News

    -

    BoardGameGeek News | BoardGameGeek

  • Prepare to Unknot Worms, Flip Houses, and Escape from Black Holes at SPIEL '19

    by W. Eric Martin

    • I had previously mentioned Magic Maze: Mars as a SPIEL '19 release, but now Belgian publisher Sit Down! has revealed more of its SPIEL '19 line-up, with Wormlord from Jonathan Bittner and Andrew Cedotal perhaps appealing to the same type of player as Magic Maze given that it accommodates 2-8 players and bears a playing time of 5-10 minutes. An overview:

    It has long been thought that earthworms were slow creatures with no ambition. It is not so. They dream of conquering the world but suffer from internal conflicts that prevent their great project from taking shape: the reds are convinced that it is up to them to lead the troops. Same for the blues. And the greens. Not to mention the yellows. It was therefore inevitable that they come to blows. Wormlord tells their story.

    Wormlord is a game that is played simultaneously, without a turn, and consists of conquering spaces by placing knots. It is possible to repel his opponents by undoing their ropes and returning them to them. The victory condition varies from one tray setup to another, but usually it's about conquering a number of objective spaces.

    Cover draft• Bittner and Cedotal apparently fit the Sit Down! brand perfectly as the publisher plans to release three titles from the design duo at SPIEL '19, with the 2-4 player House Flippers also being a real-time game experience. In the game, each sand timer represents a property generating periodic income, with players investing in decrepit properties to renovate them, sell them, then reinvest the profit. The game has four possible actions, with everyone playing simultaneously: cash in a rental, buy and renovate a new property, hire an expert in lucrative real estate, and grow your savings.

    • The other Bittner/Cedotal/Sit Down! production for SPIEL '19 is Palm Reader, a party game for 4-12 players. A summary:

    Palm Reader is divided into several rounds, and in each round the active player draws a card and randomly chooses one of five symbols on it. This player then draws that symbol on the palm of the person sitting to their left, while that person has their eyes closed. Go around the circle of players, receiving and tracing on palms (like Telephone). After the final player has received the tracing, reveal the card, then have all players vote on what they believe the starting symbol was. You receive as many victory points as the number of players in a row who successfully guess the symbol.

    Once everybody has been the active player once, the player scoring the most VPs wins.

    • Designer Tony Boydell of Surprised Stare Games has announced a fascinating-sounding (and -looking) release for SPIEL '19 in partnership with Frosted Games, with this game also providing a real-time playing experience. Three games in one post makes this a trend, right?

    Here's a rundown of the solitaire game Lux Aeterna, which bears a playing time of 6-12 minutes:

    Your ship has sustained massive damage, is falling apart around you, and is drifting toward the ultimate catastrophe, a black hole. You are alone.

    Your challenge in Lux Aeterna is to draw and play all of the cards in the main deck, one turn after another, without the spaceship collapsing completely or falling into the black hole. Cards have multiple functions; you will assign drawn cards to one each of these functions each turn:

    —As damage to a system (with six systems available to you);
    —As an action to help stay alive/fix the ship; or,
    —As movement toward the black hole.

    If a ship's system collapses, the game will get harder for you; if you should repair a system, then you just might avoid the ultimate doom.

    Events (called "glitches") can be seeded into the main deck to make things even more difficult, as will reducing the real time that you have to play: 12 minutes -> 10 minutes -> 8 minutes, etc.

    Read more »
  • VideoGame Overview: Bloom, or Fling Flowers Flagrantly to Flaunt Your Floriculture

    by W. Eric Martin

    Another week, another overview video for a roll-and-write game, this time focusing on Bloom from Wouter van Strien and Gamewright, with this same game design being published with different graphics and slightly different rules in Poland in 2018 under the name Bukiet from Nasza Księgarnia.

    In theory, you're trying to deliver flowers to as many customers as possible in Bloom, but in practice you don't care about satisfying the customers as much as getting rid of flowers as quickly as possible, whether or not the customer gets the flower they hoped to bring home. Your business comes first!

    Players draft dice each round to remove flowers from their individual player sheet, with the game including sheets in five different designs so that everyone starts from a different layout. You're rewarded for being the first (or second or third) to rid yourself of a particular color of flower — good for your marketing efforts, I suppose — and you also want to empty out flowerbeds (which contain multiple colors of flowers) so that you can plant them anew, although that's an outside-the-game activity that serves only to explain why you'd be rewarded for doing something in-game.

    Bloom also contains solitaire rules that function somewhat like the multiplayer rules, although you'll likely miss the "ha ha, you really wanted this die, didn't you?" moments of the regular game.


    Youtube Video Read more »
    -

    DriveThruRPG.com Newest Items

  • Reilar offroad car - Reissue
    Reilar offroad car - ReissuePublisher: Tomoko's Paper Miniatures

    3D paper models and 2D paper miniatures 28 mm for low Sci-Fi wargames. This set includes:

    1. Reilar (Army version) - Three removable modules - placeholder, machine-gun, machinegun with gunner

    2. Reilar (Androids version) - Three removable modules - placeholder, machine-gun, machinegun with gunner

    2. Reilar (Gaulada Brotherhood Corps version) - Lianra sold a certain amount of obsolete reilars to barbarian allies. Three removable modules - placeholder, machine-gun, machinegun with gunner

    3. Reilar 2D miniatures - 8 miniatures. "Lazy" version

    reilar

    reilar 2d

    Price: $4.00 Read more »
  • In the Company of Thieves
    In the Company of ThievesPublisher: Aegis Studios

    A Gritty OSR Fantasy Setting by Travis Legge

    The mortal lands are divided. A dozen kingdoms lie scattered across the world, separated by dangerous wilds filled with bandits and monsters. The bravest mortals act as adventurers, guiding travelers between the kingdoms, killing monsters to thin their numbers, and plundering ruins in search of the lost treasures of the golden age. This is the world of Odysseys & Overlords!

    AN ADVENTURE by Aaron Lopez
    FOR Odysseys & Overlords
    SUITABLE FOR 4-6 CHARACTERS OF 2ND – 3RD LEVEL

    Outside the city of Luminere lies the town of Crescent Falls, a medium-sized village of 500 residents. Crescent Falls has been relatively quiet until recently. Several rural farmsteads have had their entire family go missing leaving local authorities stymied. The small garrison of the town is already overloaded as most of the soldiers and town guard has been called to aid with a harvest festival in Luminere. The town watch only has three members left to keep the peace, so they have called on assistance from adventurers to get to the bottom of the mystery.

    The Odysseys & Overlords Player’s Guide is available at https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/275042/Odysseys--Overlords-Players-Guide

    For those of you who wish to assume the role of the Game Master, the Odysseys & Overlords Game Master's Guide is available at https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/275040/Odysseys--Overlords-Game-Masters-Guide

    For more Odysseys & Overlords visit our store page, and you can get the PATREON EXCLUSIVE adventure Cavern of the Cromags NOW by supporting Travis Legge on Patreon for as little as $1/month!

    Price: $1.00 Read more »
    -

    Gnome Stew

  • Good Society Review
    Good Society Review

    Every so often, when watching made for television movies, certain character names will pop up, and it becomes obvious that the creative team is attempting to make their version of a Jane Austin story. My wife, daughter, and I have turned this into a game, where we guess what is coming next, and end up rating the moving on how well it actually seemed to be a retelling of a Jane Austen story, versus someone that liked recycling names for their film.

    If you have ever played this game while watching made for television movies, take heart! There is no reason to play that game, when there already is a Jane Austen RPG available. Today, we’re going to look at Good Society — A Jane Austen RPG.

    The Place Setting

    This review is based on the PDF version of the product, which is 280 pages. This includes a three-page glossary and a three-page index. There are page references that exist as sidebars to the main text, as well as various illustrations and flourishes that recall Regency era decorations. One thing especially noteworthy in the artwork — while the art portrays many different Regency era scenes, from dances to picnics, the characters depicted are much more diverse than you might see in most film adaptations of Austen’s work.

    The book contains several images showing the cards that can be used with the game. It is possible to play the game just using the rulebook, but generating some of the elements that come from the cards takes a bit more setup time, and if I get this game to the table, I’m definitely investing in the physical decks.

    The cards are included as print and play PDFs with the PDF purchase of the game. There are printer friendly versions that are mainly text, and more artistically rendered versions. The characters that appear on the connection cards are as diverse as the characters seen in the various scenes in the rulebook.

    Chapter One: Overview

    Much of the information about the game as a whole is contained in this opening chapter. In addition to discussing the concept of collaborative storytelling, this chapter also explains the roles of people participating, including the differences between the players and the facilitator.

    The game can be played without a facilitator, and while that is touched on in this chapter, there are more guidelines for this style of play later in the book. It is probably fair to say that the facilitator is less like a game moderator for some games, and more like someone that is performing part of the role that the players perform in order to be free to play extra characters and help keep the game on track.

