RP Rambles: What I love about roleplaying

Telling Stories

I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to my future and what I would like to be doing with my life, and however I look at it I keep returning to the idea of writing–and in particular storytelling–as something that I find both very gratifying and extremely important to me. Storytelling is one of the main reasons that I got into RP-ing and, no matter how my GM-ing abilities and gaming experience may have changed it’s that central desire to tell a story with other people that keeps bringing me back to the game time-after-time.

So why not just write a story?

A reasonable question, I actually do a fair bit of creative writing for my own enjoyment and have done every since I was old enough to hold a pencil, my first stories were written on lined sheets of paper, four lines of text followed by a simple drawing. The main thing that I remember about those early tales is that I drastically overused the word ‘suddenly’, something I’m pleased to report that I got over as my vocabulary expanded.

One of the things that sets RP-ing apart from sitting and writing this blog or creating a story is that it isn’t just me sat in a room feverishly typing one a laptop or scribbling in a notebook, when it comes to crafting a role-playing based story I’m part of team that includes the other players, we’re all creating a story together. Sure, the GM creates the framework and the world that the story takes place in, he or she also populates the world with a background cast of characters, but it’s when the PCs enter that world that it really comes to life.

You might have heard authors talk about how vividly they imagine their characters as they write novels, how sometimes the characters speak with their own voices and guide the story as though they were independent of the author; this sort of thing is the meat and potatoes of role-playing for me, the excitement comes when the PCs begin to interact with and change the campaign world. Before I turn the players loose on it, as a GM I have complete control over what is taking place in the world, but as soon as the PCs step into it, I have no way of knowing for sure what is going to happen. This isn’t something that you should be worried about, sure it can be a bit scary, but it’s the good scary like when you climb onto a roller-coaster.

Collaborative Storytelling

I’ve never subscribed to the idea that the GM should be sat above the players handing down nuggets of plot to eager and grateful players who clutch them to their bosom and scurry off with them like worshipful supplicants. It’s not for everyone, but one of the aspects of the role-playing that I take great joy in is getting the players as involved as possible in helping to tell the story.

Whether this is a player elaborating on a scene:

Player: “I need a distraction, are their any lanterns hanging in this barn?”
GM: “You better believe there are, what’s your plan?”

Or perhaps a scene entirely initiated by a player:

GM: “Why is your thief so worked up by what the trader is doing?”
Player: “My character had a bad experience with this trader, would we be okay to do a flashback scene and play it out?”
GM: “We sure would, explain the set-up for the scene.”

You might even play a game with narrative-based mechanics that build this sort of thing into the game:

GM: “Since your character is hunted by the Voidcaller Inquisition and you’ve not exactly been keeping your head down I’d like to compel your trouble aspect to have some inquisitorial agents show up on your trail.”
Player: “Sure I’ll take the fate point.”

So what’s the payoff?

Well in addition to telling an entertaining and often surprising story, role-playing can help you connect with people, it also expands your creativity; it can be very difficult to sit down in front of that daunting blank page and start writing the words of a story, you’ll be surprised how many ideas come to you when you’re riffing with your friends and bouncing off each other.

As an added bonus you get stories that you can laugh about and relive at a later time with your friends, war stories of ancient campaigns and brave deeds that you undertook when you were another person, in another time and place.

That’s why I love role-playing.

Storm & Sail: Amended scale rules

Recently I’ve been thinking about a simple way to represent scale/differently sized vessels in my Storm & Sail game; I didn’t want to make it too complex, you can see the rules I arrived at in full in the rules google doc:


For ease of viewing they’re also reproduced below:


Ships have a size rating, the sizes are as follows (if it is necessary in a game then human-sized creatures count as size 0), the default group ship begins at size 2:


  • Size 1: Small vessels – Pinnace, sloops and barques.
  • Size 2: Medium sized vessels – Barques, Fluyts, Brigs and Merchantman.
  • Size 3: Large vessels – Galleons and Frigates.


In any vessel attacking a smaller vessel than itself adds +2 damage on a successful hit per point of difference in size (so a frigate successfully hitting a pinnace would add +4 damage); however larger vessels are less maneuverable, a smaller ship trying to flee or out-maneuvre a larger vessel gains +2 to the attempt for every point of difference in size (so if the pinnace attempted to use it’s maneuverability to dodge the incoming frigate attack it would gain +4 to do so).

The Rebel Strike Trilogy

We’ve recently wrapped up the Rebel Strike Trilogy, a linked series of three sessions using the FFG Age of Rebellion Star Wars rules set in my Adventures on the Outer Rim version of the Star Wars universe, I’m going to gather all of the material about it in this post.


  • Kaid-Sen: A dour sharpshooter working for the Rebellion.
  • Inigo Stazzi: A happy go lucky hothead who somehow manages to get the job done.
  • T7-01: A sharp-witted astromech with a talent for penetrating enemy computer systems.

Episode I

The Rebellion has rescued a Quarren known as Sekas Proko from Tattooine, the Quarren has access to experimental stealth technology but will only turn it over if the rebels free his ally Berek Nur from the clutches of the Empire. Kaid, Inigo and T7 board the prison ship Leviathan and attempt to free him.

Intro crawl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQs1woDHuEM
Commander Sheb Gergran’s briefing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6lu8yUr-I8

Episode II

With the stealth-tech in the hands of the Rebellion it is fitted to the cruiser Constantine and sent out for a test, however, when activated the ship vanishes, it re-appears later in the Draconis sector inside the Imperial blockade around the frozen moon of Ga-Ri V. The fleet intends to distract the Imperials whilst Kaid, T7 and Inigo sneak aboard to investigate.

Intro crawl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mOwD9MoM5k

After the Strike: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZuu2cYiddk

Episode III

With Inigo away on an important mission, Kaid calls in a favour from a Sullustan contact of his and manages to arrange for some much needed R&R for himself and T7 on the peaceful ocean world of Spira. However an old enemy pursues them there, learning of this Tyber Zann, wishing to clear his debt sends the bounty hunter Remo Williams to aid them.

Intro Crawl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGle8l9DoX4

I had a great time running this trilogy and was lucky enough to have four excellent players involved in it, there were the usual scheduling problems and such like that tend to plague this sort of game but we stuck with and created a fun story that I certainly enjoyed GM-ing and the players seemed to enjoy getting involved in 🙂


Matters of Fate: Shortest skill list?

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about skill lists, Approaches and Professions in the Fate system, in preparing my Storm & Sail game (starting next weekend) I’ve decided to go with a Profession based system, but it has got me thinking about just how many skills are actually needed in a Fate game; if you love the current amount of skills that’s grand, I’ve no problems with that, but this post probably isn’t really aimed at you.

Recently my wife Hannah has been running a game using Aspect only fate, essentially the skill rating you add to your dice rolls comes from the number of aspects you have that are applicable.

For example: If you had “Best gunslinger in the county” and “Quick on the draw” as aspects and found yourself in a shoot-out then you could claim +2 as your skill level, one rank per applicable aspect.

This system seems to be working really well at the moment although it does involve a bit of adjudication as to what aspects are applicable in certain situations, and having players who aren’t going to attempt to manipulate the system to get the best rolls in any and all situations; very similar to some of the potential issues that Fate Accelerated can face depending on the level of player buy-in to the spirit of the system.

It also got me thinking about the World of Darkness series of games where attributes are organised into three categories, physical, mental and social, I started thinking about whether or not these three “stats” could be used to replace the existing skill list, and I believe that they could be. Those three labels cover pretty much all situations that I can think of, trying to be diplomatic with somone, roll social, trying to recall ancient lore, roll mental, fighting a pirate, roll physical.

Now I can hear some people complaining and saying that there wouldn’t be much variety using this system, however I think this is where the stunt system can more than adequately pick up that slack, you want to play a character who is more dexterous then brawny, then take a stunt or two that benefit you in those sort of situations, and vice-versa if you want to be the brutal but clumsy barbarian. Although it might be worth the GM being a being more lenient with the situations that stunts can apply to.

Final Xsplit Layout for Storm and Sail Game

As you may know I’m preparing to run a pirate-style fantasy game using a version of the Fate rules that I have compiled, taking inspiration from several different sources. I’ve also been experimenting with the free version of Xsplit in an attempt to make the game more visual for those watching it and as a helpful aid to my players, I’m pretty happy with the layout I’ve now got and have uploaded a small video test of it (you can see this by clicking on the video link below).

Features I intend to use via Xsplit for this game:

  • Changeable backdrop images.
  • Gold coins as fate tokens that can be moved.
  • Screen capture of the players with their fate points below them and their characters name and aspects above them.
  • Overlay-able map of the New World.
  • I also have a second screen set up that can function as a whiteboard.

Cheats guide to making simple outline maps in Photoshop

Please note: There are some excellent and very professional cartographers out there producing great maps for games, this article is not designed to create a map to compete with them, it is for someone who wants to quickly put together a simple map that they can use during a RP campaign with minimal struggle.

Producing professional looking campaign maps can be very tricky, takes a lot of practice and time, however, if you’re just looking for a quick map that will enable you to get playing your game quickly then this guide should help you.

This article assumes you have access to Photoshop and basic ability to use it (although the principles should be transferable to other graphic programs like GIMP).

  1. Open a new screen
    Start up your graphics program and open a new image.1
  2. Colour in the water on your map
    Choose a colour to represent the water on you map and then fill the whole screen in that colour (you can switch to the fill option by pressing G on your keyboard in Photoshop). It’s generally best if you go for a mid-range blue colour.2
  3. Download some landmass brushes
    This is where you’ll really save a lot of time, instead of drawing your landmasses by hand or laboriously creating them using the Photoshop freehand tool, look online for a set of brushes that are ready made landmasses.I recommend land brushes by Bonvanello: http://bonvanello.deviantart.com/art/Land-Brushes-307837333

    Download the brush file to your computer, then select the brush tool (or press B in Photoshop).

    Click on the option to change your brush size and then on the small arrow at the side (as shown on the screenshot below).

    Select load brushes and then navigate to where you saved the landmass brush file.
    If you scroll down the brushes available to you, you should now see the various island shapes available.


  4. Create a new layer for the land
    You can do this by clicking on the add new layer button in Photoshop.6
  5. On the new layer put down landmasses in a different colour (I’m going to use white), re-sizing and rotating brushes until you’re happy with them7
  6. Making sure you still have your land layer selected, double click to the right of the layer name (as shown in the image below)8
  7. You will see the following menu appear9
  8. Select Outer Glow, this will create an area of colour around your landmasses, you can change the colour to a lighter blue than your sea and mess around with the different settingsThe settings I’ve used are shown below.

    This creates the area of shallow water around the coasts of your landmasses.


  9. So there you are a simple map ready for you to sketch on and fill in as your campaign progresses. If you want to give your landmasses a little more definition then you can use the Stroke effect to add an outline and the Inner Glow effect to give them a bit more of a 3D look.12

    So there you are, using this method it’s possible to create a basic outline map for an RPG in about ten minutes or so (quicker once you’ve had a bit of practice).


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