Archive for October, 2016

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with Rudy Basso and Shane and I-Hsien from the Total Party Thrill podcast to discuss the previews for the upcoming D&D monster book Volo’s Guide To Monsters. This podcast was recorded on October 25, 2016.


Please rate and review The Tome Show on iTunes. It helps us a bunch!


DMs Guild Pick of the Episode: 20 Uncommon Magical Rings

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If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

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Who doesn’t love a good tool? If you check out fifth edition D&D, gaining tool proficiencies is a big part of character creation. Many classes and backgrounds give characters a proficiency or three to help round out what they can do.

Yet how many players are really using these tool proficiencies in play? Beyond thieves’ tools, forgery kits, and the like, what’s the mechanical value of tools? I find that many players (not all) need a mechanical reason to use the tools in order for those items to become entwined in their characters’ stories. Also, if some tools don’t matter, then why take proficiency with brewer’s supplies if you can just say, “My character knows how to make beer,” and also be proficient in thieves’ tools?

Here’s a few rules modules you can add to your D&D game to make those overlooked tools shine.

Alchemist’s Supplies

Alchemist’s supplies can be used to create, double, and identify potions.

Create Potion. Using the crafting downtime rules and the Potion Prices and Crafting DCs table a character can create any non-healing potion with the DMs discretion. After you spend the proper amount of time crafting the potion, you must succeed on an Intelligence check with alchemist’s supplies or the potion and the resources you used to create it are destroyed. The DC for this check is determined by the potion’s rarity.

Your DM may rule that some potions require special components not readily available for sale and that certain potions simply cannot be created by mortals.

Potion Prices and Crafting DCs

Potion Rarity Cost Crafting DC
Common 50 gp 13
Uncommon 100 gp 15
Rare 500 gp 17
Very rare 5,000 gp 19
Legendary 50,000 gp 21

Double Potion. You can attempt to turn one potion into two of the same kind using your alchemist’s supplies. The attempt takes 1 hour. At the end of this time, you must succeed on an Intelligence check with alchemist’s supplies or the original potion and the attempted duplicate are destroyed. The DC for this check is determined by the potion’s rarity, as seen on the Doubling Potion DCs table.

Doubling Potion DCs

Potion Rarity Doubling DC
Common 15
Uncommon 17
Rare 19
Very rare 21
Legendary 23

Identify Potion. You can use your alchemist’s supplies to identify a potion by working with the potion and testing it for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, make a DC 10 Intelligence check with the alchemist’s supplies. If you succeed you know the name and effects of the potion.

Brewer’s Supplies

Brewer’s supplies let you craft fine ales (using the downtime crafting rules) and increase the potency of existing alcohols.

Increase Potency. Your brewer’s supplies allow you to attempt to increase the potency of alcohol. After spending 5 minutes per pint of alcoholic beverage you are trying to effect, make a DC 15 Intelligence check with brewer’s supplies. If you succeed, the alcohol becomes more potent and any creature that drinks the beverage must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for 1 hour. If you fail, the drink simply tastes worse than it normally does.

Calligrapher’s Supplies, Carpenter’s Tools, Cobbler’s Tools, Glass Blower’s Tools, Jeweler’s Tools, Leatherworker’s Tools, Mason’s Tools, Painter’s Supplies, Potter’s Tools, Smith’s Tools, Tinker’s Tools, Weaver’s Tools, Woodcarver’s Tools

These artisan’s tools can be used to craft items per the downtime crafting rules and they can be used to appraise, gain inspiration, grow a business, reinforce, and repair.

Appraise. You can use your artisan’s tools to determine the historical and cultural relevance and worth of an art object by working with the art and appropriate tools for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, make a DC 10 Intelligence check with the appropriate tools. If you succeed you know the exact worth of the object and any historical or cultural significance the work of art may have.

Gain Inspiration. Working on a great piece of art can be inspiring. If you work with your tools on a personal craft project for one hour, at the end of that time, make a DC 10 Wisdom check with the appropriate artisan’s tools. If you succeed, you gain inspiration. You can only gain inspiration this way once per day.

