Words matter, and I may have come up with a term I could put into my game books.

DM, GM, Storyteller, then all the more fru-fru titles. None of them seem to fit what a person in that role does, especially for more collaborative games. I have finally thought of one that, for me, cuts to the center of the role.


The GM prepares the challenges, adjudicates challenges the players set for their characters, and bears the responsibility for making the challenges as interesting and fairly handled as possible. Also, handles the world building, NPCs, and player dynamics as the person in the hot seat for coordinating everything.

Challengist. What do you do? You prepare interesting challenges and manage those that emerge during play as the expert, representing the world and coordinating interaction between players and the fiction. You present, curate, adjudicate, and interpret the challenges. That’s your biggest job.

Clarifying that role makes a difference in preparation and in how the role is seen by everyone as play unfolds. It’s been growing on me this week. I like it more as I think about it.

If I’m going to pick a term of art for the GM in my games, I want to pick one that has the potential to shape potential and play not just in a precious setting-related way, but in a way that defines the role with perhaps a new focus.

I like it.

Wherever they go, the story unfolds, but the story is really a line of challenges that resolve in the moment and over time. The heart of a story is conflict, and the heart of managing conflict in RPGs is managing the distance between what the players want and the other side of what stands in the way (both for players and their characters.)

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D&D Aliens for Black Space

I’ll just hang this here for now.

Races in Black Space 7.31.18

Races in Black Space 8.11.18

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Pits & Perils Reference Sheet

I made this for Bryan Mullins. I didn’t ask for permission. For Pits & Perils by James & Robyn George. Enjoy!

Pits n Perils Reference Sheet

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How I Would Do Shadowrun Now

I have some nostalgia for Shadowrun. I also really like cyberfuture stuff (see also Black Space.) Sometimes I get an itch to do something with Shadowrun in a system I would find playable, keeping enough world stuff and cruft to be fun, but shaving off all the rest.

Like with Rifts, the key is to focus in on stuff you like and do your own version that’s informed by your fandoms of choice, so there’s a thing that unifies it–your taste. I thought about that, and how I would do Shadowrun, and immediately realized I was halfway there.

I would run the shadows of a science fantasy Yoon Suin.

Keep the same lazy decadence against a frenetic pace of the fantasy version. Only the sluggish can use magic, though snailish and other offshoots have figured out perversions and lesser shamanistic forms. Instead of trolls you have crabbish. Instead of orcs you have yakkish. You get the kenku for free. And only the dwarves can project their consciousness through technology, making them the riggers and deckers of the setting.

Noble houses and corps rule, and in their shadow they conduct espionage and sparring that must not be allowed to break out into war. You’ve got the Mountains of the Moon in the background, and other areas, but the God River now sparkles with datastreams, twinkling energy conduits more efficient than cables could ever be.

Out in the bay, you’ve got the dimensional visitors who trade with this profitable plane. Due to the structure of the laws, the most lucrative place to mount skirmishes and espionage from one powerful group to another is between the dimensionally drift-capable pagodas where diplomats, traders, aristocrats, and monsters rub elbows.

Keep your street samurai. I’ve got goddamn chaos monks.

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Devil’s Sieve (B/X Setting)

This one owes some ideas to Jack Shear’s Devilmount, his parody of Dwimmermount; mainly the inclusion of Grays and Daemonics, and the church for clerics. Here’s the notes.

Devil’s Sieve Player Guide 4.18

Luck Crash

The Fogtown Road

Arcana, Western OSR



Fenricks Manor key

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Black Space: Pursuing the Bomber

Black Space Logo

A group of spacers on Fist Star 18, a space station known for offering robot gladiator matches, decided to go bounty hunting together.

  • Duncan Golas (Brian Wille) was a spacer with a prosthetic handshake, a tech expert who was a leader in the pit crew for one of the robot gladiators, able to reroute power and begin the repairs before even opening the machines. He got another spacer to smuggle some illegal enhancements through security using her prosthetic leg, and as discovery became ever more likely, it was time to move on.
  • Bones (Lu Quade) was a spacer with a danger sense and an instinct for figuring out new vehicles, and also a smuggling compartment built into her leg. She was a courier for parts for the robot gladiators, but her help to Golas would be discovered soon, so it was time to move on.
  • Hellas (Darren Brockes) was a spacer with keen focus, dangerous skills, and an uncanny ability to survive. He served as a “bot clown” to distract malfunctioning bots and provide entertainment between matches. His mentor was squashed a week ago, and after one party, everyone moved on and forgot him; it was chilling, and Hellas was looking for other work.
  • Gasper (Andrew Huffaker) was an unapologetic survivor of facial mutiliation and cyrbernetic experimentation who inherited a ship (The “Thieving” Magpie) and $400,000 debt from contacts with the Yuvaria Corp.

