I see some of the gaming-related projects on Kickstarter and think: well, there’s something that’s neat but useless… and to be honest, that was my first thought with DiceRings by CritSuccess. I am not a jewelry person, I have nothing pierced, I don’t wear rings or blings or diamond-covered things, so I watched the video and moved on. Until the next day when I watched it again. Something clicked the second time around. I figured it was worth the small investment to get one ring. It’d be a neat conversation piece at the next convention and if I sit with another idiot maybe I can distract him or her with the shiny. I was impressed with how quickly their project got funded and their stretch goals. By the end, they had 27 “dice rings” and 1 “life counter” to offer. I opted for the gold d20 ring and am amazed at the quality. And it came with a free picture of a Sizzard. Whatever that is. After a quick dip in soapy water to get rid of the grit from manufacturing it spins like a top. The gold is very unobtrusive. It looks just like a regular ring until you get in close. The darker ring probably makes the numbers on the spinning ring stand out more… so there’s an option if you want your ring to stand out.
This is what I love about Kickstarter. Here’s a couple of guys who have this awesome idea, and they share that idea with others, who then give them money, and they deliver a great product and open their own business. As of this post, the store on the website — CritSuccess — isn’t live. But when it is, I’m going to definitely be ordering another.
Gunslinger. The word has caused many a game master and player to roll their eyes and scoff. But why? Is it because some think that they don’t belong in a world of high fantasy? Is it because GMs think they are entirely overpowered? Or is it because GMs don’t understand the actual mechanics of early firearms? Maybe because both GM and PC alike have seen terrible, terrible ‘cheese’ involving dual wielding double barreled pistols attached to leather straps? Whatever the reason, gunslingers may be looked down upon by some, but they are here and here to stay. I, for one, am glad.
I am partial to these fleshy artillery pieces since my first Pathfinder Society character is a gunslinger. Granted I have had to really learn how to play Sir Danaris Redfeather, Knight Captain effectively but I think it is one of the more interesting classes available. Having said that, I think that you need to give the character a personality and not treat them purely like a means to shoot firearms. For example, Danaris was a young backwoods lad whose father trained him in the use of his musket. After joining the Pathfinder Society, he was recruited by the Andoran military and became a marksman, a ranking officer and a knight. As of the posting of this article, Danaris is a Gunslinger (Musket Master) 5 / Steel Falcon 5. See how a developing backstory over a character’s levels can flesh out a character?
So keeping all of these points in mind I present this week’s Pathfinder Society pre-gen party – Thundersmoke. Like always there is a common link for all of the characters in the party and this week they are all gunslingers. I know you are thinking that I am crazy to just provide a party of just one class and not include essential classes, but sometimes the challenge is part of the fun! I also changed up the regular blurb format to include progression of feats and skills to a prestige class.
Now, without further delay, I present Thundersmoke:
1) Jase Heilgonne – LN Male Human Gunslinger (Gun Tank/Pistolero)
A stern lad from a stern family, Jase is uncompromising in his ideals of law and order. Finding his prized pistol after Hellknights suppressed an insurrection near his hometown in Cheliax, he set about to master its use. He favors heavy armor and shields and even carries a longsword, but he uses his pistol to stop lawlessness, cold.
Goal: Hellknight at 5th Level
Progression: Rapid Reload – Pistol (3), +1 Wisdom (4), Precise Shot (5)
2) Ilyade the Swift – CG Female Elf Gunslinger (Musket Master)
The beautiful and intelligent elven huntress known as Ilyade the Swift has long been a master of the bow, but came upon the difficult and loud musket by chance. In the process of mastering this thundering, smoky contraption, she has now offered her tracking services and her intricately carved musket to the Grand Lodge in Absalom. If she happens upon any drow in the process, they won’t live long enough to regret entering her sights.
