Failure Tolerated.

Game design, publishing, and making something from nothing.

Tag: rpgs

ENnies 2017 Voting Now Live

If you hadn’t heard, voting is now open for the 2017 ENnie Awards, in which I’m running to be a judge! Please vote for me: Select “2017 Judge” and then scroll down to “Sean McCoy,” then select “1” as your vote, and then Β hit the “Vote!” grey button at the bottom of the screen! Congratulations! You have done your civic duty. There’s some great product out there to vote for as well, so peruse the categories and if you see a few things you like be sure to rank them.

Vote link:

My ENnies 2018 Judge Application

I decided to toss my hat in the ring to be a judge in the 2018 ENnis, which if you don’t know is the pre-eminent RPG awards in our tiny little pocket industry. You can see my application here, and I’ve copied and pasted all my answers here after the jump as well if you don’t feel like clicking on the link and risk seeing an uglier website).

Nothing really boils down why I’d like to be an ENnies judge more than it just sounds like a lot of fun and I feel like it’s a small way that I can help the community. Voting opens up on July 11th and I’d love for you to vote for me! Let me know if you have any questions πŸ™‚

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20 Useful Twitter Bots for D&D

About a year ago I decided to see how hard it would be to make a twitter bot. Apparently it’s not that hard depending on what you want to do. I cobbled together a couple small twitter bots (you can see them below) that generated random dnd characters as well as a random location. The funny thing is, because of how prevalent the hashtag #dnd is (there’s even a bot that just retweets any tweet that has “#dnd” in it, go figure) these random bot accounts generate more followers to themselves than I do. Probably because they are serving some unique purpose and I am just half the ass that made Two Rooms and a Boom.

Recently though, now that twitter changed and I actually know how lists work, I started collecting all the different dnd type bots that I’ve found on twitter. The goal is to be able at any moment to be able to scroll through my twitter feed and have all the inspiration I need to run a quick game of dnd. Inspiration may even be the wrong word, I’d like to be able to use this as a list at the table, where I can just scroll down a few entries and find what I’m looking for.

Here’s the list. Please @seanmccoy for any bots you think might be helpful. I’m still at a real loss for a few different categories that I’d like. Maybe I’ll need to make them myself:

Things I’m looking for: randomly generated monsters, randomly generated spells, and randomly generated magic items, random NPCs, and then random “what’s on the body” tables.

But for now, here are the bots!

1) A Hex a Day (@Hexaday)

@Hexaday is one of my absolute favorite twitter bots, though I wish it generated prompts every hour or so as opposed to once a day. I’m not sure how the tweets are generated, but they’re all pretty amazing. Perfect for generating adventure seeds.

2) Gob Bot (@Gobbobot)

@Gobbobot generates a random, if not detailed, goblin. Β It updates once every few hours with a few tweets delving into a goblin and gives you personality details, some equipment, and maybe tactics or a little background.

3) Infinite RPG Gods (@InfiniteRpgGods)

There are some things I would never have found if I hadn’t gone looking for them. @InfiniteRpgGods is one of those. It generates random gods for use in your campaign. A brief poetic description and then their earthly (or unearthly) domain follows.

4) Gamma World Bot (@gammaworldbot)

Okay, so this one isn’t strictly D&D, but the gamma world character generation here is awesome. It gives you a name, stats, skills, equipment, and some personality quirks as well. Perfect for your maximalist games.

5) Player Character Bot (@gimmeapc)

@GimmeaPC delivers exactly what it says, giving you the stats of a PC, but also quite a bit of character background and details.

6) Uncharted Atlas (@unchartedatlas)

Oh my god this one is great. It’s a randomly generated fantasy map every hour with names, borders, and land features. It’s fucking amazing. Don’t waste any more time drawing up your continent maps. Or don’t be afraid to have your PCs transported to dimensions far away from home. These all look, sound, and feel amazing.

7) Tate Bot (@TateBot)

Not all of these beautiful sketches and paintings will work for your game, but the ones that do, really really will. Dnd is a game about magic, mystery, and monsters, and nothing gets my imaginative motor turning than a virtual tour through a museum.

8) Goblin Bot (@GoblinGenerator)

Apparently the market demanded two separate generators for goblins, so great was the need for a random specific goblin at a moments notice. Necessity is the mother of innovation I guess. This is a goblin every hour on the hour and its a pretty quick entry. Which makes sense. It’s just a goblin for fuck’s sake.

9) Random Map (@RandomMapBot)

Not nearly as attuned to your D&D needs as Uncharted Atlas, the @RandomMapBot actually gives you a random Google Map screenshot. In researching for tools for this list I didn’t prioritize only Dndable stuff, I just wanted a crashing wave of tools. Random fantasy map? Perfect! Random map? Good enough.

10) Newfound Planets (@I_Find_Planets)

I love this one so much I’m probably going to use it in my next Traveller campaign. It’s not super detailed, but that’s okay. A big part, to me at least, about running a giant sci-fi campaign is the feeling that there’s always more stuff out there. This can help you populate a sector fast.

