Lost in a World of Kobolds

5e NPCs: Flawed Foes coverA big hello to our fans out there. We told you there were more products coming this year, and while that hasn’t been completely untrue (you can pick up our newest 5e NPC codex here), there haven’t been as many Dire Rugrat publications as we’d planned.

Why? Well, Kelly has been busy writing for Kobold Press!

If you haven’t checked out their Warlock magazines, what are you waiting for? Each issue of this bimonthly ‘zine contains three or four different articles, each matching the theme of the issue. You can check out a preview of Warlock 10: Magocracies here.

And if the Shadow Realm and creepy fey creatures are more your jam, why not pick up the Guide to the Shadow Realm? You can read Lou Ander’s write up of it here.

And finally, a mini adventure call Fowl Play has also been published.

There should be more coming from us soon, but in the meantime, you can find Kelly’s work over with Kobold Press.

And In Death They Live…

I was recently given the opportunity to contribute to Warlock, an ongoing publication by Kobold Press supported by their Patreons.

The person who reached out was Scott Gable, and I’ve worked with him in the past on this big project he’s been doing… not sure if you’ve heard of it… The Faerie Ring? (If you haven’t, you should check it out.)

At any rate, we’ve been a little behind on our projects here (though we were finally starting to progress on another NPC collection!), and I thought about trying to focus on them and saying no. The thing is I often really enjoy writing for other companies, and I find it to be so different than writing for my own.

So I said yes.

And the writing began.

Fast forward a bit and here we are!

Warlock Undead!

The topic is the Undead, with options including undead magic, a rogue subclass, the Ghoul Imperium Deserter background, some truly skin-crawling planar locales, a legendary villain, and a new PC race. This booklet’s esteemed sections and designers are:

Dry Lands: Plane of Undeath, by Wolfgang Baur

Order of the Ebon Star, by Kelly Pawlik

The Wendestal Devil, by Chris Harris

The Shade: Voices Beyond Death, by Dan Dillon

This 32 page PDF is available on the Kobold Press website, and if you are a Patreon (and why wouldn’t you be?) you probably already have a copy of it, so go check it out and let me know what you think.

Did you love the exploration of the plane of undeath? Are you getting ready to incorporate the darakhul defectors into your next game session? Were you haunted by the backstory of the vampiric monster?

We want to know (and so does Kobold Press, I’m sure, because reviews and feedback are awesome!).

The Tavern of the Deadworld

So many campaigns start in a tavern. It’s an easy way to put a bunch of characters in the same place at the same time. And even if you don’t start your campaign there, your players are bound to end up there at some point right?

(Very true in our experience – it’s why we have a whole line of products dedicated to making tavern visits easier!)

What about post-apocalyptic campaigns though? After watching a few different shows, we ended up playing a Deadworld campaign. It was full of zombies, ghouls, savage scavengers claiming to be saving the world, and ruins of settlements.

You know where we never went though? A hospital.

The game started some years after the world ended as we know it, and we never had a reason to visit a hospital, or what remained of one.

In our weeks (and weeks) of hospital stays over this month and last, I have been up and down so many hospital corridors and stairwells, and, especially over in Victoria (the building we are in at BC Children’s Hospital is super new) all I could think about as a door closed with an ominous noise in a seemingly deserted stairwell was: “What if there were zombies here?” (A bit over the top maybe, but being suddenly removed from everything normal in your life does weird things to you.)

As our time progressed in Victoria I realized ward doors were sealed in the evenings, I discovered new rooms, and I learned some areas of the hospital can’t be accessed from other areas – even more fuel for the apocalypse fire. My mind would wander in the hopes of not spending 24/7 worrying about my really sick daughter I could do nothing to help (though worrying about zombies lurking nearby might not have been the best use of time, or the most reassuring thing to think about).

We had a huge stash of unopened 2-cracker packages in our room, plus our own bags of granola bars, crackers and other non-perishables hidden out of view of our diet-restricted-rugrat. What was hiding in other people’s rooms? How about that snack cupboard down the hall with its own collection of single packaged crackers and digestive cookies? And that’s before you even hit the cafeteria or smash the vending machines (should you dare to make that much noise).

And medical supplies… you’ve got bandages and gauze, sterile wipes, braces, crutches, gloves, the list goes on. And wheelchairs could serve as a great way to move bundles of goods (or you know, a person unable to move easily). Plus on a pediatrics floor don’t forget the stashes of formula, wipes and diapers. No kids in your game? Diapers are still super handy for absorbing a lot of blood on an open wound, or filling with warm water and applying to the body to make accessing a vein easier. And I’m not recommending anyone try formula, but come on, if the world ended, I think we’d all take the calories we can get… and I might be more likely to try formula than roasted rat captured in the basement…. but that’s just me.

Plus, you’ve got beds, blankets and flat rubber pillows galore! These beds could be slept on for sure, but don’t forget you can use them to barricade areas, and blankets don’t just keep you warm, they can be used to block the light from the windows, ripped apart as more bandages, used to to wrap and carry items, or even altered and pinned as make-shift clothing if those open backed hospital gowns aren’t your thing and your other clothing is trashed.

So now Ken and I are thinking about returning to Deadworld, but exploring the early days, or scavenging for medical supplies in a seemingly long abandoned hospital.  (Come to think of it, one of our inspirational shows used a hospital as a home base for a time, and of course The Walking Dead starts off with Rick leaving the hospital he was admitted to for a gunshot wound, only to find the world isn’t the way he remembers.)

Except, we have no time to game as we continue to be separated by a (small) body of water.

