In the right situation, enemy spellcasters can be extremely dangerous. They have access to powerful spells and abilities that can inflict grievous damage or disruption to the player characters. Some of these are BBEGs, but many are simple "encounter bosses", typically found in the final of that evil cultist shrine, or what have you.
Note that for the purposes of this article I am referring to the traditional spell casting enemies, like wizards, sorcerers, shamans, warlocks, priests, etc. An ancient green dragon, while technically a spellcaster, is not something that I would suggest beefing up due to the fact that they are very tanky and require quite a feat to overpower in combat.
The problem with these fantastic specimens is that they generally have some piss-poor defensive stats. They usually have a low hit point pool, a pretty low armour class, and usually some susceptibility to saving throw failures as well. When coupled with the fact that players see these encounter leaders with the word "BOSS" tattooed on their chest, their defensive statistics don't hold up too well when the party inevitably focuses their fire and throws their resources at taking these down as soon as possible.
Since this, let's call it, "natural selection" of players targeting anything that looks like it can do cool stuff (or dangerous stuff), is a thing, we may as well try to look at ways to utilise these enemies better. The best solution isn't just to stat-pad the wizard with more HP and a higher armour class. He'll start to feel just like a bugbear again and we're back to boring old square one; hence why I use the term "utilise" as opposed to "make them stronger".
So let's have a think about some ways that a spellcaster can utilise their power more effectively in combat.
Wizards (and most other spellcasters) are likely to have high wisdom, intelligence, or both. Yes, this is included in their spell bonuses, but remember that their thought processes would also be influenced by this too - they aren’t idiots! So we need to factor this in when thinking about ways they can utilise themselves more in combat. We need to remember that squishy spellcasters are usually very aware that they are a) squishy and b) a spellcaster. They wouldn't just charge into the fray.
To start, let's look at the biggest downfalls that these spellcasters have. Let's look at some reasons why they aren't as challenging as they perhaps might otherwise be:
1) They get focused on with big spells/nukes and martial heroes’ attacks;
2) They are often the juicy target for any of those "disruptive" spells the PC casters have such as Silence, Blindness, Confusion, Charm, etc.;
3) Their armour class and hit points are usually low, for their challenge rating; and
4) They don't function as effectively when adjacent to the hostile PCs.
I have a few potential solutions to this:
1) Don’t start combat with the caster in danger
Don't start the caster in the room when the fight breaks out. Have him enter part-way through instead. Let's say the PCs kick down the door of the wizard's quarters. What happens? Maybe his well-trained mimic treasure chest attacks! Perhaps the two suits of armour against the wall come alive and attack. Then have the wizard enter from an adjacent room on the following round, or even a few rounds later.
Alternatively, when the party attacks the wizard's guards in the great hall, the wizard hears the commotion (or an alarm spell is triggered) in the main chamber, and he enters with his golems and joins the fight mid-way while the players are already occupied.
The first advantage to this is that the wizard avoids the snowball of death that is the opening round of a D&D combat; where the players use their strongest abilities and try to burst down any immediate threats as quickly as possible. If the wizard walks in on a later round, it throws a spanner in the works by creating a tactical challenge for the players! Also, if the wizard has a round or two before they enter combat, they can cast those juicy defensive spells before they even step into the danger zone. Spells like Mirror Image, Mage Armour, Armour of Agathys, Blur, etc. are great.
2) Cast Invisibility/Blink
Have the wizard in the area, but have them unseen (due to Invisibility) or in another plane (with Blink). Until the wizard attacks, or is revealed, Invisibility will shield them from a lot of unwanted aggression from the PCs. Blink is a good disruptive defensive spell, as it will give the caster some rounds without any danger from the players.
3) Illusion Shenanigans
I've done this a few times and it's worked out pretty well. Just try not to be too mean with it, and don't overuse it.
There are a few ways to use illusion shenanigans. Firstly, to obscure the wizard from view (have a bookcase or some other Line of Sight blocker in between the party and the wizard's.) If the illusion goes, the wizard is revealed! Alternatively, disguise the wizard so that he looks like a commoner, a prisoner, or perhaps a grunt in the combat. Thirdly, you can disguise one of the other enemies to LOOK like the wizard with an illusion spell.
In one of my campaigns, the illusionist wizard was in a large chamber with a bunch of his golems. The paladin of the party, who hated him, ran forward and used misty step to be right next to the wizard, and then attacked. It was then he realised that the wizard's image was only an illusion, cloaking the real enemy - the wizard's champion battle golem! The paladin was alone, right next to it! You could also use illusions as 1hp minions to try and coax out spells from the players. Use this approach in moderation, as it can backfire in nasty ways, i.e. players running amok in revenge.
4) Run two wizards
You can't focus fire two things at once! Another option is to consider running two, slightly weaker wizards as opposed to just one. (Or 3 wizards, or 4, 10, 20, etc.) Sure, one might get focused down and annihilated, but the other will still be up! Or your party might panic and half-kill both of them, leaving them both free to wreak havoc on their next turn!
5) The Old Switcheroo
The party kicks down the door to see an evil warlock in robes completing his ritual. He is surrounded by 4 demonic brutes, and he glares at you and gestures with his finger, pointing for his demons to attack the intruders. The players think "Oh crap, we gotta kill that warlock first so that the encounter is easier." But what they don't know, is that the warlock is just Joe Bloggs from Villagehills down the road, who turned a dark path and read the wrong page from the black tome. He has AC10, no spells, and one hit die. The real threat of this combat are the demonic brutes, but I can bet money that some useful spells might be wasted on this commoner - spells which really would have been more helpful if used on the demons. Again, don't overuse it, but dab it in your world here and there for a bit of fun.
6) Use The Battlefield To Their Advantage
Design encounters that really suit wizards. Throw in a lot of inhibiting terrain that slows movement or forces the players to take a long route to get to the wizard. Having a ravine or crevasse in-between the wizard and the party is an easy way of doing this. You could also accommodate this with a trap (like swinging axes) that stands between the players and the wizard's (But you should think of offering a long way around the trap for players who don't want to tangle with it). Also, of course, remember to station the wizard's allies as a barrier between the wizard and the PCs.
There are two types of DMs in the world. Those who increase difficulty by giving their spellcasters more hit points and a higher armour class, or those who use more strategic or creative measures to increase the challenge. Harder doesn’t necessarily mean more hit points. Use the above to really let those players know how crazy powerful spellcasters can be!
Peter is an avid dungeon master, role-player, and story teller. When he's not running homebrew campaigns, he is creating new worlds, or he is reading and writing fantasy stories, forever immersing himself in the gaping black-hole known as the fantasy genre.
Image Credit: http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/uncle-grandpa/images/2/27/Transparent_Evil_Wizard.png/revision/latest?cb=20140515001325
I know that if you are reading this article that you already have an affinity for tabletop roleplaying games. I don’t need to convince you that they are great to play. But somehow there are large numbers of non-active roleplayers I have met. I could make up a statistic now and say 50% of regular roleplayers don’t game anymore. Isn’t that horrible?
There are many good reasons why people take a hiatus from roleplaying. Tales have been told of groups that have fallen apart, moving away from your group, family commitments getting in the way, life being unbearably busy, or in my case I had a small bundle of energy burst into my world. My hiatus (luckily) only lasted a couple years, but making time to roleplay again was one of my best decisions.
I know one will sound a little “wonky” (thank you for the influx of odd vocabulary, daughter), but bear with me. I know a common reason that you stop roleplaying is due to the commitments in your everyday life. But I have found that when you schedule in a regular game on a weekly or biweekly occurance, your schedule makes it seem like you have more time. Having a schedule in your job works the same way. Less time is spent thinking about what you do next and you just do it.
Scheduling a game makes sure I have put in my time for fun and for me first. When in a regular roleplaying group, I see people more often. I know meeting with friends outside the group often means checking multiple schedules (yours, mine, spouses, children), checking on a child’s sickness, neglecting other things I had hoped to do (I’m looking at you laundry), and a myriad of things, which means I rarely see them. But my roleplaying friends become closer and the rest of my life is far easier to manage with good scheduling.
I probably don’t need to write much about this (considering my audience), but I will note a few things. As I get older and delve more into my professional life, I am bombarded with things I do for the sake of my career that are fulfilling or help me get ahead. Many of these things are not fun. In fact, fun things often get set aside for the ‘adulting’ choices. Making time for fun is important and I think all of you know that. Embrace it.
3) Stress Relief
Stress is not a dirty word in my household. It is an ever present reality. It is not all bad since it spurs us on to work hard and accomplish a great number of things that we would not do otherwise. But you do need to offset stress.
Roleplaying is the greatest offset I have found. It is creative and based on conquering goals and solving problems together. It causes me to look for solutions instead of focusing on problems. It has me analyse my character’s strengths and weaknesses not as personality flaws, but as simply realities I need to work with. With my stats laid out I am able to ask the barbarian Mayron for help in an area without fear of looking weak (unless that’s what I am going for story-wise of course). If all stressors in my life worked this way, my stress would be lessened greatly.
Roleplaying is more than just a stress-reliever. A story envelops you as you roleplay. My daydreaming in elementary school was recorded on every report card. I needed the time to escape and ponder fantastical stories in my mind. These stories were often the same ones with minor adjustments thrown in for a different flavour. The group narrative in roleplaying is an enhancement to my daydreams beyond what I could ever comprehend. We collectively put away our regular lives to create a vivid new world with new people experiencing new things. This is precious.
5) Mental Health
Time to throw down my personal flaws for all to see. I am human being who struggles with depression and has to greater or lesser extents my entire life. My default when hitting depression is to hide away, see no one, make no plans, and slowly fall deeper and deeper as the lying depression brain convinces me that no one wants to hang out anyway.
Having a regular game not only gives you a foothold in with people and interaction, but also forms a community of individuals who look out for you when you try to skip out on too many games. The act of people pursuing you for fun is in direct opposition to the lying depression brain. Even when playing and my depression is at its worst, when the other players or GM commend me on something small within the game, it chips away at the wall I was busy building. I firmly believe that roleplaying is a positive place for those who struggle with mental health concerns.
Ideas are not finite. However, sometimes when I am working on something solitary I am unable to grasp more ideas. When working with a group of people, ideas are built on, grown, fly out of nowhere, and abundant; this changes all the possibilities. Very rarely have I ever hit a brick wall when roleplaying (both figuratively and literally). When creating backstories or building new connections we are shown that roleplaying is an intensely creative hobby. You are honestly creating new ideas constantly.
7) Sexy-times Abilities
Okay this one was from a friend (collaboration). She claims that roleplaying enhances sexy-times ability. I didn’t ask details. I think she may have been thinking about a different kind of roleplay.
8) Problem Solving
We touched on this one briefly already. Being focused on finding a solution rather than just seeing a problem and quitting is a huge reason why you should play regularly. Using this skill over and over again in a game (where the risks to you are lower) is a good muscle to stretch and build. There are hundreds and hundreds of articles, research essays, and professional development courses that tell us how important problem solving skills are for the work force, academics, relationship building, and any other facet in your life.
In roleplaying you have a natural way to help this skill develop. There are general steps you need to do to problem solve. They say you should examine/identify/define/name the problem in detail. Grogar says that the farms outside of town have been plundered over and over again by some scoundrels. Your group knows the problem and probably discusses it. They will then move on to managing the problem. Your adventure group will automatically look for more information, investigate, and talk to those involved so they know more. Once the party knows more, they will looks at their options to solve the problem, they will brainstorm, weigh pros and cons, and look at the possible impacts of each solution. They will decide on the course of action and implement their plan. Whether that plan works or not will be a discussion in character involving high-fives or other discussion as you reflect on the results. These are the steps we try to teach others to take. Here they are done for practice, done collaboratively, and done for lower stakes. People pay good money to learn these skills and you do it in a game!
Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, ambivert, or extrovert with introvert tendencies (and so on), community is important. Finding a place to belong and contribute is an important part of life. Sometimes we can find communities elsewhere, but not everyone works in a place or is connected to a place outside their home.
Communities in roleplaying can be a place of non judgement, safety, and security. Roleplaying can be a place where you can *be* anyone. You can explore different facets of your personality or try out terrible dwarven voices. Putting yourself out there can make you feel vulnerable. I have yet to be judged for trying something out with a character even if I later realized that it quickly needed to be dropped. This “permission to fail” is an important part of my life, when I struggle to make all the “right” decisions outside of the game. Roleplaying communities have this built in.
So as you roleplayers on hiatus read through, I hope you can find a group to join, resurrect your old group, start your own group, or some combination of those three. The internet has made our world a bit smaller and it is easier to find each other. Take time to spend time on you. You are worth it.
This article was written by Vanessa who is a sarcastic, 30-something wife and mother. She likes things and stuff, but not simultaneously. When she isn’t involved in things and stuff, she teaches and coaches debate. She gets a little emotional sometimes when she writes. She is also trying out this new twitter handle at @sarasma_nessa ...on second/third thought… I am terrible at twitter. Please send help! She also thinks you should support the writers here that are more clever and can figure out twitter.
PIcture Reference: https://www.amazon.com/PacMan-Video-Game-Wall-Clock/dp/B01M290P3Z?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B01M290P3Z&pd_rd_r=F0G4HSBDG7P4FPQ179JP&pd_rd_w=cdoVH&pd_rd_wg=Iypp8&psc=1
I know that Lord Mayor Drakeson has invited you to Carinford-Halldon, ostensibly to congratulate you on rooting out and killing the werewolf Edmond Timothy. Have you had occasion to meet Mayor Drakeson's wife? Gwendolyn Drakeson is a perfect hostess, of course, and the two of them are quite in love. It would seem that her grandfather Nathan Timothy found a smart match for her indeed…
The werewolf (here and throughout I use the term werewolf, but each of these points could refer to most all lycanthropes, and some non-lycanthrope shapeshifters as well) is one of the oldest archetypes in horror literature. In Danse Macabre, Stephen King boils all monsters down to three basic molds, one of which is the werewolf: the monster that walks among us. Throughout history, mythology, and fiction, there are several common threads that run through the best werewolf stories. Hopefully, looking at some of these a little more closely may give you some insight (or inspiration) for using werewolves in your own games.
1) The Beast
Truly, from his origins as a pauper in the western core, Frankie Drakeson has overcome a great deal of personal tragedy, from being orphaned before he could walk, to the brutal violence he and his sister suffered at the hands of a Dementlieuse smuggler. Such setbacks would have destroyed a lesser man, but Mayor Drakeson shows no signs of being weighed down by his past.
The werewolf isn’t just a person who turns into a wolf. Not everyone who gets bitten becomes infected. In werewolf stories, the hidden monstrosity of the werewolf represents the savagery that can lurk within anyone. This can vary from a rage-fueled impulse to mindless destruction, all the way up to a predatory need to hunt and kill one’s own kind. In Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series, the werewolf curse isn’t just a supernatural disease; it represents the very real, deep issues these characters struggle with, including spousal abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, and a host of other problems. In the best werewolf stories, the monster isn’t just the random victim of circumstance: the curse echoes some darkness that already exists within them, and the wolf is just an excuse to let it out.
