Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: The Proselytizer


This one is all Marc Plourde’s fault.  In our recent Gods of the Fall game, he ran this encounter in our first adventure.  I thought it was a pretty interesting encounter because the setup gave us players a lot of choices and helped us define our characters.  This is not a big set piece I know, but small encounters can mean a lot to players if it helps define themselves and the tone of an area or a campaign. You can find Marc Plourde’s writings and gaming tips over at his Inspiration Strikes Blog.


Someone is on the street corner proselytizing to the people passing by.   A group of folks with opposing views come and accost them in sight of the PCs.   Quite a simple concept really but you can do a lot with this.


So the mood for a scene like this is entirely in your hands.  You are basically establishing two factions in your world.  How do they act?  If the corner crier is spouting blasphemies and member of the inquisition simply just walks up and shoots him with a blunderbuss, then you’ve established a tone for this conflict.   The inquisition clearly thinks they can get away with this kind of blatant violence.   If the two factions end up in a shouting match none resorting to violence you set a different tone.  If it’s just simply a crowd of people heckling the crier then you’ve set a tone.  The mood is clearly in your hands.   What happens next is totally up to the players. Continue reading “Set Piece: The Proselytizer”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

The Banquet


The noble throwing a banquet, the feast in the players’ honor, the masquerade ball the players are infiltrating, and the gala used as a cover for the great heist.  Big dinner parties crop up time and again in campaigns of all genres.   While the reason the players are attending is usually tied to some campaign story or plot, I am going to discuss things you can do to make the event more a set piece than window dressing.

(art The Banquet of Cleopatra is a painting by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo)


The players are attending a dinner, either in disguise, as guests of honor, or random attendees. They are most likely out of their element and forced to interact with people they don’t know and who don’t know them.  I am sure the players are embroiled some wondrous plot, but the party isn’t thrown by them, so theirs aren’t the only schemes in town. Continue reading “The Banquet”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: Market Terror

“You got any power cells for a Model 44?” Caleb asked the Toydarian vendor, as he perused the creature’s stall.

“Bolwola ticati” came the reply.

“Ohh, good.  How much….” 

“Caleb…” Renda called as she tapped on Caleb’s shoulder. 

“Hold on.. I’m doing business…   15 credits a pop?  These things are 15 credits mint in the Core and I know what you have isn…”

“Caleb.” Renda tapped more insistently.

Caleb looked over his shoulders toward the Rodian, she made a gesture toward the center of the market.  Caleb followed the gesture and saw a trio of Stormtroopers conversing near the market’s gaudy imperial statue. 

“Yeah Stormtroopers, I see them.  Be cool they’re not on to us.”

“Not the Stormtroopers, looks closer.”

Caleb scanned the crowd and found what had Renda spooked.  Four armed men were posted throughout the market.  They were anxious, Caleb could see the one closest to him was fingering his blaster’s trigger.  They kept glancing at the Stormtroopers in the center and they were also keeping an eye on the few on patrol.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” whispered Renda. “Somethings about to go down.”

“If it does, our mission gets a whole lot harder.”

Caleb watched as the man with the blaster gripped it firmly and started walking purposely toward the nearest trooper.

“Hux and Niner,” Caleb said into his com. “abort.  I repeat abort.”  The man with the blaster walked right up to the Imperial Trooper and shot him in the back.  A few people in the crowd screamed.  Then the statue in the center of the square exploded.


The following scene is about an attack that occurs in a crowded public space.  Given the state of things in the real world, this scene may not be suitable for some tables.   I originally wrote this scene a few years ago for the GamerNation Holocron. I have run this scene quite a few times in a star wars game, with warring Hutt factions, rebel vs Imperial faction, even Hutt vs Zann Consortium factions, each time the player took completely different routes.  I have also run this is a Numenara game and it turned out quite interesting.


Players are walking through or shopping at a busy open-air market, when a local gang, or resistance fighters, or rebel cell decided to attack the place. Their attack should be against another local faction or authority but could be against the PC’s directly if desired. Continue reading “Set Piece: Market Terror”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: A Ship in a Storm

The deck bucked to the starboard as the wave crashed into the ship’s port side.  Sabastian could not keep his balance and slid across the quarter deck on his rear.  The jackline was the only thing that saved Sabastian from a watery grave.  He held onto the line with all his might as he slowly tried to get his feet below him. 

