He knew he must keep very still. Footsteps moved down the hall toward him. He sucked in his breath and held it, hoping he was hidden by the shadow of the plush couch. The figure moved into the room carrying an oversized bag. They paused briefly and he wondered if they knew he was there. The figure moved toward the tree, which was still illuminated with tiny white lights. Slowly, they reached into the bag and pulled several boxes. Each one was placed gingerly around the tree. He took a small breath in through his nose and watched as the figure turned and walked back out of the room, padding softly in their slippers. He’d discovered the true magic behind Christmas.
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.
Ken Pawlik, September 2020
Pick up Your Copy Today
The Delectable Dragonfly
7 reviews | $$, Tea Service, Spa Services
Ratings and Reviews
Tea Service, Light Lunch
Seating, Table Service, Spa Treatment
Vast Collection of Teas
stupid place for stupid women
delectable additions are the icing on the cake
They do try
6 reviews | $, Home-Style Food, Lodging
Ratings and Reviews
Seating, Table Service, Large Property to Walk, Working Farm, Small Rooms for Rent
A Waterfowl Enthusiast’s Dream
don’t like the squirrel
Home away from home
knack with animals
4 reviews | $, Home-Style Food, Hostel
Ratings and Reviews
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Seating, Table Service, Liquor, Hostel Beds
A Good Place to Go
a hut in the middle of nowhere
Nice place to rest
Have a character who visited The Hut and wants to share their experience? Submit it and it could be featured here!
Don’t forget to include your character’s name.
Kobold Press has a series of blog posts, written by Kelly, about Inbar. This young woman left her home and family in Siwal to explore the Northlands. She records her adventures in letters she sends home to her family.
In addition to Ibar’s insights these blog posts contain more information about the Northlands, a region of Kobold Press’ Midgard campaign setting.
Everyone seems to be offering free or discounted classes right now. I don’t have extra time because three kids at home full time, but hey, that’s okay. I still found this go at your own pace video based class. It’s called ‘The Science of Well Being’ and is touted as a Yale class being offered through Coursera. It’s been one night, so I’m not going to get into that, but there was this great bit about the GI Joe Fallacy.
Knowing is Half the Battle
She explains that, in the 80’s GI Joe cartoon there were public service announcements at the end of each episode. At the end of them, the kid would thank the GI Joe who delivered the PSA, and he or she would say “Knowing is half the battle.”
Professor Laurie Santos disagrees, saying that just because we know something, doesn’t mean we apply it.
Then she showed some optical illusions. The first one was the Muller-Lyer illusion. It looks like this:
So the question is: which line appears longer? The top one.
Seeing is Believing
Look closely. They are the same length.
Even when we know this, the top one still appears longer.
Professor Laurie Santos goes on to explain our own thought patterns aren’t as easy as we think.
Seeing isn’t always believing.
And knowing isn’t always half the battle.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes better.
I saw this as a great opportunity to teach the Rugrats how to question what they see, even if they see it with their own eyes.
For today’s class at the College of Very Interesting Disciplines, we talked about illusions!
I likened this to their first class of illusion magic. The second class is coming soon and we’re all excited about it (shadow puppets!).
We looked at the Muller-Lyer illusion above first. Rugrat#1 had seen it before, so I learned they do cover this in school, at at least one of his teachers did.
Duck or Bunny?
Then we took a look at this one:
Do you see a duck? Or a bunny?
All of the Rugrats said a duck, even though I held it as a bunny at first.
Rugrat#1 had seen this before, so he found both of them, but he still defaulted to the duck first.
Two Faces or a Pedestal?
So, Rugrat#1 called this a gauntlet. He meant goblet, but either way, I love he knows those words. This led to a great talk about both of those items.
Everyone saw the pedestal first in my house.
This illusion lets us see how our mind can fill in a blank space.
There is not actually a white triangle there.
Now, oddly, my Rugrats started counting out a ton of triangles, seeing each point as its own triangle because of the other triangle intercepting it.
The last illusion we looked at was this one.
There is a young women and an old crone in this image, depending on how you look at it.
Ken taught us all this one is the trickiest of them all. He has never been able to see either face in the image.
The Rugrats worked together to try to find the faces, and they all claim to be able to see them.
How’d You Do?
I hope you had some fun exploring illusions. If you did, share them with someone else stuck at home. Then use these skills!
