Monday, 11 April 2011

Favourite Game System Poll Results

So, finally we have the results of our first poll! We asked you to pick your favourite die system out of our list and here is what you said.

In third place is the somewhat underused D6 system with 14% of the vote. This includes games such as Vampire Masquerade, Victoriana and The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game. The low vote count for this system is likely due to the slightly more complicated nature of the systems that use it. Unlike other systems D6 tends to use dice pools rather than adjustments and can often become somewhat over complicated.

In joint first place, with 43% of the vote, we have the classic D20 and grand father D100! These systems have been around since the dawn of roleplaying history and don't look set to go anywhere soon. The D20 system, made popular by D&D (Wizards of the Coast), is quick, simple and easy to run. Meanwhile the D100 utilises the simplest system we use, percentages. This system allows anyone to play without much reference material and is often among the first systems people get involved in.

So, with the golden oldies coming out on top what has the poll really shown us? Well, exactly that, D20 and D100 are still top, followed as ever by the newer systems such as the D6, D10 and D12 etc. Given another year however, with D&D 4th edition being such a lead balloon and with Green Ronin moving away from the D100, everything looks set to change.

Any views on what you think the future brings would be welcome, all you games designers out there, fill us in!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Prototype Project

I'm back! Sorry about the gap in posts, someone forgot to pay the Internet bill, not me of course. Anyway I am back and have been working on a new project that will lead to a brand new game that I intend to publish in late Autumn this year!

The name of the game is Prototype, odd I know but stay with me. The game is set in an alternate world to our own where the cold war was less, well cold. The arms race escalated into all out nuclear war starting what became world war III. In an attempt to bring a quick end to hostilities the UN council  utilised an underground research lab to create genetically modified soldiers under the joint command of the UN security council. However, the effect was not as expected. A single member of the council was corrupt, and effectively sold gene troopers on the black market to governments and wealthy individuals all over the world.

With the world being utterly destroyed many fled underground, creating vast subterranean cities under the earth's surface. Here mankind lived for 50 years, lingering, stagnating. Many scientific advancements were lost due to lack of resources and all those brave or foolish enough to brave the surface never returned. However, mankind was not forever doomed to survive under rock. A brilliant geneticist combined an odd mixture of science and alchemy and with this new power, began to create genetic models that could survive above ground within the fall out zones. From these models he create was is called GS or gene stock. This liquid substance can e injected into the blood stream to enhance a living creatures ability to survive despite nuclear fall out.

With this new advancement man could finlay walk the earth again, but the earth that they found was not like the one they had left behind. The land was barren, no sign of lie existed. The sea's had been evaporated by the intense nuclear blasts that had so efficiently destroyed all life on the surface. The little water that was left was stagnant and contaminated. So, mankind set abut rebuilding it's cities piece by piece they expanded thinking they were all that remained, they were wrong.

In the far north of Soviet Russia a underground facility had been constructed many years in advance of the war to protect the countries future. These men and women were the geneticists responsible to the first gene troopers created for the UN but now, with 50 years to practise, their designs were perfect. They had created a substance much like GS before the war had even started and had created organs within the human body to produce the chemical naturally.

By the time the rest of the world was crawling back out of the dirt, Russia was a powerful nation covering most of Europe and Asia. Many of the countries natural resources had been stock piled in underground silos before the war allow industry across Russia to begin again at an alarmingly fast rate. Cities were constructed from steel and iron, roads laid, planes re-produced and final, genetic experimentation was started. The Geneticists themselves had been experimenting on their own persons for 50 years and were a ghastly group of scared but enhanced psychopaths. They created for the ruling elite an army of genetically enhanced soldiers along with more advanced weaponry than had ever been seen before. This army had one purpose, to establish a great empire spanning the whole world, nothing could stand in their way.

10 Years later and Russia's empire is nearing completion. Countries all over the world fought long and hard but couldn't match the gene troopers in numbers or in technological advancement. Men and young boys are forcibly recruited from all over the world to be 'enhanced' and to fight alongside their new comrades. This who are too old or weak to fight are used as slave labour, building the great cities of the empire. But still, some resist.

The same great geneticist that created GS has been working as a member of the resistance movement, trying to out engineer the enemy gene troopers. He has set up a lab underground in what was north Mexico. The barren land is of little interest to the Russian empire but it is here that their greatest foe works. This man is Dr Gregory Klystaf.

You are Klystaf's final creation. A small team of perfected gene troopers. No mutations, a totally stable gene code, perfect in every way. But all appears to be lost. A spie has given up the labs position and even now gene troopers are storming the facility. The Dr and his aids wake you early from your state of suspension and you must quickly find your feet as your and your team are rushed out of the lab and into a gunslighing world of last chances.

So that's the basic idea, still needs padding and filling but the basics are there. The basic game mechanic will be D6 and will utilise a dice pool statistics system. Players will be the prototype teams created by Dr Greg to combat the Russian empire. They must navigate through the post nuclear world work within the resistance and bring down the power hungry empire before it realises its terrible goals.

I'll be working on this project a lot over the next few months so keep your eyes peeled for updates and a chance to play test the system before it is published!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Master Class: Ranger (D&D 3.5)

Of all the classes in the players handbook, the ranger is perhaps the most diverse. With the right stats, skills, feats and equipment; they can handle combat almost as well as a fighter, sneak almost as well as a rogue and still have a few spells up their sleeve. A ranger has a supporting role, always useful, rarely exceptional. The most common problem with playing a ranger is knowing what to do when. It is when the party is out of civilisation however that a ranger really comes into their own, as masters of the wilderness the ranger is the ultimate hunter, scout and wilderness guide, moving stealthily through the undergrowth, finding food and thriving in the harsh wilds.


