Burn Everything Gaming

RPGs and more

Leave a comment

D&D 5e Hack: Final Fantasy Summoners

I found an old story that I started writing about someone that wanted to play a summoner in D&D, inspired by Rydia from Final Fantasy 6. I never finished it because the mechanics of that D&D edition didn’t really allow for a summoner. So I thought it would be fun to take 5th edition and make a summoner, thinking that the Conjuration school for Wizards would make it easier.

I was wrong. Wizards only get 3 of the spells that summon creatures: conjure minor elemental, conjure elemental, and Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound. Those are 4th and 5th level spells, meaning your wizard has to get to level 7 before they can cast one, once a day. L The other conjuration spells are for divine classes, not arcane. So apparently Rydia was a Druid, not a sorceress. I suppose that does explain the green hair.

So today, for all of you RPG Final Fantasy fans (or people that know Final Fantasy Fans that want to play RPGs), we are going to give some examples of how to hack D&D 5th edition to come up with a summoner type character. Hopefully you find at least one option useful.


Option 1: Flavor Text

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Player Control

The biggest difference between a GM and a Player is how much control they have over the story. Now a good GM will allow the players to influence the game’s backstory and populate the world with their NPCs. But even then, the majority of the game is something that the GM has control over. They decide which rules to follow, what plot each session will face, and what opposition the players will face.

In real life, we do not have any control of any of those things. Not really. We can try to influence them as best we can, but when it really comes down to it we do not have control of what happens to us, what rules we have to follow, or what new twists will come into our lives.

This makes playing RPGs an excellent place to learn, from experience, just what control we do have in our lives and what we can do with that control. Yes, games really are a place to learn things that can be applied to real life. Who knew?

What We Have Control Of

Continue reading

1 Comment

Reacting to Players

Improvisational GMing is becoming more and more of an accepted practice in our hobby, to the point where many gamers actually expect it. Today we want to cover a few of our favorite basic go-to moves for when a player does something unexpected. Hopefully these ideas will prove useful to you in your own games as GMs or at least get you thinking of more ways to handle your unexpected player actions.

Keep in mind that these improvisations are geared towards players that are invested in the story. Games benefit greatly from feeding off of player enthusiasm and energy. If a player is trying to derail your game or do something unexpected for meta-game reasons, that is just an unwanted distraction.

Unexpected Interest in an NPC

Sometimes an NPC becomes more interesting than they were originally intended. Maybe the PC grabs a random young boy to send a message for them. Maybe a hero gets smitten by a princess. Or maybe the innocent beggar does something that the players find suspicious and obsess over. It happens to GMs all the time: an unimportant NPC suddenly gets pulled into the spotlight by the players.

The tricky part of having an unimportant NPC become important lies in the conflict. If you’ve already planned out your adventure, then you have already assigned all the important NPCs to the important NPC roles your adventure needs. But if you dismiss an NPC that the players show interest in, they are likely to become less invested in your world and thus less curious about those NPCs you intended to be important.

I find that the easiest thing to do is make that NPC what the players expect, or at least as close as makes sense. If the PCs suspect a random NPC of being the main villain for example, have them working for the main villain so you don’t waste all the work invested in the actual villain NPC. On the other hand, if the party really likes a shop keeper you pulled out of a hat for a random shopping trip, have them continue to be a shop keeper the next time the party is in the area.

Avoiding the Intended Path

Continue reading


Classes Do Not Define Us

I ran a one-shot a while back with D&D 5th edition, and we had a last minute player ask if he could join in. There was only one pregenerated character left, so I told him that as long as he did not mind playing that character then he was welcome to join us. He looked at the character and said “I don’t really like to play barbarians. I like to roleplay conversations without slobbering over everyone and actually think before I hit things.”

