Laidback DM: Pathfinder 2e Reviews – Tomorrow Must Burn

I’ve been buying all the Pathfinder 2e products, so I may as well review them. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get to this adventure path. Just call me lazy.

Limited Spoilers!

Tomorrow Must Burn is the third part of the epic Pathfinder 2e adventure path Age of Ashes, containing three adventures for characters of 9th-11th level. The PCs face off against the Scarlet Triad, the slavers behind the Cinderclaw Cult and the adventure path’s overarching conspiracy (which I won’t spoil).

Tomorrow Must Burn is set in the country of Ravounel, which gained its independence in a previous adventure path (remember I said a while back these adventure paths have a real impact on the game world?). It’s nice to see a return to a previous adventure location (even if I get the faint impression this might have been to save on production time).

There are several interesting town and city-based adventures and a showdown with the slaver boss in a remote quarry location, and although the investigations and missions have less variety than the previous adventure in the series, they are nonetheless enjoyable.

As usual, Tomorrow Must Burn includes loads of additional information for GMs, including a gazetteer of Ravounel, all about Dragons, seven new magic items, three pages of new feats that can be learned from NPCs (the Lacunafex spy network and Bellflower underground railroad that frees Halfling slaves), 10 high-level monsters and three detailed NPC overviews.

All of this wonderful added content can be an issue in the long term, however. When spread out over multiple supplements—a concern with Pathfinder 1st edition and also with the various new Lost Omens hardcovers—it can become problematic trying to find references during your future games. Perhaps Paizo will consolidate all the new material at some point, however the current example of division of Lost Omens’ content makes this doubtful. I hate having to look through multiple books for references (D&D 5e is getting this way as well). It’s inevitable as games age and new content for players and GMs is released, but P2e has only been around a few months and it’s already racking up a significant supplement count. Having said that, it’s the GM’s choice to use the additional content or not.

One other quibble: the Ravounel gazetteer is a bit of a letdown – it reads like a bland travel brochure and there are next to no adventure seeds. WOTC managed to cram Baldur’s Gate full of them, and although that gazetteer was much bigger it shows what can be done with a city supplement. Having additional adventure seeds can really help GMs (especially new ones) with building and running their own campaigns.

The nature of adventure paths means they tend to lead PCs from one specific outcome to the next, in a somewhat linear fashion—they’re a path, after all—and there’s not much room for improvisation. Having said that, Age of Ashes compensates by providing a full and interesting campaign from 1st-20th level, and WOTC has only managed that in one of their many campaign adventures. Age of Ashes is more varied and challenging than that somewhat staid multi-level dungeon crawler.

Although Tomorrow Must Burn has less mission variety than Cult of Cinders, it will keep players interested and engaged throughout the many sessions of play in this book. I’m enjoying these adventures, and look forward to the next.

Rating: 8/10

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Drowning Not Waving. A poem.

It’s so easy
to wave
And then
slide below
And let the tide
take me
Wherever
we’ll go

Waving
not drowning
Just a puppet
on show
Drowning
not waving
Behind a
curtain of woe

For more Poetry, click here.

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For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM: Pathfinder 2e Review – Cult of Cinders

I’ve been buying all the Pathfinder 2e products, so I may as well review them. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get to this adventure path. Just call me lazy.

Spoilers!!

Cult of Cinders is the second part of the Age of Ashes adventure path. It contains four adventures taking PCs from 5th-8th level, set in the vast and danger-filled jungles of the Mwangi Expanse.

Laidback DM: Cult of Cinders review

This adventure has a great balance of role playing and fighting missions that include befriending the local Ekujae Elves via hunting, attending a feast, matchmaking and storytelling (among other activities); deactivating a number of protective dragon pillars throughout the jungle; disrupting a mining operation and an intense showdown with the Cinderclaw Cult antagonists in the fossilized remains of a giant dragon. Along the way the PCs learn the cult is linked to another, bigger conspiracy, and gain a key to another Elvish magic gate (and thus another part of the Inner Sea Region of Golarion). Age of Ashes is a good introductory campaign as it uses portals to take the PCs to multiple countries across the game world, providing varied environments and challenges in each new instalment.

Along with the adventures are additional rules enabling repair and upgrade of the citadel the PCs took over in Hellknight Hill, copious information on the Ekujae Elves, new treasures and diseases, extensive background information on two major NPCs and 15 new monsters.

Cult of Cinders has the usual high levels of presentation and writing we’ve come to expect from Paizo. It’s less linear than the previous instalment, with more mission variety that also very effectively demonstrates the various P2e rules for downtime and NPC interactions.

