flawed rose

Flawed Foe: Briony Ashfarn

Some NPCs make excellent allies, others are debilitating nemeses, but some are just sad. In this series of posts we bring you Flawed Foes.  These NPCs may once have held great potential, alas, their flaws have created substantial hurdles.  Don’t let that stop you from enjoying some good old role-playing fun though!


“If you like how I look right now, just wait and see how much fun I’m going to have!”

The youngest of nine children, Briony spent her childhood trailing after her eight brothers and emulating them in every way she could. With them as her mentors she learned how to follow a trail, set a snare, hunt, fish, fight, and drink. This made her mother, Brynhild, very unhappy; Briony was Brynhild’s last chance to join their family with a wealthier one, as the boys had all been deemed too rude, too stupid, or too ugly to be paired with any eligible young noblewomen. Every time Briony came home covered in dirt and bruises with unkempt hair and torn clothes, her mother would admonish the young girl as she cleaned her up, explaining that it was important that she be demure, pretty, and accommodating. No well-heeled gentleman would marry a woman who was prone to speaking her mind, let alone fighting, after all!

Briony

©Rick Hershey, Empty Room Studios, 2017

As she neared adulthood, many young noblemen, mostly from minor houses, came to call on Briony, having heard, mostly due to Brynhild’s constant promotion, that she was a rare northern beauty with alabaster skin and ashen hair. During these visits, Briony would try to sit in silence as her gentlemen callers would extol her with tales of their wealth and influence in the region. Inevitably, however, she would grow bored and do something these fine young men deemed unladylike, such as disagree with their opinions, belch the alphabet, or challenge her visitor to an armwrestle… and win. Many suitors visited, and all of them left with the opinion that Briony was too inappropriate for their household.

Not wanting a man who did not accept her for who she was, or who would infringe upon her independence, Briony did not take her callers seriously, much to her mother’s despair. When she reached her twentieth naming day, Briony sold off her belongings and used the proceeds to purchase her axes and a custom suit of armour designed to be as revealing as possible; despite rejecting most of the things her mother taught her, Briony certainly remembered Brynhild’s admonishment that she must be pretty at all times.

Briony is now a veteran of many conflicts, not all of her own making. She has been a soldier of fortune, a pirate, a tomb raider, a treasure hunter, and many other things. She lives from campaign to campaign, filling her spare time with strong drink, athletic endeavours, gambling, and lovers of all races and genders. She lives her life to the fullest, satisfied that nearly anything she desires is within her grasp. But once in a while she finds herself wondering about her mother’s health, or whether any of her brothers have married, or if they have made her an aunt, and she pledges that she will return to her childhood home and find out.

One day, she may even do so.

Briony Ashfarn stat block


You can find more unique NPCs in our Tangible Taverns and 5e NPC collections on DriveThruRPG.

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What did you think of this NPC? Did she make an appearance in your game session? 

Wish

Ken’s Gaming Bucket List – Campaigns

I turned forty this August. Despite it being a landmark of a sort, at my request it was a quiet day spent with immediate family and a couple of close friends and their kids. It was near perfect.

A birthday like this, of course, has led me to assess my life to date, to revel in the victories and throw another coat of spackle over the parts I’d rather put far behind me (in reality, I’m prone to constant self-critique, but for the purposes of this piece, let’s pretend that isn’t the case). While I’m certain that a reckoning of my neuroses and an itemized list of things I have yet to accomplish would be a riveting read, let’s get to the meat of this article: the RPG campaigns I want to run but have not yet had the chance. What has made this storied list? Well, for starter’s there is:

Eyes of the Stone Thief – Pelgrane Press (13th Age)

I’m not a big fan of megadungeons. A series of keyed encounters heavy on combat but light on role play just doesn’t do a lot for me. Eyes of the Stone Thief is a different beast though. The Stone Thief is a megadungeon, certainly. But it is also its own character, and if the GM does their job even reasonably well, their players will hate this vindictive and evil place.  The fact that Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan is one of the best adventure scribes in the business helps as well; if it will help make the GM’s task easier, he has likely included it. From adventure hooks, to icon relationships, to campaign structure, to dungeon configuration changes, to a chart that makes it easy to track when the titular living dungeon will/should dive back into the bowels of the earth, the tools are close to hand.

Chance of Playing: Good. Eyes of the Stone Thief will be conquered by my players one day. Or it will consume them. It is just a matter of time.

Zeitgeist: The Gears of Revolution – EN Publishing (Pathfinder RPG)

Zeitgeist is likely the most ambitious campaign produced for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game to date. In its twenty levels, the player characters will advance from being lowly constables attempting to prevent dockside riots to key players in their world, defeating nigh-godlike fey titans and, ultimately setting the course for the next age of the world. The world deserves some mention as well; despite the relative brevity of the Campaign Guide, Zeitgeist’s world, calling it a fey-steampunk marvel doesn’t do it justice, is compellingly well drawn. Zeitgeist is a campaign full of heavy themes, that will demand the best of the GM and players, but if it plays half as well as it reads, it will provide one seriously epic campaign.

