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Kickstarter: Shotglass Rounds – PDF Adventures for D&D 5e

This Kickstarter is for 15 days only! Get in quick at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-rounds-pdf-adventures-for-5e

Shotglass Rounds are flexible PDF-only One-Shots for D&D 5e for the DM who doesn’t want to sit up hours doing prep for their next game session! Each adventure is presented in the proven Shotglass Adventures format, designed for a 3-5 hour session. Each PDF includes a two-page spread of the adventure with DM’s map and key (so you can lay it out on the table in front of you and have everything at a glance), 2 new monsters and 2 new magic items, a full size player’s map with grid and a full size grid-less player’s map!

Shotglass Rounds Kickstarter is Live!

For a FREE download of SHOTGLASS ROUNDS #1, click on The One That Got Away.

Support the SHOTGLASS ROUNDS Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-rounds-pdf-adventures-for-5e

Shotglass Rounds Kickstarter is Live!

Plunge. A poem.

Plunge
Deep below

Where sinking
Is dreaming
And thoughts
Are washed away
In plumes
Of subtlety
And sobriety
And nonchalance

Then, once more
Take the plunge

Again

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Review – Pathfinder 2e Gamemastery Guide & Advanced Players Guide

I’ve really fallen behind in reviews of the excellent Pathfinder 2e (P2e) products I’ve been buying. Here’s two brief reviews to make up for it:

Anyone who has bought the P2e Core Rulebook will know it’s a hefty tome, both in size and price. I know Paizo (the company that makes the game) was trying to put as much as possible into that first volume to ensure GMs and players had enough to work with for the product launch, but I couldn’t help feeling it was also an effort to further distinguish their system from D&D, Pathfinder’s precursor (which is currently the most popular RPG in the world). D&D has a separate Dungeon Master’s Guide, with their Players Handbook being much shorter as a result (and cheaper, which can make a difference in today’s oversaturated RPG marketplace).

P2e is just over a year old and Paizo is catching up quickly in terms of available content. They recently released two supplements for GMs and players.

Both the Gamemastery Guide and the Advanced Players Handbook are beautifully presented and laid out with awesome art, great content and nice indexes (essential as the number of rules sources grows). On top of that they have features that most GMs and players would consider essential.

Gamemastery Guide

Pros:

  • Good subsystems rules – these are almost like mini-games within the game e.g influencing, research, chases, infiltration, reputation, etc.
  • Fantastic section full of NPC stats – the book is worth the price for this alone
  • Monster, magic item and hazard/trap creation rules – ideal for those homebrewers or writers wanting to create for this system. Appears to be better balanced than D&D 5e.
  • Loads of optional rules with good advice as to how they affect the game and how they can be implemented successfully e.g. removing alignments, dual-classing, level 0 characters, magic item progression, non-level proficiency, skill points, stamina, etc.
  • Good introductory material for new GMs regarding running games, campaigns and adventure creation.
  • Great layout, easy to find what you need quickly.
  • Fantastic index.

Cons:

  • Would have preferred all the GM material all kept in one book, rather than split between here and the Core Rulebook. I get that Paizo wants to differentiate their book and system from the D&D DMG/Players Handbook set up, though.

Advanced Players Guide

Pros:

  • 4 new classes – Investigator, Oracle, Swashbuckler, Witch – nicely varied from the core classes and with lots of new feats and abilities to choose from.
  • 5 new ancestries – Catfolk, Kobold, Orc, Ratfolk and Tengu – plus ‘versatile’ ancestries. Versatile ancestries allow you to combine ancestry feats from the versatile ancestry with your main ancestry. Versatile ancestries include Changeling, Dhampir, Aasimar, Duskwalker and Tieflings.
  • More feats for core ancestries and core classes, more archetypes, more backgrounds, more familiars, etc.
  • Loads of new spells and rituals.
  • More standard and magical items to buy and craft.
  • Great layout, easy to find what you need quickly.
  • Fantastic index.

Cons:

  • Soooooooo much information, making your life as a GM more complicated. Why isn’t there an official, regularly updated app to keep track of all the feats and special abilities? It would be so good to have one to just look up a feat on the spot without needing to look through multiple volumes of books or PDFs.

(NOTE: There is an excellent unofficial P2e spell app on the Apple Store, called Pathfinder 2e Spell List. It’s updated regularly and has all the official spells. If you don’t have it yet, get it. It will save you lots of time.)

I love these two books. Paizo produces and releases quality content at a furious pace, putting WOTC to shame. My continual underlying complaint (and it doesn’t override the usefulness of these books) is that the rules continue to grow in so many disparate places (rule books, Lost Omens guides, adventure paths, standalone adventures, etc.) that over time it becomes difficult to reference and keep track of it all. All of the P2e products have fantastic indexes, but the game really needs a D&D Beyond-style app (but without the double-charging for content you already own).

Great work, Paizo! Two thumbs up for these books!

Game on!

Steve 🙂

Support the SHOTGLASS ROUNDS Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-rounds-pdf-adventures-for-5e

Shotglass Rounds  Kickstarter is Live!

Cage. A poem.

Bars you can’t squeeze through
Beyond your reach, it’s true
Too thick to overcome
Your strength of will undone
A trap fit for a king
To spend your life within
This cage in which you sit
Is what your mind makes it

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Upstart Photographer – Pool.

I love to take photographs. I love to write poetry. Two loves on one page.

Steve 🙂

Laidback DM - Upstart Photographer

Pool. A poem

I enter her creamy embrace
Each stroke taking me deeper
Into waters clear and profound
And when I come up for air
She does greet me
With the rapture of a storm

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

What Place? A poem.

What place is there
For one with values
In a world that values
All things valueless

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Free Map – Old Becomes New…

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I like to give away my hand-drawn maps when I can.

This map is grid-less, perfect for Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds!

This week: New Thundertree

My regular Phandelver’s Pact campaign saw the destruction of beloved D&D staple Phandalin at the hands of the big bad (actually, the party crashed a flying city on it), so the party moved to Thundertree and now the little ruin that could is the little village that should! Here’s a map for those of you who wondered whatever became of that little ruin once it was resettled…

Just right click and save on PC, or hold your finger on the image and save on mobile.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts,click here.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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The Turning Wheel. A poem.

Pain in body, heart and everlasting soul
Amplified by every tale of hurt and loss and woe

Pain that fights and tears and breaks a good man’s heart
Until there’s nothing left from which to start

Pain that shapes the way we grow and bend and think
Pain that moulds our fears and makes our thoughts succinct

Now comes a time to change this turning wheel
Love overcomes this pain and sets this poor boy free

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Proprietary. A poem.

These proprietary feelings
Wrapped up and bowing out
Sweeping across the space between
Like tumbleweeds on a dusty street
No claim to stake, all sight unseen
No provision in this contract
Just proprietary feelings
And the thought of you and me

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

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 like to give away my hand-drawn maps when I can.

This week: Old School Walled Town!

I drew this map many years ago and I think it still holds up. This frontier walled town can be used as a base for intrepid adventurers. The frontier is a wild and dangerous place, so be prepared!

Just right click and save on PC, or hold your finger on the image and save on mobile.

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.

Curse of Strahd 2017 – Week 20

Hi all,

Over the last few weeks I’ve been posting some warts-and-all email summaries of the Curse of Strahd campaign I ran in 2017. This is the first campaign I started sending summaries to players by email after each game (I was a bit lazy prior to that).

Some of the summaries may be dull, some may be amusing; some are written in present tense, some in past tense – these are unedited emails, so please forgive their somewhat chaotic nature and poor sentence structure/grammar.

If you’re a D&D fan you may enjoy them, but I warn you: I’m not Mathew Mercer and this is not Twitch.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

Week 20

Mark’s Gnome Bard re-joined the party after a very, very long rest. After a quick discussion, Natasha’s Gnome Druid cast water walk so the party could cross the river and get to the swamp on the other side (“Why’d the party cross the river? To get to the…” – okay, never mind). Everybody decided to sneak down the road past the ruined houses to the goat pen, where a number of skulls were mounted along the fence.

Having learned earlier that skulls are a warning sign, the Druid decided to talk to the goats and tried to open the gate to let them out. The skulls immediately started screaming in alarm. In a moment of pure inspiration, the Bard decided to polymorph into a goat to persuade his goaty brethren to rise in revolt against their obviously evil witch overlord (who might, for all the party knew, love goats). 

William’s Dragonborn Paladin (with his spectral horse) hunkered down in a nearby ruined building. The Dusk Elf Wizard NPC and Natasha’s Druid hid in an overgrown and thorny garden behind a mansion, while Dan’s Halfling Monk hid in another ruin. Seven Scarecrows wandered up to investigate the alarm. The Bard gave an inspiring goat speech to his fellow goats and charged the gate, doing a teeny-tiny bit of damage. The other goats decided to rise up against their oppressive overlord with him.

The wizard and druid were attacked by poisonous snakes while hiding. The druid conjured constrictor snakes and the wizard and druid high-tailed it out of the bushes to hide in the ruin next door. The monk leapt out to fight the Scarecrows, was frightened by their glare, surrounded and soundly thrashed.

Baba Lysaga appeared overhead in her flying skull.  She noticed the paladin and cast a lightning bolt at him. Both he and the spectral horse were frazzled and the horse didn’t make it. The bard decided being a goat wasn’t so great, changed back, ran underneath the flying skull and misty stepped up into the back of it. Baba Lysaga cast finger of death on him, killing him outright.

The wizard fireballed several of the scarecrows (and, unfortunately, half the newly socialist goats in the pen). The druid cast healing word for the monk to recover. The monk hid and added poison to her weapons. The paladin threw a few javelins at the skull, then misty stepped up to the skull, attacked Baba Lysaga from behind and sent her flying out of the skull to the ground.

The bard rose from the dead as a zombie. The druid zapped him with a moonbeam.  Bye, bye, bardie. Time for a new character, Mark!

The paladin misty stepped down to fight the witch. The monk ran across and flanked her. Their combined attacks knocked Baba Lysaga unconscious.

Then Baba Lysaga’s Creeping Hut appeared.

