Friday, December 30, 2011


This one requires explanation.  In the 3.5 edition of dungeons and dragons there is the skill diplomacy.  It allows you to improve the attitude of npcs towards your character.  Attitudes range from hostile to fanatical follower (epic usage).  The problem is the difficulty of the skill check is a fixed number.  A low fixed number.  Low enough that a moderately optimized PC, usually the bard, has a chance of turning an intelligent hostile force into their bestest buddies in the same time it takes the fighter to swing his sword once.  As you might guess, this can cause problems.  I firmly believe that TJ thyne's character in Validation is one.  The difference from him and a normal PC is that he uses his skills for good and awesome, not selfish ends.  If you haven't watched the short.   Go watch now.

Art from this
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Face it.  It doesn't matter how geeky you think you are, there's always someone geekier.  Such is the way of all hobbies.  Despite that assertion, this is up there on the list.
Art from here
LooneyDM out

Friday, December 23, 2011

Smiling Dragon

Don't you know that a smiling dragon is a happy dragon?  Of course a happy dragon usually means the party is about to have their asses handed to the.  Or some other similarly undue ending to their adventure.  On the other hand.  Just because someone is smiling doesn't mean they know something you don't know, or have an ace up their sleeve.  It could be a ruse.  After all you don't know if the DM is smiling because there's disaster ahead or because he's amused that the dragon has no chance of winning this fight.  I know I've had players second guess themselves because of how I've described the scene in front of them.  A few suggestions that the encounter isn't all it seems, even if it is, can add tension that makes the encounter.  It's all in how you sell it.
Art from here
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monster Smiles

Sometimes your monsters are like your players.  At least in the way they smile.  Of course when monsters smile all players should be worried.  No good can come of smiling monsters.  Especially smiling dragons.  That of course is another poster entirely.  Which may be friday's poster.  But smiling monsters can't be good for the players.  After all if the monster thinks things are going well it shouldn't be something the players want.  At least not usually.  I'm sure bards would have stuff to say about it.  Spoony Bards!

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weather Mages

Mages are a crazy bunch.  Especially weather mages.  I know I'd try to make it rain bears if I was a weather mage.  Right after I made it rain cats and dogs.  Literally.  Don't look at me like that.  You know you would too.  Just stay away from calling down the oobleck.  At least in your own country.  Good idea for warfare but not something you want to clean up yourself. 

LooneyDM out

Friday, December 16, 2011

Highly Lethal Systems

I can't say I'm a fan of highly lethal systems, but boy do they make for some crazy joke imagery.  The concept of a room where everything is trapped harkens back to the joke about the kobold silverware drawer.  Specifically that it isn't a drawer full of silverware, it's simply one really well trapped fork.  Which is why kobold kitchens are so large.

Art from GIS for D&D traps
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Why advance your science when you have lots of magic to go around.  Especially if that includes enough to launch castles in to orbit among the stars.  I'm always intrigued by magic as science worlds.  Because they lay down different rules about this possibly unlimited energy source that powers entire economies and countries.  It's one of the reasons I find D&D's Eberron so inviting.  This contrasts starkly with settings like greyhawk where the implications of the higher level magic users doesn't trickle down to the lowest levels so there's a disconnect between where you start out and soon after you gain a few levels.  I have to admit I've not been much a fan of the "medieval europe but there's some magic dudes running around that have no effect on anything other than creating random monsters and dungeons for the party to fight" settings.  Still haven't read planescape or spelljammer though I've heard those are good.  Some of the most amusing thought exercises I've read involved figuring out how all these magical people running around would change things from the medieval cesspool where most settings begin.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mad Scientist

More BBEGs need to be mad scientists.  After all only the players will appreciate their true insane genius.  And I do mean players, not player characters.  You've seen what your players come up with and you know they'll approve of your latest villain's scheme, at least off screen.  Also double the dragons, double the fun.  At least that's what I assume.  Unless you're on the receiving end. 

LooneyDM out

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nuke the Galaxy

Have you every had one of those players.  The ones that just have to see how ridiculous they can get with a system.  The ones that push the system to the utter limits of what is possible, even if it is improbable and outside of what the designers intended.  The ones that make the commoner railguns, the infinite speed grapple ball and multiple other crazy things you didn't know the system technically allowed due to rules oversights.  They can be fun for a time but man some of the hijinks get out of hand.  Like drowning yourself to revive yourself.  Theoretical optimization definitely needs to stay theoretical and out of games, because as fun as it is to point out crazy system quirks, abusing them mid game can cause a lot of problems.  Especially if you blow up the entire campaign world.

LooneyDM out

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Updated Classics

I have to apologize for missing Monday.  I don't know what came over me.  The classic tales have stayed classics for so long simply because they resonate so well with us.  And because we're told them over and over again.  I'd say old stories updated is becoming a thing, but it's been a thing for as long as recorded human history.  Maybe it's just the tv I've been watching.  I like to do both humorous and inspiring posters.  I hope you find this one inspiring.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Friday, December 2, 2011

Marvelous Pigments

 The marvelous pigments are an unusual item.  Which is what makes them so much fun.  Paint what you want and it becomes real.  This one comes straight out of legend and fairy tale.  I'd prefer if all magic items were like the marvelous pigments.  No more +x to attack, damage, stat, saves, etc items.  Those can burn.  The only magic items should be those that give you different or new capabilities outside of what your class can do normally.  Obviously this is easier to do for the less magical classes.  But still.  No more +x items.  Only special stuff like Marvelous pigments and decanters of endless water!
Art from here
LooneyDM out

Quotes from new 4e game I'm running:

*Gniff brings fourth all his might and cleaves greatly.
Ideos: (( but there's only three of them ))

Ideos: (( Make it explode   ))
Lamm: (( Yes! Explode it! ))
Msamaki: (( hmmm... ))
Ideos: (( Less thinking more exploding ))

LooneyGM: (( congratulations, you have knocked a snake prone ))

Ideos: (( You find God. Before the divine characters did. Bastard. ))

Ideos: "I'll go down first and send a signal if I find something."
Eneki: (( I assume his signal is going to be "oh my god snakes, so many snakes" ))

LooneyGM: (( sorry, the trap has been bloodied for a few shots now ))
Msamaki: (( ... that's our blood on it. ))

Hanif: "Never before I have faced such a powerful foe."
Lamm: "...It was a top."
Hanif: "It may of been a top, but it was also a warrior worthy of respect."

