All posts by Rodney

Game designer, writer, and programmer at Rising Phoenix Games. Follow me on Twitter: RisingPhoenixGM.

Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Murder

You’re cautious to ask, and Google is out — you don’t need that in your search history. But, you must have wondered, how do I plan a murder? How to Plan a Murder is your guide to murder, covering every step from the initial idea to carrying out the deed.

Edit: Our legal department said I need to mention it’s a game, and that we don’t condone actual murder. Sigh.

How to Plan a Murder - Your Guide to Murder

How to Plan a Murder is your complete guide to planning and hosting a murder mystery dinner.

Secrets and dark ambition connect each character in a deadly web of intrigue. As the night progresses, who’ll fall foul of those deadly plot hooks? Can your guests unravel the clues and catch the killer?

Planning and running the evening is easy and fun, with conflict and plot twists developing organically from the rules. Watch as your characters come alive.

The book includes the guest’s guide, A Dinner to Die For, which is also available to your guests as a “Pay What You Want” download. We did everything we could to make things easier for you and your guests, and we’re confident you’ll find this second book a useful addition to the game.

How to Plan a Murder, your guide to murder, is available at the following fine online stores:

Rising Phoenix Games

    Drive Thru RPG     

Open Gaming Store 

 Get it on 

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 5

Time circuit’s on. Flux capacitor, fluxing. It’s back to 1985 and our Stranger Things Season 3 campaign!

Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 5: Time Warp was our fifth session playing vs. Stranger Stuff, a game published by our friends at Fat Goblin Games. In this episode, played out over two sessions, we branched out and used a new system I’m working on for the Nightscape Series.

Episodes: Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3Episode 4Episode 5 – Episode 6 – Episode 7 – Episode 8

Stranger Things Season 3 Episode 5
Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 5

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 Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 5 session was the first session to end on a high note, with characters in a better place than they’d been at the start of the episode. They had to wade through hell to get there though. Here’s a summary of episode 5, with tips for running your own Stranger Things campaign at the end of the post.

Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 5 – Time Warp

Scene 1

Player Characters: Michelle, Alpha, and Jennifer.

Three operatives working for Hawkins Lab were brought into a briefing room, where they were appraised of the situation in downtown Hawkins, as witnessed by Doctor Owens in Episode 4. Their mission: enter the Upside Down, rescue the kids and Hopper (who were pulled through a rift), and bring them back – alive.

The team included Michelle, an ex-MI6 agent and pharmacist, “Alpha,” a  psionic with field training, and Jennifer, a Vietnam vet and demolitions expert.

GM Note: For this section we used the Nightscape system, which works well for Spec-Ops games and includes a sanity track.

The team went through a portal into the Upside Down, then found themselves in a dark wood. Hawkins, they figured, was a mile out from where they were. Soon they spotted the small brain-like intellect devourers, which surround them, following from a distance. Alpha was able to detect more of them hidden in the gloom and encircling the team.

Eventually, the team got into town, but it was nothing like the Hawkins they knew. An older version of the town greeted them, the streets lined with cars from the 1960s. They went to investigate one of the cars, then the intellect devourers attacked. Using their silenced assault weapons, the team make quick work of the walking brains, but the fight brought a tidal wave of the creatures, which surged over buildings to get to them. The team ran for it, heading straight for Hawkin’s Town Hall.

Appearing out of the gloom ahead was a rift, the mirror of the portal opened in Hawkins the night before. Standing in front of the rift was Eleven, with her hand stretched out. She didn’t seem quite normal, as if possessed.
“Go away!” She shouted.
Alpha engaged his sensory deprivation mask and locked onto Eleven’s mind. As he did so he sensed the Mind Flayer standing over the town, its thoughts controlling Eleven. Alpha attacked the link, giving Michelle a chance to dart Eleven with a sedative. The Mind Flayer buckled for a moment, and Jenn grabbed the girl, hefting her over her shoulders.

Behind the rift and the truck with the device powering the rift (see last episode, Ed), were a bunch of humanoid figures. Alpha reached out to them with his mind, but sensed only alien thoughts. They were waking up, but they were not who they appeared to be. Sensing the trap, they dashed through the rift. Jenn set of some grenades on her way out that ripped apart the truck and shut the rift. One problem, solved!

Glasses reflecting Stranger Things Logo
Photo credits: Puneeth Shetty

Scene 2

Player Characters: Lucas, Steve, and Billy.

