Tag Archives: Dungeons and Dragons

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

March Madness

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What a month.
I’ve got this personal vendetta against distraction, but March had me against the ropes.
Getting sick is no fun, but I did learn a lot from it.

For one, working in the games industry means I get to help others relax, have fun, and spend time with friends. March showed me just how important that can be — there were some bleak moments when escaping into game and time with gaming friends was very uplifting.

Secondly, I recommitted myself to the three pillars of my work:

  1. Coding
  2. Game design
  3. Writing

Eventually I’d like to be doing what I do for the tabletop for online games. The coding side has been something I haven’t given proper time to of late, but you can expect some interesting things from me in the future.

 

New Products — Contagion’s Kiss

“O true apothecary, thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.”
— Romeo, in Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Contagion's Kiss CoverWhen the city’s water supply is threatened by extortionists, the heroes are called on to infiltrate the fortress of a powerful outsider. Can they get in, get even, and get out, before it’s too late?

Contagion’s Kiss is an adventure for a party of 4th level characters. It can be used in any fantasy city or town where wells or cisterns are the main source of water. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game GameMastery Guide and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary are required for play. This adventure includes creatures detailed in Chilling Curiosities — A Field Guide.

This adventure includes a full scale, printable poster sized map of the adventure.

Chilling Curiosities is available on Paizo and the Open Gaming Store.

 

In the Works

We’ve been hard at work on a number of products. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Today I handed over the final draft to Bob Greyvenstein for layout for our new setting, Scarthey, which our Field Guides are a part of. More on this soon.
  • Also for Scarthey we’ve got a bunch of adventures in the works, from both new and experienced writers. I’ll talk about that, too, soon.
  • We received the final draft for a new, fast paced modern spec ops game by Basil Koufos, designer of Might. We’re very excited to be publishing his latest creation and absolutely love the system and all that it stands for.
  • The Nightscape RPG for the Nightscape Series and Imperiad Entertainment is off to a good start. We’ve defined much of the core mechanics and have some interesting things we’re looking forward to trying.
  • Steampunk Musha rolls on with a number of books in and out of editing. As the line editor I’ve been learning a lot from the talented individuals who make up the team at Fat Goblin Games — they’ve got some great stuff in the works.
  • I did some editing work for best selling Dungeon Master’s Guild author M.T. Black. If you’re a Dungeons and Dragons fan then check out his great collection of adventures, such as the Complete Adventures of M.T. Black Vol. I.

So all in all, a great month.

 

March 21st

On a more sombre note, March 21st is Human Rights Day in South Africa, a day of remembrance for the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 and the suffering caused during the Apartheid era.
To me, the most important thing is remembering that we all share this planet. We all have a right to life, dignity, and respect. Let us all strive for mutual understanding — therein lies peace and happiness for all.

Photo credit: Redd Angelo
Photo credit: Redd Angelo

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.

New D&D Covers

I just came across the new D&D covers. WOW. Wizards really went all out on the art! The covers are iconic Dungeons and Dragons; a lich, a beholder, and so many dragons! I love it!

It’s interesting that the Player’s Handbook cover doesn’t focus more on player races. That said, all the covers take a “heroes eye view” of the action (with a focus on the monster). I’m sure that will appeal to players imaginations.

Click on the image to go to the respective Amazon pages.

 

Have any thoughts on the covers? Leave a comment and let us know.

NPC Strategy Sheets

By far one of our most popular free downloads, NPC Strategy Cards are a useful tool for any GM. They are especially tailored to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and 4th Ed.

NPC Strategy Cards Book Cover
NPC Strategy Cards Book Cover

Using Strategy Cards

Before a session, look at your monsters and NPCs. Fill out a card for each. If you have 6 orcs with the same tactics, you don’t need 6 cards for them, just one for the group.
Use this writing time to plan how each monster will react to different actions from the players. Do they flee when they’re badly wounded, or stay and fight to the death? Do they rush into the melee, or take up bows and attack from a distance? Make your choices and write them down.