A ranger's skills and abilities require a relatively balanced set of stats, due to their role as all rounders. The general order (highest to lowest) would preferably be;


Dexterity heads the list, due to a rangers common use of a bow, light armour, and several skills, most notably the stealth skills (move silently and hide) which use this ability. Charisma is at the bottom because traditionally rangers are known to be quite reserved individuals, very few class skills or features use this ability, only handle animal and wild empathy, both of which are better handled by using spells, (speak with animals, calm animals and charm animal, are 1st level ranger spells.


Most races in the players hand book can take to the ranger lifestyle, humans, and elves make some of the best (and most obvious) ranger's, half orcs can make good rangers too, focusing more on combat ability than on skills, the reduced speed of dwarves, halflings and gnomes can reduce the effectiveness of a character class which prides itself on being everywhere at once, and the reduced damage (both from smaller weapons and reduced strength) of the halfling and gnome races give a serious blow to smaller rangers that is difficult to make back up.


A ranger depends on their skills, perhaps more than any other feature, it's their skills that make them so adaptable. This makes it tempting to split your skill points between several skills rather than maxing out a few, this isn't advisable, because to keep up with the more specialist members of the party, you need to do what you do well. here are a list of skill groupings most useful for a ranger.

Survival, Heal and Knowledge (nature) skills.
These are just so quintessentially ranger, used to track, hunt for food, identify flora and fauna, make natural poisons and medicines.

Listen, Spot, and Knowledge (geography) skills.
Immeasurably useful for wilderness encounters, setting ambushes, and reconnaissance.


Move Silently, Hide and Craft (trap making) skills.
Useful both when stalking pray through forests, and when sneaking through dungeons, these become amazing at later levels when a ranger gets first camouflage then hide in plain sight as class features.

Animal training.

Handle Animal and Ride skills.
When combined with wild empathy, and the speak with animals spell, your animals can accomplish actions far beyond anything expected of them.


As with a lot of classes, a ranger's feats are what give them a true identity, giving serious boosts to the areas the individual ranger wants to focus on, some to consider include.

For all rangers:
alertness, animal affinity, diehard, mounted combat, self sufficient, weapon focus, from players handbook. companion spellbond, trophy collector. from players handbook II. Dash, favoured power attack, improved favoured enemy, from complete warrior. natural bond, quick reconnoitre from complete adventurer.

For two weapon rangers:
two weapon defence, from players handbook. two weapon pounce, two weapon rend from players hand book II. improved buckler defence, improved two weapon defence, pin shield, from complete warrior. oversized two weapon fighting from complete adventurer

For archery rangers:
point blank shot, precise shot, farshot shot, on the run, from players hand book. deadeye shot, penetrating shot from players handbook II. Improved mounted archery, improved rapid shot, ranged disarm, ranged pin, ranged sunder, from complete warrior.


The class features of the ranger are many and diverse, here we will take a look at the more important, and unique features being a ranger gives.

The ranger class has several unique abilities in 3.5, one of the most famous and arguably the most useful is "favoured enemy" a bonus on hunting, trapping, lying to and, above all, killing certain foes. When choosing favoured enemies there are certain things to consider. Firstly the list of actions it actually effects; spot, listen and survival (tracking) are going to be useful against all types of creature, bluff and sense motive however are very rarely used against things such as oozes, animals, constructs, vermin, and other things of animal (or lower) intelligence, though they are only useful against a very low number of undead (vampires liches etc.) when they are used they are very useful indeed. Secondly the likelihood of actually meeting one of these creatures, in most campaigns you don't bump into demons and devils on a regular basis, so having outsider (evil) as a favoured enemy isn't going to be vindicated that often. Thirdly, what foes actually require the bonuses, most reptilian humanoids, (kobolds, lizardfolk etc.) aren't what you'd call talkative, so the sense motive, and bluff is rarely needed against them, they are usually territorial, so you know roughly where they are, as such tracking becomes less essential, and although I wouldn't belittle their combat effectiveness, I'm not sure if the extra damage is essential against them. Fourth, when you select your favoured enemies is important, you may not start seeing dragons on a regular enough basis for them to warrant a favoured enemy status until 20Th level, but at that point your maximum bonus is +4, not really worth it against the reptilian monsters, having said that to start hunting them at 1st or 5Th level (maximum bonus for either being +10) stops you hunting things more appropriate to your level, your best bet is to pick a favoured enemy type that incorporates a wide range of challenge ratings, undead and monstrous humanoids for example. Last, but by no means least, your character should have a reason to hunt these creatures above all others, remember that favoured enemy status means special training has been sought out and undertaken with the sole purpose of hunting down and eliminating the creatures in question, this is hatred to the point of obsession, and requires a reason for this prejudice.

Wild Empathy is a bit of a dark horse (pun intended), in the right situation, with the right party, it can be very useful, that said, the ranger's usually low charisma, the fact its a relatively slow process, and the fact that the rest of the party, indeed the ranger themselves have quicker and easier (though not always better) ways of dealing with the same problems, means it can just as easily be overlooked. A guard dog can be as easily quieted with a poisoned or drugged bit of meat, than convinced you are friendly by having a ranger whisper in it's ear, a wolf pack in the middle of the forest can be killed off fairly easily by even a modestly experienced party rather than have a ranger convince them the party is not a threat, however, if some one comes across a dead/doped guard dog the alarm can be raised, and having a wolf pack that won't attack you on sight can be quite useful if you're ever being chased through that same forest. It is usually worth a go, if you muck the roll up, you can usually revert to a second option without losing anything but time.

Which of the two Combat Style paths you choose to follow can be the biggest decision you have to make for a ranger, before we look at the two in detail however, the downsides of this class feature should be looked at, firstly whichever form you choose your defence will take a serious hit, as both limit you to light armour (admittedly the only armour type you begin proficient in) and use both hands, thus taking away the ability to use shields. Secondly three bonus feats does not a master make, if you're trying to specialise in either bowman ship, or two weapon fighting, fighter class is a better option, to focus on combat as a ranger is to limit yourself to eating up a vast majority of your level (and possibly race) based feats, complimenting a class feature. having said all of that, three bonus feats are always useful to have, so to compare the two options. Archery; the feats here (rapid shot, many shot and improved precise shot, in order) are in many ways more useful that the feats for two weapon fighting, and coupled with any rangers high dexterity, as well as the dangers of light armour, it seems like the obvious choice, however, a ranger specialising in archery, has little way of making up for the shortcomings in combat. A two weapon fighting ranger, on the other hand, receives perhaps less impressive feats (two weapon fighting, improved two weapon fighting and greater two weapon fighting, in order) however, through feats such as two weapon defence, improved two weapon defence and improved buckler defence (the latter two found in complete warrior) they can go some way to make up for that, and the relatively high strength needed to make this option worth while can be utilised, through mighty composite bows, in ranged combat as well as close quarter combat. so to summarise, ignoring combat style, allows for greater armour, and freedom of feat choice. Archery makes for a great ranged specialist, and two weapon fighting makes for a good all round combatant, which can hold their own in both close quarters and ranged fights.

A ranger's Animal Companion is one of their most useful features of the class, however, care must be taken when selecting the animal, because, unlike a druid, the rangers animal companion will not advance quickly or to fantastic levels, for this reason a ranger’s animal companion should not be taken purely for combat, and it is not advisable to exchange advancement for a more powerful creature. there are three types of animal companion; bird, mount and fighting beast, we will look at each type separately.


Namely, the eagle, hawk and owl, the chief advantages of birds is their ability to, obviously, fly, this (combined with the link shared with your animal companion, and certain spells, chiefly speak with animals) makes them excellent scouts, spies and messengers. Also due to their use in falconry as a hunting technique, it is easy to explain their presence should you wish to keep your adventuring career secret for any reason (covert operations and such). The eagle is obviously the biggest of the three, making it more effective in combat, with more attacks dealing more damage and more hit points, if a slightly lower AC and attack bonus (due to it's bigger size category), it is also the fastest of the three. The hawk is slightly smaller, weaker, but with a higher AC, it deals less damage than an eagle with only one attack instead of three, but a higher hit bonus, it's smaller size means it can get unnoticed into much more confined spaces than an eagle, and is less conspicuous even out in the open. The owl is the weakest and slowest of the lot, but it's ability to fly silently, as well as it's bonuses to spot and listen checks make it an excellent information gatherer.


Namely, the camel, riding dog, horse (heavy or light) and pony, the uses of a mount are fairly obvious, but it is important to note, outside of a desert environment, (where the advantages are fairly obvious) there are no real benefits to having camel over a horse, they are slower and less able in combat.

Fighting Beasts.

Namely, the badger, dire rat, dog, snake (medium or small viper) and wolf. Given the slow advancement of a rangers animal companion, the fighting beasts are a risky choice, and (with the exception of the dog) all of them draw attention to the owner in civilised society, however the benefits a good set of jaws adding to the combat power of a party should not be underestimated. The badger, is small, and fairly weak by comparison to the rest of this grouping, however it has two distinct advantages, firstly it's ability to burrow can come in useful, secondly it can fly into a barbarian rage, rapidly and quite unexpectedly turning into a much more formidable opponent. The dire rat is slightly weaker than a dog, and much more likely to be noticed, however it's bite carries a nasty disease, which, with some planning and hit and run tactics, can be a sneaky way of weakening strong opponents before confronting them. The dog is a reasonably tough reasonably strong fighting animal, it's main advantage however is it's normality, nobody is going to question a man with a dog at his heels, walk into town with a badger and people will notice. The viper, the only real advantage to the small viper is it's ability to fit into smaller areas, the loss of one AC and a couple of points of listen and spot check bonuses you get on the medium viper, are more than made up for by the greater hit point total, greater bite damage, greater DC for resisting the quite potent viper poison, pet snakes are rare, but not so rare that they stick out like a sore thumb, a snake is a fair compromise between covert and lethal. The wolf is the hardiest and most powerful (excluding poison) animal both in this grouping, and in the options all together, making it a classic choice and an obvious favourite, the only problem is one of disguise, you might just be able to convince someone it's just a very large dog, but don't count on it.

Upon receiving first Woodland Stride, then Camouflage and then Hide in Plain Sight a ranger’s true colours start to show through, both rely on the ranger being in their element, the wilderness, and between them they turn them into a formidable opponent when out in the natural environment, able to move swiftly and stealthily through the roughest terrain, and blend into the background seeming to vanish before their adversaries very eyes, perfect for scouting enemy locations, setting traps and ambushes, and simply hiding from dangerous foes.

Starting at fourth level rangers have the ability to cast a small number of divine spells, these are generally nothing fancy, boosting stats, helping to exist in the wilderness, and mild healing being the most common ranger spells. Rangers without casting ability, as shown in complete warrior, gain very little advantage, certainly nothing to outweigh spells, and it's hard to see why, if given the choice, anyone would take the option.
Wilderness spells, such as speak with animals, tree shape, and tree stride, are very useful in specific situations, like most wilderness aspects of the ranger however, there are usually other, often simpler and quicker, though not always better, ways of dealing with the same problem.
Healing spells, including detect, delay and neutralise poison as well as heal spells, are always useful, usually however a party will have characters better suited to the role of dedicated healer, as clerics and druids, and even most bards and paladins, do the job better
Boosting spells, are the real mainstay of a rangers spell list, everything from bonuses to stats, skills and even movement speed are covered, the players handbook II spell linked perception is one to look out for, especially for larger parties.
Tactical spells, including the rare few damage dealing spells, as well as entangle and summon natures ally, are perhaps the most useful for active adventuring, arrow storm and blade storm both from complete adventurer are particularly impressive.


