Podcast Episode 47 – Midderlands, 5E, Sci-fi and other projects

In this podcast episode I talk about some of the projects that I’ve been working on and some stuff I’m about to start work on:


Title Music

Shinigami by XTaKeRuX:
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/XTaKeRuX/Empty_Grave/Shinigami

Used under creative commons licence:
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

10 Noises in the Darkness

We’ve all been in the situation where your PC is exploring some sort of underground dungeon, lit only by the flickering light of their lantern, suddenly someone falls into a trap or there is an unexpected gust of wind that extinguishes the lamp and plunges the group into darkness. In the darkness the PCs are forced to rely on senses other than sight, this can be challenging for a GM to come up with something on the fly since we’re so used to the convenience of visual short-hand.

Below is a D10 table of sounds and other sensory input that might occur to worry your PCs in the dark:

No.Description
1A sound like something wet being dragged over stone echoes through the darkness.
2Your foot plunges into something some and sticky like a ripe melon and a foul smell wafts into the air.
3The ground becomes sharp and fragmented under foot, cracking into dagger-like shards as you walk.
4In the distance a dull, monotonous tone like sombre drumming begins.
5The high-pitched shriek of a beast or someone in trouble echoes in the blackness, but it is impossible to tell where the sound is coming from.
6In the quiet darkness only the echoes of your own footfalls and your heart beating in your chest accompany you.
7Something hisses quietly nearby and the smell of rotten grass fills the area.
8From somewhere you can hear the constant dripping of water.
9You hear a scraping sound like someone sharpening a knife and–for just a second–you see sparks up ahead, bursting and then vanishing in the gloom, leaving only an after-image.
10Up ahead you hear the sound of stone grinding against stone, like an avalanche occurring in slow motion or perhaps the working of some great and ancient machine.

Writer’s Block

Okay, so I’m sat at work at the moment on my dinner break, still suffering from lack of sleep/sleep apnea (hospital appointment soon) and thinking about some particularly non-exciting work I have to do this afternoon, I’ve also got the first game for a 5E Ravenloft (not Curse of Strahd) game I’m running tomorrow and also my regular LOTFP game to run on Sunday. It’s at this point when the dreaded writer’s block strikes.

I’ve already sent out some basic campaign details for the Kingdom of Angels Ravenloft campaign and I have a fair idea of what my PCs are going to do in our Westhaven LOTFP campaign:

  • Kingdom of Angels: Groups of people who have somehow failed their deity find themselves pulled into a dark realm ruled over by the religious tyrant known as the Pontifex.
  • Rose of Westhaven: The PCs are planning to explore the catacombs below the church in Porthcrawl, they also have been summoned to a meeting with the local Lord at the start of the session.

Writer’s block always annoys me, particularly at the moment when I’m reading more books (fiction and non-fiction), comics and watching more films than I do normally, if anything I should have a surfeit of ideas, unfortunately my sleep-deprived brain doesn’t work like that. So this is what I’m going to do in order to try and beat my writer’s block:

  • Jot down some random ideas that I find interesting.
  • Use these to create a very rough sessions plan.
  • Have a skim through some of my RP books that have a similar flavour to what I want.
  • Have a look at the Big List of RPG Plots.
  • Go through the player character sheets and background to see if there are any threads I can pull on there.
  • Have a scroll through Pinterest and look for some inspiring images.

I’ll let you know how I get on 🙂

In the meantime, post in the comments and let me know how you deal with writer’s block, or are you one of the lucky few who never suffers from it?

20 Abandoned Dwarf-hold Encounters

Ancient–and often abandoned–Dwarven strongholds have been a staple of the fantasy genre ever since the mines of Moria captured the imagination of readers, and perhaps for even longer. There’s something about the great stone halls of the Dwarves, delving deep below the surface of the earth, bedecked in the faded grandeur of a one mighty race that speaks to the typical role-player and is–of course–pretty much tailor made for dungeon delving.

Below is a D20 table of people, creatures and events that your PCs might encounter whilst exploring the dark passageways and cobweb strewn chambers of an ancient Dwarf stronghold.

Please note: Each of these would benefit from a bit of elaboration by the GM, nor do they apply specific game mechanics.