    The game has the following cycle of play:

    • Novel Chapter
    • Reputation
    • Rumor and Scandal
    • Epistolary
    • Novel Chapter
    • Reputation
    • Epistolary
    • Upkeep

    The characters primarily portray Major Characters, and those characters have a Character Role Sheet. If you have seen a game like Apocalypse World or Blades in the Dark, the concept is similar, although there aren’t any statistics used to determine success or failure. Instead, the Character Role Sheet explains what defines the character, sets up a list of actions to track for a character’s Inner Conflict, and has a list of actions to check in the Reputation phase to see if a character has gained a positive or negative aspect to their reputation.

    Characters have connections, which are played by other characters. They give out relationship cards, which define the connection between two of the player characters, and they have a secret desire, which may be kept secret from the table, although the only requirement in the game is that it is a secret from the other characters to start.

    Each character has a number of resolve tokens, including characters connected to the Major Characters, which can be spent to accomplish something they want to have happen. In addition to the resolve tokens, each player has a Monologue token, which they can play on another player to have them explain their inner monologue about a current scene.

    There are tips for what aspects of the game to emphasize for shorter games versus longer games, as well as some information on what might be helpful for an online game versus an in-person game.

    Chapter 2: Collaboration

    There is an entire section on how the group should work together to establish tone, the degree of historical accuracy, gender roles, hidden information, and topics to avoid. This section also encourages the use of an active safety tool at the table, such as the X-Card.

    Collaboration is especially important, as some of the rules involving negotiation and the Playsets require players to be able to agree on moving the narrative forward. This section also mentions that race was not a major factor in Austen’s work, but gender issues are, and that the party needs to be clear on how they are going to handle this.

    I’d argue that any people of Roma ancestry might take exception to the concept that Austen’s work was without racial component, given the scene in Emma where they are used as a threat to be run off by Frank Churchill, but I understand the concept that a deep exploration of race and ethnicity in Regency England isn’t what this game is designed to explore.

    If you have read enough of my reviews, you know I appreciate when a rulebook will just explain things like tone, and speak frankly about safety, so I appreciate this section.

    Chapter 3: Backstory

    Backstory goes into more detail on the process of setting up the Major Characters. The first step towards this is selecting a Playset, which is detailed later in the book. This is important because the various Playsets determine what Character Roles are available for play, as well as establishing what kind of story is going to be explored.

    The process for setting up the game and the characters is as follows:

    • Set up your playset
    • Choose desires
    • Form relationships
    • Choose roles and backgrounds
    • Flesh out the major characters
    • Introductions

    It is interesting to note that you will be picking your desire and establishing relationships before picking the Character Roles and Family Backgrounds. That says a lot of the importance of desires and relationships, versus other details.

    Desires sometimes have a public element, and sometimes modify your mandatory relationships, as well as instructing you to share something that is public information. Relationships define one player as the giver and one as the taker, and explain how each of those roles is expressed in the relationship.

    Because of all of this, the chapter stresses that this process should be collaborative. Given that some relationships or desires might call for potential romances to be played out, or other emotional connections, like familial bonds, it’s important that everyone agrees that they want those elements in the game.

    Characters create connections, which are affiliated characters other than the Major Characters. While they are not Major Characters, they each get their own pool of resolve tokens. The book stresses that these characters exist to be tools of the Major Characters, or to be foils. They aren’t spending these tokens to become the focus of the narrative.

    Chapter Three: Rules of Play

    This chapter goes into more detail on exactly how the resolve tokens work, how reputation is established and used, how inner conflict works (and when it should be used), inner monologues, and how connections should be used.

    Resolve tokens are used to shape the story in the direction that the character using that token wishes it to go. There are some guidelines for what requires a token to be used and what doesn’t. Taking general actions that don’t conflict with anyone else, and don’t change the current narrative are just things that you establish when the scene plays out.

    Getting private time with a love interest, or learning information about a rival, however, is a major development. If the narrative element you want to introduce into the story affects another character, you have to negotiate with them. Instead of just spending the token, the player pays the other character the token if they accept it. They may refuse, and the new element isn’t introduced into the story, or they may negotiate, and ask for additional narrative elements to happen as well as what the first player wants.

