The Project Black Flag Playtest is Here!

Art and logo by Kobold Press

Hello fellow tabletop role play gamers! It’s Slick Dungeon here and I wanted to talk about the new play test material Kobold Press has put out for its upcoming fantasy role playing game.

What is Project Black Flag?

Project Black Flag is the super cool name Kobold Press is using for a new 5th edition compatible tabletop game they are working on. This project was in the works well before the whole OGL debacle with Wizards of the Coast but this project got a lot more attention during that time. It’s still early days but this new game has the potential to take TTRPG’s in new and interesting directions. While Kobold has consistently been posting information, including some artwork, and blog posts on Fridays, and telling us the play test material would release in February, they threw us a curveball by releasing their first packet on Monday the 13th of February. The packet is a quick read at only 12 pages and while there is a lot of good information in it, this packet doesn’t quite give us enough to build a full character. However, it does give us some key insights into what to expect. Read on to find out what it is about and how you can get your hands on a copy.

What’s in the Packet?

The packet is a set of rules Kobold would like TTRPG enthusiasts to play test, and then give feedback on. In the packet we get some basic information about what a TTRPG is, what a fantasy role playing game is, what materials you need and who does what at the table. If you’ve ever played a TTRPG, especially Dungeons & Dragons, you’ll have no trouble understanding this section of the packet.

They do give us a few things to let us know what kind of game we have to look forward to. It’s going to be a fantasy world full of heroes going through unique locations fighting against villains and organizations that oppose them. In other words, it’s a fantasy game for heroes. Some people might think this is unoriginal but it does happen to be the kind of game a lot of folks love playing most so I can’t really complain.

Next they give a step by step guide on character creation. If you’re familiar with 5th edition, a lot of this is going to look extremely familiar. You’re guided through coming up with a character concept, choosing a class, proficiencies, levels, hit points, and the standard array of ability scores. The packet does mention that creating a character using their method makes these characters a bit stronger than a 5th edition character but it’s not so out of range you can’t use them in your 5e games. They also go over a few different ways of getting your character stats including rolling for stats, point buy, and standard array. This is where some of the rules start to differ from 5e and start to build a potentially stronger character.

They then go on to introduce Lineages and Heritages. Lineage essentially replaces what was originally termed as Race in 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. This is a pretty minimal packet for the moment so we only get Humans, Elves, and Dwarves. Heritages are more about the environment where your character grew up or what groups they associate with. Personally, I think this is great because it allows for a lot of customization so you could have an Elf character who grew up with Dwarves or vice versa and any number of combinations. While you could go with the usual fantasy tropes for each Lineage, you don’t have to.

You also choose a background for your character and the packet gives a couple options to choose from including Scholar and Soldier. This is basically a way to help shape the backstory of your character and gives you some increased abilities and what Kobold terms Talents. Talents seem to be similar to Feats in 5e. I love using Feats so I like that Talents are available right off at 1st level for this system.

I’m not going to go over all the specifics of what is listed in the packet because I haven’t used these in a game yet. I’d like to see a little more of what makes a character so I can build something that works for me at this point but it’s worth reading through the packet and if you can build a character with this, go for it. I feel like there is a good amount of stuff for magic characters here but a bit less for martial classes so far.

While I do see a lot of similarities here with D&D, we haven’t seen much of the overall project yet so there is still room for a lot to be different. I love that it’s easy to pick up if you are familiar with 5th edition because that’s going to make starting the game much easier for a ton of folks.

How Can I get in on the Playtest?

If you want the playtest packet you can get it right from Kobold Press here. You may have to sign up to do it but it won’t cost you anything. Once you have the packet, give it a read, make a character and play a game and then fill out their survey.

If you have the packet, what do you think of it? Have you used any of these rules yet and if so how did it go? Let me know in the comments.

Testingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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14 Gifts Perfect for Any Game Master

DriveThruRPG.com

Well, it’s February and love is in the air. Or maybe not. Either way if you love TTRPG’s here are 14 gifts you can give to your favorite Game Master, whether you have romantic feelings toward them or you just want to hang out on the weekend.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Fire-Breathing Dragon Coffee Cup

If you want your GM’s coffee cup to stay as hot as dragon’s breath, try this cup out. It’s $17 but well worth the extra XP you are sure to get in appreciation.

DND Cat T-Shirt

I mean, I feel like this every single day. I bet your GM does too. Or anyone at your table. The shirt costs $20 but it’s really cute so probably worth it?

A Bag to HOld Stuff with

To be a good Game Master you have to have a lot of stuff. If you like your stuff to be physical, it’s really nice to have a bag with which to hold your stuff. (I bet there is probably a good name for a bag like that.) This one is pretty nice and your GM will be over the moon for it. It costs $60 so make sure you really do like your GM before you give it to them. Or, maybe get one for yourself.

D&D Campaign Adventures for Mythic Odysseys of Theros - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Let Your GM Be Lazy

The title of this can be misleading. The Lazy DM is one of the best books about running a great game without burning out you can find anywhere. Let’s just say I’ve had some campaigns I would never have survived without the help of Michael E. Shea and his great advice (Looking at you Storm King’s Thunder). It’s a great deal at $12. And if your GM already has this, there is a sequel called Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master which you can get for $20. Worth it’s weight in gold in time saved and headaches avoided for any GM.

Spell Area of Effect Template

It can be tough to judge actual distance of spell effects and depending on the dice roll this can be absolutely critical. Let your GM take the guess work away with this fine template that is transparent and will help everyone at the table see just how many in your party are about to bear the brunt of your wizard’s fireball spell. It’s a good deal at $14.

Keep your GM’s table nice with these coasters

These coasters are great for keeping a gaming table free from rings and water stains. There are 14 of them all with different class symbols so players know exactly where to set their mug of ale. It even comes with a pretty sweet holder to match. It costs $30.

Dice Jail!

Okay this is more of a time out chair than an actual prison. But we all know dice can behave badly and sometimes shaming them is the only way to get them back to rolling those critical successes we all need. Your GM would love one of these. Although, you may want to keep it for yourself because you don’t want Tiamat rolling a 20. The little chair and dunce cap will cost you $20.

Bronze Dragon Journal

Game masters are constantly thinking of, or seeing, things they know would be great to use in their campaigns. But the bad part about that is if you don’t have a place to organize your ideas, they just kind of go poof and disappear. So, give your GM a great place to write this stuff down. Just ask them to make sure it’s not going to be a TPK kind of idea. This journal will cost you $25.

Condition Markers

Another thing that can be very difficult to track during game is who is in what condition. Which player was poisoned again? Is that spell one that uses concentration? If you use minis in your games, these rings are super helpful and will make your Game Master’s life so much easier. These will cost you $40.

Cool Socks

Cool socks. Everyone likes cools socks. Get your GM some cool socks! Or, get some for yourself, assuming you want your feet to feel good and look great. These are $16 right now.

Roll up Dice Mat

Nothing is worse than accidentally scratching up a gaming table. This roll up dice mat does a great job of preventing those scratches. Plus it comes with dice! How could you go wrong? This neat little set costs $16.

Dragon Flame Goblet

It’s a wine goblet and it has a dragon on it. A dragon wine goblet! I mean, you don’t have to drink wine out of it but your GM will sure look like they know what they are doing when they set this thing on the table. This libation holder will run you $22.

A Great GM Screen

Your Game Master may already have a good screen but this one has pockets where they can stuff all there notes and all that good stuff which is super helpful when running a game. It’s good for nearly any kind of fantasy TTRPG. And it looks amazing. You can get this one for $50.

A Whole Bunch of Dice

What’s one thing every Game Master can always use more of? Dice. Lots and lots of dice. Why not just give them a big old pile of math rocks? This set gets you 140 dice for $23 but you can buy smaller sets if that price is too high for you.

In Conclusion

Well, that’s my list of 14 cool things to give to your favorite Game Master (or TTRPG enthusiast) on 2/14 or any other day really. I’m not trying to make the hard sell on any of this stuff. Do you need anything here to be a great Game Master? Not at all. Well, it does help to hav dice. But if you were thinking of giving someone a cool gift and you buy through this post, it really helps the blog out and allows me to keep doing what I do. Whether you buy anything or not, thanks for reading and I hope all your rolls are critical successes!

What in the World is Going on with TTRPG’s Right Now?

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here.

As most of you who read this blog probably know, I really enjoy playing Tabletop Role Playing Games. AKA TTRPG’s. Even if you have never heard the term TTRPG in your life, you know what one is. If you’ve ever heard of Dungeons & Dragons, that is the most famous one. That game is owned by a company called Wizards of the Coast or WotC for short. Even if you’ve never heard of WotC you’ve definitely heard of the company that owns WotC. Hasbro owns WotC. So when people talk about Dungeons & Dragons being a major TTRPG, owned by a big company, owned by an even bigger company, that’s what they are talking about. Hasbro is a very famous brand but they have a bit of a problem. Not everything they make is making as much money as they would like.

One brand of theirs doing well though, is Wizards of the Coast. Not only do they release D&D stuff, they’re also the company that owns Magic: The Gathering. And they are on the verge of launching a bunch of what could be really cool stuff. There is a D&D movie coming out soon starring Chris Pine. There is a Virtual Tabletop (or VTT) coming. There are several video games, books, toys, accessories and other various merchandise about to come out. And, they are about to move to the next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons. Currently they are on the fifth edition of the game. They’re moving to the next version but they are calling it One D&D. As in, we don’t need editions any more we’re just going to say it is D&D. Whether that name and attitude sticks remains to be seen.

With all of this cool stuff on its way it would seem like WotC is in a prime spot to make more money than it ever has. And honestly, as a lover of D&D and TTRPG’s I don’t mind them being successful. We’re talking the chance for them to go Marvel or Star Wars big if they do this right.

But, there has been a major snag, of WotC’s own making in the last month or so.

Usually on this blog, I don’t really delve into current events or news or whatever about TTRPG’s, I just like to talk about the stuff I like. But I honestly can’t keep silent anymore. Everything in this blog post is nothing more than my opinion, none of it is in any way legal insight or advice, and a lot of this ground has been covered by people much more knowledgeable than myself. However, since there are people who read my blog who like TTRPG’s, I kind of feel like I owe it to them to say something even if I have what anyone would consider a small audience. Because, here is the thing, at this moment in time I think Hasbro and WotC are forgetting absolutely everything that makes their own game great in the first place. Yet, I don’t think it is too late for this all to be corrected. If you’re not a TTRPG nerd, this article may not be for you. I promise to get back to movie and book reviews and all the other stuff I do on this blog soon. But if you do play TTRPG’s I hope you’ll read this because I think it’s important that we all as enthusiasts of this hobby realize we are what make TTRPG’s work, whether you make content, play the games at your own home, or just read the books and do nothing else with them.

If you follow the world of TTRPG’s even a little bit you’ve probably heard about the huge dust up between WotC and independent creators over something called the Open Gaming License, or OGL for short. This license, along with the set of rules you can use to play D&D called the System Reference Document or SRD for short is what allows people to make things related to D&D for others to use and then buy those products. For example, if there was a creator like Matt Colville who decided to make a subclass for Rogues, and wanted to sell it for $0.99 he is allowed to do that as long as he acknowledges the OGL.

WotC and Hasbro, or more accurately, their lawyers want to change that. They want to revoke the OGL and put in a new version of the OGL. Whether or not they have the right to do that, and whether or not someone would get sued for making D&D third party content under the new license is really up in the air at this point in time. You see, WotC, sent a bunch of contracts with a new OGL, that would frankly, take away a ton of revenue from almost anyone who makes third party content for D&D. These contracts leaked to the press and there was strong outrage over the terms in there from the TTRPG creator community. I won’t get too specific here but basically it boiled down to this. WotC would almost certainly be able to tell anyone they want that they can no longer use the old OGL, and might have lawyers come after those creators. In addition, if you used the new OGL, you’d have to pay fairly high royalties to WotC. This meant that publishers such as Paizo or Kobold press, who make products that use the OGL, might very well be sued by Hasbro. Worse than that, WotC was saying they could have the rights to any new characters or ideas made using the new OGL, so, say Grogg from Critical Role, might now be a D&D property even though the folks at Critical Role clearly came up with him.

To make a long story short, community creators didn’t like this and there has been a lot of pressure put on WotC to do something about it, or at least acknowledge the problems people were complaining about. In fact, WotC waited so long, Paizo may end up looking like the biggest heroes in the TTRPG space for decades to come. (More about that later in the post.) The pressure seemed like it might have started working as people began to unsubscribe from D&D Beyond, where you can buy lots of virtual stuff for D&D fifth edition. Hasbro has assuredly at this point realized they are losing money. Whether or not they care about that is still unclear in my opinion. WotC released a statement over the whole debacle and there was something in there that just angered and saddened me so much that I had to write this post.

On the one hand, they have delayed the release of the new OGL, probably because they now need to scramble with the wording to make it more palatable for creators, but still basically suck as much money from people as WotC can. It makes sense for them to delay given the context of what is going on. But in their statement, giving what amounted to a non-apology apology, they had a paragraph in there that just blew my mind as to how adversarial and negative the Executives at WotC and Hasbro must think towards their audience.

The quote is below and I’ll talk about why it made me so upset after.

A couple of last thoughts. First, we won’t be able to release the new OGL today, because we need to make sure we get it right, but it is coming. Second, you’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.

WotC STatement on 1/13/2023. Full statement available on D&D Beyond

Like I said, delaying the release of the new OGL makes perfect sense. I don’t have any issue with that. But the statement in full did not completely address some of the biggest problems with the proposed new OGL. If Wizards of the Coast was smart and could see the writing on the wall, they would have given up and said they would just stick with the old OGL.

There is another alternative WotC could have chosen but we’ll get to that later as well. What they instead chose to do, was to talk about winners and losers. I want you to keep something very basic about D&D in mind as you read the rest of this post because this just shows how little WotC and Hasbro seem to get it right now. There are no winners or losers in D&D. Never have been and never will be. We’re not playing Monopoly here. This is a cooperative game where people are supposed to work together to slay the dragon. WotC and Hasbro don’t seem to realize that at this point, they are the dragon. In my opinion, this whole “people say that they won and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans.” section absolutely is trying to devalue any opinion long time lovers of this game have. It’s not so much how they phrased that but that they think there should be any us against them at all in the TTRPG community. When D&D does well, other TTRPG’s also do well and vice versa.

In essence Hasbro expects that they can lose a bunch of old timers who have been playing this game since forever and replace them with all the new fans they will get once a shiny new movie and edition come out. They may even be right about that. It’s possible D&D will see more devoted and dedicated players than ever before and they won’t need any of us who have always played this game. But I have my doubts that will work. For one thing, I’ve never heard of a show or movie convincing anyone to actually sit down at a table and play a D&D campaign for hours on end. As successful as Stranger Things is, I don’t think there are very many people who started playing solely because they watched that show.

You know who does get people to start playing D&D? People who already play D&D. Older sisters, younger brothers, friends, cousins, teachers, mothers, fathers, sons, aunts, uncles and anyone else who just really loves the game and wants to share it with others. As much as I love this game, it’s going to be hard to tell someone I want them to play this game, but be warned, the company that makes this game does not care at all about the people who play it. And right now, that’s what I would have to say in order to be honest.

Now, maybe Hasbro actually doesn’t care about the TTRPG known as D&D. Maybe they only care about the movie, video games and VTT that are coming because those are potentially bigger money makers. But a big chunk of their audience is upset and disappointed in the direction this stuff is going. I don’t, nor should anyone, blame people who just so happen to work at WotC or Hasbro and have no influence over this decision. The people I do blame are the ones who don’t seem to understand this game at all, don’t care about the creators, players, older sisters, younger brothers, friends, cousins, teachers, mothers, fathers, sons, aunts, uncles and anyone else who just really loves the game and wants to share it with others. Instead they see us as roadblocks to money. It’s as boldfaced an incident of corporate greed as I have ever seen. And I was willing to hand my $50 over for almost any book WotC printed before. I’m not so willing now.

I had some content coming up this year that was going to feature some 5th edition D&D. I was strongly considering doing a solo D&D 5E play through and writing about it on this blog. I was also considering writing an adventure for D&D this year and releasing it on The Dungeon Master’s Guild website. I still may do so, but it is going to 100% depend on what WotC does next. I would be considered the tiniest of tiny creators but even someone as small as me is having second thoughts. I would encourage anyone reading this to think twice about making anything using the OGL at this point in time because we just don’t know what will happen and it would be a major shame for all that energy and effort to simply put you in a courtroom.

I know I sound negative and like doom and gloom is coming. But there are spots of hope. For one, WotC did delay the release of what would have been an utterly horrendous OGL and that is for one reason and one reason alone. The TTRPG community is a tight-knit, friendly community, who knows how to read and understand rules, and is more than willing to organize. For goodness sakes, most of us devour 500 page books regularly and organize 5-7 people weekly guiding our players through rules that can be very difficult to understand. That’s just to say, we can tell when a company thinks we are too dumb to understand something. That’s exactly what WotC is saying with their statement. It’s been inspiring to see the TTRPG come together and activate so quickly. Now, there are some who seem to blame people who are just doing their jobs at companies like WotC and Hasbro and that should not be the norm here. We’re better than that. Fat cat executives who only care about the price of stock and the lawyers who are more than happy to squeeze every penny out of every person playing D&D are the ones to blame, no question.

The second inspiring thing here comes from one of D&D’s largest competitors (although I don’t actually see them as competition because as I said, TTRPGs all do well when any one of them does well), Paizo. Paizo knew it would be inevitable that at some point, if the new OGL was released, they would end up in court over it. They rolled with advantage on their initiative and announced they would get behind something called the Open Resource Creative License nicknamed the ORC license. Essentially the statement from Paizo did absolutely everything right that WotC did wrong. They got ahead of an issue, even one that wasn’t of their own making, they respected the TTRPG community while doing it, and they offered to bring their lawyers to slay the dragon of Hasbro if needed. Contrast the statement below with the one above and see if you can tell which company is being friendly to their audience.

We believe, as we always have, that open gaming makes games better, improves profitability for all involved, and enriches the community of gamers who participate in this amazing hobby. And so we invite gamers from around the world to join us as we begin the next great chapter of open gaming with the release of a new open, perpetual, and irrevocable Open RPG Creative License (ORC).

Full statement available at Paizo.com

Now, we need a little bit of caution here. We haven’t seen the final draft of the ORC license but man, I already want to go around saying I have an ORC license. Something else very encouraging here is that Paizo doesn’t actually intend to be the caretaker of this license. They want to give it to a non-profit organization who has expertise in dealing with open source material. If you know anything about software think about Linnux as opposed to say Microsoft. The point is for everyone to use it and everyone to have the same basic building blocks to make stuff with. It will be important that there be some set of rules to go with the ORC license. I’m talking game rules, not law rules, although those are also important. It’s one thing for a company like Paizo to say something like this but it’s something entirely different to hear that a ton of other companies have also said they would adopt the ORC, including Chaosium Inc, Kobold Press and a bunch of other publishers well known in the TTRPG industry. This move is so bold, TTRPG gaming may have just been changed forever. And when people look back at what happened in January 2023, they are going to say Paizo innovated, thought well of their fans, and landed boat loads of good will. It’s possible Paizo’s idea won’t work but they are seriously trying to make it work and it helps that several of the people from Paizo who are working on the ORC also worked on the original OGL. In other words, Paizo had major, major credentials here.

I will admit this to everyone reading. I have never played Pathfinder which Paizo produces. I have played a few sessions of Starfinder and enjoyed it but I’m by no means as well versed with Paizo products as I am with WotC products. But I’m seriously considering the switch. (Also I love Chaosium and they were never in danger from the OGL issues but they’ve also had a good response to the whole debacle so I’ll still be playing their games.)

If you think the OGL issues has no effect on you and you play 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons at all, you’re wrong. There is some rule or mechanic, or situation you have used that came about because of the OGL. And even if you’ve never played any D&D this OGL could still affect you. The video game Knights of the Old Republic uses the same d20 system that D&D does. I don’t think Disney is going to line up to hand over money to WotC any time soon though and there’s no way, any Jedi get to become part of D&D because of this proposed move.

If WotC wanted to maintain good will and bring people back from the brink of walking away with money in their pockets, their smartest move would be to sign on to the ORC. There’s almost zero chance of that happening but if they did, I think a lot of people would come right back to sing the praises of WotC.

At this point, unless we’re major creators, all we can do is wait and see what happens. I will say this though. If you feel strongly about the OGL needing to stay as is, or if you think WotC should sign on to the ORC, the best way to demonstrate that is with money. Or, rather, the withholding of it. If you were considering purchasing a book printed by WotC, wait a little while and see how this resolves. If you have a D&D Beyond subscription, consider cancelling it. Don’t shout at WotC employees online or in real life. Even if they are executives, they won’t hear you, but they will miss your money. And if you just can’t bring yourself to cancel that D&D subscription, I totally get it. D&D is fun! It’s supposed to be fun and giving it up is hard. But, maybe, take that money you were about to spend at WotC and go buy something new from an independent creator. Buy things on Drivethrurpg. Get something from Paizo, or Kobold Press, or Chaosium or Modiphius or any other TTRPG publisher you’ve heard of and always wanted to try. Or heck, try one you’ve never heard of and find out if it’s fun. There’s a good chance it is.

If you decide to cancel your subscription to D&D Beyond or buy a book from another publisher, use the hashtag #OpenDnD to let WotC know you can’t simply be lied to. Let them know you’re not okay with that. As always, be polite about it and thoughtful in your reactions to any news you hear. Spread the word about games you love playing that are not D&D. Or, in the case of some of these publishers who are publishing 5th edition content, such as Kobold Press, buy directly from them and use their books in your games. While D&D is the biggest name out there, they are by far not the only name out there.

Some games and supplements I strongly recommend you check out, not just because of gameplay at this point, but because of the ethical response from these companies, are as follows. Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium Inc. Pathfinder and Starfinder by Paizo, Midgard by Kobold Press, Sword Chronicle by Green Ronin, Aegis of Empires by Legendary Games, Jewel of the Indigo Isles by Roll for Combat, Super Powered Legends Sourcebook for Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition by Rogue Genius Games and anything printed by MCDM.

To be 1000% clear here, none of the links above are affiliate links, meaning I get absolutely no percentage of anything bought through those. I just think we should all take the time to take a stand against a company who will discard its own best audience. Purchasing something at the links above may help to do that.

I really hope in the end WotC saves face here, stops thinking of people like me and those of you reading this as the enemy, realizes we all can love this game together and if a smaller publisher is profiting because they are producing content for the game you have ownership of under an open license allowing them to do so, everyone benefits. The person selling the content benefits, the person buying benefits, and WotC benefits by spreading the word of this amazing game that has enamored so many of us.

I know this is a long post but I want you to just hang in there with me for a little longer. Before I go, I have to mention some of the people on YouTube who have done much more insightful, thoughtful and compelling pieces on this subject than I ever could. If you haven’t seen anything from these channels, take a look at their videos. I’ve curated what I think are the best of them so far.

