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:
- Character Evaluation / Introduction
- The Hook
- The Twist
- 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.
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.
With the Book of Heroes: Heroic Fighter Archetypes coming out next week, we wanted to give you a taste of what is inside. This one is one of my favorites. This is the “you saw Cthulhu and critted your Sanity check” archetype. This archetype pairs well with the soldier background. It is designed for a character that fought in a war and returned home and having the horror of seeing your friends slain upon the battlefield play out over and over again in your mind. While it does not fully portray those that have survived a true war zone, I hope it provides enough flavor to express that type of character for those looking to play one.
Download all of JBE’s Fifth Edition PDFs at the JBE Shop. Our adventure Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin is coming out in game stores this month. Tell your local game store that you want to pick up this 7th-level adventure today. And now, to the archetype.
You have seen things. Whether it was someone being torn apart, whole villages destroyed, loved ones dragged into the Abyss, or something even worse, you witnessed it with your own eyes. What you have seen would break many. The memory of that day fuels your drive to continue forward, never yielding or surrendering.
Take the Attack
When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you can use your reaction to make an attack targeting an ally within 5 feet of you target you instead. You must say you are using this before the attack is rolled. This cannot be used with area attacks or on spells that do not require attack rolls.
At 7th level, your gaze can piece the mind, heart and soul, making you far more persuasive, to the point of terrifying. You gain proficiency with Intimidation and Persuasion. If you are already proficient with these skills, you add double your proficiency bonus when using these skills.
Fight Through the Pain
Starting at 10th level, you can use your Second Wind ability a second time before needing to finish a short or long rest.
Undeterred by Fear
Upon reaching 15th level, nothing can frighten you. You are immune to the frightened condition. Additionally, you can use a bonus action to remove the frightened condition from an ally within 10 feet.
Avatar of Terror
At 18th level, your very presence is terrifying. As an action, you can give a loud shout, requiring all of your enemies within 30 feet to make a Charisma saving throw (the DC is equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier) or become paralyzed with fear for the next minute. A successful save means the creature is frightened until the end of your next turn. Once used, you cannot use this again until you complete a short or long rest.
If you thought rats were difficult to kill without of a rat trap, imagine one that can talk to others of its kind telepathically. It can be a look out, warn others of impending danger, call for help, and much more. Larger, more powerful psirats can even detect the thoughts of other creatures, warning them to active dangers instead of merely potential threats. Nuisance does not even begin to cover these creatures. This is just one creature in the upcoming Traveller RPG book Foreven Worlds: Creatures of Distant Worlds.
Before the share with you the weakest of the psirats, let me just mention that you can find all of Jon Brazer Enterprises’ Traveller books and PDFs at DriveThruRPG, including the D66 Compendium 2, available now at 25% off the regular price. Download it now while this sale is going on.
|Skills||Athletics (dexterity) 2, Melee 0, Stealth 4, Telepathy 0|
|Traits||Fast Metabolism (+4), Psionic (3), Small (–4)|
Image by Eric Quigley
We’re bringing you our Pathfinder blog this week on Monday instead of Friday like usual since last week was the GM’s Day Sale that occupied us. This week we are bringing you an orc skeletal champion. To make this one, we had to write a skeletal champion graft. We will be sure to include it in a future Pathfinder 1e monster book we create. We are after all first and foremost monster designers and making new monster books is something we can hardly stop ourselves from doing. We move creating these baddies so much that we just have to share them with you. Anyways, we hop you enjoy this monster in your game.
Orc Skeletal Champion CR/HD 4
Init +7; Perception +12 (darkvision 60 ft.)
Size Medium; Speed 30 ft.
AC 19 (touch 13, flat-footed 16); Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +5; CMD 20
hp 44; DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, undead immunities
Weakness light sensitivity
Defensive Options channel resistance +4
Melee +1 scimitar +8 (1d6+13/18–20)
Ranged composite (+4) longbow +6 (1d8+9/x3)
Attack Options combat reflexes, create spawn, power attack; CMB +8
Str +4, Dex +3, Con —, Wis +1; Climb +12, Intimidate +9, Perception +12
XP 1,200; CE undead (orc) fighter
Combat Reflexes (Ex) Orc skeletal champion can make up to 5 attacks of opportunity each round and can make attacks of opportunity when flat-footed,
Create Spawn (Su) Any creature killed by the orc skeletal champion rises as a skeleton in 1d4 days and is under the command of the orc skeletal champion. The orc skeletal champion can have up to 10 skeletons under its command at once.
Power Attack (Ex) Orc skeletal champion’s scimitar attack changes to +6 (1d6+22/18–20)
The GM’s Day Sale is here and it is better than ever. Get 20-40% off of our Pathfinder, Fifth Edition, 13th Age, and Traveller 1e books you have been wanting for a while now. Grab these books now while they are available at a great price. Which books you ask? Here are some highlights.
Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Forbidden Woods
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1 (For Fantasy Grounds)
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 2
Book of Magic: 10 Warlock Invocations
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider (2019 Edition)
Deadly Delves: Doom of the Sky Sword
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin
Deadly Delves: Rescue from Tyrkaven
Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence
13th Age Compatible
Book of Beasts: Legendary Foes
Book of Bests: Monsters of the River Nations
Book of Bests: Monsters of the Shadow Plane
Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium
Book of Heroic Races Compendium
Book of Heroic Races: Occult Intrigue in the Wilderness
Book of Magic: Dragon Spells and Archetypes
Book of Magic: Gemhancements
Book of Magic: Insurgency of Summer
Book of Magic: Patron Hexes
Book of the River Nations Complete
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider
Deadly Delves: Doom of the Sky Sword
Deadly Delves: Nine Lives for Petane
Deadly Delves: Quests of the Sands
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin
Deadly Delves: Rescue from Tyrkaven
Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence
Deadly Delves: The Chaosfire Incursion
Deadly Delves: The Guilded Gauntlet
Deadly Delves: To Claw the Surface
Treasury of the Sands
Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player’s Companion
Creatures of Distant Worlds Compendium
Foreven Worlds: Vehicles of the Frontier
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Fighters and Small Ships
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Mech Squadrons
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Warp Ships 1
Download these and other titles now at DriveThruRPG.
There’s a short story by Janni Lee Simner called Practical Villany that I particularly love. It’s from the villain’s point of view. The opening line is “The first thing I want you to know is that I drowned those kittens for a reason.” It’s a dark comedy about a villain talking to his latest kidnapee about his rebellious daughter that turned hero, betraying the family business. In the story, the author talks about how evil is a business while heroes are just one person. That is where mini-bosses come in. Mini-bosses are akin to mid-level managers. The real question is why would someone in a fantasy RPG world need them.
No matter which level-based fantasy game you play, you get more powerful by level. You are obviously more powerful at level 2 than level 1 and even still more powerful at level 3 and so on. The same is true for your main enemy. They didn’t try to take over the world at level 1. They worked to amass enough wealth and influence and easily outclass the adventurers at the start of the campaign. So why are they employing people that can’t hold their own against a plucky group of low levels?
1) Your Big Bad Has a Source of Revenue and Power that Must be Maintained
Your big bad has a source of income that still needs to be maintained, and they are busy with taking over the city/country/worlds. So the actual job of generating that income has to be in the hands of some trusted aid to oversee the operation. Whether that operation is a kobold mining company digging up gold, orc hunters that sell skins for leather armor, or an ogre timber consortium, they have to perform operations far to trivial for the big bad to do. The problem comes in when they interact with the humanoid races. Do the kobolds breech into a dwarven mine or a gnome village? Do the orcs kill the cows of a small hamlet? Are the elves upset the trees are being felled? The people doing the work need direction and someone to pay them for their work, someone that represents the big bad to the workers. That is a mini-boss. Remember, any good business has lots of moving parts to it (different managers in charge of different workers at different locations all doing the same job, different departments doing different jobs, etc.). That is a lot of different mini-bosses at a number of different difficulty levels. In this case, the employees are minions.
