Tag Archives: Kobold Press

Review — Midgard Tales by Kobold Press

MidgardI’ve recently discovered the joys of running roleplaying games on the Internet. It’s an easy way to get people together to have some fun. I am, however, a busy guy and I don’t always have time to come up with my own GM-made adventures. Luckily, I picked up Midgard Tales by Kobold Press at Gen Con this year.

Midgard Tales is a hardcover tome (or pdf) that contains 13 Pathfinder adventures spanning levels 1-11. All the adventures are (as the title suggests) written for the Midgard Campaign Setting , but they could all be easily ported over to nearly any fantasy setting with a minimum of effort. I should be clear that this isn’t a campaign; it is 13 separate adventures that you could connect (or not) as you see fit.

First, let’s talk about the usability. The adventures are presented in numbered level order (1-11) with the level number easy to spot in the upper corner. Finding an adventure is as easy as flipping and looking. Once you’ve selected  the adventure you need, things stay pretty simple. The adventures are presented in a straightforward manner, with a quick adventure overviews, ways to work the adventures into your game, and a clear delineation of what is for GMs and what is for players.  In some cases, I only had about a half-hour to prepare, but I was able to run the adventure like I had been preparing for weeks.

The adventures themselves run the gamut from straight-forward dungeon crawls to treks through fey-marked wilderness to intrigue at a masquerade ball. I appreciate the effort to make each game experience unique; my players get bored if they are just simply killing monsters and taking their stuff all the time.

As for presentation, the art helped capture the mood of the adventures. Good art helps me get in the right mindset to run a game session. The art is all black and white, but it goes well with the book’s “yellowed-paper” aesthetic. The maps are simple to follow and easy to recreate on a battle grid. As a guy who can barely draw a straight line, that’s a big help. I also like the thickness of the paper in the book. I’m willing to bet that this tome could take a little punishment.

To conclude, I want to give a special shout-out to Richard Pett, the author of the “Sorrow” adventure in Midgard Tales. My players absolutely loved this adventure and told me it was the best thing I’d run in a long time. So thanks for making me look good, sir!

I’ve now run a number of the adventures contained in the book, and have read through all of them. I am pleased with the purchase, and I highly recommend Midgard Tales.

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Madman at the Table

Gen Con was awesome this year. I met a lot of people, attended some great panels, and played a lot of fun games. This year was a unique one for me. I was given the opportunity to run a game for Kobold Press.

Playing tabletop roleplaying games is my favorite hobby. I like game mastering them. Tabletop games give me something that video games do not: adult interaction.

I’m a work-at-home dad. I’ve been freelancing for a little over 3 years, so most of my interaction with humanity comes in the form of chatting with my children. Which is great, I love my children. However, being able to chat with people about life, the universe, and everything is great. I crave those times when a group of people get around the table to snack and game.

Makeshift candy tokens.

Makeshift candy tokens.

So I was both excited and nervous as I dove into running a game for people I didn’t know at the biggest tabletop gaming convention in the US.

It started off about the same as most events do for me, with me realizing I had forgotten something. My battlegrid. And all my gaming tokens. Derp.

My solution? I bought a glossy paper battle mat from Paizo and I bought a bunch of Hershey Kisses and Starbursts to use as tokens (the benefit is that once the group killed or captured the bad guys they could partake of the sugary goodness).

The people I played with were all really nice, though. And none seemed bothered by my poorly drawn maps or my general lack of “real” tokens.

We played a scenario called Madman at the Bridge. It was created by Wolfgang Baur and adapted by Ben McFarland for Pathfinder. The PCs must find out why the bridge isn’t lowering, and why the clockwork guards are going haywire. I won’t go too much into the details, because I don’t want to spoil the scenario for anyone

While the dice weren’t always in the favor of the PCs, they did a great job of using creative thinking to “win” the scenario.

