Getting back on the regular track this week after Origins 2017 – con fatigue is a thing that is real, folks – there were two RPG player experiences I’ve had recently that taught me a valuable lesson. One is from the time-stamped video above that happened during Nerdarchy’s Open Legend RPG-sponsored live game Fridays at noon EST. The other is from my home group’s fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons game. Both situations illustrated a poignant paradigm. As you’ve undoubtedly guessed from this article’s title, the lesson is that great stories emerge from less-than-great people.
Great examples of not so great people in RPG campaigns who drive the narrative forward and create great stories are everywhere. Critical Role’s Vox Machina will be the first to admit they’re often terrible people. Dice, Camera, Action’s Waffle Crew barely get along. Acquisitions Inc.’s The C Team aren’t exactly shining examples of heroism. And Titansgrave’s cast of adventurers were built from the beginning with inherent flaws. Yet all of them tell compelling RPG stories full of action, excitement, humor and drama driven by characters who are far from perfect. I’m sure anyone’s home game has plenty of examples, too.
Attending a game convention is not new territory for me. Fresh off of Origins 2017 in Columbus, Ohio, the gaming juice runs at an all-time high and I’m pumped to plow forward with gusto on as a fan of tabletop roleplaying games as well as a savvy up-and-coming Nerdarchy aide-de-camp.
My first game convention was, coincidentally, Origins Game Fair back in the early 90s when civilization was at its peak. I’ll never forget inadvertently joining a world championship tournament of Diplomacy, having never played the game. For about an hour I had my opponents thinking I was some kind of savant, making bewildering moves they’d never seen. Then they realized my cluelessness and my stint as a global leader quickly ended.
Monsters as notable NPCs and player characters in D&D is something I’ve touched on in past columns, including last week’s exploration of the similarities between a TTRPG GM and a Swiss Army knife. Since then, I ran the “Grungle in the Jungle” adventure idea for my gaming group. Inspired by Stream of Annihilation’s One Grung Above from WotC Product Manager Christopher Lindsay this adventure puts the players in control of a band of grung from Volo’s Guide to Monsters.
Open Legend character build from concept to gameplay
As a relatively new staff writer for Nerdarchy.com the opportunity to join my colleagues William C. (aka Professor Bill from Comic Book University), Megan R. Miller, Nerdarchy.com editor-in-chief Ty Johnston and Nerdarchist Ted in a weekly live stream game run by Nerdarchist Dave is phenomenal.
Not without trepidation I quickly agreed. The game is a wholly new system for me, for one, and for another I’d never played a tabletop roleplaying game online before – let alone live streaming!
Dungeon Life’s Todd Kenreck was one busy journalist at Wizards of the Coast’s Stream of Annihilation June 2-3, 2017. On his Twitter feed, Kenreck shared that he was able to score 29 interviews with various D&D dignitaries, including the inimitable Matthew Mercer, actor and Dungeon Master for Geek and Sundry’s Critical Role.
GM tools for adventure – you only need a few
My TTRPG group keeps me on my toes as a GM. Comprised of adults, all of whom have varying degrees of adulting to do, our get-togethers are infrequent. It averages out to about twice a month on Sunday evenings. Within that group, everyone has varying schedules for work, family responsibilities and so forth. This results in a flexible group makeup on top of everything else. That last part usually isn’t a problem, as PCs can fade into the background or remain on their spelljammer ship while the present players form an away team.
But what happens when a particular character is important to the story for that session? Maybe the previous session ended on a cliffhanger or dramatic moment and a character’s absence would be awkward Or you as the GM simply aren’t prepared to continue your usual campaign?
Spelljammer thrusts your D&D adventures into space
In last week’s column I shared a cobbled-together homebrew system for handling ship-to-ship combat from the homebrew 5E D&D Spelljammer campaign that I run for my friends. With the Memorial Day weekend keeping my players busy we did not gather around the gaming table this week, which means playtesting those rules will have to wait.
Spoilers for any of my players reading this before our next session – they will encounter a potential ship-to-ship combat situation. Or did they think commandeering that mercenary ship was going to be easy?
During a May 15 Reddit AMA with Mike Mearls, lead designer of 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast, he mentioned how the D&D 5E initiative system bugged him and shared a house rule method he uses for his own games.
It’s no fluke that an enormous and continually-growing slate of streaming game play has emerged alongside 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. When Greg Tito joined Wizards of the Coast’s marketing team a couple of years ago as communication manager, adding more streaming programming to their schedule was one of his goals to expand the audience for D&D.
You can’t throw a d20 in 2017 without hitting a space fantasy RPG. Tabletop gamers looking to combine swords and sorcery with science and starships can take their pick of several products hitting the market this year. Starfinder utilizes the Pathfinder engine to explore fantasy...
Tabletop roleplaying games afford players amazing opportunities. Through the characters and worlds we imagine at the gaming table, we create adventures and stories filled with heroism, villainy, danger, humor, drama, action and intrigue. Through game play we surprise ourselves through improvisation and collaboration, letting our shared stories twist and turn and carry us along. Through our characters’ actions, we affect the imaginary world and have an impact.
We invest something of ourselves into our characters. Players might portray characters who are exaggerated or ideal versions of themselves, or one aspect of themselves. Conversely, they can explore personalities, philosophies or lifestyles vastly different than their own. In a similar way, GMs create and run adventures that satisfy (sometimes intangible) goals and interests, populating the game environment with people, places and things – and monsters! – that appeal to those goals.
Critter Compendium by Tobias Beis is a collection of monsters for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, available now as a PDF through the Dungeon Masters Guild for $15. The hefty book presents a wide variety and number of creatures from earlier D&D editions converted to the current ruleset, along with original creations that includes artwork by the author. With 135 entries and appendices describing additional creatures and templates, Critter Compendium has enough creatures to populate several campaigns across the whole gamut of challenge ratings.
How can your game go wrong when the lead story designer for the team behind creating Dungeons & Dragons runs the campaign? In “Dice, Camera, Action,” Wizards of the Coast’s Chris Perkins leads a core party of adventurers along with several guest players through a live streaming season of the official published campaign Curse of Strahd in season one. The second season continues the party’s adventures with Storm King’s Thunder.
[The ongoing live stream RPG review series is on hiatus this week because reasons. In their place enjoy a peek behind how I sussed out my idea for a new primal path for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons barbarians.]
With my first foray into creating content for Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeon Masters Guild, I offered my own take on a popular concept: the blue mage from Final Fantasy lore.
Beginning today, April 28, Nerdarchy will host a weekly live stream Open Legend game starting at noon EST on Fridays. Nerdarchist Dave will be at the GM helm, and players Nerdarchist Ted, Nerdarchy.com web editor-in-chief Ty Johnston, staff writer William C (aka Professor Bill of Comic Book University), and staff writers Megan Miller and Doug Vehovec will form a party of adventurers to take on this exciting game system.
A Patreon-exclusive poll helped shape the game world by choosing the theme and genre for the setting, and there will be additional ways for Patreons and viewers to interact and engage with the game as it continues each week. Be sure to check out Nerdarchy’s Patreon to discover all the ways you can support Nerdarchy and get cool gaming tips and learn how to game with Nerdarchy, get exclusive offers, ask priority questions to guests during the daily live chats and more.