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Ghostbusters and Dread – RPGs for Halloween

October 26, 2016 5 comments

AVL Scarefest was an absolute blast this year. The year before was great fun, but this year exceeded my already high expectations. For the uninitiated, AVL Scarefest started as a spooky Pathfinder Society game night at our FLGS the Wyvern’s Tale. GMs and players were encouraged to wear costumes and play the more Halloween-themed scenarios. This was such a hit, it quickly out-grew the ample gaming space at the tale. In 2015, some intrepid Asheville Pathfinder Lodge members started organizing a con to be held in the nearby idyllic and yet somehow spooky Montreat conference center. They invited GMs and players from far and wide to run all manner of spooky games. Some were on theme by their very nature like Call of Cthulhu, Dread, and Ghostbusters. Others had appropriately themed scenarios, despite not being creepy themselves like D&D, DCC, Star Wars, Shadowrun etc.

This year I got to play in both a Dread and a Ghostbusters game. If you are looking for something appropriate for the holiday to do with your gaming group this year, I would highly recommend checking these out. First up: Ghostbusters.

Tgbrpgstarterhe version we played is still basically the version that West End Games released in 1986. It has been out of print forever, but thanks to the magic of the internet you can find all the files you need at Ghostbusters International. Thanks to the Nerdy Show running a podcast called Ghostbusters Resurrection, they have produced updated equipment decks and ghost dice, as well as some updated and expanded rules. The system is d6-based and very easy to pick up. You can play one of the iconic ghostbusters from the original movie, or do what we did and play yourself. There are only four traits in the 1986 version: Brains, Muscles, Moves, and Cool. Each is assigned a number from 1 to 5, and you have 12 points total to spend between the four traits. Each trait has talents associated that are more specific. For instance, Venkman’s talents are Parapsychology, Brawl, Seduce, and Bluff. These each have a number associated with them that represent the number of d6 you roll when testing that skill. Once you declare an action, the GhostMaster has you roll the number of d6 associated with the appropriate trait and (if applicable) skill. If your total is higher than the target number the GM sets, you succeed.

There is a twist in the form of the Ghost die. One of your d6s for any check must be a ghost die. If it results in the iconic ghostbuster symbol, something bad happens. If you come up with a ghost but beat the target number you still succeed but with a complication. For example, you are deploying a ghost trap, but you step on the switch sideways and now it is jammed open and must be manually shut. If you roll a ghost and fail the check, you fail with a complication analogous to rolling a 1 in D&D and similar systems.

Your character also has brownie points which you can spend to add extra d6s to a check. You can also earn brownie points at the GMs discretion. Once you earn 30 you can increase one of your traits by one. Equipment is handled by the equipment deck. Your character can only take 3 cards with them on any job so choose wisely! This is a fun way to deal with encumbrance and allow your busters to make smart, or at very least hilarious, choices about gear.

Our intrepid GM for Scarefest did some research about local spooky events in Asheville and based our scenario around Highland Hospital and the tragic death of Zelda Fitzgerald. Doing a little bit of research about local ghost stories or tragedies in your area can add a lot of local color to the game. I would highly recommend throwing a few bucks at the Nerdy Show to pick up an equipment deck and ghost die from their starter kit and get to busting ghosts!

dread2016Next up: Dread. This is an RPG that uses a Jenga tower for action resolution. Diceless RPGs can elicit opinions from both fervent supporters and detractors, but stick with me (pun intended). Dread starts with a questionnaire for players that allow them to decide attributes about their character. Questions like: What is your most prized possession? Describe the last time you were bullied. How did you react? What is your biggest fear? What was your proudest moment? All of these questions are not about the player themselves, but the character they wish to portray for the scenario. Once the Host (GM) has read the questionnaires and taken a few notes on each, the game begins.

