Monday, December 31, 2012

Timely Topic - Falling Damage

Falling damage has differed slightly through the various versions of the D&D game and clones. The most common damage taken seems to be 1d6 per 10 feet fallen. In a recent version that changed to 1d10 damage per 10 feet.

Some versions apply modifiers for deliberately jumping, landing in water or softer substances, having the tumbling skill, etc.

In Labyrinth Lord for example the first mention I recall seeing about falling damage is in the description of the consequences of falling into a pit trap = 1d6 per 10 feet fallen.

In honor of the recent damage escalation discussion . . .

What if we tried modifying the dice used?

Perhaps the first 10 feet was 1d4, second 10 feet 1d6, third 1d8, etc? Then you could shift the dice to reflect the modifiers. For example, deliberate jump makes the escalation of die type begin one step later. The first 10 feet remains 1d4 then the second becomes 1d4, then 1d6, 1d8. Say the character deliberately jumped into water it could be 1d4, 1d4, 1d4 covering the first 30 feet and then begin to escalate 1d6, 1d8, etc.

Would this be worth experimenting with or should it be kept simple at 1d6 per 10 feet and rule on the fly if some is non-lethal damage?

What other systems for modeling falling damage have you seen in fantasy rpgs?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

More 13th age

I read a couple more review comments that indicated 13th Age also has the extreme amounts of damage escalation and increased to-hit for all classes every level.

It is beginning to sound like designers are on a massive dice kick lately. If I wanted to play a game designed around massive numbers of dice for damage it would be Champions, which I had great fun with years ago for a couple of superhero campaigns.

Time to seek out reviews for Dungeon World and see what it does that might be useful.

Friday, December 28, 2012

13th Age Rpg

I've become curious about the 13th Age RPG coming out in March from Pelgrane Press and written by Johnathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo. I get the sense that while I might not choose the game as my system of preference, that it will likely be filled with stuff to transplant into whatever system I do use.

The Icons story mechanic or whatever one would call it, in which characters at time of creation are given relationships of a sort with from one to three powerful organizations or entities and this influences things throughout the campaign. I can see using that and converting it into something very useful for a Ptolus campaign for tieing the characters more into the goings on in the city. It could serve as plot points and motivators for the player characters.

For example, there are numerous noble families, criminal organizations, political factions, cults/religious orders, and others pushing and pulling at the setting. If a character had some connection, be it positive, conflicted, or negative with an organization that creates all sorts of fun possibilities. Maybe a character has a minor negative (adversarial) connection with the Balacazar Crime Family, when the DM rolls to see if that connection comes into play it might mean the Balacazar's district enforcer is up to something that will impact the character, or it could also mean that someone with a dislike for the Balacazar's might aid or involve the character in something that affects the crime family.

The character may also have conflicted ties to the Inverted Pyramid. Some members are friendly to the character, some not as friendly. At times the character might get aid and at others interference from the group.

The system looks to me like it would really be a boon for getting the players to involve their characters in all sorts of activities.

Backgrounds as it appears they are handled in 13th Age may also prove useful for similar reasons, and the One Unique Thing idea is also worthy of borrowing.

The mechanic for speeding up combat, the Escalation Die, works sort of like the doubling die from Backgammon, except the escalation die just gives an increasing bonus beginning in the second round to all attack rolls for the characters and some more important villains. This sounds like a nice way to handle using flatter math and avoiding grind as opposed to what seems to be happening in the current WotC 5th edition playtest with outrageous amounts of damage escalation.

I suggest looking up the game info and playtest reviews on the web and you may also want to visit BJ Shea's Geek Nation and listen to all 5 episodes of the podcast of Rob Heinsoo running the hosts through character creation and a short bit of play.

There is still a lot I do not know about the 13th Age RPG so I am non-committal about purchasing it until I learn more. Any reader insights are welcome in the comments!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Boxing Day!

Er, no, not that kind of boxing.

This year I managed to neither give nor receive anything related to gaming this Christmas. Not even a stocking stuffer of dice or the like. I think that is the first time in a number of years that something gaming related has not passed in one direction or another. It may be that none of us had anything unaccounted for on our wish lists this time around, or maybe none of us seemed too exited by current releases.

Did any of you give or receive gaming items this year?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

5e playtest weirdness

I have been out of the loop for a while now and still have not come fully back into the gaming fold despite beginning to blog a little recently.

The latest D&D5e playtest material is available. I downloaded and skimmed a bit of it so I could get some idea where they might be heading. Knowing that playtesting involves trying things that may not end up in the game I can honestly say that 50% or more of what I read belongs in the 'leave it out' or make it a module category.

