Driven onwards…

Well it’s been a wild weekend.

Sadly a lot of Dexterity and Constitution saving throws were failed this weekend which resulted it nearly no time for the blog during daylight hours nor last night.

As such I have updated last night’s encounter overview with more of my thoughts from my external notes as what I managed to publish last night wasn’t what I was happy with so I spent a bit of time polishing it a bit tonight.

Tonight I want to do a creative piece focusing on the scenes from yesterday, well tonight, but still Friday’s post.. any way. Enjoy.


As the creature took the sky and spread its wings wide a screeching chorus of wind and sound burst forth from it Jason looked back into the wagon at the other three passengers, Kyoko having sunk an arrow into the beast somewhere moments earlier.

“Brace yourselves! Close the doors and hatches! That beast is doing something!” and with that he whipped the horse as hard as he could, spurring the old horse to dash forward to try and break free of the valley. As the wagon passed the furthest part member back Jason screamed the same to the party, to flee and run as quickly as they could – but his words were taken from his mouth and thrown to the cacophony that the creature summoned as two mighty spears of ice launched from it into two peaks, one either side of the valley, embedding it deep into the ground and rock causing a rumble of complaining earth to answer.

Moments of nothing but a distant rumble could be head, mere heart beats before a splitting like ice and rock cleaving in two before an entire ice shelf shifted and began to fall down the steep valley walls, catching and bringing more ice and snow and rocks into its cause as the avalanche became a living entity all on its own – baying for the lives of all in the valley as it broke trees, shattered rocks and hurtled towards the party and the wagon.

The party were keeping pace with the Wagon, if not slightly in front as they horse found it hard to gain traction and pull the wagon through the rocky road. A body, tired and weary threw itself onto the bench next to Jason as Ester hauled herself onto the wagon that was moving just about as fast as it could, but the wall of ice, rock and snow was moving faster. The creature was swooping the party and wagon now, getting glancing blows on them as they made a break for the mouth of the valley where the snow would spread outwards and not funnel directly into them.

“Jason!” he heard Kyoko cry from the sealed wagon behind him, but he already knew, the wall of the avalanche was about to hit the wagon.

He lashed himself to the seat and threw the rope to Ester to do the same as he gave one final spur of encouragement to the horse as the wagon lurched forward as the first rocks and snow hit the back of it – pushing it forward at the same time as it started to bury it alive, and whole – the sound of rocks, wood and ice scraping against his wagon was the last thing he heard over the roaring of the avalanche-come-beast as he saw the creature swoop and take another swipe at another party member before the white, cold embrace of snow engulfed him – still pushing him, his wagon, horse and passengers down through the valley whilst burying them under feet of snow and debris.


Thanks for joining me tonight and for sticking through this week, well month really, until the end. Tomorrow you may start to notice some differenced with the blog, small things hopefully but as the week goes on perhaps you will notice more smaller things and some larger changes here – which is exciting times!

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the end of week writeup and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

Place of note – isle of beasts

Now tonight I want to take a pit stop at a place that could appear in any Adventure that’s above or, with some creative thinking, below the surface of the waves – the isle of beasts.


Curiosity #3 – Captains Book

Last entry.

The crew have returned to the ship, I don’t blame them after what we have seen on this island and I don’t have the heart to tell them that it won’t do them any good. We set down anchor on this island to make repairs after a freak storm broke our mast and pushed us against the reef causing us to take on water.

We were about to abandon Red Tides, my ship, then we saw the peak of mountain which promised land. Limping our way to this cove the tall peaks of the island, hot dense forests and fresh water made it look like a god send so we went ashore to find supplies to mend the ship and stock up for the journey home.

Making our way into the forests we found suitable trees, saps and the like to repair the hulls breach and a suitable trunk to replace the mast. All was fine until we heard a sound like thunder, a rumbling that spoke of the old Dwarven gods Dwaine would tell us about. Investigating we came across a cave that was home to some of thr largest eggs we have ever seen, reptilian, avian or dragon we could not tell but on our hastened flight from the cave we stumbled upon a pack of apes the size of giants… They ate the first of the crew to run in terror and then the slowest of us.

Birds whos feathers could be sails for skips picked a few of us off and centipedes got a few of the crew who were preparing the mast.

By nightfall we had the mast ready to install, it cost us a few more men and women to retrieve it but we had it, but not the manpower to hoist it up. A few of us returned inland again to get supplies for the rowboats to get a the remaining crew back out to see but we were discovered by something… Else.. words cant describe it but it wasn’t no beast I have seen before. It slowly followed those who ran screaming to the ship and ignored those who hid. For now. The ship and crew will be lucky to survive the night with that thing following them. I’ve decided to take a boat in the morning, if I last that long, and any who survive and get off this island with what little supplies I have.

If you find this journal beware the isle that appears after a storm, its an unholy place and it brings death. Best bet is to drown at sea instead of coming to this place…


Whether discovered on the island or in a shop somewhere little books that hint or tell of an island that none can find but appears as if sent by the gods are commonplace in RPGs. They can drive players to seek the island, push them to leave such a place or set an ominous tone for if the party does find themselves in a storm with an isle appearing suddenly. They can be a good place for a one shot, can be mysteriously set in the underdark (see movies like journey to…) and are common enough in movies and literature that inspiration is aplenty.

Thanks for joining me tonight for a little adventure inspiration, I am busy this weekend sketching out some core rules for an RPG I want to create so time is a bit short. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the end of week write-up and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,

The Brazen Wolfe

Creating atmosphere – setting the mood and building tension

Good evening and welcome to a bit of a casual weekend write-up around setting the mood and building tension.

Now a disclaimer, my memory isn’t super great so I may have covered some of this before and I will definitely touch on it again as I learn more, develop more techniques and explore what it means to facilitate a TTRPG adventure.

This week we have the slow build of the approach of a herd of spooked Glimmer Stags, a kind of elk with fox-like tails. The idea behind this is to play on the sensations that we would feel during the lead up which perhaps could be a slight rumble of sound that could be distant thunder, to the vibrations, a flock of birds hurrying away from the approaching creatures and past the party. Anything that we can see from film or read about in literature for stampedes could help this week. But how do we do that for a RPG?

Sound. Mimicking the sound, animals calls, drumming your fingers on the table or even having sound clips playing could all help set the auditory atmosphere of the scene for the party to help describe whats happening or whats not happening quite yet.

Describing the other sensations like feel, touch, temperature or visual queues can also be help develop the atmosphere. For me trying to describe the vast lack of visual queues or the build-up of these can be challenging as as humans we either see something or we don’t and when we have characters that have darkvision in our groups they normally can see everything. But having a bright light or the sense of movement without defined vision can to start paint the picture.

With any atmospheric building it needs to be described as either a stark contrast that triggers a feeling of foreboding, uneasiness or uncertainty or gradually build from a flicker of recognition to the realisation that something is different or wrong. Some rpg podcasts out there do this very well and generally the horror variety of rpgs really highlight both tempos of atmospheric development.

For me in prefer gradual addition of atmosphere. Starting with normal then adding more, like a sprinkle of salt to emphasise flavour, then another and so forth until its more salt than soup. This enables me to use audio cues as well as play with describing the other senses being influenced as well. Focus on one sense then throw in another to emphasise the build up to the crescendo of the piece.

Background music, only if timed well, during the description or during the planning of it can help us with planning the encounter. We need to feel the build-up to as these weavers of story so we can convince ourselves of whats happening. We are our toughest critics and the first people who we need to get on side for this adventure to be a hit so sell it to yourself first.

Well, thats all I have for tonight to touch a bit more on setting the atmosphere for our rpgs. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the end of week write-up and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,

The Brazen Wolfe

Saying farewell

Hi all and thanks for dropping in for tonights writeup around saying goodbye to a character or NPC.

Now occasionally we will have a PC die and how we handle that generally is based on the circumstances around said perishing. But what about NPCs?

Now I’ve had some campaigns where a random NPC becomes a mascot or sorts and the party would’ve mourned thier passing under most circumstances but as a DM we have full control over when and how NPCs die.

This month, really its been rough for the NPCs, we have had a few NPCs die whether from the Nat attack or after that in defence of Kyoko. Deciding the right time to pull that level and watch the players reactions, who deal with death daily is something that is hard to come to a decision on and for me I am myself a few questions.

1. Is their death driving the plot forward? If the plot progresses and the chance for more adventures and growth for the players and their character then it could be a good time to move on.

2. Does the NPC growing and taking up more and more “screen time” then the players? If yes then its another indicator that it could be the right move.

3. Will the players continue down their adventuring path without this NPC, are they still relevant for future sessions? This one is tricky. If its a no then you can move on easily, but if its a yes then you may need to consider what else you can do to help drive the narrative as a side player. A magical journal that contains the knowledge of the NPC is a common crutch to fall on, or, bringing them back as a guide or spirit. It cheapens their existence and can also grate on some players nerves but if the answers to #1 and #2 were also yes then #3 is almost always a sign for the tigger to be pulled.

I’ve been looking at what can be my mid campaign shift and the migration from one arc to another for a while now and moving from having ” a guide with a plan” to being relatively blind is probably the next step for kyoko and the Party. It outs more emphasis on the party to do more but also fits well with the goals of thr NPCs so it doesn’t feel like a “rocks fall” moment – as much…

When deciding to remind an npc in full or partially from the scene as long as it benefits the story and players then normally it will end fine.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the last of the months Brazen Wolfe Tabletop content and as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,

The Brazen Wolfe

Inspiration points

So I find myself at a crossroads tonight – having had to regretfully pause my games (of Soulbound or dungeons and dragons) for some time but that doesn’t stop my imagination running with the smallest inspiration. Hanging out clothes and having an Ant bite my foot this morning, looking at my ice-themed dice set on my typing desk, the dozens of miniature paints littered through my room or the two odd book shelves, different in so many ways but suiting the same purpose – inspiration can some from single word, a single spark and for me its a constant, distracting and enriching thing to experience.

So tonight I want to share a days, my day today, worth of inspiration with you all.

Animals can be a big inspiration for adventures, taking the smallest (and maybe least favourite – except for centipedes, those things are the worst!) of creatures and one that people are naturally fearful of we can create two adventures complete with hooks, sub hooks, NPCs and places to explore. Let’s look at two animal inspired adventure hooks.

Ants.

For a very long time ants have always bothered me, mainly for my dislike of socks and the enjoyment I get while walking bear footed across paddocks, roads, yards and so forth. For the town or Berokovia the ants have changed.

Ants the size of dogs have appeared in the villagers barns and houses and the farmer that killed a single ant was seen being dragged into the soil by an ant the size of an ogor. The crops are slowly dwindling but not as fast as the herds of animals which seem to be the preferred prey for the invertebrates. Regardless of aid coming in with the depletion of their livestock and land there isnt much hope for the town of Berokovia.

Bats

“Demons!” the first shrieks from a frightened city watch guard filled the tavern as the door slammed shut behind him. “There’s demons in the street, swooping down on large wings to grab at any they can find” behind the panicked shrieks chittering could be heart from the streets.

Giant bats, larger than their normal giant kind, have suddenly started to attack the the City of Milfords Rest, built up around mining in the nearby mines. A new rich gold deposit had been found and the miners, the merchants and prospective prospectors have flocked to the city to work and earn their fortune – however a few nights before the winged mammals appeared in the city people started to go missing in the mines, near the new tunnels opened and all but one were lost. The one that was found was a husk, dried, shrivelled and his face frozen in fear and pain.

Objects. Easily enough I have a set of dice on my table and the d100 is nearly perfectly clear with the sligtest tinge of blue which makes me think of ice. On the other side of my desk is my kids tea-set. A saucer, tea cup and a little wooden spook which was left there from a earlier tea party. Both can inspire adventures just as easily as ants or bats.

Permafrost Dice.

“Woah, hold your horses on that one.” the merchant said as my hand hovered over a nearly clear single dice. “That dice has story behind it and its not a good one” he said as he massaged his, actually quite terribly looking beard.

“They say that the dice belonged to a priest of Lathander who trekked into the far north, past where the sun sets and into the frozen waste lands beyond. There he found a keep which belonged to an ice witch who worshiped one of the devil-rulers from the coldest layer of hell – sworn to end the morning lord. When the two opposing powers finally clashed Lathander ultimately won but not before a blast of frigid hell-rime hit the priest high in his chest – where he kept his lucky dice pouch, they say the dice saved his life that day. He had a complete set too but they have been slowly pawned and distributed across the lands but the owners all die in some way and each time the dice move closer together. I had two of them until a day ago a street urchin ran up and snatched one. I dare say the other dice will be stolen soon and end up in the same horde as the first – but the thief” the man paused tsking. “he will be cold as death soon.”

Tea party

As the party enter the Birchwell woods they come across a curious scene, a man, a dwarf and a sprite sitting down around a felled log having tea. The man and the dwarf look up with fear and sadness in their eyes and start shouting towards the party but some trick of the thick birch trees catches their voices but it looks like they are asking for help.

When the party approach the two they burst into tears. “We told you to run, not to approach. Its too late now, he has seen …”

“why hello there, greetings and good salutations. I am Pix, the Pixie and I want you to join me for a tea and some games!” Pix the blue pixies exclaims excitedly as he flutters overhead an removes a piece of old fabric from a chair revealing the skeleton of what appears to be an elf from quite some time ago. Pushing the bones off the seat and to the forest floor he gestures for the party to come and take a seat. “come, once you start you never want to stop! I promise!” Turning and running as fast as they can the other way the party turn a corner out of the clearing and looking up they see the same scene – Pix grinning at them. “Take a seat, I implore you”

Cinema. It’s now new-age practice for people to borrow plot ideas from cinema. Rings of power, magical swords, wizards, vampires that sparkle instead of burning in the sunlight.. ok maybe not the last one – but movies and TV shows are an easy way to get inspired for adventures and I have two sources today – but they are a bit different to normal inspiration.

200 yards

As the boots met the ground the crowd of spectators cheered for their favourite team, one city against the other, a dozen warriors either side ready to fight – but with a difference. Today they put aside their regular armour and their weapons of choice and today they fight with spiked boots, padded armour with flowing tabards and balls made from leather and magic.

The two sides met in the middle and greeted each other, there was no hostility which was for such a clash as The Blue Wolves were fighting against the Golden Giants – two elite forces who had clashed before. An intense rivalry could be felt across the field into the stands as the two captains stood in front of each other but before the ball could be thrown between the two teams four players from the Blue Wolves fell over, their heads bouncing on the field as they lay motionless except for the steady rise and fall of their chest.

The team was short 4 players and, as it so happened the party had been gifted with front row tickets from a mysterious benefactor just that morning which gave them the chance of filling in for the team if there was need. The captain jogged over and looked worriedly over the party. “Well, you’re not my first pick but let me explain the rules pups. Apart from killing anything goes, we need to get past the other team and throw or kick the ball between the two obsidian pillars. That’s it. If we lose Clovia will take control over the fishing contracts of the northern lake which will cost the city a wagon full of gold. Without those contracts our city will starve. We are relying on you” the captain said as the field guard handed over blue and grey robes and padded armour for the party to don.

Puppets

As the man moved his troops into a steady line to ward off the right side of the battle board he grinned at his opponent who looked at the encroaching lines with worry. The cavalry, their horses restless for battle moved behind the line troops ready to counter charge, their warriors restless and eager for their blades to meet flesh.

Seeing an opportunity to counter play the opposition requested that his archers advance, peppering the horses with arrows as they did so, but the horses either didn’t feel the sting of barbed tips or didn’t care.

“I need a break, need to replenish the supplies.” the man controlling the cavalry said as he stood, the massive chair he stood on pushed back against the great stone blocks.

Sighing and resting his head on the table the young man looked at his warriors – who looked back.

“Why are you making us do this” they asked, their fear of the giant now not as great as they feared the zombies and undead cavalry who moved across from him. “We don’t want to be part of this sick game! Please let us go home. I have a family.” shouted another.

The giant wiped tears from his eyes. “I am sorry, truly, this is the only wan I can get my family back. He controls the slave market and he agreed that If I beat him in a game of his choosing then I will get my family back, but if I lose then I don’t.”

His elite troops, ones that he had paid a considerable lump of gold for stood near the other humans who were bound by magic in much the same was as the undead were bound to un life. Moving closer to them he spoke as lowly as he could.

“I am counting on you, my heroes, this is the last chance I have and I can’t lose my mother in the same year I lost my father. Please help and I will ensure you are set free with any riches that you want”

Both of these are simply taken from two videos I watched today. 1 – The Australian football Rules I walked in on whilst trying to get my son towards bed and 2, watching a video for a Warhammer reveal today – both can inspire adventures. One was relevant to the genre, one was not but inspiration can come at any moment.


