Posts Tagged ‘roll20’

I’m going to write a post that is self-indulgent. I guess that’s true about every post on this blog in one way or another, but this blog post is going to be a story in which I am the central character, which is a little unusual for this site. Usually it’s some crazy monster, magic item, piece of advice, or game mechanic that takes center stage. If you hadn’t guessed from the title, this post will tell you how I became a somewhat, kinda, sorta, maybe, known creator in the world of tabletop roleplaying games.

I’m writing this post because several people have asked me how I “made it” in the industry. To be honest, I’m not sure I have “made it” at least by the modern definition. I’ve got a full-time gig outside the industry as a TV commercial writer/producer (which I really love). That being said, I do get paid to work on some pretty great projects in the industry and I am doing more in this space than I dared to dream, so in some ways I guess I have “made it” in this industry. At least made it further than I expected.

Still I thought sharing my story might be helpful for anyone out there interested in a freelance RPG design career, but I will say that my path is unique and involves a lot of luck, so I’m not sure it can be replicated. I was inspired to share thanks in part to the requests I got, but also by a recent episode of the Down with D&D podcast in which designers and podcasters Shawn Merwin and Chris Sniezak shared their own stories. Definitely check out the episode because they have great stories and a lot of amazing advice.

The Tome Show

In Fall of 2013 I was listening to a lot of podcasts and playing tons of D&D with my friends on Roll20. The D&D Next playtest was in full swing and I devoured every piece of D&D news I could find. One of my favorite programs was the News Desk on The Tome Show, but it only came out once a month. I searched for other D&D news podcasts, but most were actual plays, none with D&D news. I remember telling my then-girlfriend, now-wife, Bonnie, that I wanted to listen to a weekly show that covered the latest D&D news in-depth. I told her there was no show out there like it (that I knew of) and Bonnie said, “Why don’t you make it?”

What did I have to lose by giving it a shot? I already knew how to edit audio… but I didn’t know how to book guests, build an audience, or even submit a podcast feed to iTunes. At the time I was listening to backlogs of the now-defunct D&D advice podcast Critical Hits hosted by Mike Shea of Sly Flourish. At the end of each podcast he gave our his contact information, including email, and encouraged folks with questions to reach out. I emailed Mike, thanking him for his awesome contributions to the community and asked for advice on starting a podcast. I soon realized how gracious he truly was. The man gave me 600 words of free advice and told me if I wanted more I should contact Jeff Greiner, the creator and owner of the aforementioned Tome Show podcast.

Already a subscriber to Jeff’s show, I eagerly went to him for advice next. Jeff asked me to pitch him my idea and without even knowing it was coming he offered me a chance to do my show on the Tome Show’s feed, immediately hitting a large audience of subscribers! I admit, this is some pure, amazing luck. Thus my first public RPG-related creation was born: The Round Table podcast. Special thanks to Rudy Basso, Alex Basso, Greg Blair, and Vegas Lancaster for making those first several episodes with me and encouraging me to keep making the show in those first weeks. Extra special thanks to Sam Dillon for actually getting all those episodes on the air. After several months of consistent output, Jeff told me (after I asked a few times) that he trusted me enough to revive the Gamer to Gamer franchise on the network and I started interviewing professionals in the industry. (Shoutout to my first interviewee on that show, Wolfgang Baur!)

Takeaways:

  • Listen to your partner.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for advice.
  • Be gracious and grateful. People remember how you treat them. Also everyone deserves to be treated like a human.
  • Seize opportunities when luck offers them.
  • Be consistent with you work and don’t be afraid to ask for more after you’ve proven yourself.

The Blog

I was three episodes into The Round Table and seeing thousands of people listening to the show when I decided I should probably use the podcast as a platform to promote something I always wanted to do, but had been too lazy to start – a blog about homebrew design. I had a lot of time on my hands, since Bonnie was on a two-week business trip, so rather than play video games every night (which was my normal MO when she was gone before the blog and podcast), I used the time to create this site. I made a commitment to write two articles a week. To keep myself accountable, I started shouting the site out on the podcast, knowing that I would need to keep it stocked with content if people were going to show up.

The blog’s audience growth was slow, but steady. I started with less than 10 views a day, but as I kept updating it consistently and shouting out new posts to various social media groups and message boards, the views crept up. Now on days when I don’t post something new, I get about 500 hits in a day, but it took me three years to get here.

Takeaways:

  • Sometimes you need to put video games and Netflix aside to work on rewarding, fun, creative projects.
  • The best way to build and audience is put out consistent, well-crafted content that you enjoy making.
  • Hold yourself accountable for getting your own projects done. No one else will.

The Work

So how did I finally get paid for some game design? Well my first jobs came from EN5ider and Johnn Four‘s Roleplaying Tips and they came about quite differently.

I had a year of blogging and podcasting under my belt when I saw EN5ider was just starting up. I saw a post on EN World calling for article submissions, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I had been rejected before by Dungeon and Dragon magazines and by the Adventurers League, but I didn’t let that discourage me. Editor James Haeck accepted of my pitch! Give Chase was born… after careful outlining, planning, proof-reading and revising, and revising again once I got notes from James. I made sure to hit each deadline and to listen to the editor’s feedback, incorporating it into the article, rather than rejecting what was said. James and I worked well together and I’ve written a few more articles for EN5ider since then.

Roleplaying Tips came about in a much different way. World Builder Blog was a regular contributor to the monthly RPG Blog Carnival and through that Johnn noticed my work, he reached out to me and asked if I would write an article for his newsletter that gave worldbuilding lessons. I’d be paid for the work and I could repost it here on the blog. That’s a great deal, so of course I said yes. Johnn and I have worked together on a few projects since, including a massive adventure that should be coming soon!

It was about another year before I got to do work for more people. In that time the DMs Guild launched. I already had a heaping helping of fifth edition content on this blog, so I put some of that into PDFs (without having ever done layout). The reputation I had built for myself on the blog and podcast helped get my products some buzz and a few became best-sellers. That’s when things really started to pick up.

The Adventurers League asked me to write an adventure for them and Shawn Merwin asked me to write another for Baldman Games. Roll20’s owners (who I met after applying for their game master job, which I did not get but did give me a chance to make connections with these very cool people) asked me to create their introductory fifth edition adventure, The Master’s Vault. Since then I’ve worked on a few other projects, but those are going to stay secret for now. Many of them are people I have met at conventions.

You know the rest of the tale. I’ve continued to create and since left the Tome Show to create my own podcast network with Rudy Basso. What’s in store for the future? Only time shall tell!

Takeaways:

  • Keep submitting to open calls. Rejection happens! That’s ok. Don’t take it personally and keep pitching.
  • Be an active part of the community.
  • Write, revise, proofread, and hit your deadlines. People will want to work with you again.
  • Create, create, create for yourself before someone asks you to do it for them. You’ll learn your craft and build a library of content to show off or even sell.
  • Go to conventions. Meet your heroes, ask them for advice. This industry is smaller than you think and people are super approachable and awesome.

Luck and Hard Work

I clearly owe a lot of people many thanks. I could not have made it to even where I am today without them. My timing worked out and I was very lucky, but I also created some of my own luck by working hard. Hopefully this story helps some of you out there!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down at Gen Con with Rudy BassoLiz TheisDan DillonJeff Greiner, and Shawn Merwin to discuss the Faithful Unearthed Arcana article and the announcement that Roll20 has an official Dungeons & Dragons license. This podcast was recorded on August 5, 2016.


Please rate and review The Tome Show on iTunes. It helps us a bunch.

Noble Knight pick of the episode: Broncosaurus Rex



If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I’ve been hard at work since Spring with some awesome semi-secret projects! Now a fifth edition D&D adventure I wrote is available and it’s completely free!

What is it?

The Master’s Vault is a fifth edition adventure for 1st-level characters from Roll20, my favorite virtual table. It is designed to introduce new players to D&D and Roll20. If you’re never played a tabletop RPG or never used a virtual table or both, this is the adventure for you. A $0 price tag on the adventure and the fact that you can use Roll20 for free means this product is meant to bring new players into the hobby. Share it with your soon-to-be gamer friends!

If you’re a fifth edition vet who plays every game on Roll20, you’ll still get a lot out of the adventure so give it a shot! I mean, c’mon! It’s free!

Find out how to grab the adventure.

Here’s a brief description of the adventure’s story:

For more than a century Elaria Feywing, known to many as The Master, mentored young adventurers in combat, exploration, and magic. Little is known about the elf woman’s past and her days as a wandering wizard, but her status as a teacher is legendary.

And here’s a video of Richard Zayas, Rudy Basso, Nadja Otikor, James D’Amato, and Greg Bilsland playing through the adventure during Roll20CON:

Who worked on it?

I designed the adventure but so many others have their fingerprints on this thing. There’s art and maps from Russ Hapke and Gabriel Pickard. There’s tokens from Phillip Wright. There’s a special puzzle designed by Stephen Shomo. Liz Courts did the layout. Roll20 co-founders Nolan T. Jones and Riley Dutton produced the dang thing. It is a beautiful, lovely product of which we should all be proud.

I also need to give an extra special shoutout to Andrew Kane, who went through the manuscript and fixed all my typos and to Richard Zayas for encouraging me to take this project on.

So get out there and adventure.

And if you want a preview of some of my other upcoming projects… check here, here, and here.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Note: This article first appeared in the Roleplaying Tips Newsletter.

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At the end of a long campaign, I want my players and I to feel totally satisfied. I mean the sort of satisfaction one gets when a story wraps up with no question unanswered. The kind of story that ends with every major character’s arc finished and accounted for.

This is a challenge when there’s only a single person telling a story – just think of all the novels that have left you hanging in one way or another over the years. But when a group of friends gets into collaborative tale-spinning one chapter at a time with long breaks between, it is almost impossible to wrap up everything with a tidy bow.

All that said, it can be done. With a little prep work at the start of your campaign, and by jotting down just a few notes each session, you can stay organized and tie up all your plot threads. As the finale approaches, you’ll weave those threads into a seamless story that will have your players feeling like they just finished watching all of Breaking Bad.

All you need to do is create two simple documents – a campaign outline and a list of plot threads.

Outline Your Campaign

Before your campaign begins, create a loose outline of your story. This outline can take you from the campaign’s first session to its final, or it could simply be the first story arc or adventure.

Map out where you think the characters will be headed, any major NPCs or villains they might encounter, and the quests they are trying to complete.

You know your gaming group best, so plan in as much detail and as far into your campaign as you feel comfortable while outlining.

If your group plays the kind of game in which the game master dictates a majority of the story, feel free to outline in detail if time allows.

If your players are the kind who surprise you and drive every session off the rails, just keep your outline to the big bullet points of your story and the names of important people. I imagine most groups fall somewhere in the middle.

Here’s an example of what an outline looks like at this stage.

