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  • Teasers for Troyes Dice, BANG!, Michael Strogoff, and More Bali

    by W. Eric Martin

    I've been focusing on publishing the game overview videos that we recorded at FIJ 2019 in Cannes, France — all 110 of them have now been published in this playlist! — and at GAMA Trade Show 2019 in Reno, Nevada — here are three to start us off! — so the regular BGG News posts have taken a back seat for the past few days. To tide you over for now, here are a tetrad of teasers for future releases:

    • Belgian publisher Pearl Games has posted another teaser image for Troyes Dice, coming later in 2019. (Here's the first image from Dec. 2018.) You can almost hear all the characters saying, "Join us inside this box. Become one with us..." No?




    • In late February 2019, Italian publisher dV Giochi posted the following BANG!-related teaser image on Facebook:




    • Since 2013, French publisher Purple Brain Creations has released nine titles in its "Tales & Games" series of children's games based on classic fables and fairy tales. In 2016 it started a parallel "Purple Brain Classics" line of games based on classic literature that's aimed at slightly older players than the "Tales & Games" line. Around the World in 80 Days was the first title in the series, followed by Oliver Twist in 2017, and now PBC has revealed the third title in this series on Facebook, this being a gilded new edition of Alberto Corral's Michael Strogoff, which Spanish publisher Devir Games released in 2017.




    White Goblin Games has announced two more expansions for Klaus-Jürgen Wrede's 2017 release Bali, with Village of Tani already having a BGG listing and Jungle of Jimbaran not having one. You'll have to use the pics below and your imagination for now.

    [twitter=1096808105634078720] Read more »
  • VideoFIJ 2019 II: Highlights from Cannes — Antoine Bauza, Tom Lehmann, Julien Delval, Claude Leroy, Namiji, Last Hope, Res Arcana, and Turbulences

    by W. Eric Martin

    On our new BGG Express YouTube channel, a channel devoted to publication of lightly edited convention coverage videos, I pushed out thirty game overview videos yesterday, with nearly all of those videos highlighting a new or upcoming game that we saw at the Festival International des Jeux in Cannes in February 2019. So many videos!

    We used to worry about flooding the regular BGG YouTube channel with these videos, overwhelming subscribers with dozens of links all at once, but that led to me spreading out their publication to such a degree that I'd still be publishing SPIEL videos in January of the following year. Now our goal is to publish quickly, link all of the videos to their respective game/designer/publisher page, then let people discover things as they will. You might not even be aware that such-and-such a game is due out in September 2019, but ideally once it does interest you, you'll find an overview video waiting for you.

    That said, I will highlight a few of the new videos now residing in the FIJ 2019 playlist — which has 88 videos so far, with 22 more to go — starting with the recently announced Namiji from Antoine Bauza and Funforge.

    Namiji features gameplay familiar to that in Tokaido: Players are traveling along a path that gives them the opportunity to stop and do something, and whoever is at the back of the pack takes the next turn. In that overarching description, the two games are identical. The details are what differ, though, and that's what Claude lays out in this overview video.

    I'm sure that some people will say that they don't need more of the same, yet that's not usually an argument people make against something like Dominion, possibly because all of the sets have components that can be mixed together, making the boxed sets feel like one game sold in multiple packages, whereas this will be two separate games (similar to Ganz schön clever and Doppelt so clever, not to mention many Carcassonne titles).

    Youtube Video



    • Bauza visited the BGG booth separately to talk a bit about Last Hope, the working title for a new edition of Ghost Stories coming from him and Repos Production. The prototype for this game was in about as basic a form as you could get — text on black and white cards — and Repos didn't want to show the game on camera, but the designer could talk about what's changing in the game, so he did. The game will have a medieval fantasy setting to differentiate it from the world of Ghost Stories, and the rules have been streamlined to remove multiple pages of details and exceptions that would trip up new players, ideally allowing you to focus solely on your impending defeat.

    Youtube Video



    Tom Lehmann's Res Arcana from Sand Castle Games debuted at FIJ 2019 and has now been released in retail outlets in France, while the U.S. release should take place in March 2019. At FIJ 2019, Lehmann and publisher Cyrille Daujean played two rounds of the game with me on camera to highlight how it plays and emphasize how I will never defeat them in this game.

    I had played Res Arcana twice in pre-production form at BGG.CON 2018, previewing the game afterward, so I had already encountered what it feels like to be thrashed by experienced players. Daujean repeated the experience on camera at FIJ, setting up a combo from the first turn while I was still trying to figure out what my cards did. We'll all get more experience with this game soon enough, though, so perhaps some day I'll be able to come in third...

    Youtube Video



    • At FIJ, we had a somewhat more open schedule than we do at shows like GAMA Trade Show, Gen Con, and SPIEL. I had scheduled more time per game to account for language issues (more on that later), and even doing that I had filled only half the schedule prior to the fair opening. Thus, I spent a lot of my time off camera visiting publisher booths to see who was interested in showing off games that we hadn't previously seen, which led to us showing dozens of prototypes of designs that won't appear in print until SPIEL '19 or even FIJ 2020. Apparently French designers and publishers love to publicly playtest games for months and months, and we got to benefit from that, although it's also caused me to create janky BGG game pages that have next to no info so that I can link the videos to them.

    Anyway, one of the benefits of having so much open time is that we didn't have to focus solely on gameplay presentation. Thus, I scheduled time with artist Julien Delval to highlight the art that he created for Res Arcana, while also talking about some of the other work he's done over the past twenty years. In retrospect, I should have been better prepared and lined up questions in advance, but that's a lesson for the next time that I have such an opportunity.

    Youtube Video



    Thomas Planete's pick-up-and-deliver game Turbulences, co-designed with Samy Maronnier, was something I spotted while walking the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, and given the elaborate nature of the prototype, I knew we wanted to put it on camera as a still photo wouldn't do it justice. Planete creates many interesting dice as well as other all-wood gaming bits, and I was glad to feature a look at this unusual game that will be heading to Kickstarter sometime in 2019.

    Youtube Video



    • One of the highlights of FIJ 2019 for me was getting to host designer Claude Leroy, creator of the fantastic abstract strategy game Gygès, to talk about the new Cosmoludo publishing line that is re-releasing some of his older titles while also bringing new games to market — or perhaps all of the titles have been previously released and we just don't have all of them in the BGG database as French-only abstract strategy games possibly don't have a huge fanbase on this site. We recorded overviews of three specific Cosmoludo titles as well, and those are among the 22 FIJ 2019 videos that remain to be published on BGG Express.

    I greatly appreciate Leroy coming on the BGG livestream to demonstrate the games. Every time we post videos that feature non-native English speakers, we see a few comments from folks offended that the companies didn't have someone "competent" in English on hand to present their game, but I am incredibly thankful for all the effort that designers and publishers make to present their games on camera. They're passionate about what they do, and often they want to be the ones who present the games. I'm happy to trade some amount of fluency for passion because while you can generally find fluency anywhere, it's hard to replicate the passion that creators have for their work, and I'm glad that we can showcase it in the convention coverage that we do.

    Youtube Video Read more »
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    DriveThruRPG.com Newest Items

  • Aberrant Codex: Aberrant Allies 5E
    Aberrant Codex: Aberrant Allies 5EPublisher: Cobalt Sages Creations

    Regardless of where you are in life, it’s always easier with a friend at
    your side. In most cases, this friend is well known and easy to get used
    to. However, in the case of those who find themselves an aberrant
    ally, nothing can be normal again.

    Strange and wholly unknowable creatures at your behest, taking an
    aberrant ally will give you an edge against any foe!

    In this book you’ll find:

    • New animal companions
    • New familiars
    • A slew of monsters for the table
    • 6 feats that show the bond between you and your companion in a way not yet seen!

    These monsters- nay, these horrors are eager to join you on your adventures. Do you risk drawing their ire by denying them?

    Price: $5.99 Read more »
  • Legendary Worlds: Polaris 7 (5E)
    Legendary Worlds: Polaris 7 (5E)Publisher: Legendary Games
    A World Hard and Cold
     

    At the farthest edge of explored space, the frozen core of an icy ball of nothing beats with raw energy and priceless tritillium, and the Corporation will stop at nothing to drain every drop to fill its coffers. Explore a desolate world with untold riches lying beneath its surface and a silent but savage war of intrigue between the rival factions that control its mining industry and the crucial operations vital to survival on an inhospitable planet. Get a detailed planetary gazetteer, brand-new feats, pharmaceuticals, magic items, and more, plus the deadly xenomorphic cryo-mantids awakened from their deep tunnels to hunt and annihilate the invaders of their homeworld. 

    The Legendary Worlds series brings you an amazing array of richly developed planets ripe for adventure no matter your game system of choice. From fantastic asteroid hives to burning foundry planets and from endless ocean worlds to dreamlands of mystery and magic, you’ll find fantastic opportunities for adventure for your heroes, with hooks to draw them in and delightfully detailed history, culture, geography, and some new surprises on every planet. You can use these in conjunction with an ongoing adventure saga like the Legendary Planet Adventure Path from Legendary Games or with any sci-fi campaign that spans the spaceways. Never fear to let your players explore what lies beyond the next stargate or hyper-jump, because with Legendary Worlds there’s always a world of adventure waiting for them! Grab this 20-page 5th Edition accessory today and Make Your Game Legendary!

    Price: $4.99 Read more »
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    Gnome Stew

  • VideoAnother Day, Another Gold Piece: 9 Unusual Historical Occupations For Your Game
    In the land of Anachronistia, researchers perfected advanced optometry many hundreds of years before other nations.

    Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

    RPGs, like great historical dramas of imaginary history, tend to focus on the grand exploits of those whose names make it into the books: kings, queens, popes, caliphs, charlatans, and generals. But those are just the faces at the front; no movement, no city, no kingdom is possible without vast armies of people holding it up. Every bite of bread in a duke’s meal passes through hundreds of hands who till, mill, transport, guard, and bake it. Every stone that falls during a castle siege was once lifted by the back of a worker history forgot. But this is fantasy, and if our stories can raise the dead in howling masses to swarm over invading armies, surely we can raise up humble heroes who maybe never became kings, but instead made a difference in their small corners of the world.

    Plus, if I read one more character backstory about a long-lost heir growing up in obscurity*, my eyes will roll so hard I might swallow them.

    Most fantasy games do a pretty good job of providing a variety of backstory options: you can be royalty, soldiers, guild merchants, entertainers and more. Often, there’s an “other” option that provides the ability to play characters with more prosaic backgrounds. Frequently, these are light on detail, and for good reason. At first blush, it’s hard to argue for playing a mud-spattered peasant hacking away in a field when you can play a cloistered wizard or swashbuckling pirate.

    With that in mind, this article is here to help you flesh out that “other” category a little bit, splitting into four main areas of lowborn adventure. The focus of this article is on games that at least somewhat model a fantastic version of semi-medieval or Renaissance Europe**. There are absolutely other games, and strong reasons to branch out beyond a teeny-tiny sliver of the world’s population when building out unbounded worlds of the imagination, but even that sliver has some depths we still haven’t plumbed in fiction and games. For instance: how did cities of tens of thousands of people handle waste without underground sewers? Read on to find out. You know you want to.

    Artists:

    Guild artisans in most games tend to focus around martially-applicable skills. Woodworking, stonemasonry, and maybe brewing. While artists may be (in fact probably are) members of guilds, a player or GM may want to focus on those specialists whose areas of expertise purely operate within the realm of the decorative. It’s tempting to write off such characters as flighty, irrelevant comic relief, but consider this: for an individual to make a living in any of these fields, they had to be at the absolute top of their artistic game, with sufficient customers to make a living—often an extravagant one. When power stemmed directly from proximity to the throne (or its delegated representative), these artists were sometimes able to wield considerable influence

    …for an individual to make a living in any of these fields, they had to be at the absolute top of their artistic game, with sufficient customers to make a living—often an extravagant one. When power stemmed directly from proximity to the throne (or its delegated representative), these artists were sometimes able to wield considerable influence…
    —Catherine de Medici’s personal perfumer, Rene le Florentin (Renato Bianco), followed her to court at France, and may have even had secret passageways between his laboratory and her quarters.