The druid polymorphed the paladin into a tyrannosaurus rex, and the battle was on. The wizard flew onto the roof of the hut. The monk dragged and bound the witch. The paladin changed back to dragonborn form as his polymorphed form sustained full damage. The druid polymorphed him into a T-rex again, but the creeping hut creamed him, finally knocking the paladin unconscious. The house then put down the monk and the druid in short succession. Only the wizard was left. Inside the creeping hut, he cast magic missile onto the floorboards, broke through and removed the green stone powering it. The creeping hut collapsed, defeated. Unfortunately, the paladin failed his death saves and was dead. The wizard managed to stabilize all the other unconscious bodies.

Tied up on the back of the creeping hut was Mark’s Goliath Barbarian, his new character ready to conveniently replace his dead bard.

Meanwhile, a mysterious figure in a ghostly light appeared at the mansion ruins across the way…

Next week: Recovering artifacts and on to the Amber Temple!

For more Laidback DM, click here.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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Other Stuff…

Over the last few years I’ve written a LOT of stuff on this website. It originally started as a blog to vent and push me to write every day, then became an outlet for poetry, photography, movies, music, role playing games, short stories and finally – Laidback DM articles!

Following is a list of the headings under which you can find other interesting stuff I’ve written. Have a read. You might be surprised that I can be a little deep sometimes…

  • Alpha Girl, Beta Max and Me – This was a short, humorous series I wrote a while ago.
  • An Upstart Photographer – I love to take photos. I love to write poetry. This semi-regular column combines both loves.
  • Animals – I didn’t even remember I had this category, but what the heck. Check it out if you love animals, particularly dogs.
  • Anvil – A short SF/Cyberpunk series designed to challenge me as a writer. Completely unplanned, so I was forced to come up with a solution whenever I wrote myself into a corner.
  • Awards – Along the way I won a few blog awards. I never take this stuff seriously, so some of my responses were amusing. Well, I thought so, anyway.
  • Be My Guest – This column never really took off – I didn’t actually ask many people to contribute as I always had so much of my own material to publish. Okay, maybe I’m a narcissist.
  • Books – I LOOOOOVE reading. This is all about books and book reviews. Unfortunately, I read so many books and have less and less time to review them, so I just stopped doing reviews. Sigh.
  • Christianity – I’m a Christian – now hold on, I’m not one of those crazy fundamentalist extremists secular people seem to think we all are. I believe in love, brothers and sisters. Stay cool.
  • Comics – And I LOOOOOOOVE comics! Still a reader and collector, but with even less time than I had before, so the reviews and columns went the way of the dinosaur…
  • Computer Games – Hmmm. I guess I don’t play many computer games anymore.
  • Dating – Yep. We’ve all been there at some point, but experiencing a divorce late in life meant getting back on the horse again. Luckily, I’m a great ride. Umm, rider.
  • Environment – Yes, I’m a bit of a greenie as well.
  • Fatherhood – And a dad. Hey son, I love ya heaps!
  • Flash Fiction – These are very short micro-fiction/flash fictions. Enjoy!
  • Food – I love food and eating out, but not enough to write much about it.
  • Haiku – Poetry baby! Specifically the Japanese form using a three-line structure of 5-7-5 syllables.
  • Humour – Humour (English spelling) is subjective. Sooooo, you might like this. Or not.
  • IT – ‘Information Technology’, for those not in the know. Guess I don’t care much about computers. Just joking, I use my computer rabidly every day. I just didn’t write about it much.
  • Love – Ah, love! If I knew French I’d say something sexy right now. Okay, how about I crib an old song: “Voulez-vouz couchez avec moi?”
  • Martial Arts – My short-lived time as a Kung Fu master (read: learner) was short-lived. Obviously.
  • Mental Health – Yes, I suffer from depression and anxiety and lots of my writing is about it. One in five people have mental health issues, and I’m proud to share my experiences (good and bad).
  • Movies – I loooooooooooooooooooooooooooove movies. At one point I was seeing movies regularly. I wrote regular reviews until I didn’t have the time to do so anymore.
  • Music – I’m a musician – I play guitar, drums, bass, a bit of keyboard and sing. Not as much as I used to, but here’s a few posts about music, including some album reviews.
  • Poetry – Poetry, baby! Still a passion!
  • Poets Loved – Some posts about poets I admire.
  • Quotes – Some of my quotes. I was originally going to make this a recurring column, but then I got lazy.
  • Review – Anything I reviewed got this keyword. I’m sure I don’t use it anymore…
  • Role Playing Games – My current bread and butter. When I started this blog it was merely a hobby.
  • Television – I used to write the occasional blog about TV. Now, I never watch TV. Actually, I think a lot of this is about streaming services, if I remember rightly.
  • The Book Nerd – Book reviews! I am a proud book nerd, through and through.
  • The Laid Back Dungeon Master – Once upon a time, not everything was Laidback DM. Now, I classify all my RPG stuff with this tag.
  • The Sale – Another unplanned short story series, wherein I forced myself to write something and not knowing where the story was going had to write myself out of whatever corner I ended up in. This is a humorous homage to horror/thriller stories.
  • Training – I guess I wrote a bit more about my exercise training than I thought previously lol.
  • University – I used to be a University student after a big life change. I now have a Degree in Communications and a big student debt. So there.
  • Writer Interrupted – I used to write about the process of writing, when I was planning on being a world famous author. Here’s how that turned out…

Game on!

