Tag Archives: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

Tea-Inspired Plot Hooks for your D&D or Pathfinder Game

Tea! A hot cup of bliss. Writing fuel. Gaming fuel. I can’t GM without it, and now I’ve discovered all sorts of inspiration from the humble beverage. Let’s look at some tea-inspired plot hooks for your game.

Throughout real-world history, the humble tea plant has inspired human determination and greed. Kingdoms have sent men to fight and die to secure their control over the tea trade. Fortunes have been made, and lost, under the hot sun as plantation workers, and slaves, coaxed the tea crop to grow. Add a magical element to the intriguing history of tea and you’ll find plenty of inspiration for your campaign. Below are some ideas.

The Smugglers’ Ring

Tea is a valuable resource. However, tea doesn’t grow naturally in many kingdoms, and some lands don’t have a suitable climate to grow the crop. Consequently, these countries are at the mercy of traders and pay high prices for imported tea. This situation is ripe for enterprising fortune-seekers. The illicit trade of tea supports a vast black market that extends to the highest power in the land. But this shady economy was created by pirates, bandits, and smugglers. Those people daring or desperate enough to risk their lives to capture armed trade ships and caravans, and make off with their cargo. Unsurprisingly, kingdoms with both the climate and a domestic tea plant go to great lengths to protect their tradeable tea harvest. So, it falls to the smuggler to keep the tea flowing.

Teaboys are handy, dayo!

Cargo for Coin

Smugglers mainly move captured cargo, but also traffic plants. A rival plantation owner or a kingdom may see a single seedling as the key to their future empire. The powerful are willing to pay handsomely for such opportunities—provided their involvement remains a closely guarded secret.

The party might be involved on either side of a tea-smuggling plot, as smugglers or investigators. Involve the player characters further by binding them to the tea trade. It’s not just a job. Must they carry tea plants across mountains and rivers, through orc lands, to pay the ransom for their village? Does the loss of their village tea harvest — taken by bandits — threaten their livelihood?

A smuggling ring can have many tiers, and dealing with each might take many sessions. Who do the smugglers work for? Is the smuggling ring one of many? Is the tea plot the first incursion of a great war between nations? Add a fantasy twist and you might have a vampire queen building her kingdom’s dominance through the tea trade. Or a lich who uses his smugglers as scouts, probing for an initial invasion of his undead hordes.

It’s hard for us to imagine tea’s value when it’s readily available in our modern economy. In a fantasy world, where growing and moving crops might face other problems, such as dragons or magical catastrophes, tea might be even more valuable and hard to come by than it was in our real-world history. Consider the realities of the tea trade in your fantasy world and you’ll add an authenticity that helps your shared story come alive.

The Magic of Tea

Does lemon and ginger tea really help to cure the common cold? Does tea truly have health benefits? While modern science cannot confirm the miraculous properties attributed to tea, in the realm of fantasy, the possibilities are boundless. Is tea an important component of resurrection magic? Has one of the heroes died? Are tea leaves difficult to obtain? You can control the importance of tea in your campaign by dialing up the usefulness of hot beverages, while making tea rare. If a cup of tea is the only way to restore mana, your players will go to great lengths to secure a personal tea crop.

There are means to tie nonmagical characters to tea. Clerics might incorporate tea into sacred rituals, alchemists may seek to distill its essence for potent brews, and rogues could be hired to pilfer rare tea leaves or exquisite silver tea sets. The infusion of magic into these scenarios adds further depth and intrigue.

Supplement these tea-inspired plot hooks by making tea evocative. The champion’s cup of chai exudes an aroma that evokes faraway lands. It reinvigorates her with power drawn from the very earth. It holds the warmth of life. Then, just maybe, she connects to her god through the deep magic of tea.

The Politics of Tea

Tea grows in the dirt, yet kingdoms, with their centers far from those fields, depend on that crop. As we’ve seen, the business of tea is as important to a king as it is to the muddy worker who sewed and harvests it. The heroes begin their story as modest farm hands, at level 1, and through facing monsters and deadly quests grow to become tea barons and baronesses by level 20. Throughout this progression, the heroes’ progression is indelibly tied to the tea harvest and its trade.