    In the Reputation phase, characters may get positive or negative tags based on what has happened in the story and their Character Roles. These tags can be spent by others like resolve tokens if the reputation has something to do with what the character wants to accomplish. If a character gets enough reputation tags, they get a reputation condition, which is in effect until they fall below their tag threshold.

    The conditions are story elements that vary based on Character Role, but might include things like being barred from visiting a certain estate, or having an especially strong bond with one of your connections.

    Inner Conflicts are noted as being used in games that will be running for multiple cycles. After the first cycle, the character determines their inner conflict, and checks off boxes beneath it when reflecting on their actions. This allows them to gain more resolve tokens, and if a character fully resolves their inner conflict, they can take an Expanded Backstory Action, which is explained in the Cycles of Play section.

    The chapter wraps up with the importance of the Monologue Token, which must be played in the Upkeep phase if it was not played before, and the role of Connections, reiterating that they are to be complications or tools, not the primary focus of the narrative.

    I am increasingly a fan of narrative currency in games, and I am very interested to see a game based entirely on narrative currency. I know this isn’t the first RPG that has done it, but I particularly like how the economies work, and how tags can be converted.

    Chapter Five: Cycles of Play

    Cycles of Play revisits the concept introduced earlier in the Overview section, and gives more details on how each section of the cycle works, and how the rules might be modified depending on how many cycles you plan on playing. It also gives the players some ideas on how to place their game, and what each cycle should be about based on how many cycles the game will go on.

    Following the steps, characters will determine what they want to see happen in the chapter, determine what type of chapter it will be, and generally outline the chapter before they start play. Example structures include events, visitations, or split scenes.

    Events revolve around big social happenings, while visitations involve characters meeting in smaller groups, and split scenes involve a novel chapter where characters start in different types of scenes that are occurring at the same time. There is a comprehensive list of suitable events in case players have a hard time coming up with a suitable idea.

    The Reputation phase is where the character looks at what they have done and what the criteria on their Character Role sheet says, and adds tags as indicated. The Rumor and Scandal phase is where players make up rumors, or chose to spread a rumor. A rumor that is spread has it’s own resolve token that can be spent when it makes sense, instead of using a player token, but a rumor that isn’t spread by the next rumor phase doesn’t have any traction.

    In upkeep, characters determine if they are keeping their desires or if the desire has been played out, and the various currencies may refresh at this time as well.

    I like clearly defined structure in games like this, but my favorite aspect of this is probably the Rumor and Scandal phase. It is a way to keep the world moving outside of the individual scenes, but the rumors aren’t necessarily started or spread by the characters, it is just the players adding their narrative input into what rumors and scandals they want in the game. It is a strong rule to pull players from the character level view of the story to the meta-level, and give them mechanical input into the world development.

    Chapter Six: Facilitator

    This section lays out the responsibilities of the facilitator, and makes it clear that while you have some ability to play connections and drive the narrative with your own resolve tokens, you are much less of a storyteller in this game than in others.

    Not unlike Apocalypse World-derived games, there are principles for the facilitator, and several lists of questions to refer to whenever the facilitator might want to help flesh out a scene or come up with more ideas for the ideal amount of detail.

    Advice is also laid out for first sessions, longer games, and short games with less than three cycles. There are tips on games with fewer players where the facilitator might play a major character as well, as well as some rules changes for games that may be run without a facilitator.

    Chapter Seven: Playsets

    Playsets define the style of story that will be used, and give more precise indications of what exact desires, relationships, roles, and family should be used in the game. For each playset, there is a different list based on the number of players, ranging from three to five, and they include an extra set as a spare, in case players want a little more choice.

    The playsets are divided into two groups.

    Tonal Playsets

    • Farce
    • Romantic Comedy
    • Drama

    Thematic Playsets

    • Romance and Love
    • Scandal and Reputation
    • Rivalry and Revenge
    • Family Matters
    • Wealth and Fortune
    • Obligations

    The chapter provides some details on what kinds of stories might develop from the different playsets, and also calls out when it might be suitable to use a given playset. For example, the Farce is noted as being a good playset for games with less than three cycles, new players, or groups that have a hard time maintaining a dramatic tone.

    For some of the playsets, there is an event that is assumed to happen after a set number of cycles to change the direction of the story, such as the death of a family member. There are also guides for what playsets have older or younger characters, or a mix of generations, and how that affects the story.

    Chapter Eight: Roleplaying in Jane Austen’s World, and Chapter Nine: Characters

    Roleplaying in Jane Austen’s World gives several major themes of the stories, as well as some of the items that players should be aware of their characters knowing about the setting.

    The Characters chapter breaks down each of the Character Roles, giving examples of characters from Austen’s novels that inspired the role, explains some key concepts associated with the role, and delves into what kind of connections they would have, and how they would view those connections.

    Chapter Ten: Knowing Austen

    This chapter is a crash course on Austen’s broad themes and setting for players that may be interested in the game, but unfamiliar with Austen’s work. It delves into where the characters live, what they do, what level of formality accompanies different events, and then moves into the more narrative aspects of Austen’s work.

    Tropes and plot twists are laid out, so that players will know what kinds of surprises and scandals they should be playing towards.

    There could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison
     The tools for playing out dramatic scenes are so strong that I think a lot of roleplayers would benefit from at least understanding the flow of the game and how it does what it does. 

    This game has so many tools to prompt a player to be proactive and shape the narrative, as well as to tools to guide the player to a logical set of actions to take. Because there aren’t randomizers in the game, the narrative currency is important, and the flow of currency between characters is a powerful tool to keep shifting the spotlight around the table. The formal structure of play gives players the ability to zoom out from their character and add in the overall details to make the world more textured, and the Rumor and Scandal phase just feels like it would be so much fun to work with.

    None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives

    If you aren’t the type of player that likes to use ancillary objects, playing without the cards seems like it would make the flow of the game a little less smooth. Even with the tools provided, some players may not like the high degree to which they are driving the narrative, or the idea that they are using a randomizer to determine success, but spending a resource that they may want to save for later. The specific setting may not be to everyone’s tastes, even if they would be interested in exploring a more drama based roleplaying game.

    Strongly Recommended — This product is exceptional, and may contain content that would interest you even if the game or genre covered is outside of your normal interests.

    I know not everyone is going to like a more drama focused RPG, and not everyone is going to be a fan of the setting, but the tools for playing out dramatic scenes are so strong that I think a lot of roleplayers would benefit from at least understanding the flow of the game and how it does what it does. I think the game has a contagious enthusiasm and energy about it.

    While the materials provided aren’t completely open, any setting where you have a wealthy class of people interacting with one another, where visitations and events are the norm, can probably be simulated rather easily. I’ve already got ideas for playing out a Downton Abbey style game, as well as doing a “behind the scenes” drama using the various noble houses of Waterdeep.

    What genres that are more dramatic than action oriented would you like to see represented in roleplaying games? What games exist already that allow you to play out those dramas? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

    Read more »
  • The Player’s Take
    The Player’s Take

    You’re new to Dungeons and Dragons, and like me, watch a lot of Critical Role (and other streaming roleplaying games) on Twitch and YouTube. The story is compelling. The comradery at the table is obvious and comforting. This is something you want to experience.

    You asked around and finally have been invited to play at your first table. This will be your first real D&D game. You’re nervous and feeling a lot of anxiety, but also excitement. How do you, the new player, make the most of your seat at the table to experience what you feel when watching Critical Role?

    Rich characters, player bonds and friendship, and first-rate table etiquette propel the narrative in the Critical Role campaign. As new players and old, we all want to find the same level of emotional meaning in our own games. We can explore the emotional impact of Critical Role and other streaming games to help us reach such lofty goals all the while managing expectations when we realize we’re not all Liam O’Brien.

    So, where do we start?

    It’s important to acknowledge what makes us happy. As fans, what we find most enjoyable from our favorite streaming show varies from person to person. We leave our Thursday’s open to watch the stream live because we want to talk to like mind people in real time. Maybe we happen to own both Critical Role art books (collector’s editions of course) because the art inspires us. Shared experiences connect us. How you choose to engage with the Critical Role community or the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game is a personal decision. Only you can decide what engagement works for you.

    First, it’s crucial to maintain perspective. It is important to differentiate between consuming content and building a shared narrative. We connect with the world building at an emotional level, but that connection that is largely passive. There’s nothing wrong with this connection, but it’s not the same investment and vulnerability required to build a collaborative experience. Engaging the hobby through streams is a generally singular experience, but the emotional impact we feel is shared with the people on the screen. They are not reacting to you, but we are reacting to them. This is a perfectly normal experience, whether you’re watching Critical Role with friends in Alpha’s chat or you’re cheering your favorite sports team at the local watering hole.

    Trusting is hard.


    Participating in the shared narrative at the table is a different experience than reacting to what you see on the screen. Making emotional connections we love so much in Critical Role takes work and trust. When one is consuming the game one’s actions or behavior are not impacting anyone but oneself.

     There’s actually a psychological term for this, “parasocial interaction
    There’s actually a psychological term for this, “parasocial interaction“. While mean of this term was first developed in the 1950s to describe the attachment of the audience a TV personality, the concept can be applied to streaming fandoms as well. We can use the new found knowledge to make our games better.

    When building the game with other players you should allow different parts of your personality to emerge and express themselves at the table. This exposure can lead to feelings of vulnerability. General feelings of anxiety can emerge. This is perfectly natural and if you have these feelings, it’s okay to step away or communicate with the DM how you’re feeling. If you think other players would be receptive, talk to them about your needs when roleplaying at the table. This will require some faith in your fellow players and trusting your vulnerability will not be used against you, but such a leap will assist in building trust at the table.

    This is crucial because trust at the table is an important component for creating a shared narrative, story-driven game. The narrative components that likely hooked you into Critical Role were generated from these feelings of trust. Without a narrative arc or a compelling story, a game of Dungeons and Dragons is nothing more than a poorly implemented tabletop tactical miniatures game. While there’s nothing wrong with such a game, this experience doesn’t have us clearing our calendars on Thursday nights for months at a time. Building these relationships will take time. Be patient.

    These relationships are important to not just finding the chemistry between characters in the game, but between the players at the table. These players will help you build your tower of storytelling. Pay attention, take notes. Try to identify the Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws of the other characters. 5th Edition is often criticized for the weak mechanical link between Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws and the game engine under the hood. This criticism is misplaced. Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws are not there to impact the mathematical aspects of D&D, but rather to remind the player of their character’s behavior. Practice using them with your own roleplaying to see if you’re giving a consistent character for others to work with.

    Be Kind.

    Generosity can also arise from what you don’t say, or don’t do. Allowing another player to have the spotlight is critical to having a harmonious table. This is often best accomplished by saying nothing. Think of it as a scene in a movie. Your character doesn’t have any lines, so you wouldn’t step in and intrude as another character has their moment. Support dramatic roleplaying by letting your silence create moments for other players to fill with something interesting and wonderful.


    Liam O’Brien is exceptionally good at this. As a professional actor, he knows when a long pause or a furrowed brow is all the commentary a scene needs from his character. Sam Riegel has a very different approach. He is skilled using humor to fill in those gaps without drawing spotlight directly to himself. His sense of comedic timing is incredibly well honed, so this works to the table’s advantage. Just as the rules in D&D are just guidelines often requiring a subjective application, so does roleplaying off another person’s performance. Learning when a moment between two people is over and the table needs to rejoin the scene takes time.

    There are differences between watching professional actors play D&D and sitting down to play around the table with ‘everyday’ people. While it is true the Critical Role table is full of professionally trained actors, their skills are learnable by everyone. Body language and posture are good non-verbal clues to the scene’s maturity. Actively working to perceive the mood and tenor or the table are _active_ processes. Start by taking your cues from the Dungeon Master. Are they locked onto a single player? Or is their gaze actively moving from player to player, searching for a spark? The Dungeon Master is probably glancing at all the players at the table to see if they are engaged, so be sure to distinguish a quick glance from an active invitation to move into the scene.

    Manage your expectations.

    All of those wonderful moments you see on Critical Role didn’t happen overnight. There were culminations of months of work. It’s easy to overlook the fact they had been playing together for a year before streaming. Even after a year of on-stream play, the strong character bonds we associate with CR’s strengths were, at best, in their formative stages. The cast spent months learning to work together, both on and off camera. While the magic happened at the table, so much work happened between games. And it didn’t all work. There were failures. A troublesome cast member was removed from the show, likely because he wasn’t working within the table, but tried instead to work on top of it. Clear adjustments and evolutions in character arcs were made by the players as grew more comfortable together, even dipping into the minefield of character romantic relationships.

    As a new player and a fan of Critical Role, which performances impact you the most? Are there any performances you don’t identify with, or understand?

     

     

    Read more »
    -

    RPGWatch Newsfeed

  • Blizzard - Presented Diablo 4 to European Employees
    GamePressure reports that Diablo 4 was presented to its European Employees. The official website of the French newspaper Le Monde has published an article on a series of layoffs at the French branch of Blizzard Entertainment. The text mentions that the company has recently organised a Diablo 4 show in Paris for some European studio workers.... Read more »
  • Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem - Content Patch 1 Trailer
    Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem content patch 1 trailer. loading... Wolcen’s Act I will offer you at least 4 hours of story and ends on an epic multi-phase boss fight. With Content Patch 1, in addition to the story mode, we're adding more skills modifiers, we double the choices on the Passive Skill Tree, many creatures have been added and more.... Read more »
    -

    Sly Flourish

  • Running Waterdeep Dragon Heist Chapter 3: Fireball

    Note: This article contains spoilers for Waterdeep Dragon Heist.

