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  • Build a Colorful Cake, Track Secret DOG Agents, and Trick the Skull Queen

    by W. Eric Martin

    • Late 2024 releases from German publisher Schmidt Spiele are starting to pop up online, such as a German-language edition of Matt Leacock's Forbidden Jungle, which debuted in 2023 from Gamewright.

    • That title is due out in September 2024, along with Skull Queen, a trick-taking game from Stefan Dorra for 2-6 players. In this game, you must decide before play "whether you will win or lose tricks for every suit".

    Hmm, that's an incredibly minimal description. I imagine that you review your hand, then decide for each suit whether you'll win a trick using a card of that suit, scoring or losing points based on whether you sussed out what would happen with your hand. If that's not how this game is played, well, now you have an idea for a trick-taking game.

    One thing is for sure: This is not a new edition of Die Sieben Siegel, a.k.a. Wizard Extreme, Sluff Off!, Zing!, as the publisher has confirmed that it is not. Gameplay details will come in time.

    • Designer Johannes Schmidauer-König has previously created two DOG variants for Schmidt — DOG Royal in 2012 and Black DOG in 2016 — and 2024 will see the release of Agent DOG.

    For those not familiar with the game line, DOG is akin to Pachisi in that you want to move your tokens along a path to home as quickly as possible, with movement being controlled by card play instead of dice. You can play as individuals, but team play is recommended.

    In Agent DOG, the agents that you move around the board will go undercover and could be swapped with other agents — or become double agents, with you then aiding the enemy on their way home.

    Stau vorm Bau — roughly "Traffic Jam in Front of Construction" — is a 2-4 player game from Tanja Malinowski and Marcus Meigel that's aimed at young players, but the short description makes me curious to know more:
    The queen ant is celebrating a big birthday party, and the ants have lined up patiently at the anthill with their instruments to congratulate her.

    In Stau vorm Bau, you take turns placing ant cards in the row and, ideally, collecting points — or other players can benefit from the card you placed. Whoever has the most points at game's end wins.

    • At least four other kids games are coming from Schmidt Spiele, with Käferparade being a 1-4 player game from Kirsten Hiese:
    What a bustling scene in the flower meadow! The colorful beetles scurry around, constantly rearranging themselves. Your task cards reveal which beetles should be next to each other and which should be apart.

    One insect always hogs the camera...
    Logical thinking is essential in Käferparade as there's only one correct position for each beetle. Can you figure it out?

    Topp die Torte is a 2-4 player game for ages 6+ from Wolfgang Warsch, whose 2023 release Große kleine Edelsteine from Schmidt was nominated for the 2024 Kinderspiel des Jahres:
    Sugar, cinnamon, and a sense of proportion — you don't need much more to win the cake-topping tournament.

    In Topp die Torte, you build your cake layer by layer. Look carefully and choose the right colored cake layers. Clever placement wins you sugar cubes, which you can exchange for valuable victory points. Everyone is always involved, and the tension increases round after round. Who will top the others with their cake in the end?

    Jeff Warrender's Fabelwald is likewise a 2-4 player game for ages 6+:
    The old wizard lives in the mythical forest. As his students, you are walking through the heart of the forest when you hear his voice echoing through the trees: "I have locked your wizard towers and hidden the keys deep within the mythical forest. Whoever finds three keys first and returns to the magic tower will become my successor."

    Are you ready for the challenge of Fabelwald? Then set off on your journey!

    • Finally, Don Ullman's Ligretto Fun Run features the same goal as Ligretto — get rid of your pile of cards as quickly as possible — but you now have a discard pile on each side of the table, and you can play a card into a pile only when you're standing in front of that side.

    After only twenty-two years, someone has re-used Friedemann Friese's concept at the heart of Fische Fluppen Frikadellen...although perhaps I've missed releases akin to these. Let me know! Read more »
  • Create Alliances to Handle Talismans, and Start HeroQuest Anew

    by W. Eric Martin

    • In February 2024, Avalon Hill revealed that it would release a fifth edition of Robert Harris' Talisman under the name Talisman: The Magical Quest Game.

    This game should be available for purchase starting on July 1, 2024, and it will be followed by the expansion Talisman: Alliances – Fate Beckons, which introduces co-operative play to this edition of Talisman.

