[Handout-RPG] Jadepunk NPC Journal

In addition to providing a newsletter for my players (as detailed in my last post here) I also wanted to create a sort of NPC journal that would store details on major NPCs that have been encountered and that would act as an aide memoir for both my players and myself; i’ve created a rough draft PDF document that i’ve uploaded to the game’s facebook group, there are only a couple of NPCs in it at the moment since we’ve only just done our first session, but it will grow as the game goes on.
I attach a couple of screenshots below:

[GM Tools-RPG] NPC gestures/body language

Below is a link to a great document detailed potential different body language signals for various emotions, it was shared on the G+ Tabletop Roleplaying Community by Giuseppe Antonelli and should be of great use to anyone looking to get a bit more drama and emphasis into their NPCs.
(I also found out from Guiseppe’s post that the Italian term for NPC is PNG, “Personaggio Non Giocante” which I didn’t know before 🙂 )
Many thanks for sharing these on G+ Guiseppe 🙂

[RPG] Tip Tuesday #2 – Always carry a notepad

As a GM you’ll often have ideas in the strangest of places, perhaps when you first wake up or just before you fall to sleep at night (or maybe in some even stranger places), it’s very easy for these ideas to just get lost and never be recovered, get into the habit of carrying a small notepad around with you and some form of writing implement; any ideas that pop into your head, no matter how crazy, jot them down in your notepad so that you can look through it later for ideas. I normally have an A6 pad and a biro with me at most times and scribble random stuff down in them, whenever i’m stuck for ideas I have a flip through them to spur my imagination, some of my best ideas have come from taking a few half-formed thoughts and combining them.

[RPG] Jadepunk Character Sheets

Some small alterations have taken place on the characters getting them ready for the first session (I tend to allow players to make minor alterations to their character sheets up until the third session), below are the current backgrounds and character sheets that we have.
Ba Tu Satoru
The man who would be known as Ba Tu Satoru was the son of the sculptor Yutaka Kazami. When he was a small boy, he made a friend at school, whose father was Isaku Jirou. One day, the fathers collaborated in a contest run by one of the council of 9, the goal was to present to them the greatest clockwork sculpture (fame and fortune as the reward). Kazami, being a sculptor by trade, lacked skill at engineering and making clockwork, while Jirou was poor at aesthetics, but they worked together to cover each other’s faults. Additionally, since his father’s eyesight began to fail, Ba Tu would help Kazami by working on the finer details of the sculptures for him, though everyone else believed that he was just there to watch.
On the last day of the contest, Jirou betrayed Kazami. He made his own son stop Kazami’s son from trying to help his father. Jirou’s son, while crying and begging for forgiveness, bound his best friend’s wrists and legs and went into Jirou ‘s hideout with him. Jirou locked him in, until he could come back .Meanwhile, Kazami killed Jirou in a rage and then fled the city, abandoning the search for his son. Since Jirou could not arrive back to release Ba Tu after the completion the boy began to starve in his prison.
Ba Tu would have eventually died, had it not been for the chance arrival of Dogen Hōinbō, a blind professional assassin who just happened to be passing by at the time with his dog Kuro, who noticed the pair. Hōinbō saved the boy and took him in. The trauma caused by his near-death experience left him unable to recall much from before his rescue.
Sora Yoshida
Born to a Naramel nomadic tribe called the Red Talons Sora Yoshida spent his child hood years hunting for red jade out in the desert wastes with his family. Educated by the elders of his tribe Sora, became accustomed to the traditions and beliefs of the old gods, the pursuit of virtue.
While navigating the dune sea Sora came across a long abandoned village, uncovered by the erratic winds that trap the unwary. Upon approach an airship crashed into the village with a thunderous roar, not unlike laughter to Sora’s ears. Racing to search for survivors, only one is found close to death and covered in strange, almost animated tattoos. 
Before Sora could react the man grabs him by both fore arms and whispers to him, “My time is at an end but yours is just beginning, you have been chosen for a great task, Sora and I am afraid a difficult burden”.
The deserts are no place for children, so unlike the other clans Naramel’s youngsters grow up fast, usually gaining a hard survivalists edge. Sora already had enough problems with the weird dreams and compulsions that seemed separate from his own. He had though the incident at the abandoned village was a nightmare he had dreamt up until the incident at grey tower trading post. He had been unpacking satchels of red jade to be bartered for provisions when he suddenly found himself involved in a dispute with a water merchant and the local militia. 
With a strength that seemed beyond him he threw the guards into the fortified town wall.
To prevent his execution for this folly his clan smuggled him out and sent him to a distant relative in Kausao city.  There he confided in what would become his mentor about what he had witnessed, He believed the solution was to honour the old gods through an ancient series of traditional dances. Secretly also a martial art Sora spent several years practicing and perfecting this tradition. That is until his mentor’s temple is shut down by corrupt law enforcement cracking down upon any form of martial arts.
This leads Sora to end up coming into contact with the City’s less savoury characters in order to survive.  
In return for a favour owed Sora was able to learn something of his “condition” from a contraband book. It tells various tales of the land, some familiar to him while others totally alien. The tale of the laughing emperor was particularly interesting. It spoke of a legend of a man who managed to imprison a powerful spirit referred to as a djinn whose magic came from magical ink that adorned its body. Forced to aid in the creation of an empire, when the mocking emperor made a grave error in insulting the creature wishing it could stop him if he could, knowing that spirit could no directly lay a hand upon his owner. The djinn in retribution sacrificed itself into a thousand shards reportedly imbuing individuals who come into contact with them with the power to fight tyranny. 
A small faded illustration of a man bearing remarkable tattoos not dissimilar to Sora’s own was also provided. Most interesting was the bracelet the sketched described as being the way in which this dangerous legacy can be used. 
To find this item if possible and learn to control his tattoos Sora decides the time has come to fight back.
Kaiyu Yuuto



