Recommended Viewing

YouTube continues to deliver a plethora of tabletop related videos this month. Experience Points finished up the second season of its titular series and teased a third season, then began delivering an excellent new series. Thanks to folks on Twitter I also discovered some new channels and shows in the last few weeks. Let’s take a look at some of what I’m watching right now.

Before we do, though, I want to say thank-you to local artist Tsukino Hikaru (@mystarseed) for my swell new Twitter and blog icon. It was time for an update to my still excellent old chibi icon, and I think this is the perfect replacement. If you’re interested in getting some art done for yourself, I highly recommend checking them out.

On with the show!

All Hail Yog – As mentioned, Experience Points wrapped its latest season with a heartwarming finale. Rather than have us stare into the void until the hoped for Season 3, they have delivered a new series aimed at the darkness in all of us. All Hail Yog is an actual play series focused on a group of evil characters carrying out the will of their patron, Yog. Set in the same campaign world featured in the Experience Points series, we follow four truly despicable villains as they work together to steal a newborn elven child, heir to the Wood Elf throne. The shows feature Timothy J. Meyer as the DM, with equal measures scenery chewing and subtle menace from the four players (Kate Enge as Agnoment, Heather Lore as Desdemonia Malice, Cody Bushee as Dr. Hughbert, and Paul Vonasek as Erick Idylvain) Why does Yog want the child? Can our, er, heroes worm their way into the Elven kingdom and steal the child? Will the Doctor’s Beloved get her deer ear? Find out in this interesting look at what the villains get up to while the heroes are away.

The Crafting Muse – I’m always on the look-out for new TRPG crafting inspiration, so when I received a recommendation for this channel I was intrigued. Having watched a number of videos now, I can honestly say The Crafting Muse is now in my top five crafting resources online! Her videos mix clear instructions, obvious skill, and interesting projects in an almost perfect blend. Every video I’ve watched so far has included something which would enhance my gaming table and impress my players. Alongside the usual table top terrain builds, you can also find videos on dice towers, dice bags, custom notebooks and more. Regardless of your skill level as a crafter you will find a broad range of projects you can jump into. The host, Vee, is a funny and charming instructor, and has worked to build a positive community around her channel. Besides YouTube, you can find The Crafting Muse on Facebook, and join in on Wednesday live streams to meet other crafters. All in all, a great channel and a great experience.

Be Bold Games – As much as I love watching board game actual plays, sometimes I just need a quick, easily digestible breakdown of a game. Be Bold Games delivers that for me, in a fun, earnest way that I find uplifting. Almost every video is under ten minutes, and many are under five, perfect for getting a snapshot of a board game. And every video is packed with her obvious enthusiasm for board games! From the costume and setting designs right down to the various themed presentations, Bebo’s love of the material shines through, and that is inspiring. Her game summaries are clear and concise, and just what I need to decide if a game is in my wheelhouse. I particularly love her focus on accessibility and inclusivity, two key lenses for anyone in games media. Besides excellent game summaries, you can also find product reviews and interviews with game designers and publishers. If you love board games I highly recommend this channel. You can do worse than to start your day with a coffee and a Be Bold Games video.

That’s three from me, but I want to hear from you! What are you watching right now that inspires you? Drop a comment below and share!

My Basic Session Planning

Before we get to today’s post, a little Extra Life update and reminder. I am currently just over a third of the way to my $1000 goal, which is excellent! Thank-you to everyone who has donated or spread the word, your support is going mean the world to sick kids at the Stollery. If you’ve been waiting, now is your chance. I posted in September about my Extra Life plans, and you can check out that post for details and how you can donate and get involved. Now, on with the post!

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I know there are Game Masters out there that don’t do a lot of prep between sessions. I respect GMs that can work completely on the fly, because I am not one of them. While I have gotten better at improv over the years, I still need to do a minimum amount of prep in order to feel confident going into a session.

