Is it good news? Do I need to burn all my old Pathfinder books? Never fear, here’s a brief summary of what we know so far and my initial thoughts on the next incarnation of this excellent game.
I Smell an Upgrade
A new edition has been in the wind for a while. Pathfinder Unchained was the biggest clue, and Starfinder could only be followed by “Better Pathfinder.” At the same time, Dungeons & Dragons 5e did a lot of good for this family of games, and Pathfinder 2 will surely learn from it. Already we know that a bunch of systems from Starfinder will be making their way into Pathfinder 2, which is a very good thing.
So, if it seems like Pathfinder 2 will build on Pathfinder and Starfinder, especially Unchained and, to a degree, on D&D 5e and other, newer systems, then I’d expect the playtest to showcase a lot of the “weirder” mechanics. I was never a part of the first Pathfinder playtest, but my designer mind thinks it would be a good plan.
With that in mind, I think Pathfinder 2 has the potential to include everything we love about what has come before, and pave the way forward for 10 more great years of roleplay.
Never Fear, Pathfinder’s Still Here
Paizo has already indicated (on the FAQ) that they’ll keep paperback pocket editions of the rulebooks in print as long as there’s interest in them. They’ll also keep their PDF books available too.
Personally, I’m currently working on several 1st ed Pathfinder releases, while keeping on top of Pathfinder 2. These are interesting times to be involved in the business side of the hobby, and I’m excited to see what the playtest reveals.
I love what Paizo does and I’d love to take what I’ve learned from freelancing on Pathfinder Roleplaying Game compatible products and use the Pathfinder 2 playtest as a chance to learn and grow as a designer. For me, this is “Round 2 – Fight!”
Running a con stall makes sense if it’s right for your business. In this Write – Design – Program post we look at the business of RPG Publishing and how to best sell your books and games at a geek or gaming convention.
2018 is in full swing, and the big geek and gaming cons draw rapidly closer. It’s decision time; do I run a stall this year, or let some great opportunities sail by? Being visible at some of the major local conventions could be a big game changer for my fledgeling business. But it could also be disastrous?
Prepare yourself for some doom and gloom.
Some Facts About RPG Publishers
Intelligent publishers plan their con involvement wisely.
I do a fair bit of freelancing in the gaming industry, and, although most of it is in table-top roleplaying, I’ve also worked with digital game publishers. No matter what type of games the publisher is involved with, they choose which cons will give them the best bang for their buck. Sometimes, this means they don’t have a convention presence at all.
The thing is, if a 3 x 3-meter stall at a con costs $215 for the weekend, then you have to ensure you fill it with enough merchandise to cover the vendor free, plus all the other expenses you’ll incur.
Let’s look at my situation, as a small operation:
Although I work closely with several people, I’m practically the only staff member I have available. I would need to hire someone for the weekend or beg a friend to help.
I sell digital books, so I’d need to either fork out cash to print up stock or devise some clever way of selling digital products at a convention that may or may not supply WiFi to its vendors. Either way, I’d need plenty of products to ensure I end up in the black.
I have no buffer if things don’t work out. Anything I put into the stall needs to work, repeatedly, for any other con I attend.
Some Facts About South African RPG Customers
I make very little money from local sales, and I don’t suspect that a con would change that.
Here are my observations:
Most role-players don’t attend cons. Of the three groups I play in, only four other people attended the biggest local con last year. That’s about one-quarter of the players.
A very small fraction of role-players play at cons. Over two days I played one small demo game, with players who now play in my Monday night Stranger Things campaign. The Pathfinder Society game I prepped never had any players sign up and general morning game attendance was poor. But, okay, that was one convention.
Con players are a staunch group of die-hards. After five years in Japan, I was surprised to see the same faces, without much new blood at the tables. Don’t get me wrong, many of those die-hards are my friends, but maybe we need to do more to encourage new players.
