The Nowhere Special

A while back, when I had finished the first Othereon module “Lair of the Lightsbane”, and released it on DriveThruRPG, I was nearly finished with the second module “The Lost Temple”. But I was still in the middle of play-testing and making revisions, and I wanted to release a quick batch of short standalone adventures or side-quests. I based them in and around the small town of Nowhere (pronounced Now-here). I called it “The Nowhere Special”. The idea was to bang something out quickly, to keep things moving. That was almost three months ago.

I finally released it today on DriveThruRPG. It’s one of the more complicated things I’ve ever put together, but it’s still fairly simple to run.

It consists of six short adventures. Each one with plenty of opportunity for role-play and/or combat.

NowhereSpecialCoverThe first story is called “The Bone Rider”, in which the party may decide to fight a skeletal horseman who occasionally rides the countryside. I came up with a new creature (two really, but the characters only face one), who is a manifestation of a Restless Spirit. It’s really quick and short.

The second is called “Kobolds on the Move”. It has a lot of opportunity for role-play, and is not as short as the Bone Rider. The party is investigating a group of kobolds that have been moving through the area, thanks to a local farmer who has captured one, and there’s a few ways the story can go. For this, I used two new types of kobold that I had created a while ago for the campaign I’m currently running.

wereweasel

The third story is “Meet the Weasels”, in which the party is invited to a small lord’s manor for brunch, and wind up involved in a encounter with a group of weasels led by the wereweasel, Jorge Stoat. So, yeah, I created a wereweasel.

In the fourth story, “Spiders in the Basement”, the party finds itself defending the Inn of the Gilded Squirrel against an arachnid incursion. This included creating a four floor map of the Gilded Squirrel, and a description of each area. I also created a magic item and a new creature, the “Rabid Gnome”, which had been originally been a throw-away joke creature I used in my regular campaign.

Story five, “Monster Wagon” has the party dealing with the aftermath of a wagon full of (you guessed it) monsters, who escape when the wagon stops in Nowhere to resupply before moving on.

The last story is “Death Troupe” in which the party comes across a mysterious circus wagon as they return to Nowhere from one of their adventures. I created even more monsters for that one, and it’s one of my favorite ideas, even though I’m not entirely happy with the scenario. It has some plot holes, but I’m hoping that a good DM can overlook or rework them to make the adventure a challenge for the players.

I hadn’t been planning on including maps in any of these, but I did. I didn’t plan on rewriting stories and creating new monsters, but I did. I turned a project that should have taken a couple of days into a major module of side-quests. And I loved nearly every minute of it. Even the bad ones.

Anyway, it’s available for a couple of days as a Pay What You Want over at DriveThruRPG. So if you want it cheap or free, now’s the time!

It’s also going to be released as the first set of adventures in the GeekTrash Patreon, so check that out as well. If you like the material, the Patreon will have it all, plus plenty of bonus materials as they come up.

Roll for initiative!

DM Mondo

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Welcome to Othereon: Lair of the Lightsbane

Click on the image to check out Lair of the Lightsbane at DriveThruRPG!

Click on the image to check out Lair of the Lightsbane at DriveThruRPG!

So, I’ve started to officially publish the Othereon campaign setting. Which is the campaign setting I’ve been using since I started homebrewing Dungeons and Dragons stuff all the way back in the 80’s. I mean, it’s not the same. It’s been through a couple of ages and a good calamity since the early days, but the core stuff is still there.

I remember when I first started playing D&D, I didn’t know much about Greyhawk, and the Forgotten Realms and other published worlds were still in the future. But all the stuff you needed to create a world was in your head (with help from the Dungeon Master’s Guide). I still remember the names of the first heroes of the world (which had no name at the time), Yargak, O’Toole, Hawkeye, the other guy…

What the hell was that guy’s name?

Shit.

I wanna say Elrond. It might be wrong, but what group of early teen role players didn’t pilfer a name from Tolkein? I remember someone with the name Oblib Sniggab, but not in the game I ran. I did steal the idea and had a halfling named Odorf Sniggab. But what was that other guy’s name? I’ll remember later, or just ask him on Facebook. But, from there it just spiraled. Each new group and new campaign added to the world. New countries were added. New factions and enemies, but the core world stayed the same. Then, I just stopped playing.