When players take an action that may be challenging or is thematically interesting if they fail, the Host may ask that character to make a pull from the Jenga tower to succeed. Jumping across a pit? Using an improvised weapon to fend off an enemy? Attempting first aid without supplies? All are good opportunities for a pull. Our Host also used this for perception if something was unclear. He would tell the character what they think they saw, and a pull would give them more information or certainty. If the tower falls, your character dies. Potentially, the characters could be incapacitated or removed in some other way, but most typically the consequence is death. As one might expect, this is very easy early on in the game, and becomes increasingly difficult as the game goes on.

Several scenarios are included with the RPG itself. We played one called 13, in which we were kids at a sleepover that woke up in an old strange house. The house had no windows, and seemed to be very old. Events got quite a bit creepier from there, seemingly just as the Jenga tower grew more unstable. As we made a pull, the host would usually be right over our shoulder whispering about our character’s insecurities or just about the stakes of the action itself during the pull. This really heightened the atmosphere and added to the tension in the game. Once one character was eliminated, our Host made several pulls to keep the danger level appropriate for the time we had remaining in the game. In the Rules As Written, remaining players take turns making pulls removing 3 blocks for each character that has been removed so far. Characters may also make a heroic sacrifice and, with the Host agreeing it would be appropriate, push the tower over on purpose. Unlike accidentally collapsing the tower, the character succeeds at their task, but is still eliminated from the game.

I highly recommend this game for this time of year, but it could be fun any time you and your gaming group wants to have a tense, horror-themed game. The entire table couldn’t help but cheer at precarious, successful pulls and cry out in anguish as the tower finally fell. When is the last time your entire table cheered or screamed at a die roll? Pick up the 167 page PDF for $12 or soft-cover book for $24 plus shipping. Pick up a Jenga tower, and have a very memorable game night!

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The Sinister Sutures of the Sempstress Review DCC

October 17, 2016 Comments off

sempstressThe 2016 Halloween modules from Goodman Games has arrived and it is awesome! We will get in to some minor spoilers, so this review is geared towards judges looking for something to run either in the coming weeks, or any time you want to run something in the horror genre. This adventure is decidedly creepy with a nice insanity mechanic appropriately termed “unraveling”.

This is your final warning, players look away! You will suffer dire corruption if you don’t close this page now!

Just us judges? OK – Michael Curtis did an amazing job with this adventure. This one starts with a theme about closets/wardrobes/drawers acting as portals between worlds, and has the party (who may be in the same place, or entirely different planes) called to the pocket dimension of the House of Tattered Remnants, home and prison of the Sempstress. It is digest-sized and weighs in at 20 pages, so is perfect for a convention slot, or one-shot for the holiday.

The Sempstress was banished to this pocket dimension ages ago by ancestors of the party. She sent her minions through the various seemly mundane closets or wardrobes to exact revenge on the heroes for her imprisonment. The PCs give chase and emerge in the House of Tattered Remnants. This horror house is filled with creepy challenges and mood-setting details. One of my favorite features of this adventure is the unraveling mechanic. Each PC starts with a stability score equal to their personality stat. If the PCs see something mindbogglingly horrific, they make a DC 10 Will save. On a fail, they lose a point of stability. Once it drops below 10, PCs start manifesting physical signs of unraveling which acts similar to corruption for wizards. Most of them aren’t debilitating, but represent the character losing grip on reality in this twisted pocket dimension.

There are a nice mix of encounters and traps, and the gore level is just right for my tastes: present, but not over-the-top. Another excellent feature in this adventure is a nod to classic haunted houses. Clever PCs will search for an artifact that was discarded in vats of spare body parts the Sempstress uses to create her minions. Prepared judges can blind fold a player and physically have them search in bowls peeled grapes as eyeballs and peeled tomatoes as hearts, etc. to find the representation of the artifact in real life. Such a great idea!

The final battle with the sempstress herself looks to be quite challenging, even for the 6th level PCs recommended for the adventure. She will likely have a pair of Reality Tailor allies that cast spells using set numbers rather than rolling a spell check result. Those numbers descend over subsequent rounds, but between unraveling checks from the Sempstress and her ability to stitch heroes to themselves or stitch her own wounds, this will be a boss battle to remember!

