Tag Archives: featured

No Dice — RPG Blog Carnival, Dec 2022

It’s time for us to host the RPG Blog Carnival again, and this month the topic is “No Dice”. Read on to stimulate your brain with new ideas and fresh takes from the TTRPG blogosphere.

rpg blog carnival logo

If you’re a reader, here’s how it work:

RPG bloggers from around the globe will drop links into the comments below. You can check them out there or come back to Rising Phoenix Games at the end of the month, when I’ll post a summary of all the posts (that’s New Years Eve, the same day as our birthday!)

If you’re a blogger, here’s how to join in:

Check out the ideas below or come up with your own take on “No Dice”, publish an RPG-flavored blog post, then drop it in the comments of this post, below. Because I’ll need to get the summary up on New Year’s Eve, please get your post in by the 28th of December.

We’ve tried to keep the topic as open as possible, so hopefully you’ll find something to inspire your articles this month. Here are a few thoughts on the topic:

  1. Mechanics. Every game has mechanics that aren’t linked to the dice. Maybe you’ve invented diceless mechanics, or you want to discuss some rules from your favourite RPG that don’t require rolls. Tell us about them.
  2. Beyond the Game. Roleplaying games are what they are because of the players, and story is a vital part of the game that goes beyond dice and numbers. Pick some aspect of the game that doesn’t involve mechanics and discuss it.
  3. Weal and Woe. Luck is an important part of most roleplaying games, so tell us about the time your party’s luck ran out, or they were exceptionally fortunate. You could create items based around luck, a monster that eats or creates luck, or a trap that looks like a giant D20.
  4. All About the Story. Sometimes the best sessions have very little rolling involved. If you’ve had such an experience we’d love to hear about it.
  5. ‘Tis the Season. Give us a list of Christmas gift ideas for roleplayers, but avoid dice.
  6. No Limits. The dice often set the limits, but we’re not setting any for you. If you’ve got an idea that falls outside the theme and want to take part, please join in the fun still.

Feel free to drop more ideas in the comments below.

Till the end of the year, have a good one, stay safe, and keep rolling!

 


#ShowYourRPGShelf and Win an RPG!

Show us your RPG shelf and win a print copy of Nightscape: Red Terrors for your collection by entering the #ShowYourRPGShelf RPG contest.

How to Enter

1) Follow us on Twitter and Facebook (and grow the party!)
2) Reply to one of the posts below with a picture of you, holding your favorite character sheet, in front of your shelf of roleplaying books.
3) Share the post you replied to.

Be sure to check out other collections in the comments or by searching for the hashtag #ShowYourRPGShelf.

The T’s and C’s

Entries close November 30th. One entry per person. The winner will be announced in December 2022. The judge goblin’s decision is final. Winners will be determined by dice combat (we’ll roll ’em). Keep those pics family-friendly, please.

You can find out more about Nightscape, here. Get Nightscape: Red Terrors on the Rising Phoenix Games Store.

Good luck!

Journeys in Yomi

Last week we journeyed to Yomi, the Japanese land of the dead mentioned in the ancient myths and legends of Japan. Let’s explore further so that you can use Yomi to inspire your own campaign setting, or as a campaign setting all on its own.

Journeys in Yomi

Journeys in Yomi

There are two ways to enter Yomi. For most, death brings them to the threshold of the Gray Gate, beyond which lies the narrow, winding stone stairway that leads to Yomi. A few brave—or foolhardy—folk have journeyed to the physical location of the gate, which is hidden beside a rural temple in the town of Higashiizumo, Shimane Prefecture, Japan. These travelers, though they go of their own free will, experience the same things as those who are brought here by death: a compelling draw to descend the steps and discover what lies in the mists below.

The descent is not dangerous or horrifying, as one might expect. Rather, the path cuts down a mountain path at a gentle angle, passing grasses and trees given a regal aspect in the grey light of twilight. No birds or beasts stir, but the hollow knocking of bamboo wood chimes and the shakuhachi flute sounds, somewhere in the growing mists. It is a calming sound, complimented by the rustle of leaves blown on a gentle breeze, or the cascade of a small mountain spring, somewhere off the path.

