Tag Archives: Dungeons & Dragons

Spring Cleaning

I have been on vacation all week and I spent most of that time doing some long needed spring cleaning. While throwing out old furniture and giving away books by the box, I came across these;

These two drawings were done for PezWitch by Phil Foglio at Treasure Con III in Billings Montana in 1985.

Death Dealer in 5E

A couple of years ago Goodman Games published an adventure module for D&D 4E which included a fully stated Death Dealer. I never played 4E much, nor would I ever unleash such a thing on a group, but I thought it might be an interesting exercise for a slow Saturday morning to convert him to D&D 5E. Just as a side note, Death dealers attack bonus is +19 and keep in mind all of this is in addition to all of the skills and special abilities it gets from being a 19th level fighter , so it gets such abilities as Second Wind and Action Surge as well.

The Death Dealer

Level 19 Fighter

Str 30 (+10) Dex 22 (+6) Wis 20 (+5)
Con 27 (+8) Int 14 (+2) Cha 14 (+2)
Hit Points 647
Armor Class 22

Special Abilities:
Immune; disease, poison
Resist; necrotic

Regeneration 10: Death Dealer regenerates 10 hit points per turn, if the Death Dealer takes radiant damage, its regeneration doesn’t function until the end of its next turn.

Death’s Helm: Enemies within 25 feet of the Death Dealer must make a DC 16 saving throw versus fear or take a –4 penalty to attack rolls and saving throws until the end of combat.

Impenetrable Bulwark: As an action, the Death Dealer makes an attack roll against an opponent, if successful the Death Dealer inflicts no damage nor takes any damage from the opponent Impenetrable Bulwark was used on, the opponent is pushed 10 feet. Impenetrable bulwark cannot be used with the executioner’s ax and requires the Bulwark Shield.

Field of Blood: Requires executioner’s ax; As a bonus action, the Death Dealer may make an attack roll against any and all targets within 5 feet of it, it may then move up to 15 feet and once again make an attack roll on any and all targets within 5 feet.

Horned Fury: When the Death Dealer’s hit points drop below 323, it can make two additional attacks with the Horned Helm as a bonus action.

Scion of Destruction: The first time the Death Dealer is reduced below 1 hit point, the Death Dealer rises on its next turn with 323 hit points.

Equipment
Executioner’s Ax: +3 to hit, damage 3d6+9. Once an opponent has been damaged by the ax, the opponent will start taking an additional 10 points of necrotic damage per turn until they are dead or are healed by magical means.

Falcon Scimitar: +3 to hit, damage 2d8+9, on a roll of a natural 20, weapon inflicts 6d8+24 damage.

Horned Helm: +3 to hit, Damage 1d8 + 9, any opponent successful hit with Horned Helmet must make a DC 30 Strength save or be knocked prone.

Scale Mail +3

Bulwark Shield +3

Welcome to Bronzehelm

Last Friday night we started a new D&D campaign. We have started playing 5th edition and we are using our old Caldoom setting. The basis of the campaign is the PC’s are rookie members of the Bronzehelm City Watch and for added fun, they are on the Night Watch. The first game I designed strictly as an introduction to Bronzehelm for those who had never played in Caldoom before. I took them to the Black Shark Inn and introduced them to the local head in a jar Lilly and then sent them hunting orcs in the city dump. Getting use to the system and the various idiosyncrasies of the character sheets was a bit bumpy, but by the end of combat I think things had smoothed out. All in all I thought the game was fun.

Return to Caldoom

In a couple of weeks I will be starting a new campaign. I have chosen to go with Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. I have been wanting to play it since it came out and  the few times we have played it, I have enjoyed. The plan for the campaign is to run a city centric campaign with little in the way of dungeon crawling. I gave my players a choice between a thieves guild based game or a city watch style game and predominate choice was city watch. Some of my players expressed a concern that playing thieves would bring out too many anti social tendencies and make for a difficult campaign. Being city watch on the other hand makes everyone at least pretend to have the interests of the greater society in mind.

So the next thing I had to decide was where to place the game. In the last couple of campaigns I pretty much made shit up as I went along. For this campaign I felt I needed something that would feel familiar to the players. The city should be almost like a home town and the best way to get to that was by returning to our old game world Caldoom. We left Caldoom behind several years ago to experiment with new settings, the primary one being Edgewood and cyberpunk Billings. BronzeHelm is the largest city on the continent and has a very long and sordid history in the game world and this seemed like a good pick. In the past when I have used BronzeHelm, I have based it on Judges Guilds City State of the Invincible Overlord.

