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RPGs

Dragons Conquer America – Overview

As you might have been able to tell, (due to me actually writing some articles,) I’ve had a bit of time on my hands recently. It’s allowed me the time to catch up with loads of the RPG systems on my to-do list which have included Sins and FAITH. One other on my to-read list was a quick start guide of an RPG published by Burning Games, the same publisher as FAITH. Again this particular PDF was given to us by Burning Games but was available via DriveThruRPG as part of their Kickstarter. Sadly we missed their actual Kickstarter launch but we are happy to say that it was successful at being funded and you can late pledge if this is something that you’re interested in.

This overview is based on this preview version of the game and so the final version is obviously subject to change.

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Overview

Dragons Conquer America (DCA) originates from a place of history, and is set in Meso-America, around the 1500’s. Although its origins is based in history, it does include fantasy elements. The explorer Christopher Columbus died years ago, after discovering the West Indies, or what most people then called the “New World”. The first settlers came to the “New World” armed with guns, whilst dragons conquered the easternmost islands. They lived with knowledge that there was a larger continent to the West and although their coasts had been sailed no major mainland exploration has overcome the war like tribes.

Play system

It has the same system to FAITH, in that it uses a standard set of poker cards to resolve actions. However, instead of requiring all 52 you only need numbers 1 (Ace) to 6 and one Joker. You can also use dice to play. If you’re using dice it is recommended that you have a pool of 25 D6 dice, consisting of four main colours (6 in each colour to represent the suits and one for the joker) per 3 players at the table. It’s advisable that dice be the same size, weight and feel because they will be drawn blind from a bag to simulate a hand of cards.

The Spirit in the sky

The game also contains a source of magic that revolves around religion, this is called Spirit. Players use Spirit to cast spells in aid to help dispatch their foes. To gain Spirit you must perform rituals and during these rituals you may choose to try and “transcend” which can then add to or remove spirit based on the success or failure of a check. Players keep a total of what spirit points they think they have and the GM keeps a true total, being the only person who knows the outcome of the transcendence check. The Rituals are aimed to work with all types of religion depending on the character. Some of the Rituals are on the passive path of praying all day, resisting temptation for the vows you have take, and endurance where you have forgone the comfort of food, water or rest to the more violent blood letting (cutting ones self), sacrifice and of course fighting and killing heretics. This sounds all like some excellent Role Play opportunities to me.

Since Spirit is an indeterminate resource the player can overspend on it and cause themselves to suffer some “Corruption” and only the GM knows just how much corruption a player has. A player can suspect if they have corruption but will never know for sure; they can undo the corruption but as far as I could see this is not detailed in the starter book. Corruption takes the form of curses which the GM should use against the player and their team based upon the players religion.

Starter scenario

The starter scenario introduces the players to the existence of a gigantic precious stone, which is actually the egg of a dragon. However, it lies in a dangerous trap filled temple in the lands of an isolated tribe. A Spanish expedition has also heard about this treasure and on their way to recover it. The players must race against time, avoid all the traps and beat a Spanish force to get to the prize.

It’s split down into three main chapters. The first chapter has the players arriving and meeting the Atlaca tribe, the guardians of the temple. The second chapter aims to see the players enter the temple and facing an ancient spirit that protects the egg. The final chapter sees the arrival of the Spanish and finally will determine if the players will keep the egg or not.

The players play take on the roles of some mercenaries that have no allegiance to the Spanish or native tribe. This will have to be worked out during the adventure as to which side they choose to lean.

Verdict

I don’t feel that I can pass a final verdict on a beta version of an RPG. I will say that the idea behind how Spirit works and the possibility of the consequences that might happen due to the curses make the evil GM in me rub my hands with glee. The amount of good RP that could come from that opens a world of great characters to play with. I’m equally excited to see as a player what afflictions I acquire by using too much Spirit, how that affects my party and how I feel about it.

If you really need a verdict on this, my personal verdict is count me interested. I think the scenario that comes with this beta gives you a great sense of what the game has the capacity to deliver. It’s all going to depend on the GM and the party because stories are only as good as the people creating them.

What do you think of the Spirit system in Dragons Conquer America? There is load more videos on the Burning Games YouTube channel. Would you like to see what the the final product has to offer? Have a look at the Kickstarter to late pledge or keep an eye on the social media for Burning Games. Give your feedback on this article via the comments section or over on Twitter and Facebook.