  1. The young dragon Melicharo the White has kidnapped Duke Wellington and ransomed him
    1. Duchess Fiona, Wellington’s wife, is looking for adventurers to save him
      1. Wellington was targeted by Melicharo because the duchess has several magic items the dragon wants
      2. Fiona will give one of her magic items as a reward to the adventurers who save Wellington
    2. The adventurers will go into Melicharo’s lair to save Wellington
      1. The lair is a floating glacier that does not melt
      2. Melicharo is allied with a tribe of kobolds who worship him as a god
  2. Duchess Fiona contracts the adventurers to recover more items for her collection
    1. Duchess Fiona is a member of The Shields, a small secret society that keeps dangerous relics out of the hands of evildoers.
    2. Duchess Fiona warns the adventurers that The Society of Genius, an organization of wizards bent on world domination, might be trying to get the same magic items they’re seeking
    3. The party retrieves several items for the duchess and sometimes has run-ins with the Society of Genius
  3. As part of a massive coordinated attack against The Shields, The Society of Genius kills Duchess Fiona and steals the items the adventurers have gathered for her
  4. The adventurers must seek help from the last remaining members of The Shields who have gone into hiding
  5. The adventurers must take on The Society of Genius

In this case, the further I delved into the outline the less detailed it got. The details and the connective tissue of the campaign can be worked out later as you will see below. The characters’ first adventure is most detailed since I need to be ready to roll for the first session.

If you have a specific idea you don’t want to forget (e.g. Duke Wellington is secretly a member of The Society of Genius), add that in your outline too.

If you’re running a sandbox style adventure, your outline will look a little different. Each Roman numeral might be a different event, adventure site, or influential NPC in the area. It could just be a list of those things in bullet points rather than a formal outline format.

How your outline looks is up to you, as long as you know what it means.

Add PC Backgrounds

If you’re running a longer campaign with a lot of plot threads, odds are your players might create some sort of backstory for their characters. It might be built into the system you’re playing, it could be something you ask the players to write, or you could send them a questionnaire with prompts.

Many players use this as an opportunity to introduce new plot threads into your game. A backstory thread could be a task the PC is trying to complete, such as hunting down a sibling’s murderer or garner enough money to bail a loved one out of jail. Likewise, a character could be running from something in a backstory like a cult or jilted lover.

After you get these backstories it’s time to begin a new document: a list of plot threads. This one is easy to create. Just list all the open plot threads you have at the start of a campaign.

Here’s what the plot thread document for my sample campaign might look like after receiving the PC backstories:

  • Duke Wellington has been captured and ransomed by the dragon Melicharo
  • Duchess Fiona works for The Shields and will ask adventurers who impress her to recover relics
  • The Society of Genius is seeking the same items as The Shields
  • Thog (half-orc barbarian) is searching for the necromancer who killed his brother
  • Rhea (human wizard) needs enough gold for a diamond to raise her old mentor from the dead so she can learn the location of his old spellbook
  • Tippy Shortstockings (halfling rogue) is running from her old thieves’ guild after she stole the thief queen’s crown
  • Grimbeard McShandy (dwarf cleric) lost track of his husband years ago after he disappeared mysteriously in the night

After I gather these threads I incorporate some or all of them into my outline. As the threads are worked in, I cross them off. The first three are already crossed-off, since they are included in the original outline. If I can’t find a place for a new thread in the outline, I let it remain uncrossed. I’m going to revisit the list after each session to see what’s changed (more on that later).

See how the outline looks now that I’ve added some of the backstory plot threads? Note I’ve added a side quests section to the outline now, as not every thread applies to the overarching plot of the campaign. I can work those side quests in as I see fit.

For a sandbox campaign, there really is no such thing as a side quest, so the outline would be different as each quest would be its own category with a Roman numeral.

  1. The young dragon Melicharo the White has kidnapped Duke Wellington and ransomed her
    1. Duchess Fiona, Wellington’s wife, is looking for adventurers to save him
      1. Wellington was targeted by Melicharo because the duchess has several magic items the dragon wants
      2. Fiona will give one of her magic items as a reward to the adventurers who save Wellington
    2. The adventurers will go into Melicharo’s lair to save Wellington
      1. The lair is a floating glacier that does not melt
      2. Melicharo is allied with a tribe of kobolds who worship him as a god
      3. Melicharo has a large diamond in his hoard that could be used by Rhea to bring her old mentor back to life
  2. Duchess Fiona contracts the adventurers to recover more items for her collection
    1. Duchess Fiona is a member of The Shields, a small secret society that keeps dangerous relics out of the hands of evildoers
    2. Duchess Fiona warns the adventurers that The Society of Genius, an organization of wizards bent on world domination, might be trying to get the same magic items they’re seeking
    3. The party retrieves several items for the duchess and sometimes has run-ins with the Society of Genius
    4. During the course of these adventures, Tippy’s old thieves’ guild strikes while the characters are away and steals one of the recovered magic items
      1. The guild threatens to sell the item to The Society of Genius unless the thief queen’s crown is returned
      2. The party must find the thieves’ guild and decide how to deal with them
  3. As part of a massive coordinated attack against The Shields, The Society of Genius kills Duchess Fiona and steals the items the adventurers have gathered for her
  4. The adventurers must seek help from the last remaining members of The Shields who have gone into hiding
  5. The adventurers must take on The Society of Genius
  6. Side Quests
    1. At night Grimbeard McShandy keeps receiving prophetic dreams of his missing husband screaming in pain

As you can see, there’s still room for more detail and side quests. Thog’s thread has yet to be incorporated into the outline. After this it’s a quick cross-off of the Rhea, Tippy, and Grimbeard bullet points on the thread list. Thog’s bullet point remains uncrossed as it has yet to be worked into the plot.

