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Out of Character

"Has anyone seen my D20?"

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September 2013

Episode 12 A Little Bit of Magic

http://outofcharacter.buzzsprout.com/13127/118116-episode-12-a-little-bit-of-magic

Yesterday my friend Sebastian and I played some Magic the Gathering, he’s played a lot more MTG than I have but we played with randomized decks so we would both have a fighting chance. If you’re a fan of Magic the Gathering or TCGs you might want to check this one out.

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Episode 11 Oh Gods

We just finished recording a new episode of the Out of Character, this time we discussed the use of deities in tabletop games. This was spurred on by my purchase of a used copy of Deities and Demigods plus we both find the subject matter very interesting. Listen in and I hope everyone enjoys it.

http://outofcharacter.buzzsprout.com/13127/116997-episode-11-oh-gods

Polygoon’s Revenge

A few days ago I came home from work and swapped my dice for a bag of dice, then I set off to attend the latest production of a local theater group called Stage and Steel. Before I moved to Pittsburgh Stage and Steel performed a play entitled Ender’s Game which followed a group of tabletop adventurers and their characters as they battled with the villainous creatures called polygoons. Unfortunately I never got to see that play but when I heard that they’d be putting on a sequel I knew that I couldn’t miss the chance to see it.

Stage and Steel is a local theater group that performs plays several times throughout the year. Some of their shows are creative takes on stories like Robin Hood and King Arthur, but many others such as Ender’s Game and Polygoon’s Revenge are completely original.

Steven, played by Michael Kiser, is in the process of writing a fantasy novel based on the characters and adventures of his old tabletop gaming group. Unfortunately he’s been stuck partway through the book for some time now and his deadline is fast approaching. Meanwhile the heroes and the villainous polygoons have been forced to play out the same scene over and over again for days. The polygoons and their adversaries clash over a captured elf named Brandis, played by the very talented Alyson Finelli, who has a strange secret.

One of the most unique aspects about Stage and Steel is that their shows are interactive theater, you get to cheer for the characters you like and boo the ones you don’t. Members of the audience are even asked to join the actors on stage briefly in most shows, if that thought terrifies you don’t worry. If an introvert like me can do it than I can assure you anyone can. All of the actors are wonderful people and it’s easy to see how much love, effort, and creativity they put into every performance. They even come out to talk to the audience after every show, it’s interesting to see the actors stepping out of their characters as they leave the stage.

Live swordplay is a big part of every Stage and Steel production, the well choreographed battles between cast members are very exciting. The costumes and armor, made by Samuel Kiser and Jen Gilbert, are also of the highest caliber. The makeup for Polygoon Leader and the other polygoons is fantastic and the actors really got into their roles making them seem even more like monstrous fiends.

This might sound strange but I’ve always felt like the characters I create for campaigns take on a life of their own. Sure I give them their start but I like to think that they go off and have their own adventures. Polygoon’s Revenge explores the relationship between characters and their creators as well as the connection between authors and the stories they create.

Polygoon’s Revenge is going to be performed again throughout the coming weekend. If you’re a tabletop gamer, a fan of swordplay, a theater lover, or you’re just looking for a great way to spend your evening I strongly recommend attending one of the shows.

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Not so long ago a friendly local gaming store not so far away…

Earlier this week I ran another game at the local library for the teens, but this time instead of playing Dungeons and Dragons we played Star Wars Saga Edition. We’d been planning this for a few weeks and the players had been asking me what characters would be available every time I passed through the library. When I was a kid my parents got me a set of the Star Wars movies on VHS and my dad would let me watch them on the big projector in a conference room where he worked. It was an amazing experience and the closest I came to seeing the original trilogy on the big screen for decades.

Right before I headed over to the library I stopped in at a local gaming store that happens to be just down the street, The Geekadrome,and found copies of a couple of Star Wars Saga books. That’s a bit like walking into the park and spotting a unicorn. Since Wizards of the Coast dropped the licenses for Star Wars and these books went out of print a few years ago they’ve become harder and harder to find. PDFs are all over the internet but I refuse to support piracy by downloading them.

With less than an hour to go before the big event I had to choose one because I knew that these books probably wouldn’t stay on the shelves for too long. Ultimately I picked the Clone Wars Campaign Guide for a couple of reasons. It includes the rules for squads which are useful for GMs, it has a number of interesting races like Dugs and Nautolons, and the era of the Clone Wars is an exciting time to set a campaign. I also nabbed a couple of Heroclix and some dice to give away as a prize to one of the players.

The campaign went extremely well and it managed to attract a few people who aren’t part of the regular gaming group. We ended up with a human Jedi, a human Noble, a wookie Soldier, a Kel Dor Jedi, a human Scout, and a human Scoundrel.The party found themselves traveling towards the Outer Rim on a small transport ship named The Rusted Centurion. When their ship was attacked by Trandoshan pirates they faced off against the invaders while trying to repair the ship’s damaged hyperdrive so that they could escape. It seems these pirates had been attacking ships and selling the crew to the Hutts for weeks. Ultimately the pirates managed to destroy the hyperdrive, but not before the captain of the Centurion summoned a rescue party. New Republic ships arrived and the players cheered as they blew the Trandoshan ships apart.

I gave the dice to the player who’d taken on the role of the human Noble and let everyone keep their character sheets. I love doing these events because the players always want me to turn it a regular thing. Seeing their enthusiasm for the game and their characters reminds me why I love running them so much.

theclonewarscampaignguide

I asked Jade to name these clone troopers and she dubbed the (from left to right): Apple, Lime, Blueberry, Banana , and Cherry. I’m pretty sure I’ll use those names in a campaign some day and call the squad The Fruit of Doom.

The Nobles Houses of Westeros Creature Compendium Part 1

As promised I deliver the first installment of The Noble Houses of Westeros Creature Compendium. These are just a few basic easily modified people and beasts players might encounter during the course of the adventures, GMs can easily alter them to meet their needs however.

This time around I decided to use mostly physical combatants, next time around I think we’ll see a few social and mental threats instead just to give players a nice variety to choose from.

Name: Boar
Gender: Male/Female
Birthplace: Forested Woodland

Health: 10

Abilities
Physical: D10
Mental D4
Social: D6

Weaknesses: Beast- Simple minded and incapable of speech boars are feared for the sharpness of their tusks rather than their wits. Reduce the boards Social and Mental die sizes by 1.

Description: Boards are surprisingly strong and fast creatures who live solitary lives. Mothers guard their piglets with startling ferocity attacking anything that threatens them. Their saber-like tusks are deadly and have gored many unwary hunters. King Robert Baratheon was killed by a boar when the beast wounded him with is tusks.

Name: Dire Wolf
Birthplace: The north, beyond the Wall.
Gender: Male/Female

Abilities
Physical: D12
Mental: D6
Social: D8

Specialties: Pack Hunter- While in a pack with at least one other Dire Wolf increase the size of all of the Dire Wolf’s die by one.

Enormous- Dire Wolves are monstrous creatures spoken of legends, even those who dwell in the north have rarely set eyes on one of the beasts, a fact for which they’re grateful. Increase the size of the Dire Wolf’s Physical die by one.

Description: Dire Wolves are massive predators that prowl the snowy landscapes of the north snatching up whatever prey they can sink their fangs into. They’re almost always on the move as their hunting territory is expansive and they require a great deal of food to survive. Their packs number between 6 and 10 although a lone wolf may sometimes be encountered. A single Dire Wolf is deadly enough but a pack of them can bring down almost any prey with ease. A Dire Wolf in the service of an individual or House would take on the House and its words as well. You can make a Dire Wolf more distinctive by adding additional specialties or weaknesses.

Name: Iron Islands Pirate
Gender: Male/Female
Birthplace: The Iron Islands
House: House Greyjoy
House Words: “We Do Not Sow.”
Trade: Pirate

Health: 10

Abilities
Physical: D10
Mental: D6
Social: D8

Equipment: Choose one of the following: Sword, trident, a bow and a quiver of twelve arrows or a net all are of poor quality. Pirates wear clothing of a very poor quality, usually little better than rags. All pirates carry a small dagger and a pouch filled with 1d6 of coins, roll 1d4 and consult the table to determine the type of coins.
1d4 Pouch Table
1- Copper Coins
2 or 3- Silver Coins
4- Gold Coins

Weaknesses: Of the Sea- The people of the Iron Islands are accustomed to crashing waves, rocky shores, and violent storms however they aren’t at home on dry land. Most confine their raids to the coast as attacks further inland have often proven disastrous. Whenever the Iron Islands Pirate is not within 1 days journey of the ocean reduce all of their die by one size.