These cards are a handy reference during play, just look at the card to see how the NPC reacts. They’re also useful after play as a handy record for recapping the last session.

Grab your free cards here and go crush those heroes!

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

Writing up a storm

It has been a busy month writing wise, it’s National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short and I’ve been plugging away at my first novel. The reason I’m telling you this is because I’m learning loads about writing that I think will extend to preparing good sessions for your players.

Make Notes

I have a tendency to put words down without thinking about what I’m actually saying. It’s not a good plan. Make notes and plan out everything, even if the planning is where you leave things. And let’s face it, planning is all you need. Good GM’s have a good outline, even if that’s all kept in their heads.

Keep it all

Don’t throw your ideas away, you can often rework something to use later. Some of my favorite scenes so far have been from my own noted that I reworked as dialogue into the text.

Cut the boring stuff

Don’t force the characters to work through boring stuff.

Keep on keeping on

You might have a lot of prep to do and a load of things waiting. Do what you can when you can.

Have fun

If you’re not enjoying it then your players probably won’t. Take a break or change things up to keep it fun.

Do you have any thoughts? Share them below.

Icon 2011 – A Brief Glimps

Already almost a week in the past, Icon 2011 was loads of fun. I only managed the Friday, but there were plenty of familiar faces and I got to try my hand at convention level Magic The Gathering for the first time.

 

Magic

I’ve played Magic on and off since high school, and I was a little worried that I’d be up against serious players that were years younger than me, but those expectations were thankfully shattered. We played booster draft and although I only won two rounds, everyone I played was super friendly and each game a load of fun. I’d guess that most of the guys (and they were all guys) were between the ages of 20 and 35 or so, and more than patient when it came to questions about the rules. If I learnt anything playing at Icon it was that you just need to go and play, don’t make assumptions about other players, rather go and have fun.

 

Role-Playing

Positive feedback on my module, Storm of Souls, which ran in the morning. I didn’t watch any of the role-playing or get involved beyond writing my module, but judging by the number of people around on a Friday I’d say that role-playing games are a great reason to take leave, or that role-players are generally unemployed.

I managed to score some of the controversial D&D Fortune Cards (3 boosters in total of Shadow Over Nentir Vale) and must say I don’t think they are as bad as everyone feared. Firstly, you only need one booster to use them in your game, so 6 boosters will cover a party of 6 players. You can then build a deck with as little as 10 cards (there are 8 in a booster), allowing you to customise your deck to suit your characters fighting style and strengths. I haven’t played with the cards yet, but the advantage to the player is pretty small, considering that you only ever have one card in your hand at a time per turn. To me the main advantage (to the GM as well) is that players will probably tighten up their tactics to maximize the effects of the cards, which means faster combats. My main criticism is that only the rare cards have proper illustrations on them, which I think is sad coming from a company that produces games like Magic the Gathering. Secondly, I picked up 3 swaps in my boosters, which will make me less likely to buy these cards again, unless I find someone who’s willing to trade or the cards see a lot of use at the table. Still, I’m excited about seeing my deck work at the table, and I’ll let you know when I give it a test run.

 

Comics

I went to my first ever Icon looking for Spider-Man comics, and won a door sized Mary Jane poster because of it. I was also introduced to Warhammer 40,000, which led to role-playing games, so comics for me will always be where it all began. Comic books are still well represented at Icon, and if I had had more time and money I would have filled out my X-Force collection, or my Amazing Spider-Man collection, or my… well, you get the picture.

 

Warhammer and Warhammer 40K

I got a lift to the Con from a friend who was just bitten by the Warhammer bug, but unfortunately there was no action on Friday except for a demo game of Warmachine, which seems to be hugely popular. I must say though that, after spending a week packing up my home, Warhammer is one of the most difficult hobbies to cart around. It’s almost like being the logistics guy for your own horde of Orks (in my case), and is likely to end up with more than a handful of carefully painted miniatures hitting hard floor at one time or another and a huge load of stress, so I don’t blame them for not showing up on the Friday.

