• Tag Archives D&D
  • Dossier Decks: Pippa Westbuck, History Bard… or is she?

    I’ll confess a fondness for the shorter races of the Forgotten Realms. Sure elves and dragonborn and the like are cool, but there’s something about dwarves, gnomes and halflings that just triggers my imagination. Halfling Barbarian Tunnel Fighter! Gnome Storm Cleric! Sitting in my stock of characters-to-use-when-I-get-the-chance are a Dwarf Monk with a drinking problem and a Halfling Rogue who got conscripted into the local militia. When I flipped the first card for today’s post I saw a halfling, and my mind went “Ooh!” and then I flipped the others and went “… huh…. iiiinteresting”.

    Normally when I pull cards from the Dossier Decks I’m looking to create an interesting NPC, though last time we switched gears and used the cards as inspiration for a character for Iron Kingdoms: Requiem. I pulled the cards for today’s article and I was torn. Are we making a character or an NPC today? We’re sticking with an NPC, but really, I feel like either is a solid option for Pippa Westbuck.

    So Pippa is clearly talented in the ways of magic, and isn’t bound to a stuffy library somewhere as indicated by her fine travelling clothes. She’s a little absent minded and constantly recalls moments from her youth and from days of yore. Her constant companion is a raven that speaks Dwarven, and occasionally utters portentious omens. As a lover of history myself, Pippa immediately struck a chord with me but it’s the raven that triggered some more sinister ideas.

    Halflings are long-lived, so she’d likely have a good depth of experience, but at the same time, the little folk tend to settle down wherever they’re comfortable. Even if we put Pippa in her later years, say, 200ish, she’ll have spent at least a century of that in a community of her peers rather than adventuring. What if she has a knack for history, but the personal experiences from her youth aren’t personal experiences from her youth?

    Suppose Pippa was of a scholarly bent, but not necessarily of magic. We know she likes history, so what if she leaned into her natural charm and began adventuring as a  bard, perhaps the College of Lore. She had a knack for the magical side of bardcraft, but it was the knowledge that drew her in. You could even argue that the Cutting Words ability Lore bards pick up manifests as  her confusing foes with anecdotes and historical tidbits.

    Let’s say Pippa and her adventuring buddies went underground, where they bravely fight their way through the catacombs before coming up against Thavis of the Eternal Stone, a dwarven sorcerer long since given over to the ravages of time refusing to yield to death’s grip. A short, bearded lich, if you will. Conflict ensues, and Pippa watches her teammates fall around her as they battle the master of knee-high necromancy. Pippa gives her all, firing everything at her disposal at the lich before darkness overwhelms her.

    After a time, Pippa regains consciousness to find herself alone before the lich’s throne. The bodies of her friends lay on the cold tile, while the lich’s own form lies broken and shattered on the steps leading to the throne’s dais. The only other movement in the room is that of a large raven perched on the throne itself, head cocked at our halfling hero. She hadn’t seen the bird before, but it seemed to bob its head at her as if acknowledging something.

    Dusting herself off, Pippa sets a pyre for her companions, knowing that there’s no way she can retrieve their remains and return them to the surface. The raven periodically mutters in a tongue unfamiliar to her, presumably dwarvish, and at one point settles on her shoulder. After paying her respects Pippa returns to the surface and, disenchanted with the heroic life after the deaths of her friends, retires from adventuring to focus on scholarly pursuits…

    … but she has lapses. Every once in awhile she realizes that she can’t remember what she did yesterday, or the day before. She finds notes that she didn’t write. She finds a dwarven runestone rolled under her desk. And this raven keeps muttering at her in what she’s told is dwarven. She never learned the language, but on more than one occasion she’s muttered what feels like an expletive. Surely she just picked it up from the raven, no? And then there was that time she debated with a runesmith about the nature of three specific dwarven runes. At least, she’d been told she’d debated with the runesmith. She couldn’t remember doing so, and knew nothing about the etymology of the runes.

    In truth, the raven is simply following its master, as all Familiars do. So what if the master is hiding inside a little halfling bookworm? From time to time the master surfaces, and tells the raven of his plans now that he can move freely among the still-living…


    SkeletonKey’s Dossier Decks are a great tool for creating NPCs or inspiring character creation or even a full campaign. What if Pippa was loose in Candlekeep? What would the evil Thavis be able to achieve with access to Faerun’s greatest repository of knowledge? Should the party befriend and ally with Pippa as they work to uncover whatever mysteries they’re … well, uncovering, how will they react to the unwitting traitor in their midst?  Will they realize that their foe was alongside them throughout the entire adventure before the lich’s machinations wreak havoc? Can Pippa be relieved of her incorporeal stowaway? More questions than answers… there’s an adventure here just waiting to unfold.

