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Archive for April, 2012


Joe Reviews: Background Noise

I have always loved random tables in my RPGs. I enjoy random games and random happenstance. Some of my favorite products are the random dungeon and character decks from Gamers Rule. I recommend you check them out if you also like random generators, but I’m mostly writing about a book I was recently directed to: Background Noise.

It is available as both a PDF and iPhone app, and although I have an iPad, I haven’t tried the app yet, although I imagine it’s awesome! The book itself is a series of random tables that determine a fairly detailed back story for a character. There are 40 tables in this thing, each cross referenced to one another. Some are used for every character, but many lead to other tables depending on result. If you’re born a slave, for instance, there’s a Slavery Event Table (Table X), but not everyone would roll on that one. All 40 tables are based on percentile, although some have as few as 6 entries. The ranges are not uniform though, so while you can use a d6 in the aforementioned table (Table B Family Wealth), you’d be much more likely to be born wealthy in that case.
I will give you an example of a character background generated using the tables, so you have an idea of what this book can give you. The author considers the work “…a springboard for your imagination,” and I think the following example illustrates that very well!

So, my unnamed character starts off rolling on the tables, and I come up with the following list of things:

  1. Family Satus: Middle Class
  2. Family Wealth: Want for Nothing
  3. From a sub-arctic cliffside city
  4. The Father was a candle-maker
  5. The character was basically raised in a Convent
  6. Born in his home
  7. Firstborn of two children (has a sister)
  8. Parents are respected and feared in the community for unknown reasons
  9. The Mother was a Cleric
  10. While cleaning out a back room of the church, as a lowly acolyte, the character discovered a previously unknown text that sheds light on some previously confusing passages. The find is heralded as the harbinger of great things to come for the character
  11. The father thinks the child belongs to someone else. His thoughts may or may not be correct.
  12. Character used to be infamous for some early mistake. He is forced to change his coat of arms (if any) and change his appearance to avoid recognition and ridicule
  13. Character is a hobbyist actor
  14. He’s a Liar

It took about 7 minutes to roll up that background, including typing it all onto the list. That’s pretty quick considering. Not everything will make sense when you roll, but that’s the nature of random tables. I really enjoy looking at some of the events, many of which can easily provide a nice character hook for GMs to use. Products like Background Noise are a springboard for creativity, something that can offer that little bit of needed inspiration for a player or GM. I plan on using this to create some Fantasy NPCs, and I would not be surprised if my players want to use it, too.


Episode Five: GM Screens

This episode is about our favorite piece of GMing equipment: The GM Screen. Not everyone likes them, and we understand that, but we really like them. We detail what it is we like in a GM screen, what we don’t, and we discuss how to make your own GM Screen.

We’re sure you’ll want to tell us your feelings about GM Screens. Please email us, post on the Forums, “like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Here’s Episode 2-5, we hope you enjoy!

Favorite Games of the Week

Tales of Blades and Heroes
Mage: The Awakening
Lost Days of Memories and Madness

Currently Playing

Remnants couldn’t be played because of the holiday, but a few of our group got together to play some Battletech; but Remnants continues to be bad ass. Stay tuned for Dresden updates, since it was played after we recorded.


We have a support button. Buy us a beer?

From what I can tell, the cusomizable screens are no longer in production.

Also, Joe’s Latin Sucks.


GIGANTIC Thank You from Joe for all of the wonderful birthday wishes!

Music Section

“Roll the Dice, Make my Day [Stick Jones Remix]” (Stick Jones)
“Benchwarmers” (Finn Riggins)
“Visions” (Philharmonic Wind Orchestra, Marc Reift)
“Fluid” (Warner Powers & Michael Paterson)

Games Mentioned

Hunter: The Vigil
Deadlands Classic
All Flesh Must Be Eaten
In Nomine
Demon: The Fallen
Castles & Crusades
GURPS 4th Edition
GURPS 3rd Edition Revised
Vampire: the Requiem
Vampire: The Masquerade
Wraith: The Oblivion
Qin: The Warring States
Classic Spycraft
Mage: The Ascension
Werewolf: The Apocalypse
Dresden Files RPG
World of Darkness
7th Sea
Savage Worlds
Song of Blades and Heroes
The Shab-al-Hiri Roach
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition


Episode Four: Character Creation as Play

In our games, we tend to use character creation as our first session. We all get together to sketch the setting, tone, and make the characters a cohesive group. This is because character creation is vitally important to RPGs, and it needs to be given the importance it deserves. In this episode, we talk about group cohesion, some bad ways of making characters, and some great ways to use character creation! In many ways, this episode is talking about what is awesome about making characters from a group perspective.

Joe also laments about some shelving problems, label problems, and is generally crotchety except when he pitches a “murder-hobo” game.

Please email us, or post on the Forums, join us on Facebook, or talk to (Nicky, pretty much) on Twitter!

Episode 2-4!

Favorite Games of the Week

Marvel Hero Basic Roleplaying Game, which has since been updated to facilitate character creation.
The Secrets of Tactical Archetypes II
Dresden Files RPG

Currently Playing


Theron actually won the contest!

Servants of Gaius came out, and it’s awesome. Joe’s credited in it as a historian.

Joe was totally wrong about what was published when. InSpectres was published in 2002, My Life with Master was published in 2003, Dogs in the Vineyard was published in 2004, and Spirit of the Century in 2006.

The Building Better Characters column was from published in 2006-7 by Greg Schneider. The three columns discussing the seven rules are in three parts: One, Two, Three. His methodology list can be found here.


Joe loves his Mom!

Shout out to Tony Miller, who was a player not a character!

Kevin the Epic is awesome, and is the reason we were Godcrusher!

Music Section

“Roll the Dice, Make my Day [Stick Jones Remix]” (Stick Jones)
“Happy Birthday [Controls OMGHAPPYBIRTHDAYVENGEANCE Remix]” (Controls)
“LIARS” (Just and Animal)
“Soul Hit Man (The Funk Hunters Remix)” (See-I)

Games Mentioned

Dresden Files RPG
Geist: The Sin Eaters
Vampire: the Requiem
My Life with Master
Dogs in the Vineyard
Spirit of the Century
GURPS Flight 13
Qin: The Warring States
Star Wars D6
GURPS Vorskogian Saga
Queen of the Spiders
7th Sea
The Shadow of Yesterday