Tag Archives: Tabletop Roleplaying Games

Can We Improve RPG Leveling Systems?

Look at me, killing monsters for wealth and XP! Experience points (Exp or XP) are a great reward for players and a fun part of the game (it’s all fun though, right?). But do they really do their job? Can we build better RPG leveling systems that include roleplaying?

Void Dragonborn

Leveling up with XP is a staple of the genre and games like D&D and Pathfinder would lose much of their playability without it. Imagine being level 1, forever!  Each new level gives you more options and lets you fight bigger monsters and face more dangerous challenges. But has anything really changed for your character? Hasn’t the bar just moved? Has the character’s experience of the world really changed them at all?

Before I sound too much like a jaded grognard, I’m not saying that the system’s broken. It doesn’t need fixing. But what if the system incorporated character development? What if your character didn’t just become more powerful, but their outlook changed and they grew in their understanding of the world?

The Mouse Guard RPG and Marvel Heroic Roleplay both tie mechanics to your character’s goals, and I’ll bet there are a ton of other systems that do too. How does it work? Basically, you gain some penalty or bonus (or both) when your character’s goal or flaw comes into play. These goals or flaws often change at the end of a session or when you level up your character.

In D&D, we have ideals, bonds, and flaws, but they’re not linked to level progression. With One D&D recently announced, are we likely to see that change? What might an ideals-based leveling system look like?

An Ideals-Based RPG Leveling Systems

Instead of (or in conjunction with) using inspiration in your D&D games, players earn experience points when they play to or against their ideals. You can award XP according to four tiers linked to the XP Thresholds by Character Level table in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (Chapter 3). For example, a minor use of an ideal, for a 6th level character, you might only award 300 XP. Going against their ideal that causes major consequences might, in contrast, be worth 1,400 XP to the same character.

This XP is awarded only at the end of the session, and could be divided between the players to ensure nobody is too many levels ahead of the rest. In essence, while one character might have had a significant moment of personal growth (or regression), their whole party is affected and learns from it.

This isn’t rocket science, so I’ll be surprised if GMs aren’t already doing something similar. Let me know.

RPG Blog Carnival

A big “thank you” to Adventures to Authenticity for hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival. This month’s topic is “Character Development”,  so head on over there to see all the great articles submitted by the community.

Camp Karate Goes Copper

Camp Karate, our game of hot-blooded dramatic roleplay, is now a copper seller on Drive Thru RPG. To celebrate, we’ve got a special discount link for you, so you can join in the action. Haya!

Camp Karate RPG

5e Madness Cards for Home Printing

We’ve added a PDF version of our Madness Cards for 5e to Drive Thru RPG, so you can print them at home. We still think the POD option is better, but here’s a discount link if you want the PDF.

Madness Cards Set
Just look at the prettiness! You get two sets of the cards in a nice tuck box if you order the POD version.

That’s all from me for today, have an amazing weekend.

Rodney

Dragon Rep: The Top Tier PR of Dragons

Dragons get good public relations (PR) these days.

It’s easy to forget that dragons used to be the embodiment of evil. They were the Serpent, Satan in the garden of Eden and the Book of Revelation. You know that Vecna guy? Dragons were worse.

These days the public image of dragons is more varied.

I was watching trailers for upcoming movies the other day and was surprised to see how many of them had dragons in them. Some inclusions made sense; the Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves trailer has two (a black and a red). House of the Dragon… that’s easy…

Then there was Shazam! Fury of the Gods and The Sandman. I’m not so familiar with either franchise, but I didn’t expect to see dragons here. I realized that it was time to get educated, so I picked up The Sandman, Volume 1. I’ll let you know when the dragon appears.

Even Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has what looks like an Aztec representation of a dragon, seen just briefly on screen.

So, dragons are really popular, but is that just in the circles I hang out in? There’s even a mod for Stray that lets you play as Spyro the Dragon. I think that just points to the fact that dragons intrigue us. Ever since our ancestors first picked up a dinosaur bone, we’ve been fascinated with scaled giants.

The RPG Blog Carnival and Dragon Fire

In July, this fascination came home. We hosted the RPG Blog Carnival with the topic “Here Be Dragons“, and here’s what our friends had to say about our fire-breathing friends:

Kim Frandsen of Beyond the Horizon Games talked about Wyrms of the North, a series of articles that ran in Dragon Magazine from 1996 to 1999. He says (and I agree) that the history — the story — behind each dragon is an important part of what makes them work at the table.

In his second article, Kim introduced Patina, a copper dragon with a grudge. Here’s an excellent campaign idea for your table, based around an intriguing creature. This isn’t a simple “slay the monster, get the gold” adventure idea either, and I love that.

