matter of passivity. No matter how much you get into a book, you are still reading it. You can only look at a painting while it hangs there, unresponsive, within its frame.
Playing a long-form DnD campaign is like experiencing a play from within it, except there is no other way to experience it. Whole masses like to watch plays, and obviously some groups like to act in them, but if no one could ever witness a play without acting within it, even on improv without any timecost besides, the crowd might last a few weeks and quickly dwindle. After months even actors would tire.
And on top of all that still another cost: the burden of contribution.
In my game, a burnt village exists only because that's where a player said he came from. A cult and subsequent evil lair exists because one of my players said he was hunted by Vessa-worshippers, which in turn led to a bit of Hobbit history and an entire dungeon's plot hook and final "boss".
You read a book, you do not edit it with your own contributions (normally). Thus, you remain passive to your entertainment. Even in a video game where you can make choices, you still lack true freedom as all of your choices had to be pre-programmed by someone who had the same idea.

Worldbuilding is unquestionably an artistic effort and a remarkable feat, but it will never be an art in the traditional sense. Only a handful, if any, people will ever say "I liked Greyhawk better than Hommund, but I think the werewolf castle north of Termine Bay had a better atmosphere than the keep by the southwest shore." Because that is ridiculous and no large enough group will ever have experienced both worlds in their entirety for that conversation to last more than two minutes. One and a half minutes for guy A to say all that, and the next for guy B to slap him upside the head for thinking that could last as discussion.

Sep 11, 2012

Game Report-Saturday September 8

So this last game my players had to clear out this place. The Temple of Unrelenting Despair. For some warrior women who live in the desert and are tough enough that the players, being men, have to prove themselves by killing tons of orcs and returning the kidnapped women therein.

It was a long game. A good game. But a long game.

The players killed some orcs, but those orcs were tough and they found themselves out of healing spells and so tried to hole up in a room to rest.
But then the orcs came. They killed them and tried again.
But then the orcs came again. This time the orcs broke Buxby the Dog's back and killed him. But the players still survived so they tried to rest again.
But the wandering monster rolls were cruel so this time some cultists came.
The PCs consist of (by order of how long they have managed to survive):
Locke the Human Ranger
Camilo the Human Assassin
Decanus the Halfling Druid
Boone the Human Thief
and Hector the Human Paladin.
At this point both of the major damage dealers, the Ranger and the Paladin, were unconscious.
So when a couple cultists came, Boone decided to pour lamp oil over the pile of bodies that had amassed before the door and light them when the cultists come.
But these are self-flagellating orc worshipers who claim to feel no pain and jump right through the fire, taking damage and one lights on fire.
The non-flaming cultist fights while his more combustible friend gives Decanus a nice warm bear hug. Decanus catches on fire but manages to hit the dying bastard in the crotch and throw him back into the flames. But Decanus is a Halfling, so with his dying act, the non-flaming cultist picks him up and throws him into the flames.
The PCs quickly dispatch the other cultist and pull Decanus out of the fire to smother the flame.
At this point Decanus has been on fire for about five rounds and has no healing spells. My personal rule is that magically healed wounds leave no mark, but those that heal naturally leave their marks.
Decanus now has serious burns, has lost half his inventory in the fire, and looks like a raisin.

The players decide its time to leave the dungeon.

So Boone picks up Hector, and Camilo picks up Locke, and Decanus, having lost all will to live, leads the exit.

"We leave"
"Just walk out?"
"In any particular way?"
"No, we just leave"
"Well, you're leaving. You come to this door."
"We go through it."
"Just like that? You're sure?"
"Yep, we just want to get out of here"

And they walk into the room beyond the entry hall. Twenty wide by fifteen feet long. Four cultists.
They win initiative and Boone bolts for the exit door, stopping there with it open for the others, who run at max speed far out the door, sharing Locke's weight.
Cultists' turn. Boone is down, dropping Hector unconscious from his shoulders.
Camilo asks "what should we do?" Decanus says "run" and grabs Locke's body.
Camilo says no and takes Locke's bow to shoot at the cultists.
Decanus grabs Locke's body and runs out of the dungeon.
Camilo has the advantage of range and manages to take down one cultist while backing up steadily. But the cultists catch up to him and he is down.

I take Boone, Hector, and Camilo into another room and do some math.
Turns out the cultists imprison 3 out of 7 prisoners in the Temple. Being generous, that's about 45%. So that's what I gave the players. Percentile roll. Boone succeeds, Camilo succeeds, Hector fails.
The orc leader comes by and says "take the big one for the sacrifice". Hector is killed.
The other two are thrown into the prison cell.

Decanus and Locke, not knowing the fate of the others, travel to see an old friend for help who is not home. The journey there and back will take them four days.

So Boone and Camilo are thrown into the room with the other male prisoners.

Day 1: The other prisoners are too terrified to even speak to the PCs.
Boone: "Well someone has to do something. I strangle a guy."
Me: "Really?"
"Yes, I strangle someone."
"Well... he's too weak to really resist. You strangle him until he goes limp and dies."
"Okay, now I ask if anyone has something to start a fire."
"... You're all naked. Your stuff was taken. I told you that when you got here."
"... Do they have anything of value?"
"No. You just strangled a guy for no reason."
Boone's player went into fits of crazed laughter for about five minutes.

Day 2: There is a pounding on the door. All the prisoners cower against the back wall and try to shove each other forward. Camilo and Boone decide to hide.
An orc with two guards enters shouting "Which of you wants to be the sacrifice?" and grabs a famished prisoner and turns to see the players, who failed their hide checks.
"Well what have we here?" He tosses away the prisoner. "Now which one of you has volunteered himself?"
He pushes the two against opposite walls and takes one guard's spear.
Dropping it to the floor "Winner gets to live." Roll initiative.
Camilo wins initiative and grabs the spear. Boone shouts "don't kill me, man."
Camilo wins initiative again. "I don't want to kill you." "Don't kill me, man" Boone tries to grab the spear and fails.
Camilo wins again. "I don't want to kill you." Boone punches him in the face and knocks him out, since they were both at only 1 HP.
Camilo is sacrificed.

