Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 108: Breathing Life into Locations

Main Topic

The old adage of location, location, location is not lost on us this time as we start talking about locations in your games. How do you make a location come alive? Each of us will have a few tips that we use and these are just our ideas. 

So I have found that in some ways if you use a more is less approach it can work really well. I have found that when I run a game I build up the important feature or features and then let the players fill in the small details. Now if I have a location that is in a city then I might talk about a few things to let the group know what part of the city they are in. Then as the group comes closer to the place I will start to describe a point of interest or two.

I will leave it there or ask the players each what about the location stands out to them. That is really all it takes and if you are going to be using that same location a few times add something new each time. Or if you want to ratchet up the tension take something away and don’t explain it to them. 

Lean into a single theme or identifier – Iconic and archetypal locations are convenient storytelling devices and there is nothing wrong with that.  This helps you as a GM keep things straight as well so you don’t overly complicate your own bookkeeping. 

Tie locations to people – Another way to bring out the character of a location is with a character.  Use the location to work with or against an NPC or reflect a PC’s own nature and background. 

Stat Blocks


New Detroit

The Klaxons started roaring for 20 seconds then cut off for 20 seconds then back on like that for two minutes. Then they went silent for 3 minutes and started up again. This goes on for 15 minutes, the length of time to get from a working station to your secure shelter in the structure. 

Then the whole world starts to shake and rumble as the structure starts to move from its current position on the ice shelf. Yes the ice shelf, while climate scientists kept saying global warming was the worry it was really just climate change. I know, I hear you ask, is there a difference? Yes there is and it is radical. One is about the climate only going in one direction whereas the other is about it going any direction. 

The structure was built to run on nuclear power. It needs to move though from time to time as the shelfs start to get thin from the heat. This place is just one of a few such places and we call it New Detroit.

How to Use New Detroit in Game:

If you want to run a game in a strange post-apocalyptic world this might just be the way. Do you want to have a secret science location? Here you go. What if you need a superhero base? There are a ton of options that you could port it into. Enjoy.



Nearly a decade has passed since the research experiment began.  A pHD student at the University of Hawaii  submitted a thesis topic; to understand the nature of the intelligence and communication methodology of the various species of octopus.  The thesis topic was approved and a research team was formed.  The researchers injected many species of octopi with the latest and greatest nanotechnology. The nanotech could perform various scientific/experimental functions, receive new instructions, and broadcast information back to multiple data collection relays deployed worldwide.

It took months to gather data and even longer to interpret it.  The initial results implied that the various octopus species used their chromatophores to communicate with non-hostile aquatic life.  To confirm the hypothesis, the team wanted to see if the octopi could communicate specific ideas and concepts.  So they sent a command to the nanomachines to “implant” various concepts for the octopi to display using their chromatophores.  Initial results appeared to be successful.  The octopi began to display a unique and consistent pattern of colours and shapes.

So, after a great run of successes, the research team wanted to really push the envelope.  To see if they could give the octopi ways to communicate with humans.  So the team programmed the nanomachines to connect to the web’s biggest communication sites; Twitter, tumblr, facebook, instagram, and other various social networks and waited.  It worked, but not how the team hypothesized.

About a year ago, a diver was checking on one of the submerged data relays when an octopus swam up.  The diver reached out, played a while with the octopus and then patted its head.  The diver was then shocked to see the octopus use its chromatophores to display a smiley face emoji. A few crude hand signs, pantomimes and shocked facial expressions later, the diver realized that the octopus understood and could communicate back.  What stunned the entire team was when, after realizing the diver could understand, the octopus displayed a picture of Dathon and Jean-Luc Picard with the phrase “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.”

“Oh Crap.” the head researcher commented.  “They’re using memes and emojis.”

The past six months have been a whirlwind as various beach-goers and divers see octopuses display various memes and emojis to the humans visiting their aquatic homes.  Everything from a laughing face emoji when a swimmer lost their swim trunks to pictures of baby yoda when being petted by a toddler who’s meeting his first octopus.

And the team has begun to see a darker side as well.  A data relay in the pacific ocean recorded a bunch of octopuses displaying the angry face and poop emoji upon discovery of an illegal trash dumping operation.  The ship was discovered 3 days later, abandoned, and the dumped trash strewn about the deck. 

How to Use Cephelomeme in Game:

This can allow a lot of interesting “non verbal” communication opportunities.  Uplifted species may communicate differently.  It also gives a kind of puzzle component to your players who enjoy puzzles and logic challenges..


Frank’s Fresh Fruit 

What’s the best way to use this space?  What can you see filling this empty storefront? A long time anchor of the neighborhood, Frank’s Fresh Fruit had been a little run down but provided not only groceries in a selection beyond a bodega’s offerings but a real place, a third space, for neighbors to see each other and talk.  Frank never had any children, and his slow decline was something nobody talked about.  

When he died, an entire community wept.  The slightly rusted awning above the door soon overlooked a bed of flowers and remembrances. Frank seemed prepared for this passing.  The will had provisions for what do with whatever provisions were left in the store.  The mayor issued a proclamation honoring small businesses like Frank’s and extolling the character of the unique neighborhoods of the city.  Frank’s store provided for a block party, nearly a wake, to see him off. 

You ended up in Frank’s will.  Why? You have the deed and the keys.  The door still squeaks a little when you open it, begging for oil.  As you stand in the middle of the emptied store, you hear another creak. But it didn’t come from the door …

How to Use Frank’s Fresh Fruit in Game:

Frank’s is a location well suited to any modern game and easily adapted for other time periods, but can shine when transformed into the base for a supers campaign or the target of a blockbusting land development scheme in a noir game.  But perhaps, it is the question of whether Frank’s ghost remains that is your greatest tool. 



noun (1) shan·​ty | \ ˈshan-  \

variant spelling of CHANTEY

: a song sung by sailors in rhythm with their work

shanty noun (2)

shan·​ty | \ ˈshan-tē  \

plural shanties

Definition of shanty (Entry 2 of 2)

: a small crudely built dwelling or shelter usually of wood

History and Etymology for shanty

Noun (2)

probably from Canadian French chantier lumber camp, hut, from French, builder’s yard, ways, support for barrels, from Old French chantier, gantier support 

First Known Use of shanty Noun (2)


Look-up Popularity

Bottom 40% of words

Closing remarks 

Zendead – Doom Patrol– It is a great example of supers that aren’t really super. And they do have a great cast of characters in the show. It is great that you get to see Brandon Fraiser acting again. He has been pretty amazing and I want to see him back into the limelight.

Joules – Darkest Dungeon An amazing eldritch horror adventure.  Will you try to redeem the honour of your house and hamlet or fall to madness that has consumed every other person who has tried.

Guard-a-Manger – Naps.  Life has been really busy and hectic. Stress from events small and large is adding up so self-care is a good idea ahead of the unique holiday season for 2020.  I recommend finding time for some extra sleep by way of napping when you can. 

Cthulhu Saves Christmas

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

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And Thanks to Merriam-Webster  and Online Etymology Dictionary for our Lexicon segment

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