Memories Lost. A poem.

Thoughts desiccating,
Like snow on afternoon tarmac;
Turning elegant meridians
Into mist.

An inelegant design,
Fractured by uncertainty
And regret
And all left to chance.

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 Fantasy Map – Field Hospital

You can use this cool map for your tabletop or Roll20/Fantasy Grounds.

Field Hospital

War is hell! But you need to patch your troops up somewhere and this ramshackle M.A.S.H-style Field Hospital includes trenches, tents and an underground bunker. Maybe the bunker has been sealed off because the officers there were killed in a magical assault. Now their spirits prevent anyone accessing the documents in the Colonel’s chest in the back of the bunker. Sounds like you might need a party to recover it…

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.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Escape Book. A poem.

Texture and scent;
Wafting, consoling.
Old friend on empty nights,
When time and tide have made
A joke of sudden pretence.

When every tiny sliver of doubt
Is a tear working
The stone of your heart –
Slow and condescending
Erosion of the subtle kind.

The book takes you away
From blithe thoughts of bitterness,
The feel and the pulse,
An escape from all
You would despise.

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.

Tomb of Annihilation: Week 1

Hi all,

I previously posted some warts-and-all email summaries of the Curse of Strahd campaign I ran in 2017. It was the first campaign I sent summaries to players by email after each game (I was a bit lazy prior to that). Here’s the follow up campaign – 2018’s Tomb of Annihilation. We used experience points rather than milestones/level-based progression, which led to some ‘xp grinding’ along the way. Some of the summaries 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. And maybe even if you aren’t.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

Week 1

The PCs

The new party is all 1st level and consists of D&D Wednesday regulars:

  • Mark – with a rotund and boisterous Human Cleric (“Ho ho ho!”)
  • Steve – with a devilishly evil Human Rogue (“Come to the dark side, Luke…”)
  • William – with a quiet and well-spoken Lizardman Druid with local knowledge of Port Nyanzaru (“That’s Lizard Folk. We’re not sexist or racist here,” I said.)
  • Dan – with a good looking, performing, Halfling Paladin (who goes out of his way to try to chat up the ladies. Okay, maybe Dan’s sexist.)
  • James – with a vigilante Tiefling Warlock (whose partner was killed only 2 weeks from retirement.)

Plus newcomers:

  • Davor – with an outspoken Human Ranger (“I choose the guide that looks like Zoe Saldana!”)
  • Daniel – with a female Half-Elven Bard (who prefers females and who’s performance roll beat the halfling paladin at open-mike night at the inn)
  • Morgan – with a Dwarven Ranger who mysteriously knows all about jungle terrain (even though he’s never been to Chult before…)

The Story

Summoned to the home of archmage Syndra Silvane, the PCs learned that souls are being stolen by a magical device called the Soul Monger, based somewhere in the steaming jungles of Chult. People who had been raised from the dead were dying, and no one who died recently could be revived.

The PCs were teleported to Port Nyanzaru, where they got a taste of the local culture and made some purchases at one of the local bazaars. Dinosaurs were used as pack animals, there were regular weekly Dinosaur races (one due the next day) and the city was a melting pot for trading races from around the world.

The party met a bunch of guides at the inn they were staying at, and after much discussion voted to employ one-armed Dwarven guide Hew Hackinstone. Hew claimed to be the greatest guide ever, so hopefully they would get where they were supposed to go (he was a bit sparing on the details, though…).

That night, as everyone slept at one of the local inn, William’s Druid awoke to find a thief scarpering with Davor’s Ranger’s haversack. The race was on, except for Dan’s halfling, who stayed at the more expensive hotel across the road. He played soothing chase music out the window… Mark’s Cleric decided to stay behind to look after the baggage in the room. Then the door opened, another thief entered, and Mark’s Cleric charmed him.

After a line up at a manhole round the corner, Daniel’s Bard jumped down the 20 feet to land on Steve’s Rogue, still climbing down the ladder. They both fell, with Daniel’s Bard deciding to return to the inn as she was too wounded to continue. Davor’s Ranger leapt into the sewer water to overtake the PCs’ line-up (the perils of a large party in confined spaces) and was immediately swamped with a swarm of rats.

Meanwhile, Mark’s Cleric has been happily chatting with the charmed thief. Daniel’s Bard returned and promptly skewered the thief. Dan’s halfling came across to see what the commotion was all about. Daniel’s Bard realized she had cure light wounds all along, healed herself and everyone headed to the sewers. 

Meanwhile, in the sewers, James’ Tiefling scared the crap out of Steve’s rogue (who was pretending to get friendly with the runaway thief so they could take him to their leader. Morgan’s Ranger and Davor’s Ranger finished off the rats, then continued on by jumping the perilous two feet of rat-filled water and running ahead. James’ Warlock faced off against the thieves’ pet Deinonychus and was promptly torn limb from limb (sorry, dude – Raise Dead doesn’t work any more). Davor’s and Morgan’s Rangers peppered the dino with arrows from the other side of the channel, but it headed for Steve’s Rogue who hid around the corner so he could backstab it. Davor’s Ranger fought another thief, the one controlling the dinosaur…

The moral to this story? Don’t split your 1st level party up so soon…

Next: Does Davor’s Ranger get his backpack back? Does Mark’s Cleric chastise Daniel’s Bard for killing his conversational partner in cold blood?

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Free Fantasy Map – Multi-Level Caves

Time for a free hand-drawn map! There’s two versions of this one – one with a grid and the other without (perfect for online platforms like Roll20/Fantasy Grounds).

Multi-Level Caves

This cave has four levels, with connecting chimneys accessing each level (I’ve included labels as it might get a bit confusing as to what connects to where). It’s designed to be narrow and cramped. I love PCs getting jammed up in small spaces – claustrophobia anyone? And take that, AOE spells! The monsters will have to be small to take advantage of the small tunnels – perhaps a huge swarm of critters!

And the reason why the PCs need to get to the bottom-most cave? Maybe the lowest level was used by a wizard to store a powerful magic item, or perhaps the queen of the swarm has all the treasure her critters collected along the way? Maybe the party tracked the swarm here because they attacked a nearby village and took a bunch of people to eat… Go wild, my friends.

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 😊

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Free Fantasy Map – Fettered Tomb

Time for another free map! This one is grid-less for use with Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, but the tiles are conveniently 5 ft. squares, so you can use it for face-to-face games as well.

Fettered Tomb

The Fettered Tomb is bound by ancient magics, trapped and haunted by the fettered souls within. It’s very small, but the cramped spaces within make it tricky for PCs to maneuver, and the dastardly traps make it deadly!

Twin Stone Golems in the first vault grab PCs and throw them into a 100 ft. deep pit. These Golems root themselves to the ground so they can’t be pushed in themselves. The columns beyond generate a harmless mist, but anyone who walks around behind them is struck by bolts of lightning. The eldritch well contains a liquid that must be drunk to access the final room, but the liquid causes bizarre hallucinations that cause insanity. The final room contains another Stone Golem and two golden sarcophagi, protected by powerful life-draining hellsworn spirits.

And the treasure? The caskets themselves are solid gold…

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, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Curse of Strahd: Weeks 30-31

Hi all,

Over the last few months 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 sent 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 30

The party destroyed the Heart of Sorrow (“Don’t go breaking my heart,” sang Strahd), and fought off an assault by animated halberds and vampire spawn, only to face the big dude, Strahd himself!

Poor old Steve K’s wizard was made into mincemeat by Mark’s Goliath Barbarian after Mark was mind-controlled by Strahd (“Kill the wizard next to you!”). Steve realised the gravity of his mistake after he decided to take shelter from the melee by sitting next to the Barbarian. Doh.

Everyone tried to knock Mark back to his senses, but in the end they had to put him down (knock him unconscious) to stop him trying to kill William’s Dragonborn Paladin.

I was very impressed by everyone’s tactics and witty repartee:

  • “New boss says I have to kill you, old boss,” cried Mark to William, as he threw a javelin at the spider-climbing paladin, hitting him. “Great shot, Rock,” replied William, encouragingly.
  • Dan’s halfling Monk used some skilful manoeuvres to make sure as many of the vampire spawn were caught in the light of his sun sword as possible, and scowled like the devil when the DM sent more vampire spawn into the fight (Cheer up, Dan, it was an epic battle!).
  • James’ used his summoned elemental Xorn to turn his enemies into chowder.
  • Steve K used his Fireball spells very effectively to whittle down the vampire spawn’s resistance and take out the Heart
  • Dan’s monk fell 160 feet to the bottom of the tower and came out all good! Thumbs up, monky monk!

The session-long battle ended with Strahd ducking his tale between his legs and nicking off to recover!

Next week – quite possibly the final chapter in this long campaign! Due to his lack of a living character, I’m letting Steve K play Strahd and he won’t be holding back. Prepare for doom or gloom. Or something better.