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/1360/City-State-of-the-Invincible-Overlord

To give an overview of what has been happening in BronzeHelm over the last few years. In 2009 Arbusto the Invincible Overlord, turned out to be not so invincible, the city was attacked and subsequently sacked by the Army of Arcanis. The battle lasted only a single night, with the BronzeHelm City Watch surrendering in the first 15 minutes. Arcanis stepped over the dead body of Arbusto and became the new Invincible Overlord.

Since that time, Arcanis has solidified his power base in the city. He once again outlawed the Thieves, Assassins and Beggers Guilds. He raided all three guilds and had all known member arrested in a single night, effectively eliminating them for several years. He also cleaned up the notoriously corrupt and incompetent city watch, turning them into a very effective force of law and order. Arcanis has also created the worlds most complex bureaucracy, there is said to be buildings dedicated to housing all the rules, regulation and laws governing everyday life in BronzeHelm.

Arcanis’s newest project to revitalize the city watch and build up the defenses of Bronzehelm centers around building a special task force unit comprised of unique individuals who can be developed. Arcanis realized years ago that there was a small percentage of people who were capable of rising beyond being one of the “Little People”, he recognized that he himself was one of those people and the history of the world has been scorched by such individuals. Arcanis’s plan is to build a special Boot Camp designed to find and exploit these people, then provide them with additional training and equipment that would allow them to deal with anything that might harm Bronzehelm.

This is where the campaign will start.

Monster Boobs (its not what you think)

PezWitch asked me about the latest twitter shit storm around Dungeons and Dragons yesterday and I had to admit that I had not idea what was going on. I have really moved away from social media over the last month or so, while I re-opened my accounts for the sake of convenience, I really do not pay much attention to them these days and even when I do, I tend to loose interest pretty fact. So I had to go and root around a bit to find out what the deal was.

Apparently Cecilia D’Anastasio wrote an article for Kotaku analyzing Wizards of the Coasts move away from overly sexualized monsters on D&D.

http://kotaku.com/dungeons-dragons-gradual-shift-away-from-monster-boo-1790002540

I have to say, I am not sure why this is a thing. This has been happening since AD&D 2nd edition, it is not new. I don’t think this has been about “Political Correctness”, I honestly think this is about making the game available to wider audiences and making modern parents more comfortable buying their 12 year old boy or girl the books. I see nothing wrong with this. Frankly, I have to say I like the shift in art, the Dungeonpunk style of 3E and 4E just did not appeal to me much, I prefer the more natural colors and softer tones of the current edition.

When all is said and done, this is just one persons take on the current state of D&D. For every person out there screaming “Political Correctness!” there is also a person screaming “Objectification of Women!”, so I am thinking they probably got it just about right.

Review: Adventures in Middle Earth

aimeProduct Summery:
Name: Adventures in Middle Earth
Publisher: Cubical 7
Author: Staff
Line: 5E
Cost: $40/$20 for PDF
Pages: 224
Webpage: http://cubicle7.co.uk/our-games/adventures-in-middle-earth/

Frankly this was a bit of a disappointment to me, however this was probably due to my own inflated expectations. Cubical 7 previous attempt at Middle Earth gaming, The One Ring, was really really good. There was nice art, good layout, interesting game design. The whole thing came together as a top notch product. So my expectations were that the conversion of the One Ring to the 5E rule set would be just as well put together, unfortunately this was not the case.

First off, I did not like the cover art, I get what they were trying to do, but the picture just does not inspire me at all, it is flat and bland. The interior art is pretty much everything we saw in the One Ring, there may be some new pieces in there, but I have not done a side by side comparison to know for sure. So while I like the style of the art and it is very good, it does have the “Haven’t we been here before” vibe, so it again fails to inspire.

The game mechanic is a heavily modified version Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. The classes are different, the races are different, and they have added some new mechanics to make the game flow more or less the same way The One Ring does. My problem here is, if you are familiar with D&D 5E, this game will be easy to make sense of. If you are coming in from another game, never having played D&D 5E, you will find this game confusing. For instance there was no effort to provide a way to generate attributes, nor do they have any real explanation for the attributes or how they affect the game. This game assumes previous knowledge of D&D 5E and if you do not have it, this will come off as an incomplete game to you.

Finally, what can you say about the setting, it is Lord of the Rings, it is the Hobbit, it is well J.R.R. Tolkien. Cubical 7 does an good job of translating Tolkien’s work to a gaming setting, from the class descriptions to the flavor text, this is the best part of the book.

Overall, this is not a bad product, but it is not a great one either. If you plan to use it, you will also need D&D 5E, although the free download from Wizards of the Coast, would fill in the gaps well enough to play. Perhaps as they release more products for the line I will become more enamored with it. Hopefully they will not just recycle all of the old One Ring stuff and they will produce some original content for this title.

