16 Oct

The Eternal Rest in Dungeon World

Dungeon World

Last week I mentioned that my system neutral fantasy game supplement The Eternal Rest is currently on sale over at DriveThruRPG.com on the Drunken Goblin page. I also indicated that I’d been thinking about Dungeon World and adding some moves to further supplement The Eternal Rest. I wrote the PDF around the idea that its hooks could be put to use in any rule set and would leave the mechanics up to the game master.

With Dungeon World on my mind lately, I decided to take my own challenge and bolt on a few straightforward mechanics to The Eternal Rest. Even if you aren’t familiar with Dungeon World (and why not?), each of those moves can still be looted for added hooks to spin off from my PDF. Continue reading

11 Jan

Review: Tim Kask’s Snakeriders of the Aradondo

Eldritch Enterprises LogoEldritch Enterprises has put out quite a few adventures meant to be adapted to whatever system you please. I’ve previously taken a look at Frank Mentzer’s Lich Dungeon Level 1 and also James M. Wards and Christopher Clark’s science fiction adventure, Dark Outpost. Tim Kask’s fantasy adventure Snakeriders of the Aradondo embraces the same old-school approach found in those other works. Those are all names you should know if you know your RPG history.

Better still, history is still being made as the OSR continues to develop and gather support with publications like the upcoming Gygax Magazine. But I digress… Continue reading

1 Nov

Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Relief Charity Bundle

UPDATED 11/16/12: Thank you to everyone who purchased this product bundle, to all of the contributing publishers, and DriveThruRPG.com. This  bundle earned $15,827.00 for the Red Cross! Well done all!

Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Relief Charity Bundle

The gaming community can always be counted on to react quickly to current events. Just look at the outpouring of… let’s call it, “emotion” at the revelation of the Darth Vader/Mickey Mouse merger. And that’s just responding to how we feel about imaginary catastrophes. When it comes to the “real world,” we immediately involve ourselves in a response and it is usually a great deal more positive. The folks at Roleplayers Chronicle, along with a number of publishers, have put together the Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Relief Charity Bundle and I’m happy to be a contributor to their efforts.

Continue reading

29 Oct

Weather in Your Roleplaying Game

Uruk-hai in the Rain
“Really? Not one of you brought an umbrella?”

In my roleplaying game campaigns, the weather is often an afterthought. That is, of course, if it isn’t the focus of the matter at hand. I usually don’t give consideration to the weather in my Dungeons & Dragons game until someone asks about it. In non-fantasy games, like Shadowrun, it’s almost entirely window dressing. Regardless of what roleplaying game I’m running, I’m trying to be more conscious of it now. And I think, in part, it’s because of my recent experiences with the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game. Continue reading

26 Oct

The Eternal Rest: A Creepy Fantasy RPG Supplement

RPGs or Twix?
“I’m just saying, maybe you shouldn’t eat all of the things.”

With Halloween just around the corner, everyone is clambering to add something dark, haunted, or zombie-filled to their usual game night. Of course, everyone is usually intent on the bags of candy that the DM tossed into the center of the table, and it isn’t because they want to dig their way down to the battlemat. By the time combat starts, the sugar crash has decimated the party. Often, it’s better just to have an atmospheric roleplaying session while people play terrifying sounds from their phones and discuss their favorite horror films. So why not pick up an inexpensive supplement to set the stage, and the hooks, for the following week’s adventure when that 3-pound bag of Twix is finally gone? Continue reading

9 Oct

Dark Outpost – Review

Dark OutpostSystem-neutral material for roleplaying games has recently caught my interest. Eldritch Entertainment’s science fiction adventure, Dark Outpost, is a system generic product that I noticed on the heels of Frank Mentzer’s Lich Dungeon. Once again, Eldritch Entertainment engages some names that might ring familiar to gamers of yore. Written by James M. Ward and Christopher Clark, it certainly carries with it the same “old school” approach seen in Lich Dungeon.

A brief warning, there might be some spoilers ahead. If you’re usually on the crowded side of the GM’s screen, just forward this link to your GM. But, if you’re here looking for hints to survival, your character deserves the cold, airless fate he or she suffers. Continue reading

6 Sep

Dungeon Master Tips – BYOB Means Bring Your Own Background

Neon Bar SignThe Dungeon Master usually has a lot on his or her plate. I know that I usually have maps to make, dungeons to stock, NPCs to name, and plots to devise. And, when it comes to the “big maps” such as the world, or even a prominently featured city, I often hand wave the details until they are immediately necessary.

