by roger e. moore a general ratio of one super-powered hero games/marvel...marvel dragon marvel...
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by Roger E. Moore
Much has been written about how agame referee can put together a detailedand seemingly realistic campaign worldfor fantasy role-playing games, but littlehas been said about setting up campaignworlds for games using costumedheroes. Why bother? Two of the majorheroic role-playing games on the market(the MARVEL SUPER HEROES� and DCHEROES games) come with their ownevolving universes, based on comicsfrom the two respective companies.
But what if you are using one of theother heroic game systems, such as theCHAMPIONS�, VILLAINS &VIGILANTES�, or SUPERWORLDgames? A number of referees simplycopy the Marvel or DC worlds (or both)and install them, complete with theirrespective heroes and villains, into theircampaigns. This is rather like makingevery fantasy campaign an exact copy ofMiddle Earth � which is frequentlydone, but doesn�t say much for one�soriginality.
The campaign universe you create foryour own heroes and villains can be justas good as any other. The comic bookspoint out that there are millions of alter-nate and parallel universes; your cam-paign is simply one of them. Below aresome considerations that can enlivenand deepen your heroic campaign,giving it realism that can make it last.
One caveat: This article assumes thatthe campaign you are running is similarto (but not the same as) the currentcomic-book universes. Unusual cam-paigns based upon alien, magical, orlost-atomic worlds will have to be dealtwith in another article, though some ofthe guidelines given here would alsoapply to them. Campaigns not based inor around North America will also bedealt with elsewhere.
How many non-player heroes and vil-lains are there in your campaign? Forthe sake of argument, it helps to assume
a general ratio of one super-poweredcharacter coming to life for every onemillion citizens in a particular countryor region. This proves to be a very con-venient figure; by this reckoning, theUnited States of America should have232 super-powered heroes and villainsof every sort. This compares nicely withthe numbers of heroes and villains fromthe major comics worlds.
The 1:1,000,000 ratio is fine, but itimplies all sorts of surprising things.Canada should have 24 super charac-ters, Australia 15, New Zealand 3, andthe United Kingdom 56 (5 of them Scots-men). Also, by this reasoning, the SovietUnion should have about 270 super-powered characters, and mainlandChina has 1,008! Okay, you could have acampaign in which China�s super-forcedominates the world, but for now, we�llfocus on North American campaigns.
Super-characters can usually be classi-fied into the following individual cata-gories: trained athlete, inventive genius,altered human, natural mutant, mythicbeing, technology-augmented hero,artifical being (like robots and androids),sorcerer, alien, and assorted non-humans. It stands to reason that moreadvanced nations have a better chanceof having heroes and villains who usepowered armor and other high-techdevices. Heroic training programs wouldbe better funded, and better communi-cations and transportation would bene-fit the development of super-groups.Money is power, and money meansmore super-types.
Mythic, legendary, sorcerous, andalien characters could still appear fromunderdeveloped countries, joined by afew highly trained geniuses, detectives,athletes, and a rare hightech hero orvillain, perhaps produced as part of asecret government project. Underdevel-oped nations often have poor medicalcare, which would affect the survivalrate of both heroes and villains. Onewould thus expect that few super-characters would come from theseplaces, perhaps only one per five or tenmillion people.
An almanac gives a clearer picture ofwhich countries would be consideredunderdeveloped. With references to aNorth American campaign, Haiti usuallyappears to be the worst off, and coun-tries like Trinidad and Costa Rica seemto be doing rather well, though they arenot in the same economic league asCanada and the United States. Mexico,with its high population, should havemany super types, whether oneconsiders it underdeveloped or not.
In any nation, political considerationscould also affect the appearance ofsuper-characters. An anti-governmenthero might be quickly captured andkilled by the armed forces; an anti-mutant government might kill off allpersons with strange powers. Develop-ment of these aspects of the world areleft to the referee to resolve.
D R A G O N 7 7
Using an almanac listing various coun-tries and their populations, the followingtable was developed for determining thenumbers of super-beings in the vicinityof North America. Each country is listedwith the number of millions of peoplewho live there, equal to the number ofsuper-powered characters who wouldalso live there (based on the 1:1,000,000ratio). As noted above, underdevelopedcountries might have fewer heroes andvillains than these numbers indicate.
Canada 24.4Costa Rica 2.3Cuba 9.8Dominican Republic 5.7El Salvador 5.0Guatemala 7.7Haiti 6.1Honduras 4.0Jamaica 2.2Mexico 71.3Nicaragua 2.6Panama 1.9Trinidad and Tobago 1.1United States 232.0*
* � Includes Puerto Rico, which wouldhave 3.1 super-characters originatingfrom it.
There are some eye-openers in theabove chart. Most people will automati-cally think of America and Canada assuper-character homelands, but Mexicovirtually begs for heroic representation.A few heroes and villains would bescattered across Central America andthe Caribbean, and Cuba is the largest ofthese minor hero-producers. Do someparticular scenarios suggest themselveshere?
It was assumed that the followingcountries and foreign territories had nosuper-powered beings associated withthem, because of their low populationfigures: Antigua and Barbuda, the Baha-mas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, BritishWest Indes, Greenland, Dominica,Grenada, Guadeloupe, Iceland, Marti-nique, Saint Lucia, St. Pierre andMiquelon, and Saint Vincent and theGrenadines. Of course, if you want ahero from one of these places in yourcampaign, you can have one. It�s yourcampaign, and Grenada would probablyappreciate the thought.
It is worthwhile to divide further thelargest countries into their variousmajor territorial possessions and states.Most Canadian super-powered charac-ters should hail from Ontario and Que-bec; most American characters ought tocall California, New York, Texas, Pennsyl
78 MARCH 1986
vania, Illinois, and Ohio their homestates. Special heroes and villains couldcome from areas with low populations,such as the Northwest Territories,Alaska, and Wyoming, but these shouldbe relatively rare.
Particular ethnic groups should beaccounted for in any grouping of heroesand villains. An almanac reveals that youcould expect to find about 26.5 blackand 14.6 Hispanic super-characters inthe United States (excluding PuertoRico). Discrimination could alter theseproportions, of course. Male and femalecharacters would be equally repre-sented in all categories, unless you feelthat selective discrimination would alterthis balance as well. Religious and politi-cal factors in sorting super-types wouldalso be interesting to add.
Every group of super-powered heroesneeds a major metropolis to defend andto use as their main base. For a NorthAmerican campaign, all cities with morethan 1,000,000 citizens qualify for hero-group status, though they might nothave one in any particular campaign.Below are the major cities of NorthAmerica and the number of millions ofpeople there (as well as the number ofsuper-characters who might come fromthere).
CanadaToronto 3.0Montreal 2.8Vancouver 1.2
Dominican RepublicSanto Domingo 1.3
GuatemalaGuatemala City 1.3
MexicoMexico City 17.0*Guadalajara 2 . 4 *Monterrey 2 . 0 *
United States**New York City 7.0Chicago 3.0Los Angeles 3.0Philadelphia 1.7Houston 1.6Detroit 1.2
* � Includes metropolitan areas.** � Excludes metropolitan areas, ofwhich there are 29 in the United Stateswith populations greater than 1 million,including San Juan, Puerto Rico.
What can be done with these statistics?Think of the new heroes and villainsthat your campaign can acquire! Aztec,
Mayan, American Indian, and Eskimodeities, villains, and heroes can maketheir appearances. Voodoo sorcerersappear from the Caribbean, as well aspirate and conquistador figures fromthe Caribbean and Mexico. Communistcharacters from Cuba (as well as anti-communist ones) come into play. Thediversity of new characters may enrichany heroic campaign.
Heroes and villains from other uni-verses could, of course, be added to theabove. If you think a particular villainwho was slain in a recent comic bookdeserves a second chance to be bad, youcan simply declare that he popped intoyour universe at the time of his death.Perhaps a major hero or villain wascloned or duplicated by alien forces, andthe clone now resides in Pittsburg orHouston. Any �doubled� super-charac-ters should be in addition to the onesproduced by these statistics.
Note that these characters, as statedbefore, are also in addition to the onesthe players are using. Player character.heroes can come from anywhere theywish and shouldn�t be bound by theabove statistics, which only serve toform a campaign background.
Though rather dry, these importantstatistics can lay the groundwork foryour super-powered hero campaign andhelp individualize it. Consider the fol-lowing scenarios, derived from theabove material.
Cuban super-characters attempt toinfiltrate U.S. Naval installations in theCaribbean, to sabotage or spy uponthem. They may or may not be helpedby allied super-characters from theSoviet Union or from other CentralAmerican and Caribbean states.
French-speaking heroes are contactedby a secret Canadian government pro-ject for work in foiling crime in Quebec.
A Spanish-speaking PC hero is asked toset up a secret super-type identificationprogram in a Central American country.Super-types are taken to a government-funded center, where they are trainedand educated to work for the government for the betterment of the country�speople. The project, though well-inten-tioned, is almost certain to cause troublewith heroes and villains in nearby coun-tries, with government officials whowish to pervert the project to servethemselves or the causes of other coun-tries, and with the U.S. State Depart-ment and CIA.
Villains from South America, the Car-
ibbean, and Florida have set up a drugs-and arms-smuggling operation that theplayer characters must shut down asquickly as possible.
A Mexican super-powered hero istouring the city where the player char-acters reside; their task is to ensure hissecurity during the tour. Unfortunately,extremists have vowed to end his career,and they�ve picked that city as the placeto do it.
After a major victory over the forcesof evil, an offer of membership isreceived from a Chicago super-team forone or more player characters. Perhapsa similar offer is made from a Houstongroup and another in Los Angeles, andthe competition between hero-groupsheats up.
A letter is received by a major herofrom a school teacher in a repressiveCentral American country. She is askingfor help in enabling one of her studentsto find asylum in the United States. Herstudent is a mutant with extraordinarypowers; if the local government discov-
ers this, the student may be captured orkilled by government troops. Perhapsthe CIA might even be involved. .
A teenager arrives from Bermuda,wanting to train with the player charac-ters in crimefighting techniques. She is ascientific genius who has built a high-tech suit for herself. After her training,she wishes to return to her home. Ifanything bad happens to her during herstay, the British and American govern-ments won�t be pleased.
An Aztec demigod who is wreakinghavoc in Mexico and the southwesternUnited States kidnaps one of the PCheroes, holding him or her for millionsof dollars in ransom.
The player characters uncover evi-dence that may lead to the discovery of
contacts with various PC heroes, tryingto spy out all they can on the characters�techniques and organization. Oncethey�ve learned what they wanted toknow, they depart � but they may puttheir knowledge to uses that the PCshadn�t expected.
A major, world-threatening villainappears and can only be fought by themost powerful heroes of all, to beselected from a number of nations. Theheroes, in this case, all come from NorthAmerica. . .
You get the idea. Create your ownbizarre universe of heroes and villains,and don�t feel obligated to play the�Middle-Earth� game with yourcampaign.
a famed black American hero, kid-napped in the mid-Sixties by racists. Theproblem is that the racists still have thehero (in suspended animation), and theyhave no intention of giving him up.
The heroes of several small CentralAmerican countries are preparing for amajor confrontation among themselves,and the PC heroes (on vacation in thearea) get dragged into the storm.
A group of heroes or villains fromCanada, all in disguise, make covert
TheCrusadingL i f e
one repair his house, business, or carcan provide the group with useful con-tacts and public relations. Saving peoplefrom a burning plane, guiding a disabledship to safety, or finding a missing buscan be challenging exploits, as is pre-venting or giving aid after major carcollisions. Finding missing persons orretrieving stolen property can also pro-vide a challenge to the heroes and arenot particularly dangerous (most of thetime). These actions will not only gainfriends for the group, but can also bringin reward money, government (nationalor local) recognition and aid, or lead tocontacts which are connected to anupcoming major adventure.
Being a superhero requires some expo-sure to danger, and any of the eventsdiscussed above can lead to lots of it.But, what about seemingly minor eventswhich lead to particularly dangerousexploits and major adventures? Thesenasty surprises include traps, complexsituations, misunderstandings, unex-pected hazards, or events resulting frompure stupidity on the characters� parts.
Traps are usually set up by a villain ina major adventure who hopes to get aparticular hero out of the way beforethe hero realizes that he�s really in trou-ble. This seldom works in the comics,and it usually just angers the hero andmakes him more determined to win, butthe situation shows up with some fre-quency. Complex situations are thosewhich can easily lead to further, origi-nally unplanned adventures. Suchevents include things like getting theMafia mad at you for saving someonefrom an assassination, trying to breakup a mob situation and having therioters turn on you, or discovering thata purse-snatching leads to a crime ring.These situations involve numerous ordi-nary criminals and may even be con-nected to the plots of super-poweredvillains.
Major misunderstandings often end upwith the hero being thrown in jail orrunning for his life, as he is either pur-posefully framed or appears to commit acrime without actually doing it. Unex-pected hazards include hidden terroristbombs, driving into a high-speed chasesituation, or following a criminal into anabandoned building that�s about to bedemolished. Pure stupidity covers allthose simple situations in which thehero does something so absurd that itquickly devolves into a deadly event.Firing a weapon in the center of a gaso-
by Bruce Humphrey
In many super-powered herocampaigns, the action centers aroundindividual adventures with world-endan-gering villains. Events between adven-tures are often of no importance andare sometimes non-existent. Players arefaced with no continuity in the cam-paign, and characters become two-dimensional, coming to life only fromcrisis to crisis.
But what do heroes do when theyaren�t saving the world? What about thelittle people, petty criminals, normalworld events, secret identities, and LifeIn General? A campaign without thesefactors becomes mechanical; playersstart the game knowing that some globalplot is afoot. By throwing in some vari-ety and surprises, the game master canreturn spontaneity to the campaign.Players will be more challenged and willget more out of the experience.
A variety of encounters and adventuresgives the players the opportunity toflesh out their characters in day-to-dayroutines. This can help the players visu-alize better their characters, give thecharacters extra experience, give play-ers more control over their characters�lives, and simply serve as a break fromsaving humanity day in and day out.
Heroes can be just as challenged bynormal, non-powered criminals as theyare by the big-name super-poweredvillains. What about hostage situations,attempts to capture a gunman at night,protecting a person from a hit man, orsolving the mystery of a clever crime?Many of these situations are a hero�sbread and butter, perhaps taking up amajority of his adventures and occasion-ally bringing in rewards which keepmeat on the table. Played well, suchadventures can be as fulfilling and excit-ing as world-saving � and perhaps more
so. Such situations are also useful forthose sessions when only two or threegamers get together, since the averageworld-saving adventure is gearedtoward four or more characters.
Table A covers those crimes whichaverage, nonpowered criminals arelikely to commit (though super-poweredones can and do commit them, too).While most of these crimes may takeplace �in a vacuum� � having no bear-ing on the campaign as a whole � theymay also be connected to major adven-tures by providing some clue or contactwhich will be needed later on. Minorcrimes are easy to set up, particularlysince the criminals can be generic (badguys with guns), unless there is someparticular reason for giving them moredepth. We are all familiar enough withsuch crimes from watching the news toput together quite a variety of theseencounters. Note that as the list ofcrimes on Table A progresses, the crimesbecome relatively more dangerous andare likely to involve gunplay or largecriminal rackets.
Minor crimes give the heroes thechance to better their powers and testout new ones, experiment with equip-ment, do good deeds, and establish theirpersonalities and methods of dealingwith crime. Exposure to less momentousoffenses can not only round out thecharacters, but can also lend an air ofcontinuity, authenticity, and complete-ness to the hero campaign. They canboost the morale of the players by show-ing that the characters are satisfyinglyeffective against normal criminals; thiscan be particulary useful after an unsuc-cessful adventure against super-criminals.
Other events can also challenge theheroes. Helping the community raisefunds or saving innocent lives in variousaccidents or disasters are good ways toput breathing space between majoradventures (see Table B). Helping some-
D R A G O N 8 7
line storage building, jumping into themiddle of a Mafia chieftains� meeting, orswooping in front of a jet are just a fewexamples.
If you want complications to appear instraightforward adventures, you mightalso consider the non-poweredbystanders who frequent heroes� lives.Short adventures may center around thetribulations of various relatives andfriends of the heroes. These peopleseem to get into more trouble than theheroes themselves.
The large number of nuts and kooksrunning around, particularly in majorcities, should also be considered. Thesepeople are ordinary citizens who are alittle crazy and are caught up in themystique of super characters. Somehang around heroes and get into trou-ble, like those people who follow fire-trucks or police cars. Others come tofeel that they, too, are great heroes;these are especially dangerous, as theymay actually believe that they are help-ful and even identify themselves asbelonging to the heroes� group. Thesepeople can cause major embarrassmentswhen they do something stupid, andthey can be downright dangerous if theyjump into the middle of a super-powered fight or pretend to havecertain powers when they do not.
These same people can become violentenemies of any heroes who treat thembadly or try to reason with them. Beforewarned: Disappointed hero-worshipers can make deadly foes if theyhappen to discover information about ahero and then communicate it to a vil-lain. Role-playing these obnoxious per-sonalities can be a real pleasure for thegame master.
Now we come to that fount of aid, thegovernment. At its most agreeable, thelocal or national government can supplymoney, facilities, and other support tothe heroes. At its worst, it can be intol-erant, antagonistic, aggravating, andignorant. In either case, the presence ofthe government adds to the game. Apleasant government may grease thetracks for a fledgling super-group, whilethe difficulties involved in dealing withthe government can lead to more real-ism, interest, and variety in the cam-paign. The government is the one foethat the heroes cannot overcome � ever
Government support can be invalu-able. Money, in the form of rewards or
88 MARCH 1986
actual funding of the group, is alwayswelcome. At least as useful is theresearch and development (R&D) end,which the government can perform forthe heroes in areas such as new powersand equipment, enhancing existingpowers, and counteracting villains�powers. The government can providethe best-equipped headquarters to itsallied groups, and government aid inlocating information, finding people, ordefending the group in court can beincalcuable.
There is a price for government aid.Never one to leave well enough alone,the bureaucracy in any superworld isgoing to try to get a popular hero groupto do certain things � often things thatthe heroes would rather not do. Fromthe government�s standpoint, this is onlyfair, since it usually provides well for itsfavored groups. But, some of the activi-ties which it demands from the groupmay be distasteful to the heroes. If theheroes complain often enough, the gov-ernment may stop backing the group. Ifthe group is particularly undiplomatic,the bureaucrats may try to teach theheroes a lesson by becoming extremelydifficult and obnoxious.
Government regulations are cumber-some and confusing, but super-poweredheroes circumvent them nearly everyday. When the government backs theheroes, such indiscretions are usuallyoverlooked (although not forgotten). Ifthe government has it in for them, theheroes could be in serious trouble. Regu-lations appear as if by magic, bringingfines and legal problems. What happenswhen bystanders are hurt or propertydestroyed during the course of anadventure? What if the villain flees andleaves the heroes holding the bag? All isnot sweetness and light when the gov-ernment comes calling under theseconditions.
Heroes are used to handling all sortsof problems, but the government issomething else again. A government thatturns hostile for a time can make a cam-paign extremely interesting. The timebetween adventures may be spent inevading federal agents or seeking toregain government favor. This �badgovernment� situation has to be usedsparingly and logically, since overdoingit can kill the campaign quickly.
Even a completely hostile governmentknows that heroes have their uses. Noone is going to treat the heroes andvillains equally in any situation; if thereis a chance, villains will be captured bygovernment forces even if it means thatthe heroes escape. Secret admirers of
the pursued heroes may exist on manylevels of the government, despite whatofficial notices say. There should alwaysbe an out by which the heroes mayregain their freedom and pursue theiradventures.
Characters in super-powered hero cam-paigns are often so powerful that it ishard to identify with them, and a playerwho cannot identify with his characterwill find it nearly impossible to enjoyrole-playing in the campaign. Encouragethe players to make their charactersunique, giving them special personalitiesand foibles. Every hero is different, butcharacters are often not as unique asthey could be.
Creating the super-persona beginswhen the character itself is created. Partof the creation process includes design-ing the hero�s costume and noting why itlooks the way it does. Does the herohave a secret identity? If so, a face maskis a must (very few can get away with-out it). Does putting on the costumeprepare him mentally for �heroing,� ordoes the character have multiple person-alities, one or more of whom enjoy theheroic life? Is the character an egotistwho wears his costume for effect (withneon, spangles, epaulettes, and all)? Ishis costume intended as camouflage orto protect him from certain super-powers? Does the suit add to or magnifythe hero�s powers? All of these questionshelp to make the hero his own person.
When the hero is first created, theplayer should also note how the herogained his powers and why he is actingas a hero. Perhaps he accidentallyallowed a criminal to hurt his family, orhe grew up in a slum and saw so muchcrime that he wants to do his part tostop it. Some superheroes are preachy,others cynical, some border on being asunscrupulous as the villains. All havetheir reasons for fighting crime.
Newly started heroes may have theirshare of mental problems, althoughthese can also crop up later in theircareers. Alcoholism is one possible prob-lem; another is a habit of going berserkin combat and becoming not only dan-gerous to everyone around but also apotential killer. Events during the cam-paign may also lead to a characterbecoming so opposed to hurting peoplethat he will use his combat abilities onlyas a last resort. Some heroes might beprejudiced against particular groups orhave strange habits. All of these willhelp the players to visualize their char-
acters and role-play more effectively.How the character gets along with
other people is a critical aspect of hispersonality. Perhaps he constantlymakes wisecracks even in the worstpredicaments, or he never speaks unlessthe situation absolutely demands it. Acharacter could be a playboy datingnormal people or other supercharacters.The character could also be a loner,unwilling to follow some of the groupleader�s decisions. Another charactermight value the well-being of a lovedone so much that he leaves the group tovisit the character periodically. Thesecharacters might be difficult to dealwith, but they would never be boring.
One thing to avoid in a hero campaignis the bloodthirsty hero. Most heroes donot take lives; to do otherwise wouldmake them villains. Even when such anact is absolutely necessary, few heroeswould be unmoved by such a decision.Virtually no hero would stand by andwatch even the worst villain die withoutmaking some move to aid him. Yet, someplayers actually initiate super-combatson busy streets, jeopardizing innocentbystanders, or let a villain die of hiswounds without lifting a finger. Thisshould not be allowed to occur withouta variety of consequences � such ascourt charges, arrest, hate mail, andattacks on the street by ordinarycitizens.
Do super-powered heroes have fears?You wouldn�t know it by watching mostcampaigns. Perhaps the most commonhero�s fear is having one�s secret identityrevealed. Another would be a fear offailure -that the hero could one daylose to a villain who causes widespreaddestruction or harm. A third is the fearof death, although this realization ofone�s own mortality may fade aftermany adventures. A hero who gains hispowers sometime late in life may beafraid of losing them, and a hero relyingon devices afraid of having to do with-out them. Phobias can also be found inheroes, usually related to their pasthistories or powers. A fire-oriented heromight be nervous near large amounts ofwater, or one with ice powers paranoidabout high heat. Armored heroes couldbe afraid of drowning, or flying onesafraid of heights. Some childhoodtrauma could also lead to phobias whichwould be severely debilitating (fear offire, large animals, open spaces, etc.).
As a hero progresses, he should learnthe value of public relations. A happypublic is a helpful one, and the informa-tion, rewards, and accolades make thejob worthwhile. Helpful actions, such as
rescuing cats from trees and helpingwith mundane projects, should beviewed by the players as useful exer-cises in good business. A good image willhelp to prevent such things as trials andwitch hunts when something untowardhappens. A hero with good public rela-tions is more likely to be given the bene-fit of the doubt in such situations,although the public is fickle and has ashort collective memory.
One important decision which a newhero or group must make lies in locatingand setting up a headquarters facility.Such a site is going to be both haven andtarget, and as such requires specialtreatment. The base must be accessibleto people seeking help, yet protectedagainst the enemies the hero or groupcreates through adventuring. A hiddenheadquarters is good for safety but badfor public accessibility, while a publicoffice has the opposite problem. Thegroup must decide for itself, balancingavailability and security, and consideringthe group�s resources, expectations,equipment, and powers.
If the game master enjoys lots ofdetail, he may invoke a need for singleor group insurance and liability. In aworld with super-powered people run-ning around, insurance for heroeswould be commonplace. Just what theworld needs: an entirely new field oflaw! Nevertheless, a good lawsuit againsta particularly negligent hero group cango a long way toward curbing itsdestructive tendencies. It is particularlygalling if the successful suit is broughtby a captured villain, who is not onlyfreed as a result but ends up with thegroup�s money! Insurance premiumswould be extremely high for destructivegroups, further penalizing players whothink super-powers give them the rightto do whatever they wish.
Hero organizations can be essential toa long-term campaign, and they may beof any size. Groups can serve manyvaluable functions. They provide cohe-sion and a cornerstone for many adven-tures. They fulfill the heroes� needs formoney, since most supergroups havesome financing or pooling of individualfunds. They allow newer and weakercharacters to have support and training,helping out when few other sourceswould. New players can learn the gamewhile in the company of more experi-enced players, with everyone acting as ateam.
Paying attention to details means a bigpayoff once play begins. Players withinteresting characters and situations aremore attentive and enthusiastic. Happy
players mean fewer hassles and morefun; bored players nitpick, argue withthe game master and each other, andwander off. Good rules do not necessar-ily make a good adventure. Goodcharacters can.
Table A: Everyday crimes
d20 roll crimePickpocketingPurse snatchingAnimal crueltyDestruction of propertyBurglaryTheftAuto theftTruck highjackingBlackmailExtortionArsonDrug dealingKidnappingAssaultArmed robberyMurderEspionageSabotageAir or ship piracyMass murder
Table B: Special events
d20 roll eventFind missing personPrevent car or bus wreckSave victims of car wreckPrevent air disasterSave victims of air disasterSave people from storm,
tornado, etc.Help repair damaged
buildingSave person from vicious
animalSave suicidal personSave people from building
fireBreak up a mob or riotSave people from gas leakSave people from train
wreckRepair structure (bridge,
subway, etc.)Save community from gas or
radiation leakSave people from building
collapseSave people from flood (dam
collapses, etc.)Prevent ship from sinkingSave stranded people (island,
arctic, etc.)Save people from sinking
ship or ditched plane
D R A G O N 8 9
by Rick Swan
When it comes to role-playing non-player characters, most DMs are about ascomfortable as an elf at an orc party. Andthat�s hardly surprising. The DM�s job istough enough as it is; since he�s alreadyloaded down with all other sorts of re-sponsibilities to keep an adventure oncourse, he may just decide that creatinginteresting personalities for his NPCs isone task too many. Besides, with a generalidea of the various NPC types, he canalways improvise as the need arises.
Unfortunately, this approach can makethe game a real drag for the players, espe-cially ones who�ve gone to the trouble ofcreating three-dimensional personalitiesfor their player characters. Who canblame them for rolling their eyes as theyencounter yet another wise old wizard orswooning damsel in distress? Who wantsto interact with cliches?
Like all aspects of being a good DM,breathing life into NPCs requires advanceplanning. The tried-and-true method oftackling the problem is by creating a sortof �personality profile� for each character,a summary of the NPC�s personality thatthe DM can use as a quick reference whenrole-playing the character in an adventure.The profile usually consists of a series ofdescriptive words or phrases that may bewritten on an index card along with statis-tics or jotted down in the margin of themodule next to the NPC�s name.
The Dungeon Masters Guide stresses theimportance of well-developed NPCs andprovides guidelines on pages 100-102 forcreating profiles from a series of tableslisting possible traits for appearance, dis-position, intellect, and other general cate-gories. Traits for each NPC may bespecifically chosen from these tables orarrived at randomly by rolling dice.
These guidelines provide a good basisfor creating profiles, but there are someproblems in leaning on them too heavily.Although the tables are reasonably com-prehensive, it�s unrealistic to expect themto generate the virtually limitless range ofall possible human (and non-human) per-sonality traits. You can come close, but youcan�t specifically get characters who are�sarcastic,� � paranoid,� �preoccupied,��alcoholic,� or �prone to have psychoso-matic pains� by using the tables. Some of
72 SEPTEMBER 1986
the choices are too similar; there�s nogreat difference between �foppish� and�dandyish� from the Appearance Table, or�lusty� and �lustful� from the Morals Table.Other entries aren�t particularly precise.�Insane,� for instance, covers a lot of terri-tory; we have no way of knowing from thetable if that character is �schizoid,� �manicdepressive,� or just plain �psychotic.� Is anNPC �dirty� because he�s a hard worker inneed of a bath, or is he just a slob? Andrelying on the tables to generate traitscompletely at random tends to produceresults that are not only unrealistic butunsatisfying, too.
There is, however, an alternate methodfor creating personality profiles that usesthe DMG tables as a starting point. Byfollowing a systematic procedure of (1)brainstorming, (2) refining, and (3) testing,you can develop profiles that are easy touse and right on target.
The first step is brainstorming: creatinga master list of adjectives and descriptivephrases that will be the basis of yourprofile. Don�t edit yourself when brain-storming. You�ll want to list all of the traitsthat seem obvious as well as any impliedones. Feel free to add any unusual or justplain weird ideas, too. Make your list aslong as you like, but ten or twelve possibil-ities is a good number to shoot for.
To begin your master list, write downany characteristics given in the NPC de-scription or suggested by the statistics,then add any related ideas that occur toyou. For instance, if Angela the servantgirl is described in a scenario as being 16years old, weighing 95 pounds, attractive,and having a charisma of 17, you mightstart your list with �young,� �slight,��pretty,� and �charming.� As you brain-storm for related ideas, you might add�fragile,� �gorgeous,� and �flirtatious.�
Pay attention also to the physical appear-ance of the NPC and any personality traitsit might suggest. If you�re unable to visual-ize the NPC, now might be a good time torefer to the Appearance Table in the DMGand make a selection or a die roll. Don�tforget possible traits associated with thecharacter class.
When you�ve covered the basics, it�s timeto unleash your imagination and flavoryour list with an oddball choice or two.Write down �asthmatic,� �sneaky,� or �near-sighted� or anything else that appeals to
you on a whim. Check the DMG lists andpick a couple of traits, Chinese-restaurantstyle (one from column A, one fromcolumn B).
If the scenario description of the NPC issketchy or if you�re making your NPC upfrom scratch, you may have trouble get-ting off the ground. One good way to getstarted is to randomly determine one ortwo fundamental characteristics from theDMG tables and then select complemen-tary, non-conflicting traits. Once the NPCbegins to come into focus, you can pro-ceed with brainstorming. Another goodmethod is to pick a friend, celebrity, orfictional character and imagine that per-son as the NPC. Visualizing your nonde-script halfling as Joan Rivers or Miss Piggyought to inspire some vivid possibilities.
The sources for ideas are endless. Inaddition to the DMG, you might try look-ing for descriptive phrases in a thesaurusor dictionary. NPCs from other modules(or even from other games) can be goodsources. If you come up with an especiallygood trait, you might want to add it to theappropriate table in the DMG or start anew list for future reference.
Once you�ve finished your master list,the next step is refining it. Your finishedprofile should be as concise as possible;not only does a concise profile make theDM�s job easier, it also allows for an ongo-ing character to develop and change ac-cording to circumstances of the campaign.For most NPCs, shoot for a profile of aboutthree adjectives and descriptive phrases. Ifthree elements aren�t enough to create aclear mental picture, add a couple more,though it�s not necessary to go into a lot ofdetail. Remember that the profile is a formof shorthand, and one well-chosen descrip-tive element can suggest many others.(�Feeble,� for instance, could remind youthat your NPC is also �weak,� �old,� and�slow-moving.�)
Begin refining your master list by takinga look at any elements that pertain toappearance or physical traits and elimi-nate those that seem unlikely to affect theNPC�s personality. Knowing a fighter is�hideous� could conceivably be importantin role-playing him; knowing he�s �blue-eyed� probably won�t be of much help.
Next, combine or eliminate all similarterms, such as �sad� and �unhappy,� or�quiet� and �silent.� Get rid of all phrases
that strike you as uninteresting or vague. going all the way and make him a �reli-As you go over your list, feel free to add gious fanatic�?new phrases or substitute better ones. 5. Go for an interesting mix. ChancesMake the final revisions and refinements are, your PCs have had their fill of war-by using the following guidelines: riors who are �brave� and �mighty.� How
1. Be precise. Like an image in a camera, about one who�s �whining� or �prissy�? (Heyour profile should be focused for the can still be dangerous.) Or how about asharpest and clearest picture. If you want �wise guy�?your character to have a pleasant person- When you�ve finished-refining your
�May I borrow your horse?��Have you ever heard of Grendar the
Mighty?� (Assume he killed the brother ofyour NPC.)
�We need to hide this map. Will you helpus?�
It�s also important to test your NPCs insituations that seem likely to occur in agiven adventure. If you know your PCs
ality, be more specific than �happy.��Cheery� means one thing, while �exhilara-ted� suggests something entirely different.
2. Choose phrases that are evocative foryou, and use your own system of short-hand wherever you want. Don�t be inhib-ited � your players will never know whatyou�ve written. Why use �dull� to describea slow-witted NPC if �airhead� helps younail him down? Make up your own wordsif necessary. Don�t settle for �cunning� if�J. R. Ewinglike� is more vivid for you. Ifyou�ve got an NPC with a sense of humor,try phrases like �Lettermanesque� or�Pryorlike� to bring him to life.
3. Use common sense to avoid contradic-tions or opposites. Unless he�s a mentalcase, an NPC can�t be both �perky� and�depressed.�
4. Go for extremes. NPCs with extremetraits are not only easier to role-play,they�re more fun for the PCs, too. �Misera-ble� is stronger than �sad,� and �suicidal�might be better yet. �Faithful� is vague.�Religious� is better, but why not consider
profile, you�re ready to test it; Using the will be searching the city for hirelings,profile as a guide, imagine how your NPCwould respond to a variety of hypothetical
make sure your testing session includessome appropriate questions. Testing may
questions and statements. Some should be reveal unexpected strengths and weak-friendly, some hustile, and some just curi- nesses in your profile. If so, modify yourous. You can select examples from the profile and test it again.following list or use the same general ideas Remember to use restraint during theto come up with your own. actual game. It isn�t necessary or advisable
�Greetings! What�s your name, friend?� to prepare speeches or responses in ad-�Ready your weapon and prepare to vance. Just because your NPC warrior is a
die!� �wise guy,� don�t go out of your way to�That's a nice cloak you have there. force in a joke. A good profile will allow
Would you consider a trade?� you to role-play your NPCs naturally and�Will you join us on our quest for the spontaneously, and vivid profiles provided
red dragon?� by you are sure to trigger vivid responses�Enemy troops ahead! We�ve got to do from the characters.
something!� Once you get the hang of it, you�ll find�Will you allow some weary travelers to this three-phase system of brainstorming,
rest here for a bit?� refining, and testing to be an indispensable�Do you know where Ramus the Healer tool for role-playing NPCs. Before you
resides?� (Assume your NPC doesn�t know it, you�ll be dazzling your playersknow.) with NPCs that are so lifelike, they�ll think
�Where can we find Princess Marcella?� you brought them in off the street. You(Assume your NPC knows that she lives in don�t have to tell them it�s easy � in fact,the next castle.) as easy as 1, 2, 3.
©1988 by Jerold M. Stratton
�Truly it can be said that it is the man,not the powers, that make the hero.�
The Watcher, What If #36
Superhero role-playing games havebecome very popular, though they canprove to be exceptionally complicated. Theplayers must deal with a world that is ascomplex and changing as the real world,because it is the real world in many ways.Only the presence of superheroes (andsupervillains) makes it different.
Because of this complexity, players oftenignore certain important aspects of role-playing when playing superheroes. This
Marvel, Marvel Universe, Marvel Super Heroes, and allMarvel character names and likenesses are trademarks ofMarvel Entertainment Group, Inc.©1988 Marvel Entertainment Group. Inc.All Rights Reserved
Heroes areMade �Like This!
There�s much more to a superherothan superpowers
article discusses creating and playing acharacter in a superhero role-playinggame. The game master and player mightwant to violate one or two of these guide-lines because they run contrary to asuperhero�s style. But if you violate toomany, then the character is unlikely tosurvive long, or else the campaign willsuffer from lack of role-playing input fromthe players and GM.
Power planningPlayers in superhero role-playing games
usually start creating characters by deter-mining their abilities and powers. How-ever, a player should not worry solelyabout the amount of physical power hischaracter has, even if the character wor-ries about it. If properly used, any power,skill, or ability will become important. TheGM will undoubtedly give his players theopportunity to use all the options at theirdisposal.
Never forget what a character can do. Ina campaign I ran, five heroes were aboutto go to that big Danger Room in the sky.They had been captured by a villainessnamed Darkling, and were about to beused as power sources in a ritual of magic.All of the heroes were tied up and theirknown powers neutralized. As the ritualneared completion, I was just about readyto have the players start rolling new char-acters when Guano Jim (now known asDeva) remembered his psychic link withLynch, a small hawk. Because he rarelyused the bird, the villains did not knowabout it. Once Jim got in touch with thebird, it was child�s play to sneak it into thevillains� headquarters. There, it freed oneof the heroes, who freed the others, andthey made short work of the villains.Because Jim�s player forgot about that onepower, the characters very nearly did notsurvive that adventure.
The point here is that power is relative� not to other characters, but to the situa-tion. If players have the chance to choosepowers, abilities, equipment, or skills, theyshould do so in a way which makes eachcharacter interesting, not just trying tomaximize the power level of the character.
If a character has a power that�s notbeing used, chances are he simply hasn�tfound a use for it. If the power was writ-ten up in the rules, it undoubtedly has ause. However, players may want to down-play one or more of a hero�s powers.Because Guano Jim rarely used his psychiclink, the villains did not plan against it �they didn�t know about it. None of Jim�sother powers were psychic, so the villainsdidn�t attempt to dampen his psychicability. Keeping the villains in the dark isalways useful, if it is done consciously.
Body and mindOnce a supercharacter�s powers are
decided, take some time to flesh out thecharacter. By now, you probably havesome idea of the character�s physical char-acteristics and personality. It is nearlyimpossible to go through the process ofcreating a character without picking upsome idea of how the character will look,both physically and mentally.
Expand upon vague ideas. Be specific. Ifyou can draw, draw a picture of yourcharacter. If not, just write everythingdown: height, weight, hair, eyes, skin, sex,and handedness. To describe anything outof the ordinary, use lots adjectives. Is thecharacter gangly? Does the character havedeep blue eyes, a soft voice, a plump phy-sique? Don�t forget distinguishing charac-teristics. Does your character have amoustache or beard, beehive hairdo, scar,or missing left pinky? Write it all down.Picture the character clearly in your mind
36 JULY 1988
and treat that picture like a sculpture. Ifsomething looks wrong, fix it. Make sureyou�re able to picture your character�sappearance without difficulty. I once had aplayer decide, after his character had beenestablished, that he wanted to change hischaracter�s skin color because the originalcolor didn�t fit the player�s picture of thecharacter. Because he was insistent, theplayer was allowed to make the change,which didn�t affect anything that hadalready happened. Still, the player shouldhave figured out this characteristic inadvance. In another instance (and in agame in which handedness was deter-mined randomly) a player decided that hischaracter had to be right-handed. Theplayer was right-handed and didn�t thinkhe could picture his character doing thingsleft-handed. This may sound trifling, but ifyou can�t picture your character correctly,you�ll find it that much harder to get intothe game.
Eventually, you should have a prettygood idea of your character�s personality.Write down this information. Is yourcharacter slightly pessimistic, noble, occa-sionally erratic, or prone to follow orders?Don�t forget bravery, cowardice, shorttempers, kindness, cleanliness, brashness,and eccentricity.
Don�t think it necessary to createextreme personalities. Some players try tocreate personalities that nearly qualify forinclusion in diagnostic manuals for psy-chologists. These aberrations often takethe form of berserker or killer instinct, orpride that would put a Bostonian toshame. These characters are easy to role-play because the player can rely on stereo-types or focus on only one aspect ofpersonality, such as pride. However, it ismuch more satisfying in the long run toplay normal personalities. Psychotics tendto be very one-dimensional by nature.They also tend to make the game less funfor the other players, as their heroes mustbe wary of the psychotic hero.
If you want to play a very strange char-acter, at least keep it three-dimensional.Limit extreme strangeness to one or twoodd personality traits. A happy-go-luckyberserker is fine, but a happy-go-lucky,erratic, noble berserker is not. Expand thecharacter�s normal personality �traits in away that will make the character morefun to play. Maybe the character tends togo berserk when fighting, but she alsovalues her friends highly and will usuallylisten when these friends try to calm her.
Previous livesYour character has powers, a body, and
a mind; now he needs an origin. Originscover the history of a character up to thepresent. Think about your character�spersonality; think about how it could haveformed. What kind of upbringing broughtthis character about? You might even wantto think about some specific events thathappened in the character�s past. Don�tforget to take skills and knowledge into
account. If the character is quiet, shy,works well with animals, and knows quitea bit about farming, chances are he didn�tcome from New York City.
If the character has a Ph.D., Masters, orBachelors degree, from what college wasthis received? What was college like forthe character? Does the character stillkeep in touch with friends and professors?What was the character�s childhood like?What is the character�s occupation? Doesthe character like her occupation? Whatkind of people does the character have forrelatives? What kind of people does shehave for friends, and who does she hangout with when she�s not adventuring? Thisis all included in a complete origin. All ofthese facts need not be determined imme-diately; they can be added as the game isplayed and the knowledge is needed.
Finally, how were the character�s powersreceived? Were they inherent powersgained at birth? If so, how did this affectthe character�s childhood? If the powerswere only recently gained, how did thecharacter react to this? Have the powerschanged the character�s life in any way?
When you know the answers to thesequestions, it will become much easier torole-play and have even more fun. You willbe much more involved in your characterand may even be able to give your GMideas for subplots to liven up the mainadventure. Take an interest in your char-acter�s family, friends, and aspects of hishistory, and the good GM will occasionallyincorporate them into the game.
A basic origin outline can streamlineyour work. Each of the following areasshould be covered for a superhero:
1. Distinguishing physical characteristics(including eye color, hair color, skin,height, build, etc.).
2. Distinguishing mental traits.3. Favorite activities.4. Occupation(s).5. Co-workers and superiors of impor-
tance to the character.6. Relatives important to the character.7. Best friends.8. Affiliations, including:
a. Hometownb. High school (sports, band, etc.)c. College (sports, fraternity or sorori-
ty, etc.)d. Professional (societies, union, etc.)e. Recreational (health clubs, etc.)
9. Manner in which powers weregained, and the effects thereof.
Secrets within secretsIt is very easy to determine whether or
not your character will keep a secretidentity. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Does my character have relatives orfriends who are not as well-equipped asmy hero to deal with megalomaniacalvillains?
2. Does my character�s intelligence rateabove moronic?
If you answered �yes� to both questions,your character will probably keep a secret
identity. If you answered �no� to both, heprobably will not. If you answered �yes� toonly one, your character probably needs asecret identity, but may or may not actu-ally keep one. Most comic-book superhe-roes fall into the first category.Superheroes falling into the second cate-gory are virtually nonexistent, thoughmany supervillains (especially the mon-strous types) appear here. Examples ofMarvel Universe® heroes in the thirdcategory include the Fantastic Four® andthe Hulk�. The Fantastic Four, while intel-ligent, have few friends or relatives whoare not superheroes. Bruce Banner hasmany friends who get into trouble becauseof the Hulk, but the Hulk is not (or has notbeen, at least) intelligent enough to worryabout a secret identity. Note that Mr. andMrs. Fantastic have realized that secretidentities are useful and have tried tocreate them � but have discovered thatthis is not an easy task, and that it wouldhave been far easier to have done so rightfrom the start.
Why have a secret identity? Even if yourcharacter is the most powerful being onEarth, chances are her grandmother andher lover are not. Some villains have noqualms about taking revenge on peopleclose to your character. A secret identityalso gives your character the ability to restwithout worrying about having villainsattack him or the public mob him.
The first precaution in getting a secretidentity is to change your character�sappearance. The easiest way to do this iswith a costume, which serves two pur-poses: It hides your character�s identity,and it makes his superhero identity easilyrecognizable to friends and foes alike. Ifyour hero (in his secret identity) and acostumed villain slug it out on the streetsof New York City, the cops are likely to tryto arrest both combatants but if yourhero is wearing his easily recognizablered-white-and-blue costume, officers willrecognize him as a hero and give himsome help. Costumes also identify heroesto other heroes, making it much morelikely that they will receive cooperation,and they identify heroes to the public.Crowds are less likely to panic if a cos-tumed hero �flames on� than if some anon-ymeus stranger bursts into flame.
The best way to mask your character�sidentity is by covering her face, which isthe part of the body that most people useto remember acquaintances. If you do notwish your character to wear a full facemask, a Lone Ranger mask is efficient.
Hair disguise is also important. If yourcharacter has a distinctive hair style orcolor, this must be hidden. Don�t forgetbeards and moustaches. These can makeLone Ranger masks nearly useless. Haircan also be useful in changing appearance.Wigs, fake beards, and fake moustachescan aid in hiding your character�s identity.It is not recommended that these aids beworn in the superhero role; in an all-outbattle, they are far too easy to lose.
Instead, they should be worn in the nor-mal (secret) identity. If your characteralready has a beard and moustache, andthey aren�t too important to him, shavethem off and replace them with exactreplicas. Then, when changing to thesuperhero identity, take off the beard andmoustache. Also, a wig that matches yourcharacter�s hair can give a different hairstyle for each identity.
Glasses are great. If your character woreglasses before receiving his powers, keepthem, even if they are no longer needed. Ifthey are still needed, use contacts or gog-gles in the superhero identity. Combinedwith other factors, glasses can be a greatand subtle disguising factor.
The basic idea is to make your characterlook different as a superhero. Anythingyou can do to change her physical appear-ance will help. If she has a power that willdo this, it can also be used. The effectshould be permanent, however, and notdependent on concentration. It would notdo to return to normal every time yourcharacter is surprised or knocked out.
Voice changes are also important. If yourcharacter has a distinctive voice, find away to disguise it. A face mask that coversthe mouth can muffle the voice. Yourcharacter might even want to make thatpart of the mask thicker to muffle hisvoice even more. Don�t go overboard,however; people need to understand whatyour hero�s saying. If your character is agood actor or impressionist, he could evenchange his voice when switching identi-ties, becoming more dramatic in his heroicrole. If your character does follow thisexample, make sure that each voice usedsounds convincing, and that your charac-ter does not goof up. If your character.uses uncommon expressions (�Wild!� or�Ducky!� for example), make it a point thathe does not use these in his hero role. Hemay even want to make up some uniqueones for his heroic identity, even if theysound a little corny.
Gloves are a useful part of any costume,as fingerprints can identify almost anyone.Remember that chance and human natureare on your character�s side. Villains whoknow her in her hero identity will find ithard to connect her with her normalpersonality (unless she unwittingly helps them). Likewise, the thought that thiswoman could be a superhero will neveroccur to friends and relatives who knowher in her secret identity (unless shemakes them suspicious). It is up to theplayer to make sure that others simply donot make the connection between thecharacter�s two identities.
Also be careful about where your char-acter appears. She very likely has onebuilt-in disadvantage: She can neverappear in both her secret identity and herhero identity at the same time. Do notcompound this problem by having yourcharacter�s hero identity appear in everyout-of-the-way place her secret identityhappens to be. In these situations, she
38 JULY 1988
doesn�t have to change into costume tocombat crime. Many powers can be usedquietly and quickly, without arousingsuspicion. If a villain happens to trip overa vine while escaping a heist in Hawaii,nobody's going to connect it with thattourist from Michigan (who has manysecret plant-control powers).
When friends and relatives get intotrouble and your character must savethem, try to do so surreptitiously. Not onlywill extended contact with people heknows tend to make them suspicious,others will recognize that he is paying toomuch attention to certain people and willbe able to get at his friends and relativeswithout even knowing his secret identity.
You may also want to do things to actu-ally mislead those searching for yourhero�s identity. You could pick a certainpart of the city and always have the heroarrive to fight crime as if he were comingfrom that part of town. If he usuallyswoops down from the northeast whenconfronting villains, people will eventuallycome to assume that he lives in the north-east part of the city. Tricks such as theseare not hard to develop.
Who to tellOne final point about secret identities.
Your character will occasionally want totrust someone with the �big secret.� Cer-tain people even have a right to know. Forinstance, spouses should be told; so shouldparents, if the hero is still living at home.In both of these cases, the affected personshould be told immediately before makingthe decision to be a superhero. Thesepeople will be strongly affected by thedecision and should be involved in thedecision-making process (if the player andGM like the idea of playing this out).Friends can be sources of support whentimes get tough.
If your character doesn�t tell them, she�dbetter be good at making excuses; she�llneed to explain quite a bit, such as whyshe is consistently late for school or work,why she must cancel engagements anddisappear at a moment�s notice, and whyshe must disappear for hours at a time.
Your character may also feel the need totell someone else: a girlfriend or boy-friend, perhaps. Chances are that theyshould not be told. They must not only beimplicitly trustworthy now � they mustbe trustworthy years from now. And evenif they can be trusted, they can still getthemselves or your character into trouble.Anyone who knows your character�ssecret identity will try to contact himwhen he is needed. If this contact comesto the notice of one of the superhero�senemies; not only will your character bein danger, the friend will be in grave dan-ger as well.
