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Dungeon Crawling: Making It All Up

Lords, ladies, lads, and lasses, I am Vinni the Troll and I am a Dungeon Master. I have always loved to create, and that is what I enjoy about being a DM. As a player, I was always happy to have a character die off, as it meant I could then create a new one.

As a DM, that means that I have a sizable retinue of NPCs waiting in the wings. Sometimes, they are ghosts of my own creations, and other times they are stolen from my youthful memories. Recently, on our Sunday night stream of Malhaven, I introduced the real names of the hacker Oracle, and his brother, Captain Happy. They are Pete and Bobby. If Ash had asked about other siblings, I would have gone on to list one other brother and 3 sisters. Quite the bunch.

Sunday nights, I run Malhaven on our Twitch channel. Perhaps you’ve watched an episode or two? I hope you’ve enjoyed the zombies and weird science that I’ve thrown together. On Sunday mornings, I run a D&D game for Crymson, Fluffy, Aiks, Vanri (sometimes), and my lovely Dragon wife. Still I find that is not enough. This new world I’ve created has many places to explore, so I’ve started another weekend game on Saturdays using Discord and playing theater-of-the-mind.

We started with barely anything. Two players and a loosely described city. The Monk was new to town and really playing up the fish out of water. He’d been told that he would find either work, or a fighting circuit at a certain tavern. The Bard, who worked the tavern, came up with the name “The Slaughterhouse.” I’ve already come up with rules and notes for this world, and during a one-shot, one player played a Minotaur. The proprietor had to be a Minotaur. Somehow, in my head, I started with heifer and twisted it into Festus, and he had a name.

Starting in a tavern is an old trope, but cliches are there for reasons. Another is low levels fight Undead, or rats (but I had that twist on my Sunday morning group already). There is a website called Kobold Fight Club; it’s a wonderful tool to help a DM build an encounter based on the level and size of the party. I set it to Undead, then 2 players of level 1. The lowest creature that came up was a Crawling Claw. I have never heard of or seen this type of Undead before, but they seemed really easy and tiny and I knew I’d found my start.

A comical scene unfolded in my head of the Bard and the Monk fighting a cluster of Undead hands straight out of a cartoon, or Sam Raimi movie. I only needed to set the trap.

With over 3 decades of gaming under my belt, I had an advantage. I knew a lot of quest hooks and styles. I decided on “The Milk Run.” It’s an apparently easy task of carrying an object from point A to point B, but it never goes smoothly. They never do.

With a large metropolitan city, I decided that the quest board on the tavern wall would direct the party to the College Arcanum, where a certain Professor Weir (I have no clue where I pulled that name from) had a crate that needed to be delivered. Weir worked in a sub basement of the College called the Dead Wizard’s Library. The hallways of skulls chatted with each other on all manner of topics, serving as reference tools.

The professor gave the crate to the party, along with a shipping strap that would help levitate the crate. His instructions were to take it to The Inner Ring, where all the wealthy estates were, and deliver it to a Lord Krocerian (a name resurrected from my gaming past) for disposal.

I only need to find a moment for the contents to escape. Sometimes while you plot, your players provide the means. As they cross the campus with the floating crate, the Monk wanted to see how much weight the strap would hold. To the chagrin of the Bard, the Monk lept onto the crate and I decided that was the perfect moment.

As the crate cracked, and the contents began clawing their way out, our heroes tried to put it back together again. With a failed attempt at reactivating the belt, the claws emerged.

When the combat had finished, the goods were put back into the crate, and a helpful student fixed the belt. Our heroes were on their way once more.

So far, all of this had been off the cuff. I wanted to finish with a big baddie, but an Ogre Zombie was bit much for the duo. Looking at the page in the Monster Manual, I saw that a regular zombie was probably more suitable.

The Estate of Lord Krocerian was quiet, the gates unlocked, and the guard dead and hidden in the bushes. Turning to call for help, the heroes were interrupted by a hooded figure with a glowing circlet charging from the house.

