Category Archives: General

Party Up: Friends vs Monsters, and Life

Do you ever feel alone? Do you feel like the world’s too much, and it’s banging on the door, trying to get you? I sometimes feel that way.

When that happens, it’s a struggle to stop my gloom-and-doom thought train and change my perspective. Recently, it was my RPG publisher friends who helped me see things differently. So, I want to talk about those friends and I want to give you a light to hold onto when things get rough.

When the Going Gets Tough, Collaborate

I reached out to a few indie RPG developers and asked if they’d join me on a bundle. The Hidden Indie RPG Treasures Bundle is available on DriveThruRPG, right now, until the end of February. I’m mentioning it now and again at the end of this post only, so the marketing is clear for you to see. Anyway, I had a great response from those friends and we made a neat little collection of indie RPG games.

I’m mentioning the collaboration because it provided a healthy change of perspective.

Toughen Up, RPG Creator

The perspective I’ve had for a long time is a warped idea of what success in the industry means. You can’t get a true sense of where you stand in the industry without friends to help you gauge it.

It’s important to understand the context here. Many of us do what we do with limited resources. We use our free time, our own money, and our sweat equity to make games. We’re passionate about the hobby, and that drives us. But it’s hard competing against bigger companies like Wizards of the Coast for those RPG dollars. If you don’t have a hit RPG title or a large social media presence, then it’s hard to get eyes on your work. Even professional, high-quality work can be ignored. Burnout is a real threat because of that. We work hard but don’t always see recognition for that effort. It can become a depressing, black hole.

Anybody, no matter what they do, might be a step away from that deep, dark abyss. Watch the news, suffer a string of bad luck, get hit with unexpected financial pressure, and the cracks start to show. Part of the issue is a false sense of the truth. Essentially, thinking we’re not good enough is a result of a foggy perception of reality.

Reaching out is incredibly hard for me to do. I’m a busy introvert. I spend a lot of time chatting with friends online, but these interactions are often superficial. The medium is restrictive. Those conversations seldom touch base with reality. That changes when friends are struggling with the same thing, like how to market an indie RPG bundle. Working together, we challenged our perceptions. We could better perceive the truth, but only together.

Perspective

I realized that Rising Phoenix wasn’t as insignificant as I thought we were. We could help guys with a handful of titles because we have a bucket-load of titles. We also saw how each effort brought in a few extra sales. Without data (or friends with experience) it’s hard to anticipate what sort of sales we might get, which leads to frustration if those sales seem lower than we hoped for.

There’s a Biblical aspect to this worth considering. In Galatians 6 verse 2 (that’s in the New International Version for this and the rest), Paul says: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” If you draw this back to Jesus’s words of “love one another” (John 13:34) and then further back to the 10 Commandments’ “Love your neighbour” (Leviticus 19:18) then it’s clear: we should help people.

I have no scientific research confirming what we gain from helping others, but my experience has been that it’s good to step into a leaking boat with someone. Struggling together sharpens a person and helps us see the same problem from different sides.

I’m just a dude trying to make great games and figure out this crazy thing called life, and those are my two cents. I hope it’s a useful idea for you to think about.

The Hidden Indie RPG Treasures Bundle

Now, let’s talk about that bundle one last time. Our goal is to make 50 sales. That boosts overall sales since customers are more likely to buy a best-selling title, and 50 sales gives you a Copper Best-Seller badge. With roughly nine days left, we currently need another 31 sales to hit that goal. Please consider telling a friend about the bundle. Ask them to tell their friends about it too. That’ll help us in the greatest way possible.

Here’s a copy of Road to Rhune, at rogue prices (free), to help you get the bundle even cheaper.

Get the Hidden Indie RPG Treasures Bundle on DriveThruRPG today. Sale ends end of Feb.

Banner: Welcome to the Wasteland! Fallout the Roleplaying Game from Modiphius Entertainment available @ DriveThruRPG.com

Is AI Art Killing the TTRPG Industry?

What’s up? We’re in the final stretch of 2023, and it feels like the year is about to slip by way too soon. What a busy year! Wizards of the Coast kept things interesting, a new version of Pathfinder dropped, and then AI tools further divided the community.

We have several projects ongoing, and the evolution of our process has some interesting insights into how AI tools are changing the TTRPG industry. For example, I used AI art tools to colour and detail my monsters. First, I’d draw them in pencil and ink them. Then I’d colour them in Photoshop. I’d run this through a few AI generations. These I’d then composite with Photoshop.

