Upwind Project from Biohazard Games

Imagine Bakshi’s classic animated film Wizards has a head-on collision with Disney’s Treasure Planet and the resulting fire is put out with a whole lot of Studio Ghibli’s Castle in the Sky. That, in an unexpected, animated mash-up, is Upwind.

Upwind is a narrative style RPG set in a strange alternate world of floating island nations, flying sailing ships, long lost technology, wild elemental powers, looming war and forgotten legacies.

Upwind is powered by the Q-system, an original stakes-based, playing card-driven mechanic that gives every encounter consequences with meaningful, narrative-building outcomes. With its unique bidding rules, Upwind plays as fast as you can tell your story.

10 of My Favorite Things from June!

Another month has gone by and another stack of amazing things have floated down my social media stream. This month includes podcasts, artists, novels, RPG supplements, and two cool new Kickstarters!

PLEASE NOTE: These are not presented in any particular order. There’s no #1 or #10 favorite thing, they are all items I’m incredibly excited about. Also, the number of Favorite Things each month will likely vary; if there’s only 1 cool thing, it will be a short article, though I will likely try to limit them to 10 per month and roll cool things over to the next month.

8 of My Favorite Things from May!

It’s been a pretty incredible month of geek. Here are a few things that are getting me talking.


Champions of Aetaltis

Most of what I have to say about this Kickstarter is covered in the video. What I can add is the talent between these covers is bordering on absurd, and there’s still more to come. If you’re a gamer and fantasy fan, I doubt there are many names involved in this project that you don’t know.


Weekend Shout Out: The Adventure a Week Blog

If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out the 3-time ENnie nominated, 2014 Silver ENnie-winning, AaWBlog, now’s the time! The focus of AdventureAWeek.com is primarily on publishing adventures compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game such as Rise of the Drow and Snow White, but has recently started adding 5th edition conversions to their awesome Pathfinder monsters and adventures. Like this week’s Statblock Sundaythe River Beast.Inline image 2

Games Change Lives: Hero Kids RPG for Ages 4-10

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of gaming with kids as early as humanly possible; I do own a website called www.gameschangelives.com after all. When my wife and I decided to have kids, I spent quite a bit of time researching alternate RPGs that might be helpful in introducing kids to gaming earlier than 10 years old and came across several excellent candidates. One of my favorites is from designer and kid-fan, Justin Halliday, who created the ENnie Award Winning Hero Kids!

RPG Bookmarks: Beautiful and Elegant

J.M. Perkins posted about this Kickstarter a few weeks ago, but I love this concept and needed to remind people that they have only 5 days to go. There isn’t much to say about this that J.M. and the Undead Viking review below doesn’t already, but there is something wonderful about a straightforward Kickstarter that is both inexpensive and incredibly useful. I can’t wait to get these on my table and they are cheap enough for you to buy full sets and give them as gifts to your players and/or DM!

NOTE: For some reason the widget HTML code isn’t working, so you can check out the project the old fashion way by clicking here, and/or watching the U.V. review below.

Undead Viking Review

“Clear!” Shocking Medicine in Games, Literature, Film, and TV

Aside from being a writer and game designer, my secret identity is as a critical care nurse. I’ve been wanting to write this post for the past couple of years, but a couple of TV shows this week caused me to pulled the trigger. Arrow is the first episode I’ve seen on TV where they ran a Cardiac Code even close to what I would expect. Unfortunately, the previous week’s Flash had its entire storyline revolve around bringing people back from the dead like Frankenstein.

It’s a familiar scene: a key character in the show you’re watching is on the operating table and their heart stops beating (ie: they “flatline”). Maybe the doctor yells for a medication. If the character is lucky, someone starts doing chest compressions. But 99.9% of the time, before anything else is done, the doctor will grab a pair of paddles and yell “CLEAR!” before sending a jolt of electricity through the patient that causes them to jump off the table. Sometimes the heartbeat will come back. Sometimes they’ll shock them one more time, unsuccessfully, then give up and call the time-of-death.

Dramatic? Sure. Effective medicine? Absolutely not.

Shocking a flatline in a patient is one of the things in popular culture that drives every medical professional out of their mind. It is so pervasive that most people on the street would agree that the most effective way to restart someone’s heart is to grab whatever electricity-generating device is nearby and throw volts through their chest.

Without taking anything else away from this post, I’ll break it down for you:

Never, ever, for any reason, have your “medical professional” shock a flatline.

Interview with Aquatic Gaming Guru, Emily Kubisz

If you follow my column From the Depths, or have listened to the Under the Sea episode of the Dungeon Master’s Block, then you’ve heard me talk about Alluria Publishing’s incredible Cerulean Seas line. Cerulean Seas is the definitive work on running aquatic fantasy RPGs and is one of the best 3PP settings out there. This week I had the chance to chat with Alluria’s founder, the ENnie-nominated designer, Emily Kubisz, about the future of Cerulean Seas, her history in the gaming industry, and what’s in store for Alluria.

Paizo’s “The Emerald Spire” for 5th Edition, Part 4

Late last year, Paizo Kickstarted a superdungeon called “The Emerald Spire“. Along with the characteristicly beautiful production value and stunning art, each of the 16 levels of this detailed module has its own fold-out map in the style of Paizo’s other excellent flip-maps, making it a very easy crawl to run.

I recently decide to host a series of all-day “Retro 80s” Game Days for my players who never had the opportunity to come home from school on Friday afternoons and game non-stop until Sunday night, fueled on little more than Mountain Dew and Cheetos. Since I had backed the Kickstarter at a level where I received all eight double-sided maps as well as the campaign cards, I decided to convert “The Emerald Spire” to 5th edition to use as my old-school dungeon crawl.

The module’s base of operations, Fort Inevitable, requires little conversion as most of the conflicts there are political rather than physical. The dungeon’s levels are designed to equal the PC levels, meaning at 1st level the characters should be able to take on level 1, and by 8th level they should be able to handle level 8. As my players started at level 3, I needed to increase the power of each level a bit.

Below you will find some of my conversions for Level 5, “The Drowned Level”. You will not find detailed information on the Emerald Spire. If you aren’t running “The Emerald Spire”, you may still find these new monsters helpful for your home campaign.

Reining in Dexterity: Initiative House Rule Option #3

Michael Long has posted two articles on interesting ways to make Initiative faster and more fluid in 5e. Those articles, plus an ongoing conversation with J.M. Perkins about Strength vs Dexterity in D&D (and roleplaying games in general), inspired the house rules I use for Initiative around my own table.

A short version of these rules were presented in the first installment of the Emerald Spire conversions. This article goes into more detail on design considerations and other rules.