Tag Archives: Role-playing

A GMs Gift

March 4th was GMs day, so don’t forget to buy something nice for the GM in your life at the Drive Thru RPG GMs Day Sale. This post is dedicated to GMs everywhere, you lords and ladies rock! Secretly all of our posts are aimed at GMs, but nobody knows that, shhh.

This week is also our first post in the new time slot and we have loads of stuff for you, so let’s dive right in.

Avernos Unearthed
As promised, this week we venture into the Veiled Lands, the mysterious home of the elves.

Next week we’ll go beyond the Veil and into a whole other world, the fae lands.

Avernos Wiki

Campaign Journal
For my Marvel Heroic Roleplaying campaign I made my own Daily Bugle template in Word (docx 863kb).
You’re free to share it, just provide a link to this post by way of credit if you do. It helps me to keep doing what I love to do.

I use the Bugle to do “in character” session reports, which have been a great way to keep everyone informed and excited for the next session.

Rising Phoenix News
Yarr, ’tis swell ta be a buccanneer on the high sea, where every day be talk like a pirate day. Our new Sea Tiles let you create vast oceans and rivers on the tabletop. I made them to use with maps I already had in my collection, and I know you’ll find them useful too.

Raft vs Fire Elemental
Miniatures and raft model not included.

Sea Tiles

Inspired in Japan
The Ogre of Rashomon is a great little tale about a samurai and his battle against the menace of Kyoto, a fearsome oni. It would make for a good adventure.

Scene 1, the PCs are asked to investigate a string of murders at the Rashomon gate in town. They discover that all the murders happened at night, the only time the oni comes out, and so they wait for night fall.

Scene 2, before the Rashomon gate, during the darkest hours of night. The group is surprised by the oni, who attacks them after using magic like invisibility or darkness. Before the oni is killed, he uses magic to escape into the night. The heroes find his arm lying on the ground.

Scene 3, after finding no trail of the oni, several weeks pass before an old lady visits the party. Really the oni in disguise (disguise self), she attacks the party again, seeking to make off with her arm. If she escapes then you’ve got a very interesting recurring villian who might be all sorts of trouble for the party. That arm could even become a much sought after artifact, causing even more headaches as various daimyo send their ninja to claim the appendage.

If you’re playing Pathfinder, then both the fire yai and kuwa oni from Bestiary 3 would work, giving you a CR 15 and a CR 4 option, although I like the fire yai more, since he more closely fits the story.

The Books of Faces
I love the Internet, especially the way I can quickly test the strength of a concept. The Book of Faces hasn’t had the response I was hoping for, but that’s okay, because it has been a great chance to learn. As such, I’ve decided to pull the Book of Faces section from future posts.

I’d like to thank you for your interest in the project. Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy books were a big part of my youth, and I’ve really enjoyed writing my own adventure for you. Rest assured that the adventure will continue, and you can still play on the Facebook page, but it won’t be a regular weekly feature here from now on. This will give me a chance to work on the book and relaunch it later in a much more polished form.

That’s all from me until next week.
Tell Thrilling Tales


Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

New Time Slot

This is not the post you are looking for…

Instead, our featured posts will now come out on Saturday morning, 00:00 GMT. We’re doing our best to optimize the blog and we hope this change will help us do just that.

See you Saturday!

Recycled Dungeon

I made a little trip down to the local second hand shop and look what I found.

Recycled Dungeon Good

The elf and dwarf are for scale.

The steampunk stuff is from the movie Steamboy. You can buy the models in blind boosters (some are available on Amazon.com.)

The barrel and raft came from a weapon display rack (the raft was the rack, easily repurposed). The small crates were from a model scooter.

 

Large stone idol

I have no idea where the scary statue guy comes from, but I bought it as is. He’s perfect for the dungeon. And what’s more, the pillars of flame detach, so I can use them on their own.

Amazing what you can find when you look in the right places.

2014 Will Be Big

This year I’ve narrowed my scope down to four projects and I thought I’d fill you in on my plans.

