Creating a Library, No Big Deal

On Facebook yesterday I mentioned that I’m going ahead with an idea I’ve had milling about for a while now. I’m creating a roleplaying game library, mandated to collect, preserve, and share tabletop roleplaying games, as well as documents associated with the hobby. I’m not the first person to have this idea. Alexandria RPG and the Play Generated Map and Document Archive are both examples of what I’m trying to achieve, and they aren’t the only two. Which may beg the question, why? If things like this already exist, why start another one? Well I happen to have a few answers to that.

First, I don’t happen to think redundancy is bad when you’re endeavoring to preserve the history of something. Roleplaying games as an industry-supported hobby have been around for over forty years, and I plan to keep enjoying them for at least the next thirty. There is a wealth of knowledge, lore, and folklore tied up in all the time that all the people involved in the hobby and the industry have expended. It would be a little foolish to think one person, or even dozens of persons, could collect and preserve it all. Just by living in a different geographical location from other librarians and conservationists, I have a chance to collect and preserve a different set of materials, obviously with some overlap.

Which brings me to my second answer. I spent a good long while looking, and I don’t think there is anyone else living in Canada doing what I plan to do. If there is, I’d sure love to talk to them, but if so they are keeping a very low profile. And I think having a Canadian library for my hobby could be a good thing. Yes, mostly because I live here and this is where all my stuff is. But it’s unlikely that US-based groups doing this sort of work will make the trip up to many Canadian events, unless they’re just over the border. It’s just not cost-effective. And maybe this is a bit paranoid, but given the political and social climate in the US right now, I don’t think it could hurt to have a collection of this information outside the US.

But lastly, it’s something I’ve been doing for a while anyway, without what I’m now realizing is the very important public engagement portion. I’ve collected roleplaying material for a while, and I have a bunch tucked away on shelves in my game room, with a bit more tucked in boxes awaiting the light of day. And that’s all well and good, but at the end of the day these are games. They are meant to be out where people can read them and play them. I want people, at whatever point they entered the hobby, to have a chance to experience a bit of what the hobby was like before they joined. Or have a chance to see the hobby from someone else’s point of view.

So a few things are going to happen over the next while.

  • I’m setting up a not-for-profit Society, called the Canadian Library of Roleplaying Games; as small as this is now it’s going to grow, and I need a framework for that growth. A NFP Society is also the first step to attaining eventual charitable status, which I think will help us in getting larger donations of gaming material down the line. As it stands, a Society can’t issue tax-receipts, so all I can offer folks for donating material to me now is my winning smile.
  • But having a Society means I can officially donate my personal library of material to that Society, which will form the seed of the collection.
  • I’ve started on a website, and I have Twitter and a Facebook page in place ready for the official launch. The website is going to be a key player in all this, since that is where the collection’s database will live. I know some thing about creating a database and I’ll need to learn a whole bunch more, as well as finding like-minded volunteers to help out.
  • And then I want to get the collection out in front of the public, so I need to decide what that will look like and figure out the logistics. Currently I’m one guy with shelves of gaming stuff and no car, so how I get to events and which events I attend are non-trivial issues.

But for me, all of that is the first part of the fun part. I’m excited to get this project started and you’ll definitely be hearing more about it as I move forward. And if by any chance you’re interested in helping out, whether with time or a donation of material, feel free to email me at Don’t be put off if I don’t know how to use you quite yet, it’s early days and I’m still figuring things out myself.


Marginalia and Other Oddities

I love introducing libraries of books in my campaigns. It’s the sort of treasure I’d love to find if I were an adventurer, after all. Cracking open a door no one has opened in centuries, only to discover shelf upon shelf of dusty manuscripts…oh yeah, you can keep your gold and gems (okay, maybe not all the gold and gems).

The problem with dropping large numbers of books into your campaign is keeping them interesting. Sure, you’ll come up with cool descriptions for the special books, magical tomes or the books which advance the plot. But in a big library a lot of those books are going to look exactly the same, at least on the outside. That’s where marginalia can spice things up for you.