Rating: 9.5/10

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Delineate. A poem.

Let me draw an outline
Around your heart
And delineate
The love between
Let me itemise it
Systematically
Congruently
Congenially
Tangentially
Until it is so defined
That it no longer
Means a thing
To either you or me
Because logic
And love
Are not the same
And you and I
Delineate it
Differently

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Three Years!

Wow.

It’s been three years of blogging, poetry, D&D, films, comics, stories and stuff. I trimmed down recently to just poetry and role playing game blogs, but the site is still going strong!

58000+ views, 1000+ posts, 1600+ followers, 3000+ comments (according to my WordPress stats). That’s not bad for a site I originally started to encourage me to write every day and to vent about my sad life.

Thanks for your support. Onwards and upwards! Or sideways. One of those.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Want to read my very first blog (no one’s forcing you to)? Just click on this link: https://stevestillstanding.com/2017/01/09/so-why-a-blog/

Blame. A poem.

I took the blame
For it was my lot
To stumble and toil
And make my weary way
Back to life
From whence I was cast
Aside

But blame should be
Apportioned
Fairly and to each
For blame lies not in one
But in the actions
And inactions
Of all

Forevermore

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Murder of Crows. A poem.

A tendency to exaggerate.
Variable and inconsistent,
A migratory bird, unaware
Which hemisphere is up
Or what time of year it is.

A mountain and a molehill,
Keynotes of your dependency.
Furtive and insecure
And longing for approval;
All wayward illegitimacy.

Time to find the truth within
And not try so hard
To be party to an
Estranged and inconsolable
Murder of crows.

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM: Pathfinder 2e Reviews – Hellknight Hill

(I’ve been buying all the Pathfinder 2e products, so I may as well review them. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get to this adventure path. Just call me lazy.)

Hellknight Hill is the first in the Age of Ashes Adventure Path for P2e, taking PCs from 1st-4th level. The first mini-adventure sees the PCs fighting a fire in the town hall, before accepting a job to chase down the fire starter in the citadel on Hellknight Hill, just outside of the town of Breachhill. Next up is a dungeon crawl through the citadel, rescuing a band of local goblins and defeating the fire starter. The last part of the adventure sees the PCs investigating the dungeons and caves below the citadel, fighting the Cinderclaw cult attempting to invade the region through a magic gate and discovering a series of portals that tie directly into future instalments of the adventure path. They even get to keep the citadel as a fixer-upper to use as a home base, which is a nice touch.

Overall this adventure is a well put together, somewhat linear adventure, with bonus materials including campaign information, a detailed town with a mysterious secret, 3 major NPCs, 2 new magic items and 9 new monsters. The writing, maps and art are good and the levels are decently designed (although there are the occasional questionable monster placements that seem to be there just to make up the XP level requirements rather than for logical reasons).

This adventure makes a good introduction not only to the Age of Ashes Adventure Path but also to P2e itself. I also like the fact the Adventure Path enables the PCs to significantly impact the game world (assuming they play it through to its conclusion at level 20). As with all of Paizo’s campaign materials, this is very closely tied to the Pathfinder world of Golarion, but any DM/GM could cull bits to use in their own homebrew campaigns if they wished.

Rating: 8.5/10

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Paramour. A poem.

These metaphors,
So sorely overused,
Are now circumspect
And reeking of apathy.

I long to find
Such cunning words
That would spin
Symphonies of ardency.

This paramour,
In evidence alone,
Has proven they
Can break your heart so many times,

Yet always have you
Coming back for more.

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Practice Makes Perfect. A poem.

I reach
And yet
Everything
Is so
Far away

Unknowable

My fingertips
Brush
The surface
Of something
I cannot

Grasp

No matter
How hard
I try

But that
Won’t stop
Me from

Persevering

Because

Practice
Makes
Perfect

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Switch. A poem.

I
stopped
to
think
and
thought

Perhaps I shouldn’t do so
Perhaps I should just stand and rise
Above all the crap I’m floating in
All the muck and detritus
I’ve let gather around me
All these years and tears
And heartfelt fears
That congest the waters
And drag me down
A skeletal grip upon my ankle
Clasping while I writhe
And shake in heedless contempt
Until I’m submerged within myself
And every opportunity to
Reach the light above
Is taken from me

As
easily
as
flicking
a
switch

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

The Wait is Over. A poem.

The wait is over
And although you were active
All along
Spewing literary concerns
Like jaded opinions
And late afternoon enfilades
The time has come
For release
From this future tense
To revel in the irony
That what kept you going
Was a bitter sense of yesterday
And wanting
To get far away
From all the things you loved
Just a little too little
And just a little
Too much
The wait is over
And now the real journey
Can begin

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM – Lost Omens World Guide (Pathfinder 2e) Review

I’ve been buying everything Pathfinder 2e related over the past few months, so I thought I’d do a few reviews.

Lost Omens World Guide is exactly what you think it is – a gazetteer of the world of Golarion, Pathfinder’s official setting. Okay, it’s actually the Inner Sea region, Golarion’s analogue of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, but there’s also some general info on the rest of the world.

Lost Omens World Guide and poster map

One thing that hit me about this book (aside from the surprising thinness of the tome) is the sheer volume of ideas thrown in. There are so many tropes at play in this fantasy setting it’s safe to say the authors used a ‘kitchen sink’ approach. In many ways this is good for GMs – there are so many different environments that you are likely to find a place you like that will suit the theme and style of your campaign. Like science fantasy? Try Numeria, where a spaceship crashed in ancient times and remnants of tech can be found across the land. Like Wild West fantasy? Alkenstar produces firearms. French Revolution? Galt is perpetually revolting and has a magical guillotine that traps souls. Post-Wars of the Roses Britain? Try Taldor. Ice age? Realm of the Mammoth Lords. Ancient Egypt? Osirion. All the analogues are here, but each has a creative spin that makes it fresh and original. And there are plenty of seeds for campaigns or stand alone adventures.

I especially like the fact that Lost Omens World Guide has direct mentions of previous Pathfinder Adventure Paths, and that the world’s history and various countries have been affected by them. It gives the world a “lived in” feel and shows that the official adventures have lasting consequences. If you have a group who played through those first edition campaigns, the players will feel like they truly changed the world. And who doesn’t want to feel that?

There are new PC backgrounds related to each country, new magic items, spells and feats. These are all usable in the game and help to personalise your PCs more. And all laid out in the consistent P2e style.

The artwork and maps are excellent, and the writing and editing is good (only a few typos). There is a double-sided poster map of the Inner Sea region in two styles, which is pretty awesome.

The book itself is a wee bit thin for my liking (130 pages) but then I found it much easier to read than a 350 page volume. The text is tightly packed – I think a larger font would have been easier on the eyes, but I realise they are keeping a consistent look and feel for P2e.

Another sore point: a number of the names are awful – Norgorber? Please, I can’t be scared of an evil god with such a dumb name. And regional consistency in naming doesn’t seem to exist in many places (I’m sure Tolkien is rolling in his grave). But it’s fantasy, after all, and I guess it could be worse.

There are other books coming out to support the Lost Omens World Guide, and I get the impression they all could have been combined into one. I’m going to forgive Paizo for this, as I know they’re not as big as WOTC and release a crap load of regular (and quality) product every month (while WOTC seems to release content at a dribble).

Good job Paizo, yet again.

Rating: 9/10

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To support my Kickstarter for Maps Your Party Will Die For, click on https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/maps-your-party-will-die-for-for-5e-pathfinder-osr-rpgs

The Whole Shebang. A poem.

Attitudes entrenched by years
of disbelief, tears and fears.
Shaken, abused and confused;
broken, taken and refused,
again and again,
until there’s nothing left
but regret and emptiness.

An anger that shakes these
foundations of resentment,
these skyscrapers of doubt.
Twisting and turning
this rage about
until there’s nothing left
but wanton disregard.

Enough to sedate
a deafened mind and soul,
that’s no longer whole
but wasted
on you
and me,
and the

Whole

Damn

Shebang

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM – The Quiet Player

I’m willing to bet money you have a group that has at least one quiet, introspective player, who tends to not speak up much (I’ll refrain from calling them an introvert as sometimes introverts can be outgoing, too). I’m also willing to bet that you’ve DM’ed a game with an unfamiliar group with subdued players in it. And what tends to happen with those quiet players? They get drowned out by the rest of the crowd.

Hey, you in the back! Yes, you! Bet there’s something you’d like to say...
Hey – you in the back. Speak up!