A Poem of Tranquility
Quietly, quietly, yellow mountain roses fall, sound of the rapids. (A Poem by Makoto Ueda, via Wikimedia Commons)

Each step down the path brings new, muted joys, and most feel no compulsion to turn back. For those who do, leaving the stair or turning back to ascend it is a feat frustrated by the strange physics of the Land of the Dead. A tree, reached just off the path, might hide more of the stair or a dead end behind its knobbed trunk. What looked like a short climb off the path quickly turns steeper than expected, and what seemed like solid footing is instead slippery mud. While the climb down is easy, the return journey is always tiring, and it becomes agonizingly more difficult to make progress back up the stair.

For most, the descent is inevitable. As they near their destination and their path grows darker, the faint glow of the moon seems to diffuse, casting less light but giving an eerie cast to the sky. It is then that the traveler finds the threshold of Yomi.

Running the Descent

Players shouldn’t be forced to make saves as they travel the stairway to Yomi — a description of the effects on their character should be enough for them to realize that reaching the bottom is inevitable. This is not to say you need to force them down the path either. Inventive ideas might allow the party to make significant progress back up the stair, or even escape Yomi altogether.

With this in mind, any adventure set in Yomi needs to include an enticing hook to entice the players on this dangerous journey, and some hope of returning to the world of the living too.

The Lands Beyond

Travelers wandering through Yomi navigate by landmarks rather than distances. While two places might be considered “close” to each other, their true distance is in constant flux. The same journey might take a day or a month, and a traveler that strays from their course is doomed to wander aimlessly until they discover a landmark they know.

If you enjoyed our take on Yomi, be sure to grab your copy of the Grimdark Pamphlet, which will be updated with a full description of Yomi in the coming weeks. Also, be sure to check out Beyond the Horizon Games and their blog, as they’re hosting the RPG Blog Carnival this month. The theme is “world building”, go take a look.

Journey Below the Waves

If you enjoyed our little look at Yomi, then you’ll likely enjoy our Undersea Sourcebook series for D&D. Three of the six books are out, covering everything a player needs to explore the world below the waves or take to the seas as a pirate.

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The Race & Class Guide includes races and classes for ocean-themed characters.

Mutants & Mariners provides additional options, specifically for mutants and pirates.

Feats & Equipment expands player options with firearms, pirate weapons, and a host of new feats. It looks like feats will be more important than ever going into the next edition of D&D, so start collecting.

Water Magic gives you new spells and magical items.

Till next time, may you have great adventures

Rodney


Yomi, The Japanese Land of the Dead

Yomi is the Japanese land of the dead. It was mentioned in the ancient Kojiki, a collection of myths and legends purportedly composed in the 8th century. In Yomi, the dead live out a muted, eternal existence, regardless of their past deeds.

RPG Blog Carnival

It’s Orktober… ahem… October, and that means time for another RPG Blog Carnival. This month’s carnival is hosted by our good buddy Kim, over at Beyond the Horizon Games (he also plays Orks). The topic for October is “Worldbuilding“, which is serendipidious since that was exactly what we were looking at in our latest edition of the newsletter.

Campaigns in Yomi

We must always be respectful when setting games in places that are significant to others. We must go as respectful travelers, realizing that we are journeying into a land that others understand better than we do. This short guide can only introduce you to the world of Yomi, but its lore is truly vast, so it might be the perfect inspiration for your own campaign.

Yomi is more like Limbo or the Shadow Plane in Pathfinder than Hell. People do not go there because of their sins or lack of faith, they go there because it is the next step of their journey. People do not usually return from Yomi after they have feasted in Yomi, but that probably won’t stop your players from trying.

Yomi is both a land of shadows and corruption. You might find people covered in maggots or pass through a stranger like a ghost. Yomi is as cold as a tomb, but its residents seem only dimly aware of the cold. The rain hardly ever falls on crops unless it floods the land, the wind never moves ships unless it throws them against the rocks, and the sun is forever pale and powerless.

The responsibilities you had in life might remain in death, but they are no easier. A farmer might work a field that grows only rotting rice, or a baker might put bread into an oven that never gets hot enough for cooking. Emperors still reign, but they too must suffer the entropy that pervades Yomi, as their kingdom falls apart no matter what brilliant decrees they might enforce.

Travelers wandering through Yomi navigate by landmarks rather than distances. While two places might be considered “close” to each other, their true distance is in constant flux. A journey might take a day or a month, and a traveler that strays from their course is doomed to wander aimlessly until they discover a known landmark.

