Tag Archives: rpg design

Killing in the Name of: Dungeons & Dragons and the unbridled passion of slaying the adventuring party – A few lessons learned

For the last three gaming sessions, I’ve been guiding my players as they attempt to uncover and solve the mystery surrounding the small fishing town of Sharholme. People have gone missing. There’s a taciturn lighthouse keeper who no one likes. Weird and exotic fish are turning up in the nets of the fishermen. What did it all mean?

Well I’m not going to give you all the details, where’s the fun in that? No, I’m going to give you an insight into when the adventuring party were fooled and the Dungeon Master commits to running the adventure to its inevitable end, whether that’s the final encounter or much sooner!

‘Some of your characters may die towards the end of this adventure – I’m testing the adventure on you guys.’

These were my first words when describing the adventure idea I had to my players, a week before they started. Perhaps subconsciously I was giving them a clue to play tougher or optimised characters, or perhaps I was trying to defend myself from any fallout that may occur if it all went wrong. Whatever the reason, the very next gaming session we started the adventure.

The beginning was cryptic – they were called north, along  the Sword Coast by a voiceless whisperer who would not allow them to rest unless they were moving. A brief stop at Candlekeep is all they needed. Get there, and perhaps some clues could give them answers.

But they will never know.

Dungeons and Dragons D&D D&D logo Wizards of the Coast WotC RPG Gaming Tabletop gaming
Photo by ahmed adly on Pexels.com

The first adventure was to warm them up. I was going to let them be goddam heroes and throw small hordes of easily defeated monsters at them. I was going to give them hostages to break out in a daring escape, maybe face off with the enemy leader and thwart the even stranger, deadlier nemesis who defines the backdrop of the narrative.

Alas, it was not to be. They believed they had reached the final encounter. They had not. The Prince Under the Reef was not the monster’s commander as they thought. I’m chuckling as I write this because some of them will only realise as they read this… yeah, it gives me an amusing tingle.

The adventuring party had, in fact, only reached the third to last encounter in the natural dungeon setting. They had suffered some terrible wounds and faced some unsightly horrors, many of them surprises. Up to this point they had advanced in a somnambulistic way perhaps thinking that, being the first part of a what was promised to be a long running campaign, they would have it easy. To some degree this was right.

grey skulls piled on ground
Photo by Renato Danyi on Pexels.com

Allow me to explain:

As a DM I had done my research, read endless articles by other DMs & GMs, consulted the oracle that is Reddit and gone back to basics. I even wrote this article, which, if any of them had read it, may have given them a clue into what to expect. I threw low-challenge creatures at them, made the monsters act in a fantastically pulp manner, unthinking but not to be mocked.

Then I hit them with a monster whose challenge rating was a single point higher than their party level. He was a large humanoid, fighting on even terms. He didn’t even rush them, instead he paused and waited to see if they would parley, to see if they could talk to him and see if they could find peace. They outnumbered him but they seemed tired – his minions had carried out their task of killing the adventuring party with a thousand paper cuts. All he had to do now was thrust his trident into the open wounds and finish them off.

What followed was five rounds of bloody mayhem.

The bird-man monk fell first, the priest next, followed by the halfling rogue who couldn’t quite dash into cover, leaving the archer as last-elf-standing. It was a bold gesture to cast away that bow and draw a long sword, after-all, the enemy had thrown his trident at them previously, disarming himself in the process. Both combatants were heavily wounded.

Dungeons and Dragons D&D D&D logo Wizards of the Coast WotC RPG Gaming Tabletop gaming
Taken from media-waterdeep.cursecdn.com 6/2/19

The elf stood little chance.

While the fight continued, his comrades bled to death on the wet subterranean sands of the oceanic grotto. Some would stabilize but be useless to sway the flow of battle. As the sun’s final rays set against the turbulent waves above, my heroic adventuring party slumped to the ground in a final gasp below the waves.

As the DM, I had defined my dungeoneering destiny and finalised the characters fates by not holding back. I had lulled them into a false sense of security and then pounced upon them with a well calculated challenge. Or so I thought.

