|Places to Go, People to Be||[Next Article] [Previous Article] [This Issue] [Home]|
Awakening to the Internet
by Nick McCarthy
Ok, I admit it; I'm a bit of a technophobe as far as computers are concerned. I know there are many of you out there who look at the cream coloured plastic of your desk top companion and see nothing more than very handy tool for any number of tasks. When I look at my computer, I see the first step in the evolution of a thing that will one day destroy humanity! However I am getting better, and dare I say that I am even coming to trust, like and perhaps love a little my desktop companion. This does not mean I'm wrong about the end of humanity, just that in the same way that its wrong to pass on the sins of the fathers, so its wrong to hate this machine for the sons it will one day have.
So what is bringing about this miraculous, painful and slow transformation in my attitude? Well it's the stuff on the Internet that's out there for GMs and players! I recently had a very bad experience with a D&D game, and have to admit that I have not played a good game of D&D since I was a young larval form (oh dear, did I say that out loud?). I suspect this has far more to do with my maturing tastes than it does with the excellence of the early games of D&D we played. With this in mind I decided to write up a mini campaign for D&D 3rd Ed. and see if I could create a great game, despite the things I hate and despise about the game. Now, I could just have changed an existing campaign of any of a number of games I have run or played in the past, but decided not to do that. You see as far as I am concerned there is a reason for all the different setting we have to play in the wide world of role-playing. Each setting has, or at least should have, something to offer. Something unique to it, that lets us look at things in a different way. I will not give the game away as I have yet to run the game I came up with, but it has promise. If it works out well, I will submit it to PTGPTB and see if they want to share it with you all, though they do have a policy of non system specific scenarios (very laudable it is to), and I'm not sure how well my little scenario will convert to other systems. If it doesn't work well, I will burn it, and deny all knowledge of its existence.
So getting back to the point. I was looking in shock at the DMs guide I had just finished reading, thinking to myself, how can any GM run this steaming heap of shite, when I decided to look on the internet for inspiration. Now I tend to play mad little games of my own devising, and so very rarely do I buy or have an interest in off the shelf scenarios. But rather than give up straight away I thought I would trawl through the Internet and see what came up. Its how I found this place (PTGPTB) after all.
Where to start? Why with a search engine of course. Now there are folks out there who will tell you the search engine they use to find stuff on the internet is better than any one else's. In fact there are people like that for every single search engine there is. I think they work for the companies that provide the respective engines, but then I'm a little paranoid as well. Any way, my choice of search engine relies on the shotgun effect, why use one when I can use twenty? So off I go to Dogpile that sends the info I'm interested in to lots of different search engines and then brings it back to me. I am by far the worst person in the world to talk to you about the arcane rules of search engines and how they work, but if you use Dogpile you will find a help link at the bottom of the page that will no doubt tell you more than ever I could about getting the most out of your search engine.
At long last I'm getting to the point, the stuff I found on the Internet. Most, if not all of this tends to have a fantasy lean, as I was trying to get stuff for D&D remember. Now the biggest problem for just about any GM has to be names. It is so easy to get lost in the list of names, to find that every NPC has the same last name and so on. If your looking for inspiration in this department, try http://www.onlineroleplay.com/Roleplay_Guides_And_Resources/Names/ for real names divided up by time and geography. This is an absolute god send to a GM, and the main site has a few useful things in it as well, but not quite so brilliant as the ability to get 16th century Spanish names! For a fantasy setting, the most useful names of all come from http://spitfire.ausys.se/johan/names/. This place not only generates a huge array of names for you, it also places them in random order, so you can make 20 random names, and just go down the list through the course of the game for all those little incidental characters you never thought your players would ever want any thing to do with. I am tempted to stop right there, armed with a list of names, a GM can go on to create an off the cuff game with out to much bother, so long as he has at least a rough idea of what's going on, and has his beginning, middle and end sorted, and an idea for at least one scene for each act. It may not be the most finely crafted game ever but you should be able to do it if caught on the back foot by something your players decide to do. However, the best games tend to be a little more fleshed out than that, so lets press on.
As every one has very different tastes and what I consider to be an invaluable tool for the GM in a rush, you may think a huge waste of time, lets start with http://www.pebblesculpt.co.uk/ukrpgsoc/linksout.html which has about 100 links to all sorts of stuff. Not all of them have an adequate description of what they do, but if you think my pick links in this article are a little lacking I'm sure that somewhere in here you will find all sorts of goodies you can use. If 100 links aren't enough for you then try http://www.rpggateway.com/. I warn you now that if you trawl through this lot you will have no life whatsoever. They have over 4000 links according to their own propaganda.
Now we have a list of NPC names, unless you are already in a world for the characters, you need to select one. Either a pre generated one, a random one or you may want to make your own (most GMs try this at least a few times) so if you are going to go mad, lock yourself away from weeks on end and create your own world, http://www.io.com/%7Esjohn/demog.htm might be a useful read for a medieval/fantasy setting, and it will also set you thinking along the right lines for any other setting, pointing out some of the concepts you need to think about for creating any world. If you are smart enough to play in an existing world, or want to but are unsure which one to go for, go back to Dogpile and see if you can find info on the worlds that are out there for you to spend your money on. You may even want to take a fully fleshed out city to play with such as Solis. This is a massive project I warn you now, but is an excellent example of what can be achieved. The load times on this one can be a bit slow, but the images you get are well worth it. Be warned, this site is mammoth, and if you intend to run your adventure here, you will have to put aside a lot of time if you want to read it all. The handouts you will get with this make it well worthwhile though. Watch your player jaws drop when you start to hand out the map of the tavern they are staying in! If you prefer to do your own handouts, and are looking for some stuff to create them, for fonts you might want to check out "http://www.io.com/%7Esjohn/fonts.htm and if you want draw by hand your own maps, be they continent or cupboard size look at downloading Autorealm a very handy map making program, that's free as well. It does tend to crash a bit when using complicated lines such as the fractal coastlines or the 'wave' effect it has. But you soon learn to work round that.