Goal: Lantern Bearer at 5th Level
Progression: Point Blank Shot (3), Precise Shot (4), +1 Wisdom (4), Bullseye Shot (5)
3) Ada Lilybottom – CN Female Halfling Gunslinger (Mysterious Stranger)
This jovial little halfling is just incredibly lucky. She was lucky to escape from slavers, now lucky to work for freedom fighters in Andoran and still lucky to find a small musket just her size. Amazing things just seem to go Ada’s way!
Goal: Halfling Opportunist at 5th level
Progression: Rapid Reload – Musket (3), Precise Shot (4), +1 Charisma (4), Defensive Combat Training (5)
4) Goron Axehead – NG Male Dwarf Gunslinger (Gun Tank)
Gruff, grumpy and occasionally self-serving, Goron walks a fine line between dictates of the church and his personal agendas. Having ‘procured’ a pistol from an underground source, he has declared open season on demons, devils and all matter of evil trash as part of his Silver Crusade.
Goal: Low Templar at 5th Level
Progression: Weapon Focus – Battleaxe (3), +1 Dexterity (4), Mounted Combat (5)
5) Hurga the Stout – N Male Half-Orc Gunslinger
Finding life in Osirion desert cities tough, Hurga traveled out into the desert where he encountered a sphinx. The sphinx, finding him interesting and worthy, shared part of its treasure and knowledge with the young half-orc. A certain device, a blunderbuss, caught Hurga’s eye and begged the sphinx to teach him how to use it. The sphinx agreed and, in exchange for service to the sphinx and the Ruby Prince, Hurga now knows the secrets of the blunderbuss and gunpowder.
Goal: Living Monolith at 5th Level
Progression: Endurance (3), Deadly Aim (4), +1 Dexterity (4), Iron Will (5)
6) Angliss Borbas – LN Male Half-Elf Gunslinger (Mysterious Stranger)
A vain and misguided half-elf from Taldor, Angliss has completely reversed his thinking about life and has embraced the philosophy of Kalistrades. Now dedicated to acquiring wealth, he keeps his prized pistol close for those times when deals go wrong and he has to regulate.
Goal: Prophet of Kalistrades at 5th Level
Progression: Rapid Reload – Pistol (3), Rapid Shot (4), +1 Consitution (4), Deadly Aim (5)
Here are some notable Kickstarter projects that I have found or pledged to that look like they might be worth a look at. These look to be really fun and offer many different platforms, themes and challenges that will keep you busy for quite some time:
The World’s Worst Dungeon Crawl! (http://kck.st/17NKgRS) – The name says it all! Drag your minions into the depths of a dungeon that is sure to be terrible, but terrible in a comedic way.
Robotech RPG Tactics (http://kck.st/10kBVaN) – I am excited about this one. One of the first RPGs I owned when I was a pre-teen was the Robotech RPG from Palladium Games. There was an absence of affordable figurines at the time and now they come out with this! This may be the game that gets me more interested in wargaming styled RPGs.
Golden Sky Stories: Heartwarming Role-Playing (http://kck.st/11lNSZ8) – This one is billed to be kid-friendly. I have been looking for one such as this to get my daughter more interested in RPGs and this one may be the one.
Sovereign Stone: Pathfinder Edition (http://kck.st/17cgjfQ) – Larry Elmore! That is all. Well, and that I think the setting may be awesome!
Torchbearer (http://kck.st/ZVr5q9) – Another dungeon crawling masterpiece; I just like this one.
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3 (http://kck.st/13SgiM5) – As a child of the 80s, I grew up on Transformers, GI Joe, Thundercats and the like. With a generous amount of dungeon crawling themed offerings on Kickstarter, this is a refreshing change of pace that heavily appeals to my nostalgia.
Deluxe Exalted: 3rd Edition (http://kck.st/15OgwZr) – This one will be very good. I am very interested in looking more into the system and the world of Exalted.
OVA: The Anime Role-Playing Game (http://kck.st/13hF9u0) – Another ‘refreshing, change of pace’ offering, this one visually looks stunning and makes me want to color my hair blue, or maybe just watch some anime.
