A different dungeon delve experience

It was my second Zweihänder session with my group where I planned a short dungeon exploration in a dark cavern. However, Zweihänder as a system doesn’t quite support that approach. On page 13 in the core rulebook the designers note that the system isn’t designed for the traditional dungeon romp. At that point I didn’t understood why, but after our game everything got clear for me. Zweihänder’s combat system is a deadly one. Add some close quarter encounters to the equation in a narrow cavern, and you get an even more bitter and deadly combat. The other hand I didn’t want to add a multi level dungeon to our game, just a tiny cavern-type outpost where my players can explore a bit further.

We play our combat encounters in theatre of mind style and this time I wanted to make a refreshing change. Usually, we make a rough sketch on a piece of paper for the given combat situation where we place or draw the players, the enemies and the overall environment. I started to search for random dungeon generators in the hope to find a proper option to make my cavern type dungeon. My first hit was donjon’s brilliant D20 random dungeon generator. With its smart algorithm you can generate a whole dungeon within minutes, even multi leveled ones. It was a good starting point but I wanted to have a memorable experience. So I continued to look up for dungeon tiles and I ran into Inked Adventures printable hand drawn Simple Caverns Cut-Up Sheets on DriveThru RPG. The hand illustrated sheets blew me away and I knew that this would be the best choice for my players. On the other hand it cost me a few bucks, meanwhile I was supporting an indie developer with my purchase. After I printed a couple sheets and drew random lines on it, I cut out the cavern tiles. Marked where the entrance is and the connection points are. In the end I had a full cavern outpost – or dungeon if you like – based on cut up tiles.

The whole Cavern with Wizkids minis for scale

During our game when my players discovered the dungeon entrance, the time has come to present the cavern to them. When I started to place the first piece I saw big and wide dumb smiles at the table. They lost it on the experience. As they were exploring deeper and deeper, I placed the whole cavern tile by tile. We agreed how far they can see with their torch in the dark and we placed a pencil where the borderline was from complete dark to dim light. I planned a few combat encounters for this specific cavern the main purpose was exploration. However, after three giant spiders and two goblin-like creatures one of them grievously injured. The others also had some moderate injuries despite the help of some NPCs. But the overall experience was priceless for everyone and we had laughs and bare fun.

My overall goal was to shake up the overall gaming experience at the table. Pull them out from the same old sketching encounters type of play. If you want random, inexpensive fun that blows away your players, you should check out Inked Adventures map tiles.

Let’s continue this, shall we?

Happy New Year everyone! After a couple of months of hiatus, I am trying to get my shit together and continue to share my thoughts with you. This blog is something that is always on my mind, but I just could not find the strength and time to write new posts. I am still aiming to create 1, 2 or maybe 3 articles a month. And the topic? Well, that remains as it is, TTRPG games and my reflection on it of course.

I have been playing D&D 5e in the recent months, but I also read fine rulebooks, settings and supplements during this time. So, there are a lot of topics to cover. I have GM plans for this year too. I would like to start a new adventure in the Eberron setting with an entirely new group of players. I am planning to share my top reads of 2018 that blew me away or just had some kind of impression on me. I also have a couple of Zweihänder sessions in mind. I think that ruleset is brilliant, and I am a big fan of dark and grim storytelling (still waiting to get my hands on those sweet, sweet print books).

And a final thought in the end. Starting this year, I will write my posts under my real name. I do not want to hide behind some kind of faceless internet nickname. So, hello everyone I am Attila, nice to meet you! Have a pleasant read on this blog.

Sometimes life just gets in the way

So I haven’t updated my blog lately. That is because life happened. A severe brain surgery of my beloved mother, the end of a relationship and moving to a new place to live. But I don’t want to give up on this blog. I still have the goal of writing one or two posts a month, and I still have thoughts to share. I don’t want to stop doing this. It is also a good exercise for me. Writing in English about my TTRPG experience is an entirely different journey for someone whose native language isn’t English.

I want to continue my Zweihänder adventure, and as a player, I started to play 5e DnD a couple of months ago. So there are plenty of topics that I want to cover in the future, and I hope I will find the time to share those ideas. Until then, take care everyone.

My ​world building in Zweihänder

After reading the Zweihänder rulebook, the obvious choice would have been for me to run the A Bitter Harvest adventure as my first game, but I didn’t go that way. I wanted to test myself if I’m able to design my own campaign from scratch. Skipping a decade of tabletop gaming got me a bit doubtful in the success of the task, so I started small.

I imagined a central place where my players are able to meet and have their own motivation to go. This is how the idea of the prosperous merchant city of Danaarso came in my mind and started to design it from the basics. The first question I asked myself, now that I got the name and the basic idea of the city where should I put it? On what continent or country is Danaarso located? My answer was Hilmond, a vast continent with other city-states and realms nearby. I created four other different domains for my new continent, Argessaar, Brondé, Eglan and Ro’Dor. I got the big picture, the brand new, homebrew mainland of Hilmond, where I was able to imagine Danaarso and my players.

From there I continued to design the merchant city a bit further to give some more depth. I didn’t want to have kings and queens to be the primary governor power in Danaarso. I wanted the most influential merchant families on the top of the power chain where merchant lords govern the city. Overall the following four of the mightiest merchant families are the rulers of the capital: the Hildred, the Verto, the Scrada and Bellosta. I also wanted to have some kind of a darker influence from the underclass in the powers, so I put the Scarlet Sparrow-hawks in the equation too, which is the significant thieves guild in town. Shady business, blackmailing, bribing belongs to them.

With four families in the city, I didn’t want my players to get confused when they arrive in Danaarso. I started to design their central function in power and symbols for each so the players will able to recognise them.

The Hildred family is the keeper of the treasury, the wealthiest merchants in the capital. Their symbol is a pearl in a seashell.

The Verto family has the military power in Danaarso. Their symbol is the mighty sea Kraken.

The Scrada family power lies in knowledge, they are the scribes of the realm. They own the mightiest libraries in the city, and their symbol is the dazzling dragonfly.

Finally, the Bellosta family is the ruler of the seas. Excellent seafarers and with the most prominent and fastest navy in the realm. Their symbol is the illustrious Bellosta sailboat.

However, designing a fully living and breathing city is a tremendous task and quite time-consuming, I only laid out the details of the main street, a small portion of the town docks and a tavern called the One way. I knew that my players won’t spend too much time in the city because I just threw them in the middle of quickly unfolding events. I just had the details of the places that I wanted to show them. I know this sound like a railroad for the players but the events that unfold in the city pushed them on their journey to another, smaller town. They could have chosen a different path. I offered them this choice, but they were too intrigued and wanted to find out what will happen if they stick with the flow of the events.

So what would have happened if they choose differently? Well, I should have improvised, a lot, but based on that foundation that I already had in mind. I’m glad they went with the path that drove them to another destination. In the end, we all had fun, and our party of adventurers was on their way to escort the heir of the Hildred family out of the mighty merchant city of Danaarso to meet their faith somewhere else.

What do you think? Did I overlook something here? Which type of world builder are you? The kind who design every bit of a city or you try to guide your players through the base foundations? Share me your thoughts in the comments.

Old and new tabletop hooks

It was 1993, I was nine years old, in elementary school. A rumour spread among my classmates and my friends. They whispered about a unique, groundbreaking game that you can play with your friends for countless hours, and all you needed is just a book, a couple of friends with blank sheets of paper, pencils and your imagination (and of course dice, but that time I did not know that). The game called M.A.G.U.S. – The Adventurer’s Chronicles – the most influential and successful Hungarian tabletop role-playing game. The moment I heard about M.A.G.U.S. I knew that I had to get somehow to play it.

At the time I was already hooked on the Fighting Fantasy books of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. The promise of never-ending adventures where I get to choose whether I want to be a mighty warrior, a cunning rogue, or a fearsome wizard was mind-blowing. In the end, my brother and I bought the beginner’s pack (there was no regular beginner’s box) which included the core rule-book, two ten-sided dice, a GM screen, and a low-level adventure module. We were ready to begin our wondrous journey on the diverse land of Ynev, the mainland of M.A.G.U.S.

I mostly played with my brother’s classmates. One of them was bold enough to read through all the rules and at the same time confident enough to play the role of the GM. We played together almost every weekend and lived through tons of memorable and unforgettable adventures. For my first character – a human, male rogue – it took nearly two years to reach level 12. That is a lot of gaming, and I will never forget my beloved rogue. Unfortunately, he bled to death on his last adventure. May his soul rest in peace somewhere in the Aether.

However we had fun with M.A.G.U.S., after a couple of years, we also tried other tabletop games like the D6 based Star Wars and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st edition. We only get to play Warhammer once, but after the session, something clicked for me. The simple carrier system, the random character creation method and the overall grim and low fantasy setting was way the opposite that I have experienced until then. I just loved it and wanted to go for more, but I did not get the chance. After years of playing together, our battle-hardened group of adventurers was no more. Real life got in the way, and everyone went to different high schools.

During high school and college, I played occasionally. I tried out other games like Vampire the Masquerade, Mage: The Ascension, tied to the World of Darkness setting, some home-brew GURPS adventures and also a bit of Call of Cthulhu. But none of them could give back the same immersion that M.A.G.U.S. or that one Warhammer session did.

About two years ago one of my close friends called me. He is working in the mobile app development business and asked if I wanted to play M.A.G.U.S. with a couple of his co-workers and friends. You know, with developers and other geek guys. After more than ten years without any tabletop gaming, I couldn’t say no to an invitation like that. We had about 20 sessions, tons of fun, but once again, real life shenanigans got in the way.

Almost a year has passed without gaming, and I started to miss adventuring around the table with the gang. We didn’t finish the adventure that we started, and our GM got busy with his life. I determined that we should begin to play again. I didn’t want to start a new adventure in the same game and setting that we already started with our busy GM. Suddenly somehow Zweihänder came across. It promised the same old school, grim and gritty feeling that the classic Warhammer Fantasy had. The other selling point for me was the setting free system. To be honest one of my main problem with Warhammer that I couldn’t get entirely into the Old World setting. I don’t know why. There are several aspects that I like and adore: Skaven, chaos, orcs and goblins and stuff. I purchased the Zweihänder core book PDF – or should I say core-tome – after it released in August 2017. I read through all the 688 pages, and it blew me away. It was the game I was seeking for ages. A low fantasy game with smart, quite simple, old school, plug and play mechanics. Finally, I put my GM hat on and gathered my group of adventurers and started to play Zweihänder.

At the moment we are after our second session, and we are craving for more. We try to organise gaming sessions at least once in every month. This blog is about our adventures, about my thoughts on tabletop games and about my story as I’m trying to become a better GM meanwhile having fun with my players.