Summery (Scale of 1-5):
Appearance and Layout: 2
Game Mechanic: 2
Setting: 5
Overall: 3

Jack Chick Dead at age 92

On Sunday, October 23, 2016, it was that Jack Chick passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 92. For those of you who don’t know who this is, he created what is known as the Chic Tracks, small christian comic books designed to tell us all we will burn in hell. The most famous of these tracks was the Dungeon & Dragons track which helped fuel the D&D is satanic panic in the early 1980’s. So long Jack, while you did not intend it as such, you gave us hours of hilarious entertainment.

Repost: How to be a good RPG player

I am re-posting this because of a forum thread I read recently, where a player was complaining about how bad the game he is playing in is. From his own description of what was happening, it was obvious he was failing at 3, 4 and 5. This is something that needs to be gone over again. I think most of us, including myself, fail at one of these, or occasionally two, but by god, if you are failing at 3 of them, the problems with the game are probably you.


1. Know the rules of the game you are playing. You don’t have to memorize every book, but you should at the very least be able to roll up a character and understand the basic dice mechanics of the game.

2. Know how to make a decent character, know what constitutes a good character. Building a D&D character that averages less than 1 point of damage per turn is a useless character, on the other end of that scale, a Call of Cthulhu character whose primary skill is shooting/punching things, is likewise useless.

3. Know your group. Try to get to know everyone in the group, try to find out what they want out of the game and what their strengths and weaknesses are. If you are not a good fit for the group, politely drop out of the game.

4. Know your GM, know what kind of game he wants to run. Find out what his expectations are, does he like a fast paced shoot em up game, or does he prefer a slow burn plot. Build characters that play to your GM’s strengths, don’t build characters that exploit or highlight the GM’s weaknesses.

5. Be a player that other players like to be around, play characters other characters want to be around. If you find yourself uttering the words “I am just playing my character!”, you have failed this one.

Looking to next year

The current plan for my game group at this moment is, I will be wrapping up this GURPS Cyberpunk game towards the end of October. At that point Bruce will run a short campaign through the end of the year, giving me a chance to play some. Chad is also planning to run a “Last Friday of each month” Traveller mini campaign.

It is at this point in time that I need to start planning my next campaign.Six to eight months is a pretty normal development cycle for me unless I am using a canned campaign. I have a couple of choices here;

First I have all of the Wizards of the Coast hardbound adventures, there are six of them and it would probably take me six years to run them all. This has some appeal to me, first it is very easy for me to do, very little prep time, second these will be the “Shared Experience” modules of the current generation of gamers, the games they fondly remember are being played right now with these modules. The downside of course is, anyone can buy them and cheat their way through.

Second, I can develop something from scratch, perhaps another sandbox game similar to the Edgewood campaign I finished up last year or perhaps a return to Caldoom, giving me a chance to update the world once again to make some new history in a campaign world with its roots spreading back 40 years of gaming.. This is far more time consuming, but I ultimately get more satisfaction out of these games and I think my players do too.

Third, Adventures in Middle Earth is coming out in September, this is the 5th edition adaption of The One Ring RPG by Cubical 7. This would give us the chance to answer age old questions like, how did Gandalf, a 6th level Magic User defeat a balrog by himself, or why did Sauron’s tower collapse when the ring was thrown in the lava. or how did two 2nd levels halflings just walk into Mordor. The answer to those questions is, “Something else was happening in the background”. Campaign premise; Fellowship of the Ring: The B Team!

Roll20Con

I crawled out of bed this morning at 1:30 AM to attend the the opening ceremony of Roll20Con. It was probably not worth getting up for. The follow up panel was on Roll20.net API programming. This was very interesting, but it was buffering terribly and was basically unteachable, so I went back to bed. I then got up at around 6:00 AM, at this point they were playing Fiasco, but it was not in English. At about 7:00 AM they started playing D&D 5E, this was kind of interesting. The problem with D&D is, D&D is kind of boring to watch, but these guys did try to keep it entertaining as best they could.

At 11:30 AM I started “Let’s Raid the Temple of Elemental Evil” D&D 5E game. The basis of the game, was to play through the best part of the Prince of the Apocalypse adventure, which was the Air Elemental dungeon. This was a fun time, I like Con games because there are no expectations, everyone is there to play a one shot and you are probably never going to play together again. This makes for an interesting dynamic between complete strangers, trying to work together through a problem. This was the first time I had played in at least 3 years so my hopes were very high, and this GM certainly delivered.

I then attended the GMing on Roll20 panel, which introduced me to some features that I was unaware of, like the GM map layer which lets me lay down a map that only I can see, then lets me hand draw the map the players see over the top of it. There was also an interesting feature request segment, which discussed how horrible the Roll20 Market Place is.