When I started playing D&D in the late 80s, I was the youngest kid on the block. One of my friends showed me these crazy looking dice, we sketched out character sheets on notebook paper, and very likely followed very few of the rules. I did learn what Armor Class is, and what Hit points are, and had a fantastic time.
I was just young enough to miss most of these classic adventures gathered in Dungeons of Dread, but interestingly I did pick up White Plume Mountain in a garage sale when I was a teenager, not even really understanding what I had. Unfortunately that was sold along with so many other treasures from my childhood in the “going off to college” garage sale.
In my RPG renaissance of the last few years, I’ve had a great time gaming with a bunch of different guys, but of the main Skyland Games crew, I’m still the young kid on the block. Most of these guys have played D&D almost since the beginning, and have shelves of books and some of these very adventures. I would hear war stories from The Tomb of Horrors, or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but had never played them myself.
This collection offers a great opportunity to immerse yourself in D&D lore by collecting classic, iconic adventures written by the pioneers of the game. It includes the lethal Tomb of Horrors, the quirky and memorable White Plume Mountain, the zany gonzo Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and finally a little taste of Greyhawk in The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. This hardback format is great for looking through and preserving these in an archival sense, but would be pretty difficult to run from. One of the benefits of the old modules is you can lay them flat behind a DM screen, and show the players the illustrations a bit easier. Also, the maps are at the end of the adventure, so if you are trying to run one of these for a group, I would suggest investing in some page flags so you can easily find those sections while flipping between maps, illustrations, and room descriptions.
Fortuitously, Wizards has released the illustrations for the modules as stand-alone PDFs, making them a lot easier to show to the group. Hopefully, they’ll do something similar for the maps! The maps are in black and white, which I understand from a printing perspective, but they could have earned some serious nostalgia points if they used the original D&D light-blue that was so iconic of the old maps.
If you’re one of the old-guard grognards or a collector and own all these in their original print form, there is no sense purchasing them in this form. If you just missed the boat, or have heard all the old guys talk about how it was when THEY started playing, this is for you. I really enjoy having it on my shelf for reference and inspirational purposes, and look forward to adding the next archive to the shelf, Against the Slave Lords!
I hate making characters. Oh sure, sometimes it’s fun, especially with a new system, or with a system that makes a lot of choices for you: Dungeon Crawl Classic‘s ‘Funnel’ system of creating four 0-level characters and seeing who survives to first level is a blast (if a deadly one), and the total randomness of the classic Traveller or Palladium’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can be fun too. But outside of that, I need inspiration to get behind a character, and sometimes that’s not that easy.
Inspiration comes from a lot of places, but I think for most of us it comes from the Appendix N books, movies and TV shows we’ve seen. I use a lot of Shakespearean villains as a template for my anti-heroes: Othello’s Iago, Lear’s Bastard, Henry IV’s Falstaff or Prince Hal, to name a few. History Channel’s Vikings has got me inspired right now, and I’m sure Game of Thrones is packed with inspiration as well.
Once inspired, however, I start to mull over the story of the character, try to figure out how he or she talks, and what got them to be where they are. For a while, this was something I whipped up on the spot, or maybe jotted as a few notes on the back of my character sheet. As I played more, I found the back stories getting more elaborate, and there was just too much to get across as an improvised statement, and other players didn’t have time to digest what I had put into it.
When the Skyland guys started getting together back in the day, we started a web group for our campaign. In that group, the players started crafting player introductions which varied in elaboration, but which gave a great platform for an introduction that could be read prior to the game, and referred back to. Eventually this grew into some great story telling, and was eagerly anticipated by the rest of the group. We used google groups, but a lot of people have used Obsidian Portal, Roll20.net or a free wiki for the same purpose.
Next time you’re getting ready to try out a new character for your longer campaigns, give it a shot. It’s a helpful tool to flesh out your back story and gives the other players (if not the characters) something to make your character and the setting itself come to life. Not sure where to begin? Check out Goodman Games’ PC Pearls as a system-agnostic starting point.