 

LARP

Big things are happening in the LARP world, and I’ll leave that for another post, save to say that you need to give it a try. The LARPers are great people and LARPing in South Africa is growing stronger all the time.

 

If you were at ICON 2011 let me know what you got up to, leave a comment and share your experience.

Magic – World Mechanics and Story Device

This week saw the premier of the final Harry Potter movie and the launch party for Magic the Gatherings 12th edition. It’s almost like magic is everywhere, and really, it is at the very core of the fantasy genre. Magic is an integral part of fantasy and fantasy gaming, from magical creatures to spells and worlds formed by raw magical energy. In this article I’ll look at magic in terms of world mechanics and as a story device.

 

Defining Magic

I could look specifically at magic in this article, but then write a similar article on mutation and super powers that wouldn’t add anything new. Rather, let’s group magic, super powers, psionics, amazing technology and everything else that is “abnormal” and call them “world mechanics”. I’m using broad strokes here, but let me explain. Mouse Guard is a game (and comic) with little magic. Mice can talk, but they possess no powers as such or magical artefacts. Mouse Guard’s “world mechanics” are interesting because we can play as mice in a world terrifying to mice. Dungeons and Dragons, on the other hand, lets us use magic to fight magical creatures, and we can become powerful beings that can take on terrifying dragons through the levelling up mechanic. If you think about it, levelling is a type of magic, you would never gain such abilities in real life even with dedicated training. Thus the world mechanics for D&D represent a world that is full of magic. So, I’m going to use “world mechanics” and “magic” interchangeably in this article.

 

Magic has Boundaries

Magic needs to have boundaries, without these boundaries players will feel cheated and confused. Can my wizard become invisible if he casts an invisibility spell? Boundaries (rules) set this out for you. The boundaries then, like I said above, define the world at the same time. Frodo’s ring had power to corrupt, so we understand that in The Lord of the Rings magical items may have a risk involved when they are used.

 

Magic breaks Boundaries

Firstly, as a story element, magic breaks boundaries. Magic lets your characters and NPC’s do things that they would not normally be able to do in the real world. Flight, as an obvious example, is only possible through magic. Because of this, you need to think outside of reality and be creative when designing your sessions and include encounters and NPC’s that bring the reality of the game world into focus and let the players experience that world. It’s no good running a fantasy game where everything is normal by everyday terms, and I’d argue that a normal day even in terms of your fantasy world would be too boring for your players, but there needs to be an obvious difference between the two worlds. A note of caution though, sometimes subtlety really pays of with regards to the differences in your fantasy world and our own, you do want it to all be believable in some way.

Furthermore, magic gives you a reason to break the mould with you game, within reason. In a recent game I introduced a series of earth-nodes that needed to be used in sequence, and did not let players move as they wished between the nodes. I explained this difference as a consequence of the spell plague, which the players were happy with and I could then stagger encounters out between the different nodes. Because magic and the mechanics of your game world represent the weird and wonderful, take inspiration from the setting and let your creativity flow.

 

Magic is often Limited

Magic has its limits, which is important to remember. If any world mechanic is limitless, it becomes worthless in a way. If everyone can fly, you will need ways to cut that ability at some point and you need to work out the repercussions of giving everyone such an ability. In my opinion, magic becomes more interesting if there is less of it. In the Lord of the Rings, there are only a handful of magical users, which makes characters like Gandalf and Saruman stand out amongst the rest, magic is thus strange and valuable.

Potter Fans at the Premier
Potter Fans at the Premier

At the end of the day magic represents a great device for telling the stories we love, that’s why so many people fell in love with the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings and so many other fantasy stories. Use magic well and your games will be that much more interesting and captivating.

 

If you watched the last Harry Potter, or played MtG during the release party or have any other thoughts about magic, leave a comment. Let’s talk geek 🙂