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May 2019 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 May 2019 Reviews

Open Origins: Royston and Petunia Hamperstand

Sometimes an NPC’s story begins long before they are born. The fate of these characters can be traced back to the decisions of their parents, characters who, while interesting, are unlikely to ever meet the PCs, and as such, their tale goes unnoticed and untold along with hundreds of others about the places the PCs explore.

Our Open Origins series focuses on these bit characters and gives some history and context to some of our NPCs.


Royston and Petunia were a match made by the gods. Dedicated to the intense study of magic, the pair of halflings were undefeatable by just about any foe that crossed their path. Petunia had begun her studies early in life and excelled quickly. When she met Royston the two maintained a friendly feud for a time, but eventually admitted their feelings for each other. Their love was intense and pure, as strong as their combined forces against those that would move against them.

Petunia was kind-hearted and generous, no matter how powerful she became. At her insistence, the pair helped those in need, and always came to the aid of the rulers of the kingdom in which they resided. They quickly developed a reputation for charity and Petunia especially was beloved by the smallfolk. After some years together Petunia became with child, and their son was born some time later. Little Billet Hamperstand with his brown ringlets and chubby face was celebrated by everyone in the kingdom, and Petunia and Royston had never been happier.

When Billet was a toddler the city was attacked by a band of orcs that had been growing restless in the nearby mountains. Officials, as well as Petunia and Royston, had been keeping an eye on them, but they had seemed disorganized and scattered. The sudden organized attack had been impossible to predict. 

The pair rushed to assist the city, hiding Billet in a nearby home with some trusted acolytes before proceeding to the hilltop where they would have the best vantage to fend off the opposition. They had almost reached their destination when Petunia heard a squeal from Billet. She pivoted on her heel, realizing her young child had followed her into danger. Unbeknownst to the residents, the orcs were a distraction meant to allow an assassin inside the walls of the city.

Petunia’s eyes met her sons only for a second before the assassin upon her. The unsuspecting halfling was no match for the silent stalker, and right there in front of Billet, she perished. It was quick, too quick even for Petunia to see the horror that crossed her toddler’s face, too quick to see her son faint or her husband attack her killer. A single wound to the throat.

Royston, also hearing his son, had turned and seen the whole thing. He and the nearby guards quickly dispatched the assassin. Alas, despite Royston’s best efforts, and those of the local healer, his beloved Petunia could not be revived. 

Royston was devastated, but he gathered Billet, and prepared himself for a life without his beloved wife.

Consumed with Petunia’s death, Royston poured much of his energy into furthering his own magical ability and determining who sent the assassin after his wife. What remained was focused on his son Billet in whom he instilled the idea that the boy was destined for greatness, and that he was to follow in the footsteps of his parents. 

Royston became increasingly powerful, eventually surpassing the skill of his late wife. Despite Petunia’s passion for assisting others, Royston turned his back on helpless citizens of nearby towns and others in need, determined no one else in his family would sacrifice their life in service to the weak and incapable. Instead, he and his son remained locked in their town, forever studying and researching.

Much to Royston’s frustration, Billet struggled with his studies and when the boy reached puberty, Royston sent his son to an arcane academy, where it was hoped he would finally excel in his magical studies. Billet despised the school and wrote to his father constantly begging he be allowed to return home, but Royston, for his part, had become even more obsessed with finding the identity of the individual who had his beloved wife killed, and so he refused his son’s requests.

After much magical investigation, Royston was confident his wife could be attributed to a seer assisting a powerful noble in gaining control of the land, and Royston set off to enact his revenge. While much of the intel the widower had gleaned was correct, he was not prepared for the seer to be Primula Flemarand, Petunia’s own sister and a fellow student from many years prior who had been most interested in Royston during their studies. Royston had spurned her advances due to his interest in Petunia (who was unaware of Primula’s interest).

Where Petunia was patient and caring, Primula was impulsive and selfish. Where Petunia was gentle and encouraging, Primula was forceful and demanding. The sisters were as different as night and day. Primula, ever second to her smarter, prettier and more charming older sister had been furious at the time and her anger for Royston and Petunia had festered and boiled to pure hatred in the years since.

Primula’s power had finally blossomed, and with her gift of foresight she knew breaking the bond between her sister and Royston would change the tides for her new employer; the fact that it allowed her to finally seek her revenge against the man who spurned her was mere icing on the cake.

And so, when Royston confronted the oracle who was responsible for setting the wheels of his wife’s death in motion, he was caught off guard by the familiar face. In that brief moment of hesitation, Primula gained the upper hand. Royston, quickly found himself underprepared for the battle and so he retreated to his tower, hoping to collect himself and attempt once more to avenge his wife.  