For example, the steep escalation of ability scores appears in this iteration. I dislike that for many reasons including making magic items that enhance ability scores too powerful and/or less interesting, and because I don't like to mix my swords and sorcery genre with my superhero genre. Escalating ability scores forces other modifications to the math throughout the system and I saw too much of that in 4e.

A bunch of things from 3e have made their way into this packet as well. Attacks of Opportunity and the load of different triggers are back. Grappling appears to be heading back to being more complicated, though not yet what it was in 3e.

The experience table had me scratching my head from only a quick glance. The table itself likely won't be a big deal so I'll reserve comment until I get a more detailed look at what they are trying to do with XP.

There also seems to be power creep in the system. If my understanding on a skim is correct, a fighter might potentially be able to inflict 51 or more damage when rolling a 1 with their weapon at top level. I know without context this makes no sense so please download the documents from WotC and let me know if I need to give it a detailed read.

While I like the idea of flatter math for attack rolls, I'm not so sure making damage output increase so dramatically is needed as a balance mechanism.

Looking at character creation and levelling gives me a very 3e feeling. It looks as if character sheets are going to look like novels as a character levels due to all the information that will be needed. That kind of clutter may slow down play since there will be a lot there a player won't want to miss.

Skills will definitely require a detailed look. With just a glimpse it seems as if a character can be at variable levels of ability with the same skill moment to moment. They can apply a bonus mechanic to help boost a skill and then if they are trying again and don't have the bonus mechanic available are suddenly less capable. Please tell me that isn't the case.

Ability enhancing items may work jut like they do in 4e (as tactical short term boosters) instead of having non-tactical use and flavor. That assessment is based on one passage in part of the playtest documents and does not appear to match the description o giant strength belts in the Magic Items section. Not sure which way they are handling it.

Can anyone tell me if WotC are still working on modularity of parts or have they tossed that out to go with a single way of doing things. I have not noticed modularity being mentioned in the most recent things I have read, but that doesn't rule it out.

If time permits I hope to give the 5e playtest material a more comprehensive read.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Magic Item - Goblet of Reflection

Goblet of Reflection

Besh had vexed his attempts at recovering the Fohlud Scrolls three times now and Embuk was determined to take him out of the picture completely and finally. To that end he had enlisted a team of nefarious types to track and slay his nemesis. After weeks of planning and surveillance it was time to end the problem of Besh.

Drin the Slinker had tracked the target to his favorite watering hole, Sting of the Wyvern, and within minutes the assembled team had worked their way into position.

Gul Jerga, Master of Shades, sat quietly in a dark corner of the busy tavern. His fingers played slowly along the rim of the goblet he appeared to be absently staring into as if in deep reflection.

Across the room, Embuk signaled to his companions to strike. Zladuk was the first to move. The wiry goblin emerged from beneath his hooded cloak, rapidly drawing and throwing two daggers. From her vantage point at the other end of the bar, Teek the halfling necromancer whispered a baneful dirge-curse. Lorpa stepped seemingly from nowhere wielding a barb ended spear, thrusting with all her might at the heart of Besh.

To all it seemed as if Besh had died a painful if quick death, but Embuk sensed something was not quite right. Scanning the room as his hirelings fled, Embuk noticed the mystic in the dark corner. The figure had not reacted at all to the startling event. Looking back to the prone body of Besh revealed that he had been outfoxed again. Besh had hired his own help, an illusionist to cover his tracks.

Time to leave town thought Embuk, scrolls be damned.

Magic Item - Goblet of Reflection

This magical goblet is both a minor scrying device and an enhancer of illusion spells. When the goblet is filled with a liquid the holder can focus his or her attention into the depths of the fluid and by manipulating fingers along the rim, adjust the view seen within and concentrate on spells cast through the goblet.

Viewers suffer a penalty of 2 when saving to pierce the veil and recognize the illusion.

The goblet may also be used in a similar fashion to a crystal ball for visual information, not auditory.

The range of use is limited to no more than 100 feet and the user must have personal visual knowledge of the target area.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

For the want of a 10 foot pole

Back around the time that WotC announced that development had started on 5e (D&D Next) I read a message board post by someone complaining about how stupid the 10 foot pole was and how he wanted nothing to do with a game resembling the older editions of D&D. He went on to complain that he didn't want to waste time exploring and just wanted to get on with the game.

This of course got me thinking about how easy their DM must make things for the group. Do they search for traps? Is the loot all in bearer bonds to make sure they don't have anything heavy or bulky to transport? Their DM must not make them figure out how to get all the loot out of the dungeon.