So instead we continue to wait to be free of the hospital that is beginning to feel more like a prison than ever…

Which means we need you to let us know: have you played any post-apocalyptic games?

Were any scenes set in the hospital? And if so, did they feature Rugrat #3 and I lurking in abandoned halls, desperate to make our exit to the outside world?

The Reason For Silence

Hello! Wondering why we are so quiet?

No, we haven’t gotten sucked into a new run Netflix programming, nor have we so fully immersed ourselves in a new gaming campaign we forgot to come up for air….. (Usual reasons for our absence to be sure!)

First off, we had big plans for near future. We were going to bring a fun collection of Flawed Foes for April fools. You can already find some of these characters on our website, but many of them are all new.  We’ve also been looking at some Starfinder content. And another Tangible Tavern. We were working hard at this while juggling our less exciting day jobs and life with kids, and then something happened….

Our youngest child, Rugrat #3, got sick. Really sick.

She was incredibly puffy, lethargic, and just not herself at all.  That was about four weeks ago. She is having kidney issues that are being attributed to post-infectious GN. Her kidneys are not able to process the liquid in her body, causing her tissue to become incredibly puffy. Her face is swollen to the point her eyes barely open, her feet are too big for her shoes, she is wearing clothing two sizes bigger than she should be. There is little the doctors can do but manage the symptoms until her kidneys start working again, but typically this should have happened after about ten days. We aren’t making progress.

It’s heartbreaking.

And we’re shattered.

Long story short, she and I are currently staying at a children’s hospital in Vancouver, BC. Her brothers and father are currently visiting, but won’t be able to stay until we come home as it looks like we’ll still be here awhile.

We are so grateful to live in a country with universal health care, we are also grateful to the family and friends who were bringing us food and grocery store gift cards while we were still on the island, and we are also grateful to all those who have been sending healing thoughts, prayers, and well wishes.

Rest assured we love our fans, we love writing, and one day, when things settle down, we’ll be back with some of the projects we were working on before this happened, and some other ones we’ll be inspired to do.

In the meantime, we need to focus on our little rugrats.

We wish you and your family much health and happiness.

But For a Bite of Breakfast

Playing one-to-one game sessions, Ken and I have logged more hours gaming than I’d care to calculate. It’s really easy to pick up a set of dice and a character sheet and fit in some gaming once the rugrats are sleeping on vacation (or on weekends, or when the game is hot).

My love of gaming is almost always strong, but there have been waxes and wanes that got me to thinking about what I like in my RPG sessions. I believe any RPG lover still has something specific about gaming they love, and what’s more, some sessions are memorable, some story points frozen in our mind, some characters and their deeds living on forever. Why? What was it that made some sessions make me want another game session asap, while others left a sour taste in my mouth.

I thought I knew, but after numerous muddied attempts to explain to my gm, I had a realization that helped me explain it a new way.  So often I have tried to explain it is the relationships, but it is really more than just that.

What I like is the exploration of how a character evolves. Sometimes these big changes come from a success (or failure) in combat or another specific part of the written (or home-brewed adventure). Other times it can be smallest detail that sets a tone for a relationship which has huge effects on a character.

But For a Bite of Breakfast

One of my first characters, and the first iteration of my most beloved PC, believed the world owed her whatever she was willing to take. In the beginning of the campaign she thought she was hot stuff. This character was willing to flirt with just about anyone to get whatever she wanted, and with a super high charisma and max ranks in Diplomacy, it just about always worked. (When that failed she just did what she had to.)

In the early days of the campaign she and the other PCs (technically GM-NPCs) were still getting their footing with each other. They’d been forced to work together after fleeing prison and, thanks to a signed contract, had to cooperate with each other despite their less than wholesome natures. Before long, my character began a casual relationship with one of the others, trading her skills as a former courtesan in exchange for his magical knack to clean garments.

One morning as they stayed in a tavern, getting ready to head out into the nearby woods in search of their quest, my character made her way down the stairs into the tavern where the sorcerer was already eating a plate of breakfast. She ordered, but helped herself to a bite of his. Or tried to. He moved the plate away, called her on it, and said in no uncertain terms he wasn’t sharing. As minor as this moment might have been, neither my character, myself, or my husband, could have predicted how this small moment set the tone of their relationship from then on.

Who had what? Who was willing to give what for something the other person had? And who had the power?

By the end of the campaign those two had been manipulating each other almost as much as they manipulated their enemies. One of the hugest revelations in the later home-brewed portions of the adventure was the master manipulation the sorcerer had done to make my character’s husband nothing like he was before. He’d made me and my character hate one of my favorite NPCs. Once a strong, determined, no-nonsense inquisitor of Asmodeus, that NPC had become a meek kitten who couldn’t even put his foot down with traitors in his church. My character was deep into plotting his demise when the sorcerer’s trickery became evident. After some dealings with divine heralds, she got the sorcerer back by enslaving him for the rest of time.

There’s more to all of that, big moments and small ones, (and the sorcerer did get free of it, but ended up so shocked by his tricks being turned on him he turned over a new leaf), but the point is that bite of breakfast, or lack of one, created a ripple effect that echoed through the course of a 20-level, 10-mythic tier campaign that was played for about two years.

Taste of Your Own Medicine

In another campaign that same PC was re-portrayed in a different reality with different abilities. My mesmerist teamed up with a new version of the Asmodean inquisitor, who was now not that different from Sam or Dean Winchester, zigzagging across modern America in search of occult anomalies that could use his attention.  They were very different characters than their original versions (not just because they weren’t nearly so evil), but a lot of who they were remained the same.

