D&D 5e Kids Campaign

DND_5e_LogoLast week saw the start of the D&D 5e Kids Campaign I had mentioned in a couple of different places. While I have run for my own kids many, many times – I have never run for kids I am not related to! But my son has reached the age where he has like minded friends in school and the time seemed right. Over the holiday break we scheduled the first game for a Friday night.

The Setup

We had 6 kids total playing, ranging from 2nd grade (my daughter) up through 6th grade. My kids and two others had been exposed to RPGs before. The other two had played the Dungeon board game. So we had a good sized group to get started with.

The parents hung out for the game. One plays with her kids, and though offered a chance to roll up a character decided to just assist with the character generation and such. One father had played in the past and chose the same, offer assistance during character generation and during the game.

I must say the help received was a tremendous benefit – especially during character generation. It was hard for me to help everyone with character generation. And even though not all had played 5e, just being able to listen to directions and help guide their kid through the process was extremely useful. They both helped a bit during play too, which was useful if I was in conversation with one part of the table regarding their actions.

Character Generation

This was my first time running 5e, which did hamper character creation just a bit. While if we had been playing D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Labyrinth Lord, etc I could have been much quicker and confident with some of my character generation answers. As was I did need to look several things up during character generation. It wasn’t bad, but it did slow things down just a bit.

I did have character creation cheat sheets printed prior to the game, so they could be used by players to help walk through character creation and guide the process. I also had tons of extra dice (with enough to give way to the kids so they had their own set – only two kids didn’t already have dice though).

All in all it took about 2 hours to get characters generated by the time I had helped each kid with their character. The 5e character gen process is pretty solid, it was just a matter of helping so many people at once and needing to do a fair number of rule lookups to answer their questions. In hindsight I should have rolled up more of my own characters just for practice!

By the end we had the following characters in the party:

  • Elven Rogue
  • Elven Ranger
  • Human Sorcerer
  • Half-Orc Paladin
  • Elven Sorcerer
  • Gnome Wizard

A bit of a magic heavy party, but really with the cantrips 5e has, that was not too concerning. Plus the short rest mechanics contribute to making things acceptable even without a cleric.

Choosing The Adventure

I wanted to hook the kids early, so I really wanted to get them into an adventure where they could accomplish something, knowing I wouldn’t have much time to run by the time character generation was done (I had guessed more like 75 to 90 minutes on character generation).

I didn’t have to look far for a solution for that, as this is the very problem the Pocket-Sized Encounters from Iron Tavern Press attempt to solve. Shorter sized adventures to drop in when time is short or when you need an option that doesn’t derail a campaign. For the need I had, I chose Kajak’s Kave.

Kajak’s Kave is a 4th-ish level adventure for Swords & Wizardy and Labyrinth Lord, so I needed to do some tweaks to get it appropriate power level for a group of 1st level 5e characters. The biggest change I did was to swap the final BBEG out with one of the more powerful gnolls from the 5e Monster Manual. The other creatures in Kajak’s Kave I just used the 5e stats from the Monster Manual for as well. This swap worked perfectly.

What Rating?

So going into the game I wasn’t sure at what rating to run the game (i.e. G, PG, PG-13, etc). I mean I knew not to go too extreme obviously, but what was going to be appropriate for this age group? Anyone that listens to the actual play know things get pretty crazy with that group. So what about the kids?

It didn’t take long to figure that out! I was no more than three sentences into setting the scene in Hommlet (yes, that Hommlet) before one of the kids loudly stated he was hanging out at the bar! As the game evolved the kids pretty much picked the rating for the game by skinning dead critters and in some cases taking their head.

The Adventure Unfolds

The characters were hired by a local townsperson to track down what had happened to Shaerie, a huntress who had not come back from her favorite hunting grounds. The kids immediately started bargaining payment! Negotiating what they felt was a good deal they headed out, making a stop at the local blacksmith to check out his wares. Then they were fully underway!