Gniff: (( for once in my life, i would be delicious ))

Lamm: (( Ha ha haaaaa. "Oh hey, doggies! Should I attack them? Hmm... well, one IS gnawing on my leg and the other IS trying to get at my throat..." ))

Gniff: (( we just need to go do some low level quests, you know the ones where we need to go get 5 rat's tails ))

Lamm: (( Resting. This junk room seems like an inviting place to nap! ))
Lamm: (( It's quaintly decorated with dead jackals ))

LooneyGM: (( what did you take for your 1st level item? ))
Eneki: (( item of forgetfulness =/ ))

Eneki: (( it only works when I do it for you ))
*4e Warlords*

Msamaki: (( WAI AM I IN FRONT? ))

Lamm rolls: 1d20+5 diplomacy => 20 + 5 = 25
Msamaki: (( did that knock the angle prone? ))
Gniff: (( by shear awesomeness ))
Lamm: (( What, like an obtuse angle? ))

Msamaki: (( clearly we need the bat signal for this quest. ))

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I never really understood the deal with gnomes.  Specifically the part where some people exceedingly hate them and others absolutely enjoy them.  For me they've always just been "there".  I guess that makes me somewhat of an outlier.  No strong opinion either way.  It is hilarious to watch the fans and anti-fans go at it though.  Doubly so when the anti-fans are kobold-huggers.  Much in the way of bizarre train-wreck arguments abound.

Art from GIS for lawn gnome
LooneyDM out

Monday, November 28, 2011

Failing Knowledge Checks

Knowledge skills are some of my favorite skills to have in a game.  When you succeed on a check you obtain relevant information about your situation.  When you fail, it's hilarious.  Even more so than spot or listen checks.  I like to let players make stuff up when their fail knowledge checks.  Or say they don't know.  But it's much more fun when they play to the same style as I do and make up something completely wrong for their character to declare about the given situation, monster, geography, etc.   Fun for the whole party!

LooneyDM out

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Epic Skill (Storytelling)

I'm putting this one up in honor of John Neville who passed away this week.  It's unlikely anyone else would have been able to pull off the Baron Munchausen at the level he did.  The movie itself struck me as unique.  It made me think about the power of stories.  Especially with regards to the idea of epic skills.  The thought that one could alter reality, and even end the siege of a city, simply by telling a story struck me as something I'd love to pull off in an RPG some day.  I doubt I'll have the chance as the mechanics for such a feat don't exist in any system that I'm aware of.  But I can dream.  I can dream that someday I'll have a character story that is at the very least a fraction as cool as the stories of the Baron Munchausen.

Art from GIS for Baron Munchausen
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


 One thing I didn't learn until later in my DMing career was the subject of player expectations.  I managed to avoid almost all the speed bumps because my starting group played the way I did.  Thankfully they didn't try to walk off with the aliens that were trying to abduct them.  But talking about expectations is important.  Extra so when you're stepping away from the paradigm of D&D and dungeon crawling.  After all if the players don't know they're supposed to be scared of the aliens, they may just take things into their own hands.  With amusing or disastrous consequences.  Turning your possible Independence Day inspired epic game into a tea and (flying) saucers party like something out of a Daniel Pinkwater book.  Now go read Tooth-Gnasher Superflash and be inspired.

Art from god knows where
LooneyDM out

Monday, November 21, 2011

Big Gun

Big guns.  Favorite of player characters every where, in every genre.  Even if the genre doesn't have guns.  They'll go looking for the damage equivalent.  Such is the manner of player characters.  After all negotiations go so much better with a kind word and superior firepower than they do with a kind word.  And you can't deny the appeal of making shit go boom!  Doesn't matter what shit it is, it just needs to go boom.  Preferably with large explosions filled with colors.  Lots and lots of colors.  Just watch out for the recoil.

Art from GIS for anime big gun
LooneyDM out

Friday, November 18, 2011


Ah, pants.  Frequently optional for adventure, but classy heroes know that running around bottomless sends all the wrong messages to the grateful citizenry.  On the other hand maybe that's the sort of message you want to send to them.  "Of course I have my chain shirt.  Pants are unnecessary for such a great hero as myself."  Heck you might even start a trend.  Or maybe your hero is being played by a loony.  On the player side of the equation it isn't so bad if you're playing over the internet.  This is assuming that you don't video chat.  Even if you do the webcam can always be reaimed.  It's in person games where this sort of caviler attitude causes problems.  The sort of problems that get people kicked out of their game group.  Don't be that guy.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Genre Mashups

Smushing two genres together can lead to bizarre consequences, odd situations, and occasionally if executed well a campaign of pure awesome.  I can see a muppet movie/007 mashup being one of the awesome ones.  After all, parodies of James Bond tend to do well and the Muppets are really good at the parody genre.  Of course this depends on the GM having a good knowledge of both genres, whatever genres they are.  The knowledge is essential in a mashup because you want to keep the distilled essence of both genres and know what to drop out as extra fluff that doesn't further the mashup.  Dropping the wrong piece can lose the feel of either of the mashed genre.  It's also important to mash the right genres.  Some genres mash easier than others.  Highly serious and highly silly genres mix less well than serious and serious or silly and silly.  Horror tends not to go well with high fantasy ("What do you mean run from the vampire? I cast daylight and charge it!").  All in all, watch your step when mashing.

