Monday, December 5, 2016

10 Reasons To Sell Your Soul



As we approach the Christmas season, my thoughts drift to sugar plum fairies, snow-blanketed fields, and the joy of gift giving. They say that giving is the spirit of the holidays, and they're not wrong, whoever they are. There seems to be one gift that seems to net quite a bit of traction...

...a soul.

"For a nominal fee, of course."

Throughout mythology and literature, folklore and reality television, we are shown people who have made pacts to sell their souls in exchange for something, be it power, money, or some other unnamed thing. Whatever the case, the being making the deal with the lowly mortal usually isn't painted in a particularly positive light...

"Dude brought his own pen. He looks legit enough to me."

Despite this, the mortal in question still signs over the only real immortal part of their being. But why? Why would someone make a deal with some (typically) extraplanar entity? Anyone would be hard up to give you one compelling reason to do such a thing, but I am Ed The Bard. I'll give you ten reasons to sell your soul.

As with the majority of these things, the material found within works with just about any edition of D&D, Pathfinder, or any other system that floats your boat.


1. Revenge - Someone wronged you. Someone really wronged you. Wronged you enough to put themselves squarely in the center of your one-man-vendetta tunnel vision. Whether they killed your family, burned your village, or took the last frickin' slice of pizza, the wrongdoer must pay. The only problem is that you don't pose much of a threat in your current state. However, after a few meetings at a crossroads at midnight, a few bloodlettings, and a copious amount of paperwork, you could become a scion of destruction, raining literal hellfire down on your enemies with reckless abandon. So what if it cost you your soul? You are past caring. As the old proverb says,"One who seeks vengeance must dig two graves; one for his enemy, and the other for himself."

2. Self Preservation - You are going to die. This is it. The end of the road. Perhaps you a drowning after a terrible shipwreck. Maybe you are being burned alive at the stake over a case of mistaken identity. Mayhaps a brisk night stroll turned into a mugging gone terribly wrong in some nameless back alley, and you find yourself bleeding out onto the cobblestones, afraid and very, very alone. Death can do a lot of things but scaring someone shitless is pretty high up on the list. In those brief moments, before the reaper takes you, you might be willing to do all sorts of things. After all, bargaining is a natural stage of grieving, and if you aren't grieving your own life as it slips away you probably didn't have a whole lot going on in the first place. Imagine a barely audible whisper in the coming darkness that convincingly tells you that you don't have to die. Wouldn't you make that deal, not matter what the cost was?

3. Power - Ah, that old chestnut. Since time immemorial there is one thing the mortal races have sought with unyielding desire; power. What that power entails is largely situational, but the end result is the same. The lust for power drives people to do some pretty extreme things, up to and including extortion, murder, or full-on war. Lives are ruined, enemies are defeated, and in the end power is the reward. Maybe it's the power to defeat a foe you don't have the strength to take on or the power that comes from having your own kingdom (cut from the hand of the previous ruler is optional). With all the things folks will do for a boost in power, selling one's soul seems kind of par for the course. After all, in the end, haven't they done that already.

4. Love - It was either Socrates or Meatloaf that said "I would do anything for love", and as a bard and one with an appreciation for fine poetry, I am inclined to agree. Love, perhaps more than power, has cause people to do some pretty radical things. If you are willing to bleed for someone, or even die for someone, would you be willing to sell your soul for someone (Note: Do not answer this question honestly with your significant other present unless you find couches comfortable)? The strange thing about love is that it works in all kinds of wacky ways. Maybe you are selling your immortal soul to save someone you love in an act of ultimate sacrifice. Perhaps you are giving your soul freely to your dark patron because they are the one you love. But just remember, love can be fleeting, but deals with succubi are a little more permanent.

5. Poor Understanding - Sometimes the buy and trade of souls might not be entirely on the level. Imagine that; a creature from another plane that buys souls might not be on the up-and-up. Occasionally the transfer of soul for nifty abilities glazes over a few important bits of information, like who has your soul, what they intend to do with it, and for how long. Sometimes folks forget to read the fine print on these deals or get tripped up on the wording so they might not be entirely sure what they are getting into when they make the deal. This is why Ed The Bard suggests attaining a degree in pre-law (at a minimum) before entering into contract negotiations for your soul, or at the very least have your lawyer present.

