Art Preview — The Sun Below: Sleeping Lady

Some people might get the impression there is a horror component to this Numenera adventure. We have no idea what they mean. 😉

Artist Doug Scott gives us a little peak into the challenges to be faced in The Sun Below: Sleeping Lady. These are preliminary sketches. The final art will be steeped in even more cosmic horror.

The Sun Below: Sleeping Lady Numenera Dread Unicorn Games
Golthnor. Preliminary sketch by Doug Scott
The Sun Below: Sleeping Lady Numenera Dread Unicorn Games
Child of Golthnor: Preliminary sketch by Doug Scott

Sneak Preview: The Sun Below: Sleeping Lady

Like The Sun Below: City on the Edge, The Sun Below: Sleeping Lady is another adventure for Numenera. They are both set far below the surface of the Ninth World in the world of The Sun Below.  Like City on the Edge, Sleeping Lady is an adventure for all tiers of characters, contains plenty of new creatures and numenera, and devilish plot twists to keep your players guessing.

Floater from The Sun Below adventures for Numenera
Art by Justin Wyatt

Sleeping Lady is a great sequel to City on the Edge, but can be run standalone or even prior to City on the Edge. It begins with machines going mad in a town of blood-sucking green slime creatures. These creatures, slithiks, will pay handsomely if the madness of the machines can be stopped. From there the players are thrust into the mysteries of the numenera mines, underground ruins stuffed with weird echos of past ages.

Two disasters in the making confront your players. Can they save the town of the slithiks from being torn apart? Can they stop an ancient evil from entering their world? Can your players handle both crises? Or even one?

Includes two new descriptors: Slithik and Gibbering, and a new focus: Burns Blood.

Get ready for minds to shatter when your players enter the numenera mines of Orb Mountain and find the secrets of the Sleeping Lady.

Guest Blog: Getting Started with Fantasy Grounds

Guest Blog by Eric Lamoureux, Fantasy Grounds user for over six years.

Previously we talked about gaming over Google Hangouts and in Roll20 (Part I and Part II). The other big Virtual Tabletop (VTT) is Fantasy Grounds. I wanted to include that onto our list, but I have no experience with it. Luckily, Eric volunteer to write a guest blog. Thank you Eric!

Fantasy Grounds link from Dread Unicorn GamesFantasy Grounds is a virtual tabletop application developed by Smiteworks. It’s been around for over ten years and is currently under its second ownership.

Fantasy Grounds features map sharing with miniatures, automated character sheets, chat emotes, reference material, 3D die rolls, a macro/hotkey bar, mood lighting and a powerful combat tracker that helps you keep track of the initiative order, effects and conditions and automate die results freeing the GM up from most bookkeeping.

To run a session for one of your friends you can download and install the client here: https://www.fantasygrounds.com/filelibrary/FGWebInstall.exe

Once installed, select the “Create Demo Campaign”, give it a name and select from one of the rulesets already included. You can choose from 3.5, 4E, 5E, Pathfinder, Fate Core and Numenera. If the game you wish to play isn’t in that list you can select CoreRpg which is a generic table where you can edit the character sheet with a few clicks of the mouse and populate it with the fields and values you need. Note that without a license you are restricted to hosting one other player only and that anything you’ve created on the table will not save when you close it out. It’s a limitation of the demo.

To unlock the full potential of Fantasy Grounds you need to purchase or subscribe to a license. The Full license currently at $39 (or $4/month) will let you host a game for an unlimited number of players that also own the same license. The Ultimate license at a hefty $149 (or $10/month) allows you to host a game for an unlimited number of players with no license or a full license. So your group could try it out for one month and split the $10.

More rulesets are available from the store but aren’t needed unless you wish to take advantage of the full automation. If you fancy yourself a coder and know xml and lua you can build your own rulesets. Offered in the store are Rolemaster Classic, Savage Worlds, Castles and Crusades, Call of Cthulhu and Basic Roleplaying. There are also many community developed rulesets like Trail of Cthulhu, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, GURPS, Dresden Files, The One Ring, Warhammer 1st, 2nd and 3rd, Shadowrun and Warhammer 40k just to name a few. They are available for free.

Once you’ve created your campaign you need to give your address to your players so they can connect to the game. You’ll find that information on the right panel. Upon connection your players will begin to download the necessary files from your client to theirs. Depending on the traffic and your internet connection speed this shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Upon entry your players will be greeted by a Character Selection window. They can create a new character, pick one up you had previously created for them or import a character they had also previously created from the Manage Character option located on the splash page. By double clicking on the fields they generate die rolls that will appear on the chat window with their results. With a paid license you have some character portraits and tokens available to you but you can always make your own by using any image you find on the internet and edit it with the image editor of your choice. You drop the file in the appropriate folder and you’re ready to go.

As the GM you have many tools available to you. They are located on the right-hand side panel. You can enter stat blocks for your NPCs, share maps you made or purchased, draw on a blank canvas and prepare an encounter that will auto-populate the map and combat tracker at the click of a button, create treasure parcels, offer a list of modifiers and conditions to your players to use, set mood lighting, change the color of your dice, use a calendar to manage your campaign or travel logs, create and use rollable tables and set various options to help run the game the way you want to run it.

You can also create or adapt an adventure module by using the Story feature. Type in the description or notes for a particular encounter and link up image props, maps, stat block, chat bubbles, tables and loot. This will act as your cue card during the session. You can also put pins on a map to access the information you need to run your game.

Also accessible from that panel is the library. In the library you’ll find reference material. In most cases it’s the actual corebook or companions encrypted in a language Fantasy Grounds understand. You can then share that content (or part of) with your players. They will have access to that material while logged in to your table only. Most of the rulesets will then allow your players to drag content from this reference module straight into their character sheet. Feats, skills, gear, weapons, spells, special abilities, hindrances, etc. become drag and drop saving your players a lot of time. These modules can also be created if you have the time and perseverance but are not needed to have a successful experience with Fantasy Grounds. Or, you can purchase them from the store as is the case with the D&D material.

Fantasy Grounds is a powerful and complex software constantly in development. There is a learning curve to it but the community is one of the best and most active out there and will be happy to assist you with any problem you may have. Come check it out at https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums/index.php . This is where you’ll also find other users looking to form a group.

While Fantasy Grounds is natively for Windows you can take advantage of the wrapper provided by a purchase on Steam for your Mac or Linux. One more tip, when you don’t know what to do next during your game on Fantasy Grounds, right-click!

Wait! Something Important!

Note, we’ll return to gaming over the internet with a guest blog by Eric Lamoureux on Fantasy Grounds next post.

But now, it’s time for the Game Masters Roundtable of DOOM!

Our question comes from Marc Plourde:

There are many different skills that come together to make up a GM. The ability to think on the fly, knowledge of the rules, plotting, etc. What skill do you think is your weakest? What have you done to try and improve that skill? What advice do you have to offer others trying to improve that skill set?

I’d like to say I can’t remember my weakest skill. But that’s it, not remembering. Not remembering what I said last game. Not remembering the demon’s special attacks. Not remembering what the heck I had planned for this evenings gaming.

Everyone has to deal with the issue of information explosion as a gamemaster, and what works for me might not be the solution for you.

My solutions revolve around lightweight tools, repetition, and avoiding the issue.

Lightweight Tools

I’ve known for a long time managing all this information is an issue for me, so I’ve tried a lot of tools. I’ve found is that if the tool takes too much effort to maintain, I’ll drop it.

Tools I’ve tried and which work for a lot of people (maybe you!) are wikis, spreadsheets, vast notebooks, and databases. I Kickstarted Realm Works, found it impressive, and used it twice. These all turned out to be too heavy weight for me.

Index cards HipsterTwo lightweight tools I use are note cards and mind maps.

A stack of note cards is sometimes called a Hipster PDA. I use note cards to remember to hit every player with the spotlight and bring back people, places, and things from previous adventures. They jog my memory just enough to keep the game going. Read all about it!

The other is mind-maps. Unless I’m playtesting an adventure I hope to publish, I keep everything in mind maps and run the game from there. XMind is a nice free mind mapper and that’s what I use. When I do write for publication, I start with mind maps.

Mind Map
Mind Map from The Sun Below: City on the Edge

Repetition

Do the same thing over and over again and it become second nature. While you don’t want to overdo it, a certain amount of repetition works for me. Not only does it help you remember things, it aids in world building. If the PCs meet the a new race every week, everything the PCs and the GM learned in the past isn’t useful. If you mix in some races that reoccur, it builds your world and you master that new race.

Star Trek was known for the “planet of the week” model, but who remembers most of them? Who can forget the Borg?

Avoiding the Issue

My favorite problem solving method! I prefer to either run games with less mental footprint or to steal from simpler games and apply their rules to more complex games.

Take creature complexity. If you play D&D type games, you may have noticed 3.5 and Pathfinder have more complicated monsters than the new 5E versions of the same monster. And 13th Age has even simpler versions. The demon Vrock is a great example, with Pathfinder’s version being almost double the word count of 5E’s and 5E’s almost double the word count of 13th Age’s. Too bad Numenera doesn’t have a Vrock.

13th Age gives us another interesting simplification of monster powers. Instead of remembering a bunch of optional powers (this power 3 times a day, this power if it doesn’t use this other power, and so on), 13th Age uses the GM’s attack dice to decide if a special power “procs.” No deciding on the fly, or forgetting all about the special abilities until after the battle.

For example, the 13th Age Vrock has a filth-covered claw attack. If it hits with a natural even hit, it uses its demonic screech. The complexity has been pushed from the game table to the creature design. I like that.

If your favorite game is complex and you don’t keep forgetting rules at the table, then play it and have fun! If you are playing a game where the complexity is getting in the way of your fun, you might want to take a look at simpler games.


The Game Masters’ Roundtable of Doom is a meeting of the minds of tabletop RPG bloggers and GMs. We endeavor to transcend a particular system or game and discuss topics that are relevant to GMs and players of all roleplaying games.

If you’d like to submit a topic for our future discussions, or if you’re a blogger who’d like to participate in the Game Master’s Roundtable of Doom, send an email to Lex Starwalker at gamemastersjourney@gmail.com.

