Friday, September 25, 2015

A daughter's duty - Story time

Toku Akiko was born in the fall of the third year after the Naishou dispute that left the Monkey clan and the Crane clan as rulers of the province. Her birth, just like her older sister’s was met with joyous celebration as is customary of the Monkey clan. Toku Uryo, Naishou’s daimyo and Fuzake Nabiki, the spiritual leader of the region had traveled along with their most trusted Samurai and family members to the nearest temple of Toku, the fortune of Virtue and founder of their clan. She was presented to their ancestor in a great celebration so as to show Toku that their clan was still growing strong.

From a very young age it was very apparent that if Sumiko took after her mother, Akiko was every bit her father’s daughter. Always running around the house, always causing trouble. She would constantly ask her father to teach her how to wield a sword, to which Uryo would only laugh at first. Though he eventually gave in and let her practice with the same wooden swords that he once used to spar with her uncle Gorobei. She was a very beautiful girl with long black hair (which was usually full of twigs and mud) a skin that resembled more that of her father, slightly darker than her mother’s, and two big grey eyes that were always full of joy, wonder, and most of all… mischief.

As time passed and the relations with the crane began to deteriorate, Uryo decided that it was time to have his family make some connections outside of Naishou. During the Naishou tournament Uryo had competed against Isawa Daisuke of the Phoenix clan, and though he lost the duel, he earned his respect. As Akiko reached the age a child would normally be sent to attend a school within her own clan, he used his friendship with Daisuke, his own political contacts and Gorobei’s influence in the Imperial court to have Akiko sent to the Phoenix lands to study in the Shiba Bushi school.

The day before she left, Uryo took her into the inner garden of Toshi no Naishou and sat with her in the small gazebo in the center of the garden. He mentioned what little he knew about the Phoenix lands, about the Isawa Mori, the forest that was veiled in mistery and legend, the Phoenix Mountains known for the many temples housed within. He told her about Kyuden Isawa the Palace of the Phoenix clan, and Shiro Shiba, the castle where she would be spending most of her time. Uryo went through the different ceremonies she would have to go through once she reached phoenix lands. Akiko did not understand half of them, and the other half sounded just plain stupid, but she would obey.

After a good hour of going through all of these things Uryo fell silent. He had never been good at keeping up the face of a Samurai, which is probably why he kept her uncle Gorobei close at all times when they needed to handle political matters. His eyes, usually very calm and happy, were now very sad and his face looked tired, and burdened.

“Akiko, my dear child, I want you to be strong… the coming years will be hard, I won’t lie to you… everything will seem to be working against you on every turn… you will be singled out as an outcast and be constantly reminded of your name and family. But I want you to remember these words and keep them close to you… “

Courtesy, Courage
Honor, compassion
Sincerity, and Duty.

Be Courteous to everyone, no matter who it is. Be courageous… Our clan was founded by a farmer who took up a sword and fought not because he wanted glory, but because it was the right thing to do. Honor is part of our lives and as such you must always be mindful of your actions, since you represent not only you, or your family, but our whole clan. Be compassionate… Samurai are of higher stature than the Bonge, but this only means that you are charged with protecting them, so care for them, and keep them from harm. Be sincere, both in how you speak and how you act, for this shall reflect on your honor. Keep your Duty in mind. Our clan is small, but strong, and we uphold the values of justice and peace in Rokugan. Our duty is to keep the legacy of Toku alive through our deeds”

Her father spoke with a passion she had never witnessed before, yet when he came to the end of it, when he talked about Duty, tears started running down his eyes. His face was shaking and his hands were grasping the cloth of the kimono around his knees.
Akiko was wide-eyed and gasping for a moment. She then quickly looked at the ground for a moment as if to give her father a moment to regain his composure. A long silence was broken by a skittering monkey on one of the garden trees. Akiko then spoke, her eyes still looking at the ground…
A longer silence followed, giving Akiko a very uneasy feeling.
Before she could look up again, Uryo’s arms were already around her as her father’s embrace took her in.
“You are strong… you mother and I are very proud of you. The challenges that lie ahead are difficult, but you will prevail… such is the way of the monkey”

She did not know that at the time, but this was but the first step in an elaborate plan by her family to close ties with one of Rokugan’s most powerful families. Her parents had spent a sizeable amount of resources and political favors to have her become betrothed to a member of the Isawa family, and to have her enlisted in the Shiba Bushi school.

Akiko said goodbye to her parents the day after that, receiving a parting gift from each of them. Her mother gave her an Obi with embroidered cherries, which she would use with her dress kimono, and her father gave her a small white handkerchief that had a scent very much like the flowers that grew around the gardens. It had been a gift from an old friend to her father in his traveling swordsman days. He also gave her a straw hat, way too big for her at her current size. When she asked what it meant, Uryo simply said 

"That hat belonged to Doji Hakusho, one of the most skilled Iaijutsu masters I have ever had the Honor of meeting. Our relations with the Crane are very delicate at the moment, and I need you to remember that your father once had a friend amongst the Crane"

She hated the idea of leaving her home. She hated the idea of leaving her parents, her friends, her older sister and her little brother Yoshiro. But she also understood that from now on everything she did would be in representation of the monkey clan… nay… of the Uryo Family. She was to become a Samurai like her father and mother before her. She would overcome whatever task they set before her and fulfill her duty.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The fine line between challenging and impossible - DM THOUGHTS

Ever had a game of DnD where your Dungeon Master seems to be out to kill you no matter what?

