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

doorway to another time

Way of the Worlds – A Design Journal

Last week I detailed my thoughts about Paizo’s new Starfinder Roleplaying Game. While the game itself is competent, if uninspiring to me, Kelly and I decided to use it to run a new campaign, partly in order to test the game out and see how well some ideas we have for products might fit. It may not be my favourite game, but hey, if you want to earn a few credits, you sell material for the systems that people will buy products for, right?

Here we go again…

Instead of taking the easy road and running straight from pre-existing material, Kelly suggested running a game inspired by a show she’s devoured on Netflix: Outlander. This is nothing new; Kelly works from home and occasionally the television is on in the background while she goes about her business.

If you aren’t aware of the premise, Outlander is about a young, married nurse who travels from 1945 Scotland to 1743 Scotland where she meets and falls in love with another man. The show is beautifully filmed, and is full of drama, intrigue, brief bouts of vicious brutality, and, of course, romance. It is well worth watching, if you are looking for something in the vein of A Game of Thrones with 100% more men in kilts and 80% fewer naked young women standing/writhing/being… seductive(?), during expository scenes.

But wait, there’s more!

While Outlander is a great place to start, I don’t want the game to primarily take place in the past with only framing sequences and flashbacks in the present. So looking at other stranger in a strange land tropes, I have taken inspiration from the DC Comics character Adam Strange, particularly the Adam Strange: Planet Heist miniseries by Andy Diggle and Pascual Ferry as well as, to a lesser extent, the Adam Strange: Man of Two Worlds (which I believe is just called Adam Strange in its original mini-series release) story by Richard Bruning and the Kubert brothers. Adam Strange also led back to his sword and planet forebears, John Carter (of Mars!) and Carson (Napier) of Venus, both created by Edgar Rice Burroughs of course. As an aside, I’ve always preferred Carson to John Carter.

What do we do now?

So, now we have our premise of a young, affianced diplomat (yes, she is an envoy; our frustrations with this class are pretty well tested) who randomly travels from 317AG to 4717AD Korvosa on Golarion where she will meet another appealing young man who is completely different in temperament from her fiancé. Plenty here to create romance and drama, right? But what will the characters do? Where’s the adventure?

Here I look to pre-published material. While the first Starfinder adventure path is far from complete, I can look to the description of the adventures that comprise it, and adapt from those plot to literally collapse the Pact System via a weapon of mass destruction (called the Stellar Degenerator in the AP, but which I have renamed the Maw of Rovagug for… reasons). From here I have sketched out a solar system spanning series of events, full of action and tense negotiations.

starfarer's companion coverWhile in Korvosa, I am adapting the mostly fantastic Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path to the Starfinder system (with a little help from the Starfarer’s Companion by Rogue Genius Games). There’s a lot of drama already baked into this adventure path, and set in a pre-Victorian England and France inspired Korvosa, with sharp divides between social classes and plenty of unrest, it is already proving to be exciting! Having the two adventures running concurrently also allows me to move the action from one setting to the other when Curse of the Crimson Throne hits a portion Kelly is less likely to enjoy (namely anything involving a dungeon), or when there is extended travel through the Pact System.

What’s your inspiration?

I really enjoy adapting material that I enjoy into game material, and the rewards thus far have been immense. This has been a great campaign so far, with a lot of drama, and possibly some hard choices looming. It feels a lot like Outlander by way of Battlestar Galactica.

Does it sound appealing to you?

What material have you adapted for gaming, successfully or not?

What material do you think is ripe for adaptation?

Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

space

5 and 5 for Starfinder RPG

Now that Paizo’s new hotness, the Starfinder Roleplaying Game has been out for a couple months and we’ve had a chance to read the rules and take them out for a spin in our new, ongoing, Way of the Worlds campaign, I’m ready to expound on my favourite and least favourite aspects of the system.

Without further ado, the awesome:

1. It’s pretty. It’s really pretty.  With nearly a decade of being a top dog in the RPG industry, Paizo knows how to make a good looking book. The Starfinder Core Rulebook  is well laid out and is full of gorgeous art, with only a couple of clunky pieces, and no terrible ones. In particular I love the look of the chapters dealing with the races and classes, as well as the gorgeous depictions of the weapons, and the pulp sci-fi fishbowl helmets the space goblins (we’ll talk about that name later) wear make me smile.

2. The Pact System. When I did my 5 and 5 of the Pathfinder RPG, the default setting of Golarion made it onto my list of things I don’t like, and I expected the same of Starfinder’s Pact System. I find actually the reverse is true; with an entire galaxy to play with, each world (be it a planet, moon, worldship, or other) has room to be strongly themed without feeling forced or stepping on the toes of other locations in the system. I enjoyed the setting portion of the book more than I thought I would and am anticipating the release of the Pact System book next year.

