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In 2009 I traveled around the world, running Eberron games for people in dozens of different states and countries. I met a lot of wonderful people and it was always fascinating to see how different groups of players would handle the same scenario; I ran the same adventure over 59 times, but every time players came up with something I haven’t seen before. There’s many reasons I can’t repeat that journey today, but I still enjoy getting to meet new people and share an adventure. While I may not be able to travel across the world, there are two ways that you can find yourself a seat at my table.
In the summer of 2022, I’ll be taking to sea for a week of adventure! Satine’s Quest is a week long campaign with a host of fantastic DMs—myself included. It’s going to be an evolving campaign where your actions affect the ultimate outcome for everyone—and where interactive elements will be woven into all sorts of activities throughout the cruise. While I enjoy one-shots, my favorite part of TTRPGs is the stories that evolve over the course of a campaign, and I can’t wait to see how this tale unfolds. In addition to the campaign itself, with a week at sea there’s going to be lots of opportunities to talk about worldbuilding and storytelling. There’s a range of different tiers and options; find out more at the website!
If you prefer to stay on dry land and don’t mind using the internet, there’s another way you can play at my table. Each month, I run an Eberron adventure for my Patreon supporters. This is an ongoing campaign set in the town of Threshold, on the edge of Breland and Droaam. It’s a continuing story using an established cast of characters, but the players change each time. If you support my Patreon at the Threshold level, you get the following benefits…
While only five patrons get to play each month, I use polls to shape the content of each session and to add details about the town and the campaign. It’s also an opportunity to see content from my upcoming Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold book in action. And beyond that, it’s Patreon that allows me to spend time on this blog. The more patrons, the more articles you’ll see here!
Whether by sea or internet, I hope to have a chance to roll some dice with you in the future. Adventures await!
Approximately one year ago, I began working on a new 5E sourcebook for Eberron: Frontiers of Eberron, a setting-within-the-setting focusing on the region that lies between Breland and Droaam. My plan was that you’d have that very book in your hands RIGHT NOW, but unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. A great deal of work has been done on Frontiers of Eberron. We’ve commissioned maps, art, and the cover. We’ve been playtesting new mechanics, and I’ve run multiple campaigns in the region. Many chapters of the book have been completed. Unfortunately, for the last few months Frontiers has been on hold. Multiple members of my family have been dealing with health and life issues, and I’ve had to set things aside to lend a hand. The work that still needs to be done to finish Frontiers requires a period of intense focus; I haven’t had that focus over the past few months, and it may still be months before I do. I’m just as excited about Frontiers as ever, and I will finish the book—but at this point I am predicting it will come out sometime in Q2 of 2022.
If you don’t want to wait that long, you can get a taste of Threshold in the game I run for my Patreon supporters. Supporters have access to all of the previous sessions (and you can see a bit of one here), and ever Threshold patron has the chance to play in the monthly game! My patrons also select the subjects of the articles I write for this site, the next of which will be on The Mockery. With time as tight as it is, the support of my patrons means a great deal to me, so thanks to all of you who keep this site going!
While Frontiers is temporarily on hold, life continues to move on—and I’m finally going to my first convention in a long while! I’ll be at Pax Unplugged from December 10-12th with my company Twogether Studios. I’m currently confirmed as a speaker on two sessions, and waiting to hear back on a few more; I’ll provide more details a little closer to the day. And speaking of Twogether, we’re unveiling our first non-print KBP product: the tumbler pictured above, bearing the cover of Exploring Eberron. It’s a little random, but we love Tervis tumblers and we love the art from Exploring Eberron, so here we are! This is an experiment and will likely be a very limited edition, so if it’s something you’re interested in, now’s your chance.
So unfortunately, for the remainder of 2021 my Eberron content will be limited to web articles and my Threshold stream. However, we’ve got lots of things we’d like to do with KB Presents in 2022, including Frontiers of Eberron and much more! So keep up with your adventures and I’ll let you know when there’s news from the frontier.
As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Often those questions are tied to Eberron, but sometimes there’s a more general topic. Case in point…
I love the collaborative element of TTRPGs. I may know all the secrets and where the action will go, but I love that I don’t know which hooks the adventurers will latch onto. I have an adventure that I’ve run almost sixty times, and it’s still fun for me to run again because there’s always something that comes up in each session that I’ve never seen before. I love to see players come up with creative solutions to problems, and I’m always going to encourage that, because that’s what makes it interesting for me; if they followed an entirely predictable path, if I knew exactly how the story was going to end, it wouldn’t be that interesting to run it twice, let alone sixty times.
With that said, fun fact: I’ve never published that adventure I’ve run sixty times, because I’ve never written it down in such a way that anyone else could run it. The adventure is set in the city of Graywall, which I know like the back of my hand. The adventurers are trying to locate a fugitive. Because I know the city so well, I don’t have to have every option written down. If the adventurers say “We want to talk to a Brelish expatriate” or “Who sells refined dragonshards in bulk?” I know the answers to those questions, and I can freestyle a quick encounter with the Tharashk shard salesman. However, I also have a few anchor points that I know the adventure will hit. Whatever path they take to get there, I know the adventurers will have to deal with at least two of three specific people/places… and I know where the fugitive is and what they will find when they get there. So I have those four scenes prepared ahead of time—with statistics for the combat encounters, traps and treasures, and the like. But I never know which three of these four scenes I’ll use in a particular run of the game.
The same thing is true when I’m running my Patreon campaign on Threshold. In session 2, the adventurers were investigating the disappearance of local kobolds. I knew where they would end up—that they’d need to investigate the farmstead of Kaine Agran, and that doing so would lead them to a sinister chamber of skulls hidden in the mountains. I had both of those scenes plotted out, complete with statistics for the threats they would face. But I didn’t know how they would GET to the farmstead. And case in point, when I ran the adventure twice, one group of players focused on dealing with the Brelish veterans in town, while the other group centered their investigation on the kobold community. But I knew that both of those were options, and I knew that I could improvise a scene in either direction—because I had an established cast on NPCs in each location and generally knew how they could help.
Meanwhile, the fourth Threshold session—the first hour of which is available here—was set at a festival. I had five specific scenes planned at the festival—Kobolds dancing around a fruit idol; a tiefling missionary approaches one of the characters; an illusionary shooting gallery; a baking contest; and an unexpected confrontation at the final feast. But I didn’t know which of these would catch the players’ interest or how long each might take; they could have just shurgged and walked by the fruity kobolds, or they could join in the ceremony (which they did). So I had a handful of established NPCs there at the festival I was prepared to deploy. The adventurers could have been approached by the priest who was organizing the festival, or caught up in a drunken brawl; I knew I could fill space if I needed to. And taking the shooting gallery—the structure was that the PC wandslinger had to face five illusionary opponents. I had each of the other players describe one of these illusionary opponents—so even though it was a scene revolving around a single PC, each player got to be involved—and then when it got to the fifth opponent I revealed it to be an ambush by a gang of halfling hitmen (a combat which then involved everyone). The main point is that I’d planned how the scene would end—I had stats for the squad of halfling hitmen—but I didn’t know what the players would come up with for the four first targets, and it was fun for me to see what they thought up.
So MY preferred style is to work within an area that has some flexibility, with a number of concrete scenes or locations that drive the story and that I know will be involved: I know that sooner or later the adventurers will get to the Chamber of Skulls, or they will get to the confrontation at the final feast. But I’m prepared for them to take an unexpected path to reach that point, because I know the cast and locations around them and I can improvise secondary scenes. This doesn’t work with every story; if I’m doing a serious dungeon crawl where resources are limited and the players’ choice of which rooms to explore matters, I’m going to carefully map it out ahead of time. If the adventurers are going to a new location where I don’t have a well-established supporting cast to fall back on, I’ll plan things more carefully. But I personally like the middle ground—not planning every detail or leaving everything to chance, but building an adventure around a few scenes I know will occur, with flexibility to improvise around them.
I try not to be caught in this situation. While I don’t plan for every contingency, I do prepare notes ahead of time and think about characters and locations that might turn up—for example, the idea that a drunken brawl at the festival would be a simple way to fill a hole if the players moved too swiftly through the content I’d prepared. But while I do my best, it’s impossible to prepare for every contingency. Sometimes a player asks a question you just don’t know the answer to—”This is a textile factory, right? Are they doing mule spinning or ring spinning?“—while other times you may just have had a long day and find yourself out of ideas. When I do find myself in that situation, my standard approach is ask the players for the answer. First of all, in the case of the person asking about an obscure subject, given that they asked the question they probably know what they WANT the answer to be. I don’t know the difference between mule spinning and ring spinning, but THEY do, an d this gives them an opportunity to educate the group and the answer that they think makes sense. And beyond this, at the end of the day, it’s a collaborative story. Perhaps the players are in a stagecoach and it gets blown off a bridge, and you suddenly realize you have no idea how they’re going to survive. Turn it to them: How are you going to survive this? Depending on the situation, this could be a metagame discussion, where you freeze the action and talk to the PLAYERS—”How do we get out of this mess?” On the other hand, I could also present it as a simple skill check to players. “You’re going to take 50 points of damage when the coach strikes the bottom of the ravine. What do you do to survive this?” I’d evaluate their answer and either have them make a skill check (reducing the damage taken by the result of the skill check, or perhaps by double the result for a great idea) or assign an arbitrary value to an interesting, non-skill based idea. The main point is that ideally, what everyone in the group wants is a satisfying story; there’s nothing wrong with occasionally asking the players to fill in the blanks. Looking back to the textile question, I could go research textile factories to find out a good answer—but if the player already has that expertise and knows what the smart answer would be, why not use that expertise?
If you have questions about this approach or want to share how YOU do things, add your comments below! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible.
Currently I’m taking part in two live-play streams of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. The two campaigns are very different; one you can watch, the other you can potentially participate in! Here’s the story.
Threshold is an Eberron campaign I’m running as DM. It’s set in a small town that lies between Droaam and Breland, the setting of my upcoming Frontiers of Eberron sourcebook, and I’m using the plots and places I’m creating for that sourcebook in the campaign. Threshold is tied to my Patreon. The story is ongoing and it involves a consistent cast of ten player characters, but each session only involves five of those characters—and the players change each session, being drawn from among the patrons. Those patrons who don’t get a seat at the table still have a chance to influence the story through polls and discussion on the Threshold Discord. Patrons have access to both audio and video recordings of the sessions, but I’m not sharing these with the general public. However, if you want a sense of what Threshold is all about, I’ve just posted a one-hour excerpt from a recent session. I love how Threshold has evolved through the collaboration of the patrons, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next! So if you join my Patreon (at the Threshold tier) you get access both to the past episodes, the campaign website, the Threshold Discord, and the chance to play in a future session… As well as helping to support the articles I post on this site!
In addition to running games, I occasionally like to play games with my friends. Back in 2020 I started playing in a weekly online campaign with a few of my friends in Portland—Colin Meloy and Chris Funk of the Decemberists, Charlie Chu from Oni Press, and Patti King from the Shins. Conveniently, Charlie—the only one of that line-up who isn’t a musician—is the one playing the bard. DM Han Duong is running us through Rime of the Frostmaiden, and after thirty sessions we thought “Hey, why don’t we let other folks watch?” Fugue State happens from 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM Pacific Time every Wednesday, on the Twogether Studios Twitch channel. We’re also working to raise money for local charities; this month we’re raising funds for the Black Resilience Fund. So it remains to be seen if we’ll save the eight remaining towns of Icewind Dale (seven if you leave out Targos, which is a garbage town for garbage people), but we can do a little good regardless. I’m only a player in Fugue State—it’s not set in Eberron and I’m just along for the ride—but if you want to take a peek at the game I’m playing in, drop by!
The final stream I want to mention isn’t a D&D stream at all, and I’m not actually a regular! However, Twogether Studios is sponsoring the ZoneCast, a livestream in which Gnomedic and guests play my game The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance! The ZoneCast will be happening throughout the summer on the Twogether Studios channel, every Tuesday at 6 PM Pacific Time! So if you’d like to see what TAZ:BoB is all about and possibly win some fabulous prizes, check that out!
In Threshold, players take control of pre-existing characters. Do you feel that players get into character easily or do they struggle at times? I’ve had guest players take the role of pre-established NPCs before, and it didn’t always mesh well.
So far it’s gone great, and I really enjoy seeing what each new player brings to their character. When players apply to play in a session, they request a specific character; it’s not random, and people know what they’re getting into. The campaign website has detailed backgrounds of each character and their past exploits. And this includes a section of roleplaying notes; the image below is from Rolan Harn, the former Sentinel Marshal.
Think of these as expanded Bonds and Flaws. A player doesn’t HAVE to abide by these restrictions, but if they play these up they may receive Inspiration or gain advantage on an action; conversely, if they go against the character’s nature, they may suffer disadvantage or other penalties. So an oathbreaking, cruel Rolan will effectively have very bad luck—whereas if you play up Rolan’s honesty and integrity, you’ll have a better chance of success.
That’s all for now! I hope to see you at a future stream!
It’s the 14th of Lharvion, and it’s too damn hot. Today is Bounty’s Blessing, the feast of Arawai; there’s a farmer’s market in the square, and a baking competition to see if anyone can make something palatable using “sand fruit”, a local succulent that is anything but succulent. In the cliffs above town, a group of adventurers have found ruins filled with petrified goblins, a dead but perfectly preserved Gatekeeper, and an altar dedicated to the mysterious Still Lord. Who is the Still Lord? Are their cultists hidden in Threshold? And can anyone actually make a satisfying sand fruit fritter?
I’m currently working on Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold, a sourcebook that explores the region between Breland and Droaam; I discuss it further in this interview. In Threshold, there’s a party of gnolls loitering at the Gold Dragon Inn while they wait for the lightning rail. Three-Widow Jane’s facing Rusty in a showdown at high noon. But there’s powers at work that overshadow such mundane concerns. Who is the Still Lord? What is the secret history of the region, and how does it threaten the future?
Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold is going to be a large book—comparable to Exploring Eberron—and won’t be out until later this year. I’m enjoying the chance to take a deeper dive into a piece of the setting, a region that’s not as well known as Sharn or Stormreach; I also love any chance to work with Droaam, as the nation of monsters is one of my favorite pieces of Eberron. While the book itself won’t be out for months to come, I’m currently running a campaign set in Threshold online—and my Patreon supporters have an opportunity to watch the campaign and potentially, to play in it. My Patreon has a Threshold tier. In addition to the Inner Circle benefits, this grants the following things.
Collaborative storytelling is my favorite aspect of TTRPGs. While I there’s only a few seats at the table in each session, this experiment allows me to collaborate with patrons even if they don’t get to roll dice in the session. I enjoy the characters we’ve created and it’s fun to see how different players interpret those characters—and it’s always fun for me to meet new people. So I can’t promise that you’ll get to play at the table if you become a Threshold patron, but you will have an opportunity to affect the story and to see the sessions (which currently aren’t available to the public), and you just might end up at the table! The next episode will be recorded on Friday, May 28th and the casting challenge is open until noon Pacific time on Tuesday the 25th.
Post any questions about Frontiers of Eberron or Threshold below! Otherwise, you can find more information at my Patreon. And the
In 2009 I traveled around the world, going from place to place and running an Eberron session for everyone I stayed with. One of the things I loved about that was getting meet and play with a vast range of different people. Thanks to the pandemic, travel isn’t in the cards for the forseeable future. So at the end of last year I started working on something else: an online campaign for my Patreon supporters. This is an ongoing campaign that is based in the town of Threshold and that uses a roster of ten established player characters… but each session, da different set of players will play those characters. In between sessions, all of my patrons will have a chance to shape the town and the story through polls and other activities—so even people who don’t have a chance to play will be a part of the campaign.
In the winter of 2020 I worked with my patrons to build our roster of characters. I’ve set up a campaign site where patrons can review the characters and the ongoing progress of the campaign, as well as adding session logs and other notes. In January I ran the first session of Threshold, and patrons have access to the video of that session. Now I’m getting ready for the second session, and I’m doing the casting call. If you might like to play in that session, read on!
My original idea was that I would randomly select the players for each session from my pool of patrons. However, Patreon has strict rules that prevent any such randomized benefits. However, they do allow contests. So first I polled supporters to choose the time for the session—I’ll be running each session at a different time, to ensure that all patrons have an opportunity to participate, regardless of their time zone. This next session is going to be at 10 AM – 2 PM Pacific Time, February 21st. Today I opened up the contest. As I said, Threshold uses a roster of ten player characters:
For this session, the challenge is to choose a character you want to play and to describe their connection to another character. If I chose your answer, that becomes part of the developing canon. So last session we established that the scholar Ink had gone on a disastrous date with Three-Widow Jane, that Rolan had danced with Sora at a grand ball in Sharn, and that one of Deven’s teenage daughters is a student at Ink’s schoolhouse. So regardless of what happens in the actual adventure, the characters and the story will continue to evolve.
