Free RPG Day 2017

It’s that time again! June 17 is Free RPG Day, or “Tabletop Christmas” as I call it, a special day when gaming companies provide free role-playing product to encourage folks to try new RPGs. Game stores who take part will have the items available, and the better ones also run RPG events during the day.

Which brings me to where I’ll be on FRPGD. Swing by Apt to Game on Saturday and you can join me on Table 2 for a rousing round or two of Kobolds Ate My Baby!If you aren’t familiar with the game, you play those hungry little sociopaths and adventurer doorstops called kobolds, ordered by King Torg (ALL HAIL KING TORG!) to bring delicious food back to the caves. Babies are the preferred delicacy, but kobolds are also delicious so you’d better find something to put in the pot!

If kobolds aren’t your bag, you can have a seat at Table 1 and join Mark as he introduces you to FFG’s Star Wars Roleplaying Game with an Age of Rebellion adventure. Join the Rebel alliance for a few hours and try your luck against Stormtroopers and other nasties of the Star Wars universe.

Kobolds or Rebels, the choice is yours. Games begin at 1pm, and I believe the FRPGD material will be available just before that. You can book a seat at a table by stopping by the Facebook event page and leaving a comment. Otherwise, the games are first come, first served. I hope to see you there!

What’s on the Shelf?

I’m always looking for pre-generated lists to add to my gamemastering binder. You just never know what you’ll need to come up with on the fly, and lists of names (people, taverns, businesses, etc), treasures, encounters, and so on can make your GM life so much easier. After I wrote my post about marginalia, I realized that one of the things I was missing from my collection of lists was a list of book titles. As much as I love it when there is a library in a published adventure, too often they name the plot important books and ignore the rest. Inevitably one of the players will ask about those other books.

Problem solved! I sat down and made a list of book titles covering a range of subjects. I started with twenty five titles, and I’ll be adding to the list as more titles occur to me. I’ve shared those first twenty five below, giving you a starting point for your own list. Obviously you should feel free to modify these entries to better fit your campaign. The titles range in tone from silly to serious. The list is also weighted to books which might fit a fantasy or occult campaign, but it wouldn’t be hard to create a list of more modern titles if that was needed.

  1. Non-Euclidean Geometry and Its Application to Architectural Design, Vol. II (Vol. I is not present)
  2. Oozes, Molds, and Semi-Intelligent Plants: A Cook’s Guide
  3. My Time Amongst the Vegepygmies
  4. Her Hooves They Shone Like the Diamonds: Collected Love Poems and Songs of the Centaur Peoples
  5. What Colour is Your Gelatinous Cube?: Tips for Using Dyes and Stains 
  6. Elves are from the Feywild, Orcs are from Gruumsh
  7. A Fifty Year Retrospective of the Cheesemaker’s Guild
  8. Inter-City Relations in Post-Scarcity Faerun
  9. The Care and Feeding of Your Buopoth
  10. A Gentleman’s Guide to Bullywug Etiquette
  11. The Collected Minutes of the Ptolus Benevolent Society, Volume XVII
  12. Gold, Beer, and Steel: A Dwarven Songbook
  13. Oh Brother Where Art Thou?: How to Lead Your Own Cult
  14. Half-Orc, All Rage: Tips and Tricks for Anger Management
  15. Calling the Great Old Ones, a Posthumous Publication
  16. Monster Scatology: a Jeweler’s Guide
  17. Whose Bones are Those?: Dice Games of the Planes
  18. Kobold Guide to Trap Design
  19. Predator and Prey: Dating a Lycanthrope
  20. Weather Readings on Mount Thrandor, Common Year 4637
  21. If it Fits, It’s Grits: A Field Guide to Goblin Cuisine
  22. A Barbarian’s Guide to Unleashing What’s Inside (Your Enemy)
  23. Fur-braiding Styles of the Lowland Bugbear Tribes
  24. A Crafter’s Guide to Humanoid Physiology
  25. The Mysterious Case of the Left-handed Flumph

There you go! Feel free to adjust any of these titles to better fit your campaign. Or don’t, and leave the players wondering.

Do you have some favourite in-game book titles? Share them in the comments below.

ACG MiniCon at The Adventurer’s Guild

UPDATE: Due to issues beyond the organizers’ control, the event has been postponed. Stay tuned, and I’ll update here when I have new information.

As many of you know I used to be the Venture Captain for Pathfinder Organized Play here in Edmonton. After three years I stepped down, leaving PFS in the capable hands of Ross Tait. While I don’t get out to PFS games as often as I like, I still keep a hand in; I’ll be off to PaizoCon and GenCon to help out at PFS HQ. All this is to say, I’m still a fan of PFS and I enjoy helping promote it. Ross asked me to pass along a really cool event, so here is Ross to tell you all about it.

*     *     *

Hello everyone!

I am excited to announce for the first time ever in Edmonton history, the very first Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Mini Con!!

On Saturday, April 22nd at the Adventurers Guild (15211 Stony Plain Road), ACG Venture-Lieutenants Jason Switner , Aaron Steele, and myself will showcase the Adventure Card Game and help other players learn how to play this fun game. Games start at 11am and run all day. It’s drop in and we can accommodate groups who want to play together or singles who just want to show up and play. Each session is only 1 and half hours long so they easily can be fit into a Saturday when you have time. If you want to play again, you can! If you can only make one session, that’s fine too! We will be featuring the Rise of the Runelords, Mummy’s Mask, Skull and Shackles, and Wrath of the Righteous box sets!

Best part….it’s free to play!!

For PFS players who want to give it a shot, there will be a draw at the end of the day where player’s can earn a racial boon for their characters that was available at previous cons. This includes the grippli, the vishkanya, and the aasimar. Player’s choice.

So come on out and give it a try. We look forward to seeing you there!!

*  *  *

There you have it. I can say I’ve played the Adventure Card Game a bunch, and it is a tonne of fun. If you’ve never played before this is your chance to check it out and start building up a character. And maybe I’ll see you there!

Guest Post: The Elven Monk

One of the things I wanted to do for the site this year was get some guest bloggers to contribute, and to do some guest blogging of my own. Jesse C. Cohoon over at Fantasy Roleplaying Planes reached out with a post, and I’m currently working on a post for his site as well. In an earlier article I talked about how I had changed some races to better fit my campaign. So Jesse’s article seemed like a good fit, as an alternate way to look at the Elven people. I hope you enjoy, and take a look over at his site if you have the chance.Brent

*     *     *

The Elven Monk

Elves are typically presented as aloof, long-lived protectors of the forest, experts in magic, sword, and bow. But this is only one interpretation of what elven culture can be. What would happen if a sect of elves decided to remove themselves from society altogether, abandon their forest homes, seeking instead lives of meditation and quiet contemplation? Elves have a serene quality about them, and due to their longevity if they bend their minds and wills to focus on this, have a wisdom which few can match.

Lands & History

This branch of the Elven people withdrew from the world. They were tired of the constant need to protect the land from invaders. So they found a mountaintop constantly shrouded in blizzards and built a home there, daring anyone to try to take it away from them. They built a community with their temple at the center of it, which they named Yana Halt tel’ Loomi Raumo, translatedto common as “Leap of the storm clouds.” Despite this limiting factor of their location, they seem self-sufficient in getting all they need, having learned how to garden indoors, coaxing vegetables and fruiting plants to grow in what sparse light they have.  They also have a herd of alpacas which they use the meat and wool to weave their simple robes from.

Community

The Elven monks of this community spend their times training their minds and bodies to perfection. Everyone shares in chores alike: men, women, and as they are able to, children. Even though they are a temple, there is a sense of community and commonality for all there. This is not to say they’re not strict about their members adhering to the temple’s standards. If a member violates its rules, they may be asked to leave. For the most part, they do not welcome strangers into their lands with open arms . That is not to say they are inhospitable; if someone stumbles into their temple grounds needing help, they’ll supply them with what is needed: be it food or a guide, and send them on their way.

Appearance

They are typically lithe men and women who wear simple robes of a single color, oftentimes decorated with a sash of a different colored material to note their status or position within the community. When adventuring, this sash also doubles as storage for anything they’re carrying with them. On their feet they wear simple sandals.

Everyone originally from the community is first encountered bald. Newcomers to the temple for training or to join are required to shave their heads.

Personality

This group of Elves are isolationists, preferring not to get involved with the outside world. This is not to say they will not; if the situation arises and someone can convince them that their skills are needed, they will venture out into the world to face and defeat the evil. They’re fearsome foes to those that oppose them. Woe to be the enemy that confronts them in their mountaintop home.

Most of them are soft spoken, and will rarely initiate a conversation, preferring to mind their own business rather than getting involved in outside situations, unless failing to do so would violate their oath.

Weapons & Armor

They don’t typically wear armor, as it interferes with their acrobatic movements, but that’s not to say that they’re defenseless. The monks are trained to use their sash to parry attacks and use it to misdirect attacks from vital areas, sometimes blocking them from hitting completely. They typically carry a long three section staff that has a length of rope coiled onto it. The rope can be uncoiled to reveal a folding grappling hook. This combination is used similarly to the o-kusarigama, and can be used to cross gaps, and trip or entangle foes.

Skills & Powers

Due to their constant exposure to the elements, this branch of Elven monks can ignore the side effects of normal cold weather. If their training is advanced enough, they may be able to shrug off cold damage. They can deliver a chilling Ki attack with their palm strikes. Also, due to their physical training makes them surefooted in all but the most unstable of circumstances. They also are excellent climbers. Unfortunately, due to their social isolation, they aren’t good conversationalists, and despite their serenity, sometimes don’t make a good impression on others.

Adventures

Elven monks from Yana Halt tel’ Loomi Raumo may be found adventuring if they are seeking more advanced training, coming back home from guiding a lost traveler, or after having fought other evils.

*     *     *

Jesse Cohoon is a blogger who writes about tabletop gaming. His strength comes from being able to pull his experience from fantasy novels, video games, and real world experiences and combine them into one. His blog can be found at fantasyroleplayingplanes.blogspot.com. Contact him if you want him to do a guest article for your site.

Things I’ve Learned from Almost Forty Years in the Hobby

cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgI had occasion to talk with someone I gamed with in my primordial days as a gamer, and it brought home exactly how long I’ve been involved in the tabletop gaming hobby. That train of thought changed cars, and I got to thinking about the things I’ve learned in that time. The list of “rules” below is by no means exhaustive, but it begins to form what could loosely be called my “Gamer Code of Ethics”. I figured I’d share it in the interests of disclosure and because discussion around this can be interesting.

I’ve been in this hobby for almost forty years, and your gate-keeping bullshit is boring and stupid. I put this one first as a courtesy; if the statement offends you, you can now stop reading and go elsewhere with my blessing. No? Still here? Excellent. Seriously, though, at its heart this hobby is about playing. If you think someone should be excluded from play for any reason (other than on an individual basis because of intent to harm) then you are the problem, not whoever you’re trying to keep out of gaming this week. Anyone who wants to play is welcome at my table, period.

I’d rather not play than play in a bad game. This wasn’t always the case. In my mis-spent youth I’d play any game anywhere with any one just to be playing. Now, though, I don’t have time to play bad games. Work and other responsibilities take up a good chunk of my free time. When I play I want to be at a table with other gamers who want to have fun, and don’t need to impede other players’ fun to have it. I just don’t have time to deal with toxic players, and that’s doubly true for toxic Game Masters.

Rules are fine until they get in the way of fun. There are no rule police. The game company already has your money for the whole book, they don’t care how much of it you actually use. So if you encounter a rule which is seriously ruining the fun, change it or ignore it. If your player proposes something amazingly heroic and dangerous and the rules say no, tell the rules to shut up and figure out a way to make it happen. Not once in the entire time I’ve been playing has any gamer reminisced about that one special session where they adhered to all the rules. Not. Once.

You can’t put a green dragon next to room full of goblins. This oddly specific item comes from one of the first adventures I wrote, round about age twelve. And it did indeed feature a room with a bunch of goblins, right next to a room with a green dragon, each leading a blissful life confined to their room waiting for tasty adventurers. So yes, this rule is a little about dungeon ecology, but it’s also about interesting story. Because of course you can put a green dragon next to a room full of goblins, as long as you figure out an interesting reason why the goblins are still there and the dragon hasn’t binge-eaten a goblin tribe. Do it well, and figuring out that situation can end up being as interesting as fighting the dragon.

If you can’t spot the asshole at the table, it might be you. I’ve brought this up before in other articles so I won’t go in to much more detail here. Just look around and make sure you are matching or exceeding the pleasantness of the table.

A hard no is reserved only for players ruining other players’ fun. I’m generally willing to roll with whatever my players want to do, and I’ll figure out a way to make it work. About the only time I say a flat no to something a player wants to do is if it is directly antagonistic to another player or their character. I don’t even try to come up with an in-game work around for it anymore. I flat out tell the player, “No, you don’t get to do that” and why, and encourage them to figure something else out. Seriously, unless there is a strong story reason for your character to go after another character, it doesn’t need to happen. Stop being boring and move on.

Go to cons. Play games you wouldn’t normally play with people you’ve never gamed with. I’ve talked about this a lot so again I won’t go in to detail. But really, this is one of the best parts of the hobby and you should get to a tabletop gaming con at least once a year. You won’t regret it.

If you have to win to have fun, you’ve set the wrong victory condition. Should be self-evident for role-playing games, but this goes for board games as well. Does it feel good to win? Sure. But I don’t invite my friends over to beat them at games, I invite them over to play games. Winning is a nice bonus, but I’ve come to enjoy seeing my friends pull out some epic wins, even when they snatch them from my grasp. My victory condition is fun; as long as I achieve that I’m ahead.

As a GM it is never me vs. the players. Conversely, as a player it is never me vs. the GM, or the other players. Pretty self-explanatory, really. I don’t need to beat my players. As a GM I win if my players have a good time and feel suitably challenged. Similarly, as a player I win if I can work with the other players to overcome whatever the GM has in store for us.

Don’t touch another player’s dice without asking. You may not have any dice-related superstitions, but it is still polite to ask before grabbing dice from another player. See Rule 4.

Your “Lone Wolf” character is boring. Yes, even that one. I blame movies for this, because adventure movies are packed with examples of the loner hero. And why not? As a trope it works great for movies and television. But RPGs are a social game, and I’m sorry, but choosing to play a character who doesn’t want to be around other people is lazy and boring. The first thing I ask the player, when presented with such a character, is why are they now choosing to work with others? Because watching the “solo” character play against type can be interesting. Watching the character sit alone again, and not talk to the rest of the party again, and sneak off on their own again? Not so much.

You can expect another one of these articles at some point, because I know I haven’t even scratched the surface. But this is enough…well, let’s call it wisdom to be friendly…wisdom for one blog entry. Have anything you’ve learned? Drop it in the comments and share with the class.

Welcome, 2017!

cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgWhile I don’t believe in blaming a discrete measurement of time for any particular ill, it can’t be denied a lot of unfortunate things happened during 2016. As irrational as it makes me, I’m excited to get 2017 underway. I don’t really make personal resolutions, but I’ve been thinking of my gaming resolutions for the coming year and I thought I’d share them with you. Some relate to the blog and other creative endeavors, some to games I run or play, and the rest are sort of a wish-list for the coming year. In no particular order:

  1. Learn and Play 3 New Tabletop Games Every Month – Even though I read many new games last year, I found that I actually played very few of them. So my goal for the coming year is to play three new tabletop games a month. I’m not fussy about the type of game, as long as it’s something I haven’t played before. Of course this is driven by a desire to just play more games. But I’m also hoping this will get me out to more gaming events through the year, whether those are private events run by friends, gaming conventions, and anything in between. I plan to blog those experiences as well, so you’ll be able to see my running tally through the year.
  2. Attend More Gaming Events – A combination of health and personal issues kept me away from many of the gaming events I was invited to over the last year. With my new-found health, one of my goals for 2017 is to attend every local gaming con (attendee or volunteer, depending on availability), and get to as many small events as my schedule will permit. Hopefully this one will contribute to the prior resolution; a number of my invitations were for play-testing developing games, and I look forward to any of those which come my way.
  3. Self-publish – With the writing and design I’ve put in to my new D&D campaign, the urge is with me publish some of the more refined bits. So I’ve got plans in place to get something up on Drive-Thru RPG and/or DM’s Guild in the coming year. Possibly several somethings, but we’ll see how the first one turns out and adapt from there. I’ll still share the occasional item here on the blog, of course.
  4. Be a Better Player – I’ve referenced this saying before, and I can’t remember where I first heard it. But it goes, “If you’re playing a game and you can’t see the asshole at the table, be careful. It might be you.” I hope I’ve never been the asshole at the table (recently anyway, I can only apologize for my teenage self and move on), and certainly no one has called me on it. That might just mean they resolved to suffer in silence, however. So moving forward I’ll game with the conscious intention of not being That Guy.** No one likes playing with That Guy, and I think our hobby would be vastly improved by calling That Guy on their bullshit at every opportunity. This one will apply to all my games, player and game master, role-playing or board.
  5. Collaborate – This one is mostly blog-related, but it could spill out to other aspects of my gaming as well. I enjoy creating content for the blog. I think I’ve worked out a plan which will allow me to get content up on a regular basis, without straining my schedule. As part of that plan I’d like to collaborate with other game bloggers, in whatever form that shakes out to. One blogger has already been in touch, and you’ll see the result of that in January. But I’m open to working with others, whether that’s a blog post exchange, something co-written, or even game material. So if you’re reading this and you might be interested, drop my a line.

Do you have any gaming resolutions? Share them in the comments!

**That Guy is the person at the table who is sucking the fun out of whatever you’re playing. They’re fastidious rules lawyers, or they bitch about how poorly they’re playing (whether they are or not). Or they mock and question what everyone else is doing or playing. Or they’re playing yet another Brooding Lone Wolf character, and get pissy when you won’t warp your RPG game to include them. You get the idea. That Guy takes many forms and can be any one, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, or creed. (Because of that last, I find the term That Guy less than perfect, but unitl I come up with a better one I’ll stick with it for now.)

The Watchlist: Girls’ Game Shelf

I’m always on the lookout for nerdy things to watch, and one of my favourites are play-through shows. Once upon a time they were few and far between. Now, with how easy it is to record and upload to the Webz, there are a plethora of shows of varying quality from which to choose. This can mean slogging through some shaky-cam and audio poor examples to get to the really good stuff. But it makes it all the sweeter when you find a great show.

Recently I came across Girls’ Game Shelf, a relatively new YouTube series out of Los Angeles (side note: I’ve been coming across a bunch of great gaming shows out of LA recently. They see to have become the nexus point for gaming media). They shot a pilot season of seven episodes out of their own pocket, then ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to have a Season Two (currently two episodes in). Each episode features a particular game and a returning cast of women gamers, who play through the game and give one-on-one impressions of the game and game play. At the end of each episode they decide whether the game will stay on the shelf.

I binged this show in a morning and I’m now impatiently waiting for more. It has a production style which I particularly enjoy; just enough production value (good sound, good camera work, well lit) that it isn’t annoying to watch, but not so heavily produced that it feels like a corporate training video. Each episode has the feel of sitting down to have a friend explain a game to me, with the ensuing game play and commentary adding to my understanding of the game. Episodes are between 10-15 minutes on average, so you aren’t seeing every move step by step. And I think that’s a good thing. While I occasionally like to watch longer board game play throughs (the Tabletop unedited videos are some of my favourites), most of the time I just want a bite-size look at a game, especially a game I’m considering buying.

The two things that I love most about this show each relate to the cast. First, as the title suggests, it’s an all-female cast. Which is great! I love having a break from the “guys with games” monotony of gaming videos. I game a lot with my friends, and currently I’d say the gender split on my circle of gamers is about 70-30 men to women. Nothing wrong with that, but it means that if I want the male perspective on a game I don’t really have to work very hard to get it. I certainly don’t need another game play video hosted by another dude to get that perspective. But a show like Girls’ Game Shelf affords me new and different perspectives on my hobby, and that excites me. Especially when, to the second thing I love, the cast is so obviously enthusiastic about tabletop games. The best gaming videos, to my mind, are when the players are not just enjoying themselves but are visibly excited to be playing. Nothing will kill my desire to watch a video (or my desire to purchase and play a game) faster than a group sitting quietly around the table moving meeples. I want to see the excitement, and this series does a great job of hitting the highlights of the game and showcasing the players’ joy.

And on a completely different note, it is extremely satisfying to watch them fill up the gaming shelf over the course of the series. I’d honestly watch just for that.

So I’m going to keep Girls’ Game Shelf in my regular watch rotation for as long as they keep making episodes. It’s a fun series with a great cast who are obviously having a blast doing what they’re doing. If you’re in the market for a new or different game play series, I can not recommend this enough.