Teahouse Leshy for Tea-Inspired Plot Hooks
Teahouse leshys consider tea an art form. #DrinkTea

At first level, the party might defend their harvest from goblins, those little fiends who love setting fields ablaze. Goblins never need a good reason for arson. At second level, the harvest is collected and taken to market and will need an escort. At third level, a trader bargains for the entire harvest and stout hearts to accompany it to his ship. Perhaps the trader has a decree from the queen and drafts the party into the kingdom’s service. Can the party navigate the dangerous river voyage to bring their cargo of supplies (including that tea) to the besieged allies of their monarch?

That same tea cargo might cross many more kingdoms and oceans before its journey is done. With the party traveling with it, there will be plenty of opportunity for intrigue and adventure. When the party finally returns to their fields, they do so as champions of the kingdom, with wagon loads of treasure creaking along behind them.

Join Us for a Cup!

The Magic of Tea is our latest supplement for Pathfinder Second Edition, and it contains a bunch of treats for your campaign. It’s a perfect addition to these tea-inspired plot hooks. The book includes:

  1. 18 new spells inspired by tea. Another cup, anyone?
  2. Tea Master background
  3. Brewpot Dragonet and the Teaboy creatures

You can find The Magic of Tea on DriveThruRPG and Itch.IO.

Two sugars for me, please.

How to Become an RPG Designer

Do you want to be an RPG designer? Maybe you’ve created some great homebrew content, have a few products on sale already, or have a cool tabletop RPG (TTRPG) idea you want to publish. Maybe you’re just curious about what it takes to create RPGs for a living and wonder where to start. Whatever the case, this article’s for you.

First Steps

The first thing you need to do is start.

TTRPGs involve a lot of creative energy. From creating your first character to running a months-long campaign, the hobby expects your creative investment at many levels. The trick is to take that creative investment, develop your craft (the ability to create and package that creativity), and ultimately deliver professional products.

Those customers might be an RPG publisher like Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, or Rising Phoenix Games, or you might be self-publishing on a site like DriveThruRPG or Itch.io. Either way, produce good work and be an asset to the roleplaying community.

An RPG designer is often part of a team. I’ve written rules, edited stat blocks, laid out books, created covers, made art assets, drawn maps, managed development teams, and made the tea. Mostly, that work is shared by a team of talented individuals, each with strengths and flaws. Being a team player is important, as is balancing your ego with a healthy dose of humility.

So, it’s worth learning as much as possible about writing and game design to be an asset to any development team you’re a part of. This collection of resources has proved very helpful to me, and I hope it’s helpful to you too.

Recommended Reading

I maintain a bookshelf on GoodReads with great RPG design resources. Check it out. All of the books I’ve listed are ones I refer back to often.

Writing

Mystery Dice Featured Image

RPG Design Courses

Various courses on RPG game design:

RPG Product Marketing Courses

  1. Title Descriptions DriveThruRPG course video.

RPG and Fiction/Fantasy Writing Courses

  1. Brandon Sanderson’s BYU course on Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy

Rapid Prototyping

The following tools are useful for making quick, iterative versions of your game ideas.

  1. Video about rapid prototyping for card games.

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Pathfinder Second Edition

Specific tools and resources for creating Pathfinder Second Edition supplements.

  1. PF2 Tools.
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Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition

AI Tools

Many people take issue with AI tools, but — like any tool — knowing how to use the tool gives you more options to create better works. Enhance, rather than replace.

  1. Grammarly for AI-assisted text editing.

Free Web Tools

I use the following tools to improve my workflow, manage projects, and supplement my digital and real-world tools.

  1. Trello is a great management tool.
  2. Cloud Convert concerts file formats. Useful when you do a lot of work with PDFs.


Mystery Dice: Can we Unravel D&D’s Greatest Mystery?

Dice. Can you ever own enough? Will they roll high when it matters? These questions might be the greatest mysteries of our wonderful roleplaying hobby. Or it’s “What’s in a pack of Mystery Dice?” I’m here to rip open that mystery like a frenzied goblin oracle tearing apart a loot sack!

Rip open a bag of Mystery Dice
Rip open a bag of Mystery Dice!

Mystery Dice? What’s in the Bag?

Mystery Dice, from UK-based Mystery Dice Goblins, are blind bags of 7 RPG dice. They’re perfect for games of Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. There’s the caltrop-of-doom D4, the ubiquitous D6, the D8, the pair of D10s (units die and tens die), the D12, and the mighty D20. Each bag’s contents are colour-matched, so you get a complete, colour-coordinated set. However, the transparent purple set I opened has 5 dark purple and 2 light purple dice. I call it my “Berry Blast” set. Although the variation is noticeable, they still look fantastic together. I love them!

Berry Blast RPG Mystery Dice

The dice are a good, standard size. The set I’m playing with are slightly rough distressed blue dice. The D4 and D6 are slightly bigger than the same dice from the Pathfinder Beginner Box set, which is only noticeable when you carefully compare them.

Distressed Blue Mystery Dice

All the numbers on the dice are clear, and that readability is important to me. We need to see those numbers! In our third set, the gold paint on green and white marbling produces a low contrast, but I’ll take elegance over readability in this case. These are some of our most beautiful dice — the other being a green and black marbled set, which belongs to my wife. She has excellent taste.

Mystery Dice Marbled Green and White

Blind Bags are a Party, in a Bag

Skeptical of blind bags? Me too, but I remember being a kid and the fun we had opening those Monster in My Pocket packets. The fun’s still there today. Opening each pack was an exciting rush of endorphins, and I was happy with every dice I got. Several older sets are getting the boot from my collection to make way for the new arrivals.

Grab some bags with your gaming group, then figure out who gets the first pick. You’ll have a blast and get a set you love as part of the deal. Christmas is far off, but Mystery Dice are the perfect stocking filler. They’re also a great gift for gamer friends or prizes for your gaming club.

Where to Buy Mystery Dice

You can buy Mystery Dice from the Mystery Dice Goblins website.

Keep Rolling!

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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.

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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


Why You Absolutely Must Play Pathfinder 2nd Ed.

Pathfinder Second Edition has been around for a while now, and if you’re still finding excuses not to try out the system then let me tell you why you absolutely must play Pathfinder Second Edition.

Pathfinder Second Edition
Image credit: Yuri_b

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 was a great system. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (good old 1st ed) was also a great system, which built on 3.5, streamlining some of the clunkier rules. Something then happened in the D&D world that might be better left forgotten, but then came Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, another amazing system. Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition marked a renaissance for the hobby and became immensely popular.

Then came Pathfinder Second Edition, which might not have become the smash hit D&D 5e is, but does have the benefit of all these systems that came before it.

Which is why you need to give it an honest go.

If you’re serious about your TTRPG hobby (you probably shouldn’t be too serious though, it’s just a hobby), then you owe it to yourself to see what Pathfinder Second Edition has to offer with its new take on fantasy roleplaying and D20 systems in particular.

Steal Like a GM

Great gamemasters steal ideas all the time, and because Pathfinder Second Edition evolved out of so many other, solid D20 systems it has a lot to offer in terms of new mechanics, reworked rules, and fresh perspectives. You might find something you want to adapt for your own game, even if you’re sticking with 5e. There are plenty of resources on the Internet for converting PF2 to 5e, which will give you pointers on how to tackle your thefts. (Don’t actually steal something folks. I’m talking about grabbing inspiration and making it your own.)

Ultimately, PF2 has a lot to offer players who like fiddly-bits in their games. While 5e is great in general, the level of abstraction in the system can get frustrating, while Pathfinder Second Edition offers many more dials and switches to tweak. If you’ve never tried Pathfinder, then go see what all those dials and switches can do for you.

You can find Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and Fifth Edition books in our store.


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

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:

Rising Phoenix Games on Facebook
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Rising Phoenix on Pinterest
Watch us on YouTube

RPG Leveling is Broken — Why Levels Suck

RPG leveling is broken. And yes, I’m looking at you, Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder 1 and 2.

First off, thank you to Plastic Polyhedra for hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival, to which this topic relates.

RPG Levelling is Broken
Image by Esteban Sayhueque

The Problem with Levels

Here’s my gripe:

In real life, but even more importantly, in stories, characters grow in ways that have nothing to do with their skills and abilities. Think of most comic book heroes. They generally have a set of skills that don’t improve during the course of their adventures, though they might get better control over their powers over time. There’s not much story in abilities. Rather, characters face personal challenges that grow their personality… their character.

Now, I get that gaining power is fun, but it’s false fun. Gaining an extra attack, just because I’ve reached level 5, doesn’t make my character stand out from other barbarians. Reaching level 15, just so I can kill level 15 monsters, isn’t real growth, it’s just gated content. Bilbo didn’t gain a new feat that enabled him to sneak past Smaug. He had a magical ring for that!

Character Building is not a GM’s Prerogative

The GM can offer chances for a player’s character to grow, but ultimately that isn’t the GM’s job. The GM’s job is to stoke the fires of the furnace that will forge the character’s character, and the player’s the blacksmith.

But the mechanics can help.

A Few Solutions

Leveling up in D&D or Pathfinder type games could, with a few rules tweaks, be more meaningful. We won’t even throw out the core rules, I promise.

Your character should change in a meaningful way during their adventures, such as gaining new flaws, changing alignment, become more set in their current alignment, developing a new phobia, or seeking to accomplish new goals.

A ton of RPG systems already implement mechanics for these. The Mouse Guard RPG and Cortex both used a system similar to 5e’s flaws, ideals, and bonds, but they change very frequently and are linked to how you gain experience. This isn’t a new idea.

Encourage your players to play to their flaws, ideals, and bonds, or to hooks linked to their alignment, and offer them experience for doing so. How much you offer them is your dial; turn up the roleplay by offering more, or turn it down and focus on traditional advancement by offering less. Then, when a character levels up, force them to refine their flaws, ideals, and bonds, or add new ones. Encourage them to be specific.

Get your players more connected to their character’s story, because feat or skill choices aren’t meaningful decisions.

Image by Ubergank

The Grimdark Pamphlet

The Grimdark Pamphlet offers new ideas and rules for taking your Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition game to darker places, where your choices matter and death is a real threat. We update the book from time to time with new rules, so your once-off purchase gets you a growing repository of rules and GMing advice. It also includes information on joining our playtest.

Grimdark Pamphlet Cover

Till next time, Be The Hero!


When the Bad Guys Win – Blog Carnival Roundup

This December, at the end of a year that’ll stand in infamy among years, we looked at “When the Bad Guys Win“. Here’s a roundup of all the articles submitted as part of the carnival, and what a carnival it was!

Image credit: Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

When the Bad Guys Win

Tom Homer of Plastic Polyhedra — the hosts of January 2021’s RPG Blog Carnival — asked (When) is it okay to TPK? He looks at some of the pitfalls of common solutions for rescuing a campaign from a TPK and suggests that TPKs might be unavoidable, but can have negative consequences. Understanding this is an important part of being a great GM.

I want to build stories around the PCs, so what happens if all of those PCs suddenly die?
— Tom of Plastic Polyhedra

Steve Rakner of Roll 4 Network wrote about creating the ultimate boss battle. Steve brings more ways to up the ante in a boss fight, all of which have little to do with power levels or adding buckets of HP to the boss. Follow his advice and your players are sure to remember the Big Bads of your table for years to come.

Gonz at Codex Anathema wrote about The Darkest Hour — how to deal with a Total Party Kill (TPK). There’s life for your campaign after death, and Gonz reveals how you can go from a TPK to a memorable campaign that builds on the legacy of characters that have come before.

Image credit: Yuri_b

Tony Bro001 at Roleplay-Geek posted about the bad guys winning, and looks at it in terms of Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. He also looked at a number of well-known movies and stories to highlight the importance of beating down the heroes, and how an NPC can be a useful proxy for the PCs.

Timothy S. Brannan of The Other Side made Skylla, a 7th level witch for Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. Pathfinder 1e fans will find a link to her stats for that version of the game, in the post.

Here, at Rising Phoenix Games, I talked about upping the stakes for memorable encounters in When the Bad Guys Beat Christmas. Similar to Steve, we looked at ways you can put the pressure on the player characters to create encounters that they’re invested in.

And that, as they say, is a wrap!

Thank you to everyone who took part, as well as to Scot Newbury of Of Dice and Dragons, who herds cats to keep the RPG Blog Carnival alive and growing. If you’re an RPG blogger, do consider joining us on our adventures.

Rising Phoenix Games is 10!

The last day of the year marks the anniversary of the founding of Rising Phoenix Games. We’re looking forward to bringing you more exciting games in 2021!

Happy 10th Birthday Rising Phoenix

Have a Happy New Year and stay safe everyone!