#RPGaDay, Day 17: Favourite Fantasy RPG

This is a harder question to answer now than a year ago. A year ago the answer was the Pathfinder RPG, and Pathfinder still has the finest organized play I’ve ever encountered (and helped run, as Venture-Captain). But a year ago D&D 5th edition didn’t exist, and I hadn’t give the AGE system a closer look. But the newest iteration of D&D looks great, especially as I see it being played on Geek & Sundry’s Critical Role. Also from G&S, Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana has shown me how simple and fun the AGE system from Green Ronin can be.

So let me say this. While I still love Pathfinder, and it’s still my current favourite, I think there may come a time when we part amicably as far as my home games go. Pathfinder could (rightfully) take me task for only using it to get through the Dark Times when D&D, frankly, sucked. But we had some good times and truly great moments, Pathfinder and I, and I regret nothing. D&D has gotten back to its old self, maybe even better than it once was. It was my first love, so I’d be foolish not to give it a chance.

I do still love the world of Golarion, though, so a lot of my D&D or AGE adventures may continue to happen there. Who knows?

#RPGaDay, Day 16: Longest Game Session Played

Currently, the only time I play for what would be considered a really long time are either: a) Gen Con, where I can sometimes end up GMing three Pathfinder Society scenarios in one day which adds up to about 14-15 hours of play; or b) Extra Life, when I game for 24 hours straight.

But back in junior high, my pals and I would get together for our weekend-long sessions of D&D, hosted at one of our houses. Friday after school we’d pack our games, dice, and obnoxious amounts of junk food over to whichever home had accepted the Horde that weekend. And we would play RPGs until the parents got sick of us and sent us home Sunday afternoon. Usually we’d blast through whatever the latest AD&D module was (the weekend we played G-1-2-3 Against the Giants still lives as one of my favourite memories), but these weekends were also when we’d take a break and try out other games: Paranoia, Skyrealms of Jorune, Car Wars, GURPS; we ran the gamut.

These days, of course, carving out that kind of time for gaming is well-nigh impossible. But I like to think that maybe, someday, we’ll manage to ave one of those weekends again.

#RPGaDay, Day 15: Longest Campaign Played

Recently my regular Thursday night group took a break from our long-running Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder campaign. I’ve been gaming with this particular group of guys (with some additions and subtractions along the way) for over 8 years. Of that time, we’ve been playing Runelords long enough that we started in D&D 3.5 and switched to Pathfinder. That may seem like a long time, especially since we aren’t done (currently a third of the way into Book 5 of the adventure path). But in that time we tried out other games, took breaks for summer holidays, missed nights due to work, illness, and “holy hell the rods are covered in HOW much snow and ice?!”. And our sessions, while fun, are generally only 2-3 hours long, so enough time for them to find trouble but not always enough time for them to finish it off.

But for all that, I really love gaming with these guys. There is something that happens, when you have a long running gaming group, that I’ve never been able to describe. I imagine it happens with any small group of people who share the same experiences over time. I feel connected to Ron, Scotty, David, Ben, (and now Matt) in a way that I just don’t get with a lot of my other players. Sure, friendship is part of it. But even though it’s imaginary, the experiences we’ve shared give us a weird common bond. And while we have had to put in some effort to make the group work, it’s nothing we’ve ever had to force. I’m not describing it well, but like I said, I have yet to adequately describe it to myself, never mind other people. If you’re in a long-running group you know what I mean.

#RPGaDay, Day 11: Favourite RPG Writer

I completely missed the start of this for this year, so today I’ll be catching up, working back from today’s topic. If you want to see my answers to the previous day’s questions, keep scrolling down.

 Day 11: Favourite RPG Writer

This may be one of the hardest questions for me to answer. And no, no tired “Sophie’s Choice” comparison; no one is going to execute the writers I don’t pick. Are they? No, that would be awful. They wouldn’t…no, I’m sure it’s fine.

I’m going to fudge this a little bit, and give my gaming material and fiction answers. So for gaming material, and limiting myself only to stuff I’ve read this year lest I go mad, I’m going with Kenneth Hite. I picked up a tentacle-load of Trail of Cthulhu books from a friend this past spring, and I love everything about the system and the source books. The GUMSHOE System lends itself particularly well to Cthulhu Mythos gaming, by cleverly removing the possibility of NOT finding necessary clues; you will always find an answer, but you may have to put in a bit of extra effort (and/or stability and sanity) to make that clue really pay off. It is such an elegant and simple mechanic, and made all the more clever because, used properly, it heightens the role-playing experience. If you haven’t looked at the system, do yourself a favour and check it out.

