Category Archives: GM Tools

Modern Complications Table

Sometimes life just throws you lemons. . . really nasty lemons. Whether your game has a Complication mechanic or your GM needs to spice things up a bit, here’s a list of complications you can drop into nearly any scene. Try them in your next game of Modern Assembly, School Daze, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying or any game with modern elements.

  1. Your mother calls your cell phone
  2. Your cell phone battery dies
  3. Your credit cards demagnetize
  4. You realize you forgot your keys
  5. The power goes out
  6. The Internet is down
  7. Your/a nearby car backfires
  8. Your love interest changes their Relationship Status
  9. A parade comes through
  10. A drunk person enters
  11. There’s construction down your next path
  12. Your shoelace is untied
  13. There’s a fire in the building
  14. Building evacuated due to a bomb threat
  15. Police enter and mistake you for someone else
  16. Your car is stolen
  17. Step in gum/feces/puddle of mysterious provenance
  18. You forgot your phone/laptop charger
  19. You discover blood on your clothes
  20. You left the car lights on, battery is low or dead
  21. Significant other won’t return calls/texts/etc.
  22. Someone important to you unfriended you
  23. Endless email barrage, so you phone won’t stop going off
  24. You have a sneezing fit
  25. You have a flat tire
  26. Money is missing from your wallet
  27. You’re hungry
  28. Traffic is backed up because of a sporting event
  29. Your house/car has been broken into
  30. Your computer/phone reboots for no clear reason
  31. You find mouse droppings in salt shaker
  32. You find out the school teacher really is the witch you thought she was
  33. Something is leaking (car, toilet, ceiling, tanker truck in front of you, etc.)
  34. No cell service
  35. Your favorite band breaks up
  36. Someone forgot to put their cell on vibrate and now everyone hears “It’s Raining Men” at top volume.
  37. Automatic doors refuse to recognize you
  38. A cockroach scuttles across the floor.
  39. An emergency vehicle goes by, sirens blaring
  40. Kindergarten field trip goes walking by
  41. Awkward run in with ex
  42. Appetizer feeds one more person than your party.
  43. A panhandler asks you for spare change.
  44. Animal escapes from the zoo
  45. A bus unloads a group of foreign tourists
  46. You completely blank on the name of the person you’re talking to
  47. You scratch your head, and when you take your hand away, some hair comes with it
  48. Wind blows smoke from nearby factory in
  49. You feel a food coma coming on
  50. Flashmob begins…

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Useful Charts: Treasure by Party Level and Sly Flourish’s DM Cheat Sheet

Back when I started running a 4th Edition D&D campaign, the one thing I always lamented as being absent was a decent way to randomly generate sweet, sweet loot for my players to encounter. Then along came the Essentials Dungeon Master Guide, and in the back of it on page 248 was a beautiful little chart titled “Treasure by Party Level”. My prayers were answered, and now I use that chart to fill out my adventure planning.

As a refresher on how to use the chart if you haven’t used it recently or before, you roll 1d20 once for each reward type. The table assumes a 5-person party, so if you have a different party size, subtract 2 for each person under 5 and add 2 for each person over 5. If you roll a 20 on any field, always take the best result regardless of the party size modifier. Personally, I also modify gold rewards by d%, but that’s because I find round amounts of gold a bit silly. ;)

I’ve transcribed the chart to a Google Document at for your pleasure. (There’s two sheets on this document: the first one should be readable on your monitor, the second is larger and should print to exactly one full page.) If you enjoy it, consider picking up the Essentials Dungeon Master’s Kit. The smaller form factor book is easy to carry around, and its comes with other useful tools and tokens.

Lastly, I cannot post one useful chart without referencing what many of us agree to be the penultimate Useful 4th Ed Chart: Sly Flourish’s Master DM Cheat Sheet. It contains standard DCs, damages, defenses, HPs and attack rolls for every level and is invaluable for those of us who make on-the-fly decisions in the game. You can access the PDF at Sly’s website at by selecting “dm cheat sheet” from the right side column.

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What’s behind this door? Tables for your RPG

Sometimes when running an adventure your players veer a little off course. Okay sometimes they veer way off course. Thinking on your feet and coming up with ideas quick is a very useful skill, but sometimes you need a little help building a manor fast, coming up with a reason for the next dungeon room or just keeping things different.

The first list are simply types of rooms you might find in a large home, lair, fortress or complex. If the result does not make sense for your current location, you can roll again, but sometimes the fun is coming up with an explanation to why this odd room is present. Your players will often do the same. Feel free to accept whatever theory you like best.

The second list is of specific objects, events or environmental effects you might find in a room. Most of these are purposefully a little odd or curious. Use them for red herrings, on the fly plot hooks, or just to keep things interested.