    Talisman: Alliances, which is due out on October 1, 2024, includes five trials, and to complete a trial, players need to place two Talisman on Places of Power, unseal the Portal of Power, and defeat that Trial's adversary. Once you do, you can open the included mystery box and envelope to add new gameplay elements before moving on to the next trial. This expansion has no legacy elements as nothing is destroyed or stickered during play.

    • Another expansion coming for an Avalon Hill fantasy game is HeroQuest: Jungles of Delthrak, which is due out August 1, 2024. (Hasbro Pulse states that this item will ship at the start of September 2024, but I received info from Avalon Hill in mid-June that gives the earlier release date.)

    Here's an overview of what awaits players in the sixteen included quests:
    In the dense jungle surrounding the mountains at World's Edge, an ancient dwarven civilization finds new roots. A sacred artifact prized by the dwarven refugees of Kellar's Keep has been stolen, and a blight has infected the jungle to its roots.

    As a powerful berserker or explorer hero, traverse the jungles and discover what vile secret looms beneath its canopy – before all is lost! Follow your path to unique endings through a choose-your-own adventure mechanism.

    • And speaking of HeroQuest, Avalon Hill has announced an introductory version of the game for release in 2024 — HeroQuest: First Light.

    HeroQuest: First Light is a standalone game that uses the HeroQuest game system, includes new quests, and is compatible with all HeroQuest expansions. It's intended as a jumping-on point for new players who might find the price tag of the HeroQuest core game a bit steep or who just want to sample the gameplay.

    Avalon Hill has released only bare bones information about HeroQuest: First Light, promising a full reveal of its contents at Gen Con 2024 in August, where it will be available for demo games.

    • Following the first revelation of these titles, Avalon Hill tweeted this note in response to accusations of using AI art:

    I guess this is just how we're going to do things for the next few...years(?): Claim an image was created by a machine via image prompts, then have a company deny those claims without actually settling the issue in the minds of the accusers. I mean, maybe it's just me, but regardless of how the game cover above was created, something funky is going on with the breastplate of the rightmost character, which makes it seem like not enough eyes looked at the image before it was revealed... Read more »
    - Newest Items

  • Awesome Ancestries: Galactic Species, Vol. 5 - Insectoids & Reptilians
    Publisher: Far Distant Future Publishing

    Have you played your fair share of boring characters? Never fear! Awesome Ancestries are here to provide new, intriguing possibilities for your game.

    In this installment, we look at 15 different character species introduced in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. Here we give them full conversions to the Pathfinder 1E Roleplaying Game system.

    You'll find the following species:

    • Astriapi-- bee-like insectoid (18 RP)
    • Bolida -- centipede-like insectoid (20 RP)
    • Imago Dessamar -- butterfly-like insectoid (16 RP)
    • Instar Dessamar -- caterpillar-like insectoid (16 RP)
    • Dragonkin -- Large bipedal dragon (34 RP)
    • Ghibrani -- beetle-like insectoid with two distinct heritages (12 RP)
    • Hanakan -- Small dinosaur-like reptilian (14 RP)
    • Ilthisarian -- Large serpentine reptilian with multiple snake heads (25 RP)
    • Ixtangi -- chameleon-like reptilian (17 RP)
    • Kiirinta -- moth-like fey insectoid (16 RP)
    • Loqan -- mist-dwelling reptilian with impressive neck frills (11 RP)
    • Ramiyel -- half-snake, half-woman (14 RP)
    • Telia -- turtle-like reptilian (16 RP)
    • Bloodseeker Tromlin -- carnivorous dinosaur reptilian (10 RP)
    • Hardshell Tromlin -- ceratopsian dinosaur reptilian (10 RP)


    • This supplement is for the Pathfinder 1E Roleplaying Game.
    • More information on these species can be found on the Starfinder wiki or in the Starfinder line of products.
    Awesome Ancestries: Galactic Species, Vol. 5 - Insectoids & ReptiliansPrice: $4.99 Read more »
  • Krivan: Divine Domains
    Publisher: Westbright Creations

    Hey adventurers and GMs! Ready to elevate your 5E campaign to divine heights? I'm excited to introduce my latest supplement: Divine Domains of Krivan!

    Immerse your game in the rich lore of the Krivan campaign setting with brand-new cleric domains, each tied to powerful deities. From the fiery might of the Fire Domain to the mysterious allure of the Shadow Domain, and the transformative power of the Domain of Crafts—there's something for every divine devotee!

    What’s Inside

    • Unique spells tailored to each domain
    • Exciting new abilities that bring your cleric’s deity to life
    • Notes linking these domains to the Krivan campaign world 

    Whether you're looking to inspire your allies, protect the innocent, or unleash chaos, these domains offer endless possibilities for epic adventures!

    Let the gods of Krivan guide your next adventure!

    Krivan: Divine DomainsPrice: $10.00 Read more »

    Gnome Stew

  • mp3Gnomecast 191 – Running Factions

    Join Ang, Josh, and Tomas as they talk about running factions in your campaigns. Everything from how to create them, how to connect them, and how to use them for your players.

    LINKS: Magnolia: City of Marvels

    Persona 3

    Origins Game Fair

    Read more »
  • Adventure Design: Backgrounds and Factions

    Since the opening days of my RPG life, I’ve created backgrounds for my characters. It’s just how my brain works. I love creating characters and their backstories. Don’t worry, I don’t force my GM (or fellow players) to endure reading the pages and pages of hastily-written material I’ve made for my characters. You shouldn’t do that either. Any backstory of more than a single page will end up in the “TL;DR” pile and will never come into play.

    However, I’m not here today to talk about extensive backstories for your characters. I’m here to give some advice to the GMs out there creating adventures for their group. At the start of the adventure, there is a thing called a “story hook” that I’ll be covering in more detail next month.

    Two elements of an adventure (or any ongoing campaign) that can help generate quality story hooks are backgrounds and factions. By providing a short list of options that are closely tied to your adventure setting, you can sprinkle hooks throughout the adventure to keep the PCs on track toward the end goal of confronting the adventure’s Boss.

    Most of this material may feel like Session Zero goods, but its really not. Yes, backgrounds and faction alliances (and oppositions) should be determined during Session Zero, but they must come into play throughout the adventure. Otherwise, there is no point in including them at all. The key here is to ensure everything drives the adventure forward, deepens the experience for the players, or gives them motivation to be included in the adventure’s premise.


     Backgrounds should include hooks. 

    Backgrounds come in a wide variety of flavors and styles, depending on what game you’re playing. It might be a Fate aspect. It might be a D&D 5e background. It could be a series of die rolls on Cyberpunk 2020’s lifepath system. The list goes on and on and on. I can’t possibly cover all of the distinctions here. If I try, I’ll miss your favorite game’s background system, and then the hate mail will flow in. (Or maybe not; you’re a bunch of nice people.) Instead, I’m going to approach this from a higher-level and more generic angle.

    Backgrounds should include hooks into one or more of the following aspects of the adventure. Don’t try to wrap all of these into a single background. Otherwise, it’ll just be too much and will overwhelm the player while they try to keep track of how their background impacts their character.

    • Relationship with an NPC
    • A different style of relationship with a different NPC
    • Alliance with a faction
    • Opposition to a faction
    • Investment in the story hook
    • Creation of a bond with a key location or object

    Life is better and creation is easier with examples. Here are a few:

    Mentorship – Your character is a mentor to Allela. She is interested in learning from you, is always attentive, and brings you a piece of candy during each of your teaching sessions. (Then, in the story hook, Allela goes missing while on a field trip in the nearby Duldin Forest.) (This creates a relationship with an NPC and the story hook.)

    Business Venture – Your character is attempting to get a local merchant guild, The Red Consortium, to invest in an import/export idea that you have. Garlu, the headmaster of the consortium, is reluctant, but will agree to entertain the idea if you do him a favor. (In the hook, the favor requested will be to return a family heirloom that his son lost in the recently discovered ruins in the nearby Duldin Forest.) (This ties the character to a faction, an NPC, a location, and possibly an object.)

    Forest Warden – Your character is a member of the Wardens of Duldin Forest. You tend to the forest for Duke Arglist, the local leader of the area, by reducing dangers within the forest and preventing poaching of the duke’s deer. Lately, however, the duke has become concerned with a recent discovery of ruins in the forest. He’s unsure how his royal records and maps never revealed the ruins until its discovery last month. (This ties the character to the duke, a faction, and a location within the forest.)

    As you can tell, the ruins within the Duldin Forest are probably going to be key. There is some mystery to the ruins as they were recently discovered. There a few minor hooks here, but they have yet to be fully triggered until the opening few scenes of the adventure. If you can “aim” backgrounds toward the same or similar areas, then hooking the characters (and hopefully the players) into the story will be much easier.