By way of example, my Drow Artificer was to be our ship’s doctor on our Pirate campaign. While I could say his family staged an unsuccessful coup and he had to flee the city for the surface world, the following tells that tale a little bit better:
“Your obsession with corpses is starting to seem most unnatural, Master V’rderist” said Agaed Malag’tel from the shadows of the
Vaeldti did not look up from the body on which he labored, though Agaed’s presence was a surprise. He may have acted differently if he had known he was being observed. He was, if nothing else, unshakable however, and reacted no differently now.
“It’s far from an obsession, Agaed,” said Vaeldti without looking up from the corpse, “Were the few meager years I’ve spent experimenting with the anatomy of the creatures of the Underdark taken as requisite for ‘obsession’ then you, sir, would be ‘obsessed’ with spying on me.”
“But I am obsessed with spying on you, friend Vaeldti,” purred Agaed, pulling himself off the wall. Vaeldti smiled gently and palmed a scalpel from the table, slipping it into the sleeve of his surgical gown. He carefully removed the second heart of the umber hulk on his table, and readied a jar to receive it. Agaed was being too informal. This could not be good.
“Be that as it may, friend Agaed,I believe should this be considered some vice of indulgence, it is by far the smallest transgression, compared with other crimes…” Behind Vaeldti’s back, Agaed stopped smiling, then jumped back slightly as the umber hulk heart dropped hissing into the clear glass jar filled with preservative fluids.
“Have you ever considered what a disappointment you must be to your family, what with your training for those many years in Sorcere only to squander it by sequestering yourself for a decade with those ridiculous Duergar? I’m sure you must have been flayed within an inch of your life when you were finally caught.” Agaed laughed mirthlessly.
Vaeldti’s smile did not wane. “Yes,” he answered, “Yes to both the disappointment, and the flaying, but I must offer a correction. I returned of my own accord. That is to say, the Duergar held nothing else to offer me.”
Two large metallic spiders emerged from the cavernous chest cavity of the Umber Hulk, their glass abdomens full of ambergris harvested from the corpse; enough to pay for new equipment when Vaeldti reached the surface. He smiled, and seeing that his small automatons were growing low on magical energy, extended his index finger and started only slightly as first one and then the other of his mechanical assistants latched on and drank.
“Not that they do not have some fine secrets worth keeping, however,” said Vaeldti stroking the back of a clockwork arachnid.
Agaed frowned. “Be that as it may, it would have been, perhaps, more beneficial to your House if you could have added that power behind the forces that moved against my House last night! For they have fallen, and you, sir, will be next to die!”
As Agaed moved to pull his longsword, a sudden sharp pain forced him to clutch his neck. A handful of metallic spider stung at him again, then scurried to Vaeldti’s side as he finished cleaning his tools.
“I did say that I was flayed, did I not, Agaed…” Vaeldti turned as he finished, “and it is not something I have forgotten. This House can rot in the Demonweb Pits for all I care, as can this whole wretched cavernous pit. The foolishness of it all.”
Holding his arms behind his back, Vaeldti paced as though lecturing a first year student of Sorcere. Agaed’s knees buckled and sweat began to bead upon his brow.
“Do you know that they teach the study of anatomy in both Sorcere and Melee Magthere, but only for the purposes of torture and killing, respectively? Such wasteful foolishness presupposes that the gods shall stay set in place, and that the Matrons will always have the ear of Most Divine Llolth to close wounds and purge disease. I see there is more to it than that…”
Leaning over Agaed, Vaeldti held his face within inches of the sweating cowering form.
“Perhaps it is due to my altruistic nature that I am so flawed. But, it will require my leaving for the surface, which I am already prepared to do…. especially now that I’ve captured you.”
Agaed staggered upright, leaning into the corner as he felt his strength drain. “Ca-ca-cap-captured? D-d-d-do you pl-plan to ransom me?” he stuttered as his jaw locked under the effects of the paralytic poison.
