Not ranting about D&D

I’d been planning to make this a rant about D&D, about how frustrated I am with it and the fact I’m struggling to find a group playing something else while D&D games fill within minutes of being posted.

But then on the bus this morning I started to think should I really be ranting about this? My answer was no. Does it annoy me that a game I’m not overly fond of is popular? Yes, immensely but right now it’s popularity is part of a resurgence of the hobby I love. The combination of D&D 5e and actual play streams have raised the visibility of tabletop games to a level I honestly didn’t think we’d ever see. I still don’t know if I would call RPGs mainstream in the way that board games might now be but certainly, the level of awareness is reaching that level. I didn’t roll my first skill checks until the mid-2000’s, so I never directly experienced the stigma that was often associated with RPGs during prior to that but as a minis gamer during the 90’s, I knew what it was like. I knew what it was like to have the nerdy hobby, to be labelled as a gamer at an age when I wasn’t confident enough to truly embrace it.

So no, I decided I’m not going to rant about D&D today. It will never be my preferred system, I find the rules clunky and I’ve had one too many negative experiences with gamers that propagate the worst stereotypes of the hobby. But I’m not going to bash the people that have joined the hobby because of it, that enjoy it and flock to it. If it’s the only gaming that’s available then I’m going to damn well step forward and give it a try. I’m not saying I’ll stick with a game or group that I don’t enjoy but I’m tired of holding myself back just because it isn’t exactly what I want.

And who knows, maybe I can introduce a few more people to the joys of other systems while I’m at it. Nothing says anybody has to just play D&D…

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Kickstarter: Choose your own Sci-Fi stock art by JEShields

If you’ve been following my Demon Hunters or Project Cassandra posts then one thing you might have noticed is a consistent art style for the characters. That’s because the vast majority of the artwork I’ve used to date has come from a single source, James Shields (JEShields). He primarily releases his work on Patreon and drivethruRPG but every so often runs a Kickstarter for larger projects.

His latest is focused on Sci-fi stock art, what makes it unique though is that the final images will be released as a series of mix and match components. Want an alien cantina but with a giant arachnid in place of the bounty hunter? Switch them out and create the new scene. The possible number of combinations is massive, especially if you go all in and pick up each of the five packs (weapons, ships, portraits, characters and scenes) on offer.

If the art itself wasn’t enough then how about bonus backer rewards of games and supplements donated by a range of indie publishers? I won’t go over the full list but suffice to say they really boost the value of the Kickstarter.

The Kickstarter can be found at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jeshields/choose-your-own-sci-fi-stock-art and runs until the early morning of the 15th June (UK time).

Mouse, human rogue

Mouse

Being the 3rd child of a middle class merchant family typically lends itself to not to fame or fortune but apprenticeship in either the family business or to a local guild. Small even against his significantly younger siblings meant Lachlan Milburn was quietly shipped off to serve the local mages as a scribe. He learned quickly, piecing together languages and arcane knowledge as he dutifully copied text after text. His ability to slip in and out of the archives did not go completely unnoticed, earning him the nickname of Mouse, able to access places meant to be off-limits to those without training. It was not long before his masters were sending him on additional errands to acquire spell components and scrolls from outside the confines of the halls, jobs that often required a willingness to be discrete and work around the local laws.

That world came crashing down after the death of his sponsor, a senior mage of the Order. Untrusted by the remaining hierarchy who were all too aware of his side jobs Mouse found himself out on the streets. He had to his name only his few personal possessions, a pair of swords stolen from the guild stores and the final text of the deceased mage, lifted the moment he had heard that they had passed. The text is coded and incomplete and so far the young thief has deciphered only a little. A region to the south, a ritual or place of great importance. It’s a long journey but for now a direction is more than enough for Mouse.

Mouse is my new character for The Pale Reach, a group campaign akin to Adventurers League being run at Sugar and Dice in Liverpool.

The Spider-bear

The next entry in Dr Ahoudi’s mutant menagerie is… the Spider-bear!

spiderbear-small

Inspired by both the image (acquired as usual by backing the patreon of JEShields) and the classic D&D monster the bugbear the spider-bear is a literal take on the name.

Strong, fast, aggressive and able to soak a number of hits the creature is perfect as a lone threat or as the central threat amongst a swarm of smaller assailants.

Download the Spider-bear character sheet now.

The Voltaic Armadillo

Having done a full character in the form of the Aether Knight I wanted to turn my hand towards a simpler creature for the next release. With the Demon Hunters setting incorporating both magic and mad science it was all too easy to imagine a range of unusual and warped creatures. The Volta Cingulata, or voltaic armadillo, is the first of those, a mad science experiment that didn’t quite have the impact its creator intended.

As an opponent the armadillo is easily overlooked. Small, relatively weak and not particularly aggressive. In its favour is its armoured shell and lone stunt, which allows it a single strong attack in response to being startled.

In developing the stunt I included an option to recharge it through the use of Demon Dice. Overall I find that with the exception of invoking aspects I fail to really make use of this GM resource, especially as I’m not fond of clearing NPC conditions without an in fiction reason. So instead my aim is to start incorporating their use into stunts, to make them a little more special and unique, which led to the idea of recharging a single use ability.

You can download the Volta Cingulata character sheet here

My #RPGStruck4

The latest gaming tag to do the rounds on Twitter is that of #RPGStruck4, where people post up images for 4 games that define them, my own post for it was this:

and while most people have been posting without explanation I wanted to briefly dig into why these four games are personally significant.

  1. Torg – Long after it had gone out of print this was my introduction to tabletop gaming. I’d LARPed before, I’d participated in freeform play by posts but had never rolled dice or filled in a traditional character sheet. As an introduction to ttRPGs I couldn’t have asked for more. I was hooked and before long was itching to run my own game, largely thanks to how well Snap, our amazing GM, had run that first campaign.
  2. Serenity – My first foray into GMing was… disastrous. A massive Firefly fan I’d eagerly picked up the game on its release and dived into learning the system which was very different from what I’d experienced up to that point. I’d prepped heavily, with a focus squarely on all the wrong things and the first session was a catalogue of errors. Somehow it didn’t put me off running games and Cortex quickly cemented itself into one of my go to systems, which neatly leads me on to…
  3. Demon Hunters – As is evidenced by the plethora of posts about it you could say I’m a bit of a fan. While I knew of The Gamers it was the original Demon Hunters that made me a true fan of Dead Gentlemen Productions. It’s my go to light hearted setting, perfect for both one off sessions between campaigns as well as campaigns themselves. The setting can handle over the top chaotic slapstick as or serious urban fantasy (I tend to drift toward the former) and the writing is just as fun, to the extent that it’s almost as good to read as it is run. The second edition builds on the first with a new system, refreshed lore and brand new comic book look based on the short lived webcomic. Oh and a few adventures by yours truly.
  4. Legend of the Five Rings – When it comes to games with hefty reputations few can compete with the world of Rokugan and it’s samurai society. The setting clearly defines not only the role of PCs within that society but sets out clear expectations for their behaviour and consequences for going against those very expectations. Framed by the tenets of Bushido and an honourable ideal it’s a world where doing the right thing almost always has consequences, in stark contrast to the kill, loot, profit style espoused by many D&D games. It’s not only a world that I love returning to but once that has influenced my wider thinking on the positioning of PCs within wider settings and idea of lasting consequences.

The Aether Knight

Following some final tweaking the first character sheet template is now complete as is the first release, the Aether Knight. Rarely encountered on the mortal planes Aether Knights serve as guardians of the veil between worlds and, in their natural form, neutral in the eternal fight between Good and Evil. Unfortunately as so often is the case their purpose can be tainted by those willing to shed blood to fuel illicit magics. Dragged into the moral realms they are used as nigh unstoppable assassins and hunters, bound to a mission until it is completed or they are destroyed.

Aether Knights represent a significant challenge for Chapters even at the highest level and are designed to be employed by the DM as opponents that must be out-thought rather than out-fought. With their invulnerability to physical weaponry, high number of conditions and ability to bypass mild conditions when using their sword they are an opponent that no group should take lightly.

Next up, adjusting the template for minions and mobs.

Downlaod the Aether Knight for free from this link