Description: These pirates sail out from the Iron Islands launching raids against other ships and coastal settlements. They’re skilled sailors and archers, but only average warriors overall. Members of these crews aren’t above betraying one another to ensure their survival or prosperity. A ship’s crew usually numbers between twelve and thirty.

Name: Iron Island Pirate Captain
Gender: Male/Female
Birthplace: The Iron Islands
House: House Greyjoy
House Words: “We Do Not Sow.”
Trade: Pirate

Health: 8

Abilities
Physical D8
Mental D6
Social D10

Equipment: Choose one of the following a sword or a bow and a quiver of twelve arrows. All Pirate Captains carry a dagger, and they wear clothing of a fair quality. They also carry a pouch filled with 1d8 coins.
1d4 Pouch Table
1- Copper Coins
2 or 3- Silver Coins
4- Gold Coins

Specialties: “What is Dead May Never Die.”- The Drowned God’s worshipers throughout the Iron Islands instills a measure of fearlessness in his worshipers. When faced with the threat of death increase all of the Iron Island Pirate Captain’s die sizes by one.

“I Know These Waters.”- Spending a lifetime at sea grants you special knowledge about it. Whenever making a knowledge check about the sea increase the size of your Mental die by one.

Ready For a Fight- Captains often find that their crew test their worth, and failure often results in their quick death. When rolling for initiative increase the size of your Physical die by one.

Weaknesses: Of the Sea- The people of the Iron Islands are accustomed to crashing waves, rocky shores, and violent storms however they aren’t at home on dry land. Most confine their raids to the coast as attacks further inland have often proven disastrous. Whenever the Iron Islands Pirate is not within one days journey of the ocean reduce all of their die by one size.

Description: The captains who command the ships that sail out of the Iron Islands are cunning warriors who’ve earned the respect or fear of their crews. The captain wades into combat issuing orders to his men and cutting down foes left and right.

Name: Hill Tribesman
Gender: Male/Female
Birthplace: The Vale
House: N/A
House Words: N/A
Trade: Bandit

Health: 10

Abilities
Physical: D10
Mental: D6
Social: D8

Equipment: Choose one of the following ax, sword or spear. You may also choose a shield and a dagger. The warriors of the Hill Tribes wear armor poor quality chainmail that adds a +1 to their Physical die for defense rolls. Tribal jewelry roll 1d4 to determine what it is by consulting the table below.
1D4 Tribal Jewelry Chart
1-Ear Necklace
2-Tarnished Ring
3- Bead Bracelet
4- Necklace of Teeth

Description: Hill Tribesmen live in the Vale attacking those who try to travel through the area, but they don’t attack well armed parties or large forces. They will sometimes spare their victims if they are bribed or tricked.

Name:Hill Tribe Chieftean
Gender: Male/Female
Birthplace: The Vale
House: N/A
House Words: N/A
Trade: Bandit

Health: 10

Abilities
Physical: D10
Mental: D6
Social: D8

Equipment: Choose one of the following ax, sword or spear. You may also choose a shield and a dagger. The warriors of the Hill Tribes wear armor poor quality chainmail that adds a +1 to their Physical die for defense rolls. Tribal jewelry roll 1d4 to determine what it is by consulting the table below.
1D4 Tribal Jewelry Chart
1-Ear Necklace
2-Tarnished Ring
3- Bead Bracelet
4- Necklace of Teeth

Specialty: Bloodthirsty- Violence is a way of life for members of the Hill Tribes. During combat increase the Hill Tribe Chieftean’s Physical die size by one.

Fierce Commander- Commanding a group of barbaric warriors is no small task but these brutes manage to keep order by barking orders and cracking skulls. During combat increase your Social die size by one.

Description: The leaders of the hill tribes are brutal warriors who keep their power by supplying their warriors with easy prey and spoils. Years of being hunted and scorned by the civilized people of the Vale have made them bitter and eager to take whatever revenge they can.

The Noble Houses of Westeros

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A few months ago after watching a ton of Game of Thrones I decided that I wanted to try my hand at making a tabletop roleplaying game set in the fictional realm of Westeros. For those who don’t know Game of Thrones is a popular fantasy book series written by George R.R. Martin, and a much beloved television show on HBO. I’m still working my way through the books and I haven’t seen every episode of the most recent season, but I love the universe Martin creates and it’s a very compelling setting. I’m especially fond of the houses and their heraldry. There’s something entrancing about hearing actors saying the motto of their house, families that have commanded men and lands for hundreds if not thousands of years in some cases.

There actually already are a few games based on Game of Thrones so if you’re looking for something deep and advanced I’d suggest giving one of those a try. The Noble Houses of Westeros is built to allow players who have never rolled a d20 in their life to play their first roleplaying game in a matter of minutes, while engaging longtime players as well. I tried to capture their balance of brutal action and subtle story building that makes these stories so interesting. If you’re a fan of the show but you’re worried you won’t be able to play this game without reading every book don’t worry.

Please note that this is by no means a finished product. There aren’t any notes about the Night’s Watch for example, but I’m not going to stop anyone from taking the black if they want to. I even included an example of a Brother of the Night’s Watch in the Creature Compendium just in case someone wants to use them. The Creature Compendium will be published in separate blog posts since I don’t want this entry to be any longer than it already is. Magic, dragons, and a few other things are also in the works but I think the game is ready to have a bit of a road test and see what works before bringing those things into it. True magic and dragons are so rare in the Game of Thrones universe that only a handful of people will ever encounter them anyway.

I enjoy making games and I’d be glad to hear that someone got a few friends around the table and gave this one a try. If you have any thoughts, praise, or curses you’d like to throw at me after doing so feel free. So without further delay I present…

The Noble Houses of Westeros

House Arryn– The Veil
Words: “High as Honor.”
Emblem: An eagle
Seat: The Eyrie

House Baratheon- The Stormlands
Words: “Ours Is The Fury.”
Emblem: A stag
Seat: Storm’s End

House Greyjoy– The Iron Islands
Words: “We Do Not Sow.”
Emblem: A kraken
Seat: Pyke

House Lannister- The Westerlands
Words: “Hear Me Roar!”
Emblem: A lion
Seat: Casterly Rock

House Martell– Dorn
Words: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.”
Emblem: A red sun pierced by a golden spear
Seat: Sunspear

House Stark- The North
Words: “Winter is Coming.”
Emblem: A direwolf
Seat: Winterfell

House Targaryen- The Crownlands
Words: “Fire and Blood.”
Emblem: A red three headed dragon.
Seat: King’s Landing, Dragonstone

House Tully- The Riverlands
Words: “Family, Duty, Honor.”
Emblem: A trout
Seat: Riverrun

House Tyrell– The Reach
Words: “Growing Strong.”
Emblem: A golden rose
Seat: Highgarden

Character Creation

Choose Your House
Those born into a noble house will enjoy a life of privilege and duty to their families. However even the Starks, Lannisters, and Baratheons would be of little consequence were it not for those who serve them. Choosing a house will determine which of the great families your character is bound to, and more importantly who they have chosen to serve.

When you’re creating your character one of the first choices you’re going to make is probably going to be which house does your character serve? Choosing House Baratheon doesn’t mean your a member of that house, but that is an option that’s available to players. Think about your character’s background and where they’ve spent their life. Perhaps you were born in the Vale but your family was forced to flee after one of the hill tribes burned you out of your home. Growing up on the streets of Kings Landing the words of the usurper echoed in your mind as you struggled for every scrap of food. “Ours is the Fury.” Thinking of the hill tribes who ruined your life you pledge to return to the Vale one day and make them pay.

In this example the character could have chosen House Arryn, but he sympathizes with House Baratheon because of his circumstances which influenced his choice of house considerably. This young man might go on to serve as a soldier in Robert Barataheon’s army, a member of the gold cloaks, or he might end up a thief who dreams of revenge.