It helps if you keep both these documents in some sort of digital form, preferably in a cloud-based storage system like Google Drive. If your campaign takes years and you change devices or move, it helps these all-important campaign tracking documents remain intact.

Once you’ve worked all the backstory threads you want into your outline, you’re ready to start playing. When the campaign gets underway, a few notes each session will go a long way.

Take Notes

Whether it’s during the session or right after, take note of any new threads that have opened up during your game. If you want to bring back the goblin who managed to run away as a magically enhanced megavillain seeking revenge on the party for the death of her friends, you should write that down before you forget. A quick note will do, just something to jog your memory.

Sometimes you’ll get an idea for a new plot thread totally outside the realm of gaming. You might be grabbing a cup of coffee in the break room, watching a child’s soccer game, or playing a video game and think, “I should bring that into my game.” Take note of these ideas too. Gone are the days of needing to have a piece of paper and something to write with in order to remember a great idea. If you’ve got a phone, you’ve got a note-taking application.

When you sit down to plan your next session, take a minute and add your new ideas into the open plot thread document. Our updated sample looks like this after the first session.

  • Duke Wellington has been captured and ransomed by the dragon Melicharo.
  • Duchess Fiona works for The Shields and will ask adventurers who impress her to recover relics.
  • The Society of Genius is seeking the same items as The Shields.
  • Thog (half-orc barbarian) is searching for the necromancer who killed his brother.
  • Rhea (human wizard) needs enough gold for a diamond to raise her old mentor from the dead so she can learn the location of his old spellbook.
  • Tippy Shortstockings (halfling rogue) is running from her old thieves’ guild after she stole the thief queen’s crown.
  • Grimbeard McShandy (dwarf cleric) lost track of his husband years ago after he disappeared mysteriously in the night.
  • The kobold shaman Skull-Skull in Melicharo's lair escaped after watching his friends die at the hands of the adventurers and promised revenge.
  • In Grimbeard McShandy's dreams, his husband is being tortured by an otherworldly creature called a feldyra, a monster that slowly steals the life force of others and lives in a literal nightmare realm.
  • Rhea has the diamond to bring back her mentor.
  • Tippy is trying to seduce Duke Wellington and he seems into it...
  • Duke Wellington is tired of playing second fiddle to his wife and is secretly a member of The Society of Genius.
  • Melicharo's mother, Brindratharix, is out there and coming for the adventurers. When she learns The Society of Genius is searching for them, she joins forces.

After that, take a few minutes and update your outline just like you did with the character backstories. Check the old uncrossed threads too. You might be able to incorporate those. Just like last time, it’s fine to leave off any threads you can’t work into the outline. Leave them uncrossed. Here’s our sample with the new information.

  1. The young dragon Melicharo the White has kidnapped Duke Wellington and ransomed her
    1. Duchess Fiona, Wellington’s wife, is looking for adventurers to save him
      1. Wellington was targeted by Melicharo because the duchess has several magic items the dragon wants
      2. Fiona will give one of her magic items as a reward to the adventurers who save Wellington
    2. The adventurers will go into Melicharo’s lair to save Wellington
      1. The lair is a floating glacier which does not melt
      2. Melicharo is allied with a tribe of kobolds who worship him as a god
      3. Melicharo has a large diamond in his hoard which could be used by Rhea to bring her old mentor back to life
  2. Duchess Fiona contracts the adventurers to recover more items for her collection
    1. Duchess Fiona is a member of The Shields, a small secret society that keeps dangerous relics out of the hands of evildoers
    2. Duchess Fiona warns the adventurers that The Society of Genius, an organization of wizards bent on world domination, might be trying to get the same magic items they’re seeking
    3. The party retrieves several items for the duchess and sometimes has run-ins with the Society of Genius
    4. During the course of these adventures, Tippy’s old thieves’ guild strikes while the characters are away and steals one of the recovered magic items
      1. The guild threatens to sell the item to The Society of Genius unless the thief queen’s crown is returned
      2. The party must find the thieve’s guild and decide how to deal with them
  3. As part of a massive coordinated attack against The Shields, The Society of Genius kills Duchess Fiona and steals the items the adventurers have gathered for her
    1. Duke Wellington is gone. As a secret member of The Society of Genius, he got the inside information from his wife and helped plan the attacks.
  4. The adventurers must seek help from the last remaining members of The Shields who have gone into hiding
  5. The adventurers must take out the allies of The Society of Genius to weaken them
    1. Brindratharix is supporting them and in her son's old lair
    2. Tippy's old thieves' guild may align themselves with The Society of Genius after interacting with them
  6. The adventurers must take on The Society of Genius
    1. At some point Thog will face his brother's killer
  7. Side Quests
    1. At night Grimbeard McShandy keeps receiving prophetic dreams of his missing husband screaming in pain
      1. Grimbeard McShandy must find a way to enter the nightmare realm to save his husband from a feldyra
      2. If he does not rescue his husband in 90 days, his husband will die from the feldyra's constant feeding
    2. Rhea brings her mentor back from death
      1. His old spellbook was rigged to teleport into a secret underground prison for vampires in the event of his death
        1. The prison used to be run by lycanthropes friendly to the mentor, but since his death the vampires broke free and control the place
        2. The head vampire found the spellbook and is currently using it to keep his leadership position
      2. The mentor is familiar with the necromancer who killed Thog's brother
        1. Necromancer is a member of The Society of Genius
        2. Was a former student of the mentor
    3. Skull-Skull will return with his Ettin friend to stomp the party

Once you start playing, a single plot thread can spawn a lot of ideas. Some are side quests and others take place further down the road. But now you’ve got an idea of how the story can be connected and how to work it into your game. You won’t leave anything hanging unless you want to.