First round: Everyone’s surprised, the enemy spellcaster casts Hold person on both the fighter and the cleric. Don't question it, he just does. The rogue suddenly realizes he is in a place with absolutely NO place to hide or run to. The enemy hard hitter hits the mage for infinity hit points of damage and kills him. Now it’s the party’s turn, but the rogue now has a mage down, a Cleric and a Fighter on hold for 7 to 10 business days, and a mage, two Barbarians, and a pack of wolves on top of him.

Don't be this douchebag...

Another (less extreme) example

The players prepare for a Dungeon crawl. They enter the Dungeon and immediately spring a trap. One player fails his reflex check and dies. The other three continue and enter a room with a deadly encounter with a vampire. Just as the name of the encounter suggests it, another player dies. The remaining two decide to exit the dungeon for now, and return with a different approach and two other companions. Just as they start to leave, the doors close and water starts to flood the room. 2 rounds later they are drowning, and a few failed Constitution checks later, it's a TPK.

Ugh... why?

The first thing that comes to mind when a DM sets his players up for failure like this, is "Why would he do that?".

- Players were getting cocky, the DM needed to show them that death was very possible.

- Nobody likes an easy game.

- Encounters are meant to be challenging

- I don't want to make it easy on them, my games are always hard.

These are ALL valid reasons to make a game harder, more difficult, or more challenging. However there is a fine line between making it challenging and making it impossible. Encounters should be challenging to keep your game interesting and your players awake. However, once you start throwing deadly encounter after deadly encounter, eventually one of them will die, and will probably resent the fact that you seemed to be trying to kill them from the beginning.

As a DM, one should be mindful of this balance, after all the idea behind a roleplaying game is to defeat an objective using everyone's abilities in creative ways. You do this while playing what is essentially a part in a story. you, the DM, are ALSO playing a part in that story. However you get to play everyone else in the world. and here's where you need to make a distinction.

It's not a game of "the players vs the DM".

The moment you start seeing the players as your enemies, it will be easier for you to start enjoying it every time you put an impossible obstacle in front of them, because then you "win". And where's the fun in that?

Yeah, I know... it's pretty sweet...but hear me out

There's just one DM and at least 3 or 4 players. If in the end you're the only one having fun at the table, then you have failed to make it entertaining for the majority of those at your table. This eventually leads to players asking themselves why they are doing this in the first place... subjecting themselves to hours of frustration just so YOU can have a laugh everytime they fail, and once they realize they don't like it, they leave and stop going to your games.. So how do you avoid this?

Try this: the players are not your enemies, see them as your allies. Sure, you're the one who places the problems in front of them, and you probably have an idea of how they could overcome that problem. S use that in your advantage. Your attitude should be "Ok guys here's the situation, how are we going to move the story forward?". If they give you ideas that are creative and inventive, then reward them with a positive outcome and move the story forward. It's a lot more fun to do this than just throw in a random no-win scenario and have them all die.

This does not mean that there should not be any impossible tasks in your world. A level 1 party that stumbles upon a dragon's hoard should be very aware of the fact that they are in for an almost guaranteed death if the dragon finds them. This is common sense. But placing nothing but extremely hard or near-impossible tasks between the players and their ultimate goal will get boring for them really fast.

So in conclusion, keep your games balanced, give your players the opportunities to shine and solve the problems in front of them. Don't go easy on them. And don't go out of your way to make their lives miserable either. Balance. Balance is everything.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Edge of The Empire - Dice head Review

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side kid…”

When you think “Star Wars” most people think about, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi Wan Kenobi… You know, the guys who have lightsabers and gtheir mastery of the force could, in theory, kill anyone with a mere thought.

However, there’s also Han Solo, Chewie, Lando Calrissian, The Millenium Falcon, Bobba Fett, the scum of the galaxy, the Hutts, the Black Sun syndicate, Mos Eisley, Ryloth, the lower levels of Coruscant. The dark gritty side of the Star Wars Galaxy is just as big as the more flashy force-wielding side of it, and there are so many ways in which one could run an RPG adventure in a setting like that.

So a long time ago, in a Galaxy far far away (In the 2000s), Wizards of the Coast owned the license for all Star Wars Collectible card and roleplaying games. Their license expired in 2010, and they declined to renew it. In comes Fantasy Flight games, doing what they do best, and pick up the Star Wars License from Lucasfilm Ltd. 2 years, a card game and a miniature game later, Fantasy Flight releases the first Game in the three part series of games that would comprise the Fantasy Flight Star Wars roleplaying game, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. Since then, another two games have been released, “Age of rebellion”, and “Force and Destiny”, to complete the “Trilogy” of Star Wars roleplaying games.
These three games, although separate from each other, are designed to be able to play using the rules from all 3 books. Today, we’ll be looking at the first and, for now, my favorite one:

I have the Beginners’ game and the Core Rulebook for Edge of the Empire [EoTE]. The Beginner’s guide includes a set of Roleplaying dice (I’ll talk more about those later) 4 character folios, a quick introductory adventure, a summarized rulebook and some adventure supplements like a two-sided map, and some placeholders for your characters and the other NPCs

The Core Rulebook has a much more complete and detailed version of the rules of the game. It gives you a brief overview on what it means to play on the Edge of the Empire, and the tone and feel of the adventures played with this system. It has a very extensive character creation chapter, then a chapter about the equipment, the ships you will be using, and other very important aspects of running the game, such as a description of the most prominent worlds on the outer rim of the Galaxy.

In addition to that, there is a whole chapter dedicated to the different factions of the Galaxy, such as the Hutt cartel, the Black Sun Syndicate, and obviously the Empire and the Rebel alliance. Since you're playing people who are the thugs, smugglers, hot-shot pilots and bounty hunters of the galaxy, it's pretty cool to see all of the oportunities you might have by working for or against any of these factions.

The last chapters of the book include a chapter on the Force Exile, a class that has a minor connection to the force and somehow survived the great Jedi purge. And a short adventure with everything you need to run it as a GM.


Edge of the Empire, just like all of the other Star Wars RPGs by Fantasy Flight, is a heavily narrative game. It uses "Narrative dice" to let you know whether you succeed or not in doing an action, and whether doing said action gave you an advantage or disadvantage in play.

When you decide you want to do an action you start by assembling your dice pool. Let's assume you're making a computers check in order to slice (*Hack* in Star Wars lingo) the security system and open a door. Your character is very Intelligent (her intellect is 3) and has invested some exp in her computers skill. First you take three positive green ability dice to go with her intellect score (3), then you replace two of those with the 2 yellow dice since she has 2 ranks in Computers. These are your positive dice.

Now let's say that the security system is average, not too easy, but not too hard to crack. This would be a medium difficulty roll, so we add 2 setback dice (the purple ones). We end up with something like this:

Basically, you roll the dice, and compare how many success and advantage symbols you have, versus how many failure and disadvantage symbols you have, these cancel each other out, and if in the end you have more success symbols left, that means you succeeded!

Now, the GM could say in this case, that you succeed opening the door, and you did it in such a way that prevents the security system from raising the alarm (that's how you count the advantage symbol). However, it is also possible to succeed with disadvantage though, in which case you would open the door and raise the alarm, giving you less time to move in and do what you need to do.

This is the core mechanic of the game, it makes everything move very smoothly and give the GM a lot of opportunities to add twists and turns to the game's narrative.

Final Thoughts:

I LOVE the Star Wars Universe. Ever since I started playing tabletop RPGs I've wanted to give a Star Wars RPG a try. I was aware of the existence of the Star Wars d20 books, but once I found out they were already out of print, the number of books and supplements was absurdly high, and most important of all, I didn't have a the money to buy all of that :). 

Fantasy Flight has done a great job translating the feel of a Star Wars story into the basic rules of the game. I feel like the game plays very smoothly, even though learning the rules of the game may take a bit of reading. Also if you've never seen the movies, or are not familiar with the terminology, then it might be a bit difficult to get into the mood of the game. However, if you like Sci-fi settings and Space battles, and laser pistols and big starships, then you will have a good time regardless.

All in all, I think this game is really good. As a Dungeon Master you get TONS of tools to build great stories in the Star Wars Galaxy. You want your characters to go hunting for bounties and compete against the likes of Boba Fett? Make deals with Jabba the Hutt? Explore the lower levels of Coruscant? Steal valuable information from the Empire? mess up the communications array of the Rebel Alliance? 

You can, and it'll be a blast. But don't take it from me, here's what some friends who got to play with me as a GM have to say about Edge of the Empire.

"Ever wanted to shoot first? this is your game"
Samuel the Wookie - 2015

"From the start of the game you immerse yourself in familiar places of the Star Wars Universe, the adventure gets you hooked right from the beginning. The force guides you to complete your objectives and overcome challenges. I recommend it for everyone, even non-star Wars fans"
Ludwig the smuggler - 2015

"The setting is very easy to explain, I liked the starter set with the character folios. It's a very complete game. Although, if you don't know anything about Star Wars you might need a bit of help from your friends who are familiar with the terminologies. But this doesn't stop you from having fun!"
Krystle, the Medical Droid - 2015

And well, this one from my friend Fernando is so well written I'm just going to put it here in Spanish, and hope I don't butcher it when I translate it into English.

"Muy pocos juegos tratan de enfatizar, realmente, el aspecto de roleplay de los juegos de rol. Ignorando conceptos pre establecidos por juegos como D&D o pathfinder, Edge of the Empire y sus sucesores de enfocan de lleno en los mismos con un juego altamente narrativo, dispuesto para los narradores aventureros que mas que preparar una historia en su mente le permiten a sus jugadores decidir de que manera seguirá la narrativa. Los dados y sus símbolos tomaran un rato en aprenderse, pero una vez todo es explicado se nota una poderosa elegancia y sencillez que deja a muchos otros "juegos de rol" en vergüenza. Con esta generación de juegos de rol con énfasis en narrativas mas aya de donde las espadas golpean las escamas de los enemigos, no esta de mas decir que la fuerza esta al borde del imperio."

Now, in english:

"Very few games try to really emphasize the roleplaying aspect in a roleplaying game. Ignoring concepts pre-established by games like D&D or Pathfinder, Edge of the Empire and its successors focus fully on roleplaying with a highly narrative-centric game that gives adventurous narrators the opportunity to not just prepare a story in their minds, but also let their players decide how the narrative will progress. The dice and their symbols will take a while to get used to, but once everything has been explained you will see a very powerful elegance and simplicity in the gameplay, which leaves other "Roleplaying" games in shame. With this new generation of roleplaying games, which emphasize narrative beyond swords hitting the scales of our enemies, it's not too much to say that the force, is on the edge of the empire."

Fernando - Bounty Hunter

Beautiful, isn't it?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Legend of the 5 Rings - DICE HEAD REVIEW!

A few months ago a friend of mine convinced me to give this game a try. Basically, as he said, it’s a game where you roleplay as Samurai. And that was pretty much all I needed to give it a try.

Legend of the Five Rings (often abbreviated L5R) is a fictional setting created by John Zinser, Dave Seay, Dave Williams, and John Wick and published by Alderac Entertainment Group in 1995. The setting primarily involves the fictional empire of Rokugan, though some additional areas and cultures have been discussed. Rokugan is based roughly on feudal Japan with influences from other East Asian cultures such as China, Mongolia and Korea.

Now that we’ve got the Wikipedia part of the review out of the way, let’s get into what the game has, how it plays and my general thoughts about it.

"If you see the "half-persons" -as you call them- like posessions, you should take care of them properly. Will you leave your wonderful yukata dirty with mud, or would you clean it and make sure it is anything but perfect?"
-Daidoji Natsuki


The core rulebook is pretty thick. It has 404 pages and it’s divided by books titled after the rings referenced in the name of the game. First there’s an introduction, then there’s the Book of Air, which has about 60 pages full of Lore dealing with How the world was created, how Rokugan (the name of the setting, like “Greyhawk” or “Faerun”) came to be, the social classes, everyday rituals, religion, philosophy, Honor, Politics, Economics, and a very thorough description of the 8 Great Clans of Rokugan.

It has a METRIC ASS-TON of Lore.

I think L5R is a rich role-play game. It is quite fantastic how simple is to understand it, and though it is fictional, you can make realistic characters with it.
-Elii Mascarin – Player and Game Master

The Book of Earth deals with Game mechanics, how to roll dice, how to read the dice, how combat works, how skill checks are made and how to deal with certain situations in the game. Even though it’s mostly about mechanics, this book also has a few lore entries that help the reader to get immersed into the world of Rokugan.

“Good game, if you like manners and went to finishing school! “ 
-Priscilla Shirley - Player

The book of Fire is all about character creation. In here you’ll find tools to create your character, like a set of 20 questions to help you flesh out your character’s background story. Here’s where you choose which clan your Samurai will belong to, wether he will be a Bushi (warrior) a Shugenja (Magic user) Courtier (Politician) or a Monk or Ninja. As always, you should ask your Dungeon Master which one of these fit better in the story. This chapter goes on to explain how skills work, how spells work, and it gives you the stats for armor and weapons. It also has lore.

“Perfect family game, if you want to GET KILLED FOR DRINKING SAKE, like why, are we kids?  And the turning down gifts three times thing is pretty annoying too. Just give me my damn gift bruh. The shadowland prowlin' oni slayin' part makes it kind of worth it, though.”

-Daidouji Takeru, half-crab half-crane full awesome.

The Book of Water Talks about advanced mechanics. It has information on minor clans, Imperial Families, Ronin options, optional systems like massive battle rules. The Lore in this chapter is also very heavy.

Then the last chapter: The book of Void, focuses on tips for Dungeon Masters and gives them a lot of tools to run a game, like different types of campaigns, how to award experience points to the players, stats for monsters and nonhuman races. It also has a complete 30 page adventure that’s ready to run. And of course:  LORE LORE LORE LORE LORE LORE!!!

“We all want to play as a Samurai in some RPG in some moment of our lives. It doesnt matter which one we're playing at the moment there is always that need to wield a Katana. What surprised me about L5R is that the way the convey the setting to you makes you want to do more than just become Battousai and slash people. You do cool thinks. For example, my character, a Crane Clan Courtier by the name of Daidoji Daichi, would speak in code whenever he wanted...and it was awesome.

Daichi: It would be most imperative to suggest that the Monkey will soon land upon the branches where the Crane is taking a rest. 

Which means, basically, that Monkey reinforcements are arriving to the Crane clan's camp.

Or something like:

Daichi: It is known that when choosing between poisonous enemies, nothing goes past the webs of the Spider...or survive the venom of the scorpion.

Which can mean multiple things. So, speaking in code is pretty great. Get this game if you want to go all cryptic on other players and have them laugh/roll their eyes”
-Moises Montero – Player and Dungeon Master


Legend of the 5 rings has very simple gameplay mechanics. If you want to do something, you determine your level of success by rolling d10s. You take a bunch of d10s, you throw them, keep the highest number of the roll and add them up. If your result reaches the Target number (determined by your DM) you succeed in doing what you want to do.
Now, what determines the amount of d10s you roll? And what determines the amount of high rolls you get to keep? That’s the not-so-simple part. Let’s try to give you an example.

Rolls are described as xky
X is the number of dice you roll, and Y is the number of dice you keep from that roll. So a roll where you roll 8 and keep 3 would be read as 8k3 or “8 keep 3”

So… You want to hit something with a sword.
The skill required to do so is “Kenjutsu”

You have bought 5 skill points in Kenjutsu, which is tied to your Agility trait. Until now you’ve spent some experience points to raise your Agility to 3.

You would add you 5 skill points in Kenjutsu, to the 3 in Agility, for a total of 8 and you would keep the 3 (from your Agility) highest dice from your roll.


If one or any of your dice land on 0 (meaning you rolled a 10) they “explode”. So you can add 10 to your roll and roll that dice again, keeping whatever number it lands on. If the dice lands on 0 again, you keep adding 10 to the roll and rerolling until you stop exploding dice.
That is the basic mechanic, but this is pretty much the same for all types of checks, you take a number of dice, you roll them and keep a number of dice out of that roll.

Simple right?

Eh… no…. I would be lying to you if I said this system felt simple or in any way intuitive to me. But, as any other game, you learn to roll your skills a lot faster and more naturally the more you play.


