Forbidden Lands by Free League Publishing Worldwide Release

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Enjoy the chaotic, the grim yet heroic world of settings such as Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, or Fire and Ice? What about iconic settings like Dark Sun or Mad Max but with a fantasy twist to do them? What about Netflix’s the Dragon Prince or He-Man and the Masters of the Universe? Strap on your raider’s mask, delve for lost and forgotten treasures from a bygone age and face harrowing adventures in Free League Publishing’s Forbidden Lands, released today for worldwide distribution.

Check out their YouTube trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgpOkhsvPvM

Forbidden Lands is a grimdark fantasy tabletop roleplaying game with a detailed history that provides many legends, secrets, and mysteries for players to find and solve. Players will assume roles of the many possible races and creatures that have endured in the Forbidden Lands since the creation of the Iron Lock. Character creation is something that can be a personal choice or randomly generated by dice rolls. Most of the major dice rolls utilize a d3, 2d6, and d66 with the occasional d8, d10, and d12. The d66 is a unique percentile dice, with one die referring to the tens place and the other representing the single digits with results ranging from 11 to 66 as outcomes.

Set in a fantasy world, where elves, dwarves, and humans lived separated by a mountain range called the Divide. After several centuries of peace, war erupted, a powerful sorcerer took over the region north of the Divide, demons poured through a mystical gate which made the area inhospitable. An effort to create a great wall severed the lands to the north from the south which became known as the Forbidden Lands. Travel was made impossible due to the Blood Mist for nearly three centuries until it inexplicably vanished. New opportunities for exploration and conquest have risen, with many secrets of the land hidden, waiting to be discovered. Additionally, the Gamemaster’s Guide provides tips and details about incorporating the game’s mechanics and sandbox campaign setting into your settings and games.

 

The Forbidden Lands boxed set, includes the Player’s and Gamemaster’s Guides


Each character has four primary attributes: Strength, Agility, Wits, and Empathy. A character’s race or “kin” and profession affect their attributes, while each kin entry provides suggested professions they are not necessarily bound to them. A character’s Dark Secret and relationship with the other player characters are essential to developing the bonds of the party to adventure together. There are some remarkably familiar aspects of character creation akin to Cubicle 7’s Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th Edition except minus the percentile statistics and percentile dice though I found Forbidden Lands to be quick and painless with smaller numbers for attribute and skill assignment.  

The game mechanics can be best described as an admixture of d6 dice pools determined by attribute, skills, and gear. Success is defined by having at least dice result with a 6, while failure is any result with no 6’s rolled. There is a mechanic to allow a character to “push” their rolls, which offers a reroll of any dice that did not come up as a 6 or any 1’s. Any 1’s that appear after pushing your dice can result in wounds, exhaustion, or damaged gear depending on the dice category. It’s heavily suggested that you have three colored sets of d6s, along with a d8, d10, and a d12. The latter group of dice is reserved for magical artifacts that players will come across during their adventures, which are rolled along the gear dice.
Characters in the Forbidden Lands have a varied set of tricks and abilities which are defined as talents, separated by three categories: kin talents, profession talents, and general talents. Kin and Profession talents are more potent than general talents and require the expenditure of Willpower to activate. Willpower is generated whenever a player character pushes on their dice rolls. Each kin has a primary talent, then each profession has a trio of talents to select, and then a more extensive list of general talents. Players may invest ranks into some of these talents to unlock additional features, up to a maximum of rank 3. Casting spells in Forbidden Lands will always happen but require expending Willpower which may have the chance to either overcharge the spell, or the player suffers a magical mishap. Ultimately, the hope is that players will incur riches, boons, reputation, and influence to establish their own stronghold. After all, while the nomadic adventurer’s life can be glamorous, having a safe place to return after an excursion is always lovely.

Many creatures, dangers, and mysteries wait in the Forbidden Lands

The setting brings many unexplored horizons, taking less the role of heroes and more of individuals thriving under a dark regime. While delving into the material, the inclusion of additional legends and backstories for the players during character creation enrich the experience and the setting.  Especially if the group decides to go the alternative character creation route which includes a randomized generation of race and professions. This is a game about thriving in a bleak existence where evil reigns but vast treasures from centuries ago lie hidden and forgotten by time. When players tally experience for their characters, it’s in the form of a questionnaire (you’ll find this familiar with games like Tales from the Loop), as the premise stems from the idea of the characters learning from their adventures to become wiser and smarter. Additionally, your character’s pride, dark secrets, and relationships are free to be changed across gameplay which provides a profound metaphor on the nature of growth and development.

You can find Free League Publishing’s Forbidden Lands in their storefront here: http://frialigan.se/en/store/?collection_id=84541866032

Additionally, Free League Publishing also launched the Raven’s Purge Campaign Book which as an epic campaign module for Forbidden Lands that can have a profound influence over the region. Unlike traditional story modules, there are no clear objectives but plenty of material for legends, locales, and individuals to interact.