NPCs from Yomi

The Tetsuakuto and other NPCs will appear in the Grimdark Pamphlet.

Tetsuakuto (Iron Bandit)

Encased in black iron plate, tetsuakuto wear hideous menpo face masks bearing octopus designs.

The Tetsuzaku, or Iron Bandits, were feared outlaws that menaced major trade routes throughout the Empire. When they were finally captured they were boiled alive in their iron plate before being offered to a kami of the ocean cliffs. Through some occult bargain, they returned from Yomi to plague those who live near the sea, before returning back to the lands of the dead.


Tetsuakuto

Medium undead, lawful evil

Armor Class 18 (plate)
Hit Points 76 (8d8 + 40)
Speed 30 ft.
  STR
  DEX
  CON
  INT
  WIS
  CHA
  18 (+4)   12 (+1)   16 (+3)   10 (+0)   14 (+2)   12 (+1)
Saving Throws Con +5
Skills Athletics +6

Damage Immunities cold
Condition Immunities frightened
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Common
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)

Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces the tetsuakuto to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5 + the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the tetsuakuto drops to 1 hit point instead.

Actions

Multiattack. The tetsuakuto makes two attacks with its naginata.
Naginata. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d8 + 4) slashing damage. On a successful hit, the target must succeed on a DC 13 Dexterity save or fall prone.

Reactions

Spike Rake. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d4 + 4) slashing damage.

Three Stone Stories: Solo Narrative Roleplay is here!

Three Stone Stories Cover

Your Greatest Tale

Three Stone Stories is a solo narrative role-playing game where you’re the Storyteller.
Tell heroic tales using your own imagination, these rules, and three regular six-sided dice.

Roll the Stones,
Determine the Will of the Dice,
Choose your Destiny.

It’s Your Story

The full 64-page book, including several adventure chronicles, tips for getting the most out of the game, and D6 generators is available wherever we sell the game, and you can get it from Drive Thru RPG for 20% off using this coupon code.


Here be Dragons — July RPG Blog Carnival

At the furthest edge of the map, far from civilization, the words “Here be Dragons” is scribed across the most inhospitable, unexplored lands. Journey with us, as the RPG Blog Carnival ventures into these lands of legend and danger.

Here be Dragons

Here be Dragons — July RPG Blog Carnival

Every month, the RPG Blog Carnival takes a turn at a different RPG blogger’s site, and this month it’s here, at Rising Phoenix Games. If you’re a blogger, you can join in by writing an article inspired by the topic and dropping a link to it, in the comments below. I’ll write a wrap-up article at the end of July that covers all of the posts submitted. I hope you’ll join us!

If you’re not an RPG blogger, hang out with us and see what everyone brings to the topic. In March we had a great time exploring magical space adventures. What adventures will we have this month?

rpg blog carnival logo

Here are a few ideas, but you can interpret the topic as loosely as you like, we’re not the thought police:

  1. Dragonlance is coming for Dungeons & Dragons (here’s the Dragonlance trailer). Take us back to your gaming table, or try and predict what we’ll see from Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Give us a new dragon for Spelljammer, your own setting, or a different game. Science-fantasy dragons, cyberpunk dragons, superhero dragons, steampunk dragons… there are more themes to explore than I could ever hope to mention.
  3. Maps! The history of the phrase “Here be Dragons” is very interesting and would mean nothing if not for map makers and their art. Give us a map, a map maker NPC, or some ideas about how to use the phrase “Here be Dragons” on our own maps.
  4. The symbolism of dragons can bring up some interesting ideas. How can GMs apply the concepts often associated with dragons to their human NPCs?
  5. Wikipedia states that dragons are known in virtually all cultures around the world, so looking at different dragons from around the world should bring up plenty of interesting ideas.

Void Dragonborn

So them’s the rules. Let’s dive back into the world of Space Punks for another new race, dragonborn descended from void dragons.

Void Dragonborn

With deep black eyes that shimmer with the light of a thousand stars, void dragonborn display their faint bloodline back to void dragons. This rare variant of dragonborn are known for their insatiable wonderlust and weak grip on reality.