11) Random Dungeon Room (@DungeonRooms)

Alright, back to our more typical Dnd faire. @DungeonRooms is okay, if a little generic and non-sensical at times without being magical. But hey, on a twitter list, you just want maximum crap all the time. I’m not here to judge.

12) (Another) Random Map (@random_map)

Hey, you can’t have too many of these am I right? @Random_map differentiates itself by being a satellite picture. In a lot of ways its actually better as a terrain generator or a picture to inspire you when describing an area, or a remind of what the actual earth looks like, rather than as a tool for describing various locations.

13) Random Magic Items (@RandomMagicItem)

Unfortunately, this generator doesn’t give you any magical properties, just prose descriptions of items. But hey, that can be useful too sometimes.

14) Tiny Dungeon Bot (@TinyDungeons)

There’s a whole suite of Tiny Dungeon bots and I’ve included them all. Aside from being goddamn adorable, they’re actually pretty functional. They compact, they give you information, and they move on. Of all the bots on this list, these are pretty near the top of “things I might actually use at the table.”

15) Emoji Atlas (@EmojiAtlas)

Very similar in size and scope to the Tiny Dungeon bot, Emoji Atlas is perfect for a wilderness hexcrawl. I am now interested in running a dnd campaign strictly by text. @seanmccoy if you are interested.

16) Tiny Forests (@Tiny_Forests)

Just like the Tiny Dungeon but this time its a cute little forest.

17) Tiny Seas (@Tiny_Seas)

Just like the other Tiny bots, but perfect for your next wavecrawl. I like this one a lot more than the others because I’m usually at such a loss when it comes to maritime adventures. So much so that I’ve never run one. But hopefully this’ll change all of that.

18) Rijks Museum Bot (@Rijksmuseumbot)

Because nothing’s more inspiring to your games than some good ass art – and oftentimes you’ll need to describe the paintings, murals, or pots and pans of your dungeon. Plus, I mean, just look at this shit.

19) Random D&D Character (@ChargenBon)

We’ll end this overview with the two bots that I designed. This first one just rolls up a PC and assigns it a random class and race and some equipment giving literally no regard to hardly any of the rules for suitable PCs. Which would seem dumb, but because the internet is the internet, the most broken (like Ninjas with 3 DEX, Magic-Users with Plate Mail and Greatsword and a mule) PCs often get the highest engagement.

20) Random RPG Generator (@randomDND)

This one I’m pretty proud of. It generates a unique location and some random details about it along with a subtle or not subtle adventure seed. It’s not pulled from anything but a series of lists that I grow whenever I think to do it. Even the weird ones seem to make sense in a strange dream like way.

And that’s all I’ve got for now! If you have any recommendations, please shoot me a tweet or DM at @seanmccoy. Or leave a comment here. I’m all ears.

Survive, Solve, or Save: Pick Two

Last night, I was reviewing Mothership with some close friends while complaining about Alien:Covenant and my friend Nick said something that’s stuck with me while I think of how best to write scenarios for horror RPGs.

He said that horror games should put to you a choice in any given situation, which is that you can either survive the terror, solve the mystery, or save the day.

But you should only be able to do 1 to 1.5Β of those things (I said pick two because its catchier, but he’s right, 1.5 is much much better).

The idea is that you can absolutely survive a given scenario, if that’s all you focus on doing. But if survival is your number one priority, you won’t be able to solve the whole mystery, or save the day. In fact, you’ll only be able to figure out someΒ of the mystery, or save some of the victims. Why? Because you put survival above everything else, and that’s okay. That’s your choice.

Or maybe you wanted to save the day, you wanted to save the ship, or stop the cultists, or defeat the monster. Awesome, no problem. If you put all your resources towards that, you can do that. But you’ll do so at a cost, maybe you barely make it out alive and you never learn why you were attacked in the first place.

Or if you want the golden ending, you want to save the day and you want to learn the deep dark mysteries of whatever? Well, that’ll cost you your life.

And that brings me to what I think is so great about this survive, solve, or save mindset: it focuses on dilemma.

In some old screenwriting book I have lying around somewhere it says that good movies are about dilemma, not choice. A dilemma is a question of the greater of two goods or the lesser of two evils. A choice between good and evil isn’t an interesting choice for most audiences most of the time. What really gets audiences invested in a character is when they have to choose between two things that no one should have to choose between.

I would argue that in most D&D games this is a choice between the greater of two goods. From a meta game perspective, the PCs are choosing between a variety of adventure hooks that they find awesome. Should we go to that sunken ship where the Grasscutter sword is supposed to be or should we go to that castle, kill the vampire and take his stuff? They know that there’s danger involved, but they are motivated by which of the potential rewards will be greater (you could probably frame this again into all choices made by PCs are a greater of two goods because they are choosing what they think is going to be most fun, but that’s not what I’m interested in).

If you’re a good DM you’re probably varying up your dilemmas and throwing things at your PCs like β€œoh a dragon is going to burn down the town on the left and orcs are going to raid the town on the right, which do you want to save?” And that’s awesome. You should be doing that.

