Dimensions in Character Part 2

New game, new character, new ways of doing things. If you’re trying out a new system, why not play something completely opposite of your regular fare? Do something new while doing something new. Bend, twist, and try to explore character creation in new and fun ways.

One year ago I wrote an article about character backgrounds.

I think it’s important to revisit that topic since a lot of new characters are being made these days. Myself included, by the way. I’m popping out characters for all sorts of things I want to try. It’s a great way to get introduced to a new game.

As a GM, it also helps to make a few characters so you can help the players make characters during or after session zero. It also gives a chance to survey the core or players book in a little more depth. I don’t know about most GMs, but I hate getting blindsided when someone creates a completely broken character.

When I started with Pathfinder 2E a few short years ago, I went out of my way to come up with characters that would push the character creation rules to their breaking point. No, I don’t mean straight 18s and max hp.

Balanced characters aren’t always fun characters.

Some of my favorite characters have been the ones with quirky stats. Dungeon Crawl Classics is a perfect game for this because of the 0 Level funnel. The even funnier part is when a character with the dumpiest stats possible lives to become an epic adventurer. There are a lot of nice things to be said for random rolls. Bad dice rolls make a player explore things their character is terrible at as well as the one or two excellent ones,

For games with stat buy or points distributions, I don’t recommend min/maxing. I know a fair share of players probably do, Then again, my tried and true method of taking the average stat and then distributing the rest of the points evenly doesn’t appeal much after the first character. It helps really learn the system and character creation, though.

It can be a lot of fun to do weird things that the system doesn’t specifically recommend. I love moments of “It doesn’t say I ‘can’t’ do it so much as it just doesn’t recommend it.” Hi, I’m a werewolf with a high degree of acting skills on the character. It doesn’t exactly break the game, but people will ask why all around the table.

Likewise it’s also fun to distribute attributes and/or things that a “normal” character for that type would never logically do. My rogue in one game is a pro at flower arranging. It just sounded funny. I have a Champion character in Pathfinder 2E that hates heavy armor.

Strange bedfellows.

Think about how many movies or TV shows where the main characters wouldn’t have likely associated with one another had it not been for tragic and bizarre circumstances. It’s okay to play a heavily nuanced, square peg in a room full of round characters so long as there is a motivation to be with the group. Odd or dire circumstances make for strange bedfellows.

If you plan to play an oddball character, work it out with the GM and the group ahead of time. Cooperation goes a long way. It’s one of those cool things to bring up during Session Zero to avoid throwing a total curveball at the group.

I was once in a Star Wars game where our two newest players were a pacifist farmer and a civil engineer. How did they get lumped in with a bunch of fighter pilots, commandos, and gruff smugglers? We probably should have worked it out ahead of time. (Cringe.) Rebellions do make for strange teams, though.

Final thoughts.

One doesn’t have to make a statistically broken min/max character for every game. Sometimes having a strange, quirky character with a lot of personality and diverse skills is a lot of fun. As a GM, I love that kind of stuff over the maxed- out 300 lb combat gorilla. Sometimes freakishly random just makes for a more interesting role playing experience, especially in a game system that’s new to almost everyone at the table.

I encourage everyone making new characters to go out on a limb for a change. If you’re the shy, quiet character type- make the raging, muscle-headed barbarian for once. If you are a min-maxer, roll random or just drop skills the archetype wouldn’t normally use. If you’re used to playing totally freaky characters, make a normal-ish, well-rounded everyman character. Break out of your normal shell and experiment with new personalities and unusual character builds,.

Role playing is about experimenting with character types and personalities different from our own. If you can be anything, why not be a pixie ninja with a serious dislike of the un-dead? It’s okay to play weird characters. I dare say most GMs will love you for it.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Keep on gaming!

Dungeon Master Shortage? WHAT?!?

Matt Mercer is a great guy to the best of my knowledge. Critical Role is a great show. The world of Exandria is packed with detail and adventure. BUT, do you know what? Your campaign or adventure can be just as much fun. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Just have fun.

There’s a rumor going around (on YouTube and social media) that there’s a shortage of Dungeon Masters for 5th Edition.

Since when? Let’s dispel some myths, okay? I can’t even believe this is a discussion. I remember a time when there were too many DMs and not enough players. This situation is puzzling to me.

There should never be a shortage of Dungeon Masters unless we’re talking about a convention or an Adventurer’s League game night at the Friendly Local Game Store. Even then, somebody can often find a player or players willing to step in and run a session or two.

