Tag Archives: Dungeons & Dragons

Captain Nemo’s Scimitar, a D&D 5e Artifact

Captain Nemo’s scimitar is a powerful artifact that you can add to your undersea Dungeons & Dragons 5e campaign.

Nemo’s Scimitar

Weapon (scimitar), artifact (requires attunement)

The legendary Captain Nemo was a consummate gentleman and an amicable diplomat who made many friends, both above and below the waves. It is said that he counted sphinxes and phoenixes among his closest advisors, and that it is they who helped him build the vessel his name is synonymous with: the Nautilus (see Undersea Sourcebook: Feats and Equipment).

Captain Nemo's Scimitar

While the Nautilus was being completed, a companion blade was forged, a scimitar linked to the vessel by powerful magic. The scimitar would serve as a mark of rank and ownership, while its arcane link to the great vessel would be able to bring the Nautilus back from disaster if their planned journey to the ocean depths ever became too perilous.

Although the scimitar is not required to command or pilot the Nautilus, it is a common misconception that the scimitar is its key, and that the Nautilus would be powerless without it. This misinformation has inspired many of Nemo’s rivals to steal the sword, though none have yet succeeded.



While attuned to the scimitar, you can breathe air or water, have a swimming speed of 30-feet if you don’t have a better swimming speed, and are immune to the effects of extreme cold.

Call the Nautilus. If you are holding the scimitar and are within 120 feet of a body of water big enough to hold it, you can, as an action, call the Nautilus (Underwater Sourcebook: Feats & Equipment). The vessel teleports to your location if it is on the same plane. If the Nautilus has been destroyed, it appears with 1 Hit Point remaining for each of its components. You can’t use this property again until 3 days have passed.

Captain’s Gate. If you are holding the scimitar, you can use your action to cast gate, linking a spot you can see to the captain’s quarters within the Nautilus. You can’t use this ability again until after a long rest.

Conjure Shield Guardian. If you are holding the scimitar, you can use your action to conjure a shield guardian. You can conjure it within 30 feet of you or within the Nautilus. In either case, it is bound to the scimitar, which acts as the shield guardian’s bound amulet. The shield guardian dissipates after 1 hour. You can’t use this ability again until dawn.

Destroying the Scimitar. The only way to destroy the scimitar is to melt it down within an underwater volcano, alongside a power crystal from the Nautilus.

Captain Nemo's Scimitar


Wanna be a Great GM? Get an Education!

So, you want to impress the boys at your local with your masterful storytelling? Figure you’ll show the ladies a good time with dice and an epic quest? Looking to put “Professional GM” on your CV? Well then, if you want to be a great GM (or DM, or Storyteller), then you need to get an education.

What kind of education? I’m not talking about school — stay in school kids — I’m talking about life experiences.

Cruel Trinkets of the Mad Gods

Why?

Rules are great. Acting skills are useful. Improv skills are even better. Knowing and understanding all the tools available to you, that’s the road to being really great.

But all of this isn’t very useful without some real experiences. Some fuel for the creative fire.

Go ride a horse. Practice martial arts. Write with a quill pen. Hike up a mountain. Go camping. Gut a fish. Travel.

Real experiences always beat book learning. What you’ve lived through becomes a part of you in a way clinical understanding never can.

Have you ever noticed that many writers, those brave souls who battle with pen and paper their whole lives, struggle to sell a good novel, while non-writers (usually sportspeople and explorers) seem to create best-selling books without much effort? There are exceptions, but I’ll bet that the key ingredient here is substance. Those with real experiences have something meaty to offer.

A poorly-researched example, as Exhibit A: Stephen King cited being hit by a car as inspiration for many of his books. I’m not sure which, but my Google-fu tells me it’s a bunch. Sorry, Stephen, you’re free to pipe up in the comments.

Your experiences are beautiful pigments for painting truly memorable images at the table. Your fantasy games will be so much more real when you embellish them with realistic details drawn from your experiences.

