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BTTD #42: CLEAN UP! CLEAN UP! EVERYBODY CLEAN UP!

When I would read comic books and see the hero and the villian fight, I swear on my Green Lantern figurines I would think “who is going to clean up this mess?”

So I want to talk today about clean ups and how they can bring some adventure to your game.

Clean Up: Better Get a Broom, Sir or Madam.

When there is a massive battle in a city or town, things are going to get wrecked. A hapless fireball and misplaced laser beam can have huge disasterous effects on the city. Was that the orphanage? Yes, yes it was.

Have I inadvertently released a catastophic poisoned dragon egg that spread acid all through a city square? Yes, yes I did. And man, did it wreak some havoc.

When the major battle is over and hopefully the heroes are still standing, there is an adventure hook that most people miss—cleaning up the mess you made.

If buildings are torn down, the magistrate, city mayor or whoever is going to be some pissed because the town has to get fixed. Sure, there are some magic spells that can help rebuild, but those aren’t abudnant enough.

Maybe you are in a superhero campaign, and you have telekenisis or super strength, but that can only go so far, and that’s super useful, but only to a point. If you are space cowboys, what can you do to help the people of the town, now that their hydroponics is wrecked? Just take off in your ship? That’s cold. Space cold.

Here are a couple of adventures you can use and I’ve put them by setting, but with a few tweaks, you can make anything work, just like a burrito. Let’s get started.

Do you have ore for wood? (Fantasy)

Now that you’ve burned down half the town (or the villian did, that pesky dragon), the town you have needs to lumber, so you’ll have to set out to the Great Forest (or just the forest nearby) and cut down trees.

You can do it by magic. You can do it by brute strength, but you have to get the lumber back to town so they can rebuild. The problem is, the druids of the forest aren’t really about sharing, so you have bargain to get the wood. Maybe they have a grove that’s set aside for culling and you will have to travel there (and they told you that to get rid of a nymph they don’t like.)

The Alloy and a Big Drill (Space!)

The damage to the power plant requires a metal that’s only found in the floating asteroids above the planet.

You and your team need to get to the asteroid, drill the metal, get it back to the planet so repairs can be made. You’re on a time crunch (of course). You have to get the planetary defenses back online before space pirates figure out what went wrong and raid the helpless city.

Once you start drilling, of course things go wrong. Maybe you find something buried there. Maybe the asteroid you picked isn’t an asteroid, but a remnance of some ancient defense system. Well, which is it? It’s your game. How would I know?

Taxes May Be The Greatest Enemy. (Superhero)

Yeah, you defeated the Gray Menace and her henchpeople, but the city is wrecked or at least part of it is. The mayor and the people of the city are now facing hire taxes because of you. Sure you saved the day, but someone has to pay.

Your heroes have some different ways to go about this problem before they are shunned and maybe labelled villains as well.

  • Become actual police for the city and that can come with limitations, but also some cool storylines.
  • Use their powers or technology to fix whatever is broken.
  • Do “favors” for local construction companies so they can get repairs done for the cheap.
  • And if you really want to situation, have a city council “town hall” sort of meeting that condemns the heroes and they get booed! BOOOOOO! HEROES! BOOO!

(and if you are looking for sweet superhero RPG you can get up and running quick, look no further than Spectaculars)

Next week: I’m talking about how to create adventures around building a community/town/village/colony etc.

This is What I Dig This Week

  • If you are looking for an all-in-one carrying case for all of your gaming needs, look no further than the Haversack. This Kickstarter looks like the perfect gaming accessory. Highly recommend checking it out. (psssst, it would kill as a gift. Kill. Slay.)
  • I’m considering starting a Youtube channel where I discuss how to create adventures and such. But I have no idea where to start creating a Youtube channel. I have the equipment, but it’s like having allllll the kitchen supplies needed to make cookies, but I have no recipe for what I want to do. That’s where my friend Matt Ragland comes in. He’s doing a Youtube Starter Workshop and I’ve joined it. If you that’s something you want to do, you can get join here on the inexpensive.

A little love.

Hey, if you dig this, I’d love if you shared it with other gamers. I do this little email just to spread better gaming to everyone and it’s a bit of a labor of love. If you could throw this sweet link in an email or a gaming group you’re a part of online, I’d really appreciate it.

BTTD #41: Barely Any Wrong Answers Here

Just got around to playing Dungeons and Dragons again. It has been a minute let me tell you. As someone who isn’t super into doing the online thing, it took some getting used to. But as a proud Gen-Xer, I figured it out.