Once you have your map, or even before you draw it/generate it you need to think about lots of things about world you are creating, I would not even bother myself, as my players have no need to know the political realities or the history of the country next door... however if you do want that level of detail, http://www.multiverse.org/" will give it to you. Whilst this has a passion for Michael Moorcock/Elric, you can ignore that easily enough, and waste a few days looking at all the stuff this site links to. I warn you now, whilst the site looks great, it is very badly organised, but it is worth trawling through. For those of you interested in other Chaosium games, be sure to check out their website.
Right, now the meat and potatoes of this wandering article. http://www.irony.com is your one stop shop for generating stuff, especially for any fantasy-based games you want to run. They have a dice roller. You could if you wanted to generate pages of every dice roll you ever will need, and just go through them... though I'm unsure how useful that is, it still tickles me! Their webtools will make a sector of space, one or more of the worlds in that sector, the cities and the terrain around that world, islands and country side on the world (including individual forest clearings on said world). If you want a to have 101 villages of that world as well it will do that for you... and provide you with a game seed for each village as well. The Graphics may not be the best ever done, but for sheer breadth and ability this site is hard to beat. They have a great attitude as well, and provide a links page to other stuff as well, some of which is better than their own stuff.
One of the places they eventually linked to is http://www.b-ware.com/hive/fplans/index.htm an invaluable site for any GM in just about any setting. Go there NOW and bookmark/favourite it! Go on, don't delay, go do it... you will forget if don't do it now... Again, the graphics are not the greatest, but a better selection of historical building that down load fairly quickly you will be hard pressed to find. You can use this site to get some ideas for your own creations, or use them as is, or take the name of the place you are interested in back to dog pile and see if there are any better maps out there in the aether.
Ok, with all this stuff, you can generate at random a galactic empire and the cities of that empire. If using a fantasy setting you can have 101 villages of said galactic empire (wizards with teleportation/wish spell conquering space... hmm interesting). But what are you going to do? You need some ideas as well, so try http://www.io.com/~sjohn/plots.htm. Look, with all this internet stuff you don't even have to think any more!
You know, I'm starting to realise how massive the WWW is. I mean I knew it was big, but if you really want to find it, its all out there you know. Open another window; go to dog pile and copy and paste GURPS +generator in to the field at the top and press fetch. You see what I mean? There is loads of stuff out there if you just look for it. If you are a GURPS player, and like the idea of making a world that ties in with someone else's ideas or at least has a sense of being more than just your own little hobby world, take a look at http://homepages.enterprise.net/swatkins/gww.html for a like minded individuals out there. Once again this site will lead you to a huge variety of resources at "http://homepages.enterprise.net/swatkins/gurps/webworlds/links.htm
Good God, I haven't even started to talk about artwork yet! I am the sort of ham-fisted idiot who can't even draw a line on piece of paper. I have always felt a bit cheated when I see other GMs handing stunning little pictures of NPCs, spooky houses and hideous monsters and maniacs. Not any more. Just type illustration and whatever other term you are interested in, I'm sure you will find something to meet your needs (or meat them if you are playing a horror game!). Once again it is search engine time. Now the thing about artwork on the web is that there is just to damn much of it. So some key words are; image, art, illustration, portrait, etching, sketch and drawing. Combine that with + whatever and see what comes up. So for our example, use that open window from before and type in "image +soldier" and then I look down the list and find a rather romantic American civil war picture at "http://www.thehistorynet.com/AmericasCivilWar/images/0197e_1l.htm This is the best way to find the images you need. If you are lucky will find a single gallery or collection of images that appeal to you and/or fit your game world. If you do, then book mark it straight away. One thing to watch out for is copyright. You will notice that the term "graphics" was not included in my list search terms. The main reason for that is that most sites that use the term "graphics" are either of very low quality, or want you to pay for them.
This could go on forever you know. I mean to really do this justice would take years. So I think I will finish up with one or two little tips and hints.
Use that search engine. It will save you lots and lots of time. If you don't like Dogpile, find one you do like.
If you find a site you like, book mark it, and be prepared to get the most out of it. If it's a massive site, with loads of links, don't try and read it all at once. If you are paying for your Internet connection by the minute then load up the pages you want to read and disconnect. If you don't have time to sit at the computer and read all this stuff, print it off and read it on the train or at lunch time.
Find a link site: You will come across pages that are nothing but links to other pages. If you find three or four good site from that first link page, go back and bookmark/favourite the links page as well. They are sometimes updated, and tend to have a feel to them. If you think a site is cool and your favourite link site doesn't have it, tell them! You will probably find they have similar tastes to you.
Last of all remember the game. It is way to easy to get carried away generating random NPCs and towns each with its own cool little twist, throwing them together and forgetting about the plot. This is the same sort of thinking that gives us some of the very dodgy Hollywood pap we get subjected to. Sure if you are stuck for an idea, use the random stuff to get your self started, but once you do find an idea you like, stick with it. Develop it. Don't go changing your own good ideas to include your latest random doodad from "RPG random doodads dot com". Do how ever have some random stuff on file for when your entire group say "of course we jump into the portal certain death... why wouldn't we?"
Now lets see, what's the odds of getting an image of a pig eating a human corpse...
Unknown Author writes many drafts for PTGPTB.
[Next Article] [Previous Article] [This Issue] [Home]