Category Archives: Table Top Games

Treasury of Games: Plot Hook Generator

Sometimes you don’t know how you want to grab your players’ attention. Here’s a handy table to create that hook, and give you an idea how to pitch it.

 

Table A: Type of Hook

1 Friendly NPC

2 Hostile NPC

3 Cryptic Message

4 Mission or Quest

5 Omen or Foreshadowing

6 Obtain an Item

7 Lose an Item

8 Abduction!

9 Battle!

10 Roll twice more and combine results.

 

Friendly NPC

1 An old man answers one of the PCs’ questions. He wasn’t part of the conversation before, he just jumped in. Does he know the PCs, or is he a stranger? Where did he come from?

2 A little girl invites the PCs to follow her. Back at her home/hiding place, the PCs will find exactly what they need (to progress the plot).

3 “I’ve been sent to help,” the stranger says. The PCs have heard of the stranger’s sponsor, but are surprised to hear their interests and the sponsor’s align.

4 “Come with me if you want to live.” The PCs are in trouble, but this NPC shows up with a way out.

5 “Oh wow, you’re really them!” A fan of the PCs’ exploits is looking for help with the kind of thing they do.

6 An attractive member of the opposite sex has a proposition for one of the PCs… but not THAT. Well… Not unless the PC can do the job.

7 An attractive member of the opposite sex gets involved with one of the PCs in a whirlwind romance, but he or she is also involved in something big.

8 The PCs stumble across somebody in a running fight with the same kind of opponents the PCs usually fight, and it looks like they could use some help.

9 A childhood friend of one of the PCs shows up again in unlikely circumstances, with a surprising story, and a request.

10 Someone is selling exactly what the PCs need, at a fair price, and is even willing to make a deal if they need it but are short on cash.

 

Hostile NPC

1 An old enemy has a new way to get back at one of the PCs.

2 Somehow, the PCs have offended this person, and a fight breaks out.

3 1-10 armed thugs break in and start shooting at the PCs.

4 A PC is mugged in the street.

5 This NPC wants something the PCs have, and won’t take no for an answer.

6 One of the PCs is about to be an involuntary organ donor; this NPC needs an internal organ and one of the PCs fits the profile to give it.

7 The NPC is apologetic, but must do something terrible to the PCs.

8 The PCs might not realize it, or they might remember clearly why, but this NPC considers them all enemies and is back for vengeance.

9 A jilted lover from a PC’s past (or possibly someone messed up enough to hold a grudge over an unrequited crush) turns up to cause trouble.

10 Someone wants the same thing the PCs want, and isn’t shy about sabotaging their efforts to get it.

 

Cryptic Message

1 A note is delivered with the characters’ meal (in a modern setting, it’s perfect if this is inside a fortune cookie).

2 One of the PCs sees messages written on surfaces which nobody else can see.

3 A letter is delivered to one of the PCs. It’s addressed to the PC, but has no return address. The piece of paper inside the envelope is blank.

4 After making a normal purchase, the seller tells the PC, “they’re coming for you.” If asked for clarification, he/she says, “run, you fool!” What happens next?

5 A series of people come to the door and each says one word and then leaves. This occurs over the course of several days, no more than an hour separating each one, and when taken together the words form a message. If setting appropriate, the people who speak the words are actually some form of zombie.

6 The next time the PC is handed a receipt for a purchase, there is a message written on the back of it in a foreign language. The person handing over the receipt doesn’t know how it could have gotten there.

7 A public announcement (news broadcast in a modern setting, something publicly posted in town in pre-modern, etc.) mentions a PC by name, with an anonymous message, “You are almost ready.”

8 “They are coming,” a small child whispers to one of the PCs, and hands over a note, then runs off giggling.

9 A message is delivered in a usual way, from a PC’s normal contact (email in a modern setting, letter by a messenger in an older setting, etc.) – but it reads entirely differently from that contact’s normal writing, or if a voice recording, it isn’t the contact’s voice.

10 The wall catches fire, and the fire spreads into the shape of words on the wall. After the whole message has formed, the fire goes out, leaving it written in ashes and scorch marks.

