Running an Epic Con Game: Adventure Preparation

If you want to run a game at a convention, you want it to be epic and for people to remember both you and your game. Much of that has to do with what you do before you get to the table as much as what you do during the game. Previously, we talked about how you make pregen characters and set up the character sheets. Today we are looking at preparation for your adventure.

1) Decide What to Show Off

When you are running a game, the most important thing is showing how is this game different. If you are running what would otherwise be a Pathfinder and D&D adventure just in a different system, the gamers leaving the table will think they might as well have been playing one of those games. You need to show them what is different with this game to make them want to give up their regular game and play the game you are running.

Take Traveller for example. Unlike D&D/Pathfinder, the combat and skills are the same system and skills can switch their “attributes” depending on the situation so any introduction convention game should show these off. So firing a gun uses See Dex and the Gun Combat skill. However, if a player wants to perform a ballistics test on the weapon, that would use Intellect or Education. So I would make sure to show off how those skills can switch attributes. If your game lets magic users cast unlimited spells but have to make a roll, make the adventure that requires magical solution.

This does not have to be exclusively about system. Setting is just as important a difference to communicate. If your game makes dragons far more approachable and not be a bag of fire-breathing hit points, show that off in your game. If your setting has a major city made of giant mushrooms and pixies are in charge of construction, show that off. D&D and Pathfinder tend to take themselves seriously so an adventure and setting that was more light-hearted would be a welcome change. Show that off.

And with that we move to our second point.

2) Aim to Use 75% Of the Time

If you have a two-hour time slot, make a 90-minute adventures. Four hours? Make a three-hour adventure? If you run over your time, players are going to be unhappy with you and remember your game in a negative light. Players will be players and will screw around. Good. They should. If they do, that means they are enjoying your game. But that uses time you would otherwise use for your game. Leave time for them for sheer enjoyment. 75% is a good aim. If you finish with an hour to spare, they have extra time to wander the dealer’s hall; they won’t be upset. They will be unhappy if you are cutting into their lunch break or missing the start of their next game. Build in time for that.

My final point involves the adventure itself.

3) Structure a 4 Act Adventure

When you make a four-hour adventure, divide the adventure into four parts:

  1. Character Evaluation / Introduction
  2. The Hook
  3. The Twist
  4. The Finale

Character evaluation begins the moment you and a player get to the table. The players present get to start looking at the character sheets right away and pick what they want to play. Reward the early arrivers with being able to get the character they want.

Introduction is where you tell the players what the adventure is. This is when the wounded guard stumbles into the tavern reporting that the prince is taken before dying. Here is where the players get the mission before the message self destructs. Try to keep this part to no more than half hour.

Second part is the hook. Here is where the players go, “This is fun!” Show off what makes this game fun. The twist is pure plot, where something is revealed or discovered. These two parts should take 30 minutes to an hour in a typical four-hour game.

One of these two sections should be combat. The other should be problem solving. If both of these are problem solving, the players will get tired and worn out. If both are combat, it will be a slog and get to be boring. Making each different keeps them interesting and lively.

The final section is the climax. The finale should be a surprise to you let alone everyone else at the table. Sure you should have an idea of how it goes, but players should be allowed to do whatever they want. If the big bad is guarding a MacGuffin and you figure they are going to fight the big bad in a climatic battle and they instead decide to sneak past and steal it, don’t put unreasonable impediments in their way; let them do it their way. Forcing them to do it your way will make them think their choices have no impact on the game, and it will spoil their fun. Let them do what they want.

If you are looking for an excellent adventure to run for a convention game for Pathfinder or D&D 5e, grab yourself the adventure Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider. Download now at the JonBrazer.com, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

5e: Path of the Giant

Recently we released Book of Heroes: Fearless Barbarian Paths for the Fifth Edition of the Worlds Oldest Fantasy Roleplaying Game. This book features 8 new paths for players that love to see their characters fly into a rage and destroy every enemy that comes into their path. Previously we shared with you the Path of the War Avatar. Today we are sharing with you a monster-themed subclass: Path of the Giant.

Higher level 5e and similar game adventures tend to focus around one of a few ideas: fiends, undead, constructs, and giants. With their mythological origins, giants make a wonderful enemy to fight as you advance through the game. Over the years, giant themed class options and races have become player options as well. This one barbarian subclass celebrates those old adventures and those races and class options available over the years. We hope that you will enjoy this offering as well.

Download Book of Heroes: Fearless Barbarian Paths, for your Fifth Edition game today at the JBE Shop, the Open Gaming Store, and DriveThruRPG.

Path of the Giant
The blood of giants flows in you. At no point in time is that heritage more obvious than when you are raging. You grow larger and your reach becomes extraordinary. Feats of strength are nothing to you. None but a true giant can stand against you.

Giant Size

When you choose this path at 3rd level, you grow in size when you rage. While you are still the same size category as before, you are obviously taller and wider when raging. Additionally, your reach with melee weapons increases by 5 feet.

Giant Body

Also at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with Strength (Athletics) checks; if you already are proficient with this skill, you add double your proficiency bonus when making these checks. Additionally, you can now speak, read, and write Giant.

Giant Heritage

Starting at 6th level, you select one of the following giant types: cloud, fire, frost, hill, stone, storm. The type of giant you choose determines what ability you gain.
Cloud. You can cast the spells fog cloud and misty step once per day each.
Fire. You gain resistance to fire damage.
Frost. You gain resistance to cold damage.
Hill. You gain resistance to poison damage.
Stone. You gain the rock catching ability. If a rock or similar bulky object is hurled at you, you can catch the missile with a successful DC 10 Dexterity saving throw, thereby taking no bludgeoning damage from it.
Storm. You gain resistance to lightning damage.

Rock Throwing

Upon reaching 10th level, you can throw rocks like your giant forebears. You can make a ranged weapon attack with a rock or similar bulky object at a range of 30/120 ft. that hits one target. A successful hit deals 2d10 bludgeoning damage. Both the attack and damage rolls use your Strength modifier instead of your Dexterity modifier. At 14th level, this attack has a range of 60/240 ft. and deals 3d10 bludgeoning damage on a successful hit.

Powerful Attack

At 14th level, you can send your opponent flying after an attack. After you make an Attack action with a melee weapon, you can use your bonus action to make the target attempt a Constitution saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier). A failed save pushes the creature 5 feet away from you. Failing the save by 5 or more means the creature moves 10 feet away from you and is knocked prone.

5e: Unleash the Barbarian Fury Upon Your Game

Devastate Your Enemies with Fury

Beware the raging barbarian, who can unleash destructive forces that few others can conceive, let alone achieve. Now you can play the barbarian hero you have always wanted to. Tap into your demonic heritage and conquer those that oppose you or show your passion and anger to win the day.
Inside the 14 pages of the Book of Heroes: Fearless Barbarian Paths, you will find Fifth Edition subclasses like:

  • Pyrorager, wielding anger that burns so hot as to literally catch on fire
  • Skald, combining fury with inspiration and spells to bring ruin to enemies and boons to allies
  • War Avatar, blessed with rage as a gift from the god of war, becoming an instrument of divine savagery
  • And many more!

Be the Hero You’ve Always Known You Are With These Awesome Character Options Today.

Download Book of Heroes: Fearless Barbarian Paths, for your Fifth Edition game today at the JBE Shop, the Open Gaming Store, and DriveThruRPG.

5e: Greater Air Elemental

We at JBE absolutely love Fifth Edition. This game is one we enjoy every chance we get. Writing for it is fun and a challenge.

Today we would like to share with you a greater air elemental. This monster comes from the much delayed Book of Heroes: Conjurable Creatures. The book contains a number of monsters perfect for your character to summon with the various conjure spells in 5e.

Be sure to check out all our 5e titles at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

Greater Air Elemental

Huge elemental, neutral
Armor Class 16
Hit Points 133 (14d12 + 42)
Speed 0 ft., fly 90 ft.


STR 17 (+3) DEX 23 (+6) CON 16 (+3)
INT 8 (–1) WIS 11 (+0) CHA 9 (–1)


Damage Resistance lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities exhaustion, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained, unconscious
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages Auran
Challenge 9 (5,000 XP)


Air Form. The elemental can enter a hostile creature’s space and stop there. It can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.

Actions


Multiattack. The elemental makes two slam attacks.
Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 22 (3d10 + 6) bludgeoning damage.
Whirlwind (Recharge 4–6). Each creature in the elemental’s space must make a DC 16 Strength saving throw. On a failure, a target takes 30 (5d10 + 3) bludgeoning damage and is flung up 20 feet away from the elemental in a random direction and knocked prone. If a thrown target strikes an object, such as a wall or floor, the target takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it was thrown. If the target is thrown at another creature, that creature must succeed on a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw or take the same damage and be knocked prone.
If the saving throw is successful, the target takes half the bludgeoning damage and isn’t flung away or knocked prone.

5e: Path of the War Avatar

After we released our first supplement of subclasses for Fifth Edition covering the fighter, we asked you over on our Facebook page and at Twitter which classes you want to see more subclasses for. One of those classes that got quite a bit of comments on was the barbarian. Well you asked for it and we delivered. We are working on our next supplement for 5e being the Book of Heroes: Fearless Barbarian Paths.

Today we are showing off one of those barbarian paths: the Path of the War Avatar. The original inspiration for this path comes from none other than Robert E Howards. It is said that he believed that the spirit of Conan come into his body when he was writing down those very tales. From there, the idea of having a barbarian filled with the piece of the god of war seemed almost poetic. So raise a glass to Howard and enjoy this barbarian path.

Path of the War Avatar

You do not describe your rage as simple anger, but as a blessing from a god of war. You feel the connection to that divine entity radiating through you, causing you to pulse with divine energy as you battle.

War Strike

When you choose this path at 3rd level, you gain the ability to attack more often. After using the Attack action, you can make another weapon attack as a bonus action, gaining your full ability modifier to the damage roll. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Raging Strike

Starting at 6th level, you are divinely gifted with knowing where the perfect strike should land. The first Attack action you make after entering a rage receives a +10 bonus to the roll.

Divine Representative

Upon reaching 10th level, your connection to your deity gives you advantage on all Charisma checks made when conversing with celestials and fiends.

War Avatar Body

At 14th level, choose one of the following damage types: bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage. You gain resistance against all nonmagical weapons that deal the chosen damage type.

Download Book of Heroes: Fearless Barbarian Paths, for your Fifth Edition game today at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

5e/Pathfinder/13th Age: Guide to Minions

In a previous post, I wrote up a guide to mini-bosses. The thing about mini-bosses, they’re nothing without those to boss around. Today we are following that post up with the group that makes the last group possible: minions.

Minions come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of willingness. While fantasy and science fiction races that are weak, selfish, and not particularly clever are typically seen as the normal minion groups, always remember the Empire in Star Wars treated Wookiees as minions and that species is anything but weak or selfish and Chewbacca proved they are quite clever. So what makes a minion a minion?

1) Minions are Controlled in Some Fashion

Whether it is a psychic link that takes over a mind or a security of a regular pay check, the mini-boss gives orders and the minion follows. That at the end of the day that is what makes a minion a minion. Does that make most of the civilized world someone’s minion? Yes actually it does. However, I am not advocating you overthrow your boss. Remember it is both the organization treats those minions as well as those outside the organization that determines whether the company is evil or not. A lumber company that hires orcs and hill giants as a way to give them honest work as opposed to raiding human villages, gets all the appropriate permits in an above board fashion, works with the local fey to remove select trees with their permission, and hires orcs to guard the logs on their way to the mill still uses minion even if those minions are working for a good company. Compare that with the human only lumber company that bribed officials to work a section of forest right next to the good company. They attack the fey and fight the hill giants and ogres whenever they leave the human permitted area and enter the other company’s territory prompting both to defend themselves and possibly attack back. Not only does the human company fail to plant new trees but they also try to steal the felled trees from the other lumber company. This company as well uses minions. The first one controls their people with a regular pay check and a desire to be law-abiding citizens; the second controls their minions through a desire for violence and quick cash.

While the word minion has negative connotations, it covers employee, freelance contractor, slave, indentured servant, thrall, and many others just to name a few. Use the full breadth of the term to give real variation to your organizations, evil or otherwise.

2) Minions Fill a Variety of Roles and Can Be Found at Every Level

Frequently, I hear the question, “Why doesn’t [insert name of ultra high level NPC in the setting] just take care of this minor problem?” The answer is simple: they can’t handle everything. Take a modern world variation of that problem: if you have a question on your taxes, do you go to the best accountant in the world or do you go to the local accounting firm and ask someone there (an accounting minion to use a gamified term)? The best in the world is busy handling other cases that can pay more. Instead, we get it handled by an accounting minion. Now if you start a business and it becomes rather sizable, you’ll need higher level accounting minions. You wouldn’t ask them to do plumbing work because they do not fill that role. You would need a minion that is trained in plumbing.

Same is true for fantasy games. Kobolds are the go-to minions when mining, gnolls when taking slaves, hobgoblins when needing military like precision, goblins for random violence, and orcs when slaughtering people indiscriminately. Each of these has their own role. So why not just have a higher level one handle this? Well the higher level hobgoblin is training the next group of recruits, the higher level gnolls are working their connections to sell their slaves, higher level kobolds are scouting out potential caves to mine, and on and on. The higher level ones have better uses for their time than to do the same thing as their lower level compatriots.

So when you get to a higher level, you need new minions to fight. Demons, devil’s, undead, and giants are the classics. Unless you are playing a convention/organized play-style game where one session has nothing to do with the other, these higher level minions are working towards the same end (if a different aspect of the overall plan) as those same low level minions. Why would the giants and devils be working towards the same ends as the kobolds and gnolls? The simple answer is ‘because the big boss of the whole campaign is all having them work towards a single goal.’ While you could train up a bunch of orcs to do your bidding instead of working with a number of different groups, it would be much simpler to take advantage of some other group of minions’ natural strengths when they lend themselves to solving a particular problem. Just like you don’t ask an accountant to do plumbing, you don’t ask a goblin to solve a problem that a requires patience and planning, things devils excel at. So change up the monsters you are using as minions to fulfill a different aspect of your big bad’s overall plan.

3) Minions Have Similar Stats, Despite Being Individuals

Minions are a collection of individuals. Each one has different stats if you wanted to take the time to create unique stats for each. However, minions can instead be represented by a single stat block. Sure, that single stat block is not going to catch the nuance of one loving to solve true crime mysteries while another appreciates listening to music, but if all you are having them do is fight the PCs, then those abilities don’t really matter. Making a minion stat block that presents average stats for a group saves considerable time.

Back to that accounting example for a second. All those accountants at the tax firm can be represented by a single stat block. You don’t need to assign stats for their individual hobbies and other life events unless it is somehow relevant. You’ll need their ability to crunch numbers and use their stapler offensively. Maybe wield a letter opener if you want to be cute about it. Remember these are supposed to be average stats for the group, not specific stats for everyone. Making a single stat block for the whole group doesn’t prevent you from making a single stat block for a specific accountant. So you can have a stat block for the NPC that discovered the company’s fraud and became the whistle blower. Had that NPC not done that and just stayed another face in the crowd, they would still be just another minion with the same minion stats. As always, the Order of the Stick has a great comic that exemplifies what it is like going from a minion to a named NPC.

Quick tangent here: feel free to change the stats of any monster in the monster books. If the book says a lizardfolk has 5 hit dice (as an example), feel free to make it 3 if it fits your needs that way. Five is just an average. Maybe this tribe is composed of young lizardfolk. Maybe they’ve been starved or are sickly. The book has average stats. Raise or lower them as your game needs. This goes doubly true for specific NPCs instead of minions. Individuals can vary widely from the average of their kind. Just remember to change its level of difficulty to match the new stats.

Speaking of monster books, be sure to download our monster books for Pathfinder 1e, DnD 5e, and Mongoose Traveller 2e.

Christmas in July Sale 2019

It’s the middle of summer. The temperature is murder. In about a month, it will be time for new role playing groups to form and for existing groups to get back together and roll some dice. So now is the time for you to grab some of the best PDFs on the market at 25% off their regular price over at DriveThruRPG. What better place to start than with Jon Brazer Enterprises’ Pathfinder, D&D 5e, 13th Age, and 1e Mongoose Traveller books. All the books you have been wanting are now on sale. Grab them now for this awesome price.

Traveller

All of our 1e Mongoose Traveller books are on sale. for 25% off. Grab the Vehicles of the Frontier, Mech Squadrons, Fighters and Small Ships, and of course the d66 Compendium. See all of our other 1e Mongoose Traveller RPG books we have for sale right here at DriveThruRPG. All of these books and more you can treat yourself to right now at a great price.

Fifth Edition

We have an awesome group of Deadly Delve adventures available for Fifth Edition for 25% off during the Christmas in July Sale. Check out our 1st level adventure Doom of the Sky Sword, 2nd level adventure Rescue from Tyrkaven 7th-8th level adventure Reign of Ruin, and 15th-18th level adventure Temple of Luminescence. Prefer to make your own adventures? Grab the Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Forbidden Woods. Are you a player? Grab the Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1 and Player Races 2. Get all these and more for Fifth Edition.

Pathfinder 1e

Sticking with Pathfinder 1e? Here are some awesome options you shouldn’t pass up while they are on sale. Want to play a new race? Grab the Book of Heroic Races Compendium and the Advanced Compendium for even more options. Play a spellcaster? Check out the Book of Magic: Signature Spells 2, 7 Spellcaster Feats, Patron Hexes, Insurgency of Summer, and Pirate Spells. Need modules beyond the low levels? Check out the 9th level Deadly Delves adventure The Gilded Gauntlet, 11th level adventure The Chaosfire Incursion, 12th level adventure Nine Lives for Petane, and 16th level adventure The Dragon’s Dream. There is lots more for Pathfinder on sale now.

5e: Doombat

Writing monsters is a simple joy that I do not do enough. I really should since new monsters are at the core of the much delayed Book of Heroes: Conjurable Creatures. This book when it is finally finished and released is for any spellcaster that utilizes the various conjure spells in Fifth Edition. As such this book is perfect for druids, wizards, rangers and those that can use the spell list from one of these classes. Plus it doubles as a monster book for GMs.

We really love this book and know you will enjoy it as well, just as soon as we finish it up. In the meantime, here’s the doombat—one of the monsters from this book—that I recently wrote. Not only is it useful for GMs but it is perfect for a druid casting conjure fey as a 7th level spell. As you can see in the link, there are previous few options for that spell in that level range, which is something Book of Heroes: Conjurable Creatures aims to fix.

Doombat

Huge animal, neutral
Armor Class 15
Hit Points 171 (18d12 + 54)
Speed 10 ft., fly 40 ft.
STR 10 (+0) DEX 21 (+5) CON 16 (+3)
INT 5 (–3) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 6 (–2)
Skills Perception +5
Senses blindsight 120 ft., passive Perception 15
Languages
Challenge 7 (2,900 XP)


Echolocation. While it can’t hear, the doombat has no blindsight.
Keen Hearing. The doombat has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing.

Actions


Multiattack. The doombat makes three attacks: one bite and two wing buffet.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (3d10 + 5) piercing damage.
Wing Buffet. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d6 + 5) bludgeoning damage.
Deafening Cry (Recharge 5–6). A doombat can unleash a scream that can cause any non-bats to recoil in pain. All non-bat creatures within a 30 feet radius that can hear takes a 45 (13d6) points of thunder damage and is deafened for the next minute. Any creatures that succeeds a DC 15 Constitution saving throw takes half damage and is not deafened.

Image by Nicole Cardiff

3 Keys to Reskinning an Adventure

As I mentioned, my “office” game is Tales of the Yawning Portal. Previously, I talked about reasons to use published adventures and how to turn published modules into a campaign. Today I want to talk about keys to taking a published adventure and turning it into what you need for your campaign. This process is called reskinning and it is pretty easy.

1) Figure Out What to Keep

The single biggest reason to use a published adventure at all is to save time. So if you are not using a published adventure as written, you have to ask yourself why you’re not simply using a different adventure. Some reasons include you like the map, or the story, or perhaps some unique monster. These are the things about the original adventure you will want to keep in your reskinned final version of the adventure.

This will also tell you what about this adventure you need to change. If you simply do not like the map, then all you need to do is draw a different map and perhaps change the read aloud text to describe the vicinity. If the level of the adventure does not work for you, figure out if can you just increase or decrease some of the numbers in the monsters/difficulties to make it work? This works best if the level of adventure is only 3 or less levels away the character’s level. Any wider a gap and the designers probably did not anticipate the capabilities of the characters (whether in their favor or not) to be able to complete the adventure. If some of the monsters simply do not grab you, then it is time to use those creative skills you have in you and craft a new one. Alternatively, you could just a monster book and switch out the offending monster with a new one.

2) Add New Reasons to Go In

Changing the premise of the adventure is the easiest thing to do. If the adventure is at the right level, features enemies you want to pit against the characters, and has a map you like but the reasons the module has for going on the adventure don’t work for your campaign, change it to something that does work for you.

When you do that, make sure to add multiple reasons for the characters to go on the adventure. Players and their characters are not monolithic. Seeking out a treasure horde does not always excite them. Similarly, serving the good deity if goodness is not always proper motivation. Having a handful of reasons means that everyone can find something. These reasons should be a mix of long term campaign reasons and some reasons specific to this adventure.

3) Just Use the Encounters

If you want to be dramatic and essentially throw out the adventure, there are still parts of you you can keep. Namely, the monsters and their proportions (aka the encounters). By using the encounters, you know the battles are already balanced; the math is already worked out. All you have to do from there is focus on the map, the descriptions, the reasons to go in, and maybe make a monster more or less difficult. Translation: do everything above.

This works great when you have an adventure that takes place that doesn’t work for your campaign—such as a volcano like in Deadly Delves: The Chaosfire Incursion—and you want it to take place elsewhere, like in a magical glacier. Well you will need new maps and will need to rewrite all the flavor text. However, you can keep all the encounters, simply renaming the monsters and changing fire damage to cold and the …. well that is a spoiler for the adventure.

The real advantage of doing this is you save time on crafting your own adventure, but you save some by using whatever parts of the existing adventure work for you. Plus you have a template for how the story should flow, giving you a basis for your own version of the adventure.

Download all of Jon Brazer Enterprises’ adventures for 13th Age, Fifth Edition, and Pathfinder at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, and the Open Gaming Store.

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