Well Done to The Id DM

Stuffer Shack recently announced the winner of the 2012 Site Of The Year award. Well done to The Id DM on a job well done. Head on over and check it out. Also, well done to everyone else who entered, you are all giving something to the community and for that you deserve to be noted!

Your favourite Phoenix took part in the competition and was up against some big names in RPG blogging. Unfortunately we didn’t make it into the finals, but I feel proud just having been a part of the fun. We’re putting together a bigger team and looking forward to competing again in 2013.

You can read our interview with the creator of Stuffer Shack, Tourq Stevens, right here on this blog.

Solo Role-Playing – Starting Out

It’s great playing with a group, but sometimes you just want to hack up some monsters at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home. This series is aimed at helping you get started on some excellent solo campaigns of your own.


Choosing A System

The first thing you need to decide is what you’ll be playing. Will you create your own adventure arc or use something pre-made? What system will you use? Often the best system to use is the one you’re most comfortable with. What are you currently playing? There sure are loads of systems to choose from. I recommend heading over to Drive Thru RPG to see what they have available. There’s also some great free stuff up for grabs, like Pokethulhu or Heroes Against Darkness.


Choosing An Adventure

There are plenty of solo adventures out there, not least of all our own solo adventure: Sentinels Watching. Of course, each solo adventure will usually be tailored to a specific system, but with some work you can fit most adventures to any system you want. Here is a list of some solo adventures worth checking out:

I’ve played through a few scenes from one of the Fighting Fantasy game books using D&D 4th Ed. It was a good game and something I’ll likely try again, probably with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game system.


Creating Your Own

The easiest way to play is to just lay down some maps, some monsters and then duke it out, making up the story as you go. A good idea is to keep some type of Quest Log, either in a notebook or on your favourite word processor. It helps to have reminders of what you’ve done and where you were going. I like to draw out my maps and annotate directly on the GameMastery Flip-Mat: Basic. When I’m done I just take a picture with my cellphone and I’m all set to remember things next time, even if the map gets used in another game in the mean time.

Abstraction Beats Distraction

Simply put, you have to make the game as fun and exciting for yourself as you can. Play the encounters you want to play, skip the humdrum details of travel and anything that brings a yawn. Some players love to micro manage their games, and then do that, but really, you just want to make it an awesome game. You’re the GM now, so you have all the power to do that.

Also, step away from Facebook and e-mail. You know you want to play with dice more than pixels.


Learning From Board Games

Look at the average board game today. Everything has a visual representation. So use loads of maps, miniatures, counters and terrain. Everything and anything you can use to map out the action will help you stay involved.

Like board games, role-playing games don’t have to take heaps of time. Sit down and play out a scene, a battle or one session, with a clear start and end. That way you leave the table having completed a nice chunk that’s well defined. You’ll feel more rewarded for the effort.


Advice From The Pro’s

Head on over to SoloNexus for the mother load of tips. The site covers a wide range of table top games, not just role-playing.


Have any ideas on Starting Out? Please share them with us. Also, don’t forget the Twitter account @RisingPhoenixGM where I share all kinds of geeking.

Pirate Loot – All You Need for High Sea Adventures

“Yo ho ho and a bottle of cheap rum!” Oh how we love pirates! They may be scumbags, but we love them so much! A salty campaign at sea always sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? In fact, I recently finished writing a pirate adventure which our group is playing though at the moment, and through that I did some research into the great stuff available for the sea bound gaming group.

Please note, some of these products have affiliate links so that I can make some money, which helps me keep this site going. However, I’ve only reviewed stuff I actually thought was worth recommending.


Treasure Chest
"Arrr, there be loot in that there crate!"

Battle Maps

What are pirates without their maps? And what’s a game session without a good battle map? A decent ship map has to be the first port of call for any piratical GM.

