Saturday, November 30, 2013

Going to play some Castles and Crusades!

Tomorrow night I'm joining an ongoing game online. It'll be my first time using a virtual tabletop (Fantasy Grounds 2), and my first time using Castles and Crusades.

My character is Maz-kal Rhazam a 3/3 Mage/Thief, and this is the background that Howard (the DM) and I came up with.

Maz watched as his body quickly faded into nothingness, and just as quickly the space around him bent and twisted to reveal the inside of a grand room, a circular affair with 11, no 12...large wooden thrones set high above, each with a cloaked and cowled figure staring down upon him in judgement.

"Maz-Kal Rhazam, welcome to Elbion, welcome to the Arcanum. You seem shocked, aware that you are safe here within these walls. You will find that the power you have stolen comes with a price, and you are here to pay what is due."

"The poet-mages of Faruk-yarah are known to us, though we admit that our library lacks a deep shelf of study. Here you will teach us what you know, and in return we shall usher your own learning to a new horizon, one you had likely not even dreamed could exist."

There was no denying that above him sat a powerful force...and he is just as sure that this was an opportunity he should not squander.

Two years passed as an eye blinks, the sands of time always rushing past...and Maz learned so much about the World of Thayrun that he never could have imagined. The world, and the magic energies that encircle it were not given their due in the few tomes he had stolen so long ago.

Here too Maz were quickly discovered by the Dark Men, the guild of beggars, thieves, and cut purses that prowl the streets of Elbion. His nightly foray in search of supplemental income didn't go unnoticed, and he was welcomed into that brotherhood as well...the guildmasters always looking for more eyes and ears inside the Arcanum.

It was all going splendidly, life was a joy to behold. Maz's coffer was full and he were well on your way to not one, but two successful careers...

Until tonight....

"You should have known that you wouldn't be able to hide your nocturnal activities from us Maz-kal," said the crooked little dwarf standing before him. Crookneck was, had been, Maz's mentor....and now, he was his captor. Frozen by shackles Maz could not hope to break, the bent little mage had tsked him almost into deafness as well.

"I had such high hopes for you, and now this! A Dark Man?!?! My own student? It's an outrage! I will be the laughing stock of the Arcanum."

"Does anyone else know?", Maz ask him, eyes to the floor partly to hide his anger, and partially to hide his shame.

"No...thank goodness no. But they will find out...if I have deduced it then others will not be far off. You will need to go, to run...far from here. I have a trip planned, a journey to the city of Tileano, and you will accompany me. I will bond you to me, and so without me, you will not survive. Escape will be impossible, and my death will result only in your own."

The dwarf chants, draws a small blade that gleams even in the dark of night, and he slices quickly into Maz's left arm...does the same to his own, and the magic flows between you.

"Maz-kal," says the dwarf in a low growl, "you are my student no we are something much deeper, much stronger than even a mother and her child. I release you from your shackles, but your bond I shall keep. Go. Gather your things. We leave for Tileano in the morning."

Maz felt the spell break and release him. Blood flowed quickly to his arms and legs.

He turned and headed for the door, knowing full well that his future is ties inexorably to Master Crookneck.

"I was proud of you boy, once..." Crookneck whispers behind him.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

New Monster: Cranberry Jelly

The cylinder of crimson jiggled toward the adventurers, leaving a wet smear along the stone floor. It smelled cloyingly sweet.

Nimble launched a bolt into it. "Nothing" he said, backing away.

"Any suggestions?" Allianora asked.

"Burn it?" Rathgar offered.

"I like that idea" Nimble pulled a bottle of oil out of his pack, broke the wax seal, pulled the cork and stuffed the rag into the hole. "Anyone have a light?"

Feris pointed at the rag, and a small flame sparked into being.

Nimble tossed the bottle at the slowly approaching jelly.

Cranberry Jelly
Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 4* (L)
Move: 30' (10')
Attacks: 1
Damage: 2d4
No. Appearing 1 (0)
Save As: F3
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: none
Intelligence: 0
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value:125

Monster Type: Lowlife (uncommon)
A cranberry jelly is the unfortunate result of an alchemical accident. It is nearly invulnerable to physical attacks, taking only a single point of damage from any successful hit. Fire causes full damage, and cold damage allows the following physical attack to cause full damage.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Playing Pathfinder... Muchkin Pathfinder

Following up on Betrayal at House on the Hill, we invited some friends over to enjoy some Chinese food and some Munchkin. Having picked up Munchkin Pathfinder, we mixed it in with the base set, and started kicking down doors.