Here’s some tips to prevent that:

  • Make sure your quiet players get the opportunity to contribute. All too often the loud players (and I won’t refer to them as extroverted, as some extroverts aren’t loud or over the top) have all the say. It’s important to involve everybody in the game, and addressing your less confident players directly can do that. Ask them what they want to do, or if they have another option to the one being pushed by the more confident players.
  • Use open questions with subdued players. Closed and open questioning techniques are used in different situations, depending on the type of information sought. A closed question generally has a yes or no answer e.g. “That’s the course of action you’re taking?” An open question allows the questioned person to provide a fuller answer e.g. “What course of action would you like to take?” Use open questions with your quieter players to allow them the opportunity to speak more.
  • Highlight the quiet player’s character. Often an outgoing player’s character is a reflection of the player, and thus may grab the spotlight more often. Make sure you know what the subdued player’s character is capable of, and use them. Set up some situations for their character where they have opportunities to shine.
  • Speak to quiet players before and after the session. Get to know all your players, but find out if your quiet players like to lead, of if they have a particular backstory or subplot they would like to explore. Build an adventure around their backstory. Maybe they don’t like speaking and prefer to stay quiet and observe. If this is the case, honour their wishes, but make sure you stay up to date with their situation as this may change as they grow more confident and willing to speak up in the game.

Quiet players are often the introspective thinkers of the group. They may be more inclined to think through situations, rather than charging in blindly (but not always). Remember to involve all at the table – don’t let quiet players get drowned out by the more vociferous ones. Tabletop RPGs are for everyone to enjoy, after all.

Game on!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM, click here.

To support my Kickstarter for Maps Your Party Will Die For, click on https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/maps-your-party-will-die-for-for-5e-pathfinder-osr-rpgs

Centre Stage. A poem.

Saw you again the other day,
ring on finger, centre stage.
I smiled, a little whimsically,
through sad and bitter memories.

I looked back amongst the bric-a-brac,
how we laughed and walked, and fought like that.
And played and talked and teased again—
sometimes enemies, sometimes friends.

I realised, despite the lies of youth,
I was glad you found your personal truth.
Happy your road led to this place,
when another path, might mean disgrace.

Happy the circle is now complete,
That it helped you rise from your defeat.
Now, I’ll carry you in head and heart,
Until from this life, I do depart.

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM: Designing Dungeons

So, you have a map of a dungeon / building / ruin / chasm / extra-planar setting / landscape, etc. Now, you just have to stock it with some monsters and traps.

Here’s some hints for designing cool dungeons:

  • Who’s the Boss? Decide who your big bad is going to be from the beginning. Select ancillary monsters to suit the boss’s main theme. Then take those ideas and add a twist or two e.g. a Vampire Lord will no doubt have vampire spawn, dire wolves, bats, humanoid prisoners, zombies. But…maybe the Vampire Lord has gone crazy from a mysterious undeath disease, the Vampire Spawn are revolting against him as a result, the zombies are actually human adventurers in disguise attempting to sneak in and rob the place, and the dire wolves and bats have mutated into combined forms as a result of the undeath disease—flying wolves, baby!!
  • Why are the monsters there? When you select monsters, think about their personal reason for being in the dungeon. You should err on the side of logical. Maybe a monster is guarding a particular tomb. Maybe the monster is part of a tribe that lives in another part of the dungeon and it’s lost. Maybe a monster is a demon trapped in a room by adventurers hundreds of years ago. No matter what monsters you choose, and no matter what reason you come up for them being there, make sure they all relate to each other in some way e.g. the lost monster is searching for the the tomb, it has heard rumours a demon is trapped in a room near here. He thinks the demon might be able to help him get past the tomb guardian. There’s nothing more boring then a collection of random rooms with random monsters. If you want that for your group, then why not play a computer game.
  • Don’t fill every room. There should be a smattering of empty rooms, to lighten things up a big, introduce tension (nothing like players thinking the room has something nasty in it…), and to give PCs a place to rest if they need it.
  • Traps should be there for a reason. Once again, logic wins the day. A tomb might have several traps, all preventing the PCs from getting to the sarcophagus. A lair might have traps to prevent attackers from breaching the first line of defence. If there is no real reason for a trap, then leave it out.
  • Make the environment interesting. Think about what you can do to make the environment (and the encounters within the environment) challenging. Maybe the floor has broken away in part of one room and continues to break up during any fight. Maybe the corridors shift as the result of a magical curse. Maybe the lava flow in one or more areas occasionally shoots a jet stream into the air, splashing those around it with burning magma.
  • What’s the hook? There should be a good reason why the party is invading this dungeon. It’s often good to link it in some way to a PC’s backstory (although you shouldn’t do this every time) e. g. a PC’s sister has gone missing in a vampire attack on the local town. In the dungeon, she has been transformed into a vampire spawn. Save her, or kill her? Moral quandaries are always my favourite.

Game on!

