Author Archives: Brent Newhall

About Brent Newhall

21st Century Renaissance Man

Background Questions for Players

Are you a GM whose players create one-dimensional characters?

Are you a player with a GM who wants you to flesh out a character, but you just don’t know where to start?

On our wiki, we’ve put together a page of Background Questions for Players. These are questions to ask yourself about a player-character’s history, to put muscle and flesh on the bones of the character’s statistics.

A few sample questions:

  • List 3 things your character does well (that aren’t on the character sheet)
  • List 3 instinctive mannerisms that your character exhibits
  • Name 3 emotional attachments
  • List 3 allies
  • List 3 enemies, and why they’re enemies
  • Why did your character choose his or her class? How was he or she trained?

What questions do you like to ask about player-characters? Let us know in the comments.

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Filed under Player Tools

Designer Tool: A Blank Playing Card Template

Playing Card Template

Have you got a neat idea for a game that uses playing cards? Want to throw together a quick, cheap prototype?

Here are spreadsheet templates for OpenOffice and Microsoft Excel for cards the size of standard poker or playing cards. Type in a few words and hit Print!

The template will print 6 cards per sheet.

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Filed under Miscellaneous

A Warlock With a Gun: Re-skinning Basic D&D 4E Classes for Modern Games

As part of “Modern Assembly,” we’re tackling the idea of applying Dungeons & Dragons 4E to modern times. We’re providing you with plenty of material.

'Take a shot' by soldiersmediacenter on Flickr

'Take a shot' by soldiersmediacenter on Flickr

But can it be done more directly? Can you just re-flavor D&D 4E with a modern twist?

Let’s try.

This article will analyze at each character class that’s in the iconic first D&D 4E Player’s Handbook, and see how it can be re-flavored as a modern profession.

The Overall Approach

How do we re-skin bows and magic blasts for the real world? Basically, we replace them with modern weapons. A bow is a hand gun, and a magical blast is a shotgun.

How do we handle healing? We approach Hit Points as abstract representations of exhaustion, counting down towards a disabling blow at 0 HP. Temporary Hit Points represent the character getting amped up, dodging a blow or steeling himself against an enemy’s attacks.

How about typed damage? Much of it can be kept exactly as-is; flamethrowers and Molotov cocktails will deal fire damage and stun guns will deal lightning damage. Some damage types are less frequent–you probably won’t see much cold damage–but you can always add Gamma World damage types like laser, radiation, and sonic damage. Unfortunately, the modern world just doesn’t have much typed damage.

There. Now let’s look at each class.


We’re starting off with the toughest concept in the modern world: a divine battle leader who heals his allies with symbols and prayers.

The cleric’s attacks tends towards ranged powers and burst effects. So, we’ll give the cleric a ranged weapon, and focus on the battle leader element. So:

The Commander is an inspiring leader, whose troops always seem a little luckier and stronger than others. A Commander’s troops always come out a little header of others, instinctively dodging attacks and finding just the right cover.

So, what would Lance of Faith look like for a Commander?

Guiding Shot Commander Attack 1
You pop off an amazing shot, at your foe, clearly marking your target for your ally’s attack.
At-Will · Implement
Standard Action   Ranged 5
Target One creature
Attack Wisdom vs. Reflex
Hit 1d8 + Wisdom modifier damage
Effect One ally you can see gains a +2 power bonus to his or her next attack roll against the target.


The fighter provides us with an interesting challenge: melee attacks. How do we justify hand-to-hand combat in the modern world of ranged weaponry?

The fighter must specialize, and be particularly adroit at hand-to-hand combat.

Most Brutes sport fists the size of hams and physiques to shame Arnold Schwarzenegger. They know how to use guns, but are just better at hand-to-hand altercations. Brutes prefer garrotes, silent knives, and the simple pleasure of slamming a head into a wall.

As such, Brutes typically carry several “melee” weapons, from garrotes to knives, and always have them ready.

Let’s re-skin Tide of Iron:

Brute Slam Brute Attack 1
After swinging a huge fist at your target, you slam into your foe with the force of a freight train.
At-Will · Martial, Weapon
Standard Action   Melee weapon
Target One creature
Attack Strength vs. AC
Hit 1[W] + Strength modifier damage
Effect You push the target 1 square if it is your size, smaller than you, or one size category larger. You can shift into the space that the target occupied.


Paladins focus their attacks on individual enemies, but favor melee powers. We’ll switch it around a bit. So, we’ll use a name already used for an existing D&D class, but it’s the best that fits.

'Feeling lucky...punk?' by udvranto_pothik on Flickr

'Feeling lucky...punk?' by udvranto_pothik on Flickr

The Assassin focuses all of his or her attention on a single quarry. The assassin must confirm the kill–it’s a matter of pride–and so prefers close-quarter combat with a single enemy. The Assassin’s powers provide ways to make these attacks more effective.

An Assassin is not necessarily evil; she may be a member of an elite fighting force, destroying corrupt governments one politician at a time.

