Mindtrap: A Mental Encounter

Recently, my players decided to rob the wealthiest noble family in a drow city. I didn’t see this coming, even though I should have. Of course I should have. It was money, dangled in front of PCs. What else would they have done?

Anyway, I’m running this drow city off the cuff. I have a map showing the strongholds of the noble families. I know the goals, styles and key members of these families. Everything else, I make up as needed. It’s a refreshing break from my habit of overpreparing. But it did mean that I needed an awesome security system on the fly. I mean, the drow don’t mess around. The wealthiest family’s treasure horde is going to be well-protected. Guards and pressure plates aren’t going to cut it. They need something awesome.

It also turns out that this wealthy family are talented psionists. This makes it clear what the defence should be: something that attacks the mind. A psionic dungeon.

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Roleplaying is a skill you can learn. Now, there is a textbook for it.

The Creative Roleplayer is a guide for those of you who are hungry for more. Whether a Player or a Game Master, this guide will elevate your game to the next level. Rich with simple, practical advice, it will transform the way you do everything. This system-neutral advice works with D&D, Pathfinder, FATE, GURPS and many more.

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  • tips for creating unique characters,
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  • simple hacks for memorising stats and playing from memory,

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Your imagination is wonderful. The world deserves your mental designs to be the best they can. With this guide, we can achieve that together.


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Character Concept: Soundmage

I like how many sources of magic there are in D&D. Wizards study how magic works and learn to manipulate it. Druids draw power from nature. Sorcerers spontaneously manifest magical energy. Psionic classes reach deep within their minds. Warlocks make pacts with beings greater than themselves.

Every now and then, I think about new sources of magic. What’s been buzzing in my head lately (so to speak) has been sound. Imagine a singer with a gorgeous voice. They are slowly realising that their talents are not entirely natural. Their passion, their joy, their source of fame is a conduit for strange magic…

Can you play a soundmage without creating a homebrew class? Absolutely. Simply take a core class and personalise their abilities.

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A Horrible Cosmos: Combining High-Fantasy with Lovecraft

A great way to enrich your roleplaying experience is to take your setting and mix it with a new one. D&D and Pathfinder tend to be high-fantasy: a world where no one is skeptical about magic. No one doubts the existence of gods. Humans live beside impossible creatures.

Where the fantastic is normal.

I’m a fan of Lovecraft. I love existential horror – that is, horror that threatens your view of the universe. If we discovered that evil, bloodsucking vampires live among us, I would rejoice. It would be a relief to find something objectively evil for the first time in human history. No moral grey areas – killing a vampire is a good act. Phew. The simplicity would be refreshing.

That’s different from learning that Lovercraft’s vision is true. The universe, beyond the tiny speck we inhabit, is impossible to comprehend. No matter what humanity achieves, no matter what utopias we build, our species is destined for dark, ignoble extinction. There are forces beyond our understanding that could wipe us out without effort. We survive by floating unnoticed as pond scum on the surface of reality.

Now that’s scary.

So, can we add Lovecraftian elements to, say, D&D? The answer is obviously yes, as the official setting has done exactly that. The Far Realms is a Lovecraftian location full of Lovecraftian monsters. But adding elements is easy – can we take it further?

As the Angry GM pointed out recently (and what got me thinking down this path) is that there is a fundamental mismatch in the settings’ themes. D&D is inherently optimistic – all fights can be won, all evils can be vanquished and characters can literally ascend to become gods. Lovecraft is ultimately pessimistic – victories are unlikely, costly and barely delay the inevitable destruction of the world.

When you combine the two, something has to give. Angry gave a great example in the above post about a Lovecraftian campaign in D&D. But, as he said, he compromised the pessimism. The threat was defeated, which means it was beatable. It seems like a small compromise, but it’s a compromise of a core principle.

I liked his setting. It got me thinking. Here’s my take on the same problem.

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How to Use Alignments as Motivation

I start this article with a confession: I don’t really like alignment. I tend not to use it, either as a player or GM. In my mind it doesn’t add much, only serving as an opaque label for whole swathes of roleplaying fodder.

Compare “I love my kingdom, despite its faults” to “I am Lawful Neutral”. The alignment adds nothing interesting to this description. Even worse when it is used in place of it.

Anyway, rather than simply hate it for the rest of time, I started thinking about ways I could make it a bit more interesting. Continue reading

Encounter: Scavenger Hunt

The mad wizard Golbern has awakened the Scorpion Legion from its eons of slumber. When they last arose, they almost destroyed the world. A mighty Archer, wielding the powerful Bow of Wisdom, eventually defeated them.

Before his death, the Archer buried the Bow. He believed that it was too great a weapon to remain in the world. But, should the Scorpion Legion rise again, clever and brave heroes could follow the clues that lead to its resting place.

The party found the Archer’s map in some ancient, forgotten library. One the back was scribbled the first clue…

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Encounter: Triumphant Darkness

Playing with evil characters introduces a whole new set of difficulties. The biggest challenge is managing the PCs – Jokers ruin the game for everyone. The other side of the coin is the campaign – what, exactly, do you want the evil PCs to do?

This encounter – Triumphant Darkness – kicks off a mysterious, post-apocalyptic campaign where the PCs are some of history’s greatest villains. Your players will explore a world that has fallen before a great evil, with pockets of increasingly desperate resistance. Will they serve the evil, fight back or carve their own empire in the ruins?

Triumphant Darkness [PDF]