Steve 🙂

Laidback DM: Free Map – Road to an Underdark Library

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I like to give away my hand-drawn maps when I can.

This week: The Only Way is Up

The only way is up in this week’s gridless map (ideal for virtual tabletops like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds)! I made this map for an online campaign of Out of the Abyss. A group of powerful demons ambushed the player characters as they approached the Stone Giant Library of Grayvenhollow. The path twists and turns as it rises hundreds of feet upwards until the party eventually arrives at the gates.Each of the cliffs varies in height from 40-60 feet, with the path rising as it approaches each corner.

Just right click and save on PC, or hold you finger on the image and save on mobile.

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, click here.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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Laidback DM: OP Characters and the Players Who Love Them

Every DM knows one. Some know many. What am I talking about? Players who spend their lives working out the best options to make themselves the most powerful (or “optimised”) characters in the game. But is there anything wrong with that?

Laidback DM
Every game can be ‘broken’, if you know the rules well enough…

Here’s some pros and cons you might want to think about, followed by some ways to make it all work in your games.

Pros:

• An OP character can reveal shortfalls in the ruleset that might be addressed by the group via homebrew changes.

• OP characters are exciting – who doesn’t love a character that does over 150 HP damage in a round?

• OP characters make the DM work harder to create more challenging encounters – flex that brain, DM!

• OP characters are intuitively creative and represent the many hours of investment those players have made learning the ins and outs of the game.

Cons:

• OP characters bring imbalance to the party – the players just wanting to ‘play’ are overshadowed by the power of the OP character/s. Some may feel that OP players are always hogging the ‘spotlight’ in combat.

• OP players may provide OP optimisation advice constantly to other players, even when it’s not sought.

• DMs literally have to work harder to create challenges for OP characters, and this can mean that the ‘normalised’ characters are more at risk as a result.

• OP players often fall back on repetitious play styles as a result of their particular OP ability, solving encounters the same way, leading to monotony.

• New players may absorb a culture that is less about playing for fun and more about ‘beating the game’, which is not always ideal, depending on the groups they play with.

In the early days of D&D, people were still getting used to the game and there wasn’t so much optimisation. Nowadays, it’s much more common. And that’s not such a bad thing. There will always be optimisers and there will always be people who just want to role play and enjoy the game ‘as is’. e.g. they might want to play a basic class without feats or multiclassing. So how do you run the game for both?

Here’s a few suggestions:

• Make encounters suited to all sorts of players e.g emphasise role playing rather than combat encounters; use more traps and puzzles; try to focus on particular character skills, etc.

• Make sure every player gets a chance to shine. Provide plenty of opportunities for your regular players so the optimisers aren’t always hogging the glory.

• Make sure your Optimisers don’t become overbearing at the game table. If you have to, take them aside and politely discuss how they need to let the other players play the way they want to play.

Everybody’s there to have fun during a role playing game session – optimised character or not. If everybody works together and gets along, being mindful of what the other players want from the game, everybody benefits.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

PS My new book Shotglass Adventures: Mined Games is on Kickstarter right now!

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Laidback DM products are available at DrivethruRPG.

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Believe. A poem.

I look out on the world
And this is what I see
Hatred, isolation
No lands of the free
Racism, extremism
division shore to sea
Religion not religion
Corruption on high
Intolerance and power
In a man full of lies

(A world I never understood
And want no part of
Because I
I believe in love)

There’s a better world
And all it will take
Is your precious time
And a ballot
On which to sign

#vote

Today is your chance to change the world we live in. Not just America, but the world influenced by what’s been happening in America over the last four years. Please make a difference.

Please believe in love.

Steve

Drawn 2. A poem.

Drawn

2

your

flame

2 ashes reduced

2

rise

again

2 return & burn

Drawn

2

this

fate

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM: Free Map!

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I like to give away my hand-drawn maps when I can. This one is grid-less, ideal for virtual tabletop platforms like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds.

This week: Not-so-General Store

Ever needed a map for when your players suddenly decide to rob the local store, rather than buy stuff like normal people? I have. I made up this map for just such an occasion (and to make sure I wasn’t caught out again by an off-the-cuff party decision).

So, why would you need a map of a store? Let’s just say the proprietors are retired adventurers and they don’t take too kindly to being woken up by silent alarm spells in the very early morning hours…

Just right click and save on PC, or hold your finger on the image and save on mobile.

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, click here.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

LaidbackDM - Product Line

Laidback DM: Free Map – Labyrinth Tunnels

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I like to give away my hand-drawn maps when I can.

This week: Labyrinth Tunnels

I drew this map for a recent Out of the Abyss campaign I ran. It’s a section of the Underdark area known as the Labyrinth, and features the vagrant community of Filthriddens. Feel free to use it for other purposes!

Just right click and save on PC, or hold your finger on the image and save on mobile.

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, click here.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG. LaidbackDM - Product Line

Laidback DM – Theater vs. Grid

As a DM I like to run combat different ways. Sometimes it’s with miniatures and pawns on a 1-inch square grid. Sometimes it’s all in the imagination, what we like to call ‘Theater of the Mind’ (TOTM).

