Monday, July 25, 2011

July Contest: A Day In The Life

I wanted to start 2011 off with some contests and hopefully we can continue to run various contests each month here on the Wastex Games website. I now present the July Contest...

A Day In The Life

Pick a creature that players are generally unsympathetic toward (drow, gelatinous cube, whatever) and create a "day in the life of..." story exploring the creature's motivation and worldview.

Not the beatles from the monster manual...

There is no minimum or maximum word count required and it is open to anywhere will ship, unless noted on the prize item below.

Submit your entry below and tweet the following on Twitter:
I just entered the July Contest at @WastexGames! #dnd #rpg

If you wish to include any images, include a link to them in the form below. If you do not have a file sharing service, I highly recommend DropBox. It is free and if you use my referral link (here), both our accounts will receive an extra 250 MBs of storage.

The winner will get their choice of one of the three following items:

Lords of Madness - Miniatures 6-pc Booster Pack


Custom made, hand dyed Dragon Chow dice bag.
(Subject to available colors once winner is announced.)


A free character commission by @thedandmom.
Examples can be seen on her Deviant Art gallery.

Use the form below to submit your entry, submissions will be accepted until Sunday, July 31st at 11:59 PM EST. If you have any questions or comments, ask away here in the comments! Good luck!

Contest closed.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lost Artifacts: Contest Winner!

June's winning entry was written by Brent Newhall, for the June Contest: Lost Artifacts. He can also be found on his website Brent P. Newhall's Home(page) and twitter under @brentnewhall.

I hereby present the Bladed Sandals. These nasty little shoes have blades woven or otherwise worked into the sole, allowing a simple side-step to draw blood.

Item Slot: Feet
Property: When you shift, perform a free basic melee attack, dealing 1d6 + half level damage.

Now, give these out to a bunch of kobolds. This basically gives each kobold an extra basic attack every turn, provided there's a square for them to shift into. Watch your players tremble at the sight of kobolds again!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anachronisms: The Veil of Crow

This entry was written by Alex Melchor, for the May Contest: Anachronisms. He can also be found on twitter under @Alex_Melchor.

The sentries had done their job and the alarm had sounded in the camp before the orcs attacked the camp. The savages had certainly taken them by surprise, but Sir Roderick was not worried; his small unit had trained extensively for this situation.

His squire helped him quickly into his chainmail, the horns of the orcs now splitting the night with their horrid bleating. Normally, he would dispense with his plate to face the ambush, but he nodded at the squire to begin helping him don it. His men, with simpler armors, were following suit, not requiring as much help as he did.

The squire worked quickly, pulling the straps to secure the pieces of plate and simply letting them stick together by virtue of whatever magic made them work, saving precious time with each pull.

The men-at-arms were fully armed and armored when the orcs finally breached their camp's perimeter, surprising the orcs with their preparedness and handily routed the raiding party.

What had the wizard called this miraculous strap that had probably saved their lives? The Veil of Crow, or something...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Anachronisms: A Brutal Summer

This entry was written by Terrence van Ettinger, for the May Contest: Anachronisms. He can also be found on twitter under @LandrasGembar.

It was a hot day in the midst of high summer. Garya's face was streaked with sweat as she trudged along the road that led from Greenvale to Ventar. Her endurance for such things was being pushed to its limits, and she feared she might be in danger of passing out at any moment. This summer was, without a doubt, the most brutal she had ever faced, unnaturally hot and extremely dry. Gilleth, learned in matters of weather, had expressed concern that it might indeed be the result of something beyond normal influences.
It was while she was contemplating this situation that Garya caught sight of something--a large, bright yellow something--just sitting at the side of the road. It looked, for all the world, like some sort of odd carriage, but with no horses, and no apparent way to hitch them up to it. The wheels appeared to be made from some strange material, and most of the carriage was metal, not wooden.
"Look at this, will you?" she said, addressing her traveling companions. "I've never seen anything like it!"
"It looks like it should be movable," Quaraz observed, his large Gnomish eyes taking in the sight with undisguised curiosity. "But if it's some sort of carriage--it seems to have no way to hitch it up." He walked directly up to the contraption and began examining it more closely.

"Quaraz, look!" exclaimed Sheliya, who had come up beside him. "It's got these handles on the side!" So saying, Sheliya reached out a slender hand and pulled up on the handle, marveling as a catch thunked from inside the thing, and what was now clearly a door opened up. Six pairs of eyes peered into the thing's interior, with its plentiful seating, made from fabrics none of them had ever seen before, and, inthe front, its massive wheel which reminded Gilleth of a sort of modified ship's wheel.
"Let me ensure that there aren't any traps on this," Sheliya proposed. “If not--at the very least it could perhaps provide us some shade for a moment. It looks like there'd be plenty of room for all of us."
"But wait," broke in Sivenna, her learned cleric's eye catching sight of some writing on the inside of the door. "There's some writing here--Quaraz, can you make sense of it?"
As Sheliya began her investigation of the structure for any sort of traps, Quaraz set to work casting the ritual that would allow him to make sense of the writing. It didn't take long for Sheliya to declare the vehicle safe to enter, and while everyone else piled into it, Quaraz completed his ritual.
"These letters here," he explained. "seem to translate to--” here his eyebrow raised in puzzlement. "Dodge. But why someone would write that on the inside of the door, I can't figure out for the life anymore than I know why the wind blows."
"What about this panel?" asked Garya. In her years growing up in the caverns, and in the time she'd been adventuring, she'd never seen anything that remotely compared with it. "Seems there's writing here too."
Quaraz and Sheliya both moved to examine what the stocky warrior woman was referring to. While the elf's lithe frame allowed her to examine the panel easily while sitting in the seat in front of it, it was necessary for Quaraz to stand to his full height in order to gain access to all the various dials, switches, and other bits that covered one side of the panel.
"What are these vents for?" Sheliya asked him. "If I had to guess, I'd say they had something to do with air flow for some reason. Perhaps that's how it runs?"
"Let me see," Quaraz replied, casting his bright blue-eyed gaze upon the area to which the rogue was pointing. By this time the others had all gathered themselves and their gear inside and had closed the door. Sevenna, who normally stood six foot nine, was forced to hunch over significantly in order to fit, but she vowed that the shade was well worth the extra effort. Especially when Quaraz suddenly flipped a small lever on the panel--and to everyone's amazement, cool air began to blow from the many different vents, not just up in the front, but all along the sides as well.
"What manner of strange magic is this?" Gilleth mused, half to himself and half to the rest of the group. "Well, it seems harmless enough." Just about that moment, a loud honking noise came from the vicinity of what they had decided must be the driver's area. Everyone jumped in surprise as the sound took them completely off-guard.
"Um, I believe that's my fault," Quaraz confessed. "There was a big pushable piece here," (he gestured to center of the large driving wheel.) "And I think we now know what that does."
"Quaz, what've I told you about doing things like that?" Fiarak admonished, calmly yet with a slightly stern edge to his voice. "You've been lucky so far--but one of these days--”
"Aye I know, Fiarak," Quaraz answered the red-haired, leather-clad ranger. "But I just had to know."
"You Gnomes and your inquisitiveness," the Eladrin muttered. All through this conversation, Sheliya was still examining the panel, and now returned to the compartment she'd seen when she first went over the carriage before. Taking another look at the actual contents, she came across a ring of keys.
The six of them continued to investigate the various parts of the strange carriage for a while longer, and eventually, between Sheliaya's defts, Quaraz's Gnomish fascination and his skill in understanding how things were put together, they eventually figured out just how to control the thing. They found that, even without draft animals to pull it, the thing could, in fact, move. It took some trial and error, but with experimentation and suggestions from Quaraz, Sheliya began to figure out just how to control the thing's movements, which were far faster than any carriage they'd ever seen. It was clear that, if they could keep it going, they could bein the next town far ahead of schedule, and avoid much of the brutal heat that had oppressed them thus far. Quaraz, reading through some documents he'd located, came to learn that this fast-moving, self-propelling carriage was known as a bus in the language of the strange writing, but one thing was certain: it sure made travel much more bearable.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Agile Gamemaster: The Stat/Initiative/Combat Tool

Welcome to the Agile Gamemaster series. In this series, I will talk about some tools and concepts that gamemasters can use at the gaming table to respond quickly to whatever comes along.

As a gamemaster, you are the single most important element at the gaming table. You are responsible for a large part of the creative energy that happens during each session. You must be ready with plots, adventures and information about the world in which the characters exist. Being an agile gamemaster, then, means that you are prepared, quick with information and able to adjust to whatever is happening at the gaming table. You should not be a hindrance to what is happening, but rather be a driving force at all times. Being agile also means that you are not content with where you are as a gamemaster but are constantly trying to improve your gamemastering skills and the tools you use.

When you sit down in the gamemaster’s chair you assume a number of gaming responsibilities that are easily identified, things like designing in-game locations and events, portraying non-player characters and running combat. There are also a number of things that are not immediately obvious that are just as important and in a few cases more so.

One of those hidden items is in the area of combat management, specifically the tracking of combatant stats, initiative and effects. Without a solid, manageable way to control this area of the game, you will quickly find yourself spending too much time juggling notes and scrambling for room on the table. You will miss some of the things that are the very reason you game in the first place: the action that is happening right in front of you. What you need is a tool that can give you quick access to character and NPC stats; easily display initiative; track the effects that are applied to each combatant as they happen; and not take up a lot of extra space at the gaming table.

As a weathered gamemaster, I have tried over a dozen tools with mixed results. Sticky notes, 3x5 cards, custom-made tracking sheets, notebook paper and even digital devices. Each has great points but is lacking in others or has major drawbacks. Some give volumes of information but take up too much room. Others are small and compact but lack flexibility. The digital tools distract me with their multiple layers of functionality and too often take my eyes and attention away from the table. Some of the things I tried were just plain bad ideas.

Recently I hit on a tool that has minimal drawbacks and outstanding results. Have you ever noticed those little sales displays that sit on your table at restaurants? The ones that stand tall and in the way while you eat so that you will notice the desert selections and maybe spend extra money on your meal. What if, instead of deserts, they held all those important stats about your characters and NPCs right where you could see them easily? I call it the Stat-Initiative-Combat Tool or SInC for short (pronounced sync). SInC has high visibility but allows me to keep my eyes and attention on the game. It is easy to use, stays in place and takes up very little surface area on the table. I can quickly adjust the amount of information displayed. Effects and status markers can easily be added or removed. And they allow the initiative order to be displayed to everyone at a glance.


[caption id="attachment_1695" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Stat-Initiative-Combat (SInC) Tool"]Stat-Initiative-Combat close up[/caption]

In this single tool, I have finally found something that is game system neutral and has a permanent place in my gamemastering tool box.  This close up of the tool in action is from one of my groups gaming sessions.

What follows is a set of instructions that will help you to create your own version of the SInC tool.

To make your own, you will need the following items:

  • Table top menu stands. The shorter ones work well because they have a heavier and more stable base. You will need to get these from a restaurant supply store, which you can find online by searching for “tabletop menu card holders.” They range from $.50 to $2.00 each. Get as many as you think you will need. I used the 2¼” clip-type stand with 3” base.

  • Large craft sticks, tongue depressors or long Popsicle sticks. One for each base you are going to make. Available at any craft store in packs of 50 for about $3.00.

  • Miniature clothes pins. Also available at craft stores. A bag of 50 for about $5.00.

  • Rubber bands. You will need one for each stand.

  • Black magic marker or black model paint.

Steps to create your SInC tools:

  1. Paint or color your craft sticks black. This will help them to visually disappear when you use them.

  2. When they are dry, slide them into the holder portion of the stand in an upright position.

  3. Wrap a rubber band around the base of the clip. This will firmly hold the sticks upright and add a little more weight to each base. You can also disassemble them easily for storage and transport.

  4. Now take printouts of your preferred method of displaying character and NPCs stats and clip them to the stand. I used Wizards of the Coast DDI monster tool to print out creature stats and a custom Excel worksheet that formats all of the character information for the party and mounted them as you see in the pictures below.

  5. I painted one of the miniature clothes pins green to indicate which combatant is currently active in initiative.

You are now ready to game, and hopefully you are a just a little more agile.

Here are a few shots of the SInC tool in action.

[caption id="attachment_1696" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="SInC tool gamemaster view"]SInC Tool GM View[/caption]

You can see in the picture above the green clothes pin indicating the character whose turn it is and a small stack of monster and trap print outs waiting for their encounter. You can very easily create your own stat sheets or use what is available from whatever game system you group uses.

[caption id="attachment_1697" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The Throne Room battle "]SInC Tool in action The Throne Room battle[/caption]

This was the battle of the throne room. There were 5 characters and 6 different types of monsters in this encounter. It was easy for me to manage the almost 60 combatants shown with no confusion or missed information. You can see many of the different game aids from Wizards of the Coast and Dark Platypus that we use here.