House Words
The words of the house you were born into or born to serve echo in your mind day and night. Whenever you take an action supported by this creed you may add 1d4 to the dice you roll.

The words of a house are a powerful thing, they carry the strength of their houses and these creeds can inspire or terrify depending on who utters them. When you think your character’s words could be applied to a roll ask the GM if they’ll allow you to add the bonus die to your roll.

Assign Ability Dice
Your abilities are divided into three broad categories: Mental, Physical, and Social. Your one of your ability dice to each, these include 1d6, 1d8, and 1d10.

Abilities
Mental: Your mental ability represents your intelligence, wisdom and insight. Characters with a great deal of mental ability are among the most learned people of the seven kingdoms, and they often rise to positions of great power. Mental die are also used when commanding troops in combat.
Examples: Researching, investigating, detecting lies

Physical: Your physical ability represents your strength, agility, and vitality. Characters with a high score in physical ability are often great warriors, legendary athletes, or stealthy thieves.
Examples: Running, jumping, climbing, sneaking, fighting, swimming

Social: Your social ability represents your ability charm, deceive, or bully those around others. Characters with a high social ability often rise to positions of prominence in Westeros while enjoying a great deal of personal influence over everyone around them.
Examples: Threatening, bribing, charming, seducing, deceive

Trade
Everyone in Westeros is expected to perform their own role to keep the seven kingdoms running smoothly, from the lowliest craftsman to the richest lord. You gain a +2 bonus whenever you make a roll associated with your trade.

Examples of Trades

  1. Baker
  2. Bard
  3. Blacksmith
  4. Butcher
  5. Carpenter
  6. Farmer
  7. Handmaiden
  8. Hunter
  9. Knight
  10. Maester
  11. Merchant
  12. Noble
  13. Pirate
  14. Ranger
  15. Sailor
  16. Sell Sword
  17. Septon/Septa
  18. Smuggler
  19. Soldier
  20. Vintner

Below are a few examples of when you could apply your trade bonus for various trades.

Butcher: On the run from Bannerman of the lord of Lannisport you stumble upon a goat. Stealing the bleating beast you and your fellows continue to flee. Your skill with a knife lets you salvage enough meat from the animal to keep your bellies full for at least three days. You may die but at you won’t do it hungry.

Blacksmith: Under orders from the Master of Whisperers you’ve presented yourself before Sir Loras Tyrell posing as his new squire. He decides to test you by ordering you to prepare him for a tournament he is to take part in within the hour. Your knowledge of armor aids you as you fit him into his armor and make certain it is in good repair. Impressed with you he agrees to keep you on as his new squire for the time being. The Master of Whisperers will be pleased.

Hunter: In pursuit of a poacher trespassing in the woodlands around Winterfell your years of hunting and tracking prove invaluable. The obvious footprints left behind by your quarry are far easier to spot than those left by the deer you usually stalk.

Create Specialties
Specialties are unique characteristics that make your character more distinct while providing them with additional skills. Remember that specialties should be created so that they remain unique to your character, however the examples provided are a useful starting point.

After all why choose Swordsman when you could have King Slayer or the First Sword of Bravos?

All characters begin with at least two specialties, these specialties help player character to distinguish themselves from many o.f the NPCs they’ll interact with throughout the course of the game

Examples of Specialties

Attractive: Your good looks enhance your natural charm considerably. Increase your Social die size by 1 when dealing with someone who is attracted to you.

Brave: Your courage is a rare quality and it allows you to face down the coldest winter without bending to the terrors that it brings with it. Increase your Social die size by 1 when attempting to resist Intimidation.

Cunning: You possess a mind that delights and terrifies others in turn with its complexity. Increase your Mental die size by 1.

Giant: Your abnormal size and strength have served you well, whether it was on the battlefield or a trade. Increase your Physical die size by 1 when lifting, carrying, breaking, or attacking.

Horseman: Some jest that you’re more at home in a saddle than you are on your own two feet. Increase your Physical die size by 1 while mounted.

Light Footed: You are stealthy and quick on your feet. Increase your Physical die size by 1 when running or sneaking.