Here’s the pros and cons for both:

Grid/Battle Mat

Pros:

* Precise – allows players and DM to see the combat area, make specific measurements, areas of effect, move figures realistically.
* Tactile and visual – allows players and DMs to envision the scene with the aid of physical pieces, similar to a board game, but also adds to the drama and assists those players who prefer visual aids.

Laidback DM - gameplay

Cons:

* Gridlock – sometimes combat becomes very static with limited tactical movement e.g. player attacks monster, stays where they are to avoid opportunity attacks.
* Less use of imagination – RPGs are games of the imagination, built on description, acting and improvisation. Sometimes grids can take away from that, making the game more like a tactical board game.
* Physical aids – the DM and players need to supply miniatures, pawns, mats and/or terrain. These can be a pain to transport when you’re already bringing books, dice, paper, screens, tablets, etc. It can also make the DM reliant on or set up an expectation that physical aids are needed for their session.

TOTM

Pros:

* Quick combat – this depends on how descriptive you are with your combats, but generally speaking it’s faster because you’re not reliant on exact distance and counting squares for movement.
* Story-focussed – it’s easier to make the combat flow as a story, incorporating elements on the fly, than using a grid.
* No need for tokens/miniatures/maps/terrain – all happens in the head, potentially saves you a lot of money.

Cons

* Pressure – lots of pressure on the DM to remember everything that’s happening and describe the environment adequately so the players can picture the scene. Everyone visualises things differently and may be hard for players to get a consistent understanding of the scene.
* Lack of visualisation – some players prefer visualisation and rules lawyers may question DM decisions more because of the lack of specificity of the environment e.g. spell areas of effect, etc.

So which one is it for you? Grids or TOTM? Or both?

Game on!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM, click here.

All Laidback DM products are now on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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Back. A poem.

You went away
Journeyed far
Through flaxen fields
And bauxite dust
History replayed
Without rewind moments

A tenseness between
Interspersed with
Rear view lightness
And sanitised propriety
A photographic record
Of colours and hues
Revealing the distance
You’ve come and overcome

So glad you’re back

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Hysteria. A Haiku.

Your hysteria
Does not make you rational
Or remotely sane.

#Vote

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM: Pawns vs. Miniatures

When I run face-to-face (IRL for all you young whippersnappers) role playing games, I like using a grid and pawns for combat (that’s not to say I don’t like using Theater of the Mind – I do, I just prefer using grids for larger scale battles). In some games I’ve used combinations of pawns and miniatures. But which is better? Pawn or mini?

Laidback DM - gameplay

What do I mean when I say ‘pawns’? Pawns are upright standing 2D tokens, often back-printed, that provide a visual representation of a character or monster. They are normally colour, but you can also get black and white ones.

What’s the difference between a pawn and a token? A token lies flat on the table, whereas a pawn stands upright. This means the pawn can display a whole image of the creature its representing, and can accurately represent not only the number of spaces a creature takes up (via its base) but also its height.

Miniatures are printed, moulded plastic or die cast metal 3D figures, which come unpainted or pre-painted. Collecting and painting miniatures is a hobby unto itself, and can bring years or a lifetime of enjoyment. Anyone who’s played Warhammer 40K will know it can also become an obsession!

For most DMs and players, the choice between pawns and miniatures comes down to cost, time, immersion, transport and personal choice.

Cost

When it comes to pricing, pawns are hands down cheaper than miniatures. You can generally buy several backprinted pawns (depending on the company you buy them from) for the price of a single, unpainted miniature.

Once you have pawns, you also need bases to hold the pawn upright. Some companies supply bases (yay!) with their pawns, but others you have to buy them separately e.g. The Pathfinder 2e Bestiary Box from Paizo includes bases, but you may want to buy extra base sets.

Laidback DM - Pathfinder 2e Product Reviews

The issue for most DMs and players purchasing miniatures is the amount of money you have to invest in the hobby. If you want lots of fancy miniatures, be prepared to spend big. And if you like 3D terrain, to spend a LOT more. (Yes, you can also purchase and/or print out low cost cardboard buildings and walls – DrivethruRPG is a good place to find a variety of these kits.)

Time

Miniatures are awesome on a tabletop, but unless you buy them pre-painted (expensive!) you’ll need to invest time painting them (okay, you don’t have to, but grey miniatures on a tabletop look awfully dull, which defeats the purpose of having miniatures. Pawns are already colour and ready to go.

Immersion

There is no doubt that having cool painted miniatures and colour battle mats increase player immersion in play. Pawns look cool, but there’s no getting away from the fact that they only have two sides – three dimensional beats two dimensional every time.

If you’ve got a limited budget, you can always use both. Use pawns when you have hordes of minions, and miniatures for major monsters. It’s up to you.

Laidback DM - TPK - stevestillstanding

Transport

This won’t be an issue if you run games from your own home, but if you’re like me and travel around between venues the transport of several cases to carry miniatures becomes an issue. They are bulky, and if you can’t take all of them then sorting and packing is required as part of your prep time for a game.

Pawns are flat, and easily stored in folders which can be alphabetised if you’re into that. Clear sheets in the folder make it easy to locate the pawn you need for the job.

A few folders versus multiple plastic carry cases? I know what I prefer. I used to be a drummer, and drummers are usually the first to arrive at a gig and the last to leave – they lug the most gear. But they do get the groupies, so it’s not so bad lol.

