CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Troubled Waters

The Wracked of Roqoloros

Water is often seen as the bringer of life; a symbol of healing and a resource any living being cannot survive without. But when that life-sustaining element is corrupted or tainted, you get death and disease. Among the foul outsiders of the lower planes, one being represents the corruption of water and that is Roqorolos, the Daemon Harbinger of castaways, fouled water, and oceans. Today we peek into the depths of his followers and present to you three possible sects of The Prince of the Wracked.

As always, let us imagine we are sitting at our theoretical gaming table. Our imaginary GM sets out the rules for the game that we will play. In this game, we are to make a follower of Roqorolos. The character does not need to be a divine caster, just a devotee of The Seadrinker. What character do you make?

For more information on Roqorolos
Roqorolos’s Pathfinder Wiki Page
Roqorolos’s Archives of Nethys Page 

The Poisoned Well

The Daemon Harbinger Roqorolos serves Apollyon, the Horsemen of Pestilence. His domain over fouled water serves the purposes of his master. And the members of the Poisoned Well, in turn, serve the purposes of the Prince of the Wracked. They do so by befouling the water of settlements large and small to spread disease amongst the populace.

The members of this small sect consider themselves connoisseurs of waterborne contagions, both mundane and magical. Each settlement they seek to ravage is a chance for them to test their newest creations. Alchemists, Investigators, arcane casters of all kinds, and some of the most twisted druids on Golarion make up the core of these demented bringers of blight.

The Broken Bow

Those who find themselves stranded on small islands often fall to madness. These castaways can lose it enough to beg for the blessings of The Seadrinker. These damned souls please the daemon harbinger and The Broken Bow find favor from Roqorolos by stranding these unfortunate souls.

The Broken Bow is actually an extended family of weresharks and their skinwalker kin who occupy the Valashmai Sea off the Southern coast of Tian Xia. They hide in plain sight as movers of cargo – albeit often illicit things. They pick their targets when in port and then attack the chosen ship, sinking it and devouring most of its crew and passengers. They leave one sad soul alive and he usually wakes on some small uninhabited island.

The Lost

When one seeks the favor of Roqorolos, one must suffer his purview. The Lost is a group of oracles who take this suffering and solitude to the extreme in order to gain clarity from their master. Each member secludes themselves for seven years on an isolated island with no contact with other sentient beings. Every day they drink the salty ocean water in an attempt to poison their own bodies.

The Lost keep a shrine somewhere in The Shackles, where others of Roqorolos’ faithful come to find them for guidance. Although they are all considered oracles and conduits to the Daemon Harbinger, not all of them are of the oracle class. Shaman, druids, clerics, and even some sorcerers find a home among those who choose exile. The sect will accept any who can survive their seven years.

As corrupt as the befouled water of their lord are the followers of The Prince of the Wracked. Who is your disciple of Roqorolos? Why have they chosen to dedicate themselves to The Seadrinker? Where does their devotion to this Daemon Harbinger come from? Let me know in the comments.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Back to the Past

Musings on Flashbacks in the Gaming Narrative

Lately, I’ve been thinking about narratives that work in books which could be used in RPGs. Most games tend to be pretty straightforward with play being in the moment. Things like cutscenes, flashbacks, and dream sequences can often seem more like the GM talking to himself, or like one player getting the spotlight for a longer period of time than anyone else. And you certainly don’t a want to use cutscenes to shift to the villain’s point in the plot like you might in a book or a movie, because you don’t want to give things away to your players. For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about flashbacks and the ways they can be used in games to strengthen the narrative.

One of the things I like about flashbacks is it allows character growth for players who may not be the best at writing backstories. Not everyone is like me and has a five-page character background, and although some GMs might not like that, I understand that not everyone is a writer. Flashbacks can help draw out portions of a character’s past during play which can give the player a deeper connection to the game and the GM some things for the player to use as hooks later.