Your character may even feel it neces-sary to tell the secret to government agen-cies or other superheroes. Governmentagencies are a no-no; everything theyknow is on file. Anyone with the know-
how can access such information, thus,even the agency cannot be trusted. Justbecause the agency is friendly now doesn�tmean it will always be friendly. Leadershipchanges hands, legislative bodies take newaction, and public opinion varies. Anynumber of things can occur which wouldput your character and her friends injeopardy. The recent events in the CaptainAmerica® comic are proof of this.
Superheroes are another story. If yourcharacter works with a certain hero orgroup for a long period, he will find itvery useful to be able to relax with theseheroes as friends in their secret identities.If protected and used properly, a secretidentity is far more useful than it is anuisance.
Playing the gameThe first thing you must do as you start
playing the game is find out about thecampaign world. What other heroes andvillains exist? Take special notice of theNPC heroes and villains taken from thecomic books; they are likely to play aprominent role in the game world. Also,keep up-to-date on current events in thereal world. Some of these may also occurin the game world, if the GM is on the ball.
Find out about the differences betweenthe real world and the game world. Arethere lots of super-powered beings or onlya few? Is public opinion for superheroesfavorable or unfavorable? Does the publicknow that these beings exist? One playerin my campaign missed out on a decentamount of fun because he didn�t listen tomy introduction and didn�t know that thePCs were the first and only superbeingson Earth. You will have a lot more fun andyour character will have a much betterchance of surviving if you know what isgoing on around you.
Most importantly, learn from youradventures. Don�t make the same mistaketwice, and don�t act without thinking. Ifsomething unexpected happens, ask your-self if there is a reasonable explanation.This could save your hero�s life. Oneadventure I ran involved the heroes in afight with a giant, seemingly invinciblerobot. One of the PCs, Lightwave, was ahero who could convert his body to blue-green light. He could also emit a laserbeam of the same light. When he attempt-ed to hit the robot with the laser, the beamdissipated a few feet from its target. Mean-while, the rest of the team were trying tosee if they could get inside the robot.Lightwave thought this was a good idea, sohe decided to try to dart into the robot�sear. A moment�s reflection would have toldhim that the laser light was probablydissipated by a field of some kind sur-rounding the robot. Since Lightwave wasmade of the same energy as his laser, thefield was able to dissipate him. He sur-vived but sustained massive injuries. Itwas an important lesson learned at a veryhigh cost: Think before you leap.
The limits of powerYour character must also get to know his
powers. Determine your character�s limits.If she is strong, what is the maximumweight she can lift? If he has an energyblast, what is the maximum damage hecan do? It is far better to learn your limitsunder controlled conditions (i.e., by exper-imenting) than in the heat of battle; this isparticularly true if the GM likes to hideexact information on a character�s powers.
Practice using your hero�s powers atmaximum potential, and practice usingthem at less than maximum. In the field, itis best to use attacks at half-strength orless, depending on who is being fought,unless the added power is needed. Yourcharacter is not going to make browniepoints with anyone � press, public, orpolice � if everybody she fights ends upeither dead or maimed for life. Real heroesrarely need to kill.
Using powers at less-than-maximumpotential should also save energy (if theprevious argument isn�t suitable). If thegame system used does not account forthis, you may want to talk to your GM. Asatisfactory system would be easy toimplement. Using a power at half thenormal output would use half the powerrequirement, and would thus make thepower useable twice as often. One-thirdnormal would use one-third the power
requirement and would thus make it usea-ble three times as often, and so on.
Your character should also practicetricks � special uses for his powers orabilities that may not be very obvious. Atrick may involve another skill or morethan one power. Using telekinesis to fiddlearound with the inside of a lock is a trick;not only does your character need to learnfine telekinetic manipulation, he must alsolearn lockpicking skills.
Sometimes you may come across a trickby accident, so keep your eyes open. Oneplayer in my campaign had a hero, theLurking Grue, who knew the magical spellfor invisibility. He was not very good atcasting it and failed almost as often as hesucceeded. Then one failure resulted in avery strange occurrence. Although theLurking Grue didn�t become invisible,various items which he was carrying did.When he realized what had happened, hecancelled the spell but took note of thateffect. He reasoned that it meant thisspecific spell could be used selectively.Thus, it could be used to make things onlypartially invisible. No doubt visions ofheadless horsemen and bodiless smiles ranthrough his head, but he also found otheruses for that spell. He found it simple tomake a wall invisible in order to seethrough it, and with practice was able tosafely inspect suspicious packages by
making the wrappings and box invisible. Ifthe Grue hadn�t been observant and hadn�tthought about what had happened, thatuse would never have been realized.
Group effort countsAt some point in your character�s career,
he will probably become involved with agroup of heroes. There are a couple ofthings groups should keep in their collec-tive minds. First, make it a point to prac-tice together. Practice combining yourvarious specialties into tricks that aremore complex than tricks a single herocan perform. The �Fastball Special� ofMarvel�s Wolverine� and Colossus� is aprime example of this. Using Colossus�sstrength to throw Wolverine at extremelylarge, flying, or highly perched opponentsallowed the two earthbound heroes toattack villains they couldn�t normallyreach.
Special maneuvers must also be devel-oped. These are general, nonspecific plansfor the group to follow that can work inmany situations. By calling the plan�maneuver A� or �maneuver B,� the leadercan give instructions without informingthe opposition. For example, if the grouphas entered combat with some villains in afairly crowded area, the leader can tell thegroup to execute maneuver A. The groupwill then perform a series of feints and
retreats designed to move the fight to anisolated area. This works much betterthan yelling �We gotta move the fight awayfrom all these people!� thus reminding thevillains (played by the GM) that there aredozens of possible diversions and hostagesthere for the taking.
Maneuvers should be limited to easilyremembered, generally applicable instruc-tions. Useful maneuvers can often befound by recalling what happened in afight after the action is over. If someonemust often repeat a certain set of instruc-tions, that set of instructions is a candidatefor classification as a maneuver. Likewise,if a simple plan failed because the villainsheard the leader yelling it out, that plan isalso a candidate for classification as amaneuver.
Choosing a leader is another very impor-tant part of being in a group. Every groupof more than three heroes should have aleader to make quick decisions whenspeed is necessary. The basic candidate fora leader must be able to think fast understress, be able to command, and have agood public presence.
The ability to think fast is most impor-tant. It wouldn�t hurt if the leader werealso highly intelligent, but quick thinkingcomes first. The leader must be ready tomake important decisions at a moment�snotice. If plan A begins to go wrong,
should the group continue or switch toplan B? If the group is attacked unexpect-edly, are they going to be able to deal withthe threat? If not, the group must get outimmediately, and the leader must find thebest means of retreat. This is a lot to askof a player, but if he�s sharp, having hishero lead pays off well.
Of course, all the intelligence and quickthinking in the world will do no good if noone follows the leader�s orders. Thus, thesecond requirement is that the leadershould be able to command, eitherthrough respect or friendship. In any case,the group must be willing to follow theleader�s orders. A charismatic and enthusi-astic player helps enormously here!
Finally, the group will be interactingwith the public, through innocents, offi-cials, and media. The leader will usually bethe group member who communicateswith the public because he is the personthe public wants to talk to. A leader withgood public presence (i.e., high charisma)will greatly enhance these interactions. Itis the leader who will keep the group onthe good side of the local public, media,and government.
The �real� worldMost important of all: When you are
playing the game, play as if it were real. Ifsomething seems strange to you, assume ittruly is strange. Do not assume it isstrange just because the GM made a mis-take or the game rules make that strangeevent normal. Also, do not take events inthe real world as reasons for events in thegame world. More than once I have seenplayers ignore valuable information onlyto find out later it was because they sim-ply attributed it to a mistake on my part,rather than to actual events in my gameworld. (�Yeah, I noticed that, but I thoughtyou just misspoke!�) If you truly think theGM misspoke or the game system brokedown, point this out immediately. The GMwill tell you whether or not the eventactually occurred.
The tendency to take real-world needsand actions as causes for game-world
events can be much more subtle. At onepoint in the campaign previously men-tioned, in which the PCs and one NPCwere the only superheroes, the NPC herodied. The players know I prefer to have anNPC in the group, so they expected me tocreate another one. At the same time inthe game world, ROC (the major criminalorganization) was devising a plan to infil-trate the Lugnuts (the players� group)using a very elaborate scheme. ROC took aman, created an identity and a history thatexplained his knowledge of ROC, and fedit all to the man through hypnosis. Onenight while the Lugnuts were sittingaround eating reheated pizza, there was aknock on their door, and in walked�Sandy.�
�I understand you�re after ROC,� Sandysaid. �I am, too. I�d like to join forces withyou.�
�How do you know about ROC?� was theinevitable question.
�I�ve been chasing them for many years.��Why?��They . . . they killed my daughter. I�d
rather not talk about it.�And the Lugnuts believed it. These
heroes had been in touch with the CIA;according to their contact, the CIA knewlittle about ROC except its name. Sandyclaimed to know names, office locations �the works. There wasn�t complete accept-ance, however. One player stated that hewas suspicious and was going to keep aneye on Sandy. But there was no attempt tocheck out the man�s story or his back-ground.
The result: The heroes were led straightinto a trap. On the way to that trap, theypicked up and passed on so much disinfor-mation that the CIA now knows less thannothing about ROC. Both the players andthe CIA believe ROC has been all butdestroyed. C’est la vie des fous.
In short, use your head in superherogames. They�re tough, but they�re the bestthere are.
40 July 1988
by Jape Trostle
NPC sometimes stands forNot Particularly Cooperative
Life for a player character in a role-playing game can (and should) be perilous.But not everyone a game master creates ina campaign is out to kill the PCs; some justwant to disturb their sanity. The next timeyour players are gearing up to take onsome deadly nemesis or dangerousdungeon, add a few NPC foils to the gameto enliven things.
While every good campaign has a widevariety of NPCs to encounter, foils are aspecial breed. Foils are specificallydesigned by the GM to antagonize a partyof characters or an individual PC. Foils arecolorful, meddling nuisances. They areuninvited and unwelcome minor obstaclesthat perpetually pop up in the PCs� lives �always when least desired and expected.Foils plague the players and exploit anyfoibles their characters may have by con-trasting the PCs� personalities. Of course,the foils don�t see it this way; it just seemslike their purpose in life is to drive theplayers nuts.
This is not unrealistic. Just think of somepeople you know who regularly rub youthe wrong way. Doesn�t it seem like theyantagonize you deliberately? Of course,sometimes that is the case....
However irritating foils may be, mostare not very dangerous, and they canoften provide comic relief as well as give atwist to the old adventure routine. The foilis not an NPC class; it is simply any NPCpersonality type who consistently thwartsthe PCs in minor ways. This article pro-vides 50 character stereotypes, each fol-
34 AUGUST 1988
lowed by a short description, to assist theGM in creating foils to fit any campaignand the players involved. GMs are expect-ed to develop those foils that appeal tothem, so only a brief outline of each typeis provided. It should be kept in mind thatfoils are nuisances and should pose noimmediate physical threat to the PCs, somost should be relatively inexperienced.Race, sex, alignments, and so forth areusually irrelevant, and foils can appear asindividuals or as groups. Although thelisted foils are described for use in a medi-eval or fantasy game, they fit into any RPGscenario. Just picture their counterparts inscience-fiction, superhero, espionage, andsimilar settings.
Individual foils1. The tax man: What more need be
said? He is greedy, persistent, unpleasant,and always there � especially when thePCs return from a successful adventure.He is an oily snake who enjoys nothingbetter than squeezing that extra coin fromthe PCs� purse. He�ll badger the PCs abouttown, showing up at their door or favoritetavern. The tax man is highly intelligentand shrewd � and he always has govern-ment backing. Without taxes, wherewould the local government be?
2. The fool: This giggling, cackling jestercannot � and will not � shut up. He isalways talking, joking, lying, boasting (helikes to boast about the PCs� abilities torivals and opponents), and ridiculing oth-ers. As a result, he will probably get the
PCs into more trouble than they can getout of. This foil has an above-normal intel-ligence and dexterity, with below-averagewisdom, and shows up in taverns and onstreet corners.
3. The creditor: If the PCs have everborrowed money or are escaping baddebts, the creditor and his agents are sureto be on their trails. The creditor goeswherever a debt goes. A creditor couldtake any shape, but has the persistence ofa bounty-hunting Scrooge. Repo men arealso of concern here.
4. The landlord: This mousy little man orwoman is always eavesdropping, prying,and raising the rent. The landlord is con-vinced the PCs are up to no good andwants to know what�s going on. The land-lord is only found in the inn or apartmentwhere the PCs are staying.
5. The ignoble noble: This stuffy, self-righteous lord or lady looks down ateveryone � especially the PCs. Loud,pretentious, obnoxious, arrogant, and rich,the ignoble noble does not have one wit ofcommon sense. This pompous, petty nobleabuses the PCs (�Out of my way, lout!�)until needing their services � which, ofcourse, are assumed to be always at hisdisposal. Ignoble nobles can be found inelite establishments, at court, out hunting,or traveling between these places.
6. The religious zealot: This priest orfollower of some obscure religion isalways preaching against the evils of thePCs� ways, no matter how good the PCsmight be. Even paladins do not measureup to the zealot�s standards. Whereverfound � be it street corner, tavern, ortemple � the religious zealot is always upon a soapbox, with the PCs as targets.
7. The gambler: Never obvious, this slickgame player is out to take the PCs foreverything they have � again, again, andagain. The gambler has a high intelligence,good looks, and is very charismatic andpersuasive. The gambler can be found intaverns, on corners, and at games andtournaments � any place where peoplegamble.
8. The con man: What the gamblerdoesn�t take, this foil will. Fake treasuremaps, dummy magical weapons, boguspotions � the con man has them all. He isslick and smooth, and has above-averageintelligence and charisma. By nature of hisprecarious position, the con man is alwayson the move and can thus be found in awide variety of places. Although most ofhis wares are worthless, the con man willonce in a great while (and without hisknowledge) sell something that is genuine.In these instances, since he was unawareof its validity at the point of sale, he willprobably want it back if he finds out. Aprime example of a con man is Mr. Henneyfrom the TV series Green Acres, or a
snake-oil salesman from the Old West.9. The merchant: One step above the
con man, the merchant�s items are quitereal. However, this fast-tongued fellow willalways try to sell the PCs something theydo not need. If he is a traveling salesman,he could show up anywhere (like that timehe tried to sell pole arms to kobolds in thelocal dungeon). Cyrano Jones from theStar Trek episode �The Trouble With Trib-bles� is a good example of this type.
10. The doorman: Whether a bouncer ata tavern or gate guard at a keep, the door-man will never simply let the PCs walkthrough the door. His job is to keep peopleout, and that means the PCs. Even if hehas orders to show the PCs in, he will doso grudgingly. Of course, he needs thebrawn to back up his job, so a highstrength and constitution are recom-mended, though he does not necessarilyhave to be a fighter.
11. The jealous lover or lover�s spouse:Amorous PCs who pursue several lovers atonce run the risk that a cheated lover orspouse will find out and come after the PCin question. The foil is usually an impor-tant and influential figure, such as a pow-erful merchant or official. Whoever thejilted lover is, the PC is bound for trouble!
12. The catty lover: This is a particularlyjealous and troublesome lover who isnever satisfied with peace and quiet. He orshe constantly generates a hurricane ofproblems for the PC to which he or she isattached, though the PC may find it hardto give up the relationship.
13. The would-be mate: This is someonewho believes he or she would make theperfect mate for one of the PCs. This isalso someone who does not know themeaning of the word �no." This foil isusually undesirable in one measure oranother, having poor looks, a loud mouth,a pushy personality, or terrible personalhygiene.
14. The PC�s relative: This foil needs littleexplanation. If the relative doesn�t wantmoney, he or she has �someone nice�(usually a would-be suitor) for the PC tomeet. A relative�s favorite saying is �Bloodis thicker than water. "
15. The captain of the guard: For somereason, the captain doesn�t like the looksof the PCs and will harass them wheneverthey are in town. He knows they are up tono good, and even if they aren�t, he willmake something up. Although a hin-drance, the captain is only a minor threat,as his ego is greater than his fighting abili-ty. Since he is a somewhat commandingcharacter, the captain should have anabove-average charisma. He can be foundmaking his rounds about the town ordropping in on the PCs to let them knowthat he still has his eye on them. Localsheriffs also fit this role.
16. The town official: This foil, usually amayor, councilor, or burgher, gives thewords �inept� and �bungling� true mean-ing. Usually fat and lazy, the loud and self-important town official never really knowswhat is going on around him. Alwaysimage conscious, the town official showsup at various functions and events abouttown, and his opinions on current eventschange like the wind.
17. The dandy: A foppish, arrogant lad,always dressed in the latest fashion, thedandy is quite a fair-weather friend. Heinsists on being seen with the PCs if theyare successful and popular, and ridiculesthem if they are not. Either way, the dan-dy always acts as a superior to the PCsbecause they don�t dress as well as hedoes. This handsome, foolish fop can befound in taverns or any place that mightmake him look good.
18. The fledgling bard: This would-beminstrel is on the lookout for heroes tointerview so he can compose his first greatepic. Found in and around taverns, inns,and any place else adventuring typesmight gather, this scraggly lad sings out oftune and plays the lute horribly.
19. The matriarchal goodwife: Thisclucking hen either berates the PCs for notcoming up to her own impeccable moralstandards or, if the PCs are upstandingcitizens such as paladins or good clerics,constantly plays matchmaker for the hap-less characters. Found in the marketplaceor hanging out the window of her home(gossiping), this large, tough woman won�ttake lip from anyone, and believes that noone (except nobility) is above a goodthrashing.
20. The mad prophet: This insane oldgeezer is the butt of many jokes aroundthe town and countryside. He wandersabout aimlessly and without direction,often showing up in unusual places. Dirtyand ragged, the mad prophet talks tohimself and makes little sense. Sometimes,however, he speaks of things that do cometrue � perhaps he�s a little psychic as wellas psychotic.
21. The old soldier: This old, witheredwarrior loves nothing better than pullingup a chair to the PCs� table and telling lotsof unbelievable yarns about the good olddays. Adorned in rusted armor, he talksand talks, occasionally dropping someimportant fact in the PCs� laps � if theyare still listening, that is.
22. The would-be adventurer: This smallboy or girl (or group of children) adopts aPC as a role model. This foil will follow theparty about, imitating everything the PCsdo. Would-be adventurers are only foundaround towns and villages, and only untiltheir mothers call them in for bedtime.
23. The loyal dog: When a would-beadventurer reaches adolescence and is still
hanging around the player characters, hebecomes a loyal dog, willing to do any-thing for the PCs. Awkward and gangly,the loyal dog�s enthusiasm gets in the wayas he rushes about doing favors for thePCs. The reason these foils are called loyaldogs is because the PCs always find themunderfoot.
24. The crush: Similar to the loyal dog,this is an adolescent whose first crush ison one of the PCs. The crush will do any-thing for a �beloved� � except leave thePC alone.
25. The apprentice magic-user: Thisbright though bungling kid is apprenticedoff to a low-level, unadventurous magic-user who likes to stay put in town. Theapprentice, however, dreams of adventureand likes to hang around the PCs. Like-wise, he always wants to show the adven-turers the latest cantrip he�s learned.Unlike would-be adventurers or loyaldogs, the apprentice actually has a useful(if weak) skill. A knight�s squire fits thiscategory as well.
26. The street urchin: The young streeturchin loves nothing better than followingthe PCs around town and taunting them.He is amazingly fast, both in dexterity andintelligence. This foil is a real pain butknows the surrounding area better thananyone. There is a chance (25%) that thestreet urchin is a low-level thief.
27. The younger sibling: This very young(12 years old or less) sister or brother ofone of the PCs wants to be just like theolder sibling. In other instances, the PC isthe child�s guardian, and the sibling
refuses to obey the PC. Either way, theyounger sibling is troublesome.
28. The unwanted pet: This small animaladopts the PCs, usually after they haveinnocently fed the beast when it was hun-gry. This pet will follow (often quite loud-ly) the PCs anywhere, even into battle orinto a dungeon. The pet is usually a cat,dog, or other domesticated animal, butcould have a serious defense mechanism(like a skunk).
29. The adoring monster: If the PCs haveever spared some small, semi-intelligentcreature from death (for example, akobold), the grateful monster is bound toshow up later, latch onto the group, andtry to prove its worth to its saviors. Unlikeunwanted pets, an adoring monster isunusual and can be powerful and (rela-tively) intelligent.
30. The bumbling bartender: Thisfriendly, forgetful butterball always meanswell, which does not keep him from beinga bumbling idiot. He can run a taverneither in a town or out in the countryside.Butterbur, the innkeeper at The PrancingPony in Tolkien�s The Lord of the Rings, isa good example.
31. The brainless brute: The town bullyis out to prove he is the toughest aroundby beating up all the small guys he can gethis hands on. His strength is equal to hiscowardice; he talks big, but he rarelybacks up his words with action.
32. The reveler: Loud, obnoxious, andalways broke, this happy-go-lucky fellow isalways ready to knock back a few with hisfavorite adventurers � as long as theypay. A large fellow with an enormousappetite and thirst, the reveler knowshundreds of bad jokes and tall tales, andwill tell them all if given the opportunity.Shakespeare�s Falstaff is such a reveler.
33. The overzealous soldier: This soldier,usually a low-level fighter in the city guardor army, is a loyal patriot of whateverkingdom, nation, fief, or empire in whichthe PCs happen to find themselves. Theoverzealous soldier knows more aboutrules and regulations than fighting, and isconstantly suspicious of the PCs and theiractivities. He sees plots where there arenone.
34. The snitch: Spindly and thin, thesnitch resembles a rat more than a man. Ifhe isn�t telling the PCs about others' plans,they can be sure he�s telling others oftheirs. This motormouth is always spout-ing names, places, rumors, and lies. He canusually be found slinking about dark alleysand taverns, trying to eavesdrop on anyand all conversations.
35. The inventor: This clever, little, old,white-haired fellow is a mechanical genius� well, sometimes. He sees the PCs as justthe people to try out his new contraptions,even though most of his creations don�twork at all the way they are supposed to.Every so often, though, he comes up witha gem. Highly intelligent, the inventor canusually be found in his shop or out tryingto perfect his inventions. More often than
not, however, he will be out looking for PCvolunteers.
36. The hapless hermit: A quiet, mysticalman, the hermit is never found in a popu-lated area, but in a secluded place wherehe can contemplate reality. Unfortunately,he has the misfortune to pick secludedspots that the PCs eventually stumbleacross. Each time he is disturbed, hesearches out another place, which the PCsalso stumble across. Long-bearded andeccentric, the hermit�s patience withunwelcome (i.e., all) visitors is short.
37. The lady in distress: This is a feistywench who always manages to get in somesort of trouble from which she needsrescuing, usually when the PCs are near-by. Whether a serving girl with a smartmouth or a noble lady who has a bad habitof being kidnapped regularly, this foilshould keep the PCs busy. As a rule ofthumb, the damsel usually has a highcharisma and a low wisdom (otherwise,she would learn to stay out of trouble).She is not necessarily romantically inclinedtoward a PC. Another form of this NPC isthe �man overboard," usually a carelessadventurer who overestimates his abilitiesand is always in deep trouble, from whichPCs must rescue him.
38. The seductress: Once her sights areset on one of the PCs (or the whole groupfor that matter!), this femme fatale won�tstop until the PC is hers, body and soul.Although beautiful, she is sly, devious,resourceful, and persistent in her game oflove. And she does not have to be of lowsocial status; she could be a lady of highsociety. The male version of this foil forthe female PC is the Don Juan, identical inall respects. Unlike other potential mates,this one is often domineering, selfish, andrarely faithful.
39. The vestal virgin: This unobtainable,untouchable figurehead of a temple orkingdom, such as a young high priestessor princess of extreme beauty, has fallenin unrequited love with one of the PCs.She is entirely naive and innocent in theways of politics and love, and does notrealize that her affections could causeproblems � especially for the PCs.Because of her position, approaching thevestal virgin is taboo, and being caughtwith her is punishable by death.
Group foils40. The party people: These roving
packs of dandies and revelers are out tohave a good time � at the PCs� expense.Young, boisterous, loud, and looking fortrouble, the party people can be found lateat night in the streets and hopping fromtavern to tavern.
43. The court schemers: These conniv-ing, petty nobles have plans for advance-ment at the royal court � plans thatusually involve the PCs. Court schemersusually have a favor or errand that needsto be done, and are sure to put in a goodword to the king for themselves. Theirplots are full of intrigue, but their wisdom
scores are low. These foils are found inand around capital cities where there is aroyal court.
42. The city guard: In this case, it is notthe captain of the guard who holds thegrudge against the PCs, it is the rest of theguard. This group always picks fights withthe PCs, looks for reasons to harass them,accuses them of crimes they didn�t com-mit, or sets them up for embarrassingsituations. The players should rememberthat the city generally looks down onanyone killing a member of the city guard.
43. The brothel: This horde of harlots isconstantly ready to tempt the good PCs(especially those who have taken vows), orscorn the less savory PCs� advances. �Noth-ing should ever be easy � or free� is theirmotto. This group is only found in or infront of a house of ill-repute in the lesssavory parts of town.
44. The marks: These low-level NPCshave actually bought items from the conman, and they run into the PCs whileusing the objects (items such as a faketreasure map that marks the treasure�slocation right in the PCs� home keep, orthe flying carpet that only flies �when itfeels like it�). There is a great potential forcomedy with these foils; just picture Lau-rel and Hardy in a role-playing game!
45. The thieves� guild: The guild eldersin the town or city in which the PCs cur-rently reside have established that the PCs�party is a �practice group� for all the fledg-ling thieves, and that they are to befleeced at every opportunity by theapprentices. (And the PCs would not wantto bring the wrath of the entire guild ontheir heads because of a dead footpad ortwo, would they?)
46. The unfriendly guild: In a town orcity where every form of commerce iscontrolled by one guild or another, the oneguild the PCs rely upon the most (be itWeapons Guild, Alchemists Guild, Mer-chants Guild, or Magic-User Material Com-ponent Supply Guild) is the one guild thatdoesn�t like the PCs.
47. The orphanage: Woe to the PCs, forthis is an entire building full of streeturchins, would-be adventurers, and crush-es who enjoy nothing more than playingevery practical joke conceivable (such aschamber-pot bombs dropped from theroof, spurs placed under a saddle, orgrease wiped on sword handles) on thehapless PCs. Of course, these demonsinstantly transform into perfect angelswhenever the headmaster is about.
Special foilsThe three foils listed hereafter are spe-
cial foils for several reasons. All three canbe used to start entire adventures, so theyare not just casual encounters. All threecould prove to be dangers to the PCs� livesand limbs, though that is not always thecase. Finally, all three have different pur-poses than merely annoying NPCs orgroups of characters.
48. The unknown entity: This can be a
powerful, playful, flippant godling whoamuses himself by popping in and out ofthe PCs' lives. Sometimes he helps themand sometimes he leaves them in thelurch, but he always leaves them withouta clue as to what�s going on. This foil mustbe played carefully so the PCs do not cometo depend on it too much. Tolkien�s TomBombadil is a good example of such acharacter. Invariably, the PCs are beingsteered toward some larger goal in theentity�s plans � perhaps to literally savethe world.
49. The rival(s): This is a rival for one ofthe PCs or a group of rivals for the wholegroup. Rivals should be adventurers of thesame levels and similar classes as the PCs(with a few variations thrown in to makethings interesting) who are constantlycompeting with the PC party for whateverthe current goal is. This group shouldkeep the PCs on their toes and make coop-eration among the PCs more likely, as italso adds an element of pressure to theproceedings. A foil such as this can addincentive to the game, as the PCs not onlytry to overcome their current goal (be itdungeon or quest), but also attempt tobeat their rivals to it. Rivals, of course, arenot necessarily evil � they are just rivals.
50. The case of mistaken identity: Ifplayed right, this foil can be a real laugh.The case of mistaken identity involves acoincidence in which one of the PCs justhappens to look like some NPC of whomthe party has never heard. Other NPCs areconstantly mistaking the PC for this otherperson, which is not good, for this otherperson apparently has the entire town andcountryside looking for him because ofsomething he has done (which is oftenbad). The poor PC is then always accusedof being this lowlife, who is quite a cadand scoundrel. This scenario can be veryeffective if the PCs decide to go after thisrogue and straighten things out. To makethings interesting, though, the PCs are alsounable to find him; they find only his trailof broken hearts, busted heads, bad debts,and angry enemies.
How to play foilsThis list of foils is designed to aid the GM
in creating colorful NPCs and potentiallyinteresting encounters. As they are onlysuggestions, the GM can develop the foilsas he sees fit. But above all, foils should befun and should provide lively subplots fora campaign.
A foil should be designed with the PCs inmind. If a GM has an idea of what bestirks the PC (or the player, for that matter),then that trait should be incorporated intothe NPC. If, for instance, the PCs are par-ticularly gold-hungry, the tax man is agood antagonist. If the PCs enjoy a rousingnight on the town every night, the captainof the guard would be a suitable foil. Per-haps the reveler would be the choice for aPC that is quiet and subdued, such as astudious magic-user. For those PCs thatflirt with the opposite sex, the jealous or
38 AUGUST 1988
catty lover is bound to show up. And if thePCs are politically active, the ignoblenoble, the court schemers, or the townofficial would be appropriate.
Then again, a foil could just be a pest.The fledgling bard, the loyal dog, and theunwanted pet are all cases of foils whodon�t know when they have worn outtheir welcome. If the PCs fancy themselvesas rescuers of fair maidens everywhere,then the lady who needs constant rescuingought to keep them entertained and on therun � until they collapse from exhaustion.
Foils do not have to be human; any racecan bring its own peculiar traits to therole of antagonist. A halfling can be just asexasperating as any human. The HalflingThieves Guild from the classic DRAGON®
Magazine comic �Finieous Fingers� is aperfect (if lethal) example of this. Raceitself can act as a foil to some characters:Imagine a party of elves having to dealwith a guild run by dwarves. In whatevercase, a foil can be introduced in the cam-paign to goad just one of the PCs or theentire party at once, so the various NPCscan be molded to fit a particular tempera-ment or scenario. It is all up to the GM.
A majority of the NPCs listed above arenoted for being found in and around citiesand towns. This is assuming that most ofthe encounters of the foil kind will occuras the PCs are recuperating between bigadventures that take place in dungeonsand the wilderness. However, this does notmean the PCs could not run into a foil inthe most unlikely of places. Foils can showup before, during, or after an adventurein any place the GM wants them. Natu-rally, some encounters are more likelythan others. The ignoble noble could befound while out on a hunt or visiting aforeign kingdom where the PCs are cur-rently exploring a dungeon; the madprophet could be seen in a far-off forestpreaching to the trees; and the marks, therivals, the merchant, or the unknownentity could show up anywhere.
Foils also give good lessons in restraint:PCs should never be easily rid of one, andthere should be no hack-and-slashresponse to the problem. These encoun-ters should only be solved by employingwit, guile, and ingenious role-playing.Some NPCs are so harmless that severerepercussions should occur if the PCs killone. For those not-so-harmless or innocentfoils, the PCs will want to think twicebefore trying to permanently dispose ofthem. These NPCs will be backed by someorganization or benefactor which wouldmake life rather uncomfortable for thePCs if anything fatal were to happen to thefoil. (Of course, a good thrashing mightnot hurt.) Nonviolent solutions, however,should be encouraged. In fact, experiencepoints should be awarded for the moreclever retorts. Foils are a test of wit andingenuity, not of strength and weaponry.
A prime example of how to foil a foil isthe crafty solution arrived at by a party ina recent campaign of this GM. The PCs
had been plagued by one very snobbishignoble noble. For various reasons, he wasusing his political influence to make thePCs look bad to local officials. The PCscould not confront him directly, for he hada very high profile with many connectionsand supporters. Instead, they began arumor that he had contracted a sociallyunacceptable disease, one of the symptomsof which was premature baldness. Then,during a large banquet attended by boththe PCs and the noble, the group�s magic-user got close enough to the noble to castthe cantrip hair loss on him, and his long,curly locks promptly fell into his soup(notch one for the players). The embar-rassed noble soon departed for an extend-ed vacation and was never again as bad athorn in the PCs� collective side.
Alas, solutions tend to be temporarywhere foils are concerned. These NPCswill probably be back, much to the play-ers� chagrin. As a result, foils should notalways spell trouble. About the time theycompletely wear out their welcome andthe PCs are pushed to the point of stran-gling them, the foils should drop somevital information the players can use: aclue to a current mystery, information onan enemy, the whereabouts of a neededitem or map � anything to stave off thePCs� wrath. Perhaps the GM could havethe foil help the PCs out of a difficult, life-threatening situation. (A foil likes nothingbetter than gratitude.)
A well-played foil will cultivate an inter-esting love/hate relationship with the PCs.However, if the PCs catch on and deliber-ately seek out the foil for help or informa-tion, they should discover that the NPC isnow harder to find than he was to losebefore. (And if found, the foil should besuspicious and defensive about the PCsseeking him out.) If sought in such a man-ner, foils will not freely give the help orinformation that is desired. Thus, foils canget the PCs coming and going.
Too much of a good thing can bog downa game; consequently, NPC foils should notbe overused. Too many foils can cause toomuch frustration among the players andlimit their enjoyment of the game. It isrecommended that no more than two orthree NPCs be encountered over a periodof time as full-time antagonists. After usingthem awhile, the GM should have themdisappear off the scene to pop up unpre-dictably in the future. The reaction from aplayer on seeing the return of an old foil isoften remarkable.
Such characters, when played to the hiltand with a touch of humor, can turn previ-ously forgettable NPC encounters intoevents as memorable as any perilousdungeon or deadly dragon.
AcknowledgementsI would like to thank the following for
their suggestions regarding types of foils(and who are effective foils themselves):Rick Caldwell, Dann Caldwell, and BrentTrostle.
�Who Was That Masked Android?�
How to keep a super hero�s identity a real secret!
Super heroes with secret identities areoften extraordinarily careless. Flimsycovers that wouldn�t last five minutes inthe real world are expected to stand up tothe scrutiny of hostile and friendly intelli-gence agencies, the media, police, friends,relatives, co-workers, employers, andother heroes�no matter what.
We all know that the world isn�t likethat. The technology of identification ishighly developed and uses dozens of fo-rensic and investigative techniques. It�svirtually impossible to do anything with-out leaving evidence: fingerprints, photo-graphs, saliva, skin particles, hair, blood,etc. And these aren�t the only ways weaffect our surroundings. Modern societyruns on records, and anyone who seemsto behave abnormally risks attracting theattention of tax agencies, the police, and avariety of other authorities. It�s difficultenough for anyone to drop out of sight inour own world, but in a super-poweredworld, most agencies could call on thehelp of their own super-agents with arange of unusual talents that could easilytrack down almost any hero or villain. Addthe scrutiny of the press to these factors,and it seems unlikely that a real-worldsuper hero could stay hidden for long.
Having said this, it should be remem-bered that comic-book heroes are usuallyable to survive such scrutiny even if theirdisguises are nothing more than changesin hair styles or the wearing (or removal)of glasses or tiny masks.
It�s sometimes difficult to understandwhy super heroes bother with secretidentities, which often seem more troublethan they�re worth. But the main reasonfor their use is to give heroes (and villains)a private life that isn�t continually inter-rupted by the press and assassinationattempts. For the Advanced MARVELSUPER HEROES� game, activities in one�ssecret identity are important in restoringand maintaining Karma; this becomesalmost impossible if the character can�tmaintain a normal private life.
This article presents a rating system fora new ability score, Secrecy, intended foruse as a rough guide to the security ofheroes and villains. Check if there is anymajor change at the end of each adven-ture; if the final rating falls below Typical,the hero may be due for some problems.
100 FEBRUARY 1990
by Marcus L. Rowland
All aspects of the rating system areheavily biased toward heroes; only themost careless will suddenly learn that TheDaily Bugle has published their secretidentities, or find hit men waiting in theirapartments after a hard day of crimefight-ing. This system has been tailored forcompatibility with the Advanced MARVELSUPER HEROES game, but it can easily beadapted to any other game.
To calculate the Secrecy rating, the heromust be assessed for each of the followingfactors: Disguise, Precautions, Confidants,Profile (Secret), Profile (Super), Conceal-ment, and Karma. When all factors areassessed, add the points for each factorand divide by seven to get the final Se-crecy rating.
Some of the heroes and villains men-tioned below do not currently maintainsecret identities; Secrecy ratings insteadreflect an earlier period of the character�scareer or a potential rating. A few exam-ples have been left blank, where no char-acter seemed to fit the circumstancesdescribed. For the purposes of this article,anything said about the secret identities ofheroes also applies to villains.
DisguiseDoes the hero wear gloves, a mask, or
any other disguise? Does the characterchange shape or size? These factors canmake identification easy or almost impos-sible. The ratings suggested below areonly guidelines and should be modified forunusual cases. Under most circumstance,a disguise should never be better thanMonstrous in effect.
Feeble: A total lack of care about secrecyis shown, apart from a clothing change.(Northstar)
Poor: Flimsy precautions are taken, suchas wearing a domino mask. (Shadowcat)
Typical: A cowl mask and gloves, possi-bly with a costume that covers the arms,are worn. (Daredevil)
Good: The costume covers the hero�sentire body. (Spider-Man)
Excellent: The hero�s costume incorpo-rates padding or armor that alters hisbody shape, or the hero has powers thatcause minor changes in his physical form.(Iron Man, She-Hulk)
Remarkable: The hero�s costume orpowers cause substantial changes in his
physical form. (Colossus)Incredible: The hero�s costume or
powers substantially alter his size andform. (Hulk, Thing)
Amazing: The hero�s costume or powerscause radical physical transformations.(Human Torch when �flamed on�)
Monstrous: The hero has an unusual orextremely thorough disguise, involving atotal physical change, different body, etc.(Thor/Donald Blake)
Acting talents: If the character isskilled as an actor or similar performer,and he uses the skill to enhance his dis-guise, this may cause a shift of 1-3columns on his rating, as follows:
Occasional amateur actor/performer:+1CS
Professional performer (but not an ac-tor): +2 CS
Professional actor: + 3 CSThis assumes that the character auto-
matically uses his skill to change his voiceand posture as a super hero.
PrecautionsDoes the character try to avoid any
connection between his secret and superidentity, or are the two closely associatedby common friends and interests? Forexample, Peter Parker has an uncannyknack of finding Spider-Man in action;how long will it be before someone putstwo and two together? Under most cir-cumstances, this rating should not exceedIncredible.
Feeble: An obvious public relationshipbetween a hero�s secret and super identi-ties exists; people know of the dual iden-tity but lack evidence to prove it. (Kingpin)
Poor: Many obvious links exist betweena hero�s secret and super identities.(Spider-Man)
Typical: Evidence of a link between thetwo identities exists, such as a similarity ofresources and skills. (Iron Man)
Good: No obvious links exist between thetwo identities, but some unusual associa-tions could be found by investigation.(Daredevil)
Excellent: No links exist between the twoidentities, apart from living in same city orarea. (Thor/Donald Blake)
Remarkable: The hero�s super identity ismainly active in another city or country.(Nightcrawler)
Incredible: The hero�s super identity ismainly active on other planets or in otherdimensions. (Doctor Strange)
ConfidantsDoes anyone know the hero�s secret
identity? Even the most reliable friendmight be unable to resist dropping a fewhints, or might be tortured or brain-washed to reveal the information. Thiscategory also includes any enemies whomight know an identity but have not yetbroadcast it.
Feeble: The hero�s secret identity isknown to at least one major enemy ormany civilians. (Daredevil)
Poor: The secret identity is known tofriends, relatives, or government agencies.(Shadowcat, Black Widow)
Typical: The secret identity is known toseveral civilians. (Iron Man)
Good: The secret identity is known toone trustworthy civilian or 2-5 heroes.(Scarlet Witch)
Excellent: The secret identity is knownto one other hero. (Spider-Man)
Remarkable: The hero is a loner, and hissecret identity is never revealed to any-one. (Punisher)
Incredible: Because of amnesia or multi-ple personality, the hero�s secret identitydoes not know of his super identity.
Amazing: The hero�s powers are mani-fested in a way that leaves no evidence ofheroic involvement, or the hero is notaware of his use of his powers. (�Licorice�Calhoun)
Profile (Secret)Is the secret identity a newsworthy
figure or a total nonentity? Newsworthyfigures are more likely to be noticed if
they make revealing slips, and they areoften under the surveillance of police,intelligence agencies, criminals, newsreporters, etc.
Feeble: The hero�s secret identity is aglobal figure (the head of a major state, amember of royalty, a religious leader, apop star, etc.). Everyone in the worldknows of this person. (Victor Von Doom)
Poor: The secret identity is a nationalfigure (American senator, head of a minorstate, business tycoon, TV star, nobleman)known to many people in one country, buthe is not globally famous. (Mariko Yashida,T�Challa)
Typical: The secret identity is regionallyfamous (a well-known journalist on a citypaper, a prominent local industrialist,mayor, etc.) or is known to a few hundredthousand people by name (e.g., an author),but is not a major national or internationalfigure. (Anthony Stark, Peter Parker)
Good: About 500-5000 people know ofthe secret identity by face, name, or repu-tation. He may be a lawyer, doctor,teacher, director, etc. (Dr. Donald Blake)
Excellent: About 50-500 people know ofthe secret identity, who may be a clerk,security guard, retired person, etc.
Remarkable: About 5-50 people knowthe name of the secret identity, who maybe a technician who only meets a fewclients, an unpublished author, a nightwatchman, etc. (Clint Barton)
Incredible: The secret identity is knownto 1-5 others, such as a spouse or relatives.(Rachel Summers)
Amazing: No one knows the character�s secret identity. The character could beunmasked on nationwide TV and wouldn�tbe recognized by anyone. (Red Skull,Scourge)
Profile (Super)Is the super-character well known or a
total nonentity? Prominent heroes aremore likely to be monitored by intelligenceagencies, the police, and supervillains.This rating is often related to the hero�sPopularity, but there should not be a di-rect relationship. A hero dropping from 50to 0 in Popularity because of a particularlystupid mistake would become more fa-mous, not less!
Feeble: Everyone in the world knows ofthis character. If a hero, the character isfollowed by a fan club and besieged bygroupies. Both heroes and villains arealways under observation by the policeand intelligence agencies. In the case ofvillains, any appearance is always thesignal for major countermeasures bymilitary and intelligence forces. (CaptainAmerica, Galactus, Doctor Doom).
Poor: Famous on an international ornational level, this character is usuallymonitored by intelligence agencies andforeign spies; (Red Skull, Thor)
Typical: The character is famous, proba-bly one of the top half-dozen heroes orvillains in the country, and he is frequentlypursued by the press, spies, etc. (Mr.Fantastic)
Good: The character is moderately well-known, with a reputation that probablyextends to several cities. He receives rou-tine attention from police and intelligenceagencies. (Black Knight)
Excellent: Though not the premier heroor villain of a city, the character tries hard.He is occasionally pursued by the press,but his activities are rarely the main con-cern of any national or internationalagency. (Mockingbird, Spider-Man)
Remarkable: One of the crowd, thecharacter is probably only remembered as�one of those super guys.� The averageman in the street is unlikely to be able tolist his powers. (Shaman)
Incredible: A second-string hero orvillain, this character is someone well divorced from routine public attention.Typically, he seen in action only againstother super-characters without mucheffect on the public. (Kraven)
Amazing: One or two people probablyknow of this character; most don�t andwouldn�t care if they did. The character isignored by the press and other agencies.( M o r l o c k s )
Monstrous: Who? No one has ever heardof this character, who may be brand newor have little effect on the general public.
Concealment How many of this hero�s last few mis-
sions have involved no slips or mistakesthreatening his identity (e.g., rippedmasks, fingerprints embedded in girders,etc.)? Since the status of characterschanges constantly in the comics, thereare no examples in this section.
Feeble: There have been major mistakesin several recent missions, and friends (orenemies) suspect the hero�s secret�and
have evidence to back up their ideas.Poor: There has been one recent major
slip, or a series of minor slips that couldlead a reasonably competent investigatorto suspect the truth.
Typical: There have been a few minorslips, but nothing would immediately leadan investigator to the truth.
Good: One or two very minor slips havebeen made.
Excellent: No slips have been made (ap-plies to most brand-new characters).
K a r m aIf a hero has Karma, he tends to be
lucky. The fates are on his side, the Forceis with him, and coincidences and acci-dents are resolved in his favor. If he lacksKarma, he won�t be saved by lucky acci-dents, and someone with the CIA or KGBmight decide to start looking at those oldfiles on him and analyzing them for clues.If enemies know his secret identity, Karmamay bring about a situation that preventsthem revealing the information.
Effects of SecrecyFeeble: The police, intelligence agencies,
and other organizations probably know ofboth of the hero�s identities. This informa-tion can be learned by any competentresearcher. Gossip columnists may bewaiting for a slack day to reveal the infor-mation if it hasn�t already been released,and the truth is definitely known to
S.H.I.E.L.D., the CIA, the FBI, the KGB, andother major intelligence forces.
Poor: The connection between the iden-tities could be learned if a major intelli-gence agency made a real effort, or ifsuper-powers and detective techniqueswere used. The connection is definitelyknown to S.H.I.E.L.D. and is probablyknown to other major agencies.
Typical: The identity connection is well-concealed unless a real slip is made. Thetruth is probably known to S.H.I.E.L.D.but not to other agencies.
Good: The identity connection is unlikelyto be known to anyone, apart from anyconfidants that may exist.
Excellent or better: The separation ofsecret and super identities is totally se-cure, barring disaster.
Judges are advised to avoid publicizingsecret identities unnecessarily, even if thePCs are extremely careless. Any factorthat might reduce the effect of mistakesshould be taken into account. Rememberthat it is rare for a hero�s alias to be re-vealed in the comics. Unless it is essentialto the plot, most super hero RPGs shouldreflect this philosophy.
Marvel, Marvel Super Heroes, and all Marvelcharacters, names, and likenesses are trade-marks of Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc.Copyright 1990 Marvel Entertainment Group,Inc. All Rights Reserved.
KEEP THE HEROESFLYING
A super-hero campaign is built on more than combat
by Car leton Tsui
The MARVEL SUPER HEROES� gameoffers role-players the chance to experi-ence the exciting and dramatic adventuresfeatured in Marvel Comics. However,constructing and maintaining a campaigncontaining super heroes can be difficultdespite having recognized characters anda detailed universe. Adventures designedby the Judge must be challenging, withample opportunities for combat, yet con-tain continuing plot lines that captivate theparticipants. The last point is of greatestsignificance in a game where charactersdo not gain levels and, even after manyadventures, may not be any more power-ful than when they started. The scenariosthat the Judge devises are the key factorin maintaining a high interest level. Thisarticle gives insights and some plot ideasthat might help Judges establish cam-paigns in the mighty Marvel manner. Keepin mind that while references are made tothe MARVEL SUPER HEROES game, thesepoints apply to any super-hero game.
Groups and goalsWhen assembling a super-hero group,
the Judge should have in mind the type ofcampaign he wishes to develop. Considerthe following questions:
1. Who are the heroes involved?2. What do you know about the heroes�
backgrounds?3. What is the goal of the heroes� team?These three questions establish the
foundation on which you can logicallybuild your scenarios.
The single most important aspect in anycampaign is determining who its partici-pants are. Players should role-play charac-ters with whom they are familiar andcomfortable. However, players should alsobe encouraged to use some less-recognizedcharacters at times rather than alwaysusing the same old favorites. The best wayto handle the selection of heroes is tocompose a list of those heroes that you
Marvel, Marvel Super Heroes, and all Marvel charac-ters, names, and likenesses are trademarks ofMarvel Entertainment Group, Inc.Copyright 1990 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. AllRights Reserved.
know and would like to see in your cam-paign. Judges are most content in buildinga campaign with characters they like, justas players are more enthusiastic whenplaying characters they like. Establish amedium in which both the players andJudge are content.
A crucial factor in the success of thecampaign is your knowledge of the playercharacters� histories. Few know every-thing about the vast Marvel Universe, butit is a good idea to have at least a generalknowledge about the main charactersbecause this background allows you todevelop creative subplots and spark newideas. The Official Handbook of the MarvelUniverse, recently published by Marvel,and the Gamer�s Handbook of the MarvelUniverse series from TSR, Inc. are invalu-able for gaming purposes. Both publica-tions give extensive histories of heroes andvillains alike for those not fortunateenough to own every single issue of ourfavorite comics. The backgrounds of yourPCs and nonplayer characters (NPCs) are arich source of ideas and plots.
From defending the world to just being anice guy, everyone has a reason for beinga hero. Likewise, there should be a reasonwhy super heroes do what they do or whythey work together if they are not usuallyallies. Your campaign need not duplicatethe existing Marvel Universe; anything youwant to happen can happen. However, ifyour Marvel characters do not normallyassociate with each other and your playersare Marvel fanatics, some type of explana-tion should be offered as to why theseheroes have teamed up. Here are someheroic team goals commonly found in theMarvel Universe:
1. National or World Defense�The mostcommon unifying force behind super-herogroups involves defense. Protecting thecountry, the Earth, the galaxy, or the uni-verse is a never-ending struggle. This isthe most open-ended goal, and virtuallyany type of adventure fits it. The FantasticFour and the Avengers are big followers ofthis philosophy.