    Perfumer: of all the roles to ignore, this seems the easiest, until you consider that in order to have any kind of success with this relatively new technology, practitioners required regular access to exotic substances like musk and ambergris, in addition to laboratory facilities robust enough to extract oils from a dizzying array of other plants and even animals. Combine this with the fact that many nobles liked to have everything from their stockings to their gloves scented, a perfumer is the perfect place to start as a poisoner, or as the victim of an elaborate framing (as may very well have happened to poor Mr. Bianco).

    Clothier: Being a tailor is a demanding job for any population—people of all shapes need to wear clothes, after all. As with everything else, however, working with nobility carried greater risks and greater rewards. Like all artists in this section, a gifted tailor had direct access to the halls of power, and the ability to define tastes for a generation. Additionally, many nations had sumptuary laws that prohibited individuals from dressing above their station. Any attempt at deception in the halls of power absolutely requires, if not a professional clothier, at least someone with a keen eye for detail and access to clothing that it would otherwise be illegal to own.

    Visual Artist: Are you a visual artist? If so, cool. You can skip this section. You already get why artists are awesome and I don’t need to convince you.

    If you’re not an artist, do me a favor. Draw someone. Your best friend. Yourself. Take as long as you need. Okay. Done? Do you think you could hand this to someone and have them pick out who you drew from a lineup? Another exercise: do the same thing with an object. A building. A strange plant or an even stranger animal. Remember that (absent world-changing magic) characters in these games exist without cameras or photocopiers. In addition to the access that any successful artist has during this time to the movers and shakers in their corner of the world, a visual artist has the nearly-magical ability to reproduce sights and structures that their audience hasn’t actually seen. Consider the chaos that an artist who has witnessed a crime committed by a well-connected protagonist can create.

    Of course, this ability isn’t sorcery—it’s the result of painstaking training that can take up to thirteen years. But in the real world, it’s hard to argue with the results; works like the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the Vitruvian Man, as well as countless other visual masterpieces by artists named after mutant ninjas, speak to the power of art to speak to the human (or turtle, or rat) spirit.

    Contrary to expectation, consider giving characters with artistic backgrounds bonuses to intimidation rolls (to represent the scary amount of power they can wield by proxy) or deception rolls, representing their skill in mimicking the customs of those they spend so much time around.

    Noble Servants:

    Dunrobin Castle, Scotland. Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

    Distinct from courtiers or hangers-on, these are the people who do the actual work in a palace or estate. For every pampered nobleman or noblewoman, dozens or hundreds of people scurried invisibly in the background to ensure that arms were properly sewn on clothes, bread was baked, and candles were made. The number of servants a given noble had varied by rank, with barons having about 45, and royalty sometimes having nearly a thousand just for themselves. Some roles have more potential for adventuring than others—the more a lord or lady relies on a character, the less likely they are to be able to go dig around uninvited in a dragon’s stuff. Servants can include the usual exciting fairy-tale entries such as hunters, knights, and whipping-boys but also include such easily-overlooked roles as:

    • Valet of the Chamber: this role encompasses a number of potential duties within the palace—while it can be as menial as looking after a noble’s clothing and ensuring he or she is dressed well, this can also include work such as scheduling a lord’s time and determining whose requests make it onto the Queen’s reading list. While such valets may not have much spare time when duties called, thankfully, in the case of more important royalty, a different valet is assigned for daytime and night-time roles.
    • Stable-Keepers/Carters: If someone’s coming or going in a castle, odds are good that those who are responsible for driving and maintaining the only available methods of transit are going to know all about it.
    • Groom of the Stool: Exactly what it sounds like. This person was responsible for helping a noble in their most vulnerable state. Sure, it’s not glamorous, but no one in a castle is more likely to know the precise, gruesome details of a king’s health. More than an encyclopedic knowledge of what a given member of the aristocracy ate the day before, such individuals are very likely also…privy…to state secrets, and if someone’s looking to hide a secret affair (or the fallout from one), no one is more likely to know than the groom of the stool.