If you've never played, there are 2 decks: the door deck, and the treasure deck. At the start of every turn you kick in a door. There might be a monster, or a curse, or something else. If there's a monster you have to either fight it or run away. If you win, you get as many treasure cards as the monster card says. If you lose, you run with varying levels of bad things that happen to you if you don't get away. If there's something else you either play it, or add it to your hand to maybe play later.

It's a fast game, and we managed to play through 5 games or so. Just about everyone had a good time (except for the person who hates Munchkin), and I can't wait to break out the decks again. The big question is what expansion we should add next?

Any suggestions?

Monday, November 25, 2013

New Monster: Demonic Flying Monkeys

"Look out!" Feris yelled as he flicked his wand at the flying creature. A bolt of blue energy flashed, and the creature tumbled from the sky.

Rathgar was swinging his sword to decapitate the thing when a sticky stinking flaming something smacked squarely in the middle of his chest. "Gah!" he said as he stumbled back.

A chorus of high pitched laughing broke out. Above, three more of the creatures hovered. One of them had it's back to the group, its tale lifted, and the last lingering bits of flame flickering on its ass.

"Oh that's gross" Nimble said as he launched a quiver from his crossbow directly at the creature's tail.

Demonic Flying Monkeys
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2+1* (M)
Move: 90' (30')
Fly: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 claws or 1 flaming poo
Damage: 1d4/1d4 or 1d6+special
No. Appearing 2d4 (2d8)
Save As: F3
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: C
Intelligence: 7
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 35

Demonic Flying Monkeys are awkward on land, but deadly in the air. They are best known for flinging a napalm like flaming piece of shit that is extremely difficult to remove and nearly impossible to extinguish. Anyone hit by a flaming poo will take 1d6 points of damage a round, and must make a saving throw vs paralysis every round to attempt to remove or extinguish it. The poo will go out on its own when the damage die comes up as a 1.

They are immune to charm and hold spells, but very susceptible to sleep spells and effects. They are also incredibly greedy and violent. They hate just about any other form of life, and will delight in carpeting it with flaming shit. The only known means to control them is with a magical fez.

Image Source: Flying Monkeys (2013 TV movie) screen capture. And no, I didn't watch it.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

New Monster: Nimrodian

“It’s warded like you wouldn’t believe.” Feris said, examining the doors. “I don’t see anything that would keep me from breaking in, but it isn’t warded against us, not really.”

“What do you mean?” Rathgar asked.

“It’s easy to break into a prison.” Nimble answered.

“Yes. He’s right.” Feris nodded. “See that symbol there?” he pointed.

“That’s a symbol of the Sun Lord” Allianora answered “or at least one of his cults.”

“It’s a prison.” Rathgar grunted. “But for what?”

“Something very, very powerful.” Feris stepped back from the doors. “It is not worth our lives, whatever is in there.”


Armor Class: -2
Hit Dice: 23***** (L) (115hp)
Move: 150’ (50’)
Attacks: 1 bite or 2 claws and see below
Damage: 2d8 or 2d6+1/2d6+1 and see below
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: F20
Morale: 11
Treasure Type: Hx2, I, N, O
Intelligence: 11
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 15,100

Monster Type: Construct, Enchanted (Unique)
The Nimrodian was a creation of the Alphatian empire in it’s attempt to conquer the Norwold provinces. Constructed of metals mined and forged in the City of Brass and quenched in the blood of demons it was more intelligent and evil than even the Alphatians were prepared for. The destruction it caused upon it’s release can still be seen centuries later in certain spots in Norwold.

Appearing as a monstrous six-legged wolf-thing the size of a horse, formed from blood stained brass that is constantly leaking black fluids with eyes that burn with a pale blue fire. The creature can bite or arch back and attack with it’s prehensile front claws. Anyone struck by either the claws or the bite must make a saving throw vs poison or be stunned for 1 round.