Day 3: When the knock comes this time, Boone is sure to press against the far wall and is not chosen.

Day 4: The other PCs come to rescue their friends and find only Boone remaining.

So now Hector's and Camilo's players play a half-orc (born of a captive from this very dungeon who escaped) and a human raised as brothers. A barbarian and assassin respectively. They came back for revenge on the Temple on the day I rolled randomly for them, which ended up being the same day that Decanus and Locke returned.

Then they killed lots of orcs and a tetzylwyrm to free the prisoners and lead the women out.

Where the Lillan warrior women were waiting for them and killed every rescued woman to save her from having to bear a half-orc abomination.

Sep 2, 2012

My DM Merit Badges

If you don't know what I'm talking about, check this

Stuart at Strange Magic invented some "DM Merit Badges" for FLAILSNAILS DMs. While I am not involved in any FLAILSNAILS games, I thought it was an interesting idea so here are my DM Merit Badges

I roll dice in the open and do not fudge results.
Tactics are a key element of my games.
My games are run within a fixed map.

My games contain an element of exploration and mystery.

Player death may occur in my games.
My games may contain disturbing or frightening content.

Player-vs-player is permitted in my games.

Aug 28, 2012

Music for Gaming

Those of you who have listened to my game session recordings may have heard some of this in the background, but I thought I'd share outright: some of the music I play during my games.

It took a while to figure out a pretty simple rule of playing music during games: Keep it instrumental. That's probably obvious. Words distract people.

Also, keep it interesting: modern seems to work better than classical for most groups I've seen, as you can find some weird stuff and people seem to respond to that. Also get some stuff that fills up a background, this pours noise into the empty space people might be tempted to otherwise take up with conversation that distracts from the game. The right music can instead help immersion and prevent these distractions.

First up is Explosions in the Sky. I love this band and so do most people with whom I share it. I also find that the sound and space-filling quality of post-rock consumes dead silence particularly well, without being too demanding of one's attention.

My favorite album is this one.
So Long Lonesome made a perfect soundtrack for Leonard's funeral.

Metal is another genre people often use to game with. Since I like the instrumental style of most metal, but not usually the growling/screaming singing, I like to use Deathm0le. The albums you'll hear me use are Long Songs and Amps, because I grabbed them when they were free for a bit, but the albums are right there for nice cheap download so if you don't know your local record/CD store (you're missing out) or want to spend the money, you can always download.

Also, I know some people who like to use The Sword and when one of my players brought in a record last time it seemed to work out fine, so that works too.

Anybody with suggestions let me know.

Keep on (rocking and) rolling.

Aug 27, 2012

Manditory Reading

This is Zak S

If you already knew that, a tip of the hat to you and carry on.

If not, what are you doing here? Pick a link below and come back when you've finished your mandatory reading for being a good DM and humanoid life form who blogs about games.

You can find his blog here:

The title is explained here:

Watch him run games here:

He does art which is cool and is here:

If you are easily offended... well, please just leave the internet now and make it a better place for all the rest of us.

Go read. Now.
That is all.

Aug 20, 2012

Why DMs Should Be Good Players

I touched on this in my player archetypes post, but though it may seem obvious I feel I should elaborate on one point: DMs must be good players.

I'll touch on the most obvious points first: a DM who has never played is unfamiliar with a game with whose most intimate details he should be familiar to run a smooth and successful campaign. A DM not only has to know the rules well enough to run the game, but well enough to help his players, especially those who are new to the game. A DM who has been a player knows what information is vital to a player so that this information can be taught or given early on and the player is not instead frontloaded with mountains of information he cannot process all at once.
I've heard it said, and I find it a sound measure for a DM's success, that the only thing a player should ever have to know about the rules is what die to roll to do what he wants. The rest is, though often beneficial, optional.
A DM who knows his game well is able to take the weight of the rulebooks off his players' shoulders so that interactions can be streamlined to "This is what is happening, what would you like to do? ... roll a dX, add Y".
A DM who has played knows that flipping through books can cripple suspension of disbelief, since in real life all we have to do is see whats going on, decide what we want to do, and do it. Many players like to know mechanics, but those who simply want to act should be able to do so.
This is simply an example of the underlying principle behind being a good player: a DM who plays well knows the importance of his decision and style.

A DM who plays well also knows who he wants to play with.
The main point of my archetype post was to outline with what kind of players it is generally desirable to play. Well, no one knows that better than those who have played, and have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly side of dice-rolling geeks. A DM who has played knows who he wants to play with, and can make this decision on behalf of his group, abiding by the Golden Rule in assuming no one wants to suffer through the same shouters and whiners et cetera that used to bother him.

A good DM-player knows what is fun and also how to tell when something is not fun.
When people are complaining that something sucks, no matter how much you loved the idea, it probably sucks. You'll think they'll hold out and be glad for the fun part, but would you have? Maybe, maybe not, but try to keep in mind. Most of us have played through good and bad DMing and know what its like.

In fact, very few of these points are revolutionary because they all revolve around the same idea:
DM as you want to be DMed. Our own iteration of a rule reiterated in every culture across all of time.*

In very brief, to save you a much longer post in which one would be hard-pressed to fit an idea that has not been stated before:
DMs, play your game. Play it a lot. Love it. Because if you don't, you shouldn't be running it. Why would you expect your players to love something you didn't? Unless you don't expect them to like it either, in which case you're running a deliberately mediocre game and you should never touch the dice again.
Take what you've learned by playing and don't ever forget it for a second while you create exactly the kind of campaign you want to play, and hopefully some other people will too.
Because if you have the talent, you should be writing the book you want to read, making the movie you want to see, singing the song you want to hear, and as a DM: creating the world you want to inhabit for a few hours every week. Anything less is choosing to do less than you can and if that's the case, why are you choosing to do the thing in the first place? Go ride a bike or pet a kitten instead.
A do it the best! Pet the crap out of that kitten.

Good luck and keep rolling.

Aug 17, 2012

Some Free Pictures

I've read recently about how some bloggers have been getting in trouble for using pictures they do not exactly own, even when due credit is given and no claim is made as far as ownership of the pictures.