Week 31

After much discussion and a short rest the party decided to take the fight to Strahd before he had a chance to recover too much from the last battle.

Mark’s Goliath Barbarian recovered from being mind-controlled, William’s Dragonborn Paladin lead the charge (quietly, but with his armour giving everyone away), Dan’s deformed Halfling Monk was keen to stun and the NPC Kasimir/Lashnikov wanted to get on with it (“I just want to raise my sister!” he bemoaned constantly).

Down to the catacombs they rushed, down into the tomb of Strahd’s parents, where they used a portable pit from the Paladin’s Robe of Useful Items to get past a wall of blue light. There, they found and confronted Strahd. After a huge battle (actually, a bit of a fizzer since they had him in sunlight from the Sunsword all the time), Strahd was dispatched in 3 rounds. Damn it, Steve K – Strahd has more than just fireballs, y’know!!  

The heroes watched as Strahd dissolved into dust, then saw the spirits of Sergei (Strahd’s slain brother) and his long lost love Tatyana reunited, the mists over Barovia clear and the sun shine for the first time in centuries.

Mark’s Barbarian promptly announced he was the new king of Barovia and that he would be a kind and benevolent leader, with the ‘law of the rock’ to replace all current legalities.

Kasimir raised his dead sister, who turned out to be a right cow.

Dan’s Monk and William’s Paladin headed home through the mists.

—The End

And so ended the Curse of Strahd, a very enjoyable face-to-face campaign run in a games shop with a variety of people ranging in numbers every week from 4-9 players. I’ll no doubt run it very differently if I ever do it again (especially the ending – from that point on I made sure I ran all of my endgame boss battles. Delegation is cool, but sometimes it’s not lol). But that’s the fun of D&D – every campaign is different, and as long as it’s fun, that’s all that matters.

So, what’s next? How about Tomb of Annihilation?

Game on!

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Free Fantasy Map – Overgrown Castle Ruins

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

Overgrown Ruined Castle

The party stumbles across an overgrown ruin in a forest clearing: the remains of a castle, crumbling and dilapidated. Of the inner keep and walls, there is nothing but weed-infested rubble; only the atrophied remnants of a gatehouse and two outbuildings remain. As the party approaches, something stirs within. Crossbows and bows are brought to bear, and grimy faces with reddened, bloodshot eyes peer over decaying crenelations…

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, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

For the Better. A poem.

Surprise was in your eyes
Overwhelming every petulant
And irrational thought
Because this was unexpected
And positively rejected
All that you believed

Know now

Some things are meant to be
Bad ties you’re meant to sever
Trust in how you feel
And make a change

For the better

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 Fantasy Map – Cult Temple

As you may or may not know, I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures, and it just so happens this map is 1750 x 1750 (24 squares), perfect for Roll20 / Fantasy Grounds! AND the temple’s floor tiles are conveniently 5 ft. squares…

Cult Temple

There’s a pesky little cult that has taken over the local temple fortress. What are they really up to and what are the strange lights that flash from the arrow slits each night? Perhaps a massive summoned beastie is guarding the north reception, or maybe it has overrun the place…only YOU know for sure, intrepid DMs – it’s for the story you’ll craft with your players, after all.

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, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Free Fantasy Map – Dragon Cave

This hand-drawn map comes in grid or grid-less versions, perfect for face-to-face games or Roll20 / Fantasy Grounds!

Who doesn’t love a big old cave for a big old dragon? And what’s more, if you’re using the online grid-less version you can make the cave any size and the dragon any size so you can scale your dragon encounter to any level party. And why not use this cave for any other monster – don’t stop at dragons. Versatility is what it’s all about.

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 😊

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Reevaluate. A Haiku.

It is time I took
The time to look and, again,
Reevaluate.

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 28-29

Hi all,

Over the last few months 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 sent 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 28

At Tsolenka Pass, the party’s wagons had mysteriously disappeared (well that’s what you get for leaving things unattended), but Strahd’s carriage was waiting for them. After a much needed long rest to recuperate from the demon battle, the party jumped in. Steve’s evil Wizard’s two pet hell hounds came along for the ride, smoking up the carriage with their infernal breath, Mark’s Barbarian drank all the courtesy Brandy, Kazimir complained as usual and Dan’s evil Monk whinged about wanting to get back to Vallaki to recover his wagon.

Vallaki turned out to be a deserted ghost town. The party picked up two old NPCs at the ruined church, who had been hiding in the hallowed undercroft – Ismarck and Ireena! They joined them in the already-cramped carriage and headed off to Ravenloft.

Along the way the party jumped ship and headed into the village of Barovia, where many of the refugees from Vallaki had re-located. Mark’s Barbarian bought a climber’s kit at horrendously overinflated prices. Dan’s Monk decided she’d had enough of the pricing structures in this valley, broke into the provisioner at night, killed the poor bodyguard/assistant and owner and stole all their money (she was evil, after all).

Back to the carriage, patiently waiting at the crossroads. Off to Ravenloft, where (of course) it was dark, raining and with lightning flashing everywhere. Across the drawbridge only to have green slime drop on them, in the front door (after lots of discussion about other approaches), then a face-off with Rahadin, Strahd’s Chamberlain, who also happened to be the guy who killed half of Kasimir’s people and sliced off his ears (ouch!). Kasimir initiated the fight and the party ended Rahadin. As Mark’s Barbarian took Kazimir’s sword to throw off the drawbridge (just in case, you know how things come back in this game…), he awakened four red dragon wyrmlings transformed into statues in the foyer. After a gruesome battle (in which the party was burned a lot and Ireena was toasted – AGAIN), the PCs elected to return to the village and lick their wounds.   

Week 29

After recovering at the Old Bonegrinder Windmill (it was closer than Barovia village), the party returned to Castle Ravenloft.  

Going back in through the front door (as you do after deciding not to scale the building or use any of the other entry points available), they moved to a corridor of statues, where James’ Fighter/Wizard conjured up a number of minor elementals (ice mephits) to battle a bunch of animated swords. After the mephits were summarily eliminated, the party finished off the swords.

The party found a chapel and a cool magic item (The Icon of Ravenloft). Mark’s Goliath Barbarian and William’s Dragonborn Paladin, who had become very close over the last few weeks, decided to spoon on the altar (it being the safest place in Ravenloft for a short rest). Dan’s crazy halfling Monk decided to sit around and wait.

James’ Fighter/Wizard summoned more mephits (dust mephits, this time) and decided to split the party and go upstairs – solo – to the balcony 50 feet above and fight two Strahd Zombies there. After whipping their butts, James’ Fighter/Wizard moved on to explore, discovering corridors (and fighting a vampire dummy), an empty throne room and a secret corridor. He then headed up to the battlements where he ran into Strahd’s animated armour, which had fun with his mephits and sent James’ Fighter/Wizard finally running back to the party.

The party, now rested, decided to climb the tower stairs to find the Heart of Sorrow. “There it is, up above! Let’s get it…”

To be continued…

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Time is. A poem.

Time is short

It stands in line, dwarfed by all the other narcissistic concepts
All wanting a piece of our mind
Another piece of the pie
A little bit more of our

Time is

Wondering when it will have its
Time in the sun
And yet

Time flies
When you’re having fun
And there’s never enough

Time is

Needed to do all the things
Needed to be done
My time is so important
But not as much as yours

Time is

Something we all want more of
But even when we have it
We just fritter it away
As if it were an endless resource
As it it would always stay

I’d take the time
But instead time takes me
And suddenly
I’m all out of time
Because

Time is

And

Time was

I wish I had so much more

Time

Because soon we’ll reach
The end of the line

And then

Time’s up

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 Fantasy Map – Super-Fortress

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 is one I made for a friend a while ago.

Super-Fortress!

The PCs are at war, invading a towering super-fortress to unseat the evil vampire lord…or whomever you come up with as an antagonist. Maybe the fortress is the last bastion of civilization before the dark lands. Maybe it was recently abandoned and the PCs need to find out why…

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.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Curse of Strahd: Week 26-27

Hi all,

Over the last few months 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 sent 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 26

Things are kicking into overdrive! A bit more fighting in the Amber Temple, but the best thing to come out of it was a copy of the architectural plans for Strahd’s castle, Ravenloft! Now the party could plan the plan of their attack! Or just plan their attack. Either way.

Unfortunately, as the party exited the temple they were surrounded by magic mists (“Are these Barovian mists or homebrew mists?” joked Mark) and transported to a demonic plane! There they battled two Barlgura demons guarding the mystical portal, pinched some blue magic crystals from the pillars around the portal which translated the Abyssal language, pounded on loads of lowly Dretches and faced off against two Hezrou by a river of lava. But not before James’ Half Orc Fighter/Wizard sent his summoned elemental Azer for a bath in an acid lake (ouch!).

The party had just been yelled at by a depressed and irritable Glabrezu, who was searching for a mate and the only female in the area wanted nothing to do with him. If the party could persuade her to join him he would help them get out of there. Unfortunately, she was at the top of the 200 foot canyon walls and had a liking for diamonds (they are a girl’s best friend, after all…).

Dan’s Halfling Monk “done good” with lots of stunning and pushing monsters into lava, Steve’s Elvish Wizard was the master of magic missiles, Mark’s Goliath Barbarian missed his Paladin Compadre (who was in Sydney filming sports for work) and kicked ass as a result, and Kasimir the NPC Wizard continued to complain, wanting to get to Castle Ravenloft so he could bring his sister back from the dead toot suite.

Meanwhile, James’ Fighter/Wizard just realised Steve’s wizard is EVIL (Steve was trying to make a deal with a demon) and confronted him. In the sulphurous fumes of the Demon Canyon, there’s more fun to be had then you can shake a stick at. Or a great axe, in this case.

Until next week, intrepid adventurers!

Week 27

Taking a break from sunny Barovia, our intrepid party-goers holidayed in the sunny Abyss, which was just a misty and dreary as Barovia. No accounting for taste. 

Jame’s Half Orc Fighter/Wizard, having learned that Steve’s wizard was Chaotic Evil, took offense and decided to shadow the wizard for the rest of the game, just in case he tried something, well…evil. Meanwhile, Dan’s evil Halfling Monk acted innocent.

After negotiating with Norbert the Glabrezu, the party decided to recover some diamonds from a box canyon. The noise brought along 3 Hezrou and a lovely battle ensued, with Mark’s Goliath Barbarian stealing James’ Fighter/Wizard’s thunder by stealing his kill. DOH! The party copped a licking so decided to long rest in Norbert’s cave, where Mark’s Barbarian carved a lovely picture of the Glabrezu (and later, his prospective partner) for everyone to admire. Suitably recovered (Norbert was a nice demon – just goes to show, some demons will do anything for love), the party decided to cross the lava river and canyon using flight cast by Kasimir, the Dusk Elf NPC Wizard who resembled a zombie corpse.

They encountered 3 Chasme while flying, and it was almost a TPK if not for some amazing Kung Fu from Dan’s Halfling Monk while spider climbing halfway up the cliff face and some welcome back up from Norbert. James’ Fighter/Wizard decided to ignore his party’s dying screams and confront Norbert’s prospective better half, whom he insulted at length and then wondered why his Persuasion check failed. Dan’s Monk, for whom talking is not a strong point, saved the day, giving the Glabrezu female a gift of diamonds and some persuasive lovey-dovey words to get her into Norbert’s (many) waiting arms.  

It was a sobering encounter for the party, who long rested and then went with Norbert to the cavern over the river, where another portal waited. The big battle between the party, with Norbert the Glabrezu in support, against the Nalfashnee guardian and 2 Balgura demons went well, with the party getting back to Barovia through the portal and appearing on the other side of the magic gate house at Tsolenka Pass.

Next Week: Into Castle Ravenloft…

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Upstart Photographer – Fractured

I love to take photographs and write poetry. Sweet.

Steve 🙂

Laidback DM - Fractured

Fractured. A poem.

A filigree of cracks, wrinkles
Upon your desiccated face
Washed clean with weary salt
And wind and watery grace.

Your sad song that breaks
This familiar salt pan patina
Will last at least another age
Until your twelve-bar blues
Ends in surf and spume.

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.

Plummet. A poem.

The descent begins:
That troublesome, quarrelsome,
Misbegotten feeling.
Vertigo in media res.

The whirlpool beckoning
A less than eager sailor
Of depths all too familiar.

Down you go again:
You wish the plummet
Was further out of reach.

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: Week 25

Hi all,

Over the last few months 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 25

Barovians unite! Amber week is here and the specials never end. Free amber to anyone who buys more than 2 tonnes of amber (that’s the special the builders of the Amber Temple got when they were looking for building materials. It’s the reason why there are no bugs in Barovia. Remember, this was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…oh, sorry, different game/genre.

So here we are, AGAIN, in the Amber Temple. Even the DM is getting sick of this place. This week’s highlights:

– Lots of treasure! Behold, all the treasure in Barovia! So this is where it’s been hiding. Shame it didn’t pop up when it was really needed (inflation in Barovian shops is ridiculous). Dan’s Halfling monk decided to sort through it all and picked up a few choice titbits. James’ Half Orc fighter/wizard decided to cart out most of the treasure on a Tenser’s Floating Disk to the front door, where he summoned an Azer to dig him a big hole to bury it all in. Still the problem of how to get all that treasure back home again. Also, there are no banks in Barovia, y’know.

– Lots of sarcophagus touching. Having not learned the error of their ways, various party members decided to keep on accepting dark gifts. James’ Fighter/Wizard decided he wanted a share of crazy abilities, and now has some evasion and protection from divination – but only for 10 days (and unfortunately now can no longer give anyone a straight answer…). He didn’t turn evil, though. Steve’s Elven Wizard can control two Hell Hounds and speak infernal…but only once until they die, and in the meantime sulphurous fumes emit from his pores whenever he speaks the evil language. Oh, and he’s now Chaotic Evil, which makes him just as evil as Strahd (I can smell a sub-plot coming on…). Dan’s monk decided “why not, I’m already evil”, and now also has the hell hound ability. It’s going to make future battles interesting… Kasimir/Kalashnikov/Krakatoa, the dusk elf NPC Wizard, got the dark gift he wanted, but didn’t turn evil. Unfortunately, he now looks like a corpse. Anxious to bring his lost sister back to life, he’s keen to get out of the temple. “Come on, come on, when are we leaving? I’m so bored. No, I’m not going to cast that spell you want.” So, no different, really.

– Battles galore! The party ground their way through several fights:

   * 6 Vampire Spawn never knew what hit them. There they were, just minding their own business, sleeping an endless sleep in their rotting wooden crates, when before they knew it – boof! All dead.

   * 3 poor old Barovian Witches copped it sweet when the party, who wanted to talk with them, were interrupted by James’ Half Orc, who decided he hadn’t had a chance to fight and promptly swept in and attacked! The witches cast some ineffectual spells and then were finished off.

  * 4 Nothics decided to teach Jame’s Fighter/Wizard a lesson in courtesy, dispatching him and knocking Dan’s Monk out. Damn that rotting gaze!!

  * As usual, everyone worked well to achieve lots of successful outcomes (sounds like a corporate team-building session). Mark’s Goliath Barbarian raging, William’s Dragonborn Paladin smashing (although his spirit horse was strangely ineffective. Or incorporeal. One of the two). Natasha’s Gnome Druid moonbeamed away, Dan’s monk karate-chopped and kicked and Steve’s Evoker Wizard sculpted lots of fireballs.

– A library full of empty books. “Lets throw them everywhere,” said the Paladin to the Barbarian (okay, they were looking for secret doors…).

– Meeting an old skeletal guy with red glowing eyes. He seemed to not really know where, or who he was. But the party has a feeling he might be useful (maybe as cannon fodder), so they are waiting for Natasha’s Druid to memorise her greater restoration spell in an attempt to fix his ailing memory…unfortunately, Natasha is leaving us to play saxophone in the uni band, so won’t be available to cast that spell. DOH!!

By the way, has anyone thought about the fact that becoming evil is like being cursed? Maybe there’s some sort of spell to fix that. Now what was that called again? Not that I’m saying it will work, but might be worth a try…

Next Week: Do the intrepid heroes leave this dang temple?

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Boomerang. A haiku.

You left me fallen;
But always my boomerang,
Came back, brought me home.

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 – Forest Cliff

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 1750×1750 (25×25 squares), in grid and non-grid versions, perfect for Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds!

Forest Cliff

The party makes its way through the forest, arriving to the bottom of a tall cliff (the east of the map). Searching for another way around might mean a loss of several days travel. Up the heroes go, but when they reach the halfway point, an ambush from above – monsters dropping rocks they have to avoid with death-defying feats of acrobatics while trying not to fall…

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.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

2020 One Page Dungeon Contest Winner!

Hi all,

I tied for first place in the 2020 One Page Dungeon Contest! Aside from winning some money and some nice RPG swag, I get to bask humbly in my own appreciation for a few days lol! This is the second time I’ve won – my 2019 entry was a joint winner.

Here’s my entry for you to download for free (note: as it’s system generic, all references to D&D are removed, but you can work them out easy enough). If you like this one, try out any of my Shotglass Adventures or Dungeons Your Party Will Die For books at Drivethrurpg!

Just right click and ‘save as’ on PC, or hold your finger on the image and ‘save to photos’ on mobile/cell phone

Game On!

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Pariah’s Game. A poem.

Fire and ice;
divergent
tangents

Burning, steaming;
circumventing
logic

Interconnected;
beyond
precedents

We were one
and then

we lost

The game that made
pariahs of us both

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 – 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.

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

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

For more Laidback DM, click here.

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 🙂

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