Turns out, cats have been jerks to books for centuries.

The term “marginalia” simply refers to anything added to the margins of a book or manuscript. The earliest examples of this were the scholia, or notes, written in the margins of ancient manuscripts by Medieval and Renaissance scholars. Such scholia continue to this day, the most famous modern example being Fermat’s Last Theorem. But it also includes drawings found in the margins of illuminated manuscripts, as well as (less accurately) notes found among the lines of a manuscript’s text. The term can also refer to anything that one might consider a mistake in the manuscript, thought that usage is less common. My favourite example of this is pictured to the left, where we see that cats haven’t changed one bit.

You might ask yourself why someone would hold onto, or even buy a book that came with errors or marginalia. Unlike today where the cost of printing a book is relatively cheap, any form of the printed word was a time-intensive, and therefore costly, enterprise. If you were half-way through copying out a book by hand and the cat walked across the page with inky paws, or you noticed you made a spelling or grammatical error, you fixed it as best you could and soldiered on. Besides time, the materials used for copying manuscripts were often expensive. Even a simple book copied out in a single colour of ink was still an investment.

Often the marginalia was done quite on purpose. As already noted, scholia were written in by scholars as notations for other students of that particular text.  But artistic illumination was often added to the margins to make the book more impressive, and didn’t always relate to the subject matter. It was not uncommon to find cartoonish and sometimes even vulgar images drawn in the margins, and at the top and bottom of pages. Occasionally these would tell a simple tale over

Hmmm…how do I tell these penises are ripe?

several pages, similar to our relatively modern flip-books. And just sometimes, the artist wanted to draw fruit being picked from a penis tree.

Marginalia in your trove of campaign books can have a wide range of forms and uses. Intentional or in error, marginalia can be used to tease your players with riddles or clues, or waste their time with a literary red-herring. But they’re the perfect addition to any of your campaign manuscripts, instantly making your books more interesting. I’ve provided a list of twenty examples below. You can either pick one you like or roll randomly when a character thumbs through that book they just found.

  1. Tiny clawed footprints, burned on the surface of several pages as if something had walked or stood upon them. (Left by an imp; could be random, or done deliberately to obscure text)
  2. A series of small drawings in the margins of each page, depicting the comic (and sometimes lewd) misadventures of a flaxen-haired elf and a red-bearded dwarf.
  3. In the bottom right corner of each page, a series of pictures depicting an “untoward” unicorn. (You pick how “untoward” to fit your group)
  4. A carefully written recipe for potato soup, with some odd ingredients (DM’s choice). If tried, the soup is delicious but otherwise unremarkable. (Should ideally be found in a book having nothing to do with cooking)
  5. Next to a passage with information vital to the characters, a note in the margin reading, “Annotation needed, incomplete passage. Original should be kept by [fill in group from your campaign here].”
  6. Someone has underlined several lines on every page throughout the book, often with comments like “Yes! Yes!!” and “Finally, someone gets it!” They don’t seem to bear any relation to each other, and the hand-writing in the comments is different in several places.
  7. On an otherwise beautifully illuminated manuscript, a quite visible green-inked thumbprint can be seen obscuring a portion of the title page.
  8. Starting in the bottom left corner of the last page, and spiraling clockwise and inward on each page, another shorter book has been written in the margins. The subject of the marginalia text should bear no relation to the book’s original subject.
  9. Several pages have been cut out and re-glued back into the book in different places, some upside down or backwards.
  10. Someone has meticulously cut the letter “e” out of every word in the manuscript. Tucked in the back of the book is a small pouch containing the resulting confetti.
  11. Characters will notice the lyrics and musical notation for a bawdy song about naiads hidden in the illuminations of a manuscript. If sung aloud near any body of water the song summons a water elemental which immediately attacks the singer.
  12. A character notices an image of a thin man with glasses, wearing a striped tunic, in the marginalia of one page. That same character now can’t help but notice that same image in the marginalia of every book in this library.
  13. The illuminations in the manuscript look slightly off. But if the page is angled properly under the correct light, characters will note the illuminations appear to be three-dimensional.
  14. Scattered through the margins are a series of truly terrible and nonsensical riddles. Examples: “Why is a gelatinous cube like a sandwich? Because they both like carp!” “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Penchant. Penchant who? Bless you!”
  15. Beautifully drawn and illuminated marginalia, except every figure has a very obviously bare bottom showing.
  16. Starting with the first page and repeating until the end of the book, the first letter of each page spells out a character’s name. Coincidence?
  17. The beautiful but faded artwork and illuminations in this book were restored badly, almost cartoonishly. If properly restored, the book’s value would double, possible even triple.
  18. Someone has worked the phrase, “Gwen and Slaughterjaw forever!” into the marginalia of every page. (Or pick two names which better suit your campaign world)
  19. An unfinished thaumaturgical formula. It seems to make perfect sense but is obviously missing some vital section. (DM can determine how difficult it is to solve, and what it leads to)
  20. The margins are filled with carefully written but indecipherable script (pick a language none of the characters have or make one up). If translated, the writing appears to be scholia, correcting the original text in several places and filling in some missing information.