Big List of Rooms

  1. Ready Room
  2. Foyer
  3. Closet
  4. Armory
  5. Abattoir
  6. Lavatory
  7. Laboratory
  8. Forge
  9. Catacombs/Crypt
  10. Master Bedroom
  11. Sleeping Chambers
  12. Barracks
  13. Training Ground
  14. Treasure Room
  15. Prison Cell
  16. Torture Chamber
  17. Kitchen
  18. Circle of Evil
  19. Arcane Testing Chamber
  20. Study
  21. Library
  22. Guard Room
  23. Tower
  24. Fletcher
  25. Jeweler
  26. Storehouse
  27. Tannery
  28. Food Pens
  29. Great Hall
  30. Throne Room
  31. Meeting Area
  32. Portal Room
  33. Fungus Growing Room
  34. Empty Room
  35. Clothier
  36. Maid’s Chambers
  37. Water Supply (well, stream access, etc)
  38. Little Hall
  39. Confectionery
  40. Ball Pitt
  41. Sewer
  42. Larder
  43. Food Service/Lounge
  44. Room Under Construction
  45. Temple/Chapel
  46. Sacrifice Chambers
  47. Room full of statues that speak in riddle
  48. Amphitheater
  49. Waiting Room
  50. Stables
  51. Docks
  52. Stairwell
  53. Wine Cellar
  54. Office
  55. Dressing Room
  56. Tinkerer Workshop
  57. Gallery
  58. Galley
  59. Greenhouse
  60. War Room

Big List of Room Features

  1. The floor slopes down to a drain in one corner of the room.
  2. Orange curtains
  3. Strange Draft
  4. Window with a wall behind it
  5. Knuckle bone from a human on the floor
  6. Loose rock in the threshold
  7. Stained glass windows
  8. Large animal droppings
  9. Central Fire Pit
  10. Expensive Looking Chairs
  11. Bottle of Cheap Perfume
  12. Sports a collection of Wigs
  13. Series of numbers written in the wall in draconic
  14. Smells of horses
  15. Open Book
  16. Candles still burning
  17. Smells of Roses
  18. Strangely Cold
  19. Glowing moss
  20. Contains various shapes not square or round
  21. Odd death related paintings
  22. Wind chimes made of marrowless human finger bones.
  23. Small domestic animal
  24. A thick layer of dust, recently disturbed.
  25. Walls, floor, and ceiling all covered with one particular shade of paint.
  26. Manacles and chains
  27. Indecipherable whispering
  28. Distant muffled noises
  29. The sound of a girl crying
  30. Temperature change with no obvious source.
  31. A rack of exotic weapons
  32. A burnt book.
  33. A trapped creature.
  34. Scattered rat droppings
  35. An odd bit of slime on one wall
  36. A nail attached to the wall with Sovereign Glue.
  37. An opening in the floor leads to darkness
  38. An opening in the floor leads to lava
  39. An opening in the wall that opens onto an opening in the opposite wall. You see the back of your head.
  40. A grate
  41. Arrowheads
  42. A fake tiara
  43. A bag of women’s laundry
  44. A plate of cheese and bread, gone stale
  45. A keg of dwarven ale
  46. A small shiny disc, made of something light and hard, but not metal
  47. Potted vegetables
  48. A framed portrait of the current local ruler
  49. Carvings on the wall
  50. Tribal symbols
  51. A bust of a saint
  52. A family tree tapestry
  53. A sword embedded in the floor/wall.
  54. Filled with insects
  55. Holy Symbols
  56. An animal carved of marble
  57. A painted underwater scene on one wall
  58. Star chart of ceiling
  59. Sleeping child
  60. Fresh Paint

What do you think is missing from our lists?


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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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3 Generations After the End: The Forests

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

The face of the world has irrevocably changed, three generations after the end. The landscape is divided neatly between vast swathes of desolate waste and gigantic, ancient forests. Arable land that has not become completely overgrown is an incredible rarity in the world, and all of that has long since been claimed by the warlords or the sorcerer-kings. Many of the remaining cities have been built within the crumbling remains of those left from before the end, crowding along the coasts of rivers, lakes, and oceans. These are almost invariably held under sway by the ineffable whims of the Priesthood. Wherever one can gain a fleeting sense of security, one also must have to sacrifice liberty.

Magic seems to have not only returned to humankind. The forests are, perhaps, the most dangerous place in the world. Technology begins to inexplicably break down and malfunction, the further one strays from civilization, but there is nowhere worse than deep within the forests, where technology just doesn’t work at all. Even more primitive implements such as compasses can often lead one astray; the magic imbuing the place seems to disrupt natural as well as artificial magnetic fields. This may also contribute to some of the more subjective experiences, deep in the woods; spending too much time in the wilds can lead to dizziness, confusion, exhaustion, and anxiety. These effects seem to be particularly bad to those with natural magical talent of their own; not only does magic frequently misfire or go astray, but but it is more exhausting for the caster to carry through. Worse, it seems that many flora and fauna within the forests and jungles seem naturally attracted to magic, zeroing in on the errant caster, often ignoring their companions completely.