The ranger got to use some tracking and eventually they found the area they needed to. Kajak’s Kave is pretty short with only a couple of encounters in it. They cautiously explored the cave and successfully tracked down what they needed.

When the adventure ended the whole table was disappointed the adventure was already over! They wanted to go more, even though we went about 45 minutes past the time I had thought we would wrap up. It definitely seems like a good time was had by all!

What’s Next?

The next session has already been scheduled and the group is back in Hommlet. I already have a couple of hooks dropped for them, but they will have plenty of time to poke around town and possibly learn a few more before they determine which direction they will head next!

The session was very successful and I am looking forward to the next one!

Pathfinder Society Core Campaign

PFS_LogoIt has been awhile since I have made a Pathfinder post on this blog, but yesterday, the organized play coordinator, Mike Brock, announced the “Core Campaign” option on Paizo’s blog.

The Core Campaign option for Pathfinder Society Organized play is that only the Core Rulebook, character traits web enhancement, and Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play are allowable sources. This is a huge step to simplifying what has become a very complex game.

There are so many Pathfinder resources to draw from in a standard PFS game that it can be very overwhelming. To both new and old players alike. Sometimes having access to the full wealth of resources just creates a game that people don’t want to be involved in.

This step to allowing a Core Campaign should go far to resolve these issues and lower the bar to entry again for people new to Pathfinder Society Organized play. It makes the game easier to run and easier to play in many ways. So this is a window of opportunity for new Pathfinder GMs who don’t need to be intimidated by the amount of rules. And it can make things little less intimidating to new players.

In my home Pathfinder game I have done something very similar for my own character. I limit myself to just the Core Rulebook and the Advanced Players Guide when choosing options for the my character. This was not a GM imposed restriction, just one I put on myself to keep me from getting frustrated with what I feel is an overwhelming amount of options. It has worked very well in my home game.

In regards to this decision for organized play, it is good to see a strong, viable option for organized play return. When I attend a convention where I might not know a lot of people, but want to get into a game that I am pretty sure is going to run, I look to well run organized play games. Having the option of this core track makes the Pathfinder Society option much more attractive again.

It is welcoming to see Paizo listening to their fans by releasing this option without requiring a sacrifice to their fans that do prefer the full option route. Be sure to check out the Paizo blog post for all the details.

Episode 26: Chaos in the Great City

Chaos in the Great City’ is the 26th episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at http://irontavern.com/podcast.

Session Synopsis

With the excitement fading in the Overlord’s safe room, the adventuring party takes a few moments to recover, imbibing healing herbs and calling upon Mani for healing magics. Moving on up the party reaches the roof of the Stronghold as an undead pterodactyl arrives carrying Leotah! A battle ensues as the group fights the wizardress, though all is not as it seems. After the battle the party examines the stronghold more closely and takes in the cityscape as the Great City falls leaderless.

Download Link: http://irontavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Episode-26.mp3


Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from http://music.mevio.com.


Grimtooth’s Ultimate Traps Kickstarter

grimtooth_ks_imageThere is just under 7 days left in the most recent Goodman Games Kickstarter. The Kickstarter this go around is for Grimtooth’s Ultimate Traps Collection. As I write this they are $91k into their Kickstarter (and that will likely be at least several thousand higher by the time this actually posts). Goodman Games knows how to run a Kickstarter, so if you are in the need of traps or simply some inspiration for some traps you owe it to yourself to take a look at this Kickstarter.

Grimtooth’s Traps is over 500 systemless traps for your game. You can either use the traps as written or simply use them as some inspiration for your own traps with some tweaks and modifications of your own to adjust the deadliness of them for your game. Systemless means whatever your fantasy RPG system, there is going to be something in here for you.

Grimtooth’s Traps was originally released back in 1981 or so and had several volumes. The first five – Grimtooth’s Traps, Grimtooth’s Traps Too, Grimtooth’s Traps Fore, Grimtooth’s Traps Ate, Grimtooth’s Traps Lite – are the focus of this Kickstarter, but if the $100,000 goal is hit, then Grimtooth’s Traps Bazaar, Grimtooth’s Dungeon of Doom will be released in PDF form. If $130,000 is hit, then the extra content will be included with the gold foil cover and leather cover.

