Archive for World of Darkness

3 Games of Chance for Your Fantasy RPG

Posted in D&D 3.5, D&D 4e Content, Pathfinder, Product Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2011 by boccobsblog

Gambling is a reoccuring theme in fantasy novels, games, and films. I guess since they have no TVs or Xboxs all Orcs have to do when they have down time from their pilaging is to throw dice and play cards. Today I wanted to show a few games that could be used in-game to add realism and depth to your campaign’s tavern experience.

For brevities sake I will not be going into rules or mechanics of each game, but I will provide links to their site so you can find more information.

Three Dragon Ante

This is supposed to be the premiere card game in the D&D multiverse. TDA works well as a stand-alone card game and is quick and easy enough to be worked into an adventure without taking up the whole night. TDA (and really all of the games mentioned today) give you a great oppurtunity to role play and let those charasmatic players shine. One thing that I really like about TDA is that it has a section in the rule book that lets you us character skills to affect the card game. This option really lets players feel like they didn’t waste those skill points and have a great deal of fun in the process. At the link provided above, you can get a free copy of the rulebook and TDA quest ideas.

Harrow

Not to be outdone by Wizards of the Coast, Paizo has created their own card game for the Pathfinder world. Harrow is a stand-alone card game that can be played in-game or out. One cool feature about Harrow, is that it is can also be used as a furture telling device as well. According to Paizo’s website, Harrow fetures the artwork of Kyle Hunter, whose comics have appeared in Dungeon Magazine. If you would like to learn more about Harrow, the rule book is available as a free download here

The Red Dragon Inn: Gambling? I’m In!

This is actually nine games inspired by Slug fest Game’s The Red Dragon Inn, and can be used interchangably. I had a chance to demo this game (not all nine, but the main game and two others) at last year’s Gen Con and they were all easy to learn and enjoyable. The game includes a 90-card deck and rules for all nine games that can be played as a stand-alone or in-character in any fantasy RPG.

Modern Game Props

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 28, 2011 by boccobsblog

Props for games based in modern times have a serious advantage over those in fantasy or sci-fi games; they don’t have to be anachronistic or pass a believability test. Not to mention, modern props are so much easier to come by.

I don’t think a prop should just by a 3d representation in a game, I think it should be a puzzle you hand the players and allow them to follow the clues and leads it creates. When I was younger, I played a game by Infocom, called “The Witness” (1983), a text-based murder mystery that included several props: a matchbook, a real newspaper, letters, etc. I remember how those props added such depth and realism to the game.

You could get an entire campaign’s worth of adventures with a purse or wallet filled with props and leads, and for me that is the largely untapped potential of using props.

So here is a list of possible modern game prop ideas:

  • Flash drive/disk- You could fill this with clue, red herrings, photos, e-mails, links, documents, etc.
  • Toy gun/knife- beware, shoot your gm with an air soft gun and…
  • E-mail- Set up a fake e-mail account for your NPC and send the players cryptic notes
  • Website- Set up a fake MySpace or Facebook page, blog, Livejournal, etc. Fill the site with fake photos, and clues, and misleading information
  • Matchbook- You could take one for an existing business, or make one out of cardstock
  • Business card- You can buy business card paper for your printer
  • Cell phone- Take an old cell phone and put in a fake address book, take photos, set up  phony calls sent and received to act as clues to further leads
  • Newspaper- You could make a fake paper using programs like Publisher, or take a paper from the city your game is set in and add clues (circle dates, numbers, cut out articles, etc)
  • Video- Depends on how involved you want your props to be, you could make some amazing prop videos, fake home movies, etc.
  • Camera- digital, disposable, .35mm, filled with pictures to point to clues and adventure possibilities
  • Laptop- much like the above mentioned items, a laptop prop could be filled with enough clues, hints, and misleading information to sustain an entire campaign
  • Drug label- using sticker paper, make fake prescription labels
  • Diary- it would take some time, but you could create an entire fake journal for an npc that drops clues and hints about major plot points in the campaign

Larpers get to take the modern prop to the next level:

  • Address book- Is the killer listed? List addresses on npcs, businesses, and contacts. This could turn into an amazing cross town adventure tracking down leads
  • Bus station key- You could place clues in a bus station locker, and drop the key as a prop. The number of surprising things you could leave in there are unlimited.
  • Hotel key- A pricey version of the bus station locker key
  • GPS coordinates- use a Garmin or similar gps device to lead the pc’s to a remote location
  • Map- a low-tech version of the GPS, circle a location or make notes on a road map

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

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

Highlights of Gen Con Indy 2010

Posted in D&D 3.5 e Content, D&D 4e Content, Gaming News, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by boccobsblog

Well, Gen Con Indy is over. As always, it was an amazing experience. Where else in the world can you see 28,000 gamers in one place? Where else can you have a deep conversation about kobold battle tactics with a 45-year-old man in a homemade Pikachu costume and have no one judge you? The rest of the world could learn a lot about diversity and tolerance at Gen Con. 