2) The Unnatural
A word of advice if you plan to accept his invitation: Carinford-Halldon is extremely unusual for Mordentish villages in that it has no dogs. The residents seem unsure about the cause, and while some blame the wild boars and others vaguely recall a mysterious canine illness, bringing a hound remains a risky proposition.
The ‘wolf’ in werewolf has very little to do with wolves beyond a passing resemblance. The best werewolves have virtually nothing to do with natural wolves. Most werewolves are shunned by natural beasts. It’s fitting that many werewolf groups operate along the alpha-beta-omega pack structure, since this hierarchy is a fiction of humankind. It appears only in wolves in captivity, so it's apropos that it is used by beings that are of both wolf and man, but wholly neither. In the few cases where monstrous werewolves exert control over real wolves, they control the animals not through a connection of kinship but through supernatural domination, much like a vampire. The werewolf who has a deep connection to nature is a figure of primal spirituality, not a monster, and loses some of its impact in a horror setting.
3) The Hidden
I envy you: Mayor Drakeson is a delightful dinner companion! The servants and commonfolk in his village will no doubt seek to regale you with numerous tales of the monsters he's vanquished and the lengths he's gone to in order to protect his friends and family. There's probably no one in the entire town that doesn't feel like they personally owe their lives to him.
The greatest danger of the werewolf isn’t their teeth or even their curse; it’s that they could be anyone. If the players can readily identify the werewolf suspect, then you might not be getting the most mileage out of the werewolf archetype. The werewolf is at its best when people don’t even realize that’s what they’re dealing with. In a D&D game of course, this is nearly impossible. Fortunately, once someone has been exposed to the werewolf archetype it leaves an indelible fear in the back of their mind; fear of the evil their friends and allies might be concealing. (It is this exact fear that games like Are You a Werewolf? exploit to create humor.) As the adventure continues and tension begins to mount, player suspicion will grow to become paranoia, and the damage that a party can do when it is gripped by fear can be greater than the mayhem caused by the werewolf itself. The most malevolent werewolves, the ones who know (or suspect) their true nature, are adept at exploiting this, diverting attention from themselves so adroitly that their friends and allies will even take up arms against renowned heroes rather than believe their loved one could be hiding such a dark secret.
4) The Puppet
I do hope you come at the right time of year, however. During autumn, when the last desperate traders of the season are hurrying across the lands, both predator and brigand make travel to the town dangerous. Why, the mayor and his family are so busy keeping the roads safe they can scarcely be found at all!
Although transforming beneath the full moon is the most common trigger, almost all werewolves are afflicted by their curse in some kind of scheduled timeframe, both in fiction and mythology. Ancient werewolf stories tell of men who transform every evening when the sun goes down, those who were cursed to walk as a wolf seven days out of the year, those who transformed beneath the new moon, and an assortment of other schedules. In all these cases, the underlying root is the same: the werewolf is affected by unseen forces that do not have such a pull over the rest of us. These forces compel the werewolf to do their evil deeds, in the same way that Dexter’s Dark Passenger compels him to his own butchery. History is rife with serial killers compelled to follow a schedule to their murders, and it is this example that informs the werewolf legend’s need for a timeframe. Altering the schedule for a werewolf antagonist can be a good way to throw the PCs for a loop while still maintaining this core aspect of the werewolf archetype.
Shortly after arranging to marry Nathan Timothy's granddaughter Gwen, Frankie began a family of his own. His six children have grown into fine young men and women, and from captain of the guard to magistrate, they all serve the town as loyally as their parents do.
Human storytellers have known for centuries that abuse and trauma can form a vicious feedback loop. The werewolf legend reflects that in multiple ways. On the one hand, there are the werewolves who were delivered into this curse: regular people, possibly even good people (albeit ones with repressed horrors or well controlled dark urges) who were affected by traumas larger than they could cope with. There are also the hereditary werewolves, whose curse was handed down from parent to child. These werewolves reflect the unfortunate tendency for the unwary (or uncaring) to inflict their own trauma on their children. Such families work hard to maintain a semblance of normalcy, keeping their family as hidden from their community as possible. Some werewolves who become aware of their nature can delight in spreading their disease to others (Voldemort’s flunky Fenrir Greyback is a good example of this) in the same way that some human predators take a perverse glee in bringing others around to their warped point of view.
6) The Corruption
Mayor Drakeson has done a wonderful job getting rid of the boars around Carinford-Halldon: those swine cause so many problems! Why, shortly after he settled there, the native boars caused so much damage with their rooting that they wiped out entire copses of trees. To this day you can't find a cedar tree within miles of the town.
Whether they entered their state willingly, as punishment for their crimes, were infected by another werewolf, or had their curse passed on by their parents, all werewolves share a foulness within them. This inner bestiality is why the werewolf is vulnerable to silver, as silver is a symbol of purity. Other possibilities exist, of course. Ravenloft werewolves are famous for their varied chemical and material ‘allergies.' However, all of these items share something in common: they’re all either symbols of purity or agents of purification. (The film Ginger Snaps explores this idea.) This is an important link for the archetype. Werewolves’ banes aren’t just random weaknesses, they’re a tangible reminder that the afflicted is a monster, and its pain stems from the fact that its wickedness is so strong as to cause a physical reaction when exposed to such purity.
7) The Victim
Since Frankie quit hunting monsters and settled down with his family, he's done his best to stay busy. Notably, he's done a marvelous job sponsoring and training monster hunters. He's shown a particular interest in training those adventurers who would travel through Kartakas or Verbrek, as though he has a specific grudge against the abominations of those lands.
Most werewolves were a person, once. Like Larry Talbot, they might have even been a good person. The most impactful werewolf stories are the ones where the protagonists discover that the werewolf is someone they care about. Almost as meaningful, and a little less expected, is when the werewolf turns out to be someone they don't know terribly well, but they just like. In lighter stories, the quest to find a cure can be the focus of an adventure. However, in horror adventuring, especially the Victorian horror of Ravenloft, the werewolf curse is an echo of the mental darkness it is serves as an allegory for: it cannot be cured. It can be suppressed, for a time, but there is no force that can contain it forever. Eventually, the monster within will break loose and hurt someone. The person the werewolf once was might be horrified by what they've become, but they find themselves unable to end their own existence; the monster is part of their own will to survive, and it is stronger than they are. Such unfortunate souls cannot understand why they continue to allow themselves to commit the atrocities they perform while transformed, and with every passing cycle they become increasingly unsure of whether they began as a good person with a horrific curse, or if the monster was their true self all along and their human life just a convenient disguise.
My, how I ramble on! The truth is, you've done quite a bit of good in the world, and I'm certain Mayor Drakeson's patronage is no small part of that. You deserve his recognition, to be sure. Carinford-Halldon is a lovely place: a tight knit community with an intense amount of loyalty to one another, both commoner and noble alike. Spend a day with the Mayor and his family, and you'll find their hospitality beyond compare. Spend any more time than that with them, and you're bound to have a howling good time...
Jim Stearns is a deranged hermit from the swamps of Southern Illinois. In addition to writing for the Black Library, he puts pen to paper for High Level Games and Quoth the Raven. His mad scribblings can frequently be found in anthologies like Fitting In or Selfies from the End of the World, by Mad Scientist Journal. Follow him on Twitter @jcstearnswriter.
Image reference: https://www.blackgate.com/2011/10/21/game-review-innistrad-from-magic-the-gathering/
For as long as there’ve been creative works, there will always be more creative works that are either inspired by or that pay homage to works before them, and the original Final Fantasy video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System is one such example of this.
Many of the game mechanics and creatures used in the original Final Fantasy were borrowed from Dungeons and Dragons, such as magic users only being able to use so many spells of certain levels per day, or even some of the monsters, such as sahuagin and mind flayers.
When Final Fantasy gained popularity in the 1990’s (which persists even to this day!), many people began working together to bring Final Fantasy back to its tabletop roots, with the largest of these endeavors being a long running project known as the Final Fantasy RPG project.
Today, I will show you all an abridged history of fan made Final Fantasy tabletop RPGs.
1) FInal Fantasy Tactics Miniatures Game
This is perhaps the oldest of the games showcased today; it’s a tabletop skirmish game based on the Final Fantasy Tactics video game for the Playstation. Though when I say “based on,” what I really mean is that it’s a direct copy of the rules of the game.
As in, its creator literally just wrote down the mechanics of the video game as the rules for this tabletop game (which, admittedly is no mean feat).
Unfortunately, this very fact also makes the game nearly unplayable, since many of the calculations are so redundant that it’d numb the average human mind after two rounds of combat where something actually happens.
This game also had some creative license taken with the classes available. There are a few additional classes that weren’t originally included in the Final Fantasy Tactics video game. They instead came from the real time strategy game Age of Empires.
It’s not by any means good, or even playable, but the Final Fantasy Tactics Miniatures Games is still noteworthy as an artifact from the Web 1.0 era. This game was made at a time when personal publishing tools were much less robust, and for all its flaws, it somehow managed to survive into this modern era of the internet.
2) Final Fantasy d20
Final Fantasy d20 originally started as a conversion of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 meant to sport character classes and races from the Final Fantasy franchise, but has recently been updated to use the Pathfinder rules.
The fact that it uses Pathfinder makes it seem, at first blush, like one of the more accessible games, but it actually points out what I believe is something of a misconception about games with “d20” affixed at the end of the title: they’re not all the same, and knowing one won’t necessarily make you a master of all the others.
All the races and classes from Pathfinder have been gutted to make room for Final Fantasy’s equally robust selection; so the similarities between Final Fantasy d20 and Pathfinder mostly end at the core mechanics of the game.
Even still, Final Fantasy d20 does a good job bringing Final Fantasy to the d20 ruleset. It has many of the staples of Final Fantasy, such as Limit Breaks (the super powered attacks character can make after taking enough damage), along with familiar ideas from most d20 fantasy games, such as the capacity for multiclassing and prestige classes.
Most importantly though, Final Fantasy d20 has an active community to this day, and is still being updated, with some of the most recent additions as of this writing being a Samurai class (as they’re depicted in Final Fantasy, of course) and the inclusion of an official character sheet!
3) Final Fantasy d6
Final Fantasy d6 is a spin-off of the Second Edition of the Final Fantasy RPG Project. It was created as a splinter project when the 3rd Edition was announced, but showed no signs of being released.
So fans of the fan made game took it upon themselves to make their own version of the game that simplified the rules some.
As the name implies, a bulk of the game’s mechanics are based around the humble six sided dice, but lowering the size of the dice and numbers used (the game this was based off used d100) is as far as the game goes regarding simplification.
Final Fantasy d6 has quite a few detailed subsystems, such as different weapons all having their own idiosyncrasies besides just doing more damage than the others. As an example: wands and staves allow spells to activate faster; spears and whips get critical hits more often.
What I think really makes this game shine is that there’s a great deal of customization available. The game offers detailed item creation rules, but still sports a wide range of gear available à la carte for players who just want to pick items from a list.
It’s not a tremendously simple game as it’s initially described, but it’s otherwise exactly what it says on the tin: a Final Fantasy game that uses d6s.
4) SeeD: A Final Fantasy Inspired Tabletop RPG
Continuing along the path of games based on the products of the Final Fantasy RPG Project, SeeD is a remake of the project’s 3rd edition, which was notorious for being so complex and convoluted that it was practically unplayable without some kind of machine assistance.
SeeD, instead of seeing this as a problem, embraces this idea. It makes use of many double and triple digit numbers, and includes multi-step formulae as a part of actions. Additionally, SeeD is also a modular system, with many distinctly different subsystems to accomplish the same tasks, such as non-combat skills and character classes.
In order to combat the cumbersome nature of having a large and varied rules set, SeeD has its rules distributed as a wiki. Hyperlinks are used to direct the reader to other relevant sections, such as to the skill list section from the various different skill system pages.
Also listed on this wiki is an archive of tools designed specifically for running SeeD.
This game is incredibly detailed, especially for a home-brewed variety, and is a culmination of years of effort from many different people, and even has a second edition which seeks to divorce itself from its Final Fantasy roots.
According to the update logs of the wiki, they both seem to still be maintained and updated!
5) Final Fantasy RPG 4th Edition
The fourth direct product of the Final Fantasy RPG project goes in a different direction from all its predecessors and their spinoffs by being an overall simplification of the game, with considerably less customization.
The forward of the game is also very straightforward with what its creators intended with two particular design choices standing out: that the game should be modular, to accommodate works from others; and that the game should in fact be two games with mostly divided rules, a game about non-combat exploration and another about tactical combat.
These are goals that the FFRPG 4th Edition succeeds in. How a character decides to dispatch enemies has very little bearing on what a character is able to do outside the heat of combat, and in fact, there is an optional set of rules meant to remove (or at least minimize) the role of combat in this game, leaving character class as little more than a narrative detail.
What’s most impressive about the Final Fantasy RPG 4th edition is that everything it builds off from was the collective works of other fans of the Final Fantasy franchise, who built their own tabletop game from scratch as an homage to the video game series.
The legacy of more than 20 years this game was built on gives it a unique set of mechanics, even if the options and selections seem sparse by comparison to it’s older editions.
So there you have it, some of the most outstanding works (for good or ill) of people who sought to bring Final Fantasy back to the tabletop after it adopted its own distinct form. Even if you’re not a fan of Final Fantasy, these are still good things to look into if you’re interested in creating your own sort of tabletop game.
And if you are a fan of Final Fantasy, then much like the video games themselves, you have a wide variety to choose from, each with their own unique aspects to offer.
Aaron der Schaedel is a fan of both tabletop and video game RPGs that set out to research this oddly expansive yet niche topic in honor of Final Fantasy’s 30th anniversary. He also wants you to know that a Google search using the names as they’re presented here will lead you to the rulebooks of the games if you’re curious to read them yourself.
Link to this article's picture page: https://www.gameskinny.com/5a8v1/personal-picks-favorite-and-top-tier-jobs-in-final-fantasy-series
We sat down the the staff at BrigadeCon, to see what their convention is about, and why you should attend this year! (Some slight editing occurred for clarity.)
1) First off, what is BrigadeCon and why is it important?
What is BrigadeCon?
BrigadeCon is a 100% free Online Roleplaying Game Convention and Benefit in which the online tabletop and virtual roleplaying gaming community the RPG Brigade hosts live gaming events, interviews, gaming panels, and art demos in order to raise funds for the Child's Play Charity. Sponsors that support BrigadeCon (and its mission) donate digital books, physical books, dice, playmats, minis, and much more for the raffle held the day of BrigadeCon. Simply signing up as an attendee and providing a valid postal mailing address qualifies anyone for these Sponsor prizes.
Why is BrigadeCon important?
BrigadeCon attempts to accomplish various important purposes.
2) Why did you make the jump from a community to hosting your own convention?