An intelligent tool, turning mediocre art into something evocative. The process worked and I felt that it wasn’t the same copout as generating images from scratch. Are artists losing out with this process? I don’t think so. I still pay for art when it makes sense, and there’s still a lot of drawing being done. If anything, the process has helped me compete with the competition that can afford good art.

The above image is AI art, and I think it’s obvious that the technology is improving. Less obvious is how the artist is still important. I love The Simpsons, and part of the charm of the series is the deformed art style. Flaws, it turns out, are beautiful. I don’t mean weird fingers and third legs. Put another way, the craftsmanship is a thing of art. This is ultimately why every artist owes it to themselves to keep working at their craft. Even when it looks like the machines are taking over.

What I’m Playing

Years ago I bought the physical Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game, but I now play the Steam version. The game has terrible achievements and no support, so some of the achievements are impossible to achieve. Still, it’s a fun solo card game that scratches my Magic: the Gathering itch.

Strange Brigade Screen Shot

I recently picked up Strange Brigade, which is a lot of fun with friends. If you love action archeology as much as I do, then this one is for you.

What I’m Listening To

My song for Christmas is Children 18:3’s “Bethlehem”. The Christmas message is for everyone, no matter what you believe. It isn’t true if it isn’t.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of ska music, and that, right now, means The Interrupters. Their music will build anyone back up.

Sometimes when you’re low
You gotta kiss the ground

What are your thoughts on AI art and AI tools? Tell us in the comments below.

Related Tabletop News

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Christmas is around the corner. Here are five tips for saving money on Pokémon cards this festive season.

RPG Advent Social Media Covers 4

The RPG Advent bundle has 25 products for only $24. It’s even cheaper if you already own some of the books (and you probably do). It’s a great chance to build your collection.

Our Goblin Spy Reveals Santa’s RPG Advent Bundle!

Greetings, fellow goblin adventurers! Gather ’round, for I, Snozgrot the Stealthy, have just returned from the heart of Santa’s secret workshop with jaw-dropping news! Prepare yourselves for an epic treasure trove of tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs) with the RPG Advent bundle! You don’t want to miss it.

A Peek Inside the Stocking:

In my daring mission through the snowy north, I discovered a hidden treasure trove that would make even the most stoic dwarf break into a jig. Santa, it seems, is not just crafting toys for the good little humans — he’s been secretly working on a magical bundle of 24 TTRPG products! And get this, my fellow goblins and goblinettes, you can snag this treasure trove for a mere $24! Yes, you heard that right, just one shiny gold coin for a bundle worth over $150!

Unveiling The Mysteries:

The bundle is shrouded in mystery, much like the wonder of reading (I kidnapped an elf and made him write this post). What I can share with you, however, is that these treasures include rulebooks, adventures, maps, and tools crafted by the finest TTRPG creators in the universe. Old Santa has truly outdone himself.

What’s In the Bundle:

Santa’s elves have collected 24 TTRPG products* to excite every little goblin. Yes, it’s even more exciting than playing with fire!

Player and GM Options: Looking for more ways to build the characters you want to play? We’ve got several titles covering a variety of games, including Dath (New Race), Monstrous Personas, Archetypes of the Ages: Dragons (5e), ARMR Studios Compendium – 2015, Black Powder Rebellion – Firearms and Historical Campaigns (PF2), Pocket Lint, Light Loot & Tiny Treasures, and The Book of Many Things Volume 2: Shattered Worlds. These titles cover a wide array of games, so you’ll have a wealth of options to mine.

RPG Advent Social Media Covers 1

System Hacks and Expansions: If you love playing new games with familiar systems, then check out The Ruin 5th ed RPG or Ghost Ops Second Strike – 5th ed.

RPG Advent Social Media Covers 2

Indie Games: If you’re looking for innovation and creativity, then indie games have it in spades. The RPG Advent bundle has many indie TTRPG titles, including Big Eyes Small Brains, Bullet, Camp Karate, How to Plan a Murder, KARMA: A Roleplaying Game About Consequences, Onyx Sky, Samurai Androids, Something Wicked, Static Dawn, Teenage Mutant Dirtbags: A Roleplaying Game and Hero Kids – Fantasy RPG.

Impressive!

RPG Advent Social Media Covers 3

Adventures and Maps: My library of maps and adventures always has room to expand. The bundle has several stunning additions in this category, including Time Is of the Essence (A New Year’s Eve Adventure), Bokafesh’s Never Ending Dungeon, Santa Claus CRUSHES the Martians, and Ships: Terran Frigate.

