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Taking your D&D campaign from okay to great

And it’s 1 2 3 what are we fighting 4

Every DM wants to address ‘How do I take my campaign to the next level?’. The difference between a D&D campaign that is simply a series of dungeon crawls and a campaign that pulls players in, is not making your PCs the biggest, baddest, thing around. This sounds somewhat counter intuitive but it’s true. Instead, give your players tools that make their choices, thoughtfulness, and ingenuity matter.

A hopeless fight against overwhelming odds

Think Star Wars. The Death Star vs. The rebel alliance. The rebels were totally outgunned. However, one guy had access to magic powers that far exceeded his own abilities. The Force, in this case, is the tool that allows the alliance to win the day and defeat the Empire’s ultimate weapon. Ultimately, it was Luke’s trust in the Force that allowed the victory.

‘Scuse me while I whip this out

In most high fantasy there is some instrument that allows the ordinary hero to become the extraordinary hero: Bilbo with the ring and sting, Arther with Excaliber, Elric with Stormbringer, Aladin with the genie, etc. This instrument can be anything: a weapon, a power, a special advisor, a patron, powerful luck, etc. Of course, sometimes, but not always, there is a cost or danger. Consider the cost of using this instrument. Will the thing: corrupt the user, be taken by the enemy, mislead our hero, lose effectiveness, have terrible side effects, attract unwanted attention?

On the other hand, perhaps our ‘thing’ has one specific situation in which it can be used. Perhaps its use is unknown and must be discovered. Maybe the PCs must fulfill certain criteria before the thing is of use. Perhaps our plot device is merely a key to something else. All of these things are excellent plot devices for adventures.

Flavor your D&D game with choices

The run of the mill game is one in which your players have little impact on the world. There is a dungeon crawl, characters sell their loot, lather, rinse, repeat. Instead, make your PCs a real force for change. Create situations where their choices matter and have consequences. Place your players in situations where they are torn between two choices. Should they stay and defend the castle against the coming orc invasion or go rescue the princess. Is this a fake kidnapping, luring the characters away from a stronghold that must be defended? Did the characters break their oath when they abandoned the stronghold?

Use the player’s expectation for standard D&D tropes against them. Intice your players into feeling they are ‘supposed’ to do something because that is where the plot is leading them. Do they take the bait? Do they avoid the trap? What are the consequences?

Politics,  politics,  politics

Make your players pawns in the political machinations of your game world. Are the PCs supporting the ruling class or the revolution seeking to tear down the establishment? What happens when one side wins? Are they kind to their former enemies or utterly ruthless? Will there be mass executions? Will the party be a force for justice? Perhaps they will be made a tool of injustice? How will the tables turn? Was the party’s benefactor simply using them for his own ends? How will they react to the sudden realization of how things really are? Perhaps your players will choose to side with those who provide them power and money.

So… You’ve decided you might be neutral or How to look cool by sitting on the fence

Can’t decide? Why bother trying? Be neutral.

Everyone pestering you to pick a side? Stay neutral. Take your half of the road in the middle. Sure everyone will tell you of the nobility of this or the glory of that or the freedom of one thing or stability of another but really what’s in it for YOU?? It just sounds like a good way to make a commitment you will later regret. Be flexible. That is unless you’d rather not.

Magic

Who ever heard of a spell of “uncommitted’s bane”? or a “sword of indifferent slaying”? Picking sides will only get you into trouble because somebody, somewhere, has come up with some way to hurt you for doing it. If you feel compelled to pick a side just pick one. These’s no point in making yourself vulnerable to two kinds of spell. Don’t forget if you pick a side all of a sudden the clerics and paladins are all up in your business. Wanna keep hidden, secret or just unnoticed? Just remember there’s no “detect apathy” spell.

Neutrality not just for the undecided anymore

Didn’t imagine you could stay out of all the politics of alignment and still be self righteous about it? Well don’t worry, you can. The Druids have turned not picking a side into practically a religion. Ask one of these tree huggers to help your cause and you will get an earful of how they are “True”neutral. Basically this means they don’t give a damn about anything but their grove and nature and maintaining balance and on and on. That is, right up until the day you walking into their woody, wood, woods with an ax looking for a source of lumber. That’s the day you’ll find that this true neutral fellow has picked a side and it sure ain’t yours.

Their ain’t no strings on me

There’s a lot of freedom in not caring about the proper way to act or be or be seen to be. Do what suits you when it suits you. Wanna rescue the princess? Sure, why not, you were bored and the harvest isn’t for another three weeks. There’s money in it right? Grave robbing? They’re dead, they won’t care. It’s okay, you don’t make a habit of this sort of thing. You’ve always been the most law abiding citizen in the county when the sheriff was around. Of course that never stopped you from the poaching the occasional rabbit when the stew pot was empty. There’s no need to follow rules that don’t suit you even rules that say not to follow rules.

Diplomacy, why can’t we all just get along?

The problem about picking a side is that all of a sudden there’s a whole group of people, critters and beings from who knows where, who won’t like you for it. If you are good, along comes some evil creature whose only goal is to screw up your life by tempting you into being evil. Boy then you are in for it. On the other hand, if you are evil, groups of “goody two-shoes” will start showing up looking to either put a sword through you or reform you.

Of course if you just stopping being evil or good that is never enough. Someone will feel they have to either utterly corrupt you or set you on the straight and narrow. Of course, those who think a life of order is just the thing are always trying to get the lawless to apply for a licence for this or that while the wildlings and their chaotic ways are looking to throw off the yolk of oppression. Oh, Lords of Indifference, who needs the aggravation?

The profit of staying out of it

Don’t get dragged into a war fighting for ideology. Stay out of it. Want to sell things to both sides? Can’t do that if you align yourself with some ideology. Be everyone’s friend and make money doing it. You might even make some coin negotiating a treaty. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The best time to be seen on the battle field is right after it’s over and you can go collect all the goodies left on the field. You’ll be much better off not getting killed but rather getting there just in time to grab that “greatsword of other guy slaying” that the winning side couldn’t pick up because it would burn their hand if they tried. Roll that cart home and sell that thing for a couple of thousand gold and retire.

And remember…

All things in moderation, even moderation. Stay safe.

Comicpalooza 2017 is all over and I am so tired

<–Previous post about this year’s Comicpalooza

Another one bites the dust

Another Comicpalooza has come and gone. I walked about 40 miles and talked to dozens of people. Now it’s all over and time to follow up on the contacts I made. I had a lot of fun talking to Marky Ramone and the guys from Daredevil. Of course is always nice to see Commander Mark and my pal from Blind Ignorents days Tod Waters. Both had booths at the show. I was very pleased to meet fellow redhead The Ginger Artist. We are planning to have redhead parties in the future. That’s pretty exciting.  Last but certainly not least are three artists who expressed an interest in helping Underlair: Edward Kraatz II, Vo Nguyen and Michael Champion.

On the down side

I wish I could say it was a perfect show but the game area was a real let down. Last year Reaper had an area with free miniature painting. This year the area featured karaoke that was promoting a video game company. The game room seemed much less active this year.

What I didn’t see

This year I didn’t make it to any of the panels. Unfortunately I spent most of my time in the dealers room and did not make it out on Saturday when the best panels went on.

After Comicpalooza

It’s time to get back to work. In the next week I will be getting caught up with website work. Of course I will also be chatting with all the people I met at the convention. I’m as always looking forward to returning next year.

Comicpalooza 2017

Comicpalooza again

The past year has flown by since I started talking to people at last year’s Comicpalooza. Once again I am walking for miles and miles talking to people about D&D and free adventures. Fortunately I am a bit better prepared this year with the website live and an actual blog. Hurrah! This year I even have help. Since this is the first day of the convention things are a bit slow, Tomorrow will be crazy. More than four hours of sleep would be nice as well. Stay tuned for updates on new participants as the show progresses.

Dungeons and Dragons: Not Just For Boys Anymore

The Early Years

I got my first D&D Basic Box in 1980, but I didn’t actually play until 1986. While in the Air Force, a group of guys in my barracks started a campaign and invited me to play. I was the only female to join, though several of us women folk had been invited along. I played a few sessions, but soon found partying at the Airmen’s Club was more interesting. I’ve played a few sessions of several campaigns over the years, but was always the only female in a campaign. I like being one of the boys, so that was okay. For various reasons, I’d always leave mid-campaign.

Play Today

Recently, I’ve started playing with my husband and a few friends. And guess what? There are two of us ladies playing in this campaign! No longer am I overwhelmed by the amount of testosterone wafting through the air as we play. Maybe the hormonal balance reaches parity with two of six of us exuding estrogen. On the other hand, I am older and more tolerant of the variations in approaches to handling crises. Or maybe, I just appreciate the various personalities contributing to the campaign. The DM and five of six of us are well in our middle ages, so that may make a difference in how we manage our situations. Whatever the case, I find our play more compelling than I ever did in the past.

D&D in the 21st Century

Some might claim that the newer editions are friendlier to women. I don’t know that this is the case, but I do know that more and more women of all ages seem to be playing. I suspect that many factors influence the changes in demographics. Tabletop gaming of all kinds has enjoyed a resurgence in the past fifteen years. Gaming is not just for kids anymore. Women of all ages can take a break from their day to day responsibilities and experience the joys of role-playing. Heck, for all I know, there are all female campaigns out there! If anyone knows of one, let me know. And if anyone wants to start one, Underlair is a great place to get going.

So… You’ve Decided to be Evil. A Beginners Guide to Being Bad.

You’ve thought it over and you’ve come to the conclusion that evil is the way to go.

Congratulations, you are on your way to making the world a better place, for you. While it might seem like being evil should be the easiest way to get everything you want there are a few things to remember as you make your way to untold riches and your enemies come to dread your name.

Friends

None. You have no friends. At best you have acquaintances with whom you cooperate. No one can be trusted. Only the most gullible and stupid would trust you. Associates are like anything else, they are either a benefit or a hazard. If they are a hazard it is best to remove the hazard as quickly as possible by whatever means necessary. If they are a benefit you should maximize their benefit to you, again, by any means necessary. Deception, extortion, and mutual benefit can help you. It is often best to have associates you have known for a long time. The advantage: they are predictable. This predictability makes it easier to manipulate them into giving you what you want.

Enemies

Everyone. At least, everyone is potentially your enemy. Everyone wants the same as you, wealth and power. If you have it they will want a piece of it. If you don’t have it, either they have it and don’t want to give it to you or they don’t have it and want it and you are in the way. It’s important to be able to distract your enemies. Set them against one another, lest they gang up on you. Appear too timid and solicitous to threaten the strong and too powerful and merciless for the weak to challenge you. Remember, guile and treachery are your stepping stones to a better future.

Trust

Trust is for the weak. No one with any sense can be trusted to do anything but look after their own self interest. Make sure that everyone around you has their self-interest aligned with yours. Damaging information can be used to keep others in line as long as killing you does not become the best way to keep such a secret, secret. Assassination brokers can insure that in the case of your untimely demise the guilty party is made to suffer often in ways that will increase the reputation of such firms and attract new clients. Beware the stupid and the righteous. These creatures will often act with no regard to their own self interest or the consequences of their actions. Better yet manipulate these beings into going after your enemies. Remember, Don’t get caught.

Fear

Fear is an important tool to have in your arsenal. It keeps those around you from betraying you. Fear keeps your allies in line and your enemies at bay. It can be used to motivate someone into actions that will result in their almost certain death because they are too afraid to do otherwise. Be aware that your enemies will try to use fear against you. It is often useful to feign fear to convince your enemy that they have you cowed. Bear in mind too that others may likely be doing the same and pretending to be cowed by you. Find these pretenders and make examples of them to better instill fear in the rest. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total oblivion.

Money

Loot, Treasure, Money, Cash. Power brings the gold not the other way around. Having a great horde of wealth only makes you a target for those who want to take it. The power to get money when money makes things more expedient is what’s important. Constantly having to demand and take things is tedious and creates a situation where allies have little to gain from dealing with you. Instead take money from your enemies then use it to make your allies more willing to appease you and give you what you want. Always be willing to demonstrate to those around you that you are able to use wealth to cause those who displease you to suffer. Never place all of your wealth in one place. The best things in life are free, as long as the owner of those things is not in the way.

Betrayal

Betrayal is a sword that cuts both ways. If you come to be known as someone who betrays your associates, others will be suspicious of you and non-cooperative. On the other hand if you are never the betrayer you will always be the betrayed. Betrayal is a science that seeks to find the most perfect moment to withdraw support for your former ally in order to enrich yourself. The best betrayers do it in such a way that the victim does not even know he was betrayed; believes someone else did the betraying; better still the victim is allowed to betray you and in so doing is undone by his own hand. This last option is tricky but has the added benefit of making you seem the more reliable choice to others.

Revenge

Revenge is a dish best server cold. Never rush to vengeance. Whether unexpected or dreaded, revenge is best when done with care and planning. Occasionally opportunities arise allowing you have revenge right away but nothing in life can match the joy of watching your carefully laid plans blossoming in perfect and tormenting ways. Revenge is a sort of poetry that pleases you by slowly creating agony in those who have so foolishly interfered with your plans, like a fine wine slowly sipped from the skull of your enemy.

Take these points to heart, the world will open up for you, like an oyster with a great pearl ready to be plucked away. Just make sure it doesn’t open for someone else first.

Wow! Super stoked about new cartographer!

Art, Maps and Cartography

Underlair is pleased to announce Derek Ruiz of Elven Tower, our first official artist/cartographer. His maps are both creative and thoughtful. They often contain interesting perspectives and also wonderful details.

Derek has granted us permission to develope adventures around his maps. Collaborating with Eleven Tower is exciting. Due to talented participants such as Derek, we are looking forward to creating great adventures.

Visit his website to see more of his great work.

Bridge Hamlet
Bridge Hamlet

 

 

 

The Arcanist’s Lair
The Arcanist’s Lair