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
For the first time in ages, I dreamt of my father. I was walking across campus with my backpack over one shoulder, as I would have been lo those long years ago, and I spotted him through a corner window that never existed, standing behind his desk and talking on a phone — in an office that never existed, for Dad was never on the first floor with a huge window. But he was talking to someone about how I was coming to see him prior to Freshman orientation.
At some level I was aware that this was a dream and that he was gone, and I was long past this point in my life, but I raised my hand at him and smiled and he raised his hand up to me and smiled and damn, but that was great, because I could see him. Not just for a frozen moment in a memory, or photograph, or even a rare shot of him on video tape, but I could look at him, living, as long as I wanted, and meet his eyes, and he was looking back at me.
I didn’t realize how powerful it was until a little later this morning when I thought about it and wept. It’s been eighteen years. It’s been long enough now that it’s impossible to imagine me calling him up and catching up on everything that’s happened, like I used to fantasize about. The acute pain of his absence is gone. But I will always miss him. I would so like for him to have known my kids as adults, or even to have met my youngest. What I wouldn’t give to tell that kid with the backpack that you’re not always going to be walking across campus and have the chance of running into your dad.
I can’t do that, but I can try to take time to be present in the lives of my kids, as my father always did. Maybe I can pass that on, and one day they’ll get it too.
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