“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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Food is such an important part of our daily lives, a representation of our culture, and a border-smashing commonality that is more easily shared than anything else. Yet, food seldom takes center stage in a role-playing game.
Compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, the book lists almost 100 recipes, each with cooking instructions and magical in-game effects. Try Lektar’s One God ale keg beer bread for fortifying the body, flaming crab cakes for burning your enemies, or scroll dough as an alternative to scrolls and potions, to name but a few.
To use the spells your character only needs a few ranks in Craft (culinary) and the Culinary Magic feat. It’s a worthwhile investment considering the sheer volume of spell-recipes available in the book. If you’ve ever wanted to play a halfling cook or a wizarding chef, there has never been a better time than now.
The book comes in both Metric and Imperial versions, which is amazing. The pdf is 117 pages, with a back and front cover, 4 pages of OGL, and photos for every recipe.
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!”
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!
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.
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.
The fine art of Goblin Lugging, enjoyed across our ancient realm by men and dwarves alike. Goblin Lugging is truly a valorous challenge of strength and grit.
Each contestant grabs a goblin, then races through a series of obstacles. The winner is the first to cross the finish line with a goblin in their possession. Progress is measured in rounds for this challenge and the contestant to complete all the obstacles with a goblin in their possession in the fewest rounds is the winner.
After the starter’s whistle, each contestant must grab a goblin by making a successful grapple (see the Combat chapter in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook). There is one goblin per contestant, kept in a small pen at the start of the course. Contestant must move along the course using the move action described under the rules for grappling. If a contestant fails a grapple, then they spend 1 round trying to re-catch their goblin.
There are three obstacles along the course:
The Lake. This obstacle is 15-feet long. The contestant must make a DC 12 Swim check for each round they are in the water. On a failure, they make no progress. On a failure by more than 5, they can decide to either let go of the goblin and re-attempt the Swim check (DC 10), or they both go underwater. If a contestant’s goblin drowns they must spend 3 rounds capturing a new one.
The Wall. This wall has random hand and foot holds, and requires a successful DC 15 Climb check to get over. Contestants holding a goblin suffers a –2 circumstance penalty on this check. It takes 3 rounds to climb over the wall. If the contestant succeeds on an accelerated climb (a –5 penalty), it takes only 1 round. Contestants failing the Climb check make no progress.
The Slide. This slope has been turned into a muddy slide. Getting to the bottom is simple enough, doesn’t require a check of any kind, and takes 1 round. At the bottom of the slide the goblin gets to attempt to break the grapple, with a +2 circumstance bonus for being drenched in slippery mud.
Goblin CR 1/3 CMB +0, CMD 12
See the goblin in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary.
The winner of a game of Goblin Lugging is the first to cross the finish line, still holding their goblin.
Enjoyed this game? Be sure to check out Welcome to Scarthey, which includes the sport of Cackle-Ball!