RPG Advent Social Media Covers 4

This bundle looks set to include something for everyone, all for the cost of a modest goblin hoard of $24.

Genres Under the Christmas:

Santa’s workshop brings gifts from every dimension! Dive into the realms of high fantasy, traverse futuristic landscapes, or explore the shadowy corners of post-apocalyptic tent markets – this bundle spans genres, ensuring there’s something for every adventurer’s taste. It’s like a digital bag of holding filled with possibilities!

Limited Time Offer:

The stars align for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Santa’s bundle is available from December 1st until Christmas only! Gather your party, summon your familiar, and don’t miss out on the chance to acquire this legendary collection. Whether you’re a seasoned dungeon master or a curious newcomer, this bundle gives you 24 products, so you can enjoy one for each day of Advent, and for months to come.

But How Do I Snag the Bundle?:

Santa’s elves aren’t done yet, but you can claim your bundle from the first of December, from Drive-Thru RPG. Trust me, this is a deal you won’t want to miss. ‘Tis the season for epic tales and unforgettable quests, and Santa’s got your back!

 

So, fellow adventurers, let the word spread like wildfire across the realms – Santa’s Advent RPG bundle is the ultimate gift for TTRPG enthusiasts! Unleash your imagination, roll those dice, and embark on an RPG journey of a lifetime with this magical collection. Don’t let this slippery opportunity slip through your buttery fingers!

Happy gaming!

Buying on Itch? We’ve got a bundle running right now.

* Note that the books in the bundle may change. We don’t think they will, but we’re just covering our butts in case it does.



Ectoplasmic Elemental: an Avatar of Undeath

Tombstones rip out of the ground, then twist through the air, trailing green flame. Out of the ethereal vortex rises an ectoplasmic elemental that screams through the dislocated skull of a long-dead giant.

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Cleanup on aisle nine! We’re back to ectoplasm again, and there’s a lot of it.

Ghostbusters News on Twitter: "Alright, who stained the ...
(Image source)

Eeek, an Ectoplasm Elemental!

Tombstones rip out of the ground, then twist through the air, trailing green flame. Out of the ethereal vortex rises an ectoplasmic hulk that screams through the dislocated skull of a long dead giant.

Ectoplasmic elementals are the focus of powerful necromantic energies that draw in souls, creating a towering avatar of soul-matter, or ectoplasm. Such a creature is the essence of unlife, raw necrotic energy so powerful that it leeches the souls of the living nearby.

Battlefields and mass graves might provide the raw material for an ectoplasmic elemental to materialize, but it requires a dark ritual or grim series of events to initiate the process. This event cuts off the souls’ path to the afterlife, locking the souls on the Material Plane. Forced to manifest in some form, these souls might take on any of a myriad of ghostly forms. However, if the concentration of ectoplasm is strong enough, then an ectoplasmic elemental is likely to form.

Ectoplasmic Elemental stat block

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Ectoplasmic elementals are brutes, built for close combat. If you’re looking for something to support them, look for good ranged options, or keep the ranged characters in the party busy with some ectoplasmic swarms. Tight dungeons can also cut down on line of sight, and let your avatar of undeath deal with a few characters at a time.

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Festrog — A CR 4 Undead for D&D 5e

Bounding on long, scabrous gray limbs, this creature looks like a twisted, reanimated corpse with glowing white eyes. The festrog is a CR 4 Undead that hunts in packs and loves to terrorize its prey.

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Over these three weeks, we’ve got three undead creatures, two of which are themed around ectoplasm. The festrog, though, is type of ghoul, making it a perfect addition to encounters with ghasts, ghouls, or other festrogs.

Festrogs: Fast, Festering Hunters

Hundreds of tiny green flames surge forward, each clawing the air with flickering fingers.

Bounding on long, scabrous gray limbs, this creature looks like a twisted, reanimated corpse with glowing white eyes.

Festrogs are bestial ghouls, created when a corpse is desecrated or embued with terrifying amounts of negative energy. Although their basic anatomy is humanoid, festrogs run on all fours, using their elongated limbs to make loping strides. Festrogs are also known as rotdogs and zombie dogs, though they aren’t zombies at all.

Terrible circumstances spawn every festrog, and the hurt and horror that birthed them fuels their unlife. This is best seen in how Festrogs, which are skilled pack hunters, toy with their prey. Often they will separate one creature from its group, injure it, then harry it for days until it finally dies of exhaustion. The pack then mutilates the corpse too, a torment that is often enough to raise the unfortunate creature as a festrog itself.