The rest of the Roundtable has great things to say about their biggest issues GMing. Read on.

Marc Plourde – http://inspstrikes.blogspot.com/2015/05/nuts-bolts-31-game-masters-roundtable.html

James August Walls – http://ilive4crits.blogspot.com/2015/05/successfully-offing-your-favorite.html

Scott Robinson – http://strangeenc.blogspot.com/2015/05/encoding-improvisation.html

Lex Starwalker – http://www.starwalkerstudios.com/blog/2015/5/8/game-masters-roundtable-of-doom-5-the-weakest-link-in-my-gm-toolbox

Peter Smits – http://planeataryexpress.blogspot.com/2015/05/roundtable-5-gming-weakness.html

Evan Franke – http://asageamonghisbooks.blogspot.com/2015/05/game-masters-roundtable-of-doom-5-your.html?m=1

John Clayton — http://blog.filesandrecords.com/2015/05/preparation-is-not-a-dirty-word/

Getting Started with Playing Tabletop RPGs over Roll20.net, Part II

Roll20whiteOnBlacklogoLast time, in Part I, we talked about setting up an account, creating a campaign, and creating character sheets. This time we’ll talk about creatures, maps, and running a game.

Creatures

To start, we’ll create a page not to use in play, but just to park all our creatures on. From there we can copy and paste creatures into encounter maps.

Roll20 Player RibbonLaunch your campaign (if needed), click the Page Toolbar, and click Create New Page. Rename the page Creatures and click on that page to go to it. Another blank map. Yay!

If you have way more time than I do, you can create NPC character sheets for all your creatures and attach them to a token. That way madness lies. I just use a token and hit points. I have the book or SRD open to the creature when gaming.

You can upload a token from your own fantasy art (Pinterest and DeviantArt are great sources) or search the Roll20 art library. If you use your own art, you’ll want to crop the image in an art program to be square. I’ll use the art library and search for gargoyle and grab the first free one I find and drag it onto the map.

GargoyleTo set hit points, I click on the token, then click on the gear icon and up pops the Edit Token dialog window. Red for blood, red for hit points. I set it to 60 / 60. (13th Age gargolyles have 60 hp). To make the red hit point bar visible to the players, I click the Advanced tab and click See for Bar 3.

Put “Gargoyle” in the Name box and click Save Changes.

Maps

Now let’s create an encounter map to put our gargoyle on. Make a new map and call it Gargoyle Lair. On the Page Toolbar, click the gear for this map and change the size to 50 x 50. Go there. Gargoyles might be found in ruins, so let’s pick a ruins map. Switch to the Map & Background layer by clicking on the second icon in the toolbar on the top left of your map. It switches from a block to a pushin.

On the right, click on the Art Library and choose Maps, Tiles, Textures. I’ll type ruin and scroll down, pick a nice one, and drag it onto the map. Oh great, a 1 square map. I’ll drag a corner out until it looks like it almost matches Roll20’s grid.

Right click on the map, click Advanced->Align to Grid. Hold down the alt key and with the mouse move the map so that the grid is aligned. There’s a great video on the Roll20 wiki explaining aligning your map. Making an exact match isn’t that important for range band systems like 13th Age or Numenera, but people like to use the measure tool and create auras, so it’s worth some effort.

Now, switch back to the Objects and Tokens lair, go back to your Creatures map, select and copy the gargoyle, and return to the gargoyle lair map and paste a few onto the map.

Gargoyle LairThen go back to the start map. Be sure to let the players control their tokens. Click on each icon, and use Represents Character to link it to the character sheet. Go to Bar 3 and associate it with hit points if you can. If the hit points are 30, you want it to say 30/30. Click the Advanced tab and click See for Bar 3 so all the players can see the bar. Save and Copy the PCs and paste them on to the Gargoyle Lair map as well.

Time to Play

Invite your players, have them join in. They will see their characters on the Start map. Later you can replace this with a friendly inn or lava pit, but for now blank is fine.

Drag the red Player ribbon over to the Gargoyle Lair map, and everyone will see that. Ready for action!

If your game uses a character sheet with an initiative button, have each player first select their token, then click the button. That will put them in the Turn Order. Otherwise, open the Turn Order window (the clock icon in the left toolbar) and follow the instructions to add everyone to the initiative list. Give everyone a number, then click the gear and Sort Descending.

Better yet, create an initiative macro if your character sheet doesn’t have them. All about macros -> https://wiki.roll20.net/Macros.

You roll dice by using the d20 icon in the left toolbar. Results show up in the Chat (speech bubbles on top right toolbar) window on the right. Many character sheets have buttons that do rolls and apply modifiers. The player clicks, and sees the results in the Chat Window.

Take 10 Ten TookClick the arrow to move to the next initiative. When someone takes damage, select their token, click in the red circle, and type -10 if they took 10 points of damage. Notice how the red bar shows they have taken damage. +10 (or whatever) will heal the selected character.

More information can be found on the wiki -> https://wiki.roll20.net/Main_Page

Play around and have fun!


Next -> Getting Started with Fantasy Grounds