Grow A Business. During downtime you can repair, craft, and sell small objects using your artisan’s tools. During this time you can maintain a modest lifestyle without having to pay 1 gp per day. After spending ten days of downtime in the same settlement crafting, make a DC 15 Charisma check with the appropriate tools. If you fail, there is no consequence and you make the check again after another ten days of crafting in the same settlement. If you succeed, you can afford a comfortable lifestyle in that settlement by spending your downtime crafting and at the end of ten days in the same settlement, you make another DC 15 Charisma check with the appropriate tools. If you fail, there is no consequence and you make the check again after another ten days of crafting in the same settlement. If you succeed, you can afford a wealthy lifestyle in that settlement by spending your downtime crafting.

Reinforce. You can use your artisan’s tools to reinforce a Medium or smaller object with your tools, such as a door or statue. The specific tool that must be used to reinforce the object is decided by the DM. The process of reinforcement takes one hour. At the end of the hour, make a DC 15 Intelligence check with the appropriate tools. If you succeed, the object gains hardness 5, or if it already has a hardness, its hardness increases by 5 to a maximum of 20. If you reinforce weapons or armor in this way and they gain the hardness, any creature that wears or wields the reinforced object has disadvantage on all attacks, since the items are more cumbersome than normal.

Repair. You can use your artisan’s tools to repair broken objects. After spending one hour working on an object in need of repair, make a DC 10 Dexterity check with the appropriate artisan’s tools. If you succeed, you restore 5 hit points to the object, plus 1 extra hit point for every number your check results exceeds the DC.

Cartographer’s Tools

If you use your cartographer’s tools to make maps wild traveling through the wilderness, there’s a good chance you’ll never get lost and be able to find new shortcuts!

Avoid Getting Lost. If you use your cartographer’s tools while traveling overland, you can avoid getting lost. During this time you cannot gather food, hunt, or drive any vehicles. If you focus on mapping the area, you cannot become lost while traveling. You must be proficient with cartographer’s tools to use them in this way.

Find A Shortcut. You can find shortcuts for wilderness travel by studying maps of areas you have made. The map must cover the entire area you plan to travel. To find a shortcut, make a DC 15 Wisdom check with cartographer’s tools. If you succeed, you can move at a fast pace while traveling, but have all the benefits of moving at a slow pace.

Cook’s Utensils

A good meal can re-energize allies and influence NPCs, while a bad one can make an entire day crappy.

Influence An NPC. You can spend one hour cooking a meal for up to eight creatures. At the end of the hour, make a DC 15 Intelligence check with cook’s utensils. If you succeed, you have advantage on Charisma checks made to influence any NPCs while they eat the meal. If you fail the check by 5 or more, you have disadvantage on Charisma checks made to influence any NPCs while they eat the meal.

Prepare A Hearty Meal. You can spend an hour cooking a meal for up to eight creatures. At the end of the hour, the DM makes a DC 15 Intelligence check with cook’s utensils for you and keeps the result a secret. If you succeed, each creature that ate the meal gains one of the following benefits outlined below, chosen by you when you begin to cook the meal. If you fail the check by 5 or more, each creature who ate the meal must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or gain a level of exhaustion.

If you succeed on the check, here are the benefits your meal can bestow:

  • Gain Inspiration. Creatures who ate the meal gain inspiration and cannot gain inspiration this way again until they complete a long rest.
  • Gain More Hit Dice. Creatures who ate this meal regain 1 more hit die than they normally would the next time they finish a long rest.
  • Remove Exhaustion. Creatures who ate this meal reduce their exhaustion level by 1.

Gaming Set

Proficiency with a gaming set allows you to gamble and influence NPCs.

Gamble. You can gamble during between adventures, or at night when you’re cozied up in a tavern. For every four hours spent gambling, make an Intelligence check with the appropriate gaming set. Consult the Gambling Consequences table to see how much money you lose or gain.

Gambling Consequences

Check Result Consequence
4 or lower You lose 2d6 x 10 gp
5 – 9 You lose 1d6 x 4 gp
10 – 14 You gain 1d6 x 4 gp
15 – 19 You gain 2d6 x 10 gp
20+ You gain 4d6 x 10 gp

Influence An NPC. Many NPCs are proficient in gaming sets and enjoy a good challenge. Nobles, military leaders, tavern goers, and more jump at the chance to play a game. When you play a game with an NPC, you make opposed Intelligence checks with the appropriate gaming set. Whoever has the higher result wins the game (and a tie results in a draw). If you win, you have advantage on Charisma checks made to influence the NPC for the next hour. If you lose, you have disadvantage on those checks for one hour. A draw has no effect on your relationship with the NPC.

Musical Instrument

Musical instruments can help you gain an audience with an NPC, influence an NPC, and soothe the savage beast.

Gain An Audience. You can gain an audience with an influential NPC (such as a noble or royalty) by playing your instrument for others at an open audition. The DM decides when and where the auditions take place. To gain an audience, you must succeed on a DC 15 Charisma check made with the appropriate musical instrument. The DM decides when and where the audience happens.

Influence An NPC. You perform at least one song for a group of NPCs. Any the end of your performance, make a DC 15 Charisma check with the appropriate musical instrument. If you succeed, you have advantage on Charisma checks made to influence any NPCs who listened to you perform for the next hour. If you fail the check by 5 or more, you have disadvantage on Charisma checks made to influence any NPCs who listened to you perform for the next hour.

Soothe The Savage Beast. As an action you can make a Charisma check with a musical instrument and each mammal with the beast creature type and an Intelligence score of 3 or less that can hear you must make a Wisdom saving throw. The DC for saving throw is equal to the result of the Charisma check you made with your musical instrument. A mammal who fails this check cannot take the Attack action on its next turn. A creature who succeeds on this check is immune to the effects of your music for 24 hours. The DM may rule that music has no sway over certain beasts (such as those trained by others).

Want a Free PDF?

Of course you do! Here’s these rules to have and hold forever. Find them with monsters, magic items, adventures, and more in the Free Game Resources section of this site.

New Tool Uses

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A  new episode of the podcast Rudy Basso and I make, Have Spellbook, Will Travel, is up on the show’s site!

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Take a seat, dear listener, and enjoy the start of another adventure!  This one takes our heroes to the skies, as they are tasked with an important mission in a flying cruise ship known as The Jester’s Pleasure.  Can you solve the mystery before Party 13 does?!

Tweet your Levels Question of the Week at us or #levelsq on Twitter!

Send your mailbag questions via the Contact page.

VISIT AND CONTRIBUTE TO OUR WIKI!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with Mike SheaDaniel Elwell, and Scott Dyer to talk about the latest Unearthed Arcana article on encounter building and an announcement from Wiz Kids about unpainted D&D minis. This podcast was recorded on October 16, 2016.


Please rate and review The Tome Show on iTunes. It only takes 30 seconds and helps us a bunch!


DMs Guild Pick of the Episode – House of Horror

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If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

This is an interview I conducted with BJ Hensley of Playground Adventures as part of the AetherCon V Convention Program.

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JI: I love any product that introduces kids to RPGs. What makes Playground Adventures’ modules uniquely suited towards younger gamers?

BH: PGA’s adventures are created beginning to end with children in mind! We include rewards for good moral decisions, puzzles geared toward learning, and explanations that make it easy for children to get into the game. Many of our adventures also include small aids like recommendations for “brain break” times or even hands on projects that keep little hands busy as they wait their turns.

JI: A lot of the Playground Adventures have hands on components that allow kids to do puzzles and science experiments. What are some of your favorite examples of this and where do the ideas come from?

BH: That would be our Fun & Facts line. These are made specifically for children to learn important educational facts as they play. My favorite adventure that we have available to the public at this time is For the Hive! It’s a fun adventure all about bees. The PCs get to shrink down to the size of a bee and venture forth to save the queen! I love the bee facts spread throughout the adventure. It’s fantastic that children can learn about the very real hardships facing the bees in our own world today.

The ideas come from our own children, teachers, schools, and our various developers. We have a pile of requests from teachers for example, that we are wading through to help various after school and in school programs.

JI: Why is it important to you personally that kids play RPGs?

BH: RPGs have a limitless ability to teach us things. They make a wonderful interactive classroom for problem solving, arithmetic, reading, writing, creative thought, social skills, and more. I have spent many years working with both my own children as well as others. One thing that has always stood out to me is how easily kids learn when the education is a side effect of a game they love. Very specifically, these games speak to children who otherwise struggle to learn, who struggle to focus, sit still, or just aren’t quite adept at social niceties.

I have seen children who hated math happily adding and subtracting to account for the mechanical nature of the game. Those who shun novels are somehow more easily inspired to read the rulebooks or campaign settings lying around the house (and every now and again develop a love for novels in the process). I’ve used RPGs to teach social skills to my own and other autistic children. Tabletop roleplaying games make learning fun! They are fantastic tools for teaching, togetherness, and providing safe after school activities for children. It is very important to me that other children benefit from these opportunities as much as my own and local children have.

JI: Beyond the obvious, what are some good tips when writing an adventure for kids?

BH: I believe the three most important factors beyond the obvious ones such as avoiding adult themes are:

Brain breaks: I am a huge fan of brain breaks, everyone has a limit to how much they can absorb before their brain gets tired and begins to wander off. For the small ones this time frame is pretty short. I love adventures that keep that in mind. Whether it’s a timeout for a themed snack (yes some of our adventures have recipes in them!) or a pause while everyone acts out a silly song or meme, these breaks where the table gets up and moves around a bit are important. It gives them time to be less intense and brings them back to the table ready to focus.

Hands on items: Children do well with hands on projects. Including items such as puzzles, craft projects, or even just a coloring sheet for everyone to make use of as they wait their turn can make the whole experience better for everyone.

Good moral choices: Sure, a lot of people love hack and slash (and there is nothing wrong with that) but remember small children are still learning what is right and wrong, and these games are a perfect opportunity to reinforce good moral choices. Allow for options that go beyond kill the monster, loot the stuff. Allow for the salvation of a creature, the ability to make friends with those they wouldn’t normally befriend, alternative problem solving, and then reward those choices with new items or higher experience and praise them for finding creative solutions.

JI: I’ve heard a lot of all adult gaming groups also love to play through the Playground Adventures modules. Why do you think that is?

BH: They do! I suspect there are two reasons. First, many of us are just as in need of lighter themes as the young ones are. It’s surprisingly refreshing to play a not-so-serious game or better yet play from the perspective of a child. Children can do things outside the normal constraints, think outside the box, because they don’t have predefined imaginations. They think of something and see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to do it, and so they try. They don’t care if they look silly and they don’t think, “Oh that won’t work.”

Also, some of our adventures are a bit like beloved fairy tales and they can be played in the lighter tones, as they are written, or surprisingly dark ones with a few minor alterations. Pixies on Parade is a perfect example of this!

JI: What are some of your favorite Playground Adventures’ modules and why?

BH: Pixies on Parade is one of my absolute favorites. It’s a fairy tale adventure with amusing and fun side treks but it has a dark side as well. That adventure can be geared to teach children good choices, have fun, and use their imagination with imagination magic but it isn’t all fluffy bunnies. In fact, some of the dark sides if given a more serious tone are perfect for adults. For example, I find the baby teeth section to be just creepy, and the nightmare king could easily scare some adults if you choose to spin it in a darker tone. (Note: James also finds the baby teeth section WONDERFULLY creepy.)

I’m also quite fond of the Wonderland adventure path. It’s perfect for teaching new gamers the ins and outs of the game and offers some fantastic hands on adventuring. Chapter one is actually an adventure board game!

JI: What’s next for Playground Adventures?

BH: We are always working on a dozen or so items but our newest line is 12 & up! We just launched Creature Components, our first book in the 12 & up line, that allows you to make stronger spells and items by adding creature components to the mix. It received 5 stars and pretty much every recommendation available and we couldn’t be happier about it!

For the younger crowd we will be releasing a guide book soon with a plethora of options for little gamers, such as classes, magic items, spells, feats, and more. Keep an eye out for Toolkits and Toyboxes (some assembly required)!

JI: Finally, as a person in the gaming industry who works with many companies and gets tons of new players into the game, what can publishers do to make the community feel welcoming and inclusive of all people?

BH: I think the simplest answer is to make content that is inclusive of all people. People want to see themselves in their games. Keep that in mind when you create. Listen to your fan base, and where you can, make adjustments to accommodate them. I personally always try to be kind and remember that I too was once new to the game.

