Connectable Town Maps Volumes 1 & 2 and Maps for Fantasy RPGs available now!

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Connectable Town Maps Volumes 1 & 2

Ever had your players wander into one of those random towns along the road and start raising a ruckus, just because they could? I have. Players are nothing if not unpredictable. In fact, they’re predictably unpredictable. That’s why I put together these little maps packages – Connectable Town Maps Volumes 1 & 2.

These PDF and digital maps packages each consist of ten A4-size print-and-play maps you can arrange any way you want, for any occasion your players enter a new town or village and you don’t have one available. Use all ten maps in any number of combinations, or just a few of them, and voila! A new port, town or village. Add Volume 2 to make walled cities, forts, castles, ports and island towns! 

There are several buildings on each map with floor plan exposed and no furnishings, so you can use them as you wish. Print and laminate them and you can draw on them with a dry-erase whiteboard marker.

Included in this package are grid and grid-less maps (20 x 600DPI JPEGS) – use whichever version you prefer. Oh, and the inclusion of a commercial license means you can use them in your own publishing projects as well (‘cause I like to share the love).

Connectable Town Maps Volumes 1 & 2 can be purchased by following this link.

Maps for Fantasy RPGs

Maps for Fantasy RPGs is a collection of 24 hand-drawn maps and zip file of 35 digital image files, which come with a limited commercial license allowing you, the purchaser, to use them royalty-free in your own commercial or private publication projects.

Dungeons, mansions, temples, towers, ruins, lairs, wilderness, streets and more! All map images are high quality 600DPI (print quality is 300DPI) black and white (with one in color) JPEGS and are unlabeled, so you can add your own labels as needed.

These maps are system-neutral and can be used with any fantasy game.

Maps for Fantasy RPGs can be purchased by following this link.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

 

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Shotglass Adventures available now in Print and PDF!

Hi All!

SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES, my first D&D 5e/Old School Revolution (OSR) role playing game book, is now available at DrivethruRPG, the world’s largest online role playing game store.

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SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES is published under the OGL and compatible with 5e and other OSR fantasy role playing games. Inside this 52-page book you’ll find:

  • 10 ‘adventure-on-a-page’ one-shot adventures of all varieties – murder, dungeon crawls, heists, breakouts, sieges, love stories – complete with additional DM and player maps! These adventures are fully playtested, for PCs of 1st – 5th level and are designed for minimal preparation and flexible delivery. Each adventure can be run as a ‘fill-in’ for 1-2 gaming sessions (3-4 hours per session) or played as a mini-campaign. Over 50 hours of gaming content!   
  • 12 New monsters! 4 new magic items!
  • Hints on the art of improvisation to bring your NPCs and adventures alive
  • How to use these adventures in OSR games 
  • Random tables – for names, motivations, adventure introductions, room dressing and special items to add additional nuance to your adventures
  • Verona City – a city for adventurers to use as a base
  • Verona Province – a region for players to explore, complete with every location used in SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES
  • Additional blank maps – Five additional hand-drawn, unkeyed maps with adventure seeds for you to use in your own adventures

SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES can be purchased in print or PDF by following this link.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

Laidback DM: Condition Cards, Initiative Cards and Critical Fumble Cards

Hi All

I’ve started selling some products on DriveThruRPG.com, the biggest seller of online role playing game PDFs in the world! My intention is to release more products onto the site for 5e and OSR gamers, including Shotglass Adventures, once the Kickstarter is completed.

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My handy Initiative Cards are a no-fuss turn order tracker, whether you’re using figures on a grid map or running theater-of-the-mind combat. Each card folds in half, and can be hung on a GM screen or stand on the gaming table. Each two-sided, free-standing card lists the PC’s class and has space on one side for players and the other side for the DM, so PC/NPC names, passive perception or current conditions can be recorded.

The convenient Condition Cards are designed to be used during 5e games by players and DMs. Condition Cardscan be issued to players or placed on the map as a reminder of the condition affecting the PC or monster.

Critical Fumble Cards bring a new element to your 5e games! When your players roll a 1 on a d20 during combat, have them draw a Critical Fumble Card to add some spice to the outcome. Use them for monsters, too!

All cards are double-sided, but can be printed single-sided if preferred, in color or black and white. For extra longevity, you can laminate them. I use these cards in all my 5e games to free me up to concentrate on running fast combats and telling better stories with my players. Now you can, too.

You can find these products at https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/13989/Laidback-DM

Game on!

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Laidback DM: Trading Places

During long campaigns, some players might not turn up for sessions, some might retire, new players will join. There are good reasons for changes in your ongoing cast—work and family commitments, sports, meetings and significant events in peoples’ lives. And some players just move on because your game might not be what they’re looking for.

So, what can you as a DM, do to prevent players from dropping out of your game or to cover short-term absences?

