Thursday, March 31, 2016

GMs vs Players: There Is No Choice

I am a gamer. If you've frequented this blog, you have probably gathered that. Those who may be reading my stuff for the first time, I offer you this assertion. I am a gamer, down to my very bones. It flows through my veins, lives in my blood. It is not "just a hobby" to me, it is a lifestyle, an intrinsic part of myself. I am proud to admit that fact, and wear the deceleration like a badge of courage.

But I am troubled, and have been for a long time. Almost as long as I have been chucking dice and rolling initiative. Something that occurred to me early in my gaming career, that I could not entirely understand, and still have trouble grasping.

Long ago, when I was a simple college freshman, I was introduced to the glory of Roleplaying Games, and when I say that, I mean that they were my first foray into the genre, be it tabletop or video game (though since I have developed a rather unhealthy relationship with the Final Fantasy series). I loved it. It was fascinating having someone up there (our GM stood and paced a lot), telling this complicated story where each of were primary characters. I had only done a little acting in High School, and had been doing stand up comedy for a few years, so I got right into hamming up my characters.

Not too long after that, I started playing in my very first Dungeons & Dragons game. This was the granddaddy of RPGs, the one that I heard people often talk about with the sort of reverence you serve for heads of state of visiting royalty. It was an exciting experience, and I was playing with my best friends, which added to the overall enjoyment.

Our DM was old school though, and was a big fan of resource management. Those who aren't sure of what that is, it involves knowing everything in your inventory, how much it weighs, and how much of it you use. We didn't think too much of it, until our fighter got his throat torn out by a ghoul, and we were pinned down in a small, stone room surrounded by zombies. The cleric was able to raise him, but it weakened both, and we were forced to hold fast in the room.

We stayed in that room for two weeks, in game. Two weeks of half rationing our already depleted ration supply, while making sure the recovering fighter was given full rations to gain his strength back. All the while zombies scratched at the stone doors day and night, though none of us could tell which was which any more. In the end, we managed to break free, slay the zombies, and continue through the dungeon. That has always stuck with me, even now, 12 years later.

I've told this story to many people over the years, and some say "That sounds awesome!" while others either say "Your DM was a dick." or "Wow, you guys sucked as adventuring."

I personally didn't see anything wrong with it at the time, and still don't. The Game Master is there to challenge us. He could have arbitrarily killed us at any time. The doors could have broken, the cleric didn't have to find that scroll of resurrection, and we didn't have to live.

I shrugged it off, and moved on. It was about two years later that I met a very unique individual that shed some light on things for me. Lets call him... Dewey. Dewey was a gamer that had been introduced my group sometime after our D&D game had ended, and he seemed like a nice enough guy. He built a lot of characters, which I couldn't say much, as building characters was a little side hobby of mine (I ended up with a lot of statted out NPCs later). But Dewey wasn't just building characters, he was building weapons. He was a bit of a rules lawyer, and to the casual observer he would appear as a power gamer.

The truth, however, was a little more troubling.

Dewey had a series of GMs over the years that enjoyed preying on the players. They would instigate player vs player situations, wherein only one character would walk away, They would intentionally mess with players, especially those foolish enough to play Paladins (at least until they were forced to fall). They railroaded players, stripped them of any weapon they were specialized in, and arbitrarily killed characters.

These were not good GMs. These were Dick GMs.

Dewey had taken it upon himself to take up the mantle of a soldier in an all-out war against Game Masters everywhere, creating characters that could break the game (not a difficult thing to do in 3rd edition D&D). When he saw a plot hook, he would either go the other way, or begrudgingly follow along. He didn't just keep his game breaking optimization to himself either, he infused that knowledge into every character at the table, showing the players loop holes, shortcuts, and the dreaded pun-pun build. And when one of his God-nuking abilities didn't perform the way he wanted, and ended the boss fight in a single round, he would sulk and call bullshit.

This kind of animosity was weird for me. What could the GMs have done that was so bad as to turn this otherwise nice and generous fella into Rambo with a d20? I would not have an answer to that question until a year later when Dewey's former roommate offered to run a game. We were pretty psyched, made some fairly badass characters if I do say so myself, and set forth to adventure. His GM style was... Pompous. He would set up situations that we could not win, with no way out, only to lord over us how superior he was. He created puzzles with such an unreasonable solution that no one could ever figure them out, and then chided us for not seeing how obvious it was (it's always obvious if you are the one that made it), and he arbitrarily killed me with a home brew monster that bled electricty when pierced that would strike anyone that struck the creature... even with arrows... from 100ft away... behind cover... for exactly how many hit points I had left, plus 10 (in the old days if you went to -9, you changed your character class to 'corpse').

That was my first character death, and frankly, it made me mad. Not because I had died, but because his glaringly obvious dislike for players getting in the way of his story lead to someone dying for no better reason that the fact that I had figured out one of his puzzles. He was the first Dick GM I had ever come across,  and it was a sobering experience. The game fell apart not to long after that, with the GM swearing that we were not up to the challenge. We were all okay with that.

Now I had seen both sides of the argument, and as I went out into the gaming world and met new people and new Game Masters, I discovered that this was not an isolated problem. This had been going on for a ling time for a lot of people. There seemed to be this divide between players and Game Masters that I just couldn't quite 'get', because in my mine they were just two sides of the same coin. You couldn't have one without the other, right?

While most of our community thinks the way I do, that Game Masters and those that play in their games are equals at the table, there is a sizable section that oppose this notion. They feel strongly that one side has more value than the other, going as far as to replace or remove those parties all together.

I ran a poll earlier this week, pitting Game Masters against Players, asking members of various pages who they felt was more vital at the table. I could have just left the choices with those two, but I chose a third option, suggesting that both were of equal importance. The votes were cast, and to my joy, the vast majority agreed that the third option was the best. There was, however, some activity in the other two. It was not so clear cut. After tallying the votes, they looked something like this...

Both are equally important: 789 votes

Game Masters: 167 votes

Players: 45 votes

I delved into the comments to see why people voted the way they did, and there were plenty of comments to sift through. A good deal wondered why I had asked the question at all, as the answer was so plain to see for them. Others spoke of the dichotomy of players and GMs, and why one was intrinsically more vital than the other. Most concerning was the assertion that one party or the other was unnecessary.

What do I mean.

A few times I say the statement that players can be replaced, or rotated out. I've heard personally from some GMs that they have a waiting list to get into their games, and they could easily kick someone from the group and bring someone else in without issue. The idea of viewing a player as such an easily disposable commodity is not only disturbing, it's wrong. Players are not just warm bodies that take up space. They are there to engage in the collaborative storytelling experience that is roleplaying. If you get rid of one, you are silencing a voice in that collaboration, and the other players have to wonder what their worth in the group is.

I understand that sometimes it is necessary to remove elements from a group that don't fit well, like problem players that refuse to mend their ways or at least see things from the GM's point of view, but to do so because you just don't like their style of RP is ridiculous. Everyone is different in their style, and they shouldn't have to be punished for it.

But if Game Masters believe they are free from this kind of easy disposal, they are dead wrong. I have always considered myself to be a gamer with his ear to the ground about our ever expanding world, but until the other day I had never heard of a GM-less system. That is a system where the players engage in the collaborative storytelling, and have no need or use for a GM. I was shocked to say the least, but the more I thought about it, the more I sort of understood it. A lot of players don't much care to be in the hot seat, behind the screen. Sometimes finding a Game Master can be a challenge in and of itself, as a good deal already have groups, and those that don't are first time GMs running their first games that some veteran players don't want to "waste their time" with.

While some Game Masters, like the one I experienced ages ago, are pompous asses that make bold and idiotic claims that they're "Gods", and lord over their players with a superiority complex that is no doubt compensating for something lacking in their lives. As I GM, I can say with all the confidence that we're not Gods, we're not infallible, and sometimes we're not on all the time.

I think the largest issue in this divide between GMs and Players is that there seems to be a reluctance to walk a mile in the other's shoes. See things from the other guy's point of view, and you may come out of it with a new perspective.

Game Masters spend a lot of time prepping for games. Every magic item, every memorable NPC, ever nefarious villain or vicious monster was placed there by the Game Master. While the player is playing one character, the GM is playing the rest of the world, and depending on the game, it can be a big world. Even per-published modules and Adventure Paths can be quite the undertaking, as those require their fair share of planning. On top of that, they have to find a way to introduce situations to make the player characters shine, week in and week out. All that time they spend prepping is time they could spend doing other things, like reading, playing video games, spending time with their friends or family, but they willing sacrifice that time to entertain their players. In a way, that is pretty selfless.

How often do you tell your Game Master they did a great job, or that you appreciate what they are doing?

Players spend a good deal of time crafting a character that they will enjoy playing. They cobble together every aspect of that character (some more than others). They cook up the backstory, they roll the dice, and they live that character's life. They are attached to that character, and they want to feel important. They are, after all, a main character in this story. They want to feel like their actions have weight, that they matter. There is nothing more discouraging as a player that finding out that you are second fiddle to the GMs parade of NPCs, or that no matter what choice you make, you have little to no affect on the world around you.

How often do you tell your players that they have done a great job, or that you appreciate them for playing their character the way they do?

We are all of us playing a game, and the first and last rule of that game, no matter the system or the mount of players, is to have fun. That is why we are there. In the battle between GMs and Players, there is no choice. They are the same. They hold equal value, and are equally vital to everything going on at that table. Some may have more time invested in it than other, but they only do that to make sure that everyone in that table feels valued and welcome.

When you are done reading this, do me a personal favor. Get on messenger, haul out your phone and call or text your Game Master or players, and tell them that they are freakin' awesome, because more often than not, it's true.

We can all get along. Keep playing, and keep having fun,
+Ed The Bard 

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lets Build A Campaign Setting - Part 4: Gods (Building A Pantheon)

Previous Entries
Part 2: Inspiration

Gods can be some of the most mythical entities in any campaign setting. They can also be the most diverse and varied, ranging in power and skill from demigods, like Hercules, to Overgods, like Faerun's Lord Ao. Their appearance can be something as simple as an old crone to a multi-horned, four armed muscular dog-man with a crown of ever-burning flame.

Since we have already established what the role of a deity is in a campaign setting, we can focus our efforts on building our own pantheon, with a unique flavor that fits with your world.

A domain is is an abstract or elemental concept that the God represents and embodies. Over the course of their divine career, the deities collect a few of these domains and add them to a portfolio, like some kind of heavenly or infernal investment banker.

"Okay, so maybe not heavenly."

Domains can literally be anything. Weather, the sun, burnt meatloaf. There is a lot to choose from when you variety is endless, so I find it's best to just keep it simple. There is a much shorter list of of the big domains, which encompass a lot of smaller ones. It is from these domains that your major gods (the movers and shakers of your campaign world) will be born.
Every domain should have another that directly or indirectly opposes it. This gives both a reason to exist, because without one, it is hard to have the other. This likewise applies to elemental domains as well; fire and water oppose each other, earth and air are direct opposites, and so on. 

Some domains don't really have good domains that oppose them. Take war and strength for example. We all know the opposite of war is peace, and strength's antithesis is weakness. From a game mechanic stand point, few players are going to be excited to roll a cleric of weakness, and while some characters may wish to create a character that has taken a vow of non-violence, that can easily be achieved through the good or life domains without having to create one just for peace. That is why I find that domains like war and strength do a good job of straddling the line, as both can be used for good or evil, so on and so forth. 

Yeah, even Gods have them too, but unlike we mere mortals, with our pesky free will, Gods are unable to act outside those alignments. Good Gods can't behave in any way that is even remotely evil, nor can evil Gods walk by a box of mewing kittens without giving it a good kick. So, when crafting a God, take a long look at the alignment, break it down, and see where it falls on the spectrum of Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, True Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil, and Chaotic Evil.

This is the deity's identifying mark on the material plane, the one their priests and servants use as a conduit to contact them and draw a portion of their divine power. It should be able to sum up the God or Goddess in a simple, easy to understand way. Some examples are a skull for a God of death, or a dagger plunged into a moon for God of trickery.

Each deity has a weapon associated with that that best fits their demeanor and alignment. Chaotic Gods are more likely to have chaotic weapons, like flails, whereas Lawful Gods are more apt to wield very straightforward weapons, like swords. Take a long look at your God's alignment and domains. Find the weapon that fits best, or acts as a point of symbolism, like a dagger or heavy pick acting as a fang.