I think at some point all communities grow to a capacity in which they want to work and do some good for the community that they love. Four years ago when Michael Barker called for the creation of BrigadeCon, the RPG Brigade exploded with excitement. We all wanted to do our part to make BrigadeCon something fun and exciting to be a part of. Now, four years later, I look back on that excitement, and I still feel it. I think the entire RPG Brigade does too. It's a very special day for us all to re-converge as a community and have fun together while supporting a great cause like Child's Play.
3) Could you tell us more about Child’s Play and why you decided to partner with them?
The Child's Play Charity is "a game industry charity dedicated to improving the lives of hospitalized children" by raising funds to purchase video games, toys, books, and other fun stuff for them while in recovery. During the preparation for the first BrigadeCon, we didn't have to look far to find a wonderful cause to support. The Child's Play Charity already had a strong presence in the gaming community and it was (and remains) meaningful to many in the RPG Brigade who were previously, or still are, hospitalized children that survived both the pain and boredom.
So we partnered with Child's Play and never looked back.
4) How can attendees donate to Child’s Play?
In the months leading up to BrigadeCon, the RPG Brigade (and those that find interest in BrigadeCon) can donate to the Child's Play Charity using two methods.
5) What is the format of BrigadeCon and where can players, GMs and others sign up for events?
As of the date of this interview, Event Hosting Requests are being accepted by those who want to host Live Gaming Events, Interviews, Gaming Panels, and Art Demos. The form to register is here: http://www.brigadecon.org/eventrequest/ .
On October 15th, 2017 a new page will be revealed on BrigadeCon.org showing all of the events that are open.Simply review all of the events you would like to participate in, then buy the ticket (it is 100% free) and you will be able to correspond with you GM/Host from there.
BrigadeCon supports YoutTube Live and Twitch Live Streams
6) Finally, what was your favorite moment from the previous BrigadeCons?
Personally, there are so many, but one stands out to me right now. During BrigadeCon 2014 GM Chugosh ran a one-shot of Slipstream for three players. It was really a neat game. Everyone thought it was over .... but a young Russian player, Vlad, was trying really hard to tell the guys that he wanted to finish off the session with a song "Taking Home." He finally got a word in. Then, "something magical" happened, as is the case with all Bards. The players were lost in the song and so was the whole convention. It was beautiful. Everyone was texting each other, "THERE IS A BARD IN GM CHUGOSH'S GAME SINGING!" All of the volunteers that stayed up for 24 hours just watched it together in silence. It was a special moment.
Here is the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yr2M8hTBktk
Once again, thank you,
Thank you and High Level Games for supporting BrigadeCon!
Phil Pepin is a history-reading, science-loving, head-banging nerd, who would like nothing more than to cuddle with his pups and wife.
Many years ago, I ran an ongoing campaign where all the PC’s were members of a secret society, some of them high ranking enough to be in charge of expansion into new territories. This meant they developed a keen sense for new bases of operations from which a new cell might put down roots and expand into the community. A good base can be a great feature of a campaign, and a few simple tips can lead you in the right direction.
1) Talk About Your Fixer-Upper….
It’s a popular trope to reward the PC’s with ownership of someplace that they have cleansed of ghosts or other monstrous inhabitants. Not only does this make the acquisition an adventure, it also makes good economic sense. Real estate of any kind is normally outside of a PC’s price range, but the reputation and disrepair may keep the price low even after they drive the baddies out. Between that and the gratitude of the owners, the PC’s may get it for almost free. To flip this trope on its head, start with a PC getting a title or deed super-cheap, only to find out that they have to deal with a horrible curse or other baggage that comes along with it. Rather than find another sucker to pawn it off to, they can free themselves of their imminent doom by confronting the problem head on, as adventurers.
2) So Hard To Get Good Help These Days
A base of operations should include some responsibility, if only for maintenance and cleaning. If the base requires special skills to maintain, a PC with the appropriate skills should be assumed to be doing some of this in their downtime. When my PC’s defeated a house possessed by a mechanical golem, the grateful owner agreed to let them live there in exchange for restoration and repairs by an engineer PC. Spellcasters may be able to defray a lot of these costs using magic, but the party should also consider staff. It’s not uncommon for people to come around looking for simple work cooking and cleaning up. Staff are a great source of background info, connection with the community, and the occasional adventure hook, but be careful using too many secret pasts, betrayals or infiltration plots. It’s one thing to keep PC’s on their toes, and another to frustrate players because their new base feels like nothing but a liability.
3) Battle Stations!
While the adventure doesn’t always come to them, a good base should be defensible in an emergency, and some effort in fortifying it will go a long way. Vampire hunter Rudolph Van Richten surrounded his nondescript herbalist’s shop with flower boxes growing garlic and wolvesbane, and the elegant glass windows were salvaged from a church and featured holy symbols. These kinds of precautions add character to a base even if they don’t see much use, and allows the base to grow in power along with the PC’s. This is especially true if the base’s activities center around a character’s career, whether a church for a cleric, hunting lodge for a ranger, etc. If a particular party member has the Leadership feat, they can set some of their followers to guarding and maintaining it while they are away, with the expectation that many of these folks are learning the ropes in the fight against evil.
4) Location, Location, Location
After the PC’s defended a forgotten sanctuary against a siege led by the former caretaker, I thought for sure they would select it as another base for their secret society’s expansion. It was hallowed ground for two PC’s, one with the Leadership feat, with unseen servants and magical defenses at their beck and call, but none of this was quite enough to compensate for the fact that it was just too remote for their society’s purposes. A good base needs to be accessible as well as defensible. It ought to be close to civilization, or at least to sources of supplies, services, and information, even if it’s just local gossip at a watering hole. Of course, it should also be accessible to places they will be adventuring, without being too vulnerable. Unless their adventures are largely urban, consider a location on the edge of civilization: a ranger’s fort on the frontier, a training dojo on a mountainside just outside of town, or lonely tower on the edge of a village are all great concepts.
Whatever you choose for your base, the most important things are what you bring to it yourself. Make it unique, make it yours, and it will be a memorable character your group will reminisce about for years to come.
Matthew Barrett has been playing and writing for Ravenloft for over twenty years, starting with the Kargatane's Book of S series (as Leyshon Campbell). He married his wife on Friday the 13th after proposing to her on Halloween. By tradition, the first story read at birth to each of their three children was The Barker’s Tour, from Ravenloft’s “Carnival” supplement. He is currently working on a Ravenloft-based experiment in crowdsourced fiction using his “Inkubator” system at inkubator.miraheze.org.
While everyone’s first campaign has to come to an end at some point, it’s never exactly an enjoyable experience. You’ll always miss that character (or perhaps come to regret them depending on how “cringy” your first character was.) But with time comes experience. In a more literal sense, I’d like to think I’m at least a level 15 role-player at this point in my life. Often though, things can slip into a sort of loop. Where you’re kind of playing the same five characters over and over and over again. Well, I’ve always been one to “break the chains” if you would, when it comes to making the suggestions for the next campaign at my table. Quite a few of them have been shot down. I like to blame it on the fact that the DM is a grognard, but in all honesty I’m kind of a wild card, proposing rather eccentric campaign basis (not suitable for 5e in some cases which is the edition we’re using most commonly.) Well, occasionally, I’m not shot down at the speed of light and we get some rather interesting stories. Here are a few of my most interesting ideas. (For the sake of this article making sense when I use the phrase *descriptor* campaign I’m saying it in reference to most, if not all of the characters being *descriptor* as opposed to literally everyone in the campaign world. Although I’m sure a world where everyone is Chaotic Neutral is probably the closest you’ll get to a real world simulator.)
