Cover art for the Firefly, D&D 4e, Scum and Villainy, Savage Worlds, and Fate Condensed RPGs

S2E3 Improving Games by Stealing From Others

Welcome to the new year … and a new episode of the Lair of Secrets. The main topic for this episode is “Stealing liberally from other game systems to enhance the ones you’re playing”. We look at game mechanics like bennies (Savage Worlds), aspects (Fate), skill challenges (Dungeons & Dragons), plot points (Cortex) and more!

Meanwhile, David Moore is almost caught up on the sleep he lost during his escape to and from New York and Ken Newquist is decking the halls and booting up the Christmas tree. Or at least, the Geek Tree.

  • Escape to (and from) New York
    • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
      • Trip to New York
        • 2/3rds of the band and guard almost didn’t make it due to plane troubles
      • Waited for five hours (6am arrival) for the parade. Met some nice New Yorkers and was overall fairly comfortable even though we stood most of the time.
        • Heat packs on our back helped a lot with this
      • Both our kids were in the parade, even though Isleen graduated last year. They were supposed to march last year but Covid.
      • We all had a wonderful and memorable time
      • We totally were not allowed enough sleep
  • Super Booster
    • Ken got his COVID vaccine booster shot. Still waiting on super powers.
  • Powering up the Geek Tree
    • t’s a long running tradition in the Newquist household, ever since Ken’s geek ornaments started overwhelming the family tree and needed to be exiled to their own tree.
    • The Geek Tree is a 9-foot tall slender artificial tree … and last year, Ken officially had too many ornaments to put on it.
    • So … this year he’s doing themes for the first time.
    • And that theme is “Star Trek”. The tree has 34 ornaments (mostly starships), with Deep Space Nine as the tree topper.
      • Oldest ornament is the Shuttlecaft Galileo (1992, string powered)
      • Favorite is The City on the Edge of Forever (2004, string powered, sound seems to be failing)
      • Newest is a trio of “Mirror, Mirror” networked ornaments featuring the Enterprise crew reciting lines from the famous (infamous?) episode.
    • Hoping to come up with some “galaxy” and “nebula” Christmas ornaments for the tree (look, ma, glitter!)
    • Also: Paper starships.
    • Learn more about the Geek Tree at Nuketown.

Main Topic: Stealing liberally from other game systems to enhance the ones you’re playing

  • Skill challenges in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (taken from D&D 4e, Star Wars: Saga Edition)
  • Bennies as incentives (Savage Worlds, Fate, Cortex)
  • Give players in-game rewards to take risks (let the plot points fall like rain)
  • Flaws as incentives
    • Ok, you’re a marked man with a death wish? Does it actually ever come into play?
  • Narrative control mechanics (Cortex; spend dice to change a scene)
  • Downtime/travel narrative mechanics (Savage Worlds, Blades in the Dark, Scum and Villainy, D&D 5th Edition)
  • Compels from Fate
    • get your character into trouble in exchange for a Fate point reward to be used later, able to be resisted if the player doesn’t want to be compelled


Thanks for listening. If you have feedback, we love feedback. You can send it to us at or via Twitter @lairofsecrets. You can also visit and leave us some feedback, topic ideas, or your own thoughts on what we’ve talked about.

A few of our favorite games to steal from: the Firefly Role-Playing Game, Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, Scum & Villainy, Savage Worlds, Fate Condensed

1 thought on “S2E3 Improving Games by Stealing From Others”

  1. Pingback: S2E21 Season 2 Retrospective, Star Trek, Honey Heist, Obi-Wan – Lair Of Secrets

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