What sort of oddities have you put in your books? Share below!

RPGaDay Double Feature!

cropped-cropped-me-and-the-eyeball1.jpg(Because “RPGaDay Double Feature” sounds better than “I was sick yesterday and didn’t post”.)

August 10th: Largest in-game surprise you have experienced?

Years back I played in a Shackled City AP campaign. I was playing a Lawful Good human monk names Ceres, and we had progressed through the campaign with the usual trials and tribulations. As part of the adventure, we had traveled to one of the 666 layers of the Abyss, there to break an NPC’s hold on that layer and deprive it of power. I think the layer was called Oculus? Not important. There was only one way to do this: sacrifice a living being by pushing it into the “eye” of energy at the centre of the layer, which would cut off the flow of power to the NPC. The party spent a great deal of time discussing and then arguing the merits of which NPC baddy was going to be used as sacrifice. Ceres stayed out of the discussion, other than to point out that it would be wrong to sacrifice any unwilling creature regardless of their alignment (Lawful Good, remember?).

After the discussion went on for 20 minutes or more, I finally got bored and passed a note to the DM. Ceres was going to throw himself into the eye. Better to sacrifice himself, than force his friends to make a morally reprehensible choice. I fully expected Ceres to die; nothing the DM had said up to this point indicated any other outcome. As I was a monk and way faster than anyone else in the party, I easily flung myself into the energy stream and certain death…and the DM asked me to roll a Will save. I did, and rolled a natural 20, making for a stupid-high final result (monk, remember?). Long story short (too late!), I not only survived the energy stream, I was able to manipulate it, becoming the new master of that layer of the Abyss. Which shocked the crap out of everyone, not least of all me. And that’s how a Lawful Good monk became the ruler of a layer of the Abyss. We didn’t play much beyond the end of the campaign, but I had plans for my new domain if we did. As the only Lawful domain in the Abyss? Oh, baby did I have plans. Ah, well.

August 11th: Which gamer most affected the way you play?

This is a hard one to answer, because it is safe to say everyone I’ve ever gamed with has had an impact on how I choose to play the hobby I love. I’m sure that’s true, and I hope it’s true, of everyone in this crazy, mixed-up pastime. In my early gamer days (from age 10 to early twenties), I was influenced by the folks writing and editing Dragon magazine: Ed Greenwood, Monte Cook, Gary Gygax, Kim Mohan, Wolfgang Bauer, Dave Gross…the list goes on. But they informed a lot of how I played the games, how I treated the hobby, and how I treated the folks I shared the hobby with. As I got a little older I started to depend less on written sources for guidance, and took more stock in the players and GMs around me. I watched what they did, and either borrowed heavily the things I liked, or shied away from the habits which did not equal fun. Today, I’m still most heavily influenced by the GMs I watch, either as a player at their table or by “sitting in” on any number of RPG play-through shows. Matt Mercer from Critical Roll has had a great influence on me recently, as has Ivan van Norman, both from Geek & Sundry’s Twitch stream. They each have a distinctive style, and each deliver an excellent table experience from what I can see. Definitely someones to emulate.