 

Mission or Quest

1 Go and retrieve an item… but it’s big, so how will you actually carry it?

2 Go to a location and survive there for 24 hours.

3 Capture an enemy and interrogate them.

4 Extract a friendly from enemy hands.

5 Find the missing piece of this puzzle. A clue can be found where you want the PCs to go.

6 Destroy a specific item, before it can be used for disastrous purposes.

7 You can’t stay here! Escape to safety!

8 Fetch me a donut; the PCs are given an inconsequential task, but it turns out to be important once they complete it.

9 Fetch me a shrubbery; the PCs are given a task which is truly inconsequential, meant only to keep them busy and out of the way.

10 It’ll be dangerous… The PCs must do something which seems suicidal, but failing to do it would be even worse.

 

Omen or Foreshadowing

1 A bat in the daytime: The PCs must soon take a long and dangerous journey.

2 A butterfly in the bedroom: The PC will soon have a great joy, but could destroy it by doing the wrong thing.

3 The broken chain: A PC’s wallet or watch chain breaks, and (s)he will soon suffer disappointment.

4 Crossed knives: Soon there will be conflict and strife in the PCs’ future.

5 Shooting star: What the PCs desire will come true, but it won’t necessarily be good.

6 A gun on the table: The plot device you will use to introduce the next challenge is in plain sight in an establishing scene.

7 An instant dislike: The antagonist is first introduced in a friendly setting, but at least one PC doesn’t get along with him (or her), for some reason.

8 Hidden meaning: An NPC tells the PCs something which seems straightforward, but also foretells something in the next encounter you have planned.

9 The gods must be crazy: an important plot device literally falls from the sky.

10 Retroactive: pick a scene that’s already happened in the game – something from that scene is now a key to your next plot device. (Preferably pick a memorable scene; if you’re just starting the game, pick something in a PC’s background.)

 

Obtain an Item – an opportunity to get something useful or interesting can motivate PCs and drive a story.

1 A weapon

2 A tool

3 Something magical (or symbolic)

4 Something foreign/exotic

5 A gift from a friend

6 A gift from an enemy

7 A prize in a contest of skill

8 A prize in a contest of luck

9 One man’s trash

10 Something written

 

Lose an Item – losing something valuable or even the threat of such loss can give focus to the PCs’ actions.

1 Something personal, of sentimental value only.

2 A favorite piece of equipment, which is used all the time.

3 An expensive piece of equipment which is used rarely.

4 One of the PCs’ homes.

5 Somewhere the PCs often meet.

6 A favorite food stops being available.

7 Communication with the rest of the world – in the form of the ability to write or phone calls or whatever items would normally allow such.

8 Transportation – a mount, vehicle, or other equivalent. Even a pair of shoes.

9 Luxury – a source of relaxation or comfort, such as a bed, pillow, food, etc.

10 A hat – something worn on the head.

 

Abduction! – Players love rescue missions. It’s a clear focus and grabs the attention of most PCs instantly. When someone important is kidnapped, the PCs will follow after them.

1 A family member (child, parent, sibling, cousin, etc.).

2 A lover or spouse.

3 One of the PCs! (Make sure the PC still has things to do, even if escape isn’t possible without help from other PCs)

4 A mentor or teacher.

5 A trusted NPC supporter – someone who isn’t usually part of the adventure, but provides things the PCs need in between.

6 A contact the PCs need to achieve their current goals – best if kidnapped right in front of the PCs or otherwise under their noses when they are about to get what they need but haven’t quite yet.

7 A POTENTIALLY useful but not current NPC contact/supporter

8 A political figure (1-3: local, 4-6: regional, 7-8: national, 9: roll again and add “aligned with the PC’s views”, 10: roll again and add “opposed to the PC’s views”)

9 A cultural figure (same chart as above, or roll for type of cultural – entertainer, artist, etc)

10 Roll again, ignoring this result if rerolled.  Add “…and the PC is a suspect in their abduction” to the result.

 

 

Battle!

1 Roll for initiative! Someone has jumped out and attacked!

2 Surprise! Perception checks, to see if any PCs notice the ambush.

3 Opportunity! The PCs have a chance to surprise some enemies, who they’ve noticed before being noticed in return.

4 Sports – the PCs are challenged to a form of sporting mock combat appropriate to the setting.

5 Duel – a PC is challenged to one on one combat.

6 Standoff – a tense situation arises where one wrong move could result in a deadly battle.

7 Bystanders – battle erupts between two parties other than the PCs in the PCs’ presence!

8 Nonviolent – a conflict in some form other than physical violence, such as an argument or hostile corporate takeover.

9 Misunderstanding – the PCs get involved in a fight they don’t want, because an NPC takes something they said or did the wrong way.

