Random Monster Creation

As I mentioned in an early post I played a lot of Runequest way back in the day, and I still have a liking for random creation (even for NPC’s). Because of that I came up with this system for creating random monsters using the various motifs given in GURPS 3rd edition Fantasy Bestiary.

In my world of Domibia there are no “natural” monsters. All monsters are the result of magical energies spilling into the ecosystem and warping it in some way. This is the result of magical fumbles. My magical fumble table for Domibia uses 1d100 so it isn’t pure GURPS (I will probably rewrite it to used 3d at some point).

Magical Fumble Table

The different classes of monsters that appear on the chart are used with the monster creation tables. I had originally used the somewhat tongue-in-cheek acronym of CRUNCH (Creating Random Universal Nasty Creatures Heuristically).

Here are the charts and tables:

GURPS motif tables

This one is to determine how many rolls to make on the following motif lists.

Monster Motifs

This one lists the various motif types that are listed in in the motif table.


Sometimes it seems that the results aren’t very impressive, but don’t discard them without giving some serious thought to how the result could be intelligently played.  For example, in the Domibian campaign I ran for some time the characters were given a landholding on the outskirts of the small kingdom they lived in.  When they moved in they heard from local farmers that the area was menaced by a black-winged wolf with glowing red eyes and the ability to produce clouds of smoke.  The locals would leave offerings of food for the beast which was called the Baleful Hound of the Twin Pines.  It was actually a rather plump dog that had near-human intelligence, could speak, and had large owl type wings on its shoulders.  It could cast two spells, Charm Person and Darkness (this was a 3rd Edition D&D game…).  With these rather unimpressive abilities I was able to have the characters running scared for several game sessions.  They were setting traps, posting guards all night and generally fearing this awful beast.  Even though they never saw glowing eyes, smoke or anything demonic about the dog they still assumed he was really tough.  Of course they could blame that on the farmers, but what farmer is going to say that he was menaced by a fat collie with wings?

In general the more magical energy was used the worse the fumble (obviously), but even a Class 1 monster could theoretically be more powerful than a Class 6 monster, with the right rolls.  In general though, the greater the class, the more likely the monster will be some sort of grotesque blimp, laying waste to all in its path.


One thing that I haven’t come up with yet is a way to select what kind of animal (or plant) to have be affected by the magical fumble. The choice of exactly which animal or plant is left to the GM’s discretion, based on what would be most common in that area and using the general pattern of higher classes to larger creatures. The plant or animal involved need not be within sight of the casting place or even closer than several miles (generally no more than 1 mile per class). I am pondering digging up the old Animal Encounters from the original “black book” Traveller from GDW. That would give a class of animal geared to the ecosystem (if I am remembering it correctly…)


Dimension Hopping Game, Session 1

I compiled this from several posts on my game’s Facebook page, so please forgive any formatting errors, inside jokes, etc… Hopefully everything still makes sense.


Finally I was able to kick the campaign off this last Friday! I had fewer players than hoped for, but there were three which is enough to give the game critical mass.
We had Tony V playing his still-to-be-named primary character, known from here out as “Tony’s PC” while I ran his NPC Ally wife.
Patrick P playing Steven Abbott Jackson, “Abb” for short.
And Sara P playing Kokoko “Koko” Onnen

The game started with all the PC’s (including the folks who were unable to attend) camping in Yellowstone Park on Oct 18th 2018. Ominous events began slowly with an NPC announcing that they shouldn’t call it Old Faithful, because they waited for half and hour and the geyser never blew.
Next were a couple of minor earthquakes (the PC’s from California id’ed them as being around 3.5 or so). A couple of NPC’s decided to head home because the tremors spooked them. They showed back up within 30 minutes stating that the roads were so jammed with people that they couldn’t get more than a couple of miles.
All the PC’s started gather up survival gear from their cars at this point. After another couple of larger jolts, a ranger’s truck went careening down the nearby access road. Abb at this point decided to investigate things and took Tony’s PC (who is 7’5″ tall) and followed the ranger to the ranger station they knew was down the road.