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The Shropshire Dungeon Master Update VIII

When was the last time I did one of these? Ok, nothing since September, a fair amount has happened since then. Around the middle of October there was an incident that slowed progress a little, and with Christmas on the way there hasn’t been a great deal of time to advance a few projects that are in the pipeline – in some cases since July – but there has at least been notable progress. (more…)


Sins – Epic Action Horror RPG

Overview

Sins takes place in our own world, a century or more from now, which is in a post-apocalyptic state. Civilisation as we know it no longer exists, areas of the world are now hideously scorched by nuclear attacks and others have returned to their natural state.

I met co-creator and development team lead Sam Sleney at the 2017 UKGE, where after the past 6 years or so he had been developing the game and was heading to Kickstarter. I caught up with him again at UKGE 2018 where the game was nominated (and won) for the People’s Choice Best RPG award. He very kindly gave me a copy of the prequel scenario, Dead City, which is basically a quick start. Before I dive into this article, I just need to quickly apologise to Sam, because I have taken so long to get this overview out.

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Dungeon Situational – Five Shields

Shields, the piece of metal or wood between you and pain, and the thing that turns your fighter from a bucket of hit points into an indomitable tank. Because it’s not dealing damage it often gets overlooked by today’s modern bloodthirsty types, and it might take more than a hefty plank with handles to convince your players to maybe drop a sword in favour of some protection.

Presented below, five examples of shields with story, magical power, secrets, or just present something more interesting than a boost to armour class. The rules referenced are for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but can be readily modified for other editions or systems. (more…)


Dungeon Situational – 10 Firbolgs

Growing in popularity thanks to their frequent reoccurrence in Critical Role’s second campaign, the race of gentle fey giants appearing in Volo’s Guide to Monsters are forest-dwelling wardens and guardians, living peacefully and quietly with nature until situation demands that they act to protect their sworn homes. Despite their incredible size, they are more adept in matters of stealth and ambuscade, and are better fit to silently exterminate interlopers in the night than to assault them head-on.

A quick review of firbolgs as they appear in Volo’s, they’re tough to fit into an adventuring party without some heavy modifications to narrative: they abhor greed, prefer not to leave their homes, and are generally peaceful and slow to resort to violence. They also utterly lack a physical description, but general opinion seems to lean more toward hints of the bovine, hircine, or cervine elements mixed into an oversized humanoid body.

Here I present ten ideas on how to use this race, in which I will be including a few variations on the theme, none of which will be characters from Critical Role (although some artwork from the series may appear). (more…)


Dungeon Situational – A PC Lair

With the approach of Matt Colville’s Strongholds and Followers, I feel inclined to offer my own idea of a singular base of operations in which players may stash their gear, return to repair their equipment, and to rest in relative safety. From here our players may roam out in pursuit of wealth and glory, to return again and tend their wounds, study, and reflect upon their journey. In time, it may become too small for their needs, and they may wish to move on, or they may instead choose to build and expand.

This article is rules-light, but still utilises Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition as a reference point. (more…)


Dungeon Situational – Books and Their Secrets

Books, rich tomes of lore and knowledge, and in a world of magic, power, monsters, worse, and better, knowledge can reveal so much about the world that you can use to twist and bend to your advantage. Eldritch secrets, long forgotten treasures, and far darker mysteries abound to those with the patience to settle down and get some reading done.

As per usual, Dungeon Situational uses Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rules but should be readily modified. It’s all just ideas to get you thinking about how to stock your own fantasy library.

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Dungeon Situational – Three Quest Specific Spells

The spells of D&D 5e – as contained within the Players Handbook, Xanathar’s Guide to everything and other sources – appeal to a broad range of characters with applications in combat and in many instances of day to day life. In a world of unexpected and varied dangers it pays to cover all bases… but what if the more a plot unravels, the more specific forms of magic become useful to you?

Presented here are very specific spells designed to inspire ideas specific to your own campaign, referring to motives of specific factions or parties, designed for combating a particular type of opponent, or overcome a particular type of obstacle. The rules as listed use Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but should be readily modified to suit most fantasy systems. Here are three campaign-specific spells.

Abjure Serpents

3rd level abjuration
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (A trilliant cut emerald worth at least 200 GP)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes.

Snakes, yuan-ti, hydras, and other serpentine creatures within 10 feet of you must succeed on a wisdom saving throw or be afraid of you. While afraid of you they cannot use their action for anything other than dashing away from you. Creatures must repeat the saving throw when they enter or start their turn within the range of the spell. Creatures you designate within the range have advantage on saving throws against poison effects, and resistance to poison damage.

At higher levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, you may increase the radius of the spell by 10 feet, and again when you use a 7th level spell slot, and again when you use a 9th level spell slot.

Decipher

6th level divination (ritual)
Casting Time: 1 minute
Range: Touch
Components: V, M (a complex puzzle of wooden or metal pieces that has been solved)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour.

For the duration your mind sees through elaborate and complicated patterns as if they were childishly simple, isolating clues, and comprehending solutions. The affected creature has a +10 bonus to intelligence checks made to solve riddles, puzzles, and devices. This bonus applies to all checks made to recall knowledge concerning the riddle, puzzle, or device, and to investigation checks made to search for clues, hidden components, or hidden patterns.

The spell does not account for active deceptions, or any knowledge not overtly possessed by the creature, such as languages it does not understand. If a component is missing, the spell will allow the creature to observe this fact, but will not reveal the location of the missing object, unless it is something they have already encountered, or if it is something that can be found within areas the creature investigates while affected by the spell.

Mark of Bel’Taln

Transmutation Cantrip
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: S
Duration: 1 hour

When you cast Mark of Bel’Taln, take 1 fire damage. A brand in the shape of the arcane mark appears on your skin on a location of your choosing, and remains there for the duration before fading.

The mark is used to identify members of the cult of Worshipful Bel’Taln to one another, and can only be taught to members by other members. A creature does not need to have the spellcasting feature to be able to cast Mark of Bel’Taln, but you must have a wisdom or charisma score of 13 or higher. This spell cannot be learned by elves or half elves.

When you reach 5th level, and good standing within the cult, you may be granted one of the additional features listed below. You may gain additional features at 11th level, and again at 17th. You must be granted these features by a a higher ranking member of the cult. When you cast the Mark of Bel’Taln, you take additional fire damage equal to twice the number of additional features you know.

  • While you bear his mark, you may speak the language of Bel’Taln. You can understand and be understood by monstrosities as if you shared a language, and you have advantage on charisma checks and animal handling checks made to influence their behaviour.
  • While you bear his mark, you have the blessing of Bel’Taln. You have resistance to acid and cold damage. Your unarmed attacks deal bludgeoning damage equal to your proficiency modifier, and you may choose to make unarmed attacks using your spellcasting modifier instead of strength.
  • While you bear his mark, you know the heart of Bel’Taln. You may teach the cantrip Mark of Bel’Taln to another creature. Doing so takes 1 hour, and the process ordains the creature into the cult of Worshipful Bel’Taln. That creature must meet the requirements to learn the cantrip as listed above.
  • While you bear his mark, you know the wrath of Bel’Taln. When a creature makes a melee attack against you, you may use your reaction to deal an amount of acid damage to that creature equal to your spellcasting modifier.
  • While you bear his mark, you know the enemies of Bel’Taln. You have advantage on skill checks when they specifically pertain to elves. For example, you have advantage on stealth checks made to hide from elves, or insight checks made to sense the motives of elves.

Ok, I think we run this series through November and then put it to rest for a few months. I have had an idea for something else for next year, and I have some films chalked up to review. As for next week:

Books and their secrets, some tomes of knowledge that grant unexpected benefits, such as spells, formulas for magic items, or unveiling the location of incredible treasures.

An extra planar encounter table, detailing potential encounters within… let’s see… Carceri! The Prison Plane, the inescapable torment.

Or three different ways in which paladins can embrace or interpret their oaths, and the laws that they abide by.


Dungeon Situational – High-Level Encounters

Introduction

Sufficiently challenging your players at higher levels can be a difficult task for any DM/GM. With players of 15th level or higher who can take out creatures like dragons with relative ease, making encounters that are both interesting and a challenge can be tricky but ultimately worthwhile, if done well.

Below I have prepared a number of encounters using 3 different sets of monsters, two of which are from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, that have been designed to both be a challenge to a party and be interesting and unique encounters.

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Dungeon Situational – 20 Rumours

Information is a valuable commodity to an adventuring party, no matter the setting. Whether the group are seeking information on a quest they’re already involved in, or looking for a job to keep them in gold and hot meals, keeping an ear to the ground in taverns or out in the street can be an excellent source of information, but only once they have separated out all of the misinformation from the truth.

Among the rumours listed below is a mixture of truth, half-truth, and out and out lies, and within that information there are hooks for two quests, the location of a dungeon, and one piece of mundane gossip. It is up to your players how they will learn which is which, and up to you where the truth is.

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