Review – Lost Hall of Tyr

I received a pre-release copy of The Lost Hall of Tyr, by Doug Cole of Gaming Ballistic, currently in the middle of a Kickstarter with 16 days to go. It reached the base funding goal yesterday. I am late with my review dues to my computer dying. Now that I have the replacement up and functional, I was able to read this 52 page PDF.

This is a Norse/Viking based setting. Doug has written many articles on his blog, in recent months, about his work with a Viking/Norse re-enactment group. They study history and martial arts based on Viking weapons and armor.

Doug developed this from a scenario he ran at GenCon 50, back in August. It allows the players to engage in grappling with encounters, should they desire it. The grappling mechanics are based on his 2016 Kickstater, Dungeon Grappling. It is a D&D 5e adventure for four to six characters between 3rd and 6th level. NOTE: I am a big fan of his model for grappling as seen in my review of Dungeon Grappling. I have follow up reviews of the final PDF, book, and eBook here.

The introduction makes clear that this is a scenario designed to showcase Dungeon Grappling. It is also set in the world of Etera, which is the setting for the forthcoming Dragon Heresy RPG.  Three ideas in bullet points makes suggestions for incorporating this adventure into an existing campaign.

The first 30 pages are the adventure. There are three pages about wilderness travel and weather. Fourteen creatures are presented in the bestiary section, with one per page. The final two pages before the OGL are quick-start rules for grappling.

The various stages of the journey to retrieve the mcguffin weavean interesting adventure in a Norse inspired world. It is not all combat, or more specifically of the hack and slash variety. There are some twists on creatures from how they are often presented in RPGs, making them new creatures. There are a lot of ideas in here that one could pull out and use in their own games. Several of these ideas can be used with any genre and ruleset.

What I liked:

  • The layout, background image/color, and font are easy to read on screen.
  • There is a hazard table for random occurrences for the overland journey.
  • He has an interesting mechanic for how to deal with a rickety rope bridge.
    • In addition to the bridge itself, several methods of crossing the bridge or crossing in other ways are suggested.  Skilled players will be able to come up with other ways to cross.
  • Another interesting mechanic is included for dealing with river rapids. After a certain number of failed checks to avoid drowning, an individual enters “combat” rounds with the river and takes damage for each round they fail to keep their head above water.
  • Several of the encounters are for creatures that will attempt to grapple, giving the opportunity to use the grappling rules.
    • There is a quick start of the grappling rules.
    • Each creature in the bestiary includes their grappling stats. Player characters will need to calculate their grappling stats. I would recommend doing so as part of character creation or for pre-gens the GM supplies.
  • The pages on wilderness travel bring in realistic amounts of food and water requirements.
  • Since mountains are involved there are mechanics for dealing with climbing. An example is also provided.
    • It includes methods for avoiding falls, and how to save yourself or others from a fall.

What I’d like to See:

  • Since this is a pre-release and not the final PDF, it has several issues with missing words, or words out of order. I know these will be addressed in the final copy.
  • There is no table of contents, but like in Dungeon Grappling, I know it will be hyperlinked to the different sections.
  • There are placeholders for many pieces of art and all the maps, so the layout is basically complete.
  • I did not see anywhere in the PDF what number and level of characters this adventure is for. This is a helpful piece of information to know when selecting it for ones players or creating pre-gens for one-shots or convention play.

Conclusion:

I backed the Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter because I liked the initial grappling rules from The Manor #8, as mentioned in the review I linked above. Doug does good work, and gives regular updates after the close of the funding campaign, and delivered three months ahead of the delivery deadline. Based on that experience, I would expect similar efforts to deliver this Kickstarter.

This is a neat adventure that gives one lots of ideas for running a hexcrawl style scenario in 5e. If you are a fan of the OSR and are curious about 5e, this will fill that need. For those wanting to see an adventure with dungeon grappling baked in, this is your chance. For 5e fans that wander about old school style of play, this guides them through the process.

I find this an imaginative way to blend the Norse mythology and the fey of that mythos with 5e and the dungeon grappling mechanics. I am curious about the art and maps missing from the pre-release PDF. For $7 you can get the PDF, and $20 gets the PDF and softcover. There are tiers for multiple copies. All backers get their name in the credits.

 

 

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RPG Community Spotlight

I have slowly been dipping my toes into YouTube as another creative outlet for my RPG ideas. Like most, I have been a long time subscriber to various channels that interest me. Today, I’d like to focus on highlighting four RPG related YouTube channels and what they have to offer. If you are not already following them, check them out and see if their content is useful to you. I have a companion YouTube video here.

Bill Allan

Bill Allan
Bill Allan

Bill Allan covers a variety of RPG topics, from cons to building terrain. He has a background in television and video production, so he makes high quality videos. His skills led him to take the lead in the live feed of the Maze Arcana events at Gen Con 50. Bill is also very helpful in sharing his knowledge so other You Tubers can improve their videos.

His various videos from Gen Con 50 were very cool for those like me, who weren’t there. Being able to see a bit of the museum showing the history of Gen Con and RPGs and other table top games was very interesting and satisfying.

Here he discusses how to run monsters in RPGs. A few helpful hints, and perhaps a few you haven’t thought of.

You can find Bill on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Vimeo.

7D System

Gareth Q. Barrett - 7D System
Gareth Q. Barrett – 7D System

Gareth Q. Barrett has two channels, I’ll focus on 7D System today. The focus for this channel is Gareth’s 7D System, but there is a lot of system agnostic content here. He produces high quality videos with music and all the fancy things one comes to expect from a YouTube video. He is also very generous in his sharing of tips to help YouTube newcomers improve their own videos. There are a lot of ideas and insights here.

He is a talented artist, and produces some impressive drawings on camera. Check out his Monsters for RPG Games playlist.

Gareth likes to mix things up so you never know what manner of speaking you’ll find from him. I really like his video on minor changes to the way you speak to help roleplay different characters – Acting and Voice Acting.

You can find Gareth and 7D System on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+.

Questing Beast

Ben Milton - Questing Beast
Ben Milton – Questing Beast

Ben Milton is a regular and prolific producer of quality content on multiple internet outlets. He has done a lot of reviews of games and modules. Actual books are presented onscreen and their pros and cons are highlighted.

He has also developed his own simple and free RPG in the OSR minimalist style, called Maze Rats, available as PWYW. He has a love for the OSR and it shows in his posts and videos.

As a school teacher, he works with kids in an after-school RPG program, playing in the old school style. He shares his experience and how the kids learn and evolve through play.

Ben is a talented artist and has done some cool maps and has videos showing how he does particular map features. He also does maps for commissions.

Recently, he started interviewing other creators on YouTube in a series called Old School Academy. His first guest was Zak Smith.

He is very active on OSR topics on Reddit, G+, and Facebook.

You can find him here: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+, Art Station for his maps, Tumblr, and his blog. He also has a Patreon.

WASD20

Nate Vanderzee - WASD20
Nate Vanderzee – WASD20

Nate Vanderzee has a broad spectrum of RPG videos on his channel. One series is on teaching people how to play D&D 5e from scratch. He assumes zero roleplaying experience, and no familiarity with the rules. His strong onscreen presence reassures the viewer that he knows his stuff.

As with anyone teaching something new to others, he assumes no prior knowledge. Many of his videos can be applicable to teaching the basics of any RPG.

Nate also draws maps, has unboxing videos, reviews, DM & player tips, miniatures & crafts, and shares about video games. He also does maps on commission and has a regular map drawing livestream. He has the site Sellsword Maps if you want to see examples of his work.

You can find him here: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+, and his blog. He also has a Patreon.

OTHERS

I want to make a quick shout out to Jorphdan (the ph is silent) for mentioning me in his YouTube video spotlight.

Jorphdan has a channel dedicated to the lore of the Forgotten Realms. His intro video is hilarious and sets the tone for what you can find there.

His other series are about D&D Cosmology (the planes of existence), a vlog and campaign diary, and live play.

You can find him here: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+.


+Matt Finch has launched a new project, Old School Gamer Radio, a just completed Kickstarter, with the YouTube Channel, Uncle Matt’s D&D Studio. His earlier series on the OGL is a must see for anyone publishing under the OGL.


Cody Lewis of Taking20 has a fast growing channel. His start was showing people how to get the most of Roll20. He has branched out into all kinds of efforts this year. I wrote about his channel here, and reviewed a 5e module he co-wrote here. Cody is a welcoming and generous supporter of all RPG creators.


Matt Collville has a fantastic channel. He is focused on getting more people into the DM seat. While I don’t agree with everything he says, I have picked up something from each of his videos. I first wrote about him here. Matt has not enabled ads on his fast growing channel, but he funds it with the sales of his fantasy novel series. I recommend his novels. I still need to write up reviews of them.

QUICK LIST

There are more RPG related YT channels than I could practically cover in one article.  Here is a quick list of some you might want to check out.

Chalice in Chains

AskaPathfinder

Dum Dum Die Podcast

unMadeGaming Also on Twitch.

Nerd Immersion

Encounter Roleplay Also on Twitch.

DawnforgedCast

Tabletop Terrors

Wyloch’s Crafting Vids

theDMGinfo

Black Magic Craft

Gamer_Goggles

You can view the companion video on my channel here:

https://youtu.be/LdOag7VwYLQ

 

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Gamehole Con IV

I built the skeletons for four posts about my experience at Gamehole Con IV last year, but I never posted it. Rather than trash all the posts, I consolidated them into one post. I wanted to post it for memories to look back on.

I highly recommend Gamehole Con. It is well organized and well ran. the staff is very helpful. The venue is laid out and that was used in a way that made sense.

I only had minor niggles for complaints, none of which caused any problems.

I am signed up to run games at Gamehole Con V, November 2-5, 2017 in Madison, WI.

So now let’s get to my write up for last year’s GHC:

Day 0

I arrived, checked out the venue, found will call and picked up my stuff, and got settled at my hotel. I didn’t get the hotel on site, but the next nearest hotel. It was quite a distance, too far to walk with all the books I brought to get signed.

Day 1

I had 3 games:

  • Fri 10 AM – A Stay at the Warden Hotel x 1 Metamorphosis Alpha with Jim Ward himself!
  • Fri 02 PM – DGS Presents: One In the Gun, Four On the Floor x 1
  • Fri 08 PM – Mythus Tower with Bill Webb x 1 Swords & Wizardry

A Stay at the Warden Hotel – Jim Ward This was AWESOME! Jim is a quiet and easy going guy. However, he is not a GM to challenge. He tells you what you can do, and if you try to push it, you can do one or more less than the first thing he said. Erol Otus showed up and Jim said, “Ah yes, Mr. Otus will be your illustrious captain!” Erols eyes got big, he was hoping to show up and just play. He did fine, but alas, died. He is very cool! (I didn’t have the books with me I wanted him to sign! I didn’t realize there was an autograph table with a schedule until the last day when I had walked by the sign multiple times. I just had too much to take in, and kept running into friends to catch up with.)

Of course most of us died, including me. Here’s a picture of Jim tearing up my character sheet. Two players made it to the end and got limited edition MA minis.

DGS Presents: One In the Gun, Four On the FloorDead Games Society

This was a Gamma World 2e game ran by +Chad Parish himself. I had met Chad at Gary Con 8 in the spring, so we knew each other a bit. It was a fun game. During a brake we got to talking and he mentioned that he was from a small town in Missouri. I asked the name, he said, “Oh, you’ve never heard of it, it’s really small.” I said, “I grew up in Missouri and know a lot of people from all over Missouri, and know a lot of places.” He humored me, and said the name of the town. I rattled off the zip code, (There are actually four towns in Missouri with that name, but the one where I grew up is the one with a zip code.) He said, “Panther?” I said, “Orange & Black?” He then said, “Do you know Robert Hamilton?” I held up my name tag. “Are you related to Robert Hamilton?” “He’s my brother.” “He;s like the best DM ever!” I said, “I know right?” It turns out that I was about 7 years ahead of him in school, thus the reason I didn’t know him. That was very odd.