Void dragonborn are dragonborn (Player’s Handbook) with the following draconic ancestry:

Dragon Type. Void
Breath Weapon Damage Type. Fire and Radiant*
Damage Resistance Damage Type. Cold
Breath Weapon. 15-foot cone (Dex save)

*You deal 1d6 fire and 1d6 radiant damage from first level. This increases to 2d6 fire and 1d6 radiant damage at 6th level, 2d6 fire and 2d6 radiant damage at 11th level, and 3d6 fire and 2d6 radiant damage at 16th level.

Hot Sales All July Long

We have massive sales on, all July long. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get the deals first, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get notifications of new offers.

That’s all for now, but be sure to check back at the end of the month for the roundup.


How to Play D&D, The Game in Stranger Things

Stranger Things is a great show, with tight storytelling, stunning visual effects, and a cast of characters we’re totally invested in. It also features Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), a game we love and where the Duffer brothers got the Mindflayer, Demogorgon, and Vecna from. I’m here to help you get into this amazing hobby and teach you how to play D&D.

Remember the scene? Warning, here be swears.

What You Need to Play Dungeons & Dragons

The first thing you’ll need is a copy of the rules. You can get a free, basic version of the rules on Wizards of the Coast’s website. A better option for new players is the D&D Starter Set, which includes dice. There’s also a Stranger Things-themed D&D starter for die-hard Stranger Things fans. If you’ve played roleplaying games before, or you’re serious about diving in, then get the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook instead. This is the most important book of the three core books — which include the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual — but you do a lot with just the one.

Next, you’ll need a set of RPG dice. These include all those funny-shaped dice, like a D4 (four-sided die), D6 (the regular six-sided die), D8, D10, D12, and D20. Good sets include a percentile D10, which is marked 00, 10, 20, and so on, up to 90. The twenty-sided D20 is the most important die in Dungeons & Dragons, which is why these types of games are usually referred to as D20 games.

RPG Dice - How to Play D&D
From left to right: Percentile D10 (front left), D8 (at the back), D4, D6, regular D10, D20, and D12.

One set of dice is enough to play, but multiple sets make it easier to keep things going. You can also find free and premium dice apps online.

Lastly, you’ll need paper and pencils for notes, printed character sheets, and a place to play, like a dining room table.

Stranger Things Play Dungeons & Dragons

All the Stuff, Plus the Kitchen Sink

Like any hobby, there are a lot of bits and pieces, tools, and fancy gear you can drop money on to enhance your D&D experience. Fortunately, none of it is necessary, and often what you find useful will depend on your preferences. I enjoy miniatures, but I use them in different ways in different games, and sometimes I find things more interesting without them.

As you get into the game, you’ll probably start to accumulate more stuff anyway, so keep things simple for now.

Read to Succeed

There’s a lot of reading involved in roleplaying games, but don’t let that intimidate you. Looking at the Player’s Handbook, you only need to read the Introduction, Chapter 7 (Using Ability Scores), Chapter 8 (Adventuring), and Chapter 9 (Combat) to have a good idea of how to play D&D. Building a character will take you through the earlier chapters, and Chapter 10 (Spellcasting) will only apply to some characters.

There are also plenty of videos online that will teach you how to play D&D or any other popular roleplaying games. Another great way to learn is to find other people who are already playing and join their games. D&D is very easy to pick up and other players are usually very happy to explain the rules.

How to Play D&D - The Game in Stranger Things

Play it Solo

If you’ve got the rules down, try playing the game with one or two friends. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it right the first time (or even the second or third time). D&D is complex enough that it takes time to get the hang of. Just have fun.

If you can’t find anyone to play your first few games with, you can find plenty of adventures for one player alone, where the book takes on the role of the Dungeon Master (DM). We published Death Queen and the Life Stone, Forest of Secrets, and Companionable Darkness, three adventures that use the D&D system. They’re a great way to try out a character and get dice rolling.

Where to Next?

D&D is the big dog, but there are a ton of other roleplaying games out there. D&D is sword and sorcery, but there are games based on anime, wild west action, sci-fi, Lovecraftian horror, and even suicidal gnomes; there really is something for everyone. I recommend Pathfinder Second Edition as a strong alternative to D&D, especially if you’re looking for a richer game with more options. The Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook includes far more than the Player’s Handbook does, is full of great art, and the Pathfinder community is great.


The Skriblin — A Weird D&D Spelljammer Race

Creatures of pure imagination, the skriblin appear as moving illustrations that speak, breathe, and think like normal humanoids. Let’s find out more about this weird D&D Spelljammer race.

