Friday, August 26, 2016

GM Advice: How To Write An Adventure For Low-Level Characters




The adventure; a staple stories and legends since time immemorial. Odysseus, Hercules, Bilbo, Captain Reynolds, each had their fair share of adventure, and each has been tested to their limit by said adventures and come out on the other side better (or in Mal's case, better and bitter). That, in a sense, is the purpose of an adventure. To challenge us and make us greater than what we were before. It is no wonder that role-playing games are primarily centered around the adventures of a small group of people able to do extraordinary things.

As every adventure starts somewhere, so too does every adventurer. Today we will discuss the benefits and challenges of writing a game for low-level characters, and how to write them effectively.


Why Low-Level Games Are Awesome
As I said before, every adventurer starts somewhere. This is their starting point, and it can be a wonderful, clean experience. I use the word clean because that is what the characters are. They are clean, pure, unsullied by rigamarole of the brutal and often short life of one who engages in adventuring activities.

Common monsters are well known, but typically from stories. More obscure monsters are brand new to the eyes of these greenhorns. They aren't quite sure of their abilities, talents, or limits. They haven't been battle tested. They are really just starting from their backstory. Heck, these first levels may very well be their backstory.

The stakes are also higher here. Those hit points and saves are at their lowest. Disaster could strike at any moment. With one well-placed blow from an orc, a beloved party member could fall dead. In modern terms, "Shit be real, yo!"



Why Low-Level Games Can Be A Pain In The Ass
Let's face it, for many, low-level games can be tedious exercises in futility, and I am not just talking the players. For the GM, you have a very limited list of monsters you can enlist to harass the party (classics one and all, but still) and the characters are laughably killable. They should be strolling about with the word "Fragile" stamped on their foreheads.

Furthermore, they are very green. They have a severely limited number of spells, abilities, and techniques to draw from, so combats tend to break down into mage's casting cantrips to conserve spells just in case, divine spellcasters literally praying for the damage to soak into one idiot instead of all of them, and the melee-types casting "I hit it with a sword" over and over again.


Despite this all, though, there is a way to tweak low-level adventures so that you can maximize the survivability of the characters, give them each a chance so shine, and keep things exceedingly entertaining for everyone at the table. This is how I personally deal with low-level adventures.


First Things First; Who The Hell Are These People?!
Player characters can be powerful wizards, daring swashbucklers, and ferocious barbarians. Not how I said can be? At some point in their career, they will become these things, but everyone starts somewhere, and at these low levels, they are most likely nobodies ('most likely' refers to my next article about playing high-level characters at low levels). So ask them who they are, and by who, I mean what do they do for money?

What their job is, basically.

D&D 5th Edition does a great job of incorporating this into character creation with their backgrounds feature. Pathfinder Unchained likewise introduces some good ways of giving a little flavor into the working-class side of characters. Let's not forget, before anyone attained anything, they were just a schlub like everyone else. The wizard was someone's apprentice, the swashbuckler was probably some lowly street urchin with big dreams, and the barbarian was probably the runt of their tribe and just hit a snapping point.

Finding out who they are will make the next part easier.


Why Them?
Adventure is all about a conflict that needs to be overcome, be it slaying a dragon, surviving the wilderness, or just finding your way home. There is a problem that needs solving, and that is what the player characters are there for. But here is a wacky question for all you Game Masters out there...
Why them?

Is there some problem that the city guard, the town watch, the local militia, or any number of qualified persons can't handle? Surely there must be someone more qualified to handle the job than the wizard's clumsy apprentice, the kid that thinks they're a musketeer, and the scrawny half-orc with a chip on their shoulder.

Figuring out why these people are even close to qualified to handle a situation is (for me) the most challenging part of the adventure-writing process. Over the years I have conjured a few scenarios that are my standard go-to at these formidable levels.

  • The Job Is Demeaning As F**k
    All that glitters is not gold, and all that pays isn't always enjoyable. Money can talk, and at low levels, the desire for a little extra jingle in your coin purse can lead even the most stalwart seeker of adventure into strange and unexpected avenues.


    "Spell components don't buy themselves, kids."

    This is when a lot of would-be heroes find themselves engaging in the fast-paced, competitive world of... killing rats in the cellar of the local inn. This is practically the RPG world equivalent of working at McDonald's in high school. It's awful, the hours suck, the pay is low, but at least it's money.

    It doesn't have to be all about killing rats, though. As long as the job is something that seems beneath what the players think their characters are capable of, like mucking out the city sewers, clearing the bats of out the local temple's belfry, or chasing escaped chickens. Sometimes it can be something as simple as delivering something to the next town/neighborhood over. These may not seem like challenges, but let me assure you that something as simple as chasing chickens or killing rats can have dire consequences.