South Africans don’t have money. Okay, I’ll admit, a big generalization. But the Rand/Dollar exchange rate is only just improving, and high shipping rates mean that POD from sites like Drive Thru RPG is unfeasibly costly.
The Other Options
I am new to this game, so only just learning what it takes to succeed at RPG publishing. But it seems that there are two tried and tested options worth considering:
Running a demo at a con seems like a great way to sell to the people who matter; those players who’ll go back to their group and evangelize your offering. Besides the networking opportunities, it’s a great chance to improve your pitch and get some game testing in. GMs are always needed, so it’s likely that you can run your game without having to pay for a table.
It struck me, while writing this post, that the best option is the one most publishers use: shelf space. There’s probably an industry term for it, but having other vendors sell your books is ideal. If I can put 2–3 copies of my best books in the hands of vendors, and have them sell them, I can limit my risk, reach customers, and test the market.
And the best part? I can action both options at the same time, and each option has the potential to benefit the other. Win-win.
Other ideas include minis, dice, a hand-stitched dice bag, art of a character, special snacks for game time, or just letting them know that you enjoy their game. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.
Disclaimer: Because Stranger Things Season 3 isn’t out at the time of writing, you don’t need to worry about spoilers, but I’m going to assume you’ve watched Season 1 and 2 already.
Our third session of Stranger Things — Season 3 ended on a real cliffhanger. Here’s a summary of episode 3, with tips for running your own Stranger Things campaign at the end of the post.
Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 3: Night Rhythm
Player Characters: Joyce, Jonathan, and Hopper.
Following Nancy’s abduction by Mr. Clarke and Barb, in the last session, Jonathan and Joyce called Hopper over to investigate. They didn’t discover much, just Nancy’s right shoe and some tire tracks.
Hopper did all his police things, then the characters headed over to the Wheeler’s house.
The audience sees Billy’s car, then we cut to see him kissing someone. The camera cuts again and we see Mrs. Wheeler pull back. She tells Billy that they need to stop meeting like this, but he reassures her that they won’t get caught.
On the radio, Rhythm of the Night, by DeBarge, is playing.
GM’s Notes: Yuck! I’m starting to hate Billy all over again.
Player Characters: Mike, Hopper, Joyce.
Joyce and Hopper arrive at the Wheelers. They discover that Mrs. Wheeler is out, with Mr. Wheeler asleep on the couch. Mike answers the door. The rest of the kids are down in the basement, playing D&D.
Hopper and Joyce break the news to Mr. Wheeler, who seems overly confident that Hopper will sort things out.
Hopper discovers that El is not there, and he’s unable to get her on the radio. The boys say they haven’t seen her all day.
GM’s Notes: The players had some time to try to coordinate, and figure out what was going on. I wanted to give them as much freedom as they needed to start getting a grip on the situation before I hit them with the next few bombshells.
Player Characters: Nancy. Later Billy and Steve.
Nancy wakes up in the dark. Slowly her eyes adjust and she sees small, pink creatures crawling over her. They’re gooping her with slime, while one climbs over her face. It has four legs, and its body looks like a brain, with a small underslung jaw. The jaw darts out, Aliens style, into her ear. She struggles, but the creature begins to deform, as if it’s moving through the mouth-tube, into her ear.
Nancy thrashes again, and this time breaks free. She rips the thing off her face and runs!
Bursting through a door, she finds herself in an abandoned bowling alley. As she runs, she throws stuff behind her, as she’s pursued by the creatures.
In the street, Steve is heading into a convenience store when Billy comes out, and shoulder bumps him. Before things can escalate between them, they notice that it’s unnaturally quiet in town. In the distance, some people are shambling towards them.
There’s a crash, as Nancy smashes a window with a bowling ball and leaps out into the street, followed by the brain creatures.
Steve runs into the convenience store and picks up a snow shovel, while Billy grabs a tire-iron (aka a wheel spanner). Billy pulls Steve into his car as Nancy jumps in, and Billy hits the gas, expertly driving around the mob of brain-dead people headed their way.
