Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Three Favorite Posts of 2015

Today is the last day of 2015, which means it's time to take a look at the past year of blogging and select several posts that I have personally deemed my favorites. I haven't placed any of these in a particular order, and I'll be linking to the original posts within the text so you can read them if you haven't yet.

Now, let's get to the actual point of this post, shall we?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Shadows Over Elsir Vale - The Rhestiloran Calendar (A.K.A. Creating a Fantasy Calendar)

Two weeks ago, I mentioned I'll be running my first 5th Edition campaign very soon. In preparation, I've been working on some details to flesh out the Elsir Vale a little more. One such detail is a fictional calendar to help me keep track of the passage of time within the game. This has led me to post my work here to show my process for creating such a thing and hopefully help other attempting similar endeavors.

Recently, I've really become a big proponent of the "Keep it Simple, Stupid" mentality of game/setting design. I firmly believe keeping things simple and concise makes said things a hell of a lot easier to use at the table.

This is why I decided to utilize a simple base for this calendar, one that's incredibly easy to grok. This calendar, which I'm calling the Rhestiloran Calendar after the kingdom that once ruled the Elsir Vale, uses the four seasons as its base. Each season is further broken down into three months each, that have 30 days divided between them. The following are the four seasons and the common names for each month.

SPRING: Newyear, Rebirth, & Storms
SUMMER: Light, Sowing, & Growth
AUTUMN: Toil, Harvest, & Rest
WINTER: Snow, Passing, & Yearsend 

Originally, I have the seasons divided into 8 months. However, I decided 12 months would be better due to it mirroring the traditional Gregorian calendar, meaning players had a familiar concept to latch onto. Furthermore, 12 months allowed me to have 30 days instead of 45, making it easier to divide into 6 weeks. This means I'll have to sacrifice the familiar 7 day week for a 5 day one, but I'm okay with that.

I also wanted to keep the names simple so they were easier to remember. I could have given them exotic, fantasy names, but I can guarantee you I'd forget them and would kick myself in the ass for doing so. I also feel like these simple names give a quick description of the month's place within the year. For example, figuring out what activities happen during the Month of Harvest shouldn't be too hard. I'll be using a simple naming scheme for the days of the week as well.

This is just one method. I could have also gone with a lunar-based calendar, having 13 months derived from the phases of the month, or just created a fantasy version of the real world calendar system by just replacing the names. However, I wanted to try something different and I think it turned out pretty well..

Monday, November 23, 2015

New Race - Arbori

The Arbori are a race of diminutive creatures who inhabit the numerous jungles and tropical forests of the world. Many explorers have mistaken them for a slightly larger breed of monkey at first glance. However, Arbori are more than mere primates.

An average Arbori is roughly the same size as a halfling. Their bodies are covered in a course coat of fur, tending towards a black or brown hue. Occasionally, an Arbori will be born with a white coat. However, this is incredibly rare and many believe an Arbori with such a fur coloration has been touched by the spirits and is meant to do great things. Every Arbori has a long, prehensile tail extending from their lower back and thumb-like appendages upon each foot. Most Arbori wear only a few pieces of clothing, favoring a simple loin cloth, a comfortable vest, or practical harnesses.

Arbori society mostly consists of numerous small villages built into the thick canopies dangling above the jungle floor. These villages tend to be theocratic in nature, with druidic councils guiding the populace both politically and spiritually. These druids are assisted by Arbori bards who collect and chronicle the tribe's history, scribbling these notes upon the back of bark and large leaves. Arbori villages are usually protected by rangers who've been trained to fight within the trees, swinging from branch to branch.

Although the Arbori tend to be a peaceful and reclusive race, they can also be very protective of their home and the forested areas surrounding it. They have been known to fight to the death in order to keep these places safe. They are equally dedicated to their friends and family.

The racial traits for Arbori can be found underneath the break. These racial traits are for the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. Racial traits for Fantasy Age will be coming soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Swords of the Petal Throne - A Tekumel Roleplaying Game by Kevin Crawford

+Kevin Crawford is one of those creators who consistently manages to put out excellent work. Stars Without Number is one of my favorite old school compatible games on the market, and his other projects are equally fantastic (especially Spears of the Dawn).

Recently, Crawford has released a game set in M.A.R. Barker's Tekumel called Swords of the Petal Throne. The version currently available online is a beta test using a version of the rules found in Stars Without Number, but modified to fit Barker's setting. I've only glanced through it, but I'm really digging what I'm seeing.

Swords of the Petal Throne is not an officially licensed work, but merely a fan production. However, there's a possibility we might see that change sometime in the future. I'm definitely routing for that to happen because I'd love throw my money at this awesome game and see what a final, fully illustrated PDF might look like. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Those interested in checking out Crawford's other work can do so HERE. I promise, you won't be disappointed.

F@#kers I Hate At Games (a.k.a FIHAGs)

"You guys don't understand! My finger hurts really, really badly!"
I really wish I could take credit for the creation of this term. Unfortunately, Dan from Fear the Boot beat me to the punch. The term FIHAG, as the title of this post illustrates, is an acronym for "Fucker I Hate At Games". 

This is the person who you hate to game with for one reason or another. They do something so annoying that you'd rather shove your head into a box filled to the brim with rabid rats than roleplay with them.  Give me the option of either having my balls repeatedly kicked with a steel-toed boot or roll some dice with this fucker, and I'll eagerly spread my legs and tell you to "Go ahead." 

Everyone has a FIHAG or two. The antics of these individuals have been burned into your brain, making it incredibly difficult for you to force them out so you can remember something useful like complex math or your significant other's birthday. You might not remember the FIHAG's actual name, but you definitely remember the action that damned them in your mind and have given them a title reflecting that. For example, here are a few of mine:

THE CHALLENGER
The Challenger goes by many different names: The Rules Lawyer, the Setting Lawyer, or the Science/History Lawyer. The Challenger is the person who will challenge the Game Master on every, little thing. "Actually, I believe the bonus for grappling a giant he's sleeping on a bed of large rocks is a +3 instead of a +2. That would be obvious if you read that one sourcebook from that one 3rd party company," or "That incredibly obscure NPC would never do that! They did something that completely contradicts that in one even more obscure novel written by A. R. Spazalore! How could you not know that!" 

THE AGENT OF CHAOS
There are some people who just want to watch the world burn, and they also seem to have a lighter ready to set the first fire. These are the people who will do something because it would be "funny", throwing monkey wrenches in every single situation they possibly can. The only seem to have fun when they can sew chaos and ruin any chance you have at having a serious and productive game. It's okay to have fun, but the Agent of Chaos' fun comes at the expense of the other players and the cohesion of the game itself. 

FRIENDS I WANT AT GAMES (A.K.A. FIWAGS)
FIWAGS are the counter-point to FIHAGS. These are the people that you want at the gaming table. They're the players who keep you coming back to each session and are a joy to play with. Everyone has a couple of FIHAGs, but they have a handful of FIWAGs as well. They could be the players who are always excited to grab some dice and explore a new part of the world, or the player who is willing to try anything and will go with the flow of the game. 