There’s a game I played once that had an awesome mechanic to draw out these narratives from the players; I played it at a one-day gaming event and it left a lasting impression on me. 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars is basically Starship Troopers the game, but what got me was the flashback mechanic. You could use a flashback twice each session; once to have a critical success and once to flee and not take damage.

This mechanic worked by telling the GM that you wanted to cash in on the ability to do either of these things during the battle. I think there were poker chips or another token that represented each use. Once you did this you had to narrate a brief flashback that explained why you’d be good at doing the thing that you were about to do. For my critical success, I narrated being a standout basketball player in high school known for my jump shot, and that was why throwing my grenade directly into the mouth of the bug-alien would succeed.

I’m not sure how this method could transfer over to games like my current game of choice, Pathfinder, but having players narrate their critical hits or critical failures in terms of a flashback could work. The difficulty then becomes monopolizing time. The problem with flashbacks is they often only include one person’s character. This can leave other players out in the cold if they aren’t short narratives like in 3:16. So how do we bring the whole party into that moment?

One way requires quite a bit of work on behalf of the GM. The flashback must be prepared ahead of time. NPCs that represent people that the player having the flashback might meet need to be premade so they can be handed out to the other players. This should allow the GM to include the entire group in the cutscene, but as mentioned it is far more work.

You could attempt a more fluid version of this, and as the player mentions people he interacts with during the flashback hand those sheets out to the other players. This requires some trust in the person telling their character’s history. They need to be able to come up with enough peripheral characters to allow the whole group to play along. And both methods require the player flashing-back to trust the other players won’t mess with their “moment.”

I haven’t personally used a lot of flashbacks in my games. Pathfinder isn’t really geared toward the way more narrative games are. It is something I’m looking to incorporate more into my play, though, and I hope my thoughts on it might allow you to do so as well.

In what ways have you used flashbacks or other cutscenes in your games? How have you incorporated these narratives into games that aren’t specifically designed with them in mind? In what ways do you keep all your players engrossed when one person’s character currently has the spotlight?

Your past informs your future. If today’s article has helped you expand your narrative tools, please consider becoming a supporter. Monthly donations of as little as one dollar can be made to my Patreon. A one-time donation can easily be made to my Paypal. Every bit helps me keep the lights on so I can concentrate on bringing you the content you deserve.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

Using Loses to Help Advance Your Story

A lot of times when going to see a film people are expecting the happy ending. Except for maybe a handful of horror movies the villain doesn’t win. Empire Strikes Back is my favorite of the three original films because it leaves us with the villain out ahead. So why don’t we see the big bad actually being the victor in most games? Is losing that bad for the heroes? There’s an old adage about learning more in defeat than in victory. So can your heroes learn from a decisive loss to your antagonist?

I think it all depends on how you frame it. A loss shouldn’t be the end result of an entire campaign. But one or even multiple losses during the middle part of a game can often compel the heroes to do better. In the search for pieces of an artifact what if the big bad’s minions get there first and make off with some of the pieces. This happens often but in most games I find the heroes are always winning the day. But they still have a chance to defeat the villain before he can actually put the artifact to use, even if he has collected all the pieces.

One of the other hurdles I see is that many groups will fight to the death at every instance. Especially when a GM usually fudged die rolls or doesn’t allow character deaths, the players will just try and persevere. It often needs to be impressed upon the players early in a campaign that it’s ok to flee. Or even if the bad guy has the ability to kill the players he choose not to. Let them know that they would have died but he thinks their beneath him and so he doesn’t finish them off.

Capturing player’s is a difficult method of handing the party a loss. If we look at the end of Empire Solo’s capture is part of the party’s defeat. But in a game the player of solo would now be out of a character and that can be unfair. I find capturing important NPCs works better for this type of defeat so that the group still has some one to rescue but one player doesn’t need to make a new character.

The last issue is the sparing use of defeat. If the players feel like they are being stymied at every turn then they’ll feel like they have no chance. In wrestling the bad guy will often beat on the good guy for a while building up hatred in the fans. But the good guy needs to get a little back, even if he gets cut off again not to soon after. This is called the hope spot and you need to give your players hope.