Some ideas for a different spin on the ranger concept, this is by no means an exhaustive list.

Scout: usually from a military background, the scout focuses on reconnaissance and ambushes, as well as self reliance, woodcraft and scouting skill sets being most important, archery taking a slight preference over two weapon fighting.

Outlaw: cast out of civilisation for whatever reason outlaws see nature as something they are stuck with rather than embrace, usually foregoing spells, and sticking to hunting and woodcraft to stay alive, most prefer the intimidation factor of wielding two weapons over bowman ship.

Natures Paladin: Raised to serve and protect nature in all it's forms, the natures paladin embrace their animal handling skills and features more than other ranger types, often having higher charisma than most, and valuing handle animal and woodcraft skills, these more than most other rangers are likely to have fighting beast type companions, bowman ship and two weapon fighting are praised equally for their ability to defend the wilderness.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Why We Roleplay

As roleplayers we spend hours working on characters designs, equipment choices and countless other things and after all this, hand over control to a maniac with some books, often called a GM. After all your hard work you are now at the totally mercy of that maniac (GM) and no amount of for thought or planning will ever change that. So, the question is, why do we do it?

This is something I get asked a lot, mostly by my other half, but also by some of my non roleplaying friends. For a very long time my answer has simply been, because it's awesome! However, having thought about it, that's not really an answer, it neither explains why I roleplay nor does it justice as a hobby.

So, after much thought, deep thought you might say, I've come up with quite a few reasons people roleplay. Once you've read this post, have a think and post us a comment telling us why you roleplay.

RPG's Are a Group Activity
Roleplaying is a great way to meet up with friends old and new that you perhaps wouldn't meet up with as often otherwise. Games can also bring new friends together for the first time. Being social is important for everyone, its important for both you physical and mental health, so you could even say that roleplaying improves your health. Honest gov, that's the truth...

Something For Everyone
While most pre-published roleplaying games fall into either fantasy or sci-fi, by the very nature of roleplay games you can create a game about anything you want! You can Tailor each game tot he people who are playing and what they are interested in and want to play!

RPG's As Escapism
When we roleplay we don't play ourselves, or if we do we play ourselves in a completely different world. So, in a very basic way, a roleplay game is one big exercise in escapism. Now I'm not saying that I hate my life, in fact I don't really have much to moan about, but hell if I had the choice of being me or a noble knight of the realm who spent his time slaying demons to protect the kingdom I know which I would choose. Roleplaying gives us a chance to live out dreams and things you always thought would be really cool, but that you can't do, for example, I would love to go dungeoneering in the local necromancers guild, but they don't seem to keen thus, roleplay! (Please note, there is not in fact a necromancers guild in Westbury)

The Power, The Power Mwahahahaha
In everyday life lets face it, our lives are greatly dictated to us. We work, we eat and we sleep. I know there is actually a lot more, but I'm generalising, after a while its starts to feel like you just want to steal back some control of your life, enter roleplay. During characters creation, we have almost total control of our character, we decide everything from the character's name to his star sign. Once character creation done and the character is placed into the world, you then control much of what said character does, don't like the law? Break it, deal withe consequences later, or run and hide either is good. The ultimate embodiment of this reason is the GM, because well, you may control your character, but her/she controls everything from the grass to the Gods!

Brain Training
These days a craze for brain training games has arisen due to the world getting a bit thick throughout the 70's and up to now. (I don't mean that, the world isn't thick, it just seems the thickest people talk more and so get noticed more.) Anyway, while Nintendo and Sony are leaping on the bandwagon, roleplaying has been there for over 50 years! Making split second decisions, planning, problem solving and puzzling are all key elements of the game. These are great for getting the brain into top gear, I actually playing in a roleplay session before several of my A-level exams when I was college and i can tell you I was much more alert for the exam when i had been roleplaying that morning. A suggestion to the education commission maybe?

Basic Economics
Average Cinema Ticket: £12 Lasts 1.5 - 3 Hours
Average Theatre Ticket: £18 Lasts 2 - 5 Hours
Roleplaying Game Core Book: £35 Lasts forever

Need I say anymore?

So, that's what i came up with. Now, not everyone will fall into these categories, these are just my opinion. If you have anything to add, then post it as a comment below.

For those of you who have never understood why your friend or partner roleplayed, I hope this has helped you understand.

Until next time, TTFN

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

How To: Create a Fantasy World

One of the hardest things for any GM or group to do is create the world in which your game will occur. It is for this reason so many people simply use the generic worlds given to them in campaign books. There is nothing wrong with that, but after a while they all tend to become very similar and style and theme, creating your own world will prevent this.

Now, I believe the creating your own world is the best way to truly engross yourself in the fantasy adventure and will massively improve the game as a whole. I also understand that, for those who haven’t designed a world before, it can be a daunting task.
Not to fear, this post will give you all the basic tools you need to start building a world of your own. I will also add in some links to really useful sites that will help you flesh out your world quickly and easily.
Step One: Name Your World
This is probably one of the easier steps but none the less should have some time spent on it. The name of the world is the first thing your players will hear and it will keep popping up all the time, calling it Bob’s World Version One is probably going to ruin the feel of the game! One of my favourite ways of name a world is to think of a few words to describe the world and type them into an online translator such as Inter Tran. Then try translating the words into several different languages, you’re looking for a really cool looking and sounding word the meaning and context really don’t matter. Alternatively you can always just pluck some cool sounding word out of your mind, this works just as well!
Step Two: Create the Landscape
This is probably one of the most vital steps of the whole process. Decide on what kind of landscapes cover your world, deserts, forests, cities etc. At this point I tend to start scribbling ideas on paper as a round sketch. Once the geography is sorted, mark out the boundaries of countries and start thinking about what they are like as places to live, governments etc.

Step Three: Create Your World's Wildlife
With the geography done, start thinking and listing what lives where. I advise using a written bestiary for this to start with and then add in your own creations later on. Start with the noral animals, horses, rodents wild dogs etc then move on to the stranger things. This will not only allow you to pit characters in your world against them, but it will also give your characters a feel for the area, and even something to eat! On that note, think about the food chain of each area, seems an odd thing to spend time on, but can really help add a degree of realism to the area.

Step Four: Create The Populace
Now its time to go back and populate each country with its inhabitants. These can be whoever you want, be that human or newt. Yes i really have had a country inhabited with bipedal newts, quite a cool place actually. Think about each social class of people, who likes and dislikes who (in terms of groups not individuals). Work out what people do for a living, what services they provide in the town or city in which they live. The red dragon inn has a great town generator that gives you a complete break down of who lives their and what they do. Check it out:

Step Five: Creating The Faith
People generaly have a faith. It's not always the same as everyone else, and people rarely show their faith in a set uniform way. However, it is a good idea to know what faiths are dominant in each town, city, region and country. It's best to have several faiths as it alows for some variation in the character of the country. You can use either a pre made pantheon of Gods or make your own. A good resources for this is wikipedia, its has a lot of religious info that can be used to pick and choose from different cultures to create a varied and interesting world.

Step Six: Deciding Upon The Spoken and Writen Word
Work through each country and decide upon or create a language for each. This can be pre-determined by the majority race of the country but you shouldn't feel confined by this. A great resource can be found here. Creating your own language can be extremely difficult and to get it right, can take years! But if you can do it, then do, its great fun and also gives you a real sense of the world being yours.

Step Seven: Maping Bigger Picture
Now is the time to smarten up that map. Finalise country borders, mark in geographical features. I advise you use squared paper to create your map and use the squares to create a size scale. Create a political map using colours to mark countries and a geographical map using colours to denote the topography of the land. Mark on each countries capitol city, then cities and town working down in size. Finaly, add anything else you thikn should be on a map, historic ruins, important notes etc. I strongly advise you scan this map into your pc and use software such as photoshop to add some interesting character, making it look like an old scroll for example. You can also add text this way without having to wrote it free hand.

Step Eight: Creating The Past
A worlds history makes it what it is today. Write out the history of your world in as much detail as you can. Include wars, political landmark moments, births and eaths etc. The more you fill in the deeper your workd shall become. Once you have the worlds history, write a smaller piece on each country. After this, not only will the world be a more interesting and diverse place to live in, but you will also know more about the world you have create.

Step Nine: Create The Goverment
Now its time to heat things up. Create a governing body for each of your countries. This could be a royal family that rules in a feudal state or an elected house of the people who rule in a democratic state. The goverment can be anything you want, it can have whatever views you want and can be lead by who ever you want. A goverment decides upon the law and policy of the country so thikn about this very carefully.

Step Ten: Create Your Worlds Folklore
This is really an option phase, but I stand by it. Create the old wives tales and tall stories that are told in each country. These can be anything from frogs that cure illness to a monster that each children if their toe nails get too long. They add character to those who tell them and believe them and can lead to the formations of groups and religions. This can also include world spanning prophecy, a cool plot for characters!

Step Eleven: Tie It All Together
The best way to present your world to your players is in the form of a campaign pack. I will be making a posts on those later, but for now, a brief idea. Everything above should be either tped or scanned onto a pc as a word document. Then make sure you want your players to have all the info that is there, if not, rmove it and keep it in a GM only version. Once you have got it as you want it, export it as a PDF and print a copy for each of your players. You can also email it out to them so they have a digital copy.

So there we are, the basics of creating your very own fantasy world. This is by no means a cover all, you could add a lot more to a world or a lot less, but if you follow these steps you will create a fairly deep world with enough background to run several campaigns. Plus, as your players containue doing what they do best, the world will activly change so if there are things your players don't like, they can always change them through their actions.

Anyway, until next time, TTFN

Sunday, 20 February 2011

How To: make a Character

Every system has it's own way of sorting out stats and abilities of the character you are going to play, but this is not making a character but converting a character into a playable format. This guide is about making a character that's interesting for both yourself and the other players within your group, and of course your games master.

Step One: Name

A name has to be interesting, Jim the dragon slayer is not inspiring and is just going to kill the mood, that said the name doesn't have to be original, playing a lord of the rings based campaign with a character named Aragorn, for example, can lead to some very interesting story lines, as your character tries to live up to their namesake, shake off someone else's bad reputation, or gets caught up in adventures through mistaken identity. If your name is borrowed think how your character feels about this, is it a name they have taken themselves to seem more intimidating or deserving of respect than they really are? is it a name they have chosen to honour their great hero? or to mock a nemesis? if the name was given, by parents or affiliation, why did they chose it? And does your character agree with their choices? Above all does your characters name inspire you to lead them to greatness? The legend of John Smith can end with "he saw a goblin once.", but the legend of Braxius Traxtin, lost prince of the Sunken Isles, deserves an epic clash of good against evil, the very earth shaking and dragons falling from the sky.