Summing Up

In the end it’s always going to be a matter of your own personal preference. I’ve seen some awesome pawns that blow some miniatures out of the water e.g I acquired some great pawns from a recent GTGminis Kickstarter.

I’ve seen brilliantly painted miniatures and terrain that makes you feel like you’re right there in the dungeon. For me, it comes down to cost and portability. But you and your players will have your own preferences. And in your game that’s all that really matters.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

All Laidback DM products are now on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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Laidback DM: Products for Sale!

Hi all!

Far be it for me to spruik for a living, but hey – it’s how I make a living now.

So, here are some of my role playing game products available on DrivethruRPG in print/PDF/digital formats. You can buy any or all of these fine products by visiting this nifty little link:

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/13989/Laidback-DM?term=laidback

Game on!

Steve 🙂

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P.S. WordPress – your new block editor sorely tries my patience. Give me the classic mode any day. Unfortunately, it seems I’m unable to select it when using my PC. Thanks for taking my money and annoying me.

Upstart Photographer – Mural

I love to take photographs. I love to write poetry. Here’s both, all in one.

Steve 🙂

Mural. A poem.

Rippled reflection
An imperfect memory
Casting its gaze
Upon the flocks below
An endearing shepherd
Without judgement
Or recourse
Offering flowers
In recompense

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM – Curse of Strahd 2017 – Week 19

Hi all,

Over the last few weeks I’ve been posting some warts-and-all email summaries of the Curse of Strahd campaign I ran in 2017. This is the first campaign I started sending summaries to players by email after each game (I was a bit lazy prior to that).

Some of the summaries may be dull, some may be amusing; some are written in present tense, some in past tense – these are unedited emails, so please forgive their somewhat chaotic nature and poor sentence structure/grammar.

If you’re a D&D fan you may enjoy them, but I warn you: I’m not Mathew Mercer and this is not Twitch.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

Week 19

This week, after a long rest in Asgarte’s chamber, the party elected to burn the demon with Natasha’s Gnomish Druid’s wall of fire. This didn’t work, instead burning away the magic sigils keeping the demon imprisoned. Before Asgarte could get out and ravage the party, William’s Dragonborn Paladin decided to grab the Gnome and drop him on the back of his spirit horse in the corridor they had previously traversed while the horse was flying (they were expecting a trap, after all). Unfortunately the spirit horse wasn’t flying this time. The corridor floor became a slippery downward ramp and the Gnome and the horse slid down into the opposite wall and then further down to the bottom of the shaft, 40 feet below the double doors of the previous room.

Meanwhile Asgarte decided to take advantage of the situation and push the Dragonborn Paladin and Kasimir, the handy dusk elven NPC wizard, down the ramp. Kasimir, being an all-around weakling, went all the way home, crashing into the horse and gnome. The Dragonborn was made of sterner (stupider?) stuff and stood his ground. Asgarte took a few swings at the paladin, and then decided (in what turned out to be a bad move) to slide down the floor to take out the magic users. Dan’s Halfling monk, casually poisoning his blade, decided to slide down the ramp and give the demon a damn good rodgering. This wasn’t entirely successful, and he ended up flat against the demon’s back. The paladin decided to slide down with a javelin and missed by that much, both the demon and the monk. So now all the party was down at the end of the slide, packed in like lemmings.

The Gnome cast another wall of fire just in front of him. The NPC wizard cast some magic missiles. The monk stunned Asgarte for a round, and the monk and paladin took advantage of this to finish him off. A mighty divine smite was the killing blow, with William’s paladin claiming the title of “Demonslayer” forevermore. Or until someone else killed a demon. Either way.

The party climbed back up to the room, took the 4 x 2000 GP diamonds from the walls and made their way out of the tomb. The short, skull-encrusted romp was a success. “That’s the most treasure we have ever found in Barovia,” said the Dan’s monk, telling everyone what they already knew: Barovia is full of poor and depressed people.

Meanwhile, what to do? After much discussion, the party decided to take a wagon and some horses and go to Vallaki, as it was really close. There they found much of the population had deserted the town, due to lack of wine the party had failed to deliver. Oh, and that little Vampire Spawn massacre a week ago. Looks like the church where Ireena and her brother were holidaying was destroyed as well. Ireena and Ismarck were missing… 

The party headed back to the Inn, where they had a free meal on behalf of the Martikovs. The dragonborn changed into a raven to show solidarity with his wereraven chums, then had to put all his armour back on. The wereravens got a good laugh out of that. 

The party decided to question the burgomaster to find out what they could do. The monk got antsy during the discussion, attacked and killed the burgomaster (despite a valiant attempt by the Gnome to save the burgomaster by changing him to gaseous form). The rest of the party set about supporting the guards who took the monk off to gaol. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 GP. 

The burgomaster’s wife was not amused.  No, dragonborn, it wasn’t a good time to ask her about that strange mirror in her bedroom. “And how did you know I have a mirror in there, anyway?” said the lady. “And where did my wedding dress go?”

“We’ll just be going, we’ll make our own way out, no need to fuss, see you next time,” said the party, tip-toeing to the door).  