3. Character themes and universal archetypes. Starfinder replaces Pathfinder’s traits with themes which are more akin to Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition’s backgrounds, albeit with a bit more mechanical weight. There are a decent number of themes in the core book, but these are easily expandable; I anticipate that the number will grow rapidly as Paizo releases new material.

Archetypes are now designed so they can be applied to any of the core classes, rather than being class specific as they are in Pathfinder. I like this change as it recognizes the fact that certain themes are fairly common, such as seafaring characters in a nautical campaign, and separate archetypes don’t need to be created for every class in the game to promote the theme.

4.  Familiar rules have been streamlined. The Starfinder rules framework is over seventeen years old, but Starfinder has found places to streamline and round off the edges to meet its idea of a sleek science fiction… sorry, science-FANTASY future. Iterative attacks have been removed in favor of a flat -4 penalty to each attack if a character wishes to attack twice in one round. Flat-footed armour class has been replaced with a much easier to apply flat-footed condition. Attacks of opportunity have fewer triggers. There are a ton of small changes and tweaks that largely smooth the familiar gameplay.

5. There is already plenty of support. While Paizo’s own support has been decent for such a young game, with an adventure, GM screen, pawns, and a free mini bestiary, there is already a respectable amount of third-party support from some of the bigger Pathfinder 3pp publishers such as Rogue Genius Games, Legendary Games, Fat Goblin Games, etc… I expect that the support from both the first and third parties will only grow, given the success this game has already achieved.

the moon

 

Give yourself to the dark side…

 

While there is certainly plenty to enjoy about Starfinder, I have an active compacter room full of complaints as well.

1.  Half the classes are lame. While the operative and soldier are clearly better versions of Pathfinder’s rogue and fighter, respectively (seriously, it feels like the design team looked at D&D 5e’s rogue and realized that the class is in fact supposed to be amazing), and the mechanic doesn’t offend me, the other classes fall flat.

The envoy, the class I was most looking forward to, is… not good. At all. Where I was hoping for a class that could awesomesauce its way through social situations using a new robust set of social rules, I got a cruddy bard that doesn’t even have magic to make up for the lack of facility present in the class chassis. Partly this is because there is no robust set of social mechanics, new or otherwise – there is Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate, the three Charisma based skills extant since the dawn of D&D 3.0, and despite the name of the class, the envoy isn’t necessarily better at any of those skills than any other class. The envoy can’t use words as weapons to erode his opponent’s resolve (his opponent likely doesn’t have resolve, that resource is mostly reserved for PCs). The envoy can’t even decide to point at an enemy to say, “go get ‘im, guys,” while moving thirty feet and shooting at said enemy in the same round. The envoy, in short, is a sucky pile of suck that would have been better served as an operative specialization, or an archetype.

While the mystic and technomancer are probably fine in their roles, and I do appreciate that there are only six spell levels thus far, neither class is particularly compelling to me, and honestly, the magic in the setting feels more tacked on than integral, so I found myself wishing this was a pure sci-fi game. Further, technomancer just feels like a stupid name for what essentially amounts to a sorcerer (they deemed it necessary to call out the in-space nature of space goblins and space pirates, why not just call them space wizards?), as they don’t seem overly great at tech type stuff… nor are they better at creating EDM or breakdancing, so… what gives with the name?

Finally, the solarion is a very specific peg in the otherwise generic hole of Starfinder’s classes. While Starfinder’s Jedi stand-in feels like it was dreamed up by the band Muse, with their black hole and supernova inspired powers, in reality, most members of the class will struggle for at least four levels as the default character generation method for the game doesn’t supply enough points to make their Charisma high enough to be survivable (via resolve), while also making their Strength, or Dexterity high enough to hit things regularly. And don’t make the mistake of creating a ranged combatant out of a Solarion as I did, because the class’s “stellar revelations” either promote melee combat or the imposition of negative conditions that will have a low save DC due to your Charisma probably being low despite it being your primary ability….

Starfinder RPG cover2.  Stamina, Hit Points, and Resolve. Prior to release, I was excited to read about the system’s dual use of stamina and hit points to denote life force and survivability, and of the ability to spend resolve (a “new” mechanic… that is essentially Pathfinder’s optional hero points) after a ten minute rest (shades of D&D 5e’s short rest and hit dice mechanics) in order to refresh all of a character’s stamina. In reality, stamina and hit points are the same thing, with stamina being reduced first prior to hit points being affected. Do critical hits bypass stamina to damage hit points directly? No they don’t. If a character has full stamina and is “hit” with a weapon coated in an injury poison, does she have to make a saving throw to avoid the effects of the poison? Yes she does, despite the fiction that stamina represents energy level/fatigue and hit points represent blood and gristle, so the poisoned weapon didn’t hit her at all. As for resolve, while it’s great that it can be used to refresh stamina or get a character reduced to 0 hit points back on her feet, some classes also use it to power abilities, leaving players with the choice of doing something awesome and class specific, or surviving the next fight. I know how my players will choose every time.