Here are some of the highlights: 

  

  

Costumes 

The attendants of this year’s Gen Con did not disappoint. There were some amazing costumes and everyone I saw was very patient, allowing themselves to be photographed again and again. 

Free Demos 

There were more games at GC than you could ever hope to try in four days. We tried some great new games and we will be sure to give each of them a full review in the weeks to come. 

The Vendors 

You have to admire people who are willing to spend four days dressed as a luchador, or a pirate, or wear a chicken on their head in hopes of moving their product. 

Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton 

This was the only part of the con that was a bit sour for me. I had hoped to meet the cast of The Guild, but the line was very long, so I walked up to the rope and took a few pictures. Shortly after I started snapping shots, security approached me and asked that I, “please put my pants back on and step away from the crew”. Well as you can imagine I was outraged, so I pulled my boffer sword and started to kick ass all the while screaming that Wil Wheaton had stolen my prized Degu. Any who…things got a bit intense and I was tazed several times and asked to leave. I didn’t let it ruin my day.

 Wizards of the Coast Displays

WotC had some amazing displays outside the Sagamon Ballroom, where they unveiled both the 4th edition incarnation of Darksun and the Castle Ravenloft Board game. There was a huge 3D red dragon representation of the Essential D&D Starter set that drop on September 7th. Also, there was a life-sized (can there be a life-sized version of a make-believe creature?) Beholder. It stood well over 12 feet tall. It was awesome. 

 The World of Darkness Lounge 

White Wolf had an excellent longue set up in the center of the con. The lounge, fully staffed by vampires, offered a bar, live music and an opulent seating area decorated with gothic-style furniture. 

All in all it was a great con. There is much more to say and I could go on forever posting pictures, but then I’d wouldn’t get any gaming done. If you attended the con I hope you had as good a time as I did, and if you didn’t get a chance to go, I hope to see you there next year. Enjoy these pictures. 

-Andy 

This beholder was life-sized and ate four of my group

 

 

Wil Wheaton

 

His breath smelled like dead gnomes and broken dreams

 

"I wish I had taken that civil service test..."

 

Felicia Day.

Buy my game or I'll body slam you!

Two web shows every gamer should watch

Posted in D&D 3.5 e Content, D&D 4e Content, Gaming News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2010 by boccobsblog

The Guild

The Guild, follows the exploits of a group of online gamers deeply entrenched in WoW-parody MMO. The show’s spot-on depictions of online gamers and hilarious scripts have made the Knights of Good an overnight web sensation. Fans of Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, will recognize the show’s star and head writer, Felicia Day, along with Effinfunny.com creator, Sandeep Parikh. The Guild has just started its fourth season (and can be seen here).

The Knights of Good

Legends of Neil

If you’re like me, then you have often wondered what would happen if you got drunk, and auto-erotically asphyxiated yourself with a Nintendo controller all while playing the original Legend of Zelda. Well, my hung over, sticky palmed friends wait no more, because Legends of Neil takes on such deep philosophical issues in the funniest, adult-themed Zelda parody show about an alcoholic gas station attendant on the web. The Legends of Neil can be found (for free) in its entirety on Effinfunny.com, or by pressing this link.

Both The Guild, and Legends of Neil are completely hilarious, completely free and a great way to spend an hour of your boring workday.

Two handouts that should make your life easier

Posted in D&D 3.5 e Content, D&D 3.5e DM Content, D&D 4e Content, The Crafty DM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2010 by boccobsblog

GM screens can be useful tools. They are covered in somewhat useful information, and you can use them to shield your rolls and your miniatures. That said, there are some things that a GM’s screen doesn’t cover. Have you ever been in a game where this happens? :

DM: The blacksmith, a grimy dwarf with a long scar on his face, smiles as he hands you the newly forged sword.

Player: Cool, what’s his name?

DM: Um… (looking around the room), Table…Tablemen…yeah…his name is Tablemen.

Player: Did you just look at the table and name him Tablemen?

DM: Um…roll initiative.

Sound familiar? How about this one?

DM: With a flourish of your sword, you slay the last orc in chamber. What would you like to do?

Player: We search the orcs and the chamber for treasure.

DM: Um… (scrambles for a DMG)…you find something, I’ll roll it later.

Player: But, we could find something that would be useful in the rest of the dungeon.

DM: Fine. (Game comes to a halt for the next ten minutes and any momentum is lost)

These are scenarios that I have encountered multiple times, both as a player and as a GM. In an attempt to prevent scenes like these from happening in the future I have created two handouts that should help. The first is a sheet of names for each of the standard fantasy races(26 names per gender, per race). The second is a list of treasure in order of challenge rating (three entries per CR, 1st-20th).

These handouts aren’t meant to be used during the planning phase of your adventure (you would go through the treasure and names quickly), instead reserve them for those instances when your players ask you the name of an NPC you didn’t deem important enough to warrant a name, and for those time when your players wander into an encounter you didn’t expect (and therefore didn’t roll treasure for).

I hope you find them useful. Print them out, paper clip them inside your GM screen, and never be caught off guard again.

Names

Treasure

-Andy

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