Check out more great interviews like this one by grabbing your copy of the AetherCon V Convention Program being released Nov/1/2016 here: www.aethercon.com.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new behind-the-scenes episode of the podcast Rudy Basso and I make, Have Spellbook, Will Travel, is up on the show’s site!

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WhhhooaoooaoaoaooOOooo!  Rather than interviewing a cast member, this BTS episode is a RECAP of Arc 3 !  Learn about what inspired this story, how to deal with death in your D&D game, and hear Rudy ramble on and on about Sous Vide cooking.

This week’s Levels Question was submitted by Ally Burnham.  Thanks Ally! Tweet your own Levels Question of the Week at us or #levelsq on Twitter! 

Send your mailbag questions via the Contact page.

VISIT AND CONTRIBUTE TO OUR WIKI!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with Wolfgang BaurJeff Lee, and Jim Groves of Kobold Press to discuss their ongoing Kickstarter for Demonic Cults & Secret Societies for 5th Edition D&D and Pathfinder and Kobold’s recent 5e adventure, Blood Vaults of Sister Alkava. This podcast was recorded on October 11, 2016.


Please rate and review The Tome Show on iTunes. It helps us a bunch and takes 30 seconds.




Links:

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

This is an interview I conducted with Rob Schwalb of Schwalb Entertainment as part of the AetherCon V Convention Program.

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JI: Recently on the Talking Tabletop podcast you said that you always pay freelancers who work for you at the top of the industry’s pay scale. Why is it important to you that designers be compensated in this way and what lesson do you hope consumers and other small game companies take from this example?

RS: I clawed my way into the RPG design business the hard way, selling words for as little as two cents a word and there are still two large published projects I wrote but never saw a dime in compensation. RPG design and writing rates haven’t changed in the 15 years I’ve been working in the field and most companies still pay between four cents or less per word. Here’s the thing. We make products for a very niche market. If we want great product, cool ideas, and more from the brightest minds in the business, publishers have to pony up for the talent. I hope, in some small way, to nudge the publishers toward improving their rates, even if this means raising the prices of products by a modest amount to compensate. Of course, being the publisher and lead designer for my small company means I shoulder most of the writing largely to keep costs under control. Not every company can do this and I understand and so it’s a knot I’m not sure will ever get untied.

JI: Shadow of the Demon Lord is a wonderfully elegant game that’s easy to learn and play, but also provides players endless options when building characters. How did you crack the code of simple gameplay and limitless options?

RS: Hey thanks! During design, I strove to please two groups of people so I could bring them to the same table and have a great experience. The first group included the casual players, people with an interest in the hobby, but are neither willing nor interested in spending an hour making ten decisions to create a character. Furthermore, they don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the campaign or what mechanical choice they’re going to make next. Hell, they probably can’t commit to a weekly or even bimonthly game.

I also focused on invested players, people who live and breathe tabletop RPGs, who delight in making characters and tinkering with the game. These folks, especially those who come from traditional tabletop RPGs, expect to be able to make meaningful and interesting choices in character development and during game play. They have an idea about what kind of character they want to play and they expect the game to deliver the options they need to realize that character in play.

The casual audience’s needs kept my crunchy impulse in check, and let me focus on delivering those things that would keep both kinds of players at the same table. The result was a trim, flexible game engine that could adapt to a variety of circumstances and is easy to learn and master. The mechanical options, which, as you point out, are many, live inside of bigger decision points. Invested players still have lots to choose from, but they choose big packages rather than spend their time making decisions about the small things that, in my experience, don’t really matter much at all.

Rather than carve up these widgets into smaller buckets, I delivered them in big packages called paths. You choose three paths over the life of the campaign, which lets the character adapt and grow as the story progresses, while bundling interesting things together to completely bypass decision paralysis when a player is faced with combining mechanical elements from eight or more different sources. So at the start of the campaign, characters are quite simple and easy to make. Each adventure completed grows the character’s complexity from the widgets gained from previous or new big decision points. However, the player has the time to master those widgets and see how they work in play during the adventure, so that by the time the adventure ends, the player is ready to learn something new.

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JI: How did you manage to get so many quality products shipped in so little time and why is it important for you to be so prolific?

RS: As of this writing, the game has only been out 14 months and I just released the 100th title. I’ve always been prolific when it comes to game design, even if it costs me free time, sanity, happiness, and my liver. The reason for pushing hard on SotDL is that my wee company is fighting for a place in a crowded field. Offering options and expansions to the core that cover a variety of subjects reinforces to customers that the game is alive and well, supported, and offering new and exciting expansions to the core. Delivering these expansions in bite-sized pieces lets people keep up with the game each week for less than it costs to buy a cup of coffee.

JI: I follow you on social media. I’ve never seen a setting that so well represents the designer’s personality, fears, and sense of humor as Shadow of the Demon Lord. How do you tap into something so personal while writing and how do you make those feelings accessible?

It’s probably bad to say this, but I am terrible at work-life balance. I wanted this game to reflect my tastes and sensibilities and I drew from all the things I love about the hobby, all my fears and disappointments, frustrations and blinding hatred that the business, games, and everything else awakens inside of me. My head is a garden in which anxiety, stress, depression, doubt, and so many other terrible things grow. So, I guess, the game is a harvest of those horrors growing there.

JI: What do you think separates Shadow of the Demon Lord from other RPGs?

RS: I was very pragmatic about the design. We’re busy people, maybe busier now than ever before. We have responsibilities. We have competing interests. We live complex and difficult lives. Who the hell has three years to invest in a campaign? Who can make all the game sessions making up the adventure? Heck, I sure can’t. SotDL drags the best part of the campaign—the world-ending, world-shaking event—to the fore. A campaign asks players to commit to some number of adventures no greater than eleven. And, each adventure is a self-contained contained story, ideally playable in a single sitting, so if you can’t make the next session, it’s no big deal. SotDL a game for adults busy doing adult things but who still want to climb out of their lives for a few hours and kill a few demons with their friends over beers and pizza.

JI: There are more than 25 adventures out for Shadow of the Demon Lord. What are some of your favorites and why?

RS: You know, all of the adventures we’ve released hold a special place in my dark heart since most of them represent a designer’s interpretation of my game. Some are linear, some are not. Some are simple, while others are quite complex. We have disgusting adventures, moral dilemmas, and tragedies. Of the adventures I did not write, some of my favorites include The Apple of Her Eye by Steve Kenson. I’ve run this one several times and it almost always ends in a “feel bad” way. A Measure of Faith by Steve Townsend is also great fun as it has a strong and interesting story, while also leveraging the rampant, widespread madness. TS Luikart’s Beware the Tides of Karshoon was a ton of fun since it was like going back to the WFRP days. Finally, I really dug Cam Banks’ The Gorgon’s Tears as it delivered an interesting mystery with interesting consequences.

Of the ones I’ve written, The Curious Case of Farmer Ham (see Tales of the Demon Lord) was one of the first I wrote for the game and thus has a special place in my heart. My Father Left Forever, inside Terrible Beauty, takes a good long look at what it means to be enslaved by a faerie.

JI: What’s do you think consumers should do to help change the way RPG industry professionals are compensated?

RS: If I knew the answer to this question, I would hope to be working less and making more than I do. It’s a sinkhole from which I’m not sure we can escape. I think the trouble is that some folks don’t place value on the product. I mean, it’s not like there’s a shortage of playable RPGs, right? But, where I stumble is when I think about console games. One might give you 20-40 hours of steady enjoyment and people are willing to shell out $60 to play it. A tabletop RPG could provide countless hours of enjoyment for everyone at the table, yet $50 is considered high. It’s true that a tabletop RPG takes less capital and time to create than does a video game, but a tabletop RPG and supplements are made from a smaller pool of people who work the same kinds of hours, who have to master a broad range of design skills, and get a modest return, if they’re lucky, on their investment. This all said, I’m not sure seeking and fighting for fair compensation in the tabletop world is anything more than tilting at windmills and thus I focus on paying fair rates and producing on top notch products in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same.

JI: The Schwalb Entertainment website and online shop appear to be built to handle more product lines than just Shadow of the Demon Lord. Can you give us a hint about what’s to come?