Primula, knowing such a thing was likely to happen, had already advised her employer, who sent agents to dispatch the wounded halfling, and so, inside his own home, the great and powerful Royston Hamperstand was slain.

From her crystal ball, Primula now watches over her nephew, ever curious to see what the young man will become.

Learn more about their son Billet Hamperstand, the humourless halfling in 5e NPCs: Flawed Foes.

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April 2019 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 April 2019 Reviews

GM’s Day Sale

This special day pays tribute to the beloved co-creater of Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax who died in 2008 and back in 2002, GM’s Day was born on this special day, thanks to EN World and its users.

If you are a DriveThruRPG fan, you’ll find that in order to celebrate, this online RPG store is hosting a sale.

Head on over to DriveThruRPG and pick up some gaming goodies for yourself, or your favorite GM!

Happy Gaming!

(https://gmsday.com/)

Out With The Old

It’s the end of 2018, or The Lost Year as it has become known in the Dire Rugrat Household.

We talked about the Reason For Silence ages ago. Because it was ages ago. We’ve just had trouble getting ourselves going creatively since then.

Not all hope is lost. Kelly had a chance to do some work with Kobold Press, and if you haven’t checked out their awesome Warlock magazine, what are you waiting for? It’s a reward for being a Patreon of theirs, but you can also pick it up on their website. Kelly’s work can be found in both Issue 9, The World Tree and Issue 8, Undead.

In addition, we plan on (finally) wrapping a few projects we’ve had going here for a while. So, if you’re a DRP fan, stay tuned for 2019!

We hope you survived 2018 with most of your sanity intact, and we hope 2019 is an amazing year for you and your loved ones.

Happy dice rolling – and happy new year!

August 2018 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 August 2018 Reviews

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April 2018 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).

In light of what’s been going on in our lives, we haven’t produced any new material in awhile, but hopefully soon!

Continue reading April 2018 Reviews

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February 2018 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 February 2018 Reviews

flawed rose

Flawed Foe: Robert “Robbie” McGee

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!


“It is important to engage in one’s pleasures, is it not?”

Robert McGee was born to an average couple in an average city. His home was small, but still fairly average for commoners; he had a reasonably warm bed and enough clothing and food to get by. His parents worked long, hard days at their import shop, which sold a variety of strongly scented herbs, overly perfumed soaps and oils, and other exotic items. Robbie spent much of his time helping out at the family shop sorting and refilling spices, the smell of which embedded itself in his clothing and made his nostrils burn.

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

The family earned enough to get by, but it was no fortune. The McGee family ate a lot of grains flavoured with some of the herbs from the shop, as well as bread and what meat they could afford (which was often poorer cuts his mother marinated in herbs and liquid to mask the quality). Robbie and his parents worked well into the night each day and began again early the next morning. Hygiene was not a huge priority as finding time to visit the local bathhouse was difficult and costly. As a result, Robbie was teased mercilessly from a young age for his poor hygiene and strange odour. Children would chant “Stinky McGee” in his presence, and very few children ever played with the pungent adolescent.

The growing boy distanced himself those around him, assisting his parents or exploring the fields outside of town alone. Over the years Robbie learned how to turn his emotions off, deadening himself on the inside to the world around him. He passed more time than he would ever admit to his parents inspecting the carcasses of creatures he found, and even killing some wildlife, and once a stray dog, he happened upon. The cold distance with which he performed these acts is what would have troubled the McGee’s more than anything else, but the parents remained blissfully unaware of their son’s pastime.

When Robbie grew older he decided to leave town. Taking a supply of goods from the shop, the youngest McGee thought he might have some luck as a traveling merchant. He knew his parents would need him in the coming years, but Robbie wished to see life outside his hometown, and secretly also wondered if he might be able to move the business somewhere else. With his parents’ blessing, Robbie set out.

What Robbie came to find was that there was indeed a market for goods such as his family’s out on the road. In a very short time, Robbie sold the majority of what he had set off with, and, having noticed the eager faces of many potential patrons, had done so at a higher cost than his parents normally charged in the shop. The days were just as long, and time on the road perhaps less pleasant than in town, but Robbie enjoyed the solitary nature of it.

Pleased with his progress, his bags near empty of their goods, and his pockets laden with coin, Robbie found lodgings at a nearby inn and decided to treat himself. Rather than order the least expensive food items available, Robbie decided to savour his success with a strong glass of ale and a meat and cheese platter. The smoked meat was delicious in the way so many roasts of his youth had not been, but it was the cheese with its strong flavours and unusual texture that delighted Robbie.

