I Need New Dice!

"I Need New Dice" is all about my love RPGs and all aspects of the hobby. Right now we're playing the Pathfinder Role Playing Game and finishing up the Rise of the Runelords adventure path.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Game On!

Three quick things:

PC back up, so more posting on the way!

Going to be playing in someone else's campagin while running my own. That is always great for the creative energies!

The "quick and dirty" version of book #5 of ROTRL went well. They ran away from a very tricky encounter and enjoyed a nice little puzzle. I'll post a spoiler capped version of the session later.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Speeding up the end of a campaign

PC still down, so posting still limited:

However there has been an unusual turn of events that should be blogged. We may end the campaign early, due to no one's fault (perhaps everyone's advantage). It's going to be a planned end, so we can start another campaign we are all excited about- the Council of Thieves Adventure Path.

We're putting it to a group vote, which I am pretty sure will vote for us to speed through book #5 of ROTRL (Sins of the Saviors) #5 is a pretty nice dungeon crawl, but at the character level we are playing at dungeon crawls aren't really what we want to be doing. Sure, it could be fun, but not as fun as the rest of the campaign. We'll still do all of book #6 and finish out the campaign with the scripted conclusion.

So this Sunday I am going to cram the best parts of book#5 into one session and we're going to rock through the runeforge in lightning time and finish up the adventure path before the end of this semester. Particularly important since 3 of my 4 PCs go to the college in town.

None of this affects the blog at all. It's just neat from a meta gaming aspect that we are realizing that this portion we want to skip through, nail the great conclusion to the campaign and then start the really cool new thing around the corner. It's a group decision.

Just have to hear back from my brother to see what the college vote says.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


And now my Vid card took a dive end of last week. Should have a replacement soon.

Friday, 9 October 2009

The Watchers from Below

There was a 750 word Pathfinder adventure scenario contest and my entry didn't make the cut. Not too surprised, I've written/designed much better. Here is the entry (format and length via their rules)

Title: The Watchers from Below

Many thousands of years ago, the aboleth considered their dominion of the entire world to be complete. The few sages that study those ancient creatures agree that the main impetus behind the aboleth desire to dominate other races was their inability to trust other creatures, almost to a level of paranoia. The world under the waters was at tentacle’s reach and the aboleth could easily be reassured that the watery ancient world was always under control and not a threat. The surface world could be scryed upon by arcane magic, but the aboleth also relied upon humanoid and monstrous agents to supplement their magical reconnaissance and to shape the actions of the surface world to the desired result. Further inland, aboleth agents would have less access to the resources of their masters, so the aboleth established small hidden bases far inland at locations linked to the ocean by waterway. One such location was the in the land nearby Falcon's Hallow.

The aboleth base nearby what would eventually become Falcon's Hallow was the center of all operations in and around the area for hundreds of miles, until the Dwarven quest for sky worried the aboleth masters. The tunnels and underground exploration of the dwarves would come too close to their base so it was abandoned just a few years before the dwarves saw their first sunrise.

In the area, the ruins of past dwarven settlements has predominated Pathfinder activity. That is why it the discovery of a large rune covered stone is so enticing, as the dwarven family that finds the runes points out that none of the runes are dwarven, and the stone was cut and and runes carved with magic before the dwarves finished their first settlements on the surface world.

Adventure Summary:
In this adventure, the pathfinders explore the ruins of an ancient underground aboleth base used by aboleth inland servants thousands of years ago. A sect of cloakers still loyal to the aboleth have beaten the pathfinders to the ruin, though a 1-2 tier group will only encounter lesser agents of the cloakers. The pathfinders will be able to deduce the nature of the ruin by either interrogating the cloaker agents or decrypting some of the ancient runes. Either method of information gathering will realize that this ruin once housed a powerful scrying crystal that amplified divination magic and stored previous scrying sessions for reviewing. The lure of totally new ruins that are not supposed to be in the area, combined with a great ancient magic device that may still have the stored divinations of 10,000 years ago should be too much for any pathfinder to refuse!

Encounter Summary:

Pre-ruins at the dwarven farmstead-

1) Calm the frightened daughter of the dwarf who found the stone on his land. Her father has been missing since yesterday and the daughter is the best way for the PCs to find the rune covered stone.

At the aboleth underground ruins-
2) This room was designed to quickly fill with water to allow for both the comfort of amphibious creatures and to aid in long-distance magical communication with the aboleth. It was not designed to be a trap, but functions well as one. If they survive or avoid the "trap", they have the chance to interrogate one of the cloaker agents that was left for dead. This is an OPTIONAL encounter.

The Chambers beyond take on the subjective gravity trait-

3) An ambush in the central room (Lizard men/Skum/Cloaker mix per tier). The scrying crystal is here, but will not move from the center of the room. Triggering switches in other rooms will lower the crystal with one switch already triggered in the left most room.

4) The room above contains Lizard men, Skum or a Cloaker mix per tier. The room is enveloped in an ancient silence effect and contains a switch. The Dwarven father/captive can also be rescued here.

5) In the noxious gas filled chamber to the right there is an ancient protector (a construct appropriate to tier), plus a switch.