For years, it was something occasionally talked about. “We should play D&D again!”

“We should!”

“Yeah, we should!”

And we didn’t. Maybe because I was the dungeon master, and couldn’t be bothered with all of the work involved in coming up with new shit every week. I admit, I had gotten rather burned out after years of this stuff. My brain was mush.

When I started listening to the Drunks and Dragons podcast, I remembered all of fun I had with my friends and family. I dusted off the 4e books I had bought and never played with.

I shudder thinking about them. 4e is potentially terrible. But really, it’s what you make of it. I mostly shudder about the idea of new players starting with a game that is essentially The World of Magic the Warcraft Gathering. For older players like me, it was easy to incorporate the new rules with the same concept of story driving the game rather than encounters. But the game was built around encounters, so yes, I shudder for those new players. But it was there that I decided to start a new campaign world. I started small, like you should, with one region around the town of Wheat’s Landing, and played with my family, having a great time.

I had so much fun, I decided to use the internet to find new people to play with, hoping to play rather than run the games. That worked out really badly, and I found myself running two 4e games. But then, 5e was released and we jumped on that. My new group formed and I wrote an adventure “Lair of the Lightsbane” and came up with a Big Bad that the characters still have never laid eyes on, though they’ve met some of her allies.

As I started to world build, with time borrowed from the life of an older, more harried man. I connected the two games (though one was still a 4e game) and found that I began to reuse names and ideas from the old world.

I soon realized what had happened, this was the old campaign world, but changed. Something really, really bad happened a few hundred years ago, and this new world was the result. I started world rebuilding.

One thing I realized, was that while I had named certain kingdoms and cities, I had never named the world, or the continent in which the adventures took place. So the new campaign world became the old campaign world there. It had a proper name, rather than just “D&D”. It was now Othereon, and many years after a great calamity had scoured all life and civilization from the main continent of Eureon (the event known as The Scouring), people had begun to recolonize, finding new dangers as they settled the wild lands and found new dangers lurking above and below the ground.

I started a half-assed attempt at gathering the information in a media-wiki, but as work and other “normal” life things happened, the wiki kind of fell by the wayside. But I was still creating content as I wrote the adventures (for three separate and yet connected campaigns). I started compiling the world information into a messy atlas, new ideas coming as I tried to explain why certain things happened the way they did. It was fun, and a lot easier than trying to update a wiki every time I thought of something new. I even started a third campaign, all online with my brothers scattered around the world using tools like Google Hangouts and Roll20.net.

By now, Kickstarter and Patreon had come along. People were making money doing Dungeons and Dragons in all sorts of new ways. I looked into the legality of publishing my campaign world, and it was a little messy, unless I wanted to move it to 3.5/Pathfinder. I didn’t. I’m a purist, damn it!

Now, with the release of the OGL for 5e, and the SRD, I didn’t have to worry. I could do it legally, and with a market through which to sell my world using DriveThruRPG and the DM’s Guild (a recent post here talks about the DM’s Guild stuff I’ve published, so I won’t share the story again). I started to re-write the first 5e adventure I wrote, the previously mentioned “Lair of the Lightsbane”. Refining it and trying like hell to figure out how to format it so that it appeared like the core material.

I finished it earlier today (now yesterday, really). Uploaded it to DriveThruRPG and now I’m watching the (mostly unpaid) sales come in. All that I’ve published so far is Pay What You Want. I’m hoping with refinement of my adventure design, and feedback from the people downloading it, it’ll get better and I eventually won’t balk at sticking a price on my work that’s not “suggested”. Maybe with enough of a fan base, I can even start a Patreon campaign of my own. I’m not looking to retire or even make a living from it, but it’s not bad to get paid for work you do, especially if it’s something you love to do.

And I do. It’s cool as hell.

Even without payment.

Mondo.

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Revised 5e Ranger: V0.5. Still Not Your Father’s Ranger!

img-18935282353Okay, having stopped the constant IV drip of coffee and taking a couple of days off to do other things, I looked back at the previous version of the Ranger. Way OP’d!