I may just print out a few 6th level pre-gens for ScareFest this weekend. It seems like the perfect venue for this spooky adventure! If you’ve got a seasonally appropriate game night coming up and are looking for a memorable adventure, head to the House of Tattered Remnants. Just don’t become unraveled!

Categories: Adventure, DCCRPG, holiday, Reviews, RPGs

Scarefest Preview

October 20, 2015 Comments off

scarefest3-logo2-horizontal1This weekend in Black Mountain, Scarefest 2015 brings an awesome weekend of gaming to the campus of Montreat! Tons of RPG sessions and board-gaming from the 23rd to the 25th, and a $10 pass gets you a seat at the table for all three days. The outstandingly active Asheville Pathfinder Lodge would hold a Halloween-themed costume game event that started as one day at our Friendly Local Gaming Store the Wyvern’s Tale, in subsequent years grew in to a weekend of gaming, and this year has expanded to it’s own location.

Like previous years there will be lots of Pathfinder Society sessions, including the “specials” that are typically only run at big conventions and include coordination of several concurrent tables of players working together towards a common goal. This year, the scope of Scarefest has expanded to include other RPGs like D&D Adventurer’s League organized play, as well as Dungeon Crawl Classics and Star Wars (both run by yours truly), and World of Darkness (can’t get more on-theme than that!), Shadowrun, several flavors of Savage Worlds, Bolt Action, Dread, Numenera, and a truly impressive collection of board games. Once you’ve purchased your ticket, sign up for games on the event’s warhorn.

Scarefest-MainPromo-webI’ll be representing DCC with two adventures: The 13th Skull and Bride of the Black Manse.

13th Skull synopsis: Thirteen generations ago, the ambitious first Duke of Magnussen made a fell pact with an unknown power, who asked for but one thing in return: the thirteenth daughter born to a Magnussen duke. Now, generations hence, the daughter of Duke Magnussen XIII is stolen away by a hooded executioner riding a leathery beast. As it wings back across the city walls to drop behind the Duke’s mountain-top keep, all who watch know it alights in the Magnussen family crypts, where the devilish secrets of thirteen generations have been buried and forgotten – until now…

Bride of the Black Manse synopsis: Centuries past, Lady Ilse ascended to scion of House Liis by trading the archdevil Mammon what he wanted most: her immortal soul – and a diabolical betrothal. The triumph proved hollow, for every year on the eve of her fell covenant, she was beset by visions of Mammon and her foul promise. Seeking to save herself, she was buried alive, swaddled in the holy symbols of a dozen divergent faiths. This desperate ploy held Mammon at bay for centuries…but a devil can afford to wait a very long time.

After hundreds of years, the last of the holy wards has fallen. The devil has come to collect his due. Tonight a storm crashes against the ancient manor house and forgotten spirits rise from the muck and mire. The fallen belfry tolls once more, announcing the hellish fete. As the adventurers arrive to explore the Black Manse, Mammon calls for his winsome bride. He will leave with a soul at the end of the night. The only question is: Whose?

The Star Wars adventure I’m running caught my ear on the Order 66 podcast from d20 radio. They created a horror-themed Star Wars adventure that features the “fear check” mechanic, and should be really fun to run! Not many people would associate Star Wars with a creepy Halloween gaming event, but Ice Station Zulu does well to bring some darkness and fear to a galaxy far, far away.

It looks like quite the impressive line-up, and is a pretty awesome value. Come out this weekend and roll some dice! Costumes are highly encouraged, but not required. See you there!

Dungeons and Donations

December 8, 2014 Comments off

This post, brought to you by Guest Blogger, and resident gamer girl, Brett!

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Greetings Gamers!
Would you like to give back a little this Holiday season? Pay it forward? Do the right thing? Milk of human kindness and all that stuff! It’s called DUNGEONS & DONATIONS!