I’ll be writing for ICON again this year. If you don’t know, ICON is one of the big role-playing conventions in South Africa. With 10 RPG modules and 2 LARPs scheduled, it promises to be a 3 day role-playing extravaganza. Watch this blog for more!

Continuing with adventure modules, this month I’m doing the Gamers Lifestyle Boot Camp. The goal: publish my first full adventure module on DTRPG. Since I started Rising Phoenix Games three years ago, the goal has always been to publish my modules, making them available to more people. I’ve deliberately held off from publishing for now, but everything will change come August this year or next when my contract ends. So, although you might have to wait, I’ll be toiling away in anticipation. And, to kill two giant eagles with one magic missile, my Boot Camp project is also my ICON module. Yes, sneaky hobbitses indeed.

For a new challenge, I’m helping a friend craft the story for an indie X-Box game. No spoilers yet, but this will be a great chance for me to hone my story telling skills.

Claustrophobia! is getting sleeker. The gnomes are working frantically on page layout and a cover design and I’ve spent some time tightening up the main themes of the game. After a little more simmering I’ll be getting back to you for your opinion. Be sure to join the Facebook group to keep in touch with developments.

Finally, I started working on a Flash game last year.  Why a Flash game? Well, it’s something I learnt in university and hadn’t touched for awhile. I must say, picking it up again was easier than riding a bicycle and a great way to end off 2013. Will Rising Phoenix Games go the route of digital gaming? That remains to be seen. I watched an interesting video recently by Jonathan Blow that has me thinking about what makes a good game and I feel I could deliver something really interesting. So, with two digital projects set for 2014, let’s see where this takes us.

Phew. That’s a load. The quote for yesterday’s Boot Camp was “We overestimate what we can do in a year. But we underestimate what we can do in an hour.” That’s from Yax at www.dungeonmastering.com. It certainly might be the case here, but I have worked hard to lay a good foundation and now it’s just a matter of getting stuck in.

 

Tactics for Terrors

Welcome to part 4 in this series focused on solo and GMless infiltration games. Check out part 1, part 2 and part 3 if you missed out.

 

“The secret of success in battle lies often not so much in the use of one’s own strength but in the exploitation of the other side’s weaknesses.”
John Christopher, When the Tripods Came

 

I like those little snippets of monster tactics you sometimes find in published adventures. They give you a better idea of why the monster is in the adventure, and they provide you with a framework for making play decisions.

Monster Lair with unknown enemies.
“This should be a safe place to camp!”

In a solo game, it’s just as helpful to have a plan for the monsters, otherwise I tend to fudge their decisions in my favour. “Oh, I know I could easily kill the hero with my sneaky attack. But I’ll come out of hiding, being the brave goblin that I am. I’ll even let Hero-Man have the first swing.” If the goblin has a plan, many of my choices are made, I can focus on playing the star of the show, my optimized and much loved character with the dog eared character sheet.

I came up with the following simple strategy sheet to help me out:

Goblin Strategy Sheet

Here’s a brief description of each entry:

Role: a word to describe the monster’s tactics, such as sniper, assassin, wrestler, commander or artillery.

Morale: If the creature tends to be brave, cowardly, or something in-between.

Ease: How the monster acts when there is no threat.

Alert: What the monster does when they become aware of any danger or enemies.

Melee: What the monster does when engaged in, or within range for melee combat.

Range: What the monster does when engaged in, or within range for missile combat.

Blood: What the monster does when they have taken significant damage. You can decide what “significant damage” means, but I usually go with 50% and below of their HP as the crossover mark.

 

Playing, you will have some idea of how a given monster will react to your actions, eliminating some of the surprise; a problem I’d still like to solve. Furthermore, you have to play as the GM, especially during setup. But this turns setup into a game on its own; how do the goblins think? What are they fighting for? Would they rather fight from far or up close with a sharp blade? These questions bring story and tactics together, giving you a chance to add to your narrative, as discussed in part 2.