Skriblin D&D Race

Pure Imagination

Skriblin appear magically in densely populated cities. Scholars believe that the skriblin are the incarnation of humanoid creativity; an overflowing of artistic energy made manifest. Although they contain similar levels of arcane and cosmic energy to other humanoids, scholars agree that these energies don’t support the skriblin’s existence. Rather, they are elementals of creativity. Although many have tried to harness this creative energy for other purposes, the skriblin and the force that animates them remains as mysterious as ever.

The skriblin themselves have little interest in their source of life, and instead concern themselves with living lives that conform to their core being or essence. Scholars have noted that this odd behavior often correlates to tropes from drama, bardic sagas, and story telling.

Skriblin D&D Race Traits

Your skriblin is a walking, talking drawing. Although no two skriblin look the same, they share the following common features.

Ability Score Increase. One ability score of your choice increases by 2. Another ability score increases by 1.
Ageless. Skriblin enter life fully formed. You do not age, are immune to aging effects, and take no penalty for being old.
Alignment. Most skriblin tend to be chaotic, but there is no hard and fast rule for this diverse race. All skriblin follow their alignment without deviation, only ever changing alignment through magical means afflicted on them.
Size. Most skriblin are Small, while a few are Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet if you’re Small, or 30 feet if you’re Medium.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one extra language of your choice. Skriblin usually adopt the language of the societies they live within.
Animata. You contain creative energy that sustains you. While you have no levels of exhaustion, you have advantage on saving throws you make to avoid gaining a level of exhaustion.
Animated Creator.
You know the prestidigitation cantrip. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for it.
Trope*. Choose a trope that you most closely align with. You have advantage on skill checks and saving throws where your trope is applicable. For example, if you choose to be “the only sane man“, you might have advantage on Wisdom saving throws to avoid being compelled, and on Wisdom (Insight) checks to avoid being fooled. TvTropes.org has a long list of character tropes worth checking out. The Dungeon Master is the final arbiter of how your trope is used in the game.

* Trope might be the weirdest racial trait I have ever written, and the skriblin is certainly the weirdest race. Have fun, and don’t take it too seriously.

RPG Blog Carnival — Adventures in Space

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival, themed around ‘Adventures in Space’, is fast coming to a close. Be sure to check out the first post, and especially the comments, for loads of other articles related to our theme. I’ll also have a roundup article posted, soon, so check back here in a few days.

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Want More Weird Races Like the Skriblin?

The Skriblin and their friends will appear in the forthcoming Space Punks book, published by us here at Rising Phoenix Games. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date about the project.

Psst, we’ll even give you free books for signing up!

Free Books from Rising Phoenix Games

Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

Space… the final planar frontier. In space, no one can hear you cast fireball. To boldly go where no gnome has gone before. Yes, Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is coming, and we thought we’d cast off, into the big black, and explore some of the possibilities of adventures in space. Three, two, one… teleport!

What is Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

To answer that question, we have a neat little promo video from Dungeons & Dragons’ own Trystan Falcone and Chris Perkins. But first, here’s the announcement trailer:

Got that? It’s basically Guardians of the Galaxy, with magic and ships instead of lasers and starships. Spelljammer is the name of one such ship, not some kind of arcane hacker (which would be an awesome character class, by the way).

Speaking of ships, Wizkids announced a slew of miniatures for Spelljammer, including some great dragons. I’d grab a few of these for my Undersea campaign, though I’m not so sure I’d want to get a bunch of asteroid minis. Maybe X-Wing players will love them?

Your Adventures in Space

Space is fascinating, and, when you add a touch of magic, anything is possible. Let’s get you ready for your own magical adventures in space — in the world of Spelljammer, Starfinder, or any other system or campaign setting.

All through May we’ll be hosting the RPG Blog Carnival with the theme “Magic Adventures in Space”. RPG bloggers from across the realms will bring ideas, stories, experiences, and mechanics, then post them in the comments below. At the end of the month, I’ll do a roundup of the articles, so you’ll have a meteor storm of ideas for when Spelljammer finally… ahem… launches.