10 Outnumbered – The PCs are surrounded by a more numerous enemy, and must escape; cue chase music!

 

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.

Treasury of Games: Plot Coupons

If you play RPGs, you are probably familiar with the standard model of play in these games: the GM narrates most of the world, the players choose the actions of their characters, and the GM interprets the results of a random number then narrates the resulting situation, and so on. There are five major components to telling the story of the game in this model:

  • World state control (usually in the hands of a single GM)
  • Protagonist control (usually in the hands of a group of players, each having one protagonist)
  • Supporting character control (usually in the hands of a single GM)
  • Outcome control (usually given over to random number generation, often using dice)
  • Outcome interpretation (usually in the hands of a single GM)

Obviously, the GM holds a lot of cards here, especially looking at it this way. Really, the roles of the players collectively and the GM individually are about equal, because of the inherently pivotal role the players have in the story of the game, simply because the PCs are the focus characters. However, sometimes it can be fun to change up the roles a little. Some games do this with a meta-game currency which goes by many names: hero points, action points, action dice, fate points, etc. For this essay, we’ll call them “plot coupons.” They are an ephemeral credit a player can trade in or a GM can award to change who or what has control in a narrative situation. If plot coupons are used, they play as follows:

GMs:

  • The GM may offer a player a plot coupon once per game session to dictate what choice the PC makes in a situation if the PC accepts. (Example: GM asks, “will you accept a plot coupon to choose to help the man instead of ignoring him?” Player says, “OK, despite his inclinations, Sir Varec will agree to help.” Player gains a plot coupon.)
  • The GM may award players plot coupons for any reason or no reason at all, depending on how much the GM trusts the players with their use and what kind of storytelling is desired. For example, the GM may decide that each player gets a free plot coupon each game session, which might or might not be stockpiled, or might award a plot coupon for any action which really impresses the group and gets a good reaction, or for success in a character’s story goals, or for failure at critical junctures.
  • Speaking of failure, the GM may offer the player a plot coupon in exchange for automatically failing any one roll. This CAN be a roll which would kill the character on failure, but the player must know that if so. Also inherent in the agreement is that the player will have continuing participation in the story, even if this character dies. If the player refuses, then the roll is made as normal.

Players:

  • A player may spend a plot coupon to automatically succeed on one roll. This may be done once per game session.
  • A player may add something not already described to the world state by spending a plot coupon. This must be in-genre and must not contradict the GM’s already stated description. (Example: “But there happens to be an old friend of mine in town, who wouldn’t mind sheltering us in his cellar while we wait out the guards’ search.”)
  • A player may expend a plot coupon to force a roll on something narrated by the GM which wasn’t already going to be rolled for. If the roll goes in favor of the player, the player narrates a version of the event instead of the GM. The new narration must be in-genre, and may only contradict events which were not separately rolled for. If the roll goes in favor of the GM, then the original narration stays. The roll is a 50/50 chance. (Example: GM narrates, “the dam breaks, and the waters flood down the valley, smashing the village to flinders…” Player interrupts, “I would like to change that. Plot coupon and roll off.” Roll goes in player’s favor, so Player narrates, “Warning reached the village in time, and many villagers were able to evacuate to higher ground. Though their homes are smashed, we don’t have the deaths of the whole village on our conscience, and can still go to them for aid.”
  • A player may spend a plot coupon to narrate an interpretation of success or failure for an action his/her character took. The group must agree that the description is consistent with success or failure as appropriate to the dice results; if the player is just trying to cheat the dice results with a weasel-worded description, the plot coupon is refunded and the GM describes the results as per normal.
  • A player may spend a plot coupon to dictate an NPC’s action in a situation; the GM may refuse this the action seems too out-of-character for the NPC.