The daft thing is: I expected them to get to the final encounter and then suffer tremendously through a terrifying race across an underground, underwater grotto ala Indiana Jones’ cinematic dash, avoiding natural traps and pitfalls as they barrelled along heroically.

In a nutshell, the DM did not hold the player’s hands and guide them through. I realised that if there is to be any fun in the game, it has to be risky. I knew this already, but the temptation to guide the players through the story had flattened the experience for me… it had simply lost some of its fun.

As for the players, well the fun reached a happy height above our gaming table. Although they were getting ripped to pieces, bleeding all over the place and possibly facing death (well, actually they did) they all seemed happy to go along with it.

Here’s the kicker for the players though – that challenging encounter left the monster with just twelve hit points. TWELVE! That’s one good or two average hits with a long sword… but the dice rolling was poor, and I was using my specially reserved Dungeon Master Dice. They never let me down.

So there you have it:

Dungeon and Games Masters, don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and kick their arses if it’s all going wrong, you’ll all enjoy it!

And Players; never trust the DM. Ever.

We’re sly a bunch.

J.D. Ferris

Water Colour Brushes in GIMP – 10 Quick & Easy steps to make your photo images look amazing!

So we’ve had a little trouble lately with getting images for our first complete incarnation of Pulp Fantasy. It’s never easy doing something on a budget and entirely your own time. Our searches for willing artists have been hard, and for good reason – few people want to work and create something for free, credits or no credits. We understand that feeling precisely!

We stepped back and looked at what free resources we could muster to helps us create some images we could call our own (in part). This what we came up with…

GIMP

GIMP or the GNU Image Manipulation Program is a free image editor for just about every digital platform. Its so free in fact, you can edit its source code and distribute that new scripting for yourself if you were so inclined. You can download it from here, its a really cool tool. Yes, it may not have everything Photoshop does, but err, Photoshop is not free!

Pixabay

This cool site is used for media all over the internet. It is chock full of drawings, photographs and vector art. Admittedly, some of it is not up to an amazing standard, but then it’s also free. The vast majority of the images found on Pixabay are both free to use commercially and do not require attribution to the author / creator, meaning you can use it freely for personal or enterprise use. You can find Pixabay here, but make sure you check what the terms of use are, just in case!

Brush Sets

In GIMP and similar programs, you can find and download different tool effects. I’m going to focus on the brush tools, which, rather than just drawing one tiny pixel at a time, allow you to create varied shapes and effects with the click of your mouse button. The are thousands of brushes and special effects out there to use, but here’s a link to a few helpful brushes!

You’ll need to download these and save them in the right folder. To save us all time, there’s a handy little walk through here

Once you’re setup, we’re good to go!

This isn’t a complicated process but it’s worth getting it right. There’s room to play with various levels and tones, so take your time to play and learn what works best for you.

Step Zero

Search to find an image from Pixabay or one of your own and save it in a handy space. I tend to save images to my desktop for ease, I guess this is what its for? Later I’ll save it to a proper directory. Later, sure…

Step One

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Start by opening your image in GIMP using the File > Open options. It should appear just like the image above.

Step Two

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I’m going to work on black and white images, since my final document I want to have a brooding and dark feeling to it, not much room for colour. Artistic choices, eh? You can desaturate the image using Colour > Desaturate. There’s a choice of 3 levels, so play about and see which works best for you. It’s just a choice, and there’s not a huge amount of variety in it.

Step Three

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I don’t want all of the detail to show in the images, as I like a slight abstract feel. So I use the Posterize option found using the Colours > Posterize. Again, you can fiddle for different effects.

You can also use the Threshold tool, following Colours > Threshold for more control. Posterize is quicker, but with Threshold you get more choice with the handy slider bar. Play around, see what you like!

Step Four

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So, now we’re going to work with some Layers. Layers are literally just that, extra layers over or under your image which we use to create effects. Some of them can be invisible, others can be bold. Any image manipulation will involve layers, they’re essential parts to the GIMP and Photoshop process.

You can access a new layer following Layers > New Layer, or there’s a handy little button on the bottom left of the Layer Window.

You want to create a new layer that is Transparent. Then click on the paint pot symbol, which is the Filler tool. You can find it by following Tools > Paint Tools > Bucket Fill.

With the new layer highlighted, fill it with white (you can choose any colour but white works best here).

Now make sure that this new layer is below your original image. You can click and drag it down. If you’ve done this right, you can’t see the new layer, as your original image is now ‘over the top’ of the new layer.

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Step Five

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So click on your original layer image and then right click on it. This will bring up a new menu. We’re going to add a mask layer to the image. Select ‘Add Layer Mask…’ and choose ‘Black (Full Transparency)’ like the image below.

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Your image should now vanish behind a white layer. Fear not, this is meant to happen! Now the fun bit begins!

Step Eight

Select the paint brush tool from the quick menu on the right or by following Tools > Paint Tools > Paintbrush. Increase the size of the brush to something that matches your image size, for me that was a size of over 600.

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Now select the type of brush you want to use from the Brushes window (bottom left of the image above). If you’ve installed your brushes properly they should appear here. If they don’t, hit the refresh button or go over the tutorial earlier to check for errors.

When you’ve selected your brush size and shape, go ahead and click some brush marks on the blank screen. You should see the image start to appear underneath the mask.

The more times you click on the same portion of the image, the darker and more apparent it will appear.

The key to this part is really just seeing what works for you. Mix and match the different brush shapes. If you mess up, you can use the Undo shortcut Ctrl + Z which will take you back one step at a time.

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Step Nine

Keep going until you’re happy with the result. Play around with the image and don’t rush the process. If you’re really not happy, just open the image again and start from fresh.

Finishing Up

Some images work better than others, it really depends on what effect you’re after. Once you’re happy with the final image, you should probably save it as a new file under the File > Save As, options.

Then you just need to Export the new image using File > Export. Give it a new flashy name and select the extension type. Ideally you’re after .jpeg or .png if you’re using the file in word documents or for websites (the files are pretty small but keep a good level of detail).

armour gear

We’ve used this process to create some images for our Fantasy Pulp tabletop RPG and the fantasy setting ‘The Godless Realm’ which you can learn about here:

The Godless Realm – Update and Changes Made

We’re also on Discord, and here’s the link to join us there!

That’s it for now!

J.D. Ferris

Is Playing DnD Online Better Than In Real Life?

A new game of Dungeons and Dragons is always a nerve-wracking event as a Dungeon Master. There is so much to do, especially if you want to write your own adventure. Then you have to consider your players, you never really know what they are going to do, or if the content you’ve written will be “enough”.

Well last night I embarked upon a new campaign, written in about a week, using a digital tabletop which I’d never used before (I also haven’t ran many campaigns online), with an entire party of players I didn’t know. I don’t think it’s possible to present a DM with more of a psychological or physical challenge.

And frankly it was one of the best sessions I’d ever had.

This article is an attempt to get more people into DnD online. As a DM, you invest so much time and effort that it can be hard to step out of your comfort zone, but this session reminded me why that’s important.

We used Roll20: the free virtual tabletop which provides an absolute ton of functionality and really brings you as close as you can possibly come to being around a table. The dice roller even lets you roll big 3D dice!

https://roll20.net

As the DM, I found that every little need I had was met: I could set up encounter tokens, NPCs, new maps, handouts and even track initiative on the tabletop. This allowed me to involve the players in every part of my preparation. They could see the gears in motion so the session never really stalled or lost pace when I was setting up the next encounter.

For tracking characters we used DnD Beyond. An amazing official website by Wizards Of The Coast, which basically gives you every tool and rule to set up a campaign and actually play it. The site requires an entire article of its own, but suffice it to say that as a DMs and character’s toolbox, this site has it all.

https://www.dndbeyond.com

Then lastly we come to my players. I was so nervous about these guys, I’d never met any of them before, we just set up the game on a discord server I frequent before christmas then last night, there we were, confronted by a whole slew of new experiences.