I finally got to play Long Leaf, my Warforged Monk who speaks mainly in haikus.

They stare at my form.Reminders of a long war.Let us be careful.

So while my boyfriend was learning the ropes I was scrawling down haiku after haiku. Haikus about battles. Haikus about saying hello. (And I’m going to send them to my patrons, so if you’d like to join, the button is up above.)

Know Your Roll/Role

When you are first starting out playing D&D, it helps to simply pick a role and go from there. Most of the times you are starting out at 1st level, so a massive background isn’t necessary (as my DM pointed out, I used to write epic tales about my character at 1st level. It’s the equivalent of a freshmen in high school bragging about the “big game.” It hasn’t happened—yet.)

Here are the roles broken down for each character:

Cleric: Heal your friends. Turn undead!

Mage/Sorcerer: Cast spells at our foes and/or protect us.

Paladin, Fighter, Ranger, Barbarian: ATTACK!

Monk: Kick! Fight! Run!

Druid: Heal. Intimidate. Tell us things! Be crafty (especially when you get that wild shape where you can turn into animals.)

Thief: Sneak! Attack! Sneak some more!

Once your character gets more levels under their belt, they can start branching out (well, a Druid could always branch out.. . . SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!)

This takes the stress off the new player. If they want to try other stuff, great! Do it! But when it comes down to twenty things they can do—giving them the most popular ones, leads to more success and more enjoyment.

Start with a Flashback

My DM asked us how our three characters met (Half-orc Barbarian, Barbarian Gnome and the humble Warforged Monk) and I said, “Oh, I rescued the gnome when he was stuck in the forest. #humblebrag”

So what did we do? We played out that exact scenario—me and the gnome were stuck in a spider’s nest! And the druid came and rescued us!

Thunder summoned here. All the spiders defeated.Peace not an option.

When you start with a flashback you now have a common story that binds everyone together, “Remember that time when . . . ”

Things I’m Into

Who doesn’t like wood?

If you are looking for fantastic RPG gear, look no further than Talon and Claw. They make fantastic dice vaults and DM screens (I got my previous boss a dice vault and he loved it!). They are doing a Kickstarter using wood from whiskey barrels. WHAT?! So I thought you should know.

Here is their Etsy site and here is their Kickstarter!

Big ol’ FREE book

I’ve started to read the book The Sand Sea and it’s an epic adventure—over 700 pages long. I’m reading 5 chapters a day to keep a steady flow of reading during this weird time. (I tend to by HYPER productive, and then I’m like a slug. Who knows why?!)

But if you are interested in a free copy of this book (and it’s going to sell for around $30! But it’s free!) Check it out here. They just ask that you leave a review.

BTTD #40: We all have to start somewhere.

Friends,

Hope you are staying safe and washing your hands. (Remember those handwashing memes? Ha ha ha.)

A lot of people are starting to play RPGs online, using Zoom and other online resources like Roll20 (which is something I want to learn during this weird time.)

When first starting out, I always suggest using something that’s already made. One of my favorite D&D products is the Essentials Kit. This kit has everything: starting characters, a couple of adventures and a step by step way to play for the Dungeon Master and the players.

The Essentials Kit

But I hear you, some of you want to make your own adventures and you want to come up with your own little plot.

How can you create something that isn’t just: “Go to the other town and bring back the carrots that were lost.” Or my personal favorite, “Can you go to the basement of the tavern and get rid of the rats.” Sure it can be fun, and if people are new to gaming, this could manage it, but we can do better.

Let’s do better!

Every adventure needs a couple of things to make it intriguing. Here are just a few components you have to have to make an adventure worth having.

Problem: Your characters have to have a problem—it doesn’t necessarily have to be their problem, but something that needs to be fixed and they are the ones to do it.

The town’s water supply is cut off and people are thirsty.

An orc village has popped up next store and needs to be handled.

Skeletons from the nearby graveyard are rising up. Gross.

Now your players expect problems. It’s the reason we gather—we want to save the day, be proclaimed heroes, and get some loot!

Antagonist: There has to be someone or something behind the problem. It can’t just be skeletons—there has to be a necromancer behind it. A druid has rerouted the water because she wasn’t invited to the Autumn Festival. Something. There has to be a boss that needs to be defeated (and it doesn’t have to be this adventure where the boss is defeated, but somewhere down the line.)

If you are having problems coming up with one, steal one from one of your favorite action movies. Try Die Hard or Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Complications: Don’t make an adventure A to B. Oh, you killed the skeletons and chased away the necromancer? Easy-peasy-dragon-squeezy. Don’t do that.