Otherwise, once you have an idea of what D&D is supposed to look like either as a player or by being a spectator- Just jump in and do the thing. Okay, plan ahead a little bit first, but otherwise don’t be afraid.

When you’re a DM, edition does not matter.

You might need this, but probably not.

There’s this ridiculous myth that being a D&D5E DM is somehow more difficult than every other edition before it. I’m here to tell you it’s not. Yes, I know what it says in the Dungeon Masters Guide. There’s a reason why one of the goals in the new One D&D is to rewrite the DMG to make it “new DM friendly.”

Keep your DMG handy for some of the basic world info and magic items. The rest is, umm… filler? Otherwise, shuck the whole thing and wing it. Yes, I’m serious. Maybe prior editions of D&D were slightly easier to run, but it’s all very similar. Again, not nearly as hard as some might make it sound.

How to dive into the deep end of the piranha tank head first.

So, you want to be a DM for your group, but you don’t know how.

  1. Play a session or two of the game, hopefully with an experienced DM. Or watch some Actual Play on YouTube or some such just to get an idea of what Non Player Characters are like, how combat flows, what characters generally do on their turns, and so on.
  2. Spend a little time reading the Monster Manual and the Player’s Handbook.
  3. Third, make some notes for yourself about what kinds of encounters you want to see or a story you might want to tell with your players. And/OR read through any premade adventure module you’re planning to use. (*Note: You do NOT have to memorize every single detail. Just try to remember key details and keep it handy during the game to look stuff up.)
  4. Please do a Session Zero with your group if you haven’t already. (If anyone tells you to skip this part, they’re wrong. Get to know the players, maybe engage while they make characters. Get a feel for everyone’s character backstories. Maybe jot down some NPC ideas to work into your game.
  5. Remember, as a DM you define what the group senses seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and even tasting. You’re also the member of the group that creates the ground they walk on and everyone they meet that isn’t a Player Character. You don’t need details for most of the NPCs beyond maybe a name, a little personality, and some kind of basic description. Please make notes of any significant NPCs, monsters, and terrain the group might encounter during your first adventure.
  6. Get the group together and run the adventure.
  7. Relax! Have fun with it. Eat snacks, roll dice, and be prepared to come up with things on the fly if need be. Remember, we all have to start somewhere.
  8. Remember, you don’t need to know every rule. If something comes up and you don’t know/can’t find the answer then do what you think is best. Make a note, and figure it out after the game. Also, have a basic idea of what the character skill list looks like and what the Difficulty Class chart looks like. If you have a DM Screen, the chart should be on there. You can also keep a blank character sheet nearby to reference the skills.
    Don’t be afraid to ask the players for thoughts and suggestions when handling things like skill checks and combat. Sometimes players can outline actions and all the DM needs to do is set the skill difficulty. Or if the player has an idea for something that isn’t already defined by the rules, let them try it by just talking their way through it. (Most social encounters don’t need to be a roll.)
  9. Try to keep combats simple for your first game. If using an adventure written by someone else, try to remember how many and where they are located at the start of combat. Not every creature fights to the death and most intelligent beings can be reasoned-with.
  10. Keep the characters surroundings in mind. Is it a prairie? A forest? Does the tavern smell of fresh apple pie or burnt mutton? Has the innkeeper had a bath recently? Does the gruel taste more like watery flour or oatmeal? Is the floor of the dungeon covered in a thin layer of dust? You don’t have to describe everything, but please give the group a basic idea of where they are and what’s going on around them.
  11. Make notes of what treasure, if any, is awarded. I recommend using milestone leveling for new DMs. It’s quicker than trying to calculate eXperience Points for everything. (XP is part of the advanced course.)
  12. After the game, talk to your group. Ask them to be gentle with their feedback. (I have social anxiety, so I worry a lot.) Try to take their feedback into consideration the next time you run the game. Hopefully everyone had a good time.
You got this!

With love and respect to Matt Mercer, you don’t have to be him.

Luckily, Matt doesn’t read my blog. No one is perfect the first time they run a D&D game. You don’t have to have a different funny voice for every NPC, just make sure the players know who is talking and when. Pitch, tone, and pace for NPC will come later. (*Maybe we’ll have an advanced class article sometime.)