As they drive off, they see a horde of more people around a truck in front of the town hall. Mr. Clarke is standing on top of the truck.
Lightning strikes somewhere in the distance. A storm is rolling in.
GMs Notes: The brain-creatures are the same creatures who left tracks around Steve’s car, and were waiting for the PCs in the woods. Here are their stats:
Brain-Creatures Brains 1
Toughness 3 Swarm: 3+ creatures. Make 2 attacks and draw +1 card per additional creature. Natural Weapon: 2 Toughness damage. Entangling Attack: opposed Muscles to entangle. Unentangle is -1 card and vs Muscles again.
Hopper gets a call from Dr. Owens, who’s in town, and describes that he’s seeing people mindlessly walking the streets. Hopper, who was on his way to Mr. Clarke’s house, hits the lights and speeds into town, passing a speeding Billy on the way. The lot of them hook up and head back to the Wheeler’s house. The kids were all sent home to bed… but they have other plans.
Player Characters: None, the GM took control of the boys to put them in deep deep trouble.
Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin arrange to meet on the edge of town at midnight. They’re worried about El, and, they figure, it’s usually them who figure out what’s going on before the grownups do.
They climb a water tower, while lightning flashes overhead. From the top they can see the town hall. A truck has been wired up to the clock tower, with wires attached to the lightning rod at the top of the building.
El walks out along the top of the building, throws her hands in the air and is hit by a bolt of lightning.
Roll Credits. Watch player’s jaws drop.
GMing Stranger Things
I think about what makes an interesting game a lot. It’s my job and my passion. A good cliffhanger ending gives the story power that lasts between sessions and makes your players want to come back for more.
I didn’t think this session was particularly good, at least from my side as the GM. I didn’t throw a lot of stuff at the players, and I felt I didn’t manage to keep everyone as engaged as I hoped. But the ending got great feedback from the players and really got them excited.
Planning a good cliffhanger and making sure you have time to play it out at the end of the session is worth it. Give your players something to think about until they’re at the table again.
Fan Theories and Table Talk
We talked a lot about fan theories during the game, and some real gems came up. I love table talk when it revolves around the game because players are full of ideas worth stealing. Listen to what your players are excited about, and work that into the game, with a twist or two, for even greater effect.
Flip-Mats and Minis
For this session, I used Paizo’s basic flip-mat and miniatures from Zombies!!! (Director’s Cut) and Doom: The Boardgame, with a few Micro Machines for cars. Anything will do really, I just thought these minis added a nice touch to the feel I was going for.
The flip mat is very handy, and gets used in most of my sessions — most highly recommended GM tool, besides a set of dice!
Till Next Time
Our next session is two weeks away, so check back in three weeks for more from Stranger Things Season 3.
A big thanks to Margot for sharing her session notes with me.
Disclaimer: Because Stranger Things Season 3 isn’t out at the time of writing, you don’t need to worry about spoilers, but I’m going to assume you’ve watched Season 1 and 2 already.
Our second session of Stranger Things — Season 3 was an even bigger success, as plots thickened, twists were turned, and an important character went missing. If you haven’t already, read the summary of episode 1 so that you’re up to speed.
Next up is a summary of episode 2, with tips for running your own Stranger Things campaign at the end of the post.
Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 2: Car Trouble
Player Characters: Dustin, Mike, and Will.
The boys are back from school, watching TV at Mike’s house while it’s pouring with rain outside.
The players then recapped the previous session and made some plans. It was a Wednesday, with Halloween coming up. They talked about dressing up as the ThunderCats, and maybe going to see Back To The Future.
GM’s Notes: Yeah, you all know the fan theories about Stranger Things Season 3 and Back To The Future.
Player Characters: Lucas, Hopper, and Steve.
Lucas comes into the station just as Hopper and Steve are heading out to fetch Steve’s car. Because of the rain, Hopper offers Lucas a ride.