I went onto Amazon and bought the GameMastery Flip-Mat: Pirate Ship. It’s super useful, but there were aspects I didn’t like. One side has a top down view of two ships with gang planks between them while the other side has the lower levels of the primary ship, with parts repeated and parts missing (such as the ship’s wheel). I would have liked to be able to fold the map to reveal only one top view of a ship at a time. A nice aspect is that you can fold the map to show just one level of the ship, however, it is at the cost of multiple views of the action. Also, while masts are represented, there’s not much indication of where all the rigging is. There are some cheaper print and play maps out there that have done a nice job with rigging, so I really would have liked to see that here. My last gripe is about the ship’s texturing. I really like how they did the water, but the deck of the actual ship is a little too fake, in my opinion. That said, the map is fully compatible with the GameMastery Map Pack: Ship’s Cabins and makes it that little bit more useful. Unlike anything print and play, this is dry erase, which means you can write on it with markers – a huge plus.

For a cheaper option try out the Battlemap – Pirate & Ghost Ship, which looks really pretty. It’s print and play.



I’ve been listening to the Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack as inspiration for my pirate adventure, which I actually got onto because our GM uses it in our current campaign. It creates the perfect mood whether your adventure’s nautical or other.

Also, because I’m a big fan, check out Blackmore’s Night’s – Loreley, which works nicely when timed right. They have a bunch more stuff that I’ve played at LARP’s, so I generally punt Blackmore’s Night whenever I can. I mean it’s Richie Blackmore for crying out loud. Deep Purple… you know. Smoke on the Water. Okay, okay, I’ve had my say.

Another band worth checking out, if only for inspiration, is Turisas, and their song Hunting Pirates.



I really like proper miniatures, in metal or plastic, but recently I’ve found paper miniatures to be super useful, especially when travelling to the next game session on a crowded train. I’ve looked at a number of printable miniatures and nothing “pirate” really appeals to me, whereas I really like the Militia Men available from onemonk.com. I think real pirates probably looked more like these guys than the popularised image of pirates. Then again, I was raised on Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, so I may be biased.

As for metal and plastic figures, there are plenty out there, so I won’t review anything now. I just wish Wizards had released a few more pirate figures with their Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures; I think they only ever did one. Luckily though, there are also hundreds of pirate toys out there, like these, which may fit into your game, even if they’re a little cheesy. My advice: shop around.



Pretty much any toy store will carry loads of pirate props – typically hats, eye-patches, pistols and swords. Look around a bit and you might even find pirate loot. Making a map is a pretty neat touch to any campaign and you can do that in a number of ways, from dipping paper in tea to stain it and burning the edges to designing something in Photoshop. Check out this tutorial on Wired.


Well, that should be enough to keep you, *ahem*, afloat. Got any other neat ideas? Please share, I’d love to hear from you.


Marvel Avengers – the Awesome and the Facebook Fail

The Awesome

I’m very excited about the upcoming Marvel Avengers movie, not because I particularly like the Avengers, but I just generally love Marvel. While I’m not the biggest collector out there, I’ve been a Spider-Man, X-Men and X-Force fan since I was a little kid.

I also love that Marvel HeroClix has a Marvel HeroClix Avengers set, which I think forms part of the restarting of the HeroClix line in general. South Africa even has a HeroClix site of our own and I’m really wishing I was there for some of the events. HeroClix, if you have not played it, is a neat skirmish tabletop war game that does a really good job of recreating the comics. In fact, in July last year I had a chance to play with some veterans and came to see just how meaty this game is, and I’d be the last to pass it off as a second rate game compared to something like Warhammer 40K.


Avengers Facebook Fail

I have a love hate relationship with Farcebook, I mean Facebook, but this time the blame falls squarely on the crooked shoulders of Playdom, a game company that produced Marvel Avengers Alliance.

On the surface the game is great: you get to play a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who coordinates the Avengers against some of the greatest Marvel villains of all time. Sure, you get more out of the game if you have gold, which you pay for with real money, but that’s okay, we as gamers are used to that. The problem is that you can loose gold through glitches and server disconnections. If people pay money and loose it due to a glitch, you can bet they will be angry. I’ve lost gold myself, along with a number of buffs I’d picked up through playing, which annoyed me more than a string of bad dice rolls. What I really didn’t like was that I had recommended the game early on to other Marvel fans. What do I look like now, I wonder?



Almost a month on and I’m still getting thrown out, even with the latest version of Flash. It seems like only us PC users are suffering, from those I’ve asked. It’s surprising that I’ve stayed around so long.