The biggest reward for me was stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m a bit shy, but I was forced to put that all to the side to make sure that everyone had a good time. Judging by the compliments I got, everyone seemed to.

The sorcerer and the fighter.

The sorcerer and the fighter.

Quotes of the game:

I’m not THAT kind of cleric!  — our cleric, on being asked if she had a heal spell.

I know the boat’s on fire, but I’ll be okay. — Our barbarian, after leaping onto a barge to engage the enemy, only to see the boat get set on fire.

These dice… ugh!  — One of our players, after he couldn’t hit anything for an hour or so.

 

 

 

 

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CONfessions of a Journeyman Gen Con Attendee: Part 2

This is the recap of the experiences I had at Gen Con 2013. Part one can be found here.

Day 3:

When I went to bed on Saturday morning, I was running on fumes. Upon waking a few hours later, though, I was energized and ready for Kobold Press’ Freelancing 101 panel.  (The Tome Show recorded the panel). Wolfgang Baur, Ben McFarland, Colin McComb, and Brandon Hodge discussed the steps to break into freelancing for the game industry (and some cheats for breaking in as well).

All of these guys have a bunch of experience in freelancing, so their advice was useful. I would strongly suggest that you listen if you’re interesting in busting into the tabletop games biz.

1004508_10151790782957438_1057252889_nAfter that panel, I attended Publishing 101. This one was a Wolfgang Baur solo affair, and he related stories from the first year of starting Kobold Press. He did a great job of relating the trials and triumphs of getting into publishing. I’m sure I’ll be listening to both of these panels again soon.

We were hungry, so our group ate some brunch (street food–I got some delicious wings) and did some shopping in the exhibit hall. We had a lot of downtime, so we spent part of it simply sitting and watching people. We also got to watch some games of Giant Star Trek Attack Wing.

Giant Attack Wing played exactly like regular Attack Wing, just on a much larger scale. In fact, I think they just attached a bunch of old Trek toys to larger versions of the bases, and let people play. They had giant dice, giant movement markers… it was pretty cool.

After our period of laziness, we headed over to True Dungeon.

True Dungeon is basically a life-sized dungeon supplemented with actors playing monsters. I was expecting something like a LARP, but it was something very different. Combat was resolved with something that reminded me of shuffleboard (you wanted to try to hit a 20 on a play area shaped like the monster). I think it was an interesting experience, but I can see it being a major money drain.

Your equipment is represented by tokens that you put on your character card before the game starts. You can buy extra packs of tokens, but you are given a certain amount before the game starts as well. There are also tokens for spells, potions, and other useable items; though, you have to give them up to the room’s DM when you use them.

1209341_10151790783407438_425928493_nIt was fun, but I had a few problems with my playthrough. 1.) There were two many people. The party was 10 people, and I think it was just too much. There were rooms when six people would be doing something, while four just hovered around. 2.) There was a dude in our group that stank really badly. That isn’t True Dungeons fault, but this guy was pretty pungent. Maybe he was staying at the convention center and got sick one night or something, but it was pretty bad as far as Con funk goes.

All-in-all, it was fun. I got to play a barbarian, and I was pretty good at the combat game (so was John, and he had to throw two at the same time because he was “dual-wielding’). Now that I’ve done it once, though, I’m hesitant to do it again. Maybe if I get 9 friends to do it.

 

1005481_10151790783302438_334450510_nAfter that we had dinner  at the Marriott hotel attached to the convention center. The food was pretty delicious. Miranda and I had the Turkey leg covered in gravy and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. As you can see, it was pretty delicious.

After that was the Masquerade Ball. This year’s theme was “Dance of the Dead,” but I don’t think theme mattered that much. It was a lot of fun to see all the costumes. And watch people lay on the floor and play their Nintendo DS.

