Tag Archives: RPG blog carnival

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!


When the Bad Guys Beat Christmas

“When the Bad Guys Win” is our RPG Blog Carnival theme for the month. Be sure to check out all the other posts, and the month’s summary at the end of the year.

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the tower
Not a hero was stirring
They’d been sapped of their power
Knocked out cold on the stair
Beaten by goblins
And left sucking for air

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

Up the Stakes!

What a great mantra for adding spice to a game (or story). If things are getting stale or boring, add conflict. Add danger. Add risk. This simple rule keeps fresh blood pumping through your story. It keeps players (or readers) invested.

So how do you add conflict to an evening’s adventure? Add more encounters?

Well, sort of. Encounters, by themselves, add only short-lived conflict and some risk.

We’ve all defeated a random monster in a dungeon and then forgotten about it. To make an encounter work, it has to connect to the narrative. To make it sing, the encounter needs high stakes. It needs real risk.

And I’m not talking about the chance of a TPK. Total Party Kills are not fun. The risk that they might occur is a powerful motivator, but let’s, for the moment, assume the player characters are invincible or, at the very least, we don’t want them to die.

How’s this idea?:

The heroes enter a dungeon. As far as the players know, this is a randomly generated map. They’re level one, and they encounter some goblins. Heck, the party might even just have come from the tavern, where they all met for the first time. It’s all very vanilla.

But things are about to get serious.

They manage to drive off the goblins, but not before one of the green skins shouts a curse.

“Death to the humans!” It declares, before taking a crossbow bolt to the chest. Other goblins take up the chant, and some of these manage to escape.

When the party leave the dungeon, they find their village, including the once-cozy tavern, burned to the ground. Corpses litter the streets. Worse still is the number of missing people. There are signs that goblins have rampaged through the village, and they’ve left a corpse riddled with their black-shafted arrows hanging over the village well. A clear sign that this was an act of revenge.

But there are survivors, and they lay the blame for this squarely on the party.

If the party didn’t care about the village before, then standing on the sidelines is no longer an option. They must leave or take up the villager’s cause.

The goblins have won this fight. Now they’re a significant enemy, and the choices the party will have to make do matter.

Up the stakes!

Santa’s Solo Sale is Here!

Until the 11th of January, 2021, get 30% off any of our solo RPG titles.

Merry Christmas!

 

 


When the Bad Guys Win — RPG Blog Carnival

Great trials. Horrific encounters. Epic adventures. Glittering prizes. Victory. These are all a part of being a hero in the fantasy worlds we explore in our games. But what happens when the bad guys win?

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

RPG Blog Carnival

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is all about “When the Bad Guys Win.” We’ll be putting links in the comments below that cover the topic in all sorts of ways, so be sure to check back here often. At the end of the month we’ll compile all the articles into a list, so keep an eye out for that too.

when the bad guys win — rpg blog carnival logo

The RPG Blog Carnival is a virtual, traveling, monthly event that moves from blog to blog, covering interesting topics related to our wonderful hobby of tabletop roleplaying games. It’s a great way to see what many talented RPG bloggers are up to, get some ideas, and expand your horizons. Enjoy!

Calling All Bloggers

If you’re a blogger, why not join us?

Write a post on this month’s topic, then post a link to the article in the comments below. How you interpret this month’s topic is up to you, but here are some ideas:

  1. Talk about running a game where each member of the party is a dastardly villain.
  2. Give us ideas for cunning, recurring NPC enemies.
  3. Stat up some diabolical monsters.
  4. A fiction piece where the heroes lose the fight.
  5. Paint up some diabolical enemies and share your tips.
  6. Teach us how to roleplay a great villain.
  7. Throw some ideas at us for dealing with character death.
  8. Devise some cunning traps.
  9. Share some great sources featuring villains.
  10. Check out the RPG Blog Carnival Archive for even more ideas.

Be sure to check out what others are writing about and keep boosting the signal as we head into 2021.

 


December RPG Blog Carnival Roundup

2020 is almost upon us, it’s our birthday, and it’s time for the December RPG Blog Carnival Roundup!

2020

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival was all about the players and their characters. The theme was “Adventurer, take this… ,” and we hoped it would inspire you to join in the fun and post an article on the subject.

rpg blog carnival logo

Mayhem in Space

Moebius Adventures posted some great adventure seeds for Aliens & Asteroids, including a “Big Red Button” and a seemingly simple mission to an uninhabited planet. Of course, all kinds of things will probably go wrong for the party, thanks to your wily GM, but that’s roleplaying.

