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hippogryph ttrpg zine: issue one
by Garrett B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/25/2020 22:33:00

First part of the book feels very unnecessary but the rest of it is pretty good



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
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Bullet Journaling for Gamemasters, Revised
by Joe K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/07/2020 10:34:31

As someone who recently began using the Bullet Journal method for daily organization it never occurred to me that this could be transferred over to my gaming prep as well. This is a great INTRODUCTORY guide to using BuJo concepts in gaming. It immediately makes most of the DM's kits here on DTRPG obsolete for that reason alone.

Those curíous about Bullet Journalling should check out this introductory video by the format's creator ( https://youtu.be/fm15cmYU0IM ) - those interested in using it in their gaming will be happily surprised by DLPs suggestions in this PDF



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Character Workbook: Witch [PFRPG 1e]
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/10/2019 16:12:06

For a buck you get a pretty handy bit of work.

Nearly 50 pages this covers character creation all the way to 20th level.
Why am I reviewing this now? Simple, I used it and tracked a character from creation to 20th level and it worked fantastic.

Plenty of places for notes and there are guidelines all along the way, such as reminding you that your skills can increase and ability modifiers change. Even a worksheet for your familiar.

Realy a great idea.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Character Workbook: Witch [PFRPG 1e]
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Character Workbooks [PFRPG 1e] [BUNDLE]
by Derek B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/21/2019 00:50:40

This is one of the single greatest purchases one can get. I purchased it quite a while ago, but lost the link this. I have the new updated version and the original release. These are much more clean.

Having new people at the table having never played thsi game, this resource is invaluable. You don't always have time to walk everyone through it, and double checking they were able to fill out everything correctly. This step by step process makes it incredibly easy for any new player to sit down and make a character, as well as level them up. If they still aren't catching on after the first few levels, no problem. This continues all the way to level 20 without making anyone feel guilty. It's especially great in that there's so many different books because each class has their own unique quirk that you might forget about. Especially if you've got a summoner or druid, and have to remember to level up your companion.

Highy, highly recommend this bundle. At the very lease, pick up the general workbook if nothing else. The convenience and peace of mind is worth it.

I'm hoping that eventually we might see this for 2e as well because I've already heard horror stories from players who are confused just from going from level 1 to level 2.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Character Workbooks [PFRPG 1e] [BUNDLE]
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Story Design: Mystery Stories
by Mike C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/17/2019 23:22:05

This is a short (12 pages of content) and concise guide to creating a mystery that will work in your role playing game. It describes what happens in three acts, and that becomes the plot points in your 3 to 8 adventure sessions. It covers how to add subplots and a dramatic turn that will make the ending more satisfying. The use of NPCs makes it all feel more realistic. It helped me get a handle on what the key NPCs will be doing, what locations I wanted to pre-plan... The prep chapter (3 pages) was helpful. I gave me some handle on what to do if the players guess the villain early -- because knowing who did it is not the same as solving the mystery.

The structure works for any kind of mystery where someone or some organization doesn't want the players to know something. It doesn't have to be a murder.

I found this very helpful, and for a week I took about a half hour on my drive and answered the questions in the book, creating a different mystery every night. Before you know it you can really come up with some amazing stuff.

It could be a little better if it had more specific advice about what to do if players miss a clue, or guess the villain, but there's another here to work with.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Story Design: Mystery Stories
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Strange Stories: Adventures Reimagined Volume 1
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/27/2019 02:26:02

This volume notes that the wording in the stories has been modernized or Americanized and that "the most jarring and offensive terms have been walked back to be less intrusive." I'm okay with that. This isn't a literary study edition, after all. If you want to see the unexpurgated original short stories, you can find them online or in various collections. The point here is to extract RPG material from the stories. The stories can satisfy that purpose without offensive language.

The stories themselves offer some good situations to consider for RPG purposes. Even better, the process of mining the stories for RPG material can be applied to other short stories.

Each story treatment includes a one-line summary (a logline, essentially), an overview of the story, and brief discussions of plot hooks, story goals, beginnings, middles, and ends. Each treatment also includes discussions of important characters, locations, obstacles, and objects.

At first glance, those might seem like something you could get from CliffsNotes or a book club. However, a strength here is that they look at these elements from an RPG perspective. For example, one story begins with a character pondering the joys of collecting orchids. The beginning from an RPG perspective is different; it's when the characters embark on their journey to go find a special orchid. For each element, the treatment looks at how you might adopt or adapt the story's version of events for an adventure you create.

I imagine some will call "railroading" at the prospect of having story goals and endings. To me, these treatments avoid railroading. I prefer having a concrete goal for the session, such that you can tell when you've got concrete success or concrete failure. The goals and endings don't have to be set in stone, either. The players might come up with their own solutions that deviate from the story, and that's okay. You or the players might adopt new goals during play. The goals and endings described here can easily be handled as initial defaults, to be adapted in play. Besides, if you don't like the story goal or the ending, don't use it.

