The Heavy Metal GM

bangin' heads and playing games


January 2017

The Road to Gen Con 2017

With the new year rolling in and badges going up in just a couple of hours (from the time I’m writing this), I’m so ridiculously excited for the amazing event that Gen Con 50 is going to be. As the same with last year, I will be attending! This year, I’m planning to shake things up a bit, learning what I have from my first ever attendance last year.

What isn’t changing is that I’ll be GMing 13th Age for Pelgrane Press all weekend long. I’m not exactly sure what time slots are going to be filled yet, but I’ll make a post with my schedule as soon as I get all that squared away. What I’m going to do different this year opposed to last year, however, is I’m going to try to have more free time during the day/nights to meet up with all of you! One thing that suffered last year was time, for sure. I perhaps over scheduled a bit out of sheer excitement and found myself running from hall to hall trying to be on time for games.

Per usual, I’ll be available on Twitter to arrange meet ups and all that fun stuff for the duration of the con. With it being so early, I don’t have a hell of a lot to announce for the con, but I look forward to it. Since I dropped the ball last year (sorry guys), I’m definitely going to make time to go to The RPG Academy’s pre-Gen Con meetup. Last time, Michael and I had a lot less time to chat than I would like, this year there shall be no mistake!

I’m really excited to meet some of you and reconnect with those who are returning this time ’round. Let’s make Gen Con 50 as special and memorable as possible!


Stay Metal \m/

Adventure Game vs. RPG

When I think of an adventure game, I personally think Talisman. I sat down to randomly play that one time at Battleground Games and Hobbies, the local watering hole. It was my first shot at an adventure game (besides some early run ins with HeroQuest) and it was actually really interesting and fun. The problem was mainly the length. But is that really a problem though?

Sticking an adventure game next to, say an RPG, no. RPG campaigns last years and years, sometimes. Are they really that different from one another? It’s a complicated question. In spirit, they are very much the same thing: a means of telling an interactive story with a group of friends. That’s about where the similarities end, though. However, I really think that adventure games have a huge relevance among role playing enthusiasts. They’re really good at introducing somebody who, say, likes board games but thinks RPGs are weird or archaic to the concept. The Dungeons and Dragons adventure games (though I have no experience with them) seem to be a happy medium between board and role playing games. That sneaky idea won’t work with an IP as huge as D&D but  something more subtle like Talisman might be appealing to someone who thinks RPG’s are silly.

I could also see adventure games being really useful in a gaming group that struggles to get everybody onboard every week. Games of HeroQuest have been played with only two people and been immensely satisfying, and that could work when only some of your group is in for the night. In my opinion, adventure games don’t scratch the same itch as RPGs but they get pretty damn close. We all know that missing a game one week can throw the whole flow of the group off kilter. Adventure games could definitely help combat that. An itch that could be scratched by adventure games, however, is that hack-and-slash type tendency that so many role players have. If you find yourself in the midst of a campaign saturated with politics and intrigue, maybe it’d be a good idea to take a break one week and play something like HeroQuest, where you literally go room to room and beat monsters up.

What’s greater still, and an important lesson I learned at that game store, an adventure game can be exactly like a role playing game but with less math-ish mechanics.  The session I played in was riddled with dialogue and character interaction instead of just roll dice, move, draw a card, see what happens. It was very rich and engaging and incredibly personal. If the guys who read that remember playing with me, total shout out to you because it was an eye opening experience. Just like with most games you can get a lot more out of it if you just put some effort in.

Unconventional Enemies: Elves Part 2

Wood elves are in a bit more of a pickle than high elves. The High Druid is rumored to have many wood elf followers who prefer her radical views on society vs. nature. Having an entire race of elves stuck between two Icons creates fertile ground for conflict.  With their racial power, wood elf PC’s have enormous potential to put down some pain on anyone who stand in their way. Having a wood elf enemy is most unwise.


Wood Elf Hunter

Quiet in the thickest of brush with a keen eye. You’re a bit unlucky that you’re now their prey.

Initiative +12
4th level Archer [Humanoid]

R: Longbow +9 vs. AC – 10 damage
Natural even hit – 5 ongoing damage and second (no more) longbow attack can be                     performed on a different target.

Arming sword (2 attacks) +7 vs AC – 6 damage

Elven Grace: When the escalation die is even, wood elves can forgo their move action to perform an additional standard.

Lethal hunter: The first time an enemy is staggered by the wood elf hunter, it is affected by fear.

Nastier Specials:
Dead shot: If the wood elf hunter is attacking from far away, it gains +2 to its crit range.

AC: 19
PD: 17                   HP: 50
MD: 15



Wood Elf Druid

Usually when you find yourself in druid territory, you have a chance to turn back. If the roots of the tree ahead are already grabbing at your feet, it’s too late.

Initiative +8
5th level blocker [Humanoid]

C: Ripping vines  +10 vs. PD – 15 damage and the target is stuck and grabbed, save ends.

C: Feed the plants (one stuck/grabbed enemy) + 10 vs. PD – 12 damage

Wooden stick +5 vs AC – 8 damage

Elven Grace: When the escalation die is even, wood elves can forgo their move action to perform an additional standard.

Magical grabbing: When a target is grabbed by its ripping vines attack, the wood elf druid does not suffer the typical effects of being the grabber.

AC: 15
PD: 20                    HP: 62
MD: 17



Wood Elf Shifter

These elves are the pride and joy of the High Druid. Only the most honorable of her followers gain the ability to assume animal form. Wood Elf shifters almost never fight in their humanoid form. It’d be an insult to their patron.

Initiavite +15
Large 7th level wrecker [Beast]

Claws, teeth or horns +11 vs AC (2 attacks) – 25 damage
Natural 16+: The target is also hampered.
Miss: Half damage

Meal time (one hampered enemy) +11 vs AC – 50 damage
Miss: 10 damage

Skin changer: The wood elf shifter can change into a humanoid form to perform this attack:
Weapon for thumbs +12 vs AC – 15 damage and 5 ongoing

Bestial fury (animal form only): Wood elf shifters gain a bonus to damage equal to double the escalation die.

AC: 22
PD:  20                  HP: 210
MD: 17


The Wood Elf Shifter is designed to be a pretty tough enemy, ideally a very important adversary story-wise. I hope you find the monsters useful, they are pretty versatile and meant to be a serious challenge.


Stay Metal \m/

Unconventional Enemies: Elves Part 1

Lions, diretigers, and owlbears, oh my! There’s definitely no shortage of monsters in the realm of fantasy role playing. If you’re in need of something to crawl out of the gloom and harry your party’s progress, whether it be the 13th Age core rulebook, 13 True Ways, or 13th Age Bestiary, you’re definitely covered. Best part is that there’s more on the way with the shadowy and mysterious Bestiary 2 on the horizon.

What about fighting potentially friendly and reasonable adversaries? We have  little to work with, some half-orc tribesman in the regular book along with some humans, drow-a-plenty in the Bestiary. I find myself yearning for more, since I definitely enjoy moral conflict. Fighting somebody where there’s a chance that the conflict could be avoided adds some interesting dynamic to a story. Elves will be the first friendly race gone awry we’ll visit. As a race, they tend to be snooty, arrogant, condescending and slow to anger in regards to patience with other races. Of course, the Three Shards of the Crown all have different personalities and racial tendencies. With the drow covered by official material, I think we’ll simply look at the wood elves and high elves here.

Elvenkind is fractured in the Dragon Empire, the war with the dwarves has created unrest and hostility between the three shards. This single fact alone could put elven PC’s at odds with one of the other two species simply for being around. Perhaps they unwittingly wandered into an area where the relationship is so shaky that they’re outright banned. This could be a good cause for physical conflict, with some verbal conflict prior being a fantastic way to set the scene. Here are some plot hooks to give some conflict with elves:

  • You’ve unwittingly stumbled across a treaty line and have since been discovered. The elves tell you that you’ve strayed in the wrong direction but according to your map, the place you need to go is somewhere within their proclaimed boundaries. Things might get complicated…
  • You’ve been labeled by the Elf Queen as criminals. She’s clearly mistaken, but she’s put a death mark on the party. Elves hunt you, and they don’t seem like they want to talk much.
  • An Icon thinks that the Elf Queen’s containment of the Green is insufficient. They’ve caught wind that the Blue and the Black have a plan to break him out in an attempt to make their influence more prevalent. Their power lust can’t be ignored, the Green must be moved but the Elf Queen is perhaps over confident in the security of her Court of Stars. The time to take forcible action is now.
  • The High Druid and her wild elves have started to reclaim various forests around the Dragon Empire. Many Icons believe this is a move to usurp the land from them. Maybe there’s more to the picture than initially though. Whose side do you choose?

Elf Wizard.jpg

High elves tend to be more arcanely inclined traditionally. With their racial bonuses in the core book, it leads me to believe they make sufficient paladins or rogues as well. However, as we encourage here at the Heavy Metal GM, don’t let yourself be bound to a mold or trope, explore! Here are some high elf adversaries:

High Elf Infantry

Orderly, prideful, trained. High elves are bent on preserving their culture and traditions, these ones are willing to die for it.

Initiative: +10
4th level troop

Weapon of war +10 vs. AC – 11 damage
Natural even hit or miss: The target takes +1d6 damage.

R: Longbow +10 vs AC – 7 damage
Natural 18+: Treat the attack as a critical hit.

High Blood Teleport: Once per battle, the high elf infantry can teleport to a nearby location it    can see.

Infantry unit training: If more than one high elf infantry engaged with the target, a missed        attack deals half damage.

AC: 19
PD: 15                                 HP: 48
MD: 18



High Elf Alchemist

Their wizard friends think they’re a schlub, but don’t be fooled, they’re just following a hobby that they’re good at. Extremely good.

Initiative: +8
5th level spoiler [Humanoid]

R: Flask Surprise! (3 nearby enemies in a group) +10 vs. PD  – 12 damage and 5 ongoing    random energy damage (see Sorcerer class)

Tricksy poisoned dagger +7 vs. AC – 10 poison damage
Natural 16+: The target starts making last gasp saves. The target also takes 5                              damage for every failed last gasp save. Potent poison can be surprising!

High Blood Teleport: Once per battle, the alchemist can teleport to a nearby location it can        see.

Potion quaffer: The first time the high elf alchemist is staggered, it will quaff a potion for a    random effect. Roll 1d4:

1: Wrong Potion!: The alchemist suffers 3 damage

2: Potion of Oakflesh: +2 to all defenses until the end of the alchemist’s next turn

3: Marksman’s Potion: The alchemist gains this spell:
C: Detriment +7 vs MD – 5 damage and the target is hampered, save                                              ends

4: Healing potion: Recover 2d6 hit points

Nastier Specials:
Does this smell like…?: The first time the alchemist is engaged, the target is confused and popped free.

AC: 19
PD:16                                  HP: 65



High Elf Wizard

Pompous and intelligent can be two qualities that are a nuisance in their own right. Combined with a slathering of magic, it can turn from annoying to deadly.

Initiative: +14
7th level caster [Humanoid]

Ironwood Staff +13 vs. AC – 25 damage and the target is dazed until the end of its next            turn

C: Fireball (3 nearby enemies in a group) +12 vs. PD – 46 fire damage
Limited use: 1/day and it can damage the caster’s engaged allies for half damage.

C: Magic Missile +15 vs. PD – 28 force damage.

High Blood Teleport: 1d3 times a battle, the high elf wizard can teleport to a nearby                      location it can see.


Nastier Specials:
Counter Magic: Once per day, the high elf wizard can cancel a spell by using this attack:
C: +12 vs. MD – The high elf wizard suffers no damage or effects, but still                                      suffers any miss damage or effects.

AC: 20
PD:  17                                HP:120
MD: 21



Stay tuned and Stay Metal \m/

Artisan Dice: Ancient Bog Oak

With the holiday season just passing, I got some pretty cool gifts. Among them was a single D20 from Artisan Dice, a company out of Mesquite, Texas that makes normal and polyhedral dice out of a plethora of unconventional materials. All of their dice are crafted by hand and come with a guarantee. They don’t offer refunds but will replace any damaged dice, so long as you pay shipping. Pretty good deal, if you ask me. From desert ironwood and deer antler to  amber and titanium, Artisan Dice has no shortage of options for unique and splendidly beautiful products.