So look, listen, and learn. I promise it’ll be worth it.

Thanks to The Five Foot Square for hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival. Do go check them out and join in the fun.

While you’re here, please check out our store or our Drive-Thru RPG page. We have loads of publications for D&D 5e, Pathfinder, and unique systems we know you’ll love.

Why RPG Settings are Built Like Theme Parks

Take a look at your favourite RPG setting and you’ll find odd similarities with theme parks. These settings can easily kill your group’s story if you’re not careful. Here’s why theme park settings are so popular,  their inherent pitfalls, and some ideas on how to fix them.

Raven on tombstone

Why RPG Settings Feel Like Theme Parks

RPG designers, by necessity, need to give players plenty to play with. That’s why Golarion, Faerûn, the Mortal Realms, and even the mega-city of Ravnica are so cleanly divided into areas. It’s as if they were designed by a theme park designer. There’s usually a hot place, a dry place, a wet place, a funny magic place. There’s also often some form of Steampunk City, Pirate Island, Monkey Kingdom, Dragon Mountain, Asia Land, Snake Jungle… and the list goes on, covering all the tropes.

This is a good thing. GMs need options, players want to explore their favourite tropes, and RPG writers don’t want either of them to go looking elsewhere for their fun.

Unfortunately, all these choices can destroy a coherent story.

How Theme Park Settings Destroy Stories

Image your party heads to Tian Xia, the East Asian themed lands of Pathfinder’s Golarion. On the way there they stop off in the Mwangi Expanse (lush jungles) and take a session to explore the deep oceans around the Isle of Kortos.

Have magical portals, can travel.

Finally, the party gets to Tian Xia and they’re off to see an important diplomat. The encounter, an important setup for the rest of the campaign, has little buildup. The party have been in their bikinis or deep in the jungle for a few sessions now, with no time to dip their feet into the deep culture Tian Xia represents. As a result, your carefully prepared roleplaying encounter falls flat with the players missing vital cultural and historic clues dropped by the diplomat.

Bummer.

How to Fix Theme Park RPG Settings

One thing I love about the Game of Thrones setting is that the fantasy elements are relatively limited. I’d argue the same about the Lord of the Rings: there are no drow, flumphs, owlbears, or beholders. You could fit the LotR bestiary into one book. Both settings still have their worlds, but they’re doing more with less.

Similarly, you can get more out of the many options modern RPG settings present by picking and choosing. It’s that simple. Give it a try.

Check out the Battle Zoo Bestiary

The Battle Zoo Bestiary, for Pathfinder 2e and 5e, is now on Kick Starter. The book features many new monsters, so you’re sure to find some great additions to your campaign world. Remember, you can always reskin a monster to turn it into a variant of something prevalent in your world, which is one neat trick for keeping things simple.

Don’t miss out on this one.

Battle Zoo Bestiary


Do Not Buy This Book, Seriously…

We DO NOT want you to buy this fifth edition fantasy class book. Instead, buy the Grimdark Pamphlet, which contains this and so much more.

But if You Really Must…

Then let me tell you what a mechamancer is:

Mechmancer Cover

A mechamancer blends machinery and flesh in an unholy union more powerful than sinew or gears alone. Alien technology, clockwork, or arcane apparatus might form the basis for these enhancements, but they always leave the mechamancer disconnected from their humanity. At best, a mechamancer might retain some spark of their former selves, but most eventually lose touch with reality and see only the processes and routines that guide them.

Mechamancers undergo augmentation for any number of reasons. Some find their human forms too frail, others yearn for immortality, and some are forced down the path by uncaring artificers as part of insane experiments that blend the natural and mechanical.

The mechamancer is an alternative to the barbarian class, and many of the additional options available to a barbarian can be rethemed to fit a mechamancer, with your GM’s approval. Specifically, surge and rage, and primary function and primal path, are synonymous. The mechamancer’s major difference from a standard barbarian is in how they use armor, and mechamancers gain several penalties and ability changes to balance their increase to Armor Class.

