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  • Links: Thoughts on Virtual Conventions, and Game Sales During a Pandemic

    by W. Eric Martin

    • Having experienced both Virtual Gaming Con and Gen Con Online, designer Gil Hova details what didn't work in these virtual cons and what he hopes to see in the future. An excerpt:
    This gets to my biggest issue with virtual conventions, as they're implemented right now: they are too decentralized. A convention is, at its lexical and literal heart, a place where people convene. It's a place where we serendipitously bump into people we haven't seen in years. It's a place where we meet old friends and make new friends, where we go out to dinner at local restaurants to catch up and talk about stuff.

    None of that stuff is possible at a virtual convention right now.

    The big thing is that the whole convention must be in the same Discord server. This is vital for the convention to work — it's what makes the convention feel like "convening," instead of just a place to organize games.

    I think this is where the Gen Con experience didn't work great for me. Gen Con forbade gaming on their Discord server (with one exception, which I'll get to). Instead, everyone who ran an event was responsible for running it on their own platform — Discord, Skype, Tabletop Simulator built-in chat, etc.

    This meant that as you moved from text channel to another in Gen Con's Discord, you gaming. People talking about games, maybe planning games, asking for help with games, but no gaming.

    This is so far removed from the in-person Gen Con experience, it's almost breathtaking. Gen Con is predicated on gaming. Gen Con Online kept gaming very far out of sight, almost as if it was a shameful, unsavory thing.

    I didn't participate in VGC, and I'm still not sure what to think about Gen Con Online. I was as tired afterwards as I am following an in-person Gen Con and I played no games (which is typical), but I did appreciate the short travel distance I had to navigate to reach my broadcast space...

    • On August 4, 2020 on NPR, Rob Schmitz highlighted a 144% sales increase of Catan in the first five months of 2020, crediting folks looking for things to do indoors courtesy of the coronavirus.

    • Along those same lines in late July 2020, People magazine spotlighted "12 Board Games to Keep You Occupied and Entertained at Home", including Azul (best new board game), Splendor (best strategy board game), and Codenames (best for adults). Lots of old-school mainstream titles on that list, too.

    • On July 24, 2020, designer Andy Looney posted his original design notes for what become Fluxx, with those notes being twenty-four years old. Short description: "I have an idea for a completely wacky and unpredictable card game that would be the ultimate in easy to learn."

    • On July 27, 2020, Hasbro reported Q2 2020 revenue of $860.3 million, "down 29% on a pro forma basis" from Q2 2019 when revenue was $1.2 billion. This announcement led to Hasbro's share price falling 8% that day.

    That said, Hasbro Gaming revenues for Q2 2020 were up 11% compared to the previous year. Two excerpts from its Q2 2020 financial report:
    • Hasbro's Gaming revenues grew 11% and gaming point of sale was up globally over 50% (Note: Point of sale does not include Wizards of the Coast brands). JENGA, CONNECT 4, BATTLESHIP, MOUSETRAP and TWISTER were among the top revenue increases in the quarter. Supply chain disruption led to in stock levels below normal thresholds and limited shipments in the quarter.

    • MAGIC: THE GATHERING revenues declined as expected in the quarter, reflecting a difficult comparison with a major release in the second quarter of 2019 and the previously disclosed accelerated shipments into Q1 2020 to minimize disruption from COVID-19. Digital revenues for MAGIC: THE GATHERING, including Arena, increased slightly in the quarter. Strong analog and digital releases are expected to support the brand in the second half of 2020.
    Read more »
  • Designer Interview: Richard Breese, Creator of the "Key" Series

    by Neil Bunker

    [Editor's note: This interview was first published on Diagonal Move. —WEM]

    Richard Breese, designer of Keydom, one of the first games to use "worker placement", and Keyflower joins Neil from Diagonal Move to look at how the "Key" series developed.

    DM: Over the course of your career, you have become well known for the "Key" series of games — but that wasn't how your career began. Can you tell about the early days of your career?

    RB: Thanks for having me, Neil. Since my childhood, I have always enjoyed creating games. My first published game, Chamelequin, was initially inspired by games of Dungeons & Dragons. I attributed different movement abilities to the different character classes and eventually reduced this down to an abstract game which I thought was interesting enough to be published.

    I promoted the game at the London Toy Fair where I met Brian Walker, editor of a UK boardgames magazine Boardgames International, and Ian Livingstone, co-founder of Games Workshop, who suggested I should go to SPIEL in Essen. I hired a stand there the following year in 1991 and discovered the world of "German" games, or Eurogames as they are now referred to. The gaming world was a lot smaller thirty years ago, with only twenty or so new gamers' games launched at each year's SPIEL.

    Having discovered Eurogames, I was motivated to try to produce games in a similar style myself. The first was Keywood, which I entered into a games magazine's design competition, which pleasingly it won. I then took Keywood to SPIEL in 1995 and have returned every year since.

    DM: Your game Keydom is often cited as being one of the first (if not the first) worker-placement games. Where did the concept of using "workers" to take actions originate for you?

    RB: Yes, you are correct in that Keydom is widely recognized as the first worker-placement game. The game was subsequently re-issued as Morgenland in Germany and Aladdin's Dragons in the U.S.

    The mechanism idea evolved from my plays of Settlers of Catan. In that game, resources are obtained from you building adjacent to the terrain hexes containing different resources, but the resources are generated only when a matching dice number is rolled. I wanted to create a mechanism where resources were obtained through player choice — the worker placement — and not through the luck of a dice roll.

    DM: How did that initial concept of worker placement develop during the following years within the Key series leading eventually to Keyflower, Keyper and Key Flow?

    RB: I have used the worker-placement mechanism in several of the later Key games, but when I publish a new game, I want there to be something new and different in the game. To take three examples:

    • In Keythedral, the workers (or "keyples" as I have called them in later Key series games) are placed in accordance with a player-selected numerical order, emerging from cottages or houses that the player has placed strategically at the start of the game.

    • In Keyflower, which was a co-design with Sebastian Bleasdale, each player has an initial mix of three different colors of keyples. The keyples can be placed freely, but only on tiles which are unused or which have previously been used by keyples of that same color. This creates a nice tension of which colors to use, when and where.

    • In Keyper, when one player places a keyple on a country board, another player can join them with a matching-colored keyple on that first player's turn to the benefit of both players. In this way, some players are likely to have played all their keyples before others, with all keyples having the potential to work twice. The tension is to play your keyples as quickly as possible, but also to use them to gather the resources which are most useful to you.

    Key Flow is a card-driven game based on many of the ideas contained in Keyflower, but it does not use keyples and is really only a worker placement game by association with Keyflower. The game was co-designed by Sebastian and Ian Vincent and flows quickly over four game rounds, allowing players to develop their own unique village.

    DM: Each game in the Key series shares similarities thematically. Does creating installments within a thematic series offer freedom to experiment mechanically?

    RB: It is the mechanisms that drive the game development for me. If these lead naturally to the medieval theme with the scale of workers and a landscape, then I will use it to expand the Key universe. Often the mechanisms don't allow this or more naturally fit a different theme, such as in my games Fowl Play, Inhabit the Earth and Reef Encounter, which all have animal themes.

    The Key series was not pre-planned, but came about incrementally following the success of the previous Key titles. The Key branding certainly helps the game get more visibility on what is now a much more crowded market than it was when the series began in 1995.

    DM: Worker placement is a significant feature in many of your games, often in combination with resource management. Since the release of Keydom, these mechanisms have become board game staples. How do you keep the concepts fresh?

    RB: I enjoy playing worker-placement games and do spend a lot of time thinking about games and mechanisms. It helps to play a lot of other games to learn what mechanisms work well, although I would not use an idea without adding some new twist to the mechanism. Inspiration can also come from designing with others, for example with Sebastian Bleasdale with Keyflower, or from a new gaming piece, such as the folding boards in Keyper.

    DM: Keyflower is probably your most well-known game. Eight years after release, it is number 53 in the BGG rankings. What effect do you think this recognition has had on your career?

    RB: Keyflower has undoubtedly introduced more people to R&D Games, so it is likely to have helped the visibility of the later games and also the demand for some of the earlier games, which are now out of print. It is nice to have had the relative success of Keyflower, however it was probably the positive response to the earlier titles Keythedral and Reef Encounter that gave me the confidence that I could design a polished game.

    Regarding publishing, because I publish using my own R&D Games label, I have not needed to find publishers. It is nice to win awards, but I think the high rating in BGG probably has more impact. When new gamers discover the hobby, it is likely they will soon discover BGG and then, if they are looking for new games to buy, are likely to look at the rankings list to see which games are most highly rated by other gamers.

    DM: Several games in the Key series, including Keyflower, have been co-designed, most notably with Sebastian Bleasdale. How did this partnership with him develop?

    RB: Sebastian, David Brain, and Ian Vincent were all part of a playtesting group run by Alan and Charlie Paull of Surprised Stare Games. With regard to Keyflower, Sebastian had a small bidding game called "Turf Wars" which I playtested and saw the potential for a larger game and asked Sebastian whether he would be interested in working together to develop the game further.

    Similarly, David had a game called "Book of Hours". This was more fully formed than "Turf Wars", and when I suggested publishing the game as "Key Market", I said to David I would be happy just to be listed as the developer. Ian is a seasoned card player, and he approached Sebastian and I with the idea of a card version of Keyflower, which then became Key Flow.

    DM: Board games are always the product of a team effort — the developers, playtesters, graphic designers and others that contribute to a game in addition to the person credited for the design? How does the process differ for a co-designed game?

    RB: Being part of a team is one of the pleasures of board game designing. You get time to play games with your playtesters whose opinions you value and whose company you enjoy, and in addition you are creating something.

    I don't notice a huge difference in co-designing. That is largely because I am in the unusual position of being the publisher as well as a co-designer, so I can if required insist on a particular approach if necessary. Although I think in every occasion I have reached a consensus on how to proceed with a design. However, that said, it is undoubtedly a benefit in having more than one person independently playtesting and exploring different ideas on how to develop a game.

    DM: What is next for yourself and R&D Games?

    RB: This year I hope to publish Keyper at Sea, which is an expansion for Keyper and also includes a Keyper solo game from Dávid Turczi. After that I will probably publish Keydom's Dragons, which is effectively a re-issue of Aladdin's Dragons (a.k.a., Morgenland) set in the Key universe and with illustrations again by Vicki Dalton. Then there is likely to be Keyside, a brand-new Key game which is a co-design with Dávid Turczi.

    DM: Do you have any advice that you would like to share with aspiring game designers?

    RB: Yes, firstly play as many different games as you can so that you can become familiar with what a published game feels like and what works for you.

    Get as many people involved in the playtesting as possible, especially seasoned gamers. Make a point of understanding what they like and don't like about your game. Do take notice of any criticisms. Try to address these or alternatively be comfortable that your game idea is solid notwithstanding the criticism. Stay true to your vision. Continue playtesting until you play a couple of games where you can think of no more tweaks or changes that you want to make to the game.

    When you contact publishers, try to select those who publish the sort of game you have designed. That should give you a better chance of reaching a publishing deal. If you decide to publish, don't commit more funds than you can afford to lose. There is a saying that the way to make a small fortune in boardgaming is to start with a large fortune. However with crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, it is now much easier to get your gaming idea published.

    Read more »
    - Newest Items

  • Mage Bane Hideout - 30x20 Battlemap
    Publisher: Bad Luck Press

    Mage Bane Hideout Battlemap

    Mage Bane Hideout is a 30x20 battlemap based on a standard 1" grid that is designed to be printed at home on U.S. Letter size paper. It would make a great lair or hideout for your next session or use the included Call to Adventure for a night of adventure.

    Call to Adventure

    The assassins of Darkhold are known for their expertise in eliminating mages that their high-paying clientele find troublesome. The secret of their particular effectiveness in murdering mages comes from their use of the substance known as Mage Bane. Produced from compounds found in a rare type of cave mushroom, Mage Bane causes a momentary disruption in the weave of arcane energies. It is in this disruption that the assassins strike, as their victims struggle to understand why the magics they have come to depend on for much of their now ending lives have suddenly failed them.

    After much research (and more coin) the mage guild has located a cave that seems to be the primary site where the Mage Bane mushrooms grow. They have offered your party a substantial reward to go to the cave and destroy the mushrooms, dealing with any other threats found at the cave.

    The Twist

    The assassins protect the cave with a group of trusted guards and guild members. But in the mushroom chamber at the back of the cave has a trio of special guardians; a trio of large wormlike, tentacled creatures known as gricks. The assassins keep their pet gricks well feed with the bodies of their work and anyone who is unfortunate enough to wander too near the cave.


    • (1) PDF with a 1" gridded version of the full-size map broken down to easily print as tiles on standard letter size paper
    • (1) PDF with a 1" non-gridded version of the full-size map broken down to easily print as tiles on standard letter size paper
    • (1) 30"x20" full-size gridded JPG of the map for poster printing or VTT's
    • (1) 30"x20" full-sizei non-gridded JPG of the map for poster printing or VTT's
    30x20 Battlemap - Mage Bane Hideout
    Mage Bane Hideout - 30x20 BattlemapPrice: $1.45 Read more »
  • Entomobia
    Publisher: Plush Pangolin Creations

    You are a bug.

    Above you, strange, unspeakable, unknowable monsters known as Swatters (or less commonly, humans) perform strange unknowable acts. They kill on sight, or carry you great distances in a single step. They drop wonderous prizes, or produce terrible poisons. There is no telling what their next action might be.

    In the grass, Ant paladins and Beetle barbarians battle giants like chipmunks and frogs. Roach artificers construct strange contraptions in the walls of Swatter dwellings. Cricket townsfolk prepare to fight of a hoard of invading Dragonflies. A Moth warlock receives new powers from their Opossum patron.

    Welcome to the world of Entomobia.

    Entomobia is a setting for 5e that puts you in the role of the insects that surround you. Pick from ten different arthropod races, with twelve subraces. Explore the realm of Hudson Springs, a peaceful park for humans, but a land strewn with danger for the typical Entomobian. Fight against 26 different beasts and monsters, scaled to insect proportions.

    Just watch out for the Swatters.

    EntomobiaPrice: $4.99 Read more »

    Gnome Stew

  • VideoGnomecast #97 – Online Conventions with Laura Hamel
    Gnome Stew's Gnomecast

    Join Ang and special guest Laura Hamel for a discussion about running, working for, and attending online conventions. Do these gnomes share enough virtual tabletop savvy to avoid being thrown in the stew?

  • Shortcuts to a Campaign’s End
    Man Walking Down Path

    There are times when a campaign gets long in the tooth. While the game play might still be enjoyable, there are times when the players and/or GM will get the urge to move on to the next campaign, the next system, or the next idea. It’s a natural progression of things, so if you’re running the game, don’t get offended if the players fire up the “What are we playing next?” conversation. Unless you arrange for someone else to start prep on the next thing while the current game is being played as a regular thing, then this question is usually an indicator that you might want to wrap things up. It doesn’t have to be sudden, short-term, or even a total party kill, but it does need to be on your radar.

    Of course, the game can be “paused” while another one is played, but let’s be honest with ourselves here. How often do these paused games resume? For me, it’s incredibly rare for a game to survive pausing for more than a couple of months. People forget where the game’s storyline was at. They lose character sheets. The GM has lost track of their plans or replaces the intense game knowledge with other systems.

    This means things need to be wrapped up, and there are some approaches to give a satisfying ending to a campaign arc other than simply stopping the game.

    Move the Goals

    I’m assuming that since we’re talking about long-running campaigns, the party has goals to accomplish. That’s usually how games go, so I think it’s a safe assumption. Working with that, it’s possible to reduce the amount of game time it takes to accomplish a goal if the party finds the McGuffin or Big Bad Evil Guy (BBEG) or whatever closer to where they are at than they expected. Shift the McGuffin from the final room of the dungeon to somewhere in the middle. Cut out the 30 rooms of dungeon crawl between the party’s location and the BBEG’s lair.

     Put the thing they are looking for nearby or at the next plot point. 

    If the game is wilderness-based or a plot point arc, then put the thing they are looking for in the next forest clearing or one-to-two plot points away from where they are now instead of farther down the road.

    Unless they have super clear directions to the location of the McGuffin or BBEG, then they’ll never know that you gave them a shortcut to their goal. Just make sure they earn the acquisition of the thing they are looking for. Don’t just give it to them because it’s nearby.

    Combine Goals

    Perhaps the BBEG has the McGuffin tucked into his belt when the party defeats him.

    Perhaps the BBEG has the McGuffin tucked into his belt when the party defeats him. Boom. Two things done with a single combat. Alternatively, if they are trying to piece together something (e.g.: The Rod of Seven Parts from D&D lore), then maybe someone else is trying to do the same. That someone else could have already assembled (or collected) three of the parts. Then the other owner of parts could track down the party with the goal of acquiring their parts (probably not in a friendly manner, so it’s that much more fun). This combines goals and brings the parts to the party, so it moves goals closer to the party.

    Move the Players

    If you’re playing sci-fi with transporters, FTL, or other super cool tech, then it’s easy enough to have the “warp coil overload due to a negative neutron quark strike on the power inverter” (or some other techno babble) and move the party farther along their route than they had intended, thus putting them closer to their goal.

    Of course, in fantasy, there’s the staple of teleportation circles, summonings, teleportation accidents, and so on that can easily shift the party closer to their goal, even if they don’t know that’s what happened.

    If you’re in a modern or other “mundane” setting, then cutting out obstacles between the party and their goals is effectively moving the party closer to the goals.

    Ignore/Combine Subplots

    If you had planned on a kidnapping to happen and then the party learns of a rumor from the person they rescue that points them in the next direction for their main quest, I would recommend dropping the kidnapping subplot. That’s easily a session or two of play that you can avoid to get to the end faster. Instead of making the players work for a clue, have them overhear it in the street or tavern or spaceport.

     Allow your players to earn knowledge, but do it in a manner that is quick and easy at the table. 

    If you want the players to earn it, then give them a hint that a nearby library (or neural network) might contain the information that they need. A quick skill check with a low difficulty can result in them gaining the knowledge. It’s easy enough to tell the players that their characters spend three days digging through musty tomes to get the information, and merge that into the single skill check. The “three days pass” make it feel like an earned victory, but the real world time it takes is just a few minutes.

    Reduce NPCs

    The more chances for NPC interaction the PCs have, the more time things will take to resolve the story elements. This is the fun part of the game (for me and my group), so I dislike cutting out cool NPCs that I’ve baked up for the game experience. However, I can always save and alter those NPCs for later use.

    Reduce Monsters

    You can also skip non-important combats.

    If a combat calls for 8 hobgoblins, 3 ogres, and 2 hill giants, I would recommend reducing the opposing forces to no hobgoblins, 2 ogres, and a single hill giant. The fight can still be dangerous and perhaps a bit of a challenge for your party, but it will drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to resolve the combat.

    You can also skip non-important combats. Keep in mind that since you’re wrapping up the campaign soon, throwing in a combat scene “to give the characters some experience points and loot” is no longer a thing you really have to do.

    What About You?

    If you’ve had to shortcut to the end of a campaign to wrap up a storyline, what tips or tricks did you use along these lines? Anything I forgot to mention?

    Read more »

    RPGWatch Newsfeed

  • Fairy Tail - Review @ Shacknews
    Shacknews has reviewed Fairy Tail: Fairy Tail review: Happily ever after for fans This JRPG adaptation of the popular anime series is a fun, action-packed adventure that's clearly geared toward fans, but new adopters will have a blast, too. Video game adaptations of anime series are a dime a dozen.... Read more »
  • Horizon Zero Dawn - Review @ COG
    COG checked out Horizon Zero Dawn: Horizon: Zero Dawn (PC) Review – Make the World Better, Before it Ends  Walking a Fine Line If you have yet to undergo the breathtaking journey that Horizon: Zero Dawn provides, you’ve been missing out.... Read more »

    Sly Flourish

  • Zone-based Combat in D&D

    D&D is a game of action and high adventure yet sometimes we lose the sense of wonder and excitement when we fall into the minutia of the mechanics. We also may want a combat system that doesn't require a battle map to play. Zone-based combat helps us maintain the fast pace and bold excitement of D&D without requiring a 5-foot-per-square grid.

    This implementation of grid-based combat is loosely based on the zone-based combat systems in Fate Condensed by Evil Hat Games, Forbidden Rules by Robert Schwalb, and 5e Hardcore Mode by Runehammer Games.

    Implementing Zone-based Combat in D&D

    Here's a quick summary for using zone-based combat in D&D.

    • If a combat area is bigger than 30 feet square, break up the combat area into "zones" with in-world names such as "blood-iron throne dias" or "pillars of fallen heroes". If you need only one zone you don't need to define it.
    • Write down zone names on 3x5 cards, in a text-based list for online play, or as big areas on a battle map so everyone can see them.
    • On their turn, characters can move anywhere within a zone or move from one zone to another.
    • Assume characters are not within threatening reach of an enemy unless they were attacked by that enemy with a melee attack.
    • Ranged attacks can hit someone within the same zone or in an adjacent zone. If they were attaked by an enemy with a melee attack, we assume they're within 5 feet of that enemy and thus have disadvantage on ranged attacks.
    • Adjudicate specific situations as the come up in gameplay. Base your decision on what makes sense in the situation and favor the character when possible.
    • Assume characters move and act smartly. They will avoid obvious hazards or unneeded opportunity attacks. Don't surprise the players with gotchas.
    • For areas of effect, adjudicate the number of potentially effected targets using the rules on page 247 of the Dungeon Master's Guide or using these basic rules: small area = 2, medium area = 3, large area = 4, very large area = 8+.

    A Flexible System for Many Different Types of Gameplay

    This zone-based approach for D&D combat works with all types of combat styles including elaborate 3D terrain, beautiful pre-printed battle maps, online play with or without a virtual tabletop, hand-drawn maps, a stack of 3x5 cards, a dry-erase flip map, or even pure theater of the mind play. Whatever combat system you use, whatever accessories you enjoy, this zone-based approach works well.

    Inspirational Zone Names

    Use inspirational in-world zone names with clear hooks the players can grab onto to make things exciting and fun. Here are ten inspirational zone names intended to inspire players to leap into the action:

    • Large crumbling statues
    • Boiling oil pit
    • Spiked throne
    • Precarious rope bridge
    • Cracked elemental sarcophagus
    • Bottomless pit
    • Burning Unholy Altar
    • Advantageous Overlook
    • Lightning-infused monolith
    • Ancient portal to the eighth hell

    If the players need some motivation to use these effects, offer them suggestions and perhaps offer them inspiration if they're willing to take a chance at some danger. Motivate them to take risks.

    Handling Edge Cases

    Because D&D uses specific 5 foot distances, there are situations that don't fit well into a zone-based approach. The main solution is for the DM to adjudicate such situations as they come up. In general, DMs adjudicate towards what makese sense for the situation and lean in favor the characters.

    Character With Extra Movement

    Some characters move faster than others such as wood elves, monks, and rogues. When we abstract distances with zones, it takes away from the advantages of playing with these characters. What good is it if a monk gains an extra 5 feet of movement if we're not bothering to play in 5 foot squares?

    First, we have to ask, how important is that extra movement really? How often would it come up when we do play on a 5 foot per square grid? For some, like the monk and rogue, it can come up often. They get whole piles of extra movement, not just 5 feet.

    For those characters who get entire extra move actions, we can use a nice simple guideline:

    Most characters can move within a zone or from one zone to another. Monks and rogues, however, can jump two whole zones if they want to.

    For an example, we might have a battle on a three-decked ship. Normal characters can move from one deck to another. Monks and rogues can move from any deck to any other.

    As far as the extra 5 or 10 feet of movement that some characters have over another, we have to ask our players to accept that we're rounding that off in order to focus on the bigger and more heroic elements of the battle. You can also go with one of my favorites: "you would have been 10 feet short of your goal but since you're an elf, you made it!" That aways gets a narrowed-eyed harumph.

    Adjudicating Areas of Effect

    When we put a map down, fill it up with miniatures, and begin to run combat; we're bound to come to the discussion of how many targets—friends or foes—can fit in the area. Our best approach to this is to let the players know up front what they should expect from a spell's area to begin with.

    The Dungeon Master's Guide outlines rules for this on page 247. We abstracted this further in our Guidelines for Theater of the Mind Combat into four categories: small areas (2), medium areas (3) large areas (4), and huge areas (8+). That's the starting guideline but circumstances can move that number up or down.

    Opportunity Attacks and Sentinels

    Opportunity attacks have been in the game even before the game focused on 5 foot squares. Though we may not have a specific visualization to recognize opportunity attacks, we can figure them out easily enough with some simple guidelines:

    • If a character was attacked by an enemy with a melee attack, they're within that enemy's threatening reach. This means disadvantage on ranged attacks or taking an opportunity attack if they try to move away.
    • If certain creatures are blocking access to another creature, such as a pair of iron golems blocking access to a lich, we can assume the iron golems will get opportunity attacks if someone tries to run past them to get to the lich.

    Most of all, we assume creatures move smartly to avoid opportunity attacks when they can. Don't surprise players with an opportunity attack. The players can't see the situation the same way their characters can. Describe the risks and let the player choose what to do.

    On the DM side, we should feel free to have monsters provoke opportunity attacks. It's great fun for players and we always have more monsters.

    What about feats like sentinel? Again, we can fall back to the players intent. Ask them what they want to do and then set up the situation so they can do it. This is a fundamental principle for running theater-of-the-mind combat along with running combat with zones.

    Focusing on High Adventure

    Our overall goal when using abstract battle maps is to break away from the minutia of miniature wargaming and bring the focus back to the fast action and high adventure of our roleplaying game. Beyond being useful aids to ensure players share a common view of the battle, detailed battle maps and miniatures can be a wonderful rich part of this game we love. By abstracting distances while using physical maps, we can get the best of both worlds: detailed physical battle areas with beautiful miniatures and the high adventure we love best in D&D.

    New to Sly Flourish? Start here, subscribe to the weekly newsletter, or support Sly Flourish on Patreon!

    Check out Mike's books including Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, the Lazy DM's Workbook, Fantastic Adventures, and Fantastic Adventures: Ruins of the Grendleroot.

    Support Sly Flourish by using these links to purchase the D&D Essentials Kit, Players Handbook, Monster Manual, Dungeon Master's Guide, or dice from Easy Roller Dice.

    Send feedback to @slyflourish on Twitter or email

    This article is copyright 2020 by Mike Shea of Sly Flourish.

    Read more »
  • 1d100 Forgotten Realms Factions

    In previous articles on Sly Flourish I wrote about the value of randomness in our D&D games and offered random tables to help inspire your own adventures such as those in the Lazy DM's Workbook, Random Lists for Adventure Inspiration, and 1d100 Eberron Factions. This last one is intended to fuel other random tables you find either in the links above or in the Dungeon Master's Guide. With a 1d100 faction table you can tie in-world lore to the objects and locations directly in front of the characters. Each object in the world can teach them a little bit of lore or tie together major world plotlines one dirt-covered coin at a time.