Festrogs are not natural swimmers, but their doggedness means they’ll pursue prey even through the darkest depths. Sometimes merfolk corpses become festrogs, and these are powerful swimmers with tails lines with protruding bone.

 

Festrog a CR 4 Undead for D&D 5e

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Festrogs are all about mobility and speed. Think undead velociraptors.

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Flaming Ectoplasmic Swarm for D&D 5e

Hundreds of tiny green flames surge forward, each clawing the air with flickering fingers. Add this CR 3 undead incorporeal ectoplasmic swarm to your next adventure to challenge your players.

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Over the next three weeks, we’ve got three undead creatures, two of which are themed around ectoplasm. Ectoplasm might be described as life-essence, a residue left by creatures that have crossed between the Mortal Realm and the Realm of Death. Slimer from Ghostbusters is the best example of an ectoplasmic creature from popular culture. That slime is pure ectoplasm.

Eery Ectoplasmic Swarm Fiends

Hundreds of tiny green flames surge forward, each clawing the air with flickering fingers.

Ectoplasmic swarms appear as green flames, with darker flames within that seem to function as eyes and mouths. Their shape is roughly humanoid, with legs and arms ending in flickering claws. Besides these features, they are otherwise featureless and transparent.

Necromancy is usually at the root of an ectoplasmic swarm’s appearance, though they can form wherever a large concentration of departed souls is present. Although tiny, swarms of these flamelike creatures can quickly suck the life out of the living.

Animated ectoplasm seeks to devour souls, which sustain it and gives it a collective memory drawn from all the lives it has consumed. Drawing information out of the ectoplasm, usually through a seance, is difficult because of the mob of souls present. However, if the paranormalist can bring order to the discord, the souls can provide many insights from their collective memory.

 

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Ectoplasmic swarms are tough to kill because they’re incorporeal and have the normal resistances of a swarm. Give your players access to holy water and a chance to figure out the swarm’s weakness, otherwise this could be a tough slog.

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The Arcanshard, a CR 2 D&D Monster

A chunk of stone shakes, then flips over. Flames of green arcane energy burst forth from the enchanted stone, forming legs, arms holding spectral weapons, and a flickering head. The arcanshard is ready to do battle with those who dare disturb the sanctity of the dungeon.

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At the start of the month, we introduced the Awakened Arcane Obelisk. Then, last week, we added the Crackling Column. Today we meet their smallest relative, the Arcanshard. All of these monsters are formed from the corruption or destruction of an Arcane Obelisk, a monument of magic!

An Arcanchip off the Old Block

A chunk of stone shakes, then flips over. Flames of green arcane energy burst forth from the enchanted stone, forming legs, spectral weapons held in flaming hands, and a flickering head.

Arcanshards are chunks of stone animated by arcane energy. This same energy protects them, though destroying their stone bodies dissipates the energy held within. Most arcanshards are the fractured remains of Arcane Obelisks, though other monuments and large rocks can also become arcanshards, under the right magical conditions.

Arcanshards are notably communal creatures, though they possess no obvious means of communication. On the battlefield, this is seen in their collaborative tactics, while during times of peace they go to great lengths to help each other. They are overly fond of stacking blocks, and if left alone build elaborate walls that may have little defensive value.

Of all the animated forms derived from an Arcane Obelisk, the arcanshard is the most mutable. The easily meld together, their broken stonework flowing together to form a larger stone. This has led scholars to believe that arcanshards are the most useful form for reforming a damaged Arcane Obelisk. Strangely, arcanshards have never been known to attempt such a reforming on their own.

Arcanshard CR 2 D&D Monster

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The arcanshard has an irritating ability to prolong combat: meld. Use this to replace two damaged arcanshards with a fresh new one. You might even rule that this allows it to overcome persistent magical effects and conditions. Yes, wizards, we’re making things tough for you.

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Crackling Column — CR 8 D&D Monster

Green arcane energy swirls around a broken column, lifting it into the air. The energy then coalesces into scything claws and two, bright-burning eyes of magical power. Can you tangle with the Crackling Column?

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Last week we introduced the tentacular spectacular, the Awakened Arcane Obelisk. When your players defeat it, you get to pull this guy from the ruins. That’s dungeon entropy working in your favor!

I’m All Cracked Up!

If enough magic is retained within, a broken Arcane Obelisk might manifest as a crackling column, a being of violence and raw magic surrounding a skeleton of granite. These creatures hew to an unshakable purpose, usually one set by the circumstances that created them. This invariably means they’ll attack anyone that appears to have damaged the pillar they contain within.