I couldn’t let go of the character, and this allowed me to explore “what if.”

At any rate, at one point in the campaign, my mesmerist, who had become capable enough to use charm and suggestion type spells, came up against another mesmerist. She had no idea who he was or what he could do.  This ruthless, conniving, evil man (actually modelled after Kilgrave from Jessica Jones) managed to land his domination spell on my character. Things happened. And my character changed.

She changed in a few ways, including being more serious about her road partner, but one of the big changes was her unwillingness to use overly powerful or long lasting mind-affecting spells. I think this was good for the GM since investing supernatural cases becomes a lot easier when you can quickly get to the bottom of things and hit the road before your spells wear off. (There were numerous times my character’s spells made too-short of work of his planning and mystery.)

It also made sense from a character perspective though. If you could do all of those same things to a person, would you? After you’d experienced them yourself? Could do it in the worst case scenarios? At all?

What was meant to be a small thing in a case, a saving throw she probably should have made, dramatically changed how my character viewed the world, how she treated people, and what she was willing, or unwilling to do. Rest assured she eventually managed to hunt down the other mesmerist and with the help of a couple of close friends, managed to take him down, though a few good NPCs almost died.

If she had made that saving throw, if she defeated him then and there, she wouldn’t have spent months looking over her shoulder afraid of the only person to have controlled her, she wouldn’t have felt bad dominating people for “the greater good,” and she would have become a very different person.

No Evidence, No Crime

In another iteration, my character was ripped from her “perfect” life and thrust into ancient Golarion. Everything she had always done was done with purpose and because it was the way it should be done. She always did her best to live up to expectation. And the fear of being caught doing something she shouldn’t (her father was a notable man and she herself was a minor celebrity as a result) didn’t ease her desire to be “perfect.”

When she was thrown into ancient Golarion she met a man who was so different than her fiance, and each time she was dropped back into the past, there he was. She quickly developed feelings for him, but worried she shouldn’t act on them because it wasn’t who she was, it wasn’t what she should do, she didn’t want to hurt her fiance, etc.

Then one day, after a bit of back and forth, and the realization that there were no cameras to catch her, that no one there really knew who she was or cared, she suddenly kissed him. Which led to other things. The conversation had been ending, the two were going to retire to their own rooms, and something in the conversation made her act without thinking. It was a huge moment for her, and to have hand-waved that evening would have meant it didn’t happen.

Who she was was altered somewhat as a result. She suddenly realized she had to follow her heart and her passions, not just do what was expected. The plot of the campaign (which was saving the universe, and was tied into the time travel) carried on of course, and they more or less succeeded, but how she dealt with it and the decisions she made and wrestled with, were tied to the decision that night.

A Tiresome Trio

Most recently we’ve been playing Wrath of the Righteous. My once neutral evil rogue trickster has been reborn as a shining paladian champion of Erastil (yes, that’s right, a paladin of Erastil – it is totally working).

Quick backstory: she lost her husband before the game started. He joined the crusade a couple of years prior, unknowingly leaving her pregnant. The baby died at 6 weeks. It was all a depressing start, but it made her ready to kick some demon butt. Fast forward a bit of time, she’s got her group of companions, a childhood friend and two guys she met during the attack on the city and they are pushing back against the incursion. It’s all good, and she realizes she might almost be having feelings for one of these new guys. She doesn’t give it much thought. Then she learns her husband might be alive. They save him. Happy reunion. Only the demons keeping her beloved force the 3rd wheel to admit his feelings before they can go. He does. She’s shocked.

For weeks she struggles with this knowledge, her own feelings for him, and the return of her beloved. The other guy has to go into a super dangerous situation.  She admits her feelings to him while they are telepathically linked, before he starts his mission. It’s intense. He goes in. The link gets severed. He gets tortured. They get him back, and learn he succeeded on his mission. Hooray!

A few days later she and the companion are hunting for stray demons, and they get to talking – about how some things can’t be, about what is, about her husband being back, about what they both admitted to each other etc. He says things that he thought were no big deal, but she takes his mention of likely growing tired of her in the future to heart and right there shuts down any feelings she has for him.

Where I think my favorite PC (or a reborn version of her) is about to get into a tangled threesome (one much more messy than the Starfinder one), one small interaction where an NPC doubted her and said some hurtful/inconsiderate stuff, changed the direction I saw things going, and changed who the character was, or may have been. When the campaign started I thought it inevitable they’d end up together.

I’m actually disappointed by the lack of romantic relationship between the two characters, but it was organic and made sense to me. Their “almost something” happened because of the role-playing interactions between them, and their “never going to happen now” happened for the same reason. And given the tragic beginning, the surprise return of her husband makes a better ending.

Despite years apart, the loss of their child, and everything else they have been through, this PC is now 100% completely devoted to her returned beloved and there is nary a person or beast who could convince her not to be. Her beloved sees her as his light, as a creator of the goodness in his life, and she needs that with all of the demons she destroys, the carnage she leaves.

With the Wound closed, she’s now going to throw herself body and soul into slaying every last demon she can, hopeful that once the job is done she can settle down with her husband and try for a family again. Had she ended up a love triangle, or with other guy, the end of the adventure may have see her travelling the countryside, constantly looking for another mission – and I’m not sure where the guys would be. Sure, the plot of the written story would have ended much the same, but isn’t the point of playing through it to learn about the characters too?

The plot of the story – be it demon slaying, investigating occult anomalies, or saving the universe from destruction – affects how a character develops, but so do the small details.

Too often, I think, small details, role playing details, are glossed over. Combat and grand missions are integral, yes, but those other details can have long far reaching plot hooks, character development and just fun times.  Don’t hash out every conversation, but throw in details here and there because you never know how they’ll alter a campaign.