While we won't get to naming them quite yet, we will be giving them tentative names the way old societies would have addressed them. These names will be simple and right to the point, and will serve as placeholders until we get to actually naming things.

Building The Pantheon
While you don't have to create a God or Goddess for every alignment, I find it helpful to start there. This creates a robust pantheon for your players to choose from, and for you, the Game Master, to  play with. Below, I am going to detail each God for our campaign world by their domains.

The Gods of the Court of Creation
This was the previous pantheon. The "Old Gods" as they are refered to now. As we already determined, the forces of evil won in the decisive battle against good, and had set up a monotheistic religion, revering a new, powerful God. The Old Gods still how some sway over the material plane, but not like before. Their names are mentioned in whispers, and their prayers are said in secret, as the price for praying to these Old Gods is death at the hands of the new regime.

 Deity of Life
Life, birth, creation, light, goodness. All seem to fit into this deity. Al these things also seem to evoke a motherly vibe. I think this one should be a Goddess, a sort of "mother of the world" type, where all living things are her children.  
Tentative Name: The Lady of Light
Description: Appears as a young woman with  golden hair the color of sunlight, and brilliant, glowing white robes. She is married to Father Death, and sits next to him upon the twin thrones of existence. Her demeanor is always positive, and those in her presence feel an overwhelming sense of calm and security. 
Alignment: Neutral Good
Domains: Life, Light, Creation, Good, Air
Symbol: A lone dove flying over a sunburst
Weapon: Quarterstaff

Deity of Death
Death. It's pretty heavy. It is the end of all things, the one true inevitable fact in the universe, which makes this God one of the most powerful. Certain symbols of death include scales for judged souls, embodiments of time, and a scythe for 'reaping' souls like wheat. Many cultures envision this as a grim reaper of sorts. I dig the hooded figure aspect, as death is mystery, and the hood symbolizes that perfectly. While the Lady of Light has a motherly vibe, her opposite should maintain a fatherly aspect.
Tentative Name: Father Death
Description: Appears as a hooded man in robes of either black or stark white (depending on the culture you hail from), draped in the broken chains of mortality. In one hand he holds a golden hourglass, and in the other he grips a scythe. He is married to The Lady of Light, and sits by her side upon the twin thrones of existence. His demeanor is somber, and those in his presence feel a sense of finality and acceptance. 
Alignment: True Neutral
Domains: Death, Darkness, Destruction, Water
Symbol: A raven perched atop a golden hourglass that has run out.  
Weapon: Scythe.

Deity of Nature
Ah, nature. Things in bloom, cute cuddly creatures, and green, verdant pastures. Then of course you have the tornadoes, volcanoes, thunderstorms and earthquakes. There is a duality to be observed in nature, the peaceful and pristine, as well as the the fury and awesome power behind it. Nature is equal parts creation and destruction, meeting in a perfect harmony. A balance. I feel that this deity should represent both aspects, and therefore both genders. While we have The Lady of Life and Father Death representing creation and destruction, I think it would be fun to switch it up, making the male side of this God the peaceful, calm one, and his female half the furious and destructive side, like a living ying-yang
Tentative Name: Lord Green and Lady Tempest
 Description: Appears as a person divided. The right half is female, with dark hair that flows like a thunderhead. Her face is twisted in rage, her eye glows with flickering electricity and her ashen skin is crisscrossed with cracks that glow as if magma flowed through her veins. The left side appears to be male, with hair like long, waving grass in a summer's breeze and a mossy beard. His skin is bronzed from the sun and he has a look of serenity upon his face. Lord Green and Lady Tempest sit to the left of The Lady of Light.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Domains: Nature, Storms, Chaos, All Elements
Symbol: A green field with a single tree at the center which is being struck from a lightning bolt from a blackened sky.
Weapon: Quarterstaff

Deity of Knowledge
Knowledge is power, those with it can do anything, which is why so many quest for it, especially wizards. The God of knowledge should be a wildly mysterious being, with little known about them. This lends a bit of irony to the position, as the being that represents all knowledge is the being few know much about. Knowledge can also come with a price, especially when it comes to things that are never meant to be known. Forbidden things. While this God may represent the pursuit of knowledge, I don't see them pitying those who delve to deep and learn too much. He holds the secrets of the universe, and wants those secrets to be found, but wants those seeking such knowledge to work for it.
Tentative Name: The Keeper of Records
Description: Appears as a tall man draped in dark blue robes, his face hidden behind a featureless mask and a cowl. A book with a heavy lock is chained to his side, which holds the collected knowledge of the universe. His demeanor is reserved and stoic. Those in his presence feel inquisitive, and find themselves asking many questions. He sits to the right of Father Death.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Domains: Knowledge, Magic, Secrets, Air
Symbol: A tome with a candle burning behind it.
Weapon: Spellbook

 Deity of Trickery
 Deception and trickery are tools that, while not inherently evil, are also not too terribly good. The deity of trickery should posses charisma, guile, and the uncanny ability to weave lies without effort. They should speak in half-truths and purposefully misleading statements. They hold no allegiance to anyone but their self.
Tentative Name: Lady Chicane
Description: Appears as a lithe young woman with black hair and bright eyes. She is wrapped in a cloak made of living shadows and armor that seems to blend into her surroundings. Those in her presence feel at ease, and completely unaware. She sits to the left of Lord Green and Lady Tempest
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Domains: Trickery, Chaos, Darkness, Light, Air
Symbol: A dagger crossing a crescent moon.
Weapon: Dagger

Deity of Valor 
Valor; boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle. It evokes images of heroism, courage, and uncompromising bravery. This is the hero of God-kind, the stalwart defender that never needs to be asked to do the right thing, and these deeds inspire others to do the same. This deity needs to be larger than life, both in size and action. They must be able to face insurmountable odds without blinking or worrying about the danger. They should be honorable, charismatic and fearless. 
Tentative Name: The Shield Maiden
Description: Appears as a fiery haired woman, clad in plate armor with a crown-like helm. Her eyes are steely blue and seem to pierce one's soul when she gazes upon them. She wields a mighty shield and a flaming longsword, and is held aloft by four wings seemingly made of golden blades. Those in her presence feel a swelling of courage. She sits to the right of The Keeper of Records.
Alignment: Lawful Good
Domains: Valor, Light, Good, Law, Fire
Symbol: A sword standing in front of a shield
Weapons: Longsword and Shield

Deity of Freedom
This is the embodiment of a free spirit, unable to be bound. They roam where the wind takes them. They follow their passions, and are prone to flights of fancy. This being cannot abide or allow others to be stripped of their freedom, and openly opposes slavery in all of its forms.
Tentative Name: Mance Chainbreaker
Description: Appears as a human with three days of stubble clinging to his face. His hair is long and wild, blowing in the wind. His attire is a simple shirt and breeches, with leather boots. Strapped to his hips are a pair of warhammers. Those in his presence feel an insatiable wanderlust. He sits to the left of Lady Midnight.
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Domains: Travel, Chaos, Good, Valor, Air
Symbol: An open road with a sun setting on the horizon
Weapon: Warhammer

Deity of War
War! Huh! Good God y'all! What is it good for? F-ing up everyone's day, that's what. The God of War is the embodiment of battle. He presides over new advancements in waging conflict, and inspires armies to fight with everything they have. He is a survivor, and refuses to surrender. Not because he is proud or stubborn, but because it has never come up.
Tentative Name: Lord of the Fray
Description: Appears as a massive hulk of a man, with a smoldering beard and a mane like a cloud of smoke. He wears a cold, iron eye patch that looks to be bolted into his skull. His remaining eye burns with firelight. He is adorned in partial plate armor that is as scared and pitted as his own flesh. He wears these like badges, the undeniable proof that many have tried to slay the God of War and all have failed. Despite his rough appearance, he is a master tactician. In his hands he holds a massive notched greatsword that glows as if it had just been pulled from a fire. Those in his presence feel a rush of adrenaline, screaming for them to do battle. He sits to the right of The Shield Maiden
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Domains: War, Law, Creation, Destruction, Death, Fire
Symbol: Two swords crossed over a roaring fire
Weapon: Greatsword

Deity of Strength
Strength is more than just prowess in battle. It is the measure of one's body, and the limits it can reach and shatter. The Goddess of Strength stands tall and resolute, as unbreakable as a mountain, as powerful as a landslide.
Tentative Name: Lady Stonefist
Description: Appears as an athletic-looking young woman with shoulder length dark hair. She wears a simple tunic with bracers. While she does not look like much, she was able to defeat The Lord of the Fray in a test of strength. She wields no weapon, as her body is tuned to perfection, and deadly as any blade. Those in her presence feel an increase in physical prowess. She sits to the left of Mance Chainebreaker
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Domains: Strength, Chaos, Earth
Symbol: A granite fist
Weapon: Unarmed

The Betrayers
During the final battle between good and evil, two Gods turned on their kin in favor of The Final Sovereign. They helped to turn the tide, and for their betrayal they were made saints in the new pantheon of the Empire.

 Deity of Tyranny
Domination. Control. Power. These are the three all encompassing drive behind the God of Tyranny. He is cunning, deceptive, and prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve and maintain dominance over others.
Tentative Name: The Lord of Pain
Description: Appears as a tall, bald man with eyes like smouldering coals and pale skin. He is adorned in finely crafted plate armor as black as midnight. At his side is a wicked-looking mace covered in dried blood. Those in his presence of this frightening being find themselves terrified and submissive. The Lord of Pain, along with the Lord of Decay, betrayed the Court of Creation during the final battle.
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Domains: Tyranny, Evil, Law, Fire
Symbol: A mace over a broken shield
Weapon: Mace

Deity of Undeath
Necromancy is a forbidden and dangerous form of magic. The ability to imbue life into another creature is the closest thing to being a God, but The Lord of Decay has turned what would be a blessing into a twisted mockery of life. Animation, but no soul. It is the ultimate perversion of life, and so the God himself should embody that.
Tentative Name: The Lord of Decay
Description: Appears as a gaunt, emaciated figure with pale, sunken eyes and a  chilling rictus grin. His body is covered with open, oozing sores, and the stench of rot clings to him. Tattered robes hang loosely from his near-skeletal frame. Those in his presence feel ill and uneasy. The Lord of Decay, along with The Lord of Pain, betrayed the Court of Creation during the final battle.
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Domains: Death, Destruction, Knowledge, Evil, Chaos, Water
Symbol: A maggot in the palm of a skeletal hand.
Weapon: Sickle

And now the big one...

The Final Sovereign
The "New" God is shrouded in mystery. It is unknown where it came from, or how it amassed so much power so quickly. What is known is that this God became revered in the new Empire, and was vital in their forces dominating the land.  It is said that this God resides on the material plane, within the capital of the Empire.
Description: Unknown.
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Domains: Unknown
Symbol: An eclipsed moon
Weapon: Unkown

Now we have us some Gods, both legal and illegal. Each with their own quirks, flavor, ambitions, and domains. From here we can move on to the real meat of our campaign setting. Next time, we will discus this history of the world, and the events that shaped it to the dark place it is today.

Just to recap, so far we have:
  • A world where the bad guys rule in a lawful, militarized government that reduces the personal freedoms of its citizens in exchange for protection from crime and foreign invaders.
  • The Empire has outlawed the worship of  The Court of Creation. People still worship the Old Gods, but do so in secret, or risk execution.
  • Technology sits around the 1700's, with guns a rare, but available commodity, likely in the hands of the evil empire.
  • Magic and science are one in the same. 
  • There are corners of the world still left unexplored. 
Go get your God on,
+Ed The Bard

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Steal This! 5 Memorable NPCs To Steal For Your Game

Never underestimate the staying power of an NPC. Long after players leave a town/city/village, the memory of that NPC can stay with them. Often times they try finding excuses to return to that place just to experience that NPC again. These can be people who move the story along, or just amusing distractions during downtime. No matter what the case, these folks become seared into players' minds, thus, in a way, immortalizing whatever campaign they appeared in.

Below are 5 NPCs I have used in my own personal games. Some find their way into campaigns that they had nothing to do with, simply because of the demand to see them again. As usual, with my Steal This! articles, feel free to lift any of these for your home campaigns.

1. Gimble Namfoodsheppinstumbleduck III (Pronounced Gim-bul Nam-foo-dul-shep-pen-stum-bul-duck):
Profession: Shopkeep
Info: Gimble is a gnome who tows the line between charismatic tinkerer and raving lunatic, so... you know, a gnome. He fancies himself an inventor, though his creations are often bizarre or backfire in an assortment of hilarious ways. They could be healing potions that turn a character's hair bright colors or cause them to grow a long and magnificent beard, wands that sometimes work too well (burning hands that deals twice as much damage, but then explodes), or magic items that have unintentional side effects (like a pair of boots of spider climbing that cause the wearer to take on aspects of a spider, like extra limbs, lactating spider silk, and an insatiable hunger for insects). He is always friendly and personable, and delights in volunteers that test out his latest prototypes, sometimes giving discounts in his shop for repeat survivors.
Catchphrase: "What's the worst that could happen? As per usual, I am not legally responsible for any injury, death, dismemberment, loss of senses or bowel function, anxiety, madness, intestinal discomfort, insatiable hunger for the flesh of the living or destruction of personal, privet or public property. Sign and date here."

2. Gimnar Forgethrower
Profession: Smithy
Info: Gimnar is a gifted dwarven smith, even by dwarf standards, but has little to offer anyone that visits his shop. He is a perfectionist and has a bit of a temper. Very few items meet his extremely exacting standards (though they would be considered masterworks by any other artisan). When things don't go his way, or if an item isn't coming out the way he would like, he goes into a frenzy, throwing tools and items alike as he demolishes his shop in a tirade of obscenities.
The items he does craft to his liking are incredible in quality and durability. This, combined with their rarity make much coveted pieces indeed (think a Hanzo sword). If players are interested in some of his "lesser" creations, he directs them to his "crap pile", a collection of weapons and armor left in a heap before he melts their components down to try again.
Gimnar always seems to be on edge, like he could go off at any moment (think Lewis Black). He is only ever truly calm when he is not talking about his shop, armor, weapons, or anything forged on an anvil.
Catchphrase: "It's crap! It's all crap!"

3. Le Tigre' (Pronounced Leh Tee-Gray)
Profession: Crime Lord
Info: Not to be confused with the band, Le Tigre' is an opulent, hedonistic, omnisexual, extremely fashionable crime boss, though he hates such a dirty word as crime. Speaking in a faux-European accent, Le Tigre' only engages in illegal activities because it is the only profession that offers enough time and money to allow him to engage in his obscenely excessive lifestyle. He often engages in every conceivable vice, including alcohol, hard drugs, prostitution, and gambling, often while talking to the player characters. Despite the unsavory nature of his business, he feels that the outward face  of his criminal empire should exemplify his two loves; looking fabulous and being fabulous.
His minions are often well (and gaudily) dressed in bright, lush colors, but few can hold a candle compared to his inner circle; The Entourage. Consisting of Le Barracuda (his personal assistant), El Coche (pronounced cock) (his bodyguard, who fights using only his feet), and Der Cobra (his personal assassin).
Le Tigre' is almost always friendly, especially when given expensive or excessive gifts, and has a great desire to lend assistance. He will often attempt to give the party makeovers to make them look more fabulous, and usually becomes obsessed with the most dour or grim member of the party. His attire is often the same whenever encounter; A white tiger fur coat with gold trim, a royal purple suit, several gold rings, and a ebony and ivory striped cane topped with the sculpted head a tiger made of platinum. He is never seen in daylight hours, operating only at night, leaving some to speculate that he is some manner of vampire. A fabulous, fabulous vampire.
Catchphrase: "It is fabulous!"

4: Valen Ambrose
Profession: Noble
Info: Unlike the other NPCs on this list, who have a helpful and cheerful demeanor, Valen offers neither of those things. As a man with a considerable amount of power and money, he holds the keys to several shortcuts, avenues, and information the player characters could utilize to expedite quests. He does not offer these services for free, however. The characters must pay to get what they want, but since he has no real desire for more money (especially not the meager offerings of a bunch of vagabonds), he usually lists his price as a service rendered. This could be anything from a favor, or demeaning work like gardening or cleaning his floors. The favors should not be anything outwardly evil, but with an end result that makes the characters feel less than clean.
Valen holds himself like a man of a high station, and often looks down on adventuring types, making snide, passive aggressive comments. The only way he will treat a character as more than a glorified servant is if they carry a family name that is in good standing. He will treat this character noticeably better than the others in the party.
This is the guy the players love to hate. Not overtly evil, with enough clout to make him useful. They may want to punch his lights out, maybe even kill him, but both he and they know that if they succumb, he wins, and that can't be tolerated. 
Catchphrase: "You should be capable of that much, at least."

5. Fenrick, The Sage
Profession: Sage
Info: Some say he is a wizard gone completely mad. Some would be right, but what none can deny is that Fenrick is a very brilliant old man. With a long, scraggly white beard and skullet, he skulks around his broken-down tower performing seemingly random tasks. This could be anything from standing outside naked to predict the weather to sifting through animal droppings to foretell a good harvest. Fenrick works best as an identifier of magical goods and wellspring of obscure information that the players could not achieve through rolls. He understands arcane magic, though is rarely (if ever) seen performing it.
His tower shows up in seemingly random areas, and it is said that the thing can get up and walk, though there have been no confirmed sightings of this.
Fenrick is often encountered with his loyal and trusty shield guardian, Mr. Montegax, who has a big smiley face painted over its otherwise blank helm. Fenrick, or Fenny as he likes to be called by friends, comes of as grandfatherly, and by that I mean an eccentric grandfather that frequently forgets to takes his medication (think Christopher Lloyd from Back To The Future). He is a bit absent minded, but gives off the impression that perhaps all of this is an act... for the most part at least.
Catchphrase: "Sweet dithering bat-balls!"

And there we are, 5 NPCs that can be easily be lifted and placed in any campaign setting, or place in any local you may need. Did you like this list? What memorable NPCs have you run or come across in your games? Let me know in the comments below.

Roll well, my friends,
+Ed The Bard 

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Musings Of The Bard: The 5 Stages Of Character Death

When you have a good character, a really good character, everything at the table seems brighter. The battles are more tense and thrilling. You are emotionally vested in that character, which means that both and your Game Master have done something right. That is why when that character suddenly dies in a brutal an unexpected way, the grieving process begins.

I know some may say, "Hey Ed, it's just a made up character. There is literally nothing to grieve".

Well, you are wrong, bucko. Character death can hurt you right where it counts, because that character is a pat of you. It is the sum of your creativity and imagination, so... ouch. There are five stages of death and grieving that a lot of players go through when a character dies. I know the feeling all too well. I've been down that dark and dusty road. Today I will show you the five stages of character death as I experienced them with the loss of my dwarf barbarian Klad "The Unbreakable".

First, A Little Backstory
Klad was a prisoner at 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.

The 5 Stages Of Character Death
1. Denial: I couldn't believe it. I really couldn't believe it. Two ones in a row? It was impossible. Inconceivable! I was Klad, "The Unbreakable"! How could I be brought low by a lone elf using an illusion!

This is the stage when folks at the table stop everything they're doing, look to the Game Master, and say "Whoa. What? Really?". It is hard to fathom, especially if it is a long running game. This character you've been playing, who has been standing beside their comrades for Gods knows how many battles is suddenly gone.

2. Anger: Disbelief turned into anger. Not toward my Game Master, but toward Klad, and by proxy me. I spent a good deal of time building this guy to be a nigh indestructible badass that ate lightning and crapped thunder, and he failed! He failed to live up that golden standard.

Sometimes players can compose themselves and keep this feeling to themselves. Some cannot. This is the stage where a lot of anger turns toward the Game Master. After all, they are the one that just killed the character, right?

While the Game Master presides over the game and acts as a mediator, they aren't out to murder the player characters, contrary to popular belief. Their death upsets us too, and so the anger does not help. Less so when it is directed at the player by other people at the table for doing something that lead to the death. As my tale can tell you, sometimes luck just isn't with you.

The Dice Gods are a fickle bunch.

3, Bargaining: I hit the books like a man possessed. I looked up the spell description, I re-factored my saves. I accounted for every single bonus I had. I turned to the party, begging for anyone what might have a spell that could fix this little problem of mine. Alas, they didn't.

This is where the rules lawyers really shine. They show the strength of their book-fu, searching for any loop hole that could be exploited to undo this grievous act. Players search for scrolls and potions that might be able to help. Spellcasters comb their spell lists and look ahead to when they might have a spell that could be effective. Necromancers ask the grieving character if they mind the taste of brains, and if they'd mind a promising career as an undead thrall.

4. Depression: I was so cocky. I was so sure. What a fool I had been. What a buffoon! How did I think that one character could stand up against any eventuality. All the damage reduction and high saves in the world couldn't save Klad from his own mind.

Death can really bring down the mood at the table. The overwhelming realization sets in that if it happened to that player, it could happen to you. It's a sobering prospect to be sure, one that leads to a much more careful party, at least for a few sessions.

5. Acceptance: He was a good character. I had a lot of fun with him, but he dropped fair and square. I could accept that. It isn't the death I had hoped for him, but it was a solid death, and I was okay with that.

 Even if a character dies, the player can bounce back, sometimes with more enthusiasm than before. As strange as it sounds, the death of a character can be a truly energizing experience.

On a side note: I didn't have to grieve long. A cleric with the party raised me from the dead at the expense of his sight. While I wasn't "Unbreakable" anymore, I was still Klad, "The Reasonably Tough".

But if you think character death effects on the player who ran that character, you are dead wrong. It is no secret that I have killed a few characters. Fewer than people expect, but enough to ensure I have a reputation for it. I have bared witness to how a character's death affects the whole table, and they too cycle through the staged.

A few months ago, during my Dragonslayer campaign, a player of mine was besieged by kobolds and took an arrow in the back, Unfortunately she had a sword that ate souls, and would eat the soul of its wielder if they dropped to 0hp, no saves. She knew it going in, but thought it was a good trade off for the powers the sword gave her.

 "Feed me Seymour!"

Well, her soul got ate (that is for the grammar nazis), She died. It was brutal. Immediately the table began going through the stages. Her boyfriend asked if I was serious (denial). She stood up, a tear rolling down her cheek, and left the room (depression). This caused her boyfriend to become angry with me for killing her (pretty sure you can figure that one out). Both the player who had died, and the party's bard came to me and asked if there was anything they could do to bring her back, or strike the death. Even the boyfriend wanted me to retcon the event (bargaining). At this point I left the room to talk to the player whose character died. I told her my plans for her soul, and gave her an idea for a character she could play in the meantime that fit with the upcoming portion of the story, which she liked quite a bit. She handed me her character sheet and went to work making a brand new character (Acceptance).

We ended the session early that night, as emotions were running pretty high. It is the joy of any Game Master to see players really get into their characters, and love them. It's equally heartbreaking to watch them mourn that character when or if they die.

Character death happens. Sometimes more often at some peoples' tables than others. Don't feel bad about mourning them when they fall. It is a perfectly natural process, after all.

Try to stay on the right side of the grass,
+Ed The Bard  

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Monday, March 28, 2016

GM Advice: Getting The Party Started - How To Bring Characters Together

Session 1! It's finally here. Long have you prepared for this day. Hours of prep time has gone into crafting a unique, original world for your players to explore and experience.You ask the players to describe their characters, and it goes something like this:
"I am a lawful good  human paladin who does not condone any illegal activity of any kind, which includes, but is not limited to: theft, public intoxication, aggravated assault and murder. I also firmly believe that 100% of the party loot should be donated to several orphanages, and all magic items be liquidated for gold to also donate."

"I am a chaotic evil drow sorcerer who wants to take over the surface world and rule it with an iron fist. I frequently consort with demons and command a small army of the undead. I kill indiscriminately, steal from children, and kick baskets full of kittens."

"I am a true neutral halfling thief who steals everything not nailed down. My kleptomania is so profound that I even steal from my own fellow party members. Did I mention that I am a compulsive liar and have no qualms leaving my 'friends' to die so that I may return later (when the danger has passed) to loot their smouldering corpses."

"I am a neutral good human farmer who has no desire beyond tilling his fields and harvesting crops. I do not wish to go on adventures, as I am but a simple farmer with no strife or conflict or combat training. I also own a horse. I do not ride it, but rather use it to plow my fields. Did I mention I am a farmer?"

"Roll to hoe."

You probably should have run a Session 0. A lot of this pain and almost certain failure could have been avoided. One of the first steps to take in character creation, before the characters are even rolled up, is making sure everyone knows what everyone else is playing. 

Parmony, or "Party Harmony", is a term used to describe the overall attitude of the group as a whole, in that it is a team meant to cooperate with one another for ensured mutual survival. This is what you as the Game Master wants to strive for, but more so, it is a goal for the players to aspire to. After all, they are the ones playing the game, you merely weave to story and set the challenges. Party members should compliment or compensate for each others' abilities or lack there of. 

This can all go to hell in a handbasket if you have a contrarian player that wants to make a character that directly opposes or antagonizes the party. Yes, your players can play what they want, but if they are going to go forward with that kind of character, it is best done in small doses, and they should have an alarmingly compelling reason for playing it. Being the "Wolverine" of the group can be fun, and creates an interesting dynamic, but most of the time, few players are able to rise to the challenge of playing such a character and end up being annoying little bastards the rest of the characters end up killing/imprisoning, and looting every valuable piece of property they owned. Only in death was the character able to create a harmonious party by providing them with a foe that brought them together.

Now, I am not saying that playing characters of nearly opposing alignments is necessarily a bad idea. Far from it, but those characters, like the type just listed, need to be handled carefully. Being a lawful evil character in a a party of good characters can actually create a useful dynamic without damaging the parmony. Suppose the party has captured the minion of a very sadistic villain who knows what his master's plan is, and where he will strike (no doubt cause a massive loss of life), but refuses to provide the information. While the rest of the party refuses to morally cross the line to extract this information from the minion, the evil character may step up to "take a wack at it", dismissing his kind-hearted companions from the area so that they and the minion can "talk". The lawful evil character is not morally conflicted about doing this, because they will do whatever needs to be done to achieve their goals, even if that means breaking up the jumper cables and going all Endo on their asses (heh, Lethal Weapon reference).

"He's really an artist."

The key to getting party members who don't naturally fit into the same morality mold or ideology of the rest of the party is to ensure at character creation is that they should have similar goals. If the player characters were all wronged by the same person once upon a time that set them on their paths, the character could be just be walking a darker path to the same goal. Perhaps they feel more safety in numbers, so they keep the party around, even bonding with them and fighting tooth and nail to protect them, not out of loyalty but out of necessity, which can be just as potent.

Either that, or they know one of the characters already.

How Do You Know Each Other?
Bringing together a group of strangers can be hard. Keeping them together can be even harder. You can throw challenge after challenge at them, and see what sticks, but after all those things are defeated, what is keeping them together that won't feel artificial or forced?

Personally, I like for at least two or three characters to know each other, or know of each other before the events of the game even transpire. Look at the Lord of The Rings. Sam, Frodo, Marry and Pippin know each other from the get go. They are fur friends from the Shire. They might not be best friends, and they might not run in the same circles, but they know each other. And that is an important point to make, knowing each other doesn't mean that they are best chums or soulmates, it just means that they know this person's name, and they can sort of vouch for their moral character. Later on, at the Council of Elrond, you find out that Legolas and Aragorn know each other from way back, and Boramr sure as hell knows who Aragorn is once Legolas lets slip his true identity. Gimli seems like the only odd dwarf out, unless you consider that Frodo's uncle Bilbo palled around with Gimli's dad, Gloin, during the events of The Hobbit. The only thing we're missing here is Kevin Bacon.

"Ye olde book club."

Having prior knowledge of or a personal relationship between characters can create all sorts of interesting story elements for you, the Game Master, especially if they are related to one another, romantically involved with one another, formerly romantically involved with one another, beholden to one another, like a master/servant or bodyguard/boss dynamic, or even opposing each other, like rivals.

 "Best buddies."

A Common Problem
Sometimes all you need to get you player characters together, and keep them together, is to introduce a problem that affects each of them. This can be anything from a villain or faction who has wronged them to an event like a natural disaster or magical/supernatural disaster. You could even take a page from the Wheel of Time, and conjure some force or faction that is hunting them for reasons unknown (giving you more time to figure out why).

The best thing you can do is sift through each character's backstory, looking for dots you can connect. Look for common threads or themes, for what is there, and what isn't. Then see where you can insert the problem in a way that won't alter or deter from what the player is going for with their character.

Example time: In my Dragonslayer campaign, the three main characters, Era, Merle, and Lamaia are perfect strangers right from the get go. The only thing they have in common is that they are in the same tavern on the same stormy night. There isn't much that organically keep these people together after the first adventure. Luckily I took a gander at their backstories and connected the dots. 

The Big Bad in Dragonslayer is a half-dragon wizard determined to resurrect an ancient and terrible dragon that almost became a God. To do this, the wizard first had to dismantle an equally ancient order of dragon slaying knights called The Sundered Scale. The wizard has been at this for awhile working towards this goal for the better part of a century. Given the characters' backstories were a little vague on the subject of parentage, I took a few liberties, making their each character's parents a part of this organization, working in secret to make the world safe from dragons, and subsequently falling to the hand of this vicious, power hungry wizard.As the characters progressed, they discovered that they were all intrinsically tied together, as if by destiny. 

Ham-handed, but still effective.

Once you get your players together, the sky is the limit! They'll fight for each other instead of against each other. They will die for each other instead of kill each other , and they won't necessarily loot one another after they die...

...but I wouldn't count on it.

Lets get the band back together,
+Ed The Bard 

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

GM Advice: Building Badass Boss Battles - Part 3: Building Better Battles

If you just joined us, be sure to check out Part 1, wherein we build a better boss, and Part 2, wherein we find just the right location to have our battle.

Now we've done it. We've grown a boss of true power and terror. We've patted the characters against it in the most frightening place imaginable. Now it is time for the thing we've all been waiting for. The battle.

I could spend two or three separate articles detailing tactics. what you should and shouldn't do, and so on and so forth. But when it really comes to tactics, it is really dependent on the location, the situation, and how your players play their characters, so I leave those entirely up to you, the Game Master. I know you'll do just fine.

And in this case, we are going to make tactics out bitch..

No, today we are going to discuss the not how to fight, but the fight itself, and the effect it can have on the landscape (spoiler alert: its a big one). A lot of boss fights are pretty straight forward, charge into the boss' lair, confront them, monologue, trash talk, and a fight that ends when the boss either flees of is defeated.

But if we are going to make a spectacle of this, if we really want this seared into the players' minds, we are going to have to do a little better. A typical battle allows the players to rely on tried and true tactics they have been implementing over several sessions. These tactics work. These tactics are proven. These tactics are going to do them no good this time.

This is the boss' fight, and any good boss will draw inspiration not from the book of vile villainy, but from the greatest tactician of any story told in the span of human history. No, not Sun Tzu.


"Be whatever you want to be, unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman."

The Dark Knight has had a simple philosophy that is at the core of his war on crime and the mentally ill; make your enemy fight on your terms, not theirs. What Bats is saying is that forcing an enemy to fight the way you want them to gives you insight on how they will behave, giving you a huge tactical advantage. The boss is the boss for a reason, so naturally it is sued to calling the shots. This will not be a big departure for them.

How will the boss attempt bring the players low? Glad you asked. Here are a few examples.

The "On The Move" Battle
This type of battle forces all the characters to keep moving, even those ranged folks who think they're all safe and sound in the back. This can be done a number of ways. The location in which the battle takes place could be falling apart, such as a room, platform or bridge crumbling beneath their feet. Each round they need to watch their footing and continue to move as large portions fall away. Sometimes massive gaps could open up, forcing the characters to jump or figure another way across before their section is next. Areas falling unexpectedly could require a check to grab a ledge before plummeting into what lay below.

 "Balrog v Gandalf: Dawn of Badass Wizardry"

Another fine example is a chamber with a deep, near endless bottom, or a lake of fire. A series of platforms suspended by rusty chains run the length of the room. Minions leap from platform to platform to get a better attack on the players as the boss zooms around/bounds around, attacking and retreating, sometimes attacking the brittle chains, sending the platforms plummeting below. Too much weight or too much time spent on the platform breaks the fragile links. With the right check, characters (and enemies) could swing the platform into another, possibly knocking it down, possibly suffering the same fate. If you want to be truly sadistic, make this a fight with a chain devil.

"Now that's off the chain!"

The idea is making the players (not just the character) think on their feet. This is not a simple "tank and spank". This requires a great deal more planning and improvisation, for at any moment the safety of wherever the character is standing could be compromised.

The "Time Is Running Out" Battle
Sometimes facing down a powerful foe isn't enough. Sometimes the Game Master sticks a little clock in the corner, counting down to their doom. The "Time Is Running Out" battle introduces a factor that becomes time sensitive during the course of the battle. Despite what this element is, it is generally something that either ends the fight or means the failure the player character's primary objective. These encounters usually become more tense as the time goes on

"Like sands through the hourglass, these are the last moments of the player characters' lives"

Examples include a chamber filling with water, sand, acid, lava, or another substance that typically works against your player characters' biology. It should be of note that the boss in said chamber should be immune to said nasty substance, for obvious reasons.

"Hi! Hello! I think there may be a plumbing problem in here... also a skeleton."

Another is when a life, other than the player characters' or the boss, hangs in the balance. The life in question is often that of an innocent, a beloved NPC, or someone of interest that has information the player characters need. The danger could be something as simple as being slowly lowered into a vat of acid (lifted from the James Bond book of over-complicated villainy), wherein the characters need to fight off the boss, and their minions while at the same time trying to rescue the captive.

"Give me the deed to your ranch! Wait... you rent?! There seems to have been a terrible misunderstanding"

Other examples include stopping an execution (the gallows or a headsman's axe, your choice), stopping an assassination, or stopping the wizard from completing the ritual that will suck the souls out of ever man, woman, and child in the city.

There is a lot riding on this particular style of battle. Failure has dire and immediate repercussions other than the potential deaths of the characters. Players accept that that is a possibility when they sit down at the table, but when it is their favorite NPC, an informant, or the person they have been question to rescue, they tend to fight a little harder, and a little smarter.

The "Fake Out" Battle
I will admit right off the bat that I am not only guilty of using this battle in my games, but took a sick, almost sadistic degree of pleasure from doing so. This basically boils down to leading the players to believe that the enemy they are fighting is the boss. Sure, they guy  is tough, and can dish out damage with the best of them, but he exists for one reason; to suck up the party's resources so the boss can enter in a pants-shiting-jaw-on-the-floor-oh-crap-we're-so-screweed moment.

 "It was a lot like that, yeah."

Let me set the scene for you. A goblin tribe has been raiding caravans by the roadside and making off with the goods. We've all seen it. The players track the goblins back to their cave, fight said goblins, and make it to the back of the cave, which is a large limestone cavern. Thick webs cover much of the ceiling and walls, making the players a little unsure about what is going on considering there have been no spiders up until this point. None of that matters though, because up ahead is the chief of this goblin tribe, clutching a fairly dangerous magic item. He battles the players, proving to be more dangerous than your average goblin, and thus becoming the focus for the group's ire. After all, who wants to loose to a goblin?

One observant player noticed that there were stranger arcane symbols woven into the web. With the right check, they determined that these were more than just webs, they were pages from a spellbook, woven in spidersilk (Dun Dun Dun!).

The goblin was finally put down. A good amount of the player characters' resources were spent in the caves, and here against the "boss". That was when I introduced the real boss, an awakened, highly intelligent spider mage (I was going through a phase). The reaction from the players was priceless. With little to no resources left they fought smarter than I had ever seen. The fighter was on the defensive for most of the fight so that they could conserve the cleric's few remaining healing spells. They flanked, they went to higher ground, they attempted to get every combat advantage they could against this new foe. They even went to work burning these webbed up spell scrolls so that the spider couldn't cast from them.

 "I castz da spellz dat makez da peoplez fall down!"

Some may see this as a dick move. I see it as a new and different way of challenging my players to get them to play the best characters they can, and on that day, they were the best they had ever been.

And that about finishes up my Building Better Boss Battles series. If you liked (or even if you didn't), let me know down below. Also if you have run or played in any unique battles, tell me about 'em. Points for details.

Well, that's all for me. I am slinking back to my lair to bide my time until the stars are right.... muwahahahah!

Be your own boss,
+Ed The Bard 

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