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Top 10 – Necromancers

GeekOut Top 10s

“A Necromancer! I hoped I’d never have to lay my eyes on one of your kind again” – Gheed.

Yes, the Necromancer is a powerful spellcaster who is capable of bringing the dead back to life. With a penchant for the macabre, these dark magicians are able to manipulate bone, flesh and even go so far as to cause disease and further. Typically though, we’re going for those who bring the dead back to life. As such, we’re not focusing on disease or any of those aspects of this dark art.

So buckle up and get ready, for it’s time that we count down our Top 10 Necromancers. (more…)


Can Board Games Be Scary?

When it comes to horror a new king has come to seize the crown, and though the recumbent cinema may still be giving us a few greats, not doubt video games are the heir apparent. But given the renaissance era of board games has produced wonders that even have the power to put chess to shame one wonders, can board games give us that same sense of horror? Can they make us dread, feel closed in, alone, or hopeless?

Perhaps.

A board game should be possible to win of course, giving us that glimmer of hope, however unlikely. Bound to rules and numbers we must still attribute cold and comprehensible numbers to inexplicable and alien horrors. Not to mention the fact that it’s harder to create a grisly spectacle on a piece of cardboard, no matter how well printed, but there are some areas in which board games excel. (more…)


Making Your Fighter Awesome

Fighters are the soldiers, mercenaries, warriors, the armour + weapon meatstick that goes first through close corridors and stands at the front of a fight yelling “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”. They’re often cold, functional, and unimaginative, fine for a new gamer, but if you’re comfortable with the rules you can play something more interesting.

Right?

The problem with spells is that you can get very locked into the descriptive text of a spell and struggle to stick your own stamp on it. The same goes for the styles of monk, the divine domains of clerics, the pacts of warlocks. It’s all to easy to read the words in the book and say “that’s me” rather than thinking about your character and then deciding what class and styles match your ideas most closely.

Fighters should be the most free of all! Ripped from the page they’re cardboard cutouts, grey plastic minis for you to plaster with paint. And yet all to often when it comes to play I either never get a fighter in the group, and those fighters that I do see are bland and bloodthirsty, perhaps a noble, just, and true meatstick. In combat they go from enemy to enemy beating them to death in turn by putting out the maximum possible damage that their class abilities permit. (more…)


Re-Skinning Spells part 2

So, rather than starting with my spell like I did in my Re-Skinning Spells part 1 last week, I’ll be starting with the spellcaster. To give your unique character a unique feel rather than just a colour-by-numbers hack-n-slash dungeon crawler, plant a little of their personality onto their spell list. For each character I’ll be throwing in more details like magical implements or Individual Magical Effect to give you some ideas on how to really change up your wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and spellslingers.

Let me start with a character I’ve wanted to build for some time.

Chronomancer

A wizard heavily invested in the nature of time, it’s mechanisms, how it shapes and is shaped by space and matter. There’s a few spells that are no-brainers for a master of time, Slow, HasteScrying, at later levels Time Stop and it’s not a huge stretch to throw in spells like Mending as a way to reverse time on a broken object, or Disintegration to accelerate time to the point of crumbling. But not every level comes with a complete collection of spells perfect for the Chronomancer.

It would not take an overly permissive DM to alter Conjure Minor Elementals to summon Modrons instead, those mechanical life-forms from the plane of rigid order and law. The collection from the Monster Manual sits within the Combat Rating requirements. Scrying and locating spells might help pinpoint the eddies and currents a creature leaves in the currents of time, Move Earth and Control Water might toy with history so ancient that the world was different.

Each time the Chronomancer casts a spell it is accompanied by the sound of a ticking clock, a whirling of spectral gears about his/her arms, and at later levels the very stars wheel in the heavens as he/she exerts power on the universe. A stopwatch might be the focus for the Chronomancer, or a sundial with a shadow that always points to the correct time, no matter the light in the room.

Alchemist

The magic of an Alchemist is all chemical, no otherworldly powers required. The correct admixtures can turn acid into a projectile capable of flying great distances, contain fire in a case of metal to be called upon later, or spawn lightning in a jar. The Artificer class for Eberron has dabbled a little in this, although I have to say I preferred the sub-type of wizard from an earlier issue of Unearthed Arcana. That works up to a point, but there are plenty of spells that you might not be able to pull out of a bottle.

Consider a spell like Wall of Stone, rather than a movement of earth the spell could be a growing mountain of foam that solidifies into a barrier. Illusions could be the result of a potent hallucinogen; it’s hard to summon an Insect Plague with chemicals unless you keep a box of larvae or a vial of potent pheromones in your pack.

Alchemists can fit into a low-magic setting, but have to plan accordingly. Your alchemist may have to carry a hefty medicine bag filled with bases, reagents, admixtures and solvents, along with enough glassware to refit a cathedral. You might be walking around in lab gear, goggles and gloves, collapsible work bench, the works.

Et Al

Ok, let me draw some examples from elsewhere. I’ll grab some characters with signature spells or spell-like powers and give you something that’ll do the same job:

Maya’s Phaselock – Shamelessly going back to Borderlands, the Siren Maya has the power to imprison an enemy in a hovering bubble of raw energy from whatever plane of existence the Sirens draw power from. Hold Person would work fine as the basic version, but lacks the upgrades, they’re much harder to replicate without your DM allowing you to add powers and expending higher spell slots, or even several slots. Dominate PersonBless, or Resistance can give you ideas for effects to pile onto a single spell.