The howl of the Nimrodian is also a potent weapon. Anyone within 150’ will take 1d6 damage, 100’ 2d6, 50’ 3d6, 25’ 4d6. Anyone who survives must make a save vs spells, or flee in fear for 1d6 rounds. The Nimrodian can howl once per turn. In addition to it's melee attacks, it can cast one of the following spells every other round: Dispel Magic, Confusion, Dimension Door, Darkness, and Mirror Image. The Nimrodian can see in magical darkness, see invisible objects and creatures, and automatically detects illusions.

The Nimrodian can only be harmed by magical items of +3 or better, and staves, rods, and spells of greater than 4th level. They are also immune to all poison, sleep, charm, and hold effects.

Natural sunlight weakens the Nimrodian, making it vulnerable to +2 weapons and spells of 4th level.

This beast is based on a request for a monster over on G+ by +Tommaso Galmacci. I hope that this

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Magic Item: Mask of the Witchdoctor

"Come." The grey skinned creature beckoned with his 3 fingered hand. "Come!"

"Do you think we should" Nimble asked.

Allianora frowned slightly. "We've got to find the key, right? And this Geneva says she can help us find it... What choice do we have?"

"I wish Feris was here. He'd be able to cast a spell, or do a ritual, or something that would tell us where the key is."

"If Feris was with us, we wouldn't need the key." She sighed.

"Come." The creature waved again.

The log farmhouse out beyond the protection of the village was a small thing nestled against a copse of trees against the winds. The nearly empty fields looked desolate against the grey sky.

The creature lead them onto the covered porch, and then through the front door. Within was dark, lit only by a single lantern sitting on a table against the wall. Standing in the middle of the room was a girl in a simple black dress.

"How can I help you?" she asked as the creature crouched at her side. Her hand rested on the back of its head, and it nuzzled against her.

"Are you Geneva?" Nimble asked

"I am."

"We seek the Key to the Chains of the Demiurge."

Geneva nodded slightly "Please, take a seat at the table." She left the room through a dark doorway. When she returned, her face was covered in an elaborate mask of wood, bone, feather, fur, horn, and gold. "Know that this knowledge will come at a cost." As she spoke, the creature placed a copper bowl and knife onto the table. "Spill your blood into this bowl, both of you."

Mask of the Witchdoctor

The Mask of the Witchdoctor is a powerful item. For as long as it is worn, the wearer has Truesight. Additionally once per week the wearer can cast Speak with the Dead as a 21st level caster. To use this power, a sacrifice must be made. Whoever is requesting the spell be cast must accept a Quest (as per the spell). The difficulty of the Quest will be based on the age of the dead spoken to.

Once per month the mask can cast Commune. The use of this power requires a significant Quest and an offering to the Mask of at least 10,000 gold in value.

Wearing the Mask comes at a price. Every day that it is worn drains a point of Charisma from the wearer. This draining can be restored at a rate of 1 point per day of rest. If over half of a wearer's Charisma is drained, the rate is reduced to 1 point per week. If the wearers Charisma drops to 3, the damage is permanent, and the Mask will no longer function for that individual.

Image Source: Witchdoctor by Daniel Valaisis

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Monster List Spreadsheet

Seeing as I've written over a hundred monsters, it's beginning to get difficult to remember what I've actually done. I haven't had the time to put together a proper PDF, especially since I don't own the vast majority of the pictures I use in my posts, and since I don't own the pictures, I'd rather not use them in a PDF. So I either have to just go without, or somehow illustrate them myself. That's pretty easy for things that I've got minis for, but less easy for other things.

So, what to do? Aside from looking at my old posts a little more regularly, which is interesting, I figured it was time to put together a list. So I did, and if you look up at the top of my page, you'll notice a new link: "Monster List"which takes you to a Google spreadsheet with all of my monsters, their HD, their system, and the link to that post.

I think I've got it set up so that anyone can look at it, but no one should be able to make edits.

For future monsters, I should be able to keep the list updated pretty regularly. I hope this is helpful, it took quite a bit of time to put together...

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Monster: Bone Imp

The rat squeaked in pain as the imp poked it hard with the stick. It reared back and hissed at the demon. "Oh, this one has some fight." the imp with the stick croaked.

"I'll bet you an adultery that my rat will kill yours."

"Pah" the third imp spat. "An adultery is nothings anymore. No, make this a wager worth making!"

"What do you suggest" the second imp snapped.