We joined the three in a library, where they were hiding out, having just fled from the intellect devourers. Lucas peered through a cracked, grimy window, and saw the intellect devourers drawn off by something, so the boys made a break for it, heading to Hawkins Lab. They made it there without incident, but found that the lab didn’t exist in the Upside Down – not yet, anyway. Lucas figured the tunnels must still be there, so they searched for them and eventually found them. They were able to find their way back to the nexus of tunnels where the old rift had been, and reopened it by hacking through the tunnel walls.

GM Note: Lucas, Steve, and Billy are out of danger, but I’m sure that opening the rift is going to cost them later. Mwahaha!

GMing Stranger Things

This was a fun two sessions, although our actual play time was limited and each session was several months apart.

Changing things up with a new rules system added to the fun of the game, but also slowed things down a little while we got into the new characters. Dropping “trained professionals” into the mix was fun, and I’m sure the players sensed they were playing red-shirts that wouldn’t have much screen time. Their new characters might have survived their first dip into the Upside Down, but anything could happen the next time around.

I’ve planned for three more sessions, so at this point I’m wrapping up some of the plot threads and focusing in on the important ones.

We Got A Golden Dragon!

Golden Dragon Award
Yay us! We’d like to thank our moms, the good people of Hawkins, Mr. Demogorgon…

Codex Anathema wrapped up the March RPG Blog Carnival with an award ceremony. We’re super stoked to have taken the coveted Golden Dragon for “Best Behind-the-Screen Adaptation.” We couldn’t have done it without my amazing players, our friends at Fat Goblin Games, and every one of you who’ve been following this series. Thanks for your support.

Till Next Time

Our next session is a week away, as we’re trying to finish off before the launch of the Pathfinder 2 Playtest. Check back next week for more from Stranger Things Season 3. Till then, why not visit our shop and check out some of our exciting publications. Everything we earn from sales keeps the blog alive and helps us produce more great gaming content.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Nominate Your Fan Favorite Publisher for 2018

The Ennies announced the nominations for this year’s awards recently. With that comes the chance for you to nominate your fan favorite publisher. While we’ll certainly appreciate your vote, we’re just glad if you take part in the voting and help keep the RPG industry going strong.

Follow the link below to get to the Ennies voting:

Nominate Your Fan Favorite Publisher For 2018

Explaining D&D in Three Easy Steps

If you’ve ever tried to explain Dungeons & Dragons simply and, like me, failed horribly, then never fear, this video from Vox does an excellent job of keeping things simple, just share it with those who want to know.

Till next time, Tell Thrilling Tales.

Player Options: Druids and the Divine

Druids and divine characters rejoice! Two new books from our friends at are jam-packed with player options to help you build the characters you’ve always wanted to play.

Forces of Nature, Book 1: Druids

This first one’s for Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition and written by Ed Kabara.

Player OptionsFrom the marketing blurb:

Forces of Nature, Book 1: The Druid is the first in a new series of roleplaying game supplements for 5e from Publishing focusing on wilderness oriented classes, this one focuses on the Druid.

“When nature calls, I reply. When nature speaks, I listen. And when nature angers, I destroy.”

This book introduces tons of new options for druids including:

  • 10 New Circles: Circle of Decay, Circle of Fury, Circle of Green Knights, Circle of Swarms, Circle of the Beast, Circle of the Ley Weavers, Circle of the Pack, Circle of the Stalker, Circle of the Trees, and Circle of the Winding Journey
  • 16 New Feats: Animal to Augment, Art of the Kill, Companion of the Wanderer, Designated Survivor, Hardy Wild Shape, Fury of Nature, Focused, Hide of the Forest, King of the Forest, Nature Provides, Oaken Skin, Powerful Friends, Powerful Summoner, Practiced at the Hunt, Preternatural Senses, and Sought Summoner,
  • 5 New Magic Items: Cloak of the Harvest, Mystic Moss, Staff of the Gatherer, Staff of the Pack, and Whistle of Command
  • 1 New Playable Race: Wilderlings
  • 6 New Companion Plant Creatures: Flowering Moss, Gasping Flower, Giant Flytrap, Grabbing Seaweed. Spanking Spruce, and Tumbleweed
  • 21 New Spells: Call of the Earth, Change Race, Cursed Provision, Dust to Dust, Fingers of the Forest, Forest Defenders, Harmful Growth, Heart of Winter, Limb Rot, Nature’s Bounty, Nymph’s Hideout, Overgrowth Armor, Remove from Nature, Return to Nature, Return to the Land, Supernatural Focus, True Power of the Land, Unnatural Growth, Walk with the Beasts, Wild Aegis, and Wooden Guardians

All this AND MORE await you in Forces of Nature, Book 1 – The Druid


Manifest Destiny, Book 2: Cult & Clergy

The second book of player options is compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is written by Beth Jones.