The captain was yelling orders from the wheel but Sabastian couldn’t hear a word of it above the wind and the rain and the churning seas.   This is bad.  The worst storm he’d seen.  Lightning arched across the sky above them, the thunder that followed did little to mask the load Crack that came from mizzenmast.  Even with sails stowed the mast had taken on more stress than it could bear.

Sabastian looked up just in time to dodge the tangle of rigging falling toward the deck.   Sabastian picked himself off the deck and found himself staring at the wave,  it was larger than their ship and was about to hit them once again on the port side.  It was then that he realized he no longer held the jackline. 

(image from The Perfect Storm ©2000 Warner Brothers)


I’ve been reading a lot of the 7th Sea Second Ed. Corebook lately and it’s got me jonesing for some high seas swashbuckling action.  A storm on a ship is a great encounter for the players to fight the elements rather than an enemy. (though having a ship battle in a storm is action extraordinaire) Now don’t think this Set Piece is only for ships at seas.  I’ve run this more times as a spaceship in an ion storm/nebula/fill in the blank/ type storm than I have one at sea.  I’ve even done this encounter with the players in an airship.  It’s always a fun time.


The players’ ship his run afoul of some nasty weather, can their ship survive? Can they stop themselves from going overboard? Continue reading “Set Piece: A Ship in a Storm”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: A Clear and Present Danger

If you see a cool scene in a book or movie and you think it will make a good scene in your game, use it.  With some retooling, you can make it your own.  I’ve used the below scene quite a few times and only once been called out on its inspiration.  But the player who figured out the inspiration said it only made the scene more fun for him.


The Players are in a vehicle(speeder truck, van, carriage, whatever) when an “incident” up ahead forces them to turn onto a narrow street with buildings on either side.   A vehicle pulls in behind them and up ahead  something blocks their path. That is when the ambush starts, usually with an explosion.


The mood in this scene is surprise and chaos. There are other factors that really depend on what the PCs are doing in the vehicle in the first place. Are they escorting an important figure, transporting a valuable McGuffin, moving stolen goods, or just going for a ride? Each reason can really effect the intensity of the scene.

An ambush like this just doesn’t happen out of the blue, make sure there is a faction that hates the PC enough, or wants what the PCs have enough, to pull this off.  This ambush  will have a better effect on the players if it is orchestrated by a returning villain/faction rather than a new one.  It will also let the players know that that faction/entity is really dangerous.

It should be clear to the PCs that the enemies have greater numbers, the better terrain advantage, and possibly better fire power than the PCs.  Getting out alive should be the number one goal of the PCs. If they have a large cargo they cannot easily take with them, then they may have to forfeit it to the enemy… for now.  If you don’t think your PCs will be inclined to flee; well you could kill one, if you want to send that kind of message, or takes them prisoner.(a set piece I’ll get to later)

This should not be unwinnable, just have the odd stacked against them.  But the PCs may need to change their parameters on what it means to win. Continue reading “Set Piece: A Clear and Present Danger”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Rants

The House Rule

I must admit I am kind of allergic to house rules.  I don’t like them.  I am always skeptical of rules my friends or random strangers have come up with to ‘fix’ an issue they have with a game.  I assume that games have been thoroughly researched, tested, play-tested, and tweaked before they ever make it to publication.  So the rules as written are written for a reason.  That ability or +2 bonus is there because it’s balanced, and changing it even a little bit may have unforeseen consequences down the line.  It is like computer coding.  How many times has a ‘patch’ to fix one small problem caused a completely unrelated system to crash or fail? (in my line of work… every patch) So I don’t like to ‘patch’ the rules.

That said there are acceptable levels of ‘House Ruling’ I can handle.  In RPGs, many people come up with new abilities, items, monsters, even classes.  This is fine.  RPGs aren’t competitive (or at least not the ones I play) so as long as your homebrewed class isn’t blatantly broken and overpowered that my character never gets a chance to shine then I am good.  If the classes available didn’t meet the vision you had for the character you have been dying to play, then by all means house rule it. Continue reading “The House Rule”