Tag Archives: D&D

A Love Affair With Deadly Solo Games

I strongly believe that gaming, or any geekdom, should be about people first. So then it might seem strange that I love solo games so much, particularly deadly ones. Solo games, like The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Zombie in my Pocket, or our own Choose Your Destiny Adventures, are a conversation — a dialogue between the designer and the player — of the most intimate nature.

Deadly solo games
Photo credit: Steve Halama

A solo game designer creates a puzzle for their players to solve.
The best designers get the difficulty balance right. They know their audience and create challenges that’ll push players to bring their best, without breaking them.

But how difficult should a game be?

Different Strokes

It varies. Solitaire’s three-card draw version is perfect for many players,  while others prefer the easier one-card draw version. It largely depends on your audience. Hard-core puzzle solvers want a challenge, other players just want to relax and take a load off. Still, make things too easy and players will pass through your game too quickly and have little reason to come back to it. If it’s too tough players will eventually give up and hate the game. The sweet spot, in my experience, is somewhere just before that: deadly.

Deadly and Desirable

The Dark Souls series taught us that a deadly challenge is memorable — even desirable. Of all the bazillion games out there, Dark Souls is the only one tempting my brother and I to buy a console. And a TV. And the game. I’ve literally watched hours of other people playing the game, and it still fascinates me.
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first in the Fighting Fantasy series, is famous for being difficult to beat, with only one true path through it. You’ll die plenty of times on your way to the warlock. I picked it up again recently because I’ve still not beaten it — and that’s enough to tempt me back again.

This is starting to have weird similarities with BDSM, and maybe there’s wisdom in that. The question then is, how difficult is too difficult?

A Step Too Far

A game gets too difficult if it’s unplayably hard, if the player bearly gets started before meeting a grizzly fate, or if multiple attempts result in little  or no progress. In a solo game, without a buddy for backup, it’s vital that the designer supports the player, so the rules need to be digestible and must provide the tools for beating the game.

We like a challenge, we don’t like getting the snot kicked out of us again and again.

When a designer nails the difficulty then the player feels respected, and that makes for a fun game that’s hard to forget — just like a good conversation.

Choose Your Destiny

Our Choose Your Destiny Adventures can surely prove deadly, and they’re a lot of fun, especially if you want to break out your fifth edition fantasy character and play for an evening. You can subscribe to the series on our Patreon page.

Death Queen  - A Deadly Solo Game
What’s more deadly than an adventure with “Death Queen” in the title?

Till next time, play good games!

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.

Getting Social with Social Classes for RPGs

Social classes and RPG classes are two very different things, but when they start to mix things can get really sticky very quickly. Just look at the barbarian in Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. Almost always represented as a class for tribal berzerkers, the class could just as easily be used to build an urban gladiator. Take it a step further: the berzerker could be the king of a tribe or a landless peasant.

Social Class in Action!
Photo by Lou Levit

Why’s this important? Social classes were an important aspect of the medieval age, and navigating social classes can make for interesting interactions at the table.

RPG Classes are Jobs

Think about RPG classes as jobs. As a first level fighter, you have some on-the-job training, and are on the path to learning more, through leveling. When you multi-class, you’re effectively learning two jobs.

Most RPGs I’ve played blur the lines here, and as you level you also rise in status. Effectively, the social class you’re born into has very little impact on a character unless the GM is using a specific system to represent it.

And Social Classes?

Each social class contains a number of jobs, similar to how you could be a cat burglar rogue, a bandit rogue, or an assassin rogue. Could you be a level 1 noble or a level 7 peasant?

The hierarchy of European feudal society goes something like this:

  1. The Church
  2. The Monarchy
  3. Nobles and Barons
  4. Knights
  5. Tradesmen
  6. Peasants

We can simplify this into three groups that are representative of the largest portion of the population:

  1. Those who prayed – the clergy.
  2. Those who fought – the knights.
  3. Those who worked – the peasantry.

Here’s my first attempt at defining each of these as RPG classes, compatible with the fifth edition SRD:

Clergy Class

As a member of the clergy, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per clergy level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (5) + your Constitution modifier per clergy level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: Light armor
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: Brewer’s supplies, calligrapher’s supplies, cartographer’s tools, or clerical supplies
Saving Throws: Wisdom, Charisma
Skills: Choose three from History, Investigation, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion, Religion, and Literacy (yip, Literacy is now a skill)

Knight Class

As a knight, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d10 per knight level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (6) + your Constitution modifier per knight level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: All armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons
Tools: None
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Skills: Choose two from Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Perception, Religion, Stealth, and Survival

Peasant Class

As a peasant, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per peasant level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (5) + your Constitution modifier per peasant level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: Light armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: Carpenter’s tools, cobbler’s tools, cook’s utensils, glassblower’s tools, leatherworker’s tools, mason’s tools, potter’s tools, smith’s tools, weaver’s tools, or woodcarver’s tools
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Skills: Choose two from Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Performance, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and Survival

Design Notes

The clergy class is quite similar to the cleric and the knight to the paladin, for obvious reasons. I figured the clergy would have a d8 Hit Die, representing their better living conditions. Peasants get a d8 for being hardy, but a d6 Hit Die could also make a lot of sense.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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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!

The Manual of Masks

Masks are eery and mysterious — even a “funny” mask can seem ominous and threatening. Masks can represent a culture or tell a story — there’s so much to these objects that can inspire your game, and that inspired me to write the Manual of Masks, a supplement for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, now available on the DMs Guild.

Manual of Masks Cover Preview

Recently I gave you a sneak peek at two of the player options featured in the book. The Manual of Masks also includes new adventuring gear, including the alchemist’s mask, armored hoods, and the infamous iron mask. There are also rules for headshots, called shots, and hit locations. Rounding everything off are 12 new magical masks.

Manual of Masks Layout 1

M.T. Black, a best selling creator on the DMs Guild, called the book “Very creative and well written. There is something in this little supplement for everyone!”

The book is $1.25 on the DMs Guild.

Buy the Manual of Masks

Future Plans

I’ve already started work on the next 10 pages of the book, and the plan is to upgrade it later in the year. The update will likely include a section on Mask, the god of thieves, some cursed masks (so much fun to be had!) and some mask related adventure seeds. I’d love to add more class options, so featuring Mask will be a great way to offer more options for the cleric class.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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

Your RPG Resolutions for an Awesome 2018

What are your RPG resolutions for 2018?

How was 2017?
Even if you didn’t achieve everything you set out to do, don’t lose heart. These last few days of 2017 have taught me that success in anything is about chipping away until you achieve your goal.
One day you’ll get there, or, as the Dead Man Fall song Bang Your Drum goes, “keep banging on your drum, and your day will come.”

Rising Phoenix Games was born on New Year’s Eve, 2010. This year, 2017, saw us cranking up the heat, and publishing more titles than ever before. The plan is to burn hotter in 2018, and we’ve got some great things planned.

Your RPG Resolutions for Better Adventures

I asked Twitter friends for their New Year’s RPG Resolutions. Here are some of the answers I got.

Make Your RPG Resolutions Today

My 2018 RPG Resolutions are straight forward:

  1. GM more one-shots and demo games.
  2. Run a Stranger Things game with the vs. Stranger Stuff rules.
  3. Up my ability to run fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons.
  4. Buy Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play 4th Ed. Convince my friends that it’s awesome.

If you’re a GM, then you’ll probably have similar goals.
For players, your goals might be to play you character better, or to contribute more to the fun at the table. If so, I recommend the excellent Player’s Companion, just released on the DM’s Guild.

The Player's Companion Will Help You Achieve Your RPG Resolutions
The Player’s Companion Will Help You Achieve Your RPG Resolutions
A Ton of Player Options — Helpful For Achieving Your RPG Resolutions
A Ton of Player Options

Besides a ton of character options, the book provides excellent advice on playing your character, and on combat tactics. Included in the Better Gaming chapter is a section on action economy, which I’d never considered before but made a huge impact on how I play.

Excellent Advice — Up Your Game in 2018
Excellent Advice — Up Your Game in 2018

So, what are your RPG Resolutions for 2018? Share yours in the comments below — making your intentions public is a great first step to achieving them.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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

Take on the Death Queen

No GM? No Problem!

From the creator of Lunatic Labyrinth comes a new solo adventure, the first in a series of solo adventures revolving around Scarthey, the University of the Arcane.

The Stone of Ashirai—said to contain power over life itself—is rumored to lie within the tomb of the goddess Ashirai, the Death Queen. Can you be the first to reach her tomb, find the stone, and survive to tell the tale?Death Queen and the Life Stone cover

Get Death Queen & the Life Stone on Drive Thru RPG

 

Character Class: Cleric or Fighter
Character Level: 1st
Play Mode: Solo / 1-on-1
System: fifth edition fantasy
SettingScarthey, the University of the Arcane


Till next time, Tell Thrilling Tales
Rodney Sloan and Bob Storrar
Rising Phoenix Games

5 Tricks for Perfect Portals

This months blog carnival is about gates and portals, the jam to fantasy roleplay’s bread and butter. Let’s throw it open and jump right in!

1. Build Drama

Gates and portals build drama because they have potential. Something behind the lock is forbidden, and by putting a door in the PCs way you’ve wrapped a big pink bow around it. Make sure that whatever is behind the door doesn’t waste that built up tension. When a door is unlocked, the plot should advance.

2. A Level-Up Reward

In the same way, a door can be a prize. If the DC to open a door is too high for the party now, or they need a key, it lets them know that they’ll be coming back later. Give them a hint of what’s behind it to really wet their appetites.