    As an addendum, these backgrounds are small elements of a character, not the complete story of the character. Don’t write up a character’s background for the player. Just provide some options for them to pick up and build around while they come up with their own stories about what their characters did before the adventure started.


     Not all factions require background hooks. 

    As you can see from my examples above, the factions are woven into the backgrounds. In my three examples, I made use of two different factions. You can include all of the factions into the backgrounds if you choose, but keep in mind that some of the factions may be opposition, not allies. This is easy enough to incorporate into backgrounds by simply having a faction do some wrong or misdeed to a character within the background.

    Not all factions require background hooks, though. It’s easy enough to keep some aside, or even secret from the PCs, until it’s the right moment to incorporate them. While I’m talking about secret factions, I’m going to advise you to use those sparingly. If every other faction is a “surprise reveal,” then the shock value will wear off very quickly and have the impact of yawns and boredom, not actual surprise.

    Most factions should be known to the players, even if they are not attached to or opposed against one another. There are plenty of factions in the real world that have zero impact on my life, but I’m aware that they exist. (I’m mainly thinking of the artificial construct of home owner’s associations here.) I would recommend only creating the factions that will have a direct and tangible impact on the adventure’s story flow. Give each faction a brief description, and create a “faction handout” for the players to peruse and reference. Obviously, if you have a secret faction or two, you’ll want to avoid putting those on the handout.

    Some details about factions that I like to come up with are the leaders, organizational structure, goals of the faction, why the faction wants to accomplish those goals, and identifying marks (if any) of the faction. I don’t detail the membership rank and file beyond noting how many members exist within each city, village, or key location. For the identifying marks, I break those into two categories. The first is to note how members are marked. This could be a uniform, badge, secret handshake, a tattoo, or something else to allow either the public or fellow members to know who is in the know. Secondly, how do the faction “mark their territory” to let opposing factions know to stay away or stay out?


    I hope this article helps you come up with some quality adventure-related backgrounds and factions to put to use. I touched on story hooks a little in this article, but next month, I’ll be doing a deep dive into story hooks and how to lay them in front of the players with proper bait on the hook.

    Read more »

    RPGWatch Newsfeed

  • Monster Hunter Stories - Released
    The J-RPG Monster Hunter Stories has been released on Steam: Monster Hunter Stories - Overview Trailer Read more »
  • Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance - 500,000 Copies sold
    Gematsu reports that Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance has been sold 500,000 times in three days. Thanks Couchpotato! Read more »

    Sly Flourish

  • VideoRunning Hex Crawls for D&D, 5e, or Shadowdark

    This week Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master is on sale for 30% off the hardcover and 50% off the PDF and eBook package! Don't miss it!

    I've been enjoying running a lot of Shadowdark RPG games recently, the prep of which you can watch on my Shadowdark Prep YouTube Videos channel. During this campaign we began the process of crawling hexes through the Gloaming, the setting from Cursed Scroll 1. It's a lot of fun but I wanted to refine the process for more easily running the hex crawl.

    There's many tools and processes for running hex crawls – and the whole topic is new to me. I wanted an easy and straightforward process for running hexes and here it is.

    While I put this together in consideration of my Shadowdark RPG, these thoughts and steps can be just as easily used in a 5e fantasy game like D&D.

    Planning a Hex Crawl

    Here's my abbreviated list of steps for planning out a hex crawl. When prepping a hex crawl determine

    • the planned destination, direction, distance, speed, and terrain covered.
    • the roles each character takes in the exploration.
    • the risk and danger of travel.
    • the weather.
    • the possibility of getting lost.
    • interesting monuments they might find along the way.
    • potential random encounters.
    • the expense of rations or other consumables.

    Let's look at each of these as steps for our hex crawl.

    Plan the Destination, Direction, Distance, Speed, and Terrain

    Where do you want to go? What direction will you take? How far is it in hexes and how much does each hex represent? What terrain does it cover? How fast are you going to go? How easy is it to get lost?

    We can offer meaningful choices here for the characters. Do they want the well-maintained road but run into gossipy or shady travelers more often or take the back paths and risk dangerous monsters?

    You can usually determine the answers to these questions once for the whole journey.

    Choose Character Roles

    What roles do the characters take during the hex crawl? I like the following three roles, each which results in a potential ability check. Multiple characters can take on a single role, granting advantage to the character with the highest ability bonus for the check.