This system can be used with any game to shift some of the narrative opportunities to the players. Players don’t often get to exercise the kind of storyline creativity required of the GM, so tapping that energy from the players’ minds can be a great asset. However, this is not a system for game groups where a high degree of trust does not exist between the players and the GM. The GM and players have to be on the same page about creating a certain kind of story – serious or silly, for example, and what genre conventions are important. If that trust does exist then opening up control to the players adds to the pool of creative ideas, and the energy that can be brought to bear on them.

In a game which already uses a similar mechanic (and there are many: 7th Sea with drama dice, FATE and fate points, Willpower in World of Darkness, and so on), consider how you will integrate this mechanic with it. You may want to avoid duplicating uses; for example, if you added these to a World of Darkness game, since Willpower already allows increasing the chance of success in desperate situations, you might not want to allow plot coupons to buy success. You may want to replace existing mechanic. Whatever you choose, make sure you tell your players explicitly before starting to play, and keep a reference for how any house rules you are using work so everybody is on the same page.

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.

Treasury of Games: Replacing dice with cards.

Dice are a fine random number generator, used by most roleplaying games. However, there are some fun things you can add to the experience by using cards instead. First, let’s look at how you can replicate any set of dice using cards. Take a standard playing card deck. To replicate a die, use the following set of cards:

d4 = A, 2, 3, 4 (any single suit)

d6 = A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

d8 = A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

d10 = A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

d12 = A-10 in one suit, A-2 in a second suit designated “10 + face value.” (so if Spades is flat value, you might use Clubs cards for 11 and 12)

d20 = A-10 in one suit for face value, A-10 in a second suit for +10 value.

d100 = A-10 in one suit for 1s digit, A-10 in a second suit for 10s digit. Count 10 as a 0 in that place, unless both 10s are drawn, in which case it is 100.

So far this works to replicate any die you might roll for a typical RPG. You can even use cards for in between dice like d3, d5, and so on which are sometimes called for by halving the roll on actual dice, without having to do math in your head for the result. Still, messing around with cards can take longer than rolling dice for large numbers of dice, so certain things (damage on a D&D fireball, many rolls in success-based systems like World of Darkness and Shadowrun, etc.) don’t work well with this model. Also, so far there is no advantage one way or the other – why bother with the change?

The difference with cards is you can do things with the individual results. For example, you could run a D&D game where each player has a deck set up like a d20 instead of a die, and each result is set aside once drawn. That result can’t come up again that session until all the other results have come up. This means the player is guaranteed to see good and bad results for his/her character at some point during play. You could even eliminate the random factor, and let the player choose when to play each result from his deck, treating it more as a hand of cards. This would challenge you as a GM not to call for skill checks, saves, etc. in trivial situations – so the players would have to sweat bullets about using those low results, and also about wasting the high ones.

You can also modify the available results. Characters with exceptional abilities or luck might be allowed to eliminate low numbers from their decks for some tasks, or add in higher numbers than normally appear on the die type. Special effects could allow a character to have a particular result saved aside for later use, even if a random draw is being used – or to have an extra copy of that result saved up in the variant where all possible results are held and played when desired. Hindering conditions could eliminate high results from the possible pool, or add extra low results in.

Consider this variant for adding a different flavor to your next game, and see what interesting results you can have in play by changing how the numbers are generated.

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.

Treasury of Games: Erriapus Harvester Post A58.

This irregular satellite of Saturn was captured and nudged into a more stable orbit to provide a staging area for harvester barges making runs up and down the gas giant’s gravity well. Saturn’s atmosphere and rings provide rich sources of a variety of elements and minerals, essential to the Solar system’s heavy industry. It’s also a battleground, the first place extrasolar fleets coming for humanity’s homeland must secure. Historically, no fleet which failed to secure Saturn’s harvester posts succeeded in claiming Terra. Currently, the debris of past battles is just one more resource to harvest.

The post is run by an old spacer named Garth. He comes across as a solid, stubborn, capable organizer. Stubborn he is, but though he trades heavily on his reputation for having held the post through the past two wars and three attempted invasions in the course of them, he tends to overcompensate for the way technical details of engineering have outpaced him by using bureaucratic details to frustrate others. Ship captains don’t look forward to having to submit requests to him, because they inevitably come back two or three times for clarifications or corrections. However, his crew like him because of his quick and jovial wit, and this makes him popular with not only the few others on the post but the barge captains who work with him enough to know the quirks of how he wants the paperwork done.

The newest barge captain to come out to Saturn’s rings is Hyman Ward. A 19-year-old graduate of the Ares Piloting Academy on Syria Planum, Ward is a shining example of the first class to come out of that school, founded at the end of the Solar-Gliesean conflict 5 years ago. He has an open and forgiving command style, while still keeping his crew of six adhering to regulations and getting the job done. His major flaw is his naïvete, a trait which old Garth finds endless amusement in by turning the boy’s head with pranks and tall tales.

Possible dangers or encounters at the harvester post:

  • One of Garth’s pranks went a little too far, and Ward’s barge ended up losing engine power. It’s falling towards Saturn!
  • A leftover mine from the last war was mistaken for scrap metal, and it went off inside the harvester post. Can anyone be saved from this catastrophic mishap?
  • All transmissions from the post have cut out. What’s wrong? They could be jammed because of an incoming attack, or it could be a simple electrical problem.

Treasury of Games: Contains Unsavory Illustrations

Some books are banned for good reasons. The Comics Code Authority was founded by conservative moralists, but it found a greater purpose than censoring skin and blood. On rare occasions, something dangerous to more than the morals of children would be published, if not for a small team within the CCA. The “unsavory illustrations” label sometimes has this deeper meaning: that the publication so labeled has been censored to remove images with real magical meanings.

Naturally, when subversive cults or warlocks look to publish their spell-symbols to put into effect some grand-scale ritual or to alter the minds of millions or whatever the reason, they would rather not see their publication censored by the authority. However, none of the major distribution channels will pick up a non-CCA-approved publication, so the scope of other publications is limited to local markets. The team in the CCA is independent and can’t help with local problems directly, they specialize in recognizing occult symbols so they can ensure none get into mass publication.

The CCA symbol has been modified over the years to contain a hidden cipher. It serves dual purposes – as a warning to rogue occultists seeking to publish damaging materials, and as an offer to other groups seeking to curb those publications. The CCA occult team exists to prevent the widespread distribution of materials which could cause memetic contagion or a massive reality altering event. Though they can’t reach directly to at-risk communities and the hiding places of the warlocks who might publish these materials, they can offer resources to like-minded groups who might be able to do something, while deterring the less venturesome cults from raising their heads. The message of the cipher to those who can decode it is, “We are watching.”

It may be an empty message, but the team does what they can to provide information to others like them who fight against the darkness.

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.

Treasury of Games: Dragon Altar

A cliff overlooking the eastern sea, six miles from the town of Layton (known for the roast boar prepared at the inn of the Bowman’s Pony), “Dragon Altar” is said to be where kings and queens of old were joined together by no lesser officiant than a true dragon. A weathered stone monument at the highest point describes the ritual in the ancient tongue of dragons. Only a few scholars can read the marks in this fallen age, but the ritual not only binds two souls in matrimony, but involves the dragon’s pledge to protect them and their lands. Since it is said that when dragons pronounce their own speech, the words are magic itself, enforcing the truths pronounced by the dragon, the ritual is thought to have made a mystical connection between the dragon, the monarchs, and the land. Some scholars believe this accounts for the reported longevity of these ancient rulers, when they were not killed in battle.

Sadly, dragons have been absent from the land for many years. When the king from beyond the eastern sea came with his men and ships and the power of foreign gods and conquered the land, his people knew nothing about the traditions linking the dragons and the kingdom, save that dragons were in service to their enemies. Then, later, the remaining dragons were seen as feral menaces to be eliminated, because they had lost their connection with the land and the people had forgotten the traditions which would have made dragons their allies. Now, dragons are legends, and haven’t been seen near these settled lands in generations.

Weddings are still held at the Dragon Altar cliffs, though, in front of the slab where the words most cannot read are inscribed. High ranking officials of the land travel to these cliffs to be seen honoring the old traditions, not knowing what those really were. If a pair were to find a true dragon and enact the true wedding ritual of this altar, they could obtain a connection with the land which has been absent for centuries. Besides being able to command the loyalty of a dragon, the lands belonging to a pair so mated will be blessed with fertility (as will the pair themselves). The humans in the bargain gain the ability to properly pronounce the speech of dragons, and thus perform magic in their way. The dragon gains the ability to transform into a human at will, and may dominate the minds of any humans who owe loyalty to the pair it is joined to. The three may speak to each other in the tongue of dragons at any distance as well, though they may not lie in that speech – for attempting to do so will levy a curse, because peaking in dragon language makes magic, and speaking lies in it will thus twist the speaker. Dragons might learn to lie to each other without twisting themselves, but between those bound by oath at Dragon Altar, the oath ensures any lies among the three will be punished. Some possible ways the liar might be twisted:

1 Hears all speech as lies.

2 Sees people who are not there occasionally.

3 Fails to see people who are there occasionally.

4 Can’t hear people who aren’t first perceived by another sense.

5 Colors are muted and hard to distinguish.

6 Both eyes change to random colors, and hair changes color and natural shape.

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.

Treasury of Games: How to decide what to play?

You may be a GM with too many game ideas to run, or part of a gaming group with multiple GMs vying for people’s limited free time. If you are lucky enough to have multiple games to choose from, it sucks to have to choose, but with a fair method everyone can game happy.  Have a pitch night with your gamers to decide what games will be played!

The Pitch: Each person who wants to GM will have up to 15 minutes to sell the game idea. Take your audience into account when doing this, and make sure to sell the game you’ll be running, not simply the system you’ll be using for it or yourself as a GM. The essential rule of the pitch, however, is that you must build up the game on its own merits; comparisons with what others plan to run, or appeals to particular players based on their tastes or habits or your relationship with them are not allowed in the Pitch. Those things may play a role in who votes for what in the end, but the idea of making a Pitch is to overcome those tendencies, not strengthen them.

The Sign-Up Sheet: On this sheet, there will be a paragraph or so describing the game, reminding people what they’re signing up for. It will list the GM’s name. It ought to list the expected running length of the game, as this will be a key selling point, indicating a strong story-arc plan on the GM’s part. Everybody except for the GM will sign in one of three spots:

“I would play this” – marked PLAY, these are up-votes, plain and simple. Voting for a game means you commit to show up for as long as it runs, if it is the game chosen by the majority.

“I’d give it a shot” – marked TRY, this is an abstention. By signing here, your vote will be counted only for tie-breaking purposes. This vote means that if this game is chosen, you will at least show up to try it for the first two or three sessions, because while the game doesn’t push your buttons specifically, you enjoy socializing with us on Tuesday nights, and the game doesn’t push you away too much for that.

“I would not play this” – marked BOW OUT, this is also an abstention. By signing here, your vote will be counted only for tie-breaking purposes as well! However, this vote commits to not showing up on Tuesday nights for the duration of the game in question if it is chosen. In other words, this game is so uninteresting or sounds actively un-fun that you would rather stay home and/or seek other entertainment than hang out with your friends here while playing it.

Tallying Votes: The game with the most names in the PLAY column will be chosen, no matter the names in the TRY and BOW OUT columns. If one game gets 3 PLAY votes, and the most another game gets is 2 PLAY votes, then the game with 3 PLAY will run even if it got 5 BOW OUT votes and one of the games with 2 PLAY votes got 6 TRY votes. In other words, players enthusiastic enough to commit to the game will be given more weight than those who would merely try, or those who do not wish to play.

Breaking Ties: In the case of tied PLAY votes for the most popular game, the game with the better TRY/BOW OUT ratio will be chosen. So if two games each received 4 PLAY votes, but one received 2 TRY and 2 BOW OUT, while the other received 4 TRY votes, then the latter game would be chosen.

The advantage to this method, similar to this “Approval Voting” method explained by CGP Grey, is that you end up with the most enthusiastic players in your game. Adding the option to drop out and do something else with the free time ensures you won’t have any grudging/whining players cluttering up your gaming table as well. And there’s no reason you can’t invite them to the next pitch night – your friendship with them will probably be all the better for not making them play a game they don’t like.

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.

Treasury of Games: Eukelade Launch Station EH-5679

This military space station serves as a staging base for capital ships. Located at the edge of its owner’s recognized borders in space, the station orbits a protostar in a nebula, making it difficult to observe comings and goings from it. The nebula also offers a rich fuel source. Eukelade Nebula is an energy-rich environment where synthesizing antimatter is relatively cheap, because the station collects plenty of hydrogen to fuel its fusion plant (with which it generates antimatter, in the form of anti-hydrogen). The station is unarmed, but always servicing at least one capital warship, and therefore not unprotected even should an enemy locate and target it.

