We’ve all been part of one of those games. The kind where characters come together during the goblin raid, where they watch each other’s backs through the tense nights sneaking into the ogre’s cave outside of town, but when it comes time for the next part of the adventure, the party shatters. The rogue steals everything that isn’t nailed down, the barbarian starts attacking anyone who comes within sword’s reach, and the cleric refuses to heal anyone unless they bribe her. What happened? Well, 9 times out of 10 it’s a problem of character motivation.
Character motivation, to put it bluntly, is why characters do what they do. It isn’t enough to simply be a skilled swordsman, a crack rifle shot, or a talented magician. These are skills; they are things a character is capable of. Motivation deals with what characters want, and what drives their actions. It isn’t often covered in character creation, but it’s just as important as min-maxing attributes and feats in the long run.
We continue a great worldwide tradition of late-autumn harvest festivals in North America with the American and Canadian Thanksgiving holidays. I’ve found in my home campaign that festivals like this are a welcome respite from dungeon delving and a chance to have fun and catch up with town NPCs. A good festival can add a lot of color and action to your game.
In medieval times, late November and early December was the time when animals, especially pigs, were slaughtered. The lords and landowners chose which animals would be kept and fed over the winter, and which would be killed and processed into storable food. There simply was not enough fodder and space to allow all the animals to live, and this choosing of victims can be the basis of a number of rituals or events in the town.
The result of alchemical experimentation by insane arcanists with a penchant for oozes and jellied fruits, the cranberry ooze has a deep maroon color, with bits of fruit peel, pit stones, and the yet-undissolved parts of unfortunate victims still suspended within its form.
When I first saw one such monstrosity, it crept along the floor toward me, and I heard a distinct sucking noise. Then, without warning, a second identical ooze fell from the ceiling on my companion. His armor sizzled as it wrapped around him and he scraped at it wildly with his axe.
As the holiday season roars down upon us, your thoughts may turn to family, friends, merriment, and feasts. In other words, you foolishly believe you are safe. For, as you place the Thanksgiving roast upon the table, basking in the sounds of admiration and growling stomachs, an ancient evil arises. It opens its own chest to send forth its legions of bready minions while your attacks strike harmlessly against its wrinkled bones. Then as you gaze past the petrified wattle into glowing red eyes, it opens its beak and spews forth magma-like gravy to spell your doom.
From the genesis of the D&D game, random lists have been used to create, inspire, and complicate games everywhere. A GM is essentially keeping all the knowledge of a fabricated world inside his or her head, along with all the relevant laws of physics and mechanics, which are transformed into a living story around the table. With that in mind, sometimes it is difficult to come up with appropriate names, descriptions, NPCs, castles, or environmental features on the fly. Luckily, there are certain tools that simplify a GM’s life no matter what game he or she is running.
These random generation tables can be used for just about any topic. The trouble is that though they are great to have, they take time to generate yourself. The good news is I have taken the liberty and done the hard work up front, leaving you free to copy, paste, and print right into your notes.
Nonplayer characters are a staple of roleplaying games across the genre. Your campaign may contain anywhere from dozens to upwards of a thousand different people. It can be difficult at times to give each one of these individuals their own look, sound, motives, backstory, and identity. Around the table I’ve found that giving an NPC at least one truly stand-out feature helps the players latch onto that person, as well as start to extrapolate some of their own conclusions about their lifestyle. For example, noting that an NPC shuffles a deck of cards deftly despite missing a few fingers or carries himself with impeccable posture and a raised chin paints a picture of who they might be. These identifying features can be used to distinguish between a wide variety of characters or serve as a starting point for a new adventure. It may be that running into someone with a feature such as number 17 or 22 may pique the interest of the party and raise a lot of questions that hopefully lead to excitement.