Thursday, January 31, 2019

Top 5 DM Tips - Rocky

Uncle Matt's D&D Studio has been doing a series of guests with their Top 5 GM picks. It seemed like an excellent topic for a post. But, I run a mega-dungeon as my normal game, so my list will have a different emphasis than a standard one.

1. Keep a list of NPCs handy. Both who they regularly interact with, and new names that may never show up again. I know that my players talk to Bear Jarl, Acidopholis, King Johan and others regularly. I don't necessarily remember shopkeep names or mannerisms. Keep that list available in a moment's notice. They may also negotiate with orcs, goblins, or other denizens in the dark. Be prepared!

2. Don't use bosses by the book. If something is a "boss" for a level, it should be special. It may be extra HPs, or a special attack (fire-breathing goblins always make a nice surprise), extra attacks or anything else that may set it apart from the common version.

3. Let the players get in over their heads. Let them go deeper than you expect. Keep throwing traps, puzzles and monsters at them. Even two at a time. They will surprise you with how they deal with their backs against the wall.
3a. Don't let them win. But make sure that they usually do win. This may mean that a monster has fewer HPs than anticipated. It may mean that the trap hits the monsters too. However it happens, the players should feel like they accomplished something (or died trying.)

4. Know your megadungeon. Make sure the PCs' actions have consequences for the creatures within. Maybe the orcs take over the decimated goblin territory (even taking in goblins as shock troops.) Maybe something bigger seals the power vacuum. Removing one group may cause dominoes to fall throughout the dungeon (the goblins are removed, so the hobgoblins begin to withdraw from the dungeon, for example.)
Know that a trap has been set off, and doesn't re-trigger. Know when your PCs break doors. Mark these things on your map or key. Keep the changes consistent.

5. Let the players choose the path of the game. You're running a mega-dungeon. Nobody will ever see the whole thing. The players will seek out what they find interesting.

6. (BONUS!) Remember the Holy Trinity of Megadungeons. Exploration, Puzzle-solving, Role-playing. These are what drive the megadungeon forward. Use them. Every session.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Garycon with the Bulettes!

Hi everyone,

I am running two (identical) events at Garycon this year, both in the megadungeon Mord Mar. I am running the revised Citadel of Mord Mar. In the old school way: get in, find the loot and get out (hopefully alive!)

Four towers can be explored within the tower. Can you find the old king's secret valuables? Maybe you want to find the hidden library? Is bashing undead heads more to your liking? Or just exploring for the sake of knowledge? All of these things are possible, if you live long enough.

Thursday 10 am - event #1672
Thursday 5 pm - event #1673

I have permission to add to the ongoing campaign of Frog God Games. This means that you will be able to use the characters from this event in future events (anything marked as Mythrus Tower.) This includes your magic items, experience and any other perks (or drawbacks) you may get. 

If you already have a Mythrus Tower character, I ask that you limit the characters to 3rd level or less (unless everyone has a higher-level character. Then all bets are off.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Trap Tuesday: A Pressure Plate

Wooden Door from Dungeon Keeper
Last week I dove into the basics of traps. This week I will give you a complete trap. Taking one of the basic building blocks, we will go through the parts of this trap, step by step.

The complete trap is as follows: A door hides a pressure plate, held down from the latch of the knob. Once the knob is turned, the pressure plate releases. This opens murder holes on both sides of the corridor immediately next to the door.

When the door is pushed open (because we don't want a door to stop 1/2 of our murder-hobo death machine), a second pressure plate is released, filling the immediate area with arrows. (And presumably one or more pesky thieves.

That's the crux of the trap. And most of the people reading this could run it just from that information.

What makes this different form other traps? What makes this trap more fun than a pit trap?

Using a pit trap in a game goes something like this:
GM: "You continue walking down the corridor in your standard marching order, the thief is 20' ahead of the party." (dice roll) "When the fighter gets half-way to the thief, the floor open up underneath her, and she crashes with a loud thud at the bottom of a pit." (More dice roll) "She takes 4 damage."

