Archive for RPG

D&D Props

Posted in D&D 3.5e DM Content, D&D 4e Content, The Crafty DM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2011 by boccobsblog

I have been reluctant to post this article, as my groups rarely use props (beyond the letter or map). That is not to say I wouldn’t use props, I think they could add a lot given the right group. Here is a list of possible props for use with your D&D, Savage Worlds, World of Darkness or any fantasy setting.

Beggar’s cup- put a few coins in to make noise, extend the cup to a player (form them to place a coin in), and tilt it so they can see a message folded up inside

Scrolls- Spells printed on parchment and sealed with wax and a seal or a ribbon

Sand timer/ hour-glass- I have always wanted to place a massive hourglass on the timer and announce that the players have one hour to exit the dungeon

Coins- Chocolate coins, foreign coins, or if you really want to shine: Campaign Coins

Lock Picks- Maybe the players didn’t know the NPC was a rogue in disguise until they search his room

Jewelry- I found awesome junk rings and brooches at the Good Will store for next to nothing (unless you count the weird looks from the lady at the counter or the hours of mocking from my wife)

Rocks or Geodes- Tumbled rocks can be purchased at a craft store for cheap. Maybe the work as keys or a spell focus

Compass- Maybe it points to treasure, or the last owner’s killer

Weapons- Every geek has a sword or a mace from the flea market or the Renn faire. Just don’t get all hopped up on Mountain Dew and start swinging it at folks

Sealed Letters- Card shops and specialty store carry fancy envelopes and stationary fit to write an invite to Castle Ravenloft on. Maybe find someone who can knows calligraphy to write the letter for you

Leather pouches- place a number of small coins, picks, props, notes, red herrings, in there and let the players figure it all out

Game board- I think we’ve all used a chess puzzle at one point or another

Cards- Skip a combat encounter and play a few hands of Three Dragon Ante with your players in their favorite tavern and give them xp for role-playing. Maybe use poker chips or campaign coins

Tarot cards- Read your players fortune and drop hints about upcoming adventures or let the cards write the next adventure for you

Runes- Take flat rocks and paint strange symbols on them. Make custom runes from clay, Sculpy, or Fimo. Place a codex in the dungeon to decode them

Keys- Buy some old skeleton at a junk shop or antique store. Use a fine tip Sharpie or a knife point to make cryptic markings on them

Books- Take an old book from the used book store or antique shop and hollow it out, or underline certain words that make a different message

Spell book, journal, – Take a blank book and fill it with dark symbols, runes, sketches, bits of information, lies, misdirection, distress, burn, waterlog the text to make it look ancient. Check out sites on Mythos Tomes to get ideas and inspiration

Puzzle Lock- One year at Gen Con, I went through a True Dungeon Session and we had to pick a lock, rather than rolling dice, the DM had an actual puzzle lock that we had to figure out. There are several degrees of locks available on the web, some are quite challenging

Old bottles- add water, a drop of food color, a cork and you got a potion.

Wooden Puzzle- I found some wooden puzzles at Mejiers for five dollars. My players kept finding small wooden pieces, and finally a strangely shaped lock. (note: you may want to build in a secondary path or make the locked room not essential to the adventure so things don’t grind to a halt if the player’s can’t figure out the puzzle.)

Puzzle Box- Hide maps, secrets, deeds, etc in a false bottom

Wand/ Staff- Take a stick from your yard, sand off the bark with coarse grit sandpaper, then smooth with a fine grit. Add a “crystal” to the tip by gluing on a piece of rock salt or quartz. If you really want to get detailed you could add runes with a knife or a wood burning tool

Figurine- A small glass or wooden animal could serve as a figurine of wondrous power.

Globe – Find an old globe at a yard sale, junk shop or Craigslist and repaint it with your game world map.

Gems- Take plastic or glass ‘gems’ from a craft store like Michaels or Hobbylobby and use them as gems, or Ioun stones

Hit those junk, antique,  and resale shops, as well as the Renn faire and find a prop for your game. As long as you’re willing to sculpt a story around the object, anything can serve as a great prop.

How Teaching Helps Me Be A Better DM

Posted in D&D 3.5e DM Content, D&D 4e Content with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by boccobsblog

When I’m not writing blog posts or running games, I work as an English instructor at my local community college. The longer I teach, the more I see my teacher-side creeping into my game table, and I think this is actually a good thing. Several of the strategies I use in the classroom have actually provided more enjoyment and an all-around better game (at least in my opinion).

Give your players homework

I find giving my players some small task to do during downtime creates a richer role-playing experience and helps to foster better-developed characters. I always offer some reward as an incentive, usually in the way of XP, but you could offer gold, items, or possibly agree to indulge the play in a side quest or goal.

Examples:

  • Write a summary of the night’s adventure
  • Write a back story for their character
  • Detail the contents of their backpack (a braid of his wife’s hair, the flint his father carried, etc). This one really helps create back story and depth.
  • Map the dungeon or countryside
  • Create a code by which the character lives (I’ve found the easiest way is to make a list of things the player will never do, harm a child, steal from the poor, etc. It helps to define their alignment for them.)
  • Detail a fear or phobia the character has and why
  • Write a brief summary of what your character’s goals are
  • Create a family tree
  • Ask bards to write a poem or a story

Give handouts

As a teacher I like my students to have something tangible they can look at after class and think about we’ve worked on. The same holds true for the game table; as a PC and a DM I enjoy these handouts immensely, especially maps. This may seem weird (but I’m sure I’m not alone on this), but I enjoy looking at maps of the game world and trying to imagine what secrets reside on those hexes, what adventures are waiting for me.

Note: I think handouts differ from props slightly. We’ll cover props in a different article. Where did I put my foam sword…?

Examples:

  • Maps (hand-drawn is fine by me)
  • Fiction from the game world (Pepper these in with the treasure, they will add depth, explain back-story or world history without bogging down the session. The Elder Scrolls series of video games does this seamlessly.)
  • Letters (use a font that resembles hand writing, and don’t be afraid to spill something on it or burn the edges, it’s a bit junior high, but so what it adds flavor. Download a rune font or elvish script.)
  • NPC Portraits (use the archive here, print them out on card stock or photo paper— 4.25×5.5 so you can fit four to a page.)
  • Menus (What’s for dinner at the local tavern?)
  • Treasure Maps (Use these a unique treasure that sets you up for a side quest, don’t level scale either, a treasure hunt should be rough, and have a huge payout)
  • Wanted Posters (makes for great side quests, again don’t level scale, let the gold piece value of the reward and the list of crimes give the players an indication of the difficulty)
  • Scrolls (print of the spell’s effect, maybe print it on parchment-style paper. Seal it with wax if you want to go from handout to prop. This idea also serves to save time during combat. Your player doesn’t have to stop and look up the spell in question. Find obscure spells or spells your player won’t normally take)
  • Newspaper (ok this may seem silly, but in the right setting, Sigil, Sharn, etc it might make perfect sense.)

Make time to plan your class

Students (and players) can tell when you’ve thrown a game together at the last second. It really hurts the game experience because it puts your players closer to reality, while the purpose of role-playing is to immerse yourself in a secondary world and lose yourself for a few hours. One thing that I find that helps with campaign planning is to keep a log of all the happening in the night’s adventure. Keep a list of people and places that players interact with. You will be amazed at how many adventure hooks the players will create for you. (The guy they picked a fight with at the tavern, the person whose pocket they picked, the loved ones of the monster or npc they killed. Etc) While occasionally it is fun to play a session on the fly, more often than not you’ll want a series of possibilities open, and unless you run a pre-planned world, you’ll need to sit down and prep. (Note: We ran an article a while back that provided prep-time reducing handouts for the DM, a list of NPC names by race, and a list of treasures by encounter level. Both can be found here.)

Give course evaluations

Evaluations, when given in a thoughtful, honest manner, can make you a better teacher. If my students didn’t care for a certain text or film, I generally choose something different the next time I teach the course. The great thing about teaching at the college level is that every sixteen weeks I get to try things differently.

The same approach holds true at the table. Ask your players for honest feedback. Ask your players what they like and write to that. I have some players for example, that could really do without combat, while I can’t remove all they action from the game, and I always try to put some level of mental challenge or puzzle in for that player when they’re present. Sometimes DMs write for themselves rather than for their players. Don’t be afraid to ask your players what they like and dislike about your game. It may be awkward at first, but it will lead to a more enjoyable experience.

-Andy

Goodbye Minis, Hello Tokens

Posted in D&D 3.5 e Content, D&D 4e Content, Product Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2011 by boccobsblog

Wizard’s has stopped production on their miniatures line. To help fill this gap, they have begun producing more 2D tokens.

We ran an article several months ago showing how you could easily make these tokens at home, but several players have expressed that they haven’t the time to make their own so, that said, here is a list of Wizard’s products that contain good D&D tokens.

Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Game (2000)

This was a 3.0 edition basic game for people new to the hobby. It contains several sheets of one-sided, gray-scale tokens. Some of the tokens are of strange sizes because the sizing was different in 3.0 (large tall, large long, etc.), but this only affects a few tokens. This set is getting hard to find, but can still be bought on Amazon or E-bay for about 5 dollars. While not flimsy, these tokens are made out of much thinner material than the 4e tokens, but they are your cheapest option.