They talk about El and Mr. Clarke, who are both acting strange(er).
Steve’s car is still parked along the side of the road, but a Brains 7 check reveals that the car has been tampered with, and a Brains 5 check lets the PCs spot tracks under the car: something with four legs and two-toed feet has ripped out the car’s innards!
GM’s Notes: I’ll share stats once my players have encountered the critters, in a later post.
Player Characters: Hopper, Lucas, and Jonathan.
Hopper tows Steve home, then, with Lucas, heads to the school. They bump into Jonathan there.
Looking for El, they find the AV room locked. Once inside, they find that the equipment has been shifted (Brains 7 to spot this). On investigating, they find that the radios have been hollowed out and all their components removed.
They find Mr. Clarke and question him, but he only says that El went home. Hopper later gives Lucas an important assignment: “Watch him.” They figure out a plan to keep in radio contact, even though the radios are still full of static, which comes and goes in waves.
Player Characters: The Byers Family.
The family is making dinner and talking about recent events.
It turns out that Will is still seeing visions of the mind flayer. He gets the feeling that it’s frustrated about something, is watching something he can’t see, and waiting for something.
Joyce calls Hopper, so by now, all the playable characters are pretty much in the loop, except maybe for Max and her step-brother.
GM’s Notes: If you think you know what D&D monster is the big bad in our campaign, leave a reply in the comments. Hint: there are two monsters running amok in Hawkins, both of which feature in most versions of D&D (if not all).
Player Characters: Hopper, Jonathan, and Nancy.
Hopper heads home, but on the way gets a radio call from Flo. She doesn’t realize she’s passing on a coded message from Dr. Sam Owens, asking Hopper to meet him at a predetermined location — the bar.
Hopper calls El, who is uncharacteristically fine with Hopper being late.
Hopper meets Sam at the Gas Station Bar. Jonathan and Nancy are seated at the back (okay, they’re underage, oops). Hopper doesn’t see them, but they catch enough of his conversation with Dr. Owens.
Dr. Owens mentions that equipment — with big names Hopper doesn’t understand — has been going missing from Hawkin’s Laboratory. He also discovered a department that is using radio signals and running tests on subjects, similar to what was going on with Eleven.
Dr. Owens slips a key card to Hopper, then leaves. He’s obviously worried that talking to Hopper is going to get him into trouble.
GM’s Notes: Nancy should be 18 in 1985, according to strangerthings.wikia.com. Jonathan should also be 18. That’s the legal drinking age where I live, which is probably why it didn’t even occur to me to check before. Good thing Hopper didn’t spot them.
Player Characters: Nancy, Jonathan, and Joyce.
At the store where Joyce works. Jonathan now works here part-time.
Nancy is picking up some things when two men walk in from the local Radio Shack. They’re complaining about thefts and that they just had to let one of their employees go. The also mention the radio interference. Joyce confronts them about it, but they don’t have any answers.
After the men left, Nancy thought she saw Barb walk past the isles. Nancy called out, following quickly after, as Barb left the store. Jonathan joined the chase, which ended in a fight in an alley with Mr. Clarke (see the previous episode) and “Barb” turning on Nancy and Jonathan. I drew the Ace of Hearts and Mr. Clarke and Barb escaped, carrying off Nancy!
The credits rolled, and everyone was left eager to play episode 3.
GM’s Notes: If you’ve been keeping score, Mr. Clarke, El, and now Nancy have all fallen into the clutches of evil! Mwahaha!
GMing Stranger Things
My planning fills three-fourths of an A4 sheet, in two columns, 12 point font. I’ll only plot out four or so scenes, with a sentence or three about which characters are involved, what’s going on, and some stats and tests. Other scenes happen organically, based off what the players want to do. I usually plan a cliffhanger ending.
