Gaming Resolutions for 2014

Gaming-wise, 2013 was a good year. I made a commitment to the blog, I attended Gen Con for the second year in a row (third time in four years), and I began work towards my own publishing company, Prairie Dragon Press. As I look back over the year I’m pleased with my achievements. I didn’t get as far as I wanted, but I made more progress than in years past. So I’ll take that as a positive result.

Looking ahead to 2014, I have a few goals I have set for myself. They’re tied into things I’m already working on, which increases my odds of achieving them. In no particular order, 2014 will see:

– the release of the first publications from Prairie Dragon Press, including setting resource books and a gaming-related cookbook;

– a commitment to five articles a week, including Campaign Creation, Trail Rations, For the Players, and Review regular features;

– more play-testing for me, as I take the opportunity to try out more new gaming material;

– guest blogging, both writing and receiving, something I haven’t done yet but would like to do. There’ll be a separate post talking more about that soon.

As those goals are achieved more will take their place, but that’s enough to get on with. I’m excited by the progress Renaissance Gamer has made and will make. I love writing this blog, and by the increase in readership I’ve seen over the past year it seems people enjoy reading it. As long as those two things remain, you can count on Renaissance Gamer being around a good long time.

Thank-you everyone for reading, and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the things I post. Have a great New Year’s, all!


Merry Christmas, Nerds!

Just a quick note to say Merry Christmas to all my readers! You guys and dolls have been great, and you make Renaissance Gamer fun and interesting for me. It’s your reactions and feedback that help me stay on task, so thank-you.

Renaissance Gamer is going strong into the New Year, and you can expect many new and exciting things in the coming months. No spoilers, but I’m pretty pumped and I hope you’ll be as well.

Merry Christmas, one and all! May your holiday be a critical success!

Campaign Creation: Random Encounters

As we head ever closer to Christmas, I want to make sure I stay on top of blog posts. So they’ll keep coming this week, they’ll just be shorter.

In that spirit, here is a Random Encounter Table for The Ruins. You can use whatever method you like to determine when an encounter happens; I generally roll a d10 twice during the day, and once during each watch at night. On a 1 or 2 an encounter happens, roll a d20 to determine which encounter. If the party is having a tough go of it, feel free to skip random encounters or adjust the CR as you feel necessary. While I’ve included a wide range of CRs, feel free to modify encounters with the addition of difficult terrain or environmental factors if you want a tougher challenge. But resist the urge to make all the encounters level appropriate; exploring The Ruins should have unexpected dangers.

All monster descriptions can be found in the Pathfinder Bestiary and Bestiary 2.

1. Three goblin warriors wait in ambush for members of the grippli tribe. They’re more than happy to ambush the party, however. (CR 1)

2. A yellow musk creeper, tucked away in the corner of an ancient garden, defends its lair with a variety of musk zombies; goblins, goblin dogs, gripplis, villagers. (CR 2)

3. Two giant spiders lurk in an old chamber, surviving on a diet of rats, gripplis, goblins…and maybe now adventurers. (CR 3)

4. The party discovers the remains of a library. The shelves are empty except for one. While the books and scrolls are real, the shelf is a mimic awaiting new prey. (CR 4)

5. Four goblin warriors riding goblin dogs, returning from a quick raid on the grippli. Should they be defeated, party finds an extra 20% treasure (looted from the grippli) (CR 5)

6. A will-o’-wisp has relied on the goblin/grippli conflict for food, and fed quite well. It attaches itself (invisibly, at first) to the characters, to see what delicacies they can provide. (CR 6)

7. Two grippli rangers are hunting for food; long-pig will do… (CR 1)

8. Goblins have covered over the broken ceiling to an old wine cellar full of broken pottery and bottles, essentially making it a Spiked Pit Trap (CR 2)

9. A section of street collapses below the party, dropping them into old sewers. Treat as a Camouflaged Pit Trap (CR 3)

10. Three ghouls have survived the aeons on a steady but limited diet of vermin. Now that the party has cracked open the ancient crypt that trapped them, they’re on the hunt for something more fresh. (CR 4)

11. Tired of her steady diet of goblins and grippli, a leucrotta is happy to “play” with the party for a while. (CR 5)

12. A giant mosquito homes in on the party, eager for a fresh meal. (CR 6)

13. Walking through the Ruins, a character disturbs a spider swarm. (CR 1)

14. The party encounters a rare site in the ruins; a lush fruit tree. But they also encounter the monkey swarm that calls the tree home. (CR 2)

15. One of the hazards of living close to swamps, the party is beset by a mosquito swarm. Note, this encounter can also occur in the village; if it does, treat it as a CR 2 encounter, as the village watch is used to dealing with these occurences. Otherwise, CR 3.

16. Separated from their pack, a pair of blink dogs follows the party from a distance, only attacking if attacked. The blink dogs can also come to the party’s rescue if they are facing an encounter too tough for them, at the GM’s discretion. (CR 4)

17. All that remains of a necromancer’s coterie of undead servants, this giant crawling hand has stalked the Ruins for ages. (CR 5)

18. Foul and ancient magics have tainted a section of an old park, resulting in a hungry tendriculous. Due to the many victims it has claimed over the years, treasure found is 25% higher than normal, though most treasure found is of the goblin and grippli variety. (CR 6)

19. Bound in an ancient mage’s laboratory and demented by its long captivity, an invisible stalker carries out his final instructions to defend its master’s belongings. (CR 7)

20. Its host fell victim to one of the many dangers of the Ruins, and now this intellect devourer must find safe passage back to the Depths…or another host. (CR 8)

What are some of your go to random encounters? Do you use them? Drop me a comment!


Gamer Gift Guide 2013

With a week to go until Christmas I thought this would be a good time to break out the gift ideas. Nerds are sometimes hard to buy for, and gaming nerds can be among the hardest (hir hir hir). If you know what games the geek(s) in your life play your task is a little easier, but even if you don’t there are plenty of options your gamer friends will love.

1) A Drive-Thru RPG Gift Certificate – Perfect for the role-player in your life, a gift certificate to Drive-Thru RPG lets your friend pick the games they want from DTRPG’s vast digital library. The GC is also good for the RPG Now and WargameVault pages, so your giftee will have plenty of gaming goodness from which to choose. Plus your friend can enjoy their purchases at the speed of light! Sort of. I mean because it’s a digital download. And far from being impersonal, a gift certificate to DTRPG shows you were listening when your gamer friend said, “Don’t bother buying me a specific book, I might already have it.” Speaking as a gamer, I appreciate that.

2) Dice – Yes, your gamer friend already has dice. But no gamer ever has so many dice they won’t appreciate more of them. And there are so many dice from which to choose: Chessex,Q Workshop, Crystal Caste…the list goes on. Or step it up a notch and get them a sweet dice ring from Crit Success! And if you don’t know your friend’s ring size, no worries; they have gift cards as well.

3) Magazine subscription – This is a great gift idea because it’s the gift that keeps coming throughout the year. And most magazine subscriptions come with a digital or digital add-on option. For general gaming goodness I’d recommend Gygax Magazine, covering a wide range of role-playing games. Or introduce your friend to the antics of Knights of the Dinner Table, the monthly that is half comic book, half gaming mag. While it does tend to focus on the Hackmaster game, many of the articles touch on general gaming topics and reviews. Plus the comic is pretty darn fun as well. And if you want to branch outside of the gaming realm, consider a subscription to a sci-fi/fantasy fiction magazine. For perfectly reasonable reasons that have nothing to do with me editing there, I’d recommend the amazing On Spec magazine. But I hear tell Asimov’s is a pretty swell magazine, too.

4) Tickets to your Local Con – This is assuming you have one, of course. And assuming your friend can make sure they’re free that weekend. But I know I’d be pretty stoked to get the gift of a free weekend of nerdery! Don’t have a local con? Then sign you and your friend up for games at ConTessa, a free on-line gaming convention. Then show up with food and drink, and turn the weekend into a virtual con/slumber party!

5) Run a Game for Them – This is especially cool if the friend is a constant GM in your circle of gamers. Give them a night or two off and run something fun for them to sink their teeth into; a system they’ve never had time to try or an adventure they’ve always wanted to play. And if you want to kick it up a notch, write a scenario or adventure just for them! Include people from their life as NPCs/monsters, make it about their work or school. It doesn’t have to be high art, the important thing is to make it as personal and fun as possible. Stuck for ideas? Here’s some 5-room Dungeons to get you started. While you’re there, why not sign yourself and them up for Roleplaying Tips?

Those are some of my holiday gift ideas. What are yours? Share them in the comments!

More Canadian Kickstarters!

I wrote a post a while back when Kickstarter opened itself to Canadian creators, so I figured it was about time to look in and see what’s new. First off, there are a lot more nerdy projects coming from the Strong and Free and it makes me happy. I’m glad Canadian creators are getting the chance to use this funding tool to its full potential. It has meant a slew of great projects, especially for tabletop games. And it’s nice to have projects I can look at that don’t have huge shipping fees; I know it is necessary, but if I have the option to avoid it so much the better.

Here are three Canadian tabletop gaming Kickstarters that caught my eye:

1) Backstab (Funding Deadline: January 11, 2014) – A very cool looking card/role-playing game out of Montreal, Backstab is very much in the vein of games like Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow. It promises to be a game of strategy and political intrigue, and will be available in both French and English.  Jumping in at the $25 level gets you the game when it releases, which is pretty reasonable. Higher funding levels allow you to help design cards and/or characters in the game, and even have your game delivered by Backstab’s creator. I’m a little concerned that they’ve rolled shipping into each pledge level instead of making it a separate cost, because I’m not certain they understand how pricey that can be. That aside, if you like the Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow style of game and want something with a more political intrigue bent, Backstab would be in your wheelhouse.

2) Labyrinths: Customized Modular Dungeon Terrain (Funding Deadline: December 19, 2013) – Missed out on the Dwarven Forge terrainpocalypse on Kickstarter? Here’s your chance to jump on some sweet looking modular terrain produced by Iron Ring Games out of Halifax. What I’m seeing looks every bit as good as the much touted Dwarven Forge terrain, and at a more affordable price point for most gamers. You also have the option of getting one of nine custom paint jobs on your tiles, plus additional design choices, accessory sets, and so on. They have exceeded their funding goal and have some cool stretch goals on offer. If you missed the DF Kickstarter, or just need more terrain (and who doesn’t), give Labyrinths a good look. But do it fast, you have only three days!

3) Master Plan Board Game (Funding Deadline: January 1. 2014) – A new board game out of Calgary, Master Plan pits you as the Hero against a plethora of villains bent on destroying or conquering your city. This game is in its final Alpha stage right now, before they begin Beta testing the game with new players. While just about everything about this game at this stage seems up in the air, I’d argue that this type of project is exactly what Kickstarter was designed to help. I am a little dismayed that the funding level to get you a copy of the game is $80; that seems a little high, especially with no near-final artwork to show off and entice me. However, if you want to take a chance  on what could be a great new game, then take the plunge and support Master Plan.

Any Canadian Kickstarters you’ve found that you’d like to share? Drop a link in the comments; if I get enough I’ll write another post.

Trail Rations: Qadiran Cockatrice Thighs

I like to encourage my regular Thursday night group to eat less junk, and to that end I often cook up a meal for us to enjoy before the game. Last time I posted a recipe for a hearty stew, but this time I wanted to get a little fancy.

Since we’re playing Pathfinder, I enjoy tricking out the dishes I cook to fit areas of Golarion. Things like this can really help to add an extra dimension to your game world, because the smells and tastes of cooking can evoke a very strong sense of place. If you are at all cooking inclined, I highly encourage you to give it a try at your next game night.

Since Qadira is the default Middle Eastern/North African area of the world I filed off the serial numbers of a Moroccan Chicken recipe I had filed away, and renamed it to suit the setting. Since cockatrice is very much a rare speciality cut of meat in our world, I substituted chicken thighs instead. Also, I find the dish a low to moderate heat but you might not share my love of spicy foods; in that case cut the amounts of paprika and cayenne pepper in half and you should be fine.


  • 1 tray of chicken thighs, approx. 12-14 pieces.

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 3 carrots, sliced

  • 3 stalks celery, sliced

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

  • 2 cups diced tomatoes

  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained

  • 1 zucchini, sliced

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

To Prepare:

  1. Season chicken with salt and brown in a large saucepan over medium heat until almost cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  2. Saute onion, garlic, carrots and celery in same pan. When tender, stir in ginger, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and turmeric; stir fry for about 1 minute, then mix in broth, dates, and tomatoes. Return chicken to pan, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add chickpeas and zucchini to pan and bring to simmering once again; cover pan and cook for about 15 minutes, or until zucchini is cooked through and tender. Stir in lemon juice and serve.

This can be served as is, or you can make up a side of lentils or brown rice and serve over that. Or serve with naan for dipping, scooping. This makes enough for six people.

There you go! Fast and delicious food to help your players immerse themselves in the game world. Better than trying to convince them the Doritos are Dwarven…

Do you cook for your games? Have any recipes to share? Drop them in the comments!

Friday Linkdump for December 6

Back when Renaissance Gamer was still Renaissance Dork, I used to do a weekly link post of stuff I found around the internets I thought was cool and interesting. I want to get back to that, because I’m still finding cool gaming stuff to share, as well as things that are…let’s call them “gaming adjacent”. These would be things that might inspire your campaign prep or spark an idea for a neat location, monster, NPC and so on. And Friday seems a good day to this, since it gives you the weekend to skim through it all and explore.

So I present to you, the first Friday Linkdump:

– Like Attack Wing, but hate the paint jobs on the minis? Calgarian and wargaming enthusiast Teri has some painting tips.

– Given the number of friends I have who are afraid of spiders, I’d need to buy several of these robots; at least one would always be in the shop.

– Re: my earlier post about maps, I can’t believe I forgot to mention Dysan’s Dodecahedron.  A great RPG blog, definitely worth checking out!

– Sticking with maps, here’s a great interview from Wired with Jonathon Roberts, the guy who mapped The Game of Thrones.

Have some holiday gaming gift ideas, courtesy of io9.

– I love finding little gems like this on YouTube: I give you, Role Initiative: A D&D Musical

– There used to be D&D Summer Camps! I want to go to there!

– The perfect gift for the rogue in your life: Lock Pick Earrings.

– Sticking with jewellery, this is a pretty cool necklace for the geek in your life.

– It’s no secret weird things get said at the gaming table. This blog collects them for you.

– Terry Brooks’ “Shannara” series is in the works to come to television. Cue manly squee of joy in 3…2…

– Looks like the Advanced Bestiary for Pathfinder is going to be pretty cool, if this post by Chris Pramas is any indication.

– And finally: Larry Elmore has begun another KickStarter, this time to fund a new SnarfQuest book. As you would expect it has already reached funding with 41 days to go. I’m interested to see what stretch goals make an appearance; maybe my dream of a Snarf plushie will become reality!

That’s it! Have a great weekend, play games, and I’ll see you on Monday!