After all, if you just wanted the bland characterless version as written in the book, why are you running it?

Can you think of a time a small thing had a great impact on the direction of your campaign?

ruined building

5 Great Inspirational Sources For A Post-Apocalyptic Game

The end of the world. A new beginning.

Due to its popularity there is a plethora of media exploring this genre. From television programming to movies to books to comics to RPGs, there really is no shortage. It’s a genre that has been used and used again because it’s fascinating. What would you do if the world ended tomorrow? Could you survive? Would you want to?

Role playing games are the perfect avenue to explore our adaptability, our creativity, and worlds we are unlikely to ever experience. There are some game systems built specifically for a post-apocalyptic world (and Ken shared his experience running one back here), but maybe your group is hooked on a game system, maybe you want a little inspiration, or maybe you are hoping to adapt something to be exactly what you want.  So then the biggest question becomes, where do I use to draw inspiration? And are there any awesome resources I’ve missed?

The first thing you need to think about, of course, is what sort of post-apocalyptic world you are looking to create. There are so many ways for the world to end or change. Some are subtle – more of a cultural apocalypse, while others are full on death-is-rampant-this-is-end kind of apocalypse.

Ken talked before about Y, the last man – a comic book storyline about a world where all but one man has perished, and whether you love it or hate it, I’m not sure there are people who haven’t heard of The Walking Dead and the “walker” filled zombie world. And, of course, there is always the gonzo-over-the-top-action-packed Mad Max film series.

But options hardly end there, and I hope the following media helps inspire you to create the world you are looking for.

Tomorrow When the War Began (book)

This series of books, written by John Marsden, was turned into a movie in 2010.  The books focus on a young girl who goes camping with friends in a remote location.  They return home to discover the residents are missing and the livestock are dead or dying.  As they start to investigate, the group learns Australia (where the book is set) has been invaded by an unidentified force, who are holding everyone captive.  The teens have to find a way to survive in this now-hostile environment.

While is isn’t the end of the world as everyone knows it exactly, discovering your entire country has changed, your family is missing, and everything as you know it is no more is world shattering.  This series was written for young adults, but is worth a read no matter your age, especially if you are thinking of flipping your PCs lives on end.

Lazarus (comic)

Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus is set in our near future. Following a catastrophic economic and ecological collapse, society has reverted to a strictly controlled feudal caste system. Every human falls into one of three categories: family (fewer than 1% of the remaining population belongs to one of the world’s sixteen ruling families), serfs (approximately 10% of the population falls into this category of skilled professional), or waste (everyone else). The title of the comic refers to the biologically and chemically engineered, near-immortal super soldiers that each family may have one of, if they are lucky. The world-building in this series is truly fantastic, and the characters are well developed and compelling, which is the norm for Greg Rucka in my opinion.

Unlike a lot of post-apocalyptic literature, the world of Lazarus is largely intact, though vast portions of it have been abandoned. Gaming in this world would be compelling to me, especially in a one player, one GM situation. Each families’ lazarus is a mixture of diplomat, commander, and ass-kicker. The nature of the families’ relationships with one another could easily lead to some great social interplay and scenery chewing. And then some good old fisticuffs if diplomacy breaks down!

 

The Stand (book)

When a modified strain of the flu is accidentally released, it spreads across the country quickly, killing just about everyone and causing the total breakdown of society. This book, written by Stephen King, dates back to the 1970’s and is told from the perspective of various characters.

It’s admittedly been a long time since I read this book, but one of the things I recall loving about it was how it explored the fact that not everyone who survives the mutated virus named Captain Trips can survive in the world that remains. Opting out becomes the only option some people feel they have, and it’s a good thing to keep in mind when running a campaign. Give your PCs a world that’s hard, but a) remember to show them not everyone can handle what remains and b) don’t make it so dreadful your PCs will be in a place they feel this have no option but to opt out themselves.

This lengthy novel is a good read if you want to set your game during an apocalypse sans zombies.

The 100 (tv)

The world is no longer habitable. The human race has been successfully living on a series of space stations, but the systems are failing. A group of teenagers, all guilty of something, has been sent to Earth in the hopes of discovering if the human race can return.

This TV show explores what these delinquent teenagers encounter in the world they have only heard stories about. Things are much different than they expect (naturally), and there are countless hurdles to overcome, including figuring out how to work together. What else would you expect with 100 young adults on their own for the first time in their lives?

This could easily be used in any game system, but could make a great setting for Starfinder.

Jericho (tv)

After a nuclear attack on 23 cities across the US, the country is left in a post-apocalyptic state. The show initially focuses on the small town of Jericho and what it does post-attack, but by the end of the second season it is a roller-coaster ride of exploring the rule of the Allied States of American and trying to save what remains of the American dream.

With only two seasons on investment (plus two season of graphics novels for those interested in continuing the plot), this is a small investment for those looking to get a feel for a post-apocalyptic world. And again, with a nuclear attack, you’ve got a different basis for exactly why the world ended.

Have you read or watched any of the above? What did you think?

Have you ever run a post-apocalyptic game? How did it go?

We’re gearing up to see what has happened to the next generation in our deadworld campaign. In its original form the group had to carve out a safe haven, but generation two has that. With a relatively stable home, a cure for the zombie plague distributed, and those ghouls under control, what sorts of deadly forces can they encounter?

What made your world post-apocalyptic?

The Tele-Port

We all know the drill: you cast your teleport or greater teleport spell and then: poof! You appear in your destination. Only what if that isn’t exactly how it goes? What if there is a stop on the way? A stop no one wants to, no one can, talk about?