LooneyDM out

Monday, November 14, 2011


You know no one uses the encumbrance rules.  Time to abuse it!  Battering Ram?  I'll take three!  No need to worry about lack of light, I'll strap 10 torches to my helmet and light them all on fire.  Need some rope?  I have 300 feet wrapped around my waist.  A thimble?  I'm sure there's one inside the chest of drawers that I'm balancing on my head.  All in all it's very silly what RPG characters can usually carry when you think about it.

LooneyDM out

Friday, November 11, 2011


Nothing quite like the classics. Yes that is Skeletor. Of course if he had looked like that in the original version there would be lots more frightened children in the 80s. This has happened to other 80s cartoon villains but this is one of the shiny ones. On the subject at hand, drawing from your childhood for campaign villains can be fairly inspired. Especially if you adapt them for the setting you're playing. Or not as the case may be. I have had requests to run He-man and She-Ra games before. Myself I'd be pulling inspiration from the likes of TMNT and possibly Darkwing Duck. Grabbing villains from the latter would be quite bizarre given the parody status of the show.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Epic Roleplaying

There are some games of roleplaying that only answer to one word. And that word is epic. If you haven't been to PAX, or you haven't been able to seen any of the Live D&D games they've had there you are missing out. They are crazy awesome. This time around they even had bards. Does your RP session have bards? I didn't think so. Yours also probably isn't being DM'd by one of the people who worked on D&D. Again. I repeat. Epic.

Art from, well I've told you that already.
LooneyDM out

Friday, November 4, 2011

Craft: Baking

Some of my posters are funny. At least I think so. Others are just plain awesome. This is one of the awesome ones. I mean would you feel right eating a cake with that level of craftsmanship? I know I would have a few second thoughts. Yes, that is a cake. Not a minature. You may pick your jaws up off the floor now. All I can say is that cake better have had a game to match.

Picture found on WIN!
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dire Snail

Dire Snail! Real thing is real in real life. Of course it could be photoshopped but who cares! A familiar that can live in your pocket and it makes perfect sense for it to stay put there all the time. Just drop in food every now and again and it will never try to leave. Perfect for parties. Ladies love it when you pull a giant snail out of your pocket. Yeah some losers might have a crow, or a frog, or a cat, but you know what the new cool familiar is. But remember to clean up its slime trail. No one wants that hanging around.

LooneyDM out

Monday, October 31, 2011

Baby Sitting

Spent the weekend with some relatives. Again I am thankful for my current lack of children and that my relatives don't as me to babysit. One of them decided that they were given milk in the wrong kind of cup and proceeded to lay face down on the kitchen floor, screaming into the ground. I laughed. This probably means I would be a horrible parent. Or that I find other people's suffering amusing. Must be why I'm such a good DM.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I have been blessed with a lack of players who want to play evil characters "FOR TEH EVULS!1!" But now and again you run into them regardless. Of course there are always a few tell tale signs and for some reason the players don't want to accept that it might give them away. "Why, why does huge black feathered wings make people think I'm evil." "Why do my demon horns make people run away?" Sometimes there is no explaining. Just head shaking and sighing.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lava Moat

Did you know that in 3.5 D&D there is a shark that lives and swims in acid. Isn't that awesome? It's a templated creature so you can even make other aquatic creatures that live and swim in acid. You know, like an elasmosaur. Nothing better than an acid pit full of sharks than an acid pit full of dinosaurs. Now lava is a little different but there's still D&D monster from elemental planes of fire or flamey death that live happily in lava. So stock up your moat full of lava and lava monsters. The heroes will love it or burn trying to cross it.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Monday, October 24, 2011


Your true friends are the ones who will follow wherever your quest leads. Even if it takes you into the depths of the underworld. Or you know they're truly over the edge of lunacy. Speaking of being over the edge of lunacy it's been a while since there were quotes. Have some quotes. I'm too lazy to give races and classes so figure it out by going back in the archives if you really want to know.

Haruhi: "Right, no hitting on the demon, guys"
Boddywyn: "Says the psychotic cat..."

guardian: "You leave a trail of blood behind you?"
Haruhi: "Only if my sandwich isn't totally cooked"
I'kishaeila: "It's a terrible medical condition."
Boddywyn: "More often than I'd like" *mutters*
Pliny: "It's a very managably amount of blood."

Pliny: (( ...Action-NAP ))

I'kishaeila: (( and for my minor, I grumble. ))

Haruhi: (( we did all the roleplaying stuff ))
Haruhi: (( it's important to do that so you know who you're supposed to be killing ))

LooneyGM as fiend: "I shall escort you back to the shaft."
Haruhi: (( hurr hurr hurr you said shaft ))

Haruhi: "Iki you owe me a cake"
I'kishaeila: "So I do. I should suggest you be terrified. If Varna is still standing, it won't be when I finish this cake."

Pliny: (( VAMPIRE GAME ))
Pliny: (( We brought stakes, right? Or! We can stake him with one of our wands! ))

I'kishaeila: "Fire will chase the bugs out nd takes care of the people infesting the city."
Haruhi: "But if we burn the whole city how am I going to get my cake?"

Haruhi: (( oh you are SO going to get my furious counterstrike right in your teeth ))
Haruhi: (( hang on tea ))
LooneyGM: (( furious counterstrike waits for no man, but it does wait for tea ))

Art from GIS for sulfur mining
LooneyDM out

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tavern Brawl

You know why your PCs went to the tavern. It's certainly not for the atmosphere. It's certainly not for the plot hooks. Probably not the vittles either. Yep, the fighter just punched the ugly guy at the bar, time for a good old fashioned tavern brawl! I believe there's even a game specifically based around tavern brawling. A rather comedic one if I recall correctly.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Possibly NSFW. Hooray for female armor or lack there of. They must be either super dextrous or be receiving a magical bonus from somewhere for armor like this to be worth it. Or perhaps she's a caster and doesn't wear armor anyways. Also it's game night and I am sort on verbage as it's going all to the game.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Monday, October 17, 2011

Killer DMs

We've all known killer DMs. Or at least we've heard the jokes and horror stories. Thankfully their type seems to be dying out. Though you never know, they could make a resurgence. A really annoying resurgence. I'm not a fan. It is one thing to play a game against a highly skilled opponent. It's completely another to play with an antagonistic person in a system where they hold an inordinate amount of power over the game. I know some people enjoy the challenge but it's not for me. I came to RPing late enough that a DM or GM who worked with the players to create a great story and create fun for everyone wasn't a foreign concept. All in all a good deal. That's how I roll.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tabletop RPG over the internet: The Long Haul

Note: This is the 4th part in a 4 part series about RPGing over the internet. You can read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

Inventory time! You've got a group, you've got a medium, you've got a game. Now let's look at the last piece of the puzzle. How to avoid burning out on GMing over the internet. There are two ways I use to keep myself from running out of steam for the games I run. The module mindset and the prep lite mind set. There are also tricks I use to lower my workload. I'll discuss those last.

The module mind set is a new idea to me. I'm testing it out in one of the games I'm running now. The thought process behind the module mindset is not to use modules like the name might suggest, but to frontload all the prep. I'm working to create all the encounters for a set part of the adventure rather than prepping in the week before. I'm doing this before the game even starts to offload the stress. If you plan far enough ahead you can finish all your prep before the first session rolls around. This takes a lot of stress off you as you only have to shuffle things around based off player actions during session. The downside is this can be fairly inflexible if the players decide not to take your plothooks.

The prep lite mindset isn't new, either to me or the rest of the internet. Lots of people run in prep lite settings, or simply don't prepare anything at all. This takes pracice, and a system that supports it. Many heavy mechanical systems need prep time to make sure encounters flow properly. Improv skills are a plus, as well as the ability to play off of your players. The base point for prep lite is the plot hook. You don't have to flesh anything out, but you need your starting point. From there you can springboard from where your players lead.

Every GM needs a bag of tricks, especially when preparing for games. I'm going to open up mine and let you have a look inside. Being a programmer by training, I try to create reuseable everything. Maps are the big time saver for reusability with online tabletop programs. Build a library of images that can be placed generically or non-generically with a few modifications. Being able to draw the encounter boundary, fill it with base terrain, and drop in a few set items is much faster than creating a new map every encounter. There are piles of free tile sets and textures out on the internet you can add to your library. The same goes for tokensets and other images. A map for a forest road/clearing encounter can be reused at a later date, or in another campaign. Don't create from scratch if you can avoid it. Use encouter based maps instead of mapping out every square of the dungeon in your online tabletop (though that can be lots of fun for a game. If you do map out everything, make it simple). See how much you can reuse if you start a game in a new setting. Many fantasy creatures look fairly alien and sticking a different colored filter over a desert map can transform it into an alien landscape. Make sure you have plenty of time to add to your library if you can't reuse for your new setting.

Finally, take a break! Always always take a short break between campaigns to give your brain time to rest up and for you to prepare what you need to run the campaign. I give myself at least a week off between campaigns, sometimes two. Take a few months if you're really toasted.

I hope you've found my musing useful to your endeavors to play tabletop rpgs over the internets. Here ends the series. Next time back to your regularly scheduled random posters.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tabletop RPG over the Internet: Tools

Note: This is the 3rd part in a 4 part series about RPGing over the internet. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Let's take a quick inventory of where we are. You decided to run or play RPGs over the internet. You've pulled together a group. Now you need to decide what medium to use to run your game. I'm going to run over play by post, chat, and various online tabletop programs with a bulldozer to see what turds and diamonds pop up. And away we go!

1. Play by post (pbp)
I'm going to preface this with a warning. I dislike play by post. I have not had a good experience using the pbp medium for RPGs. Ever. I'll still try to give it a fair shake on the pros and cons. Most likely I will fail, but here goes anyways. The good part about pbp is the convenience. Since there's no scheduled game time it is much easier to attract a group of players who will commit to updating on a regular basis. It's much easier to participate in multiple pbp games because of that same convenience. That's it as far as good points. On to the bad. Pbp games suffer from a unique problem. A player can leave the game or forget about it and not only may no one know about it for several weeks, but it can cause the game to come to a complete stop. Unless there is another method of contacting the absent player besides the forum you won't know if they've left the game, forgotten, or had something come up. It can kill the game if the DM doesn't step in and skip their turn within a reasonable amount of time. Pbp games additionally suffer from being unsuited to turn-based game structure. The more a RPG mechanics care about who does what in what order, the more pbp games grind to a halt when using that particular system. I don't recommend pbp games, but again I'm biased. I have heard anecdotes about successful pbp games. It may be you don't have any other options. Perhaps your experience with pbp will be better than mine.

2. Chat
It's possible you recruited your group entirely from chat. This makes setup quick. Simply create a new room and invite all your players to join. The downside to chat is similar to pbp, but not as debilitating. People can disappear off chat without warning and you won't know if they're gone for good or not. The easiest way to deal with this is deadlines. For example, I give players 15-30 minutes to show up after the official start time of the game. If I have enough (3 or more) by then I run the game. If not, I cancel the game for that session. This way a single missing player only cuts a little bit of game time. I start looking for a replacement if a player doesn't show up for 5-6 sessions in a row and they're not in my "core". Chat games can have issues if you're running a highly tactical system (4e D&D) without visual aids. Even with visual aids it is a slow process. I recommend running rules light or medium systems for a chat only game. You will need a dice roller if you don't want your players rolling meatspace dice. Dice rollers are easy to find, and some RPG specific chats even have dice rollers that can be invited to your private game room. The big upside to chat games is the technology is simple to set up and the downsides are easy to overcome. I started my online RPGing running chat only games. I recommend chat only games as a starting point for anyone looking to run tabletop games over the internet.

