Upstart Photographer – Beached

I love to take photographs and write poetry. Why not take a gander.

Steve 🙂

Laidback DM - Beached

Beached. A poem.

Like an errant whale
Who misjudged the moon
You lie beached
In objection and isolation
Wondering when the tides
Would carry you home

But your languid, igneous soul
Is too heavy for the lightness
Of this seaside affair
And this fatal shore
Has an air of permanency
That erodes any thoughts
Of 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.

The Rabbits’ Yard. A poem.

This yard is an Elysian Field.

Where once they sneaked
Like rogues into a lion’s den,
Now they parade before the sun
With no fear of molten wax.

Well-worn trails, scented scorn,
Marking passages with contempt.
Reassurance and arrogance
Threaten to subjugate
The hallowed ground
In which they stir.

And yet:

Indolent bodies gathered,
Reclining in noon beams;
Diminutive masters
Of all they survey.
Here in an Eden,
Free from regret
And erstwhile evil,

They bring forth a smile
And a long absent tear
As I long for a place
Just as peaceful.

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.

Bottle. A poem.

Lost my bottle to a bottle,
The convex bottom of

Carnival
Mirror
Reflections

Twisting and churning;
The beast within the beast,

Cracked
Scarred
Spent

And as poignant as an empty

Bottle.

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: Dragon Warriors Review

I don’t have a lot of free time nowadays, but I ordered this game from DrivethruRPG and thought I’d (finally) post a review of it.

Dragon Warriors is an English TTRPG first published as a series of paperbacks back in the mid-80s. Serpent King Games has reprinted the 2006 revival of that original game, which featured new layouts and images, but this book is pretty much the same text as the original 80’s books.

Dragon Warriors is set in a fantasy world inspired by the history and folklore of the late Dark Ages/early Middle Ages. Suitably grimdark, most people are poor and illiterate, resources are scant, you can fall ill just from staying overnight in a town, many follow the True Faith introduced by a Roman-style empire, paganism is frowned upon and magic users are regarded with fear and suspicion. Only the bravest become adventurers. The game uses familiar polyhedral dice, has a minimalist, class-based character creation system, straightforward combat and enough variety to the magic to keep spellcasting players happy.

The limited classes include Knights (honourable and skilled fighters), Barbarians (fast and mobile berserkers), Sorcerers (powerful wizards), Mystics (psionically gifted individuals), Elementalists (masters of the various elements), Warlocks (combining magic and swordplay) and Assassins (sneaky and stealthy). Every class has special abilities, some which are accessed at higher levels, depending on the class. There is very limited customisation (especially when compared to modern games like Pathfinder 2e or D&D 5e), within classes – basically a few class-specific skills/abilities for each. There’s no multi-classing and no separate, ‘mundane’ skills (like History or Arcana). Your class and its abilities are what you get. Don’t forget this was a game written in the 80’s.

Your class determines base scores for things like Health Points, Magical Attack and Defence, Evasion, Stealth and Perception (with the characteristics of Strength, Reflexes, Intelligence, Psychic Talent providing modifiers to the base scores). A handy character creation summary for all seven classes fills one page. It’s not often you can say that about an RPG.

Magic creation rules are strict and well designed, with each magic using class having specific features that help or hinder the process, depending on the type of item created e.g. Sorcerers are the only class that can build a wand at 8th rank, and they need to permanently expel 1 Magic Point (MP) to imbue the item with 1.5 MPs, thus giving the wand the power to cast spells. Magic items are difficult and time consuming to build, which is fair enough given the feel of the setting and period – the wand I mentioned takes three months of game time to create.

The differentiation and balance between classes is well thought out and put into action. Every class feels and plays differently as a result – Warlocks power up faster than other spell casters, enabling them to cast up to 2 spells per round; Barbarians get a bonus to attacks but a penalty in defence when berserk; Assassins who successfully sneak up on an opponent can do a shock attack that can stun them; classes other than the Knight are penalised for wearing armour – some spellcasters’ spells have a greater chance of failing if they choose to wear armour.

Some of the systems vary somewhat (I’m assuming for statistical purposes) to an almost frustrating degree: Stealth minus Perception plus modifiers and rolling less than the result on 2d10 to succeed at a sneak; rolling less than Perception on 1d20 to track someone; Assigning a difficulty factor to a climb and if your Reflexes score is equal or higher you climb it easily, otherwise roll under your Reflexes score on 1d20 to succeed; dodging uses a Speed between 5 and 20 set arbitrarily by the GM, the PC’s Evasion is subtracted from the Speed and that number must be less than or equal on 2d10. Combat initiative is determined by the PCs’ Reflexes scores, but strangely this is rolled for monsters and NPCs – why not just assign all monsters a Reflexes score? The lack of consistency isn’t the end of the world, but it sometimes makes you raise an eyebrow about the design process.

Your character gets one action in a 6-second combat round. This can be moving 2.5 metres and attacking, drawing a weapon, casting a spell, moving 20 metres, partially loading a crossbow (which takes 3 rounds to fully load), etc. Attacking in combat involves two rolls: your Attack score minus the target’s Defence score, then roll lower than the result on a 1d20 to hit; then roll your weapon’s Armour Bypass e.g. 1d8 for a sword, and get higher than the target’s Armour Factor. (Below and above – there’s that lack of consistency again.) Once that’s done, standardised damage e.g. 4 HP for a sword, is applied. If a target has a shield they can roll 1d6 with a 1 meaning the blow was negated completely. When fighting multiple opponents the defender splits their Defence between the multiple attacks (I like this – a much better simulation than most modern flanking rules). Missile attacks ignore Defence completely and roll less than Attack on a 1d20 +/- modifiers for range, etc., then make an Armour Bypass Roll.

The Magic system is interesting – all the spell casters work differently with their own strengths and weaknesses. Sorcerers, Elementalists and Warlocks expend Magic Points and can put extra magic points into spells to make them more powerful in order to bypass magical defences, while Mystics make a Psychic Fatigue check with failure meaning no more spell casting until dawn. Each class expends and gains magic points in a slightly different way, which adds to the flavour of the class. One great thing in this game is a caster can have any number of durational spells running at the same time, assuming they don’t fail (but you can’t ‘double up’ the same spell for added benefit). Spells can be pretty devastating – many bypass armour – but I might need to run some games to get a better idea of how balanced the 192 spells (far less than 5e) are.

Wounds take time to recover – magic is fast, but healing naturally means waiting 4 days and then getting your rank’s worth of HP back each day. I like the longevity of damage – it feels more serious because it takes longer to recover from a battle, making players more cautious about rushing into a fight.

Levelling (going up in rank) may be a time consuming process, considering each PC earns 5 XP for surviving an adventure. Then they get 1 XP per rank of any creature slain (divided by total PCs). It’s 30 XP to get to level 2 and roughly doubles after that – proportionally similar to other games of the same period. The poor old Knight doesn’t gain any special abilities until 8th rank! Other classes gain skills and abilities at lower levels, but this is NOT 5e. PCs gain +1 bonuses to attacks, HP, etc., each new rank so at high levels they could be quite formidable – if they survive that long.

The Lands of Legend setting is an analogous Europe/Africa/Middle East set in the late dark ages/early Middle Ages, with a useful gazetteer and lore highlighting specific magical items and the history associated with each. It wouldn’t take too much to work this setting into other games. The historicity and grim dark feel sets it apart from kitchen-sink fantasy settings like the Forgotten Realms or Golarion, but the sense of magic and mystery is still there. Many of the historically-based aspects of the setting – language and literacy, law and crime, property and land, disputations, travel, tournament rules – are well-developed and could easily be dropped into a homebrew setting if you’re wanting a little more ‘Middle Ages’ realism in your game.

There’s a section on rules variants, like variable damage, more lethal combat (MORE lethal?), shock damage, more critical hits and fate points to survive death or avoid permanent injuries. I’m going to run the game without these rules first to see how it goes.

The rule book includes an evocative, linear-style adventure, which provides hints about adventure design and rolls into a Dragon Warriors campaign book ‘Sleeping Gods’, as well as basic information on 110 monsters and 80 magic items/relics.

Dragon Warriors is a blast from the past that will be enjoyed by OSR gamers. Although it lacks the customisation of modern RPGs and a has a few seemingly clunky systems, it has an evocative world setting and semi-historical atmosphere that makes it well worth a look. And the softcover is relatively cheap on Drivethrurpg. It’s a good investment for anyone who may have grown bored of D&D and wants their fantasy cake grimdark-flavoured but without the complexity of Zweihander.

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We Once Gathered Round. A poem.

We once gathered round,
Before time and circumstance
Dictated less than fond adieus;
And bloated sensitivities
Blended with simplistic vagaries,
Tore down tradition
And vented wholesome lies.

We once gathered round,
Like comrades round the vodka.
When fires so honourable
Simmered with every loss
And every back not broken
Was bent to lift the wounded
And carry them from the field.

We once gathered round,
But petty disregard
Has left us wanting, more or less.
Split us like ripples
flowing outwards on a pond;
Never touching twilight shores
From whence we sprung.

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 – Dwarven Mine Camp!

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: Dwarven Mine Camp

You know how it is, the party sees that interesting cave entrance just off to the side of your map and want to check it out. “No!” you think. “I don’t have anything prepared!” Well, sweat no longer. This Dwarven Mine Camp map (or in fact any type of small fantasy mine you can imagine) is for just such an occasion. And heck, if you want, it could have nothing there but atmosphere – so, why is the camp deserted? And what’s that strange odor leaking up from below…

On PC, just right click and save. On mobile, just hold your finger on the image 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.

Game On!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts,  click here.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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Shotglass Adventures: Mined Games Now in Print!

Shotglass Adventures – Kal-Zar’s Bane 2: Mined Games is now available in print, PDF and as a Digital Maps Package from DrivethruRPG.

Gravis Town is locked down as the Kal-Zar’s Bane virus runs rampant. A journal found in a lost shipyard provides the location of the long-hidden library of Kal-Zar Ro. The party must travel to the Orinspeak, a mountain trapped in perpetual winter in the heart of the forest.

There are questions to be answered, secrets to be uncovered. The truth about Kal-Zar’s Bane may be revealed. And the quest to find a cure can begin…

What’s in SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES – Kal-Zar’s Bane 2: MINED GAMES?

· 7 adventures – puzzles, investigations, dungeon crawls, quests, social encounters – complete with full color maps! Varied adventures from 5th – 7th level, designed for minimal preparation and flexible delivery. Each adventure can be run as part of the ongoing Kal-Zar’s Bane campaign, or as a One-Shot. 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.

· Loads of hand-drawn, full-color maps!

· 20 new monsters & NPCs and 9 new magic items!

· Fully detailed village and region setting– The Elven tree village of Ai’Pa’El is home to the An’st’rm elves and a potential regional base for the PCs in the vast Orinwood Forest. The elves harbor a secret that may start to unravel the truth about Kal-Zar’s Bane

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

· Full guide for OSR conversions!

To get your copy, click on SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES: MINED GAMES – Laidback DM | DriveThruRPG.com

Mummy’s Curse. A poem.

Stricken with
A mummy’s curse
To waste away
To slough and spurt

As bodies melt
Into emptiness
Prognosis lost
And second best

A life lived short
And lost again
Unfulfilled
A sea of pain

This mummy’s curse
Will take you down
And leave you wanting
In the ground

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 Hut

I love to take photographs and write poetry. Scroll down, it’s waiting.

Steve 🙂

Beach Hut. A poem.