So after getting to the ranger station and finding the ranger inside talking frantically to someone on the phone about getting a helicopter sent to pick him up, “Abb” confronts him and informs him that “my friend is wondering what is going on” while gesturing to Tony’s enormous character.
The ranger (named Allan) hemmed and hawed and asked them to leave. Abb, on leaving, checked the guy’s SUV and found it unlocked… so he took the shotgun and went back inside to confront Allan. Understandably alarmed by this guy pointing his own shotgun at him, Allan admitted that he knew a guy with access to a Chinook helicopter and was trying to get out of the park, finally admitting that Jackson Lake had “drained” and he was afraid that the entire caldera the park sits in was going to explode.
After disarming Allan, it was decided that they would collect as many as they could from the campground (close to 40 folks) and await Allan’s friend. Tony’s PC went back to the campsite and gathered up his wife. Koko (Sara’s PC) started helping folks gather useful equipment and herding them down the dirt road to the ranger’s station.
At this time there had been several larger quakes and a fairly large fire seemed to be burning in the west. Most of the group were understandably nervous and happy to hear that the ranger had someone with a helicopter that would rescue them.
Fast forward through more preparation and alarming events (quakes, burning rocks falling from the sky, and what felt like a two-foot drop in the ground), Abb is trying to keep folks from panicking and Koko is monitoring the radio and Tony’s PC was just kind of observing while trying to keep his wife safe.
As things continued to get worse, the helicopter pilot radioed Allan to let him know that the whole northern part (where he was coming through from) was filled with smoke and ash that he needed to go around to avoid damage to the helo. All this time they were getting sporadic bursts of what seemed to be CB radio interference announcing the immenent arrival of the End Times and other apocalyptic statements. Most of these only last a brief period but then Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version of Bringing in the Sheaves started blaring out of the radio no matter what Koko did to re-tune it.

A few minutes after Bringing in the Sheaves began one of the NPC’s announced that there was someone walking out of the forest. A group (including Abb and To Be Named) went out to meet what turned out to be an older gentleman wearing what appeared to be Puritan outfit. When closer they could see that the legs of his pants wear burned off below the knees and he was shoeless. The man greeted them by stating that he was “indeed a man of my majority, though I find myself in short britches”. He then introduced himself as Aleazar Mather, and he was there to help everyone.

eleazar mather 2
Against his better judgement Abb let the odd fellow into the ranger station where he proceeded to inform everyone that they should attend his words as he had a bargain for them. He told them that soon a pyroclastic flow would be sweeping through the park and kill all in its path. To avoid this fate, all that was required was that they take his hands, or those of their neighbor and accept the offer being made by his benefactress (he wouldn’t reveal her name).
Right around this time a really big quake hit, (maybe an 8.0+) and people started to panic.
A glance out the window revealed a giant wall of ash hurtling at them (still a couple of miles away, but hundreds of feet high). A variety of NPC’s chose not to take his “devil’s bargain” and fled, as he explained that certain death awaited. The PC’s all reached out to grab nearby hands as the wall of ash approached them, figuring they had nothing to lose. Then the windows blew in at 450 mph.

After a brief unconsciousness (perceived), all the characters awoke, submerged in 4 feet of sea water off a nice sandy beach. All were nude (their players no doubt cursing me for letting them write down equipment from the ranger station), and obviously disoriented. Aleazar was nowhere to be seen, but three men were standing on the beach behind a folding table covered with robes.
Two of the men, who were all wearing suits, helped everyone by handing them robes and gently directing them out of the mild surf. The third man just sat and watched the naked women.
They announced that they were solicitors of the firm Lant, Dunn & Bray and that they represented the PC’s benefactress, named Rigantona (ree-ann-tona) and they were there to help.
After herding everyone up to an abandoned-looking resort hotel, they announced that the local year was 1983 and they were on the island of Herm in the Guernsey chain (in the English Channel).