After enjoying much of the tavern fare Robbie stepped outside to the back ally to relieve himself. Here he inadvertently found himself listening to the end of a negotiation between two parties. One, a well-dressed man with a hood pulled low, was bartering with the other, a poorly dressed half-orc with several knives at his belt. From what he could gather, the half-orc was trying to increase the rate of services he was offering, and the human was frustrated by this. At Robbie’s appearance the half-orc appraised him, scowled, and looked back to the human stating if he changed his mind, he knew where to find his services. The half-orc rounded the ally toward the main street and the human looked in Robbie’s direction. A brief conversation ensued where the human became frustrated with Robbie for interrupting his business deal. While not always the canniest of people when it comes to people’s emotions and motivations, Robbie quickly determined less than reputable dealings were transpiring in the ally. Robbie cared very little for anyone but his parents, but he was distantly curious, full of satisfaction from his job well done, and emboldened by the copious amounts of food and drink he celebrated with, and so somehow, he convinced the man he might be able to help. That evening Robbie walked away with the first job in his new career.

The execution was easy; he simply slipped into the house via a window, dispassionately murdered the woman, and left the scene. Robbie found his ability to feel so little for so many, to be so distant from everything around him, was a huge asset in this line of work. The fee was substantial, and the work even easier than travelling with a large volume of goods and speaking with people long enough to convince them to purchase said goods. Robbie wanted to return to his parents; he wanted to help them with their business. He also wanted to do this.

That night, after he returned to the inn, his blade wiped clean on some discarded clothing, Robbie felt ill. At first concerned he had been poisoned, and then perhaps cursed, and so the next morning Robbie made his way home. Travel was slow at first, but as the days passed and Robbie ate the rations procured some days prior, the pain began to subside.

Feeling intrigued with the possibilities of completing more jobs like the one he recently done, Robbie returned home with the funds he had received the goods he left with. His condition cleared up while he resumed living with his parents, dining on seasoned meat and vast quantities of rice and other grains. He told his parents of the success of travelling with the goods, and the three of them agreed that for as long as Robbie wished to, this would be a good business practice. Within a few days Robbie set off once again, travelling here and there and peddling his wares, but he also kept his ear out and made contact with a few less than savoury people in the various places he visited. Before long Robbie had built himself a reputation with the “right” people, and had begun a second business of sorts – a hired hitman.

All the while the traveling merchant found himself obsessed with cheese and other delicious milk products, seeking out more varietie s in each town he came across, and enjoying it with every meal he could. Along with his new-found love of cheese, Robbie discovered something else about himself: his body had trouble digesting the milk protein. The malodorous man, who was used to the foul looks of those around him, realized he hadn’t been poisoned that first night, not exactly at any rate: from what he could tell his new favorite food caused him minor gut pain, and the most flatulent of farts.

For some time now, Robbie has travelled from town to town, completing jobs for those need to simplify their lives or have messages sent and peddling his parent’s wares, all the while indulging in the fare that causes him (and those around him) such anguish.

I Never Thought I’d Enjoy Pretending To Be A Cheerleader This Much!

A Review of Bubblegumshoe

It’s no secret that I love Veronica Mars. It retains a place of honour on my list of favourite tv shows, despite its cancellation over a decade ago. It may be less known that I actually love the entire teen-girl-sleuth genre, as pioneered by the series of Nancy Drew Mysteries. There’s just something intrinsically interesting to me about sassy girls that solve mysteries, I suppose. Where am I going with this? Well, a while ago I picked up the .pdf of Bubblegumshoe while it was on sale and, having two games on the go at the time, promptly let it sink to the back of my mind unread. Recently, needing to come up with something new for Kelly and I to play, and really wanting to take a break from the (to me) slog of Pathfinder RPG, I downloaded the book and gave it a read.

Bubblegumshoe cover

What’s It All About?

Bubblegumshoe is Evil Hat’s (publishers of FATE Core, among other games) take on what they call the high school noir genre using Pelgrane Press’ excellent GUMSHOE system. If you don’t know GUMSHOE, the short of it is that it is an investigative system wherein the investigators never have to roll to discover a clue. If they are in a scene that contains a clue and they have a ranking of 1 or more in an investigative ability (split into Academic and Interpersonal abilities in Bubblegumshoe specifically) that pertains to that clue, they get the clue. Every time. No need to roll. An investigator can then spend points from that investigative ability, if they have any, to add some context to the clue or glean some additional useful-but not-vital knowledge regarding it. There’s more to the system than that, but that’s it in a nutshell. Bubblegumshoe’s big adjustments to the system are the replacement of Health and Stability with Cool; moving to a short damage track to model the health of the teen sleuths; the addition of Relationships as an ability category; and the addition of the Throwdown as the primary dispute resolution system.

It’s Alright, Mom, We’re Just Gonna Netflix And Chill.

Relationships in Bubblegumshoe aren’t just a list of NPCs that an investigator knows. They are NPCs that a character can leverage to their advantage in some fashion and are allotted points just like an ability. Unlike other Investigative abilities, Relationships are further striated as Loves, Likes, and Hates with more benefit being gained from Loves than Likes, and Hates give the GM permission (and mechanical power) to mess with the investigators’ lives.

Relationships, when called upon, can be used in a number of ways, from allowing an investigator to use an ability they don’t have, to improving an investigator’s chance to succeed on a relevant General ability test, to allowing an investigator to deflect some Cool damage suffered in a Throwdown by throwing their Relationship under the bus. The use of Relationships as a form of mechanical currency in Bubblegumshoe is flavourful and flexible, and frankly one of the best mechanical uses of the PC-NPC dynamic I’ve ever seen in an RPG.

 

Sick Day!

Since the genre ideally doesn’t deal with a ton of (PC) death and dismemberment, character health is changed from its usual pool of points to a simple four point damage track. Investigators move from fine to scuffed to injured to dead as they suffer physical harm, though the damage track hasn’t been used in our game at all as yet. It is interesting to note that Fighting is listed as a General ability in the book (with plenty of admonishments about the consequences of violence both in school and in society) but is not listed on the character sheet at all.

Be Cool, Soda Pop.

In Bubblegumshoe, Cool is the resource that replaces both the Health and Stability used in most GUMSHOE games. A person’s Cool measures both their ability to keep a cool head in tense situations, as well as their general… um… Fonzieness… A person can lose or spend cool in a number of ways, from being caught in the act of doing something that maybe they shouldn’t, to getting into a location that would generally be off limits, to getting into a full on Throwdown with one of their Hates. Just beware though, your reputation will take some time to recover from the screaming, snot-bubbling melt down you have when you reach -10 Cool.

If I Want You To Speak, I’ll Wave A Snausage Over Your Nose!

The Throwdown is the classic social combat that we’ve seen in teen media from She’s All That, to Gossip Girl, to the aforementioned Veronica Mars. The Throwdown rules can be used to adjudicate events ranging from a showdown between the sleuths and that meathead from the bodybuilding club over his bullying of the Mathletes, to a rap battle, to a food fight. Indeed, it took little tweaking to use them to model the cheerleading tryouts in our own game. There is a Throwdown General Skill, but the really interesting thing about throwing down is the way investigators can leverage their Relationships to help them out, though doing this too often could alter or even destroy a Relationship… this is high school after all.

Wait, There’s More!

In addition to the rules, a decently detailed town, and a number of mystery seeds (including one fully fleshed case), the book is rounded out with a number of Drifts… or as I would call them, alternate campaign settings. There are quite a few of these, ranging from a prep-school setting that emphasizes player vs player conflict, to a supers-in-training setting, to a middle school setting more in the vein of Encyclopedia Brown, or The Boxcar Children than the default PG-13 setting.

In Conclusion

I can’t comment on the physical book, but the .pdf is well bookmarked and generally easy to use, though the organization wasn’t perfect in my opinion. There have been a few instances that I’ve had trouble finding a piece of information. The cover is colour and is a bit too cheery for a game that dubs itself high school noir. The interior art is black and white and is all done by Rich Longmore, I believe; it ranges from alright to good, and along with the text, it portrays people of a good range of ethnicities and social standings. The single column text is easy to read on a phone or tablet.

Now you’re wondering if the book is good… and the answer is a resounding YES! This game is excellent. It’s obvious that Emily Care Boss, Kenneth Hite, and Lisa Steele did a ton of research, and it paid off. It’s been a long time since a game had me playing from 6:30 pm to 2am, but Bubblegumshoe had me in just that position on night one, and I’ve had to fight the urge to stay up too late each game night since.

Everything about Bubblegumshoe works to achieve that fraught feeling you get in a hostile and alienating environment…. The modern North American high school.

Overall Bubblegumshoe gets an A (5 out of 5)!

Go grab your copy on DriveThruRPG and tell us what you think of playing a teenager!