What’s in a Name?

Choosing the “right” name for a character is very important, and often the most frustrating and time consuming process of character creation. The name should be unique enough that they aren’t confused with already existing and famous characters (such as Conan, Drizzt, Aragorn, Merlin, etc.). Melvin the Wizard and Ed the Barbarian, while being potential names, fall flat at evoking any sense of immersion or eliciting any feeling of a fantasy character. It also fails to reveal any sort of personality, other than being a “flat” character that hasn’t had much though placed into their creation beyond statistics on a sheet.

 

A name also shouldn’t be too long, or else it turns into a long string of syllables that people forget. While a character might have an exquisitely long name and list of titles, it is best to give them a shorter “common” name that can regularly used. For example, “Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons” is often referred to as “Daenerys” or “Dany”.

 

The most indispensable tool in naming characters is lists of baby names. Many sites also allow for filtering depending upon demographic origin, allowing you to determine a character’s name depending upon their particular demographic flavor. A simple Google search will reveal dozens, if not hundreds, of baby name lists.

 

Another favorite tool of mine is the Silmarillion, by Tolkien, as within the pages are lists of names for various elves and dwarves, many of which conjure forth a vision of a fantasy character just by speaking the name.

 

Also, when choosing names for exotic races, you do not necessarily have to stick to standard tropes of naming characters, such as giving every dwarf a last name that is two words stuck together (Oakenshield, Fireforge, Hammerhand, etc.), nor do you have to give every elf a lilting flowery name, nor does every orc need a name that sounds like a sound effect. However, on the flip side using those regular naming conventions marks them immediately in the minds of those hearing the name. For example, Grak elicits the idea of a half-orc, while Elorissa Thindolin is most likely an elf.

 

For those of us sitting in the iron throne as the Dungeon Master, there are quite a few “random name generators” online, giving quick names of various Non-Player Characters that might populate an area.

 

Finally, sound your character’s name out by saying it out loud. Often what may look exotic or awesome on paper may falter when spoken aloud. Also remember that you’re going to be saying the name fairly frequently, as well as hearing it spoken by others.

The Many Hats of DMing: The Hardhat

When it comes to running a good RPG, you as a Dungeon Master need to wear several hats. It doesn’t matter what version of RPG you’re playing, whether it’s D&D, Numenera, Pathfinder, or whatnot. You will wear several different hats throughout the game that you are running. Each of these hats have specific uses, and are very useful when used properly. I’ll be doing one article a month on these hats, explaining each one.

So what are these hats? These hats represent the different personalities you will assume as you run your game. It’s important to understand that there’s a difference in these hats, and that these hats are useful. There’s a distinct difference in theory-crafting and theory execution. I’ll explain this by going into what I believe is the second hat that every DM wears. That is the hat of construction, or what I call, the hardhat.

The Hardhat

Sully-712186

Think about a hardhat. What type of people do you see usually wearing a hardhat? Odds are you’re thinking of a blue-collar job. Hardhats are designed to keep you safe in case something goes wrong on your job. I don’t want you to think of this hat though as what it’s meant to do (that being keep you safe), and to think of the work that is done by the people who wear this hat. What is that work? Construction. Construction is a vital aspect of every DMs preparation. It is also one of my favorites aspect of the game. Construction is going to be seen in the props you add to the game (I’ll share some of mine), and the extra tools you use in the game (I include maps and minis in this category).

What does it look like? When I think of the hardhat, I think these points sum up best what the hardhat is all about.

1. How much time do you have? This is a very important question to ask yourself before you dive into any construction related project. As we discussed in last month’s post, you need to use your time to craft a quality story. If you don’t have time for your story, or if your story is suffering because of your desire to construct a cool prop for your game, then the effect of the prop will be lost because of the lack of impact in your story. The prop is only as good as your story. There’s no point in having a high quality prop in your game if it makes no sense for your game, if it doesn’t match your world, and if doesn’t add to the purpose of the story.

But if you have plenty of time, and are confident in the quality of your story, then pull out all the stops, and construct a home-run prop that will knock your players’ socks off.

2. If you’re not gonna do it right the first time, don’t do it at all. This is a very important thing to consider. I lost count of how many times my dad told this to me when I was growing up. It really helped define my work ethic as a student, as an all-american soccer player in college, as a husband, father, and as a DM. When you go to the effort of using a prop in your games, you are making the effort to add an element to your game that will most likely be used only once in the actual game. I say so many times that DMing is a labor of love. If you do not care about your players, then you should not be a DM. Yes, it is your world, with your NPCs, and your players help you run a game. Caring about your players doesn’t mean that you don’t test them. My players will be the first to tell you that I put them through the wringer most of the time (our PC death count was at 12 by the end of the last campaign).