But I felt that I had all the building blocks, just in the wrong place.

I moved the Path of the Skirmisher Features, most of which had been borrowed from the fighter’s standard features, and made them standard for the ranger. This includes the Extra Attack, and the 2nd Fighting Style. These should not have been path features, damn it.

The path features from the Hunter Archetype that I tried to make standard, are now the Path Features for the Path of the Skirmisher. I kept Hold (now Hold Position) as the 17th level Path Feature.

I’m hoping it’s a better build. Certainly more balanced, but is it balanced enough?

Let me know what you think.

Ranger Variant V0.5.pdf

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This is Not Your Father’s Ranger: 5e Ranger Build

We’ve all heard it a million times (okay, maybe a bunch of us have heard it a few dozen times), the official 5e Player’s Handbook ranger isn’t so good. Wizards of the Coast even released an Unearthed Arcana article to attempt to redeem the ranger, though they only went as high as 5th level, and many people seem to think that build (as it currently stands), isn’t so good either.

img-18935282353My brother loves the class, and while he doesn’t play it exclusively, he does play it in our weekly Chaos Inc. game, and as the characters were gaining levels, I could see how broken it was. So I’ve been trying to fix it. It’s not easy. After many drafts, I think I’ve come up with something workable. It still needs to be playtested, and may be over-powered (though it seems to be in line with the fighter and rogue, who I sometimes feel might be a little OP themselves).

I’m making it available here for you to check out and play with. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you’ll hate it. Maybe you’ll let me know what those reasons are in the comments, or by tweeting at me @dharmabob, so that I can get some feedback and maybe make it better.

The build in essence:

I had bumped the hit dice up to 2d6. I like the idea of more hit points for the ranger, especially with a higher minimum (for those nasty DM’s who force those 1hp rolls). But decided that the ranger should be as tough as a fighter, but not a barbarian. So, I settled on 1d8 +2. This maintains a higher minimum, since they should be tougher than your average bear, but doesn’t give them barbarian level toughness.

All rangers are hunters, in one way or another. I’ve made the Hunter Archetype features standard ranger features. This doesn’t seem to overpower them, and seems to be in line with fighters and rogues. Once you add in spellcasting though…

I like the whole spellcastsing ranger thing. I do. But with the bump in other features, it seemed to be too much. But my brother also likes the spellcasting. He doesn’t do it a lot, but when he uses a spell, it’s usually a good thing for the party. So, I settled on weakening the spellcasting. This build gains spells and slots more in line with the way a warlock does. There are a few spells that, when the ranger casts only on themselves, do not require use of a spell slot. It seemed a fair trade.

Next up was the archetype features. Easily the hardest. To make life simple, I decided on 3 Paths a ranger could take at 3rd level.

  • Path of the Beastmaster: I left Beastmaster pretty much the same as the original archetype. I made some small adjustments to it, removing one feature (Exceptional Training), moving the others down and adding a new feature at 17th level.
  • Path of the Primal Spirit: For this, I used the paths in the Unearthed Arcana article, added additional features for levels above 5th, and designed it like the totem spirit path for the barbarian class. At each level where you gain a path feature, you can choose from Guardian, Seeker and Stalker. I tried to keep them balanced with each other and other classes archetypes, and maintain the flavor of the UA build.
  • Path of the Skirmisher: This is your fighting ranger. This is your Aragorn. He gains things like Skirmisher’s Strike from the UA build, and gets things like an additional fighting style and an action surge as he advances.

I think I like it. But I would definitely love some feedback. So check it out and let me know what you think.

GeekTrashRangerVariant.pdf

Edit 3:18pm 2/24/16: In the pdf, under Striker’s Retaliation, the first line should read

As a reaction, when you are hit with a ranged attack, or an ally you can see is hit with a ranged or melee attack, you invoke your primal spirit to instantly carry you to the attacker and make an opportunity attack with Advantage against it.

Mondo

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I won Dungeons and Dragons! And it was Advanced!

So I’ve been filling a lot of my “down” time with all things 5e Dungeons and Dragons. It started out just planning adventures for my weekly Geek Fight Club, and my usually bi-weekly campaign with my brothers. While doing this, I was occasionally updating and cleaning up my campaign world notes when I could find and make sense of them. Keep in mind, that this campaign world has been in existence in one form or another since the mid 1980’s.

Pierce the Dickish

And it was Advanced!

I was also toying with the idea of creating a new campaign world. Something new and fresh and maybe I’d do a Kickstarter or something and get people to give me money, since I can’t get any of my players to pay me (I kid, guys. All I want is your love. And maybe a TPK). As I batted some ideas around, Wizards of the Coast made two big announcements. In one day (I think)! Not only were they releasing an Open Game License and System Reference Document (this is, in a nutshell, all of the rules and creatures for 5e D&D, encompassing most of the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide and Monster Manual) for 5e, but they were making it really easy for people who create content to share (and possibly get paid) for it! They created the DMs Guild, which is run by the swell folks over at DriveThruRpg, where creators can upload their content, set a price and then sit back and get rich.

Okay. I may be exaggerating the last point. But part of the cool thing about the DMs Guild, is that it allows creators access to the intellectual property not available through the SRD, as long as the adventures are either set in the Forgotten Realms, or setting neutral (so that they could be run in the Forgotten Realms). Creators who don’t want to be limited to Forgotten Realms, can sell their stuff at DriveThruRPG (or anywhere) as long as it’s compliant with the OGL and SRD.

Since I had been pulling this stuff of mine together already, I began to clean it up for potential sale. I’ve been working at it for hours each day after work, anywhere from 5 to 7 days a week (I occasionally say “fuck it” for a night and rewatch Community while my brain resets). I’ve never had so much fun working at something that makes me want to break my fingers and pluck my eyes out. Seriously.

At the moment, I have two supplements up at the DMs Guild, which I am naturally plugging here.

A new race for Player Characters, “The Dire Elf”, which is the rare crossbreed between elven and orc parents. This was the result of coming up with an NPC for an adventure I was writing. Fueled by too much coffee, I made this guy from a nice-guy half-elf rogue into a deadly, dangerous anti-hero. Of course, I had to build a homebrewed race, so as to make sure that there was some sort of balance with the game. I went a little nuts, I think, since the NPC doesn’t actually show up in the adventure, and just exists as part of the flavor of the town the adventure takes place in. Regardless, with the release of the OGL and DMs Guild, I cleaned it up and formatted it, and submitted it. Suggested price is just a buck, but I made it a Pay What You Want. Partly to get a feel for what people thought, but also to start to build some sort of potential customer base. The free downloads have been doing pretty well. I think? I have no way of knowing how many people are downloading how much other material. But I know that, at the time of this post, 148 people have downloaded it. And some of them have even paid for it (I get 50% of the sales).

The second is The Forgotten: An Otherworldly Patron for Warlocks.  This was a direct result of the SRD. It does not contain all of the released 5e material, and includes limited class options for archetypes and the like. One of the adventures I was working on included a villain NPC who was a Warlock with a Great Old One for an Otherworldly Patron. The only Patron included in the SRD was the Fiend (devils, yo!), and that did not work for this adventure (which ties strongly into my non-Forgotten Realms campaign setting). So I did what any over-caffeinated dungeon master would do, I made a new one. And that’s part of the reason that the SRD is limited. They want people creating new content. They might even start snatching it up for official use in the game! And yeah, they’ll ask you and pay you for your work, it’s still your intellectual property. So this new Patron is The Forgotten. It’s a trio (or more) of entities that existed before everything. They embody Chaos, Order (law), and Balance (neutrality), and basically created the whole of creation just to fight with each other until Balance shut them all away where they couldn’t mess with the fabric of creation any more. But there are minute cracks in their prison, where they whisper their names and send out little bits of power to warlock types. At the moment, that stands at 114 downloads, and has made twice as much money as the Dire Elf (again, only some people are paying for this stuff, I can get a six pack of beer or a pack of smokes with what I’ve earned).

So yeah, I’m plugging away at that, and the stuff that I have coming up. Plans are in motion to get the Bastards of Young podcast rolling again, and I’m working on a potential new actual play “in-character” podcast. So stay tuned, check them out when they come, and more importantly, keep playing.

Mondo

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