The third imp paused in thought as it hung from the attic rafters. "A murder."

"Whose?" The first imp asked.

"The next person to go through that gate below" the third imp pointed to the iron gate blocking the alley.

"Very well" the first imp nodded.

"This'll be so easy" the second said, as he dropped his rat next to the other.

The attic door slammed open. "Can you three keep quiet? Or do I have to send you back to the nine hells? You're here to do as I command, not play with rats!" The woman's bat wings flexed black against her pale skin as she lashed out with her whip. With a crack, the rats burst into flame, and just as quickly reduced to two small piles of ash.

Bone Imps
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 1** (S)
Move: 90' (30')
Fly: 90' (30')
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d4 or special
No. Appearing 1d6 (2d4)
Save As: F1
Morale: 6
Treasure Type: C
Intelligence: 7
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 16

Bone imps stand at just over 2' tall, with orange-red skin, and exposed bones in their wings. They are nasty fearful creatures who delight in the pain and suffering of all living things. They can turn Invisable at will, cast Charm Person once per day, and their claws and weapons are coated with a weak poison (save vs poison or take an additional 1d4 points of damage).

Being the least creatures of the lower realms, they are most often found as the minions of greater demons.

Image Source: VegasMike

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bits & Bobs XVIII

People play games, and it isn't unusual for player characters to play them either. Over at Kobold Press, they've put together a list of d10. Tavern Games or Things to Bet On.

After Order 66, but before a New Hope, was The Dark Times. Darth Vader and his inquisitors hunted the last remnants of the old Jedi Order, and consolidated the power of the Empire. If you've ever wanted to play during those dark times, in the early days of the Empire, check out this fan made d6 Star Wars supplement.

Do you collect dice? Of course you do. Do you have some old dice? Did you know that they can dramatically decompose? You'll probably be ok unless you have some pre-D&D dice.

JDJarvis looks into the logistics of exploring a large hex. He calls it Hexcrawl Design, Using Scale and Finding Things

Rob Hawkins has put together some amazing terrain, and in this post he shows how to paint neon signs.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Betrayal at House on the Hill

While I haven't gotten in any RPing lately, I have gotten to game far more often than I usually do. A couple of weeks ago I got to play Betrayal at House on the Hill (which I keep wanting to call Betrayal at the House on Haunted Hill). This is a fantastic game where you build a haunted house as you play, until the betrayal happens, and the game completely changes. Now this first part of the game is great, because the house is never the same. It's built room by room from a deck of possible rooms. Each room has it's own special rules, encounter, item, or omen. When the omens are pulled, it causes a haunt roll, which will eventually reveal the betrayer.

Depending on when and where the haunt happens determines which of the 50 possible scenarios occurs. That's some serious replay potential.

In the 3 games we played we beat back demons and closed a hellmouth, aliens abducted everyone, and we defeated a dragon.

The second game we played (with the aliens) the haunt happened really quickly, and because of that the house wasn't very explored, and no one had any good equipment to try to stop the aliens. Needless to say, it did not go well.

This is a great game, and I can not recommend it highly enough.

If you'd like to see how the session runs, check out these episodes of Table Top.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

New Magic Item: Necromancer's Eggs

"The foul necromancers long ago perfected the alchemical treatment needed to turn a simple egg into a weapon of the most terrifying type. You know what a rotten egg smells like?" The old man didn't pause for an answer. "It's so much worse. The tales I've heard say that the victim of one of these eggs would tear their own faces off to try to end the smell." He finished the dregs of his drink, and waved to the bar wench for another. "The good news is that the eggs were as dangerous to the necromancers as they were to their victims."

"How so?" Allianora asked.

"Because they're just eggs!" A fresh tankard was placed in front of him. "Thank you lass! And eggs have a tendency to break."

"That's all well and good, but we wanted to know about the tower" Nimble grumbled.

"Aye, and why do you think that no one goes to the tower? Why do you think that no one has raided the vault? Maybe because there was a stash of eggs there, and at least one of them broke. It's been two score years, and the smell lingers still.