But consider this, my players show up every week and they expect me to deliver a great gaming experience for them, and for their characters. Take note of that again, I’m not just building a world for them as people, I’m building this world for their characters too. With that in mind, I need to use my skills in construction to make sure that the world is special. I want them to see that this world is worth their time, because of the amount of time I put into the game.

Props and tools

Props can be a wonderful aid in any game that you run. I’m going to share some of my props I’ve used to give the players a deeper dive into the world, as well as sprinkle in some useful story points. Here’s the main one I used in my last game. The world revolved around the popular D&D setting of Eberron. I spent a long time on this, and I was able to create a fake newspaper published by a company in the world that gave the players 7 pages worth of story development, as well as plot hooks all just waiting to happen. As you can see, it came complete with color pictures, interesting paper, fake ads that were part of the businesses in the world, and even mentioned some exploits of the PCs adding a sense of accomplishment to the PCs lives.

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.04.48 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.05.33 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.06.18 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.08.23 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.08.50 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.09.14 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.09.36 PM

Another prop I recently used in one of my games involved the PCs researching through a tower where a professor used to live. Throughout their journeys in this tower, the PCs continued to find burned up pages of his journal. So I spent a few hours writing up a a few lengthy entries in a journal in two different languages and cross referencing them so it was impossible for the PCs to translate them straight out. My beautiful wife then gave me the idea of taking a lighter and burning the edges of the pages, as well as some holes in the pages to give the journal an old, and mysterious feel to it.

These things were/are pivotal to my games because they provided huge plot hooks for my players which will come to define their characters’s quests for many levels to come.

Some DMs construct 3D battle platforms (which I hope to use someday). Others use minis and maps to help tell the story of their games. Personally, I like to use minis and maps in my games. I’ve tried to play without maps and minis before, it’s just not my thing. As a DM, it’s easier for me to do narrative when I don’t have to focus on describing every detail of every location. Other people don’t play with minis and maps, and I think that’s great. All power to ‘em. It’s a style thing really. Using maps and minis are very useful for me because they give the players a boundary of sorts. It helps me by effectively telling the players, “This is what you can see,” and cuts out the inevitable question of, “What else do I see?” That is my least favorites question to hear as a DM. Not because I hate to hear the PCs asking for help. I hate it because it means that I didn’t do my job right, and they are needing more information before they make a decision. I should explain the situation well enough so that that question never needs to happen. That being said, players are deaf, and have selective hearing and will not listen if they don’t want to. You can give them the “rattled” debuff  as an ongoing effect in exchange for you not boxing them in the ears.

Constructing with a purpose

In my previous article we talked about how preparation is like a chef preparing a fine dish to be served to the customer. You need to know what story you’re gonna make, what key elements you need to make it, and how to present it. This month I want you to learn that part of that presentation can show your customers (the players) that you’re wanting to go the extra mile by putting more effort into the game. I got so much mileage of game time and player enjoyment by making that fake newspaper. I believe I put 10-15 hours worth of work into it, and got back almost 40+ hours of gameplay solely because of that. That is huge! I’m not telling you this to brag, but to tell you that with the right preparation, and a little love for your players in the realm of construction, your game can take off to the next level.

Now go terrorize some PCs. You ain’t tryin’ if they ain’t dyin’.

Just ra' Xephon Alternate - Ross

Tips on Running a Horror Game

One of the most difficult things to do in a table top game is to elicit feelings of horror from your players. Everyone is sitting around comfortably, snacking, occasionally being distracted by electronic devices, sifting through rulebooks to clarify a rules question, etc.

The thrill from running a horror game comes from a sense of the unknown and the unexpected, you need to take the players out of their comfort zone. You want to change your surroundings. Something simple like hanging up curtains or heavy cloth over the windows, turning the lights down low, and forbidding cell phones and other distracting electronic devices at the table.

You also want to limit what the characters have access to. For instance, while running Ravenloft, you don’t want your group completely ignoring the theme, flying up to the castle aboard an airship, rappelling in and gunning down Strahd with arrows tipped with miniature Spheres of Annihilation.

A good horror game also has a decent amount of props. No matter how verbose your Dungeon Master is, nothing quite tells a tale like a few pictures, a letter on parchment, the tooth from some unknown beast, or a jar containing something… unwholesome. Instead of elaborate on how to make particular props, there are plenty of sites on the internet, which do a far better job than I. One I recommend is http://propnomicon.blogspot.com/ and another is http://elderprops.tumblr.com/

Any creatures they encounter should never be simply named, as many players have detailed knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of various creatures. Give detailed descriptions if the characters are face-to-face with the creature, but otherwise limit them to only the most generic of attributes as they see claws reach from the shadows.