Now, I’ve used that challenge for these first two sessions because it’s a good way to build a strong foundation for these shared characters. But I will use different challenges in the future. Perhaps one session I’ll have people draw a sketch of the character they want to play, or to present me with an Eberron-themed limerick. I want to make sure that everyone has a chance to play, regardless of their time zone or talents. With only five players each session, that may take a while… but even those who don’t play still get to help shape the story. And again, the video and audio of the session are shared with patrons, so everyone gets to follow along with the story.
If this sounds interesting to you, go to my Patreon and support at the Threshold level; the most recent Threshold post includes the specific details of the challenge and the link to the campaign website, where you can learn more about the established characters. The current challenge runs until noon on Wednesday the 17th, and I’ll be running the session on the 21st. I’m going to run at least one session a month; if there’s sufficient interest and support, I might be able to accelerate that.
While the campaign is only just beginning, I’ve really enjoyed the process of creating the town and the adventurers. As is suggested by the image at the top, this is a campaign that blends fantasy with elements of the Western genre, something I’ve previously explored in Q’barra. Threshold is set on the opposite side Khorvaire, on the border between Breland and the rising nation of Droaam. It’s a town where a worg can duel an agent of a dragonmarked house, where the ever-expanding lightning rail brings prosperity and unexpected dangers. Beyond the campaign, I’m currently developing this sub-setting in a sourcebook for the DM’s Guild, Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold; so this is a chance to get a sneak peek at what lies ahead!
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you in Threshold!
The Five Nations never expected Droaam to last. A nation of monsters? Medusas and harpies working with trolls and ogres? Surely they’ll turn on each other. It’s only a matter of time. A decade later, Droaam stands stronger than ever. Dragonmarked houses and independent traders smell opportunity. But some are afraid to invest too heavily in Droaam itself. After the bloody incident at Kundarak’s outpost in Graywall, many houses are looking for a foothold on the Brelish side of the border… And that foothold is Threshold.
A small mining town on the edge of the Graywall mountains, Threshold was devastated by raids during the Last War. In the last decade a number of forces have converged to rebuild and expand the town. Followers of the Three Faces of Coin believe in unhindered trade, and have an interest in creating a haven for smugglers. Count Thavius ir’Blis has allowed a group of Cyran refugees to settle in this corner of his domain, while also granting a stake in Threshold to the Brelish soldiers that served him faithfully during the Last War. House Orien has brought the lightning rail to Threshold… the last stop as it considers expanding into Droaam. But Threshold was never a large town. There are still secrets in and below the mountains that the townsfolk have yet to discover. And Droaam may be a source of opportunities, but it unquestionably holds deadly threats. Threshold fell during the Last War. Will this new incarnation thrive, or is it a disaster waiting to happen?
Threshold and the region around it are the subject of the sourcebook I’m currently working on—Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold. It’s also the setting of an online campaign I’m running for my Patreon supporters. This is an experiment: while I may livestream it in the future, to begin with I’ll just be recording it and sharing the episodes with supporters. Rather than having a set cast of players, there’s a set roster of characters, but each session I’ll recruit a new set of players from my Patreon supporters. Before each session, I’ll pose a creative challenge (as the rules governing Patreon prevent it simply being a random determination); I’ll use this to choose the players for the session. Once someone plays in a session they can’t be chosen again for the next few sessions. I’m sure this process will evolve; I see the first three sessions as an experiment. But the point is that we’re creating an ongoing story about a set of shared characters, and every patron has a chance to participate. Even people who don’t get to play will be able to shape the story. Over the last two months, supporters have helped to create our roster of characters, and every month I’ll be posing a few polls that will help to shape the story and the town. Here’s the cast of characters that emerged from this process; the image above is Julio Azevedo’s interpretation of Ja’taarka, a worg ranger.
I’ll be running the first https://beachyspharmacy.com/ Threshold game at 1 PM Pacific Standard Time on January 23rd. I’ve just posed the challenge to determine the first set of players on Patreon, and it will run until Sunday, January 17th. If you have questions you can ask them here, or find out more in the Threshold posts on Patreon! I’m looking forward to getting the campaign underway.