Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Code Phrases For D&D Next

Madness must be in the air, caused by the Vernal Equinox. It started with this tweet, which spawned this tweet, and then this tweet started the ball rolling. In the Gamer Assembly Chat we brainstormed for a while and came up with this. Kudos to the person who spots the two sequential lines containing a hidden message.

Simply roll a d6 and a d14 (or a d7 and a d12) to determine which code phrase to use when referring to D&D Next.

  1. The Canary Eats The Sunshine In Russia
  2. The Squawking Goblin Sheds No Tears
  3. The Reindeer Has A Large Handbag
  4. Tomorrow’s Soup Is Made From Owlbears
  5. When The Troll Farts, Eat Baguettes
  6. The Bag of Holding Has Developed A Portable Hole
  7. Your Princess Is In Another Castle
  8. The Ioun Stones Have Reached A Count Of Nine
  9. The Drake Squats On The Rooftop In The Rain
  10. Beware The Dwarf
  11. The Lady Watches What The Devil Desires
  12. The Wizard No Longer Lives On The Coast
  13. The Captain Dropped his Keys
  14. The Portcullis Is Down But The Lever Is Stuck
  15. I Saw The Baker But His Bread Did Not Rise Today
  16. Loan Me Two Copper For A Silver Bullette
  17. Knock Three Times On The Tap Or All Ye’ll Have Is Elven Wine
  18. The Tomatoes Have Not Ripened In The Dark Sun
  19. The Sorcerer Heads Inland
  20. The Platinum Has Left The Coffers
  21. He Lost The Trail In A Pile Of Gold
  22. The Griffin No Longer Speaks In Riddles
  23. I Wanted To Play D&D And All I Got Was This Lousy NDA
  24. My Parents Left Me A Portable Hole
  25. Orcus Is My Butler
  26. The Vrocks Fly At Midday
  27. The Griffon Dueled The Snake But The Wizard Still Fell
  28. The Eagle And The Stork Do The Lambada At Midnight
  29. The Game That Shall Not Be Named
  30. I Never Learned Thieves’ Cant
  31. My Other Game System Uses Powers
  32. Never Mind The Medusa
  33. Save Or Die!
  34. Fiddling With Vecna
  35. Delayed Polymorph
  36. Hare Today, Gorgon Tomorrow
  37. Illithid Bard
  38. Incanatrix With A Flame Tongue
  39. Save Vs. Errata
  40. Seven Defences Are Too Many For Forum Trolls
  41. Now With 100% Fewer Power Sources
  42. Shadow Primal Arcane Psion-ACK! *dies*
  43. Learning Fate Causes Worry
  44. Monte Cook’s Lejendary Adventures
  45. The Hunter’s Arrow Missed The Housecat
  46. Ten Gold Pieces On The Housecat
  47. Last Night I Married a Bar Wench
  48. Half-Dwarf Half-Elf Is A Viable Race
  49. Succubus In Sensible Armour
  50. The Temple Of Ioun Endorses This Knowledge
  51. Best. Game. Ever! (Thank you @ComedyRockStar.)
  52. The Prince Was Hexed But She’s Adjusting Well
  53. My Squire Buckled In Half The Time
  54. Charisma Lacks The Bison’s Heart
  55. Society For The Restoration Of Vecna
  56. The Tour Of The Sunless Citadel Was Cancelled Due To Poor Lighting Conditions
  57. My Other Weapon Is A Vorpal Warhammer
  58. You Don’t Have To Go Home But The Universe Is Ending
  59. Save Time; Cast Gate
  60. I Had A Witty Passphrase But I Forgot It
  61. Keep Calm And Roll Initative (With a nod to @SkylandGames’s Twitter avatar.)
  62. The Alleys of Sigil Are Never Wrong Turns
  63. Thay It Ain’t So
  64. Golems Growl At Stirges’ Proboscii
  65. Gold Pieces Don’t Grow On Trees
  66. Thief, Dagger, Gold. Old Story.
  67. I Should Have Suspected When I Saw The Girdle’s Aura
  68. She Had Tea With Vecna’s Taxidermist
  69. Beware The +1 Letter Opener Of Justice
  70. Is That Your Hut Or Do You live In A Giant Chicken?
  71. Mind Your Tongue, Trolls Ahead
  72. Orcus Begone Or I’ll Put That Wand Where The Sun Shines
  73. Con Is Not My Dump Stat
  74. Death Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
  75. Drizzt Is Just An Elf In Makeup
  76. Just For The Record, A Fifteen Hits My AC
  77. Never Trust A Halfling With A Spatula And A Frying Pan
  78. Dire Canaries Make Great Travel Pillows
  79. Beware The Proboscis
  80. Never Put The Barbarian On Watch
  81. Three Eyes Between His Two Heads
  82. Black Dragons Smell Of Death At Night
  83. Dryads Never Dance
  84. Never Extend Xerxes’ Table

Contributors: @absentdm, @adampageuk, @brentnewhall, @brianliberge, @deusinnomen, @gameknightrvws, @paulbaalham, @twwombat, plus an honourable mention to @greywulf for planting the seeds of madness this morning.