These seeds could easily be adapted to any Space exploration game and are sure to inspire you.

Read Adventurer, Take This…, on Moebius Adventures.

The Mystery Wagon

Codex Anathema has been diving into the artificer this month, and brought us a fantasy version of the Mystery Machine in the Mystery Wagon. Not only is it a great way to avoid wasting time shopping for gear, but post includes a handy new artificer infusion for resizing the wagon.

Read Adventurer, Take This…, on Codex Anathema.

Custom Mini’s for Your PCs

Our very own Mini Monday cooked up an idea for making your own traveling wargaming and roleplaying set, using LEGO minifig heads. This is a great way to let your players build their own highly portable character figure.

Read Mini Monday #12: Travel Wargaming, on Rising Phoenix Games.

Mini Monday #12: Travel Wargaming
LEGO Minifig heads make great travel wargaming miniatures.

Gaming Addiction

Roleplaying, like other gaming, can be addictive. Be aware of the signs of a gaming addiction and seek help if you need it. Our own Magic Life Lessons takes a look at gaming addictions and how you might go about cutting back from unhealthy gaming habits.

Read Magic Life Lessons #11: Gaming Addiction, on Rising Phoenix Games.

That’s a Wrap!

That’s it for the RPG Blog Carnival roundup, for December, and for 2019! We hope you enjoyed this month, and the year, and that 2020 — the “Year of the Icosahedron” — is a great one for you and your gaming group.

See you in 2020!



Adventurer, Take This… — RPG Blog Carnival

RPG Blog Carnival

‘Tis the season to be jolly
To deck the halls with boughs of holly
Then loot the corpses for lots of lolly!

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is all about the players and their characters. The theme is “Adventurer, take this… ,” we hope it will inspire you to join in the fun and post an article on the subject. Here are some ideas to spark your creativity:

  1. An adventure idea based around a magical item, such as an evil ring of invisibility or a magical sword from a lake.
  2. New magical items, gear, weapons, vehicles, or spells.
  3. A look at the role magical and mundane items play in a campaign.
  4. How to deal with overpowered items and the ramifications they can have on your campaign.
  5. An article aimed at the most important people in our games: the players.
  6. A miniature painting tutorial aimed at player character figures.
  7. A devious trap based on a magical item or bit of loot.
  8. A review of a player-focused RPG supplement.
  9. An article appropriate to the season of giving and related to RPG player characters.
  10. A discussion or rules for crafting items or in-game economy.
Adventurer, take this - RPG Blog Carnival
Adventurer, take this…

Be sure to put a link to your post in the comments below. Because of spam moderation and holidays, please allow 48 hours for your post to go live. I’ll post a summary of all the articles at the end of the month, to take us into the new year, on Rising Phoenix Games’ birthday! Let’s end the year with a bang!

If you’re travelling this season, travel safely. Have a Merry Christmas, a happy festive season, and a Happy New year, and we’ll see you next year for more adventures in the worlds inside our heads.

Till next time, play good games!



Busting Out of My Shell

“Write about your personal experiences,” the gurus say. “Speak from the heart, and your readers will listen.” That’s great advice, but I lean so far over to the “introvert” side of the continuum that busting out of my shell isn’t natural or cathartic. But that’s partly why I love roleplaying games so much.

Photo by Alex Chambers - Busting out of my shell
Photo by Alex Chambers

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival has one of those deceptively tough topics: “Why do you love RPGs? Why do you love GMing?” Easy: RPGs are fun. But there’s more to it than that. There’s always more to it.

Busting Out of My Shell

So yeah, two things about me. One, I’m the quiet silent type who avoids crowds and, two, I spend most of my working day involved with RPGs — I’m a huge fan. At the same time, I’ve been a teacher, small group leader, and GM, so I’m used to coordinating others. I learned to do that the old-fashioned way — by running games at high school and after university, then by being involved at church and by taking an English teaching job in Japan. Now I feel confident in my ability to work with others or to run a game.

I still dislike crowds, but roleplaying tables are easier to handle. They also give me a chance to meet others with a shared interest.

Roleplay gives me a chance to dream, and to escape the real world. Since returning to South Africa I’ve felt disjointed. I loved the culture in Japan, the nature, the food, and especially the people. Being back in SA has felt like an uphill struggle in a world that’s no longer my home, but my roleplaying friends were among those who’ve helped me most to settle back in. It’s also great to close the door and drown out the world, now and then. John Kovalic nailed that thought in this Dork Tower comic.