They won the day and called for the Watch. Statements were taken and then they returned to The Slaughterhouse for payment as the Watch assured them, and signed off on it, that the claws would be destroyed.

Now I look forward to the next game, and the mystery I have seeded. Who was behind the controlled zombie? Why did they want the Krocerian family dead? Would our heroes give a rats ass? We shall see.

FOR THE CHILDREN: Everything You Need To Know About Charities & Champions

As most of you know, we at Real Women of Gaming host three charity events a year. At the end of this month, we’ll be hosting our 3rd Annual Charities & Champions, a 12-hour Dungeons & Dragons live stream benefiting the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia through Extra-Life!

Event Information

We’ll we playing Dungeons & Dragons for 12 hours to raise $1,500 for CHOP. This year, Oresan_Fells will be running the game in the world of Osparia, the same world as our show, The Alabaster Forest.

When: Saturday, September 28th from 9am-9pm ET

Where: Twitch, Mixer, YouTube

Donation goal: $1,500

Donation link: https://www.extra-life.org/Participant/348784

Your Donations Can Affect the Game!

Like every year, you can donate to help or hurt our players or Dungeon Master! Here’s how you can affect the game:

$5 – Grants 1 player or the DM advantage or disadvantage on their next roll
$10 – Grants 1 player or the DM an auto-success or auto-fail on their next roll
$15 – Give the players a pack of random goodies
$25 – Add a rule to the current floor (example rule: If a player rolls a natural 1, they have to roll on the Wildmagic Table)
$50 – Give the players a random artifact that they have to use (to be drawn randomly)

Our Dungeon Master kindly asks that you incite as much chaos in his game as possible!

Want To Play?

You can! For the entire weekend, Real Women of Gaming is putting together one shots that you can play in! For a donation of $15, you guarantee yourself a seat at one of our (virtual) tables!

These games will be run through Discord and Roll20. Join our Discord here!

We have five games in the works that weekend, so you can take your pick!

Our DMs include:
DM Bex (The Dice Girls Podcast)
David (Ages of Ainor)
NotQuiteStephen (Not Quite Heroes Podcast)
VelozMuerte (Real Women of Gaming, The LOST)
VinniTheTroll (Real Women of Gaming, Malhaven)

Keen an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Discord for the One Shot Schedule!

Interested in Sponsoring?

Sponsorships help us to cover the costs of events like this. All sponsorship money goes towards running the event, including transportation, advertising, and feeding our players and volunteers.

One sponsorship slot costs $25 and includes the following:
– One hour of advertisement on stream
– A promo video run during our breaks (approx. every 2 hours)

There is no limit to how many slots can be purchased.

If you are interested in sponsoring the event, please send us an email at realwomenofgaming@gmail.com.

FOR THE CHILDREN!

Please help us support our local Children’s Hospital through Extra-Life! Once we hit our first $100 in donations, we promise we won’t yell “FOR THE CHILDREN” again until next year 😉

Dungeon Crawling: Bards

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Lords, Ladies, Lads, and Lasses, today I present my take on Bards.

A class I have never played.

You may ask, “How the heck can you have an opinion on Bards if you’ve never played one?!” Easy, I’ve played along side them, and I’ve DM’d for them.

The Bard class is a charisma based spell caster, a jack-of-all-trades, and mainly considered to be a support class. Their sub-classes are broken up into Colleges, with two in the Player’s Handbook, and three more waiting within the pages of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. 

The basic class uses Charisma as their casting stat, can use a musical instrument as their spell focus, and is also a ritual caster. They are performers, and if you have a problem being the “face” of the group, coming up with witty one-liners for your Vicious Mockery cantrip, or can’t parse together a quick ditty to sing inspiration for your fellow party members, then you’re playing the wrong class.

