I’ve often heard people discuss being a GM like it was akin to being a writer. In some ways, I can understand this viewpoint, such as when devising one’s own setting or coming up with overarching plot for a game. A common thread in many of these discussions is either the players doing something unexpected that “derails” the game, or the dice rolls being poor and thus “ruining” the story.
Stories like that, including such that I could tell about my own experiences, have lead me to believe that there must be a better way to think about GMing. Writing may serve a purpose in this hobby, but it’s by no means the only skill one should rely on.
Enter improvisation, an artform most commonly employed in theatre, and an integral part of shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway? This isn’t a mode a theatre that can be easily understood or performed just by reading a book, (or article on your favorite tabletop gaming website) but there are a few shortcuts that can help get you into the right mindset.
1) “Yes, and…” “No, but…”
This isn’t quite a shortcut so much as it’s a cardinal rule of improv theatre: always say “Yes,” and follow up with something to add onto the other actors ideas. I bring this up because it’s a recurring theme for many of the following points. They will all involve accepting what has been established, and working within that framework by adding more details.
Improv theatre has a corollary rule: don’t say “no.” Saying no to an idea kills any momentum the scene generated, slows things down, and makes for a much less entertaining spectacle as the troupe attempts to get things moving forward again. Improv is a collaborative storytelling activity, after all.
Despite this similarity, there are times in tabletop gaming where “no” can or even must be said. With this in mind, I’d like to redefine this rule: if you must say “no,” it’s best to provide an alternative idea for the player to work with.
Consider these examples for opening a locked chest:
“No, you’re unable to pick the lock on the door with that roll, but those hinges do look a little rusty.”
“Yes, your acid vial is strong enough to corrode some of the mechanisms in the lock, making it easier to break open.”
2) Baiting the Players
This particular tool doesn’t necessarily refer to “baiting plot hooks,” so go ahead and banish that thought from your mind. This was an idea I first encountered in the game Mountain Witch by Tim Kleinert. It’s a tool that gives the players more purchase in the setting and story. The way it works is like so: you set a scene for players, but finish the scene by proposing an open ended question.
Here’s an example of how to set it up in a modern setting:
“After a long day of work, you’re sitting listlessly in bed trying to go to sleep when your phone rings. You look at the caller ID. Who’s calling this late at night?”
With this technique, NPCs who might otherwise never show up or be considered can be brought in as either the bearer of bad news or some other plot hook. However, in order for it to work, players it is used upon have to be cooperative. Often times, when employing this or other techniques that hand narrative control over to players, I’ll follow up by informing them the only wrong answers are “I don’t know” and “This wouldn’t happen.” (Read: The “Don’t Say No” rule of Improv Theatre.)
3) Schroedinger’s Gun
Schrodinger's Gun is a mix of the concepts of Schrodinger's Cat and Chekhov’s Gun. Schrodinger's Cat is a very nuanced thought experiment about quantum physics, meaning I can’t concisely explain all the fine points of it within the scope of this article. For this purpose, though, just know that it involves a cat that is both alive and dead until somebody checks on the cat.
Chekhov’s Gun, on the other hand, is a literary device that states that if a gun appears in a work of literature, it MUST be fired at some point. Otherwise, there wasn’t any point to mentioning it. When we take this gun and give it to Schrodinger, it becomes a gun that is both loaded and unloaded until somebody tries to fire it. Basically, the rule here is that nothing is true until it is established as true. (GM notes be damned!)
Let’s go to an example that doesn’t involve guns:
In a game of Dungeons and Dragons, let’s say there’s an important letter the players need to find on the corpse of somebody. Though before anybody can check said corpse, one of the player’s, in a fit of being Chaotic Stupid, burns the body to ash.
One way to salvage the situation is to say that the letter somehow survives, or the body doesn’t catch fire, or some other implausible statement asserting that the GM notes should trump what might reasonably happen. This is where this tool comes in: if you never stated there’s a letter on the corpse, that letter can just appear elsewhere, such as in a desk or in a steel lockbox nearby.
4) How Do You Know Sarah Palmer?
Starting a game can be tricky; even if you know what you want to happen, how things start, and what the details of the setting are. You present all this that you’ve poured your heart and soul into to the players and...they don’t share that same passion you did. This can be a soul-crushing moment, and rightfully so.
However, consider this: it’s easier to take a vested interest in a work of fiction when you’re the one creating it. Not quite so when you’re just consuming it. Enter our tool: at the start of the game, during character creation, go around and ask the players “How Do You Know Sarah Palmer?” No answer is off the table, and each answer gives opportunity for more details into this one mutually known NPC, as well as how some of the world works.
If one player states they were once a business partner of Mrs. Palmer, then what of that business? Is it still going on? Are they still partners? If they’re no longer partners, how has this affected their relationship?
The best part of this tool is that it can easily be retooled for other purposes. If the party is already together, and you need to give them a new destination to keep plot going, ask the players about the next city they’ll be travelling to. What’s along the way? What’s the city known for? Who’s in charge of the city? Do you know anybody there?
5) The Iron GM Challenge
This is a technique we’ve mentioned before at High Level Games in another article we ran about how to master improvisation. The article itself is worth reading, but there’s one particular passage I want to reiterate here:
There’s a competition called Iron GM that holds their World Championships at GenCon every year. No, I haven’t won yet, but they haven’t seen the last of me. The competition provides contestants with a Creature, an Object, and a Place, and gives them one hour to create an adventure that prominently features those three elements. Just pick one of each and let your imagination go from there.
This works for any game. Toreador, Book of Nod fragment, Nosferatu warrens. (Vampire the Masquerade) Nexus Crawler, Klaive, high rise apartment. (Werewolf the Apocalypse) Great Race of Yith, manhole cover, police department. (Call of Cthulhu) If necessary, ask your players to provide the elements.
-Chaz Lebel, 6 Steps To Mastering Improvisation As A Game Master
This particular technique was introduced in a section using random elements to spin together a plot, and it illustrates another key element of improvisation: the ideas presented won’t always be your own, but you still have to be willing and able to work with them. Thus, it’s important to learn how to compromise.
Improvisation is a skill like any other, the only way to improve at it, is to get out there and practice. The above tools, however, will give you a good framework to begin your practice. Just remember these principles of improvisation: let others present their ideas, build off of the ideas that are present, and be willing to compromise.
Don’t worry if you mess up, and keep moving forward. There’ll always be more for you to work with down the line.
Aaron der Schaedel isn’t actually trained in improv theatre, or any form of art, fine or otherwise. He’s just a doofus that realized saying “I can’t do that” is a fast way to stop yourself from learning new things. One day, he’ll get around to making something with all these watercolor paints he has lying around. Until that day comes, you can mock him for being lazy via Twitter: @Zamubei
Picture Reference: http://handpickedatlanta.com/atlanta/hand-picked/atlanta-improv
Would you like to help High Level Games continue to produce great content and launch the careers of the next generation of creators? If so, we'd love it if you stopped by our Patreon to show your support. Of course, if you'd like a little something for your hard earned money, you could always pick up one of our fine game products as well.
With V5 announced just recently, and the amount of Vampire content at an all-time high thanks to Storyteller's Vault, groups everywhere are (or are going to be) gearing up to head back to the World of Darkness, or to journey there for the first time.
Setting is a huge deal for the World of Darkness. Unlike a traditional fantasy game, the places in the WoD are fictional analogues of real places and real people, many of which your players are going to be familiar with. So choosing the right city to set your Vampire game in is a pretty important decision. You can't just rewrite a city that's been written out in canon (or, if you do, you'd run the risk of confusing or alienating players with an investment in the existing canon). You need to keep existing canon in mind, as well. Picking a city that's two miles away from a major Sabbat stronghold is definitely going to have an effect on your stories. You need to keep in mind the Camarilla's ideal of 1 vampire per 100,000 people. Of course, you also need a place that you can research and present faithfully.
Unfortunately, many STs tend to fall back on one of three options, in my experience. Either New York, Chicago, or a WoD version of their own hometown (with an inexplicably large number of vampires and a paper-thin justification as to why that is). So if you're looking for a better choice, here's a handful to take a look at.
Canonically, Milan is mentioned in the World of Darkness. The Prince (Lasombra antitribu Giangaleazzo) is mentioned, as is the sheriff (Kasim Bayar, warrior-caste Assamite, unless you're using the V20 canon where he's been appointed Justicar). However, beyond that and the fact that the domain has been cleansed of Sabbat, very little is on record about it. And it's a big domain, from a Kindred perspective. The wider Milan metropolitan area has a population of over 7.5 million, giving a comfortable Camarilla population of 75+ Kindred; enough for the largest of chronicles!
Milan isn't just home to a boatload of people; it also has some gorgeous architecture and a rich history that's perfect material for a Vampire chronicle. The Vampire-centric political intrigues also offer a great deal to work with, since the domain is only recently Camarilla. Giangaleazzo's apparent open-mindedness when it comes to atypical clans (he's one of the only Princes to allow a Schismatic Assamite to hold a position in his court) offers STs and players alike potential freedom with exploring odd clans or bloodlines.
(As a side note, the neighboring domain of Veneto has a fantastic supplement up on Storyteller's Vault. I don't think I've yet seen an ST Vault project with such a high production value. The English version has just recently been added as well!)
The quintessential spring break party spot, Cancun offers a great potential for a chronicle. As recently as 1970, Cancun had a population of 3 (not 3000, just 3), so any undead buildup has been recent. If you'd like a chronicle featuring a young (relatively speaking) Prince or archbishop struggling to prove themselves, you could hardly pick a better choice.
Cancun offers great positioning as well. It's in Mexico, and could be reasonably be Sabbat. It's also relatively close to several Camarilla domains in South America, and could easily be a Camarilla 'frontier town.’ The huge tourist traffic means that the city can support more than the dozen or so vampires that it's permanent population would indicate. If you were so inclined, you could even include a few of the South/Central American bloodlines known as the Drowned Legacies, featured in Beckett's Jyhad Diary.
There are few cities that scream 'World of Darkness' to me more than Havana, Cuba. Although Havana itself can only support a score or so Kindred, no other city on the island can support more than four, so it's not unreasonable to believe that a Prince of Havana could lay claim to a larger portion of Cuba, (which can support over 100 Kindred). With a rich history of conflict that includes battles between natives, between natives and colonists, piracy, revolution, and decades of involvement in cold and proxy wars, Cuba has tons of tie-ins for Kindred of all clans and origins.
Canonically, Cuba's fairly open. Lore of the Bloodlines mentions a bit of Samedi presence, but also reminds us that they are few in number and not terribly politically involved. Crocetta Giovanni declared herself Prince during or shortly after the Cuban Revolution, but her praxis was short-lived, and the Giovanni killed her in a spectacular and public fashion, so STs are open to do whatever the like with the domain, in any configuration of sects.
Dallas has a population of only 1.3 million, but the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metroplex has around 7.4 million, making it a huge potential feeding ground. Only a single Kindred from Dallas is on record: the Malkavian Primogen, Ruth McGinley. Texas's rich history (and the number of times it's changed hands) provide lots of fodder to draw a court of NPCs from.
Dallas's proximity to the heavy Sabbat presence in Mexico make the Sabbat-Camarilla conflict seem like the most pressing, but a savvy ST could potentially get even more mileage from lupine conflicts. The American Southwest is canonically home to a great deal of lupine activity, which could provide a different and deadly set of antagonists. For a good look at some of the local history of Texas and its environs, some historical figures to use as a potential NPC pool, and a particularly terrifying description of the Llano Estacado (a potential base of operations for lupines or fae), see S.C. Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon.
One of the largest and most important cities in Africa, Casablanca, Morocco is a good choice for those looking for a change of pace from a Camarilla game. Although the Lasombra clanbook tells us that the Archbishop Ferrari is a known asset (along with the Soviet Kilo-class attack sub he uses to carry on the Lasombra tradition of piracy), the rest of the Sabbat presence in the city is open to speculation. Although the domain is a little smaller than some of the others we discussed, it can easily accommodate thirty or more Cainites, with the more lax Sabbat standards allowing that to skew higher.
Given the contentious nature of a Sabbat game, it's good that Casablanca offers so many enemies. Elaine, one of the Inner Circle of the Tremere, makes her home in Algiers. The Silent Striders have a huge caern in Casablanca, if that's the route you'd prefer. The strong cultural ties make it reasonable for an ST to include conflicts with the Ashirra as well. The Laibon are generally more active in Sub-Saharan Africa, although they are no less able to hop a boat or plane than any other Kindred, and have a habit of resisting outside vampiric influences attempting to freely colonize Africa.
At the end of the day
There's nothing wrong with going with a pre-made setting. An already published city gives you a wealth of information to draw on, establishing relationships, characters, plots, and intrigues so you don't have to. Relying on professionally created material to set your games doesn't make you any less of a Storyteller than STs that build entire domains from the ground up. However, if you do want to build your own chronicle, like any good builder you need to pick a solid foundation to work from. Cities like these are the sort of thing that will give you the best basis for a homemade chronicle: rich histories to draw on, large populations and infrastructures to accommodate your vampires, and little to no pre-existing involvement with canon that you need to worry about contradicting.
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, or listen to Don, Jon, & Dragons, his podcast.
Picture Reference: http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/Vampire_(cWOD)
Hey, Jim here. Before Frankie gets going: if you want to help High Level Games continue to produce great content and launch the careers of the next generation of creators, we'd love it if you stopped by our Patreon to show your support. Of course, if you'd like a little something for your hard earned money, you could always pick up one of our fine game products as well.
Congratulations are in order to you. Uncovering a doppelganger is no mean feat. I'm sorry the fiend slipped your grasp, but heartened to hear you already have a lead. As to your query: if, as you say, the monster was seen heading for Castle Pantara, you may indeed need to treat with Baron Urik von Kharkov of those lands. Fortunately, he and I have interacted on occasion in the past, and I would be happy to provide you with a few words to the wise regarding him and his domain.
Baron Urik von Kharkov is the Darklord of Valachan. A werepanther as well as a vampire, he rules his populace with the help of an army of werepanther secret police. Each year he selects a bride by lottery, but he is unable to control his compulsions to harm his brides. Within the year, each unfortunate victim is dead by his hands.
1) Demon Lover
Baron Urik von Kharkov's defining trait is his tragic marital history. With each annual bridal lottery, his hopes climb higher with dreams of the future, and with each unfortunate illness or accident, his despair plunges deeper than ever before. You may find him most approachable immediately before or after this annual lottery.
Baron Urik von Kharkov's story centers around an allegory for domestic violence and the behavioral cycles of an abuser. When first courting potential brides (and potential victims, including PCs), he is attentive, erudite, and elegant. Gradually his demeanor shifts, becoming more demanding and more wrathful. By the time he begins harming people, either his underlings or his wives, he will have given the victim ample reason to believe he's only reacting to their bad actions; maybe even acting for their own good! If his victims ever awake to the realization of how much of a monster he truly is, they will be bound to inextricably to him that escape will be impossible, only a choice of death at his hands or their own.
This is a sensitive topic, and should be handled appropriately. While von Kharkov (like many abusers) may believe that his evil actions spring from something within him, a Beast that is beyond his control, this is merely self-delusion. Like all Darklords, von Kharkov has been damned not because of his inherent nature, but the evil choices he willingly made.
2) Of the People
The people are Valachan are dark of skin and black of hair, and if you or your companions have a contrasting appearance, you may find that it generates a great deal of attention. The Valachani culture differs significantly from that of the western Core as well, and is often considered 'less civilized' by the less worldly minds of our home realms. For their differences, the Valachani are no less civilized than you or I, and thinking otherwise would be a grave mistake indeed.
Baron von Kharkov cuts one of the most impressive figures out of all the Darklords of Ravenloft. It can be refreshing to see a character that not only provides representation for black characters, but is also a character who is educated, powerful, refined, in command and beloved by his people. He has elegance and poise, with an undercurrent of menace, like the mighty feline predators he is so heavily involved with thematically. Rick Worthy and Steven Williams have both given magnificent performances of this variety that you can reference if needed. As well, Valachan serves as a good example of a prosperous and functional black-predominant fantasy nation.
There are a couple stumbling blocks to look out for here. The first is the notion of a black man as a domestic abuser. This is a tired trope in fiction, which often ends up played to racist hyperbole or comedic effect. You'll get a better result if you take care to make von Kharkov's actions and relationships nuanced and rounded. Depending on the party's makeup, there is also the risk of running 'white savior' stories, where a group of well-meaning white adventurers deign to travel to a backwards group of people of color to solve their problems. Keep in mind that the Valachani are an independent, capable people, and you should have no trouble giving your players the same impression.
3) Cycle of Pain
Despite his lofty status now, Urik has suffered many abuses in the past. Wizards in particular may find little favor to be had in Castle Pantara, as practitioners of the arcane have been no friend to the Baron in earlier days.
Like many good villains, Baron Urik von Kharkov has a backstory filled with personal heartache that informs his present motivations. Despite the fact that he's utterly evil, like Erik Killmonger or Hannibal Lecter, von Kharkov has a true horror in his past. He's been enslaved, tortured, experimented on, and cruelly manipulated into harming those he cared about. If he's persecuting those who enslaved him (or people of the same bent) like the Red Wizards or the Kargat, it's easy to muddy the waters and make the PCs really struggle to think about who the bad guy really is.
It's important to remember though, that a tragic backstory doesn't excuse his actions. No matter what von Kharkov says, at the end of the day he's still the one responsible for his own actions, and he can't lay the blame for the blood he's shed at the feet of those who hurt him. Remember again, he wouldn't be a Darklord if he hadn't chosen his own path.
4) Thieves in the Night
The Baron is a terrifying combatant, to be sure, but the force that truly keeps Valachan in line is the Black Leopards. Forming the backbone of the Baron's authority in Valachan, the Black Leopards act as secret police, ruthlessly enforcing the Baron's will and security through fear and brutal violence.
The Black Leopards (many of whom are werepanthers) are Urik's main tool to keep Valachan under his thumb. Given their distinctive appearance and fascist behavior, they make marvelous underbosses. Their stark contrast to the respectable, empathetic populace of Valachan makes them great center-stage bad guys, and their potent supernatural abilities let them pose a threat to even veteran adventuring groups.
With fascist groups like the Black Leopards, there can be a temptation to make them appear sympathetic, as though their terrorism and violence is required to keep their borders secure against dangerous outsiders. Although this is the excuse such villains always hide behind, it isn't true in the Black Leopards case. While it's true that the Mordentish look down their nose at the Valachani, the 'dangerous threats' that the Black Leopards' violent actions and interrogations are meant to quell are merely a product of von Kharkov's paranoia and his underlings' cruelty and greed.
5) King Among Monsters
I have seen three heroes pursue Baron Urik von Kharkov to their own deaths. Each believed they had the truth of von Kharkov's nature. One believed him to be a tyrannical dictator, a military leader held in power by a team of elite monstrous soldiers. One believed von Kharkov to be a werepanther, using his curse to infect and control the most sadistic and predatory of his citizens to control the rest of the nation. The third believed Urik to be a nosferatu, who drained the life from his captive populace as surely as he stole the lives of his own brides. Each of these heroes perished because none had the full picture: all of them were correct, and it is a blindness to all the facets of the Baron's character that has proved the undoing of many a hero.
For the crunch-favoring DMs out there, Baron von Kharkov is a dream come true. As both a werepanther and a vampire, he offers a whole palette of abilities to choose from. As an undead shapeshifter he can ignore a whole range of spells and magical abilities, he can hold his own in combat, and his stealth and intelligence gathering abilities are so extensive it's nearly impossible for a party to get the jump on him. He's even got the ability to suborn feline party members like mounts, animal companions, and familiars to his own service! Best yet, many of the standard weaknesses of his monster types do not apply to him.
It's important not to give the party a fair fight, however. Urik von Kharkov was born as a panther, not a man, and understands the need for stealth, ambush, and waiting for the opportune moment to strike. His ability to drain blood (and erase memories), spread disease, and command a wide variety of mortal, monstrous, and bestial servants allows him to ensure that a party on his hit list never gets a moment's peace, much less a short rest.
If you decide to pursue this villain to Castle Pantara, I sincerely hope you find that the Baron has dealt with him first, in a terminal manner. Otherwise I fear it may be you who finds yourself being...dealt with. If you should survive, my own men can meet you at the Mordentish border and ferry you to safety with all available haste.
In the meantime, good luck and happy hunting,
Frankie “Farshot” Drakeson,
Lord Mayor of Carinford-Halldon
Frankie Drakeson is a retired rifleman and the current mayor of Carinford-Halldon in Mordent. He is married to Gwendolyn Drakeson, making him Nathan Timothy’s grandson by marriage.
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, or listen to Don, Jon, & Dragons, his podcast.
Picture Reference: https://guardians-of-the-mists.obsidianportal.com/characters/baron-urik-von-kharkov
One click. That’s all it took. I can’t actually remember how I got there, I think some Facebook Kickstarter group linked it. Next think I know, I’m elbow deep in alien races exploring eldritch ruins... Exactly where I like to be, to be honest.
Now, I have a rule. My love for streamlined RPG systems is so great, that I judge a system by the complexity of its character sheet.
The Fragged Empire character sheet is 4 pages long.
I hesitated for more than a few moments. And then, 5 minutes into the background and the dice rolls, I was hooked. And this is why I think you’ll like it too.
1) Great Setting
It is 10,000 years into the future. Humanity is long gone. We reached the technological singularity, relaxed, stagnated and fizzed out. Just before the end, we created another race, the Archeons, to take over the human empire.
That didn’t really work. Instead of taking over, the Archeons started anew, creating hundreds of races, always striving towards biological and sociological perfection. Amongst the most important, they created the Vargarti (human-like humanoids, cunning and charming), who they immediately abandoned, and then the X’ian.
This was, in simple terms ‘a REALLY bad idea’.
The X’ian promptly rebelled, killing any Archeon on sight. The Archeons created the Legion (orc-sized super soldiers) and the Kaltorans (elfin-like humanoids, intelligent, flexible and with genetic memories) and the X’ian came back with the Nephilim, bear-sized genetic abominations (and their escorts, the dreaded bio-ships).
It was a genocide. Every Archeon was destroyed, and when it was done, the X’ian left, leaving everything and everyone behind.
It is 100 years after the war. The Archeons are all dead, the X’ian have disappeared. The Haven System has a presence from all the other 4 races. Tensions run high. Some long-lived individuals still remember fighting in the war. But ultimately, everyone just wants to make a living.
2) Dice System
When an action is desired, roll 3D6. Then, add bonuses. Add further bonus for tools (if applicable). And then, the role play comes into…. Well, play. The GM has the discretion to give a -2 to a +2 bonus, depending on the quality of the description of the action. If you roll any 6’s, that will give you bonuses. A success is usually from a 12 to a 14, but this can obviously be adjusted by the GM
3) Character Creation
CC is non-linear, I won’t lie. However, at every stage of complexity, the Core Rule Book has a full page of a sort of flow chart, making sure they break it down into chewable bits. Also, they have a few pretty funny Youtube videos, helping newbs along.
Again, (see item 3), combat is not linear, however, have no fear! There are at least 3 types of combat, each of differing depths and complexity. Normal mode will be comparable to normal skill rolls (see item 2), but adding weapons bonus, range, cover, etc.
5) Just The Beginning
The Fragged Empire rules have now been expanded to three new settings: Fragged Seas (Pirates and buccaneers, trying to survive in the last remaining archipelagos, after a world-destroying invasion of monsters from beyond), Fragged Aeternum (a gothic setting, set in an impossibly huge city, that seems to span the world, besieged by monsters from the deepest nightmares), and Fragged Kingdom (a fantasy setting, set many years after a magical conflict has destroyed most of the world). All of these new backgrounds need the original Fragged Empire corebook, as they are simply expansions.
Possibly one of the aspects that I found the most attractive is that the rules make it absolutely clear that, albeit the background is there to be used and adapted, players are positively encouraged to make their own races, weapons, ships, locations, and so on. This flexibility and adaptability have sold this system to me.
Yes, Fragged Empires is more complex than the systems I usually play. Still, it is adaptable and streamlined enough that I’m pretty sure I’m going to go to town on it.
Rui is a Portuguese scientist that, after ten years doing strange things in labs, decided to become a teacher. Then, three 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.
Picture Reference: http://fraggedempire.com/
Editor’s note: There are always wheels turning here at High Level Games. I have been involved in a small handful of the many little projects we are undertaking. I have been creating new player character races for 5th edition, and have also released a small document on Time Demons. There are also one page adventures, and much much more coming to high level games. Help us grow by supporting our patreon, and get access to cool stuff! It’s a win win.
Ahh, magic items. Where would we be without them? Many DM’s love handing them out, others make their players work for them, but I think everyone who plays Dungeons and Dragons from either side of the screen finds magic items exciting. Whether it be by discovering items amongst loot, being rewarded for a noble quest, or even by prying it from the cold, dead hands of that orc warchief, magic items can be extremely memorable in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably read the Magic Item’s chapter in the Dungeon Master’s Guide back-to-front. Or perhaps you’ve just seen your fair share of magic items in your experienced days of campaigning. Well here are ten new magic items which I have created using some niche and fresh recharge mechanics.
Topaz Charge (1): The yellow gem in the head of the torch glows faintly when it has a charge. An item regains all expended Topaz charges after spending one uninterrupted hour in sunlight.
You can use an action and expend a charge to activate Brighteyes for up to one hour. For the duration, the wand sheds bright light for 100ft, and dim light for a further 50ft.
While wielding the wand, you can end the light early as a free action.
2) Volthar, The Dark Blade
Item: Longsword +1
Onyx Charges (2): The two black gems in the hilt of this weapon glow faintly when they have a charge. Expended charges are restored when this item spends four uninterrupted hours in darkness.
When you hit a creature with this weapon, you may use your bonus action and expend a charge to deal an extra 2d6 force damage to the target. Then, you and the target swap places, teleporting to where the other just stood. This swap does not provoke opportunity attacks.
3) Ring of the Arcane Seal
Jade Charge (1): The green gem in this item glows faintly when it has a charge. A spellcaster can use an action to consume a level 3 or higher spell slot to restore one expended charge.
When you cast a spell of level 3 or lower, you may expend a charge of this item instead of expending a spell slot. The spell is cast at level three.
4) Ichor Bracer
Item: Bracer (Requires Attunement)
Ruby Charge (1): The red gem in this item glow fiercely when it has a charge. An item regains all expended charges after spending four uninterrupted hours in lava.
You can activate a charge from this item as a free action at any time. When you do, you take 20 damage, which cannot be reduced. Then, you gain 8 strength for the next minute. This bonus strength can take you over any maximum strength limits.
5) Amulet of Resurrection
Item: Amulet (Neck Slot)
If the amulet has a charge when the wearer dies, they must roll 1d4. After that many rounds, they are resurrected by the amulet, consuming its charge.
The wearer regains hit points equal to their hit-die size plus their Constitution
modifier. They then must spend ALL of their remaining hit dice, regaining that many hit points. Then the target regains consciousness.
Astral Charge (1): The white gem in this item glows faintly when it has a charge. A spellcaster can use an action to consume a level 9 spell slot to restore one expended charge.
6) Shrunken Head Of Telmashan
Item: Shrunken Head
Druids, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards can use this item as a focus.
Amethyst Charges (2): The purple gems in the eyes of the head glow faintly when they have a charge. Expended charges are restored after spending two uninterrupted hours in either a poisonous cloud or a poisonous liquid.
When you cast a spell using this as your focus, you can expend a charge to cast it without requiring verbal or somatic components. (You must still have this item in your hand though)
7) Staff Of Magic Missiles (Reworked)
Item: Staff (Arcane Focus)
Passive: If you are a wizard, you learn Magic Missile, and always have it prepared. Furthermore, whenever you cast Magic Missile, the damage dice are increased to d6s.
Sapphire Charge (1): The blue gem in the middle of this staff glows faintly when it has a charge. Expended charges are restored when this item spends one uninterrupted hour in water.
You may expend a charge as an action to cast Magic Missile without consuming a spell slot.
8) Faey’s Crystal Flute
Item: Flute +1 (Bardic Focus, Spell Save DC and Spell Attack Bonus increased by +1)
Moonstone Charge (1): The white gem in this item glows faintly when it has a charge. An item regains all expended charges after spending one uninterrupted hour in moonlight.
When you cast a spell using this flute as a focus, you can expend a charge to make a performance check. Your spell save DC for that spell is either the usual DC, or the performance check result, whichever is higher.
9) Wand Of Fireballs (Reworked)
Item: Wand (Arcane Focus)
Passive: You learn the Fireball spell, and always have it prepared.
Furthermore, whenever you cast Fireball, the damage dice are increased to d8s.
Ruby Charge (1): The red gem in the handle of this wand glows fiercely when it has a charge. Expended charges are restored when this item spends four uninterrupted hours in lava.
You may expend a charge as an action to cast Fireball without consuming a spell slot.
10) Dragonward Shield
Item: Shield +1
This shield increases your armour class by a further +1.
Dragonward: You have a +2 bonus on saving throws against Dragon Breath attacks.
Amber Charge (1): The orange sigil in this item glows faintly when it has a charge. Expended charges are restored exactly 24 hours after the previously used charge was expended.
You can use a bonus action to expend a charge, to spew flames in a 30ft cone. All affected targets must take a DC:13 Dex Save, taking 5d6 fire damage on a failure, and half on a success.
What are some of the most unique or memorable homebrew magic items that you have encountered in a Role Playing Game? Comment below!
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.
Picture Reference: http://mauiastrologyreading.com/power-gems-and-healing-2/
Blessed Machine is happy to announce the Kickstarter for our new setting, Secret Agents of CROSS. We are also excited to announce that Blessed Machine is now an official licensee of the Savage Worlds game system. We were looking for a system that could model the setting’s concept that CROSS agents are the best of the best. We discovered Savage Worlds and its Wild Card concept, exploding dice, and bennie rules and after a few playtests, we knew we had to produce Secret Agents of CROSS for Savage Worlds. Thanks to the Pinnacle team for helping us work through the process and become an official licensee.
The world of Secret Agents of CROSS is similar to our own with slightly more advanced technology. Religious persecution came into existence nearly as soon as religions appeared. The supernatural has existed in the world since the beginning of time and continues to exploit the world from their extra-dimensional realms and secret lairs. Cardinal James McDonell created CROSS to combat these evils and protect the flock.
Secret Agents of CROSS is a full-color 170-page setting book. It is your guide on how the world of CROSS operates, how to make player characters, and how to run CROSS missions steeped in secret spy stuff, religious history, modern terrorism, and the supernatural.
Below are eight reasons to pledge to the Secret Agents of CROSS Kickstarter.
1) Secret Biblical History
Read never before revealed intel from the Vatican's secret library on what really happened in Biblical times including the use of dragons during the Crusades and the evolution of saintly magic by the most devout Christians. Peruse details on Biblical artifacts and relics and where they came from and how they affect the modern world of CROSS today. Discover how angel DNA affected the gene pool of humans, creating the secret races of the Ardorim, Buerim, Luciphim, Moraxim, and the more widely known Nephilim. Finally, learn the secret history of CROSS and how it came to rest underneath the Vatican City and run operations to protect the flock all across the globe.
2) Ten Character Roles To Capture The Setting Feel
Examine the ten Character Roles players can choose from in Secret Agents of CROSS. Find out the details of the Crusader, a powerhouse of Holy melee; the Holy Ghost, a master of stealth in the virtual world; the Silent Knight, a master of stealth in the physical world; the Wrath, the embodiment of God’s wrath against man, and many more.
3) New Edges & New Hindrances
Uncover new Edges like Cybernetics Access which will allow your agent to choose from over 50 cybernetic implants. Choose the Iron Shroud Attunement which gives your agent access to power armor with 50 enhancements, or embrace your faith with the Martyr Edge and be filled with God’s might when wounded. Investigate new Hindrances like Pious or Obligation to reveal your inner Holy person.
4) Cutting-edge Weaponry, Macabre Relics, And Powerful Artifacts
Designed by the engineers of CROSS, see the specs for over 40 pieces of unique gear like the Starfly Drone, the Miracle Shroud, and the Holy Soaker. Explore body parts of the saints like St. Thomas's Finger, St. Anthony’s Tongue, and the Shroud of Turin. Research mighty Artifacts like Moses’s Staff, the Buddhist Iron Man, and the Ark of the Covenant.
5) Variety Of Deadly And Strange Adversaries
See the compiled dossiers of 30 adversaries your agents may face, collected from intel agencies all over the world. Read the details on the Vengeful Order of the New Cathars, a religion thought wiped out during the Crusades. The New Russian Empire lead by an ex-KGB officer, his number two, Asena, the leader of a lycanthrope wolf cult, and the Pri-men, three half-human primates. All work together to restore the Russian Empire to greatness. Discover the nature of early religious beings like angels, demons, jinn, hellspawn, or creatures like the Leviathan or the Behemoth. Some good, some bad, some you will have to decide for yourself.
6) Gamemaster’s Vault
Study gamemaster information on how to empower each of the Character Roles in your games and run the supernatural of the CROSS world efficiently, and discover double-secret-GM's-eyes-only information not revealed in other chapters. Additionally, pour over a detailed mission generator.
7) Three Dangerous Missions
Read the briefings for three complete missions that your agents will need to embark on to defend the flock.
- Blood & Teeth: Your team of Catholic super agents has been tasked with investigating the disappearances of people from a village in Eastern Turkey. Intel points to straightforward religious unrest, but the mission rapidly unfurls into a complex tale of power and revenge. Join your fellow CROSS agents and embark on a mission of Blood & Teeth.
- Let There Be Light: When a rash of burglaries of medieval artifacts from wealthy homes and museums comes to the attention of CROSS, their initial reaction is one of disinterest. Still, one Manger operative reviews the details to discover they were all made by one infamous man. Then the question becomes: how fast can we get them back?
- Not Dead Enough: Seattle, Washington is known for a lot of things, but grave desecration usually isn't one of them. When word reaches the CROSS agents of a rash of cemetery break-ins involving disinterred corpses, the question becomes, how bad is bad?
8) A Complete Dossier For Secret Agents Of CROSS
Receive a high-quality color pdf or printing fulfilled through DriveThruRPG in standard 8.5" x 11" size and all attained stretch goals.
CROSS wants you as their newest agent. Please head over to the recruiting department at CROSS and Kickstart your career! Don’t believe the propaganda stating that the video uses dangerous subliminal video techniques perfected during the Cold War to convince you to pledge. Accept this mission and enjoy our kickstarter video right now!
Still need convincing? I know you figure CROSS agents will battle demons and deadly hellspawn, but did you know they would also encounter dangerous supernatural creatures like the Tarasque? This giant beast is covered with a protective turtle shell and has a lion’s head with teeth that cut like rows of swords. You will also get access to relics to carry with you into battle, and the most technologically advanced weaponry like grenades that explode to release healing power, hellfire, ensnaring goo, and sleeping gas. The flock needs you at CROSS!
Pete Ruttman is a writer, artist, and graphic designer for Blessed Machine. He has produced several tabletop RPG products including Evilution Unchained and Supervillain Showdown #1. You can keep an eye on all of Pete’s missions at the following locations:
Web Site | Facebook | G+ | Twitter
Picture Provided by the Author
Call of Cthulhu is its own monstrosity. As it lurchs up from the seabed, this system breaks the shoreline and demands a different storytelling method from its game master. In Dungeons and Dragons, players find themselves in a dungeon with reaching the monster at the end as their goal. It asks the players, “How many die rolls will it take to beat this monster?” Call of Cthulhu asks instead, “What if that monster cannot be defeated; even worse, what if that monster cannot even be comprehended?” The game master, officially referred to as the keeper, has a unique challenge ahead of them when designing a Call of Cthulhu campaign. The climax of a campaign is often deadly, but there needs to be more to a session for the players leave satisfied. This buildup of tension is pivotal to Call of Cthulhu, and it can be difficult to create. Here are five tips for making that challenge a little bit easier.
1) Design Your Encounter Backwards
When a keeper creates a storyline for the first time, it doesn’t matter where the players start the campaign. Forcing a beginning will be counterintuitive when it comes to starting a compelling narrative. A keeper should let the players decide where the story begins; whether that be in one player’s private eye office or the occult ward at Miskatonic university, it should not be part of the keeper’s plans. They simply provide the hook and let the players pull at the string.
The best place to start is right at the end, and a keeper should first ask themselves where and how it’ll be. A Call of Cthulhu campaign is a horror story, and a horror story without a compelling ending is simply going to be forgotten. When a keeper knows some of the ending details before it even starts, they will have a solid resolution that they can build towards. This can include clues that, when pieced together, point the players towards that resolution. These details will supply the leads that point the players towards the campaign’s climax with a series of sensical and connected events that will keep them engaged.