If that is their preferred play style fine, however it did give me pause to imagine them trying desperately to remove a dragon's hoard without hirelings and the tools to do the job. Imagine if this was how you had to haul out large sacks of treasure.

Not only would you have to leave a bunch of your equipment behind, but a bunch of treasure as well. Your movement would be hindered and if you came under attack you would likely have to drop your loot and beat feet since you might have left your armor and weapons back in the vault.

Humans figured out millenia ago that there was a better way to haul things and still keep your weapons on hand . . . the ten foot pole. It makes the task of moving heavy or bulky objects quite a bit easier, and easier to put down in an emergency.

Here we have a couple of hunters with their catch posing for a picture. That pole may not be ten feet long, but it isn't much off the measure. Think how much freer these guys would be to defend themselves if they'd thought to hire a couple of pack bearers as well.

This is such a basic thing that there are even toys/miniatures for the concept of the ten foot pole for hauling stuff.

Just like hunters with a deer carcass strung to a long pole rested on the shoulders of two men, so too can bags of loot be tied to the ten foot pole and rested on the shoulders of hirelings.

So before your party sets out on an adventure, don't forget to take a ten foot pole or two. They're not just for trap detection, they're an investment!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Spell - Beast Mark (nature)

Beast Mark

Level: 1
Duration: 1 turn
Range: touch

The caster smears the spore of a local, natural animal, on a non-movable surface (tree, rock, etc) and quietly chants a prayer to that animal spirit. Within 2d4 rounds 1d3 animals of that type arrive. Animal type must be at or below the HD of the caster. The animals are uncontrolled when they arrive and most likely in a territorial mood, meaning reactions begin as unfriendly.

After 1 turn the influence of the spell wanes and the animals are free to do as they will.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Random Table Thursday - Strange Time in Faerie Realms

It has been a while since I posted a random table for DMs to use.

A post on the WotC website about Fae creatures got me thinking about possible differences in how time passes on the Material Plane vs the Fae realms.

Perhaps we can tie the time shift to the Charisma stat of the character leading the way through the portal into the realm of the Fae. Roll 2d6 and use the reaction modifiers to see how time is warped when the party crosses over.

2>         In the blink of an eye: Time in Faerie passes one month for each day in the Prime.

3 - 5>    A turn of the head: Time in Faerie passes one week for each day in the Prime.

6 - 8>    A bit of fickle whimsy: Time in Faerie passes faster or slower depending on the modifier. Good modifiers are faster, bad modifiers are slower. The rate in Faerie is 1 hour per turn faster or slower. No modifier means Faerie and the Prime pass time the same.

9 - 11>   A little white lie: Time in Faerie passes one day for each week in the Prime.

12>        You may be better off dead: Time in Faerie passes one day for each month in the Prime.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition

Just a quick thought . . .

Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition goes live at 3:00pm today.

Worth checking out.

The game is a cleaned up and enhanced re-release of the original Baldur's Gate AD&D 2e computer game from a dozen years ago. This new version is using an upgraded engine, and additional material including new dungeons and some new characters.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Such Barbarism!

Here I am with my head firmly buried in the sand of not gaming and I missed an announcement that leaves me both fascinated and nauseous in the same instant.

A new Conan movie is in the works and is planned for release in the summer of 2014, just in time to compete with the 3rd Hobbit movie. Good luck on that, you might want to consider releasing before Hobbit 3 does and definitely not the same weekend.

Legend of Conan (current working title) will star Arnold reprising his role as the barbarian 3 decades after the popular, but not true to R.E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian.

I liked that movie for it's over the top and not necessarily good acting, as well as for what I consider one of the best movie sound tracks of all time.

I still refuse to consider Conan the Destroyer or the recent Conan with Jason Mamoa as anything other than a waste of time. I saw Destroyer as part of a double feature along with The Last Starfighter in the theater way back when, and only saw the cerebrum deadening Mamoa Conan on dvd.

Like many of my old-school peers and R.E. Howard fans, I would love to see a movie that holds very close to the writing and not some slingshot of mental masterbation by a Hollywood weenie with no appreciation for the works. Somehow I doubt this movie will even try, but hopefully it will stand on its own as half decent entertainment of the swords and gore variety.

Given that we fans are unlikely to get our wish anytime in the near future, perhaps we could lobby for a full blown comedic endeavour to at least give us some belly laughs. I already know the best actor for the role.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Night of the Living . . . (not dead)

I am still absorbed in the whole work-school-sleep-work cycle and still not doing any gaming. My current lack of interest in gaming can be attributed to all the Real Life(tm) stuff that will be going on likely into early 2013.

