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Traditional Gaming

Dungeon Situational – Non-Combat Challenges

Most commonly Dungeons & Dragons tends to be sequences of role-play, exploration, broken up by combat situations and the occasional shopping trip. There’s variety in the proportions of course, but there are some very rare opportunities for the DM to call for initiative where an actual fight is unlikely because there are more important things to worry about.

I’ll be using rules and skills for D&D 5th edition (5th edition is best edition, all hail 5th edition) but will be left loose enough for you to modify the rules for different systems and editions to suit your campaign. (more…)

An Infinity Demo Night

It’s been a while since I had a proper stab at a tabletop wargame, and the last time was a quick skirmish with a starter set of Infinity, Operation Ice Storm which set myself and a friend up with a small force each of factions PanOceania and Nomad, seven models a side and a miniature city-scape in which to square off and experiment with the rules.

We failed.

Oh we realised quickly enough that Infinity could be fun, but damn it took us ages to get there, and despite the many similarities in basic rule structure to other wargames of its kind the minutia staggered gameplay to the point where playing was exhausting. “Next time” became the rallying cry, because next time we’d get to grips with it faster, we’d understand more, and we’d bring in other rules that must surely make the game better, more evenly balanced. “Next time” naturally never happened, because life does that. (more…)

Finally Watching Critical Role

I do my best not to make two roleplay posts in the same week (the same rule applies to film, or internet culture, or video games and so forth) but this is just a very quick post while I hastily finish my preparations for GeekOut Shrewsbury, for which I should – as you read – already being attending, and the nub of the topic is fairly self explanatory:

After a couple of years of being badgered about it – pretty much since the first month the all-star D&D game headed by Matthew Mercer – I am finally watching Critical Role by Geek and Sundry. (more…)

Dungeon Situational – Magical Implements

Dungeon Situational is a new series for Dungeons & Dragons players easily modified for other editions and roleplaying systems that feature ideas for DMs and players that can (hopefully) help you make your characters and your campaigns uniquely yours. Spells, creatures, trinkets, encounters, rewards, and obstacles of any and all sorts.

For today, something I often find my spellcasters lacking, unique magical implements. These are no mere wands and staves, these trinkets are intrinsically magical in their own right, and have minor magical properties of their own that should not unbalance the game… certainly no worse than your average magic item. (more…)

Board Game Literacy

We know how to “talk” computer games, the cultural explosion has led to a host of acronyms and words entering common parlance among video gaming circles on a day to day basis, a grounding for internet language as a whole. Most of us understand terms like FPS, TBS, MMORPG, freemium, and we know what “early access” means, at least half the time (plenty of good early access stuff out there guys, don’t hate).

As the board game renaissance alters the face of its own market, monopolising the world of crowdfunding, becoming bigger, more elaborate, and more prolific, we’re noticing more and more that genres are emerging from common mechanics and themes. They’re some important things to pay attention to if you have intention to design a board game, or even if you’re intrigued about the nature of board gaming. Here’s some of the words I hear thrown around more and more commonly:

Deck Building: Amongst my favourite genres of board games and one I plan to have a crack at creating. Players typically begin with a simple deck of cards comprising those that do one thing and those that do another, and often one is more useful at the start of the game than the other, but may prove increasingly useful as time goes on. Cards are acquired from a “run” of cards pulled from a much larger deck that each player uses to improve upon the decks they already have that will prove ultimately useful in completing some grander goal, like defeating an opponent, defeating other players, or just accruing points to have the most at the end of the game.

They’re great games for people taking their first fumbling steps into the world of “bigger” board games. The deck you start with is incredibly simple, and everyone starts with roughly the same opportunities to gain in power, so experienced and new players often have the same odds of winning.

Examples: Dominion, Star Realms, DC Deck Builder, Hogwarts Battle

Draft: Begin with a hand of cards but don’t get used to having it, you pick (usually) one and pass it around, slowly but surely building towards your final goal. This one’s a popular format for breaking into a new CCG like Magic the Gathering, as everyone starts on a roughly even playing field without the vast stores of their collection to draw upon, which naturally makes for a well balanced board game format as well.

Some of these games are not so great for new starters, as familiarity with the contents of the cards will help massively, and if complex mechanics are involved there can be an awful lot to remember in your first game, but with only a little experience you can rapidly become as competitive a player as someone who has played a thousand times. The hardest part becomes deciding whether to take something that benefits you, or that screws over the person you’re handing your cards to.