7) The chamber below is full of water and a water elemental protector appropriate to tier, plus a switch.

8) The mechanism that magically lowers the crystal has failed and "drops" the crystal, cracking it and summoning an ancient Aboleth creation, an advanced fiendish (templates) version of a creature faced in the tier appropriate mix.

A Brief Conclusion:

Should the servants of the Aboleth retrieve the crystal, they will gain access to its stored divinations of the Falcon's Hallow region over past 10,000 years. The dwarven child will see strange creatures carry a large crystal across her farm and into the river, but she will never see her father again.

If the PCs suceed, the historic treasure the crystal can reveal is priceless... if anyone can ever get the cracked crystal to work. They have also made a great friend in the dwarven father, who was once a pathfinder himself and can be a valuable ally in the future.

Faction goals would focus on variations of discovering the nature of the ruins, helping the dwarven family and retrieving the crystal.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Fortune Telling in Games

Fortune Telling in RPGs can be a bit hard to present as a GM. It either comes across as being out of place or if you get it right and it's intresting and the players ACTUALLY PAID ATTENTION, it can be even harder still to make sure that the future happens the way it was predicted... or at least have a plasuable reason why it did not.

Play with a fully writen, pre-fab campain the way we have with Rise of the Runelords allows me to pretty much assume how thing will generally work out, so I can at least get the perdiction of what the future will be pretty close to what will actually happen. Also, the Varisian area is known for fortune tellers that read "Harrow" Card, so fortune telling really can fit into the campaign and help with the local flavor.

I can gaurantee that the future will work out a certain wayand the card reading fits the setting. All that is left is to make sure my random future predicting method gives me results I can work with.

Randomly ending up with "tarrot" style cards and trying to fit them into a game is HARD. So don't do it. Cheat! I stacked the deck and made sure I could give the players exactly the reading in the picture, with the meaing below. (Harrow Cards, meanings and all the Harrow jazz belong to Paizo)

The cards on the left is the past events affecting them
The middle Colum is their Current events
The Right Colum is the Future

The Past (Left Colum):

The Betrayal – is selfishness incarnate. Envy twists the spirit and leads ultimately to devastation. It can also indicate a person whose loveliness hides an evil heart.

The Liar – is love at its most treacherous. This is not the love that moves mountains, this is the love that rips the heart in two and causes lovers to leap to their deaths. This lamia (depicted on the card) can mean obsession, unrequited passion, or doomed love.

The Tyrant – indicates a ruler who is a blight upon those ruled. The dragon might indicate a monarch, overseer, or head of a household. Whoever this person is, he does harm to those over whom he holds sway, whether he realizes it of not.

The Present (Middle Colum):

The Hidden Truth – symbolizes the ability to see past the obvious and the banal to a greater truth within. Sometimes this discovery is an esoteric one, sometimes it is a literal find, such as an item revealed within a room. Regardless, it is a card with the power to reveal secrets.

The Tangled Briar – is a card of ancient deeds. It indicated an object or person from long ago that will somehow have great influence on the situation. The object or person in question is one lost or murdered in some foul way.

The Fiend – depicts a devil swallowing innocents. It can indicate the deaths of many in a great calamity or, if misaligned, the salvation from the same calamity. The Fiend can also indicate that some sort of dark and intelligent creature is in the area, endangering the populace.

The Future (Right Colum)

The Mountain Man – signifies an encounter with a physical power outside of one’s control. The giant could personify an authority, an army, an earthquake, or even a desperately needed rainstorm in a parched land. Acceding to the force might be wise, but surviving it is paramount.

The Uprising – represents being caught in the clutches of something much more powerful then you. It is an overwhelming strength that often crushes what comes in contact with it. The crown held high signifies an overthrowing of a leader of some sort. In the spread, it indicates a force much stronger than the person receiving the reading.

The Empty Throne – has a sense of loss that is palpable. The ghost signifies that those who are gone will always be with us. They taught us important lessons, if only we choose to listen. This card can bring information from a far-off or ancient source. This card is misaligned in the spread, meaning the ghosts of the past are restless, and might require effort to set at peace.

If you are familair with the Runelords campaign, (avoiding spoilers) it all fits in very nicely!

The Old Well

The Old Well

The young farm hand leant closer and said with garlic laden breath, “…and then you’d be looking for the Wolf’s Bane Inn. Best place for pathfinders like yourself, it attracts all sorts of travelers up and down the river and lake. Someone there might know something about the old ruins you were asking about.” With that the young man leant back into his plow and lifted the reigns to move the oxen back into motion.

But he stopped.

“Mind you, all sorts of visitors make up all sorts of reasons for the Inn’s name. My ‘pa and his says it’s nothing to do with the unpleasantness with the wolf men, and I believe them. I’ve been there and it’s a normal place with the strangest thing being the guests that spend the night. Yes sir, people like you explorer and adventurer folk.”

He paused to push his sweat drenched Blondie hair from his eyes.

“Don’t you spent too much time in the courtyard behind the inn. It’s all old paved stones and overgrown with Wolf’s Bane. It’s creepy as is, but there is the old well back there.”

He stopped, as if that was enough.

“The old well. The first well. That well was here before the first people came through here to settle down and grow crops. Some older people, dark… all sinister like, once lived here. Not much was left when the first humans came through here, except for the water well. Those settlers used it, and all those that drank from the well became wolf-men at the next full moon. It is true or may my oxen’s hooves fall off.”

He looked over at the oxen, hesitantly and is anticipating some great supernatural punishment. None came, and relief washed over the man.

“You go look at it, that old well. It’s all gated over with the old cold-wrought iron that the darkness hates. The evil was locked out and wolf’s bane was tossed in to grow and take root. The whole inside of the well is overgrown with it.” he swallowed deeply “but sometimes you can still hear grumbles from deep inside come out at night.”

“Stay clear of that well. Nothing good there.”

All Wolf's Ear project posts can be found here. (link)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Wednesday's Game (Stupid Unicorns)

Picture is from the last time I made this mistake. Will I never learn?

Wednesday's Game was nice and educational for me as a DM, but its the same lesson I have sat through before. A Unicorn trashed the game as far as evil is concerned.... but the players had a nice big old epic battle. We all had fun, but once again, unicorns got out of control.

The major fight (only fight) of the evening involved the following:

  1. Demon with a CR in the Teens, that successfully summoned another of the same type of Demon
  2. An evil "melee-cleric" type with a lot of time to buff himself up before combat
  3. Various Summoned creatures the cleric summoned while invisible (and finishing his buffing)
  4. A pack of Shadow Mastiffs with a template on them
All of the above ended up being rolled into one encounter because of how over-the-top (in a good way) the encounter unfolded.

The First Demon was neutralized by a high level cleric spell. (Well done!) while the summoned demon companion started to close on the party while the cleric's summoned (via summon monster) spells came into play. Shortly after the Cleric's invisibility was destroyed by an invisibility purge and then I made a bad call. The bad call was "Sure, you can summon unicorns."

It turns out that in the Pathfinder rules, Unicorns had been taken off the list of creatures to summon. I thought I was making a good player friendly call by grandfathering them into play.
So, my brother summoned 1d4+1 unicorns. We got all 5 and laughed, because... well.. unicorns are silly.

Turns out their circle of protection against evil is no so silly.

The circle's affect on the party was

"prevents bodily contact by evil summoned creatures. This causes the natural weapon attacks of such creatures to fail and the creatures to recoil if such attacks require touching the warded creature." and when you toss in the AC + Save bonuses, plus how hard it is to get a mind affecting spell to stick, the spell was killer.

So many of the creatures in the fight were classified as summoned that the party could just focus on the non-summoned creatures and trivialize the fight. Will 5 mobile circle of protections in play, it was near impossible for me to neutralize the unicorns with the assets I had in play.

In conclusion, Unicorns... There is reason the party cannot summon them. I just have to remember it!

(In the picture attached, months ago I had a big monster represented by the black disc. The Unicorn's aura of protection really helped them beat an encounter sane players would have run from)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Taverns of Wolf's Ear

A note to clarify the location of Wolf’s Ear- It is located on the map of Varisia at the northern most tip of Ember lake, where the lampblack river meets the lake.

What I wanted to work on next for Wolf’s Ear were some taverns for the town. Mainly because every adventuring group eventually goes for food and beer and you can’t beat the pc-to-npc role-playing possibilities that can all taken place in a tavern. I wanted three taverns, so there would appear to be some options for players. There is one tavern that is more interesting than the rest, with the intent that players would gravitate toward that tavern.

The Image attached to this post is of Monk's Hood, aka "Wolf's Bane".

Three Inns & Taverns

Gray Turtle

From the outside the Gray Turtle is as drab and boring a tavern as anyone would ever see. That is exactly how the locals like it. This tavern is the common nightly meeting place for many of the town’s residents that don’t want to be bothered by any guests to the town.

Though there are rooms to rent, vistors to Wolf’s Ear will find that they always seem to be taken up by long term renters. The Tavern’s owner, Dorin (Variscian Male) will point out-of-towners to one of the other two taverns.

The Sacred prostitutes are never found here, as the locals already know they can always go to the temple of Calistria if they need to contract their services.

Wolf’s Bane

The locals of wolf’s ear tell visitors the tavern gets its name from the abundant Monkshood, aka Wolf’s bane, that grows in pots, patios and trellises around the tavern. Of course, some choose to believe there must be something more sinister in the tavern’s history. The tavern’s owner, Hoydan (Variscian Human Female) tries to convince visitors that even before the werewolf incident in the town, this tavern has always had its name. Hoydan, now in her 40’s, inherited this tavern from her father and it has been a fixture of town life for as long as anyone can remember. As travel has increased, this tavern has become a focal point for visitors to the town, particularly those that would be interested in the werewolves in the town’s history. Pathfinders always seem to stay at this inn.

Except for a mounted Wolf’s head (a “normal” wolf, as Hoydan often points out) the inside of the tavern is quite unremarkable, yet comfortable. This is the only place a person can go for any gambling via cards or dice without a prior invitation, since open games are common place every night. A few locals can be seen here, but they usually just come for some of the taverns great food or to win a few coins off guests. The tavern has many rooms of good quality to rent and always has rooms available.

Hoydan has never married and runs the tavern with the assistance of two Chelaxian sisters and their brother who have lived and worked here for the past 6 years. The twin sisters, Aula and Luina, have also never married but have courted several of the local men. Their old brother Manis is possibly the best cook in town, and is known to have once been married but lost his wife in whatever caused this family to flee Chelaxia.

Sacred prostitutes to Calistria can always be found here and display the mark three-bladed mark of Calistria very openly so that there is no question about their right to be the the tavern. They rarely provide their services in the rooms here, but will take their clients across the street to the temple of Calistria. A few of these sacred prostitutes have been known to act as informal bouncers during the few fights that break out. (levels of cleric, fighter or rogue)

Cart’s Rest

This tavern’s sign depicts an old cart, unhitched, with a full load of barrels and crates in the back.

It is run by Kale (Taladan, Male) who spent many years as a merchant before an accident injured his leg and he had to slow down his life considerably. Kale prides himself in remembering everyone that has ever visited his tavern and he is quite popular with the merchants that travel up and down the lampblack river.

The food, drink and rooms are all of average quality. It remains busy as a nexus where traveling and local merchants can meet and talk about their business with like-minded folk. As a result, the tavern is always has guests and is a very quiet, perhaps“boring” place by most pathfinder’s standards.

Calistria’s prostitutes are can be found here every so often, perhaps a few nights a week. They will entertain their clients in the rooms here

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Paizo Organized Play

Submitted a organized play adventure for Paizo over here.


If it is rejected, I'll post it here, with any notes they send back!

Havok Ends

Havok Ending, transfering over stuff from the old job so I can be ready for the new on the 16th.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009


There is a new Job in the mix in my personal life. (YAY!)

But's it's causing some havoc with post time. Should not last longer than a week.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Where wolves? (The Polgrom)

The balding man with white bridles of hair under his chin leans a bit further up in his chair. He might be in his late 40s or early 50's. He looks right at home in this Galdurian tavern, but his story is not that of the common farmer.

"Remember it like it was just this past Oath day I do! The Cleansing of Wolf Ear! I was there! I saw the fires of the man-furs and the walking pyres! Round-headed farmers thought the best way ta deal with them were-wolves was fire. Some of us knew better and used some recast silvers, while others knocked bits of silvers into branches to make mighty maces that would kill a wolf-man outright.

The year was 4682. I know it was cause that was the year the bitch in Korvosa", the man takes a good long pause to spit and unhealthy wad of something onto the floor, " took in those hellknights. Nasty year it was. At least we used it ta clean up our lands and didn't take in more filth like she did eh?"

He waits a few seconds to make sure you agree.

"Fifthly beasts they were. Took ta sleeping with their sisters and breeding their people in all sorts of manners not fit for man nor dog. Beasts best left out in the wilderness, far from home or flock, or better yet killed before they git too close."

The man takes a long sloppy draw from the mug in in hand. Some of the ale clings to his whiskers.

"Look. We killed them all. The priests gat us all together, after the slaying of the Hardley kids. You hear about that right? The kids that we found with their guts all ripped apart and spread across the floor of the Hardley farm. That was it, we knew at that moment that we had gone taa far. We let those beasts live with us when no one else would give them peace. We took them in and gave them a place when no one else would and they repaid us in blood and misery.

Bloody creatures. Not just werewolves, mind ye! We had all sorts of creatures! Man-rats, tigers that would turn into lovely ladies, boars that were men, bears with human hands and even a few bat folk that lived under the town! We were a nightmare and we didn't even know it! A town of monsters protected by some gullible farmers! Us!

We taught them... hic! Yeah, that's right! We weren't going to hide them anymore. After the Hardley incident we took up our axes, bows and what silver we could and we set on every beast-man we could! We had the priests of the hunter behind us, protecting us and showing us who was one of them and who was not. We cleaned up the town good!"

The man grows silent, his face changing from elation to sorrow.

"We killed them all. One was a young man no older than I was at the time. He had a wife and family, all like him. Beasts. We strung them up in silver chains that had been brought back to town by hero-folk and watched them hang and shake. Some we drove silver nails through while others we just beat to death. A few they boys thought they were getting creative and did really wicked things."

He stops to swallow and wipe his eyes free of something.

"Sick bastards we were, but no worse than they. They had it coming! They were evil. All of them. Living amongst us, evil hiding among the clean. Sick... sick.. sick..."

His voice trails off and he finishes his mug in a few swift gulps.

"That's why a lot of us moved away. The deeds done were so horrible that many of us moved south to near Galduria and some north near those odd people up in Ravenmoor.

Yeah, them folk in Ravenmoor ain't right. Buy me another mug of ale and let me tell you about them..."

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Town of Wolf's Ear (Pass 1)

Wolf's Ear
Large Conventional Town; AL N
GP Limit: 3,000
Population: 2,610
Government: Falling under Magnimar's sphere of influence, Wolf's ear enjoys the added protection of Magnimar's Military while paying little in the way of taxes to the big city. The town is overseen by the Mayor Gorcyn Tallows who consults with a unpaid 5 person council. The Mayor's election takes place every 6 years, however the council appointments made by a mayor are for life or until the council person's retirement.

Economy: Though the teachings of Erastil preach appreciation of the basics in life and self-sufficiency, Calistria's faith tends to favor excesses that require trade with other communities. Wolf's Ear has a health amount of gold and no one who is willing to work need worry about going without food or shelter.
Major Exports: Lumber from the outskirts of Churlwood, copper ore from the footshills of the Malgorian Mountains, handmade wicker or wooden furniture and a powerful whiskey called "Wolf's Bite"
Major Imports: Wolf's ear is always in the need of more livestock, as Churlwood bandits take a heavy toll on herds and flocks. Finished textiles are usually in high demand.
Legal: Wolf's ear follows the standard legal code of Magnimar, however it publicly posts the right to banish, imprison or execute any naturally shape-changing creatures that enter the town's borders.

Notable Locations:
Hunter's Arrow- A temple to Erastil Presided over by the half elven "Myrna the Calm", a priest that oversaw the pogrom against lycanthropes years ago and is a member of the town council.
The Wandering Stars- A shrine to Desna made up of large standing stones just outside on town than slowly move their way around the town in tune with the lunar cycle. No one ever sees the stones move and some say the stones can be used to chart the movement of the stars. Often a priest of Desna can be found here, but rarely is it the same priest.
The Hive- A temple to Calistria that bears no semblance to a hive at all. A Human named "Trin" has overseen the temple here for the past 2 years with little known about his life before then. He is best known for reinstating daybreak and dusk workship services for Calistia.

Authority Figures:
The current mayor, a chelaxian Gorcun Tallows has held the position for the past 9 years and is assumed to run unopposed for reelection next year. His Brother Duald, a former officer in the Magnimarian military, acts as sheriff and is in charge of both the defense of the town and law enforcement. Rumors persists that both were one-time adventurers who settled down in the town for a calmer lifestyle.

In addition to Myrna of Erastil's role as council member, the other 4 members are:
<<.... as yet unknown.>>

Should a council member die or retire while Gorcun in mayor, most believe he would nominate Trin of Calistria for the open spot.

Notes about Wolf's Ear

I will be posting Wolf's Ear material as it finishes. The Town itself will be completed as bits are finished.

Ideally the town will be used as a setting in my Halloween game this year....

Basically everything Paizo has to say about the town can be found here.


The Podcast

Thinking about trying the podcast again, launching it with the same focus as the blog.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

On Rules, the GM and "Us"

There has been an abnormal amount of chatter about the impact of rules with the implication that rules heavy systems take away power from the GM, combined with chatter about the impact of GMs on a game. I think we all agree that the GM has the greatest impact on the quality of a game when compared against any other game component.

That being said, the rules are just the mutually agreed framework that the GM and players agree on about how the world should work. When we decide to play Smurfs and Sandwiches 3rd edition, we are deciding that those roles are what we think enforce the reality we want to play in via group consensus. In S&S 3rd edition we have rules for gravity, Smurfberries, cats and the amount of force required to throw a Smurf out of camp. If the GM and players are arguing that maybe you need a few more pounds of force to end up in the lake vrs the briar patch when thrown out of Smurf village, it’s a sign that the rules are not agreed upon and do not help.

If the GM and players are arguing about the rules in a way that is not adding to the game or enforcing a believable reality that all involved can accept, they should consider playing another game or another set of rules and being the conversation by talking about why they are playing the game.

It’s not about the amount of rules you have or the rules changes between the games. It’s about talking with you players and saying “Hey, I like S&S 3rd edition but I am a little bit rusty on the applied physics. Can you guys just trust me on that?” Rules don’t transfer power. It’s made up stuff we agree upon, even if it’s just by consenting to play at the same table. Like all made up stuff, we throw in purple smurfs to fix the problem (make stuff up) because it’s just a game.

Rules are just the frame we use to display our imagination. Rules help adults with the willing suspension of disbelief, they shouldn’t be some sort of weapon. If it’s being used as a weapon something else is going on socially with your group beyond your choice of game. Rules as a weapon isn’t a rules or game version problem, it a group social problem where the solution might be to choose a different set of rules or to just talk out expectations and concerns.

I run games with the same shared story telling feeling under 3.75 that I did before someone decided to tack “advanced” on some rules that they agreed to play with.

We all have different preferences on rules and rulesets. There is no one answer for everyone and some people may want more rules to help with that willing suspension of disbelief.

I do not think the solution is to create better GMs, but to create better groups. Groups that communicate with each other and try to appreciate the fact that we are playing a rules heavy game of cops & robbers in a make believe world. Groups that don’t say “I didn’t land in the Briar patch due to in-game physics!” but maybe “Why did my briar patch happen?”. Groups that express disagreement in meaningful always and use their differences to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the game they play.

It’s not about “I” or “Him”, it’s about “Us”.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Character Questionaire

Some time ago I started cobbling together ideas and questions from the Internet for a character questionnaire to give my D&D players. It started off as a nice way for me to organize background info and became a great way to grow my adventures into character focused epic campaigns. Every few adventures I like to read through each of my PCs's completed questionnaires to look for grains of info to mine and use in game.

Its hard to force players to complete it, but usually by offering to give them a few bonus XP or a few freebie potions you can bribe them into completing it.

The following is the questionnaire I currently use: Once again, this is from multiple Internet sources over the years. I claim no credit for any of it. It's been 10 years in the making at least, so I sadly cannot give anyone credit for the questions.

Character Questionnaire:

Part 1)

1) Who were the character's parents?
Did they raise the character?
If not why?
If not them who?

2) Did the character have any childhood friends?
Any siblings?
Where are they now?
Does the character stay in touch with them or have they become separated?

3) What was childhood like for the character?
Calm and peaceful or turbulent and traumatic?

4) Does the character have any or did the character have any role models?
Describe them?

5) What did the character do before he / she entered the story?
Who trained the character to do what she / he does now?

6) What are the character's moral and religious beliefs?
What lengths will the character go to defend those beliefs?
Who or what taught those beliefs to the character?

7) Does the character have any unusual habits or physical traits?
How do others tend to react to them?

8) What is the general reaction to the character to others?
Why, in the character's opinion, do they act that way?

9) Can the character kill?
Why would the character kill?
Does he / she have any enemies at all?
Would or could the character kill them?

10) What kind of relationships does the character currently have?
Does he / she have any close friends?
Bitter enemies?
If so who?
What are they like?

11) What is the character’s favorite color?

12) How does the character generally treat others?
Does she / he trust easily?
Or not?
13) What does the character look like?
Does he / she have any scars or tattoos?
If so how did she / he get them?

14) What is the character's normal daily routine?
How does he / she feel when it's interrupted for whatever reason?

15) What are the character's dreams?

16) How does she / he seek to obtain them?
How does adventuring fit into this dream, or does it at all?

17) Does the character ever want to have a family of his / her own someday?
If so with who or what type of person?

18) Has the character ever considered the possibility of his / her own death?
Has he / she made a will?

Part 2)

Look at your PC's character ability scores - does he/she have any high/low
Did these scores result from circumstances in his/her early life?
How did these scores affect the PC's life?
How did they affect him/her in their chosen character class?
Why did the PCs come to choose his/her chosen character class?
Where is the PC's home town?
Look at the PC's weapon and non-weapon proficiencies - how did they
acquire them, especially the unusual ones.For example was fishing just a favourite pastime, or does the PC come from a fishing community?
What are the likes and dislikes of the PC?
Does he/she have any rational or irrational fears or phobias?
What are the origins of or reasons for those fears or phobias?
(There does not have to be a reason!).
Favorite food, style of clothing, of wearing their hair?
Does the PC have any affinity with an animal of some type?
Does the PC have any heroes, either from legend, contemporary, or from
his/her past?
What are the physical characteristics of the PC?
Does he/she have any scars, tattoos or birthmarks?
What are the origins and/or significance of these?
Does he/she have any striking features or dominant personality traits
(definitely should have at least one if the charisma score is above or below average).
Does the PC have any strong opinions about the other sex, people’s habits,
particular types of races/monsters, or politics?
Does the PC have any hobbies?
How did the character become the alignment they have chosen?
Were the people he/she grew up with of similar alignment?
What is the religious persuasion, if any, of the PC?
How is the PC with regard to material wealth?
Is the PC a supporter of the current ruler, or is he/she anti-government?
Is she/he who they claim to be?

Friday, 18 September 2009

The GM Binder

The GM Binder (Alpha Version)

My GM binder is big and pretty; all leather bound with metal rivets and a cool twisting locking mechanism on the cover. I bought it at GenCon two years ago I think it is very sexy to have out on the gaming table and play from. Sometimes I sleep in the basement and not in bed with my wife just so I can be next to the binder...

Of course, though the appearance of a GM binder may help the eye candy quotient of your table, it isn’t there to be looked at. The pretty binder in the post is my “Alpha” binder and has all the functional items I need to run a fully planned out campaign. The focus of my Alpha binder is to make a planned game shine at the table. My “Beta” binder will be the subject of a future post.

The “Alpha” binder is the only thing I keep infront of me while gaming, except for pens, markers, dice and maybe a book full of monster stats. Yes, I am a screen less GM. I try to minimize the junk in front of me to only what I need. Here is what I keep inside


All the notes I need to keep nearby and review before each game. They include:

My Session checklist for the game: I try to hit the following items for a perfect game on a Saturday (longer) game: World (Where are in the world setting?) Recap (What did we do last time?) Prelude event or a cut scene that leads into the session, Description of where we are picking up the game (in town at the bar, in the caverns underneath the ropers) and then Action! (something happens, even if it is not combat)

A post-it that says “Exciting!” “Action!” “Drama!” “ They are Heroes!” to remind me of those facts.

One that simply says “Magic is always special”, because it should always feel that way.

A “To Do” list with things I want to work on, like “More Foreshadowing”.

Notes on things to just keep in mind, usually stuff I threw in (aka, made up on the spot) that I can tie back to future events. Like when the glowing salamanders predict the future to the silly druid using magic to communicate with them. Yeah, you should have remembered what they said Nate. Too Bad!

Character notes about PCs or NPCs until I put them in the PC’s folder or add the NPC note to the adventure somewhere.

I even have a note to “make tonight’s game awesome


The binder has a printout of the current adventure we are playing through. In the picture, it is the Fortress of the Stone Giants, which I have added liberal pen notes and highlights to. I’ll also tack on any print outs of monster stats, such as those for some stone giants, so I can minimize the amount I need to refer to hard cover texts while gaming.

Loose pages

I will include loose notes of NPCs, random worthless but fun items, a wilderness encounter I want to throw in and a few maps.

The inside of the back cover has notes that the PCs have given me in game. I like to keep them for sentimental value and sometimes to come back to. (“Oh.. remember how you stole the blue glass swan… well…”)

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Thursday, 17 September 2009

Soundtrack- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Soundtrack- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

One of the gamer-friendly things I got for my birthday was the soundtrack for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. I love orchestral theme music, mainly for its in-game applications. I prefer to lay out an “in-game” soundtrack for my games ahead of time to play as needed for select situations. Ok, I love putting together game soundtracks and having the action, narration or story-telling of a RPG match music playing in the back ground.

All of the tracks on this album are short, so by itself this is not an album to just leave play in the background as its moods and feelings will vary from the content of your game and the soundtrack goes on. It is however great to cherry pick content from.

Below is the Track/Name/Duration/ My (and my wife’s) thoughts on how you could the music in game

1)Fog Bound (2:17) My wife thinks this is a great track for a renaissance style game and it feels like the TV show the Tutors at the Start. I think it’s a great track for a reoccurring theme to associate with a location, such as a group’s base of operations.

2)The Medallion Calls (1:53) My wife says robust traveling music, I see more of a panoramic description of a city (especially with a harbor).

3) The Black Pearl (2:17) Wife sees Cliff side action, perhaps swords fighting on the cliff's edge. I see ships chasing ships on the high-sea, but secretly agree with my wife.

4)Will and Elizabeth (2:08) Not a bad piece to follow up track three with, as it flows together nicely. Continuation of the same imagery about, but perhaps with some horse-chase action or it could be “the hunt” music in some situations.

5)Swords Crossed (3:16) This could be the sinister ritual that the PC’s interrupt, mid chant/mid-sacrifice. I see worshipers all around some sort of altar.

6)Walk the Plank (1:59) This music starts with a big bad sinister otherworldly evil, and just mellows out. For my wife, the beginning is too heavy for the rest of the piece. It ties together a lot of the feeling of the “Fog bound” piece as it mellows out, so the two pieces could be tied together as a campaign progresses and the evil nature of the themed item from track one is revealed.

7)Barbossa is Hungry (4:06) Something about this makes me think of a against-all odds group of heroes preparing for an battle against an overwhelming evil that they cannot possibly win, but yet must.

8)Blood Ritual (3:33) This could be played as the heroes travel through the evil overlords great castle, or on the way to stop the sacrifice from track 5.

9)Moonlight Serenade (2:09) Ahhh… all is back to normal back in town, evil has been defeated and all is well…. UNTIL THE AGENT OF EVIL IS DISCOVERED.

10)To the Pirates' Cave! (3:31) Yes.. this is sinister evil cave music. Caves full of action and swashbuckling!

11)Skull and Crossbones (3:24) An action piece, you can cast this as almost any action sequence. Its generic action.

12)Bootstrap's Bootstraps (2:39) The sinister plan of evil unfolds, its hidden servants come out to do their overlord’s bidding.

13)Underwater March (4:13) The world above the waves (or below) is so quiet and peaceful, until broken by the feet of a marching patrol or army. It’s a “peace” into “war march” song that might fit well with narration about how a war first started.

14)One Last Shot (4:46) The heroes come home, victorious and peace has been restored.
He's a Pirate (1:31) This is too closely link to the movie to separate, so it’s a must in any sailing game, but leave it back at port for any other genre.

I would not say this is a must-own album. If you happen to like the movie, or happen to collect soundtracks like I do, it’s worth having, however not worth going out of your way for. You really need to tie tracks from this album in with tracks from other albums in order for it to be worthwhile and not REEK of pirates.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Paizo Community Use/ Wolf's Ear Project

The Wolf's Ear Project Will Describe and detail the Town of Wolf's Ear in Varisia, fleshing it out for the base of operations for a series of adventures.

Future adventures will be updated here and will be a subset of the Wolf's Ear Project. All posts for the Wolf's Ear Project will have that label, and you can filter for those posts by using the label filter to the right.

Here is the required legalese (posted elsewhere on this site)

This Website uses trademarks and/or copyrights owned by Paizo Publishing, LLC, which are used under Paizo's Community Use Policy. We are expressly prohibited from charging you to use or access this content. This website is not published, endorsed, or specifically approved by Paizo Publishing. For more information about Paizo's Community Use Policy, please visit paizo.com/communityuse. For more information about Paizo Publishing and Paizo products, please visit paizo.com.

Limited Edition Dungeons & Dragons Spellcasting Soda

Limited Edition Dungeons & Dragons Spellcasting Soda ?


Illithid Brain Juice? Potion of healing?


Right after we converted to the official version of the Pathfinder RPG I was looking around for a nice character generator/character management tool that supported the updated rules set.

For a number of years I’ve been using Heroforge and all it’s related sub-sheet with great success. The “SCoreGen” and “adVance” sheets were great, but all work off the beta rules. Now I know there wasn’t a lot that had changed between beta and the final version, but when my brother needed a pregen character because he wrote his PC out of the story for the day**, we realized just how much had changed with barbarians when the whole “rage points” sheet printed out for Mr. Turok *EARTHBREAKER*.

After Cyruscon, I setout to find another character generator that was updated for Pathfinder, and found only one: PCGen (you must download the pathfinder dataset seperatly)

I’ve used a much earlier version of PCGen but gave it up for Heroforge, but thought I would give PCGen another shot. Turns out I’m still not happy with it.

It’s a sourceforge project, and I really like to support collaborative open source software. However, it’s a sourceforge project…. and that often means that there is some extra fiddling with it to make it work.

I didn’t like my experience with using PCGen for Pathfinder because:
  • Clunky interface to define the rule sets in use.
  • Some issues with not calculating things correctly (like BAB for a cleric/fighter)
    OW! MY EYES (this isn’t the 90s)
  • Needs some interface tweaks for usability. Some things are just not located where they should be. Example: I have to go several tabs in to select a deity, and then go back to the first tab to select Cleric? The Tabs should be progressive in how a user uses each.

In all fairness, there are good things for PC gen, like the random traits and total flexibility on the ability for a user to customize the data available. I also thought all the options for character sheet appearance was neat.

That being said I needed a character generator that hit these three marks:

1) My Players would be comfortable using
2) Could quickly generate characters and continue to track them
3) Flexibility for user generated content

My Players would never use PCGen. Even accounting for a learning curve, it’s too slow in it’s generation of characters and failed the (use with a laptop at a game test) The only one of my criteria it hit was the flexibility for user generated content.

In conclusion, we’re going to sit back and wait till and updated version of heroforge comes out. When real-world work items clear up a bit, I’ll see if I can pitch in to the whole heroforge project.

If you know of a Pathfinder compliant character generator, let me know!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Something to Grow on

Cyrus Con taught me that it is still possible to have a "huge" player group and have a mechanically sound game that flows well. We had 10 players, plus animal companions, and the pace of the game was just fine.

We kept in mind that there was a bunch of us and we had to keep it flowing. What helped has having the Cyrus Con "rules" written on the white board.

  1. Roll your Damage and to-hit at the same time.
  2. Know your action before your turn.
  3. Don't ask me how something works. Look it up and ask me if you need a clarification.

We tended to also take simultaneous turns. If the fighter was rolling his attacks, there is no reason the rogue couldn't do the same on a totally different target at the same time- the actions wouldn't affect each other. Additionally all initiative was kept track of on the white board so everyone knew how soon they were coming up.

In college I think the biggest group I DMed for was about 15 people. You just never said "no, we're full" back then. It looks like you can still run for a very large large under the Pathfinder RPG rules, but I still have my preference for my normal sized group- 4-6 players. Fewer players allow for more one-on-one time with each PC and increases my ability to give them each spotlight moments

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Cyrus Con Swag!

One of the best things about Cyruscon was all the cool "swag" we ended up having.

  • OK
, we only had two kinds of Swag:
  • Cake - In the picture. My sister made it after the Cyrus Con Logo. Chocolate and Vanella with GREAT icing!
  • Pins- For "Cyrus Con", made by Kyle which came out cool and had the "Djork" picture of me. Additionally they had the tag line for the Saturday game of "... but the giants looked smaller from far away!"
  • Still cool swag for our homegrown con. Gamers making for a great weekend. (Cause we couldn't go to Gen Con this year!)

    Oh... and we eventually did finish the cake. It took a few days.

    Wednesday, 9 September 2009

    CyrusCon 2009

    Cyrus Con 2009 ( 9/5 through 9/6) was my first "at home" con run at my house. I toyed will all sorts of low budget ways to host and run the convention, including having it at my housing development's community center. In the end, we erred on the side of caution and kept it small. 10 "attendees" plus me, all done at my house.
    It was awesome and I think everyone should do something like this some day. On Saturday we plowed through Paizo's ROTRL #4: Fortress of the Stone Giants. The whole last 80% of the book in one day, with 10 PCs!

    Then Saturday post midnight through Sunday evening was filled with multiplayer expansion versions of Inn of the Red Dragon & settlers of Cattan plus ample amounts of Fluxx. Sunday's game ended with a massive party (7 players left) battle against the one stray dragon that "got away" and was reeking havoc against a local town.

    My Wife's bard almost died in that dragon battle. Glad I didn't end up on the couch.
    (Picture: The Runelord's Giants knock a Monk down)

    Tuesday, 8 September 2009

    An Unexpected Party

    This is post #1 of the I Need New Dice! blog.

    My goal for this Blog is to dump all the gaming nonsense from my head onto the web.

    Let's start with Cyruscon 2009.