Necromancer's Eggs

These corrupted eggs are potent weapons. Anyone within 30' of a broken egg must make a saving throw vs poison or flee the area and be so sickened that they will be unable to do more than defend themselves for 2d12 hours after. Anyone stuck by an egg must make a saving throw vs breath attack or cause themselves 1d4 points of damage and 1 point of charisma damage to themselves/round unless prevented from doing so. A successful saving throw means the character passes out for 1d6 hours as they're overwhelmed by the smell. In addition, anyone who survives will have their Charisma reduced to 3 until the smell is removed, and anyone within 10' will be at a -3 to all rolls.

To be rid of the smell, the victim (or area) must be washed with a special potion of cleanliness which can be created by anyone capable of casting remove curse, and brewing potions.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Best and Worst Sessions...

Games don't always go as expected. Sometimes things click in ways you'd never expect, and other times with all the right ingredients, things fail spectacularly.

The best session I've ever had is almost always the next one coming up. I can think back to the many many games I've played, and think of lots of good times I've had. Times my players were tapped right into the game, with everyone feeling it, but like some sort of junkie, I'm always looking to that next hit, the next time I can throw some dice and share what's in my imagination.

The worst session I ever had was the one that didn't happen. Doesn't matter which one that didn't happen. Even the worst sessions I've played in have been an experience, and hopefully I've gotten to learn something from them, even when that lesson takes a while to sink in. The sessions that don't happen aren't experiences at all, and it's hard to take something away from nothing.

Even when you can't play the game you want to play, even when no one is in the mood, don't cancel. Play something, and if you can't play something, still get together. Watch a movie, go for a walk, do something together. It beats sitting at home bummed that your game didn't happen.

This post is numbers 19 & 20 in the 30 Days of Gamemastering Challenge.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Rewards come in many forms. For the characters, it comes in the form of treasure and power, gold and magic items. The awarding of such treasures is always a balancing act for a dungeon master. Too little, and the characters will suffer and struggle. D&D, and most other RPGs are based around character advancement. If you don't give the PCs what they need to advance... then the game doesn't work the way it's supposed to. Too much and you end up with a Monty Haul game.

Unfortunately there aren't many hard and fast rules about what's too much or too little treasure.

Finding that balance, which is different not only for every game, but also for every campaign, takes practice. Games like 4e are pretty clear about what it expects the balance to be, and it's built around that pretty clearly. Even so, there is still room for individual preference. I know that some groups gain a level every time they play, even if based on what actually happened it should be 3 or 4 sessions between gaining levels.

Classic D&D is a lot more flexible, and as such requires a little more finesse from the DM. My strategy is to be a little on the generous side with rewards, but also to make the players either earn it, or work to keep it. And that's one of the best techniques a DM can use when they've given out too much. Gold can be stolen while the characters are out adventuring. 2nd level characters with holy avengers are going to be hunted down by those who think they're more worthy to have it. They might not kill the PCs, but they'll do their best to take it from them once word gets out. I don't recommend this be used often. It will piss of the player unless you really do it right. It can't be pure DM fiat, it has to work in the context of the game. Pull it off, and it'll be something your players will remember for a long long time.

This post is number 18 in the 30 Days of Gamemastering Challenge.

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Monster: Burning Skeleton

Rathgar ran his fingers across the stone wall of the dungeon, and they came back covered in fine soot. "We're getting close. The villagers said that the creatures threw fire at them."

"Further down the dark corridor then?" Allianora waved Rathgar on.

"So it seems." Rathgar looked into the darkness. "Don't bunch up."

At the end of the corridor was a wide arched doorway. Beyond the corridor opened up into a cavernous hall. Shadowy figures seemed to lurk just out of Rathgar's light.

"Feris, a little light please?"

Feris drew a copper coin from his belt, whispered "Lux" and watched it begin to glow, giving off a warm light. He passed the coin to Rathgar, who tossed it into the room. The figures resolved into robed and armored skeletons. What could be seen of each of their bones was covered completely in carvings, though it was hard to tell if it was runes, or something more decorative. All but one of the skeletons shifted to face the door. The one looked first at the coin. It then stepped out of the group toward the arch. It flexed its hands, which flickered with a flame that spread all over its unholy body.

Burning Skeleton
Armor Class: 7 or 4
Hit Dice: 2+2* (M)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: burning claw or flame
Damage: 1d6
No. Appearing 1d6 (2d4)
Save As: MU3
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: B
Intelligence: 7
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 35

Burning Skeletons are often created from the bodies of apprentice mages. They arise very rarely, and never intentionally. When they are created they usually will take command of any other skeletons in the area, and so they are always found with a normal compliment of skeletons (3d4 or 3d10).