You can read about that here, here, and here,  but aside from spreading the word, I wanted to share a few pictures I recently took to replace my old blog background (as some may have noticed) and let you know that anyone who wants may use them.
These pictures are my own, taken by me this very morning and I claim no copyright to them. If you need a picture to go with anything about DnD or games, feel free to copy. A link back to this blog would be appreciated, since publicity is always nice, but I make no demands.

Let me know in the comments if any of these are useful.

So keep rolling and good luck staying out of copyright trouble, I hope someone gets some use out of these.

Jul 28, 2012

Session One: The Siege

My group has begun recording our sessions to post here on the blog in what I imagine as a sort of podcast. In this recording the group attempts with a small hobbit army to siege a castle to save their friends Leonard the hobbit who is imprisoned inside.

I hope you enjoy. The videos embedded contain only audio. If anyone knows how to post only the audio, please say so in the comments and I will do that in the future.

Part One: The Prep (Also entirely skippable if you want to go straight to the siege)
Part Two: I kick it with my energy legs!
Part Three: I already died once
Part Four: Its like a season ender in my mind!

Jul 27, 2012

Useful Charts Part1: Hit Charts

Basic Hit Chart
This is the hit chart I use most often. Quick and includes hit locations for which you can improv effects or none. Nice and easy.

1 Head
2-3 Shoulders
4 Upper Main Arm
5 Upper Off Arm
6 Main Hand
7 Off Hand
8-10 Ribs
11-12 Stomach
13 Groin
14 Left Leg
15 Right Leg
16 Left Knee
17 Right Knee
18 Left Foot
19 Right Foot
20 Hip

Complex Hit Chart
I was bored and drew up this chart on vacation once. It takes a bit more time, but if you like the special effects and that sort of thing, I think it works pretty well. I've been toying with it for a while and it seems to go well.

Bladed Weapons (M=Minor Damage Effect, S=Severe Damage Effect, C=Critical Damage Effect)

 1-5 Head  S=Stunned 1rd  C=unconscious, bleeding 1d4/rd
6 L Eye  S=Blinded by blood, 1rd to wipe away  C=Lose eye
7 R Eye  S=Blinded by blood, 1rd to wipe away  C=Lose eye
8 L Ear  S=Deaf 1d4rds  C=Lose ear
9 R Ear  S=Deaf 1d4rds  C=Lose ear
10-11 Nose  C=Lose nose
12-14 Jaw  C=Joker smile, lose tongue
15-19 Neck  M=Bleeding 1/rd  S=Bleeding 1d4/rd  C=Bleeding 2d6/rd
20-23 L Shoulder  S= -1 to hit  C=Arm useless
24-27 R Shoulder  S= -1 to hit  C=Arm useless
28-32 L Bicep/Tricep  S= -1 to hit  C=Arm useless
33-37 R Bicep/Tricep  S= -1 to hit  C=Arm useless
38-42 L Forearm  S=Drop weapon  C=Hand useless, 10% to lose hand
43-47 R Forearm  S=Drop weapon  C=Hand useless, 10% to lose hand
48-50 L Hand  M=Drop weapon  S=Can't hold weapon  C=Lose Finger
51-53 R Hand  M=Drop weapon  S=Can't hold weapon  C=Lose Finger
54-60 Ribs  S=Punctured lung, -1Con/rd  C=In the heart, -1d6Con/rd
61-66 Stomach/Kidneys  S=Internal bleeding 1d4/rd  C= -1Con, bleeding 1d6/rd
67-71 Groin/Hip  M=Stunned 1rd/-normal-  S=Stunned 1rd/ -1 move  C=Castrated/move halved
72-76 Upper L Leg  S= -1move  C=Move Halved
77-81 Upper R Leg  S= -1move  C=Move Halved
82-83 L Knee  S= -1move  C=Move Halved
84-85 R Knee  S= -1move  C=Move Halved
86-89 Lower L Leg  S= -1move  C=Move Halved
90-93 Lower R Leg  S= -1move  C=Move Halved
94-96 L Foot  S=No Dex bonus to AC  C=No Dex bonus, move halved
97-99 R Foot  S=No Dex bonus to AC  C=No Dex bonus, move halved
100 Special  M=Roll Twice  S=Roll again and cause bleeding 1/rd  C=Roll again and lose limb

Blunt Weapons

 1-5 Head  M=Stunned 1rd  S=Stunned 1d4  C=Unconscious 1d6rds
6 L Eye  M=Stunned 1rd  S=Stunned 1d4  C=Eye popped in/out
7 R Eye  M=Stunned 1rd  S=Stunned 1d4  C=Eye popped in/out
8 L Ear  M=Deaf 1d4rd  S=Deaf 1d4  C=Burst eardrum
9 R Ear  M=Deaf 1d4rd  S=Deaf 1d4  C=Burst eardrum
10-11 Nose M=Broken  S= Broken  C=Broken, Con vs unconscious
12-14 Jaw  M=Cannot speak 1rd  S=Broken  C=Broken, Con vs unconscious
15-19 Neck  M=Stunned 1rd  S=Stunned 1d4  C=Broken, paralysis
20-23 L Shoulder  S=-1 to hit  C=Broken, useless
24-27 R Shoulder  S=-1 to hit  C=Broken, useless
28-32 L Bicep/Tricep  S=-1 to hit  C=Broken, useless
33-37 R Bicep/Tricep  S=-1 to hit  C=Broken, useless
38-42 L Forearm  S=-1 to hit  C=Broken, useless
43-47 R Forearm  S=-1 to hit  C=Broken, useless
48-50 L Hand  M=Drop weapon  S=Hand broken  C=Broken and useless
51-53 R Hand  M=Drop weapon  S=Hand broken  C=Broken and useless
54-60 Ribs  C= -2 to all checks, internal bleeding 1/rd
61-66 Stomach/Kidneys  S= -1 Con  C=Internal bleeding 1/rd -1Con
67-71 Groin/Hip  M=Stun 1rd/-normal-  S=Stun 1d4rd/ -1 move  C=Con vs vomit/move halved
72-76 Upper L Leg  S= -1 move  C=move is 1/rd, no Dex bonus to AC
77-81 Upper R Leg  S= -1 move  C=move is 1/rd, no Dex bonus to AC
82-83 L Knee  S= -1 move  C=move is 1/rd, no Dex bonus to AC
84-85 R Knee  S= -1 move  C=move is 1/rd, no Dex bonus to AC
86-89 Lower L Leg  S= -1 move  C=move is 1/rd, no Dex bonus to AC
90-93 Lower R Leg  S= -1 move  C=move is 1/rd, no Dex bonus to AC
94-96 L Foot  S= Broken, no Dex bonus to AC, -1 move  C=Move is 1, no Dex bonus to AC
97-99 R Foot   S= Broken, no Dex bonus to AC, -1 move  C=Move is 1, no Dex bonus to AC
100 Special  M=Roll twice  S=Deaden muscle 1rd  C=Sever break: broken limbs require double heal