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Do Something Original

'absolute' by dexxus on Flickr

'absolute' by dexxus on Flickr

I challenge you to create an RPG thing–creature, location, adventure, setting; whatever–that does not contain:

  • Dragons
  • Orcs
  • Elves (of any kind)
  • Dwarves
  • Zombies
  • Kobolds
  • Goblins
  • Vampires
  • Werewolves
  • Ninjas
  • Steampunk
  • Cowboys
  • Xenophobic aliens
  • Mummies
  • A Quentin Tarantino aesthetic
  • Anything Cthulhu

You may well ask: Well what does that leave?

Exactly. Think about that.

Note that this list does not mention samurai, lizard people, fish people, mummies, giant worms, jellyfish, ringworlds, sentient plants, huge floating brains, tiny people, dinosaurs, psionics, carnivorous bathtubs, kung fu, gun fu, the Crusades, Atlantis, Dyson spheres, animal familiars, creatures made of light, or giant insects.

So, post your original creation in the comments. Show the world what you can do.


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How’d you like a print tabletop RPG magazine?

Call to Assembly, issue 1

Call to Assembly, issue 1

We love print magazines. We love the feel of paper, the ability to curl up in bed and peruse the corners of a publication stuffed with content.

So, we’ve collected a bunch of our best blog posts into the Call to Assembly, the first issue of a print magazine. This issue is 36 pages, and covers our first two months’ worth of blog posts. You can download the PDF for free or buy a physical copy on Lulu for US $7.99 (plus shipping).

This issue includes most of the content from our post-apocalyptic setting 3 Generations After The End, Brian Liberge’s Weeping Angels creature from StufferShack, and much more.



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Campaign Season: Delayed Action

Overwhelming ForcesThe best-laid plans rarely survive contact with the enemy. In my case, my day job has transformed over a weekend installation from developer to support manager. Campaign Season fell through the cracks, and I didn’t have the resources to properly promote it and generate interest.

So we’re going to push it out by a month and shake the bushes a bit more. I’ve edited the dates in the announcement post, so point interested parties there for now. If you’re interested, please follow the directions and leave a comment at the signup page.

Now get out there and start thinking up devious new angles to attack war from.

Thanks for your patience and continued interest!

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Epic Endings

A few weeks ago I wrote about how it’s ok to stop your campaign before the game’s maximum PC level. Read the link for the full backstory, but the short answer is my campaign ended abruptly. While people agreed that the campaign was fun, they walked away from the table that night frustrated and disappointed.

So I decided it wasn’t over. I try to give my players a lot of room to make choices, and their characters decisions should have weight. However, I also believe that the DM’s job is to facilitate fun, and that ending, while natural, was just not fun. I told everyone we had one more session and began planning my ultimate ending. I wanted to make sure it fit certain criteria to make it fun, challenging and have that epic feel.

1. Getting the Band Back Together. I told my players that they could bring any character they had played so far in the campaign. Whomever they chose, we would find a reason to get them involved, and a reason for them to have reached level 30. This gave them the opportunity to end with the character they connected with the most, and really end that characters story with a big event.

2. Time Passed. I set ten years between the last session and the finale. This serves two purposes. First, it gives the PCs reasons to have reached 30 more slowly, so it doesn’t feel like we missed a really exciting session. The second reason is to respect the natural ending that we previous came to. It’s true I didn’t like that ending, but that doesn’t mean it should be disregarded. By having a length of time between these two events, it gives the last session weight. That ending changed the way the characters viewed and interacted with the world in the downtime and set up how they would treat the threat before them.

3. Truly Fearsome Encounter. To that end, whatever they faced now had to be an extremely dire foe. Not only does it have to challenge characters of Epic Power, but scare them in such a way that they won’t handle it individually. Some characters needed really strong reasons to be present for this fight, such as the cleric who ascended to the heavens or the warlock who had been captured and tortured by Tiamat.