Finally, the night ended with Artemis. We were all getting pretty exhausted at this point, but I think we overall had a good time. Our captain was getting a mite bit douchey and not really listening to his crew, but you know, sometimes that’ll happen. You just play the best game you can. We beat level 4, which was my personal record, so that was good. After that, it was time to sleep. The drive to the hotel took a lot longer than it normally would, since I was tired and kept missing turns.

Final Day

We slept in on Sunday. I’m sad that we skipped our first game, but I was barely able to move when my alarm went off that morning, so I just slept. I think the rest of the group was glad. After waking, we had the long task of packing up all the stuff we had bought in addition to all the stuff we bought. The back of the van was stuffed full of gaming paraphernalia.

We got to the convention center around 11:30 AM and played a fun little game called “Cosmic Encounter: Cosmic Alliance“. It’s a game of making and breaking alliances and stabbing your buddies in the back. Our game basically devolved into two teams, in which one side of the table started picking on the other side of the table. It was fun, but not very sportsmanlike.

After that, Tyler and I entered a tournament of Star Trek Attack Wing. He won his first game and lost his second, and I did the opposite. Either way, he walked out of there with three new Attack Wing ships to add to his fleet, so not a bad tournament. Certainly much better than the Magic: The Gathering tournament I took part in.

After that, we waited in line in the parking garage to go home. We were sad and exhausted to leave, but I’m already planning on how to do things better next year. If we decide to go (and I hope we do).

Tomorrow, I’ll relate my tale of running a game at Gen Con for Kobold Press.

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Gen Con: The Best Laid Plans of Gamers and Geeks

 

shepard

Super Creep Face. I don’t normally look like this, I promise.

 

I’m super-mega excited for Gen Con this year. Not only are John and I both attending again, but we’ll be bringing a couple of friends along with us. Twice the people means twice the fun, right? Probably.

I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to approach the Con this year. It’s my third year, and I feel like I’m only scratching the surface of what Gen Con has to offer. There’s so much to do! Even if I went the entirety of the four days without sleeping, there’s no way I’d get to do a tenth of what’s available.

So, here’s the plan.

1.) Meet people — I’m a naturally shy person. I don’t generally like to “put myself out there” when it comes to meeting people, but I think it’s time to put on a friendly convention persona. I bought some business cards and stickers to hand out, and I volunteered to run a game for the good folks at Kobold Press. I really envy people that have friends they meet up with at Gen Con every year. So, I guess my goal is to make friends and influence people.

hypnotoad

HIRE ME TO EDIT YOUR STUFF.

2.) Do more — I’m signed up for some panels, some games, and I’m going to the big masquerade ball. I might even don a costume. I’m trying out my first True Dungeon run, and I’ll pretend to be on the crew of a star ship with Artemis. I’m also hoping to come away with some signed swag. My favorite game developers are going to be there! Maybe they need an editor. 🙂

3.) Eat food — I had the best steak of my life last year, so I’m (of course) going to hit that place again. Indianapolis offers a lot of great restaurants. I don’t plan on over-indulging, but I’m definitely going to enjoy my meals.

4.) Play games — Whether for a specific event or just demoing stuff on the floor, I had a blast playing games (I mean, it’s “The Best Four Days in Gaming after all), and I’m going to play a whole bunch of them! What’s a gaming convention without trying new stuff?

5.) Keep up — Last year, I kind of burned out by the last day. I don’t want that to happen this year. I’m going to take some healthy snacks to help keep energy up; I want to do this right. It’s not often that I get to be a dude without kids for a few days, and as much as I love my children, I’m going to savor being without them for a few days.

In the end, I just want me and my pals to have a good time. Gen Con is only two weeks away. John and I will keep you up-to-date on our adventures. I hope to see you there!

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Tips for Running a Game at a Convention

Gabrielfe

This elf helped get people to play my game. Team work!

While I’ve been playing Roleplaying Games for a long time, it’s only been this year that I’ve started to run games at various conventions. I first got my feet wet last weekend at Ratha Con, a new convention in Athens, OH. My next experience will be running a game for Kobold Press at Gen Con.