Background TBC

[Actual Play] Skyless City – Session 1

This is the first session of our new Jadepunk campaign, it finds our heroes aboard a sabotaged Aerum airship plummeting towards Kausao, perhaps our heroes weren’t the only ones attempting to take advantage of the Governor’s aerial tour of the city? But can they allow the massive collateral damage that the airship crash will cause?

[RPG] Initial Jadepunk Characters

Thoroughly enjoyed our character generation recently for our forthcoming Jadepunk game, although they may still be subject to some tweaking and alteration, here is a look at the initial character designs.
Kaiyu Yuuto 
A young man raised into a life of priviliege who secretly became friends with a young girl from the poor district and, through her, was lead into helping the Jianghu fight against the oppresive regime of the 13th Governor.
Ba Tu Satoru
Born the son of a clockwork engineer, Ba Tu Satora was betrayed by a friend and left to die; his unlikely saviour came in the form of Dogen Hōinbō, a blind assassin who rescued the young boy and trained him in the ways of the silent killer.
The Tattooed Man (character name pending)
Inheriting strange black jade tattoos and a legacy of mysticism when he discovered a strange creature in a crashed airship, the tattooed man now uses his formidable powers to fight against the corrupt regime that holds Kausao in it’s vice-like grip.

[RPG] Using Hive-cities in RPGs

Hive Cities in RPGs
In this blog entry I want to talk a little bit about a concept that I have used in numerous roleplaying games and that seems to be very popular with my players (it’s going to be used in my forthcoming Jadepunk game ‘The Skyless City’ – you can see the video of our character and setting creation here), the concept of the hive city.
What do I mean by hive city?
A hive city is a city that is built upwards instead of outwards and in many different layers, different layers normally have different characters.
I think that I probably first came across the concept of a hive city in the Games Workshop skirmish wargame Necromunda (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necromunda), in it gangs from various houses via for supremacy on a world that has been utterly polluted by industry; the hive citys or hives are huge man-made structures reminiscent of massive artificial termite mounds, each producing a stagger amount of manufactured goods and housing many millions of people. In general the uppermost spire of the hive world serves as the domains of the rich and privilieged, rising above the polluted atmosphere of the planet and touching the edge of space itself, the waste productions and pollution of the hives flow downwards forming a poisonous lake or sump at the very base of the hive; life on the lower levels become increasing unpleasant as the denizens are forced to drink water, eat food rations and even breathe air that has been recycled many times, the radioactive waste at the bottom of the hives also gives rise to horrendous mutants and monstrosities.
Here is a picture of a Necromunda style hive found on Yaktribe Gaming (http://gaming.yaktribe.org/community/threads/pictures-of-hive-cities-help-needed.2372/) posted by Malika.
Using this concept in RPGs
Although the concept (well at least my initial encounter with it) came from a dark, nihilistic science-fiction genre it can be used in almost any RPG, where the technology exists to create tall structures with multiple levels; for example Jadepunk is an amalgamation of steampunk ideas, wuxia and westerns, using enchanted jade in the place of more traditional steam based technology. Whilst designing our setting, one of the things that I was very keen to do (as I am in all of my games) is to get the players involved as much as possible in helping to design the setting where the game takes place; my general philosophy when using a published setting is that I start with the published material as a baseline, but that player and GM choices supersede anything written in the published setting. For example: In our Jadepunk game one of the players asked whether the game featured mythological creatures since he wanted to have a background that involved a Djinn-like creature, although the canon setting is largely focussed on humans, I see no reason why I would want to stifle a players creativity by refusing to incorporate something that could add a lot to the game and even take it in interesting new directions.