2) Your Big Bad Doesn’t Have Every Skill or Ability
The person at the top simply can’t have every skill or talent possible in the whole world. CEOs hire accountants and lawyers to help them navigate those arenas. Your big bad trying to take over the city/country/world needs someone to advise them on the way to the crown and how to finance it. So your mini-bosses can be advisers to the big bad in their specialty field. Other possible advisers include a cleric of an influential church and the big bad isn’t a follower of the deity or doesn’t have any divine casting ability, a public relations bard to smooth over incidents like the kobolds invading the dwarven mines, and a spiritual advisory monk.
The important thing to remember with advisers is that they should fill two roles: the official one and an unofficial one. The official one is the job for which they are known. This is their day job, how this adviser is presented in the public. The unofficial one should be the real reason that person in particular was hired by the big bad. Does the financial advisory funnel money from the crown to the big bad? Does the cleric get people (more minions) to act against their interests in the name of the religion? Is the public relations bard in charge of spreading disinformation? All of these roles a big bad needs done and these make great mini-bosses.
3) Dirty Workers
Bad guys are not known for fighting fair. Once the adventurers have been identified as disrupting some small plans, they should have someone to deal with them. Assassination attempts have been done and the players will see that coming. Instead, trying having the big bad hire the adventurers for a job they are not qualified, like killing a monster that is more powerful than they can handle. Have the public relations bard hire them, apologizing for any previous incidents involving low-level managers, and praise them for bringing such bad actors in their organization to light. The job is something like clearing out a cave where some new miners will be going soon. The adventurers aren’t told there’s a dragon in there. The dragon will be warned and compensated for it’s trouble. Naturally the dragon will have his own minions to soften you up in your way there. The idea behind this is that if the adventurers never return, no one will miss them or possibly figure they left for another problem elsewhere. As an added bonus, the public relations bard can claim they had bad information and apologize for their near deaths. By doing this, you turn what would otherwise be a single encounter into a night’s game session and they might even believe the big bad isn’t so bad.
I mentioned last month that we at JBE decided to continue with Pathfinder 1e support. Having said that, we decided to not continue on as business as usual. Since Paizo will be ending support for PF1 soon, we no longer feel the need to continue on in their footsteps; we want to do things our way. One of those ways is that we do not care for the core Bestiary monster creation rules. Personally, I never followed them. If anything, I did them backwards from the way the Bestiary described them. So all our monsters from here out will be using the Pathfinder Unchained monster rules. Today being Friday, I decided to make one for fun. Let me introduce you to the Ravager Wolf.
First a little background. The artwork was originally intended for the Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Shadow Plane, however, we cut it for space. I always liked this image of a wolf with its guts cut out and felt bad we never used it. So today I am creating a monster around this image. The ravagers are corpses of animals that are consumed by the darkness and are reanimated into unlife. Each is more vicious than their mundane counterparts as they suffer from a constant hunter and an unquenchable desire to feed. Even worse, as they get more powerful, they get more intelligent. This one here is one of the weaker ones as well as one of the most commonly encountered. These creatures are without mercy and will attack as soon as see an opportunity.
Be sure to follow the JBE blog since we will be posting more monsters and other options while we are working on new Pathfinder 1e projects. Also, be sure to tell you friends that we at JBE are working on some awesome Pathfinder projects. We need your help in letting everyone know that plans to stick with 1e PFRPG that we are here for them.
We hope you enjoy this monster.
Ravager Wolf CR/HD 3
Init +5; Perception +11 (darkvision 60 ft., scent)
Size Medium; Speed 30 ft.
AC 17 (touch 12, flat-footed 12); Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +4; CMD 18
hp 33; Immune undead immunities
Melee bite +6 (1d12+4 plus bleed), 2 claws +1(1d4+2)
Attack Options bleed (1d6, DC 15 or any magical healing); CMB +6
Str +4, Dex +1, Con —, Wis +2; Climb +8, Perception +11, Survival +8
XP 800; CE undead