Fans of any RPG system other than D&D and Pathfinder can have a tough time finding each other. Most often you have to convince your D&D/Pathfinder group to try something different. Maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t.

However, I encourage all gamers of smaller games to play online, especially over Fantasy Grounds. Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds are excellent platforms for playing games with those already interested in the same game so you do not need to convince the group to play something they may be hesitant about. While Roll20 is good, Fantasy Grounds is my preferred platform. The fact that it has native Mongoose Traveller support only adds to my love of the platform.

If you are a fan of Mongoose Traveller but are not sure about playing it online, check out the Fantasy Grounds Academy. They have a video series about playing Mongoose Traveller 2e over Fantasy Grounds. Give it a watch and plan a campaign over this virtual tabletop platform.

If you already play your games over Fantasy Grounds, check out the JBE titles available there and download our Traveller, D&D 5e and 13th Age titles there, as well as battle maps and tokens ideal for ship battles in Traveller and Starfinder.

I fully believe that every game system has some idea worth stealing. From D&D 4e, it is the idea of a skill challenge, making multiple skill checks towards a larger goal. However I feel the idea needs refined some and I am going to talk about that here, using my home Pathfinder 2e game as an example.

For the Halloween game I ran this past weekend, the group came across a poltergeist and killed it, but it’s essence returned to it’s chained up coffin. When they discovered it, I gave them these rules:

To put the troubled spirit to rest, you have to perform a ritual. The ritual requires a series of skill checks. The DC of the first check is 20 and increases by 2 for each subsequent check. This continues until you have succeeded or failed 3.

You can use any skill you choose as long as it can be reasonably justified and you describe how you use the skill for the overall ritual. The others in the group can help using the Aid action. However their help requires them to use the same skill check. The DC is the same DC for the main check -4.

However, once you use a skill, you cannot use it again for the entire group.

I will admit that is edited slightly from what I gave them. I made these changes after seeing it in action. Playtesting and all that.

Feel free to use these in your own game. Obviously, adjust the DC to your own game. If you use DC 20 in 5e, it may result in a complete failure. However, if your group is 15th level Pathfinder 2e, they probably have bonuses to skills above 20. The first check should be relatively easy. Everyone in my group had a +13 to at least one skill so they only needed to roll a 7 (without any Aid from others in the group) to pass the check.

Here’s the real kicker though, and I had to point this out to my players so you may need to as well. The DC increases by 2 for each check. So the second is DC 22, third is DC 24, and so on. This means they now we’re looking at which skills that were good but not their best for the first one, saving their better skills for future checks. Now, order mattered.

The adventure itself was a solid one and I might right it up during the next year and release it as a Halloween adventure next year.

Speaking of Halloween, DriveThruRPG is running a Halloween sale right now. You can get a number of JBE’s Pathfinder and D&D 5e titles on sale right now. Check them out and download today.

Traveller: Kurland Wallpaper

We haven’t released much wallpaper lately so with the release of the Solomani Worlds: Kurland Cluster, we are happy to give you a new beautiful image for your computer screen. Download and enjoy today. Don’t forget to download Solomani Worlds: Kurland Cluster and the rest of our Traveller products at DriveThruRPG.

A Cluster of Danger and Opportunity

Born from the same nebula, these Imperial-ruled systems border Solomani space. Here, tensions between the Solomani Party and the Imperial government constantly threaten trouble. Caught between are the aliens and ordinary citizens just trying to make a better life for themselves. Travellers fly their missions amid these struggles, delivering cargo and helping people along the way.

Tell stories you never could before with the Solomani Worlds: Kurland Cluster. Inside this 22-page book for the Traveller Roleplaying Game, you will find:

  • 39 worlds and moons across 6 parsecs
  • More than 12 detailed planets, complete with plot hooks for your next adventure
  • 3 beautiful solar system maps
  • Inspiring artwork to fuel your imagination

Take Your Game to New Worlds of Adventure.

Download Solomani Worlds: Kurland Cluster today at DriveThruRPG.

When it comes to Traveller, I love maps as much as the next person. Just looking at TravellerMap.com can be mesmerizing. The sheer quantity of information available there is just astounding. There are other resources for planetary maps of main Traveller worlds and generators and they are all great, but the one thing I am no seeing much of (and I admit, it may be out there and I just don’t know about it) is a solar system map set for every planet out there. So that is something we aimed at helping Traveller refs, starting with the Solomani Worlds: Kurland Cluster.

Planets and Background by Justin Andrew Mason

Of the six systems cover in Kurland Cluster, three of them have solar system maps such as this one right here. While not to scale, this gives you an idea of what the individual planets look like and their relative positions. Not only that, describe within details about many of the planet, like how Viduus is a gas giant with a massive quantity of electrical storms and a pilot would have to be either desperate or suicidal (or both) to try refueling there, even if Liber is a full week away when travelling with standard grav drives, two weeks if your starting destination is Libitina.

We’re almost done with this supplement and we hope you pick it up as soon as it is done. Grab our other Traveller supplements at DriveThruRPG today.

There’s an old gaming axiom: never split the party. Sure it started with D&D, but it is equally true for every other RPG out there. There are many, MANY reasons why, but really they can be boiled down to just three.

1) It’s Boring For Everyone Else

The GM and half the group are doing something and there is no chance of you showing up and making a difference. More often than not, you (or another player just like you) will take the opportunity to check your phone. Sure you might be half listening, but this is your chance for your mind to wander. Why? You’re bored. It’s best for the group to stick together; you’ll be paying attention the whole time.

2) You Lack the Skills to Do the Job Right

Groups tend to not have much crossover in terms of their abilities. Where skills and abilities to accomplish a task that overlap with someone else tend to have one person doing the job and the other person bored while they sit it out. So most groups tend to spread their skills and abilities out. It has the bonus of covering more areas. Those spread out abilities have the downside of no one can cover all areas. So you might be exceptional at arcane knowledge and can identify something from across the room but lack the ability to sneak over there and steal it with no one noticing. More often than not, you’re relying on another group member to do the sneaking. Split the party and the sneaking member might be missing.

3) You’re More Likely to Die

Here’s the big one. If the GM is expecting combat for a given part of a mission and you all split the party, the GM either has to make the combat easier on the fly or run it as is and most likely cause serious harm to the characters or have them fail. Monsters that are balanced for the whole group can outright murder half. You have half the amount of targets, total hit points, number of attacks per round. So instead of spreading out the damage across multiple people, more is focused on fewer people. Making matters worse, you’re able to deal out half the amount of damage as normal, prolonging the battle and giving the monster more time to harm you, making that half the targets and total hit points even worse. All the while, the other half the group has to look on helplessly while being bored. It is a just a downright bad idea to split the party.

Check out all of our 3 Rules advice posts, and download our supplements at DriveThruRPG and the Open Gaming Store. Grab our supplements for your games online at the Fantasy Grounds Store.

Over a year in and the pandemic is still going on. The current strain is even more virulent and half the country is refusing to get vaccinated. So if you haven’t been gaming over a Virtual Tabletop, now is a good time to start. If you are, here are three rules for gaming over a VTT.

Before I start, I want to say that my specific examples are from Fantasy Grounds since that is the platform I am most familiar with, but these principles apply to every VTT platform.

1) Patience, Patience, Patience

Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, Foundry, even just a dice roller on a Discord server is more difficult than picking up some dice and rolling. People have different learning curves and different levels of comfort with technology in general. Be patient. How patient? Quite a bit more than you think you will need.

2) Prepping for a Game is the Same, Yet Different

When I prep for a game at the table, I read (again) the adventure, make notes on how to adjust it, post post-it notes on pages for all the monsters with minis selected, and draw my maps on my wet-erase battle map. When I prep for a game over Fantasy Grounds, I read the adventure (again) but this time in Fantasy Grounds, make the changes to the adventure, make sure the monster encounters are set with tokens, and have maps set and noted for easy access. So it’s the same, but completely different.

3) Be Prepared for Low Rolls

I have only known one player that rolled worse than the dice roller of any VTT. Every single VTT dice roller I’ve used produces poor results. So I am much more lenient when I choose skills I make the players roll on, handing out bonuses or advantage or otherwise giving the players some help. Every player always gets inspiration at the start of every game session. When I can set the DC low, I do so. I help the players do well. Gaming over a VTT is not for the killer DM unless they want new characters every single session.

Bonus) Remind Your Gamers About Game

Reminding my players about game has produced my gamers showing up more consistently on time. I do a “T Minus 4 hours until game. Be there or be square,” to keep my light and fun while still saying, “Show up on time.” Even then, I pretty much consider the first 15-30 minutes chat time. This is the only time for some to socialize. Let them socialize.

Check out all of our 3 Rules advice posts, and download our supplements at DriveThruRPG and the Open Gaming Store. Grab our supplements for your games online at the Fantasy Grounds Store.

The nice things about the long adventure books of D&D or Pathfinder Adventure Paths is that they make the brunt of the work of creating a long campaign off the GMs shoulders. You have a book in front of you; just do what it says comes next. The down side: the player characters are interchangeable. Standard balanced party, great. Party of clerics, all good. Three fighters and a druid, sure. As such, they can feel like the characters don’t have a connection to the campaign. They don’t feel their particular character is invested in the campaign. So what do you do?

1) Have The Players Describe a Connection

This one can be kind of cheap, but it’s effective, at least for the beginning of a campaign. Here you’re asking for characters to come up with a connection to the campaign through a common NPC. Make them all like the NPC or outright hate them; don’t mix and match. If you’re going for like, something has to happen to the NPC. If it is hatred, they’re banding together for revenge. Either way, this gives the group of strangers a reason to work together and begin adventuring.

Like I said, this one is cheap because either you’re solving this quickly and getting to the main campaign where you’re back to the original problem of characters being interchangeable or it’s a sizable chunk of the campaign, if not the whole campaign, at which point you’re back to the main problem. So how do you keep players feeling their characters are invested throughout the whole campaign?

2) Modify an Arc

Adventure Paths have multiple books, each telling an independent story that build towards the main story. Long campaign books are divided into various sections where the parts of the story make up the larger whole. You don’t need to do major rewrites to incorporate a character’s backstory and help them feel invested. Instead it can be as easily as renaming someone or adding some flavor to their backstory. A backstory describes a parent being murdered by a six-fingered person and stole a precious sword. Boom! The main bad guy of this section now has an extra digit and their weapon is familiar to the character. Someone is the last of their people? That is what the helpful NPC thought as well. Someone wants to reclaim a relic? Guess what the bad guy of an arc is wielding now.

3) Add a Side Quest

Between chapters of a long campaign or books in an adventure path is the perfect time for a side quest. Either write it yourself or use a short adventure module. Just make sure that it directly ties into the characters and their backstories. This is a fun way to give your players something directly relevant to their characters as well as reward them with some unique magic items and more. Plus it gives them a bit of extra experience, covering encounters they may have missed earlier, and it breaks up the main story line, giving the players some breathing room. It’s an all around win-win.

Check out all of our 3 Rules advice posts, and download our supplements at DriveThruRPG and the Open Gaming Store. Grab our supplements for your games online at the Fantasy Grounds Store.

5e: Screaming Bolas

So I absolutely love this artwork. It was created by Beatrice Pelagatti for a project that got cancelled for a number of reasons. So I am posting it here on our blog. We’re working on versions for this Pathfinder and 13th Age.

This post was made possible by our Patreon supporters. Join our Patron to support our blog and make more posts like this possible. While you’re at it, download our supplements at DriveThruRPG and the Open Gaming Store. Grab our supplements for your games online at the Fantasy Grounds Store.

Screaming Bolas

Weapon (bolas), uncommon

Created from two shrunken heads connected by a length of rope, when the wielder hurls the screaming bolas up to 60 feet and speaks its command word, it lets out a terrible shriek that burns the mind of all it passes nearby. All creatures within 5 feet of the line the bolas pass through must make a DC 13 Charisma saving throw, taking 4d6 psychic damage on a failed save, and half as much damage on a successful one. Whenever the bolas strikes a Large or smaller creature with a ranged weapon attack, the creature is grappled and takes 4d6 psychic damage. Additionally, the grappled creature must succeed a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or be deafened until the end of their next turn. A critical hit does not increase the damage but instead knocks the target creature prone. Undoing the grappled condition on the creature requires an action. 

The bola’s property cannot be used again until the next day. Instead, it can be hurled as a magical bolas.

Book of Heroes: Heroic Fighter Archetypes DnD5e

One of the things I LOVED about third edition was all the racial options we had. There are so many that are rather imaginative and inspiring that I do not feel have been duplicated in the current edition. So I thought I would create a scratch-off-the-serial-numbers version of one of my favorites. So today I bring you grave gnomes.

Grave gnomes are named not because they they are close to the dead but because they are as silent as the grave. This is the human name for them. In Gnomish, their name for themselves translates to “the whispering ones.” They lack the jovial attitude that is associated with their more well known brethren. They can be single-mindly focused on attacking their enemies and defending the few they let in close. When they are not spying on their enemies they are sharpening their weapons and tending to their armor.

Grave Gnomes

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 1.

Martial Knowledge. Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to weapons or technological devices related to war, you can add twice your proficiency bonus, instead of any proficiency bonus you would normally apply.

Blending. When you attempt to hide, you can attempt to blend in with their surroundings. You gain advantage on all Dexterity (Stealth) checks for one minute. Once you use this ability, you cannot use it again until you complete a short or long rest.

This post was made possible by our Patreon supporters. Join our Patron to support our blog and make more posts like this possible. While you’re at it, download our supplements at DriveThruRPG and the Open Gaming Store. Grab our supplements for your games online at the Fantasy Grounds Store.