    Chapter 3 of Waterdeep Dragon Heist may be the best chapter in the book. This chapter fits well into the model of adventure design proposed in Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. It has the ultimate strong start: a fireball exploding in the street outside of Trollskull Manor. It also builds the adventure around the infiltration of a location: Gralhund Villa. These infiltration adventures give players lots of options and push us DMs to heavily improvise the reaction of the villains as the characters make their choices. In my mind, it's the ideal situation for a fantastic adventure.

    Bad Guys Have Bad Days Too

    Chapter 3 begins with a misunderstanding between two groups trying to accomplish the same thing. An agent of Raenar Neverember is bringing the Stone of Golorr to the characters. Agents of House Gralhund have been trailing the gnome and two different groups attack him at the same time. The first is the former Zhentarim assassin Urstul Floxin. The second is a nimblewright sent by the Gralhunds. If the Gralhunds had trusted Floxin to do his job, the characters might never have known that the gnome or the stone existed at all. Instead, the nimblewright screwed up and fireballed the gnome, causing a catastrophe and getting a lot of attention in Trollskull Alley.

    Bringing In the Xanathar's Thugs

    To complicate the situation we can drop in a handful of Xanathar thugs and warlocks who also happened to be tracking the gnome. Now when the fireball goes off we have a whole bunch of different groups chasing down the stone all at the same time. Floxin gets it first and flees the scene, sending in his own thugs to ward off the Xanathar thugs. That's when the characters get involved. They might track the nimblewright but Floxin is gone as is the stone. Only afterwards, when the situation has cleared up, do the characters learn that the former Zhent assassin got away with the stone.

    Tracking the Stone to Gralhund Villa

    The next part of the adventure has the characters learning about the Stone of Golorr from Raenar Neverember and hunting it down to Gralhund Villa. We might have dropped some clues about the Gralhunds already. In my game, the warehouse where Raenar Neverember was first kidnapped was actually leased by the Gralhunds as a front for the Cassalanters, the adventure's true villain in my game. This way when the characters hear about the Gralhunds, it isn't for the first time.

    The book offers some false leads that send the characters on wild goose chases but we can make life a little easier on the characters and drop in some secrets and clues that the Gralhunds are behind the theft of the stone and that it's now at their manor.

    Infiltrating Gralhund Villa

    When the characters arrive at Gralhund Villa we drop into a great infiltration adventure. We can read ahead on who is where in the villa and let the players decide how they're going to approach it. Urstul Floxin is arguing with the Gralhunds about their stupidity. If the characters overhear it, it will give them a clue that these bad guys have made some bad choices and that they're also working for someone else. It won't be their last bad choices either.

    Grandfather Gralhund, a wight, is wandering around in the villa's courtyard as he does every night while the Gralhund children are playing with matches up in their rooms.

    To complicate the situation, a band of Xanathar spies and thugs might break into the compound the same time the characters get there with the same plan to steal the stone.

    Adding a Mini-Dungeon

    The Gralhunds are former worshippers of Tiamat so we might add a shrine to Tiamat in the basement. These chambers might include an old teleportation gate that Urstul Floxin can use to escape the villa before he's confronted by the characters. This will begin the chase in chapter 4 but with a different spin: instead of a chase, the characters have to track Urstul's movements through the city to find out where he's taking the Stone of Golorr. We'll talk more about converting the chase in chapter 4 into an investigation in our next article on the Waterdeep Dragon Heist.

    Some of the Gralhund's cultist friends might be hiding down in the shrine; cultist friends the characters will have to deal with when they get down there.

    Setting the Stage for Chapter 4

    With Gralhund Villa thoroughy infiltrated, the more arcane-focused characters in the party might use some Intelligence (Arcana) checks to find out where the portal went to. This location becomes the first step in the trail followed in chapter 4. More on that in the future article. In the mean time, enjoy the investigation and the infiltration in chapter 3. Think of it as an excellent model with an interesting hook and a lot of agency for the characters to choose the path they want to take. Of all of the models of adventures, infiltrations are one of the best.