Examples: Citadels, Sushi Go!, 7 Wonders, Great Scott!

Push Your Luck: More often than not a format found in dice games, where you have a finite resource (often life) that you can wager to take another stab at a repetitive mechanic that will score you points, or leave you with nothing. The dice giveth and the dice taketh away, and in their most simple format the question is as simple as “will you keep rolling?”, or “will you flip another card?” but can go into complexities of holding or abandoning territories, holding resources or exhausting them.

These games are often simple enough that anyone can pick up and play no matter their experience level with games of their type, as the only hard part is deciding when to hold and when to fold. The problem with Push Your Luck formats is that they can often lead to some players being left woefully behind while others race ahead, and while chance can occasionally balance the scales, it’s nothing you can think your way out of, you just have to keep trying and hope.

Examples: Zombie Dice, King of Tokyo, Incan Gold, Dungeon Roll

Worker Placement

You have a wide range of actions that you are capable of in any given turn, but you are limited by the locations of your team of workers. Move them to wherever you need them most so that they can grant you abilities to advance your progress to victory, some will gather resources, others will use them for special actions, you may be able to deploy workers to create new ones, or destroy the workers of others and inhibit their progress.

Games involving heavy levels of worker placement are often complex and inadvisable to new players, although their are a few stripped down versions that can act as a soft introduction to the concept. For experienced board gamers they can be deeply involved and engrossing games that can occupy a day of gaming alone.

Examples: Alien Frontiers, Village, Photosynthesis, Ankh Morpork

Shropshire Dungeon Master: Progress Report #1

A few weeks after declaring myself “for hire” (wink) as a Dungeon Master, what exactly have I been up to?

A New Campaign

Most of my campaigns fall into one of two categories: they’re either there today and gone tomorrow, or they will go on for years, outliving the tolerance of the players therein. Time to create something confined to a few games, something that promotes return custom and also promises a satisfactory conclusion.

The Wandering Pass closes every winter, leaving a handful of isolated villages and incautious travellers stranded high in the mountains. Food starts to dwindle, tensions run high, and somewhere out in the cold forests there waits a fate worse than death.

Winter of the Wendigo draws inspiration from the likes of Dead of Winter, Grim Dawn, Until Dawn, 30 Days of Night, and probably a lot of other sources that have sunk so deeply into my subconscious library of ideas to pluck from that it may offer some unforeseeable twists for new and experienced players alike. It will be for 1st level characters to emphasise the fragility of their position, and it will be comprised of five episodes that can be played in sequence and stopped satisfactorily when a group decides they’ve seen enough… or until they’ve seen it through to the Spring thaw. Their actions, successes and failures will echo throughout the game in ways most video games can only hope to imitate.

In addition, I’ll be expanding on one of my former one-shot campaigns – loosely entitled “Hangman” – into a three episode campaign of mistrust, deceit and subterfuge. I’m toying with a few new Mega-Dungeon concepts to bring to regular gaming sessions if I can secure repeat engagements with venues around the county, as well as throwing in some non-D&D games for those with a taste for something other than fantasy.


So, in minor steps news the Facebook page for The Shropshire Dungeon Master has been started, albeit falteringly. Things that it will require – as a precursor to actual website construction – prices, contact details, a selection of what’s on offer games-wise, and a serious “looks” overhaul. As it stands it might as well just be a very thin version of my personal profile without the rambling “stream of anti-consciousness” that pours from my keyboard on occasion. Tim has rather kindly offered a logo design for me, and his ideas thusfar have been promising to say the least.

If you live in the Shropshire area or nearby enough you can expect to see my grizzled features appearing in a gaming store near you to tout my services in the next few weeks, as well as a healthy plastering of the business across social media, aided by Tim’s own support of my endeavours.

Business Oriented Thinking

Three separate conversations with myself across several days:

“Why would I need to look into new business funding? I already own the books I need, printing costs will start out negligible, I have a host of miniatures I do not use enough, set dressing and the like. After that it’s all advertising and I have cash to put into that.”

“Oh wow, I would look so much more professional if I had printed maps, and art done by someone who can draw well, more ornaments and the like. Oh wow the cost of graphic design is high for my minimum wage, they do not make it easy for the lowly peons.”