Tie Up Threads As You Go

Weave threads together over the course of the story. Do not save every thread for the final session. In the early days of running games, I kept all threads, major and minor, open until the very end of a campaign. It made for an almost comical finale.

Until the last session, every recurring villain got away, the characters never fully confronted their shady pasts, every missing person important to the party stayed missing… you get the idea. It felt like the final episode of a television series canceled mid-season. There was a hasty wrap-up.

If you close threads along the way throughout the campaign, you’ll be surprised at how much richer your story becomes.

Tying up many threads earlier will create new ones for you. As you can see in the example above, the party’s wizard raises her mentor and it leads to new revelations and quests. This gives the story extra layers of plot and creates a deeper tale that’s more satisfying when all is done.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you take a few notes each session and a few minutes to update your outline between games, you’re going to accomplish telling a spectacular, complete story.

End the Campaign

When it comes time to start bringing your story to a conclusion, you’ll need to start tying up plot threads. I know my game master brain can’t stop introducing new ideas, which is totally fine, but at some point you need make sure you’re closing down more plot threads then you’re adding to have everything wrapped up by the story’s conclusion.

It’s cliche, but true – all good things must come to an end. Some campaigns continue on until the gaming group breaks up and the story just fizzles out, but to get the most out of this method, you need to bring it home. If you outline at the start, take notes, update, and tie up threads throughout, your gaming group will want the campaign to end. The satisfaction of completing an epic story together will propel you into your next adventure together.

Roll20CON Wrap-Up!

I also just wanted to thank everyone who made the Roll20CON livestream awesome. Your support, views, and encouragement mean more than you know!

You can checkout both our games in the links below. The first Dungeons and Dragons game with Rudy Basso, Nadja Otikor, James D’Amato, Richard Zayas, and Greg Bilsland starts in the first video around the 03:09:10 mark. The second game with Anna Prosser Robinson, Holly Conrad, Jared Knabenbaur, and Chris Perkins starts in the first video around the 12:20:25 mark and continues into the second.

https://player.twitch.tv/?video=v70242239

https://player.twitch.tv/?video=v70365584

Thanks to everyone involved. All players were amazing. Roll20 folks were amazing. The audience and community were amazing. The other games and panels were amazing. I was amazed.

Two announcements to come out of this…

  1. Roll20 will be putting out a FREE starter adventure designed by yours truly with maps from Russ Hapke and Gabriel Pickard, puzzle tiles from Stephen Shomo, and tokens from Phillip Wright. If you’ve never played on Roll20 or if you’ve never played fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons or if both of those statements apply to you, this is the adventure that will teach you how. If you’re an expert with both it’s still a fun time. We played through the adventure in the first game I DMed.
  2. During the second game we played Merric Blackman‘s adventure Death in the Cornfields (with a little Tarokka Expansion mixed in). It is an awesome mystery that can be played in one session. Do it.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I told you my last blog post was a preview for my upcoming DMs Guild product, well now it’s here! Tarokka Expansion gives you a bunch of new options for the tarokka deck you bought for Curse of Strahd. With this product you can…

  • Use the tarokka deck as a randomizer instead of dice on any random table (including encounter and treasure tables).
  • Use the tarokka deck and the corresponding Tarokka Deck Critical Hit Effects table whenever a creature scores a critical hit to make those 20s pack a little more punch.
  • Use the tarokka deck and the corresponding Tarokka Deck Critical Failure Effects table whenever a creature scores a critical failure to make those 1s misdirected awesomes instead of automatic misses.
  • Introduce a new NPC villain into Curse of Strahd or any gothic horror game. The Collector uses the tarokka deck to summon creatures, cast spells, and curse adventurers who cross her path.

TarokkaExpansion20160601_Cover

This product will be making an appearance during my 2PM Pacific time game during Roll20CON. As of this posting – Roll20CON is tomorrow! Check out the schedule below! You’ll notice I’m running two fifth edition games during the 24-hour live stream with some of the biggest names in Dungeons and Dragons including…

schedule4

If you haven’t heard about Roll20CON yet, the info is below!

The free, online-only celebration of the Roll20 Community will take place on June 3rd, 2016 for just 24 hours – but you can start preparing, listing, and joining games now! From 12AM – 11:59PM Pacific time, there will be games galore played on my favorite virtual table. You’ll want to join in the action and get to try some of the Plus and Pro subscription features for free. That’s right. Dynamic Lighting (and tons of other awesome features) will be free during Roll20CON.

During the convention, some of your favorite streamers, publishers, podcasters, and I will be live onTwitch helping raise money for Cybersmile, the international non-profit supporting victims of cyberbullying.

Needless to say I am thrilled about this and nervous. I’d love your support and love on game day. So if you’re around at 5AM or 2PM Pacific time on June 3, 2016, check out Twitch and watch us play D&D!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

My Tarokka deck needs something to do.

It’s not that I don’t love the purchase. It’s a wonderful item with a lot of great art. Worth every penny. But I feel like I can make it worth more.

As I mentioned in my one-shot Strahd post, I’m not currently playing Curse of Strahd. Even if I were, I’d want to make expanded use of the Tarokka deck. It’s great for readings, but wouldn’t it be awesome if it could be used for random encounters, treasure tables, and more? It totally can.

Tarokkas and Random Tables

Whether you’re playing Curse of Strahd or not, you can draw cards from your Tarokka deck instead of rolling dice on a random table for encounters, treasure, and more. I’ve made it super easy for you and myself by writing out the numbers on a table below.