Player Options

The marketing blurb goes like this:

Manifest Destiny, Book 2 – Cults & Clergy is the second in a new series of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game supplements from Publishing focusing on those in tune with the gods and this one gives a general use to anyone with a deific bent.

“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.”

This book introduces many new options for these types of characters including:

  • 1 New Domains: Inspiration
  • 1 New Mysteries: Transformation
  • 13 New Archetypes: Avatar of Freedom (Skald), Ayurvedic (Druid), Celestial Druid (Druid), Chosen One (Cleric), Clan Champion (Ranger), Divine Herald (Bard), Dune Dancer (Oracle), Exemplar of Faith (Inquisitor), Holy Protectorate (Warpriest), Inspired Conduit (Inquisitor), Outback Oracle (Oracle), Sneak (Oracle), and Truthsayer (Oracle)
  • 7 New Spells: Debilitating Diatribe, Greater Guidance, Inspirational Sermon, Mantle of Martial Prowess, Serpent Strike, Siphon Infidel’s Strength, and Terrifying Aura.

All this AND MORE await you in Manifest Destiny, Book 2 – Cults & Clergy!


I was the copy editor on both projects. We worked hard to deliver useful, balanced player options. I hope you enjoy them.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

D&D and Dying of the Light

The Dying of the Light is an adventure for Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play (first edition), originally published by Hogshead Publishing. I’ve owned my copy for twenty or so years and finally led a party through it this year. The catch? I converted it to Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition and ran it for a high-level party. That was tough and enlightening.

The Dying of the Light
The Dying of the Light, a WFRP 1st ed. adventure about the Apocalypse.

I’ve owned my WFRP books for more years than I haven’t and never played through the adventure from cover to cover. WFRP was a great game, but it’s mechanically dated and cumbersome when compared to newer games like D&D 5e and Pathfinder. (Heresy!) A group of D&D players asked me to run a game for them, so I figured I’d bang a square peg into a round hole and mash the two together.

The Basics

The first task was to convert checks into DCs. This I mostly did on the fly. WFRP skills were converted in the same way — find the D&D equivalent of a skill and you’re good to go.

NPCs and monsters were pulled from the Monster Manual or the Dungeon Master’s Guide, as appropriate. For the skaven I used wererats, while the fimir I replaced with monsters I had miniatures of. Whatever happened to the fimir beyond WFRP 1st ed anyway? I also created a bunch of new creatures to fill out the ranks.

The Problem

The tough part of this little undertaking was using the rules for a “hopeful fantasy game” like D&D to run a game set in the grim Old World. I added diabolical monsters to coerce the PCs, and I’d suggest using the rules for sanity and madness from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Still, D&D characters are far more powerful than an ex-rat catcher from the sewers of Nuln could ever hope to be, so plan accordingly. The Dying of the Light is probably best run for characters around 3rd level.

Did You Know: Chris Pramas, who wrote The Place of Testing, is the founder and president of Green Ronin Publishing.

The Secret Sauce

We’re GMs, we improvise. Nothing in The Dying of the Light is so sacred that it can’t change to fit a different system, your players, or your maniacal ambitions. Let Moorslieb swallow the sun and plunge the world into darkness — for Khorne!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Don’t forget about our big Pathfinder sale on at Drive Thru RPG. Ends very soon!

Busting Out of My Shell

“Write about your personal experiences,” the gurus say. “Speak from the heart, and your readers will listen.” That’s great advice, but I lean so far over to the “introvert” side of the continuum that busting out of my shell isn’t natural or cathartic. But that’s partly why I love roleplaying games so much.

Photo by Alex Chambers - Busting out of my shell
Photo by Alex Chambers

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival has one of those deceptively tough topics: “Why do you love RPGs? Why do you love GMing?” Easy: RPGs are fun. But there’s more to it than that. There’s always more to it.

Busting Out of My Shell

So yeah, two things about me. One, I’m the quiet silent type who avoids crowds and, two, I spend most of my working day involved with RPGs — I’m a huge fan. At the same time, I’ve been a teacher, small group leader, and GM, so I’m used to coordinating others. I learned to do that the old-fashioned way — by running games at high school and after university, then by being involved at church and by taking an English teaching job in Japan. Now I feel confident in my ability to work with others or to run a game.

I still dislike crowds, but roleplaying tables are easier to handle. They also give me a chance to meet others with a shared interest.

Roleplay gives me a chance to dream, and to escape the real world. Since returning to South Africa I’ve felt disjointed. I loved the culture in Japan, the nature, the food, and especially the people. Being back in SA has felt like an uphill struggle in a world that’s no longer my home, but my roleplaying friends were among those who’ve helped me most to settle back in. It’s also great to close the door and drown out the world, now and then. John Kovalic nailed that thought in this Dork Tower comic.

Roll Dice – Touch The World

I’m not suggesting RPGs are a replacement for life. That’s dangerous.

In Japan, I made many friends through roleplaying, but my wife and I also took the time to explore, to get out into a country that was totally alien, even a little frightening, and become part of the community. That wasn’t always easy for me — Tokyo being one of the most crowded cities in the world — but it was good for me.

Busting out of my shell
Photo by Chris Chan

In the same way, a game group can be a way to touch reality. As a GM, I’m a part of providing that space for others, where we can be with friends, joke, and have fun. It’s a place to be part of humanity again and silence the voices in your head.

And believe me, those silent voices are real.

When you spend most of your time locked away in your wizard’s tower, writing RPGs, the voice of reason quickly gets drowned out by negative thoughts and false assumptions.

But that’s a post for another day.

rpg blog carnival logo

Thanks to Campaign Master for hosting this month.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.




June Sale

We’ve slashed our prices on a bunch of products for a June Sale. Let’s take a look at what’s on offer.

Pathfinder and Starfinder

All of our Pathfinder and Starfinder products are 33% off this week.


This week’s Google Doodle inspired me to put Claustrophobia on sale too, so you can enjoy the game about garden gnomes in tight spaces. Offer ends Thursday.

Claustrophobia 50% Off Sale

Rolling Dice is for Nerds!

Rolling dice is for nerds! Drop your dice down the hungry maw of a gargoyle-guarded Lego dice tower instead — that’s geek chic!Lego Dice Tower and GM Screen

My Lego dice tower and GM screen combo took an afternoon to build, which is pretty fast considering the number of tiny, grasping hands in my household.

Plop the dice into the top of the tower and it tumbles down, smacking hidden “randomizers” — commonly referred to as Lego Technic poles — before rolling down a ramp, through the double doors, and onto the “Patio of Fate”.

Lego Dice Tower and GM Screen

A “GMs-eye-view” of the tower and shelves. Nothing says “your character is mine” like a stern-faced GM peering over the top of this bad boy!

Lego Dice Tower and GM Screen

It even comes with a lightsabre and polearm, in case the players decide to mount their own Lego-based siege on your fortifications.

Lego Dice Tower and GM Screen

The walls are detachable, so you don’t need to break them down to cram them into a bag when traveling. It also makes it easier to extend the screen — all thanks to a well-placed Lego Technics pin.

Lego Dice Tower and GM Screen

Assemble the horde! Here’s what the setup might look like in-game. A medium-sized mini fits on the shelves perfectly, and dice won’t move around too much because of the Lego studs.

Build Your Own Lego Dice Tower

The core of the tower contains a number of Lego Technic bars, which are enough to make dice tumble randomly down. Making sure there is enough space between the walls and the bars so that dice don’t get caught is the only major thing to consider, otherwise building the tower is simple enough. A ramp at the bottom and a space to catch the dice are the only other structural components. I tiled the “patio” with smooth Lego tiles so that the dice would land perfectly flat, and not tip on top of Lego studs.

Future Mods

There are three things I want to add to the GM screen to make it more useful. L-bend sections would hide more from the player’s view, and dice cages would make it easier to store dice. There are some small Lego rope ladders from a pirate set I have that would work perfectly for this. For keeping notes handy, I’ll add some 2-stud flat Lego pieces with L-shaped hooks, which can then hold punched Post-it notes.