Kim’s third article opened up dragons in a big way. I even consider this article a must-read for Pathfinder 2e and Dungeons & Dragons 5e GMs looking to run a campaign featuring dragons, as it deals with some aspects not covered in the core rules. Dragons are Dangerous, and Kim has done some work to ensure they play that way at the table.

Finally, Gonz at Codex Anathema created a dragon-focused campaign based on three one-shots he ran. The article is written in Spanish, but Google Translate in Chrome will get you there in a jiffy! The players get to meet phoenixes during their adventures, so we’re big fans already. And oh, it gets better from there. Give it a read.

Thank you to everyone who contributed this last month, and to everyone who joined us along the way.

Before we go, I’d love to hear from you. Who is your favorite dragon? What setting are they from and why do you like them? My favorite is Niv-Mizzet from the Magic: the Gathering TCG, because who doesn’t love making things go boom?

Just Out

We just released Camp Karate: Hot-Blooded Dramatic Roleplay, a new little indie RPG. We loved making it and we think you’ll enjoy playing it. Check it out.


The Hot RPG Sale — July 2022

We have the Hot RPG Sale, with massive deals, coming all July long! Remember, newsletter subscribers get to hear about special offers first.

Remember also to check out the RPG Blog Carnival, Here Be Dragons, which we’re hosting this month. It’s full of great dragon-inspired content and ideas for your next campaign.

30%-Off Coupons

All of these titles are 30% off, this July only. Click on the title to apply the coupon to your order on Drive-Thru RPG or the DM’s Guild:

Fifth Edition OGL and Dungeons & Dragons

Monster Books:

Griffins – A Field Guide
Phoenixes of the Realms

Solo Adventures:

Welcome to Scarthey (D&D)
Death Queen & the Life Stone
Forest of Secrets
Companionable Darkness

Undersea Sourcebooks:

Undersea Sourcebook: Race & Class
Undersea Sourcebook: Feats & Equipment
Undersea Sourcebook: Mutants & Mariners

Aurora’s Whole Realms Seasonal Catalogues:

Aurora’s Whole Realms Summer Catalogue
Aurora’s Whole Realms Autumn Catalogue
Aurora’s Whole Realms Spring Catalogue
Aurora’s Whole Realms Christmas Catalogue

Feywild Guide:

The Adventurer’s Guide to Fey Magic

Pathfinder RPG (Second Edition)

Heaven & Hell (Alternate ancestries and options)

Pathfinder RPG (First Edition)

Monster Books:

Phoenixes – A Field Guide
Chilling Curiosities

Adventures and Settings:

Lunatic Labyrinth (Solo Adventure)
Welcome to Scarthey (PFRPG) (Sourcebook for our Adventures)
Anaximander’s Adventuring Studies
Dying Dead

Starfinder RPG

Mecha—A Field Guide

Stand-Alone and Unique Systems

Nightscape: Red Terrors
Claustrophobia

Nightscape: Red Terrors RPG Cover

 

Remember, the Hot RPG Sale offers end at the end of July.

Till next time, be the hero!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games


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.


Space Adventures—RPG Blog Carnival Roundup

Oh my! How fast time flies when you’re hurtling through space on a galleon held together by rope, magic, and a wish spell. The end of May means it’s the end of our RPG Blog Carnival for the month, so let’s look back on the wonderful space adventures we’ve had.

rpg blog carnival logo

Before we dig in, remember that you can join us, every month, for new themes and fantastic articles by many RPG bloggers. It doesn’t matter if you’re just browsing or you want to contribute your own articles, you can find out more about the RPG Blog Carnival at OfDiceAndDragons.com. There’s also a growing archive of past carnivals that’s well worth digging into.

Beyond the Horizon Games

Our good friends at Beyond the Horizon Games explored the difference between science fiction and science fantasy in their series of articles:

  1. Fantasy-Fi or Science-Fantasy explores two different takes on fantasy in space, using the examples of Spelljammer and Starfinder. Kim’s insightful look at the two settings also explores the difference between Paizo and WotC’s business models.
  2. What Jammer? That Jammer! takes a fascinating look into a little slice of RPG history, and the bitter-sweet existence of a lesser-known RPG gem that followed in the footsteps of Spelljammer and was a precursor to Starfinder, namely Starjammer. Starjammer is compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (1st edition), but lets you build space fighters and explore the vast expanse of the Void. The game is a platinum seller on Drive Thru RPG and is published by d20pfsrd.com Publishing.  Check this out, especially if you enjoy Starfinder or Spelljammer.
  3. Star Wars and Science Fantasy looks at three of the four iterations of Star Wars TTRPGs (Jawa players, throw up your hands and give me a “Utini!”). Adding to what Kim said, I know that Edge Studios is reprinting many of the Fantasy Flight Star Wars books, which is excellent news. 
  4. Adventures in Science Fantasy discusses three adventures — one is a remake — that do science fantasy well. Go check out Kim’s suggestions, and maybe drop some suggestions in the comments of that article if you know of other great adventures people should check out.

