Month: August 2018

Monster Factory: Build a Bear

Monster Factory: Build a Bear

This is going to be a goofy segment where I work on updating D&D monsters into wonderful puns and things like that, so you can use them in your campaigns and make your players groan. Obviously, these are going to be silly things that I’m […]

Casting the Dream – Reckoners

Casting the Dream – Reckoners

So, for some silly fun, much like making meals to go along with certain books, games, or movies, what would be some dream castings for various movies. This one I’m starting with the book series by Brandon Sanderson The Reckoners with the first book being called […]

Do You Remember When?

Do You Remember When?

It’s the sign of a RPG going well, when the players in the game are talking about it afterwards. Do you remember when we did this? Do you remember when that happened? It’s what as a player or a DM you want in your game. So how do you make those moments happen?

Image Source: Wizards

First, I would say that you can’t truly make those moments happen. It’s going to happen naturally in your game, but you can try and encourage those situations. Whenever you have a huge aha moment, that might get remembered, but the ones that are going to be talked about are going to happen more organically.

Now, like any good organic garden, you still have to plan the seeds and tend it, this stuff doesn’t happen on it’s own.

So you can lay the groundwork, starting in session zero to encourage those fun moments. In session zero, when players are creating their characters, don’t just think about combat and what you’re going to do with that. Your character is a whole lot more than just swinging a sword for a lot of damage or shooting some crossbows for damage. And while you might have a martial character who really cares about combat, put ore into your character than that. They can easily not know social norms because they grew up with the sword being their best friend. Or maybe they have a very unique set fighting moves and sword preparation, but let your character be unique and don’t create Joe Soldier who has no personality except for hitting stuff with a sword.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Also, consider giving the character a signature move. Now, it might be in combat or it might not be. But in combat, maybe you are a rogue who uses a crossbow. So your special move is a dive and roll while firing and getting yourself in hiding. Or maybe you are a hopeless flirt and every single bartender that you meet hoping to get information from them.

Why would those things give you cool moments?

Because as the rogue, you roll behind the pillar and find a surprised enemy who is also hiding behind the game pillar, now what do you do? Or you are in a dark cave and you roll behind a rock outcropping and find that there are stairs going down, as you slowly roll and bounce down them. Or for the character who flirts every time with the bartender for information, it will be a running joke that they never get any good information and maybe you end up on wild goose chases (literally) because of some information that you’ve gotten. Or, what happens when the bartender flirts back, or when the bartender actually has some real information. The cheer that will go up around the table because it was actually worth it, people will remember those moments.

So, those are some things that are more player focused, what can you do as a DM?

First, keep combat interesting. While you don’t need to do something super special every time, make it unique from time to time. Also go with alternate objectives. Combat doesn’t just have to be about knocking heads. I’ll touch a bit more on alternate combat objectives, but if you want a good podcast on it, check out this one by Total Party Thrill. Alternate objectives in combat can be things like stopping a sacrifice from happening. Sure, you might lop off a few heads of the acolytes guarding the cultists, but will you get to the cultists before they finish their chanting in four rounds of combat. Or are you having to try and keep the villains away from the caravan that you were hired to protect. These alternate objectives will give some memorable moments and keep the combat feeling different.

Likewise, it doesn’t have to just be an alternate way to beat the combat, it can be a unique combat setting. Maybe you are fighting on a narrow ledge next to flowing lava. Now, you could give advantage for having the higher ground, because as Star Wars Episode III taught us, that’s important. Also, don’t take any more life lessons from Star Wars Episode III than that. That one has a clear idea of pushing someone into the lava, but you can make unique terrains. Recently I ran a combat where there were two different levels of the combat. A barbarian jumped down into a pit to fight some monsters while two other character stayed up top, however, some of monsters crawled up to them as well. That gives a combat moment that is different than it would have been before.

Then, there are ways you can do that out of combat. And the easiest way is to just have interesting characters. I need to be better at this personally, because a lot of the NPC’s, I’m coming up with them on the fly, so they aren’t always the most unique. Thankfully, I have a player who is good at giving me a lot to work with in terms of dialog and lies that he is telling the NPC’s, so that gives me time to build out the character that I came up with. But we had a fun situation, one time, that players will likely remember, where one of the characters had gotten to the shore of a pirate island, found a very flirty dwarf pirate captain, and they had to figure out as a player and for their character, how not to insult the pirate captain so that they didn’t lose their head. It ended up being pretty memorable, because fake in game flirting can be hilarious a lot of the time, just make sure everyone is comfortable enough with it.