Matt Mercer is a great guy to the best of my knowledge. Critical Role is a great show. The world of Exandria is packed with detail and adventure. BUT, do you know what? Your campaign or adventure can be just as much fun. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Just have fun.

The Matt Mercer Effect is nonsense. Most players aren’t going to expect a brand new DM to be like Matt. And if they do, they probably shouldn’t be playing under a new DM. Or they should try running the game before they get too picky.

Dungeon Mastering can be a little challenging at times, but ultimately rewarding.

Yes, being a good DM sometimes requires a bit of prep work. Not everything will always go off 100% as planned. Sh*t is going to happen sometimes. It’s nothing to get bent out of shape over. You’re going to make mistakes. Players are going to make mistakes. Just roll with it, move on, and have fun.

I’ve been at this for 40 years, much of it behind the DM/GM screen. I’ve been around for 5+ editions of D&D and more other RPGs than I can count. Trust me when I say it gets easier with practice. Anyone can run a game. It’s not exactly rocket surgery. It just takes a little desire first.

Remember, you can always improvise. The group goes west instead of east. Okay. Who do they meet? Throw the adventure to the side and just ask the players where they want to go and what they want to do. Eventually, they will run onto an adventure. They will wander into encounters.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Have fun with your first time as a DM. Your fellow DMs have been there and we all love you for trying. Who knows? You may find you like it better than (just) being a player.

YES! You made it!

How Much is Too Much?

My caring, Universal love oriented advice to my fellow DMs is do what works best for your group and your campaign. I say that frequently because it’s true. You, your players and your campaign matters to you or you wouldn’t be a DM. That conversation about what you’re comfortable with is so crucial at the start of a campaign nowadays.

Let’s talk about species in Dungeons & Dragons.

I wanted to add a couple of things to yesterday’s article about species in D&D that I left out. I know another outrage in the TTRPG community is that Wizards of the Coast is adding even more new species to the game. While I’m not opposed, there are a couple of points I’d like to make about it.

*Editor’s Note: Since this article is focused on D&D, I’m going to use Dungeon Master (DM) as my Game Master reference throughout. Other D&D nomenclature and references may occur throughout as well. I am referring to the game throughout. Any out-of-game references will be noted as such.

First, I think personal preferences as a DM should matter. Second, if everything is playable as a species, what’s a monster? Third, why ever play a regular human again? Last, I think we should look at the bigger D&D picture.

As a Dungeon Master, it’s MY table.

That sounds kinda brutal. At the end of the day, it’s true. DMs build the world, create the NPCs, run the monsters, and hand out the loot. The DM gets to set which species are allowed and which are maybe frowned upon.

That’s what Session Zero and conversations during character creation are all about. I literally handed the equivalent of a syllabus on my campaign world to my players once. It sounds heavy handed in retrospect. My expectations were clearm, though. There was still plenty of room for negotiation in character generation, though.

Now that I’m older, I do things differently. The game has evolved. My thought process and approach to the game have changed. That having been said, I still love my campaign world and I’m a little hesitant to cart blanche allow every species there could ever be as a Player Character option.

My caring, Universal love oriented advice to my fellow DMs is do what works best for your group and your campaign. I say that frequently because it’s true. You, your players and your campaign matters to you or you wouldn’t be a DM. That conversation about what you’re comfortable with is so crucial at the start of a campaign nowadays.

Personally, I try my best to keep it to the PHB species. I’m very used to the core Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Half Elf, Half Orc, and rarely a Dragonborn or Tiefling. (*Now watch me have to go in and edit because I forgot one.) If someone comes wanting to play a Goliath Barbarian, I’ll probably allow it.

The only catch is, I then have to work Goliaths into my world somewhere. It’s not hard. There are countless unaccounted-for species. Many haven’t been encountered. Most of the other bipedal humanoid species won’t think much of it in terms of appearance. Sure, why not?

My second point: What’s a monster?

I hear this a lot from the Old Grognards online: If everything out there is now a playable species, then what constitutes a monster? I’ve asked myself this question in the past as well. Or another quote from an Old Grognard is, “I don’t want my campaign world looking like the creature cantina from Star Wars.”

I think “monster” is defined by intent and attitude. Size and strength might weigh in. Coldhearted malevolence defines monsters, to be sure. But it’s not always as obvious with bipedal humanoid species and it’s not a stereotype.