Together, they won a lottery with the “Hunter Hunter” show, starring Captain Persephone, a man wearing boots, a banana hammock, a tiny vest, and a different large hat every session. He had the whole sector starmap tattooed on his oiled torso.

Captain Persephone interviewed the winners, then they got the prize; a leg-up on the next big bounty to come across the Cortex. They got the information, then tesserarched out of the station with drones firing pyrotechnics behind them so their trajectory could not be tracked.

The Sylorica Corp out of Startree posted a bounty on Highshine West, a demolitions expert for the Belwyth Piracy Franchise. $20,000 alive, $10,000 dead. Also $10,000 alive, $5,000 dead for Armand Hammer, a vicious pilot and West’s right hand. They also had 5 cases of grav flex charges worth $10,000 each in bounty. This was to be turned in to Preceptor Chan as the contact.

Apparently West conducted a series of bombings in the Vysac supply chain, ships and ports both. The contract was completed before Chet Flinders, a hunter, could catch West. So the Sylorica corp opened the contract up to external bounty hunters.

They won the tip that placed West on Case 486 Evidenciary, a planet that blew up and was pulled back together by gravity, now a nightmare of class action suits that had been churning for 182 years with no end in sight. The hunters were only 6 hours behind.

Gasper chewed cigarettes to pass the time on the trip, and Bones reveled in her trading card of Captain Persephone, which he signed with a thumbprint virus that unlocked the 3d signature on the card.

Duncan sifted the history on West, discovering he had been a pirate licensed with the Belwyth Piracy Franchise. The Sylorica Corp fired his ship and jailed him for a decade, and now that he’s out he’s doing paid work to get his franchise license and a ship and crew back together.

Upon arriving at the edge of the Evidentiary’s orbits, they scanned to pick up an appropriately spaced time and and advertisement to meet and discuss fencing issues and explosives; West wanted more explosives! The meet location was on level 482, deep in the Rift district, which has the most extradition issues and the weakest policing.

Gasper took one grav pod, Duncan took another, and while they were headed down at reasonable speeds, Bones drove one and took Helles for a ride, and engaged in the zero g falling of “freeballing,” a local sport. On the way down, another pilot challenged them to a multiple-g race, and Bones accepted; as Helles threw up and failed to help out, Bones banged down through the wing of one grav pod, and refused to flinch, to the point where Helles trying to help broke the grav unit off, and they were stopped by public safety measures as the other pod sauntered away–piloted by Armand Hammer!

Helles and Bones both sassed the Bailiffs who showed up, they were stunned and destined for prison when Duncan (who quickly changed into a nice suit) pretended to be a lawyer and pulled them out because of jurisdictional issues, retreating from the site.

Meanwhile Hammer flew casually away from the mayhem, and Gasper was on his trail, following him to where he walked into the bottom of a spaceship elevator with a yacht inside, the Vauxhall.

The hunters rendezvoused at the ship and changed their outfits and gear, then closed in on the Vauxhall station private ship elevator. As they approached, Hammer was coming out, oblivious to them. Bones and Gasper pulled guns from Bones’ leg and opened fire, knocking him down in a hail of bolts, but not killing him. They worked through it with the bailiffs, then turned the captive in to representatives of the Sylorica Corp, getting $10,000 (so $2,000 for each of them and $2,000 to cover the damages from the chase.)

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Update to the Duskwall Heist Deck!

Good news, everyone! The Duskwall Heist Deck print and play version now has all the information of the physical deck! That’s 40 people, 40 treasures, and 50 obstacles.

For those who already purchased the .pdf, you should be getting an email letting you know you can download the updated deck. It is two documents; one is the cards, the other is a 10 page document that has the back of the obstacle cards, so you can draw “Pit Traps” and see the front, then look on the alphabetical list on the back list to see suggestions for customizing the obstacle. (It’s really difficult to print front and back cards that line up, so this was a compromise.)

(As a historical note, the print and play deck was an afterthought based on demand from people who faced stiff shipping charges to order a physical deck. As such, it was incomplete, because my control of graphic designers is limited, as are my resources. I have now been able to create a rough parity between the decks, information wise, and I think that’s something to feel good about.)

I hope this breathes some new life and fun into your decks. Thanks for your support.

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