This (now concluded) holiday season, it seems like great minds have thought alike. I had ordered Jessica a set of the purple heartwood dice, while she and her father ordered me an ancient bog oak d20 and a set of Jack Daniels barrel d6’s. I swear, we didn’t collaborate. Today I’m taking a look at the ancient bog oak, seeing how that’s the only one I have on hand at the moment. No worries, though, I’ll be talking about the other sets when they come.


The packaging to endure the long trek here was stellar. Inside of the packaging, the die was wrapped in a 1/2″-ish thick foam, held around it with some tape. This keeps it from jostling around during the shipping process and potentially damaging the points or edges. It proved to work, for sure, because when I opened the package I was gobsmacked.

Right off the bat, the first thing I noticed when I unpacked this thing is that it was stunningly beautiful. The grain of the wood showed really nicely in the light, the numbers were engraved almost flawlessly. The “12” on it was a little off center, but nothing to really gripe about. The color of the wood itself is what really catches my eye. Darker colors are my favorite in wood, I’m in love with things like black walnut and ebony wood, and this fits my taste like a dream. What was shocking was how light it was, especially considering the material. It’s just about as light, if not, lighter, than most polymer dice that you see for sale everywhere. The edges and points are very acute, making this thing bounce and tumble like a stone down the mountainside when you roll it.

Here’s where the honeymoon wore off for it, however. I had rolled the die on my coffee table, also constructed out of wood. The good word here is that the die seemed to be balanced, not favoring a side. I didn’t do a salt water test because, well, wood. Apparently there was some debris or something on it (you know, as is wont to happen in most households) and it pocked up a couple of the faces and points on it. I hadn’t thought of it before I rolled, but it does make sense. If you’re rolling this particular die on a surface that is harder than it, it’s going to get a little chewed up. No biggie, that much makes sense when you think about it. However, that happening when you make the first roll is a bit shocking. I’ll definitely be rolling this in my Dogmight Games adventure case from now on, seeing how it has a felt bottom. I sense myself cashing in on Artisan Dice’s guarantee at some point.

With the beauty of this die being unquestionable, the weight of it being surprising, it’s only appropriate to talk about the size as well. It’s the size of most standard d20’s, which I personally prefer and am very comfortable with. This’ll sit nicely with my other dice that I keep in the adventure case. While the color is immensely satisfying, the numbers are a bit difficult to read, especially with the lack of overhead lighting in my game room. Not a huge deal to me, but certainly noteworthy. Some metallic paint would add some contrast and look killer, in my opinion. Perhaps a gold or a silver would help make them stand out. As far as voiding the guarantee, well, who knows.


I’m not sure when it was ordered for me, but on the website, the expected delivery time is between 6 and 8 weeks. That’s acquiring materials, making it, QC-ing it and shipping to your door. Not a bad turnout time, especially considering how popular this company appears to be. The shipping price that they slap on it ($12.00 priority mail from TX to MA for the full set of purple heartwood, in my case) seemed immensely reasonable, and paired with the time, I was very satisfied with what I’ve been quoted. With the single d20 weighing in at $63, it’s certainly not on the economical end. In fairness, it is hand crafted and a domestic company, which I personally love about them. Craftsmanship always has a price, this is no exception.

So, to shorten things a bit:


  • Stunningly gorgeous
  • Hand made, quality craftsmanship
  • Reasonable manufacture/shipping time
  • US crafted
  • Seemingly balanced


  • Expensive
  • Soft material (in this case, can’t speak for any other materials)
  • Human error (one slightly off center number)


Personally, I would definitely sink money into more that Artisan Dice has to offer. Even with some of the drawbacks, I am more than satisfied with what I have. The pictures that they have on their website doesn’t portray well enough exactly how beautiful this product is. I recommend this product, wholeheartedly.



Stay Metal \m/

Dust Off That Old Tome

Surely not an uncommon problem: I have a crap ton of books to read! The list just keeps growing, too. I get home from work, tell myself that I’m going to read but simply end up sitting on the couch doing nothing that truly engages my mind or creativity. It’s a tragedy, really. When I was younger, I didn’t really read much. I appreciated R.L. Stein’s work on the Goosebumps series but other than that, I only read what I was forced to in school. Here and there I got some titles I ended up enjoying, just like The Island of Doctor Moreau or Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut really did a fantastic job on that one). The first time I was really engaged intellectually was when I read The Stranger by Albert Camus.

If you read that book and take it for what it is, it’s really quite a bore. What really sparked me was all of the underlying stuff we found within it. Yeah, that crazy existential stuff. It was the first time I had felt like someone understood a lot of the emotions I had felt as a troubled teenager, and now as a troubled adult. I always enjoyed fantasy and that book gave me the itch to read, and thus I found A Song of Ice and Fire from George R.R. Martin. I liked fantasy stuff. All my video games were fantasy, my favorite films were fantasy. This was only a little bit before I found tabletop and once I had found tabletop, I found it difficult to mimic something in novels like Tolkien’s or Martin’s. I got caught up in trying to preserve their stories and settings without expressing my own creativity within those realms.

Time and time again, every podcast or interview I listen to or watch, writers and designers talk about reading stuff outside of your preferred genre. To take a new angle on the same idea, how the setting makes a difference only on the surface but ultimately all stories talk about a lot of the same stuff. This is why my reading list has gotten so damn long. Looking back at books that I’ve read in the past certainly reinforce the advice that has been given. Small details within the book The Color of Water by James McBride can easily be plopped down into a sci-fi or fantasy setting. Sometimes one simple sentence, without explicitly saying, “They hate you because you’re a half-elf,” can really hammer home a very realistic situation and feeling. You wouldn’t get that from a fantasy novel, in most cases. You’d get that sentence!

Seeing things from other perspectives within a piece of literature can really be a gold mine of ideas that can be re-purposed in role playing situations. I honestly think that it’s important. In an age of upheaval, it’s good to have an indirect outlet to talk about very real problems in a non-threatening environment. That’s a rather sidebar statement to the point of this article, but it’s crucial none the less.

The overall point is that if you over saturate you mind with a lot of the same stuff, you’ll lack mental stimulation to create something entirely new. As Kenneth Hite definitely exploits, random events in history can be completely reskinned and morphed into something nearly unrecognizable, simply because you may have thought, “Hmm… This would be really cool to play through in tabletop.” The best part about that one is that the most clever of minds can make it so everybody thinks the idea was one hundred percent original.

Take a dive into some books you may otherwise not read, see what you can dig up and create some art, ya filthy animals!


More importantly…

Stay Metal! \m/

Ald Sotha: Unexpected Guests

Artwork by Benjamin Witunsky – “Hidden Hallway”


On the other side of the illusion was a dark hallway. Lisbeth, Crysx and Tiberius almost bumped into Corbin on the other side, he was simply standing their with his staff slightly raised, illuminating the room. On the far wall, which was still only slightly lit due to the distance, was some sort of shelf built into the wall. There were two objects on it. Corbin cautiously stepped forward, scanning the small confines of the hall with every step. His heart was pounding in his ears, not sure if this hall was hidden to hide a prize or to serve as a decoy for grave robbers. Without someone who did this professionally, the situation could  very likely reach a grim end.

As he drew near to the shelf, it became apparent that the object sitting on the shelf was an urn of some sort, next to it a book, treated savagely by time. Corbin’s forehead started to tingle, then his nose, as he stepped closer. Magic, he thought, his heart pounding with excitement and eyes the size of dinner plates. His companions had followed behind him but said nothing in sheer wonder with what they have discovered. With the hand of a librarian, Corbin gingerly picked up the book after leaning his staff on the wall. It was leather bound, and in surprisingly good shape for the unknown age. The cover was caked in dust that Corbin blew off, the particles dancing in his light as they were forced into the air. There was no title.