They have access to all skills from the get go, and those they don’t choose they can add half of their proficiency to any way at 2nd level. At 3rd level they can choose two that they are proficient in to gain double proficiency in as well.

And 3rd level is when you choose your Bardic College. This choice will slightly alter how you use your Bardic inspiration. Lore bards can distract with their words, protecting their allies in combat. Their foe’s attacks will strike with less impact, or sometimes even miss altogether.  Valor bards on the other hand can help add to their allies damage, or their AC. Those bards who enter the College of Glamour from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything can grant a group of people temporary hit points, and a free move. Sword college bards are master of the flourish, their bardic inspiration helps them dance around their foes, pushing them about, striking a second enemy, or even simply boosting their own AC. Those bards that join the College of Whispers can literally strike terror into the minds of their foes. Their Bardic Inspiration dice can be used to do psychic damage along with their melee attacks when they so choose.

Each of the five current official colleges only expand upon their themes as you level. Lore bards gain greater expertise with their skills, add spells from other classes to their repertoire. Valor bards gain training in medium armor, shields, martial weapons, and an extra attack. Eventually they can even cast a spell while making an attack with their weapon. Glamour bards gain power over the crowds, charming the masses, enthralling them, and dissuading them wanting to harm the bard in the first place.  Sword college bards gain extra attacks, medium armor training, and proficiency with the scimitar. Eventually they can use a free d6 for their flourishes instead of using up the finite resource of their Bardic Inspiration. Finally the College of Whispers allows it’s bards to steal the visage of the recently deceased, gaining the general knowledge and memories they would share freely with a casual acquaintance, and allowing the bard to pass themselves off as the deceased with greater ease. Eventually they can convince a target that they know a deep secret and charm them for an extended period for fear of revealing said secret.

So if you wish to sing, and cast spells whilst playing at being a Skill Puppy, a Duelist, The Center of Attention, a Dervish, or an Assassin they maybe, just perhaps, the Bard is the class for you.

 

Influental Women in the Gaming Industry: Christie Golden

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Christie Golden joined Blizzard Entertainment in 2017 where she has become a senior writer for the company. Prior to that Christie made a career of writing. She has written fifty novels and even more short stories.  

A native of Atlanta Georgia Christie was born in 1963.  She spent most of her young life in Arlington, Virginia. There she went to high school with Sandra Bullock. Christie went to the University Virginia. After earning her degree in English she traveled.

Christie used her degree and her experiences to help her start her career. At first it didn’t seem like it would pan out. Seven years after receiving rejection letters for her first manuscript Christie was able to use the connections that she had made to help her get the first break of her career. From there she was able to sell her first book; Vampire of the Mists, a Ravenloft book. Yes Ravenloft, as in supernatural Dungeons and Dragons campaign that kills so many of us Tabletop gamers. Thus began a beautiful relationship between Christie and writing novels that take place in the worlds of games.

Writing what are known as “tie in” fiction has been good for Christie. It has also been good for us. She has given the world a plethora of novels to dive into. From there gamers can get a more in depth knowledge of the worlds of their favorite games. Also for some people a love of books does not come easily. Books based in the settings of their favorite games can be a wonderful invitation to a world of reading that some may never have received otherwise.

Fiction of this subgenre is also inspiring for writers. Learning how to channel your interests, such as gaming, into your own projects is always a good skill to obtain. However the only way to achieve that is just to sit down and write. It is a tough enre to get into but Christie has proven that not only can writers make the cut but that it can lead to bigger things from companies that give us the games we love. If you are willing to put in the work the work will work out.

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What Christie has really taught us is do what you want. Game how you want. Write what you want. Put that passion into a career and you will get there. It may take time but you will get there.

You can also keep track of what Christie Golden is up to though her Twitter.

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Dungeon Crawling: My First Hero

…Or Dungeons and Dragons for Beginners.