Although this post is about FIHAGS, I feel like I should discuss the opposite side as well. The FIWAGs are what make tabletop gaming an entertaining hobby. However, I would be lying if I said I didn't like bitching about FIHAGs more. 

WHO ARE YOUR FIHAGS & FIWAGS?
Now it's your turn. Who are your FIHAGs & FIWAGs? What is the trait you either hate or like about them? Why do you hate or like this trait so much? Leave your answers in the comments blow. I'd love to know. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Shadows Over Elsir Vale - House Rules

Tomorrow, I'll be kicking off my first 5e campaign. The setting will be the Elsir Vale region depicted in the old 3.5 module Red Hand of Doom, with a handful of modifications and alterations to fit the campaign's needs. This will most likely be either a bi-weekly or monthly game to better fit everyone's schedule, meaning I'll probably go for a more episodic narrative.

Because this will be my first campaign, I decided to share the house rules I'll be using with all of you. I've decided to keep this list pretty short, wanting to run most things by the book for the time being. I want to keep things simple for both my players and myself for the time being. I'll most likely update this list in the future if I make any additions or cut something from the list.

HOUSE RULES
Ability Score Generation
Players will generate their character's ability scores by rolling 4d6, dropping the die with the lowest result, and adding the remaining three together. They'll repeat this until they have six numbers, then assign them to their abilities as they see fit.

Hit Point Generation
Characters will begin with maximum hit points at 1st level, plus their Constitution modifier. Every level thereafter, the character receives additional hit points by rolling their hit die twice, keeping the die with the higher result, and adding their Constitution modifier.

Alignment
Players can select any non-evil alignment for their characters without needing Dungeon Master permission.

Healer's Kit Dependency 
Characters can't spend any Hit Dice after finishing a short rest until someone expends one use of a healer's kit to bandage and treat the character's wounds. This variant rule can be found on pg. 266 of the Dungeon Master's Guide.

Cleaving Through Creatures
When a melee attack reduces an undamaged creature to 0 hit points, any excess damage from that attack might carry over to another creature nearby. The attacker targets another creature within reach and, if the original attack roll can hit it, applies any remaining damage to it. If that creature was undamaged and is likewise reduced to 0 hit points, repeat this process, carrying over the remaining damage until there are no valid targets, or until the damage carried over fails to reduce an undamaged creature to 0 hit points. This variant rule can be found on pg. 272 of the Dungeon Master's Guide.

Critical Failures
When a character receives an unmodified result of 1 on an attack roll, they have critically failed. This fumbled attack gives the next attack roll made against them advantage.

Identifying a Magic Item
A character can focus on one magic item during a long rest, while being in physical contact with the item. At the end of the rest, the character learns the item's properties, as well as how to use them. This rule replaces the default rule for identifying a magic item.

THOUGHTS?
Feel free to leave any comments about the house rules presented above. I tried to keep things short and simple, but I will definitely be evolving this list as the campaign goes forward. Go ahead and share some of your own 5th Edition house rules in the comments below. I'd love to see how other people have tinkered with the mechanics to personalize their own experiences with it. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Frightful Features - Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996)

Created by Steven Dodd, Tales from the Crypt was a horror anthology series that ran for seven seasons on the premium cable channel HBO. The title is based upon the classic horror comics published by EC Comics during the 1950's. Like The Twilight Zone and other anthology series, Tales from the Crypt possesses a host character known simply as the "Crypt Keeper", a reanimated corpse who's risen from the grave to tell terrifying tales for our entertainment.

He also enjoys puns. Really, really, really bad puns. Puns that will make you groan louder than you ever thought you could.

Each episode presented a new tale, each more gruesome than the last. Most of the content was derived from the comics it originated from, causing the majority of the stories to end with some dark twist or a strange moment of macabre justice being enacted upon someone truly despicable after doing something particularly awful. However, they made sure each episode was its own beast and felt different from the last.

I'll admit, I'm cheating with this entry. Tales from the Crypt is clearly not a feature film. However, I decided to break the rules just this once because I believe the Halloween season is the perfect time to talk about this classic series.

I have a soft spot for anthologies, especially when it comes to film and television. The Twilight Zone is my favorite show, and I have very fond memories of Tales from the Darkside, Monsters, The Outer Limits (the 90's remake), and even Are You Afraid of the Dark and Goosebumps. I love seeing a brand new story each time I tune into such a series, admiring the craft put into them and getting such a varied amount of entertainment. Tales from the Crypt is no exception.

Each episode feels like a creepy B-Film crammed into 30 minute bites, filling you up without overstaying their welcome. One episode you might have a serial killer dressed up as Santa Claus attempting to kill a woman who's just murdered her husband and trying to cover it up, while the next could have two gambling rivals challenging each other to increasingly deadly games in order to beat the other. The various directors also brought their own unique touches to each episode, helping each feel more unique, while also still possessing a certain feel that was easily recognizable as a Tales from the Crypt story.

Don't get me wrong, Tales from the Crypt was by no means perfect. Like most anthology series, there are some real stinkers within the 93 episodes that were produced and made. However, the majority were great (especially within the first few seasons) and still remain enjoyable today. They feel like the perfect thing to show during a horror movie marathon, in-between each film to act as palate cleanser. They're also great when you just want to relax and enjoy something creepy and happens to have a heavy dose of dark humor.

Fantasy Age Specializations - The Witch

While every mage knows how to cast a spell, each one possesses a different source for that knowledge and approaches this mystical power in a unique way. Some spend years locked away within ancient towers, pouring over dusty tomes to unlock their arcane secrets. Others devote their lives to the deities, learning to channel their divine might. There are a lucky few who are born with the ability to sling spells, eldritch energies infused within their blood. The witch has chosen a different path.

The witch forges a mystically-binding pact with an otherworldly entity, gaining the ability to perform magical feats. However, they must act as this entity's agent in the mortal world. Occasionally, the witch will be required to perform certain tasks for the patron. These will be determined by the Game Master, based upon the nature of your eldritch pact. The requests made by a demonic creature will differ from the requests of a powerful fey.

WITCH TALENT
Classes: Mage                                    
Requirements: Intelligence and Willpower 2 or higher.                               

Novice: The pact you've made allows you to ask your patron for advice. You can use a major action to act if a particular action will bring good or bad results for you in the future. This will garner you one of four results: 
  • Weal (the action will bring you good results)
  • Woe (the action will bring you bad results)
  • Weal and Woe (the action will bring you good or bad results)
  • Nothing (the action does not have any especially good or bad results). 
You can only contact you patron this way once per encounter. You must rest for 8 hours before you can use this ability again if used outside of combat. 

Journeyman: You patron has granted you the ability to weaken your opponents, turning luck against them. You gain the ability to use a special spell stunt called Hex. This stunt allows you to give a target opponent a -2 penalty to one ability of your choosing until the end of the encounter. This stunt costs 5 SP. 

Master: You become more adept at hexing your opponents. The Hex stunt works as normal, but you can select two abilities to impose a -2 penalty upon instead of one. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rule of Three: Setting Tone for Horror Adventures

Being able to set the proper tone for an adventure is an important tool for any Game Master. This is especially true for Game Masters attempting to run horror-themed adventures. Failing to establish the right tone when attempting to run such a scenario can cause it to go haywire and become something else entirely, like a horribly unfortunate comedy or something even worse than that.

With that in mind, I thought I'd blow off the dust of the Rule of Three series and give Game Masters some tips and tricks for setting the tone for a horror game.

#1. Utilize the Uncanny
The dictionary defines "Uncanny" as "strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way." Properly utilizing the uncanny will help you sell the creepiness of the scene or scenario. Implementing the uncanny can be as simple as having a single light flicker along an empty sidewalk, or having the images with a painting seem to move when the PCs look away. Just don't overdue it. Things tend to lose their eeriness if they are used too much.

#2. Focus on the Details
When describing a scene, you should layer the details on nice and thick. Horror games require the players to buy into a dangerous situation when they're in no real danger. Giving the right amount of detail can make it easier for them to do this, helping them to picture this creepy image within their minds. You can also use these details to foreshadow terrors to come, build tension.

#3. Don't Forget the Tension & Release Cycle
Speaking of tension, you need to know when to build tension and when to release said tension. When building tension, give the players small hints about what is about to come, letting that small bit of knowledge cause their fear to build more and more. However, remember to let that tension break every do often, allowing for a moment of calm before building things back up.

I believe these three tips are of the utmost importance to constructing the proper tone for a horror adventure. While you can enhance the experience by playing atmospheric music in the background or playing by candle light, you need to understand the basic building blocks first an know how to implement them correctly.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ghoulish Games - Eldritch Horror

Published by Fantasy Flight Games, Eldritch Horror is a cooperative game designed by Corey Konieczka and Nikki Valens. Similar to Richard Launius' classic game of Lovecraftian terror, Eldritch Horror raises the stakes by leaving the famous New England town of Arkham and traveling the globe.

The game involves one to eight people taking on the role of various investigators as they travel the world to solve mysteries, gather important clues, and save humanity from the alien machinations of one of the many dark deities from the Cthulhu Mythos, known within as the "Ancient One". The players will combat the particular Ancient One by fighting monsters, completing a myriad of encounters, and various other tasks. However, they must be careful, because the fate of the world is in their hands.

Like I mentioned before, Eldritch Horror is similar to its older brother Arkham Horror. Each games has a group of players become investigators in order to defeat an alien deity. However, Eldritch's global focus, tighter rules, and quicker playing time helps it stand out above its predecessor.

Don't get me wrong, Arkham Horror is a great game and deserves its spot within the Board Game Hall of Fame. However, sometimes it feels more like a chore than an game to play. The game takes awhile to set up, the time to play it causes it to be one of those games you have to plan an entire night around, and it can be a little intimidating to newer players or those not as familiar with Lovecraftian themes. Eldritch Horror gives me that same experience in a smaller package.

Those looking for a dose of the Cthulhu Mythos at their board gaming nights should give Eldritch Horror a look. The game is tight, offers a tough challenge for those of us who really enjoy cooperative games, and allows you to travel the globe in the 1920's to fight alien monstrosities. What's not great about that?

Fantasy Age Specializations - The Slayer

There are things that go bump in the night. The slayer is the one who bumps back. These warriors have trained their entire lives to face the horrors that lurk within the darkness, hoping to eradicate the grotesque and the unnatural.

Sadly, very few slayers have happy endings. The majority either die fighting the creatures they despise, or stare into the Abyss for too long, slowly turning themselves into a special breed of monster. However, there will always be someone willing to ignore the dangerous laid out before them and travel down this sad path, doing what they believe to be necessary.

SLAYER TALENT
Classes: Warrior
Requirements: You must have Fighting and Willpower 2 or higher.

Novice: Your training has made you particularly adept at killing supernatural and terrifying creatures. You can spend an Activate action to target an extraplanar or undead creature within 12 yards of you. You receive +1 damage bonus against this target and weapons used against it are considered magical. This lasts until the end of the encounter, the target dies, or you spend another Activate action to target anothet creature. You can only target one creature at a time, and the same target can't be targeted more than once in a 24 hour period.

Journeyman: As you grow in power, you gain the ability to cause greater harm to these abominations. The damage bonus you receive against your target increases to +3.

Master: You learn to multitask and handle several targets at once. When you spend an Activate action, you can target two extraplanar or undead creatures at one time.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Frightful Features - Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

I'm not the biggest fan of "meta-films", movies that prevent the audience from forgetting they are watching a work of fiction. The reason for this is that a lot of movies that fall within this category tend to "wink" at the audience too much or pat themselves upon the back when they think they're being clever, when they actually aren't.

With that being said, there are a few that I actually really enjoy. Today's feature is one of them: Wes Craven's New Nightmare

Wes Craven's New Nightmare is a meta-slasher film directed and written by the late master of horror. Although the seventh entry within the popular franchise, New Nightmare takes place within our world a decade after the original A Nightmare on Elm Street was released. The story focuses on Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played the first film's heroine Nancy Thompson, currently living in Los Angeles with her husband Chase and young son Dylan. After experiencing a horrible nightmare during an earthquake, Heather discovers her son is being haunted while he sleeps by a man that sounds an awful lot like Mr. Krueger, which is peculiar since she's never shown him any of the films. Quickly, Heather learns a dark secret behind the movies: Freddy Krueger might not be as fictional as she believes, and he might have his eyes set upon her son. Can Heather become the character she once portrayed in order to save her child, or will Krueger succeed at his nefarious goals?

New Nightmare has this interesting concept of a famous slasher from a horror movie being something more, possibly something ancient trapped within the moving frames. It gives a cool explanation for why they keep making more and more of these movies, even thought it becomes harder to explain each and every entry. The reason being that once they stop production, the creature trapped within will escape and reek havoc once more.

That is a great concept for a metafilm, and New Nightmare uses it very well. It references the other films, but does so in a respectful manner instead of an annoying wink to the audience. It delves into the power these movies can have on the real world, but takes it one step further. It also feels like the perfect way to end the franchise, by having Freddy not only escape the world of dreams, but the world of film as well.

Because of this, New Nightmare is one of my favorite entries within the franchise. I still like the original and Dream Warriors better, but this one is a VERY close third. I love the concept, I enjoy the performances (especially from Langenkamp and England), and the effects are still top notch (although, I still prefer the older design for Freddy's scars and claw). I highly recommend New Nightmare if you're looking for a cool twist to a popular franchise that I feel actually works.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ghoulish Games - Dread

Dread is a horror roleplaying game designed by Epidiah Ravachol and Nathaniel Barmore. Although the game can be used for ongoing campaigns, Dread is at its strongest when used for one-shot scenarios.

There are two things that make Dread a truly unique game within the horror genre: how it handles characters and the game's system.

Unlike the majority of games within the hobby, Dread doesn't use specific mechanics to represent characters. Instead, characters are created and modeled by answering a questionnaire based upon the scenario being played out. Each questionnaire is different and helps players flesh out the different aspects of each character, giving the Game Master things to play with during the session. The only rule players must follow when answering these questions is they cannot contradict a question. For example, when asked a question about why did you break your mother's heart, you can't answer that you didn't do that.

The second unique element is the task resolution system that Dread uses. The game doesn't use dice to determine a character's success, but a simple Jenga tower. When a player attempts something particularly challenging, one with serious consequences that could possibly end with his demise, they must pull one or more blocks from the tower (at the GM's digression). The action succeeds if the player manages to pull the aforementioned blocks and place them atop the tower without knocking it over. However, failing to do so means your character has met his fate and is removed from the game. With that being said, the GM can bring you back in to torment your fellow players if she wishes to do so.

The reason why I love this mechanic is because it does an amazing job at build a sense of tension at the table. Each time a block is removed from the tower, its structure becomes more and more unstable. You know the tower will eventually fall, but you don't know when and you don't know if you'll be the one two do it. That makes every pull tense, since it could be your last, helping build the necessary tension that you need in a great horror game.

While I love Dread, I admit its not a perfect game. This game, like others in the horror genre, require you to have a group of players willing to buy into the scenario and allow themselves to feel scared. Furthermore, the nature of the mechanic requires players to forego some control of the actions of their characters due to the strict results of a block pull and what happens to the character if they fail. Because of this, Dread will not be for everyone.

With that being said, I still think everyone should give Dread a chance. I believe it's one of the best games for short-form horror scenarios and incredibly fun. Check out the game's website if you're interested.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Frightful Features - Grave Encounters (2011)

Directed by the Vicious Brothers, Grave Encounters is a pseudo-documentary horror film following the crew of a ghost-hunting television series as they film an episode. The crew consists of the show's host Lance Preston, occult specialist Sasha Parker, surveillance operator Matt White, cameraman T.C. Gibson, and fraudulent medium Houston Gray.

Hoping to create an entertaining episode, the crew decides to lock themselves within Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, an abandoned asylum with a very long history of paranormal activity. However, as soon as the sun sets and night falls, strange things begin to happen within the walls of this eerie building. Are these "investigators" going mad? What's lurking within the dark halls of Collingwood? Will they managed to survive until morning? Stay tuned after the commercial break to find out...

Normally, I'm not the biggest fan of the "Found Footage" subgenre of horror films. There are a small handful that I enjoy, but the majority are either atrocious or would be better off being shot more traditionally.

Luckily, Grave Encounters is one of the few that I actually like. I like the concept of a group of people who are basically frauds being confronted with genuine, paranormal activity/ The movie also gets bonus points for offering a situation that explains why they're keeping the cameras rolling instead of just tossing them or turning them off. Well, an excuse that makes suspending your disbelief much easier at least.

Grave Encounters also does a great job at building a very creepy environment that feels like something out of a Call of Cthulhu adventure, especially when the surroundings start screwing with the crew's sanity and their growing madness begins to take over. At times, the film gives me the same eeriness that Jacob's Ladder gave me the first time I saw it, watching the world within the film slowly fall apart and the characters spiraling into insanity.

While the film has its stumbling blocks, mostly with the haphazard pacing and the characters can come off as a little flat at times (especially at the beginning), the situation is intriguing and the weird nature of the horror is cool enough for me to feel comfortable recommending it for at least one viewing. Check it out. I dug it and you might too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ghoulish Games - Dead of Winter

Published by Plaid Hat Games, Dead of Winter: A Cross Roads Game is a semi-cooperative game designed by Jonathon Gilmour and Issac Vega. The game is set in a post-apocalypse during the harsh season of winter. Players take control of several various characters living within a zombie infested colony, doing their best to survive by working together.

Every session of Dead of Winter begins with the players randomly determining the colony's main goal. This will be the major objective the group is trying to complete over the course of the game. It will also determine the number of rounds the game will last and the group's starting morale, which must never hit zero of the players will lose.

During the game, the players will have to deal with a series of crises that will make things much more difficult, During their turns, players will be able to explore a handful of locations nearby the colony, gather food and strengthen the defenses of said colony, kill zombies, and many other actions. Once the round is over, they will check a few things to see if they lose morale, begin to starve, or make things harder for themselves in the rounds to come. The game ends if either the players A) complete their main objective, B) finish the given number of rounds, or C) run out of morale.

While this might sound like your typical cooperative game, Dead of Winter has two elements that really make it awesome: the Secret Objectives and the Cross Roads deck.

At the beginning of the game, players are dealt a Secret Objective card. This gives them a specific objective they need to complete before the end of the game to personally win. However, like Shadows Over Camelot, there is a chance that one player might end up with an objective labeled "Betrayal", meaning they are secretly working against the others. Because these are secret, a slight sense of paranoia creeps in as the game goes on, causing you to question everyone's motives. You'll find its difficult to trust even your best friends during the zombie apocalypse.

The Cross Roads deck is a unique element that happens each turn during the game. When a player starts their turn, the person to their left draws a Cross Roads card, which has a special event printed upon it and a condition that must be met for that event to trigger placed at the top. These events generally create interesting moments within the story of the game and present players with difficult decisions. One card might have you kill an helpless survivor to scare the others into not starting a riot, while another might have you choose whether to save someone who's hurt or take their stuff and leave them to die.

While Dead of Winter is a fun and very tense game, the inclusion of these secret objectives and the Cross Roads deck make it a fantastic experience. This might be my favorite game that came out last year, and I've enjoyed each time I've managed to play it (even though I've only won once). I would even dare to say it's probably my favorite zombie board game because it's the only one I've played that actually feels like a zombie movie.

Those of you who've not played Dead of Winter should change that immediately. Go down to your local game store, grab it off the shelf, and purchase it now. You will not regret it.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Frightful Features - Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the third installment in the well-known horror franchise. Unlike the other entries within the series, Season of the Witch does not feature the popular slasher Michael Myers. Instead, the film follows the great Tom Atkins as Dr. Dan Challis as he finds himself drawn into a strange series of events associated with a mask-making company known as Silver Shamrock Novelties.

After traveling to the small town of Santa Mira and delving deeper into the company's secrets, Challis discovers they have a horrifying plan for the children of the country, one that will come to fruition on Halloween night if he doesn't find a way to stop it.

Reactions to Season of the Witch at the time of its release were not very kind. Many criticized the films exclusion of Michael Myers, while others complained about the film being this strange blend of several different genres and ideas instead of just another slasher film like its predecessors. However, Season of the Witch has slowly garnered a cult following and a dedicated fanbase, which I happily belong to.

Season of the Witch offers a compelling story that utilizes the holiday of Halloween very well, great performances from great actors, and some truly chilling moments. British science fiction writer Nigel Kneale really knocked it out of the park with his script, even though he was greatly displeased with the increased graphic violence and gore added by movie mogul Dino De Laurentiis. It brings forth the origins of Halloween, mixing them together with more modern elements, making a story that feels unique.

The acting is great as well. Tom Atkins is great as always, reminding everyone who enjoys genre cinema why we universally love this man. He has this ability to bring so much charisma and personality to a character, causing it to just ooze out of the television screen. Dan O'Herlihy does a fantastic job as the movie's antagonist as well, bringing to life this businessman with a dark plan to return Halloween to its more bloody roots. Heck, that voice alone can send shivers down your spine.

Finally, the special effects are superb. Probably the most memorable scene is with the masked child watching the Silver Shamrock commercial. This scene is still great to this very day and looks utterly grotesque. It's definitely one of the scenes I point to when people ask me why I prefer practical effects over CGI. I dare you to watch those snakes slivering out of the eye holes of that rotting mask and not feel a shiver dance up your spine.

Halloween III Season of the Witch is a great horror film that receives an unfair amount of hate. It's one of my favorite films to watch during the month of October, and playing the drinking game associated with it is definitely fun (take a drink each time you hear that jingle). The story is interesting, the acting is great, and the special effects as awesome. I highly recommend Season of the Witch.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Ghoulish Games - Ultimate Werewolf

GHOULISH GAMES is a mini-series of posts where I spotlight a board or roleplaying game I feel is perfect for October and Halloween. This series will be posted every Monday.

Ultimate Werewolf is a party card game published by Bezier Games and designed by Ted Alspach. It's based upon Andrew Plotkin's lycanthropic-themed reinvention of Dimitry Davidoff's social game Mafia. The game can be played with 6 to 75 players of all ages, making it one of the best games to pull off the shelf at a Halloween party or a family get together.

The game's rules are pretty simple. At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt a particular card by the moderator. This card give each player a particular role within the game, with certain roles having special powers or requirements within the game. The game itself is then played in two phases, the Night phase and the Day phase.

During the Night phase, players with certain roles wake up and perform a special action. The Werewolves wake up and select one other player at the table to devour, the Seer wakes up and discovers whether a player is a werewolf or something else, the Witch wakes up and can either save or kill another player once each per game, and so on.

Once every role with a special ability or action has performed it, the Night phase ends and the Day phase begins. During the Day phase, the players wake up and learn who was killed by the werewolves. Afterwords, they discuss among each other who they believe is a werewolf and eventually vote on someone to execute at the end of the phase.  Once this has happened, another Night phase begins and the everything starts again.

The game ends when either all the werewolves have been killed (meaning those aligned with the Villagers have won), or only the werewolves are left alive (meaning they have won).

Ultimate Werewolf, as the name implies, is the ultimate version of Werewolf. The game has 40 unique roles, different scenarios you can use to liven up your game, 78 fully illustrated cards, a useful pad which makes the moderator's task of tracking the different roles within the game much easier, and a comprehensive game guide. Ted really knocked it out of the park with this one.

I only have two major criticisms of Ultimate Werewolf, and they are the same criticisms I have with normal Werewolf. First, you need a good moderator to have a good game. A crappy moderator can ruin a session of Werewolf unbelievably fast. The second one is that the really isn't a game per say, but more of a social event with some rules. While that's not a bad thing, it might turn away those who are looking for something with a little more structure or mechanics.

With that being said, I still feel like Werewolf /Ultimate Werewolf is one of the best party games out there, especially if you have a large group of players. Also, the theme makes it perfect for a Halloween party. Just turn out the lights, set up some candles,and have some fun with your friends.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Frightful Features - Nightbreed (1990)

Based upon the director's novella Cabal, Nightbreed is a dark fantasy film that follows Aaron Boone, a seemingly normal human being who's been having strange dreams. Every night, he finds himself whisked away to a place called Midian where a race of monsters called the 'Nightbreed' live. However, Boone quickly learns these dreams are more than figments of his imagination and he might not be as normal as he thought.

I'll admit, Nightbreed is by no means a perfect film. Hell, one could argue that it's not even a good one. The plotting is somewhat haphazard and the majority of its characters receive very little development outside of a handful of traits and admittedly pretty cool designs.

With that being said, I can't help but have a fondness for Nightbreed. I understand why a cult of genre fans have formed around this movie. The concept of having these strange creatures existing right under our noses and being the truly persecuted ones is very intriguing, the make-up work is excellent and the creature designs are visually interesting, and the climatic third act is a special level of awesome. You can also sense the amount of love and heart Clive Barker put into the film, which causes Nightbreed to possess this odd charm to it.

While it might not be the best movie in the world, Nightbreed manages to sustain itself with a cool concept and utterly awesome third act. Give it a try if you like Barker's work, looking for something with some cool monsters, and an interesting secondary part played by a certain beloved horror director.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

'Tis the Season to be Eerie

I'm going to share something about myself that's probably very obvious to most of you: Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love having an excuse to dress up as something else and eat a shitload of candy, I love the fact that I can flip to almost any channel and find a horror movie to watch, and I just love the macabre spirit of the holiday. Christmas is cool and all, but Halloween will always be 1st in my heart.

Because I love Halloween so much, I like doing something special on the blog to celebrate the holiday. This year is no different. Throughout the month, I'll be making numerous posts to honor this horrifying time of the year. Every Monday, I'll be doing a series called "Ghoulish Gaming" where I recommend horror games for everyone to check out and play during the month. On Fridays, I'll be posting another series entitled "Frightful Features" where I spotlight a particular horror film. On Wednesday, I'll be posting either advice for running horror games, concepts for terrifying scenarios, or something else depending on my mood.

With that, I hope you all enjoy the month of October and the awesomeness that is Halloween.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fantasy Age Musings - Non-Randomized Character Creation

Fantasy Age's character creation process is almost entirely randomized. Players roll to generate their abilities, certain aspects of their race, their social class and background, and a few other things. Personally, I really dig this element to the game. I love letting the dice fall and seeing what kind of character I end up with.

However, I know some people would like a process that is a little less random, one where they could have a little more control over how their character turns out in the end. With that in mind, I thought I'd work out a method to achieve just that. Here's what it looks like:

  1. Players should use Option 2 for generating their abilities. This method gives each player 10 advancements to spend on generating each ability's score. The only restrictions are scores can't start above 3 and you can't lower one ability to gain more advancements. 
  2. Players may select two benefits from the table associated with their chosen race. However, you may only select one benefit that actually raises the score of an ability. For example, a player creating a dwarf could not select the two benefits that increase their Fighting & Willpower.
  3. Players may select one of the 4 social classes: Outsider, Lower Class, Middle Class, and Upper Class. Furthermore, they will also select one of the backgrounds tried to their selected social class, receiving one of the focuses associated with said background. 
  4. Mages receive 20 + Constitution + 6 Health, Rogues receive 25 + Constitution + 6 Health, and Warriors receive 30 + Constitution + 6 Health at 1st level. Characters receive their Constitution + 4 Health from levels 2 to 10, then just their Constitution every level thereafter.
The only element of randomness that I decided to keep with this system was the generation of starting wealth, mostly to prevent people from solely picking to play Upper Class characters because they receive the most silver pieces. However, everything else has been reworked to allow each player to select the different parts of their character.

Friday, September 25, 2015

What are Your Gaming Scars?

A few weeks ago, I learned that my friend David has an extreme aversion to the inclusion of steampunk elements in fantasy games. The mere mention of the idea is enough to turn this usually jovial person into an incredibly angry person, especially if you mention skyships in any capacity. Being a curious person at heart, I felt the need to find out why he seemed to have this really peculiar reaction to something so harmless.

The origin of this strange hatred, like most things within this hobby, seems to be a particularly bad experience with a previous group. David was preparing to run a Pathfinder campaign and decided to create the game world with his players, but they apparently made some inclusions that ended up causing the game to collapse, with one of those inclusions being steampunk skyships. Hearing him tell this tale of woe makes me believe the skyship was the straw that broke the camel's back, hence why its the focal point of his hatred.