Slowly opening the book, the binding on the spine made a crackling sound, but the book did not break apart. Corbin’s hands felt like they were on fire, excitement and adrenaline coursing through his body like a plague. The ink on the pages was severely faded, but still legible with relative ease. That’s when his hear sank to his toes. “I can’t read it,” he said after a moment.

Lisbeth came close behind him to peek over his shoulder only to be met with symbols she was vaguely familiar with the shape of, but not the meaning. “The language is that of the Serpent Folk. It only makes sense, considering where we are. Even with all my learning, I can’t read it either. Maybe somewhere down the road we’ll find someone who can. I’m sure there are some old colleagues of mine that keep their secrets regarding the language, it’s told to be inherently magical. The legend goes that the Serpent Folk were the first creatures to use magic,” Lisbeth told him. The last bit was enough to satiate Corbin, he moved on to the urn.

The urn was of small size, at least comparatively to others of similar make, only about a foot in height and half of that in width. It was round and smooth, made of clay presumably, and had a number of symbols carved around the lid. It was the language of the Serpent Folk. Corbin felt like he was going to sneeze or that something was going to burst out of his forehead, this was the magical item that he was sensing. Cautiously cracking the lid, a gale force wind came out of it, the lid flying from Corbin’s hand. The hall turned into a wind tunnel for a moment before a hearty laugh echoed along the walls.


Before them stood a tall man with a tornado in place of legs. He had a sword on his hip that had a curvature to it, the handle very ornately gilded. He stood there with his arms crossed and a smile on his face. He said something in some sort of archaic language but no one understood. The man frowned.

“I am Corbin, these are my colleagues Lisbeth, Crysx and Tiberius. How long have you been trapped in this urn, djinn?” Corbin asked with a stern tone. The fact that he was a hermit reared its ugly head during social interactions such as this.

The djinn looked surprised, “I am Vaarek,” he said with a deep bow, “Are you my new masters? I am not sure exactly how much time has passed. Seeing elves in the halls of the Serpent King definitely tell me it has not been short.” The djinn let out a haughty laugh.

After a brief conversation with him, Vaarek revealed that he was the Serpent King’s personal djinn, a slave to his will. Having the roles reverse was degrading to the djinn at first, but soon became familiar and monotonous. The symbols on the lid of the urn bound him to it and he bargained three wishes for his freedom with the adventurers. The group readily agreed, but not without knowledge of the extreme care that was needed in making every wish. All this talk of wishes reminded Corbin that the orange wish gem had been crushed in the fist of the gargoyle statue. Corbin thanked Vaarek before placing him back in his urn. Putting the lid of it near the top sucked the djinn back into it, though he was clearly unhappy about it. The entire party heard Vaarek’s voice in their heads before he the lid was placed back on the urn:

Be careful what you think, because I am listening for your wishes.

Corbin hastily made a sling out of a bit of rope he had in his satchel, affixing a loop around the neck of the urn and the rest of the rope across his chest. It sat comfortably against his satchel, it serving as a sort of pad between the urn and his leg. Hastily, he turned around, pushed through his companions and returned to the gargoyle room. Pulling a small jar out of his satchel, he scooped up the orange dust left behind by the crushing of the gem and placed it in the jar.

“What’re you doing?” Crysx asked, still a bit confused by what had just happened with the djinn.

“Giving me a fourth wish,” Corbin mumbled to himself under his breath.

He tore three pages from the book that he found next to the urn and placed them in the jar with the gem dust.

“That’s important information that we need to translate!” Lisbeth cried out in protest.

Corbin ignored her. He used a spark cantrip to set the pages alight and began performing a magical ritual. Flames swirled around the inside of the jar, the dust of the gem turning to liquid. Then the jar started melting as well, and eventually, it took the shape of the orange  gem that it had been before. Corbin picked it up and shut his eyes, searching for the feeling that it was still magical. It was. With a look of satisfaction he placed the gem in his satchel.

“Let’s get back to New Port,” he said. The party stared at him for a moment, silence hanging in the air like a dense fog. Tiberius, with a nervous cough and a scratch of the head, turned on his heel and began walking back to the tunnel. The rest followed, their thoughts interrupted.

“Look, we’re going to word it very carefully, but we’re going to use this djinn to get back home. It’s not looking hopeful without it and I don’t want to starve to death on this island,” Lisbeth demanded. It was blatant that this little mission of theirs was starting to wear on her nerves. Alas, the party agreed. “And you,” she said, pointing at Tiberius, “This never happened. Corbin, you’re going to fake a teleportation circle to make it seem like you’re capable of doing that.”

“With the right preparation and materials, I AM capable of doing that,” Corbin said frustratedly, “But I’ll take part in your little ruse.” 

When they returned to the wreck of the Northern Star, the Manticore and Order of the Sword paladins were looking at them expectantly. They showed them the book, saying that it was the only artifact they turned up. When asked about the urn slung around Corbin’s side, he simply answered that he could find a use for a container with such symbols inscribed on them, that it cut down on some of his workload. The story seemed to stick, as nobody questioned them further.

The false teleportation circle was met, Corbin shot Lisbeth and Crysx a look to indicate that he would be making the wish. They nodded silently. Having read a great deal about djinns, Corbin knew what kind of wit he was up against. He chose his words carefully and tactfully. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, they were on the streets of New Port, right in front of The Falling Hammer.


We’re home…




Stay Metal \m/


Find more Benjamin Witunsky art on his Instagram account as well!


New Year for the Heavy Metal GM

Now, before you get all bent out of shape and roll your eyes in the back of your head, this isn’t some overly optimistic and typical New Year’s Resolutions type thing.

Except, well, it kind of is, but that’s besides the point!

As role players, and more so as GM’s, we should always be reaching for something in our little sphere of imagination. Whether it be breaking into the industry for the first time for the more creative people, or making a person experience a very real emotion at the table, there’s always a goal. This new year, I wanted to share with you some of my personal goals, both as a gamer and as a content creator. Hopefully it will help inspire some to be productive in their own way!

First and foremost, I find that my Saturday group doesn’t get together as often as I’d like. Definitely something that can be fixed. I’m not sure if it’s because my campaign has run stale or what, but it certainly needs to happen. Going hand in hand with that concept, I want to try a lot of RPG’s this year. I’ve had the book for The One Ring forever now and have only played online at Gamersplane (sorry guys, I totally dropped out from that one too). With that I still have yet to run Night’s Black Agents, I’ve only ever played. Timewatch is in the lineup as well, but I have a couple of other non-Pelgrane games that have peaked my interest. Having something new every once in a while at the Saturday game could help me keep things fresh, have new stuff to write about and further broaden my horizons as a player and game master. All of these, very good things.

More specifically, I hope to create a much more involved and emotional experience at my table. Nothing makes me happier than having insanely invested players. I have a small idea as to how that could come about (i.e remembering to use awesome things like Syrinscape) but execution is infinitely more important than an idea. I’m also hoping to wrap up that Saturday 13th Age campaign before 2018 rolls around. This seems rather trivial, to anyone on the outside, but this game has already been running 3 years with the same people and story. It’d be a triumph to wrap it up with a neat little bow. Don’t get me wrong, I love that story with my entire being, but I already have an idea as to how it’s going to end and it’s exciting thinking about my players experiencing the final confrontation and epilogue. It’s been a bit of a slog for a while and I think my players would get a feeling of satisfaction by reaching the conclusion.

As for professionally, I’m already making moves on how I want to really break into the industry as a content creator and writer. If you haven’t read my review on Gods and Icons by Dread Unicorn Games, you should check that out here. Now, there’s a very specific reason I’m saying this. If you also play 5e and like that supplement, they’re working on the twin sister of this book for that rules system. It’s currently being Kickstarted right now and I’ll be working on one of the stretch goals! In essence, with your help, we can get a great supplement for 5e and get my foot in the door as an actually published writer! Even if we don’t reach my specific stretch goal (which I can’t tell you exactly what that number is), it’d be great to see this piece get published. Back the Kickstarter here! Aside from that, however, I am going to make a push this year to do more freelance work on products that I would buy for myself. Hell, who knows, maybe I’ll even take a dive into self-publishing some stuff that’s 13th Age compatible. I’d like to, for sure, but finding the time/inspiration is the true struggle.

I don’t really have a lot of New Year Resolutions, but the ones that I do hold are very important to me. Following through with these is probably one of the best things I could do for myself, and in some ways for you, in 2017.

Thank you guys so much for the amazing support and interaction throughout 2016. I’ve spoken with some really great people both online and at Gen Con in August. For a guy who’s wrapping up his first full calendar year of running a website, I feel like I’m doing pretty stellar. I owe you all the world, and I’m doing my best to deliver.

Happy New year and Stay Metal \m/

Fight in Spirit

Another one of those rules in 13th Age that are easily glanced over is the Fight in Spirit rule. I’ve never seen this one anywhere else so I’ll jump the gun and say that it’s another unique rule that makes this game system shine. If I’m wrong, yell at me, please. Anyhow, this rule helps cement that whole “narrative is more important than rules” type mentality that his game seems to carry. Thankfully, this solves a problem that I find in a lot of RPG’s: it gives you something to do in a combat situation when you are otherwise incapacitated.

In other words, the ruling is that you can help your party by handing out bonuses if you are unconscious, simply not present (i.e split party), or paralyzed (like turned into stone or something). This helps you from twiddling your thumbs when you’re removed from the fight and helps keep you engaged in the game and story. Narratively, you would explain how your relationship with the character that’s taking action applies a bonus that you’re fishing for. As in traditional fashion, it’s all negotiated with the GM. It’s fun, collaborative and helps build the relationship of the party further. Insert a long player monologue and it could create a really fun and emotional moment! Some GM’s for this game might be skeptical about giving out bonuses just because someone got knocked unconscious or the basilisk turned them into stone. After all, player characters are very powerful without help in this system. The important thing to note is that you really have to be out of the fight. This means you can’t be making death saves, or any saves against conditions like stuck or petrification (last gasp saves).

I let the Fight in Spirit rule come into play usually during the big, important fights. If the dice simply aren’t in the players’ favor during a fight they picked with the local goblins, well, sorry guys but you either have to run or get a whoopin’! I think that this rule would be pretty cool in a 5e game as well, giving advantage on an attack roll or something. Somebody who plays 5e more than me, try it out at let me know how it goes!


The instances this rule shows up are few and far between, make no mistake. When they do, however, it is definitely nice to have something to fall back on to prevent players from being less immersed in the game (and bored out of their skull). Especially as a GM who doesn’t kill characters that often, it rarely comes up. Probably the most interesting and fun way to incorporate this rule into a game immediately is simply separating the party in an unknown area.

The party is traveling through a dungeon and there’s a cave in, splitting the party in half. On one side, the PC’s are attacked by something, on the other side, the PC’s have to find a way around back into the previous room. Giving the players the illusion that this is possible before the fight ends one way or another would be the real art here. It creates a sense of tension and desperation, especially if you make the enemies on the other side appear bigger and badder than they are. Tension is a GM’s best friend and can create a really memorable situation. Letting the separated PC’s fight in spirit, whether knowingly or not, makes that situation emotional, where it might have not been otherwise.

Hiding the fact that they are fighting in spirit would be the tough part. I’d approach it as follows: “As you’re racing down a seemingly endless labyrinth of corridors to find your way back to your friends, you’re filled with thoughts of some experiences you’ve shared. What are those?” then the player would answer and I would apply a random bonus to the other character described. This would work great if they aren’t right after one another in the initiative order. It would appear like a seemingly random bonus, especially if I ask the fighting character the same question before giving the bonus. On the flip side, this does bring up the problem of repeatedly making a character perform a skill check that you know they are going to fail. That would make the non-fighting players rather frustrated at their inability to do something. For some players, the narrative might be  good distraction from that but for others, perhaps not so much. Knowing your table is the golden rule with that situation, methinks.

Anyways, I hope this sparked some creativity in you! Fight in spirit and inspire your players!


Stay Metal \m/

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