I did want to make a special point about a particular type of gamer that really inspires me, and pushes me to make my gaming table welcoming and fun. If you’ve been in the hobby for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve encountered them: the gatekeepers. The players and/or GMs who never want their gaming experience to change, and who actively resist anything which might move the hobby to be more inclusive. They’re the ones who tell off-colour sexist and sometimes racist jokes and then chant “SJW” at you if you call them on it (for the record, I’m a Social Justice Cleric, so shut your pie-hole before I give you a holy lance where the tanlines stop). They don’t make allowances for handicapped players, sometime actively shutting them out of gameplay opportunities.  You know, they are assholes. Well, they inspire me. They inspire me to be nothing like them, to make sure the welcome mat is out and clearly visible at my table, and to make sure that my players know what sort of behavior is allowed before we begin play. Eventually, with enough conscientious effort,  the assholes will either change how they play, or eventually they’ll only be able to play with other assholes and their games will collapse from the collective weight of assholery. Which I’m actually sad about. I love this hobby and I think everyone should get to partake, as long as they aren’t making it less fun for others.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow we start in on daily posts for the rest of RPGaDay month, I promise. Want to weigh in on either of the topics I touched on today? Drop me a comment.

Convention Time, Part Deux!

A longish while back I wrote a post about going to conventions, with some tips and tricks I use when conning around. Since then I’ve written a few posts on subjects touching on gaming conventions; if you search the convention tag I’m sure they’ll pop up. Since the Grand Daddy of all gaming cons, Gen Con, starts this week, I thought it was a good time to P1000011_smtalk about them some more.

I have long believed gaming conventions are one of the best parts of the hobby. They offer a way to try new things with new people, in a generally supportive and positive environment. Even playing your favourite game with new people can be eye-opening. I love discovering a new strategy for a game by getting my butt whipped, knowing I can take that strategy back to my regulars and unleash it on them.

If a regular gaming convention does this for you, Gen Con ramps that up to Eleventy-One. Let me start by reassuring you, you will never get to do everything at Gen Con at a single Gen Con. Why is that reassuring? Because you have an ongoing reason to go back, my friend. And you will want to go back. There is no other con in North America, possibly the world, which can offer as much concentrated gaming goodness in one location. Whether you’re on the hunt for shiny new thing in gaming, or an OG looking to relive the games of your youth, Gen Con has it and you can play it. I have never been disappointed.

So I wanted to offer some tips to make your experience as good as it can be. Some of these are specific to Gen Con, but most will make any con better.

Be Considerate – This covers a wide variety of situations at the con, and obviously isn’t limited to just Gen Con. But there are just so many people at Gen Con that dickish behavior can quickly spiral. However, considerate behavior can also spiral, so follow Wheaton’s Law and keep it wholly.

This includes but is not limited to: bathing and using deodorant; not blocking the aisles for too long as you look at the new shiny or take a picture of cool cosplay; asking the cosplayer if you can take a photo in the first place, and being okay if the answer is no; not arguing rules during the time-limited game event you’re playing in (yes, you’re very smart and likely right. Who cares? Shut up and let everyone play!); follow Thumper’s Law (“If you ain’t got nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all.”); play the demos, play all the demos, but don’t hog the demos. If you want to play more of the game, sign up for one of the events or buy the game; watch your language, Gen Con is a family friendly con; say thank-you, every chance you get, to anyone who deserves it (food servers, game masters, the woman who ran your demo, game designers and authors you run into…the list is Me and the Eyeballendless).

Do the Things! – With an event catalog the thickness of the average game manual, it can be easy to be stymied by analysis paralysis as you try to figure out what to do next. You can spend hours sitting around, pouring through the events, trying to find the Best One. But you didn’t come to Gen Con to read the con guide, pretty as it is. You came to get your nerd on!