Finally, I watched a Dungeon World game GMed by the creator of the game. This was a really painful game to watch. This game was 3 pompous players working at cross purposes and a 4th player who was trying to keep it all together while the others mocked him and treated him like a pet. Now you could throw this off as a “Well we were just playing our characters” thing, but it sure felt like this poor bastard was playing with three Ed’s. I did stick with it though just because I wanted to see the train wreck at the end, which never quite came.

I plan to attend again next year, if they do it again. Next year, I would like to see better organization around the games. Define start and stop times with short breaks in between blocks. I was only able to get one game in, the second game I signed up for folded before the Con started, but even if it had happened, the D&D game went over by 2 hours and I would have been playing two games at the same time.  Of course the argument against this is, all the tables are virtual, so this does not have the same limitations that a real world game convention would have, so there is no reason to have time blocks.

Anyway, it was fun and I hope next year I can get a couple of the guys to attend with me.

Re: Roll20Con

So the D&D5E game I applied for went south, so I withdrew my application and found a different one. He requested we build 2 characters, a primary and a backup. My primary is a basic wizard, Fireballs, Lightning Bolts and other heavy artillery, if I say I am casting a spell, its a good idea to wait before running into the room. My secondary character is a straight forward Rogue, Pick locks, Find/remove traps, sneaking silently through the shadows. If you see me standing behind someone, they are either about to loose their purse, or get a dagger in the back.

Anyone who has seen me as a player, knows my preference is for fighters, and that was definitely my first choice. The problem was, when I looked at the other players, I saw at least one each, Fighter, Ranger and Paladin, so there were sword arm a plenty. I did see another person who wanted to play a spell caster, but I figured if necessary, I could always fallback to the Rogue, seeing as no one else has as of yet chosen a Rogue as their primary.

 

 

Roll20Con

On June 3rd, Roll20.net is having an online gaming convention. I have decided I am taking the day off and I am spending the day playing D&D online. I really want to play, but every time I look at the available games, nothing jumps out at me. I have been back several times and watched new games get posted and older games fill up, but still nothing really grabs me and says, lets go. I think I have the same basic problem I have always had. I prefer to game with a very specific set of people. I think I have to force myself to game with people I don’t know. In the past when I have done so, I have always had fun, so I don’t know why I am so reluctant to do it.

Edit – Update: Okay I broke down and signed up for two games; here is my tentative convention schedule;

12:00 AM Opening Ceremony

5:00 AM VIP Streamed Game (I may not make this)

9:00 AM Panel, Publishing in the Digital Age

10:00 AM The Ruins of Efreeti (D&D 5E)

3:00 PM Mutants & Masterminds 3E Game

9:00 PM VIP Streamed Game

11:30 PM Closing Ceremony

Playing the game

It has been the better part of three years since I have participated in a role playing game (RPG) as a player. The last time was an ill fated forum based game, Bruce was running a great game that I was enjoying a lot, but we ran into two problems. First, I was trying to install and maintain the forum software myself and so when things went wrong, they went really wrong. The second problem was, forum games develop way too slowly and you have to remember to log in everyday and check progress. Unfortunately it is way too easy to loose momentum. I really should have learned my lesson about this when we were trying to use RPOL.net to run some of our games.

Chad has said he would run a Top Secret or a Traveler game if he got enough people interested, but neither of those games particularly interest me. Fantasy is my preferred genre in RPG, although I would love to play Call of Cthulhu or Mutants and Masterminds (or any horror or superhero game for that matter). But alas, none of my other players seem terribly interested in running even a short term game, so that pretty much leaves me on my own to find something. Of course here in lays one of my other problems, I don’t really want to play with a group of strangers or even acquaintances, I’d rather play along side the people I ready play with.

RE: Dogma!

We once again find ourselves play a bit of AD&D 1E. My favorite style of play is of course Dogma!. Here is the basic rules for this style of play, somewhat house ruled by myself for the sake of faster leaner games.

Dogma!

You have 10 minutes to roll up a character, if take longer than that, you will not be able to enter the game until after the first combat.

Roll 4d6 for each attribute, taking the best three.

Attributes are rolled in order in which they appear in the book and you
play what you get: Str, Int, Wis, Dex, Con, and Chr.

You get max hit points for first level and roll hit points for all
levels after that.

You get max starting gold for your class to equip yourself.

You are not allowed to name your character until you reach 3rd level

You are not allowed to choose an alignment until 3rd level, unless your
class requires it.

The dungeon, monsters and treasure will all be generated randomly using the table in the back of the Dungeon Masters Guide.

Experience points are awarded on the spot for all kills, treasure and
magic items.

When you get enough experience points to level, you level on the spot.

If your character dies, you have 10 minutes to roll up another
character. If it takes you longer than 10 minutes, you will not be able
to enter the game until after the next combat.

The idea behind this style of play is fast, furious and hilarious.