  • IKRPG5e train of thought: Essence

    While the Kickstarter has closed and we’re now in the dreaded limbo betwixt Completion and Delivery, that doesn’t mean we can’t work to fill the void with IKRPG ponderings. If nothing else, we can keep the souls of dead Skorne company as they while away eternity in the void themselves.  PP Faye’s latest insider gave us some insight into character creation with NIall Kain, Thamarite Guile Cleric. While we won’t know the full details until we have books in hand, the cognitive wheels began turning about races and classes and how they’re represented in the newest edition if the Iron Kingdoms Role Playing Game.

    5th Edition D&D has been undergoing something of a renaissance over the last few years, expanding options to allow for more creativity with each rules supplement. The most recent, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, pertinently opened the door for eschewing racial stat bonuses so that players can more readily represent the character they have in their head. Dwarves are a hardy folk, for example, so traditionally get a Constitution bonus, but what if your character was more bookish, didn’t enjoy quaffing, and preferred the open sky to closed in tunnels and subterranean strongholds? Maybe you want to get an Intelligence bonus instead, indicative of their times spent with their nose in a tome rather than sniffing out a silver vein.

    The last edition of the IKRPG addressed this somewhat with the concept of Essences, and per Faye’s Insider it looks like we’re getting an update to 5e D&D to optionally use essences instead of racial bonuses. Faye’s character took the Intellectual essence, granting a boost to Intelligence or Wisdom, along with aptitude in a specific skill or ability, and some optional feats that could be taken as the character levels up.

    With the Intellectual essence being confirmed, we can likely expect Mighty, Skilled and Gifted or variants thereof. IK:Unleashed replaced Intellectual with Cunning, but they served a similar purpose. Intellectual (Int/Wis) and Mighty (Str/Con) make immediate sense, but working out a good fit for Dexterity and Charisma could be a little more challenging, there may not be a direct correlation.

    What will be very interesting is how Gifted is approached (if it’s included). Magic users in the Iron Kingdoms are few and far between, with Warcasters being elevated to a special place in society by sheer dint of their ability to access magic. Mechaniks and Alchemists have ways to pull of magical effects through mad science, Gun Mages and functionally enchant bullets, but by and large the characters of the Iron Kingdoms are, for lack of a better term, mundane.

    This is not to say that they’re not exceptional, but rather than they rely on trained skills and the like rather than any variant of wizardry and spellcraft.  Compare this to the Dungeons & Dragons core ruleset, where every class has access to spellcasting of some sort, either as a core feature (eg Wizard, Warlock, Sorcerer) or through a subclass (eg Fighter/Eldritch Knight, Rogue/Arcane Trickster, Barbarian/Totem Warrior).

    Assuming there is a Gifted archetype, will it be a requirement for anyone taking one of the spell-centric classes, and optional for other classes?

    The caveat, of course, is that the Iron Kingdoms is a setting for D&D. Just as there are no orcs native to Barovia, halflings are barbaric cannibals in Athas and centaurs are represented differently in Ravnica and Theros, it may well be that players in the Iron Kingdoms may want to consider carefully their choices in character creation so as to fit better with the setting itself. Collaboration between the players and DM to make the pieces fit will be important, but then, it’s always a good idea during character creation, to help the players realize a character concept that will work well with the story being crafted.

    We can expect a variety of human options for the Iron Kingdoms, with Cygnarans, Khadorans, Idrians and more, as well as Iosans, Nyss, Orgun, Rhulfolk, likely Trollkin and Gobbers, so there’s no shortage of potential races to play with, and the optional Essences will allow for customization above and beyond the more narrow confines of a genetic stereotype. Exactly how, we’re waiting to see.

    If you missed pre-ordering IKRPG: Requiem during the kickstarter, you can still pre-order through Backerkit.  What sort of story will you tell in the post-Claiming Iron Kingdoms?

  • Heroforge: Lago Ratburgher – Now in Glorious Technicolor

    As a roleplayer, it’s often a challenge finding a miniature that’s -just right- to represent my characters. That somewhat changed a few years back when Heroforge started producing customizable miniatures, taking advantage of advances in 3-D printing and designing a fairly robust website that let clients choose just what components they wanted for their figures. Different races, different poses, different equipment loadouts; it quickly became a quick and easy way to design character visuals, and most of my D&D Beyond character sheets have a Heroforge headshot.