There are several levels one can pledge at to get this tome. Depending on your pledge level will dictate which form you get. Anything from PDF to soft cover to hard cover to faux leather to full on leather cover.

At this stage there are already a good number of stretch goals already hit. Everything from Grimtooth’s board game to ribbon bookmarks in the book to retro dust jackets to a DCC module with Grimtooth himself in it. So lots of extras as things coming into the home stretch of this Kickstarter.

If you are on the fence, there are a few PDF previews of the book over on the Kickstarter page so you can check it out.

Episode 25: The Overlord’s Safe Room

dcc_rpg_cover_smallThe Overlord’s Safe Room’ is the 25th episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at http://irontavern.com/podcast.

Session Synopsis

With the adventuring party in the Overlord’s safe room, they quickly learn the battlefield is rigged against them. A difficult fight erupts as the Overlord’s minions work to hold off the group, aided by many tricks of the room itself! Everything from suppressed casting ability, to traps within the room itself, to powerful guardians await the party in the Overlord’s safe room.

Download Link: http://irontavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Episode-25.mp3


Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from http://music.mevio.com.

Shudder Mountain Theme Song

dcc_rpg_cover_smallThe new Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign kicked off earlier this week with my online group. We are starting out in the Shudder Mountains from the recently released Chained Coffin boxed set from Goodman Games. The set has plenty of great material to get the campaign rolling and we opened up with the 0-level funnel, Sour Spring Hollow.

Most of the guys from the actual play podcast are back together again for some DCC fun. Everyone was pretty excited and had characters generated well over a week ahead of game start time.

One of the players, Dustin Clark, has even gone as far to write and record a Shudder Mountain Campaign Theme Song! He unveiled the lyrics early in the week to our little community group. But then a few hours before game time we were treated to an actual recording!

And here it is!

Artist: Dustin Clark
Song:  Cross Your Path (Rough Cut)
*all rights are Dustin Clark’s

If you liked it, Dustin has some other songs out their previously released on Spotify:

Spotify – Dustin Clark


Amber Company 10th Anniversary

amber_companyLast week was my local group’s 10th anniversary! In early January 2005 our group started playing together for the first time. It is hard to believe that this humble group I started 10 years ago is still going strong today.

The Beginnings

I got back into gaming via PbP’s initially. It was easy to fit into a family schedule and it scratched the itch pretty well at the time. But eventually, I wanted more and decided to see if I could get a group started. Now – to gather a set of players when one lived in a pretty rural area.

The first member recruited as a former co-worker who had become a good friend. He’d gamed in the past and had a strong interest in RPGs. He was also willing to host at his place which was in a suburb that would be much more convenient for folks to meet at.

From there we started recruiting via message boards – primarily EN World and Wizard’s boards. The first hit from the Wizard’s board was someone that had recently moved to Ohio and was looking for a group. The two of us decided to meet this message board guy at a local restaurant as a meet and greet, sort of feel each other out. Good food was had, and he passed the “not a freak” test. So we welcomed him to the group!

I actually forget which source led to the other member of the group at the time. He only played with us for 2 or 3 sessions. The drive was a bit long for him once we started playing, so it didn’t really work out.

I also recruited a co-worker at my job as well. He was actually my boss at the time. In fact as we ramped up he used to call me over to his office at lunch to talk about his character and his plans for him. Good times!

And we rounded the group out with Crothian (a.k.a. Chris, a frequent guest poster here) from the EN World boards. We didn’t actually screen him. It was close to the game’s start and how wrong could you go with someone that had like a bazillion posts over at EN World, right?

The First Campaign

I DM’ed the first campaign. It was a Forgotten Realms campaign set in the Silver Marches running D&D 3.5. I remember I crafted my own first adventure, had this great map, I figured 2 sessions, possibly 3 sessions of play out of what I came up with. Chris had an uncanny knack for route finding and chose correctly at every choice, essentially made it s straight shot to the final room. Only managed to get one session from that adventure!