The original intent of the group that developed Dogma! was a way to power level characters. They wanted to play high level modules like the Tomb of Horror, but did not want to risk the characters they had spent months or even years building. What they discovered was a unique style of play that had the feel of a 1980’s video game.

Original Article – http://bluebones.net/dogma/comment-page-1/

Is the OSR movement dead?

The Old School Renaissance (OSR) started in 2001 when HackMaster 4th Edition hit the stands. This made a lot of people realize there was still a nice cozy niche of older gamers who liked the way gaming was in the 1980’s. HM4E was followed by Castles & Crusades, which adopted the Open Gaming Licence (OGL) rules to a more old school feel style of game. From there things exploded, over the next several years retro-clone after retro-clone appeared. Basic Fantasy, Labyrinth Lords, OSRIC, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, BlueHolmes Project and many Many MANY others.

The Cons: My basic problem with this movement is there was a lot of re-invention of the wheel. If you go and look at all these projects, most of them all do the same thing and come up with nearly identical rule sets where the only real difference between them is the writing style. Functionally Basic Fantasy, Labyrinth Lords and Lamentations of the Flame Princess are the same game. Rather than settling on 1 or 2 rule sets, or even 2 or 3, practically every person interested in publishing OSR material, created their own retro-clone. So now there are at least 20 variations of the same game, none of which can claim any significant audience.

The Pros: Along with all those retro-clones came a lot of support material. You can now buy piles of modules, supplements and setting material from different companies that are all more or less compatible. This movement also caused Wizards of the Coast to start selling their OD&D and AD&D catalog again as PDF’s. They realized as did those clone makers, that there is a market for this stuff. WotC even reprinted many of their core rule books.

Is the OSR movement dead?

As I have stated in previous posts, I have embraced the digital revolution. I have a very extensive PDF collection of gaming material. My PDF game books exceeds my physical gaming books by at least one magnitude. The only physical books I buy these days are Dungeons & Dragons 5E. As a side effect of this, I have all or most of these retro-clones in my collection. Most are free, but I have actually paid for a couple of them as well. The problem is, I don’t need any of them. All of the versions of D&D that these retro-clones are emulating are now available from www.dmsguild.com at very reasonable price. If I wanted to publish my own module WotC has setup some very nice guidelines for doing so. The OSR started as a way to publish old school material, that is really no longer necessary. Combine this with the fact that nothing innovating has come out of the OSR in a couple of years and you begin to see the picture.

My hopes are high

I am a man of the digital age. Although I was born into a time before computers were anything people thought they may someday own, I have embraced the idea of digital technology and everything it has to offer. I do not remember the last time I read a paper book, a comic book, magazine or newspaper. For that matter, I don’t remember the last time I bought an actual music CD. All of these things have been replaced by digital versions. I no longer play Dungeons & Dragons in person with my friends, we play using an internet chat and mapping program. In fact, most of my best friends are online rather than people I physically talk to everyday.

I think about how my Grandmother must have felt. She was born in a time when horse and buggy was the predominate mode of transportation of the world and she lived to see a man walk on the moon, can you imagine that? When I was born, cars were the predominate mode of transportation and it still basically is and that technology really has not changed much in the last 50 years. On top of that, we pretty much lost interest in manned space flight, we pretend to play at it, talk about going back to the moon or even Mars. The reality is though, there will be no manned space vehicle leaving earths orbit again in my lifetime. We as a people simply do not have the will or the sense of adventure we had 50 or 100 years ago.

What has changed in my life time, is computers. I marvel at how far we have come in my lifetime. When I was born computers still filled buildings and ran on vacuum tubes and had very little connectivity. Today, the phone I carry in my pocket has more computing power than there was in the whole world on the day I was born. In the early 60’s they used computers to calculate trajectories of missile, today we use them tweet about our bowel movements.

I am no longer waiting for my chance to go to space, I am no longer waiting for a personal jet pack, I am no longer waiting for life extension treatments. What I am still waiting for is usable consumer grade virtual reality, Occulus Rift is not quit there, but we are on the verge. I am also waiting for truly useful wearable computers, smart watches are getting us close, but still not it. I would also love to see the first true AI in my lifetime, again, there are some good smart systems out there and some interesting work being done in computers that learn, but we are probably still 20 years away. My hopes are still high.

Tomb of Horrors…Bad?…Maybe

John Wick is a game designer of some reputation, he tends to write games I am not terribly interested, but he is successful. So when I heard about this blog post, I decided to find out what was going on.

http://www.enworld.org/forum/content.php?3176-Is-TOMB-OF-HORRORS-the-Worst-Adventure-Of-All-Time&s=ee40422b26d2d351a25e0909cc0bbee5#.VqopUPkrKCg

Tomb of Horrors (ToH) is in fact not a terribly good module, however it is also not the worst adventure ever written. To say it is the worst adventure ever written is to say it has no value at all, either to the game or its players and I just don’t think that is the case. Even Wick himself in the article admits he learned how to modify written modules to make them more fun while running ToH, this alone means it not only has value to the larger gaming culture, but it had value to him personally.

