• Tag Archives D&D
  • Dossier Decks: Barl Moonsblood, Professional Nap Wizard

    With my D&D group coming up to a pivotal moment in Saturday’s game, I thought it was time to do another Dossier Deck draw and build a new NPC for your consideration. We started out with the Merchant deck, where we came up with a goldsmith about to be visited by the ghostly crew of sailors he betrayed in his greed. Then, a jealous chef from the Commoners deck, who doesn’t take criticism well at all. Two decks remain before we either double up or just throw caution to the wind and shuffle them all together: Wizards, and Orcs & Goblins. I thought we’d try Wizards today…

    … and I’m not quite sure what to think, this is the second half-orc drawn, before we even get to the Orcs & Goblins deck.

    Our Appearance card has a fairly suave looking half-orc in a hooded cloak, looking very wizardish indeed. His traits tell us that he’s a very sound sleeper who can nap anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Possible narcolepsy? Or just a general ability to become uber-relaxed at the drop of a hat? Barl is also rigorously honest, and expects others around him to be the same… and is utterly unforgiving when his trust is betrayed.

    All of this makes for a potentially interested recurring NPC, but it’s the story hook that really kicks it  up a notch. Barl possesses a ring that lets him jump into the body of another, trapping the victims consciousness in the ring while he gambols about town, and Barl’s own body enters a sleep-like trance. Flipside is, his body ages faster while he’s not home, so at some point Barl’s going to need to find a new host body altogether.

    This brings up a whole series of possibilities. Is “Barl Moonsblood” the original inhabitant of the body he’s currently wearing? Are there other consciousnesses trapped in the ring? What happens to them when Barl returns to his own body – are they returned to their own bodies? Are their memories intact?

    It seems likely that Barl’s uncanny ability to catch 40 winks is in fact a cover for his jumping to different bodies. This would also explain the difficulty in waking him referred to on the Traits card. No amount of yelling or shaking will wake him, but when Barl notices you’re trying to – from whatever body he’s currently inhabiting – he makes his way back and feigns waking from slumber to keep his corporeal transitory trick a secret. As for the honesty thing, if he’s convinced everyone that his accusers are liars before they’ve even accused him of anything, it’ll make keeping his secret that much easier…

    So let’s turn this into a short arc.

    Mesmerized Villagers

    In a small village, a number of people have recently experienced odd sensations and memory lapses. Farmer Giles went out to milk his favorite goat, only to discover that he’d already done it. Young Prudence somehow missed her secret assignation with Bert the Blacksmith’s apprentice, and in fact had no idea why her boots were so muddy. No-one could figure out why Walter had suddenly uncorked the good barrel in the tavern, despite having only just cracked open the usual beer, and Walter himself couldn’t remember even doing it!

    Surely that wizard fellow who came into town a few days ago can help! He looks a right proper fellow in that cloak with all the stars on it! He’s sure to be able to unravel the mystery. As our heroes come into town, they find a handful of villlagers entreating Barl to help them solve the mystery. He spots the heroes and – knowing that they could expose his charade – recruits them instead to join him in his investigation. If he’s working with them, he can steer their efforts, or if he feels he’s at risk, all he’ll need to do is to ‘become’ one of the adventurers on a more permanent basis, letting them “kill” his old host body.

    “Why yes, good heroes, I am new to the area myself. I’m on the trail of a deadly Mind Flayer that I heard was establishing itself nearby. I suspect it may be testing the waters, so to speak, and snacking on the memories of these good gentle rubes. Surely, we should work together to uncover the fiend’s base of operations, and save these honest folk from losing their very minds in the face of betentacled terror! Why, even now the hideous creature could be watching through the eyes of its agents… that milkmaid is looking awfully suspicious…”

    Will the players uncover Barl’s treachery? Will he be able to lure them into nearby ruins and pick them off, one-by-one? What the heck’s up with the milkmaid?

    Dungeons & Dragons is the perfect way for you to write epic adventures with your friends as you play together to craft a story for the ages. Sometimes, all you need is a little nugget of inspiration. Thanks to SkeletonKey and their Dossier Decks for the fun ideas. Next time, we crack the Orcs & Goblins deck. If I draw a half-orc, I’m writing a sternly worded letter… 😉


  • SkeletonKey’s Dossier Decks: Pobbs Willodan, Haunted Goldsmith

    It isn’t easy being a DM. Whether you’re putting your players through a published adventure or a world of your own creation, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into crafting an experience that (hopefully) you party will find interesting and engaging. A lot of time is spent working on story points, working out maps, gauging the threat potential of various gribblies to make sure they’re not a cakewalk but at the same time not a guaranteed TPK. One thing that can really breathe life into your world, though, is who your characters interact with. A well-crafted NPC can become as memorable as any boss fight, and can lead to more adventures than you’d planned.