Eukelade is home to multiple launch stations orbiting multiple proto-stars within the nebula. EH-5679 is the furthest out of them. It is home to a crew of 5: a commander, two communication/sensors operators, and two fusion plant/antimatter fuel engineers. These officers serve 6-month shifts isolated on the station together, then are replaced with a fresh crew. Usually the same crew won’t be reassigned straight to another launch station after their rest period (a month’s leave followed by a month of training to keep skills up to date), but it does occasionally happen. In the case of EH-5679, the current crew requested to be reassigned to a launch station together after their last leave, having served a stint together twice previously. They have formed a bond and don’t mind being isolated together, and see this post as a good way to avoid front line duty. Since the fleet needs competent crews to man these combined listening post/refueling stations, this form of service is perfectly acceptable to the higher ranks who make the assignments.

Commander Atchison is a reserved woman. She prefers a minimum amount of human interaction in her day; she made command rank by her meticulous efficiency which allows her to achieve this despite making sure all her subordinates had all the information and instructions necessary to complete their tasks, and passing on all relevant information up the chain of command. She is also an expert in multiple technical fields, including all operations necessary at EH-5679. Her relationship with her crew seems distant, but she appreciates that they have learned not to bother her needlessly, and they appreciate that she efficiently takes care of them. The commander has deftly pulled strings in the past for her crew, and they trust her to be able to move heaven and earth with a flick of her fingers should they need it. She also covers for her crew’s fraternization – their romances are against regulations, but Atchison doesn’t mind as long as their duties aren’t affected.

Lieutenant Frazetta and Lieutenant Harvey are the comms/sensor operators. The men share a kiss whenever they change shifts, though they save any more intimate displays of affection for their leave time. Frazetta is 35, and a 15 year veteran of the service. Harvey is 22, having only met Frazetta when they were first assigned to a Eukelade station together under commander Atchison; it was Harvey’s first assignment out of the academy. Lt. Frazetta is excellent with comms operation, having the long experience with communications equipment to know a grab bag of tricks for improving signal quality and reducing information loss. Harvey, on the other hand, is better with analyzing sensors output. His schooling is more recent and up to date, and he’s talented at the kind of math required to figure out what sensor readings actually mean. Each one is competent at the other job as well, but only excellent in one part.

Lieutenants Yu and Enfield are a married couple. They were married before they joined the service, and acquired an exemption order to allow their marriage. Both are PhDs in fusion and antimatter engineering. They typically have boring jobs, because the equipment is automated and as long as it’s working properly, so they spend a lot of time refining their hobbies. Yu has taught herself tattoo application, mostly using her own body as a canvas. Her husband composes poetry.

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.

Treasury of Games: Rooftop Death Arena

The east side isn’t a nice place. It’s been described as a “war zone” in the news, and given the gangs going after each other with automatic weapons, that seems apt. However, the more powerful gangs are organized enough to have leaders who realize that large scale armed conflict is bad for everyone. That doesn’t mean they’re throwing away their guns – it just means they’ve set up a common system to resolve disputes between gang members of rival gangs. Without getting the law involved, of course. The cops are everyone’s enemy, here.

Any grievance can be brought to trial by combat. The two parties must each be members of gangs who participate in the arena, and their leaders must agree the grievance is legitimate. The leaders of the respective groups will negotiate the terms of the battle – one on one or a small group skirmish, unarmed or with certain weapons, on which roof, and to what end: first fall, first blood, submission/unconsciousness, or death. Once the trial is complete, the losing side makes any restitution required by the agreement between the groups’ leaders, and the matter must never be brought up again by either side or the gangs are responsible for punishing those who do so.

Of course, grudges will be held, and the arena hosts a cycle of revenge drama. Toughs looking to avenge their fallen buddies simply must wait for some new slight or excuse before issuing a new challenge. Since the grievance is just as sore on the other side, such an excuse is sure to come along. Yet, the punishments for stepping out of line are enough to discourage outright brawling or gunfights in the streets, for the most part. The arena focuses the aggression of the young gangsters. Gang leaders know this, so they frequently grant requests for challenges, though less frequently death challenges. Non-lethal challenges happen many times a day, while fights to the death are reserved for tensions which would otherwise boil over into much more violence. Still, death battles happen about once a month.