    Last year, Heroforge kicked it up a notch by adding custom colorization of your figure, and the option to have your model printed in glorious technicolor. As someone who enjoys the act of painting, this feature didn’t immediately appeal to me personally, but I totally get that there’s a lot of gamers out there who don’t enjoy painting, so for them it as an amazing opportunity.

    Roll it forward to the recent holiday season and early January, and I got older, and my stepson decided he’d like to buy me a Heroforge model. This presented what we in the blogging world call an opportunity. I’m always keen to have more minis in my collection, and now we had a chance to not only get a mini for another of my PC’s, but also to see what Heroforge‘s colored models come out like!

    Enter: Lago Ratburgher, Halfling Rogue drafted into the Ratburgh constabulary to serve as an archer.

    Let’s be clear, this isn’t my first Heroforge model, so I knew to expect possible layer lines from the printer, and we got them. The graininess hasn’t been evident on all of the Heroforge models I’ve painted in the past, but it’s not unknown. The point of all this, though, was to look at the color.

    Realistically I knew not to expect the same lustre and vibrancy that we got on the 3-D render, but I’ll confess I expected a little more than we actually got. The coins on the base are a dull yellow, the arrowhead and helm are greys – it may just be that metallics aren’t really dialed in yet – and the three gemstones on the base are all quite dull.

    Conversely, I was impressed by the precision. Each quilted diamond of the armor has a darker center and lighter edges as portrayed in the render; the blue trim is spot on, as is the trim around the kneepads. There’s even color variation in the skin under his cheekbones.

    What made me smile, oddly enough, was the shiny spot on the helmet. That white spot near the front right of the helm’s crown is present both in the render and on the model – they’ve got color gradation doing a pretty good job of presenting reflective surfaces on steel, even if the coins in the sack do look a little like ravioli. I mean, he -is- a halfling, it’s totally understandable if he’s been looting pasta.

    The verdict?

    As someone who enjoys painting, I will likely not be relying on Heroforge for color printed models. I’ll happily use Heroforge for custom figures, but I’ll tackle the color chores myself – both because painting is a big part of the hobby for me, and because I like my models to have stronger saturation. For a non-painter, though, someone who may not be into painting ? The color service provides a simple, straightforward way to put your favorite character on the tabletop.

  • Dossier Decks: Ombarr Ruthnok, Orc on the Run

    Creating NPC’s for a roleplaying campaign can be a fun mental exercise. You never know when the NPC you breathe life into will inspire a future PC, a campaign, or even an entire setting – all built off the concept of one character. I thought today we’d do our first Dossier Deck character of 2021 by opening the fourth and final deck from the original kickstarter: Orcs & Goblins. For those unfamiliar, SkeletonKey produced four Dossier decks – Commoners, Merchants, Mages and Orcs & Goblins. Each deck has appearance, story hook and trait cards. You shuffle each card type, draw one of each, and bam, you get your NPC. While each deck is fully fleshed out in itself, you can mix all four decks together for maximum versatility, and they can be easily resorted thanks to the deck icons in the bottom corner of each card.

    Today we’re solely using cards from the  Orcs & Goblins deck. Our shuffle has yielded:

    • Appearance: Ombarr Ruthnok – a senior orc in good health, with solvered hair
    • Traits: Nervous tics and a touch of pyromania – my kinda guy.
    • Story Hook: Family Jewel/All-Seeing Eye. Ombarr has been charged with the safekeeping of an orb that’s being sought for its magical properties.

    So let’s start with the appearance. Orcs are often portrayed as a more barbaric culture, but Ombarr’s silver hair suggests that he’s already lived much longer than the stereotypical lifespan. The card state that he’s still healthy and strong, so we’ve got a senior orc who can still brawler. I’m put in mind of the Silver Horde from the Discworld books – a character who, by all rights, should have died a dozen times over but has instead defeated all-comers and, despite the ravages of time, can still hold his own. Ombarr was likely one hell of a brawler, and thus commands the respect and admiration of his clan…

    Continue reading  Post ID 20998

  • Games should be fun

    “At  the center of skorne society are unpleasant concepts like suffering, servitude and torture. Some players might not want such concepts expressed openly or in great detail, if at all. It is important everyone at the table is comfortable and having fun, and this might require a Game Master to let some elements of skorne culture take a back seat or be glossed over – or even to omit them entirely. Every group is different, so it is up to a Game Master to respect the players’ tolerances and preferences before showcasing such elements in a game. One group might not have any problem with playing a skorne campaign replete with dark themes, while another group might strongly prefer to omit careers like the Tormentor and the practices they represent. Overall, skorne society is more focused on earning honor and glory than on simply inflicting pain, and a campaign could easily be steered to focus players on achieving greatness for their houses without exploring the darker aspects of skorne culture and philosophy.”