Hopefully you picked some events early and pre-registered, so you’ve already got those on your schedule. But hopefully you also left holes in your schedule for picking games/events as they appeal to you or as you find things you didn’t notice before. If that’s the case, don’t get too bogged down trying to figure out the Single Best Solution, because there isn’t one. Honestly, pick the first event that looks fun and get in there! As I said before, you won’t be able to do everything at a single Gen Con. So just do everything you can, and save the rest for next time. As long as you are having fun you are Gen Conning correctly, so don’t worry about what you might miss.

Look After Yourself – Gen Con is an endurance race, not a sprint. Trying to do all the things all day and night will burn you out. By Day Two you’ll be a wreck, and by Day Three you’ll be curled up in your hotel room trying to recover. So:

  • Get sleep, at least six hours a night.
  • Shower every day. We touched on cleanliness under the first point, but it is also a good way to look after yourself. You’ll just feel better if you’re clean every day, fact.
  • Eat actual food at least once a day. Anything served from a kiosk in the convention centre barely counts in this category, but even the con food is better than a steady diet of chocolate bars, soda, and chips. However, within five blocks of the convention centre are a variety of excellent restaurants and food trucks, all wanting to exchange currency for delicious, fresh food.
  • Drink water. How much? Hard to say, since it depends on a wide variety of physical factors. But here’s a tip: if your urine is the same colour as any of the various Mountain Dew varieties, you aren’t drinking enough (and if it’s the same colour as Code Red see a doctor immediately).
  • Try one thing you wouldn’t normally try. Could be a game, could be LARP, could be anything. Try something outside your comfort zone, at least once. You might pick up a new hobby, but at the very least you’ll gain an appreciation for something you’ve never tried before.

Thank the Volunteers – They were there before you in the morning and they’ll go home after you in the evening. They are constantly in motion, doing things you’ve never had to think about, so your convention experience goes smoothly. No convention in the world, Gen Con included, could run without volunteers. So say thank-you. Takes a second and it can make a volunteer’s day. And they deserve it.

And if you can swing it, volunteer. You’ll work your ass off, but you’ll also gain an appreciation of how much work goes in to making a convention run well.

Those are my tips. I’ve also got a a page with suggestion on what to pack in your Convention Kit, so check that out. If you’ve got a con tip please drop it in the comments below.

Do It In Public!

readrpgs-anibuttonRead an RPG Book in Public, that is! Why, what were you…naughty!

Promoted tri-annually by The Escapist, Read an RPG Book in Public week is meant to raise the profile of the role-playing hobby and show our love for what is normally a behind-closed-doors activity. You grab a favourite RPG book, find a public area to relax for a little while, and get to reading. That simple.

I’ve done it when possible in past years, and always enjoyed it. I’ve endured very little in the way of any negative response to it; the occasional strange look to be sure, but nothing like actual harassment. Most of the time, when folks approach me it’s to tell me that they play or used to play, and occasionally we end up swapping stories of games gone wrong (or right). And I’ve even had a few people ask about how one gets in to the hobby, what they need to buy, where to find players, and so on. So if I’ve managed to inspire even one person to join our geeky ranks, it’s been worth it.

So get on out there and post your pics of you reading an RPG in public. Spread the nerd love wide this week. And please feel free to share your pics in the comments below, I’d love to see what you’re reading. I’ll be posting my pics here as I take them, so stop back and see what I’ve got on the go.

Encounter Locations – Part 2

Last time we talked about what inspires encounter location design, and how to start the cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgprocess. Inspiration for an encounter location can really come from anywhere, so when you have an idea make sure to record it. You may not get to it right away, but it’s great to have a list of ideas on hand. If you’ve ever been faced with needing to run something for your players on the fly, you’ll find such a list invaluable.

But that’s not you right now. Right now you have your brilliant encounter locale idea, and you want to flesh it out. So let’s look at next steps. These steps don’t have to be followed in any particular order. And in fact, you will likely find yourself tweaking and adjusting each area as you go, based on something you come up with in another step. That’s good. Nothing is set in stone until the players get there, and even then it’s less stone and more a really solid but malleable clay.