Mechamancer Spread

As I said, the mechamancer class also appears in the Grimdark Pamphlet, available on itch.io and on Drive-Thru RPG. Check it out, it’s growing all the time and is packed full of great content.

Who Should Play a Mechamancer?

Mechamancers are barbarians, plain and simple. They work just like barbarians, except they use armor differently, which makes them the perfect tank.

The two Primary Functions offered give you a choice between a combat-oriented or an adaptable mechamancer, so you can lean hard into being a tank or fill roles in your party that aren’t covered by other characters.

Ultimately, play a mechamancer if you don’t care for magic, want to play a tough-to-kill character, and enjoy your punk steam-flavored.

Related Reading: Is This the Best Way to Build Dungeons?

Is This the Best Way to Build RPG Dungeons?

There are tons of ways to build dungeons for your sessions of Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons, from randomly generated maps to complicated computer software, but this method might just be the best way to build RPG dungeons you’ll ever find.

I’m a visual, hands-on kind of guy. I love playing with LEGO, painting miniatures, and kitbashing. It’s my meditative place, where I’m not deeply inside my head or thinking about anything particular, just enjoying the flow of the moment.

There’s a practical side to this too, one which overcomes the limitations of a computer.

I do my best writing on paper. Even though it takes time to type up my scrawl afterwards, I don’t see it as wasted time, because my writing is that much better when the first draft is analogue.

There’s something about the real feeling of things, about being able to scratch, tweak, modify, and scribble, without keys interfering.

That’s why I like building out my dungeons with bits of homemade scenery.

Prisoners
“Just what kind of dungeon is this?”

The Process

I’ve made lots of terrain for my wargaming, much of which I’ve shown in the Mini Monday archives. This took me a fairly long time to collect, but now that I have it I find that it inspires all sorts of ideas, just from playing with the pieces.

The dungeon, in effect, has become a toy, and building the dungeon is the game.

You can do the same thing with dungeon tiles, or with a pencil and post-it notes. You could even use LEGO, or use books to represent rooms, anything you can easily move around and change.

The physical, impermanent nature of your tool is important.

Things to Think About

What will make this dungeon, or this room, this trap, this encounter, more interesting? How do these rooms relate to each other? How else can the players achieve what they need to achieve here? What reasons do they have to go into this room, interact with this object, talk to this NPC?

Think about these things as you shift walls and doors, add furniture and traps, or put down monster minis for each encounter.

And then, when you’re finally happy with things, draw out your map, or go to the mapping software. I promise, you’ll have better ideas to work with than if you jumped straight into making the map.

RPG Blog Carnival

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is hosted by Plastic Polyhedra, who picked the theme “Let’s Build a Dungeon!” Be sure to check out their site and the linked post for more dungeon design ideas.

rpg blog carnival logo

The Death of Tabletop RPGs: Did D&D Doom Us?

I… really should write more posts. I’ve been meaning to, but blah blah sorry sob story… whatever. You’re not here about that, you’re here because of my clickbaity title, which means you probably care either about proving me wrong, the title hit a nerve, or you’re genuinely curious about my ominous predictions about the death of tabletop RPGs.

Raven on tombstone

Actually, there might be some other reason why you’re here, so scratch that. I’m not omnipotent. I’m not even semi-potent. Most of the time, I’m just trying to be more than normal. What I’ve learned though, is that normalcy is seldom escapable, and that’s a good thing.

Most roleplayers like to live on the fringes. Most of us were goths when goths were a thing, or punks, or the emo kids, or drama students. We’re the kind of people who wilt in the sunlight, who can’t throw balls, who use words like ‘dimwitted’ and ‘Ludite’ to mock others and feel intellectually superior. I’m exaggerating and generalizing here, but in my experience, few of us ever thought ourselves normal.

For some of us, normal is a swearword. We’d never want to gain that label.

