Railroading or Player-Centric plot?

Good evening everyone and welcome to a bit of a discussion around Railroading or Player-Centric plot.

When it comes down to the definition of railroading it boils down to, basically the following. “The DM taking control of the outcomes of the adventure despite the actions of the players”.

The beginning

When I was a 5 year old boy learning D&D from my dad railroading wasn’t a concept. No really. It wasn’t. You would play an adventure, go from point A-B. You would track the bandits to their lair that had been overrun with stirge’s, find the mcguffin and bring it back to the nearby village. That was it. The adventure really became a single road leading to adventure, combat and loot. Even the adventure books that came out during that time also were of the same page. A single adventure, albeit longer, where you went from A-B and then to C after you had found out that NPC1 was really BBEG2. Or something like that.

This made it easy to DM. In fact all you needed was one adventure, the plot hook and all you had to do was run it using your prep sheet. You had to improvise around the decisions during the adventure of course but this wasn’t hard to do. As the DM you knew your NPCs, the map and the creatures. You didn’t have to worry about what was off the beaten track and your players knew it.

The players came in expecting adventure, they were trained mercenaries, henchmen or heroes and they had a job to do. They had to explore the hidden dungeon, find the mad alchemists lair and defeat the golems within. These heroes didn’t care for the nearby keep – that was another adventure and this alchemist was dangerous. And so the adventures went like that. Each session a new adventure, a new story and new things to see and explore – but all prepared for by a Dungeon Master who spent hours on it for the players, and their, enjoyment.

The shift

You remember Skyrim? maybe it was your first RPG. For me Neverwinter nights was my first digital RPG and boy was it great. You could move through the towns, buildings, dungeons and sewers and learn and do anything. But there were doors that needed keys and those keys were kept by holders of the plot. You couldn’t continue to the next town until you had done the quest before hand. And you couldn’t do that quest until you completed the one currently assigned to you. Yes the bakers wife would ask you to kil lrats in her basement as a side quest – but you didn’t leave the city until much later.

With the rise of open world games and bigger RPGs, like Skyrim, we saw the humble style of fun weekender-one-shots step aside for long winded campaigns that were completely driven by players decisions. This makes it harder to plan and organise for the DM, which is 100% fine. But the counter argument is if the story is that an evil wizard is in a castle to the north you want the party to find that castle. You don’t want them exploring the swamp-islands to the south where the cannibalistic tribes of Kuthrapika hunt the marshy waterways. Though – that does sound fun now doesn’t it?

Railroading or Player-Centric plot?

The rise of “your decisions, your story” is putting the classic “Your decisions, my quest” in a negative light in some circles. This unrealistic expectation of the DM shifting, changing and maintaining multiple story lines and bending the game that they facilitate (yes.. the big F word..) makes it harder to convince players to come along with you on the journey through the adventure you have crafted.

The old saying of “it takes two to tango” is so true with D&D these days and the real quest is getting the players to care about your story enough and stick to it and not go looking for adventure but trust that you have it in spades, waiting for them to come along for the journey.


Well that’s it for me tonight. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow night where I will take you through the weekly write-up and look to finish up this month. If you have a different view on railroading let us know, let’s talk about it openly from players and dungeon masters alike as the game has changed heaps since I was a kid and the adventure needs to work for both DM and player.

Don’t forget to read up on the past week, look out for new stat-blocks and potential new items for our adventurers in the coming posts 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

Soulbound – A test playthrough

Hi all, a short soulbound update using the pro features from Inkarnate (not a sponsor – maybe one day it will mean something to say that!).

I asked a few veterans to RPG systems over the last week to help me explore how to run Soulbound campaigns in the future so I whipped up a few encounters each increasing in difficulty to see what the limit is with the number of creatures I throw at them.

So lets look at the encounters planned so far.

Encounter 1 – Ambush at Traders pass

For this encounter I have a 10 creature swarm of grots, 4 squig hoppers, 10 creature swarm of squigs (squig herd) and a fungoid cave shaman. The creatures ambush the party on the road as they are moving from where they underwent the soulbinding to Anvilguard (or maybe Brightspear – this is meant to drive out some connections between the party and let new players explore the system without too much risk to permanent death.) The squigs charge at what ever they find after a comical entrance (one falling down into the middle of the road then the rest of the swarm rushing forward to attack what ever they see) then the bounders attacking cackling madly as the 10 grots rain down arrow fire upon the wagon (Causing it to flee) from behind the logs and in the dense trees.