Have you tried something similar? I’d love to know what you think.  I’ll leave you with a quote from Mr Tzu:

 

“Conform to the enemy’s tactics until a favorable opportunity offers; then come forth and engage in a battle that shall prove decisive.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War

 

Till Later, Tell more Thrilling Tales!

Behind the Dungeon Door

This is Part 3 of the Daggers at Dusk Series. Check out part 1 and part 2 for more on playing solo infiltration games.

Last week I ventured into the Goblin Caves, had fun and got captured. Now I’m going to show you a simple system I use to make my games even more interesting. You never know what’s around the next corner, and this system is all about adding that kind of uncertainty back into the game.

What's behind the door?
What’s behind the door?

First, decide on the monsters for your map and add a couple extra. With the Goblin Caves from last week, there might be an orc or two hanging around, so I set aside two orcs with the rest of the miniatures.

We added two orcs, so we’ll set them aside with two goblins, but place everything else on the map: a goblin boss on the throne and two goblin guards to watch the prisoners.

Goblin Caves
The Goblin Caves from last week. Look carefully and you might find my blood stain on the rocky floor, urgh.

Now place counters for the unknown enemies. These counters might turn out to be the orcs or just plain goblins. They might even turn out to be nothing at all. Place one counter for each goblin/orc pair (the minis still in our pool).

Now play the game as usual. The counters move 20 feet per turn using the system I described in part 1. Since the counters are most likely to be goblins, they have the same perception scores.

If your character lays eyes on the token roll a D4 and consult the table below, replacing the token with the appropriate miniature.

(D4) Random Monster Table (MK1)
1-2: Goblin
3: Orc
4: Nothing

Once the creature has been identified, play with its regular stats. You can also use random monster tables from published sources, but building your own from the ground up keeps the game more manageable. Play around with the table to get more variety for your games, for example:

(D8) Random Monster Table (MK2)
1-2: Goblin
3: Prisoner
4: Orc
5: Dire rat
6: Goblin Boss
7: Goblin Dog or Warg
8: Goblin riding a Goblin Dog or Warg.

If you’ve played Lunatic Labyrinth then you’ve seen this system in action before. The unknown really raises the game, demanding more of you as a solo player. Scouting missions make more sense too, while intelligence gathering becomes paramount to carrying out a successful mission.

A Shadow in the Goblin Caves

Last week I told you about a simple infiltration game I played many years back. Today I’m breaking out the minis to do it again. Let’s go kill some gobbos.

For this game I used the Pathfinder Beginners Box, but you could just as easily use the full Pathfinder Role-Playing Game, Dungeons and Dragons of any vintage, or some other system.

I’ll be playing Grunni, a human sell-sword (fighter) of level 1. I’m out to rescue a friend who fell foul of goblins in the early hours of the morning. I’ve been tracking the goblins and found their cave, which I’m watching from an outcrop of rocks as the evening sets in.

Goblin Caves

 

In the caves are four goblins, each by a fire, and one goblin boss, who sits on a stone throne. In the prison is a wounded and bound halfling by the name of Ranna Lightleap. She’s fast asleep on the hard stone floor.
Swimming around in the lake is a gray ooze, which feeds off fishes and the waste the goblins throw into the stream. It’s important to have the odds stacked against you; two goblins may be a challenge, but with the boss and an ooze to fall foul of, I’ll have to watch my step.

My mission is to free Ranna. My secondary missions are to kill the goblin boss, kill or drive off the goblins or to reconnoitre the caves so I can come back with a stronger force armed with some knowledge. Four different objectives will give me options when goblin poop starts flying.

Because the forces I’m dealing with are goblins, I don’t want much order to their defences. I want the grunts to move at random. They’re not patrolling or on watch for danger, so they’ll use the system I defined last week.
The boss will stay put in his chair. I’ll roll for him in the same way, but he’ll only change the direction he’s facing. If a roll would mean he’s left staring at the wall, I’ll keeping him facing as he is instead. This way he’s a kind of sentry, and harder to sneak up on.
The ooze will move at random, but will stick to the river (and the lakes that he’s used to). If anyone comes within striking distance (10 foot), he’ll attack. This way he’s a manageable threat, but could cause problems if there’s fighting near the river.