It’s a lot less prep than I do for a D&D game, which usually involves a few pages of notes, hand-drawn battle maps, miniature selection, and maybe even a spreadsheet to speed up combat.
The key to prepping a Stranger Things game is to define the major characters, their relationships, and the plots they’re involved in. Then you can set your players free to discover the story for themselves.
To keep track of everything, I use Twine.
Twine is usually used for building “Choose Your Own Adventure” style games, like our own line of solo role-playing adventures (now offered through our Patreon). It’s very easy to build a simple wiki with it too.
My first node is a menu page, with an alphabetical list of PCs and NPCs, locations, and other subjects. Every other page looks something like this:
** Subject 011 / El / Jane**
1. Notes about Jane...
Back to [[Main Menu]]
Breaking that down, it’s a heading, a numbered list of facts about the character, and then a button back to the main menu.
It doesn’t take much to expand the wiki, which I do as part of my session planning. It gives me a good idea of what’s going on so that I can roll with whatever my players want to do.
Playing and Spoilers
It happens that some of your players might not have finished watching previous seasons of the show. Life happens — I’ve been trying to get through Ant-Man since Christmas* — I know how it is. If that’s the case in your group, you have two unappealing options: spoil those episodes or play around them.
We’ve tried our best to avoid mentioning special moments near the end of Season 2, and a player asked to cut a conversation between two characters that would have revolved around the final episode. We still had fun, and our game makes perfect sense. So, personally, I don’t think it hampers the game too much to tread carefully around some of the plot endings.
Till Next Time
Our next session is a week away, so check back next month for more from Stranger Things Season 3.
Here’s the blurb for the Incarnate, from Drive Thru RPG:
The Incarnate Hybrid Class combines the powerful rage of the Barbarian and the supernatural mysteries of the Oracle into an exciting new player option compatible with the Pathfinder Role Playing Game.
Inspired by the Lovecraftian Mythos, the Incarnate brings cosmic horror into your characters’ lives in a threatening, ever-present sense. An instrument of an alien entity, your destiny is yours no longer.
Do you dare cross the alien entity that made you its avatar?
Gain amazing power over metals with the Metal Mystery for the Incarnate class.
When you can literally bend iron to your will, there’s not much that can stop you from ruling any battlefield.
You can find Margherita’s great addition to the class in Pathways #73, along with more options for the Shaman class.
The Incarnate metal mystery is a really nice addition to the class, which could use a couple more mysteries to make it really versatile.
Also, dreaming up metal based patrons to fit the class gets my GM brain excited.
Mix Galacticus with the Silver Surfer for a shiny outer god.
Or an iron demon that inspired the creation of the first iron golem. Now every sentient iron weapon is potentially and evil cultist…mwahaha!
I’m not going into it now, but, partly, it’s about relationships.
Many of us have spent hours role-playing with groups of friends, but couples can have just as much fun rolling dice and creating shared stories together.
Role-playing for two provides a uniquely creative, shared experience that’s hard to find elsewhere.
My wife and I have played several campaigns together. She loves a great story just as much as I do, and we’ve found that RPGs are a great way to spend time together and hang out with friends.
A while back, we started playing an undersea campaign. Just the two of us. She played a mermaid, while I GMed.
It was a blast.
But, for some reason, it took a lot of effort.
We never finished the game, and I have to ask… was it worth it?
I realize it took effort because, like anything worthwhile, it takes planning, commitment, and sacrifice to keep a game going. We had to make the effort to play, instead of taking the easy option and watching a movie.
We probably could, if we were 100% honest, have made the time to play.
But it was worth it.
Any chance for me to get closer to my wife, to understand her, is worth it.
When we played, I got to see inside her head in a way that I never could elsewhere. We created a shared world, with shared adventures.
And there was no audience.
It was our private little wonderland.
And every part of the adventure was tailored to suit our tastes. If it didn’t, it was a chance to talk about and learn what those tastes were. (Apparently, she’s not keen on gory monster encounters. Good to know.)