The Shaman stands atop the hill and throws spells and insults at the party screaming “Get them, feed my squiggies, get them get them!”

The zones are easy. Zone -1 (Zone 6 I guess) is the tress to the bottom left of the map, Zone 1 is the road, zone 2 is the trees to the top of the map, zone 3 is the clearing before the hill, zone 4 is the hill, zone 5 is the bottom right trees.

Made with Inkarnate.com

The encounter was easy for the party, Spread on ranged weapons and a pretty strong melee fighter that can dish out enough damage to kill a swarm by themselves made it a cake walk. The squig herd died down to 3 creatures from the first shot (stand and shoot talent) the squig hoppers died in melee but did some damage – which the branchwych managed to heal back very quickly. The Range on the rifle got a few damage on the shaman (who fled leaving a bloody trail to the next area), the grots didn’t do much apart from the plot hook but the volume of dice rolled meant that a few damage got through good defence. The Shaman did the most damage but failed two spells! (out of three being cast with his once per battle, and mettle being spent).


The Squig Pit – Here we had three units of 10 creature squig herds, four squig herders and a loonboss on giant cave squig. This was 3 swarms of 10 minions, four warriors and one chosen. The chosen was super strong here and the minion swarms hurt a lot – despite the group being able to demolish all of them.

Called shot meant that the loonboss spent most of his time on his back AND stunned – both are very powerful but when he did finally get to attack (from hiding) he managed to inflict deadly wounds on two different characters – this was quite the surprise to the party. The squigs did a lot of damage this time with the herders and the loonboss buffing their attack profiles up a rank on the ladder (to a total of two rungs!).

The layout was confusing here. Top of the fallen tree and the road and the trees was zone 1 upto the rocks above the cave, below the fallen tree and upto the rocks was zone 2, the rocks were zone 3, the pit and walkway was zone 4, the northern ledges were zone 5m the bottom ledges were zone 6 and the cave was zone 7. This is another ambush IF the party cant sneak up (stealth(body) checks) – if they succeed on stealth they ambush the grots, if they dont the get ambushed by squigs in the forest and one in the pit.

Made with Inkarnate.com

This encounter saw two characters get deadly wounds and only through the branchwych healing and casting Thorn shield every round did we see the party not take more wounds. The note here is to decrease difficulty (or number of creatures/units.. things) if there is extreme synergy.

Thanks for looking into my madness a bit, I anticipate that future sessions will see more updates and hopefully more maps as I see the different in details with the pro version of Inkarnate makes these maps look much better as both of these maps were made by hand – well mouse and keyboard by myself.

Don’t forget to look out for my end of week write-up also coming out later tonight and as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

A Short soulbound adventure

Hi all, I wanted to put up a quick post to touch base on Soulbound! Yup, the TTRPG created by Cubicle 7 as I finally had a, admittedly quick, chance to have a few players run through the system with me today.

So below you will find copies of the characters I am using for the test playthrough I am running so I can get my head around the DM aspects of this RPG as, unlike D&D and other systems, the encounter balancing is an art, not a defined science.

So in order for me to try and balance encounters I came up with three characters of my own (as one of the players I had working with me today brought their own character based off Irondrakes/Thunderers from Age of Sigmar) each with a specific role in mind. Ranged, Melee, Hybrid and spell casting support.

The early verdict is that spell casting feels strong, especially the supporting magic (Shield of Thorns is very strong) and that in order to balance out encounters you need to really understand your parties output potential as I had each character utterly destroy what ever they fought against.

The melee Kharadron, Teegahn was exceptional in melee, perhaps too much so, and as a converted Endrin rigger (lost their endrin and replaced it with a Endrin-harness) they were a one person demolition crew when it comes to melee combat. The custom character modelled after a Thunderer or Irondrake, Drek, managed to kill seven Squigs in one shot, which was all the squigs in that swarm.