Now, a little more back story, to set the mood. Ranna is a skilled ranger who has been helping me track bandits in the area. Lone travellers have gone missing recently, which is strange this close to the safety of South Fort. We’d been tracking the bandits for days, eager to claim the sizeable bounty on their heads. Then a tribe of goblins attacked us while we slept one night. I (Grunni the sell-sword) feel like I got Ranna into this mess, so I better get her out again.

I start inching my way towards the cave mouth, using boulders for cover. I can see movement within and a goblin appears at the cave exit, looking out. He turns away, so I inch out of hiding, my bow ready if he should spot me. Suddenly he turns. I don’t see his face, silhouetted by the firelight within, but I see him raise an arm to point at me. I loose my arrow, but my shot goes wide, clattering off the stone wall. He shouts something in his guttural tongue and all hell breaks loose. Another gobbo runs out, bow in hand, I fire again and drop my bow. My blade comes free of my scabbard and glints in the moon light. “So much for stealth”, I mutter as two more goblins appear. In the storm of arrows I take one in the shoulder. It’s a solid hit, but I’m not going down yet.

The fourth goblin levels his bow; a hideous creature with a baboon like face. The arrow flies straight and true, punching through my armor and flesh, sending out a black cloud of my life blood. He rolled a 20 to hit and confirms to take me to -3 health. I slump to the floor and my world goes black.

When I awake, I’m roped and lying next to Ranna.
“Good morning. I trust the rescue attempt is going well?” She smirks.

Next time I’ll be more patient.

Short, I know, but the whole game played out with the rules I’ve laid down and no GM. It was fun, challenging and I’ve since replayed the mission again, trying out a more stealthy rogue. Why not give it a try and let me know how it goes.

The next post in the series is here.

Daggers at Dusk

Did you ever play Metal Gear Solid or a similar game where it was you against a ton of bad guys? You, and you alone, had to sneak in and bring the mayhem.  There are plenty of examples out there, but two of my favorite PC games of all time are Ghost Recon and Operation Flashpoint. Both have strong stealth elements to the game that I loved. I didn’t mind taking hours to carefully play through a mission, avoiding detection and taking out the enemy, silently and one by one.

Creese_Malayan_dagger

I also love special forces stories, such as Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab and Pathfinder, a book I just finished reading, by David Blakeley. Both books involve elite teams of British soldiers on missions behind enemy lines, with the odds stacked heavily against them. I’ve read loads of similar books, which you’ll find listed at the end of this post.

I think these kinds of games and stories would make great solo RPG games. They’re tense and feeling totally alone and out gunned is part of the fun. Sadly, I’ve yet to see any fantasy stuff that gives you a good taste of this. Sure, there are rogues in most fantasy RPG’s, but how often do they get to be truly sneaky? How often is everything geared towards covert operations?

When I was in high school I collected Blood Angle Space Marines and Orks for Warhammer 40,000. I didn’t get to play much, so sometimes I’d set up a small scenario and play both sides of the fight. These solo games weren’t always challenging, but as I progressed they became more interesting: “How many gretchin does it take to  bring down a Terminator Space Marine?” Or “how many turns can an Ork army survive against a cloud of vortex grenades?” And so on.

Then I came up with a great covert mission. One Space Marine Scout versus an encampment of Orks. He’d have to go in unseen and take the green bloods out silently, one at a time. I sure as hell didn’t want to control the Orks; that scout was me and I was going to do everything in my power to win through. So I built my own AI.

The “AI” was a simple set of rules. Each round I would roll a D6 for each Ork:

  1. Move North.
  2. Move East.
  3. Move South.
  4. Move West.
  5. Continue in the direction the figure is facing.
  6. Stop (Do nothing).

The simple options worked well with the grid-like Ork camp I’d set up (they must have been Freebooters). And it was easy to imagine any Ork facing a wall as having a pee or rummaging through some unseen stores. No long tables to consult, just six options that were easy to memorize.