Chad and I were telling that story the rest of the con and for a while after. Chad even shared it on an episode of the DGS Podcast.

Chad had another interesting encounter, it turns out his father is from the same town +Stephen Chenault is from in Arkansas.

Mythus Tower with +Bill Webb – Swords & Wizardry – I played in a Day 0 pick up game and a regular game with Bill at Ucon last year, and had a lot of fun. I have a dwarf character that survived that session that he said I can use in any game he runs. (He might get tired of me, since next weekend at UCon, I signed up for another of his games.) Unfortunately, that dwarf died so the next game I play will be a new 1st level character.

Day 2

I had two games I signed up for:

Sat 10 AM – The Cave of Wisdom AD&D 1e with +Luke Gygax as DM. This was a great game. A player not knowing to not throw fireball underground killed half the party, so we had a delay while some new characters were rolled.

The only thing I didn’t like about this game is that autograph seekers came up and interrupted the game. The same thing happened in Jim Ward’s MA game. I wait for a break or between game time to get autographs. I don’t care if the GM says it’s OK. I will NOT be one of those who interferes with the fun of others.

Sat 06 PM – Gaming & BS Presents: Relagul’s Quest & The Secret Temple of Bast This was an AD&D game ran by +Nicholas Abruzzo. It was an interesting game with higher level pre-gens. A few interesting concepts. There was a castle model that involved a sheet to hide an interesting secret. I’m not much for terrain and models, but this fit the GM’s style and the tone of the game. He also had some assistants portray some NPC wererats in full costume.

Day 3

I had signed up for two games on Sunday, but one got cancelled.

Sun 10 AM – Escape From The Purple Planet. It was supposed to be ran by Jon Hershberger, but we had a woman, whose name I can’t find. She did a great job running the game. The players came together, and none of us had played this one, but we managed to make the right decisions and got done an hour early. I know I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t think anyone else was either.

The cancelled game was one by Venger Satanis, but his twins are due about this time. I had a credit for that, but before the con did not find anything at the available time. I got to meet him in 2017 at Gary Con IX.

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Mini Reviews vs. Reviews

When I do a review, I indicate on my post if it is a mini-review, meaning I skimmed the material and highlighted what jumped out at me. When it just says review, it means I read the whole thing and took lots of notes.

I have a long list of things I have on my personal review list – all the Kickstarters I have backed. I also have a few things in the pipeline that include D&D 5e modules and resources.

A few month ago, I added a page on my review policy since I am being approached by more and more people to do reviews. Please see that link if you are interested in having me review your RPG product.

 

 

 

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Old School Gamer Radio: A D&D Resource

Old School Gamer Radio: A D&D Resource has a Kickstarter to help fund a new website described as an index for the OSR. It won’t host the content of others, but point to cool OSR goodness in all the corners of the web, whether blogs, G+, FB, and so forth. There will also be new content on the site.

+Matt Finch of OSRIC and Swords & Wizardry fame, along with Zach Glazer are behind this. Matt has started a new You Tube channel, Uncle Matt’s D&D Studio. He asks that subscribers to his old channel subscribe to the new one.

This sub-heading from the Kickstarter page lays it out: “A unified website for old school D&D, with searchable links to the old school community’s locations, plus content from Matt and others.”

While the Kickstarter hit its initial goal quickly, they would like to reach the $7,500 stretch goal to ramp up the website and You Tube efforts to their maximum potential. This is a shorter run Kickstarter with just 9 days left to go. If you like the OSR and like the idea of having a central place to find the stuff you don’t yet know about, consider backing this. This update video explains it a bit more.

I went crazy and backed at the highest tier to sponsor a video. I can’t stretch beyond that with cash, so I’ll back it with my online efforts.

We had a website a bit like that with the former OSR Today, but its creator had health issues limit his ability to continue that project.

D&D 5e is seen as OSR like by many, so this isn’t a Kickstarter just for grognards from back in the day, or those who like OSR style play.

While Matt and Zach are both connected to Frog God Games, this is an independent effort, although personally supported by +Bill Webb.

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Thoughts on Character Death

Yesterday I uploaded a YouTube video on the death of the character in my weekly Wednesday night AD&D game I play in on Roll20. You can read the other posts I have about the game here. There is a companion video to this article here.

One of the other players in the game commented on the G+ posting for the video. As I answered him, it hit me that it didn’t bother me about the character’s demise, as I am not really in the same place in my life to play a taciturn dwarf. While I can easily play a dwarf fighter, there is something about it that I am not in a head space that it feels like a go to character. It just isn’t the specific character.

In the last few months and especially the last few weeks, I have had a realization that I am not in the dark and cloudy haze it is too easy for me to fall into. I am generally more happy and satisfied with life, and far more productive personally and professionally than I have been for some time. I have made progress on other things, and not used my need to write for one blog or another or make a new video as a reason to avoid other things.

I am downsizing my stuff. Things I haven’t touched in years, and most likely will never touch except to move them out of this house. I’ve been divorced about eight years, had one relationship since, and a few dates via online sites. I don’t need that. I’m OK with being single (but still open to the right person). So much so, that I deleted my online dating profile.

I have greatly limited my watching of shows through the summer, and only watched a few movies on Netflix here and there, with only an occasional binge, instead of most weekends. It is AMAZING how much one can get done when cutting out shows.

While in the process of reducing the cruft in my life, I am focused on defining what it is I want and what personal projects really matter to me. I find that as I let go, that I am more at peace. In some ways, I would make a good dwarf or dragon hoarding stuff. It’s not like I can’t get in or out of my house, but I have so much stuff I haven’t really touched since my divorce, and some before.

This new perspective and attitude has subconsciously affected the type of characters I want to play. Part of it is my age. I’m in my early 50’s and my life-long worrying about what others think seems to be nearly gone. The, I’m not taking crap off anybody mentality – “Get off my lawn!”

I’ve also always wanted a long beard, so I quit cutting my hair and beard in late April/Early May. It was a lot of fun to see the reactions of people at Grand Con who hadn’t seen me in several months. If it weren’t for arthritis, I’d be braiding it. Perhaps once it’s longer I can manage it.

My demeanor and disposition is noticeably different and others at work and home have commented on it.

I’m just curious if others find this in their own roleplaying, if their head space nudges them towards certain character concepts, i.e. race, class, background, and actual presentation of the character via roleplay.

I’m avoiding adding a lot of new stuff to my plate. However, I have plans to add a planned amount of things, like playing in and later running a 5e game and running something at my FLGS. Before that, I will be adding more content to the blog and more videos to my You Tube channel. I got more memory for my computer so videos render faster, but my upload speed is now the bottleneck. My new video editing software defaults results in huge files, so I’ve got to get a better handle on the settings so I’m not spending two plus hours uploading a five minute video.

I’ve got opportunities to really grow my blog and YouTube channel and other social media. Getting my stuff “right-sized” for the life I choose to live will really make a difference.

I’ve got it figured out how to get out of debt and still go to the cons I want. Things are coming together quite nicely.

 

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Grand Con 2017

I attended two events at Grand Con, visited with friends, and spent a bit of time in the vendor hall.

Grand Con is in Grand Rapids, Michigan which is about an hour away from where I live near Kalamazoo. I elected to drive back and forth each day, as time and cost of gas seemed worth it to me vs. a hotel nearby.

I signed up for one game each day, with the plan of lots of visiting or perhaps running or playing pick up games. A few weeks ago, I got an email that the Saturday game was cancelled. Plans changed as my son’s car has issues and he has been borrowing my car to get to work.  He works nights and this particular weekend, he worked all three evenings of the con.

Friday I took him to work, played in a game from 7 to 11 pm, I didn’t get home until about 12:20 and bed about 1 am. Getting up to get him from work before 6 am meant that I was just too tired to safely drive. Having tried sleeping and driving about 25 years ago, I don’t recommend it, and definitely don’t wish to repeat it. I took a nap for the first time in I can’t recall, and spent Saturday doing very little. Sunday I drove up for the 9 am game and was delayed by a 5K run that held me up for 10 minutes a mere 100 yards from the site and parking garage. I was nearly an hour early, so it was not a problem. I learned that those in the con had no idea about it.

Don't Sleep & Drive
Don’t Sleep & Drive – I choose not to do a repeat.

Friday’s Game

The Friday game was one hosted by the group, We Hate Bards. I’m sure there’s a story behind that name. The GM was Raven, the 4th or 5th female GM I have had. (I am glad that there is more variety in GMs in my experience. Even better that I am loosing track of just how many it has been.) It was D&D 5e and the session was called, Welcome to the Iron Realms: Play Smarter, Not Harder.

There was only one other player, so I am glad that I ignored my thoughts of not going Friday night. She had a neat hand drawn map in her GM notebook to show us the layout of her campaign world. We had to find out why the trolls were interrupting the iron trade, which gives the name of Iron Realms. Each character has 5 “minions” to help us. They dwindled to one each by the end of the session.

We avoided an unnecessary combat and gained allies to help us deal with our first fight and guided us into the swamp. We also avoided fighting a giant frog that probably would have smoked us. By playing smart and gaining allies and avoiding a fight with the frog, she awarded us 2nd and 3rd levels.

We took a moment to note out new hit points and new feats/abilities/paths. I chose a dwarf barbarian. I got to roll the abilities and create my character. She had a few pre-gens, but had not completed that process yet.

I specifically chose a 5e game, as I need to play it more to get familiar with the specifics of its rules. Even though I leveled up this character, I did not catch that he was resistant to bludgeoning damage until after the consequences of being knocked out were resolved. Even with a fancy printed character sheet, it was a general sheet and not optimized for the class. There was just too much to look at to find the option, and I wrote it in a corner of the sheet in a way that it did not stand out.

I am not used to there being different categories of damage and having the ability to resist different types. I skipped 3e, 3.5e, and 4e, so it is a new concept to me. This is similar to when I played in +Satine Phoenix’s game at Gary Con 9 that not until the last initiative of the game did I roll with advantage like I should have all session.

For me, I can handle a lot of options once I am familiar with them all, but with as many options as a 3rd level character has, I need a character sheet that is not “busy” with bits I don’t need, and all that I do need is on one side of the page. Combat related things need to all be on one page. Surprise, initiative, resistances, and anything that aids combat (melee or ranged). Spells are a different matter.

It was a great game with an interesting puzzle that took us a while to figure out, but we did it.

I am used to the rules being easy enough that I have a pretty good idea of what a character can do. Granted AD&D is not rules light, but there are not so many races and classes in the core rules that one can’t easily have at least a general idea of what they can do. With 5e, even though I have the core books and have read them, there is so much to them, that for even an experienced player, with out regular sessions to keep up with the details, one can quickly become overwhelmed. With that much involved with a character, character death would definitely suck. I can see why many prefer to always play the same class and race in 5e, as they have that one figured out.

The Iron Kingdoms
The Iron Kingdoms

Sunday’s Game

I played DCC with +Brendan LaSalle on his birthday! The Inn At Five Points. We were all second level. I elected to play a wizard. There were only a few first level spells. The only spells that I was able to put to use in the situations we found ourselves, was flaming hands and invoke patron.

Brendan used his d50 for the Minor Mercurial Effects table from his contribution to 50 uses for a d50. I left mine at home. I need to add it to my dice bag (I think it will fit).

I asked about invoke patron, and as my character is neutral, I ended up with some nondescript entity best described as “Mehhhhh” (be sure to emphasize the shrug). I wish I had a recording of the way Brendan said it.