“Ransom? Aha, no…. No, for you, I will give you the opportunity to contribute to my work, and thus redeem yourself…. One last contribution…. to science. ”
Agaed’s screams barely escaped the stairwell… and three hours later, Vaeldti make his way to the surface, seeking to learn more about the mysteries of the natural world.
The sea captain stared at the forged letters carefully, then examined Valedti from head to toe.
“Ships doctor, you say?”
“If I am not mistaken, you are a drow,” said the Captain conclusively.
“And if I am not mistaken, you are a pirate sir. Strange bedfellows, I believe the expression goes?”
The captain sighed….”You’re hired, Mr….”
“Doctor… and it’s Vaeldti V’rderist”
“Welcome aboard, Doctor Valedi Venderost…”
“Below decks, Doctor. Men need tending to… “
I am, I admit, a bit of a grognard. I’m of an age where I am perhaps overly concerned that teenagers are on my lawn. I like to watch the news and I generally go to bed around 10 o’clock. And yet… I like to go to conventions and play games. Recently, I attended a small-size convention, and while overall I had a good time, there were many instances where I was annoyed with the other players. Whether it was a complete and utter lack of personal hygiene, an endless series of inane stream-of-consciousness questions, or the GM texting or e-mailing while reading boxed text and then getting confused and asking us to wait while he finished… it made me much more cranky than usual. While we have previously published a list of 10 general commandments for gaming with a group of friends, I figured I needed to share my 10 Con-mandments.
1. Thou Shalt Keep Thyself Clean and Fresh
We’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Especially if you are at a convention. Clean yourself. Yes, with soap and water. Use deodorant. A tiny spritz of whatever Axe body spray you like is more than enough. Don’t try to just cover the funk. Every hotel room has a shower. Go forth and clean everything. Your face, your neckbeard, your taint. Everything. For real. There is nothing worse than three days of stank.
2. Thou Shalt Not Keep Thy Dice In Thy Hand Overlong
There’s an old adage of “If you shake it more than once, you’re playing with it”. The same applies to dice. Once or twice is fine… but shaking your dice back and forth continuously does not somehow magically make your damage higher or your hit better. You totally look like you’re masturbating, so stop it.
3. Thy Hit and Thy Damage Shall Be Rolled Together
If I have to watch you jack your dice off when you are rolling to hit, I don’t want the action repeated when you actually succeed. Roll everything (or as much as you can) together. It will speed up play and I can get back to my hotel room in time to watch Matlock.
4. Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Dice
If your rogue does 3d8 damage with every hit… why do you only have 2d8 in your Crown Royal bag? I do not want you to touch my dice and ruin the magic they contain, but on the other hand I do not want to wait every time your turn comes up. I’ve taken to carrying a small bag of random dice for the express purpose of giving them out to dunderheads at conventions. Pencils and paper, too. Some days, I feel like a kindergarten teacher at an inner-city school helping out the tragic children unable to help themselves.
5. Asketh Not Thine Stupid Questions
We’re fighting a beholder in the last room of a dungeon crawl and you are playing your elven wizard. This is no time to ask the GM’s thoughts on whether or not a barbarian can dual-wield giant-sized clubs. It’s your turn to blast the evil beholder into atoms, don’t suddenly ask the grognard next to you how underwater combat works. Nobody cares what your kitsune can shapechange into, don’t pontificate on it’s powers while you should be stepping up and cleaving goblins.
6. Thou Shalt Understand Thy Character
You’re a 7th level sorcerer? Why don’t you know the damage of that magic missile you just shot at the darkness? A 9th level barbarian gets several thousand rounds per day of rage, I’m sure. How can somebody get to the point where they travel to conventions to play and not know their character? I’m not talking about someone just starting out, I’m talking about people who have, allegedly, played their character enough times to get several levels under their belt and had no idea that their oracle was a spontaneous caster. Okay, I confess, that last one was me, but in my defense… uh… Alzheimer’s?