Sorry Old Dudes, gone are the days of –
Player: I smash the Orc in the face with my axe. What’s he got?
DM: 8 xp, 1sp, 2cp, a well used dagger, an old short sword, second rate banded mail. His buddies make a moral check and the fight continues…

Gone are the senseless monster beatings of old. “Look, an Orc. Kill it!”
Sure, dragons are still dragons. Unless somehow the “friendly” Black Adult Dragon decides to negotiate with the party and convince them she means no harm. Thankfully, the days of murder-based experience points are gone as well. One D&D is probably going to be milestone based leveling if I had to guess.

But where does that leave my campaign world? I’m not fond of my main homlet’s in looking like a long alphabetical list of species patrons, no offense toward anybody. Just as there are racists and negative reactions to beings humans don’t recognize in the real world, shouldn’t there be some separation and duality in my fantasy world. If we’re all going to sit around and hold hands, what’s the point of playing D&D?

That’s not to say everyone is hostile, xenophobic, or hateful toward other species, either. We aren’t forced to think along Tolkien-esque lines. Maybe the Orcs are friendly and outgoing. Maybe Goblins are extremely literate and well-mannered. Perhaps those nasty little Gnomes are the scourge of civilized lands.

Earthdawn, a classic FASA game, has all the usual suspects and friendly Orks, Trolls, T’skrang (Lizardfolk,) Obsidimen (similar to D&D Goliaths) and Windlings (Faeries.) In that world, most of the tensions are among political lines aside from the unknown Horrors still lurking about. I mention this because the races in my homebrew world borrow heavily from that pool.

But, suppose Aarakocra never evolved on my world. As a DM, I’m not keen on my PCs being able to fly at lower levels. If a player came to me with a good reason and a solid backstory, I’d probably let it fly. On the other hand, if I thought it was a player trying to min/max their way to victory and this was just one more tactic to get there? Sorry. Vetoed.

I have a soft “no” list of species in the back of my mind. I’m not sure I want to list them all out because I don’t want my players to get any ideas. My oldest is running a Tiefling in my 5E game. He was raised believing he was a Half Orc and has only recently discovered his demonic roots. Normally I probably wouldn’t have allowed it, but the whole thing works perfectly with his backstory.

Right now, there isn’t a hard “no” list. My world is populated on a rough percentage of common species. Elves, Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, then there are odds and ends such as Orcs, Windlings, etc. For the most part everyone divides along political lines more than species.

In light of recent One D&D changes, I’m going to remove any of the old stereotypes and prejudices. Killing an Orc outright would be as unthinkable as killing the Elf next to your character. Again, that’s not to say everyone gets along, but the old enmity is gone. Drowpocalypse cancelled.

Humans? Why?

My last point goes back to an old discussion around the D&D table. I never much cared for the race-as-class approach in older D&D editions and games such as Old School Essentials and Dungeon Crawl Classics. It’s still an option, but why?

Designers tried to make Human characters more appealing by capping other species. I’m glad those days are gone for D&D along with the sad, terrible level caps. “Whadya mean my Elf can’t go above Level 10 in Cavalier?”

It’s the old question of why bother playing a Human. Elves have far superior infravision. Dwarves are stout and do cool earthy stuff. Cat girls are pretty attractive in every anime ever. Humans are the species we know best because most/all of us play that role daily out in the real world. In terms of in-game statistical advantages? Humans can be pretty mopey.

Nowadays in the One D&D rules, Humans really kinda get the shaft. The rules indicate that Humans are prolific and resourceful as a species, but that having been said? Wouldn’t most people rather play an Ardling, Goliath, or Dragonborn? Humans can’t even innately breathe fire. (Sad, really.) I’m leaving the balance issue to the fine minds at WotC for now.

Personally, I’m scaling back the percentage of Humans on my world to make room for the Ardlings and other new species in the game. While there will still be plenty of Elves and Dwarves to go around, the more unique species will be more common than before. Mostly it just means Humans are kinda mopey and Orcs are no longer terminate on sight. I’m less inclined to want to discriminate against any species in-game. (*Certainly never hating on anyone in the real world, either.)

One final thought for everyone to consider: If we’re all freaking out about “species” vs “race,” what is WotC doing that they maybe didn’t want us to comment on or follow closely? Maybe it’s nothing sketchy, but maybe it’s something they want to put straight into the new book without unfavorable commentary.

Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate you! Keep up the good work.

Monstober Day 27: Judge.