    Read more »
  • On Writing Adventures

    I've recently been doing a lot of adventure writing, the results of which you can find in the Fantastic Adventures: Ruins of the Grendleroot Kickstarter. As part of this project, I wanted to dig deep into what makes great adventures. So, as I did when writing Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, I hit the books (and the blogs) to collect as much of the best advice on adventure design that I could.

    Map from Temple of the Forgotten God, one of the adventures in Fantastic Adventures: Ruins of the Grendleroot.

    This article consolidates many of the sources I discovered and read on adventure design. In the article I describe the source and some of the key tips that stuck out to me.

    Chris Perkins on Writing Your Own Adventures. Chris has some excellent advice in this video and summary writeup. Here are a few key ideas:

    • Analyze existing adventures.
    • What motivates the characters to go on the adventure?
    • Adventures need three things: motivation, locations, and a villain.
    • Put a unique spin on a common idea.
    • Have a kickass map.
    • A little silliness is ok.

    D&D House Style Guide. This free set of documents from Wizards of the Coast includes the house styles the D&D team gives to freelancers. It includes a short paper on adventure writing. Here are a few key points:

    • Focus on the importance of the characters.
    • Include a solid credible threat.
    • Blend familiar tropes with clever twists.
    • Focus on the here and now. Omit verbose backstories.
    • Include meaningful decisions.
    • Include options for exploration, roleplaying, and combat.
    • Offer more than a DM can come up with themselves.
    • Include a great map.

    DM David on Will Doyle's Dungeon Designs. In this excellent article, David Hartlage discusses Will Doyle's advice for designing great dungeons including the Tomb of the Nine Gods in Tomb of Annihilation.

    • Show the final room first. Show the goal.
    • Cut the dungeon with a river, rift, or stairwell. Break through a linear dungeon with a feature that cuts through the whole thing.
    • Make the dungeon a puzzle.
    • Give the players goals that force exploration.
    • Give each level a distinctive theme.

    How to Write Modules that Don't Suck. This outline for a seminar at a convention by Goodman Games has a lot of fantastic advice in it. Goodman Games ended up extending it into a much longer ebook of the same title. The original is a golden summary of great ideas. Here are a few key pieces of advice:

    • Convey the fantastic.
    • Produce what home DMs can't produce.
    • Put new twists on classic ideas.
    • Include a hidden room with cool treasure.
    • Make levels distinct.
    • Include an intelligent ecology.
    • Exude atmosphere.

    Kobold's Guide to Game Design: Adventures. This book has a ton of excellent essays on writing adventures. Some of the key points include:

    • The DM is your audience. Write for them.
    • Give the DM the tools to make a fun game for players.
    • Small beats large. Keep it brief.
    • Don't bore yourself.
    • Read your work aloud.
    • Be specific.
    • You're doing the hard work DMs don't want to do.
    • If Conan doesn't care, neither should you.

    Merric Blackman's NPC Advice. Merric Blackman had some excellent NPC advice he posted to Twitter. Here are a few key ideas:

    • What do they want?
    • How do they respond to trickery, diplomacy, intimidation, or violence?
    • Present NPCs as they're intended to be used.
    • Important NPCs need more guidelines for DMs.
    • Don't force a DM to search for an NPC's information.
    • Limit the number of important NPCs.

    Wolfgang Baur's Adventure Writer Series includes a number of great articles, though they tend to focus on the third edition of D&D. The most relevant articles include Writing Your First Adventure, Structures and Plot, and Setting the Hook. Here are a few tips from these articles:

    • Avoid useless backstories.
    • Start strong.
    • Trim excess encounters.
    • Pick a motive: curiosity, survival, greed, heroism, loyalty, honor, or revenge.
    • Make hooks personal.

    Jaquaying the Dungeon. This article on the website the Alexandrian offers excellent advice for building exciting dungeons in our adventures. Here are some key concepts:

    • Include multiple entrances.
    • Include loops.
    • Include multiple level connections.
    • Offer secret and unusual paths.

    Writing With Style: An Editor's Advice for RPG Writers. This is an excellent resource from an RPG industry editor to RPG writers. There's so much good advice in this book that it is hard to summarize in a few bullet points. It's an excellent read all the way through.

    Designing Adventures Podcast Series. Shawn Merwin and Chris Sniezak have been running a series of podcasts on designing adventures. There's too many tips to list here but the podcasts are definitely worth a listen.

    Read more »