    • Pathfinder. Intelligence (History) or Wisdom (Nature, Survival). Characters taking on this role help ensure the group stays on track and heads in the right direction. They reference maps and physical distinguishing features to ensure the characters don't lose their way. The harder the path they follow, the higher the DC will be. Traveling along a road or well-known path is an automatic success but can become dangerous if hostile creatures control the road.

    • Scout. Wisdom (Perception, Investigation). Characters taking on this role keep an eye out for nasty creatures and signs of recent activity (or activities yet to come). They're watching out for trouble.

    • Quartermaster. Wisdom (Nature, Survival). Characters taking on this role ensure the health and well-being of the party. They make sure food stays unspoiled, enough water stays on hand, everyone's staying well-fed and well-hydrated, and everyone's socks are clean.

    You can usually determine roles once for the whole journey.

    Determine Danger

    How dangerous is the path? In Shadowdark, the level of danger changes how often you roll for random encounters. You can do the same thing in your 5e games. The scout's job is to try to detect these dangers before they run right up and bite you.

    You can usually determine the overall threat once for the whole journey unless you're traversing different biomes where the threat of danger changes.

    Determine Weather

    What's the weather like? You can use a simple table-less system of rolling a die. The higher the result, the more extreme the weather.

    You could also come up with your own custom weather table for your particular region. The book Uncharted Journeys has a lot of outstanding examples of weather for different regions (as well as lots of other material related to making longer journeys across the land).

    Determine weather daily.

    Determine the Risk of Getting Lost

    If the characters are going off the beaten path, your pathfinder determines whether you get lost or not. Depending on how nit-picky you want to be about checks, you can roll on behalf of the pathfinder so players don't know how well they did. If they fail, you decide which direction they headed towards instead or roll for it.

    Determine the risk of loss once per hex.

    Choose Monuments

    If you want to fill in the hex with something interesting, you can drop in a monument flavored with lore from your campaign or world. Monuments are fantastic vehicles for secrets and clues and create a backdrop for any potential encounter the characters run into.

    Select monuments once per hex.

    Roll or Drop In Random Encounters

    For Shadowdark you roll random encounters based on the danger of the situation and the time taken for travel. On a 1 on a 1d6, the characters face an encounter. You might instead determine that an encounter fits well for the pacing of the game and drop it in. You'd want to roll for or determine the distance, potential detection of the characters, and behavior as well. An easy table-less way to do this is to roll for distance (the lower the roll, the closer they are) and motivation (the higher the roll, the more hostile they are).

    Even if the characters don't run into a random encounter, they might find indications of one – either one that already passed by or one coming soon. You can roll for two encounters and find the remains of the situation in which those two encounters clashed. Combining two encounters is a fun way to give the characters something to investigate without running an entire encounter.

    Shadowdark has random encounters right in the book. If you want some excellent 5e random encounters, check out A5e's Trials and Treasure.

    Determine random encounters once per hex. The more dangerous the terrain, the greater the chance based on your roll (1 on 1d6, 1-2 on 1d6, or 1-3 on 1d6).

    Expend Resources

    If you're tracking rations and other consumables, track expended resources daily. How many torches did it take to start a fire? How many rations did the characters need to eat to get a full rest? If you're looking to add resource management to your 5e games, Level Up Advanced 5e has a "supply" system for doing so.

    If your game is more heroic, high-fantasy with all your goodberries and create foods and drinks, you may not need to worry about it.

    Determine resources expended daily.

    Summarizing the Steps

    Here's a checklist for running our simplified hex crawl:

    1. Each journey – determine the destination, direction, distance, speed, and terrain.
    2. Each journey – have players select roles – pathfinder, scout, or quartermaster.
    3. Each journey or change in terrain – determine the overall danger level.
    4. Each day – determine weather.
    5. Each hex – determine the risk of getting lost.
    6. Each hex – choose or roll for a monument if desired.
    7. Each dangerous period – roll for or select a random encounter, signs of previous activity, or signs of activity yet to come.
    8. Each day – expend resources.

    More Sly Flourish Stuff

    Last week I posted a couple of YouTube videos on Reach and Run Awesome Campaign Conclusions and Vault of Memnon – Shadowdark Gloaming Session 32 Lazy GM Prep.

    Last Week's Lazy RPG Talk Show Topics

    Each week I record an episode of the Lazy RPG Talk Show (also available as a podcast) in which I talk about all things in tabletop RPGs. Here are last week's topics with time stamped links to the YouTube video:

    Patreon Questions and Answers

    Also on the Talk Show, I answer questions from Sly Flourish Patrons. Here are last week's questions and answers:

    RPG Tips

    Each week I think about what I learned in my last RPG session and write them up as RPG tips. Here are this week's tips:

    • Build a resilient group by having six full time players and two on call players. Run with as few as four and it takes five cancellations before you can’t run a game.
    • Build episodic campaigns like a tv serial so it doesn’t matter too much if a particular player can’t make it.
    • Keep lair-style adventures on hand for side quests and improvised sessions.
    • Describe, don’t define.
    • Keep passive perceptions in front of you. Tell players what their characters see.
    • Add healing potions to loot hoards generously.
    • Tie NPCs the characters saved to more important NPCs so the players can see the benefits of their actions.

    Related Articles

    Get More from Sly Flourish

    Buy Sly Flourish's Books

    Have a question or want to contact me? Check out Sly Flourish's Frequently Asked Questions.

    Read more »
  • VideoUsing the Lazy DM's Eight Steps At the Table

    This week Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master is on sale for 30% off the hardcover and 50% off the PDF and eBook package! Don't miss it!

    Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master offers eight steps for game preparation to help GMs focus on the most valuable material one can prepare to help them improvise during their game. These steps include:

    • Review the characters
    • Create a strong start
    • Outline potential scenes
    • Define secrets and clues
    • Develop fantastic locations
    • Outline important NPCs
    • Choose relevant monsters
    • Select magic item rewards

    Not all steps make sense for all games or all GMs, of course. They hopefully help GMs focus on the critical aspects we often need to run our games.

    But how do we actually use these steps at the table? Preparing them is one thing – how they manifest during the game is something else. Return discusses this topic too – and if you're having trouble, consider giving the book another read – but it doesn't focus on how we directly use these steps to run a game.

    Prepping Dishes to Cook at the Table

    I like to use the metaphor that using the eight steps during our game is like preparing ingredients ahead of time to cook at the table – like a big hibachi dinner. We don't cook the full meal and just plop it out. We have our dishes ready to improvise the meal as we go. It's not a perfect metaphor but it may help clarify that we prepare components to piece together during the game.

    Preparing to Improvise

    Often GMs prep scenes intended to be run one after the other. Each scene has all the components it needs to run like the location, NPCs, situation, monsters, and other stuff. This style doesn't lead towards the flexibility we often need when the players make a choice we didn't expect.

    The eight steps don't help you build a procedural set of scenes run one after the other. Thus, the material you prepare doesn't fit perfectly into each scene of the game. Most of the steps give you materials you can drop in at the right time. Secrets, locations, NPCs, monsters, and treasure can come up at different times depending on how the game plays out. This lack of a clear procedural matchup between the eight steps and the scenes in the game we run can be hard to understand – but it's a feature, not a bug.

    When do you typically use these steps at the table? Let's look at each step.

    Review the Characters

    This step often doesn't come into direct play at the table. Instead, this step helps you frame the rest of your prep around the characters. Reviewing the characters puts them into your mind so you can fill in secrets, NPCs, treasure and other components with direct character hooks. It helps you focus on the most important actors in the game – the characters.

    Create a Strong Start

    This step definitely has a clear place at the table. Once everyone's sitting around the table – after you've asked the players to catch everyone up on what happened last time (or you've done it yourself) – you jump into your strong start. Something happens. What is it? What can the characters do? What do they do? Make something happen and then put choices in front of the characters fast.

    Outline potential scenes

    Scenes are a catch-all for lots of different potential elements of our prep and our game. It could be a list of the five big scenes you plan to run or it could be a nest of scenes that might happen. It could be a strong start and a big catch-all like "explore Bittermold Keep". It might be a list of scenes and then three possible options you want to drop in at the end of the session.

    Because it's a catch-all, outlining scenes could be used many different ways at the table. You might review it to know where to move to next after one scene is done. You might reference the three possible options for the next steps at the end of the game. It's mostly there to help you understand the framework of the game you're going to run – not help you run it directly.

