This pouch of tanned leather has irregular bulges along its surface. It looks as though it has been stitched together with sinew. Merely touching the container makes the handler feel uncomfortable. The bag is tied closed with a leather thong, and its ragged mouth can be stretched wide enough to deposit a Small creature in it.
The skeleton of an adult halfling male, wired together and complete except for the missing left hand
Four small vials marked “marilith blood” worth 100 gp each to a collector or wizard
Half-full box of powdered sulpher measuring 13 inches by 7 inches by 11 inches
Petrified Human Heart
Thirteen iron spikes, each of which is 7 inches long
Mostly blank journal. The words “I died” are scrawled on the third page in what appears to be blood
A black sheep skin
Thirty-nine black candles, all of which have been used to some extent
+1 dagger etched with evil-looking sigils
Small-sized hand of glory
Box holding 13 pieces of used white and black chalk
13 gold coins each marked on one side with a leering demonic face
This bag is nearly indistinguishable from any other duffel, though keen-eyed observers who are knowledgeable about stitchery will note the high quality of the bag’s construction. This bag of holding can be opened wide enough to insert or remove a case of wine or a keg of ale. The bag contains:
Two cases of wine, each holding twelve bottles worth 12 gp apiece
Three small kegs of whiskey worth 65 gp each
Well-made wooden box holding 350 gp of snuff
Used disguise kit
Ring of thieves’ tools
Courtier’s outfit in the current style
Set of woolen clothes, including a cloak, dyed black
Six complete outfits which can be mixed and matched to fir into most social situations
Costume jewellery worth 50 gp
Brand new tricorne hat
Potion of invisibility
Two signet rings, each depicting the seal of a different house
Six different falsified manifests. Detecting their fraudulent nature requires a DC 16 Intelligence (Investigation) check.
Invocation Time: 10 minutes Components: V, S, M (two candles, a map and a small piece of chalcopyrite on a silver chain which aren’t consumed in the incantation) Number of Participants: 1/3 Duration: Instantaneous
When you invoke this incantation, you locate a single intelligent creature by swinging the chalcopyrite on the chain, like a pendulum, over the map.
Ability Checks: A DC 16 Intelligence (Nature) or Wisdom (Survival) check must be made by the invoker to initiate the incantation.
After the initial check, one of the following checks must be made every five minutes for a total of three checks. The DC for each check is 16. If the invoker holds an object of emotional significance to their quarry while the incantation is invoked, the DC of the ability checks is reduced to 13.
Charisma (Persuasion) to plead for help.
Intelligence (Investigation) to know which clues lead to your quarry and which lead to dead ends.
Wisdom (Insight) to predict your quarry’s next move.
The final check can be any of the above checks.
Sacrifice: The invoker has disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks for one hour following the completion of the incantation.
Success: The crystal lands upon the map at the approximate location of the creature the invoker is seeking. This incantation works at any range as long as the creature being sought is on the same plane of existence as the invoker. The more local the map you are using, the more refined and exact your result will be.
For instance, if you aren’t at all certain where the creature you seek might be, you can find their general location on a world map, and then narrow your results by moving to the area it was located and performing the incantation again using a more localized map, narrowing down the result until you find your quarry.
Failure: The exact location of the invoker springs into the mind of every creature they have spoken to during the preceding twelve months.
Why taverns? I posed this question in the foreword of the original version of Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear. Taverns are where we got our start, five years ago. We were so proud of our work at the time, though reviewing it shows how inexperienced we were and how much we’ve grown since then.
The past five years have seen an improvement in every aspect of what we do. The writing is sharper and more concise. The art is more skillfully executed, and more of it is produced in-house. The maps look great. The layouts improve every release.
We couldn’t have believed five years ago that our humble little release would be the stepping stone for working with other publishers.
If you’ve noticed a slowdown of Dire Rugrat releases, it’s due to just that fact. If you like what we do, you may be interested to know that Kelly has done work for Kobold Press, Playground Adventures, Flaming Crab Games, and other third-party publishers of D&D 5e materials. I’ve worked with Rogue Genius Games and others.