“… oh!”

So while I can start this little undertaking without financial backing, there’s no two ways about it, I can think of ways and means that a bit of start-up capital would accelerate progress rather dramatically, and take me from someone optimistically going cap in hand around gaming shops asking to be paid to run role-plays to someone capable of presenting a professional front to what is essentially the next step up for a hobby.

On a Related Note

Work continues on the upcoming eBooks for GeekOut. I have been toying with layouts for script and putting some simple designs to paper, while dashing Tim’s hopes that we can get each Top 10 to two A4 pages. As previously mentioned, we have a list finalised, and all new original Top 10 lists for the eBook readers planned to be assembled soon. And the Pokenomicon is close to two major milestones:

I have one last mutation to add and my starting line-up is complete. New trainers will be able to pick from Sporgoth, the slumped beast suffering a fungal infestation across its back, Katouche, a feline with a strangely artificial appearance, and Mudbait, an innocent looking amphibian with an odd taste for carrion.

And I’m about a third of the way to 150! I’m coming up with ideas I’m dismissing on the basis of either being too obscure, too far removed from the original works of Lovecraft, contemporaries and inspirations, or too half-formed and shambolic to put into something this big. Never the less I will gladly share with you Kozilick The Endless Tongue as a parting gift:

Review – Xanathar’s Guide To Everything

Last year I kicked off the schedule by reviewing Volo’s Guide to Monsters, a fantastic alternative to wave after wave of Monster Manuals that we’ve enjoyed in previous editions, told from the perspective of Volothamp Geddarm, a peddler of of guidebooks in the Forgotten Realms. I finally got my hands on the guidebook written from the perspective of another famous denizen of the Realms, the beholder crimeboss Xanathar, who has knowledge in all fields that might profit or threaten him or his goldfish.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything covers a wide variety of categories for players and dungeon masters alike, combining properties of both a Players Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide expansion. This book was awash with hype, partially because it’s been visibly in the making for months, maybe years. So without further spiel, let’s get into it: (more…)

Announcing: Dungeon Master For Hire

So shortly after writing a short, and only slightly sarcastic article about Toronto’s Dungeon Master For Hire and discovering another in New York, and more still on Reddit, I find myself thinking that there may just be a career in this, and perhaps just enough money to be made that I can finally shed the burdens of traditional employment and embrace a true vocation, a calling if you will. Am I so willing to surrender my evenings and weekends to meet with random strangers and show them how to play my favourite hobby?

Well it’s that or take up drinking… (more…)

Christmas Encounter Table

Some context: Every year I have run a Christmas themed game for one of my local gaming groups. The first one was supposed to be just a one shot, an overly dramatic story of a band of misfit toys who escape the island (really a peninsula), to return home, lead a revolt of the Candy Folk against the cruel tyranny of the Fey Lord Klaus and his wicked elven wild hunt, and reinstate Bannock, Gingerbread King of Candy Folk. And because I can’t control myself, this became an ongoing story, four years strong. This will be the first year since 2012 in which I have not done a Christmas game.

What can I say? I’ve felt rather uninspired in that regard and other projects are taking off rather nicely. So for now, the Dark God of Candy will have to wait to reclaim the world, here instead is an encounter table which sees a nondescript party of 4-6 Christmas themed adventurers level 2-4, wandering the frozen wilderness in an effort to evade Santa and his sadistic brood. It assumes information from the D&D 5th edition Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Merry Christmas.


Top 10 – Badly Decorated Places

GeekOut Top 10s

As we approach ever closer to Christmas Day, with it only being 16 days away now, our Top 10’s have become more Christmas themed once more. This week, as chosen by you, our fantastic audience, has been probably our hardest list in a very long time to compile. We had to come up with a definition of Badly Decorated… But here’s what we think.

With it coming up to Christmas, we settled on Badly Decorated as one of our choices, but we didn’t really think what that meant. At Christmas, we cover our houses in tinsel, fairy lights and so much more, but it’s not exactly a flattering look. It’s just a “Christmas-sy” look. As such, to us, badly decorated means that for the time we see the place, it has to either have unfitting objects, bad decorations or an abundance of just poor design.

Got it? Sweet! On to this week’s list! (more…)