Dungeon Dudes
Roll for Combat
The Rules Lawyer
LegalEagle
Sherlock Hulmes

With all of that said, I’m going to sign off here. I don’t know if I’ll ever do another post like this. It was kind of heartbreaking and frustrating to write. I never thought I would ever be in any position where I might want to step away from D&D at all but here I am. I hope I never have to completely walk away but the next move is WotC’s to make. Do they want to lose people like me, move on with their megacorporation plans, and only let in new players who are just here because of what they saw on television or in a movie theater? I am all for new players but I can’t recommend anyone become one at this moment. Hasbro may not care about that. I’m going to keep playing TTRPG’s no matter what.

If things all work out, maybe my next post will be about how awesome it to use horror elements in D&D. If not, well, Call of Cthulhu is pretty damn scary if you want it to be also.

I hope you’ve gotten something out of this post. If you get nothing else out of it, just take this with you. People who play this game, even the smallest of us, deserve to be heard. We deserve to be respected and we can tell when a corporation thinks of us as walking wallets. It’s not okay to treat people that way and not okay to have an us vs. them mentality when it comes to your own customers. It’s just not. WotC needs to hear this. And while there’s pretty much zero chance they will read this, maybe some of you will. If you do, feel free to share this post, reply back to me, tell me what you think in the comments (politely) and keep playing TTRPG’s. I think no matter what happens this community of people is smart enough and kind enough to keep this hobby thriving with or without big companies trying to stop us. I hope to be talking about something more positive the next time I write but until then, do what you can to help others in this community.

Long windedly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Top 5 Sourcebooks for New Dungeon Masters

D&D Campaign Adventures for Mythic Odysseys of Theros - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hello all, Slick Dungeon here. I can’t stand long intros to top 5 lists so I am going to get right into it. Just a couple of qualifiers first. These books are all intended to be used with the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Most Dungeon Masters who already have experience will likely have these books already so if that is you, this is probably not the post for you. But, if you are kind of new to Dungeons & Dragons and don’t exactly know where to start or which books are for what, these are the books I consider absolutely essential. You don’t necessarily need all of them to play but each one brings something of value for the new Dungeon Master. There is no particular order to these rankings because I do find them all equally valuable. Which ones are right for you is for you to decide.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. Basic Rules

Before you spend a single cent on any Dungeons & Dragons books, you should make sure the game is truly for you. There are a lot of ways you can do this. You can play with an already established group either online or in person. You can watch live play sessions on YouTube or Twitch. You can play any number of video games based on Dungeons & Dragons. Those are all great but they don’t give you the most inside look at what the rules actually are. My recommendation is to start at the beginning and read the basic rules. You can find those by clicking the image above or clicking right here. There is no cost and if you only use these rules, you can still have a stellar game session.

4. Dungeon Master’s Guide

Cover Art by Tyler Jacobson

This one may seem obvious but if you want an expansion of the basic rules, you’ll need to get the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This book goes over the basics of how to run the game but it also has great advice on everything from what magic items there are, how to create memorable non-player characters, and how to create worlds and multiverses right at home. While no single source book can be all encompassing, this does a fair job of covering most situations you’ll find in game. I’ve read and re-read and re-re-read this book more times than I can count and I usually still come away with something new each time.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This retails for $49.95 but there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

3. The Player’s Handbook

Cover Art by Tyler Jacobson

As Dungeon Master you have a big job. Not only do you need to know the rules of the game, you need to know what the players know about the rules. For this reason, you’ll want to have a copy of the Player’s Handbook at your side. This book covers the types of characters players can make, gives a run down of the rules, and contains rules for things like magic spells which will be used in the game. While I have certainly read this book more than once, I refer to it less than my players do. I have a good understanding of the rules and where to look when I am in doubt. But, I don’t memorize every word in every spell or anything like that. Still, this is a vital reference and if you’re serious about playing, it’s one of the core rulebooks you cannot do without.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This one also retails for $49.95 but again there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

2. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Cover Art by Wylie Beckert, Magali Villeneuve

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is the newest sourcebook on this list. I have it here because as good as the Player’s Handbook is, there were some issues with how rules for character creation happened. Tasha’s corrects some of those problems and gives more freedom to players on how to build their characters. I won’t get into the finer details in this post but it did make it so players were not quite as locked into things like every Half-Orc character having to have only certain bonuses just because they were a Half-Orc. In other words, you could have a Half-Orc who is really intelligent or charismatic etc. rather than one who just has tons of brute strength. In addition to that, however, there are also great tips in here for making puzzles and traps. Also, this has the Artificer class which is an extremely fun class to play.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This one also retails for $49.95 but again there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

1. The Monster Manual

Cover Art by Raymond Swanland

In a way, I’ve saved the best for last. This is my favorite of the core books. Whenever I am stuck for ideas about what to throw in front of my players, a flip through here always gives me inspiration. The Monster Manual is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a bestiary explaining the different types of monsters you can use in the game. If you’ve been playing with the basic rules, this manual helps to expand your options. And each creature gets not only a stat block to show you how to run it, but it also has good descriptions and details of where the creatures live, how they behave and what some of their goals or motivations might be. Using this book is very helpful to flesh out a session and the rules are generally clear about how to run the monsters in your own game. There are other books that expand on this one so if you ever do get tired of playing with what is here, you always have that option. But for beginners this is where to start for making great enemies (and sometimes friends) for your players.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This one also retails for $49.95 but again there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

Conclusion

There are my top five recommendations for sourcebooks for new Dungeon Masters. These will cover the basics for you and you can have months of fun with these alone. If I had to give you my top 3, it would be basic rules, Player’s Handbook, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The basic rules do cover a lot and the DMG is great to have but ultimately, you as the Dungeon Master, can come up with your own worlds with or without having every single rulebook.

In a future post I will go over my top 5 adventure books for fifth edition but it’s tough to play those without any sourcebooks whatsoever.

So, have you used any of these sourcebooks? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

And, if you like these types of posts and want more of this type of content, consider purchasing one of the awesome books listed above through this post. It really helps out this blog when you do.

Adventurously yours,

Slick Dungeon

Call of Cthulhu Review – An Amaranthine Desire

Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Hello Keepers and Investigators, it’s Slick Dungeon. I’m here to review the first of the scenarios in Chaosium’s 7th edition anthology Nameless Horrors. As the name implies, these scenarios are not based on any monsters, creatures, or cosmic entities you might find in the Keeper’s Rulebook. The idea here is that every scenario should have a threat unfamiliar to even the most seasoned Investigators. There are six scenarios in the anthology and I will be reviewing each of them one at a time. They are set in different time periods and locations and can all be run independently of one another. And while some may be good to drop into existing long running campaigns, others are less suited to that purpose.

Please be warned, especially if you are in Investigator, there will be some spoilers in this review. If you are planning to play in this scenario as an Investigator stop reading now. If you are a Keeper who is considering running this scenario or thinking about purchasing Nameless Horrors feel free to continue. The review begins below the image.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Nameless Horrors, created by Paul Fricker, Scott Dorward, Matthew Sanderson with Cover Art by Victor Leza published by Chaosium Inc.

An Amaranthine Desire is initially set in the Cthulhu by Gaslight era with the Investigators all taking part in a covert smuggling operation in the city of Dunwich. Nope, not the one you are thinking. This is not the Dunwich of The Dunwich Horror but rather the Dunwich in England which is known as the capital of of the Kingdom of the East Angles but has since eroded into the sea due to multiple instances of intense storms.

The era in which the Investigators begin doesn’t have a ton of bearing on the scenario itself, so if you are running a campaign set in a different era and still want to run this one, it should work with only a few minor adjustments.

As the Investigators are about their secretive and illegal work, a major storm hits. This storm, along with the sound of church bells ringing, transport the group back in time to 1287, the year of the first massive storm to hit Dunwich. The scenario gives the reason for the storm and puts the Investigators into a situation where they need to find a way back to their own time, possibly find a powerful item wrapped up in the history of Dunwich, deal with the burning of an accused witch, and contend with one another’s various motivations.

The idea of the scenario is quite fun as there is a constant time loop that happens, sort of a Lovecraftian Groundhog Day if you will. And with the completion of each loop the Investigators age each time so the situation does become deadly. The time loop alone is not the only danger here and I would honestly be surprised if any party makes it out with no deaths at all.

I’m not going to give away any more of the plot here but I would like to call out what I find good and bad about the scenario.

In the good category, this is a really inventive situation and because there is no real warning about the time shift, your players will have to be creative and come up with solutions quickly to save themselves. Also, there are several NPC’s here who can be played in a multitude of ways from pure evil to morally ambiguous, making it a much more interesting scenario to run, with some replay potential for the Keeper with a different party. The pre-generated characters all have decent story hooks and good reasons to be smuggling at the beginning. Several of them also have connections to the events of the past which helps to move the story along. This is a one shot scenario made for around 4-6 characters and running it in 1-2 sessions is definitely doable here.

In the bad category, there were multiple instances of frustrating spelling and grammar errors in the scenario. Overall, this is a minor but distracting issue. The scenario itself is fairly complex and has a good amount of NPC’s so as a Keeper you’ll want to take notes as you read through. This is not so much of a “bad” thing, it’s just worth mentioning. The last thing which might be considered a negative is for the scenario to work best, it really does make the most sense to use the pre-generated characters. For that reason, I don’t actually recommend dropping this into an existing campaign without making some major changes to fit your current party of Investigators.

Overall, the inventive nature of the scenario, the unexpected twists, and the potential for surprising your players puts An Amaranthine Desire into the extremely fun to play category. Like with all scenarios, I do recommend reading the whole thing through once, then reading again to take notes, and skimming once more immediately prior to a session as there are a lot of moving parts here.

If you are looking to purchase Nameless Horrors you have a couple of options.

You can purchase it on drivethrurpg as a PDF here. Right now it’s on sale for $12 but it usually runs for $15. With this version you do only get the PDF so if you want a physical book this is not the best way to purchase. However, if you have the PDF you can probably just print out the relevant pages and handouts.

You can also purchase the softcover, which includes the PDF, from Chaosium’s website here. The cost here is $35. This version does have the advantage of being physical so the layout is easier to flip through and since you get the PDF, if you are willing to pay a little more, it is the better version.

So, have your played An Amaranthine Desire? If so, how did it go for your group? Let me know in the comments.

Namelessly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Top 5 Campaigns for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here. I hate long intros to top 5 lists so we’ll get into it pretty quickly.

Before we do that I just need to clarify a couple of things. A campaign is a long form of story for Call of Cthulhu, meaning it is multiple scenarios played over multiple sessions.

Also, for most of these you will need at least the quick start rules for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition. More likely, you will want the Keeper’s Rulebook for 7th edition so be sure to get your hands on those before diving into these campaigns.

These are my five favorite campaigns for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. The Alone Against Series

Alone Against the Flames: Written by Gavin Inglis, cover artwork by Petr Stovik, published by Chaosium Inc.

One of the great things about Call of Cthulhu is that it’s fun to play not only with a group of people, but also by yourself. I would be remiss if I did not include at least one solo play campaign here. Now, technically the Alone Against series is not a linear campaign where you’d play one investigator going through a series of events from start to finish. Instead, all of the Alone Against books stand on their own but are thematically tied in that… you play alone. I’ve also played this where I was the Keeper and I had one person playing on the other end and it worked really well so you could play this with two people. The one to begin with would be Alone Against the Flames, which not only is a great adventure but also, helps introduce new players to how to play Call of Cthulhu. For new Keepers, it’s a must. But once you finish Alone Against the Flames, there are several other adventure books you can play including, Alone Against the Tide, Alone Against the Frost, and Alone Against the Dark. Different people prefer different ones in the series but they’re all fun to play in my opinion and if you want a way to make your solo play last longer, playing through the series is a great way to do it.

There are several ways to get the Alone Against series of books. You can get them from drivehtrurpg.com. You can also purchase them directly from the Chaosium website at Chaosium.com. And, if you get the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition starter set, Alone Against the Flames comes in it so you can get it that way. The prices can vary between Chaosium, drivethrurpg, and based on if you want the softcover or just the PDF so I recommend doing a little comparison shopping but you can get each one for less than $20 typically which is a great price for hours of entertainment. Do note that on drivethrurpg you can only get the PDF so if you know you want the softcover, Chaosium is the way to go.

4. The Children of Fear

The Children of Fear by Lynne Hardy and Friends, Published by Chaosium Inc.

This is a sprawling, epic, multi-part campaign with several scenarios in it. It’s very player-led so the story can go a ton of different ways. This takes the Investigators through parts of Central Asian and Northern India in the 1920s. It’s also scalable on the mythos spectrum, meaning you can have small time cultists facing your group or you can throw the Outer Gods right at them if that’s what’s right for your party. This one is definitely on the mature side and there’s a content warning here for that reason. While I would say a lot of Call of Cthulhu campaigns are around a PG-13 rating, this one is solidly in the R rated camp.

This being flexible and modular is great, however, it does require a fair amount of preparing on the part of the Keeper for that reason. You’ll need to know the story enough to improvise in case your Investigators go somewhere you weren’t quite expecting.

The handouts here are incredible and the artwork is spot on. Although this takes some improv skills and a bit of fine-tuning from the Keeper, it’s well worth the ride.

You can get the PDF from drivethrurpg for $27 at the moment. Or, you can get the hardcover and the PDF from Chaosium.com for $53. If you know you’re going to run the campaign I’d recommend going the Chaosium route but if you are only considering, or if you don’t have room for another hardcover book on your shelf, buying the PDF alone might be the way to go.

3. Beyond the Mountains of Madness

Beyond the Mountains of Madness by Charles and Janyce Engan, published by Chaosium Inc.

Who doesn’t like the idea of a horrific adventure in the frozen tundra? This campaign is actually a campaign from 1999 for the 5th edition of the game. It’s written as a playable sequel to the H.P. Lovecraft story At the Mountains of Madness. If you are the Keeper running this campaign, you’ll want to be familiar with that story before you start play. Also, since it is written for 5th edition you’ll need to do some work to convert the rules if you’re playing 7th edition. That part shouldn’t be too dificult.

You do get a lot in this book. It’s over 400 pages long so that alone should tell you, this will take some time to prepare and run. You’ll need to do your homework and there are some things in the campaign that may not be necessary for your group so you may be reading through some things you won’t use. There are a lot of handouts here but keep in mind it was made in 1999 so some of the handouts feel a little dated. But if you love that classic RPG feel, you’ll be right at home here.

If run well, this is a great and potentially lethal campaign, with lots of opportunities to drive your Investigators to the brink of madness and beyond. If you don’t prepare beforehand, it can be a complicated mess of checking through pages, tables, etc. so be warned. It’s very much worth it if you can pull it off, however.

You can get the PDF version on drivethrurpg for $20 or you can get the hardcover on Chaosium for $50. In this case, because there is a bit of shuffling, cutting things out and rearranging likely to happen, I actually recommend getting the PDF rather than the hardcover. You will get the PDF with the hardcover if you buy from Chaosium but I find this one just suits my needs a little better loose leaf where I can take out what I don’t need and reshuffle.

2. Horror on the Orient Express

Horror on the Orient Express, Published by Chaosium Inc.

At the heart of the game of Call of Cthulhu is mystery. There’s a reason the players are called Investigators, not heroes or travelers or something like that. One of the best known mysteries is Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie so it’s only natural to decide to turn this mystery into a Lovecraftian nightmare.

Three identical men are all found dead on the same night, in the same room, all dead of stab wounds to the heart. This intriguing incident is what sets the Investigators off on this huge adventure. It will take Investigators across Europe. I don’t want to get into spoilers here but this campaign is a joy to run. It’s got deep mystery, weird happenings, a ton of handouts and a great hook to start the campaign. The Investigators get immersed quickly in this one which is great for any scenario but especially good when you are talking about a long campaign.

Like most of the campaigns on this list, there is prep work needed on the part of the Keeper but it’s well worth the effort.

You can get the PDF for this on drivethrurpg for $40 at the time of this post.

But, if you are willing to splurge, you can get an absolutely gorgeous edition of this campaign split into two volumes on Chaosium.com for $90. I know that’s a hefty price tag but if you want to run an epic and amazing campaign this is one of the best ones there is for Call of Cthulhu.

1. Masks of Nyarlathotep

Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry Ditillio and Lynn Willis

Masks of Nyarlathotep is my absolute favorite Call of Cthulhu campaign hands down. It’s epic and sprawling and can keep your Investigators busy for at least a year easily. This is a globe trotting adventure with tons of adventure, surprises and horror abounding. Nyarlathotep is ready to usher in a new world but the Investigators must stop him. They’ll need to use all their wits and cunning to figure out how and somehow remain sane long enough to do it.

This one absolutely takes a lot of preparation to run as a Keeper and it’s one I recommend reading a couple of times through before even proposing to run it for your players. But if you do, it is so worth it. It’s an incredible experience with tons of twists and turns. You’ll definitely need to make adjustments for your group as some hints, clues, handouts and locations will be better suited to some people than others. Just be aware of that before running it and you should be okay.

Considering the epic scope of this campaign it doesn’t run cheap.

You can get this on drivethrurpg as a PDF for $18 which is your cheapest option. If you’re just curious about the campaign and not sure you want to commit to it, this is a good option for a first read through.

On Chaosium’s website you can get a few different versions.

You can get the omnibus PDF edition for $60 which has rules for both Call of Cthulhu and Pulp Cthulhu.

Or you can get the slipcase set for $129 which has two volumes for the campaign, a Keeper screen, all the handouts and maps, and the pre-generated character sheets already printed for you.

And if you really want to spend some money and have some impressive looking books too you could go for the leather slipcase set for $250. This includes all the same stuff you get in the slipcase set but the books are leather bound. At the time of this post, this version is on sale for $199 but I have no idea how long that will last. It’s a lot of money still but you’re saving a bit. And if you do buy this set, you’ll have a gorgeous looking set of books totally appropriate to wow your Investigators with.

Do you have any favorite campaigns you’ve run? Let me know it the comments and Happy Halloween month!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Hammersmith Haunting: A Call of Cthulhu Adventure Review

The Hammersmith Haunting by Kat Clay
The Hammersmith Haunting by Kat Clay

Hello horror RPG fans, it’s Slick Dungeon and I’ve got a neat little Call of Cthulhu adventure to review for you today! It’s set in London in the 1890’s and was created by Kat Clay. The adventure was created for three to five players and is meant to take one to two sessions to complete. It’s a ghost story with a whole lot more going on and is called The Hammersmith Haunting.

I’m definitely not going to give everything away here but if you are a player who might play in this scenario, stay away, as there may be some spoilers. If you are a Keeper looking for an adventure to run, I’ll give you a short rundown of the scenario and let you know my thoughts on whether this would be a good one to run.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Keeper’s Eyes Only – What you Get

If you are a player and not a Keeper, don’t read past this sentence.

In this adventure you get five pre-generated characters for your players to choose from, five NPC’s with detailed descriptions and stat blocks, four player handouts, and three maps. There’s also a bit of historical commentary on a real world incident related to the events in the scenario, several photos and bits of artwork you could either show to players or keep to yourself for inspiration, and some tips and advice for running the adventure.

The author makes no secret that the scenario is a fairly linear storyline. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing and, in fact, may be helpful to newer Keepers who want to run something which won’t take months to complete and gives a bit of guidance on how the story should play out. But, it is something to keep in mind if you and your players really love more open ended scenarios.

The story is divided into three chapters and a conclusion, allowing for good stopping points if you can’t complete the scenario in a single session.

The scenario is set in 1890 so this is more suitable for those interested in playing in that time period.

The first chapter does a nice job of setting the mood and increasing the fear of both the investigators and those affected by the haunting in Hammersmith. There are a couple of rather memorable NPC’s in this section. Again, this is a linear storyline, so there may be instances where you’ll need to nudge your players in one direction or another a bit to keep the story moving. But, there are enough locations that virtually anywhere the Investigators end up, they’ll be able to get back on track to the main story.

In the second chapter the Investigators learn a little bit more about what is going on in Hammersmith and why. The creepiness factor increases and there’s a fairly intense scene which comes into play in the last chapter. This chapter also does a nice job of making the haunting personal but also connecting it with a larger cosmic mythos, so the stakes feel high.

The third chapter is the confrontation of the entity causing the problems in Hammersmith. This part is no joke and it will be a difficult confrontation for the Investigators. What’s more, depending on what actions the Investigators took in the first two chapters, they may be at more of a disadvantage against their enemy.

There are three given possible conclusions and an additional outcome depending on what the Investigators did. At least two of the conclusions could lead to longer campaigns and would be a good beginning to explore a lot more of the cosmic horror to be found in Call of Cthulhu.

While I don’t want to get much more specific for fear of spoilers, there is a lot of good horror to work with here so the scenario can definitely get that fun and creepy vibe that makes some of the best Call of Cthulhu scenarios.

Who is the Adventure for?

This scenario is suited well for those who like to play in the Gaslight era. It’s good for a group of 3-5 people who want to have a one shot scenario which takes one or two sessions at most. It’s also good for a Keeper who wants to have a bit of direction on how a story might play out, rather than having a sprawling sandbox for their players.

The adventure is quite well written, which is no surprise, as Kat Clay is also an author. This does lead to moments where perhaps more player agency could have been allowed but a good Keeper would be able to still improvise enough to get players to make choices where it feels like they are the ones driving the story rather than the Keeper.

The villain in the story is also nicely set up where, depending on how things go, they could make an appearance, or even be a major part of, future scenarios. I don’t know if Kat Clay has any plans to expand this but I could see this becoming a whole campaign if she wanted to make it into one.

If you are looking for a solid one shot scenario set in the gaslight era for Call of Cthulhu this is going to be a fun one to run. All you need is the adventure itself and the Keeper rulebook to run it.

How to get the scenario

The cost is quite reasonable. You can get the PDF version for $4.95, the softcover for $9.95, or the softcover and PDF for $14.90 all on drivethrurpg. If you are going to use the softcover at all, I highly recommend getting the $14.90 version so you get the PDF along with it, that way you can print again to play with another group if you ever want to.

Also, if you want a bit more background on how this scenario came to be and what inspired the author to create it, check out her video below.

The Hammersmith Haunting – A Call of Cthulhu scenario

Have you run this scenario? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Arcadia Issue #5 From MCDM – Review

Arcadia Issue #5 From MCDM Artwork by Sean Andrew Murray

Hello dungeon crawlers, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! I’m back to review another issue in the awesome magazine put out by MCDM Productions, Arcadia issue #5. The magazine has delivered some great value in past issues so we’ll see how this one holds up.

The magazine is a good deal at $12 a piece right now but if you buy the bundle of the first three issues it’s $18 so I would recommend going with that. You can buy your copies here. Just a note that I am not associated with MCDM so I’m just recommending buying this because I think it’s good, not for any other reason.

I took a look at all the articles and want to give you my hot takes so far. If you don’t know what Arcadia is and you want to learn more about it before reading about issue #5 you can start at the beginning and check out my post for issue #1 here.

Also, if you want to go even further in depth about issue #5 you can see the Q&A with the creators below.

Arcadia 5e Magazine: Issue 5 Q&A with the creators

This issue features just 3 articles but it still comes in at a solid 34 pages. There are no adventures here. Instead, we get an article about long term curses, an article about a new subclass, and an article with some new spells. I’m going to go through each of these articles and give my take on them so you can see if this might be something you want to purchase for your own home game.

Guild Adept PDFs - Available exclusively @ Dungeon Masters Guild

THE ARTWORK

In all five of the issues I have read so far, there has never been one where I was not impressed with at least some of the artwork. Even the articles that I find only so so tend to still have fantastic artwork. And there’s always at least one piece of art which makes me think you could plan an entire campaign around that single image. Issue 5 is no different in that regard and it’s great to see it continue. I really like the art in the first and second articles in this one but the cover to me is flat out amazing. I have no idea what’s going on there but it looks downright deadly.

Artwork by Sean Andrew Murray

Long-Term Curses

In Dungeons & Dragons there are a lot of instances where curses may come up. One issue some Dungeon Masters have is the curses can become meaningless if a simple 3rd level spell, Remove Curse, can simply wipe it out. This article attempts to correct that by giving some curses which are a bit more permanent.

The article gives us six brand new curses we could use in our games. Most of them also have helpful GM tips on using these curses. Let’s take a brief look at each one.

The first curse is The Curse of the Betrayed. Basically this curse makes the player character think at all times they are going to be or already have been betrayed in some ways. This curse can also affect the whole party. While I think there are some settings where a curse like this might work (particularly some in Ravenloft) overall, I have some issue with this curse. I feel like unless you have players who are really good at not letting personal feelings come into role play, this is a powder keg for bad player behavior. Specifically, I would be afraid one problem player might feel like this curse is a license to act however they want at all times, consequences be damned. I’m sure most people wouldn’t try to do that but I could see it escalating.

The second curse is The Curse of Cassandra. It’s pretty much a curse where players see a little bit into the future about and event that is going to happen to them. It’s not a maybe kind of prophecy, if they have this curse, the negative thing is going to happen. Of course, they can try to stop it and if they do, that’s one way to reverse the curse. But for this one I think this makes things difficult for the Dungeon Master. It’s hard enough to keep a table of players focused on what is happening right now sometimes, let alone on something you may have to shoehorn into your campaign.

The third curse is The Curse of the Living Dead. This is hands down my favorite curse in here, and the only one I really might consider using in my own campaigns. Rather than a player or party being cursed, this applies to a whole town or village. And, just like you might expect, this has to do with zombies and other undead. There’s a pretty creative take here though where any dead anything rises at midnight. I could see a pretty good Pet Cemetery style campaign happening here, or just straight up Night of the Living Dead.

Next we have the Curse of the Sordino. This one has a pretty good hook for bards where sound really comes into play. But if you don’t have bards in your party, it’s probably not the curse for you. However, it does seem like a fun adventure hook. I would say more but I don’t want to spoil it for those who might buy the magazine.

Curse of the Watchers is one where I think it would work really well if you are running Curse of Strahd, specifically because it involves ravens. Don’t use this if any of your players have a bird phobia though, it could be traumatic! We do get a pretty neat stat block for a Swarm of Cursed Ravens which could be used in almost any campaign.

Finally, we get Slow Polymorph. In essence, this curse changes a player character to be a little more monster-like but usually with some benefit as well. It’s probably not a condition any player would really want to keep for long though. I think this one could be used at any table but only if you really talk to your players about it first because it’s going to change them, potentially permanently.

Out of the six curses here there are only two I see where you probably don’t need to have long discussions with your players before implementing and only if characters are playing in certain types of settings. While all the curses are unique and might make a nice change from the usual curses players end up with, I can only give this article a C+. There’s simply too much prep work and potential for players to end up in fights with one another over some of these. If you do use one of these curses in your game, let me know how it goes because I’m really curious how well it turned out for you.

GoldMonger Subclass

One of the odd quirks of Dungeons & Dragons 5e is you tend to accumulate a lot of wealth if you live long enough. After all, you are plundering dragons hoards, raiding castles for magic items, and plunging the depths of cavernous dungeons, snatching up whatever coin comes your way. This article creates subclasses for those who have greed as one of their main motivations for what they do in the game.

The article gives us a deity of deals, three subclasses, and an NPC to play with. Let’s dig into those.

The deity they give us is a god of deals. I could see this one being played any number of ways and it would fit into any campaign where any transaction might be important. It’s also a unique deity your players aren’t going to have seen before so it’s definitely something fresh. And since this god had to do with deals, not just gold, it doesn’t have to be a transaction involving gold to use this in a campaign. I haven’t played a campaign using this but it seems like it could be fun.

The first subclass is a new domain for Clerics called the Avarice domain. This introduces a lot of neat features for Clerics. There are tons of subclasses for Clerics already so I can’t say this one is better or worse than the others but I could easily see a player hamming it up as a Cleric who is all about material goods.

The second subclass is a Druid Circle: Circle of the Gilded. This subclass is all about gems. Druids use the elemental powers granted to them by certain gems in order to protect the precious natural resources where the gems come from. The gems become part of the Druid and deal some types damage (lighting, acid, etc). A lot of the features in here seem really fun to play and since Druids are all about nature and precious gems come from nature, this one really makes a lot of sense.

The final subclass is an Oath for Paladins: The Oath of Acquisitions. I think this one is really cool. It basically allows Paladins to become mercenaries. They’re not necessarily out there for good or bad but for payment. They’re going to help, certainly, if you need, as long as you will fairly compensate the Paladin. I can’t even number the amount of stories where a mercenary is the main character in all kinds of fantasy. It gives you some cool magic stuff but again I can’t say it’s better or worse than other Paladin classes mechanically. Thematically though, I love this.

There are three retainer stat blocks listed next but if you don’t have Strongholds & Followers this won’t mean much to you. Just think of them as potential NPC stat blocks with some really simple attack mechanics.

Finally this article has an NPC with a full stat block who I could see coming in handy both as a quest giver for a party and a sometimes battle companion. It’s got a bit of good flavor here but as always you’ll want to make your NPC’s your own.

I really found a lot to like in this article. I especially like the deity and NPC provided but the subclasses are good as well. However, with a plethora of good subclasses already available for Clerics, Druids, and Paladins, I’m not sure there is a ton of reason to go with these over any of those. All in all this is a good article and I like how the theme of avarice ties everything together here. I give this a solid B.

Alabaster’s Almanac

In this article we get new spells for Bards, Druids, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards. These are presented in the form of an Almanac with some notes from someone named Alabaster.

I’m not going to go through each and every spell here but there are a few I want to mention so you can have an idea of what is offered here.

There’s a pretty potent 6th level spell for Druids and Wizards which essentially allows a creature to traverse “The World Below” without taking too much damage. It seems pretty fun and would be suitable for a setting like the Underdark so if you have a campaign set there this might be good to use.

Another spell is a sort of modified Mage Hand spell but instead of there being a spectral hand, you can teleport small objects to you. There are a lot of restrictions to it however, and it is a first level spell so it’s not always going to be the most effective of your spells.

The last spell I want to mention is really good counter to any scrying spells called Scryspike. With this spell not only can you stop the scrying spell from happening, you can also do some damage to the person who cast it in the first place.

There are several other spells listed in this article and most of them are really fun. Whether they are right for your table or not is going to depend on you and your party so definitely read through carefully before allowing any player to use them.

I think this was the best article in this issue, even if it was just more spells. But then again, who doesn’t want more spells? Spells are fun!

I’m giving this article an A.

If you’ve enjoyed this review and want to help out this blog, consider subscribing to my newsletter. If you want to find cool D&D resources and support this blog click on one of the DM’s Guild banners.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Classic Dungeons & Dragons back in print! - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

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Top 5 Space Themed Tabletop Role Playing Games

DriveThruRPG.com

Hi all, Slick Dungeon here. I’m not going to go into a long intro but I am going to give you a couple of caveats and disclaimers. First, I want to mention that although these are all space games, I did not include any Star Wars content. That’s not because those are bad games, it’s because I plan to do a different post about those games at a later date. Second, I don’t have Spelljammer from Dungeons & Dragons here because it is not fully released yet and would not technically be its own role playing game.

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get into the list!

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. Traveller

Traveller Core Rulebook

Traveller by Mongoose publishing is one of the first, if not the first, tabletop roleplaying game set in space. It’s been around forever and has a storied history of being played anywhere people love role playing games and want to go out into space to do it. While there is plenty of action and adventure here, it can feel a bit clunkier than some of the others on this list. It’s still one of the greats, however, and well worth playing, especially if you don’t want to play in a known brand like Star Trek or Alien. Because it exists outside of those types of domains you can be a bit more creative about what your campaigns are all about. I find this to be better with people who have at least some role playing experience to begin with but it’s usually a great time.

Get Traveller here for $30: Traveller Core Rulebook.

4. Stars Without Number

Stars Without Number by Kevin Crawford

Kevin Crawford is extremely adept at creating expansive role playing worlds, or in this case planetary systems, and Stars Without Number delivers an amazingly full experience here. It’s set in the far future but was inspired by old school sci-fi adventure. This was written from the ground up and the rule set is quite flexible for any kind of space campaign you may wish to run. The core rulebook gives you options for creating aliens, technology, and making your star systems more interesting. For anyone who loves a true sandbox style campaign this is an excellent system.

You can get the full set of rules for $20 for the PDF here: Stars Without Number

And while I do highly recommend getting the PDF (or even the hardcover book if you are looking to spend a bit more) the great thing is you can get most of the rules for free. Unlike most quickstarts or basic rules you can get for free these are very comprehensive and you could play for years with just the basic free rules.

That’s right, a ton of what you need to play is available for nothing right here: Stars Without Number Free Edition

3. Star Trek Adventures

Star Trek Adventure: The Role Playing Game

It’s nearly impossible to have a list of anything space related without talking about Star Trek. Fortunately for us there is a solid role playing game which allows you to boldly go where no one has gone before. This is what you would expect from a Star Trek game. There is plenty of exploration to be had and a fair amount of conflict. You can play as most of your favorite types of aliens from the core rulebook but there are also expansions that can add to your experience. If you are a Star Trek fan at all, this is a really fun game and Modiphius, the publisher of the series, did a great job of adapting their ruleset to the Star Trek franchise.

You can get the core rulebook PDF for $20 right here: Star Trek Adventures Core Rulebook

2. Dune: Adventures in the Imperium

Dune: Adventures in the Imperium: The Role Playing Game

If you are looking for something a bit more complex than a simple shoot-em-up space cowboy adventure you can’t go wrong with Dune: Adventures in the Imperium: The Role Playing Game. Dune has been adapted into an RPG before and it developed a strong cult following but for my money, I think the more modernized and updated rules from Modiphius in this current version are much more accessible and entertaining. Whatever you think of the books by Frank Herbert or the movies that have been made from those works, this game encompasses all of the greatest aspects of the Dune universe. It is chocked full of political intrigue, backstabbing, factional rivalries, and, of course, giant space worms. This one really does lean into the worlds of Dune so if you are looking to play this game, I do recommend reading at least the first book in the series. But if you are a casual fan who has just seen the movie you’ll still do fine, you just may not get quite as much out of the game. Anyway, this is all to say I really enjoy playing this one and it’s got hours and hours of role playing potential.

You can get the Dune: Adventures in the Imperium Core Rulebook PDF here for $25: Dune: Adventures in the Imperium Core Rulebook

1. Alien the RPG

Alien: The Role Playing Game

There are a lot of different reasons people play role playing games. I’m a fan of a bunch of different games for a bunch of different reasons. My personal tastes do lean a bit toward horror overall but that is not the only reason I have Alien: The Role Playing Game as my top pick. When it comes to sheer, outright fun in a space roleplaying game, I don’t think this one can be beat. While it feels like the universe of the movies, the game has enough variation and enough flexibility that it feels like nearly anything is possible. You won’t just be fighting chest bursters and Xenomorphs. As fun as those things can be, there’s actually a lot more to fight and explore. In fact, if you get the starter set, there isn’t a Xenomorph at all in the scenario they give you. To my mind, it’s better to start small anyway, considering a Xenomorph would be a big boss. And, much like in the best of the films, sometimes the most dangerous things you face are humans. All in all, this is just a fantastic game. Do be warned it does involve body horror (which should be no surprise if you have watched any of the films) and while you can ratchet the horror up or down to suit your party, I think this really is at its best when you can go into full scare/horror mode. If you play this one, you are going to remember it at night as you drift off to sleep, no doubt.

You can get Alien: The Role Playing Game PDF for $25 here: Alien: The Role Playing Game Core Rulebook

Or if you want just a bit of a taste of the game before you dive in, you can find the Alien: The Role Playing Game Starter set PDF here for $20: Alien: The Role Playing Game Starter Set

So, there you have it. Do you have any space faring games you love that I missed on this list? If so let me know in the comments.

And, if you like these types of posts and want more of this type of content, consider purchasing one of the awesome games listed above through this post. It really helps out this blog when you do.

Spacily yours,

Slick Dungeon

How to Play Call of Cthulhu Part 2 – Creating an Investigator

Cthulhu Rises

Introduction

Hello everyone, Slick Dungeon here. Last time I gave you a brief introduction on getting started with the horror themed tabletop role playing game Call of Cthulhu. If you missed that post check it out right here.

In this post we’ll go over how to make an investigator for the game in five steps. There will be a little bit of math involved but most of the steps are fairly understandable. I’ll also give you a guided tour of the character sheet and go over a couple of alternate methods people use for creating their characters.

In order to go through the process of character creation we’ll also need to define a few terms on the way. A lot of them are self-explanatory but we’ll go through everything so you have a thorough understanding of what each term and step means.

I’ll also provide you with some links and resources to help you get started with your own character. We’ll start by defining exactly what an Investigator is and what that means in Call of Cthulhu.

What is an Investigator?

In most contexts the word Investigator brings to mind the image of a sleuthing detective such as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot trying to find the answer to a mystery. Maybe it makes you think of a police procedural show such as CSI or Wallender. While these types of characters can inhabit the world of Call of Cthulhu, Investigators are not limited to police and detectives.

Investigators come from a huge variety of backgrounds. They have different personalities and occupations, hopes, interests and dreams. In short, people from all walks of life can be an Investigator in Call of Cthulhu.

What ties all these people together in this game is that they have seen or will soon see a peek into the unknown. They have pierced the veil of our ordered world and can see there is something lurking in the background. And while they may not understand exactly what that is, they know it’s malevolent and hungry. The difference between a normal person and an Investigator is that they know the truth and plan to do something about it.

In game terms an Investigator is a character a player controls in a scenario. The scenario can be run by a Keeper of Arcane Lore (Keeper for short) or if you are playing a solo adventure the narration of the adventure acts as your Keeper. Since our Investigators are characters I may use these terms interchangeably at times.

Because you’ll be spending a long time inhabiting this character, whether you are playing alone or with a group, you’ll want to take a good amount of time thinking about who your character is, what kinds of things they have experienced, and how they might behave in a number of different circumstances.

Some people love to have a really well thought out character before they put anything on a page and others like to be informed of who their character is as they play along. Either way there are some basic things you’ll need to know about your Investigator.

What You need Before you Start

Before we even get started with making our Investigators you are going to need a few things. My first recommendation is that you grab some scratch paper and a pencil with an eraser. You’re also going to need some six sided dice. (That’s the kind you find in a Monopoly game) I would suggest you get at least 3 of those but you may want to grab as many as six of them. You should also have a percentile die and a 10 sided die. If you don’t have a percentile die you can use two 10 sided dice just make sure you are consistent with which one is the tens place and which one is the ones place.

If you are like me and are occasionally mathematically challenged a calculator can be good to have on hand as well.

If you have all of those things the next thing you will want is a character sheet to fill out.

The character Sheet

Whether you are playing the classic version of the game set in the 1920’s, a modern game set in today’s era or in the dark ages or wild west you are going to need a character sheet. This series of posts is concentrating on playing the classic version but for the most part the steps of character creation are the same.

You may be wondering how to get a character sheet. There are a few ways to do that and your preferred method may depend on how you are playing. If you are playing strictly online a great resource is The Dhole’s House. You can sign up for free and save Investigators online. They also have resources for handouts, older versions of the game, and allow you to use several different methods for creating your character. If you are playing with a group, be sure to clear it with your Keeper before using any alternate methods of character creation.

If you are playing face to face with pen and paper there are two great resources you can use. I like to use the sheets you can find on drivethrurpg.com. They don’t cost anything and they cover most versions of the game you are likely to play. Plus that website has lots of other supplements you can get for playing whether you are a player or the Keeper.

Finally, you can go directly to the source of the game and get character sheets for all of the versions of the game at Chaosium.com.

The best thing about all of these sheets is that you can use the auto-calc function on these which helps with some of the math here.

Step 1: Generate Characteristics

Our Investigators are characters so what we are going to start with is finding out what characteristics make them up.

Call of Cthulhu has a set of rules defined by dice rolls and numbers on your character sheet. Every Investigator has a set of eight characteristics, with numbers associated with them, which create the foundation of the character. Let’s take a quick look at each one.

Upper Portion of a 1920’s Classic Era Investigator Sheet

Up above you can see there are spots to put an Investigator’s name, Birthplace, Pronoun, Occupation, Residence and Age. While these are generally self-explanatory, hold off on entering Occupation or Age at this point. If you have a name, birthplace, residence and pronoun picked out feel free to fill those in now. And if you have a nifty portrait you’d like to use for your character feel free to put that up there in the corner.

What we need to look at in depth here are the eight characteristics. We’ll go over what they are and how to determine them. Now is the time you are going to want to pull out your scratch paper, pencil and dice.

STRENGTH – STR

STR stands for Strength and is just what it sounds like. It’s how strong you are. It will help determine things like how much your Investigator can lift, if they have the strength to hold on to the side of a building and how much damage they do in hand-to-hand combat. If your Investigator is at 0 Strength they are an invalid, unable to get out of bed.

Roll 3d6 (three six sided dice) and multiply the result by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under strength.

CONSTITUTION – CON

CON stands for Constitution. This represents how hale and hearty you are. It’s your overall health and factors into things like resisting poison or surviving an attack. If your Investigator is at 0 Constitution they are dead.

Roll 3d6 and multiply the result by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under constitution.

DEXTERITY – DEX

DEX stands for Dexterity. This determines how quick, nimble, and flexible an Investigator is. This is used to find out things like if your Investigator can outrun an opponent, dodge out of the way of a falling object, or accomplish some delicate task that takes a lot of coordination. This number also determines who goes first in combat. If your Investigator is at 0 Dexterity they are uncoordinated and unable to perform physical tasks.

Roll 3d6 and multiply the result by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under dexterity.

INTELLIGENCE – INT

INT stands for Intelligence. Intelligence is what it sounds like. It’s how well your Investigator learns, remembers things, analyzes situations etc. This number is also important for a couple other reasons. It determines your number of Personal Interest points (we’ll get into those later in this post) and is used for both Idea rolls and Intelligence rolls during the game. We’ll get into those in a later post. If your Investigator is at 0 Intelligence all they can do is babble and drool.

Roll 2d6 and add 6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under intelligence.

SIZE – SIZ

SIZ stands for Size. This averages your height and weight into a single number. This is how big your Investigator is and is used to check if you can do things like squeeze into a tunnel or see over a fence. This number also helps determine your Hit Points and damage bonus and build. If your Investigator has 0 Size they have disappeared into nothingness.

Roll 2d6 and add 6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under SIZ.

POWER – POW

POW stands for Power. Power is your force of will. This should not be confused with strength which is a physical feature. POW also helps to determine what your sanity is in the beginning and if you have any magic points. We won’t get too much into detail on either of those in this post but we’ll talk about them in future posts. This is one category where if you lose points in POW it’s unlikely you will get them back in the game. If your Investigator has 0 POW they walk around in a zombie-like state without purpose.

Roll 3d6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under POW.

APPEARANCE – APP

APP stands for Appearance. Appearance is what it sounds like in that your physical appearance is a factor here. But it also includes your personality. In some games this would be called Charisma. In other words someone could have a hideous scar but be enough of a charmer that they still have a high number in APP. This number is mostly useful in social encounters. If your Investigator has 0 APP they are not only terribly ugly on the outside, they are also an incredibly unlikeable person.

Roll 3d6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under Appearance.

EDUCATION – EDU

EDU stands for Education. Education again is much what it sounds like. It’s the formal schooling your Investigator has undergone. It is also the formal and factual knowledge an Investigator has. This means your Investigator could possibly have no formal education but have enough self-learning to still have a high EDU. However, this is different than Intelligence so try not to mix these up. If you have EDU of 60 your Investigator has graduated High School. 70 would mean at least some college and 80 or over would be graduate level. EDU also helps determine Occupational skill points. We’ll get into those later in this post. This is also used for the Own Language skill which we’ll go over in a later post. Finally, EDU is used when making Know rolls which we’ll talk about in a later post. If your Investigator is at 0 EDU it would mean they were like a newborn baby or someone waking from a coma without much memory.

Roll 2d6+6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under Education.

LUCK

I realize this doesn’t come next on the character sheet but we’re going to do Luck first because there is less math here than in some of the other attributes. Luck is important in this game and can sometimes get you out of serious scrapes. You’ll want to roll high here. We’ll get more into how luck is used in a later post.

Roll 3d6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under Luck

AGE

Age is how old your Investigator is. No surprises there. However, unlike some games, age actually makes a difference in your other attributes. Most of the reason for the scratch paper is due to the fact that what age you choose for your Investigator influences several other numbers. You can play an Investigator aged anywhere from 15 – 90 years old. There’s a huge variety of physical and mental differences in this age range so the game has laid out some rules for age. You may want to look at how this changes your Investigator before you decide on their age. The breakdown is below.

15-19: If you choose this age range, deduct 5 points among STR and SIZ. The way the rulebook reads this can seem confusing. What you are doing here is deducting a total of 5 points from STR and SIZ. This means you could deduct 2 from STR and 3 from SIZ if you want or 4 from STR and 1 from SIZ. As long as it adds up to a total of 5 points deducted from those categories you should be good here. Once you have done that, roll twice to generate a Luck score (see above) and use the higher score. This will now be your luck score.

20-39: If you choose this age range you are going to make an Improvement check for EDU. To do this, you are going to roll your percentile die. This means if you have a D100 and a D10 go ahead and roll them at the same time. If you have two d10’s roll both of those but remember which one is the tens place and which one is the ones place. If your result is greater than what your EDU currently shows you get to roll 1d10 and add that number to your EDU. This is your new EDU score. If your result is lower than your current EDU score the number does not change. For example, if my Investigator had an EDU of 40 and on my Improvement check I got a 50 I would then roll 1d10. If I got a 4 on that roll, my EDU is now 44. On the other hand if I rolled a 30 in my Improvement check, my EDU remains at 40. One final note is that EDU cannot exceed 99.

40-49: If you choose this age range you are going to do a few things. First you are going to make two Improvement checks for EDU (described above). Follow the same steps both times. If you are successful both times your EDU improves each time. If you are unsuccessful both times your EDU remains exactly the same. If you have one success you improve it by the result of that success. Whatever results you end up with is your new EDU score. Next you are going to deduct five points from among STR, CON, or DEX. Again this is a total of 5 so you can decide how you split it up as long as it is a total of 5 points deducted. Next deduct 5 points from APP. What can I say, the world belongs to young people and the rest of us are just living in it.

50-59: If you choose this age range you are going to make three Improvement checks for EDU. This is described above. Use the same steps three times and record your new EDU score. If you have three failures, apparently you didn’t pay much attention in school. Next you are going to deduct ten points from among STR, CON, or DEX. Again this is a total of 10 so you can decide how you split it up as long as it is a total of 10 points deducted. You will then need to reduce your APP by 10. The wrinkles are starting to show.

60-69: If you choose this age range you are going to make four Improvement checks for EDU. This is described above. Use the same steps four times and record your new EDU score. I hope you didn’t fail all of these checks but if you did maybe you should have spent more time reading and less time listening to that new-fangled radio. Next you are going to deduct twenty points from among STR, CON, or DEX. Again this is a total of 20 so you can decide how you split it up as long as it is a total of 20 points deducted. You will then need to reduce your APP by 15. You’re getting into the “get off of my lawn” phase of your life.

70-79: If you choose this age range you are going to make four Improvement checks for EDU. This is described above. Use the same steps four times and record your new EDU score. If you failed all four of those checks I guess you really can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Next you are going to deduct forty points from among STR, CON, or DEX. Again this is a total of 40 so you can decide how you split it up as long as it is a total of 40 points deducted. You will then need to reduce your APP by 20. Looks like people are a bit concerned for your health and start to wonder if you should, “be checked into the home” at this point in your life.

80-89: If you choose this age range you are going to make four Improvement checks for EDU. This is described above. Use the same steps four times and record your new EDU score. If you failed all those checks you’ve been too busy with life to learn from books so who needs it anyway? Next you are going to deduct eighty points from among STR, CON, or DEX. Again this is a total of 80 so you can decide how you split it up as long as it is a total of 80 points deducted. The body is still holding up but it’s not what it used to be. You will then need to reduce your APP by 25. Sure, you may not be the hot date you once were but at least you’re still around.

For any ages outside of these ranges you’re going to need to consult with your Keeper. I suppose there could be a 99 year old Investigator but this life is hard so it might be time to think about retirement.

One word to add here is that although you do get some penalties for being in the higher age range categories that does not mean an older person makes a poor Investigator. Not everything is physical in this game and being highly educated can come in very handy especially when you need to research something about a monster you have heard is roaming around town. I would say the majority of people play in the age ranges of 20-49 but it’s really up to you and how you see your Investigator so go with what feels right to you.

Once you have decided what your Age is write that on your character sheet.

At this point it’s safe to start writing numbers into your character sheet. Take your final totals for the eight characteristics we went through and put those in now. You’ll see that there is also a spot for half and fifth results of those numbers. For the moment feel free to leave those blank as I’ll have a handy little cheat sheet for you from the rulebook below.

HIT POINTS

Hit points, like in most tabletop role playing games, is how much health you have. You can gain or lose these points depending on what happens in the game. Typically in Call of Cthulhu you are much more likely to lose Hit Points than gain them. In general it’s better to have more hit points but the cosmic horrors coming for you can crush a large man as easily as small one so be warned.

Add your CON and SIZ together then divide the total by 10. Round down any fractions. Write the total in the Hit Points section of the character sheet.

SANITY

For just a moment we are going to skip over Magic Points. In the Sanity box write your POW score. You’ll see that there is a spot for Starting, Current, and Insane. Your POW score goes in the Starting section. We’ll talk about the ways you lose Sanity and potentially go insane in another post.

MAGIC POINTS

Your Magic Points equal one fifth of your POW. If you want to do the math and fill that in now go ahead. Otherwise you can take a look at the cheat sheet from the rulebook below. Your Magic Points go in the spot that says Maximum.

HALF AND FIFTH VALUES

To determine your Half and Fifth values do the following. For half values divide the percentage value by two rounding down and add that in the half box for each characteristic. For fifth values divide the percentage value by five rounding down and enter that into the fifth box for each characteristic.

I’ve found this chart in the Keeper’s Rulebook to be invaluable in figuring this out.

Handy chart for calculating half and fifth values

Of course if you are using an online character sheet with auto-calc you don’t have to worry about this at all as the math is done for you.

Congratulations, your top portion should now be filled out. But before we move onto the next step I want to bring your attention to another section of the character sheet.

Somewhere on your character sheet you should see the fields for Move, Build, Dodge and Damage Bonus. Let’s determine those scores now.

MOVE

MOVE is the distance your Investigator can move in one round. This usually comes into play during combat or chase scenes. There is a formula for determining Move.

If your STR and DEX are both less than SIZ your move is 7.

If either your STR or DEX is equal to or greater than SIZ or if all three are equal your move is 8.

If your STR and DEX are both greater than SIZ your move is 9.

There are some penalties to move based on Age.

If your Investigator is in their 40’s take 1 point away from move.

If your Investigator is in their 50’s take 2 points away from move.

If your Investigator is in their 60’s take 3 points away from move.

If your Investigator is in their 70’s take 4 points away from move.

If your Investigator is in their 80’s take 5 points away from move.

Write your MOVE score on your character sheet.

BUILD AND DAMAGE BONUS

BUILD AND DAMAGE BONUS relate to how much damage your Investigator can do in combat in relation to their size. The Keeper’s Rulebook has a little chart for us to use here.

Build and damage bonus chart from the Keeper’s Rulebook

Use the chart above to fill in your Build and Damage Bonus on your character sheet.

DODGE

DODGE is just what it sounds like. It’s your ability to move out of the way when you are about to be hit with something. The baseline of your DODGE score is half of your DEX score. However, you may want to leave this blank for the moment as you can user Personal Skill points to increase this number if you choose to do so. We’ll talk more about Personal Skill points later in this post.

Whew! After all that work, Step 1 is complete. It’s time to move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Determine Occupation

Your Investigator is going to have something they do as a day job. There is a really wide range of occupations to choose from available in this game. There are far too many for me to list out and go through in this post. However, if you have the Keeper’s Rulebook or the quickstart guide you should be able to find occupations listed there. The Investigator’s Handbook has the most extensive listing of occupations so you may want to look there if you have it.

You’re going to want to choose one occupation. It’s best if you can find an occupation that you think suits your character. For example, a 70 year old is not likely to be an Acrobat. Also, a 15 year old is unlikely to be an Antiquarian. I’m not saying there are no cases where this is possible, it just would be less likely to fit a character. For the purposes of this post I am going to select an occupation for an Investigator I might make and show you how we use it. It should also be noted this is how an Investigator makes their living but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a job in the traditional sense. For example, criminal is an occupation you can choose but it’s not like your Investigator is going to write that on their tax form. There are also many occupations here that do conform to a normal job. For example, doctor of medicine is an actual occupation and one your Investigator can have.

When I think about what occupation to give my Investigators I usually have a few factors in mind. First, I want the occupation to suit my character’s personality. If I have an Investigator who is a strict rule follower, criminal is not going to be a good occupation for him. Second, there are bonuses associated with each occupation you can find in your source material. There may be some occupations that might not make sense for the campaign I am in even if they suit my character and give good bonuses. For example, if I am playing in a 1920’s era campaign where my very intelligent Investigator is looking into the unknown I would not want to choose the Hacker occupation even though it would give several good bonuses. Finally, if I am playing with a group of people I would probably not want to choose the exact same occupation as someone else in my group. While you could have two Police Detectives in your group it might be more beneficial to have on person be a Police Detective who has contact with law enforcement while another player is an Antiquarian who is very knowledgeable with research.

For my example I am going to say I am creating an Investigator named Bob Wilkes. He’s in his early 20’s and is connected to the mob. He’s had a revelation after he went to toss someone in the Boston Harbor and saw something he can’t quite explain come up out of the water as he did it. He’s still a tough guy but he’s trying to make some amends. That doesn’t mean he won’t use his mafia connections to his advantage, however.

To me, the occupation that makes the most sense for Bob is Criminal. Listed below is the description of that occupation from the Keeper’s Rulebook.

CRIMINAL—one interpersonal skill (Charm, Fast Talk, Intimidate, or Persuade), Psychology, Spot Hidden, Stealth, plus four specialisms from the following: Appraise, Disguise, Fighting, Firearms, Locksmith, Mechanical Repair, and Sleight of Hand.

Credit Rating: 5–65
Occupation Skill Points: EDU × 2 + either DEX × 2 or STR × 2

I’ll make note of what some of these things mean as we move into Step 3. Once you have chosen your Investigator’s occupation you are ready for Step 3.

Step 3: Decide Skills and Allocate Skill Points

On your character sheet you should see a list of skills that looks something like below.

List of Skills on the Investigator Sheet

You will see check boxes next to the skills. For the moment leave those blank. Those will be used during game sessions but not during character creation.

OCCUPATIONAL SKILLS

Next, you should see in the occupation you selected a list of skills you can choose from, a credit rating range, and a formula which tells you how to calculate how many occupation skill points you have.

In my example I get a few skills to choose from for an Interpersonal Skill. My choices are Charm, Fast Talk, Intimidate or Persuade. I decide I want Bob to be a bit of a tough guy so I choose Intimidate and I write that on my scratch paper.

Next, I get to write down Psychology, Spot Hidden and Stealth.

For the next group of skills I have to choose four out of the seven skills considered “specialisms”. I can choose from Appraise, Disguise, Fighting, Firearms, Locksmith, Mechanical Repair, and Sleight of Hand.

I decide Bob is a bit of a scrappy fighter who knows how to get up to no good when he wants to. I choose Fighting, Firearms, Locksmith and Sleight of Hand.

For the most part Skills are what they sound like so usually you can choose what fits with your idea of your character.

There are a few things to note here. One, no skill can start at above 75. You may be able to increase that skill during play but you can’t start any skill that high.

Additionally, no character can add points to the Cthulhu Mythos skill. The game assumes your character hasn’t really been exposed to this, even if, as in the case of my character, they have seen something strange in the past.

Next I will calculate my total Skill Points I can spend. To do this I use the formula given by the occupation. In my case it is EDU × 2 + either DEX × 2 or STR × 2.

Here are the stats I rolled up for Bob so far.

Bob Wilkes Characteristics

As you can see Bob’s EDU is 65. His STR and DEX are both 70. So what I do to determine my points is EDU = 65 x2 = 130. DEX = 70 x 2 = 140. 130 + 140 = 270. This gives me 270 points to split up among the eight skills I have based on my occupation. I can allocate those numbers however I want as long as no skill goes over 75.

We’ll get more into what each skill is for and why you may want to increase those in a later post. For now, just split those in the way that seems most reasonable for your character. For example, if I wanted Bob to be really good at getting into locked places, I might put a little more into his Locksmith skill than I do in his fighting skill.

Before you actually write in your totals on your character sheet you may want to write them down on your scratch paper. For one, this allows you to think about how you may want to balance your character, but also you’ll need to choose some Personal Skill points as well.

PERSONAL SKILLS

People are made up of more than just their professions. They also have hobbies and interests and things they just happen to know about. Your Investigator gets to allocate points for these types of interests as well. These points can, in fact, go into the same skills you used for your Occupation if you so choose. But again, you can’t start any skill over 75 and you can’t use Cthulhu Mythos as a personal skill.

To determine how many Personal Skill points you get, simply multiply INT by 2. For Bob, his INT is 40 so he gets 80 points to use.

At this point, go ahead and fill in all of your skill values for Occupation and Personal Interest skills. Again, if you are using the auto-calc sheet, the half and fifth values will be calculated for you, otherwise you can use the handy chart above.

You may be wondering how these skills numbers are used in play. We’ll talk about this in a future post but for now just know if you have a higher number in a skill, you are more likely to succeed when making a check during the game.

WEAPONS AND FIREARM SKILLS

Just a quick word about weapons and firearms skills. Your occupation may or may not have given you the option to choose a particular type of firearm skill. Even if it doesn’t you can still choose to spend personal or occupation skill points in these categories. However, you’ll probably want to speak with your Keeper to make sure any particular kind of weapon is appropriate for your campaign. If your occupation didn’t give you a firearm specialization, you get to choose what that is. For example, for my Investigator Bob, I decided he would be more likely to have a handgun than a rifle so that’s where I put my points for firearms.

CREDIT RATING

There can be a huge range of Credit Ratings in this game. Investigators can be penniless drifters to swanky debutantes. The more points you have in your Credit Rating, the more comfortable a lifestyle your Investigator leads. Bob has a range of 5-65 for his credit rating. This is because a Criminal could be a small time, street-hustling thief all the way up to the leader of an organized crime family.

You’ll want to decide how much you want to put into your Credit Rating based on who your character is and what they might be doing in life. Bob is still fairly young and not likely to be on the highest end of his CR so I decide he’ll live within an Average Credit Rating. For the 1920’s this is from CR 10-49. I give him enough points to have a CR of 30. To find out exactly what your CR is, you can look in the Keeper’s Rulebook on page 47 for a table that will show you what assets and cash your character has.

For Bob, with CR 30 his cash equals CR x 2 so he has $60 on hand. His assets are CR x 50 so his total asset worth is $1,500. And his spending level for an Average CR is $10. This means Bob can get by with spending roughly $10 a day and he is unlikely to go broke. How closely this is monitored will depend on your Keeper and how they wish to track money in your campaign. In most of the games I have played in, money was not a huge factor unless there was some significant financial component within the campaign. For example, it can be hard to stay at a luxury hotel to spy on a nefarious gentleman if you happen to be a penniless drifter. There are probably ways to do it but paying for a room next to the gentleman is unlikely.

Once you have your skill points allocated you are ready to move on to the next step.

step 4: Creating a Backstory

This is my favorite part of character creation. You’ve probably already thought a little bit about your character just from choosing an occupation, allocating skill points, and thinking about what kind of scenario you might be in. Here in step four is where you flesh out the background of the character and give them a bit of life.

This is also the step where I can give you the least relevant advice. Each Investigator is an individual and who they are is truly up to you.

On your Investigator sheet you will see a few different sections under background. The ones to think about first are Personal Description, Ideology/Beliefs, Significant People, Meaningful Locations, Treasured Possessions, and Traits.

These are categories that both inform who the Investigator is as well as ties them into the world they live in.

The best advice I can give you on any of these categories is to try to be as specific and personal as you can. You may know your investigator has a son. In that case, think about who the son is, what their name is, and how they act toward your Investigator. Is the son resentful of an absent father or does he play baseball with his pops every Saturday and want to be just like him? As you can see there is a huge variety you can choose and it’s what helps to make the game interesting.

The six categories listed above are the most important to your Investigator. The reason for this is these are the people, places, and things that can tie your Investigator to the mundane world. This is how your Investigator maintains their sanity. These personal connections can save an Investigator from madness. Alternately, the loss of some of these things may drive your Investigator to madness on an accelerated scale.

The Keeper’s Rulebook has a few random tables you can roll on for each of these categories as well if you are stuck for ideas.

Just to make sure we know what each of these categories means I will list a quick description of what they are.

Personal Description

This is what your character looks like. I always think it’s fun to come up with a description first and then see if I can find an old stock photo that fits what I have in my mind. You can do this any way you like. Just make sure to have some kind of description here.

Ideology/Beliefs

This is how your character thinks about the world. Do they answer to a higher power? Are they analytical and precise? Perhaps they live for money and will do whatever they can to get more.

Significant People

Who is important to your Investigator? This can be a friend, lover, colleague, neighbor, child, parent or any person that just has a strong connection to the Investigator. Think about who this person is for your Investigator and maybe a little bit about how their relationship is now. This doesn’t even necessarily have to be someone they are currently in regular contact with. An ex-spouse could be a significant person even if it’s been decades since the Investigator last saw them. Or maybe they have a sister who they hang out with all the time and this is the person they feel closest to. Make it your own.

Meaningful Locations

I think this one is obvious but it’s any place that is extremely significant to your Investigator. This could be where they live or work. It could be a place where a significant event happened to them. It could even be a place they want to go to but haven’t yet they feel a strong connection to. If your Investigator loves everything French and wants with every fiber of their being to visit Paris for the first time ever, this can be a meaningful location to them. It can be really fun to have locations that are in your campaign be significant to your Investigator. Of course to do this you’ll need to have an idea from your Keeper where your campaign may take your party.

Treasured Possessions

Does your character have a lucky rabbit’s foot? A set of loaded dice? A locket with a picture of someone important in it? Maybe they own a car they spend every free hour working on and putting their soul into. These would all be treasured possessions. Whatever it is that is important to your Investigator should go in this category. Sometimes having this possession with them can bring them back from the brink of insanity as they think about the world.

Traits

I don’t know how other people decide their Investigator’s traits but the way I look at this is how would someone else describe the Investigator. Would everyone in the room see your Investigator as menacing? Generous? A talented musician? A bad dancer? Whatever the case is be as specific as you can but also try to make it recognizable to other people. Your Investigator’s traits are probably something other Investigators are going to notice.

Key Background Connection

Once you have all of the six categories listed above written out, it’s time to choose your Key Background Connection. There is one entry out of these six that is the most significant to your Investigator. This is the one thing your Investigator feels they can never lose. This can be a place, person, possession, ideal or belief. Whatever it is go ahead and underline or highlight it on your sheet because this connection is extra special.

In games of Call of Cthulhu your Keeper can sometimes take away connections your Investigator has. Your Investigator might lose their Treasured Possession for example. Or perhaps a Significant Person dies in the course of the game. However, your Key Connection cannot be taken away without the Keeper allowing you to make a dice roll of some kind to save it. The way I like to think about this Key Connection is this is the one thing your Investigator simply can’t lose without becoming a broken individual. If they lose this, they lose everything. And, if it does happen that your Investigator loses their Key Connection permanently they may lose their sanity for good. So choose wisely.

Other Backstory Categories

You’ll notice we have not yet talked about Injuries & Scars, Phobias & Manias, Arcane Tomes & Spells, or Encounters with Strange Entities.

While your Investigator may start the scenario with a few scars or a fear of spiders, there is also the possibility they may end up gaining some of these things during game play. If you put anything in these categories do discuss this with your Keeper first. The Keeper will likely be fine with your Investigator having a scar across their cheek but may not be okay with your Keeper having Arcane Tomes & Spells or one of the other categories above. We’ll talk more about these things in a future post.

Additional Details

If you haven’t already filled out the sections for Birthplace, Gender, Name and added a Picture, now is the time to do so.

After that it’s on to step five!

Step 5: Equip The Investigator

Your Investigator may or may not have stuff at the time of creation. The better your Credit Rating, the more likely you do have stuff. You don’t usually have to keep a super detailed itemized list of what your Investigator owns but if they have anything significant like a car or a weapon you’ll probably want to write that down. It’s also possible your Keeper will let you purchase a number of items for your Investigator depending on the scenario. In the Keeper’s Rulebook there are equipment lists on pages 396-400 and a weapons table on pages 401-405. Take a look at these lists and tables before deciding how to fully equip your character.

That’s really all there is to this step. It’s a pretty easy one but it can be fun to figure out what your Investigator might have and why. Just remember having a pistol is not going to help a lot when the Old Ones awaken and decide to destroy the planet.

Alternate Investigator Creation Methods

The process I described above is the most common way of coming up with an Investigator but there are a few other ways you can do it. While I am not going to give an in-depth explanation of each of these I will describe what they are briefly.

Start Over Method

Sometimes you just roll terribly and you end up with an Investigator who has very low scores. Some Keepers will allow you to re-roll everything if you end up with three or more characteristics under 50.

Modifying Low Rolls Method

This is somewhat similar to start over. In this case, if you have three or more rolls lower than 10 you can roll an additional 1D6 and share the extra points among the lowest roles before multiplying by five.

Choosing Where to Place Rolled Characteristics

For this method you roll for your characteristics but you don’t assign them to each characteristic specifically at first. You would roll five rolls of 3D6 and three rolls of 2D6+6. Multiply each of these eight results by 5. Then you just decide where to put the numbers. This is a fairly common method and a lot of Keepers allow this but be sure to ask first before doing it.

Point Buy Method

I recommend this for more experienced players than beginners. This is because beginners will not always know the best place to put their points. For this method, you start with 460 points you put anywhere you want in the eight characteristics as long as it is within the 15-90 range. It is always recommended that INT and SIZ have a minimum value of 40. Of course if you speak with your Keeper there may be exceptions to this.

Once you are a more seasoned player this is a common method of creating an Investigator and can save some time in the character creation phase.

Quick Fire Method

This one gets a little technical and I don’t recommend it for new players. Basically you get an allotment of values to place in your characteristics and do a kind of accelerated version of everything I listed in the basic method. If you have an experienced Keeper who can help you with this method it may be worth doing. You won’t have any extremely low numbers with this method but you also won’t be rolling exceptionally well either. You will have a well balanced Investigator but it does limit a little of the fun you might have while making your character. If you want to use this method be sure to ask your Keeper first. If you are a Keeper using this method, you can find detailed instructions for it on page 48 of the Keeper’s Rulebook.

Heights of Human Potential

You’re not likely to use this for your first game but I’ll just make a note of it here. While you normally cannot have a skill exceed 90 with this method you can add up to 9 more points to reach maximum potential in a skill. This isn’t exactly an alternate method, more like an optional rule, and it can be used with any method of character creation. I’ve never played in a game where this was allowed but if you play often enough you may come across this. Rules for it are on page 48 of the Keeper’s Rulebook.

Optional Rule: A Cap on Starting Skills

This is technically an optional rule and not a creation method. But, most Keepers will use this rule. This caps your starting skills at 75. The idea behind this is to make sure nothing your Investigators are facing will be too easy for them. After all, if there is no challenge, there is no fun in playing a game. Unlike the Heights of Human Potential rule, this is one I would recommend new Keepers and players use. If you don’t use it, there is still the chance of failure on your rolls because you will sometimes have to roll the half or fifth values. And if you ever roll a 100 that’s always a failure. This is an optional rule I like but that doesn’t mean you have to use it at your table.

In Conclusion

By now you should have a complete Investigator sheet which will allow you to play in a scenario for Call of Cthulhu. I realize it can seem like a lot to go through but if you go one step at a time you’ll get there. One of the best bits of advice I can give you about doing this is to play with someone who has played before and have them go through it with you. There is a fair amount of pre-work that goes into playing. For a player, the bulk of this is in creating their character. The Keeper has a much bigger job as they need to prepare for the entire scenario or campaign. The Keeper should also take a close look at all of the player’s Investigator sheets to make sure everything makes sense and fits within the parameters of the campaign.

While we’ve done a bit of the pre-work here, we have not yet gotten into gameplay. Before we get entirely into how a play session works we’ll touch on it briefly in the next post. Next time I will be taking a deep dive into Skills. I’ll tell you what they are and how they are used in a game session.

If you have made an Investigator for Call of Cthulhu before I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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