Roll Dice – Touch The World

I’m not suggesting RPGs are a replacement for life. That’s dangerous.

In Japan, I made many friends through roleplaying, but my wife and I also took the time to explore, to get out into a country that was totally alien, even a little frightening, and become part of the community. That wasn’t always easy for me — Tokyo being one of the most crowded cities in the world — but it was good for me.

Busting out of my shell
Photo by Chris Chan

In the same way, a game group can be a way to touch reality. As a GM, I’m a part of providing that space for others, where we can be with friends, joke, and have fun. It’s a place to be part of humanity again and silence the voices in your head.

And believe me, those silent voices are real.

When you spend most of your time locked away in your wizard’s tower, writing RPGs, the voice of reason quickly gets drowned out by negative thoughts and false assumptions.

But that’s a post for another day.

rpg blog carnival logo

Thanks to Campaign Master for hosting this month.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

 

 

 

Roleplaying on the Cheap

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is about Roleplaying on the Cheap, which is something I’ve written about before.

The thing is that roleplaying is a dirt cheap hobby, and you can get by with a handful of dice and some free rules you’ve downloaded off the web, like the basic Dungeons & Dragon rules.

But of course, things are never that simple. You’ll want the massive, beautifully illustrated core books. They’re awesome, and their awesomeness comes with a hefty price tag. Believe me, I know how it feels to shell out for a hefty tome. Living on the other side of the world means shipping often doubles the price on books. My local brick-and-mortar sells the Player’s Handbook for R 850 (South African Rand), which equates to just over $69 USD.

So, what’s a fan to do?
Piracy is rife, but I can’t help feeling that it’s killing the industry and the hobby I love.

I follow three principles when it comes to buying RPG books, which has helped me grow an impressive collection without breaking the bank:

Buy Cheap

Buy books on Humble Bundle, or second-hand, or when there’s a sale, like on Black Friday. Facebook often has local geek interest groups for buying and selling second-hand stuff.

Buy Big

Buy bigger books, instead of small ones. As an RPG publisher, I can attest to the fact that bigger books give you more bang for your buck. The recent Player’s Companion, at 174 pages, is a huge resource for a reasonable $14.95.

Player's Companion, an Excellent Buy if You're Roleplaying on the Cheap
Buy bigger books that give you more content for your money.

Buy Smart

Don’t waste your money on books you won’t use often. Rather, buy books that will lie open at your table, every session. When money is easier, then you can pick up those “nice to have” titles, like extra monster books.

Support the Industry, Support the Hobby

Buying books, dice, maps, minis, coins, t-shirts, and Patreon subscriptions all keep the industry alive and growing, and you should support the hobby by buying what you love. With some thoughtfulness you can do that and still chip in for pizza and pay the rent.

Happy Gaming

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Round Up – May’s RPG Blog Carnival

May’s RPG Blog Carnival was a blast, we destroyed worlds, reshaped history and watched heroes rise and fall, all in the spirit of “At World’s End”.
Here’s a post by post summary…

Moebius Adventures

Only the brave or foolhardy would dare go beyond the borders of the world.
Moebius Adventures offer up some great setting ideas that I haven’t seen get much play in published works and would be perfect for a home campaign.

6d6

Some fantastic campaign seeds and how to introduce them into your game.  Beware, for the end is nigh!

Doom Rides to Silverado

A nice blend of fact and fiction, inspired by the Aztecs. Man, why does it have to end with earthquakes (I live in friggin’ Japan! I’ll be the first to go!)

Notes of the Wandering Alchemist

John Crowley III talks about reaching the end of your campaign, and how to deal with it when the day comes. Because, really, an awesome  campaign needs an awesome ending, so you’ve got to get that right.

Tales of a GM – Part 1

Phil gives us a look into four of his own campaign finales, some bumps he had along the way, and what he learned from the experience.
Some great examples to ponder over.

The Watch House

Some very practical ideas here for apocalyptic events, in a sort of “having your cake and eating it without your whole campaign dying” sort of way. Their title really says it all: Apocalypse Not Now.

Sea of Stars RPG

A dramatic opening to the apocalypse in the Sea of Stars setting. And dragons!

Tales of a GM – Part 2

Phil is back with his finale successes, rapping us up on a high note with more GMing advice based on actual plays.

That’s it for this month. Next month’s topic is Cold Iron and Pixie Dust: The Fae. Be sure to check it out!