Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Talk about a Critical Hit!

Written by Justin Mason

Over the years I’ve seen some pretty unusual game dice, made from almost anything you can imagine from bone to stone, from tin to precious gem, but today I’ve seen a d20 that I have to get my hands on.

Ever since I was a little kid in my elementary science class were I was first introduced to the vastness of our solar system, galaxy and universe, I’ve been somewhat enthralled with things “from the heavens above.” In fact, I’ve always secretly longed to get my hands on a meteorite to have forged into a dagger or sword -- just because.

Many of my role-playing game characters over the past two decades have had meteoric iron armor, weapons and gear. Some of those character's were completely obsessed with the rare material.

I had always assumed that was likely to be as close as I would get to owning any myself. However, now I (and anyone else who’s interested) can get their own tiny piece of extra-terrestrial real-estate in the form of a 16mm Meteorite d20 from Crystal Castle.

“Floating around for perhaps billions of years, meteorites are some to the rarest objects on Earth. There is far less total known meteorite material on Earth, counting all known varieties, than there is gold, platinum, emeralds, rubies, or sapphires. The artisans of Crystal Caste turned some of this wondrous material into Dwarven Stones.” -- Crystal Castle Website

At $300, it’s anything but cheap, but come on!?

We’re talking about rolling with a d20 that was once a flaming ball of superheated rock that plummeted to our atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour from the depths of the solar system and crashed into the earth. Talk about a critical hit!

Crystal Castle also offers Meteorite dice in d6, 12mm d20 and 14mm d20 styles; ranging in price from $100 to $200.

Specific details about the meteorite used to make these dice are --

Name: Ghubara
Location: Oman, 19°13'40"N; 56°08'34" E
Found: 1954
Classification: Chondrite, Ordinary (L5), black, xenolithic Approx. Recovered Weight: 4kg Found on the surface of the desert, the stones are fresh internally, and the crust only slightly weathered. Total Known Weight (TKW): 9+ stones @ 100+Kg
Sources: Meteorites from A to Z, 2nd ed. Jensen, Jensen & Black; Catalogue of Meteorites, 5th ed.,Cambridge University Press

Worth mentioning is that Crystal Castle also offers extraordinary dice made from Camarasaurus (the largest Dinosaur to roam the Earth) fossil, mammoth ivory, and prehistoric Megalodon teeth.

The Mage's Prism (Artifact)

Written by Justin Mason

The Mage’s Prism

This complexly faceted crystal shard is about ten inches in length with as base about three inches wide that tapers off to a point. Angled, smooth surfaces refract light erratically as the shard is turned.

The Artifact Effects

When this artifact is brought into direct contact with another magical item, it begins to naturally radiate from within. The shard reacts to the essence of magic contained in any other magical item, and can actually be used to identify many of those properties with the use of shifting colors and patterns that are unique to a set of properties.

Also, 3x per day the shard can be used as a magic wand to cast the spell Identify. Though Identify won’t reveal the properties of the artifacts, all other effects of the prism will function for artifacts as well as normal magical items.

When the shard is used on an Artifact, there is a 5% chance that the wielder will be given a detailed vision, providing a complete historical background of the artifact, it’s abilities and any required activation methods. This 5% chance only occurs the very first time the shard comes into contact with said artifact. Rolls for this effect are final and cannot be redone.

Possible Colors & Identifying Patterns
  • Red Glow: +1Bonus or -1 Penalty
  • Orange Glow: +2 Bonus or -2 Penalty
  • Yellow Glow: +3 Bonus or -3 Penalty
  • Green Glow: +4 Bonus or -4 Penalty
  • Blue Glow: +5 Bonus or -5 Penalty
  • Indigo Glow: +6 Bonus or -6 Penalty
  • Violet Glow: +7 Bonus or Greater Bonus or -7 or Greater Penalty
  • White Glow: Item is Magical, but has no Bonus Equivalent
  • Constant Quick Flashing Pulses: Cursed Item
  • Constant Slow Rhythmic Pulses: Item Contains Charges, number of pulses indicates number of charges.
  • Vibrates in Wielder’s Hand: Item is classified as an Artifact
  • Feels Warm to the Touch: Item is Intelligent (Ego Less Than Wielder’s)
  • Feels Very Hot to the Touch: Item is Intelligent (Ego Greater Than Wielder’s)
  • Feels Cool to the Touch: Item is Self Recharging (Example: 3x/day or 1x/week, etc.)
  • Feels Very Cold to the Touch: Item is Evilly Aligned/Attuned
  • Emits a Low-Pitch Humming Sound: Items Properties are Arcane In Nature
  • Emits a High-Pitch Humming Sound: Items Properties are Divine In Nature

Introduction of Artifact

Though Identify is a lower level spell (Brd 1, Magic Domain 2, Sor/Wiz 1), the shards true advantage and power is its ability to shed light on artifacts. Odds are that this item will already be heavily used and highly prized by a fairly powerful wizard or mage. However, logical alternatives for introducing the artifact into the campaign could be a treasure hunter or merchant who uses the item frequently to test potential purchases or looted treasures. Or, perhaps a merchant who wishes the characters to "retrieve" the shard from the wizard who claims it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Getting Back to the Basics

Written by Justin Mason

One of my fondest early role-playing experiences was with what most now refer to as Basic Dungeons & Dragons. More specifically, the 1983-1984 red, blue, cyan and black boxed sets with fantastic art by Larry Elmore.