I decided an outbreak of the Abyssal Plague was finally joined by two of the Elemental Princes of Evil. The gods cannot directly interfere on the mortal plane in my campaign, but their mortal servants can. That gives Tiamat a reason to release a favored captive, and the other gods a reason to turn a blind eye when one among them chooses to descend.

4. Tie It Into the Campaign. It has to feel like an ending, and not just a big fight for the sake of it. I had plenty of enemies to choose from. I knew I wanted Tharizdun as the final enemy for my next campaign, so setting that up made sense, especially since the players had been battling his cultists, and accidentally freed his avatar. The Princes of Elemental Evil are powerful foes in their own right, who are naturally tied to Tharizdun.

Pazuzu was also a favored villain. He loves chaos and I could see how the Abyssal Plague might amuse him to no end. He had previously led a PC astray, and it seemed like the perfect time to bring that PC back. This time, he would be the embodiment of the Voidharrow.

5. Challenging and Dynamic Combat. I didn’t want this to be a series of static fights against solo brutes. Epic characters are powerful, damn near impossible to kill and full of options. I wanted each fight to have terrain, multiple enemies and allow the players to think creatively.

I kept it under the open sky but on a dead rocky terrain. That gave us boulders, ledges and crevasses to deal with. First fight was Imix, with a couple of powerful demons and plenty of minions. That made sure if the solo got locked down, there were still powerful threats to deal with, but not so overpowering that they didn’t save some dailies for Ogremoch who loomed in the distance. When they got to Ogremoch, their former ally was revealed as the Voidharrow (Elite) and they had to deal with both foes at once. I added a voidharrow goop hazard that would cause an instant of domination. I also decided that if the Voidharrow was eliminated before Ogremoch, then new minions would stop spawning. That allowed a natural change in momentum, halfway through the fight. I made sure Ogremoch kept two action points till then to keep the combat threatening.

The end result was a much more satisfying ending. The players were challenged but not overwhelmed. They felt like they had accomplished a real goal, which made their epilogues more meaningful. The moral of the story, don’t accept a crappy ending. It’s your game.

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Adventures Should Die

'CatacombsOfTheWizard' by orkboi on Flickr

'CatacombsOfTheWizard' by orkboi on Flickr

I’ve been reading campaign reports from very early D&D and Tèkumel campaigns. Boy did they focus on dungeon crawling. Sure, the player-characters were more than attack/defense scores, but gameplay centered on descents into old, underground areas that the GM had already mapped out (or generated randomly).

There’s a reason that the term is Dungeon Master.

That’s why so many people who started writing for RPGs started with adventures. They wanted more dungeons (or temples, or what-have-you) to explore. Even today, that’s how most folks start: with an adventure.

But adventures are not the future.

If D&D (particularly classic D&D) makes up the bulk of your RPG experience, adventures are common and useful. But once you’ve played Star Wars games and superhero games and Cthulhu games and hard science fiction games, exploring another set of dusty stone corridors and rooms to slug at monsters soon feels limiting (as exciting and fun as it can be).

Players now want agency. They want to be true investigators, Jedi, Batman; not hired hands told to extract idol #5 from dungeon #38.

Is there a place for adventures? Absolutely. New GMs need them, and experienced GMs with little time need them.

However, there are already plenty of free adventures out there (here are 83 for D&D 4E). While there’s nothing wrong with writing one or two, especially for your own experience, how many do we need?

Adventures aren’t the future. Settings, scenarios, and mechanics are the future. As useful as an adventure can be as a platform, we need to move beyond it.

This is fantasy. Almost anything is possible, given the appropriate constraints–and we can define the constraints.

We don’t need more medieval European geegaws. We don’t need more ways to be Conan or Elric.

I want to play in worlds inspired by The Wheel of Time and Dune and Ringworld and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. (And to those of you poised to type “There already is an RPG for The Wheel of Time,” re-read what I just wrote.) I want to see those ideas spun off and incorporated into new worlds. I want to see Aes Sedai and Bene Tleilaxu and Pierson’s Puppeteers in other settings.

This is not variety for variety’s sake. If this hobby is about white guys in armor beating up vaguely European monsters, it’s going to appeal mostly to white, European guys. If we want this hobby to expand and be more fun and interesting, we need it to expand. Expansion doesn’t mean yet another tomb to explore; it means new ideas and worlds, and ways to interact with those worlds. It needs settings, scenarios, and mechanics.

Let adventures die. Let’s look up to new horizons and new universes.


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