Final Girl: Reunion of the Dead

Join us at a high school reunion, where not everyone is glad to be reunited.

Featuring Aser, Damali, and Megan

Music by Kevin MacLeod, “Prelude and Action”

Direct Download!

Things that go bump

or baba dook dook dook or whatever

Monsters! Chills! Thrills! Creepy crawlies or odd things! Monsters are an integral and even fundamental part of any modern (or classic) RPG. I had originally thought to write this piece about villains but what is a villain at its most basic, boiled down, level? You’re damn right, it’s a monster.

Coming from a largely high fantasy background most of my favorite monsters are the classics. The undead, orcs, ogres, and the fae commonly show up in the games I run. But they are not for everyone and knowing what kind of monsters your group likes to face will be a great help in making your games more enjoyable. But more than that, effective use of monsters is what you should be thinking of.

First, consider when the last time your party was truly frightened by an encounter. Not apprehensive of what they are fighting due to know what the thing is capable of, but truly, and honestly scared. Was it because they were sucking fumes for hit points and the party healer was tapped out? Or was it because they were at a disadvantage in numbers; or just much MUCH smaller than their opponent. While it’s all well and good that they may win these encounters by the skin of their teeth, they are often hardly memorable without some major feat by the players.

So how do we solve this?

With some monsters, it’s easy. Others , not so much.

First up are DRAGONS! Few GMs play dragons to their fullest potential. Think about it, even juvenile dragons are highly intelligent in most cases, have a breath weapon and can cast a few spells. But often they are used to rush and breathe fire at the players, make a few swipes with their claws and then die. Bleh. They are a proper monster! Don’t let them roll over and die! Use their spells, if you’ve done it right the players have come to them! Make their lair smoky, they can see through it. Have them hide and leap from the shadows, take a swipe at the chewiest looking player and then disappear into the smoke again. Cast magic missile from the air to soften up the hard targets and then breathe fire for the kill. If you DO choose to have the dragon be a mindless melee machine, why stop at just the dragon? What nasty thing is holding the reigns? A lich, an evil cleric of Tiamat, or Jeremy Irons are all good choices.

Adult Dragons should be even worse. Spell resistance gets added to the mix as does a good many feats. Oh and invisibility. I’ll just put that out there. An invisible g-golly Dragon. That can use Suggestion at will. Just sayin’

But Dragons are easy. What would you think about a pack of goblins? With few exceptions almost every RPG player will kill some goblins. They are often considered a throw away faceless nuisance to be waded through at low levels. But they have a few things going for them that are missed or overlooked by GMs. First, they can see in the dark. Trivial in most cases, but awesome in the right hands. One thing that can catch a party off guard in being in the dark, find a way to knock out the party light source and the advantage goes to the goblins. Not an easy thing but on a moonless night or in a cave it can make an easy fight so much harder. Next, Goblins are small and have a high bonus to stealth. The little varmints can get into almost any position to ambush the players. The surprise round gained from attacking from hiding is amazing. Last but not least is that Goblins will even the odds, especially if they are led by someone/thing smarter. Poison their weapons, weak at first, but maybe some deadly stuff for higher level parties. Run a few at the party headlong to get slaughtered while the rest sneak around behind to make a surprise attack. Be sneaky, be mean, be a monster!

To wrap my rambling up, think about the way you run your monsters. Read their descriptions, their skills, all the nitpicky details. Consider what they do well and not so well and play to those strengths and weaknesses. This will force your party to do the same and your game will be all the better for it.

What’s Cool on Kickstarter

Death in Chocolate
These chocolates are works of art. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to eat them, not only because they look like skulls and diseased jaws, but because of all the work that was put into making them beautiful.

“What had begun as a fascination with horror, alternative art, the culinary arts, taxidermy and all things odd, has grown multiple heads — and they’re all made of chocolate!

I began working on small, specially cast and hand-painted chocolate bird skulls. Before I knew it, I had branched out into other animal and human skulls. Most recently, I’ve been producing antique anatomical teaching models in chocolate. Each one is hand painted and individually finished and packaged.”

 

Where’s Cthulhu?
I wasted a lot of time as a kid on the I Spy and Where’s Waldo books. This one has Cthulhu and other Old Ones hiding out waiting for you to roll a high enough Spot Hidden to find them.

“We are building Arkham in retro style, pixel by pixel: everybody is around the Miskanotic river and the University campus to join the Arkham Parade, while the cultists cross the river with the big balloons: the Elder Thing, Cthulhu, Dagon… they are proud of their gods and entities and everybody is coming to join the party! The poster size is 19×27″ – 50x70cm.”

