The Well. A Haiku.

A 5-7-5 syllable tribute to the Japanese poetic art form.

Return to the well
Its water stoppers your loss  
And quenches the soul

For more poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding
To find out more about my poetry books, click here.

Free Map: Noir Town Block

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

This map comes with a grid and can be used for face-to-face games or Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, or Foundry!

Noir Town Block

This dark and dirty area lies just under one of the city walls. Who knows what nefarious deeds have been plotted and committed in these cramped alleyways and mean streets – only YOU can decide!

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 Maps: Clearing & River

Time for some free maps! I love drawing maps by hand for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, so I like to give away my maps whenever I can.

These maps are grid-less and can be used for face-to-face games or Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, or Foundry!

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.

These maps are free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use them 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 Map – Old School Barrow Tombs

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 old school map comes with a grid and can be used for face-to-face games or Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, or Foundry!

Old School Barrow Maps

This old school b&w map is an ancient, weather-worn barrow, full of tombs and the stone sarcophagi of ancient chieftains. There are many ledges, perhaps designed to deliberately hamper would-be grave robbers or maybe the result of curiously specific seismic activity. Here’s hoping all the undead chiefs don’t all wake up at once – I wonder what might trigger that…

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

Space Marines. A poem.

And we descend
Upon the patchwork scene below
Backpack thrusters filling the air
With poetic fire
While the gibbous hordes
Mock and tease and gesture
Punctuating the dark with
Erstwhile curses and lamentations
And unholy gunfire

For when we arrive
We will cleanse this clotted land
Until this dark born heresy is no more
Bolters and flamers to purify
In the name of our emperor
Reclining in lifeless repose
Upon his exuberant throne
He who sees all and yet nothing

For our story will go unspoken
In the long and arduous annals
As we mark time here
Amongst the fallen and those yet to
Marines until the end
Of our wretched lives and lies

If you’ve heard of Warhammer 40k, which my son loves, you’ll guess what this poem is about. I’m no expert on the game’s lore, but I think this suits the feel of that world.

For more poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding
To find out more about my poetry books, click here.

Free Map: Cliffside Castle 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.

This map has a grid, and can be used for face-to-face games or Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, or Foundry!

Cliffside Castle Ruin

This cliffside castle/mansion has been abandoned for decades – or has it? Has a demon worshiping cult been using it for pernicious purposes? Or perhaps they’re simply making cookies to sell in the local village? Hmmm, maybe the first one…

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 Map: Ruined Tomb

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 x 1750 pixels, so it fits perfectly on Roll20, but can also be used on Fantasy Grounds or Foundry. It can also be printed and used in IRL games!

Ruined Tomb

What more is there to say? A dark and ruinous tomb, no doubt filled with undead and other nasty greeblies. Perfect for a short one-shot adventure! I’m sure you can come up with something for 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, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Splinter. A poem.

Time moved on and so did I
But every fleeting moment
I feel the splinter

A vestige of you
Burrowing to my head and heart
Slicing as it goes
As tenderly as a razor
And as comforting as a vice

If I had a needle
I’d thread a camel through it
And gouge that splinter out
To leave all thoughts of you
Behind for good

Or maybe I’ll just let it bleed
Just so I remember how to feel

For more poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding
To find out more about my poetry books, click here.

Free Map: Star Temple

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 perfect for face-to-face games or Roll20, Fantasy Grounds or Foundry!

Star Temple

A crazy cult and a crazy temple in the side of a mountain! How can your players resist? And what exactly does that crazy cult worship? I’m pretty sure your players will stumble across the summoning ceremony. That big starfish-shaped hole in the floor isn’t there for nothing…

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 Map: Surly Sewers

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 comes is grid-less, perfect for Roll20, Fantasy Grounds or Foundry!

Surly Sewers

There’s always a sewer under every major fantasy city where dodgy stuff goes on – it’s surprising just how many monsters seem to sneak in under the maintenance corp’s and city guard’s noses! And inevitably the Thieves’ Guild or some random smugglers always set up shop down there. Must be something in the water lol…

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

Circuitous. A poem.

Circles and circumstance
Winding upon themselves
These constant continuities
Into which we dive and delve

All roads lead to Rome it seems
Which brings us back to here
The point of origin within
And source of all our tears

For more poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding
To find out more about my poetry books, click here.

Free Map: Onyx Tower of Hasekan

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 suitable for any desert or wasteland area and is thoughtfully labelled for you lol.

The Onyx Tower of Hasekan

The Warlock Hasekan built his tower to gather energy to summon his patron to this plane of existence. Gathering the necessary energy to create the portal required lots of sacrifices, of course. The tower is oddly shaped with a narrow base that extends outwards as it rises (like a cone, with the narrowest point at the bottom), defying physics (as many BBEG lairs seem to do lol). I’m sure your PCs will have fun making their way to the top through his fiendish hordes (Hasekan also has lots of flying demon cronies to combat those PCs attempting to fly up there).

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

Shotglass Adventures: Kal-Zar’s Bane 3: Titanothae Rising in Print!

My new book Titanothae Rising is out now in print and PDF on DrivethruRPG at https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/359699/SHOTGLASS-ADVENTURES-TITANOTHAE-RISING .

Titanothae Rising is 124 pages long and contains 7 DnD 5e/OSR adventures for character levels 8th – 10th. It’s the third book in the Kal-Zar’s Bane campaign path, however you can play each of the adventures as One-Shots, as each has a One-Shot hook provided!

SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES – Kal-Zar’s Bane 3: TITANOTHAE RISING contains loads of hand-drawn, full-color maps, 28 new monsters & NPCs, 17 new magic items, new towns, villages and region settings, expanded lore + map of Verona Province (the frontier setting for  Shotglass Adventures)!

Available now in print and PDF on DrivethruRPG at https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/359699/SHOTGLASS-ADVENTURES-TITANOTHAE-RISING .

Game on!

Steve 🙂

Social Media:

TWITTERhttps://twitter.com/stevestillstand

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/steve.stillstanding

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/stevestillstanding/

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

The Merciless Tide. A poem.

The merciless tide 
Pulls you deep
You may curse
Its indomitable grip
But to no avail

The ancient current
The rip that drags
And fetters you
Casts you onto
Unknown shores

Where every soul’s
Journey ends

For more poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding
To find out more about my poetry books, click here.

Tomb of Annihilation: Weeks 17-18

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. Each session was 4 hours long. Some of the summaries may be amusing; don’t forget 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 17 (missed a week due to work commitments)

Meanwhile, in Hrakhamar, the Dwarven Forge:

After the Giant Strider stampede, the party finished off the Firenewts in the corridor then headed off to the armoury to get rid of those pesky Flying Swords. All except for Morgan’s Dwarvish Barbarian, who decided to pursue his entrepreneurial dream of having a signwriting business and commenced making a large sign, claiming the mine as his own.

Meanwhile, Jake’s Aasimar Warlock blinked into the next room and confronted the Firenewt Warriors and a Firenewt Sorcerer there; the rest of the party were caught off guard and rushed after him via the door. After wiping the floor with the monsters, Mark’s Kenku Monk decided if the Aasimar could go into a room, then so could he.

“You know what would be good right now?” moaned the Aasimar. “A short rest!”

“Rests are for wimps,” mimicked the silent Kenku, gesticulating with his middle finger.

In the next room, more Firenewt Warriors and a Firenewt Sorcerer (surprise – well, they did take over the forge, y’know). More hacking, slashing and arrow shooting. Davor’s Ranger decided to (accidentally) shoot Jake’s Warlock with a trick shot that bounced of the wall. “Just be glad I didn’t Hunter’s Mark you,” said the Ranger. Yes, the party was getting a little ticked off with the Aasimar’s lack of teamwork.

Just when everyone thought they would get a rest, the Firenewts from the rest of the complex decided to come through the door. The Firenewt Sorcerer accompanying them threw a glowing globe to the ground and commanded his servants to rise. Outside, Dwarvish Animated Armors broke free from the walls and went for Morgan’s Barbarian, who was putting the finishing touches to his sign. “GASP! I was only two weeks from retirement…” That was one dead Dwarf (okay, Daniel’s Bard managed to heal him from a distance, but all good things come to an end…).

By this time the party was feeling a little stressed (or crotchety, because of lack of rest), realising that all good things (like spell slots, Ki points, etc.) really must come to an end (and not just Dwarvish Barbarians). William’s Druid saved the day by conjuring a few Dire Wolves and eventually the Animated Armors were destroyed.

Phew! Time for a well-earned, long rest.

Week 18

Morgan’s new character, a Halfling Rogue, premiered this week (after the death of his Dwarven Barbarian last week).

After a nice rest, the party crossed a metal bridge to what was obviously a treasure room sealed with two locks. Along the way: a run in with a Fire Elemental, conjuring lots of giant owls, spectacular attempts at lock picking, a box shaped like a book with moulds for keys, a bridge sinking into magma, and giant owls saving party members (LOTR-style, ’cause that’s how the party rolls).

Eventually, the party created new keys using molten metal from the vats, opened the door and found lots of ingots of adamantine and iron. One summoned zombie later (to carry the load – the zombie union will be registering a demarcation complaint) and the party faced off against a refreshed Fire Elemental (hey, monsters can rest too, y’know). Lots of burning (ouch!), but victory to the…well, victors.

A mining cart ride back to the Wyrmheart Mine (gotta love fantasy world physics) and Tinder, the Adult Red Dating Dragon, agreed to honour the deal and take the party to the lost city of Omu! (the exclamation mark is mandatory.)

The dragon flew the party across Chult and over the lost city, landing at the south entrance. There the intrepid adventurers investigated an abandoned guard post. There was lots of interesting graffiti, signs other parties had been through recently. Or maybe just be local kids tagging. Suddenly, a dastardly rooftop ambush by Ambush Vines (well, it’s all in the name, isn’t it).

Next week: OMU! City of…stuff. ‘Cause we still have no idea how to find what we’re looking for. If only we had a guide…

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Free Map – The Red Temple

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 conveniently sized for virtual tabletops.

The Red Temple

Why’s it called the Red Temple? Because the entire place is tiled with cuprite (a real gem stone that is normally found in the lower weathered zone of copper ore deposits – don’t say you never learn anything when you visit my website lol). This temple is old, and subsidence has caused the wall between the nearby cave tunnels and the temple to break open. And what do you think came through? Well, I’ll leave that up to you…

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

Obtuse Glory. A poem.

Lying here
In obtuse glory
The morning blushes
And burnished motes
Dance across the room

Wondering
Wherefore art thou
Wandering in tinctures
Of blue or red or green
When we both should be

Lying here
In obtuse glory

For more poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding
To find out more about my poetry books, click here.

Tomb of Annihilation: Week 15

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. Each session was 4 hours long. Some of the summaries may be amusing; don’t forget 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 15

The Wyrmheart Mine!

Tinder, a huge Adult Red Dragon, confronted the party. Mark’s Kenku Monk protected Jake’s unconscious Aasimar Warlock (who fell from a great height last week) while attempting to tell Tinder that Jake wasn’t wholly responsible for killing all of her Kobold minions. And then he offered Hew Hackysack up as a sacrifice!

Hew HackandGo, riding a Giant Strider, decided it was time to show the Dragon who was boss. Daniel’s Human Bard and Dan’s Halfing Warlock decided to stop him by pushing Hew off the tracks, but the Giant Strider was too strong. Hew faced the dragon: “Geronimo!! And thanks for all the fish!” he cried lustily, then was slaughtered and eaten. Thus ended the brief, but world-weary tale of Hew HanksfortheMemories. A tale of sweaty, odour-filled nights, lots of standing around yelling support and deckchair reclining by rivers. His Scottish brogue would be sorely missed. By someone, I’m sure.

The fawning party then decided to give Tinder all their Giant Strider mounts to eat. Now sated, Tinder the dating Dragon, asked the party to clear the Fire Newts out the Dwarven forge of Hrakhamar, which lay 40 miles north along an abandoned cart track. If they succeeded she would consider flying them to the lost city of Omu. And set them up with some online dates who would look nothing like their photos.

A very cool roller coaster mining cart ride later (including jumping a gap in the tracks – Gavin’s Druid and Jake’s Warlock assisted with Thornwhip and Lightning Lure), and stopping before an underground river, where Ghasts and Ghouls lurked. Most were turned by Chloe’s Drow Cleric, but then a huge Krake Spawn decided to cream Jake’s Warlock and Chloe’s Cleric (but not before Dan’s Warlock decided to show his true colours and run away). The Krake Spawn formed a huge Wall of Ice which Morgan’s Barbarian scaled and leaped to the rescue, hurling Japanese anime epithets left and right (apparently the Japanese know how to get the most out of conversations about trains) but unfortunately missed completely. Leave it to Mark’s Kenku Monk to save the day and bash and kick that nasty beastie into the sushi Morgan’s Barbarian originally intended. Davor’s Ranger had an opportunity to attack the monster with his sword, but declined. “I’m a long range kinda guy,” he said, checking his nails.  

In the magma-spawned heat of Hrakhamar, the party split up (as usual), with Jake’s Warlock and Chloe’s Cleric wandering off one way, Mark’s Monk, Steve’s Rogue and William’s Lizardfolk Druid sneaking off on a scouting mission, and the rest just hanging around. Mark’s Monk, sneaky little fellow that he was, got to the armoury only to be trounced by a bunch of Flying Swords. “Run away, run away!” he cried, Monti Python-style.

A number of Fire Newts pursued and in a Giant Strider-packed corridor, everyone caused enough ruckus with spells (including Gavin’s Druidconjured Dire Wolves), to set the Giant Striders stampeding (ouch!).

Next week: Hrakhamar! And maybe a dragon ride…  

Cheers

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Perilous. A poem.

Perilous
Dark clouds above
In churning
Storm-painted skies

And here I am, in between

Black depths below
In churning,
Storm-blown seas
Perilous

For more poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding
To find out more about my poetry books, click here.

Fractured. A poem.

A fractured existence
Broken bones/broken heart
Enduring, crawling
Striving to forget
On splintered limbs
Forged in pain and regret

Time heals all
But feel the filigree lines
All cracks and calcified
Where movement grinds
And creaks and groans
To melancholy rhyme

Reminded constantly
To heal, one has to hurt
Breaks and sprains, a legacy
That never truly mends
And never truly dies
Nostalgically

Shattered bones
And shattered dreams
Obtuse perspectives
Regrown but never straight
Every missing jigsaw piece
Of your fractured existence

For more poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding
To find out more about my poetry books, click here.

MAPS YOUR PARTY WILL DIE FOR 2: MEGA-DUNGEON in Digital and Print!

As a DM, I like to have dungeon and cavern system maps on hand just in case my players like to…wander. Come on, you know they do. One minute they’re traveling overland to the next adventure you meticulously planned and wrote and the next they’re checking out the caves on the low lying ridge you just happened to mentioned as flavor text!

Fret no more, my friends. The MAPS YOUR PARTY WILL DIE FOR 2: MEGA-DUNGEON Digital Bundle for any fantasy tabletop role playing game is here! So what is MYPWDF2 (let’s call it that for short – my typing fingers grow weary just thinking of the whole title lol)?

The MYPWDF2  Digital Bundle includes:

  •  52 hand drawn, full color, inter-connectable dungeon geomorphs that you can print out for live play or drop into your favorite online virtual tabletop (Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, Foundry, etc.). Every map is sized 1750 x 1750 and comes in both grid and grid-less versions – they fit perfectly onto Roll20 – no more fiddling to match grid sizes! 
  • A Royalty Free License to use the maps in your own commercial and non-commercial projects (note: you can’t sell the maps individually or as part of a separate digital maps package). 
  • The MYPWDF2 DM’s Workbook – a 130 page PDF book you can use to stock your dungeons or take notes as your players explore during live play. With four double-page awesome art spreads by Daniel Comerci! 

The MYPDF2: MEGA-DUNGEONDigital Bundle is on sale on DrivethruRPG at Maps Your Party Will Die For 2: Mega-Dungeon Bundle [BUNDLE] – Laidback DM | DriveThruRPG.com

PLUS If you want a hard copy of the MYPWDF2 DM’s Workbook you can write in, you can also purchase the book separately in print!  

The MYPDF2: MEGA-DUNGEON DM’s Workbook in PRINT is on sale on DrivethruRPG at MAPS YOUR PARTY WILL DIE FOR 2: Mega-Dungeon – Laidback DM | DriveThruRPG.com

YOU decide on the scale of your dungeon and the orientation of the map. 

YOU decide what your players find and fight. 

YOU create the Mega-Dungeon of your dreams – as big as you like, or as small as one map. 

AND there’s End Game Boss Maps as well! 

Tomb of Annihilation: Week 14

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. Each session was 4 hours long. Some of the summaries may be amusing; don’t forget 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 14

Into the Wyrmheart Mine, while Hew Hackandsleep rested up and watched the Giant Strider mounts. “I’ll have my day in the sun,” said Hew. “After I catch a little shuteye.”

Highlights included:

  • How to split the party multiple times – that always works out well…
  • The party was joined by Dylan, whose Firbolg Barbarian fell right into the hack and slash of things.
  • Most of the party took a mine cart ride, only to stop around the corner and climb up a rise to meet some Kobolds. Mark’s Kenku Monk and Steve’s Human Rogue got up the 15-foot slope and commenced the dialogue. Gareth’s Druid and Morgan’s Dwarvish Barbarian couldn’t get up the first time, falling on their asses (how embarrassing). Davor’s Human Ranger tried twice before giving up.   
  • Jake’s Aasimar Warlock decided that there was no point talking anymore, so he turned murder hobo and killed everything he saw. Negotiators, hostages, you name it (he was obviously still smarting from talking to that Medusa…). His warlock climbed to a bridge crossing the cavern where he started sniping the Kobolds while they were talking to the monk and rogue. They exploded into lots of entrails. The other kobolds took off down a side passage. “My work here is done,” the Warlock cackled. He then went on to vape some Kobold Inventors and then a bunch of kobolds in the egg chamber.
  • Daniel’s Human Bard, obviously unhappy at being usurped as the serial killer of the party, decided to head down a cave by herself and ran into some Specters. DOH! Luckily Jake’s Warlock and Mark’s Monk turned up to help.
  • Into the cart again, riding it down, hit by a giant boulder trap, derailed. The party fought some Urds (winged kobolds) and Morgan’s Barbarian took one hostage after slicing off its wings. (I guess the stoning at the medusa’s house REALLY traumatized these guys!)   
  • Thirty Kobolds streamed down the tracks, confronting Dylan’s Barbarian and Steve’s Rogue head on, many of them getting burnt by Gareth’s Druid after stepping on his spell-heated rail (DOH!) and getting a mining cart hitting them from behind thanks to quick thinking from Daniel’s Bard.
  • Jake’s warlock killed Morgan’s Barbarian’s hostage, so the barbarian got upset and attacked him. Jake responded by leaping off a 150-foot drop, intending to lightning lure the barbarian off the edge and then blink back to safety. Unfortunately, both failed, so he fell to the bottom of the mine, a bloody mess. After the warlock failed his first death save, Mark’s Monk leapt down and stabilized him. The moral to this story: if another party member is planning to torture a hostage, don’t take that away from them? Something like that. Or maybe: look before you leap?

Next Week: The Main Event – Tinder, The RED DRAGON!!

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG

Tomb of Annihilation: Week 13

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. Each session was 4 hours long. Some of the summaries may be amusing; don’t forget 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 13

After failing to persuade the Medusa of Nangalore to allow them to take their statuesque friends with them, the diminished party slunk back to its camp site in the jungle. “Where did everybody go? Got bored and went home?” guffawed one-armed Hew Hackabogan, underpaid and underworked guide.

Miraculously, at that very moment, three new adventurers were making their way through the humid, sweaty and rain-soaked jungle. They arrived (again, miraculously) at the camp site and the party, immediately suspicious, eyed them warily.

“How about something to eat, and maybe some mosquito repellent?” said Hew HackaLugie. And so, Mark’s Kenku Monk, Jake’s Aasimar Warlock and Dan’s Halfling Warlock (two at once – what are the odds?!), and Gareth (a newbie!) with a human Druid, joined Davor’s Ranger, Daniel’s Bard, Steve’s Rogue (No Chloe Cleric this week—must be sleeping it off somewhere) and Morgan’s Tabaxi Ranger—hold it! After a sudden race and class change, the ranger was now Morgan’s Dwarven Barbarian. Possibly due to some magical Chultan jungle virus – I think it’s called the ‘wishful thinking’ disease. But was it due to a disease, or was it the fact that his archer/ranger was down to six arrows…

Hew HacksaGob delightfully declared it would take seven days of grinding—um, walking—to get to the next stop, the Akaaz Wykhsljsdfatfdihjtfnsbusatyti, the fabled entrance to the Valley of Lost Honour. “You don’t mean the ‘Valley of Lost Arm’,” said one card, pointing to Hew’s missing appendage.

“That’s incredibly insensitive,” replied Hew HacksComputersRegularly. “But ‘armless’!” After rolling around the ‘Chultan jungle amongst ancient ruins and deadly monsters’ floor laughing (that’s the fantasy version of ROFL), the party was on its way.

A few days in, two undead Tyrannosaurs vomiting zombies. Yawn, said the party. One zombie, Grom the magnificent (third of his line) showed you can’t keep a good zombie down by making his undead fortitude save FIVE times! Keep on keeping on, Grom.

After fighting some mantrap plants and lots of giant spiders (ho-hum), the party arrived at the black basalt canyon of Akaaz Wyklkijuihfrbeygedijwwdij. Davor’s Ranger elected to chat with the Fire Newt warriors camped there, revealing himself as a Dragon Slayer supreme, on the lookout for Tzindelore, the red dragon occupying these parts. Dan’s Bard played a merry tune and helped out. The Fire Newts revealed they hated the dragon, and would assist the party to defeat it.

“Actually, we want to ride it to Omu,” said Hew HackandCough.

“What was that?” said Fire Newt Warrior Number Three.

“I said ‘send it back to the fires of Hell’.”

Morgan’s Barbarian decided to check out a forty-foot basalt pillar. On top, a rock. “I’m gonna kick me that rock,” said the barbarian. Suddenly, a trapdoor opened and a voracious Sand Spider dragged him down thirty feet into the spider’s tight-fitting lair, where the barbarian was knocked unconscious. Meanwhile, Mark’s Kenku came to the rescue.

“Mind if I drop in,” said the Kenku in blinkety-blink-this-is-the-closest-I-get-to-speech.

Soon, everyone was helping out, with the warlocks blowing a hole in the basalt column to expose the battle raging within and Gareth’s druid summoning two giant eagles to get in everyone’s way. Steve’s Rogue did some very nasty damage as he leapt down to backstab the beast.

After the battle, negotiations for food and mounts were on, ending with the purchase of Giant Striders. After a nice long rest, the party departed for Wyrmheart Mine, which they got to in a day (saving lots of time). That night, Mark’s Kenku did some scouting, revealing an old office, supply hut and mine cart in need of repair at the entrance. Very exciting.

The party agreed to rest for the night, so they might assault the mine in the daylight.

Next Week: Wyrmheart Mine! But wait, there’s more!

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Vacant Block. A poem.

Here lay a vacant block,
Strewn with the detritus
Of travellers, neighbours,
And vagrant necessity.
Overgrown and empty,
Awash in a sea of cynical
Disregard and circumstance.

You found it there,
A fine purchase, almost lost
In the crowd of lots
And auctioned showpieces.
You bought the block and built
It up, like Rome in a day,
Or perhaps Pompeii.

A vacant block, reborn,
Renewed and reconciled
And brought to life
Like Frankenstein
To stand tall again,
A furtive flower among trees,
A coal among diamonds.

And once you’d had your way
You left it as you found,
No patents on this concourse,
No reprieve or shallow grave.
Just a vacant block,
Overgrown and dreaming
Of more permanent renewal.

For more poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding
To find out more about my poetry books, click here.

Another Day. A poem.

Another day and dollar down
In the exhibition of years
Trials and tribulations
Meted out like punishments
Confined and minimised
Resigned and popularised

And every walk alone
Is a walk nearer the edge
That threatens to topple
Mansions to the ground
And make mountains
From molehills

So I persevere
Resilience found and lost
An erstwhile friend
In a heart-shaped box
Time and time and time again
I wander through

Another day

For more poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding
To find out more about my poetry books, click here.

Advice for the Young at Heart…Stuff for Beginner DMs

I see a lot of Tweets asking about advice for new Dungeon Masters (DMs) or Games Masters (GMs) – which I will henceforth refer to as DMs. Rather than answer the plethora of questions there, I thought I’d do one consolidated response here. A caveat before I begin: even though I am what you would call a very experienced DM, I am NOT proclaiming to be an expert by any means. There are far more exemplary, qualified and professional people around who can claim that. I do okay lol.

Laidback DM - Stuff for Beginner DMs

Here are some of important things I think beginner DMs need to know (these are not in order of importance and I may have forgotten some stuff. So, sue me).

  • Know Your Rules: When playing or running any game, whether it be a Tabletop Role Playing Game (TTRPG), board game, sports, or the stock market, you need to know the rules. Read them thoroughly and have a good understanding of how the mechanics work. This is important because you will be making decisions about what the players can do based on your knowledge of the rules. This is especially important if you are teaching a bunch of brand new players who have never played before – they are having their first experience and learning how to play from you. If you have more experienced players in your group then they can assist in the learning process. In the end you are the final arbiter of the rules, so make sure you have a pretty good idea how the systems work.
  • ...But Don’t Be Too Concerned if You Forget The Rules: And yes, you’re going to forget stuff. I still do, even now. That’s fine, don’t get too anxious or worry about not knowing a rule. Unless you have an eidetic memory then it’s expected you’re going to forget something. Looking up rules can slow the game, so make a decision based on what you know and check up the answer later. In the next session explain what you did wrong and what you will do next time, and your players will be fine. And if you decide to house rule stuff (i.e. replace official rules with your own), discuss it with your players first so that everyone is in agreement.
  • Don’t Over-Prepare: Preparing for a first session may become a bit nerve wracking. Do I have enough stuff for the players to do in my first session? (Yes, you will. Even if you don’t, the players will fill in the gaps with their shenanigans.) Am I a good enough DM? (More than likely, and even if you aren’t at first, you will become one in time.) What happens if they don’t like the adventure? (You’ll pick up cues as things go along – if players look bored, are checking their phones, are chatting among themselves about non-game content – if so you can throw in something to bring them back. Provide that clue they didn’t know about. Introduce an NPC to pull them back into the story. Ambush them with some monsters, which have a map or information that will get them engaged again). You will NEVER be able to prepare for everything the players decide to do in a session. Learn to prepare just enough – the basic adventure, a few maps as needed, a few NPCs, a few rumours, etc. – then improvise the rest depending on decisions the party makes (see further below).
  • Listen to Your Players: Your players are there to have fun and they want to be engaged. Some want the cool backstories they spent hours laboring on to become part of the story. Some want to impress others with their knowledge of the game. All want to shine. It’s your job as a DM to give your players the opportunity to do all this and more, but it’s also your job to keep it together and not crack under the pressure (real or perceived). Listen to your players and incorporate their ideas – remember – you don’t have to do all the creative work.
  • Learn to Improvise: Some DMs have a problem with making stuff up on the spot in response to player actions. That may not be you, but if it is, learn to improvise. Say “Yes, and…” more often. It’s an improv strategy designed to allow improvisation in a situation comedy/story context. That doesn’t mean you have to say yes to everything your players do. But learn to run your adventures in a freer and less structured way. To see an earlier article of mine on flying by the seat of your pants in games, click here.
  • Take Notes: Come up with an organisational system to keep track of both short term events (in the gaming session) and long term (campaign) story points and player subplots. This can be something as simple as an exercise book you update during the game or a spreadsheet on a laptop. Or a post-it note. Although post-it notes are not the best system (trust me on this – I’m a post-it man from way back lol).
  • Keep Worldbuilding to a Minimum: In your first and early sessions, keep the world limited to a small area – a keep on the borderlands, a small village and its surrounds, a single dungeon. Let your world expand as you play, and let your players help to expand it. Why so small to start with? I know you want to create an entire fleshed out world from day one, but time is always an issue and much of the work you do on creating a fully-fleshed world will never be seen or experienced by your players. Feel free to build an entire world before the first session if that is your thing, but I’d suggest you focus on that session first. Just saying. For more on world building, click here.
  • Don’t Try to Be Matt Mercer: I love Matt Mercer, but he is a professional actor and is (now) paid to DM on Critical Role. That means he has a heck of a lot more time to prep for his games then you do, and he is a master of improv and voices. You are not Matt Mercer. No one expects you to be. Be you. Every game is different, and your game will have its own strengths. Want to read more about not being Matt? Click here.
  • Have Fun: This is the number one rule! You and your players are there to have fun. If it’s not fun, ask everyone at the end what you can do to make your game better. But remember: you will always be your own worst critic – things are often not as bad as you think they are when you’re a DM. Accept criticism and advice, but make sure you don’t take it too much to heart. When you’re starting out, remember that this is just the beginning. You will get better. And soon you will take on the world.

I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten a few things lol. But it’s a start.

My absolute best advice is: Don’t be afraid. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Before you know it you’ll be DMing your favorite TTRPG like a champ.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

For Laidback DM products, visit Drivethrurpg.

Laidback DM products at DrivethruRPG
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