The Environment

Think about the details of the setting’s environment. How is it going to impact the characters? Is interacting in the environment difficult, or is the locale outright hostile to people? Many of these details will have a mechanical impact on the characters, either damaging, debilitating, or in some cases even enhancing them. For instance, if your locale is an underground magma flow you may have to look up your game’s rules for high-temperature environments.

Not everything in your setting will have, or needs to have, a mechanical effect. Sometimes it’s just as useful for the setting to evoke a particular feeling or mood. I’ve definitely tailored my abandoned crossroads station around a particular mood, dread. The area around the crossroads is very open and bare, so the man-made features, like the gallows and the tower, stand out. But while those might be the most noticeable things from a distance, there are also features revealed as the characters draw closer. If you look at the map from the previous article you’ll see what appears to be an empty field in the northern corner of the crossroads. That field is anything but empty, but the players won’t know that until their characters get closer. Then it will become apparent that the empty, grassy field is packed with a series of small mounds, not unlike unmarked graves. None of them look like they’ve been disturbed (for now). But imagine describing this field of mounds, the wind rustling through the grass (almost sounds like whispering…), and across the field, ropes dancing in the wind, stands a gallows. Yep, can’t wait for my group to go there.

What Lives There?

Once you’ve filled out some of the details of your location’s environment, it’s time to think about what might live there. Looking at the magma cavern example again, fire elementals and fire giants would be really obvious ones (nothing wrong with obvious, by the way, as long as your players have fun). But there could also be creatures that just enjoy being warm, that have taken advantage of the magma flow to take up residence in side caverns close by. Duergar (or even just a group of regular dwarves) could have set up shop, taking advantage of the flow to aid in smithing or ore processing. Maybe the local goblins use the location for ceremonies, and the rare occasions they want to cook meat quickly.

Also take a moment to consider whether what lives in your location might have predators. I don’t know what might hunt fire elementals regularly, but if there was something, they’d likely be keeping an eye on local magma flows. If dwarves are using the location maybe orcs want to take it from them; the characters could arrive in the middle of such an attack. Conflict is always exciting, so think of ways such conflict might exist at your location.

Conversely, who is allied with the creatures in your encounter? If Duergar have set up shop at the magma flow, can drow seeking trade be far behind? Any number of subterranean races could trade with the grey dwarves in this situation, and it might be the perfect way to introduce your players to some creature they might not encounter without weeks of underground travel. Or if goblins are using the location for ceremonies, maybe there is a fire elemental smart enough to pretend to be a god, demanding tribute from the goblins in return for favours.

The more layers of creatures you can add to the environment, the more “lived-in” it will feel. That doesn’t mean you have to force something to be there if it doesn’t fit. And sometimes the environment is so hostile that your creature pool is limited. But do give some thought to the creatures you place in your locale beyond their stats and treasure.

Speaking of Treasure…

You’ve created a location interesting enough for the players to send their characters to investigate. You’ve given them cool creatures and challenges to overcome when they arrive. Now what do they get out of it? Sure, sometimes killing monsters is its own reward, but is doesn’t buy you a round back at the inn.

The most obvious sources of treasure are, of course, the creatures you’ve placed there. Duergar or dwarves will have items they’ve created, as well as the raw materials for making those items. Heck, the smithy itself is treasure, when looked at from a certain point of view. The goblins will have whatever they’ve been giving to their fire elemental god, as well as whatever they’ve been holding back from their fire elemental god. If creatures have lived in the location long enough, they’ll have likely collected a number of interesting and potentially valuable items.

Maybe your group of adventurers weren’t the first to find and explore the location, they’re just the first to do it casualty-free. Bodies of previous explorers are a time-honoured way to get loot into the hands of the next generation of adventurers (especially if that loot is cursed, or has a mind of its own). Who knows, somewhere down the line your player’s characters might continue that tradition.