Legend of the Five Rings is an RPG setting with a load of customization options that will make you look at Role Playing Games in a very different way. As any other setting you can always adapt some of the gameplay options to fit the type of game you want to run. Do you want a game full of political intrigue, moral backstabbing (also: literal backstabbing) and sword duels to the death? L5R has got it. Do you want a game where you slice you enemies down with your katana, fighting for the honor of your house? L5R has got that too. Is it the first time you play an RPG, and want to take a swing at roleplaying with a couple of friends for the first time? Stop right there.

-Samuel Gonzalez - Player

This game might work for you if you have never PLAYED an RPG before, as long as your Game Master is familiar with the setting. A GM that knows the intricacies of how the 8 houses interact with each other, and who has also familiarized him or herself with the oriental cultural aspects that have been integrated into this setting, is your best bet at running a really awesome adventure in Rokugan.

If you’re a Game Master that has never run a Roleplaying Game, then you might want to steer away from this one. I would suggest that you get the Core Rulebook (4th Edition) and read it. Then read it again, and again, and again. Then when you’ve finally learned the details of this game, read it again. THEN you can run a game in Rokugan. Trust me, it’s in your best interests to get REALLY immersed in the setting before you run it. It will make it a lot more fun for you, and most importantly, for your players.

“If you like Intrigue and strategy, Legend of the 5 rings will be an enormously satisfying experience for you.”
-Fernando Dolande – Game Master and player

Here’s my absolutely honest opinion, this game is awesome. If you’re looking for a game that draws inspiration from Oriental culture, and lets you play as Samurai. Then look no further than Legend of the 5 Rings.

Also did you know they have a Collectible Card game?!?!? Time for a SEQUEL REVIEW!!!

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fudging Dice - DM Thoughts

Generally speaking, Roleplaying Games are games where you don’t necessarily win or lose. You just move the plot further through either success or failure. There are many plot devices and narrative tools that a DM can use to move the plot along, some of these can be shared with the players, others… not so much.

Today I’d like to talk to you about “fudging dice rolls”


Dominic: Ok guys the enemy mage fires a fireball, roll me a dexterity save.

Patrick: ok… 3

Vanessa: Ugh… 6

Jules: I got this… ok, no I don’t…8

Nataniél: 9… oh wait no… that’s a 6

Dominic: ok…

At this point Dominic has a choice to make. He can let the dice fall as they may, and call the full damage of the fireball on his friends. Or he can roll the dice and give his friends a chance to regroup and mount a strategy by calling part of the damage rolled by the dice. You might think “But why would he do this? Dom needs to put his big DM pants on and roll like he means it” And in a way you’re absolutely right.

However, like I’ve said before, D&D are games that revolve around telling a story, and sometimes you may need to help the story along. Or you just simply don’t want the story to stop. A couple of bad rolls on the player’s side, and a couple of good rolls on the DM’s side could end very quickly on a Total Party Kill (TPK), meaning your players would all need to get their act together, create new characters, make new backstories, and you would have to explain how these new characters are filling in for the dead ones. Depending on the type of game you’re playing this means you might have to change the story a bit, a lot, or not at all. You might want to fudge the roll only to keep the current game going. You might also want to see how far these characters can defy the odds

Now, how do you fudge dice?

Words to live by

You’re the DM and don’t need to give out explanations for every roll you make, let’s start with that. Also if you don’t want to use a DM screen then fudging is out of the question. Let’s see how Dominic handles the situation:

Dominic: Ok… the mage raises his hand, points a finger at you, and shoots a small bead of fire towards you. You are all unable to react in time and the fireball explodes close to where you all are, dealing… (Rolls 3d6 behind the screen, the outcome is 15, which would kill all 4 lvl1 characters) 7 fire damage!

Patrick: Well I’m almost dead, my character only has 1 hit point!

Vanessa: My fighter still has a potion and could probably cover you guys, but I’m going to need some healing… only 3 HP left

Jules: I’m down to 0 hit points. Shit… do I roll death saves now or at the end of the round?

Nataniél: Hey wait… I’m a Tiefling, I have fire resistance. He only does 3 damage to me! I can heal Vanessa with Cure wounds. Just make sure you hit that mage with all you’ve got before he fires again!

Dominic: Well you guys seem to have things under control *smiles evilly* Roll me a death save Jules…

So Dominic does not kill the party outright, but he does put them in a challenging situation that might end up either in a TPK or in an amazing victory, that depends on what the players decide to do next. As you can see, fudging dice is simply handling the dice results in such a way that keeps engaging the players to come up with different strategies and ways to beat the obstacles that you present to them.

The alternative? Well you could just kill them and narrate the dramatic events that follow the heroes’ failure to beat the evil mage. In the end, the decision to fudge or not to fudge the dice roll depends on the type of game your players want to play. Maybe they specified that they preferred a more hardcore experience, where all traps are deadly and every single room has at least one vampire in it. If this is the case, then by all means, roll every single dice in front of them and watch them fall like flies.

Thanks for reading

Friday, August 28, 2015

Mighty No. 9 - Dice Head News

The team at Inti Creates and Comcept released a statement today through a kickstarter update, announcing that all of their backers will receive a 1-month trial version of their upcoming game: Mighty No. 9

A few weeks back the game was delayed until 2016 in order to work out some of the online issues the game was presenting. Here’s part of the statement released today:

"We know that there are a lot of our fans and especially backers who were disappointed that the Mighty No. 9 release has been delayed from the planned September 15th date. However, we don’t want our backers to be completely empty-handed, and as a result we have a special announcement!