While the party went back to the inn, the monk shared some pipeweed with her guards. The druid felt bad, went back to the monk’s cell, changed into a spider and walked under the door, changed the monk to gaseous form (that spell has been pretty useful this time around) so she could escape and then toddled out again. The Halfling monk decided to hide in her wagon as she wanted to avoid the dragonborn, who was a bit peeved the monk had killed the burgomaster (“I didn’t have anything to do with that,” said the paladin, having conveniently turned the other way when it happened). 

The party decided to go to Berez and recover the third green stone for the Wizard of Vines and also find whatever it was the Tarroka Cards were referring to that lay there. Somewhere. Their wagons got bogged (lots of mud in Berez) and they crossed the river to talk with a wereraven spy who gave them intel on the witch Baba Lysaga who lived in a tiny hut in the center of Berez with her freaky scarecrows.   

Next week: Back  across the river, and taking out that witch. Or making friends and influencing people. Or smoking pipeweed. Or whatever they want to do.

For more Laidback DM, click here.

All Laidback DM products are now on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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A Writer’s Prayer. A poem.

I slowly turn each page
And every emblazoned word
That lights the air
In a breathtaking display
Could not be any more
Resplendent than it is

These are my words
And whether kind or cruel
Winsome or fulsome
They are mine and mine alone
And my world shines far brighter
Because they live and breathe

In print

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Embrace. A poem.

I remember your embrace
Enfolded and ensured
Encapsulating all and nothing
Bittersweet and banked upon
Softly sweet and silky smooth
And as fettered and lasting
As a dream

I remember your embrace
And the downy remorse
That feathers every memory
Of the loss

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Occasion. A poem.

Regulate this feeling
Clamp it down and fix it
In a final, vice-like repose
‘Tween twilight and morning

Unburdened by the hollow
And fulsome moon
Let all your tears flow freely
And whisper words
Retained for this occasion

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Sometimes. A poem.

Sometimes, I feel old.

I feel the weight of years
And the stress and strain
Of injuries and tears
That make it hard to lift
Myself from bed.

It hits me, awkwardly,
When I’m lifting a box
Or philosophising alone,
Shooting through my brain
And body and bones.

Or when I see the young
Living carefree lives,
Neglecting masks
Far too selfishly,
Because “only others die.”

It’s the burden of memory
(And sometimes lack thereof)
That gets me calculating,
Writing, learning, gaming;
That fires me off and up.

It’s the strength I feel
When I hit the weights
And lift like I never have,
Watching records break
As if I were half my age.

Sometimes, I feel old.

But not today.

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES: GRAVIS TOWN BLUES now in print!

Published under the OGL and compatible with 5e and OSR fantasy role playing games, SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES – Kal-Zar’s Bane: GRAVIS TOWN BLUES is a 68-page book with adventures for characters of 1st-4th level, that can be played as One-Shots or as the first module in a four-part campaign

So, what’s in SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES – Kal-Zar’s Bane: GRAVIS TOWN BLUES?

· 6 adventures, complete with full color maps! Varied adventures – investigation, assault, river raid, rescue, dungeon crawl, escape – ranging from 1st-4th level, designed for minimal preparation and flexible delivery. Each adventure can be run as a One-Shot, or as part of the Kal-Zar’s Bane campaign. Every adventure has both Campaign-specific and One-Shot-specific hooks. The One-Shot hooks ignore all the sub-plots and provide you with exactly what you need to run each adventure as a one-off for your players – you can either slot them into your existing campaign or run them as separate, individual side quests.

· Hand-drawn, full-color maps – old school style with new school flair!

· New Monsters – 11 new monsters and NPCs!

· New Magic Items – 10 new magic items and a new spell!

· River Encounters & Adventure Seeds – 8 short encounters, as well as adventure seeds that can be expanded into mini-adventures!  

· New Ships – 2 new ships, fully compatible with the ship rules in official adventure GoS!

· Fully detailed city & region setting – Gravis Town is a rich frontier town, fueled by sapphire mining. It’s based in the vast and wild Orinwood on the northern periphery of Verona Province, just south of the Daggershield Mountains that form the border with Skandara. The setting includes maps, gazetteer, NPCs, rumors, adventure seeds, additional short river encounters and more!

· Expanded map of Verona Province – including the Jarldoms of Skandara – a new, expanded map and brief gazetteer of the Invician Empire and Verona Province! New and expanded lore for the Shotglass Adventures campaign setting!

· Full guide for OSR conversions!

To get your copy in print, simply click on the link below:

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/327887/SHOTGLASS-ADVENTURES-Gravis-Town-Blues

Game On!

Steve 🙂

All Laidback DM products are now on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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RPG. A poem.

My game is never done
Or lost or won
Even when the final die is cast
And the last
Player upon this infinite stage
Writes their page
Another memorable tale
It’s safe to say
That lives on in mind and soul
The final
The ultimate
And ever-lasting
Goal.

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

For more Laidback DM, click here.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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Mind Maze. A haiku.

The mind is a maze;
Navigating snares and pits,
We long to escape.

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Upstart Photographer – Detritus

Photography & Poetry – P&P for all the RPG fans lol 😊

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Detritus. A poem.

Cast ashore by storied seas
A mishmash of memories
And undefinable surprises
From the ocean’s turned out pockets
A lost and found of salty treats
Waiting and wanting to be reclaimed

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

My Prayer. A poem.

