In my last entry in this four-part series, intended to be of use to fellow gamers when they pop by RPGNow in the upcoming Christmas in July sale, I’m discussing some more of my favorite game mastering tools. And I’m going to cheat.
I get a lot of my adventure advice from the review columns written by Bruce Lynch over at Ten Foot Pole. Bruce ruthlessly looks at every adventure he can lay his hands on, and mostly he finds things he doesn’t like. When he DOES enjoy an adventure, though, it’s almost always for the same reasons I like a pre-packaged adventure — cool places to visit, neat things to interact with, great characters to meet, a compelling hook, prose that’s engaging and organized, treasures beyond the ordinary, and so on. And like me, he despises the Tomb of Horrors and similarly styled player killer adventures. He also shares my love of strange faerie elements and bits from folklore.
I differ with his preferences only a little in that A.) I’m not as big a fan of mixing in weird science fiction elements into my fantasy settings, aka “gonzo” material (but Bruce always indicates whether the adventure includes those) and B.) I’ve yet to run a megadungeon that my players care for. The latter places me in the minority of game players, I guess. It seems like every other game master I meet has his players in a megadungeon.
With that preamble out of the way, allow me to point you towards the best adventures listed on Bruce Lynch’s Ten Foot Pole site. And then permit me to point you towards his “no regerts” category (yes, that’s spelled that way on purpose) where he lists the runner-up adventures, some of which I’ve found just as good as those on his best-of list. Look closely, because some of those on both lists are actually FREE. That’s right, wonderful, top-rated free adventures, like the one in the picture there. Bruce’s thumbnails don’t always indicate if they’re free, so look around.
Some of the resources I’ve talked about in previous articles are actually useful both as adventure/campaign building resources, and as table side resources, meaning that they’re helpful both during prep time and when you’re actually running the game. As I mentioned, these are just the ones I’ve read and liked best. If you’re aware of others, please share.
Tableside resources are the items you keep on hand to help you riff with descriptions, or to add a little detail that can entertain the players or bring the environment to life. I’ve previously mentioned the Raging Swan Press books like 20 Things I, II, and III, and I Loot the Body, and you definitely ought to be familiar with those and have them on hand. Ultimate Toolbox and the D30 books I mentioned last time have some wonderful aids as well.
Tabletop Adventures has some mighty entries in this entire category. If you need some interesting things to see if your players are walking through some caverns, or the plains, or the wilderness, or if you need some extra little incidents or a few extra rooms or curious land features, you can keep these cards on hand. They come in all kinds of flavors, like Bits of Dungeon, Dungeon II, Bits of Darkness: Caverns or Bits of the Boulevard (and more). And then there’s the whole Into series, like Into the Mountains or Into the Swamp or Into the Wildwood or Into the Open. In each supplement you get fantastic details that help bring the particular setting to life – the characteristics of a temperate forest versus a deciduous forest, say, and the kind of flora and fauna typical of each. Sometimes you even get a weird new monster to encounter as well. I’m pleased to have them all. Read More
As I mentioned last week, RPGNow has a Christmas in July sale coming up soon, so I’m taking a look at my favorite tabletop gaming resources. I’ve accumulated a lot of them over the years, so I’ve divided a discussion of the tools across multiple articles. I last looked at treasure. This time, I’m looking at third-party game products that are full of creative lists and descriptions, advice about campaign and adventure design, and adventure seeds.
It may be that there are some excellent ones out there that I haven’t read — if so, let me know. Here, though, are the ones I most use.
Ultimate Toolbox is an expanded reimagining of the earlier Toolbox, both from Alderac. Ultimate Toolbox lacks the 3.0/3.5 statblocks of its predecessor, and it ports over almost (but not quite all) the rest of the material from the original book. But then it adds scads more simply great stuff. You want to design your campaign world, or generate some tavern drinks, or toss some riddles into your campaign or name some dwarfs or, danged near anything else you can think of, this is a must have, both during adventure prep and while you’re running the game. I’d never part with this book.
One of the reasons I wrote last week of learning from other genres is because of one of the problems plaguing me in the as-yet uncompleted The Maiden’s Eye. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, some background.
The unfinished third novel of Dabir and Asim had several problems leading to its abandonment, although the most important of those was the cancellation of the series. By the second or third month after the release of The Bones of the Old Ones, it was clear that no amount of good press was getting the book to move. It just wasn’t selling. My editor told me if I wanted to go ahead and finish the third book, that he’d publish it, but the writing seemed to be on the wall, and we both agreed to step away.
I set to work deciding what I’d work on next, coming up with several ideas I’d back burnered, outlining them in some detail before I allowed myself to mourn the end of the series I loved so well. I’ve since vowed that I will at least one day finish the third novel, but I have to admit that it was a little easier to walk away because it had some issues: Read More
I’m always on the lookout for talented new sword-and-sorcery writers, or at least new to me, and I stumbled upon the work of Setsu Uzume in an issue of Grimgark magazine. Shortly after I invited Setsu to contribute to Tales From the Magician’s Skull issue 2, which will be available in print form any day now, and a few days ago we sat down, via e-mail, to discuss writing and fiction and all that good stuff. Without further ado, here’s what we had to say:
First, why don’t you give us a little background about yourself and your work.
I tumbled around a lot before winding up as a writer. When I was tiny, I wanted to be some kind of itinerant hero like Xena. I did a lot of theater, playing male and female characters, but when I auditioned for a specialized high school to pursue acting professionally, I didn’t get in. I figured, OK, I’m always doing bit parts and side roles so I’m either not cute enough or not femme enough to be a star. However, I had a strong martial arts background, so decided to do stunts instead. Then The Matrix came out and the shift to CGI didn’t bode well (plus, if you were gonna double for women in those days it was all rape scenes all the time), so I put that dream on hold while I went to college. Parallel to all of this was a love of story and storytelling, and I was starving for characters that looked and thought like me. So here we are. Read More
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