Manipulative: You excel at getting others to do your bidding, while making them think they’re really doing their own. Increase your Social die size by 1.

Marksman: Few men are as deadly as you with a bow in your hand. Increase your physical die size by 1 when making an attack roll with a bow.

Rich as a Lannister: Coins flow freely from your hands and you don’t bother to watch where they fall. Your wealth allows you to purchase common goods and services readily.

Swordsman: You have mastered the sword and learned to use it with deadly efficiency. Increase your physical die size by 1 when making an attack roll with a sword.

Create Weaknesses

Weaknesses represent flaws in your character’s personality. Perhaps they’re overly fond of their drink or they have a terrible temper? For every weakness you take you gain 1 additional specialty.

Examples of Weaknesses

Bastard: Those of noble birth and substance will always look down on you as the product of an illicit affair. Reduce your Social die by 1 when speaking to anyone of noble birth.

Coward: You tremble at the sight of your own shadow. Reduce your Social die size by 1 when attempting to resist intimidation and your Physical die size by 1 when making an attack.

Cripple: Whether by accident or birth you have suffered some form of disfigurement which hinders your physical abilities. Reduce your Physical die size by 1.

Drunkard: Your fondness for wine and ale overwhelms your judgment more often than not. When offered drink you will partake.

Dwarf: Looked down upon by most and pitied by the rest dwarves are not well received by any. Even more daunting than their social stigma though are the physical challenges they face every day of their lives. Reduce your Physical die size by 1.

Fear: Something terrifies your character beyond all reason. In the presence of this thing reduce your Mental, Physical, and Social die size by 1.

Greedy: Power, wealth, and possessions hold sway over your actions. Reduce your Social die size by 1 when attempting to resist a bribe.

Simple Minded: Cleverness and cunning are strangers to you. Reduce your Mental die size by 1.

Weak Willed: You bend to the wishes of those around you like a reed bends in the wind. Reduce your Social die size by 1.

Whoremonger: Women, especially those of easy virtue, are of special interest to you. Reduce your Mental and Social die size by 1 when in the presence of someone you find attractive.

Health
Health is calculated using your Physical ability die. Double the maximum value of your Physical die, this will be the number of hit points you possess.

Combat Rules
During combat characters each roll their Physical die in order to determine the order of initiative. The character with the highest roll goes first proceeding until each character in the battle has taken a turn. To make an attack a character rolls their Physical die in addition to any bonuses they may possess, the defending character does the same. Whoever rolls higher wins the exchange, if the attacker is victorious the defending character takes damage, but if the defending character prevails they fend of the attack.

The attacker and defender compare the rolls after a victor is chosen, in the event that the attacker won the value of his roll exceeding the defender’s roll will be deducted from the defender’s hit points as damage.

When commanding forces in battle a leader’s mental abilities are often far more important than their physical prowess. In place of an attack a character in command of at least five others may make a Mental ability roll and add the result to the Physical rolls of anyone under their command.

Character Death

When you play the game of thrones you win or you die. When your character is reduced to 0 hit points they are dying. Other characters may attempt to heal you by making a Mental ability check. On a result of 8 or better you survive, although this often leaves your body marred in some way. Failing a heal roll means your character succumbs to their injuries.

Seduction

A character may attempt to seduce another character by making a Social die roll, the opposing player would need to make a Mental roll to resist the temptation and avoid being lured astray. If the defending character fails to resist the attempt by 5 or more they are seduced and will aid the victorious character by answering questions or carrying out their orders in the hopes of a tryst. Most NPCs will not however carry out any action which they know is likey to result in their own death.

Weapons
Ax +2 to Physical attack rolls.
Bow +2 to Physical attack rolls.
Crossbow +3 to Physical attack rolls.
Dagger +1 to Physical attack rolls.
Lance +2 to Physical attack rolls.
Long Sword +3 to Physical attack rolls.
Metal Spear +2 to Physical attack rolls..
Pike +2 to Physical attack rolls.
Short Sword +2 to Physical attack rolls.
Staff +1 to Physical attack rolls.
Trident +2 to Physical attack rolls.
War Hammer +3 to Physical attack rolls
Wooden Spear +1 to Physical attack rolls.

Valyrian Steel weapons double the bonus to Physical attack rolls.

Armor

Leather Armor +1 to Physical defense rolls.
Chainmail +2 to Physical defense rolls, however it reduces Physical attack rolls by 1.
Plate Armor +3 to Physical defense rolls, however it reduces Physical attack rolls by 2.
Shield +1 to Physical defense rolls.

Valyrian Steel armor doubles the bonus to Physical defense rolls.

Gear
Arrows
Belt pouch
Book
Flint and Steel
Herb Pouch
Maester Links
Medicinal Herbs
Parchment
Quill
Quiver
Saddle
Torch
Trail Bread
Waterskin
Wineskin

Character Stats

Name:
Gender:
Birthplace:
House:
House Words:
Trade:

Health:

Abilities
Physical:
Mental:
Social:

Specialties:
Weakness:

Equipment

Not Half Bad

Since some of the earliest days of tabletop role playing games players have been taking on the roles of characters whose parents are of two entirely separate races. These hybrids have become one of the most common threads running throughout the entirety of role playing games. So how did hybrids become so popular, and how have they remained popular for so many years? I think that when people are creating their characters one of the first things they look for is conflict, as that can help make a character far more interesting. Playing someone who is constantly being torn between two worlds is a compelling choice, and it often allows for a great deal of creativity.

One of the first hybrid heroes the deeds of Hercules remain the stuff of legend even today. This half-mortal son of Zeus is especially famous for the twelve daunting labors he carried out in the service of King Eurystheus. He accomplished these labors so that he could atone for murdering his own sons after being driven mad by Hera. Diverting rivers to cleanse the Augean stables, capturing the Cerberus the three headed dog that guards the underworld, and slaying the Nemean lion were just of few of the labors he overcame before being rewarded with immortality. While Hercules might be the most famous son of Zeus, but he certainly isn’t the only hero the king of the gods ever sired.Perseus slew the terrifying gorgon Medusa who was so hideous any creature who looked upon her was transformed to stone. Theseus entered an inescapable labyrinth and faced the monstrous minotaur who dwelled within its winding corridors.

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Turning our attention from the past and into the distant future a certain half-Vulcan science officer serving aboard the starship Enterprise is another inspiration to hybrid characters. Even though Spock is half-human his intelligence and skill made him one of the most respected officers in the history of Starfleet. Considering how many Star Trek fans play role playing games it isn’t hard to imagine them wanting to create characters like Spock themselves. Spock represents the more intellectual breed of hybrid whose lifespan and capacity for thinking have been enhanced as well as his physical abilities.

RubeusHagrid

Another hybrid who is far less respetable, but no less beloved, is Rubeus Hagrid the groundskeeper at Hogwarts School of Witchraft and Wizardry. An entire generation of young readers were introduced to this towering figure when he delivered a very important letter to an eleven year old wizard named Harry Potter. Hagrid’s immense size and strength sometimes obscures his kindness, loyalty, and courage. After keeping his half-giant heritage a secret for many years the truth was revealed by Rita Skeeter who published the whole story in an article in The Daily Prophet. In spite of this Hagrid stayed on at Hogwarts and he was no longer forced to live with the terrible secret that he’d been keeping his entire life. A common feature among many hybrid characters is shame and social isolation, Hagrid displayed both of these characteristics but managed to overcome them in time.

Another wizard named Harry has been forced to confront hybrids on more than one occasion. Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, first met a number of changelings in the book Summer Knight. In the Dresden Files universe changelings are the offspring of humans and the sidhe. All changelings exhibit signs of their supernatural lineage, whether it be an unusual physical appearance or a magical ability varies from one changeling to the next. They do however all have one thing in common. All changelings will eventually be forced to choose between their humanity and their sidhe nature. If they choose humanity they will lose all of their powers and become an ordinary mortal, but if they choose the sidhe they become a supernatural being with greater powers and abilities. Changelings are one of the High Concept templates players can choose to play in The Dresden Files RPG.

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Half-Elves have been a popular choice among Dungeons and Dragons players who favor them for their natural versatility and charisma. Half-Elves are adaptable, hearty, and able to win an battle of words or blades with style. One of the most famous members of this race is Tanis Hal-Elven whose adventures are chronicled in the popular Dragonlance books.Tanis helped the Heroes of the Lance defeat an evil goddess, and spent most his life working to maintain peace between humans and elves.

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Half-Orcs are another favorite, although they are prized for their hearty nature and immense physical strength. Players who choose to create a Half-Orc character will often play upon the unusual circumstances that lead to their character’s birth in the first place. Half-Orc’s are often treated as brutish dolts who prefer to smash a Mindflayer’s head in rather than talk to it, but that isn’t always the case. Some players choose to create more refined and honorable characters who work to overcome their savage orcish bloodlust.

Whatever the reason for their popularity it’s easy to see the effect that hybrids have had on role playing games and the stories connected to them. If you’ve never come across a Half-Elf Ranger or a Half-Orc Barbarian in any Dungeons and Dragons campaign I’d be surprised. These characters are rich and provide an interesting aspect to campaigns that I think any GM would be happy to have the chance to play around with.

Of Dice And Men

Of Dice And Men written by David M. Ewalt is the story of Dungeons and Dragons, how it came to be, the creators who worked together to shape it, and the millions of people players who have gathered around tables across the globe to have adventures ever since it came into their lives. I don’t usually read nonfiction, but something about this book caught my eye. I was so excited by it I actually reserved a copy at Barnes and Noble and bought it the day after my birthday. A few weeks later I found myself sitting at my new desk at my first real job, and I decided I’d see if I could read a respectable book like an adult.

For those of you who fear a heavy tome stuffed with dates, names, and footnotes you don’t need to make a saving throw against intimidation. Ewalt relates the history of Dungeons and Dragons like a GM relaying the details of a magical kingdom shrouded in mystery and magic. Highly entertaining excerpts from a campaign he took part in with his own gaming group set in a futuristic fantasy setting where vampires vie for supremacy with humans add an ongoing sense of adventure to the book. Reading about their adventures from the point of view of his character Weslocke, a level-fifteen cleric, is exciting and represents many of the things I have come to love about this game. Even the footnotes are filled with wonderful little bits of information I found myself darting to the bottom of each page to read.

I really don’t want to given anything about the story away, but one part was especially important to me so I’ll try to share a portion without spoiling it. Towards the end of the book Ewalt finds himself playing Dungeon! with David Megarry, the man who created the game in 1972. Nearly everyone whose rolled a D20 knows who Gary Gygax is, but Megarry never became rich or famous for his efforts. He did however create a game that people have been playing for decades and continue to love. It was also one of my first steps into the world of roleplaying games. As a child I found a copy of Dungeon! on a toy store shelf and begged my mother to get it for me one year while we were on vacation. I was fascinated by the character cards, the molded plastic figures, and everything else I found within that box. I spent years making up stories for the characters and playing each of them by myself as they made their way through dungeon after dungeon. That copy of Dungeon! is still on my gaming shelf, except for the wizard’s figure which I keep on my bedside table. I never knew about David Megarry, but now I feel like he’s been a lifelong friend and I wouldn’t known his name if it weren’t for this book.

What is Greyhawk? What is Blackmoor? Who is David Arneson? What is a yeth hound? What is a grognard? These are all questions I couldn’t have answered before reading Of Dice And Men, and now that I have I feel like a wise master has imparted some secret wisdom onto me.

In the end finishing Of Dice And Men left me with the same bittersweet feeling as ending a campaign. With the players weary but victorious, the monsters slain, the treasure safely stowed in a bag of holding, and all of the snacks consumed there’s nothing left to do but pack up your dice and head home dreaming of your next adventure.

The front cover of Of Dice And Men.

Episode 10 Neverwinter, Pain and Grain Part 3

The most recent episode of the podcast featuring our adventures in Neverwinter is now up on the website. This was the last bit that we recorded for that session so until later this month when the group meets up for our next play session we’ll be taking a break from the Forgotten Realms and doing some other things. Hope you all enjoy this in the mean time though.

http://outofcharacter.buzzsprout.com/13127/114520-episode-10-neverwinter-pain-and-grain-part-3