30 March 2018

A Final Look at Madness - How The Old Ones Did It!

As March, and my theme of March Madness draws to a close, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn't spend some time talking about the sanity rules from the d20 SRD. I believe these rules were originally part of the D20 Cthulhu game, written by Monte Cook and John Tynes, and published way back in the mists of time (2002) by Wizards of the Coast. I'm not going to do a full review of these rules, but let's go ahead and take a look at some of the interesting bits.

21 March 2018

Rambler Reviews: "Perilous Places: The King's Mercy"

This week, I am continuing my March Madness Theme by taking a look at Perilous Places: TheKing's Mercy. This twenty page PDF is another offering from the Dungeon Master's Guild, written by Paul Baalham, and featuring another take on emulating the progression of madness (or in this case despair) in the minds of hapless adventurers. The supplement is laid out nicely, is done in full color, and there are good illustrations throughout, including an image of each new monster and unique item presented, which I truly appreciate. Let's take a closer look, and I'll let you know what I think about this supplement and the “Despair Track” that it introduces.

14 March 2018

Rambler Reviews: Madness sub-classes for the Barbarian and the Monk

Continuing with my March Madness theme, I'm taking a look at sub-classes with a madness theme for both the Barbarian and the Monk class. Incidentally, both supplements are from the same author. How did I choose these classes or these sub-classes you ask? I won't bore you with all the details, but I will tell you that the process involved typing in the search term “madness” on the DM's Guild website and then downloading a couple of relevant results. Okay, so it turns out that I will bore you with all of the details. Anyway, let's take a look at what I found and I'll tell you what I think.

09 March 2018

Rambler Reviews: A Tale of Three Madness Systems

What happens when the mind is confronted with something so terrible, so alien, that it alters a person's understanding of reality? 

Why, that person slowly descends into madness of course! 

This theme, and the exploration of this "descent into madness," is quite popular in literature and cinema. The works of Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Alfred Hitchcock come immediately to mind as exemplary of this genre, and there are no doubt dozens and dozens of other examples. This theme is so familiar, and so pervasive, that sooner or later the question of how to emulate madness in role-playing games will inevitably come up.

In Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons, this question comes up on pages 258 – 260, in Chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master's Guide, under the heading: "Madness." Maddeningly, it also comes up in Chapter 9 on page 266 under the section “Fear and Horror,” which (poorly) references the aforementioned madness rules in Chapter 8, while in turn those madness rules in Chapter 8 reference the rules for “sanity checks” on page 265 of Chapter 9. Unless the intention was to actually drive people mad, there is no reason for these obviously related rules to be scattered and separated as they are by a few unrelated pages. But I digress...

Today, I'll be taking a look at these official madness rules, as well as a couple of other, similar systems that are available for download over at the DM's Guild.

07 March 2018

Introducing March Madness

I'm not a basketball fan, so when I hear everyone saying "March Madness" at this time of year I don't think about sports - I think about actual, jaw-clenching, lose-your-mind madness. So this month I'm dedicating my blog to madness in role-playing games.

What does that mean? One thing it means is that I'm going to take a look at some different rules and supplements that simulate fear, madness, and corruption and tell you what I think about them. I'm also going to review at least one madness-themed adventure. Beyond that I'll probably talk about some monsters like mind-flayers and gibbering mouthers, and I might even dig up some Cthulhu RPG stuff to talk about. It's going to get crazy!

Also, not much is set in stone yet, so if you have anything or know of anything madness-related that I should look at let me know!

02 March 2018

How to Create a Good Backstory, or: Why Nobody Cares About All That Stuff You Wrote About Your Character

First off, I want to say that I think having a backstory for your character is important, and I think the inclusion of backgrounds as a part of character creation in Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons is inspired. However, too much backstory before you even play the game can be a bad thing, and actually work against your enjoyment at the table.

Now, before you try and pummel me to death with the hand-bound ream of parchment that you’ve penned your character’s history on, hear me out.