More New Gaming Advice

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Over the last five days, it’s been Urban Week over at my new blog. To celebrate the release of GM’s Miscellany: Urban Dressing I’ve posted a series of articles about urban adventures. I’ve tackled such subjects as:

I hope you find the articles useful and that they enhance your game!

Another Great Week of Articles

As always, I've been busy posting up advice articles on my new blog. This week, I tackled loads of different subjects:

Weeknote 14/6
GM Advice: Why You Should Design Unique Treasure For Your Campaign
Pathfinder: Basic Equipment Loads
Freelance Advice: 7 Reasons You Should Freelance
Borderland of Adventure #79: Fire, Acid and Death

I hope you find the posts enjoyable and that they enhance your game and campaign!

Another Week of Great Articles!

Like last week, I’ve posted loads of new articles to my new blog this week. Come on over and take a look!

I hope you enjoy them and that they help you run a better game. And remember to update your bookmarks to include my new site.

Have a great weekend!

A Week of Great Articles!

This week, I've posted loads of new articles to my new blog. Come on over and take a look!

I hope you find them useful and valuable. Remember, to update your bookmark to include my new site.

Thanks and have a great weekend!

My New Blog

Exciting news! My new blog is now open for business!

It’s become increasingly clear to me that Livejournal doesn’t do all the things I want it to do as a blogging platform. However, in the busy cut and thrust of the daily grind I’ve never had the time to actually get around to sorting out a new blog.

That changed recently when I started making time in my schedule for more “strategic tasks.”

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been slaving away over the blog’s general layout and style. Late last week, I started re-posting old Borderland of Adventure session summaries as well as some advice articles. I hope you come over and take a look around. I think the new WordPress platform is much better suited for what I want to achieve with the blog – but I’d be delighted to know what you think.

I won’t be completely abandoning Livejournal; I’ll post here weekly updates about the material on my new blog, but I probably won’t be posting much if any new material here.

Over the next few weeks and months, I’m going to continue to post up relevant content from here as well as new Borderland of Adventure session summaries and so on.

I hope you come over and check it out!

Player Advice: How to Design Your PC’s Background

A PC is so much more than a set of stats and some equipment. A decent background is a fundamental part of any well developed character...


(Art: William McAusland [Outland Arts])

The good news is that a PC's background does not have to be some rambling epic. Some players like to write extensive background notes for their PCs while others devote only a couple of hundred words to the task. It doesn't matter how long your PC's background is as long as it gives you (and the GM) a good feel for the character.

What's the Point?

A PC's background has two main functions:

  • It gives the player a base from which to build his PC's personality.

  • It provides the GM with insights into the PC's background and motivations.

Basic Things to Include

I recommend answering the following basic questions in a PC's background:

  • Where was the PC born?

  • What is his family like? Who are his parents? Does he have siblings? What are his relationships like with his family?

  • What major events happened to him before he became an adventurer?

  • What prompted him to start adventuring?

  • Why is he adventuring? What is he trying to achieve?

Other Cool Things to Include

As well as answering the above questions, adding a couple of extra things into your PC's background is a great idea:

  • Adventure Hooks: Is your PC obsessed with finding a certain artifact or magic item? Is he wanted for a crime? All these hooks provide the seed for great encounters and mini-adventures your GM can craft especially for your PC. While you shouldn't expect them in every session or adventure it’s cool having events specifically designed for your PC. They provide tailored opportunities for the PC to grow and develop.

  • Enemies or Allies: Does your PC have any notable enemies or allies? These don't have to be notable in the sense of character levels or role in the campaign setting. They can be personal foes. Perhaps the local cleric took a dislike to your PC and won't help him in the future or the PC saved a local wizard from goblins. Both relationships create an interesting situation if the PC should bump into that NPC again.

  • A Mystery: Adding in a personal mystery (what happened to your brother, who is your father etc.) to which you don't know the answer can be tremendous fun. It enables the GM to know things about your PC that you don't. Discovering the answer can be incredibly satisfying!

Do you include other things in your PC's background? Do you write yours for other reasons? Let us know in the comments below and remember you can download this – and every other advice article – for free at

Weeknote 26/5

It’s going to a short week this week! We’ve just had a public holiday here in the UK and for the next four days global HQ will be infested with a herd of ravenous deranged halflings. On this plus side, this probably means I’ll be playing more Pathfinder than normal, but it means I’ll get less Raging Swan stuff done.

In any event, Raging Swan Press is releasing the first in a new, but occasional line: Town Backdrop: Wolverton. Wolverton is the last settlement of the Lonely Coast not detailed and now we’ve rectified that problem. The town’s design also means it should be easy to insert into almost any GM’s campaign.


On the work front, I’ll mainly be slaving away on my second edits of the new material for GM’s Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing. (I’ll be creating a web page for this titanic book next week!)

I’ll be writing and posting two new advice articles.

I also have to submit GM’s Miscellany: Urban Dressing to the printer.

Finally, I’m planning to slave away over my blog. My plans to move my blog over to WordPress are preceding extremely well and I hope to be able to announce my move later in the week (or possibly early next week).  Before that, though, I want to migrate a decent proportion of my Borderland of Adventure session summaries and advice articles over to the new site.

That’s it! Have a great week everyone!

Borderland of Adventure (#76): Hunting Vesicwyr


At the end of last session, we left our band of heroes bravely battling a band of kobolds.

The party surged into the chamber, overwhelming the kobolds’ hasty (and pathetic) defence. In short order, the first cadre of warriors were slain and Skink and Gerald (followed by Tzaran and his snake companion) rushed to attack the chief in his quarters. Meanwhile, Sir Gerald followed rather reluctantly by Krorz charged off to find the dragon. Ulmo hung back for a moment to secure the complex’s front door, but was almost immediately overwhelmed by a fleeing mass of kobold women and children. Wisely, he got out of the way of the stampede.

By the time, Ulmo reached his companions, the fighting was over – the last vestiges of resistance crushed in the chief’s quarters. Gerald and his companions hurriedly searched the chamber for any hints of who the dragon was working. Sadly, they found nothing – it seemed Vesicwyr did no confide in her minions – and so they questioned the two surviving kobold concubines.

Terrified, the kobolds told the party their god dwelled high above the lake. With this intelligence, the heroes made their way to the open sinkhole. It was truly immense. Ulmo cast his dancing lights above the lake’s waters, but his magic could not reach the other side. Eventually, his magic revealed a wide cave mouth high up on one side of the sinkhole. Realising they did not have the means to reach it from their current location – and without a decent supply of rope – they decided to retreat outside and wait for morning. Then they hoped to determine how far below the lip of the sinkhole the cavern was – perhaps getting in from above would be easier.

As they retreated through the kobold lair the flooded chasm splitting the entrance tunnel caught their interest. One part of the chasm seemed to lead further into the mesa. With excitement, they hoped it might lead to a secret way into the dragon’s lair! After a brief argument about who should explore the all but flooded passageway, Tzaran reluctantly volunteered. Using his ring of feather falling he leapt into the chasm and – as he floated downwards – transformed into an eel.

Sadly, he seemed to jump into the midst of a leech swarm! As the leeches converged on the shocked druid at first nothing seemed amiss to Tzaran’s companions. However, when he transformed back into his normal form and screamed for help they leapt into (mostly ineffective) action. As the leeches continued to suck Tzaran’s blood, the druid began to weaken, and his struggles became less frenzied.

The party discovered quickly that Tzaran has taken one of only two lengths of rope the possessed into the chasm. Gerald quickly deployed the other and shouted for Tzaran to grab it. By then, the severely injured druid lacked the strength to climb out of the chasm and Gerald failed to pull him up – even aided by Sir Gerald. Ulmo used his magic to summon two water elementals and they provided a brief respite from the leeches' attacks.

Briefly thereafter, poor Tzaran’s ineffective struggling ceased and he sunk below the water. He was moments from death. Seeing this Gerald jumped into the chasm, hitting the water 40 ft. below with great force. He healed Tzaran, returning him to consciousness, but had also landed in the leech swarm! Skink followed Gerald into the chasm, but tried to climb down. Sadly, he slipped and also fell into the water.

Now, things were desperate. Krorz – aided by Sir Eril – tried to pull the injured Tzaran out again and again, but couldn’t manage to lift his weight. Eventually, Tzaran managed to cast a gust of wind into the water – which temporarily blew the leeches away. Using this brief respite, the adventurers fled the chasm. Skink managed to climb up out of the water while (finally) Krorz managed to pull the other injured adventurers from the water.

Once the party were reunited atop the chasm, they widely decided to flee into the forest to rest and recover as Tzaran was brutally injured. Backtracking along their trail, they made good progress for several miles.

Krorz – leading the way as ever – suddenly called a halt. Ahead the light of many campfires pierced the night and the sound of conversations in Orc and Common floated on the night air. Climbing a nearby tree, Krorz could clearly see at least a score of campfires surrounding a large tent. It seemed a pirate army had followed them into the forest.

Seeing this, the heroes immediately changed course, pushing to the north west through dense, heavy forest. Skink brought up the rear and obscured their path as best they could, but the party was numerous and the freed slaves brought from the town were not adept at moving through the wood. Tzaran’s snake companion also left a rather obvious trail.

Finding a particularly thick stand of trees, the party made cold camp for the night. In the morning they discussed what to do. They discussed several options:

  • Return to Ratik with what information they had thus far gleaned.

  • Return to Dekspoint.

  • Attack Vesicwyr.

  • Give the Grail of Ashenyar to Vesicwyr to learn for who she is working.

  • Do nothing and hope the pirates kill the dragon (or vice versa).

  • Attack the pirate army.

  • A clever, as yet undetailed, seventh plan

As the morning wore on, they continued their debate…

Gaming Advice: What to do When it’s Not Fun

Gaming is awesome fun. It's the high point of your week. Except when it isn't...


(Art: William McAusland [Outland Arts])

I know it seems a bit mad, but sometimes you don't have fun when you are gaming. You turn up and go through the motions, but you just don't have fun. Sometimes it's hard to believe you aren't enjoying yourself. Luckily, there are some warning signs:

  • You don't really care about your character.

  • You don't really care about the quest, adventure or campaign.

  • You can't seem to find the time to update your character between sessions.

  • Other stuff seems to come up with surprising regularity that clashes with the game session.

If you are beset by one or more of the above warning signs, it's likely you are not enjoying yourself.

Questions to Ask

Fear not, though! Working out why you are not having fun is the first step to fixing the problem.

  • Why you aren't having fun? Be honest with yourself. Is it the game system? The adventure? One of the other people at the table? Some of these things are relatively easy to resolve while others are much harder.

  • Is this a temporary problem? Perhaps it’s the particular adventure you are on at the moment you don't enjoy.

  • What's the best case scenario? How would you like the problem to be resolved? Is this a realistic solution?

  • What solution can you live with? Is there a middle ground solution that will work for you?

What to do About It

Once you've worked out why you aren't enjoying the game, you need to do something about it.

  • Talk to the GM. Let the GM know how you are feeling and what the problem is. The GM has the most control over the game and so he is the mostly likeliest to be able to help. Try not to be judgemental and put the blame at his feet (even if it is his fault). GMing is a very personal thing and telling the GM you don't like his style or that his campaign world is crap is not going to end well. If the issue is something else - the adventure, another player etc. chances are the GM can help.

  • Tough it Out: If the problem is a temporary one, tough it out. For example, if you don't like the adventure it will likely finish soon anyway. Alternatively, take a short break from the game so you return rejuvenated and ready for action!

  • Find another game. If you can't revive your enthusiasm or your concerns have fallen on deaf ears, you should strongly consider finding another game. After all, a game session is a substantial investment in time. The amount of time you invest in an adventure or an entire campaign is even greater. For example, as I write this we've played 73 sessions of my Borderland of Adventure campaign. At roughly four hours a session this means we've played for 292 hours. If we weren't enjoy it, that's a staggering amount of time wasted.

Have you not had fun gaming recently? How did you deal with the situation? Let us know in the comments below and remember you can download this – and every other advice article – for free at

Player Advice: Looming Disaster

TPKs rarely just happen. Normally, the party gets at least several rounds warning going things go horribly wrong. What should they do?


(Art: William McAusland [Outland Arts])

I've blogged before about TPKs (Total Party Kills) and how a GM should deal with them. What I haven't done before is talk about how the PCs can avoid such a catastrophic end to their adventuring careers. Assuming the PCs get some warning of their impending doom they can pursue one of four basic strategies:

  • Bribery: If you can't run away and you don't want to surrender, bribery is a great choice. Paying your enemies to go away is a time-honoured tactic and there is no reason it won't work on your foes – particularly if they are not your mortal enemies. Some enemies might covet gold or magic, while others may be satisfied with food. Still others might demand a service of the party for letting them go. All these options are better than dying.

  • Fight On: The party may choose to fight on. If they do so, though, they should fight hard. This means pulling out all those one-shot items saved for an emergency and using them! It's always better to expend equipment than to actually die – sometimes this gets forgotten (particularly in games which focus on wealth by character level). if you fight hard and you still die, at least you gave it your best shot.

  • Run Away: If things look grim, the party can always run away. Extricating the entire group from combat can be tricky and so everyone needs to be on-board with this strategy. Sometimes, a heroic party member will stay behind to hold off their enemies while the others escape. Alternatively, scattering loot or food behind you as you flee is a good way of slowing down pursuit.

  • Surrender: PCs almost never use this option. Nevertheless, surrender is a viable option if you want to live to fight another day. Sometimes, PCs are reluctant to surrender because subconsciously they know what they do to those falling into their hands! (And hell, the party are good-aligned, imagine what the evil villain will do to them...) PCs that surrender are rarely killed out of hand. Their foes may imprison them for ransom, save them for a starring role in an upcoming religious ceremony or sell them into slavery. Assuming they are not killed outright, PCs that surrender normally have a chance to escape and to turn the tables on their foes before their doom is upon them.

Have you almost had a TPK recently? How did you dodge it? Let us know in the comments below and remember you can download this – and every other advice article – for free at