My friends and I were in junior high school, and things were usually pretty, well, "basic". Our game sessions consisted mostly of dungeon-delves strung together by very loose, usually pre-determined central plots used mostly to explain why in hell our characters kept ending up in these accursed, monster-filled (and treasure-filled) dungeons.

It was during this time, I had one of my most impacting game-related experiences. It was summertime, school was out for three months, and the entire lot of us had virtually no responsibilities from sun-up until midnight. It was the perfect breeding ground for imagination.

Early one morning, I cracked the crimson cover to the Dungeon Master’s Rulebook for the very first time, grabbed my dice, a pencil and notepad, and a sheet of blank graph paper. A few hours later, I had created my very first dungeon…

Sitting there in my bedroom, holding in my hands a pitifully-sketched map of strangely rectangular-shaped rooms and a dozen pages of scribbled notes, I somehow knew that this fantastic concept -- role-playing games -- would forever-more be a part of my life in one way or another.

Thinking back on it now, I’m sure there are several factors just beyond recollection that attribute to the fondness of these memories: the smell of the dank, dusty and moldy basement where we spent hours-on-end felling dragons and evil wizards, room-temperature sandwiches and lukewarm colas that would have made trail-rations seem appealing, and the comradery of a half-dozen kids piled around a rickety card table rolling dice for hours on end. Those were the days.

There have been times since then that I have longed to recapture at least part of the essence of “Basic” role-playing games; the easy character management, the simplicity of the rules, etc. And, I was willing to bet that I was not the only one out there who was interested in running/playing a Basic RPG campaign. And, I was correct.

The Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game is a rules-light game system based on the d20 SRD v3.5, but heavily rewritten with inspiration from early RPG game systems. It is suitable for those who are fans of "old-school" game mechanics.

I also found Labyrinth Lord by Goblinoid Games, though at the time of this blog entry their website is undergoing renovations.

If you know of any other retro-clone “Basic” role-playing games that are available out there, please let me know by leaving a comment so others might find it as well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Leira’s Coin of Willful Deception (Artifact)

Written by Justin Mason

Leira’s Coin of Willful Deception

This large copper coin has been masterfully crafted, and minted with the image of a two-headed maiden on one side, and a grinning skull on the other. It is fairly thick, and along the edge has been delicately engraved in the common language, “One is never more truthful than when acknowledging oneself as a liar.”

This coin has only one use per 24-hours, and can only be activated when knowingly attempting to utilize its power. The effect is activated by tossing/flipping the coin, catching it in the air while focusing on the target, and promptly placing the coin back into a small pouch or sack containing 99 non-magical copper coins. If the result of the toss is witnessed by any party then the effect of the artifact is nullified. If there are any other items in the container, or if there are more or less than 99 other standard copper coins in said container the effect will still function, however the item will not recharge until these specifications are met.

Target: a single sentient individual within 100-yards.

Mechanics: The coin toss should be handled by the Game Master, and the result of the coin toss hidden from the player. The player will remain indefinitely unaware of the which of the two possible effects have been activated.

Detection: Once the daily charge is used-up, the coin becomes just a regular copper coin, and as such cannot be detected by any magical means until the charge returns 24-hours after being activated.

The Artifacts Effects:

Coin Toss Results of Heads (Grinning Skull):
For 24-hours, the character gains a +25 to all Bluff checks made towards the specified target.

Coin Toss Results of Tails (Two-Headed Maiden):
For 24-hours, the character is penalized -13 to all Bluff checks and -13 to all Sense Motive checks. This effects all checks made by character towards any target.

Cumulative Effects:
If the coin’s effects are successfully used (results of heads) three time in a row on a single target (over a period of 3-days), then an additional effect comes into play for each concurrent successful attempt on the target. This additional effect is upon the target and acts as the Charm Person spell at a Caster Level (CL) of 20 with an effect duration of 24-hours. When affected by this cumulative effect, the target is also penalized -13 on all "opposed Charisma checks" when attempting to counter orders from the character to do something the target wouldn't normally do. This cumulative "charm" effect also affects targets of a race, species, or class that would normally be immune to such charm effects.

Introduction of Artifact

This is a great little artifact to introduce into a campaign. It is a fairly powerful item, yet still very easy to overlook. After all, when was the last time any of your characters detected magic on a common pouch filled with 100 copper coins? It is also a great tool to use when introducing a particularly devious npc; especially one trying to deceive the characters.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Custom Minis for Your Campaign

Written by Justin Mason

Once again pondering the many ways to add a custom touch to your role-playing game, I was referred to 3dTotal and their “3D Model Printing” service.

Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like -- they can actually “print” miniatures from standard 3D model files. 3dTotal offers a few free model options, however there are many 3D-artists references available for custom model design.

The resulting miniature is "rugged" and "durable" -- not the brittle plaster-like material associated with some 3D-Printed products.

3DTotal Ltd. has partnered with Growit LLC to offer this pretty amazing service. The miniatures are printed (or “grown”) in layers as small as 16 microns (.0006 inces) which means the final piece is of a quality and detail rarely seen. In fact, it virtually eliminates any “stair-stepping” effect that often is associated with rapid prototyping.

Download their Preparation Guide, and in just a few minutes, you’ll be underway to having your own custom miniatures that can be perfectly customized to represent player-characters, unique monsters, or npcs.

Prices for printing the miniatures range from $50 (the option most average miniatures would fall into) to $500 (for pieces up to 7.5” tall.)

No more “searching for the miniature that looks most like your character.” Now, for an affordable price, you can actually have the miniature that IS your character.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Table-Top Role Playing 2.0

Written by Justin Mason

You’re the Game Master, it’s game night, and you have all your notes ready. From world design, to the contents of the dungeon, non-player character and monster stats, and treasure lists -- it's all there at your finger tips. So, the question is, how organized are you, really?

More and more Game Masters are loosing the thick wire-bound notebooks chocked full of scribbles and sticky-notes and stepping into the age of the internet.

Yeah, I know, the internet has been easily accessible for over dozen years, so it’s not really a “new day.” The internet is integrated into just about every aspect of our lives, but it’s taken a long time for table-top role-playing community to really catch up to standardizing the technologies use in our campaigns and game sessions.

Obsidian Portal is the service that should be destined to usher in this game-table upgrade. It’s free, it’s expansive, it’s user-friendly, and most of all -- it’s cross-platform compatible. Meaning, all of the services and standard features are of use to both Game Masters and players regardless of what game system, game world, or genre they may be using.

I could write a lengthy, detailed description of what Obsidian Portal is, but since they’ve gone to the trouble of already compiling a video that does just that, how about I just share it with you right here:

As a Game Master who has used the Obsidian Portal service to run a weekly, 56-game-session campaign, I guarantee you that it makes it fun and easy to keep track of your campaign, setting, characters, storyline and game session notes.
Also, involve your players in the wiki function of the service and you will witness a dimension and element to your setting that’s totally new as you also get to see, for the likely the first time, your game world through the eyes of the players/characters.

I highly recommend you check it out. It’s a worthwhile 11-minutes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Exact Change Only! In-Character Props at the Game Table

Written by Justin Mason

So, I’ve seen a few products out there that specifically target the idea of providing in-character props at the game table. One particular product that comes to mind are Campaign Coins (http://www.campaigncoins.com/), a great product from King of the Castle Games. These coins come in the standard fantasy denominations (copper, silver, gold, platinum) and the coins themselves are divided into whole amounts including (1, 10, 100 and 1000).

Now these are “actual” coins. They are metal, they have weight to them, they clink together in a leather pouch, they just have a minted feel to them. It is a quality product worthy of any game collection.

The company offers several options and unique designs for their coins, but I recommend anyone interested in incorporating these into game sessions start off with the Campaign Coin: Starter Set -- which costs about $70 and you get a wide distribution of 121 coins in one box.

Product Purchase Link:

Let me say up front that I am a huge fan of this product and the concept, but a fair word of warning to any Game Master planning on integrating them into a campaign:

If you think the typical character “shopping session” takes too long, just wait until they’re paying the shop owner with coins… It’s especially fun when a character decides to buy a 1 cp tankard of ale with a platinum piece, and then waits while the poor bartender breaks out his life’s savings to make change.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dice that Blow the Mind

Written by Justin Mason

Last month we started this blog off with explaining how you can get your very own, professional quality, custom character portrait for your character or npc. Well, we thought we would continue with the theme of custom accessories and supplements and point out Q-workshop.

Q-workshop is a Poland-based dice company. They have virtually hundreds of unique sets of dice from a dozen or more main categories ranging from fantasy, to post-apocalyptic to science-fiction. They even have neon, glow-in-the-dark dice -- come on: how cool is that!?

All of their dice are very affordable, and consist of a quality and intricacy we’ve not seem matched in the industry.

However, why stop there? Q-workshop not only makes some of the coolest most unusual dice in the industry… They also make your dice. That’s right, you can design your own custom set of dice, submit it to them, and they will turn your imagination into a tangible, roll-able, set of dice!

We’ve never seen another service quite like the custom dice service offered by Q-workshop, and all other alternatives come up short, and lacking in comparison (there just really isn’t a comparison). It’s not the cheapest option, but it is affordable enough for just about any game group to design a unique set and have enough made for all the players.

We highly recommend you check out Q-workshop, their plethora of unusual dice sets, and if you’re looking for another way to add your signature to your role-playing campaign, be sure to check out the custom dice creation service.

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