Running an Epic Con Game: The Character Sheet

It is convention season and we at JBE want to help every GM running a roleplaying game at the con—whether it is published by my company or not—run something that players will remember. For a publisher, an introductory con game is a chance to sell players on your product. For a home GM running at a con, it is a chance for you to get experience running a game and share your love for a game or an adventure or whatever with others. To help players remember you and the game you ran, you should follow some best practices to make this introductory experience epic for the players. This is the first in our series of Running an Epic Con Game. Follow the whole series here.

Today we are starting off with the most basic part of any game that all players interact with: the character sheet. In a matter of minutes someone who has never played a game before, lacking any knowledge of the basic rules of the system, has to determine which of these pieces of paper they should become for the next four hours. The ease of use of that sheet is going to be a huge part of whether they have fun a the table. If the player cannot understand how these numbers translate into a character, it gets frustrating fast. This bring us to point number one:

Have a Story Accompanying the Character Sheet

We all play role playing games instead of miniature games or board games because of the story. We want a story that we can remember and get into. So give us one right away with the character. Was this character a former circus performer that moonlighted as a cat burglar before becoming an adventure? Tell us what happened to make the person change professions. Was the character a war hero? Telling us about their part in the war is far more interesting than reading “Class: Fighter 2, Background: Military.”

And don’t just make it a wall of text. Have a paragraph or two of the charcter’s backstory and then finish it off with some bullet points for who should take this character. Going back to the cat burglar for a second, those points should read something like,

This is the character for you if you like:

  • Hiding from the authorities from above
  • Taking dangerous risks for a big pay out
  • Finding our the truth through less than legal means

Being able to weed through the characters the player is not interested quickly allows them to quickly find one they enjoy.

From there the player begins to make the character their own. The best way to make the character their own is allow for some customization. This brings me to my second point:

Allow for Customization

Traveller is great for this. In the game, you get skill points from where you grew up, the careers you have chosen, and from connections you have with other players. In Traveller con games that I run, I will have already spent the skill points for the character’s early years and careers. However the players decide how they spend the skill points for connections. This gives them an excuse to get to know each other’s characters right away and has the players thinking about their character sheet.

That’s the real trick right here: having the players think about their character sheets. Between a list of skills, equipment, and abilities, a character sheet can be bit overwhelming to those that never played the system before. If you have them focus on one part of it for a few moments and get them thinking about it, the rest quickly becomes more manageable. Not only that when we do play the game, the players are more familiar with their character and are able to make rolls quicker, saving the game time. So if you the system you are playing has skill points or dots or whatever, hold a few back and let the players choose how they want to spend them. You’ll probably be repeating the instructions on how many they can spend, the maximum they can have in any one thing, or whatever over and over again, but it is worth it to let players feel like they own this character.

Here is the most important customization of all: let the players name their characters. Unless there is some massively important reason why they cannot name their characters, players should be allowed to do so. This helps them to feel that this character is my own, making the adventure you are about to run more personal and thus more memorable. Even if you were doing and adventure like, “everyone is from the same family,” the players should still be able to choose their name. Perhaps someone is playing a cousin with a different last name or someone adopted by the family and never took the family name. The family member could have gotten married and taken their partner’s last name. Maybe they changed their name because they hated their parents. The possibilities are endless. Let players make the characters their own.

Speaking of players making their characters their own, this bring us to our third and final point on the subject of character sheets:

Let the Players Keep Their Sheets

If you are running the exact same game five times that weekend, make the character on a computer and print off five copies of the character sheet. There are usually a form fillable PDF somewhere on the web for the game (frequently at the publisher’s website). Hang on one moment.

*Opens the door to the publisher community*

Publishers, if you do not have a form fillable PDF of your character sheet downloadable from your website, make one!!!

*Closes door*

Where was I? Oh yes, if for whatever reason you can’t prefill a PDF and print off multiple copies, fill it out by hand and make copies of the character sheet. Every player should walk away from the game with a free character sheet. No exceptions. This is the memento from the game. This helps them remember their character and your game. This will help players remember your game long after you part ways with the players.

If you need an adventure to run at your next convention, may we suggest the ones on this last here for D&D 5e and Pathfinder 1e.

Pathfinder 1e: Animal Shaman

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Class Guide set out to hybridize a number of the existing classes in the game. Not only the new classes but they added archetypes for the existing classes as well. Paizo gave the fighter a mutagen, allowing the fighter to grow wings. They gave the barbarian bloodline-like powers making it more akin to the bloodrager. The cavalier received can turn his mount into a more dangerous animal. A paladin gains some ranger-like abilities, and the list goes on and on. Then Paizo released a number of new classes that never got hybridized with those classes previously released. This is one of the many ideas I have while working on this new series of archetypes for the ACG.

Today I bring you the animal shaman. We take the shaman class and mix in a little of the shifter. While the shaman does not fully shift into the form of another animal, those who take this archetype do take on aspects of an animal, letting them gain some of the creature’s advantages. This is a fun little archetype and we hope you stick around for more like it.

To help us keep making Pathfinder 1e products, download our existing PFRPG books, whether they are monster books, adventures, expanded races, or other class options. Download them today at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, the Open Gaming Store, and Paizo. If you prefer print, you can find our books at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and Amazon.

Animal Shaman

Most shaman speak to the spirits that are all around them. Some shaman, however, not only speak to the spirits around them but let them fill their bodies, taking on a small aspect of their power and nature.
Associated Class: Shaman
Replaced Abilities: Hex (4th, 10th, and 16th levels only)
Modified Abilities: Spirit (1st level only)
Spirit: The animal shaman must choose the Nature spirit at 1st level.
Animal Aspect (Su): At 4th level, an animal shaman gains her first aspect—a category of animal to which her body and soul have become supernaturally attuned. She can shift into her
aspect’s minor form (see Aspects in the animal shaman class in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness, Chapter 1) for a number of minutes per day equal to 3 + her animal shaman level. The duration need not be consecutive but must be spent in 1-minute increments. Shifting into a minor form is a swift action, while ending the effect is a free action that can be taken only on the animal shaman’s turn.
As the animal shaman gains levels, she gains more aspects; she gains her second aspect at 10th level, and a third aspect at 16th level.

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. Instead you describe your rage as a blessing from a god of war. You feel the connection to the divine being radiating through you, causing you to pulse with divine energy focusing solely on the attack.

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 one weapon attack as a bonus attack. 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 to all Charisma checks against Celestials and Fiends.

War Avatar Body

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

Download all of JBE’s 5e products at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

Pathfinder 1e: Dark Soldier

Image by Matt Bulahao

The dark folk have not gotten much love. These underground dark reflections of the humanoid races rarely held the spotlight. So I am going to work to fix that. Below is a new entry into the society of of the dark folk, the dark soldier. These fighting legions keep their people safe from the greater dangers of the underground world, be they monstrous in origin or other humanoids. While open warfare is a rarity among the dark folk, dark soldiers frequently serve as body guards for the dark guildmasters protecting them from assassination attempts.

If you need more darkness-themed monsters in your game, check out the Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Shadow Plane, on sale now at DriveThruRPG. Check out all of JBE’s Pathfinder 1e titles while they are 40% off their regular price at DriveThruRPG. Download now.

Dark Soldier CR/HD 3

Init +1; Perception +8 (see in darkness)
Size Medium; Speed 30 ft.


Defenses

AC 17 (touch 12, flat-footed 15); Fort +7, Ref +5, Will +2; CMD 18
hp 40
Weakness light blindness


Attacks


Melee 2 short swords +6 (1d6+4/17–20)
Ranged dagger +4 (1d4+8/19–20)
Attack Options critical striker, poison use, stun attack (Fort DC 7, stunned for 1 round, success negates); CMB +6


Statistics


Utility Spells at will—darkness, detect magic
Str +4, Dex +1, Con +2; Intimidate +11, Perception +8, Stealth +8
XP 800; CN humanoid (dark folk)


Special Abilities


Death Throes (Su) When a dark soldier is slain, its body combusts in a flash of bright white light, leaving its gear in a heap on the ground. All creatures within a 10-foot burst must make a DC 12 Fortitude save or be blinded for 1d6 rounds. Other creatures of the dark folk subtype within 10 feet are blinded for 1 round on a successful saving throw, due to their light blindness. The save is Constitution-based.

Pathfinder: Even More Android Favored Class Options

The Book of Heroic Races Advanced Compendium did an excellent job of expanding options for 12 races that do not get nearly enough love. However, that book covered classes up to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Class Guide. For the classes beyond that book we have the Book of Heroic Races Occult Intrigue in the Wilderness. Both the Advanced Compendium and the Occult Intrigue in the Wilderness are on sale right now at DriveThruRPG. Grab them both right now at the above links before this sale ends.

To share what is inside the Book of Heroic Races Occult Intrigue in the Wilderness, we’ve got favored class options for androids right here. Check them out now.

Kineticist: Add +1/3 point of damage to air element blasts that deal damage.
Medium: When gaining a taboo, the medium can use spirit surge without incurring influence an additional +1/4 time per day.
Mesmerist: Increase the number of mesmerist tricks the mesmerist can use per day by +1/3.
Occultist: Gain a +1/2 bonus on Spellcraft checks to identify the properties of magic items and on Use Magic Device checks to use scrolls.
Psychic: Add one spell known from the psychic spell list. This spell must be at least 1 level lower than the highest spell level the psychic can cast.
Shifter: Add +1/4 to the shifter’s nanite surge bonus when used on attack rolls with natural attacks.
Spiritualist: Add +1/6 to the bonus on saving throws against mind-affecting effects granted by the shared consciousness ability.
Vigilante: Gain 1/6 of a new vigilante talent.

Pathfinder 1e: Dragon Fist

Last week we posted a new swashbuckler archetype. We’re going to try to continue with this by posting a new Pathfinder archetype every Monday. We’ll be focusing on the newer classes (those in the Advanced Class Guide, Occult Adventures, Ultimate Intrigue, and Ultimate Wilderness), but we’ll be posting some archetypes to the older classes as we think them up. Today we are giving the brawler class a bit of a dragon theme with the Dragon Fist archetype. Not only that, the table found here can be equally applicable to sorcerers, bloodrager, and dragon disciples. I must admit, I was rather disappointed that the table for the bloodrager bloodline was not updated to include more dragon types. Well, we did it for you here. Happy gaming.

As always, support us bringing you new Pathfinder material by downloading our books at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, the Open Gaming Store, and Paizo. If you prefer print, you can find our books at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and Amazon.

Dragon Fist

The blood of a dragon flows through you, making you a superb combatant.

Associated Class: brawler

Replaced Abilities: Unarmed strike, awesome blow, improved awesome blow

Modified Abilities: AC bonus, brawler’s strike, modified ability name (note: sort them by level, also note, the difference between these and replaced abilities is if the name of the ability changes)

Dragon Blood (Su): The power of dragons flows through you and manifests in a number of ways. At 1st level, you must select one of the dragon types. This choice cannot be changed.

Dragon Type Energy Type Breath Shape
Black, Brine, Copper Acid 60-foot line
Blue, Bronze Electricity 60-foot line
Brass, Infernal, Solar, Underworld Fire 60-foot line
Cloud, Dream, Sky, Time Electricity 30-foot cone
Crypt, Umbral Negative Energy* 30-foot cone
Crystal, Havoc, Sovereign Sonic 15-foot cone
Gold, Magma, Red, Sea, Vortex Fire 30-foot cone
Green, Nightmare, Rift Acid 30-foot cone
Lunar Cold 60-foot line
Silver, Void, White Cold 30-foot cone

* harm to living creatures only; this does not heal undead creatures.

Claws: Your nails grow and harden into claws. The damage you deal with your claws is the same as the brawler unarmed damage except it deals slashing damage.

AC Bonus: At 4th level, the brawler’s skin begins to grow scales in patches, granting a +1 natural armor bonus to AC. Also, you gain resist 5 against your energy type. At 9th, 13th, and 18th levels, your AC bonus increases by 1 (to a maximum of +4 at 18th level) and your energy resistance increases by 5 (to a maximum of 20 at 18th level).

Brawler’s Strike (Ex): Unlike other brawler’s, a dragon fist drips acid, scorches flames, tingles with electricity, or freezes with a touch. At 9th level, her claws are also treated as the energy type that matches the dragon type chosen with the dragon blood ability. The rest of this brawler’s ability affect her claws but otherwise remains unchanged.

Breath Weapon (Su): At 16th level, you gain a breath weapon. This breath weapon deals 2d6 points of damage of your energy type per sorcerer level. Those caught in the area of the breath receive a Reflex save for half damage. The DC of this save is equal to 10 + 1/2 your dragon fist level + your Charisma modifier. The shape of the breath weapon depends on your dragon type (as indicated on the above chart). At 16th level, you can use this ability twice per day. At 20th level, you can use this ability three times per day.

Dragon Form (Su): At 20th level, you can choose to take the form of your chosen dragon type (as form of the dragon II, but with good maneuverability). You can use this ability once per day.

Pathfinder: Luckstealer Sword Archetype

Recently asked on Twitter and Facebook what 1e Pathfinder classes need more options. Replies came back and the answers were overwhelming. We are glad to see so many Pathfinder 1e fans still interested in the game, and we are here for you. Since your replies, I came up with this little archetype for swashbucklers. My editors haven’t polished this yet so please do not consider this final.

As always, support us bringing you new Pathfinder material by downloading our books at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, the Open Gaming Store, and Paizo. If you prefer print, you can find our books at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and Amazon.

Luckstealer Sword

Luckstealer swords are swashbucklers that have no luck of their own. Instead they have to steal the luck from their opponents, dooming those that oppose them.
Associated Class: swashbuckler
Replaced Abilities: Charmed life
Modified Abilities: Panache
Panache: Unlike other swashbucklers, a luckstealer sword starts each day with 1 panache, although her normal maximum is still her Charisma modifier. A luckstealer sword can regain panache in the following additional way:
Setup: Each time the luckstealer sword performs an action that grants a bonus to an ally’s attack or penalty to an opponent’s defense—such as using the curse bringer ability, taking the aid another action, grappling an opponent, or helping a rogue perform a sneak attack—she regains 1 panache point.
Curse Bringer (Su): At 2nd level, a luckstealer sword’s attacks opens their target up to other attacks. Three times per day as an immediate action after successfully attacking a living creature, she curses the attacked creature with a –1 penalty to all saving throws until the start of the luckstealer sword’s next turn. At 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the penalty increases by –1 (to a maximum of –5 at 18th level). At 10th level and 18th level, the number of times she can do this per day increases by 1 (to a maximum of 5 times per day at 18th level).

13th Age: So What is In the Age of Races?

Available right now at the JBE Shop and DriveThruRPG and coming soon to the Fantasy Grounds Store is the Book of Heroic Races: Age of Races for Fantasy Grounds (13th Age Compatible). So what is inside? All the racial information for 10 new races. These races include:

  • Android
  • Catfolk
  • Geppettoans
  • Gillfolk
  • Hagborn
  • Lizardfolk
  • Merfolk
  • Moonblooded
  • Samsarans
  • Tengu

You can see a number of screenshots with a handful of the images included and how the text for the races are presented in the images below. Clicking on the images brings up a larger version. Check them out now.

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