Every campaign has a bad guy, but a keeper shouldn’t spend too much time on their villain. To keep this simple, the villain (likely a cult) needs a who, a where, and a what, as they are the only important questions for building the conclusion. Who is the Old One they are summoning, where is the ritual happening, and what are they doing to complete the ritual? For a first design, a keeper shouldn’t plan too much for their villain. Instead, focus on the resolution and plant clues for the players to discover their enemy’s plan as the story unfolds. Working backwards allows a keeper to plan a campaign without having to solve their own mysteries.
2) Plan Specific Discoveries That Progress The Story Forward
Due to its investigative nature, Call of Cthulhu can hit roadblocks that leave the players at a dead end. A good mystery will have details hidden beneath layers of misdirection and red herrings. Keepers may find this compelling, but more often than not, the players will find this frustrating. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t include red herrings or tough puzzles for players to solve; instead, a keeper should plan their mysteries with a balance of leads and dead ends.
Using a tiered discovery system can be very beneficial to first time keepers. In a tiered discovery system, a keeper plans a structure in order for the players to make discoveries. Instead of having every piece of the puzzle available for the players to find, keep some clues hidden until players find enough background to make sense of these new discoveries.
To better understand this concept, let's say the players need to investigate a series of missing person reports at a hotel outside the city. Naturally, they’ll want to look into the history of the building and the disappearances; this is the first tier. Instead of allowing the players to immediately discover the shady hotel owner and his criminal past, the keeper should hide some of the mystery and allow the players to make smaller, more thematic discoveries. It’ll set a mood when they arrive at the hotel if the only clues they’ve come across have been from newspaper clippings, police reports and rumours. It’s only when they find themselves stranded at the hotel do they discover that the hotel owner isn’t as friendly as they initially seemed.
A focused structure will keep the story moving and ensure that the players and the keeper don’t lose themselves in the details. There is a fear of planning a story with such simple hooks will lead to a linear storyline. This fear of linearity stems from the fact that, as the keeper, all the answers are already known. The players get to turn over the rocks and uncover the clues one by one and make their own theories that could soon be turned on their head by a future discovery. A simple structure of clues and discoveries is what will make a campaign compelling for players.
3) Don’t End With The Big Bad
As part of a keeper’s initial planning they may want to plan an ending where the players go face-to-face with someone like Cthulhu himself. As exciting as a moment like this would be, it’ll very likely end with the entire investigative team either dying or going insane. This may be memorable, but such a climax should only be considered if the entire play group is aware of such a possibility. Most players will likely want some sort of resolution, but that doesn’t stop a keeper from making it as Lovecraftian as they can be.
Due to the mechanics, Call of Cthulhu is a very unforgiving system. It’s realistic in the sense that a gunshot or two will kill most characters and NPCs; or the sight of some sort of unfathomable, cosmic monstrosity will cause a person to lose all sense and reason. Player death is often unavoidable in this game. It’s because of this that a first time keeper is recommended to make the villains human. A cult is a very good tool for this. The climax can be about stopping the ritual that summons Yog-Sothoth instead of fighting Mr. Yog-Sothoth itself.
This gives a chance for the players to achieve some sort of victory; they stopped the evil machinations of the dark forces in their city, but they also learned of unimaginable forces that lurk between the stars or beneath the ocean. This mark will have a lasting effect on the character that is a lot more tantalizing to the player than killing them. This may compel players to continue their adventures past this first campaign. It’s this headstrong attitude that allows keepers to be even less forgiving the second time around.
4) Design With A Sense Of Dread
Call of Cthulhu provides a completely different kind of atmosphere over something like Dungeons and Dragons. The players should feel tense and uneasy as they dig deeper into the strange happenings of their keeper’s storyline. This doesn’t mean there can’t be any room for some jokes and comedy, but the scales should be tipped more towards the serious side. To balance this successfully a keeper should plan out encounters that provide a constant flow of dread.
A good way for a keeper to learn this kind of mood is by actually reading some of the works of Lovecraft. There are various pieces by him and other writers of his time that provide excellent examples of dread. The flavor of horror in these stories is a lot different from that of the conventional horror most people are used to. This doesn’t stop a keeper from adding these ideas into their story, but if the end result is about an ancient one being awoken, the horror should be about the hopeless of human existence against the entity as opposed to being chased and running away from it.
Once again: if the players are already face to face with the ancient one, they have already lost. This idea should be the fear that provides the horror. The fact that these characters are fragile is what can push players into really embodying the spirit of the campaign. Push the fact that they may win today, but that doesn’t mean another victory for humanity will happen tomorrow.
5) Don’t Feel Locked Into Lovecraft
This one is a small simple point that is important for keepers to know. Call of Cthulhu is a fun roleplaying system. It works very well with an unforgiving pass/fail system but provides players with a lot of customization and roleplay design. However, Lovecraft isn’t for everyone. Some people find issue with the racist overtones of his writing, so a keeper shouldn’t force anyone to play through a game set in Lovecraft’s world. There’s an entire world of horror that the Call of Cthulhu system could be adapted to. Instead of focusing on the idea of players specifically going against an Old One, a keeper may take influence from other sources.
There are a variety of authors out there continuing the feeling of Lovecraft without being explicitly in his style. Weird stories of horror focus around the fears humans have on a primal level: weaknesses, insecurities, the mistakes they can’t come back from, etc. These are all aspects of horror found within the genre that Call of Cthulhu strives in. If Lovecraft doesn’t resonate with the group, a keeper should find something that works for them. A simple, mysterious piece of horror can sometimes be a lot more interesting to a group than sticking specifically with the source material.
The magic of Call of Cthulhu is the unique perspective a keeper brings to their storylines and their own taste in horror. There is something uniquely human about telling scary stories; a strange desire to experience fear lurks within all of us. Creators have been sharing what makes them scared since the dawn of time. Hopefully these tips allow new keepers to do the same with their playgroup.
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.
Picture Reference: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/tech/gaming/681400/Call-of-Cthulhu-preview-Could-this-be-the-PS4-and-Xbox-One-s-next-cult-hit-horror-game
I have a new appreciation for games that are “Powered by the Apocalypse.” This badass moniker describes games are based on the rules used in D. Vincent Baker’s award winning Apocalypse World roleplaying game (now in its 2nd edition!). The first edition (published in 2010) became the framework for about a million spin-off games that recognized the genius of the system and applied it to different genres. Dungeon World by Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel is one of these spin-offs, using the Apocalypse World rules to power a fantasy setting. This article is about some brilliant nuggets I found in the Dungeon World rules.
I have never played Dungeon World, and although it’s hard to admit it, I haven’t played Apocalypse World either. I have a keen interest in apocalyptic-y themed fun and award-winning roleplaying games, but it wasn’t until someone posted about how the Dungeon World SRD helped them run a Fate Core game that I finally took time out of my schedule to investigate.
It was worth every second.
Here are a few mechanics that I borrowed from Dungeon World for use in a Fate-based game I ran recently. These mechanics have whet my appetite for more games Powered by the Apocalypse, as well as generally improving my gamemastering. I’m sure there are more gems to be found, but hopefully this is enough to get you interested in investigating Dungeon World and other Apocalypse games for yourself!
1) Agenda, Principles
The first thing that drew me to investigate the game system was the simple gamemastering guidelines. A fellow Fate fanatic had posted that the Dungeon World Gamemastering section was great, and pointed out a few ways it was helpful to him. Dungeon World begins by laying out the gamemaster’s job in three bullet points: 1) portray a fantastic world, 2) fill the characters’ lives with adventure, and 3) play to find out what happens.
Just kidding. They go on to hammer home exactly what is NOT the gamemaster’s job, including beating the players and testing their ability to solve problems. Especially hard to hear was that it is not my job to let the characters explore my finely-crafted setting. Once I choked that part down, though, I could see the wisdom. These three points are the reason that people play fantasy roleplaying games. Other agendas tend to just get in the way.
There is then a list of Principles that the gamemaster should follow. I won’t list them here, though I will be drawing on a few of them in my other points. Suffice to say that LaTorra and Koebel simply take all the things that make a good gamemaster good and turn them into rules for the game. I took these to heart, and they changed my game for the better.
Seriously, why didn’t anyone think of this before?
2) Focus On The Story
Many games claim to be ‘story-based’ or ‘story-driven,’ and they all deliver to some extent. ‘Begin and end with the fiction’ is a gamemaster principle in Dungeon World, and the system backs the gamemaster up with the rules. What is unique about the Dungeon World rules is that they kick in only when something in the story triggers the rule. Conversely, the rules themselves generally feed back into the narrative, which mean that every interaction with the rules actually “begins and end with the fiction.” Rather than using rules to simulate the reality where a story occurs, Dungeon World ignores the simulation and instead uses rules to drive the story forward. This subtle shift in emphasis helped my players and I to focus on the fiction rather than the simulation, which ironically tended to make the game feel more real. We spent less time on using mechanics to explain situations and more time actually roleplaying. Win! We also avoided some of the sillier fantasy roleplaying conversations like “can I roll to persuade this character?” If you focus on the story, the answer is obvious: only if you make a convincing argument or have some leverage on them. So no. Or yes. Whatever makes sense in that situation!