3.  Combat… is still a slog. For all of its rules tweaks and adjustments, Starfinder combat is even longer and more drawn out, in my experience, than it is in Pathfinder. Primarily this is due to creatures having more hit points (most monsters and NPCs don’t have stamina) than equivalent Pathfinder monsters, and the fact that the ranged weapons favoured by my player do what I consider to be ridiculously little damage at low levels. I am not certain what issue the design team takes with adding a character’s Dexterity modifier to ranged damage, but I wish they could get over it. The Weapon Specialization every class gains at 3rd level adds character level to damage, excepting small arms and weapons with the operative property which add half character level to damage, and grenades, which add nothing, but given that my player favours small arms and grenades, the damage boost doesn’t help much. In addition, melee combat is still a boring game of rush in and stand still while moving no more than 5 feet in a round because moving out of a threatened square still provokes attacks of opportunity.

4.  Everyone rides the gear train! I really like that many weapons in Starfinder inflict an additional effect on a critical hit, and as noted above, I think the illustrations of the weapons are outstanding, but otherwise, I’m not in love with gear in the game. Weapons and Armour in Starfinder are each given a level; the higher a weapon’s level, the more damage it deals, the higher a suit of armour’s level, the more protection it offers. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but I can’t name a sci-fi or fantasy novel I’ve read where the characters are constantly ditching their old stuff so they can pick up new stuff. This is likely just my issue, but I like the idea that a character can use the same weapon through their entire career, give it a name, build a legend around it… and Starfinder doesn’t let me do that without houseruling level based damage boosts.

5.  Where’s the beasts? Paizo’s copy for the Starfinder Core Rulebook states that it contains “all of the rules you need to play or run a game of Starfinder.” This is not true. The core rulebook does not have the rules to make monsters or NPCs, and as of this writing, the game’s bestiary has still not been released to retail. The Core Rulebook fails to even have an appendix with stats for basic creatures or animals; the only stat block in the book as far as I can tell, is the Space Goblin (really people… why isn’t it just a goblin?) Monark… which has a CR of 20… yeah, it’ll be a while before I throw that at anyone. Of all my complaints, I think this one is the most disappointing. Undoubtedly, all the monster and NPC creation rules will be evident in the Alien Archive, but really, they should be in the Core Rules.

Trust your feelings…

 From the complaints, you might think I really dislike the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, but that isn’t exactly true. There is a lot of game here, and a lot to like. Starfinder represents a further tightening of the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 ruleset; the gameplay is familiar but has been constrained in a mostly appealing way, though I do feel that a lot more of the rules adjustments found in Pathfinder Unchained could have been adapted for the new system.

At the same time though, from its rules, to its classes, to its races (I really think its time to start calling these species, or even ethnicities instead of races…) Starfinder feels safe and uninspired. The game largely fails to move beyond the classic D&D trope of killing monsters and taking their stuff.

While you could use the system to play involved investigations, or roleplay heavy campaigns of intrigue and skullduggery, and I certainly will (Our Way of the Worlds campaign will be the subject of next week’s entry, for real!), these will be successful despite the system, not because of it.

purse contents

Handbags – The Real Life Bag of Holding

If you play PRFPG or D&D you are no doubt familiar with the magical sack that holds damn near everything.  This bag is the answer to an adventurer’s every problem (or close to).  Loads of loot to drag home? Just toss it in the bag, it barely changes the weight.  Need a bedroll or a tent? I probably have an extra one in here somewhere.

Some GMs are more of a stickler for how much you can fit in one of these puppies and exactly what can go in, saying some items are too big to fit inside the mouth of the bag, or that the item itself could puncture the bag, destroying it and either expelling all the items, or sucking them and nearby people into a whole heap of trouble.  No matter how your GM rules, or what you use it for, no doubt this enchanted bag has made its way into more than one game session.  If only there was something like it in real life, right…?

There is.

Well, sort of.  See, during our latest solo-campaign, which was meant to be a one off during vacation, my character was busy scavenging goods to survive in a zombie-filled-post-apocolyptic world after she got separated from the group had been living with, and their secure compound.  Ken, my husband, GM, and fellow Dire Rugrat Publishing companion, hand waved the contents of some purses.  Not much in there, he said. Mints, some recipients, that’s about it, he said.  The room had been untouched to date and I found more in the cheap motel’s bathroom than I did in the middle aged woman’s handbag.  I shrugged and figured she was one of the few women I know who keeps her bag to a minimum.  I wanted to focus on playing, not raise a stink about a hand-waved handbag in a savage story, but it kept happening.