Lonely, yet adamant
The sun sears your skin
The waves beat you blind
Your scarred alacrity
Carries on and on
Until the surf has its way
And you join your
Unfettered, broken brothers
Prostrate 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.

Shotglass Rounds – PDF Adventures for D&D 5e now available on DrivethruRPG!

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!

These low price PDFs are now available to buy on DrivethruRPG, the world’s biggest online store for RPG games and supplements! Click on the link to get your Shotglass Rounds at DriveThruRPG.com – Laidback DM – The Largest RPG Download Store!

Amnesty. A haiku.

I give amnesty
If you trespass against me
It will set you 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.

Fish Story. A poem.

I wish I was a fish
And could see the world
Through fishy eyes
And fish bowl smile
With no care or thoughts
To remonstrate
Or percolate
Within my fishy brain

But my brain’s too big
And far too succinct
To live a simpler life

It would rather sacrifice
Me to myself
Night after night

After night

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.

Book Store Brevity. A poem.

You were standing there
And I was standing here
Surrounded by the things
We longed for and adored
And neither of us knew
(But of course we did)

In our ignorance and arrogance
We turned and passed away
Flipped destiny the bird
And wrapped ourselves up
In hypocrisy and humdrum
All the while wondering

What could have been

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.

Murder on the Dance Floor – Dealing with Dissent in TRPG Games

What do you do when players cause dissent in your game? (And believe me, even if it hasn’t happened in one of your games yet, it WILL happen.) Here’s a few suggestions:

Establishing Ground Rules

Make sure you set ground rules about behaviour in your session zero, such as being respectful of others, allowing everyone to have their say, rules lawyering, how players feel about swearing, no yelling, no bullying, etc. This should also include a reminder that the DM’s decision is final (it’s funny how many players forget this).

Your discussion should include what the group considers taboo or off limits. These are subjects that will not be included or discussed during the game – torture, racism, etc. Make sure you are inclusive – everyone’s opinion counts. And get agreement from all on the final ground rules.

Managing Decision Dissent

Some players may disagree with some of your decisions. Keep your cool and explain how and why you made the decision they’re disputing. Listen to the dissenting opinion – it’s possible they may have an angle you haven’t thought of. Use the rules and logic. Be fair. Ensure that you make your decision in line with any of your previous precedents, or if you change it provide the reasons why.

Transparency of decision making is not only a good business management process, it’s ideal for games. And don’t forget, as DM you are the final arbiter, whether the player agrees with the decision or not.

Managing Players who Cross the Line

Remember that zero session and the ground rules you established? Well, there were boundaries and taboos discussed – things that should not be done or said in the game. This could include overt things like racist comments, lude behaviours, or non-overt things like using someone else’s dice without their permission or making another player uncomfortable by invading their personal space (I’m sure you can think of many more examples).

It’s possible that one of your players may cross the line with regard to these boundaries. It’s also possible that other players at your table, while uncomfortable, may not confront that player about the issue(s).

You need to ensure that you police the boundaries, keep your game on track and fun for all. If that means calling out the player’s poor behaviour, then do it – firstly, by stating categorically that the behaviour is not on, and then by pulling the player aside and ensuring they are clear about the boundaries that were established in session zero. If the player continues to break the ground rules or make other players uncomfortable, it’s time they found another game.

Managing Non-team Players and Player Dissent

You’re going to get some players who like to take off on their own. Sometimes it’s because they disagree with a party decision, or because they’re bored, or because they want to be a little disruptive. Sometimes it’s because they don’t personally like another player.

Aside from learning to run multiple game sessions simultaneously (which is a great skill to have), you should take the player aside and ask them what the problem is and how you can work together to resolve it? If they really prefer working by themselves then maybe you could run a separate one-person game with them. Maybe they just need to be highlighted a little more so they’re not always overshadowed by others.

If the situation continues and the player still causes issues for the others, there’s always the “maybe this campaign isn’t right for you” discussion. The player needs to understand that they don’t have to be there if they don’t want to – and that other players are happy to take their spot. It’s a last resort, of course, but makes a clear and concrete point.