Using the door trap:
GM: "Your thief has checked the door for traps, and found none." (The two pressure plates were nearly impossible to detect, being hidden by the door.) "As you turn the handle, there is a muted 'click' sound from within the door handle. Small holes open up in the walls on both sides of the thief. What do you do?"

As you can see, the players are given choices for their characters' actions. The fighter may use her shield to protect her companion. The wizard may cast a spell to protect the thief. The thief may just attempt to push the door open and hope that his save is high enough to avoid damage (or death, if those things are poisoned.) But, everyone has an option on how to engage the situation.

When you are designing traps, it is important to make them opportunities for your players' creativity and ingenuity to shine through. Simple traps that just become saving throw, take damage, become hum drum and drab after playing in a dungeon for awhile. Traps can be an opportunity for us as GM's to shine and release our creativity. They can become keystones in those stories our players tell about games ("Remember that door that trapped your hand!"). The element of suspense and surprise in these moments is what will make a trap and a gaming session memorable for your players. So get out there and make memories!

Until next time, I'll see your traps in the dungeon halls!

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Reason for The Season

The Holiday Season just ended and I thought this would be a good opportunity to look at holidays in your games. Festivals in Dungeons and Dragons game seem to be an overlooked aspect of our games. I have made a greater effort to fill this void in my own games. I did this partly to make a more pious seeming society where religion was part of the day to day lives of the NPCs.

Medieval festivals were a status symbol for the wealthy and we all know that the elite were seated at the 'high table'. Feasting often lasted all day and in some cases several days. Some sources cite that medieval workers received 8 weeks off because of festivals and holidays! That is quite a bit of time and 1/6th of the year was spent in these celebrations. I know that I am definitely not representing that in my game world. My poor workers get little to no time off currently but that is all changing now. I am sharing with you the resources I've put together for this endeavor.

Food and Drink: This is a great time to lighten your players' purses by selling them seasonal libations and any interesting foods you can describe. My last festival saw the party enjoying spring pastries with onions, bacon, and cheeses. This is the time you can push interesting drinks to your players too. I always end up creating lore for my game worlds while doing this. I recently had a one eyed, one legged dwarf win the local brewing contest by selling a lambic made with apples of some sort called Grim Jack. One of my players ended up purchasing two casks of this and used one several sessions later to enhance a roleplaying experience.

Games: these were an important part of the medieval festivals. From my research, I've found that their were kids games and adult games.

Adult games included: tug of war, stone throwing (by weight and distance), races, games utilizing balls

So here are my rules for using some of these activities in your 5E games:
Tug-of-War: This can be handled with simple opposed Strength checks. I handled the Strength checks in three ways to see how they would work. First, I just 'paired' the players against their opponent; Second, I set a target difficulty for each increment (12, 15, 18) and the greater number of successes on each side 'won' the increment; and Third, I added the roll totals for each side to determine the winner. This last method was the most time consuming and pulled us out of the experience the most. My players seemed to really enjoy the Second method and st
ated their preference for it. I set a 'distance' of 3 for mine and each round of success moved the other team 1 increment towards the target.

Stone-Throwing: In this game, I used three rock sizes for ammunition. Small- 1d2 damage, range 50', Medium- 1d4 damage, range  30', and Large- 1d6 damage, range 10'. I placed targets at 20', 30', 40', and 50' and gave each target 4 HP. You can assign any prize structure that fits your game.

Golden Bloom:  This game is run by a local druid. 12 flowers of the GM's choice can be used. The druid charges the players a SP to play. He places a GP in one of the flowers and uses Druidcraft to close the buds. He then shuffles them. I gave my players an opposed Perception Vs. Sleight of Hand (+5) to identify the flower. If the matched, they were able to eliminate a single flower. For every 2 points greater than the druid, they could eliminate another flower. I then secretly rolled a d12 and asked them which flower they thought it was.

Field Plowing: This activity involves plowing the longest and straightest furrow in a field. An oxen is hitched to a plow and players make 5 attempts at a DC 15 Strength (plus farming proficiency). Each roll scores points and the competitor with the highest point total wins.

Roll            12       15       18      20    25
Points          1        2        3        4      5

My players have had a good time in activities like this. They can break up the regular pace of a game, give them a chance to explore new areas, and an opportunity to introduce new NPCs. I encourage you to steal my ideas, be creative, and Game On!