The ebb and flow of the games drama can be seen in victories and losses. And it’s ok to have more losses than victories because if the player’s succeed in the end all that heartbreak will be vindicated. The question becomes what is the right win to loss ratio for your group. That’s something you’ll have to figure out for yourself. But if you can find the right balance you can really enhance your story telling.

I’ve used defeats in my game but how have you used them in yours? How many losses are you willing to give your players? How do you guide your players to a setback without killing them? What kinds of failures are your group able to handle?

Everyone likes a big win after any defeat. If the CRB has helped you find your success, please consider becoming a supporter. Monthly donations of as little as one dollar can be made to my Patreon. A one-time donation can easily be made to my Paypal. Every bit helps me keep the lights on so I can concentrate on bringing you the content you deserve.

The CRB has been growing as a community on social media. Please join us on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Twitter. My inbox is open on all forums for questions, comments, and discussion. If you don’t want to miss a beat make sure you sign up to have the CRB pushed directly to your e-reading device with Kindle Subscriptions through Amazon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Following Your Own Path

Ways of Making a Pre-Written Adventure Your Own

I am not now, nor have I ever really been a fan of sandbox games. Just because that’s true does not mean, however, that I believe a story must be a straight shot with immutable conclusions. There are many ways for GMs to roll with the punches of their players and make minor adjustments or additions to a game with a defined plot. Many veteran GMs have learned this fine art but I think it’s time to share some ideas with new GMs trying to find their way in the hobby for the first time.

The first way a world can be made to feel more dynamic is its people, so your NPCs are going to help make the game more interesting. Your PCs are going to latch onto all the NPCs you didn’t expect them to like and ignore all the ones you thought would tickle their fancy. This is a fact of gaming. So even when you are throwing in a character that’s only supposed to be met once, you have to be prepared to bring them back if need be.

In one of my games, the players met with a woman who runs the dockside area, kind of like a mob boss. They found a locket that belonged to her father in an underwater part of a dungeon and returned it to her. This was a literally supposed to be a throwaway part of the adventure. There was the possibility they may not even have found the locket or met the NPC. Upon meeting her they took an interest in her and as a side quest for the adventure they’ve run errands for her and we even roleplayed a whole shopping excursion where they wanted some items that only a black-marketeer could find.

I’ve also discussed my dislike for random encounters . But I do add encounters – especially during travel – that are placed to give the players a way to see what’s going on in the region they’re in. Many modules and adventure paths also add these one-off encounters that have nothing to do with the plot. You can expand on these and add other aspects to it to connect the characters past, making their previous actions matter.

As an example one of the Pathfinder adventure paths has an encounter with some boggards. The players are meant to defeat them but my players have a tendency to try and redeem anything that isn’t undead or an evil outsider, so they tried to make the boggards change their way and let them go. Later they encountered a few dead hunters that another group of boggards had killed earlier and this put the characters on a path to hunt down the boggards who wouldn’t change their ways.

A book earlier in the campaign they faced off against another group of boggards and a boggard “witch” escaped. I decided to add this character to the encounter as a recurring villain. Later, when the player went to save the hunter’s younger son who was going to be sacrificed to their dark god, they found this witch leading their efforts. She escaped again and has popped up two books later.

This list of NPCs that have become allies, acquaintances, and recurring enemies – there is a wererat my players hate – is a mile long. The one big rule is don’t force an NPC on the players. Let them pick the ones they like and make those ones a part of your story. A robust cast of characters from the unnamed shopkeeper, to the escaped minor villain, to the town guard whose barbershop quartet you are going to go see can become important characters. And, if need be, events can be made more personal if one of these friendly characters meet their demise by your villains.

Some GMs are afraid of character death, but really a dying character can be a great way to have a little fun and play with the script of the game. One of the characters in my game died and the player really wanted to play something else, so we came up with an idea. The character was resurrected but turned on his partners. He stole a few pieces of the McGuffin they were hunting down and might have kidnapped their paladin – the player was leaving the game. Now the players have a new challenge to overcome to complete their quest. It wasn’t originally a part of the game layout, but it makes the game something created by the character and their actions and not wholly what was written.