The very first thing I do is go over my session notes from the previous session. I’m looking for anything I said I’d have done by next session (XP totals, treasure lists, and so on). I’m also looking for any NPCs I might have to prep, and any indications of where my players are going next. Sometimes that’s straightforward; they’re still in the dungeon, so they’ll stay in the dungeon. Sometimes they have a bunch of options, though, and hopefully I noted which one they were leaning towards at the previous session.

Once I’ve gone over my notes I start putting together the things I might need for the session: NPC stats, location info, results for Knowledge checks. I read over the next portions of the adventure a few times to get familiar with them, assuming I’m using a pre-written adventure. If not, I review my adventure notes, and fill in any blanks I might need for the next session. I also assemble the physical items I’ll need for the next several encounters, like miniatures, maps, and player handouts. I like to have those things ready to go so I don’t waste playing time fumbling or searching for them. This also helps maintain the illusion of always knowing where the players are going.

I usually prepare one more encounter than I think I’ll need, and often two. Sometimes the players go in a direction you weren’t expecting and it’s great to be prepared for that. And sometimes the players breeze through an encounter you thought was going to take longer or be tougher. Either way, it’s good to be ready with the next, or alternate, encounter so they aren’t waiting for you to catch up. This is where I often dig into my collection of free encounters/adventures from DriveThruRPG or elsewhere, so I have something quick and low-prep.

About an hour or so before the session starts I prepare the playing space. I anoint the four sacred corners with the sacrificial blood…just kidding. A little Old Gamer “D&D is satanism” humour. But I do tidy up the play area, removing any distractions. I set up my end of the table with all my GMing tools close to hand. I set out the players’ minis, the map sheet we’re using, and character sheets if I held on to them. And I set out the snack bowls so we don’t have to waste time hunting for those later in the game.

One thing that I started doing fairly recently, I pre-roll about 15-20 times on a d20 (assuming we’re playing Pathfinder or D&D; I pre-roll for other games as appropriate) and note the results. This speeds up things like NPC/monster saving throws, skill checks, and surprise attack rolls a great deal. I use the same numbers for player checks when I need the check to be secret; for instance, an elven character’s Perception check for a secret door. This is useful, because sometimes you don’t want to give the game away by rolling a d20. Some players can’t help harmful meta-gaming, and pre-rolling avoids that issue.

On my laptop, I open up the PDFs of all the resources I’ll need during the session, and bookmark the pages I’ll need for reference. As part of my NPC prep I’ll have noted any spells and abilities that were not familiar to me, and I’ll have those pages open as reference. If for some reason I’m not using my laptop (rare, but it happens), I use sticky notes to tab all the pages I’ll need as reference. Either way, I want to cut down on the amount of fumbling through books I have to do during play. Not only does it cut down on wasted time, but you come across as a more confident and in-control GM.

Once that’s all done, I’m ready to play! I sit back, sip my coffee, and wait for the players to arrive.

What’s your prep routine like? How much time do you put into your session prep? Talk to me in the comments.

Stopping to Shop

One of the best parts of attending Gen Con is the frolic through the vendor’s hall, checking out all the cool new gaming material on offer. While I sadly didn’t get to Gen Con this year, I did manage to find some cool items I thought I should share, so you can grab them for yourself. Even if you don’t want them for yourself, a birthday or other special occasion is never too far off and these would make excellent gifts.

