Monday, June 21, 2010, 3:16 PM
Turns out that I wasn't the only person with questions on how to use the Monster Builder. Instead of continuing to complain about the lack of information, I decided to create an unofficial manual by myself. I hope it helps!
Unofficial Monster Builder Manual
Tuesday, October 13, 2009, 9:07 AM
A recent episode of Fear the Boot explores the, at least perceived, lack of mythology in fantasy role playing games. The main thrust of the argument appears to be that since there is a known pantheon of gods and that clerics of those gods have known and provable powers, there is no superstition or mythology in the game. It is based on the opinion that the reason we have gods, myths and the like is that things happen in the course of our lives that we have a hard time explaining and that we create explanations for these events. Over time, these explanations become the basis of the myths and legends that form our cultural knowledge. In many fantasy RPGs however, there is this lack of mystery about how and why things happen. Or more succinctly, "they lack mythology because everything is real." In the end, however, it's less about what is and isn't detailed in the rule books and more about the fundamental tensions of playing a cooperative, story-based game on top of a number of competitive encounters and challenges with characters whose knowledge does not mirror the player's own.
You can read more on my blog, SarahDarkmagic.com, but I wanted to include some of my suggestions for creating that sense of mystery here.
* While it may seem difficult or wrong to not give your players every bit of knowledge that you have about the world, hold some info back if they don't make the appropriate skill roll. The campaign guide for Eberron has some nice examples of this.
* Players shouldn't assume that the stuff available from the books is how things work in a particular world. It's not true until the dungeon master says it and, even then, it still might not be true.
* Richer, more detailed environments have more chances to create the sense of mystery. This includes terrain features, non-player characters, and even the marking of time. Does the whole town pray at a certain time of day? Why do they celebrate their mid-autumn festival with large paper lanterns?
Saturday, October 10, 2009, 12:12 PM
As an adult, newbie dungeon master with a full-time job and other such responsibilities, I don't have as much time to devote to crafting my game as I might like. Which means, while I would love to spend hours drawing maps, doing so would take time away from what I consider to be even more important items, story development and encounter planning. For this reason, I've been looking through some of the 3rd edition archives available on the Wizards of the Coast website.
This led me to discover what I consider to be a pretty cool module written in 1983, L2. The Assassin's Knot. While my main interest in the module at this point is for the maps and some descriptions of the town and its inhabitants, I think it would be interesting to update the module for 4th edition play. Unlike many modules I've read, you get to play Sherlock Holmes instead of going to "here there be monsters" and slaying them. I know my husband has been wanting to play in a game with more intrigue and mystery, so I will probably be borrowing those elements over time as well.
For my Newham campaign, Garroten becomes Derby, a small town on the Susswasser River, the House of Abraham (inn) becomes the Crown and Arrows, and the castle becomes the home of the Duke of Derby, his wife, his son Alric, and daughter-in-law Margaret. Without her husband's knowledge, Margaret had promised her first-born to a goblin in exchange for the secret of how to spin straw into gold and, well, the payment is about to come due. I kept most of the stores available in Garroten but added my own twists to them and changed the temples to revere the gods that the inhabitants of Newham Shire are most likely to celebrate. So far, using the preexisting structure from the module has allowed me to add a lot of flavor to the game without taking a lot of effort on my part. I get to fill in the blanks instead of having to come up with the blanks and then filling them.
The DMG suggests that dungeon masters "steal" as much as they need to craft their games and I think these archives are a great resource for doing just that. I'm thinking of modifying the maps from Return to the Temple of the Frog for my Lizardfolk city.
3.5 D&D Archives
Originally posted to my blog: SarahDarkmagic.com
Friday, October 9, 2009, 6:43 PM
I really like tiles. They let me create encounter maps in a modular setting and make things up on the fly. While I like the ones created by Wizards of the Coast, I find that you often need multiple sets and that can get expensive over time. Besides, I really like the arts and crafts time I get to spend when I make my own.
* Foam sheets - I got mine at Ben Franklins. They are 9x12 and are available in a number of different colors.
* Markers - I used Sharpie brand permanent markers.
* Clear contact paper
* A ruler - It can double as a straight edge for drawing the lines.
* Card stock - Use it to create removable terrain features.
* Adhesive tack - Use it to "pin" down the tiles.
1. Draw grid on the foam. Permanent markers work pretty well, just don't push down too hard.
2. Cover the tiles with clear contact paper.
3. If you want to make the rooms, doors, and other items to be permanent, draw them out now with permanent marker. Mistakes can be removed by wiping the tiles with a dry paper towel or cloth. Some marks can be removed the next day with rubbing alcohol.
4. Place the tiles down on the surface. You can use adhesive tack to help keep them in place. In my case, I like putting them down on a battle mat to make lining them up easier and, in cases of town settings, the rest of the encounter area is already set up. In addition to the tiles, you can make encounter features out of card stock, such as crates, trees, and beds.
This article along with photos can be found on my website SarahDarkmagic.com.
Sunday, October 4, 2009, 9:09 AM
Over the past few weeks, I've been running the Newham Shire/Arcadia campaign for my group. I've been having a blast and I think my group is having fun as well. Recently, however, I think I made a pretty big beginners mistake. Many of my story lines have been a bit more complex than the normal, "there be bad guys" type campaigns, and I really thought my players might appreciate a couple of encounters with clear bad guys that one doesn't have to feel so bad about killing. The second of these encounters involved a small band of spriggans (5 in total) who were demanding a toll in order to cross a bridge. I thought it was going to be a pretty fun, if a bit of a hard encounter and I spent a fair bit of time figuring out how the different members of the spriggan team would act and how to use their powers most effective.
However, in all my planning, I didn't expect that my players might not want to fight. Just as important, I couldn't see how these little guys (who dip their hats in the blood of their victims) wouldn't want either a very large toll from the players or their blood. This failure to think a bit outside of the box led to a rather awkward incident where my players rolled fairly high but it was well near impossible to get the result they wanted.
If I had thought about this possibility in advance, I could have done a much better job meeting my player's expectations. Their attempts to use diplomacy and intimidate could have been part of a harder skill challenge. The failure condition could be that they were required to pay an even higher toll or just that they would have to fight the spriggans. I would have felt better about it and I think my players would have as well. In the end, my players really appreciated the more difficult and challenging encounter, but I think it would have been an awesome encounter with the addition of the skill challenge.
Originally posted to my blog: SarahDarkmagic.com