I also added stealth rules, since 40K only had rules for hiding. My rules covered things like sneaking, hiding in shadows or long grass, silent kills (which were auto kills if you managed to sneak up behind your target) and rules for hiding bodies. Nothing complex, the only thing you needed to roll for was if you were hiding in open ground and an Ork was staring in your direction (a 5 or 6 on a D6 would mean he’d spotted you.)  Most of the rules I made up as I needed them, so I pretty much dived right in.

Ork Disguises
I have no idea who deserves credit for this, so I’m linking to where I found it. Well played to the artist.

I’ve spoken about solo games a few times on this blog, and it’s become a bit of an obsession for me. That probably all started with that game, which was a really exciting, memorable session and the most fun I had with 40K. It had everything I wanted: tension, unpredictable enemies, a need for tactics, atmosphere and fuel for my imagination. I was that scout, and I was in that camp to break those Orks once and for all. I could feel the shadows, they were my comfort. I knew the heft of my silenced pistol, it was my strength.

 

Recommended Reading

 

Pathfinder: A Special Forces Mission Behind Enemy Lines by David Blakeley

Bravo Two Zero: The Harrowing True Story of a Special Forces Patrol Behind the Lines in Iraq by Andy McNab

Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook
Especially see the section related to the ninja. Although the facts surrounding the ninja are debatable, this book is an interesting read, especially if you’re playing an Asian campaign or a ninja character.

SoloNexus by JF
An excellent blog devoted to solo play.

Werewolf: The Story of the Nazi Resistance Movement 1944-1945 by Charles Whiting

 

The follow up to this post is here:
http://www.risingphoenixgames.com/blog/shadow-in-the-goblin-caves/

Long Earth – Lessons in World Building

The Long Earth” is a Sci-Fi novel by authoring greats Sir Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. In the book, a device for travelling between copies of our Earth is discovered, leading to great social change and many interesting adventures for the book’s characters. The novel is a great example of world building and from it we can derive a simple formula for creating our own fantastic realities.

 

 

Steppers

In “The Long Earth”, a scientist leaves behind a device that allows a person to “step” from our world to the next along a string of earth’s. Think of this string of earth’s like a string of beads – you can move “east” or “west” from earth to earth, step by step. Each earth is a slightly different copy of our own, with a different outcome of evolution or global and cosmic events having left their mark. The device and the instructions for creating them (left on the Internet) leads to the mass migration of people from our own earth (Datum Earth) and the colonization of thousands of other earths.

 

A Formula

Effectively, the authors have taken our own world, here and now, and added one fact or reality:

There exists a number of different iterations of our earth.

With this reality they add some mechanics to describe how the reality works in practice:

  • You can move one earth “east” or “west”, with a device called a “stepper”. This is called stepping.
  • Stepping causes nausea.
  • Some people can step naturally, without the device or the inconvenient side-effects.
  • Readers of the book will be familiar with “stuttering” and “soft spots”, further mechanics of the Long Earth, which describe aspects of how the “reality” works. I won’t go into that now, read the book if you want to know more.

From the above “mechanics” the authors draw conclusions which shape the world (or “worlds” in this case). These conclusions come to light through the narrative of the story:

  • People step for various reasons – to explore, to run away, to get rich, and so on.
  • Some worlds have dinosaurs, other ancient mammals, others are devoid of life or covered in ocean.
  • People have different beliefs about what the Long Earth is, and factions form around those beliefs.

 

In short – a reality – one single concept that defines the world, is represented by a number of mechanics. These mechanics describe how the “reality” works in practice. From these “mechanics” we can derive “consequences”; repercussions of the mechanics that are visible in the world.

Reality -> Mechanics -> Consequences

 

Taking these principles into account, it’s easy to see how they can be expanded on or repeated to add more complexity to the world or an aspect of it. I think “The Long Earth” works well, at least as a novel, because it isn’t an overly complex world, yet from the core “reality” an interesting world containing infinite possibilities is derived. That’s what makes this formula so great: it’s simple and limitless. Give it a try in your own campaign, it will give you the framework your imagination needs to run wild.