We have some fun things coming next year, all driven by Kickstarter campaigns, though the next batch of products will be further expansions on Shadow of the Demon Lord, though with a far saner release schedule. We’re going to be bringing Freeport to the world the Demon Lord, plus produce a delicious bestiary, a book on magic, and rules for playing legendary characters, though who move beyond the group to become movers and shakers in the world. While working on these, I will starting design on a new game powered by the Demon Lord that I hope to reveal in 2018. Fun stuff coming, so stay tuned!

Check out more great interviews like this one by grabbing your copy of the AetherCon V Convention Program being released Nov/1/2016 here: www.aethercon.com.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of the podcast Rudy Basso and I make, Have Spellbook, Will Travel, is up on the show’s site!

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Here it is, the conclusion to Story Arc #3!  We would write exciting hints to entice you – dear listener – about the episode’s plot, but we don’t want to spoil anything!  You’ll just have to listen and enjoy!

Tweet your Levels Question of the Week at us or #levelsq on Twitter!

Send your mailbag questions via the Contact page.

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This is a guest post from game designer J.M. Perkins who is currently running an amazing Kickstarter for his Salt in Wounds Campaign Setting.

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During World War 2, an estimated 16 Million Tons of explosives were dropped, a small fraction of which landed, failed to explode and –even to this day- have to be disarmed by trained experts because we occasionally still discover these weapons dangerously hidden below the surface. This concept, that the ‘left-over’ war devices from seventy or eighty years ago are still being uncovered fascinates me, and ‘unexploded ordinance’ is something I utilize often in my game design.
In our real lives, we live atop ruins and graves, battlegrounds and buildings lost to fires and so much more. In the ten thousand or so years of human history; cities and empires and even languages have bloomed and died and been replaced by what came next. We dig into the past, try to discern who our antecedents were and how they lived. But imagine how different archelogy and history would be if digging into Roman or Maya ruins had the same potential for explosive danger as the aforementioned ‘unexploded ordinance.’ What is the artifacts, monsters, and places of power from the earliest days of human civilization were potent then and now? This is how adventuring is commonly depicted, and dealing with fantasy ‘unexploded ordinance’ can be taken much further as most fantasy setting have histories that verge into the millions of years and encompass a dizzying array of races and peoples.
When I’m designing a fantasy game world, I like to think about the peoples and epochs that came before the present and how what was left behind can challenge, excite, and threaten characters. This extends far beyond bombs though; artifacts and perils include weapons certainly, but also portals, partially complete (or only recently completed) magical research, sealed monsters and evils, or even works of ‘art’ or the ‘toys’ of a powerful enough race.
Personally, I like to take it even further and design how common player character behavior exacerbates the danger of these hidden ‘land mines.’ For instance, say a party cleared out the cult from those ruins of a mad god… did they then dissemble the temple? How did they ensure that the dark runes carved into the stones didn’t draw in and seduce another traveler? And perhaps this traveler started a new cult while the PCs were otherwise engaged and –with them half a world away sorting their next adventure- was able to complete the fell rites the first cult failed. It’s not enough that the PCs deal with whoever is trying to ‘activate’ the ordinance, it must also be carefully disarmed.

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In my own Campaign Setting ‘The City of Salt in Wounds’ the biggest ‘unexploded ordinance’ is a bound Tarrasque butchered perpetually to feed thousands of people, provide reagents for the city’s legendary alchemists, and serve as raw materials for artisans like the bone-smiths. For the people of the city, this isn’t exceptional (much as I don’t give a second thought to living so close to the meeting place of two tectonic plates) but for the players (and probably the player characters) this is a looming threat waiting to go off. Then there are the other ‘unexploded’ perils; the growing, sentient fungal marsh bloating off the Tarrasque’s runoff, ruins of the hyper-intelligent dwarven progenitors below the city, not to mention the myriad political and class tensions that threaten to rip Salt in Wounds apart. But in all these things, as I designer I ask myself what sorts of things were left behind by the victories and defeats and excesses of the past… and how can all this leftover ordinance (delightfully) blow up in my player’s faces?

J.M. Perkins is an author and game designer. Since 2015, he’s been writing and publishing about his setting ‘The City of Salt in Wounds’ and you can check out the Kickstarter which is currently over 480% funded.

You can find links to all his work at www.jmperkins.com