Step Two: Class (and often Race)

What does your character do, and far more importantly why? A lot of role plays have a selection of predetermined classes to choose from, but many simply list skills a character could posses and let you choose from there, either way the most important things to think about are where you character learned these skills and why? A sword master may have been born into a noble family the warrior elite, raised to know little other than swordsmanship, or they may have been a blacksmith's child, knowing nothing of the sword until barbarian raiders attacked their village and they had to fight their way back to civilisation, learning everything the hard way or maybe they were one of the barbarians not knowing there was any other path to follow. Race, if it's an option, often comes in at this point, as certain birthrights, accessibility of training, and lifestyle choices, lend themselves better to certain races, how has your characters race helped/hindered this training and life in their vocation? Ask these questions for each skill/ability/trait your character has, and soon their history will become full and lifelike.

Step Three: Stuff

Unless your character is beginning the role play utterly penniless, naked and devoid of any useful equipment, (a brave and potentially interesting choice) your character is going to have stuff, (if they don't, why not? is a question you're going to be asked very quickly) so where did it come from? is your sword a family heirloom? or something you bought from a market stall? or stole/looted from another warrior? your clothes, what do they say about you? do you only have one set of well worn, patched and re-patched travelers clothes, practical but far from stylish, or do you have trunks and trunks of tailored finery allowing you to fit in at any high society function. do you travel light or do you take everything you own with you? try to slip in a few personal items into your equipment list, sure you're an adventurer, have the rope and grappling hook "just in case" but also have a book of poetry, or a love letter, in your pocket, a signet ring of your fathers household on your finger. something that shows who your character is, something for them to do/think about in their spare time, preferably something they would hunt to the ends of the earth if it was lost.

Step Four: Why?

Perhaps the biggest question you need to ask is why your character is adventuring in the first place? and why they are still at it now? will they ever stop and settle down? do they have a grand plan or goal? it's all very well to say your character started by fighting their way through hordes of orcs attacking their home, but why didn't they stop when they got through? if you are out to find a great lost heirloom or treasure, what will you do if you find it? Here's a little secret, motivation can be the hardest thing for your Games Master to deal with, if they can lure you with the promise of a king's ransom once, then there is no guarantee they can do it again, indeed with your coin purse overflowing with gold the temptation of money is greatly reduced, a big thing to consider at this point is where your character's heart lies in terms of good and evil, there is nothing wrong with hunting down goblins just because you want them to suffer. Ask yourself why does your character get up in the morning and hunt dragons/run the shadows/defend their homeland?

Step Five: People

Your character probably hasn't spent their entire life in isolation, again if they have that's another story you need to tell, so who do they know? who are their friends? who are their enemies? what do their family think about what they are doing now? what favours do they owe/are owed? where are the people they have met in their life now? are they in love? how did they meet the other characters? how do they respond to new people? are they quick to make friends and trust new people or are they shy, suspicious, or downright unpleasant? do they respect authority? depending on the sort of game you are playing your character's past audiences may or may not come up, but if you discovered that the necromancer sending his undead legions to destroy the town was their childhood friend, how would their behaviour change?

Step Six: Finishing Touches

Sometimes known as the breath of life step, it gives a character a personality rather than just a history, a quick run through of the list of questions to ask at this stage, how old are they? what do the look like? how do they feel about their appearance? what are their hobbies? what are their habits? are they religious? if so how devout? do they stand out or blend into a crowd? do they like being the centre of attention? and a good one specifically for the fantasy genre, if someone was impersonating them how would you tell which was the original? the point is to make a character others can interact with, and try to role play these traits as much as possible within your sessions, so you can get a feel for your character as a living breathing person, and more easily think about what your character would do in any given situation.

These are examples, and by no means an exhaustive list of questions to ask and things to think about to turn a series of numbers on a character sheet into a character that is interesting and fun to play for both you and those you play with. this may seem a little daunting, but take it step by step, you'll find a lot of it overlaps, and the more you know about the history of your character the more things will just slot into place.

Review: The Age of Shadow

This is the first in a set of posts reviewing roleplay games and systems. For our first look, I've chosen one of my new favourites. The Age of Shadow is a fantasy based roleplay game that uses the Open Quest rules system. This is a basic D100 percentile system for those new to the standard. First, a few stats.

Name: The Age of Shadow
Genre: Fantasy
System: Open Quest (D100)
Games Author: Kristian Richards
System Author: Newt Newport
Price of Core Book: FREE


Age of Shadow Front Cover
The first thing that you are aware of after downloading the book, is the quality of its design. The front cover look extremely professional and this is continued throughout the book. The fonts used on the cover are illuminated but still easily readable but are not carried on inside the book. This is probably a good thing as large amounts of text are easier to read in simple fonts.

Each page is organised into 2 columns of text, evenly spaced and well aligned. The information flows well and very few words are cut off or hyphenated. This makes it very readable and even enjoyable. The information is dispersed with the occasion table to better display the information along with the odd picture.

While I think those of us used to playing D&D will want more pictures and artwork, these things are both expensive, and not easy to do. For a free self released book it is superb and receives a tavern rating of 8/10 flagons of ale.

Character Creation
Character creation is a major part in any game and there are some expected standards within the roelgaming world. The first is an explanation of any characteristics. The Age of Shadow dedicated the first page to exactly this. The game uses 6 stats, Strength, Dexterity, Size, Intelligence, Power and Charisma. The characters stats are created by rolling a number of D6 and adding modifiers dependent on race. This information is placed in a very accessible table.