Ridiculous Hit Chart
In my defense, I was critically bored. This chart was simply for the sake of creating a 1d100 hit chart, and I don't use it. I imagine maybe you could implement it for gunshots or if you are just insane.

1 Brain, L hemisphere
2 Brain, R Hemishpere
3 Eye, L
4 Eye, R
5 Nose
6 Ear, L
7 Ear, R
8 Teeth
9 Jaw
10 Throat
11 Jugular/corotid
12 Spine, upper
13 Spine, mid
14 Spine, lower
15 Collar
16 Shoulder, L
17 Shoulder, R
18 Bicep, L
19 Bicep, R
20 Tricep, L
21 Tricep, R
22 Elbow L
23 Elbow R
24 Forearm L
25 Forearm R
26 Wrist L
27 Wrist R
28 Thumb L
29 Index L
30 Middle L
31 Ring L
32 Little L
33 Thumb R
34 Index R
35 Middle R
36 Ring R
37 Little L
38 Heart
39 Lung L
40 Lung R
41 Liver
42 Kidney L
43 Kidney R
44 Intestine
45 Chest L (no organs)
46 Chest R (no organs)
47 Ribs, L top
48 Ribs, R top
49 Midsection (no organs)
50 Hip L
51 Hip R
52 Tailbone
53 Genital R
54 Genital L
55 Groin
56 Hamstring L
57 Hamstring R
58 Quads L
59 Quads R
60 Knee L front
61 Knee R front
62 Shin L
63 Shin R
64 Calf L
65 Calf R
66 Ankle L
67 Ankle R
68 Heel L
69 Heel R
70 Foot L
71 Foot R
72 Big L
73 2nd L
74 3rd L
75 4th L
76 5th L
77 Big R
78 2nd R
79 3rd R
80 4th R
81 5th R
82 Buttock L
83 Buttock R
84 Appendix
85 Ribs L lower
86 Ribs R lower
87 Genital middle
88 Temple
89 Achilles tendon R
90 Achilles tendon L
91 Knee L back
92 Knee R back
93 Palm L
94 Palm R
95 Head, back
96 Shoulder blade L
97 Shoulder blade R
98 Stomach
99 Cheek bone L
00 Cheek bone R 

Let me know in the comments what kind of hit charts, if any, you use and if any of these were of help to you.

Good luck and keep rolling,

Jun 27, 2012

Luck- Our very own Demon and Patron Saint

Doomsday Arcade Episode 19 provides us with an interesting depiction of the forces behind the very game we play.

Jerry's Map

Jerry's Map from Jerry Gretzinger on Vimeo.

Beauty in the pure joy of creation.
Having done a lot of work on my own maps lately, I found this particular video inspiring and can feel the temptation to begin mapping and never stop.

Player Archetypes: Archetypes of the Constructive Party

Okay, after a long time away I'm looking to give you guys a new series: Player Archetypes.

Player Archetypes are exactly that: the kinds of players you can find around the table.

In this article I will address Positive or Constructive Archetypes, the kinds of players you want to see at your games. The ones who enrich the gaming experience and lead to a fun and successful campaign.
I have narrowed the basics down to four essential archetypes:
  • The Planner
  • The Fighter
  • The Actor
  • The Explorer
The Planner
What is it? The Planner is what it sounds. The Planner considers all options and formulates plans of action that are most likely to lead to success.

What role does the Planner play in my party? The Planner is often the leader of both the players and the characters. The Planner organizes and directs the party in combat or strategic situations where teamwork is required.
The Planner is the strategic core of the party. To have an outgoing leader is the best as he will not shy away from taking the lead or giving orders to the party.

Identifying the Planner The Planner often seeks a broad knowledge of the rules to use them in strategy. The Planner is the player that asks questions about rules and mechanics. The Planner keeps careful inventory of all items and spells and can often be found reading through his list before any significant encounter.

How to entertain and reward a Planner The Planner is helpful to the party in mundane situations, but absolutely instrumental when the challenge ramps up. Because he will be needed, it is important to show the Planner that his skills are necessary. Not every adventure requires careful planning, but if it can be added, try to place a little bonus for those who think. This is good policy anyway, as it keeps players on their toes and always thinking, but in the case of a Planner, it keeps him in his capacity. A Planner who does not believe his thought necessary eventually leaves this role behind in addition to becoming bored. Then when the party needs him the most, the Planner is out of practice, unused to this level of depth and the whole party suffers without his ability to find and shape solutions.

The Fighter
It would seem that the opposite of a positive archetype would be detrimental, yes? But in fact the Fighter, as the antithesis of the Planner, is still instrumental to the group.

What is it? The fighter is you're party's... well, fighter. Or barbarian. Maybe even brash paladin. The Fighter is the only archetype that can usually be tied to a specific in-game class. The fighter is the character who simply acts. When tensions build, the fighter acts first, usually in a violent or angry outburst. Now, note that in this case I mean within the context of the game. To have a violent or angry player is an intensely detrimental thing and I do not mean to suggest otherwise. I simply mean that the fighter is the man of action who leads with an outthrust jaw and the point of a blade, not with tediously marked plans (in most cases; I did have a fighter once draw out a map of the siege of a fort but this was, of course, the siege of a fort). He is always found on the front lines axe/sword/hammer swinging.