Then it occurred to me: most men have no idea exactly what lays in the depths of these mysterious containers. Indeed, dumping out the contents of my purse at any given time either causes my husband to stare in wonder or back away slowly (I have since been much more careful to remove any perishable food). There’s seemingly no end to the random junk in the bottom of an oversized purse.

Much like a bag of holding, a woman’s purse can produce any number of random long forgotten object, and can store a great deal.  From the incredibly helpful flashlight or screw driver to the useless lone child’s sock, these bags were (at least in my opinion) an untapped resource in a world four years into a zombie apocalypse.

So What’s in There?

In an effort to help him out (*cough* gain more awesome resources), I started making a list.  I dumped out my purse.  I asked around.  I looked up pictures of the content of people’s bags (oh Flickr and Instagram, how helpful you can be). I even found the random bags I’ve emptied my purse contents into before a trip (those were some random items in there I’ll tell ya!) and inventoried what I found.

The result…? Over a hundred various items with varying degrees of usefulness.  Of course, an item’s usefulness is related to the situation and the imagination of the bearer.  I’m sure, given enough pressure and few enough resources, a creative mind could put damn near every item in a bag or two to good use.

Handy Handbag or Pointless PurseThe full PDF of Handy Handbag or Pointless Purse? is now available over on DTRPG, but as a sneak peek, I’ve included one of the tables below. Being the mother of 3 charming (and exhausting) rugrats, I’ve picked the Caregiver Table. This particular list is one that only applies to certain handbags, but the contents could be useful to anyone, depending on their desperation.

Some of the items are more humorous than helpful. Rugrat #1 couldn’t stop laughing about a few of them, but I assure you that either myself, or a friend, has had any one of these items in their bag at some point.

Ready to add these items? Roll 2d4 – that’s how many items from the table will appear in the bag.  Now collect 3d12, total the results and find the matching item.  Repeat for each item and voila! Repeats are okay, unless you don’t want them to be.  I assure you, and I’m sure fellow parents can agree, when in doubt – throw another one in!

Caregiver’s Handbag Table

3 children’s pain reliever 20 1d4+1 matchbox cars
4 snot sucker 21 1d6 miniature plastic dinosaurs
5 children’s sunscreen 22 1d4 adhesive bandages patterned with various cartoon images
6 baby’s bottle with milk or formula 23 child’s hair elastic or hair clip
7 child’s shoe 24 pouch of squeezable baby food
8 partially coloured colouring page 25 small package of baby wipes
9 pair of children’s socks 26 children’s sunglasses
10 plastic spoon 27 small children’s book
11 fruit flavoured snack in animal shapes 28 sippy cup of water
12 single dirty sock crusted with snot 29 soother
13 crushed package of animal crackers 30 1d4 diapers
14 used tissues 31 hand sanitizer
15 rock 32 small bottle of adult’s pain reliever with d10 caplets remaining
16 seashell 33 antiseptic wipes
17 beach glass 34 juice box missing a straw
18 1d3 broken crayons 35 teething toy
19 1d3 small plastic ponies 36 reusable container or bag of dried cereal

Comment Below

Did you try out the table? What did you end up with? What’s your favourite item? We want to head from you!

 

flawed rose

Flawed Foe: Billet Hamperstand

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!


“What foul and wretched creatures stand before me? You do not deserve to breathe the air of this world, let alone grace the halls of my home.”

Royston and Petunia were a match made by the gods.  Both dedicated to the intense study of magic, the pair were a match for just about any 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 how they both felt. 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 villagers. After some years together Petunia became with child, and their son was born some months later. Little Billet with his brown ringlets was celebrated by everyone in the kingdom, and Petunia and Royston had never been happier.

One day, when Billet just a toddler, a band of orcs that had been growing restless in the nearby mountains attacked the city. 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.  Petunia and Royston hurried to assist the city.  Petunia hid Billet in a nearby home with some trusted acolytes and proceeded to the hilltop where she would have the best vantage to fend off the opposition.

Billet Hamperstand

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art ©Rick Hershey/Fat Goblin Games (https://fatgoblingames.com/)

She had almost reached her destination, and smiled at the sight of her beloved Royston aiding the town, when a she heard a squeal from Billet.  She pivoted on her heel, concerned her young child had followed her into the danger zone.  Her eyes met his only for a second before the assassin who had snuck inside the walls was upon her.  The unsuspecting halfling was no match for the silent murderer, and right there in front of Billet, she perished. It was a single wound to the throat, but all Billet could see was blood, so much blood.  The young halfling fainted.