The fact is, ToH has stood the test of time, it has been reprinted many times and rewritten for more modern versions of the game. There are many many modules published by TSR that have never seen the light of day again after their initial run, not mention all the d20 trash that came out in the early 2000’s or all the vomit inducing crap White Wolf put out in the 90’s.

I have played ToH probably half a dozen times, half of those resulted in total party kills (TPK). One of those times was an experiment to see if a party of 1st level characters could survive the Tomb if the players had free access to the module during play. The answer to that question is, yes they can. There is one thing I clearly remember about playing all of those games. At no point was I ever punched in the face nor did I punch anyone else over it. In fact, I seem to remember every one had fun, even in the cases of TPKs. I have also heard many gamers describe their experiences playing the module and never has there been a tale of dissatisfaction but rather tales of clever adventurers and spectacular deaths.


Edit: John Wicks site is down, I changed the link to the story on ENWorld.

Holiday season random thoughts

It is the last day of my vacation, it is also the last of my vacation days for the year, there is really just a couple of short weeks between now and my vacation day reset, so life is good. I have not been posting much lately and that will likely not change anytime soon. So here are some things that have been on my mind.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: We played 4 games of this culminating into my year Christmas game. My original review of it can be found here, and not much has really changed in my opinion. I think it is a respectable game and a decent D&D edition. In actual play, there were some rough spots, but again, I suspect that had more to do with Roll20.net than it did with the actual rules. Overall, I like the game, but the real problem is, I don’t love it.

Star Wars – The Force Awakens: Once again, the movie was not bad, it was a bit of a remake of Star Wars – The New Hope, on the other hand it did not damage the franchise in terms of anything being truly bad. The real problem of course is, it also did not bring anything new to the table. My hope is, this movie is simply laying the ground work for the next movie, which I hope is not just good, but GREAT! What I hope is that people don’t look for reasons to hate the movie and just take it for what it is.

Companions of Xarth Wiki: The CoX wiki is a bit of a mess, it has grown very organically from a few simple webpages. The problem with any knowledge base grown in this manner, is it tends to be an exercise in chaos. There is not much organization, some of the material is outdated, incorrect or flat out useless. One of the things I want to do this next year is scrap the wiki as it exists today and build it back up into a more useful tool. I have transferred about 80% of the information on the wiki to my desktop wiki program, Zim. My plan is to weed out all the useless stuff, update the things that need updating and organize it better.

GURPS Cyberpunk: While I was planning this campaign, I came across an old article I had read many years ago in the Roleplayer, a now defunct newsletter published by Steve Jackson Games. The article entitled Prime Time Roleplaying laid out a format for producing game sessions to mimic TV series. This seemed like a really good way to run the game I am planning to run. I said from the beginning, this would mimic Burn Notice in many ways. My idea is, each episode will be roughly 3 games, each game being a single act within the episode. From the article;

Act I introduces the villain’s crime fully, and gets the PCs involved. It climaxes in a minor confrontation with the villain or his henchmen when one of the PCs gets too close. This confrontation, which will often take an impersonal form – a bomb in an apartment, a car chase, a sniper – should put the PCs on the right trail.

Act II centers on the PCs’ investigations, as they put together the pieces of the puzzle that lead to the villain. By the climax of the second act, the investigators should be fairly confident of whodunnit; the tension in this act comes from the need to catch the villain before he gets away or strikes again.

Act III brings the PCs into direct confrontation with the villain, climaxing in – we hope – the miscreant’s downfall. Following Act III is the epilogue, which wraps up loose subplots and clears the stage for next week’s episode.

This was a good article, when it was published in 1988, it has withstood the test of time, and yes, I still have my original copy.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

Last night we played our first game of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Some things went well and some things did not. Most of the things that did not go well were centered around the Roll20.net 5E character sheet, getting it to work properly and understanding what it was doing when buttons were pressed. This is not the fault of 5E at all, but rather a combination of old people and technology. Over all my first impressions are a tentative “This should work well for us”. Because several of my players decided to generate their characters at the game, rather than on their own time, there was really only enough time for a single encounter with 4 goblins and these observations are based solely on this encounter.

  • The Good: Combat seemed to flow smoothly, the unified dice mechanic worked well making it easy to see who hits and who didn’t. That is after we figured out what Roll20.net was doing.
  • The Bad: We had two PC’s go down during the fight, I am not sure I like the death rules. Maybe it is just because I am use to using negative hit points and this save vs death thing seems counter intuitive.
  • The Ugly: 1st level PC’s are WAY too fragile. Two characters were nearly killed by goblins with one hit. This was not a terribly dangerous encounter, but I can see how this could easily have turned into a TPK.