 

BattleBards
I did an interview with the BattleBards crew to find out more about how they allow you to integrate sound and music into your game to give it the right type of atmosphere.

“Spotify meets Tabletop RPGs — Battlebards is the most expansive Tabletop Audio Libraryand Tools ever assembled to make your campaigns simply epic. And, everything is accessible straight through your browser.

Tailor-made background music inspired by fantasy races, voiceover scripts written to bring life to everyday NPC interactions, and a colossal array of bone crushing, spell fire blasting sound effects… this is immersive gaming at its best for the Player and the GM. ”

 

NerdAche Cakes
I’ve been following NerdAche Cakes on Tumblr for forever and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more gorgeous geeky sweets. She’s looking to open her own bakery and get more people working with her to release these delicacies to the masses, and I hope she can manage it!

   

“Ever since we started Nerdache Cakes, a tumblr blog running on cake requests in 2011, we’ve been asked where our store is located. Now we are ready to provide our fellow geeks a place of their own.

Nerdache Cakes Bakery + Café, where you can get awesome, level-up inducing treats that are decadent, fun, and a nod to your favorite icons in pop culture nerd-ery!

After 3 years of building Nerdache Cakes- from piping cupcakes in a corner in my kitchen to making 6 tier cakes for geek weddings, I’ve outgrown my tiny space. This bakery would be built from years of work done just by myself, to a team of people ready to make your geekiest sweets come true!”

Still active!

Miniature Chests
Dino-Light
Dice Display Box and Rolling Tray
Death by Die
Cthulhu Dice Tower
Knot Dice
Phoenix: Dawn Command
Ion: A Compound Building Game
Best Birthday Prank Card Ever
Calamityware Dinner Plate 5

Mysteries of the Ninth World 8: That’s Where it’s Better, Down Where it’s Wetter

moyag

The party dives deep to find gharrolan, and are side-tracked by something else brewing on the ocean floor.

Featuring Aser, Ash, Landan, Megan, and Shaunna

Music by Kevin MacLeod, “Decisions”

Direct Download!

Character Death and Your Game

This week we are going to address an often overlooked part of RPGs. Death. Specifically PC and NPC death and some things you can do with it.

Death in storytelling has existed long before RPGs ever existed and for good reason. It’s an effective tool in creating legends and giving rise to things that would otherwise never occur. A really poignant example of this to me is the little girl in “V for Vendetta”. When she is shot by a skittish Fingerman it sets the country ablaze, galvanizing the entire third act of the film. This is what a well-timed death can do for your game. Rally the players (or the NPCs against the players) into wanting to put your villain into the dirt.

A lot of what makes a death so powerful in your game is how it relates to the players. A beloved NPC is a gift from above that can do amazing things. But what is it about the NPC that makes them so endearing? For some it’s simple. A PCs family member is powdered instant motivation; just add tragedy or a threat. It’s enough to spur most engaged players into action with a fire for justice or revenge. Those players that prefer to run the hard-bitten mercenaries that are only in it for fortune and glory are a little harder. A well-crafted NPC can go a long way to bridge that gap. Think about using an NPC that runs with the party to provide support or a hireling that saves the party at some point, or a love interest that the player has developed. The villains can get wind of a woman (or man) that the player has shown some interest in and abducts them to apply leverage. Or just slits their throats while the players look on, powerless to intervene, and then pushes the unfortunate NPC at the player’s character before making their escape. If that doesn’t get a reaction, then you have some damn callous people at your table.

On the other end of things, what happens when a PC dies? When this happens it should be a powerful moment. Something that makes all the players sit up and take notice.

Now the way that this happens can vary from system to system. Some games are a little more casual about it. Where there are instant death traps and spells that boil down to a single roll before the character bites the dust. Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons, and most of the D20 systems (especially their predecessors) are notorious for this. Spells and monsters cause this most often and are held by some heinous NPCs and traps but those types of rule systems reward the player for surviving. But just because the death is instant and sudden doesn’t mean you can’t put it to use in creating an exciting scene.

Flesh out the scene; describe the feeling of what hits the character when their life force is suddenly rent from their body. How the force of the spell “Powerword:Kill” pounds them in their chest sucking the wind from their lungs as they collapse to the ground. How the dust is kicked up to leave a shadow of their figure on the wall or surface behind them. Or their minds are screaming “STOP!” but their body refuses to answer as the fight is “Commanded” to turn their blade on the surprised party wizard. It is a crisis that you should not let go to waste. Make it matter, make it important. But don’t let it be bland.