My favourite RPG fiction writer is Dave Gross. I’ve been a fan of Dave’s work for…*looks at calendar, shudders at the math*…a long time. But the work which cemented me as a life-long Dave Gross Fan Club Member was the Radovan and the Count stories found in the Pathfinder Adventure Path Council of Thieves, and the ensuing five novels.  Dave gives us, in the relationship and adventures of these two characters, a story which is at one and the same time immensely personal and intimate, and grandly heroic and sometimes tragic. That isn’t to say these elements weren’t present in earlier works, or aren’t present in his other current works. But in the Radovan and the Count stories they come together so well, the books are a joy to read and re-read. (Nerd Confession: Every time a new book in the series comes out, I go back and re-read the novels before reading the newest one. I’ve never regretted it.) If you want to read an exciting, fun story with characters you’ll love, find yourself a copy of Prince of Wolves and read yourself through the series up to the latest, Lord of Runes. You’re welcome.

Day 10: Favourite RPG Publisher

Overall, Paizo is still my favourite RPG publisher. I’m still continually impressed with how open and inclusive they are with their world-building, and their customer service and customer contact are second to none. There aren’t many companies where you can comment in the forums and get and answer directly from the lead designer on a game, never mind the CEO of the company. I often wonder when (if) they sleep, what with an already busy publishing schedule.

Since the publication of D&D 5th, though, WotC is getting better. The new edition is good, and I’m starting to like interacting with the company’s site, something that was not true for years. So they’re worth keeping an eye on.

Day 9: Favourite Media You Wish was an RPG

I’m watching some new sci-fi shows right now, and my current fav could so easily become an RPG campaign. Killjoys is all about the gritty world of reclamation agents (bounty hunters) navigating their pasts, relationships, and the twisty world of sector politics. Reclamation agents even have levels; depending on what skills and personality you bring with you to the evaluation when you sign-up, you are assigned as Level 1 (small-time courier and transport work only) up to Level 5 (Kill Warrants). It would be fun to pick a system like Fate or even AGE, and then assign each character their level based on what they develop during character creation. Hmmm…

A close second, Dark Matter is a great, slow-burning story about six people who wake up from stasis aboard a busted starship, with no memory of who they are or how they got there. Sounds like the classic start to a space-based RPG campaign to me.

Day 8: Favourite Appearance of RPGs in the Media

There are more and more of these all the time, but the line from the X-Files, “I didn’t play Dungeons and Dragons all these years and not learn a little something about courage.” remains my favourite. And yes, I do like the Community Episodes where they play D&D. Even though the first time they play, Abed is clearly not using the right map; that was obviously the map from Q1: Queen of the Demon Web Pits, so I don’t know what…ahem. Sorry. No, I’m good, it was good. All good.

Day 7: Favourite Free RPG

They’ve supplied it for the last few years of Free RPG Day, but I really like Cosmic Patrol from Catalyst Game Labs. It is a very rules light game, and delivers exactly what it promises. It definitely requires players who will jump in to the spirit of the game with both feet, but if you have those players you are going to go from picking up the book to a rollicking good time in about 10-15 minutes.

Day 6: Most Recent RPG Played

Pathfinder. My regular Thursday night group has started the Jade Regent Adventure Path, and at our last session we got stuck in to some good old goblin killing action and mayhem. Good times!

Day 5: Most Recent RPG Purchase

My most recent purchase was Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management from DriveThruRPG. It’s a really good primer on how to organically organize your campaign. Even if you think you’re an old hand at running an RPG campaign, it’s worth a read. I’ve been doing this hobby for over thirty years, and there are some things I found useful.

Day 4: Most Surprising Game

I’m maybe expanding the spirit of this question, but my most surprising game recently was playing D&D 5th edition for the first time. I was surprised at how much it felt like playing the game I had played as a kid, but at the same time was very grown up and with a lot of the sharp edges I remember from back then smoothed off. If you haven’t played it yet, put aside your partisan feeling and give it a try.

Day 3: Favourite New Game of the Last 12 Months

I don’t really have a new game of the last 12 months. This past year I’ve spent a bunch of time delving back in to my gaming roots, so my focus has been backwards, not forwards. But as I said above, the GUMSHOE System, and Trail of Cthulhu in particular are great. I’ve already got a campaign idea in the works.

