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

Freebie Friday: 5e NPC – Deloris Franz (Part Two)

Last week we gave you sneak peek at Deloris Franz, an antogonist from 5e NPCs: Bullies and Brutes.  We know detailed histories and motivations are awesome, but since Deloris is intended to be used in an RPG, stat blocks are handy too, right?

deloris-finalThat’s why this week we bring you her complete stat block.  If you are intrigued and think a few more unique NPCs could be benefical to you in your game, we entreat you to pick up the brand new release from Dire Rugrat Publishing. Continue reading Freebie Friday: 5e NPC – Deloris Franz (Part Two)

5 Ways to Be Your Character

When it comes to playing RPGs, there are lots of play styles. An online questionnaire went around awhile back and with a few clicks and taps, you could easily learn what sort of player you are. I didn’t need the quiz to tell me, though it did confirm, that I am an immersive player.

character sheetWhen I make a character I take it to the next level, channelling them during game play, and outside it. IMHO, this results in a more dynamic character. She isn’t a sheet of paper.  She comes to life, existing as more than a set of numbers that can hit something during combat. Plus I can draw inspiration from her to use in the real world. For better or worse, she is like a friend.

If you haven’t tried this before, here a few ways to get started: Continue reading 5 Ways to Be Your Character

Freebie Friday: 5e NPC – Deloris Franz (Part One)

This coming Wednesday, January 18th, Dire Rugrat Publishing is releasing 5e NPCs: Bullies & Brutes.  With nearly 40 pages of unique stat blocks, write-ups, and colour art, there’s plenty of NPC goodness. While all of the characters in the book are a bully of some sort, some prefer brawn and others brain; challenges range from 1/2 to 15.

To tide you over until the big release, here’s a sneak peek: Continue reading Freebie Friday: 5e NPC – Deloris Franz (Part One)

lights

Freebie Friday: Easy-Peasy Yule Lights

In 1895, U.S. President Grover Cleveland proudly sponsored the first electrically lit Christmas tree in the White House. It was a huge specimen, featuring more than a hundred multicolored lights. The first commercially produced Christmas tree lamps were manufactured in strings of multiples of eight sockets by the General Electric Co. of Harrison, New Jersey. Each socket took a miniature two-candela carbon-filament lamp.

From that point on, electrically illuminated Christmas trees, but only indoors, grew with mounting enthusiasm in the United States and elsewhere. San Diegoin 1904, Appleton, Wisconsin in 1909, and New York City in 1912 were the first recorded instances of the use of Christmas lights outside.

Over a period of time, strings of Christmas lights found their way into use in places other than Christmas trees. Soon, strings of lights adorned mantles and doorways inside homes, and ran along the rafters, roof lines, and porch railings of homes and businesses.

(Wikipedia)

Household Magic coverWhile we all love looking at the bright coloured lights once the job is done, I’m not sure anyone enjoys hanging them.  Inside you are tripping over decorations and fighting to get the string around the tree, outside it’s the ladders and the cold weather nipping at your fingers.  Either way there is the tangled strings, the burnt out bulbs, and the sheer frustration.  It got us daydreaming about possible answers, and with the recent release of Letters from the Flaming Crab: The Household Magic Catalog, the magical solution was right at our finger tips.

 

EASY PEASY YULE LIGHTS

Is the dreary dark weather of Yule time bringing you down? While warm fires and soft light brighten up the interior of your home, those dark evenings make the outdoors oppressive. Bring a little cheer to the outside of your abode with minimal effort. Our self stringing lights easily brighten up the exterior of any dwelling, and can be hung on a building, a tree, or a fence; the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Easy Peasy Yule Lights (Wondrous Item)

Aura faint transmutation; CL 3rd
Slot none; Price 1,500 gp; Weight 200 lbs.

DESCRIPTION

This 50 foot length of green silk rope is studded at 6 inch intervals with tiny silver bells. Upon command, the rope snakes forward, upward, downward, or in any other direction the user wishes, at 10 feet per round. The delicate silk rope can fasten itself securely to rough wood, nails, and other non-slick surfaces as its owner desires. It can unfasten itself and return in the same manner.

A length of easy-peasy yule lights can be commanded to light up for four hours. When lit, tiny globes of light form inside the bells and illuminate an area as a torch. The lights can appear as whatever colour or combination of colours the owner desires and can remain static or twinkle at varying speeds as desired.

The process of creating easy-peasy yule lights weakens the rope they are made of. If they are subjected to more than twenty pounds of weight the length of easy-peasy yule lights snaps and become non-functional.

