Tag Archives: RPG

Iblis Prime: A Homebrew Planet for Rogue Traders and Other Adventurers

The Boiling Brine

The Boiling Brine, an inland sea on the planet Iblis Prime via

For the past 28 sessions, I have been GMing a Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader game for my home group. At the end of our last story arc, the players were rewarded with the rights to a colony on a newly discovered (though presently populated) planet outside of the Imperium of Man.

Rather than give them a data dump of information and plot hooks I created, I made a session out of planet creation. I leveraged the World Generator system from Chapter 1 of the Stars of Inequity supplement, and players took turns rolling skill checks to research or investigate the planet and its system. Based on the success of their skill rolls, I granted them some leeway to choose off of the random tables from Stars of Inequity. If they failed, I chose nastier results.

After randomizing the characteristics of the planet, we set about filling in the details of some major factions of the city, creating a slew of potential allies and adversaries as they set off to make their mark for the Imperium of Man. I’ve included the results of our session as a (mostly) ready-to-play location for your Rogue Trader game, which can be easily adapted for other settings.

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Unearthed Arcana: Mass Combat, Simplified

Mass combat, via

Last week’s Unearthed Arcana covered Mass Combat for the second time since the series launched at the beginning of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Behind only the Ranger class, it is the second most-covered subject of the series, meaning D&D’s designers feel there is a gap in players’ expectations and the rules as written.

Frankly, I don’t care much for either entry, as both sets of rules offer too much unnecessary crunch to a game that’s elegant and streamlined. I don’t have any particular gripe with the rules they’ve presented (though they’re more complicated than just using a swarm, for no real benefit), but rather with the fact that any rules are presented at all. Simply put: most RPGs, including D&D, don’t need them. However, this latest Unearthed Arcana does capture the most important element for running exciting mass combats, buried in the very final section: Critical Events. An RPG should focus on the moments where the characters’ actions influence the direction of the story most, and these inflection points–Critical Events, in the parlance of the UA article–should be the point of focus for the rules and the Gamemaster.

To illustrate this thesis, think of the Trojan War. It’s a story that has been retold a thousand times, but can you recall anything about troop formations or the tide of the broad battle at any given point? The Greeks attacked and the Trojans held firm. Alternatively, think of the battle between Hector and Patroclus; Hector famously slew Patroclus, believing he was Achilles for he had donned Achilles’ armor. Achilles, on learning of Patroclus’ demise, entered the battle in earnest and turned the tide in the Greeks’ favor. More to the point, if you were retelling the story at a tabletop, would you rather focus attention on the minute movements and formations of the regular Greeks and Trojans, or on the epic duel that led to the entry of the Greek’s greatest champion and, ultimately, the demise of Troy? To borrow from the silver screen, would you rather focus on the naval battle around the Second Death Star, or the Millennium Falcon’s bombing run into its core?

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Character Backstory: Rasputin Goldfingers, the Halfling Gambler

Voodoo Halfling by Eric Belisle

Voodoo Halfling by Eric Belisle

I’m joining a new Dungeons & Dragons 5E campaign at 5th level, playing the Gambler we designed on Episode 61 of Total Party Thrill. Rasputin Goldfingers will begin his playing career as Bard 3/Warlock 2, with the character concept that he’s made a pact with a fiend for mortal power, but must play a single hand of cards for his immortal soul upon his death. Obviously, he intends to ensure he wins that final hand. I wrote the following vignette as his backstory:

“And so, the bargain is struck, the pact completed!” roars the archfiend joyously, as the halfling’s blood dries upon the parchment. “Rasputin Goldfingers, your soul shall be mine. And sooner than you think, I’m sure!”

The halfling grins, his golden eyes glittering with greed. “We shall see, Avarixhal. As I reckon it, I’ve got a good 60 or 70 years to figure out your tell. If I can’t, then I suppose I deserve what fate befalls me, mate.”

A second cackling joins the devil’s raucous laughter.

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Analyzing D&D 5E’s Unearthed Arcana Revised Ranger


This week, Wizards of the Coast released the much-awaited The Ranger, Revised Unearthed Arcana, in which they took the first pass at a truly redesigned Ranger class. In previous Unearthed Arcana editions, they proposed new archetypes to mixed reception, but this one is actually a rebuild from level 1 to 20, with three subclasses: the Hunter Conclave, the Beast Conclave, and the Deep Stalker Conclave.

Full disclosure: I’m a Ranger critic. As we discussed on Total Party Thrill #18, I love the concept of the Ranger class in Dungeons & Dragons, but I’ve been disappointed with its implementation in 5th Edition. As printed in the Player’s Handbook, the Ranger is a total mess; it’s the weakest of the martial classes in combat, it lacks a niche, and its class-defining abilities are either useless, overshadowed by other classes, or simply less fun in practice than they should be. The Fighter has both trickiness and brute force in combat, the Paladin has better burst damage and party buffs, the Barbarian tanks, the Rogue dominates the Exploration pillar with its Expertise, and the Druid has identical-or-better wilderness and animal handling capabilities. The last hope for the Ranger, his last One Cool Thing, is the animal companion. It’s only available to one subclass, and it happens to be the single worst class in the game by a longshot.

In short, this revision is overdue. Let’s break it down, ability by ability.

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Group Spellcasting: D&D 5E Homebrew Challenge

Not the same Unearthed Arcana

This is not the Unearthed Arcana you’re looking for… via

Homebrew Challenge is an occasional column in which we develop a homebrew solution for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition in order to create additional player options, actions, or abilities. We discuss the challenge, the solution, the design principles we employed and ideas that we rejected, and the areas of concern that Dungeon Masters should keep an eye on.

The Challenge: Group Casting

The idea that a group of casters can combine their power into a single spell is as old as magic. It shows up in fiction in various forms, from Shakespeare’s witches in Macbeth to a variety of psykers, heretics, and cultists in the Warhammer 40k universe. The goal here is straightforward: create a mechanic by which two spellcasters can combine their spells to achieve a greater net effect.  Continue reading

Total Party Thrill Podcast is Now Live on iTunes (with a Big Thanks!)


I want to take a moment and thank everyone who listened to our preview episode and sent in their feedback. It was immensely helpful, and I-Hsien and I truly appreciate it as we try to make Total Party Thrill the best RPG discussion podcast we possibly can.

All of that effort and kindness has finally borne fruit, as yesterday we officially launched on iTunes, and only a couple days later than we anticipated! Our third full episode (Player-Centric Campaigns & Combat Medic) went up today, and we’ll continue a weekly Thursday release schedule.

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Total Party Thrill is a podcast for GMs and players where we discuss our campaigns in order to inspire yours. We draw heavily from a 3-year, level 1-20 D&D 5th Edition Eberron campaign. Each episode covers a particular aspect of game planning and playing, and we share tips and advice drawn from our own experience. Then follow us into the Character Creation Forge, where we build iconic character archetypes from outside traditional D&D using the D&D 5E rules.