Big Day Yesterday

I love that some of the older playable races are once again featured and revised. We see the presence of the Aasimar, Eladrin, Genasi, Goliaths, and Shifters. Yay!
We also get to play around with several anthropomorphic races such as the Tabaxi (Cat people,) Harengon, (Bunny folk,) and Tortles (Turtle folk.)

Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse dropped finally.

Unless you picked it up as part of the holiday gift set or acquired it digitally from D&D Beyond, the book finally made an appearance on the 17th. I’m excited to do more of a detailed review later. Right now I’m excited by what I’ve seen at first glance.

Big changes to the way we create characters on the horizon from what I can see here.

Gone are the days of ability score bonuses or penalties for different races. You may either increase a single attribute by +2 and another by +1 OR do +1, +1, +1 across three different attributes. There are still no penalties. Long gone are the days of the frail elf or puny halfling. Why shouldn’t a fairy have an 18 STR? Seems really logical.

I really like the included racial traits. It’s a grab and go as opposed to an ala carte situation as was originally rumored. (*People who’ve had the book since January are mocking me right now.) I’m happy for that because it takes some of the confusion out of character creation.

Bunnies and turtles and Gith, oh my!

I know most of the races presented are from other books, but I wanted to call attention to a couple of things. I am absolutely thrilled to see certain races which I’ll get into in just a moment. Not to sound racist irl, but I think there are also some very questionable choices in their selection of in-game PC races.

I love that some of the older playable races are once again featured and revised. We see the presence of the Aasimar, Eladrin, Genasi, Goliaths, and Shifters. Yay!

We also get to play around with several anthropomorphic races such as the Tabaxi (Cat people,) Harengon, (Bunny folk,) and Tortles (Turtle folk.) Of course everyone’s favorite bird races are represented as well with the Aaracokra and the Kenku. That’s all well and good. I love cat girls and bunnies. (I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a furry sometimes. Lol!)

That’s where my love affair with the various races pretty much ends. Minotaurs are in Dragonlance and are kind of a tip of the hat to WoW’s Tauren. Okay. We get Orcs and Goblins in other games, sure. Why not?

But then we get into territory that I think is going to be omitted or at least discussed heavily in my campaign. Bugbears? Hobgoblins? Lizard Folk are known in my campaign for being involved in a lot of very bad stuff. Yuan-Ti are likewise considered bad news if encountered.

And the Gith?!? Even if they weren’t overpowered, are considered “monsters” in the classic sense of the word in my world. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe every monster race in the books should be welcome in every civilized fantasy society. Not every inn in the game has to look like the famous Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars.

I don’t know about other DMs and what they allow necessarily. I’ve been in games where certain races are pretty much TOS (Terminate On Sight. Thanks G-Unit.) Duergar, Kobolds, Bugbears, Hobgoblins and anything reptilian would be shot on sight or chased away from human, elf, or halfling settlements. No, it doesn’t have to be that way in every campaign and there certainly could be a rare outcast from Gith or Bugbear society, but in most games I’ve been in, it would be hella rare.

*DISCLAIMER* Please note! It is NOT okay to treat people like crap in the real world for any reason. Please be kind and understanding when it comes to race, gender, sexual preference, age, and any other form of diversity in the real world! It’s okay to explore some concepts in fantasy, but keep it on the table. The real world is tough enough without us making life harder on ourselves.

Please do whatever you want in your campaign. My opinion is just that- an opinion. What I do in my games may vary dramatically from what others allow/disallow. Whatever is most fun for you and your group? Do THAT!

The rest of the book, the monsters- are phenomenal!

What makes Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse stand out are the particularly nasty creatures contained therein. I’m not going to list off all the monsters here. I’m sure there’s a Table of Contents posted online somewhere.

What I will say is that I’m stoked to see some of the things from older supplements find their way into 5E. We get a huge spread of demons, devils and fiends to torment the PCs with. A lot of the undead types are throwbacks to other editions. Elementals play a huge role in the Multiverse.

I’m most impressed with the interplanar monsters from the Fiend Folio making a comeback. I used to use some of these creatures back when and I’m excited they’re officially back. Bodak, Draegloth, Froghemoth, Howlers, Leucrotta, Quicklings, and Rutterkin are statted out and ready to go again. I couldn’t be happier about it.

It’s also nice having some of the quick reference blocks like Bard and Warlord as examples. Being able to insert an Archdruid or any other premade NPC stat block at a glance is a nice touch. We can always go back and alter specifics later. I like having things like this handy when players put me on the spot.

I’m hoping Planescape or something similar is on the horizon.

