December 31, 2009

Gleam Shard- 4E Monster

Gleam Shard

Gleam shards are small splinters of the massive crystal found at the blurred edge between the Abyss and the Elemental Chaos. They are 3 feet long crystalline structures and shift coloring every few seconds, hurting the eyes as they do so. They are content to serve, and die for, other beings, as long as they can sow chaos in doing so.

December 28, 2009

RPG Holidays

I do not particularly like articles written about holidays at this time of the year. They are usually about stats provided for Santa Claus or his evil variations. It's all a bit too silly for me. Other than perhaps Narnia, modern day holidays have no place in a fantasy setting.
However, in most rpg settings holidays in general are overlooked.  Very seldom does a setting explain the holidays of the everyday folk within the setting. Sometimes you will have an adventure where a holiday is the backdrop to the adventure, but that is usually the extent of it. Personally I feel adding holidays and festival days to a campaign can make it more alive. If the characters have experienced a specific holiday once, and it comes around again, there is a sense of time passing, of the world moving. Experiencing a holiday also brings out the history of a culture (are they celebrating a revolution they won?) or its people (are they allowing a peasant to rule the kingdom for a day?)

The key is to have a holiday make an appearance more than once. The hard part is designing or including holidays into a campaign. Here are some ideas.

December 18, 2009

4E Challenge Skills

I've been working on some skill challenges lately for some 4E encounters. One thing I found helpful was having a list of all the skills, and their subsets, on one page in front of me. I got to thinking this might be of use for other people so here is my attempt to throw such a thing together.
This is nothing but a basic list. My recommendation is to copy all this into a text document and then split it into two columns. It should all easily fit onto one page then.

December 17, 2009

Prideful Plug

I was originally going to title this post 'Shameless Plug', but despite the fact I have no shame, this post is actually about something I take pride in.

Yesterday Azagar's Book of Rituals went on sale in stores everywhere (or at least in those places that decided to carry them). The book was the result of an open call for 4E rituals from Goodman Games. They were kind enough to include a few of my submissions. I had done some similar work for 3E, but this is my first 4E stuff published in a book. It's always nice to see your work in a print book.

Reviews have been good so far. We'll see what more people have to say now that's its officially out now.

December 15, 2009

The Five Senses

In an earlier post I made mention of immersion and how it can be used to make an adventure seem more real. One of the ways this can be done is by allowing the players to use all five of their senses; Sight, Hearing, Touch, Smell, Taste. The five senses are methods of perception and thus ways to communicate with the players. Anytime you can reach more than one sense something becomes more real and the players become more cognizant of the setting.

The trick is to figure out how to target and utilize all these senses. Hearing is the most commonly used sense at the gaming table and it misleads us into thinking we are including other senses, when in fact we are not. Describing a room in detail can cause a player to create a vision within their mind of the room. This can help visualize the room, but we are still only using the sense of hearing. Same with describing the smell of a monster or the feeling of a wave of fire.
Vivid descriptions of what a character's senses are relaying to the character can help tremendously, and is an excellent start. A player will remember a similar experience and that memory will enhance the encounter, even if it is just a verbal description. However, the other senses can be used if we expand our toolbox of GM methods.

I'm going to look at each sense and give some ideas of how you can get a player to use them. Note that we are again trying to target the players with these techniques, moreso than the characters.

December 10, 2009

Bonebane Skeleton- 4E Monster

Bonebane Skeleton

At first glance a bonebane skeleton looks much the same as a "traditional" skeleton. However, the bonebane has a habit of breaking its bones fairly easily, often to the detriment of the creature it is fighting, as pieces of bone remain stuck into its victim.
Creatures that create the bonebane are usually not adverse to sacrificing the bonebane in order to have it do as much damage as possible before it is destroyed.

December 8, 2009

RPG Wealth, Let's Not Be Vague

I've been hearing alot about the abstraction of wealth in rpg games lately ( About how no one likes to count their character's money down to the copper piece. About how GMs don't want to waste valuable game time letting a character go shopping. About how there are wonderful systems that can be used to abstract wealth issues to speed up play and remove irrelevant (to the adventure) money details (

I say NO to those ideas.

Wealth within an RPG campaign revolves around 3 facets; Acquisistion, Retention, Spending. I will discuss each facet and how the various concepts apply.