1) All Evil Campaign
I mean, haven’t we all had a ploy for world domination at some point or another? I know I’ve wanted a little mayhem and chaos in my life every now and again. Truly, I think this is one of the most versatile of the idea’s I proposed because some of my other ones can “fit” into it. For example, a lycanthrope campaign could also fall into this category. But the beauty of this is the key three different evil alignments. If you don’t want to worry about the characters backstabbing the ever-living hell out of each other constantly (which would easily be defendable as just playing the character) you could request the group be Lawful Evil and collectively follow a similar “code of honor” so they can’t backstab their allies. Or, put a curse on the fools for their evil acts so if they harm each other they burst into flames or something similar.
Of course, having a campaign where everyone is at eachothers throats (playfully and for the sake of roleplaying for god's sake or someone will get stabbed in the throat with a pencil) could be just as enjoyable in the long or short- run. Then there’s the antagonists to the group to talk about. They could be old, previously played groups, who are WAY out of the evil group’s weight class. Meaning they’d have to really think in order to overcome (or perhaps slow down) their quarry. And of course, once these characters are fully developed and all powerful, they could serve as villains in later campaigns.
2) Demi-God Campaign (Overpowered Campaign)
It's a damn blast to be a badass. Normally, players work hard at becoming a badass. Starting off as essentially some numpty who picked up a sword or spell book and eventually becoming one of the most revered and powerful people in the world. However, sometimes it’s nice to be born into power. Born into the right to control certain things and express a higher form of power than the rest of the common-folk like you or me. A group of them could be very powerful indeed. And such a situation would require a lot of planning on the DM’s part. But as with any special campaign, there’s a lot of room to maneuver with if you are concerned about everyones power and being equal. I think the best place to start for this campaign, would be to discuss just how powerful a demigod is. Weather or not we’ve got Percy Jackson over here, with relatively human capabilities with a few added bonuses or if we’re talking about a group full of the equivalents of Hercules punching through the heads of dragons is a very key question. Each has their own merits.
If one was to make a less overpowered demi-god, (let's assume for the sake of argument Percy Jackson level demigod, in his case Percy is relatively human when not in contact with water and the likes.) The individual's character could have their special abilities in only extraordinarily specific conditions. Balancing out the game and making their powers generally more of a plot device. The son of the God of War however would most likely enter their element whenever in combat and something similar could be said the daughter of the God of Magic. Honestly though, if you’re thinking about making your players have to deal with very situational powers for their characters, why even bother making them demi-gods? If you were to go for a more powerful perspective, the son of the God of Tricksters could be able to turn invisible and teleport (short distances) on a whim, making him very formidable in combat, but almost useless against an enemy with blindsense or truesight (which as a demi-god enemies with these typically rare traits could become more common.) The daughter of the Goddess of Hell might be an ace at necromancy and fire spells, but have difficulty mastering more subtle spells such as abjurations and illusions. There’s a lot of things to consider going into this campaign, but the sheer uniqueness of the characters possible might even merit their own roleplaying system.
(A couple footnotes: One: A personal thing our group did was give each character an epic boon early on. Two: Very important thing to discuss is the relationship between the character and their parent.)
3) Monster Campaign
With Volo’s guide giving access to quick stats for (so-called) monstrous races such as orcs and the Yuan-Ti, this particular selection is probably very common. Of course. that’s not to say that this wasn’t possible in other situations and before Volo’s guide. Just that it makes this feel more natural. Being the begrudging heros of a group of people who shun and outcast you can be an odd situation indeed. At least for the protagonists. Making camping outside of cities more common and bandit attacks far more amusing. This opens the party up to having to solve social issues and overcome racism from town to town. (Of course when most orcs are Chaotic Evil isn’t a little justified?) While that might get tedious, it’s a surefire way to encourage non-combat based experience gaining. Also, you could phase it out as their renown in a region grows. Not to mention the fact that depending on the monstrous race chosen, they could have a plot device built in with a clan or group of allies that comes in occasionally. Even the odd group of adventurers could come in wanting to kill the monsters after a report from a particularly aggressive commoner.
Of course the issue here is balance. Monsters were meant to be the antagonists to the protagonists here and what's an antagonist whose on the same power level as the hero? For example, a Yuan-Ti character, with base immunities and resistances to common ailments as well as bonus to their casting would very quickly become a potent force in the group. An orc would be a great fighter. Probably better than any of the base races could be. A similar story for Bugbears and their superior reach. Mix that with a polearm, and they’ve got a 15 foot reach. At least if you ask Volo’s Guide. You can always homebrew that jazz or make some excuse though, so by all means, get cracking.
4) All *Race* Campaign
Every race has stereotypes to fit and to break. With a group filled with all elves for example, you’ve got your classic magic, arrow shooting xenophobe with a strong dislike for those oafish dwarves and just a small dislike for all the other races. Then you’ve got the drunken heavy armor plated fighter with a greatsword and a bit of a lust for money. A group of dwarves have the one guy who sneaks around with his leather armour and pair of daggers and keeps his beard short as to avoid tripping on it while he’s low to the ground. Then there's the greedy, alcohol fueled warrior with his beard decorated with beads and metal, an axe and a shield at his side, whose a blacksmith in his downtime. Another thing to consider as a group with primarily one race in it, is if some if the characters even speak common. Assuming they grew up primarily among their race isn’t unreasonable and learning a new language isn’t exactly number one on everyone's to do list.
However, for all it’s worth, having just one race in a group kinda makes it lean towards a certain class typically. With a primarily gnomish group for example, it’d be extraordinarily easy to have an extra magic lenient group. In that case a fighter might not be on the crew, and anyone who’s played a few campaigns will tell you how important a tank is. Anyone who’s played ANYTHING will tell you how important a tank is (WOW players I’m looking at you to confirm.) Perhaps gnomes are a little bit of an unideal example with the size thing going for them. But my point is made nonetheless. My only big no no for this would be don’t do an all human campaign, although if they’re in foreign lands for example, it might work.
5) Exploration Campaign
Do me a favour, and listen to the original Legend of Zelda theme or the opening to Dragon Quest 8 while reading this, because no matter how hard the editorial team and I try we can't get the text to forcibly transmit a song into your mind. Though we did lose a couple interns trying. By the way, if you see Brian... I mean, Graynor the Bonebreaker, running the streets naked using a dead chicken to fend off the hallucinations, contact us. We’ll send an extraction team. And to the families of our beloved interns; Sorry ‘bout that one.
But, now that you're listening to some appropriately adventurous music, I’ll make a point. Exploring the unexplored, the unmapped and the unknown is just as dangerous (if not more so) than delving into ancient dwarven ruins or destroying a crypt of undead. No maps means that it’s far easier for the DM to make up on the fly. Since it’s not known what lives out there, you can break out some of the more eccentric creatures from the Monster Manual (or better yet, Volo’s guide) for our more knowledgeable players. Hell, even make the less common races more prominent in these other lands. The Tabaxi could populate a more tropical setting for example. This is by far the most adaptable one on this list, seeing as a lot of adventures are location based, this allows for a more diverse locale. Letting the campaign run free and unhindered. More difficult to plan, but way easier for heat of the moment situations where your friend is like “lets play some D&D” and everyone else agrees. This lets the player lead the story a lot more, and personally I adore that.
Although this idea is not without it's flaws. For example, having a ranger is practically a necessity. So is the survival skill. Otherwise this will be a lot less “exploration” and a lot more “we’re lost in another hellish unknown land, whose idea was it for us to explore goddamnit?” And to be perfectly honest, the ranger seems like one of the most underwhelming classes this edition. If anyone is active in the community or the books, they’ll most likely have heard bad things. Don’t be surprised if you get some resistance when you mention that there has to be a ranger, but you can probably get them to do it if you give the ranger a powerful magic item to use in combat and as a plot device for you. Or you know, use a different edition. Just not fourth.