    Define Secrets and Clues

    I often get feedback asking for better definitions on where to reveal secrets and clues but the answer really is "anywhere they make sense". During play, you may have them in your mind or in front of you in your notes. When the characters explore somewhere, discover something, talk to someone, or otherwise pick up a clue – that's the time to drop them in. Think of secrets like treasure you reward the characters for doing stuff.

    Remember, you don't have to reveal all your secrets. I typically reveal half of the ten in a session. It's totally fine to only give out a few of them. Secrets serve you. You're under no obligation to use them or reveal them. They're there to help you fill in the lore of the game when it makes sense to do so. But it's still important to have enough secrets to fill in the blanks during the game. you may only give out half of your ten secrets but you don't know which half.

    Develop Fantastic Locations

    How you develop your fantastic locations and how you use them at the table depends on the kind of adventure you're going to run. A dungeon crawl with lots of rooms means you can focus on a map and add a few one- or two-word descriptions for each room. These short prompts give you something to riff off of when you're running the game. If your session focuses on a smaller number of more detailed locations, you probably want to fill them out with names and three notable features the characters can use.

    At the table, you'll have the map in hand and use it to draw out or reveal rooms for a player-focused version of the map. Using maps at the table is its own challenge. However you use maps with your players, though, you'll still want your list of locations and notable features in front of you during the game. Use these maps and notes to help you fill out the room when the characters get there.

    Outline Important NPCs

    How you use this step depends on how much help you need when running an NPC at the table. Some GMs can get away with just a name. Other people need a list of appearances, mannerisms, goals, maybe even notable quotes they might say. I think it's worth getting better at improvising NPCs since you're likely to need to do it anyway. The most important aspect of an NPC you're going to need during prep and during play is the NPC's name. It's easy to forget names and they're really important. Write them down when they come up during your prep and write down new ones when they pop up during the game itself.

    Like locations, you can reference your list of NPCs when it's time for them to step into the scene – using any of the notes you find useful to flesh them out as you describe them. During your prep, consider what you needed to run the NPC during the game and what you ignored. Now skip the stuff you ignored.

    Choose Relevant Monsters

    You'll find a trend here. How you use your list of monsters depends on the sort of game you're going to run, but most often it's a simple list of monsters you think you might need and either links to digital stat blocks or page numbers to monster stat blocks in the books you plan to run. During your prep you might also use your list of monsters to select miniatures or prepare digital tokens. A set of generic monster tokens is a fantastic aid for improvising combat encounters.

    At the table, you decide which monsters and how many monsters make sense for the situation. Then you use your list and references to look up the stat blocks and run them at the table.

    Select Treasure

    During your prep you might outline some interesting treasure and magic items the characters might find. Write down these parcels of treasure including links or page numbers where needed.

    During the game, you decide if a situation warrants the discovery of treasure and use your list to drop in the treasure that makes sense. You can split up treasure parcels if it doesn't make sense for so much money to be in one place or to pick particular magic items that suit the situation.

    Little Dishes of Flexible Prep

    The eight steps from Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master intend to help you get your hands around the most important stuff you may need during the game. They're focused on things to help you improvise during the game. You're not planning the game when preparing them. You're not building a story. You're setting up little dishes of pre-cooked food so you can improvise the meal at the table. Each of these items, and each of the lists they contain, are intended to help you quickly reference the stuff that's hard to improvise without putting in so much detail that improvisation is hindered.

    Prepare what you need to run an awesome game.

    More Sly Flourish Stuff

    Last week I posted a couple of YouTube videos on Which Prep Steps for Which Situation and Nighthaven – Shadowdark Gloaming Session 31 Lazy GM Prep.

    Last Week's Lazy RPG Talk Show Topics

    Each week I record an episode of the Lazy RPG Talk Show (also available as a podcast) in which I talk about all things in tabletop RPGs. Here are last week's topics with time stamped links to the YouTube video:

    Patreon Questions and Answers

    Also on the Talk Show, I answer questions from Sly Flourish Patrons. Here are last week's questions and answers:

    RPG Tips

    Each week I think about what I learned in my last RPG session and write them up as RPG tips. Here are this week's tips:

    • Show pictures of NPCs.
    • Tie loot to the story of the campaign.
    • Write down improvised NPC names.
    • Note new character features when they level up.
    • The smallest dungeon can have one open path and one secret path.
    • Roll for a monster's motivation.
    • Build handouts to focus both you and your players around the oncoming story.

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