D&D Role-Playing Game Starter Set (2008)

This is essentially the fourth edition equivalent of the above-mentioned product. It came with a few sheets of dungeon tiles and several sheets of two-sided, full color tokens made out of the same material as Dungeon Tiles. The down side to this product is that it didn’t remain in production for very long and prices online are expensive with new sets selling for 50 dollars on Amazon.

The Red Box (2010)

The “Red Box” contains two sheets of token similar (but not exactly the same) as those contained in the fourth ed. Starter set from 2008. The Red Box sells for about twenty dollars and can be found online, Wal-Mart, and Target (although hopefully you’ll support your local game store if you have one)

Dungeon Master’s Kit (2010)

This box set contains another 3 sheets of die-cut tokens made from the Dungeon Tile material. Two sheets contain monsters and one sheet is PC’s of various races and classes. At forty dollars, this is the most expensive option, because the tokens are just a small part of the product.

Monster Vault (2010)

This 4e product is a treasure trove of monster tokens containing 10 full sheets of iconic D&D monsters. Again, these tokens are die-cut and made from the same material as Dungeon Tiles. At thirty dollars, it is one of the pricier options, but it is filled with some beautiful tokens of varying sizes.

Gaming on the High Seas

Posted in Gaming News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2010 by boccobsblog

How would you like to play your favorite role-playing game while surrounded by miles of pristine Caribbean ocean? The people at Gamer Adventures can make that dream a reality.

Gamer Adventures combines your love of gaming with your family vacation. What’s really great about it, is that if your spouse isn’t a gamer there are still countless activities for them to do while you enjoy guilt-free game time.

GA currently offers three cruise packages: Alaskan, Caribbean, and Mexican Rivera. Also, they have a trip that travels to Essen, Germany for the world’s largest gaming convention, Spiel. Each trip has scheduled and open gaming events that take place in a private gaming hall on board the ship.

It’s a pretty cool idea, check it out.

Gameradventures.com

Penny Arcade and D&D

Posted in D&D 4e Content, Gaming News with tags , , , , , , , on August 20, 2010 by boccobsblog

I have been a fan of Penny Arcade for many years now, but in the last year or so since Gabe started playing D&D, the site has gotten even better. It all started when Wizards of the Coast asked the creators of Penny Arcade to play-test fourth edition and record the session for a podcast that would be released via the D&D website and available from Itunes.

The podcast was a huge success and the guys have since done two additional “seasons”. The second series of podcasts added Wil Wheaton to the cast (whose character gets killed live on the air), and the third is set in Athas as the guys test Darksun with Tycho as the DM.

I find it so unbelievable that Gabe has never played D&D before, he has posted some of his quests on the site and they are nothing short of amazing.

If you like Penny Arcade, then you will greatly enjoy listening to the podcasts, and even if you don’t know what PA is, you’ll enjoy listening to some very funny guys play D&D and crack jokes as they go.

-Andy

The Podcasts

Penny Arcade’s site

Gabe’s D&D Page

Gabe’s D&D Twitter

The Grand Masquerade

Posted in Gaming News with tags , , , , on August 18, 2010 by boccobsblog

After 19 years of making some of the most impressive horror genre role-playing games on the market, White Wolf is throwing a massive convention in New Orleans at the Roosevelt Hotel. The con will showcase all of the World of Darkness games, as well as WW card games. There will be offsite parties at The Succubus Club as well as a ball at the Blue Room. For more information, visit the the convention’s main page: here.

-Andy

Are you being cheated out of your critical hits?

Posted in D&D 3.5 e Content, D&D 4e Content, Gaming News, Product Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2010 by boccobsblog

That’s what the people at Game Science claim. Their founder, Louis Zocchi, says that because modern dice companies roll their dice in rock tumblers and use sub-standard plastics to make their dice, that they are not as statistically accurate as his dice are.

If you would like to hear his entire story (warning, it is a bit of a rant that goes on for 20 minutes) you can view Zocchi’s videos here.

I tested several of the dice I purchased this year at Gen Con and I have to admit, Zocchi’s claims appear to be true (as “proved” by my very non-scientific test). I tested dice in groups of three to reduce the amount of time I spent rolling dice.

Results: Out of 150 rolls (tested 3 times), the Game Science dice rolled 15 20’s, while his competitors (three other large dice companies) only yielded 8 20’s.

I have conducted other similar tests for the unbelieving  gamers in my groups and come up with similar results.  Granted that a much larger data set would be needed to come to any firm decision, but the dice seem to yield more 20’s.

Has anyone else out there done any testing of their own? If so tell us about it.

-Andy

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