Monday, January 27, 2014

It's My Party: Adventurers Don't Operate in a Vacuum

Bernard grabbed another glass from the bar, dipped his rag into a bucket of beer-colored water, and polished the glass to no obvious effect.  He looked out at his patrons.  It was the usual lot: crusty old farmers, local ruffians, gangly stable boys...  He saw a couple of farmers drain their glasses and push them away.  Bernard was about to draw it to the attention of one of his barmaids when the door burst open.  Sunlight briefly streamed into the bar before being blocked out by the newcomers.  First came an ugly brute of a half-orc with a glowing greatsword strapped to his back, followed shortly by a hooded figure with a black cloak and brandishing a wicked staff topped with a gruesomely realistic human skull.  Next through the door was an anthropomorphic raven in spiked red armour with a mandolin in one hand and a flaming katana in the other.  Last but not least was a black-skinned elf with piercing red eyes, dressed only in woven ivy and riding a monstrous tiger.  

"The conquering heroes return!" Bernard called out from the bar.  "What'll it be, fellas?  The usual?"


Adventuring parties are a strange thing.  Oftentimes, they are actually comprised of many strange things.  It's not much of a problem when you have a group of humans with the occasional elf, dwarf, or halfling.  But there are a huge variety of strange playable races available to your players, some of which are quite literally monsters - in a game where fighting monsters is not an uncommon occurrence.  Some would say it is a defining characteristic.

So if your party includes crow-men, fox people, frog-folk, horned hellspawn, winged monsters, talking monkeys, the bad guys from Lord of the Rings, or magical robots, you should probably give some thought to how they are going to be seen by the people they are trying to save.  This applies equally whether you are GMing a game or writing a fantasy story.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Monster Monday: Tsuchigumo, Spider-Legged Tiger Demon

Today's Monster Monday entry is the Tsuchigumo, a truly frightening Japanese monster with the body of a tiger, the legs of a spider, and the head of a demon.  They eat people - no big surprise there.  They also use an array of magical powers and their innate shape-changing ability to lure and/or confuse their prey.  Also, they are full of skulls.

Just... no.  Not okay.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Treasure: 5 Tips and Tricks for Making Your Treasure Hoards More Memorable

The Fishpool Hoard: British Museum.  Photo: d20 Despot
Treasure.  It's a big part of playing D&D.  It is often one of the primary motivations for adventuring.  But how often is it truly memorable?  How often are your players as impressed by their haul as their characters should be?

So often, after a big fight, games of D&D turn into games of accounting.  "You find 2,500 gold pieces, 1,000 silver, and two rubies worth 500 gp each.  Also, everyone gets 1,200 XP."  While treasure and experience are both rewards for a job well done, they should not be treated in the same way.  XP is a numerical abstraction of your character's growth and skill - it is intangible to the character.  Treasure, however, is an in-game reward, and is very tangible to the character.  Yet too often, just as XP becomes a number that players use to invests in better powers, gp becomes just a number that players invest in better equipment.  Finding treasure should be a roleplaying opportunity, not a simple exercise in accounting.

Let's take a look at some tips and tricks to making treasure interesting, exciting, believable, and memorable.

Monday, January 6, 2014

d20 Despot Reviews The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

In keeping with my role as cultural arbiter of all things 'fantasy', I think it is about time for a review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  I think you will agree that this is a timely review, especially compared to my last one, which was of a book that came out almost 30 years ago.

In short, I really enjoyed The Hobbit II: Hobbit Harder.  I was also disappointed with it, but less so than I was disappointed in the first Hobbit (which I also enjoyed).  I thought that the added content fit in to this movie much better than in the first movie, and Desolation was a more solid and enjoyable movie as a result of its addition.  But there were a lot of things that were lacking, particularly in the content that was actually from the book.  But I'll get to that later.

Spoilers for the movies and the book follow