A familiar sight on Avengers Alliance
An all too familiar sight on Avengers Alliance.


It seems, according to Playdom.com’s forum, that the issue with disconnects has been fixed. I have not been able to confirm this yet, but I’ll update you if I hear more. Of course, this is a popular game so there will be a heavy load on the server. Just be warned, is all I’m saying. You might be a lot safer playing HeroClix Online.

Sandy Soulless Somnambulists – One Page Dungeon Competition 2012

I’m talking about mummies, of course, how could you not get that? Well, it’s One Page Dungeon Contest time again, which I entered last year (2011) with the Lunatic Labyrinth, which was really a fun little project and something I’m still playing around with.  This year I decided to try something a little more traditional. I proudly present… Paranoia Pyramid! Eek, gasp, oh the humanity!

Paranoia Pyramid
Fake doors, quicksand, slow sand and skeletons with bad aim... oh the horror!


Paranoia Pyramid

Somewhere is the Desert of Scales lies the pyramid of Tutmosiss (said with a snake like lisp), said to contain not only the entombed body of the snake-man pharaoh but also his valuable treasures, ripe for the picking. Of course, the legends say nothing of the undead legion protecting his sandy crypt, or the fact that the architect of the pyramid had a particularly dry sense of humour for someone born and raised in a waterless desert. Pardon the pun.

Download it here: Paranoia Pyramid (PDF, 1.92 MB)


The Science

First off, while I like science and have started enjoying maths since Varsity, I don’t consider myself to be science or maths brained much, even with my IT degree, but check this: draw a big square on an A4 page, then draw a big square in the rectangular space left over. You’re now messing with something called the Golden Ratio and might create, gasp, a Golden Spiral, with those squares getting smaller and smaller as you dice up those ever present rectangles.

Now, what do you get if you stack squares, starting with the largest at the bottom and ending with the smallest on top? A step pyramid!

So, you see, there is at least some method in my madness. While I didn’t divide up the entire A4 sheet using the golden ratio, it does, I think, provide Game Masters with a nice way to spread out the action over multiple levels on a single map.


For the Future

I’m seriously considering doing a mini solo adventure with this dungeon map, something like I did with Sentinels Watching. If you’d like to play this as a solo adventure or would rather I released something for a group why not let me know by leaving a comment. Of course, if you’re also in the running for the 1PDC why don’t you tell me where I can put in some work to beat your submission. May the most fearsome vault of fellowship fouling using a forlorn folio win the day.

Names without the Stupid

Making fantasy names is a bit of an art and something that GM’s need to do regularly. I have three methods for creating names that I want to share with you. These I call the History / Attribute Method, the Fermented Method and the Foreign Languages Method.

Memorial Panel by Labattblueboy.

The History / Attribute Method of Name Creation

Many places get their names from either a prominent feature of the area or from the area’s history. New York was the “new” York and Cape Town was the “town in the Cape”. I like to name my towns in the same way, hence Willowton would be a town with many willow trees, South Fort would be a fort in the south and so on. You might feel that names are too basic when created like this, but you effectively achieve two things: you have an easy to remember name and it’s linked to a fact that adds colour to the location. Hobbiton, from JRR Tolkiens Lord of the Rings, is a good example of this type of name.

In a recent session, my players were passing an area of unmapped land so I had to create something on the fly. I came up with “Gold Bridge”, a pirate port city ruled by the pirate king Duke One Eye. The players never actually entered the town but later I went to my notes and added in some details, including how it got its name. This is an easy way to flesh out your own world one step at a time.

The same can be applied to people, and old Duke One Eye is a good example. Do yourself a favour and watch Hot Fuzz and take note of some of the villagers’ surnames. Names like Thatcher, Cartwright, Cooper and Skinner are all occupations, but can be great links to what the NPC is all about too. Why not have a villain called John Butcher, or an NPC called Mr Slain? This kind of name can say something about the NPC or about the history of the character’s family.

A magical item can always be named after what it is. The Ring of Speed, the Bow of Death, the Sword of Flame and so on. If we get a little more creative we can take it a step further and call the same items The Quicksilver, The Widowmaker and The Inferno. Add in a little history about the item and we get Quicksilver of the Ancients, The Fallen Widowmaker and Inferno of the Spitting Sands.