Initially I found this somewhat irrational, but I quickly began to think about certain subjects that immediately cause a metaphorical red flag to spring up within my mind because one utterly awful experience. For example, I will automatically veto any Drow characters that are brought to my table. The only exception to this is if we're playing an evil campaign where everyone's playing Drow. The cause of this extreme reation are, pardon my french, dick-waffles who wanted to play Drizzt Do'Urden clones with the Marty Sue levels turned WAY passed 11.

Yes, it's irrational. Yes, it's kind of silly. Unfortunately, I can't help it. Like David's hatred of mixing some steampunk peanut butter into his fantasy chocolate, my disdain for players wanting to be Drow characters is like a scar that won't go away and occasionally rears its ugly head when you least suspect it.

With that in mind, I'd like to ask you a question, dear readers. Do you have any gaming scars? What are they? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fantasy Age Specializations - The Alchemist

Lurking within smokey laboratories, experimenting with strange chemicals and incredibly unstable concoctions, the alchemist hopes to gain either knowledge or power by delving into the scientific art they draw their name from. These individuals are willing to go where no mortal has gone before in order to obtain their goals, even if they risk blowing themselves up to do so.

ALCHEMIST TALENT
Classes: Rogue
Requirements: You must have Accuracy and Intelligence scores of 2 or higher, and Alchemy (Novice)

Novice: The alchemist has become very adept at fighting with his grenades. He receives the Accuracy (Grenades) focus if he doesn't already have it and adds his Perception to damage rolls with grenades. 

Journeyman: While delving into this unpredictable science, the alchemist has most likely experienced is fair share of explosions. When subject to the Kaboom! stunt, the alchemist only takes half the amount of damage (rounded down).

Master: The alchemist knows the recipes for his grenades like the back of his hand and can make brew a new one at a much faster rate. Once per encounter, the alchemist can use an Activate action to make a TN 13 Intelligence (Brewing) test. The alchemist creates one kind of grenade they can normally make on the spot on a successful result.

Monday, September 21, 2015

No Rest for the Game Master - Knowing Your Limitations & Comfort Zones

The Game Master's job might seem like an exhausting one at times. You need to come up with some new, interesting scenario for your players to experience and enjoy on a weekly basis, make sure to pick a day and time to run this scenario that works with everyone's schedule, act as a fair arbiter of the game's rules and mitigate things at the table so everyone remains on track and gets their moment in the spotlight, and repeat the process the following week. You must also make sure to manage the number of players you have in your group and make sure they are a good fit for you and everyone else's gaming sensibilities.

This might seem like a lot to a neophyte Game Master, but there's a simple trick for managing it all, one that's relatively easy to figure out. All you have to do is know your limitations and don't overexert yourself.

For example, I know I have difficulty running games for excessively large groups, which we'll define as roughly containing 9 or more people. I can run for a group containing 8 players, but I'm comfortable with groups possessing 3 to 6, with 4 being my preferred number. Since I know my limitations on this matter, I will refuse to run for a very large group because I know I will have trouble doing so and it will effect my ability to present an enjoyable game to them, which will inevitably effect their fun as well.

You need to figure out your personal comfort level when it comes to several of these things, such as number of players, the game's tone, the length of a gaming session, the frequency of play, and so much more. Knowing this will help you figure out your own limits, and it will make managing those limits much easier. It's difficult to manage something if you don't have an idea of what you're supposed to be measuring in the first place.

Know your limits, figure our your comfort zones, and don't unnecessarily push yourself past said zones. Doing so will make your job as a Game Master so much easier and will take a weight off of your shoulders.

What about you guys and gals? What are your Game Master limitations and comfort zones? How often do you push those limits? I'd love to know.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Heroes of the Last Age - Androids

Relics of a bygone time, androids are one of the strangest races that inhabit the world. At first glance, these artificial creatures appear to be human. However, the clearly visible circuitry underneath their synthetic skin and the lack of pupils or irises in their eyes give away their inhuman nature.

Unlike their robotic cousins, androids are incredibly rare. Very few people know the secrets to their creation and even fewer have access to the materials needed to construct their bodies. The handful of artificers that do tend to keep that secret very close to their hearts. Some believe the reason for this is because these artificers question the sentience of these entities and whether they have the right to create life, whether its artificial or not. Others simply believe they're selfish and want to keep the secret to themselves. Both are truth in certain degrees.

The majority of androids that exist are used as laborers and servants, with most treating them as just another piece of property. However, some believe androids are more than just another piece of technology and possess a digital soul. Many android adventurers struggle with this concept, traveling the world, hoping to find evidence of this. These androids tend to be rogues or warriors, but a very small number become mages.

                                                       PLAYING AN ANDROID                                                            
Android receive the following modifications. Anyone who elects to play an android should modify their character as follows:

  • +1 Intelligence Ability.
  • Choose an Ability Focus: Dexterity (Initiative) or Intelligence (Scientific Lore)
  • You have Dark Sight, which allows you to see up to 20 yards in darkness without a light source. 
  • Your Speed is equal to 10 + Dexterity (minus armor penalty if applicable). 
  • You can speak and read the Common Tongue. 
  • Roll twice on the Android Benefits table for additional benefits. Roll 2d6 and add the dice together. If you get the same result twice, re-roll until you get something different. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                ANDROID BENEFITS                                                       
2d6 Roll
Benefits
2
+1 Dexterity
3-4
Focus: Constitution Stamina
5
Focus: Intelligence (Computers)
6
Focus: Perception (Searching)
7-8
+1 Constitution
9
Focus: Strength (Might)
10-11
Focus: Intelligence (Engineering)
12
+1 Strength

Monday, September 14, 2015

Campaign Ideas - Heroes of the Last Age

I'll admit, Heroes of the Last Age is not a new concept by any means. However, it's one I've been tossing around in the back of my mind for awhile now and I feel like I've finally found the perfect system to use it with (Fantasy Age).

Heroes of the Last Age is a science fantasy campaign set in a post-apocalyptic version of our own world. The continents have merged back into a single super-continent, much like Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique. Civilization as we know collapsed centuries ago, leaving independent city-states build upon the ruins of the settlements that came before it as a dying, red sun hangs high within the sky.

These few city-states are under the control of powerful sorcerers wielding dark magics. Each of these magicians are cloaked in mystery, with some being more benevolent than others. The one exception to this is the great city of Bastion, which is ruled by the Artificer's Guild, a group of individuals who scour the land for the technological artifacts of the past.

The typical fantasy races exist on this forsaken world. The albino dwarves inhabit the labyrinthine caverns underneath the continent, the utterly hairless elves live in secluded settlements within the land's few remaining forests, the rat-like halflings that survive within the darker corners of the city-states, the bestial orcs that ravage the land, and otherworldly gnomes with their abnormally large heads and subtle insanity.

Two major religions are present within the realm. Most belong to the Church of the Orbital Gods, a polytheistic religion built around ancient AIs which exist within powerful satellites orbiting the planet, occasionally broadcasting their messages to the citizens of the world. The other, more secretive religion is the Cult of the Old Ones, mad men and women who worship eldritch abominations from beyond the stars.