I would really like to see WotC do more with the various planes and planar travel now that this book is in hand. I’m happy to see many of my old favorites such as the Astral Dreadnought and the Giff back again. IIRC the Giff were actually first featured in Spelljammer, but I might be wrong? I don’t normally do a lot of plane-hopping in my games, but this really does bring back that Manual of the Planes feel.

This also makes me question whether Spelljammer may actually be worth a look now. Originally I said, “No” when I saw Spelljammer. If the delivery on the Spelljammer books are this excellent in quality, I might reconsider at least enough to pick up the monster book.

So much going on here and elsewhere. So much goodness!

Thank you for stopping by. I had more I wanted to discuss, but the new Mordenkainen book really stood out today. Heck, I’m probably not getting back to 5E until summer, but now I’m excited to DM again. Have a great week!

I appreciate you!

Laughable Old Grognard Moments.

I’m still pretty committed to keeping things positive and this is by no means a jab at anyone in the RPG community. I’ve heard a few things recently that make me chuckle in a way that only some of us older gamers can really relate.

Y’all kids make me laugh.

I mean that in the nicest way, of course. I’m still pretty committed to keeping things positive and this is by no means a jab at anyone in the RPG community. I’ve heard a few things recently that make me chuckle in a way that only some of us older gamers can really relate.

Btw, when I say “kids,” I really mean some of you younger Players and Game Masters that are in your 20s and 30s. Again, not dissing on anyone, it’s all good clean fun. Some of us just don’t remember the glory days of D&D as well and it makes me laugh.

Someone on YouTube said, “When a cleric switches domains, they might lose touch with their deity for a session or two.”

Ravenloft 2E. The campaign setting so potentially brutal it nearly required a change of underwear.

This comment had me rolling on the floor. Anyone remember getting dropped into Realms of Ravenloft (*Not just the module with Strahd) as a cleric from somewhere else? Or a paladin? Congratulations! Your cleric just became a second rate fighter and your paladin just became a fighter with a holy symbol that meant absolutely nothing! Rangers and druids didn’t have it much better.

See, Domains in Ravenloft (*The setting not the specific geographical domain Ravenloft, where Strahd lived,) didn’t have a standard pantheon of deities and demigods per say. The Mists were controlled by an unknown element (*Who we always suspected might be the Old Gods of R’lyeh, but could never confirm due to IP reasons.) The Mists were renowned for grabbing adventurers from other realms such as FR, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and elsewhere, and dropping them off in a suitable realm where they could be tempted toward evil. The Mists would also rarely spit adventurers back out if they proved to be too incorruptible.

The healing magic in Ravenloft… Let’s just say the healing you wanted you weren’t getting and the magic healing you received was usually at a terrible cost. Remove Curse? That ain’t happening. Raise Dead? If you did have access to it, did you really want to see what happened? Eesh.

Dragonlance has been teased.

Picture of my copy of the AD&D 1E Dragonlance hardcover.

Oh, y’all thought Ravenloft was tough on clerics? At least they had clerics. OG Dragonlance didn’t even mention clerics!

It got better. Mages had to make a critical choice of which Tower of High Sorcery to serve. Spells were limited accordingly. Oh, and Tiamat’s illegitimate sister was on the list of things you could possibly run into at high levels. Paladins and cavaliers had it kinda rough, but not really. (Knightly orders ftw.)

Races played a huge role in old DL. I’ll be curious to see what they do in the new WotC paradigm of warm and fuzzy races everywhere. I will say Minotaurs, Wild Elves and Kender were pretty friggin sweet, though. (Love my Kender thief.) We’ll see what happens.

Someone mentioned they hadn’t been born when the last edition of Spelljammer was new.

Old Spelljammer. Let’s bring back audio cassette tape adventures while we’re at it. (Yes, that really happened.)

Okay, I’m old. I graduated high school in 1990. Spelljammer was first released in 1989.

I was not the first kid on the block to avoid this thing. I remember the Forgotten Realms comic even mentioned it. Great comic series, incidentally. The group in the comics actually had access to a ship with a spelljamming engine.

Despite all advertising efforts, I just couldn’t get into it. For me, sci-fi is its own separate entity. If I wanted to do space fantasy, there’s always Star Wars or Rifts. Nowadays we have Starfinder.

I go back to the notion that there’s nothing wrong with Spelljammer per se. It’s just not my cup of tea. It’s worth a shot, just like Strixhaven and Candlekeep Mysteries. Maybe it will turn out better in 5E. Who knows?

What puzzles me the most about 5E right now is-

Why did they choose to bring back Spelljammer and Dragonlance? Why not Al Qadim or Dark Sun. For crying out loud, they brought back Dark Sun in 4th Ed. It wasn’t that bad.

Or better yet, Greyhawk, Birthright, Oriental Adventures and Mystara are completely untouched by the newest editions. Why not? Are all these old campaign worlds a tough sell for the Mighty Matt Mercer? (Yeah… Old Grognard still poking at Matt. Sorry, kid.) What? They can’t be reimagined for today’s audiences but Spelljammer can? What’s next? Chronomancy?

Here’s a deep thought: If 5E spawned as many or probably several more homebrew campaign worlds than even 3E, why not tap into one or two of them? I mean, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of homebrew campaign settings and ravenous hordes of fans looking to become the next Ed Greenwood or Keith Baker. Why won’t WotC tap into a literally untapped landscape of campaigns with no real IP attachments or potential lawsuits?

Food for thought, anyway. I hope you’re having a great week so far. Take care. Thank you for being here.

Fantasy TTRPGs- Starting a Dungeon

Dungeon crawls. Why do they exist and who would build such a thing?

Giving the dungeon, and the module, a backstory.

Whether I’m creating a typical five room dungeon or a massive underground mega sprawl, the first question that always comes to mind is: why? And the why actually goes both ways. Why would anyone in their right (medieval fantasy) mind want to build the complex, possibly underground at all? Furthermore, why would a group of characters want to go into a dank underground complex full of terrible traps and drooling, slobbering monsters?

Now, not every dungeon adventure the party is going to face is necessarily underground. It could be a hedge maze, an old manor, a shipwreck, or something even stranger. The question always remains, why is it there?

Who built it and for what purpose?

Not every dungeon is built for a reason. Some occur naturally. But every dungeon is inhabited for a reason. (Or worse, abandoned for a bigger reason.) I mean, every creature needs a home, right? Even drooling, slobbering, scary monsters gotta live somewhere.

But a true dungeon, a real stereotypical fantasy underground complex, springs to life with a legitimate reason of some sort in mind. I find it important to decide on a cause before I start construction so I know what the centerpiece of the place is going to be. Bear in mind, a truly huge dungeon would take thousands of man hours and gold coins or lots of magic in order to build it safely. Guards and traps are extra, of course.

Then we come to the who. Sometimes it’s obvious from my GM/DM’s perspective that said BBEG or villain needs a cool lair. Sometimes (Out of character) I need a particularly deadly place to stash some epic loot the party might need some time down the road. Other times yet, it’s just for flavor, like a sidetrack or incidental.

The builder’s in-character motive always comes to mind as well. Maybe it’s a tomb full of stone soldiers constructed in memory of a forgotten general. Perhaps a power mad necromancer needed a secluded place to build his golem in peace. (Darn villagers with their torches and pitchforks…) It’s possible a well meaning group of beings long ago wanted to seal away a gate to their realm. It could be the lair of an innocent Ancient Red Dragon that just wanted to keep it’s modest filthy lucre mountain safe before he can donate it to the orphans. Maybe a group of well meaning good samaritans wanted to seal something truly horrific away forever and throw away the key. Still another reason might be to bury a powerful artifact away from those who would abuse its power.

These are mere examples. We could go all day and night coming up with cool reasons to build a dungeon. The history and lore should play an important role in the next step: getting the player characters in the door. To be continued…

Fantasy TTRPG: The ‘Why’ of Dungeon Crawling.

One of my favorites is the group stumbles onto the thing completely by accident through a buried entrance or random hole in the ground. “While doing your character’s business off the trail, he stumbles into a hole and plummets 30 feet into (dungeon room number 1.)”

I like to give players a reason for their character to enter the spooky underground maze of despair and certain doom.

Picking up where we left of yesterday. Why would anyone in their right mind enter an underground complex full of locked doors, deathtraps, and horrifying foul creatures of every sort? Okay, beyond the motivation of, “We’re perpetually angry thieving murder hoboes looking for the filthy lucre mountain to steal.”

What is the hook of the dungeon going to be? What can I put out there to get at least one player, if not the whole group motivated to go traipsing down into The Lair of the Vampiric Devil Dragon? What logical reasons could there be for wanting to cheat death? Okay, aside from it being a fantasy game.

The two most basic kinds of motivation: Intrinsic or Extrinsic.

We’ll start with the complicated reasons- the intrinsic kind. Maybe the group wants to rescue someone. Maybe the lost component of someone’s backstory lies within. Perhaps the lich that built the place is someone’s great grandfather. In extreme cases, it might be to keep some really frightening thing from ending the world. Whatever the intrinsic reason is, it’s something motivated by the characters themselves.

By comparison, extrinsic reasons are pretty simple. The group has a reason to believe wealth, fame and fortune lie within. They’ve been promised a great reward for braving the depths and retrieving the MacGuffin. Gold and magic items top the list of extrinsic motivators.

There’s always basic curiosity and dumb luck.

All of us veterans know some hooks by heart. For example: a ragged looking wizard stumbles into the inn with a map in his hand. He falls over dead in the middle of the group’s table, dropping the map in the unsuspecting rogue’s lap after muttering something about an ancient curse.

One of my favorites is the group stumbles onto the thing completely by accident through a buried entrance or random hole in the ground. “While doing your character’s business off the trail, he stumbles into a hole and plummets 30 feet into (dungeon room number 1.)”

Last, there’s always basic curiosity. Rumors abound at the inn about a miner’s discovery of a door covered in an ancient, unknown dialect. The cleric’s order recently unearthed a series of forgotten vaults underneath their oldest temple. Why is the humble town of Tristram suddenly under siege by hordes of demons and undead? Who lives in the Death Fortress on Skull Island? There might be some sick loot in the old ruins at the top of the hill.

Whatever the reason, good luck to you and your players. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you!

Is OSR Really Better?

I’ll be gettin wheeled into the old gamer’s home with my notebooks, mechanical pencils and dice in hand some day. I don’t care which edition we play.

Why can’t we love all the editions equally?

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Old School Rules, or Old School Roleplaying, whichever you prefer. It’s really just throwbacks to older editions of D&D, usually First Ed AD&D or Basic/ BECMI. I get it. I had to buy a new copy of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia a couple of years ago because mine wore out.

I love all the editions equally. Well, okay… Maybe 4th Ed is just something I have a lot of respect for. It shares a lot of similarities with WoW, which I also still have a lot of regard for. Good times were had. I created a lot of neat stuff for that edition.

Then there’s 5E. We all love the Fifth Edition stuff. A lot of folx got their first taste of roleplaying through this edition. Unfortunately, some people also got turned away from the latest edition.

The Old Grognards are going to be coming at me with torches and pitchforks.

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I can just hear it now, “How dare you compare the greatness that was White Box D&D with this fruity Fifth Edition of the game? Grr blargh! It’s not even the same game we had back in my day… (Old Grognard noises.)”

To which I always reply, it is- but it’s not the same game. It’s all D&D. Apples and oranges are both still fruit. But the flavor is much different. With a new edition of the game around the corner in about a year and a half, a lot more people are going to be seeing eye to eye with the OSR and Pathfinder purists.

After all, Pathfinder began because some people didn’t want to let go of the goodness that was 3rd Ed D&D. Since then, it has grown into its own separate yet marvelous empire, but its humble roots are in D&D. Pathfinder isn’t OSR, but many of the players of each share a sort of quiet respect for one another.

Old School has its place.

I love Dungeon Crawl Classics by Goodman Games, which also shares a great deal with both BECMI and 3rd Ed. I also still do get the urge to go back to when my entire character fit on one side of one page in my wide rule notebook. Heck, we didn’t even need character sheets back then.

Maybe that’s why so many minimalist games have caught on in recent years. My favorite is probably ICRPG. The whole idea that your whole character can fit on a 3″x 5″ Index Card appeals to many of us. The rules are so simple, too. (I swear Runehammer did not put me up to this.)

Whether it’s nostalgia for simpler times or an easier game, OSR has gotten super popular. I won’t ever say “better” because it’s all a matter of preference. I would show up for any of the above. I have quite the PF2E collection, too. It’s all a game to me, and I love RPGs. Please, do what makes you happy!

Thanks for being here! Regardless of what game you play, you’re always welcome to stop by. I appreciate you!

Yes you. Really!

One Roleplaying Game Fits All?

Trying to make one system of RPG rules fit every genre and campaign is like mashing a round peg into a square hole. It fits, kinda.

“Any system can do anything you want it to do.” — from TTRPG Twitter.

I’m leaving the name off of this because I’m not trying to cause problems in the community. This person is technically correct. But in the interest of discussion, I will say there is a larger continuum to consider here.

From a tactical or strategic wargame perspective, no. Absolutely one system doesn’t work for everything. Typically, many RPGs don’t translate well to wargames/miniatures warfare. Ironically D&D came from the miniatures game Chainmail, which was a wargame. But if one tries to run epic naval battles with D&D 5E, for instance, it’s going to come up short on a mechanical level. One could just as easily create an entirely new game in the amount of time it would take.