Our local Gaming establishment – The Wyvern’s Tale, is having a 24 hour Pen and Paper Game-a-Thon for the Children’s Miracle Network! HERE’S THE BLURB!

 
The evil lich Acererak has kidnapped the children of Greyhawk, and holds them hostage within his Tomb of Horrors! Heroes throughout the land journey to their rescue–will you answer the call?

 
We’ll be running a 24-hour live Twitch stream of heroes trekking through the classic deadly adventure module Tomb of Horrors! $5 gets you a seat at the table, but how long can you hold it? If the perils of the Tomb prove too lethal for your character, you’ll have to pay to keep your seat–or yield to the next player in line!

 
Spectators will have the option to donate various amounts to help or hinder the party on their path. Will you give them the boon of a much-needed potion of healing–or would you rather send them a Beholder instead?

 
ALL money raised will go to Extra Life, benefiting Children’s Miracle Network! Come join us for 24 hours of perilous (and charitable) fun! Our Extra Life page is here

 
As a personal note, I’ve contributed to several Extra Life 24 hour game-a-paloozas, hosted by TheZestyMan and emilieraptor on Twitch. I’ve even been in a few of them, though never hosted one myself. If you have a tiny bit of tech savvy and are willing, it’s a great way to help out the Children’s Miracle Network.

 
You don’t have to watch all 24 hours, but checking in every now-and-again to see how your favorite heroes are doing is a lot of fun!
p.s. – The Twitch app for Android works pretty well. (Editor’s note: and iOS!)

DCC Leprechauns!

March 17, 2014 Comments off

271px-Leprechaun_ill_artlibre_jnlJust in time for St. Patrick’s Day, we present a new twist on an old favorite for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG: The Leprechaun!

Leprechaun Init +2, Atk shillelagh +2 melee (1d6); AC 17; HD 3d6; MV 20′; Act 1d20; SP invoke patron (The King of Elfland) at 1d20+5; SV Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +2; AL C. Patron spells: Forest Walk and War Horn of Elfland (caster level 5). Always found with triple treasure.

Leprechauns are small fey creatures in service to The King of Elfland as guardians of His Fey Majesty’s treasures. Typically found at the end of a rainbow in deep forest glades, these seemingly friendly creatures look like small elves wearing green garb and shiny black boots, but are ferocious if confronted — fighting to the death to protect their hoard. Capriciously, however, they do sometimes seek out adventurers to play tricks upon. Even after their defeat, the pernicious magic of Elfland can reach out and curse anyone who steals from the King: the first person to touch any part of a leprechaun’s hoard (which is usually kept in an iron cauldron) will be affected by The King of Elfland’s patron taint (spellcasters roll 1d6, non-spellcasters roll 1d5).

Speaking of Dungeon Crawl Classics (and Goodman Games)… they are currently seeking funding via Kickstarter for next year’s World Tour. In 2013, the “Band” of DCC RPG creative team ran games at different conventions around the country, and fans and GMs were given free swag to support events at local game stores and conventions. There’s a lot of chances to get some cool swag for you and your group as well as games ran by “The Band” and even *drumroll* A WIZARD VAN! Sounds like a great opportunity to increase the play of DCC in your area.

Categories: DCCRPG, holiday, kickstarter

Pathfinder Christmas Carol – Free Adventure

December 16, 2013 Comments off

08The Skyland Games elves have been busy crafting a holiday treat! Steve has updated our old DnD 4E Christmas Carol adventure for Pathfinder! Not only that, he included some of the new playtest material from the Advanced Class Guide. The updated version replaces the skill challenge with a chase, and features updated maps and detailed stat-blocks of the baddies.

It’s a 2nd-level adventure designed for two PCs. The holidays can be a tough time to get the gaming group together. This adventure is designed for when you can only muster a few of the regulars. To get it, check out the free downloads page, and happy holidays!

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town!