3. Online Tabletop Programs
You're not the only geeky person out there who wanted to play RPGs with people over the internet. Some of these geeky people got together and built programs to create a tabletop experience over the internet. First, I'm going to give you an overview of pros and cons that all online tabletop programs share. Then I'll give you a list of online tabletop programs and recommendations. The downside to online tabletop programs is the technology setup. Hands down, online tabletops require the most tech knowledge and time investment of all the RPG over the internet mediums. Hosting the server for these programs can be a nightmare. Your server can stop working mid-game. Learning the ins and outs of the program can take weeks or even months depending on your dedication. The advantage to working through the tech stuff is a near replica of your tabletop. Maps, minis, chat, dice rolls all of these take place in real time. It's very shiny and adds a lot to the game. I don't recommend using an online tabletop program on your first game. You'll have enough stress from wrangling players and prepping. You don't want to compound that with a technology failure. Once you have the experience of running online, then takes you steps into finding a tabletop program you like. On to the online tabletop programs.

ScreenMonkey( Pay software that has a trial/demo version. I found screenmonkey to have speed issues, even on strong internet connections. This seems to stem from the fact that the clients all connect over a web java interface. While this does mean anyone with a web browser can connect to your server it causes slow downs and server/client sync issues. Unless you have an environment where your players refuse to download any software to their computer I don't recommend this one.

OpenRPG( Free software with pay for modules and maps. This tool is fairly comprehensive in its offerings tool wise. The downside is it is not really in development anymore and only supports windows. If you have mac users in your group they are out of luck. If you rely heavily on modules for your DMing and don't mind paying for them this is a decent choice.

GameTable( Free software. This tool is quite barebones. It has chat, a dice roller, minimal maps and customization. The good part is there isn't much to learn outside of the basics that come with all online tabletop programs. The bad part is there's not much room to customize to tailor to your game. I recommend this one if you're looking for a simple program.

Maptools( Free software. Runs on java so any device that can run java can install the client and run it. From my experience this is the best supported, highest feature online tabletop out there. It is the photoshop of online tabletop programs. If you want to use it for its basics the learning curve isn't steep. If you want to dive in deep the curve is steeper, but it is matched by the customization you can obtain. The same site provides other tools for managing your game, but none are required to run. Except token tool. If you're not using tokentool you need to have your head examined. One cool part is your players can gain value from maptools even if you choose not to dig in deep. I personally don't use the macros, but my players do. Maptools is what I use for my games and I recommend it for anyone who wants a deeply customizable online tabletop program.

My final online RPG medium recommendations. If you're new to the online RPG experience, try out a chat only game backed up by a dice roller. This will give you a feel for how online tabletop games flow. Then give online tabletop programs a shot when you're ready to step out of your comfort zone. Next time I'll cover long-term questions and address the issue of burnout.

Art from GIS for iphone dice
LooneyDM out

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tabletop Gaming over the Internet: Getting Started

Note: This is the second part in a 4 part series about RPGing over the internet. You can read part 1 here.

I'm assume that since you're still here reading that you've decided to give RPing over the internet a try. Or you're looking for ideas to improve your online RPing. Or you're just here for the posters. If you're in the third group you can stop reading right now. I'm not going to make any comments about the poster. If you're going to RP online you need a place to start. The first thing you need to start is a group. No group, no game. In today's post I'm going to cover finding, building, and then keeping a group on the internet. So where does one find a group on the internet? Well I'm glad you asked.

1. RPG related Forums
There are a whole host of RPG related forums out on the internet. Many of them have places where you can find other players who want to play the same RPGs that you do. These places make it easy to jump in feet first to games with people on the internet. Here's a short list of RPG related forums along with my recommendations about their suitability for finding players and a group. Homepage for Dungeons and Dragons. I'm only including this one because I know people will ask. It's not a good place to find players for online games. There are no forums specific to finding players and the only locator option directs you to playing D&D Encounters. EN World Forums. A robust, highly populated forum for RPGs. The forum includes play-by-post subforums along with a gamers seeking gamers subforum where you can recruit or be recruited for a variety of online gaming mediums. Large forum, but not focused on online play. Mythweaver forums. A friendly community specifically aimed at connecting people to play RPGs over the internet. You can browse the recruitment forum or search for games based off system and/or medium of play. Smaller than others, but entirely game focused which makes up for the smaller numbers Forums for the Order of the Stick comic. Also home to a fairly lively community of people who play RPGs online. The forum includes play-by-post subforums along with a player recruitment subforum where you can recruit or be recruited for a variety of online gaming mediums. Forum for Maptools (a tool I'll cover in the next installment). They have a looking for group forum specifically for people looking to play RPGs using Maptools. Good if you're looking for a maptools game. Forum for OpenRPG (a tool I'll cover in the next installment). They have a looking for group forum specifically for people looking to play RPGs using OpenRPG.

2. Chatrooms
Many of the previously mentioned forums have chat rooms. Most of them exist on IRC (internet chat rely) though some use other mediums. I'm not going to delve into the mechanics of IRC here as there are lots of better written guides on the internet that you can find with a simple search for "IRC". Chatrooms differ slightly from forums in their pace and their lack of enforcement about off topic discussions.

Let's talk about building a group now that you know where the RPers are on the internet. This part is specifically aimed at DMs and GMs, but you can be a group builder and organizer even if you aren't the one DMing or GMing every week.

1. Building the Core
I have a set of 2-4 players in each of my online groups that I consider to be the "core". These are the people that reliably show up session after session(obviously no one has perfect attendance). These are the people who let me know in advance when they can't make a session (provided they have warning themselves). These are the people that play well together and with others. These are the people that follow you when you switch campaigns. Note that your "core" can change over time. So how do you get your core? Become a member of the community. Pick a forum or chatroom and become a member. I don't mean just signing up for an account. I mean post in threads other than recruitment and the games you're in. Ask to watch games you're not in to get a feel for how the community plays. The more you participate the more you will be able to identify the other members of the community who would be a good fit for your "core" and the more they can identify you. It also lets you look for non-"core" players to fill out the ranks. When I run a RPG online I try to recruit the maximum number of players I can handle (around 7 or 8 depending on system) so when someone inevitably has to miss a session the game doesn't have to be cancelled(I run if at least 3 players show up).

2. Retaining the Core
So you have your "core" and you want to keep playing with these people for years. How do you keep them coming back? Several ways. Be consistent, don't change your session day or time mid-campaign or at campaign switch unless there is a significant consensus among your "core". Find a groove. Your "core" should all enjoy a similar playstyle. You need to find that and provide it. You can experiment, but make incremental changes and watch the reaction from your "core". Uninvite players who don't fit, especially if they're not part of the "core". It may sound rough but it's better to have a great group of 4 players than a group of 5 with 1 player whose playstyle conflicts heavily with the rest of the group. Give them options. When I end a campaign I take a week or two off and put together 3-5 campaign proposals for what I'd like to run, then have my "core" rank their choices.

I've gone over where to find players willing to participate in tabletop gaming over the internet, how to assemble a "core" group of players, and how to retain that same "core" of players. Hopefully this gives you a good start into the world of tabletop gaming over the internet. Next time I'll be talking about the tools you can use to facilitate tabletop gaming over the internet.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tabletop Gaming over the Internet: Why and Why Not

Tabletop Gaming over the Internet: Why and Why Not

This is part I of a IV part series on the basics of tabletop gaming over the internet.

Since you're reading this I'm assuming you have an internet connection. Unless by some bizarre happenstance someone has printed out this blog and you're reading a dead tree edition. I'm also assuming you have some interest in roleplaying games. Perhaps you play RPGs over the internet. If so, you can get lost as this series isn't for you. Okay that's a lie. This blog series is meant to be a primer for people looking to start playing RPGs over the internet but it should provide some insight for long time internet roleplayers as well.

First off I want to address the whys and why nots of RPing over the internets. Starting with why nots because I like getting bad news first. That way the good news comes as a happy ending, assuming the bad news isn't just worse news in disguise. But enough dwadling, on to the why nots!

1. Gaming over the internet is unreliable
Unlike video gaming over the internet where you can engage in pickup games with total strangers over matchmaking services, you're relying on the same set of people to show up at the same set time each session. In my real life group we all have each other's phone numbers. We call if someone is late and didn't let us know they weren't showing tihs week. Not so on the internet. In many cases you'll be lucky to know the real names of the people you're playing with and maybe they'll give you an email address or chat id. Because of this anonymity it's much easier care less about missing a session. This goes extra for groups that are just starting. Real life happens and next thing you know you're several players short of a functional group.

2. RPing over the internet takes longer.
RPing over the internet takes longer for several reasons. Most people talk faster than they type and listen faster than they read. Live audio moves faster than typing in a chat window but is still slower than face to face converstation. People get up from their computers for any number of reasons. These reasons are usually more numerous than at a live game table. When they return they need to either read back in chat or be brought up to speed on the conversation. Each individual instance may only take a few moments longer than if you were playing in real life, but over the course of an entire session it adds up. The end result is less time spent RPing. As a rule of thumb I find that online sessions accomplish about 2/3rds the amount of their real life counterparts

At this point you're probably wondering why someone would even bother with tabletop RPing over the internet if there are big pitfalls. The good news is the pitfalls can be overcome. I'll cover those in part II. Which brings us to the inspiration to RP over the internet. The whys

1. Game group breaking up
Real life happens. People move out of city, out of state, out of country. Your long time or college or high school gaming buddies are scattering to the four winds for job, romance, or more schooling. Real life gaming is now out of the question. Enter the internet. You can keep your gaming group alive in a different medium as long as everyone's schedule can accomodate it. It will take work to get used to the new technology but it is absolutely worth it to keep those gaming connections.

2. Can't find a real life group
Perhaps RPing isn't big in your location. Perhaps your location isn't big enough to have a thriving game community. Perhaps you live in Alaska in a town of 30, counting the local pets. Internet to the rescue! The internet as a collective has a larger pool of RPers than even big cities. The larger pool means not only an easier time starting games but an easier time finding games. Finding people who can game when you can game is a huge advantage if you don't have time to set aside an entire weekend day every week. This also applies to the amount of gaming you can do. I run two games, one on wednesday evening, one on saturday evening, and play on another saturday morning. The evening games are on the internet and only run for ~3 hours a session. Without the internet I wouldn't be able to have this much gaming.

3. Adventurous/Niche RPers
RPers on the internet have a wealth of information available at their fingertips. Because of this they are more informed about systems that aren't D&D. This knowledege can make them more willing to try new systems. You can also find fans of niche systems or RP styles that don't exist in your local area. Tired of running D&D dungeon crawls but all the local RPers don't want to change? The internet has lots of RPers who share your desire! Found a new system and your group doesn't want to try it? There's people out there on the internet who do!

Good grief that got long winded. To explain, no there is to much. To sum up, you should join us crazy RPers on the internet. You can find the time! Tune in Monday for part II of this blog series

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Point Buy Systems

Point buy systems are fun. Lots of fun. Sometimes most of the fun is finding out how far you can push the edges of the system. Or in this case the beard of the system. I always thought it was weird that I enjoyed 3.5 D&D even though it was a class system when other class systems just didn't appeal. Then I realized the terrible truth. 3.5 D&D builds like a point buy system with the class levels taking the place of "points". It was a bizarre realization brought on by the design of 4e D&D. Even though it was complete accident in the design it made me appreciate the 3.5 D&D mechanics more. Still hate the christmas tree effect all around but what can you do when the system math requires it?

LooneyDM out

Monday, October 3, 2011


Hope is a wonderful DM tool. Keep it alive in your players and you can end up with incredible situations. Let it die off to soon and the epic encounter turns into the frustrating downer ending. It's all about the management. Keep them looking to the dawn, keep them on their toes, and don't drop the castle off the cliff until someone says "at least it can't get any worse".
On a different note, I'm going to be starting a series here on my blog about the 101s of running a tabletop game on the internet. Seems like a silly thing to put on the internet but I don't want to assume everyone out there knows all the ins and outs of RPGs on the internets. Hence my introductory series. That and I want to collate all my thoughts on the subject into one place outside of my brain.