Codex Anathema

Gonz of Codex Anathema is a regular contributor and host of the RPG Blog Carnival. His article, De Eberron a sus Lunas (From Eberron to its Moons), explores Jules Verne’s works and brings them into the D&D setting of Eberron, through space travel. Although the article is in Spanish, Google Translator (or even better, DeepL Translator) will open up this inspiring article. Gonz has certainly given us a lot of interesting ideas for space adventures here.

The Other Side

Timothy S. Brannan, who blogs at The Other Side, gave us a review of the Monstrous Compendium Vol One: Spelljamer Creatures, which was recently released by Wizards of the Coast.

Rising Phoenix Games

And of course, we went mad with a bunch of new races that would fit your D&D 5e Spelljammer games. We have:

  1. The cunning Star Foxes, mentioned in our first post.
  2. The Gruune, immortals born out of the destruction of their planet.
  3. The Eu’karai, beings of living light that, as a race, were tasked with cataloging the universe.
  4. The Skriblin, elementals of creative energy that make me think I’ve watched a little too much Space Jam.

And that, as they say, is that. We hope you enjoyed these adventures in space, and that you’ll join next month’s hosts for more RPG Blog Carnival content.

Till next time!

The Gruune — A Spelljammer Race

The Gruune are thickset humanoids that contain the remaining life essence of a decimated plant. Meet them today, as we continue our Spelljammer-inspired magical adventures in space.

Descendants of Shattered Stars

Aeons ago, a distant planet shattered under the might of a cosmic convergence of magical energy. Although that galactic event decimated millions of species, it birthed a unique race of creatures. The gruune were created from the remaining life essence of the planet by an arcane anomaly that bound the life essence to space-bound matter. Since that event, the gruune have appeared on countless planets far from their original home. Despite the great divide in time and distance, all gruune share a collective memory of their home planet.

Now, the gruune are star farers and stewards of life who work tirelessly to protect life from the ravages of magic.

Gruune

Gruune Traits

Your gruune character is robust and strong. It has the following traits.
Ability Score Increase. Your  Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Strength score increases by 1.
Age. You reach full maturity at the age of 180 years. Gruune have no known upper age limit.
Ageless. You cannot age, even magically, and don’t gain any frailty from old age.
Alignment. Gruune are the gardeners of the galaxy, sowing life wherever they go. Most gruune are good or neutral. Evil gruune wither and die within weeks. Most gruune are chaotic.
Gender. The gruune are genderless but go through seasons of sprouting flowers that are sexed. There is no apparent pattern to these sproutings, and, since the gruune do not reproduce, their use is unknown.
Size. Gruune range from just over 5 feet to well over 6 feet tall, and most are robustly built, with limbs as thick as tree trunks. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Immortality. You are imbued with magical energy that sustains your life force but also alters your susceptibility to restorative magic. After you die, you are resurrected as through a true resurrection spell, for which you do not need to pay the casting cost. Because of this magical immortality, your body cannot be affected by any other type of resurrection effect, including wish. When you die a second time, your body is obliterated and 1 to 3 new gruune are born, somewhere in space.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Elven.
Sprout. You can, as an 8-hour ritual, sprout a 10-foot square area of plants on a surface. These plants are imbued with your residual life essence and can grow without sustenance, including water or air. After a month, the plant patch reaches 20-feet square, is 5-feet high, and can support itself. After another month, the plant patch reaches its maximum size of 40-feet-square, the plants within it are 10 feet high, and it can support itself and up to six Medium-sized creatures.
Spell Damage Resistance. When you gain this trait, choose one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder. You have resistance to damage of this kind from spells. Other sources of this damage affect you normally.

Spelljammer Sale!

All month long, the DM’s Guild is running a sale on Starjammer products. Looking for another Spelljammer race to add to your party, or a space-themed adventure? They’ve got plenty to choose from.

Spelljammer DMG Sale

May is All About Adventures in Space!

We’re hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival, right here, on Rising Phoenix Games. Be sure to check in there and follow the blog for more content on the theme “adventures in space”. Check back at the end of the month too, because I’ll post a roundup of articles from RPG bloggers across the spheres.

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.

rpg blog carnival logo

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!