Return to the Loop with Free League’s New Adventures for Tales from the Loop

Imagine a setting in the 1980s and machines roam the landscape all connected to a mysterious facility and an equally mysterious power source used to generate various odd experiments that occasionally run rampant in your suburban life. The caveat? You’re all playing as kids, and only you can stop the machine menace. Free League Publishing released their ENnie awarding Tales from the Loop in 2015 which would later become of the “must play games” of 2017, and the game continues to grow with their first campaign book, Tales from the Loop: Our Friends the Machines and Other Mysteries.

The new campaign book consists of three mysteries, eight shorter mysteries inspired by songs from the 1980s, a chapter on machine blueprints, and a section dedicated to making your hometown the center of the Loop for your games. The chapters, design, and layout are identical to the core rulebook and honestly are aesthetically pleasing as they harken back to Swedish artist, Simon Stålenhag’s paintings.

  • Our Friends the Machines is a great mystery that encompasses everything from Transformers, to Toy Soldiers or Toy Story if you’re so inclined mixed with opposing AIs and mind-control chips. There’s plenty of information for the game master to run these fully established mysteries and have the kids (players) investigating the strange happenings in their small town. There are a lot of alternate paths and endings, and it’ll be a reoccurring design choice you will notice with subsequent mysteries.
  • Horror Movie Mayhem takes the moral panic of the 80s and adds the twist of subliminal messages and awful televised programs. It’s the classic “something went terribly wrong” sort of brainwashing and creepy PTA members to boot. There are some other elements that I feel I shouldn’t spoil but if anyone who grew up during this period of the moral panic, this one is for you.
  • The Mummy in the Mist brings the ideas of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man meets Stephen King’s the Mist but with less blood and gore. This will have the kids exploring and investigating in several locations before it all leads to the showdown which has some great choices and equally great endings.
  • The Mixtape of Mysteries are all mysteries with titles borrowed from iconic songs from the 80s, and each one is distinct in their flavor and stories. One of my personal favorites “Every Breath You Take” is a great twist from the original song that served as its inspiration into some perverse and somewhat grim which had my full attention. All eight of these mysteries set up the premise, the truth, provide hooks, and countdowns to help narrate the story but leave the ending open-ended enough for the players to draw their conclusions.
  • The Machine blueprints provide insightful lore for the machines that roam within the Loop and provides suggested mysteries if the game master wishes to implement them.
  • The Hometown Hack chapter is probably my favorite chapter for game masters to transplant their hometowns into the mechanics and aesthetics of the Loop. There are some useful tips for defining your town, establishing the Loop, and fleshing out the details of your characters’ hometown. After all, the players will be spending the majority of their time in this area, so it’s helpful to have them participate in the worldbuilding process.

I honestly enjoyed this campaign book, and if you already own Tales from the Loop, I highly suggest picking up this book as well. It’s a great companion piece to help give some meaning mysteries, provide hooks for some others, and great tips for bringing to the Loop to your small town. The last section on the Hometown Hack is worth buying this book already, very insightful information that allows a gamemaster to transfer the Loop to practically anywhere. The book is very well organized, the layout is easy to read and navigate, and expands on the setting provided from the core rulebook.

You can acquire your copy of Our Friends the Machines and Other Mysteries here and currently, at the time of this article, the book is sold out, but there are plenty of 3rd-party distributors that should have copies available. Additionally, Free League Publishing launched a Kickstarter, Things from the Flood, that is meant as a sequel to Tales from the Loop. If you haven’t picked up your copy of Tales from the Loop, the game is essentially the Goonies meets Eerie Indiana, and it just works with all of these different niche genres.

Elements – The Guild of Windmill

"Is it worth it? Should we allow these wizards such free reign in our lands simply because we are lazy? And what happens to the wind? Do they destroy it?"

Founded by the great wizard Alphonze, the Guild of Windmill holds the secret to harnessing the power of wind to preform tasks that would take your average unskilled laborer many hours to do themselves. It is for this that any village for whom the Guild decide to bestow their strange, magical towers upon find themselves incredibly grateful and pay significant funds to the magicians for their great services.

While the villagers are allowed to work the windmills, much of their inner workings remain a great mystery, requiring the services of the great Guild to keep maintained. Entering the inner chambers of the towers requires a person capable of great magics to protect themselves from the errant energies that turn Nature’s great wind into milling energy. Also, any non-guild member entering said chambers is liable to incarceration, and sometimes death if it is believed that person has been “contaminated” by the magics inside. The knights are known as the Staring Steel by most local populations for their vigils of staring at windmills day and night.

This leads to some questions: if the windmills are so dangerous, why should they be allowed in their towns? Alphonse himself has assured the populace that as long as the common folk do not enter the forbidding chambers that they shall be fine, that the lumber cut from only the most magical forests protects them from the energies inside. But it does not protect them from curiosity. And for that reason, knights are deployed from the guild to patrol their towers, to watch over them and ensure their safety. And also to make sure the locals pay their dues, rent, and maitanence fees.

These windmills require three things before they are built in any town. The first is ample wind, which is converted into milling energy through the windmill’s tower. The second is permission from the local governer, lord, or shaman. The third is is a significant donation to the Guild. Once that has been completed you too can have your own windmill!

 

Important members of the Guild of Windmill

Guss T’blohard – Current leader of the Guild, said to be able to talk for hours without ever taking in a breath. Most would rather pay the man rather than converse with him due to his generally unpleasant nature. Alphonze finds this to be a boon to the buisness, although the great wizard has not been seen in his company for many years.

Bre Z’fan – Captain of the Staring Steel and Dues. Shrewd both in money and manpower, Captain Z’fan knows how to keep the Guild running on the least amount of resources possible. Her knights are often under appreciated and ill equipped, often leading to malnourishment and dillusions. They are then promptly fired and filled in with fresh recruits looking to make an easy silver.

Donald Quote – A local knight in a small village, Sir Quote is certain that something about the windmill is trying to communicate with him. He watches it dilligently, hoping that the purpose of the whisperings will be revealed. He hopes that this happens before he is driven insane and tears into the mill himself to discover the mystery. His trusty horse Gunther is his only other friend.

Enjoy Elements? Let Ethan know on Twitter (@superrobotbear)! He’d love to hear from you and what sort of stories you have. Or if you are interested in his other works, including a dnd5e module or a podcast about RPG shows, you can find it all over on linktr.ee/superrobotbear.

Elements – The Sky-Twin Lakes

"You ever swim in the twin-lakes? Something about them makes your bones tingle and your soul lighten. And I swear that my skin sparkled for a week."

Nestled in between the misty peaks of the Ralheigup lie two lakes, each forming a perfect circle of equal measure. Long ago it was believed that these two lakes were formed by the falling of two Sky Children known as Ahstar and Buhstar, whose heavenly bodies formed great craters. Over time the deep holes filled with the melting of snow and the waters remain warm even in the middle of the harshest Winters. The lakes are nearly a mile deep at their deepest point, and most local divers spend their lives in pursuit of the depths. The waters are potable and mineral rich, and many travelers find the taste not unlike “the color trapezoid” as famously quoted from the Great Wizard Alphonze.

A small town has formed at the edge of these lakes known as Stjarna’lendir. It mostly survives on the local deer and rabbit populations, a few carefully tended star-berry groves (which are similar to blackberries but with a hint of carbonation) and the unusually large and sparkling fish who live in the warm lakes known as Bubblefish. Many of the residents dive into the craters, whose walls offer nuggets of strange metals that naturally grow in fractal-like patterns until picked. When forged this metal is as strong as steel and offers protection from the local fey spirits. They trade these weapons with towns further down the mountain for essentials and curios from the lowlands.

 

Star’s Landing has several issues that afflict them.

The local wolf population has become increasing violent and possess light based magics, making them very dangerous to travelers who carry essential supplies.

Fey spirits are agitated by the existence of the strange lakes and are constantly making ineffectual plans to destroy them.

Some of the fishermen have begun to claim that the Bubblefish can talk and are conflicted with the thought of eating them, essentially removing a large source of the town’s food.

 

Notable Figures

Andrea Ulfursdottir. Leads the local hunters and naturalists and is always considered in major town events. De facto leader of the community. Enjoys drinking, swinging axes, and intense conversations about the romantic rumors of the lowland royalty.

Sevrrir Olvirsson. While most of the village agrees that there is not magic in the waters of the Sky-twin lakes, none can deny that Sevrrir has tapped into some divine source offered by them. Capable of performing miracles and seeing the future, Sevrrir can often be found meditating in the cliffs overlooking the lakes, or occasionally sitting in their depths, much to the surprise of the divers.

Brynja Jóhannsson. No one knows where young Brynja obtains the wheat for her breads. They are afraid to ask. But her breads are always warm and delicious and considered a boon to the town. Her bakery is one of the most successful businesses in town and often sought out by travelers. Something prevents her bread from leaving Star’s Landing, which instantly molds and rots less than a mile down the road.

 

Enjoy Elements? Let Ethan know on Twitter (@superrobotbear)! He’d love to hear from you and what sort of stories you have. Or if you are interested in his other works, including a dnd5e module or a podcast about RPG shows, you can find it all over on linktr.ee/superrobotbear.

Call to Adventure: “Betrayal at Death House”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Introduction

Can your players survive a night trapped within a haunted mansion? Will they check out in the morning or will they extend their stay indefinitely? Test their fledgling ghost-busting skills in this macabre mystery for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition!

This unpredictable dungeon crawl is intended for a party of four to five 3rd level adventurers and can serve as an alternative to the introductory “Appendix B: Death House” mission from the “Curse of Strahd” (page 211 or this link) official campaign. It can also be adapted to any horror-themed setting.

Setup

The main premise of this haunted house is that the layout is created as the party explores it. In order to implement the map auto-generation mechanic you will need map tiles from a board game called “Betrayal at House on the Hill.” To keep things simple, you will only need the following sets (see image below):

  1. Starting Area → contains the Entrance Hall, Foyer, and Grand Staircase
  2. Upper Landing
  3. Stack of universal tiles (can be a Basement, Ground, or Upper tile)
  4. Basement Landing
  5. Stack of Upper tiles
  6. Stack of Ground tiles
  7. Stack of Basement tiles

All the PCs begin at the Entrance Hall in the Starting Area (example of a four-person party shown below).

Development

Whenever a character explores a new room (i.e. they pass through a door for the first time), draw the first tile from the appropriate stack and place it in a way that connects adjacent passageways. Sometimes a door will lead into a wall, but that’s okay. It’s a haunted house; it doesn’t need to make 100% sense. To handle movement and exploration, treat each room as a 15ft x 15ft chamber (see diagram below), and any additional terrain modifications (low/high ceiling, difficult terrain, obstacles, etc.) are at the Dungeon Master’s discretion.


After a few turns the game board could look something like this (consult the configuration example below).

  1. The elf rogue stayed on the ground level and found the Dining Room. Judging by the putrid scent and gore stains on the tablecloths, she discerns that something horrific happened here.
  2. The human fighter hit a dead end at the Graveyard and plans to regroup with the rogue.
  3. The gnome druid rummaged the upstairs area and found the Mystic Elevator! Now she can travel to and from any room using its teleporting abilities!
  4. After accidentally falling down a Coal Chute and into the basement, the halfling wizard found a room strewn with junk. Maybe he can find something useful in this mess.

 

Special Events

Some of these rooms have special text on them that can be either incorporated into gameplay or ignored entirely at the Dungeon Master’s behest. For example, if a player draws a tile with the words “You can attempt a Speed Roll of 3+ to cross. If you fall, stop moving.” consider forcing the player character to roll an Athletics (Strength) Check DC 20 or take fall damage.

Another set of special events are: Items, Events, and Haunts. These are denoted by a Ram Skull, Spiral, and Raven icon respectively (see example set below) in the bottom right-hand corner. The general rule for resolving these special situations are thus:

  • ITEM (Ram Skull)
    • The first player to enter this room finds a special item that is relevant to the plot.
    • This can be a powerful magic weapon, plot-critical MacGuffin, or something that explains more of the background and histories of the paranormal event.
    • For example, in an alternative Death House scenario, an Item room may contain the cultists robes, along with the letter from Strahd voicing his displeasure with their activities.
  • EVENT (Spiral)
    • These are random occurrences and challenges that allow for a sense of spontaneity and unpredictability.
    • These can include random combat encounters with undead, conversations with angry spirits, sudden environmental dangers, or horrific visions.
    • For example, in an altered Death House scenario, an Event can bring the party into contact with the midwife’s specter, whose soul was unable to find rest after she was stabbed to death.
  • HAUNT (Raven)
    • Use this moment to progress the plot. These are the story beats that represent an escalation of tension and urgency. Each one makes the situation more intense and dire.
    • For example, in a modified Death House scenario, each Haunt triggers an encounter with the remnants of the cultists, and reveals more of the mansion’s bloody past. After an arbitrary amount of Haunts (DM’s decision) occur, allow the party in finally meet Rose and Thorn’s spirits.

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN: Delta Green

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN

 

MICHAEL BERTOLINI

 

DELTA GREEN: THE ROLE-PLAYING GAME

DELTA GREEN: THE ROLE-PLAYING GAME (includes The Agent’s Handbook and The Handler’s Guide) by Dennis Detwiller, Adam Scott Glancy, Christopher Gunning, Kenneth Hite, Shane Ivey, and Greg Stolze for Arc Dream Publishing [$99.99 PDF (on sale at time of writing for $49.98)] WATERMARKED PDF

 

Born of the U.S. government’s 1928 raid on the degenerate coastal town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts, the covert agency known as Delta Green opposes the forces of darkness with honor but without glory. Delta Green agents fight to save humanity from unnatural horrors—often at a shattering personal cost.

In Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game, the players are those agents. They fight to save human lives and sanity from threats beyond space and time. Delta Green’s percentile-based rules are compatible with 20 years’ worth of Delta Green scenarios and sourcebooks.  In my opinion and experience, it is always good for creators to make their systems backwards compatible when updating rule books; people can’t always afford to buy new material for their games (I’ve also bought earlier system rule books that I’ve seen on sale and converted them myself to current rules).

Two books are included in this game set from Arc Dream Publishing; the Agent’s Handbook and the Handler’s Guide.  While expensive, most game masters that I know prefer to own all of the system books and putting the entire game into one bundle is useful.

The Agent’s Handbook includes rules for creating agents, including dozens of professions that the players can utilize, rules for players to survive in a tense, horrific world, and information on some PCs that the players may encounter.

The Handler’s Guide is meant to be used by the game-master to lead the agents.  The book includes a history of Delta Green, horror-fueled rituals that connect it to the world created by H.P. Lovecraft, rules for creating monsters, guidelines for creating worlds, and a ready-to-play adventure to get started.  It is important to note that Delta Green is NOT meant to be use as part of the Call of Cthulhu game by Chaosium; the rules from one game system are not necessarily compatible with the other (though, if you have the time and patience, anything is possible).

Arc Dream Publishing has also released several Delta Green adventures including ‘Night at the Opera’, ‘Music from a Darkened Room’, and ‘Viscid’.  The entire Delta Green game, including this bundle and a variety of adventures, is available for download at drivethrurpg.com.

 

This series will give you insight into games and expansions that you might not have ever heard of before.  Most of these titles are exclusive to certain online retailers and can be applied to games that you currently play or add more to your home-brew games.  If you know of a book or game that’s just released or about to be released let me know on Twitter; @mbertolini

 

Call to Adventure: “Pursuit of Knowledge”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon, Puzzles, Riddles

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Levels: 3-5

Introduction

There comes a time in every adventurer’s career when they simply do not possess the required facts in order to complete a quest. Perhaps a key factoid is considered strictly forbidden or the last person who would’ve known died centuries ago? Thankfully, sphinxes are known to acquire vast knowledge throughout their long and storied existences, and can even be persuaded to share that information with others. Unfortunately, these magical immortal beasts can also be fickle and ferocious. In this adventure, a party of experienced travelers gambles their lives in the pursuit of forbidden knowledge. To succeed, they must pass a series of devious riddles.

Setup

This mission is centered around a gynosphinx, which is the female variant of the mythical species. Physically, they are composed of a human woman’s head atop the body of a lion with falcon wings. For the D&D 5th Edition statistics, refer to page 282 of the Monster Manual or this link. For the Pathfinder version, consult page 257 of Bestiary #1 or this link.

The purpose of the adventure is to wrangle some plot-relevant information from their target, not slay it. (Although the PCs can certainly try and suffer the likely lethal consequences.) The specifics of the sphinx’s personality are subject to change at DM’s discretion, but at the very least they must be willing to parlay with the party after succeeding the cloister of trials.

Development

The sphinx’s lair is a four-level descending dungeon in which the party must overcome and solve a variety of challenges. Allow the PCs to try out solutions before feeding them clues. The goal is to help them solve the puzzles themselves, not give them the answer once they roll high enough. The following encounters can be easily modified or changed entirely in order to fit your campaign setting and game mastering style.

Level B1: Gate Guardian

In order to enter the sphinx’ lair, they must first request access, and then contend with the guardian. Within a sand-filled room there is single hole on the ceiling from which descends a pillar of light upon the carved marble statue of a gynosphinx. The eyes are missing; in their place there are a pair of circular indents. There are also words chiseled into the figure’s base which read:

“Knowledge is a double-edged sword. Do you seek it nonetheless?”

The players simply have to answer, “Yes” to begin the first challenge. The light will cease, shrouding the environment to complete darkness. Some hidden rooms will open, dumping additional sand into the room. And one of these spaces houses a creature composed of animated sand. This creature is based upon the amphisbaena, and is a snake with a head on each end. Here are the stats for the Pathfinder and homebrew D&D 5e versions.

The sand snake contains a red jewel within each of its two heads. Once defeated in combat, the slithering construct dissipates, leaving behind the two gems with which they can unlock the entrance. Place the gems into the sphinx statue’s eyeholes to continue.

Level B2: Welcoming Party

The path downward takes them to a hallway filled with undead. These can be simple skeletons (D&D/Pathfinder) and zombies (D&D/Pathfinder). Another statuesque sentinel stands before the PCs, but this time its base is inscribed with the words:

“Those with blood of red shall join the dead. Those of a different shade will not be delayed.”

The undead spring into action and begin swarming the party. The PCs can either defeat the large swarm through attrition or solve the riddle to avoid risking injury. The “different shade” is a metaphor for “blue blood,” indicating nobility. Sphinxes are proud creatures after all, and will not grant an audience to anyone they deem of a lesser make. To successfully pass unhindered, those with blood ties to someone in authority (village chief, feudal lord, guard captain, etc.) must declare their heritage openly. If none of them have noble lineage, they can attempt a Bluff or Deception (Charisma) DC 20.

Level B3: Sinking Feeling

Beyond the hall of undeath stands a perfectly flat and pristine pit of sand. The top layer is perfectly smooth; not a single grain appears to have been disturbed. The same sphinx figure emerges from the center of the area as if magically sculpted from the surrounding material. This one reads:

“The fear that gives you wings shall also send you to the depths.

Whenever the players walk upon the sand, it will feel as if unseen hands are grasping them and pulling downwards, increasing in force with each progressive tug. The PCs subsequent efforts to remain afloat and the enchanted sand’s attempts to pull them through will result in a hapless character eventually getting stuck until they inevitably suffocate to death. To cross over to the other side, one must stand on the sand and relax; let go of the fear that makes you want to move up. The invisible force will gently pull them through the secret passage and into the final chamber within 30 seconds.

Level B4: Numbers Game

In the final room, the party finally comes face-to-face with the gynosphinx. She will beckon to them with one last challenge. If they can prove themselves worthy of her time, she will give them the information they seek. The win conditions are either to reduce her to half hit points, or solve the following riddle during combat.

“I shall divide you and conquer. When I was in my prime, I was untouchable.”

The room is a 50 ft. by 50 ft. chamber with balconies jutting out at all four corners at 20 ft. elevations. The sphinx can easily fly between the platforms to harass the players from afar. If provoked, it will land on the ground level to engage in melee. The floor is segmented like titles, and a closer inspection of the surrounding walls indicates that the rows and columns are labeled with numbers.

To be untouchable and thus unbeatable, stand upon the tiles in which a prime number would be inscribed. The prime numbers between 1-100 are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59,61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97. These numbers are tinted red on the sample map below.

The darkened borders on the 5 and 6 squares indicate the entrance points to the final room. The optionally greyed out regions indicate areas in which the ground has caved in from impact or the passage of time, forming lethal drops into a black void. Once all players are standing on the correct positions on a 10 x 10 grid, the test is passed.

Conclusion

Upon completing the final task, the gynosphinx agrees to converse with the party and divulges whatever information they were seeking. If the ensuing conversation goes favorable, consider gifting them with magical loot taken from the previous visitors, who expired in the final test and thus have no further use for their gear.

Call of Cthulhu Keeper Screen Pack

Art by David Ardila, Copyright Chaosium inc
by Ex_Libris85   Twitch   Twitter 

 

Call of Cthulhu Keeper Screen

 

While DnD may be the current front man of tabletop RPGs, Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu enjoys a large popularity among players, especially here at Encounter Roleplay. The creepy atmosphere combined with Lovecraftian horrors offers a unique experience not found in many games. The amount of supplementary materials may not be as extensive as the DnD library but there are a few quality products available including the nice Keeper Screen.

As far as most TTRPGs go the DM screen has never really been a required accessory. It is nice to have and usually has some helpful information for the person running the game on the back and of course keeps your player’s eyes off of your sneaky rolls, but you can run the game without it. Chaosium knows this and in order to entice customers to purchase their screen they package with several useful items including maps and 2 short adventures (probably one-shots based upon their page length).

The maps are full color and measure 17×22 inches and folded into quarters. They include a city map of Arkham, MA, “Lovecraft country” Massachusetts in 1922, and a world map that lists mysterious and mythos sites around the globe. These maps are nice and impressive, I particularly like the Arkham map as it appears it was made with water colors and is very pleasing. There are a few color handouts for the 2 adventures but one appears to be sized up from a smaller image and looks blurry, which is unfortunate.

There is also a 22 page booklet which includes summary tables taken from the Keeper’s Rulebook. Things like firearm and poison damage tables, mythos tomes, and manias are included here and more. It’s nice to have and keeps you from having to thumb through the book to find out the damage for a shotgun for example.

The screen itself is made from a nice hard cardboard and has a very beautiful and atmospheric painting on the back, credited to “Ardila”. Inside it includes the typical summaries of combat rules, rolls for extreme difficulty, sanity checks and everything else you need for a quick reference to keep the game running smoothly.

The absolute best part of this screen pack are the two adventures titled “Missed Dues” and “Blackwater Creek”. They are fully detailed with prologues, npc details, creature summaries, maps, adventure hooks, player character sheets and everything else you need to run a CoC game. I won’t spoil too much from these adventures but they both take place in classic 1920s Lovecraft era, but at least one of them can be easily converted to a modern time period without too much fuss. It involves a missing colleague from your university who went off to the sticks to conduct an archaeological dig, but after a few letters, each more distressing than the last, you receive no more replies and must go out and discover his fate. Both of these tales are exciting and well thought out. They would be a blast to play, and are short and simple enough for a new keeper to run without difficulty.

While most keeper screens could either come or go I really recommend this pack for the extra goodies it provides. The maps, reference material, character sheets, handouts, and especially the 2 adventures make this screen stand out from all the others.

 

Going Beyond the Game

GOING BEYOND THE GAME

Michael Bertolini

 

CALL OF CTHULHU COMING TO SYRINSCAPE

Syrinscape and Chaosium Inc. Announce Partnership to Create Official Sounds for Legendary Game of Mystery and Horror.

Today Syrinscape, the award-winning app that creates movie-like, immersive sound for tabletop games and Chaosium Inc., acclaimed publisher of award-winning books, roleplaying games, board games, fiction and more, announced their partnership to create the official sounds for the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game. With a suite of sounds for the base game as well as various modules in the works, players will experience this renowned game like never before. The first custom SoundSet, Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition: Masks of Nyarlathotep, is set for release at Gen Con 2018.

The new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep is a complete reanimation of the classic multi-part campaign for the Call of Cthulhu game, with a new chapter and full-color all new maps, handouts and artwork. Set in 1925, the steadfast investigators must unravel secrets and battle the minions of darkness in an attempt to stop world-shattering events from destroying humanity. The Masks of Nyarlahotep PDF will release in May 2018, with the published edition coming out at Gen Con 2018.

To accompany the new edition, Call of Cthulhu gets its first official sounds from Syrinscape in the Masks of Nyarlahotep SoundSet, which will be available for sale individually on Syrinscape.com or as part of a subscription. Set for release in conjunction with the module, gamers will be able to play Call of Cthulhu like never before in dynamic, realistic, cosmic horror sound.

“Call of Cthulhu is one of my top three games of all time and the opportunity to bring it to life through the power of Syrinscape sound is l’ mgfm’latghnanah!,” says Benjamin Loomes, CEO of Syrinscape.

As players take on the role of investigators to uncover the secrets of the cosmos, they find themselves battling against crazy cults and horrors from beyond space. Created by gaming legend Sandy Petersen and now in its seventh edition, Call of Cthulhu is the definitive horror RPG and has won over 90 awards including being inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Art and Design Hall of Fame.

 “Call of Cthulhu games often involve creating more of an immersive experience than many other types of games. Just like our games often feature elaborate handouts and props, we have also noticed that our players often crave soundtracks that help build that sense of unease, suspense and dread at the gaming table, punctuated by moments of horror and excitement! Syrinscape’s sounds provide exactly that, and we are proud to be partnering with them,” says Chaosium president, Rick Meints.

Syrinscape creates the official sounds of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder RPG, Mutants & Masterminds RPG, Shadows of Esteren RPG, Boss Monster CCG and more, and also features a massive library of custom, realistic sounds, with new releases every month to accompany nearly any tabletop roleplaying, card or board game.

Going Beyond the Game: An Interview with Bill Buchanan

GOING BEYOND THE GAME

 

MICHAEL BERTOLINI

 

BILL BUCHANAN aka WYLOCH

 

I recently asked a few crafters about crafting for tabletop rpgs.  For those of you that don’t know, Wyloch is a crafter that posts videos on crafting as well as using crafts in sample games; you can find him at https://www.youtube.com/c/WylochsCraftingVids.  Personally, Wyloch was the first crafter that I watched and it was a pleasure to be able to ask him these questions.

 

(Michael Bertolini) Do you play tabletop rpgs?  Which one(s)?

(Wyloch) Dungeons and Dragons: previously 2nd edition, and now 3rd edition

Dungeon World

 

(MB) Why do you use miniatures?  Do you prefer paper, plastic, or metal?

(W) Yes!  I began using cardstock, because with Google image search and Photoshop, I could literally find whatever creature I wanted, size it down and adjust the colors, and make my own.  I have recently gotten into Warhammer 40k, and I do use the official Citadel miniatures for that game.   But roleplaying games, it’s still cardstock for me because the needs change every single session – I have no interest in buying a new monster miniature just because I’ll use it once in my next session.

 

(MB) What motivated you to craft your own terrain?

(W) I found theDMsCraft YouTube channel, following theDMG.info YouTube channel.  Check them both out, and this question will answer itself very quickly.

 

(MB) Why do you choose to craft what you craft?

(W) Most of the time, I am making something that I need for an upcoming session.  However, as my channel has taken off, I sometimes mix in projects that I have no intention of ever using, but think that the community might; and so, I build it.

 

(MB) Is there any terrain/miniature that you hesitate to craft?

(W) Anything sculpted or cast.  I have tried using clay and casting on a few occasions.  In my opinion, the messiness, cost, and time do not measure up when compared to cardboard or foam.

 

(MB) What do you plan to craft in the future?

(W) Among many smaller things…remember the very first dungeon in Baldur’s Gate II (Irenicus’ lair)?  I intend to do a complete to-scale build of it.

 

(MB) What would you recommend people starting to craft do? Do you have any advice for people starting out?

(W) Begin minimally.  Identify the marquee encounter in your next session, and construct it – a slab of cardboard stippled with grays works fine as a dungeon floor, and then build two or three features that make the room distinctive.  That could be a series of coffins, some pillars, an altar, a throne, a pool of acid, etc.  There are MANY resources on YouTube to help guide you.

 

(MB) What products do you recommend?

(W) A hot glue gun is essential.  Of the two standard sizes, buy the smaller type since it allows you to do detail work.  I have never had a need for the larger version.  I also recommend chipboard

 

You can find all of Wyloch’s videos at https://www.youtube.com/c/WylochsCraftingVids

You can contact me on Twitter @mbertolini

 

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN: MORDENKAINEN’S TOME OF FOES

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN

 

MICHAEL BERTOLINI

 

This series will give you insight into games and expansions that you might not have ever heard of before.  Most of these titles are exclusive to certain online retailers and can be applied to games that you currently play or add more to your home-brew games.  If you know of a book or game that’s just released or about to be released let me know; @mbertolini

 

MORDENKAINEN’S TOME OF FOES

 

“Discover the truth about the great conflicts of the D&D multiverse in this supplement for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.”

 

That’s the tag-line for Wizard of the Coast’s book, ‘Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes’, to be released May 29th; it might be a supplement beyond the core rules which will likely appeal to DMs more than players, but it will bring into focus the current multi-verse.  Every iteration of Dungeons and Dragons has involved a shift in the multi-verse in some way; previous editions of the game have hinted at it in various books that the DM could use to bring players into The Forgotten Realms or Gray  Hawk, but these are books that are not only meant for players to know about (and use beyond aspects of character creation) but experience.  Almost every player of Dungeons and Dragons has heard of Mordenkainen, and players can even get some of these books (and the knowledge they contain) in various Dungeons and Dragons games (Volo’s Guide to Monsters).  There’s no reason to think that Tome of Foes and Guide to Monsters will be much different aside from the focus of observation; Tome of Foes will focus heavily on the Dungeons and Dragons multi-verse and likely concern itself with many of the popular monsters we’ve seen from there aside from any new monsters it introduces.

Despite what you might be thinking right now, this article is not entirely about Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes; I am going to visit one of the monsters from the past of Dungeons and Dragons that originates from the multiverse yet has gone on to fill our imaginations and homebrew games over the past few decades.  Specifically, I’m going to to discuss a monster that hearkens back to the start of Dungeons and Dragons; The Balor.

The Balor is a fiend, huge in size, from the abyss.  It doesn’t wear armor but relies on its natural physical defense to give it an armor class rating of 19 (not to mention immunities to Fire and Poison).  It can fly much faster than it walks and it possesses enough HP to make some adventurers question their decisions to bring them face to face with such a creature.

However; the Balor can be defeated.  It is weak to Ice and Lightning magic, as well as most weapons, and though physically strong it is cumbersome and its size can be used against it by resourceful players.  It won’t be an easy fight, and the chances of a TPK (Total Party Kill) are high, especially at a low level, but victory can be achieved by any players willing to embrace the fire that envelops the Balor.

There is more to the multi-verse than the abyss; and it will be up to books like Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes to get us deeper.

Call to Adventure: “The Bookkeepers”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Mystery, Investigation

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Levels: 1-2

Introduction

This adventure begins as a macabre paranormal investigation of a purportedly haunted library. Upon closer examination, the player characters learn that this phenomenon is merely the machinations of a mischievous pair of faerie dragons who have become trapped in the prime material plane. True to their nature, they have taken to terrorizing the locals with trickery as they attempt to find their way back home.

Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:

“Rumors have circulated that Arnost Library is under siege by angry spirits. A week ago, a sudden flash of green light from the East Wing heralded a series of ghastly sightings! Ever since then, the building has been plagued by the restless undead.

Locals reported seeing a chain-bound specter with empty black eyes roaming among the shelves. The Head Librarian claimed that the books are constantly rearranging themselves and floating in midair. A guttural incorporeal voice constantly demands tribute with an insatiable zeal. And just yesterday, a precision of trained and armed city watch members ran screaming from the building after just an hour of investigation; they have inconsolable ever since. For public safety, the library is now under quarantine.

We beseech the aid of brave adventurers to help cleanse this blight from our beloved town! We offer 400 gold pieces and access to the library’s restricted texts for anyone who succeeds in this task!”

Setup

The adventure revolves around a faerie dragon duo with the names Aya and Waska. For their 5th Edition stats, consult page 133 of the Monster’s Manual. If you’re running Pathfinder, the monster details are located at page 91 of Bestiary 3 or at this link. These creatures are the size of cats (tiny) and sprout translucent, butterfly-like wings in lieu of the bat-like structures of “true” dragons.

Aya’s body is covered with shimmering interlocked blue scales, indicating that she is 31-40 years of age, and can cast spells up to Major Image (D&D/Pathfinder) to assist in her façade. Her younger brother Waska is armored in glistening emerald plates and has lesser combat and spellcasting ability.

Development

Tactics

The dragon siblings to not wish to kill anybody, but they will harm anyone they deem to be a threat. They will only resort to direct attacks when cornered. Otherwise, they prefer to drop objects from the environment onto their enemies, ranging from small knick-knacks to entire bookshelves, depending on the situation.

Investigation

Aya and Waska are using combinations of their invisibility, illusions, spells, deceptions, and environmental assets to create the appearance of a haunting. Below are some examples of checks that the players can attempt to discern the true nature of their enemy.

Arcana (Intelligence) DC 10 or any spell/ability that detects undead – There are no signs of undead activity or traces of necrotic energy on the premises.

Arcana (Intelligence) or Knowledge: Planes DC 16 – You can sense the remnants of planar magic in the vicinity. The “green flash” reported by the townsfolk may have been an side-effect of a portal spell.

Perception (Wisdom) DC 20 – The dragons let out a stifled giggle whenever they successfully pull off an amusing prank. This snicker can be detected by a keen ear in the aftermath of such an event.

Investigation vs. Deception or Knowledge: Local vs. Bluff – Many of these ghostly sightings are oddly familiar. You realize that they are ripped straight from local books and tales from this specific building.

Nature or Knowledge: Nature DC 10 – There has been a disembodied voice demanding “tribute” from the townsfolk. It has rejected everything from trinkets to jewels, but finally accepted offerings of food. In particular, the presence favors baked goods and sweets more than anything else.

Survival (Wisdom) DC 14 – You locate tiny tracks running along the bookshelves. They are composed on three clawed fingers and an opposable thumb. DC 20 – You find some loose powder clinging to some of the books. Upon closer inspection it shimmers like a prism when scattered.

Conclusion

Once the true nature of the “haunting” is revealed, Aya and Waska will make their presence known. They mean no harm, but they have no reason to trust anyone due to their unfamiliarity with their surroundings. Aya has been fastidiously studying books on magic in order to conjure up a portal to take them both back home. They were banished from their homelands for being too mischievous, and clearly haven’t learned their lesson at all. From here, the players can decide their fate. Do they exterminate them? Take them in as familiars? Or join them in their quest to return to the Feywild?