Very few animals still dwell within the forests, and those that do are monstrous. The plants themselves, it seems, have become the chief predators, preying both upon each other, and anything else that wanders too far in whether for folly or for food. Many have changed into things unrecognizable from what they may once have been, developing bulbous, tuberous, vining, sticking, and piercing structures to assist in their predations. Nearly every predatory plant can exhibit short bursts of incredible growth, draining storage organs and shrivelling pseudobulbs in order to achieve these wild grasps. Roots, stems, and even flowers are often covered in minute hairs, which sense something brushing against them, or even walking over the ground above, and stimulate the plant to strike. These hairs can also serve another purpose as well; many are packed full of potent crystallized toxins, causing skin that brushes against them to burn, scab, or even necrotize. Many pollens serve a double-duty as soporific agents, lulling the breathers into a narcotic sleep. Spines and mucilaginous glands along the leaves and stems further serve to deliver the plants’ predatory payloads to their unsuspecting victims. Once bound by rapidly-growing vines, disabled by poison or injury, or simply exhausted from fighting back cruel nature, the plants slowly grow over their victims. Adventitious roots pour out of any part of the plant and dive into the flesh, drawing out nutrients as they exude enzymes that breaks down the tissue. Even calcium is drawn out from the bones, eventually, leaving nothing as evidence after only a couple weeks.

People venturing into the forests, whether for adventure or for forage, often do not return. Rescue parties are a rare sight; usually once someone has been attacked, there is very little chance of survival. Nevertheless, the sight of a scarred, scabbed individual is not an uncommon one within the settlements nearest to the forests. Some are even permanently disfigured from their experiences in the wild. It is sheer folly to venture within the woods alone, so oftentimes a member of an adventuring group will take a misstep and be attacked by feral foliage, and for the rest of their lives bear the marks of the encounter. Yet the incredible bounty promised within the forests continues to draw the brave and the desperate; despite all of the deadliness, there is also an abundance of edible fruits, roots, and fungus. Many nomadic groups travel from forest to forest, foraging and scavenging within for items of subsistence and trade, as well as for the components of valuable medicines which they can produce. It is unreasonable, therefore, to make any sort of attempt to destroy the forests wholesale, despite the threat they present, because it is counterbalanced by their incredible fecundity of natural resources.

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3 Generations After The End: Sanctuary, the Domain of Shedra the Witch

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

They say it is Shedra’s magic that keeps the beasts out of the rolling hills and valleys of Sanctuary, and brings the rains in spring. Sanctuary is, indeed, a strange place. It is more…vibrant than most, more full of life. Life in Sanctuary is peaceful, and her people have full bellies.

The Priestesses of Shedra

Those full bellies come at a price: total obedience to the priestesses of Shedra. Her robed priestesses roam the streets on inscrutable errands. They occasionally commandeer people and supplies. No reason is given, but rarely is a reason asked. That is the price.

Priestesses are chosen from among the populace of Sanctuary. Priestesses will simply show up at a family’s house when the girl reaches about twelve years of age, and take her away. She will be gone for years. Those priestesses who appear in public are always at least sixteen years old, and display the uniformly dispassionate personality of a priestess of Shedra.

Priestesses wear long, grey cloaks that hide black leather-and-cloth armor. Every priestess has a symbol tattooed on her forehead; more complex symbols indicate higher rank within the priesthood.

The Kingdom of Sanctuary

Sanctuary is made up of about two dozen towns and villages, nearly all of them farming communities cobbled together from old-world technology. This is amazing in itself; little of new earth’s soil is capable of farming. Strange, twisted things come from this earth, but it’s edible, and there’s a lot of it.

Tower, the Capital

The only non-farming town is Tower, a massive mining complex in the mountains and Shedra’s home. This is a dark place. Though it employs hundreds of people, the only ones who ever leave are Shedra’s priestesses. Here, Shedra performs powerful magic in the dark passages of the complex she carved from the living rock of the mountain. Moans and screams can sometimes be heard from within.

Who Is Shedra?

The truth: Shedra is a necromancer. She spends most of her time creating undead, for the gray area between life and death fascinates her. She has released so much life energy from her unfortunate test subjects that it has seeped into the lands around her, giving it the strangely powerful life her subjects depend on.

Shedra will undoubtedly become a lich someday. Perhaps she already is, and uses a glamour of beauty to hide her true self.

Shedra is not particularly concerned with the rest of the world, but is smart enough to understand the danger of external threats. Tomas, in particulary, worries her, as her magic does indeed protect against monsters and beasts, but not against sentient people. Tomas could lead an army into Sanctuary, and while he undoubtedly could not kill Shedra herself, he could destroy her lands and priestesses, cutting off Shedra’s supply of experimental subjects.

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