The initial player roster shifted a bit. One player dropping because of commute (we think!). One player moved away within the first 6 months. We filled those spots in with co-workers at that point.

The first campaign came to an end about 6 months later due to a TPK. (Who knew an arachnid mouther with 15’ reach and 8 attacks was too much for a 3rd level party!). The group didn’t let me DM again for several years!

Over the Years

We had some small group membership fluctuations over the years. Another person moved away back to sunny California. Some lost interest in dedicating time to RPGs.

But for the most part we’ve had a pretty solid core group. Currently, three of us are original members. A 4th joined for the last session of my campaign (so the 6 month mark), and another joined probably 7 or 8 years ago.

Over the years we’ve played and run many campaigns. Fantasy campaigns are our default, but we’ve done Star Wars games, Superhero games, some modern investigation games, and more. We’ve rotated GMing duties across several of us over the years.


For what started as a group of folks essentially gathered from co-workers and internet forums, we have become more than just a gaming group. We’ve become the best of friends. At his point over 10 years of life, we’ve all been there for each other in some form of fashion.

We’ve all supported each other over the years in any of the curveballs life has thrown our immediate group members or our families. Many cookouts, gatherings, and such that were non-game related. A supportive group that transcended our humble beginnings of just a gaming group.

What’s With The Mug?

So last week Chris brought us all a little present. Seemed a little odd, as Christmas gifts had been exchanged prior to Christmas. But each of us got a white box packed with bubble wrap. Inside was the glass mug/jar pictured above with the words:

Amber Company – 2005 – Have your heard of us?

What’s up with that? During the first campaign I ran, the group named itself the Amber Company within the first session or two. One of the players in the group’s character would always say to people the party met “We are the Amber Company, have you heard of us?” All. Of. The. Time. It was a running joke amongst the group years later.

Here is to many more years of friendship and gaming with the Amber Company.

Episode 24: Stronghold Pursuit

dcc_rpg_cover_smallStronghold Pursuit’ is the 24th episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at http://irontavern.com/podcast.

Session Synopsis

With the Overlord escaping the dining hall beyond Meffridus’ Snarling Vines, the group begins their chase through the stronghold to catch the Overlord before he can escape. Quickly working their way level by level, encountering many guards who wish to slow their hunt, the group eventually reaches the top floor of the stronghold. Here it seems the Overlord has a little surprise in for the heroes!

Download Link: http://irontavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Episode-24.mp3


Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from http://music.mevio.com.

Orr Group Report – Q4 2014


THE ORR GROUP Releases 2014 4th Quarter Tabletop Gaming Industry Report
Creators of Roll20 Virtual Tabletop report 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Surge

Kansas City, Kansas (January 8th, 2015) The Orr Group, creators of the Roll20 Virtual Tabletop, have released their newest collection of game popularity data from their system in the form of an Industry Report. The biggest change since the third quarter report is the significant growth of the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons from 12% to 20% of all games played and from 16.6% to 24.3% of players. 

“It is clear that the release of the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition tools like the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide along with The Rise of Tiamat adventure book stirred Roll20 users towards picking up and playing in this new rule set,” said The Orr Group cofounder and Roll20 spokesperson Nolan T. Jones. 

The Orr Group Industry Report also saw changes from last quarter via growth in number of respondents and several new games being added to the list. 

“We expected our sample size to grow with population, but we also believe more users are taking the time to select what games they are playing in reaction to knowing their selections are being noted by the roleplaying community via The Orr Group Industry Report,” said Jones. 

Roll20 began as an effort to keep The Orr Group founders Riley Dutton, Jones, and Richard Zayas in touch via long distance gaming. Since launching via Kickstarter, it has attracted more than 725,000 users as a free service. The program continues to be funded by subscribers who receive features that assist advanced gameplay.