Hopefully what inspired me today can inspire you on your next adventure. Take a moment and consider how the small things, the mundane to us could be magical or mystical – how things taken for granted in our every day lives could actually be something that adventures are made out of.

Thanks for dropping by, don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the end of week writeup and as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

You don’t always need new..

Welcome to a Saturday night pondering system where I out forward the ideas, methods and principles I have for my RPG systems.

Now tonight I wanted to touch on something that I break constantly but never need to, what already exists out there in the dnd 5e ruleset. What I mean by this is, taking last night’s post as an example, you dont need to create new spells to suit a characters play style, theme or otherwise. As an example the creation of an, albeit stronger, new spell that functions like mirror image was primarily to have a bit of flavour added to the spell and make the combat feel foreign and exotic. But just changing the mirror image spell to create bodies made from insects instead of being an illusion would have easily sufficed. The same can be said for, well the original 5e players handbooks list of spells having only a very small number of cold based spells. Changing fire bolt, burning hands, shocking grasp, melfs acid arrows or even fireball to look like frost based spells (ignoring the damage element shift for now) can give the thematic shift that we care about but avoid the balancing act of creating a new suite of spells for our cryomancer.

But if the cold damage replacing the fire damage is really important then the dm (us) can make the changes if it makes sense and doesn’t break the game. From fire to cold isnt that different but from fire to force or radiant/necrotic? Yeah thats something that could have ongoing issues.

We would’ve seen moments on our favourite live play adventure videos or podcasts where the spell is different to what we know it to be, the visuals are different and cool, exciting and fresh and thematically significant for the player. Having a water genasi summoning water bolts and throwing four of them to batter and pierce their enemies as a flavoursome magic missile spell is cool. A cleric of Gond, worshipping artifice and craft could have cogs, gears or divine engines powering their spells like guiding bolt or sacred flame. To take it further that same cleric may summon a mechanical golem or a steampunk piston driven axe as their spiritual weapon. The amount of flexibility and creativity is only stopped by us saying “thats cool, I dig it, what does that look like to you?”

Monsters also come under this. The oni from a few weeks back would have been ideal for a lift and rename from the hobgoblin, and they almost were. Adding or adjusting some flavoursome abilities to suite your campaign can be a great thing, or additional effort for very little value. Instead of making the Toad-kin I could have just given the goblin statblock amphibious trait and call it a day to fit my idea of these toad-like people.

Everytime we go to make a new item, spell, creature or whatever its a balancing act between effort, balance and value. Sometimes the simplest option of a re-skin is the best and can wow your party just as much.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the end of week write-up and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,

The Brazen Wolfe

Pace

Hi all and welcome to a bit of a mixed up weekend. Tonight I wanted to briefly talk about something that I discovered in my DM journey, pacing.

Now when I remember back to my early dungeons and dragon days, let alone when I started dungeon mastering, the adventures we had back then were akin to one shots. Quick, to the action and simple – the story was over after one or two sessions. So when I started to DM in campaigns with bigger stories every Adventure was as action packed as I always had them. Every week a new bad guy, a new dungeon or problem to fix which was normally at 100%.

This was fundamentally bad for the game and despite my party of action-JRPG-hack and slash video game playing group loving the sessions the pace was way off. It wasn’t until I introduced a friend, who loved graphic novel and story driven games, to dungeon mastering that I understood pace.

Two to three sessions with no combat and very in little dice rolling made for a slow and tedious Adventure and I was there for it. Enjoying just being a player for the first time in years, about 10 of them, I was fine to throw my gnome fighter who loved tinkering into every session possible including the impossibility dry political intrigue plots that had almost entirely too much reliance on the players (not characters) ability to navigate political intrigue which would put some jrpgs to shame. This taught me the need for pace and having periods of lower action as my friend did it very well (the lower action part.. not pacing..)

The Eureka moment came for me when I started to look at world building and theory around story plot – trying to flesh out my approach where I had these imaginary pins on the board for key moments in the campaign story arc where the party initially discover the villains of the sorry (first 5 sessions) they work towards trying to find and defeat the villains while uncovering information to the world which would be critical in defeating their supposed BBEG (10-15 sessions) and then realising that their efforts accelerated the breaking of the divine seal (keeping the all-father of undeath bound to a magically created second moon) which saw the plot accelerate mid campaign to a new peak, revealing that the quest had grown and was far from over.

Having waves where your party is frantically fighting for their life or helping a farmer find his lost sheep gives players the time to appreciate the peaks and troughs but also doesn’t burn out US as Dungeon Masters if we keep going at 95% all the time.

Now, giving it our all, all the time is a good thing. But to bring the big guns, keep the pedal to the metal, to have the party on the edge of their seats every session is detrimental to the game. To look at a favourite quote of mine and tweak it slightly.

And when everyone’s super… no one will be.

Syndrome – the incredibles

To adjust it to.

When everything is awesome… Nothing is

Some dude

We can begin to understand that those peaks we work our party towards. Slaying the red dragon, confronting their old peer and mentor, Botherson, or to save a prince from their evil father’s plot and sacrificial altar isn’t that special if we do it every week. Let the troughs create your peaks naturally and when they do come watch your parties faces as they savour and relish that moment and bask in the knowledge that you gave them that feeling of wonderment and enjoyment.

Thanks for joining me tonight, don’t forget to come back this week for anyone month long Adventure and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,

The Brazen Wolfe

Fear – a tool in your toolbox

Hi all and welcome to me talking brazenly. Tonight I want to briefly touch on something when done well can change the game for all involved, but done poorly can lead to a situation where there is no winning, maybe.

Now fear in this sense is really, for me, is that iconic first dragon appearing moment, or that scene in a movie where the protagonist walks around in the corner and has to throw themselves behind something to avoid being seen by something that we as viewers knows means business. This fear of something whether its a giant bug, alien or a dragon is what keeps this hero or protagonist alive to maybe come back at a later time and perhaps fight at a later time with a better chance of survival and winning.

A movie, its not a great movie but its a guilty pleasure, reign of fire. Now I wont ruin the movie for you but the basic plot is that dragons were discovered in a deep underground and when they emerged humanity went into hiding. Now the reason I think of this movie when we look at fear when stressing the strength of something they see is simple. When the protagonist or humans in general see dragons they run or hide. Simple. It’s not until much later in the movie that this changes.

Now I’ve successfully instilled this fearful awe of a creature once or twice before, some times not so much, where just by describing the creature the party decided to run the other way, from what I can tell its based on a few factors.

Size. Yup size does matter, in most cases, and the difference between a 10 foot lizard and a 20 foot lizard when you describe them to the party has a completely different effect. When I have done it convincingly words like dwarfing, towering, scraping the roof, “taller than the surrounding trees” and so forth. Comparing its size to something that has a familiar size, trees, a roof, another creature or the party members height and size.

Prey. The next part is prey. If you see a, giant lizard eating a moth or insect its not that alarming. But if that same sized lizard is eating a cow or, eating its way through a pile of slain bugbears or ogres – that gives the creature another element that can stress that danger which tells the party what to avoid.

Nature. A slow plodding large horned herbavour like creature disregarding the party and continuing to eat its way through bushes and trees wont instill any kind of fear or hesitation for a party of hardened adventures. But one that is aggressive and viciously charges any creature that comes within its territory, the party included, will quickly change the views and opinions on the creature.

Presence. The feel and immediate gut wrenching urge to flee or approach. This is a bit harder but you can make it more convincing by making a Charisma check and explaining the result as a feeling, sweats, stomach, clenching involuntary shakes and the the like.

So when you mix them together, or at least elements of them together you can get a situation where to face the creature in front of them based on your description would mean pain, and risk of death. It doesn’t have to be certain death but the thought of fighting it should give the fear and anticipation of it to stress the strength and power of thr creature.

Thats it for tonight, thanks for joining tonight for this little dive into psychological descriptions to dissuade combat. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow where for the end of week write-up where we have some chances of combat but a fun chase encounter and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,

The Brazen Wolfe

Avoiding the rabbit hole

Hello and welcome to a Saturday night discussion piece where I want to discuss something I struggle with, complexity.

Now its not making sure things are complex enough its going too far down a rabbit hole and, like all warrens, finding that there is a second, third, fourth and even fifth rabbit hole that has rules, systems, creatures or untapped stories that you want to explore. The issue is that when you burrow into that second tunnel it adds complexity and that complexity makes it hard for both DMs and players – an issue that I am still working out how to navigate.