In combat, burning skeletons can throw balls of magical fire up to 30' every round. The fire will burn for 2 rounds if it hits. Burning skeletons are usually found in tattered robes, but sometimes they're encountered in ancient armor. In either case, they never use weapons, even if they carry them, preferring instead to rely upon their fire. They covet magic, and will refrain from burning wizards, instead attempting to capture them, and more importantly, their spell books.

Blazing Skeleton by EgonRiz

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Investigations and Time Structure

Investigation and mysteries: how do you use foreshadowing, red herrings, and keep the tension rising?

I’ve never played or run a game that was investigative in focus. Most of the mysteries that I’ve run have been small ones, that usually get figured out in the course of a different goal. Where’s the key to the lock, or what demon killed the village priest, or how do we get into the tomb to retrieve the mcguffin?

I just listened to a podcast, Unabashed Gaming’s first episode, and the hosts talked a lot about running Call of Cthulhu, and how it combines the investigative game with horror. They had some good tips for running an investigation, and I’d recommend checking it out.

Structure and time: how do you use flashbacks, cut scenes, and parallel narratives in your games?

Generally I don’t. I found it really weird in the d6 Star Wars adventures when they included cut scene scripts, and I could never bring myself to ever use something like that in game. That goes back to my issue with taking my games too seriously. It's something I still struggle with...

The problem I worry about with cut scenes is that it takes the focus away from the players, and that's generally not the best strategy for keeping their attention. No one wants to watch the DM talk to himself.

Flashbacks can work, but they take a lot of effort. The few I've seen usually have a predetermined ending. I think it would be more interesting if the players played through the flashback, and depending on how it goes, it changes the adventure in the PCs timeline, and depending on how you run it, it could turn into a parallel narrative.

I've run a parallel narrative once, but not on purpose. I had a large group of players (12-16) when 3e came out (no one else wanted to DM at that point) and because a group that size really is pretty unmanageable, it split along pretty natural personality lines into two groups that ran in parallel for a while. There had been a bit of infighting prior to the split, which only seemed to grow into a significant and active dislike between the two groups. For a while they were both scheming to take the other group out, keeping tabs on each other, but one group opted to hop into a dimensional portal, ending up in Diablo, while the other went to Ravenloft for a while, and the characters lost track of each other, even when the groups continued to snipe at/about each other.

This post is numbers 16 & 17 in the 30 Days of Gamemastering Challenge.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Memorable villains

A good villain can make a game! Whether it’s a mustache twirling, cape flapping stage villain, or a dry as dust lich whose plans extend over decades and centuries, you want a BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy/Gal/Group) that the PCs will come to hate.

Presuming you’re going campaign mode, and not just a whole bunch of picaresque adventures, you want to introduce the villain early, even (or especially) if only by rumor. Any good villain will make extensive use of lieutenants and minions to achieve their goals. Really effective villains will manage it so that the lieutenants and minions won’t even realize who they're working for. The best villains will make use of those who think they’re actively working against them. Bonus points if you can get the PCs to do the villain's dirty work for him!

The best examples of how I try to run my D&D villains don’t generally come from books or movies. That isn’t to say I won’t steal a good villain from a book or movie, but if I want a long term BBEG I look to TV. More specifically, to Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Buffy did an excellent job of showing how to run villains over it’s first 4 or 5 seasons. Starting with season 1 they jumped right in with The Master, an ancient evil vampire who mostly controlled the vampiric happenings around the Hellmouth, but was himself trapped. It wasn’t until various minions and lieutenants had been defeated, and more information gained that Buffy was able to finally confront The Master.

While the Master was a pretty solid and classic villain, he was a little one dimensional. Evil, evil, kill the slayer, open the Hellmouth, end of the world, feed on humanity forever, etc. There isn’t any subtlety or surprise. I’ve always appreciated a little more nuance from my villains.

Season 3’s primary villain was The Mayor, and as a character he was much more interesting. He was talked about in season 2, but not shown until season 3 (rumors!) and when you finally do see him he’s… He’s happy. And nice. And polite. A little bit of a germophobe. He reminds you more of a 50’s sitcom dad than an evil mastermind. I found myself liking him, even rooting for him a little bit.