But… back to the question. Why taverns?
The local watering hole is a representation of the community as a whole, whether that community is a neighbourhood in a larger city or a tiny hamlet. Adventurers can go to the tavern, figure out what the locals are like and what problems they have, solve those problems (or make new ones), and return to the taphouse to collect payment before moving on… or not. I’m certain entire RPG campaigns could be set in a tavern, just dealing with the drama created by all those visiting adventurers!
If you downloaded the latest Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear because you received a notification of an updated version, thank you for your patronage these last five years.
To those who are new to what Dire Rugrat does, welcome!
I’m excited to see what the next five years hold for us and our little company, and hope many of you reading this will come along for the ride. Regardless, put your feet up, pour yourself your favourite drink, and enjoy this little slice of our gaming reality.
We’re pleased to announce the anniversary edition of Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear. These new files include more original artwork, a revised colour map, and additional stat blocks for 5e and Pathfinder.
A problem reared its head shortly after we began playing a pirate themed D&D 5th Edition game: there are a lot of NPCs in play when the crew of one ship boards another ship.
Assessing the Options
I looked at the limited rules about handling mobs in the DMG and disliked them. I then read a lot of advice on the subject, most of which boiled down to “avoid mass combat at all costs”, or “let the NPCs do their thing in the background while the PCs star in the important action.”
The advice didn’t work for me. I like situations where perhaps the PCs are struggling against their opposition while the friendly NPC crew have quickly mopped up the enemy crew and can help the PCs. Or the inverse where the crew is nearing defeat which forces the PCs to divert some or all of their efforts to save them. I could just decide these things as the GM, but that felt cheap as well.
Unable to find a solution in the core D&D 5e books, I looked at other solutions such as the minion monster rules in D&D 4e, which are workable but still require too much management and rolling at the table. I also looked at 13th Age which has excellent and elegant rules for mooks, and I almost adopted them until I found the entry for the Bar Brawl in the Creature Codexby Kobold Press (which is a fantastic monster resource and highly recommended by us rugrats). This third-party work gave a group of aggressive humanoids the swarm feature, allowing them to use their numbers to threaten the PCs and their crew while elegantly working within the 5e framework.
Creating the Crews
I took this idea and ran with it. The resulting crews and monster swarms worked well in play testing (aka: our campaign). We compiled them together, added some officers and captains to bedevil the PCs, and created some magical and mundane seafaring equipment.
The Seafaring Supplement contains nine crew stat blocks, including two sets of sea creatures. Challenges range from 2 to 10. From crews of undead to experienced marines, these stat blocks keep ship combat from becoming bogged down, while still bringing excitement to the combat.
Little clenches the stomach of a pirate faster than the sight of a frigate carrying regiments of naval marines. These hardened soldiers are equally adept at fighting on land or the heaving deck of a ship. Naval marines are more heavily armed and armored than most sailors, and take a great deal of care ensuring their weapons and armor don’t succumb to the brine and spray.
The Dire Rugrat Family Tails of Equestria Campaign, Part 1
Who’s Who in Equestria
Excitement was high in the Dire Rugrat household, Daddy Rugrat had read the Tales of Equestria rulebook, and all three rugrats, as well as Mummy Rugrat, were excited to make their PCs (pony characters) and start adventuring in Equestria. I went to the River Horse website, downloaded the PC sheets, one for each type of pony, and everyone set to work. Rugrat 3 created Cup Cake, a riotously coloured unicorn with purple head and flanks, green legs, black eyes and horn, crimson tail, and I think a green mane. Cup Cake’s cutie mark is a diamond on a purple and green cake… maybe. It’s hard to be certain. Her chosen talent is the ability to create force fields, and her very appropriate quirk is a short attention span; her Element of Harmony is Magic, which has yet to have much effect on her… Rugrat 2 created Thunder Gust, a pegasus with green body and blue mane and tail. His cutie mark is three clouds with lightning shooting out of them, and his Element of Harmony is Honesty. Against my better judgment, Rugrat 1 was allowed to create a changeling (rules for changeling characters are in The Bestiary of Equestria [review forthcoming], which Rugrat 1 was expressly asked to not read…. but he did anyway, because children know it is better to beg forgiveness than ask permission…) named Shiftwing. Shiftwing chose laughter as his Element of Harmony, a fear of bees (just like his player) as his Quirk, and chose to upgrade his innate Morph Talent rather than selecting a second one. Rugrat 1 will be a rules lawyering powergamer in the future, I fear… but we will love him anyway. Finally, Mummy Rugrat created Calm Heart, a light brown earth pony with darker brown mane and tail. Her Element of Harmony is Kindness, her cutie mark is a heart with two crossed band-aids set on it, and she selected Healing Touch as her Talent, and Messy as her Quirk.
