What's in This Journal? Part 1

I used to be the sort of person who’d buy a pretty journal, write on about three pages, then completely ignore the thing for the rest of forever until it gathered so much dust I finally just threw it away.

Recently, though, I’ve been tearing through journals like mad. I think that’s partially because I’ve found the right journal / pen combination. I use Leuchtturm1917 A5 medium notebooks (some lined, some blank, some with dot grids, some with grids), and Pentel EnerGel pens. (I like them sooo much, I bought the premium refillable ones and boxes of refills in different colors.) The Leuchtturm notebooks are beautifully made. They’ve got a nice, durable cover, ribbon bookmark, a pouch in the back, and a table of contents area in the front. What I find particularly special about them, though, is that the bindings are stitched so they’ll lay flat, an essential need for a notebook used when gaming.

They also come with a sticker to put on the spine so you can describe what’s in it and put it in storage somewhere. I’m about to do just that with the gaming journal I’ve been using for the past nine months or so. I thought it’d be fun to look through it and take a stroll down memory lane.

Specimen 1: Red Mists

Notes for Red Mists, a paranormal romance game I ran using W20 for our February game weekend. I ran it exhibition style for most of my regular Tuesday night group, plus one more. The game I’ve got written in this journal is much more complex than the game I got to play out. Partway through, I realized I could probably make this an entire campaign. There are charts and graphs and a relationship flowchart… it’s awesome.

I later went on to run this as a Storium game, or at least start to. The game crumbled under my wanting to mechanize a bit too much. Storium’s just not the right venue to run something like this. I still hope maybe to get back to it and run it as a campaign, but I haven’t had the time to lately, or there have been other things on my plate.

The game is set in my old hometown of Bellingham, Washington. A company trying to unlock human immortality has weaponized vampire blood into a drug that eventually causes the user to become enthralled to a human who’s been genetically modified to use vampiric abilities without being a vampire. Or at least, that’s what they’re trying to do. The whole thing’s going horribly, horribly wrong.


Insanity Effects of Host Table

The more the host is modified to accept the vampiric virus, the more insane he becomes. The team working on the drug hasn’t been able to work out how to prevent that from happening. As the host goes insane, he unwittingly mind controls chunks of his thralls, who then act out whatever it is he’s thinking and doing.

This is the table I put together to determine what sort of things the host does that the thralls then mimic:

  1. The host becomes so depressed over their confinement that they find a way to attempt suicide. The host is saved by the scientists observing him, but the thralls aren’t. There’s a mass suicide across the city of 1d10 addicts.

  2. The host’s handlers put them into deep sedation. All addicted thralls within the city fall asleep wherever they are and can’t be woken up.

  3. The host’s handlers put them into deep sedation, but this time they have bizarre dreams. The thralls act out parts of what’s happening in the host’s dream. These dreams have a 1-in-4 chance of being violent in nature. Otherwise, they’re just really odd.

  4. The host begins lashing out at their handlers, causing their thralls to suddenly and inexplicably become very violent. You can rate the violence on a scale using 1d6: 1 = Fairly ineffective, 6 = Goes on a bloody rampage.

  5. Unable to control his powers, the host sees through the eyes of one of their thralls, able to see and hear everything happening. This is naturally super appropriate to have occur to some thrall near the PCs.

  6. System overload. The host begins to see and hear everything from all of their thralls all at the same time. This causes a feedback loop throughout every thrall in the city, all of whom grasp their heads and start screaming in terror and pain.


My Swords & Wizardry Module From my NTRPGCon Game

At NTRPGCon this year, I ran a Swords & Wizardry game about a little girl with untold power who got trapped in a magical prison after her town was massacred before her eyes. Her childlike mind used her magic to create room after room of the things she liked and wanted underneath the former town.

The dungeon was a bit of a funhouse game. There were lots of things to ‘do’, plenty of monsters, opportunities to talk your way out of things, and a whole lot of traps and puzzles made using the toys and games I grew up with. Things like Pickup Sticks and Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots.

Afterwards, I thought it might make a fun adventure to write, so I’ve been writing down ideas for what I want to do with that. I set the adventure in a little trading town somewhere forgettable, so I decided to add a bit more to the adventure by including the outside environs. All I said when I ran the game was that it was ‘tough’ to get to the dungeon in the first place. Now, I’ve scribbled out a map and defined some of what makes it so tough to get there.

Outside Environs of Penelope’s End

Oh yeah, I also renamed it ‘Penelope’s End’ instead of ‘Zaya’s Promise’.

  1. The Bone Fields: Fallow land and overgrown farms chock full of bones.

  2. The bridge to the little island the town sits on - it was burnt away long, long ago as a warning to those who might try to enter.

  3. The Briars: Magical briars that cover up the remains of the town. Adventurers have to fight their way through them to get to the dungeon entrance.

  4. The Docks: Another way to get to the town, from the river. The docks are mostly eroded to nothing, and can barely hold the weight of a party.

  5. The Shipwreck: Along the shore on the way from the docks to the briars there happens to be a wrecked ship full of zombie sailors.


Games to Turn Into Traps and Puzzles

This was a particularly fun exercise. I think there should be an option with this module to use the actual games to settle conflicts somehow or another.

8. Cooties

9. Checkers

10. Marbles

11. Perfection

12. Simon Says

13. Sit & Spin

14. Lite Brite

1. Pickup Sticks

2. Mousetrap

3. Hungry Hungry Hippos

4. Operation

5. Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots

6. Chutes & Ladders

7. Candyland

I don’t remember how to play all of these games, (like Mousetrap), so I might be picking them up not only because they’re fun games, but also to refresh my memory for trap and puzzle design.


Magic Items to Create

For the convention game, I had an assortment of magic items I created along with magic items that came from the book. I got the most enthusiastic responses from those I created, so I decided to make a list of things I’d like to make into magic items. Some of these were in the game, but there’s a lot of new ones there, too.

8. Porcelain Doll

9. Plush Dragon

10. Marbles

11. Deck of Cards

12. Boomerang

13. Slingshot

14. Pinwheel

1. Fire-Breathing Dragon Puppet

2. Animal Pull Toy

3. Bone Rattle

4. Pony Figurine

5. Marionette

6. Jack-In-The-Box

7. Animal Necklace


Factions of Penelope’s End

Some of the feedback I got was that people wanted to see some of the groups of monsters as factions that might have quests to do for one another. I thought that was a great idea, and I’ve started trying to think about how that’ll work. So far, I just have a list of possible factions…

  1. Undead - Original Villagers

  2. Undead - Looters

  3. Pixies (with pet lions)

  4. Equines

  5. Brownies

  6. Ferrets

  7. Rats

  8. Dogs

  9. Cats

Probably way too many, I’ll have to pair it down a bit.


Stay tuned for part 2 of What's In This Journal?, where Stacy shows off some more tables and notes on her very own RPG-in-development, Precious Dark.

Stacy Dellorfano is a web developer, writer, art director, project manager, game developer, and sometimes graphic designer. She founded ConTessa in 2012, and continues to lead the organization. Stacy also writes at her personal blog, Frivology, and frequently talks about gaming on Google+.