In short, the neutral cleric in the party did something and rolled a crit that changed the whole nature of the scenario. Instead of fighting for our lives, we were taunting the bad guys. The two clerics, one neutral and one chaotic, an elf, and my wizard all invoked their deities and patrons. The chaotic cleric was able to spell burn in this situation. The neutral cleric got a lot of help from fleeting luck and halfling luck, and the elf and I spell burned for 20s. Once we all had 4 20’s our dieties and patrons helped us out and got us to the ultimate destination for the evening. We were set upon by beasts  that nearly killed us while we were still in need of 3 weeks of rest to recover from so much spell burn. We managed to beat the beasts and find a safe place to hold up and rest.

Finally, we encountered some sprites that would help us if we took out their greatest nemesis. We managed to find this creature and our dwarf stonemason who rolled poorly to OK rolled a 20 to set the trap to destroy the creature. The one to trigger it rolled really well and luck boosted the efforts to smear the beast into a stain.

It is great how spectacular rolls make for a game unlike any other. Brendan did a great job of rolling with the flow of our rolls and choices, and he had as much fun as the rest of us. I’m glad I got to help give him that present.

The Inn At Five Points
The Inn At Five Points

Vendor Hall

The room with the vendor hall was a huge cavernous room. The vendors were along two sides with the board game tables in the middle.

I visited with +John Reyst of Open Gaming Store and James Means of Game Science.

Open Gaming Booth
Open Gaming Booth

Game Science has plans for a new d100 with an improved braking system. It is manufactured in Adrian, Michigan, and will be available soon. I bought the last of the prior version of the d100 they had, as I had not yet acquired one.

They also plan to have a d30 in 2018 and a d7 in late 2018 or early 2019. I confirmed that it is OK for me to share that on the blog.

Game Science Dice
Game Science Dice

 

Final Thoughts

Grand Con celebrated its fifth year. The location at the DeVos Place was bigger than they needed. Without a contiguous allocation of space, there was a lot of confusion. My arrival Friday evening was after they got the kinks worked out and I had no difficulty finding the RPG space. However, the RPG space was well separated from the vendor hall and board game area.

They do a good job with their online registration system, and picking up my pre-registration items was easy.

Grand Rapids doesn’t like giving you free parking close to downtown sites, $10 a day! Also the DeVos Place didn’t have a sign that I could see, so people who don’t spend a lot of time in Grand Rapids would have a frustrating time figuring out what building it is, when Google Maps doesn’t tell you you’re there until you are past the parking entrance and showed me that I should cross the street to the government building. Also, the city communicating with the venue and the venue management passing that on to the con would have helped with the confusion Sunday morning with the 5K shutting down traffic.

Other than getting to the con location, I really didn’t have any problems. I had a good time in my events, and didn’t stay long enough to partake of the limited on-site food.

You can read +Clayton Williams’ con report here with details of the entire con.

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Adventure Hooks and Encounters Inspired by Cicadas

Over on G+, +Greg Gorgonmilk shared a picture of a cicada. This got me to thinking, “How would this affect various creatures in D&D?”

What if there were forms of various burrowing monsters, Ankheg, bulette, etc. that had a cycle like the 17-year cicada. There are not just one group of cicadas, but multiples, and not just 17 years. I believe there is also a 13 year cicada. There are both Periodical, every 13 or 17 years, and Annual Cicadas, which have a life cycle of 2-4 years.

Inspired By Cicadas

Their base stats would be the same as in their source book. Keep it simple, right? Each monster type would just need to kill a certain number of HD of “food” in a set period before burrowing for the next sleep cycle. Say 2-3 weeks, each HD of creature needs to “eat” 2-3 HD for every HD it posses.

Solitary creatures would emerge to eat and mate. Eggs would hatch for laying species, making voracious babies needing several times their HD in food for the rapid growth that occurs before they burrow to hibernate.

Placement & Cycle

To place the groups lay out your campaign map and drop a die indicating how many are in that location. the number could represent either groups or individuals. Roll a d12+6 to see how many years in the cycle for each group.