Steve 😊

PS want some examples of adventures made from single maps? Check out Shotglass Adventures Vol. 1 and 2 at the link below.

For Laidback DM products, in print/PDF/digital, visit https://www.drivethrurpg.com/m/browser/publisher/13989.

To support my Kickstarter for Maps Your Party Will Die For, click on https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/maps-your-party-will-die-for-for-5e-pathfinder-osr-rpgs

Steak Sandwich. A poem.

Brown, blood-streaked
breadcrumb entree
Built to serve
Consistently
It roils and rocks
In the mouth, awash
Then on it floats
Sea of acid wash
A meal of kings
A grand entry
Ignominious exit
Consistency
Brown, blood-streaked
A warning bell
To the doctor, now
And time will tell

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM – Free Old School Map!

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give away my old school hand-drawn maps any chance I get.

This week: Bandit Ruin

The Bandits of the Murkmire prey on small villages on the periphery of the swamp. Your party has been hired to take them out at all costs and return any kidnapped villagers. Unfortunately, you’re caught attempting to sneak up on them, held in the dungeon below and are forced to fight in vicious pit fights against all kinds of unsavoury creatures. Time to escape! But what lurks behind the bricked up passageways? You can hear something moaning at night, putting both bandits and the kidnapped on edge. And that incessant tapping on the wall – is that something trying to get out?    

LAIDBACKDM_BanditRuin_600DPI_stevestillstandingcom

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/13989/Laidback-DM?term=laidback​

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Laidback DM: Anatomy of a (not quite) break up

So, I’m taking a break from DMing to hone my ‘player’ chops. Part of the reason was my increasing work and study loads and part of it was burn out. I just needed a break from all the work involved in preparing and running a game each week, from my brain constantly thinking about D&D all the time.

Being a player has been fun. The lack of responsibility and generally less-onerous workload for each game (read: none) is incredibly liberating. But I’ve found I’m now a bit too laidback. Without the need to be the final arbiter of rules decisions, I find myself not bothering to remember rules. Where I once kept track of every detail, now I cant be bothered to remember stuff that happened in the game last week (I’m playing several games a week, but that’s just an excuse). I find myself being enticed by other RPGs (but then, I always have been). Pathfinder 2e is turning out to be an arguably better D&D than 5e, despite the density of its ruleset (“what sacrilege is this?!” I hear you say). Whodathunkit?

Laidback DM - stevestillstanding.com
Hey, you in the wagon – stop dawdling! Damn these laidback Dragonborn…

My university studies are drawing to a close and once I finish this final assignment I should (theoretically) have more time on my hands to DM. But do I want to? I still find myself drawn to the idea of guiding a group of semi-crazed individuals through a fantasy world of wondrous choice and flexibility. I still find myself drawn to contentious rules decisions and bizarrely humorous indignation as players split their party and suffer the inevitable consequences. I’m still drawn to the idea of telling improvised stories and building worlds of imagination and magic with friends and acquaintances. But can’t I do that as a player? Do I really need to be a DM?

I guess I can do both. Have my RPG cake and eat it, as it were. So, yeah. I’ll DM again. I guess the decision was already made before I started writing this. Because DMs never die. They just take a break for a while, realise the grass isn’t greener on the other side, and then come back with fireballs blazing.

Game on!

Steve

PS DMs – it’s okay to admit that you sometimes need a break from the game. Life goes on.

For more Laidback DM, click here.

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Upstart Photographer – Heart Tree

I take photographs. I write poetry.

Here’s some poetry and photography, in equal measures.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Heart Tree. A poem.

Light shines through the trees above
Forming a shape, too like my heart
Coloured by light and silhouette
Reflecting all of my life’s regrets
And if I stare for a little too long
My vision is burned, my heart is wronged
So move along, let heart trees be
And continue on, consequentially

For more Upstart Photographer, click here.

Entrenched. A poem.

Entrenched within

Mud to knees
No flight from here
A no man’s land
Of blithe confusion
And emptiness

Entrenched within

This sharp regret
Like a bayonet
Some veiled remorse
And back and forth
In the wasteland

Entrenched within

Over the top
Until you’re stopped
Bullet or ballad
Fleet foot, fallen
And no escape

Entrenched within

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM: Free Map!

It’s been a while since I gave away a free map. So, without further ado! Okay, just a little…

I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give away my hand-drawn maps any chance I get.

This week: Descending Caves!