This is all system-neutral. The stories themselves aren't genre-neutral, but you could apply the breakdowns of these stories to other settings.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stories: Adventures Reimagined Volume 1
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Worldbuilding Power: Divination
by richard d. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/11/2019 19:38:38

Have you ever had to write a paper last minute and so you spend 30 minutes BSing the minimum required number of pages, filling it with pontless and useless info that doesnt actually GIVE any information just rewords vague sentences about the subject? Well, this author has. So if you're looking for useful tools and techniques that players or NPCs can use or even just how to build a descriptive and detailed scene for divination...this is NOT the PDF you're looking for!



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[1 of 5 Stars!]
Worldbuilding Power: Divination
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Premise: 100 Science Fiction Plot Ideas
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2019 12:19:59

The premise statements lay out clear conflict situations in a single sentence. They're good premise statements. However, a lot of them have little or nothing to do with science fiction in particular. If you're looking for cool science fiction ideas, a lot of the situations will disappoint you. The situations themselves aren't bad. You could still have a good adventure when the PCs have been framed for a crime, for example. I'm just pointing out that the focus is on story ideas more than science fiction ideas.

Probably all of the premise statements are suitable for a single adventure. Many of them could also be turned into longer story arcs or even campaign premises.

The protagonist notes are good. They offer guidance that helps you decide whether the PCs themselves are the protagonists, and whether you'll need any NPCs to be the protagonists or to fill in knowledge or skill gaps for the PCs.

I like having story goals. At least in my games, players usually want something to focus on, whether it's a short-term goal or a long-term goal. A good story goal gives you a concrete way to mark an achievement, whether it's a good success or a "big one that got away" failure. Most of the story goals presented here are good concrete goals that tell you when success has been achieved and the story is over. Where some of the story goals fall short is that they tell you what success looks like, but they don't tell you what failure looks like.

Take stopping an assassination as an example of a good story goal. The objective is to stop an assassination attempt. It's not making sure that the target is never assassinated; it's making sure that a particular assassination plot is foiled. If you foil that particular attempt, you've got concrete success. If the target is assassinated, you've got concrete failure. Either way, you know when the story is over. Compare this to a story about finding something ("a scientific find, a treasure that brings them financial gain, or a personal epiphany that changes their life for the better"). If the PCs find it, you've got concrete success. Failure, however, is left open-ended. The story goal would be stronger if it made failure more concrete, such as needing to find whatever they're after before a certain event occurs. Obviously, you can add concrete failure yourself, but the story goal would have been stronger if it had talked about concrete failure as well as success.

In any event, I take the story goals as initial defaults. In play, the story could take a whole new direction and the players might come up with a different goal. That's all part of the fun too.

The obstacle notes are good. In the space of a paragraph, they suggest the types of obstacles the PCs should encounter, how they might escalate in difficulty, and what the final obstacle to success should be.

The antagonist notes on goals and motivations are also good. Each entry also suggests whether the antagonist should be a recurring character, a new opponent, or either.

All of the guidance is fairly general, and it's up to you to make things specific for your setting. For example: "This premise requires the protagonists to have connection to the tech start-up or its employees. If they do not, be sure to include a supporting character who does and can ask the protagonists for help." You need to fill in the blanks.

The story ideas have varying degrees of replay value. Take the assassination plot as an example. On the one hand, you could have multiple assassination plots, with each one different from the last in some way, but you'd still be doing the same basic story over and over. A go-and-find-the-thing story allows for a lot more variety, so you could probably get a lot more replay value out of that. Nevertheless, even the ones with low replay value don't have to come up very often, given all the other story premises available.

Overall, it's a good mix.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Premise: 100 Science Fiction Plot Ideas
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Building Characters [Black Box Edition]
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/11/2018 20:13:23

Although the subtitle is "for Writers and Roleplayers," I'm reviewing it from the RPG perspective. This is DriveThruRPG, after all.

Take to heart the message from the "How to Use This Book" section: "There are many elements that go into the creation of a great character. All are optional." The book would be WAY overkill if you applied every element to even a few characters. As the old quote goes, "Perfection is achieved not when there's nothing left to add, but when there's nothing left to take away" (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in case you're wondering).

I'll sum up first, and then get to some details. To sum up: The descriptions of 24 different character roles is the best part. A lot of the other sections make up potentially handy checklists, but there's a lot of unnecessary, redundant, or excessive description. Those sections could have been much shorter without a loss of information.