What purpose does a Fighter serve? The Fighter is an instrument of chaos. In a recent game my players, cornered by guards to be arrested, turned to each other and started to form alibis, lies, quick responses to hurling accusations, hurriedly tossing plans about, when out of nowhere our fighter shouts "I attack!"
As the whole party cries out and the die cracks against the tabletop, I could only smile. Sure, the party could have talked their way out of the arrest. In fact, they still did in the end. But with a good Fighter things never quite go as planned. To a Planner, this is often chaos. To most players and a skilled DM, this is fun. I could see from the beginning that the players would talk their way out and escape. The Fighter keeps me on my toes. He throws the game into new directions when plans net it down into certainty. We keep dice in our hands and pockets and bags because we play a game of chaos. A Fighter ensures that we don't forget this.
A Fighter also adds pacing. More than likely your game has suffered slowdowns. A Fighter urges the players to action. A Fighter usually has a brief tolerance for the mundane before comes the familiar cry "Let's fight stuff". The antithesis of the Planner keeps a game from becoming all planning and prep. Fighters keep the game moving.

How to entertain a fighter The fighter is generally an easy player to please: give 'em monsters! Not wildly, not willy-nilly, but be sure to keep fights fresh and challenging.

The risks of the Fighter I would say that every table needs a Fighter. A Fighter. In large groups maybe two, but there should never be many Fighters. Too many Fighters, being of strong personality, threaten control of a party. When Fighters control a party, it can quickly become nothing but dungeon crawl. Sometimes this is okay, but most DMs want to run other adventures, dabble in riddles or intrigue, string together extended plots. My Fighter is often found asking "Why are we doing this?", half joking and half having forgotten or lost interest. Fighters are necessary to keep the party going, but Fighters in control severely limit a DM.

The Actor
What is it? We all know that there is a particular facet of DnD referred to as roleplaying that many find optional. Less so for a DM than for others but in either case. For the Actor, roleplaying is the central attraction of DnD. The Actor creates character back stories and creates a persona for his character. The Actor interacts with every NPC, and can also often play a leadership role when communicating with NPCs in social context.

What purpose does the Actor serve? Mechanically speaking, an actor is not necessary. But then we all know this is a game beyond mechanics. The purpose of an Actor? Fun. And depth. The Actor treats the game world as a real place, interacting with it as a real person, doing things that may not be necessary, but that "his character would do" (more on this later). The Actor draws the other players into this illusion of a real world, pulling them under his veil of boundless suspension of disbelief. The Actor has the strongest imagination and the fun one can have with this is contagious, drawing everyone into a deeper experience.

Dangers of the Actor The following is more a danger of someone who may seem to be an Actor than someone who truly is. Someone who claims to be a strong actor may fall into the habit of detrimental behavior, throwing it behind that infamous shield of "that's what my character would do".
When players agreed to start a campaign together, though, they made a sort of pact, whether spoken or unspoken, that they would play a certain kind of game. I encourage you to read this article for more on that idea of a game-style pact.

How to entertain an actor The actor's main function and joy comes from social interaction. Mechanically speaking, though, in a game of dice and numbers it is easy to fall into purely by-the-rules play where social graces are useless and the charisma roll decides all.
My biggest piece of advice for this? Scrub the charisma roll. Charisma as a stat has its purposes, especially if you look back on the OD&D ruleset with its role in hiring companions, loyalty, etc, but nowhere there does it say that it was meant to decide all social interaction, as many use it today. Worst of all perhaps is the "bluff roll". I know of a campaign in which a level one player was able to convince a priest of his Godhood because of a "bluff roll".
But the opposite is broken as well, where the most perfectly crafted alibis fail because a roll of the dice said so.
This is where we have to intervene with common sense. If a player wants to convince the Elf King of his need to pay a band of warriors tons of money to clear out the gnoll cave, make them do it. If a player stands on the table in a Dwarven mead hall and gives a fifteen minute rallying speech on patriotism and defending one's lands to raise an army (true story) then he has his army, screw the dice.
Reward roleplaying and above all use common sense. Trained interrogators have been shown to be able to detect lies only 60-70% of the time, but people aren't idiots either. And if players have spent half an hour weaving the story that will keep them from being arrested, reward their effort. Cutting them down will only make them stop after a time and however rough a DM you are you still need someone to talk back when you start doing your best goblin voice. Otherwise you just look like an idiot.

The Explorer
What is it? The Explorer is the curious one. The Explorer is the player who has reached the treasure room and defeated the dragon, but still wants to double back to check that one tunnel you missed, just in case there's something interesting. The Explorer asks questions in-game, not like a Planner to gather information, but just for the sake of knowing. Chances are the Explorer is a heavy reader; Tolkien, Frank Herbert, all that stuff.

What role does the Explorer play? The Explorer is the player who makes sure your time spent carefully planning and mapping doesn't go to waste. The Explorer keeps a DM sharp, making sure he knows his world well and has planned enough to satisfy every curiosity. Chances are the Explorer facilitates the Actor and the Planner, digging up new depths for the Actor to explore in reacting to new developments, pulling up new information for the Planner to sort into new strategies.
Oh, and all the extra searching probably finds the players some new shiny/glowy/magical toys to blow up your monsters with.

Dangers of the Explorer The Explorer really should not present much danger to a prepared and talented DM. A DM who has everything planned and sorted out has nothing to fear. However, the Explorer can make it difficult to improvise sessions or run a game with minimal planning, as he will often be looking to scratch more than the surface of your frantically unfurling ideas.

How to entertain the Explorer. Simple: Plan. Take the simple joy of creating a world and run wild with it. Tolkien spent nearly his entire professional life writing the Silmarillion, simply for the sake of explaining his world, adding a depth that many of us can only dream of having in a game.
You don't have to write a thousand pages, but have most of your game world plotted out in advance, maybe write a history, know the story behind everything you have in your game. I've found it extremely helpful to keep a sort of atlas. Map out your game world, mark locations, and write at least on page about each, if not a map. The depth of your game explodes with just these small actions.

Now, most good players you encounter will be a combination of these archetypes. Only the Planner and Fighter are rarely found together.
The problem comes more when you find a player that cannot be identified as any of these roles. This may be a problem, but more on that next when I'll discuss negative archetypes.

How do you use this information as a DM?
  • Pick your players well. To have a positive playing group can make all the difference in a campaign, and even in a single game. You may have to have a smaller party, but it can be worth it for the rewards that follow.
  • Know who you are DMing for. It is the DMs job to run a game where everyone has a chance to enjoy the campaign together and in their own ways. We play DnD in a world where we get to be heroes, and each archetype achieves that in a different and specific personal way as well as with the group. Play to every archetype, and everyone comes away happy.
  • A DM has to be a little bit of each of these. Know the archetypes because in addition to playing to them, you will have to play as them. A DM as an Actor has to be thousands of people over the course of a campaign, jumping from NPC to NPC and hopefully making each feel like a distinct personality. A DM as a Fighter must be willing to cut the crap from time to time and keep the game moving, cutting dialogue short or hurrying players through their actions to keep the flurry of combat in high gear. A DM as an Explorer must as all the questions of his own game world that a player could want to know, or even that he himself wonders. A DM as Planner has to be willing to painstakingly fill those wholes the Explorer digs up, seeing all the plans and options and being able to prepare for all the unpredictabilities of the players. And even then they will find the one thing for which you weren't prepared.
Good luck and keep rolling,

Apr 26, 2012


I have made a recent discovery:

The Play Generated Map and Document Archive

" PlaGMaDA's mission is to preserve, present, and interpret play generated cultural artifacts, namely manuscripts and drawings created to communicate a shared imaginative space."

To a community of of people who enjoy such a "shared imaginative space",  the value of such a site is readily apparent on at least one level: Free ideas!

But on a different note we now have a, though currently limited, space in which to share our collective works and concepts for all to see and judge and interpret.

Surely there may have been similar projects in the past, but I feel that we owe it to every such project hoping to advance and preserve our hobby of the simple joy of imagination to spread the word and do what we can for that project's success.

"By fostering discussion and educating the public, it is hoped that the folkways which generate these documents can be encouraged and preserved for future generations"

So long story short, check it out!

Mar 28, 2012

The Dungeon Dozen

I have recently discovered a blog that even from a cursory glance I cannot recommend enough. This blogger has been doing for a while a lot of what I in part intended this blog for: tons and tons of charts. So if you like random tables and a bit of the absurd, definitely check out The Dungeon Dozen

Mar 18, 2012

My Houserules

It's been a while since my last post so I decided to take some time out of a busy weekend to write about my house rules, most of which have come from fellow bloggers whose sites may be found over on that side bar over there. They're pretty awesome people, check 'em out.

Rules I Got From Other Cool Blogger Dudes Or Otherwise Not From My Own Head
The Splintering Shield Rule, by Trollsmyth, which I found in Telecanter's handy dandy house rules pdf.
- The splintering shield rule simply states that a combatant may choose to sacrifice a wooden shield in a hasty block to avoid taking damage. The shield then splinters and is useless.
-My Changes: I have extended this rule to all shields, since a metal shield could also be dented or warped beyond utility, and because if not, my players would simply carry only wooden shields and I don't think it makes sense for weaker shield to be more useful. I also demand that my players declare that they will take this action before I tell them how much damage is dealt, which adds a certain element of a gamble to the move. Since this is a new rule to my game, I think I may also never tell them how much damage was actually dealt, just to make them question the worth of this action.

Zac S's Called Shot Mechanic, the basic gist of which is that a player can decide the likelihood of success on his own called shot, but must accept the same chance as failure. A player can say he wants to chop the head off an ogre on a natural 11-20 (max chance), but he then has to accept that on a 1-10 he will behead his adjacent buddy, or something less gruesome if you are a kinder DM.
I must admit I only saw this mechanic today and will be testing it soon, but have yet to actually see it in action.

The mana system (for which I found numbers in the Castles and Crusades DMG [yeah, I know they don't call it that, but that's what it is]). At this point I know I'll have some people angry that I claim to run a sort of old school game with this system, but I will say in response that at some point you have to make concessions to the players. I have no problem with the Vancian system of magic, but if you have a set of players who, no matter how good or otherwise old-school, despise Vancian magic, its okay to make a minor change, it doesn't make you a pushover DM to allow the players to have something their way in the interest of fun. In any game with house rules you are changing the game (hopefully) in the interest of making it more fun. So where as in this case balance holds up, I accept the mana rule and carry on, everyone seems to like it and it is a little faster than checking your slots for each fight, which works since I like to keep battle frantic.

My Own Rules
Most of these have to do with the nature of magic, since in my game magic is a very rare and mysterious thing, and its nature is unknown to most.

Sacrifice Rule (Part from that same DMG, changed a bit on my own) : a player may sacrifice one point from health and each attribute in exchange for a single point of mana. The player may do this until losing consciousness from loss of health or until an attribute is reduced to 1 point. One point is recovered to health and each attribute per day until all are recovered. No magical means can otherwise recover points sacrificed until all are regained.

Magical Items in my game have a mysterious nature to them: I will not tell players the powers of a magic item, and they often have many if used in different ways. The players must discover these powers and when they have learned them all the magic item will tell them its name (not literally as in speaking, but they will come to know its name, as a suggestion of a thought).

Examine Magic Item is, to help the process of identifying an item, an ability granted to wizards and illusionists to spend 24 continuous hours examining a magic item to glean some hint of its powers. This hint can be in the form of images seen like a vision or of a word that suggest the effect.

Critical Fail is by no means my own rule, but I can not trace it to any one specific source. Anyone who has played dnd probably knows this, but I have heard of people not using it. A natural 1 on a d20, just as a 20 is a total success, indicates catastrophic failure, usually hitting an adjacent ally with your failed sword swing or dropping a weapon, but really only limited to the DM's cruelty and imagination.

Hit Chart. I have a hit chart that I use when I feel like it or when combat gets dull or when the players ask about it. As opposed to standard hitting and dealing damage it can spice things up, but I don't obsess over using it constantly. My hit location chart has no specific effects for hitting certain areas of the body, so it becomes a creative exercise to think of interesting effects based on the situation. Again, I'm not strict about this rule, it is really just to excite players when simple damage seems to leave some of them disinterested.

I plan soon on unveiling to my players a new property of magic that has been long in the making. I am very excited for this rule and will doubtless have a post devoted to it later, but I cannot reveal it here because of my players who may be reading this post. Those players who know me well would do well to be very afraid. Those who know me better can picture the sinister smile on my face as I just think about it.

Mar 5, 2012

Did you know? (And other crazy ideas)

Did you know that there were female gladiators back in good ol' Rome? Gladiatrices, they were called (from the singular Gladiatrix) and they fought dwarves. Yes, dwarves.

Did you also know that giraffes are crazy ninjas? Its true

Do you know where I get a lot of my gaming ideas?

From crazy stuff like that. Observe:
(Please excuse the low quality. My scanner isn't working and so these are taken with my phone's low-rez camera)

And what from this can I use?
Giraffe-men as a new monster?
Perhaps some arena games?
A band of female warriors?
A band of dwarves?
Female dwarves?
Could the dwarf-eraffes be intelligent and have a city?
Are we dealing with a whole new race?

In truth most of these ideas may never amount to anything, but its a nice exercise: just jam a few things together (I usually do three) and see what ideas you can get out of it.

Here are a few examples:

A flying mermaid. That eats shoes. Why?

My players wanted some hints as to what they might expect. Simply as an example of something ridiculous I blurted out the first thing to come to mind. A ____ ____ that does ____? A flying mermaid that eats shoes.

One of these days I'm probably due at the psychiatrist's.

Other sources of inspiration?

This one came from staring at Iron & Wine's Shepherd's Dog album cover. If you haven't seen it, I'll let you know it is a little creepy. So what better to do with an unnerving picture than to make it even more disturbing?
"More disturbing" should be my DM's motto...
Some sketches that work their way into my game aren't even intended for the table. Here I just wanted to draw some robots.
And these ended up as the dwarven automaton my players had to deal with last session. (Did I say deal with? I meant avoid in terror)

Oh, and the dwarf that came along with that dungeon:
So what may seem (or may be) an excuse to throw some pages of my sketchbook out there I really mean as an exercise in generating ideas, however absurd. So go and draw, or just pin words to a board and hurl some darts. Blurt out nonsense, or write down that disorganized gibberish that pours out of your brain when you first wake up.

Have ideas, people. You're free to steal mine but I'm afraid I can only manage to squeeze so many through the crack under the door of this homework dungeon.

Good luck and keep rolling.

Mar 4, 2012

Heroes are Extremists (Part Four: Evil)

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

An evil hero!? Gasp, oh dear, my brain has exploded!
... Is what you may be thinking, having seen my series so far and knowing I intend to provide both antagonists and protagonists on all ends of the alignment spectrum.
... Or you already read my segment on good antagonists and knew this was coming all along. Either way here is is: the final segment of my rant of daikaiju-esque proportions.

The evil character, on my handy Axis of Intent, is a character who, opposite the selfless good, serves only his own interests, often at the expense of others, who are if not tools only obstacles for the evil character.

Lawful Evil- my dad, himself Dungeon Master "back in the day", always defined the seemingly paradoxical lawful evil as a politician, and though I didn't quite understand as a kid, it seems now an apt description. The lawful evil can easily be a villain; taking the system we depend on every day and twisting it to his own advantage. The lawful evil is the scheming banker who can't be charged for slipping expensive agreements into your contract, the attorney who admits no evidence against his client because he can work the technicalities to make it inadmissible. The lawful evil is difficult to pin down because his greed and ruthlessness are all woven perfectly into an unbeatable system. Action against him is nearly impossible through the web of bureaucracy, and even then he has broken no laws.

This same character can be our ruthless protagonist if pitted against his own kind. As much as we may dislike this character, we for the same reason like seeing his kind get screwed, and who better to do it than the lawful evil himself? Sure, he is only helping himself, but that hardly matters when a corrupt industry collapses under the pen of our grinning anti-hero. Not quite a hero, but certainly a compelling protagonist.

Neutral Evil- The neutral evil is an average guy who looks out only for himself, not caring who he hurts along the way. This character is too moderate to be hero or villain, but in any case is easily an antagonist.

The only way to make this character compelling as a protagonist is to show us how he changes. No example comes to mind right now, but I'm sure someone in the comments can provide a clever allusion. By providing us with a cruel character, we want to follow him to see how he will change, how our values will prevail and he will see that he is wrong.

Chaotic Evil- The chaotic is the classic uber-villain. This character has no rules, and no regard for others. This character uses others as tools for his own gain and destroys those who have become an impediment to his goal. The most recent (and extreme) example of this character in popular media is Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight, and it takes little explanation to see exactly what I mean in that case.

But even in the farthest corner there are protagonists, and those who some would call heroes. I mentioned earlier The Road Warrior, but this applies to many post-apocalyptic settings: the protagonist at the end of the world is chaotic evil. A character who is alone in a world with no resources has only himself to look after, and by my own alignment definition is therefor evil. Max needed his gas, and without that need would have continued his morose wanderings and left those nice people to die. There are no laws by which to abide and therefor he can only be chaotic, having not even his own rules to follow.

For an example less steeped in technicality, let's consider Whedon's amazing Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog. Dr Horrible is obviously a villain, or so he claims. He is a criminal, landing him in chaotic territory, and who else is he acting for? He wants his own prestige to join the League, and has few other goals. So a villain, or at least an antagonist, right? Then why is it our hearts sink when [Spoiler Warning] Penny dies?
Because even in these qualities we saw Dr Horrible as a hero. The super "hero" was a jerk and Horrible deserved the girl, and in his love we could see our own values, so that the slightest flaw in his evil was enough to make us a hero of him.
Examples in graphic.

The evil alignment holds mostly villains and almost never heroes, but that never means such a thing is impossible. You can see that a well- worked character can come from anywhere and, with variety as the spice of life, you owe it to your players to toss in all sorts of enemies and allies. Make them question their morals, or give them ample reason to break some face; either way, show them not every baddie is just a punching bag and not every partner is just an especially fleshy shield.

