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Posts tagged “D&D

Taking the Tarrasque Seriously

The highest challenge rating in D&D, dropped into every monster manual, the fantasy Godzilla, has become something of a joke. Everyone who’s been in the game long enough has a “Tarrasque plan” or a story of how they one-shot or would one-shot the Tarrasque, and every DM has thrown the word around as the monster equivalent of “Rocks Fall, Everybody Dies”.

It appears in no famous campaigns, it has very little by way of back-story, it just sleeps beneath the world waiting for the time when it must rise and destroy, a thing as old or perhaps older than gods, with no motive other than to smash and destroy. And to be honest, by the time your party have reached an adequate level to defeat it, it’s actually pretty easy because it’s incredibly dimwitted, sluggish, and while it has hit points for days, a bucket of resistances, and can deflect certain magical effects, it can be overwhelmed and destroyed in time.

Now, fifth edition did a lot to lend personality to monsters, to contextualise them in potential scenarios and use evocative descriptions to bring out the best in even the most obscure creatures, such that one could imagine including them in any number of adventures. And yet the Tarrasque remains a law unto itself, the party benchtest, the DM’s biggest and nastiest threat, that arrives without warning, wants nothing but destruction, and needs to be put down the old fashioned way.

Let’s do some work:

People Are Crazy

The Tarrasque represents a force of nature, if you’re looking for a story, look no further than Godzilla for some ideas, although more specifically look at the human elements. The stirrings of the Tarrasque might raise cults or dark scholars who embrace the idea of a world-wide extinction, or perhaps there are lunatic agents who believe they can control the rampaging beast. Necromancers – hells, Vecna himself – might invoke the beast to rise to cause untold death to swell their ranks.

In this scenario we have cults of madness and death, possibly demons, likely necromancers. Players will have to prevent them from seeking rituals, or journey to the place where the Tarrasque slumbers, and go to war against the creatures that wish to awaken it, without doing their job for them.

Times Are Strange

The ground shakes, sinkholes swallow entire forests, hurricanes scour cities, mountains fall, the underground spills out into the overworld, bringing with it every nightmare that had previously remained hidden.

You could run a perfectly ordinary campaign filled with enemies and disasters, all of which stemming from mysterious natural disasters, or perhaps riddled with villains who seem desperate and fearful, or knowing and gleeful. The whole campaign would be almost “business as usual” but riddled with hints at a greater evil or some bigger disaster still to come.

And that’s what the Tarrasque should be, a disaster, not just a big monster, but surrounded by fear, and chaos. Perhaps it’s right that there’s no reflection in the monster’s stat block, that the awakening of the Tarrasque causes the ground to heave and shake, but the concept of the creature is that it is as much a disaster as a tidal wave. Consider adding regional effects, except that its “region” is the size of a continent, and the effects get progressively worse the closer it comes to awakening.

King of Monsters

Go leafing through monster manuals and you’ll find a lot of monsters that could rival the Tarrasque in power, although very few of them are material creatures. Elementals like the Leviathan and the Phoenix, weapons of the gods like the Kraken or the Empyrean, demon princes, arch devils, aberrations, and of course ancient dragons. Want to cast your players in the roles of hapless victims of a war between titans.

There’s potential in that campaign, the desperate struggle for survival, the search for a solution, that ultimately culminates in titan after titan being killed or returned to its slumber through ancient rituals, or cunning on the part of the players. So long as they feel they have some agency in the war, they’ll slowly gather in power until they are ready to murder the king of the monsters himself, Godzi- the Tarrasque.

Changing Things Up

Quick last thing, lets throw some ideas of how to make the Tarrasque more horrifying… because that’s a good idea.

Anti-Magic Breath Weapon – It’s different, it imparts a limitation on the antimagic ability so as not to make it too potent, but it also adds a layer of intimidation to the wizards hiding behind layers and layers of protective magic. It also suggests that the Tarrasque in question is a force designed to end magic in the world, it could herald a time of diminished magic in the world.
The Lionfish Problem – Give it poisonous quills on top of the impervious carapace to casually remind your group that there’s always a bigger fish.
Ranged Weapon – The biggest weakness of the Tarrasque is that it is heavily reliant on its melee reach to have any effect. Maybe just a thrown rock, but with a several hundred foot range, and with an area effect.
Or Burrowing – The ground’s already shaking, and why wouldn’t the Tarrasque be able to tunnel through the ground like it was swimming through water? That bite attack becomes far more harrowing when it’s rising from beneath you.
Corrupted – I included some ideas above for Tarrasque cults, they could probably change the creature into something more demonic, or even undead.
Flying Tarrasque – Why not, that’s hilarious.

Oh! Last thing, someone’s trying to get a Tarrasque mini kickstarted, and the stretch goals are “bigger mini” which I like. Not a fan of the design myself, but I respect the idea and what they’re trying to do. Here’s a link, check it out, no doubt other people will like the design.


Shropshire Dungeon Master Events

And Diary XIV

Last time I talked about life as a DM for hire was only July, but hotdamn have these last two months been full of stuff!

Insomnia 65 shortly after Gen Con, three games a day in which I had to shout over the e-sports stage about a hundred feet away with whooping and cheering Overwatch fans and the commentators talking over the action, it’s a hard life but ultimately worth it. Not only are the games booking out, but extra games are having to be laid on, and we’re in the process of inducting another GM to help ease the burden and get a few more people to the tables.

Huge thanks to the photographer who sent me some of pictures he took mid-game, some of your work will end up on a roller banner at some point in the future:

Twitter @JordHeathcote
Instagram @jordheathcotefilm

Following a short break in Machynlleth it was straight back to the library, and this week just gone, Staffordshire, specifically a charity event with the Staffordshire Wargaming Guild in support of PWSA for Prader Willi’s syndrome, and military charity SSAFA. I was invited by Harriet who I met very briefly at UKGE in June, and while my communication was slow over the busy summer, I went, I ran a couple of games, I did so far faster than I intended because my players proved to be ruthlessly efficient. Also, I apparently won some dice in the raffle! Thanks everyone, hopefully see you all again.

Ok, so, the future. I am most definitely up to something, for a start I have another Hallowe’en game in the wonderful surroundings of Whittington Castle, and the interest has already been so incredibly high that I’ve added a second day of play! The first event on the 30th of October, the second on the 1st of November (with obvious exception for Hallowe’en itself it being GeekOut Shrewsbury’s Bad Costume Party). In my last horror spectacular I killed everyone in the first hour… this time around, they’ll wish I had.

I’m not offering links for the event because at this point they look set to sell out some time this Saturday.

Finally, I’ve been up to something… I’ve been up to something for about three months, maybe longer, and I still can’t talk about it in full but much of it will be a continuation of the DMing 101 series from when I first started here many, many years ago, and requires learning how to turn all of this long winded rambling into vocal rambling, I ranted about this the other day, but now I can show you that it’ll look something like this.


GeekOut Shrewsbury June ’19 – Board Game Beginners

Board game beginners, bring your friends, those who haven’t touched a dice since Ludo, someone who with the bitter aftertaste of Monopoly finally fading. If you can’t shuffle a deck of cards to save your life, this is your month to dip a proverbial toe firmly in the metaphorical water.

Premeet – Sweet

I did not take photos at the premeet again, I was kind of busy having my ass handed to me repeatedly at Magic while downing milkshake, not by Murray this time, but by Kim and her vicious blue-green ramp deck, which I should not have attempted to mill to death… which makes a lot of sense if you’ve played Magic but if you haven’t… well come to GeekOut, we’ll teach you.

It was pretty on theme too, Kim’s Magic addiction is in its first flushes, so taking out an experienced player with relative ease is always going to be affirming. Although I refuse to accept any and all responsibility for any hobby-induced poverty experienced as a result.

Monty’s

We have outlived the quiz! Not our quiz, the other one that was moving in on our territory. So no need to move into the far side of the pub, we get to keep our corner with all of the amenities we’ve become accustomed to, like a projector, tables for the board game library, and room to spread and expand in comfort.

And this month we were also almost back to a full compliment of 30+ attendees, including some new faces alongside the regulars. Amongst those new faces, at least one new adventurer steps into Meadsbridge, and there will be some newcomers who are most certainly returning – if not next month – then certainly in the near future.

It wasn’t all plain sailing this month, we completely forgot the competition, so I guess that’ll have to be a rollover? And we had a mini-parade of mental and medical complaints, but news and updates from all concerned sound broadly positive. We look after our own, your health and welfare are priority one. Look after yourselves and each other first and foremost, then break into the board games and nerdiness later.

Next Month – Convention Season, the 25th of July, conveniently right in time for me to vanish to America for GenCon, and while I’m starting mad prep for Insomnia in August. No Kitacon, no Amecon, so in the absence of my regular national-scale geeky get together, we’ll do our best to capture the moment.


Ultimate Games Master – Preview

You probably already know that I build web-based applications for people to fund my nerdy habits. With the launch of the now popular DnD Beyond, I began to wonder just how long it might take someone to come along and challenge it. If there was any way you could beat the behemoth that is Wizards Of The Coast, it would be to design an app that did more than just Dungeons & Dragons, which is precisely what Ultimate Games Master (UGM) does.

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Dungeon Situational – Ten Ghosts (pt 2)

More ghosts, here’s part one.

… And One for the Man in the Corner

In the Ox and Puncheon there’s a table with a candle that’s never lit, a cup that never empties but is regularly refreshed, and chairs that are never moved and never sat in except by those approaching the end of their tether. The old barflies know to get one for the man in the corner, the publican and her staff invite all new patrons to add an extra cup to their order, with a furtive nod to the dark table where no one sits and nurses pint after pint of Pig Iron stout. (more…)


E3 2019 – Actually Quite Interesting

I’ve had a couple of years of just not caring about E3. I know I’m not alone in that, a lot of hype that rarely gets fulfilled, a lot of the hype we want nowhere to be seen, and it’s usually just a chance for big publishers to let us down and make us worried about the future of the industry for one reason or another.

But can I take a moment or two to actually talk about some stuff that I like the look of here? Some of the game announcements and other news touches on a few subjects that genuinely excite me, and I won’t even rag on the more “classically bad” elements like how many games look like Borderlands these days like Outlands and rage 2 both do, nor will I even mention the words “Fallout has battle royal for some reason”… that would be highly unnecessary. (more…)


The Shropshire Dungeon Master XI – UKGE and Comics Salopia

Hey Joel, you’ve published your articles a little late this week.

Why yes, yes I have thank you for asking. Last week was a long and glorious week, and GeekOut Shrewsbury was only the start of it. (more…)


GeekOut Shrewsbury May ’19 – Who’s That Pokemon?

This was a quiet month, a not-insubstantial chunk of our regulars are currently busy, ill, and various other things, but our numbers dropped to a mere twenty-something instead of the thirtyish we were growing accustomed to. Oh no, how terrible, what shall ever become of our dwindling numbers? And what shall ever become of us if we cannot rearrange the pub to our favour? (more…)


Top 10 Tentacled Beings

GeekOut Top 10s

Squids! Octopi! Aliens! What do all of these things have in common? That’s right, tentacles. Okay, aliens maybe not always, but the rest are definitely tentacled. Whether or not you’re going to have a biological tentacle, or a mechanical one, these appendages are long, limber and part of many people’s fantasies. You know what I’m talking about. Anyway, here’s our Top 10 Tentacled Beings.

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Dungeon Situational – Owlbear Encounters

Hoooo doesn’t love owlbears? They’re fuzzy balls of fluff topped with the best spiky bits from nature, but how to best use them without just dumping them into a random forest encounter? This week’s Dungeon Situational I offer up a few different ways to use these adorable hybrid beasties that may give you some ideas of your own… (more…)