Make your players sweat and here are some complications that do just that:

Add a time-limit: The characters have to do whatever by the next full moon or something terrible happens.

Weather: Whatever the adventure, having a storm blow in can reduce and mess up visiblity, cause flooding (especially if they have to be in a sewer. . . the water is rising.)

Secrecy: The players have to complete the quest without raising undo attention. Maybe it’s because there’s a political issue. Maybe they don’t want to raise the alarm. Oh, one of the players is a klutsy barbarian? Even better.

A race: Other NPC’s (Non-Player Characters) are racing to get to wherever your players are headed and they are playing dirty: setting traps, spreading lies, etc.

I’d love to hear what you are making and next week, I’m going to have some beginning quests that have all these (and more!) components.


Great Gaming Stuff Going Down!

My friend and hero, Mike Selinker is Kickstarting his game, Lords of Vegas for its 10th anniversary. Everything Mike prints is pure gold and I can’t recommend it enough.

If you are looking for a little role playing game that looks deep check out this FREE beginning module here: GODS is a Dark Fantasy tabletop roleplaying game based on adventure, epic quests and exploration. A journey to the far reaches of the Wildlands, a vast and brutal land abandoned by the gods, where the grim Cult of the Black Sun is spreading like a plague!

It looks dark and spooky. Right up my alley

BTTD #39: I’ve Got Your Back(story)

Friends,

I’ve been there when you are trying to come up with a backstory for a character and your mind is as blank as a fresh whiteboard.

And you come up with, “My parents died and I had to strike out on my own to learn the skills to survive this harsh world.” Congrats. That’s Batman.

We feel we need these epic storylines for our character because of the realm they live in. Keep it simple—like Frodo simple.

Or if we are running a game, we stumble to come up with an NPC’s backstory because we’ve done it so often and they all start to blend in together.

So here are ten backstories for you to grab, steal and change when it comes to Dungeons and Dragons. Some involve class and some involve race—and some are just generic so you can boop put them into your campaign. Let’s get started. (And yeah, I’m adding little graphics to my newsletter—look at me being all fancy.)

  1. The reason you hiked it out of town was simple. Your dad was a gambling addict—and the not-so-friendly gambling organization came to collect. Maybe they put your family in “servitude” until the debt was paid. You have 3 months to pay them back.
  2. Your town was over-run with orcs during the Red Famine. You and some others in your town made it out, but not many.
  3. You were born with a silver spoon in your mouth—until your parents got pinched for massive slave trade. You managed to secure some money before that happened. You changed your name, appearance and got to a magic academy to wait it all out and found a talent for magic.
  4. You were always the curious one in the family: how high could you climb, how fast could you run—the rooftops of your city became your playground and you always felt more comfortable there.
  5. A cleric saved your life when the plague came through and you left with her.
  6. A basilisk ravaged your town and you’ve recently been returned to flesh. Two hundred years have passed and everything is so new. Now that you’ve been stone, you have a special bond with it.
  7. Blacksmithing runs in your family’s veins and you are searching for unique metals to bring home, even plans or designs. Your grandmother is working on a grand design and has a special list of unique items for you to grab, no matter what the cost.
  8. You have been given a metal key—it’s your birthright. When examined it radiates magic, but appears to have no function except opening a door. Eventually in your travels, you are hunted for the key.
  9. As a sorcerer, you made a (ahem) not great deal with a Patron. You and eleven others of you made the deal as invaders ravaged your town. Together you destroyed the invaders, but now your Patron wants you to eliminate the others (It’s a bit Highlander, but you get the idea.)
  10. You grew up with a bow because your family lived sequested in the woods. Your father was guarding something. One day you woke up and your family was gone, your father’s ring placed on your chest while you slept.

Things I’m Digging Right Now

Just finished the book The Warehouse about how if Amazon tripled its size, and got its hands in the government, what would that look like. Fiction. I just loved it.

I’m burning through Ozark on Netflix. Let me tell you that I was a doubter, and by episode three, I was hooked.

I’m finishing up Line of Duty (Season 1-4 on Hulu). A British police drama about police corruption. A phrase I love is “bent copper!”

I’m starting Red Rising this week and hope to have that wrapped up. You know, since. . . (makes gesture out the window.)

Patreon members are getting the first (beta) chapter of my book, The Compass Girls and writing goodies.

BTTD #38: Monday was a Train Wreck

TL;DR: I set up a Patreon. And I have some good ideas for games below in this very weird time.