Knowing Your Enemy Assassin Attack 1
As you bring your weapont to bear, you smile. All those enemies have merely increased the pool of your knowledge.
At-Will · Martial, Weapon
Standard Action   Melee weapon
Target One creature
Attack Strength + 1 per enemy adjacent to you vs. AC
Hit 1[W] + Strength modifier damage


The Ranger can stay completely untouched. Just switch out the bows for guns and you’re fine.

Double Tap Ranger Attack 1
You squeeze off two rounds in rapid succession at your enemy.
At-Will · Martial, Weapon
Requirement You must be wielding two melee weapons or a ranged weapon.
Standard Action   Melee or Ranged weapon
Target One or two creatures
Attack Strength vs. AC (melee) or Dexterity vs. AC (ranged); two attacks
Hit 1[W] damage per attack


The rogue, too can remain untouched. We barely even need to re-skin it, and I’ll leave the example for the reader.


Okay. We’ve hand-waved away the paladin’s magic. Can’t do that with the warlock.

How do we deal with magic? By completely ignoring it.

A warlock is a guy with a gun–but a guy who’s very good at using it.

The Motherf#$&er fights with passion. He doesn’t just calmly stand there and shoot; he screams and unloads his clip at his foe, determined to take him down.

Burning Wound Warlock Attack 1
Your bullets lodge deep and painfully.
At-Will · Fire, Implement
Standard Action   Ranged 10
Target One creature
Attack Constitution vs. Reflex
Hit 1d6 + Constitution modifier fire damage.
Special If you take damage before the end of your next turn, the target takes an extra 1d6 + Constitution modifier fire damage.


We must explain the Warlord’s preference for melee combat. Our Warlord is a tactician, and directs the battle from the front lines. He’s also an effective fighter, but he needs to be in the thick of things to be able to direct his allies. So, he wades into battle and fires a revolver at point-blank range.

Other than that, the warlord is unchanged.


For wizards, we take a similar approach to the one we took with warlocks. The one twist, of course, is the wizard’s preference for bursts and blasts.

The Rageaholic wields rapid-fire and scatter-shot guns like shotguns, machine guns, and the occasional rocket-propelled grenade. So, let’s look at a re-skinned Magic Missile:

Unerring Shot Wizard Attack 1
Your attack always aims true.
At-Will · Implement
Standard Action   Ranged 20
Target One creature
Hit 2d4 + Intelligence modifier damage.
Special This power counts as a ranged basic attack.

I hope this gives you a starting point for running modern adventures in D&D 4E. How would you approach it?

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Filed under D&D 4E, Modern Assembly

Do Something Original

'absolute' by dexxus on Flickr

'absolute' by dexxus on Flickr

I challenge you to create an RPG thing–creature, location, adventure, setting; whatever–that does not contain:

  • Dragons
  • Orcs
  • Elves (of any kind)
  • Dwarves
  • Zombies
  • Kobolds
  • Goblins
  • Vampires
  • Werewolves
  • Ninjas
  • Steampunk
  • Cowboys
  • Xenophobic aliens
  • Mummies
  • A Quentin Tarantino aesthetic
  • Anything Cthulhu

You may well ask: Well what does that leave?

Exactly. Think about that.

Note that this list does not mention samurai, lizard people, fish people, mummies, giant worms, jellyfish, ringworlds, sentient plants, huge floating brains, tiny people, dinosaurs, psionics, carnivorous bathtubs, kung fu, gun fu, the Crusades, Atlantis, Dyson spheres, animal familiars, creatures made of light, or giant insects.

So, post your original creation in the comments. Show the world what you can do.


Filed under Miscellaneous

How’d you like a print tabletop RPG magazine?

Call to Assembly, issue 1

Call to Assembly, issue 1

We love print magazines. We love the feel of paper, the ability to curl up in bed and peruse the corners of a publication stuffed with content.

So, we’ve collected a bunch of our best blog posts into the Call to Assembly, the first issue of a print magazine. This issue is 36 pages, and covers our first two months’ worth of blog posts. You can download the PDF for free or buy a physical copy on Lulu for US $7.99 (plus shipping).

This issue includes most of the content from our post-apocalyptic setting 3 Generations After The End, Brian Liberge’s Weeping Angels creature from StufferShack, and much more.



Filed under Miscellaneous

3 Generations After The End: Enemies

This article is part of 3 Generations After The End, a post-apocalyptic setting suitable for any role-playing system.

Sure, any setting will have monsters, but what about the all-too-intelligent enemies you might face?


'TCP Zombie 3' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

'TCP Zombie 3' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

Bandits cling together to get safety in numbers.

The most feared group of bandits in the Valley are those led by a mysterious, cloaked and masked man known only as Dreadnought.

Level 1
World 4E
FATE Apoc.

Strength 13 (+1) d6 +0 0 Weird
Dexterity/Agility 17 (+3) d8 +1 1 Hard
Constitution/Vigor 13 (+1) d6 +0 0 Cool
Intelligence/Spirit 10 (+0) d6 +0 0 Sharp
Wisdom/Smarts/Will 10 (+0) d6 +0 0 Hot
Charisma/Per 10 (+0) d6 +0
Speed/Pace 6 6
Initiative +3
HP/Toughness/Health 24 [12] 6 5
AC/Parry 15 5 +1 1
♣ Sword (at-will) Attack
+6 vs. AC
d6+3 +1 3
♣ Sling (at-will) Attack
R20, +8 vs. AC
+1 3
♥ Perception/Observation +5 d8 +1
D&D/Gamma World Fortitude 13 Reflex 14 Will 13
FATE Aspects Fanatical Devotion to Dreadnought (1)

Dreadnought, Bandit Captain

'TCP Scary 4' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

'TCP Scary 4' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

Little is known of Dreadnought. He’s a smart bandit leader, but is generally brutal and bloodthirsty in battle.

Level 3
World 4E
FATE Apoc.

Strength 14 (+3) d8 +1 1 Weird
Dexterity/Agility 14 (+3) d8 +1 2 Hard
Constitution/Vigor 13 (+2) d8 +1 0 Cool
Intelligence/Spirit 11 (+1) d6 +0 0 Sharp
Wisdom/Smarts/Will 12 (+2) d8 +1 0 Hot
Charisma/Per 15 (+3) d10 +2
Speed/Pace 7 6
Initiative +9
HP/Toughness/Health 40 [20] 6 5
AC/Parry 17 5 +1 1
♣ Chainsaw (at-will) Attack
+8 vs. AC
2d8+3 phys & 5 ongoing
d8+3 +1 3
♣ Arm Cannon (at-will)
R20, +10 vs. Reflex
3d8+5 physical
+1 3
♥ Perception/Observation +5 d8 +1
D&D/Gamma World Fortitude 14 Reflex 14 Will 16
Special Ability: Strange gaze: Dreadnought has line of sight on all creatures within 20 squares of him.
FATE Aspects Strange Speed (1)

Tomas the Warlord

'TCP Dwarf 3' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

'TCP Dwarf 3' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

Tomas united the people of his kingdom, Stronghold, with the promise of safety. He’s mostly made good on that promise, but life in Stronghold is hard.

Tomas sees the world in black and white terms: wizards are unnatural and should be killed.

Level 8
World 4E
FATE Apoc.

Strength 17 (+3) d8 +0 0 Weird
Dexterity/Agility 9 (-1) d6 +1 2 Hard
Constitution/Vigor 13 (+1) d6 +0 0 Cool
Intelligence/Spirit 16 (+3) d8 +0 0 Sharp
Wisdom/Smarts/Will 10 (+0) d6 +2 1 Hot
Charisma/Per 18 (+4) d10 +0
Speed/Pace 6 5
Initiative +3
HP/Toughness/Health 95 [47] 10 9
AC/Parry 20 8 +3 4
♣ Sword (at-will)
+13 vs. AC
2d8+10 physical & prone
d8+3 +3 6
♣ Shotgun (at-will)
Ranged 5; +12 vs. Ref
3d6+8 phys.
+3 6
♣ Fear My Wrath +8 vs. Will 2d8 +3
…(encounter) All nearby enemies (5 squares) take damage:
…(damage) 2d8+5 fear 5
♥ Perception/ Observation +7 d8 +2
D&D/Gamma World Fortitude 21 Reflex 19 Will 21
Encounter Power: Extra Strength: As a free action, Tomas gains 20 temporary HP and makes a free sword attack.
Savage Worlds Special Ability: Extra Strength: At any time, once per fight, Tomas immediately stops being shaken and makes a sword attack.
FATE Aspects Fearsome Presence (2)

Shedra the Sorceress

'TCP Elf 2' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

'TCP Elf 2' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

Shedra is rarely seen, even inside her own domain of Sanctuary. She usually sends her priestesses to collect supplies for her strange rituals.

In persona, Shedra is calm and mysterious, always seeking her own ends.

Shedra the Witch
Level 12
World 4E
FATE Apoc.

Strength 18 (+4) d10 +3 2 Weird
Dexterity/Agility 18 (+4) d10 +3 0 Hard
Constitution/Vigor 15 (+2) d8 +1 0 Cool
Intelligence/Spirit 21 (+5) d12 +4 1 Sharp
Wisdom/Smarts/Will 19 (+4) d10 +3 3 Hot
Charisma/Per 21 (+5) d12 +4
Speed/Pace 6 5
Initiative +10
HP/Toughness/Health 400 [200] 17 14
AC/Parry 26 5 +4 7
♣ Beam (at-will) Attack
R20, +17 vs. AC
2d10 electricity
d8+3 +5 8
♣ Dazzle (at-will) Attack
+15 vs. Will
1d8+7 & dazed
2d8 +4 9
♣ Organ Twist (at-will)
R20, +15 vs. Fort
3d6+7 phys.
3d8 +4 10
♥ Perception/ Observation +10 d12 +4
D&D/Gamma World Fortitude 24 Reflex 24 Will 25
Regeneration 10
FATE Aspects Dazzling Powers (2), Cruel Streak (2)
Special Ability: Once per combat turn, remove a point of damage.


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Filed under 3 Generations After The End, GM Tools