It’s all fun and games until you go from “Not guilty” to “Please lock me up.”

A Monster of the Week challenge.

Intro: A Reptilian hybrid in Des Moines, IA has managed to wriggle her way up through the ranks and become a judge. She’s now dispensing “justice” according to what her Reptilian masters have ordained. Unfortunately, she’s also become more bloodthirsty as time goes on.

Day: Judge Julie Latch lets certain specific criminals loose on orders in a plain white envelope given to her by her courtroom deputy. Her overseers give the orders, she follows them. Some of the criminals who are released are of special interest to the Reptilians. Anyone who questions Judge Latch is silenced by outside influences and manipulations.

It comes to the group’s attention that someone who was recently arrested because of their actions has just been released from jail on a technicality.

Shadows: Judge Latch starts questioning some of her orders. She becomes increasingly annoyed that some of the worst criminals are, in fact, being cycled through her court and given a free pass. Something begins hunting criminals down shortly after their release.

Sunset: Judge Latch excessively sentences a criminal to jail against her orders. Her overseers order her to take administrative leave. Her three hench people depart with her. A conflict between Reptilians and hybrids begins. The human pawns are caught in the middle.

Nightfall: Latch and her crew start killing and possibly feeding on criminals in the streets at night. It becomes obvious enough that the local news catches on before the Overseers can cover it up. Curfew is ordered by the Office of the Mayor. Police begin to actively patrol the streets, making it more difficult for anyone to do anything after 6:00 PM

Midnight: Latch and/or her hench people get caught on camera eating one of the criminals she let out on a technicality the week before. The Reptilian apocalypse begins. SCP has to be called in to contain the situation before it gets completely out of control.

This is my first go at creating a true MotW timeline. I still haven’t quite mastered monster generation. More on that when I get it figured out. Thanks for stopping by. More to come.

Promptober Day 21: Folklore

Folklore stories are super useful in RPGs. I totally recommend looking up history and lore in your own area. Sometimes it’s very enlightening outside of TTRPG contexts. I also recommend checking out some creepypasta stories on YouTube or other video app for inspiration and shivers.

Folklore has a lot of meaning in RolePlaying Games.

The strongest common feature of both Folk stories the RPGs is oral tradition. Stories of yore become folklore, passed down from one storyteller to the next. For example, my father told a story about a ghost raccoon that seemingly vanished into thin air in roughly the same place every time hunters got close. That story has passed down for three, maybe four generations now for certain.

The main difference is in RPGs, is we have oral tradition and storytelling, but purely based on fictional events that we create ourselves. Which is not to say the stories we create will never be passed on. Any time a gamer starts a story with “This one time in ____ game, we ran into …”

Every major RPG celeb I’ve ever met always starts the conversation with, “I don’t want to hear about your character.”

Let’s face it, every gamer has a favorite character that they usually default to talking about. I have campaign stories I love to tell, but I kinda read the room first. But I know game designers and TTRPG writers have heard a lot of stories and have tons of their own.

The Internet has kinda spoiled us.

Cell phones, laptops, social media, and search engines have sort of modified modern folklore. It’s not as much an oral tradition any more. The stories of everyday life throughout spreads and short videos have replaced longer oration and gatherings around the campfire. Prior to the Internet, it was TV and Radio.

Our #TTRPG stories still show up on blogs from time to time. I use many of them for two things. I create tons of folklore when I’m worldbuilding my fantasy campaign. I also do research on local history/folklore for Monster of the Week RPG to base various bizarre events upon.

Fantasy RPGs come alive with mythical folklore.

I know a lot of worldbuilding advice tells campaign creators, “Don’t go bonkers with pages upon pages of backstory.” However, I don’t believe that is totally correct. Even if I jot down one or two lines about a town or a landmark as my group encounters it, I still come up with some kind of local lore for it. In the real world, everything has a story behind it. Some are just more exciting than others.

Modern Horror games benefit from some research.

Almost every horror movie makes mention or even creates a story about some kind of Urban Legend. Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jigsaw, and so on all have stories surrounding them, their creation and their misdeeds. Halloween is the best time of year for local folklore because a lot of people have stories about the haunted house up the block or that thing they saw in the woods.

Even better is this lovely folklore-esque invention of Creepypasta. I know it’s a big thing on YouTube and elsewhere. People love scary stories. That’s why I love games such as Monster of the Week and SCP. They give us an excuse to pull out the scary stories in a way that doesn’t make people poop themselves and stay awake all night while camping. RPGs also don’t require a massive special effects budget and stunt actors the way horror films do. Creepypasta stories come to life in RPGs. I haven’t even mentioned Call of Cthulhu.