Greyed Out – I collect dice like I’m expecting a drought (one of the few things I asked a friend who was at Gen Con to do was hit up the Chessex booth and get me a cup of dice). While I am proud of my large candy jar of dice at home, it isn’t a convenient way to transport dice to other games. So I’m always in search of cool dice bags, and the latest coolness comes from the Etsy shop Greyed Out. Not only does Michael (the owner) stock a great selection of eclectic designs (need a dice bag with ninjas or a biohazard symbol? Got you covered), but he also offers something I had never seen on a dice bag before. Pockets. That’s right, in addition to the regular dice bag we all know and love, you can buy dice bags with internal pockets in either a five- or sixteen-pocket designs! I grabbed myself a sweet five-pocket version with a nostalgic blue dungeon map design on the outside, just so I could witness this sorcery for myself.  Friends and fellow gamers, I may now be spoiled for any other dice bag. While it had never occurred to me as something I needed before, now that I have a dice bag with pockets I don’t understand how I ever got along without it. I loaded my bag up as soon as I got it, with my usual dice load out (three sets and a bit) in one pocket, a handful of glass counters in another, some fantasy coinage I use for props in a third, and then some random dice for sharing in the large middle compartment. I still have a pocket going spare, and plenty of space left in all the remaining pockets should I need it. If I did more wargaming I could probably use that last pocket to carry a small tape measure for table distances, and swap out my glass beads for whatever counters and cards the wargame used. I can’t recommend these enough, they’re spacious and the quality is superb. Plus pockets!

Libris Arcana – Canadian online retailers are a rare breed (and if you think I’m wrong, I welcome any links you can provide to Canadian TTRPG vendors in the comments below) so when I find one I like I tend to clasp them to my bosom with bands of steel. Libris Arcana is one such, and while they offer many cool items, the one I grabbed from them recently was a set of leather book covers. I will admit I certainly didn’t need leather covers for my D&D books. But as soon as I saw the set of three LA offered on their site, I wanted, nay, coveted them. As advertised they are the perfect size to fit the current edition of D&D books, and would suit any past editions quite well, as well as books from other games that are of that size. Apparently they will also fit the current Pathfinder core book, but given the snugness of fit on my trinity of D&D books I would need to witness the time/space folding involved in that maneuver before I believed it. That said, once I had them on my books I immediately fell in love with how they classed up the joint. If you can’t afford to get your books custom recovered (and that option is out there, just a Google search away), this is certainly a relatively inexpensive option at just $25Cdn a book (or $70Cdn for three covers if you buy the set like I did). Libris Arcana also offers some wonderful dice subscription services, and an RPG book subscription service which looks pretty tasty. Plus they have a dice subscription offer which directly supports a D&D program for kids right here in my home town. Best of all, I’m rewarded for being a Canadian with free shipping on all purchases. How can I not?

Geek Tank Games – As a busy game master who sometimes runs games away from home I’m always looking for ways to offer a cool table experience for my players, while keeping the amount of stuff I have to haul around with me to a minimum. So when I stumbled across the Geek Tank Games Kickstarter campaign for Tabletop Tokens, I knew I needed all the things! The initial three token sets on offer, Camping, Furniture, and Castle Siege, are a perfect way to start what I hope will be a continuous line of these excellent tokens. Intended as an enhancement to the GM’s hand-drawn maps, these colour plastic tokens allow you to draw the bare bones of a room or setting, then populate that location with furniture and items quickly, without having to hand draw fiddly bits like shelves, crates, trees, and so on. While on the cartoony side the tokens are well drawn and colourful, standing out on the map. And because the tokens lay flat, it allows your players to better interact with map features without worrying their miniatures might topple (a concern for any player who hand-paints their own minis). While they only have the three sets mentioned above for sale at the moment, plans are rumored to already be in the works for other sets, allowing more specific dungeon and building dressing. I snagged a couple of the Camping sets and a Furniture set during the Kickstarter, and I’ll likely pick up a Castle Siege set soon just to complete my collection. I love them! Not only are the tokens bright and of good quality, but they are easy to transport to my gaming sessions. I put a few page protectors at the back of my GM binder and dropped them in there. Static helps keep them from slipping out the top, and keeps them handy for when I draw out a map on my dry-erase flip mats. Get some sets for yourself, and a few more to give as gifts to your fellow GMs. They’ll definitely appreciate them.

What cool TTRPG related products have you picked up lately? Drop your recommendations in the comments below so we can all get in on the goodness!