We are releasing an exclusive Trial Ver. for all of our Mighty No. 9 backers!!!
The team at comcept and all of our partners are currently working on solving the online issues with Mighty No. 9, however the single-player content is in a complete state. We would like our backers to have a chance to play the near-complete game, so we are releasing this Trial Ver. which has more volume and functionality compared to the original beta test we conducted. The release of this Trial Ver. is planned for September 15th, so make sure to clear your schedule! We will start sending out codes to our backers a few days earlier than the actual release. This Trial Ver. is planned to run for a full month after release, but will be taken down after that."

The trial Version will feature four fully playable stages from the game including all relevant cutscenes, voice and subtitle options (subs: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese Dubs: English and Japanese) Retro soundtrack, and challenge mode stages 1 – 6.

On top of that all backers will receive a steam code for the release of Mighty Gunvolt as a special thanks for supporting Mighty No.9.

I, for one, am really excited for this. I believe that if you're going to make a game, you better do it right the first time. A month of mighty No.9 might be just enough to get a taste of what's coming.

What do you think? did you back this project back when it was just starting? Let me know in the comments if you'd like to see me review this game once it finally comes out.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Stories from the Campfire - part 1

This is a true story, much like every other story about something that is perceived in a moment in time.

This is a story about how one of my friends died…

As the water priest and the shape-shifter fled the scene, Damian rushed to the clearing on the river bank and knelt by the druid’s side… The tiefling was the first to reach her, while the Goliath and the small boy followed him shortly after.

She had no pulse, her breathing had stopped, and her once flowing hair was now slowly dissolving into the ground beneath her.

“We are in need of strong arms to plow the fields and water the crops, as I mentioned before you may stay here in Summit Hall, but only after you’ve paid for your room and meal with hard work…” – The elderly lady clad in full plate armor looked sternly at the group of adventurers, making it absolutely clear that she would not give any of the foul smelling, ill equipped, strange looking adventurers in front of her one single piece of bread that they did not earn with the sweat of their brows.

In front of her stood a very peculiar-looking group of adventurers. At the front stood a dark blue skinned pale-eyed tiefling, a demon-born as evidenced by the horns that grew from his forehead towards the back of his head through the bone-white hair he had inherited from his mother. The tail that he kept wrapped around his waist was also a dead giveaway for those who had a keen eye for details. Damian was used to the strange looks of of, well... pretty much everyone else but his close friends. However, unlike most other tieflings he did not shy away from the looks of others; in fact, he loved being the center of attention, and enjoyed wearing very colorful clothes, as was the fashion of the people he grew up with, the Gur of the sword coast. 

To his right stood Shieldbuster, a Goliath both in race and stature. His body looked as if it had been carved right out of a mountainside, and wore several markings of his tribe upon his face and body. Although most of his kind had a cold demeanor towards pretty much everyone else, this Goliath had somehow managed to acquire a warm look of amiability after his travels along the sword coast. Shieldbuster was clad in the armor of the last orc he had slain in combat, a dark steel breastplate that covered most of his body, yet his pale skin also showed the scars of previous battles. One would not immediately guess it, but he was also a merchant, and was used to being among regular folk most of the time. 

The knight Helmdorn stood to the back of the group. He was clad in full plate armor, bearing the markings of Helm, the God of Guardians, protection and protectors. He was silent, stoic, and ever vigilant. He carried a large sword strapped to his back, which showed signs of use. He had removed his helmet as he entered Summit Hall, revealing a blond head of hair, a sun-baked skin, and the evidence of elven heritage in his factions. Not quite a human and not quite an elf either. He was robust and strong for an elf, but not quite as tall and thick as a human would look. Although at rest, he kept a watchful eye around their group, his grey eyes surveying their surroundings.

To Damian's left was Lauren. The druid's glistening turquoise skin always looked like she had just walked out of a lake. She had deep dark blueblack eyes, her hair flowed as if it was perpetually underwater and had a voice that sounded as if she was talking through a seashell. She was a water Genasi, a child born touched by a water spirit. In a completely different group she might have stood out; however, she was traveling with a tiefling, a Goliath, a half elf, and a kid who was too young to know and do the things he did. She had taken a liking to this kid, and treated him as if he was part of her family

The kid, Falken, looked like just that... a kid. A 14 year-old child that seemed to hang out with a crew of people who took care of him. This, was very far from the actual reality. Falken was a very lively kid, with very dark jet black hair and the bluest eyes you had ever seen in your life. He wore leather armor that was fitted to his small complexion, on top of regular clothes and a red bandana that he kept tied around his neck. After a few moments anyone could see that this kid was up to no good. His eyes never stayed fixed in one place, although contrary to Helmdorn, his eyes were not vigilant, his eyes were eager. 

Damian looked at the old lady, then back at the group, then with a sly smirk he replied gesturing towards the water genasi “You need someone to water the field and crops? Say no more, Lauren why don’t you go roll down the hills? You should be done in mere minutes”

After a short awkward moment of silence, Shieldbuster and Falken started snickering behind Lauren’s back while she gave the Sorcerer an unamused look. Helmdorn just kind of stood there, trying to keep his composure in front of lady Oriana.

“You are as lively as ever Damian… - Lauren said in the most dull tone of voice she could possibly make, she then turned to the lady captain of the Knights – We will be more than glad to work for the right to share a roof with the Knights of Samular ma’am. You need but show us the way.”

Lady Oriana gave them a disdainful look, and ordered them to present themselves before the farmers that were working the land outside of Summit Hall, except for Damian, who was instructed to go to the Hall’s library and act as a scribe and help the scholars to transcribe some old texts. The day passed and they all returned to the mess hall where the knights were to meet for supper. Bowls of hearty soup were passed around, along with slices of venison and lamb and rustic crusty bread. It was the best meal they had had in days and their appetites were quickly satisfied after a few courses of heavy soup. The sounds of loud chatter, along with the hustle and bustle of the cooks coming and going with the platters of food made the place look a lot more lively than it actually felt. 

They had arrived at Summit Hall after barely surviving a run in with a pair of Perytons out in the field. The first thing that came to their attention was that everyone in Summit Hall was carrying a weapon. Simple or martial, everyone had a weapon strapped to their belts. as the day went by and they talked to Captain Oriana, they realized this was because they had been attacked by bandits on several occasions in the last few weeks. Everyone was weary and on edge, so as soon as they entered the keep all they got were foul looks and nasty sounding whispers. As of now, everyone seemed to have gone back to their daily chores and was minding their own business and the food one their plates.

Lauren kept trying to keep the kid, Falken, from appropriating other people’s belongings, Shieldbuster started up a conversation with an old Halfling that was sitting on a table nearby, while Damian and Helmdorn remained at the table. Their group could be described as a motley band of mismatched members at best. Every one of them seemed to have their own reasons to be in the company of the others Shieldbuster’s company after a while, who seemed to be the glue that kept everyone together somehow.

The Goliath had been there when Falken tried to “borrow” some things from his caravan after offering to guide them around the city of Waterdeep, and also when Damian had stumbled onto his caravan while running away from the local guards after a little... misunderstanding with one of the local noblemen's daughters. Helmdorn had come to him as a hired sword, but seemed to be involved in a greater cause, and yet he felt like part of the group already.

And Lauren… Damian remembered that day when Lauren approached their group asking if she could join their company in order to look for a lost person who seemed to matter a great deal to her. Damian had tried to woo the druid into his bed, to no avail, and almost got murdered in the process. He used to laugh whenever he remembered the story… Now most of their relationship consisted of jokes and gags regarding their particular heritage, yet profound respect from Damian's side, due to the fact that Lauren had healed him back from the brink of death on more than one occasion.

They were currently looking for a lost caravan, carrying a Delegation of Diplomats from Mirabar who were by now likely dead or missing at least a few limbs. All investigations regarding the matter had been fruitless up until now.

“Damian!”  - Shieldbuster’s voice boomed over the noise in the mess hall – “Come here my friend!”

Damian stood up and walked slowly over to where the Goliath was standing.

“What is it big man?”

“I found this little old man, he likes to talk”

Shieldbuster was a merchant, yet he knew that in order to get the most information out of someone he could always rely on Damian. Who had a way with words and was a lot more calm than he was.

Damian’s pale white eyes looked behind Shieldbuster’s enormous figure and found an old Halfling sitting there, finishing his supper. The grey hairs on his head were a clear evidence of how many winters he had survived, and also gave a good idea of how many he had left. 

The Halfling kept rambling on and about how difficult life was in the Realms lately, with bandits raiding every homestead they could find, not to mention the appearance of so many fanatics around the area.

“Hmmm well you are a rare sight to behold sonny… you one of them Demon spawn?”

“Tieflings” Damian said with a courteous smile. The old man wasn’t the first or the last one to throw racial slurs at him so he paid it no mind.

“Ah yes, the spawn of Asmodeus… you know the people here aren’t too pleased to see your kind around, everyone’s an enemy these days… everyone…”

“Well yes, old man, but I assure you, my friends and I bear you and your friends no ill. We are actually on a very important mission regarding a caravan that left from Mirabar more than 5 tendays ago. It should have passed through Summit hall before heading for Waterdeep. Have you heard anything regarding any such”

“Mirabar?” – the old man gave him a puzzled look – “We haven’t seen anyone from Mirabar pass through here since last harvest, and that was quite a long time ago”

Another place where no one had ever seen or heard of the bloody caravan. To say that Damian was frustrated now would be a huge understatement. So far they had been attacked by Orcs, attacked by cultists, attacked by Griffons, Perytons, wights, wild animals and ANOTHER band of orcs that seemed to be led by some kind of Demon that had been a recurring sight in Damian’s nightmares ever since. But still no news of the missing caravan. All they had to show after that was a bunch of scars, traumatizing sights and a dead companion…

Draupnir was not your regular elf… He had a name that sounded like a Dwarf’s name, he behaved like a Barbarian from the North, and the last time he tried to guide them through the wilderness, they reached the place where he would eventually meet his end. He was part of their company, nevertheless, and his loss had affected them a lot more than they all let on. None of them had really talked about it since then, and Damian still had a hard time trying to reconcile the fact that Draupnir was still alive after the fall… but that was then and this was now.

The old man seemed to be trying to remember something, then he slapped his knee and touched his temple with his right index finger “Although I believe I did hear some of the young ones in the knight’s table talking about those bandits frequenting the roads to the north of here… And if a caravan did come from Mirabar then I believe your best shot at finding them is by following the north road out of Summit Hall.”

Damian smiled, and nodded courteously “Thanks old man, I guess we might as well give it a shot.”

Damian stood up and motioned for shieldbuster to walk with him. The Goliath left the Halfling behind and walked along.