Well, friends, it happened.

And I know I wore my Green Lantern ring the other day and took an oath that I wouldn’t mention COVID or any of that, but well, my apologies.

Monday, like so many, I got furloughed from my job. Ugh.

(Now, my (ex) company’s sole purpose is for people to go outside and you know do stuff. So that sort of make sense. But you never think it’s you.)

It is me.

I wallowed in a nice tepid vat of sadness Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was dedicated to some writing and some Taylor Swift level Shake It Off.

And I made a plan—a plan to help me make some more cool stuff outside of this little newsletter. And I just want it to cover the cost of the newsletter (email list, hosting, etc.)

So I’ve created a little Patreon for this newsletter. Join (for the price of a cup of coffee ☕️) to get great content that includes:

  • A beta chapter of my book The Compass Girls.
  • A monthly PDF of story ideas for roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons.
  • When something doesn’t fit in the newsletter because of length, you’ll get it!
  • Invitations to webinars about games and more games.
  • And any other gaming content that needs to be heard by you!

For only a ☕️, you will get great gaming content, ideas and information that’s difficult to find anywhere else.

And here’s the thing. It’s only $5/month, the price of a cup of coffee!

I would really appreciate your support and I promise the content will be worth it.


Board Games for a Time Like This

My friend David wanted to know how to make board games more interesting during this time. Here are my list of games that are vastly replayable and might hold interest a bit longer.

7 Wonders: A card drafting game that lets you represent a wonder and let’s you try and take over others.

Ticket to Ride: Like trains? Like playing cards? Like colors? This is a game for you. Also, it has a hundred different boards.

Exploding Kittens: Oh, man. You need some drama in your house? You’re going to play cards (stick with me) and then blow up your family members with cats. It’s. . . awesome.

Sagrada: You are trying to build the most beautiful stained glass windows with dice. So fun.

Azul: A tile drafting game where you create patterns to score points. I gotta say, it’s a beautiful game.

And if you want to make it more interesting, you can do a 5 by 5 board. You play 5 different games 5 times and then simply intial the winner. Think of a BINGO card. Here’s a pic/selfie.

And you simply initial who won! Boom Done! That’s 25 games!

(And harrrrrrdcore people will 10x10s over a year, but that’s. . . that’s a journey.

Alright that’s all we got for today. Thank you so much for your support!

BTTD #37: The Loop Continues

Last week we talked about one of my FRPGSINP (Favorite role playing games I’ve never played): Tales from the Loop.

This is that 80’s RPG that has some strange technology around gadgets, gizmos and robots.

We are continuing thinking of basic and fun introductory adventures.

A cyborg is hiding in the woodshed.

As the kids are preparing for winter, they have to cut wood early mornings in the weekend. When one of them investigates the woodshed for supplies, there’s a cyborg, but he can’t speak. He seems about twenty years old and he shows that there is a missing component in his cyborg gear. He asks them to retrieve it by drawing a map in exchange, he will chop the wood.

The Bona Towers flicker and disappear for a few seconds. The main towers in town disappear and then return, but the residents are different. They look the same, but they have different memories, and are married to different people. They are an alternate version from a parallel Earth. The kids have to make it to the Alignment Dish and reprogram it, setting a homing beacon for their towers to come to them. The problem—something else slipped through the cracks—something between our worlds.

Someone is spreading fake money. It’s not even a good fake, but once someone touches it, all of their data, every single drop, ends up in a repository and people are now being blackmailed. Lives start getting ruined. A promenient leader kills herslef. No adults will try to stop it fearing their secrets will get out. The kids have to figure out how to erase everyone’s digital past.

Rumors spread of strange fires. Small balls of fire are appearing in random places in town. At first it’s a fun phenomenon, people take pictures with them and they flucate in size and color. One night one of the fireballs envelopes and consumes someone in town—it seems the fires are somehow assassins, hunting for certain people in town, but why?

Someone has left an ancient map of the area in a Kid’s school desk. The kids are suspect. Who would leave a map in school’s desk? I mean, that’s just begging for it, but summer vacation is starting and it would be worth it just to see. It leads them (through traps and other problems) to a strange element, a metal, that conforms to their thoughts. They have to decide if they want to share this discovery or keep it to themselves.


I hope you all are staying safe and reading more books than ever have. If you have an independent bookstore around you, think about getting a gift certificate from them. Keep them afloat.

Next week, I’m going to try to write about how to make adventures complicated. If you have any other requests, shoot them my way. And I’d love if you shared this newsletter with someone who needs it.