Things to like about the book:

  • It's system-neutral and setting-neutral.
  • The descriptions of 8 protagonist types and 8 antagonist types are very good. For each type, you get a useful one-paragraph overview, examples of the type from popular media, a description of the type's values, and how others perceive the type. Another interesting element is that you get a "supporting cast" for each type - the interactions a given type is likely to have with other types. This is all great material for making an interesting character. This is mainly for a player creating a PC or a GM creating a major NPC.
  • The 8 supporting types are also helpful. For each of these, you get a discussion of how the type interacts with a main character, examples from popular media, and a description of why you might want such a character in the story. This is mostly about secondary NPCs.
  • The good part of the Dimensions chapter is that it's a checklist of things to consider when describing your character's "physiology, sociology, and psychology." It's also a 14-page temptation into overkill. Only include the elements that will help you run the character in an interesting way.

Things I liked less about the book:

  • The subtitle, "for Writers and Roleplayers," sounds like scope creep. There are things that would matter to a fiction writer that generally don't matter in an RPG. For example, a writer might spend many a paragraph throughout a story just on a character's thoughts and feelings, and how they evolve. In an RPG, you spend no time watching a character ponder. Fiction writing and RPG characters aren't the same thing. If there's too much irrelevant stuff to wade through, the whole work becomes harder to use, and therefore less useful.
  • I found the the section on "Stages of Life" to be overkill. Do we really need explanations of how a child is different from a young adult, who's different from a much older person? At 8 pages, it's both too much and too little - too much if you're thinking "Yes, I know the difference between a child and an elderly person," or too little if you want to pursue all the nuances and complexities of a given age level.
  • The "Motivations" chapter also felt like overkill. Now, you may well want to understand a character's motivations. However, if that character fits one of the 24 types described earlier, you've already got a decent idea of the character's motivations. Also, the motivations get excessive description. Take the Stakes element, for example, which is under Goals, which comes under Motivations. If your character has Stakes at the Low Stakes level: "Neither the reward nor the consequence will have much impact on anyone." Maybe that's there for some desire for completeness, but if the stakes are that inconsequential, don't include them! The whole motivation section could have been a lot shorter not by describing all five levels of every motivation, but by listing only the useful descriptions, the ones that show that one motivation or another is compelling, not useless.
  • The "Aptitudes" chapter also felt like overkill. It discusses 10 different aptitudes - body, empathy, language, etc. - but I found most of it unnecessary for RPG purposes. Besides, if a character has "Below Baseline Nature Aptitude," I already get that he doesn't know much about nature. I don't need extra description to explain that.
  • The "Experiences" chapter offers a list of skill categories: Academic, Athletic, Creative, etc. Getting that down to specific skills for your character and your setting is up to you (as it should be, because this work is setting-neutral). Maybe a checklist of skill areas would be helpful to you, but chances are, you already have skill lists in place if you need them, so you wouldn't need this chapter. By the way, this is another chapter that could have been a checklist, but instead it goes into excessive, repetitive description.
  • "Resources," like the other chapters, is over-described. Maybe it's a good checklist of the types of resources a character might have or lack, but each item was overdescribed. Besides, once you've developed a basic concept of the character, most of these resource items are going to be fairly obvious.
  • "Wonders" felt too generic. It brushes by the topic of adding magic, psychic powers, or superpowers to a character, but with no actionable content.

All in all, the book is worthwhile for the character types at least, but it could have been a lot shorter and more tightly written.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Building Characters [Black Box Edition]
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Setting Design [Black Box Edition]
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/08/2018 14:33:34

While the subtitle is "for Writers and Roleplayers," I'm focusing solely on the RPG aspect.

What this is:

  • It focuses on story-driven setting design instead of a top-down approach (starting at the world level then drilling down into local details) or bottom-up approach (starting at the local level and then expanding from there). The story-driven approach has you focus on the story you want to tell. You include elements that help create and/or resolve conflicts for that story. The idea scales well. You could be working on a single story or a grand campaign arc.
  • It's game system-neutral and genre-neutral.
  • You could use these guidelines for building a very plot-oriented campaign or a very loose, player-driven campaign. You could have a very tight premise statement that supports a single story ("A group of strangers who met at an inn must defend a caravan from bandits as they travel to the big city") or a more open-ended premise statement that gives players a lot of leeway ("The crew of a starship patrols unexplored space seeking scientific discoveries and first contact with alien races").
  • The 10 main setting elements it covers are: premise, genre, place and time, theme, stakes, locations, people, technology, events, and vocabulary. Each element gets its own chapter. The writer invites you to "Use as many elements as you choose. Skip over any that don’t resonate with you, or fit the project you’re working on."
  • The premise chapter is particularly important for the story-driven approach. I'd compare the premise statement to a logline for a TV series or a movie. The premise chapter helps you craft a premise statement, with examples. It gives you a checklist of things needed to support your premise statement: characters, goals, obstacles, and setting elements.
  • Each setting element chapter discusses things you should consider as you pin down the particulars of each setting element. Each chapter ends with a list of questions for reviewing how your choices for this chapter stack up against the other nine setting elements. For example, in the chapter on Place and Time, one of the review items is how place and time interact with the stakes. It includes questions like "What stakes are specific to this particular place and time, as opposed to any other?" These questions help you integrate your choices into a whole that serves the story you want to tell.
  • You could go through the chapters in pretty much any order. You probably have at least the germ of an idea: a place and time, a culture, a technology, etc. Start with the chapter corresponding to that idea, and then hop around the other chapters as needed. Each chapter helps you build on whatever you've created so far.