Surprise, surprise, there’s a lot of possibilities in an table-top game like D&D. Lots of places to go, people to see, universes to play in, monsters to kill. The homebrew scene is just getting bigger and better as well. Unearthed arcana opens up new playstyles and worlds. This is just a small list of things I came up with (and obviously these are all soooooo original) that may or may not have had some memorability behind them. The ones that stood out in the back of my mind. And honestly, anything that is out of the ordinary there is really doing something right (or wrong depending on how you look at it)
Jarod Lalonde is a young role-player and writer whose passion for both lead him here. He’s often sarcastic and has a +5 to insult. Dungeons and Dragons is his favorite platform. Although he’s not quite sure if it’s Call of Cthulhu whispering to him in the small hours of the night, or just persistent flashbacks to the Far Realm.
How often have you been in a situation where you desperately want to play a game, but part or most of your normal crew either can’t make it or isn’t interested? You look longingly at the pretty, pretty books or PDFs, much like a hungry dog looks at a butcher’s window, pausing occasionally to wipe the dribble from your chin and indulge in another futile attempt to juggle schedules and interest levels.
*Cue Darth Sidious voice* There is...another way…
I’m going to say right now, it’s not for everyone. It’s tough, tougher than you would expect, and it can be a LOT of work for limited return on investment.
It can also be a hell of a lot of fun for a change of pace.
You, yes you, person or other sentient life form (hello, octopuses, this is the Internet, you were probably better off staying in the ocean), can indeed run a complex and intense game for as few as two people other than yourself.
Unlike Darth Sidious, however, I’ll give you some pitfalls up front, rather than self-indulgent cryptomysticism accompanied by Mon Calamari ballet.
1) You’re going to spend A LOT of time talking to yourself.
If you aren’t familiar with running a full cast of NPCs in your head, you’re going to need quite a bit of practice. I attempt to keep my NPCs separate by means of distinct accents and personalities, as well as trying to avoid names that sound too similar or that could be easily confused.
2) Many NPCs! Handle it!
You have two players that want to play Zenith and Night caste. That’s great, but can leave them a little...underpowered...in the combat area. You might want a Dawn to tank and a Twilight to build cool stuff. You might have a pair of rogues who can’t be allowed out unsupervised. There may even be a pair of wandering mendicants who are so holy (and so naive) that they think that those nice people who offered to show them a short cut may actually be showing them a quicker path to the abbey, rather than a short cut across the carotid and jugular.
Bar none, the best piece of advice I can offer you is take copious notes, even if you aren’t planning to fully-sheet your NPCs. I keep a pack of notecards in a plastic bag in my purse with a pen I don’t care if I lose, and I’ve gotten NPC and plot ideas at the damnedest places and times.
3) Plot? What plot? Oh look, bunny!
Don’t get me wrong, this is a quagmire in any game, and we’ve all heard stories of DMs who sulk when their beautifully sculpted and scripted plot goes up in smoke ten minutes into an encounter because of lucky rolls or lack of player interest. I may or may not be guilty of this sin myself.
It gets a little harder and a lot more personal when you can’t even get two lousy PCs on the right trail. *insert grumbling about cool dungeoneering plot in a dragon’s tomb getting derailed by another NPC* Ahem. As I was saying…It’s a lot more personal when two people ignore you, as opposed to an entire group ignoring you. Sheep mentality and all. It’s part of the suck of running for two or three people. Especially if the players outvote the NPCs and by extension, the DM.
4) When you run out of material, it shows.
You don’t have the bigger intraparty dynamics to fall back on, and there’s not likely to be a huge schism within the party that you can lob grenades into when you run out of ideas in the tail end of a long session. It does require a bit more preparation and a greater need to be able to think on your feet.
Lest you think it is nothing but heartache and misery, a vale of tears populated by crumpled sheets, critical fumbles, and Cheez-It crumbs (sorry, that’s my side table, carry on), there are some definite upsides to running for a small group as well.
1) Impromptu role play can happen literally anywhere, any time.
My group has busted out into furious in-character arguments, inside jokes, and general shenanigans everywhere from our local coffee hangout, who have blessedly become immune to our shared idiocy..er..idiosyncrasy, to restaurants, to walking through local parks and large community events. All it takes is a DM and players who have a decent grasp of their characters’ voices, personalities, and capabilities. You can settle quick rolls with rock-paper-scissors, or just bid ability pools, a la old school Vampire: the Masquerade LARPs.
We have also broken out in near-hysterical laughter at the sight of cabbages. Such are the things of which memories are made.
2) Unparalleled character development opportunities abound.
When you don’t have to balance a grumpy barbarian, a neurotic rogue, and a monk trying to get a warlock interested in chakra rebalancing, you can actually listen to the characters, instead of just the numbers. Long time readers of this space may realize there’s a little bit of a theme developing here.
When you can literally have two PCs spend half an hour brainstorming how to break into a safe room, or have real political discussions a la Game of Thrones, it’s a beautiful thing to behold. You set them up and they knock it out of the park, and all you have to do is sit back and watch the fireworks. I intentionally plan for some down time in each session, just to allow for in-character conversation. It’s amazing the things my players have given me to work with.
3) Games this small are almost infinitely customizable.
Don’t like a particular rule book? Don’t use it. Want to add arbitrary rules or things that you have only heard about? Go for it! In a game this intimate, there’s simply no place for the power struggle of rules lawyer versus DM. On the same hand, if you try something and it doesn’t work, you simply stop game, have a brief discussion, adjust your course, and move ever onwards. You might discover something really awesome. It can also be a great place to test homebrew mechanics before scaling them up to a larger party.
With apologies to certain scriptures, wherever two or three are gathered in the name of gaming and a good time, there will good times be. Like any kind of group relationship, communication is key. Have reasonable expectations, and you may just be happily surprised.
I will end this missive, as I so often do, with the words of the late and much-lamented Terry Pratchett: Stories are not, on the whole, interested in swineherds who remain swineherds and poor and humble shoemakers whose destiny is to die slightly poorer and much humbler.
Go make something, and make it unforgettable - even if it is only unforgettable by those lucky few who were there.
Georgia is a writer, editor, gamer, and mad culinary priestess who masquerades as an ordinary office employee who holds vehement opinions about Oxford commas and extraneous hyphens. She lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and Feline Overlords. She can be reached through Facebook at In Exquisite Detail or on Twitter at @feraldruidftw.
My love for the Fate system is well known, and indeed, widely documented. Somewhere in the British Museum, there’s a Babylonian clay tablet in cuneiform that I’m sure says, ‘Rui is really into Fate. It’s a thing.’ Why? I like strangeness. I like strange characters. I like strange situations, and mostly, I like a system that ALLOWS me to do both. I have a couple of favourite RPGs, but I keep coming back to Fate. I’m not going to go massively into the mechanics of the system (although I’m giving a quick run-through), I’m merely going to present the six ways you can use Fate for the genre you love.
1) Naming those Skills
This is the easiest and more straightforward way to tune Fate for use in your game. Change the name of the skill. Or, indeed, what it covers. So if you’re running a fantasy game, Archery sounds like a good thing to have. But will archery cover bows AND crossbows, or do you need Archery (Crossbows)? Also, will this cover ALL small-and-maybe-sharp/pointy-objects-propelled-at-speed, or would throwing a well-aimed stone fall under, say, Throwing? The system suggests not going insane on the number of skills, but with a big, well-balanced party, I don’t see a reason why you couldn’t go deep into the rabbit hole.