Day 2: Kickstarted Game Most Pleased I Backed

I’ve backed Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.’s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter, and I’m excited about that. It’s already passed a bunch of stretch goals, so it looks like it’s going to be gorgeous. As I said earlier, I’ve been looking back at my gaming roots a lot lately, and this came along at the perfect time. If you want to get your hands on a campaign setting with old-school feel, check them out.

Day 1: Forthcoming Game I’m Most Looking Forward To

Again, I think I’m interpreting the question broadly, but I’m really looking forward to the first game two of my friends, Scott and Stanley, are setting up. Each of them is GMing a different Pathfinder Adventure Path, and then playing in the other, with four of us playing in both. I think it will be a ton of fun; I really like playing RPGs with these guys, and as long as we can keep the momentum going I think it will be great.

Many Happy Returns

Life can be funny sometimes. In this case, not a ha-ha funny; more of a “didn’t expect to be here” funny. I have a new, permanent, full-time job in a field I love (I know, boo-hoo-hoo, right?), which has required me to put just about everything else on the back-burner as I get settled in and figure out my new work/life balance. Now that I’ve figured that out, mostly, I’ve started adding back the other things I enjoy. Like this blog.

So I’m happy to finally return and I hope you’ll be happy with it as well. I have a plethora of gaming articles, campaign advice, and game reviews (something new for the site) coming. Starting today, actually…

Several months ago my friend Scott celebrated his birthday. He and I game together a lot. I mean a lot a lot. So I knew I wanted to get him something game-related, but I didn’t want to just buy him another sourcebook or boardgame. I’ve been warming to the idea of making things for my friends these days; it’s more personal and I know I love getting something a friend has made for me.

Since I am Scott’s GM in at least one game, I hit upon the idea of giving him player coupons which he could redeem during the course of the campaign. A few gave innocuous enough advantages and bonuses, but most gave some pretty amazing benefits (both for himself and other players), balanced by some pretty nasty penalties.

Below is the text for the 12 coupon set. I printed them out on nice card-stock, with a graphic design behind the text, but if you decide to use the idea you are free to present them however you like. You’ll also notice that the text is pretty Pathfinder/d20 specific. That’s because we primarily play Pathfinder together, but the coupons could be modified easily enough to fit any system.

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1. Thanks, Community College! – Make a check in a skill in which you have not trained, as if you were trained in it at your current level. Apply any bonuses from items, abilities, etc. Put a check mark in the top right corner. Once the coupon has three check marks it’s expired.

2. As You Give, So Shall You Receive – Give another character a magic item or items, with no recompense. At some future date the GM will give you a magic item of equal or greater value. Asking the GM when this will happen nullifies the coupon. When you receive your item, the coupon expires.

3. Ultimate Sacrifice – When another character has died, present the GM with this coupon and say, “I wish to make the ultimate sacrifice.” The dead character is restored to life. However, at the GM’s discretion, something which your character desperately loves/wants will be taken away. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But soon, and for the rest of your life…

4. Laughter is the Best Medicine – If you make the GM laugh at the gaming table, receive one of the following: cure light wounds (1d8+5), lesser restoration, remove curse, cure blindness/deafness, channel positive energy (30’ diam. burst centred on you, 5d6), stabilize, restoration. When you use an ability cross it off; it cannot be used again. Coupon expires when each ability is crossed off.

5. Sometimes You’re the Statue, Sometimes You’re the Pigeon – For one session, you may add any bonus you like to your d20 rolls, even going so far as to ask the GM what you need to succeed on the roll. This cannot be used to generate critical threats but can be used to confirm them. However, in your next session the GM will apply matching negative modifiers to your d20 rolls, in order. The coupon expires after this session.

6. Big Bad-a-Boom! – Apply any three meta-magic feats to the spell you are casting without changing its caster level. At some future time, a spell you cast will go catastrophically astray, likely when it is most useful/amusing to the GM.

7. One Shot, One Kill – You may, in place of your normal attacks, make a single attack as a coupe de grace against a creature your are fighting. The creature does not have to be helpless. However, this earns you infamy as a foe of that creature’s kind. Any future creature of that type you encounter begins with an attitude of hostile (once they know who you are) and automatically confirms critical threats against you.

8. Nobody’s Good at Everything – At character creation, pick one racial or class ability. You are twice as good at it (darkvision/low-light vision range is doubled, you get a +4 instead of a +2 to an ability, etc). However, some other skill suffered; choose another race or class ability and reduce its bonus by half.

9. Bleed for the Cause – You can spend hit points to gain bonuses to your rolls, on a 1-to-1 basis. However, these hit points cannot be healed by any means until your character has dropped into negative hit points for any reason. Once your character falls into negative hit points the coupon expires.

10. There’s No Place Like Home! – Present this coupon to the GM when an encounter is going horribly wrong. You and your party are instantly teleported a safe distance away from the encounter, to a location determined by the GM. Of course, it may not be safe where you end up, just safer…

11. Charity is Its Own Reward – Write the name of another character on the coupon, and hand it to the GM. He will ensure that character gets something he/she really wants. He may even throw in a little something for you…

12. You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me – Spare the life of any one intelligent living creature you are trying to kill. That creature now considers you a friend, and becomes a companion NPC under the control of the GM. Becoming your friend does not necessarily change the creature’s basic nature; the goblin who likes you, for instance, is still an amoral psychopath. But who knows, you might be a good influence.

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There you are! Feel free to use them or let them inspire coupons of your own.

RPGaDay #26: Favourite Character Sheet

While there are plenty of really good pre-printed character sheets out there, my tendency has always been to write mine out very neatly in some form of notebook. Usually this takes up the first 2-4 pages; the rest I then use for campaign notes, maps, sketches, and so on. I tend to play fantasy RPGs like Pathfinder, and I like the idea of my character keeping a journal of some kind. As much as possible I try to make journal entries as I think my character would, which makes it potentially fun and sometimes not very useful for remembering things later. For instance, I once played a barbarian character (Stonk) who, after growing up on the ‘cuisine’ of his one small tribe, was suddenly exposed to the varied foods of the world as he traveled with his party. So while other party members were taking detailed notes on our mission, Stonk’s journal read like a foodie’s notebook (“The King talked; served a passable red wine, but loved the mussel-stuffed game hens. Stonk must get recipe.”)  And of course I carefully tracked treasure. Stonk liked food, but he liked treasure more.

As a side note to this, my friend Morgan once gifted me with what I now consider the ideal character notebook. It was a 9-1/2”x 7-1/2” Moleskine notebook with graph paper pages, ruled at 5 squares per inch. Gorgeous quality, and the graph paper meant I could keep my maps nice and tidy. I’ve found others since, but thank-you, Morgan, for giving me that first one.

What’s your favourite character sheet? Drop it in the comments below!

RPGaDay Roundup, Part 3

This is Part 3 of my RPGaDay Roundup, if you’re just jumping in. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking their links.

Day 19: Favourite Published Adventure

I’m a huge fan of the Adventure Paths for Pathfinder in general. I think the concept of packaging a discreet section of a campaign, along with a mini-gazetteer and bestiary is brilliant. There have been many Adventure Paths published over the years, but my favourite  is still the first one: Burnt Offerings, from the Rise of the Runelords AP. It has some of my favourite monsters, goblins, showcased in all their re-imagined and psychotic glory; it contains the village of Sandpoint, which is such a perfect starting locale for adventurers it’s like a gift to the GM; and at the time (and still, for the most part) no one else was publishing a book like it. Add in gorgeous and evocative cover art by Wayne Reynolds and there is nothing to dislike about this book. And as I mentioned before, Paizo has continued to improve upon the Adventure Path idea since.

Day 20: Will Still Play in Twenty Years Time…

Games may come and go, but I can predict with some certainty that one form or another of Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder will still have a place on my shelf. D&D has been such a big part of my life, I’ll always have it around. And Pathfinder, though relatively recent, is such a huge part of my current gaming life. Not just the game itself, though that might be enough. No, the friends I’ve made playing the game and as a Venture-Captain for Organized Play, the experiences I’ve had because of the game…Pathfinder isn’t going anywhere.

But I’m also excited to see what the new things in tabletop gaming will be down the line. So I’ll also say, whatever is cool and fun twenty years from now is something I’ll be all over, as I roll my hyperdice in Gamer’s Haven Retirement Home.™

Day 21: Favourite Licensed RPG

The Firefly RPG, hands down. I’m a huge fan of the Firefly show and universe, and this RPG from Margaret Weis Productions highlights everything I love. Action, adventure, clever dialogue (okay, that last depends on the players but something about the game manages to bring it out) all set in a ‘Verse I’ve come to know and love. There might be a time when flying my own ship crewed by a band of strangers and miscreants won’t appeal to me, but I don’t see that happening soon.