As a DM, you always hope that your players are going to “get” your game, and certainly I was worried that my game style wasn’t necessarily going to be compatible with how they wanted to play. My fears turned out to be completely unfounded, as they really got their teeth into my session in a way that made the effort totally worth it!

This proves to me, that playing DnD online, with strangers is not such a daunting task as it used to be. The free tools are so good these days that you hardly feel divorced from the table. It certainly opened my eyes and I hope you give it a chance too! Especially if you can’t give up the time and effort it takes to get together with people on a particular day. As a 29 year old who works odd hours, that’s become of great concern to me in recent years, so last night’s session was almost a weight off my mind:
As long as you have a computer, you can play DnD.

Until next time,

Fozzie.

“Talking Pulp” – A whole new world for Pulp RPG

This week we got together and have somehow managed to record the next in our series of development logs for Pulp RPG. We talk about what it means to run a game of Pulp and why we think this tabletop RPG system will really bring something fresh to your gaming table.

We’re recording these sessions because we really want you to feel involved in the development of our game, as is reflected in the involved style of the rules where the GM and players justify their actions and go back and forth to realise the outcome. We give an example of this later on in the podcast, showcasing our penchant for on the fly roleplay.

So there it is, download and enjoy!

Download Link

If you do want to be involved, join the discord community:

https://discord.gg/PGj8yYS

Or, read up on the last few exciting weeks of development:

The Future Of Pulp RPG And You.

The devs play the first ever session of CC’s new game: Pulp RPG

Competitive Actions & combat, how we see it rolling out for CC’s Pulp RPG

So, you’re rolling dice pools to hack your way through door locking systems or swinging through trees on ropes to escape cannibalistic war-bands. You come to a stop, realising that you’re surrounded on four sides and it’s time for you and your friends to face the enemy in an extreme gun fight…

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How does it work?

Pulp RPG is about normal people in extraordinary situations, fighting to survive or rid the world of evil! But there’s danger in the hills and the forests are alive with terrors. You’ll hope you want to go first!

Today we’re going to look at combat, focusing on competitive rolling and the initiative sequence.

Initiative works differently from what most players may be used to; the players party and the games master each select a character from their sides of the combat. That character / non-player will then choose which attribute they want to base their initiative roll on. This is important because the character that wins the initiative roll will only be able to commit to a skill of that attribute.

We think it works because seizing the initiative is not always about how fast a person can move, like in some dexterity / celerity initiative systems. It could be as simple as pulling a trigger, outwitting an opponent or just being damn lucky. Since all starting characters will have a single attribute at 4 dice, it means that no one will be selected repeatedly for their high dice pool – it will come down to what action they wish to take.

When the winner of initiative is determined, the winning player goes first. After this point, the initiative is handed back and forth between each side of the combat until the last character or non-player has taken their turn.

It’s a little less natural but it allows for a little bit of planning without spending precious minutes deciding what combo of abilities the party wants to use, and since the roll is performed each round, it essentially stops initiative being one sided.

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How do we roll competitively?

It’s as simple of rolling your dice pool and counting the successes compared to that of your opponent. Using your physical attribute with your close combat skills? Simply declare your action, roll your dice pool and compare the results to that of the opponent’s dice pool. If the result is an equal number of successes then the combat is a stalemate, if you beat their number of successes you score the hit, maybe with added bonuses.

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OK, lets bloody some noses!

Damage will vary depending on what your weapon of choice is. Currently every weapon in the game will come as a standard unit with applied tags. Tags can add to the damage of the weapon depending on the target, add bonuses to abilities and provide role-play opportunities. A great example is the whip, in the hands of our protagonist, Tom Raider Jones:

Whip – Hand Weapon (tags: prehensile, slashing).

Not great against a single Nazi zombie:

Creature – Humanoid (tags: zombie, military training, well equipped, Will of the Fuhrer, Inexorable.)

That about sums up our little sojourn into the combat of Pulp RPG, tomorrow we’ll be looking at a couple of things from the games master point of view, looking at the categories and tags of players and monsters, with a little more depth to the weapon tags and damage in Pulp RPG.

J.D Ferris