Almost every TRPG has a section in the book about managing dissent at the table. You can find numerous articles on the internet, no doubt much better written than this lol. Dissent at the table is not fun, but it can be managed so that everyone can continue to enjoy the game and have fun.

And so there’s no more murder on the dance floor.

Game on!

Steve

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Laidback DM products are available at DrivethruRPG.

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Upstart Photographer – Beach Rocks at Sunrise

I love to take photographs and write poetry. To wit:

Steve 🙂

Beach Rocks at Sunrise

Angular and obtuse
Yet smoothed to a fine edge
The grasping sunlight
Illuminates your bitter curves
Casting shadows like
Ambit claims destined to fail
Until they try again tomorrow

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.

Brutal Damage in DnD 5e

Some people (oldies and grognards, like me) remember when D&D was a lot more lethal for player characters (PCs). 5e changed all that. Now players have a suitably comfortable time with only a few chances of actually dying in a campaign (players don’t really like their characters dying unless its part of a game-changing event e.g. sacrificing yourself to kill the big bad).

Here are some…modifications…to make things a little tougher.

Flanked!!
Ouch! Now that’s gonna hurt…

Wounds

  • When an attack hits that is 5 over the required AC, the PC or creature is wounded (a new condition). The wound condition causes 1d4 HP bleeding damage per turn until the PC uses an ACTION to bind it.
  • When an attack hits that is 10 over the required AC, the PC or creature is wounded (as above) and stunned for 1d4 rounds. The PC can make a save to recover from the stunned condition at the end of each of their turns – the DC is 8 + the amount of damage they took in the attack.
  • When an attack hits with a natural 20, damage dice are doubled and modifiers added (as usual), plus the PC or creature suffers wounds per the table below (roll 1d4):
    1. Head: PC or creature is wounded (as above) and stunned for 1d4 rounds. The PC can make a save to recover from the stunned condition at the end of each of their turns – the DC is 8 + the amount of damage they took in the attack. Once they save they have DISADV on WIS (Perception) checks.
    2. Arm: PC or creature is wounded (as above) and has DISADV on attacks and STR checks/saves.
    3. Leg: PC or creature is wounded (as above) and loses 10 ft. of movement per round and has DISADV on DEX checks/saves.
    4. Torso: PC or creature is wounded (as above) and gains one level of Exhaustion.

Short and Long Rests

PCs can only recover a maximum of 2 HD per Short Rest (obviously if they have only 1 HD left they can only spend that much) and a maximum of half their HP Max per Long Rest rounded down. A single natural 20 wound from the table above is recovered during a Long Rest. If a PC has multiple natural 20 wounds, they need to take that many Long Rests to fully recover.

Death Saves

Unconscious PCs don’t get any death saves. Instead, the unconscious PC suffers 1d4 wound bleed damage each turn after they reach 0 HP. When the accumulated bleed damage below 0 reaches the level of their CON expressed as a negative e.g. CON 16 means ‘-16 HP‘, the PC dies.

Another PC may use an ACTION to bind the unconscious PC’s wounds – this heals 1d8 HP of negative damage, but does not bring the unconscious PC above 0 HP. The other PC must continue to bind the unconscious PC’s wounds (using an action to heal 1d8 HP each round) until they overcome the number of HPs lost due to bleed, whereby the unconscious PC is stabilized. Otherwise, the unconscious PC bleeds to death.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, this makes your games incredibly tense and incredibly lethal. But don’t forget monsters use the same rules, so combat is shortened considerably. Play at your own risk!

Game on!

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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Treasure. A poem.

Digging
Revealing

Dirt covered trinkets
And broken chances

Uncovered
And unbecoming
Times and treasures
Broken and beguiling
Coming to light
And dark
And overwhelming
All sense

Some treasures
Are better off
Buried

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 – Desert Outpost Ruin

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.

Select you preferred version below: with a grid for home games, or grid-less for Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds!

Desert Outpost Ruin

This desert outpost of a lost civilization was abandoned hundreds of years ago. Since then, time and the elements have had their way. But why was it deserted? And what currently lurks within? I guess that’s up to your PCs to discover…

On PC, just right click and save. On mobile, just hold your finger on the image and save.
On PC, just right click and save. On mobile, just hold your finger on the image 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.

Game On!

Steve 😊

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

LaidbackDM - Product Line

Canvass. A poem.

This canvass
Multicoloured
Black and white
Upon which I paint
And scrawl and scratch
A history
Wrong and right
A silver cord
Of destiny
That paints me
Into a corner
And yet free
As summer sun
and winter night

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 – Wasteland Ruins

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!

Wasteland Ruins

I created this map for the final showdown between Demogorgon and the PCs in an Out of the Abyss campaign I finished a little while back, but you can use it for any wasteland, whether it be a demonic showdown or a post-apocalyptic bomb site.

On PC, just right click and save. On mobile, just hold your finger on the image 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.

Game on!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts,  click here.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

LaidbackDM - Product Line

Enough. A poem.

When enough is said
And it’s never enough
But just enough
To matter

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.

Curse of Strahd: Weeks 21-24

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 21

This week, in thrilling Barovia, where the mists are thick and the people are thicker…

– poison snake-filled zombies in the swamp!

– the sun sword!

– off to the amber temple!

Along the way:

– William’s dragonborn paladin is raised from the dead! His brother was waiting patiently in the wings to make an appearance, but not this time.

– “I really want that wedding dress,” says Isaac’s tiefling Warlock.

– Dan’s halfling Monk is polite (gasp!) to the burgomaster ghost who hides behind rocks.

– Natasha’s gnome Druid takes a ride on a runaway wagon.

– Esmeralda D’avenir returns from the dead to take her revenge on the tiefling who killed her and ends up making friends with her in T-Rex form.

– Mark’s rocking Goliath barbarian rocks everybody’s world by showing what a good fighter he is (and looking down his nose at all those weaklings!).

– The epic cliff side battle with 2 x demon Vrocks (featuring a butt-naked paladin) is suspended by the outrageous magics of….closing time.

Week 22

Tsolenka Pass

– Walked through that magical fire at the gate house Mark’s Goliath Barbarian! Yeah, give it to the man. That showed him. 33 HP of damage. Oh, not to be outdone, William’s Dragonborn Paladin? You too. Oh, you’re fire resistant. Okay, no worries.

– Natasha’s Gnome Druid turned into a spider and walked over that gate. Cool.

– Dan’s Halfling monk, who can apparently do almost anything, ran over the gate house lol.

– Big goat attack. Dead goat. 1 round. Say no more. Food for supper.

– ”I will scrape the gold plate off those big statues in the freezing cold while everyone is taking a short rest,” said Dan’s Monk. One hour later, 20 GP worth. Awesome!

The Amber Temple

– “Where did they get all that amber?” said Natasha. “…From the amber dimension…look, it’s a fantasy game!” replied Steve, clutching at straws (or amber, in this case). “How boring, if everything is amber there,” mused William.

– The Dusk Elf Wizard NPC stayed out of everything. “I’m just here for the ride,” he said.

– In through the side entrance, a little fissure. Dan’s monk played havoc with the berserkers and the gladiator.

– Mark’s Barbarian and William’s Paladin competed joyfully for kills, finishing off the dire wolf and most of the berserkers.

– Nice use of spells there, Natasha’s druid. Greater invisibility on the monk, indeed!

– Flame skulls? ”Who cares,” says Mark’s Barbarian.

More amber-colored excitement next week!

Week 23

Craziness ensured in rocking Barovia this week. Highlights:

– The Amber Temple, clad floor to ceiling in amber as part of Barovia’s used amber going-out-of-business sale, has a big statue, that the party studiously avoided (perhaps Steve’s magnificently drawn battle map put them off…).

