Total Reroll: Episode 47 – Send More Guards (S2)

Welcome back to Season 2 of Total Reroll, our Dungeons and Dragons podcast! Adam has been playing some some good old fashioned D&D with some friends in London, except it isn’t old fashioned because it’s 5th edition. After finishing ‘Hoard of the Dragon Queen’, we’ve moved on with the same characters to ‘Rise of Tiamat’, the second part of the Tyranny of Dragons storyline. You can find a mega-post of all of the Season 1 content here.

After traipsing through the Misty Forest, the gang and some guard buddies they picked up on the way are outside the cave of the Green Lord. a green dragon who is accompanied by the wearer of the green dragon mask. How subtly can they sneak into the cave? Damn subtly.

Map of the cave, with a staircase heading in behind the waterfall

Map of the cave, with a staircase heading in behind the waterfall


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Our intro and outro music is ‘Acid Splash’ by Rich Thomson, and our “adverts” are provided by Anthony Walsh.

Enjoy!

The 5 Best Tapletop Games to Introduce People to the Hobby

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We’ve got a new contributor in the form of Jonathan! He’s Kit’s brother. Like Kit, but also not at all like Kit. Because that is not how brothers work.

Mornin’ all, I’m not Kit. Instead, I’m his brother Jonathan, the younger, slightly sillier version. Now, we don’t know much about each other, but I hope you won’t be alienated if I say that I like fun. Do you like fun? It is pretty fun. That’s why I like tabletop games, as they are basically little engines that produce fun, and I like to play them with as many people as possible. Today, we’re going to look at the best games to introduce people to the hobby. Maybe you want to give them a go, but don’t know where to start. Or maybe you are sick to death with playing Articulate with your in-laws. As I said, I don’t know you either.

Let’s be clear, these games aren’t my favourites. Instead, they are easy to pick up, instantly engaging and fun to lose. After all, nothing will put someone quicker off the hobby than losing painfully at something they don’t understand.
5) Monikers

Monikers

“But Jonathan, this isn’t even a board game?!”

I know, dear reader, but if you can get people to have fun with pieces of card or paper, getting them around a board will be so much easier.

Monikers takes the good bits of Articulate, but doesn’t have you playing with cards 20 years out of date. It starts off very similarly, teams taking it in turn to have one member trying to describe the thing on the card without saying anything on the card, with the others trying to guess what the hell they’re on about. So far, so ordinary.

Second round, same cards, this time you only get one word. Starting to sound more interesting? Third round, you can make gestures, but no words. Round four, you go behind the sofa and describe your card with nothing but facial expressions. Round five, back behind the sofa, but now you can mime with anything except your head. This would be impossible, if you hadn’t built up in jokes and familiarity with the cards beforehand.

There are a set of cards you can buy, which I hear work very well. I, however, feel that this game is at its best when you choose your own things to guess. Let each player write down five things, perhaps in categories, and use these as your cards. This makes every game of it different, taking on unique flavours due to the people playing it.  That said, if you feel your group isn’t too creative, or you don’t have time to produce your own, the cards linked below are cheap and of high quality.

Now, as you may imagine, this is a silly game, and requires people to be willing to make a fool of themselves. I still remember trying to communicate Madagascar using nothing but my head. Ah, good times.

Monikers can be found here

 

4) The Resistance: Avalon

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Be honest, you think you’d be a brilliant evil genius, don’t you? Perhaps it’s just me. Regardless, The Resistance: Avalon gives you the opportunity to be just that. You and your group will be noble Knights of the Round Table. Unfortunately, some of you are secretly evil, and are trying to corrupt Camelot. Each round, you’ll vote on which members of the group should go on quests, then the quest goers will secretly vote on whether or not they want the quest to succeed. If one votes to fail, then the quest fails. Over the course of five quests, once three go to either good or evil, that team wins.

A couple of additional touches make this spicy curry of intrigue even spicier. On the side of good is Merlin, who knows who the secret evil people are. To balance things out, at the end of the game, if the forces of evil can guess who Merlin is, they win, even if they didn’t corrupt enough quests. Ooh, such secrecy, such possibilities for deception.

This game needs to be played with people who won’t hold grudges. Occasionally, the rules can get a little complex for first time players, so you’ll need to have studied that rulebook, ready to field any questions. The game excels, however, because people don’t spend ages staring at a board. Instead, they are looking at each other, using intuition and logic, those wonderful things we all possess, to suss out each other’s motives.