What are some other ideas that you have to help those more organic moments of surprise and stories that people remember happen in your game? Have you used any of these before? Keep in mind, if you do use some of these ideas as a player or as a DM, there is no guarantee that you will have those really memorable moments, but some of these ideas might tease out more. And find what works best for your group, maybe you have modules that you like to run, and what your group really remembers is the big boss battles at the end, that is equally as good a memorable moment for your group, but figure out if it’s social interactions, weird combats, big combats, or shocking twists that your group remembers most and go from there.


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TableTopTakes: Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger

TableTopTakes: Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger

Time for some gaming fun, this time with the newest game that is a craze, the Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger game. Which is based off of the Choose Your Own Adventure book by the same name. House of Danger does what you’d […]

Introducing Cartridge Capers

Introducing Cartridge Capers

This is going to be a pretty short post, but I wanted to get it out today so that I would have more motivation to get this done as well. Cartridge Capers Is going to be a new series or articles that will come out […]

D&D Backgrounds: Urchin

D&D Backgrounds: Urchin

The Urchin background, more commonly known as my parents are dead and I grew up on the street with no friends so you can’t use them against me background, but that’s a bit wordy to put into a book. It’s the last background that I’ll be doing, as it’s the last one in the players handbook. The urchin background is really one that is built for a rogue as you get stealth and slight of hand. You grew up on the streets, got involved with a gang of thieves and are now trying to get out of that life style. That’s the general straight forward build for an urchin background that a lot of people do.

Image Source: Wizards

Everything it gives you really works the best that way. Even your skills such as being able to use a disguise kit really push you towards being a rogue. I think that’s one of the weaknesses of some of these backgrounds, they align too closely with a particular class, and in the case of urchin, I think it’s probably the most glaringly obvious example of a background like that. I personally think the best feature to this background is that you get general knowledge on city planning and layouts. That sounds weird that it is one of the cooler things, but being able to walk into a town, and within a few minutes be able to generally guess the layout, that’s fun.

So what are some non-rogue classes that you can turn into an interesting backstory with this background?


When I was young, I ran away from home to the big city to become part of the circus. It turns out that the circus doesn’t just allow every runaway into their troupe without you having some skill first. I had spent the little money that I’d taken from my parents to get to the city, so I had to start panhandling to try and get money. I must not have been all that good at it because a monastery took pity on me and let me stay at their place. They offered to train me and give me a roof over my head, as long as I continued to earn my way. It was doing some odd jobs around the monastery, and if I wanted more money, I had to continue to panhandle. Soon I’d found my own spot to sleep out in the town and while I stayed working with the monastery for training, I spent my days with the other kids who were earning money on the streets. One day a man came and offered a lot of the kids money to do some work for him. I didn’t really need the extra money and I could always go back to the monastery, so I turned him down. But a lot of kids went with him. He came back a week later and offered the deal again. Then after doing that and getting fewer and fewer takers I saw one of his guards taking kids by force. I realized that the kids he had been taking weren’t coming back either.Now I want to know what has happened to my friends and stop this man.

Alignment: Neutral Good
Class: Monk

Image Source: D&D Beyond

I was an unwanted child. My parents already had three kids, and apparently I was an accident. I understand why they didn’t want another child, now, thinking back on it. They weren’t able to feed us all, and they had to send out my oldest sibling to work before she was done with her education. I felt like I wasn’t wanted, which I wasn’t, and even though my parents and siblings said that they loved me, I didn’t feel it. I ran away from home, just into the city we were in. I was hopeful that I’d be able to find someone who wanted me. I wasn’t able to do that, so I just hung out and begged for money or scraps of food. It was a horrible lifestyle, but I refused to go back to my family if they really didn’t want me. I heard from other urchins that they had tried to find me for a little bit, but given up assuming I’d been kidnapped. Eventually I felt bad, but instead of going back, I started going to where my oldest sister was a kitchen help. It was a school that taught magic. So I’d sit along the side of the building, listening to my sister work in the kitchen. But then I heard something more interesting. It was a classroom that had it’s windows open near the kitchen. Soon I was sitting under that window learning about the theories of wizardry. I was so curious that I bought a little notebook and started writing down what they were teaching. It took me forever practicing in back alleys, but eventually I was able to cast a spell. One day I realized that my sister hadn’t come to the kitchen for a few days, so I went off to look for my family, just to make sure they were all right. There had been a fire in the poor district of town and their house had burned down, but according to some people they hadn’t been killed. I decided it was time to return home, and I realized how much I missed seeing my sister every day so now I’m looking through the town to find where they might have gone.

Alignment: Neutral Neutral/Chaotic Neutral/Lawful Neutral
Class: Wizard


The under city is a place that no respectable person goes. Thankfully for everyone, I’m not a respectable person. My horns show that I’ve been demon marked and therefore I am bad. I wasn’t really given a choice in that, people always told me that I was a monster. Things down in the under city are even terrible for me. I don’t get enough food, and I have to scavenge what I can. There was a plague that’s broken out down here before, and I barely escaped with my life. In fact, when I got sick, everyone left me for dead, because the plague always killed. A kind doctor came to me and said that if I were willing to help him in the future, he’d be able to help me. I agreed because I didn’t want to die. I didn’t realize what I had done though. A few months later he came asking me to burn down a temple. Now, I’m not very religious, but burning down a temple seemed like a bad idea.  I told him no, but he insisted and my plague came back to me, and I felt my body withering away again. I promised again to help him and burned down the temple that night. Now I need to find a more permanent solution to my illness because I don’t want to do more like that.

Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Class: Warlock
Race: Tiefling

Image Source: D&D Beyond

The worst thing that can ever happen to a dwarf is that they are made casteless. It doesn’t happen often because you have to do something very wrong. That’s what I did, something very wrong. I was part of a raiding party out in the  mines fighting off a band of Drow who were coming up from the underdark. Things were going poorly for us, but as a dwarf you never leave a comrade behind. I was scared though, so I took off running and left left the four remaining members of my troop fighting. They were able to kill off enough drow to drive them back, but when they came back and found me hiding, my warrior caste was removed and I was sent down into the slums as a casteless. I want to return to where I was before, but you have to do something heroic and I don’t think I can do that on my own.

Alignment: Neutral Good
Class: Fighter
Race: Dwarf


There are some ideas for playing an urchin who wasn’t a rogue. What have you done for an urchin backstory before? Have you played a character where them being an urchin was an important part of it?

This also wraps up the D&D backgrounds, I hope that you’ve enjoyed them.

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Board Game Battles: Pandemic Legacy vs Pandemic Legacy

Board Game Battles: Pandemic Legacy vs Pandemic Legacy

In the vein of classic wrestling of Jeff Hardy feuding with Matt Hardy, we get two season of Pandemic Legacy. Season 1 vs Season 2, which of the two in the family line will be supreme? Let’s start by talking about their father, Pandemic. Pandemic […]

Improv in Role Playing Games

Improv in Role Playing Games

Most people probably don’t listen to as many podcasts about RPG’s as I do. But if you’ve even watched Critical Role or found a podcast you like, they might talk about how they are using improv techniques or how improv has made them a better […]

Board Game Battle: Machi Koro vs Splendor vs Century Road: Golem Edition

Board Game Battle: Machi Koro vs Splendor vs Century Road: Golem Edition

Let’s meet the contenders:

Machi Koro: Machi Koro is a city building game where you are working on building up enough infrastructure that you can then build the bigger attractions for your city, like a harbor, shopping mall, and other things. The first person to build up all of these attractions wins the game.

Splendor: In Splendor, you take on the roll of a jewel merchant in a race to fifteen victory points. You collect gems to buy cards that give you permanent gems until you can start to buy cards without spending gems.

Century Road: Golem Edition: You’re a miner who is going out and buying and trading gems to be able to power up the golems, which give you victory points. You do so by buying cards, upgrading gems, and getting new gems.

Image Credit: Dad’s Gaming Addiction
But seriously, you guys. Just look at this thing.

What’s in Common?

The reason all three of these can face off is because they are all about building up your engine. Century Road: Golem Edition is the outlier in that you don’t have a tableau of cards out in front of you, but it falls into the similar engine building category and hand building category. You are building up your card base whether it’s buildings, gems, or mining/upgrade cards, so that you can, while using the fewest expendable resources, get as many victory points as possible on your turn.

What’s Different?

Thematically they are different, but that’s generally going to be the case.  You could even argue that Century Road: Golem Edition and Splendor have a bit of overlap, but mechanically, what makes them different from each other. In Machi Koro, there’s more interaction on other peoples turns with the buildings that you can buy. Even on someone else’s turn, you can be generating income. This make Machi Koro feel a bit more interactive. Along with that, Machi Koro has a die roll that determines what sort of money you get each turn, based on the buildings you have, so while there is strategy in building up your engine that gives you the money, there’s also some luck involved with the game. This is a nice balancing factor for the game. Splendor on the other hand is much more straight forward, the only “take that” sort of aspect to the game is that you can reserve a card to take it away from someone else. There’s some strategy as to what gems you take early game as well, and the extra points from the nobles who can become your patron is unique to this game as compared to the other two. Century Road: Golem Edition is definitely the most unique of all these games. Whereas in the first two you have a tableau of cards in front of you that assist you every turn in either getting money or buying more gems, you are building up your hand of cards and playing them down. The reason that it can fall into this category of games is because you are still building up your engine, and there isn’t the randomness of the draw that you get from a game like Dominion. Century Road: Golem Edition, when you buy cards and pick up the cards you’ve already played, you can have access to all of your cards to play, which is similar to both Machi Koro and Splendor.

Image Source: The Dork Den

What Stands out in Each Game?

Machi Koro has a mechanism with the die roll to determine what money you get that I really like. It means that there isn’t that much downtime for players during the game, because at the start of each person’s turn, they roll the dice, and it’s possible that you’ll collect money. It’s also interesting, because you can diversify with the cards that you have so you get less money more often, or there’s a strategy of going for a lot of cards of a single type to get a lot of money less often.

Splendor is probably the most straight forward of these games and the easiest to teach. Also going for it are beautiful components. The cards have a great finish to them and feel nice. While the artwork is a bit generic Euro game artwork, they are nicely done. Along with that the expendable resources are heavy duty poker chips and they are very nice.

Century Road: Golem Edition has the component piece as well. The gems in the game are great and the coins that aren’t used all that often in the game are still metal. The oversized cards allow for very nice artwork and have a nice feel to them. Along with this, the hand management and hand building aspect to the game are pretty unique for games that I’ve played. I know that it isn’t a unique concept totally, but for what I’ve played, it is pretty unique.

What’s a Weakness in Each Game?

With Machi Koro, I’d say that one weakness is that where you sit matters some. Not because you might miss out on something, but restaurants are on strategy to getting money in the game. But because of how the money is paid out, it’s possible that you could buy up some restaurants and because someone is sitting to your left who has the same ones, you won’t end up seeing much money and they could see a lot.

Splendor on the other hand doesn’t have a seating issue because the interaction is non-existent. That’s not the issue with the game though, the game itself is a little bit too generic. The theme of being a gem trader could be replaced with almost anything and it would make just as much sense. It’s a little bit like the Dominion of deck builders where the game is fun, but thematically there’s nothing that ties it together. This also means that there isn’t a ton of diversity in strategy for the game either.

Century Road: Golem Edition’s weakness is probably that it’s the heaviest of these games. Whereas the other two are very simple and light to teach, Century Road has a bit more going on with the game. You need to think a whole lot more about the engine that you are creating in this game as compared to the others since it is in your hand, and you might want to use a certain card in your hand every turn, but that isn’t possible so there’s more planning out your engine since there isn’t that availability.

And the Winner is:

Image Source: Plan B Games

Century Road: Golem Edition

This game has the components like Splendor while having a more interesting game play than either of the other two. While it is a bit more complex, it is far from being a heavy game and the complexity helps create diversity in strategy. The gems and metal coins and the artwork on the card, everything in that aspect is on point with the game as well. And while there is possibly the least ability to have a “take that” sort of strategy in Century Road: Golem Edition, that’s abated in making the game interesting just by the hand building aspect that has a good puzzle like feel.

Now, just as a word of disclaimer, I have all three in my collection and I don’t think that any will be moving out. Machi Koro and Splendor have a nice value of being very easy to teach to people and still enjoyable to play. I could see eventually getting rid of Splendor and completely replacing it with Machi Koro, but right now all are enjoyable.

Which is your favorite of these three games?


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Dungeons and Flagons Episode 14: The Lie and The Cheat

Dungeons and Flagons Episode 14: The Lie and The Cheat

Welcome back to season two of Dungeons and Flagons.   Von’thre and Nori find out that what they think is happening isn’t quite what it seems. Syldi on the other hand has to spend some time with the enemy. If you have questions for Nerdologists: […]