    Today we have 1d100 factions for the Forgotten Realms. The Forgotten Realms is vast. There's probably more like 1,000 factions. This list, however, covers much of what you'd find in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, this edition's slimmed down sourcebook for the Forgotten Realms.

    Like other 1d100 tables, you can use the items on this list to build your own more refined list that fits the campaign you're telling and what information helps push that campaign forward. A Tyranny of Dragons campaign may benefit from a refined 1d20 list that includes more factions focused on and around that campaign. As the characters dig around they find clues that point to other elements tangential to the campaign.

    Each faction includes a symbol that the characters might find while uncovering the secret and clue about this faction.

    Without further ado, here are 1d100 Forgotten Realms factions. You can also download a PDF of 1d100 Forgotten Realms factions to add to your DM kit.

    1d100FactionDescription (Symbol)
    1AkadiGoddess of air. (Cloud)
    2AmaunatorGod of the sun. (Golden sun)
    3AsmodeusGod of indulgence. (Three inverted triangles arranged in a long triangle)
    4AurilGoddess of winter. (Six-pointed snowflake)
    5AzuthGod of wizardry. (Left hand pointing upward, outlined in fire)
    6BaneGod of tyranny. (Upright black hand, thumb and fingers together)
    7BeshabaGoddess of misfortune. (Black antlers)
    8BhaalGod of murder. (Skull surrounded by ring of bloody droplets)
    9ChaunteaGoddess of agriculture. (Sheaf of grain or a blooming rose over grain)
    10CyricGod of lies. (White jawless skull on black or purple sunburst)
    11DeneirGod of writing. (Lit candle above an open eye)
    12EldathGoddess of peace. (Waterfall plunging into a still pool)
    13GondGod of craft. (Toothed cog with four spokes)
    14GrumbarGod of earth. (Mountain)
    15Gwaeron WindstromGod of tracking. (Paw print with a five-pointed star in its center)
    16HelmGod of watchfulness. (Staring eye on upright left gauntlet)
    17HoarGod of revenge and retribution. (A coin with a two-faced head)
    18IlmaterGod of endurance. (Hands bound at the wrist with red cord)
    19IstishiaGod of water. (Wave)
    20JergalScribe of the dead. (A skull biting a scroll)
    21KelemvorGod of the dead. (Upright skeletal arm holding balanced scales)
    22KossuthGod of fire. (Flame)
    23LathanderGod of dawn and renewal. (Road traveling into a sunrise)
    24LeiraGoddess of illusion. (Point-down triangle containing a swirl of mist)
    25LliiraGoddess of joy. (Triangle of three six-pointed stars)
    26LoviatarGoddess of pain. (Nine-tailed barbed scourge)
    27MalarGod of the hunt. (Clawed paw)
    28MaskGod of thieves. (Black mask)
    29MielikkiGoddess of forests. (Unicorn's head)
    30MililGod of poetry and song. (Five-stringed harp made of leaves)
    31MyrkulGod of death. (White human skull)
    32MystraGoddess of magic. (Circle of seven stars, nine stars encircling a flowing red mist, or a single star)
    33OghmaGod of knowledge. (Blank scroll)
    34The Red KnightGoddess of strategy. (Red knight lanceboard piece with stars for eyes)
    35SavrasGod of divination and fate. (Crystal ball containing many kinds of eyes)
    36SeluneGoddess of the moon. (Pair of eyes surrounded by seven stars)
    37SharGoddess of darkness and loss. (Black disk encircled with a purple border)
    38SilvanusGod of wild nature. (Oak leaf)
    39SuneGoddess of love and beauty. (Face of a beautiful red-haired woman)
    40TalonaGoddess of poison and disease. (Three teardrops in a triangle)
    41TalosGod of storms. (Three lightning bolts radiating from a point)
    42TempusGod of war. (Upright flaming sword)
    43TormGod of courage and self-sacrifice. (White right gauntlet)
    44TymoraGoddess of good fortune. (Face-up coin)
    45TyrGod of justice. (Balanced scales resting on a warhammer)
    46UmberleeGoddess of the sea. (Wave curling left and right)
    47ValkurNorthlander god of sailors. (A cloud and three lightning bolts)
    48WaukeenGoddess of trade. (Upright coin with Waukeen's profile facing left)
    49HarpersNetwork of spies who advocate equality and covertly oppose the abuse of power. (Silver harp)