A Day at the Market
The game started with the PCs at the weekend market. Calm Heart was looking for more bandages, Thunder Gust wanted some eggs, Shiftwing was searching for a solar powered lamp, and Cup Cake wanted toys. So many toys. While they were shopping, they came across a cute, but very rude bunny. The ponies interacted with the aggressive rodent in humorous fashion, until his pony, the famous pegasus Fluttershy, found them together. Realizing their obvious animal wrangling skills, and needing someone to take care of the Mane Six’s pets while they went off adventuring, she recruited them like a a shy, pony Gandalf asking Bilbo Baggins to give up his comfortable hobbit life. The PCs agreed of course, as there’d be no game otherwise, and they visited Fluttershy at her home outside the Everfree Forest.
Everything Goes Wrong
At Fluttershy’s house, the PCs met the rest of the Mane Six, the most famous ponies in all of Equestria! And after a brief introduction to the Mane Pets, the Six were on their way. It didn’t take long for everything to go wrong. The unruly pets, spurred by the very poorly named Angel Bunny, misbehaved. The PCs attempted to treat them to their favourite things, Cup Cake obsessively looked for the chocolate mice that she knew were the favourite of Twilight Sparkle’s owl, Owlowiscious, but Calm Heart stepped on Angel’s tail and set the foul tempered rodent off! He bounced through the house, riling up the already agitated pets. They smashed things, knocked over furniture, and finally escaped out the front door left open by Cup Cake in her fruitless search for chocolate mice.
Well, That Happened…
Sorting themselves out, the PCs realized the pets had escaped… in different directions into the ominous Everfree Forest. Deciding that the mess in Fluttershy’s house could wait, the PCs set off into the forest to effect a rescue. They started by following baby alligator tracks down the river which eventually led them to a small island. Flying above the island was a blue bird with a funny green feather frill, a mohawk! Pinkie Pie’s pet alligator, Gummy, had firmly chomped down on the frantic bird’s tail feathers, and wouldn’t let go. Thunder Gust and Shiftwing (morphed into pegasus form) flew up and attempted to remove the alligator from the bird, which they did, but their actions resulted in Gummy plummeting toward the ground (and near certain doom), until the distractable Cup Cake used her telekinesis to catch him.
Scary Monsters (and Diamond Dogs)
After rescuing Gummy, the PCs decided to follow the faint dog howls to a small hut, surrounded by variously sized holes in the ground. Applejack’s dog, Winona, was tied up in front of the structure, and she was upset about it. Using stealth and guile to approach Winona without her making any noise, the PCs managed to free her and made it nearly away before attracting the attention of something underground. Moving quietly, the PCs managed to avoid the diamond dogs who had taken Winona captive, though those greedy hounds may come into play again if the PCs don’t escape the Everfree Forest soon. While following a smoke trail, the PCs ran into the mysterious rhyming zebra named Zecora! Zecora gave some cryptic advice and gave each pony a healing potion for their journey. Continuing to follow the smoke, the PCs left the Everfree Forest and entered a craggy, rocky canyon with pits and holes in the canyon walls. From the canyon mouth, they could see Rainbow Dash’s turtle Tank! Tank’s helicopter backpack apparatus was broken and the poor turtle was helplessly caught on a stone spur. Thunder Gust flew toward the turtle and got him free, but drew the attention of a fearsome quarray eel in the process. A breathless scuffle with the quarray eel ensued, in which Calm Heart, as well as Thunder Gust were swallowed whole by the monster! Cup Cake and Shiftwing (morphed to look like Cup Cake) used their telekinesis to get their companions free, and the four narrowly escaped back into the Everfree Forest with Tank.
What Happens Next?
With three of the Mane Six’s pets rescued, who will the PCs attempt to find next? Will it be the wise owl Owlowiscious? The prissy pussycat Opalescence? Or naughty Angel Bunny herself? You will just have to wait until part 2 to find out!
A Review of Tails of Equestria, The My Little Pony Roleplaying Game
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has been a fixture in our household for some time. It’s one of the rare programs that appeals to all three rugrats, as well as, if we’re being completely honest, Mummy and Daddy Rugrat as well. I am going to go ahead and assume that whomever is reading this knows what MLP:FiM is, but I will say that it is certainly the richest piece of branded programming I can think of. What we are looking at here, is Tails of Equestria – The Storytelling Game licensed by River Horse Ltd. and Published by Shinobi7 in the United States and Canada; let’s see if I think it is worth your family gaming time.
The Cutie Mark Chronicles
I want to start by mentioning that having a My Little Pony Roleplaying Game licensed for development by a third party is hilariously ironic. MLP is owned by Hasbro. The most popular RPG in the world, Dungeons & Dragons, is owned and developed by Wizards of the Coast. Which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hasbro. Weird, right? Anyway… let’s move on. The Tails of Equestria book is a slim 150 pages, with around 135 pages of content after you exclude the table of contents, index, ads, and dice charts. The text is written in a large enough font to make my aging eyes happy, and is presented in relatively simple language throughout to make it easier for younger players to grasp. The text is broken down into twelve numbered chapters, with an unnumbered adventure module, and an appendix.
Appleoosa’s Most Wanted
After a brief introductory chapter, chapters two to five, as well as chapters 8-11 are devoted to the creation, maintenance, and advancement of your PC (that’s pony character in this game). Why they planted the two chapters of game rules in the middle of the character rules, I couldn’t say, but I find it a bit irritating. Chapter 2 – Creating Your Pony Character is short and provides an overview of the process which is detailed in the following chapters. Once you’ve read the rest of the book, Chapter 2 will suffice for most of a player’s PC building needs. Chapter 3 – Pony Kinds details the three different types of Ponies one can choose from: earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasi. Earth ponies are physically stronger than the other two types, and they get an additional boost to tests that use their Body trait once per session. Unicorns are more innately magical than the other pony types and they start the game with telekinesis. Pegasi have wings and can fly. There is also a note in this chapter about Alicorns (unicorn / pegasi hybrids with the physicality of earth ponies), stating that they are not available as a player type, likely due to issues of game balance.
A Flurry of Emotions
Chapter 4 details the Elements of Harmony: Kindness, Generosity, Laughter, Loyalty, Honesty, and Magic. In Tails of Equestria the Elements are treated as alignment is in D&D. They don’t have rules implications, but each player chooses one for their PC which can help guide that player in how their pony deals with the challenges that crop up in the game. It’s nice and subtle, and honestly a lot easier to interpret than alignment is, in my opinion. Chapter 5 details each pony’s traits, which are the equivalent of ability scores in other games. There are three traits: Body, Mind, and Charm. Each pony starts with a d6 rating in Charm, and can can assign a d4 and a d6 to the other two traits. Earth ponies upgrade their body trait by one step, so a starting earth pony can either choose to be very strong, or to be completely balanced. Stamina is the equivalent to hit points in other games, and is determined by adding a PC’s Body and Mind traits together, so a starting PC has 10 Stamina (or 12 Stamina if they are an earth pony).
The Mane Attraction
We’ll jump to Chapter 8 to continue with the character rules. This chapter deals with Talents and Quirks. At the game start, each PC chooses a Talent, such as Healing Touch. Some Talents are available only to certain pony types. The book contains sixteen Talents, some of which, such as Creative Flair can be further focused. Quirks on the other hand, give ponies a gameable drawback. Each PC has one at the game start, and when they come into play, they reduce the PC’s ability to complete the task at hand. The book has seventeen suggested quirks ranging from phobias, to being too silly, to MeMeMeMeMeMeMe! Chapter 9 deals with pony naming conventions, cutie marks, and the pony’s look, all of which will ideally tie into each other and result in a memorable PC!
A Friend in Deed
Returning to Chapter 6, we learn about Friendship. More specifically, the chapter is about Friendship Tokens. Friendship Tokens can be used to re-roll failed tests, re-roll with a d20 rather than the listed trait die, or to auto succeed. Tokens can be granted from one PC to another, and while the text mentions that doing so might have some additional effect, it never codifies this. In my sessions, I formalized this by ruling that one Token granted to another PC allowed them to re-roll a failed test with a d20 (this costs two tokens if a PC spends them on themself), and two Tokens granted to another PC allowed an auto success on a test (this costs three Tokens if a PC spends them on themself).
Testing Testing 1, 2, 3
Chapter 7 contains the rest of the game rules. Tails of Equestria uses a die step system, increasing the die rolled by a step, from a d6 to a d8 for example, rather than adding a pile of modifiers a la D&D 3.5. The game has exploding dice (called Exploding Hoof, naturally); when a player rolls the maximum on a die, they get to then roll the next die type, and can do the same if they roll the maximum on that die, and when they have no more dice to roll, they select the most advantageous result and use that to resolve their task. In play, Tails of Equestria feels a lot like a simpler Savage Worlds. A chapter on money and equipment follows, which is brief but informative; Tales of Equestria characters are capable all by themselves, they don’t focus on money and stuff. The character rules are then rounded out with a chapter on leveling and advancement, which is a suitably straightforward affair. The last numbered chapter contains some player advice, as well as some really good advice on how to run a game like an episode of MLP:FiM.
Mmmystery on the Friendship Express
The included adventure module, The Pet Predicament, is nearly forty pages long, taking up a substantial portion of the book. It has the PCs take over the care and handling of the Mane Six’s pets while they are on a mission, to predictably disastrous results. With an experienced Gamemaster running it, the adventure is really neat, and ably shows how to move from more physically conflict-oriented games to one where solving problems and working together are paramount. There are sections of the adventure, however that are really light on information and boil down to telling the GM to let the players resolve the problems however feels right, which may be difficult to do for most new GMs…
Keep Calm and Flutter On
In a nutshell, Tails of Equestria is a great game. It provides a surprisingly simulationist rules framework in which a group of players can have a lot of fun solving problems and exploring the world, and their relationships to each other. It is also easy to read in an afternoon and have an adventure ready to play the next day. It is not perfect however. I would love to have a chapter on the land of Equestria included; many licensed games also serve as an excellent resource about the lore of the IP (Dragon Age and The One Ring spring to mind). I would also like to see more information on campaign creation, as well as a more fleshed out adventure included. Finally, there are some typos and grammatical errors (Princess Cadance is referred to as Princess Cadence in every reference to her. I know it’s a weird spelling of the word cadence, but it’s the poor pony’s name for goodness sake!) Overall, I give the game 4 stars and am looking forward to reading the other books in the game line.
Last October our family started this fun series of children’s adventures. We had an ESL student we had hosted some time ago visiting for a few days, and it seemed like a great activity we could all enjoy. We shared a review of Adventures in Wonderland #1: Chasing the White Rabbitat that time, and the kids loved it. So much so Kelly ran the second adventure the same night with only a quick scan of the PDF before playing. The third was played the next day.
Then a long time passed. Our former student returned to Japan. The kids begged and begged to find out what happened to the white rabbit. We played another fun kids adventure. And eventually a new chapter in the AIW series came out.
With Rugrat #3 old enough to not be napping, but young enough she can’t quite grasp everything that’s going on, we set her up as Kelly’s animal companion. She sat on Kelly’s lap, rolling her own set of dice randomly and chiming in to repeat what people said.
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.
While 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!
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.