Category Archives: News, Rants & Reviews

White Box Wednesday: Random Minimalist Campaign

I had mentioned this idea many years ago. Heck, I don’t even think it was on this blog but an old one. But here’s my elevator pitch. White Box gaming is really easy on the players. So why shouldn’t also be easy on the DM?

The campaign starts out with a pseudo-Keep on the Borderlands type area. Make the Keep. Make about 4 to 5 Bullet points for it. Make 4 to 5 interesting things in the area then start playing. Add any extra details that you may need based on the player characters but everything just roll it. And I’ve got the tools in my good old DM toolbox.

That’s right Rory’s Story Cubes plus some random dungeon style dice. Sure I could use a bunch of the many random charts that are sitting on my harddrive plus there’s many more out there on the internet. But I figured this could be the easiest and the most fun. And who knows where the dice may lead.

I know there are some DM’s who absolutely hate improv. They want to plan as much as possible in advance. Sure I do planning but I really love the improv and making stuff up on the fly. As a DM sometimes I like to be surprised by what happens too.

Yes, I know I said this about White Box. So let me go into why this is perfect for White Box play. It lies with the simplicity and power level of the characters. It keeps things at a level that’s it’s easy for the DM to keep all the character’s abilities in mind when making things up. Monster stat blocks aren’t complicated and can be digested in a glance. Heck, the whole rule book can almost fit in your pocket.

So yes. I love White Box. But, unfortunately, I haven’t as much opportunity to run it as I would like. But this is one idea that I’ve stuck in my back pocket for future use. Just in case. Besides. I think that it’d be fun as hell.

Heroes Have Vices. Villains Have Virtues.

This is an age old literary axiom. But it’s good to rehash things every once in a while because it seems like some times it gets forgotten.

Hey DM’s! Make you NPC’s interesting! Players make interesting characters. We’ve all heard that before. But then we’ve also heard that your campaign is not a novel. Well, it’s not. But this is an easy way to make things interesting.

Flawed heroes are more interesting than the perfect paragon types. We should know that. Now, I do get a sense that it’s a “thing” in some circles to have these morally perfect characters that heroes. Boring. While in other circles, everybody wants to play Batman. If everybody’s Batman then Batman isn’t special or unique any more. So go ahead and make those imperfect heroes. And make them different and interesting.

There’s also an adage about villains. If you want to make a villain relatable give them a puppy. It doesn’t have to be a literal puppy. But give them redeeming quality even if it is warped. A good villain needs to be more plausible than a hero. And remember, the villain isn’t the bad guy in his own mind.

And that’s today’s crazy rant.

Pirate Borg!

Yes, I backed that Kickstarter because Pirates! But since I’m backer that means I just got the beta pdf in my grubby little hands.

OK, the game mechanics are pretty much straight forward Mork Borg. I know some folks aren’t that keen on it mainly because of the crazy layout. Since this is the beta and there’s still much that will be changed, I won’t go too much into that. But there probably will be a bit of that insane layout at least.

The default setting for Pirate Borg is the Dark Caribbean. It’s an interesting mixture of undead, mythos, and good old pirate mayhem. Like I said, this is an early beta release, so I’m just going to mention a few of the coolest things that I noticed and liked.

The game doesn’t take itself too seriously. I love that! You’ve got two optional classes. The Haunted Soul and the Tall Tale. The Haunted Soul basically you start off as undead or otherwise corrupted. But the fun one is the Tall Tale. Roll randomly to see what you are. And it’s pretty wild. Everything from a Merfolk to a magical chicken. Yes. A magical chicken. This fun continues in the monster section with Necro-Swine and Three Headed Monkeys. Hey, it’s fun. Get over it. And have a laugh.

Also, there’s a good and easy naval combat system. Because you can’t have pirates without some naval combat. And, of course, tons of system neutral inspirational random tables. Both of these could easily be used if happen to have a different favorite old-school system. If you want a more detail breakdown, you can head over and see what Ben at Questing Beast had to say.

So what am I going to do with it? Well, I do want to run it but I’ll pitch it to my players and let them decide if we want use as is or have me adapt to a system that they are more accustomed to. So I stay tuned in for a much later post on that.

The good news is that if you’re still interested but happened to miss the Kickstarter then you’re still in luck. You can still (as of this writing) head over to the Kickstarter and pre-order.

White Box Wednesday: Skills and Such

White Box gaming is great. It’s easy, simple, but still covers the bases and is flexible. I know some folks hate skills. I kind of like them but in moderation. Just enough skills to cover the most common of situations but not a skill for every danged possible thing.

God knows that I’ve done my own share of hacks on White Box and the good old X in d6 system. It works. It’s easy. And keeps with the vibe of White Box Gaming. And like I said, I don’t want a lot of skills. Most actions can be resolved with simple Attribute checks.

First let’s look at what skills that are really needed and/or used. There’s two main classes that have their sort of niche skills. There’s the core Thief with their suite of skills. And the Ranger for the tracking and survival. But let’s face it there a couple of things with those two classes that every character might want or need to do.

Stealth is big one. Just about every character regardless of class will at some time want or need to sneak up or passed something or someone. It’s the same for foraging for food in the wilderness. The other thing is Professional skills. These things might not have a direct effect often but they do come in handy when the needs arises.

The main problem I’ve had running this with just Attribute checks is that low levels a character’s Attribute check might actually be better than their actual class “skill”. So where does that leave us? At first, we might want to divest Skills from Attributes but the Attributes represent a characters base aptitude.

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So how am I going to build this system? First, let’s start with x in d6 Attribute checks. Since White Box has a modifier range of -1 to +1, let’s run with that: -1=1 in 6; 0=2 in 6; +1=3 ind 6. Now just right down on your character what the character is “good” at or possibly a background. When some falls into that category then they get a +1. If it’s something that falls under their class skills then just use the better.

This ain’t all. While the X in d6 is sort of the standard for White Box. There’s no reason not to use an alternate system. This first that comes to mind is Saves as Skills. Pretty simple. Just use the Saving Throw. Thieves, well, they get +2 to do Thief stuff. The Save will improve as the character levels so there’s no need to worry about anything else. Want to throw in those Attribute modifiers. No problem. Just go ahead and do it.

I know this isn’t completely fleshed out. My goal here is to get you thinking out there. My hacking those rules just a bit to fit your tastes. Or thinking of different ways to have fun in your game. And that’s the most important part. Having fun.

Castle of the Red Magus

It’s weird to review a free one-page dungeon but this one is worth it. So yeah. It’s going to be a short review too.

Let’s get the mechanical bits out of the way. It’s a generic old-school. It isn’t for any specific edition or game rules. Monsters are just AC, Bonus, Damage, and anything special. Other mechanical bits are just what they say. Read it then let it happen.

Now here’s where more adventures should take notice. Bullet points. Quick and simple random tables. No huge blocks of text. Just what you need. I think this little review might end up being more words than the actual adventure.

So, head on over to DrivethruRPG and check it out. It’s free as of this writing.