6. Momentary Need - Sometimes you need a big charge of juice very suddenly, so you make a few deals with some disembodied voices in exchange for something that will get you out of a jam, like being able to blow a hole through a wall before the room you are in fills with water, or if you really need to open a pickle jar. At the time it seems like a good idea, but the long-term effects might be (and usually are) far more than you bargained for.

7. Knowledge - There are secrets, dark and dangerous, that must be learned at any cost. Just ask Faust. These unspeakable truths and earth shattering revelations are often just out of reach, and in exchange for your puny soul, nameless things will teach you nameless rites to be performed in nameless places, far off and remote. The reward for which is knowledge. But, as they say, ignorance is sometimes bliss. Some things you just don't want to know, because knowing a thing could cost you more than just your soul, it can cost you your sanity as well. Lovecraftian horrors are more than willing to bargain with eager investigators, but the end result is often less fulfilling than originally intended. Also, there is a 35% chance you could end up resembling seafood.

"It ain't easy being green..."



8. Pawn Star - Selling your soul is a pretty long-term commitment. Eternal, even. It isn't something someone should enter into lightly. But what if you could sell if in exchange for something over a short period of time, and then, should you complete the task in the appropriate amount of time, you can reclaim the soul and turn your newfound powers back in. In this instance, the act of exchanging one's soul is the equivalent of going to an infernal pawnbroker. The fiend in question will give you what you want, as well as a bit of a task to complete as payment. Should you complete the task within the set parameters (as well as whatever business you sold your soul for in the first place) you are golden. However, savvy folks that buy and trade souls will make the task either very difficult, almost impossible, or will throw a few roadblocks in the way to keep it from being completed on time. When dealing with devils, demons, and fey, it is important to remember that they are always attempting to fuck you over. Still, it could be worth the risk...

9. You're Not Bargaining With YOUR Soul - Anyone can sell their own soul. I mean, there it is, resting comfortably in your body. But ask any lich worth his salt and they will tell you that the real money is in brokering other people's souls. The types of fiends that make dark pacts such of these are rarely surprised at the depths mortals will stoop to attain what they desire, but imagine their surprise when you come strolling in with an alternative deal that could be twice as lucrative to them. For instance, promising not one but 100 souls could be a rather enticing deal. Remember, fiends often work on commission for this stuff. You go in promising that every person you murder in your pursuit of adventure counts as a sacrifice, and the powers that be evil will no doubt supercharge you to hell and back, both figuratively and very literally. However, if you wish to be a supreme asshole, you can broker in souls that aren't even around yet. Yes, I am talking about selling the souls of your unborn children and grandchildren unto whatever generation you feel makes you less of a literal monster.

10. Destiny - Destiny is a dick. It can be sprung upon you through omens, portents, sooth-sayings, prophecies, or any number of cryptic methods fate uses to remind you that you are its bitch. Whatever the case, you were foretold by some very reliable people to have a major part to play in an upcoming conflict, be it the ultimate battle of good vs evil or some other equally hefty endeavor. Problem is that you are nobody of any real import. You're no warrior, wizard, thief, or priest. You could just be a regular joe with the weight of the world flung upon your shoulders. When faced with an overwhelming destiny you have two options; run or act. Sometimes acting means sacrificing yourself for the greater good (or evil, not judging). Sell your soul, and save (or destroy) the world. Would you give it all up to protect your friends, loved ones, and/or enemies?


There we are, 10 reasons one might sell their sweet, salty soul.

Now, typically Warlocks are the folks that are biggest proponents for soul-selling. I mean, come on! They're practically begging for it! But one need not be a warlock to reap the benefits of fiendish exchange. A weakling with dreams of being a powerful warrior may sell their soul to become a proficient fighter to protect their village from invaders, gaining all the muscle and skill that goes with it. A wizard's apprentice, sick of always having to endure his master's belittling comments might summon something awful from one of his locked books to grant him an equal measure of power in an attempt to gain respect. A lost woodsman, starving in the forest, might beseech an archfey for aid, and find they have been wholly transformed into a druid.

The sky is the limit for you soul-sellers out there. I should know. How do you think I became such a fabulous bard?

 Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard 

Do you like what you've read? Would you like to see more from Ed The Bard on a regular basis? Then hop on over to my Patreon page and pledge your support. For pennies a day you can get early access to new articles, help choose the next topics I write about, get sneak peeks into upcoming projects, and more! All by becoming my illustrious patron!



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.

The holidays are here, and shopping can be a drag, especially if you are shopping on a budget. But what if you could give a great gift this holiday season for the price of a crappy, fast food cheeseburger? Behold, Ed The Bard's first published adventure!

http://www.dmsguild.com/product/173952/The-Mines-of-Dhol-Kuldhir?term=the+mines&test_epoch=0
The Mines of Dhol Kuldhir, a D&D 5E adventure for first level characters, available now on the Dungeon Masters Guild for only $1.00! Give your friends the gift that keeps on giving; a plethora of potential TPKs.

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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Monday, November 28, 2016

The Bardic Review: Volo's Guide To Monsters





Dungeons & Dragons, or D&D as the kids these days are saying, has made one thing very clear since introducing in 2014; they are no longer interested in "Book Bloat". Book Bloat is the seemingly endless push to release at least one new book each month. That sort of strain can tax the creative element, forcing the designers to conjure up new adventures, monsters, classes, etc., all while attempting to meet strict deadlines.

At that pace, even with a good creative team, some sub-par products can, and most likely will, make it out into the wider world. 3rd Edition (as well as 3.5) suffered greatly from this, totaling 68 separate books between 2001 and 2007. These didn't include modules. These were all sourcebooks. While there were several great ideas in this sea of books, such as the warlock character class, there were just as many bad ideas, broken ideas, and just plain weird ideas...

...looking at you Urban Druid

"More like Hipster Druid. Oh, you and your animal companion live in a forest? Way to be mainstream."


5th Edition, in its two-year run (at the time of writing this), has released five total sourcebooks (Not including adventures and fun, strange little books like Dungeonology). The fifth of these releases is Volo's Guide To Monsters, a revisit to the old "Volo's Guide" series that some of you grognards might remember.

Overview
On the surface,Volo's Guide To Monsters appears to be just another Monster Manual, and while that is somewhat true, it is so much more than that. While the first Monster Manual was excellent at giving up a plethora stats and descriptions of creatures to murder your PCs with, it left a lot to be desired when it came to discussing the motivations, ecology, and the full range of abilities said monsters possess. Sure, they covered dragons, demons, devils, liches and what not in good detail, but Volo's takes it a step further and really fleshes out several many of the iconic D&D monsters, like beholders, mind flayers, the yuan-ti, as well as classic monsters like hags and the always grumpy orc.

But fear not, a goodly amount of monster have been added for your character-crushing pleasure. Entries that felt like they were missing from the already jam-packed Monster Manual. There is enough variation within the pages to keep your players busy for some time, and enough offshoots from classic monsters there to keep themed encounter from growing stale with repetition.


The Bard's Thoughts
There are laws here in the United States that keep grown men from entering into a monogamous, legally-binding relationship with inanimate objects. That being said, if the laws of the land weren't against me (and if my fiance' wasn't sure to pummel me in my sleep) I would marry the hell out of this book.

I love this book.

I love it the way any man or woman has ever loved any man or woman. I love it the way Tesla loved his laser-eyed pigeon. This book contains everything I ever wanted from a monster guide and more. In a world were monster guides are a dime a dozen, Wizards RPG Team has raised the bar and delivered something lovingly crafted that appeases not only the Game Master but the players as well. There is something for everyone here.



What Worked
The very first section of the book is a delightfully detailed account of the motivations of various monsters. Moreover though are tips on how to role-play them at your table. Better yet they contain the Personality Traits, Bonds, Ideals, and Flaws that I loved from the 5th Edition PHB, giving you a wide variety of ways to make the monster unique and not just another set of stat blocks from the Monster Manual.

Furthermore is the detailed descriptions on how the typical lair of each of these creatures is set up. The section on beholder lairs makes the mind reel from the possibilities of a legendary dungeon crawl or an excellent backdrop for some tense negotiations.

 "The beholder uses it's diplomacy ray. You take 8d8 of reasonable argument damage."

What really sets Volo's apart though is the inclusion of new playable races, most of which are monstrous. Orcs, goblins, and kobolds are all represented here, as are more powerful races like lizardfolk, hobgoblins, and firbolgs. While the power creep might put off some players, just remember that in most games, society isn't very accepting of what basically equates to monsters and will react as such.

 "Volo? Yolo!"

Of these new races, one of the stand-out stars is the new and improved aasimar, which comes in three delicious flavors; holy-roller, heavenly badass, or fallen angel. I've always felt rather meh when it has come to the aasimar I've always felt rather meh, but now it seems that Wizards has tweaked the flavor just enough to have me salivating to play an ass-kicking paladin.

"You just had a religious experience."

If you want something more in depth about the copious amount of new content available to players, check out this handy flowchart, courtesy of JWC, that helps you figure out what you're looking for.

Furthermore, the new monsters introduced this time around are magnificent, running the gambit from terrifying to absurd. The power levels for these new creatures are all over the place, giving the Game Master plenty of options to challenge their players from levels 1-20, as well as giving low-level characters a means of getting a taste of higher level foes, like the beholder-kin.

Also, a beholder-esque familiar? Thank you, Wizards RPG Team, for giving me something I never knew I wanted, and wonder how I could have lived without.

"I can disintegratez you?"


One of my personal favorite sections of this book can be found in the back and continues the tradition started by Paizo's Gamemastery Guide and included in D&D's Monster Manual; a section for NPCs. In this case, they cover each class from the PHB, building a fiction set of stats for each path. Need a fast necromancer? A battle master fighter? How about a warlock with the great old one pact? Volo's has you covered, vastly reducing the prep time of rolling up brand new NPCs.


What Didn't Work
Despite this book being near perfect, there is still one thing that brought me great sadness. The book is so short. Well, it is about the same size as any other D&D sourcebook, but there was so much to enjoy within the pages that it was difficult to put down, and before I knew it, it was over. It fills you with a sort of despair, an unshakable cosmic hideousness that cannot be quelled... until you trace back through the book and read it again.


How Did It Fare?
Volo's Guide To Monsters is deceptively jam-packed with unique monsters, tons of new playable races, a host of new NPC options, and more information on classic monsters than you knew was possible. It is worth every penny, and with the holidays here it is the perfect gift for the Game Master in your book.

Perfect layout, great art, and variety galore. The Bard gives Volo's Guide To Monsters...

...5 Lutes out of 5!


If you have a product you would like reviewed, contact me on the official Ed The Bard facebook page here. Until then...

 Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard 

Do you like what you've read? Would you like to see more from Ed The Bard on a regular basis? Then hop on over to my Patreon page and pledge your support. For pennies a day you can get early access to new articles, help choose the next topics I write about, get sneak peeks into upcoming projects, and more! All by becoming my illustrious patron!



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.

The holidays are here, and shopping can be a drag, especially if you are shopping on a budget. But what if you could give a great gift this holiday season for the price of a crappy, fast food cheeseburger? Behold, Ed The Bard's first published adventure!
http://www.dmsguild.com/product/173952/The-Mines-of-Dhol-Kuldhir?term=the+mines&test_epoch=0
The Mines of Dhol Kuldhir, a D&D 5E adventure for first level characters, available now on the Dungeon Masters Guild for only $1.00! Give your friends the gift that keeps on giving; a plethora of potential TPKs.

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.


Want to stay up to date with The Bard? Follow me on...
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Thursday, October 20, 2016

10 Side-Effects From Resurrections



Death becomes us. It is the undeniable, inescapable inevitability of the universe. That is unless you are a divine spellcaster with the raise dead spell. Then to hell with the reaper! Get some of that bling and start raisin' homies from the grave!

"And the good lord said, 'Get your ass up, we got shit to kill!'"

And that is the beauty of magic, isn't it? Being able to bend the laws of the universe with zero repercussions. Why would there be? You're only snatching a soul from the jaws of death and stuffing it back to its meat shell.

What could go wrong?

Oh, that's right. Everything.

Many Game Masters treat a return to life like a brief vacation. You lose a level and your back at it like nothing happened. But death is not a trip to the day spa, and there should be consequences to returning to life.

Below are ten possible side-effects from a good old fashioned resurrection, sure to make your spellcaster think twice about playing God. After all, if you're invoking that kind of mojo, you should be ready to pay the price.

P.S. "The Price" is not a ridiculous amount of diamonds.

1. Not Alone: The PC that was brought back doesn't return alone. Someone or something hitched a ride on their soul, be it a benevolent force or a malevolent one. Occasionally the PC may become possessed by the entity. The only way to rid the character of this unwanted hitchhiker is a lengthy ritual. But note this; these things don't typically want to leave once they're here, and can put up a hell of a fight.

2. Madness: The act of dying and returning to life was extremely traumatic and could lead to any number of psychosis. Depending on the system you play, there is typically an insanity chart with all sorts of disorders befitting someone who recently returned from the dead. Roll away and watch the madness set in.

3. Nightmares: Dying, seeing what lays beyond, and returning can be trying for the mind. The things that have been seen that no other mortal should see can lead to night terrors that plague the PC. Unless heavily medicated with various herbs or elixirs, the character will be haunted with terrifying nightmares that keep them from receiving the benefits from a good night's sleep. This can be devastating for spellcasters, who typically require eight hours of uninterrupted rest to regain spells. Even elves, who do not dream, are visited upon by visions.

4. Wrong Soul: The good news is your buddy is back among the living. The bad news is that isn't your buddy. The soul that has entered the body of the fallen character is not the original. Something else changed places at the last moment. The being now wearing the party's companion like a meat suit could be a drastically different person than the previous owner. Hand the player a new alignment and a short paragraph about the soul's desires and aspirations. It need not be a permanent thing, just a brief pitstop on the road of death and resurrection.

5. Resentment: The character died. Their struggle was over. Finally, they had time to rest. For those who didn't lead wicked lives, death isn't a punishment, but a reward. Now, imagine you are basking in your eternal reward, knowing a peace you have never known when you feel the tug. Your friends must need your help, they must be in trouble so you heed the call and return. You are ripped back into the world. It's dark, and cold, and you feel again, and it's horrible. You were in heaven, and now, in comparison, you are in hell. And who put you there?
Your friends.
It wouldn't be a stretch for the PC to resent their friends, the world around them, or even the Gods for making people needlessly suffer through life to receive peace. A PC's perceptions and attitudes can be drastically altered by the transition back to life. How they handle those changes can make for some pretty stellar role-playing and storytelling.

6. Inevitable: Death is supposed to be a one-way street. When folks start driving the wrong way, believe you me, there are beings that notice. There are a number of entities whose job it is to ensure the dead stay dead, souls stay put, and life ends where it is supposed to end, not the least of which are Inevitables.
To get one of these things to take notice is like waving a sparkler at a Terminator, and in true Terminator fashion, they will hunt you down. They don't sleep, they don't eat, they never stop. You can run, sure, but your meek, frail little body is going to give out at some point, and the Inevitable is going to return things to the natural order as well as possibly add a few more souls to the mix for good measure (i.e. the folks that brought the PC back from the dead).
This nearly unstoppable foe can add a sense of tension and urgency to nearly any campaign. The party brought the character back. How far are they willing to go to keep them back.

7. The Gods Are Displeased: People live. People die. Then their soul is ferried off to any number of glowy planes of existence, most of which are ruled over by, or home to at least one God or God-like being. So how do you think they feel when some punk-ass mortal decides to hit the reset button and restore their friend to life. Think of how you would take it if an ant flipped you off, called you an asshole, and stole a french fry. Sure, you got more fries, but it is the principle of the thing! Who does this ant think he is to go around talking to you like that?
Now you know what is going on in a God's ethereal head when a spellcaster plays tug of war with a soul. Let us be honest, the God could lay some serious smite down upon the head of said caster, but lowly mortals are hardly worth that amount of effort and Gods are mysterious and unknowable.
Perhaps a subtle manipulation of events, like dangerous monsters straying into the PCs' path, unseasonably bad weather (blizzards in mid-summer) hounding them on long journeys, or just plain bad luck could get the message across that tiny creatures with a limited understanding of the universe should not be meddling in the affairs of gods.
Curses are also a nice touch if a tad less subtle. And if a God feels like being a little heavy handed, 100-foot-tall flaming letters spelling "YOU DONE FUCKED UP" are sure to drive the message home.

8. Came Back Wrong: Summoning a soul from the ether and placing it back into a dead body is not rocket science. There is and should be a margin of error. Sometimes things don't always go the way they're supposed to. Sometimes folks just come back wrong. These could be little things, like the  character finding them self with dulled nerves, dulled emotions, or just plain dull. Maybe food they liked before doesn't taste right.
Sometimes, however, these can be big things, like positive energy harming their bodies while negative energy heals them, a hunger for the flesh or blood of the living, or an aversion to sunlight.

9. Magnet For The Dead: The character died. Now their back, but the lingering sensation of the grave follows them around, acting like a beacon for the undead. Vampires, ghouls, ghosts, ghasts, and any number of intelligent or mindless undead creatures find themselves drawn to the character, greatly increasing the number of undead the party will encounter until they can find a remedy. Stronger cases could see the poor character perpetually radiating an aura that animates any dead creature in the area. This is hilariously fun in cemeteries of battlefields where the party has just wholesale slaughtered a cubic butt-ton of foes.

10. Switched At Rebirth: Magic is wacky, and not without its sense of humor sometimes. Bringing someone back from the dead is just a simple matter of summoning their soul from the great beyond and anchoring it to their body. However, sometimes things go awry, and the soul ends up in the wrong body. In this instance, the caster accidently summons the soul into their body, forcing their own soul out. With nowhere for the soul to go, it finds the nearest empty vessel (i.e. the body of the dead PC). What follows is some sitcom level shenanigans as these two PCs switch bodies (and physical stats). Hilarity ensues when you have to different races like dwarf and half-orc or elf trading places. Who said side-effects had to all be soul-crushing, emotionally charged terror-dramas.

And that, my friends, are merely ten side-effects from resurrections. Perhaps you have a few of your own? Let me know in the comments.

Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard 

Do you like what you've read? Would you like to see more from Ed The Bard on a regular basis? Then hop on over to my Patreon page and pledge your support. For pennies a day you can get early access to new articles, help choose the next topics I write about, get sneak peeks into upcoming projects, and more! All by becoming my illustrious patron!


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, October 13, 2016

GM Advice: How To Make Your Session Plans Suck Less





By Guest Writer Jack the Rogue

Nothing kills the flow of a game as surely as an ill-prepared DM. As the DM, you have to juggle rules and mechanics, storyline, and creative elements without missing a beat. If the DM hesitates, they risk breaking the players’ immersion - the magic sensation that the game is more than just a game.

I want immersed players. That’s why I’m a big fan of anything that cuts down on the number of on-the-fly decisions I have to make in-game. Clear and careful planning frees up mental capacity to spend on roleplaying convincing NPCs, giving vivid descriptions, and engaging player interests on an individualized level.

With that groundwork laid, let me tell you about the biggest adventure-planning advancement I’ve made in recent history.

The Old Planning Method: Vomit all my thoughts and possible outcomes into a Google doc wall of text.

This was clunky and hard to read in the heat of the moment.

The Future: Sexy, clean flowcharts.

This is sleek, readable, and creates an easy-to-understand document that I can share with my fellow DMs (because content sharing makes us ALL better storytellers).




This general outline of a random encounter I built with Lucidchart gives me a map of some of my party’s likely actions, and how I should respond to them.

“But Jack!” I hear you protest, “What about improvisation?”

To you, dear reader, I repeat the words of the great Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, “Only he who is well prepared has any opportunity to improvise.”

Keep in mind, this flowchart is not a railroad map. My party will likely “break” the flowchart at some point along the way. That is okay. Since I’ve taken the time to clearly plot out the encounter, I can easily improvise an extra point or two as needed.

For example, let’s say that my party rolls an insight check of 20 or higher on the old woman, but fails the investigate check. They don’t know that the old woman is a sea hag, but they don’t trust her. Rather than assuming that she’s just a “poor old woman,” they may choose to lock her up until they figure out what’s up with her. I may decide that she plays innocent, and tries to convince an NPC crew member to set her free in the night. I may decide to jump straight to the fight by having her reveal her true form.

While the chart doesn’t cover every situation, it covers the generalities and gives me a structure in which to be more creative. By mapping the most likely outcomes through to logical conclusions, I have freed myself to focus on maintaining a good story flow and fostering immersion.

I’ll rest my case, but now I want to know what you think. Are you going to give flowcharts a try? Have you been using them for years? Are you an improv puritan who thinks that less is more when it comes to prepping? Let me know in the comments!

Jack The Rogue


Do you like what you've read? Would you like to see more from Ed The Bard on a regular basis? Then hop on over to my Patreon page and pledge your support. For pennies a day you can get early access to new articles, help choose the next topics I write about, get sneak peeks into upcoming projects, and more! All by becoming my illustrious patron!


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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Monday, August 29, 2016

The Bardic Review: Limitless Encounters



I would not typically describe myself as a reviewer or things. Sure, I develop strong opinions that are hard to be swayed and I have no problem sharing (forcing) those opinions on any unfortunate creature within earshot, but I am no critic.

 That being said, when I was approached by the fine folks over at Limitless Adventures to take a look at their stuff, I was slightly apprehensive. I am, after all, but a simple bard with a verbose vocabulary and an occasional nugget of wisdom buried within my incessant ramblings. However, when they said "random encounters", I was sold. You know how I feel about random encounters.

I took a look at a few products; Urban Encounters and Dungeon Encounters. Just so we're clear here, I am first and foremost an honest bard. If I like something, I will say so. If I don't like something, I will rend it asunder with no regard for the person or persons who wrote it, whether it was gifted to me out of respect or not. Now that we have that out of the way, let's take a look at Limitless Encounters.




Overview
Limitless Encounters is a series of small, bite-sized D&D 5E supplements designed to offer 10 random encounters set in a specific setting, (forest, dungeon, urban, etc.). These encounters are broken up into classic combat encounters, role-play encounters and skills challenges. The are designed for characters levels 1-4, with a variety of difficulties. Every Limitless Adventures product will contain something new; a unique creature, spell, item, god, or optional rule that is
previously unpublished.


The Bard's Thoughts
I enjoy my time as a Game Master. I also enjoy my time outside of game prep, which is why I am always looking for means to cut corners and shave some time off. For that reason, I am in love with Limitless Encounters!

What Worked
Each encounter listed within the supplement is designed to be simple, challenging, and easy to throw into whichever setting it happens to be related to. The encounters come complete with stats for monsters, multiple options for role-playing encounters, and skill DCs and mechanics for new traps. They come with pre-rolled treasure, so you GMs need not worry yourselves with rolling needlessly on tables.

What I find most intriguing though is that each encounter comes with three options for Further Adventures. These little blurbs are about a sentence long each but are designed to get the wheels in the Game Master's head turning. Here is an offering from the darkmantles encounter in Dungeon Encounters:

  • The darkmantles could be working in concert with drow bandits that strike in the darkness...
  • The darkmantles are a distraction to hide a nearby secret door leading to a small treasure hoard...
  • A large hunting party of kobolds hears the battle and comes to investigate in 1d4 rounds from the start of combat...

One could theoretically run a single encounter and build several sessions off of it. Adding little plot hooks to the design was a stroke of genius on the part of Limitless Adventure.

The layout is simple and effective. All the information you need for each encounter is limited to a single page. Just pop it in the corner of you computer screen or have it on standby on your tablet and you have all you need to run a complete encounter.



What Didn't Work
The supplements are good. Very good. But they feel short, especially for the price (which is still sinfully low). One could surmise that you could throw 5-10 more encounters in each supplement, but I fear that still would leave me wanting. This isn't a terrible thing. What you really want is to leave the people wanting more, and Limitless Encounters succeeds in spades.

One minor complaint is that the supplements are only offered in PDF format. In our tech savvy world of Game Mastery, this isn't a terrible thing, and the cost of publishing in print would drive the price on these to unreasonable heights. Still, it would be lovely to have a physical copy adorning my shelf.


