Review: A Night at the Golden Duck

This weekend I ran Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess’ zine-module A Night At The Golden Duck.

We played it as a one-shot with two veteran players and one complete newbie. I had them roll up Into the Odd characters who all got firearms in their starting package and dubbed themselves ‘Gunpals’.

The premise: Your players shelter from a deadly storm in an inn built out of a tree stump. The hostess tells everyone at dinner about a great treasure (the titular duck) hidden somewhere in or around the inn.

The adventure itself is a stylish black comedy which sets the stage for a) a murder mystery b) a treasure hunt c) the strangest evening ever or d) all of the above and more. The NPCs receive the majority of the focus, and the layout of the inn is simple enough that the majority of the comedy/drama/violence is centered on the five weirdos your players meet.

The weirdness of it is a draw -- the hostess is a giant beetle, a doctor on the premises is a deeply paranoid crow, there is a tremendous…

Ghosts, Part 1

A good ghost suggests something complex, unexplored, and tragic with its every action. It leads players down a quest regardless of what their plan becomes. 
Putting a ghost to rest is more than just fear (that it will kill you if you don't)... it's hope (that the ghost will find peace), sympathy (because most adventurers will naturally see themselves in the dead), and curiosity (because players know that the more information they have on the dead and their lives, the more information they have to help them survive).
Basically ghosts are dope as fuck and here are tables for making a few. Possibly I'll turn to the OSR discord for more ideas. Eventually these will join a bunch of other writings I have on ghosts for a ghastly compendium. We all have dreams.

Ghost Features, Patterns, and Habits:
1. It drinks from the same body of water every night. 2. It carries something visible only to itself in its scabbed and flaking hands. 3. It pulls teeth from the dead of this place. 4. It s…

Emotional Motivations vs. Action Motivations

A common theme in D&D statblocks is the inclusion of a monster/NPCs 'motivations', often laid out as whatever scheme they have going on, who they want to kill, what evil plan they want to see succeed or fail.

For the most part they use action-based language to inform the prospective GM.

KIRKMOG THE ORC HD 5. Armor as plate. Halberd 1d10. Movement standard. Motivations: Serve the Undead Prince Orcus, open a gateway to Hell, overrun the village of Thalma.
I am curious about the possibilities and differences of an emotions-based language for motivations.

So it becomes...

KIRKMOG THE ORC HD 5. Armor as plate. Halberd 1d10. Movement standard. Motivations: Overcompensation for insecurity, jealousy, fits of violent rage in response to his own perceived failings.
I think both of these function quite well, and tell the GM different things.

The first (action based) is simple and gritty and indicates how best to factor this monster or NPC into a larger picture, adventure, or campaign…

Tarot Deck Interview Spread

The other week I got my first tarot deck in the mail -- the Golden Thread Tarot. It's extremely beautiful and if you're not familiar I recommend checking out the creator's website and free app here.

Sitting down with the deck for a few calm shuffles and some examination of the cards, I decided to do an interview with my new deck to see what's in store for my 'relationship' with the cards.

Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?
Queen of Pentacles. 

A nurturing and practical figure. The Queen balances work, life, and love to keep her home flourishing and secure. The Queen is compassionate, but also down to earth and a staunch realist. I believe that this means the deck is ready to help me sort out the worldly concerns of my life (financial, skills, the home), but isn't afraid to force me out of my own head and demand I stop dreaming and start doing.

What are your strengths as a deck?
Page of Pentacles

I see this as a card of developi…

The Master of Ravens

This idea came to me when I remembered how cool those evil racist dudes from Bioshock Infinite looked. You could probably have a couple nights of D&D with this concept.

A druid in the nearby wood has become a master of birds. The crows, ravens, and magpies alike are drawn to them. Multiple hunters have been found with their eyes pecked out, their throats torn open. Most mysteriously, though, are those who return complaining of being surrounded by crows that nobody can see.

The Master of Ravensis a pitiful druid broken off from their tribe. The Master encountered a strange group of corvids in the recent months, and has formed a strange sort of bond with them. The bond is honest and genuine, and the ravens are not evil by nature. Perhaps not even the druid truly is.

They carry a huge birdcage filled with up to 20 ravens at any given time. The cage rattles and shifts on their hunched back.

If confronted, The Master opens the cage doors and commands the ravens to fly not at, but past …

Lies Your Players Will Hear About Orcs

Orcs as savage brutes are cool, whatever. I think there's a dimension of complexity to that portrayal that goes unnoticed. They’re the classical fear of mankind... that we're just some decent architecture and a few fancy machines from being violent and superstitious boogeymen that expand our territory over everything and reject outsiders. The orcs barbarism makes them effective as stormtroopers, and perhaps a sort of "how different are you, really?" angle if you want to take your game in that direction. If you think your players would like that angle, go for it.

A common argument against this portrayal is that it closely resembles imperial propaganda about Africans, Vietnamese, Muslims, etc. I would say that if your players aren't already evil racist fucks, your D&D game won't change their mind, but I digress.
If you're looking for a way to put your orcs in a more classically Romantic setting, here are some lies about orcs your players will hear, and ma…