Power cut-induced creativity

So due to Storm Ophelia, I had to stay home from work today, and then we lost power for a few hours. It’s back now, but it meant I actually found time to write. So here’s what I came up with at the time.


Since I find myself stuck in a house with a horrible storm outside, and without power inside, I thought I’d do something minimal like powering up my laptop and writing.

And after reading a few .pdfs saved in various places, I was all ready to go. Then I opened LibreOffice and was confronted with the dreaded enemy – the blank white page.

I’ve got a good few ideas on the go, but my problem is most of them are stored online somewhere, and I don’t even have a mobile signal to check where I am with them (yay storms!). So now I have to try and work out where I am with any of my ideas and work from there, and it’s painfully obvious that I don’t keep enough of them in my head.


So, what do I have the potentiality to think about?


I’m still fiddling away at my idea for the Ginnungagap – Space Vikings! – in D&D. I know it’s possible to brew together something from all the rules for magic and lasers in the game, even without more settings and rules coming out all of a sudden.

I have ideas for how Elves and Dwarves fit in, how magic works, why lasers aren’t as lethal as a phaser set to disintegrate, how to tie firearms in without getting bogged down in whether they fire bullets or laser beams or plasma bolts or dark energy disks. I’m still not much nearer to a story for a series of adventures.

I keep saying that I’ll puzzle something together if I sit down and get players, and then I delay that because I want to pull more of the rules together, rather than getting it going and fiddling and nerfing in play, which I know I should do.

I’ve more or less decided that I’ll finish my book on historical Vikings, read Neil Gaiman’s book on Norse Mythology, and then be in a place I’m ready to get going with it. We’ll see if I can manage that.


The Old Crown still twirls around in my head, but not with any real progress going on. Again, maybe I need to just sit down and write, or maybe I should through it at other people and see what sticks. I’m hoping Winter will give me an excuse to do more work on it, in the long dark nights where I don’t want to go anywhere, but we’ll see if I manage that.

I’m not happy with the name anymore, but I’m even less happy with any alternatives that I can come up with. I have more ideas for stories and games, but there are deliberately more hooks woven into the setting because I’ve been working at it for longer and wanted to explore, and it’s filled with different factions competing with each other.

I should probably work out if I can make a game out of it, or what game I’d want to. I’ve played with D&D (4th edition) and with FATE (using a reputation stress bar, which was odd), and I’m pretty happy I can make it work with the Cypher system quite easily, just to keep the rules very light.

Of those, I think I’d be most inclined to go with FATE though, maybe try with Fate Accelerated, because with 3 or 4 aspects it would work quite well.


And then, Fantasy Flight have released the beta of the new Legend of the Five Rings rules, so now I’m interested in that again (first glance – ugh, custom dice and no roll and keep?). I’m sure I’ll have a better review of the thing at some point, but based on the skim I read this morning, I like that the core rules have moved back to focussing on the same areas as in the first edition of the game, more or less.


Quick rules changes of the Ginnungagap

So, some quick changes and additions:

  • Honour stat – because I feel like it will be important to the setting. I need to work on appropriate tests for it. It will definitely be important with dealing with gods…(Yeah, just going to leave that hook hanging there)
  • Additional skills – Computer Use, Engineering, Navigate/Pilot (I haven’t fully decided the name yer). And then a skill I’m either calling Lore or Skald, see below
  • Skills removed – Animal Handling and Nature (folding into Survival), Arcana, History, Religion (folding all three into Lore/Skald)

I’m still working out some Feats of my own, but I’ll be stealing liberally from Fifth Age for now, whilst I whittle and shape.

Classes of the Ginnungagap

I’ve been reading around what other people have worked into sci-fi D&D rules around the internet, and I’ll be pinching and tweaking and fiddling as I go. A good portion of what I’m working with comes from Fifth Age, though I’m going for a lasers and sorcery setting so there’s the thorny issue of magic to work in somehow.

With that in mind, I’ve sat down again with the classes list and decided what I’m keeping and what will go, though I’m still stuck with some difficult decisions. The Fifth Age uses a Technician class to cover a Medic speciality, and I really like the class, but I’m also wanting to keep the Cleric as an option.


So far the classes I’m happy with are:

Barbarian (though I need to look again at which totems fit the setting)


Officer (Fifth Age equivalent to a Bard – thinking about a name change and tweaks. The Ace variant for pilots uses inspiration dice to power their own abilities, but I don’t really like it. I might move it to Soldier and use superiority dice)

Operative (Fifth Age equivalent to a Rogue)

Scout (Re-skin of a Ranger, or possibly the Savage from Fifth Age, or a combination of the two)

Soldier (Re-skin of a Fighter)


Technician (Fifth Age – has variants for Medics, Mechanics, Robomancers, though I’m not sure how happy I am with that last variant)


Classes that might need come in:

Paladin (though I’m working on a Soldier/Fighter speciality that fits this in there. Maybe a reskin of the Eldritch Knight)



Of course, my potential play group is actually only a handful of people so none of this might matter. We’ll see I suppose.

Races of the Ginnungagap

So I’ve been having a little brainstorm today about the different races of the Ginnungagap that I would allow for players.

I know it’s a sci-fi setting, so why not Warforged/robots you ask? Well, they’re in the setting. But they’re the bad guys, agents of the Frost and Fire Giants (bigger robots).

I changed up the races a bit because I wanted them to be a bit more setting fitting. The Drow are fine for Forgotten Realms, but they don’t fit what I had in mind, so I tweaked them a bit as a variant to the High Elves.

Oh, and if you don’t have a copy of Volo’s Guide to Monsters, then the Krar character abilities named below make no sense, and you don’t know what the Firbolg, Goliath, Goblin or Kobold stats look like. So get a copy!

Mannethli (Humans)

Aelfr (Elves) – Ljos (High elf variant), Svartaelf – +1 Cha, trained in stealth, elven weapons training, darkvision

Aelfblod (Half-Elf)

Dvergr (Dwarves) – hill / mountain variants

Dvergblod (Half-Dwarf) – +2 con, +1 in two others, darkvision, dwarven resilience, skill training in one skill

Niflingr (Goblins/Kobolds) – Looking at the stat blocks in Volo’s Guide, it’s very easy to believe these are variants of the same race.

Firbolgr (Firbolg / Goliath) – wood variant (Firbolg stats) / stone variant (Goliath stats). Again, could be easily tweaked to skins of the same race I think.

Krar (Ravenfolk) – Dex +2. Kenku Training (but include investigation, perception), Mimicry. Huginr +1 Int, +1 skill training. Muninr +1 Wis, Expert forgery/craft.



Parts of a City

Over the weekend, I had a non-digital day, turned off all my tech and only used my phone as a cooking timer when I made a very late dinner.

I got a LOT of reading done.

And I also did some brainstorming.


So, here’s a few location ideas I listed for parts and places of a city, in a fantasy or sci-fi setting, I don’t think it really matters. You could drop these in as locations during character building, or in a shared FATE location construction, and draw some descriptions, plot hooks or Aspects out from them.

They’re a pretty mixed bag, but they sort of got bunched into groups as I was coming up with them.


The Grand Promenade, Arcades, the Avenues, Oldtown, the New Quarter, the Zocalo

The Estates, Villas, the Tenements, Outwall

The Barracks, Guildhalls, the Senate, the Conclave, Palaces

The Great Temple, Ecclesiarch’s Palace, the Pantheon, Synod

The Souk, Night Market, the Floating Market, the Goblin Market, Caravaners’ Bazaar

Wharves and Dockside, the Docklands, Moorings, Ferries, Underbridge, Rialto, Longbridge, Riverdown

The Rooftops, Birdtown, the Nest, Highperch, Towers, Hightown

The Maze, Warrens, the Spider’s Nest, Witches’ Den, Alleys, the Broken

The Pits, Night Quarter, Vice Houses, the Dens, Red Street, Flops

The Tao of Bill Murray – for gamers

For my birthday last year, I got given a copy of the Tao of Bill Murray by Gavin Edwards. It’s a great book filled with a lot of stories and short anecdotes about people meeting Bill Murray, compiled from lots of different sources, and basically spanning most of his career. It’s a really great read.

The book is broken down into to main sections. The first is a list of ten guiding principles of the Tao of Bill Murray, and the second section is a synopsis of Bill’s film work in chronological order, more focussed on the Bill stories that occurred during filming.


It occurred to me that the ten principles of the Tao (or the Ten Bill Commandments as I like to think of them) offer some great advice to people playing or running games, so I’m going to boil down the principles outlined in there and how I’d apply them to the hobby.


The First Principle: Objects are opportunities

I think this is a pretty easy one to come up with in game terms. Flesh out your stories and games with red herrings, with plot hooks tied to objects, and with cool fun stuff in general. Have a fun magic item hidden in a treasure hoard, even if it’s nothing too special. Now have a contact see the item and recognise it. Add more story. Sideplot sideplot sideplot.

Even if the object only lasts a couple of sessions, if that thing can get brought up by someone telling a cool roleplay story, it’s worth it. “This one time, the party found a magic hat that kept the rain off like an invisible umbrella. Then I’m wearing it in town one day and a passing wizard says…” etc etc.


The Second Principle: Surprise is golden. Randomness is lobster

OK, so maybe this could be tied into that odd item I mentioned just now, or maybe it has the potential to derail a game session, but random fun adds plenty to game sessions.

If we’re not talking about the Half-Orc cleric of the god of love (“Why you run from Grod? Grod just want give you big hug!”), maybe we’re talking about the cursed 1d2 damage dagger that bonds to a host and is now forever the first weapon drawn without fail (with potential for abuse – door stop to slow a chasing mob down at every door, can’t be disarmed, ‘did I mention I have infinite throwing knives now?’).

(And yes, those are both stories from games played at my old gaming society at university.)


The Third Principle: Invite yourself to the party

Get involved! Go to the market and engage with NPCs to make a scene more of an event than ‘I go buy Full Plate in the market’.

Tell the rest of the party how you got the gnarly scar on your face, don’t be afraid to show off that cool combo of combat abilities you worked out, don’t always let the ‘face’ do all the talking (but maybe let them do most of it?).



The Fourth Principle: Make sure everyone else is invited to the party

Join the new player on their errands. Help them out. Join the wizard scouring the marketplace even if your characters don’t get on. Especially if they don’t get on.

If you’re not progressing the main story or a sideplot, help someone else out with their own.

Make the game fun for everyone, as much as possible, as often as possible. Play in every scene that makes sense, but don’t hog the spotlight. Offer pointers after sessions about when you liked how others were playing, and don’t just criticise with ‘I wouldn’t have done that’. If you must, suggest alternatives the player might not have thought about in the moment, that would incorporate well with their play style in the future.


The Fifth Principle: Music makes the people come together

OK, this might be the hardest one to pull off but bear with me.

If you’re playing in a cool Legend of the Five Rings game but feel something is lacking, find some cool music on Youtube or Spotify and suggest it get played in the background whilst you play. If we’re being less literal, maybe organise getting together for sushi before the game, or after, or instead of pizza during play, or at another time altogether. Jump into the culture to make your play experience deeper.


The Sixth Principle: Drop coin on the world

This is a hobby that can be expensive – if you want to keep up to date with all the different books and games and settings anyway.

Thing is, if you really enjoy a particular game, spend your money on it. Don’t just grab the free torrent online.

And don’t forget to do you research. If you play a big brand game and like some of the design, maybe look around at what the designers have done since, or before. If you’re really enjoying your FATE game but want something different, scour the internet for different flavours and rules tweaks, see what else is out there.


The Seventh Principle: Be persistent, be persistent, be persistent

Have goals. Follow them.

Know your character backstory, and know when a bad decision is what will drive the game forward better than a good one. Or when a painful decision will help out. Or when it will have consequences.

Your character might be driven by vengeance until he finds out his enemy is really his dad, and then that the party’s cleric is actually his twin sister that he never knew existed, which is totally going to make that kiss they shared a while back awkward, right?

(Ba-dum, tish, screenwipe.)


The Eighth Principle: Know your pleasures and their parameters

Know when to call it quits on a dud of a game. We’ve all played in them, but you know when you aren’t gelling with the rest of the group or you’re having issues making the pre-written module fun for everyone. So when you know, work it out.

Alternatively, know when you’ve had too much of a good thing. An eight-hour marathon megadungeon is a great idea, but only when you know you can handle it. If you’re all set up and ready to go, but then you have a hard week or one of your players does, you know when that eight-hour session is a good or a bad idea.


The Ninth Principle: Your spirit will follow your body

The above being said, if you think you might benefit from an epic session when you’ve had a hard week, go for it. If you’re physically able but maybe mentally drained, as the saying goes, “a change is as good as a rest”. And what’s more different to a hard day in the office than running around a dungeon throwing fireballs at Beholders?

The book made a point of Bill acting way before he thought about what he was doing, so by all means, act before you think top hard about a decision. If you’re invested in a character, maybe don’t leap to your death, but at least you can jump into these decisions headlong easier.


The Tenth Principle: While the earth spins, make yourself useful

Know when to show up to play, know who’s bringing snacks, know who can do what in-game and out to make the whole thing more fun.

Help prevent GM burnout. If you can help stop it happening, do. If you can offer to take over to prevent it or to switch up and run a game in place to help avoid the onset, do. Be the person that volunteers to help do these things, or know that if its not your strength to point it out to the group to find an alternative.

Be the best gamer you can be.

More Ginnungagap

I completely forgot about the alternate factions I’d come up with so far!


So I’ve got the Iron Brotherhood, the Black Network, and the Combine Council.

The Iron Brotherhood are mercenaries and warriors, sort of fill the role of the Order of the Gauntlet. But depending on the locality, they might be the local constabulary or a nasty gang. The Brotherhood is one of might, so in some places they might be ‘might makes right’ or the will to protect, but in others they might use their power to lord over others.

The Black Network is the switch for the Zhentarim. They’re a shifty alliance of thieves guilds and outlaws, bounty hunters and scoundrels that broker in rumours and secrets, and backstab where necessary.

The Combine Council is a network of leaders trying to do the best they can in the face of a loss of order from the gods. They replace the Lords’ Alliance.


I’m debating something about Skalds and wizards to replace the Harpers, though I’ve no idea what they would be yet. Given that I stole the name of the Iron Brotherhood from a Visigoth song, I might just have to hunt around on Spotify for some ideas.

And I have no idea for the Emerald Enclave, or replacing them or whatever. It seems like it should be easy, and I might not even replace them but just use them as they are (if, of course, I were to use factions at all.)