A couple of other players supported this view by stating that they had not wanted the barbarian either for this reason. I asked to see the sheet. The character had a Charisma of 12 and an Intelligence of 11, so slightly above average for both. Not a mindless animal by stats standards. And the character had the artisan background, so they were very creative and easily plugged into high society. But everyone seemed to have this idea that all barbarians drool and kill anything that moves and cannot ever have a conversation with anyone.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to watch a barbarian rage and smash things. Especially when that barbarian is a gnome or goblin taking on a hill giant! And the purpose of a class is certainly to give you benefits towards a certain style of playing (or in this case, combat). But class is only one part of a character, and not even the most important part of a character’s personality in any game I have yet played.

What You Are Good At

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Character Discovery With AGE

It has been a long time since I had a chance to play the AGE system by Green Ronin Publishing. I love, and often recommend, the Dragon Age game as a great introduction to roleplaying games. The standard Fantasy setting is also amazing, and anyone interested in the Titansgrave adventure that Geek and Sundry does on Tabletop would certainly enjoy that futuristic fantasy setting as well.

The dice mechanics are simple, the stunts system actually supports roleplaying in an easy way to learn, and the character creation takes only 15 minutes once you know what you are doing. Actually, it is more of a character discovery than a character generation because so much of it is based on random rolls and then making limited choices based on those results. I’m really hoping that the Sentinels Comic RPG does something similar, but that’s another blog post entirely.

Last week we did a blog post called Making A Character You Want To Play that talked about converting your vision of a great character into the actual character sheet. Then we expanded on that concept in Better Characters, pointing out how to make sure your character would be enjoyable to play for multiple sessions. Previously, we also looked at playing Pregenerated And Regenerated Characters and talked a bit about making a character your own while being true to that character.

But while all of these topics have touched on Character Discovery, we’ve never actually addressed it in and of its self. So let’s talk about that now!

What Is Character Discovery?

Discovery is a big appeal to RPGs, especially since the only limits to a game are imagination and continuity. The more we play, the more we discover about the world and its inhabitants. We also learn about ourselves, and the characters that we create, as they interact with the story and the world.

Character discovery is not just for the rest of the party to discover your character’s secrets, habits, and moral alignment. The player that is controlling the character and making all the decisions for them is also discovering more and more about their character as they play. You learn which virtues they will stick with, what lines they are willing to cross, and what will ultimately change them as they are tested time and again in the campaign.

Have you ever played with someone that wants to skip the character creation process and just play a pregenerated character? You might expect them to just be in it for the combat scenes, but then you find that they are more interested in the story of their character than actually succeeding checks? Or maybe you have even been that player yourself. We would expect someone that is so deeply into their character development to be more interested in their creation, but many creative players don’t want that sort of control. They want that part done so they can skip ahead to discovering their character.

Getting To Know Your Character in Creation

Fortunately, the AGE system provides a nice alternative that can make everyone happy. You roll your stats, social class, and racial traits. You choose your character class, class traits, and race from a limited selection. The personality, goals, and ties are yours to choose from with no real limit. And sure, different GMs may allow different amounts of freedom with choices rather than rolls, but if you are interested in discovering a character then I highly recommend you design them per the rules.

You get your first glimpse at the character when you roll stats. This will show you a basic idea of how strong, fast, smart, perceptive, enchanting, and charismatic they are. So you make your first choice (character race) and get a little better focus on your character with all the things that go with that race. Then you make another roll for racial traits, then another decision, then another roll, and finally you are ready to pick your class.

Now you may have a character class in mind with your concept going into the character creation, but by the time you actually get to choosing a class you have an idea of what your character’s capabilities will be, which means that by this point you will start to see a personality. Do you want to play a spellcaster even if your magic is low? Then you will have to ask yourself why they are not as skilled as others. Do you want to play a rogue despite the high magic score? What makes them so powerful in magic if not the ability to cast spells?

By going back and forth between rolls and decisions, the AGE mechanics encourage reactions to unexpected (Discovered) results. You interpret the dice results and move forward, learning enough about your character to discover their base personality. But of course, you are not done discovering your character yet. There is more to learn in the actual adventure!

Character Discovery in Gameplay

Since there are only 3 classes, character uniqueness is going to depend on personality and playstyle. This is exactly the sort of thing that players who thrive on discovery want, even if they sometimes don’t know it yet. You try your first combat and find what does and does not work, and it teaches you what your character favors as well as how combat-capable they are. So once again, you react to dice rolls and interpret the results into a decision about your character’s personality.