A Lego Love Affair

This was my second Lego GMing tool, and I hope it will inspire you to create your own. Please share your creations with us on Facebook, here, or through our other social media channels. I’d love to see what you come up with.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.


We are the Stitched!

They came in a deadly whirlwind of steel and spell, annihilating all within the catacombs. In the aftermath, you awoke, gaining sentience from residual magic they’d left behind. Battered and frail, you creep forth.

Last week I wrote about flexing your game design muscle, which is where Stitched comes in. In Stitched, you play the reanimated remains of long-dead corpses, eager to feast and grow in power. The game is my entry into this year’s 200 Word RPG Contest. This month’s RPG Blog Carnival’s theme is “What Scares You,” which gives me the perfect opportunity to share the game and talk about it.

Before we jump in, a word of thanks to Reckoning of the Dead for hosting this month’s carnival.

rpg blog carnival logo


They came in a deadly whirlwind of steel and spell, annihilating all within the catacombs. In the aftermath, you awoke, gaining sentience from residual magic they’d left behind. Battered and frail, you creep forth.

Stitched is a game for 1–5 players and a GM. You’ll need 8d4, 4d6, 2d12, and 1d20. The GM uses a pile of counters.

The Stitched

You are undead, weakened but sentient after tomb raiders invaded your dungeon home. You begin with 1d6 to represent your abilities. As you hunt, you’ll gain dice, allowing you to attach them to your growing form by spending two similar dice: 2d4 = 1d6, 2d6 = 1d12, and 2d12 = 1d20. Each die represents a different amalgamation of necrotic flesh with a shared consciousness.

Playing the Game

The GM sets the scene, then players take turns describing their actions. Roll the dice. A 4 or more indicates success. A 1 is an injury: split the die or remove it if it’s a d4.

The GM can increase the difficulty by 1 by giving a player a token. A player can spend 2 tokens to gain 1d4.

Reap the Flesh!

The Design Perspective

So that’s the game, in all its 200-word glory. The core of the game is the dice mechanic, which I first built to emulate oozes splitting and rejoining. Playing an ooze, even a sentient one, didn’t sound like a fun session at the table, so I changed ectoplasm into limbs and got the Frankenstein’s monster-like stitched, undead that can sew more body parts onto themselves.

I hope you enjoy it.

For more games I’ve designed, check out 3 Stone Stories (free) and Claustrophobia!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.


Hacking Hearthstone

Hacking Hearthstone is all about figuring out how to optimize your play sessions and cards for maximum reward.

First up, some pics.

These Hearthstone screenshots were too good not to share. They’re from the last Tavern Brawl, where each player’s deck was made up of four copies of a bunch of random legendary cards, leading to some unique situations not seen in other formats.

Hacking Hearthstone Screenshot - Cards
I Can Haz All the Cards!

Turn 1 and the opposition’s mage has 50 cards to play with, thanks to four copies of Prince Malchezaar. Usually, you’re limited to one of each legendary card, so getting 20 extra cards is awesome. I wasn’t going to win this game with fatigue!

Hacking Hearthstone Screenshot - Dolls!
Doll Master!!!

Dollmaster Dorian creates a 1/1 “doll” of a minion you’ve just drawn. What happens then, when Dollmaster creates a doll Dollmaster? Let’s just say my opponent and I had all the barbies at our tea party.

Want more Hearthstone screenshots? Let me know and I’ll share ‘em when I get ‘em.

Join Us

Hearthstone is a great game that’s easy to learn and tough to master. If you’ve played Magic the Gathering then many of the concepts in Hearthstone will be familiar to you, and you can play it on your phone or PC. You can jump in by following this link, which will help me get my hands on a murloc shaman.

Hacking the Rankings

I have a theory about busting through the rankings. It goes like this:

At the start of the season, players are scrambling to climb the rankings, leading to some tough competition. The same goes for the end of the season when players are trying to grab that one last tier that will give them a better reward chest. The difference is, by the end of the season, the field has spread out, and you’re more likely to have easier competition.

So, use the early and mid-season to focus on quests. Start building up your rankings in the mid-season and optimize your decks, then hit those ranking hard at the end of the season.

And, since this season’s about to end, I guess it’s time to play some cards and see if the theory sticks.

If you’ve got some ideas for Hacking Hearthstone to maximize your effectiveness in the game, why not share it in the comments below.

No Place Like Home

We’ve updated our homepage. It’s now easier to find us on social media, check out our latest products, or connect with us.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.