I will say this, it is not a game for all players. If you are with a group who all love the Firefly show, which is arguably most of the time, you’ll have a lot of fun. But playing it with folks who are not familiar with, or just didn’t like, Firely, can be a bit of an ordeal if you are trying to immerse yourself. So choose your crew wisely.

Day 22: Best Second-hand RPG Purchase

One of the best second-hand purchases I ever made was the Nexus Live Action Role-playing, Play This Book, Vol 1. I love game books which give me a view to what the earlier days of gaming were like. The book laid out a live-action role-playing game scenario, which could best be played as part of an existing sci-fi or gaming convention. Closer to the idea of those party game murder mysteries, participants would be given characters ahead of time. They would then costume themselves, use the prop items and clues included in their character package, and show up ready to play through the game all weekend.

The book was great! Not only did it outline a pretty interesting plot which included competing intelligence agencies (terrestrial and non-), alien criminals, and a scientist from multiple dimensions, it also gave detailed instructions on how to organize and manage the game. Much of the information is dated, as it comes from a pre-internet and smart phone era. But reading it, I could easily see how aspects of game-play could be updated for use now.

I don’t even know if they published a Vol 2. But I take the book off my shelf and re-read it often for a bit of nostalgia.

Day 23: Coolest Looking RPG Product/Book

Published in 2006, Monte Cook’s Ptolus: City by the Spire is still one of the coolest looking gaming books I own. Now, if it was just a really well-detailed campaign source book from Monte Cook, that might be enough. But this book is so high quality, so unlike any other book published at the time (or since, really), it is the game book to which I compare other game books, and fine them wanting.

It’s annotated. As a GM who has suffered much eye-strain over the years trying to search out details when I’d forgotten where I’d found them, that alone makes the book priceless. Added to that, it is such a beautiful book throughout, with more full-colour art and maps than I’ve seen in entire game systems, never mind a single book. I was lucky enough to get a print copy when it was first published (and later, to get it signed by Monte Cook himself). If there is a house fire, Ptolus will be in my arms as I leave the building.

Day 24: Most Complicated RPG Owned

Pathinder is about as complicated as I get these days, and I tend to look at alternatives which are much lighter in complexity. I don’t mind complex, as long as it serves a purpose other than to be intentionally arcane. I came out of the era of THAC0 and Rolemaster, after all, so I am no stranger to convolutions in my gaming.

If you get a chance to look at them, the wide variety of critical hit charts for the original Rolemaster game are a work of art. Talk about detail for the sake of detail. These tables listed the effects of a variety of different major wounds sustained from an endless variety of weapons, monsters, and other misfortunes. I don’t know anyone, myself included, who actually used them all. I remember my group in junior high had a brief flirtation with them, as applied to our AD&D campaign. But it was a brief fling, as we had better things to do than roll on tables all the time.

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This brings us up to date, gentle reader. Starting Monday, expect a new RPGaDay post every day as we finish out the month.

GM Resources: One Page Dungeon Contest

There is such a wealth of Game Master resources on-line, I often find something extremely useful and then lose track of it. The One Page Dungeon contest is one of those resources, and I’m indescribably happy to have found it again.

The contest idea makes it cool enough: design an interesting dungeon (including map) which fits on a single side of a standard sheet of paper. This limitation forces the entrants to strip away any extraneous elements and focus on the essentials of their dungeon design. You might think this would lead to a lot of 1 or 2 room , simple dungeon sites. And luckily you’d be wrong. Every year the contest draws page upon page of amazing and imaginative designs, both in the content of the dungeon and the design of the page layout. Many of the entries, while great encounters, are also stunning to look at; fitting the maximum amount of dungeon on a single page leads to some incredible examples of cunning art and design. If you’d like to challenge yourself as a designer, I highly recommend entering the contest. This year it ends on April 30 and complete rules can be found here.

Now it sounds fun and worth a look. But what makes this a particularly good resource for GMs is the contest has been running since 2009, and all entries in the contest must publish themselves under the Creative Commons license. These two things make this site a veritable toy box for the busy Game Master. There are literally hundreds of excellent dungeon sites available, all of them perfect to print and play. Many of the entries are system neutral, or are at least rules/setting light, so time spent adapting to your game will be minimal. I’ve already grabbed a few to use in one of my current Pathfinder campaigns, and my total time spent working them up was 10 minutes, including print time.