Witcher Signs – Igni screams Burning Hands, nice and easy. Aard, maybe use Thunderwave. At early levels you might use Crown of Madness for the hypnotic sign Axii, rather than the more appropriate Dominate Monster. The shielding sign Quen has loads of possible options, from Shield to Magic Circle. And Yrden… is difficult, planting rune-circles that trigger when you pass over them is something you’ll have to wait for when you get level 3 spells and Glyph of Warding, but that’s such a versatile spell you should pick it up anyway, no matter who you are.

Waterbending – It’s easy to replicate earth, air, and firebending from the Avatar Series, plenty of fire-based spells, mobility and defensive spells for air, and things you can change into stone, especially if you build a druid. Water might be trickier, but there are things that could be made more… watery. Magic Missile and Cloud of Daggers, streaks of water hurled at opponents, Slow and Evard’s Black Tentacles could be used as patches of water that grip and bind.


Re-Skinning Spells

A follow-up to similar articles I wrote on using D&D creature stats to make original sounding creations, how about giving your spell caster some original twists? There are a few different ways you can personalise your spell list, simply changing the appearance such as the colour, the sound, the very sensual content of your spell, is the easiest way by far, but with your DMs permission (or if you are the DM and don’t care) you can make minor tweeks to the effects of your spells. Changes of damage type are simple enough, but other effects should be taken with caution as they may unbalance the game in such a way that it makes your character more powerful than the others.

Oh yes, the Dungeon Masters Guide has its tips and tricks for spell design, but there is no exact science without zealous and time consuming playtesting, so with caution and judicious forethought, lets mess with magic. (more…)


Card Game Review: Unusual Suspects

Looking for a card game where you get to judge cartoon characters? Looking for something quick and easy to set up and play? Want a game with lots of unique looking characters, random questions to ask about them and to be co-operative? Well, I think you’ve just described Unusual Suspects; a game where you see a bunch of suspects and ask a witness a bunch of random questions, from if the suspect is interested in politics, to if they have a record player. Sound strange? Well the clue was in todays title!

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Top 10 – Keys

GeekOut Top 10s

This week there’s no need to hold the door, as we have the very key to unlock it! We all know that key’s take many different forms, from cards, to the typical metallic key shape that we’re used to. So long as these items adhere to a standard look, or are used to open locks of some description, then they are up for consideration.

Now get ready to unlock your mind, as we take a look inside our Top 10 Keys list. (more…)


My Dungeon Masters

No man is an island, inspiration does not come from nowhere, and there are too many people to whom I owe thanks for developing my skills as a Dungeon Master. Today feels like the day to thank a lot of people, I’m coming to ten years a slave to the hobby (is that reference in poor taste? Eh, I don’t care) and I wanted to share with you guys the people who have shaped my experience, and how.

Nathan Rigby: Here’s the guy who started it all, him and a guy called Pete who appears to have vanished into the unknowable abyss beyond social media’s grasp. I was asked if I wanted to play, I said sure, was told I was the Dungeon Master, and replied “Sure, what’s that?” My early experiences as a DM were highly encouraging, and while I’ve been through some bleak patches in which I relied too heavily on tools that did me no favours, but I’m better now. Nathan only ran a few games for me, but he snapped me out of a few bad habits early on, encouraged and coached me through some basics by observing my style and correcting it.

Eddie Alcock: A lot of players you will talk to will have Their DM, that Dungeon Master who will always be the one who inspired and enthralled them, whose campaigns and stories are first brought to mind whenever conversation turns to the subject of RP. Eddie would be mine, a master of narrative, a brilliant creator and inventor, and a master of ripping things off in such a way that you’d never notice. One of my most entertaining characters thrived in a world of Eddie’s creation, and since playing in his games I have learned how to make my players feel more at home in the worlds I create for them. Cheers Ed.

Chris Smith: Owner and proprietor of my local game shop e-Collectica, my association with Chris goes further back than that. Here is the man I rely upon as my catalogue of gaming knowledge, and he has introduced me to so many board games, and more than a few roleplaying systems. In short, without Chris I’d be stuck fully on Dungeons & Dragons and would never have dabbled outside of my genre, I’m still a firm fantasy man, but at least I’ve stuck my nose outside of the box.

Chris Perkins: Since the days of the early podcasts with Mike Krahulik, Scott Kurtz and Jerry Holkins, before taking to the stage with celebrity guest after celebrity guest in front of hundreds of PAX attendees. Chris is a professional author for Wizards of the Coast working on D&D, in other words one of my dream jobs, and being in the field means that D&D is as much a part of his day to day life as it is to me, but he has a showmanship that I can only aspire to for now.


These are only some of the DMs that have built my expertise over a decade of role play, formative in my early years of the game, but I have not stopped learning from others. People like Raging Swan Press, Matthew Colville, Matt Mercer, and – dare I say – me, we all like to share our styles, stories, our advice to anyone and everyone who’ll listen.

Show some appreciation to your DMs, we work hard to give you the best gaming experience we possibly can.


Pocket Mars – Board game review

Pocket Mars is a card game that boasts simple rules, and packs a lot of gameplay. I’ve had a copy of it for a while now and remember talking to the publishers Board and Dice about it back at UKGE, and at our recent September Meetup, I finally got round to playing it.

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Hidden Gem: Firestorm Games

There are a lot of companies out there that promote gaming in all shapes and sizes; from video game companies, to board game companies, tabletop wargaming and oh so much more. Recently, Jake and I went for a trip to Cardiff, as we were just sight seeing, but we wanted to go and find a shop as per the suggestion of a friend through Facebook. We decided to seek out Firestorm Games, a shop that’s out of the way, but within a short walking distance of Cardiff station – and boy oh boy, was it ever worth the visit?

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