Royston, also hearing his son, had turned and seen the whole thing. He and the nearby guards quickly dispatched the assassin, but it was too late.  Despite her husband’s best efforts, and those of the local healer, Petunia could not be revived.  The city managed to fight back the orcs, with a number of casualties, but none were more grievous to the city than that of Petunia.  Royston was devastated, but he collected Billet, and prepared himself for a life without his beloved.

His father, consumed with Petunia’s death, poured all of his energy into his own studies, and those of his son in whom he instilled the idea that he was destined for greatness, that he was to follow in the footsteps of his parents.  Royston became increasingly powerful, eventually surpassing the skill of his late wife and drawing the attention of numerous people, both admirers and enemies.  Royston no longer wished to assist the helpless citizens of nearby towns.  No one else in his family would sacrifice their life in service to the weak and incapable.

Billet struggled with his studies, much to the disappointment of his father.  When he reached puberty, Billet was sent to an arcane academy, where his father hoped he would finally excel in his magical studies.  Billet despised the school. Each day he was expected to spend countless hours pouring over old tomes, making notes, and inspecting and studying various components.  Most of the other students were thrilled at the chance to learn under the watchful eyes of the instructors, but Billet just wanted to explore the world and be left alone with books full of incredible tales of wonder.

Billet would write to his father, begging to return home, but he was always refused.  Royston loved his son, but he was consumed in avenging Petunia’s death and eliminating any threat to himself and his son. His actions resulted in many enemies, and eventually a powerful band of mercenaries caught up with him.  Inside his own home, the great and powerful Royston Hamperstand was slain.

When Billet hadn’t heard from his father in some time, he requested leave to go check on him.  He was denied, but snuck out of the school anyway.  Billet made his way to his childhood home and there he found what remained of his father.  Even with Billet’s lack of medical training it was clear the death had not been quick.  The place was a ruin and remains and blood covered many surfaces of his father’s dining hall.  The sight and smell of blood, dried as it was, caused Billet to faint.

When he came to, slightly bruised from his fall, Billet forced himself from the room and vowed to avenge his father’s death, to make his family proud. He swore he would not return to his studies at the school, and began to amass followers by announcing himself the son of Petunia Hamperstand, the beloved arcane protector.  Many of those who remembered his mother came to his aid. His father’s home was cleaned and Billet began to build a new life for himself.

Inside the walls of the great tower Billet’s arcane studies have ceased, despite the plethora of tomes, but his love of books in general has grown.  The walls of the tower are now filled with any books Billet can procure, and he memorizes the stories, telling the accounts of protagonists as if they were his own, recounting numerous tales of grandeur and adventure.

Inside the walls of his father’s tower, Billet’s hatred of orcs and mercenaries festers. He takes his frustration out on his minions, belittling them with verbal tirades before apologizing to them with grand promises. The occasional reminder of his family’s legacy and his birth right keeps the majority of them devoted, and those who falter are replaced and announced as traitors conspiring with orcs or mercenaries.

 

Billet's Stat Block


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

Open Game License


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

broken car

Help, I’m Alive! – Deadworld Design Journal 1

As with so many things, this all started with Kelly telling me she had watched something she really enjoyed. In this instance it was Van Helsing, a television series that details the activities of a mysteriously badass woman who kills vampires in a post-apocalyptic world. She then had me watch it as we worked in the evenings after the rugrats had nested for the night. I liked it well enough. As Kelly suspected, it gave me a few ideas I could translate into RPGs.

She then started watching Z Nation, which she really got excited about, so, once again, I started watching it with her (she kindly allowed me to start at the beginning). I was leary at first.

I’ve watched The Walking Dead to the end of the seventh season. I read the first hundred issues of the comic book. I stopped both because I found them wearying. Their relentless bleakness made me wonder why any of the principal characters wanted to survive aside from sheer masochism. I liked Z Nation more than TWD (or Van Helsing for that matter). It was cheesy, had some bad acting and questionable production values, but its bones were good. And the scenarios and ideas in play seemed like someone had translated their zombie apocalypse gaming sessions into an awesome series of short B movies. In short, its makers remembered that sometimes its okay to be fun or silly, even in the midst of death.

Shortly after I started watching Z Nation, Kelly asked if I wanted to change campaigns while we were on vacation; switch from our Supernatural inspired modern occult investigation campaign to one set in the zombie apocalypse. Sure, I said, thinking that this would be a short term thing. I should have known better….