This is a good time to think about what might have been in the location before the current creatures. Maybe there are items hidden away by the previous inhabitants, as yet undiscovered. May the current inhabitants have only just recently discovered hidden items or treasures, and the adventurers arrive just in time to take them away. Maybe the hidden item is why the characters journeyed there in the first place, only to find your creatures in the way. Hilarity ensues.

Is the location itself a treasure? Does, the burbling fountain in the corner, once part of an ancient temple, bestow some type of benefit if drank from? Is the magma actually the molten form of a very rare metal, and can it be harvested? If you spend the night in the haunted mansion, do you actually get to make a wish like the local rumours say? Never be afraid to make your location, or even just a part of it, something wonderful and precious. Then make the players work to earn the benefit.

That’s it for this post. Next time we’ll look in a bit more detail at how I’ve combined some of these elements in my abandoned crossroads station. And I may even have a nicer map to show you! Until then, feel free to leave a comment below and share your encounter thoughts and ideas.

Ten Maguffins for your Games

cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgMaguffin is a term for a motivating element in a story used solely to drive the plot. It serves no further purpose. It won’t pop up again later, it won’t provide resolution. Really, it won’t do anything except possibly distract you while you try to figure out its significance. The classic example is, of course, the Maltese Falcon from the movie of the same name. We never learn much about the object; in fact, the characters never even see it until near the end of the movie. But without it that story wouldn’t have happened.

Maguffins have a place at the gaming table, and can serve to keep your players pleasantly (at least for you) occupied or distracted. You don’t have to get too heavy-handed when introducing a maguffin into your game. In fact, the more you let the players tell you what they want from it, the better. Maguffins work best when they feed off of the wants and desires of the players and their characters.

That said, here’s a list of potential maguffins. I’ve tried to keep them general enough to fit most campaigns, and they’re (with one exception) system neutral. Feel free to use them as you wish, and change details to suit your own campaign.

  1. A matched pair of knucklebones, carved for use as dice. Instead of numbers, each die has six different and unintelligible symbols, one to a side. When rolled, the dice emit a faint hum and a flash of light. No other effect is apparent.
  2. Small clear-quartz statue of an imp. Starting at dawn, the statue slowly becomes both warmer to the touch, and more red. At dusk the statue is almost too hot to touch, as well as a deep ruby red. As the night passes, the effect reverses, leaving the statue clear and cool by dawn.
  3. A battered silver cup with the name “Fleance” expertly etched on the side. Found alongside other treasure, it obviously occupied pride of place (on a pillow on a pedestal, for instance). If checked, it does radiate a very faint magical aura, not much stronger than the weakest of spells.
  4. A small pink object, about the size of a matchbox, with a USB port on one side. If plugged in to a computer or other electronic device, the object gets slightly warmer. Whatever device it is plugged into immediately turns off. When turned back on, it’s found the device works better and/or more efficiently than it did before.
  5. A regular looking Zippo lighter. When used, the flame colour is occasionally blue, red, green, purple, or a combination of one or more of those colours. And though this isn’t immediately apparent, the lighter never needs refilling or new flint.
  6. A pretty talking doll, complete with frilly dress and pull string. The GM is free to make up phrases for it to say, but at least one should be, “Hello, [insert character name], will you play with me?”
  7. A large jar of pickled flumphs. If a character chooses to ingest one, the GM is free to determine what effect, if any, this will have. Beyond a bad tummy ache, of course.
  8. A small brass hand bell. When rung, it never emits the same tone twice in a row, sounding anywhere between “tinny and tinkly” up to “booming cathedral”.
  9. A plain key with no markings. Though not immediately noticeable, the key changes shape and design every day, though it is always without visible writing. The GM can decide what the chances of it fitting a particular door on a particular day might be, but it should be extremely unlikely.
  10. By all appearances, a plain white chicken egg. It is slightly warm to the touch as if freshly laid. It is also, by any means the players can devise, unbreakable.

Have maguffins of your own? Share them in the comments below.