  • Accept that some things are outside your control. Don’t stress unnecessarily about it.
  • Get feedback from your players. Ask them what they like and don’t like about the games you run. Take the feedback on board and use it constructively.
  • Have you picked up the signals being given off by your players? Boredom, non-game-related cell phone usage, missing sessions for no reason? Ask the player if they’re okay. Ask them what you can do to re-engage them with the game. What type of game do they prefer? Work with your players to make the campaign one you all want to play.
  • If a player has real life reasons why they can’t attend, work with them by making it part of the story. Maybe the PC goes off to a monastery to study and only joins the party once ever four adventures. I have a standing rule that if a PC drops out for a short period they can drop back in anytime—when they turn up the party comes up with a story reason for why the PC was absent from the earlier part of the adventure.
  • Use Milestones for PC advancement rather than Experience Points. That way all PCs stay the same level, whether they are there or absent from sessions. The other players will understand because there will be times when they’re absent as well.
  • Treat everyone equally and even-handedly and don’t play favourites.

And hopefully you’ll have less player movement. Or at least you’ll be more prepared for when it happens.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Kickstarter: 11th + 12th Stretch Goals Unlocked!

Hi all!

The 11th + 12th stretch goals are unlocked!

Four more town maps have been added to the PDF book Connectable Fantasy Town Maps (plus eight digital files added to the zip file of gridded and grid-less maps with a royalty free license so supporters can use them in their own publishing projects)! I think I might just call it Volume 2.

I printed and laminated most of them the other day. I think they look pretty schmick!

Laidback DM - Connectable Town Maps 1

And here’s what some look like set up for play (okay, they’re laid out on a bed, but hey, I’m short on space, here).

Laidback DM - Connectable Town Maps 2

Of course, you don’t have to laminate them, but it means you can draw on them with a dry-erasable pen (I LOOOVE dry-erasable pens. I would laminate everything, if I could, including the non-existent cat).

On to the next stretch goal!

13th Stretch Goal at $5500 – another 2 connectable town maps (4 gridded and grid-less digital images) added to the Connectable Fantasy Town Maps package!

14th Stretch Goal at $6000 – another 2 connectable town maps (4 gridded and grid-less digital images) added to the Connectable Fantasy Town Maps package!

The Kickstarter finishes soon, less than 2 days left! (Those of you who prefer poetry will be relieved lol.)

Game on!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-adventures-10-adventures-for-dandd-5e-an?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=d%26d

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Kickstarter: 10th Stretch Goal Unlocked!

Hi all!

The 10th stretch goal is unlocked!

A PDF book of Ten Connectable Fantasy Town Maps, plus a zip file of 20 gridded and grid-less maps with a royalty free license so you can use them in your own publishing projects!

Town Maps V1 - LaidbackDM - stevestillstanding

Ever had your players wander into one of those random towns along the road and start raising a ruckus, just because they could? I have. Players are nothing if not unpredictable. In fact, they’re predictably unpredictable. That’s why I put together this little maps package.

This stretch goal consists of ten A4-size print-and-play maps you can print out and arrange anyway you want, for any occasion the players enter a new town or village and you don’t have one available. Use all ten maps in any number of combinations, or just a few of them, and voila! A new town/village. On each map I’ve left several buildings with floor plans exposed, deliberately leaving out furnishings, so you can use them any way you want.

Included in this stretch goal are grid and grid-less versions of maps, so you can use whichever version you prefer. Oh, and a commercial license so you can use them in your own publishing projects as well (‘cause I like to share the love).

Oh, and now:

11th Stretch Goal at $4500another 2 connectable town maps (4 gridded and grid-less digital images) added to the Connectable Fantasy Town Maps package!

12th Stretch Goal at $5000another 2 connectable town maps (4 gridded and grid-less digital images) added to the Connectable Fantasy Town Maps package!

Tell your friends, spread the word! Ends Soon! Click on the link below!

Game on!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-adventures-10-adventures-for-dandd-5e-an?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=d%26d

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Kickstarter: 9th Stretch Goal Unlocked!

Hi all!

The 9th stretch goal is unlocked in the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter!

Critical Fumble Cards are designed to be used during melee combat when a player (or monster) rolls a 1 on d20. The cards feature a number of impacts that add a new element to fumbling an attack!

Critical Fumble Cards can be home printed in color or black and white, single or double-sided as you prefer. Printing the cards twice doubles the size of your deck and gives the added option of potentially drawing the same critical fumble again (DOH!). For extra longevity, you can laminate them.

I love using these in my game to spice up combat, and my players like them because they affect their opponents as well. There’s nothing like an Orc hitting himself for maximum damage. Now that’s gonna leave a mark!

Critical Fumble Cards - Laidback DM

Next Stretch Goal to be unlocked: Ten Connectable Fantasy Town Maps with a royalty free license so you can use them in your own publishing projects! Or you can just print them out and arrange them to randomize a fantasy town on the fly.

The Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter has only a few days left, so now is the time to jump on board and access all the original and unlocked content at a minimal pledge! Just click on the link below!

Game on!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-adventures-10-adventures-for-dandd-5e-an?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=d%26d

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Laidback DM: Have Merc(er)y on Me

Matt Mercer hosts Critical Role on YouTube, one of the many D&D online channels that have helped propel the game’s popularity into the stratosphere, and is arguably one of the best DMs around. A trained voice actor, he has a wonderful storytelling ability and excels at immersive and engaging story telling. And for the rest of us mere mortals, that can be a little bit of a problem.

I don’t get the chance to play that much, but when I do I like to observe how other DMs run their games. As one would expect, there are differences in style, the way some rules are interpreted, the way people manage their players. Some are good, some are average. Some are appalling. One aspect that shows up more often or not, however, is DMs trying to be Matt Mercer.

Now, I have the utmost respect for Mr Mercer, but the fact that he is so good makes it difficult for most DMs to measure up. Many DMs just don’t have the range and acting chops that he does, and sometimes it comes across like they’re trying too hard to be like him. Here are a few things DMs need to realise (especially beginners).

1. You don’t have to be Matt Mercer to be a good DM. Just be yourself and establish your own style.

2. Matt Mercer is a trained actor. He also does a LOT of preparation for each session you see. And while he was previously an unpaid DM, now he is employed to do that job. Many of us mortals have full time day jobs or are full time students or have full time family responsibilities. Remember you can still be a good DM, but you need to be aware of your own limits.

3. Long, drawn-out Matt Mercer-style descriptions during combat can be great and really bring combat to life, but they do slow combat down (which can be a long and sometime frustrating process to start with if you have a lot of players at the table). Include your players—let them take part in describing the scene. If you do everything it seems like the game’s more about you being the centre of attention than them.

4. If you want to be an evocative DM, don’t forget to learn how to narrate the non-combat scenes. This is an area that some DMs appear to struggle with.

5. You don’t have to do accents if you’re not good at them. Focus on telling a good story, and involve your players. Evoke the scene with interesting descriptions. Play to your strengths.

6. You shouldn’t focus on jokes if you’re not good at them. If they fall flat every time, it’s generally a sign. Adventures with a serious tone can be fun, too. And if you’re not a funny DM, your players will fill in the humour gaps.

Yes, Matt Mercer is great, and he has a wonderful style. But be aware you aren’t him. You can always learn from him, but be yourself and you and your players will still find the game rewarding.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-adventures-10-adventures-for-dandd-5e-an?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=d%26d

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Kickstarter: 8th Stretch Goal Unlocked!

Hi all!

The 8th stretch goal is unlocked for Shotglass Adventures, currently running on Kickstarter!

These handy Initiative Cards are designed to be used during combat sessions as a no-fuss turn order tracker, whether you’re using figures on a grid map or running theater-of-the-mind combat. Each card folds in half, and can be hung on a DM screen or stand on the gaming table. Each two-sided, free-standing card lists the PC’s class and has space on one side for players and the other side for the DM, so PC/NPC names, passive perception or current conditions can be recorded.

Card art is by David Lewis Johnson and Luigi Castellani!

Initiative Cards can be home printed in color or black and white. For extra longevity, you can laminate them. Laminated versions can be written on with dry-erasable pen, for multiple re-use.

I use these cards in all my 5e games to free me up to concentrate on running fast combats and telling better stories with my players. Now you can, too.

Initiative Cards Cover - Laidback DM

Next Stretch Goal to be unlocked: Print-and-Play Critical Fumble Cards!

Now’s the time to jump on board the Kickstarter to receive not only Shotglass Adventures, but all the unlocked stretch goals as well!

Game on!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-adventures-10-adventures-for-dandd-5e-an?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=d%26d

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Kickstarter: 7th Stretch Goal Unlocked!

Hi all!

The 7th stretch goal is unlocked!

Print and Play 5e Condition Cards to use in D&D 5e games! I use these two-sided cards to keep track of PC and monster conditions during combat. Just pop them on the table next to the miniature, or if you’re playing theater-of-the-mind, hand them to the player. They include a brief summary of the condition’s rules to save you and the player having to remember them all. They’re also a great visual reminder for everyone at the table. This package contains 16 double-sided print and play cards, which can be printed in multiples (for those times when players and monsters suffer numerous conditions during combat).

Condition Cards Cover - Laidback DM

Game on!

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-adventures-10-adventures-for-dandd-5e-an?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=d%26d

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Kickstarter: 6th Stretch Goal Unlocked!

Hi all!

Woo hoo!! The 6th stretch goal is unlocked! Four 600 DPI maps have been added to the digital maps collection (unfortunately, we’re out of space in the book – any more added and the printing cost increases).

The maps are:

  • City Corner Cross Section – a fantasy city intersection with cutaways of the buildings and houses
  • Barrow Mound – who doesn’t love some undead hunter/killer action?
  • Descending Caves – Caves are always better when they’re deeper
  • Halfling Hole – because I’m not allowed to call them Hobbits – DOH! I just did

Here’s a preview:

6th Stretch Goal

That means we’re now up to 43 total maps in the package (which includes grid and grid-less versions for many of the maps, plus original pre-book versions of some maps, plus unlocked maps).

Next Stretch Goal: Print and Play 5e Condition Cards to use in your games (see below)! I use these two-sided cards to keep track of PC and monster conditions during combat. Just pop them on the table next to the miniature, or if you’re paying theatre-of-the-mind, hand them to the player. They include a brief summary of the condition’s rules to save you and the player having to remember them all. They’re also a great visual reminder for everyone at the table.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

Laidback DM - Condition Cards

For more Laidback DM, click here

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-adventures-10-adventures-for-dandd-5e-an?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=d%26d

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Kickstarter: 5th Stretch Goal Unlocked!

Hi all!

The 5th stretch goal is unlocked! A new, old school, hand drawn map with adventure seed has been added to the book as a bonus for supporters to use for their own adventures. And for Excelsior Supporters, another 600 DPI map added to the digital maps collection.

The new map is called ‘The Lonesome Heart’.

The Lonesome Heart is a lonely peak overlooking a stark plain, with a dwarven mine, forest giant camp, a wizard’s tower, ambush caverns and a strange mountain top refuge.

Laidback DM - Kickstarter Map Stretch Goal

The mountain peak called Lonesome Heart stands incongruously on a stark plain. The bizarre cloud-covered structure crowning the summit is home to a metallic hovering globe. No one has returned from climbing to the summit and the globe’s lightning prevents flyers from getting too close. Along the mountain path: a lone Dwarf seeking help to free his family’s mine from the monsters within; a camp of Forest Giants searching for their lost child; a gang of cave-dwelling ambushers with a penchant for kidnapping; an evil wizard in her tower using dark magic to take control of all. And what of the mysterious globe? What treasures await those willing to venture to the summit of the Lonesome Heart?

Now, let’s unlock some more!

Cheers

Steve 😊

Kickstarter: 4TH Stretch Goal Unlocked, PLUS New Stretch Goals Available!

Hi all!

We’ve unlocked our 4th stretch goal – a new, hand drawn map with adventure seed to be added to the book as a bonus for you to use for your own adventures. For Excelsior Supporters, another 600 DPI map is added to the digital maps collection.

The new map is called ‘The Tomb of Meshkua’.

The Tomb of Meshkua is full of traps, puzzles, platforms, hidden rooms and a poisonous underground lake for good measure!

Laidback DM - Map Stretch Goal4

The great, great, great grandson of the Pharaoh Meshkua has asked the party to break into the ancient tomb of his forefather. He’s dying of a hideous wasting disease and suspects the Pharaoh’s curse. Below Meshkua’s ancient step pyramid lies a maze of rooms, filled with traps and puzzles, and three tombs that must be breached prior to visiting Meshkua’s final resting place on an island in a toxic underground lake. The grandson and his entourage are coming with you. But is it the curse he’s suffering from, or something else? What does he really want from inside the tomb…

Also, a whole bunch of new stretch goals have been unlocked, which you can see listed below:

Kickstarter Stretch Goals

Gotta unlock ‘em all (to paraphrase Pokemon)! Why not tell your friends all about the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter!

Cheers

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-adventures-10-adventures-for-dandd-5e-an?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=d%26d

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Kickstarter: 3rd Stretch Goal Unlocked!

Hi all!

We’ve unlocked our 3rd stretch goal in the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter – a new, hand drawn map with adventure seed to be added to the book as a bonus for supporters to use for their own adventures. For Excelsior Supporters, another 600 DPI map is added to the already burgeoning digital maps collection.

The new map is called ‘Hartlis Abbey’. Hartlis Abbey has multiple levels, a bell tower, underground caves and burial catacombs, and lots of space inside for big battles.

Laidback DM - Map Stretch Goal3

I’m adding adventure seeds to each map – supporters don’t have to use the seed, it’s more a way to kickstart (forgive the pun) some ideas for ways they can use the map for their own adventures.

The Abbey of the Goddess Hartlis sits on a cliff overlooking a wild and windy coast. The monks and friars there have worked in solitude for decades, having occasional contact with surrounding villages at fairs to preach and sell produce. But all contact has ceased, and now farmers go missing from the fields around the Abbey. A demon lord has taken control and is using the monks to gather human sacrifices to increase its power. But are the monks mind-controlled, or are they worshipping the beast? The underground tunnels and cellars below the Abbey are a hive of activity, as the demon lord prepares its army for the coming storm…

Cheers

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM, click here

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-adventures-10-adventures-for-dandd-5e-an?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=d%26d

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Kickstarter: 2nd Stretch Goal Unlocked!

Hi all!

Another update about the SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES Kickstarter that’s running as we speak!

We’ve unlocked our 2nd stretch goal – a new, hand drawn map to be added to the book as a bonus for supporters to use for their own adventures. And for Excelsior Supporters, that also means another 600 DPI map added to their digital maps collection.

The new map is called ‘The Twisted Tree’.

Laidback DM - Map Stretch Goal2

And I’m going to add adventure seeds in the book for each map, as well. Just thought it would be nice to have them in there as well. For this map:

The Twisted Tree’s dark and moss-encrusted boughs and roots are home to giant spiders, snakes and strange woodbeasts, and its ancient magics prevent teleportation and flying spells in its vicinity. Inside the tree, mazes of passages lead explorers astray, while living root systems and branches attack the unwary by surprise. Each level has a challenge – a creature to defeat, an environmental puzzle to overcome. And at the very top awaits The Twisted Guardian, an ancient and powerful druid who does not take kindly to trespassers. She protects the tree’s magical living heart, sought far and wide as an ingredient for powerful potions and magic items…

Cheers

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
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Kickstarter: First Stretch Goal Unlocked!

Hi all!

Just an update about the SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES Kickstarter that’s running as we speak!

We’ve unlocked our first stretch goal – a hand drawn map to be added to the book as a bonus for supporters to use their own adventures. For Excelsior Supporters, that also means another 600 DPI map added to the digital maps collection.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the map I call ‘The River Caverns of Argolus‘.

Laidback DM - Map Stretch Goal1 - small.jpg

The caverns feature a fast flowing underground river connecting them, rapids, cavern shelves for ambushes, a copse of giant fungi, strange crystal formations dotted throughout, a cave in and living root systems. I picture Argolus as an powerful underground plant elemental, charged with protecting a number of living fungi and underground plant creatures. Unfortunately, something in the ecology is polluting the river, which flows to a nearby town. The town has sent adventurers to find the source of the pollution and stop it – at any cost! A moral quandary – how to solve the problem of the pollution without slaughtering the plant creatures? Maybe it won’t matter to the adventurers, who are just keen to loot and pillage. What would your players do? I can hear your DM gears grinding already at the possibilities!

If you’re a DM who’s interested in supporting this Kickstarter, click on the link below to find out more.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
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Shotglass Adventures – 10 adventures for D&D 5e and OSR Role Playing Games – KICKSTARTER LIVE!

Hi all!

I’ve been working very hard over the last few months to write a book of D&D adventures, and the Kickstarter to fund the project is live right now!

Follow the link below to read all about it! I’d appreciate your support, as this is the first time I’ve done this!

Click on the link below to find out all about the project:

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Laidback DM: Avoiding The TPK

As DMs, we’ve all done it at some time or other: we’ve killed the entire party and drained the fun out of the D&D session. Sometimes it’s unintentional, sometimes it’s mean spirited, sometimes it’s to punish players for being complete d$&@s.

But no matter how you look at it, the Total Party Kill (TPK) is a bummer for your campaign. No one wants to go out that way, unless it just happens to be the final battle of the campaign and a TPK means the big bad gets it as well.

Most players get attached to their characters. Having them all die at once can lead to losses from your gaming group, or players giving up playing the game altogether (a bit extreme, but it does happen).

Total Party Kill
Odds are, they’re not getting out of this one alive.

Here’s some ways to avoid the TPK:

1.Have a contingency prepared – perhaps the PCs were all knocked unconscious and saved as they proved useful to the villain’s plan. They awaken chained up and breaking rocks. Now you have a cool prison escape scenario instead of multiple funerals and habitual moaning and mourning.

2.Fluff your dice – I’m not a fan of this option, but you’re the DM. Just don’t make it too obvious.

3.The Deus Ex Machina – something amazing happens that saves the party: A company of Dwarven Commandos intervenes; the ground cracks open, swallowing the bad guy before he can deliver the coup de grace; an even bigger bad guy appears and fights the villains, giving the party time to escape. Just make sure the rescuer/event is relevant and part of the ongoing story, not something that just happened “because” (even if it did).

4.The alternate universe/another plane save – the PCs are dead, but now they find themselves in the afterlife or a screwed up version of their world (come on, you always wanted to run one of those Star Trek Mirror Universe episodes, didn’t you?). Now, they just have to find their way back home. A quest to return to life!

5.It was all a dream – This is another one of those options I don’t like much, but it could work if used the right way and if it makes for a better story. Perhaps the real big bad is a dream deity manipulating things behind the scenes and wants the players to suffer both mentally as well as physically to harvest their energy on the way to achieving ultimate power?

In the end, if the PCs are just being stupid, then maybe they need to die to teach them a lesson. As always, it’s up to you, the DM, to decide. Just remember this: killing everyone almost always kills the fun.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Free Map! The Living Tower of Moka-Shul

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for D&D adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give them away any chance I get.

This week: The Living Tower of Moka-Shul!

So, who is this Moka-Shul guy anyway? And what’s the go with his living tower? Well, I picture Moka-Shul as a powerful wizard, perhaps a Lich or Vampire. His tower exists on a lower plane and travels inter-dimensionally depending on its master’s whims.  The tower is populated with all sorts of beasties the players will have to confront as they make their way to the top.

The tower is alive, the walls extruding living tentacles in surprise attacks that suck targets into fleshy maws that appear wherever the tower needs them. And the inhabitants aren’t immune to this either, which is why they regularly bathe in the waters of the fathom beast, one of Moka-Shul’s pets. The fathom beast sweats a particular oil that the tower recognises as friendly. But the fathom beast isn’t very amenable and often makes a meal out of bathers!

The Living Tower of Moka-Shul

Above: Just right click and save.

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

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

P.S. I’m writing a 48-page book of dungeon maps, adventures, tables and tips! Coming soon!

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

The Laidback DM: Murder Hobos vs. Negotiators

Is your party the kind that prefers to fight their way through a role playing game encounter (known in the trade as ‘Murder Hobos’)? Or one that likes to talk to the bad guys, using their role playing ability or character’s skills to get out of a tough spot (negotiators)?

I believe players that prefer fight- over talk-based solutions may result from the following:

• Old school, ‘experience points-from-monster-death’ mindsets

• Characters created with an emphasis on fighting skills/abilities

• The enjoyment of a good battle

• A personal belief they’re not good role players

• Negotiating/talking means too many variables/potential outcomes

So, how do you get around these particular issues? It’s quite possible that your players just prefer fight-based adventures. But you may be growing tired with running these sorts of games all the time. And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of variety. Here’s some things you can do:

Write some deliberately role playing-focused adventures – nothing like a good murder mystery, or an adventure where the party are unable to use weapons. They’re forced to use other approaches.

Use milestone advancement in place of experience points – 5e includes the option for milestone advancement, and it sure saves a lot of XP calculations. Players think less about killing monsters and more about completing goals. Or if you really love XP, reward for solution-based outcomes rather than killing.

Reward players more for good role playingInspiration in D&D is an extra D20 that can be rolled in a tight spot to replace another D20 roll. Reward players more often for role playing and they’ll start role playing more. If you have people in the group who aren’t good role players, reward them for inventive use of player skills/spells.

Make them think more – use more puzzles and interesting traps for players to think their way out of.

Offer alternative outcomes to hacking and slashing – monsters have feelings, too! Let them have opportunities to talk their way out. I like one of the rules in the 13th Age game: everyone speaks the same language, unless the story calls for a different one. It makes it easier to negotiate. Or at least understand the bad guys as they’re dispatching you.

Emphasise consequences – sometimes your players need to see the repercussions of their violent actions to start thinking more. The orphanage for homeless goblin kids whose henchman parents were killed in that last lair assault, for instance. Or the bad guy, whose brother was killed, coming to murder the party in their sleep. Try not to get too grim, though.

Most of all, don’t forget to keep it flowing and keep it fun!

Cheers

DM Steve 🙂

What did Steve just rabbit on about? Don’t know what D&D or RPGs are? Click here.

Dragon’s Ahoy! Like Chips Ahoy, but with less chocolate…

Time for another of my Laidback DM posts, and a new free map! I love drawing maps for D&D adventures. I have far too many, though, so I’m giving them away every chance I get.

This week: Dragon’s Lair!

This large cave system has a number of shelves that vary the level of the terrain throughout the caverns, making for interesting challenges for the party. You can make the shelves any height you want, of course—the bigger the better. There’s also lots of hidey holes between pillars and stalagmites.

What the dragon doesn’t realise is this cave system’s original plunderer inhabitants built a number of well-disguised secret passages. Or maybe it does realise, and woe betide any characters that use them…

Dragon's Lair Map

Above: Actual map size is 14cm x 20cm. Just right click and save.

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

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

It’s about time for a free Dungeon Map!

Time for another of my (currently) irregular Laidback DM posts, and a new free map! Map drawing for D&D adventures is my thang. I have far too many maps, so I’m giving them away every chance I get.

This week: Border Keep!

Reminiscent of the original Gary Gygax classic D&D Keep on the Borderlands castle, this outpost is much smaller, but can be filled with murder, mystery and intrigue…Of course, I leave that up to you, intrepid DMs!

Border Fort Map

Above: Actual map size is 14cm x 22cm. Just right click and save.

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

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

The Laidback DM #11 – Free Dungeon Map!

Yes, it’s that time of the week, and in the tradition of my irregular Laidback DM posts, here’s a new free map. I really enjoy drawing maps (nerd alert!) for D&D adventures, so much so that I have more maps then I know what to do with. So, I’m giving one away free on my blog each week.

This week: Plentar’s Mine!

I created this map because I really wanted to learn how to draw raised shelves (not cupboard shelves, cave shelves) and ledges properly. I was happy with the results. So happy, in fact, that I’m not even going to give you any hints for a scenario. You’re smart enough to stock this baby yourselves.

Plentar's Mine (Map)

Above: Actual map is 19cm x 13cm. Just right click and save.

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

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

The Laid Back DM #5 – Foiled again!

Don’t know what a Dungeon Master is? How uncool. Click here to find out. 

So what happens when that wonderful adventure you put together, with all its interesting surprises and nasty traps, gets circumnavigated by the party because they have some nifty spells and additional tricks up their sleeve you didn’t think about?

Aside from taking it on the chin and continuing in the spirit of fun, there’s not much you can do for that session. But it can give you some ideas to prevent said players from getting out of similar traps next time:

1)      Use a trap that breaks concentration. Something that projects loud noise, for instance. Have them save each round in order to keep their concentration up (you have to be fair, after all).

2)      Make traps only respond to human/humanoids, or have a weight limit. Using the poor mascot or familiar to activate a trap is just nasty, but some parties do that sort of thing. Think about your trap set up for next time: perhaps the mechanism is too complicated for an animal or it’s too light to activate it.

3)      Surround your mechanically-based traps with an Anti-Magic Shell. No magic works inside its 10 foot radius sphere. Take that, player characters…

4)      Trap the walls or the air. Now this is really evil. If the characters climb up the walls to avoid the trapped floor, the wall trap triggers. If they fly over the floor the air trap triggers. Bwah ha ha!

5)      Make their spells go haywire.  If the characters cast a Fly spell in the trapped area, make the spell go crazy and fly them straight into the wall, damaging them and possibly breaking their concentration. If they persist, have the spell go crazier still. You can ad lib the various effects if needed. You’re the DM, after all.

In the end, the whole point of traps is to challenge the players and let them have a good time figuring it out. Yeah, you can make them hard, but they shouldn’t be impossible. You want some of them to survive to play another day, don’t you?

You can find more Laid Back Dungeon Master posts by clicking here.

The Laid Back DM #3 – Maps and random encounters?!

Welcome to my occasional series on Dungeons and Dragons (D&D)* refereeing (makes it sound like a sport, doesn’t it? Well it is, my friends: a sport of the mind. Okay, that sounded better before I read it out loud…).

Here’s some more time saving stuff:

  • No random encounters – hold on a second?! Didn’t I just say ‘save time’? Or something like that? Prior to the session I think about what the ‘random’ encounters will be. In a four hour session the players might have 1-2 random encounters, as well as play part of the main adventure, with its pre-set encounters. All I need to know is the monster types. I then ad lib the encounter as appropriate for the number of players present, terrain and challenge rating. Screw rolling for it.
  • Provide maps – there are lots of great maps in published adventures, but I hate mapping and so do the players. Sometimes you have to map manually; other times I use the story to give the players the map: maybe they get the town map from a local merchant or town guards, or find the dungeon map in a crevice in the wall, left behind by the original architect. Is it really that big an issue if they know where some of the secret doors are? You can always set additional challenges for them when they open them. And if you prefer theatre-of-the-mind, don’t use a map at all. Just describe the areas. Screw mapping.

More stuff in future columns. Subscribe if you’d like email notifications 🙂

* What is this guy raving about, I hear you say? Click here.

Didn’t see the previous columns?

For more on RPGs, check out my Top Ten favourite Roleplaying Games, or if you like D&D inspired poetry, my D&D Haiku Tetralogy.

The Laid Back DM #2 – New-fangled Electronic Gizmos?

Welcome to the second of my Dungeon Master (DM) columns. (Didn’t catch the first one? Click here.)

Today I’m going to talk about all these new wiz-bang apps and stuff that you can use during your sessions. (“What did he say?” Says the old grognard, raising his ear trumpet. “What’s an app? Is that some kind of new pill?”) Yeah, old timers. It’s like Viagra for your RPG sessions.

Android

The Spellbook – Every D&D 5E spell. The spell opens as a drop down, so you don’t have to go back and forth between pages. Sortable, and you can create and import custom spell lists. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.troublesomeapps.dnd.spells

eRPG Tools – Designed for you to enter party and encounter data, keep track of initiative and combat. Or you can use it for monsters, spell and magic item look ups. Also has treasure and NPC name generators and dice roller. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mentiromano.erpgtools

5th Edition Spellbook – For magic using characters, contains every spell. Each spell has room to add individual notes. You can add new spells, create custom lists, and save multiple character spellbooks. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.spellsdd5

Loot Generator for D&D 5e – Generate treasures, magic items and spell scrolls randomly, by challenge level, and for individual monsters or hordes. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dante.paul.lootgeneratorfordnd5e

Dice 3D – Awesome dice rolling simulator. You can add any number of dice to the table top. Tilt the tablet to roll the dice and listen to the sounds of the dice rolling (I love it!). Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=fr.sevenpixels.dice

iOS

Most iPhone/iPad apps are paid, but a few are free. Not as many apps for D&D 5E as on Android. Go to the App Store on your phone and search to find these ones.

5E Spell Book – at first, you’re annoyed, because the spells are NOT pre-loaded. But there’s a link on the REDDIT page by a nice person who has manually coded all the spells (NOT the developers, I might add. Talk about lazy!). The update process for each spell is a bit tedious. You can sort by name and level. Supposedly you can add custom spell books, but to do this you have to create them individually. Possibly the most in-User-friendly app I’ve EVER used. If you just want a sortable list of all spells using the REDDIT link, go for it. There’s not a lot on iPhone for 5E spells. Paid app.

Fifth Edition Character Sheet – Update and maintain multiple characters. Pretty basic, but does the job. Free app.

Fight Club 5 – The free version allows you to create and save one character. More attractive than the previous app; I have some players who use it regularly and think it’s great. Free/Paid app.

Game Master 5 – lets you enter campaign and encounter information, run combat, includes compendium of spells, monsters, items. Compatible with Fight Club 5. Paid app.

Natural 20 – critical hits and critical misses. Provides variety for your crits, for weapon and spells. The effects add variety, however they are NOT balanced, so discuss with your players before you decide to use this. Free app.

DiceandDragons – Dice rolling app. Create customised dice rolling options for your characters. Create combos and add damage automatically. Flick the dice with your finger on the screen to roll them. Free app.

PDF versions of manuals

I own every D&D 5E manual and adventure in hard copy. Despite this, I find it easier to have the manuals in PDF on my tablets, especially when travelling around for games. I know some of the PDFs I own have been scanned illegally, but as I’ve already paid for the books I think I have the right to use them.

Come on WoTC – get with the program and provide proper PDFs for your manuals and adventures–other companies do. You could include a digital code inside each manual sold. That way you have a list of all the codes used so people don’t give them to their mates. I’d rather have a proper, pristine PDF version of the original book than a dodgy OCR version, scanned manually.

 

These are just a few examples. You don’t have to use electronica in your sessions. But it sure could save some time.

For more on RPGs, check out my Top Ten favourite Roleplaying Games, or if you like D&D inspired poetry, my D&D Haiku Tetralogy.

The Laid Back DM #1 – Empowerment

I’m a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) fan from way back ( to find out why, click here).

I’ve been running a D&D 5th Edition campaign for eight players over the last few months. Everyone is having a lot of fun as they progress to the final inexorable encounter with the big bad in his castle overlooking the valley that he terrorises on a regular basis.

I’ve learned a few things over time as a Dungeon Master (DM). (Yes, it’s a silly name, but I didn’t think that one up. Blame the late Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, who co-created the role playing game hobby, and the very first D&D rules, back in the 1970’s.) I’ve realised that it’s often better to do less, rather than more, when preparing for a game. It’s also handy to empower the players, so that they take a more active role in both the story and running the game. And it’s not just because I’m lazy. Players enjoy it more when they participate and engage with the game more actively.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be posting irregularly about DM’ing. Here’s a few things to get the ball rolling (or should that be dice rolling? Okay, crap joke).

There are a few things I’ve implemented to allow my games to run more smoothly:

  • Players roll all the dice rolls, including those for monsters attacking them – yep, no more rolls for the DM. This frees me up to describe battles, participate actively (but in a laid back way) and generally enjoy how the players freak out when they roll well for the monsters. It really adds to the tension. In a good way, of course. I also use the average damage number for monsters, rather than have more dice rolls (there’s enough dice rolling in the game already).
  • Players track initiative for every combat – another time saver and empowers players to do more, rather than have me ‘parent’ them. Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t do this years ago.
  • Player decisions can and should change the adventure – nothing new here, but some DMs find that they prefer players to do their adventures on rails: that is, being led from encounter to encounter. Players can, and should, be allowed to go off on all sorts of wild tangents during the game. So be flexible, be laid back, and go with the flow. Ad lib it! You’ll be surprised how well it all turns out.

More stuff soon (not sure if I can call them tips, or not…)

For more on RPGs, check out my Top Ten favourite Roleplaying Games, or if you like D&D inspired poetry, my D&D Haiku Tetralogy.

When Good Dungeon Masters Go Bad

(“You’re ranting on that blog-thingy, aren’t you?” says Beta Max.

“Yes,” I say. “About the perils of unprepared Dungeon Masters.”

“The what? The tennis masters tournament?”

“No, the……yes, the tennis.”)

 

As you may know, I’m a nerd and proud of it. Not an over the top nerd, but one nevertheless. Every once in a while I get a chance to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D)*, sometimes as the Dungeon Master (DM)**, sometimes as a player character***.

Have you ever played a game where the referee just doesn’t know what they’re doing? In D&D, it’s the type who rolls up (pun intended) to the game with no preparation, no rule books, no dice and very little clue. I experienced a game like that the other night.

The DM had the adventure “all in his head” (the first danger sign), hadn’t brought any dice, pencils, books or materials to help him run the game, instead relying on his players to supply everything (the second danger sign). Throughout the game he would constantly reference Pathfinder**** rules (the third danger sign), wasn’t sure how the various D&D rules worked, asking his players for clarifications (the fourth danger sign), and would provide routinely easy challenges and overly large treasure hauls (the fifth and final danger sign).

You might be saying “that’s fine with me”. After all, some of the best adventures are often ad libbed, and if everyone’s having fun, then what’s the problem? Well that’s the thing. If the game is dragging to the point where people are checking their phones often and are saying “that was easier than expected”, then you know something’s not right (aside from the rule gaffes and absence of materials, I mean).

D&D is about having fun. It’s about fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants challenges and escapes. It’s about edge-of-your-seat dramatic tension as you wonder whether you’ll survive. It’s about the feeling of relief when you do. It’s about bizarrely humorous situations that naturally arise during the course of play. It’s about experiencing the wonder of battling and living in a fantasy world. It’s all these things that make for a great D&D (or other RPG*) game.

I have six basic rules I ask of DMs:

1 – Be prepared, but be flexible as well (those pesky players can basically try anything, y’know).

2 – Know the rules of the game you’re playing. You’re the DM, for Pete’s sake (and know what game you’re playing. That’s always a big help).

3 – DM honestly and fairly (if you’re making it up as you go along, please make it at least look like you know what you’re doing. And don’t play favourites, just because they know the rules better than you do).

4 – Involve all of your players (if they find their phones more interesting than the game, that’s a subtle sign to amp it up a bit).

5 – Learn from your mistakes so you can make the next session even better (read the rules, bring the dice, draw a few maps, bring along an adventure with some meat on the bones, as it were).

6 – Every game should be fun for you and the players (should be rule number one. If you as the DM are not enjoying yourself then you may need to prepare a little better. See rules 1-5).

Use this wisdom well.

And hopefully my next game with you will be better.

* For those of you who don’t know: D&D is a fun role playing game (RPG) played with dice but no board, where players become characters in a fantasy adventure, fighting monsters, gaining treasure, etc. There are lots of different RPGs, with different themes, rules and settings. Haven’t you read my earlier post Real Men Play D&D?

 ** The DM is the referee who adjudicates the adventure and controls the non-player characters. Just like at the tennis or the cricket. Except more hands on and with more power, death and destruction.

 *** The player character is the role undertaken by the player – it could be a fighter, a cleric, a wizard, etc. I told you, it’s a nerd game.

 **** Pathfinder is a fantasy role playing game originally based on D&D 3.5. The new D&D 5.0 and Pathfinder have diverged sufficiently to have various differing rules. You don’t really care, do you? Fine.

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