An example is this weeks example – how to have those afflicted by the Sliver of Shadow curse have the mechanics they do – being present on the Material plane but unable to be seen, heard or interacted with until someone strongly willed enough finally does. What I initially thought was opening up the idea of a reversal of the astral plane mechanics – their body being present and active in the material plane but peoples ability to view them in the plane being as if trying to peer beyond the veil. Now I started to re-read up on the Astral plane to refresh my memory on its mechanics and it was.. complex to say the least, at least in the terms of how I wanted to blend it to work for me.

The first issue was that I immediately started to weave the astral plane into the plot points – my floating story line which I use to keep an idea of where I want it to go without having to cement anything down that would creature massive amounts of re-work as I write this weekly. This was a big issue for me as the added complexity to something that, to be open with, doesn’t need to be any more complex that it currently is and it also started to change and influence plot. Now as I started to mentally untangle the twine that knitted together this years campaign to start adding in the astral-thread I stopped as I started to ask myself “ok, now ‘The Shadow’ – how do they link in with the Astral plane..” the answer wasn’t a mapping session it was quite simply “IT doesn’t he is between planes but takes strength from Shadowfell” – Ok maybe a bit of a spoiler there but I believe you can forgive me. This then helped me work out the curses nature – forcing people to dwell and live like The Shadow – non-existent without being seen in the light.

The second issue was making sure that the rules, the mechanics are easy enough that new dungeon masters can read and understand with minimal study. This is the other issue with going down the rabbit hole and the complexity behind it – it gets hard to memorise so that you can run the system for the other people at the table (virtual or otherwise), the players but more on them in a minute, and with the creatures, maps, core game mechanics, the more advanced mechanics let alone the multiple race-background-class combinations that your players bring that you need to factor in with adding MORE complexity into the mix means more time reading rules, notes or books and less time playing at the minimum or forgetting something crucial and slowing down the process as you move to rectify it.

The third issue is the more complex the rules I find the players, I will refer to them as an audience for this point from now on, may become disenchanted from the session. The audience are not here to try and unpick great puzzles and unravel the secrets of the world – they want to see what happens to a party of adventurers in fantastical situations where they come out ahead against all other odds, or at least a single adventurer and how they look out for number 1, themselves. The more complex, the more rabbit holes in your warren, the more unbelievable it becomes and the easier the disenchantment becomes and they lose interest in the current scene, the session or the adventure entirely (or worse – the campaign…)

The reason for the switch in focus between player and Audience is because I also have several barely started novels sitting there waiting for meat to tie together the plot points and I struggle with keeping it simple to a few key points. For me I love high, grand fantasy where the systems, the complexity and depth is mind boggling and I aspire to produce work of comparable if not equal quality to some truly fantastic Authors. This means that I automatically associate success and ‘awesomeness’ with complexity and so I tend to dive head first into that deep deep pool when I really need to start off in the shallows first and then ease into the deep end.

So for me, keeping the complexity out is to really ensure the success of the campaign, simple. But the broader picture is also a bit of self reflection where I am aware that I tend to get bogged down in the details where I really should just take a step back and start with the basics and work my way up from there – some of the most memorable books I have read only have one or two ‘complex’ concepts and really, they aren’t that complex in the first place. Its not a new language, new ‘style’ of magic, or science, or something its just a way of doing things that I need to start at and see if complexity and further depth is neeeded at a later point.

Well that’s it for tonight, come back tomorrow for more and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

Hobby update! Rats on parade

Hello one and all to a Saturday special where I wanted to show off some basing I did today. No painting was completed today, well some on Monday, but I wanted to see how much I could get done during the week and boy dis I underestimate kids holidays.

Despite having perhaps two afternoons of doing what I pleased I didn’t manage to get much significant painting done, which is an issue. So today I spent some time, a hour or so, finishing up the basing process I did for my painted clanrats.

So enjoy the short reel and hope you like the progress!


Maybe the hardest model to paint, hence the extreme sub assembly…

Dry fitted together. Great little model – one day it will have better rules but until then its a good looking model nonetheless.

Thanks for joining me to look at my small hobby progress. 27 models with paint, 25 done, 1 nearly done (banner) and 1 half way done (doomwheel).

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the end of week write-up and as always, Don’t forget to roll with advantage,

The Brazen Wolfe