The oddest thing about the game last night was the Tiefling Rogue with a Dwarven last name, I am sure there is an entertaining story there somewhere.

You don’t want my players in your game!

There is a twitter contest going on where you can play D&D with Chris Perkins as the DM. Perkins is the story designer for the video game Sword Coast Legends. At first I thought this was a great idea, until I started thinking about the last couple of years of my own game. My players are hard on game worlds and I kind of don’t think Perkins is ready for my players. Seriously, our previous game world is scarred with the actions of PC, and the current game world is on the brink of Armageddon. My guess is they would have him crying like a three year old girl with statements like “What do you mean the whole dungeon is collapsing? I didn’t poor that much orc whiskey in there!”

Dice Shrine

I got my Dice Shrine today. It is holding my Opaque Blue Die, purchased in Laurel Montana in 1980.

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Here is a close up.

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This is an awesome gift, Thank You PezWitch, I love you. For those of you who are jealous, you can get your own on ebay.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Exalted-Die-Shrine-with-Pit-of-Shame-/252135686072

30 Minute Sandbox Game

In one of the odd little forums I go to, there was a discussion around how much prep time a reasonably experienced GM needed to run a campaign that could potentially run anywhere from a single game one shot to a multi year mega campaign. Like all these types of questions, the real answer is, it depends. In this case, what the questioner really wanted to know was, what was the minimum prep time. To answer this question, I sat down and did the work for a first game in a new area.

The first thing I did was I went to the Donjon Random Dungeon Generator and produced a 30 room dungeon with an undead motif. This took me all of 5 minutes, it gives me a first adventure without too much screwing around and I can modify it on the fly to better suit the party. This spit out the Black Shrine of the Vampire Princess, it is not a module I would actually spend money on, but it is a handy framework that can be built upon in a minimal amount of time. I wanted to spend more time on other things, so I did not modify it in any way, figuring I would do that in game.

Link no longer valid

The next step was to design a small sandbox area where the PC’s can adventure for at least the first 10 games or so. I opened up my mapping software, which happens to be GIMP or the HexGrid plugin. I quickly laid out a 16×16 hex map, each hex being 5 miles across. This means everything on the map is just a few days of walking away, but most of it is wilderness, so there is plenty of opportunity to get into trouble in each hex.

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This took me about 15 minutes to lay out and another 10ish minutes to write a bit of background. I admit to stealing ideas and using cheesy names, but again, you can have it fast or good, you can’t have both.

  • Hex 1407: City of Greymoore – By tradition Greymoore is run by Baron BlackHawk, however for the last 20 years it is been run by Governor Lorraine, who is a competent administrator, but not a particularly nice person.
  • Hex 1409: Castle BlackHawk – Owned by Baron BlackHawk and his family, old man BlackHawk is now in his 80’s and the place has fallen into mild disrepair.
  • Hex 0007: Son of Arne Glacier
  • Hex 1104: Lake Bleedslow
  • Hex 1011: Lake Yrag
  • The eastern edge is the Mutter Ocean
  • The western edge is the Vater Mountains
  • The North Forrest is inhabited by an goblin tribe
  • The South Forrest is inhabited by an unruly group of elves

This probably took me around half an hour to do in total. Had I wanted to be more creative or fleshed things out a bit better, another 30 minutes I think would be more than enough.

On the Kender race

D&D players fall into two broad categories. Those who love the Kender race and those who hate them. The Kender race is a sub species of Halfling from the Dragonlance series. Kender have two very specific racial characteristics, first they are completely fearless and second they have no sense of personal property. While this is highly entertaining in the context of a book series, it makes for terrible D&D characters.

My personal experience with players who like Kender is the whole “I didn’t steal your +3 dagger, I just borrowed it!” thing is funny the first time, mildly amusing the second time and outright pisses me off the third time. I mean, they never steal trivial items, I have even went out of my way to have interesting items on hand for the Kender to steal, but nope, they never go for the shiny and rare coin from three kingdoms away, or the handmade fishing lure, they always go straight for my magic items or high value gems. Then, when I would turn it a round on them and started stealing my stuff back, or god forbid, I stole one of their magic items, then suddenly its not funny at all. All through this they scream “I’m JUST PLAYING MY CHARACTER!”. The Kender race was developed solely for the purpose of giving the guy who created them an excuse to steal from his fellow party members, there is no other reason to play one.

Besides my own personal dislike of the Kender, thinking about them in game terms, there is no way they would survive as a race. It would be impossible for them build any kind of civilization and would have to depend on raiding for survival, which of course does not win you any friends. The elves and the dwarves might tolerate such shenanigans, but humans most certainly would not and would likely seek to wipe out Kender wherever they were found. In fact this is exactly what happened to Kenders on Caldoom. centuries ago everyone got tired of Kender shit, got together and wiped them out. Today, this is referred to as the Great Kender Culling. It is doubtful any Kender still exist on Caldoom, and if there are any, they stay well away from everyone else and if discovered will deny being Kender, claiming instead to be halflings.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kender

http://1d4chan.org/wiki/Kender

http://www.kencyclopedia.com/kender/general/

 

D&D 5E, a year in

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition has been out over a year now. The reception of the new edition has been for the most part positive, most gamers approve of the return to more 2nd edition feel with some 3rd edition game mechanics and the recognition that 4th edition was probably a step in the wrong direction. However, there does seem to be some consternation over the slow release cycle and the lack of a licences that will allow 3rd parties to publish content.

I will be the first to criticize a game company for a lack of follow up product. While it is true, The One Ring did not die and eventually Cubical 7 did release some followup material, by the time they did, most of their potential players had already moved on and they lost significant momentum. I do think Wizards of the Coast did not fall into this trap with D&D 5E. WotC released all of the core books at a relatively even pace across 4 months and during that time they also released the first half of a large epic scale campaign and then followed up in short order with the second half and the DM Screen. During the next 6 months we got Princes of the Apocalypse and Out of the Abyss. So in the first year we got 8 products, 9 if you count the boxed starter set and 12 if you count all the free basic rules and PotA player guide. This is really not that slow for year 1. Although to be fair, most of this was released in the first 4 months, while we had to wait months for Princes of the Apocalypse and Out of the Abyss.

Even if in the coming year we only see two or three more products, as long as the trickle is steady, this will not be much of a problem. In fact, it is really easy on my pocket book, I can afford two $50 adventures a year (well more like $30 from Amazon), so by the the time I actually run the game, I will have decades campaign material. This is much different from how previous editions worked, especially from 2E on. It was basically impossible to own everything unless you had more money than brain. It was probably impossible to even get everything in a limited scope of say “All Forgotten Realms” stuff. The idea is sell a few high priced adventures with a large profit margin, rather than a large number of cheap products with a low profit margin. This of course is not a new way of marketing, it is only new to WotC.

While it is true that WotC has not released an OGL or GSL license, this has not stopped a number of third party vendors from creating small inexpensive products for 5E. These companies are exploiting the similarities between 5E and 3E to create these modules, I have perhaps a dozen of them, all cost less than $5 and many, less than $2. DriveThruRPG has an extensive catalog of 5E material available. So for those who are constipated over WotC apparent lack dedication to D&D, lay back, relax, enjoy what we have and spend some of that money on your significant other.

RE: Ages of RPGs

In the D&D 5E forums on ENWorld there is a discussion about whether or not 5E is ushering in a new golden age of roleplaying games. I think most of the posters do not really understand what “Ages” of “Something” really means. When speaking about ages, we must understand a couple of things first.

There is only one Golden age of whatever you are talking about, there was only one Golden Age of comics, there was only one Golden Age of Rock & Roll, there was only one Golden Age of Greek Literature. Subsequent ages are designated as Silver, Bronze and Iron.

It is nearly impossible to designate a Golden Age while it is happening, most people, even those involved do not realize what had happened and its significance until years later. In the case of RPGs, we know when the Golden Age was, the first time it peaked was around 1980, when D&D came into the mainstream consciences and why there are so many people of my age who played D&D at least a couple of times. I lived through this period and I can tell you, none of us were talking about this being the “Golden Age” of RPGs. It was not until 1988 or 1989 when I think we realized it was over with and things would never be the same again.

Ages tend to be a generational thing and tend to coincide with a new set of artists and writers, as well as a new generation of people enjoying the hobby. In Comic books, the Golden Age was driven by he Great Generation, the Silver Age was Baby Boomers and the Bronze Age of the 80s was GenX coming into its own. Each of these ages was separated by a decline, which is not to say everything sucked, only that the hobby was in decline for 6-10 years between each of these ages.

So the real question is, are we currently in the Silver Age or perhaps the Bronze Age. I have written about this in the past and I have changed my view on it. Originally I felt the Silver age began around 1990, because that was the time period Vampire The Masquerade came into its own. However, looking back on those old posts, I now realize that AD&D2E and Vampire were really signaling the end of the Golden Age. In my revised opinion the Silver Age did not start until 2000 when D&D 3E came out along with d20 and the OGL. I can see this now because the Silver Age is now coming to a close. Just as the end of the Silver Age of Comics was heralded with Green Lantern/Green Arrow 85, the end of the Silver Age of RPGs is being signaled with Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.