Not convinced yet? I’ll tell you one story, from early in my Avalon days. A friend was playing for her first time, and she was nervous. She haltingly asked who Merlin might be, and I replied by slyly winking whilst stating Merlin would never reveal himself. She nodded, and a bond was built between us. We voted together, we swayed things our way. The final quest came, and we got our people on the quest.

Only, I wasn’t Merlin. I was evil. I had gone full Machiavelli, and tricked my friend into trusting me. My betrayal was beautiful, and yours will be too.

The Resistance: Avalon doesn’t have a designated website page, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find it quickly if you want it.

 

3) Pandemic

pandemic

Pandemic brings something to the table nothing else on this list does. It is a co-operative game, with all players on one side, fighting the board. This makes it ideal for groups who you fear may get a little too rowdy if they’re set against each other.

You play a team of doctors and scientists, trying to prevent four deadly diseases from wiping out humanity. On your turn, you do your best to stop the spread of these diseases and research their cures. If you come up with a cure for each disease, you win! If you run out of turns, you lose. If too many places suffer an outbreak, you lose.  If you run out of disease cubes to play, you lose. In other words, you’re all going to have to pull together to get through this.

When you pull off an awesome manoeuvre, playing just the right card at just the right time, you feel incredible. The games best feature is how each player will have at least a couple of moments when they get to save the day. When your group becomes a team, chaining together moves to pull off a complex set of actions that save the earth, you’ll feel pretty great. Furthermore, it is very easy to modify the difficulty of the game, making sure that any group will have a fair shot.

The one thing you’ll need to make sure of is that no one becomes a mini-dictator, telling people what to do on their turn and browbeating them into subservience. The other thing to be aware of is that after numerous plays, you risk ‘solving the puzzle’, and realising what the optimal plays are. The expansions do a good job of mitigating this, but beware, dear reader, for one day you may need to shell out for them as well, to recapture Pandemic’s wonderfulness.

Pandemic can be found here.

 

2) Codenames

codenames

Codenames is probably the single tensest game I’ve played. It is also a thankfully quick one, otherwise I suspect my head would’ve exploded from sheer stress the first time I played it.

It is also a simple word game with incredibly simple rules. 25 words will be placed out on a table, with players split into two teams. One player on each team is the ‘spymaster’, knowing which cards are secretly their colour, the enemy’s colour, a turn ending innocent bystander, or the fatal assassin card, which results in an instant loss if it gets picked. To communicate which ones should be picked by their teammates, they get to say one word and one number each round. The word will hopefully hint towards some of the ones they want their teammates to pick, with the number an indication of how many to go for this round.

That’s it. A simple, fun game, that is incredibly easy to understand, but rather tricky to master. It is great for those you suspect will be reluctant to try anything too unusual. It may not work so well for those who aren’t too wordy or strong on lateral thinking, but its swiftness and its tension make it a great way to fill 15 minutes.

Codenames can be found here

 

1) Dixit

dixit

Without a shadow of a doubt, Dixit is the best game to introduce people to the hobby. Just show them the cards, and they are hooked. In Dixit, you are rabbits, running around a field, dreaming. Trust me, it is great.

On your turn, you choose one of the frankly beautiful cards in your hand, and play it facedown, providing a word or phrase to describe it. Each other player chooses a card in their hand that could match your description, and adds it to the pile. These are then shuffled and revealed, with everyone else voting for which card they think is yours. If they get it right, or trick someone into voting for theirs instead, they score points. You score points if people get it right as well, but you get nothing if everyone or no one gets it right. That way, you want some people to guess correctly, but not everyone.

dixit2That is the whole game. Playing this game is far more fun than winning or losing it, making it ideal for first time players. You’ll probably need to be the one keeping track of the scores, as I’ve seen people occasionally get muddled with it. This game shows people just how much more a board game can be than what they’re used to. And seriously, look at this card with a bag on it.

Is it not glorious? How could you not want to play a game with something as wonderful as that in it?

Now that we’ve got to know each other a little bit, I’ll be honest with you. I’m tired of Dixit. One day, you will be too. But the first time you play it, you’ll have a brilliant time. The second time too. It’ll take you a long time to get sick of it, and that first time brilliance is exactly what you need in an introductory game. Play it, dear reader, and make others play it too.

Dixit can be found here.

 

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Now, there were other great games that didn’t make it into the list. Some were left off because they were too complex, others because they were too similar to things already on the list. Let me know if you feel any absences are travesties of justice. Trust me with these five though, and you’ll be a bringer of joy to your loved ones. In time, you’ll get to introduce them to more complex games, and you’ll never have to play Monopoly again.

Jonathan

Check out The Nomadic Lighthouse, Jonathan’s own site totally in keeping with the ‘lighthouse’ theme.

 

 

 

The GM’s Handbook

Hello everyone! As Adam is detailing his journey into pen and paper RPGs, I thought it would be interesting to get the perspective of the creator of worlds, the giver of life and the supplier of stationary, the GM!

So the GM (Games Master) is the most important role in an RPG session. Sure, the players are essential but without the GM’s many hours placed in story writing and world crafting, then their would be no adventure for the players to journey through.

While the jump to play a tabletop RPG is a big one, the jump to become a GM is even more daunting! So I thought I’d lay out a few handy tips for any budding GMs. I’d say my RPG career is 95% GMing and 5% as a player. I don’t think it’s a good idea to only every GM as you need to know what players expect and what will keep their attention during play.

So here are my Top 5 tips to GMing your first game:

Know Your System.

This is the golden rule! The last thing you and your players will want to do is stop every 5 minutes to pause the game and check rules. You can help this by choosing a simple system in the first place. I suggest something like Dungeon World. It’s quick to learn and smooth to play. It’s the RPG equivalent to a 15 year old single malt whiskey.

A Theme For Everyone.

For new players, getting into the spirit can be the most difficult thing. As adults we seem to be encouraged more and more to dull our imagination. Imagination is key to this genre. An easy way to do this choose a theme that people already know and love. For instance, FFGs new Star Wars RPG could be the one for you. Everyone knows of Star Wars, even if they aren’t a hardcore fan they have most likely of seen the films and knows the setting which can be the hardest hurdle to jump.

Keep It Light

Sure, we all want to run an epic adventure which has people on the edge of their seats! But this amount of skill takes years to master. If I’m with new players I like to keep the atmosphere light, we joke, make fun out of ourselves a little and sink a few beers before we begin. Just explain that it’s a game and you are all together to have fun. If you make players relax then they are way more likely to have fun, which in turn will make your job a lot easier.

Start With Action!

This might sound odd but it’s great! A get away chase or a quick firefight will soon get people into the spirit.

Expect The Unexpected

This is the biggest tip I’ve got (way-hay!) you may lay subtle hints for characters to follow, but more times than not they will go on a tangent and you will have to be like a leaf on the wind. Have a few story lines ready which can be adapted for any situation. At the same time don’t make it like a plat-former with only one direction. RPGs are meant to be the most open worlds you can every play in, take that away and you might as well all be playing a computer game.

I hope these tips help new GMs along the fun and daunting road you have ahead of you! I will hopefully be writing more of these to help everyone.

Gary

So it’s All Come Down to This… A Dungeon, and Dragons

Adam has started playing Dungeons and Dragons with some friends in London. Here is his account of their first epic (drunken) journey.

So I’ve finally done it. I figured there was a geeky stereotype I hadn’t tried yet. I read comics, play a crapload of video games, watch anime (and was the treasurer of an anime society at uni), have cosplayed more than once, and even have a superhero tattoo. And I’ve loved every single second of all of it. But D&D? Never tried it. It isn’t that I was ever opposed to it, I just never got around to it or had the opportunity. A year or so ago, after a night of drinking with some old friends in Bristol, I sat and watched (lets assume I was still drinking and probably eating bacon) as they started character creation before a new session of D&D. I had to leave to get back to the big smoke before they finished, so didn’t get to see any of the actual game played, but it looked to be far more fun than I had previously thought. Even the character creation was entertaining, mainly because of some shitty dice rolling that left my good chum James with a shockingly terrible starting character. But with all the people I knew that would play games like D&D either in Bristol and Bournemouth, and me being trapped in the grey hell that is our glorious capital, I figured my chances of trying it out were slim.

Cut to a couple of months ago, and a London based friend checked my interest in playing as a preliminary before seeing if other (less nerdy) friends would be into it. Not long after (really not long after), he informed us that he had ordered the new 5th Edition Starter Set (out last month) and we started organising our first game, to introduce it to everyone and see if it was something people were into and wanted to carry on with. We had a brief discussion at the pub early last week, convinced the unconvinced into trying it out, and set for later in the week to go through our first try. We elected to use preset characters to save a night of rolling for stats, choosing independently what we each wanted to go for, coming up with names and altering back story, personality traits, flaws, bonds etc. to make things a bit more interesting. Snacks were bought, food was ordered, drinks were drunk, and we were ready to start.

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Our Dungeon Master started us off on the ‘Lost Mine of Phandelver’ campaign which, for reasons I don’t really remember, we decided to call the ‘Lost Mine of Fandango’. In our first night we ran through the first part, being ‘Goblin Arrows’. We introduced our characters to each other, I based my character concept on Futurama’s insane robot Roberto, specifically from the version from the heavily D&D influenced film ‘Bender’s Game’. A human(oid robot) nobleman-turned fighter, recently escaped from an asylum. My character trait was simply ‘crazy’, which freed me up to do very stupid things all night. Some worked out, some didn’t. ‘King Roberto’ as I insisted on going by, along with fellow noble ‘Deano’, the halfling rogues ‘Tiny’ and ‘Bubbles’, the high elf wizard Lordy and the homeopathic cleric Samuel, were tasked with guarding a cart along a route between towns, containing various things including oil and ale.

We came across the dead horses of the dwarf paying us for our job, and our cleric then decided to run us straight into a goblin trap, immediately killing one of the two oxen pulling the cart. I tried to attack, missed and then spent the rest of the encounter ‘practicing my stabbing’ on the dead ox. Through some teamwork (and luck) we got through the situation. We then proceeded to waste about an hour by splitting up. The halflings went ahead with the cleric to scout the area (something they were shockingly bad at, the group setting off more traps), the wizard Lordy decided to set off on her/his own quest southwards, and I suggested to the noble Deano that we should drink all the ale. To lighten the load of the surviving ox, obviously. This all turned into a bit of a mess, and we decided to press on to some caves that the goblin trail led to. Along the way, I kept trying to mug my comrades at knifepoint to stay in character. We entered the caves, and found a side room with some angry chained up wolves. Deano calmed them down. Samuel decided they weren’t calm enough, so tried to sing to them. They got angry again and tried to get loose. Lordy threw iron spikes in their eyes, previously covered in blood, shit and gin, This made them blind, but even more pissed off. I then mercy-killed them. I feel pretty bad about that, even if they weren’t real.

While in the cave we set some goblins on fire, Tiny decided to sneakily steal a load of gold and our characters were none the wiser (the cheeky fucker), and after we convinced the second-in-command goblin to turn against the Bugbear leader, Deano rather masterfully revealed this to the leader, selling out the second in command and striking a deal that got us all paid much more than the original job. He did this so out of the blue that I was relatively convinced he was about to sell us out too. He didn’t, but I’m not so sure I trust Deano that much now, the sly New World bastard… Through all this we got some information of where to go next and some of the wider story to come. I even made a few helpful notes.

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And that concluded our first session. I was expecting it to be fun, maybe a bit awkward, but fun all the same in the end. It was much better than I expected, probably in part thanks to a Dungeon Master who managed to roll with a lot of the stupid shit we pulled, and some ingenious and entertaining thinking that pulled us through without it ever being boring. I’m even fairly sure (and hopeful) that the possible skeptics in the group were into it, especially seeing as we are all keen on carrying on. It remains to be decided if we want to carry on with these originally preset characters, or start from scratch, rolling for stats and coming up with new backgrounds.

Ultimately, D&D has always perpetuated as one of the core nerdy stereotypes not just in the media, but in the general social construct of the nerd. The reason why people continue to play it, now 40 years since the original came out, is because it is damn fun. So much fun that we are all going to keep playing. Haven’t given it a try? Check it out! Now is a great time, with the 5th Edition Starter Set just having come out and more on the way, such as the Player’s Handbook next week and the Monster Manual next month. As long as you go in with an open mind (and a full glass, preferably of whisky) and a decent group of like-minded friends, you’ll do fine.

Adam

 

Check out the next part here!