2) Freestyling it
A simple idea, that sounds positively barking insane. ‘Allow the players to come up with their own skills’. What usually happens is that you’ll find that most players describe skills that make sense (melee, ranged, lore, streetwise), but one needs to be careful that everyone is on the same page, otherwise, some people might be describing skills, some professions, etc. Also, be careful no one gets as a skill like ‘Omnipotence’. All joking aside, the same skill might sound different on every sheet, but the players will know their own character and they will better fit the narrative.
3) Weaving the Character Aspects
No part of Fate is more characteristic of the system than Aspects. Simple small sentences that describe your character, and if invoked (using both a pool of points and an elaborate narrative accepted by the GM), will give you a bonus to your dice rolls. This is where you can weave your characters into the meta-narrative. Use them to describe places, NPC’s, you name it. ‘Can hold her ale’ is fine, but ‘Once drunk all the ale at the Orc and Dagger’ will not only say she can hold her ale, but also that there’s an inn called the Orc and Dagger. Is the landlord an orc? Is the landlord a sentient magical dagger? I don’t know, but the players might!
4) No skills. Wait, what?
This is possibly one of the most powerful suggested hacks I’ve come across. No skills, just aspects. So this is how it works, you get a name and a role, what you’re actually there to do. Then you get a number of motivations (goals, desires), abilities (skills, talents) and gifts (contacts, gear, magic). ANY of these that you can persuade the GM are relevant at that moment in the narrative gives you a +1 bonus. Boom. Done.
5) Using Thing-based aspects
And here is where a lot of more traditional RPG players will go ‘Whaa?’. Everything in Fate can have Aspects. Every. Little. Thing. And all of these can be invoked (see above) during the narrative, by anyone. Say you’re running a Fate Ravencroft game. I’d say a pretty good Environmental Aspect would be ‘Gothic, Dark, and Misty As All Heck.’ So a character might invoke it to hide in a gloomy forest that just happened to be right over there, and the GM might invoke it to give a penalty to ranged attacks (cos it’s dark and misty, you see where I’m going). This becomes a consistent back and forth storytelling exercise, which builds, deepens, and intensifies immersion.
6) Cool Stunts
Stunts help tell your character apart from others. If you had 10 characters, all with the same skills, they would play totally differently, because of stunts. Stunts allow for bonuses if certain conditions are achieved. Say, you’re an elf, and your Stunt is ‘What do your Elven eyes show you?’ which will give +1 to perception, if you’re perching on a high, unobstructed place. Once again, with little effort, these can be fine-tuned to your particular setting. (And allow you to steal a much abused Tolkien reference)
I came across Fate when it was suggested to me, when I wanted to play the most ridiculous character ever devised. Gell (Gell A’Tinn) is a sentient Gelatinous Cube, that consumed too many wizards and became self-aware. I couldn’t find a system that allowed me to play it, so I looked around, and lo, Fate popped up. I ran him No-Skills, and it worked beautifully. One of its abilities was ‘Made of Jelly’. So that was where my shape-shifting bonuses came from!
Have you used Fate (or another agnostic rule system) to fine tune a background? Let us know!
Rui is a Portuguese scientist that, after ten years doing strange things in labs, decided to become a teacher. Then, two years ago, like he was bit by a radioactive D20, RPG’s came into his life, and he’s now juggling teaching, playing and GMing quite happily. He lives in the UK with his partner Joana, an ungodly number of potted plants, 4 to 5 RPG’s at various stages of completion (and across as many rule systems), and maps, cursed idols, evil necklaces, and any other props he can get his hands on. He’s been writing for HLG for a few months, and is one of the resident vloggers. He can be reached at @Atomic_RPG.
The character sheet is a maze of information. Sections of it are winding paths of boxes and lines that ultimately lead to a dead-end. Even the most experienced character builders will miss something and get lost sometimes. Missing bonuses, ranks, and ability increases will cause characters to fall behind in combat. Pathfinder can be pretty unforgiving and optimal character building is the secret to getting the most advantage you can in combat. Here are 5 things you may have missed that will help make your character the best character they can be.
1) Ability Score Improvements
When you first build your character you get a bonus to ability scores depending on your race. For example, humans get a +2 racial bonus to one of their stats. This allows you to turnover your class’ most useful skill to a higher modifier. A 16 versus an 18 unlocks a plethora of new potential for your character. This allows you to take advantage of their primary stat.
There are a few other ability score improvements that you can take advantage of as your character levels. This is extra important if your GM is asking you to roll a character higher than the 1st level. At levels 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20 you get to increase one of your character’s ability scores. This can turn a 15 into a 16, which immediately adds to the potential of that stat. Losing out on these ability score improvements will lead to characters falling behind.
2) Everyone Gets Extra Feats
As a non-fighter, it feels a little disappointing when the fighter gets a bunch of extra feats and you’re sitting around with one. Sure, you can cast light and a few other neat cantrips, but the fighter can do a bunch of cool things in combat while you act as a glass cannon that is a bit too much glass and a bit too little cannon. Worry not! A few extra feats are coming your way that a lot of players may forget about.
Starting at the third level and every second level thereafter you get to add a new feat to your character. Missing out on these feats will seriously put your character behind. There are a lot of feats that can further amplify a character to take advantage of their specializations. Don’t forget about these!
3) Favoured Class Bonus
A small little detail that can really add up over time is the Favoured Class Bonuses. These are little bonuses that you can take each level instead of gaining an additional skill rank or hit point. When you build a character you choose their favoured class, then depending on your character’s race they are granted a class bonus as an option whenever you level up.
It may not seem like much when you initially glance at it, but if you level up a character ten times in their favoured class you potentially lose out on that ability ten-fold. Each class has their own different favoured class bonuses, so when you’re looking at building a character check all those out and see if any can influence your game plan.
4) Class Skill Bonuses
This is an aspect of character building that I personally didn’t learn for a long time. I always thought that the class skills your class starts with are just examples of things your character can do. Instead, class skills are something that every character should take advantage of.
When you place at least one rank in any of your class skills you get an automatic +3 bonus to that skill. For example, if diplomacy was a class skill, placing one rank in it automatically makes the bonus +4 for all diplomacy rolls. This is an incredibly strong bonus that helps characters really feel the strengths of their class. It also allows a convenient use of extra ranks to pad out your character.
5) Bonus Spells
As a spellcaster you have a limited number of spells. You gain extra spells each level, but did you know you also can gain extra spells depending on the ability score of your casting stat? There’s a handy table that is hidden within all of the resources of Pathfinder that lists bonus spells available to spellcasters.
An ability score of 16-17 grants one additional spell per day in the level 1, 2 and 3 spell slots. These extra spells allow spellcasters to have more free use of their spells and give them more wiggle room on the battlefield. These numbers get especially strong if the casting stat is in the 20s. Losing out on these spells will put your character in a bad place on the battlefield as you’ll have to weigh out your decisions against the remaining resources you have. The bonus spells make that decision a little less stressful.
Now you’ll be able to look at your character sheet in confidence and know that you dotted all your i’s and crossed all your t’s. Your character is stronger, more diverse, and working at maximum efficiency. This will allow you to spend more time building the roleplaying side of the character, and that’s where the real fun begins.
Is there anything else you’ve recently discovered or always missed about making your character? Let me know in the comments. Pathfinder is a big beast and I’m confident there are still things I’ve yet to learn.
Image belongs to Paizo
Justin Cauti is a writer and Twitch streamer. He plays board/roleplaying games on the internet at http://www.playingboardgames.tv. Follow him on Twitter for updates on his boring life and writing projects @LeftSideJustin.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.