Would I run a game, just for her, again?
There’s even a Jane Austin RPG that could make for a really fun, romance filled game.
And, if you’re looking for adventures that support role-playing for two, then check out our Choose Your Destiny line, which is built for 1-on-1 and solo play. Death Queen and the Life Stone is the first book in the series, followed by Forest of Secrets. You can support our Patreon to subscribe to the series and get the third book when it comes out.
For a long time I was against using Patreon. To me, it was just a way to ask for money.
Still, I was starting to see a bunch of Patreon campaigns that had a great offering, that gave customer something special, and that were worked as an invaluable part of the business for the company or individual that was running it. On top of that, I’ve come to realize that Patreon is the perfect platform for offering a subscription service.
And, we make adventures we’d like to publish monthly.
Sounds like a great fit to me.
Now we can offer a subscription for our products similar to what Paizo does with many of their product lines. That’s exciting, because it also means we can better connect with you, our fans.
We’re in the early days of launching our Patreon campaign, but now is a great time to jump on board and help us chart this new course. We’ve set up some tiers we think you’ll really like.
At this tier you’ll get a page or two of game mechanics, and 2-3 wallpapers from Bob Storrar, usually including art from our latest release.
And it only costs a dollar.
Bring the Heat Backer
If you’re a fan of our Choose Your Destiny solo and 1-on-1 adventures, then check out our Patreon and ensure your copy of the next installment in the campaign at this patron tier.
So far we have two adventures in the series out, with another two in editing. Three more are on the cards.
All the adventures are compatible with the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, through the SRD and OGL.
The peaceful village of Yamamura has had a good summer; the rice stores are full to bursting and even lord Honda looks pleased for once. So, as the momiji leaves turn to yellows and reds, the villagers gather for their annual autumn festival. Food stalls, games, gossip, the sweet sounds of shakuhachi and shamisen music, followed by colorful fireworks and dancing into the night. It will be a night to remember.
Yet, for Constable Hideo there are always things to worry about; the many visitors and the ample supply of sake for one. Mix the two together and this night may not be so peaceful after all. And then there are the Inoue girls, Ame and Yuki. In a village where everyone knows your secrets, they still manage to keep the gossip fresh, and biting. Old Sanae remembers when she too was young and beautiful, while the appearance of an old love interest does nothing to shake the reminder that the past will always come back to haunt you. And it’s the past that most concerns Father Vicente, the Spaniard, who remembers the fervor he once had for his faith; if only he could recapture that passion, yet his heart grows colder as the nights do.
And out in that darkness a malicious force moves, ready to strike a blow that will leave the village irreversibly scarred and in dire need of heroes to make their stand.
A Pathfinder Roleplaying Game adventure set in mythical Japan for 6 characters of level 3 and a GM.
In this series I’ll give you an overview of our sessions, with tips at the end for running your own Stranger Things campaign. Because Stranger Things Season 3 is not out at the time of writing, you don’t need to worry about spoilers, but I’m going to assume you’ve watched Season 1 and 2 already.
I described a lot of the scenes to the players in terms of the camera, and talked about what the audience might see that the characters might not know, which is what I’ve done below.
Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 1: Tuning In
Player Characters: Mr. Clarke, and any of the kids (Dustin, Lucas, Max, Mike, or Will).
The camera tracks in from a high angle showing the Hawkins school. It’s a cold day and there are no kids outside.
The camera moves through the main doors and down the hall, passing hand-made posters of pumpkins and other Halloween decorations.
The text “November 1985” comes up at the bottom of the screen.
The camera pushes through a door into a class. Mr. Clarke is busy explaining scientific concepts on the board, his back to the class.
Cut to a medium close-up of El, who’s staring out the window.
Cut to what she’s seeing in her mind’s eye: scenes from the battle with the demogorgon in the school, ending with her fight with the monster in this same classroom.
Mr. Clarke turns around and notices El isn’t concentrating, again. He confronts her.