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So you want to play Dungeons and Dragons, but you don’t know where to begin. There are so many books, so many rules, and so many choices that the options can be a bit overwhelming. Fear not for I shall simplify it for you.

Before you worry about what books to get, and what rules to learn, you need to find a Dungeon Master. They’re the arbitrator of the rules, the referee if you will. They are also in charge of all the monsters and characters not in control by a player. The will have a story in mind (also called a campaign). You need to check with them to see if there are any classes or races they don’t want you to choose from when creating your hero. Most likely, they will also have all the books you’ll need to make your hero.

So now you know what you can’t choose for a race, or a class, if there are any restrictions at all. This means you still have quite a few choices to make, and even though you’ve seen Lord of the Rings, you’re still not sure how to narrow it down. D&D is a game of “let’s pretend…with rules” as such most it is left up to your imagination. There is a mental exercise called The One Room Dungeon.

Before you stands a long corridor. Torches light the way every ten feet, and somewhere in the distance you hear the constant drip of condensation on the flagstones. At the end of the hall stands a solid oak door. It is closed, but flickering lamplight can be seen shining from the crack beneath it. There is a treasure chest behind the door, but also an Orc Warrior guarding it. How do you approach the door? Do you use stealth to sneak up? Do you stride confidently down the hall, clad in your heavy metal armor? Do you cast a spell that silences your footsteps? Once you open the door, do you sneak attack the orc, face him head on with a deadly weapon, or blast him with arcane spells? Which of these choices excite you the most? Are you feeling like a rogue, a warrior, or a spellcaster? Maybe you’re a combination of two or three. When you can imagine how you deal with the orc and gain the treasure, you should begin to have an idea of what class you want to play.

So you’re beginning to have an idea in you head of what your hero is. Great! Borrow the Player’s Handbook from your DM. Flip through the races and see if any jump out at you. There are quite a few to choose from, and you should be familiar with the basic idea of them if you’re into the fantasy genre at all. D&D tries to balance them all out, but if looking over their mechanical benefits helps you decide, then by all means do it.

Next you’ll want to narrow down your class. There’s more than three in the PHB, so the choices you made in The One Room Dungeon are just the tip of the iceberg. Did you choose stealth, using your skills to overcome the orc? There’s a Rogue, a Monk, and a Bard to choose from. Maybe weapons were your go to solution. Fighters, Barbarians, Rangers, and Paladins await you. Or if spell-casting was your thing there are Wizards, Warlocks, Sorcerers, Clerics, and Druids waiting to be called upon. There is no wrong class, race or combination of the two. Sure, you’re choice might not seem optimal mechanically, but if you have fun that is what matters.

The final choice is your Background. What’s your story? Who were you before you took to the life of adventuring? Were you a sailor making a life on the open seas? Did you grow up in the posh life of a Noble house? Were you a criminal thumbing your nose at authority?

Between your race, your class, and your background you have you’re starting equipment and skills. You’re almost ready to play.

You need to generate your ability scores. Ask your DM what method they want you to use. Are you going to roll six-sided dice, spend an allotment of points, or place a static array of numbers? Your class choice will determine what score is important for its features.  Do your weapon skills rely on Strength or Dexterity? Is Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma your spell-casting stat? Perhaps you just want to have a high Constitution and be healthy as an ox.

All those choices made during creation and you’re finally ready to play. “How do I play?” you ask. Improvisation. The Dungeon Master will describe a scene and ask you what your hero wants to do. You can respond descriptively or in character. “My rogue sneaks up to the door and attempts to pick the lock.” or “I’ve seen harder locks in my mom’s cupboard” and I take out my lock-picks. Whether or not you do it is another story.

Anytime there is a chance of success or failure you’re going to roll a twenty-sided die and add a number to it. The higher you roll, the better the outcome. What numbers you add to it depend on the task being attempted. If it was an attack or a spell you’ll need to roll another smaller die to determine how much damage you did. Don’t worry about rolling the wrong one, or forgetting which one is an eight-sider and which is the ten-sider. We all had those same stumbling blocks when we first started.

Mistakes will be made. Heroes will fall. New ones will rise in their place. It is a game. Have fun, and make their tales legendary.

 

Dungeon Crawling: The Adventurers League

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Dungeons and Dragons is a social game. Sure, you can play video games based on the source material that is solely single player, but at its core it’s meant to be enjoyed with friends. Sadly there are those among us who have no friends to play with. What do they do? First off, I suggest checking out our previous article on just that question (LINK).

So you’ve decided to find an Adventurers League game to join. I’m not sure of its reach, but I suggest signing up on Warhorn You can use it to find what local game shops are hosting AL games. With it, you can sign up and grab a seat at a level appropriate table and be on you way.

But is it worth it? Is the AL enjoyable?

Yes…and no.

There are pros and cons to everything. As a player the AL can scratch that need to play. You’ll find monsters to kill, puzzles to solve, and treasure to loot. All within a time constraint. That’s the problem.

In a home game we gather for a few hours, do the dungeon thing, talk to NPCs, and all the other fun stuff. If we run out of time, well there’s always next week. Not so with the AL. Each adventure is a published module available for purchase from the DM’s guild website. It has a listed average level, and the amount of time it should take to complete it. That’s all they allow for, because there are rewards for playing based on the length of the planned adventure. No one likes to go over because you’ve passed the limit and aren’t earning more Downtime or Renown. Downtime is a special type of currency that allows you to purchase goods from your Faction, or to skip a level and catch up to the other players that have hit the next tier. Renown are marks of honor that give you rank and privileges within your chosen faction.

Still sound like a fun time? Cool. Now you show up and either grab a pre-generated character or create one prior to the event using the AL rules. You must use the point buy system, no rolling for gold (choose from the equipment offered by your class and background), and you’re limited to the Players Handbook plus one other book. That means no taking a race from Volo’s Guide and a subclass from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. It’s only slightly limiting, but it can be a downer when you realize your cool idea isn’t legal.

The good news is you meet new people and have a chance to make new friends. It’s also pretty much a guarantee that your local shop has the AL scheduled on the regular, no matter who shows up. As long as at least three players show up in addition to the DM, the game will be good to go. Every session is its own self-contained one-off, so there’s no need for continuity. Sure there might be a series of adventures that follow an arc, but each one is an individual run.

That’s what it’s like to play in the League, but what about running a game?

Well being a DM in the League is interesting. Each location usually has one person in charge of organizing the events and he/she will let you know what’s being run, if they have a copy of it, or if you need to purchase a copy for yourself. The DM’s Guild is a website PDF store full of official adventurers and fan made ones. In addition that is were you find the current season’s Dungeon Master pack. This is a listing of the achievements and rewards you will unlock for running games.

Yup, you earn experience, gold, and treasure for running AL games. You can hold onto them, keeping track of each one on a log sheet, and dole that out to your characters leveling them up while you run the games. Even downloading the packet, filling out the achievement card, and sharing it on social media will net you rewards. There’s also usually a fair number of DMs around so you’ll eventually get to play said characters.

Eventually.

In the meantime you’re prepping a prewritten adventure with probably less than a weeks notice. If you have a desire to take on multiple roles, to learn the lore of the latest product that Wizards of the Coast is selling, or to enforce your power over a table of strangers…than being an AL DM might be for you.

I have fun with it, more as a player though. I have a regular group, and life gets in the way, so to fill the hole I started playing in the Adventurers League. Then PAX Unplugged happened to be nearby and I decided to take a crack at being a League DM. An organization called The Role Initiative was looking for volunteer DMs on Facebook. I signed up, then asked my local AL if I could join them in DMing. They were more than happy to add me to their ranks, and in fact had been considering asking me anyway. I ended up having a lot of fun at the convention, and from time to time still DM at my local store.

So if you’re not getting enough D&D, if your regular group has become less than regular, or if you’re new in town and looking to make friends give the Adventurers League a try.

 

 

Oresan’s Magnificent Foes: The Bloodsail Scavenger!

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Arrrr me matey! You be seeking some sunken treasure in the depths of the deepest darkest oceans? Well pirate captain Oresan has a story for you… ::cough:: ::Clears throat:: Weird. Sorry about that. Sometimes national talk like a pirate day is every day…

If you couldn’t tell I’m going to talk about a foe I used in an adventure of the High Seas variety. This is my first entry in a series called “Oresan’s Magnificent Foes” in which I will be detailing entries in a personal Monster Manual of sorts. Each entry will include a little blurb about What the foe is, Why it exists, and How I went about creating it. I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any suggestions, comments, or would like to see me create a foe based off something you love (or loathe) please let me know in the comments below.

Bloodsail Gnoll

What? What exactly is a Bloodsail Scavenger?

 

Imagine sailing the open ocean. Your comfortable with the systematic rocking caused by the endless rolling waves. Your not far from shore, trolling along the coastline for schools of fish. You do; however, find yourself scanning the horizons  as the sun begins to set. You know that these waters are infested with the Bloodsail Gnolls, horrific humanoid hyenas that capture forlorn fishermen and merchants. Rumor has it they take those that live back to their bone filled dens and sacrifice them to their god, the Ever Hungering. They keep their prey alive so they are fresh when they are devoured by the Bloodsail clan.

Its said they attack ships near the coast during the early hours of the night. The row out on speedy longboats, using red sails that seem to blend in with the light from the setting sun. By the time you see them coming, it’s already too late. They hulking beats, standing nearly 8 ft tall, have already boarded the boat. They attack with gnarled spears capable of piercing through heavy armor. These sadistic creatures carry nets used for ensuring the capture of living meat. They kill the strong mercilessly and capture the weak; the children and the old. If you have the foresight to give up before they get a chance to fight, your fate is sealed and far worse than a quick death by being run through.

 

Why? Why did I create these Abominations in the first place?

 

I have always loved Gnolls as a foe in my campaigns. They are sadistic and nasty and have a great tribal feel to them. As such I often try to include them in some way. I took it upon myself to run an island hopping adventure in a homebrew setting called “The Shattered Isles” for a few strangers online. Early on in their adventure I wanted to introduce them to something that was going on in the world around them. I wanted this to be subtle and not necessarily centered around something they would have empathy for.

Why not Gnolls? I could have just thrown some regular old Gnolls at the party, however they were level 1 at the time. So i needed to scale them down and give them a bit of High Seas flair.

 

How? Everybody has a process, what was mine?

 

The Bloodsail Scavengers are at their core a standard Gnoll, however they do not share the CR of one. (A Gnoll in the Monster Manual has a CR of ½ whereas the CR of a Bloodsail Scavenger is ¼) I took the hit points and lowered them by about a ⅓. The other abilities are nearly identical in damage and scope, however; I took away their Longbow and replaced it with a net.

The Longbow needed to go. This weapon alone could take early fights and make them significantly lopsided in favor of these ferocious beasts. These Gnolls still have a ranged weapon by throwing their spears as well as the addition of the net. They can use the net to restrain characters and drag them into the depths causing them to drown or to simply restrict their movements.

(Important note about nets: Though they are ranged, their distance is 10/30 which means if they throw the net any distance 10 or beyond they are at disadvantage. This means that their effective range is 5 ft with net without suffering disadvantage; however, to 5 ft is melee range and when you use a ranged attack in melee it suffers disadvantage. All attempts to net a creature are at disadvantage!)

Once again this was the inaugural entry into Oresan’s Magnificent Foes, an evolving Monster Manual of sorts. If you have any comments, suggestions, or have a foe you’d like to see created please let me know in the comments below.