If I were to ever use Randonautica, I would be doing a lot of research on where this thing was taking me. A lot of freaky things are usually discovered at the end of a Randonautica adventure and I don’t like being caught completely off guard. I hear Rando is pretty much the next Ouija board, something else I don’t want to randomly fool around with. (*And advise everyone to use their own discernment as to whether or not Randonautica and/or Ouija are safe.)

Folklore stories are super useful in RPGs. I totally recommend looking up history and lore in your own area. Sometimes it’s very enlightening outside of TTRPG contexts. I also recommend checking out some creepypasta stories on YouTube or other video app for inspiration and shivers.

I hadn’t intended for this to become an entire article, but it’s an interesting subject. Folklore and story hooks/prompts go hand in hand. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate it. Have a great week.

Monstober Day 19: Pet

The question was always whether or not the witness PC was hallucinating or if Fluffy really was all that cursed/possessed. Whenever something bad or mysterious happened in another room, suspicion fell on Fluffy, even if it was in the same room as the group. Or was it? Bwa ha ha!

“What is up with this f&$%ing Cat?!?”

No stats on this one because it doesn’t need any. This is something I once pulled in a Call of Cthulhu game and it stuck. Since then, it has appeared in no fewer than three campaigns. I’ve used this bit with different animals, but it’s fun every time.

The lead into this is the group is either in possession of a cat or going to a location where the owners have a cat that takes a liking to a particular Player Character. (Preferably one that likes pets for their character.) The catch is, the animal is not entirely what it seems. The cat, Fluffy, becomes attached to the PC and stays close to them whenever they’re around.

Next, the Game Master picks a different PC than the one Fluffy is attached-to. Whenever the rest of the group’s attention is focused elsewhere, Fluffy will do something absolutely freaky, but only this one character will see it. The GM may even wish to pass the witnessing player a note describing what Fluffy does.

Now, this could potentially be a hallucination. It could be that Fluffy is cursed or even possessed. Maybe Fluffy is actually a corrupted avatar of Bast just messing with the mortals. Whatever is going on with Fluffy, only one character, the witness, ever sees this cat do anything weird.

It was a sure thing that if the witness PC called the cat out and tried to force Fluffy into doing something strange, nothing would happen. But as soon as the group’s back was turned, Fluffy would openly mock the witness. Fluffy never really hurt anyone overtly, and no one in the group ever put the kitty in danger. (Nor would we.)

The question was always whether or not the witness PC was hallucinating or if Fluffy really was all that cursed/possessed. Whenever something bad or mysterious happened in another room, suspicion fell on Fluffy, even if it was in the same room as the group. Or was it? Bwa ha ha!

Sometimes Fluffy was just a cat being a cat, too. Jumping up on counters, running around the room, randomly knocking stuff over, etc. You know? Things especially hyper but lovable Siamese cats tend to do normally.

Regardless, this type of pet situation makes for darned interesting role-playing. It doesn’t have to be related to anything the group is doing, and Fluffy can haunt the group long after it is found. Witness PC can eventually convince the group that there is, in fact, something going on with this feline. But, good luck getting Fluffy to go along with it.

Good times. Thanks for stopping by. Please be kind to animals in real life (and in game.) Even if kitty does act a little freaky.

Promptober Day 31: Forbidden Books.

This seemingly innocuous cookbook contains a variety of strange recipes that range from bizarre, maybe disgusting, to poisonous and all the way up to powerfully cursed. It may save lives in a pinch or even provide PCs some magical benefits. On the other hand, these recipes could lead to lots of trouble.

Sure we’ve heard of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, but what other scary books are there?

A few ideas for fantasy TTRPG book generation:
The Book of Shadows. Every witch has one. Some more frightening than others. Some hags would certainly have these on hand. An adventurer brave (or foolish) enough to interpret such a book would be privy to new spells. But at what cost?

Manual of Golem Creation. This tome contains all of the information needed to build a golem of one specific type. The question becomes how far would someone to go build one of these monstrosities?

Toben’s Spirit Guide. (*Editor’s Note. This book was inspired by a reference in the original 1984 Ghostbusters and subsequent RPG franchise. It can be found here.) This book contains references to dozens of spirits, ghosts, wraiths and spectres. For the unaware, it may also contain ways to summon them.