Art from concept art for Epic Mickey,
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Collections

You know your RPG book collection is large. And it would be sacrilege to call it too large. But there comes a point when the books start escaping on their own, especially the ones that you don't use anymore. Perhaps yours are better organized than this person's. Perhaps your collection makes the one at your friendly local gaming store look sad. Who knows, either way you slice it, you've got too many damn books!

LooneyDM out

Monday, September 26, 2011


The best traps are the ones you never see coming. I'd say like this one but it's fairly obvious that it's a trap. That said it's a good one. No one expects the elevator floor trap. Or any of the traps that a competent villain might install. After all the best traps are the traps that aren't traps at all. They're the ones like ambushes that you can't disable with a skill check. Of course there is advantage to be had if someone figures out there's an ambush, but the trap isn't completely bypassed. I do prefer traps that make sense for their location. Hideous death traps are all well and good for a tomb that is supposed to be sealed up with only the dead inside. Not so much sense in putting one of those in a major corridor for a base that is used with high frequency. After all you know someone is going to forget the trick to avoid the trap and then you're out a minion which gets expensive if you lose enough and does horrible things to morale. Thus alarm spells and things your minions are immune to work much better.

Art from WIN!
LooneyDM out.

Friday, September 23, 2011

High Magic Settings

I enjoy high magic settings. It's fun to consider the implications of magic. While you could end up with a world that looks a lot like our high technology world that's no fun at all. After all baby dragons powering ovens could lead to all sorts of ethical and logistical difficulties. Depending on what sort of magic is easiest to conjure the tone of the setting changes drastically. After all if necromancy is non-evil and reliable the world is different than if illusions are the only magic that is easy enough to be worth the effort. This of course explains why I find Eberron so intriguing. Hooray for magitek settings!

Quotes from real life game:

Barden "Bones" : I don't have swirly purple dice. I have dice envy.

Thalia (to minotaur druid): We have to keep you away from china shops.

DM: The staircase descends into darkness.
All: dun Dun DUN!

Bones: It's not delivery it's Dzoran (Dzoran, my halfling sorcerer. I hate naming characters)

Curd(Minotaur Druid): I got these licked.
Gareth: Salt licked.

Dzoran: Everyone's shooting lightning out their ass today.
Curd: And it burns.

DM: Elf and halfing pudding. The halfing pudding is the light stuff.
Curd: Half the calories.

Gareth(to minotaur druid): Don't worry, if you die we'll honor you with a barbecue

Thalia(goliath warden): Are they human like me?

Bones (Dwarf Cleric): Who's the leader of this party?
Looney: I thought you were.

Crud: In all my D&D groups I've never seen a PTK.
Gareth: TPK?

Tor: 19+20...
Gareth: That's his once a week power.

DM: They both go down.
Looney(halfling sorcerer): I do a little dance, and I do mean little.
Bones: You can't do anything more.

DM: This is the most powerful holy symbol you've found.
Looney: This is the only holy symbol we've found.

Thalia: That's not a rat.
Tor: It's a flaming rat.
Thalia & Bones: Oh hay!
DM: The room is full of rats.
Bones: Oh rats.

Bones: I attack the wat.

Bones: My warhammer needs a name.
Looney: Thelma
Thalia: Buffy
Curd: Piffer
Bones: I shall name it Squishy.

Curd(Minotaur druid): I'm going to shift back.
DM: Chicken.
Curd: No, beef.

DM: You see some sort of blobby things.
Curd: Who's in the mood for jello?

Curd: 10 points of damage.
DM: To?
Curd: 10 points of damage.
DM: To?
Curd: Does it have 8 resist?
DM: Which one are you attacking?

Thalia: Feed the halfing to it.
Looney(Halfing): Halfings are not good eats
Bones: They're like an appetizer.
Tor: Hot Wings
Looney: Halfings are not Cajun either.

Bones: It wobbles at us menacingly.

Bones: Is the fungus edible.
Thalia: Yes, but you'll be seeing pink elephants.
Bones: It's for medicinal purposes.
Gareth: Sure, medicinal. It's for your "glacoma"

Thalia: We'll dress the halfling as a singing telegram.
Looney: I'm a halfling, not an oompa loompa.
Thalia: A little orange paint will fix that.

LooneyDM out

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


A picture is worth a thousand words. So here's a picture about imagination that's been turned into many posters over time. New game starts tonight and boy am I behind schedule!

LooneyDM out

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pirates vs. Ninjas

In honor of this most sacred holiday, have a epic poster that needs no explanation.

Art from here

LooneyDM out

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fantasy Architecture

Take a look at that castle. Take a good look. The obvious first response goes along the lines of "Impressive" "Awesome" "Snazzy". Then you should take a closer look. How the heck does a castle stay on a waterfall like that. Erosion would wipe it out with in a year, if not a few months. Not to mention the paths to it would be toppling even sooner. And there's no way you'd get a boat out there. One false steer and over the falls you go. Which of course means there's no way the castle could have been built in the first place, save for a bored wizard trying to build the most ridiculous castle he could. Definitely a high magic setting here.