After that, the kids checked to see if she’s okay, but don’t learn anything.
GM’s Notes: El is struggling to come to terms with her new life, and doesn’t quite fit in yet. She’s also working through all the horrors she’s faced.
Player Characters: Joyce and Hopper
The two are sitting in the car, sharing a smoke. The radio is on. Hopper has just rescued Joyce after her car broke down, again. They talk about the anniversary of all the craziness.
At some point the radio starts crackling. Tuning it does nothing; the static is on every channel. Hopper realizes that this has been happening on and off all day.
GM’s Notes: It’s a good idea to hit your players with a bunch of questions, like:
“What’s on Hopper’s mind?”
“Does Joyce have a new love interest?”
The title for Stranger Things Season 3 plays. The episode is entitled Tuning In.
GM’s Notes: Linking things as much as possible really works for a Stranger Things game. If I do my job right, my players will start freaking out every time the radio goes on the fritz.
Player Characters: Nancy and Billy. Later Mike joins.
Nancy hears the doorbell and goes to open the door. Billy is standing there. She asks him what he wants, and he says he’s there to see her mom. When Nancy asks her mom, she’s told that Billy has been hired to do odd jobs, like cleaning the pool and washing the car, because “your dad works so hard, honey, he needs his rest”.
On the radio, in the background, Would I Lie To You, by Eurythmics, is playing.
Cut to a montage with Billy doing jobs in the yard, often with his shirt off. This hops back and forth to Nancy and Mike confronting their mom. The kids used their mom’s distraction to milk her for around $50.
GM’s Notes: I expected things to blow up, with Billy or Nancy storming off. Maybe that would have happened if Billy was an NPC, but, for now, he’s right where I want him.
Me thinks the Wheeler family is doomed.
Player Characters: Dustin, Lucas, Max, Mike, and Will. Mr. Clarke joins them later.
We cut to El sitting in the AV room, listening to the radio. Again she’s spaced out, and doesn’t notice when the rest of the gang walk in.
The rest of the group asks El what’s going on, and she flips a switch that allows everyone to hear the static on the radio. She turns to Mike and says “Bad Men.” She points to his forehead, then to hers, then to his again.
They notice that Will is spacing out too.
Lucas decides that, if weird things are happening again, it’s time to go to the cops. He bums money off Mike (who’s flush with cash right now) and uses a pay phone to call. Flo at the Sheriff’s Office answers, but suspects it’s a prank call. Lucas manages to convince her that it’s serious, and she writes a note, which she puts on Hopper’s desk, under his coffee stained mug.
The kids then figure out, with the help of Mr. Clarke and a radio manual, how to calculate the distance of the transmission. Using a map, they figure that the transmission is coming from the Hawkins National Laboratory.
Lucas is creeped out all over again, and calls Hopper for a second time. This time Flo contacts Hopper over the police 2-way.
Player Characters: Hopper, Jonathan, and Steve.
A great scene follows with Hopper — who was patrolling those fields from Season 2 — sending up a rain of gravel as he high-tails it to the school.
On the way, Hopper finds Steve kicking the tires of his car in frustration. He offers him a ride.
Along the way, Hopper asks what Steve is up to lately. Steve isn’t doing much, and Hopper later offers him a job at the police station.
Cut to the kids getting on their bikes and heading to Mike’s house, after Mr. Clarke tells them that it’s getting late and Joyce has already called the school three times.
The audience sees Mr. Clarke (now an NPC) go into the AV room to clean up. He turns on the radio and listens to the static. A dark figure hits him, hard, from behind, and he slumps over.
At the school, Hopper and Steve meet Jonathan, who now works part-time with Joyce, and helps at the school’s photography club, which he is leaving from when they meet him. Jonathan takes them to the AV club.