    These menial jobs often lead into...

  • Shit No One Else Knows About
    Something's afoot at the Circle K and the PCs are the only living souls that know about it. Sure, they could run back to civilization and alert more qualified folks... or they could do something about it. It's an adventure, people. They don't often gain much traction (or XP, or loot, or fame) from handing it off to their betters. This is a chance to prove themselves and take that plunge into the life of high adventure the guy from Conan was so excited about.

    Clearing out those rats from the basement might lead to a passage hidden by some boxes, that lead to an underground lair that leads to a terrible evil that leads to cash and fabulous prizes! Adventures have a flow, small beginnings lead into larger events. Events that no one knows about have some pretty large stakes. If know one knows what is coming, there will probably be a pretty high casualty rate, and the only thing standing in the way are the PCs.

    Heroes are born more of circumstance, not intention


  • Wrong Place, Wrong Time
    I lovingly refer to this scenario as the Die Hard scenario, wherein the characters are placed in an extraordinary situation just by being at the wrong place at the wrong time and the only chance for survival and or saving the day is to pit themselves against whatever dangers, no matter how deadly.


    "Yippie ki yay, motherf@#!ker."

    A few scenarios are travelers or caravan guards are ambushed, captured, or placed in a situation where the PCs are trapped in a location with enemies, like a cave in. In some cases, this scenario can remove the player's ability to 'skip' the adventure, but don't fear the cries of "railroading". The characters are free to act any way they want within the confines of that situation. When options are limited, that is when characters begin to shine.


  • There Is Literally No One Else That Can Help
    Those more qualified people we spoke of earlier? Yeah, sometimes they are not the most reliable lot. Illness, curses, large events taking their attention, or just plain 'everyone is dead' are factors that can keep the best of the best from living up to their namesake. This is when the PCs step up.

    Anything that incapacitates other helpful entities the PCs or patron could turn is an excellent way to propel the characters into the spotlight. It is quite literally the last resort. With no one else to turn to, this ragtag group of nobodies may be the only hope for salvation from... whatever the conflict might be.

  • This Time, It's Personal
    Nothing gets folks' panties in a twist like something personal. When a PC has something personal at stake, they forgo all reason and will move heaven and earth to achieve their goal, be it saving a loved one, getting revenge, or confronting a demon from their past (given the genre, sometimes it is a literal demon).

    This scenario introduces some kind of danger that hits one or more characters right where they live. They may be told by those more qualified folks we mentioned earlier to sit this one out and leave it to the professionals. This will most likely illicit a big o'le middle finger to those authority figures.

    In this scenario, you don't need to worry about 'Why Them?', because the PCs answer is often "Why not them? I mean us!'. 



"I am told it means peace among worlds"

Encounters
At some point, the PCs are going to run afoul of something, at which point it is encounter time.
However, at these low levels, "encounter time" can lead to "roll a new character time". Now, don't get me wrong, I dig the old school notion that character can, and probably will, die. But, call me crazy, there is probably a reason the players are playing these characters, and if they want to play these characters, I am not going to fault them because a couple kobolds with higher initiative flanked them to death.

Instead, I shake the very foundation of our ideals and declare that it doesn't necessarily mean a combat encounter. Encounters, like evil, comes in a variety of different flavors. It need not all be blood and gore (namely the party's). Those character sheets are packed full of all kinds of interesting things that make the character unique.


  • Skill Checks: These beauties are a blessing in disguise. These can be just as challenging as a combat encounter, but without the immediate drawback of death. The nice thing about these is that they are the most versatile of encounters, leading your players to a plethora of different challenges that allow for each individual character a chance to shine.
    The rogue, skilled as they are, can disarm and rebuild traps, pick pockets, hide items, deceive even the most watchful eye, or gain entry into places barred to others with their prodigious knack for picking locks.
    The ranger can navigate their companions through the wilderness, forage for food, and hunt for game. They can even still the rage of wild beasts.
    Mages and clerics are privy to all manner of knowledge that can help solve a variety of mysteries and allow them insight into the inner workings of the universe itself.
    Even the bard, handsome and perfect as he is (no bias here), can sway the hearts of the people and glean hidden truths from those with the tightest of lips.
    Skill checks aren't just a great way to break up combat encounters, they are also a fantastic way to keep the game interesting and give the players a challenge that doesn't necessarily swing back at them. Traps checks to keep from getting lost, stealth checks to avoid combat altogether. There are hundreds of things you could draw from just the skill section of the character sheet alone.