The Fermented Method of Name Creation

This method uses several steps. First, take something from your surroundings as inspiration. I have the air conditioning remote near me so I’ll start with Air Con Remote. Now I want to change that to come up with a person’s name, so I’ll change it slightly to become Aaircon Renmot. It’s still too similar, so my next iteration is Aair Renton. Voilà, a person’s name is synthesised from the humble air conditioning remote. This method does take more time and I’d advise  letting your list of names sit for a day or two, just so you can have another go at them when you are in a different frame of mind.

Try and use changes that will in some way reflect the place you are naming. You might, for example, want something that sounds dwarvish for your dwarven city.

Like in the example of the air conditioning remote, you’ll probably want two parts to the name. You can use different sources of inspiration to create the name. Keep at it until you find a name that fits nicely with the NPC, as it will inspire good role play and help players remember the character. You don’t want “Captain Bunny Slippers” to be the name of your big bad NPC at the end of the quest.

Things should be pretty easy to name, we could have the Ring of Asusuma (Asthma Inhaler), Sanshasses’ Bow (Sun Glasses) and the Blade of Cruthix (Chopsticks). The point is that you can use anything to create anything, just go with something you feel works for you and your players.

Foreign Languages

Having foreign sounding names may seem important to you, but if you need a name quickly then remember that you could always say something like: “Her name means ‘Silverleaf’ in the elven tongue”. If you have more time to devote to creating names I suggest drawing up a list of names to have handy for when you need them. Don’t forget Google too, there are loads of lists out there for you to scavenge from. Google Translate is particularly helpful for getting names from other languages such as Latin.

Have any great names to share? Leave a comment and let us know.

Stuffer Shack – Fill your Bag of Hording

I’m loving the web so much right now. It turns out that the more I blog the more I comb the net for great stuff and the more awesome role-playing stuff I find. Stuffer Shack was just such a resource. Go ahead and check it out if you haven’t yet, it’s crammed with plenty of freebies. I got into contact with Tourq Stevens, the brains behind Stuffer Shack and rolled my interrogate, this is what we spoke about:


[Rising Phoenix Games] From your website it’s pretty obvious that you’re not only passionate about role-playing, but also about the community in general. How did you get into role-playing in the first place?

[Tourq Stevens] I got into role-playing just like anyone else, I guess.  I went to some kid’s house with a friend, and we all played on the bedroom floor.  My first game had the DM asking us if we wanted to open a door and walk in.  We said “sure,” and were thus maimed when we walked into a pool of acid.  …Well, I hope my first game wasn’t like everyone else’s, anyway.  Ever since then, I’ve always striven to make the game fun for everyone.


[RPG] Every role-player has fond memories of a really great game session. Does anything stand out for you? In game or out of game?

[TS] Recently I wrote a quick post thanking D&D 4e for a great game, and a great session.  It was the type of session where I appreciated a game mechanic more than at any other time.  My long, long-favored pastime, though, is drawing heroes and villains for Supers games, like Super World and Heroes Unlimited.  That’s probably when I‘m most content (that, and when I’m creating 3D terrain for my players).  There’s just something to say about the enjoyment and satisfaction from drawing and building.


[RPG] What are you playing at the moment?

[TS] A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, by Robert J. Schwalb.  If you’ve seen A Game of Thrones, then you know how important a family name is in this game. That’s why I love character creation – it’s very interesting to see how your character’s family is created, as well as discovering it’s history.  These are things that will definitely come into play.


[RPG] Stuffer Shack has loads of stuff for players and GM’s, from miniatures to articles, character backgrounds and adventures. There’s a huge amount of free stuff on the site, tell us a little about the Stuffer Shack philosophy and why you offer so many free resources to the community.

[TS] Good question, and a little harder to put into words than I thought… Gaming is a creative and social sport that can greatly benefit from easily attainable online resources.  Several gaming websites offer free resources (so we’re not breaking the mold there), but we do try to offer a never-ending supply.  Anything we can do to make the game more fun and accessible, we’ll do it.  The art of gaming can only improve as more and more people become accustomed to it, so we’re just trying to do our part by giving as many tools to gamers as we can.