Open Quest uses some additional attributes, and the second part of character creation look at these. Damage Modifier, Hit Points, Major Wound Level, Magic Points, Corruption Level and Movement Rate. The most interesting of these is the major wound level. The characters major wound level is equal to half his/her total HP. If this number of HP is taken in one hit, the character suffers a major wound, these include loosing limbs, being blinded and all manner of nasty things that can happen in a sword fight.

Age of Shadow Character Sheet
 Stage three is all about generating your character's skills. In this system, the skills are split into different sections, these are; Practical Skills, Knowledge Skills, Resistances, Combat Skills and Magic Skills. his breaking up on the skills list allows for a much larger variety of available skills when compared to most games. Most of the sets are self explanatory except resistances, which are basically the same of your saves in D&D.

Stage four is all about the character as a person, their background, their race abilities and their fate points. Each race has a set number of background points which they can spend in increasing skills, increasing their starting gold or learning new spells among other things. This system will really help players create a character with a bit of a background rather than a fresh 2D adventurer.

There are only three races available, Elf, Dwarf and Human and, while this is comparatively small to most games, you don't feel it when you play.Besides, the game is such a great source of basic inspiration, it wouldn't take a lot to simply create some extra home brew races. (I'll be doing this later and adding them to the download page).

Fate Points are an interesting way of making an every day character into a glorious hero. fate points are used re-roll an important dice roll or downgrade a major wound to a normal wound or even, saving your character from death! It a really cool way of the character winning against all the odds, think of how Boromir was when he got himself all shot up, that kind of thing. Cool? I think so!

Stage five is the time to fill out the character sheet, which is very well layed out and is totally self explanatory. You get given a basic starting kit with all the basics plus a weapon and some gold to spend on extra bits to personalise your character. This is great as it saves time working out how much the basics like a back pack and bedroll cost.

All in all this is a great character creation system. Its fairly quick, uncomplicated and can be used to create some really dynamic characters. the only slight snag is the small number of races, but as noted before, this is easy to fix yourself. All things considered, its another 8/10 flagons of ale.

The Combat System
This game uses the standard OpenQuest D100 combat system. I won't go into it in depth now, as it would take long while but i will give you a run down and the pros and cons. The system uses a basic action and reaction system, a attacks, b either defends or is hit. This simple system means that combat doesn't get bogged down in many many rolls. The core book gives us a list of options when it come to combat actions and they cover pretty much anything you might want to do, if its not there, the GM will have to do their job!

The rules set covers standard combat situations, mounted combat and grappling. These three section cover almost anything you are likely to encounter in game terms. Each works of a standard success/failure system using target values etc.

While the system is nothing new there is also nothing wrong with it and, while its not overly complex it is stable enough to produce some interesting and variable results. It makes for a brilliant system for more experienced GM's who are able to fill in the short fall in rules with cool off-the-cuff rulings and descriptions. All in all, well worth 7/10 flagons of ale.

Additional Features
One of the nicest things about the game, is the way in which magic is portrayed in two forms, Innate Magic and Sorcery. As the name suggests, innate magic is formed by the casters own innate ability which they are born with. Sorcery on the other hand is a learned craft that can be wielded by all. The differences are actually much bigger than this, but that's the gist of it.

In addition to this, the book has a large section on adventuring that contains all little add-ons a GM might need, like drowning, falling and suffocation. Plus all the less deadly stuff such as how far and fast people move and how often they need to sit themselves down and eat something or, someone (very dependant on the party, in most of my games this would be perfectly agreeable as long as it wasn't a Gnome!)

As if this wasn't enough, a Bestiary has also been included. Filled with nasty beasties to challenge your players this is a great resource. With it being in the main book it really saves ou time in having 2 open files and flitting between the two. This section also details the magic items available and some loot rules!

This book is packed with additional bits and bobs, far more than I have come to expect from free RPG's. For this reason, I give it 9/10 flagons of ale.

Available Support
So, after creating this awesome game, spending all hose hours perfecting it, testing it, correcting it, you would expect a slick website, up to date blog, live forum chats and more wouldn't you? Well if you do, you wont be disappointed here! I emailed the site about the download link for te game, and within 20 minutes had a response from the writer himself!

The whole set up is great. The site itself has a whole host of additional downloads to add to your enjoyment of the game as well as updates on up coming releases. The blog is updated at least once a week if not more and contains some really great posts. Finally, the forum is alive with chatter discussing the game, and exchanging opinions on it.

While the site doesn't have the same feel as say, the wizards of the coast site, it is great to look at, functional and not in any way cluttered. For these reasons, I give the available support, 10/10 flagons of ale!

Last Orders
All in all, this is a great game, made by a highly talented games designer and given to us, the gamer, for free! What more can we ask for? With a totally of 42/50 flagons of ale I would suggest this game to anyone who wants a really good book from which to build a new and exciting series of games.

Until next time, I leave you with one of my favourite quotes ever,"What do you mean you character can only have either clothes OR a spell component pouch?"

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

How To: Be a Great GM

    I Like this quote I dislike this quote“To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.”

Being a GM is one of the most difficult parts of the roleplaying community. A player might spend say 1 hour before s session thinking about what they want their character to do and maybe spending some loot money, where as the GM will be spending anything from 4 hours and a whole day planning the next session.

Needless to say, being a GM is a skill that must be learned over time and with a lot of practise. However, this is not to say you have to make a complete hash of several campaigns before you reach the right stuff. These days there are more guides for GM's than players (or at least it feels like it sometimes) and while these are great, i always think they miss the important stuff. They provide you with NPC's, weather generators, name lists etc but always miss out the single most important thing, what separate a good or passable GM from a great GM?
As this rather cool looking diagram shows, the players rely on the GM just as the GM relies upon the players, his/her own notes and on the game itself. It is impossible to be a great GM without thinking about all three of these to start with.