So there are plenty of opportunities to put your stamp on a game as a GM. Even if you’re running a module, there are points where you can veer off while still keeping the overall plot intact. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and most of all, don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

In what ways have you made a module your own? What characters did you not expect to become reoccurring that have? How have you adjusted your own stories to take into account the decisions of the players?

Everyone likes to put their stamp on things. If the CRB has helped you get that stamp ready, consider becoming a supporter. Monthly donations of as little as one dollar can be made to my Patreon. A one-time donation can easily be made to my Paypal. Every bit helps me keep the lights on so I can concentrate on bringing you the content you deserve.

The CRB has been growing as a community on social media. Please join us on FacebookGoogle+Tumblr, and Twitter. My inbox is open on all forums for questions, comments, and discussion. If you don’t want to miss a beat make sure you sign up to have the CRB pushed directly to your e-reading device with Kindle Subscriptions through Amazon.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Random Roll 103 - The Randomness

This week’s character presents an interesting conundrum from a background perspective, two actually. The first is he’s raised in an elven homeland, but on the elven home land chart he rolled a non-elven town or village. How can you be from an elven homeland but not from an elven town? The second is his drawback being race. How can one be uncomfortable around others not his race when he is basically a bastard half breed? Does he not trust anyone who isn’t an elf or a human? Or does he truly not trust any of his parent races and only feel comfortable around other half-elves? We’ve gotta lot of work cut out for us so let’s see what we can come up with.

Human Ethnicity:Shoanti (Skoan-Quah)
Height:6’ 4”
Alignment:Chaotic Good

Str: 11
Dex: 18
Con: 12
Int: 15
Wis: 10
Cha: 10

Homeland: Raised in an Elven Homeland - Non-Elven Town or Village
Parents: Both of your parents are alive.
Siblings: You have no siblings.
Circumstance of Birth: [Prophesied] Your birth was foretold, as recently as during the last generation to as far back as thousands of years ago.
Parent's Profession: Thieves
Major Childhood Event: [Competition Champion] You distinguished yourself at an early age when you won a competition. This might have been a martial contest of arms, a showing of apprentice magicians, high stakes gambling, or something mundane like an eating championship.

Influential Associate:[The Fool] One of your close associates was a clown who mocked propriety and custom, instead engaging in wild and somewhat random actions from time to time. After a while, you learned that there was simple wisdom to this foolery—a careless worldview that taught you how to cast off concern.

Conflict: [Major Theft] You stole expensive items.
Conflict Subject: Leader.
Conflict Motivation: Family.
Conflict Resolution: [You Enjoyed It] Those who cling to petty morals have no understanding of what true freedom and power is. The fact is, you enjoyed your part in the conflict and would do it all over again if the opportunity presented itself. Many people know of your misdeed, and they also realize your complete lack of remorse.
Deity/Religious Philosophy: Count Ranalc

Romantic Relationship(s):[Several Inconsequential Relationships] You have had many lovers but no long-lasting, meaningful relationships.
Drawback:[Race] You are truly comfortable only around others of your race, and you have a hard time putting faith or trust in those of races different from your own.

(Trait) Child of the Streets
(Trait) Failed Apprentice
(Trait) Influence
(Trait) Prophesied
(Trait) Shaper of Reality
(Trait) Unpredictable
(Story Feat) Champion
(Drawback) Xenophobic

In the comments give us your ideas for how to make this into a fully realized character? What class would this character take up? What was the prophecy of his birth? What Competition did he win? Who was his foolish friend? And don’t forget to stay tuned Friday when my background hits the CRB.

The CRB not only brings you the creative content you desire but makes you look inside for your own creativity. If you feel both inspired and pushed to created please consider supporting your favorite content provider – that’s me right – by pledging as little as $1 on my Patreon or making a direct donation to my Paypal.

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