Both the Black Ark Corsair, Krylla, and Branchwych, Kalera, held their own, suffered some wounds but with the healing magic as well as supporting magic they were in no real danger even when a 10-man squig herd, 4 Squig Hoppers, 10 Grots (with bows) and a fungoid cave shaman attacked them they suffered maybe 17 damage in total whilst they dished out around 85 in the same amount of time.

Further playtesting should see how the same characters fair with stronger enemies, not just grots (goblins) and their pets, but more warriors and tougher foes to fight and potentially even something that I am sure they wont be able to best easily.

Thanks, that’s all I have for now! Hopefully I can convince the others to come and join me for the second half of the adventure where they may find that they are not the gods amongst mortals that they feel like they are now.

The Brazen Wolfe

Skaven sighted in Soulbound

Hi all and welcome to fight night where tonight I am getting ready for a warhammer game against an old friend and rival who has requested that I bring my Skaven once again to the front lines and do battle with his noble Fyreslayers.

But, tonight being fight night and I did say that I would bring some more Soulbound this week I wanted to explore combat and the “Creature Stat Blocks” for Soulbound.

So I will take you through some of my beloved Skaven models and do my best to explain the concept of these stat blocks (as I am still learning how the system works).

So without begging forgiveness for any mistakes I made, let’s roll on!


Skaven in Soulbound

213FrSS

The Clanrat

Second only to labourers and slaves, Clanrats are the most numerous and low ranking of the Skaven. Despite this, like
all Skaven, every Clanrat is convinced of its superiority and the inevitability of its ascension to greatness. They clutch rusted arms stolen from dead rivals and seek any
opportunity to advance their station.
Individually, a Clanrat is no match for a prepared hero, in fact, a lone Clanrat is just as likely to squirt the musk of fear and flee than stand and fight. Yet Clanrats rarely fight alone, instead swarming together in hordes of frenzied fighters that throw themselves at their foes in a smothering wall of stinking flesh and chittering savagery.

So first things first, it looks a bit different to a Dungeons and Dragons stat block but there are a few things to go through so we will go from top to bottom.

The Clanrat is classified as a minion, they are lowest fodder on the battlefield and really only strong in numbers, as true to Skaven on the tabletop as possible.

They have Poor Melee, Accuracy and Defence (but rated as average with a shield). This relates to the ladder I mentioned in my first glance of the system. If you have poor defence then the Clanrat will need to have a Difficulty Number (DN) of 4 Body (Weapon skill) where from the dice pool they create from both their Body attribute (down the bottom of the block) and the levels in training they have in their Weapon Skill skill they need to roll 4 or better to beat your defence of poor. But, if you have Average defence then they will have a DN of 5 which means from your dice pool you need to roll a 5 or better to hit. If the Clanrats target has good or better defence then only a 6 on the dice roll will hit.

Having an armour of – means that any damage that is dealt (the number of successful hits + any damage modifiers from the weapon) isn’t stopped by armour. Armor reduces the damage dealt to the creature by 1 for each point in armour.

Toughness is the stamina before the creature takes damage through to their wound. Having a toughness of 1 means that they can have 1 point of damage allocated to them before they stat suffering wounds. The neat thing about toughness is that it will recover outside of battle if you spend a few minutes (I think 10) having a short break before charging into the next throng of enemies.

A wounds of – means that they are truly weak creatures and that by reducing their toughness to 0 that they will suffer a mortal wound and die.

Mettle is a resource which Characters and strong enemies have that enables them to push past the normal barriers in ones physical or mental training and or one moment gain and advantage. Having no Mettle is common for creatures.

Now Speed. To understand speed we need to understand how the game field is laid out in what we call Zones. A zone is an area of space, generally seen as 15ft but its broken up by natural barriers like a wall, fence, trees, door, a incline or decline (trench or parapet). The area where your Character stands is called “Short Range“, the zone adjacent to your zone is “Medium Range” and the zone adjacent to that (2 zones from you) is called “Long Range

So if your character is in a room and you hear skittering outside the zone you are in now (the room) is short range, the space outside the door, a small field where a fence divides the wheat field and mill from the yard around the building you are in is Medium range, the field is Long range and the mill within the Field is “Extreme Range“. This helps to imaging distance as something relative rather than having a grid to move your character along 6 squares at at time which represents “30ft”.