Why use a hive-city type structure in an RPG
One of the benefits of hive structure is that it enables you to present a (literally) multi-layered setting that illustrtates the contrasts and differences between the different layers without having to have a monumentally huge area. As you climb higher out of the pollution the people become more refined and the surroundings more opulent, whereas in the darker layers shut away from the sky and the clean air you have poisonous fogs, pollution where people live and die in abject poverty.
A hive-city is also a way of making class differences very obvious and present in a physical way, the rich and poor are not only divided by wealth and lifestyle but literally they exist on different levels of the game world; a poor person can only dream of climbing to the upper echelons and feeling the sun upon their face whereas the exceptionally wealthy live in luxury at the top of the hive or perhaps even floating above it (depending on the setting and technology available). Hive-cities also mark the PCs in your game as being something special, since they will be one of the few groups capable (or compelled to) move between the different levels whereas most of the poor will be forbidden from the upper levels and most high level dwellers would not sully themselves by descending into the depths.
In the modern world tall structures are quite prevalent and imply a certain level of civilisation, you only need to look at the modern high-rise skyscrapers of a city to see this, and this implied civilisation can give an interesting contrast in a game where you might otherwise not see it (such as a fantasy game for instance), especially when it is contrasted with some of the barbaric acts that often occur in many different RPGs; the veneer of civilisation can be quite thin and can hide a great deal of horror and darkness when it is peeled back, like a fine carpet covering a rotting and decaying floor.
Things to keep in mind when using a hive-city structure in your game
1. Decide roughly how large your hive is going to be: This doesn’t have to be an exact measurement but you should know whether your city is going to touch the stars or whether it’s just a few levels in height.
2. Decide on the character of the different levels: Each floor of your hive does not have to be different, you can group several of them together to create an area with a certain theme (a poor district or manufacturing levels for instance), but you should have a rough idea of the different levels that exist in your hive city.
3. Create some evocative details for the different levels: Once you’ve created the level grouping think about how they look or feel different from each other and the differences in the people that inhabit each level.
4. Consider how difficult it is to move between levels: A world with a lot of social mobility and movement between levels will feel very different to one where the boundary between rich and poor is guarded by troops wielding shotguns, also your PCs will inevitably want to move between levels at some point so give some thought to how this might be accomplished, whether there are any secret ways to do it and who else may move between the different levels.
5. Think about how the different levels affect and rely on each other: Different levels exist in a sort of eco-system where they affect each other and sometimes rely on each other, you don’t have to detail out a full ecological model but it’s definitely something worth thinking about before your game starts.
Getting the main aspects of your hive game down is far more important than having a perfectly detailed and rendering map of all the levels, i’d actually recommend against too much detailed mapping since it may not leave you much room for expansion and incorporation of later ideas.
A txt version of the rough concept for our Jadepunk hive city can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByVpAo4rxDGuWGU1Wjd0U0J3emc/view?usp=sharing
Next time you want to give your game a bit of a different flavour or you fancy highlighting societal levels and differences in a very physical and obvious way, give hive-cities a go they’re great fun and can add a lot of depth to games.
Edit: My friend John Miles has just reminded me of another excellent fantasy version of a hive-city, the city of Sharn from the D&D Eberron setting, you can find more details about it here: http://eberron.wikia.com/wiki/Sharn

