Tag Archives: Wolfgang Baur

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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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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Book Review: The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding

Kobold-GuideToWorldbuilding-Cover_450px-199x300World building is one of the most fun and complicated parts of the job for the GM or author. God created the Earth in six days, but world designers don’t have the luxury of omnipotence and omniscience. Luckily, we have the essays written by game and fiction industry professionals collected in The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding.

I won my copy of the book in a contest on the Midgard Campaign Setting Facebook page, but I was planning on buying this one, anyway. The book isn’t lengthy, but that’s certainly not a strike against it. The essays flow together well, and for the most part, build on each other as you read through the book. It starts with the basics in the essay What is Setting Design by Wolfgang Baur. It has some helpful tips including (surprise!) keeping your PCs in the center of the action. Don’t get bogged down with stuff that doesn’t effect the story.

I don’t want to get too terribly gushy with my praise (Though, this tome is certainly worth gushily praising.), so I’ll just hit some of my personal favorite essays that helped me as both a GM and a writer.

Apocalypso: Gaming After the Fall
by Jeff Grubb

This essay helped me justify an accusation I often get from my players: that my campaigns often turn into a crapsack world. As Grubb is quick to point out, most RPG tropes are true, because the world was once a better place. In many campaign settings, the characters are looking backward to a better time that will never come again. (Heck, in most fantasy fiction, it’s the same way.) That’s why dungeons have awesome magical treasures and why monsters run rampant. Thanks, Jeff Grubb!

Here Be Dragons: On Mapmaking
by Jonathan Roberts

I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but the practical tips in Here Be Dragons really clicked with me. Roberts has drawn out lots of fantasy maps for properties like A Song of Ice and Fire and the Midgard campaign setting. If you want to draw awesome maps, his essay is a must-read.

Designing a Pantheon
by Wolfgang Baur

Baur makes some great points in this essay about how unrealistic religion tends to be in games. He suggests some alternate ways to design a pantheon and goes in-depth into the design of the pantheon of his Midgard Campaign setting. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you think that religion should be a major part of your game, this is worth perusing.

How to Write a World Bible
by Scott Hungerford

Hungerford has some really practical advice for organizing and building a bible, which is basically a collection of all the pertinent information about the world you have built. I’ve tried designing one in the past, but have never gotten very far, since I tend to be disorganized. His tips really encouraged me, and I can’t wait to start over again utilizing his advice.

KoboldI’ve been a fan of the kobolds at Kobold Press/Open Design since I first discovered the Kobold Quarterly publication last year (I’m disappointed in myself that  it took me so long to find that magazine. I’m sad that it’s gone.). Their commitment to excellence in what they publish really shows. The Midgard Campaign Setting they published is truly a work of art, so it was interesting to see a few essays by Baur outlining some of the design decisions that went into building Midgard.

I would highly recommend this book to any DM that wants to create a rich, vibrant world for his players to inhabit and muck about in. You can find The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding at DrivethruRPG, the Kobold’s website, and Amazon.

 

 

 

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