The action in the rooftop arena is recorded and sold online. Access to the live streams of the nonlethal battles is available via subscription; the death challenges are available only by mail on DVD, because the gangs are savvy enough not to post direct evidence of their countenancing murder online where their origin IP could be traced. If it ends up online somehow, they can claim it was staged and no officer, there was no murder – someone would’ve pressed charges, surely! Sometimes the deception extends to introducing the officer to the “actor” who was “in makeup” to appear to be the loser in the video, whose “death” was entirely fake and staged. So far, the police have not cracked a case on the killings in the death arena, but some detectives keep their eyes out, watching and waiting for a slip. Rights to the revenue of a fight’s streaming and recording go to the winning gang. The fighters receive a portion, and the rest goes to the leaders.

A certain bloodthirsty class of sports fan follows the death arena, and the events draw live crowds. Numbering somewhere around a hundred for each fight, these spectators especially love submission and death duels. The bookmakers share the opinion of the crowd, because the more excited the spectators, the more they bet on the fights. Far more cash changes hands in the betting than in the direct revenue of the streaming, recording, or even the charge made on the spectators for entry. When the fight lasts to submission (which most commonly means someone is beaten senseless), the bets are about double the usual. If it’s to the death, ten times as much cash flows, and about five times as many spectators show up. Some of these spectators are locals to the neighborhood, but most of them are wealthy criminals with interests in the activities of the gangs, taking advantage of this neighborhood’s unique system for resolving disputes for their own entertainment.

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.

Treasury of Games: Annihilation Pool

There is a shallow pool (just deep enough to submerge a person of average height to the shoulders) in a tidal hollow, ten miles from the nearest town. The location is known to a sect of monks who revere the place as holy.  They make spiritual journeys to the place as a form of ritual purification. The monks know the place as the “purifying tide,” but the rest of the locals call it the “annihilation pool.”

The pool itself is clear, and fresh water despite the tide flowing into it again and again. No animals exist in it, not even their bones, not even insects or other small creatures. Any which stray in vanish and are never seen again, and most instinctively stay clear. People fare differently. When a sentient being enters the pool, the magic in it reflects the person’s inner desires. Because nonsentient animals are entirely a collection of hungers and needs, they are consumed to feed the magic. People have a variety of desires, though, and some are less destructive than base selfish hungers. Surviving a dip in the pool requires either a buddha-like freedom from all desire, or an outward-focused altruism or protective desire which sacrifices the self in favor of the good of others. The monks who regularly visit the pool are sometimes entirely hairless – this reflects early failures to achieve a freedom from all desire before entering the pool. However, all the surviving monks have at least eliminated most of their earthly desires. Entering the pool with any selfish earthly desires in your mind causes it to burn like acid, consuming you from the outside in. The stronger your desires, the more of you is consumed. The best of the monks with complete divestment of their earthly desires have no scars because entering with no desires at all is simply a pleasant bath.

A dip for a truly altruistic or heroically protective individual is different: the pool will deplete some of its store of magic to heal and bless the character who meets these criteria. Wounds up to and including recent death (within the past day) can be healed, and the blessing conforms to the others-focused desires the character holds. If the character is generally altruistic, then from now on, they gain a small amount of luck (about +5% chance of success) whenever their action would help someone else. If their desires are to protect someone or something, then the blessing applies only to that endeavor, and is more powerful for being more focused (more like a +20% chance to succeed at appropriate actions). This aspect of the pool is not well known, and only the elder monks know of it; with a very good relationship with said elders, they will share the story of a man who fell in battle protecting the town from coastal raiders. His grieving loved ones took his bod to the pool to set it in there to be dissolved, hoping to keep it out of the hands of the raiders who would have disrespected him by stringing his corpse up to discourage others from fighting back. However, the pool’s magic reflected their pure love and respect for their guardian, and his love for and desire to protect them in return. He was restored to health, whole and hale, and returned to town and drove the raiders off for good. The healing effects have also been noted from time to time on monks who are more kindhearted and generous in relieving the suffering of those outside the order than usual (not all in the sect believe in this practice, but some believe that relieving suffering is necessary to ultimately free the world from harmful desires).

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.