My prayer is for today
And yesterday and tomorrow,
For every lost soul counting time,
Standing rooted to the spot.

Perhaps one day you’ll learn
To get on the road
And into the headlights
Of a truckload of realisation,
That may, somewhat ironically,

Bring you back to life.

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Vice. A poem.

A tightness in my torso
In my arm and in my jaw
Unlike anything I’ve felt before

(Maybe indigestion, it’s a start)
Everything I know says fit
Healthy, young of heart

This dreaded feeling I confess
Grips me harder than the vice
Squeezing life from my chest

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Upstart Photographer – Beach Morning

Photography, poetry – why not, I say? 😊

Cheers

Steve

Beach Morning. A poem.

Rainbowed cloud and
Circuitous seas
Casting ancient wisdom
Like dice upon the shore

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Depression Is. A poem.

I always work so hard, you see,
With such effort and resolve.
Working towards my lofty goal,
Another problem I can solve.
Setting the bar too high, it seems,
But reaching every time.
Again, a pinnacle achieved
And a feeling so sublime.

But then the mighty outcome,
The success which I have craved,
Turns out to be so minimal
And all the thoughts I’ve saved
Turn inwards upon myself
To a sickening degree.
And suddenly I’m burdened
By self-doubt, hypocrisy.

As if all of that endless effort
Was not it’s own reward,
As if the milestone that I reached
Was falling on a sword.
And the black dog deep within me
He just smiles his toothy grin
And laps up all the hatred,
Despair and self-loathing.

Maybe one day I’ll learn again
To take each small success
With the pleasure and conviction
That will, black dog, address.
And send him far from this place
So he will plague me never more.
But until that day, depression is
All I am and 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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Laidback DM: Curse of Strahd 2017 – Week 18

Hi all,

Over the last few weeks I’ve been posting some warts-and-all email summaries of the Curse of Strahd campaign I ran in 2017. This is the first campaign I started sending summaries to players by email after each game (I was a bit lazy prior to that).

Some of the summaries may be dull, some may be amusing; some are written in present tense, some in past tense – these are unedited emails, so please forgive their somewhat chaotic nature and poor sentence structure/grammar.

If you’re a D&D fan you may enjoy them, but I warn you: I’m not Mathew Mercer and this is not Twitch.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

Week 18

After a two-week enforced delay, the game was afoot.

The party was pleasantly surprised by…you guessed, it, fog! And lots of treasure (most un-Barovian). After ransacking the remains of the Vistani encampment, everyone seemed more excited at the prospect of horses and wagons, rather than gold pieces. But it’s been that sort of campaign – it’s all about sore feet and the indignity of walking.

While searching the main tent, William’s Paladin discovered a well, hidden under the campfire (isn’t that where all the best wells are hidden? In Barovia, anyway…). The wall of the well were studded with human bones and skulls. Naturally everyone felt a bit worried. So, the next day, after a very brief discussion, money signs flashed in their vision and they decided to explore it.

Natasha’s Druid shape-changed into a bat and scouted the well and the first corridor below, seeing through the illusion-covered pit with her echo location (“Damn,” said Steve. “Foiled!”). To get across the pit, William’s Dragonborn Paladin piggybacked individuals as he climbed the walls. He only fell off once. The floors were also covered with skulls and bones (a Barovian designer choice, perhaps: “I think I will go with skulls for the floors and walls, it’s so in, this season”).

The first set of doors opened easily, and the Paladin’s spidey-sense picked up lots of undead (“Damn,” said Steve. “Foiled again!”). The party very slowly made their way across the room, tested the doors at the other end and that’s when the undead skeletons and a mummy made their brief guest appearance, thanks to the Dusk Elf leader’s fireball (“Damn,” said Steve. “Foiled again!”). Yeah, turns out he’s a bit of a wiz. Wizard, that is.

Next room, a teleporting hole in the floor over a water laden pit, guarded by two Hook Horrors. Lots of fun, with William’s Paladin’s spirit horse activating the trap and the paladin being dragged down into the water after grappling with one of the monsters. The party hung back at the door, using ranged attacks (“Damn,” said Steve. “Foiled again!”). Eventually the horse and paladin were saved. The Wiz cast fly on the horse and the party were safely transported over the floor. The Druid fell into the floor with the Wiz, changed to a giant spider and carried the Wiz out (“Why do I bother with traps at all,” said Steve).

The last room was home to a trapped Demon called Asgarte, who promised the party anything they wanted if they freed him. So, the party slept on it, taking a long rest in the room and thoroughly annoying Asgarte, who stood watching all night with crossed arms, tapping his foot.

Next week: The end of the mini-adventure (Steve’s excuse to use his new dungeon tiles), and back to Barovia-proper!

For more Laidback DM, click here.

All Laidback DM products are now on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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A Loss. A poem.

I feel the absence
The missing jigsaw heart
That once made me whole
And now makes me hole

I feel every teardrop
Every rip and tear
Every shake and rattle
And every distant sigh

I feel the darkness
These clouds and storms
That weather and wither
My very being

An emptiness
That can’t be filled
One day to the next
The lost suffering a loss

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Angry. A haiku.

You make me angry:
Your choices and selfishness
Robbed him of a life.

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.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

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