Distance – It’s about to get confusing



Distance in AD&D

It often gets a little glazed over by DMs & players and who can blame them? 1″=10 yards, 1″=10 feet, 1/3rd inside or 1:10 or 1:20… Lets take a closer look at what distance REALLY says.  Read More

Adventure is Back in this 5E Module

Marathon of Heroes

This adventure was originally written and produced for RPG Crate (July 2017) and it shipped to MANY gamers around the globe. Fail Squad Games, Ric Martens, and Lloyd Metcalf wanted to bring it directly to our supporters as well and we were given the thumbs up to pull the trigger. As is the case with many small indie publishers, laying out the cheddar to get a stack of books printed blindly can be a disastrous risk. Kickstarter addresses that issue and let’s us find the gamers who need the books to plan our print run accordingly.

In Marathon of Heroes the local city is faced with a nightmare of a Dragon. The local lord has tracked the beast to a volcano offshore, but no one knows what awaits. Everyone knows what Red Dragons love above all else though – Treasure.

Strange Friends in Strange Places

It’s not long before the heroes meet a friend from the Lands of Lunacy. The Murine are an anthropomorphic race of rodent folk native to the Lands of Lunacy. They were first introduced in the 1E/OSRIC adventure “Last Call Oliviah” but have been modified and properly introduced as a 5E player character race in Marathon of Heroes.

The heroes new friend knows they aren’t ready to face Vatrastrom the dragon and offers them an opportunity to hone their skills and prepare to face the beast in his volcanic lair.

The Tests

Marathon of Heroes will test the four compass points of tabletop gaming:

  • Fighter
  • Magicuser
  • Cleric
  • Thief

All find their tests and challenges and opportunities to shine. The adventure shines a spotlight on how an old-school party was expected to operate for 5E players. A gaming group of interdependent heroes relying on one another for success. This adventure highlights those Halcyon days and attempts to remind players of the party-team strength (or relive its glory)

Adventure Awaits

This 36-38 page adventure covers multiple sessions and a lot of ground. With stretch goals that comes as side quests called “Interludes” there is potential for many sessions in this one adventure.

Back the project NOW on Kickstarter 

(Ends August 3rd 10 AM EST 2017)


Building A Treasure Horde


TreasureIf someone asked me what part of designing adventures I find the most perplexing I would say treasure without a thought. For me, deciding what treasure a particular encounter should have has always been a problem. I know there are random tables, but whenever I use those I get wonky results and often accidentally unbalance the game. The problem is, that treasure is a very important aspect of the game which means even if I wanted to, I can’t really not put it in. I have tried all kinds of different solutions to make placing treasure easier for me, but until recently I haven’t really found one I liked. Thankfully about a year ago I came up with a series of questions that have made placing treasure a lot easier.

1: Does this Treasure Make Sense?

When I first started GMing, I rarely gave thought to the logic of treasure placement. Things such as the adventure location, the monsters encountered, and where the treasure came from didn’t seem all that important.

An encounter in a cave full of stirges should have treasure that makes sense. Stirges don’t value treasure, but they do a really god job at killing low level characters. Any treasure found inside a stirge cave should reflect this. You won’t find priceless artifacts, but you will find things like potions, coins, and the like. Giving just a little thought to the environs and creature helps make any decisions about treasure a lot easier.

2: Does this Treasure Unbalance the Game?

The biggest mistakes I have ever made as a GM was giving an artifact to a first level party. My players loved it, but it destroyed the campaign. That campaign ended rather abruptly and I learned a valuable lesson. When I consider treasure , I always ask myself if an item is going to create a balance issue. A really powerful magic item or to much gold can unbalance the game. .

3: Does this Treasure Aid the Party?

This is the final question I ask myself. Yes, almost any treasure will aid a party in some way, but there are things that are better than others. Giving the party incense of mediation when the party doesn’t have a cleric isn’t all that helpful. However, giving the party a +2 amulet of natural armor when there is a Druid in the party, makes a lot of sense. I also tend to have “boss” fights at the end of the adventure. For this reason I often want to make sure the characters will have stuff to help them with that fight.

I will probably never perfect the art of placing treasure. They are not perfect, but I do think these questions help. I would love to hear what other people have to say on this topic so don’t be shy.

Until next time may the GM roll poorly,

Ric :)

Building an Adventure: Getting Started

Druid Camp

Druid CampIt Seems like the most common phrase I hear in regard to adventure design is “I don’t know where to start.” While this problem is not unusual, many people talk themselves out of trying to build an adventure before they even start. If you have ever struggled with coming up with an idea for an adventure, try the following suggestions.

1: Look for Inspiration

Inspiration is everywhere if you look for it. Look at the picture that is part of this post and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What does it make you think about?
  • Does it invoke a particular feeling?
  • Does it remind you of something?
  • Who or What lives there?
  • How was this place created?
  • Why would adventurers need to go here?

As you ask yourself these questions, jot down the answers in a notebook or on a piece of paper. Don’t worry about the “right” answer, just get the thoughts down. As you write the answers down think about how it all fits together. As you go through this process you are likely to find the idea growing and becoming something more substantial. Stick with it and see where it goes.

2: Draw a Map

Look at the picture again and think about what the inside of the tree looks like. Grab a piece of paper and start scribbling down some ideas. After you have an idea of the what the inside looks like think about what the area around the picture looks like. Again, don’t worry about it looking all professional, just worry about getting the idea down.

3: Don’t Worry about “Doing it Right” 

Role playing games are about having fun and that is what really matters. There are far to many people that want to tell other people what having fun means, don’t listen to them. Do what works for you and tell the stories you want to tell. If you get to caught up in doing it right you are likely to wind up frustrated and unhappy.

4: Don’t be Afraid to Give up on an Idea.

In my opinion, one of the hardest things to learn is giving up on a bad idea. There are some ideas that don’t come together no matter how hard you try. Rather than bang your head against a wall, switch gears and work on a new idea. Doing this not only reduces frustration, but also gives you a chance to revisit your original idea at a time when your mind is clear.

What designing and adventure really comes down to is not being afraid to start. Find a bit of inspiration, draw a map, and have fun doing it. You do this and the rest of it is easy.

Until next time may all of your rule books remain in excellent condition.

Ric :)


Ranger Archetype: Scout

AD&D Elf

AD&D ElfToday we present a new archetype for the 5e Ranger. This archetype focuses on the favored terrain concept.

Ranger Archetype: Scout

The scout archetype takes favored terrain to a whole new level. All ranger’s gain the favored terrain ability, However, the Scout becomes a true master of their chosen terrain learning to use it for deadly advantage. Other rangers might focus on fighting or working with animals, the Scout focuses on mobility and stealth.

  • Master of their Environment – At 3rd level your favored terrain abilities improve as follows.
    – When traveling alone you may move stealthily at a fast rate
    – Stealth and Perception checks are with advantage even when traveling at a fast rate.
    – You gain a new favored terrain at 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 18th level
  • Set Ambush – At 7th level, you gain the ability to establish an ambush. When you establish and ambush, you gain one round of free actions before anyone else rolls initiative. Once you use your ambush combat returns to normal. To establish an ambush you must be alone and hidden. Establishing an ambush requires a minimum of two rounds of preparation.
  • Running Fight – At 9th Level when you are fighting in one of your favored terrains you may double move as a single action. You may only do this once per an encounter.
  • Improved Ambush – At 13th level your ability to ambush enemies improve. When you establish an ambush you gain two rounds of free actions before anyone else rolls initiative. To establish and Improved Ambush you must be alone and hidden. This action requires one round to establish the conditions for the ambush.
  • Teamwork – At 17th level your group can establish an ambush with you. The entire group uses your stealth roll to hide. While you still are allowed two free rounds of actions, everyone else is only allowed one.

As mentioned above, feel free to give this a bit of a play test. I think it’s balanced but I might be wrong and would like to know if I am. Until next time Happy Gaming.

Ric :)

A look at Game design: Learning to Accept Criticism.

Most people won’t see the amount of work Lloyd, myself, and others put into the products Fail Squad Games produces. One of the things I want to do with this blog, is give people a peek into how game design works. I feel that opening the door into our world will help other people make their games better. Game design is not a simple process. It takes a lot of work, you take an idea then shape and mold that idea until it works. Finding out what works means making mistakes and learning from them.

Figuring out Your Mistakes

I recently made my first attempt at creating a class archetype. I had an idea I liked and I spent some time writing it up, then I put it up on the blog. I wanted to hear nothing but praise but nothing is perfect the first time. I did get some praise. There were people who liked the concept, but I also got criticism. While I like praise, I value constructive criticism more.

The Role of Criticism

Criticism is never easy to hear. It sucks being told your idea wasn’t as good as you thought. It hurts to have someone take something you put a lot of work into and tear it apart. The thing is, no matter how much it sucks, you must listen to the critiques. If you don’t listen to criticism you never learn. If you don’t learn, you never improve. If you don’t improve, you wind up being another person who puts out bad products that no one wants. This isn’t what I want, and it isn’t what Lloyd wants either. We both want to be the best at what we do. To be the best, you need to learn what it takes and do it.

Why it Matters

I could easily say “Hey this is a blog, I don’t need everything to be professional quality”. I could, but I won’t. Instead I am going to listen to that criticism and learn from it. I will take what I learn and use it to make my next attempt at an archetype that much better. That attempt is likely to get criticized as well, and I will learn from that just like I learned from the first time. That is how game design works. In fact, that’s how life works. It’s why and how Fail Squad Games works.

I hope you enjoyed hearing a little bit about the process of game design. I know it wasn’t about flashy ways to get things done or about the secrets to a good idea, but it is the truth. Game design isn’t always fun. Sometimes it can be hard, but like the old saying goes, nothing easy is worth it.

Until next time may your soda and snacks be endless.

Ric ?