Now back to Speed. If you have a Slow speed you can move anywhere in your move action to move within their current zone (short range) and must use the run action to move into the zone adjacent (medium range). A Normal speed, such as our Clanrat, means it can use a free action to move within the current zone “Short range”, use a move action to move to the zone adjacent (Medium range) and the run action to move into the next adjacent zone (Long range). Most creatures have a Normal speed but you can encounter creatures with a Fast speed which can move as a free action within their current zone and use the move action to move up to the two zones adjacent (Long range). See simple right?

Ok maybe not simple, its a big change to D&D but I think it does make sense.

Initiative is your Mind attribute and your the levels in training in the Reflexes and Awareness skills. I love this. No longer is it just who is quickest of body strikes first but those who are aware and keen of mind also can think and react quickly to danger. So our little Clanrat has an initiative of two.

Natural Awareness is really Soulbound’s version of Passive Perception.

Skills are shown here in their training level. Training level is represented by xd6 where x is the level the creature is trained in. This little rat has awareness (+1d6), Stealth (+1d6,+1) and Weapon Skill (+1d6).
You may notice that out little Clanrat has a Stealth skill of (1d6, +1) which represents that he is trained in Stealth 1 level and that he has 1 point in Focus. Focus is really a floating 1 value that you can apply to any one dice roll made. An example is needed I feel.

This Clanrat is sneaking up through the wheat field and wants to make sure he is not found, mainly so one of the other Clanrat’s around him takes the first arrows and not him. he rolls DN4:1 Body (Stealth) he has 1 point in Body and 1 level of training in Stealth so he rolls 2 dice. He gets a 5 and a 3 but has 1 point in focus so he turns that 3 into a 4. This grants him 2 successes (nice!).

The next is traits. These are little things that the creature can do that make it.. it really. In this case this poor little Skaven Clanrat feels stronger and braver with friends and begins to fight as one horde of seething, chittering rat-men when he has friends! When he is joined by buddies they become a swarm of Clan rats where you attack as one when they are in the same Zone. This is reflected by gaining +1d6 to their attack pool and having +1 toughness (where each damage dealt kills 1 Clanrat per toughness decreased). However, area of affects (spells, weapons with a spread property, cleaving strikes and the like) deal double damage to a swarm.

Now attacks. This creature has two attacks and can pick one or the other. In this instance the rust blade or the rusty spear *(note it’s not trusty.. its definitely rusty) these attacks are both poor, have 2d6 in their dice pool (1 from body and 1 from weapon skill) and deal x+S damage.

The Rusty blade deals 1+S Damage which is 1 damage base + the number of successes. The Rusty blade is one handed so the Clanrat can wield a shield with the stabby-blade an bring his defence up to average from poor). The Spear deals more damage (2+S) but is just as bad as the rusty blade but is two handed – so no shield (watch out little rat!)

Finally we are down to attributes.

Attributes are simple in Soulbound – Body, Mind and Soul

Body represents your physical strength, your reflexes and coordination, and your overall body awareness. Characters with a high Body tend to be able to hold their own in a fight and rarely balk at manual labour.

Mind represents your intelligence, your awareness and perception, your deductive reasoning, and your ability to think on your feet. Characters with a high Mind are often inquisitive, quick witted, and studious, and are adept at thinking their way around a problem. Mind is also important for wizards and practitioners of the arcane arts.

Soul represents your inner being. It is your sense of self, your spirit and determination, and your ability to resist the influence of Chaos. Characters with high Soul are frequently spiritual leaders or champions, and are absolutely assured in their beliefs.

All attributes feed into Defence, Accuracy and Melee effectiveness as well as toughness, mettle, initiative, natural awareness and skill tests. Each test will be based off one of the three attributes and then a skill. The attribute may change from time to time (so Awareness may sometimes be related to a Soul (awareness) check instead of a Mind (awareness) check if something is trying to overcome your resistance to chaos.

These also form your basic pools in combat. Body for Melee dice pools, Mind for ranged pools and spell checks (Mind (Channelling) test).