– James Vilnius Kirk, hiding in the lecture theatre, coward and simpleton. “I…have boldly…gone…where no man…has gone…before. I came, I saw…and was…conquered. “

– Fighting a big Amber Golem. Sort of like a stone golem…except amber. 

– Battling three-eyed Ghasts who could spider climb! 

– Touching amber sarcophagus and accepting dark gifts:

         * William’s Paladin can now spider climb but has a useless third eye in his forehead.  

         * Dan’s female Monk can now cast three lightning bolts and will reincarnate three times when dying. Also higher charisma. No teeth and half her face doesn’t work (DISADV on persuasion attempts!). Now, she’s evil, too.

– Fighting burning Flameskulls of fiery flaming death! Natasha’s Gnome bites the dust. All saved by the Paladin!

– Mark’s Barbarian sorely confused by the Paladin’s contrariness. “Where’s something to hit?”  

– The ever-loving NPCs, James V Kirk and the brother Karamazov, both wizards, standing around and commenting on how the battles are going. 

– Time to recover Kirk’s old dead boss’s body (and his spellbook…)

Week 24

This week in Barovia:

– Still hanging out in the Amber Temple.

– More flame skulls to fry!

– Natasha’s Druid attunes to a wand and gains a flaw (her first magic item!). Can’t say no anymore and so takes off to touch some sarcophagi.

– On the way, helps out Dan’s Monk, William’s Paladin, Mark’s Barbarian, James’s Wizard and Steve’s Wizard take on an Arcanoloth. And win. Yay, team!

– Jame’s crazy sheet-mending half orc fighter/wizard is back again, after a brief spell away (about 4 weeks or so?).

– Steve’s Malificent Wizard is back again, after a much longer break. He’s got his priorities right and dropped uni so he can play D&D. A man after my own heart!

– Kalashnikov, the party’s NPC dusk elf wizard knows when there’s too many wizards. He chooses to sit out all the battles (so what’s new).

– New NPC wizard recruit James Vilnius Kirk, absconded during the night (must have known too many wizards spoil the broth).

– Natasha’s Druid ends up with a bad case of dropsy, higher charisma and the ability to cast 3 lightning bolts, but turns evil and gets an eye in the back of the head.

– Dan’s monk tries to cover up her lack of teeth and half useless face with translucent amber! Um, you can see through it, Dan…

– In the treasure room, fighting an invisible amber golem! All too easy for this party of all stars.

Next Time: Does this Amber Temple ever end?! 

For more Laidback DM, click here.

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Gameshow. A poem.

Sometimes, I remember you:
The time, the place.
Wrapped up in whimsy,
In solace and solitude.

All left behind
In an unforgiving instant,
Bereft and bellicose,
Yet screaming for more.

Sometimes, I remember you:
But hindsight
And familiarity
Don’t always match

The
gameshow
called
reality.

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: Wizard’s Manor

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!

Wizard’s Manor

This single-story manor was built on a clifftop overlooking the sea by a wizard of limited means. This mage locked himself away while he experimented with demon summoning. But maybe he bit off more than he could chew. Maybe that protective circle didn’t prevent the demon escaping into the local village, and maybe the PCs traveled here to find the demon’s source after defeating it. And maybe the wizard’s experiments opened a portal that mutated him beyond human…or something like that. Have fun with this map!

On PC, just right click and save. On mobile, just hold your finger on the image 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.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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Free Map: Lava Rift!

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

This week: Lava Rift!

Gotta love lava! I made this map for an Out of the Abyss campaign I finished not long ago, but you can use it for anything. Imagine fire elementals climbing up the rift as our heroes battle demons either side of the chasm. Caught between a rock and a hard (hot?) place!

On PC, just right click and save. On mobile, just hold your finger on the image 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.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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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 🙂

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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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.

All Laidback DM products are on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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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!

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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

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