    Enter the new Dossier Decks from SkeletonKey Games. Helmed by Ed Bourelle, SkeletonKey made a mark for themselves in the RPG Accessory field with their scrolls, stunning art representations of common spells used in D&D, physical props to add an extra element to your tabletop adventures. With the new Dossier Decks they’re looking to make life easier for the dear, beleaguered DM who’s in need of a little extra inspiration, or perhaps just to fill the gap when the players express an unforeseeable curiosity about that throwaway fishmonger who was never intended to be anything more than background noise.

    There are four decks currently available – Commoners, Wizards, Merchants and Orcs/Goblins. Each comes with three types of cards – Appearance, Traits, and Story Hooks – and all four decks can be shuffled together to make one oversized NPC generation engine. For today’s experiment, we’ve popped open the Merchants box, and drawn one of each card at random as an example of how it all comes together.

    Our NPC is the lavender-haired gnome Pobbs Willodan. A consummate host, Pobbs is borderline obsessed with ensuring his clientele are well catered to, even to go so far as insisting that their wineskins are full before they leave. Possessed of a prodigious digestive system himself, nothing upsets his own stomach, so no doubt he’s constantly on the lookout for new delicacies and unusual gastronomic experiences. From the story hooks, there’s a legend of a ghost ship whose crew can only come ashore once a year, seeking their stolen booty… and conveniently Pobbs has a chest that magically appears to hold whatever is valuable or desired by the viewer, but said treasure is incorporeal.

    Alright, let’s put this all together.

    Continue reading  Post ID 20491

  • RPG with extra olives: Odyssey of the Dragonlords

    Maybe it’s that I spent several years in high school and university studying Ancient Greece, including the myth and literature of the time, but when I’m chatting with one of the good people at Modiphius and they say “Hey, wanna take a look at what we’re doing with this new setting inspired by Classical Greek mythology and stuff like the Iliad?”, my interest is  piqued. Add to that a stable of writers and creators helmed by BioWare alums James Ohlen and Jesse Sky, and it gets even more interesting.

    As a geek with a long and venerable (or is that sordid?) history of nerdery, I’ve enjoyed RPGs in many settings, from traditional high to low fantasy, sci-fi, dystopia, contemporary, from horror to comedy and most things in between, so it’s always neat to find a setting that offers a different experience. Enter Odyssey of the Dragonlords, currently on Kickstarter and presenting a setting that can be introduced into any existing D&D 5e campaign, or enjoyed on its own.

    We’re going on an adventure!

    Odyssey of the Dragonlords introduces players to Thylea, a world set apart from the usual by a nigh-impenetrable ring of storms. Outsiders are rare, as few survive the passage to Thylea, allowing for a very real “Strangers in a Strange Land” feeling for outsiders. The locals have a history dating back to an era where Titans roamed their world, with storied conflicts between the gods themselves and the eponymous Dragonlords, conflict between the so-called civilized races and the fey, and more.

    Now, after 500 years of peace between being eons old and the peoples of the Forgotten Sea, old treaties are fading, old truces all but dust, and Thylea stands on the brink of cataclysmic conflict.

    This is exacerbated by the fact that while in other settings the gods dwell in the heavens and interact with mortals through their priesthoods, in Thylea the powers that be are quite literally manifest. Thylea herself, the great mother who gives her name to the realm, is physically present as an enormous world-tree. Her titan husband, Kentimane, is the direct source of the barrier that shields their world. Pythor, the god of battle, actually sits on the throne as king of Estoria.

    The gods can be literally bumped into walking the streets, and an insult to the gods or breaking of an oath can quite literally result in your being torn apart by harpies. This is a world where mortals live knowing that the divine are among them and that they have a direct impact on their daily existence, for better or for worse. Does it sound like Ancient Greece yet?

    Enter the heroes.

    Whenever you think of Classical Greek literature (if, indeed, you ever do), no-one remembers Sthenelaidas, few remember Patroclus, but Heracles (Hercules), Achilles, Odysseus (Ulysses)…  these are names carved into the cultural heritage. When we sit down to play any roleplaying game – be it Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Gangbusters or who knows what –  the most common collective goal is to create a story that will be told for years to come, to feel like we’re not only part of some grand, epic adventure, but that we have an active hand in making it so. No-one remembers the tale of Bellerophon Goes To The Shoe Store, but Theseus and the Minotaur? Jason and the Argonauts? Heck, Toronto named their CFL team after that last one.

    Odyssey of the Dragonlords directly addresses this with the introduction of Epic Paths. Every player chooses an Epic Path for their character, something that sets them apart from the hoi polloi beyond simply “I’m an adventurer!”. Each character chooses one of six Epic Paths that add depth and definition to their backstories. Sure, you’re a Dragonborn Ranger, but are you a Demi-god? Is your Epic Path defined by dread portents at your birth? Were you held outside of the passage of time and have now returned to a world completely unknown to you?