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Here are some ideas of things we might see, or you can use them to inspire your own homebrew campaign:

  1. Magic Mechs. The world can never have enough clockwork creatures, especially ridable ones.
  2. Space Pirates. Guardians of the Galaxy but with magic. They’re outlaws who do good, or maybe they’re mercenaries just out to make a few space credits to repair their ship. These NPCs (or pregenerated characters) could be valuable allies or irritating foes.
  3. Space Faring Ships. We’ve already got rules for ship movement and combat, but we could always use more unique vessels. How about The Flying Duchman in space, a space snail with a helm built into its shell, 6-man boarding torpedoes for breaching ships,  an ooze space vessel made of more gooey ooze, or a sentient clockwork ship?
  4. Sci-Fantasy Weapons. Stun guns, laser swords, cannons that fire miniature black holes, EMP magic that stuns clockwork creatures… Sci-Fi is full of unique equipment that could get a fresh take if magic replaced science.
  5. New Races and Monsters. I’m hoping we’ll see some unique creations, or some re-imaginings of creatures we know and love from other Sci-Fi properties. A playable Genestealer, anyone?

Be sure to check back here, throughout May, to see what new content has been posted, in the comments.

Star Foxes – New Spelljammer Race

Star Foxes are lithe creatures with incredible cunning. They are an opportunistic race that has crossed the stars in search of wealth and personal glory. They are expert manipulators and slippery adversaries.

Star Fox Spelljammer Race

Star Fox Traits

Your star fox character is nimble and cunning, yet frail.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2 and your Wisdom and Charisma score increases by 1.

Ability Score Penalty. Your Constitution score decreases by 2.

Age. Star Foxes mature a few years before humans. They live to about 80 years of age.

Alignment. Most star foxes are neutral, though their motivation to survive and thrive at all costs often drives them towards evil and chaos.

Size. Star foxes are smaller than gnomes, seldom topping 4 feet. They average around 40 pounds. Your size is Small.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. Your race has voyaged across the stars and through the darkness of space, and as such you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Cowering Survivalist. You can take the Dodge action as a reaction to a melee attack from a creature you can see, but you have disadvantage on your own melee attacks until the end of your next turn when you do so.

Deep Cunning. You can add your Wisdom bonus to Charisma checks you make to influence other humanoids. You don’t gain this bonus if the creature is hostile towards you.

Safe in Shadow. You have advantage on Stealth checks. You lose this ability in areas of bright light unless you have advantage from some other trait, feature, or effect.

More Starjammer Inspiration

Need even more Starjammer in your life? DriveThru RPG has a wealth of digital and print-on-demand Starjammer books, mostly from Dungeons & Dragons 2e.

Spelljammer 2e Cover

Till next time, see you planetside!


Dakka-Mart, our Gretchin Gun Shop — MM 49

It’s Mini Monday, with customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’re building Dakka-Mart, our Gretchin Gun Shop.

Mini Monday Logo

The trash speaks to me. It tells me to make things. Inconceivable things of waste and scrap.

It’s all very Orky.

The Gretchin Gun Shop uses a bit of hardboard for the base, some corrugated cardboard for the walls, bits of old pens and medicinal sprays for the turret, and spaghetti for the bullets.

That’s right, I chopped up dry spaghetti for the piles of bullet casings. Don’t worry if they’re not of equal length or if they break skew. This is terrain, so it’s not worth stressing over if it’s just going to sit on the tabletop. It’ll look fine when you paint it.

Gretchin Gun Shop - Dakka-Mart

In fact, you don’t want your terrain to outshine your models, so you have loads of leeway when crafting and painting something like this.

The guns and potato-mashers were made from bits of sprue and toy guns I had lying around. The knife was a bit of plastic card cut to shape, with cord glued to the handle. I twisted bits of thin wire around the weapons and then glued them to the walls.

Gretchin Gun Shop Side 2

Hold on though, I want to talk about effort more.

I knocked the main shape of this out in my lunch break, then spent another two hours or so on the details. Painting was quick too. I started this on Friday and was done by Sunday evening. It was a slap-dash paint job done in bad light, but I’m happy enough to have more Orky terrain. Which is the point: you don’t need to spend hours and hours on terrain pieces.

Heck, you don’t even need to spend loads of time on your miniatures.

A little effort is better than no effort. A little colour is better than grey plastic. The terrain you have is better than the terrain you don’t have.

So just go for it. Make stuff. Don’t let expectations of quality hold you back.

Gretchin Gun Shop Painted

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