    Note that noble servants generally have the run of a castle, and can be virtually anywhere without arousing too much suspicion. They’re also the most likely to know all the ins and outs of palace intrigue, without necessarily being invested in any of it. GMs interested in creating a mechanical benefit for castle servants may consider providing a bonus to rolls for stealth within the castle or among other servants, or for knowing the deep, dark secrets of those in power. Alternately with unfettered access to treasuries, wardrobes, and other resources, careful or canny characters can supply an entire adventuring party if they’re careful to cover their tracks (or to return what they’ve “borrowed” before the next time a blue blood needs it).

    City Infrastructure:

    Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

    Even cities of just a few thousand can produce a truly prodigious amount of really gross fluid. And when you factor in the inherent squickiness Medieval or Renaissance diet, well…someone had to make the drains run on time. As anyone who has been to an outdoor festival can tell you, you can’t just take thousands of people into a field and expect everything to sort itself out. Those who are responsible for maintaining the gruesome underbelly of a city are every bit as important as those tending to the comfort of the upper classes, even (maybe especially) if those upper classes never see them.

    Gong Farmer: Let’s talk about toilets. When heeding the call of nature, if a citizen of a medieval or Renaissance city was very lucky, they may find themselves near a “house of easement” over a river that conveniently washed away the evidence. As we all know, PCs are almost never actually lucky, so why not lean in and make a character or an NPC responsible for mucking out latrines and keeping the results outside the city? To add injury to insult, in the Ancient Roman Empire, these latrines were occasionally known to host dangerous creatures or explode, and

    …if there’s anything your game needs more than a fireball spell, it’s a spontaneous fireball made of methane and decaying feces.
    if there’s anything your game needs more than a fireball spell, it’s a spontaneous fireball made of methane and decaying feces.

    Sure, the job may be gross, but it also has its upsides for PCs. Some cities (such as London) enforced a strict curfew during this time period, and not only were gong farmers allowed to be out during this time period, but they were only allowed to be out during this time period for obvious reasons. It’s hard to find a better job (or at least a better cover) for characters looking to skulk around a city at night. In the real world, gong farmers routinely succumbed to disease or even suffocation from their work, but heroes are above such concerns, and might get a bonus to resisting poisons or diseases.

    Bathhouse Management: Contrary to popular belief, bathing was a popular practice during much of the middle ages. In addition to private baths, most large cities sported public bathhouses, which were destinations in and of themselves. In England, such houses were called “stews” or “stewes” and were popular places to socialize, play games, and…do other things that one would imagine might be done in such places. Simultaneously places to get squeaky clean and to purchase some company (*cough*) these bathhouses were often owned by prominent clergy, which prevented their somewhat less-than-savory reputation from getting them closed. Additionally, they were also often professionally run by members of a guild every bit as educated and exacting as any other. Characters who run a bathhouse likely make a good living, but also have access to members of every strata of society, a great deal of privacy, and eyes everywhere. Yes, everywhere.

    Vermin Hunter: Forget rats. Give me wild freaking pigs. In the 1300s, London had so many wild pigs hunting through the garbage in the streets that they had to appoint official swine killers, paid a bounty for each pig they brought in. In a city without any centralized method of waste management, fighting vermin isn’t so much a battle as a continuous, all-out, unwinnable war against nature. Vermin hunters in an RPG have a perfect excuse to be pretty much anywhere gross creatures can be found (basically everywhere) and to lay traps, carry weapons, and drag suspicious-looking bags leaking bodily fluids through the street without anyone giving them a second glance. Consider giving characters with a background in vermin hunting bonuses to tracking and fighting creatures that share habits or anatomy with the scavengers of the city.

    Conclusion:

    High-flying games full of nobility, honorable (or dishonorable) combat, and intrigue among the upper classes are a lot of fun. But in history, there was a whole world of stories going on beneath the noses, feet, and…other body parts…of the gilded elite. These stories can intersect with and inform kingdom- and continent-spanning adventures, or can provide fodder for games that never set foot outside their home city. Even if you don’t use these character occupations for your PCs or prominent NPCs, it’s worth thinking about how those with these jobs and hundreds more made their living when the circumstances of their birth didn’t guarantee them immortality in the history books.

    So what are your favorite unusual occupations? Did I miss any that you don’t feel your game world is complete without?

    Resources:

    • The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: a laser-focused guide to England in the 1300s, this incredibly detailed guide is a romp through the history, culture, and ideas of a very specific time and place. If you can make it through the first chapter, the rest of the book is truly gripping.
    • Everyday Life Through the Ages: What can I say about this book? No, really. I have no idea what to say about this book.
    • Making Good Scents: Fragrance in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: This article by Barbara D. Diggs is an excellent overview of the topic of perfumery during this time period. Take some time to look at some of her other excellent writing too, while you’re there.
    • Medieval Jobs: A straightforward list of medieval jobs that goes a little bit further than nobleman, innkeeper, merchant, criminal. Useful for fleshing out larger lists of NPCs.

     

    *Yes, I know that it’s a popular fantasy trope stretching back to the beginnings of the genre and that the biggest authors do it, but it loses its power when your ragtag adventuring party is basically a Dark Ages version of the UN in exile. If your group enjoys those characters, go you. But maybe consider branching out?

    **If you find yourself digging through this article looking for any hint of historical inaccuracy, hooo boy are you in for a treat. I’m deliberately mashing together multiple areas and time-periods with game stuff in mind, so there’s going to be no shortage. You are very smart.

    Read more »
  • mp3VideoGnomecast #62 – Post Twitch Stream Tech Talk
    Gnome Stew's Gnomecast

     

    Join Ang, Chuck, John, and Matt for a discussion about the technology needed for presenting a gaming stream. This episode was recorded following Gnome Stew’s first actual play stream on Twitch, and if you missed the stream, you can catch the recording of “The Gnomes Do Mortzengersturm, the Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak” on the Gnome Stew YouTube channel! Will these tech gnomes be able to figure out how to avoid the stew this week?

    Special thanks to Meghan Dornbrock for the fantastic gnome character art!

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    RPGWatch Newsfeed

  • Guilds Of Delenar - Early Access Impressions
    Immanuel Can - Thoughtful Gaming shared his first impressions on how Guilds of Delenar plays so far. Guilds of Delenar will be released onto Early Access today on Steam. loading... Be the Guildmaster you were meant to be and lead your guild from a failing group of has-beens into an unstoppable force of powerful heroes that are praised by thy friends and feared by thy enemies.... Read more »
  • Sekiro - Released on Steam
    Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has been released on Steam. loading... In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice you are the "one-armed wolf", a disgraced and disfigured warrior rescued from the brink of death. Bound to protect a young lord who is the descendant of an ancient bloodline, you become the target of many vicious enemies, including the dangerous Ashina clan.... Read more »
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    Sly Flourish

  • VideoRunning Waterdeep Dragon Heist Chapter 1, A Friend In Need

    Waterdeep Dragon Heist is a different kind of adventure than other hardback adventures. This is a more focused adventure in two ways: it only takes characters up to level five and it takes place almost entirely within the city of Waterdeep. Thus, running this adventure is likewise different than other adventures. In this article, and additional articles in this series, we'll go over Waterdeep Dragon Heist chapter by chapter to look at some interesting ways to run it.

    For another in-depth guide to running Dragon Heist, check out the Powerscore Guide to Waterdeep Dragon Heist.

    In a previous article we've talked about setting up the Session Zero for Dragon Heist. Take a look at that if you haven't yet begun running this adventure.

    (Dwarven Forge Yawning Portal by Shad Ross)

    Fun in the Yawning Portal

    The adventure begins in the most popular public house in the Forgotten Realms, the Yawning Portal. The tavern gets its name from the huge gaping maw that leads hundreds of feet down to the bowels of Undermountain.