Hopefully I can slip in a break and try to do some gaming soon, if just for a few hours over the holidays.

I will be carving out a few hours to do some computer gaming once Baldur's Gate Enhanced launches on the 28th of this month.

An update on my friend the cyborg - Last news I have is that he is home, and his doctors have suggested strongly that he get on disability. At least he is alive. Hopefully I can make some time to catch up with him during the holidays to a least talk and hang out for a bit.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Sound of Silence

I knew I was going to be taking a break, but I didn't realize just how much of one. I am still on hiatus and will be for a while yet. Let's call it a summer leave of absence (or is that leave of my senses?).

Between lack of motivation to blog, work/school, and Netflix (evil, evil, Netflix, tempter of the mind) all grabbing my attention, getting the gumption to write anything for the blog has been like seeking a quantum needle inside Schrodinger's cat.

Other items of note:

The Traveller Firefly story arc has come to completion (for now) and when I get the will to write again, it will be chronicled here.

A friend of mine is in the hospital. His heart cannot handle his current body weight and maintain proper circulation. A couple days ago he underwent implantation of a pacemaker and is now, according to another friend "a cyborg". I'll spare the other details except to say his survival has not been a given and he has had to be resuscitated a number of times. Here's hoping he will be able to continue gaming for years to come.

Also, another blog to visit is that my friend Steve has created. It is currently sparse for posts, but if enough folks go over there and drop him a comment I'm sure he can be coaxed into posting more frequently.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lost Baronies - the missing campaign

It is rapidly closing in on 4 months since the last session of the Lost Baronies campaign. That is typically a bad sign and indicative of a failed campaign. At this point even I don't feel much like scheduling the next session.

With this in mind I think it might be time to turn the string of mishaps into something official and just declare a hiatus until we (the players and I) can get our crap together to pick up where we left off.

A big factor is the issue of not having enough players to keep things going when someone has to miss a session. This thing began with a bang (7 players and 11 PCs) and we're now down to (again after one new player came and went) 2 players and 9 PCs.

Other factors include my desire to have some repairs and home improvements taken care of over the next couple of months and not wanting to have to deal with too much at my place game-wise until the dust settles so-to-speak.

Once the house issues are resolved I will re-evaluate the matter and if I feel the urge to dive back in, I will begin recruiting additional players. We'll see how I feel around the approach of Fall.

Meanwhile I am still gaming with the weekly group so at least there is that going for me.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Shiny! - Traveller in the Firefly Verse

So it is finally underway. I got my first session behind the screen with the weekly gaming group. My brief story arc will be played out using the Mongoose Traveller rules in the Firefly and Serenity Verse.

For the first session not a whole lot happened beyond character generation. Five of the eight players were in attendance and pre-rolled 3 spare characters for the other players to pick up and run with so that we can just jump right into the thick of things next time.

Character generation was a blast, as it always seems to be with Traveller. I remember whole afternoons and evenings of the old group 3 decades ago just sitting around rolling character after character for the fun of it.

The players present ended up with some funny outcomes due to the die rolls. The 5 PCs already involved in the action include a SOC 11 Lord (with possible Companion training?), slumming with the likes of a mad scientist, a gutter rat of a former soldier, a former intelligence agent, and a scout (with an enemies and contacts list as long as the rest of the group put together) who trashed a scout ship early in her career.

After completing the character generation we had time left to move into the beginnings of the story. The players had received the following info via email to give them a sense of where things are headed.

 - You sent waives to your normal list of contacts on your approach to Persephone. The trip in-system took about a day during which you heard back about available work. Mostly small jobs or nearly worthless cargo runs were all that seemed to be up for grabs.

You had to land anyway since you were running short of fuel. Having used 48 of your 52 tons, left you with at best a couple more days of operation.

Worse yet, a month of laying low after the last job has left you nearly broke. Despite making enough from that single job to pay two months of overdue ship mortgage bills, you're wondering if helping those siblings get from a Fed facility on Sihnon to Persephone was such a great idea.

Sure, you have confidence that your cover story will pass muster, and the stolen shuttle you ditched had nothing on it that could lead to your involvement, but curious Feds poking around tends to interfere with finding the better paying, less legal, work.

You didn't figure on getting a meeting request from Cricket. A former Companion, she runs in High Society circles and no job coming from that crowd can be called "small".

The meeting is scheduled for 11:00am tomorrow at the loading dock of Pearl of Heaven Industries. Can't hurt to hear what she has to say.

Funny thing about Cricket. Rumor says she is over 60 years old, but she doesn't look a day over 23. Suspicion is that she's big into use of anagathics, anti-aging drugs. If true, that is a very expensive and dangerous habit.