1. GM Notes
These are your single most powerful tool. Your notes are your guide to the world you have created and the adventures within it. Now I'm not advocating writing a novel here just notes. Players will always wonder off the beaten track so don't write rigidly, allow for deviation and weird stuff. A map usually helps somewhere along the line, nothing to fancy just a basic idea of where things are in relation to other things (more on maps in a later post). Your notes should include NPC sheets, background and information on important people, places and items, an adventure outline, hooks, clues and anything else you as a GM find useful in keeping your mind in line with your created world.

2. The Game System
This sounds obvious, but seriously look at it, don't just read your chosen rules set and be done with it. Read it through a few times, make sure you are comfortable with the rulebook. Play a few games with the rules as a player to get a feel for it. Then, make sure the rules set fits with what your trying to do, if you have to re-write vast chapters of text, then this rules set isn't what you want for your game. Once you comfortable with it, see if there are any little things you think you want to change, change them and play again, has the game become more fun? If yes keep the change if no, scrap it. Make sure any changes you make you add to the campaign pack so your players know about it. last, ensure you have the rights dice and equipment for the system, sound obvious but I've been to enough sessions and people have brought D20's rather than D100's, not helpful!

3. The Players
The best thing about a roleplay game is that you get to be this amazing hero/villain in an amazing and exciting world. For many, this escapism is the reason hey play. However, as much as we want to be our characters, we will always put a bit of ourselves into them. So, pick your players carefully! I'm not saying ban someone from your group just because they play differently, but keep in mind that you have 3-6 people to keep happy and entertained, not just that one. A good example is the metagamer. He/she care about one thing, and that is creating the single most powerful character purely my utilising as many of the rules sets as possible. They care little for story line, back story or coolness. They will also make decisions based on their view rather than the characters! This is fine, and lots of fun for them, but what about everyone else? Again, I'm not saying don't let them play, just try and keep them tied in with the rest of the party as they may really enjoy playing as characterful as possible.

So, as you can see, a lot to think about. However, there is more! (Don't worry its not all that complicated really).

One massive thing to remember, NEVER BE AFRAID. As GM a massive amount of power resides in you over both the characters and the world they inhabit. You must no be afraid to use that power, even if your players don't want something to happen. Now, I'm not saying make their characters lives hell (unless that's the idea of the game in which case, go for it), but no one want to be ambushed and yet, maybe it's the start of a really cool adventure. The same is true of killing characters. As GM you are, for a lot of the time anyway, the players adversary. Your rampaging goblins want to kill, butcher, eat and rob your player's characters, not gently tickle them with their spar tips. Players should be prepare for this and shouldn't take it personally, neither should you. If a character dies, its not the end of the world, the player just writes a new one and starts again, no big deal.

Another important thing, accept this now before you go any further, you are going to slip up at some point!
Yes just like Merlin up there at some point you will slip up, forget a name, place or over estimate the party (or maybe under estimate it). Don't worry about it. Sure, the players will have a good laugh about it and probably make some fun, but laugh along, collect your thoughts and reap your revenge, I mean get the game back on track.

Being imaginative can be difficult at time, and sometimes you just don't have the energy or time in a week to plan the next session, this is where your notes save you. As you have a basic background and some hooks and adventures across your world, you can just fall back onto one of those. These can be anything from bandit Cobalts to signs of the party's nemasis being near. Ideas like this can easily fill a session or two when your aren't up to creating a new plot line but don't want to cancel.

So, those are the basics on being a great GM. I hope these tips help all those new to GM-ing and if you have anything to add, just drop in a comment.

This post is part of the "How To:" series and so will be available via the How To: page.

Monday, 7 February 2011

In the Begining...

Hello and welcome to PRG Tavern. I hope over the next few months this blog will become a hive of RPG based activity, the aim? To spread ideas and knowledge around with other players.

This is the first post on the site and so I won't get anything started right now, but I will give you an overview on what I am trying to do and why you should follow this blog. But first, a bit about me.

I started roleplaying nearly 10 years ago now, D&D and WFB mainly but with a bit of white wolf and masquerade as well. Since then I've played in more campaigns than I like to admit and have as well as GM more than a few (I find myself GM more than player now).

It's fair to say, that D&D 3.5 makes up the main stay of my roleplay campaigns, its a system that is simply a joy to play, yes there are some odd bits in it, but that's what makes it fun. That said, more recently I have been enjoying more realistic approach to my games, less fantasy more real life occult wigeewoo (term coined I believe by Jeff, check it the glossary when you have time) in a D100 setting. (This specific game will be discussed in a later post.

Besides roleplays I also engage in table top wargaming and fictional writing, these three often cross into each
other creating a nice mixing pot of inspiration for one and other. I often post wargames related articles on my own blog,
And am currently a guest blogger at,

So, why put up a blog? Well, I always think the best thing about paper based RPG's is the social side of things. Meeting a groups of mates once a week (or however often you meet) is great not only or your game but also for yourselves, human interaction enriches us all. A big part of that interaction is sharing ideas and stories about character or campaigns of old so, why not widen the net from three or four people to anyone in the world?

The plan is to make this the go to place for ideas, campaign packs, fan fiction, character builds, free rules sets, system reviews and anything else RPG related. Soon I hope to have some guest bloggers on board so if you thin you have something to post about, drop me an email at If the idea is cool, it will get posted, that simple!

So, keep your eyes peeled for upcoming posts. I should be posting at least once a week if not more. Until next time, may the dice gods smile upon thee and thy dice cup never be empty.