Here is a summary of the report numbers. My commentary is below.


Those are some interesting numbers! Folks curious about how they gather their numbers in a little more detail should take a look at their blog post explaining their method.

For those that want the quick summary, they essentially mine the data from two parts of Roll20. The Personal Profile page where Roll20 user can list what games they like to play. For them to be counted, according to the blog post, the player has to have been active in the quarter the data is compiled. The My Campaigns area is also used to mine this data. This is the page where a GM states what game he or she is running. Those two locations are where the numbers for Game % and Player % are generated.

For this quarter’s data it looks like the data was pulled from a collection of nearly 26,000 games and 18,000 plus active players. Definitely an interesting snapshot into what is being played on what is one of more successful VTTs out there.

It is also interesting to note that unlike ICv2, which is focused on sales, Roll20 doesn’t rely on certain systems to have had new releases or currently in print books. Their data mining is much more a look into what is actually being played.

This should be an interesting way to see what is out there being played as future quarterly reports are released!

Shudder Mountain Campaign

chained_coffin_coverMany followers of the blog know that the Sunken City campaign from the actual play podcast wrapped up a couple of months ago. Our online group is flush with excellent GMs and the guys gave me a break from early September until now. We had some Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, and Dungeonslayers at the table during the break. Then I warmed up with a Tomb of Horrors holiday campaign that went 4 sessions.

Now I feel rested and energized and ready to get back behind the screen. Polling the group showed they were ready for more DCC! Initially I was going to start the whole thing off with a 0-level funnel idea I had (and got partially through writing), but then I realized The Chained Coffin box was going to be showing up at my house any day! I pitched a campaign based on that boxed set and the idea was well received!

Shudder Mountain

While the boxed set is called The Chained Coffin, the mini-campaign setting is actually focused on a region called the Shudder Mountains. The vast majority of writing for everything in this set is Michael Curtis. The man was a machine turning out words for this setting! Steve Bean wrote a 1st level adventure included with the set. An owner of the boxed set gets a regional map, a 0-level funnel, 1st level adventure, 3rd level adventure, 5th level adventure, an almanac, and a companion guide.

The easiest way to describe the Shudder Mountains is to think of the forgotten hollows of Appalachia West Virginia. Hollows, creeks, forested, rugged land. Parts well isolated from “modern” times. Throw in some superstition and DCCify it a bit and you have a great place to start a campaign in!

Cool Stuff – Spoiler free

I have of course started prepping for the campaign (we start playing next week!). This is how more campaign settings should be written (mini or not). There is just enough information to save me a lot of work in coming up with, while leaving a tremendous amount of opportunities for me to expand on.

The history of the Shudder Mountain region stretches back a great many centuries. With two ancient races – one somewhat traditional for some fantasy worlds and the other definitely Appendix N style. This offers up a plethora of possibilities for the Judge to expand on either ancient civilization in their game.

I have several ideas already floating around in my head based on this history. Some to older modules (even some Forgotten Realms stuff I think) and some to some products from Goodman Games. All of this off what was essentially a pretty short read.

All of this feed into why the people of Shudder Mountains are they way they are. Many of these things make the region quite unique and interesting. There are lots of new things to toy with as a Judge to keep the players on their toes.

Campaign Start

I can tell my players are excited as I think all of them have already posted their 0-level characters to our G+ Community group. Usually a good sign! In a lot of ways I wish I had started the campaign tonight (as I write this), but it was my first week back to work after a long holiday break and I thought I’d be pretty tired already!

I will be launching the campaign with the 0-level from the boxed set. Looks to be much shorter than the 0-level I started them with, but potentially way more lethal! From there I will probably fall back to my listening to the players to see what “lead” they want to investigate. We shall see!

Actual Play Podcast?

At this point I am leaning towards releasing actual play episodes of this campaign. I have setup the computer I use for our G+ Hangout/Roll20 sessions for recording. Feedback has been positive on the release of episodes from the last campaign. And some have commented that hearing a campaign from the start would be even better.