A great contest and a great resource. If you have time I highly recommend just scrolling through the gallery. For me the tour was worth it just to come across a one-page dungeon set inside a certain demon idol familiar to 1st Ed. D&D players. I’ll be running that one soon…

GMs, It’s Cold Outside!

In honour of the polar vortex spreading record low temperatures across North America, let’s talk about cold weather and adventuring. With the exception of a relatively recent Pathfinder Adventure Path ([shameless plug] Reign of Winter [/shameless plug]) and the odd adventure here and there, I haven’t seen a cold weather environment used to much effect in role-playing games. Usually the GM mentions, “It’s very cold, make a [system equivilent to a Fortitude save] check. If you fail, take damage from the cold.” Even most settings deal with cold environments as if they were just an ongoing damage-dealing trap, which the players just have to take appropriate steps to avoid. Once they’ve taken those steps, the cold is no longer a problem.

But as anyone who has lived in a cold climate (myself included) can tell you, dealing with a winter environment is more than swaddling yourself in warm clothing. There are challenges present even after you’ve dealt with the deadly cold. Challenges the cunning GM can put to good use. Here are two of them.

Blinded by the light – While daylight hours are short in most cold climates, bright sunny days bring their own special challenge in a snowy environment. Photokeratitis, or “snow blindness”, is caused by sunlight reflecting off of the unbroken white landscape and bouncing into the eyes, overexposing them to ultraviolet (UV) light. It causes the eyes to water excessively, become bloodshot, and results in inflammation and pain unless protection is worn. It doesn’t take long to occur and even brief exposures can damage. Of course, we deal with it by wearing sunglasses when out in the snow on a bright day. But not too many fantasy games feature sunglasses on the equipment list, so your party will have to find other solutions.

“Did anyone else hear that cracking sound?” – One of the most nervous moments in travelling in a cold climate involves crossing strange ice. While frozen lakes, rivers, and streams provide some ease of travel they also offer a unique danger. As everyone knows, ice forms when water cools below its freezing point. What most people don’t know is that it doesn’t always form evenly or uniformly. There can be air pockets, weak points, and cracks, either as a natural process of water freezing or from a series of freezes and thaws. So even ice that feels solid can have flaws which will plunge the unwary and unprepared into freezing cold water. Add in the almost inevitable armor and loads of equipment, and the odds of a character taking an unexpected “polar bear dip” go up.

Now, the players might think it’s just a matter of making the appropriate check to avoid drowning and they’re good. But it’s worse than that. Not only do they have the usual issue of trying to stay afloat with armor and equipment, but now there are two new factors: cold and ice. Swimming in (literally) ice cold water is a danger unto itself; people can die within minutes of immersion. The process of succumbing to the cold will also make swimming more difficult, as muscles cool and seize. Add that second element, ice, and things become even more dire. Don’t forget, whatever body of water they fell into has a solid sheet of ice over its surface. Yes, they’ve made a hole, but that hole will be very hard to find with eyes freezing from the cold. And if they fell through into a river, the current may drag them away from potential salvation. There’s a very good reason any seasoned cold-climate traveller takes precautions against falling through the ice.

A few other cold-climate tips to keep in mind:

– While cold weather clothing protects the adventurers from the environment, it also makes simple tasks more difficult. Dealing with straps and buckles on bags and backpacks when you’re wearing mittens, for instance, takes getting used to. Trying to grab things out of a pack during combat with mittens would be awkward at best. Also, while snowshoes might make overland travel easier, they would impede movement at the tactical level; not a lot of fancy footwork you can pull off with snowshoes on.

– In extreme cold, items which are normally resilient or pliable can become brittle and easily broken. Aluminium zippers, for instance, often fail in extreme cold because the teeth become brittle and sheer off. This may not affect items made for extreme conditions, but keep it in mind for any regular items the players carry.

– Unless the characters have all their potions strapped next to their skin, they might have to get used to using “Slushies of Cure Light Wounds” or “Popsicles of Bull’s Strength”. Potions are mostly water, after all. And even if they can wait until the potions thaw, is the cold having an effect on the potion’s potency?