The Mayor made himself generally inaccessible to Buffy by being the mayor. It also helped that he was invincible, at least until he turned all demon snake. At the same time he didn't just go and try to kill Buffy and the gang. He's got bigger plans, and they can be useful. He even turns Faith to his team!

My advice: if you want to run a memorable villain, find some that were memorable to you, and figure out what make them work, then steal that and go!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bits & Bobs XVII

Tim Brannon over at the Other Side is hosting a giveaway in honor of his 2,000th post! You can win a copy of his new Eldritch Witchery or his older book The Witch for basic era games (which is excellent!).

Over at Elfmaids and Octopi there's a d100 chart of forgotten temples and bleak ruins, any of which is enough to springboard at least one night of adventure each. My favorite is #82. "Broken church with collapsed tower, giant evil owls and witches meet here" Fits in rather well with Tim's post... There's also a convenient set of links to all the other d100 posts he's done.

Tori Bergguist over at the Realms of Chirak wrote an excellent post on how to run supernatural killers in your game. Toni explores the pitfalls of havingyour players face immortal and near immortal opponents.

Joshua over at Genius Loci wrote up 3 iconic halloween/horror monsters for your game: Zombi Dance Troupe, White Garbed Twins, and Pygmalion.

I've mentioned many times before that I love props, and this de vermis mysteriis (mysteries of the worm) is an excellent example why.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Facilitating Combat

I was supposed to be starting a new game last night with some friends, but because of a medical thing it didn't happen. I'm hoping to reschedule soon, but it really sucks when a first session doesn't get off the ground.

How do you facilitate combat? Any tips, tools, or cheats?

I actually don't do a whole lot to "facilitate" combat in any of my games. Early on for my 4e games I kept a cheat sheet of standard combat modifiers available for me and my players but that's about it, at least on the players side of the screen. I've got enough to deal with on my end of things without having to worry too much about them.

As a DM for my 4e games, I use these encounter sheets to keep things moving. With space for each of the monsters, a spot for initiative and a bit to keep notes about what happened (so I can blog about it later) it's just about perfect. The monster tracker includes not just a place to keep track of wounds, but also for the various conditions they'll suffer.

In my old school games I tend to just make notes on whatever adventure I'm running directly. There's a lot less to keep track of, so a lot less space is needed to keep track of things. Mostly just hit points.

Aside from that I try to keep things moving quickly. If my players are taking too long figuring out what they're going to do this round I start counting down, and if I get to zero, they miss their turn. I don't think I've ever gotten to zero.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Winner: myincubliss!!

The winner of the King of Thorns giveaway contest is myincubliss of Dead Lead Project! Congrats!

Drop me a line with your address and I'll get your book on it's way! davidbrawley at gmail dot com.

Zak's RPG Profile Questions

Zak posted a set of profile questions, and suggested that we place them someplace permanent. I'll be adding them to the About the Archmage page here on my blog. 

I'm currently running (at home): An intermittent 4e game, and starting up a LL game.

Tabletop RPGs I'm currently playing (at home) include: None

I'm currently running (online): Random flailsnails games

Tabletop RPGs I'm currently playing (online) include: Random flailsnails games

I would especially like to play/run:
I’d like to play an ongoing regular game.
I’d like to run an ongoing regular classic D&D game.

...but would also try: playing just about anything.

I live in: Baltimore (just outside)

2 or 3 well-known RPG products other people made that I like: Stonehell, Barrowmaze, Adventurer, Conqueror, King RPG

2 or 3 novels I like: The Broken Empire series, tThe Lost Fleet series, and The Earthsea cycle

2 or 3 movies I like: Disney’s 3 Musketeers, The Hunt for Red October, 10th Kingdom

Best place to find me on-line: Here on my blog and G+

I will read almost anything on tabletop RPGs if it's: old school in flavor and new school in organization.

I really do not want to hear about: anything overly detailed.

I think dead orc babies are - boring.

Game I'm in are like a well thought out heist that goes terribly wrong.

Free RPG Content I made for Rules Cyclopedia D&D is available here.

You can’t buy RPG stuff I made because I don’t have anything for sale!

I talk about RPGs here on my blog and on G+ under my name.

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween!