We give our recommendations for the best gifts for the TTRPG players in your life!
As TTRPG players ourselves and people who have friends that enjoy these role-playing games, we thought it fitting to write a gift guide. Whether you play D&D, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, the Lord of the Rings RPG, or indie games, there is something for everyone who enjoys rolling dice.
The Dice Dragon
It’s hard to find a TTRPG player that will turn down a new set of dice. But if they already have so many sets, what do you get them? A typical game store in town won’t be the place to go. We recommend going online to Etsy and finding dice makers. These creators have a variety of interesting, unique, and whimsical products in their shops. Some even give you the option to customize, adding personalization to your gift.
By asking some questions, you can get to know about the character your friend plays. While you don’t need to buy them a full cosplay set, there are some things you can do to let them wear their character while playing their game.
A customized t-shirt with their character name on it
A necklace with a symbol related to their character (if their character wields a war hammer have it be a war hammer)
A hat that their character wears (if they play a pirate, get them a pirate hat)
An accessory that their character wears (a pair of white gloves, a flower crown, a red scarf, steampunk goggles)
A customized dice mat or box with colors or designs related to their character
The Game Master
Most Game Master’s always have need of fun, new accessories for their games. Be mindful how big of a playing space your friend has. If they have an entire room and storage devoted to gaming, you can go big. But if they just have a re-purposed small space, give them something easy to store away.
High-quality terrain from Dwarven Forge
“Condition” rings that show if characters are currently Paralyzed, Poisoned, Charmed, etc
A set of dry erase 2D maps for a variety of locations
A Bluetooth speaker to play music through
A fun dice tower to roll large amounts of dice with
We take a look at our favorite free resources for creators we use in our projects.
Whether you are a writer, an artist, a TTRPG player or game master, or anything else in the wonderful world of creativity, having a good set of resources is a must. We’re talking about tools you use, software you rely on, and a go-to’s to generate ideas. This is a list of our favorite resources.
For Naming Characters
Sometimes you think for a long time to come up with the perfect character name. Other times, you just need something fast. Our free resource go-to is a site called Baby Names. The reason why we like this so much is its Advanced Search option. Here you can search for names on a global scale by letters, by syllables, and even by their meaning. I particularly love to look up meanings to get ideas. For example, I may want a name that means “hope” or “light” and I’ll get a huge list based off of only that.
Whether you need a battle map for a TTRPG game, a city map for reference, or an entire world map, we are big fans of Inkarnate. We use it both in our games and for our book series. Having a map to reference is invaluable, and even Inkarnate’s free option has a huge array of possibilities. We recently reviewed Inkarnate and its features.
For Note Keeping
We are in the middle of writing an eight-book epic fantasy series based off our TTRPG game. There is a lot to keep track of! What designs were in this god’s temples? Did that library have a name? Have these two crossed paths before? It can easily get overwhelming. Evernote has been a game-changer for us. It’s our top pick as a free resource for creators that need to keep track of details. While it has paid options, we have never needed anything that the free version doesn’t come with. You download it on your computer and can organize notes through tags and categories to make them more searchable.
For Designs & Mood Boards
I always love Pinterest when it comes to mood boards and ideas, however, if you want to customize things, we love to use Canva. The one drawback is that its free version is limited in options. We pay for it simply because we use it for so many things. But for a long time, we only used free and still enjoyed it. You can do graphic design, choose from photos, search gifs and videos, and much more! We’ve used it to design city symbols and banners, to create pantheon sigils, and for in-game digital handouts.
Do you have any free resources for creators that aren’t on this list? Share below!
Some may say level 18 characters in DnD are overpowered and no longer fun, but we disagree.
“My GM ended the campaign at level 10. He said that’s how most people do it because upper levels are too powerful.”
“We ended at level 14. Things get too complicated above that.”
“Does anyone actually get to tier 4? Most campaigns fizzle out before that.”
After a number of similar things being said from friends and online, we now find ourselves in the talked-about scenario. After nearly eight years of playing the same TTRPG campaign, we have level 18 characters. And this isn’t a game we just play once a month, either. We play it every week with the exception of being sick or being out of town (though we have played from a lakeshore cabin before!).
Progressing This Far in a Story
Being able to bring characters from level 1 all the way to level 18 in DnD is thrilling. You feel them grow up, get stronger, and take on bigger challenges. They change, for the better or the worse, with the story. You build relationships with NPC’s, with other party members, and you definitely get long-running rivalries with antagonists. It’s truly a joy to tell a story for eight years, and now be so close to seeing it come to a satisfying conclusion.
Level 18 Character Powers
We played in a short-term level 20 game with B. Dave Walters. He said, “Some people think you can’t challenge players at this level. I disagree.”
That certainly was the case in his game, with many of us coming close to death. And that’s been the case in ours, as well. There is no shortage of challenges. In fact, they just get bigger and more difficult. We’ve had characters go down, we’ve had spell slots run low, and we’ve had mid-battle stress deciding what to do next.
To clarify, we are heavy homebrewers. While DnD stat blocks are very useful for level 18 characters, it’s also entirely possible and simple to build your own bad guys and monsters from scratch that are up to the task.
Tips on Tier 4 Storytelling
If you find your party in tier 4, that is to say levels 16 – 20, here are some of our tips to make it less daunting.
When you’re this deep in the story, it’s not always about combat. The narrative and the characters are driving it at this point. Don’t worry so much about the biggest, baddest monster you can find.
The environment can play a huge factor in challenges for high-level DnD characters. Steep drops, crumbling ground, dangerous thunderstorms, blizzards, and more offer expanded challenges beyond just who can hit the hardest.
Keep it character-focused. Involve NPCs and antagonists frequently. Give characters situations they don’t want to just firestorm their way out of, like saving innocents.
When role-playing a high-level character, think about the weight of their power on them. How does this affect them? Are they more or less likely to use it? Do they feel heavy responsibility? Or has it made them arrogant and reckless?
Rangers are versatile members of any party. They can lead a group through dangerous wilderness without getting lost, track a wild beast or missing person in diverse environments, and are capable of wielding a multitude of weapons. They’re hired by travelers as guides and make excellent bounty hunters and monster slayers when the time calls for it. They’re also quite passionate and considerate of nature and the flora and fauna that live among it.
If you’re playing or writing a ranger, we’ve got some tips on how to get in their head. Dorian has played a ranger for six years and understands them quite well. Having done so for such a long time, or course, not all rangers are the same. So, for those looking to play or create a ranger, here’s what you need to know.
Roleplaying a Ranger
Playing a ranger comes down to a few key factors. No matter if you’re using the most popular TTRPG in the world, Pathfinder, Forbidden Lands, or Lord of the Rings, rangers have several things in common. Focus on the following traits when you create a ranger to improve your roleplay and writing.
Rangers are fierce protectors of nature. They work to safeguard all that is natural in the world.
Rangers know their plants. They can tell the party if a plant is deadly, poisonous, edible, or has healing properties. If they don’t know, they work to do so.
Rangers are kind to animals. As protectors of nature, they work to understand creatures of the world, even the dangerous ones. If it comes down to a fight with a beast, they may instead choose to scare away the creature instead of killing it. Rangers are also known to have animal companions.
Rangers always seek to understand. Rangers tend to stick to the wilds or live away from cities. This can make them curious about the world. Going to a large urban area can seem outlandish to them but with every place they visit, they seek knowledge first. Knowing more about a place, person, or creature is highly beneficial.
Rangers can be difficult at first. Like nature, rangers tend to be guarded and may appear off-putting at first. Once they get to know a person, they warm up easily to them and let their guards drop.
Rangers are masters of weapons. There is a reason rangers are known as masters of the hunt. Not for their hunting skills, but their ability to wield and master just about every weapon created.
As writers, we find inspiration in nearly everything we come across. So, we thought to help with your roleplay, we should introduce you to a few popular rangers from movies and video games.
Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a Witcher, which is a fancy way of saying ranger. He hunts monsters, uses herbs to make potions and poisons, and is proficient in knowing creatures, tracking, and fighting. He’s gruff and blunt but has a kind heart and is always willing to help those in need.
Aragorn. Aragorn from Lord of the Rings is one of the best examples of a ranger we can think of. While known as a Ranger of the North, the title referred to a wandering people who protected the land but sought to remain a secret from others. This gave them a reputation for being distrustful, harsh, and dangerous. While Aragorn can appear quite harsh, he’s kind to everyone he meets once he learns more about them. He also has several animal companions during his journey. Brego is with him in The Two Towers and The Return of the King. While Bill the pony accompanies him in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Ruuda Drybarrel. Self-plug. Ruuda’s backstory in our fantasy book series Thread of Souls focuses on her interaction with a group or rangers. She was trained by Deep Stalker ranger Nier Shadowsnare but was not blessed to be a Deep Stalker herself. The Deep Staker rangers are protectors of the Deep Hollows and work to ensure safe passage for travelers on the roads, protect creatures, and are hired out when needed for specific jobs. Ruuda’s history with the rangers could play a larger part in her story, but you’ll have to read and find out.
A new TTRPG that calls itself “Subversion” is coming to Kickstarter next month. And in this age of OGL fiasco’s and the tabletop community opening up to new systems and indie creators, its launch is very timely. Subversion is built off a custom d6 system, and promises a fantasy-sci-fi-grungy adventure that takes place in Neo Babylon. Players can fight against an oppressive systems run by faceless corporations and greedy authorities while balancing their core values that are at the heart of the game.
You are an envoy, using technology, magic, and direct action to serve and save your community in the cyberpunk fantasy world of Neo Babylon.
Subversion will allow players to choose from multiple lineages such as elf, dwarf, goblin, human, or yettin. In character creation, they will also get to choose from a variety of cultures, skills, values, and goals. Subversion uses a creative d6-based dice pool system. The better a player is at a skill, the more dice they get to role, but they only keep the highest three.
Players will be engaged by the Grit system, in which each character has a special reserve resource which they can muster to stand and fight when all looks grim. Alternatively, they can use their limited grit resource to perform amazing abilities or enhance their normal ones. Grit is gained and lost based on how characters interact with their values and impulses.
If you are the type of player who enjoys helping NPC’s and making a difference within the world you play in, Subversion promises themes of relationships, holding to ideals, community, direct action, and hope for the future.
Maps are useful tools in tabletop roleplaying games. Whether drawn with pen and pencil, colored marker, or created online, they transport you and your players anywhere and everywhere for the story. You don’t have to be an expert to make a map either. From online tools to Lego pieces, we’ve done it all and no matter what our players have loved it. Here’s how to build a map for your next session.
Keeping it classic is a simple way to make a map for your games. Just grab a piece of paper and a writing utensil and start drawing. It doesn’t need to be fancy or colored. Giving players a visual cue helps them understand where enemies, NPCs, and objects are. You can even add in art on the fly. If a player asks if there is a tree to hide behind, you can just add one in. Having everyone work together makes map building more engaging.
Craft store terrain
When we first started playing at the table, we didn’t have a digital or VTTs. We barely had minis let alone terrain to build maps with. Occasionally we drew a map but mostly we visited our local craft store to make our own. They are great for building 3D maps with varying levels of terrain. Grabbing a set of trees, rocks, and a patch of grass can bring a whole new dimension to your tabletop game.
One of the best ways to build is by using plant foam. It’s moldable and can be shaped or cut into nearly any object.
Licensed maps and terrain sets
You could of course use maps made by third parties. We’ve had a handful over the years. They fit together like puzzle pieces and can be arranged in numerous ways to bring your map to life. What makes them great is you can build so many different maps with just one set or combine them together to construct a large one. Paizo has plenty and as players who’ve used them before, they are fantastic.
Terrain sets are larger more robust sets that bring 3D elements to the table. You can find a handful on Etsy or use Dwarven Forge.
Going digital, completely digital is where we ended up after years of playing. Our go to toolset is Inkarnate. It offers several unique tools you can use to build maps. You can make practically anything you can think of. Once you lay the groundwork — grass, water, snow, etc. — you can add in finer details like buildings, trees, creatures, people, and more. It’s a versatile way to build maps that can be as dynamic as you see fit.
Somehow, by now we thought this whole fiasco with WotC (Wizards of the Coast) would be over. But it carries on with more and more ridiculousness added each day. We are talking about this because we are active members of the TTRPG community, and until recently had a channel on Dungeon Master’s Guild. Here is what is going down.
For those just now reading up about what is going on with Dungeons and Dragons, here is the short version recap. Years ago they put out an Open Game License (OGL) that allowed third-party publishers (3PPs) to create content that used portions of the D&D system. This created a thriving TTPRG community, where home-based indie creators could build adventures, subclasses, monsters, and more for people to use in their D&D5e games. The community thrived. WotC made lots of money. Everyone was happy.
Until WotC decided they would destroy everything they’ve built over the years. And it hasn’t even taken long to do it. First came a leaked copy of a proposed new OGL 1.1 that was, basically, no longer “open”. Creators would have to pay royalties, and WotC could take content made by small ma-and-pa shops and use it for their own purposes royalty-free. There was a lot more in this new OGL, but what it boiled down to was shutting down any creator that wasn’t Wizards of the Coast. Small businesses that depended on the original OGL to pay their bills and feed their kids were now in danger of actually OWING WotC money. You know, so the C-Suite can go buy a third yacht.
While the community was in a panic about what this would mean for the little guy for nearly two weeks, WotC remained completely silent. They did not respond to the large-scale public outrage and cry for answers. That all changed with a leaked statement from an employee at WotC who kept themselves anonymous. Their statement was fairly incriminating, claiming that WotC just wanted this to blow over, that they saw the fanbase as obstacles to their profit, and that they were looking at D&D Beyond subscriptions to gauge what was profitable and what was not.
Well, the community responded quickly and decisively. So many rushed to cancel their subscriptions that the site began to have technical issues. And what many considered a saving grace in all this took the form of the company Paizo, the creators of Pathfinder. They announced they would be partnering with other major gaming companies to create a new OGL they were calling ORC (The Open RPG Creative License) that would be non-profit so no corporate greed could get involved. They also offered indie creators and 3PPs to contact them to stay up to date on the ORC so it could be rolled out in a way that was most beneficial to everyone.
So it was rather not coincidentally that WotC decided to finally, finally issue a statement the following day. The day that the OGL 1.1 was supposed to go into place.
Only, they didn’t do themselves any favors. In fact, it made the entire situation worse. The statement came through D&D Beyond, not even their official account. They claimed the OGL 1.1 was only a “draft”, that everyone was overacting, and that the words were being misconstrued. Perhaps the most damning phrase of all in this statement was a fierce claim that they were still on top.
“You’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.”
Wizards of the Coast truly could have saved themselves here if they had done the exact opposite of everything they did in that statement. It only worsened the anger by the community who were quick to pull apart the lies in the statement, the heavy PR tone, and lack of anything of real substance in terms of what the future held.
One would think that was as worse as things could get. But in the following days, it’s only gotten more and more shady and complicated. More leaks from inside employees warn fans of heavy D&D Beyond paywalls that WotC wants to put into place, of establishing AI Dungeon Masters, and of trying to use a survey as a platform for people to complain on and thus clear up the angry Twitter / Reddit / etc platforms. WotC denies each and every leak, although their denials keep coming surprisingly late and always behind a “face” that they choose to speak for them. Whether that’s D&D Beyond or random employees, it’s never the actual person that is making the decisions.
From an outside perspective, one would think WotC decided to wage war against its own player base. And it is losing.
Players are flocking to Pathfinder so quickly that it is sold out in local stores. Major companies like Kobold Press are leaving 5e behind and doing their own thing. Everyone from large influencers to small-time streamers are also leaving behind D&D for other TTRPG systems. Why? Because trust has been broken. Because WotC has yet to promise anything of real value, instead using PR-language to try to hide the lack of meaning behind their messages. Because they refuse to make the original OGL irrevocable, and thus people are worried they will keep trying to push the new version forward no matter how long it takes them. Because for little creators that are paying their bills, they have a guillotine hanging above their heads that WotC could drop to destroy everything they have made and take it for themselves.
Why would any creator even want to stick around in this circus?
WotC truly could have saved themselves from this nightmare if they had been upfront with their fanbase and been honest. Without any sincere apologies, without any communication directly from the source, and without any real action, the community loses more and more trust in the future of Dungeons and Dragons. Many who are now refusing to buy or support anything that Hasbro (the owners of WotC) decides to release.
So where does this leave everything in the future? What we’ll likely see is former D&D players gravitating to Pathfinder and their new ORC to create content. We are likely to see more smaller TTRPG systems get attention as people look for new games to play. And the once near-monopoly WotC held on the industry will die. And they will only have themselves to blame.
It’s been a week in the tabletop community and we’re exhausted. This impromptu Spool of Souls update is meant to clear the air on what’s going on in the world of tabletop. As our book series is based on a TTRPG, we wanted to talk about the news from WOTC, Dungeons und Dragons, and what it means for Thread of Souls and us as indie developers.
Starting off. We here at Thread of Souls and Tal & Ru Travels LLC are against everything Wizards is doing with the OGL 1.1. We fully support indie developers and love seeing everything created in the third-party space. TTRPGs are about creating stories, worlds, and characters that you love and hold dear.
The leak of the OGL 1.1 update shows it is the complete opposite of the original OGL written in 2000. That allowed anyone the right to use mechanics, monsters, and items produced by WOTC in their own games. Thus, Pathfinder was created. However, the update is worded in a way that could allow WOTC full control of fan creations for their own use. This all without paying the original creator. On top of that would, owners may be required to pay a portion of all earned revenue to Wizards of the Coast after the first $750,000. And they could changed that at any moment on a whim and leave creators 30 days to comply. An article by journalist Linda Codega broke the news. We highly recommend giving it and their other articles a read.
Reports began January fifth and haven’t really stopped since. After eight days of waiting (January 13) Wizards finally issued a statement through DND Beyond, not even through their official site. The statement was general PR response and further leaks note it was written by “executives and legal”. The official statement reads, “we wanted to ensure that the OGL is for the content creator, the homebrewer, the aspiring designer, our players, and the community—not major corporations to use for their own commercial and promotional purpose.” Which is exactly the opposite of what was stated in the leak. It goes on to mention removing the royalty structure and getting rid of the part where it was suggested the company could take anyone’s work.
All of this talk impacts everyone who uses Dungeons and Dragons. It is incredible damaging to indie developers and if pushed through prevents them from using an IP they have spent hours, months, and years learning to create content. Content that pays their bills, provides for families, and earns them a living. Indie devs create because they love doing so. Their passion has led to the release of more incredible books, creations, and systems than put out by the people who own it all.
It was reported that WOTC is looking at DND Beyond subscriptions to gage success. This has led to people cancelling their subscription to show they are against what is happening. It was only after the mass cancelations began that the official statement was posted.
The Thread of Souls book series is based on our own TTRPG system. We’ve ensured it used only our creations and content made by us. We are stopping all DMs Guild creations and have removed our previously released content.
Tal & Ru Travels LLC and Thread of Souls was created to provide entertainment, laughter, joy, dynamic characters storylines, and fun. Third-party indie devs are the backbone of the TTRPG community and make some truly fantastic stories.
We still haven’t watched the Dungeons & Dragons movie trailer, but are curious about it. What has us even more interested is the announcement of two prequel books ahead of the movie: The Druid’s Call and The Road to Neverwinter. Let’s talk about what we know and what we’d like to see from them.
The Road to Neverwinter is written by Jaleigh Johnson. Little is known about it but we can deduce it will take place in the city of Neverwinter, the Jewel of the North. As huge fans of the Neverwinter MMO, we’ve spent, I was going to say countless hours exploring the city, but it’s 361.5 hours, according to Steam. That’s more than 15 days.
Needless to say, we are looking forward to The Road to Neverwinter.
The Druid’s Call, from E.K. Johnston, also has a special place in our hearts for one important reason. Talia’s first tabletop character was the Jade, a main character in our fantasy octology Thread of Souls.
The two books are exciting and they got us thinking. We’re sure they’re written like a typical story — choose a premise, characters, outline it, and write it — but we believe it be great if they were based on their own tabletop experience. Imagine if the characters in both books were played by actual people around a table like a ttrpg game.
The players all choose a character in the story and roleplay them and tell the story together. With A Druid’s Call following the main protagonist Doric, the actions and decisions her player makes shape the world and therefore the overall book.
The same be The Road to Neverwinter. While it’s unclear what the story is, the book must involve some of the characters from Honor Among Thieves. Our thoughts are on rogue Forge Fitzwilliam, as he is tied to the city.
However the books and movie are written, they’re sure to be thrilling. But as authors who turned our ongoing ttrpg campaign into fantasy books, it is definitely a fun way to write a series after playing it around a table with friends.
Playing a TTRPGis similar to an actor preparing for a role. You aren’t you at the table, you’re someone else. Taking time to think, act, and live like your character before a session is a great way to get into their mindset. One way to really get a feel for your character is to travel as they do.
Walk or Hike
Traveling could be just about anything. Think about the types of travel portrayed in games or fantasy books. One of the most prominent is long-distance walking and hiking. You could even keep it simple by going on a short walk. Walking and hiking lets you better connect with nature and the elements around you. It’s a great time to think like your character and be with yourself and thoughts. Plus, you get a feel for what it’s like to be outside like they are the majority of the time. Don’t only go out when it’s sunny. Adventuring is tough work and they don’t quit when it’s raining.
Hit the Road
Another way to get around in fantasy is using wagons or carriages. You don’t have to rent or find a carriage, just hop in a car and drive about. You could do one of two things to get in the mindset. One is to not bother with a destination. Just pick a direction and drive. The other is to know where you’re going but not use any GPS to get there. Travel by using a map or as if you were given vague directions until you reach your goal. Oftentimes, a party will be given a direction and landmark. Rarely is it ever a straight path to your goal.
All the while, be your character. What would they think of the journey? The sights? Sounds? Smells?
Spend the Night Somewhere Different
Characters are always staying at taverns, tents, or magically created homes. Another fun way to travel and get into your character’s mind is to stay somewhere new for the night. Having a different view or sleeping somewhere diverse gives you a more unique view of the world.
We’ve spent the night in a dark creepy forest once. It was definitely an experience and one we’ll never forget.
Traveling with your party or a friend at the table is highly recommended. It gives everyone a chance to bond and become their character while you’re all away. You don’t have to spend every moment as your character, but spending time here and there as them will help give you more insight into how they act in the game.
When you travel to get into the mindset of your character, focus on your senses. Everywhere you go focus on everything you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Taverns often have a reputation for being loud, but is that always the case when you stay at a hotel? Roads aren’t always smooth and you can often feel every bump as you travel along. What does the air smell like as you walk through the park?
Traveling is always an adventure. It doesn’t have to be an epic journey from point A to point B. Sometimes taking a walk in your own house or yard is all you need to get into the mind of your character.