2. Responsibility of Power�Here, theheroes act in the belief that they have aresponsibility to use their gifts for thebenefit of the public. This approach isoften part of the national/world defenseideal, but the heroes may not wish to be involved on such a large scale, workingonly locally. Daredevil and Spider-Man arethe best examples here.
3. Quest�Adventures of this type ofgroup involve reaching specific goals.While the welfare of the public is normallyconsidered, the heroes are not in thebusiness of protecting people. The plans ofthe X-Men and X-Factor to unite humanity
72 MAY 1990
and mutants are examples of such quests.The most difficult aspect of using this goalin gaming is in devising a quest worthy oflong-term play.
4. Revenge�Vigilante campaigns revolvearound heroes attempting to avenge someform of harm done to them. The opposingforce should be powerful and widespreadto allow for maximum potential whendesigning adventures. The Punisher relieson the revenge theme.
5. Adventuring�Surprise: Adventurershave no purpose! The heroes live fromadventure to adventure without specificplans. They may, at times, adopt one of theaforementioned goals, but nothing is per-manent. Both Excalibur and She-Hulkseem to exist for the sake of seeking ad-venture itself.
The Judge�s peopleNPCs are essential for an interesting
adventure and are among the most impor-tant elements in any campaign. Role-played well, NPCs provide the humancontact that spells the difference betweenordinary and exceptional games. Interac-tion with NPCs adds realism to the gameand makes the players aware that theworld and its events do not revolvearound their PCs.
Through NPCs, Judges can not only havesome fun in their own adventures, but cangain a degree of control in any partyaction. Fans of fantasy role-playing gamesin which killing is an accepted routineshould be reminded of the different situa-tion in the MARVEL SUPER HEROES game,in which NPC heroes can curb the PCs�murderous intentions against criminals byopposing them directly and remindingthem of the rule of law. NPCs can alsoboost the strength of a heroes� team, assistnovice players, or provide insight intocritical clues with which the players arehaving difficulty.
When creating regularly used NPCs,have some of them be normal people.Since the world is mainly composed ofeveryday folks, it stands to reason that thebulk of NPCs will be normal men andwomen. Get the heroes involved withnormal people and show them that theworld is not just inhabited by super-powered beings. After all, super heroesare supposed to be a special minority.
However, because normal NPCs are�regular folks,� they tend to be overlookedand forgotten in the masses of other superheroes and super villains that the PCsmeet. Therefore, normal NPCs must be asmemorable as possible. Give them differ-ent idiosyncrasies, personalities, situations,abilities, and disabilities. Perhaps onehero�s best friend wears outrageous cloth-
ing or likes to sing in public. Peculiarhabits are great attention getters, whetherit�s a new hair style every week or rollerskates worn to work. Personalities areharder to pick up on than habits, unlessthey are obvious or the PCs have knownthe NPC for some time. Short tempers,radical mood changes, or the ability tolaugh at every situation are easily ob-served. Even a person totally devoid ofpersonality could be interesting! Strangesituations really keep the NPC involvedwith the heroes. An NPC can become ahero�s love interest. Maybe the NPC alwaysneeds money and finds the heroes gener-ous. Even the landlord who constantlyspies on the heroes� private activities canbe memorable (if annoying). NPCs withexceptional talents and disabilities will alsostick out in the player�s mind. Players willremember the skilled doctor who savedtheir lives or the mathematics professorconfined to a wheelchair.
It does not take much to build a memo-rable NPC. Just one or two memorabletraits assigned to an NPC can make himinteresting. Consider the Marvel charac-ters Alicia Masters, J. Jonah Jameson,Willy Lumpkin, and Aunt May. Each ofthese normal characters is memorablebecause each has a special trait connectedto them. Alicia is a blind sculptress, J.Jonah Jameson has a horrible temper,Willy Lumpkin is a kindly old mailman,and Aunt May is a lovable burden to hernephew. Well-developed and well-playedNPCs are in the core of any ongoing cam-paign. In fact, adventures centered onpeople rather than outside events offer abreak from slugfests with villains and theunravelling of global conspiracies.
Perplexing plotsIt is common for adventures and con-
flicts to center on the PCs. After all, theyare the PCs, and if events did not centeron them, why bother playing? However,NPCs have lives, too, and sometimes ithelps to construct a problem that centerson an NPC instead. Mystery, suspense, andsuspicion build when all the informationneeded to solve a case involving an NPC isnot given all at once. Consider the follow-ing example:
In a battle with a vampire, an NPC hero(or just a regular NPC) is bitten and, un-known to anyone else, begins a deadlytransformation into a vampire. In succes-sive games, clues are given to indicate theonset of vampirism. Since she is an NPC,the Judge can decide when and how toreveal this information to the players. Bydropping small clues between other ad-ventures, this subplot can maintain adegree of mystery for several sessions to
come. Suppose the NPC realizes what ishappening, but she decides to conceal thefact from the PCs. Perhaps she stubbornlyinsists that nothing is wrong if confrontedwith evidence against her. After severalgames and numerous Psyche FEATS, shefinally succumbs to the urge to drawblood-and what better targets than thebothersome PC heroes!
This is much more exciting than justtelling a PC hero that he has become avampire. Not only would the other playershear you say this (passing notes alwaysdraws suspicion anyway), but the effectwould be less than startling. While it isstressed that the PCs are still number one,keep this NPC option open and tease play-ers with bits and pieces of upcomingevents. Plots like these are another reasonwhy a good set of NPCs is valuable.
What follows is a number of events thatcan be used as plots or subplots. Some areeasily incorporated into most campaigns,while others require some brainstormingon the Judge�s part. All have been success-fully used by this author, and the ideasexpressed about each topic may serve asinspiration.
Romance: For those who enjoy role-playing, this field provides splendid oppor-tunities for interaction. It is anentertaining and challenging topic to han-dle, but it requires maturity from theJudge and players for full effect.
If romance is an angle that you wish toinclude in your campaign, examine thebackgrounds of the heroes who might beits objects. If a hero is a known Marvelcharacter, he might already be romanti-cally involved with another person or evenmarried. But what if the character is notnoted as having any romantic compan-ions? The Judge can perform the match-making with an NPC or (with anotherplayer�s consent) another PC hero, al-though in the latter case this will usuallyhappen on its own. In the case of estab-lishing an NPC partner, the Judge shouldconsider the hero�s popularity, personality,physical appearance, and actions. Mostnormal people would jump at the chanceto be involved with a super hero, but someheroes might have a different view (�Idon�t need you! I�m the Phoenix!�).
NPCs would be attracted to PC heroesfor numerous reasons: short-term infatua-tion, the lure of fame (even to be shown inthe tabloids), a set-up by the hero�s arch-enemy (with the NPC as the bait), or eventrue love. In any event, keep the NPCactive and involved in the PC�s life just as ifit were a real relationship. If the playerrefuses the NPC�s advances, the NPC couldleave, get angry, or keep trying to win thePC�s affections. The lover may even go to
great extents to harm or attract the PC,depending on how deep the feelings run.
As long as the lover maintains a relation-ship with a hero, watch the hero�s actionstoward that person carefully. PCs areexpected to spend time with their lovedones and remember things like birthdaysand Christmas. Heroes who are marriedand have children have even more tohandle. Neglected commitments and lostaffection may result in arguments, abreak-up, or even a divorce. Karma can begained or lost easily when dealing withpersonal relationships. This plot can be-come very complex, but it can be highlyrewarding and provide great enjoyment.
Death: Having just touched on whatmay be the happiest times for the hero,we now focus on a very dismal fact of life:death. In every role-playing game thereexists the possibility of a PC dying. Sooneror later it catches up to all heroes [see�Nobody Lasts Forever,� in DRAGON® issue#150]. In the MARVEL SUPER HEROESgame, though, it seems that death is gener-ally not a problem. With vast supplies ofKarma and high Endurances, heroes canstave off death almost indefinitely. Some
heroes are even immortal and cannot die!Due to enhancements in the Advancedgame set, PCs are even allowed a FEAT rollagainst Kill shots. A little Karma on thisroll virtually guarantees safety.
The Marvel game is a wonderful game ofaction and astounding feats against seem-ingly unbeatable odds. However, withoutthe threat of death, players receive theimpression that the Judge will always savetheir PCs, and the challenge of combatfades. Death provides a sharp sense ofexcitement that may otherwise beforgotten after many adventures.
To remedy this situation, incorporate therule that a Kill shot means an instant lossof all Health points (such as in the originalMARVEL SUPER HEROES set) and thehero begins losing Endurance ranks. Allmethods of stopping or slowing Endurancelosses are applicable. Do not allow anEndurance FEAT vs. the kill shot! Sincefew heroes can afford 50 Karma pointsper round to stabilize their Endurances or200 Karma points for new EnduranceFEATS, caution in combat and having afriends aid are still the best solutions.
On occasion, you may wish to include
the death of an NPC in the campaign. Itshould be someone whom the heroes haveknown and perhaps liked or loved; theNPC might even have been a fellow hero.It might even happen that a PC hero isslain, though this should not be purpose-fully planned for by the Judge. The deathof a comrade in a tightly bound groupsuch as those in the comics is usually metwith considerable grief, offering extensiveopportunities for role-playing. It is ashame that most Judges view death asnothing more than a chance to roll up newcharacters. Handled tastefully with playerswho enjoy role-playing with sentimentaldetails, this can be a powerful addition tothe campaign.
Battling other heroes: The confron-tation between two known groups ofheroes is a theme that has been frequentlyused in comics. The only thing that ex-ceeds a phenomenal hero-versus-villainbattle is a hero-versus-hero confrontation.Its very nature is fascinating. What wouldprompt acknowledged super heroes (andgood friends, in most cases) to resort tousing violence against each other?
This plot is difficult to construct. Again,background material on the heroes in-volved provides hints for constructingsuch battles. A logical explanation for thecause of such a fight is essential, as yourplayers might demand to know why theheroes are fighting their allies! Perhapsthe most frequently employed rationalehere is mind control. Villains with mind-control powers are fairly common. Theytake great pleasure in having super heroesslug it out with one another, perhapseliminating some of them. The advantageof mind control is that the controlledheroes are the real thing, not robots madeup like the heroes, and the free-willedheroes are at a disadvantage in stoppingtheir attackers without severely injuringthem. Mind control is a viable, if some-what unimaginative, solution.
Another rationale for hero-versus-herobattles is the use of robot duplicates orshape-changing imitators. These scoun-drels usually imitate other beings only forcombat purposes and for the confusiongenerated when they, as �good guys,�attack the heroes. Some of the more devi-ous imitators might infiltrate the teamitself to steal secrets, defeat the headquar-ters� security, break up the team by caus-ing personal problems, or spy on theiractions. But only the finest imitators willnot be caught off guard when confrontedby bits of information only known topersonal friends of the imitated-being.
The ideal hero-versus-hero battle is agenuine one, an unavoidable situation inwhich one team resorts to violence tosolve a problem with another team. Layingout the plot and motivations involved takesa lot of work. For example, the PCs in therole of X-Factor might end up fighting the,X-Men (NPCs controlled by, the Judge)because each believes they are doing the
74 MAY 1990
right thing for a certain mutant girl thateach team is trying to rescue. X-Factorbelieves the girl should be trained to useher powers but then returned to society,while the X-Men want to train her as apotential adventurer. Suppose X-Factordecides that the girl is too young to facethe dangers of heroism, while the X-Menbelieves that she would be perfectly safe.Neither side will budge, and when the
able to come up with the money. It may bedifficult to get a player to have his herobecome addicted to drugs or abuse alco-hol, for very obvious reasons. However,perhaps an NPC friend of a PC hero hassuch a problem, and steals from the heroor calls on the hero when in trouble.
joint rescue operation is completed, thereal action begins.
In this example, conflict results fromopposing goals. Fights resulting fromclashing morals or plans at cross purposesare some of the most fascinating and sen-sational of all battles. The scenario is also
If you feel that chemical addictions aredistasteful to you or to your players, youcan utilize less graphic but still expensivehabits. A hero might be a rabid computer-game freak, aggressive art collector, orcompulsive shopper. Tony Stark used tobuy sports cars at the rate of about oneper week.
The bottom line is that everyone needsmoney, even super heroes. A financial
thought provoking. Are the heroes doingthe right thing? Perhaps their rivals arecorrect!
Financial disasters: This plot worksbest with heroes who have Excellent orbetter Resources or are involved in a
disaster should never occur more thanonce per campaign, as it take considerabletime for heroes to recuperate from it.After plunging into the depths of poverty,give the PCs a break. Any plot can beoverused.
business. A plot such as this does not have Lifesavers: In this scenario, the team isthe same effect when resources are Poorto begin with. As the heading suggests,
involved in a quest to find some type ofantidote or some much-needed informa-
this plot involves a major loss of money.This could come about for several reasons,
tion. The success of this plot depends on
including lawsuits, blackmail, trickery, badthe originality of the problem and solu-tion.
investments, debt, gambling, addiction toalcohol or drugs, competition by rivalcompanies, or plain old theft.
Loss of money on a grand scale can be
Generally, the plot runs something likethis: A member of the team becomes se-verely ill, irradiated, transformed, coma-
quite devastating. Tony Stark was an excel-tose, etc. The PCs must detect, analyze,
lent example here, having suffered a con-and formulate a solution to the problem.
tinuing chain of problems arising from aMost of the time the solution requires the
financial disaster. He was cheated out ofbuilding of a special apparatus or the
his multimillion-dollar company and con-tracts. As a result, he lost almost all hisarmor, which led to his drinking problem.It forced him out of the hero business andcost him the respect of many people.
Lawsuits and rival companies can beanything from annoying to downrightdangerous. The former can potentiallydrain millions of dollars and are particu-larly useful against property-negligentheroes. And one should be especiallycareful when rivalling big businesses;
obtaining of a rare herb, medicine, radio-active material, chemical, or magical talis-man. It may be that the device to beconstructed is simply extremely expensive.A classic example of the life-saving plot isthe Fantastic Four�s journey into the Nega-tive Zone to steal the cosmic control rodfrom Annihilus. The rod�s power was thenused to save the life of the Invisible Girl,just before she gave birth to her son.
Certainly not all life-saving plots are onsuch a cosmic level, and a few twists to
unscrupulous businessmen have a habit ofthe standard plot can give it a new per-
sending but hired muscle to see that thespective. Suppose that in order to save the
competition is crippled or eliminated com-hero�s life, another hero must give up his.But who would do it? Another team mem-
pletely. Super villains may become in- ber? A fanatical fan of the hero? Someonevolved after normal methods of pushingout the heroes have failed. Friends and
who loves him? Maybe the hero will opt
family could be kidnapped, held for ran-not to be saved, knowing that he has led a
som, or killed to ensure the bankruptcy offull life and wishing others to do the same.
the PCs� company. PCs may also resort toIf a PC is the one who is dying, make sure
violence or threats, but if they�re caught inthat the player understands that such a
the act, they may be blackmailed intovoluntary death is final; otherwise the
submission in return for not handing oversignificance and impact of the problem isweakened.
incriminating evidence to the law or press-ing charges. The corporations of thecomic-book world are filled with corruption. Make use of them.
Addiction to chemical substances or togambling can also put the hero in seriousdebt. Any supplier to an addicted hero isbound to have some tough muscle in hisown organization which would be readilyused against the hero, should he not be
Another problem that might appearconcerns the side effects of the cure.Suppose that a cure robs the hero of hispowers in part or in whole? Or maybe thecure requires the powers of anotherhero-but after the cure is applied, thedonating hero loses his powers! What ifthe donating hero was not told of this
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consequence beforehand? What if thecure requires the aid of a super villain? Nodoubt in the former case there would besome type of confrontation betweenfriends of the donating hero and the recip-ient (a darn good reason for a hero-versus-hero battle). In the latter case, someinteresting propositions would have to bemade to get a super villain to aid a foe,especially if a sworn arch-enemy must becalled upon.
However, the healing process might havebeneficial side effects, too. Some of thepeople involved in the process might ac-quire new powers or have their originalpowers enhanced. The healer and thepatient might, in some processes, bemerged into one being, with both con-sciousnesses intact. Future work may haveto be done if such a merging proves dan-gerous or aggravating. As you can see, theaftermath can be just as interesting (if notmore so) as the initial problem.
Loss of powers: What is it that sepa-rates a super hero from everyone else? Hispowers, of course. The previous scenariohas already illustrated that powers can belost. This plot often fits well with the life-saving line, as nothing inspires a hero tofind a cure faster than when his ownpowers are on the line.
What happens to the hero once he loseshis powers? The answer can only be supplied by the PC and depends on whetherthe powers can ever be regained. In mostcases, the PC is retired and a new hero isgenerated if the power loss is permanent.Playing a character with no powers on ateam that must constantly defend thesafety of the planet is tough, to say theleast. Should the hero remain true to hiscause despite his handicap, there may beno need to quit. Permanently depoweredcharacters can concentrate on gainingadditional talents and raising their abilityscores. Storm, of the X-Men, is such anexample. When she realized that shewould never command the elements again,she trained hard and in the long run evenbecame the X-Men�s leader. Judges whoencounter a player so dedicated to hishero that he will play him even withoutpowers should encourage his actions.Everyone loves a good comeback story.Perhaps the new and improved hero willbe even better, having dealt with his �dis-ability,� and will triumph in the end.
The complete opposite of this scenariowould be the massive gaining of power.Here, the hero finds his powers increasingto unimaginable levels. Soon, however, itcould become an uncontrollable curse asthe slightest release of energy might dev-astate vast areas of land or threaten toconsume the hero. Or the power couldtaint the PC�s righteousness, creating a�Dark Phoenix� effect. Strict limitationsshould be placed on the hero in order topreserve game balance should the Judgeopt for a permanent increase of power togodlike levels.
The most important aspect about dealingwith the loss of power is to treat it as aserious event. The effects can be tempo-rary, but the players do not have to knowthat! Players tend to scoff and not beconcerned if they can be sure that theirheroes� precious powers will return tothem. Used sparingly and effectively, theloss of powers can be one of the mostchallenging adventures for the players.
Group break-ups: Another good role-playing plot is the dissolution of the he-roes� team. Incidents that could split up aheroes� team are many. Background mate-rial may indicate some sort of conflictbetween members that could be an under-lying cause. Usually, a group breakdown isthe result of personal conflicts (althoughthe players themselves might split up forunrelated reasons, forcing changes inhero-group rosters).
A change of goals and outlook on life byone of the members could cause him tonow oppose the goals or general alignmentof the team. A serious traumatic experi-ence, such as the slaying of a fellow mem-ber or friend, could psychologically injurea heroic character to the point of resigna-tion. This hero may find her performancedropping because of grief or the fear ofdeath, and other team members may soonrequest that she at least take a vacation.
It could be that a lover persuades thehero to quit because the lover cannottolerate knowing that the hero lives inconstant danger. If the hero refuses, thelover may leave, keep pleading, or evenhire villains to beat up the hero to provethe point! Two members of the team maydecide to get married, and one or both ofthem may not wish to pursue the adven-turing life any further.
Villains desire nothing more than to seethe good guys out of business. Enemiesmay seek to destroy the trust and compan-ionship bonding the team. This can beattempted by mental or emotional control.Characters who are controlled may beconsumed with fear, hate, doubt, or jeal-ousy, and teamates may become approved by the controlled character's actions.Villainsmayframeheroesforstaged crimes, especially the killing of
innocents or massive destruction. Theteam may then be wanted by the law andforced to disband, abandoning any publicheadquarters until the heroes can becleared. Instead of breaking up, the groupmight go underground.
A situation in which only one or twomembers leave would provide a smoothentry for any new heroes that the Judgewishes to join the team. Just make surethat an explanation for disbanding a teamor losing team members is reasonable. Asuper hero would not just give up afterone or two failures, but only if some majordisaster in his life caused him to believethat the group or world would be betteroff without him.
AftermathThis article has highlighted some of the
more popular plots found in comic books,but it has by no means even scratched thesurface of the infinite variety of scenariosavailable. These plots have generallyavoided combat, as it takes more than justa good fight to make a campaign; it isassumed that all Judges can design a de-cent combat situation.
Few players might consider having theirheroes quit or get romantically involved,except for the most skilled role-players.Because your average player, especially anovice, will not involve himself in suchsituations, it is advisable to keep a cast ofNPCs to help out. NPCs are extremelyuseful in promoting player initiative. En-courage players to take their own courseof action, too, instead of merely waitingfor the latest world domination plan tocrop up.
Remember, with great power comesgreat responsibility, and no one has morepower or responsibility than the gamemaster.
D R A G O N 7 9
The Rules of the Game
How can you teach someone to role-play? Here�s one system
by Thomas M. Kane
Have you ever tried to teach someonehow to role-play? The rule books make nosense to a beginner; they contain reams ofdata but almost never actually explain howone plays. The game master (GM) andplayers must teach new players the rules,clearly and entertainingly. Although everynew player learns in a different way, thereare certain processes that you, as the GM,will always need to explain.
Before the gameA new player has to have some desire to
role-play before he will listen to yourexplanations. Tell him about exciting ad-ventures-you have had (but don�t overdo
it). Explain the setting of your campaignand suggest inspirational reading, such asmythology or fantasy novels. These early�lessons� need not be dissertations�deliver them long before the game, innormal conversation.
Beginners want to start playing immedi-ately. Unfortunately, most role-playinggames consist of an unstructured crossfireof ideas, questions, and jargon, all ofwhich quickly bewilder a new player. Givethe new player a short introduction beforehis first game. Make it both. direct andsimple�never ramble about �escapinginward� or �exploring the realms of yourimagination.� Explain that each personpretends to be a character in a story andsimply tells the group what he or shewants to do. And since the player charac-ters (PCs) might not be able to do every-thing their players want, dice are used todecide if they succeed or fail.
The concept of telling the GM whichactions your character is taking; thenreceiving the results, is the core of all role-playing games. Make sure that the newplayer understands how role-playingworks. Many new players can barelyconceive of a game without cards, gameboards, or other equipment. When a newplayer finally understands the
play, he often worries that role-playingrules are too simple�that all players do istalk. Assure him that the GM plans adven-tures in advance, and that role-playing isas challenging as any game.
After outlining the sequence of play,describe your functions as the game�s GM.Explain that you are both an author and areferee�whatever you say is true, even ifplayers disagree. The GM maintains andcontrols the game environments for thePCs. You might have to steer the newplayer between two opposing misconcep-tions. Some new players feel limited tomaking prescribed moves. My firstfantasy-game character carried a sparesuit of plate mail throughout his firstadventure because there were no rules forthrowing it away. Other new players mustbe reminded that they are playing a gamewith definite rules. They must abide bythe dice rolls and cannot �fudge.�
Finally, make sure that your studentknows that he does not need to kill theother PCs to �win� (and that such actionsmay, in fact, cause trouble in the game).Explain that the party shares the samefate, be it happy, tragic, or neither. Newplayers should know that adventures donot always end in either a gain or a loss.Victories may later seem Pyhrric, whiledefeats can prove to be �blessings in dis-guise.� Once a new player understands the general process of the game, let him startplaying. Answer further questions onlywhen he asks them.
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36 JUNE 1990
The RulesContinued from page 36
Fitting inOn page 111 of the AD&D® 1st Edition
Dungeon Masters Guide, Gary Gygax sug-
gested that novices play their first role-playing games alone, without interferencefrom experienced players. However, mostGMs have no time to run separate cam-paigns for beginners, and most new play-ers resent being segregated. Let new-
comers play an introductory adventure inyour regular campaign. Before the newplayer arrives, make sure that the experi-enced players will be polite. Never letanyone ridicule a newcomer. Both the GMand the party must listen to the newplayer and encourage him to play, reactingenthusiastically to good suggestions andsetting aside terrible ideas with reasonedbut respectful comment. Established play-ers can nurture the new party memberwhile role-playing. In fantasy games, toughfighters may give terse and cynical warn-ings about the adventure to come, whileintellectual wizards might recall their ownapprenticeships and take a special interestin the newcomer.
Every new player needs a character, butmany new players become bored whilerolling one up. Be sure that the new playerunderstands that generating a character ispart of preparing to play, not the gameitself. Briefly explain that in role-playinggames you pretend to be another person,and randomly generated statistics (createdby dice rolls) show how strong, smart,dextrous, etc., the imaginary character is.Point out that as characters gain adventur-ing experience, they generally (if the gameallows for it) become more powerful. Youmight compare rolling up a character todealing out cards in a poker game. Yourcharacter�s statistics�like a poker hand�determine how you will play. Then let thenew player choose between playing aprerolled character and generating a newone. If a game�s PC-generation system isprolonged, a pregenerated PC would bebest; offer a choice between two or three.
If the new player wants to, roll up hisown character, do not complicate theprocess with unnecessary detail. Height,weight, and other details seldom matter ina first adventure. Explain what each im-portant statistic means and how it is deter-mined. Let the new player participate, butdo not flood your student with data. Whenthe new player gets to choose something,such as race, class, or alignment, mentiononly the most attractive possible choices.In most fantasy games, fighters andthieves probably make the most satisfac-tory beginning PCs. Clerics require espe-cially sensitive role-playing to avoidseeming effete. Magic-users die easily, andthe rules for spells are complex. If yournew player wants to play a magic-user,you should probably wait until later toexplain the difference between memorizedspells, known spells, and spells written inthe spell book.
In games with an alignment system, newplayers might not understand conceptssuch as �lawful� and �chaotic.� Most newplayers become even more confused whenthey are given a list of which alignmentsbelieve in individual rights and whichmight condone murder. You can describealignments by pairing fictional characterswith their ethos. For example, if the new-
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The RulesContinued from page 70
comer to an AD&D game has read Tolkien,you could say that that Aragorn was law-ful good, Frodo was neutral good, and TomBombadil and Galadriel exemplify twodifferent views of chaotic goodness. Simi-lar archetypes appear in most fantasyliterature.
New characters should always be goodaligned. Only a skillful role-player canportray a villain without behaving like apsychopath, and new players usually feeluncomfortable about willfully choosing tobe �evil.� Do not make lawful or goodalignments sound prudish. Almost allfictional heroes, even dashing scoundrels,would have been good guys in fantasygames. Use Robin Hood as an example.
New players should not buy equipmentbefore the adventure; they seldom knowwhat a mace is, much less a bec-de-corbin.Instead, let each character buy what hewants after the game begins. The PCsshould probably begin in a small town,where they can buy equipment withoutthe distraction a city offers. This not onlystarts the game faster, it lets new playersdiscover for themselves what they willneed. It also lets them experiment withrole-playing without endangering theentire party. If the new PC teases a shop-keeper, he may have to borrow somebodyelse�s iron spikes. If the new PC insults adragon, everybody in the party might getroasted.
When the player has a character, eithernewly rolled or pregenerated, analyze itsstrengths and weaknesses aloud. For ex-ample, �You�re strong and clever, butsomewhat unattractive. This charactermight make a good warrior? Usually, oneor two sentences is enough. However, ifthe new player seems interested in yourdescription, you might add some back-ground from your campaign, such as: �Youwere born in the Barbarous Plains. Thatmakes you an unsurpassed horseman�and a fierce-warrior.�
On with the game!Try to start the game within 20 minutes.
If the new player still seems confused, justsay, �Tell me what your character wants todo.� As the new player watches moreexperienced players role-play, he willprobably begin to understand the game.New players often try to wheedle hintsfrom the GM. If this occurs, keep himfrom becoming frustrated, but make itclear that PCs have to solve their ownproblems. When the new PC is in a partywith experienced adventurers, get them togive advice to the new guy. If nobody inthe party can help, try to have an NPCprovide the answer or at least make upsome reason to offer information. Maybethe new PC heard a bards song about asimilar situation or was warned about it asan apprentice. Most people learn board
100 JUNE 1990
games by making random moves when-ever it is their turn, thus gradually findingout what the rules allow. In role-playinggames, this �turn� may never come. When-ever a new player seems ignored, the GMshould ask the newcomer what action hischaracter wants to take. If possible, forcethe new PC to do something heroic�alone.
During the game, a new player will facemost typical game processes, such as com-bat tables, �plusses to hit,� and terms suchas �PC,� �NPC,� �player,� and �GM� or �DM.�Keep the game going, but give a shortexplanation of each such concept. Usuallya sentence is enough, such as: �This is theeight-sided die.� Explain dice mechanics asearly as possible, including percentile rollsand abbreviations (like �3d6�).
New players learn best by playing,whether they completely understand therules or not. Once the new player feelscomfortable role-playing, you may intro-duce more complex rules. You can start byshowing the entire party the module theyjust explored (assuming you aren�t going touse it again). All players, new and old,enjoy hearing about things that mighthave happened and how clever they wereto evade the many enemies who opposedthem. This also gives you an excuse to talkabout spells, treasure, maps, monsters,game balance, and all other features of atypical adventure. However, avoid talkingtoo much or giving more answers than thenew player wants. Keep the new playerinterested!
After the first adventure, new playersneed personalized characters. They knowenough to use one properly now andshould start accumulating memories andexperience points. If you used a prerolledcharacter, take it back and help your stu-dent roll up a new one if he wants (or lethim keep the prerolled one and play that ifhe likes it). Even when the new player hasalready rolled up a character, he will needstatistics for height, weight, and anythingelse you ignored before. Let the newplayer know that a PC leads an imaginarylife in your campaign world and existseven when not adventuring. Give a newPC a history, friends, enemies, and livingexpenses.
A new player becomes an expert byglancing through the rule books, turningrules and ideas into a vision of the game. Ifyou dare, lend new players your rulebooks. Otherwise, let them skim rulesduring slow parts of the game or arrangea trip to some bookstore that allowsbrowsing. You can also recommend fictionthat represents your campaign. Be readyto suggest which books the new playershould buy, but remember that new-comers are usually not ready to spendmuch money. New players will probablynot use anything more than the rule booksallowed for players to use. Of course, abeginner can play with nothing but dice.
Special warning: Be aware that theAD&D game is not an �advanced� versionof the D&D® game. Some people recom-
mend that novice AD&D game playerslearn the D&D Basic Set rules first. How-ever, these are two entirely differentgames, each quite complex but not usingthe same rules system. Either one is fine initself, but confusing them will only lead toserious frustration later! Similar problemsmight exist with other game systems thatwere revised in later editions�e.g., GameDesigners� Workshop�s TRAVELLER®,MEGATRAVELLER®, and the since-renamed TRAVELLER: 2300� games (thelatter now being the 2300 AD� game).Know your rules!
When you introduce the rules, avoidscaring beginners with gargantuan piles ofbooks. Newcomers should respect therules but not feel compelled to memorizethem. You can compare role-playing rulesto the Chance and Community Chest cardsin Parker Brothers� MONOPOLY® game;players must obey them but do not have tostudy each one in advance. New playersshould know that role-playing games con-stantly change and expand. Explain thatsince players want rules for anything thatmight ever happen, new guidelines willalways be possible. You might even en-courage beginners to design optional rulesof their own. This can mollify players whoenvy the GM�s license to �cheat.�
There are certain mistakes that almostall beginners make, and GMs should watchfor and correct these. For example: In theAD&D and D&D game systems, remindnewcomers that lower armor classes aremore protective; therefore, a suit of platemail + 1 actually subtracts one point fromthe wearer�s armor class. Also, emphasizethat shields improve a character�s armorclass by one�not reduce it to - 1. Newplayers need to know that �monster� oftenmeans nothing more than �NPC� �anynonplayer character.
When a game uses foreign currencies orimaginary money, watch moneychangingclosely. Most new players have a very hardtime converting gold pieces to silver ordollars to francs. Some GMs just call goldpieces �dollars,� but if you let new playersdevelop a habit of this, they will probablynever stop, and that makes the game seemslightly less realistic.
The novice adventureA new player forms countless prejudices
and expectations during the first game.You should use this opportunity to shapethe new player into the sort of gamer youwant in your campaign. Use a wide varietyof challenges and settings. If the entireadventure takes place underground, anewcomer might not understand that anysurface world exists.
The first adventure must accomplishthree things. First, it should demonstratethe game. This is why you need a variedassortment of encounters. Second, itshould summarize your campaign world.Let the new PCs meet important NPCs andexpose them to the stories, geographicalfeatures, etc., of your milieu. Third, it
should build expectations for the nextgame. The new players should face someexciting challenge and overcome it. Do notlet the new player PCs fail, because in thefirst game it is more important for newplayers to feel triumphant than to enforceevery rule of game balance. Have thebeginners find a small reward; even a fewsilver coins will excite them. Then makethem anticipate even better successes. Letthem learn about magical items to lust forand expensive luxuries that they wouldbuy if only they were rich. PCs will pursuethese things for lifetimes.
The first adventure should have a simpleplot. Since the new players do not under-stand the rules yet, they should not haveto concentrate on understanding yourstoryline. This innocence lets you use allthe fun tricks that experienced playersmight consider hackneyed. New playersfeel proud to be hired by the village chief-tain, and animated skeletons still terrifythem. Fantasy-game GMs could also seethe introductory D&D modules B11 King�sFestival and B12 Queen’s Harvest for othernovice-level adventure ideas.
The GM cannot tell a new player everything, and new players remember thingsmuch more completely when they teachthemselves. Unfortunately, most rulebooks assume that their readers can role-play. Therefore, this article includes ashort introduction to role-playing in thefollowing section. Have the new playerread this section, and if he becomes inter-ested in a game, so much the better!
How to playMost games simulate something people
want to do. Perhaps they recreate emo-tions, like triumph. Maybe they demandcertain skills, like military strategy. Chess,for example, is almost exactly like war.And there is a type of game, called a role-playing game, which tries to simulate all oflife. The players assume the parts of char-acters in a story, and all of their experi-ences are played out in conversation.Playing a role-playing game is like creatinga fantasy, science-fiction, or adventurestory from the players� imaginations. Thecharacters that the players control have atask or conflict to resolve during eachgame session. The game, like life, does notalways end with a winner or a loser. Somegame sessions end well, with the playersgetting what they want, but others proveto be more difficult.
The setting and plot of an RPG sessionare invented by one player�the gamemaster, or GM. The GM prepares longbefore the game by making up the plotand goals of the story. Work like this ismuch like writing fiction�but the GMdoes not decide how it will end. The GMdraws a map of the imaginary area wherethe game is supposed to take place andwrites a description of various locationson the map, as if for an encyclopedia. Oneplace might be a tomb guarded by evilspirits, while another might be a peaceful
farm. The GM will reuse this map in manygames. In this way, a campaign develops�a continuing plot with a consistent theme,like a long novel.
As mentioned, the other players take theroles of characters in the story. It is impor-tant to distinguish between �players� and�characters.� A player is a real person whoplays the game. A character is one of thepeople in the story. The characters thatthe players control are called player char-acters, or PCs. Everybody else in the storyis invented and controlled by the GM.These people are called non-player charac-ters, or NPCs.
You play an RPG by talking. The GMdescribes the background for the storyand what each PC sees and hears. Afterconsidering this, the players tell the GMwhat they want their characters to do;these actions can be anything that a realperson might do. The GM then describesthe results. By using the map, the rulebooks, and common sense, the GM tellsthe players where their PCs are and whathappens to them.
At some point, a character will want todo something that he might not be able todo. For example, if a PC shoots an arrow ata target, he might �hit or miss. Dice rolls areused to simulate these chances. The resultsare compared with tables that show howdifficult these feats are. Ideally, there wouldbe tables for everything a PC might ever doin a game. Some game systems have anincredible number of rule books and gam-ing materials. Many beginning playerscomplain that this is too much to read. Thetruth is, almost nobody knows all the rules.Players have their PCs do whatever theywant and look up rules when they areneeded. Creating a believable, exciting taleis more important than following thebooks. Often, a GM is forced to invent newrules to cover unique situations.
Different sorts of dice appear in variousrole-playing games. These dice often do nothave pips�dots showing what number youhave rolled. Rather, each die face has anArabic digit, such as 2 or 19. The mostcommonly used dice have four, six, eight,ten, twelve, and twenty sides. (Ten-sideddice are sometimes numbered zero (10)through nine.) In descriptions of role-playing, dice rolls are often abbreviatedwith the letters �D� or �d.� Notations on dicerolls usually involve two parts. First is anumber showing the number of rolls to bemade, then a number showing how manysides that the dice to be rolled must have.Rolling 3d6 means rolling three six-sideddice and adding the results from each dieinto a total score. Dice rolls can also beabbreviated by giving the range of theappropriate die; for example, a roll of 1d6is often abbreviated 1-6, and 2d12 is 2-24.
There are also references to d100 orpercentile dice, which are used to gener-ate a number between one and 100. Twoten-sided dice are usually used, of twodifferent colors. One color is the tens die.and the other is the ones die. The same die
can also be rolled twice, first for the tensdigit, then for the ones digit. Thus, if thefirst roll is a 3 and the next roll is a 2, thenumber generated is 32. If the first num-ber was 0 and the second was 3, the resultis 3. Rolls of 0 and 0 represent 100. Per-centile rolls are useful when a chance isexpressed as a percent. If a PC has a 60%chance of swimming, 1d100 is rolled. Ifthe number is above 60, the charactercannot swim; if the roll is 60 or below, thecharacter can. Percentile dice are alsoused to roll large random numbers.
Before the game, players fill out charac-ter sheets which describe their PCs. Thereare many things to know about a charac-ter. Is he strong, weak, clever, or stupid?What sort of skills does the characterhave? Some of these things are determinedby rolling dice, and others are selected bythe player.
Basic attributes like strength, intelli-gence, and dexterity are called abilityscores, and one generates them by rollingdice. A PC is trained for a certain profes-sion, such as fighter, thief, or magic-userin fantasy games. The player may choosewhat sort of job his character is trainedfor. In many games, PCs might not behuman, so a player may also get to choosehis PC�s race, such as elf, dwarf, or gnome.As a PC plays the game, he will gain expe-rience and become more skilled at what-ever he does. Experience is measured inexperience points, which are awarded forcompleting successful adventures. When acharacter has enough experience points,he may gain levels, increasing his personalpowers. High-level characters often gainnew skills and can improve their old ones.The same character can be reused inmany adventures. Eventually, charactersdevelop complete histories, as if they werereal people.
Dice, rule books, and paper are the onlyequipment needed for playing RPGs. Someplayers collect tiny lead figurines whichresemble their characters. These areprops and can be moved around to simu-late what is happening in an adventure.However, you do not need figures to play.
Although fantasy games are used mostoften here in examples, role-playing gameshave been written to recreate adventuresof all sorts, including stories involvingmedieval fantasy and ancient mythology,modern espionage, postnuclear ruins,science-fiction starships, Vietnam warpatrols, 1920s gangsters, and cartooncomedies. The rules for different gameswill vary, and few will use the same terms,rules, and equipment. But if you can playone RPG, you can play any of them.
The most important rule for learninghow to play an RPG is this: If you don�tknow, ask. You can learn any RPG bywatching how the other players act in thegame, but always feel free to ask ques-tions. The more you know about a game,the better you can play it and the morefun you�ll have.
And the fun is worth it, too.
102 JUNE 1990
Super Jobs ForSuper Talents
Super-hero RPGs often assume thatsuperpowered individuals have been ac-tive for some time, and that governmentshave developed responses to the mostcommon extraordinary situations. Thesegames also seem to assume that superpow-ers are fairly common; there certainlyseems to be no shortage of super villainsand NPC heroes.
Most such games have backgrounds inwhich super heroes are publicly acceptedor tolerated, and they include security andintelligence agencies equipped to handlenormal criminal organizations and weaksuper villains, to obtain super-hero helpwhen needed, and to run special prisonsfor super villains. Some games add speciallegal responses to superpowers. For exam-ple, Hero Games� CHAMPIONS* andChaosium�s SUPERWORLD* games includeprobation schemes for super villains inwhich the criminals secret identity ispublished and a year or more must bedevoted to community service. However,in most games, an interest in law enforce-ment often seems to be the only commonground between society and super heroes.
The comics usually ignore military andintelligence roles for super heroes. In role-playing terms, it�s logical to assume thatinternational treaties prevent the use ofsuch heroes outside a full-scale war; mostgovernments would probably see someonelike DC Comics� Superman as a greaterthreat than nuclear weapons, and herocontrol would be part of any SALT treaty(See The Watchmen from DC Comics formore on the effects of having super he-roes in a nuclear age).
Leaving careers in crime, espionage, andwar aside, there are many unusual jobsfor those with superpowers. In the past,comics have shown many super heroesputting their talents to spectacular use;Superman, in particular, seems to spendmuch of his time blowing out forest fires,diverting floods, and saving towns fromrock slides and other disasters. Otherheroes are scientists, engineers, or philan- thropists. Who can forget Doc Savage�scharity medical work, or the achievementsof the Wayne Foundation in DC Comics�Batman stories?
It seems logical that many public andprivate organizations would want to takeadvantage of such new opportunities. This
©1990 by Marcus L. Rowland
article describes such an organization,with three generic scenario outlines: theUnited Nations Special Talents Agency(UNSTA). This organization (which can bealtered to become national, worldwide, oruniverse spanning, depending on thescope of your campaign) was foundedshortly after the first super heroes ap-peared. It is a nonprofit group funded bynational governments, charities, and largecorporations, and it draws on their re-sources for information and ideas. UNSTAexists to find talents to fit unusual prob-lems, recruiting personnel for jobs thatwill benefit mankind. With few exceptions,these jobs are unpaid, requiring minordiversions of heroes� time or energy.There are four main arms of UNSTA;Investigation (the talent spotters), Adminis-tration, the Ethical Committee, andRecruitment.
Talent spotters gather data on superheroes and villains, from the press andother sources, and maintain a computerdatabase cross-referenced by powers,names, nations, etc. This arm also recordspotential uses for superpowers and doesmost of the work of matching powers toproblems. The database could possibly beused to trace the secret identities of he-roes by correlating times and locations oftheir appearances or other details. But agreat deal of effort is devoted to eliminat-ing such information from the reports�atleast, that�s what the agency claims isdone. Whether this is true may be a prob-lem for your heroes to investigate.
Administration handles funding, legalproblems, visas, transport arrangements,advertising, and other mundane details.An organization as large as UNSTAcouldn�t possibly function without anefficient office staff, and this arm is essen-tial, though its members rarely come intocontact with. heroes.
The Ethical Committee ensures that allthe jobs found for super heroes are worth-while. Sometimes this arm will turn downapplications for help on the grounds that aproject will be ecologically damaging,profitable for a particular company orgovernment at the expense of others, orhave other detrimental effects. Rejectedapplicants often resort to dubious meansof enlisting superpowered support.
The Recruitment arm tries to persuade
superpowered individuals to participate inUNSTA projects. This is usually easy, as mostsuper heroes will gladly spend a few days onflood relief or help to transport a heartpatient from Australia to Belgium. However,many of the most unusual powers belong tovillains, who often demand an exorbitantfee, amnesty, or some other reward forparticipation. Sometimes it�s also necessaryto negotiate with governments to obtainpermission for super heroes to leave theirterritories, or with penal authorities to ob-tain parole for super villains.
These aspects of the agency�s operationcan easily lead to interesting and unusualadventures. For example, suppose theWorld Wildlife Fund wants to study Mon-golian gerbils in their natural habitat, soUNSTA recruits several super heroes tohelp the project: using X-ray vision andsonar to guide fiberoptic probes down thegerbils� burrows, reading the gerbils�minds to determine their goals and motiva-tions, etc. The main problems are politicaland involve persuading the Mongolians,Soviets, and Chinese to allow Westernsuper heroes to visit their territory. It�slikely that lots of intrigue will surroundthis project. Western intelligence organiza-tions may see a chance to put an agentonto the super-hero team, while Eastern-bloc agencies may try to recruit the West-ern agents as spies, learn their secretidentities, etc. It�s an unusual chance forEastern and Western super heroes to meetwithout violence, and it could pave theway for some interesting adventures.
Another example: Mr Frosty, a convictedsuper villain with cryogenic powers, isasked to participate in experiments onmedical freezing and suspended anima-tion. He demands $100,000 and a reviewof his sentence. UNSTA raises the money(held in trust for his release) and tries topersuade the parole board to review hiscase. The board refuses, so UNSTA calls inwell-known super heroes to lobby for asentence review and, ultimately, to super-vise the experiments and make sure thatthere are no embarrassing incidents.
The scenarios that follow assume thatUNSTA has been active for some time andis known to all heroes. Player-characterheroes shouldn�t be very powerful; begin-ning characters with limited experienceare preferred.
Scenario 1: Operation Krait (for 2-4heroes)
Players’ information: The Republic ofQuitana is a modern African state allied tothe West. Recently this government cap-tured Krait, a super villain with remark-able powers of poison generation andnullification. UNSTA needs such powersfor medical research and development,and it wishes to interview Krait and estab-lish his attitudes to such work. TheQuitanese government has flatly refusedaccess, saying that Krait�s crimes are tooserious to make parole possible. Thisseems odd because Krait always special-ized in crimes against property, using hisvenom for short-term paralysis or knock-out effects. UNSTA wants the PCs to joinits team in Quitana and use their talentsand influence to resolve the situation.
Referee’s information: Strict human-rights treaties govern the imprisonment ofsuper villains. It is accepted that somevillains must be restrained by temporarynullification of their powers, or by thereduction of intelligence and strength, butthese changes must be reversible whenthe prisoner is released. Also, villainscannot have their characteristics reducedbelow human norms by their restraints.
The Quitanese government has beenviolating this rule, using a combination ofdrugs, surgery, and radiation treatment topermanently reduce the IQ of superpow-ered prisoners and to prevent them fromusing their powers effectively. Krait hasbeen treated twice, and his mental facul-ties are now slightly below the humannorm. Another treatment will cause irre-versible brain damage. The Quitanesepolice have been bugging the local UNSTAoffices for some time, and the police knowthat the heroes are in Quitana to investi-gate the situation. On arrival, the heroesare invited to a reception at the Presiden-tial palace. During the reception, govern-ment agents attempt to fake Krait�s escapeand murder him, in circumstances sug-gesting that he attempted to kill his war-ders. Exact details of this scenario are leftto the referee, who should remember thefollowing points:
1. The prison was built for normal hu-mans, and only a small section has beenupgraded to hold super villains.
2. Krait is one of three superpowered prisoners; the others are already irrevers-ibly brain damaged. All retain theirpowers but are too stupid to use themeffectively.
3. The Quitanese government wishes toremain friendly to the West and attemptsto avoid any embarrassing incidents. Theplot to kill Krait is a desperate measureintended to stop a full investigation intothe Quitanese penal system.
4. UNSTA wishes to stay-on good termswith the Quitanese government.
5. The heroes cannot determine Krait�sattitudes before beginning their investiga-tion. If rescued, he pretends to be cooper-ative but seizes the first chance to escape
76 A U G U S T 1 9 9 0
and continue his life of crime.
Scenario 2: Heavy Rescue (for 4-8heroes)
Players’ information: UNSTA often triesto persuade super heroes to participate intraining schemes that will help them dealwith the emergencies they encounter.Such courses include first aid, firefighting,basic criminal law, and heavy rescue�thelatter being techniques for dealing withlarge-scale civilian disasters. This is apopular subject, since many heroes are athome with crimefighting but aren�t surehow to tackle a train crash, a nuclear-waste spillage, or a landslide. The coursetakes a week and is given in a big city witha wide variety of industrial sites (e.g.,Detroit for American campaigns, Birming-ham for British campaigns).
The heroes have managed to arrange aweek away from other obligations, such asactivities in secret and public identities,and find the course interesting but a littledaunting. After four days of theory anddemonstrations, the instructor feels thatthe group is ready to tackle a practicalexercise. He is briefing the heroes about asimulated rail crash when the telephonerings.
Referees information: Don�t run thisepisode with telepaths or other superheroes who can easily detect a lie. Thetelephone call comes from the schoolsoffice and is designed to trick characterswith superhearing or other special senses.No train crash has been arranged. Instead,the team will be told that a real emergencyhas developed: An old warehouse hascollapsed on top of a demolition crane.The driver is trapped inside the crane cab,and there is reason to believe that gasmains have been fractured. The normalheavy rescue teams are on the other sideof the city, setting up the simulated traincrash, and the heroes may be the onlyhope of rescuing the driver before the gasexplodes. The referee must prepare afloor plan of a demolished building, usingthe guidelines herein, scaling the size ofthe problem to the number of super he-roes and the strength of their powers.
Of course, the �real� disaster is anothersimulation. The crane driver is a realisticdummy, built by a medical plastics com-pany, and is apparently trapped in the cabwith severe injuries. Several buildingworkers pretending to remove debris areactually instructors who have not met theteam before, aided by disguised superheroes (veterans of the course) who makesure that no one is really injured. There isa strong smell of gas, but this is reallyinert nitrogen mixed with a smelly chemi-cal, a harmless compound added to realgas supplies to ensure that leaks are easilydetected. The collapsed building is care-fully balanced to look dangerous, but thewreckage is supported by several stronggirders that have �luckily� remainedwelded together. With care, it�s possible totunnel through the lower part of the
wreckage without disturbing the equilib-rium of the pile. Have your players makefrequent rolls against dexterity (or what-ever characteristic is appropriate) as theymove the wreckage, giving bonuses if theplayers work as a team. If these rolls fail,bits of rubble move slightly, there areominous groaning noises, and dust cas-cades into everyone�s hair.