[RPG] What made you decide to create Stuffer Shack in the first place?

[TS] I’m a creative type of person.  I like to write and, well, create.  I went on a gaming hiatus, but had all these ideas piling up in my head, so I began to write them down.  Character ideas, adventure ideas, ideas for encounters, monsters, NPCs, enemies, and so on.  I figured I might as well start a website so that I could have somewhere to post these ideas – a means to share them.  And, I figured at least a few of them should be useful to others. (That makes two of us, Ed)
[RPG] If there was one bit of wisdom for player you’ve learned from your time with Stuffer Shack, what would that be?

[TS] Boy, that’s a tough question.  I’d have to say that as a player, it’s important to continue to expand your horizons.  It’s really easy to whip up a stack of numbers and splash them onto a character sheet, but I think players will come to enjoy the game more and more if they occasionally strive to create different types of characters, and/or create characters with more and more interesting story hooks.  Well, that’s my opinion, anyway.
[RPG] Same question, but now as a GM. Has Stuffer Shack taught you anything amazing for GMs?

[TS] I’ve become much more creative in my ideas, and that’s a direct result of me being more creatively active (which is what Stuffer Shack is really about – creative ideas for gaming).  On top of that, running a gaming website has opened my eyes to soooo many other gaming websites, people, projects, and ideas – I simply can’t ever regret it.


[RPG] If there was one recommendation you could make to a new player, what would it be?

[TS] Wow, there’s so many things that could be said here.  You know, the only thing that I’ll throw out there is that as a new player – just grab the bull by the horns give it your all.  Let your inner geek out, and let loose.  I think if you’re not doing that, you can’t really have fun.


[RPG] D&D next is probably the hottest topic on most forums at the moment. What’s your take on the next iteration of the Dungeons and Dragons phenomenon.

[TS] To be honest, I’m barely following it’s development.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to try it out, and I’d love to be impressed by it, but (at this point) it’s just another game to me.  I hope it’s successful, of course.


[RPG] Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any secret projects planned or great competitions happening at Stuffer Shack at the moment?

[TS] Great question.  I have a couple of things:

  1. Our site is all about making the game more fun.  In addition to all of the “Steal this…” ideas, we offer gaming accessories that we put together for our home-games.  Only the accessories that we love and use often are the ones that we offer on the site Store.  We do have a secret project in the works, and it’s the biggest addition to our Store as of yet.  I’m contemplating using Kickstarter, but either way, it’s coming.
  2. At Stuffer Shack, we like contests.  We also like free stuff.  So, we have plenty of contests in which we give away free stuff!  In a few months, we’re going to have a “Your Worst Villain” contest.  Basically, readers will submit a few paragraphs detailing a great villain.  It can be submitted for any role-playing game, and in any format.  What matters most is that the baddie be memorable… and bad.  The winners get free stuff, of course.
  3. And, we’re currently right in the middle of the 2nd annual RPG Site of the Year contest (2012 RPG SOTY).  Thirty-four RPG blogs have submitted their sites in the hopes of taking the prizes, SOTY Shield, and most importantly, the title.  Last year, Critical Hits won the contest, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the winner for this year.  In the end, though, the real purpose of this contest is to be able to throw an online party, and to give a bunch of great gaming blogs some extra exposure.


Thanks Tourq! I’ll be ordering my mounts soon.Rising Phoenix Games is in the running for the SOTY Shield so go and jump on stuffershack.com and vote. If you have a question for Tourq leave a comment below and I’ll be sure he gets it.

A Basket Full of Eggs

It’s Easter time, which for me means thinking back to the death and resurrection of Jesus, Easter Bunnies and chocolate eggs! So, how cool would it be if one of those eggs turned out to be a dragon egg? In this little adventure we explore that idea and provide you with a nice little campaign hook and some NPC ideas. I’ve tried to keep away from any specific rules in the hope that you can use this in any fantasy campaign with any rules set, but I have made references to rules from Dungeons and Dragons and similar games since most players will be familiar with those concepts. This is definitely for the GMs eyes only, players should go check out The Guild on YouTube, it’s great (but I warn you about Season 3, it was a little… iffy).

Dragon Figure Head

The Set-Up

The characters are approached by an old lady, half blind, who’s trying to sell some eggs to make some money. It’s clear from her appearance that she’s hard off. It’s also clear that not all of the eggs are hen’s eggs: one is much larger and has a dark, stone like shell. Give the characters a knowledge nature check or the equivalent skill check to spot that it’s indeed a dragon egg.


What to do with Mamma’s Kid

What the players decide to do next is up to them, but they may realize the need to return the egg to its home. A dragon can be mighty protective, after all. If the players need more convincing to take up the challenge of the egg you can have mommy dragon pay a visit to the village and tear down a few homes while the PC’s aren’t around. She knows that the egg is in town (she’s intelligent and has keen senses, she can figure it out) and just needs to find it. Eventually the characters should either decide they need to do something with the egg or face dire consequences.

The mother dragon should be a high level dragon, possibly a little too powerful for the characters to beat just yet. The players will want to either sneak the egg back into her lair or try to negotiate with her, but should be dissuaded from a straight attack strategy. Ideally you can use the dragon and her little family as recurring NPC’s that can be dealt with finally when the PC’s have reached a high enough level. Give the players knowledge history or knowledge local checks to recall information about the dragon, such as where her lair is and rumours surrounding how powerful she is. Finding the lair should be easy enough, and working through the network of caves and dungeons to get to her lair can be just as long as you want it to be. You could even use the quest to return the egg as a way to kick off the adventure from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box.


It’s Never That Easy

So, just how did the egg find its way into the village? Enter, stage left, the villainous tomb robber Felix Gred. Felix managed to sneak into the dragon’s lair (a heavy dose of luck more than skill) and remove the egg, hoping to use the egg to lure the dragon away from her treasure horde. Felix brought the egg back to the village, where he hid it in Madam Firth’s chicken coop.  It wasn’t the best hiding place, but he had realised that there was soon to be a dragon after him and he knew she was half blind. He figured she would mistake the egg for a stone, not a chicken egg, it was way too big. Now the egg is missing and he wants it back. Build Felix as a sneaky rogue with a high level of stealth, and have him follow the PC’s and attempt to steal the egg from them when they’re asleep or distracted. If he succeeds then it’s quite possible that the PC’s might find themselves standing in front of an angry dragon without the egg, or else needing to do more detective work to find the egg again.

Dragon Egg
"Mine mine mine mine mine!"



And Then…

This adventure hook can go many ways, but I think the nice thing about it is that you get a couple of NPC’s (Felix, Madam Firth and Mother Dragon) that can potentially see quite a bit of use. There’s no reason to kill Felix, he’s a thief, not a murder, and if anything he should be under lock and key. Madam Firth is a witless NPC that can cause all sorts of trouble without having an inkling of what’s happening. She might even prove useful to the PC’s, she has lived in the village her whole life and she’s eager to make some money. The dragon, on the other hand, is too powerful for the PC’s to deal with directly. They’ll need to be diplomatic in their dealings with her and try keep her happy.


That’s it for this Easter special. Give this adventure hook a try and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you. Also, if you write up stats for any of the NPC’s, for any system, why not share them here and we can all get some use out of them.


Feast of Fear – A Campaign Hook

If you’re a player and not a GM then this article may spoil some fun for you. How about playing through our free solo adventure, Sentinels Watching. If you’re a GM then let the awesome begin…

Marsh Light

The mist is thick and swirling, lit ominously from above by the full moon and from your own torches. The mist seems both to glow and envelop you. It’s a warm mist, but the marsh water is cold and the mud sucking, making your passage forward difficult. You’ve come in search of the menace that’s been making off with sheep from the local farms, but you didn’t think the marsh would hold you up for nearly a day. You had hoped to be on your way home already. Now, in the darkness, all you can do is keep heading towards where you last saw the hills, but honestly you’re no longer sure you’re headed in the right direction.
Suddenly a light appears from up ahead. A lantern signalling, but it’s hard to tell, and you can hear no voice. The mist is so dense, after all.

This little adventure hook should fit into any fantasy role-playing campaign nicely, whether your party is heading into a dungeon, travelling through wilderness or just wondering outside the city gates for the first time.

Continue reading Feast of Fear – A Campaign Hook

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