Heroes of the Last Age is the result of me tossing Gamma World, Thundarr the Barbarian, The Dying Earth, Smith's Zothique Cycle, and post-apocalyptic movies of the 1980's into a metaphorical blender and pureeing the crap out of them to make a delicious, gonzo concoction. This campaign would use the base system of Fantasy Age will a lot of the technology rules presented in Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana. Also, I can't help but use the awesome idea of the Orbital Gods from Patrick Wetmore's ASE1 Anomalous Subsurface Environment.

Although it will probably be awhile before this campaign sees time at my table, I will probably throw up a few ideas I've been brainstorming for it, like new races, talents, and specializations. Also, feel free to take this concept and run with it if you'd like. I wouldn't have posted it if I felt otherwise.

Friday, August 28, 2015

#RPGaDay Challenge - Day 27 Through 31


The appeal of the RPG a Day Challenge has slowly lost its luster for me. Since the next few days are going to be rather hectic, I've decided to just lump the last five questions into one post to get this over with. Yes, I know that means that I'm not technically completing the challenge as designed, but I already screwed that up with my first post.

#27: What is Your Favorite Idea for Merging Two Games Into One?
I'll admit, this is probably the most difficult question for me to answer because I have never thought about merging two different games into something else. I've done it with different genres, but actual games. I guess if we go with genres, my favorite is an idea that's been doodling around in my head at the moment, Techno City Blues. It would be a Detective Noir game set in a gritty, cyberpunk future.

#28: What is Your Favorite Game You No Longer Play?
That's an easy one. My favorite game that I no longer play is probably Rifts. I enjoy the setting's Gonzo nature, but greatly dislike the system tied to it. I'm happy that we'll be seeing a Savage Worlds version of Rifts soon, which will allow me to play it again.

#29: What is Your Favorite RPG Website/Blog? 
My favorite website/blog is probably the Alexandrian. It's definitely the blog I check the most often and I've taken a lot of his GMing advice to heart. Also, I really enjoy reading his reviews, especially the recent ones on the FFG Star Wars game.

#30: Who is Your Favorite RPG Playing Celebrity?
Another easy one. I could go with the obvious choice of Wil Wheaton, but my answer is actually Judi Dench. Yes, famous English actress Judi Dench. Apparently, she plays D&D with her grandchildren as the DM, which is all kinds of awesome.

#31: What is Your Favorite Non-RPG Thing to Come Out of RPGing?
This is going to sound corny, but I think I have to go with the friendships I've made through gaming. The people I consider my best friends I met through gaming, and I'm incredibly thankful for that.

Well, that's all the remaining questions. Next week, I'm going to be taking a break from the blog, mostly to take care of some stuff in real life and work on some stuff I'm planning for October for the blog.

See you all on the 7th.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

5e Musings: Ability Checks & Pushing Your Luck

Personally, I enjoy games that offer you the option to give yourself a penalty to gain some kind of special benefit in some situation. A great example of this would be FATE and the choice to compel an Aspect to gain a fate point.

I've been toying with an option for 5e that would allow one to "push their luck" on an ability check, receiving a temporary penalty in order to gain an additional benefit from the check. The exact nature of the risk and what would be gained from taking it would be decided upon by both the player and the Dungeon Master, however the mechanic for doing so would be the same no matter what.

When pushing one's luck on an ability check, the player receives Disadvantage, but happens to receive an additional benefit or helpful result if the check is successful. For an example, let's imagine we have a player named Jennifer who happens to be playing an elf ranger who's attempting to climb a rather steep cliff.

Jennifer knows that she could probably do this feat relatively easily, but worries that it might take a decent amount of time and she remembers this area is known for wandering monsters. She turns to her Dungeon Master and asks if she can try pushing her luck to climb the cliff faster, which he allows. Jennifer makes the Strength (Athletics) check with Disdvantage, which they decide represents her not being as careful as she should be. Success means she climbs up the cliff at a much quicker pace then she normally would.

Those who feel Disadvantage might be too big of a penalty can go with a simple -4 penalty instead. Either works fine. I elected to use Disadvantage because it's much easier solution. However, use whichever method works best for you and your group.

#RPGaDay Challenge - Day 26: What is Your Favorite Inspiration for Games?


Another day, another easy question. Due to me being a big film nerd, it should be obvious that movies are my favorite inspiration for games. Although I've recently started taking more influences from books and comics, movies still influence me the most. Whenever I see a new film, I find myself thinking about what stuff I could borrow for my games, especially when it comes to adventure ideas.

Because that response didn't take very long and was pretty short, I'll go ahead and specify which genre of film influences me the most. Without a doubt, my favorite genre to borrow ideas from has got to be Horror. Yes, horror films even inspire my fantasy and science fiction games. I can't help it, I enjoy adding spooky stuff to all my games.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

#RPGaDay Challenge - Day 25: What's Your Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic?


I had very little trouble figuring out what my answer would be for this one. As soon as I looked at the question, I knew what it would be. My choice for my favorite game mechanic that I feel is pretty revolutionary is Dread's action resolution system. 

Dread is an horror roleplaying game published by The Impossible Dream. The players are handed sheets possessing nearly a dozen questions they must answer to create their characters. Most of these questions are loaded ones, and the only rule you must follow when answering them is to not contradict the question with your answer. There are no skills or talents within the game, so characters are represented purely through roleplay. 

With that in mind, you might be asking yourself, "How do you resolve actions within the game?" That's pretty simple: You use a Jenga tower.

Whenever a player attempts an action where failure has dire consequences associated with it, they must pull a block from the tower. They can only use one hand and the pulled block must be placed atop the tower. The action succeeds if the tower remains standing after the block has been placed. However, the action fails if the tower collapses and the character is removed from the story. 

The reason why I love this mechanic so much is that it models the suspense and tension of a horror tale perfectly. Each time a block is removed from the tower, it gets less and less stable. You know the tower will eventually collapse, but you don't know when. This makes each pull incredibly tense, wondering if you will be the one to knock it over, or will you succeed and live to make another pull. 

When the tower falls, it represents that drop in tension that happens within a good horror tale, giving you a moment of relief before it is rebuilt and the game continues, the tension building once again. This is the reason why Dread is one of my favorite horror games and my go to game for one shot sessions. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Power of a Great Gaming Group

During my time within this hobby, I've heard numerous horror stories about utterly atrocious games. Browse through any tabletop gaming forum and you'll find at least one thread where people are sharing their awful experiences with bad game masters, bad players, and bad groups. Reading these tales caused me to realize something.

I'm one lucky bastard because I currently have one of the best groups a gamer could have.

The group is on the smaller side, possessing three key players at this moment (not counting myself). Thankfully, the four of us happen to exist on the same wavelength when it comes to gaming. We currently have four different games at the moment, with each of taking the GM helm for one of them.

This might sound like an exaggeration, but the sessions I've had with these guys have been some of the best I ever had. I love how the four of us seem to work off each other so well and feel comfortable enough to include touchy topics, like romance or depression. I enjoy how we make each other's job as game master so much easier because we all enjoy telling stories and want to see said story furthered, even if that means bad stuff happens to our characters. Finally, it feels good to being in a group that can keep going into the late hours of the night without even realizing it because we were having too much fun.