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Trap Tuesday

Hello all, Rocky here, trying to make good on my New Year's resolution to make at least one blog post a week. Today, I thought I would look at some trap tropes. These are rudimentary level ideas, with the goal to build upon them throughout the year. To build a house, you need the blocks, right?
Punji Stake Pit

The first trap trope that comes to mind is the pit trap. This trap shows up everywhere. B2, S1, G1 . . . the list goes on and on. Covered or uncovered, the pit trap pushes low level adventurers to find creative solutions to moving through dungeons. Add spikes at the bottom of the pit for more effect. This trap gets old, but never goes out of style.
The next trap that fledgling adventurers usually deal with is the needle trap. The needle is shot by a spring, when something disturbs it. It could be pushing a tumbler out of the way without the key, opening a chest (or door, or pretty much anything) or stepping on a pressure plate. In older editions of D&D, this trap generally meant Save or Die. In newer editions, it could be a Save or gain a status effect (exhaustion, stunned, or even poisoned).

Raiders of the Lost Arc
Pressure plates are part of a larger trap trope. Remember the boulder that chased Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Arc? That was a pressure plate trap. As a DM, this element of a trap may be the most useful of all trap parts. Need a trigger to shut a door? How about a ceiling collapse? Alerting monsters with a loud noise? Need to open a pit trap? The list of pressure plate uses is endless. They can be concealed in walls, floors, chests, doors, hinges or pretty much anywhere its needed.

The next type of trap is a tripwire. Tripwires are similar to pressure plates, because they can have a myriad of uses. Going back to Lucas, the net trap that captures the rebels on the Forest Moon of Endor is a tripwire trap. In D&D tripwires frequently are used to alert creatures of intruders. This may be a bell, or rocks falling or anything else that makes noise. Sometimes tripwires are used to immobilize creatures (like the net trap above.) Other tripwires may cause a cave-in, release rushing water, or another hazard that doesn't directly hit the characters.

When thinking of traps, don't forget monsters. I did a blog listing some monsters that double as traps a while ago. You can read (or re-read) it: Lurker Above.

Throughout the year, Ian and I will be revisiting this topic as we have material. We will look at combining these triggers with other effects (swinging blades for example.) Traps in fantasy gaming are limited only by your imagination.

I'll see you in the dungeon corridors.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Happy New Year!

Hi all,
Rocky here to catch you up on the Bulettes for 2019. We expect to have a great year in gaming. Starting the year right, Ian is getting interviewed by Tenkar tomorrow evening. Expect to see it on Anchor soon.
An example of Ian's improving map skills
We are getting to the end of Thieves' War. We are at the point of looking for art. I am going to start fidgeting with layout tonight. It should definitely be ready for Garycon. We may even get lucky and have it for Totalcon.
Speaking of cons, we have a pretty great list of cons that the Bulettes will be appearing at.
First up is Totalcon, Feb 21-24 in Boston. Boston's winters can't be much worse than Michigan's, right? It's a new convention for me, and my wife will be attending her first convention.
Next, we are going to Garycon, March 7-10 in Lake Geneva. The Gygax family throws a hell-of-a-convention. I won't miss it. Ian and I will be a panel member of a seminar: Event 1475. I have also submitted a couple of Mord Mar events. They are still pending.
After that, we head to NTRPG. It takes place in Dallas June 6-9. A discount is still available for tickets on the website too. We (with SGP) are hosting a room at the convention, so we will be easy to find. I will be running a few games, just don't know for sure what they will be yet.
We are unsure about heading to Gamehole this year. We both love the convention, but we both have little kids, so Halloween may be a no-go. The wives have control over this one.

I hope to have at least two releases this year. Possibly even three. Thieves' War has been mentioned already. My re-write of Mord Mar, The Citadel is 80% done. Ian has been expanding the area around Redstone southward. I have a lot of notes for the swamp to the northwest. Either or both of those areas may show up as a hex-crawl type module before the holidays next year. We will be producing all of our releases this year in 5E and Swords & Wizardry versions.

See you all in the dungeon halls!