And if you do it right, your players should have all the reasons in the world to be pissed and go after whatever set the sudden death of their companion up in the first place. A renewed vigor in clearing the monsters from the dungeon, or the crime lord from the streets.

But there are PRG systems where PC death is a little harder to come by. In those cases when a PC dies it should be a ground breaking moment that you have possibly worked out with the player beforehand. One of my favorite RPG systems, “7th Sea” addresses this. Early into your story or campaign ask your players what their characters would be willing to die for. It may throw a few people off to ask what they would be willing to lose their character to but it raises some intriguing questions. It’s not often that players take a long hard look at thing through their characters eyes and see what is important to them, and not themselves as a real person. Try it out; you may be surprised at what you learn.

All in all, Death should not be an unwelcome guest in your RPG sessions. Just know that you shouldn’t just let it happen with nothing to follow. And make sure you have a backup plan if things go sour.

What’s Weird on Kickstarter

I spend a lot of time trolling through Kickstarter, and some of what I find tends towards the befuddling instead of the cool.

TASER YOUR CANDLES. That’s pretty much all I see every time I look at this page. The ArcLighter is an electronic way to light your candles, incense, paper, toothpicks, and more. It actually looks like it could be pretty handy, but I can’t get over the fact that you are tasering things to set them on fire.

Pretty much everyone loves chocolate and wine. You can even buy chocolate to pair with your wine. But why stop there! Why not drink your wine out a chocolate glass. Loving Cups has  your decadent experience ready to go. All I can think about is this cup melting all over you as you try to drink your wine. And then you have to eat the cup right? Other then the chocolate dissolving into your wine, how else are you going to eat it? Also, chocolate dissolved in my wine sounds gross. I guess they look cool, but it seems like it will make it difficult for you to swirl your wine and comment on its clarity like a snob.

Have you ever been chowing down on your Chobani and thought, “Nooooo, I can’t get every bit of the yogurt out without licking the cup lick an uncivilized barbarian.” Well, never fear, Spoonani is here for you. This spoon is made to get yogurt out of every cranny of your Chobani so you can nom like a gentleman/lady. Bonus – if you pledge at $100 you can get your Spoonani gold-plated. Three people have gold-plated yogurt spoons coming to them. That’s it, I quit.

Interview: BattleBards Kickstarter

Hey everyone! We had the chance to talk to the creators of the exciting new BattleBards Kickstarter in the days before it goes live. BattleBards is a new tool for introducing audio into your Table Top games. It comes with an impressive library of sound effects, ambient music, and a way to combine the any files into something new and special for your game. They sent me the Soundboard they created in their last Kickstarter which was really amazing. I enjoyed that they had multiple tabs to keep track of your ambient music, SFX, and other files. You can save your most used files to a side panel, so they’re easy to use over and over, and it’s easy to set something to loop. It’s a much more handy way to handle sound files then fumbling around in iTunes and it looks awesome to boot. We sent our most burning questions to the group behind BattleBards, and here’s what we learned!

  1. Tell us about yourself and how you got into RPGs

We all grew up around gaming and it’s grown from a hobby to a passion.  We’ve all come into RPG’s from different angles.

Mike came into RPG’s starting from reading the Dragonlance series of books which primed him for jumping into Dungeons and Dragons.  Alex came into RPG’s from video games, namely, the series of Might and Magic games which also, primed him for D&D realizing “Wait, I can run my OWN Might and Magic type stuff with my friends?!” Kyn has always been a hardcore console gamer and RPG fan (Dragon Warrior!!!!). In highschool he was introduced to Spellfire the CCG based on Forgotten Realms and then to AD&D 2nd Edition through his geek friends. He was hooked and began enjoying weekly doses of junk food driven TTRPG Campaigns.

  1. What do you think adding ambient music and SFX brings to a tabletop game?

Sound effects provide evocative accenting to combat and important sequences around the gaming table.  Music adds the emotional context for a scene, providing that all important tool to help the GM direct players’ energy as needed.  A funny example of just how critical music is to contextualizing a scene, check out this rendition of the Star News A New Hope Ceremony scene at the end without John Williams’ score. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj-GZJhfBmI.  It’s the same way with gaming.

  1. What do you have planned in the future? Will you continue to develop music/SFX for Battlebards?

The audio library will never stop growing as we continue to work with our talent to continuously release audio for gamers.  In the future, once we are confident that we’re offering wonderful content for fantasy gamers, we’ll dive into Sci-Fi, modern, and cyberpunk settings, as directed by the Battlebards Community.