  • Social Encounters: There are lots of people and things in this world, and roughly 50% can be spoken to (fun fact: 67% of all figures are made up on the spot). Social encounters introduce an interesting concept, the ability to make the game easier or harder, based solely on how the player characters interact with a creature.
    From negotiating payment from a patron, haggling with a shopkeep for a lower price on that potion, terrifying some local street toughs out of mugging you, or lying to the town guard about that mysteriously burned down orphanage. There is a chance of risk or reward here that isn't easily quantified by your usual skill check.
    Personally, for these types of encounters, I like to have the characters role-play out the conversation. When it comes to a crucial point, I will have them roll the applicable skill, with bonuses added or subtracted from the roll depending on how the players composed themselves. This not only gives players something to do besides hit things, but it also encourages good role-playing.

  • Manageable Monsters: Let's face it, they're going to want to fight monsters, and you are going to want to throw them a few. You have the classic standbys at your disposal; orcs, goblins, kobolds, skeletons, zombies, etc. Each a worthy foe in its own right, but still you may desire to use monsters of a higher level. Monsters that could wreck house on a low-level party
    So let's use 'em!
    Higher level monsters can be brought down to the characters' level pretty easily. For this example, we are going to use an ogre. An ogre is a skull cracking murder machine at 1st level, able to turn even the mightiest fighter into an undulating, chunky goo with a single blow. But, it doesn't need to be that way. There are ways to lower the creature's effectiveness while still maintaining its status as a viable threat.
    In Pathfinder, there is a template at the back of the Bestiary 1 called young. It lowers creatures physical attributes while making it a bit quicker (in this instance, keep the size at large). D&D 5th edition introduced its new scaling exhaustion ranks, which go from minor pain in the ass to debilitating in short order. Applying things that lower a creature's ability to murder the party in one round doesn't just give the PCs a higher survival chance, it also gives them something they have likely never seen.
    Let's say our ogre isn't the hulking brute we are used to, but rather is emaciated. Its bones are visible, it's arms are sinuous. It is pale, gaunt, and looks half mad from starvation. How many half-starved ogres have you come across? Furthermore, why is the ogre this close to starvation? Those things will eat just about anything? Is it poisoned? Is it cursed?
    You have not only introduced a higher CR foe that they can handle, but you've also managed to weave a little plot hook in there as well. Moreso if the PCs choose to turn this into a social encounter rather than a physical one. This might even become a powerful ally once they nurse it back to health.
    For the sake of simplicity, I would not attempt this on any creature more than 2 or three CRs above the party's average. 


Low-level adventures are hard, dangerous, and fun. They epitomize what a good role-playing experience can be right down to its core. Sure, there are plenty of reasons not to slum it at level 1, but there are just as many reasons to start your story at the beginning.

 Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard


Would you like to support the bard in another way, and still get some pretty cool stuff out of it? Kick in the door to the Open Gaming Store. They have a mountain of affordable aids to help you be all the player or Game Master you can be. Just tell them Ed The Bard sent you.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 - Days 8-26: The Catch-Up Game!



Day 1: Real Dice, Dice Apps, Diceless, How Do You Prefer To 'Roll'?
Day 2: Best Game Sessions Since August 2015
Day 3: Character Moment You Are Proudest Of
Day 4: Most Impressive Thing Another's Character Did
Day 5: What Story Does Your Group Tell About Your Character? 
Day 6: Most Amazing Thing My Gaming Group Has Done For The Community
Day 7: What Aspect Of RPGs Has Had The Biggest Effect On You?

#RPGaDay keeps on trucking, but I seemed to have stopped trucking hard. In an attempt to play catch up, I offer you this multi-day-mega-blog! Next time I commit to this, I will hopefully not be moving right after Gen Con.


Day 8: Hardcover, Softcover, Digital? What Is Your Preference
While digital is the format I implement the most, and softcover is easiest to haul out, there is nothing quite like the creak and feel of a brand new hardcover book. Also, the weight. weight is good. If you run out of monsters you can hit your players with it!

ADDENDUM: Ed The Bard LLC. does not condone the use of blunt objects in a manner that could bring bodily harm to others.

Day 9: Beyond The Game, What's Involved In An Ideal Session
The ideal game is not born during the game, bur rather before it. It is the attitude of the players before they sit down, the level of excitement they have to play their characters and watch the GM's story unfold. It is in the passion of the Game Master, who loves what they are doing, loves the story, loves the characters, and knows how to make their players happy.

Day 10: Largest In-Game Suprise You Have Experienced
In the game I mentioned on Day 3, ou party had been manipulated by the scheming son of a noble. Whenever the Game Master played this NPC, he would use this lilting English accent. His hands would be limp in front of him, as the NPC had many heavy rings on every finger. As he spoke, he would move his limp-wristed hands about.

When we brought the son's actions to the noble's attention, he thanked us. Suddenly the noble began to hold his hands as the son had. His voice slipped into a lilt, and the illusion fell, revealing the son had taken over his father's place. To realize not only had we be double-crossed, but triple-crossed was a jaw-dropping experience.

Day 11: Which Gamer Most Affected The Way You Play
Pathfinder, I feel, affected the way I play more than any other system. There is such a need to have the right build to remain relevant in the game that it can be easy to lose sight of one's character. However, when I finally learned to let myself go and have more fun with the role-playing than the roll-playing, it became infinitely more fun.

 Fun is the name of the game.

Day 12: What Game Is Your Group Most Likely To Play Next? Why?
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition will most likely be the next game my group will be playing, most likely because that is the next game I am currently running.

Day 13: What Makes A Successful Campaign?
A successful campaign is the culmination of several elements. The story must be engaging and never dull, the villain should be memorable and well despised, the NPCs should likewise be memorable and useful (or at least entertaining), and the characters should fit into the world and enjoy interacting with it.

Day 14: Your Dream Team Of People You Used To Game With
Ah, the dream team. The best of the best. I have gamed with many over the years, but for my dream team of folks I used to game with would have to consist of...
Kenn: My best friend and the best GM I've ever had. Kenn put fun first and mechanics second. As a player, he was the man of 100 voices, usually slight variations of different accents.
Billy: The Game Mechanic, who has taught my more about mechanics and encounter design than he could ever know. My favorite encounter was when he nearly crushed a party of high-level mythic pathfinder characters with a dozen ratlings.
Chris: Former Iron GM World Champion, GM That Guy. If Kenn is the man of 100 voices, Chris is the man of 1,000. Chris loves his underdogs, his everyman characters, and the long-suffering nobody, and plays them to perfection.
Josh: Josh always brought a good attitude to the table, he was always helpful, never a hindrance, and always had a good character, albeit something from waaaaaaay off in left field, like a half-orc alchemist named Dr. Teef Boomblood.
Angela: I will say this about Angela; there is no one I have ever played with or run for that has played chaotic neutral quite the way she did, which was to a T.
Wayne: Why was a GM with a flare for the dramatic. He loved to pull the rug out from under you, and he was very effective at it.
Adam: Not only was Adam a great role-player, he's a fantastic artist. In fact, keep a weathered eye out for his upcoming work. Insert winkie emoticon here.

Day 15: Your Best Source Of Inspiration For RPGs
Books! Best weapons in the world! Nothing has given me more ideas and terrifying notions than a good book. Character ideas, villain ideas, setting ideas, location ideas, so many things I have done have been shamelessly ripped off from books. I love 'em!

Day 16: Historical Person You'd Like In Your Group? What Game?
The Immortal Bard (no, not me), William Shakespeare, should he have ever lived at all. I can only imagine how much work he would put into his characters, but good Gods, could you imagine him as your Game Master. It would be legendary... and then everyone dies at the end.

Whatta dick.

But honestly, for an honest to goodness answer, I have only three words for player and system; Niccolò Machiavelli, Paranoia.

'Nuff said

Day 17: What Fictional Character Would Best Fit In Your Group?
I would like to game with Kvothe from "The Kingkiller Chronicles". Personally, I would like him to both run and play. Since he enter the heart of stone, split his mind into multiple parts and keep information from himself, it would work perfectly.

Day 18: What Innovation Could RPG Groups Benefit Most From?
Two words: Communication.

Day 19: Best Way To Learn A New Game?
Personally, when I pick up a new game, I can read through the book twice,  but I get more out of it by being totally hands-on. New systems are far easier to learn playing them.

Day 20: Most Challenging But Rewarding System You Have Learned?
Pathfinder. There is so much crunch, so many nuances, and interpretation, but by golly, there is enough sustainability in its many pages to keep it ongoing forever.

Day 21: Funniest Misinterpretation Of A Rule In Your Group?
A group of six of us attempted to understand THAC0 once. Only three of us made it out of that room alive...

 ... dear Gods, I can still hear the screaming when I close my eyes.

Day 22: Supposedly Random Game Events That Keep Recurring?
Once, in a city, a character in our Exalted game crit-shit the bed. The result was that he landed in a fruit cart. Some time later, in a different city, this one overrun with the undead, another character did the same thing and blam! The same fruit cart!

Much later, we are in the frozen north, miles away from civilization. As we were trekking across the tundra, another character failed terribly... and landed in that damned fruit cart.

That fruit cart has followed us from system to system for years. It haunts us,

Day 23: Share One Of Your Best 'Worst Luck" Stories.
Klad was a prisoner in an inescapable prison; a volcanic glacier. His crime? Inciting a war. So, suffice to say, Klad had a little something going for him. He and the party did the impossible and escaped this inescapable prison, but not without drawing the attention of the guards. A high-seas pursuit ensued, and Klad and his companions ended up shipwrecked on a strange, uncharted island.

 On the island, they encountered a group of elves that worshiped a bizarre entity called "The Sleeping God". The elves did not tolerate intruders and attacked the group on site. They fled to a flying ship that was tethered down with chains. As we broke the chains, elves continued to spill onto the deck of the ship, throwing themselves at us. Wave after wave crashed into us as flying elves lobbed spells at us. Finally, a mage landed before me. I feared not this weak little mage, for I was Klad "The Unbreakable". Only hours ago I had beaten a dire shark to death with my bare hands. What could this frail elf do to me?

Phantasmal Killer.

I laughed, both in character and out. As a dwarf (in pathfinder), my saves were through the roof, and Phantasmal Killer required two saves. I turned to my fellow players with a shit-eating grin and said, "I would have to roll two ones in a row to cock this up."

I rolled a 1...




I rolled another 1...



I died...



That was when the grieving began.
Day 24: What Is The Game You Are Most Likely To Give To Others?
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. It is easy to pick up and play, it is addictively fun, and it gives me brand new players to convert. Why wouldn't I give it to them?!

Day 25: What Makes For A Good Character?
Someone entertaining, useful, life-like, and enjoyable. 

Day 26: What Hobbies Go Well With RPGs?
Arts and crafts seem to go hand in hand with RPGs. One need only look to DM Scotty's YouTube channel to see exactly how well they go together.

Like bread and butter, baby!


Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard 

I also want to extend my thanks to the folks over at the RPGBrigade for getting the ball rolling on #RPGaDay. Go check them out on their facebook page, and don't forget to register for BrigadeCon, a fully online role-playing convention that works alongside the Child's Play Charity


Would you like to support the bard in another way, and still get some pretty cool stuff out of it? Kick in the door to the Open Gaming Store. They have a mountain of affordable aids to help you be all the player or Game Master you can be. Just tell them Ed The Bard sent you.

Looking for an article? Just want to browse the archives? Wander over to my Master List, a directory of every article I've ever written, right here.


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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 - Day 7: What Aspect Of RPGs Has Had The Biggest Effecct On Me?


Day 1: Real Dice, Dice Apps, Diceless, How Do You Prefer To 'Roll'?
Day 2: Best Game Sessions Since August 2015
Day 3: Character Moment You Are Proudest Of
Day 4: Most Impressive Thing Another's Character Did
Day 5: What Story Does Your Group Tell About Your Character? 
Day 6: Most Amazing Thing My Gaming Group Has Done For The Community

A week into #RPGaDay, and on this seventh day, I am asked what aspect of RPGs has had the biggest effect on me.

For me, the biggest aspect that has helped mold my style of play and the way I run games would have to be the notion that an RPG is a collaborative storytelling experience. That is to say, RPGs are run by a Game Master, but every person at the table has a hand in how the story turns out, what it is about, and how it ends.

If you think about it, no other kind of game in the world can even come close to that kind of randomization and personal catering. It is a peak that video games may never, ever reach, and there is some comfort to be taken from that, my friends.

The idea of the shared storytelling experience was always something that entranced me from the first moment I rolled those dice. In any good story, the players have as much vested into the game as the GM. They bring their characters, the protagonists (note how I didn't say heroes) of the story, the folks whom the spotlight rests upon. Through their actions, a story is told, and not necessarily the one the Game Master intended. In a way, the story becomes self-aware and takes on a life of its own.

The best part is that you, as either the player or Game Master, can feed the story and help it grow. Evolve your character from where you started or give your players a portion of the limelight and help them explore who their characters are and what they can do.

This particular aspect has helped me to become a better Game Master. I feed the story until it becomes a massive, towering tale, like a fire, but with more witches. 

 "Too soon?"



Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard 

I also want to extend my thanks to the folks over at the RPGBrigade for getting the ball rolling on #RPGaDay. Go check them out on their facebook page, and don't forget to register for BrigadeCon, a fully online role-playing convention that works alongside the Child's Play Charity


Would you like to support the bard in another way, and still get some pretty cool stuff out of it? Kick in the door to the Open Gaming Store. They have a mountain of affordable aids to help you be all the player or Game Master you can be. Just tell them Ed The Bard sent you.

Looking for an article? Just want to browse the archives? Wander over to my Master List, a directory of every article I've ever written, right here.


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Sunday, August 14, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 - Day 6: Most Amazing Thing My Gaming Group Has Done For The Community


Day 1: Real Dice, Dice Apps, Diceless, How Do You Prefer To 'Roll'?
Day 2: Best Game Sessions Since August 2015
Day 3: Character Moment You Are Proudest Of
Day 4: Most Impressive Thing Another's Character Did
Day 5: What Story Does Your Group Tell About Your Character?

Day 6 of #RPGaDay beckons to my altruistic side and asks what the most amazing thing my gaming group has done for the community. This proves to be the toughest of the days thus far because, as a group, we really haven't done much for the community aside from keeping mentally disturbed people off the street for 5-6 hours a week and give potential serial killers a very distracting hobby.

However, individually, we are some pretty swell fellas. Some folks in the group (depending on which group we are talking about) have volunteered at soup kitchens, made steady donations to local charities, and provided community outreach in the form of RPGs (best way to keep kids off the street and away from violence is to cram them into a basement and get them to pretend to be violent). Other's work with the mentally ill, help to provide books for children who have none and all around try to be nice to everyone they meet.

I for one have (for a long time) been part of a local non-profit organization that prepared massive food and gift baskets for impoverished families in the area every Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as fundraising to provide scholarships to local, underprivileged teens about to begin college.

Together I can't say we've done much, but there is still time before the end of the year, and there are quite a few charities that would benefit from a marathon game. Extra Life and Child's Play come to mind. Perhaps I need to take my folks aside and get them into the spirit of giving.

Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard 

I also want to extend my thanks to the folks over at the RPGBrigade for getting the ball rolling on #RPGaDay. Go check them out on their facebook page, and don't forget to register for BrigadeCon, a fully online role-playing convention that works alongside the Child's Play Charity


Would you like to support the bard in another way, and still get some pretty cool stuff out of it? Kick in the door to the Open Gaming Store. They have a mountain of affordable aids to help you be all the player or Game Master you can be. Just tell them Ed The Bard sent you.

Looking for an article? Just want to browse the archives? Wander over to my Master List, a directory of every article I've ever written, right here.


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#RPGaDay - Day 5: What Story Does My Group Tell About My Character


Day 1: Real Dice, Dice Apps, Diceless, How Do You Prefer To 'Roll'?
Day 2: Best Game Sessions Since August 2015
Day 3: Character Moment You Are Proudest Of
Day 4: Most Impressive Thing Another's Character Did

Day 5 of #RPGaDay demands to know what story my group tells about my character. There are many tales, most being about NPCs I have run, but, since the wording specifically states "character", that is what you shall receive.

And surprise, it's a bard.

My first foray into 5th Edition D&D was only a couple of years ago. I had been wanting to try it out since it's release, hoping it could redeem itself from the days of 4th Edition (may we never speak of it again). In that game, I decided to venture outside my comfort zone of fighters, barbarians, and dwarves to focus on a class and race I had never played before; a half-elf bard named Roth.

I had been recently re-reading Pat Rothfus' immortal Kingkiller Chronicles (halfway through my 3rd reading of The Wise Man's Fear to be exact), and I got the notion to play a character very similar to Kvothe. He had true red hair, handsome beyond words, and was sinfully good with a lute. However, I decided to play Kvothe the way the world saw him. I was arrogant, charming, clever, and I made impossible claims. Claims that could never possibly be done.

My group would gladly tell you that I was able to live up to the hype.

We had discovered that there was a band of terrifyingly organized goblins heading to a nearby fort to burn it down. Their tactics were clever, and they seemed brutally efficient judging by the last fort they had devastated.

We marched all night and through most of the next day to get ahead of the goblins. We knew they would strike at night. We alerted the commander, a fetching human female of superb battle prowess. The warlock and I opted to scout ahead into the woods in hopes of discerning the whereabouts of the goblins. We found them, and I sent her back to inform the others, telling them that I would send a magically lit arrow to alert the men on the wall of the direction they would be coming from.

As I left the safety of my tree perch, I landed on a dry branch, alerting the goblins to the presence of someone nearby. I had used all my spells the day before and since we had not had time to rest, all I had left were cantrips. Quickly thinking I conjured the illusion of a doe bounding through the woods. The goblins believed it and went back to their preparations. I attempted a stealthy escape but stepped on another branch (rolled a 1). The goblins looked again, only to see another illusory doe bounding by.

Now they were a little suspicious, so they sent their worg riders to investigate. Knowing the jig was up, I bolted. The warg gave chase. I was fast but it was faster. I knew I couldn't outrun it. So I decided to stand and fight. With everyone on the wall watching, I charged the charging worg, stepped upon its face and used it as a springboard to launch myself up and over the goblin, drawing my bow and killing him with one well-placed shot (critical hit), before landing in a tumble behind the creature.

Suddenly the bard's outlandish claims were suddenly a little more plausible.

Roth managed to escape to the fort, and through that night we managed to defeat the goblins and save countless lives. As the commander retired to her quarters after a long and bloody night, she found a nude bard in her bed, posed just-so, inquiring "Oh, is this bed taken."

After an early morning of passion, she gifted me a lute that had been in her family for generations. A magical lute. Just another note in the long list of claims. Few shall ever forget the day Roth and his band of adventurers ran day and night to save the fort. Roth himself fought against the goblins single-handedly, survived, and took the commander as his lover, who gifted him a magic lute for his loyalty and virility. 

Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard 

I also want to extend my thanks to the folks over at the RPGBrigade for getting the ball rolling on #RPGaDay. Go check them out on their facebook page, and don't forget to register for BrigadeCon, a fully online role-playing convention that works alongside the Child's Play Charity


Would you like to support the bard in another way, and still get some pretty cool stuff out of it? Kick in the door to the Open Gaming Store. They have a mountain of affordable aids to help you be all the player or Game Master you can be. Just tell them Ed The Bard sent you.

Looking for an article? Just want to browse the archives? Wander over to my Master List, a directory of every article I've ever written, right here.


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#RPGaDay 2016 - Day 4: The Most Impressive Thing I've Seen Another Character Do


Day 1: Real Dice, Dice Apps, Diceless, How Do You Prefer To 'Roll'?
Day 2: Best Game Sessions Since August 2015
Day 3: Character Moment You Are Proudest Of

 Day 4 of #RPGaDay wants to know what the most impressive thing I've seen another character do. For me, impressive can mean a lot of things. It could be an incredible feat or achievement, a moment of severe badassery, or just a dramatic moment that cannot help but evoke a "whoa" from my powerful lips.

"So much of my authority is derived from the power right here."

But what really impresses the bard is something that cannot be captured on a character sheet or quantified with mechanics. It is good old-fashioned role-playing. And by far, the most impressive thing I have ever seen at a table was when the barbarian schooled the fighter in tactics.

We had been playing a pretty long (for us) game set in the Forgotten Realms (different than the one mentioned on Day 3). After a pretty stressful scouting encounter, my ranger returned to the party with the location of several drow who had no idea we were about to rain down the hurt. With my semi-detailed map, we went to work planning our attack.

Our fighter, who prided himself on tactics, laid out a plan that would likely get one of us killed (at the very least) and would cost us a lot of resources. It was a rough plan, but it was all we had at the moment. Then the half-orc piped up. Thokk Pig-friend Dragon-thwacker (all honorifics were earned, bought, and paid for) was not a very bright barbarian. With an intelligence that made Forrest Gump look like Stephen Hawking, Thokk was rarely consulted in much. But there was one thing the half-orc did better than any of us; fight. He knew battle the way some know the gentle caress of a lover.

Thokk appraised the plan with a "That's stupid" and proceeded to lay out one of the most simple-yet-elegant battle strategies that I have ever been privy to. It maximized our effectiveness while minimalizing our resource cost and casualty rate. It was a thing of beauty. All we could do was sit there slack-jawed, impressed beyond words that when it came to tactics Thokk has just taken the fighter to school

Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard 

I also want to extend my thanks to the folks over at the RPGBrigade for getting the ball rolling on #RPGaDay. Go check them out on their facebook page, and don't forget to register for BrigadeCon, a fully online role-playing convention that works alongside the Child's Play Charity


Would you like to support the bard in another way, and still get some pretty cool stuff out of it? Kick in the door to the Open Gaming Store. They have a mountain of affordable aids to help you be all the player or Game Master you can be. Just tell them Ed The Bard sent you.

Looking for an article? Just want to browse the archives? Wander over to my Master List, a directory of every article I've ever written, right here.


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#RPGaDay 2016 - Day 3: The Character Moment I Am Proudest Of

 

Day 1: Real Dice, Dice Apps, Diceless, How Do You Prefer To 'Roll'?
Day 2: Best Game Sessions Since August 2015

Day 3 of #RPGaDay pries into the lives of not my NPCs, but one of my own characters, and asks, "What was your proudest character moment?".

In a long and storied role-playing career, one creates an untold number characters, each with their own tales and memorable moments. It is hard to pin down a singular moment above all the others. How does one gauge such a thing? Usefulness? Badassery? Comedic value?

For me, the moment I am most proud of was when I saved the day. It has happened only once in my RPG career, but when it happened, it was beautiful.

The game was run by my best friend, Kenn, and was set in the Forgotten Realms. We were new citizens of Waterdeep, having each just come to the City of Splendors for our own reasons. I played the dwarf fighter-turned-battle rager; Grundy Thunderfist (I still love that name).