And as a bonus:
“Imagine Everyone is a Vampire”
A friend of mine said this recently and I think it’s important. Don’t scare the kids with this one, but practice this “illusion” for yourself.
Don’t let anyone into your home.
Don’t get too close to anyone.
The sooner we can all properly practice social distancing and stay isolated as much as possible, the sooner we can flatten the curve!
Okay, so we really got lost in a world of Kobolds.
On top of all of the settings, mini adventures and other products listed in that post, I’ve been hard at work with a few more great products for this really great producer of 5e content. There are a couple of them still in the works, and Kobold Press will have more about them soon.
Empire of the Ghouls
This really successfully Kickstarter vs. the undead wrapped up a little while ago, and if you were one of the 2,000+ backers who jumped aboard, shipments should be going out in April. It was a great pleasure to have a hand in this project and I cannot wait to see the whole thing come together.
The lead designer is Richard Green, and contributing designers include Chris Lockey, Dan Dillon, Jeff Lee, Jon Sawatsky, Mike Welham, and Wolfgang Baur. Plus me – Kelly Pawlik! The project editor is Meagan Maricle and she is incredible. If you didn’t take part in this Kickstarter, watch their website and pick up a copy once it is available.
Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, 2nd Edition
Because sometimes you want a break from settings and adventures, you can find my essay in this great resource.
Between these covers, you’ll find practical, thought-provoking essays on worldbuilding, creating magic systems, conflict, and compelling stories, what to expect when you work as a design professional, and much more. Conceptual chapters examine what game design is and how good design can create the best games. Concrete examples provide models to help you create well-rounded designs and exciting adventures.
Warlock 17: Halflings
If you prefer supplements you can use at your gaming table, check out Warlock 17: Halflings.
This handy little Warlock magazine details three branches of the halfling family tree. Scott Gable asked me to work on this one, and it also features work by Victoria Jaczko.
Tangible Taverns: Gumption
With everything going on in the world right now, we’re sticking closer to home and trying to tie up some loose ends. If you’re like us, you might think the current state of things makes it the perfect time to settle in, stay home, and play some RPGs.
If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered with a new Tangible Tavern.
Located in the middle of no-where (which some say is the perfect place to be right now!), this tavern is a refuge for weary travellers. No, it isn’t the one in the middle of the woods under a tree, or a hut located on the river, this little farmstead is something new. And there’s a horse with a secret!
Stay tuned – it’s coming soon!
We recently took a break from more combat focused game systems in favor of trying a DramaSystem rules engine. For our first go-around with it, we used it in combination with a 5e campaign we ran, but for the second, we went full on Drama System, and we are loving it! If you haven’t checked it out yet, or even heard of it, here’s the basic synopsis:
With the Hillfolk roleplaying game, you and your group weave an epic, ongoing saga of high-stakes interpersonal conflict that grows richer with every session. Its DramaSystem rules engine, from acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws, takes the basic structure of interpersonal conflict underlying fiction, movies and television and brings it to the world of roleplaying. This simple framework brings your creativity to the fore and keep a surprising, emotionally compelling narrative constantly on the move.
Because it is set up similar to a television show, each session is an “episode” and each episode has a theme. The ideal drama system campaign is said to be 10-12 episodes per “season.”
There is a good sized collection of episode themes in the Hillfolk book by Pelegrane Press, but if you have played a lot of sessions, you may find yourself in need of additional themes.
The list below is a collection of some of the themes we have used in our recent campaign.
- A New World
- Family Ties
- Many Happy Returns
- Moving Forward
- Moving Pieces
- Out of the Frying Pan
- Picking up the Pieces
- Puzzle Pieces
- Second Chances
- Show Time
- Something New
- Taking Charge
- Waking Up
- Workin’ It
Have you tried the Drama System?
What themes have you used?
Sometimes an NPC’s story begins long before they are born. The fate of these characters can be traced back to the decisions of their parents, characters who, while interesting, are unlikely to ever meet the PCs, and as such, their tale goes unnoticed and untold along with hundreds of others about the places the PCs explore.
Our Open Origins series focuses on these bit characters and gives some history and context to some of our NPCs.
Royston and Petunia were a match made by the gods. Dedicated to the intense study of magic, the pair of halflings were undefeatable by just about any foe that crossed their path. Petunia had begun her studies early in life and excelled quickly. When she met Royston the two maintained a friendly feud for a time, but eventually admitted their feelings for each other. Their love was intense and pure, as strong as their combined forces against those that would move against them.
Petunia was kind-hearted and generous, no matter how powerful she became. At her insistence, the pair helped those in need, and always came to the aid of the rulers of the kingdom in which they resided. They quickly developed a reputation for charity and Petunia especially was beloved by the smallfolk. After some years together Petunia became with child, and their son was born some time later. Little Billet Hamperstand with his brown ringlets and chubby face was celebrated by everyone in the kingdom, and Petunia and Royston had never been happier.
When Billet was a toddler the city was attacked by a band of orcs that had been growing restless in the nearby mountains. Officials, as well as Petunia and Royston, had been keeping an eye on them, but they had seemed disorganized and scattered. The sudden organized attack had been impossible to predict.
The pair rushed to assist the city, hiding Billet in a nearby home with some trusted acolytes before proceeding to the hilltop where they would have the best vantage to fend off the opposition. They had almost reached their destination when Petunia heard a squeal from Billet. She pivoted on her heel, realizing her young child had followed her into danger. Unbeknownst to the residents, the orcs were a distraction meant to allow an assassin inside the walls of the city.
Petunia’s eyes met her sons only for a second before the assassin upon her. The unsuspecting halfling was no match for the silent stalker, and right there in front of Billet, she perished. It was quick, too quick even for Petunia to see the horror that crossed her toddler’s face, too quick to see her son faint or her husband attack her killer. A single wound to the throat.
Royston, also hearing his son, had turned and seen the whole thing. He and the nearby guards quickly dispatched the assassin. Alas, despite Royston’s best efforts, and those of the local healer, his beloved Petunia could not be revived.
Royston was devastated, but he gathered Billet, and prepared himself for a life without his beloved wife.
Consumed with Petunia’s death, Royston poured much of his energy into furthering his own magical ability and determining who sent the assassin after his wife. What remained was focused on his son Billet in whom he instilled the idea that the boy was destined for greatness, and that he was to follow in the footsteps of his parents.
Royston became increasingly powerful, eventually surpassing the skill of his late wife. Despite Petunia’s passion for assisting others, Royston turned his back on helpless citizens of nearby towns and others in need, determined no one else in his family would sacrifice their life in service to the weak and incapable. Instead, he and his son remained locked in their town, forever studying and researching.
Much to Royston’s frustration, Billet struggled with his studies and when the boy reached puberty, Royston sent his son to an arcane academy, where it was hoped he would finally excel in his magical studies. Billet despised the school and wrote to his father constantly begging he be allowed to return home, but Royston, for his part, had become even more obsessed with finding the identity of the individual who had his beloved wife killed, and so he refused his son’s requests.
After much magical investigation, Royston was confident his wife could be attributed to a seer assisting a powerful noble in gaining control of the land, and Royston set off to enact his revenge. While much of the intel the widower had gleaned was correct, he was not prepared for the seer to be Primula Flemarand, Petunia’s own sister and a fellow student from many years prior who had been most interested in Royston during their studies. Royston had spurned her advances due to his interest in Petunia (who was unaware of Primula’s interest).
Where Petunia was patient and caring, Primula was impulsive and selfish. Where Petunia was gentle and encouraging, Primula was forceful and demanding. The sisters were as different as night and day. Primula, ever second to her smarter, prettier and more charming older sister had been furious at the time and her anger for Royston and Petunia had festered and boiled to pure hatred in the years since.
Primula’s power had finally blossomed, and with her gift of foresight she knew breaking the bond between her sister and Royston would change the tides for her new employer; the fact that it allowed her to finally seek her revenge against the man who spurned her was mere icing on the cake.
And so, when Royston confronted the oracle who was responsible for setting the wheels of his wife’s death in motion, he was caught off guard by the familiar face. In that brief moment of hesitation, Primula gained the upper hand. Royston, quickly found himself underprepared for the battle and so he retreated to his tower, hoping to collect himself and attempt once more to avenge his wife.
Primula, knowing such a thing was likely to happen, had already advised her employer, who sent agents to dispatch the wounded halfling, and so, inside his own home, the great and powerful Royston Hamperstand was slain.
From her crystal ball, Primula now watches over her nephew, ever curious to see what the young man will become.
Learn more about their son Billet Hamperstand, the humourless halfling in 5e NPCs: Flawed Foes.