“Please exit the circle to your left,” said a bored voice.

She blinked. She had been expecting to see bustling streets and colourful garments, to have her senses bombarded with the strong smells of spices, the murmur of thousands of people speaking in a language she couldn’t understand, and the heat of a warm sun.

Instead, she was standing in a strange room. Rows and rows of seats lined this endless expanse and she seemed to be standing in some sort of circle.

“Please exit the circle to your left,” repeated the voice. “You need to take a seat.”

Lunata blinked again and cast her eyes about for an explanation, but her feet remained firmly planted. Suddenly she realized her companions weren’t at her side. Panic began to well up inside her as she contemplated how she may have flubbed the spell. She was sure she had read the scroll verbatim, and she was sure she was capable enough to manipulate such magics now, even after that slight setback last month.  Gregor would never let her live this down, assuming he was okay.

There were a mix characters sitting in the chairs: assorted races, heights, clothing. All of them seemed bored, though a handful of them were looking at her, some with amusement, some with sympathy.

“You need to step out of the circle. Move to your left. Now.”

The voice had become impatient and she noticed a pair of strange beings made of light moving in her direction.

She looked around frantically and exited the circle, stepping to the left as the voice told her. The people made of light were almost on her now.

“Lunata Yarimania, step this way please,” said one voice. It was impossible to tell if it was male or female. It didn’t sound hostile, but it wasn’t friendly either.

“Where am I? What is this place?” She cast about once more, noting the seamless grey floor stretching as far as she could see. Circles, like the one she had arrived in, appeared intermittently in the endless expanse and rows of hard chairs, hundreds, perhaps thousands of them, filled the space between the circles. Many were empty, but it was hard to tell just how many were occupied.

“Newbies, am I right?” said the second being to the first.

Lunata thought for a moment it rolled its eyes, but neither being said anything else; they simple turned and began leading her off.

She glanced at an old man sitting in a chair. He had a long grey beard and he was intently reading an old looking tome while a small black bird sat upon his shoulder, staring intently at Lunata. A glass ball lay in the seat next to the old man, glowing with the small pale white light of the stars decorating the man’s deep blue robes.

Everyone here seemed to be sitting alone and almost no one was speaking to anyone else. The silence was broken by the occasional zing of an electrical surge or a cough.

“My friends, where are they?” she tried again, hurriedly following the creatures made of light.

The first being, she thought it was the first one, heaved a sigh.

“In your hands.”

For a moment Lunata thought it was some sort of metaphor. Zanthu was always going on about the bond they all shared, about how their fates were intertwined, about how there were few people he trusted to hold his life in their hands. It always made Gregor roll his eyes. Then she looked down.

She was so surprised she almost dropped the ball she was holding. It was like the one that had been sitting in the seat next to the old man, and she fumbled to hold onto the luminescent sphere.

“Careful there,” said the second figure, and she knew it was the second figure because she could hear its amusement.

Again, Lunata cast about. Most beings seemed to have a ball like this.

A dark skinned human man with tribal tattoos, simple clothing and a staff resting at his side was holding the ball casually in one hand while absentmindedly stroking the space between the eyes of a green lizard.

An elf with long blonde hair, a rapier tucked into his belt, sat spinning the ball on his finger. His clothing looked piratical and as she walked past him he looked right at her and winked.

Lunata looked down at her own glowing orb, squinting as she did so, and gasped. There they were, both of her companions in a miniature version of exactly how they looked just before they had departed the alley behind the tavern. Zanthu looked calm, as he always did. Gregor had his eyes shut and his muscles, tiny as they were just now, seemed to be tense, as if something bad were about to happen.

They walked past several more rows of seats, many of which were empty. Lunata started as a being appeared in a circle they were passing by.

A half-orc female stepped out of the circle, holding her own glowing ball in one hand. She was dressed in leather armor, not unlike Lunata. A shortsword and a hand crossbow were affixed to her belt. She nodded at Lunata and moved toward a chair, glancing up as she did so.

Lunata looked up for the first time. She wasn’t sure how she hadn’t noticed them before, but coloured lights made a map on the ceiling high above. They were almost like stars, but in various colours. She could see some yellow lights moving about while others remained in one spot. One of the yellow lights, which was right above her, was moving at the same speed as two bright white lights. A few other white lights were scattered about the ceiling star map, but they were off some distance away. Blue lights created circles that seemed, best as Lunata could tell, to correspond to the circles in the floor. There was a red area far off to the right, in the direction her guides seemed to be moving, and all of the yellow lights there were stagnant.

The yellow light and two white ones were approaching a blue circle. Lunata looked back ahead of her just in time. The figures had stopped and she just about run into them. The second figure sighed, as if he or she knew Lunata nearly ran them them down.

Lunata clutched her glowing orb and looked around as the two figures turned. The lights above circle spelled out a destination Lunata could not read. Suddenly the blue lights rearranged themselves into a new word, one she vaguely recalled as a place name Gregor had mentioned once.

“Well, here you are,” said the first figure. “Just a bit of paperwork to finalize first.”

“Paperwork?” Lunata almost stuttered.

The second figure smirked. She was sure of it.

“Yes, of course. Just sign here, and here,” the second figure presented Lunata with a hard board stacked with crisp white parchment unlike any the girl had ever seen.

She tried to make out the words, but there was a lot of complicated wording and very small print.

“It’s all quite standard,” said the first voice, as if that was reassuring.

“You won’t hold us responsible for any malfunctions in the circles, you understand precise destinations cannot be achieved, the level of safety, or lack of, at your destination is in no way our fault, and so on and so forth.” The second figure raised its eyebrows at her, as if challenging her, before handing her a strange hard tube she guessed she was meant to sign with.

“What is this place?” asked Lunata, still confused. She was juggling the board of paper and the glowing sphere, leaving her no hands to turn the pages on the board.

“The tele-port,” answered the first voice simply.

“There are others to tend to, so if you need more time, we can take you to the red zone. I don’t recommend that, mind you, some have been there for, I’m not even sure how long now.”

Lunata could tell this was a threat and whatever the red zone was with its stagnant yellow dots, she was sure she did not want to find out.

“I, uh, so this is standard teleportation process?” she asked dumbly, trying to flip the page.

“Indeed,” answered the first voice.

A kind-eyed halfing woman dressed in a plethora of skirts smiled warmly at Lunata. She was sitting in one of the chairs, waiting patiently by the circle Lunata had just arrived at, her own glowing orb set upon her lap with one hand gently cradling it. She nodded encouragingly at Lunata, who took a deep breath, and signed.

“Excellent. Then there, and there,” the second figure said gesturing at two additional lines on other pages. “And we’re all set.”

He snatched the board back from her and it seemed to disappear the moment it was back in his hands.

“Watch for your destination and then step into the circle,” said the first figure, turning to leave.

She glanced once more at the changing letters. She’d been there before, it wasn’t a week’s travel from her hometown.

The letters changed once more, denoting a place Lunata had never heard of and someone stepped into the circle. She wasn’t even sure where he’d come from, but suddenly he was gone.

“Don’t miss it,” said the second. “Who knows how long you’ll wait if you do.”

She glanced back hurridely at the lights by the circle which were changing once again and then, not taking her eyes off of them, for they seemed to change on a whim, she backed into a nearby chair, not far from the halfling.

“Don’t worry,” said the halfling cheerfully, “you’ll have the hang of it before you know it.”

“So, you do this all the time?” asked Lunata dumbly, still confused by what was happening.

“Oh sure, it’s how it’s done!”

“But I’ve never heard of it.”

“You wouldn’t have,” answered the halfling cheerfully.

“I can’t wait to tell the others,” Lanata said, partly to the halfling and partly to herself. She looked down at the orb she cradled in her own hands, the glass ball that contatined her friends and companions.

“Oh, you can’t do that,” said the halfling, rising. “You’ll see. Well, this is me. Take care and good luck!”

Lunata frowned as she watched the halfling in the skirts carry her orb into the circle and disappear. The writing around the circle shifted again then and it was her own destination she saw.

She jumped up, clutching the ball in a death grip as she scurried toward the circle.

What did the halfling mean she couldn’t tell the others? How could she not?

There was a brief flash of light as she entered the circle and suddenly she was standing on a cobbled street, the warm sun beating down on her. Her nostrils were bombarded by the smell of sweat and spices and cooking meat. Her companions were beside her.

“Great job, Lunata,” said Gregor clapping her on the back. “Knew you could do it.”

There was something she wanted to say to him, to both of them, but she couldn’t remember exactly what it was.  She was trying to put her finger on it but the more she thought about it, the further away whatever it was became.

”You think you can get us back when we are done here, Lunata?” asked Gregor. “Assuming we find you another scroll anyway?”

She nodded, absentmindedly.

“I think so.”

”Let’s do this then,” he said, fingering the large blade at his waist.

So Many Goblins….

Earlier this year the Dire Rugrat team started thinking about goblins. The way we saw it, goblins are an often used enemy in role-playing games, but they have become typical; PCs know what to expect when they see them. We wanted to bring some life to these poor little creatures, really give them a chance to shine for their 15 minutes of fame, so to speak. What better way to do that than 18 unique goblins, reminiscent of our Bullies & Brutes collection with the common thread being, well, goblins. So many goblins.

Moar Goblins

Moar Goblins coverAs we set to work building a collection of goblin NPCs, we realized we wanted to do more than just add some unique abilities to the same old goblin stat block: we wanted to address the lack of variety. To be fair, unlike some systems, 5e makes it relatively easy to customize NPCs, but even still, goblins were goblins. And so we ended up creating Moar Goblins, a mini-bestiary featuring a sextet of goblinoids adapted from a variety of real-world cultures. Back when that came out last April, we shared details of the PDF, including a sneak peak of one of the goblin sub-races. The book received a great review (and 5 stars) from Endzeitgeist.

Beyond the basic builds, which all have at least one intriguing feature, it is undoubtedly the copious flavor and inspiring supplemental text that makes this pdf come into its own; it s also a big, big plus that this does not simply regurgitate the same tired creatures we have seen over x editions and instead opts to go for the uncommon and novel, drinking deep from the wellspring of more obscure myths and legends.

-Endzeitgeist

It also substantially delayed our progress on the NPC collection. The pesky little creatures seemed to be everywhere like gremlins in the gearworks of our lives.

Fittingly, perhaps, it wasn’t that one goblin was a problem, it was that there were so many.

But I digress.

After a lengthy delay, we have finally chipped our way through the biographies and stat blocks of 18 different goblins. There are over 35 pages of NPC content and while all of the characters in the book are a goblin of some sort, numerous racial variants, capabilities, motivations, and challenges (ranging from 1/2 to 12) mean your PCs will never look at goblins the same way again.

Some of my favorites include the capable psychic goblin twins, Nix & Zub, the ever-helpful gudro bonga Eakogs Clutternugget, and the tokoloshe traitor N’tambu. If you love a little demonic backstory with your goblins, look no further than Flubboks Hugemitt, but if complicated family dynics is your thing, you’ll want to check out Neeha and Vaishik – these gudro bonga have a few family matters to sort out, assuming the PCs don’t wipe them and their children out.

A lot of love went into these NPCs, so much so it saddens us a little bit that your band of adventurers may just want to wipe out these poor unfortaunete souls just because of their race. We hope you’ll consider checking out this colourful collection, and showing your PCs that goblins can be just as diverse as any longshanks. To that end, we present Eakogs Clutternugget, a sneak peak at the offerings inside 5e NPCs: Goblins! Goblins! Goblins!


Eakogs Clutternugget

“Trade! Trade! I have many goods for trade!”

A great many years ago there lived a goblin who desired little more than to assist weary travelers. Through chance, he had come to be in possession of a magical drinking horn that produced the most delicious beverage imaginable and sated even the most parched traveler. Atop a hill in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, the benevolent goblin resided. When a traveler stopped to rest his weary feet and called out for water, the goblin appeared, as if by magic.

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

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

Always dressed in a red cape, the goblin would provide drink to those in need. Most were incredibly grateful, and word spread of the benevolent goblin and his incredible beverage until one day a traveler came through not looking for aid, but for the horn itself. When the goblin produced the magical vessel the traveler snatched it and jumped upon his horse, riding off into the distance faster than the goblin could follow.

Heartbroken, devastated, and feeling betrayed by those he had assisted, the goblin retreated into his hidden hilltop home. His child, Eakogs, who had long watched his father’s good deeds was perplexed. What would possess someone to take something which did not belong to him? How could his family aid those in need now?

Travelers continued to arrive at the hilltop hoping for a respite from their difficult journey. With the drinking vessel stolen and the benevolent goblin’s spirit crushed, their hopes were dashed. Over time fewer and fewer people made their way to the valley hilltop and fewer still hoped for that magical beverage.

Tales of encounters with the benevolent goblin stopped being shared and he became something of a myth or legend that could no longer be substantiated. Many a time Eakogs asked his father if they could assist the travelers in another way, but the betrayed goblin bid his son stay inside the safety of their hidden hilltop home lest they lose any more than they already had.

For years Eakogs watched and puzzled over how he could restore his father’s spirit, and do his part for the world. When he came of age Eakogs set out, promising his father he would return with tales of generosity, both his own, and those of the beings he encountered. Secretly, Eakogs hoped he could also find the horn, but he feared raising his father’s hopes.

Eakogs began to roam the world, offering assistance to those in need. He quickly discovered that many beings were leery of goblins, while others were outright hostile. Still, Eakogs made peace with many a traveler, providing goods from his laden down pack and often going without if he stumbled on those less fortunate.

While he carries a weapon, Eakogs uses it for only for self-defence. He is furious if anyone attempts to steal from him, certain the world would be a better place if everyone shared and was kind to each other. Eakogs prefers to trade items rather than sell them, though he happily accommodates shopkeepers who have no need for the goods he carries and would prefer coin.

This strange but optimistic goblin continues to search for leads of his father’s missing horn, and would be eternally grateful to any adventurers who helped him locate it.

Dinovember 2017

For those who haven’t heard about Dinovember: welcome! We wrote a blog post last year that can bring you up to speed, and I encourage you to check it out. For those who followed our dinoescapades last year, welcome back! We’ve been doing this for a few years now and the dinosaurs have done everything from smearing cupcakes on the cupboards to colouring on the fridge to playing with the shaving cream in the bathroom. The kids have found them building outside, hijacking a ride to school, and having music concerts. Book forts, colouring pages, cereal across the floor – they’ve all been done at least once, maybe twice.

As Halloween approached this year, I started to hear the dreaded word murmured from the corners of the house : “Dinovember.”

Almost as scary as the house on down the road with the carnival decorations and the clown hiding behind the red balloons with a bowl of candy, the word made my chest tighten. My mind searched frantically for answers. I wondered if it was too late to take a month long vacation (or send the dinosaurs on one).

dinovember mummy

After hearing at length from the rugrats that they hoped the dinosaurs wouldn’t eat their candy *again,* I had to come up with something new.

Don’t get me wrong, I love how exciting and magical Dinovember is.

I do.

And I started the whole thing in our house.

But the thing is, I didn’t expect (foolishly) that it would be such a hit. I didn’t think through the part where I would have to come up with 30 things each year for the dinosaurs to do. Or that the kids would remember just about every single thing the dinosaurs did, shaking their heads disappointingly at any repeat shenanigans. (It really is only fair I warn you, just in case you were thinking of introducing it into your household.)

So just as the pressure of Halloween costumes begin to wane, the anxiety of dinocreativity begins to rear its ugly giant reptilian head in our house.

dinovember pumpkin snowman

One of my favourites so far this year, I fear this make-shift snowman may have been part of an elaborate snow dance done by the dinosaurs as it snowed 24 hours later.

There have already been the moments of panic where I wonder what to do tonight, and sometimes I wish I could take the same tactic as some do with elf on a shelf (no way is that creepy creature coming into our house on the heels of Dinovember).

But I digress. Dinovember is happening.

It’s in full swing.

And the dinoventures abound!

Here are just a few of the things the dinosaurs have been up to this month:

Dinovember tea party

Rugrat #1 wasn’t the biggest fan of this, but Rugrat #2 enjoyed it, and Rugrat #3 loved it so much she insisted on napping with these lovely ladies, their tea set, and the table (while chanting “Tea Par-tay!” right up until she fell asleep).

 

Counting with Cheerios during Dinovember

The rugrats enjoyed the early morning snack created by this dinosaur game. The game, not so much, but it is a bit too easy for most of them (though these poor dinosaurs struggled).

 

dinosaur nests for dinovember

The rugrats, in unison, declared this “awesome.” I liked that it was super easy (and in fact done after everyone woke up, in a tiny seldom seen corner of our second kitchen).

 

castle home for dinovember

Desperate for their own place to call home, the ground-bound dinos set off on their own adventure, far from the picture perfect bird town houses. This was the biggest hit with Rugrat #3 who has exiled the dinosaurs and minis alike in favour of her ponies.

 

After last night’s hard session of castle building and takeover, the dinosaurs elected to try something a little more relaxing.

 

 

Sick of their meat and plant-based diets, the dinosaurs decided to plant a candy garden. The rugrats were sad to see the dinosaurs had stolen their candy for this fruitless project.

 

The dinos went wild with the erasable marker, colouring all over photos and the windows. The rugrats were not pleased.

 

While the two of the rugrats enjoyed a sleepover at Nana’s, the dinosaurs went went with a movie marathon – complete with snacks galore!

 

The kids thought the dinosaurs did nothing… then we found this.

 

 

 

“Yep, that’s what they did.” – Rugrat#2   Well, that’s a late night mess… and a lot of caffeine.  

So tell us, have you participated in Dinovember?

Do you know anyone who has?

If you are looking for more inspiration than our posts offer, there is tons of material out there. (Dinovember has quite the following!)

What’s your favourite one of our dinoshenanigans?

Tell us! We’d love to know. Some of our favorites haven’t been such a hit with the kids. (But man did I enjoy colouring all over the fridge and watching the kids clean that up so the dinosaurs didn’t get in trouble!)  Some of our random/last minute adventures are beloved by all the rugrats. It can be hard to tell what’s going to be a success and what will be an eye roll. So chime in! Let us know what you love!

The Hut by Jess Door

Tangible Taverns: The Hut

This week Dire Rugrat Publishing released Tangible Taverns: The Hut (5e). This marks the first tavern released since October 2016 when The Hidden Oak came out, and we are pretty excited about it.

Wayfinder #15 coverThe Hut was initially created back in late 2015 for Wayfinder issue #15, which released in May 2016. Here it appeared set in the world of Golarion, with ties to Paizo’s Golarion canon. It was fun and flavourful, and only 1,500 words.

The Hut: A Tavern on the Sellarn River was like a taste tester.

At the time we had only created and released two taverns, The Bull and The Bear and Tuffy’s Good Time Palace. The Hut was quite different, and due to word count restrictions, was missing so much of what we put into our taverns. A rumour table gave the isolated refuge ties to the world, but there were no events ready for a GM to throw at her PCs, and while the proprietress of the establishment, a motherly figure who goes by “Mama”, had a write up, she was missing a stat block, and there were no “Faces at the Tavern.”

One of my favourite things about being included in the Wayfinder magazine was the art that accompanied my piece of writing. In honesty, I think it was partly this piece of art that stopped me from expanding the tavern sooner.

It was a Tangible Tavern in the making.

At the time The Hut was started, all of our taverns were created with black and white images. Being so small and new, we had no budget for art. The piece Jess Door created was inspired.

The Hut by Jess Door

Art by Jess Door

I didn’t see it until the magazine was published, and as I paged through the fan publication I held my breath.  It was the first time my RPG work had been published by anyone else, had been laid out by anyone else, and had been presented to a larger audience. It suddenly felt very real.

I grinned at Jess’ accompanying picture.  A few weeks later, when I held a printed copy of the magazine in my hand, I grinned again. The Hut felt alive, out there in the world.

Jess’ image of Mama welcoming new comers to the ramshackle refuge still makes me smile every time I see it, and I didn’t want to disappoint this cheerful proprietress by providing NPC patrons that weren’t as colourful as her.

For two years The Hut sat on the back burner, simmering like a pot of stew before the dinner hour approaches.

We thought of it on occasion, wondering what Mama might be up to, what troubles may have come her way, and who may have rested their weary head inside the walls of her dilapidated home.

We were busy with life, rugrats, gaming, and creating a products for some of our other lines. And so Mama and her tavern waited.

Yesterday the answers were revealed.

Tangible Taverns: The Hut (5e) cover

Mama had companions join her. The world around her began to form. Sure, the tavern remains tucked away, but it finally came to life.

Giant-slaying Tryx and her beloved animal companion stumbled on Mama and began to develop an attachment to the kind woman. Rolph, the luckiest dwarf one may ever met, awaits a new band of adventurers looking for assistance. And there’s Dexter… the capable ranger who has fallen for the oblivious caretaker.

Now available in full Tangible Tavern length, The Hut has been updated, NPCs have been added, 5e stat blocks created, and the world it is is set in has been modified, allowing it to easily be dropped into just about any campaign (including Wizards of the Coast’s Tomb of Annihilation!).  It also features a full page colour map, colour art for each NPC, and all the other Tangible Tavern features you have come to love.

Is PFRPG your thing?

If The Hut sounds great, but 5e isn’t your thing, let us know!
The smaller version of The Hut is available in Wayfinder, but if you’d like to see it in all its glory as a Tangible Tavern, let us know!

Did you try out Tangible Taverns: The Hut (5e)?

Let us know your thoughts! Write a review, sound off below, or drop us a line.

And if you haven’t picked up our other taverns yet, you can find them in this discounted bundle pack, available for PFRPG and 5e!

Tangible Tavern 5e Bundle