Chance of Playing: Excellent. I will likely run this as a solo game; the intrigue and emphasis on role play over dungeon crawl will appeal to Kelly.

The Darkening of Mirkwood / Tales from Wilderland – Cubicle 7 (The One Ring)

When it comes to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (other than The Hobbit), I prefer the films to the books. Yes, I am a godless philistine, I’ve come to terms with it. My current favourite fantasy RPG, The One Ring, however, hews much more closely to the literary source material than to the shield riding shenanigans seen on the big screen. While it may seem to be a bit of a cheat to list two adventures here, there is a good reason: The Darkening of Mirkwood is a sprawling campaign frame full of lightly sketched adventures that cover thirty years (!) from 2947 through 2977. Tales from Wilderland, on the other hand, offers a handful of discrete, excellently designed scenarios that a Loremaster (GM) can slot into the above campaign. There’s a lot to like in these books, but I think my favourite aspect is the expectation that the PCs be heroic. After playing RPGs with largely the same group of people for twenty years, I’ve seen every flavour of douchebag mercenary behavior (“I’m just playing in character, Dweazel the Hamstringer would totally burn down the orphanage just so the populace could see him rescue the orphans from the blaze. How else is he supposed to get a special ladyfriend…) it would be nice to have them actually be the good guys, just this once.

Chance of Play: Moderate. Though ToR is not a difficult system to learn and use, it isn’t D&D or a derivative thereof; getting my players to buy in will likely be difficult.

 

Eternal Lies – Pelgrane Press (Trail of Cthuhlu)

 Eternal Lies is a monster that spans generations as well as continents. While I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, it is a horror-mystery after all, it is safe to say that the sins of the fathers (and mothers) come home to roost, forcing subsequent generations to fix their forebears grave mistakes… or die trying. The nice thing about this campaign is not just that it’s a compelling story; this book is laid out in a way that makes it easy to use. Information is clearly called out. Keeper (GM) material is clearly delineated from player information. Designer notes and anecdotes are copious. The campaign is also open, so while there is definitely an overarching plot, the investigators are free to go where the clues take them without worrying that they’ll miss out on something important.

Chance of Play: Good. When the stars are right, I will run this. Depending on her leveI of interest, I can run it solo for Kelly if necessary; Pelgrane Press does have rules for one Keeper one player play after all…

 

The Dracula Dossier – Pelgrane Press (Night’s Black Agents)

Pelgrane Press hits my bucket list for a third time, as does designer Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan. There’s a reason for these trends: Pelgrane Press makes fantastic system-seller material for their games, and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan is a top-tier RPG designer. The Dracula Dossier is two books, The Director’s Handbook, which, as the name implies, contains all of the material an NBA director (GM) needs to run the campaign, and Dracula Unredacted, which is the “real” story as transcribed by Bram Stoker. The two books are extensively cross referenced and both serve to build not just an epic GUMSHOE campaign; they are simply the best RPG adventure I have ever read. I’ve read a lot of adventures over the last thirty-two years, and none of them matches, let alone exceeds this. Honestly, nothing else even comes within spitting distance. The best part isn’t the extensive research the authors obviously did. It isn’t the almost excessive work done to make such a sprawling sandbox easily playable for the director. It isn’t even that whoever gets to play in this campaign is in for something truly epic. The best part is that I could hand (or more likely send a PDF) a copy of Dracula Unredacted to my players and say, “Read this in whole or in part… and tell me where you want to start.” This campaign can be completely driven by the investigators, and the material is presented in a way that the director won’t have any real trouble in adapting to their moves. I’m not sure how Pelgrane Press, or any other company for that matter, will be able to top this.

Chance of Play: High. One way or another, I will run this campaign eventually.

 

So there it is…

While there are other campaigns I’d be happy to run, these five are the ones I’d be most excited to. I was hoping that Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition would have produced something to add to the list, but no luck so far. Not that there aren’t good campaigns for 5e, all of the ones Wizards of the Coast has produced so far have been good, some very good, but none of them are superb in my opinion. This is still better than 3.5 or 4th Edition which had one excellent adventure each (Red Hand of Doom and Madness at Gardmore Abbey respectively) and a bunch of dreck otherwise. Despite producing some of my favourite campaign settings, 2nd Edition AD&D has no memorable modules or campaigns I can think of off the top of my head…

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Which campaigns are on your bucket list? Let us know!

Inclusivity… It’s a Good Thing

I recently read this article, which coalesced a lot of thoughts I have about parenting and geekdom. The TL;DR is that a mum took her Dr. Who loving daughter to a convention and some middle-aged jackanapes took the opportunity to… um… ensure that said daughter was geek enough to show her love for the Doctor.