Spellbook of the Crazed Apprentice. This book was written by the seemingly unremarkable apprentice of a certain famous wizard whose title ended in “the Mad.” (*Watching out for copyrights on this one.) The apprentice improved upon or even perfected some spells. A player character casting them might suffer ill side effects.

Diary of a Death Knight. This simple journal holds an insidious secret. It contains the tales of a renowned paladin, his fall from prominence, and his eventual embrace of evil. Reading this book has a chance to corrupt or even convert a knight or warrior into one of these foul beings.

The Dark Cookbook. This seemingly innocuous cookbook contains a variety of strange recipes that range from bizarre, maybe disgusting, to poisonous and all the way up to powerfully cursed. It may save lives in a pinch or even provide PCs some magical benefits. On the other hand, these recipes could lead to lots of trouble.

The Alchemist’s Almanac. This book contains a variety of potion formulae. It is invaluable to alchemists and witches alike. Some versions of this book may contain twisted recipes for foul mutations and poisons as well. Characters may wish to use new formulae at their own risk.

The Book of Extradimensional Portals. This book is extremely thick and exceedingly rare. It contains magic rituals and in some cases locations for opening portals to other planes of existence. There is also a convenient appendix in the back containing banishment and portal sealing spells. One would be well advised to read the entire entry on any given portal before undertaking opening one.

The Accursed Memoir. Similar to the Diary of a Death Knight, this tome details a wizard’s creation of a phylactery and transformation into a lich. Wizard characters reading this can follow its step by step instruction to become a lich at their own peril. The last entry in the memoir describes the rush of power and further desire to gain even more power by becoming a demilich.

The Duplicitous Tome of the Diabolical Illusionist. (*This would make a good dungeon reward.) This tome is written in ink that glows faintly of magic. Some of the spells are illusory script. Some are sigils and glyphs intended to harm the reader. There are also powerful spells for an illusionist wizard who doesn’t lose their very mind trapped within its pages.

I didn’t list the Ogrenomicon, the Book of Ogres that I’m working on for Dungeon Crawl Classics. It will appear in the portfolio section of this site as soon as its ready. It’s my labor of love.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be catching up a lot of #Monstober and a few #Promptober entries in November. Lol! I appreciate your patience.

Promptober Day 29: Abandoned Locations.

In my game, Des Moines Remote Viewing society used Randonautica to find remote viewing targets for Brenda Hart, the group’s resident psychic and most gifted remote viewer. It was a good source of interesting new cases as well as leads on the ones the group was working on.

This is prime Monster of the Week fodder.

How to use an app like Randonautica without ever installing in real life: Create a series of tables describing how far one has to travel from current location, in which direction, and what they find when they get there.

In my game, Des Moines Remote Viewing society used Randonautica to find remote viewing targets for Brenda Hart, the group’s resident psychic and most gifted remote viewer. It was a good source of interesting new cases as well as leads on the ones the group was working on. The potential for spooky encounters in abandoned locations has always fascinated me.

DsMRVS also used Ouija boards a few times in an effort to locate specific spirits, but such attempts almost always inevitably backfired. Ouija boards are often employed in abandoned places to get a better sense of history of the sites. Of course, in MotW that usually involves a demon, angry witch, ghost, cryptid, or interdimensional being of some kind. Des Moines is legit chock full of abandoned locations in real life, so converting them to fiction for the setting is all kinds of fun.

For the record: I know of several abandoned locations in the real world. I do not go in them. I would also never throw down a Ouija board near them. You just never know what’s on the other side. That’s my opinion as a paranormal researcher and Extraterrestrial enthusiast. Do not F around and find out in some of these abandoned locations. You might get surprised.

Disclaimer: Please DO NOT ENTER an abandoned location in the real world unless you have the owner’s permission! No owner = No permission. Too many investigators get hurt, arrested, or go missing entirely while on abandoned properties. If you find an abandoned house, car, sewer entrance, or mine entrance in the real world- DO NOT GO IN THERE! The physical dangers alone should be discouragement.

This was one of the best prompts all month. I could go on for hours on this subject. Thank you for stopping by. As always I appreciate you being here with us. #ttrpgfamily Much love.

Promptober Day 27: Dark Castle.

Such a castle is likely the home to a dreadful Wizard, Knight Lord of Chaos, Greater Demon Lord, or Lich of immense power. The guards are likely to be heavily armored and heavily armed, possibly with magic. Within its corridors lurk all sorts of nasties- demons, undead, and humanoids warped by foul magicks. There could even be a dragon lurking within or nearby.

This is a BBEG dungeon waiting to happen.

I think this is probably one of the easiest prompts while at the same time one of the most challenging. This is the sort of thing I would expect to find either midway or toward the end of a campaign. The Dark Castle is normally home to monsters and villains of untold power.

“Dark Castle” conjures up a gigantic structure, a medieval castle of immense proportion. Its construction is probably mostly an obsidian block or possibly magically enchanted stone. It resembles a regular English, German, or Austrian castle from ages past in the real world, only surrounded by storms almost constantly. Its shiny black exterior is only illuminated by flashes of lightning, making the flags on the pinnacles almost unreadable.

Such a castle is likely the home to a dreadful Wizard, Knight Lord of Chaos, Greater Demon Lord, or Lich of immense power. The guards are likely to be heavily armored and heavily armed, possibly with magic. Within its corridors lurk all sorts of nasties- demons, undead, and humanoids warped by foul magicks. There could even be a dragon lurking within or nearby.

Mapping castles: the ultimate DM challenge.

Mapping out castles is more difficult than building any dungeon. Real life historical castles were enormous. Yes, floorplans of these huge stone structures are available online and in libraries. (Gasp! IKR? Like, big buildings that hold books in the real world.) But real world castles didn’t house wizards, demons, and dragons. And logistical matters? Pffft. Yay magic!

My advice to DMs is to either take advantages of RPG sourcebooks with castle maps and then kitbash in your own rooms as necessary, or draw some modular rooms for towers, quarters, chambers, etc and then design any special focus areas for specific encounters. Both options turn the castle into a sort of point crawl, but it will save the DM time instead of drawing out a massive nine level poster map-sized castle.

Don’t get me wrong, constructing and mapping castles can be a lot of fun. But, when you’re eyeballs-deep in prepping for your next game session, on top of work, school, kids, family, and social stuff, do you really have the time? Another option would be to delegate it to a player who does maybe have the time or even a friend who isn’t in the game who just loves doing detailed maps.

*Friends? Social life? Yeah, not me. Maybe you do. I dunno.

Thanks for stopping by today. This was fun. So much more to come yet this month and most of next catching up on this and #Monstober.

Promptober Day 24: Moon.

Closer inspection of the fourth planet in the system does not reveal any significant threat. However, careful examination of the third planet’s geosynchronous moon reveals cloaked bases, monitoring equipment, docking bays and the fact the the entire moon is a hollow sphere designed to watch over the Earth-like planet’s development.

“On the outside, it looked like an ordinary moon, but then we became suspicious.” Capt. Molly Daniels. USS Peregrine.

Today’s prompt is actually inspired by some real life theories about Earth’s moon. However, kindly bear in mind there is little more than a modicum of scientific backing for any of it. Our real moon “rang like a bell for over an hour” on seismic sensors when struck with a lander. To be clear- This IS a work of FICTION.

(Systemless) space game plot idea: The group comes upon a moon in geosynchronous orbit around an Earth-like planet. Sensor data indicates the moon is a normal, lifeless, meteorite-blasted rock. However, the moon is emitting electromagnetic signals coming from somewhere nearby. There are also ships coming and going from the system that seem to just disappear.

The planet’s government(s) are concerned about a potential invasion that they originally believed might be staged from the fourth planet in the system. They are a relatively new space-faring society and would be ill-equipped to fend off any kind of serious threat from outside of their own star system without help from the Federation (Or whatever larger organization the group represents.)

Closer inspection of the fourth planet in the system does not reveal any significant threat. However, careful examination of the third planet’s geosynchronous moon reveals cloaked bases, monitoring equipment, docking bays and the fact the the entire moon is a hollow sphere designed to watch over the Earth-like planet’s development.

Where things go from there is ultimately up to the GM. Is the civilization inside the moon benevolent? Perhaps sent to watch over the fledgling planet’s growth? Or is it a monitoring station to assist in a full scale invasion? Could it be a waypoint for refueling ships for a larger space navy elsewhere? Maybe it’s a galactic meeting place for races in all of the neighboring systems. The possibilities are immense.

Happy gaming! Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate you.

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