Crackling columns can be restored to repair the arcane obelisk it came from, though being made of solid stone such monuments always retain signs of damage. However, the stone is only the receptacle. The true essence of the obelisk is the arcane power within. This can be harder to restore though.

Crackling Column D&D Monster

 

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The crackling column is part of a set, so use him with the upcoming arkanshard and last week’s awakened obelisk for maximum effect. Keep in mind that this monster hits hard. For its stone slam attack, it should be averaging around 30 damage, but it averages around 40 instead. It’s a TPK machine that loves melee. That’s why it damages itself, otherwise it would survive too long. Good luck.

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That Obelisk Just Moved! — D&D Monster

The immense stone obelisk begins to shake, rising up out of the ground on four large tentacles. Eyes blink into existence along the stone’s pitted surface, then focus with a gaze full of rage and arcane power.

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Recently, our subscribers got a look at an altered Atlantean who was siphoning power from an arcane obelisk. In an earlier adventure, the party discovered another monument that bore signs of experimentation. These stone monoliths could be… “important”.

Magic, Unleashed

The immense stone obelisk begins to shake, rising up out of the ground on four large tentacles. Eyes blink into existence along the stone’s pitted surface, then focus with a gaze full of rage and arcane power.

Arcane obelisks are potent magical nodes that anchor and channel arcane energy. Sometimes, the arcane bindings focused within the obelisk unravel, and the obelisk is transformed. An awakened obelisk is such a creature, unleashed magical energy rippling along a massive chunk of carved stone.

Destroying the manifestation of unleashed magic is difficult, since every broken chunk still possesses a fraction of untethered magical essence. These smaller chunks are often less powerful but mutable, spawning a myriad of new forms. Representative of these forms are the large scorpiolisk and smaller, humanoid arkanshard. It’s possible that recombining these smaller subforms could rebuild the obelisk, but only an intricate ritual can rebind the magical threads to restore the obelisk to its original form.

Awakened Obelisk — Dungeons & Dragons Monster

 

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The awakened obelisk is part of a set, so using him with the upcoming scorpiolisk and arkanshard is a good idea. You could also change the lore and have an evil mage going around town, turning monuments into monsters.

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Mad Goblin Gasers Join Your D&D Game

Goblins love mayhem. Add chemicals and things get even crazier, as these little misfits unlock the power of deadly gases. Dungeons & Dragons meets unhinged chemists riding bubble blimps with the latest addition to the Undersea Sourcebook. Bring on the goblin gaser!

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Two weeks ago we looked at the PIP, a friendly automaton powered by the arcane. Then we looked at the altered Atlanteans who built them. Next week, these guys and our gaser goblins feature in their own adventure, so be sure to subscribe and not miss out!

Gas, Gas, Gas!

Small metal canisters clatter to the floor around you, billowing green gas. Through the smoke a large bubble floats into view, a goblin grinning at you from within.

Goblin can be oddly resourceful, especially when causing mayhem. The first goblin gaser’s probably acquired a stock of alchemical reagents, and, in true goblin fashion, accidentally produced powerful mutagens. These mutagens gave the goblins an above-average intelligence (for goblins), which catapulted them down a path of further alchemical study.

What is now the Gassy Guts tribe were always known for their luck, a strange curse that made them a bane of the coastal towns within their territory. A stray arrow shot by a Gaser might ricochet off a shield to find its target, a trap’s mechanism might inadvertently throw a gaser out of the way of a falling blade, or a botched lockpicking attempt might detach the entire lock from the door. That’s everyday life for Gasers.

The increased intellect of the goblin gasers hasn’t increased their caution. Instead, they’re more likely to try bolder, deadlier schemes than their relatives. Other goblins might have shunned them if this was not the case, but instead they look up to the Gasers in awe. Who else could come up with such cunning plans?

Besides alchemy, Gasers have a special affinity for obscure clockwork devices, and this has motivated them to plunder old Atlantean depths in search of greater inventions to repurpose for their own maniacal needs.

Gasser Goblin Dive Bubble

 

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Gaser goblin dive bubbles are all about limiting the party’s ability to do damage. If they can fly above the party, out of reach, then they’re absolutely lethal.  So, consider how your players are equipped and give them interesting options to deal with the dive bubbles, like lightning arrows. A hit-and-run style encounter could be a good way to introduce the gasers and prepare the party for a full encounter. Have fun!

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