During the course of our early adventuring days in Waterdeep, we found ourselves in the employ of House Thorpe, a very wealthy and powerful noble house with its stake in the defense of the city (Lord Thorpe's oldest sons were the commanders of the city guard and city watch respectively). It was also rumored that our patron was one of the Masked Lords of Waterdeep.

We did a few odd jobs for Lord Thrope, and then came into the employ of his youngest son, Thaddius, who requested we seek parts for an artifact that had been stolen from their house generations ago. Being a young man of weak constitution, Thaddius hoped that the restoration of this artifact would earn him favor with his father.

Over the course of those early adventures, we slowly discovered that Thaddius was not entirely on the level. We discovered that the young noble had deceived us and on top of using us to gather pieces of his artifact, he also set us upon his enemies under the guise that they were assassins gunning for House Thorpe. It also didn't hurt that we found a shrine to Cyric (the God of murder and other unpleasantness) that contained some of his personal effects.

With the last piece of the artifact in hand, we sought a privet audience with Lord Thorpe to discuss his son's extracurricular activities and appeal to his righteous sense of justice. The lord was flabbergasted, but believed us, and sent his house guard to being his son before him. We trusted Lord Thorpe with the final piece, satisfied that he would keep it out of the grasp of his fiendish little offspring.

Mistakes were made.

Lord Thorpe revealed himself to be Thaddius in magical disguise. It seemed that when we were running about, he had killed his father and assumed his place both as head of the house and as a Masked Lord. He then showed us what the new, fully complete artifact could do. It was an orb that created a globe of dead magic, allowing the person holding it to cast freely.

He used it effectively.

He then called his goons in to lay a beating down on us. His goal was to have us taken alive, as that would be more insulting. Grundy made him work for it, fighting hard and bravely, until every guard in the room descended on him. Even a shade rogue running him through from behind with a rapier was hardly enough to drop the dwarf. Eventually, though, drop he did.

We all woke up on a slave ship bound for Thay (don't believe the Thay Chamber of Tourism, it is not the happiest place on Toril). Everyone was trapped in a cell. My character was treated like Hannibal Lecter, my neck was chained to the wall and my hands to the floor. They fed and watered me with a cup on a stick. What was worse was our casters couldn't do anything. Our gear was trapped in a room at the end of the hall, behind a barred door. In the center of that room was a gem set into a pedestal that rendered the entire floor of the ship into an anti-magic zone.

We were on that ship for two months. In that time everyone had been allowed on deck once a day to order to exercise with a brisk jog (The fine Red Wizards of Thay didn't want weak slaves/gladiators). I had been forbidden from this activity since the first week on the ship, where my use of the tireless feat had seen me fireman carrying a bugbear taskmaster around the upper deck because he's gotten winded. Apparently, that was a faux pas.

Since I was to be sold as a gladiator, I was supposed to be in tip-top physical shape. There is only so much one can do in a cell one hour a day. This was my last chance to see the sun. It was also my last chance to have my cell door opened. I took the opportunity that I had patiently waited two months for. With half a dozen crossbowmen's weapons trained on me, the taskmaster carefully opened my cell door and backed away slowly. Grundy shambled out, got a gleam in his eye, and bull rushed his captor.

I rolled a natural 20 on the bull rush attempt. The roll was high enough that I pushed the bugbear back 15-feet. Thankfully there was only 5-feet between him and the barred door that held our goodies. With a superior strength check, I managed to put him through the door  and into the pedestal holding the gem, breaking it. The ship's anti-magic defense fell, crossbow bolts flew, and casters that still had some spells from two months prior prepared began hurling magic. Grundy stalked into the store room, collected his magic dwarven waraxe, and made short work of the survivors.

The Dungeon Master had prepared for us to escape, but never like this. His original escape plan was to have a giant squid attack the ship, which it did eventually do. However, by the time that had happened, we had gathered up all the other slaves, cut loose a lift boat, and were rowing merrily across the Lake of Steam.

It remains to this day one of the most fun, and proudest sessions I have ever played in.

Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard 

I also want to extend my thanks to the folks over at the RPGBrigade for getting the ball rolling on #RPGaDay. Go check them out on their facebook page, and don't forget to register for BrigadeCon, a fully online role-playing convention that works alongside the Child's Play Charity


Would you like to support the bard in another way, and still get some pretty cool stuff out of it? Kick in the door to the Open Gaming Store. They have a mountain of affordable aids to help you be all the player or Game Master you can be. Just tell them Ed The Bard sent you.

Looking for an article? Just want to browse the archives? Wander over to my Master List, a directory of every article I've ever written, right here.


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