#RPGaDay Fiver

Obligatory apology for missing some days. Let’s begin!

Name a game that had an impact on you in the last year.

I actually acquired a copy of this game very recently. While I was unable to attend Gen Con this year my buddy Dave was there and snagged me a copy of Crossroads Carnival: One Night Only Edition, written by Kate Bullock and published by Magpie Games. In Crossroads Carnival you play members of a travelling carnival in 1930’s America, drawn into a battle between light and dark. It is a very focused, heavily thematic game, perfect for a group who love to dive deep into character and storytelling. It’s ideal at around 3-5 players for a 3-4 hour session.

And neighbours, I find it to be an achingly beautiful game. If it were just an RPG about 1903’s carny folk, it could easily devolve into a sharply defined Us versus Them as the players travel from town to town, dealing with the Straights. But layered in is this wonderful sense of ritual to the carnival’s performance, that it isn’t just entertainment, it is often the very thing holding back Darkness with a capital “D”. Then another layer; the comment that makes on our society, in which marginalized folks are most often asked/required to perform emotional labour for the non-marginalized. I read a lot of RPG material and this is probably one of the most powerful games I’ve read this year. I’ll talk about it more once I’ve had a chance to run it, but I linked the DriveThruRPG page above. Get you a copy of this game with all due haste.

Your gaming ambition for the next year.

Despite dissenting opinions that I may have a face for radio, I’d really like to do some RPG streaming in the coming year. I’ll likely test the waters with some guest shots here and there, see if I can be entertaining on camera. I certainly don’t have the set-up to just start my own at the moment, but I have the necessary camera/mic set-up to join in on somebody else’s game. So hey, if you’re within the range of my blog and are looking for a guest to drop into your stream, hit me up. I’ll play any game system you like.

Share a great stream/actual play.

I did this over at The Rat Hole, so go check my response there. Spoilers: Eric Campbell is a super swell GM, y’all.

Share whose inspiring gaming excellence you’re grateful for.

After all the love I’ve given to streamers and online creators, I know you’d expect me to name one of them. And there are many I could name that motivate me and inspire me.

But when it comes to someone for whom I’m grateful? That goes to my buddy Devin. I’ve met few people who just love playing games with their friends as much as he does. I’m sure there is a game out there Devin won’t try, but we sure haven’t found it yet. He’s also just a joy to GM for; he’ll throw himself into whatever RPG we are playing, even if the mechanics or play style aren’t his particular brand of whisky. Example: Devin loves the crunchiness of building and playing characters in the Pathfinder RPG, but he plays along with me on my rules light, fluffy D&D 5e bullshit every other week. Since I’ve been gaming with him I’ve always felt that the most important thing to him is that everyone in the game is having fun, including himself, and that is not something every gamer can pull off. He has also presented me with two of my favourite character to game master: Kring, the half-orc barbarian/farmer (with his masterwork greatclub called “The Future”), and Lando Mackenzie King, a tough paramedic-in-training who worried how the introduction of the supernatural into his life was going to affect his GPA.

Thank-you, Devin, for being my amazeballs gaming friend all these years.

Share a friendship you have because of RPGs.

I feel like I just did this above, so I’m going to talk generally for a moment. Besides the continued rise of inclusion and accessibility in the hobby, one of the things making me happy these days are the various ways gamers can access TTRPGs and make friends.

*pulls up the In My Day Chair, sits down* Back when I started gaming and really until the rise of social media, the options for getting into this hobby were limited. You either discovered a group and found a game that way, or you discovered the game in a shop and managed to pull together a group somehow. If you lived somewhere that was small population or isolated you might never get either of those opportunities, and so you really didn’t get in the hobby. Smashcut to today, with all of social media, online gaming platforms, live-streaming, actual play…the ability to find some way to either play directly or at least experience the hobby are extensive. It may take time, you may have to try out groups and media to see what works for you, but it’s easier than it has ever been. There are definitely more obstacles and barriers to folks with accessibility issues than I like and I’ll never stop encouraging publishers and platforms to work on that. But if you want to be in this hobby you pretty much can be, and you can choose what that means for you. I think that’s pretty great.

