Category: D&D

Saturday Gaming Spark: Oracle’s Trade House

A nexus of trade on the periphery of an oasis buried deep within a sandstone canyon, this trade house is a place of rest and resupply for desert travelers and merchants alike. While merchants eagerly trade rumors and exotic goods from their respective regions, they also seek to pay their respects and offerings to an elusive, ancient oracle which resides in the upper chambers. She rarely makes an appearance outside her confines. But the merchants eagerly listen to her rasping voice dispensing visions of the future, parsing out her insights, gleaming what information they can on the most fortuitous routes to take through the surrounding inhospitable terrain. Link.

Saturday Gaming Spark: Apothecary Refuge

Deep within the jungle a group of pious researchers in the healing arts have carved out a laboratory and repository of knowledge within cliff walls of the river falls. The surrounding land holds a plethora of herbs and plants, many of which are not fully studied for their medicinal properties. This remote apothecary is a treasure of healing knowledge and a refuge for infrequent travelers that make the trek through the dangerous jungles. It is open to all, but those seeking aid are tasked with a simple request in lieu of payment. The staff of the laboratory only ask that written compilations of their works be deposited in the Grand Arcane Library. The wet and humid jungle climate is simply too harsh an environment for written tomes, and better locales for archiving the results of their medical studies are needed. Link.

Saturday Gaming Spark: Sea hag’s moon

The mangroves are cursed according to locals. A labyrinth of trees filled with saltwater crocodiles, venomous snakes, and dangerous to those who don’t know the shores well. But the most dire horrors are the sea hags. It’s said that during a full moon the hags are the most active. The moon’s rays cast the creatures as lovely nymphs. Many crying and wailing softly, their frail looking forms imploring men to come to their aid, only to transform into their true hideous forms and drag their victims under at the last moment. Woe is the lone fisherman that falls prey to their siren’s call. Link.

Miniature Market – Board games in Saint Louis

It’s a new year and big changes for me as I’ve transplanted myself from Korea back to the US. Gaming has been on the back burner for a few months but now that I’ve gotten settled some I’ve been peeking a bit on local gaming haunts. Miniature Market was high up on my list as it’s got a pretty big footprint as an online store. I was able to swing by the shop finally and have to admit I’m pretty impressed.

They have a large selection of board games and also cater to the miniature wargamer too. Aside from a lot of GW, Malifaux, Infinity, a smattering of Bolt Action, a wide selection of Reaper Miniatures among other stuff can be found on the shelves. In addition to paints and supplies, they also carry quite a bit of terrain. Well worth checking out if gaming with miniatures is your bag.

They carry a wide selection of board games and card games. Not to mention a well stocked bookcase of RPGs. I’d say most of the physical store delves more in the new hotness on BBG. But you can find some older gems, and I understand it’s always worth asking the staff about a particular game as it might be in the warehouse (or check their online store). The staff always seems helpful and engaging. I quite liked them being proactive asking if I needed assistance instead of being holed away behind the register as I wandered around the store.

The store also has quite a large dedicated space for gaming with several open tables that is well lit. They also seem to have a pretty active schedule running events every weekend and weeknights. I’m impressed with the amount of space available for in store gaming. Keep in mind they try to cater to folks running organized events. You could likely get some space to meet with mates and play a game for the afternoon, but understand that priority will be given to people registering on their calendar of events.

It’s a well stocked store, with lots of opportunity to get a chance to meet people and play. If running through the Saint Louis area, Miniature Market is certainly a place to visit.

Every DM should run a game of Dungeon World

Dungeon World is a fantasy take on a narrative RPG system under the Powered by the Apocalypse umbrella (coined from Apocalypse World, the first game which used these rules). PbtA has your typical players and GM type of setup, but the game is highly narrative driven. Action is pushed forward by PC choices and outcomes from their die rolls.

Not to get too deep into the rules, but generally each player describes what they want to do and the GM chooses the appropriate move (action) that they will test for. Pretty much just about like any other RPG out there. The tweak is the simplicity and the potential outcomes. Players roll 2d6. On a 10+ they succeed. On a 7-9 they are successful but at some cost. While a 6 or less is a failure. Simple.

Immediately what you find playing this is that mixed success results become the norm. Additionally players will also get a slew of failures rolling sixes. As dice outcome probabilities go, results of 6-8 will be common with 7 being a typical roll. This pushes the GM to drive the players into interesting situations, layering on complications and forcing the players to make hard choices, especially when they fail.

When they fail outright on a 6 or less, the GM has control of the narration. They can introduce more baddies, cut off expected routes or resources, and in short drive the story in another direction. While players have a lot of agency with this system those failures allow the GM to throw a big wrench into the works. Nothing like having players expect to rest and recuperate from a long dungeon expedition, only to return to the local village and see it burned to the ground from a goblin raid.

Running PbtA games can stretch your GM chops. You have to learn to be adaptable and improvise more. Continually finding mixed success outcomes is especially a wonderful way to strengthen skills for running RPG games. Your typical D&D game can slip into binary outcomes. Either you succeed or you fail with an ability check. Having to constantly think of that ‘success BUT…’ with a mixed 7-9 dice roll result in PbtA really can help you find ways of using it in other games.

Say you’ve got your thief trying to break into a merchant’s room, eager to steal off something valuable to get some useful information. They make their check to open the door. Make a stealthy move around the room. Possibly a perception roll to find any important information. Pretty much they will either succeed or not. Cut and dried.

Throwing in the mixed success suddenly adds more outcomes and a more engaging experience. Roll a 7 trying to open the door? That thief has successfully gotten inside, but accidentally knocked over a brass candlestick. They hear guards approaching to investigate. Do they make a run for it? Do they instead make a frantic check through the room first? As a GM you might leave a hint of a small chest on the floor, or a table with several papers scattered about. They could likely have enough time to get either the chest or the papers, but not both. On their way out, maybe they sneaked away successfully, but left the door slightly ajar. The guards begin a search through the keep, ramping up future complications.

We like to think we run our D&D games like this, but with so many rolls of that d20 I would expect most sway back to those ruts of just having a pass/fail result. While Dungeon World instead has this type of outcome in the structure of the rules. Yes you can get a fantastic success, or potentially get a disastrous result, but commonly your get what you want at a price. The mechanics of PbtA games push for more complicated outcomes.

This actually fits well with fifth edition. The advantage/disadvantage and inspiration rules allow you some tools to introduce mechanical benefits to the game as well. Having a poor outcome for an ability check might not mean that the PC fails outright. Instead they might be thrown off their feet, with their next check being at a disadvantage regardless of what ability/skill being used. Make a wildly successful check? Consider throwing the player an inspiration token. If a player just barely makes that check to avoid falling over a cliff edge, they might instead lose some critical gear, weapon, or ammunition which falls into the chasm.

So I highly recommend if D&D is your bag to give Dungeon World a stab as a one shot. It’s easy to run and get characters generated. There is a lot of free material out there. In fact likely before getting into the rule book too deep, I would consider looking at the Dungeon World Guide first. As a fan-made resource it picks apart the base rules of PbtA system and gives you a firm understanding of how to interpret dice rolls from your players and what types of checks/moves are appropriate, making that first game much smoother to run.