Heroes are Extremists (Part Three: Neutral)

Part One
Part Two

A neutral character, on the Axis of Intent, is one who does not actively try to save or harm anyone, or who looks out for those within his own sphere of family or friends or teammates. On the Axis of Means this character is neither lawful or chaotic; he believes in the necessity of some laws, but is willing to break others when the situation requires.

Lawful Neutral- I have claimed on occasion that the average person is lawful neutral: you don't speed but in a hurry may go what is "safely" a bit over the limit, you probably pass by the begging homeless man but you wouldn't kick him either, you dutifully pay your bills and fill out your paperwork, like it or not. Obviously the average person still leaves a lot of room for various personalities. The lawful neutral doesn't care enough to be evil or good, but doesn't want to get arrested and so follows the law. No heroes or villains here, but this person can be a helpful nice guy protagonist or an antagonistic obstacle through inaction.

True Neutral- The true neutrals are druids and mindless androids. The druids traditionally are devoted to the balance, and so for them pro- or antagonism depends on which way the wind blows. In a crap world where the ruling forces are evil a druid can unquestionably side with good in order to restore the balance, in a good or even nearly-balanced world things are a bit more iffy. The true neutral is difficult to make into a hero, though in said crap world this is entirely possible, and more often is a protagonist if the balance is on the players' side, or an antagonist through inaction or complacency, though unresistant and so truly just a speed bump.

Chaotic Neutral- The chaotic neutral works for the good of those he deems worthy, and screw everyone else! The chaotic neutral abides by no rules except occasionally his own. Mr. Freeze is one of my favorite Batman villains for this reason: he is not evil. He does everything he does because saving his wife is more important that the laws he breaks or the people he kills to do it. How many of us, to save a loved one, would worry about the laws that prevented us from doing so? And does this make us, as Mr Freeze, villains? This puts us on a fine line between Law and Chaos that can be fun to twist on your players.
The same character can, in this way, be portrayed as a hero. Any superhero, say Wolverine, willing to take desperate measures for his cause, maybe even kill, who does it not for the public good but for his own reasons, fits in this category.

I should say at this point that in most intents chaos is, despite its nature, a breeding ground for heroes, especially tragic heroes. Chaos speaks to us of desperation, of having to do whatever can be done, despite and laws or consequences. For those of you wondering why I insist on heroics in the middle of the spectrum, I hope this explanation suffices: everyone loves to see a hero broken down, a noble figure on the brink, and sometimes when they fall we smile through our tears because even to the end we could call them heroes, and if we couldn't, their extremism makes them villains. This, to my mind, is the compelling side of chaos.
The system so far...

Heroes are Extremists (Part Two: Good)

Find Part One here.

I'll do you all the kindness of shortening this article: I'm not going to recap, click the link above if you want to know what I'm talking about.

Good is the end of the Axis of Intent that I will cover first, the end that we all usually associate with the hero character. The good character is selfless. He will sacrifice himself for the good of the many and do whatever he can to bring justice to the world. But with a little stretch of the imagination, this character can be a hero or an antagonist.

Lawful Good- The lawful good antagonist may seem a paradox, and often it is, or at least difficult to craft well. By nature the good character is selfless and supports justice, so in this case you must use the lawful aspect to your advantage. A lawful good character must adhere to laws and codes to implement justice, and these can often be cumbersome and inefficient, which presents an obstacle if placed in opposition to the players' need for expedience, or it can simply be annoying to chaotic characters or those attempting illegal action. In any case to make what can be a heroic figure into an obstacle law's bureaucracy must be emphasized. This makes the lawful good character into a sort of speed bump or wall that antagonizes the players in their need to circumvent it, if they are good, or to destroy or avoid it if they are criminals, wherein an interesting Inspector Clouseau dynamic can be established (has anyone pulled this off in the long term? Let me know, faithful commentators). Keep in mind that this lawful good antagonist is rendered useless against strictly lawful players, who will be obliged to obey the same laws, unless they have knowledge of or means to find some loophole or technicality unknown to the protagonist.

The lawful good protagonist is much easier to create: we know him as the hero. The lawful good hero is the Captain America; the simple, unironically good guy. This hero works best in a world where all evil is crime, wherein a lawful solution is always the right one. Of course, the easy recipe for controversy is to call into question the propriety of a lawful solution: would it be alright to kill Joker for all he has done? Should you really save the terrorist from him bomb, or let him die? But beware pulling this too often, as any disillusionment ruins the lawful good character (excepting rare cases I'm sure some of you can bring up)

Neutral Good- The neutral good character still acts on behalf of the public good, but may use unusual means: not strictly lawful, but hard to pin as illegal. As a protagonist this may be the righteous protestor, but is hard to make a hero in the present time of the game. Such figures as Martin Luther King Jr. have been considered such, though, and I doubt it is impossible to create such a character.

This kind of character does present a dilemma to lawful characters, however, in that the lawful may be helpless to stop, on the basis of law, a character who is doing something potentially obstructive to public safety, like a crowded mob of strikers blocking a road, or having the potential to turn violent. In this way the leader of these groups, if control is lost and the mob turns violent, is an antagonist in his responsibility, even if it was not his intent, retaining his neutral goodness. This antagonist again is more an obstacle than an active threat, and potential for violence lies more in his followers who may not be so strictly goo or neutral.

Chaotic Good- The chaotic good character is willing to break any laws in the pursuit of justice and the public good. This can create a very intense hero or anti-hero in this capacity, but from the perspective of a lawful character, the chaotic good is a menace with a blatant disregard for the law who should allow justice to be served through the law. Many vigilante characters lie in this grey area, sometimes leaning more toward neutral. Batman promotes the system of courts and jail, but himself commits break-ins and assault to achieve this goal.
This kind of extreme do-gooder can make a compelling hero, but to J Jonah Jameson Spiderman is still a menace. At the end of The Dark Knight, Gordon still has to send the cops on Batman, because these are not the traditional heroes, and so are controversial and can be approached as either a hero, as above, or a villain. (a great example is the Teen Titans story A Kid's Game. The heroes were the Teen Titans, but Deathstroke in combating them was trying to prove their own risk, to stop more children from dying, even if he had to kill more to prove it, is he a villain? Sure, but evil? ...)
The system so far...