3. A Gate to a New World

Did you ever watch Stargate? I love the idea of stepping into another world. Portals give you limitless options, so use that to really shake things up. Don’t just send the party off to a hotter climate, send them to a different planet where they can truly discover the meaning of the word “alien”.

4. Change it Up

Forget iron-bound doors around every corner. Change it up!
What would a door to the fey realm look like? Would it have wings? Would an earth elemental even bother with doors, or just shape the earth around itself?
What if a door was the reanimated skull of a long dead monster, all too happy to open up wide?

5. The Door is the Journey

Everything comes together when you make the door as much a part of your story as the main NPC or boss monster. Stargate did it well, so here’s a clip.

Remember, every door is a chance to tell a story, so tell thrilling tales.

Fantasy is full of memorable doors and portals. Do you have a favorite? Or one from a campaign? Please tell us about it in the comments.

Dwarves Rule

I’m overly fond of the little guys, although I’d never use the word “little” to a dwarfs face. I love everything about the bearded warriors. Their lore, their grim nature, … their beards. I guess I’m part grumpy dwarf me-self.

Recently, I’ve been watching the excellent Vikings series. In one episode, I believe the first, one character says to another “we’ll be as rich as dwarves.” That struck me as a veritable gold mine, excuse the obvious pun, for a dwarf related blog post, so here we are.

Dwarf by armandeo64
by armandeo64

Dwarven PCs are often portrayed as greedy, but there’s no RPG I’m familiar with where they are actually rich. There’s an obvious reason for this: game balance. You simply don’t want every dwarf to be running around with better weapons than everyone else in the party. Or do you?

Imagine a world where dwarves generally are much richer than your average human, elf or halfling. You can bet that every inn, blacksmith and brothel is going to charge our squat friends a much higher rate for their wears. And then we have the all too commonplace issue of thievery. An escalation in the cutting of dwarven purses leads to more heavily armed dwarves (if that’s even possible), which leads to a veritable arms race. No wonder dwarves are reclusive.

But there’s a shiny side to every coin, and you can bet it would be dwarves who organise the best expeditions to the most wondrous locations, along with the best send-off parties (with the best beer) and the best victory banquets. It is, after all, the excentric rich guy who usually blows his money on the absurd adventures (cough cough Brandson cough cough Musk).

Got any ideas for rich dwarves in your campaign?

(See what I did, I called the post “Dwarves Rule”, when I’m actually talking about rules for dwarves. Sneaky little hobbitses.)

Dungeons and Dragons Set Free

Wizards of the Coast announced yesterday that they will be releasing Basic Dungeons and Dragons, a PDF rulebook that…

“…runs from levels 1 to 20 and covers the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, presenting what we view as the essential subclass for each. It also provides the dwarf, elf, halfling, and human as race options.”

The PDF is also free!

Wow, some interesting things to come. I can’t wait!

 
Dungeons & Dragons Classics

Why I’m Hopeful About DnD Next

I’m sure many folk out there think I’m a huge D&D fan, so I want to preface this post by saying: “No”. In fact, I only got into D&D recently, having grown up on Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play and World of Darkness. I started playing 3.5 right around the time 4e came out and then got quite seriously into the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. I’ve generally found D&D to be bland, not near as interesting as the Warhammer World or the World of Darkness setting.

And yet, I think D&D Next will be a good thing.

Next will surely bring in new blood. Kids that were too young to play 4e are now older, and students who missed 4e have a chance to be excited about something new. Also, here’s another chance for Wizards of the Coast (WotC) to entice more of the “old school” back to the table.

If you haven’t played the D&D Adventure System boardgames yet then you’re missing out. They have a rightful reputation in board gaming circles as a top dungeon crawl. I think WotC learnt loads from the Adventure System and the Next play tests. I’ll wager that will mean a great starter set, one that could even include miniatures and modular dungeons, while being tailored to new players. Consider what WotC have learn’t from their Red Box and the Pathfinder Beginner Box. This product will be a key to the growth of Next. If they do it well enough, they might even manage to sell it to experienced role-players.

A new rules set also means more miniatures. Let’s look at another WotC product; Dungeon Command. Having played a few games and having played Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures before that, I think WotC is heading in the right direction. Buy a themed army of twelve figures: goblins, orcs, undead, drow or heroes, then use them in any one of three games; DC, AS or regular role-play. You could run a campaign off a box alone! I’m hoping Dungeon Command will see more support and smaller boosters, which tie in with Next and the Adventure System. That sort of marketing can only boost sales. However, Wizards announced this month that they are partnering with WizKids to bring the next line of D&D miniatures, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Now, I haven’t talked about Next‘s mechanics, and I’m not going to. Inevitably there will be folk who love it or love to hate it. It’s just one more system in a sea of countless fantasy RPGs. Can it be ground-breaking while remaining true to the D&D legacy? Probably not. But maybe D&D Next doesn’t need to be ground-breaking. Maybe the magic is in the marketing.

Dungeons & Dragons Classics