Limitless Encounters are short, sweet, simple, and deliver a surprising amount of content for a mere ten pages. While the price tag may seem slightly elevated, it cannot be denied that it is worth every cent. I look forward to looking into their other series Limitless Locations and Limitless Side Quests, which are exactly what you think they are. While so many publishers are looking at making full-fledged adventures, Limitless Adventure seems to take pride in offering your supplements you can pair with any adventure. It is worth your time.


The Bard gives Limitless Encounters...

...4 Lutes out of 5!

 You can find Limitless Adventures here.

If you have a product you would like reviewed, contact me on the official Ed The Bard facebook page here. Until then...

 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.

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 29: If I Could Game Anywhere On Earth, Where Would I Choose?



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? 
Days 8-26: The Catch-Up Game
Day 27: Most Unusual Circumstance Or Location In Which You've Gamed
Day 28: Thing You'd Be Most Surprised A Friend Had Not Seen Or Read?

#RPGaDay is getting steamy! Day 29 would be tickled pink to know if I could game anywhere on Earth, where would it be.

Well, this one might get a little... dark.

I have long been a fan of the horror genre, be it movies, games, or books. I am from Maine. We're force-fed Stephen King from birth (swell fella, almost ran him over once). I have always wanted to do a horror game, but the problem I always run into is that the atmosphere must be perfect, and if we fully immerse ourselves in a dark world of the macabre, someone's living room just isn't going to fit the bill.

So, if I were to choose any place on Earth to game, you better bet you breeches that it is going to be a haunted friggin castle. And of the haunted castle, one sticks out more than the rest. One with such a storied history of violence and terror that it has turned hundreds of die-hard skeptics into born again true ghost believers.

Edinburgh Castle, in Scotland.

 "Also known as the happiest place on Earth."

Ghost dogs, a Lady of noble birth burned at the stake, and ghastly specters are but a few footnotes in the storied and bloody history of Edinburgh Castle. It is from this citadel of gloom and foreboding that I would run either a Ravenloft game, or some terrifying concoction from my own deranged imagination (like the module I am currently working on).



How fantastic would it be to run a ghost story where actual ghosts may show up? I get chills just thinking about it. Would you run a horror game in a haunted house?

That question is rhetorical, by the way.

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.


Like what you've read? Follow me on...
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#RPGaDay 2016 - Day 28: Thing I'd Be Most Suprised A Friend Had Not Seen Or Read


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? 
Days 8-26: The Catch-Up Game
Day 27: Most Unusual Circumstance Or Location In Which You've Gamed


#RPGaDay is going strong! Day 28 beseeches me in its pondering of what thing I'd be most surprised to discover a friend had not seen nor read.

Already, right off the bat, we must exclude Star Wars from this rambling. For no other reason than the bitter truth that if you have never seen Star Wars, we are not friends.

Now, in the spirit of our role-playing roots, I feel it is only appropriate to mention the series that has inspired like 75% of the genre. A trilogy of books and epic movies that have become not just a haven for geekdom, but a staple in popular culture. If you haven't figured it out yet, I am of course talking about The Lord of the Rings.

"Royalty checks forever, guys."

The Lord of the Rings reads like a classic D&D game, or rather a classic D&D game reads like The Lord of the Rings. A group of racially diverse people are gathered together by powerful, clearly capable folks to be dispatched on a suicide mission to rid the world of an evil artifact, only to watch them fuck it up until they finally get it right, but only after two character deaths (and one retcon), some massively failed stealth checks, lots of fighting, an overpowered boss fight, a sinful amount of exposition, and the acquisition of wonderous items and magic weapons to aid in later battles.

If that is not what your weekly game boils down to, I am not sure if you are messing up, or Tolkien was.

If I discovered one of my friends hadn't seen these beloved movies or read these classic books, not only would I be shocked, but I think I would club them about the head and shoulders and force them to watch the extended edition DVDs Clockwork Orange style before tossing into a chainmail sack and throwing them into a river.

What? They're already dead to me at that point anyway.



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.


Like what you've read? Follow me on...
Facebook
YouTube  (NEW)
Twitter
Tumblr
Google+

And coming soon to...
Twitch