Dragonlance: The Characters

Dragonlance Logo

My Dragonlance party is made up of 5 characters. As this is a War of the Lance era Dragonlance campaign there are several restrictions on what classes and races would be available and several changes to existing classes and races to fit the setting. Several of those changes mean that the classes don’t quite balance the same way as things have been removed without being replaced, such as Ranger spells.

I have allowed the players to make changes to the available proficiencies in their classes and backgrounds to fit the theme of the character that they want to play, based on the story they have developed.

The Characters

Remus Cartwright, Male, Human, Rogue with the Charlatan background. Remus was born and raised in Digfel in Abanasinia and is the owner of the town inn, which is a family business. He is an extremely charismatic and good looking man and he uses this to his advantage when it comes to conning strangers and travellers out of their money, be that at cards, in inflated drinks prices and services or just base thievery.

Hett. Male, Human, Fighter with the Outlander background. Hett was also born and raised in Digfel but left the town at a young age in order to seek his fortune in the city of Haven, which is where he learned his trade as a tracker and bounty hunter. Hett is a moral man, seeking to bring criminals to justice rather than simply working for pay but he is not above underhanded tactics in order to apprehend his target, such as breaking and entering. This profession found him working alongside his childhood friend Bastion much of the time.

Thorin Ironhammer. Male, Hill Dwarf, Fighter with the Folk Hero background. Thorin is a Hill Dwarf whose family originate in Hillhome in Abanasinia. At a young age Thorin was apprenticed to the blacksmith in Digfel as part of a repayment of a life debt that his parents owed to the blacksmith. Thorin is a typical dwarf in many respects, he loves working with his hands and taking part in physical activities and he loves being underground. Due to events that took place during his childhood Thorin appears to age rapidly and has developed the physical and mental capabilities of an adult dwarf by the age of just 18, which causes many other dwarves to view him with distrust.

Aldorin Hytanthas. Male, High Elf, Wizard with the Hermit background. Aldorin is, for all intents and purposes, a dark elf. Born a Qualinesti Elf, Aldorin has spent much of his life outside the forest, in a travelling merchant caravan. When Aldorin was a baby his father and brother, both Wildrunners, were attacked on patrol, resulting in the death of his father. His bother went missing during the attack and the only clue found was a broken bow and a shattered bronze amulet. Crazed with grief, Aldorin’s mother, a White Robed Wizard, began to research forbidden magic looking for answers and when she was found out she, and Aldorin were cast out of Qualinost and labelled Dark Elves.

Aldorin has a deep mistrust of other elves, especially Qualinesti, and finds it hard to make friends. His mothered settled in Digfel for a while as he made friends there but, eventually she moved on and he stayed behind, feeling at least a basic connection to the town and his friends. His goal is to take the Test of High Sorcery and take the Red Robes, hoping to eventually find answers as to what happened to his father and brother. Due to events that took place during his childhood Aldorin appears to age rapidly and has developed the physical and mental capabilities of an adult elf by the age of just 18, which causes many other elves to view him with distrust.

Bastion Winter. Human, Ranger with the Soldier Background. Bastion was born in Solamnia, at least that’s what he was told by his mother, he doesn’t remember it. Bastion’s father, a Solamnic Knight forced Bastion and his mother to flee to Abanasinia when he was just a baby, fearing for their lives as the mobs rose up against Knighthood.

Bastion is a dour man with a face scarred by acid from a childhood event and a particular hatred of wild beasts from the same escapade. His demeanour means he spends much of his time alone, although he has been ardent in learning the craft of war, hiring himself out as a guard and medic on several merchant caravans since his late teens in addition to accompanying Hett on several bounty hunting missions. Bastion’s overall goal is to return to Solamnia and follow in his father’s footsteps, joining the Knighthood and eventually elevating his family name once more.

 

Boss Monster, Tools of Hero Kind Mini Expansion Review

Name: Boss Monster, Tools of Hero Kind
Type: Card Game Expansion
Publisher: Brotherwise Games
Size:  9.9cm x 9.9cm x 1.8cm
No of Players: 2-4
Age: 13+
Price:  £6.99
Weight: 23g
Rating: 5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)

Boss Monster, Tools of Hero Kind, Front of Box

Tool of Hero Kind is a mini expansion for the Boss Monster Dungeon Building Card Game. It contains a total of 26 cards which build upon the existing Spell and Room decks and also add a new concept in Items cards which upgrade the Heros and provide a bonus to the Boss Monsters that defeat them.

Boss Monster, Tools of Hero kind, Contents

In the box you get-

  • 20 Item Cards
  • 4 Advanced Room Cards
  • 2 Spell Cards
  • 1 Rule Card

As with the Boss Monster base game Tools of Hero Kind builds upon the themes of classic 8 Bit games and old school RPGs. With this expansion, the box has been styled on the classic Game Boy look (as you can see below, with it compared with a Game Boy Advanced game). The box art is cool and very representative of what I picture when playing the game. In this case it shows King Croke (a Boss Monster from the base game) being assaulted by a Hero and looking like he’s about to come off a little worse for wear…

Boss Monster, Tools of Hero Kind, Box Size Comparison

The Rooms and Spells are small additions but nice nonetheless, however it’s the Items that are the true stars of the set and that make up the bulk of the cards. Items are drawn at the start of each turn, before Heros are drawn, and they attach themselves to the the first (or oldest) Hero that matches their treasure icon.

Items have two lines of text and which applies depends on whether they are being used by a Hero or a Boss Monster. First they boost the power of Heroes, having such effects as deactivating the abilities of rooms the Hero survives for that turn (making it easier for other Heroes to survive), destroying rooms or just boosting the health of all Hero that enter the same dungeon that turn.

Secondly, if the dungeon defeats a hero then the Boss Monster gains the Item and therefore gets to activate it’s Boss Monster ability. In the hands of a Boss Monster Items have such effects as healing the Boss Monster a wound, boosting Heroes in other dungeons or making opponents discard cards.

The art on the Item cards is excellent and carries many nods to a variety of sources, including classic D&D with the 10 foot pole card and the Gelatinous Cube on the Ice Rob, Lord of the Rings with Frodo and Gollum on the Ring of Invisibility card and even Monty Python with the art and title of the Holy Hand Grenade card.

On the whole I feel this is a solid little expansion. It adds another element to the game without adding significant complexity, and it actually actively works to fix one little niggle I have with the main game, which is that the game tends to be dominated by 1 player who is lucky enough to have the right treasure when the heroes are drawn. By giving those Heroes Items, which boost the Heroes and weaken the dungeons, it makes that kind of domination a double edged sword.

For £7 Tools of Hero Kind is a really worthwhile expansion to Boss Monster. It doesn’t do the one thing that I really want from a Boss Monster expansion, which is to have support for more than 4 players. Still, it adds a nice extra element to the game and, at its price point, its pretty hard to complain.

D&D 5th Ed DM Screen Review

Name: D&D 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Screen
Type: Accessory
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
System: D20 (5th ed D&D)
Setting: N/A
Size: 27.4cm x 21.5cm (folded) 109.5cm x 21.5cm (unfolded)
Price: £10.00
Rating: 5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)

5th Ed DM Screen

This is going to be a pretty quick review to be honest, there isn’t a lot to say about a DM Screen and I wouldn’t generally review just a screen, but I’m actually pretty impressed with this one. What I might do though is maybe take a look at the wide variety of screens I own for different games at some point.

So why is this one so cool? Well it’s down to what is actually included on the DM side of the screen. Before I get to that I’ll take a look at the pack as a whole. The outer packaging that is normally just a paper wrap with a general description on the back is actually pretty cool, obviously it is still thin card wrap but the inside is a mini-poster that advertises the D&D Adventurers League, which is pretty cool-

D&D 5th Ed DM Screen, Poster

 

The screen itself is made of nice thick card and covered with a glossy coating and it seems pretty hard-wearing, which is good because screens see alot of use. It’s a four pane screen and it’s landscape in format, as is common for modern screens, which I actually like this as it reduces the DM/Player separation. The player side depicts and epic battle across all four panes between a party and a red dragon and it’s minions.

D&D 5th Ed DM Screen, Frontal

However, it’s whats on the DM side that impressed me, especially this-

D&D 5th Ed DM Screen, Name Generator

As silly as it is, the inclusion of an NPC name generator on the screen is something that will help me immeasurably as I literally can’t count the number of times i’ve made up a stupid name on the spot when the PC’s have decided to talk to someone I hadn’t considered. I used to have a whole list of names ready, just in case, but this is a much more elegant solution.

The rest of the inside of the screen is filled with the normal kind of things you’d expect to see, details of the various conditions, cover and concealment and some random event tables. Unlike some previous DM screens this one isn’t cluttered or hard to read and is filled with things, like the NPC name generator and the random events table, designed to keep the game flowing when it might stagnate.

The inside of the screen is also covered with little bit of art, some just to illustrate things like the various status modifiers and others, like the Tarrasque attacking a village are just there to make the screen a little more interesting for the DM to look at. At the end of the day this is still just a DM screen but it’s one of the best DM screens I’ve bought in a long time.

#RPGaDAY 2015 Day 31, Favourite Non-RPG thing to come out of gaming

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Wow, Day 31 is finally here. I must admit, the challenge has been a whole lot harder than I expected it to be and some days have been pretty tough with today being no exception.

It’s probably the easy answer for this but, for me personally, the best non-rpg thing to come out of gaming is probably my group of friends. Several of my close friends I met at uni but a good number of others I have really grown close to as a result of gaming and we’ve become friends beyond that. If we hadn’t roleplayed together there is a good chance that we wouldn’t have met and so I’d either have different friends or, more likely, have very few friends.

Gaming is great like that, it can bring people together with a common goal and help people come out of their shell in a safe environment. Now that doesn’t apply to me, I’m pretty extroverted anyway, but I’ve know people that aren’t and gaming is a great outlet for them. In addition gaming lets you push boundaries and explore themes that you may not otherwise be comfortable exploring.

#RPGaDAY 2015 Day 30, Favourite Roleplaying Celebrity 

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It’s a little cliché, but it’s probably Vin Diesel. He was one of the first to openly discuss roleplaying and I think that helped make roleplaying a little more mainstream. I particularly like the fact that he wrote the forward to 30 Years of Adventure, a History of Dungeons and Dragons, which is an excellent book.

Further to this though, I like the fact that Vin Diesel has actually managed to get other celebrities gaming, like Dame Judi Dench, who he ran games of D&D for when they were filming The Chronicles of Riddick. To my knowledge, to this day, Judi Dench actually runs games for her grandchildren, which is just awesome.

Beyond Vin Diesel, there are the obvious choices of Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton, but since they’ve made a career out of gaming in general, I’m not sure they’d count as their fame is now based around gaming, rather than it being something that they do as a hobby on the side. Finally there is Marilyn Manson, who reportedly carries a D20 around with him and I find it amusing that the Shock Rock Superstar sits down to play D&D in his downtime.

#RPGaDAY 2015 Day 29, Favourite Blog/Website

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I guess it’d be pretty egotistical to say my own blog but I genuinely really do get a kick out of writing this, even if it’s never read by all that many people. Writing my blog makes me feel like I’m vaguely connected with the gaming industry as a whole despite not actually being employed in the industry.

Realistically, my favourite website is RPG.Net. It’s a great hub within the gaming community and it covers a truly massive range of games. More than once I’ve discovered a game on RPG.net that I never knew existed and it’s turned into something that I absolutely love. RPG.net introduced me to such games as FATE, Spirit of the Century and Burning Wheel, which I consider to be pivotal in teaching me to new ways to run a game. RPG.Net is also the place I tend to find out about upcoming releases and projects that I’d otherwise miss, like the massively exciting John Carter RPG.

There isn’t much else to say on this. My other favourite website was Secrets of the Kargatane, a Ravenloft Fansite and later official site, but that closed down many years ago and with it ended one of the greatest campaigns I’ve ever played, the Galen Saga.

#RPGaDAY 2015 Day 28, Favourite Game I no longer play

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That kind of depends whether I look at it as play as a player or play as in run. Since I tend to run the games I really enjoy I’ll take it as play as a player.

In terms of my favourite game that I don’t get to play, it’s pretty much all of them, since I never get to be a player anymore. Realistically my favourite game that I never get to play is D&D. D&D is my favourite game, bar none, of all time but it’s something I virtually always end up running (which means if any of my players would like to run D&D for me, I’d appreciate it).

The last games of D&D I played were in 3.5. I played in a Ravenloft campaign playing through The Grim Harvest series of adventures (which are excellent) and before that it was a generic game in which I played a dwarven fighter using the Book of 9 Swords fighter options and he was awesome to use.

So there you go, D&D is definitely my favourite game and one that I never get to play anymore.

#RPGaDAY 2015 Day 27, Favourite Idea merging two games into one. 

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At first I couldn’t really think of any examples of this and so I had to go take a look at my collection and it turns out that I own a few games that meet this criteria and actually like them a whole lot.

First of all, a shout-out to one that is just absolutely terrible, Cthulhutech. I got this game for a few reasons, firstly that it’s Cthulhu related and secondly because I was going through a phase of just picking up new systems. I imagine that, to the right group and in the right hands it’s probably amazing but to me it’s just awful. The system is just strange, with the ability to combine dice in weird ways to get a total and the setting, post-apocalyptic Cthulhu (after the Old Ones rise) sounds like it should work, but doesn’t.

Onto one that does, Deadlands. This combines the Wild West and Steampunk to make something awesome. I love the way the background makes the setting work and how crazy ideas are actually fuelled by evil demons. Deadlands, all 3 of them (Weird West, Wasted West and Lost Colony) are settings I have a lot of time and love for and have clearly had a whole lot of time and effort put in to make them work.

The winner though is, unsurprisingly, Shadowrun. Shadowrun mixes traditional fantasy with dystopian Cyberpunk into a setting that is just so much better than any traditional Cyberpunk style game. I’ve mentioned in other articles how deep the fluff on Shadowrun is, and that’s the main reason it’s my favourite combination of two games. I’m not going to go into a whole load of more detail about it, I’ve covered it on other days so you can go read about it there is you like.

Boss Monster Review

Name: Boss Monster
Type: Card Game
Publisher: Brotherwise Games
Size: 20.8cm x 12.7cm x 3.8cm
No of Players: 2-4
Age: 13+
Price:  £19.99
Weight: 476g
Rating: 5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)

Boss Monster, Front of Box

Boss Monster is a none collectable card game produced by Brotherwise Games and released in December 2013. It was originally Kickstarted and was funded to the tune of $215,000 dollars in November 2012.

The game is built on a foundation old school gaming, both 8-bit style NES games and old D&D and the premise is that you are the big, bad Boss Monster at the end of a side scrolling dungeon. Your job (or, more likely, hobby) is to draw adventurers to you dungeon in order to kill them in a variety of inventive monster and trapped themed rooms so that you can harvest their souls.

The game comes packaged in an NES game style box that fits the whole theme of the game perfectly, even the writing and logos are all designed to look like they belong on the box of Super Mario. The box is made of thick card and the box art has been applied via a sticker, rather than printed directly onto the box. The downside of the sticker is that it can easily scratch and peel away a little at the edges but this still all adds to the retro feel of the game.

Boss Monster, Contents

Mine is the 2nd printing of the Boss Monster game. You can tell the difference between the first and second printings by the the inclusion of the quick start rules. In the box you get-

  • X x Boss Cards
  • X x Room Cards
  • X x Spell Cards
  • X x Hero Cards
  • X x Epic Hero Cards
  • Rulebook
  • Quick Start Rules Sheet

The components all fit nicely into the box with the cards sitting in two piles inside an inner tray and the quick start rules and rulebook sitting on top. As with the box, the rules are designed to be reminiscent of an 80’s Nintendo game right down to being printed in a landscape format and using a font type and layout that feels like a game manual.

The game comes with  basic types of cards, Boss, Room, Spell and Hero/Epic Hero. All are standard dimensions for a card game and would fit any generic sleeve on the market. All of the cards feature 8-Bit artwork that resembles any side scrolling dungeon crawl from the 80’s and beyond. It’s in this artwork that you can see the love that has gone into the game, not just a love of 80’s computer games, not just a love of the NES but a love of D&D.  Let me explain a little more-

Boss Monster, Monstrous Monument Card

I initially thought that this card was a great little touch, an 8-Bit image of the classic 1st edition AD&D Players handbook featuring a statue of Orcus. It’s a great nod to D&D and the kind of things fans of the RPG (myself included) like to see. Still, it’s an well known known image and one commonly used to reference D&D. Then, when I was sorting through the cards I noticed this-

Boss Monster, Xyzax Card

Firstly the name, Xyzax is a clear play on Gygax, one of the creators of D&D. It’s also a play on Xagyg, which is Gygax backwards and a character from the original Greyhawk campaign, the Progenitor part of the name is a little nod towards the great man himself. Again though, while this is a clever little nod, it’s still something reasonably well known about D&D and about Gygax. It was only when I was looking for cards to photograph for this article that I noticed this-

Boss Monster, Dark Laboratory Card

 

This one is a little more subtle, in fact I wouldn’t have picked it up if it hadn’t been one of my favourite prices of art from my favourite campaign setting this-

Jeff Easley, Raistlin in the Tower of High Sorcery

It’s a famous piece of art, but only if you really know your D&D and, specifically your Dragonlance. Now, granted, a Google search could probably have come up with it but I’m not sure that it would have seemed all that significant then, after all, unless you know what it is, why would you bother including it? Its for this reason that i’m pretty sure that the creators of Boss Monster don’t just love 80’s NES games, but they love D&D too.

So, the game. It’s pretty simple to both learn and play. Each player gets dealt a Boss card and places it, face up, on the right hand side of their play area. They then 5 rooms and 2 spells and discard 2 cards from that hand, of their choice. Prior to the first turn each player plays a room, face down, on the left of their Boss to start building their dungeon. Once all players have placed that room they are revealed, in order of highest XP to lowest.

At the start of each turn Heroes are drawn from the Town deck (made up of Heroes and Epic Heroes, in that order) equal to the number of players. Players can then play another room, again face down, on the left of the previous room or on top of it (so building over previous rooms). Once everyone has built a room the Heroes are allocated to the dungeons according to which dungeon has the most treasure symbols (heroes like treasure) that correspond to their type (so mages like books, for instance). Heroes scroll through dungeons, left to right as is proper, taking damage from each room and, if they die, their soul is collected by the Boss. If they reach the end they deal a point of damage to the Boss. Spells can be played either during building or adventuring, according to the spell.

The winner is the first to reach 10 souls and any player whose boss takes 5 points of damage is eliminated from the game. Thats all there is too it.

I’ve played this game a couple of times now, first of all my normal solo game to get a grip on the rules and i’ll admit, it was a bit weird to play solo and didn’t make much sense, but i’m used to that on the first run through. My second game was with my wife, who tends to be a bit hit and miss with board/card games. She beat me inside of 20 mins, grasping the rules with uncanny precision and building a dungeon to rival the dreaded Tomb of Horrors.

I then took the game to my regular weekly games night. I’ve been wanting to for a couple of weeks but we tend to regularly get 5+ players and Boss Monster only supports up to 4. We finally managed to break it out for a couple of games and, as expected, it was quick to teach and fun to play. My group loved the art style immediately and found great pleasure in building their dungeons and chuckling at cards like the Goblin Armoury-

Insert photo.

All in all Boss Monster is a great game. I missed the first Kickstarter and the Next Level Kickstarter but i’ll definitely be checking out any further Kickstarters that Brotherwise set up. The game is fun, it’s well supported by Brotherwise who regularly put up new cards for play test and it looks just fantastic. This is a game for hardcore gamers and families alike and the art and nostalgic feel to the design is even enough to pull in those weird friends who don’t generally like to play games (we all have them).

At the time of writing Boss Monster has 2 expansions, one of which can be played as a stand alone game.

#RPGaDAY 2015 Day 26, Favourite Inspiration for a Game

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Man, I love roleplaying, so much so that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about games, not just games I’m running or playing in but games I’d like to run, games friends are running, just games in general. What that means is that I see inspiration EVERYWHERE.

Just because I watch a lot of TV, I’d say that’s probably my favourite place to find inspiration. When I run a new game I like to watch shows with similar themes or settings to get me in the right mood and to focus my mind. So for Cyberpunk games shows like Almost Human, or Anime like Ghost in the Shell work, for Horror (specifically Cthulhu) I think the the recent adaptation of Sleepy Hollow is particularly apt, as was the first season of True Detective and all of Boardwalk Empire. Fantasy is a little harder to get proper inspiration for but Xena, Hercules, Legend of the Seeker and even Spartacus can all provide inspiration.

Ultimately I see inspiration everywhere, in everything I watch because I can pick up on vague stories and themes and transpose them. Modern TV shows have become excellent and telling longer more detailed and slower burning stories and those are the kind or stories that I prefer to tell when I run a game.