December 25, 2012 Comments off
The jolly old elf is making his rounds tonight and I began to wonder…  What would St. Nick look like as a Pathfinder player character?  What if he had joined the Pathfinder Society?  Check out the stat block below to see an interpretation of Kris Kringle as a Pathfinder Society legal character.  How close is this to your vision of Santa?  Would you go a different route and do something completely different (race, class, etc.)?
Let me know what you think and feel free to comment!  Merry Christmas!
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Santa Claus (aka St. Nick, Kris Kringle)
Male Elf Grand Lodge Wizard (Spellbinder) 1
LG Medium Humanoid (elf)
Init +2; Senses low-light vision; Perception +3
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Defense
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AC 12, touch 12, flat-footed 10 (+2 Dex)
HP 8 (1d6+1)
Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +3; +4 trait bonus vs. cold environments, +1 trait bonus vs. cold
Immune sleep; Resist cold 5
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Offense
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Speed 20 ft.
Spell-Like Abilities Comprehend Languages (1/day), Detect Magic (1/day), Detect Poison (1/day), Read Magic (1/day)
Wizard (Spellbinder) Spells Prepared (CL1):
1 (2/day) Mage Armor, Icicle Dagger, Vanish
0 (at will) Ghost Sound (DC 13), Resistance, Prestidigitation (DC 13)
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Statistics
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Str 14, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 11
Base Atk +0; CMB +2; CMD 14
Feats Bloatmage Initiate (Conjuration), Spell Focus (Conjuration)
Traits Frostborn, Improvisational Equipment
Skills Acrobatics -1 (-5 jump), Climb -1, Craft (Toys) +7, Escape Artist -1, Fly -1, Knowledge (arcana) +7, Knowledge (engineering) +7, Linguistics +7, Perception +3, Ride -1, Spellcraft +7, Stealth -1, Swim -1
Languages Celestial, Common, Draconic, Elven, Gnome, Sylvan
SQ arcane focus, create gear (1 lbs.) (6/day), opposition schools (evocation, transmutation), specialized
schools (creation), spell bond (vanish), summoner’s charm (+1 rds)
Other Gear Cold weather outfit, Artisan’s Tools (Craft Toys), Holly and mistletoe, Pathfinder’s kit, Pony, Sleigh (empty), 3 GP
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Special Abilities
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Arcane Focus +2 to concentration checks to cast arcane spells defensively.
Bloatmage Initiate (Conjuration) +1 caster level with a specific school of spells. Always considered to have a medium load.
Comprehend Languages (Envoy) (1/day) (Sp) with Intelligence 11+, cast Comprehend Languages once per day.
Create Gear (1 lbs.) (6/day) (Su) Create spell, simple objects that will fade away in 1 minute (or 1r after they leave your possession).
Creation Associated School: Conjuration
Damage Resistance, Cold (5) You have the specified Damage Resistance against Cold attacks.
Detect Magic (Envoy) (1/day) (Sp) With Intelligence 11+, cast Detect Magic once per day.
Detect Poison (Envoy) (1/day) (Sp) With Intelligence 11+, cast Detect Poison once per day.
Elven Immunities – Sleep You are immune to magic sleep effects.
Evocation You must spend 2 slots to cast spells from the Evocation school.
Frostborn You gain a +4 trait bonus on any saving throws made to resist the effects of cold environments, as well as a +1 trait bonus on all saving throws against cold effects.
Low-Light Vision See twice as far as a human in low light, distinguishing color and detail.
Read Magic (Envoy) (1/day) (Sp) With Intelligence 11+, cast Read Magic once per day.
Spell Bond (Vanish) Can spontaneously cast bonded spell by sacrificing a prepared spell.
Spell Focus (Conjuration) Spells from one school of magic have +1 to their save DC.
Summoner’s Charm (+1 rds) (Su) Increase duration of summoning spells by 1/2 level (permanent at 20).
Transmutation You must spend 2 slots to cast spells from the Transmutation school.
Categories: holiday, Paizo, Pathfinder, Pregens, RPGs