Thursday 03 May, 2012

RPG marital aids


First I wanted to thank all those who posted comments on the last posting.  It was a nice warm welcome to the Blogsphere.  So on with tonight’s posting…

Like a marriage a campaign can have its up and downs.  There are the awesome times when you and your players are in love with new concepts or locations, and then there are stretches where the feeling runs dry.  Fear not Game Masters!  Companies such as Paizo, Goodman Games, Gamers Rule, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and WoTC have produced RPG marital aids to make things exciting once more!  Seriously though, there are times when even the best of GMs run short of ideas.  There are those sessions after your group just took down Gilthor the horrible and now your adventurers need a new trail of bread crumbs to follow.  Granted anyone can run down to their LFGS and pick up a module or head over to DrivethruRPG and grab a nifty PDF of adventure seeds.  You are not just anyone!

The idea of running a module is not a bad thing.  White Plume Mountain has saved my butt many times over the past 28 years of gaming.  Unfortunately if you have players like mine who hate the idea of railroads, there are some great products out there that have replay value and are pretty neato to have around.  I am going to talk about my top five RPG accessories that I have come across (and now own) that have pulled me out of the lame story seat and into the awesome fire of on the spot storytelling.  Having some improv training helps a bit also, but these little diddys can do most of the job for you.

On to the top five RPG marital aids

5. Game Mastery Plot Twist Cards

These are an amazing set of cards.  The art is top notch (I would not expect anything less from Paizo), the cards are printed on sturdy glossy cardboard, and the cost is less than two lattes at Starbucks.  The idea is that the players and GM can  use the cards to drop new story elements into the game.  For example the player might have a card with the header Backstabbed.  The card gives a mechanical option (in this case the target would be considered flanked for the rest of the current combat) and it give four narrative options as well.  The players can try to fit the narrative into the ongoing story to give some nice twists.  Mind you it is not for the control freak GM and they do not work well when running a module.  If you are looking for something fun for your sandbox campaign, look no further than the Plot Twist Cards.





4. Decision making dice

I want to say these are from Chessex, but upon looking at their site I cannot find a trace of them.  The reason I say Chessex is, well that is where I purchased them at I-CON  over the past 10 years.  These dice are great.  They range from dice with emotional faces, dice that have alignments, dice that show dungeon hallways, dice that do hit locations, scatter dice, you name it.  Now granted I may only use these once in a blue moon, but when I need them they sing.   The party walks into a tavern unexpectedly and want to know who is there and the reaction of the regulars.  Easily done!  The players want to take a random hike in the mountains.  I roll the dice and see if it rains or if there are chaotic beast near by.  At about $2.00 – $3.00 a pop they are not a bad deal.  Load up on these for your next dungeon crawl, you will be glad you did.

3.  The Harrow Deck

Paizo again comes up with another awesome deck of cards.  Although these cards were designed for the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path, they usefulness at my table has been above and beyond.  The idea behind them is when the players are adventuring in the above mentioned adventure path, they have this mystical deck given to them by an ally.  Each adventure the spirit of this ally does a reading for the player characters and during each part of the adventure they gain powers from these readings.  The Harrow Deck is a really cool fantasy Tarot-like deck that can add flavor you any game.  They are broken down into suits: Strength (hammer), Intelligence (book), Dexterity (key), Wisdom (star), Constitution (shield), and Charisma (crown).  Each of these suits have a certain meaning and really cool related art work.  I have used them for the Paizo AP, but I have used them outside of that for character generation (having the players use them to trigger background stories), or to just give me a random plot twist by looking at the suit and picture.  Again they fall into the inexpensive category at $15.99

2. Vornheim: the complete city kit

Let me just say WOW!  I have never run across something so damn useful.  OK, fine TSR have made many a city kit and adventure builder in their day.  This this though is pure genius.  Created by Zak S. of D&D with Porn Stars and published by James Raggi, this book is a whole lot of awesomeness in a tiny little package.  The book looks small, and inside it is cluttered with tables and minor descriptions of places you would fine in a city.  To use the book you remove the dust jacket, leave it open with the front and back covers exposed, and roll a d4 on top of it.  depending on how the d4 lands,  the position it points, the number it rolls, and the location on the cover… it can tell you where in the city the PCs are, who are the opponents that are going to cause them trouble, and all kids of cool shite.  If you are going to buy this do yourself a favor and buy the book.  While the PDF is cheaper and easier to get, it does not have the same impact as the book.  Even Zak S. says in the PDF version this was never meant for a digital publishing.  It works (if you print out the tables), but the hard cover little book is worth it.

1. The Random Esoteric Creature Generator

This is my number one favorite RPG aid.  This little pamphlet of a book is published by Goodman Games and written by Mr. Lamentations himself James Raggi.  I believe this book predates LotFP, but you can see its influence in his Grindhouse Edition of Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  The book is simply a series of random charts and solid advice about the creation of monsters for an old school game.  If you have players who have the monster manual memorized and know everything you can throw at them, BUY THIS BOOK!  The tables and design flow will allow you to come up with creatures such as a cat like snake with spider legs,  a Giant with several heads who spits acid, a dog with tentacle feet and giant saber like fangs.  Also the advice within is priceless.  Even if you don’t use the book the ideas will have your stock monsters crawling with new life and deadlier abilities.

Well that’s it for now….

I will be looking over the comments from Sunday’s post and announce a winner by the weekend.

One Comment

  • Vornheim is indeed awesome. Thanks for the heads up on those plot cards. They remind me of an oooooollllldddd accessory from White Wolf pre-Vampire days called… Story Cards (I think). They did basically the same thing though they had no mechanical effect, just ways to flip the narrative. And you could get different theme decks, so one was horror, and the other was more general fantasy. I think there were only two though. Anyway, I loved ’em.

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