LooneyDM out

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Child PCs

Who doesn't love it when the PCs best excuse for why they shouldn't be held accountable for the rash of murders they just committed is "but I'm too young, cute, innocent, etc". Especially if their actions make it clear that they're absolutely none of the above. For many a child PC is just an excuse to add an extra level of crazy onto their already bizarre concept. For some reason the little girl necromancer is a popular option. I just don't get it. I guess some people really enjoy creeping out the other players.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Campaign Ends

Every campaign must come to an end. How they end can be up to the DM, or sometimes up to the players. Greek game is ending, though not with the Eiffel tower sinking into a swamp. It was almost a "BBEG shot dead in the middle of his monologue". The BBEG didn't monologue but he did almost drop in the first round. Thank goodness for savage worlds bennies and good vigor rolls. On the other hand it would have been really amusing to have him go down in the first shot. That's just how my sense of humor rolls. It also would make for a great story after the fact. After all which is more amusing in the telling "They had an epic battle and pulled through by the skin of their teeth" or "They one shot the BBEG right off the bat, first attack, no survivors". Personally I'd go with the latter.
Art from here
Last Quotes from Greek game:

Aeton: (( Was difficult to find you guys. I must have been wandering around bricks for hours. ))

Andreas: my toughness is 9
Andreas: (( that was ooc ))
Mnemosyne: (( What, Andreas didn't shout 'My Toughness is Niiiiiiiine!" to the heavens? ))
Andreas: (( No. he would shoud "My Toughness is OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAAAAAND!" ))

LooneyGM: (( everything explodes ))
Mnemosyne: (( Everything explodes? Well I guess that ends the fight! ))

Lykaios: (( trying to figure out what is more stunning, your looks or your arrows ))

Mnemosyne: (( I think you just crushed it into a tin can ))
Andreas: (( I shall fill it with hummus ))
Andreas: (( for a party in my honor ))
Mnemosyne: (( I'll bring some pitas to go with ))
Lykaios: (( i'll bring the squirrel ))
Andreas: (( you are not invited to Andreas's party ))
Andreas: (( he doesn't want everyone to get food poisoning ))
Lykaios: (( but you look a lot better in comparison besides me. It's the wingman affect ))
Andreas: (( the son of Zeus does not need a wingman! ))
Lykaios: (( then he'll be the dreaded cock block! ))

* Andreas rolls: d8+d6+d6 => 5 + 1 + 2 = 8
Andreas: (( aw. lemme reroll that 1 ))
* Andreas rolls: d6 => 2
Andreas: (( ...yay ))
LooneyGM: (( so 9? ))
Andreas: (( yes ))
VortGM: (( this will not be enough, do you wish to benny again ))
Andreas: (( um. sure. ))
* Andreas rolls: d6 => 2
Andreas: (( whatever I'm done, Zeus has forsaken me ))

LooneyDM out

Monday, September 5, 2011


There are days when your players' crazy antics cause you trouble left and right. Then there are the days that they conquer the BBEG and come up with a deliciously silly plan to forever humiliate their defeated foe. Like installing a waterslide in the previously evil cultist infested temple and building a theme park around it. Those are the days that I live for as a DM. It warms the cockles of my heart when they do crazy crap like this. Every single time. It's why I have a quote and poster blog instead of some other sort of blog.

Art from GIS for waterslide
LooneyDM out

Sunday, September 4, 2011


How many times has this happened in fantasy? Kid finds magical book, castle, wand, you name it and then ends up spending the rest of their childhood trying to fix the problems that their initial interaction with it caused. Aren't you glad you didn't have those sorts of magical adventures now? Okay probably not. I don't know of anyone who didn't dislike at least parts of elementary school. Of course if it had been elemental school instead that would have been an entirely different matter. Though you really shouldn't be teaching kids that sort of stuff.

Art from here


Haruhi: "He had me at stocked with provision"

LooneyDM (( No, Dalin Vadalis is not Mr. T ))

I'kishaeila: (( Thelema is like a Pat. ))
I'kishaeila: (( it's just not clear and it's awkward when speaking to it ))
Haruhi: (( or like a Haruhi! ))

Pliny: (( Actually, let's skip the whole adventure and get right to the cake baking ))

LooneyGM: Last session our monsters waded into a few piles of ochre jelly, whcih quickly became many many piles of ochre jelly
Iki: (( we made jelly sammiches. ))

LooneyGM: (( it's actually 2200 gp because you're a large creature. ))
Haruhi: (( he's saying you're fat ))

Iki: (( I have lol hp left. ))

Haruhi: (( I feel like I should have haruhi sleeping on all these papers ))

Haruhi: (( soooo unleash horde of fiends upon the earth ))
Haruhi: (( or stay stuck here with Tellas ))
* Haruhi is in favor of freeng everyone

Iki: Great... so now we have a swarm of aggrivated kitten beasts below. Anyone have a ball of yarn...?
Pliny: (( ...Can we adopt them? ))
LooneyGM: (( no you may not adopt the khyberspawn ))

Haruhi: (( I think they are on fire, and making them MORE on fire is probably not going to do anything ))

Haruhi: "We're never alone, we have each other!"
LooneyGM: (( d'aww, power of friendship go! ))
Haruhi: "I kill it you grill it! And put it into a sandwich for me!"
Haruhi: (( power of hanging around people who have hands for making food ))

Pliny: (( I can not fly. ))
Haruhi: (( you can if we throw you hard enough ))

LooneyGM: (( guess what happens now! ))
Boddywyn: (( more fire? ))
Iki: (( fire? ))
Haruhi: (( cake falls from the sky! ))

LooneyDM out

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Orc Bards

Off stat race class combinations are always a touchy subject. In some editions they simply didn't work. In others they were only a little less effective than their counterparts. Of course if you go back far enough they didn't exist as your race was your class. Some people swear you're doing it wrong if you play races that don't have a bonus, or heaven forbid, a penalty to a necessary class stat. Others enjoy the challenge of not having everything as high as it could be for their character. That said, orc bards still get no respect.

Art from 10x10 toons

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Ah epic level spells. Crazy incarnate. Allowing you to do many completely out there actions. Including creating your own demiplane filled with bacon. Bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon. That is all. Other than your arcanist dying of a heart attack from bacon overdose.

Art from WIN!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

PC Plans

You know you have PCs who would try something like this in game. Heaven help you if you have PCs who will try stuff like this in real life. Of course pulling someone behind a car on an umbrella will fail to work quickly, hopefully with minor injury. In game, the defying of physics can be a very real problem that players want to enact as frequently as possible.
Art from here

Thursday, August 11, 2011


It's been a long week. Have a generic rhyming adventure inspired poster with vague imagery of adventurers delving into the depths of ... something. With a lantern. And wings. I hope for better quality later this weekend. *headdesk*