What this isn't:

  • This work is story-driven, but not plot-driven. That is, it focuses on creating the environment in which your story will operate. It's not about building plots: no plot outlines, no scene lists or story beats, no plot points, no division of a story into acts, etc. The same publisher has other offerings about building plots. This work is just about the setting.
  • There are no tables for rolling up particulars about your world.
  • There are no map creation guidelines.
  • This isn't a reference source for world-building. There are some broad descriptions of things like climate, terrain, and culture, but only to the extent that you consider them as you establish your setting. You'll need other works if you want more details on those topics.


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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Setting Design [Black Box Edition]
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Worldbuilding Theory
by Mark F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/28/2018 15:23:28

If you have never, ever, not once, contemplated writing a story or a novel, or creating an original setting for a role-playing game, and you have suddenly been struck with the urge to do so, but are having real trouble sorting out your ideas and your thoughts as to what you want to create, then this is an exemplary guide and I recommend it as a great starting place.

If you have any experience with running games, or writing fiction or comics, and you are looking for a system or a framework to hang your ideas upon, this is not going to be helpful to you at all.

This is real rudimentary, entry-level type stuff. Most of this treatise is a list of types of genres and elements of said genres, with simple one or two sentence explanations. There is no structure or guidelines to the document. it's all theory, and that theory is certainly revelatory, if not overly revolutionary.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
Worldbuilding Theory
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Worldbuilding Theory
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/29/2018 16:23:24

Interesting advice book for roleplaying games masters and, to a lesser extent, players and writers. It discusses on of the three pillars of a game world (the other two being characters and adventures) and it does this through a consider amount of repetition of the framework of how it is discussed, useful and self-reinforcing but a little tedious at times. It places the various parts of world building in context of genre of fantasy (dark, high and so on) and setting (contemporary, medieval and such). Useful advice to keep in mind, nothing groundbreaking but solid, useful advice.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Story Design: Seduction Stories
by Mike C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/05/2018 21:09:23

I'm really finding value in all of the Story Design guides. They're the difference between starting a campaign plan with an outline and good questions, or just a blank piece of paper. I've read three so far and each is absolutely worth the time and money: 10 or so pages, $2 or less dollars. For each of three acts, this identifies the start, the main character and motivation options, and what happens in the act and what state ends the act. This rhythm has really boosted the wow factor of even short gaming sessions.

Seduction was an eye-opener for me. It could be love, but it's anything the PC wants but shouldn't have. Making that a tangible element in a game could really up the roleplaying around the table, making a much more emotional connection than I've generally had. I haven't tried this one yet, but I'm excited to try it. The writing in this book is as excellent and concise as the others in the set.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Story Design: Seduction Stories
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Story Design: Rescue Stories
by Mike C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/05/2018 21:01:54

This is a concise guide (10 or 12 pages) to a 3-act rescue story: Challenges for each act, the types of characters, a guide to the antagonist. While reading it I kept brainstorming twists and events that would make the 2nd act drive the players to their knees in despair, and from there see a chance---just a sliver---that can help them achieve the rescue. This guide won't waste your time or your money.

Starting to plan an adventure from this is the difference between starting with an outline of good questions or starting with a blank page.

I was a little disappointed to see a handful of editing mistakes, and in something of this quality they stand out more than they might in other books. But the tiny errors aren't enough to take off even a half-star in my rating.



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Story Design: Search Stories
by Mike C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/11/2018 18:08:50

Wow. You can tell a writer wrote this. It's concise, it's insightful, it's exactly the knowledge I needed to make my next campaign hit the marks. Pick one of these Story Designs to match the next campaign you plan to write, and perhaps the next one you plan to run, and you'll know just what to emphasize to make it hit home for your players.

It lays out the prep work, and then the key points to hit in each act of a three-act story (which can be as many sessions as you'd like). This was about 10 pages of actual content.

This will mostly be useful to someone who is writing a campaign or adventure, but it can also be useful if you're a GM about to run a pre-generated quest. By reviewing the material with the key points of the three-acts in mind, you'll know what to emphasize and have a better idea of how to play your scenes. Maybe you'll find something missing in the pregen that you can fill in to make it really leap off the page, blade flashing.

Highly recommended.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Story Design: Search Stories
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