The rubble can also be removed fromabove, but removing more than a ton fromany one area without balancing the weightor shoring the pile will also make thewreckage shift.
If anyone tries a short cut, like pullingthe debris off the crane without shoringthe lower sections, the wreckage will passa critical balance point and one of thegirders will shift to pin the �driver� to hisseat with a crushed chest. Concealedremote-controlled explosive charges canmake the crane catch fire (harmlessly) orcause parts of the building to collapse. Thedummy is fitted with a chemically pow-ered synthetic heart and other internalorgans, and it realistically bleeds or �dies�if injured by the rescue attempts. The�victim� appears to be unconsciousthroughout the rescue.
Fire engines and ambulances will arriveat the same time as the heroes but won�thave heavy rescue equipment. Heavy units(equipped with winches, chainsaws, jacks,and drills) appear five minutes after theheroes and conduct a flawless rescue ifthe team hasn�t already saved the driver.The heavy units helped set up the �disas-ter� and know exactly how the wreckageis balanced and booby-trapped.
Players should be made to feel that thisis a real emergency, and it should be fol-lowed through until the �driver� is res-cued or dead. Obviously, the refereeshould ensure that none of the superheroes� special powers permit an easyrescue; for example, a character withdesolidification powers might want towalk through the wreckage, materialize,pick up the driver, and desolidify to walkout again. The referee should make thisimpossible by allowing no room for thecharacter to materialize, but should en-courage the use of such powers in recon-naissance and planning.
After this incident, the referee (as thecourse�s instructor) should hold a carefulinquest on the rescue attempt, pointingout the heroes� mistakes and any particu-larly good moves. He will also ask the teamto keep silent about this aspect of thecourse. There are no further incidents inthe remaining days of the course, just lotsof hard work. Skills or experience pointsshould be awarded for success in therescue only, although in reality it is only asmall part of the course. Referees mightalso use experience of this course as amodifier to the success of future rescuemissions.
As an optional epilogue to this scenario,the referee could ask the players to designa fake incident for the next class and run
it with another group of players. Theschool can supply vehicles, dummies, andup to $25,000 for expenses and equip-ment, and it will arrange for the coopera-tion of emergency services. If no moreplayers are available, the referee can stilluse the new plan, with the players super-vising the site while a group of NPC heroesrun through the test. The referee canensure that the new heroes are less com-petent than the player characters and runinto dangerous problems.
Scenario 3: Breakout (for 4-8 heroes)Players’ information: For several years,
scientists at the London Zoo, aided byinterested super heroes, have been devel-oping techniques to recreate extinct ani-mals by implanting fossil DNA extractedfrom bones and other remnants into thereproductive cells of related species. Thedodos, sabre-tooth tigers, and mammothsthat now grace many zoos were earlysuccesses. The most ambitious effort hasbeen an attempt to breed dinosaurs usingostrich and alligator eggs seeded withreconstructed DNA.
Eighteen months ago, the scientistsachieved their first success, hatching fourdiplodocus dinosaurs (three females andone male) from ostrich eggs. They are nowslightly smaller than adult elephants. Thisspectacular success has almost doubledadmissions at the zoo, and the sauropodsare a great favorite with the crowds. Thescientists expect the dinosaurs to continueto grow for many years, but their currentaccommodation (the elephant house) isalready becoming cramped. It�s obviousthat the dinosaurs must soon be moved toa larger site, a specially prepared paddockand lake at Whipsnade Zoo, a few milesoutside London. UNSTA arranged most ofthe super-hero cooperation on this project,and it has asked the team to accompanythe convoy and ensure that no harmcomes to the dinosaurs.
Referee’s information: The convoy con-sists of four low-loader trucks, each carry-ing a 10-meter-long crate containing adinosaur. All are accompanied by a policeescort (two cars and four motorcycles), arepair truck, a crane, and two vets in onepick-up truck. the convoy will leave Lon-don Zoo at 5 A.M. to avoid London�s heavymorning traffic, taking main roads toWhipsnade Zoo. The diplodoci are herbiv-orous dinosaurs with long necks and tails,living on a diet of hay, conifer branches,and vitamins. Each is eight meters longand weighs three tons. These dinosaursare extremely strong, moderately fast, andcan attack by biting, by trampling withtheir forefeet, or by striking with theirwhiplike tails (the referee should generateappropriate statistics). They attack only ifthey are frightened, and they usually runfrom anything that scares them. The ex-periments that produced these dinosaurshave cost hundreds of man-years, thework of dozens of super heroes, and mil-lions of pounds sterling. At least a third of
this expenditure will be required again ifthe dinosaurs do not survive the transfer.
Despite their size, the dinosaurs do havetheir problems. Their lungs will fill withfluid if they are tranquilized, they arehorribly stupid, and they will almost cer-tainly suffer gross internal damage if theirweight is concentrated on any one part oftheir bodies (e.g., if a super hero picks upa dinosaur and tries to carry it). They arevery nervous and will panic if they hearloud noises, see or smell fire, or smell anylarge carnivore. Excessive vibration duringthe move will also panic them, so the low-loaders must crawl along at 10-15 MPH.
Unfortunately, extremist members of afundamentalist religious organization havedecided that these experiments threatenthe central tenet of their faith�the beliefthat the universe was created on the 18thof July 1924, at 3:15 P.M. (GMT). Theirreligion teaches that all evidence of priorexistence was created to test the strengthof their faith. Obviously, the recreation ofdinosaurs that roamed the earth millionsof years ago is the ultimate challenge totheir devotion. To prove the strength oftheir faith, they must destroy the blasphe-mous reptiles!
These fanatics have stolen two rocketlaunchers, many grenades, and severalmachine pistols. They intend to make twoattacks on the convoy. One group willmake its attack in London, and the othergroup will strike in the country. To pre-serve security, the two groups have madetheir plans separately, and members ofone group don�t know exactly when orwhere the others will attack. There shouldbe at least two terrorists per hero in eachgroup.
The move hasn�t been kept secret, andthe route used by the convoy is predicta-ble. Despite the early hour, the press andhundreds of dinosaur lovers are waitingon the roads near the zoo, hoping to get aglimpse of the monsters.
The first attack will be a relatively crudeeffort, staged very near the zoo. The ter-rorists simply block the road with a car,then fire a rocket at the leading truck,blowing up its engine. The remainingterrorists close in and spray the crateswith bullets. The explosion and shotspanic the dinosaurs, which stamp andthrash about in their crates.� Each diplodo-cus has a cumulative 10% chance of break-ing out in each combat round that thefight continues. If the dinosaurs escape,they run through the crowds, tramplinginnocent bystanders and smashing carsand shop windows as they move andthrash their tails. They are too big to beseriously injured by small-caliber machine-pistol bullets, but they will naturally bevery frightened.
The second attack is more sophisticated.The terrorists have stolen a tanker truckthat overtakes the convoy halfway be-tween the zoos. As it passes, the driverpulls a cord and a grenade attached to thetruck�s rear valves explodes. The driver
leaps clear and sprints for safety as burn-ing petrol floods the road along the lengthof the convoy. The remaining terroristsare in another van behind the convoy andwill attack immediately after the tankerexplodes. The referee should ensure thatat least two of the dinosaurs escape; theyare at risk from passing cars and trucks,overhead power cables, and nearby rail-way lines.
Provided the heroes can handle theseattacks, then calm and recage the dino- saurs, the rest of the run to Whipsnade isuneventful. On arrival at Whipsnade, thedinosaurs panic again as the crates passthe crocodile pool. Luckily, their enclosureis at the other end of the zoo, and theywon�t normally be able to smell the rep-tiles. The adventure ends as the diplodocishyly emerge into their new enclosure,tentatively nibbling bushes and conifers asthey settle down in the comparative calmof the country. It�s possible that the dino-saurs might escape when they are bigger;a fully grown diplodocus is approximately30 meters long and weighs 11 tons, butwill still be prone to panic.
A number of sequels to this adventureare possible. A super villain could use thesame technology to breed carnivorousdinosaurs and use them in crimes. Time-traveling heroes might help the project bybringing back specimens from the past,only to stumble into situations that couldalter history. As the zoos and parks of theworld fill with dinosaurs, more incidentswill probably occur involving more chal-lenging species and more determinedefforts by extremists to slay them.
Notes and sourcesThe UNSTA is fictional, but the World
Wildlife Fund is real and deserving ofsupport. Games consulted for this articleincluded TSR�s MARVEL SUPER HEROES�,Mayfair�s DC HEROES*, GW�s GOLDENHEROES*, Hero Games� CHAMPIONS*,Chaosium�s SUPERWORLD*, FGU�s VIL-LAINS & VIGILANTES*, and SUPERSQUADRON* games. There are no obviouscompatibility problems with any of thesegames. Further sources include: A Talentfor the Invisible and Odd Job Inc., by RonGoulart; Rescue Mission and A Fall ofMoondust, by Arthur C. Clarke; the SectorGeneral series by James H. White; and TheThunderbirds TV series, by Gerry & Syl-via Anderson.
MARVEL SUPER HEROES is a trademark of theMarvel Entertainment Group, Inc. All Marvel charac-ters, names, and the distinctive likenesses thereofare trademarks of the Marvel Entertainment Group,Inc. ©1990 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. AllRights Reserved,
All DC characters and names are trademarks of DCComics Inc., used under license by Mayfair GamesInc. All Rights Reserved.
* indicates a product produced by a company otherthan TSR, Inc. Most product names are trademarksowned by the companies publishing those products.The use of the name of any product without mentionof its trademark status should not be construed as achallenge to such status.
D R A G O N 7 7
by Jerold M. StrattonArtwork by Terry Dykstra
82 JANUARY 1991
Many game masters are of the opinionthat using prepackaged, commercial ad-ventures in their carefully constructedcampaigns is similar to forcing a squarepeg into a round hole. I believe that well-constructed campaigns are the most suit-able for commercial adventures and thatcommercial adventures can enhance acampaign and aid the game master. If aworld is created with care, the designercan more easily make decisions aboutintegrating adventures into the world.Also, there is nothing to restrict gamemasters to using only adventures writtenfor one game system; adventures fromother game systems are also useful. Thereare two major reasons for using commer-cial adventures. The most obvious is that alarge amount of adventure material can begained with only a small amount of work.The second is that it allows the gamemaster to run adventures in styles he doesnot feel comfortable creating himself.
How to get startedFirst, find an adventure that you would
like to run. Chances are you have alreadycome across adventures in the local gamestore and thought �This would be good ifit weren�t for . . .� If the basic premise ofthe adventure is something you like, theadventure can probably be integrated intoyour campaign. There are three steps tofitting an adventure to a world:
1. Read the adventure: Make sure youunderstand what is happening and why itis happening. Why do the antagonists actthe way they do? Why are the itemswhere they are? Why are the events tak-ing place when they do? The author didnot write this adventure with your worldsplayer characters in mind; your playersmay do things the author did not expect,and you must be prepared to wing itwithin the module�s context.
2. Find what you like: Determine whatappeals to you about the adventure. Is itthe genre? the plot? the locale? If it is amystery based in Las Vegas, is the idea ofrunning an adventure in Las Vegas whatappeals to you, or is it running an adven-ture in a backdrop of glamour and gam-bling? If the latter is the case, then theadventure could be moved to Atlantic City,Lake Tahoe, or a city in a fantasy world.You should look past the trappings to thereal draw of the adventure. When youknow what you like about the adventure,you know what not to change.
3. Find what you need to change: Exam-ine the adventure again, with an eye forways to mesh the adventure with yourcampaign. Examine the characters, crea-tures, items, locales, geographical features,events, and histories (both stated andimplied), and modify them to suit yourworld.
With regards to the characters andcreatures involved, will using certain NPCand monsters from your world ratherthan using the author�s NPCs and monsterschange their motivations or actions in any
way? Are any characters, PCs or NPCs, inyour world similar to any of the module�sgiven characters? If so, replace some ofthe stock characters with your own. TakeMung, the wilderness guide whom themodule recommends your party hire, andreplace him with Trasker, the barbarianhireling of a PC in your group, makingsure that Trasker knows all that Mung wassupposed to know. This is a great steptoward making the adventure look like itwas written just for your world.
You can also modify the adventure tomake it more suited to your style or tosimply be different. You may make somecreatures more powerful, weaken some,and completely rework others. NPCs thatthe author largely ignored can be givenlarger roles, while some the author put inthe spotlight can be downplayed.
You may have to modify the history ofcertain items, magical or otherwise, tomake them fit your world. You may alsowant to simply get rid of some items,either because you do not want the PCs tohave them (no spheres of annihilation, forexample) or because they simply do nothave a place in your world (no dragon-lances in a non-DRAGONLANCE® sagacampaign). You can also replace stockitems with similar items that already havehistories in your world, or with items thatyou want to introduce to the campaign.Whatever you do, make sure it doesn�tadversely affect the adventure. If youreplace or modify an essential item, makesure that you somehow make that itemunnecessary or move its responsibilitysomewhere else. A ring of comprehendlanguages, for example, could be replacedwith a multilingual NPC critical to theadventure�s success.
When changing locales, make sure themodule�s locale could exist in your world.You could use dimension travel, planartravel, or time travel to get the charactersto the exact location of the adventure, butthis turns the adventure into a dimension-travel, planar-travel, or time-travel adven-ture. This is not always bad, but it�susually best to place the adventure some-where within the confines of the �normal�world of your campaign. A GANGBUS-TERS� adventure based in Chicago couldbecome an AD&D® adventure based in afantasy city of your campaign, preferablya city with a reputation for organizedcrime. You must also ensure that the geog-raphy of the adventure fits the geographyof the area where you place it. Geographycan usually be modified after you find aplace for the adventure, but importantgeographical features may limit the possi-ble locations (if the module requires avolcano or a seaport, you need a volcanoor a seaport).
Look at the history involved, too. Wouldcities, towns, and villages have developedthe same in your world as they did in theauthor�s? Would they have the samenames? If your world is based on Celticmythology, a town full of Spanish names
will appear out of place. You should editthe snippets of history the author occa-sionally mentions, modifying them withyour knowledge of your worlds history.Tales of great battles with giants thusbecome tales of great battles with hobgob-lins. Also, a background history is oftenimplied in various parts of the adventure.If, in your world, ghouls congregate onlyaround areas of ancient battles, and partof the adventure involves meeting a largenumber of ghouls, there is an impliedhistory: A battle occurred in the adventur-ing area sometime in the past. You mustensure that such a history could existbefore putting the situation in the adven-ture. You may even want to make such ahistory important to the adventure toanchor that adventure firmly to yourworld.
Now look at the events in the module.Would the reasons for the adventure�sexistence make sense in your world? Politi-cal tensions, religious battles, abandonedstrongholds-all can generate, adventuresand (if the backgrounds are genericenough) can be modified to fit the eventsof your campaign. Think of adventures interms of their plots, and you can use themregardless of genre. Here are some adven-tures whose basic structures are wellsuited to most genres:
1. An immensely powerful being orgroup becomes interested in the powerfulbeings of this world, and sends them tofight for survival on a patchwork planet,continent, or city complex far from home(MHSP1 The Secret Wars, for TSR�sMARVEL SUPER HEROES� game).
2. Lost on a previously unexploredplanet or continent, the players mustinteract with numerous alien races in theirbid to find a way home. On the way theydiscover that, to help the races survive,they must fight a mysterious villain andbring the races together to fend off anattack from outside (the Volturnus series,for TSR�s STAR FRONTIERS® game).
3. An expedition is lost in an unchartedjungle. In their quest to save the group,the characters come face-to-face withunimaginable horror and confront a villainfrom the worlds forgotten past (The Pitsof Bendal-Dolum, from Cthulhu Classics,for Chaosium�s CALL OF CTHULHU®game).
Crossing genresOne of the advantages gained from using
commercial adventures is the ability toswitch genres within a campaign. If youwant to give your fantasy game a taste ofhorror, go out and buy a good horroradventure. If you want to give it a taste ofmystery, buy a good mystery adventure.Simply convert the game mechanics toyour own game system, but keep thetheme. Crossing genres increases thenumber of commercial adventures availa-ble for your campaign, but you must keepan eye out for special circumstances.Situations tailored for one genre can have
difficulties in another. A major villain inone of TSR�s TOP SECRET/S.I.� adventuresmay have gone to great lengths to con-struct a cell to hold her enemies. Thissame cell may be worthless against a 3rd-level wizard with a knock spell. If thevillain is altered to be someone who origi-nated from the fantasy campaign world,she will have taken different precautionsagainst escape: a permanent silence spellcast over the area by an allied mage, per-haps, or part of the locking mechanismkept out of range of a knock spell.
You should also be careful not to lose thefeel of things when converting. Rememberthat the simple conversion of statistics willnot always be the correct thing to do. Youshould also keep in mind what the statis-tics mean in relation to other characters.
For example, if you use this article�sguidelines to convert Thor�s strength of 25from the AD&D 1st Edition Legends &Lore (page 106) to Hero Games� CHAMPI-ONS® system, you wouldfind out howmuch he can lift (about 1,500 lbs.) andthen check what strength is necessary tolift that amount in the latter system (this isalso 25). However, remember that a scoreof 25 in the AD&D game is the limit forany personal characteristic. When con-verting Thor to the CHAMPIONS game,you will probably want to increase hisstrength even more so that he is one of thestrongest beings on your world. Keep theproper balance and feel of things in mindwhen converting.
Genre by genreEach genre has its own idiosyncrasies
and special problems. Only a few prob-lems are noted here, but these are amongthe most important points. Each sectionfirst looks at going between game systemswithin the same genre, then using adven-tures from that genre in other genres.
Fantasy: Fantasy is the most popularRPG genre, so you will have lots of extramaterial if you use commercial fantasyadventures. Remember, though, that if youcross game �systems, mechanics like spelllevels, psionics, and spell-casting willchange greatly. High-level spells in onegame might can be low-level spells inanother. Ensure that the adventure canhandle the spells used in your campaign,and that the spells necessary to completethe adventure are available. If the adven-ture assumes unlimited spell-casting (gen-erally with a spell-point system) or the useof different spell components, variousthings within the adventure may changealso. For example, if a spell requires afrog�s leg in one game and a dragon�s leg inanother, the frequency of that spell�s cast-ing will probably change.
When going from fantasy to other gen-res, you need to remember that mostfantasy adventures virtually require aspell-caster in the party. Psionics, super-powers, and technology sometimes makeup for a lack of magic; take this into ac-count if transferring to genres or games
84 JANUARY 1991
without magic. Also, NPCs in fantasy ad-ventures may have too many magicalitems, even for other games using magic, ifmagic is less common and more mysteri-ous in your campaign (as it often is in thehorror genre, for example). You will thenneed to reduce the amount of magicalitems carried by the module�s NPCs, possi-bly replacing them with technologicalitems or skills if essential.
Modern Era: This category includesespionage, detective, police, and militarysystems. One thing to watch when usingadventures from different modern-eragame systems is the varying level of tech-nology across these games. If the module�sauthor expects the PCs to view the villainswith their mini X-ray cameras, and thebest your PCs can come up with is a 1932flash camera, you will have to modifysome situations and events.
When using these adventures in cam-paigns of another genre, remember thatthe adventures probably assume a com-plete lack of magic on the part of the PCs.A single AD&D game locate object orpasswall spell might drop the playing timeto a couple of minutes if care is not taken.It shouldn�t be too hard to add precautionsagainst magic, but keep in mind that it willprobably have to be done. Also, most ofthese adventures are tailored to above-average (but still normal) characters whorely mostly on cunning, intelligence, andskill against similar NPCs. Care must betaken to keep an adventure interesting inother genres with tougher characters.Modern-era adventures most suitable forconversion are those requiring deductionand reasoning, which is generally ex-pected of players in any game system.
Science Fiction/Superhero: Science-fiction and superhero adventures areprobably the easiest to convert from gameto game within a single genre. SF adven-tures tend to have few restrictions as towhat can happen and how it can happen,since science fiction encompasses a widerange of possible scenarios. Superheroadventures are easy to convert betweengame systems because the genre has beenso well defined by comic books, and mostsuperhero games fall within the comic-book framework.
When using science-fiction and super-hero adventures in other genres, look outfor the level of technology involved. If youare converting such a module to a fantasyworld and plan to keep the technologylevel of the NPCs (they�re part of an alieninvasion, perhaps), you must be sure thatthe PCs have enough resources, magical orotherwise, to balance the NPCs. If youreplace the technology, be creative; it neednot all be replaced with magic. For exam-ple, a science-fiction pirate with an inter-stellar corsair equipped with a massivecomputer and a crew armed with lasersand vibroblades might become a fantasyRPG pirate with an ocean-going corsair, acrew armed with crossbows and rapiers,and a reliable sage. Much technology can
thus be replaced with its medievalcounterpart.
Trickery can replace special powers. If avillain in a superhero adventure is sup-posed to be able to teleport, and you don�twant this in your detective campaign,make the villain a master of disappear-ance. His house will have many secretdoors and passageways to effectively�teleport� him to different areas. Awayfrom home, he could use manhole covers,crowds, and carefully planned getawaysinvolving vehicles that can be hidden inother vehicles�driving a Porsche into asemi-trailer, or a motorcycle into a van.Even the most amazing powers can bemimicked with careful planning and thecorrect circumstances.
Horror: When using adventures fromone horror game system to another, becareful that you do not violate what thatgame considers the �rules� of the un-known. Many horror games have verystrict views on the unknown forces thatthe PCs combat. When converting a CALLOF CTHULHU adventure to a �standard�ghost-story adventure, you may have touse demons in place of the majorCthulhoid monsters.
When using horror adventures in cam-paigns of other genres, your major prob-lem will probably be the lack of detail oncertain areas of the adventure. PCs inhorror adventures are rarely as powerfulas their counterparts in other games(weakness feeds the horror atmosphere ofthe game). Thus, where the author expectsthe PCs to be forced to go one way, thefantasy PCs in your campaign may decideto go another way (�So there�s a vampire.Let�s kill him and see where he camefrom!�). You should find these situationsand take care of them before running theadventure. The most common ways ofdealing with this are:
will be forced into the correct directionafter all.
1. Expand the adventure as necessary.2. Modify the adventure so the players
3. Replace the locale with one you arealready familiar with, making it easier towing it when the players go in unplanneddirections.
There are other things to be watch.Most horror games do not include a powerlike a 1st-level cleric�s undead-turningcapability in the AD&D game. Most adven-tures will not be written with this possibil-ity in mind, so you should pay closeattention to it when converting a horroradventure to fantasy.
Funny/Comic: It can be fun to occa-sionally take an adventure from a tongue-in-cheek game system such as West EndGames� PARANOIA� or GHOSTBUSTERS�adventure, modify it to suit your needs,and surprise your players with an off-the-wall adventure in another genre. Themain thing to worry about is whether ornot your players are up to such an adven-ture. Some players resent sustained comicrelief in an otherwise serious campaign,
especially if they don�t get to play thatoften. If your players do not want anadventure of this type, don�t force it onthem. If in doubt, simply ask or have an-other adventure ready in case the firstadventure doesn�t seem to be going overwell. Converting a serious module to acomic game system has some advantages(e.g., a CALL OF CTHULHU module for theGHOSTBUSTERS game), but too muchseriousness could damage the humorousatmosphere. A good dose of realism andfear, however, can often heighten a ses-sion�s comic and heroic effect.
War games: War-game scenarios makevery good backgrounds for role-playinggames, especially for wars set in moderntimes. A war-game scenario based on theBattle of Normandy, for example, wouldmake a great background for a superherotime-travel adventure. You will have tomake your own decisions about whathappens as far as the battles are con-cerned, possibly modifying the expectedoutcome depending on the actions of thePCs. See the STAR FRONTIERS adventure,SF2 Starspawn of Volturnus, for a goodexample of dealing with war in a PC-oriented adventure.
Crossing game systemsWhen crossing game systems, some
game mechanics in a given module mustbe converted to your own system. Afterreplacing some of the original NPCs anditems with those from your campaign, thisproblem will be lessened, but some char-acters, items, and situations will remain tobe dealt with. Not everything must beconverted to your game system, however.Characters in encounters that involve onlyconversation do not need conversion, andneither will combat encounters that willgive the PCs no serious trouble. You caneasily fake this from your own experience.
Anyone who will return later in yourcampaign should be converted. Likewise,the people or things involved in pivotalencounters that can give the PCs a hardtime should be converted. If the possibilityexists in combat that the PCs could lose orthat the PCs could be weakened enough tolose later, don�t fake it; the situation willget too confusing if you don�t have thingswritten down. Once you decide who andwhat to convert, the question becomeshow best to convert them. These fourmethods that give the best results:
1. Use your own judgment, possibly incombination with the next three methods.
2. Drop specific rules in the originalgame system to use rules for the sameeffects in your own game system.
3. Translate effects and statistics fromthe original game system to their real-world counterparts, then to your ownsystem�s statistics.
4. Translate statistics in the originalsystem to percentage values, then back tostatistics in your game system.
Using your judgment: The simplestway to convert items and characters from
one game to another is simply to use yourown judgment. You must be familiar withboth games to do this, and must be at easewith the system you use regularly. Thissystem works best for things that you aremodifying drastically. For example, if youare using CALL OF CTHULHU game mon-sters to create a Lovecraft mythology inyour world, but are drastically changingthe monsters� looks and abilities, thismethod will probably be the way to go.
Specific rules: The simplest things toconvert are situations and items that havespecific rules in your game system. Fallingdamage is a good example of this. If theAD&D adventure states �The pit is 30 feetdeep; characters falling in take 3d6 dam-age� but you are using CHAMPIONS gamePCs, you would look up falling damage inthe CHAMPIONS rules and note damage tobe 15d6. A D&D® game�s saving throw vs.poison would become a GAMMA WORLD®game�s resistance roll. Standard animals,weapons, armor, and supplies can easilybe replaced, as most games list all stand-ard items and their statistics. Within thefantasy genre, many of the monsters (skel-etons, goblins, dragons, etc.) are also dupli-cated. You do have to be careful that thenames don�t cover completely differentmonsters. While goblins in one worldmight be short humanoids appearing ingreat numbers, in another world theymight be huge monsters appearing insmall groups. In that case, you could re-place the goblin with another monstersimilar to the original game�s interpreta-tion of goblins, or rename the monsterand create or convert it as normal.
Games and reality: Some conversionswill not be quite as easy as the previousones. Character abilities are a good exam-ple of this. Many have similar names with-out quite the same meaning. TheCHAMPIONS game, for example, has threecharacter abilities describing intellect andmental faculties: intelligence, ego, andpresence. FGU�s SPACE OPERA� game hasnine: empathy, intelligence, psionics, intui-tion, bravery, leadership, general technicalaptitude, mechanical aptitude, and electri-cal aptitude. How can abilities with vary-ing meanings be correlated?
The best way is to look at what thecharacters can do. Games often tell how todetermine a character�s IQ from certainmental capabilities, usually involving intel-ligence tests. You can use this to determineintelligence in other games. Determine theIQ of the character in the first game, thendetermine what statistics are required forthat IQ in the second.
Easy stuff should be done first to lay thegroundwork for some of the harderthings. As an example, suppose you haveto convert the SPACE OPERA game�sscores for strength, physique, and consti-tution to the AD&D game�s strength andconstitution scores. Strength is the firstone. In AD&D games, strength measuresalmost nothing but carrying capacity�brute force. There is a table in the AD&D
Player�s Handbook that lists strength val-ues and carrying capacities. Take theSPACE OPERA character�s carrying capac-ity (determined from strength, physique,and constitution) and determine, from thetable in the Player�s Handbook, what valueis needed to lift that amount. You nowhave the character�s strength. From there,go on to work out the rest of the abilities.
Numbers to percentages: If you areusing an adventure from another gamesystem in your campaign, and you haveaccess to the rules this adventure waswritten for, you can be much more spe-cific when converting the adventure. Ifyou know the dice used for determiningcharacteristics, events, and actions, youcan determine the exact chances of certaincharacteristics being generated, certainevents occurring, or of certain actionsbeing successful.
On the linear die roll tables provided inthis article (1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12, and1d20), the chance of getting any singlenumber is given in parentheses after thecolumn title (e.g., the chance of getting a 5on 1d8 is 12.5%). On the V and bell-curvedie-roll tables, the chance of getting eachnumber is given in the �Single %� column(e.g., the chance of getting a 13 on 3d6 is9.7%). For both sets of tables, the �Cumu-lative %� column gives the chance of get-ting that number or less (e.g., the chanceof getting 7 or less on 1d12 is 58.3%). Todiscover the chance of rolling a certainnumber or greater, look in the �Reverse%� column (e.g., the chance of rolling 19or greater on 2d10 is 3%). To find thechance of rolling a certain collection ofnumbers, add up their individual percent-ages. The chance of rolling a 4, 5, 7, or 9on 1d10 is 10% + 10% + 10% + 10% = 40%.The chance of rolling a 4, 5, 7, or 9 on 3d6is 1.4%+2.8%+6.9%+11.6%.=22.7%.Suppose that the adventure states that a 6or greater is required to save vs. an event.You know that the game system uses 2d6for saving throws. You want to convertthis to a game system that uses 1d20 forsaving throws, to be able to keep the char-acter�s ability modifications correct (frommagical rings, dexterity, etc). Also, you want the saving throw to be vs. a numberor less. Look at the 2d6 table. The chanceof rolling 6 or greater is found on the�Reverse %� column: 72.2%. Now, go tothe 1d20 table. The nearest percentage to72.2% is 70%, which is 14 or less. If youwanted to have the players roll high, itwould be 7 or more.
If you want to convert statistics usingthis method, you can do it using the �Cu-mulative %� column. For example, consti-tution in AD&D games is rolled on 3d6. Ifyou wish to convert an AD&D game con-stitution of 13 to a STAR FRONTIERS gamestamina, find the chance of getting 13 orless on 3d6: 83.8%. Since the STARFRONTIERS game uses percentile dice todetermine abilities, just look up this per-centage on that game�s ability table. Thisgives a stamina of 60.
When converting statistics, you mustsometimes combine many statistics in onegame to get a statistic for another, or gofrom one statistic to many. Going fromSPACE OPERA game�s nine mental statis-tics to the AD&D game�s three (charisma,intelligence, and wisdom) requires deter-mining which statistics in the formercorrespond to those statistics in the latter.Make a list of the statistics in the gamesystem to which you are converting; aftereach of those statistics, list the relevantstatistics in the first game system, in orderfrom most relevant to least relevant. Forexample, to convert an AD&D game statis-tic (in boldface) to a SPACE OPERA gamestatistic (in regular type), you might list thefollowing:
nical Aptitude, Mechanical Aptitude,Electrical Aptitude, Psionics
Intelligence: Intelligence, General Tech-
PsionicsCharisma: Leadership, Empathy, Bravery,
Wisdom: Intuition, Empathy, Bravery,
When determining AD&D game intelli-gence, SPACE OPERA game intelligencewould be the main factor. A high aptitudescore might make up for a low intelli-gence, however, or vice versa. Likewise, inorder to have psionic ability in AD&Dgames, a high intelligence, wisdom, orcharisma is required, so SPACE OPERAgame psionics might influence intelligenceas well.
Final wordsOne of the main problems you may have
crossing game systems will not be crossinggenres, but crossing between mythic gamesystems and realistic game systems. Amythic game system assumes that the PCsare the major characters in the adventure.If the majority of the PCs don�t survive tothe end of the story, the story probablywouldn�t have been written about them.PCs often get breaks that are not realistic.Even if the-PCs do die, their battles anddeeds make stories, myths, and legends tobe handed down for generations.
In realistic game systems, it is not as-sumed that the PCs are going to survive tothe end of the story. In these games, thechances of death and injury are considera-ble. A single sword stroke might kill ahealthy character. Realistic game systemsshift part of the focus of the adventurefrom the story to PC survival. When usingan adventure from a mythic game systemin a realistic game system, combat sce-narios should probably be toned down, asshould most damage-causing events. PCsmay have to be given strong inducementto finish the adventure. When survivalbecomes more important, PCs in a realisticgame system might not take the initiativeas often as PCs in a mythic system.
On the other hand, when using adven-tures from a realistic game system in amythic system, you may find that many of86 JANUARY 1991
Table 1:Linear Die Roll Probabilities
1d4 (25%) 1d8 (12.5%)� 11 2� 32 4� 53 6� 74 8
1d6(16.7%) 1d12(8.3%)� 11 2� 32 4� 53 6
� 74 8� 95 10� 116 12
1d10 (10%) 1d20 (5%)� 11 2
� 32 4� 53 6� 74 8� 95 10� 116 12� 137 14� 158 16� 179 18� 1910 20
Table 2V and Bell-Curve Die Roll Probabilities
2d6 Single % Cumulative % Reverse %2 2.8% 2.8% 100%3 5.6% 8.3% 97.2%4 8.3% 16.7% 91.7%5 11.1% 27.8% 83.3%6 13.9% 41.7% 72.2%7 16.7% 58.3% 58.3%8 13.9% 72.2% 41.7%9 11.1% 83.3% 27.8%
10 8.3% 91.7% 16.7%11 5.6% 97.2% 8.3%12 2.8% 100% 2.8%
Table 2 (cont.)
Single % Cumulative % Reverse %.5% .5% 100%
1.4% 1.9% 99.5%2.8% 4.6% 98.1%4.6% 9.3% 95.4%6.9% 16.2% 90.7%9.7% 25.9% 83.8%
11.6% 37.5% 74.1%12.5% 50% 62.5%12.5% 62.5% 50%11.6% 74.1% 37.5%9.7% 83.8% 25.9%6.9% 90.7% 16.2%4.6% 95.4% 9.3%2.8% 98.1% 4.6%1.4% 99.5% 1.9%.5% 100% .5%
Cumulative % Reverse %.1% 100%.4% 99.9%
1.2% 99.6%2.7% 98.8%5.4% 97.3%9.7% 94.6%
15.9% 90.3%23.9% 84.1%33.6% 76.1%44.4% 66.4%55.6% 55.6%66.4% 44.4%76.1% 33.6%84.1% 23.9%90.3% 15.9%94.6% 9.7%97.3% 5.4%98.8% 2.7%99.6% 1.2%99.9% .4%100% .1%
Single % Cumulative % Reverse %1% 1% 100%2% 3% 99%3% 6% 97%4% 10% 94%5% 15% 90%6% 21% 85%7% 28% 73%8% 36% 72%9% 45% 64%
10% 55% 55%3% 64% 45%8% 72% 36%7% 79% 28%6% 85% 21%5% 90% 15%4% 94% 10%3% 97% 6%2% 99% 3%1% 100% 1%
the �nudges� that the author gives the PCsbecome less necessary. In a mythic gamesystem, the heat of battle and the chancefor glory are often enough to move PCstoward the climax of the adventure.
Another problem comes up when con-verting adventures to a game very differ-ent from its original game system. Thisinvolves overestimating the effects of oneaspect of the adventure�most often inoverestimating the effects of technology ina primitive setting. For example, manymodern weaponry systems have beenadded to the AD&D game, and quite a fewgive large damage values for handgun fire,ranging from 1d8 to 2d6 or more. A real-world deer-hunting bow (equivalent to along bow in AD&D game terms), whenused correctly, propels its arrow with thesame velocity as a .22 rifle bullet. Thebullet won�t do more damage than thearrow. The gun has a higher fire rate andis easier to shoot (that�s why it overtookthe bow and arrow in our own history),but the bow is a deadly weapon in itself.Similar problems occur when convertingmartial-arts systems into games with onlynormal hand-to-hand fighting.
Be sure to replace rather than redo. Thisdrastically cuts the amount of conversionwork and makes you that much morefamiliar with the characters, things, andplaces. Don�t replace what originally drewyou to the adventure, however. Put lots oflittle notes in the margins of the module,so you�ll remember what you�ve changedwhen you start running the adventure.Keep notes about what rules cover theevents being talked about, what savingthrows are required, and what pages youmight want to refer to in your rule booksor other references.
Use works of fiction as adventuresources. The methods given here forcrossing genres and game systems will alsowork for taking ideas from source otherthan role-playing, such as films, books,and the real world. Life is interesting�andnever let the PCs forget it!
D R A G O N 8 7
Every GM needs a detect gaming traps spell©1991 by Steve Maurer
With all the talk of the comparativevalue of role-playing game systems, onetruth always seems to be forgotten: Thequality of an RPG depends not only on thesystem, but also on its game master.
This article isn�t about rules. It�s intend-ed to help GMs become better by pointingout common mistakes made by GMs�asort of GM�s �Hall of Shame.� It is hopedthat, with preparation and practice, wemay learn to avoid such problems as thosediscussed here.
Being a good GM usually means lots ofwork. The best-plotted campaigns with themost interesting NPCs, situations, andsocieties are the hardest to create. Anyonecan run a game in which the players makeno choices and just roll dice. That�s whymany role-playing game systems encour-age some heavy-handed manipulation bythe GM in their basic rules. You don�talways have to think to be a GM. It is veryeasy for people to start their careers asGMs at this point.
Yet most experienced GMs get enjoymentout of running detailed campaigns. Thereis nothing quite like hearing your playersspend lots of time discussing the situationsin your world and what to do about them.If anything is worth doing, it is worthdoing well, which is why this article waswritten.
If you are a GM, show this article toyour players and have a talk with themabout it. If they point out a couple ofthings they�ve noticed about your gaming
Artwork by Bob AullDRAGON 87
style, that�s okay; nobody�s perfect. But ifthey point out lots of examples and reallythink there�s a problem, then you shouldconsider changing your style of gamemastering.
Improbable plotsIn RPGs, plots are not set in stone. A plot
is often just a situation, a set of goals forthe player characters to achieve, and anoutline of what is most likely to happen.Even though RPG plots are often simple,many GMs still make mistakes in settingthem up. The following are the most com-mon plotting mistakes.
Monty Haul returnsGM: �Inside the chest, Herkimer finds
three artifacts, a wishing lamp, 10,000platinum pieces, and a lightsabre.�
Player: �Oh, okay. What�s in the otherchest?�
Monty Haul (from Monty Hall, the hostof the Let’s Make a Deal TV show) is re-nowned. GMs want players to have fun,and players have fun when they win. SoMonty Haul GMs plot their games so thatplayers win all of the time. What theseGMs don�t realize is that it isn�t just thereward but also the challenge of overcom-ing obstacles that makes winning fun.
High-powered gaming isn�t always aMonty Haul game. If everything in thegame�PCs, danger, and treasure�is on ahigh level of power, the game can be bal-anced. A game is �Monty Haul� when thetreasure is unrealistic or out of proportionto the danger involved in getting it.
Solution: Learn from other GMs whatthe risk/reward ratio should be, or exam-ine the scenario packs from the gamecompany that makes your RPG (thoughpoorly written modules can also be MontyHaul; check them with care). Ask yourself�Who put this loot in here?� and �If all thisstuff is here, why hasn�t someone elsecome along and taken it?� Make sure NPCsuse the magical treasure they have forattack and defense, unless they�re unusu-ally stupid.
Ritual sacrificeGM: �You�re all dead again�for the third
time tonight! Things just aren�t workingout for you, are they?�
Player: �Yeah, our guys couldn�t eventouch that giant robot with all the nukes itwas firing.��
Ritual sacrifice is the inverse of MontyHaul: too much danger for too little trea-sure and experience, All paths lead tocertain death, and the players get frus-trated. Though some people say this is�realistic,� remember that stories aren�ttold about corpses. Players play heroes,the lucky few adventurers whose lives areinteresting, not the many others who failto find fortune or fail to survive at all. Assuch, it should be more likely that thehints of treasure these characters get are
88 JUNE 1991
Single-path plotsPlayer: �Wow, that was tough! We barely
Some GMs fail to motivate their players.Sometimes this is tolerable because play-ers will come up with their own motiva-tions for their characters�greed andambition, for example. But other motiva-tions are often much better. For instance,PCs will take risks for the sake of revengethat they�d never take for money or fame.
Solution: Encourage the PCs to adoptmotivations that fit your world. Provide avariety of motivations so that you canalways tailor a plot around one of themand get the PCs� attention. Think of alter-natives to seeking money and power.
Missing motivationPlayer: �What�s there to do around this
town?�GM: �Nothing.�Player: �Well, how about in the capital?�GM: �Nothing really exciting.�
Solution: Think of some cliches�andthen avoid them. Plan reasonable ways forPCs to meet: in mercenary hiring halls, inchurches, through mutual friends, any-where but in the local tavern. Don�t repeatthe same plots very often, even if theywere successful. Make everyday events(such as getting a drink) be normal 99% ofthe time; thus, when something unusualdoes happen, it really is surprising.
Every genre has its cliches. When mod-erately used, they can be fun: the evilwizard in the dark castle, the heroic spaceknight, the beautiful captive heroine, etc.However, cliches become a problem whenyou start repeating yourself. If every barhas a fight, every stranger offers adven-ture, and all the untrustworthy PCs sud-denly meet and decide to join forces, thenyou need to change things.
GM: �Your characters just happen to bedrinking in a saloon, and this dark-cloakedman sits down next to one guy..."
Player: �My gunfighter says, �What�s themission, bub?� �
A tough game isn�t always a ritual sacri-fice. If PCs can choose their targets andovercome obstacles with clever planning,then the challenges are reasonable. Ritualsacrifice occurs only when you always killthe PCs, no matter what they do.
Solution: Loosen up your game a little.Don�t use death to control your players�PCs. Give them a chance to identify dan-gers before getting in too deep. Ask your-self �Where does the enemy get theresources to do that?� and �What are someways in which this monster could be killedby the PCs?� Use common sense whenfollowing random-encounter tables, anddon�t get so involved with your NPCs thatyou want to make them always win.
true and that enemies may underestimatethe heroes.
Muddled manipulationsEvery game needs some manipulation.
PCs usually need a little push to get themgoing in the right direction, but playersshould not be aware of this guidance. Ifthe PCs are forced along a preplanned plotno matter what they do, you are doingsomething wrong. You make the playerssimply dice rollers, and they will probablyget frustrated with your game.
Deus ex machinaGM: �Suddenly, the sky fills with aveng-
ing angels! �Player: �Gosh, third time this week.
Look, are they going to �un-toad� my thiefnow or not?�
GM: �Yes�but you are suddenly teleport-ed to an arena by a mad wizard, and haveto fight ... giant scorpions!�
Single-path plots are so rigid that ifanything doesn�t go as planned, everythingfalls apart. To force things along, manyGMs use overt plot manipulations (dis-cussed later). Don�t expect PCs to do eventhe most logical things; you will do betterby plotting several possible alternatives.
Solution: Don�t make plots that dependon the PCs winning or losing a fight, solv-ing a puzzle, or failing all saving throws atonce. Players are a constant source ofsurprises. Also, don�t make plots dependupon dice rolls (such as getting past alocked door when the party�s thief hasonly a 70% chance of picking the lock).Provide plot alternatives. Run several plotlines at once, so if the players have troublein one place, they can do something else.
Player: �What do you mean you don�tknow? You�re the GM!�
GM: �Your group was supposed to loseand be thrown into the gang leader�s se-cret prison. I don�t what to do next.�
beat that guy. Our group will wait for thegang leader to recover so we can talk tohim. What happens next?�
GM: �I don�t know.�
Deus ex machina means �god from themachine.� In Greek plays, no matter whathappened, everything was solved in theend when a god (played by an actor strungup on ropes) came down and changedeverything. In an RPG, it�s the same idea.Under deus ex machina GMs, the game�srules, world, and story are all changed onwhim, often several times per game. Thisproblem often goes hand-in-hand withMonty Haul troubles: The GM gives awaytons of treasure, then has NPC gods take itall away again. This is the poorest way tomanipulate plots, and few players stand itfor long.
Solution: Use published scenario packsand game aids to see how plots are puttogether. Talk to other GMs and learn theways in which they encourage and moti-vate PCs. Take time to plot your adven-tures and explain your world. Don�tarbitrarily change the world later or lead
PCs around by their noses.
Changes vs. cheatingPlayer A: �Bret jumps over the pit!
Oops�he missed his agility roll by one.He�s already badly injured, so I guess mycharacter�s dead.�
GM: �No.... he just barely made it. He�sokay. [To another player] �Your turn.�
Player B: �So Black Bart jumps�uh, oh.He also rolled one less than his agility. Buthe should be fine; he has lots of hit pointsleft!�
GM: �Wrong. Bart fell into the pit full ofrattlesnakes, taking 22 points of damage.�
Altering the rules is fine. Changing therules to manipulate the plot is not. Chang-ing them back and forth depending on thesituation is even worse.
Solution: Be brave and stick with therules as written, even if it means killing acharacter. If you must alter the rules, don�talter them to punish or reward players.Know the rules well before you try tochange them. Check for loopholes in yournew rules so you don�t have to change therules back again once the game starts.Always be consistent. If you have to shadethings, do it by fudging dice rolls behind aGM�s screen, not by changing the rules.Finally, discuss rules changes with players;it�s often fun to talk about �what will hap-pen if� situations in your group.
Unwanted interferenceGM: �Okay, stop the arguing! Your group
divides the treasure up the way I�ve writ-ten it down."
Player: �Hey! You�re the GM. Why areyou deciding how we divide things up?�
GM: �Because I�m the GM!�
The GM has every right to control the�above-game� action: who gets to talk,what the rules are, who rolls dice, etc. Butthe �in-game� PC interaction is the prov-ince of the players. Don�t interfere with it.This doesn�t mean that NPCs can�t react towhat PCs say; it just means that youshould apply no godlike powers on the PCactions.
Solution: Stay out of �in-character� argu-ments, but firmly control all the player-to-player arguments. Let NPCs makein-character comments, but don�t givethem godlike knowledge (see �Oracles�).Add time limits to the plot so the PCs don�thave all day to get their job done-and allday to argue about it.
Forced marchesPlayer: �We don�t care what the reward
is. Our characters are not going to mountan attack on the Nine Hells. Period.�
GM: �Look, do you want to play thegame or not?�
GM: �So one of your characters pulls thelever on the wall by the computer console,and a huge��
Player: �No, wait! No one in the group is
Another poor way to manipulate PCactions is to force actions into a set mold.If the PCs don�t do what a game-forcingGM wants them to do, the GM refuses toplay. If a PC feels compelled to leave theparty because of things that have hap-pened, that GM won�t let the player playagain. If the PC does leave for a time, theGM refuses to give the character anyexperience points. This is simply wrong.
It�s okay to force the tone of a campaign(�I�m doing a science-fiction game� or�Good PCs only for this next scenario�),but don�t use this to influence what thePCs decide to do. Players shouldn�t have toworry that what they do will changewhether you will be their GM or not.
Solution: Don�t force the players to sendtheir PCs where they don�t want them togo. Anticipate the players when possible.Give the PCs a reason to go on the adven-tures you�ve planned and to stay togetheras a coherent group. If a PC performs adangerous or solitary side errand, have agaming session with him some other timeto resolve this. Make it known that un-planned actions are not going to suddenlystop the game.
It�s okay to fill in details about the past,even details that really didn�t happen (youcan always say that the little thingsweren�t noticed at the time), but alteringmajor events in the past is not okay. Evencomic-book writers have shied away fromthis in recent years (well, some of themhave), so unless you are running a campycomic-book super-hero game in which allthe villains keep returning from the grave,don�t do it.
I know some of you will still change thepast anyway, so here is some advice: If youmust do it, use subtlety. Always leave afew dangling plot threads on which todangle your rewritten version of the past.Give a few bits of needless detail as theadventure progresses, so that you havesomething later on which to hang yourrewritten plot. (For example, the shadowyfigure the paladin thought he saw before
Player: �The robot could bleed and beburned up?�
Player: �My paladin cut off his head andburned the head and body separately!Even the clerics said Karzat was dead, andtheir gods told them so!�
GM: �Well . . . that was just a robot. Thisis the real Karzat.�
GM: �You open your chamber door�andyou see Karzat the Merciless!�
Player: �WHAT?! What do you mean?!Karzat�s dead! My paladin killed himmonths ago!�
GM: �Ah, you thought he died, but hedidn�t!�
Rewriting the past
The �magician�s force� rule is dangerous,however. If you overuse it, the players willcatch on, and they may decide your gameisn�t worth playing if they have no say inanything that goes on.
This is another poor plot manipulationthat will get players very upset, becauseyou take away the only thing they havecontrol over�their characters. Again, ifyou designed the plot with enough flexibil-ity in the first place, you won�t have torailroad your PCs.
Solution: If your plot absolutely de-mands you to railroad the PCs, use the�magician�s force� rule (also known as�Heads, I win�tails, you lose�). Simplymake the consequence you want to occurhappen anyway, and tailor the explanationfor why it happened as a result of whatthe PCs did. In the previous example, ifthe plot demands that the PCs fall into atrap, have the lever spring the trap if thePCs pull on it�and have the trap spring ifthe PCs don�t pull it (the lever having beendesigned to prevent the trap from goingoff). The PCs can�t win, of course, but theydon�t know that.
going to pull that lever! We never saidanyone was doing that!�
GM: �Fine. Suddenly, Zack the astrogatortrips, flails his arms, and accidentally pullsthe lever. Just then, a huge ...�
90 JUNE 1991
he killed Karzat was actually an old necro-mancer friend of Karzat, who had justtaken a tissue sample of the evil warlordfor a clone spell.)
Solution: Leave the past alone; what�sdone is done. Be willing to see NPCs diepermanently and past history remainunchanged. To avoid losing NPCs you needaround, figure out escape plans and alter-nate defense plots long before those NPCsneed to use them. If you must change thepast, do it as seldom as possible.