Herm island

Cue disbelieving confusion and hand-wringing…

Over glasses (or bottles for Koko) of whiskey, it was told to everyone that they were now indentured servants to Rigantona, who would be having them act as interdimensional trouble-shooters. The world that they found themselves in had suffered a WWIII that evidently included nukes and chemical warfare. The Isle of Herm was safe from radioactive and chemical damage because it was a pre-historic holy site for Rigantona (a Celtic goddess) and she was protecting it.

More disbelieving hand-wringing…

So, the short version is that the characters are stuck here on a pleasant island, with horsies to ride, a partially sunk US naval transport ship to loot for goodies, and a way to visit some place called Nakashima-sans for rest and relaxation.
They just can’t leave the island for longer than 30 days without becoming ill and eventually dying. They also have some cool abilities to help them survive being interdimensional trouble-shooters:
Modular Ability [20]
10 pts (Skills and Mental Advantages only) [100]
Immediate Preparation Required (Requires 1 hour of Meditation) -75%
Fickle (use the Meditation roll as the reaction roll) -5%
Patron [12]
Frequency of Appearance <6
Requires Reaction roll
Damage Resistance 5 [5]
Ablative -80%
Duty [-7]
6 or less [-2]
Extremely Hazardous [-5]
Dependency (Herm Island) [-30]
Monthly: Lose 1 HP per day after missing a monthly dose. x1

Next session will be some exploration and then their first mission!


Character token follow-up

Just a quick add-on to my previous post.

For non-humans that are not just a one-hex creature I purchased some wooden rectangles from the same company I got the wooden circles from.

I simply split it in half lengthwise with an Xacto and a straight edge, and voila! A deinonychus all set to menace my time-travelling adventurers in 1910 Maryland…




The World of Testudo

In addition to my world of Domibia (currently sort of languishing) I also have the world of Testudo which I created as something to work on while burned out of Domibia.

The world is on the shell of a gigantic turtle (though the inhabitants don’t really know that). Each of the different plates of the shell are separated from each other by a phenomenon known as the Veil, a magic cloud bank that is filled with wraith-like creatures that drain fatigue and magical energy.


The outer edge of the shell abuts an ocean, but the Veil blocks most folks from doing any real exploring.

Long in the past the world was discovered by a race called the Alezer (sort of like high tech Melnibonean elves). They explored and colonized this clearly magical world and imported humans as servants. Over the course of a thousand years or so, the humans came to outnumber the Alezer and ran most of the day to day business. Then about 50 years ago the humans revolted and a war was fought for the next 30 years until the humans defeated the Alezer.

Each of the different “shards” have a distinct feel and their own gods that oversee that particular realm. A couple of the shards were never really settled by the Alezer and were used as a sort of pressure valve for human groups that didn’t make useful servants (like the Roman legion that they gathered from Dalmatia circa 300 AD).

My campaign has been limited to the southern most shard, called the Saltlands (Bumanzshur) and one of the only places that was ruled by humans before the great war.

area_7 copy

It is about the size of New Mexico and Arizona together, and is somewhat like Ethiopia/Somalia as far as terrain and climate goes (the primary reason the Alezer never settled here).

Like I mentioned, it is home to groups that made poor slaves to the Alezer. The following description is taken from my player handout for the campaign. Player Handout

There are five major cultures in the Saltlands.
◦ The Ruzina, who are the dominant group (think a less stratified Roman culture with a thing for privacy [emotions and such are not advertised]). There are about 1.5 million in the lake basin and river valley.
◦ The Eagle People dominate the central mountain range (the Eagle Mountains). They are not numerous (188,000 or so) and are loosely Tibetan. They speak U-Tsang and are divided amongst different monasteries, each of which teaches a different martial art. The monastary nearest your land is the Fangshido temple.
◦ The Oamoon culture is loosely pre-Islam Arabic. They speak Luaith and have been mostly pushed to the periphery of the region. They are mostly nomadic but there are several towns and a small salt & fishing city on the eastern boundary (part of the ocean is within the Veil). There are around 130,000 on the eastern side of the Eagle Mountains.
◦ There are numerous “barbarian” tribes that are scattered between the lake and the western boundary. They are made up of outlaws from the Ruzina kingdoms and immigrants from beyond the Veil (there have been many mercenary types that have known only war and have taken to banditry). There are around 500,000 in a variety of tribes and “kingdoms”.
◦ The Zulu are a separate tribe from the other “barbarians” and try to interact as little as possible with the other cultures that are around them. They speak isiZulu and number around 30,000 (mostly nomadic shepherds). They are somewhat feared by their neighbors for their height, black skin and skill as warriors.

