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.
All you need to hear from me about my love for Chris West can already be found here on Tribality (see links below), so it isn’t a surprise that a new Kickstarter of his is going to top my list [and this one started just last night, so way to get in under the wire, Chris.] But wait, there’s more! Chris has also designed one of the most beautiful aquatic terrain maps I’ve ever seen as part of this set.
Aquatic maps and Chris West?! Take my money.
UPDATE: This Kickstarter funded in less than 48 hours and is rocking on to stretch goals. In addition, Chris has added a $250 level “that gets you a printed copy of every Maps of Mastery product available, shipped to your door.” That also includes the 2015 PDF Omnibus that includes a pile of bonus material and map variants. If I didn’t already own 2 of everything he’s ever made, I would be all over this level. I highly recommend it if you’re new to Chris’ maps or simply want multiple copies.
Oh, yeah. In case it’s not clear in the Kickstarter or the Closer Look post, you’re going to want multiple copies of each map because they link to each other, and even to themselves.
Man’s a genius.
Over the past few months, I’ve had a person and podcast called RpgGamerDad recommended to me numerous times, but it wasn’t until he did a piece on one of my Favorite Things in May, “No Thank You, Evil!”, that I finally took a listen.
I would love for you to do one of the following:
1) Download or Stream episode #33.5, jump to the 4:25 mark, and listen for 60 seconds. That’s however long it takes you to download/stream, plus one minute of the 1,440 minutes of your day.
2) or, just trust me and listen to the entire podcast about an awesome game by an adorable family.
I’m 95% sure that aside from the laughter of my own children, I’ve never heard anything as cute as RPGGamerBoy making this character.
Black Shark Enterprises is one man, designer Mark Cookman. I discovered Mark thanks to Shawn’s appearance on the Dungeon Master’s Block and correspondence we’ve had about my posts in “From the Depths”. When I finally got a chance to take a look at what Mark’s doing, I found my imagination lit by his small-press offerings.
For the volume of ideas that popped into my head flipping through these supplements, $1.99 each felt like a steal, especially if you love pirate campaigns, but aren’t as versed as you’d like to be in the real world lore.
Pirate GM’s Right Fist ($1.99)
The Pirate GM’s Right Fist is, at it’s heart, a collection of tables. I’ve seen supplements like this in the past and been unimpressed. These, however, gave me a half-dozen ideas within a few minutes of glancing over them. Encounter seeds for uncharted islands, coastal settlements, and the open seas are just the start. A chart of random ships cargo is perfect for shipwrecks, pirate plunder, or campaigns that start with your party hired to protect a merchant ship traveling from point A to point B.
I’m terrible at names, and pirate/sailor names are the bottom of my list. Mark’s list of real pirate names from history is a great way to get the feel of what NPCs should sound like even if you don’t use them directly.
But I think my favorite thing about this supplement is the Author Notes at the back. Mark has collected a page or two of trivia that is easily dropped into a sailing-focused campaign to add tons of flavor without bogging your games down with jargon your players may not understand.
Here’s an example:
“Because the most common size of barrel in the period was roughly the same size as a hog, it earned the name hogs head. Log entries often show the abbreviation H.Hd., for example 40 H.Hd. of Rum.”
Pirate GM’s Ships to Plunder ($1.99)
This supplement presents 10 fleshed out ships that include a description of what your players may see through a telescope, a brief history, details of the captain and the crew, the cargo, and each ship has one special thing that makes them unique, from a sea god’s blessing to a disease your PCs may carry back to the mainland. The greatest thing about these 10 write-ups is that each ship is only 1 page long! That means this information is detailed enough to be incredibly helpful, while being short enough to both digest quickly, and be able to modify on the fly for your own campaigns. As a bonus, Mark’s included 6 unique country/trade company flags for a fantasy or alt history campaign.
Adventure a Week: Aquatic Encounters Deck
The team over at Adventure a Week is regularly putting out cool stuff. This month, though, they put out something aimed right at me.
The Aquatic Encounters Deck contains 30 cards with random adventures seeds from wandering monsters, to strange islands, to waterborne traps, and more. One of the elegant things they did with the encounter cards is to provide three different CR creatures so you don’t have to keep pulling for an appropriate encounter for your group. Combine this deck with the Encounter Seeds articles here on Tribality and the Black Shark Enterprises encounter tables above and you should be set for a long time.
This month was one of artistic discovery as well. Several new artists popped through my feeds that blew me away, and they’re all working freelance in the industry right now. The first is Domenico Neziti, who you can find over at deviantart, as well as on Facebook, @ on Twitter, and also has a Patreon page.
Domenico’s unique color schemes and almost impressionistic interpritations of fantasy, scifi, and modern races, weapons, and scenery took me to a new and wonderful corner of my imagination. So much so that I’ve hired him to do a character sketch of my first-ever roleplaying game character.
While doing research for my own aquatic campaign setting, a friend shot me a link to this piece by Peter Mohrbacher. I don’t know exactly what the Angelarium is inspired by (novels, RPGs, etc), but I know I love it.
The final artist on my “I love it!” list this month is from across the pond. Dean Spencer’s work is the featured image at the top of this column and I can’t wait to throw this horrid beastie at my players (you’ll find a 5th ed D&D imagining of it in “From the Depths” soon). You can also find Dean on Patreon and he’s been taking votes on the kind of pieces he’ll be working on each month, as well as providing wallpapers of them.
You’ve heard me wax poetic about Lou Anders on the DM’s Block and RPG Academy, and you might have even heard me talk about him in person. It’s no secret I’m a big fan. I first heard his name floating around World Fantasy 2012, which was followed up by a Must-Listen-To episode of one of my other all-time Favorite Things, the Writing Excuses podcast. I’ve often referred to Lou as a genius when it comes to writing and editing, and I want to assure you that as excited as I get about the things I love, that claim is not meant to be hyperbolic. Just listen to the Writing Excuses podcast or his upcoming interview on RPGGamerDad and judge for yourself.
He’s since left editing for full-time writing, and the world of Middle Grade fiction is all the better for it. The reason he pops up in My Favorite Things this month is because I just recently discovered that Lou is the author of the highly acclaimed Throne and Bones series, the trailer for which you can see below. My niece and nephew are reading it now and loving it. If you want to sample two things on this list in one podcast, pop over to this adorable episode of RPG Gamer Dad and listen to RPG Gamer Boy create characters from Frostborn in the Fate Accelerated system and run through an adventure.
Full disclosure: at the time I added this little gem to my Favorite Things list, I had yet to be added to their team. That’s right, this Kickstarter got me so excited that I contacted the team at Legendary Games and asked them how I could help!
I always loved the idea of so-called sword-and-planet stories – John Carter was a staple around my house – but didn’t realize how much until recently. I talked a bit on the DM’s Block about how I enjoy mixing magic and technology, but for some reason I never connected that love of genre-bending to the actual genre of S&P, maybe because books like John Carter of Mars was far more sword than planet.
Legendary Games is putting together what promises to be an epic 8 part adventure path, introducing your campaign’s PCs to a broader universe no matter what their home planet may be. Just take a look at the video to see why I’m so excited.
From their Kickstarter:
Interplanetary Adventure, New Worlds, Ancient Civilizations, Alien Species, and more, with a delightful mix of magic and technology, with a dash of psionics and mythic challenges! Legendary Games brings you an eight-part, sword-and-planet adventure path; authored by some of the biggest names in the RPG business. Legendary Planet will take your characters across the multiverse, traveling alien gateways created by ancient, god-like beings to exotic worlds and back again in an incredible campaign like none other. Sword-swingers and spell-slingers stand alongside scoundrels and seekers for cosmic enlightenment as they unravel conspiracies and cryptic alliances bent on universal domination… or annihilation!
Full disclosure: Yup, yet another FD. I was developer on this project, so I can tell you in detail that this thing is one of the most intriguing, game-changing supplements I’ve seen in a long time.
This month was the release of a project that I have been talking about for a long time. J.M. Perkins is not only one of my favorite up-and-coming writers and game designers, I’m proud to call him a dear friend. I see on a weekly basis how J.M.’s brain works and when I was first asked to join the team here at Tribality, I immediately asked to bring him on board.
If you’ve been a reader with us for a while, you’ve probably seen his columns already, or perhaps heard him giving a laundry list of cool and horrific ideas over on Dungeon Master’s Block. If so, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
When J.M. and I were first discussing the Adequate Commoner, I thought it was a funny, quirky supplement that might have some novelty. After 10 minutes, though, I realized he’d created a supplement that would change the way I look at Pathfinder games.
The Adequate Commoner does more than give you a fun, We Be Goblins-style one shot for your campaign, it makes you rethink how you will approach every character you build from now on. When you take away the class from your PCs, you do more than simply nerf their power level, you put a focus on aspects of the game we all gloss over without thinking. Little things like which race you pick, or which traits you’ll focus on, become not just important, they become life-or-death.
- That extra feat from being a human translates into two class-skill-granting traits (see #5 below).
- With only one simple weapon proficiency, an elf’s proficiency with bows and swords suddenly looks incredible, not to mention a tengu’s four exotic weapons!
- Magic? You don’t get any. Too bad. Now a gnome’s minor illusions and prestidigitation starts looking pretty impressive, not to mention a drow’s veritable suite of magical action.
- An encounter where your barbarian would have kicked a door in while the wizard launched a fireball and rogue sneak attacked the boss into oblivion suddenly requires days of hard-core scouting, planning, and innovative use of marbles and smokesticks.
- Skills you don’t think twice about, like Animal Handling, Perception, or Use Magic Device become as important to you as any spell you’ve ever chosen. Sure, everyone loves a good Perception bonus, but knowing what is coming so you can set up an ambush becomes TPK prevention. In low-level groups (and for commoners that means somewhere less than 10th), a well-trained war dog may be the best fighter in your party! Who really thinks about Use Magic Device when you have both a cleric and a wizard in your group? Well now that wand of cure light wounds or scroll of fireball that works 50% of the time makes you one of the most powerful (and respected) members of your party!
The Adequate Commoner is, in reality, no joke. J.M. spends a lot of time talking about McGuyvering existing alchemical items, new rules for mundane traps, tactical considerations, and so much more in this book. If you are tired of your grognards and min-maxers blowing through every encounter you can throw at them and yawning all the while, convince them to play just a few levels of a commoner campaign and watch the Old School magic come back to their eyes.