So, with my vast wealth of experience (one game I’ve run at a convention), I thought that you might benefit from what I learned.

Before the Game

1.) Prepare

This goes without saying, but prepare for the game.  I didn’t have an already published adventure to run, so I created my own. I had a three-hour game, so I planned for three relatively short encounters battle encounters, with some investigation thrown in for good measure.

I figured that my players would consist of a lot of newbies (which is awesome! I love introducing new players to RPGs!), so I didn’t make the encounters too terribly complicated, and I made sure that there would be no character death. Since we were playing a superhero game, I wanted my players to feel mighty, so I threw some bad guys at them that were tough, but wouldn’t be overly hard so long that the players worked together.

2.) Advertise

Since I was at a small con, I should’ve gotten to the venue much earlier and talked up my game a little bit. Luckily, I had my wife with me (she was cosplaying an elf). She can really turn on the charm; so she was able to secure some players for me just by being awesome. If that isn’t what marriage is supposed to be, then I don’t know what is.

So talk the game up at the convention and on social media. Post it on forums. Be proactive in getting people to play your games.

Bring extra dice!!

Bring extra dice!!

3.) Set-up

Bring extra dice, a battle mat or maps (if you need them), tokens for tracking characters, pencils, and character sheets. I would generally recommend bringing your own pre-generated character sheets (I’m not a huge fan of power gaming), so that things are fair between players.

A note on character sheets: I knew that I would have a maximum of 6 players, so I brought 14 different characters for the players to choose from.  I really wanted everyone to be able to play the type of character they wanted, so I gave them plenty of choices.

4.) Right Before the Game Starts

Before the game started, I reviewed the rules of the game with the new players and let them look over their characters and character backgrounds. I was present if they had any questions for me. I let this go beyond the start time, because I think it is important that players get a good feel for who their character is and what they do.

During the Game:

1.) Be Nice!

I did my best to be welcoming and personable. I’m there to be the facilitator of the players having a good time. I try not to take the game too seriously, because it is, after all, a game. If you get a hardcore group of gamers at an adventure, it’s cool to go all serious, but for most convention situations, it’s probably best to smile and keep the game as light as possible. My wife, Gabrielle, suggested that I bring some candy to share; that seemed to make everyone happy (everyone likes Starbursts).

2.) Be Patient!

Sometimes your newbies just don’t know how to play the game. It’s okay to show them things on their character sheet that they might not have known, or to give them hints about the cool stuff their character could be doing. Stopping to explain a rule is fine, too. Go with your gut and remember that the goal is to have some fun.

3.) Be Ready!

Sometimes a character will throw a curve ball at you that could potentially “ruin” your game. That’s okay! I try to build games in optional modules that can be plugged in where needed. Maybe you need a little more time? Throw in a module with an extra encounter.

I also try to have a list of NPC and location names with general descriptions, that way I can easily put extra elements into a game.

In order to keep things from going off the rails too much, I started the game with an encounter: the governor was getting kidnapped! This set the tone for the mystery and immediately had the players ready for a fight.

After the Game:

1.) End the Game with a Bang

I ended my convention game with a big set piece (Brainiac had to be stopped and all the world leaders needed to be rescued!).  While I don’t know if I completely succeeded, I wanted to make the players feel like they were the heroes of the story. Defeating a bad guy and rescuing major political leaders was definitely a heroic thing to do.

2.) Thank Them for Playing

This is the time to say a big “thank you,” get some of the player’s contact information if you’d like to keep in touch with them, and get feedback on the game. If they aren’t in a hurry to get somewhere else, try to ask them what worked about the game and what didn’t. And take criticism with a smile. You’re only going to get better if you know what you need to work on.

3.) Pack Up

Just like it sounds. Get your things off the table as quickly as possible (there might be another group coming in after you), and, if you can, clean up. I generally try to leave things just as clean as I found them; it’s just common courtesy.

Running games at a convention, I found, is a really good time. You get to meet some new and interesting people, and really, any excuse to game is welcome.

(Hey, if you’re coming to Gen Con in August, I’m running this game for Kobold Press. You should come and say, hi!)

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Review — Midgard Adventures: The Raven’s Call

RavensCall-231x300It’s not often that I make my players start at level one in a Pathfinder game. I have a couple of reasons:

  • First level characters never seem to have enough options.
  • They’re so…smooshy. It takes nothing but some unlucky die rolls to take them out.

In other words, it’s hard for first level characters to feel truly heroic. But, worse than that, they often feel ineffective!

When I got a copy of Midgard Adventures: The Raven’s Call, though, I got pretty excited. Finally! A chance for first level PCs to feel a bit of agency in a dangerous and deadly world!

Most of the time, published adventures are not really my bag. I’m not a big fan of dungeon crawls, and I really hate being constrained by adventure modules that (in my experience) are pretty linear. When I create my own adventures, I try to keep them as open-ended as possible; you never know what kind of monkey wrench the players will throw in your plans, so having a less linear approach generally helps me come up with things on the fly.

That’s why I was so surprised by The Raven’s Call! It wasn’t linear. In fact, it set up a fun sandbox for the players to adventure  in and gave them multiple possible motivations to move things in the right direction.

Here’s the premise of the module: A group of nasty raiders has taken over a town, displaced the townspeople (or imprisoned them in a barn), and begun consuming all the supplies. The players are motivated in some way (there are options in the book for creativity when it comes to said motivation), and it isn’t a hard leap for the adventurers to want to right the wrong.

Saving a village from a bunch of raiders might seem like a daunting task, but Wolfgang Baur’s design in the adventure really shines. With a bit of bravery, luck, and some well placed magical items, the PCs can be the heroes they were meant to be. With multiple ways to approach the adventure, there are many opportunities for characters with different skill sets to show off.

The various elements of the module are detailed enough to help the game master if the players get off the beaten path a little bit, but they’re not so detailed that the information gets lost in a morass of text. It was also really easy to fill in small details with some of my own information, which helped set the stage for further adventures.

The art and included maps were both very well done. The sketch of a trollkin on the final page of the adventure really stood out to me. I have to admit there were a few times when I’d be scrolling to that page to get some information, and I would find my eyes drawn to the sketch rather than the info I needed. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though.

What victory looks like.

What victory looks like.

Overall, I’ve never been disappointed by the art in any Kobold Press release, and this adventure module continues that great tradition.

What’s the most rewarding thing about The Raven’s Call? The fact that my PCs really felt like they had “won.” The adventure was challenging enough that they felt a real sense of accomplishment when they rescued the village. At the end of the day, that kind of euphoria is part of the reason why we play RPGs.

Once again, Wolfgang Baur and Open Design have impressed me with what they bring to roleplaying games. If you are looking for a low-level adventure for your party, this is one I highly recommend!

You can pick up Midgard Adventures: The Raven’s Call at Paizo and DrivethruRPG

Notes from the adventure:

My session featured four players, each with varying degrees of familiarity with the Pathfinder RPG.

-An elf fighter
-An elven archer (like The Raven’s Call, the elven archer is a Kobold Press creation that I’ll review in another column)
-A gearforged wizard (gearforged are clockwork beings specific to the Midgard Campaign setting)
-A human paladin

Quotes from the players (both during the game and afterward)

“Being able to play a gearforged character let me indulge in my inner steampunkery, and that’s awesome!”

I want to ride the crab!”

I’m an elf; I’m not telling you my name.”

Let’s just set it on fire!”

I’m not eating any of their food.”

I really suck at climbing walls.”

“The D20 is a cruel and fickle mistress.”

“The setting is fun and not too terribly difficult, which is good for a core group of level one characters missing a dedicated healer. Best results with full five-member band.”

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