But in a horror game they should always be choices like that. They should always be choices between losing your loved oneΒ or losingΒ the orphanage toΒ the ghost. Between saving the ship or saving yourself. Between destroying the keepers ofΒ Bamophet’s sabbath or touching that tiny glimpse of immortality. Between your mind or what your mind hungers to learn. The greatest rewards should always come at a the greatest costs.

Now, what I’m not suggesting is that if your PCs have solved the mystery and saved the day you amp up the difficulty and kill them because that fits into the genre tropes. I’m saying that you design your scenarios where that shouldn’t even be possible. If there’s any genre where it’s appropriate to go hard the whole time, it’s this one.

Oh, you want to know what that cultist was doing with that book? Well, you’ll need to read that book. And that book’s in some obscure protolanguage, which you’ll need to learn. Meanwhile the ritual murders continue, unabated. But you had to keep reading that book. And congrats, you read it, and now you’re teleported into the dreams of a comatose serial killer whose psychic energy has infected all of his cultist servants. As you make your way through the dream, you find a way to kill the beasts that are terrifying, even to this despicable specimen of humanity, but in doing so, you find out that there’s no way out of the dream. You’re trapped inside the nightmares of a dying murder god. But hey, the cultists will stop murdering, so that’s good. Do you feel better now that you know why they were doing it?

This leads me back to Zak S’s wonderful Hunter/Hunted model, which was the first thing I ever read about Horror RPG structure that got me thinking about this. And they fold really well into each other, because in H/H, if you’re not making progress on the solving aspect, then the surviving and saving aspects start to come knocking.

When I was growing up the joke about Call of Cthulhu was always β€œWhy would I want to play a game I can’t win?” And its taken me until now to realize: You can only not win Call of Cthulhu if you define winning as getting all three: solving, saving, and surviving. You can win CoC, it just might cost you your life.

Mothership: A Sci-Fi Horror RPG (Beta)

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about Saving Throws in RPGs. Essentially, they are the opposite mechanic from a lot of things we’re used to as PCs. Most mechanics in non-storygame RPGs detail things the player can do. This is list of spells you can cast. This is how good you are at hitting stuff. This is how much damage you do. The character sheet is a litany of the player’s abilities, powers, skills, and other useful things.

Except for saving throws.

Saving throws are a mechanic that details how good the PCs are at having things not happen to them. Now, this is easy to re-frame into an active ability. From 3E: The Reflex Save is a measure of how good a character is at dodging, for instance. The Fortitude Save is a measure of how good a character’s body is at withstanding certain effects (poison, disease, what have you). So in a sense these are still ability’s of the PC’s. Obviously.

The big difference is that the player doesn’t have control over deciding to roll these saves. They are not things they choose to do. They are rolled as a result of something the PC already chose to do, and now a thing has happened that is bad,
and we want to see if by luck, instinct, or grace of God, the PC can withstand it.

Now, I’m not saying the player didn’t have agency here. I’m personally of the school that thinks the DM should give the PC a heads up when a saving throw might be incoming (“It looks trapped, if there’s poison, you’ll have to save against it. Do you want to touch it still?”), but whether you run your game that way or you just want to surprise your players with saves, the save is still a roll to avoid something bad happening, not a roll to make something good happen. It is a reactive roll, not a proactive one.

Proactive abilities are about a PC’s control over the world around them. Reactive abilities are about reminding the PCs of their lack of control.

Which brings me to Mothership.

No thanks bro I’m fine here

I’ve been wanting to play an RPG that takes the good parts of, say, Alien, Space Hulk, Gormenghast, Brian Evenson’s The Dust, and Event Horizon, and combines those with the good parts of Traveller, Metamorphosis Alpha, and Call of Cthulhu. Essentially, I wanted to create a toolkit for a few kinds of experiences:

  • A one-shot horror short: You can play one session, TPK or not, have fun for a night and move on.
  • A spacecrawl scare-kit: You can travel the galaxy and run into different weird things along the way.
  • A megaship crawl: You find the titular mothership and the game becomes about survival, exploration, and finding a way to exist in the strange new world.

Right now, all I’ve got is enough for a one-shot. In fact, that’s what I’ve made. A little pocketmod RPG that has just enough bones on it to start playtesting. You can fit this RPG and mini-adventure into your pocket and play it whenever you want. As I develop this, hopefully, I’ll be able to get more out of the spacecrawl and megaship aspects, but for now, I just want to see whether the base mechanics work.


The base mechanics in Mothership have a lot to do with saving throws. You play a Marine, a Teamster, a Scientist, or an Android. And primarily you’re differentiated by how resistant you are to damage, emotional affects (like fear, or loneliness), health effects (like hunger, or infection), and insanity (you know what this is). You have some basic stats, but fewer than in most games. And you have a bare-bones skill system. There’s a percentile system that may be trying to do too much heavy lifting at once, but we’ll see.

You can download the beta rules here:Β Mothership-Pocketmod

Shoot me any thoughts you have at

I hope you enjoy it!


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