Laidback DM: Pawns vs. Miniatures

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

Laidback DM - gameplay

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

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

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

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


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

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

Laidback DM - Pathfinder 2e Product Reviews

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


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


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

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

Laidback DM - TPK - stevestillstanding


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

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

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

Summing Up

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

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

Game on!

Steve 🙂

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Laidback DM: Products for Sale!

Hi all!

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

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

Game on!

Steve 🙂

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


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


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

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

· New Monsters – 11 new monsters and NPCs!

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

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

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

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

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

· Full guide for OSR conversions!

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

Game On!

Steve 🙂

All Laidback DM products are now on sale at DrivethruRPG.

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Laidback DM – Running Big Parties

Nope – this isn’t a post about hosting huge drunkfests the whole street will remember. But nerdfests? Bring it on…

There’s a reason most modules are written for four players. Over time this was considered the average number of players most DMs could get together for one game session. Times have changed though, and with D&D reaching a level of popularity far beyond the original golden years of the ‘80’s, parties are bigger, tables are bigger and the associated problems of running games are bigger. Yep, facilitating large parties of players can be fun, but they can also be awkward and fatiguing. I’ve regularly run large parties of players. Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the years to help run big games and avoid some of the pitfalls.

  • Set ground rules – this is important for any game, especially big groups as they can become unruly faster than a smaller one. Establish your basic game ground rules early: no insulting, no vilification, don’t humiliate other players, etc. get your players’ input in coming up with ground rules so the group is not only accepting but knows where they shouldn’t go regarding discussions/behaviours.
  • Involve everyone – managing a party of players is like managing a team in a workplace – everyone has different strengths and motivations. Over time you’ll get to know your players well, and you’ll know what best motivates and engages them. Use that knowledge. Directly involve your players in some time of the administration functions of the game. Got some who are rules experts? Ask them for help on rules decisions, if needed. Got overly responsible players? Let them take over roles like organising initiative, mapping, marching orders, etc. Got vocal players? Give them opportunities to role play and describe their scenes. Got quiet players? Be inclusive, give them opportunities to speak and be heard. Give everybody opportunities to shine. In short, let them make your job as a DM easier, while playing to each player’s core strengths and motivations.
  • Manage the pace – make sure the story is moving along. This may sound a little obvious, and it’s true for any game, no matter what size: slow pacing kills engagement. Make sure your game doesn’t drag. If the wilderness encounters are tedious, drop them and so a travel montage instead. Better still, get one of your players to describe the flow of days on the road. If there’s a part of the adventure that’s boring, move through it quickly. And combat? “Many battles do not a good game make,” said Yoda. Even if your party are die hard hack-and-slashers, every game should be a balance of role play and combat, so that everyone gets to do something they enjoy.
  • Let your players contribute to the story – give each of your players the time to describe what they do in down time, or how they react to a new environment or new NPC. But beware the over-talker! If someone’s going on too long and the other players are switching off, acknowledge that player’s contribution and continue to move the game forward.
  • Run faster combats – big parties mean more down time between turns. This is ok for those players who are intensely involved or planning their upcoming turn, but there will be a few who aren’t – playing with phones or side conversations about non-game stuff are an indicator. Use faster combat to keep players engaged. Forego some of the lengthy descriptions of battle. Make the combat fast and keep everyone involved and excited. Theater of the mind becomes tricky the more players and monsters are involved, but it’s still quicker than using a grid. That said, the bigger the party, the better a grid for combat becomes as it’s easier to manage where the PCs are in relation to opponents. It’s your call, just remember to drop the unnecessary bits.
  • Increase the challenges – as mentioned earlier, adventures are generally written for four players. If you have more, up the ante. Parties of eight are easy – just double the number of bad guys. But what about the big bad? Rather than duplicate him/her, increase their hit points. Give them legendary actions. Up their armor class. Give them a powerful magic item to wield (if they don’t have one already). Remember, the more players, the more actions they have and the more hits the bad guys take, thus lessening the threat. You need to counter player character overkill by ensuring each combat encounter and the final boss remain suitably epic.
  • Consider more role playing opportunities – large parties of people respond like large groups of people. Often they split into cliques, or favour particular people in the group they know or identify with. Role playing encounters give an opportunity for groups to play as a party and introduce some ‘game’ conflict into the mix. Just make sure it doesn’t become REAL conflict – as facilitator, maintain control of the flow of discussion and immediately cut off anything that vilifies or denigrates another player.

Big parties are lots of fun to run. Just make sure they don’t run all the way over you.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

PS Do you have any hints for running big parties? Leave a comment! Heck, I’ll even respond to the ones about wild drunkfests.

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Laidback DM – The Quiet Player

I’m willing to bet money you have a group that has at least one quiet, introspective player, who tends to not speak up much (I’ll refrain from calling them an introvert as sometimes introverts can be outgoing, too). I’m also willing to bet that you’ve DM’ed a game with an unfamiliar group with subdued players in it. And what tends to happen with those quiet players? They get drowned out by the rest of the crowd.

Hey, you in the back! Yes, you! Bet there’s something you’d like to say...
Hey – you in the back. Speak up!

Here’s some tips to prevent that:

  • Make sure your quiet players get the opportunity to contribute. All too often the loud players (and I won’t refer to them as extroverted, as some extroverts aren’t loud or over the top) have all the say. It’s important to involve everybody in the game, and addressing your less confident players directly can do that. Ask them what they want to do, or if they have another option to the one being pushed by the more confident players.
  • Use open questions with subdued players. Closed and open questioning techniques are used in different situations, depending on the type of information sought. A closed question generally has a yes or no answer e.g. “That’s the course of action you’re taking?” An open question allows the questioned person to provide a fuller answer e.g. “What course of action would you like to take?” Use open questions with your quieter players to allow them the opportunity to speak more.
  • Highlight the quiet player’s character. Often an outgoing player’s character is a reflection of the player, and thus may grab the spotlight more often. Make sure you know what the subdued player’s character is capable of, and use them. Set up some situations for their character where they have opportunities to shine.
  • Speak to quiet players before and after the session. Get to know all your players, but find out if your quiet players like to lead, of if they have a particular backstory or subplot they would like to explore. Build an adventure around their backstory. Maybe they don’t like speaking and prefer to stay quiet and observe. If this is the case, honour their wishes, but make sure you stay up to date with their situation as this may change as they grow more confident and willing to speak up in the game.

Quiet players are often the introspective thinkers of the group. They may be more inclined to think through situations, rather than charging in blindly (but not always). Remember to involve all at the table – don’t let quiet players get drowned out by the more vociferous ones. Tabletop RPGs are for everyone to enjoy, after all.

Game on!

Steve 😊

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Laidback DM: Anatomy of a (not quite) break up

So, I’m taking a break from DMing to hone my ‘player’ chops. Part of the reason was my increasing work and study loads and part of it was burn out. I just needed a break from all the work involved in preparing and running a game each week, from my brain constantly thinking about D&D all the time.

Being a player has been fun. The lack of responsibility and generally less-onerous workload for each game (read: none) is incredibly liberating. But I’ve found I’m now a bit too laidback. Without the need to be the final arbiter of rules decisions, I find myself not bothering to remember rules. Where I once kept track of every detail, now I cant be bothered to remember stuff that happened in the game last week (I’m playing several games a week, but that’s just an excuse). I find myself being enticed by other RPGs (but then, I always have been). Pathfinder 2e is turning out to be an arguably better D&D than 5e, despite the density of its ruleset (“what sacrilege is this?!” I hear you say). Whodathunkit?

Laidback DM -
Hey, you in the wagon – stop dawdling! Damn these laidback Dragonborn…

My university studies are drawing to a close and once I finish this final assignment I should (theoretically) have more time on my hands to DM. But do I want to? I still find myself drawn to the idea of guiding a group of semi-crazed individuals through a fantasy world of wondrous choice and flexibility. I still find myself drawn to contentious rules decisions and bizarrely humorous indignation as players split their party and suffer the inevitable consequences. I’m still drawn to the idea of telling improvised stories and building worlds of imagination and magic with friends and acquaintances. But can’t I do that as a player? Do I really need to be a DM?

I guess I can do both. Have my RPG cake and eat it, as it were. So, yeah. I’ll DM again. I guess the decision was already made before I started writing this. Because DMs never die. They just take a break for a while, realise the grass isn’t greener on the other side, and then come back with fireballs blazing.

Game on!


PS DMs – it’s okay to admit that you sometimes need a break from the game. Life goes on.

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Laidback DM: Weapon and Armor Durability

I know what you’re going to say—in D&D it’s so much easier not to have to worry about weapons getting damaged. But what happens when they do? And how do you have a simple (or laidback, as I prefer to call it) system that doesn’t bog down the game?


Here’s my personal take on weapon and armor damage:

  • Every time you roll a 1 (critical fumble) on an attack roll, your non-magical weapon takes damage. It loses -1 to attacks and damage. This stacks with further crit fumbles, up to a maximum of -3, after which the non-magical weapon breaks and can’t be used.
  • Armor is treated a little differently: when an NPC or monster scores a 20 (critical hit), you as a player can decide whether you want to take the double damage or whether your non-magical armor is damaged with a -1 penalty to AC. This penalty stacks with successive crit hits up to a maximum of -3, after which the non-magical armor breaks and is unusable. (This option might potentially save the PC from being knocked unconscious or killed by a critical hit.)
  • Damaged weapons and armor can be repaired by an armorer, weaponsmith or bowyer (depending on the weapon/armor) for half the original price of the weapon or armor.
  • A PC can repair their own weapons and armor during down time if they have have the relevant background and tools (e.g. Guild Artisan or Clan Crafter Backgrounds with relevant area of expertise: armorer, bowyer, weaponsmith). They’ll need a forge if the weapon or armor is made of metal. The price for repairing their own weapons and armor is a quarter of the original cost of the item.
  • No matter who repairs the item, it takes 1 day per -1 to fix (i.e. 3 days to fix -3 damaged weapon).

And now you’re going to say, why not just buy a new one? That’s entirely possible, but not every PC may have the money, and it may be the sword is a family heirloom or that shield is the Cleric’s holy symbol. Or the player might just prefer to be self sufficient.

When using a weapon and armor damage system like this, you shouldn’t really use a critical fumble system as well. Or if you do, you could alternate crits with weapon and armor damage. Either way, as long as your players are happy with it.

And remember: monsters with weapons and armor should be affected, too. All’s fair, after all.

Easy weapon and armor damage? Done and dusted!

Game on!

Steve 🙂

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Laidback DM – One-Page Dungeon Competition 2019 Winner

Hi all

I was one of the winners of the 2019 One Page Dungeon competition at

I used one of my old adventures from Shotglass Adventures volume 1, which is available in print and PDF from DrivethruRPG (see the link below).

Here’s a copy of the adventure I submitted, which you can download by right clicking and saving. I had to change the name of the major monster because of the system-neutral guidelines of the competition, but it’s an Invisible Stalker. All the other monsters are in the D&D 5e MM.

Cross My Heart Hope To Die - One Page Dungeon Entry 2019 - Laidback DM

Game on!


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Laidback DM: Treasure Alternatives

All too often, treasure seems to be the major incentive for PCs to complete missions and quests in fantasy role playing games. So what about something else just as beneficial?

Here’s some ideas for things that are just as useful as mo money, that could be offered as alternative rewards for jobs:

  • An ongoing discount at particular traders, armourers and weaponsmiths around town.
  • Elite access to the local Sages’ Guild and their libraries for access to rare knowledge and information.
  • The best horses money can buy and free stables in any town they travel to.
  • Alchemical or magical formulas for crafting rare magic items.
  • A ship and crew.
  • A letter of marque from the local king, lord or mayor that can be used by the PCs to get audiences with important nobles and privileged circles of people.
  • Free travel on stage coaches anywhere in the country.
  • Access to safe houses in multiple major cities.
  • Noble titles and estates, making the PCs part of the ruling elite.
  • Access to street-level networks of messengers and informers, providing an unparalleled information and rumour network in a major city.

Of course, some players will still prefer a chest of gold pieces. Some habits are hard to break.

Game on!

Steve 😊

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Laidback DM: Easier Encumbrance

Do you use the encumbrance rules as written in 5e? I don’t. I find them…cumbersome, if you’ll excuse the pun. Of all the rules brought across from the various old editions, counting weight in pounds and applying it to a factor multiplied by strength is just tedious. There’s enough math in the game without that as well.

So, time for some simpler rules. Here’s some, borrowed and slightly modified, from a great little game recently launched on Kickstarter, called Five Torches Deep.

Five Torches Deep TRPG
Five Torches Deep is a cool 5e/OSR crossover game, I recently supported on Kickstarter. Find it on DrivethruRPG!

All item weights are expressed as Load, which reflects the weight and bulk of an item. Small items and weapons (such as a dagger) weigh 1, medium or bulky items and large weapons weigh 2. Light armour weighs 1, medium armour 2, heavy armour 4. 500 coins equals a load of 1. Some items will have negligible weight, such as a single scroll, and don’t count towards Load (although a scroll case with multiple scrolls would weigh 1).

A PC can carry their Strength value in Load e.g. STR 18 = 18 points of Load. If they go over their limit, they are encumbered and suffer a 5 foot movement penalty per point of load over their Strength. They also suffer Disadvantage on ability checks, saves and attacks. When their movement reaches zero they are over-encumbered and can’t move. They’ll have to shed something.

For example, a Rogue has Strength 12. He carries his backpack (1), a dagger (1), a short sword (1), long bow (2), quiver of 20 arrows (1) full waterskin (1), 2 weeks of rations (2) a bag of marbles (negligible), 50 feet of rope (1) and wears Leather Armor (1). This brings him to 1 under his limit. He could carry a further 500 coins (1) of treasure, but any more and he’s over the limit—his movement would be reduced by 5 feet for each point over and his ability checks, saves and attacks would be at Disadvantage.

Easy to work out and apply, right? And much less cumbersome.

Game on!

Steve 😊

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Laidback DM: Shotglass Adventures II available in print!

The products from my last Kickstarter, including Shotglass Adventures II, are now available in PDF/print on DrivethruRPG.

Here’s a look at the printed version of the book:


For D&D 5e and other OSR fantasy role playing games.

• 10 one-shot adventures for characters of 6th-10th level, including murder, dungeon crawl, gauntlet, planar, puzzle, quest, siege, sci-fi. Minimal preparation required. Each adventure can be run individually or played as a mini-campaign. Over 50 hours of gaming content

• 25 New Monsters

• 17 New Magic Items

• 2 New Ships, compatible with the ship rules in Ghosts of Saltmarsh

• New playable race – Sh’Vy’Th (Sherviath) Elves! Refugees from fascistic forest city-states ruled with an iron grip by the Pale Lords…

• Information on the Invician Empire to support campaign play

• A map of Verona Province, complete with every adventure location

• OSR conversion advice

• Bonus tips for DMs

• Bonus full color and b&w maps with adventure seeds for you to use in your own adventures

You can buy these new products at

Game on!

Steve 😊

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Laidback DM: Playing in the Sandbox

So what exactly is a sandbox? And how does it relate to RPGs? ‘Sandboxing’ is where you let your players loose in the world to do whatever they want. Give them a map and they decide where they go and what they do. Consequently, the world is built around their actions.

It’s a bit like computer games such as Skyrim and GTA—if you don’t follow the main story quest you can literally play in an open world sandbox, and do almost anything you want. But computer games are limited by their code, system memory and processing power. TRPG sandboxing is not.

For new DMs, sandboxing can be scary. With the players left to do what they want, go anywhere and do anything, it’s up to you to respond and create interesting NPCs, story, sidebars, and world building while they do it. Obviously you’ll have a little something pre-prepared, but it might not get used as the players may decide on a different course of action. You have to constantly think on your feet and improvise, and this can be daunting for some.

Laidback DM -

So how do you prep for and run a sandbox campaign?

  • Learn to improvise. Let the PCs make the decisions and let your logic and creativity respond to their decisions.
  • Let the players help design the world. Your players are a source of joint creativity here—use them!
  • Use random tables. Random names, random towns, random locations, random quests – there are loads of supplements and online tools out there for generating content on the fly. Have them on hand to use during the game. Shotglass Adventures volume 1 has a bunch of useful tables in the back – shameless plug.
  • Keep lots of notes – as you create stuff with your players, keep notes so you know what you did in that session (this is a given in any DMing session, but it’s even more important with sandboxing as you don’t want the PCs going back to a town you created on the fly only to find you’ve forgotten all about it.
  • Have some one-shot adventures on hand to slot into the campaign and save some prep time. The party might not take the bait but you’ll feel happier knowing you had them (this feels like a great time for another shameless plug – Shotglass Adventures volume 1 and 2 are ideal for this).
  • Have a few random maps on hand, for towns and dungeons (hark! Time for yet another shameless plug – my own Connectable Fantasy Town Maps and Old School Maps for RPGs are perfect for this).
  • Don’t panic! Your players are going to do unexpected things. That’s what they do. Don’t stress—just go with the flow.


  • Creativity unleashed!
  • Everyone is fully involved in creation
  • Will take your campaign in directions you never expected


  • Can be difficult to plan for
  • Often more resources are required at the gaming table
  • Some players prefer more structured gaming approaches
  • Pacing may be an issue
  • May be stressful if you’re not used to improvising on the fly

It may be that sandbox gaming is not for you. That’s okay. There are plenty of other options for your game. And your players will have fun, no matter what.

Sandboxing is one of those things you might want to try out sometime. And who knows? You and your players may just love it. Then there’s no going back.

Game on!

Steve 😊

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Fantasy Maps – hand drawn vs. digital

I’m a huge fan of maps. I draw lots of them, and occasionally give them away free on this site. But I’m a bit old school when it comes to my preferences. I love hand drawn maps, but I’m not a fan of digital maps.

Laidback DM - Connectable Town Maps 2

Why don’t I like fully digitally created maps? They take just as long as hand drawn ones, and arguably are just as good or sometimes even better looking. For me, purely digital maps look a bit too much like a computer game, and often they look a bit artificial. The really good ones look a bit TOO good. In many ways, they get away from the idea of a pre-tech fantasy world.

But hand drawn maps? They fit the fantasy setting. When I see a good hand drawn map, it invokes warm, fuzzy feelings and feels as if it was drawn by a cartographer on an actual fantasy world. It’s more in keeping with the games I play and the main reason why I will never go ‘full digital’ (I hand draw my maps and then color them digitally in photoshop, but that’s only because I’m an awful painter).

Laidback DM - Map Stretch Goal2

There are a number of old school, hand drawing cartographers out there. Many provide their maps for free or have patreon sites where you can get regular maps for a low price. Here’s a few of my faves:

Game on!

Steve 😊

If you like old school, hand drawn maps, check out my own maps at

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Shotglass Adventures 2 Preview

Hi all,

Here’s a little preview of the adventures and contents of SA2, currently on Kickstarter!

The adventures are for D&D Fifth Edition (the current version of the game) and Old School Revival (OSR) games like Swords and Wizardry, OSRIC, White Box and Dungeon Crawl Classics (to name a few). Here’s a taste:

I’ve upped the ante with my design work and maps on SA2! Here’s what some of the pages look like:

There’s also a digital maps package available with a royalty free license to use the maps in your own projects. Here’s some of the maps (over 35 + bonus stretch goal maps):

Hope you like the preview!

If you want to support this project, click on the link below.

Game on!

Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures 2 Kickstarter at

Shotglass Adventures II is Coming!

SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES II is the sequel to the successful Shotglass Adventures Volume 1 Kickstarter in March!

Published under the OGL and compatible with 5e and other OSR fantasy role playing games, SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES II  is currently 52 pages long, but will be longer once stretch goals are included. Inside you’ll find:

· 10 ‘adventure-on-a-page (or two)’ one-shot adventures of all varieties – murder, dungeon crawl, gauntlet, planar, puzzle, quest, siege, sci-fi – complete with additional DM and player maps! The adventures are for PCs of 6th – 10th level, 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!

· 25 New Monsters + 10 Monsters from Kobold’s Tome of Beasts + 6 Monsters from Kobold’s Creature Codex! 5e stats included! New monsters include the Devil Door and the alien Sargalith Swarm!

· 17 New Magic Items! New items include the magic-dispelling Spongebob Squarebub and the consciousness-altering Phenol’s Mindswapper!

· 2 New Ships! Compatible with GoS!

· An all new playable PC Race – Sh’Vy’Th (Sherviath) Elves!

· Notes on the Invician Empire to support campaign play!

· An updated map of Verona Province – the region the adventures are set in, complete with every location used in SHOTGLASS ADVENTURES II!


I’ll post here as soon as I’m ready to launch!


Steve 🙂

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 🙂


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.

LaidbackDM Shotglass Adventures Ad
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, 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

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.

Laidback DM: Shotglass Adventures in Print!

Hi All,

The print proof for Shotglass Adventures arrived today and I just finished sending rewards emails to all the Kickstarter Supporters (who get a digital copy for free, along with all the digital stretch goal rewards shown at the bottom of this post, and have the option to purchase a softcover book version at cost + postage).

I’m pretty proud of this book. Here are a few shots of the cover and interiors:

Shotglass Adventures book - Laidback DM Shotglass Adventures book - Laidback DM

I’m already working on Shotglass Adventures II, which is turning out bigger and better! It will be on Kickstarter soon, so keep an eye out both there and on this blog.

Game on!

Steve 🙂


For more Laidback DM, click here.

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.


Steve 🙂

For more Laidback DM, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at

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Laidback DM: Free Cave Map/Encounter!

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 Caves That Bleed

Find the missing kid! The Caves that Bleed await! The notes are self explanatory.

Cave Map - Laidback DM - stevestillstanding

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 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.

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