I’m aware that other than the d6 column, these cards don’t perfectly correspond to the same probability as a throw of an actual die. If this were a saving throw, ability check, attack or damage roll, I wouldn’t allow it. For a DM’s random table this is close enough. It’s as good as it’s going to get without adding extra cards to the deck!

Making players draw these cards themselves for treasure and encounters is especially fun. It adds a moment of drama at the table as you whip out the cards and ask them to draw. Psychologically it also shifts the onus of the result on the player as the others watch, hoping for a good result.

Check out the table below, or grab it in the link below as a PDF or from the Free Game Resources section of this site.

Tarokka Deck as Dice

Tarokka Deck as DiceA Little Preview

This post is actually a little preview of an upcoming DMs Guild product I’m working on. It’s a recurring encounter for Curse of Strahd that involves a magic Tarokka deck. To learn more about this side trek, you’ll have to wait for next week and watch my game with Chris Perkins during…

Roll20CON

If you haven’t heard about Roll20CON yet, the info is below!

The free, online-only celebration of the Roll20 Community will take place on June 3rd, 2016 for just 24 hours – but you can start preparing, listing, and joining games now! From 12AM – 11:59PM Pacific time, there will be games galore played on my favorite virtual table. You’ll want to join in the action and get to try some of the Plus and Pro subscription features for free. That’s right. Dynamic Lighting (and tons of other awesome features) will be free during Roll20CON.

During the convention, some of your favorite streamers, publishers, podcasters, and I will be live on Twitch helping raise money for Cybersmile, the international non-profit supporting victims of cyberbullying.

If you haven’t seen the schedule for Roll20CON check it out below. You’ll notice I’m running two games during the 24-hour live stream with some of the biggest names in Dungeons and Dragons including my good friend Rudy Basso of the Tome Show’s D&D V&G podcast and Have Spellbook, Will Travel, Nadja Otikor of Misscliks D&D Prophecy, Greg Bilsland of Wizards of the Coast and member of the Dungeons and Dragons team, and, oh yeah, Chris Freakin’ Perkins, a Wizards of the Coast D&D employee who needs no introduction.

Needless to say I am thrilled about this and nervous. I’d love your support and love on game day. So if you’re around at 5AM or 2PM Pacific time on June 3, 2016, check out Twitch and watch us play D&D!

schedule3

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I’ve been very busy lately! Wanna know why? Let’s talk about conventions! I don’t just mean IntroConso. Read about where you can see me and play adventures I’m writing below!

Roll20CON

Roll20CON is a free, online-only celebration of the Roll20 Community will take place on June 3rd, 2016 for just 24 hours – but you can start preparing, listing, and joining games now! From 12AM – 11:59PM Pacific time, there will be games galore played on my favorite virtual table. You’ll want to join in the action and get to try some of the Plus and Pro subscription features for free. That’s right. Dynamic Lighting (and tons of other awesome features) will be free during Roll20CON.

During the convention, some of your favorite streamers, publishers, podcasters, and I will be live on Twitch helping raise money for Cybersmile, the international non-profit supporting victims of cyberbullying.

If you haven’t seen the schedule for Roll20CON check it out below.

Roll20CON

You’ll notice I’m running two games during the 24-hour live stream. You’ll also notice some of the biggest names in Dungeons and Dragons including my good friend Rudy Basso of the Tome Show’s D&D V&G podcast and Have Spellbook, Will Travel, Nadja Otikor of Misscliks D&D Prophecy, Greg Bilsland of Wizards of the Coast and member of the Dungeons and Dragons team, and, oh yeah, Chris Freakin’ Perkins, a Wizards of the Coast D&D employee who needs no introduction.

Needless to say I am thrilled about this and nervous. I’d love your support and love on game day. So if you’re around at 5AM or 2PM Pacific time on June 3, 2016, check out Twitch and watch us play D&D!

Gen Con

GenCon2016-II-672x372

I’m back in Indianapolis at Gen Con for the third time in a row and there’s more opportunities than ever to see Rudy Basso, Jeff Greiner, and me.

Where Can You Find Us at Gen Con
  • Round Table Live
    • When: Friday August 5 from 5PM – 6:30PM
    • Where: Crowne Plaza: Grand Central Ballroom D
    • What: A live recording of The Round Table podcast with Rudy, Jeff, Liz Theis, me, and others TBA!
  • Round Table Live After Party
  • The Tome Show Epic 2016
    • When: Saturday August 6 from 4:00PM – 8:00PM
    • Where: TBA
    • What: The world has been decimated by a beast of colossal proportions! Now three groups of heroes are all that can stop the complete annihilation of good folk. Three parties of level 7 PCs will take on a massive doomsday beast – from the inside! It’s a dungeon crawl like never before. Over the course of the adventure party members will switch tables and all three groups must work together to bring down the largest foe ever! DMed by Tome Show podcast hosts Rudy, Jeff, and me. Written by Rudy and me.

Also if you want to play a D&D Adventurers League adventure I wrote for Baldman Games, check out this event:

  • CORE 2-1 Tales of Good & Evil
    • When: Multiple four-hour blocks throughout Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of Gen Con
    • Where: Hyatt Regency Ballroom HQ
    • What: As the City of a Thousand Forges perseveres in the face of threats both internal and external, the effects of a planar portal continue to make everyone uneasy. When unusual individuals are drawn to the city because of its power, heroes are asked to keep peace and ferret out anyone intending to bring harm to Melvaunt. A D&D Adventurers League adventure for character level 1 to 4 set in Melvaunt.

Finally do you want to see a short film I made? That’s also going to be at Gen Con. The trailer for a short film I made with Jay LetchkoKnight Birds, is below. Details TBA!

There’s more to come for Gen Con! Hope to see you at one of these places.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Hey everyone! I have a bunch of updates for some really cool new projects I’ve been working on awesome people with.

Have Spellbook, Will Travel

First up – Have Spellbook, Will Travel. You may have heard Rudy Basso and I discuss our new podcast on the most recent episode of the Round Table. You can listen to the first episode TODAY. It just dropped.

What is Have Spellbook, Will Travel? It is a fantasy comedy drama radio play podcast that’s the brainchild of Rudy Basso. The podcast is loosely based on events and moments that happened in our own Dungeons and Dragons games. The podcast is funny, clever, and features some great characters we hope you’ll fall in love with the way we have. This thing is a real labor of love that we made with our amazing actor friends who also love games. If you listen to the Round Table you’ll recognize panelists Ray Fallon, John Fischer, Andrew Timmes, Alex Basso, and Vegas Lancaster as part of our awesome crew. I’m part of the cast myself. I play Old Man Wisely, the story’s narrator.

Rudy is the creator, writer, editor, producer, and one of the main actors on the show. I helped Rudy write and produce the first few episodes, but he’s done the lion’s share of the work. I promise his efforts are more than worth your time. I friggin’ love this podcast.

Listen to the first episode now! If you love the podcast please do us a favor – go give us a killer rating on iTunes. It’s free to do and takes less than a minute of your time. Please Tweet about the show, join the Facebook group, and spread the word!

Roll20CON

I am going to be a featured guest at Roll20CON. What is Roll20CON? It’s a free, online-only celebration of the Roll20 Community will take place on June 3rd, 2016 for just 24 hours – but you can start preparing, listing, and joining games now! From 12AM – 11:59PM Pacific time, there will be games galore played on my favorite virtual table. You’ll want to join in the action and get to try some of the Plus and Pro subscription features for free. That’s right. Dynamic Lighting (and tons of other awesome features) will be free during Roll20CON.

During the convention, some of your favorite streamers, publishers, podcasters, and I will be live on Twitch helping raise money for Cybersmile, the international non-profit supporting victims of cyberbullying. Check out the schedule below!

 

Mists of Akuma

Finally, if you listened to the most recent Round Table than you know I am VERY excited for Mike Myler‘s Mists of Akuma. This Kickstarter for a fifth edition D&D Eastern Fantasy Noir Steampunk setting is rich and wonderful. Check out the video below to get the scoop on Akuma!

I can’t wait to play in the world. Plus if this project is overfunded, I’m designing one of the stretch goals (can’t say exactly what yet… just gonna have to fork over those dollars to find out).

Mike was kind enough to let me host a little preview of Mists of Akuma‘s prefectures here on World Builder Blog. Take a look at his awesome words below!

Three Prefectures of Soburin

There are a total of twenty three prefectures (and possibly more if the Kickstarter finds two special backers!) ruled over by the direct descendants of the Imperial Siblings and Masuto Imperial Family. Mists of Akuma is a noir game with a narrower scope than other campaign settings however, focusing instead on the details of life in just three regions:

  1. The capital of the Imperial Prefecture, Sanbaoshi, a metropolis that tentatively embraces technology but is still steeped in the traditions of Soburin’s past.

  2. Chikan, Star of the North, where science is a part of everyday life and the Mists of Akuma are kept at bay with turbines, fans, and other machines that create powerful blasts of air.

  3. Nagabuki, Gem of the South, is within the martial prefecture of Ikari and home to the monastic order of tattooed monks, utilizing magic to treat those afflicted by the fell fogs.

Traditions kept alive since the millennia long Ichizoku Wars caused different magical and martial disciplines to develop as much as the drafting enforced by foreign invaders during the historically more recent Kengen Occupation, informing the nature of each clan’s bengoshi and henchmen as well as their culture.

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SANBAOSHI, IMPERIAL CAPITAL

The Masuto rose to power at the end of the Ichizoku Wars, leveraging something against the Imperial Dragons that allowed their upstart forces—mostly paid ronin and spellswords—to finally overcome the armies of the 22 warring clans. Once she had assumed authority, Sohei Masuto cemented her family’s place in Soburin by claiming the center of the continent as their own, governing from the heart of the landmass and creating a bulwark safe from the greatest clan rivalries. The tactic worked and from the capital of Sanbaoshi a Masuto has ruled as Emperor for an almost 1500 unbroken years.

Ceramia invaders recognized the great value of the Imperial Capital immediately, targeting it in the Battle of Gyakusatsu and breaking the will of Soburin in a violent display of superior warfare that cowed the continent. Using it as their beachhead, advanced science became more and more common in Sanbaoshi as the Kengen Occupation wore on for over a century. Today, 50 years since the fall of the Kengen (the last remnants of Ceramian and Ropaeo forces still alive after the War of Kaiyo’s apocalyptic end on the other side of the Great Divide), many of their technologies are banned. The most violent or invasive machinery is forbidden, as are some even innocuous items, but others remain: electric lanterns are everywhere, tinkerers’ shops can be found all throughout the metropolis, and samurai fitted with steel augmetics walk the city’s streets.

As the central seat of government Sanbaoshi is a place of great intrigue among the bengoshi of the clans. Each of these functionaries is constantly at work for their lords, working to undermine their rivals and raise their patron’s esteem as well as their own. The Imperial Guard is constantly chasing down suspicious persons and the Imperial Capital has countless potential agents to spare—adventurers are common here, easy to manipulate, and cost only a few Imperial Pieces (so any bengoshi worth their salt is never in short supply of either).

Emperor Hitoshi Masuto’s tolerance for technology, the city’s strategic location, and the flurry of nightly activity that keeps its defenders occupied has made the capital a hotbed for smuggling. The trade of illegal goods is a constant problem in Sanbaoshi, fueled by bengoshi using the illicit devices for all manner of immoral aims and technologists looking to make a profit by outfitting adventurers with cutting-edge augmetics. It doesn’t help that some of the largest concentrations of Ceramian and Ropaeo communities still in Soburin can be found in the Imperial Capital. These gaijin are by and large unwanted (spurned for continuing on the destructive paths of their foreign ancestors) but as long as they serve a purpose to the clans’ functionaries, they are sure to remain a thorn in the side of the Imperial Guard.

Seishin Nohantā: With technology from before the rise of Emperor Hitoshi common all over the metropolis, tsukumogami—items that animate into creatures, usually of the violent sort—are a frequent problem. To combat and respond to the threat an elite team of tsukumogami hunters are utterly dedicated to Sanbaoshi and prowl its streets, protecting the citizens from magical harm. The Seishin Nohantā are a common watchful presence and although they are honor sworn not to directly interfere with the mundane troubles of ne’er-do-wells and criminals in the city, they often act as sentries on behalf of the Imperial Guard, reporting on anyone suspicious that falls under their watchful gaze.

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CHIKAN, STAR OF THE NORTH

Most of Soburin’s lords resisted the Kengen Occupation in all its forms, but a few embraced scientific knowledge and have worked to improve upon it. The Supai were one such clan; when the foreign invaders finally fell half a century ago, Lord Shachō Supai brought together the greatest diviners of the land to see what the future had in store for her prefecture. Though the enormity and totality of the danger represented by the Mists of Akuma remained shrouded to them, how it would descend onto Soburin was as clear as day. Seizing on the technological advances of Ceramian and Ropaeo immigrants, Lord Shachō instituted laboratories and schools to educate her kin on the secrets of science—to great effect.

Though she died half a decade ago (some say to a shinobi’s blade) the wisdom of Shachō’s judgment holds true and today the seat of the prefecture’s power is protected by vast, powerful turbines that turn the Mists of Akuma back whenever it descends on the city. The ranks of the Supai clan are commonly fitted with fan hand augmetics for when the fell fog catches them outside of Chikan’s walls, making them a deadly and swift asset on the battlefield, able to charge at ranged enemy lines without fear.

With such a prevalence for technology and the dangers of tsukumogami omnipresent, Chikan has adopted a throwaway culture when it comes to personal effects. Hunters that specialize in detecting and tracking the strange creatures are a frequent sight, though only those in dire need or of malevolent intent can stand to tolerate the distasteful behavior prevalent throughout the settlement. They are never in short supply however—even during the destruction festivals—as with every month that passes more and more villages and cities throughout Soburin have come to adopt the wind machines manufactured in Chikan, making it a frequent harbor for legitimate traders and smugglers alike.

NAGABUKI, GEM OF THE SOUTH

The Ikari are one of Soburin’s most violent clans, made all the deadlier by taming the majority of the continent’s jungles within their prefecture. Their warriors are masters of the lethal kusarigama, a lengthy chain-sickle that helps them traverse the claustrophobic wilderness with almost as much ease as the enjin that live there—ape-like people that the Kengen Occupation disastrously attempted to force into submission within Ikari cities. The clan’s longtime tradition of martial study put them in a good place to handle the insurrection that followed, and though Nesuto to the north housed more of the simian wildmen, Nagabuki’s size made it the ideal place for keeping the most rebellious enjin afterward, turning the settlement and its residents as hard as the bark of a tapok tree.

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Ceramian soldiers may be a thing of the past but the marks of their imposed rule are still fresh all over Nagabuki. Already militant since before the Ichizoku Wars began, the Ikari were one of the last clans to relent to the Kengen Occupation and as punishment for their resilience the foreign invaders chose the most troublesome race to make the martial clan coexist with. The Gem of the South changed to match the the city’s needs during the times of imprisonment (as they are known to the enjin), changing much of its historical layout to be far more like a fortress than that of a bustling settlement—tall walls surround Nagabuki, always at a greater heighter than any nearby buildings and a sizable distance from the tallest structures.

Way of the Tattooed Pagoda: The inspiring jungles of the Ikari Prefecture drew out the mysticism of the clan’s few mages and priests, and long before the Ichizoku Wars’ end enchanted tattoos had already become culturally tied to Nagabuki. Artwork inscribed onto skin—both magical and otherwise—is a common sight among warriors, used to mark their rank or as a way to commemorate their deeds. Soburin’s most famous arcane artists specializing in crafting mystical illustrations on the body are found here, and combatants looking for a traditional way to amplify their prowess travel to the Gem of the South in search of its magical tattooists.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!


I sit down with Roll20 cofounder Nolan T. Jones to discuss the storied history of the virtual game table, Roll20’s business and gaming philosophies, the capabilities of the table, their new Apocalypse World web series, and future updates coming to the product! This podcast was recorded on May 27, 2015.


Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps a boat load!

Links:
If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I sit down with Andrew Kane, Vegas Lancaster, Topher Kohan, and Greg Blair to discuss the recent announcement that virtual table Fantasy Grounds will now sell officially licensed Dungeons and Dragons products and an Unearthed Arcana article about modifying fifth edition D&D classes which also provides a favored soul sorcerer build and a ranger without spells. This podcast was recorded on April 16, 2015.

Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps a boat load!

Links:

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!