    50Order of the GauntletClerics and paladins sworn to destroy evil in the world. (Iron gauntlet holding a sword)
    51Zhentarim (new)Mercenary company known as the black network. (Winged serpent)
    52Emerald EnclaveDruids and others who believe in nature's preservation Horned stag over green.
    53Lord's AllianceOrganization of leaders of the Sword Coast. (A crown over gold and orange)
    54Cult of the Dragon (original)Cult aiming to transform dragons into dracolichs. (Eyes within flame above a bone dragon claw)
    55Cult fo the Dragon (new)Cult aiming to return Tiamat to Faerun. (Five slashes across a dragon's profile)
    56NetherilAncient human magocracy of great power. (Floating city)
    57Abolethic SovereigntyAboleths who resided in Faerun for millions of years. (Black swirling glyphs within a circle)
    58NeverwinterCity of corruption in the northern Sword Coast. (Eye with three droplets below)
    59Waterdeeplargest city in Faerun on the Sword Coast. (Crescent moon over water on blue)
    60Baldur's GateCorrupt city of southern Faerun. (Ship and castle on blue)
    61SilverymoonJewel of the North and capital of Silver Marches. (Crescent moon and star on blue)
    62GauntlgrymAncient dwarven city and capital of the Delzoun dwarves. (Stern dwarven face)
    63Mithral HallNorthern dwarven city. (Tankard)
    64DelzounAncient dwarves of the sword coast and the north. (Stern dwarven face)
    65Myth DrannorAncient elven city of central Faerun.
    66ShadowdaleSmall town in the center of the Dalelands and home to Elminster. (Moon over a white tower)
    67MenzoberranzanCity of the drow and throne of the spider queen in Faerun. (Spider over a diamond)
    68EvermeetIsland paradise of the elves.
    69Many-arrowsEmpire of orcs in the north. (Five arrows pointed up)
    70MoonshaesIslands with the Ffolk and an elf offshoot known as the Llewyr. (A silver bear on its hind legs)
    71Mantol-DerithTrading post between the surface and the underdark.
    72AmnA city of wealthy dynasties and trade. (Lady's profile over gold)
    73ThayMagocracy of the Red Wizards. (Eight orbeting orbs over a bolting spark)
    74CalimshanCity of former slaves under genie masters. (Diagnal stripes across a golden sphere)
    75HalruaaReturned magocracy of skyships and earthmotes. (Three rings of silver on red)
    76Zhentil KeepPowerful city of the Zhentarim (old). (Black dragon holding a golden sphere)
    77Zhentarim (old)Army led by the Manshoon and Fzoul Chembryl. (Black dragon behind golden sphere)
    78DarkholdFormer giant citadel of the Zhentarim (old). (Tower on a mountain)
    79Iqua'Tel'QuessirThe creator races; reptilian, avian, and amphibian rulers of Faerun 10,000+ years ago.
    80AryvandaarSun elf kingdom that fell during the Fifth Crown War.
    81BeselmirDwarven realm in hills of the valley of the River Dessarin 6,000 years ago. (Wheel over a plow)
    82Miyeritar Drow empire in northwestern Faerun, destroyed 13K years ago. (Dancing drow over full moon)
    83IllefarnElven city-state that was founded during the First Flowering in -22,900 DR .
    84AelinthaldaarCapital of Illefarn, ancient elven civilization in northwest Faerun where Waterdeep stands now.
    85EaerlannElven kingdom in the valley of the Delimbiyr River. (Green tree with golden leaves)
    86AbbathorGod of greed. (Jeweled dagger, point-down)
    87Clangeddin SilverbeardGod of war. (Crossed silver battleaxes)
    88Deep DuerraDuergar goddess of conquest and psionics. (Mind flayer skull)
    89DumathoinGod of buried secrets. (Mountain silhouette with a central gemstone)
    90MoradinGod of creation. (Hammer and anvil)
    91Corellon LarethianGod of art and magic. (Crescent moon)
    92Sehanine MoonbowGoddess of divination. (Full moon under a moonbow)
    93GruumshGod of storms and war. (Unblinking eye)
    94YondallaGoddess of fertility and protection. (Cornucopia on a shield)
    95EilistraeeGoddess of song and moonlight. (Dancing drow female silhouetted against the full moon)
    96LolthGoddess of spiders. (Spider)
    97TiamatGoddess of dragons. (Five-headed dragon)
    98UthgardtBarbarian tribes of the Sword Coast.
    99ReghedBarbarian tribes of the north.
    100AscalhornFormer citadel of the Eaerlann elves, now known as Hellgate Keep.

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