Location Matters

I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, so I lightly sketched out zombified North America. The best zombie entertainment, in my opinion, begin in the aftermath of whatever apocalyptic event brought the world to its knees, so I decided to set our game four years after Z-Day. Our game would start in Virginia, at the University of Virginia per Kelly’s character’s background. A portion of the University has been turned into a secure compound under a chauvinistically tyrannical thumb. The rest of the campus is kept free of the dead and other riffraff by the compound’s soldiers, who also make scavenging forays into other less friendly territories. Women, children, and the elderly take care of the compound itself, ensuring that it runs smoothly and that the soldiers are comfortable.

Beyond the compound’s environs, the US is a patchwork of disparate factions vying for limited resources. The larger a community was, the harder it was hit on Z-Day, so there is marginally more safety from the dead in the less populated regions of the country.  Much of Kansas is controlled by a charismatic clergyman and his chosen Redeemers. There is a roughly triangular region anchored by Chicago, Springfield, and Indianapolis where the sun no longer rises. Locals of this area have taken to calling it Neverlight, outsiders merely say that it is Always Dark and avoid the area. It is rumored that there are… things… in the dark. Texas is reputed to be free of the dead and is ruthlessly controlled by four Oil Barons. The waters have reclaimed southern Louisiana; New Orleans is now generally known as The Sunken City. There are points of light as well: the southern tip of Vancouver Island has been walled off and is free of the dead, if rumours are true, though one must endure eight weeks of solitary quarantine if they are to join Utopia, as it is called by the desperate. There are other safe zones out there, somewhere.

Alert Status Red

Being set in the zombie post-apocalypse, zombies will of course be well represented. Regular, lurching zombies, fast zombies, plague spewing zombies… they’re all in there. People with their myriad array of abilities and allegiances of course will likely pose the biggest threat, ultimately. But there needs to be more… Taking a page from Resident Evil and Resident Evil 3, tyrant and nemesis-like undead menaces will present themselves from time to time.

The dead are comprised of more than just zombies as well. As described above, there is a region that never sees daylight. What kind of undead creatures could thrive in such a place? I can think of one or two.. or perhaps more. And… and this is my favourite part… there are ghouls. Yes. Ghouls. What is terrifying to people inured to the horror of the zombie apocalypse? Dead things that are social, intelligent, and ever-hungry for living flesh are. The ghouls, and their queen, have plans. And while they would love to see the population of humans increase, it would certainly be to the detriment of the general quality of life…

The End is Here

I think that is enough to chew on for the time being. Next time, I will discuss the system, resources used, and some house rules that have been implemented to better simulate the system’s implementation of the theme.

Comment below!

What have I missed? What kind of things would you like to see in your zombie apocalypse? Sound off in the comments.

flawed rose

Flawed Foe: Glando the Pervasive

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!


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

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art ©Rick Hershey/Fat Goblin Games (https://fatgoblingames.com/)

Glando the Pervasive was born to a charming catwoman and a hardworking catman.  The young catfolk adored his parents, who worked tirelessly to provide their son with a good life, and remained jubilantly positive no matter what hurdles came their way. While Glando was cheerful and generally well-mannered, others in the village found it difficult to trust him; there was something about the young catfolk that seemed shifty.

Over time Glando’s parents began to drift apart, and though they did their best to keep their son’s well-being first and foremost, a change was eventually needed; Glando’s father no longer agreed with the rules of his clan, and decided to leave the village, but his mother refused to give up the life she had built.   As he neared adulthood, Glando was forced to make a choice – leave with his father, or stay with his mother.

The young boy was devastated.  As it happened, a travelling show came through his village that night.  Several of the visitors were adept musicians, sporting various instruments including the lute.  Glando was mesmerised.  The music spoke to him and soothed him.

Overwhelmed with the decision before him, Glando returned home where he collected a few belongings and, in the first rays of dawn, hid himself in amongst the wagons of the travellers.  It was not until much later that day he was found and, after some pleading, was allowed to stay on with the musicians.  The group wasn’t sure if they could trust him and kept their small coin purses close, but they sympathized with the young Glando and his desire to be on the road, his heart full of melody.

Each evening the party would create beautiful music and occasionally they allowed Glando to try.  He was horrible, but he persevered.  His companions offered words of encouragement and attempted to teach him.

For months he travelled with the musicians, from town to town.  He assisted them with their packs and instruments, he helped draw crowds, and always he dreamed of being one of them, but he was never allowed to play with them for events.

Glando soon decided they were jealous of his ability to play the lute, and when the party left town the next morning he bid them farewell and ventured off on his own with the small pouch of coin he had been paid during his time with them.  The aspiring bard made his way to a local merchant who was selling a lute. The lute, he was told, belonged to a capable and magnificent musician who met his end performing in front of a great crowd well into old age – no doubt, it could bring him the same fortune and luck.  And so, with nary a coin left to his name, Glando renamed himself Glando the Pervasive and set forth to conquer the musical scene of every tavern he could find.