“I’m not entirely sure if following the old man’s advice is a good idea but it’s the best clue we’ve been able to come upon since we started this whole thing… I’ll go to bed, inform the others that we leave tomorrow and please… tell Falken to put the Halfling’s purse back where it belongs”

“With or without the gold?”
Damian looked at his friend and smiled “I’ll leave that up to you, just don’t tell Helmdorn”

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cat Herding - DM thoughts

We’ve all been there.

Scenario #1

It’s the day before the gaming session, your friends have all been looking forward to this particular session, since every plot line seems to be heading to their respective ends. Your characters have all gone through some type of development, and on top of that you are very close to leveling up. This is it guys, this game is going to change everything. After this session, our lives will be completely different, for the sole fact that so much awesome stuff is going to happen in it, that your very way of playing RPGs is going to be completely redefined.

Oh.. what’s that? Billy can’t make it because he has a family party to attend to… Oh well, no problem, it’s a shame Billy won’t be there to witness the awesome, but oh well… you really can’t expect him to leave his family hanging right?

Oh wait… If Billy can’t come, that means his girlfriend Vanessa, can’t come either. And she’s the fighter, so… oh wel we still have a reasonably strong party without the mage and the fighter right?

Wrong, because now Franck is feeling kinda sick, and he’s the healer (oh irony, thou art a soulless bitch). Virginia actually feels more like going to the beach on Saturday, and Patrick hasn’t picked up the phone in FIVE (5) DAYS!  GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER PATRICK!

By now the party feels like they should wait until everyone is able to play. So you postpone the game until everyone is able to make it to the game. Then Patrick shows up at your front door, because he didn’t know the game had been postponed.

That’s because you didn’t pick up the phone Patrick. You didn’t pick up the phone…


Scenario #2

You’ve been preparing this game for MONTHS now. About a year ago you bought the core books for a new tabletop RPG that seemed interesting at the time, but you never had the chance to actually play it. So at one point you get your friends together and mention that you have a game that you’d like to play. You get them hyped explaining the way the system works, and how the character creation process is the coolest thing since Eskimo pies. You even go as far as creating a character for each one of your friends, just so you don’t have to waste a whole night in character creation. You set a date. The weeks go by… you’re ready for this…

5 days before the game

“Hey dude, sorry but I TOTALLY forgot I had this thing I have to go to. I know the game is like a week away, but you guys can play without me right?”

4 days before the game

“Hey, I’m not sure I can make it to the game on time, there’s this thing I have with this [girl/boy] and I might be a little late, is that ok?”

3 days before the game
“Yo, can we play on [xday] instead of [the day we agreed on 2 months ago]? There’s this thing I want to go to on that day…”

2 days before the game
“Hey guys, good news. I can make it to the game, but only for like… 2 hours, I need to leave after that because of things and reasons”

1 Day before the game
“Hey has anyone seen Patrick?”

There is a Patrick in every group... right Patrick?

So you postpone, pick a better date and hope against hope that everyone will show up this time.

This, my friends, is called “Trying to get a group of geeks together to play a game of ANYTHING”. Also known as “CAT HERDING”. Now, this is not a post about how to make your friends go to ALL of your games, and get rid of scheduling problems for the rest of your life.

No, my sweet summer children…

This is a post where I tell you how to deal with this situation and learn to cope with it. In all my years as a Dungeon Master and gamer, there has always been one thing that does not vary. And that is: We geeks have a hard time getting together to play a game. There’s always a thing that gets in the way, and let’s be honest, the older you get the less free time you have to play a game. So having a job, being married, having kids, and maybe another hobby in your life will inevitably take up some, if not all of your free time.

This is a thing that happens; this is life, and there’s nothing we can do to change that. What we CAN do is develop some flexibility, tolerance and understanding.

If you players can’t get to the game, you can try to re-schedule to a date that fits everyone in the party. After all it’s no fun to get to a second session of a campaign and then suddenly you realize that some really important stuff happened while you were gone and you weren’t there to witness it. Always try to get everyone to play in your sessions. Work around your schedule and have everyone agree to a date in your calendar in which you can all play.

What if it keeps happening?
If up to 3 of your party members keep having to re-schedule or simply don’t show up. It may be time to have a serious talk with them and let them know that their absence is felt at the table. You will probably have to remove them from your group in the kindest way possible, and open up their spots to other people who might be able to play on those days. It sucks because you probably wanted to play with them, but if they can’t, then there’s no way around it.

What if I have too many games?
Maybe you have more than one game that you’re running at the moment. Sit down and analyze how much time you actually have in a week. Take away the time you need to spend on your job, then your family life, then the time you need to spend on house chores, and finally add to that the preparation time for your games. If you can barely make time to run 3 or 4 games in that week, then it’s more than likely that your players also don’t have the time to play them all. Give it some thought, and learn when to drop a campaign. No DM likes it, but hey, sometimes it’s the smartest thing to do.

What about Patrick?
Kick Patrick out of the group. He’s a great friend, we all love him, but if you’re going to be MIA for weeks and then when you do show up you mess up the gaming schedule, just let him know that once you all finish the adventure, he may re-join when you play another game as long as he commits to showing up on time and be involved in the game. But right now he’s just messing with your schedule.

In conclusion, Cat herding is always going to be present in our lives, simply because we cannot spend all of our time gaming around a table. We’re human beings and as such we all have our basic needs and sadly, tabletop gaming cannot possibly fulfill each and every one of them. As gamers (and especially if you’re a Dungeon Master) we need to be able to understand that sometimes, game night is just not going to happen. But there’s always another day, another weekend, another chance to get together and play. And if your game is interesting and compelling, your players will go out of their way to make time to go to your games.

Thanks for reading!