We play fantasy rpgs because we love magic interwoven in our adventures. Wizards casting spells, sly bards with their enchantments, priests with their miraculous cures — all of it spurs our imagination into believing we are playing in a realm fantastic and weird. [Now, my next assertion is a bit of a generalization, and like all generalizations, may crumble a bit upon examination. So forgive me if you think I’m pinpointing a “problem” that — for you — may not exist.] But I’ve observed that when it comes to gamemasters, we seem to shy away from infusing new magical...Read More
Author: Troy E. Taylor
About The Author
Troy's happiest when up to his elbows in plaster molds and craft paint, creating terrain and detailing minis for his home game. A career journalist and Werecabbages freelancer, he also claims mastery of his kettle grill, from which he serves up pizza to his wife and three children.
In level-based fantasy rpgs, trying to match the power level of the big bad adversary to where the player characters will be at that point in an adventure is like trying to thread a needle with your eyes closed. As the GM, you’re anticipating where the PCs are going to be in terms of hit points and depleted resources. All the while, you hope the types and number of monsters, the NPC’s and the setback potential of traps, terrain and magical obstacles are also appropriate. Easing in, easing out One approach GMs might take is one I’ll call “easing...Read More
In the early part of running a campaign, it can be a useful exercise to take the temperature, so to speak, of the player characters’ moral compass. I know a lot of games have that familiar spot on their character sheet for “alignment.” Players will often declare, as their character is introduced, where they land on that scale of good and evil/lawful and chaos. Of course, for the DM, it is far more informative if a character’s outlook is revealed during the course of play. Do you have a rogue with a heart of gold? Is that cleric far...Read More
Put those board games in your closet to work in your RPG. Sometimes a quick board game can resolve situations in an RPG. Probably the best example of this as a fully realized game mechanic is Dread, which uses a Jenga tower to resolve a character’s fate in that game of suspense. But other games — or stripped down versions or just elements of other games — in your closet can come in handy too. Here are some worth considering: World Building Risk has a lot of uses, actually. One that I really like can jump-start a post-apocalyptic campaign....Read More
During March, elements of my Dungeons and Dragons collection were on display in the main room of the headquarters branch of our local library. My wife, the Motorcycle-Riding Librarian, who is a clerk in the Putnam County Library system, had suggested I do the display. The display was up in advance of my running an introduction to the game in April. Knowing many of the Stew’s readers are unlikely to visit Hennepin, Illinois, I thought I would share the parts of the exhibit here and the process that went into selecting various pieces. Theme of the Display Being a...Read More
Back in 2015, we teased a project we had been considering for quite some time, a foray into writing Gamer Romance novels that focused on Gnome Centric erotica. Too long had Vampire erotica and Elven erotica taken the mainstage, it was time for the mighty gnomes to get some sexy times! It took us a while to get into production, but we proudly present our very first gnomrotica gamer romance novel – Twenty Six Point Five Shades of Scarlet! Lovingly written by Gnomes Troy E. Taylor, Senda Linaugh, Matthew Neagley, and J.T. Evans, our nearly 50 pages of hot...Read More
One way to keep a party of adventurers on their toes is to present them with unappealing allies. These are non-player characters who, for one reason or another, have an aspect of their personality, demeanor or appearance that the PCs might be inclined to dismiss, keep at arm’s length or even despise. Just as PCs might be caught in the allure of a charismatic or a beguiling villain, they might find themselves rejecting help when it comes from someone they despise or pity. Beyond being a great storytelling technique, it is an interesting social experiment. Even within the confines...Read More
Ordinarily, you’d find me in the same camp as those who advocate that a well-run gaming session is one that is highly structured. And that a good GM is someone who is purposeful, putting to good use the time allotted to them. Keep up the energy. Maintain pacing. Provide direct interactions. For certain, there’s been an industry trend that emphasizes structured play, such as for conventions, organized leagues and scheduled streaming sessions, mostly to meet the demands of our time-crunched lives. So, what I’m about to suggest in this column runs counter to that perspective. No, I’m not abandoning...Read More
Raid dungeons. Slay monsters. Take the treasure. What about praying for deliverance? Seeking serenity? Finding oneness with nature? Players whose characters with a religious bent — priests, clerics, druids, avengers and such — need to feel their contribution to the game is more than serving as a healing machine or turning shambling undead. GMs should resolve to provide story beats that provide characters of faith a compelling reason to raid dungeons and accompany their fellows on their quests for wealth and magic. Relic hunting This might be the easiest to arrange — placing an artifact of importance to...Read More
Since Volo’s Guide to Monsters arrived, I’ve been enjoying my exploration of this gaming supplement to the Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition of the rules. For DMs and players, it’s got lots of little treasures, bits of lore that can spruce up a monster encounter, a batch of player races, and of course, monsters. This is not a review, however. That would be deadly dull, and not in keeping with the spirit of the product. Volothamp Geddarm’s a not-so-acute observer, after all, and my thoughts ought to reflect a similar outlook. (Frankly, I trust Volo’s insights on feasthalls more...Read More
A straightforward idea that GMs could employ as they embark on their first campaign is to present a series of adventures set on civilization’s frontier. In a frontier campaign, PCs are part of an effort to explore wilderness territory. They can confront the threat represented by monstrous races who roam unchecked, and the petty kingdoms set up by society’s outcasts. Initially, the PCs go as directed by a noble patron or governing authority, which provides incentives — such as the promise of lands, titles or riches — to adventurers. A frontier outpost or town serves as the PCs’ base of operations....Read More
Regardless of the edition of Dungeons and Dragons, it seems that no class invites revision faster than the ranger. It’s seen variously as under-powered or overpowered; too much of this, too little of that; or in flavor and concept, failing to match up with someone’s idea of what the prototypical ranger is. Should the ranger be more like Aragorn, Calamity Jane, Drizzt, Sheena, William Tell, Van Helsing, Robin Hood or Atalanta? While we’re discussing literary and folklore archetypes, where did all those spells come from? Robin Goodfellow or Puck, I suppose. And speaking plainly, many GMs know from experience...Read More
Like the good host of a banquet party, whose table fare is filled with a variety of tasty treats, a game master should be giving the PCs plenty to sink their teeth into. So in building encounters, pick adversaries with the strengths of the player characters in mind. Such encounters should still be challenging — no one enjoys a pushover. But when players get to use those abilities that are part of their characters’ specialities, you’ll see smiles break out on the faces gathered at your table. Muscle How do you feed the brawny hand-to-hand combatants, or at least,...Read More
They are three magic words, as distinctive as the starter’s horn for sprinters and swimmers at the Olympic Games or the command to “Start your engines” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But for gamers, especially those who play Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder and other games in the d20 sphere, it carries the same significance. “Roll for initiative.” I can still remember the first time I played using the Third Edition rules. It was a hot summer day, gathered around the dining table of Ken, who was serving as host and game master. I was playing Telfair Montague, a bard. (Go...Read More
Ahhh, the great outdoors. It’s a great place to host a roleplaying game. A little camping, a little gaming, what’s not to love? The woods. The ticks. The blistering sunburn. The blood-sucking mosquitoes. The thieving raccoons. The dead humid air on a 90-degree day. Nothing like leaving the cozy confines of the proverbial parent’s basement and venturing into the sunlight. Or, if your players are less adventurous than the in-game characters they are portraying, then how about the backyard patio, the front porch, or a pavilion at the nearest park. (They say D&D’s founder, E. Gary Gygax, liked to...Read More
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