    This passage is in the Skorne Empire supplement for the Iron Kingdoms Unleashed RPG. It was written by one of my favourite RPG writers, though I didn’t know that when I read it. It contains what is, for me, one of the most important concepts a Dungeon Master, Game Master, Storyteller needs to understand.

    A little background for those unfamiliar:

    The Skorne are a race of humanoids from the Warmachine/Hordes setting, whose culture could loosely be described as combining elements reminiscent of Feudal Japan, the Roman Empire, and an omnipresent death cult. They have a rigorous caste system, warring houses actively enslave those they defeat, and much of their culture is built around the desire to have their souls captured and stored in crystalline prisons when they die, rather than having them sucked into the void and destroyed. They are masters of mortitheurgy – death magic – and there are very powerful elements of their society that are built up around the sorcerous power that can be siphoned from the victims of torture and agonizing death.

    Frankly, an awful lot of skorne culture is built around practices that are ethically and morally abhorrent. I’ll freely admit that I love the Iron Kingdoms setting and I’m fascinated by the life breathed into the setting by the writing team. The setting has so much depth and character, for so many different factions and cultures, it boggles my mind just how rich the world of the Iron Kingdoms has become over the years. That said, some cultures depicted are, to my mind, much more suited to being antagonists rather than protagonists. There’s little heroic about the Blindwater Congregation, the Cryxian nation is mired in undeath and sinister blood magicks, and we all know how I feel about those filthy Morrowans in Cygnar.

    The Skorne Empire supplement is the most comprehensive look into the peoples who marched across the abyss to wage war on the fertile lands of Western Immoren, and while it can certainly be used as a “Here be bad guys” resource, it also presents the rules for a group of players to don the crimson and brass armour of the Empire and play in the streets of Halaak in their own quest for eternal glory (ie, to earn honour and glory sufficient to have their spirit placed in a soulstone upon death). That’s where the above quote comes in.

    Every group is different, so it is up to a Game Master to respect the players’ tolerances and preferences before showcasing such elements in a game.”

    Roleplaying groups are often bound by an unspoken social contract. The most recent D&D sourcebook, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, lists the following:

    • You will respect the players by running a game that is fun, fair, and tailored for them. You will allow every player to contribute to the ongoing story and give every character moments to shine. When a player is talking, you are listening.
    • The players will respect you and the effort it takes to create a fun game for everyone. The players will allow you to direct the campaign, arbitrate the rules, and settle arguments. When you are talking, the players are listening.
    • The players will respect one another, listen to one another, support one another, and do their utmost to preserve the cohesion of the adventuring party.
    • Should you or a player disrespect each other or violate the social contract in some other way, the group may dismiss that person from the table.

    If you’re doing something that actively makes a player uncomfortable, you’re in breach of the social contract. An exception may be possible if it’s tied to a critical plot point, but you’d best be prepared to deal with any fallout, which could be anything up to and including dissolution of the campaign.

    I’m currently running a D&D game set in Barovia, home of Count Strahd Von Zarovich. This is the gothic horror setting for D&D otherwise known as Ravenloft. It’s dark. I mean, it’s one thing to go strolling through a dungeon and thwarting skeletons and goblins. It’s another thing to burst into a puppet theatre where the audience is ceramic dolls that all turn to stare at you, and one of the villagers is up on the stage strung up like a marionette with meat hooks through his joints.

    In playing through the  campaign there have been multiple times where I’ve seen my players pale or be taken aback by some of the descriptions I’m firing at them. They’ve been troopers, but you can bet that I’ve checked in with them multiple times to make sure they’re okay with the tone of the campaign, because – and here’s the crux – games are meant to be fun. I want them to end the sessions feeling like they’ve accomplished something, learned something, or even just done something cool. I want them to have experiences that can have them thinking “Hey, remember when…” some time down the line.

    They’re the protagonists. If you’re having fun, but they’re not, you’re doing it wrong. You need to consider your approach, how things are portrayed, how much agency they have as players, so on and so forth. Conversely, if they’re having fun but you’re not, that needs to be addressed too.

    D&D, IKRPG and other RPGs are all about collaborative storytelling. While the DM may have the index and the major plot points, it’s the players who are filling in the minutiae. Everyone should be able to enjoy the experience.

  • 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 20998

  • 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 20998

  • 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 20998