– Moving around in a cold environment puts more strain on the body than normal. A person must often eat more just to maintain the same energy level, as their body deals with exertion in extreme cold. Keep an eye on the party’s ration levels…

So that’s a little taste of things to keep in mind the next time your group finds itself in colder climes. While the cold is definitely a danger, there are many other considerations when travelling in a frozen environment. Sprinkle a few of these in just to give your players a taste of winter.

How do present the environment to your players? Has a GM ever done a good job of immersing you in your environment? Let us know in the comments.

Campaign Creation: Random Encounters

As we head ever closer to Christmas, I want to make sure I stay on top of blog posts. So they’ll keep coming this week, they’ll just be shorter.

In that spirit, here is a Random Encounter Table for The Ruins. You can use whatever method you like to determine when an encounter happens; I generally roll a d10 twice during the day, and once during each watch at night. On a 1 or 2 an encounter happens, roll a d20 to determine which encounter. If the party is having a tough go of it, feel free to skip random encounters or adjust the CR as you feel necessary. While I’ve included a wide range of CRs, feel free to modify encounters with the addition of difficult terrain or environmental factors if you want a tougher challenge. But resist the urge to make all the encounters level appropriate; exploring The Ruins should have unexpected dangers.

All monster descriptions can be found in the Pathfinder Bestiary and Bestiary 2.

1. Three goblin warriors wait in ambush for members of the grippli tribe. They’re more than happy to ambush the party, however. (CR 1)

2. A yellow musk creeper, tucked away in the corner of an ancient garden, defends its lair with a variety of musk zombies; goblins, goblin dogs, gripplis, villagers. (CR 2)

3. Two giant spiders lurk in an old chamber, surviving on a diet of rats, gripplis, goblins…and maybe now adventurers. (CR 3)

4. The party discovers the remains of a library. The shelves are empty except for one. While the books and scrolls are real, the shelf is a mimic awaiting new prey. (CR 4)

5. Four goblin warriors riding goblin dogs, returning from a quick raid on the grippli. Should they be defeated, party finds an extra 20% treasure (looted from the grippli) (CR 5)

6. A will-o’-wisp has relied on the goblin/grippli conflict for food, and fed quite well. It attaches itself (invisibly, at first) to the characters, to see what delicacies they can provide. (CR 6)

7. Two grippli rangers are hunting for food; long-pig will do… (CR 1)

8. Goblins have covered over the broken ceiling to an old wine cellar full of broken pottery and bottles, essentially making it a Spiked Pit Trap (CR 2)

9. A section of street collapses below the party, dropping them into old sewers. Treat as a Camouflaged Pit Trap (CR 3)

10. Three ghouls have survived the aeons on a steady but limited diet of vermin. Now that the party has cracked open the ancient crypt that trapped them, they’re on the hunt for something more fresh. (CR 4)

11. Tired of her steady diet of goblins and grippli, a leucrotta is happy to “play” with the party for a while. (CR 5)

12. A giant mosquito homes in on the party, eager for a fresh meal. (CR 6)

13. Walking through the Ruins, a character disturbs a spider swarm. (CR 1)

14. The party encounters a rare site in the ruins; a lush fruit tree. But they also encounter the monkey swarm that calls the tree home. (CR 2)

15. One of the hazards of living close to swamps, the party is beset by a mosquito swarm. Note, this encounter can also occur in the village; if it does, treat it as a CR 2 encounter, as the village watch is used to dealing with these occurences. Otherwise, CR 3.

16. Separated from their pack, a pair of blink dogs follows the party from a distance, only attacking if attacked. The blink dogs can also come to the party’s rescue if they are facing an encounter too tough for them, at the GM’s discretion. (CR 4)

17. All that remains of a necromancer’s coterie of undead servants, this giant crawling hand has stalked the Ruins for ages. (CR 5)

18. Foul and ancient magics have tainted a section of an old park, resulting in a hungry tendriculous. Due to the many victims it has claimed over the years, treasure found is 25% higher than normal, though most treasure found is of the goblin and grippli variety. (CR 6)

19. Bound in an ancient mage’s laboratory and demented by its long captivity, an invisible stalker carries out his final instructions to defend its master’s belongings. (CR 7)

20. Its host fell victim to one of the many dangers of the Ruins, and now this intellect devourer must find safe passage back to the Depths…or another host. (CR 8)

What are some of your go to random encounters? Do you use them? Drop me a comment!