For example, I never keep a list of the exact businesses that are present in a given settlement. I just determine if what a player is looking for is available if they ask. Plainly, it saves a lot of time because then I didn’t fully develop the cobbler’s shop and give him a cool back story only to discover that nobody in the party was not in need of footwear repair. That’s time I could have spent on a location they were more likely to visit. Continue reading

21 May

The Sandbox is Only Part of the Playground

Turtle Sandbox
Obviously it’s turtles the whole way down. And those turtles are filled with sand.
Meanwhile, if you arrived here while trying to buy an actual sandbox, click here.

I’m frequently staggered by the number of game-masters who insist that their game is entirely “sandbox.” They claim the world is there for the players to interact with in any way they see fit and decry the presence of any sort of railroad tracks that might push the characters towards accomplishing a particular quest or seeking out a particular adventure. I’m more than happy to acknowledge that this is one of the greatest advantages of a pen-and-paper gaming experience in comparison to a computer RPG or an online MMO. The notion that the world ceases to exist behind certain doors because they are purely cosmetic doesn’t just ruin a setting’s verisimilitude, it tastes of disappointment.

Bob Ross
“Now that’s not a mistake, that’s a happy, little accident. Let’s turn that smudge into an orc concealed in the treeline… now let’s paint a legion of friends for him.”

In a recent discussion with a fellow-GM he was telling me about how his players happened to latch onto a bottle of spirits presented at one of their characters’ meals. What began as some off-the-cuff “color text” sparked something in their imagination and soon touring the facility where the bottle came from became a necessary stop on their trip into the wilderness to pursue their original mission. These moments are the surprising, “happy little accidents” of a campaign. When players take a detail and run with it, the opportunity for new twists and further character development takes off.

That’s the nature of the sandbox I embrace. And it sees the most use “in town” during social encounters. In Dungeons & Dragons it occurs when the party returns to their base city to purchase supplies, seek out training or lore, and sell off their loot. In Shadowrun it’s often cultivating and maintaining contacts as well as performing some of the tasks required for carrying on a covert lifestyle. While they’re doing that they usually have the chance to play it out instead of just quickly making the necessary dice rolls.

More than 90% of the time, I leave it to the player to decide… Is it time to flesh out some detail of the character’s life or is he or she just eager to get back to the quest at hand? The Sandbox Overlord might claim at this point that I am wrong to not grant that option the other 10% of the time. But those moments are usually in response to an overall consensus among the players to advance the story and “get some combat” after too many quiet sessions. At a table of five players, if you devote twenty minutes of “shopping” to each character, you potentially leave the other players bored (or, at least, prone to distraction) for 80 minutes. Often, I’m happy to field this sort of thing away from the table. Other times, if I think the player who missed his chance to roleplay buying a new longsword feels slighted, I try to incorporate some extra roleplaying in combat for him or her.

All of that is the part of the sandbox I can comprehend. What throws me is the GM who claims to plan nothing. He doesn’t have a plot or even an adventure, things that he claims will railroad adventurers. Fair enough. But my question is: what happens when they do decide to explore a dungeon? Do you have a map ready just in case (but would have wasted all that effort if they chose instead to open a tavern on the outskirts of a dry settlement of gnomes)? Are there binders filled with encounters behind your screen “just in case” or is every encounter a tedious ordeal of flipping through books? (For the record, I always prefer my monsters stuck in with the text of adventure. I hate page-flipping.) I’m exaggerating the frustration level a bit here because I can see how it could work. But it seems like such a high level of preparation, or an entire night of improvising, with a solid chance of being somewhat mediocre.

Model Railyard
“I took Profession: Conductor, do I get a +2 bonus?”

I like story. When I begin a campaign, there is a story and the characters are expected to play a part in it, a pivotal part. How they play that part is up to them. Whether they succeed or not is up to them. I leave a set of train tracks visible when their journey begins but there is no train. The characters are on foot. They can follow the tracks, keep the tracks in sight, or move away from them into the wilderness to go play in the sand. The players know that playing in the sand isn’t the only game in town and, eventually, they follow the tracks, even for a little while, to find something new to play with.