Earlier this month, I talked about Goldilocks Groups, The idea behind the term is finding the group that's just right for you, allowing you to optimize your enjoyment at the table. I believe I've found my Goldilocks Group and I'm glad I have. I would like to thank David, Logan, and Robyn for easily being one of the best groups I have ever had and I hope to have many more great sessions in the future with you guys.

Without these guys, I probably wouldn't be playing as much as I am right now. They keep me coming back to the table week after week, and I'm happy to do it because I know each session with them will be a blast.

#RPGaDay Challenge - Day 24: What's Your Favorite House Rules?


My favorite house rule is actually a pretty minor change I made to one of the classes in Pathfinder. My House Rules Document for Pathfinder is filled with a number of alterations that hopefully make certain options, like classes and feats, much more appealing and mechanically better. The following alteration was made to the Fighter and how certain Combat Feats work for them. 

Within Pathfinder, there are a number of feats that require you to select a specific weapon to receive the benefits of said feat. For example, a player must select a single weapon to receive the Weapon Focus' +1 attack bonus benefit. These feats tend to create a situation where the characters are overly specialized with a single weapon, meaning they will be significantly weaker if they ever lose access to that weapon. This especially hurts the Fighter, who is the most likely to take these feats.

I wanted to create an exception for the Fighter, allowing them to gain more benefit from the extra amount of Combat Feats they receive throughout an adventure. The exception was very simple. When they select a feat that requires the choice of a specific weapon, the Fighter can select a Weapon Group (Core Rulebook, pg. 56) instead. As an example, a Fighter could select Heavy Blades with Weapon Focus or Improved Critical instead of just a Longsword or Greatsword.

The reason I like this house rule so much is that it allows the Fighter to be more open to using different weapons and it gives them a special way to use their Combat Feats. Everyone can select these feats, but only the Fighter can select a Weapon Group with them.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

#RPGaDay Challenge - Days 22 & 23: What's Your Perfect Game & Gaming Environment?


Once again, Saturday was a busy day for me. Because of that, I had trouble posting my answer to yesterday's question. With that in mind, I decided to combine that entry with today's entry. I figured they'd both be short responses anyway, so that's probably for the best.

My perfect gaming environment would be a room built for the purpose of gaming. It would have a large, Geek Chic table sitting at the center of the room, with a large book shelf filled to the brim with different game manuals and board games. The seats would be nice and comfy, and a big dry erase board would be present on the wall. All the gaming supplies would be within arm's reach of the table, everything organized and ready to grab at a moment's notice.

My perfect game would be one where the rules possess a good amount of depth, but are still simple enough to learn and teach. The game would put story first, and offer mechanics to help further that story. The genre of the game would most likely be Fantasy, but possess a lower power scale.

Friday, August 21, 2015

#RPGaDay - Day 21: What's Your Favorite RPG Setting?


I'm going to keep the answer to this question short because I want to discuss this specific topic in more detail at a future point in time. 

Although I possess a deep love for several different settings, most of which are associated with Dungeons & Dragons in some way, I feel like my favorite is the Pathfinder campaign setting of Golarion. The Inner Sea Region is the default setting for most of my fantasy campaigns because I love how varied it is. Also, I've been with it since Day 1, meaning I have a deep attachment for it. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

#RPGaDay - Day 20: What's Your Favorite Horror RPG?


Honestly, I think it would be disingenuous to only name one game for this entry. I feel like I should name a game meant for longer campaigns and a game meant for only a session or two of play. One might believe I'm giving this specific genre of games special treatment due to my love of horror media, but I feel the exact nature of the genre deserves to have this distinction made.

I mentioned my choice for long-term games yesterday when discussing my upcoming micro-campaign. Call of Cthulhu is one of the oldest horror roleplaying games on the market, mostly due to it being one of the best as well. I know some people view the d% system that it uses as old fashioned and outdated, I believe it does a great job at modeling the investigative style that really shines with horror games while keeping things relatively simple. Call of Cthulhu is the game I reach for when I want to run this kind of game and it will have a place upon my shelf for years to come.

My choice for a shorter-form horror roleplaying game has got to be Dread. This is the game that uses a Jenga tower instead of dice to resolve actions and characters are created by answering a series of leading questions. Dread does a great job at build the tension that's necessary in a horror game due to the uncertain nature of the tower. Each time a player pulls a block, the tower becomes less stable, meaning the next pull could be your last. The freeform and improve nature of the game also allows you to really play any kind of horror story you want. Dread is a game I believe everyone should play at least once.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mysteries, and Investigators, and Great Old Ones! Oh, My!

Based on this scenario, I have a feeling this group's going to be
losing a lot of sanity after this..
This weekend, I will be kicking off my first new campaign since my Pathfinder one unfortunately fell apart. However, I'm going to be doing something a little different. Instead of my usual fantasy antics, I'm going to go down a darker path for the time being, one that might test my players' sanity.

I'm going to be running Call of Cthulhu. The last time I ran this wonderful game was in high school, and things didn't turn out so well. However, I highly doubt many of us can look back at our early days within the hobby without cringing.

Now that I have more experience under my belt, I'm going to give CoC another crack with a group who seems excited to explore the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Although I still have some kinks to work out, I already have the basic premise that I'll be using as the foundation for the campaign. The characters will begin their careers investigating the Mythos in 1928 in Arkham, Massachusetts. They will be brought together by a fellow associate who happens to be a professor at the prestigious Miskatonic University. This game will be a micro-campaign, hopefully lasting about four to five sessions. I don't want to give away too much about the specifics since the three people who will be playing in this game know about this blog's existence and I wouldn't want to spoil anything for them, I'll just say the campaign will probably blend some of that science fiction chocolate with Call of Cthulhu's horror chocolate. Also, I have one more thing to ask:

Have you seen the Yellow Sign?

#RPGaDay - Day 19: What's Your Favorite Supers RPG?


I'll admit, I had very little problems coming up with an answer to today's question. While the market has some seriously great superhero roleplaying games, I knew from the moment I read the question what my answer would be.

My favorite superhero RPG is without a doubt Mutants & Masterminds.

Published by Green Ronin Publishing, Mutants & Masterminds is a supers game very loosely based upon the d20 system. Although the game's system can be a little crunchy sometimes, I love the fact that you can build just about anything you want within the rules without much effort at all, and the game covers such a wide array of power levels. Really, it's easily one of the best games for this specific genre.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

#RPGaDay - Day 18: What is Your Favorite Science Fiction RPG?


I had some difficulty with this one, mostly due to the fact that I don't play that many Science Fiction roleplaying games. However, I do have a choice for mine. Some of you might argue that my choice isn't really appropriate due to certain aspects of the game, but I really don't care. This is my blog and this is my answer.

My choice for my favorite Science Fiction roleplaying game is Shadowrun. Yes, I know some would technically categorize it as "Science Fantasy" due to its inclusion of magic and fantastical creatures, but I feel the cyberpunk elements and the fact that people still include "Science" in that distinction means I can list it here.

While the system can get on my nerves sometimes, I adore the setting and believe it to be one of the best games on the market at this moment. Everyone should experience Shadowrun at least once in their lives.