Mashing the medium round peg into the medium square hole.

Why are we trying so hard to make D&D work for literally everything?

When it comes to RPGs, yes one can make any system work for just about any game. Yes, you can play virtually anything from stone age fantasy all the way through supers in space with D&D 5E. It’s possible because roleplaying doesn’t require some of the crunchier nuances that wargaming requires.

The whole thing comes down to how much time one wants to spend converting the game to work for one genre to another. How many hours does it take to rework D&D 5E into Call of Cthulhu in the 1920’s? Would it be easier just to buy another game? Would it be easier just to grab a set of more generic, universal core rules to do the same thing?

Yeah, it’ll fit with enough force.

Some game systems hold up to being manipulated better than others. D20 is the most common and debatably popular system as a core on and off for the last 20+ years. But it’s not always the fastest or most efficient when it comes to converting it into specific niches. For example Mutants & Masterminds looks almost nothing like D20 Modern, even though they’re both based on the same SRD/OGL.

I fall back on FATE and FUDGE for a lot of the quirky one shots or mini campaigns I come up with for certain niches because the conversion is relatively idiot proof. Their dice mechanics are simple and flexible for everything, especially combat. Character creation is pretty much the same from one genre to the next with a few minor adjustments. (FATE Horror and any game with supers takes a bit of tweaking.)

I will say that DriveThruRPG and similar websites offer a ton of options when it comes to generic systems. I’ve found a lot of gems such as Fantaji and GMD Core on there. Savage Worlds, the system that Deadlands RPG runs on, is also available. It is a good, crunchy generic system that has been adapted to fit several campaigns in multiple genres. That’s also where I discovered ICRPG which is exceptionally adaptable.

Time to get out the left handed monkey wrench.

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So, it’s either spend potentially hours or days converting a d100 or d20 RPG into whatever genre or game you want. Depending on the complexity of the game one desires, the amount of crunch the players are going to want, and the specific mechanics for some settings (horror, for example.) OR one can simply grab a generic core system and have the whole thing knocked out in an hour or two with some minor adjustments on the fly. Some games are intended to scale into one size fits all.

At then end of the day, it’s a matter of how much time you as a GM and your players want to spend haggling over character traits, historical data, combat mechanics, scale, and dozens of other factors. Personally, I like to get the right tool for the right job. If a preexisting game covers the bases, I’ll grab it and use it. Your mileage may vary.

Thanks for being here. I appreciate your support. Have a fabulous weekend!

Let’s Talk About D&D Edition Wars Part One.

I promise I will not intentionally raise anyone’s dander with these articles. Truth is, all editions of the game have their loveable strong points.

This is right up there with Star Wars vs Star Trek in terms of internet forum “debates.”

Let’s face it, debating on the interweb is like running on a treadmill backwards. No matter how far you think you’re getting, you’re still not going anywhere. You’re better off whizzing on an electric fence.

But seriously, debating politics would be more effective. We’re still here talking about D&D editions, but I’m having fun today. Have you seen BECMI? It’s what I grew up running. It’s a good basic edition of D&D, possibly the simplest definition of any RPG anywhere. It’s a solid game.

‘Twas a sad day when they took the “A” out of AD&D.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was arguably one of the best editions of the game ever created. It built upon the basic game and had all kinds of awesomeness going for it. It also had more professionally written modules than pretty much any other game I’ve ever seen. (*Professionally as in by the folks at T$R.) It also had a really nice combat system, a few class options that never came back, and some of the best RPG sourcebooks ever written. When most people talk about Old School Roleplaying, this is what they mean. Good times.

2nd Ed AD&D might be my other favorite edition of the game. The initiative system in this game is probably my favorite way of doing initiative that has never been duplicated except maybe in Castles & Crusades by Troll Lord Games. This edition removed some of the classes from the previous edition, but introduced Kits. Kits were fun.

Later 2nd Ed gave us some of the greatest RPG sourcebooks ever written. Encyclopedia Magic and the spell compendiums for priests and mages were amazing! I keep mind easily

*Side Note: If you keep your eyes open, sometimes you can score C&C Player’s Handbook for free.

Then 3rd Edition and the OGL happened.

I own more books for 3rd Ed and 3.5 than the rest of my collection combined. I love 3.5. It also had the best computer program. The world of third party source material would see a golden age. Very good times indeed.

I think some of the best campaigns and campaign worlds hatched from 3rd Ed. I just received my copy of Iron Kingdoms RPG recently. IIRC, that started in 3rd Ed, skipped an edition, and picked up steam again in 5th. (See what I did there? Steam? LOL!)

