Recently I’ve been reading the articles about the state of DnD and RPGs in general. In my own little RPG-filled bubble it seemed to me that RPGs were doing just fine. While having a niche audience, they seemed healthy enough. Even in our little town of Asheville, NC we have three Friendly Local Gaming Stores. Or I should say had.
The articles about the contraction of the hobby really hit home when I read yesterday that Blitzkrieg games would be closing for the winter. They played host to our fledgling Pathfinder Lodge, and had one of the most pleasant gaming retail spaces I had ever seen. Their facebook post indicates they’re just closing for the winter, but who knows what that really means. If they couldn’t afford to stay open, how could they afford to pay rent in downtown Asheville? I hope for the best, but am prepared for the worst.
In the meantime, I’ve convinced a lot of the other Skyland guys to give this Pathfinder Society thing a try before we head down to SCARAB, and now we’re looking for a venue. Hopefully one of the other shops will step up to the plate, but judging by their schedules they may not have room for us. Saturday is filled with Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Warhammer 40k, etc.
This also made me think of the average age of RPG players. I’m about to turn 31 in two weeks, and I’ve been on the young end of the spectrum at many gaming tables. I’m the youngest guy at Skyland Games.
Does this represent a microcosm of the gaming industry as a whole? Fragmented, aging and contracting? What can we do about it? I think the best thing we can do is spread the love of tabletop RPGs to the next generation. A lot of kids who grew up in the 80s heyday of D&D and RPGs in general are now having kids. When mom and dad have a bunch of weird looking dice, and a shelf full of monsters and creatures of all types that can have a big influence on their kids and that kid’s friends.
MMORPGs, incredible console games, flash games, and casual games provide more distractions than ever. Its important to remember that its not a binary choice. Just because you play one type of game doesn’t mean you will never try anything else. Many people who play pencil and paper RPGs have played world of warcraft or skyrim because we love the genre. The most important thing we can do is make sure that option is available to the next generation and keep inspiring imaginations. Host an event at the library, start a blog, or show a kid what a d20 looks like. The future of RPGs is up to us.
I played Pathfinder for the first time on Saturday, and had a blast. Scott, (the Skyland Games guy who brought you Fog of War and his distaste for fire giants) called me up and let me know that one of our Friendly Local Game Stores was hosting a Pathfinder organized play night. My previous experience with organized play was Living Forgotten Realms which I personally didn’t really enjoy, but a lot of people in the gaming community are raving about the Pathfinder beginner box, so I decided I’d see what this was all about.
The short review of it is that it was excellent, do yourself a favor and seek out the nearest game.
For the long review read on: It was a first level adventure, and we had a party of five Pathfinders. In organized play, the PCs are part of the Pathfinder Society, which to me, seemed a bit like a bounty hunter organization. The reason the party is thrown together is they are charged with a mission by a venture-captain. The captain charges the group with a task, and gives them some information to track down an artifact. Boiler-plate RPG adventure so far. However, in Pathfinder organized play, when you create your PC you also choose one of ten factions. Factions tend to be from different geographic locations and kingdoms, and have their own motivations. At the beginning of the adventure, we were each handed a faction mission that we had to try and achieve during play. Doing so gains your PC prestige, which unlocks boons and bonuses as the season progresses.
The idea of each faction having its own mission within the mission provided a lot of interesting moments, and encouraged role-playing and engagement in the scenario. For example, I was playing the pre-generated scimitar-weilding cleric Kyra. We encountered an abandoned logging outpost and were immediately set upon by beast-men. I started carving them up, when Scott’s character, a halfling paladin from a different faction then mine, told me to spare them as they were acting against there will and were innocent loggers changed by a dark ritual. Of course, that was a lot to get out in the middle of a fight, so by that time I had one cut open at my feet. Being the cleric, I spent a turn stabilizing and healing him before jumping back in the fray.
My faction’s mission was to plant a note in the evil druid’s lair to make other druid enclaves turn against this one, once the note was found. Not as involved as Scott’s but it earned me some Prestige points. Almost every PC in our party was part of a different faction, so we were all looking for different opportunities during the session. It really added a lot to it.