I made up naming languages for all these cultures (based on their original tongues), which you can peek at here:
word list

I also made cultural mini-templates for each culture as well as professional templates (heavily modified from Dungeon Fantasy on the Cheap) and the various Martial Arts styles that would be common.
You can check that out here: Testudo templates

That is all for the moment.


Character tokens

I like the idea of using miniatures in my games, but I just don’t have the money or painting skillz to make them as nice as I’d like them to be. So I have taken to making wooden tokens for the PC’s and NPC’s.

Here are the steps in case this sounds like something you would like to try.

Character portraits! I love scouring the internet for pics of NPC’s (and PC’s if my players are ok with it), so I always have tons of pics at hand. For this project I imported all the pics into MS Word and resized them to have their height or width equal 0.75″ (whichever measurement was larger), and arranged them in rows. Then I printed it out on an Avery full page shipping label (8165 if you are curious).


For the wooden discs I purchased a bunch of 1″ x 1/8″ style from this place: http://www.craftparts.com/wood-circle-disc-p-3837.html?cat_id=461


Then I cut each row into strips and used a 3/4″ hole punch to remove each portrait. I suppose I could worry about the white edges on some of the narrower pics, but it *is* just a game…


Then peel and stick. Voila!


Sturdy, easy to transport and completely personalized!




Playing Card Initiative System

After the last campaign that I ran came to a close one of my players suggested that I bring my Playing Card Initiative System up to 4th edition standards. We had tried using the Action Point system from The Last Gasp and found that it seemed a bit too fiddly ( I mainly saw the players not moving very much or, in one case not running from a cave lion at full speed to avoid running out of AP… I loved the idea, but it just didn’t seem to work with my group.

The Playing Card Initiative System (PCIS) was originally made for 3rd edition and I used it a lot back in the days before 4th edition was released. So it has been playtested over 15 years ago with the older system.

The PCIS recreates the ebb & flow of a chaotic fight in the same way that The Last Gasp does with Action Points. It also adds some meta-game excitement with the card draw each “round” (in the PCIS you draw a hand for a 13 second “round”).

The only drawback is that each player needs their own deck of playing cards. I just bought a bunch of packs and provide them for everyone.

There are two files. The version that is for players and single NPC’s (or just important ones) and a GM version for multiple NPC’s (which would be crazy-making to draw hands for and keep straight).

Initiative 4th 2.0

NPC Initiative 2.0

GURPS Hit Location Chart

Since I have had several months of prep time for my new dimension-hopping campaign I have been hard at work making various player aids. I have a folder for each player, holding both character sheets and a bunch of, well, play aids… like I said.



The postcards that are paperclipped to the folder are the character backgrounds translated from the Central Casting history. The little stickers at the bottom are individualized FP tracks. I am going to be using glass beads to show the accumulation of FP (I am using my own implementation of the wonderful Last Gasp article by Douglas Cole in Pyramid 3-44). The beads are color coded for Mild, Severe and Deep fatigue, and the little cheat sheet helps the players figure out what level of fatigue thay are at (along with any penalties).

One of the aids is a hit location chart that lets the players see the modifiers to hit a location and the random dice roll results as well as room to list and armor that  they have there.I thought it might be useful for other GM’s…

Here it is.


I was unable to add the damage multipliers for various attack types, but I have my own GM sheet for that (not my own design).