Take things beyond the table, and use all the senses. If the characters are investigating a village that was burnt to the ground because of some horror, burn a few sheets of paper before game for the smell of wood smoke. Set up a nice ambient track or two to help set the scene. I recommend getting your hands on a music playing device, hiding the speakers around the room, and creating your audio atmosphere at http://www.ambient-mixer.com/

If done right, a campaign with a horror theme will be remembered and talked about for years to come.

 

The Many Hats of DMing: The Toque

I must say, it is a privilege be a contributor to this blog.  I hope what I’ve learned from in my adventures at the table will be useful to you. Please enjoy.

Introduction

When it comes to running a good RPG, you as a Dungeon Master need to wear several hats. It doesn’t matter what version of RPG you’re playing, whether it’s D&D, Numenera, Pathfinder, or whatnot. You will wear several different hats throughout the game that you are running. Each of these hats have specific uses, and are very useful when used properly. I’ll be doing one article a month on these hats, explaining each one.

So what are these hats? These hats represent the different personalities you will assume as you run your game. It’s important to understand that there’s a difference in these hats, and that these hats are useful. There’s a distinct difference in theory-crafting and theory execution. I’ll explain this by going into what I believe is the first hat that every DM wears. That is the hat of preparation, or what I call, the Chef’s Toque.

The Toque

Swedish-chef

For those of you who don’t know what a toque is, I’ve included this awesome picture. As you can see, it’s a chef’s hat and he’s ready to do work. So why this hat? What does this have to do with preparation? Well the obvious answer is, “Because making a good RPG involves that you mix up a lot of good ingredients to create a masterpiece and flerpty floopin’ der bort bort bort.”

That’s part of it. But there is much more to being a good cook than grabbing a bunch of ingredients and throwing them into the same pan or pot and eating whatever comes up. When you are a chef, you need to understand so many different things that are in your kitchen. These principles have helped me craft my worlds and my sessions each and every time. Hopefully they help you too.

Zeff

1. You need to know what you want to make. While it’s true that you can make some quality dishes when you fly by the seat of your pants and make decisions on the fly, it’s usually best to know what dish you’re trying to serve up before you start. Translation: What main point of the story are you wanting to establish in your game? What is the focal point of this session? Is it worth getting to? Is it the best one you can come up with? If you can say that this point of your story is your best work, it’s important to establish, and it’s the next turning point in your world, then you have your goal.

2. You need to know what ingredients are essential to make that dish. While it’s fun to try new things, and experiment (a hat I’ll get too all too soon), it’s always important to know what ingredients you need at the bare minimum to cook that dish. Translation: You must ask yourself what the bare minimum essential details are to get to the story focal point you need. These focal points are things that your story relies on. They are key ingredients, and without them, the story will be changed in some way.

Important note: Players are generally stupid. By that, I mean that they will, some way, some how, at the worst possible time, press the “what were you thinking?!?!?!” button. This is what I call a decision made by players that is so inconceivably stupid that it alters a story point. A good litmus test of your skill as a DM (and one I have to practice all the time) is how well you can substitute these key story points (or ingredients) and keep the same flavor of your story.

3. You need to know how to present your finale. There’s a huge difference between the picture of your food at a fast-food restaurant and what you actually get. There’s little difference between the picture and your actual order at a ritzy restaurant. Why is that? Because presentation matters, friends. Translation: It’s great to have all the details hammered out, all your skill challenge DC’s ready and logical, your monsters all powerful and ready to kill, and your NPCs placed delicately within the world.

This means nothing if your presentation is no different than some “choke ’n puke” burger at a truck stop along the highway. Presentation is the final piece of my list, because it is the final job of the chef. No matter how good the food is, unless it is presented well to the customer, the taste will never be maximized. Your story can be great but become average when you present it like a hygiene video. Finish the job, and present that story. Prepare ways to present it properly. Ask yourself how you’d like to see this story presented. I practice my presentation details by reading them over to my wife. She doesn’t care about RPG’s at all, but she listens, and tells me when it’s interesting, or when it’s a dud. Find opportunities and take advantage of them.