Alas, after a year on the road Glando the Pervasive has had difficulty securing any shows and is frequently booed off stage. Due to his squirrely nature, Glando has not even had much luck hiring himself out to adventurers or merchants to provide a helping hand.  He has begun to consider returning home to his village, but he isn’t sure what he will find if he does, and he fears neither of his parents will forgive him for abandoning them.

Glando stat block


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

Open Game License


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

5 PFRPG Adventures Ripe For A Tangible Tavern

If you aren’t familiar with our Tangible Taverns line, this series of PDFs is dedicated to bringing life back to the local watering hole while making the GM’s job a little easier.

We help you bring the tavern to life with:

  • Detailed descriptions
  • Rumour and event tables
  • Tavern maps
  • Colourful and unique NPCs
  • Complete stat blocks (for Pathfinder and 5e compatible versions)

All of our taverns are designed to be slotted into just about any adventure, but this week we bring you a few specific Pathfinder RPG adventures that can easily host a Tangible Tavern or two.

Way of the Wicked Book Three: Tears of the Blessed 

tears of the blessed coverThis adventure, the third module of the Way of the Wicked adventure path by Fire Mountain Games, spends most of its page detailing the Vale of Valtaerna, but it begins travelling to the city of Ghastenhall. Some details are given about this city, the first one of a decent size the PCs have encountered since their escape from prison, but many are glossed over with the assumption being that the PCs get cracking on the Vale.   The city of Ghastenhall, which has a plethora of culture, is bound to be full of taverns, and just about any Tangible Tavern could be found in and around the city, but for us, it will always be home to The Bull & The Bear.  Yes, Tears of the Blessed was the beginning of our Tangible Taverns line.  During this long standing campaign the PCs set up shop in Ghastenhall and ended up purchasing a local tavern, which they used as their homebase, an excellent source of income, and a foothold to make inroads to eventual rulership.  Whether your PCs take it that far or not is up to them, but this tavern can easily be inserted in this adventure. In addition, with its obsession with the arts, Ghastenhall is the perfect location for a dinner theatre like Simon’s.  Give the PCs a break from their sinister plots with the antics of the colourful faces at this playhouse.

Pick up Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear and Tangible Taverns: Simon’s Dinner Theatre today.

 


Kingmaker Book One: Stolen Land

king maker stolen land coverThe Kingmaker adventure path has PCs traipsing across vast swaths of untracked wilderness as they seek to build both their fortune and a kingdom. Stolen Land, the first book of the campaign, provides the PCs with a good home base in Oleg’s Trading Post, from which they can hexplore the virgin wilderness. But what happens if they don’t want to travel dozens of miles back to the Post after a run of bad luck? What happens if they get into a spot of trouble and just need a little R&R time to recover? Enter The Hidden Oak! This tavern, located in the bole of a massive tree in the heart of whatever forest you want to place it in, will give the PCs plenty of opportunity to unwind while interacting with the misfit forest denizens it houses, and gives them the chance to build relationships with powerful allies such as the tavern’s proprietor Beatrice, or with the mysterious sage Crescenzo. Plus, PCs can get a leg up on their next foray into the wood by eating some of the magically delicious food provided at the tavern!

Pick up Tangible Taverns: The Hidden Oak today.

 


Rise of the Runelords Book Two: The Skinsaw Murders

rise of the runelords coverThe PCs must make their way from the small town of Sandpoint to the coastal metropolis of Magnimar.  The route is doted with taverns and inns in such a manner that travellers can easily reach the next establishment after 8 hours of travel where they can rest up for the night and continue on the next morning.  Blackberry Bill’s is a small stone tavern that can easily be placed just about anywhere, but with his rugged nature and aptitude with a weapon, it stands to reason Bill, a former adventurer, can easily take care of any troubles that come his way, and make a few coins off his jam while doing it.  PCs are bound to enjoy the blackberry treats they can find in this eclectic tavern before continuing on with their travels.

Blackberry Bill’s is one of three taverns found in Tangible Taverns: Trio of Taverns.

 


Hell’s Rebels Book One: In Hell’s Bright Shadow

in hell's bright shadow coverHell’s Rebels is probably my favourite of Paizo’s recent adventure paths. In it, a group of PCs gets to build up the Resistance in the Chelish city of Kintargo, and possibly free it from the infernal clutches of the thrice damned House of Thrune! Who doesn’t dig poking their fingers into the eye of Golarion’s least lovable purveyors of devil worship? If you’re looking for a location to foment dissent against the system, look no further than The Delectable Dragonfly. This ladies (well, self identifying as female) only teahouse is a fantastic location to build an army, pick up and leave coded messages, or just get a nice cup of tea and finger sandwiches. The revolution starts today!