The same works for social encounters. You may roll wonderfully for haggling and discover your character is a penny pincher. You may also roll terribly on a flirt check and discover that your character is hopeless. In this early game, you learn from the mechanics who your character is and push them to discover more capabilities. The character levels up and gets more distinguished, until you can hardly believe that 2 characters came from the same starting class.

As a character fleshes out, and most of their personality is discovered, the method of discovery shifts more to the story its self. Decisions are made, sacrifices are necessitated, and complexity reveals itself. Dragon Age is especially good at encouraging tough choices for a character. Do you use the magic seed to save the princess and let the pixies die, or do you plant the seed so the pixies will have a home but let the demon control the princess and terrorize her kingdom?

The choices your character makes help show you who they really are, and of course this is constantly changing. A character that always punches first and ask questions later may grow to regret this instinct and try to improve themselves. A cautious bard may pick up a magic item and try it out just to see what it does. A lonely hunter may find love and now have to wrestle with a new priority in their life. As the story changes, the characters change with it and change the story. And the best part is that most RPGs are not solo games, so you are also discovering things about every character in the party.

Exploring Party Relations

A good campaign is like a relationship. There are lots of surprises as you discover new things about each other in the beginning. But once you get past that initial stage, you discover how things tie together and shape yourself and everyone you interact with. The wonders never cease, and the surprises are all the more surprising because the more time you are around someone the less you expect to be surprised.

For example, your group will likely get in a rhythm established in the early game of the campaign. You will quickly learn who goes out in front for combat and who fights from a distance. You learn who can take hits and who needs protecting. You learn who is effective at persuading NPCs and who is entertaining to watch interact with them. You learn who scouts ahead when you explore, what order you march in, and who ultimately is the expert in various skill checks. And you will probably figure out fairly quickly who the group’s moral compass is.

But once you have discovered that comfort level, you start to deviate from it. Your group may have other characters that are fairly good at skill checks and want a chance to shine, or they may have story reasons for not defaulting to the comfortable party member. Characters will make dumb decisions, because everyone does, and sometimes players would rather be entertained than get it right. This also teaches you what characters consider important.

New interactions grow from these encounters. The orc and Halfling develop a fastball special attack. The dwarf develops a crush on the elf he did not trust before. The human saves the gnome’s life. The goliath pranks the half-elf. Eventually players are having their characters do things just to see how it changes the story so that they can try to discover new sides of everyone.

Closing Thoughts

Not everyone wants a long deep story-focused game, and that’s ok. If you are more combat or stat focused, you can plan your character out from scratch to level 20. If you are more about achievements than discovery, keep a list of quests and work hard to make sure you are never split from the party. And if you are just there to socialize with other players, then have fun and just try not to make anyone uncomfortable.

A roleplaying game always works best when everyone is on the same page about what sort of game that they are playing. It helps to have a variety of sticks, stones, rubbers, and glues in your group. It makes things interesting. But the ultimate story goal needs to be something that everyone is working towards.

I still recommend the AGE system to anyone that wants to learn RPGs. If you are not familiar with the Dragon Age games, or you are introducing a young group, the Fantasy AGE system may be a better fit for you. And by all means, watch the Geek and Sundry videos to build some excitement about playing the game!

If you have any stories about surprise discoveries with a character, we would love to hear them. Or if you have any questions, feel free to throw them our way!


Making a Character You Want to Play

There are a lot of things to consider when you are building a new character. What is their personality going to be like? What background do you imagine for them? What role will they fill in the group? Which mechanics (skills, stunts, etc.) are they going to be high or low at? What unique powers do I want to pay for? How will the other players view this character?

Character design can be a lot of fun, and most systems spend a lot of time and money dedicated to this stage of roleplaying. Most people have an opinion or two on this subject, so I thought I would share my 2 bits on the subject.

Choosing a Concept

I like to start with a character concept, something that would be fun to play, and then see about making it fit, though I do not begrudge anyone that starts with one of the next 2 sections below.

The 2 main things to consider with concept are the setting and your own personal goals. The setting of a game is typically designed for a certain type of character: adventurers in D&D, samurai in L5R, semi-normal people in Cthulu. A large man with a crossbow is going to feel different in each of these 3 settings, and thus a setting will affect what sort of concept you want to build.

Personal goals are also important in choosing a concept. If you want to challenge yourself to play something new, choose a concept that you never play. If you just want to have reliable fun, choose a concept that you enjoy playing. Your creativity is only going to be limited by the next step.

Making it Fit

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Your First Fate Adventure

As the name might imply, this is an adventure designed to springboard a campaign and introduce people to your gaming world. It is especially useful for getting people that have very little experience with RPGs but want to learn, as they will be able to relate to the characters easily. It can be used as a one-shot adventure, but the players are likely going to want to continue if things go well.

The premise of this adventure is simple. The player characters are all very young adults (or almost adults) that have grown up on stories of adventures and want to experience their own stories for whatever reason. Their character sheets start out very ordinary and mundane, but hopefully between the drive of the players and the experiences of their first real adventure, they will come out being quite fantastical.

The Cast

Have the player characters pick an aspect from each of the categories listed below to build their character. Skill points and stunts listed with that aspect are also added to the character when they choose it for their own. It is, in my experience, a fun way to ease new players into character building. But if you do not think it is a good fit for you or your group, feel free to pre-assemble starting characters beforehand.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

How to Prepare Your Very First Tabletop RPG

One of the hardest places to start gaming is at the beginning. Our hobby is very intimidating from the outside, especially to people that really want to get in. There are so many systems, so many rules, and so much riding on that first adventure.

Today we are offering some advice for those of you that have never run a game before as a Game Master (or Dungeon Master or Beloved Master or Storyteller or Referee or whatever else you kids call it these days). We want to offer some practical advice, and a LOT of encouragement, to get you to try something new and include/make some great friends.

Please believe me, as someone who waited 10 years to finally cross the fence, the other side, that it is SO worth it. Tabletop RPGs are even more fun than they seem, and while not every minute of every campaign will be perfect the rewards far outweigh the fears. Hopefully the thoughts below can help you start gaming with your friends.

Why Write This Post?

I was recently looking at old YouTube blogs I had subscribed to, and in one of them the blogger said something that really hit home. She also thought that she and her friends would really enjoy getting into a tabletop rpg, but she had no idea where to begin. How could they get started?


Continue reading


Playing with Followers

It is a good sign that you are invested in a campaign when you care enough about an NPC to bring them along with you on an adventure. Followers come in all shapes and sizes, even more varied than people (since…you know…aliens). They often help out in tricky situations, taking less than a fair share of the XP and dying in a noble sacrifice so that the PC heroes can save the day.

Today we are going to talk about how to incorporate followers into your game without ruining the game. You don’t want NPCs to be stars over the PCs, and you certainly don’t want to spend two hours waiting for an NPC to take their turn in a conflict. Followers make a great support cast and a fun way to help players and GMs really care about the world.

So if you want to play a game and include some PC followers, here are a few things you should probably know…

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Bartles and Bards in RPGs

The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology is a way of organizing MMO players into 4 different categories: Killers, Achievers, Socializers, and Explorers. MMO designers still use this system today because knowing what types of players prefer your game makes it easier to market your game. I recommend the Extra Credits YouTube episode for more details on understanding how this all works.

Now a while back, we did a blog post on our own categorizing: Sticks and Stones, Rubber and Glue. In that post, we classified RPG player characters into 4 different categories: Sticks, Stones, Rubber, and Glue. The purpose of that article was not only to address differences in player characters but also to point out that a good RPG group needs all four of these player types.

Today we are going to take a step back and look at RPG PCs from a GM’s point of view. Like MMO designers with the Bartle Quotient, a GM that knows her players’ styles and preferences can better design adventures and campaigns to let players thrive or target new players for recruiting. But GMs also often have to be bards, doing a little bit of everything through storytelling and performance to make it seem more real.

Continue reading