No.Description
1A crumbling statue of an ancient Dwarf hero stands as a reminder of the proud heroes that once occupied this place, in one hand he holds an axe whilst the other points towards the entrance of the once grand structure.
2A group of D6 Dwarven adventurers are exploring the passageways, each of them is equipped for spending a prolonged period underground. The leader of the party has ancestors who once occupied the abandoned stronghold.
3The walls of this chamber are covered in crude chalk drawings and the remains of several crushes cots attest to the fact that this was once a nursery of some sort.
4The broken remnants of the statue of a Dwarven forge god are strewn over the uneven floor. Old, dried blood-stains and damage to the walls and statues attests to a fierce combat having been fought here long ago.
5The characters enter a series of seemingly random tunnels, branching off from the main thoroughfares of the Dwarven Hold. These tunnels seem more naturally and rounded, in contrast with the strange lines and angles of the previous corridors. This area is the lair of a purple worm, for each hour the PCs spend in it's domain there is a 1 in 6 chance they attract it's attention, this rises to a 3 in 6 chance if they're particularly noisy.
6A group of 1D6 goblins are scavenging in this area, they aren't much threat to a group of armed PCs and will most likely flee if challenged. However if attacked, the noise they make pretty much guarantees that something else will come to investigate.
7A hole in the wall of this chamber leads to one of the many thin shafts that bring air from the surface to the stronghold, the air current will extinguish any unshielded lantern bought into this area.
8The chamber is covered in thick webbing and will be difficult to cross unless the webbing can be removed or burnt away, there is a 50% chance that there is a spider swarm or a giant spider (50% chance of each) in the web when the heroes enter.
9This area is criss-crossed with rusted–but still functional–metal tracks that would have once carried Dwarves to and from a mine-face.
10A tiny door (fair too small for even a Halfling) in the wall of this chamber leads to a small alcove where a shrine to the ancestors was housed, there is a 50% chance that the shrine is undisturbed and may contains offerings made long ago.
11A flock of bats, harmless but startled by the PCs progress briefly fill the chamber as they seek to find a quieter resting place.
12A shining golden helmet hangs in mid-air in the centre of this chamber. In-fact the helmet is a lure used by the 1D12 giant spiders that have made their home here, hanging it from almost invisible threads of webbing to entice explorers and scavengers into their grasp.
13The walls of this chamber and the bones lying here are scorched black by some sort of magical conflagration, anyone capable of sensing magic can still feel echoes of the heat and pain that were summoned into existence by the Dwarves enemies. Anyone lingering in this room will occasionally hear screams or feel sharp (but non-damaging) stabbing pains. The spirits of the Dwarves killed here cannot rest, if given a decent burial the spirits will point the PCs towards a magical hammer, covered in blackened soot (but still usable and with magic intact) before departing for the afterlife.
14The sound of distant, primitive drumming echoes through the corridors.
15The forgotten remnants of an ancient Dwarven forge, although much of the finery has been looted or rotted away, a deligent PC can find some salvagable Blacksmith's tools and some serviceable weaponry here. If the forge could be restored then it would be capable of producing great wonders, its flue may also offer a way to the surface for those mad enough to climb it.
16A dust covered mine cart lies here, tipped over on its side. Most of the items in it have been looted or were taken as the mine was abandoned, however, a PC looking though the dust can find some miners tools and 1D3 gems in a small sack pushed down into the bottom of the cart.
17A half-mad survivor of the original attack on the Dwarven Hold has made this part of the ruins his home, driven mad by the bloodshed that he saw the Dwarf survives by eating cave moss and goblins, spending most of his time pointlessly trying to seal the dungeon and attacking anyone he perceives as being in league with the ancient enemy.
18The rotting remains of a huge, heavy bound book written in Ancient Dwarven lies half-burned amidst the remains of a shattered stone lectern. The book details the final last desperate defence of the stronghold, it may also offer some hint as to the nature of the ancient enemy.
19The heroes encounter a group of 1D12 Troglodytes who seem to be stringing up dead animal and bones around the walls of this tunnel. They are part of a small tribe that worships/fears the Purple Worm, they leave these offerings in the hope that they will be spared it's wrath.
20A pile of rotting wooden and stone items in the centre of this room were once formed into a barricade by the Dwarven defenders against enemy forces, their bones litter the floor around the crumbling barricades, attesting to their failure.

20 Random Fumbles and Misses

We’ve all been in this situation at one point or another, you’re fighting your way through hordes of goblins or you’re defending an ally, when the dice desert you and the dreaded fumble is rolled. These can be challenging for GMs to come up with on the fly, especially if they occur unexpectedly.

Below is a D20 table of descriptions that can be used when an unexpected fumble occurs.

Please note: Each of these would benefit from a bit of elaboration by the GM, nor do they apply specific game mechanics.

No.Description
1Your opponent strikes you on the side of your head causing your vision to blur and your own attack to miss.
2The enemy blocks your attack with their own weapon sending your weapon flying from your hand.
3Your enemy hurls dust or mud into your face, throwing you off your game and causing the attack to miss.
4A glint of sunlight shining off your foe's weapons and armour momentarily blinds you, allowing them to dodge your attack.
5Sweat from your exertions drips into your eyes, causing your vision to blue for a few moments, your adversary takes advantage of this and sidesteps your attack.
6Recent events have caused you to neglect your weapon maintenance, a dull clang is your reward as your blunted weapon fails to penetrate your opponents armour.
7Your opponent lashes out with a foot, causing you to instinctively jerk bacwards, you avade their dirty trick but miss with your own attack.
8At the last moment your enemy sidesteps your attack and your weapon thuds into the ground.
9You slip on a damp patch of ground causing your attack to go wide.
10Your opponent throws themselves backwards at the last moment, your weapon slices a shallow cut in their clothing.
11Your adversary reveals a hidden small weapon, whipping it out and parrying your blow.
12Lighting conditions cause you underestimate how far away your opponent is and your strike falls short.
13Your weapon slips in your sweaty hand, throwing off your aim.
14A previously unseen opponent bursts out of the shadows, you raise your weapon to block this new attack but are unable to press your advantage on your previous
15You step forward to deliver a punishing strike to your opponent but your foot sinks into a pothole causing you to stagger and miss your target.
16The ground below you is slippery and you struggle to maintain your balance, forfeiting your attack.
17A stray blow from a nearby conflict causes you to duck and parry, busy defending yourself you're unable to lash out at your opponent.
18Your enemy lashes out with their foot, aiming for your midrif, you duck back dodging the treacherous blow but it causes your own attack to miss the mark.
19Your enemy slices your forearm, sendin your weapon flying from your grasp.
20Your opponent's armour seems to turn aside the force of your blow.

More one-shots for 2018

I generally don’t go in for New Year’s resolutions very much, in my opinion most of them get broken shortly afterwards so I’ve never really seen the point in enshrining them as a resolution, if you’re going to do something then just do it. That said there are a few things–gaming wise–that I would like to do in 2018:

  • Continue my Westhaven LOTFP campaign: all being well we’ll be doing session 6 of this campaign this weekend, the game has been going well and there’s only been a single PC fatality so far. I’ve recently transferred some of the campaign data onto this site and am very much enjoying my first taste of OSR GM-ing, I’m hoping to keep the campaign going for some time.
  • Start up two Ravenloft 5E campaigns: I’ve been enjoying playing 5E recently as part of the Role with Advantage Facebook community, and it’s inspired me to have a go at running a campaign. I decided to go for a Ravenloft-style campaign, because who doesn’t like gothic horror? Just to put the idea of the game out there and try to generate a bit more interest I “advertised” it on my normal Facebook page as well as my Red Dice Diaries page and in various RP communities that I frequent online, the response was great with more people than I can cram into a single group expressing interest. To accommodate the interested parties I’ve split them into two groups and plan to have two separate groups of adventurers knocking around my version of Ravenloft, each game is only going to run once a month so I’m hoping this should be manageable.
  • Continue playing 5E with RWA: Speaking of Role with Advantage, I’m having great fun playing in some excellent games ran by AndrĂ© Martinez and hope these continue well into the New Year.
  • Run more one-shots in 2018: I’ve always found running low(er) prep one-shots and pick-up games to be enjoying and challenging in equal measures (many of the one-shots I’ve run can be found here on my YouTube channel) but found herding players and the other various bits of admin a real chore that could suck away enthusiasm faster than Dracula sucks down the red stuff. To try and make things a bit easier on myself in 2018 I’ve made a Facebook group featuring people who have played in my games in the recent past and who I have found to be reliable, my hope is that by advertising my games in this group first I’m more likely to get players; of course if that fails to secure enough players then I’ll advertise the remaining places in the usual communities online.
  • Release Storm & Sail: The pirate-fantasy campaign for Fate written by myself and Lloyd Gyan is pretty much ready to go, all the writing is done we’re just waiting for a final few pieces of artwork, after that it’s a few last minute layout tweaks and I should be able to release the PDF onto Drivethru RPG.
  • Release more Fate Thins: I really enjoyed writing and releasing my Fate mini-campaign books as PWYW PDFs on Drivethru, I’m hoping to release some more in 2018.
  • Expand my RPG writing: I’ve been playing several different games over the last year and going into 2018, I’m considering expanding my RPG writing beyond the Fate system, although I think to do so it’d have to be a system that I was really familiar with.

So those are my current roleplaying plans for 2018, let me know what your are in the comments 🙂

Random Things: Jungle Trinkets for D&D 5E

These random things articles are designed as quick idea generators for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game, in this article we’re looking at trinkets again. Trinkets were one of my favourite things about character generation in D&D 5th Edition; essentially each character starts with at least one, a small item or curiosity that has some odd property or something strange about it, it’s not a powerful magic item, just something interesting that could spur conversation and plot. Although this article was inspired by D&D 5E the same mechanic can be used in pretty much any game including OSR titles.

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Random things you might see in a strange port

Our random things articles are designed to give quick hits of inspiration for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game, when you’re stuck for a detail roll 1D20 on the table below for an idea. Although these articles are mostly fantasy-based in nature we’ve strived to keep them generic enough that they can be used with most games.

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Frost-covered Trinkets for D&D 5E

These random things articles are designed as quick idea generators for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game, in this article we’re looking at trinkets again. Trinkets were one of my favourite things about character generation in D&D 5th Edition; essentially each character starts with at least one, a small item or curiosity that has some odd property or something strange about it, it’s not a powerful magic item, just something interesting that could spur conversation and plot. Although this article was inspired by D&D 5E the same mechanic can be used in pretty much any game including OSR titles.

Continue reading