  1. What sets you apart from other RPG sound projects?

This falls into two categories.  First, let’s talk about the audio itself.  We set the bar exceedingly high for what we allow onto Battlebards. As such, we work with only the best artists who are known for their work on television, video games, and film. Another key difference is that we do not tie up with just one artist to do all the work. We throw every creative brief for the next audio piece we want to create to the entire artist community for auditions before settling on the right match. So, just because one artist can do an amazing Dark Elf Temple, doesn’t mean that they’ll produce an equally awesome Orc War March.

In terms of the tools, we have an almost single minded focus on simplicity.  Alex, our Audio Director, has been using a ton of audio in his games for 15 years and if anyone knows the frustrations of needing multiple media players and minimized YouTube windows open every which place, it’s him.  Here, the focus is on customization and accessibility.  GMs will be able to bring whatever audio they need at their fingertips by creating custom playlists which they can populate anyway they like.  With super simple tools which don’t extend in complexity beyond click and drag, Game Masters can crop tracks, layer a mix, adjust different volume settings in such a way that creating a rich multi-level mix can be done in a flash.  Despite having so much audio, you’ll always be able to find exactly what you need when you need it.

  1. How does licensing work? For instance, if the SFX are used during a game, can they be released in a podcast episode?

Some audio is purchased by us so there is more flexibility in how we can use them.  However, most Battlebards audio will be licensed, not owned by us, and those can only be used through the Battlebards system.  When it comes to commercial uses of our licensees outside of Battlebards, such as our audio’s inclusion in video games, podcasts, and the like, that is a case-by-case discussion. However we’re open to it and would be excited to discuss possible collaborations.

  1. What can I get if I pledge for your Battlebards project? 

Locked in months of service, the Soundboard & Mixer tools, Battlebards Cloud to integrate your own audio, Offline Mode to use the service without an internet connection, Alpha and Beta access, special Kickstarter only badges to signify that you were what made this happen, and even exclusive Kickstarter-only tracks for download that you get to help decide what they will be!  If you want to get in on this, now’s the time.

  1. I imagine ambient music and SFX could bring a lot to board games as well! Do you have plans to do sounds for those too?

Absolutely!  Any fantasy based board games as old as Hero Quest to up-and-coming ones like the Orcs Must Die! The Boardgame, would greatly benefit from the immersive nature of Battlebards audio.  Heck, we even played a game of MTG with our tracks and it was immensely gratifying to finish off a player with the lightning bolt card coupled with the lightning bolt sound effect!

  1. Do you imagine you will have something to help facilitate online gaming, like a Google Hangouts app?

It’s a total no brainer that we need to provide online tools and even integrate with virtual tabletops to really bring this incredible body of work to those games taking place in cyberspace.  As soon as we can find our legs, we’re going to be exploring the best way to take this next step so be on the look out!

  1. What is your favorite game?

Well, that’s a tough one, there’s so much we’re all into but to provide an answer that doesn’t span pages and pages where we point out games we love in different categories, we can say with confidence that on the tabletop side of things, where we draw our inspiration for this whole quest of ours, our heart lies in D&D 3.5 and more and more, warming up to 5E.

  1. Is there anything else we should know about your project?

We hope gamers out there will give us a chance to be part of the epic quests and journeys told over gaming tables everywhere.  We truly believe that we have the best tabletop audio in the world. We know the pains of bringing it to the table and we have the tools to make its use seamless.  Ultimately, we hope that Battlebards will be a platform that we can all share together. There really would be no better feeling than to successfully introduce the larger gaming community to the wonders of integrating audio into their games. That’s our passion.

 

You can find BattleBards on Kickstarter, Facebook, or Twitter. Definitely give their project a look, their tracks sound great and the look and usability of the app is fantastic.

Tacklebox of the Damned

Ready to go plot hooks and problems to torment your players with.

1. Don’t stop the music – A local musician has been found murdered and their instrument stolen. The instrument has been passed down through generations and if it is not played each full moon, a terrible monster is released from its prison.

2. Rats, why did it have to be rats – The proprietor from an award winning brewery enlists the aid of the party in clearing the rat infestation from his cellars before the big festival where their title is on the line. The party discovers that the award winning brew has made the rats semi-sentient and they have built a sprawling society under the city, and believe the brewer to be their god.

3. Timmy fell down the well – Not really, the well is actually the remnants of a Wizard’s tower that was enchanted to grant wishes proportionate to the sacrifice made by the wisher. And the now suddenly wealthy farmer has been feeding locals to the well. For extra fun, have the farmer’s goons abduct a PC.

4. Redshirts’ revenge – The party is hired to quell an uprising from a mercenary company. Turns out that the Mercenary have a legitimate complaint as the local noble sent them on a suicide mission on a bet.

5. Do you like “Dags”? – The party is hired to eradicate a large pack of feral dogs. The dogs aren’t actually feral, they are the successful experiment of a local Alchemist hired to make better fighting dogs that got out of hand when the Alchemist wasn’t paid. The alchemist is leading the pack using potions to communicate with the intelligent canines.

6. Medusa for Mayor – The party comes across a fairly idyllic town that is led by a benevolent Medusa. And a neighboring township is preparing to wipe out the abomination.

7. Hot item – One of the players has been targeted by a previous foe, and is framed for stealing a local relic/artifact.

8. Mystery Meat – A plague has struck the livestock of the region where the players are passing through. But the butcher shop is chock full of “meat”. Start with one of the players’ horses, and then get steadily darker. Mwahaha……

What’s Cool on Kickstarter

Calamityware Dinner Plate 5
I have seen the previous four sets and if I had more money my entire dinnerware set would be from this series. I love the juxtaposition of the art style and the silly scenarios occurring on the plates.

“I like drawings that make me laugh. When I inherited a traditional Willow-pattern plate, I just had to redraw it and add a pterodactyl. As I drew more plates and added more calamities—UFOs, Sasquatch, and volcanoes—folks urged me to produce real dinner plates. A Kickstarter project was born.

My first four Calamityware Kickstarter projects (flying monkey, giant robot, voracious sea monster, and UFO invasion) found sponsors, so here is the fifth project in what might turn out to be a long series. ”

 

Best Birthday Prank Card Ever
This is so funny. I want a million of them to give out to everyone for every occasion.

“Your card is delivered to you in a “Safe mode”. Here you can start and stop the song as much as you want. After you sign the card with a lovely message, pull the activation tab inside the card which will activate the card. Then slide it into an envelope and deliver!”

 

Ion: A Compound Building Game
I backed the previous game by this creator – A peptide building game. As a biochemist, I couldn’t resist it. This game is in the same vein, except now you get to build molecules. If you love science and games you should check it out!

“Ion is a quick but explosively fun card game themed accurately around a few fundamental chemistry concepts. More specifically, how ions form some of the most basic compounds we use everyday. But don’t worry, we didn’t leave out the noble gases!”

 

Phoenix: Dawn Command
This a card game with a lot of RPG drivers behind it. The tagline “A game were death not only makes you stronger, but defines who you are” was what caught my attention as I was browsing. Also, it’s from the people who made Gloom, so it’s probably pretty amazing!

“Phoenix is a story-driven roleplaying game that uses cards to resolve actions. Every player has a deck of cards that represent a character’s abilities. To accomplish an action, a player needs to lay down a set of cards with a total value that equals or exceeds the difficulty of the task. A player can get an extra push by using a trait – a card that describes a unique aspect of a character. If the player can explain how that trait applies to the current challenge, the value of the card is increased. This encourages cinematic storytelling, driving players to describe an action beyond the simple numbers. In addition, each player has Sparks – a pool of mystical energy that can be used to boost the value of an action. This allows a character to succeed at a normally impossible task… but when that pool of energy is exhausted, the character dies.

While Phoenix has a gamemaster who drives the story and controls the challenges the characters face, the card-based system places a significant amount of narrative control in the hands of the players. Success isn’t based on the roll of a die; it’s a question of what a player is willing to sacrifice to make an action succeed. Because death isn’t the end of the story, character survival isn’t the most important part of a mission. Instead, the challenge is to make each death meaningful, and to achieve the objectives the Phoenixes are willing to lay down their lives for.”

 

Still active!

Miniature Chests
Neon Sanctum
Chaos of Cthulhu
FF6 Dice Prestigious Metal Dice for the Digital Age
Aza Dice
Dino-Light
Game of Thrones Gaming Coins by Shire Mint
Dice Display Box and Rolling Tray
Death by Die
Cthulhu Dice Tower
Knot Dice

A Rune Awakening 4: The Littlest Black Dress

Erylium

The party ventures into the caverns under Sandpoint to find the quasit mentioned in Tsuto’s journal.

Featuring Aser, James, Jonn, Landan, Megan, and Patrick.

Direct Download!

Music by Kevin MacLeod, “Five Armies”

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