Which, What or, Who is Best?

Sadly, in my experience, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence, nor is it a new one, though I feel that, as geek culture increasingly becomes pop culture it is becoming more widespread. I remember being snubbed by an older comic enthusiast as I eagerly bought back issues of Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, and Uncanny X-Men when I was twelve years old. Apparently I should have been reading Swamp Thing and Love and Rockets instead (incidentally, I have rarely been impressed with the work of Alan Moore… coincidence? Who’s to say). I remember being ridiculed for purchasing the Tome of Magic for 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Apparently only losers played D&D; all the cool geeks were playing RIFTS. Yes, I said “the cool geeks.”

These days we don’t even need to go to the local game store or a convention to be taunted or mocked for our loves and enthusiasms, we just need to go to our favourite website of nerdity and there will faceless people with silly names who, emboldened by their online anonymity, mercilessly troll any and everyone that doesn’t agree with their point of view. I’m not saying that everyone online is like this, of course, or even that most people are. I imagine that the vast majority of online geeks are just as awesome as I am. But we all know about bad apples and the effect they have on good apples.

Anyone who has read this blog before knows that Kelly and I are gaming geek parents looking to bring our rugrats up in the culture, and nothing makes that less likely than having some… uber-geek start questioning why they like something and suggesting they’re wrong to like it. Not everyone has a skin thick enough to shrug off the slings and arrows of self-appointed geek gatekeepers, and they shouldn’t have to.

Live and Let Love

It’s time to take the gates down and let everyone in, because there isn’t a right answer to who the best Doctor is. Or which issue of Action Comics has the most emotional value. Or whether or not Luke is too whiny in A New Hope. Or even if you should take a feat or an ability score increase in 5th Edition D&D. It’s just awesome that more people than ever before have access to the sundry geek properties that we love, and hopefully, will help ensure that we still have them in the future. Continuing to pretend that geekdom is some members-only club, however, will eventually have the opposite effect.

Sound off!

If you have any thoughts on this week’s post, or want to know why Wildats Version 3.0  is one of my favourite comic series’ produced in the last 20 years, or want to politely disagree with me that Veronica Mars was television gold (quality and story-wise if not in viewership) please do so in the comments below.

Human Star

Reviews Matter

Reviews matter!

They help writers write what you like.

They help game companies produce materials you like.

They help other potential customers discover a product you like.

They help.

And they help you since with your feedback, more products you like will potentially be created.

Ask any small 3PP company and they will tell you the same thing.

(Seriously – even as I wrote this toward the end of July, Fat Goblin Games was thinking the same thing and released a similar post before this one published!)

Ratings are great, and they do help.  They are a great confidence boost to the creators, and they might help potential purchasers make a decision, but even better than a rating is a rating with a few quick notes about what was great, what you’d like to see more of, what you’d like to see less of, etc.

But there’s already reviewers out there…

Yes, there are, but isn’t more than one person’s opinion better than a single opinion? Maybe there’s a review of a product, but you have a completely different point of view than that reviewer, or the review is skewed?

Would you rather buy a product that has one 5 star rating? Or one that has one 5 star rating and two 4 star reviews detailing what the reader liked and didn’t like?

There are lots of 3PP companies out there.  It doesn’t hurt to have lots of people writing reviews.

Reviewers like Endzeitgeist do a fabulous job of pouring over dozens and dozens of game files in a month and producing just as many detailed reviews.  Not everyone can do that (and hey, speaking of help and reviews – he can’t do what he’s doing without help, so if you love his reviews consider backing his Patreon). Not everyone should even think of aspiring to that size and volume of reviews.

Every little bit helps.

Little reviews are good too.  Well written concise reviews.  A few random thoughts.  A play account. A deep look at one aspect of the file.  Constructive criticism or praise for well written work.  All of these help the game industry.  And if you are a gamer who loves 3PP work, that means it helps you.

Bonus? Lots of 3PP companies are happy to give out review copies, especially to people who consistently follow through on their promise of a review.  (It’s something we touched on in a previous post.)

So Write a Review!

If you read one of our products and haven’t written a review yet, think about writing one!  As a special thank you from us to you for taking the time to write a review, we’ll send you a copy of any one of our products.

Seriously.

Write a review, post it to Paizo or DriveThruRPG, and then contact us with the link to the review and a request for one of our other products.  We’ll send it on over, and you will have one more resource for your game night!

How do you contact us? On our website, by email, or even over on Facebook.

But don’t just think of us.  If you have read something you loved, write about it! The little guys like us will thank you!

inkwell and feather pen

July 2017 Reviews

In case you missed some of our products the first go around, or you’ve been sitting on the fence about them, we’ll compile the monthly reviews of our products into one blog post each month.

The full reviews can be found with the products (linked to in the product name), and in some cases, on the reviewer’s own blog (linked to the reviewers name).

Continue reading July 2017 Reviews