    Each Epic Path comes with a personal quest, three goals that you strive to achieve, and should you achieve them you will receive an appropriately heroic reward. The Demi-God example, as shown in the free-to-download Players Guide, sets our aforementioned Dragonborn Ranger on a quest to find their missing mortal parent, to forge a heroic weapon, and to defeat a great foe of their divine parent, who has fallen to great depths, proving that even the gods are not infallible.

    I like it.

    What we end up with is a self-contained setting with enough scope for a full campaign that can also be implanted into any existing setting that has an ocean that can hold the Forgotten Sea somewhere within it (sorry, Dark Sun fans). A setting that presents a very atypical divine presence inspired directly by the core of Greek myth, with a selection of new creature encounters to match, and yes, you can play a Centaur or a Satyr (first person to name their faun “Mr Tumnus” gets a stern look). A setting that has a very different feel to the typical fantastic settings you find in fantastic RPGs, while at the same time being incredibly familiar with major elements being rooted in the core of Western storytelling tradition.

    It all lends itself to a project that has the hallmarks of being a damn good time. Odyssey of the Dragonlords is currently up on Kickstarter, and has already funded, with PDF rewards being set to deliver in July, and physical rewards later in the year in September. If you’re looking for something new for 5e, or if you’ve just been enjoying Assassin’ Creed: Odyssey and wish you had a way to get that feeling on the tabletop with your friends, this may be the project for you…


  • Atlas Animalia

    I’ll be among the first to admit they’re something of a purist when it comes to their games. When I play Warmachine, I like to play pure faction, sans mercenaries. When I played VS System, my favourite decks were single team (with one or two notable exceptions). When it comes to RPGs, I like to lean on official resources. Part of it is simply acknowledging that if anyone ever let me come up with my own rules for things, they’d likely be imbalanced as heck. When I started DM’ing D&D again, after over 20 years of, well, not, I picked up the PH, the DMG, the MM, so on and so forth, but when I found Metal Weave’s Baby Bestiaries on Kickstarter I couldn’t resist backing them. Two absolutely stunning hardcover volumes written as guides to raising infant versions of all sorts of stereotypical fantasy gribblies. We alway see grown Owlbears, what about the cubs? Nascent shambling mounds? Diminutive Umber Hulks, not yet grown into their carapaces? The idea fascinated me, and I was thrilled to add the books to my library. Likewise, when they announced Atlas Animalia, it was a no-brainer for me to click the link.

    Metal Weave’s books – at least, the ones I own – are supplements to help breathe life into your fantasy campaigns. The Baby Bestiaries asked where all the baby monsters were, and provided all sorts of information on the care and feeding of Hydra Snakelets, freshly hatched Dragon Turtles, and more, giving you a wonderful resource for that druid in the party that’s super keen to raise their own pet Bulette, or the ranger that really wants to establish ties with a local Harpy nest. With Atlas Animalia they take it another step further.

    Everyone with a grounding in fantasy RPGs knows about Owlbears, but what if your game is set in a polar climate? How about an Asiatic setting? Atlas Animalia introduces owlbear variants tapping into Great Horned Owls, Sun Bears, Pandas and Polar Bear. Our own natural world has astounding subspecies of animals, why shouldn’t your fantasy setting?

    Continue reading  Post ID 20491

  • Salty Tales: Tarryc

     Way back in April I mentioned that I was running a D&D campaign for some newer players, introducing them to the world of roleplaying games and the joy of collaborative storytelling. We play biweekly, and thus far I’ve failed in killing any of the PCs had a lot of fun watching them work their way out of tough situations. Today I thought I’d introduce you to Tarryc.

    Let me tell you about my character…

    Ah, the cry of the RPG dork…

    Tarry is a Hill Dwarf, but he never really fit in with his people. He had no interest in typical dwarvish pursuits, other than a penchant for throwing axes. He’d often leave for days at a time, exploring the region, and one day he came across a small crater with a small crystal at its center. Ever uncautious, Tarryc approached and reached out to pick up the crystal, at which point it embedded itself in his palm, causing a reaction that hardened his skin to an almost stone-like texture. The flipside is he lost an awful lot of mobility in the process.

    The crystal that was now lodged in his hand was in fact a piece of crystallized wild magic, and had permanently fused with Tarryc. The effect left him somewhat loopy and a lot of the time he simply appears to be operating on a different wavelength than his present reality, but while he’s a little disjointed, there’s no doubting the impact of his spellcasting. Chromatic Orb is his default whammy, but he has recently learned to summon a literal wave to crush and drown his enemies, and he’s also very fond of helping his teammates suddenly gain the ability to breath fire…

    He’s a charming little fellow who seems to endear himself to everyone he meets, despite his being a distinctly odd fellow.

    Continue reading  Post ID 20491