Pick up Tangible Taverns: The Delectable Dragonfly today.

 


Skull and Shackles Adventure Path

Skull_&_Shackles_logoWhen a big part of the premise of the adventure is for the PCs to explore the seas and ports of The Shackles, many taverns, inns, brothels, and other establishments are bound to be introduced.  Sometimes its easy to throw out a name and a brief description, but when the PCs will be sticking around a little longer, it’s a great time to drop in a Tangible Tavern.  If you are looking for a shifty tavern down near the docks, look no further than Tuffy’s Good Time Palace.  Worn out, tough, and laden down with a supply of pickled food and cheap beer, Tuffy makes the perfect host for fresh-of-the-boat pirates who haven’t seen the shore in days.  For those pirates who fancy themselves a cut-above-the-rest, let them head inland a bit and pay a visit to the Angelic Imp.  Well decorated and in demand with the well-to-do, this little tavern is the perfect place to drop a lot of coin on a good meal, and maybe conduct a discrete business deal.

A free sample version of The Angelic Imp is available, but for all the NPCs and a couple of stat blocks, look for Tangible Taverns: Trio of Taverns.  You can find Tangible Taverns: Tuffy’s Good Time Palace here.


If you like the idea of using Tangible Taverns, you can collect them all in the Tangible Taverns Bundle.

Dire Rugrat Publishing PFRPG bundle

Have you used a Tangible Tavern in one of your adventures? Share your story below!

flawed rose

Flawed Foe: Carbid Stouthall

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!


Carbid was once a champion warrior, idolized by both young and old.  Anytime the threat of danger presented itself, Carbid was at the front line, defending his clan with gusto.  Many an enemy was slain by his hand, and numerous tales spoke of his bravery.

Over mugs of ale around the warm fires his people would feast and afterward, might pull out cards or dice and play games.  Carbid enjoyed the games immensely, and was always happy to make a wager.  He quickly developed a gambling problem, and unfortunately, did not have enough skill to back it up.  Many a bet was won against the great hero until the clan agreed betting with Carbid, and ultimately taking his money and belongings, showed great disrespect to the warrior who had saved them so many times.

Carbid often tried to convince clan members to wager with him anyway, though they always refused, prompting him to spiral into a rage.  His fellows would take cover, waiting for the anger to subside, offering him food and drink and other means of placating him.

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

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art ©Rick Hershey/Fat Goblin Games (https://fatgoblingames.com/)

One day Carbid was travelling with a few of his clansmen when they came to rest in a tavern a few days journey from their home. It was here he joined a game of cards, against the wishes of his fellows. The game started well enough, and Carbid, excited at the opportunity to gamble, continued to play hand after hand.  His opponent quickly turned the tables on him, taking all of Carbid’s valuables in two hands.  Certain he could get them back, Carbid begged for one more hand.  With nothing physical to offer, the stranger asked for a single favour.  Carbid hastily agreed. And lost. With nary a copper to his name, and a favour owed, the dwarf walked away, head low.

The next morning, he and his clansmen were set to return home when the stranger beckoned Carbid over and called in the favor.  He asked Carbid to travel east to a nearby lake, defeat the ogre that resides in a cave there, and return with the head.  Carbid was eager to return to his people, but he knew he had to stand by his promise. Enlisting the help of his fellows, Carbid set off.  The trip took several days, thought the creature was easy enough to locate and defeat.  The party returned triumphant a week after they had departed from the tavern.  The stranger was not there, but upon inquiring, Carbid was given a note of thanks.

A bit perplexed, Carbid disposed of the head and, with his allies, set off for home.  What they found was a grave sight; their clan hold had been burned and the residents slaughtered.  The stranger had set them up, eager to have the bravest warriors occupied while he lay waste to the settlement.

Carbid’s companions were furious. Carbid was devastated.

Now haunted by his actions, Carbid travels alone with inferior quality weapons, spending every copper he has on liquor in the hopes of drowning away his sorrows.  Carbid suffers from horrific nightmares, causing him to feel tired even after what most would consider to be a restful night’s sleep.

Carbid Stat Block


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

Open Game License


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

5 Thoughts on Volo’s Guide to Monsters

In November, Wizards of the Coast unleashed Volo’s Guide to Monsters, a combination monster ecology lorebook, bestiary, and, just for fun, they tossed a chapter on new player races in. Since I’m perpetually behind the times (I like call myself a late adopter), I have only recently come to possess a copy of this tome. My first impressions follow: Continue reading 5 Thoughts on Volo’s Guide to Monsters