Now, I wont go through it all again but lets look at the brutal muscle of the Skaven forces – the Rat Ogor

The Rat Ogor

Stitched, grown, and mutated under the claws of Clan Moulder’s most demented fleshcrafters, then sold to the highest bidder, Rat Ogors are the horrific fusion of Skaven and Ogor. Hulking masses of muscle and claw capable of ripping entire battalions to shreds, the Rat Ogors are singularly violent monsters, who’s only drive is to kill.
While effective in the right circumstances, Rat Ogors are brutally stupid beasts, incapable of comprehending even the simplest of orders or using any weapons aside from their own teeth and claws. Yet with the symbiotic grafting of a secondary, and always unwilling, brain into the proceedings, a Rat Ogor is somewhat elevated. While the creature will never gain true intelligence, the parasitic brain can enforce its will upon the Rat Ogor, allowing it to follow commands, and more Importantly, wield weapons.

As you can see the Rat Ogor is a champion with exponentially better in melee a whopping body of 6 with weapons training (+2d6), a bunch more toughness (with Armor!) and a few other traits and attacks that make it a lethal killing machine.


I could go on and on giving more examples but, frankly, I don’t have that much time left in me for tonight and this would turn into a book rather than a blog post.

I am excited to bring some adventures through to you for Soulbound and hope to have a few games to build up interest for my local gaming group (and maybe beyond).

Don’t forget to come back this weekend for more content including the end of March writeup (yes its April already.. but I will wrap up March first!). And, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

NPC refinement

Hi all and welcome to another night here at Brazen Wolfe Tabletop! Tonight I wanted to touch on how we can refine our important NPCs just that little bit more so that when a player asks us them a question like “Whats your family like?” we are prepared with a well thought out answer – whether or not the NPC chooses to disclose this answer is another story.

So taking a leaf out of the Soulbound core book I wanted to delve a bit more into the idea of refining those key NPCs. I wouldn’t suggest spending hours on these questions for all NPCs but maybe limiting it to a quick minute for each significant (not Key) NPC so we can look at having something prepared for for when our players do ask these questions (or similar ones).

Now instead of “What is your name?” “What is your quest?” and “What is your favourite colour” these questions are designed to prod and poke a bit further and to encourage character development.


“5” Questions

What was your childhood like?

This question really drives a few deeper thoughts, did they have present parents? A guardian? A community? No one.? Was there siblings or people they got along with? What was their social economic status like? Wealthy, poor, somewhere in between? Happy, sad, filled with fear or love or both?

This question poses a few bigger thoughts and can probably be enough to flesh out enough of a basic character that the party doesn’t spend a lot of time with.


Who do you least want to run into and why?

Old romantic interest and how did it end (if it did)? What’s their name? How did you meet? What did they do to you? What did you do to them? Where would be the most common place to meet them and why?

Establishing a connection can help drive narrative and quests or at least adventures for the party. Having a person responsible for grief, anxiety or fear means that there is a response when that person is encountered by the party which drives the story and character development.


What motivates you to do what you do?

What do you desire? What do you fear? What are you running from or towards? Why are you doing this?

This one is maybe a bit of a bigger more ambiguous question but it can help with an important question – what motivates the character to do what they are doing – plain and simple.


What do you think is overrated in this world?

A virtue? A freedom? Money? Food? What is it that they think the world could do without?

This one isn’t too difficult and I would maybe save this one for those really deep and importance characters that you just want to really develop and refine. This could help identify character flaws, their alignment (Evil-good), refine their motivations and potentially get a bigger glimpse at their personalities than what the other questions could reveal.


What can’t you live without?

A pet, item, trinket or other possession? A substance (addiction)? A person? A faith or belief? A talent or skill?

Short of the obvious (food, water, air, sunlight) this can introduce interesting little character flaws, dependencies or traits that make the character who they are. If they have an alcohol problem but believe in the guidance and forgiveness of Torm then this is also something that can be explored and used by a good DM to drive plots, stories and the Player character development by interacting with this individual.


The above questions, although maybe not as comprehensive as some that are out there like this one (The Ultimate Character Questionnaire) could be used to flesh out an important NPC or Character in general to help shape and drive their involvement in the stories you write or facilitate (as the players are the real story tellers in our games).


Thanks for joining tonight for a little refinement workshop on NPCs, I will practice the above and hopefully this week come back with a more full and refined character for our D&D campaign.

Don’t forget to come back again tomorrow to look at the midweek madness that is twists, turns and pivot night where we look at what else can shape the adventure we are working on and what can enhance the adventure we create.

And as I wish and remind you each and every night, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe