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Welcome to Valheim!

On Saturday I ran the first session of my new D&D 5th Edition campaign. It’s set into my own homebrew campaign, which focuses on the continent Valheim, which is being colonized by the people hailing from the Shattered Lands to the south.

Inspired by the Elder Scrolls computer game series, things started off with the whole party in chains and on their way to Valheim and an unknown fate. When the ship arrived at the port in the city called Threshold (my hommage to the D&D of old) they were escorted by the city guard to meet their Captain, a Khazad (dwarf) by the name of Torek Ironfist. He was examining an Imperial order while explaining them that they now were members of the Threshold City Guard and under his command.

From there the newly “drafted” recruits, a Dragonborn fighter (who wants to become eldritch knight later), a Human Cleric and former officer of the Imperial Army, and a Tiefling Sorceror and Folk Hero, started their first night shift. After having a cup of Khazad darkbrew (aka coffee) and a couple of tasty donuts they investigated the weird sounds citizens have reported hearing in the cemetery. They met the pale and somewht weird groundskeeper and heard the howling screams coming from all directions. Hearing these sounds instilled fear in them, so they sought a way to plug their ears. Using candlewax this was easily done, and they were able to investigate further.

Since the adventurers weren’t that easily scared off, the unknown powers at work here sent three skeletons after them. A short and quite dramatic fight ensued and eventually they noticed that the groundskeeper’s hut was abandoned. From the clues they gathered it was obvious that the groundskeeper had been dabbling with necromancy and has now fled his shack through an underground tunnel which led into the canalisation.

After reporting back to Torek the session was concluded. As I’ve noticed in other play sessions before, D&D 5th Edition is much easier to play and run than many editions before and especially the new background options make the characters much more interesting. My players seemed to enjoy themselves as well and were already making plans what they wanted to achive in our next session. My homework is now to creating a map of Threshold and the surrounding area, so that we can all visualize things more easily. A GM’s work is never done!

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Review: Traveller Spinward Marches – Excellent Maps for Explorers and Merchants

I don’t think I need to tell you about the importance of maps in roleplaying games. Even the most crudest of maps can still be a very helpful tool in any campaign. A great map might even help to immerse the players more deepy into the game.

An excellent example of such a map is the Traveller Spinward Marches map by the German oublisher 13 Mann Verlag. In its print edition it’s 96 cm x 68 cm, printed on both sides, and even laminated. I am not sure if you can use boardmarkers to write on it, but it should at least be protected from greasy hands or spilled drinks. As a physical handout the map is just awesome. It’s made to look like a product available in the actual Traveller universe. One side shows the scout map of the Spinward Marches, with every system detailed. You don’t need to look up stats in a book, everything you need is right there on the map.

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The other side features the trade map for the same area, and features all of the information needed for crew of merchants trying to make a buck in this region of space. Especially the trade map can look a bit intimidating at first, but should come in handy during the game – especially if your campaign focuses on trade.

Some people may ask themselves whether a physical map still makes sense in today’s world. I have to admit, I still like having physical handouts at the table. And the map is definitely a great eye-catcher.

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If you prefer a digital version of the map, you can get it as well – which actually contains one PDF for each of the two maps. The digital edition is a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. It looks great, is only 7 MB in file size and looks pretty good even on a tablet PC, but it’s just not as useful as the printed map – at least in my opinion. Your mileage may of course vary.

The print edition of the map sets you back €24.95 (about 31$) which is a pretty fair price, if you ask me. It’s available directly from 13 Mann or through local retailers. The PDF version is also available from DriveThruRPG and sets you back $15.55. If you are a fan of any edition of the Traveller RPG and if you’re playing in the Spinward Marches, you definitely should check this product out.

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Realism in Roleplaying Games

Realism is a subject that regularly crops up in online and offline discussions about roleplaying games. Especially people who prefer a simulationist approach to roleplaying games tend to talk about this a lot. How realistic are the rules? Is it realistic that may character would do this or know that? In my opinion there’s no realism in roleplaying game and it’s actually a good thing.

At first let’s look at reality from a philosophical standpoint. Is reality objective? Or is it subjective? Is reality something you can measure or is it merely something we – as humans – have agreed on. I am no philosopher, but in my opinion, there are different kinds of realities. There’s the physical reality which we can measure and which is pretty objective, but the reality which we perceive is a totally different beast. Everything we perceive is ultimately distorted by our limited senses. We only see a small part of the visual spectrum, we can’t hear every frequency, and compared with a dog our sense of smell is basically non-existent. And if we move away from our senses into the realm of other “truths”, reality is basically just the major consensus narrative we can agree on.

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