Level One Wonk: NPCs

Creating characters is ultimately the launchpad of any gaming experience. This is equally true for the GM, which can present an interesting set of challenges. While each player need only focus on who they’re playing for the game, the GM must populate the whole rest of the world. The balance is, like any other number of storytelling strategies, making the world seem real while not doing an exhausting amount of work. The key strategies for writing memorable NPCs are differentiation, motivation, and improvisation. That last one in particular can take on a couple of different forms…so if you don’t think of yourself as an “improv GM”, fear not!

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The Independents: Conspiracist

Shadow people stalk the back alleys. Reptilians disguise themselves as humans and prowl through our society. The Grays descend from the stars to carry out who-knows-what kind of experiments on whatever people or animals they can seize. Behind the scenes the Illuminati manipulate all this and more to an end known only to them, and it’s your job to keep it all under wraps. It’s not going to be easy, with all the cults and conspiracy theorists running around. Especially considering the only mission briefing you got was a red d20 with every face reading 9. You’re caught in the web of madness that is Conspiracist: The Game THEY Don’t Want You to Play!

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Meet the Party: Zweihander

A hunter of vermin who’s eyeing much larger prey for her flail to be used on. An old squire without her knight, looking for some vengeance and maybe some glory. A bounty hunter chasing down the biggest score of her life. A coachwoman just trying to make her way along the roads with the strangest group of passengers she’s ever moved. Meet the Party is adding a new system to its collection, but this time the dice are the ones making the choices. That’s right, we’ve got randomly generated characters hoping to survive in the dark, cruel world of Zweihander. It looks like they just might, too: these are some tough ladies!

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Level One Wonk: The Sandbox

Are you a Butt-Kicker, a Specialist, or a Story-Teller? There is a huge world of games out there to satisfy every player’s and group’s style. And while there are academic discussions in every corner of the internet, sometimes it’s best to start at level one. Join the Level One Wonk in exploring the possibilities that RPGs have to offer, from Aberrant to Zorcerer of Zo. Today we forgo the plot and go exploring! If your GM wants to build a world but is short on story, see if your group will put the work in to go play in a sandbox!

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Rise of the Dungeon Master

You are a tabletop gaming enthusiast, wandering through your local bookstore for the next bit of literature to capture your attention with. By chance you wander into the comic/graphic novel section, idly browsing, wondering if you’ll find something a little different this time. As it so happens a slim graphic novel catches your eye; you recognize the creator and game mentioned on the spine. It is called “Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D”. Do you take it off the shelf?

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The Independents: Synthicide

Any sort of interstellar community or shining future died in a tide of plague and mutant bodies. The galaxy suffers under the metal boots of a crazed machine cult, and the best that can be hoped for is usually just surviving for another week. For a crew of sharpers like yourself there’s a ship, whatever job is in front of them, and a powerful need to eat sometime this week. It’s been two days since you have, after all. Unfortunately the only job you’ve got in front of you involves killing a robot. Homicide? Not a problem. But you’re going to have all kinds of heat on your tail after committing Synthicide.

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Level One Wonk: Game Design

Are you a Butt-Kicker, a Specialist, or a Story-Teller? There is a huge world of games out there to satisfy every player’s and group’s style. And while there are academic discussions in every corner of the internet, sometimes it’s best to start at level one. Join the Level One Wonk in exploring the possibilities that RPGs have to offer, from Aberrant to Zorcerer of Zo. Today we transcend playing, running and hacking games, going all the way to designing them! Prepare for a project and grab some graph paper, things are about to get real.

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Level One Wonk: The OSR

Are you a Butt-Kicker, a Specialist, or a Story-Teller? There is a huge world of games out there to satisfy every player’s and group’s style. And while there are academic discussions in every corner of the internet, sometimes it’s best to start at level one. Join the Level One Wonk in exploring the possibilities that RPGs have to offer, from Aberrant to Zorcerer of Zo. Today we go back to the beginning, with a design movement that’s keeping it old school! The OSR is a group of gamers and designers who start with the earliest versions of D&D and go from there. Do you like the playstyle of old games, or have been waiting for someone to iron the wrinkles out of Basic D&D? Read on!

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Unearthing the Eladrin and Gith

Unearthed Arcana took a step back from Dungeon Master-level rules and hopped back over the screen to the player’s side of things this month – but it seems they may have over shot a bit and landed out among the planes! This time we’re getting material from the ethereal Astral Plane, the roiling chaos of Limbo, and the seasonal extremes of the Feywild with a new race and new subraces for 5th Edition player characters: the Githyanki, Githzerai, and Eladrin!

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Level One Wonk: Rules Hacking

Are you a Butt-Kicker, a Specialist, or a Story-Teller? There is a huge world of games out there to satisfy every player’s and group’s style. And while there are academic discussions in every corner of the internet, sometimes it’s best to start at level one. Join the Level One Wonk in exploring the possibilities that RPGs have to offer, from Aberrant to Zorcerer of Zo. Today is the first of two articles about designing games of your own. Before starting a project with a clean sheet, you should mess around under the hood of games you’re already familiar with. Let’s talk about rules hacking!

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