7. Thou Shalt Get Rest So As Not to Sleepeth Past Thy Initiative
If you do sleep past your initiative, don’t throw a hissy fit when you wake up three turns later and realize you missed everything. It’s not the GMs job to make sure you are paying attention. Yes, it’s a convention and there’s Midnight Madness games and parties and it’s all about having fun. Well, you can’t “hoot with the owls at night and fly with the eagles in the morning” unless you are well-caffeinated or able to handle it.
8. Thou Shalt Use Electronics Only For Reference Sake
I’m sure that video of a goat screaming like it’s a human is hilarious, but pick up your dice and throw them down. It’s your turn, dagnabbit! If you are the GM, it’s even worse. There’s legitimate reasons to take a moment and check your phone, of course, but carrying on a 15-minute text conversation with your wife, sister, husband, lawyer, lover, cousin, brother or friend about what you want to eat? Save that for a break.
9. Thou Shalt Not Wear Thy Favorite Shirt More Than One Day
At larger conventions, as long as you’re taint is clean and the shirt’s not crusted with two days of burrito, you can probably get away with shaking the crumbs off your magic special re-roll shirt, but at smaller conventions where you play with the same pool of people? Not a good idea. Even after the first day, the funkishness is going to intensify, so be kind and think of the people around you. Please.
10. Thou Shalt Wash Thine Hands After Sneezing Into Them
I cannot even… seriously? And did you then try to pick up one of my d8s? If you’d like to keep that hand attached to that arm, I suggest you excuse yourself and go wash your hands. Or carry a small jar of sanitizer, or better yet, vampire sneeze. Shoving your filthy, stinky paw up under your nose and letting one go is not the right way to live life.
BONUS: 11th Commandment!
11. Thou Shalt Be Courteous
A well-run and well-organized gaming convention is hard to pull off. Many times it is like herding cats. Large, smelly, angry cats. Do your part to help the organizers by telling them when they do right, and helping them when things go wrong. Adapt. If your game is cancelled, don’t scream at the organizer, it’s not her fault. Find something else to do. When you sit at a table with all 1st level characters, don’t demand that they play higher tier so you can play your highest level, roll up a new one.
Players give ‘life’ to their characters with traits that are usually extensions of themselves in some way. Even while playing games such as Dungeon Crawl Classics or Traveler which uses a prolific amount of random character generation tables, players cannot help give personalities to their characters. Other games, such as Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder, use a more detailed character generation system that allows more customization in which players put much more of themselves into their characters. This results in players becoming attached to their characters and factors such as naming their character, customizing options and achieving higher levels contribute more to this attachment. But we all know what inevitably comes to any character – death.
I used the widely-known Elisabeth Kubler-Ross 5 Step Model, also known under the acronym DABDA, as a basis to help explain player behavior when character death occurs. Although Kubler-Ross initially applied these principles to those suffering from terminal illnesses, we can easily modify the principles for this article. It is wise to remember that some players will not experience every step and if they do, it may be only briefly (as in seconds; think of any console game where you re-spawn).
1. Denial – “Wait, what just happened? No way!”
In this first stage, players may deny that their character even died. As a defense mechanism, some distance themselves from other players around them by becoming extremely quiet or sulking.
2. Anger – “That’s not fair! That’s bull!”
This stage usually manifests as a brooding anger instead of as an outburst. Sometimes you may witness a player outburst, but that is usually not in a public setting such as a convention or at your local game store.
3. Bargaining – “What if I do this, will that save him?”
Players hope to delay, postpone or reverse their characters’ deaths by reviewing what happened to get them killed. Negotiations with the higher powers (game masters, judges and sometimes deities) are conducted thoroughly and this is usually where the resident ‘rules lawyer’ shines.
4. Depression – “I sure do miss Rangaar, but who cares?”
At this stage, players actually grieve for their character. They tend to reminisce about achievements, comedic exploits and general good feelings that this particular character gave to that game world. Players usually do not dwell too long at this stage as they usually move quickly to the last stage.
5. Acceptance – “I’m dead. Can I roll up another character?”
In the last stage, players finally accept the loss of their character and move on. They either need to re-spawn, get raised or roll up another character because ‘life’ goes on.