Sunday, June 29, 2014

Traps 102 with Dr. Henry Jones, Jr.

Paramount Pictures
Last week, in Traps 101, I used Raiders of the Lost Ark to demonstrate a few basic things that traps can do in a dungeon.  I mean, besides maiming and killing.  This week, I'm also bringing in examples from Temple of Doom and Last Crusade, the only other Indiana Jones movies I recognize as canon (not that Crystal Skulls had any traps in it anyways).

Indiana Jones is an adventurer's adventurer, so it really makes sense that the temples and ruins he navigates are dungeons any GM would be happy to have created.  They have a cinematic quality to them (naturally) that boils the elements of a good dungeon down to a few tightly-implemented set-pieces.  For that reason, the Indiana Jones movies ring true as great D&D-style adventures despite the fact that there are no fantastical monsters and Indy himself doesn't wear armour or wield a sword.

"You're strangely dressed for a knight..."                 Paramount Pictures
So what else can we learn about traps from the adventures of Professor Henry Jones, Jr.?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Traps 101 with Dr. Henry Jones, Jr.

Traps are an integral part of nearly every dungeon, but they are very easy to do wrong.  There are some GMs who seem to think that the goal of a trap is to kill your party in as devious and clever a way as possible.  If your goal as a GM is just to kill your players, kindly refrain from GMing.

From Grimtooth's Traps
Others decide to put traps on everything, turning the exploration of a dungeon into a never-ending paranoid sequence of skill checks.  Putting traps in a dungeon is like putting spice in a dish: the right spices in the right amounts can add flavour, but using too much or too overpowering of a spice can render it unpleasant or inedible.

So naturally, to illustrate how to do traps correctly, I am turning to the Indiana Jones film trilogy.  Not just because they are perfect movies, but because they use traps incredibly well.  In a well-put-together movie, every element should contribute to the whole.  If you just throw things in there for the heck of it, your movie will be an incoherent, tone-deaf mess.  But the three Indiana Jones films are well-constructed (the first and third admittedly more-so than the second), and each trap Indy encounters serves to move the plot along or tell us something more about the story or the characters.

When you are designing a dungeon, you are like the director of a movie that your players are about to watch/star in.  If you want it to be a good movie, keep the following tips in mind:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monster Monday: Sabertooth Salmon - Deadly and Delicious

I've mentioned before that I'm really in to prehistoric animals and that I would try to bring more of them into Pathfinder.  Well, for this Monster Monday I'm bringing you a pretty unusual one: the sabertooth salmon.

(c) Ray Troll.  Prints of this piece are available for sale on his website.
Yes, that's a real thing that existed.  Oncorhynchus rastrosus (formerly known by the more colourful Smilodonichthys rastrorsus) were 8-10 feet long, 300-400 pounds, and equipped with a pair of sharp fangs.  They lived about 5 million years ago along the Pacific coast of North America.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is (C)2014 Jonah Bomgaars.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

d20 Despot Reviews Snow White and the Huntsman

Like many of you, I gave 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman a pass when it first came out, but I just watched it a few days ago and I'm glad I did.  While it is not at all a great movie, it is enjoyable on a surface level, especially from the perspective of someone who enjoys fantasy and GMing.

Universal Pictures
That said, while I feel I owe it to the movie to explain why you should watch it for its intriguing and delightful fantasy visuals, I also feel the need to delve into Snow White's many failings as a story and a film.  So, as is traditional, let's start off with the negative stuff:

[Spoilers, obviously]

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Monster Monday: Wadjet - Ancient Egyptian Fire Cobra

Last week, d20 Despot received its 10,000th pageview!  It was only a few months ago that we got to 5,000 and, as I mentioned in last week's news-post, it was made possible by a reader's post to the RPG section of Reddit.  d20 Despot is a labour of love, and I'll keep coming out with new content no matter how many readers I have, but if you want to start seeing illustrated d20 Despot PDFs chock full of bonus content, I'll need a bigger reader-base.  And for that, I'm relying on you, my loyal minions!  Spread the word all around these glorious interwebs!

Speaking of content, today's Monster Monday entry is the dazzling wadjet, a giant winged cobra straight out of ancient Egyptian legend.  Watch out for their poisonous spit and their searing gaze!

via Amentet Neferet
The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is (C)2014 Jonah Bomgaars.