3rd was also where Eberron started. I remember submitting my pitch to WotC. The anticipation on announcement day was so thick and I was on pins and needles the whole time. Alas, I did not make the grade. My campaign world may never see the light of day. Who knows?

3rd is also where D20 Modern and a few dozen other spinoff d20 based games came from. The most notable is probably Pathfinder. Personally, I think PF came about because 3rd Ed fans didn’t want to let the edition go. Although it might be a D&D spinoff, it’s still an outstanding RPG.

Mutants & Masterminds is another d20 based game that arose from those days. It has also evolved considerably from its humble roots into one of the most famous superhero RPGs of all time. It really shows how much mileage was possible from the OGL.

My favorite d20 based games were conversions of other classics. Boot Hill, Deadlands, 7th Seas, Traveler, and even World of Darkness joined the d20 revolution. One could probably look on Spycraft somewhere in that mix, too. I was sort of Top Secret S.I. only modernized. We also got a d20 Star Wars, which was amazing to run. (I miss that game so freakin much.)

Dungeon Crawl Classics started out as third party modules for 3rd Ed. It grew into its own rulebooks and campaign world. Even though it has more of that OSR vibe going for it now, it was an old school riff off of 3rd Ed back then.

We’ll talk more about Third, Fourth and Fifth editions later. Have a happy and safe weekend! See you soon.

Dimensions in Character

A few tips and examples for new players when creating characters. Please keep it simple. I can’t stress that enough.

Player tip: Keep it simple!

I wanted to put out a very common piece of advice for new players in any RPG. Please do yourself a favor and keep your character’s personality, backstory, and description as short and uncomplicated as reasonably possible? You can fill in or retcon some details as you go. GM’s typically don’t want to see a six page backstory that is going to trap them into some sort of convoluted plotline that only serves one character.

Keep it open ended. Keep it simple. Work with the party. If you want to play the angsty loner, then you’d better have good motivations for getting with the group and staying with them. If you have six solid, separate, distinct personality traits on your character, please make sure you can play them all without sounding schizophrenic. (Unless one of them is “schizophrenic.” )

It’s okay to play a one or two dimensional character. You can have a knuckle dragging barbarian with a club whose only real motivation is food. There’s a lot of room to grow. “Oog like pretty lady. Okay, where food?” is a great opening for character growth. As a GM, that’s gold right there. Now we have an opening for Oog the Barbarian to excel at something besides hitting stuff. Now Oog might be motivated to try to win the heart of the fair gnome princess instead of just trying not to step on her trying to get to the banquet table.

It’s okay to play a dwarf fighter who lives to shoot his crossbow and hit stuff with an axe. Suppose the elf bard in the party wants to teach him how to dance? Now there’s a subplot. GMs like that because we don’t even have to step in and it’s golden. That way the next time the PCs appear at a court function, the dwarf doesn’t have to guard the horses outside.

Which is a lot easier than having a backstory for the fighter that was tragically orphaned at birth, then his adoptive parents were eaten by two different dragons and his long lost sister turned out to be a witch… It’s not so terrible saying your character had a relatively normal and stable childhood. It’s okay to make a character that is angst free and can trust people, too. Just because you’re a shifty, shady rogue, doesn’t mean you have to treat other characters like dirt.

Not all of us are cut out for the cast of Critical Role. Don’t get me started. I’m no Matt Mercer and I don’t expect anyone, especially a new player, to act like their character is ready for their own animated series. If you can do a voice for your character, awesome! If not and you just manage to tell me what you want your character is doing, we’re good!

GMs and other players are a good source of inspiration and character development! Please, as long as you’re putting in the effort to show up, pay some attention, and have fun, that’s all we can ever ask. Just try to participate when you can, roll some dice, have your character sheet mostly in order and be a part of the group. Honest, the rest will fill itself in.

You can’t get it wrong. Go easy on yourself. Enjoy the game.

Until next time, stay safe. Please try to stay healthy. Game on.

Obscure RPGs

There are tons of RPG systems out there besides the standard D&D and fantasy. Go out and explore. Find something new!

“Obscure” being a relative term, I guess.

Today I realized I collect and love a lot of offbeat RPGs. You know, things that aren’t mainstream D&D. I’m not knocking the grandfather of all RPGs or anything. I still love D&D from BECMI on up. But there are so many other RPGs outside of D&D. Heck, there are plenty of genres outside of fantasy to explore.

I see a lot of posts/articles to the effect of “Alternatives to D&D.” I always chuckle at the notion because some of us have embraced this idea for years now. I don’t just mean Pathfinder or Middle Earth, either. I mean alternatives to fantasy rpgs.