And on that perhaps overly optimistic note, may the dice be ever in your favour!

RPGaDay: Catching Up to the Ides

Yep, definitely a little behind on these. Let’s catch up, shall we?

How has a game surprised you?

This is tough to narrow down, because I read a lot of games and I’m constantly finding little surprises, good and bad. Star Trek Adventures, for instance, surprised me with how intuitively their game mechanics support the tone and story of the game, and actually get players more involved in the action rather than breaking them out of it. At the same time, I’ve been less pleasantly surprised by the latest iteration of Vampire: The Masquerade. While it seems to be a return to ‘90s V:TM, the language of the game is riddled with quite a bit of white supremacist dog-whistling. Whether that’s intentional or not, it marks a major shift in the original tone of V:TM.

In any case, I like finding surprises in my gaming material. If you have the chance I highly recommend tracking down older material and giving it a read. You’ll often find some delightful surprises in those older games. I regularly find ideas and plots I can bring into my game.

How has gaming changed you?

Too many ways to list them all, but the one that stands out is its effect on my ability to better communicate with people. I’m a reformed stutterer and an introvert, and this hobby has been invaluable in helping me overcome the first and adapt to the second, both of which have helped me communicate better. Just being a Game Master and observing what works and what doesn’t when I’m talking with my players has helped me apply some of that same skill to other conversations and situations.

Wildest Character Name?

I never really ever got wild with character names, though I have fun these days by using words in other languages as character names. Latin is always a great choice, but I’ve also grabbed words from Gaelic, Spanish, Portuguese, Urdu, and Arabic. Often it’s as easy as finding a word in English that fits your character, and seeing what Google Translate can find for you. For instance, a recent Dwarven character based around electricity attacks got the name Dealanach, which is the Gaelic word for lightning. While it might be a little on the nose, unless you game with a bunch of fluent Scots no one at the table will know.

Wildest Character Concept?

While I haven’t had a chance to play Numenera yet (my time will come), I have spent some time exploring some character concepts. Numenera’s character creation system makes this especially simple to do, and I’m the type of nerd who loves sitting for hours making up characters I might never play (bonus, I now have a bunch of NPCs if I ever GM the game instead). I think my favourite so far is a particularly silly one I made, a Helpful Jack Who is Clothing Full of Bees. They are essentially what it sounds like, a person distributed through a bee colony, inhabiting clothing to appear more human. I may never get a chance to play it, but I look forward to the day I run a Numenera game and can introduce them as an NPC.

Describe how your play has evolved.

I answered this over on The Rat Hole, so you can check it out there. And maybe read some other stuff while you’re there…

Describe a failure that became amazing.

I don’t know if it’s a failure, but I recently did a bit of writing for a third party publisher that didn’t pan out. For whatever reason my turnover email with the finished work didn’t get to them, and they assumed I blew off the assignment. When I pointed out that they could have followed up much sooner and found out the truth, their response could be summed up by *shrug*. Since I’ve done all the work anyway, I plan to finish laying it out and tweaking some details I like better, commissioning some art, and releasing it on DriveThru. Hopefully that will happen in the fall, and it will be my first self-published work. So not really a failure and too soon to know if it’s amazing, but I’m excited to see what comes of it.

Describe a tricky RPG experience that you enjoyed.

I was GMing my players through a section of The Rise of the Runelords adventure path for Pathfinder, and they were fighting their way through an old runelord enclave to get to the current BBG. Unbeknownst to them the BBG had been scrying on them during their fights, and so had a pretty good idea of their tactics when they arrived. They busted out the usual moves and were shocked and then scared spitless when the BBG just shrugged them off, having had plenty of time to buff and prepare contingencies. Best fight I ever ran, as the party scrambled to come up with new tactics. They won in the end, but it was sphincter-tightenly close a few times. Which of course made the payoff all the sweeter for them. But it was a challenge to not have him just steamroll them, which I could have easily done in the first few rounds.

Describe your plans for your next game.

I’m not sure I want to, as I have it on reasonable authority at least a few of them read my blog (Hello!). But I have a possible upcoming D&D campaign that I’ll be running for a co-worker and his friends, and it’s possible they won’t see this is time to do any good. I had briefly considered putting them in a section of my existing homebrew campaign, which would bring the total number of concurrent campaigns in that world to three. But it’s a group of new players, not just to D&D but to TTRPGs, so I don’t want to add any more confusion than I have to. So I’m taking this as an opportunity to return to the Forgotten Realms, and use some of the material there. I’m looking through the published material to see what I might use, and figuring out if I want to make my own campaign. But as with all games with new players, my plan is to get them into the action as quick as possible, and get them doing cool things right away. Hook them with the cool stuff, and they’ll keep coming back to the table…

Whew! Okay, I promise to try and be good and do these every day. Fingers crossed!

RPGaDay Catch-up: The Inevitable Sequel

I offer no excuses for getting behind on these, except that I am on holidays for the first time in a while and I have enjoyed catching up on my reading. If you can block out a day or two where you can just read, with breaks to eat and sleep, I highly recommend it. But onto the topics!

How can players make a world seem real?

I think it’s important for Game Masters to get their players invested in the campaign world as soon as possible. Character backgrounds are an obvious way to do this, but they are sometimes a little “higher level”. I like to find ways to get the players to tell me details about the world we’re in, rather than me just declaiming things to them. So if they are asking me about something their character would reasonably know, I’ll turn it around and ask, “Why don’t you tell me what that looks like?”, or “Describe how that works.” Sometimes I’ll even ask a player about details their characters might not be as familiar with, because people in the world often have ideas about how things work even if they don’t actually know (see most any conversation online at one time or another), and either supporting or contradicting those ideas. Suggestions of specific questions to draw details out of your players:

  • What are some of the stranger items on the tavern menu?
  • What is stamped on the local gold pieces.
  • What do people in this world do instead of handshakes?
  • What’s a common kid’s game?
  • Is there a local sport team? If so, what are they called, what do they play, and who are their rivals?

Surprise them with questions like this from time to time, and maybe reward them (XP or otherwise) for their answers. With luck, you may get them to the point where they are volunteering tidbits on their own, and as a GM that is the best.

How can a GM make the stakes important?

The characters have to have something to lose. Whether on a personal level or just plot-wise, there needs to be a sense that you can take something away from the characters, that their choices may result in things getting worse, not better. I’ll add the caveat that you need to tailor that to your group, so you avoid analysis paralysis; you don’t want them so afraid to make a choice that they don’t do anything.

Character backgrounds are a good place to start. Any relative they mention is fair game, but so are old mentors, teachers, rivals. And loss doesn’t have to mean death. If the character has a beloved mentor that made them the adventurer they are today, what does it do to them to discover that their mentor has changed, or that they never were the kindly teacher at all? As well, relationships which develop between PCs and NPCs (or PCs and PCs) become a way to raise the stakes. And the best part is the characters make that decision themselves, so they accept that raising of the stakes. That said, I do recommend not “fridging” every NPC that catches a character’s eye, as that is the quickest way to convince your players to never make those attachments for their characters. Use it sparingly, like saffron.

How can we get more people playing?

Stop all the gate keeping bullshit. Gentles, I have been playing TTRPGs for thirty-nine years and I’ve loved every minute of it. Except the minutes spent dealing with douchecanoes who think that their time in the hobby, or their knowledge of a particular game system, or just being a cis white dude, means they can decide who is a real gamer and who isn’t. When I started playing in 1980, there was really only one way to get in the hobby: discover a group and start playing. Now, though, there are so many ways to get involved in TTRPGs, so many ways to start playing, or watch games being played, or learn to paint miniatures, or build terrain, of make TTRPG crafts, or… If you’re an OG like me, you need to realize that folks can come to our hobby from almost any angle now, and that’s a good thing. What’s also a good thing is allowing women, LBGTQ2S, and Persons of Colour in our hobby their voice, or making the games accessible to people with disabilities, mental and physical. I’ve often talked about it as making room at the table, but that isn’t entirely accurate. These folks have been in the hobby from the beginning so we aren’t making room. We’re acknowledging the space was always theirs as well, and making it more consciously welcoming. Doing this takes nothing away from the hobby I love, and gives it such a rich realm of experience to draw upon, to present stories and games we might not otherwise have available.

 

But what do you think? Drop your answers to any of these questions in the comments below.

Big News and RPGaDay Catch-up

It’s almost become tradition at this point, I have to make a catch-up post for RPGaDay. Surprising no one.

But first, some exciting news! The ENnie Awards were Friday night, and they announced the judges for 2019. I made it! I honestly thought it was a long shot, so thanks to everyone who voted for me! I look forward to looking at a bunch of excellent gaming material, and I hope I can do some good around nudging the awards (and the gaming industry) toward inclusivity and accessibility. I’m excited to get started.

What Gives a Game ‘Staying Power’?

I’m going to assume this means why do some RPGs keep getting new editions, while others fade away. I think there are some games which are just iconic to their genre within RPGs. Dungeons & Dragons is the obvious example of this. I don’t think there will be another fantasy RPG with as wide-spread appeal as D&D. Paizo came very close with Pathfinder, and as a result created a truly excellent game and setting. But D&D, especially in its current edition, strikes an excellent balance between simplicity of entry to play for new players and enough complexity to allow veteran players some crunch. The game encapsulates (for good or bad) what we’ve come to identify as the fantasy genre in RPGs, and whether we do it consciously or not, we compare every other fantasy RPG to D&D. Other games, like Call of Cthulhu and Shadowrun, have a similar standing in their respective genres. While they may not be the best games from a mechanical standpoint (I personally find Trail of Cthulhu‘s mechanics superior to CoC), there is no question they are best at evoking the feel of their particular genre.

Most Memorable NPC?

This one is a bit of a spoiler for the Rise of the Runelords adventure path, so if you haven’t played that but are planning to, look away. There is a dungeon under Sandpoint which really is supposed to be like a reasonably quick sidequest. It gives the characters their first exposure to Ancient Thassilon and Runelords, and clues them in that maybe something bigger is going on. The BBG is just an imp, which any party of the right level should be able to take down fairly quickly. Not this time, though. For whatever reason, my party struggled to deal with this imp, and I delighted in having the imp taunt and toy with them every time they came back to “play”. What should have been an evening’s adventure stretched over three sessions and seven different forays into the dungeon. After one such foray, the party limped out of the dungeon with the barbarian carrying both the (dying) cleric and the rogue, while the fighter limped out on 1 hp. And the characters had just entered the dungeon twenty minutes previous. In game, I had the townsfolk talking about the horrendous monsters which must be down there; when they party was finally victorious and came back to display the 2-foot tall body of the imp, the townsfolk were less than enthused. But I loved playing that imp to the full! And it taught me a valuable lesson as a GM: easy on paper does not always mean easy in play.

Favourite Recurring NPC?

Right now I’m having a bunch of fun with the Ghast Queen, one of the main NPCs in a D&D campaign world I created and am running. She sacrificed her humanity five hundred years prior with the best of intentions: she wanted to ensure her people had someone to lead them through the dark days of the Cataclysm and help them survive and rebuild. Unfortunately, the Ghast Queen has some very extreme views on recycling, and after after five hundred years the city of Graveport is a blend of the living and the undead. And the Ghast Queen is quite, quite mad. I look forward to how the party chooses to deal with her.