December 4, 2009

Birthright Encounters Four

• Over the course of a month mysterious things begin to happen around the regent's castle. A box of chocolates appears on the regent's pillow as he prepares for bed. A single rose is found on the mirror. A fine bottle of wine is found in ice in the wash basin. A box holding a fine dagger is found on the night stand. A fine painting is found hanging on the wall. These are all the actions of a secret admirer, who is also a very skilled and infamous thief, with a crush on the regent.
• An agent a PC regent has used in the past to complete an Intrigue comes back claiming that the target of the former Intrigue has discovered his identity and the person needs to disappear, for which he requires 10,000 gp. The agent is lying and just trying to scam more money from the regent.
• A mysterious agent approaches a PC regent with information that a caravan controlled by a rival regent will be passing near his lands loaded with a large amount of wealth, about 10,000 gp worth. The agent works for another rival of the targeted regent and will admit as much if his identity is discovered. In reality, the agent has already informed the targeted regent that the PC regent will be attacking his caravan. This is all a plot to bring the two regents into direct conflict.
• A Mercenary Cavalry unit, the "Horse's Lament Regiment" offers a PC regent their employ for only 1 GB to hire and 1 GB upkeep. "They are down on their luck." In reality they are working for a rival regent who is placing his own troops within the PC regent's ranks. A few months later the PC regent receives a rumor that the rival regent has been gloating about a secret weapon he will use upon the PC regent.
• A member of a PC regent's court, Hiram Oldsbolt, approaches him with a problem. It seems he is the victim of an intrigue, when he was "indiscreet" with a local woman of ill repute, Josa Redmond, and he is now being blackmailed with the intent to reveal information on troop movements within the kingdom. Because of the delicacy of the situation it is impossible to simply arrest the woman, she has wide ranging connections and people who would ask after her. Hiram states that she will only relent if the regent himself talks to her. In reality Hiram is part of a conspiracy against the regent. If the regent ends up talking to the woman alone she will use a philter of love and cause the regent to commit an "indecent" act. She will then begin to blackmail the regent stating she will reveal what has occurred in public and the regent will be forced to answer questions while under a detect lies spell. Josa works for a rival regent who will use any harm put upon Josa as a way to publicly damage the regent.

December 3, 2009

Birthright Encounters Three

• The level of taxes within a province begins to go up by 1d3 GBs; while loyalty drops by one level. This is because a group of vigilantes have banded together to combat crime. They consist of old, retired adventurers, along with some "everyday" people, like butchers and blacksmiths, who fight crime at every opportunity. The local Guilds soon approach the regent with complaints, perhaps even threatening trade embargoes if something is not done about the lawless actions of the populace. The regent is also in danger of losing a level of Law as the people take the law into their own hands.
• A new wave of burglaries and robberies begins to plague a domain. Immediately, blame is cast upon any local Guilds, but in fact it is the work of a group of experienced freelancers. The local regent must find the truth among the lies of the Guilds and then confront the group, known only as "The Seven".
• Taxes within a province begin to dwindle and then stop all together. If questioned the report is that times are hard and bandits are on the prowl. In fact, the provincial tax collector, Evan Bellain, has been skimming a large portion of the taxes. To make matters even worse, the stealing has been instigated and controlled by the province ruler. The province ruler's plan is to allow the tax collector to take the blame and if his part is revealed he will flee with the money.

December 2, 2009

Birthright Encounters Two

• Two rival Guilds/Temples have taken to the streets in the war to eliminate each other. The streets of one of the regent's cities runs in blood and innocents are being caught in the crossfire. Both sides have taken to hiring mercenaries. The Law holding is decreased by one. By properly investigating, it can be determined the conflict is being instigated by a local coffin maker, who is spreading rumors about both sides.
• Two feuding mercenary bands, the "Crimson Eye", led by Miles Anthur, and the "Long Deaths", led by Keth Anthur, (yes they are brothers) have decided to resolve their differences in a final battle. Unfortunately the site for this final conflict lies within one of the regent's provinces. The "Crimson Eye" has appeared early and has taken up residence within a local town. News reaches the regent of another mercenary band approaching his kingdom. The "Crimson Eye" controls two units and the "Long Deaths" controls three units. The regent must determine what is going on and stop the battle before it wreaks havoc on his province.
• Two bread makers, Red Linsome and Jules Baker, are feuding about which one makes a better bread. They have gathered the other bakers behind them and there is even talk of each side hiring fighters to eliminate the other. Bread production has stopped and the city goes without bread. Loyalty within the province will go down unless the regent can solve the problem, which may involve him being forced to choose which bread is better.

December 1, 2009

Birthright Encounters One

Birthright was a setting I really enjoyed, running two campaigns therein. In Birthright the players are rulers; rulers of small nations, guilds, religions, etc. They controlled the resources of a kingdom and adventures ran at a different scale. I have always felt players particularly enjoy building things (over destroying them) and this setting was all about building.

Every turn (months of game time) there would be random situations that could crop up. While I was running the game I created more random happenings beyond that which the game provided. Here now are the ones I wrote up. There are a lot of them and will need to be spread out over a series of posts. I am leaving in the Birthright references, but will attempt to make a note of what they mean so they can better be used in another setting.
Even if you are not running a Birthright game right now (and who is, since it was a 2E setting) these can be used by a DM as background information for the players on the world he is currently running. And if some day the DM runs a game wherein the players are involved in national politics (such as the Reign game by Greg Stolze) this can help a lot. They can also be used as adventure ideas where, even if your players are not playing at the top end of the political scene, they may become involved in some of these anyway.