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Adorable Creatures: Otterling

OtterlingQuick-witted, devious, and ambitious, otterlings are a mischievous race that dwells in riverfront villages. They make natural craftsmen and nimble fighters on the battlefield. Meanwhile their grandiose ambitions often lead them to unlawfulness.

Otterlings are the second race in the Adorable Creatures series, following Garden Gnomes. As natural rogues and wizards, otterlings make powerful allies, often thinking outside the box and having a plan or at least the resources to get them out of any situation. However, their unethical practices and greed can put them at odds with more lawful party members.

For my campaigns, I wanted to create a culture of people who make their living off the black market or else are known for raising rogues and wizards. Though evil, otterling settlements see the value of good business and rarely attack good-doers on sight. This allows DMs to include otterling villages in good campaigns where party members can track down an enemy on the run, find new magical items, or find information on the shadier corners of the world.

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Snakes and Scorpions: Four Menacing Pulp Monsters

Weird_Tales_August_1934“… and now from an opening on one side came a silent writhing horror that reared up and glared on the intruder with awful luminous eyes; a serpent twenty feet long, with shimmering, iridescent scales.” —Robert E. Howard, “Black Colossus”

The days of high adventure are full of high-risk, high-reward situations. And nothing says “risky” quite like the business end of a serpent’s fang or a scorpion’s tail. Indeed, snakes and scorpions have appeared in literature throughout history as malevolent protectors—ill-willed living traps put to insidious use by keen and cruel minds. The legendary Book of Thoth was said to be guarded by snakes and scorpions. To wit, the ancient Egyptian tale of Setne Khamwas and Naneferkaptah details six miles of “serpents, scorpions, and all kinds of reptiles” surrounding the gold box housing the book. (Of course, Naneferkaptah’s curse is more deadly to Khamwas than the legion of venomous vermin, but I digress). More famously, pulp yarns like the weird fiction of Robert E. Howard and the stop-motion worlds of Ray Harryhausen have served as terrific inspiration for realizing these creatures in our own RPG campaigns.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Harryhausen’s Giant Scorpions come to life in Clash of the Titans. And it’s no secret I’m a sucker for Howard’s Hyborian Age and the serpent-slaying exploits of Conan the Barbarian. Quite often, the dangers of the natural world (albeit a primeval one) can prove as deadly to would-be heroes as those of the supernatural. You don’t necessarily need “high fantasy” to capture that sense of high adventure Howard so effortlessly engendered with his stories. But when it came to populating my Pathfinder game with a menagerie of these Stygian menaces, I found a snake-sized hole in my heart that needed filling.

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Grand Duchy: Traits From an Elfen Kingdom

Saint George and the Dragon - RaphaelWho knew that grandmother’s stories told beside the evening fire were entertaining and contained elements of elf history? Did you ever wonder why warriors from Reywald and Donnermark often favored the warhammer, traditionally a dwarven weapon? And who doesn’t trust a resident of Salzbach to taste-test the contents of an unmarked potion?

Players who create PCs native to the Grand Duchy of Dornig might find that including these traits adds some of the region’s character in their Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

But if you use another system, these traits can still be useful without the mechanical aspects. The traits can inspire D&D 5E-style boons or serve as background material for systems like FATE or Savage Worlds.

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Beyond Mapping: Building 3-D Gaming Environments

Diorama1Recently, as part of an effort to teach skills that would be useful in designing video games, Todd Morgan Shirley embarked on a project with his daughter Reina Yoneyama Shirley: teaching her how to play D&D. Todd believes that beyond the fundamental game theory a player and/or DM gains from D&D there are numerous transferable benefits: vocabulary, character and game design, statistics, good note taking, introduction to psychological archetyping, modeling, art, math, common sense development, and performing art—to name a few. Reina took to the idea, and the two began painting miniatures. Then, after some discussion with her friends, they put together a small group to play the fifth edition D&D starter set. Wanting to make sure everyone had a great experience, they decided to go beyond mapping on graph paper or battle mats: they started building 3-D tiles/dungeons.

After some quick research, they discovered that it would not be affordable to build 3-D environments as well as they had envisioned. Reina had taken classes on making dioramas that used recycled materials. So, working with that idea as a foundation, they went online to research the various methods to do this well. The two went all in, and they are in the process of producing terrain, caves, buildings, and dungeons for the campaign, The Lost Mines of Phandelver. During their Christmas 2014 celebration, Reina received gifts of the more advanced books: PH, DMG, MM, and the Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat. So, they are going to go through everything eventually.

They both wanted to share the results of their efforts with the Kobold Press public. Take a look at what these two have crafted together!

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