Of course, there is nothing to say that the cycle is in years, that would put them in living memory. What adventurers wouldn’t want to go out and find the fresh burrows/dens to slay monsters, find treasure, and collect parts for wizards? Better yet, have the cycle in decades or centuries, depending on which race’s living memory will lose track of them. That way, they emerge suddenly and unexpectedly. Only some dusty old tomes might mention it.

By being outside of living memory, it would make even more sense for the crazy weird creatures to emerge when and where they do.

Duration of Last Cycle

To determine how long since the last emergence, either roll those same dice , or 2d6, if using years. For decades or centuries, use what suits your campaign. For worlds that evolve over many campaigns, this would be another aspect to help it come alive.

Alternatively, assign a percentage chance that this year is the end of their cycle, or that they emerge early, as some 17-year cicadas emerged 4 years early this year.

Encounters

For sandbox games a burrow of say, hibernating bulettes, could be placed on the map and set to emerge when the party reaches that hex. Or you could have a random encounter prepared to come up when the party is travelling.  Here, the term burrow or den is used loosely. Some monsters are not found in groups, if you want to go by the book, so a den or burrow would be a generalization for an area where the creatures congregated before burrowing. For bulettes and other very large creatures, they might be spread over many square miles of territory.

If you have a creature you really want to show up in your game, use this to make it happen.

Ecology

Players that encounter such a variation on the usual type of monster might get the bright idea to go dig up these slumbering creatures for “easy” XP. That is easily solved when these creatures curl up and secrete a substance that encases them in a hard shell that disguises their identity and also protects them from scrying. This will make it impossible to determine what kind of creature is in the “shell” if it is found, and reduce the ability to find it.

The secretions will reduce the ability to find it via scrying by 5% per day for the first week. 5% per week for the next month, and 1% per each subsequent month. So 35% after 1st week, and 55% at the end of the month after that, and 67% the year after that.  If one sticks with an additional 1% per month, after an additional two years and seven months it would hit 100%. I would say it shouldn’t be 100% effective. Based on how your preferred rules handle scrying, there should at least be a chance. Rolling 01 on a d100 should find it, unless other modifiers make it impossible.

Earthquakes, floods, new construction, wizard battles,  wars, and battling titanic monsters, like dragons, are some of the things that interrupt the normal cycles. Character wants to build a stronghold, assign a chance that they happen to pick a site  near or over a “burrow”. For example, 10% chance to be near (1d6 miles, hexes, etc.) from a burrow, and 1% chance to be over one. The GM can roll for it, or make the player do it.

Change It Up

To make them different from the book descriptions, make them a different color, smell, size, or flavor of meat (if the party eats its kills).

Where’s the Table?

This should be something each GM can make their own table. But for starters, here is what I am thinking for my own table.

CREATURE BASE CYCLE (Years, Decades, Centuries) TIME SINCE END OF LAST CYCLE PLACEMENT NOTES (Map Location, Treasure, etc.)
Ankheg d6+d12 2d6 Grab some d6’s and drop on the map. Numbers indicate number of groups/dens. Under farmer Bob’s barn
Bulette d6+d12 2d6 Grab some d6’s and drop on the map. Numbers indicate number of groups/dens. Under, within, or next to the dungeon

Keep going with each burrowing monster, or monster you re-skin as a burrowing monster.

Make a new table for each genre you run. Of course, some creatures could easily be used across genres.

Vary the cycle units (years, decades, centuries) and number and type of dice used to set the base cycle and time since last cycle.

For placement set one color of dice for each creature and roll all at once. Vary the number of dice used based on the size of your campaign map. If you have a world map, use more dice than a map that is only a portion of a continent.

Make a spreadsheet to keep track of all this, especially the location. Once you know a location, how can you make it interesting? If a location is a far off place, be sure to have the party encounter that cluster of creatures, especially if you haven’t used this variation yet.

If the location is within a dungeon, perhaps the builders of the dungeon avoided waking the creature(s) through blind luck, or build around it on purpose. Another way for creatures to get into a dungeon when “it doesn’t make sense.”

Conclusion

Have you ever placed creatures in this manner? Is this something you would use in your game?

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Ramblings of an Old Gamer