But then D&D 5e came along, and suddenly TTRPGs were immensely popular. And “normal” kids were playing them. For some of us, it felt like a betrayal. Like we’d lost our last refuge to the football jocks.

Of course, there’s a bright side to all this. TTRPGs are doing well, and more of us are getting to make a living producing content for our favorite collaborative games. Roleplaying is more accessible than ever before, and that’s worth celebrating.

But that doesn’t mean the grognards need to like it.

So, kids, if you ever hear an old-school gamer ranting about the death of RPGs, or about how Warhammer FRP 1e or Vampire the Masquerade is better than Dungeons & Dragons could ever be, just let it slide.

The hobby isn’t dying, but evolution can be painful.


July’s News from Rising Phoenix Games

All the Rising Phoenix Games news, for July, is right here. And some news from June. And maybe May. What can I say, we’ve been busy.

Hello Heroes!

Wow, there’s a lot to be excited for. Personally, I’m very excited about Masters of the Universe: Revelation, coming to Netflix this month. Kevin Smith is an experienced storyteller, and I’m keen to see his take on this franchise that’s about as old as I am.

In RPG land, there always a lot going on, and this month is no exception. Let’s focus on our own slice of the hobby.

On the Blog

We’re making a skirmish wargame, and you’re the designer! Join us as we take the game design journey, from initial concept to final product. Jump in with episode 1.

Episode 2 goes into designing the game’s overall structure and activation system. It includes a micro skirmish game that you can play, for free.

Dagger Lords Logo

Episode 3 is all about movement, and we’ve got a few rules ideas I think will surprise you. The post includes a second prototype, so you can see how concepts are developed and try this young version of the game for yourself.

We’ve got some fiendishly tricky magical items for your Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition games, with even more menacingly maniacal magical items to choose from. All of them give you an extra little something, but at a cost. I’m a big fan of risk and reward mechanics, they’re never boring.

Even more Mini Monday news. Our bi-weekly series revealed my personal top secret Masters of the Universe project, which builds on the idea of keeping hobby gaming cheap and accessible.

Apothecary Class — New D&D 5e Release

Our newest D&D class is an alternative option for the bard called the Apothecary. This class is all about healing and buffing allies by supplementing cleric spells with healing abilities in the form of potion-like concoctions.

As a special offer, we’re giving away 10 copies of the PDF for free, on condition that you’ll play the class during your next D&D session. Sound good? You can grab the book here.

40 for 40 Sale

I’m turning the big Four Oh this month, and to celebrate we’re running a bunch of sales all month long.

40 for 40 promotional imageOn our store, you can use the coupon code “40for40” to get 40% off your cart’s total value at checkout. You can use the coupon as many times as you like, until the end of the month.

Many of our products are 40%-off on Drive Thru RPG. This includes many titles for fifth edition fantasy, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and stand-alone titles. We also have a few Pathfinder Second Edition and Starfinder Roleplaying Game titles.

On the DMs Guild we’ve got a massive bundle worth over $60 going for less than $16. This bundle includes many of our best-selling titles, so if you’ve bought them already you’ll pay even less to fill out your collection.

Until next time, keep following Rising Phoenix Games, online, here:

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Beast Man, a MotU … Miniature? — MM 41

It’s Mini Monday, and this week’s project is Beast Man, Skeletor’s beastly right-hand gorilla. That’s right, we’re diving into some Masters of the Universe flavoured miniature projects.

Mini Monday Logo

Hello Heroes!

I’ve got a dark little secret. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m building a game … just for myself. I know, right, not much point in being a game designer and then making a game you won’t sell. Madness!

The game is a Masters of the Universe themed expansion for the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Boardgames, the same games that Yochlol and those skeletons we’ve featured so often come from. So far it’ll include four new heroes, including He-Man, and 52 cards featuring the most iconic enemies, heroes, and magical items from the MotU franchise.

He-Man D&D Boardgame
* See The Fine Print

And of course, this game’s most definitely not for sale or distribution, is very much unofficial, and not something any lawyers should get worked up about. I’m making it just for myself.

Tung Lashor Monster Card
* See The Fine Print

Beast Man, Skeletor’s homicidal orangutan, is the first custom enemy miniature I’ve made. It was my most satisfying build yet!

Riso rindo risa GIF - Find on GIFER

Building Beast Man

I converted Beast Man from the Reaper Bones Ogre Chieftain. I’d been scouring the Interwebs for minis to convert into Evil Warriors, then realised I had this guy sitting on my shelf. Sometimes the hobby stars align and a project falls into place as if the Universe willed it into being. Inspiration is a fickle thing, but when it hits, the results can be so satisfying. The Chieftain turned out to be a perfect mini to turn into Beast Man.

The shin guards, spikes, head crest, and Beast Man’s hunched, hairy back were all made from modelling epoxy. You could use green stuff instead.

The rest was painting, and then he was done.

Beast Man MOTU Miniature
“Of course, Master, I’ll take care of He-Man.”

The Next Level

You can probably keep fiddling with a mini forever, and I’ve already got some ideas to take Beast Man a few steps further.

I’d like to add some greenish-grey to the fur of his loincloth and under his shoulder pad. I’ll also add greenish rust to the copper disk, bracelets, and shoulder pad. These additions will add contrast, which is why Beast Man has blue undies in the animated show — now you know.

Beast Man is often shown with blue face paint, and the base could use a light grey dry brushing.

Lastly, I’ll add a chain. Beast Man always had a whip, but a chain would be a great substitute and suggest the cruelty he’s capable of.

Cast Your Vote

Who would you like to see next? I’ve got Evil-Lyn, Battle Cat, and Prince Adam in the works. Cast your vote in the comments below.

The Fine Print

We don’t own the Masters of the Universe, or the D&D Adventure Boardgame, or any right to publish content related to the characters or look-and-feel of either IP.  What you see here is provided for identification purposes in conjunction with the discussion of the topic of the article. 

Get into Tabletop Gaming, Even if You’re Poor

Too poor to play Warhammer 40,000? No cash for Dungeons & Dragons books? I’m going to tell you why money is less of an obstacle than you might think, and why DIY tabletop gaming might do better things for you than paying for official products ever can.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Games Workshop, Wizards of the Coast, and every other tabletop publisher that has ever taken me on a great flight of the imagination. I want you to support them. I’m a game publisher, so I know how important your hard-earned cash is to the industry. But money shouldn’t be the thing that stops you. If you really want to get into roleplaying games, wargaming, or any other tabletop gaming, then there are ways and means that require very little financial investment.

DIYHammer and the Money Paradox

When I was in high school, it wasn’t a problem for me to buy loads of metal minis for my Ork army. It was my parents’ money, really, and I probably didn’t appreciate it nearly as much as I should have. Maybe because I hadn’t earned them myself or because of some fear of not being able to paint them well enough, very few of my minis ever got a lick of paint. In fact, I can only remember ever playing one full game of Warhammer 40K, and it was with another person’s army.

Fast forward twenty years and I’m a freelance writer and editor, making a little extra from RPG sales. There was no money for minis. Any month we didn’t need to cut into our savings was a great month. But I needed a hobby, a space to unwind and think. That’s when I found that my paints hadn’t dried up. I unpacked my old minis and dived back into the fascinating world that had first intrigued me all those years ago. Turns out, I’d stumbled on the cheapest hobby ever.

You’d think that the hobby would start getting expensive as soon as I needed more minis, but I found the opposite to be true. I kitbashed two Ork Deff Dreads, some Runtherds, and a Grot Oiler, all using bits I wasn’t using for anything else. Now I have a Mek Big Gun in the works, lots of bikes, and two Dakka Jets, all in various stages of completion. The more I’ve gotten into the hobby, the more resourceful I’ve become, and the less I’ve spent. The only thing I’ve bought is one box of Gretchin and a few Reaper Bones minis.

Mek-krakka Deff Dread

Okay, yes, I’ve needed to buy the occasional paint, spray can, and lots of superglue, but these costs are low and infrequent. Since getting back into it I’ve only finished one pot of Chaos Black paint.

There have been some interesting benefits from taking the kitbashing approach:

  1. I’ve become more ready to take on DIY projects, including fixing things around the house or building toys for my kids, like a Captain America shield and a PJ Masks HQ toy that I built from PVC pipe.
  2. I look at trash in a whole new way, and more of it gets upcycled instead of being thrown into a landfill somewhere.
  3. My pile of grey plastic is shrinking.
  4. I understand the art of model making much better, so I’m closer to making those custom TMNT figures I always wanted.
  5. I’m more resourceful. If I need a thing, I can probably find a way to make it, substitute something else in, or do without. And this goes far beyond miniatures. I’ve needed a new skateboard for nearly a year now, but I’ve been able to repair and maintain it because of a shift in my mentality.
  6. I have a far greater sense of ownership over my army than I ever had before.

Make Your Own

Brett Novak, who turned skateboarding videos into an art form, said in his TED talk that we romanticise that if we had more money, we’d do all these amazing things, but, in truth, there’s usually a way to do them without the money. As an example, Reiner Knizia, the best-selling board game designer, said that, when he was a kid, he often couldn’t afford the games he wanted to play. He had to make his own. That process must have taught him a lot about game design, and probably has a lot to do with how successful he is today.

So forget about money being the problem. If high prices are keeping you from tabletop gaming and the games that intrigue you, make your own. It’ll teach you a lot and give you a sense of satisfaction that money just can’t buy.


Toys as Minis, a Boost for Your Table — MM 39

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week I’m going to tell you why you should use more toys as minis.

Mini Monday Logo

I figure that tabletop gamers fall into two groups; those who supplement their mini collection with toys, and those who hate the idea. If you’re in that second camp, it’s probably because you think that toys just don’t look right on the gaming table. I was one of the haters too, but I changed my mind. Here’s why!

Toys as Minis
Most of these are from Japan, but I found the bear locally.

Hidden Treasures

There’s a lot of junk out there, but search hard enough, and you just might find the perfect additions to your collection. I found that toys from Japan can be particularly good, and tend to be on the smaller side, but keeping an eye on your local cheap or second-hand toy shop will pay off eventually, especially if you’re in a biggish city.

Lots of folks online have shown off their dollar store hauls, so that’s an awesome option if you have cheap shops like that in your area. You’re most likely to find animals and mythical creatures such as dragons, but you never know what might turn up.

Two other great sources for toys for minis are your own toy collection and second-hand sales. Such sources usually have a varied collection of toys to choose from, are dirt cheap, and might surprise you with what you’ll find.

Kitbashing and Converting

If you’re ready to do some converting and kitbashing, then toys offer a veritable gold mine of options. Some hobbyists on YouTube recently did a toy monster mashup, go search it out if you’re looking for more inspiration.

Price

With some exceptions, toys are generally a lot cheaper than specifically-produced miniatures, and printing takes time. It’ll take time to find the right toys, but you can usually search while looking out for other things.

The Buying Strategy

Patience and a will to shop around are the keys to success if you’re going to use toys as minis. Buying a couple of odd-looking horses because you need horses for Friday’s game might be fine, but you’ll quickly collect a lot of ugly minis that way.

Rather, keep a list of what you want minis for and play the long game, buying only the best of the best.

Toy Traps to Avoid

Avoid buying online, unless you can find a good size comparison for the toy. Also, avoid cheap-looking plastic, as this can become brittle over time and break easily. Thin plastic is usually the biggest clue, but strange colour changes in the plastic can also give you a hint that the toy will be more hassle than it’s worth in the long run.

I hope this inspires you to start adding some toys to your mini collection. If you have more collecting tips to share, then throw them in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!