Preparation:

dish-is-poorly-prepared-gordon-ramsay-meme

I cannot stress enough how important preparation is when it comes to running a solid RPG. I normally put 2 hours of preparation into every hour that I plan on actually playing the game (I say “playing” because the DM counts as a player as well in the game). Here’s an example: during one of the sessions of my Eberron D&D campaign, I learned that I did not prepare nearly well enough as I would have liked. When I looked at the material that I threw together 5 minutes before the game actually started, I realized that I had exactly that–5 minutes of actual gameplay planned out. I then had to continuously make things up on the fly and make split-second decisions that I really didn’t need to make. The issue is, there were repercussions. They may not have been major, but aspects of the story had to be changed to make up for poor planning. And to make matters worse, that session was one of the least fun sessions in the campaign for all involved.

Disclaimer: I am not advocating railroading. When I say “be prepared,” I’m referring to being ready for whatever dumb decisions your players are going to make.

Preparation is like grape jelly on a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. It just makes the food go down smoother. You spend less time going “uh” and “um” and more time playing and contributing to the story and to your players’ general enjoyment. You are better able to present the players with better opportunities to shine.

Your players can tell the difference. You can tell the difference. The story just seems to roll off your tongue. The players respond (usually) with great role playing and tell you what their characters want to do, not what they as players want to do (even though they should do it anyway!).The quality of your game is a team effort, and if you expect your players to bring their A game in role playing, then it’s only fair that you as the DM bring your A+ game with solid preparation and a killer story. Now I want to look at the elements of preparation that are most important.

Preparation keys:

key

I’m sure some of you are saying, “But Dungeon Master Ross, what if I’m too busy to do any adequate preparation?” Good question, but it’s the wrong question. The question you meant to ask was, “Dungeon Master Ross, what can I do to supplement my preparation?” That’s better. You will make time for whatever it is that you want to do. I simply didn’t do what I was supposed to when I didn’t prepare. It’s not my schedules fault, it’s mine. Just like it’s your own fault if you don’t prepare for a game (barring an emergency of some kind, of course).

So what can you do? Like many things in life, understanding is key. You need to understand your world inside and out. You need to know how days work, how time works, how religion works, laws, resurrection, kings, queens, successions, cultures, and customs. Also, you need to understand your players, and their characters. One of the things I do with my players is have them fill out a character personality sheet that lists their characters’ goals, interests, and most importantly, points of conflict. I’ll get into points of conflict later as I’ll be referencing a brilliant article written by angrydm.com.

Understanding your world, your players, and your PCs will get you incredibly far when preparation meets on-the-fly creative thinking. Now go terrorize some PCs. You ain’t tryin’ if they ain’t dyin’.

I want to hear what you think. Did this make sense? Tell me what preparation looks like for you.

Just ra' Xephon Alternate  - Ross

Why in the Hell Did I Become a DM?

The past week or so all I’ve had on my brain is the fact that next week begins the final adventure in my D&D 3.5e campaign. So this week I’ve been writing, planning, making maps, finding monster stats, etc for this adventure. After all of this work I wonder, “Why in the hell did I become a DM?” The story begins almost 2 years ago.

At the time, I’d already been playing D&D for about 8 years. I had been searching for a group for several months with no success. A coworker of mine who knew I played came up to me explaining that her husband wanted to get back into it. She also was interested in learning and letting out her inner geek. “Fantastic!” I thought. After adding two other friends to our group and no luck of finding a DM, I figured I would give it a try considering I was the most experienced player in our group. I reached out to every DM I knew for tips, tricks, and campaign ideas. I tried the internet but I didn’t want to steal ideas from anyone, I wanted to come up with my own campaign storyline.

Over the weeks, the storyline slowly came together in my head. I also decided I wanted to make my own world instead of trying to read up on the pre-created ones. Sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper, I began to draw what eventually became my world. Being a huge fan of Final Fantasy 9, I decided to name it Gaia. As I set country borders and gave names to the random shapes on the page cities, cultures, and hierarchy came to life. Major NPC’s started to form. It was becoming a real thing and I could barely contain it. I threw in a reference to every D&D game I’ve ever played somewhere in my new world as well as my favorite character I’ve made as a major NPC. I also included several nods to Final Fantasy 9 because seriously I can’t get enough of that game. The Final product:

Gaia Map

Once we started, I’ll admit I was in over my head. At first I tried to predict every possible move the PCs could make and have a plan for what would happen in this case. As experienced players and DMs know, this is practically impossible. That frustrated me. So I tried no planning at all and winging it which left me spastic and highly unprepared. I eventually got the hang of it with a DM style somewhere in the middle. I normally have a general idea of what’s going to happen and improvise the rest.

After a year of playing, I unfortunately moved out of state and the group fell apart before we could finish, much to our dismay. Then I learned about the wonderful world of Roll20. Having been so upset that the world and campaign I’d created fell apart, I found a new group online and decided I would try again. Now we’re back to the present, where the new group has gone through (mostly) the same dungeons, festivals, NPCs, and storyline my previous group had and has surpassed them. My skills as a DM are much better than when I began and the anticipation of finally having my first campaign completed under my belt excites me probably more than it should.

For two years now I’ve been DMing. Seeing the end to one campaign and the beginning of a new in the near future has made me realize how much I’ve grown to enjoy it. After all the hard work, late nights, headaches, video game music, laughs and beers, I couldn’t be happier with how it’s gone. Getting together with old and/or new friends to tell a story together in a world I’ve created, is a huge part of why I’ve grown to love DMing. When there’s an NPC they hate, a dungeon that’s challenging, an adventure they loved going through, or a player takes the story somewhere completely where I didn’t expect and I have to pull something out of my brain on the spot, it makes for memories that I can keep and stories they and I can tell for years to come. That’s rewarding to me, and is why I’ll continue to DM

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Describing Things As A DM

One thing that I have noticed lacking in many games is small references about the setting, by characters in the setting. Games of the Elder Scrolls series (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, etc.) have entire books written from an in-character perspective.

 

While a Dungeon Master need not write entire novels, a few passages here and there is sure to create the illusion of immersion. Even a single quote at the beginning of a game session can go a long way toward getting players into a mindset of their characters, or add depth to events that are currently unfolding. Additionally, having a NPC quote a long dead scholar furthers the illusion that the world is much deeper than just the Player Characters.

 

Shared below are a number of passages I’ve written for an upcoming setting from Assassin Games, and many similar references can be found on our Facebook page ( www.facebook.com/assassin.games.rpg )

 

“…and on the coast there were pillars with the faces of dead gods and kings with names long forgotten.” – Ariak Tharsiin, ‘The Book of Sorrowed Paths’

 

“A rose, once cut, is little more than a fading memory, and in time it shall wilt.” – Deothus Kerial, ‘Reflections’

 

“We spent the evening huddled within the protection of the crumbling remains of Tor Aenemar, as the heavens opened and disgorged their tears, and our enemies scoured the forest below. Had we known what was to come, surely we would all have rather flung ourselves from the rocky ledge to be broken on the rocks below.” – Eamin Kastos, ‘The Journey of Five Brothers’

 

“It is said that during the time of Lord Gohar, the First of the Lords of Atovar, there was constructed a series of catacombs beneath the city. The chambers were lined with silver, and the catacombs were sealed with the workers imprisoned within. Many wonder what terrible thing was also sealed within the catacombs.” – Arka Javal, Historian of Atovar

 

“It is said that a heavy mist rolled down from the Fellspear Mountains, covering the countryside. When it dissipated, the villages and farms were left empty. Not a person remained, yet no signs of a fight could be found.” - The Journal of Kalen Firth

 

Background

Creating a Rogue Sorcerer in D&D 3.5

There are a lot of posts here describing attributes or play-styles etc. so I figured why not create a sample character as well, so that you can see how I do it and what I tend to think of when doing so.

 

Basic Concept

ArcTrixFirst of all we need a concept! I was thinking a rogue/arcane caster kind of character that can act both as skill-monkey for the group as well as dish out considerable damage in combat. I have a feeling we are dealing with a somewhat shady type of character who most likely will rely on spells combined with sneak attacks in combat and, outside of combat will focus on picking locks, disabling traps and other kinds of more or less shady shenanigans. He will be a ruthless (but not heartless) guy who would do almost anything for the right price but he is fiercely loyal towards his comrades as partners (in crime for the most part) that you can rely on is hard to get by. He is a thief of quite some skill, there is only one thing he has failed to steal so far in his career but he’s still working on her. For some reason I picture a regular guy so he will be a human and his alignment will most likely be either Chaotic Neutral or True Neutral. This should be enough to create a basic first level character!

 

Ability Scores

I usually determine a characters stats by rolling three sets of six 4D6:s,  re-rolling any 1:s and removing the lowest die, then I distribute the stats to my liking. The three arrays I rolled for this character are:

14     16     16

10     10     13

14     15     15

13     15     14

13     15     15

18     15     17
The first set is nice since it has an 18 but the third set is on average higher. The middle set is the worst one so we can scratch that one immediately.

What will our character need? A high Intelligence for sure, due to skill points as well as spell DC and all that good jazz. A high Constitution would help as well, extra Hit Points is always nice, and so would Dexterity for the bonus to hit with ranged spells since we will be picking at least some class levels with a bad Base Attack Bonus (BAB) and a to-hit effect is needed to apply Sneak Attack to spells. Strength will not be needed as we will base out damage off of Sneak Attack, same goes for Charisma and Wisdom. Intelligence, Dexterity and Constitution are fairly equally valuable, with Dexterity being slightly higher than the others, since we’re not going to use very high-level spells, so I would opt to go for Ability Score Set 3 with 17, 16 and 15 as highest scores rather than 18, 14, 14.

So, our character will thus get the following stat distribution: Str 13 Dex 17 Con 15 Int 16 Wis 14 Cha 15.

 

Picking  a Class

Picking a class for a hybrid like this is tricky but it will either be a rogue or a sorcerer. I like sorcerer over wizard for this guy since he will not be the utility-type of caster. He knows his small list of spells, mainly one or two nuking spells to apply Sneak Attack damage to and one or two utility spells. Sorcerers also tend to be able to cast more spells per day, albeit from a smaller selection, and that works fine for us – More spells mean more damage! Question is what to go for first, Rogue or Sorcerer? Sorcerer would get the spell-casting which would be nice, as well as a familiar but the Rogue would get D6 Sneak attack, trap finding as well as a boatload of skill points and slightly more Hit Points. Mainly due to the skill points I would recommend tasking the first level of Rogue but then probably take Sorcerer the coming six levels in order to reach third level spells (The reason why will be given later on).

Rogues has a Hit Die of D6, which means that at first level your Hit Points are 6+Con modifier, so 8 which is not to shabby, especially not when compared to the 5 we would have gotten as a Sorcerer.
Rogue also gives us a good Reflex save, which means a bonus of 2 at first level.

 

Secondary Stats and Skills

Being a human means his land speed is 30ft, he has no stat adjustments but he does get an extra feat as well as an extra skill point per level. This means that we will have ((8+1+Int mod)x4) skill points as first level, which totals 48, which truly is a lot! The highest number of ranks we can put into any class skill is four so we have a lot of distributing to do!

First of all, the essential skills for our shady type: Bluff, Disable Device, Hide, Move Silently, Open Lock, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Tumble and Use Magic Device. It costs 10×4=40 skill points spend to max them so we can chose two more to max if we want to and I like Spot and Listen so let’s go for that. We won’t be able to keep all of them maxed as we will take classes (Mainly Sorcerer) that awards less skill points per level but then we will have to start prioritizing either what we suspect will be needed in our campaign or what we feel fit the character when we get there.

Our Base Attack Bonus at first level as a rogue stays at 0 so no addition there!

 

Picking Feats

So we have two feats to play with, one for being first level and one for being human. A feat which we most definitely are going to take is Craven from the book Heroes of Horror. It makes us take a negative penalty of -2 to saving throws to resist fear effects but also allows us to add 1 damage per character level to any sneak attack we make. Since this is no dice damage but a flat increase this bonus is factored in before multiplying damage in a critical hit for example. The second feat we take is Able Learner so that we can keep maxing our rogue skills despite taking levels of sorcerer. My gut tells me that this character will be comparatively weak until around level 6 so anything that can help us being useful is a great pick-up.

 

Equipment and Finishing Up

There we go, almost done! Deck this guy out with standard adventuring equipment and try to afford a Wand of Any Lesser Orb You Fancy. Sure, the DC to activate it is 20 and we only have 7 in Use Magic Device but considering you can Sneak Attack with it (Turning the Sneak Attack damage into whatever type of orb you are using) means it fits right into the niche we want to fill with this character until we can cast spells of our own.

This should be it, now the character is more or less ready to go! But assuming he survives the first couple of battles, where do we go from here?

 

154320Looking Into the Future

To keep going a very simple yet multi-classing route I would suggest heading towards the Prestige Class called Arcane Trickster (Dungeon Master’s Guide). Becoming an Arcane Trickster has benefits; it progresses both your spell-casting and your Sneak Attack damage as well as allowing you to pick locks from afar a couple of times per day. An overall OK class to go into, by far not the best but neither the worst. To be allowed to this, however, you need to be able to cast third level spells as well as have a Sneak Attack damage of at least 2D6. This means at least 3 levels of Rogue and 6 levels of Sorcerer, which is why I mentioned going 6 levels of Sorcerer earlier. Thus, at level 10, our build could look somewhat like Rogue 1/Sorcerer 6/Rogue 2/Arcane Trickster 1.

Good feats to grab on the way includes Practised Spellcaster to make up for the levels of Rogue we took, as this feats give us extra caster level to a maximum of +4 or a total CL equal to our character level, whichever is reached first. Other good feats are Acid Splatter or a similar Reserve Feat as that would let us Sneak Attack with spell damage unlimited times each day and thus allow us to pick more utility-based spells to our somewhat limited repertoire of spells. Another good feat would be the Split Ray Metamagic feat, as the Sneak Attack would apply to both rays, allowing us to do double out number of sneak attacks per round. This is sorely needed as most of our spells will only allow us to hit one target once per standard action so allowing for two instances of Sneak Attack per round is basically twice as good!

This is by no means an optimized character but I like the idea and basic concept and I think I will try it out at some point. If I do I might even update you on how it went! I can see some problems with it, the slow scaling of Sneak Attack means he will probably fall behind other classes in terms of damage output at higher levels while his Sorcerer casting won’t be enough counter that with utility spells, but I also see great potential in him. Picking clever spells for him is a real challenge, as they have to be chosen carefully in order to apply to as many enemies as possible. Finally, if all else fails he will be a decent skill monkey, which is always appreciated in a group.

Sara’s Top Ten List of Rogues in Fiction

Expanding on my previous article, I decided to make a list of my top ten roguish characters in today’s fiction and why. As I thought more on this list, I realized I couldn’t actually rate them since they are each on this list for different reasons so these are in no particular order.

Jack Sparrow: Pirates in general tend to fit the stereotype of a rogue. Jack has perfected the art of not only sleight of hand but also manipulation and deception.

Zorro: The masked bandit is one that is great with a sword and sneaking into and out of places. The great thing I find about Zorro is that he does not technically steal, but rather uses his skills for good and the liberation of his people.

Bilbo Baggins: He may not be great at his job of a thief, but with the help of the one Ring he definitely succeeds.

Don Juan: If anyone could be called a “face,” I would give it to Don Juan.

Han Solo: I couldn’t have a top ten list without Han Solo. Smuggling, fighting, great one liners, swooning Princess Leia; what more could you ask for?

Westley: The dashing hero of the Princess Bride. The Dread Pirate Roberts. He fights for his love, Buttercup, and enlists the help of a giant and a master swordsman to sneak into the prince’s palace and save her.

Verys & Littlefinger: I put these two in the same entry simply because they are two of my favorites from Game of Thrones that technically have the same skills. I thoroughly enjoy watching these two talk and try to outwit each other. Each have their own network of spies to use for their own devices.

Sawyer: Con artist would probably be the best words to describe Sawyer from Lost.

Robin hood: What rogue list would be complete without Robin of Loxley? He steals from the rich and gives to the poor, he steals the heart of the beautiful and noble Maid Marian.

Malcom Reynolds: Mal is not afraid to fight dirty. He actively fights against the law, and one of his primary interests is the acquisition of wealth. He has a code of honor but doesn’t allow it to get in between him and blacken the eye of the law, a law that he feels is unjust, which is characteristic of a chaotic good rogue.

Why Clerics are Awesome

Originally when I started playing D&D, I thought playing a Cleric would be stupid. Oh, how wrong I was! Clerics are now definitely one of my favorite classes for many reasons. This article is focusing on Clerics in D&D 3.5, so what I say may be different (or the same) in other versions! Read on…

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1. Clerics Are Tier 1  

But you may ask, what does Tier 1 mean?  Tier 1 means that Clerics can specialize in a lot of things. They’ve got spells to help them make up for whatever the party is lacking as long as they prepare it ahead of time. In some cases, Clerics can even do things better than a different class that might specialize in what they want to do. The higher your level, the more badass you can become. Once you get to Level 9 spells, you can become unstoppable if played right. As you level you can summon plenty of minions to help in battle, you can Turn Undead, you have access to Domain Spells, you have no need to protect your spell book – instead you memorize spells, anddd there are obviously things you can do to break the game, but those are best left unsaid – for your DM’s sake.

 

2. Heals For Days

The amazing thing about Clerics, in my opinion, is their ability to replace all of their spells (besides Domain Spells) with a healing spell of that level. It means that you never have to explicitly memorize a healing spell for that day. Since you never know when you’ll need to throw out a heal, it’s nice to know that you’re safe and can call upon your divine power to help you with a healing spell.

3. You Have Options Outside Of Just Group Healbothttp://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/62/8c/bc/628cbc93dc1fbd8e1324822910c1f04e.jpg

Just because a Cleric can heal doesn’t mean that’s all you have to do. You don’t have to be a one trick pony that sits on the sidelines and heals the party as they battle on the front lines. Being a Cleric means you have the opportunity to choose your roll based on what you really want to do. Do you feel like your party just needs a primary healer? That’s fine, but it isn’t your only option! Take a long, hard look at all the spells you’re privvy to and see if there’s something you can do besides just sitting back and healing. This seems to be what people think of when playing a Cleric, hence why most people don’t want to play it. Sure you’ve got amazing healing powers, but that isn’t all you’re worth!

Would you rather primarily be a melee fighter? Don some heavier armor, make sure you put a higher starting stat in STR, and get right up there with your fighter. Chances are you’ll have relatively high health, and you can heal yourself if needed!

Want to be a primarily ranged player? That’s fine! Don some armor, make sure you’ve got a higher starting stat in DEX, and let those arrows fly, baby! You can work just as well as a ranger, but you can buff yourself if want to!

Feel like your party needs a primary buffer if you’re lacking something like a Bard to inspire courage? That’s fine, Clerics are great at buffing, too! Use your spells to give your party the upper hand in or out of battle.

 

http://www.dandwiki.com/w/images/thumb/e/e5/Celestial_Disciple.jpg/300px-Celestial_Disciple.jpg4. Really Cool Prestige Classes

Because I can’t possibly cover them all myself, I feel like linking to this post from BrilliantGameologist/MinMaxBoards would be the best way to cover all of the amazing Prestige Classes that Clerics are able to class into. As you can see, you’ve got tons of options if you’re allowed to use books outside of the Player’s Handbook.

 

5. The Fluff Is Real

One issue that I see very frequently with new and old players alike is their inability to actually roleplay as their character. Sure, you know how your character chooses to bash in faces, interrogate captured enemies, or bluff their way through a quick interaction – but do you truly know your character? Do you know their story? Their motivations? Their objectives? If you have trouble figuring those things out, I believe that a Cleric can be really great to inspire this kind of background creation. A character chooses their Cleric’s deity based on how they see that character acting. A Cleric  may be one step away on either the lawful-chaotic axis or the good-evil axis, but not both – they also can’t choose a Neutral alignment unless their deity is Neutral.

So what’s this about fluff? Well, pick a deity you like and then you can find out! Once you’ve picked your deity, it’s really easy to find out what your character would be like based on how the followers of said deity would act. What does your deity value? How does your deity convey strengths or weaknesses? Do they have favored armor, weapons, or actions? How strict are the followers of this deity? All of this can help you give your character that extra background and fluff they need!

For example: My one Cleric is an elf who follows Corellon Larethian, the Preserver of Life and Ruler of all Elves. He is Chaotic Good, as is my character. His favored weapon is a Longsword, therefore my character uses a Longsword in melee combat to bring herself closer to her deity. Much like Corellon she appreciates the beauty in the world, and happily wears her Holy Symbol or Azure blue Cleric Vestments to show who she follows. On occasion she preaches the good word of her deity, but only to those who seem as though they could use him in their life, or those who fit as a follower. She’s also not a fan of Orcs – shocker!

6. Being Holy (Or Unholy) Can Get You Places

In a game where diplomacy and having connections can get you far, it’s great to be a Cleric – mostly if you’re following one of the more common deities. Chances are, if you’re following a common deity, you’ll have friends in high and low places. Plenty of towns and cities will have temples for the more common deities of their people, meaning you’ve got somewhere to worship – and somewhere to ask for favors. Perhaps your party member has a disease or ailment you can’t yet cure, try to bring them to your temple and ask for assistance. Need a companion or a mission? See if a local follower is willing to join your party for a mission. On a bigger scale, some followers of your deity may be a King or Queen, maybe even some of the nobility.http://i648.photobucket.com/albums/uu208/PD_Trooper/Dark%20Heresy/Cleric.jpg

If you’re on the evil side of things, then you might find some friends in low places – thugs, bandits, leaders of small, villains, etc. That local group of bandits might have a leader who needs some help with a huge heist – and they may just offer you a cut of their bounty if you help out. Or perhaps your deity is known to kill all of X race on the spot – there’s obviously nothing wrong with you carrying out their wishes in your own plane. Pick your poison and use it to your evil advantage!

The Fallen Tavern – A Discounted Module for Bluff-Check Readers

Many times I have been approached by budding Dungeon Masters, with the old question of “How do I get a party of adventurers together without being cliche?” After thinking about the process for many years, I finally came to an answer, one which happens to take a cliche and expound upon it. After using similar techniques for many years to jump start my own campaigns, I decided to use it as the initial project to launch a small game publishing company.

The adventure begins with everyone in a tavern, but where it goes from there might be a little surprising. The Player Characters are forced to work together if they wish to survive to see the light of day.

We at Assassin Games wish to share the module with the loyal readers of Bluff-Check, and thus we are offering it at a reduced price, just follow this link: http://www.rpgnow.com/browse.php?discount=61361

Additionally, you can check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/assassin.games.rpg or visit our website at http://assassingamesrpg.com/

 

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