[Video-RPG] Jadepunk Setting & Character Creation

Myself and the three players for our forthcoming (and as yet untitled) Jadepunk game (Thashif, Jenny and Mathew) did a hangout last night where we did character creation and a bit of setting creation (hashing out the basic details of the characters home district within KauSao city). Very enjoyable (as always with this group), and we’ve got the first session scheduled for Sunday 28th, really looking forward to running it 🙂

[RPG] Fleshing out Kalkedos the Swamp Troll

Okay, so in our previous post about designing mythologically inspired monsters we came up with the basics for a creature called Kalkedos, once a greedy man who was cursed by the god of merchants when he killed his neighbour (a loyal follower of the god) after the man rebuffed Kalkedos’ intent to woo his daughter, drowning the man in the swamps near his home. As he died the merchant, a loyal follower of his god, cursed Kalkedos and the god of merchants answered, lending power to the curse. Kalkedos was transformed into a lumbering, clumsy creature with warty skin, green the colour of envy, his mind twisted he gathers the filth of the swamp to him as his ‘riches’ blind to the fact that it is refuse and lashing out at another who dares try to steal from his treasure.

Bound to the scene of his crime, Kalkedos is unable to leave the swamp unless he receives the forgiven of the merchant’s daughter (who fled when her father died), should this happen and she be able ot convince him to leave the swamp then the curse would be lifted.

So what else do we have to do?

Strictly speaking nothing, we can pick some appropriate stats from a monster manual/bestiary (or create some) and run with the monster as it is, however, there are a few additional questions that we help us flesh out the monster a bit more.

What does the monster look like?
We’ve already described Kalkedos as being green of skin and ugly of aspect, however we can flesh this out a bit further, keeping in mind the reason for his curse; since he was a greedy, grasping man I envision him as having long arms and powerful muscled hands that can shoot out of the water, grabbing prey, throttling it and dragging it below the water. Kalkedos also has large reflective eyes used for scanning the swamp for treasure and any trespassers attempting to steal what is his.

What abilities does it have?
Physical power is Kalkedos’ main ability, however the god who punished him did not want him to die in the swamp (since that would end his punishment) so Kalkedos regenerates all but the most vicious of injuries in time, however, no matter what he stuffs into his huge fanged maw the creature is always lean and permanently hungry, denied the ability to sate his urges and lusts.

What are it’s weaknesses?
Since Kalkedos is always hungry he is easily lured with food, his greed also leads to him being attracted to shiny objects whether or not they have any actual worth; however he is unable to look upon the truly beautiful since it reminds him of what he lost, seeing people or objects of great beauty drives him into a rage and he will go to any lengths to smash the offending object/person.

Is there a way to break the curse?
Besides the god of merchants, the only way for the curse to be broken is if the dead merchant’s daughter or a direct descendant of hers, forgives Kalkedos his crimes and can convince him to leave the swamp; if this happens then his warty troll skin will slough off and he will be restored.
  
If you’ve come up with any interesting creatures using our guides please drop me a line at reddicediaries@gmail.com, i’d love to hear about your creations.