Beyond that, it was my first time playing Pathfinder or 3.5, and some of the rules were nuanced in ways I couldn’t have anticipated coming from DnD 4e, but a lot of the skills translate easily. I’m one of those that missed out on 3rd edition entirely, growing up playing basic DnD, then AD&D 2E, then picking it back up when 4th edition came out. Granted, it was 1st level play, so combat was fairly simple, quick and deadly, but if Saturday night was any indication, I’ll be playing a lot more Pathfinder in the future. Go find a game! You’ll be glad you did.
Technoir was one of the most successful RPG Kickstarters to date. Author Jeremy Keller put together a really slick pitch video, and backed it up with a really cool futuristic game with such an adaptable system, it can be used for a lot of variations that he brilliantly used as stretch goals. Though from what I can tell, Mechnoir, Hexnoir and Morenoir are still in development at this time.
Similar to the Cortex System instead of rolling or assigning numbers to your protagonists characteristics, you allocate dice. Rather than different denominations of dice, Technoir only uses regular six-siders. The character generation system is pretty interesting in that you pick “programs” to describe your character’s background such as bodyguard, soldier, doctor, engineer, or investigator and depending on which programs you choose determines which “verbs” or statistics you increase. You also choose adjectives to describe your character (some are suggested, but you can make up your own) and attribute those adjectives to your programs.
In an interesting twist, the characters need to choose connections or contacts for a given transmission (adventure module). This means your character will have some sort of relationship with some of the NPCs in the adventure before the first die is rolled. Players are also encouraged to develop connections between characters in the party. The gear available to characters is decidedly futuristic, including cybernetics and drones.
The game evolves as players are given a mission, and press their contacts for information or other favors. The action resolution system involves rolling a pool of d6’s depending on which verb is being tested, and how skilled the opposition is. Like many film noir movies, the line between classically “good” and “bad” guys is blurred at best. It has a lot of potential to tell some really interesting stories.
Get a taste of the action in the Technoir download section with the player’s guide.
Wandering Monster High School is a creative kickstarter that allows players to take on the role of a monster in high school. If the new revised and updated version is anything like the version the author created for 24 Hour RPG, expect some light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek character creation and game play.
It brings to mind the old MTV show Clone High, in which DNA was harvested from famous people throughout history and secret government agencies made clones of them. This allowed for situations in which the clone of Joan of Arc loves Abraham Lincoln who tries to date Cleopatra who keeps breaking up and getting back together with JFK, and they’re all high school age. Its a hilarious show!
Instead of historical figures, in this RPG you pick a monster as your “student,” the game master is the Headmaster, and your group is your homeroom! Where normally you would have stats for your attributes, in WMHS you’ll have grades on your “report card” which is your character sheet. According to the kickstarter, the new version will feature a better dice mechanic, new student goals, new art, a campus map, and expanded rules.
Just imagine classes full of goblins, kobolds, bugbears, ogres and orcs. It looks like the system could adapt for just about any monster you could come up with! I really like the idea of playing as monsters. I imagine the homecoming game vs. the Adventures Guild Academy would be an awesome hook to a hilarious night of gaming.
Taking a look at the previous version, Caoimhe Ora Snow has done a great job at combining elements that are typical to high school life with those that would be important to a growing monster such as grades, a class schedule, and extra-curricular activities, Lair Economics, Magic, Occult, Defense Against the Forces of Light, and Advanced Looting.
Unlike previous kickstarters that Skyland Games has reviewed, this one is still actively seeking supporters. I can’t wait to see the final version and get a homeroom going to start exploring campus. The goal is modest, but the time frame is pretty short. Act fast to get in on what is sure to be a fun break from your average dungeon delve. See you in homeroom!
I know this was the hot topic a few months ago, but Skyland Games didn’t have a blog back then, so you get our 4e combat speed tips now. @slyflourish had mentioned on twitter that removing the DM screen can really open up the table and give you a better view as to what is going on. I tweeted back that I had been rolling in the monster vault box and tracking initiative with clothespins. He requested some pictures of the clothespins system, and I figured I would turn it in to a full-blown post.
Tracking initiative with clothespins helps speed up 4e combat (really any RPG with init) in a few ways. The biggest advantage is that if clipped along the top of the DM screen or edge of a rolling box, the entire table can see the play order, and can plan their turn accordingly. Once a player has had their turn, the DM taps the clothes pin to one side or the other to show the entire table where we are in the round at a glance. This is also a great cue for the DM to announce its the next person’s turn, and keep combat moving at a brisk pace.
Another great advantage to using clothespins is when a character (or monster) chooses to delay. Once the player announces they are going to delay, the DM just takes their clip off and puts it on the end. I usually try to put it at a different height to remind myself the character is delaying. When they “un-delay” you just drop their clip in the order whenever they act.
The biggest advantage I’ve found using the clothespins system as a player is planning my turn while the another player is up. This became most important as a controller when trying to judge whether you’ll have the right position to pull off that sweet Area of Effect daily that’s burning a hole on your character sheet. You can also request the striker delay until you can set him up for combat advantage.
Having that visual aide of the initiative order can also have more subtle advantages to speeding up gameplay. As a player, you need to know whether you’ve got time for a bathroom break, or to grab a drink from the fridge; check the initiative order and either plan out your next awesome turn, or take care of whatever you need to and jump back in to the action closer to your pin. No more waiting on players for the little things!
We write our actual names on them, as we play multiple systems with multiple different characters, but clothespins are cheap so you could write the PC’s name on them to help everyone remember the names of their fellow party members. For multiple types of monsters going on different initiatives, we typically use Roman numerals to indicate the different groups. The DM can just make a note next to the stat block of which number pertains to what creature.
There are a ton of great combat speed tips out there, but I felt this is one more that tables could really benefit from. Let us know what you think in the comments below!
This is a side-trek for 4th Edition D&D that I ran a group through a year ago. I thought I would dust it off and polish it up a bit for our Halloween post. It is based on the Edgar Allan Poe story Masque of the Red Death. One of the players brought it to my attention that Masque of the Red Death is also the title of a Ravenloft setting, but this has nothing to do with that. It is for PCs level 4-6. It references monsters in the 4e Monster Manual, Monster Manual 3, and Open Grave. If you have a DnD Insider account it is really easy to look them up in the compendium. If you don’t, and you don’t have those books, you could substitute whatever you feel appropriate.
Included is a rough map to give you an idea of the areas and how one connects to the next. The actual dimensions of the rooms and placement of creatures is up to the DM. If you plan on running this I would urge you to read the Edgar Allan Poe story, and if you have some additional time, encourage your players to read it as well. It doesn’t contain any spoilers and will really add to everyone’s enjoyment of the adventure.
This was my first stab at writing a 4e adventure. I’ve written a few more since, maybe I’ll share those at a later date. Hope you guys like this one!
Fourth Edition D&D has been out for long enough that many players with a steady game may be hitting 21st level. In one of my gaming groups we started the Scales of War adventure path at 10th level two years ago, and are now 25th level.
Epic games and even late-Paragon games can be a challenge to both play and run. Sly Flourish’s “Running Epic Tier D&D Games” is an excellent purchase full of tips to keep Epic level play from becoming epically long gaming sessions. It is chock-full of great tips about keeping things exciting while navigating thru the myriad of options available at Epic Level. I purchased the PDF version ($3.99) which included a small format (iPhone), large format (iPad or computer) and ePub formats. It was really a classy move to include all those formats to allow for easy reading on any device.
If you are considering DMing an epic campaign I would highly recommend you purchase these tips. Weighing in at 49 pages, it isn’t epically long, but it gets you in the right mindset to take 4th edition to the ultimate level. It includes campaign ideas, encounter tips, and advice about preparing for massive encounters. From our experience with Scales of War it can be very difficult to balance encounters. This book gives the excellent advice of throwing the XP budget concept from the Dungeon Master’s Guide out the window. It just doesn’t apply once the party becomes that powerful.
Epic can be fun, but it certainly isn’t for those who are new to D&D. By the time you get to 21st level, the amount of feats and powers on the character sheet can be intimidating to even seasoned players. One important piece of advice is to try and choose options that are easy to remember. Choosing an option which only comes up once in a great while will be impossible to remember in the midst of an encounter. For my most recent character I actually took a highlighter to my character sheet and wrote in little notes about situational bonuses so I could remember at a glance what will apply. I also highlighted whether the power was an Immediate Interrupt or an Immediate Reaction so I can find those powers when appropriate.
Have fun with Epic Level play, but don’t go in unprepared! Good gaming to you!