CONSTRUCTION

Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, animate rope, dancing lights; Cost 750 gp

If you are looking for other fun household items for a magical world, check out the latest release from Flaming Crab Games.

5 Times A Favorite Show Referenced Dungeons & Dragons

I have only been gaming for a few years, which is a drop in the bucket compared to many gamers. In times past, before I met my husband, references to RPGs in my favorite TV shows went virtually undetected; the witty banter continued, the scene changed, or it went over my head. After I met my husband and learned a bit about his hobby, I would roll my eyes at the references, or tell my husband x show mentioned his favorite hobby, so, you know, it isn’t all bad and maybe he could watch it with me.

Once I picked up a handful of dice and embraced my inner geek, I started getting a thrill out of the references. They were a nod to my new hobby, a secret shared between me and a favorite show.

And there are loads of references out there. RPGs, especially Dungeons and Dragons, have a huge following, and a broad range of fans. And it isn’t like we all sit around in our basement living in an imaginary world where we pretend to be high level wizards (not all day, every day anyway – sometimes we might go for a fighter!)  We are often functioning members of society with jobs, families, responsibilities and commitments.

Either to appeal to us, or because TV show creators, producers and writers love RPGs like we do (and might also break out the dice during their time away from the studio) references to this beloved hobby show up now and then. Recently, Netflix released Stranger Things, a show that starts with a group of young boys playing Dungeons & Dragons. Numerous references are made throughout the season, and even non-RPGers would be hard pressed to miss the big nods to the geeky hobby.  The cult-classic Community spent a whole episode following the college students as they explored the adventures fellow student and Dungeon Master Abed had in store for them. There are numerous other shows, some of which seem more likely than others, that pay homage to the beloved game, so without further ado:

Here 5 D&D references from some of my favorite shows:

  1. Veronica Mars

    2.13 “Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough”

    Dick: “I think he took Ghost World up to his room. They’re probably up there making love. Or playing Dungeons and Dragons. Or both, at the same time.”

    BONUS? They did it more than once.

    2.04 “Green Eyed Monster”
    Jackie to Wallace

    Jackie: “Get back ladies; he’s mine! You really are a basketball star, aren’t you? I mean I’m not just smacking the ass of some Dungeons and Dragons geek, right?”

     

  2. Supernatural

    7.20  “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo”

    The RPG in question is not just referenced in the title of this episode; just as Charlie, a computer hacker who stumbles into the world of weird, thinks she has broken the password, a voice taunts her with “Nice try Zero Charisma.”

     

  3. Gilmore Girls

    2.13. “A-Tisket A-Tasket”

    Lorelai begs Luke, the local diner owner to jump in and save her from being set up with one of several random suitors during a picnic basket auction. When he wins her basket, she calls out: “Sorry guys, don’t feel bad; I’m totally into Dungeons and Dragons.”

     

  4. The Simpsons

    3.5 “Homer Goes to College”

    Homer: “We played Dungeons and Dragons for three hours, and then I was slain by an elf.”

  5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    7.22 “Chosen”

    Giles: “I was a highly respected watcher, and now I’m a wounded dwarf with the mystical strength of a doily.”

What show have you seen that referenced D&D (or another RPG)? Share in the comments below!

5 and 5 for Pathfinder RPG

So, not long ago I wrote about five things I love and five things I don’t love about D&D 5e. Overall I think it’s a great system, and certainly my favourite edition of that game since second edition AD&D. That said, it isn’t the only system I play or enjoy, so today I will do the same with the other 500 lb gorilla in the realm of fantasy RPGs: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (henceforth PFRPG) by Paizo Publishing.

I had no prior history with Dungon or Dragon magazines, so I discovered PFRPG mostly by chance during its open beta while looking to file off some of the irritating edges in the D&D 3.5 system. Seeing that the document had already addressed some of my issues, and being wooed by the spiffy Wayne Reynolds cover and artwork, I gave it a read and subsequently purchased a copy of the final release. At this point, I may have run more sessions of PFRPG than any other game… and I’ve been running games a long time. Now that my history with PFRPG has been , let’s get into the meat of this article with five great things about PFRPG:

  1. You already know how to play it. While I imagine there are indie RPG enthusiasts out there that have never played a derivative of D&D 3rd edition, every gamer I know personally has. Getting buy-in from players for a PFRPG campaign is easy in my experience, since there is already a familiarity with the basic system, even if some of the specific details are different.
  2. It is adaptable. PFRPG is a fantasy game per its default, but it is actually adaptable to other styles without too much heavy lifting; I have been running it as a modern day Supernaturalesque action horror game quite successfully for some time. We will get to see how adaptable it is in Paizo’s hands when they release the science fantasy Starfinder Roleplaying Game in summer 2017.
  3. It is well supported. Paizo releases several books each month to support their RPG, including their flagship Pathfinder Adventure Path. Every month sees the release of one sixth of a campaign, with supporting material, which is a godsend to busy PFRPG gamemasters. At this point, I think more books, if not more pages, have been released for PFRPG than for D&D 3.0 and D&D 3.5 combined. Additionally, there is official errata and FAQs on Paizo’s website to clarify and correct the rules.
  4. Third-party support. If Paizo’s first-party support isn’t enough, there is an active communityof third-part creators producing all manner of content to fill the gaps in the “official” ruleset. Whether it’s the quirky but complex classes released by Interjection Games, or Dreamscarred Press’ updates to the 3rd edition psionics, or Raging Swan Press’ awesome dressing, or the neat tweaks to the system coming from Rogue Genius Games, you can find nearly anything you could possibly want from a third-party vendor. If you will allow a shameless plug, our own Dire Rugrat Publishing offers nice (and not nice) taverns in multiple game systems to introduce to your campaign right over here.
  5. The Community. More than maintaining a customer base, Paizo has done a fantastic job building a thriving and involved community on their website. You can ask questions on the best way to build an uber-barbarian, find people to start your next campaign with, or discuss anything from politics to tv. Best of all, you might have access to the people that write and design your favourite products.guard on watch

So far so good, right? But what is the dark side of PFRPG? Let’s see…

  1. Rules, Rules, Rules. PFRPG may not be as rules heavy as, say, Rolemaster, but it has a lot of rules. And more rules elements are added with each new hardcover release. There are a lot of things for a player, let alone a gamemaster, to remember which can lead to a lot of slowdown. This also leads to…
  2. Combat is a slog. You would think that a game that has such a strong focus on combat would let you make it through several of them in a session. You would be wrong. I’ve clocked a fight between a party of four 1st level characters and 6 goblins at over ninety minutes of real time. It gets worse as you gain levels, to the point that, in my gaming group, once the PCs were at level 8 or above, we could have a combat or we could roleplay in a four hour session, but we certainly couldn’t do both.
  3. High level play. In addition to slow gameplay, high level PFRPG introduces the reality that the PCs become super powered to the point that they couldn’t be defeated by Superman and his team of super pets. Perhaps its my own deficiency as a game runner, but I find playing PFRPG beyond 8th level largely unsatisfying.
  4. Golarion. Plenty of people love Paizo’s campaign setting of Golarion. I don’t. It doesn’t make sense to me. Its focus on strongly thematic regions makes it seem more like an incoherent jumble than a logical, believable place. All of this would be fine if Golarion didn’t worm its way into the supposedly setting neutral system rules, but it does. All goblins are illiterate and fear written language… since it was decided to include that little bit from the Golarion specific Adventure Path line in the Bestiary. All undead are evil, since the creative overlords of Golarion  don’t like the idea of non-evil undead. I can ignore things like this, but I shouldn’t have to dangit!
  5. Player’s Expectations. This is something that I found originated with D&D 3.0, but carries through to PFRPG. The players expect you to play “fair.” This is to say, they expect CR appropriate encounters. They expect that the gamemaster will adhere to the suggested Wealth by Level. They expect that every encounter will yield to the use of their swanky combat tricks, spells, and feats. And they get cranky and accuse the GM of being unfair when they don’t. I have found, even while playing with the same people for nearly twenty years, that my players just aren’t as creative in their problem solving while playing PFRPG as they are while playing other games.

So there you are. If there are things that you love or loathe about PFRPG, sound off in the comments!

wild mountains

Comfortable Adventuring

I don’t think any adventuring is truly comfortable (it wouldn’t be much of an adventure, just a vacation), but if I think about the characters we play in our games, and the way we often just gloss over some of that travel, it gives me pause.

Hours upon hours of trudging along roads, paths, or through dense forest growth just to get to your intended destination. Sure, you’ve got your companions, but how much time do you want to spend chatting when you have more weight piled on your back than most normal people can carry, you’ve been wearing the same clothes for days, and you can’t remember the last time you had a hot bath? No, that low-level bard with his off-key merry songs of adventure is driving you mad, and you wish you could reach something in that monstrosity of pack for to gag him with right now.

By the end of the day your legs are weary, your feet are cold and your shoulders ache. You can’t light a fire for fear the nearby army of orcs will be drawn to it, or because everything is too wet, so you curl up in that bedroll you’ve been carrying all day thinking about how you get to do it again tomorrow.

Ah, the joy.

household magic coverWouldn’t the dreary days, the long hikes and the cold nights be made just a little bit better with a warm bottle of mulled wine? Or a warm cup of milk before bed? No fire required. The ever-warm bottle is just one of many adventuring hacks found in The Household Magic Catalog by Flaming Crab Games.

While this product was made with the intention of the items being used at home (and by the gods there are some amazing products in this strange and out-of-this-world catalog), there are some items no adventurer should be without.

Why struggle with a rope when there’s a shrinkable ladder? Creative thinkers could use it to climb up, or to walk across. Presto! The extendo-ladder is a ladder and a bridge you can carry with you (hey, that bag was already weighing you down, what’s a bit more?).

That fresh food starting to spoil? Freshen it up. Yep – there’s a spell for that in here. Or just start your day with a healthy, filling breakfast – served while you lie in your bedroll (bonus: it cures any poison and keeps you nourished all day!).

Too much to carry? Purchase a wagon. Sure, you’ll still have to push it through difficult terrain, but it will move itself, and your gear, along the even ground with nothing more than a command word.

Yes, I am shamelessly promoting this product because I was one of the contributors, but I do think, like most of the Letters, this is a great product to have; it may be my favorite of the Letters to date as its alternate fantastical 1940’s vibe makes it so much fun to read, and it is full of amazing products that lead to great gaming ideas (two words: Room Baa).

If you are looking for new magical items, love old catalogs, need a bit of weird wacky inspiration, or want to make your time adventuring just a little more comfortable, grab your copy from DriveThruRPG today.

jar of dice

5 and 5 for D&D 5e

The newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons may not have that new game scent anymore, but over a year of regular play has done a lot to display its virtues and vices to me. Before we get to the five things I like most and least about the game, I’ll provide a bit of background.

I was all set to ignore 5e (still being called D&D Next at the time), and paid no attention to the public playtest. My fantasy RPG itch was being scratched by Pathfinder, after all, and really, could any game dethrone Second Edition AD&D as my favourite fantasy RPG of all time? But 5e was released, and it got a lot of positive attention… and my mother, the person that got me the Mentzer Basic Set for my eighth birthday and set off a lifetime love of RPGs, gifted me with the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual… so I gave it a shot. And I’m glad I did.

That out of the way, let’s get to five things I really like about 5e:

  1. Advantage/Disadvantage. More than anything, I love advantage and disadvantage, and their lack of absolute codification. Replacing the horde of small bonuses, and especially bonus types, used in D&D 3rd edition (and its derivatives) and 4th edition with this simple rule was genius.
  2. Spellcasting. Spells that scale based on the level of spell slot being used is a thing that should have been done several editions ago. Thankfully it’s a thing now. Further, rituals are back from 4th edition. This is a good thing.
  3. Concentration. More to the point, that many buffing spells require concentration, meaning that a caster can only have one in effect at a time. Gone are the suites of buffs players cast before every encounter. Good riddance.
  4. Return of the horde. The so-called “bounded accuracy” that 5e is based around means that low challenge threats are still threats far into a character’s adventuring career. My players, with 6th level characters, are still struggling against the mobs of low challenge mooks that amass around the big bad guys and gals. That’s right, mobs. I can use tons of enemies because of…
  5. Quick combat. Combat is resolved relatively quickly in 5e. Much more quickly than in 3rd or 4th edition, certainly. I like this, it means I can run two or even three combats in a three to four hour session but still have time for exploration and role-play. Wins all around.Paizo goblin

Lots to like, right? All is not sunshine and unicorns however, as the next five points will detail. Without further ado, five things I dislike about 5th edition…

  1. Tieflings, and drow, and dragonborn… Oh my! Call me stodgy, but I don’t think these three races… well, two races and a subrace… should be part of the core game. Of course, if my players would let me, I would disallow every non-human race in my games…
  2. Short adventures. Where are they? The campaign length hardbacks are nice, for the most part, but 5e suffers from a dearth of short adventures. Sure, I can and do convert adventures from previous editions, but come on, The Lost Mine of Phandelver from the Basic Game is a fantastic, sandboxy short adventure… I’d like to see more in that vein.
  3. Dying. By the gods it’s difficult to kill a character in 5e. But the characters get dropped to death saves, often multiple times in an encounter as their companions bring them back to consciousness. It’s silly.
  4. Encounter design. One of the best aspects of 4th edition was the ease with which a DM could put together an encounter. With 5e’s lighter engine, I was expecting that it would be even easier to design exciting encounters. My expectations were in vain; 5e is more difficult to generate encounters for than both 3rd and 4th editions. This is exacerbated by…
  5. Creature creation. Unlike the previous two editions, 5e doesn’t do a very able job of explaining how to create monsters, and more importantly in my opinion, npcs. There’s a table of benchmarks creatures should meet… but special features are not addressed in any meaningful way. Please, design team, give us something better.

So there they are: five and five. Have you been playing D&D 5e? Why or why not? What are your likes and dislikes?

More Dinosaurs Please

What kid doesn’t love dinosaurs? There is something about them that just seems magical, special.  Maybe it’s because while there is evidence they existed, it isn’t like any one of us is ever going to get to see a real live one.

Which could be one of the reasons they show up in Pathfinder (and other RPGs).  If you live in a world with dragons, ogres, and gelatinous cubes, it stands to reason dinosaurs are just as likely to be walking around.

If you loved them as a kid (or adult), and I mean really loved them, you probably know exactly how many claws a T-Rex has, what the difference between a brachiosaurus and an apatosaurus is, and why a pterodactyl is super awesome, but isn’t a dinosaur.  If you just think dinosaurs rock, and want to call the long-necked ones a brontosaurs, that’s cool too (I did until I had Rugrat #1 – he will take any chance he can to correct me and my dinosaurs knowledge).

In either event, maybe you want to see a little more dinosaur action in your game.  Heck, maybe you want a whole dinosaur world!

Forget the dragons!
Ditch those gelatinous cubes!
And ogre – take your stinky self somewhere else.

It’s time for a foray into the prehistoric world!

There are lots of cool ways to do this: the party ends up on an island (think Jurassic Park); the party steps through a portal into a prehistoric world; the whole campaign is set in a world where dinosaurs are more common.  Whatever set-up you chose, what you need is more dinosaurs.

I have combed through the Bestiaries.  There’s a bunch of dinosaurs, and a bunch of other prehistoric beasts, but there’s definitely room for more if you want a whole campaign set with these radical reptiles.

Or there was.

Flaming Crab Games put out a fun Letter back in September.

Letters from the Flaming Crab: Dinosaur Companions details 25 new prehistoric creatures (mostly dinosaurs), and includes a bunch of them as animal companions, mounts, and/or familiars.  But more than just a bunch of stat blocks, this product also includes encounters. What do you players do when they find an injured dinosaur? Or when they have to pass through a nesting ground?

Yes, I worked on this project. Rugrat #1 is obsessed with dinosaurs and I could not pass up the opportunity.  He’s on the verge of gaming, and we are trying to draw him. A way to add something he loves to something I think he’ll love was a no-brainer. I actually had him brainstorm some of the dinosaurs he’d like to see, and we talked about what sorts of things the dinosaurs might be doing.  It was awesome to see him use his imagination.
Never fear though, at the end of the day, Letters from the Flaming Crab: Dinosaur Companions was written by a great team of writers (who aren’t 6 – that I know of), and overseen by J Gray, a talented developer.

If you love dinosaurs, or you have someone in your life who does, this is a great PDF to pick up.

Grab it today and make your game a little more prehistoric.

And because I don’t want you to think this is just a plug for an awesome product, here’s an encounter (not found in the book). The troodon can be found on the SRD, while the maiasaura is in Letters from the Flaming Crab: Dinosaur Companions.


Encounter: Egg Thief

The PCs emerge from a dense jungle and find themselves at the edge of a large clearing filled with nests of maiasaura eggs. A dozen huge reptiles are spaced throughout the breeding grounds, paying close attention to their unborn children, and don’t seem to have noticed the PCs.  On the outskirts of the breeding grounds, fifty feet away from the PCs, a troodon can be seen eyeing an unattended nest.

Two rounds after the PCs arrival, a second troodon is seen across the clearing; it makes a move toward a nearby nest, and several maiasaura immediately take notice.  With a lot of noise, the soon-to-be-mothers charge toward the invading egg thief.  The nearby troodon makes its move, scurrying toward the closest nest. 

If the PCs don’t retreat, the maiasaura quickly notice the troodon near them fleeing with an egg, and attack all apparent invaders.