Life can be scary away from spell slinging elves with swords.

Personally, I love the mecha genre of anime style games. Good luck ever finding players for that, btw. (I guess they exist somewhere but not around where I live.) WWII gaming has some appeal, but again players seem to be few and far between. (Check out Operation White Box!) Most people go toward Star Wars in its many incarnations because Space Opera is kind of like fantasy’s futuristic cousin.

I think a lot of sci-fi and modern games get a bad rep because “guns are icky.” Truthfully, many of us have had negative experiences with firearms to the point of not wanting to roleplay characters that use them. And there’s also the percentage of the population that knows little to nothing about guns. Swords and spells are easier to figure out, I suppose. The same can be said for modern horror as well, although Call of Cthulhu is still thriving.

I recommend looking into one’s own favorite genre of books, movies, or tv shows for inspiration. Chances are, there’s probably an RPG out there on the market for it or a way to adapt a current system. Generic, universal RPGs are fairly common these days from the d20 System (OGL, D&D rules,) to FATE, D6, Open Legends, Genre Diversion, and dozens more. There are too many to list here and most are adaptable to anything from gritty historical realism to far flung psychedelic future utopian fantasy.

DrivethruRPG is chock full of alternative games.

Full disclosure: I am NOT a spokesman for OneBookShelf or any subsidiaries, but I’ve been a customer for years. It’s a good RPG shopping site for indie games. There’s also a lot of good reviews there if you’re on the fence about buying a new game or game system.

I could go on all day naming good systems and specific RPGs for people to try out, but it might be easier just to go on Itch.io or DrivethruRPG and look around for yourself. Your local used bookstore might also be a good resource for RPGs off the beaten path.

Please consult your group before launching a new campaign or system.

I want to emphasize that some groups may not be ready to do something other than good old D&D. I have friends who absolutely refused to do anything besides D&D. It was the only game they knew. It was the only genre they were comfortable it and you could not get them out of that comfort zone for love or money. To those friends, I said, “Cool. See you next week for D&D.”

Challenging though it may be at times, one can always find a group online somewhere for almost any game imaginable. It might take some time, persistence, and effort to find said players or GM. If lockdowns taught us anything, it’s that there’s a niche out there for just about everyone on the internet. Failing that, I would recommend trying some solo roleplaying. More on that here.

Whatever your game or system of choice is, please do enjoy. I hope your weekend is full of good friends and superb die rolls. Game on.

Does It Have To Be “Official?”

No one, and I mean NO ONE should ever tell you what you can and can’t do with your campaign, your world, your ideas, or your content. If it’s your table and your world and they don’t like it, they can go kick rocks.

My friend Elzie recently posted an interesting thread on Twitter that I wanted to comment on in depth. Sometimes replies and Tweets don’t cover it all.

So, my short answer to all of this is- Absolutely NOT!

My long answer is: there are a LOT of variables here. If you’re trying to publish official content on www.dmsguild.com, then yes, you need to stick to the rules as written for the most part. Otherwise, if it’s your campaign, at home, or published anywhere else under the SRD, then- freakin party on!

Seriously, if you want to re-skin your orcs to look like pink bunny-eared primates, then go for it! No one, and I mean NO ONE should ever tell you what you can and can’t do with your campaign, your world, your ideas, or your content. If it’s your table and your world and they don’t like it, they can go kick rocks. The Tolkien people are not going to sue you for altering orcs and neither is Wizards. Run the game you want to enjoy.

Descriptions go a long way!

I have mostly new players. I’m pretty determined to ban access to the Monster Manual and other such books during play these days. I’m going to describe the creature the party is facing in detail and let the group decide how they want to handle it.

The trees around the road go dead silent. The group’s horses stall and become skittish looking toward the large tree with a long, thick branch over the road ahead. They see a large beast, perched in the tree, with the body of a panther only having leathery, bat-like wings, and a long spiky tail. It stares out through the dusky twilight at them with its red, glowing eyes and long, protruding fangs gleaming in the last little bit of remaining sunlight, watching them approach. Its talons are spread wide and its tail is wrapped around the tree for balance. This predator looks like it means business. What do you do?

That description will probably have the intended effect much better than “You see a Wyvern perched atop the tree over the road ahead. What do you do?” Because if I ran it as an official Wyvern, it’s not going to be nearly as memorable or potentially terrifying. Not to mention it’s a re-skinned Wyvern, with a few added features that aren’t listed with the original.

Now, my wife, who loves all things feline both in character and out, is probably going to try to tame, befriend or otherwise not kill this creature seeing it isn’t overtly evil or aggressive. Which, I’ll possibly allow the attempt because it’s good roleplaying opportunities and more fun than a straight combat encounter.

In the past, I’ve had groups that would have dug into the Monster Manuals trying to find out how much XP the thing would be worth. I mean, it’s literally XP with wings! Heck yeah we go all murder hobo on it.

Then again, as a DM, I get to have fun with a large, winged, apex predator with stealth and a breath weapon in mostly open ground in poor lighting conditions. That’s going to suck for the murder hobos. Especially if it flies off and comes back to torment them in the dark. Gook luck trying to take a long rest with that thing lurking nearby. heh heh heh…

Who’s to say what’s considered “official?”

Even the designers of Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons could sit at your gaming table and play a character fully aware that it’s not Rules As Written, and be just fine with it. Are we there to have fun or bicker over official content? Again, if you’re not attempting to publish anything, does it really matter? Personally, I think not.

Now there are a few exceptions and exemptions. Obviously if you’re running a game for Adventurer’s League set in a specific world you probably want to stick to “their” descriptions as written because those players are likely expecting “official” content and will go onto other games in the series. The players could get lost if you change/alter the settings and descriptions too much in an official module. Convention games are also kind of a sticky wicket depending on the expectations of the players.

That having been said, if you tell your players at your table for your home game, “Hey, my world is different than anything in the published settings. Here’s some of what you can expect…” Then, yes. Absolutely homebrew whatever you like. I know I do it all the time.

I regularly adapt all kinds of things I will never attempt to publish.

I watch a lot of anime. I’ve been a huge fan of Rouroni Kenshin, Inu Yasha, Chrome Shelled Regios, and Ninja Scroll for years. I’ve had players come to me and ask for homebrew versions of Sango’s boomerang, the Tetsusaiga, and the giant wolf demon from Inu Yasha and I gladly obliged. I’ve statted the Wing Blade Sword among other things in the past from various samurai anime. I’m absolutely in love with the dite concept in Chrome Shelled Regios and will be resolute when it comes to implementing that style of weapon in the campaign I’m working on.

Heck, I have plenty of ICONS characters that are knockoffs of DC, Marvel, Image, and various anime characters. I’ve translated my own personal DC Heroes (First Ed) character into a half a dozen different systems. His concept was based on Marvel’s Iron Man. Admittedly, I’ve had my own spin on the character for 30 years, and he looks very little like Tony Stark.

I’ve used and borrowed from Avatar: the Last Airbender and Satelizer Bridget in the past, too. Had an absolute blast with it, but could never “officially” publish any of it for fear of getting sued. I’ve even created derivatives from Super Why (Kids TV show,) Teen Titans, Young Justice, and the Outsiders. Nothing is off limits at my table when it comes to creating adventures and settings. However, there are plenty of restrictions when it comes to publishing.

Publishers, designers and media lawyers expect you to respect their copyrights and trademarks. It’s much the same going the other way. Obviously I want my ORIGINAL material to be mine, to my own credit and never stolen. It’s only fair to everyone to do your own thing and get credit for it. But this all applies to published material, not what goes on at your table at home, or even during an actual play podcast.

So many good points!

This is one of my favorite topics, if it’s not obvious. I’m not even a lawyer, but I have found this topic to be fascinating ever since I took Media Law in college. It’s amazing what you can and can’t do.

Again, if you’re working on something for dmsguild.com or planning to publish your material anywhere, you have to be somewhat compliant to the “official rules.” If you publish to the DMsGuild, then yes, you are literally doing R&D for Wizards of the Coast and they can/will take whatever they want, rewrite it, publish it, edit it, whatever and they >might< even give you credit. If you publish elsewhere as a third party publisher under the Open Gaming License, WotC can latch onto your work and/or tell you to cease and desist if you’re violating the OGL and/or going beyond the bounds of the SRD and trying to pass it off as “official.”

Personally, I love the notion of publishing to the DMsGuild because it gives us a chance to show off. You can put work out there in an official way as a portfolio piece. Everyone, WotC included, gets to see what you’re capable of. You might not get hired to be one of the big guns in their office, but wouldn’t it be terrific to be acknowledged and asked to work on more, possibly commissioned projects? There are benefits to proving you can do things in an official capacity.

My personal goals are to get to that Electrum and Mithral rating on both DMsGuild and DriveThruRPG some day. I would love to get an email from any company that effectively says, “Hey. We really like your stuff. Come work with us.” I can do all these things. Name a system. It doesn’t have to even be D&D. We can play within whatever official rules you want to name. I’ll make it work.

Anyway, until next time. Take care.

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