Unlikely actionsPlayer: �While the tavern keeper is out,
my assassin will clean out his till.�GM: �Right then, the tavern keeper runs
back inside the building with an axe andattacks your guy.�
Player: �Gosh, it�s amazing how a tavernkeeper can see through walls!�
GM: �No, no�he just decided to turnaround then.�
Make sure everything in your game islogical. Just because things aren�t goingthe way you planned them doesn�t meanyou should give NPCs extra knowledge ormake implausible or illogical events starthappening whenever the PCs try to getclever. It�s okay to cheat a little whenyou�re the GM, but you have to be subtle.Work within the world you�ve defined;don�t change it at your own whim to getback at �bad PCs.�
Using implausible actions to help the PCsis about as common as using it to hurtthem and is just as bad. Many GMs havetheir monsters start fighting over thetreasure in the middle of combat just asthe PCs start to lose, thus giving the PCs ahuge advantage. Properly played PCs donot gain or lose intelligence points depend-ing upon how well the players are doing.
Solution: Use logic in playing out situa-tions; don�t stretch everyone�s credulitywith claims of �coincidence� or �it must bemagical.� Don�t let the current gamingsituation cloud your judgment about howthe game world should work. Rememberthat most situations last only a short time,but you may want to run your gameworld for a long time.
Saying too muchPlayer: �Boy, that scientist sure is a swell
guy! He really helped my character."GM: �Of course, he might have ulterior
motives for helping you.�Player: �Hey, I hadn�t thought of that.
Maybe he does!�GM: �But remember�your character
doesn�t know that.�
Every GM lets things slip, but somemake a habit of it. Telling players how todo things makes them mere dice rollers, soavoid this. Few players can genuinely keepthe information that they know as playersseparated from what their PCs know.Even if they can�t, it�s more fun to actuallyfigure out puzzles than to be told the
The level of detail with which you de-scribe things may determine where thePCs go and what they do. This isn�t theworst mistake you can make, but it�s reallya problem if you describe a puzzle�s solu-tion better than you describe the deadends. At worst, a GM who does this iswilling to describe only the places wherethe PCs are to go. This is very obnoxious.
Solution: Follow the players� lead as tothe detail they want. If the PCs studysomething, no matter what it is, give lotsof details about it; if they aren�t paying
GM: �Oh, they just look like doors.�Player: �Gosh, I wonder which door we
should go through.�
Player: �What about the other doorsWhat do they look like?�
Giveaway detailsGM: �In the hallway, you see some doors.
At the end of the corridor is a walnut doorwith a brass handle.�
Solution: Play NPCs according to theirintelligence. The dumber they are, the lesslikely they�ll know anything. Even thesmartest NPCs should make mistakes.Remember that the three most commonresponses people make to strange ques-tions are �I don�t know,� �Haven�t the faint-est idea,� and �Why are you asking me, ofall people?�
This method of manipulation is rathercommon. All NPCs in this sort of game areoracles of wisdom and knowledge, themouthpieces of the GM. Sometimes, NPCsmay make good guesses because they�reexperienced or smart. But if they do itregularly, the players will start trying toget the GM�s hints out of really stupidNPCs.
GM: �He says, �Why don�t you pourwater on the Talking Rock?� �
Player: �Okay, we�ll do that.�GM: �Suddenly, you hear a voice that
says, �Good thinking!� �
GM: �The kobold porter you hired wantsto say something.�
Player: �Okay, we stop arguing and listento him.�
Solution: Remember that, as a GM, yourvoice in the matter will carry more weightthan anyone else's. Even innocent com-ments may be examined by justifiablyparanoid players for hidden meanings. It�sbetter to keep your mouth shut when youdon�t want the players to catch on tosomething.
answers. Keep surprises and secrets toyourself until they�re ready to be revealed.
Note that improper commenting doesn�tmean just talking about the PCs; it�s givingthe players hints while you�re doing it.Even talking about things the PCs missedis bad. You prevent them from ever com-ing back to that particular setting andhaving a second shot at figuring somethingout themselves.
What does the shop have for sale?�
Solution: Remember that game worldsare living things and change over time.Incorporate prominent characters into thehistory of the world, keeping a list ofcurrent events involving both PCs andNPCs. Put some work into thinking aboutchanges to your game world after each
You don�t have to play out hoards of NPCinteractions to run a complete world. Justchange things a little without the PCsbeing involved. The shopkeeper�s wifegives birth to a son, and the prince ordersa bar curfew because of drunken hooli-gans at night. Make things progress logi-cally. If gold is discovered in the hills, thePCs won�t be the only ones going there tolook. If armies clash near town, somepeople will pack up and leave.
Complete worlds lived independently ofthe PCs. Actions and events happenwhether the PCs are there or not. Theplayers are left with the feeling that theircharacters are just part of a larger world,and so it becomes more real to them.Running a complete world is the mark ofexcellence that distinguishes good GMsfrom mediocre ones. Unfortunately, therejust aren�t that many complete worldsaround.
In an incomplete world, no one but thePCs seems to do anything. Nothing everchanges except when the PCs change it.NPCs dully stand around waiting for thePCs to talk to them.
GM: �Everything you sold him the lasttime you were here.�
GM: �The shopkeeper says �Nothing�.�Player: �Sure. Thongar looks around.
Player: �My barbarian walks into theshop and says, �Hey, what�s new in town?� �
Imagination isn�t always necessary.There are published game packs whichdefine different worlds in great detail. Butyou must be consistent with your world toreally bring it to life.
Because of this, having a good gameworld is critical. You might get away witha bad plot or an occasional overmanipula-tion, but a world must be as real as possi-ble. Otherwise, you�ll never have acampaign.
The best game world doesn�t just have aset of maps, NPCs, and place descriptions.It has a logical view of its world, a set ofunwritten rules that gives the world self-consistency. This is the key that allowsplayers to make the willing suspension ofdisbelief.
Rifts in the world
attention, don�t. Whenever the PCs thinkthey are in danger, whether they reallyare or not, give out lots of details as ifeverything were sudden very important.Sometimes give out details even if they arenot important, so that players can�t tell byyour level of abstraction whether a situa-tion is dangerous or not.
game session, and keep a calendar ofevents.
Basic stupidityPlayer: �You know, by your price list,
these blast rifles are less expensive thantheir components.�
Player: �So, why don�t people just buyblast rifles and make money selling themfor their components?�
GM: �Uh . . . because, um, because theultrapowerful weapons makers guild willcome around and kill you if you do that.�
Player: �Gosh, they sure have that mar-ket cornered!�
Everyone makes mistakes when design-ing a world-even game designers. How-ever, some GMs are too proud to admitmistakes. Instead, they create ever-more-unbelievable justifications for why theworld works in a particularly stupid way.Eventually, the entire world looks reallystupid to the players.
Solution: If players present reasonablearguments about why things should workdifferently, listen to them. Make changesin the world as early on as possible. (Spe-cial tactic: If you�re really embarrassed ata particular mistake, just do what gamedesigners do: Say it was a typo.)
Unbearable sillinessGM: �As you walk down the street, you
run into a Denebian slime devil wearing aMickey Mouse hat and an �I love New York�T-shirt. He sees your group and slithersover, screaming �Oh, adventurers! I Ioveadventurers!� �
Player: �We ignore him.�
If you are running a parody game, yourworld can be as silly as you want it to be.But if you�re not, don�t try to add in sillythings as part of a serious world. It won�twork. Believe me.
Game worlds that draw from literarysources (e.g. fantasy, science fiction, mys-teries, etc.) are best when they are reason-ably serious. That�s not to say there can�tbe laughter in the game; it�s just that theplayers shouldn�t laugh at the silliness ofthe world, but at the funny situations thatsometimes come up in a serious world.
Solution: Whenever you feel the urge toadd a bad joke, try to remember the lasttime someone complimented your sense ofhumor. If that doesn�t humble you, or if bysome quirk of fate you really are funny,make your jokes about the world�don�tmake the world a joke Don�t force the PCsto react seriously to something the playersfind silly.
Wild exaggerationGM: �On the other side of the hill, your
barbarian sees the most amazing castlehe�s ever seen!�
Player: �No problem. He�s got this �in-credibly stupendous castle-destroying + 20sword you gave him last week, so he�ll just
Inconsistent GMs can�t make up theirmind on how the world should work.Unlike a world run by a deus ex machinaGM, it isn�t that there�s no plot, it�s just thatthe GM doesn�t write things down so heforgets them. You can make exceptions tothings that happen in your world, but besure to point them out as exceptions.
Solution: Think your world throughbefore you run it, so that you don�t runinto consistency problems. Whenever youdescribe something new to the players,make sure you have it written down some-where for future reference, and studyyour notes before each game.
Backbone requiredPlayer: �My warrior wants to experi-
ment with some stuff. He randomly picksout some jars of saltpetre, sulfur, andcharcoal from the alchemist�s shop, and hemixes them together and sets fire to themess.�
GM: �Uh, okay. Um, well, he�s inventedgunpowder, then.�
GMs sometimes let players push their
GM: �Oh. Um, well . . ."
Player: �Hey, you said last week that nodwarf in your world would have anythingto do with orcs.�
GM: �Your dwarven blacksmith says heworships Glazgrok, the orcish god of fire.He was a member of this orcish tribe, andhe��
Solution: Don�t feel like you have tomake everything fantastic. Even galacticoverlords need to go to the bathroom oncein a while. Ask yourself: �Who does all thesupport work to maintain this marvelousworld I�ve designed?� Play out normalencounters occasionally, so that playersget a feel for what the world is like whentheir character are not fighting for theirvery lives.
In an exaggerated world, nothing nor-mal ever happens. No barkeep is simply abarkeep; they�re all grossly powerful re-tired wizards. All the non-enemy NPCs areso incredibly tough that they must havebeen living for at least 200 years to haveall the skills they have. Even if the PCsbecome equally powerful, one wondersjust who takes out the trash; it certainlyisn�t anyone the players have ever seen.Eventually, in an exaggerated world, sup-posedly stupendous events soon becomeho-hum. A GM addicted to exaggerationwill combat this by making everythingeven more huge, powerful, and deadly,which further increases the sense of medi-ocrity, and so on.
GM: �Well, he tries it, but there�s a KA-BOOOOOM!!! The sword breaks into abillion fragments!!! The castle is so power-ful that even the pieces of that stupendoussword are overawed!!!�
cut the castle in two.�
D R A G O N 9 1
vision of the world around. This is some-times okay, but draw the line somewhere.Otherwise, you�ll quickly find yourselfrunning a Monty Haul game. Make sureplayers use only the knowledge their PCsshould have. No medieval fighter is goingto know how to make gunpowder or sud-denly realize that someone stole some-thing of his just because his player hearsabout it.
Solution: Keep tight control over yourgame world, including the kinds of PCsyou allow into it and the things those PCsdo that could change the campaign. Try toexplore the possible consequences ofcertain changes, so that you aren�t sur-prised later on. Don�t be afraid to reject�perfectly reasonable� PCs, actions, orinventions that either don�t fit into thegame or will disrupt the balance of power.If something secret is about to happen(like an orc ambush), and you think theplayers will have their PCs act on thisknowledge even if the PCs aren�t supposedto know about it, keep the coming event asecret from the players, too. And if some-one tries to use player knowledge with hisPC, and the result looks like it will causeproblems later, just change the expectedresult into an unexpected one: �Well, whenhe sets fire to the saltpetre mixture, it fillsthe room with blue smoke but does noth-ing else. Funny thing about chemistry in amagical universe�you never know whatit�s going to do.�
Communication problemsEven if the game world is good and the
plots are excellent, you can make mistakesin presenting the game to the players. Theplayers know only what the GM tellsthem. If the GM doesn�t communicate well,it makes it that much harder to play thegame. Communication problems oftenvanish with practice, so if you are a begin-ning GM, don�t get discouraged if every-thing isn�t perfect.
Lost in spacePlayer: �Where are we?�GM: �In a starship.�Player: �Well, what does it look like?�GM: �A starship.�
A nebulous GM never presents anydetail in his world. This is one of the worstthings a GM can do. Even good scenariopacks won�t add anything to your game ifyou read their detailed descriptions toyourself but then say to the players: �Well,you�re there.� To make a world real to theplayers, you must describe it to them.Otherwise, they�ll never see the world asyou do-and they�ll get bored and leavethe game.
Solution: The best designed worlds dono good at all if you don�t describe them tothe players. If you have trouble thinkingof the right words to use, read books andmodule packs that include detailed andvivid descriptions of people, places, andthings. Make sure that your world has a
background worth talking about, or elseuse a background from an appropriatenovel or game aid. You can often readmaterial directly from another source, aslong as it�s short. While you can over-describe a world (see �Myopic vision�), fewpeople do this.
Missing the detailsGM: �So you get into the room, and
there�s a chest there. I guess you want toadd this to the party treasure?�
All players: �Yes!�GM: �Hmm . . . seems like there�s a trap
on that chest. Who exactly touched thechest first?�
All players (pointing at each other): �Hedid! �
Inappropriate abstraction is much like�Giveaway details.� The GM doesn�t knowwhen to ask for details on the PCs actionsand when not to. Here, the GM errs on theside of not asking for relevant detailsbefore he pops a surprise, which leads tolots of arguments later.
Solution: Follow all the suggestions fromthe �Giveaway details� section. Rememberto get the information you need (in assubtle a manner as possible) before youact on it.
Myopic visionGM: �On the badge, you see a boss of
Harold Bluetooth, a famous Viking king, sothe badge probably dates from the 9th or10th century. Harold reigned about tenyears before the first invasion of England,when the Danes gathered over five hun-dred ships and set sail to . . ."
All players: �Zzzzzzz . . ."
This seems to be a rare problem. A GMwith game myopia gets sidetracked intogiving out details that have nothing to dowith the adventure at hand. This GM mustlearn to wave a wand of abstraction andassume that things which are easily doneare done (no need to detail every momentof a PC�s life, for instance, or exactly howa complex piece of mining equipmentworks). Don�t force players to role-play orunderstand everything.
Solution: Give details only when theyhave some (even possibly remote) connec-tion to the plot, or if the players are reallyinterested in hearing them.
Snagged on the rulesMishandling the rules of a game can
cause loads of trouble for everyone. Usu-ally, this problem goes away as a GM gainsin experience.
Simple ignoranceGM: �The crazed tribesman attacks you
with a greatsword in each hand.�Player: �Uh, greatswords are two-
handed swords. You need two hands towield them.�
GM: �Well, these are one-handedgreatswords.�
92 JUNE 1991
Rules or dice worshipGM: �So, agent Dinzel reaches terminal
velocity, hits the cement at 400 miles perhour, and dies.�
Player: �No, he doesn�t. The rules sayDinzel takes 30 dice. But he�s got lots of hitpoints. See here? Page 92, subsection C,paragraph 3, chart M. All I have to do isroll an 18 or better, and Dinzel�s okay. See?I did it.�
GM: �But that�s a crazy rule. Dinzelshould be a pancake.�
Player: �Hey, those are the rules!�GM: �Okay, I guess Dinzel lives.�Player: �Fine. Now Dinzel gets up, shoots
the guard at the front door, then steals atank and escapes.�
Before you become a GM, be as familiaras possible with the game�s rules. You canchange whatever rules you like, but besure you understand the results of yourchanges. Don�t change the rules just be-cause you don�t want to bother lookingthem up.
Solution: Familiarize yourself with agame system before trying to GM it. Askplayers who are familiar with the systemabout obscure rules when you need helpfinding them.
GM: �Okay, okay. I meant, the tribesmanhas a halberd in each hand.�
Player: �No! A halberd is a two-handedweapon, too!�
Player: �One-handed two-handedswords?�
Don�t let game rules, die rolls, or playerreactions to them push you around. If therules conflict with the game-world realityyou want to portray, then change themwith care. Just make sure that you areconsistent with your changes, and avoiddoing things by whim.
Solution: Make sure you feel comfort-able with the rules you decide to use, butalways inform players of rules changesbefore they make decisions based on theold �universal laws� �then stick to yourguns for consistency�s sake. Rules and diceare secondary to the enjoyment you andyour players receive in a game.
Problem personalitiesThis final category consists of three
problems that go beyond the game andextend into real life. As such, even whenthese problems are pointed out, the GMwill almost never change. These problemsare described here because many experi-enced players think they can help newGMs with problems like these�but it isn�tpossible. These problems go away onlywhen the affected GM gains more emo-tional maturity. Be prepared to talk aboutthese problems if necessary, but also beprepared to walk away from the game andfind another GM.
Playing favoritesGM: �Jake, your dwarf finds 29 silver
pieces. Fred, your wizard gets 12 silverpieces and a jeweled dagger. And sweet-heart . . ."
Player: �Yes, honey?�
Some GMs think that �playing god� ex-tends into the real world. They have theneed to always be right or the most pow-erful. Avoid these people at any cost, andresist the urge to tear them limb fromlimb. Remember that it�s all just a game�and find another GM.
Supreme arrogance Player: �Here�s my character from Bob�s
game. Can I bring him into the campaign?�GM: �This character is so bad, you know
what I think of it?�Player: �What?�GM: �This!� [tears up character sheet]
GMs are supposed to be neutral to thePCs� fate. But the kind of GM describedhere is on a power trip and gets enjoyment from �beating� the players and crow-ing about it. No player should ever have toput up with an insult like this.
Bragging and gloatingGM: �Boy, I really fooled you guys this
time! That gold mine was empty! Ha, ha!What idiots! Am I smart or what?�
Some GMs, often quite unintentionally,let their personal feelings about playersinfluence their decisions in their games.Some players get all the luck�and someget no luck at all. For good or ill, it�s a badway to run a game.
GM: �You find the lost sacred artifact ofthe elven folk!�
by Scott Roach
What sphinxes employ, the players enjoy�. . . the riddle game was sacred and of A riddle background
immense antiquity and even wicked crea-tures were afraid to cheat when theyplayed at it.�
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien
Every adventure, on its most basic level,is merely a series of obstacles blocking thecharacters from attaining their goals. Butplayers will soon become bored if there isnot enough variety in the type of chal-lenges with which they are confronted.The scenario in which heroes wadethrough vast numbers of enemies of everyimaginable ilk (as a prelude to the inevita-ble encounter with some greater malevo-lent force) works fine the first fewhundred times, but then it begins to weara little thin,
Traps are also useful as a means of test-ing the mettle of heroes before they reachthis final decisive encounter. But it canoften be a very tedious business whenplayers are required to specify that theircharacters are going to poke, prod, smell,dissect, and otherwise examine each object(or NPC, for that matter) they find. Playersmay also feel cheated if they have takenreasonable precautions but one of theircharacters still ends up being suddenlykilled, wounded or imprisoned. Traps, bytheir very nature, tend to be capriciousand unforgiving.
History, mythology and literature arefilled with examples of epic confrontationsthat hinged upon successfully cracking aconundrum. Tolkien�s novel, The Hobbit,contains action of all types, from naturaldisasters to interracial warfare, but theone confrontation that most stands out inthe collective memories of its readers isone not of arms, but of words: the riddlecontest between Bilbo and Gollum. It isone thing to engage in a guessing game asan idle diversion in the safety and comfortof one�s own home, but it is quite anotherentirely when trapped deep within thebelly of the earth with a slavering fiendwho shall surely devour you at the firstincorrect guess.
Riddle contests of a similar sort have
So what is one to do if he wishes to addsome variety to what can often become arather stale selection of preclimactic ad-venture filler? Well, how about addingriddles?
been popular since ancient times. There isan apocryphal legend that claims thatLycerus, the king of Babylon, and Nectane.bo, the king of Egypt, once engaged eachother in a war of riddles. The �war� waswon by Lycerus only with the help ofAesop, the famed writer of fables, whowas then residing at the royal court.
On a lighter and more modern note, thefilm, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, alsoborrowed a thread from the rich tapestrythat is the history of riddles. Before cross-ing a chasm, the knights in quest of theGrail were first required to pass a quiz(�Answer me these questions three, ere theother side ye see.�). If they failed, they werethrown from the cliff to their deaths. Al-though most of the questions were rela-tively easy (�What is your quest? What isyour favorite color?� etc.), the indecisiveand fickle knights were soon catapulted atgreat velocity into the chasm. This humor-ous story has its roots in Greek mythology,where the Sphinx guarded the road justoutside Thebes in a virtually identical man-ner. The humorless Sphinx�s quiz consistedof a particularly vexing riddle.
Riddles in gamingWhile it is probably too much to ask that
players be expected to make up their ownriddles on the spot, there are still manyuses for these frustrating enigmas in fan-tasy games. Of the general uses of conun-drums in fantasy role-playing games, themost common is probably as an obstruc-tion between sections of a dungeon orsegments of an adventure. There is acertain advantage in occasionally using ariddle for this purpose rather than theusual physical barriers of guards or me-chanically held doors. If an area can onlybe entered by first surmising the obscuremeaning of a curiously worded rhyme, theplayers will find that they are being chal-lenged on a much more personal levelthan is normally the case. Rather thanrelying upon cold tables of statistics andthe fickle whims of gravity on an oddlyshaped die, as occurs when a thief at-tempts to pick a lock or a fighter batters adoor down, the players must depend ontheir own wits to gain access to thesespecifically protected areas.
If there are fortune tellers or sages inyour present campaign milieu, you mightconsider having them dispense some oftheir wisdom in the form of riddles. Theoracles of ancient Greece were said to bevery fond of this technique, perhaps be-cause if an augury was later proven to befalse, the seer could always claim that themeaning of his pronouncement was mere-ly misinterpreted. The amount of �plausi-ble deniability� provided by such aprocedure is something that even modern-day politicians would envy. If, on the otherhand, a god truly does communicate sometype of divine knowledge to his oracles orclerics in the form of riddles, he is likely tobe bothered less frequently. His followersmust first divine the meaning of his lastsending before they will know if any fur-ther questions are appropriate, and theless patient or intelligent of the faithful areunlikely to ask any questions at all. Be-sides, those who figure out the riddle arelikely to be smarter than others�andhence better liked and more appreciatedby the deity.
1. 3.A man of a hundred stood out in the cold, I’m often held, yet rarely touched;Exchanged his gay headdress, of colors I’m always wet, yet never rust;most bold, I’m sometimes wagged and sometimes bit;
‘or one of pure ivory, just now a day old.But though freshly dressed, the old man
To use me well, you must have wit.
stood alone—It was his misfortune to live on a wold.
2.There’s someone that I’m always near,Yet in the dark I disappear.To this one only am I loyal,Though in his wake I’m doomed to toil.He feels me not (we always touch);If I were lost, he’d not lose much.And now I come to my surprise,For you are he—but who am I?
Players might also be able to benefitfrom knowing a puzzle or two of theirown. The next time a favorite character iscaught in a situation where he is upagainst a vastly superior (but vain andegotistical) enemy, such as a dragon, per-haps he can barter for his life by challeng-ing the intelligence of this foe with aparticularly nasty conundrum. Good gamemasters are always looking for excuses notto kill characters who have fallen intosuch sticky situations. This being the case,it has not been unheard of for sympatheticjudges to allow even creatures as malevo-lent and powerful as dragons to become soperplexed or distracted with a difficultposer as to allow their would-be prey totake the initiative and escape. (Rememberthe tale of Scheherazade and The ArabianNights.) There is, however, an extremelyfine line between appealing to a dragon�svanity and offending his sensibilities (i.e.,lining the walls of his stomach!).
Another dilemma that often arises inmany campaigns occurs when the adven-turers come into possession of a new
magical item, such as a wand or a staff.How are they to find the trigger word thatallows the item to function? If the charac-ters are of a relatively low level or arevery far removed from civilization, theymight not have access to the spells orresearch materials that are required tofind the key word or phrase.
However, if the protective case that thewand was found in has a rhyme carvedupon it that seems to be of some veiledsignificance, then the game master has amethod of allowing the characters todiscern the information that they aresearching for without having to give it tothem outright. This is particularly effec-tive if the magical device has several scat-tered pieces that must be found andassembled over the course of many adven-tures before it can be used (such as a rodof seven parts in the AD&D® game). Aseparate line of a riddle could be carvedinto each section. In such a manner, notonly would the trigger word be revealed,but by arranging the fragments in a wayso as to form a coherent verse, the order
in which the device must be assembledmight also be indicated.
These are just a few of the infinite num-ber of ways in which riddles may be incor-porated into a fantasy role-playingcampaign. The reader is encouraged touse any that appeal to him, or to use hisown creativity to come up with applica-tions that he feels are appropriate.
A riddle samplerUnfortunately, there does not seem to be
any one good source of riddles that lendthemselves to use in a fantasy role-playinggame. Most books of �riddles� are actuallyfilled with puns (Q: From what country dofish come? A: Finland). Surprisingly, one ofthe best collections of high-quality riddlesturns out to be the aforementioned con-test in The Hobbit.
The following are some original riddles,provided with answers and suggestionsfor their use in fantasy games. Good lucksolving them!
4.The only tool which sharper growsWhenever used in any row.
5.In the window she sat weeping.
And with each tear her life went seeping.
7.I�ve little strength but mighty powers;I guard small hovels and great towers,But if perchance my master leaves,He must ensure he safeguards me.
6.I�m not really more than holes tied to more
holes;I�m strong as good steel, though not stiff as
8.The floor�s on top, the roof�s beneath,And from this place I rarely leave.Yet with the passing of each day,A new horizon greets my gaze.
BibliographyLawson, J. Gilchrist. The World’s Best
Conundrums and Riddles of All Ages.New York: Harper and Brothers, 1924.This book and the following ones aregood sources of riddles for your fanta-sy role-playing campaign.
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit. New York:Ballantine Books, 1966. pages 81-86.
Withers, Carl., and Dr. Sula Benet. TheAmerican Riddle Book. New York:Albelard-Schuman, 1966.
The Answer is lll
Alive without breath,As cold as death;Never thirsty, ever drinking,All in mail never clinking.
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Riddles in the dark made for a rathernasty adventure as far as a poor hobbitnamed Bilbo Baggins was concerned�andthey can do the same for player charactersin fantasy role-playing games. If yourheroes are bored with fighting the samesmelly orcs, toss a riddle or two at them.Even the most calloused adventurer willstart to sweat when it�s �Answer�or else!�(In case you�re wondering, the answer tothe riddle above, as Gollum well knew, is�fish.�)
Riddles and perplexing puzzles of manysorts are a perfect means to liven up anadventure when role-playing has becomeroutine. Unlike tossing in new twists onthe same old physical dangers (�Okay,folks, this time it�s a plaid dragon!�), rid-dles provide a new kind of challenge�amental one�that can restore vigor to ajaundiced campaign. And riddles providewonderful obstacles for low-level charac-ters who can�t go out and fight the bigstuff, but who are tired of killing a scoreof kobolds in order to get twelve copperpieces.
Riddles involve players directly with theaction going on. It�s not just rolling diceand looking at tables; suddenly it�s theplayers themselves and their own abilitiesthat determine whether or not they�llmake it through the adventure, find thetreasure, rescue the princess, or evenescape with their lives! In this way, riddlesadd a dimension of reality to an adven-ture, making the excitement of the situa-tion more vivid in the player�s mind, whichmakes for more creative role-playing.
92 NOVEMBER 1991
by Mark Anthony
Editor’s note: As sometimes happens hereat DRAGON® Magazine, we received twoarticles on the same topic, each of whichcomplemented the other quite well. In thiscase, the topic was riddles. We hope youenjoy these two perspectives.]
The riddles there areThere are many kinds of riddles and
puzzles a crafty game master (GM) mightuse. The most basic sort is the What-Am-I?riddle, a bit of poem or prose that de-scribes some sort of object, place, orevent. These riddles generally have oneanswer and often use vague language andrhyme to beguile the would-be answerer.Bilbo�s �fish riddle� is one example. Try thisfor another:
In daytime I lie pooled about,At night I cloak like mist.I creep inside shut boxes andInside your tightened fist.You see me best when you can�t see,For I do not exist.
In case you haven�t got the answer, here�sa different sort of puzzle, but the answeris the same as in the riddle above:
Devils and rogues know nothing else,save starlight.
Have you given up, or were they too easy?In either case, the answer is �darkness.�The first riddle merely describes the at-tributes of darkness, though in a ratherroundabout way. The second is a wordpuzzle; take the first letter of every word,and you have it. This one could have beeneven harder if the letters required rear-rangement. I�ll explain in more depth laterhow I made these and other riddles. First,here are a few other types of riddlesworth mentioning.
One is the prophecy. This is similar to aWhat-Am-I? riddle except that it describesa situation that lies sometime in the fu-ture. Usually a prophecy cannot be under-stood until the appropriate time or placehas been reached, and it�s up to the cleveradventurer to realize when the prophecyhas been fulfilled and then react accord-ingly. Say that the great hero Kaladanfollows a prophecy spoken over him at hisbirth by a witch, telling him that he willmeet his destiny if he ever reaches a par-ticular place. The prophecy states:
Your doom awaits you in a landThat treads upon the sea.No matter where you turn and standOne bearing will there be.Here all colors fade to one;Unclouded eyes can�t see.And sideways always runs the sunAround your destiny.
One day, our hero journeys far into thenorthlands of the world, where he travels
over a frozen ocean into the white, blind-ing land of the eternally setting sun. If he�sclever, he will realize that this is the placethe prophecy described: the North Pole.(Or did the prophecy mean the SouthPole?) If he�s not clever�well, let�s hope hisdoom doesn�t surprise him too horribly.While they can describe a variety of sub-jects, all prophecies should have one thingin common: excruciating vagueness! Afterall, that�s what keeps the players on theirtoes, and it saves the GM from being tooexacting in setting up adventures for thefuture. Note that the hero is not guaran-teed to reach his destiny (he might bekilled beforehand), and he is certainly notguaranteed to triumph in the end!
A creative GM will use many other sortsof riddles and puzzles to baffle his playersas well. Secret messages are a particularlyfun method. Perhaps it�s a parchment witha hidden message (perhaps a riddle initself) written in lemon juice. The messageis invisible, but when held over a fire (usecare when doing this, of course!), thelemon juice darkens, thereby revealing themessage. Or perhaps it�s a map that, whenfolded in a special way, reveals an all-newterrain, showing the way to a dungeonentrance. Or maybe the players are forcedto solve a mathematical problem, a rebus,or a musical code in which notes are let-ters. The possibilities are limited only bythe GM�s imagination and deviousness.
Of course, riddles should be limited tothe known abilities of the players. Forexample, don�t use a musical code whenno, one in the group knows how to readmusic. And riddles of the What Have I GotIn My Pocket? type, though one onceworked well for a certain hobbit, areimpossible to solve and quite unfair. How-ever, the GM shouldn�t hesitate to makeriddles varied and difficult. The best rid-dles are those that are perfectly solvablebut only with a goodly amount of creativethinking.
Though riddle types abound, ways inwhich to use riddles are even more plenti-ful. Riddles can replace almost any sort ofphysical barrier in an adventure�particularly monsters and traps�thatmight hinder characters on their way tothe treasure or other goal. And riddles,too, should follow the same rules forplacement as both monsters and traps.Riddles in the upper dungeon levels areeasier, but deep down where the hoard ofgold is hidden, the riddles should becomemore complex, more difficult, and moredeadly if not solved.
To add to the suspense of riddle solving,players should have to discover the an-swer in real time, not game time. Ofcourse, some riddles are long term. Aprophecy, for example, might not be solv-able for months or even years of gametime, and a riddle-map that leads the wayto a dragon�s lair need not be solved untilthe players wish to go there. But otherriddles can and should be more immedi-ate; especially when the stakes are high, to
add tension and excitement to the game.It�s difficult to be bored when one has justthree minutes to answer a djinn�s riddle orelse become trapped in the creature�sbottle. And a GM will never see his playersso involved with an adventure as whentheir favorite high-level characters mustsolve a puzzle in five minutes or be castinto the depths of the Abyss. Riddle-solving in real time is an experience yourplayers will not soon forget!
Riddles are also perfect for starting off anew adventure. One character may havean ancient map willed to her by a mysteri-ous great uncle. The map leads to a fabledtemple. But there�s a riddle on the map:
With this ancient map,you must find your own way.
Don�t heed the directions;they�ll lead you astray.
If first it seems odd,then its help will be naught;
Infinity sidewaysmeans nothing but ought.
If you lack direction,can you go amiss?
Perhaps you might wishto reflect upon this.
This riddle gives a set of instructions con-cerning the use of the map. The first coup-let lets the readers know something�s up.The second tells them to ignore odd num-bers and to treat eights (�infinity side-ways�) as zeros, and the third couplet saysthat the directions on the map are mir-rored. With the riddle solved, the adven-turers can be off to find the temple.Solving a mystery or puzzle such as thisprovides a great motive for the start of agroup�s adventures and adds an extradimension to the usual orc-den raid.
Riddles also work particularly well whena group has both beginning and experi-enced players. Normally, the beginningplayers will be forced to sit out on thesidelines as the more seasoned playerstake over the adventure, knowing justwhich spells their characters must use,when to look for secret doors, and howthe GM�s mind works. Riddles, however,even �the score, taking away any advan-tages an experienced player might have. Infact, with the fresh way of looking at role-playing adventures most new playershave, they often tend to be the best riddle-solvers of all! By incorporating riddles intoan adventure, the GM can help the begin-ning player feel like he can actually dosomething to help the group rather thanhave his character simply cower at therear of the marching order. This in turnhelps new players to get and stay psyched(as we like to say) about the game.
Working on the same principle, GMs canuse riddles to get an unruly campaignback under control. If the players havebecome too powerful and can kill justabout anything sent their way, toss themsomething they can�t shake a sword at�ariddle (or, preferably, lots of them, even a
whole dungeon of riddles!). A holy swordor artifact will be of no avail in the solvingof a riddle. The players suddenly have tothink for themselves instead of tossing afew dice. Adventure and challenge areback in the game.
Riddles can also liven up a hack-and-slash campaign by providing an alternativeto winning by might. GMs can send theirplayers the message that mind really canprevail over muscle; nonwarrior typessimply love this. Instead of a squad ofskeletal knights guarding the gate of aforbidden city, how about a pair of pon-derous bronze gates inscribed with acryptic riddle? (Don�t forget what an inter-esting time the Fellowship of the Ring hadgetting through the west gate of Moria!)And, instead of the heroes confronting apowerful wizard and absorbing all thespells he can send their way before hack-ing him down in his tracks, perhaps anancient codex spells out another way theycan bring about his demise:
Both king and horse have this, of course,But you�ll want neither of them,
If they�re clever, the adventurers willrealize that rain (as opposed to the reignof a king and a horse�s reins) might bedeadly to this particular mage. They mightthen devise some clever ruse to entraphim in a rain shower rather than simplycutting him to bits.
Riddles don�t have to be so straightfor-ward, though. In fact, players can beriddled without even knowing it, if they�renot paying attention. Names are a perfectmedium for hidden riddles, both those ofpeople and places. One way is to re-arrange or reverse the letters of a word ora name, thereby creating a new name (ananagram). For example, a group of charac-ters may just have escaped their worstenemy, Doomfell, when they happen upona merry merchant named Lom de Lofgoing their same direction. By the timethey realize what �Lom de Lof� spellswhen the letters are transposed, it may betoo late, and Doomfell may have them all!
Name riddles can also reveal somethingabout the place or person that they name.A haggard wanderer called Rex mightreally be a king. And a band of adventur-ers searching for the legendary BlackValley may or may not think of anythingunusual when they come to a town calledEbonvale. Riddles can be everywhere,limited only by the GM�s discretion andimagination. The more riddles of this kind,the richer, more meaningful, and moremysterious the fantasy campaign worldbecomes.
Riddles also provide a convenient wayfor the GM to give a group of players somedesired piece of information without hav-ing to be too obvious about it. One of thecharacters could come across a strangemessage carved into a wall by a warrior�sdying hand. Another might find a scrap of
parchment with part of a riddle (evenbetter than the whole thing) which couldprovide a clue to finding a mage�s cache.GMs won�t have to wrack their brains tocome up with ways to introduce riddlesinto an adventure. After all, they don�trequire much logic. In fact, the playersdon�t even need to find out just how theriddle got there. That can be anothermystery.
Making them up
riddle describes precisely what you want
No GM should feel intimidated at thetask of creating riddles. With a little
to detail. Once you have an object, idea, or
imagination (which every GM has already)and a few easy steps, thinking up riddles isno more difficult than creating any other
concept that you think is describable,
part of a role-playing adventure.
interesting, and applicable to the situation
One of the first things to remember isthat your absolute best friend is a thesau-rus. A thesaurus is loaded with plenty ofobscure words with which to stump yourplayers. A rhyming dictionary can also beof help if you get stuck when makingrhyming riddles. With these two tools byyour side, the rest is just thinking up anidea and setting it down.
In creating What-Am-I? riddles, the firststep is to think of what you want to riddleabout. This sounds awfully basic, butconsider your ideas carefully so that the
in which it will be used, you�re ready tobegin. For example, in a riddle I men-tioned earlier, I chose darkness as mysubject (perfectly suitable for a riddle insome subterranean cavern). The next stepwas to merely list some of its attributes. Inmy case, I wrote down:
�covers everything at night;�shadows in daytime;�inside things, like boxes;�see it when eyes are shut; and�an absence of light, doesn�t really exist.After this step, I was ready to arrange
this information in sentences�not a riddleyet, just a descriptive set of lines in anorder in which I liked them. I wrote:
�It�s in shadows in daytime.�It covers the world at night.�It can hide inside things, like a box.�It can be seen when you shut your
eyes.�It doesn�t really exist.
devices, consult any standard Englishwriting manual.
In my case, I had the object describeitself in the first person. I also replaced
That wouldn�t really stump anyone, butnow comes the final step. Put the sen-tences in as vague a language as possible,use obscure words for common ones, anduse literary devices like metaphor andanalogy (comparisons), puns (plays onwords), rhymes, and personification (giv-ing an inanimate object a sense of life). Formore information about using any of these
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94 NOVEMBER 1991
�being� verbs with �action� verbs; insteadof �being� in shadows, I had it �pooledabout.� In the place of rather ordinarywords, I put mysterious sounding onesthat also helped to personify darkness,giving it a life of its own; instead of �cov-ers,� I used �cloak,� and instead of �hide,� Iused �creep,� making it sound more devi-ous. I also stuck in various descriptivephrases such as �cloak like mist� and �in-side your tightened fist� purely for sake ofrhythm and rhyme.
The end result was an interesting andusable riddle. If this sounds difficult, justtry it yourself. To go from plain sentencesto riddle-language, simply turn on your�lofty language� circuit (everybody hasone) and thumb through your thesaurus.You�ll have no problem whatsoever.
Other puzzles and riddles are just aseasily created. For a word puzzle, pick acode pattern after you choose your idea.This type of riddle must have a fixed cod-ing system. It can be complex and difficult,but it must be logical and regular in orderto be solvable. In the example of this type Igave earlier, I decided to make a sentencein which each word began with a letterfrom the word �darkness.� The next stepwas to simply think up a set of words thatbegan with those letters. A thesaurus is agreat help. Don�t worry if the sentencedoesn�t make complete sense. Riddles are supposed to be cryptic, anyway!
To make the riddle more complex, Icould have created a puzzle in which thefirst letter of each word had to be rear-ranged to get the answer (an �anagramacronym�). Or the last letter in each wordcould have been the important one. Orevery third word could have been pulledout to form a message. Or the messagemay have been written backwards. Thepossibilities are limitless. Remember: Nomatter how plain and apparent the pat-tern seems to you, the players have noidea just what type of riddle you�ve giventhem. They may try to solve it as a What-Am-I? riddle when the superficial meaninghas nothing to do with the answer at all,and it�s the hidden code that�s important.
Creativeness can yield a multitude ofother original puzzle and riddle ideas. Aseemingly ordinary message could have asymbol embossed upon it that shows uponly with a pencil-rubbing. GMs might buyblank, pre-cut jigsaw puzzles and createtheir own puzzle maps. A new messagemay be revealed when a parchment isfolded in a certain way. Players will have agreat (if sometimes frustrating) time solv-ing any of these and countless other rid-dles. Having actual physical objects tomanipulate brings the game to life in anew way and gives the player a more vividfeel for their character�s situation.
Any way they�re used, riddles can re-store life and excitement to role-playing,putting brand new twists on the same oldchallenges. So if your players are lookingfor a little new adventure, the answer is�the riddle!
Artwork by Thomas Baxa
©1991 by Marcus L. Rowland
28 JANUARY 1992
He�s one of the stock figures of modern-day role-playing games, from espionage tosuper-hero settings: the would-be worldconqueror. This villain has a plan (usuallyexplained at great length to capturedheroes), a weapon (often slightly silly), andthe ruthlessness (that somehow neverextends to killing captured heroes beforethey escape) needed to seize control. Thefact that no one has ever actually managedit is totally irrelevant; our mega-villain isdetermined to succeed.
It could be argued that the world wouldbe improved by a single centralized gov-ernment, but a satisfactory form of gov-ernment needs to be developed first.Maybe the world would have been betteroff if Napoleon had formed a global em-pire, but since time machines aren�t availa-ble, we can�t change history to test thisidea. With the memory of Hitler still tooclose for comfort, a diversity of interestsand ideas seems a better bet for the futurethan the whims of a series of dictators.
Most dictators want millions of subjects;it�s one of the main attractions of megalo-mania. Profit and endless luxury are alsoattractive results of world domination, butthere are easier ways of getting rich, andmost are a lot safer. A minority want torule the world for altruistic reasons. Hu-manity, they argue, can�t be trusted withdangerous toys like nuclear weapons andpollutants like toxic wastes, so these mustbe destroyed or controlled. Other motivesfor global domination are possible, rangingfrom political or religious zeal to totalinsanity and whim, but the first threepredominate.
The major global powers have their ownplans and goals that may occasionallyoverlap the topics discussed in this article,but role-playing characters aren�t likely tobecome involved in the high-level activitiesof these organizations. The governmentsof the superpowers use long-term political,military, and economic plans, incorporat-ing thousands or millions of elements,rather than the sharply focused activitiesthat constitute the average role-playinggame. Dictators prefer smaller and morecomprehensible plans that are easier touse in a campaign.
Resistance is uselessThe megalomaniacal approach to world
domination concentrates on displays offorce, or �Ming The Merciless� methods. Abloodless secret conquest isn�t much fun,but a true sense of power comes fromflying your invulnerable citadel over NewYork City, crushing or vaporizing somelandmarks, and dropping off a few ultima-tums. If you can�t be harmed and candestroy anyone or anything that gets inyour way, you can do whatever you want.There are many variations on this theme,ranging from orbital lasers and particlebeams (cutting the dictator�s initials acrossa convenient desert or jungle, and takingout a few submarines and missile bases inpassing) to direct control of the weather.
Megalomaniacs almost always use high-profile schemes for world conquest, im-pressive efforts involving a maximum ofpublicity, gigantic high-tech machines, andhordes of uniformed flunkies, Even if theirscheme revolves around a weapon the sizeof a bread box, they�ll probably put itinside a gigantic fortress that just screamsthat it�s a secret base. This is the villains�main weakness. Hundreds of would-bedictators in film, television, and comicbooks have been unable to resist explain-ing their plans in gloating detail, and thedictator�s control panel (with a conven-iently large Destruct switch) is alwayswithin easy reach of one hero�s fingers.
Why conquer the world?Global conquest for profit looks a little
pointless, since the resources needed forany realistic plan of conquest imply im-mense wealth to begin with. Unfortu-nately, wealthy people aren�t immune togreed, so someone who was already richmight still be tempted to try for completecontrol of world finances. A more plausi-ble possibility is the idea that corporationsmight gradually usurp the role of nationalgovernments in the major states, as theyonce controlled the �banana republics.�After all, at least one Western governmentseems happy to hand over many responsi-bilities to commercial organizations. Cor-porate states seem a logical extension ofthis idea.
Conquest could benefit the megacor-porations in many ways. Effective controlof governments would allow them tochange laws to protect their immensewealth and divert global resources intoprofitable channels. This doesn�t necessar-ily mean channels that help the public,since lots of profitable activities are use-less or dangerous. For example, the armsrace would probably continue, though thedictators would hopefully ensure thatnuclear weapons were never actuallyused. Pollution might continue, since theredoesn�t seem to be much profit in stoppingit unless it gets in the way of productivity.
A profit-based system would probablyhave a very low profile, and the publicmight be wholly unaware of its secretrulers; manipulation behind the scenes is agood deal safer than an open operationand is more in keeping with the shadowyworld of international finance. Does any-one really know who controls the worldswealth? It�s interesting to note that themost plausible plan for global conquestI�ve ever seen could only be mounted byone multinational company; of course,there are those who would claim that IBMalready rules the world, but that may be alittle far-fetched. Other industrial giantsalso have interesting potential; orbitalmind-control lasers are probably stillscience fiction, but the Muzak Corporationshould have its own satellite transmittersbefore the end of the century, and it canopenly claim that its product is effective inmanipulating human behavior.
So far, I�ve only mentioned legitimatebusiness, but any sufficiently large crimi-nal organization is essentially a corpora-tion. Criminal business tactics andcorporate politics tend to be a little morelethal than legal ones, but the eventualresults are much the same. A criminaldictatorship would probably need to putup a respectable front, so the casual ob-server would notice little real differencebetween a corporate dictatorship and acrime-syndicate takeover.
It�s easy to imagine a world ruled by bigbusiness, and this background is used inmany science-fiction stories. The period inwhich national governments lose controlto these corporations could be an interest-ing setting for many game systems. Don�texpect to have a meaningful discussionwith the elite under corporate rule; middlemanagement will handle all tedious details,such as overthrowing governments, hiringhit men, and the like.
You�re in good handsGenuinely altruistic dictators are rare,
but anyone arrogant enough to want toconquer the world might believe that theworld will benefit from his rule. In somecases, this goal is the main motive forconquest.
One simple way to impose your utopianview is to ensure that no one else isaround to stop you. This is the �cruel to bekind� approach used by villains in someJames Bond films: kill off most of thehuman race, making sure that a few hand-picked sympathizers are around to pick upthe pieces afterward. A truly benevolentdictator won�t find this solution acceptableand may try less direct methods. Trickinghumanity into doing what you want ispossibly easier to justify than the use offorce. One idea that has appeared severaltimes is world unification against thethreat of invasion from space; faking thisconvincingly can�t be easy, but might justbe possible with the right technologybehind you. The snag is that this methoddoesn�t leave the potential dictator in anobvious position to assume power, unlessthe dictator happens to be the Secretary-General of the United Nations. A suffi-ciently cunning scheme might make thevictims cooperate with their conqueror,but any failure would probably ensurethat the planned effect was neverachieved.
Altruistic dictators are usually obsessivepersonalities; they are convinced of therightness of their cause, but feel guiltyabout and will try to explain and justifytheir actions. They will reveal their plans,but they�ll usually wait until it is too latefor anyone to intervene.
We have the technologySo far, we�ve talked about motives for
conquering the world. What about meth-ods? Let�s define �the world.� For the sakeof argument, a dictator wants some or allof the following:
1: Control of the physical planet Earth.2: Control of the biosphere (plants, ani-
mals, etc.)3: Control of the human population and
human resources.The most obvious way of achieving
Objective #1 is by starting a nuclear war.The villain and a few trusty henchmenand henchwomen simply hide out inspace, underwater, or a really deep bombshelter, then wait for the ruins to stopglowing in the dark. There are a few obvi-ous drawbacks, such as the fact that anybase on or near Earth is statistically likelyto be near a nuclear explosion. Thenthere�s the possibility of triggering a nucle-ar winter or global flooding, destroyingthe ozone layer, and so on. Of course, thesmoldering charnel heap our dictatorinherits isn�t good for much, but someonelike Hitler might regard that as an accept-able price for global supremacy. If anygame master is contemplating this idea forhis next adventure, please note that sev-eral dozen healthy men and women areneeded for a stable gene pool; a smallerpopulation develops inbreeding problems.
Biological warfare seems the best way toachieve Objective #2 (and presumably #1,by default). In practice, though, the logis-tics of simultaneously killing everyone onEarth are daunting. Immediately lethalviruses sound good in theory, but a fast-developing disease tends to kill off victimsbefore they can spread it very far. Theideal germ warfare virus has the followingproperties:
A: The victim is apparently healthy buthighly infectious for a few days before theterminal stages.
B: The people who �launch� the viruscan be protected against it, perhaps byvaccination.
C: Mortality (or any other desired ef-fects) should approach 100%.
All this sounds plausible, but the safeuse of biological weapons poses immenseproblems. Viruses have a habit of mutat-ing, and the immunity of their users isn�talways assured. On the other hand, someof the intended victims may happen to benaturally immune, and others may notsuffer the full effects of the disease.There�s also a risk of triggering a nuclearwar, since the nuclear powers wouldprobably assume that their enemies hadspread the disease. Launch crews tend tobe isolated in aircraft, submarines, or deepshelters, and they would learn about aplague long before it affected them.
