A few weeks ago, I formally left Silver Gryphon Games. For over seven years, I’ve helped Kevin Rohan and the rest of the team create new adventures for tabletop gamers. That came to an end about a year after I really stopped caring enough about the craft to make a business out of it.
I still play role-playing games. I’m working on building a campaign for D&D 5E for some friends. But, I’m not interested in publishing books anymore. I could see myself reporting on my campaigns (whether playing in or running), but nothing beyond that.
I am working on the earliest beginnings of a new project, but it’s related to a different medium entirely. More on that in the weeks to come.
Friday was eventful. I went to a seminar on world building by Ed Greenwood, and it was fascinating to hear the creator of the Forgotten Realms talk about how to construct a game world and how the Realms evolved. The Realms were first born when he was 6. It made me wonder if I should somehow incorporate my first fantasy world, Flodoria, into Eiridia. It would make an interesting addition. I’ll have to think about how the two would integrate.
Took off a day early so I could get to Madison, WI at a leisurely pace. I’m sitting in the hotel room writing this. This is my first trip to Madison, and my route took me through an interesting set of neighborhoods. The layout is definitely not as easy to navigate as Minneapolis’s, though it had a cozier quality to it. The roads are narrower and twist and turn more.
I’m fairly certain I saw Ed Greenwood entering the hotel just after me, but by the time I got checked in and looked around for him, he was gone. Ah well, I’ll see him tomorrow.
I plan on blogging every day of the con. We’ll see what adventures are in store.
Despite being a game author with my own system to enjoy, I still love Dungeons & Dragons. It was the first RPG I ever encountered, and I own a copy of almost every edition ever released. I enjoy every edition, too, from the simple 0E/Basic all the way through to the tactically-minded 4E. I’m really excited for the new fifth edition. Continue reading Getting Ready for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition
Asherth. A frozen rock on the fringe of Imperial space. And, as it happened, a world of sudden importance to the Salamanders.
The loss of a sacred Land Raider in a battle only weeks prior stung deeply. Imperial Guard corrupted by Chaos had extinguished its fire forever, and the Salamanders of Third Company keenly felt its loss. To replace it, they needed a new source of ferranite, a mineral integral to Land Raider construction.
This game took place on Thursday, May 29th at the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center in Roseville, MN. It was a 1500 point battle between my Third Company Salamanders Space Marines and Eric’s Chaos Imperial Guard.
Villains are the mainstay of any good adventure. With very few exceptions, there is always some form of evil mind plotting dark things in the background. Whether this is a mindless mob of creatures that just happens to be devouring the locals, or a masterfully devious court magician manipulating a king to sinister ends, you can’t get away from the guys.
This blog post aims to assist you in building memorable villains that are more than just numbers on a sheet of paper. If you’re a player and not a game master, the character building advice in here might help you too, but this is specifically geared towards the folks weaving the story behind the encounters.
The Nature of a Villain
While it’s fairly obvious that a villain exists to ruin the lives of good people, a truly memorable villain has much more than that going on. He has his own motives and desires. He may be acting in accordance with his own morals, or he might not care at all.
Most frequently, a villain’s goals shouldn’t be an end, but a way to reach some other starting point. The kobold king isn’t sending raiding parties out to nearby villages because he feels like it; he’s weakening the nearby human presence so his people can expand outward from their all-too-small cave system.
The depth of a villain’s forward thinking depends on how intelligent you want him to be. Don’t restrict a villain’s planning just because he’s a minor NPC in your adventure. Players will inevitably do something you don’t expect, and if they just happen to latch onto your minor villain, you’ll then have a direction to take that in.
Journey of the Hero
The player characters will only grow stronger as a result of having a characterful villain as their foil. You can consider your adventure a success when not only does it give your PCs the magical loot of awesomeness they’ve been waiting for, but it also encourages them to reconsider their characters’ actions and motives.
Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces is a fantastic guide to setting up an epic story. His writings on the “road of trials” in particular are relevant to creating worthwhile villains for the players.
A player character that’s just starting out usually has weak stats, basic equipment, and almost zero personality. She might have a single personality quirk or cliché that her player jots down to guide her role-playing, but rarely will players take the time to build a full story for their characters. After all, that’s what they’re hoping you will do.
As the PC encounters and interacts with your adventure’s many challenges, locations, and characters, she will grow in both power and personality. If her player is into role-playing, this will happen sooner rather than later, and with more depth. She will need a good villain, though, to balance that development against.
Creating a villain should start with looking at what you want to achieve with the adventure and with the campaign at large. An adventure isn’t a set narrative that you can just write and expect to stay the way you wrote it. The players will do things you don’t expect and interact with the environment in ways that force you to adapt the adventure to fit their actions. As such, your villain should support your goal with the adventure, rather than just play to the script.
Jot down a few notes about your adventure’s premise. Is it a classic battle of good versus evil? Is it a day in the life of an adventurer? Is it an exploration of the unknown? Think about your favorite movies or books that fit the theme you’re going for. What twists in those stories really got your blood pumping?
Potential for Loss
Think about what would really hurt the player characters. I don’t mean in terms of hit points lost or character sheets thrown away – I mean tragedies that specifically target each PC’s hopes, dreams, and beliefs. Whether the players are into role-playing or not only determines whether you have more or less fodder for this; it’s still possible to make a tactical gamer sit back in his chair with a thud when his character loses something dear to him. It usually just changes the context.
Build something of that potential loss into each villain of the adventure. You don’t need to include every player character in every adventure, but you shouldn’t focus on only one player character either. Also, choose a handful of NPCs and target their potential for loss also. It helps build a living world when you include characters other than the players’ in your adventures.
Potential for Gain
Saruman was originally a hero, but gave in to temptation.
Now think about what the villain can offer the player characters. Temptation plays on base emotions; use it. For tactical gamers, this could be a particular piece of loot that they want desperately. For role-players, it might be a bit of information about a relative they’ve been searching for. For every player, write down at least one thing that the villain might have the ability to provide.
As with the potential for loss, also make sure that some of your NPCs stand to gain something by working with the villain. Even if that incorruptible priest of all that is good can’t possibly be turned to the dark side, the players might not know that, and that creates tension. Tension is what every great story (and adventure) is built on.
Villains are Story Generators
Other than trying to provoke emotional tension from players through the potential for loss or gain, a good villain should also act as a way to move the story along. The best stories, whether they’re explosion-ridden Hollywood blockbusters or 1500-page literary masterpieces, are about the heroes changing in some way over the course of the story. Villains are almost always the catalyst for that change.
If your players are craving action, send a wave of minor baddies against them. Let them know that the villain made this happen, whether directly or indirectly. Weave a spider’s web with your villain at the center. Even if he is not of the evil genius persuasion, he’s still fully capable of planning ahead.
Summary / TL;DR Version
Keep your villains close to your players’ hearts. Tension is a great story device, so use it. Tempt the PCs. Hurt the PCs. Make a list of the villain’s goals and aspirations.
And, above all else, remember: villains are not just stat blocks, they’re people too.
Ingenium exorcism for priests: it should have been in first edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This post presents a prototype profession mechanic we’re working on for Ingenium 2nd Edition. We’re looking at giving each profession its own Profession Talent to add a little more variety to the game.
The Priest profession from first edition was pretty…. plain, and there was nothing priestly about her, other than role-playing ques. So with this new mechanic, she gets a Talent that reinforces her role as a messenger of the gods.
The priest profession from first edition was presented like this:
Starting Talent Pool: Mystic Attributes: +1 Magical Aptitude Speed: 3 Hit Points: 1d8 Advancement: Healing Arts Starting Gold: 1d4 x 5
Priests are those divine focal points who channel their gods’ will into physical manifestations. Their magic is not based on arcane rules and laws; rather, they are blessed as Chosen and receive gifts of power for as long as they serve their gods.
The flavor text stands in Second Edition, but there are a number of changes. Here’s the new Priest block:
Starting Talent Pool: White Magic Attribute Bonus: +1 Magical Aptitude Hit Die: d6 Talent: Exorcism
The Priest has the divine gift and knowledge to pull a demon out of a possession victim. She makes a Willpower roll against the demon’s Challenge Level, and if the total is higher, the demon vacates the possessed body as a cloud of roiling black smoke. The victim then returns to his original stats, and if this causes any damage he has sustained to exceed his normal maximum Hit Points, he dies instantly. If his Willpower was at least half of the demon’s, he remembers everything he did while possessed. A failed exorcism increases the Challenge Level of the target demon by 1.
About Profession Talents
Every profession gets a unique Talent with this mechanic, and one that scales with the character’s power. She will never out-level her profession Talent.
Also, by adding “Profession Talents,” we add another option for expansion down the road.
Side note! These “Related articles” at the end of every post? I choose those. They’re not automatically inserted. Hopefully they present some interesting reading related to the topic at hand.
My last level on my last free toon. Now, should I resubscribe?
Today is the last day of March and the last day I’ll be writing about the MMORPG Rift as it applies to tabletop RPGs. If you’ve missed any of these posts, you might want to check them out. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
This post is a retrospective and has little to do with tabletop RPGs. If you’re just looking for new ways to experience your favorite RPG, come back next week – I’ve got something very interesting planned!
Generally, it takes me about one month to get bored of an MMORPG. I’ll steep myself in the lore, powerlevel up to about 75-90% of endgame, get involved in crafting, and then… burn out. The novelty factor wears off, and I stop playing.
Most of the time, it’s not a conscious decision to stop playing. I’ll just go a day without playing the game, since I find something else I want to do more that one day. Then two days go by. Then three. Before I realize it, it’s been over a week since I last logged in, and I have no intention of going back.
A rare handful of MMORPGs keep my interest for longer than that. The list so far has been Star Wars: Galaxies and World of Warcraft. Now, I’m adding Rift to the list.
I originally reinstalled the game because it was going to be free and I’d heard good things about Dimensions. So, I did, and started this blog series to tie the game to tabletop gaming. It just clicked. The novelty factor has worn off, and I’m still playing. That bodes well for its longevity, and I’m going to resubscribe.
The Dimensions are awesome. The fishing is weirdly addictive. And playing an MMO with a great and friendly community is refreshing.
If you’re interested in trying it out, jump on the Faeblight server and look me up. I’ll be playing either my Eth cleric Amun or my Kelari mage Sidious.