Okay, it needs a better name than that, but I’m sure you’ll think of something! The PCs enter from the left, via a vertical cave shaft. Then its down, down, down, as the caves and ledges drop them lower and lower to where some dark and dangerous beasties dwell…  

Laidback DM - Descending Caves - stevestillstanding.com

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

For Laidback DM products, in print/PDF/digital, visit https://www.drivethrurpg.com/m/browser/publisher/13989.

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Laidback DM: World Building

Have you ever spent far too much time drawing a map of your world, developing and designing societies, cultures and religions to fill it, creating reasons for its existence, only to find you didn’t need all that for your campaign or the players didn’t care anyway? I guess all burgeoning DMs have at some point or other. So, how can we go about world building for an ongoing campaign in a way that’s time efficient and campaign-friendly?

Here’s some options and tips:

Use an existing setting

There are a host of fantasy settings available commercially. You can buy one that matches the flavour you and your players like and drop your adventures into that world.

Pros:

  • Most of the heavy lifting is done
  • Great maps, locations and adventure seeds just waiting to be used
  • Can be very immersive

Cons:

  • It may not be exactly what you wanted
  • A lot of reading and familiarising to do

Modify an existing setting

Add to the existing setting. Make changes that work for your players and your campaign.

Pros:

  • Most of the work is already done
  • Can use the maps, locations and adventure seeds available
  • Can make small or large changes as needed

Cons:

  • Adding to an existing setting may change context of some areas or affect continuity of commercially made adventures from that setting
  • Keeping track of what you’ve changed might be a concern
  • Depending on how much you change, might be time consuming

Create your own setting

Create a world on your own or with your players.

Pros:

  • An opportunity to flex those creative muscles
  • You get exactly what you and your players want (assuming they’re on board with the creative process)
  • It’s not too hard to modify commercial modules/adventures to fit your setting

Cons:

  • Can end up being very time consuming
  • You may overdevelop, producing more content then is needed

Tips for world building

Here are some tips for world building, whether you create your own new world or add to an existing one.

  • Start small. Your characters are 1st-level? All you need is a village and the surrounding area. Expand on it with your players as they rise in level and explore.
  • Have a theme. Think about why you need a new setting for your adventures, and what sets it apart from other settings. The theme of your world should support the reason for its being and the internal logic behind your campaign. If it’s a standard high-fantasy setting, a la Forgotten Realms, Golarion, Glorantha, Midgard or Middle Earth, maybe you should just adopt one of those existing worlds. But maybe it’s run by evil Gnomish warlords who have outlawed magic, resulting in steam-powered machine technology and an underground resistance of illegal magic users. There’s no limit to your imagination, just the time it will take for you to develop your world.
  • Develop as needed. You don’t need to create multiple world-spanning pantheons of deities, or the social structure of the capital’s ruling elite (unless it’s essential to your ongoing story). Develop the bits you need as you need them.
  • Leave space for future developments. That timeline doesn’t need all the gaps filled in. Leaving space in your world means flexibility to add more later. Filling in every hole now can limit you later on, when you may come up with new or better ideas, and nobody is a fan of retroactive continuity changes.
  • Build naturally. Add things as part of the story. Another country is invading? Time to put together a culture/backstory for them. Leave any other surrounding countries until they play a part in the ongoing story.
  • Use your players. Your players are going to have interesting backgrounds for their characters. Make these backgrounds part of your world. Connect your players closely to the world—they will be more engaged with the setting and their personal stories will pay off big time. Use their imaginations to supplement your creative process. It doesn’t have to be all up to you.

I created my own setting for Shotglass Adventures 1 and 2, which I’ve significantly expanded on for Shotglass Adventures 3. I started off with a small province in a remote part of a large empire. The theme was high fantasy, so the adventures could be easily slotted into any existing world. As I created adventures I added locations to the setting, developed a province capital and a shady regional government that would cause some moral quandaries for my players. A small pantheon of gods, a little bit of history as the games progressed, but only as much as was needed for the fledgling campaign, leaving plenty of room to expand later. I added new races as they were needed, arch foes as they appeared. The next iteration expands the area of the province significantly, adding lots of new locations, intrigue and adventure seeds. Time will tell how large the setting gets, and I already have notions for the rest of the world. But I won’t develop any of it unless it plays a part in the ongoing campaign. My best advice: use your time wisely, and try not to overstep the mark (you will want to—we all do).

There’s nothing wrong with developing a world setting, even if you don’t end up using it. If you have the time to invest and the desire, then go for it. But time is a luxury for most people nowadays, so use it constructively (yep, that’s a pun).

Game on!

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, in print/PDF/digital, visit https://www.drivethrurpg.com/m/browser/publisher/13989.

Laidback DM Ad - Shotglass Adventures 1 and 2

Pop Stars. A poem.

Too many pop stars
popping off like stars
or popping corn, just
Mini-fashion supernovas
grabbing my attention
in an explosion of pop culture
Sympathetically
Simplistically
Setting the scene
In just fifteen
minutes of sobriety

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM – Pathfinder 2e Product Reviews

I went a bit crazy and bought all of the Pathfinder 2e products currently available. Here’s a short review of some of them.

Pathfinder 2e Gamemaster’s Screen

A strong, 4-panel GM screen with great art and useful tables and reminders: conditions, actions, DCs, death and dying, monster types, etc. P2 is a rules-heavy system, and every GM is going to need some sort of support aid to help them remember everything. I think this screen should have included a separate insert with armor, weapons and inventory items listed on it. I find I use these things with players all the time and so made my own, but including them as reference sheets with the GM screen would have been ideal.

Rating: 8.5/10

Pathfinder 2e Character Sheets

P2 has a pretty complex character sheet. The sheets in this pack have been individualised by class, with a breakdown of specific class feats on the back of the sheet, but they’re still very busy and you will need multiple sheets to keep track of everything (high level characters would be a bit of a nightmare, I imagine). There’s also a handy cheat chart attached to the folder with conditions and actions listed.

Rating: 9/10

Pathfinder 2e Adventure: The Fall of Plaguestone

A cool one-off adventure with a straightforward murder mystery, lots of role playing opportunities, and a few fairly linear dungeon crawls with a great villain and motive. A handy toolbox for GMs at the end of the adventure includes new backgrounds, magic items, monsters and side quests. A very good introductory adventure for beginners and those GMs considering investing in the P2 Adventure Path campaigns.

Rating: 9.5/10

 

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, in print/PDF/digital, visit https://www.drivethrurpg.com/m/browser/publisher/13989.

 

Laidback DM Ad - Shotglass Adventures 2

Sheets and Slips. A poem.

These sheets and slips
Abide with time,
Like tides and shores,
Old pick up lines.
These mountains climbed
And sacrificed,
To sheets and slips
And angst-filled lives;
That lost their way,
Were found again,
In the arms of a wayward,
Weather-less vane.
No wind or rain
From north or south,
No implications,
fear or doubt.
Just sheets and slips
And subtle mouth,
To find my way
Bring this ship about.

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Upstart Photographer – Swing

I take photographs. I write poetry.

Poetry and photography,
as seen above and below,
exchanging views
and subtle growth
.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Swing

I swing into summer
The water chilled to perfection
Melting an icy veneer
That once suited this exterior

And so I swing
A subtle pendulum
Expectantly delivered
Into your watery embrace

For more Upstart Photographer, click here.

Well Spent. A poem.

My arms like tree limbs,
gnarled and objectified.
Here in the last remaining light,
reaching for an unreachable sign
by the side of a road,
long and bitterly loathed.

My feet encased in clay,
entrenched along with attitudes
I left in yesterday,
along with foolish platitudes
and angst-ridden symphonies
in flight and obscure.

Still the creaking joints reach out,
suppressing every thought and doubt
that lingers in the weary caress
of roots and reeds and weeds.
If you are only passing by,
perhaps you could spend some time with me.

At least I can guarantee
it will be time well spent, indeed.

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM – Descent into Avernus review

I was sooooooo looking forward to getting this adventure. But like so many things in life, the experience didn’t quite live up to the expectation. I’m not going to explain the storyline—by now you would have read the advertising blurb.

Descent into Avernus is a campaign adventure for characters levels 1-13. It has great art, decent writing and a huge amount of campaign information for DMs who want to use Baldurs Gate as a city setting. And then there’s a somewhat short adventure in the city which then continues in Hell which kind of feels like it was tacked on, despite the fact it leads the book and has been hyped to death.

Laidback DM Descent into Avernus Review
Yep, I was so keen for this I bought both the adventure and the dice set with the add ons. We’re they worth the $100 au total investment?

Don’t get me wrong—there’s much to enjoy about Descent into Avernus. Although it’s very linear (yes, that includes the sandbox-style section on Avernus), it has some great ideas and plenty of opportunities for DMs to improvise. Once the players are in Avernus, however, the resolution of the storyline is tied to very specific story paths and an annoying NPC (Lulu the hollyphant) that I can just see my players killing in the first few minutes. (Oh, don’t worry. She’s so essential to the story that she comes back to life later if she’s killed.)

I’ve been asking for monster stat blocks to be included in the main text of adventures for ages (but who’s going to listen to me?). And finally, some blocks are included, with the rest at the back of the book, as usual. But the brevity of the main campaign leads me to believe this decision was more a text padding choice than a specific design one.

I guess what I object to is paying $60 AU for a book that purports to be a full campaign, and ending up with something that may need a fair bit of additional fleshing out by the DM. Each Avernus-based mini-adventure is incredibly brief. The story plot points and quests are so closely connected that Descent feels railroaded. The overall campaign itself is decidedly shorter than any other WOTC has put out. In fact, it looks like it was designed this way to allow community content from DMs Guild to fill the gaps.

And the Mad Max-style vehicle combat and rules that were promoted so much? Well, let’s just say they’re a bit underwhelming. I guess you can homebrew a bit. Or a lot. Or buy lots of DMs Guild supplements. Either way, this adventure feels a lot like a computer game release with DLC to come. All we need now are micro transactions…

As I said previously, the swathe of information on Baldurs Gate (including random encounters, adventure seeds, backgrounds and group secrets/motivations) is great for DMs, but it’s not required to run the main adventure. So, if you’re wanting to run a homebrew campaign with Baldurs Gate as the hub, you have everything you need right here.

Pros

  • Great art, decent storyline
  • Baldurs Gate setting information is detailed and ideal for homebrew city campaigns
  • Almost linear adventure storyline may be ideal for beginner DMs
  • Plenty of opportunities for improvisation for experienced DMs

Cons

  • Not enough adventuring in Hell
  • Most of the adventure’s plot points feel railroaded
  • Annoyingly cutesy NPC for players to drag through the story
  • Infernal War Machine rules and Avernus sandbox sections are a bit light
  • DMs may want to create or purchase additional content to fill out the Avernus experience

Opinion: While Curse of Strahd retains the WOTC campaign crown, Descent is at least better than Princes of the Apocalypse and the Baldurs Gate material is fantastic, even if it’s not required to play the adventure. 7.5/10

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, in print/PDF/digital, visit https://www.drivethrurpg.com/m/browser/publisher/13989.

Indifference. A poem.

She was indifferent at first—
A wall to ascend,
Of dubious propriety.
My insouciant charm
Is made to break bricks,
To render mortar
Into dirt and water,
To make a difference
From indifference.

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM: Weapon and Armor Durability

I know what you’re going to say—in D&D it’s so much easier not to have to worry about weapons getting damaged. But what happens when they do? And how do you have a simple (or laidback, as I prefer to call it) system that doesn’t bog down the game?

Flanked!!

Here’s my personal take on weapon and armor damage:

  • Every time you roll a 1 (critical fumble) on an attack roll, your non-magical weapon takes damage. It loses -1 to attacks and damage. This stacks with further crit fumbles, up to a maximum of -3, after which the non-magical weapon breaks and can’t be used.
  • Armor is treated a little differently: when an NPC or monster scores a 20 (critical hit), you as a player can decide whether you want to take the double damage or whether your non-magical armor is damaged with a -1 penalty to AC. This penalty stacks with successive crit hits up to a maximum of -3, after which the non-magical armor breaks and is unusable. (This option might potentially save the PC from being knocked unconscious or killed by a critical hit.)
  • Damaged weapons and armor can be repaired by an armorer, weaponsmith or bowyer (depending on the weapon/armor) for half the original price of the weapon or armor.
  • A PC can repair their own weapons and armor during down time if they have have the relevant background and tools (e.g. Guild Artisan or Clan Crafter Backgrounds with relevant area of expertise: armorer, bowyer, weaponsmith). They’ll need a forge if the weapon or armor is made of metal. The price for repairing their own weapons and armor is a quarter of the original cost of the item.
  • No matter who repairs the item, it takes 1 day per -1 to fix (i.e. 3 days to fix -3 damaged weapon).

And now you’re going to say, why not just buy a new one? That’s entirely possible, but not every PC may have the money, and it may be the sword is a family heirloom or that shield is the Cleric’s holy symbol. Or the player might just prefer to be self sufficient.

When using a weapon and armor damage system like this, you shouldn’t really use a critical fumble system as well. Or if you do, you could alternate crits with weapon and armor damage. Either way, as long as your players are happy with it.

And remember: monsters with weapons and armor should be affected, too. All’s fair, after all.

Easy weapon and armor damage? Done and dusted!

Game on!

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, in print/PDF/digital, visit https://www.drivethrurpg.com/m/browser/publisher/13989.

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