Dark Heresy – playtest review

Warhammer 40k, maybe you can describe the setting itself best with one word, as the ultimate Dystopia. 41st millenium and humankind had gained a lot in technology over the time but even more have they forgotten. If you’re not familiar with the setting, I’m sure you find 1001 pages like the wh and wh40k lexicanum. Dark Heresy, published by Fantasy Flight Games is an approach to roleplaying in this dark setting. Now let’s have a look at how our playtest ran:

Initial position

At the very basis we had three players and the dungeon master for the first session and we started off with two of us familiar with the setting and two of us who had not heard a lot more than the sheer existence. As a dungeon master I would recommend strongly that you go through the Dark Heresy rulebook which gives you a very good idea of the world and setting and introduce your players with your version of it. That’s how Tom, our dungeon master, started off into the game yesterday and he did an astounding job that captivated us from the very beginning.

Once you know a bit about inquisition, the various orders, what Space Marines and Inquisitors are for and tend to be like you get very quickly into the game, for the first session this still means you have the hurdle of character generation before you, but fear not – this is quite easy and fast.

Character Generation

For character generation you start off selecting a region where you come from your options ranging from overpopulated hive-worlds to wild and bestial feral worlds, standard imperial worlds to void born. This list is adapted in the DH players handbook with a few more options but for 95% of your games these four should do it as they already give you quite a few options, differentiations and distinctive pros and cons. Continue reading Dark Heresy – playtest review

Talarian and the misty swamps [pt. 1]

There are these special characters in the life of a roleplaying-gamer. When you first play them you know they are so very enjoyable, when you share them they’re almost everytime good for some smiles or laughter and you know you’re going to have some fun even before the adventure really starts… Talarian (black) circle mage of Waterdeep is one of those characters, when I created him he was just another wizard, I played around and tried to find something that felt right, I concentrated on making him a summoner, switched from Wizard to Sorcerer, enjoyed the thought of an Eldritch Knight even more and voilà, it started to feel just right.

Yesterday it was Martin’s PathfinderRPG debut as a dungeon master and when I try to describe it, I end up with one word: Impressive. Because his story was quite sophisticated, because his descriptions were quite in-depth, and mainly because I did not expect him to find such a very successful combination of story, fun, descriptions, player-integration and (again, because it was a lot of) fun; but he did find it. Furthermore it was an excellent gathering of players in one evening to remember.

Talarian, black robe of the waterdeep circle

Day 41 of the cross-breed study.

While my colleagues are still hesitating on the new calling, I am a step ahead. I’ve found a rare cross-breed of giant cockroachs and giant grasshoppers whose excrements are showing positive effects on the calling itself. I’ve convinced my near-sighted colleagues that I’ve retreated from this most valuable of studies and am currently working on a bat-dung replacement for their all-beloved fireballs. Fools, they can not see their mistake. The noble Duernatar has helped me greatly in locating these cross-breeds at the very watersides of the moon-sea. Shortly after I’ve taken two of those precious teleport-scrolls and started my journey, but there it started – everything was to go a little wrong…

Somewhere I might be meant to be but did not mean to be

“Talarian, Master Talarian?”, a young, almost childish voice woke me from the teleportal statis, after effects – Continue reading Talarian and the misty swamps [pt. 1]

Recent developments

It’s been a while since the last update of this blog. I guess it was more like a vacation from writing and focussing on other things. When blogging became more of a necessity than actual fun, I thought it was a good time to make a full-stop.

With my sundaily gaming group things are going quite well. Quite well? Yes, it’s still improvable especially when it comes to focussing on goals. As a matter of fact this blog entry is for reflection but I hope there are some gamemasters out there who can use this for their personal benefit.Beshaba

Yesterday’s gaming afternoon started with the usual player’s recap, in my point of view one precious developement to have everyone at the table remember what happened last and since this is done together by all players it really helps to get the feel back where we last stopped. Where did we stop? Well, over time our little gaming group has grown into quite experienced characters in the world. Every character that participated for more than a few evenings has some kind of reputation or title, it isn’t always the best reputation but “there is no bad  publicity”, is there?

Our gaming group currently consists of 6 players: Continue reading Recent developments

epic preparation – p5 – Specialities

Specialities and additional repertoire of resources

Now we got a basic network of persons, a world and everything about your players set and ready… This part of the guide will help to get yourself prepared to keep your players busy and yourself not always on the edge of your imagination.

Motivation and Pushing into the right Direction

When I first wrote this I was going to start with all the main sections you find below, but luckily during my recent research of blog entries I could use I stumbled over Viricordova’s blog Bard of Valiant and his her character death posting. Almost as interesting for me were the comments on this one and in detail I am referring to Killstring’s comment. Vengeance – when a character dies as a part of a whole (party), the players might feel something they did not expect to feel, rage – fear – vengeance and it’s all yours to feed upon. I’ve given it a night’s thought and I am very much fond of it, inspire greater feelings in your player. You do not have to kill one of them, but you have various chances to inspire them. I’ll name a few:

You’ve got the background stories at hand, they might have a short paragraph on their youth, someone they didn’t like – someone they liked very much – what keeps you from getting this particular NPC as a villain into your game? It will be a hell of a roleplaying opportunity when they are meeting face to face, prepared for combat and one of your players recognizes him as a dear old friend (or the one that always stole his lunchbox…, you get the idea).
Don’t be afraid to (if it is possible in your world) resurrect old dead people, let them follow a greater calling – they make for mysterious encounters and can tell stories of places the characters might want to see in the future. A formerly dead cleric might have seen the other side and remember bits of it, he might be mad or not that’s up to you – but it gives you outstanding starting points to add some atmosphere to some special place you’ve always wanted your players to visit.

So you might be asking for a few motivators – here you are:

Most of them will be due to character backgrounds and the inter-character or character-npc ties, if you ain’t got information from your players that suit you, speak with them – if they like roleplaying I doubt they will not help you in this and accept your ideas.


Vengeance makes a great motivator, you’ve lost something that seemed incredible important to you? Think about it, make sure you understand what you do to a character that was a witness to the slaughter of his hometown. Your players might react in different ways to such things – no matter if they are past or present – so you should prepare it together with them.


Oh Love is great, I mean – really. Love is something that’s happening far too seldom in roleplaying games that I’ve been a part of, I think it’s most often too much of an implication for real-life things and gets troublesome thoughts inbetween players (again, just an assumption here). I guess NPC/PC love is the best approach you can get, even the lowly streetliving girl from years ago might inspire a spark of something greater in your players if they really felt for her in a special way. Love can lead to a lot of other strong feelings depending on what happens in your world. Just make sure you don’t always let bad things happen to beloved ones or you will generate probably a little frustration. A loved one can be in need of something and doesn’t always have to die by the hand of the evil archvillain dragonlich – that’s clicheeeeee!

Family and Friends

I’ve seen a lot here, players who create their background stories always the same way, with parents dead, rest of the family slaughtered and hey I can tell you those guys make great loners ;). But on the other side I think family and friends is something everyone of us has a strong need for, so once again don’t abuse background stories that give you potential “to-be-killed” victims but use them in a more positive way. The family can be a great resource for items or a good start for your wizard’s tower or laboratory, just be creative.


Honestly, who hasn’t played on this sin before? It was the one motivation that drove me when I started roleplaying, gold – items – power – Ahaha Ha! *insert really evil laughter with dark echoes*.  Since you’re the one that knows your players best, you might know as well what motivator is good for every single one of them. Get it straight, you’ve probably a few players who always wanted the Staff of Might or Robe of the Archmage – this is your chance to use their own motivation to get your story going.


Ever had the players lighten up a village, kill some innocent bystanders? Then you might want to give them a chance for redemption. Or reminder your players about the village they helped before and who are once again asking them for a favor… It’s always possible to create some major plots and machinations around small ones.

Don’t feel bad to use these feelings – it will be for the good of your players. Even if you put real stress on some of these motivators, you’re using it to create something for them. Just don’t play them worse than need be, if someone is attached to his character and you ruin this character’s life by taking away everything he ever needed – that’s not going to improve it for either of you!

DM Tool – what you might need

Hey, you’re running an epic campaign, you probably know the ruleset better than I do, you know your world and everything – so what tools do you really need? Right, it’s absolute up to you and I can only give you two things I personally am very fond of:

First of all I (as a Pathfinder / 3.5+ gamer) use DM Genie – it has all that nice features to keep track of the time, together with a most comfortable weather generator, you can keep track of distances and the approx time needed by different travelling methods… Furthermore I like to keep my npcs all close by and have their stats and abilities at ready when I need it most…

Second thing I like to have close is my folder. What is in it? First chapter is a list of names for dwarves, elves and all things you can think of – it’s a collection to get the right name for the spontaneous need – I wouldn’t go anywhere without it.
Next chapters are various things, spontaneous encounters and sideplots, all kinds of magical items – and most importantly a collection of names for all special points of interest – temples, taverns and more. Next chapter is my personal favorite – it’s a collection of fantasy-setting meals and menus – that’s purest flavor for every game you have – honestly – serve some roasted griffon filet for a few gold pieces, it will taste like chicken but it is something to talk about… (unless it’s standard anyway). THen I got a good collection of poisons, traps and riddles for all occassions. It gives me a good idea every now and then to get things started.


(You’ve been waiting for this, haven’t you?)

I have to disappoint you, I will not list a special encounter in this, it would not be helpful. Just a sidenote, my personal preference is not to have every encounter matching to the overall level of my group, I love putting in some orcs against your epic fighter-crew as much as I like putting a dragon against them, I don’t think fate always matches in fair ways, nor do I (ok I cheat every now and then and tend to give them a good chance when it is a really planned encounter, but so do we all, don’t we?)

First of all, have some encounter lists, you can find several useful in the dungeon master guides, dm genie (software) is helpful getting them to work or use a sheet of paper and take a random screening through your monstrous manuals… This will keep a (depending on your mood and planned amount of combat) game with a decent amount of fights. More important than ever will be that you give your guys a clear sign of being overpowered, a mighty wizard (like Paul S. Kemp‘s Creation of the Sojourner) should be very – VERY – obvious if you don’t want a direct confrontation. At least that’s true for most of my groups so far – if you don’t have that big nasty sign “I blast you and you don’t get a saving throw if you come any closer” out they will go for it.

So what advice can I offer? Only a little, do not create to many encounters, prepare a few, maybe one or two tough ones per evening, maybe less – and rely on a few side-encounters which should be random but not too challenging (after all it’s hardly possible that spontaneously everyone has gotten godlike powers just because you’re running an epic campaign, agreed?)

In my understanding, combat encounters will be more an element of flavour and less a challenge for epic campaigns, at least that should be true for most plots. Do not underestimate what a single opponent can wreck upon your players if he is that powerful, and be aware that most creatures that powerful have more of an idea why they survived that long than the average orc out there.

Good luck on this one, I hope the ideas will help you a bit further.

The whole series (links to the posts will be active after publishing of them).

Getting started on Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part one
Problems of an Epic-Level Campaign
Epic Character Generation Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part two
History and Geography Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part three
Background Interweaving Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part four
Additional resources (links)
Specialities and Resources Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part five
NPC Definitions and Setup Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part six
Political Setup Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part seven
Actionplan Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part eight
Weaving it together Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part nine

Problems of an Epic Campaign

To be honest, I have a draft waiting and could not get myself to finish it. The whole epic-campaign blog entry was meant to get my own thoughts sorted and there is this discussion I had with Tom on friday that made me realize that I have forgotten one of those key elements that reappear every now and then. And of course in campaigns of higher level these may become serious gamebreakers.

So before I waste more of your precious preparation time I might as well go on with a special sidenote this monday.
What problems are you to expect when you are starting an epic campaign? Continue reading Problems of an Epic Campaign

Colorful Language & Roleplaying

After reading probably too much of Richard K. Morgan, I’ve the rather strong urge to use more colorful words in our roleplaying games. I have to admit, I have started rather shy and slowly last session. As you might already know if you’re familiar with a few of my older postings, I’m currently playing a dwarf, who himself is rather well educated and not without social standing, still I have the feeling that dwarven are ideal to turn all swearwords i know (I have to admit, it’s no special expertise of mine) towards giants, kobolds and other enemies.

Then again I think it’s this unbound behaviour that’s a fun-to-play part of a role you’re usually not a part of. On the other hand I think players tend to be highly irritated when you confront them with swearwords and bad slang – I’ve had this problem a few times, especially as dungeon master and especially in Shadowrun. On one hand I don’t feel overly confident when swearing (I’ve always seen this as a weakness and tried to rid myself of it in real-life) and on the other hand it just felt right-away scary when you change your tone ingame and can follow the reactions of your players.

Categorized that means:
1 – No swearwords at all [Polite or not so polite]
2 – Get lost, Damn, Hell… [Selfcentered criticism, maybe a rephrased f*word]
3 – Fuck, Moron, Asshole [Direct f*words, usually for direct confrontations
4 – Whore, Cunt, Son of a Bitch … [Offensive Language]

On a gaming evening my personal guess is, I’m usually down to 1-2, on a bad day I might even go up to three but not for a constant rate of swearwords over the game but more likely for a special situation. In my opinion a good approach would be to prepare swearwords in foreign slang (dwarven, elven, …) like my dwarf is currently using “Beardless” at every occasion if he has a dislike. To the Hells with you – rot in the abyss or similiar things are a great approach to give your character some personal (swearing) touch without the bad touch. Still, I’ve got the strong feeling that I want to try real bad language in one of the next Shadowrun games.

TPK – lost to evil

General RPG


Good morning,
I had the pleasure of dungeon mastering my current Ptolus campaign and yesterday was one partial end of the story but everything came a bit different than it was planned…

As a sidenote, when we started the campaign we started with seven players, with the latest two adventures we only saw three players – so a few adjustments were made and the lethality of the campaign grew due the general path on which it is set.  So I’ll split this posting in two parts – one will deal with the adventure yesterday, the second will deal with TPK (total player kill) in general. Continue reading TPK – lost to evil