    So obviously we want this portal to come into play.

    As written, Dragon Heist has a nice strong start. The characters meet up with none other than Volotham Geddarm, the author and explorer. While they converse, a couple of factions get into a fight in the brawl before a nest of stirges and a troll come out of the gaping portal into the inn itself.

    This sets up a nice multi-stage fight in a cool environment. If you can get a hold of it, the fourth-edition D&D Halls of Undermountain included an awesome Yawning Portal poster map. That's not easy to get so you might instead grab a digital Yawning Portal map by Elven Tower and either print it as a poster or display it on a tablet. Otherwise you can draw it out on a dry-erase battle map.

    This battle is the first time we can see some of the factions come into play. You might change things up to reinforce one faction over another. For example, when running the summer scenario with the Cassalanters as the villains, you might have a devil come out of the pit. I chose a Merrigon devil summoned from the nine hells to protect the Cassalanters that, somehow, ended up coming out of the yawning portal and causing a fuss. It's a very hard monster for first level characters so help them out with some NPC buffs like magic weapon and some heals.

    The NPCs in the tavern are the first ones our characters will meet so give them some flavor and have them come back later on in the campaign.

    Level Them Up to Level 2

    Be nice at the end of this scene and level up your characters to level 2. It's earlier than the book dictates but first level can be a drag both in limited abilities and in limited hit points. First level characters can drop fast so get them to level two and let them enjoy themselves in the rest of the chapter.

    Using Waterdeep: City Encounters

    The minute the characters start heading out into Waterdeep, it's time to whip out our copy of Waterdeep: City Encounters. This excellent book, designed by Will Doyle and many of the DM's Guild Adepts has seventeen pages of random events taking place in the city streets, from accidentally getting hit with the contents of a chamber pot to finding a dead body flayed by the cult of Loviatar. This book is packed with awesome events you can roll on right during your game, twist to suit the situation, and drop it right into the story. You can get either the PDF or the print-on-demand softcover version so you can bring it right along with your copy of the main adventure. It's a wonderful accessory and I cannot recommend it enough.

    Adding the Fantastic to the Zhentarim Hideout

    Skipping ahead in the chapter we come to the infiltration of the Zhentarim hideout. There are a few ways we might tweak this encounter. First, it might not even BE a Zhentarim hideout. If we're running the summer Cassalanter-based game we might turn it into an old warehouse owned by the Gralhund family as a front for the Cassalanters. This ties in the whole idea of old money and old blood from previous aristocratic Cult of the Dragon worshipers who changed their allegiance to Asmodeus when Tiamat fell.

    To add to that, we can make the whole warehouse more exciting if we drop in a skeletal dragon in the center. This fallen dracolich might be a part of a fantastic collection by the Gralhunds that still exudes some horrid essence. When a creature first sees the skeletal dragon it must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature's saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to this effect for the next 24 hours. This can add a bit of fun to the encounter.

    You'll also want to play up the kenku's mimicry. Having them repeat phrases of the characters or speak with the voices of their previous victims can be a lot of fun. You might also replace one or two of the kenkus with hired thugs. The characters can watch the thugs arguing with the kenkus who simply repeat back whatever the thugs say. The mimicry of the kenku is one of their interesting traits, don't forget about it.

    Dealing with the Watch

    After they're through dealing with the kenkus and save Raenar Neverember, it's time for the watch to burst in. From a roleplay perspective, I like to think of Sergeant Stagat, the watch commander for the dock district, like Sergeant Dignam from the Departed. 100% raw confrontation and four letter words (keep an eye on your audience in your friendly local game shop). Good times.

    This is a good chance for a verbal confrontation that the characters can't simply fight their way out of. It's also a good time to give them a copy of the Code Legal.

    Navigating the Sewers

    Once the characters move onwards, it's into the sewers they go. There's a period of time between the characters entering the sewers and actually getting to the Xanathar hideout which you can handle in a brief description or you can drop in a fun random encounter here. I threw in two ghoulish crocodiles to foreshadow some hag fun I want to throw into my Dragon Heist game. If you have some other plot thread you're going to weave in, this is a good time to foreshadow it.

    I had a bit of trouble recognizing the transition from the gazer scene to the hideout. The text mentions a ladder that goes up into a tavern but the three-way intersection continues to lead on to the hideout. Really you just want the characters to get to the hideout.

    The Xanathar guild hideout runs well as written. Have some fun roleplaying with the goblins. This doesn't have to be a pure slaughterfest.

    As an apprentice, Grum'shar is a bit weak. I gave him about 20 hit points and that worked out pretty well.

    Returning to the Yawning Portal

    With Grum'shar dead and Floon rescued, it's time to head back to the Yawning Portal and get that sweet gold Volo promised! But it appears he's a little short and instead has a property to pass along—Trollskull Manor!

    This is a great time to print out a copy of the Trollskull deed and drop it on the table! If the characters try to muscle money out of Volo, he might use the distraction of a bunch of flying snakes and a giant bat coming out of the portal to make his daring escape.

    With the deed in hand, it's time to move on to chapter 2. We'll cover chapter 2 in a future article.

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  • VideoDM Deep Dive with Adam Koebel on Dungeon World

    Back in November 2018 I had the great pleasure to talk with Adam Koebel, a co-creator of the mind-blowing RPG Dungeon World, to talk about his game and what it meant for D&D.

    You can watch the whole interview on Youtube, watch it below, or listen to the podcast on the Don't Split the Podcast Network.

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    The rest of this article contains notes from the show.

    Three tips from Adam Koebel on running great D&D games.

    If you're a new DM and you don't feel like D&D is telling you how to run the game—you are not alone. (some people wrote a whole book about this!)

    Turn over as much of the the mechanics to your players as you can. You don't have to know all of the rules, let the players help.

    Play other games. Try out a bunch of different games (Burning Wheel, Apocalypse World, Fiasco, Microscope, Stars Without Numbers). Your D&D game will be dramatically different once you've scoped out other games. 5e gives you a big hole to fill when it comes to running the game.

    What's Good about 5e D&D?

    The D&D Starter Set is the best starter set Wizards has ever put out.

    "Fifth edition is everyone's second-favorite version of D&D." - Sage LaTorra (according to Adam).

    5e is easy to get started and easier to master the mechanical complexity.

    Where does 5e not hit the mark?

    Inspiration sucks. It feels detatched from everything else and has the same name as another ability "bardic inspiration". In groups where everyone's running really well, no one gets inspiration. If someone is shy and someone else has an Irish accent, the accent guy gets inspiration. Your players aren't kindergarden students.

    Mike uses inspiration to reward players who choose to go into danger to move the story forward.

    Where did the principles for GMs come from in Dungeon World?

    We stole it from Apocalyse World. The principles and agendas in Dungeon World are there to steer the GM and player to the style of game that Dungeon World offers.

    Pushing characters with challenging monsters and throwing monsters at the characters to look awesome are the same thing.

    Not all systems are designed for all types of games. There's not a lot of five-foot steps in Game of Thrones.

    "Be a fan of the characters" doesn't mean they get everything they want. It might mean pummling the shit out of them and watching them come back from it.

    Your job is to put characters in rough situations and letting them come out of it.

    D&D struggles with how lethal or not lethal it should be.

    On Fronts

    All of Adam's GM prep includes fronts. They're the one part of Dungeon World that Adam would like to rewrite.

    Fronts are a great way to make the game feel like a bunch of spinning plates.

    Fronts are not for every game. Not all games work well with the anxiety of fronts: "glad you finished that one thing but two other things went to shit".

    What would happen in the world if the characters didn't show up?

    What are three RPGs in the past two years one should check out.

    Adam

    Mikes:

    What does your PC look like when you have time to play.

    Adam:

    • Feisty murder lesbians
    • Assholes (who make others look good)

    Thanks to Adam for a wonderful interview!

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