Objective #3 is undoubtedly the mostappealing but is also the hardest toachieve. This is the realm of diplomacy,propaganda, and blackmail. The mainrequirement is a threat so terrible that nogovernment or individual is likely to at-tempt to stand in your way. A demonstra-ble ability to destroy the world is a goodstart, but has the drawback of being some-what final; what�s really needed is a con-trollable threat, a weapon that�sunstoppable but has a finite effect. De-
stroying Mars, New York, or the mayor ofBugtussle, Arkansas, by a method thatpotentially allows you to destroy the worldis a better idea than producing an ultimatedoomsday weapon and waiting for some-one to call your bluff. Beam weapons fitthe bill nicely, but the orbital stationsneeded to use them may be a bit vulnera-ble. If nuclear weapons are used, a prean-nounced detonation at a fairly unim-portant site may be the best bet, with apromise that there are plenty more bombsavailable if necessary. The drawback isthat the major governments have livedwith the threat of nuclear war for severaldecades, and they may not easily be im-pressed by a loud bang (they might alsoretaliate).
Biological weapons are more difficult todemonstrate; there�s no real way to showthat they are unstoppable without releas-ing them. A compromise solution might bethe use of a less dangerous disease, withsome distinctive effect that is easy to pre-dict. For example, if you sent an ultima-tum warning that the weak version ofyour mutant anthrax would make every-one�s hair fall out, then released it andcaused an unstoppable plague of baldness,major governments might take yourthreats more seriously.
If blackmail doesn�t appeal, how aboutbrainwashing and other psychologicaltricks? Subliminal TV and radio messageshave often been suggested in this role, butthere doesn�t seem to be much evidencethat they work particularly well, andmonths of saturation coverage would beneeded to ensure that everyone was af-fected. There�s another problem in thatmost research suggests that these tech-niques will only work on target groupsthat share a common language and cul-tural background. Global brainwashingdoesn�t look very likely. Perhaps brain-washing would work if these methodswere accompanied by other techniques.Several drugs are known to heightensuggestibility or reduce intelligence. Onenasty possibility is use of a disease thatmakes the victim�s body synthesize suchdrugs, without any other major harmfuleffects, accompanied by an intense mediablitz. Some authors have even suggestedthat sophisticated biological research maybe able to come up with a disease thatprograms the victim�s personality directlyby interfering with memory RNA. Thesnag here is that there is no real evidencethat any two individuals store memoryinformation in exactly the same way.
Deception techniques may be anotherroute to control of the human race, possi-bly accompanied by some or all of thebrainwashing methods mentioned. All ofthese schemes would probably be prefer-red by commercial or altruistic dictators;megalomaniacs would probably find thatthey worked too slowly to satisfy theirdesires. These methods are also extremelyexpensive�and, speaking of financing . . .
Money is wonderfulConquering the world is phenomenally
expensive, unless you can come up with aplan that finances itself. Equipment maybe stolen, but items like bases and person-nel cost money. This gives commercialorganizations a real advantage; they al-ready possess many of the resources need-ed for any major operation, fromproduction facilities and warehouses totransport and laboratories. THRUSH, thevillainous organization in The Man FromU.N.C.L.E. TV series, was a particularlygood example of a dictatorial organizationthat hid behind commercial fronts and gota lot of its income from legitimate activi-ties. One episode even showed how re-tired middle-management personnel weremurdered to avoid paying their pensions.SPECTRE, in the James Bond novels, andWEB, in TSR�s TOP SECRET/S.I.� game,also use legitimate commercial organiza-tions as cover.
Governments are even more useful assources of seed capital and as cover forcovert activities. They have good reasonsto maintain prisons, army bases, and otheruseful facilities. Control of at least onegovernment is a useful step in any plot toachieve global supremacy.
All of this sounds difficult to achieve, butanyone who stands any chance of con-quering the world shouldn�t find it hard toorganize a take-over bid or a small militarycoup. Today Consolidated Coconuts Inc.;tomorrow the Republic of Jibrovia; nextweek, the world!
Home sweet homeEvery conqueror needs a base, and
really elaborate schemes probably requireseveral. It may be possible to start a planfor global conquest in your garden shed,but there could be a few problems if youwanted to install a cyclotron or a shuttlelaunch facility. These things are also ex-tremely difficult to hide; current satellitetechnology is able to track objects as smallas a cigarette pack or garden hose underideal conditions, and they can probablyspot major installations despite camouflageand bad weather. Earth resource satellitesmay even be able to detect large under-ground or underwater structures. Fortu-nately for potential dictators, it takes a lotof time to analyze satellite data, and eventsin an apparently unimportant area maysimply be overlooked. This can�t always becounted on, though. One futuristic spynovel written in the 1960s and set in the1980s picked a then-ideal isolated areawhere no one would be likely to notice alarge base and several hundred merce-naries; a quarter-century later, Afghani-stan doesn�t seem a particularly goodchoice. The rapid expansion of globaltourism could also cause a few problems.It�s hard to imagine any isolated locationthat isn�t threatened by hordes of adven-turous sightseers.
When I began this article, I intended toincluded detailed plans for an elaborate
base, equipped with everything frominterrogation rooms and laboratories towaterbeds filled with piranha. However,there are hundreds of examples on televi-sion, in books and in films, so it wouldreally be a waste of space. Designing abase is fun, and you can find examples ofalmost anything you want, if you look atenough sources. Need an inaccessiblecastle? Try Where Eagles Dare, Dance ofthe Vampires, or Madame Sin. Do youneed a polar fortress? Take your pick fromDoc Savage, Superman, or The Watchmen.Feel like owning a space station? TheJames Bond film, Moonraker, has a splen-didly silly example, and there�s always theDeath Star if you�re thinking really big.There are also many role-playing scenariosand adventures built around these struc-tures, described in much more detail thancould ever be put into a magazine article.
In designing a base for a role-playingscenario, remember to think big, flashy,and high tech. Computers should be vastmetal cabinets with hundreds of flashinglights and whirring tapes, not anonymousgray boxes. There should be lots of im-pressive signs; "DANGER: 20,000 VOLTS" and"ACHTUNG! MINEN!" are reliable standbys,but don�t neglect radiation and biohazardsymbols, or eloquent messages like "TRES-PASSERS WILL BE SHOT!" Naturally any baseshould have a good supply of sadisticprison guards, mercenaries, mad scien-tists, beautiful �foils� (a term borrowedfrom the Victory Games� JAMES BOND007* game), and other interesting NPCs.
It�s important to realize that basesshould look impregnable, but they musthave a few loopholes for game play. Playercharacters need to be able to enter themand save the world, so remember to leavea few weak points. For example, a minefield might be laid so badly that any explo-sion sets off a chain reaction that leaves aclear path through the field. Guards mightbe lazy, inattentive, or easily bribed, andmight carry large bunches of interestingkeys. Passes and uniforms might be forgedor stolen. If you bear these points in mindand design your base for excitement rath-er than lethality, your players should enjoyhaving their heroes deal with it.
A cunning planFinally, here are some sample dictators
and details of their motives, methods,resources, and chances of success, plusadventuring ideas involving them.
Outback OverlordDictator: The Reverend Matilda
BraithwaiteMotive: Altruistic lunaticMethod: Mind controlResources: 2,300 followers, $5 million, TV
stationMrs. Braithwaite is an Australian TV
evangelist, the leader of an obscure funda-mentalist sect, who believes that the worldwould be much nicer if she ran it. Shehasn�t yet decided exactly how she will
run the world if she does take control, butshe’s sure that a right-thinking person likeherself will do a better job than hundredsof professional politicians and diplomats.
One of her followers has developed anew psychotropic drug that drains will-power and makes the victim abnormallysusceptible to suggestion. It is effective inmicrogram doses. Mrs. Braithwaite per-suaded him to manufacture enough of thedrug to blanket the local water reservoir,and she is now in complete control ofWombat’s Crossing (population 2,300), theNew South Wales town where she isbased. As yet, the Australian governmenthasn’t noticed any abnormality; a sleepytown has merely gotten sleepier. As moreof the drug is synthesized, Mrs. Braith-Waite plans to extend her rule to neighbor-ing areas, then further afield as she takescontrol of more chemical factories.
Mrs. Braithwaite’s plan is effective in anisolated area because her domain has littlecontact with the outside world. There isonly one local TV station (hers), and thetown isn’t linked to the satellite networkyet, so her broadcasts are the main influ-ence on victims of the drug. In any largertown, the victims would be bombarded byTV and other media influences fromdozens of sources, so her chances of re-taining control would be slim. Since sheisn’t a particularly good administrator,conditions in the territory she controlswill worsen before too long, eventuallyattracting government attention.
Adventurers should encounter her,perhaps accidentally, soon after she takescontrol of Wombat’s Crossing. The towns-people will behave like passive zombiesunder Mrs. Braithwaite’s direction, butthey may overcome the adventurers bysheer weight of numbers if the adventur-ers threaten her. Try to ensure that atleast one adventurer falls victim to thedrug and the TV station. This should notbe a particularly lethal adventure.
Lost—and FoundDictator: President Kamshalla MotuboMotive: ProfitMethod: Nuclear blackmailResources: Small African nation, four
nuclear warheadsThree months ago a Chinese submarine
accidentally launched a live missile withfour MIRV warheads. Fortunately, theyweren’t armed; unfortunately, the self-destruct system didn’t work, and the mis-sile landed in a swamp near Motubo’scapital. The army dug it out and took thewarheads to an isolated jungle base. Now,Motubo is trying to find a weapons expertwho will be able to arm the bombs.
Motubo intends to hold a few Westerncapitals for ransom, use the money to buya better presidential palace and somemore warheads, then start the cycle again.He doesn’t want to control the world; hejust wants to milk it for enough cash toensure a permanently luxurious lifestyle.
There’s one major flaw in this plan: The
32 JANUARY 1992
Chinese government knows that Motubohas the warheads but isn’t sure of theircurrent location. Chinese agents would bea little conspicuous in an African country,so the Chinese government is recruiting areliable mercenary force to recover thebombs.
Characters can be involved in this ad-venture as Chinese agents, as mercenaries,as Western agents trying to find out whatthe Chinese are doing, as criminals tryingto steal the bombs from Motubo, or ascounterintelligence agents looking for thebombs after Motubo’s agents have plantedthem. They might also be called in to finda nuclear physicist who has been kid-napped to arm the bombs. This should bean extremely dangerous mission in whichplayer characters stand a real chance ofbeing wounded or killed.
A Pox Upon YouDictator: Doctor John DresslerMotive: MegalomaniaMethod: Biological warfareResources: University laboratory
Doctor Dressler was a brilliant virologistwho devoted much of his life’s work to thefight against smallpox. When the WorldHealth Organization decided that thedisease was finally eradicated, his univer-sity decided to economize by cutting fundsfor some of Dressler’s projects. Dresslerbelieved that he was on the verge of dis-coveries that would (at least) earn him theNobel prize and might lead to cures fordozens of diseases. The sudden loss offunds forced him to stop his work andtriggered his latent insanity. If the worlddoesn’t want to be cured, Dressler hasdecided to make everyone suffer instead.
Unknown to the university authorities,Dressler retained a supply of live smallpoxvirus and has spent years developing newand more virulent bioengineered formsthat will not respond to traditional vac-cines. Dressler intends to release the dis-ease at London Airport, wait until a globalpandemic has started, then announce thathe has a vaccine that will be available ifthe governments of the world agree to histerms. His terms amount to immediate andabsolute control of all United Nationsactivity, as well as progressive control ofthe world’s national governments. Thevaccine and all documents describing itsmanufacture are locked in his laboratory,in a booby-trapped safe packed with explo-sives. Any attempt to overpower him orforce the safe open will result in destruc-tion of the material. Once Dressler hasstarted to take the reins of power, he willreveal that their are several strains of thevirus, with different incubation periods.Each requires a separate vaccine, and hewill only release them as his demands aremet.
Dressler is an extremely dangerousopponent. He isn’t initially backed by alarge organization, but he can really carryout his threats. Adventurers must some-how overcome him without losing the
vaccines or his notes. He is quite capableof letting a few million people die to provethat he means what he says. If he can takecontrol, he’ll start to act out grotesquepower fantasies, starting with a ceremoni-al execution of his “enemies,” such as thefinancial controllers of his university.
AcknowledgementsThe title of this article was suggested by
a song from the musical, Pickwick. I wouldlike to thank Roger Robinson, JohnDallman, Terry Pratchett, and otherfriends for their ideas on this theme. Briefsuggestions (in no particular order) forfurther reading and viewing on this topicinclude: War In 2080 and The Space Eater,by Dave Langford; The AssassinationBureau Ltd., by Jack London; W. G. Grace’sLast Case, by William Rushton; The GreatWash, by Gerald Kersh; The Watchmen, byAlan Moore; The Iron Dream, by NormanSpinrad; The White Plague, by FrankHerbert; To Howard Hughes: A ModestProposal, by Joe Haldeman; Down TheProgrammed Rabbit Hole, by AnthonyHaden-Guest; Underkill, by James White;Love Sickness, by Geoff Ryman; Mind-killer, by Spider Robinson; and The SatanRug, by Alistair MacLean. The moviesSuperman III, Madame Sin, and Rollerballare also recommended, and almost all theJames Bond films feature plans to conquerthe world or elaborate secret bases. Role-playing material of interest includes: Oper-ation: Starfire, for TSR’s TOP SECRET/S.I.game; Villains, for Victory Games’ JAMESBOND 007 game; and Zombietown U.S.A.,for Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS*system.
l indicates a product produced by a company otherthan TSR, Inc. Most product names are trademarksowned by the companies publishing those products.The use of the name of any product without mentionof its trademark status should not be construed as achallenge to such status.
by Scott Sheffield
Artwork by L. A. Williams
Enemies who never go away� and how to create themGrub the gnome nervously eyed the
glass case, focusing his thoughts on thetutelage he�d received at the local thieves�guild. He recalled stern Wesley drillinghim on the intricacies of finding and re-moving traps. Grub bent low over the caseto examine it, then smiled. �There it is,� hesaid in hushed tones, spotting the tripwireleading to the magical canister beneath thecase.
The short thief�s fingers worked quicklyto defuse the poison-gas trap. A minute
later, he straightened with a sigh, a palm-sized gem in hand. The job done, Grubturned and hurried to the open window,pausing momentarily to survey the darkstreet below. Deciding it was safe to de-scend, he swung out onto the ledge anddeftly climbed down to the narrow alley.Seconds later, he had disappeared into themisty streets of Sombralil.
What happens next? In many AD&D®campaigns, this encounter would earn the
successful rogue some gold and a fewexperience points, and nothing more. In adifferent campaign, however, the theftwould have earned Grub much, muchmore. It would have earned the player-character thief a nonplayer-characternemesis.
The recurrent NPCDungeon Masters who wish to add
depth to their fantasy campaigns shouldconsider making use of recurring NPCs. Ina campaign that utilizes recurrent figures,the DM and his cast of colorful NPCswould not be content to let Grub off thehook. While the victim of a burglary mightlet the culprit go, it is more likely that thevictim will use whatever magical andmundane resources he has at his disposalto track down his light-fingered visitor,like so:
The bald-headed high priest smoothedhis crimson robes and waited for wordfrom the sorcerer bent low over the crys-tal ball. �I have found him, master,� whis-pered the mage at last. �He walks thestreets of this very city. I even recognizethe stall keeper with whom he nowhaggles.�
�Excellent,� replied the bald cleric, abroad smile crossing his weathered face.�Keep an eye on him. I want to knoweverything our little friend does.� As heleft, the priest thought, I shall personallyteach him that stealing from the Cult ofthe Thirteenth Circle is at best unwise, ifnot fatal.
When a PC interacts with a DM�s world,that interaction should reflect the realitythat deeds don�t go unnoticed. By usingthis notion of action/reaction, the DM canbuild a more believable and exciting ad-venturing environment. A well-run inter-active campaign makes use of recurringfigures to add both a dash of reality and asense of continuity.
26 AUGUST 1992
Recurring NPCs can be used to start newadventures or to link unconnected adven-tures together. A foe met first at the Pit ofDespair shows up by surprise at the nextcity in the PCs� journeys. Coincidence?That�s for the DM to decide, but the simplepresence of that foe will serve to bindtogether the two settings and will lend thegame world an air of connectedness.
Not only will the players begin to viewtheir world as one that evolves and changesin response to their PCs� behavior, but theywill also be motivated to role-play. If hack-and-slash play has enduring consequences,players learn that it is wise to review thealternatives before rushing headlong into thefray. Success then depends on the ability ofplayers to be creative, rather than howmany hit points their PCs have. Play be-comes more interesting for all participants,DM and players alike.
Acquiring a nemesisHow is it that the PCs come to be the foe
of a recurrent NPC figure? In the examplehere, the PC gnomish thief named Grubprecipitated the relationship� it was hisactions that began the bald cult leader�sinvolvement in the thief�s affairs.
A different scenario is quite possible. Inthe course of play, the PCs might stumbleonto an NPC plot. A party that inadver-tently meddles with an organization�splans to depose the current ruler will earnthat group�s enmity as well as the ruler�spraise. In this way, PCs can incite thewrath of a vast number of NPCs.
Recurrent NPCs need not all be arch-villains out to kill the PCs. The rivalrydoesn�t even have to be deadly to be inter-esting. Jealousy, pride, competition, andthe desire for revenge can fuel the rela-tionship. Some among your cast of recur-ring foes can merely trip up, annoy, orembarrass the PCs.
Perhaps the NPC who turns out to be arecurrent foe is a competitor. Every timethe PCs attempt to retrieve a lost artifactor endeavor to defend the honor of a lady,the NPC shows up first and denies the PCsthe glory. Think of the scene early in themovie Raiders of the Lost Ark, in whichIndiana Jones loses the idol he�s retrievedfrom the death-trap tomb to another col-lector of antiquities. Do you recall the line,�Once again, Dr. Jones, what was brieflyyours is now mine�?
If the PCs are adventuring in a city, thepotential cast of recurring �foes� is vast.The captain of the city guard might take aspecial interest in them, imagining themlikely candidates for stirring up trouble,and he will always have them followed byguardsmen. An unscrupulous tax collectormight decide to relieve them of their ex-cess gold whenever they return fromadventuring. The local thieves� guild couldeven tell its apprentice thieves to practicetheir skills by lifting items from the unsus-pecting PCs.
As the DM, you needn�t limit your castof recurrent NPCs to humans or human-
When designing an NPC for use on arecurring basis, the DM should try to giveher some element of distinctiveness. Aunique speech pattern, a style of dress, aparticular gait or some mannerism peculi-ar to the individual is essential. Perhapsthe NPC speaks with a lisp, has bushyeyebrows, and a broken nose. Or maybeshe dresses in foreign garb or has anaccent.
The selection of readily recognizableNPC traits shouldn�t be haphazard. TheDM should pick characteristics for theNPC that fit with the NPC�s psychological
Not all recurring NPCs need to be fullydeveloped prior to their introduction intoplay. In some cases, the DM may reuse anNPC initially intended to be used only oncein the campaign. Perhaps the NPC turnedout to be memorable in some unexpectedway, and the DM fancies using her again.There is nothing that prevents the DMfrom doing so, but before the NPC is rein-troduced, time should be taken to fleshher out.
Creating the NPC
oids. There are many intelligent creaturesthat can be used as nemeses. There is onlyone caveat to remember: If you intend touse a monster on an ongoing basis, chooseone that is not restricted to a particularlocale. A monster that cannot leave aswampy environment will not be as versa-tile a foe as one able to function anywherethe PCs can.
makeup and background. For instance, theindividual who dresses in foreign garbmay be a trader who deals in rare herbsand spends long periods in foreign lands.Being thus engaged, she�s adopted the styleof dress from another part of the cam-paign world.
Careful design of the NPC can give thePCs clues about the true nature of theirfoe. It will start the players thinking andprompt them to see their nemesis as morethan just a cardboard character. Habitspeculiar to an NPC can help the playersgauge their foes. Maybe she coughs ner-vously or is forever scanning the vicinity,eyes darting to and fro. Perhaps she ner-vously strokes a feathered amulet when-ever threatened with harm or grinsbroadly at the mention of hostilities.
What the DM should aim for in selectingquirks and physical characteristics is anNPC that is memorable. When the NPCnext appears, the DM need only describethe identifying trait to elicit immediaterecognition. If the DM uses miniatures inthe course of play, it�s suggested that thesame miniature be used to represent thatNPC whenever she makes an appearance.In time, just the placement of the minia-ture on the gaming surface will elicitgroans and a flurry of action as the play-ers scramble to meet the challenge.
DMs should also spend time developing abackground for the nemesis. Whether theNPC was raised on the filthy streets ofGligpthor and spent her childhood barely
surviving or instead was the daughter of astuffy, depraved baron from the Duchy ofUltinsad will influence her perspectives,motivations, disposition, and general be-havioral patterns.
For example, whereas the NPC with thecut-purse background would likely favorutilizing poison or an alley encounter toeven the score with a PC rival, the baron�sdaughter might use her political connec-tions to have the PCs arrested and de-tained in the cells of a castle in her uncle�sduchy.
Having a background for the nemesiscan make the DM�s task of character por-trayal easier. When the DM must decidehow the nemesis reacts in a given situa-tion, he can base the decision on what hisown choice would be if he had the samebackground as the NPC. A consistent por-trayal contributes to the believability ofthe nemesis and permits the players toidentify with their foe more readily.
Before unleashing the recurring NPC it�salso good to work out some of the NPC�sconnections. What organizations or reli-gious group does she belong to? Who owesher favors? To whom does she owe debts?Are the authorities interested in her activi-ties? NPCs, not unlike well-played PCs,should make use of whatever special con-nections they have. For instance, an NPCnemesis who belongs to a local thieves�guild may have the PCs tailed and their
Direct retribution would include at-tempts to physically attack the PCs. If theDM has decided that the NPC is craven,the nemesis may have someone else com-bat the PCs, but he will watch and hurlinsults as the hired thugs engage them. Onthe other hand, if the nemesis is a noble, amember of the PC party may be called outto match blades with him.
The marking or maiming of a PC by anNPC enemy is another possible form ofrevenge. The fictional figure Zorro wasfamous for slashing a Z-shape onto hisopponents. Instead of using a Zorro-stylerapier, the foe might use a branding ironor mark the PCs with a magical symbol.
Once the background and connectionsof the recurrent NPC have been devel-oped, the next step is to decide how thenemesis will seek vengeance. The NPCmay choose to confront the PCs or take amore subtle or devious route.
Any constraints on the NPC should alsobe considered when the DM portrays thenemesis. An NPC who is wanted in half-a-dozen realms for sundry misdeeds willprefer not to make his presence knownand will opt to deal with the PCs in a waythat preserves his secrecy. How a nemesisdeals with PCs will be greatly influencedby that NPC�s circumstances.
conversations lip-read. This particular type of revenge serves toknock the PCs down a peg or two andassaults their pride. It also fosters animosi-ty and competition between the NPC andthe PCs, and prompts the PCs to seekvengeance of their own. If that happens,great! You�ll know you�ve really got yourplayers involved and played the nemesiswell.
Generally, indirect forms of revenge arebetter suited to the more intellectual andcalculating members of the DM�s cast ofNPCs. For these connivers, embarrassmentof the PCs is an effective and popularrevenge. The NPC might dig into a PC�spast and reveal illegitimate heirs or inap-propriate lovers. The NPC might alsofabricate tales about the PCs that have nofactual basis and spin them with an eye todiscrediting them. The character assassi-nation might, for instance, involve allega-tions of cheating at cards or tax fraud. Aresourceful nemesis might frame PCs forthe commission of a crime, contriving tohave it look as if the PCs murdered some-one, stole something, or plotted an over-throw of the king.
The type of revenge sought should de-pend both on the nature of the relation-ship between the nemesis and the PCs,and the personality of the NPC. Forexample:
Erimus the Black had watched thegnome known as Grub for two weeks.Tonight, Erimus would do as the cult-master had bid him do. With infinitestealth, the black-clad master thief slippedinto Grub�s bedchamber and retrieved thestolen gem from the satchel at the foot ofthe bed. Without a sound, Erimus tookfrom his own pouch a royal seal that he�dstolen that same night and put it insideGrub�s satchel. By morning, the royalguard would receive information implicat-ing Grub as the thief, and a �witness�would emerge to testify to having seenGrub running from the royal treasury. Bymidday, Grub would be before the courts,his hours numbered.
In this example, the bald-headed priestlysuperior directed Erimus to achieve re-venge in a way that would preserve theCult of the Thirteenth Circle�s secrecy andkeep the authorities from inquiring intothe doings of their clandestine organiza-tion. Because the magical gem was neces-sary for the ritual that would summontheir extraplanar lord to the Prime Materi-al plane, the cult needed it back. The baldpriest got immense pleasure from thethought that Grub might be convicted fora crime that he didn�t commit, instead offor a crime that couldn�t be revealed.
The NPC�s form of revenge should alsobe guided by the disposition, background,and character classes of the PCs. Nemeseswill seek to find out where the PCs� vul-nerable spots are, then strike where thePCs are most tender. If the player whoruns Aethelward the paladin portrays him
28 AUGUST 1992
as morally upright to a fault, the NPCmight elect to besmirch the paladin�s repu-tation. The NPC could spread rumors thatLady Emiline, wife of the local duke, ispregnant with Aethelward�s child! Or hecould leave �evidence� indicating thatAethelward used magical enchantments tocheat at last spring�s joust. Whatever typeof vengeance is chosen, remember totailor it to suit both the PC it is aimed atand the NPC from whom it originates.
Keeping tension highA recurrent NPC should serve as a con-
stant and unpredictable element in play.The key is to maintain an aura of anticipa-tion. Individual DMs will come up withtheir own techniques to keep up the sus-pense, but here are a couple of options toget you started. You may want to dropmisleading hints to indicate the �presence�of a nemesis. Mistaken identity encountersshould be kept to a minimum but keep PCson their toes, like so:
Grub and his adventuring companionsare strolling in the royal gardens whenthey notice a bald-headed man slip arounda corner ahead. Grub and his friendsquickly draw weapons and ready spells,intent on doing away with their baldpriestly foe. Rounding the corner, theyskid to a stop in front of a frail, open-mouthed gardener who is definitely nottheir elusive bald foe.
The liberal use of red herrings tossedinto the mix keeps the PCs guessing andmaintains the sense of an impending en-counter. Curious goings-on can be used togive the appearance that there is methodbehind the madness the PCs experience.For example:
The four puzzled companions sat at atable mulling over the events of the pre-vious three days. Caine, a cleric of theMorning God, pointed out that the barrelthat fell from the supplier�s shop the daybefore had missed Grub by only inches.�And then this morning,� Cain said, grow-ing excited, �after that cat walked by us,we were attacked by those cultists! In thename of the Sun, I�d almost swear that catwas a wizards familiar.�
�Then there was that merchant in themarket who started yelling about meowing him money. No doubt he was paidto do that so no one would give us lodg-ings in this forsaken city,� added Porthos, afellow adventurer.
�Perhaps our bald-headed nemesis is upto his old ways,� interjected Aethelward. �Iwish Grub had never stolen that gem andgotten us mixed up with this ThirteenCircles gang.�
Will Derkellian, the party mage, leanedback in his chair and turned the ring onhis finger. �Then again, perhaps it�s all justcoincidence, and you�re just jumping atshadows,� he commented, a barely hiddensmile playing at his thin lips.
During the course of play, PCs invariably
Whatever technique is used to keep the
suffer various misfortunes. Given time,players might attribute their unfortunate
players guessing, the DM should aim for a
circumstances to the fiendish machina-tions of their slippery NPC foes. Some-
state of mild paranoia. Players will become
times their suppositions may indeed becorrect, while at other times they may be
more embroiled if they perceive their
wildly inaccurate. If a player incorrectlyconcludes that the party�s nemesis is be-
nemeses as a real and continuing threat to
hind the PCs� misfortunes, you as the DMshouldn�t disabuse the player of the no-
their characters� well-being. To achieve
tion. Instead, permit the players to drawtheir own conclusions, and have fun.
this anticipatory atmosphere, the DM must
If the players� inferences are erroneousbut nevertheless intriguing, a nimble DM
periodically remind the party that their
can modify the story line in that direction.Done well, this enriches play as players
unseen nemesis remains behind the cur-
start to see the adventuring environmentas a living world where happenings are
tain of the campaign stage, waiting for the
not a collection of random encounterswithout meaning or connection.
DM�s cue to reappear.If the tension is to be kept up, it�s also
essential that the nemesis keep the PCs
off-balance. To, do that, the DM shouldhave some advantage over the PCs, be itfinancial, magical, or informational. Thisdifference in capacities, whatever its form,should remain throughout play. Essential-ly, this means that parallel development ofthe NPC must take place.
As PCs advance in levels and gain magicand money, so, too, should the nemesis. Ifthe PCs began adventuring as 1st-levelcharacters and have risen to 4th level,then the foe who was 3rd level to startshould now be 5th or 6th level. The neme-sis� advancement should be roughly equalto that of the PCs in terms of experiencepoints, but the NPC-PC level differencemay shrink over time. If the nemesis is toremain a challenge and a threat, his con-stant and continuous growth is necessary.
PCs will begin to either dread or eagerly
It is the nature of nemeses that theymust return. The initial encounter be-
anticipate the arrival of their elusive
tween PCs and their soon-to-be nemesis
will in some sense be indistinguishablefrom any other encounter. On the secondcollision, both parties may begin to de-velop feelings toward each other, perhapsanimosity or curiosity. When the NPC andthe PCs come together in the third andsubsequent encounters, it is likely that the
Keeping the NPC alive
How, though, does the DM manage tokeep a nemesis in the campaign when thePCs are doing their best to remove himfrom play? There are a number of solu-tions to the dilemma. The most basic isflight. The foe could simply disappearfrom the scene whenever things lookthreatening. The easiest way for him toleave is by fleetness of foot, but in a magi-cal world he has many other options forextracting himself from seemingly hope-less situations. Potions, oils, scrolls, andsundry magical devices can be used tobeat a hasty and enchanted retreat.
While whisking NPCs out of harm�s waymay frustrate the PCs to no end, it servestwo valuable purposes: It will keep theNPC alive to do battle again, and it willalso build the relationship between theelusive foe and your campaign�s adventur-ing group.
At times, given overwhelming oppositionor unfortunate circumstances, it may beappropriate to have the NPC foe �die.�Even if this happens, the DM is not pre-cluded from using him in future gamesessions; his death could have been avoid-ed by any number of means. (This is the�obscure death� option presented in theDRAGONLANCE® saga modules for theAD&D game.) For instance, the nemesismight have used a timely illusion to dupethe PCs into believing that the game wasup. Even if the death isn�t illusory, it neednot be final. A truly dead nemesis mightbe resurrected by a loyal companion. Thispossibility should be used sparingly,though. Keep in mind that resurrectionand raise dead spells are very costly andought to be restricted to NPCs of wealthybackground or those who have connec-tions in religious organizations.
There is another entirely different solu-tion available to DMs who are using mon-strous nemeses. Keep in mind that forsome creatures, destruction of their�body� is inconsequential. The destructionof a powerful extraplanar being�s PrimeMaterial form does not entail its finaldemise. While being barred from return-ing to the Prime Material plane for a time,the entity is not without means of eveningthe score. Such a �dead� foe could prove tobe a continuing source of annoyance tothe PCs. Minions on the Prime Materialplane could be instructed to seek out thePCs and deliver retribution. Even worse,the minions might be instructed to bringthe PCs to the being�s home plane for apersonal reckoning.
If you like running adventures withnumerous plot twists, you might considerthe following scenario for keeping a neme-sis in the picture: PCs who slay a �neme-sis� may be chagrined to realize that thepersistent NPC was merely the stooge of amore powerful and equally persistentmaster. The clever puppeteer may have setthe stage to lead the PCs to believe it wasthe vanquished underling who ran theshow. Just how many hierarchical layersare interposed between the PCs and their
30 AUGUST 1992
ultimate foe is for the DM to decide.Then there is the classic vendetta. Fami-
ly or friends of the recently departedcould take it upon themselves to avengethe death of the recurring NPC. This even-tuality is guaranteed to confuse and befud-dle the PCs. A total stranger may appearone day and unleash a lightning bolt at theparty for no apparent reason. If the PCssurvive, they will be faced with the task ofdiscovering why the mysterious robedfigure hurled the spell their way. A DMmight even wish to make the bolt-hurlingstranger into a recurrent NPC foe in hisown right.
If the DM has ruled out resurrection andconcluded that no associate would everseek vengeance on behalf of the nemesis,then there exists one last alternative. Sucha friendless nemesis can rise of his ownaccord as a member of the undead legions,possibly as a revenant or an evil undeadcreature like a wraith. The shock value offacing the NPC again will be heightened ifthe PCs believe that they have faced theirfoe for the last time. . . .
Skalderskien the half-ogre leaned downand clapped his short companion on theback. �Did ya see de rocks fall on dat baldguy?� he grunted happily. �We got �im gooddis time, eh?�
�Yes, indeed,� sighed Grub in relief. �OldBaldie won�t shadow us any longer nowthat our rock slide did him in. He shouldbe flatter than a buckwheat cake.� Thecompanions left the area in high spirits,returning north to the city.
That night, however, a pallid, bloodyform stirred beneath the rocks and debris.Slowly, the being that was once an arro-gant and powerful high priest shook off itsrocky tomb and arose, its shattered bodymending in horrific fashion as its sunkeneyes turned in the direction of those whohad slain it. It slowly nodded. Undeadpower coursing through its limbs, thebeing started north.
As the DM�s cast of recurrent NPC foesswells, care should be taken to select fromthe different modes of keeping the NPC inplay. Using the same bag of tricks becomestedious. When the alternatives presentedhere have all been used, be creative anddesign some of your own.
Ending the relationshipThere will, no doubt, come a time when
a favorite recurrent NPC has become(banish the thought) boring. When thereaction of your players upon seeing theirnemesis reappear is no longer �What? Youagain? We�ll get you this time!� but insteadis more like an �Oh, him again! What elseis new?� response, then perhaps it�s timeto retire that particular recurrent NPC.
The retirement need not be permanent,but sometimes it�s best that it is. Recurrentfoes should engage the interest of the PCs,challenging and intriguing them. Lettinggo might be like losing an old friend but,
as all good DMs know, the next adventurewill bring new foes� and among those foesthere just might be another embryonicnemesis waiting to spring on the PCs.
Final thoughtsAlthough this article has been written
with a particular bent toward fantasyadventuring, it can be readily adapted foruse in other genres. The basic notions canbe applied to horror, science-fiction, orsuper-hero gaming. No matter what typeof game system you run, the creative useof recurrent NPCs will add to the enjoy-ment of role playing. After all, there isnothing like meeting an old foe . . . exceptperhaps beating him once and for all!
With thanks to the University gamersand Spike Y. Jones.
Let tersContinued from page 5
The next time that the doctors let you have acopy of DRAGON issue #181, with Robin Wood�swonderful cover depiction of a wizard�s labora-tory, look carefully at the toothless skull to thefar left center of the cover (this only works withthe American cover, as the British cover washeavily cropped). Look at the spot where thelower jaw connects with the skull. Now, moveto the left about one-eighth of an inch, to thehalf-hidden thing in the darkness under thescroll. Hah! Isn�t that incredible? They wereright there the whole time! I love being a sadis�um, an editor. Actually, the only reason I knowwhere they are is because two fellow TSRemployees became frustrated with the searchthemselves and called the upstairs art directorwho called the artist and got the answer I�mglad you enjoyed our little game.
Wild dicerevisitedDear Mr. Moore,
I really enjoyed Michael J. D�Alfonsi�s article,�The Wild, Wild World of Dice� [in issue #182].Many of my gaming buddies have some of thoseweird habits, too. My favorite dice story is onethat a good friend told me. He was DMing anAD&D® adventure for a single player. When theplayer�s characters were badly injured in asurprise attack, the player became excited andyelled �Fire seeds!� [for one of his characters�attacks]. He then grabbed up all the dice andthrew them across the room to illustrate.
Joel PattonTravelers Rest SC
The only weird dice story I recall comes fromthe habit of one gamer I knew who put dice inhis mouth and spit them out on the table whenhe had to roll them. Needless to say, no one everstole his dice.
by John SetzerArtwork by Joseph Pillsbury
Six simple waysto earn players� trust
Any AD&D® game DM� must be trustedby his players if he is to run a successfulrole-playing game. It is almost impossibleto run a game if the players always whinethat you cheated on a die roll or were tootough on them with your choice of mon-sters and adventure tasks. Players musttrust the DM so that he has the freedom totake on special situations that call for role-playing, not just roll-playing.
There are several things that a DM cando to earn this sought-after trust. Whatfollows are six guidelines for DMs to fol-low that will insure that they are as fair tothe players as possible.
1. Always treat your players with re-spect. This may sound simple, but it is notalways that easy. I�ve seen DMs who actu-ally chastise players for allegedly not beingsmart enough to figure out a puzzle, orwho even yell at them and stop the gamewhen the players do something that theDM believes wasn�t very bright. It shouldgo without saying that you should treatyour players as human beings. Remember:They are not really fierce fighters, brilliantmages, and crafty thieves; they are stu-dents and workers and husbands andwives. They play as best they can, butsometimes they may take actions that theircharacters likely wouldn�t. If they dosomething wrong, let them find outthrough the play of the game itself. Don�tsigh heavily, roll your eyes, and close themodule. That is out of context of the gameand will only serve to embarrass thosewho made the mistake.
Think of the times when you screwedup; did the more-experienced players yellat you, or shake their heads and mutter?(�John, John, John, what are you doing?This is not the time to use that spell. Youshould save it for when we come acrosssomething more powerful.�) Remember
that feeling; it is all the worse when a DMdoes that to a player. Some players will bevery embarrassed and may become quietand unsure of themselves for the rest ofthe game. Others will be irritated, taking ahostile stance and bringing about the�players vs. DM� syndrome. This is to beavoided at all costs. Role-playing successdepends on the entire group� the DMincluded� working together. The DM�wins� when the players have fun.
Instead of taking out your frustrationson a player (�How could they be so dumbas to miss that? Now the whole adventureis messed up!�), think about what you, theDM, did wrong. You are the players� eyes,ears, and everything else; you are theironly link to the game world. Perhaps youwere a bit unclear in giving the long,drawn-out monologue the priest gave atthe beginning of the mission; the playersmight have been bored because you werejust reading some speech you wrote earli-er. Next time, role-play the speech. Let theplayers interrupt and ask questions, in-stead of saying, �Wait till the end to askquestions,� then sticking your nose downinto the text� which is, of course, behindthe DM�s screen. Players will know by theimpassioned speech of the NPC when notto say anything. Maybe, too, the puzzleyou laid out had too few clues, or theclues you did lay were too obscure for theplayers to figure out. The clues mightrefer to a passage in an ancient text, forexample, that you feel the characterswould know about, but unless you providethe information beforehand, the playerswill miss it.
2. Never take a character away from aplayer. There are two instances in whichmany DMs will take a character awayfrom a player: magical control of somesort, and death. In the case of the former(charms, possession, and the like), the DMmust remember that the character andnot the player is controlled by the spell.Whenever possible, let the players role-play through the situation (e.g., the NPCmage gives commands to the player char-acter). This is one of the most tricky situa-tions for a player; it takes a goodrole-player to correctly play an other-controlled character. The player musthave a knowledge of the spell or power inuse, including guidelines and restrictionsfor both the controller and person beingcontrolled. For example, a player who�scharacter has been charmed should knowthat if the PC is commanded to kill himself,he would not do it and would have achance to break the spell then and there.Sometimes, a brief explanation to theplayer (in the form of a note, usually) onthe specifics of a spell in relation to acharacter�s reactions is necessary.
As far as death is concerned, the controlI am talking about is related to the dice.Characters should not die because of rollof the dice alone. Give characters a chanceto role-play out a life-and-death situations.
34 AUGUST 1992
3. Don�t take on more than you canhandle. DMs who are unprepared or whoaren�t good at improvisation can run intothis problem very easily, but in truth it can
All of this gives the player more infor-mation about the cloak. It is not just apiece of cloth on a statue; it is a blackcloak on a horrible stone figure, and asense of dread tweaks at the character�sinnards. Doing this gives a player morechoices in deciding his character�s actions;he knows something is not right, but is itbecause of the cloak or the statue? He canproceed from here. It is his decision; therisks have been well presented.
One note about giving details: It is veryeasy for a DM to manipulate players byportraying things in a certain way. In theprevious example, instead of the DM hint-ing the cloak had a backdrop of dread, hecould have given the player the oppositeimpression: �The cloak is draped majesti-cally on the powerful back of the creature,lending an impressive quality to thestatue.� A description along these linesmakes the cloak seem desirable, emphasiz-ing power (which many characters crave).So, if the DM wanted the PC to try thecloak on and get killed, he could steer himin that direction while still having an air ofinnocence. (�Well, he took the cloak, so it�shis fault. It wasn�t like I fudged a roll orsomething to kill him.�) Be careful that yougive fair descriptions that do not deceivecharacters. Such deception will only makethe players overly suspicious of you, andyou will lose their trust.
DM: �How are you examining the cloak?Do you touch it in any way? Where areyou touching it? Do you touch the clasp?Do you touch the statue at all?� The DMmay even drape a coat over a chair at thispoint and say, �Show me exactly what youare doing.�
DM: �You see a statue of a man, but theman has been twisted somehow into theform of a wolfman. His face is contorted inan angry snarl, but his eyes belie a deepsense of pain. A black cloak is draped onthe terrible statue, hanging limply in con-trast to the motion of the statue. You feel aknot form in the pit of your stomach asyou gaze upon the horrible sight.�
Player: �The cloak is real? I try to exam-ine the cloak.�
Player, figuring the real cloak on a statuemust mean something: �I take the cloakand put it on.�
DM: �Your character dies, no save.�
DM: �You see a statue of a werewolf.The statue wears a real cloak.�
For example, I have seen in publishedmodules certain cursed items that immedi-ately kill their users without a savingthrow (cloaks of poisonousness come tomind). Instead, try to help the player makea decision based on role-playing. Considerthe difference in these two examples:
jump up on any DM who has big plans fora campaign. The DM may initially providea couple of hints at something, and theplayers bite at the bait. Then the DM leadsthe players on a bit more, but the playersare really getting into the DM�s �stuff.�They get going too quickly, wanting to goon ahead faster than the DM can keep up,and he makes up something that goes toofar; perhaps it leads to a war or a conflictwith a campaign fixture, maybe even anencounter with a deity.
Let me give you an example of some-thing that happened to me. Throughoutone campaign, I had characters catchglimpses of a creation of mine, the �greatorc� (based on Tolkien�s Uruk-hai). The PCswould be on their way from one town tothe next, and I would occasionally let themencounter a couple of great orcs in thewoods at night. It soon became an obses-sion; the players figured that every newadventure had to do with these orcs. I letthis go on for awhile, enjoying the effect ithad on the group. Then, once they finallykilled one, they examined it very closely.They decided that they needed to get tothe bottom of this mystery. I had not fig-ured on this, that they would jump in thisquickly dropping everything else, but Isuccumbed to the players� wishes (theywere so excited).
For the rest of the night, I DM�ed off thetop of my head. Everyone had a great timebut, as the players delved further into themystery, I let myself go too far. I wove in aparticular rumor that had been goingaround about a powerful being controllingmany of the goblinoid tribes in the area.Through stealth, one character found thelair and went deep into it. He overheardsome of the denizens discussing theirplans to start an organized takeover of thelocal village to carve out their own orcnation. Their leader was discovered to bean illithid. The character went back andtold the rest of the group. In the next fewsessions, they continued to infiltrate theplace and gain more and more informa-tion. All was going well, until it becametime for the actual war.
What had I done? I didn�t want a war!But one night of wild improvisation hadstarted one. The characters had seen thelair, the troops, and the equipment. Therewas a massive underground complex, deepin the earth. Now I had to resolve this. Theplayers weren�t interested in playing thewar out with the BATTLESYSTEM� rules. Icould have just said that the war hadtaken place and this is what happened, butI wasn�t prepared to deal with the after-math. The world would be foreverchanged; many of my designed adventureswould be ruined as those areas were hitby the war. Nations would maybe even berealigned if the monster army had anysuccess; even if they didn�t, certainly manycities and towns would be changed ordestroyed. I could have worked throughthis, but I was overwhelmed by the task.To top it off, I really didn�t have the time to
deal with it. The campaign soon died off.What I had done was take on a grand
task without thinking first what it wouldentail. This is where reality comes intoplay. None of us can afford to spend entireweeks of time on our hobby; we havework, school, families, friends, and otheroutside commitments. Don�t take on some-thing before thinking how much time itwill entail. This means sitting down andputting on paper what needs to be doneand how long it will take. Be careful whenplaying improvised games that you do notdo something that you will regret later.
4. Be reliable outside the game. If youwant to be trusted during the game, youmust be trustworthy outside of it. Don�tsay that you can play Sunday afternoonwhen you know you have a paper and amajor test to deal with on Monday. Youmay find that you didn�t get it done thatweek and will need to spend time on Sun-day studying and writing (especially ifyou�re a big-time procrastinator). It�s notfair to the players to cancel at the lastminute; they�ve probably reserved thistime for the game and could have beendoing something else had you told themsooner that you couldn�t make it.
Players have a concept of you as a per-son. It is rare to be perceived in two en-tirely different ways by people who knowyou; the players will have difficulty trust-
You, the DM, should be having fun too!You are not there to be a tool to provideamusement only for the players. Do somethings that you�d like to try in your game.If the players are predominantly hack-and-slashers, provide them with action but
5. Make the game fun for the playersand yourself. There are as many types ofplayers as there are types of people. Nomatter how you may categorize a player,each one is still unique. One thing that allplayers share, however, whether they areproblem-solvers or role-players, is thedesire to have fun. That is the primaryreason they play the game. How do youknow if the players are having fun? Thebest gauge is if they still play in yourgame. Players will let you know they arenot having fun by not coming to yourgame. If the players always come awayfrom the game having enjoyed themselves,they will trust the DM in most situationsbecause they know that the DM will makethat situation fun to play. Conversely, ifthe players do not always have a goodtime or don�t get some satisfaction fromevery game, they will protest many badsituations that get thrust upon them be-cause they fear that this will be anotherone of the DM�s �drags.� They just don�ttrust the DM to make this fun for them.
ing your word during a game if your wordis worth little outside of the game.
make sure that you allow periods of NPCinteraction if you like to role-play. Varietyis the spice of the game. Players may evenbegin to enjoy the role-playing part morethan combat if you role-play well.
6. Take pride in your work and also inthe group. DMs have to do a lot of work,but they also have the opportunity to beproud of what they do. Writing an excel-lent adventure that challenged the PCs totheir limits, playing that necromancer NPCso well that the mere mention of his namecauses heroes to look over their shoulders,even getting all of the mundane thingsdone to prepare for a game (experienceupdates from the last adventure, settingup props and music, getting the foodready, etc.) are all things that a DM shouldbe proud of. While a group effort is need-ed to really have a fun evening of role-playing, most of the responsibility lies onthe shoulders of the DM. The best onesgladly take that responsibility, and theypride themselves on a job well done. Thisalso extends to the group as well. If youhave a good group of players, you shouldrealize that you are at least in part respon-sible for that. When a younger playerbegins to show gaming maturity, you canbe proud that you had a lot to do withbringing enjoyment to that person.
36 AUGUST 1992
by Kevin Troy Lissanne Lake
Are you, as a game DM�, faced with a Know your sourcesgroup of rules lawyers for players? Do you The simplest way to toughen up yourfeel your campaign is slowly succumbing adventures without being unfair or unre-to the �Monty Haul Syndrome�? Are play- alistic is to know all the rules you areers breezing through your most difficult playing with. Optional rules, new spells,adventures, and do they play shallow magical items, and monsters should all becharacters created simply to hoard magic known to you. This may seem obvious, butand gold? Do they exploit the sheer size of I for one know the benefits of buying allt h e r e v i s e d D & D ® 2 n d E d i t i o n the optional rulebooks (such as the Com-games by buying rulebooks you don't plete Handbooks or sets specialized tohave? Fear no more! With this article, one setting) and convincing the DM to playyou'll learn how to give your compaign's with those rules. Many a DM has fallen tomonsters and NPCs a fighting chance� heart-rendering ideas for a wood-elf rangerwithout being unrealistic or unfair. with the berserker kit. Don't let the play-
ers use their knowledge against you!If buying optional rules is too expensive
for you, look in used-book stores or theused-materials section of a mail-ordercatalog. If this doesn�t work, borrow thebook from the player using it against you.Take a week or so to familiarize yourselfwith it, then borrow it again wheneveryou think you may need it (for instance,when you�re creating an adventure).
If worst comes to worst, tell your play-ers that those optional rules are not beingused in your campaign. Nothing hurts apampered player more than creating a lst-level character using Method I (3d6straight) and only the core rules in thehardbound manuals.
If you do get the optional rulebooks, usethem just as much as the players do. Don�tmake that Red Wizard of Thay a wimp�give him class! Barbarian chieftains shouldnot be mere 5th-level fighters, they shouldbe 5th-level berserkers with weapon spe-cialization. The same goes for campaignsusing the AD&D 1st Edition game. If youare using the classic older modules, updatethem using Unearthed Arcana rules (newspells and weapon specialization rulesbeing the most important).
Go through your modules and check forweaknesses in those NPCs with characterclasses. For example, here are the eliteguards at the temple of Bane in ZhentilKeep, as described in the AD&D module
Curse of the Azure Bonds on page 56:6th-level fighters (18): AC 4; MV 6�; HD
6; hp 45; #AT 1; Dmg 1-8 (long sword); ALLE; THAC0 15.
Get real! Many 3rd-level adventuringfighters are outfitted better than that.Let�s assume that any warrior that gets upto 1st-level is going to specialize (here,with the long sword). Then, too, a 6th-level fighter (not to mention the temple ofBane itself) is probably wealthy. Give theguards plate mail armor (which by itself isAC 3, better protection than chain mailand a shield) and exceptional quality weap-ons from the Complete Fighter’s Hand-book, page 10 (these add one point each toTHAC0 and damage). Missile weaponswould be appropriate as well: either alight crossbow with 20 bolts or a long bowand 20 sheaf arrows per fighter.
Also, one should allow for the benefitsdescribed in the �Combat Rules� chapterof the Complete Fighter’s Handbook. Mostuseful of these are the weapon-style spe-cializations. In the above case, I would givethe guards either the single-weapon stylewith two proficiency slots devoted to it(thus gaining a +2 bonus to their armorclasses as opposed to the one from ashield�see page 62) or two-weapon stylewith ambidexterity (thus giving an extraattack per round�see page 64). I favor thelatter, as the guards� armor classes arealready each one better from the armor
boost we gave them. Besides, these guardswill presumably serve in an offensivecapacity (and a +2 bonus to armor classon a short-lived guard is not as beneficialas an extra attack per round) and theyalready have good life spans in combatbecause of their above-average hit points.
Here are the same fighters, now greatlyimproved:
6th-level fighters (18): AC 3; MV 6�; HD6; hp 45 each; #AT 5/2; Dmg 1d8+2 (longsword) or 1d8 (bows); SA paired swords(weapon spec.), missile weapons (sheafarrows); SD none; AL LE; THAC0 13.
One note about exceptional qualityweapons: While they improve your NPCsby far, they are hardly worth the PCs� timeand effort to carry them around. Chancesare that a 5th-level character already has abetter (i.e., magical) weapon, and toting anextra long sword around all day is hardlyworth the encumbrance.
Managing magicMagic deserves beefing up as well. If you
get a rules manual that has an awesomenew megadeath spell in it, change yourNPC�s spell book to make room for it. Thesame goes for a devious new use for anold spell (see Joel E. Roosa�s article �Crea-tive Casting� in DRAGON® issue #169 andthe Complete Wizard’s Handbook, pages82-86, for examples.)
For example, if you are running a
64 OCTOBER 1992 Artwork by James Holloway
FORGOTTEN REALMS® campaign, youmay wish to replace Melf’s acid arrow inmost NPC spell lists with the superior spellAgannazar’s scorcher, from theFORGOTTEN REALMS Adventures hard-bound. Whereas the first spell affects onetarget, requires a to-hit roll, and splits itsdamage over several rounds (doing 2d4 hpdamage each round), the second spell does3d6 hp damage per round for two roundswith no save and an automatic hit. Agan-nazar’s scorcher can also catch others inthe jet (for less damage, however). Theonly real benefit in the short run (whichmatters most in combat) to Melf's acidarrow is the range benefit (180 yards to apuny 20 yards).
When it comes to NPC spell memoriza-tion, use common sense. If the charactersstormed the first level of a wizardsdungeon yesterday, the wizard will mostlikely be prepared with a few more offen-sive spells than usual. However, if thewizard knows that the characters havesome type of fire-resistance spell or magi-cal item, he will not memorize fireball.Any wizard or priest worth his spell com-ponents will set alarm spells, glyphs ofwarding, and, in the case of the very pow-erful individuals, a few nasty magical trapsusing contingency or a guards and wardsspell. Finally, if a mage doesn�t want todestroy his precious tower with massdestruction spells, he won�t use lightning
bolt unless necessary. Take the motives ofNPCs into mind.
Expand your horizonsAnother simple idea for beefing up NPCs
and monsters is to use �weird� or raremagical items and monsters. DRAGON®
Magazine is a great source of both. Thevarious Monstrous Compendium appendi-ces are useful, too, if your players don�thave them. (Many of those monsters are sorare no one would ever memorize them allanyway.) Other good monster sources arethe AD&D 1st Edition monster books. TheFIEND FOLIO® and Monster Manual IIbooks have some great monsters that werenever carried over into the AD&D 2ndEdition game. (The �fiend� nobles aren�tthe only monsters worth retrieving, either,Try using a drelb from Monster Manual IIon a party of characters who are afraid ofwraiths, or a froghemoth on a boatingexpedition.)
Don�t tell your players what an item ormonster really is when they find it. Readthe tips on running RAVENLOFT® cam-paigns in �The Techniques of Terror� chap-ter in the RAVENLOFT boxed set�srulebook. See also Gary Coppa�s article,�It�s Sort of Like a Wand . . .� in DRAGONissue #161, and �The Game Wizards�column by Bruce Nesmith in DRAGONissue #162. One famous example of this�no information� style can be found in the
fantasy novel, The Sword of Shannara, byTerry Brooks. Early on, the heroes find thefabled Sword of Shannara but don�t evenrealize what it is until it is stolen by theenemy!
Make your monsters smart enough tofight on their own ground. Real koboldsdon�t fight in large, open fields at highnoon. Real kobolds fight in passages about3� high with no light and plenty of boobytraps. This means the players don�t spotthe kobolds until the latter are about 30�away (the typical range of torches andlight spells), but the PCs are fully aware ofthe kobolds, thanks to the arrows andtraps all around. A fine example of thispoint can be found in the AD&D module,�Tallow�s Deep,� by Steve Gilbert and BillSlavicsek in DUNGEON® Adventures issue#18. Here, goblins have built up a trulydeadly dungeon of their own. Note thatDUNGEON Adventures� modules are oftenrife with wonderful new magical itemsand monsters to spring to your unsuspect-ing players.
ConclusionThe key to deadly (but by all means fair)
DMing in AD&D® games can be summedup like this: Have the NPCs and monstersuse the same rules and nifty tricks, tactics,and ploys that the player characters use.You want to make the PCs�and players�sweat.
66 OCTOBER 1992
by Tanith TyrrArtwork by Scott Rosema
Constructive ways to deal with disruptive role-players�Dungeon Master, may I play my 30th-
level berserker-necromancer-assassin-highpriest? His scores are all 20s except for hischarisma, which is only 19, and hisstrength, which is 25. He gets nine attacksevery three rounds because he�s ambidex-trous. He wields Stormbringer in his righthand, Mjolnir in his left hand, and he hastwo wands of Orcus. . . .”
If you have run AD&D® or other fantasyrole-playing games (FRPGs) for any lengthof time, this litany probably sounds famil-iar. Almost every DUNGEON MASTER�has encountered the player whose charac-ters all belong in the Legends & Lore tomerather than in the campaign.
Even otherwise reasonable players caneventually succumb to the Monty HaulSyndrome and end up with less-than-balanced characters. Most FRPGs arestructured in such a way that one of acharacter�s primary goals in the game is togain treasure and magical items. Even ifyou keep these rewards to a minimum,they eventually pile up, since it is easierfor a DM� to bestow treasure than it is totake it away. After enough of these profit-able ventures, your players� charactersmay have a lot more firepower than youare comfortable with.
Another problem that a DM often facesis the player whose character disrupts aparty. This player may put the rest of theparty at risk through carelessness. Hischaracter might periodically decide towander off alone down a dark hall with-out checking adequately for traps or otherhazards, and may end up triggering adevice that floods the entire dungeon. Hemay frequently argue with the rest of thegroup, slowing down play. Worst of all,your problem player may have a penchantfor starting fights within the party or forkilling off other PCs.
How does a good DM deal with theseproblems without spoiling the fun for therest of the group? This article examineswhy these situations occur and what canbe done to alleviate them.
Problem playersPlayers who want to run characters
with higher ability scores and morefirepower than the average dragon are afairly common nuisance. Rather thanattempting to deal with them during thegame itself and creating unwelcome inter-ruptions for your other players, take agood look at a player�s character sheetsbefore you accept them. It is more con-structive to be firm with your players at
Don�t be afraid to take powerful magicalitems away from your PCs. Items that areprimarily used as crutches rather than ascreative role-playing aids should definitely beexcised. If your players can always blasttheir way out of any challenge with sheerfirepower rather than having to save them-selves with their problem-solving skills, noone, least of all the DM, is going to have anyfun. However, minor magicks and one-shotitems like potions and scrolls that must be
No matter how much a player nags, donot allow yourself to be cajoled, persuad-ed, or bullied into allowing an unbalancedcharacter into your game. Put a ceiling oncharacter score totals. This will vary indifferent games, but for the AD&D andD&D® games� six-characteristic system, Irecommend that you allow a character�scombined scores to be no more than 85 ina beginning game and 100 in a moreadvanced game. Count additional strengthfrom 18/01 to 18/00 at 1 point per addi-tional /20 or fraction thereof. Thus, an18/01 strength counts for 19 points, not18, and 18/00 strength counts for 23points towards the total.
Setting your limits
the outset about what you will not toleratein your game.
Characters of low level in a world wherethe typical encounter is an adult dragonare obviously out of place. Your playerswill feel powerless and ineffective in thiscampaign, and they will derive very littleenjoyment from the game before theircharacters are killed. Likewise, charactersof high level who storm small farmingvillages by raining fireballs down fromtheir flying citadels are not going to enjoythemselves for very long, either.
The obvious solution would seem to beto set high-level challenges for high-levelcharacters. Some DMs are creative enough
84 NOVEMBER 1992
Once you have gotten the PCs pareddown to a reasonable level, you are leftwith the task of keeping them happy withwhat they have. The desire to play super-powerful characters frequently stemsfrom the player�s power fantasies. Afterall, what player does not want a characterwho is looked up to by the common folk asa mighty warrior, mage, or priest? Thereare few vicarious thrills in playing a char-acter who is merely Joe or Jane Average.What many gamers are looking for is thethrill of role-playing an important, power-ful person�a hero. Unfortunately, manyplayers� idea of a powerful hero can besomewhat unrealistic at best.
Keeping players happy
Does one of your PCs have a magicalitem that originally belonged to a god,demigod, or fiend? Perhaps he, she, or itwants the item back and will stop at noth-ing to get it. Alternatively, send your PCsthrough a trapped corridor that triggers amagnitude of nastiness in direct propor-tion to the amount of magic it detects onthe party.
If there is a sentient or semi-sentientitem around, a DM can have no end of funwith it. That sword, staff, or amulet mayhave its own secret agenda that it is notsharing with the party, and it may go toany lengths to accomplish these goals. Thisparticular scenario is limited only by yourcreativity, and if it is handled correctly, itcan give your PCs perpetual nightmaresand a permanent phobia of magical items.
Don�t forget to demand saving throwsfor each and every magical item carriedwhen a character survives a conflagration,a fall from any height, or even a bout ofhand-to-hand combat. PCs will eventuallylose at least a few items that way, and thisprocess can be made tedious enough thatyour players may eventually get the hint.
applied intelligently to be effective can defin-itely enhance a game. Leave your PCsenough of these to help them survive inyour campaign, but not enough for them touse carelessly or casually.
If players absolutely insist on cominginto your game with more magical itemsthan you really want them to have, thereare many things you can do to make thepossession of these items a lot more trou-ble than they�re worth. I can�t possibly listthem all in a short article, but here are afew ideas.
to keep pace with their players, at least forawhile. The problem with this is thatunless you are very strict about doling outtreasure, your games eventually begin toresemble a nuclear escalation scenario. Asyour PCs gain more firepower, so does theopposition. This can get pretty ridiculousafter awhile, with gods and major fiendsshowing up regularly on your commonencounters table.
A large part of my enjoyment of an FRPGis the ability to suspend disbelief and enterwhole-heartedly into the fantasy world,behaving for awhile as if elves and goblinsactually existed and could cast spells andwield swords. A super-high-powered game,with PCs battling gods and fiends at everyturn, definitely challenges my ability tosuspend disbelief and removes much of myenjoyment of the game.
Where�s the happy medium? I havefound that the best solution is effectiverole-playing�on the part of the DM. Yourplayers must feel that their characters areimportant people, at least in comparisonwith the majority of the NPCs and crea-tures that they encounter. In fact, themajority of the people and creatures thatthey encounter should actually be lesspowerful than the party. The averageinnkeeper should treat the adventurersdeferentially, the average beggar shouldgrovel, and the average woodlands crea-ture should run like a spooked bunnyfrom a bunch of people stomping noisilyaround in armor. Even most larger crea-tures, whether natural or magical, knowthat there is easier dinner to be had than agroup of armed adventurers. Chances are,many more of them will turn tail and runrather than stay to fight.
Unfortunately, most DMs prefer to glossover such amusing and ego-feeding encount-ers in favor of more �exciting� ones. Theplayer�s reaction to this is to perceive theentire campaign world as one in which hischaracter is not particularly heroic or signifi-cant, if every single person or creature thatis encountered is a serious challenge. Yourplayers will feel much better about theircharacters if you occasionally let them inter-act realistically with normal, zero-level hu-mans who will treat the party like the herosand adventurers that they are.
Conflict within the party is anothercommon headache for game referees.Several situations can lead to party con-flict. One of the most common is a conflictbetween characters, which is often fairlyeasy to resolve and can actually be used toadd more of a role-playing flavor to thegame, as in the following example:
"You're an idiot," Natik the Clevergroaned. "You don't know what's on theother side. Let the mage deal with it!"
Dael bristled ominously at the thief'swords, hefting his warhammer in histhick, meaty hands.
"Peace, Kerathai the elf-mage saidcalmly. "Friend Dael, your greatstrength would be honorable used ifyou would climb that tree yonder togive us a better view of what lies about.Perhaps you might spy a mightier foefor you to smash with you hammer,and I will give the matter of the doormore thought."
Grumpy but appeased, the giantbarbarian wandered off to scout, whileNatik breathed a sigh of relief andKerathai turned his full concentrationto the runes caved into the stone.
Other conflicts between players can beharder to resolve, especially if personalfeeling are involved. When two players,as opposed to two characters, get into anargument, the DM cannot always step in.What I have found to be the best course ofaction in these cases is to ask both playersto leave the room temporarily so that theycan discuss the issue between themselves.They are encouraged to return when theyhave solved their problem. In the mean-time, the players who have not been mak-ing trouble can have a larger share ofyour attention.
If a player consistently wants his charac-ter to go in a different direction than therest of the party, or to perform an actionthat the rest of the party does not agreeon, this can also be a problem. In somecases, this player�s independent action mayactually be a beneficial one. Other times,
It takes some exemplary role-players tosolve a conflict this neatly, but mostgroups of characters eventually reachsome accommodation. Encourage yourplayers to negotiate among themselves incharacter to add to the role-playingatmosphere.
If there are characters in the party whoare likely to be diametrically opposed toone another, such as the magic-using elfand the magic-hating barbarian, you maywant to gently suggest that players choosedifferent, more compatible characters toadventure together.
If the reason for the conflict lies withyour players rather than their characters,there is no simple solution. A fair numberof players delight in plots, secret intrigues,backstabbing, and party infighting, nomatter which characters they are playing.In a party where the rest of the playersprefer to run an �up-front� trusting game,a player who likes to backstab is an obvi-ous problem. However, if your entireplayer group enjoys intrigue and decep-tion within the party as part of their role-playing enjoyment, there is no reason fora DM to limit their fun.
Dael stubbornly shook his shaggy-maned head, his huge arms crossed infront of his stocky, fur-clad body. "Itrust no magic," he growled. "I willsmash through the tomb's door."
his judgment may be dead wrong, and theresults may endanger the entire party.
Although this particular problem maycause you an inordinate number of head-aches, it is one that you must let yourplayers solve on their own. Unless youhave an unusual group, one or possiblytwo players who have shown their skill atproblem-solving should eventually berecognized and listened to by the group.The players who have been around whenthese more experienced or intuitivegamers have proved their good judgmentwill tend to agree with them. Newer play-ers may still argue, but eventually themajority of your players will know who isusually right about something and who isusually wrong. In time, most of your play-ers will be willing to go along with themajority, who in turn are going along withthe players whose judgment they trust. Ifa single player persists in arguing, he willeventually be dealt with by the group.
Keeping it goingThe most important part of trouble-
shooting your games is making sure thateverything is running at a smooth andcomfortable pace. Ideally, each playershould go home with the feeling that hereceived an equal share of the action andof your attention. This isn�t always possi-ble, but you should at least take pains toinsure that no player goes home feeling as
if he was ignored or that he didn�t have achance to fully participate.
Character death is one of the most com-mon of problems that slow down a game.In an adventure that you know will have ahigh mortality rate, each player can berequested to submit three characters thatthey would enjoy running. Two of thesecharacters are held in reserve, to be intro-duced to the party should the first onemeet an untimely end. This way, the deathof a character does not necessarily meanthe end of that player�s participation in thegame.
The drawback to this solution is that itencourages carelessness, because playersare not penalized no matter what theyhave their characters do. The best way tooffset this is to insist that the new charac-ter be introduced in a logical fashion,which might well take a few days of gametime and perhaps an hour or so of realtime. The real time delay is frustratingenough to discourage suicidal strategiesand is also reasonable enough that a play-er whose character has died a �legitimate�death should not complain. Since playersshould not be allowed to benefit in anyway from the deaths of their characters,encourage the party to distribute thebelongings of the first character beforethat player�s next character enters thescene. In addition, a player�s second andthird characters should be made much
When your game is running smoothly,with time for input from each player, it isalways an enjoyable one. If problems andconflicts during the game are limited tothe ones that were written into your ad-venture, you can consider yourself a trulysuccessful game master.
So that everyone concerned can derivemaximum enjoyment from your game,deal with your �problem players� as quick-ly as possible. The point is to get on withthe game and to devote as little of yourprecious time as possible to troubleshoot-ing. Try to anticipate and deal with anypotential problems during the set-up ofyour game, before the session begins.
Another problem is that some of yourplayers will be louder or more assertivethan others; if you allow it, they may turnyour campaign into a solo adventure.Encourage quieter players to speak up,and set up a system that requires inputfrom each player in turn rather thanallowing the players with the loudestvoices and most outgoing personalities totake more actions than anyone else.
less powerful and well-equipped than theoriginal one, as a further incentive to theplayer to keep his starting character alivein the first place. Experience points, liketreasure, are naturally not transferrablebetween a player�s characters.
86 NOVEMBER 1992
That�s “Role,”Not “Roll”!
Put more �oomph� in your role-playing�and have more funby George T. Young
Artwork by Lissane Lake
TSR�s D&D® and AD&D® systems arerole-playing games. Unfortunately, nodictionary gives �role-playing� the defini-tion that garners expect of it: It�s an activi-ty designed to be fun, with the partici-pants thinking creatively and using theirimagination. There are numerous articlesabout new nonplayer characters, magicalitems, and so on, but few guidelines havebeen presented on how to become betterrole-players. This article, though by nomeans exhaustive, provides a few ideasabout how to get more out of your gamingthrough more effective role-playing.
Put the stress on roleI once asked a player in one of my cam-
paigns, �Why do you think they call it�role-playing,� anyway?� His answer was:�Because of the dice.� I regret to say thathe was serious. Gaming, as he knew it (andas too many of us know it), is the jugglingof statistics and scores for the purpose ofmaking a powerful character. Most of usbegin playing this way, and for a while it isentertaining. But, as one horde of despica-ble monsters after another falls to theheroes� swinging swords, the excitementwears off. Soon no one is interested inhow many 20s you roll or even how manyorcs you killed that day. This is the pointwhere most casual players quit the game,leaving only the hard-core players deter-mined to enjoy themselves.
Around this time, the remaining groupbegins to develop the art of role-playinguntil everyone participates in it to somedegree. Role-playing is fundamental to theAD&D and D&D games; no one playsbecause he or she likes keeping recordsand memorizing charts. The idea behind
role-playing is very clear: It is pure esca-pism, pretending to be a person you clear-ly are not. How, exactly, do we go aboutthis? What tables are there for it in theDungeon Master�s Guide? There are norules for role-playing; there are, however,certain guidelines that will help you be-come better �role-ers.�
The obvious question that comes tomind then is also the most important one:Why should we attempt to be better role-players anyway? For one thing, role-playing is a skill that can be developed andimproved; as with any other skill, thebetter you are at it, the more fun it be-comes. The whole idea of role-playing isbeing someone else, playing out someone�sdangerous and exciting (if not alwaysglamorous) life. Role-playing allows you allthe fun of being someone who lives closeto the edge without any of the risks. Thegame is, above all, completely safe. Yourcharacter can take 17 hp damage from ablow, fall into a pit of acid, or get swallow-ed whole, but none of it affects you. We allgrow to value our characters over time,and we don�t like to see them killed, butwe don�t actually lose anything.
There is a flip side to role-playing: Likemost things, you get out of it only whatyou put in. If you play a shallow, card-boardlike character, you are far less likelyto enjoy yourself as much as you wouldplaying a character with a personality and�reality� about him. Whether you�re play-ing an 800-year-old elven wizard or an 80-year-old human beggar, your charactershould be believable. Actors on stage �getinto character� and play their parts; theystep away from who they are and becomewho they are not.
In the same way, garners need to developpersonas for their characters. Once youknow what your character is like, itshould be easier to assume the mind-framethat allows you to imagine yourself in hisshoes. Perhaps your character is com-pletely unlike you, so much so that youwould act quite differently than your PC,given a change in circumstances. Thereare many things you can do to encouragerole-playing. It is always more fun to role-play if the whole group is participating; it�shard to get into character when everyoneelse is interested only in getting the mosttreasure and being the best rules lawyersthey can.
A certain mood also needs to be set forgood playing as well, for the mood in
gaming is comparable to the setting intheater. Above anything else, creativity isabsolutely necessary. That�s okay, though,because role-playing gamers are all crea-tive; if they weren�t, they wouldn�t begaming. When a group of people role-playwell, their imaginations are in high gear,and the whole group has fun. That is thegoal of role-playing, after all: having fun.
DM: �In our last game, when we leftoff, you were just about to fightSerpentyne, the ancient red dragonthat you have been stalking formonths, and��
Player 1: �What? Where are we?�Player 2: �Did we kill it? Where�s my
share of the treasure?�Player 3: �Which character was I play-
In the example above, the players haveno idea what is going on. The time spentbetween gaming sessions has dulled theirappetite for role-playing; they are notinvolved in the situation. At the end of thelast session, the group was tense andready for the encounter. Now, they are soremoved from the scenario that they willunthinkingly go through the motions ofplaying for the next 45 minutes to get backinto the mood: imagining what they aredoing, planning, and slowly starting tohave fun again.
The best way to avoid this problem andthe wasted time that goes with it is to getthe players (and the DM) ready to playbefore you begin. The way people getwarmed up for role-playing is the sameway people ready themselves for sports:with warm-up exercises. These exercisesshould be fun and should help get theplayers back into the role-playing frame ofmind. To start, ask a player to tell youwhat color the local tavern is painted. Askanother player how his character cele-brates his birthdays, and whether or nothe kissed anyone on his last birthday (ifthe PC did, ask who it was and have himexplain the circumstances). When theplayer comes up with a suitably creativeanswer, move on to the next person, ask-ing more off the wall and unexpectedquestions to force him to be imaginative.Don�t ask him any questions to which healready knows the answers�make himthink. The best way to get everyonewarmed up is to fire as many questions atthe players as you can; when they get thehang of it, they are ready. It�s as simple asthat. From the warm-ups, you can movedirectly into the adventure, knowing thatthe group is well prepared to play.
Go with the flow
DM: �The bugbears have, uh, thirtygold pieces on them.�
12 DECEMBER 1992
Player 1: �Gee, that�s a lot. I wonderwhy they�re carrying so much.�
Player 2: �And we never encounteredbugbears this far south before.�
Player 3: �That jerk the baron has a lotof money, so . . .�
Player 2: �My friends, I smell a conspir-acy. I think we should pay the goodbaron a little visit�unannounced, ofcourse.�
What you as the DM meant to say wasthirty silver pieces. Do you correct your-self, or let the players get the wrong idea?If you have any sense at all as a DM, youleave the players in the dark. The more aDM allows the party to choose their ownpaths in an adventure, the more the groupwill participate as a whole. If the partyoverestimates the importance or role of anNPC, as in the example, work with theirmistake. Obviously the idea is intriguing tothem, so follow their lead. They will askyou later in the adventure if you thoughtthey would catch on to the baron�sschemes so quickly. This is a good thing!The players will feel that they have accom-plished something with their clever deduc-tions, and if you alter the plot so that theirsuspicions turn out to be true, they will berewarded for the good role-playing theyhave done. In the future, they will be evenmore interested in thinking through theiractions.
Planned scenarios are fine as long as theplanning that went into them does notmake them restrictive. The players need tofeel that they are interacting with thecampaign world, not just following a set oftracks carved in stone. Perhaps, in thecourse of an adventure, the major NPCvillain that you wanted to use is left outentirely. It doesn�t matter in the end, be-cause the NPC can always be used later. Ifyou introduce a variety of different vil-lains to the PCs over the course of a fewadventures, you can watch the players�reactions to their enemies. Whichever NPCis the one the party hates the most or isthe most interested in should become theirarch-nemesis. In this way, you don�t saddlethe PCs with an enemy they are boredwith.
The game is designed to be free-form,and co-managing your campaign with yourplayers is an excellent way to bring theminto the fun. Too often, DMs fall into thetrap of assuming that they create theircampaigns by themselves and the playershave no input. This type of thinking needsto be avoided at all costs, for it is the DM�sgaming with the players that shapes hisworld and gives it a unique flavor. A goodDM should pay as much attention to thethings his group likes about the campaignworld as the things they dislike. When theplayers feel that they have some controlover their own destinies, they take part inthe game more often and use more crea-tivity in play as they try to carve a place
for themselves in the milieu. Use theirimaginations to spark your own; the re-sults will be astounding.
The impossible situation
DM: �The room heats up as the rest ofthe house catches fire. Smoke isbillowing up the staircase.�
Player 1: �Whoa, somebody get a ropeand�who�s got rope?�
Player 2: �We left it behind when weused it to climb that cliff. What dowe do?�
DM: �You begin to understand themeaning of the phrase �smoke inha-lation.��
The Impossible Situation occurs whenthere is no easy solution to a problem thatthe party has to deal with: monsters thatcannot be fought head-to-head, deathtraps, clever NPCs, and colossally poorplanning prior to a disaster (as in theexample). These situations are not neces-sarily bad ones; on the contrary, theyprovide the best gaming opportunitiesbecause the players must work togetherand use clever thinking to escape. A trulyimpossible situation cannot be solvedthrough the use of brute force or magicalitems; only inspiration and downrightcraftiness can save the party. It is a mea-sure of a group�s mettle as well; a goodgroup of players will work to find a solu-tion, while poor role-players generallybegin complaining or consulting the rulesfor technicalities with which to prove thatthe DM �can�t do that.�
It is in these tense moments, when theplayers are racking their brains for ideas,that the most memorable and fun playingtime is to be had. The time the partybluffed its way into an orcish strongholdand attacked the tribe�s leader, a large trollwith an unpleasant temper, will always beone of the players� favorite stories to tell.The players felt challenged by the situa-tion; afterward, they feel rightfully proudto have succeeded against unthinkableodds. Player characters are adventurersfirst and foremost, and they have everyright to accomplish daring and unusualfeats as long as they have found ways topull them off.
This is not to say, however, that the DMshould come up with insanely difficultpuzzles that require hours to solve, chal-lenges that have only one solution, andfutile battles. The key to using the Impos-sible Situation is using it sparingly andrefereeing it effectively. How realistic is itwhen the PCs escape certain death fourtimes a day? Even Indiana Jones wouldfeel hard-pressed to do that.
To referee these scenarios properly, theDM must give the PCs the sense that theirhard-won victory is real, and the dangersthey faced could have killed them. Thegame is more exciting when everyoneknows that something is at stake besides a
few more hit points. One word of caution:Sometimes, Impossible Situations backfire.The party comes up with a good plan anduses it well, but for reasons unknown tothem, the plan must fail. Perhaps the giantwears a ring of spell absorption, the doorto the armory opens the wrong way, orwhatever. In these cases, where the partyis going to be slaughtered because of someminor detail that has no significant affecton the adventure, the DM must use hisfinal and most powerful option: He mustcheat.
The DM is a referee, but he is impartialfor the sole purpose of providing an enter-taining milieu to adventure in, not to causebad feelings in the group. The DM shouldnot bow to party members� wishes merelybecause they argue loudly; only in direcircumstances should the DM alter theoutcome. Change a statistic, eliminate anextra trap, cancel the wandering monsterthat was rolled up. The point is, the partyshouldn�t be wiped out by one bad die rollor overplanned death-trap. If you let thePCs live (with low hit points or after usingup most of their magical items), they willfeel that they have accomplished some-thing wonderful�they survived and beatthe unbeatable.
One last word on cheating: If you mustcheat for some reason, never let the play-ers know. After the first time they catchyou cheating, they will always suspect thatthe tasks they achieved had a built-insafety net, and much of the fun of playingwill be spoiled. Use the Impossible Situa-tion with caution. Cheat if you have to, butmake sure that the whole group�s needsare served when you do. Remember thatbeing creative is as fun for players as it isfor the DM; encourage your group�simaginations, and you will open up newpossibilities for adventure.
Creativity and uniqueness
DM: �A short, grubby halfling wearingleather armor approaches you,and��
Player: �I bash him in the face with myaxe, take his pouch, and go directlyto the nearest jeweller. How muchgold do I get?�
Creativity is the most necessary elementfor players and DMs in a role-playinggame, since the game is played almostentirely in the imagination. However, toofew players use their imagination as wellas they might. In the example, the playerbelieves that he is faced with a thief andno actual interaction is necessary, sincethe player is looking only for a little trea-sure. The DM is also at fault, for he haspresented an encounter with a cliched,uninteresting NPC, and the player is onlyresponding to what he has been given.
For players and DMs both, the use ofstereotypical characters is a serious mis-take. How many times have players run
into jolly tavern-keepers, pretentious elves,and obnoxious barbarians? People expectthat all dwarves are dour and taciturnbecause it says so in the rule books.Garners all too often choose characterclasses and races because of the statisticaladvantages each type exhibits, instead ofpicking a profession because it wouldoffer a lot of role-playing possibilities.
DMs should always give personalities tothe NPCs the party meets, realistic identi-ties that the players can relate to. No onefeels tempted to have a conversation withanother generic character. The playersrecognize the dwarf who always speakswith an Arnold Schwarzenegger accentand who plays practical jokes on everyone,but they seem to forget the dwarf who isgreedy, likes only other dwarves, and whomakes friends very slowly (if you�re lucky,by the time everyone reaches 10th level).
Throw out the stereotypes! Consideringthe fact that everyone in the real world isunique, it follows that the campaign worldshould have individuals as well. Playersespecially should beware of creating �no-personality� characters. The PC who re-fers to himself as �the cleric� is probablynot role-playing. If the DM were to askwhat �the cleric�s� name was, the playerwould doubtless have to look on his char-acter sheet. As a rule, when creating anew character, players should think ofsomething unique about the PC, some trait
or piece of his past that sets him apartfrom other characters. By doing this, thecharacter will have a more realistic qualityand be more fun to play. Don�t let yourmagical items and strength scores makeyour character!
Good role-players will also think of somebit of personal information concerning thecharacter�s past that allows for plot tie-ins;they provide information that the DM canuse to make the adventure more personal.Perhaps your mage character carries asword that is the only clue to his master�sdisappearance. Small tidbits such as thisnot only make the character more distinc-tive, they also make him easier to play.Maybe the adventure�s villain recognizesthe sword. Does the PC attack with specialfervor, assuming that the villain must beresponsible for the foul play involving hismentor? Does the PC attempt to bargainwith him, trying to get more information?The possibilities are endless.
Another good example of this type of tie-in is demonstrated well by Tanis, from theDRAGONLANCE® saga. When he faced theDragonlord Kitiara, he had to deal withthe woman he loved, not some namelessfoe! Leave openings for your DM to workwith. Once you know a little bit aboutyour character, go on to create a personalhistory. Where is your PC from, and whydid he start adventuring? Detail his familyand personality quirks, and get some idea
of how he thinks. It is vital to know wherea character is coming from if you want toknow where he is going. To use the exam-ple of Tanis again, think about what madehim different from the other heroes. Hewas a man torn between two worlds andtwo loves: knowing both, belonging toneither. He had a developed backgroundand real motivations that caused him toact the way he did. Above all, he had arecognizable personality. These are thethings that make some characters betterthan others. Take as much care makingthe PCs as you do in keeping them alive!
Suspension of disbelief
DMs should make intelligent decisions forthe NPCs and monsters they run; no onewould argue that the party should playdumb when faced with a nasty situation.Yet most DMs fail to run their charactersas well as they could, for they know thatthe players will complain (and with muchfeeling) if they do. The only reason theplayers do this, however, is because theyhave not learned how to suspend disbelief.In most entertainment-oriented experi-ences, the audience willingly suspendsdisbelief in order to participate. No onestands up in the middle of Hamlet andyells at the actors because they are just�pretending� to be Danish nobility.
When someone does this, it brings thewhole group out of the role-playing moodand the fun of gaming. The way good role-players handle these situations is to directtheir frustrations at the NPC or monstercausing the trouble instead of the referee.If an enemy sorcerer casts a magic missilespell at your thief, blame the sorcerer, notthe DM. Always react to the DM as a ref-eree; that is his role in the game. The DMhandles disputes and makes rulings; hedoes not cause the party harm out of illwill. It may sound silly, but the truth isthat DMs are the best friends playershave; without them, there wouldn�t be anygaming.
DM: �Since you do not react when thekobolds pour three barrels of oil onyou from their high vantage point,their leader chuckles ominously ashe drops the torch he is holding.�
Players (in unison): �That�s not fair! Youcan�t do that! I can�t believe you�redoing this to us!�
Whenever a DM does something fiend-ishly clever or uses a carefully worked-outplan, the players inevitably scream bloodymurder. The worst possible tactic a DMcan have NPCs use against the party is thesame tactic they use against every singlemonster they encounter: thinking. But
Role-playing is very much the same, inthat the players need to accept the DM�spremises for the whole thing to work. If arules dispute arises, it is perfectly reason-able for the players and DM to discuss theproblem and work for a solution. Whenthe players attempt to second-guess theDM, real problems occur. A good playertries to work within the situation givenhim, while a poor player generally tries toargue his way out (�I don�t think he�dshoot at me, I�m only a cleric� or �Thoseorcs aren�t smart enough to do that. Theyonly have �low� intelligence.�). The playerswho stop the game to argue over suchthings are being immature by refusing toaccept the DM�s storytelling and refereeingbecause things are not going their way.
A final wordRole-playing, like anything else, can be
overdone. When your party insists onrole-playing the purchasing of torches, theidea has probably gone too far. Use com-mon sense. If the adventure is gettingbogged down by too much dilly-dallyingon the part of the players, simply trim therole-playing back until it is at an accept-able level. Not everything has to be role-played, after all.
Player: �You know, Mr. Blacksmith, Ithink that this is perhaps the besthorseshoe I have ever seen.�
14 DECEMBER 1992
Be to Your Referee
Why fightthe onewho�s runningthe game?
by Stewart RobertsonArtwork by David Zenz
16 DECEMBER 1992
There have been several articles andletters in DRAGON® Magazine on how aDungeon Master can make his AD&D® orD&D® campaign more entertaining for hisplayers, but how many players considerwhat they can do to make the game morefun and easier to run for the DM? Afterall, the DM has to do a fair amount ofwork before every game to insure theenjoyment of the players It�s only right forthe players to take part of the responsibili-ty as well. Good manners and a little con-sideration before, during, and after thegame can make the experience more en-joyable for everyone in the group andmake the role of DM much more reward-ing. Here are some tips for the thoughtfulplayer.
An experienced DM tries to create anadventure that suits the abilities and inter-ests of the player characters. Part of anadventure might revolve around a certainitem a character wishes to obtain, or atrap might be designed knowing one ofthe characters has a skill or magical itemthat will free the group. An important partof a game session could be left out if thewrong person is missing. In one game Iwas running, the characters spent weeksfighting their way to the lowest planes ofHades. The last night of the adventure, thefinal �Do or Die,� was shot to pieces whentwo PCs, one wielding a sword of fiendslaying and the other wearing an amuletof protection from evil, decided not toshow up.
A lesser disruption to the balance of thegame is the player who only shows upoccasionally. The DM who has carefullylaid out the monsters, puzzles, magic, andtreasures of a night�s game can have all hiswork waylaid when this occasional playerunexpectedly shows up for one night.
If you are a regular in someone�s gameand you have to miss a session, let the DMknow as soon as possible. You could sug-gest what your character is doing to keephim away from the rest of the party forthat time. You should also phone ahead ifyou plan to show up for a game you infre-quently attend. Give the DM some advancewarning so he can work any changes intothe game and keep the game enjoyable foreverybody.
Arrive on timeThis is simple manners. If you are an
hour late for a game, one of two things
happens Either the other players wait foryou, which cuts down the amount of timethey have to play, or they start withoutyou, so when you do show up they muststop playing to let you catch up with them.If you absolutely can�t avoid being tardy,call the DM and let him know how lateyou�ll be Then he can decide whether todelay the start of the game or let your PCcatch up when you arrive. Some DMsmight even find a way to work the charac-ter�s absence into the game. (�As you enterthe dungeon, Grunt the Warlord is sud-denly encased in a trap�an impenetrableglobe of magic!�)
Know the rulesMost players of D&D and AD&D games
don�t buy the rule books until after theirfirst game Instead, they have their friendsand the DM explain the rules as they goalong. It�s expected that a first-time playerwon�t have a full working knowledge ofthe game.
Still, it�s a good idea if the player doeseverything he can to learn the rules assoon as possible�not just the rules in thebook, but exactly which rules the DM usesfrom the book plus his own house rules.When playing for the first time or joininga game with a different DM, ask if you canmeet with him before the game to gener-ate your character and discuss how heprefers to run his game. Find out whatrules he uses and any particulars of hisgame. If you�ve never gamed before, thenbuy a rule book as soon as possible or atleast try to borrow a copy. Now the otherplayers won�t need to wait until the DMexplains everything to you and you can getright into the fun.
Offer to helpRunning a game is a lot of work, espe-
cially if the DM is running it in her ownhome. Before a game, someone has toclean the room, sweep the floors, clear thetables, and all the other chores your par-ents always want you to do. After thegame, a house can be a nightmare of noteslips, scrap paper, soda bottles, pizza car-tons, and the cheese balls Russell threw atthe miniatures to represent his character�sfireball spells. I�m sure nobody likes to dohousework, but it wouldn�t hurt to volun-teer to show up early or stay after to helpclean up. A half-hour of �hard labor� islittle enough to give up for your fun, andit may keep the DM�s parents from closingthe game down because of the mess.
Help create the worldIn addition to the more mundane chores
of housekeeping, there are other jobs aplayer can do to ease the DM�s burden. Inany large campaign world, there are amultitude of tasks to be done. Castles needto be created, cities laid out, NPCs puttogether, areas mapped, pictures drawn,and dozens of things photocopied. Offer totake some of this work upon yourself.Freed from these details, the DM will have
more time to put his adventures togetherand give you more of a feeling that this isyour game world.
If your DM doesn�t wish to share thework of creating the next adventure, ask ifyou can create the village or city yourcharacter came from. After all, the charac-ter had to come from somewhere, andsomeday he and the party might visitthere. With the DM�s approval, you canmap out the village and write up somebrief descriptions of a dozen or so peoplewho would be important to the character.The DM can then put �your� village some-where on his map for all the world to see.He might even decide to run an adventurethere some day.
Food & munchiesIt never fails. You�ve got your dice and
notes laid out and you�re ready for someserious role playing, when suddenly some-one on the other side of the table an-nounces that she wants some soda, chips,pizza, or whatever. Now everybody has towait while she goes to the store.
People enjoy their munchies, and duringa long game they can be a necessity of life.But let�s make sure they don�t subtractfrom game time. There are several waysto handle this. Everyone could simplybring their own, or the players could allagree to take turns buying the food. In mycurrent game, the first person who showsup is sent out to buy pop and chips, payingfor them with money from a common pot
that everyone chips into each week. Nomatter how it is done, the food should beready before the game starts. Don�t ignorethe healthy snacks�carrots and celerytaste great with a little chip dip.
Less gab, more playEven the most serious players interrupt
the game now and then. Jokes and sidestories are a common happening in anyfriendly group and help to make the gamemore enjoyable Still, constantly interrupt-ing the game with jokes or stories aboutprevious adventures can be a source ofaggravation for other players. I�ve knownplayers who would give a complete de-scription of an entire campaign at the leastopportunity. Equally annoying are thepeople who constantly make jokes aboutthe game at hand. I find it distracting tohave someone poking fun at everythingthe DM or other players say and do. Feelfree to make jokes or comments whenthey are appropriate, but don�t stray toofar from the game you�re playing. Most ofall, know when to quit.
Pay attentionNot everyone�s characters are going to
be directly involved at all times. Some PCsmight be split away from the main groupfor a while, have a sleep spell thrown onthem, or fall in a trap everyone elsemissed. Whatever the case, you should tryto pay attention to what is happening.Eventually your �absent� character will be
back into the action.Some players don�t have the patience to
sit quietly and listen. They start talking towhomever is sitting next to them or begingoing through any gaming books sittingnearby. I�ve even seen players leave thegame table to turn on the television orplay games on the computer. When theirPCs were finally back into the action, thegame had to stop while they were broughtup to date. It�s better to pay attention sothings won�t need repeating.
Wait your turnDuring the game, especially in combat,
there will be times when all players wanttheir characters to react But, it everyonetalks at the same time, no one can clearlyhear what is going on Some DMs goaround the table and ask each person inturn what their characters are doing,while others have the players roll dice forinitiative. Either way, wait until you�recalled upon before speaking out What-ever you do, don�t interrupt someone else
Another type of interruption is note-passing. Notes can be very important in agame, but if they aren�t used sparinglythey can be another form of �talking� outof turn Unless what you are doing issupposed to be a secret from the otherPCs. leave the note paper alone
Listen to the DM�This is another case of speaking out of
turn: The DM is trying to describe some-thing, but the players interrupt with ques-tions before she is finished. I�ve run gamesin which I would be giving the players thedimensions to a room their charactershave entered when someone interruptedto ask if there were any monsters present,My description of the monsters was theninterrupted by someone asking aboutwhat kind of treasures there are in theroom. By now I�m having trouble remem-bering what I�ve already told the players,while the person doing the mapping is stillwaiting to find out the size of the room.Let the DM finish talking before you startasking questions.
Plan aheadPlayers can really get into combat. You�d
think some people were actually fightingthese imaginary battles. Unfortunately,nothing destroys the excitement fasterthan a break in the momentum. Someonewho can�t make up his mind on what hisPC is doing or who asks a dozen questionsbefore declaring his actions destroys theillusion the DM has created. If you need toask a question, keep it short. Otherwise,just announce your PC�s actions and rollthe dice as needed. Since I feel my playersare trustworthy, I prefer to have themmake their die rolls at the beginning of theturn, then call their names and have them
tell me just tell me how much damage thecharacters did. The important thing is tokeep combat moving swiftly.
Stay organizedEvery new PC begins �life� with a fresh
character sheet that contains the name,statistics, and starting possessions of theplayer�s persona. Soon it will be detailedwith his experience totals, new hit points,and lists of abilities and magical items,After a short time, this clean charactersheet is a mess of altered statistics, partytreasure, new magical items, and erasedinformation.
Troubles can arise when a player or DMneeds specific information about the char-acter. Nobody likes to wait for someone toread through her notes, looking for onesmall piece of knowledge buried in themess. At the same time, one particularpossession or magical item can mean thedifference between succeeding, failing, ordying for your band of brave adventurers.
In one game I played in our characterswere in the middle of a dungeon whenthey were attacked by a medusa with sixtroglodyte henchmen. She petrified onewizard, then began using her serpents�bites while her troglodytes hacked away atthe party. After five minutes of melee, theplayer of the �stoned� mage noticed on hischaracter sheet a medallion of gaze reflec-tion he had completely forgotten about (itwas listed on his sheet under �CampingSupplies�). The DM then had to make adifficult choice: He could ignore theforgotten medallion and continue thecombat, or he could pull the game back tothe beginning of the battle and hope eve-rybody could remember how many hitpoints they had already lost and howmany charges they had used from theirmagical items. As it was, nobody waspleased with the player of the mage.
When you add information to yourcharacter sheet, try to keep everything asorganized as possible. Write down thecharacter�s magical items on one side ofthe page and the party treasure lists onthe other. Write everything in pencil. Ifthere�s something that you need to re-move, erase it instead of crossing it out. Ifthe paper starts to get worn out or disor-ganized, get a fresh character sheet andrecopy the current information. Above allelse, keep your character organized.
Character stabilityLong-time role-players enjoy creating a
new character every now and then. Itallows them to play different roles and canadd a little life to the game. But take iteasy! I have seen players who want to playnew characters or different classes everyother game session. Experimentation iswell and good, but how can the DM buildany consistency into his world if the play-ers insist upon popping different PCs inand out without any warning? It alsodoesn�t make much sense for one personto disappear and someone new to show up
18 DECEMBER 1992
without reason in the middle of adungeon. Finally, what happens if theplayer of a key character suddenly decidesto run someone new at a critical point ofthe planned adventure?
If you wish to create a new character,discuss it with your DM. He can then finda good point to retire one character andintroduce another into the game.
The style of playThere are as many ways to play D&D or
AD&D games as there are DMs. While oneDM likes a little thought-provoking mys-tery, another prefers nothing but hack-and-slash fighting, and a third uses little orno combat at all. Many enjoy running theinteraction of the characters while othersconsider such things boring. One has nomagic in his game, and another has magicaround every turn.
There�s nothing wrong with any of thesestyles of play, but different people preferdifferent kinds of role playing. If your DMdoesn�t run the type of game you like, youshould find a DM who does. It may take abit of looking, but somewhere out there isa game to fit your preference. If you can�tfind one, consider running your owngame. Whatever you do, don�t try to forcethe present group to play the way youwant them to.
Don�t ignore the obviousDespite rumors, DMs are not gods. No
matter how hard they try, they cannotcreate an exciting adventure for everydirection a party of adventurers mightwant to take. Nor is it their job to herd thePCs into their next adventure as if theywere cattle. Instead, a good DM will putsome obvious signposts in her games tosuggest one of several possible adventures.She might tell the players about a legendof lost treasure, present a person or groupwho needs help, or just land the charac-ters at the front door of the nearestdungeon.
Pay attention to these subtle and not-so-subtle hints. While the DM isn�t trying tolead the characters by the hand, she stillneeds to inform them where the nextpossible adventure will take place. Whenthe players insist on ignoring everythingthe DM has planned, then she has nochoice but to run random encounters,create something on the spot, or resort toforcing the characters into their nextadventure.
It is your choice as a player whether ornot you wish to have your character go onany particular quest. This makes youultimately responsible for how muchaction your character sees. If the DM givesyou three possible directions, don�t go the
disappointed if nothing exciting happensto your character that night. It�s difficultto run a good campaign, but it�s impossibleto have any enjoyable gaming if the play-ers constantly try to go the wrong way.
Future directionsA good DM likes to run adventures the
players are interested in, so he wants tohear the opinions and suggestions of theplayers. This is important when a majorexpedition has ended and the next gamestarts a new adventure. Are there someloose ends from a previous adventure thecharacters would like to explore? Is theresome great task they wish to set for them-selves? Is there some city or unknowncountry they�d like to visit? Tell the DM!The characters� interests could wind upbeing the focal point of the next game.Telling the DM the characters� plans forthe next game session also cures the�wrong way� syndrome mentioned in thelast section, since he now knows whichway the characters are planning to go andis able to concentrate on those directions.
Making life easier doesn�t require a lot ofeffort. All it takes is a little forethoughtand consideration. By removing the dis-tractions and bothersome holdups fromthe game, role-playing games will be far
fourth way. If you do choose to run awayfrom the planned adventure, don�t be
more enjoyable experiences for the otherplayers as well as the DM.
20 DECEMBER 1992
Take some of the referee’s burden and speed up your game
22 DECEMBER 1992
When playing a role-playing system likethe D&D® or AD&D® game, there are sev-eral roles the players can perform duringthe playing session that can make the gamemore exciting. These roles help playabilityby taking some tasks from the DungeonMaster and letting players assist in runningthe game. Using the abilities of the players tohelp create the world in which their charac-ters live can make gaming sessions moreexciting for everyone. Here are somesuggestions.
Where are we?The Map Keeper is in charge of creating
visual aides from descriptions given by theDM. If a player character is actually map-ping, the map and any other drawings maybe kept by the players and noted or refer-enced in the chronicle (see later). If no PC ismapping, then any written descriptionsshould be given to the DM when the PCsleave that area.
The player performing this mapping roleneed not be an artist, though he should havegraph paper and several pencils with gooderasers. This person primarily does themapping for the group and creates the floorplans in important areas, such as areaswhere melee takes place. The setting-up ofany other visual aides, such as PC and mon-ster miniatures and 3-D displays of walls,doors, and other terrain features, are anoptional responsibility of the Map Keeper(with appropriate help from the DM).
When was that?During melee, a chase, or other time-
sensitive situations, the Timekeeper helpsthe DM and the players ensure that allactions are timed properly. At the end ofeach round, the Timekeeper records thepassage of time, working with the DM andother players to see that attacks, spells,etc. are timed correctly. The Timekeeperalso keeps track of the current date, assiststhe Chronicler (see later) in calendar keep-ing, and announces PC hit points regainedthrough rest. The Timekeeper also keepstrack of when the characters have eaten,how much food and drink are still available,whether food has gone bad or not, and anyother time-activated concerns of the party.This role is especially important in timedadventures and encounters.
by David WilderArtwork by David Zenz
Who�s in charge?The Speaker designates the marching
order and coordinates the strategy of thegroup with the input of the other players.This player is the main speaker for thegroup to the DM, and it is recommendedthat his character be the main speaker forthe party to all nonplayer characters (thismakes it much easier to determine who isspeaking within the game context). Ofcourse other characters should feel free tointeract, but the Speaker should be theplayer in charge of the verbal communica-tion for the group. This role is best handledby the player who controls the PC with thehighest Charisma rating, though a well-spoken and clever player may take the roleif her character has a reasonable Charisma.The Speaker must be very familiar with thenames, classes, and personalities of all thecharacters in the group.
What went on?The Chronicler keeps track of the story,
the goals of the PCs, major NPCs encoun-tered, important actions taken by the partyas well as by individual characters, andother pertinent information. This is an im-portant role for solving puzzles and is oftencritical for survival; thus, everyone shouldkeep appraised of what is in the chroniclebeing kept, checking for corrections asnecessary. If a module takes several gamingsessions, the Chronicler begins each sessionby reading the important events from thechronicle. Between gaming sessions, thenotes taken for the chronicle should beorganized, and the actions and events listedwith their time and date. The DM shouldconsider using the chronicle to assist inexperience-point determination and in creat-ing spin-off adventures.
The player-NPCSituations frequently arise in which play-
ers could run alternate characters. Perhapsthe party gets split up, a character becomesparalyzed or unconscious, or a PC is killed.Few things are more distracting to gameplay than a DM and a player trying to rollup a character on the side while the game isgoing on. Rather than leaving the player outof the game, allowing him to play an NPCcan keep everyone interested and involvedin the adventure.
For example, Tom (a player) is running amage who suffered a feeblemind attackduring investigations into the properties of anewly acquired magical item. In order tohelp the mage, the remainder of the partywent on a quest. Instead of sending Tomaway, the DM can brief Tom on a group oforc guards in the passages that the charac-ters will need to explore. When the partyencounters these orc guards, Tom helpsbring the battle to life by giving the orcsnames and personalities, adding tactics, andmaking the appropriate dice rolls. No matterhow good a DM�s repertoire of battle criesand death yells, it can be a pleasant changefor everyone to hear a different voice. Thisgives the DM much-needed time to preparefor future events or simply enjoy watchingthe players run the game, and it also helpsdevelop the players� ability to role-play.
Obviously, a player can throw the gameout of balance by treating such privilegeswithout respect. Referees should ensure thatplayers do not take advantage of situationsby making life too easy or hard for the PCs.Nevertheless, a game referee is just that: areferee. He need not control the entiregame. Generally, the more freedom playershave, the more they enjoy playing, but gamebalance must be maintained by the DM.
One important note on the player-NPC: Itis not a good idea to allow players to runmajor NPCs (the master villain, the good highpriest who sent the party, etc.). Not onlydoes this make it much too easy for playersto destroy game balance, but it is essentiallyplaying with two DMs. While the �team DM�concept can work, it takes a lot of planningand practice.
Players can also assist the DM by runningcombat procedures and giving ideas towardoverall campaign development. The idea is toincrease the interaction of the players withinthe game and to allow players to use theirimaginative talents to further create thefantasy world in which their characters live.Of course, the DM must act as a campaigneditor to modify or eliminate suggesteddevelopments that would destroy playability.Still, increased interaction of the playerswith the DM makes AD&D and D&D gamescome alive, adding creative angles thatwould otherwise be lost. Remember that ifyou are a DM, these roles train your playersto be DMs so that you can play, too!
24 DECEMBER 1992
Incorporating novice players into your campaign
by Neil McGarry
Artwork by Tom Dow
ovice role-playing game players canbe a trial to the most knowledgeableand experienced gaming groups.There is so much for them to learn,
and the older players often do not want towait for them to learn it. How do you, asthe DM, bridge the gap?
The key lies in making the training ofthe new RPG player the job of the entiregroup, not just the DM. This spreads outthe responsibility and speeds up the awk-ward period of adjustment the group goesthrough when taking on a new member.Here are a few tips to help you, the DM,help your new players get adjusted.
1. Set aside some time to work withthe new player alone. Start the newplayer off by having her roll up her charac-ter�s statistics, then let her choose a class.This will be one of the biggest decisionsearly on, so be prepared to give goodadvice. Try to remain impartial, however,or else she may wind up choosing the classshe thinks you want her to use, rather thanrelying on her own preferences.
Once that is out of the way, you can gether familiar with armor class, hit points,saving throws, and the other mechanics ofrole-playing, so she will at least knowwhat you mean when you say, �Make asaving throw versus poison.� Ironically, I
find that most new players have more of aproblem in identifying the type of dicethey need to roll than in why they need toroll them (where else do you ever use 12-sided dice?). Keep this in mind as you andyour veteran players are throwing aroundterms like �d20� or �d12.�
When the player begins to choose thespecifics of her character (spells for wiz-ards, weapon proficiencies for fighters,etc.), try to maintain a �hands-off�approach. Answer her questions, butdon�t create the character for her. Whencomplicated rules arise, such as the fight-ing styles in PHBR1 The Complete Fighter�sHandbook, don�t try to explain everythingat once. Unless your new player is a whiz,this will confuse and aggravate her. Goslowly and give her time to understandthe more complex rules. In extreme caseswhere a difficult choice must be made,recommend specifics that you know shewill be happy with, and be willing to lether change these retroactively as shegains experience. The other players mayhowl when you let her change one profi-ciency to another, but they should be will-ing to compromise to accommodate thenew player (and if not, then a few goodDM growls should suffice to convincethem). Finally, be prepared to stop game-play when the new player runs into a
problem; this slows down play at first butshould happen less often as time goes byand the novice gains confidence.
Beware of the novice who nods toomuch, because it probably means that shedoesn�t understand what�s going on but isafraid to slow down the game to ask for anexplanation. Take the time to explain any-thing she doesn�t understand, and makecertain she knows that you are willing toanswer any questions.
Most importantly, be sure that thenovice turns first to you, the DM, foradvice on specific rules. The other playersmay be well-intentioned in their efforts toadvise her, but as we all know, many play-ers have their own versions of the rules(�Oh, sure, you can bring a war elephantinto a dungeon!�). This requires the DMhave a working knowledge of the rulesherself, a necessary prerequisite for anygood referee.
2. Emphasize preparedness. The newplayer must be willing to spend the timeand effort to learn the rules, or else yourbest efforts will be wasted. Of course, hecannot be expected to become a rulesexpert after just a few sessions, but heshould have a willingness to read the rule-books on his own. Again, if you let himlean on you too much at first, you�ll wind
up playing his character for him. To helphim out, write or type out a summary ofthe most important rules needed duringplay, such as calculating THAC0, initiative,etc., that he can keep within easy reachand refer to as needed. This will savecountless minutes of frantic flippingthrough the Player�s Handbook for a tableor chart. One idea that works particularlywell is drawing up an attack matrix (seethe AD&D® 1st Edition game�s DungeonMaster�s Guide, pages 74-75), according tohis character�s chance to hit. THAC0 canbe a difficult concept to master, and thiswill ease him into calculating his chanceof success for himself. Another usefuladdition to the summary is on page 93 ofthe AD&D 2nd Edition game�s PH, entitled�What You Can Do in One Round.� I findthat one of the most frequently askedquestions of new players is �Well, whatcan I do?� so this information should givethem a head-start on the answer.
If the player is using a spell-caster(something that is not recommended formost novice players), photocopy or typeout the spell listings on pages 126-128 ofthe PH and highlight those his characterhas access to. This comes in especiallyhandy for priest characters, whose majorand minor access to various spheres iscertain to confuse a new player. Allow the
player to use these aids freely, whilestressing that they exist to supplement therules, not substitute for them. Gettingfamiliar with the rules themselvesrequires a little time away from the gam-ing table, but as all experienced playersknow, it�s worth the effort. If the player islagging on his �homework,� a word to thewise should be sufficient to motivate him.The best advice a DM can give a newplayer is �Know your character.� Learnwhat he can do, and what he can�t.
3. Assign another player to be aguide for the novice. Ask for volunteersor assign someone you trust to lendresponsible guidance. Your players maynot be inclined to do this, so simplyremind them that breaking in the newplayer is everyone�s job, not just the DM�s.If that doesn�t work, try a small bribe tosweeten the pot (extra experience points,for example, depending on the guide�sperformance). If all else fails, the threat ofa vampire or two can be a marvelousincentive to perform such a service.
Once the �guide� has been chosen, tellthe novice that she would do well to fol-low the example of her new guide duringplay. Emphasize, however, the importanceof innovation; in other words, see that thenovice isn�t blindly parroting the experi-
enced player. Warn the other players thatwhile outside suggestions to the noviceare welcome, you will not allow her to beverbally bombarded (�Cast a spell!� �No,throw a flask of oil!� �Don�t do that! Helpmy character!�), a tactic virtually guaran-teed to discourage new players from everreturning to the gaming table. Ideally, thenovice should rely more heavily on herguide at first, then less so as she gainsknowledge and confidence. This expeditesplay, keeps your players happy, and makesyour job as DM a little easier.
These suggestions may not fit all gam-ing groups; some DMs may prefer a�hands-on� approach to training, whileothers may leave it entirely to the noviceto sink or swim. However it is done, theaddition of a new player should not be atrial for the DM, but an experience sharedby the whole group. If it�s done properly, itcan result in a sharp new player, atougher party of PCs, and a more enjoy-able game for all involved.
46 JUNE 1993
Handicapped heroes in super-hero RPGs
by Justin Mohareb
Color by Steve Sullivan
Many gamers think the only super- handicapped. Thor, in his former guise of years as the X-Men's mentor. Psylocke washeroes worth playing in a role-playing the mortal Dr. Donald Blake, had a lame blinded, and later given cybernetic eyes.game (RPG) are the huge invulnerable, leg. Professor Charles Xavier has been Daredevil is blind. Hawkeye is, as a resultmuscle-bound types. They find the idea of confined to a wheelchair for most of his of an earlier adventure, almost deaf with-playing a handicapped hero somewhat out his hearing aids. Silhouette of the Newoffensive. Warriors uses crutches. Bushmaster, like
Fortunately, the comics do not share Donald Pierce of the Reavers, was a quad-this attitude. There have been many riplegic who usedheroes who were in one way or another
D R A G O N 8 1
cybernetic limbs to replace his own�inBushmaster�s case, cybernetic arms and asnake�s lower body. Artie from the Exter-minators cannot speak, so he uses histelepathic projection power to communi-cate. The creator of the Box armor, RogerBochs, had no legs, so he designed hisarmor to grant him mobility
Overcoming handicapsIt is possible to run a hero who is not
functioning at 100% capacity. There aremany powers or gimmicks that can beused to help get around physical handi-caps. A simple hearing aid, a robotic servi-tor, a suit of cybernetically controlledarmor, a telekinetic power, or magicalspells could be used to negate or counter-act handicaps. Cybernetic limbs could beused also. Some heroes, like inventors andpsychics, do nor engage in physical com-bat often, so physical handicaps would beless of a hindrance to them. A psychiccould be deaf, and �hear� by readingthoughts directed at him Or he could beable to communicate by true telepathy.
A magic-using or mentalist charactercould be unable to walk, or could be para-lyzed, unable to move at all. This hero stillcould adventure in her astral form, how-ever. It would be downright interesting tohave a character whom the others wouldnever see in a solid form, but only in anamorphous mist resembling a humanbody. Imagine the character assuming sheis immune to physical attacks, but thenhaving to tight a gaseous vampire, or theastral form of an opposing mage or psy-chic. A wheelchair-bound villain can stillbe an excellent mastermind, and from thechair he may control various death traps.Imagine an evil genius, trapped in an ironlung, who controls robotic replicas of theheroes to ruin their reputations by rob-bing banks, etc. Perhaps he hires othervillains to do his dirty work for him.Remember Silvermane, the Maggia leaderwho fought Spider-Man and Cloak andDagger? He ruled his criminal empirefrom a bed, and even when the heroesfound him, he was still able to protecthimself. Later, his brain was placed in acybernetic body that let him mix it up withthem directly.
Benefits for handicapped PCsWhy would a player want to play a char-
acter with a physical handicap? One rea-son is that the Judge might allow bonusKarma points for good role-playing.Another reason is that they could simplybe forced to do it. A better reason is thatthe Judge allows a +1CS to a certain abil-ity or superpower. (Bonus points could beawarded during the character-creationprocess, if the game system you use hasthat feature). For example, if CharlesXavier was a starting character, then hewould have been given a +1CS to hismental abilities to compensate for his
82 JULY 1993
handicap. Daredevil may have, inresponse to his blindness, been given a+1CS or +2CS bonus to his Intuition abil-ity, or perhaps was given sonar as a bonuspower. Penalties for blind charactersengaged in combat without some sort ofcompensation could be the same as thepenalties for fighting in darkness, as givenin the MARVEL SUPER HEROES�Advanced Set Judge�s Book.
There may be unforeseen benefits to aphysical handicap if the Judge is imagina-tive. How often has some villain tried touse a hologram, illusion, or some blindingtactic on Daredevil? Hawkeye wasimmune to Angar the Screamer�s andScreaming Mimi�s sound-induced halluci-nations because he couldn�t hear thesounds. Cyborg of the Teen Titans neverhas to worry about losing an arm becausehe can simply have it soldered back on.Donald Pierce would be missing an armright now (if he wasn�t already) due to theattack Wolverine made on his extremity inthe battle with the Hellfire Club severalyears ago. A cyborg might also be immuneto the stunning or extra damage effects ofcertain martial arts due to the lack ofnerve centers in their cybernetic limbs
The Judge could use handicaps as arole-playing tool. A character could find itimperative to see the mayor, but she can-not enter City Hall because she cannot getup the steps in her wheelchair and thereis no handicapped-access ramp. Usingpublic transportation, going shopping, oreven making a phone call can be difficultfor many handicapped persons due toproblems of accessibility Perhaps thehero is in the vicinity of a criminal tryingto escape from the police. A deaf herocouldn�t hear the police sirens. A hero in awheelchair probably couldn�t chase thecriminal down a busy city street and catchhim. Scenarios even can teach the playersabout what it is like to be handicapped intoday�s society Don�t get too preachyabout this, though, and don�t do this toooften so as not to completely frustrate thecharacter. Maybe the handicapped herocan later work to improve accessibility forall handicapped people.
An excellent adventure could be builtaround a character who hears that thereis an NPC capable of removing or curinghis handicap. This can lead to the charac-ter being healed by magic, regeneration,or some type of cloning. Or, the herocould arrive to find his potential benefac-tor dead in the snow, and have to avengehis death and retrieve the magical scrollor medical notes containing the potentialcure. Perhaps an old enemy hears of thehero�s potential cure and kidnaps the NPCbefore the hero can be cured. The herowill then have a very keen interest inworking to rescue the NPC
Whatever you do, don�t make it too easy.As always, the characters should have tofight every step of the way to achieve theirgoals. Say Doctor Doom wanted a plasticsurgeon to repair his face. Suppose one ofthe characters wanted this same surgeonto do a similar service, or that one of theheroes is the surgeon and Victor VonDoom appears in his waiting room oneday. Ideas are starting to simmer, aren�tthey?
Running a handicapped hero can lead tosome intense role-playing and a good dealof imaginative power use. Don�t hesitate totry such a character in your campaign asa PC (or an NPC if you�re a GM). You maybe more surprised at what you can dothan what you can�t.
Marvel characters and the distinctive name andlikenesses thereof are trademarks of Marvel Enter-tainment Group, Inc. and used with permission.Copyright ©1993 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc.All Rights Reserved.
Organizationby Richard Hunt
Artwork By Jim Holloway
One commonly overlooked aspect ofsuccessfully mastering any fine role-playing game is the ability to organize thegame itself. This entails every �aspect of thegame, from the rules right down to thepaperwork that keeps it running fromsession to session. A badly disorganizedgame master is a frustrating sight, espe-cially for the players; it can utterly crushtheir confidence and respect for his abilityto run a successful and enjoyable game. AGM who fumbles through piles of rulesupplements, forgets crucial playing mate-rials, or loses important information fromsession to session eventually ruins thecontinuity of the game. He eventuallybecomes frustrated and impatient with theeffort, as well as the hard criticism of hisplayers, at which point he must either givein or . . . get organized!
Before deciding to get organized, the GMshould be sure he really has time to mas-ter the game. A lack of time could be thereal cause of the disorganization. As we allknow, GMs are people, too. If lack of timeis the problem, the best thing to do is keepthe game as simple as possible. Restrict theuse of supplementary material, avoid theuse of house rules, or play a little lessfrequently. This cuts down on the amountof game material the GM must learn andgives him more time in which to prepare.Frankly, playing a simple version of thegame is better than not playing at all.
The players can also handle some tasks.In fact, turning over select tasks to mem-bers of the group is another good way tofind the time for a quality game. Reallyenthusiastic players, typically those whokeep adventure logs, remember past ses-sions with great clarity, or have a passionfor rules accuracy, can often be phenome-nal at keeping track of party-related infor-mation, freeing the GM for otherfunctions.
Organization is otherwise a very practi-cal matter. Knowing where to put every-thing is the first step; keeping it there isthe second. This article suggests severalmethods for doing just that, for the
30 AUGUST 1993
Material from game magazines (suchthis one) can present a special problem
AD&D® game as well as other fantasy role-playing games.
Organizing the rulesThe first task every GM must tackle is
organizing the rules. Many game systemspresent the GM with several optional rulessystems, even in the basic rule book. Suchis the case with the AD&D 2nd EditionPlayer’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’sGuide. Supplements and additional refer-ences may also enter the market as timegoes on, and these can pile up�even con-tradict one another�unless the diligentGM stays on top of them. Decide early onwhat optional rules you are going to use.Upon buying a new supplement, read itand decide what sections you plan to usein the same manner. Write up a list of alloptional rules or mark them in the books.I highly recommend the use of Post-ItNotes or easy-stick labels so you canchange your mind later. Be sure to informthe players of your selections, allowingthem to make the same marks in theirown rule books as well. Be flexible andallow the players to voice their objectionsor suggest changes. In the end, this givesyou something to point to when a playerdeclares his intention to use an optionalrule you may have disallowed.
Many GMs also have house rules. Writethese down somewhere and place them inthe rule book or a notebook with othermaterials. If there are a substantial num-ber of house rules, consider writing up asmall pamphlet of them to copy and dis-tribute. New players are especially appre-ciative of being apprised of all house rulesfrom the start.
And in role-playing games,
The best solution is to decide which newrules to include. Be very selective andavoid using every new rule or article.Photocopy the table of contents fromevery issue of relevant magazines and thearticles themselves. Place all of them in aloose-leaf notebook, in date or issue order.Plastic tabs may even be used to separatearticles on different subjects, particularlynew magical items, weapons, spells, mon-sters, and procedures. Granted, this is agreat deal of trouble, but it could be worthit once you have established a system.
A good way to avoid all this is throughthe use of a computer database; it can beused to create an index of the articles youplan to use sorted by subject matter. Sim-ply print out a listing of the articles youplan to use after updating it each month. Iam in the process of converting fromphotocopies to a data base�it�s highlyrecommended. Of course, this requiresthat the magazines be on hand duringplay, perhaps on a nearby shelf.
Once all this is done, physically separatethe rule books you intend to use from theones you don�t; this includes house rulesand article notebooks. Place all of therelevant ones on a shelf near your writingdesk, computer, or wherever you ploteach game session, for quick and handyreference. It is also important to keepbooks from other systems, old editions,magazines, boxed sets, board games, andmodules separate. Many of these can stillbe valuable reference materials, but thecore rule books are of higher priority.Separating the rule books solidifies in yourmind which references are most impor-tant; it also allows you to just grab themall when moving to the play area withouthaving to sort through them every timeyou play.
Organizing the game worldOnce the game rules are organized, the
game world material is next. The first stephere depends on the game world. If thegame world is a commercial product, yourtask is relatively simple; just put all materi-
we do mean everything!
als detailing the world in the original box,placing any supplements next to it. Placethis right next to the organized rules onyour shelf. Read them often and becomevery familiar with where specific informa-tion (history, politics, etc.) is located. Ifoptional rules have been introduced with aparticular world, mark these as you wouldbasic rule books and supplements.
All world maps should be framed (posterframes are inexpensive) and hung orpinned up in the play area if at all possi-ble. Poster frames are really a must, sinceyou can write on them with markerswithout marring the maps. Leaving themaps in the box does not allow you tobecome familiar with them. If a worldatlas is available (such as with TSR�sFORGOTTEN REALMS® andDRAGONLANCE® settings), then by allmeans use it instead. Atlases tend to bemore detailed, highly portable, and by fareasier to use than posters. I have seenmore than one GM attempt to navigate theparty�s course on fold-out maps, throw uphis hands in disgust, and toss the wholemess on the floor!
The GM should then set about makingchanges to the world. Just because youbought the game world does not meanthat you can�t do a bit of judicious prun-ing. You bought it�it�s yours. Take out thethings you really hate and add anythingyou wish. Change the names of places,people, historical events, gods, or anythingelse, all to suit you. It may even be neces-sary to make up a few things that thedesigners failed to develop. For instance, Ihave found that almost no one includes aworld calendar! You could even go so faras to add new cities and develop areas thatremain purposefully undeveloped. Allmajor additions should be detailed inwriting. Place such information in anotherloose-leaf notebook or in the boxed set. Inthis particular case, tell the players onlythe most obvious changes you�ve made; letthem slowly discover the rest-those partsof the game world that are of your inven-tion. Players who read game-world materi-
al and know it backward and forward willbe foiled as well. Do as much or as little asyou think needs to be done. If you�resatisfied with everything on the whole,don�t do anything�it�s that simple.
Organizing your own game world isvery time-consuming but extremely re-warding. How you develop this world isup to you. First, however, take a look atcommercial game worlds for examples ofwhat to do and what not to do. A goodfriend of mine bought a game world, madea ton of photocopies, bashed it withsweeping changes, then discovered thatevery commercial adventure set on thatgame world was tens of thousands ofmiles away from every other adventurerequiring great amounts of travel, hun-dreds of random encounters, or magicalexplanations for how the party managedto get on the other side of the world!Needless to say, he gave up and moved onto another world, all the wiser.
The real key to beginning is to start withonly the basics. This might include worldhistory, the seasons, phases of the moon(s),mythology and gods, kingdoms and poli-tics, geology, wildlife, and ecology. The GMhas a unique opportunity to performmany tasks without mastering any ofthem; he is often expected to be a biolo-gist, meteorologist, geologist, astrologer,historian, political scientist, and artist, toname just a scant few. Players often askthe strangest questions, and the best youcan do is be organized enough to knowwhere the answer might be, particularlywhen the question is about your world.The AD&D Campaign Sourcebook/Catacomb Guide is an excellent source ofgeneral tips, ideas, and information forany game system.
Keep in mind that your game world willnever be complete. World-building is a verytime-consuming process, sometimes lonely(unless you enlist aid), and often unappreci-ated. If you can live with all of that, then youare probably suited to the task of organizinga beautiful new game world. Unfortunately,no one can tell you how to organize it. Eachworld is unique in style and its organizationdepends on the individual. The only surety isthat it must be organized in the same waythat a painting must be painted. Seekingmultiple examples is really the best way todecide how your world must be made andordered.
The GM�s notebookOnce the rules and game world are
organized, the GM should decide how hewants to organize the day-to-day events ofthe campaign, the fine details of the char-acters� lives to come. The GM should puttogether another notebook to aid in run-ning the campaign from session to session.The organization of this book may vary,but a basic blueprint for this notebook isvery necessary; at the very least, it shouldcontain six sections.
The first section should contain thecampaign outline. Using standard out-
3 2 A U G U S T 1 9 9 3
line format, the GM should write a de-tailed outline of how the campaign shouldprogress or how an adventure should beintroduced. A single outline should gener-ally cover about 3-5 game sessions if possi-ble, and each section should cover a majorplot line. A section of a basic outline for anAD&D adventure might look like this:
The Dark ArrowA. The heroes have learned that Falcon�s
Peak is newly inhabited by a tribe ofgoblins, led by their chief Lorzniskik.
B. They are also aware of the presence ofa green dragon, Emer, in the Haven-wood, though they have not learnedthe location of her lair.
1. An arrow of dragon slaying waslost on Falcon�s Peak; this infor-mation is revealed by the newparty member who lost it there,Vaulinon. The party hopes thegoblins found the arrow andattacking their lair will yield it.
2. The goblins do have the arrow,but are unaware of its nature. Itis a �needle in a haystack� oftribal arrows.
C. The party attacks Falcon�s Peak andretrieves the arrow. They return to thecity in preparation for the confronta-tion with the green dragon.
D. The characters travel to the Haven-wood, where they discover the locationof the old dragon�s lair from a pair ofslightly green-tinted (from exposure tochlorine gas) ogres. After they interro-gate the ogres, the heroes go to the lair.
E. The heroes kill the green dragon with asuccessful shot�or they are in deeptrouble!
Subplots, such as the appearance of arival party seeking to gain the arrow, canbe planned as well. The main thing to keepin mind is that this outline details whatshould happen, not what will happen. Theparty may decide to sell the arrow orignore the adventure hooks altogether.That�s why the GM should have otheroutline sections to fall back on. The outlineis only a very loose script, and the GMshould treat it as such.
The second section of the notebookshould contain a very simple campaigncalendar upon which to mark the pas-sage of the days of the year, keep track ofthe current date, and write in small notes.A calendar with twelve months should bedivided into four pages, three months to apage, with at least one square inch per dayfor notes (graph paper is excellent in thisregard). At the end of a session, the timeof day can be written in for the currentdate. This section helps keep track of timeand events between sessions.
The next section should contain all ofthe campaign�s major nonplayer charac-ters. This can be a very thick section ofnotebook paper, computer printouts of allNPCs (one to a page), or the like. Indexcards are really too small to keep very
good track of NPCs. Compute r users canalso include a list of all NPCs in the sectionfor quick reference.
The fourth section should contain infor-mation on the player characters, in-cluding (using the AD&D game as anexample) their names, classes, levels,races, hit points, proficiencies, or anyother relevant information. The mostimportant part of this section is themagical-item listing, which contains a listof all magical items for each PC. Thisserves two purposes: First, the GM cangauge the level of magic in the campaign,whether there is too much (i.e, MontyHaul) or not enough (i.e., Uncle Scrooge).He can also keep track of information thatshould be secret, such as magical charges,unknown functions, command words, andthe special status of particularly harmfulitems (cursed items, rings of delusion, andsentient weapons). An item should have aquestion mark by it if it has not been fullyidentified by its owner. Again, a computeris ideal for keeping track of such things.
The last two sections should contain theadventure and the statistical listing of allmonsters in the adventure, respectively.Modules should be photocopied if at allpossible, so that sections may be high-lighted, struck, or altered as necessary. Aplastic sleeve for a three-ring binder (avail-able at office supply stores) can house afold-out style module. The last sectionshould contain the statistical listings of allmonsters in the outline and adventure;thus the goblins, ogres, and green dragonfrom the outline above would be includedin this section, with all hit points pregener-ated and ready to go. Hand-drawn orcomputer-generated forms are equallyuseful here.
Have campaign, must travelThe final task is to prepare for traveling
to the game site, whether it be a diningroom twenty paces away, a friend�s apart-ment across town, or a gaming club. Manystores sell plastic containers, cardboardboxes, and other forms of luggage perfectfor storing and moving game materials;fishing tackle boxes and cosmetics caseswork well. In any case, keeping gamematerials such as miniature figures, vinylmats, pens, pencils, dice, scratch paper,calculators, GM�s screens, and other ef-fects (trees, rocks, dungeon furniture, etc.)all together, organized, and ready to go onshort notice is a necessity.
Using these methods for organizing yourgame can make as much difference asknowing how to tell a good story or know-ing the rules of the game. How can you tella good story if you don�t know where tofind it? The same goes for the rules. Play-ers are impressed, at least subconsciously,by a well-organized game. Organizing thegame by using these methods can benefiteveryone and make the game an event toremember, with an organized GM to thankfor it.
Making the Mostof a Module
by Lisa Stevens
and have learned what works and whatdoesn�t. They also have a firm grasp on thegame system and thus can highlight interest-ing aspects that might be unique to a partic-ular game. Also, the work of these pros candemonstrate how to make your own adven-tures better. In addition, published adven-tures offer you the use of an adventure thatwas created with significant time and effort,and which probably will be more intricateand detailed than anything you could inventin the limited time you have between gam-ing sessions. The companies that make role-playing games have the time and money toinclude useful extras such as detailed maps,
Running a role-playing game requiresthe expenditure of a great deal of time.One way to decrease the amount of prepa-ration time is to use published adventures.Don�t think this alleviates the need for anypreparation on your part though, for youmust learn to use modules properly beforethey can become a truly useful tool inyour role-playing campaign.
Published scenarios have many positiveaspects that can help a novice GM. First,most modules are written by professionals,people who make their living crafting mate-rials for role-playing games. These veteranshave created a lot of scenarios in their time
player handouts, and even three-dimensionalbuildings to use with miniature figures.
So you�re sold on published scenariosnow, are you? Well, let me offer a word ofwarning�there�s more to using a pub-lished adventure than just sitting down,reading it through once, and getting yourgaming group together. Just like writingyour own scenario, the use of a publishedscenario requires a fair amount of work.The end result will be many game sessionsof fine play.
Before you play a published adventure,you need to do the following things: Orga-nize the contents, tailor the scenario tosuit your world, adjust the scenario to fityour characters, and be prepared foralternative story lines that the scenariodoesn�t address. To illustrate these points, Iam going to use the TSR module, T1-4 TheTemple of Elemental Evil, which I ran formy AD&D® group when it was released.
Organizing the contentsOrganization: This word is a cornerstone
of being a game master, but becomes evenmore important when using a publishedscenario. Many published adventures dosome of this work for you, giving you listsof the monsters used and player handoutsto help certain sections run more smooth-ly. However, you still need to have a firmgrasp on where to find information, andhow the different NPCs and the differentsections of the story relate to each other. Ifyou have to flip constantly through theadventure looking for the relevant facts,you aren�t properly organized and yourgame will suffer.
When you write your own adventure,you become intimately familiar with yourcreation. When you use a published sce-nario, you need to learn a lot about it. Todo this, organization is the key. Makenotes and photocopies of important sec-tions or reference sheets, so you can haveall the useful information at your finger-tips. Also, make lists of the encounters inthe scenario and include any relevantstatistics such as armor classes and hitpoints. Refresh your memory by rereadingany sections of the game�s rules that aparticular encounter will emphasize (suchas underwater combat) and make notes
for your use in game-play. In short, ifthere is something you think you mighthave to look up during the game, do theresearch beforehand and save game-timefor the game. By doing this, you familiar-ize yourself with the scenario and thishelps it to run more smoothly.
When preparing to run The Temple ofElemental Evil, I listed every creature andhumanoid that appears in the module. Oneof the important pieces of information inthe module is the affiliation each being haswith the elemental sects. By listing all thebeings belonging to a given elemental sectand where the relevant information canbe found in the module, I worked outtheir defense strategies ahead of time.This way, I was prepared in case my ad-venturers decided to barge into the temple
instead of using stealth. This roster alsoproved beneficial when the playersstepped outside the bounds of the pub-lished adventure, as you shall see below.
Another useful step I took with Templewas the detailing of the various treasurehoards. Many times modules will list trea-sure like: �400 gp, three 100-gp gems, four500-gp gems and two pieces of jewelryworth 2,000 gp and 5,000 gp respectively.�In my notes for the module, I named thegems (an aquamarine, a large carnelian,and a pearl), thus giving more depth to thetreasure hoards. The jewelry was alsodetailed, making each piece unique.
Another important step I took that themodule didn�t cover was a timetable forthe plans of the leaders of the temple.Remember that a module is set in a living,
70 DECEMBER 1993
thriving area, whether that setting is adungeon or a city. Events are going to takeplace on their own, regardless of the PCs�actions. Exactly what happens mightchange based on the characters� actions,but something will happen.
Tailoring the adventureYou now need to tailor the scenario to
your game world. Many times, if you areusing the same game world as the pub-lishers of the scenario, the changes shouldbe minor, but even in the campaigns thattry to stay as close as possible to the origi-nal campaign, changes will need to bemade. If Lord Beauregard died in an unex-pected accident in your campaign, hecannot appear to warn the characters ofsome impending doom�even if the pub-lished module says he does. In your world,Lord Beauregard doesn�t exist anymore.Whoever replaced him in his position asLord will have to take over the responsibil-ities the module ascribes to Beauregard. Ifhis successor is vastly different than thedeceased Lord, then the whole tone andoutcome of the adventure could be radi-cally altered.
These are things that you need to thinkabout before running the scenario. As youread through the module, make notes onplaces where things need to be changedand think about the effects those changeswill have on the adventure, By doing this,
you�ll be better prepared for whateverhappens when your players go traipsingthrough the scenario.
Thankfully for me, Temple takes place inthe WORLD OF GREYHAWK® setting,which was the campaign I was running atthe time. However, I still needed to makesome minor additions and changes.
I tied the plots of the temple to those ofthe greater forces in the GREYHAWKsetting, connecting the temple with theSlave Lords and Lolth�s plots, as well asthose of Iuz and Scarlet Brotherhood.Having all these factions active within thetemple made the plot seem much moreencompassing, and provided the addedadvantage of giving the characters leadsinto other GREYHAWK modules.
Adjusting to fit the charactersYou also have to remember to adjust the
adventure to fit your characters. If yourparty has a paladin who refuses to adven-ture with evil characters, having an assas-sin approach the party within a job offerwould be a poor choice. The person whowrote the adventure has no idea whatkind of characters you want to runthrough the scenario. If something in thestory causes a problem with your charac-ters, change it.
Also, make sure that the opposition isn�ttoo tough or too weak to challenge yourplayers. In your world, blue dragons maybe able to toast your PCs, whereas in mostworlds, they would be an even match forcharacters of their skill level, Again, theseare things that only you can judge since
It�s also fun to tie parts of a character�spast into the scenario. This makes theadventure come to life, as an old nemesisconfronts the party again. You often canfind spots in the published scenario wherethe addition of someone or something out
you are the only one who knows yourcampaign�s characters.
more realistic if the PCs do take the adven- I had made earlier, I was able to augmentture off its main track. In our own lives, the troops as needed, and my timelinewe are confronted by events daily that helped me determine which alliances hadcause us to deviate from our plans, but, wedeal with them and return to our initial
been made. Thus, I knew the composition
intentions. Preparing for these departuresof some of the new troops. The Temple ofElemental Evil ended up being one grand
will add more flavor and greater realismto the published adventure�s plot.
BATTLESYSTEM® game rather than thecovert infiltration scenario it was meant to
of the character�s past will make the sce- I decided that the village of Nulb, which be. This only occurred because the PCsnario that much more believable. Use this, is near the temple, would become more of deviated from the plot. If I hadn�t beentrick. Your players will never forget it. a factor in my campaign. As it turned out, organized, this might have thrown me for
In my game, one of the PCs was a pala- it was, though in ways I could never have a loop.din of Heironious named Repticestor. In expected. I had detailed who lived wherethe module, there is an imprisoned Fu- in the village and if they were connected Conc lus ionryondian noble, who I decided was related to the temple or not. When the monk PC�s By following these simple rules, you canto Repticestor. If the valiant paladin were ring of shooting stars got out of hand and make the most of published adventures,to free the imprisoned noble, both he and destroyed most of the town, I was able to and your world will seem much morehis family would gain much prestige and deal with it because I had prepared in detailed and real. [Editor’s Note: Applyhonor in the court of the king of Furyon- advance. The monk not only took upon these guidelines when reading thedy. This addition added some spice to the himself the task of putting back together DUNGEON® Adventures module, “Themodule, making it personal for the charac- the lives of those people whose homes he Whistling Skeleton,” in this magazine.]ters. destroyed, but he also decided to rebuild Published scenarios can be a boon to the
the town. time-crunched GM, but they shouldn�t bePreparing alternative story Another plot deviation that had larger used as an excuse for not putting time intol i nes ramifications occurred when the paladin next weeks game session. If used in that
As you read through the adventure, decided he wanted to find his war horse way, even the best modules can fail, andmake notes to yourself on areas where the before the party finished destroying the the players will feel cheated. Remember toPCs might deviate from the story as out- temple. So, as the group went in search of organize the scenario, tailor it to yourlined in the scenario and spend some time Repticestor�s war horse, the temple itself
was rebuilding from the losses inflicted.world and your characters, and prepare
fleshing out those areas, just in case. Then, for alternative story lines, and you will beif your PCs do deviate from the path the upon it by the PCs. When the group finally well on your way to a successful, excitingadventure�s author delineated, you�ll be made it back, the temple had come out of adventure.prepared. Preparing these potential devia- hiding, had fortified itself, and its armiestions makes the adventure that much had swelled. Using the roster of creatures
Superheroes taking an active role
by Alexander Teitz
Artwork by Paul Daly
The role of the superhero always hasbeen to protect the community from men-aces, both super-powered and normal. Inmost cases, this is accomplished by havingan individual hero or a team run patrolsaround a city. This way they can respondto emergencies quickly and directly. Al-though this method allows heroes to bethe first ones on the scene, there is an-other way for heroes to take action�havethe hero PCs take an active role in thecommunity.
Many superhero RPGs give experiencepoints for heroic PCs who participate inevents besides stopping crimes such asdoing acts of charity. These acts includeeverything from donating money to mak-ing personal appearances. Unfortunately,most heroes don�t go out of their way toearn this type of experience. Instead ahero will go through her job, life, andsuperheroic patrols and hope that some-thing will occur. In real life, some profes-sions and some lifestyles have access tothe dangers of society; most do not. In reallife, a person can volunteer her time andbecome involved with society. Why shouldthis be different with a hero? If anything,a hero can offer more than an averagecitizen. What normal citizen can support abrick wall, or give first aid at super-speed?This article presents six different catego-ries of activities that heroes can volunteerfor, and the real-life organizations that areinvolved in them. This article concludeswith Pandora�s Box, a National SuperheroOrganization that survives by communityparticipation. Please note that the inclu-sion of real-world problems and issues inthis article by no means is meant to trivial-ize these important concerns. This articlemerely attempts to add to the role-playingpossibilities of a four-color superherocampaign by incorporating modern-dayissues.
There are six categories a hero canvolunteer for: Health, Crime, Law, Envi-ronment, Disasters, and Miscellaneous.
HealthWithin this category, there are a number
of subsections including helping the el-derly, assisting those with physical andmental disabilities, helping those recover-ing from addiction, and participating inresearch groups. Some ways to help the
88 JULY 1994
elderly include driving them to and fromthe doctor, grocery store, relatives, etc., ordelivering medicines or groceries to themas needed. Many local organizations of thistype exist across the country. An adven-ture could occur when a hero PC is deliv-ering Mrs. Bagley to the hospital for anexamination, and discovers that the phar-macy has been robbed, all medicines tak-en, and all the pharmacy�s employees areunconscious.
The next section in Health is assistingthose physical and mental disabilities.Ways to assist include reading for theblind, volunteering to help those withdepression (a psychology talent or skill is amust), and helping build walkways andramps for businesses to comply with theAmericans With Disabilities Act. Heroeswith medical training or healing powerscould find careers in curing some individ-uals. Organizations include the UnitedCerebral Palsy Association, Recording forThe Blind, and the American PsychologicalAssociation. An adventure could beginwhen the PCs are working with a buildinggroup (to weld metal railings for ramps)when a villain mentally controls the build-ing group to fire the PCs and cancel theproject�s funding for no apparent reason.
There are many possibilities for heroesto help fight addiction. How do you help ateenager stay off drugs, or a businessmannot drink? Again, heroes with healingpowers could provide assistance. Organi-zations include Al-Anon, Alcoholics Anony-mous, and DARE (Drug Abuse ResistanceEducation). An adventure could beginwhen a villain starts selling an illegal drugthat makes people more susceptible to hismind control, and the heroes hear about itthrough a child at a DARE program.
The final Health section is participatingin disease-research organizations. If a herois a scientist or engineer, he could be vitalin researching new theories and buildingnew equipment to combat illness. Re-search organizations include the MuscularDystrophy Association, the AmericanCancer Society, and National Institutes ofHealth AIDS research. Campaigns couldstart with a hero character making publicappearances for the American CancerSociety when his grandfather contractslung cancer.
CrimeCrime includes not only pursuing and
apprehending villains, but also areas suchas domestic violence, corrections, andvictims� assistance. Fighting crime today ismore than beating up the bad guy, andrequires a caring hero to deal with thecomplex issues that arise.
The crime of child neglect has manyorganizations determined to put an end tothis outrage. Organizations include BigNational Committee for Prevention ofChild Abuse and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.Heroes can help by becoming a Big Broth-er or Big Sister or by helping kids healfrom child abuse both mentally and physi-cally. The campaign�s PCs could be in-volved when one hero becomes a fosterparent and the biological parent decides tohire a super-powered thug to gain illegalcustody of the child.
A hero may have to deal with criminalsshe brought to justice in the correctionssystem. A hero might volunteer to work atthe local Halfway House, or teach classesin prison. Organizations include the localjails and prisons. An adventure mightbegin when a PC is teaching math at asuper-powered prison and a riot breaksout in another part of the prison.
The last section is victims� assistance.Victims� assistance makes it possible forthe hero to see the results of a supervil-lain�s evil up close. Many people feel pow-erless in the face of crime, and it could bethe hero�s job to make a person feel like hehas control again. PCs with mental powerscould read the villain�s mind to help recov-er victims� stolen goods, etc. Telepaths mayserve as �juries� to determine accusedparties� innocence or guilt.
LawA category related to Crime is Law. Law
includes civil rights, consumer groups,housing, and labor unions. Law is whereheroes with Legal or Law Enforcementtalents are most useful.
The biggest section of Law is civil rights.Ways to help include having a lawyer herovolunteer his time to try a case or doresearch on one. Organizations include theNAACP, Indian Rights Association, NationalGay Task Force, and the American CivilLiberties Union (ACLU). An adventurecould begin when a lawyer hero is called
into court by the ACLU to help (as a law-yer) in the defense of a recently defeatedsupervillain because the villain�s civilrights were violated by the same hero atsome point during the villain�s capture.
The next section is consumer groups.Some ways a hero could participate in-clude getting people to register to vote, orinvestigating a sleazy telemarketing busi-ness. Organizations include political par-ties, The League of Women Voters of theUnited States, and the Better BusinessBureau. An adventure might arise whenthe heroic PCs� are portrayed in the mediaas violent people with no regard for civilrights, and any cause (charity, etc.) theheroes support suffers backlash.
Law also includes housing. Housingmight mean making sure a housing unit issafe to live in or investigating allegeddiscrimination against minorities seekinghousing. Organizations include the Depart-ment of Housing and Urban Developmentand the National Committee Against Dis-crimination in Housing. A campaign couldbegin when the landlord of one of the PC�srelatives refuses to take care of pest con-trol, dangerous wiring, unsafe or darkstairwells, etc., and the PC�s relative isinjured due to the landlords negligence.
The last section of Law is labor unions.Labor unions include the United AutoWorkers (UAW), the AFL-CIO, and teach-ers� unions. The biggest way for heroes tohelp is to arbitrate between a union andthe company its members work for, but ahero also could be called in to stop vio-lence during a strike. A campaign couldbegin when the hero team is asked to helparbitrate a labor strike and one of thefactions hires supervillains to interferewith the negotiations.
EnvironmentThe fourth category is the Environment.
The Environment includes stopping illegalwaste dumping, promoting recycling pro-grams, or protesting illegal deforestation.Organizations include Greenpeace, TheWorld Wildlife Fund, The National Geo-graphic Society, and state Public Informa-tion Research Groups (PIRGS). A campaigncould be built when a super villain team iscreated from an accident at the localpower plant because the plant managersrefused to repair environmental hazards.
DisastersDisasters range from a simple power
outage, to an earthquake or a hurricane.Ways to help include restoring power,rebuilding homes, and providing tempo-rary law enforcement for an area. Oneorganization that heroes could work withis the American Red Cross. Numerousadventures (stopping looting, flooding, caraccidents, etc.) could result from an earth-quake in the campaign�s home city, andcould take months to return the city tonormal.
MiscellaneousThe last category is a mixture of all
those other organizations that went un-named above. These include the Veterans�Administration, Amnesty International,the United Way, etc. In addition, heroescan volunteer for local libraries, historicalfoundations, and museums. Ways to helpcan be a mixture from ways mentionedabove to helping diagnose a new diseasegenetically engineered by a supervillain.
Besides dealing with problems nationally,heroes also can have an effect on theinternational scene. The area where he-roes can best be used is internationalrelief. On a local level, heroes can collectfood and supplies to be sent to a countrythat is suffering from shortages due towar, drought, famine, etc. If a hero isinvolved in the International Red Cross,the Red Crescent, CARE, UNICEF, or amultitude of branches of the United Na-tions she could be sent to a country tohelp distribute aid, as well as protect those
administrating it. Heroes assigned to thesemissions would be at more risk than thoseworking with programs at home. Heroescould be attacked by super-powered peo-ple in the country�s government whoresent foreign �interference.� They alsocould be attacked by various political ormilitary factions. Being an internationalhero gets the character (and the player)involved directly with the situation, and allthe participants in it. An adventure couldbe created when the U.N. sends the PCs toa war-ravaged area to help distribute foodand they are attacked by supervillainshired by one of the military factions or bythe military itself.
Pandora�s BoxNow that you know some of the ways
heroes can help in the community and theworld, meet Pandora�s Box, a Nationalhero Organization whose sole purpose isto help the community before a disastrousevent can occur.
Pandora�s Box is the name of a nation-wide hero franchise specializing in train-ing hero teams to help the community.Pandora�s Box is designed to be a safehaven for heroes (especially persecutedmutants) who work directly with commu-nity and police leaders. �Afterthought,� theDirector of Pandora�s Box and a mutant(with precognition and mutant-detectionpowers), convinced a number of smallbusinesses that funding a hero groupwould be in their interest. Fifteen busi-nesses agreed and funded the currentheadquarters (including a danger room)and vehicles (vans) of the first Pandora�sBox team. In return for their funding, theheroes agreed to take a direct role in thecommunities where the businesses oper-ate. They would work with police, socialservices, public works, etc., to see that thecommunities were improved. Within ayear, the six-member Pandora�s Box team,had reduced crime by over 40% and beeninstrumental in building and maintaining apublic recreation house and the parkaround it.
This dramatic success made Pandora�sBox a national phenomenon. Multi-nationalbusinesses nationwide asked how theycould become involved, and heroes inother states asked how they could begin.�Afterthought� responded by setting upcriteria for how a franchise group couldbe created. Her criteria are as follows:
1. All members of a Pandora�s Box teammust be from the area of the businessessupporting them.
2. No more than one large business caninvest in a Pandora�s Box team, but anunlimited number of community busi-nesses can invest.
3. Any profits generated by Pandora�sBox immediately go to a fund in the com-munity�s name.
4. All Pandora�s Box members are re-sponsible to their respective communities.If they use their status in Pandora�s Boxfor personal gain, or against the best wish-es of the community, they will be thrownout of the franchise.
To date, Pandora�s Box has six teamsnationwide: one in Albany, N.Y., one inNewark, N.J., two in New York City, one inLos Angeles, and one in Dallas. Cities thathave expressed interest in teams are Mi-ami, Boston, Milwaukee, and Denver.Pandora�s Box is funded entirely by com-munity businesses and large businessgrants. In its seven years of existence,Pandora�s Box has trained well over 120heroes. The original team now acts asrecruiters, promoters, and trainers for allthe teams. In return for having access tothe best equipment and technology fortransportation and training, Pandora�s Boxspends 98% of its time helping the commu-nity. All trainee members are required towork in homeless shelters, detox centers,and hospitals for their first nine months asmembers of Pandora�s Box. In return theyare provided training free of charge and aplace to stay.
During times of natural disasters, all theteams works together to ensure that nor-mality can be returned as soon as possible.After two years, the trainees are made fullmembers and encouraged to go to othercities and start a franchise.
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ConclusionThe role of a hero, whether super-
powered or not, is to help those aroundhim. This can�t be done by taking a passiverole. A heroic person must make an effortto act with the community. Not only doesthis bring the heroic person closer to thecommunity and vice-versa, it also gives theheroic person a chance to gain experi-ences and meet people that a passive rolewould never allow.
I recommend the article, �Super Jobs forSuper Talents: The United Nations SpecialTalents Agency� by Marcus L. Rowland inDRAGON® issue #160. The setting of SteveJackson Games� GURPS SUPERS* andSUPERS I.S.T* books also includes stronglyproactive superheroes.
* indicates a product produced by a company otherthan TSR, Inc.