The door is ajar, and Hopper pushes in to find Mr. Clarke standing in front of them. Mr. Clarke says that the gang have gone home. On questioning him, Jonathan figures out that there’s something weird about Mr. Clarke’s behavior, although there’s no sign that he’s been injured.
GM Notes: I had no idea what Jonathan, Steve, Nancy, and Billy would be up to in 1985, but I figure they are all out of school, but still in Hawkins, at least in November.
Mr. Clarke is no longer a playable character, and that pool of characters is likely to get a lot smaller before the end. Mwahaha!
Player Characters: Flips between Hopper, Steve, and Jonathan, and the kids. Later Dr. Sam Owens join in.
Hopper takes Steve to the Wheeler house, and Jonathan joins them there. They find that Mike already took El home, and has since returned. The remaining kids explain about the radio, and give Hopper the map showing the source of the radio disturbance.
Jonathan takes Will home (after Joyce phones the Wheeler’s).
Hopper drives home to find El asleep in front of the TV. She’s been watching “Growing Pains” and there are half-eaten Eggos on a plate in front of her.
Hopper puts her to bed before calling Dr. Sam Owens. The two have a code figured out and use it to arrange a meeting the next day.
In the morning Hopper finds out from El that the Upside Down is somehow involved, but it’s frustratingly difficult to get more information out of her.
After dropping El at school, Hopper picks Steve up and drops him off at the station. Callahan and Powell have a good go at him: “Didn’t we arrest you once?”
Hopper meets Dr. Owens, who tells him that the lab ran a mind reading program, using radio waves to boost the powers of test subject 009. It was an older project, and Owens is surprised that, if it’s the source, that it would even be running now.
GM’s Notes: If I did things differently, I’d give the teens and kids more conflict to react to during this scene. Maybe Max is having issues at home, and Lucas is taking some backlash from that. I’ll talk more about troupe style play later on, and why players might be disinclined to make things harder for themselves, which is exactly what you need in a Stranger Things game.
Player Characters: Kids, then Hopper and Steve.
We cut to the gang during recess. El is nowhere to be seen. We cut to El in the AV room again. She’s listening to the radio, hearing static. Mr. Clarke comes up behind her and places his hand on her shoulder.
Cut to black.
The credits play out with to the sound of the very really creepy Voice Carry song by ‘Til Tuesday.
After the credits we see Steve bringing Hopper his coffee. Steve asks “About my car…?”
GMing Stranger Things
Search “1985 TV Shows” on Google, look at movies that were released that year, and check out fan theories about the show. You’ll have plenty to work with.
Search “Top 100 1985” on Google for those special tracks that’ll help you tell your story. Play them at the right time and they’ll make a big impact.
Scary Synth Sound Tracks
YouTube has a ton of tracks you could play in the background. Just search “stranger synths” and find something you like.
Player Handouts — Making Them Stranger
If you’re super into it and want the font, you can buy it from myfonts.com. Way over my budget though.
If you just want a title screen, a cheaper solution is makeitstranger.com. The image at the top of this post was made there.
Troupe Style Play
For Stranger Things Season 3 I didn’t just want the players playing the kids. Imagine watching Stranger Things without seeing what the teens and adults are up to! Instead, I gave them access to the main characters, and let them pick who wanted to play who, when.
In many ways this worked, because the players had watched the show and knew the characters. Also, the vs. Stranger Stuff engine is super simple, so it was easy to glance at a character sheet and play.
What didn’t work was that the players were unlikely to throw challenges at each other. Nancy and Billy could have made for a tense scene, but who’s going to throw a spanner in the works in a cooperative game? Next time around I’ll give the players more incentive to be confrontational, or use some of the PCs as NPCs to stir things up.
Even More Inspiration
The following video is the whole reason for our Stranger Things Season 3 campaign. It’s a long one, but worth checking out if you’re still unsure about running a game using the vs. Stranger Stuff rules, or how it fits with Stranger Things.
Our next session is 2 weeks away, so see you back here next month for more from Stranger Things Season 3.