What is your favorite villain you ever challenged players with?
A powerful and very capable arcane inventor by the name of Gillerneine. He had his bones sucked out of his body by vengeful merfolk after he'd tried to steal away a mermaid he'd fallen in love with, and now was a meatblob in a glass-jar-helmed mechanical diversuit. He was motivated by love for this mermaid, and devoted his life to the exploration of the seas in an attempt to be reunited with her. He joined the game first as the employer of the players, inviting them to accompany him on an expedition to a lost island that only he knew the location of and the players needed to get to. But on the night before the expedition he laced their drinks with a hallucinogen that revealed visions of each characters beliefs, hopes and fears, and the players HATED him for prying so deep without their permission. I really misjudged how strong their reactions were going to be.
For the next few sessions the mistrust only worsened, with Gillerneine trying to pry a powerful artefact from the players' control while onboard a giant mechanical flying turtle that because of said artefact was slowly becoming awakened and sentient. There was an attempted mutiny by the players, an uncomfortable compromised reached, and a bruised truce made; both parties needed each other to complete their respective missions. Great tense "I hate you but need you" from both groups.
So several high seas sessions later they finally find their way to the lost jungle island, where the really important supermacguffin is being held by the bad guys. Jagged jungle terrain, difficult to negotiate— especially in a mechanical diversuit. And so it happens that while they're scaling a slimy, root covered rockface, Gillerniene fails his climb check, slips, and falls backwards down towards the rocks.
Naturally, as a major NPC I'm thinking I better give him a close call and let the players rescue him and one-up him. Random roll indicates that Kozun the stoic rockdwarf monk is the guy who can save Gillerneine. "So Kozun— Gillerneine's horrid glass helmet echoes with his scream as he falls right past you— what do you do!?!"
There's about two seconds of consideration before Kozun's player replies: "Nothing."
Which probably would have been fine, had Gillerneine not shattered his helmet and speared his brain on a broken branch at the bottom of the cliff. Bad time to roll a crit to the head.
So yeah, Gillerneine.... or The Gaurhoth, a First Age Werewolf Demon in my Middle Earth campaign who had (the players chose all these btw):
• Tortured the Woodelf
• As a foul spirit, defiled the Shieldmaiden's ancestoral barrow and ran off in her dead mother.
• Killed the Shieldmaiden's brothers.
• Tortured and maimed and still imprisoned the Gondorian Knight's betrothed.
• Raped and sired an unborn child in the womb of the Beornlinga healer.
Kill Bill, Tolkien style.
What is your favorite organization behind wrong-doing in your setting?
The Un. Void-worshipping black hole cultists and non-entities determined to eat our Universe and shit out a new one in theirs.
What is the most interesting location you ever staged a battle in?
Recently? A blazing firefight in a University lab in a prestigious city tower built upon the back of a mountain-sized beetle that was being mounted by two other city-beetles in a state of drug-fuelled sexually frenzy.
Yeah. No pictures of that.
What is the most interesting chase scene you ever had in a game?
I like starting new campaigns with chase scenes, especially for Star Wars games. I think the best chase I've kicked off with is the game starting with the smuggler's dropping out of hyperspace with an Imperial Star Destroyer hot on their tail, a brown smear of a junkworld and an orbital belt made out of blasted battlecruisers. Watching the players squirm as they try to deal with the TIE Fighters, the live animal cargo going berko, not flying right into a spacewreck, and working out how the hell the Empire can track them through space all at the same time has always been great fun to run.
Picture not really relevant. But still cool.
What is the most evocative scenic location you have used in a game?
It's really hard to do evocative scenic location wrong when you're playing Star Wars:
What is the most interesting one-of-a-kind unique monster in your games?
The problem I've always had with my games is that I usually save the one-of-a-kind for the big boss at the end, and when you're as fickle a gamer as I am the players don't normally get to see them. That said, Kindred of the East lends itself to some really wild and unique eastern vampire demons. Squicky!
What is the most tantalizing artifact, relic or tech you have ever used in game?
The Malicrux Peril. Everybody wants it, no-one knows quite what it is.
What is the most world shattering thing a player has ever got up to in your settings?
Unintentionally giving away the location of the players' homeworld to a horde of bloodthirsty, worldshattering spacetoads. And they did shatter the world, split it right down the middle with their little froggy lazers.
What is the strangest death of a character in game you have run?
For NPCs, the Unfortunate Incident of the Man and the Cliff, as detailed above.
For PCs... the DCC Zero, laden with treasures exotic and wondrous, who climbed into the Well in the Keep found in Sailors of the Starless Seas. He just.... vanished. For ever.
What is the most intriguing challenge, trap, or non combat obstacle in your games?
Or the puzzle trap I made for Secret Santicore, p30-35.
What is most interesting ability or character option you have added to your game?
Unless you're playing Tolkien I'm not the biggest fan of the trad fantasy races, unless you do something wicked with them like the races in Dark Sun. So normally I make new races for each setting. Nothing Amazing, just different.
What is the strangest mash up or weirdest system hack you have made in gaming?
I'm not normally one for system hacking (though I have a fantasy heartbreaker someone back there) and don't normally go for mashups unless it's in the setting, like say Rifts. Man I played a fuckton of that game back in the day.
The Schlächterstern Rot lurks in the border regions between deepest space, the Astral Plane and Pandemonium. Its tumultuous geometries visible from the worlds of the Prime Material Plane only in hallucinogen-laced dreams of artists, astronomancers, mathemagicians, and failed suicidialites. Once depicted in reality — through written account, trigonomic puzzling or other creative expression — it becomes visible to the authors in their waking hours: a heavenly body with hellish hues appears in the night sky where once a black nebula might have blotted out the stars. Others will only see it after hearing or reading of its existence, but once seen, it remains. It travels against the flow of stars each night, confounds astrological predictions, causes beasts to behave in queer manner, and gives rise to unrest among those of weak will and fearful disposition. As more and more minds attend to its presence it grows in stature, feeding on thought until it lingers large and low in the night sky. From the capitols of civilization to the wilds of farthest barbarica, all those who have envisioned the Schlächterstern Rot come to see it hovering immediately overhead, just beyond the clouds. Even those of stern mind now view it with apprehension. All know its name. And so the Schlächterstern Rot will hang there, like a star of Damocles, until the people of the world it orbits manage to solve the conundrum of its presence and it departs without harm; or should they utterly fail to accept the discreet invitations of its subtle ambassadors, the star vanishes, taking all memories of its visit with it, and replacing all such thoughts with horrific visions of butchery and decay. These thoughts are not memories, but warnings of impending doom. For in the wake of the Schlächterstern Rot, all worlds it leaves behind are plunged into a thousand years of bloodshed and slaughter, all worlds it leaves behind are rotten with war. It draws near; plaguing the babblings of the drunkard, confounding the lies of the stargazer, haunting the angles of the polygonimist and causing the unborn to howl in fear. The Schlächterstern Rot is almost here.
From the Ashes is a postapocalyptic rpg from James MacGeorge, detailed on his blog here. James kindly approached me to do a number of pieces for him, and I'm very proud of all the work I've done. Here's five of them: