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DM’s Corner: Custom Magic Items

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You’ve decided to reward the hard efforts of your players with a custom magical item of your own design. Before you reach into your handy bag of tricks to deliver your painstakingly crafted unique trinket, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves a few important questions.

 

The first thing you must consider when adding a custom item to the world is simply this: Is the item broken?

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Now when we say broken in this instance we don’t mean whether or not the item is intact. Rather, the questions is will this item throw your world out of balance? Will the players throw your story into permanent chaos by introducing this item? Is their new bauble so valuable that it will destroy an economy, or provide a loop hole to the delicate balance of powers that be?

 

More importantly, ask yourself, does this item modify or amend an existing rule, or further still, introduce a new mechanic or rule to the game? If the answer is yes, you would do well to consider scaling down the power of this item, or at least running it by another player or DM before implementing it. Chances are the item will change the game in unforeseen ways if it goes beyond the scope of an established rule set.

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Next, we must consider whether or not the item is worth anything to the players, or if all your hard work is now just a fancy gold coin. Will the item be used by your players? We certainly would not give a cloak of enhanced Stealth to a party that has no sneaky characters, nor a Holy Avenger to a party of evil Necromancers and Warlocks. Make sure that the item you give will be as valued by the players as it is to you, and mechanically useful.

 

As a cherry on top be sure the item is descriptively unique, and not just another line of stats or buffs to be lost and forgotten in the shuffle. Describe the unique settings of gems that adorn your item.  Spend a sentence on the rare materials and meticulous craftsmanship. Offer a hint at some previous owner or mysterious past that has left its mark on the item. Get your players invested in the item by making it stand out in their mind and being memorable to them!

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What are some of your favorite unique magical items from past adventures? Let us know in the comments below! Don’t forget that every Wednesday is RPG Night at The Pawn & Pint, and our DM’s always play for free! Also, if you spend more than $5 in our retail section you’ll benefit from our House Rule and gain a token worth a Free Re-Roll to be used in your games tonight! Last but not least, remember the golden rule of all RPGs…

 

Have Fun!

Member Appreciation Month

This April, as a special thank you to all of you, dear members, we are happy to announce:

Member Appreciation Sale 25% Off All Games Retail!

 

 

First of all, thank you so much for your patronage.  We have been in business now for exactly 6 months, and in that time, we have expanded our game library, offered a great selection of snacks and drinks and have run loads of tournaments – resulting in customers winning dozens of prizes!

This month we’ve got a lot of cool things going on – specifically our online membership portal and our Member Appreciation Sale!

Starting April 1st – Members will get 25% off MSRP of ALL GAME RETAIL

Yes, you read that correctly – we are going to be giving you what may be the best deal ever as a thank you for your awesome support!

We’re also willing to order games for you from our distributor – so you can either ask us if we can get you a game or look it up on ACDD’s website and have us order it for you!

Additionally, we are making maintaining your membership simpler with our quick and easy membership portal – simply sign up for a recurring payment by going to our website and sign up in our membership section or simply clicking the relevant link below:

 

Monthly Individual Membership ($25 a Month)
Monthly Family Membership ($40 for 2 Adults and Children)
Year Individual Membership ($195 for a Year) ~ $16.25 a month!
Year Family Membership ($300 for a Year for 2 Adults and Children) ~ $12.50 a month for each adult!
And of course – if you are already a member, you can manage your membership at any time via this portal.

 

In Other News:

There’s a ton of cool stuff coming up (check out our calendar) We continue to work on our construction and can’t wait to serve alcohol; hopefully late spring, early summer, as well as a variety of other delicious snacks!

One of the coolest thing’s we’ve got going on is our new T-Shirts! We are doing a limited print run of some KC Nerd Pride Shirts designed by Jordyn Tuttle, our resident designer and founder of Fluid Atom Design.

Check out these awesome designs, available for pre-order on our website for just $20 [+$2 for each XL]

Come down and visit us soon at our location in the Crossroads at 221 Southwest Boulevard, KCMO!

 

DM’s Corner: To Roll or Not To Roll?

To Roll or Not To Roll, That is the Question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the stings and groans of natural 1’s, or to take up dice against a swarm of mobs and by opposing, crit them.

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In the course of running a game you are going to find situations where it is difficult to say whether or not your players need to make a check. Perhaps they’re in town pumping the locals for information, or examining a room for specific hidden items. It is possible that by leaving elements of the game to chance, you lose out on key story elements by missed rolls. Conversely you can shy away from rolls so much there is no real chance of failure for clever or silver tongued players. Today, we look more closely at when to use a skill check or combat roll, and when to let players roleplay through a situation.

Continue reading DM’s Corner: To Roll or Not To Roll?

Sci Fi Feature: Pandemic!

 

In the very near future, what started as a small footnote on the news has spiraled into a world wide epidemic! Entire cities have been laid low by the emerging virus, with several strands having already mutated and spread across the continents. It is up to you and a small team of specialists from the Center for Disease Control to gain a handle on the worsening situation before the real possibility of human extinction is made manifest. Now is your time to save the world!

Continue reading Sci Fi Feature: Pandemic!

DM’s Corner: Fudge It!

The epic moment has arrived! The Red Dragon roars, its colossal girth swaying in the chamber. Only one party member remains standing. Summoning his courage, he makes one last, desperate attack. A hit! The blow lands with a deafening roar of steel on scale. The hero checks his dice; 14 Damage! You look down at your sheet and see the Dragon’s health…

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15 Hit Points remain…

As the Dungeon Master there often will come a moment where your duty is first to the better telling of the story, and less to the specific machinations of the rule set. Today, we look at times when it is appropriate, even beneficial, for the DM to bend the rules, ever so slightly, to better tell a climactic story.

In the above example, even though our colossal red dragon would certainly be very much alive at 1 Hit Point, and could almost certainly annihilate the last hero causing a wipe, this is a moment when the DM can “Fudge It.” To Fudge a Dice Roll means to adjust the outcome by a small margin to obtain a desirable result. In this case, allowing the 14 Hit Points to Kill the 15 Health Dragon, that likely started well over 750 Health, is a minor concession.

Consider the outcomes. When following the letter of the rules, the Dragon survives, the players perish, the campaign ends in utter defeat. Your friends leave the game dejected, downtrodden and disheartened to have come so close yet be so far.

Alternatively, your friends slay the dragon with their last desperate attack! Elation erupts from the table! Players embrace, their heroes saved, their mission complete, and a story is told between them of the time they bested a colossal red dragon by the skin of their teeth.

The story is better served, the player experience enhanced, and the game enjoyed more thoroughly by the Fudged Roll. Remember that the mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons, like all RPGs, are primarily meant to serve as guidelines. You as the DM should implement house rules, including fudging dice results and health scores, in order to better serve the experience of the story.

his can be done in many ways. You might allow a successful perception check to fail in order for the player’s Rogue to move into position to gain a plot item. You might turn a roll that would incapacitate a player into one that trips him instead, leaving him disarmed with a more desperate situation to snatch victory from. You might allow an area of effect spell like a fireball encompass an extra target or miss an important story item that would otherwise be incinerated. The possibilities are endless.

THis is not to say you should forego following the letter of the law in conulting rule books entirely. Rather, it is to remind you that your roll as Dungeon Master is first to facilitate a memorable and enjoyable gaming experience, and second to ensure the rules are followed strictly. Experiment, and find your own mix of house rules. Every situation is different, trust your instincts, and let the story grow to its mighty crescendo!

In what ways have you implemented house rules or bent mechanics to better serve the story? Let us know in the comments below! Don’t forget that every Wednesday is RPG Night at Pawn & Pint! Mention this article at the door and you will receive a token featuring our own house rule, allowing you to Re-Roll one Dice in your RPG Tonight! And as always, remember the number one rule of any RPG…

Have Fun!

DM Corner: Making Loot Memorable

This post by Donald the DM 

You’ve done it! After weeks of planning, hours of struggling, and an epic climax that couldn’t have played out more perfectly, the Villain has been slain! With a last rasping grasp he falls, clutching his bloody side, his words lost in his death rattles. As the darkness reascends and the light shines into the once tainted realm, you reach down and grasp the ancient artifact at your feet. Lifting it high, the trophy for your long fought struggle, you now obtain…

… a +1 Longsword.

There’s no quicker way to ruin a climax than failing to maintain immersion when awarding loot. The reward at the end of any grand adventure should have some tangible weight to it to accompany the feeling of accomplishment. Today we look at making loot more memorable for your adventuring party.

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All the loot in the dungeon! 

First, whenever your have a villain or even challenge that you’ve spent time writing into detail, spare a few additional sentences to make the reward a little more meorable and worthwhile as well. For example, it isn’t “600 gold coins”, it’s, “A waterlogged chest filled with crusty doubloons, many from far off lands, valued together with an appraise check at 600 gold.” Both instances have essentially 600 gold coins, however the second makes the treasure tangible, more real, and even allows RP opportunity if players remember that the coins are likely of pirate origin.

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And probably cursed…

When introducing treasure items, give each one two sentences. The first should describe the components that are unique to the physical body of the item. The second should give a unique flavor to the item, giving it a hint of a story or past. For instance, it isn’t a “+1 Longsword”, it is “An ancient blade of exquisite craftsmanship, shining in blue steel, sharp to the touch despite its age. The hilt is badly scarred, though the blade itself is virtually unblemished.” Both are functionally simple +1 weapons, but the second has meaning now to the players.

Further, you can go a step further by presenting a token to the player. Perhaps you hand an index card with the stats written on it, for the players to trade the item between themselves. Perhaps you print an image similar to the item you wish to describe, so to give it a real visage to associate with. Perhaps you go even further, presenting an actual small prop to another player for a supreme artifact, such as a thrift store gem for the Soul-Gem containing a Deity’s Spirit! The possibilities are endless.

By no means should every single item in an adventure be this detailed, such an undertaking would be unbearably cumbersome to players and DM alike. However, by giving special attention and flavor to a few choice bits of treasure, you will make your stories all the more memorable, and your players all the more invested.

What are some of the most memorable items you’ve ever looted or rewarded as loot? How did you make them standout for the story? Share your adventures in the comments below! Remember, every Wednesday Night is RPG Night at Pawn & Pint. Mention this article at the Door and you will receive a House Rule Coupon that allows you to Re-Roll 1 Dice in your game that night! And as always, DM’s play for Free!

How to Play an Evil Character without Messing Up the Party

“So, Lone Starr, now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.” We love the bad guys in movies and TV shows – and well done bad guys can make or break a book, movie or show. However – when it comes to playing an RPG – many people advise steering clear of the moustache twirling villains in order to have a party that actually get’s something done. In the following article, we will tackle how to play an Evil character in any sort of party.

What is evil?

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“I’ll have puppies with a side of kittens for breakfast! And don’t forget to kick the orphans this morning – come to think of it, they look a bit plump, are you feeding them AGAIN?”

We all have a variety of actions, phrases and people we would associate with “Evil” – but in our increasingly moral relativistic world – it is hard to define evil – especially in an RPG.

Continue reading How to Play an Evil Character without Messing Up the Party

How to Terrify Your Players (And Make Them Love It!)

Since the dawn of time, humans have been attracted in some way to that which terrifies them. Why do we seek out such a primeval feeling? Perhaps it is for the simple novelty of it, the adrenaline and blood pumping, or perhaps it is a trial, of which we willingly undergo, in hopes that it will better increase our understanding of the dark and dangerous world in which we inhabit. Whatever the reason: dread, suspense and mystery can add an element to your game that your players will never forget!

Tabletop games may seem the least likely place for an adrenaline packed heart racing journey into the lands of terror. But, with the right preparation by the game master and commitment by the players, it will be an experience your players won’t soon forget!

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To help make up for the upcoming terrifying imagery, here is a neutral, non scary clown.

Continue reading How to Terrify Your Players (And Make Them Love It!)

Twitter Quest

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Twitter Quest

Every day on our Twitter Feed, @DonaldTheDM, our resident Dungeon Master Donald Lewis will post a One-Tweet Dungeons and Dragons Adventure! Anyone can Tweet a response, from which he will choose the best reply to continue the story. The idea is to play a communal Choose-Your-Own-Adventure RPG experience, a story that unfolds one day at a time, one tweet at a time. In the spirit of comic strips like Dick Tracy and Brenda Starr, together we see the adventure unfold one line, one decision, one epic moment at a time!

Continue reading Twitter Quest

How to Teach Board Games – the Pawn and Pint Way

“If you look at page 97 of the rule book, you will see that the demogorgon may become an issue, therefore, in order to best attack, you shall have to utilize one of 18 flanking strategies, which I shall carefully explain to you right now….”

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We’ve all experienced it. We sit down to play a game with some friends, and a knowledgeable player begins “teaching” us the game – but, while this knowledgeable friend may know a lot about the game, all to frequently, they don’t know much about how to teach.

Therefore, I figured I would utilize my teaching background(I taught school for 2 years and have a masters of education), to develop and adapt a system for teaching board games which is simply to learn and will reduce the amount of time explaining a game a game and increase the time playing!

The basic concept is very simple : Simply explain what the player needs to know at first, and avoid complex explanations, tips, or analysis. 

Concept

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The first trick to teaching the game is having a concept easily accessible to explain to your players. This can be as simple as referencing it to a game they’ve already played: “It’s like Monopoly but…”, or reading or paraphrasing something off the back of the box.

This should always be kept to 2-4 sentences and not take more than 30 seconds to communicate.

Here are some example of good concept statements:

Pathogenesis is a deck building game in which you play as the germs fighting against the body.”

Red Dragon Inn is a card game where a bunch of adventurers try to get each other drunk with different abilities.”

The basic rule is this – KEEP IT SIMPLE. Avoid extraneous information, and communicate the basic concept.

Objective Of the Game

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The objective of the game should be explained in similarly simple terms to the concept. It should be distinct from explaining the concept, but it should be simply stated.

For example:

The objective of Monopoly is to gather more money than the other players and cause them to go bankrupt.

The objective of Risk is to take over the world.

Again, you do not need to go into depth, you simply need to present the basic concept of the game, so as you continue to explain the game, the players will understand what information will help them win.

Set Up

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There are two schools of thought on set up – one is that you can teach them how to set up the first time they play, and that way they will never forget – the other is, set up for them, and after they play the game, they will understand the set up.

Personally, I prefer to set up the game and get the players rolling, but there is merit to both strategies. The benefit of explaining it as you go is that they can pick up some of the set up as you go, the downside is, the chances are they aren’t listening, and the information is extraneous unless they decide they love the game.

Win Conditions

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This is where you can start to get into the nitty gritty. Most modern games have cards that have the win conditions very clearly expanded, but it’s worth it typically to verbally go through the win conditions exactly, so all of the players understand how to do it. If they are not written down somewhere on the game box, I recommend writing them down on a piece of paper for the group.

Although you will want to explain things in a more technical sense here, I still reccomend doing it as simply as possible. For example:

Example of Clearly Explained Win Conditions:

In Red Dragon Inn, you win once all the other party members have “passed out” drunk because their fortitude has become lower than their alcohol content. They also lose if they ever run out of gold. 

Example of Poorly Explained Win Conditions:

In Red Dragon Inn, you win once you have managed to get all of the other players counters to cross. The fortitude can either be reduced to zero, or the alcohol content can be increased, but if and when they ever match up with one another, or pass one another, that player is knocked out. By gambling you can get them to lose money, which can also help you win. 

The difference between these two is how clear the first one is – it’s short, it doesn’t drag on, and doesn’t get to deep into the mechanics.

End Conditions

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End conditions, like win conditions, need to be explained in exact turns. Simply state them as such:

The game ends when ______ occurs, or _____________.

Again, I highly reccomend writing this down for the players or directing them to a clear statement on the game which explains when the game ends.

Turn Walk Through

The next step is to take the players through a turn – it is typically worth it to do this with each player playing at least once, because they will frequently not be paying attention while it is there friends turn. This will differ depending on the game, but in games that have a hidden “hand” of cards, it is typically worth revealing them as you walk them through one turn, clearly delineating each “phase” of there turn.

Extra Rules

If there is anything absolutely necessary to add, add it at this point, but otherwise, if the rules are – like with most games, written on the cards or only happen with certain conditions which will reveal and clearly state that the rule is now in effect – simply warn the players about it, without going in to too much detail.

Shut Up, Stand Back, Answer Questions

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The most important thing to remember to do when teaching games is to stop talking and let the players play. If the players seem to be picking up a bit, as early as their first round of turns, stop talking and just watch and be willing to answer their questions. The longer you talk, the longer it will take for them to genuinely have fun – part of the joy of playing games is figuring them out to a certain degree.

That being said, being knowledgeable of the rules and be ready to answer questions. Knowing how to answer players questions concisely and helpfully, will help them get into the game and have a great time!

Here is a list of things we recommend you DO while teaching board games:

  • Understand the game inside and out.
  • Review it before teaching it.
  • Be prepared with concise statements about the game.
  • Be ready to answer questions.

Here are some things which we highly recommend you DO NOT do while teaching board games:

  • Talk about strategies, art designs, similar games or anything not relevant to how to play the game while you are teaching it.
  • Judge the players or look down at them for choosing a specific game.
  • Act irritated when players ask you the same question.
  • Narrate the game experience past the first turn.

If you follow these simple tips – we are confident that you shall be able to teach board games to all your friends and have a good time! If you think you are an expert board game teacher, send me an email at edward@PawnsAndPints.com, we are always looking for more game gurus!

Also, don’t forget to back us on Kickstarter – which is your only chance to get the highly discounted Kickstarter annual membership for $150 – only 8 days remain!

Furthermore, please follow us on twitter, facebook and instagram, and check out our lead DM’s continuing blog posts and twitter feed!

And please – comment with your best strategies for teaching games – what works for you? What doesn’t?