Fronts helped me to plan the session and plant seeds for the future. One of LaTorra and Koebel’s gamemaster principles is to ‘draw maps and leave blanks.’ As anyone knows who has run a game, the best-laid plans rarely survive an encounter with the player characters. The answer? Plan less, but give your plans real teeth. Base your opposition on the player characters; what is important to them? Then advance the opposition step by step to the point that if the characters ignore it, the opposition will either suddenly or gradually destroy the things the characters love. That means that even if they spend a full session messing around in tavern in some backwater town, the plot will move forward and drag the players with it. Again, I’ve seen similar optional mechanics in other games (Aspect Events in Fate Core, for example), but LaTorra and Koeble roll it into the rules of the game, forcing you to have more fun.
4) Gamemaster Moves
The heart of Dungeon World, and I assume all Apocalypse World derivatives, is the ‘Move.’ A Move is a rule that applies in a particular game-world context. For example, the “Discern Realities” Move happens when a character closely studies a person or a situation. Beginning with the fiction, the rule tells you what to do. Usually there’s a dice roll which defines what happens, and you explain the result in the fiction. To reiterate: the difference between this and other systems is subtle, but important. The context for making a Move is defined so that rules don’t have to be applied where they don’t belong.
The best part, however, is the gamemaster’s Moves. They are a bit different. The gamemaster makes a Move in one of three situations: 1) when everyone looks to you to find out what happens, 2) when the players give you a golden opportunity, or 3) when someone fails a roll. At that point, the gamemaster chooses a Move that makes sense. There are only a dozen, but each one helps to create a compelling narrative. It means that whether a character succeeds or fails, something interesting is going to happen. This gem shines in that the story never deflates, even in the case of a failed action. It is always driven forward.
5) Reward The Desired Behaviour
The final and most powerful mechanic is the Advancement mechanic. I had to tweak it quite a bit to make it work with Fate, but I could see the value in it, and the work paid off. Dungeon World awards experience points for advancement, much like Dungeons and Dragons, but the context is different. Instead of gaining experience by fighting monsters, you gain experience by failing a roll or by successfully achieving the goals of the game. What goals? Look back at the gamemaster’s agenda, and see if these question match up at all:
1) Did we learn something new and important about the world?
2) Did we overcome a notable monster or enemy?
3) Did we loot a memorable treasure?
These three questions define the purpose of the game: to explore, kill monsters, and get treasure. The great thing is that the questions can change depending on the purpose of the game. Maybe you want a game that makes political power plays and rewards intrigue. Maybe you play a game where your characters protect the innocent from supernatural evils. Whatever the point is, it can be made into one of these questions. For the fairy-tale adventure game I ran recently, I used the following questions:
1) Did we learn something new and important about the world?
2) Did we overcome a memorable challenge?
3) Did we do good in the world?
In addition to this, Dungeon World also awards experience points for portraying your character accurately. Players do this by, in character, resolving bonds and fulfilling their alignment. To convert this to Fate was super simple, because character aspects define characters in a similar way. Regardless, it was incredibly refreshing to see a roleplaying game that deliberately rewards players for playing their character!
Apocalypse World changed roleplaying games by building rules around what actually happens at the game table. It can be adapted for any setting, if Dungeon World is any indication. The rules continually refer back to the fiction, keep the game moving forward, teach gamemasters and alike players to play well, and rewards them when they do. Are you going to try it out?
Landrew is a full-time educator, part-time art enthusiast. He applies his background in literature and fine arts to his favourite hobby (roleplaying games) because the market for a background in the Fine Arts is very limited. He writes this blog on company time under a pseudonym. Long live the Corporation!
Picture Reference: https://adventurerules.blog/2017/11/15/what-i-would-change-for-dungeon-world-second-edition/
You finally get your friends around the table for a night of dice rolling and storytelling. You’ve been looking forward to this all week, and have prepared a fantastic adventure. But somewhere along the way, the night of laughs and mayhem turns a little sour, the game begins to lull, or you find yourself unsure of where to take the story next. In the middle of a gaming session, tensions can get high and emotions can spiral out of control. Many gamemasters have expressed a desire to solve their issues at the table, or keep trudging through a slow combat scene. Whatever their reasoning, some GMs dislike the idea of taking a break, as if it says something about their abilities. The truth is, a well-placed break can keep a game going and help relieve tension. Here are five instances where I have it found helpful to take a step away from the game table and collect my thoughts.
1) Tensions Are High
Angry players are a very tricky problem for running a smooth game. Whether they are unhappy with one of your rulings, the decisions of another player, or something as simple as bad luck, this is a perfect time to call for a break. It is important to remember that you shouldn’t be taking this break in order to find a way to prove you are “right” in a rules argument or something similar. Instead, state you want a break so everyone can cool off and come back to the table with leveled emotions. Stepping outside for a moment or simply distracting yourself with your phone can be a good way to get your mind off of things for a few minutes.
2) For The Sake of Drama
Perhaps the NPC who hired the heroes turned out to be the villain, or the scorned lover of one of the heroes just showed up seeking vengeance. Whatever drama has just presented itself in the story, this can be a great time for the players to take a bathroom break, refill their drinks, and bust out fresh snacks. During the break, a dramatic revelation will probably come up in conversation, and players will inevitably find themselves headed back to the table feeling ready to see what will happen next.
3) Collect Your Thoughts
You can’t prepare yourself for every situation, and eventually the players will do something that knocks you for a loop. Perhaps they are fixated on an NPC you considered relatively unimportant, or they have decided to leave behind the evil necromancer to loot the ancient wizard’s tower they heard about several adventures ago. Players can be a fickle and unpredictable bunch; there is nothing wrong with taking a bit of time to figure out how you wish to proceed.
4) Distracted Players
We’ve all been in this situation. You’ve planned out the perfect encounter and are ready to reveal the villain’s master plan, when you notice the player next to you is Googling something unrelated on their phone. A player on the other end of the table is stacking dice as high as they can before it comes crashing down with a resounding clatter. Don’t take it personally, sometimes we all just need a change of pace for a few moments to renew our sense of focus. Sitting in one place for too long can be enough for some players to lose interest, so let them get up and stretch their legs!
5) Uncomfortable Player
As a gamemaster, it is vital to be sensitive to the wants and needs of your players. This is particularly important with touchy subjects like politics, race, gender, etc. If a player is acting awkward at the table, they may be uncomfortable with the topic at hand. Hopefully, you’ve established at the beginning of your campaign exactly what topics you planned on covering, so players know ahead of time what will be discussed. Regardless, something may come up that feels unsafe to a certain individual. Confronting them right there at the table could easily make the situation worse; so instead, simply call for a break and take the player aside and ask them how they are. Their problem may not be related to the game at all, but it’s always a good idea to check. Implementing a tool like the X-Card can be very beneficial as well.
No one is perfect, and eventually we’re all likely to need a breather every now and then. As the GM it is our job to facilitate fun, and sometimes that means stepping away from the game, even if it is just to grab more pretzels.
Nathan Carmen is the founder and head writer of the Indie RPG company, Tricky Troll Games. Nathan loves building worlds and improving his craft when he’s not busy parenting. Reach Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the TTG website at https://nathanccarmen.wixsite.com/trickytrollgames
Art provided by JESHIELDS. Find and support his work at https://www.patreon.com/jefantasy
Imagine a world where, instead of advancing in fits and starts, young humanity was ripped into an uncaring cosmos, full of wonder and terror, left trying to figure out what our species really is. That’s a pretty good summary of Black Void, a new game being Kickstarted by Christoffer Sevaldsen. Black Void is a dark fantasy RPG in focused on personal relationships, cosmic exploration, and engaging combat. Christoffer was kind enough to answer a few questions about the game for us.
Your description of the game begins with a mention of Babylon being the greatest city on Earth. Does this mean pre- or early-historic humans are the ones being wrenched into this cosmic horror? If so, why did you decide on this era and not a later one, like the 1920s as is typical in cosmic horror?
It does indeed! There are several reasons for this choice. Firstly, I am exceedingly fascinated with the ancient civilizations of Earth, particularly those from Mesopotamia. The Sumerians, Babylonians and Akkadian cultures are generally not very well-known to the public, but they have a rich heritage, intriguing myths and astounding achievements, which seem surprisingly advanced. My point was to have a basis in something which is – at least vaguely – familiar and then add my own pinch of the otherworldly and bizarre to it. Since there is so much about these civilizations which is still shrouded in mystery, it seems the ideal as a basis for Black Void. Also, the Daimons (the terminology is based on the original unbiased Greek meaning) and monsters featured in the Mesopotamian myths just fit perfectly into my idea of cosmic horror: The Anunnakku, Lamassu, Mardkhora, Rabisu and so on just seem to fit the concept perfectly and are largely unexplored in other fantasy RPG’s. Secondly, I had very clear vision of what I wanted this game to be about. 1920’s cosmic horror is - as you write – the typical outset, which has been done exceedingly well by others. I did not want to do typical and I am not even sure that I would characterise Black Void as a cosmic horror game. To me the game is dark fantasy with a focus on the struggles of humanity in terms of the survival of mankind and - more profoundly - exploring the very nature of mankind - with cosmic horror elements lurking in the background, not necessarily at the core of the story.
The key elements of the game include enlightenment and wastaah. What is wastaah, and how do both feature into the game mechanically?
Both concepts are part of character progression, but each is story-driven and achievable only through exploration and world-interaction, not by expending experience points. Wastaah is - in essence - personal connections. It entails knowing the right people in the right places and having the sway or clout to get these to act on your behalf. The reason I found this concept to be appealing is that the main stage of Black Void, the cosmopolis called Llyhn, is a hierarchical caste society with humanity at the bottom. Wastaah functions outside this system, allowing the casteless and low-caste mankind to gain influence informally, aiding the resurgence of mankind while retaining the outwardly inferiority. It is story based, meaning that if a character manages to gain influence with a powerful entity or faction he or she will gain a tier in wastaah. Wastaah directly affect reaction and persuasion rolls when dealing with the entity or faction and it can be “spent” to achieve a favour or other significant outcome helping the character’s ambition. Enlightenment is – simply put – intuitive comprehension of existence. Enlightenment allows a character to understand the relation between the Void and the cosmos and how the two affect each other, ultimately allowing him or her to navigate, control and manipulate the Void. Like wastaah, gaining enlightenment is story-driven and requires encounters with the Void or entities from there (which is dangerous business). As characters obtain enlightenment they gain new capabilities such as sensing the Void, following Void-currents to navigate and travel between worlds, as well as a range of other supernatural abilities.
Why did you choose to go with a single d12 + trait system instead of a D20, d6, or other rolling system?
There are several reasons for this, some probably more obscure than others:
- The number 12 has significance and features prominently in the Sumerian and Babylonian sexagesimal numerals as well as mythology and other esoteric fields.
- I wanted to make a simple system enhancing story-focus, which - to me - means single-dice system.
- The D12 statistically allows a higher rate of exceptional successes and critical failures, which benefits the story if these two factors are composed in terms of how they affect gameplay, adding drama and narrative opportunities rather than being game-determining or even -breaking.
- The D12 allows you to easily and precisely convert results to D6, D4, D3 and D2 (which are used occasionally in the game) by only using a single die. No other die can do that.
- And finally, I have not seen or heard of any other game giving the D12 its deserved possibility to shine! So D12 be ready, your time is at hand!
You describe the city of Llyhn as the epicentre of the cosmos, implying that it is the beginning, or at least central, point of the universe. How does being the literal centre of the universe affect the city and its inhabitants?
The central arena of the game is indeed Llyhn the eternal, a border domain located at the heart of a massive convergence of void currents. Technically, no one knows where Llyhn is located physically as it cannot be reached by any other means than Void-travel. The city is a principal hub and waypoint connecting major trade routes and a vibrant melting pot of species from across the known worlds, as well as more esoteric entities and beings from beyond the evident world. A main staging point for exploration of the unknown reaches of the cosmos Llyhn is a median port and cosmopolis. Independent from external influence the city is considered neutral ground and hosts numerous diplomatic missions from across the cosmos making it a natural place for enlightened species to congregate; attracting cultural tensions, social intricacies, religious polemic and political rivalry while immense armies are accommodated for transit under the watchful eyes of the masked Hohr’loh’kin, the extended arm of the unseen rulers of Llyhn. Though the unseen rulers principally look after their own interests and involve their servants very little in the managing of the city unless their authority is defied, Llyhn is not an entirely anarchic place. Through a rather harsh practice following the tenet: “might makes right” the residents have naturally segregated into distinct castes of varying power and influence, which keeps the city and its inhabitants in a somewhat stable equilibrium. Llyhn is scarcely a placid city to reside in, yet besides blatant inequality and oppression and the warping taint and influence of the void, people flock to the city for the promise of opportunities and wealth, the access to foreign worlds, baffling wonders and to satiate their lust for adventure.
Movement in combat can be a tricky thing to pull off, but you put manoeuvre at the centre of your system. How do you keep movement from getting bogged down?
In Black Void the word manoeuvre is used as an umbrella term for all “combat actions” including offensive and defensive actions, movement and miscellaneous actions performed in combat. The point was to get away from the static “standard attack” constantly being employed, which is why Black Void has 39 different actions players can use in combat. Several of the combat manoeuvres, critical mishaps and exceptional strikes entail - or has as consequence - the shifting of positions and relocation of opponents making combats constantly fluctuating allowing players to employ a variety of actions or manoeuvres to gain the upper hand. I prefer theatre-of mind combat as I think that grid-based combat is too restrictive and mechanical. In order to keep an overview in case of encounters with numerous opponents however laminated maps and markers or minis are a great tool. Again, the point of Black Void is to make intense and interesting narrative combat scenes, not play rigid “battlechess” on grid-maps.
As with most cosmic horror, your game seems at least partially inspired by Lovecraft. Where does the inspiration end and your own twisted imagination take over?
It is true that Lovecraft has inspired some parts of the game, but probably not so much the parts you would think. My favourite Lovecraft story is “the Dream-quest of unknown Kadath”, and the account of the black galleys has to a certain degree inspired Void-travel. The cosmic horror element in Black Void is two-fold: Firstly, Void horrors that generally exist beyond the bounds of the cosmos, remaining largely unknown and unknowable except to enlightened people. The role of the Void horrors is probably more in the shadows and as an underlying threat rather than as a main focal point. However, should said entities be encountered, it will most likely have catastrophic consequences for those involved. The second is otherworldly sentient species that seem horrific to oblivious humanity in their bizarre and even grotesque forms and temperaments. Their outlandishness is exactly why mankind is forced to question what humanity and its ethos is and should be, when confronted by dispositions utterly alien. So, the horror probably lies more in the realizations of humanity rather than in tentacles and teeth, albeit there are quite a few of those as well. I generally prefer when horrors are not fully revealed or at least remain somewhat mysterious. It makes the imagination run rampant and leaves the GM and scenario-writers with many options. I find this so much more interesting than defining and describing everything in painful detail, which in the end only serves to inhibit imagination. An example are the primary named horrors, namely the mindless ghostly abominations of the Void; terrible entities beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. The key words being “beyond mortal comprehension”.
See you in the Void, Christoffer!
Check out Black Void’s Kickstarter here.
Phil Pepin is a history-reading, science-loving, head-banging, river-running nerd, who would like nothing more than to cuddle with his pups and wife.
Picture Reference: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/68133405/black-void-rpg?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=black%20void
Recently, I played Ten Candles with some of the dudes over at Nerd Mantle, and boy, what an experience it was. Having heard so much about it, everyone involved was eager to get the show on the road. By the end of it, the room smelled like charred paper while we all sat there sort of gob smacked by how cool this game was. It’s a hard-hitting game for sure, but that’s definitely the charm of it. If you’re a fan of horror, this game is a must play and let me tell you why.
Player characters are made up of four traits: Virtue, Vice, Hope and Brink. That’s it. So, what this means is that you have one thing you’re proud of, your Achilles’ heel, a situation that brings hope to your character, and what your character is capable of in the worst of situations. The Brink is probably the most fun because you keep it hidden from the other characters until it rears its ugly head. There are no other stats, and all you need beyond the index cards, a writing utensil, a fireproof bowl, and tea candles is some six-sided dice of two different colors (something I’m sure everyone reading this has a large abundance of).
Without making this an extremely lengthy summation of the rules, you essentially use traits to get rerolls by burning the index card that trait is written on. The kicker is the player must work said trait into the roleplay of the conflict resolution. Beyond that, the game is set up into scenes. Candles are blown out when scenes end or a conflict is failed. This sets an interesting pace for the game while keeping the rules to a minimum, something I’m certainly a fan of. Did I mention that candles extinguished by accident still count and can end a scene?
Obviously, a huge part of this game is fire. It sounds silly, but it’s actually rather interesting to have something that you need to be very conscious of while playing. Not just conscious of in the sense of it being a part of the game, but it’s actually potentially dangerous. There’s also something very haunting about burning a part of what makes up your character. That feeling is amplified as the room grows darker with the progression of the game, with the final candle leaving you in complete blackness. Ten Candles is the master of atmosphere, probably the most atmospheric game I’ve ever played aside from Dread. One mechanic I neglected to mention below was the voice recording after character creation.
When we played, Ben had us pass the phone around the table and utter into it what our character’s last words would be. It was a little stressful to think of that in an instant, nearly anxiety inducing. At the end of the game when we were all sitting in the dark of the dining room, he played the recording so we had to hear ourselves again. Simply incredible.
Ten Candles has a tremendous amount of potential to leave a lasting impression on people, and not just in the, “hey, this game is cool!” sort of way. I mean, like, explore the most inner parts of ourselves type of way. Without going into too much detail (as I did this with my character, I’m a glutton for punishment), my character made for a long and thoughtful ride home. Since it was our first time playing, the experience at the table was a little clunky and less than totally immersive, but it was still enough to make me think.
There’s more than a few things that go into making a person what they are, and this game is excellent at compartmentalizing some important parts of that. It wouldn’t be too far of a leap to assume that if everyone came to the table with the idea of having this game be some sort of sick, twisted therapy session, there could probably be some healing tears there. In my opinion, that kind of thing puts a game in another class of awesomeness.
If you haven’t played this game already, do yourself a favor and pick it up. At the price point they ask, it’s far beyond worth it. While it’s not a game you could play every week, as it’d lose its luster that way, it’s without question something that would be fantastic for off-nights.
Sean is the Heavy Metal GM, a freelance writer and blogger that loves the roleplaying games more than life itself. As a person who’s always up for a good discussion, his blog covers general gaming advice as well as specialized advice/homebrew rules for 13th Age RPG. You can find his website at www.heavymetalgm.com. Join the conversation.
Picture Reference: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shiftyginger/ten-candles-a-tragic-horror-storytelling-game
Nashicon 2018 was the first time I was explicitly invited out to be a GM at a convention. While this isn’t the first time we at High Level Games have covered a first time experience as a con GM, I find it worth noting that my experience is different from what we’ve covered earlier. Primarily because Sean was at the longest running gaming convention in the world, while I was at a comparatively shorter lived anime convention that happened to have a tabletop gaming room.
While I believe I did a competent job as a GM at Nashicon, I’d be a fool to believe there wasn’t areas I could improve. So for your reading pleasure, I have compiled this list where I reflect on what went right and where I screwed up as a GM for an anime convention’s tabletop room.
1) Limit Yourself
Nashicon’s Tabletop Director invited me to run games for them because I’m knowledgeable about various Japanese RPGs. In my excitement to show all that I knew and was capable of, I prepared to run every such game in my repertoire and then some. This turned out to be a mistake.
I was prepared to run seven different games. By the end of the weekend, however, I had only run three of them, and each of those games was only run once. Having a wide assortment available did spark a lot of conversations, as well as attract many curious attendees. However, my broad selection worked against me when it came time to ring these attendees in; I couldn’t decide for myself what it was I wanted to run.
What was more important to limit was how much I wanted to convey in a game. The staff overseeing me at the convention suggested that I try to keep my games to just two hours if I could. While I wasn’t keen on the idea initially, as the weekend went on it became apparent to me why: it’s a lot easier to sell somebody on a game if it’s only 2 hours of their time they’ll be spending.
2) Handouts Are Your Friend
Familiarity is a boon in tabletop RPGs. Rules explanations can be kept to a minimum, or even done by other players at the table, lessening the GM’s burden to do so. By running less familiar games, I couldn’t rely on this, but I otherwise had a plan to work around this limitation.
Said plan was to prepare printouts of vital rules to use as a reminder for players. This alleviated a problem I’d often have running personal games when there was only one copy of the rulebook to go around: the players could have a quick reference to how the game worked.
To make these reminder sheets more interesting, though, I printed some images on the backside of these handouts. When I set up my table for a game of Ryuutama, I spread out two sets of my reminder sheets. One side with the artwork of the character classes displayed, and the other side with the abilities of that class. An unintended side effect of this was that it made it made my table much more identifiable, and also drew the attention of passers-by.
3) Pregen Characters Are Too
I didn’t have any pregenerated characters for any of the games I ran over the weekend; every game I ran we made characters for on the spot. By contrast, my Dungeons and Dragons playing neighbors had an entire table dedicated to displaying pre-made characters so that they could quickly jump in on a game that still had room.
From the glimpses I got of these character sheets, it seemed like many of them were the official pregenerated sheets provided by Wizards. For the uninitiated, these sheets have class feature explanations reprinted from the rulebook, as appropriate for the level. Functionally, this made them similar to handouts I created Ryuutama.
4) Assistants Are Your Best Friend
One challenge that I consistently encountered was gathering players. It wasn’t that there was a shortage of interest. That was far from the case. The difficulty was that I couldn’t get enough people gathered at one time to play a game. Towards the end of the weekend, though, the idea came to me to use my fellow staff to fill out the roster. (After they had done the same with me for another game.)
In fact, I would be inclined to say that help from the other staff was instrumental in making the game room successful. There were members of staff who were keeping tabs on which GMs were doing what, and would guide the players to the GMs they were looking for. These staff helped coordinate both D&D games, as well as independent RPG GMs such as myself.
5) In The End, It Comes Down To You
You can have the best support network and all the preparation in the world, but when push comes to shove, it’s exactly as the the title of this point says: it all comes down to you. Tabletop RPGs may be part collaborative storytelling, but getting one off the ground without a GM is more or less impossible.
As a GM for Nashicon, I was expected not only to run the games, but also to do the legwork to find players and organize these games. I didn’t expect this to be difficult, and it was the one thing I didn’t really brace myself for. (By contrast, I had literally hundreds of pages of character sheets and handouts at the ready.)
It turns out that selling somebody on a game they haven’t heard of that belongs to a genre they’ve only scratched the surface of (if they’ve even heard of it) takes more than showing up and having a sales pitch ready. I wasn’t able to get people to play anything until I or other staff insisted they sit down.
Once I got my players around the table though, it wasn’t much different than any other time I ran a game. I knew how to entice players to participate and let themselves be involved in the creative aspect of gaming. I knew how to keep things moving along and when to take short cuts: I was back in my element.
Even though it was a familiar activity in a familiar setting, being GM staff for this anime convention was a much more novel experience than I expected it to be. It made me more aware of some shortcomings of mine, and thus gave me plenty to work on should I continue down this path.
Aaron der Schaedel, despite his love of conventions and festivals, has yet to attend any dedicated specifically to tabletop gaming. He can’t be there, but thinks you should totally check out HLGCon. If you do go, you can gloat to Aaron about how much fun you’re having there and he isn’t via twitter: @Zamubei
The Vistani (and by extension The Carnival) are the default “traveling band” for the setting, but there are many travelers who brave the Mists using safety in numbers. One of the greatest advantages of using such a group in a campaign is that they can appear in a wide variety of domains, whether in the Core, island or cluster. For those times when you need to have the adventure come to your players, here are a few ways to have hell (or heaven) on wheels.
1) Professor Arcanus
Since the events of CotN: Werebeasts, Arcanus no longer has the luxury of being a one man show. On the night one of his exhibits came back to life, he was saved by a band of traveling adventurers, but he was revealed as a lycanthrope, and one of their number become a carnivorous ape. They now travel with him under the guise of fellow performers, secretly seeking a cure for both Arcanus and their friend, who has been trained to perform and assist. His new allies have taken on his penchant for showmanship and exaggeration, and they include an anchorite of the Erudite tradition who has had some success navigating the Mists.
The Book of Sacrifices tells the tragic story of a group of musicians who “just wanted to make music.” They now travel from place to place, compelled to do just that or suffer horrible consequences. The undead musical troupe cannot navigate the Mists, but they are generally content to let fate decide their path. Despite their nature and circumstances, they tend towards benevolence, and uniquely suited to survive anywhere, including places the others cannot, such as the Necropolis or Keening.
3) Black Avlyhn
First described in the Notes on Doppelgangers, this annis travels with over thirty of her own murderous doppelganger children, who believe that they are immature hags. They use their talents to play the part of Vistani, but are basically just roving thugs. The ones that have gone through puberty can appear as male or female, but visitors may note that all the children in the band of “Vistani" are female...and identical except for their ages. Recently, the band forced a mist ferryman to bargain for its life with passage through Mists. Since then, Avlyhn has prepared a magic circle to capture the next ferryman they encounter, in the hopes that they will be able to trap it and use it to truly travel like Vistani.
Stranded generations ago in the Greyhawk setting where they learned to ply the Nyr Dyv, the barge folk may adapt to sailing Lake Kriegvogel or Lake Zarovich. Their distinctive customs and unusual magic are similar to the Vistani but with a few memorable contrasts. Obviously using barges instead of wagons is a significant difference, and PCs expecting a Vetha to break out the cards for a fortune telling might see her pour a bucket of bird entrails off the back of the barge instead. A grim Darkhagard’s distinctive weapon and combat style will make an impression whether he's an ally or an enemy.
5) The Dreamspoken
Forbidden Lore introduced the Ildi’Thaan, and the first Gazetteer expanded on the Thaani ethnic group associated with them. But while many Thaani are troubled by dreams of Bleutspur, not all of them follow where the dreams lead. The Dreamspoken are Thaani with budding psionic powers who flee the lure of the Ildi’Thaan, developing their powers themselves while traveling the world. Coming from Barovia where Vistani are so well respected, it’s common for them to run away with with the Vistani for protection. Some of them return to Immol every few years to pick up new Dreamspoken, growing into larger bands that adopt Vistani dress and customs, mimicking Vistani magic with psionic powers. This has resulted in false reports of Vistani boys with the Sight, or Vistani with other unusual powers.
6) The Soldiers Of Truth
Warden Cyrus Townsend is a powerful anchorite who leads this band of Ezra’s faithful. With planning and precision, they Mistwalk to a theocratic domain such as Pharazia, astound the locals with a practiced barrage of miracles and proselytizing, and disappear back into the Mists before the authorities can muster a response. Most locals are grateful for the food, water, and healing, but a few risk their lives to hide and read the forbidden texts, hoping to be rescued back to the Core at the next visit. Townsend’s “wonderworking" is an extremely risky enterprise, but its success has spawned imitators, especially among the Nevuchar Springs Sect. The latter, of course, don't always bother to ask people if they want to be rescued….
When looking for a traveling band to play a role in your game, consider the role you want them to play, whether rescue through the mists, a source of information or goods, mysterious foreshadowing, entertainment, healing, or just ambiance. Many of the above can fill those roles while creating a sense of a much larger world, with room for many varieties of travelers braving the Mists to see where fortune brings them.
Leyshon Campbell has been playing and writing for Ravenloft for over twenty years, from the Kargatane's Book of S series, playtesting D&D 3E in a Ravenloft campaign, to the ill-fated Masque of the Jade Horror. 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 running the “Queen of Orphans” Ravenloft campaign on Discord.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.