Nothing's ever what it seems.

The players decided to take care of some items of immediate necessity such as getting at least a little fuel. Nessa Black (the aforementioned scout) was taking care of buying 10 tons of fuel, not enough to jump, but enough to make sure they had over a week of operation otherwise. At 500 credits per ton, that 5,000 credits felt like a kick in the gut to some on the crew.

(note: I do not have my notes so some names will be edited back in later)

Lazlo Jenn, ever curious, put his intel gathering skills to work and began researching viea the cortex what he could about Pearl of Heaven Industries and Cricket. Cricket is the public face of the corporation some of the time. The company is currently pushing a new cosmetics line "Touch of Eternity" with lots of Eqyptian design stylings, and marketed as helping hide signs of aging, etc, yadda, yadda.

Cricket is also a broker for "work" of a less legitimate sort, though that is not public knowledge except to some in high places with more money than god.

Meanwhile, Morgan Cahill (aka Lord Morgan) and Dr. Zarkhov decided to wander over to the high side of the city and reconoiter the meeting space get a feel for what they might expect. They already knew there would be tighter Federal, corporate, and personal security in place, and that their own hardware would not be welcome, but they were more interested in the layout and possible exits should things turn ugly.

While making their way high-side, Morgan discovered that they were being followed, almost from the time they stepped off the ship. The tail stuck with them until somewhere near the upscale area, then they managed to shake whoever the two goons were and made their way to just outside Pearl of Heaven HQ.

The building was a construction involving three high-rise towers, the center one the tallest at over 20 stories, and the loading dock appeared to be a landing pad for shuttle sized vessels, placed well above the ground between the right and center spires, 12 stories up.

Lord Morgan decided to have a drink or three at a nearby upscale restaurant. Dr. Zarkhov however would not be able to get in the front door so bribery at the rear of the building would have to make due.

While inside Zarkhov's lack of social graces managed to endear his face to the fist of one of the kitchen staff. This resulted in a call to the local fed patrol and the doctor being booted out of the building.

Lord Morgan had a much more pleasant experience and after finding that he was under observation, began sending drinks to the table of the curious duo before eventually joining them for conversation. Before the two tall, thin gentlemen in dark suits and sunglasses departed they remarked that they might see his Lordship tomorrow.

Zarkhov, alone and annoyed had tried returning to the ship without the company of Morgan Cahill. He was about halfway back when he was jumped. (to be continued).

It is funny that most of the crew seem to have some former ties to the Alliance. I am really looking forward to continuing this in about eleven days with session 2. Hopefully we'll have a full house of players.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy 1st Birthday to The Dice Are A Lie blog

Can you believe I've managed to keep this blog going for a year? With my attention span and being easily distracted this is a mighty feat.  :)

Huge thank you to Mark Allen for creating not only the blog logo, but this wonderful bit of celebratory mayhem.

Now I have the jitters thinking about how the heck I'll keep this pixel-bound ego trip rolling for another year!

Thanks to those who signed on as followers. It is knowing some folks out there find an occasional post of mine interesting enough to follow that helps me keep posting.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Odds and Ends

Ugh, when life throws curveballs it doesn't mess around. Currently dealing with some annoying real life issues. Might not be posting for a couple more days at least.

Meanwhile . . .

Working on refamiliarizing myself with Traveller (been over 25 years since I played the system). I have the Mongoose rulebook since my old rulebooks were lost ages ago.

I'm planning to run a short couple sessions of Traveller in the Firefly 'Verse for the weekly group. The Firefly tv show has the feel of Traveller and many things within the program can be pointed out in the books without too much disconnect. That and I have the itch to mess with the old kludge of a sci-fi system. Should be fun since I will be slipping some "Easter Eggs" from the series into the scenario.

The players will be rolling up characters at the start since that really is a fun aspect of Traveller. Another advantage is that it helps the group build a team as they go instead of a bunch of individuals with no background connections or reasons for being together. Once they have their characters created their next decision will be the naming of their ship.

At this time I cannot reveal any additional info, that will have to wait until my turn behind the screen comes up and the players manage to get themselves into trouble.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no substitute for a good blaster at your side”

Taking a look at cantrips and orisons in the 5e playtest.

While the group had fun with the playtest session it was pointed out that the orisons for clerics, radiant lance in particular (laser cleric), and the at-will cantrips for the wizard, were too powerful as cantrips and at-will spells. All of them were what once would have been 1st level spells.

During play the wizard and laser cleric blasted the crap out of kobolds and rats with what felt more like Star Wars hero accuracy than 1st level adventurer accuracy.

Meanwhile actual cantrips and orisons, things that while very minor from a combat standpoint, yet still useful, are mostly not found.

Sure, you can remove the modular piece that provides the at-will aspect, but what then happens to the spells? Do they go back into the list to choose from for 1st level slots? Does that mean the rules will state that the player creating a character will have the option to choose any first level spell as a cantrip?

From a personal standpoint I do want to see cantrips and orisons as at-will spells, but I'm referring to the stuff like Mage Hand, and other Dragon Magazine of old spells.

This is another reason I am anxious to see the character creation rules.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

More 5e thoughts - Swing and a miss

One of the things our group found problematic from the playtest materials was the damage-on-a-miss ability of the fighter. Against low hit point critters it could be interpretted as scaring them to death, which is amusing to think about. While we would prefer to just toss, one option might just be to declare no kills on a miss as an addendum to that ability.

I can see a place for the rule based on how I view hit points, short version - they represent the avoidence of a lethal blow until you run out of them, and not actual damage. This reinforces the need to avoid a kill on a miss, and even the designers have said they are in line with my idea of hit points as opposed to them actually representing wounds.

Here's hoping this is something that will get worked out in playtesting.

The good news is that most of what we are seeing is a mish-mash of optional rules.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bounded Accuracy (5e)

Here is a link to the WotC article about bounded accuracy, in other words, what they have been referring to as flatter math.

This was another topic of brief discussion Saturday after the playtest and the group seems to feel that it is going to prove itself to be a welcome innovation for 5e.

Mearls covers the details well in the article so there is not much point to go into it here.

After the playtest I can visualize the characters entering a large circular room with high ceiling and a balcony with the intent of facing a villain. They also find themselves ringed by a couple dozen dagger weilding kobolds ready to throw at a signal and they would know this isn't a good thing. Sure the kobolds are only 2 hitpoint wonders, but they outnumber the group by a lot and they are murder with those thrown daggers.

I think I'm inclined to like the flatter math.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

5e playtest report part 2

To begin the discussion let me start by saying everyone at the table said they had fun testing things out. We didn't get to try every concept in the playtest documents so there is a chane we may run a second playtest in the hopes that the conditions will get a chance to come into play.

It was agreed that WotC choosing to use the Caves of Chaos for the playtest environment was a great idea.

Everyone at the table really liked the layout of the character sheets with one caveat - you would likely need to use an online tool or downloadable software to add/subtract options when building the character in order to get your created character sheet to come out as nice.

Backgrounds and Themes were another thing everyone really liked as modular options. The way these things are handled in character building/development appears to them to be well done. They are anxious to see actual character creation rules.

The way the sleep spell works in the Next doc seemed to please everyone so far.

The number of first level spells (the at-will "cantrips" were actually first level spells) was high and it was noted that this needs changing in the base skeleton of the core and instead used as a modular option.

The big issue a lot of us were wondering about is the way healing is handled and from reading the documents had gotten the idea that it might be overblown and need to be reduced. What we found from actual play turned out to be very interesting and I have to say we liked most of it as written.

The "healing from dying/unconscious" is done almost exactly as a house rule in my Labyrinth Lord campaign. The only difference is that in the Next documents you heal from zero and my rule has characters healing form 1 hp.

The dying/death mechanic in Next got some praise from a player for setting an atmosphere of urgency due to losing 1d6 points on failed saves each round until the death threshold is reached.

The "hit dice" healing in the Next docs at first glance appeared to be just the renamed surge mechanic from 4e, but upon actual use we discovered that this just isn't the case. Instead of getting 25% of your total hp back from a surge, you actually roll 1 or more dice and take the random number. Once you use your hit dice up from bandaging, they are gone for the day. In the current weekly Labyrinth Lord game I take part in there is a house rule for bandaging that gives back a random number of hit points, no healing kit required. In Next the hit dice mechanic works very similar, but it requires healing kits. If we were running under the Next hit dice rule in the current weekly game, we would be toast since we are a long way from civilization in a lost valley and would have run out of healing kits weeks ago easily.

I am a convert to liking the hit dice mechanic and it appears so were the players.

The full hit point recovery from long rest mechanic still gives us pause however. We hashed this out for a while and used professional NFL football players as examples of adventurers after strenuous combats, etc. They are not ready the day after a game to do it again even without grievous cuts, stab wounds, etc, and take a week or more to recover from the exhaustion, bruising, and soreness from a game. We felt that people in life threatening situations should also not be fully ready the very next day to do it all again without some chance of still being affected by the strain. We seemed to come close to a consensus that rolling your hit dice after a long rest to see how much you recover would leave enough randomness that some characters might be fine while others are suffering a bit from what proved to be more stressful effort. It isn't unanimous though and compared to the weekly game where a d3 is rolled for hit points recovered in a full rest it would still be a bit high for some of the group while others think adding CON bonus to the roll would be appropriate. All agreed that the full recovery should be an option and not core.

Another player pointed to the healing potion difference between 4e and Next, commenting that the Next version makes more sense.

The Advantage/Disadvantage rule was described by players as a neat simplification that they want to see interact with Conditions. As a DM I agree and liked the freedom it gives me as a DM to apply a modification to situations without having to memorize tons of modifiers. It certainly sped things up for me and allowed me to quickly rule on something and move play along.

We did not like that the Dire Rat's disease mechanic was just instant additional damage on a failed save. Diseases and some poisons need to be modeled differently so they add to the immersiveness of the game.

While the group didn't run into any stirges during play, the read through got unanimous agreement that the three attached stirges and you're dead rule, regardless of hit points, has got to go. Admittedly it is no worse than save or die poisons, but it doesn't fit with the idea of blood drain, instead acting like a slower save or die poison. (hmmmm . . .)

The DMs in the group looked at the bestiary and agreed that my initial thoughts on getting rid of ability scores and instead having a single set number (one for saves, another for skills) that DMs can modify, would save time for prep and during play. Monsters should not be treated like characters when building them. That is a great thing that 4e got right and editions prior to 3.0/3.5 were decent about mostly.

A number of other things I commented on during the skim of the bestiary are also on the list of "I have changed my mind". The idea that the save vs centipede poison was too low is out the window now that I have seen saves in play and understand the mechanic better. Centipedes were always weaker with their poison so in context, it works.

Here are the links to my previous thoughts on the Next document readings/skimmings. Bestiary. Other docs. And of course the play description from yesterday.

Please feel encouraged to offer your thoughts and especially playtest experiences in the comments section.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

5e Post Playtest session, 1st level PCs (part 1)

Today my normal campaign group plus one additional player, opted to run a 5e playtest. We chose the first level characters, using a Theater of the Mind approach instead of grid and minis. All 5 characters were in play. The players are experience, with one having begun play with 2e, and the others having experience with all versions from Moldvay Basic forward.

We began with the characters at the end of the canyon that encompasses the caves with the characters aware of two entrances and knowing more were not currently in view. The old geezer at the keep's tavern said there was lots of treasure to be found in the caves for anyone brave and wise enough to go and get it.

While the players were deciding what to do I had them make perception checks for their characters. The rogue and the cleric of Pelor failed. The cleric of Moradin, fighter, and high elf wizard noticed that about 200 feet away, further up the canyon some sort of critter had scampered into a bush, but they weren't sure about what it was.

Not wanting to waste time, and looking for something, anything to beat on, the fighter charged off at full speed to the area where he was sure the critter would be. Meanwhile, the rogue, paranoid that something might be attacking them, chose to hide in some bushes. The remaining three characters followed behind the fighter about 50 feet behind.

The party was now strung out, the dwarf near the kobold cave entrance he just became aware of followed by three members 50 feet back, and the rogue who remained hidden 200 feet away. "Psst, guys, is it safe yet?"

Realizing he had been left behind, the rogue broke cover and hustled hard to catch up.

Meanwhile the dwarf made a perception check, beating the kobolds by a lot and realizing he was surrounded by at least 8 of the little bastards. Then he remembered nothing.

The kobolds struck enmass, daggers flying at the vastly outnumbered dwarf fighter, 6 out of 8 daggers finding their mark  (2 crits) and putting the dwarf into unconsciousness. (negative 12 hit points, advantage for enemies can lead to nasty outcomes)

At range three other party members went into action. The wizard struck the kobold closest to the downed dwarf with a Ray of Frost spell, trapping it against the ground and to the bush it was half hidden within. The cleric of Pelor sent a Radiant Lance of divine energy forth, felling another kobold which tumbled, dead from the tree branch on which it perched. The cleric of Moradin used Healing Word to stabilize the fighter.

Of the 6 remaining kobolds, 2 ran for the safety of the cave and 4 began dragging the downed dwarf toward the entrance. Fearing they would outright slay the fighter or hold him hostage, the wizard moved into range and used her Burning Hands spell instantly cooking the 4 kobolds' heads and missing the dwarf by mere inches.

The two kobolds made their way into the darkness of the cave and out of reach for now. The clerics and wizard converged on the fighter and a Cure Light Wounds was cast. Now, sitting up, his wounds sore, but otherwise closed and his life no longer in immediate danger, he wondered what he missed. Not for long though, as back on his feet he was ready for revenge, and treasure.

Having caught up to the rest of the party, the rogue slipped into the shadowy cave mouth and hid, quietly observing the passage inward.

Lighting a torch, the party moved into the cave, briefly exposing to the brighter light the previously stealthy rogue. Fortunately nothing was in a position to see the halfling's annoyed look and the party, continued onward.

Leading the way, the two dwarves reached the T intersection in the passage. Both noticed the hastily covered pit and relayed the location and size to everyone following behind. The rogue then slipped forward and with incredible precision managed to rig the doors of the trap to securely handle someone walking the edges, but advised his companions against passing over the middle. Stepping gingerly past the pit, the dwarves again took up the lead.

A perception check later and the cleric of Moradin was able to warn his companions of the ambush that was about to be sprung. The wizard stepped forward and dropped a sleep spell around the corner where 6 kobolds were preparing to attack the party. Three of the would be ambushers dropped immediately to the ground, two more swayed drowsily, and the last (having rolled a natural 20 which I declared total success for amusement sake) remained double-espresso-wired awake.

Note: the wizard has spent her two Vancian spells and only at-will cantrips remain.

Rushing around the corner and laying about, the two dwarves manage to completely miss their targets. The rogue steps up and fires a sling stone into the room shattering the upper jaw and lodging deep into the skull of the previously saucer-eyed-awake kobold guard. Another round later and the remaining kobolds were killed followed soon by their sleeping companions, but not before getting off warning cries.

Coming from behind the party, a swarm of cave rats led by a single dire rat began mixing it up with the adventurers. A number of rounds and several bites later and the rats too had sloughed off the mortal coil.

At this point the dwarves were in need of some healing so the rogue and wizard stood guard while the healing kit was brought into play.
Ten minutes passed and as the party was about to move deeper into the cave, a kobold scampered off after tossing a bone wrapped in rough parchment toward the party's position. Suspicious, the rogue dragged and tossed a corpse over top the object and the party moved back past the entrance hall (using planks to cover the pit) to a room filled with trash and rat droppings. They searched and located nothing of value and no other exits so they headed back toward the spot where the bone had been tossed.

Removing the corpse, they picked up the object and read the note that was scrawled in rough common. "Leave our home." Using blood they wrote an extortion note below those words and tossed it further down the hallway from which it had been thrown, and they waited.

Some time later the note was brought back and next to it was placed a bag that jingled as it was placed on the tunnel floor. Again the messenger ran off. The new message bore a hastily scribed map leading to a room with the word treasure by it. In the bag was a ring of keys.

After some argument, the group decided to risk a trap and followed the map to a locked door. Checking for traps, the rogue announced it was safe to try the keys. A few seconds later they had access to a storage room. Within was a collection of all sorts of objects along with the stench of rotting meat, and a large cask that had some kind of liquid within based on the sound when it was tilted and settled flat again.

The rogue, fighter, and wizard stood guard at the door while the clerics performed the search. As they waited and watched, a party of well armed and armored kobolds, 9 total, approached cautiously down the hallway. Stopping 40 feet away, and 20 feet from the hallway the party would need to use to escape, the Chieftain of the kobolds spoke. "Leave now, go."

An exchange took place with the fighter demanding "shinies". After a successful intimidate check by the dwarf, the kobold chief sent two of his guards back deeper into the caves. He had decided that his tribe had sacrificed enough this day and no more kobold blood needed to be spilled even though he was confident they would defeat the intruders. A few minutes passed with the groups staring each other down before the runners returned carrying a rolled up blanket which they placed at the intersection. One of them cut open a corner and revealed two coins, then scampered back to the group.

The party carefully advanced, picked up the blanket, and determined it held more coin shaped items sewn within it. Placing the keys on the floor they cautiously withdrew back down the side hall to another intersection. Peering down the way they had not gone previously, they could see at least a dozen sets of eyes, maybe more, reflecting at the edge of their torchlight.

A further retreat allowed them to escape the caves. A large number of kobolds followed, growling all the way to the exit, but did not attack, and the party continued out of the canyon and back to their room at the keep.

Here endeth the play session. Part two will cover things we discussed after the game play stopped.

Friday, June 1, 2012


I've been mentioning the whiners and crybabies out there and suggesting that they rethink things and realize nobody is out to ruin their fun. Well, as expected people don't listen, preferring instead to try and convince others in the stupidest and nastiest of ways that if the other person likes something the commenter dislikes then they suck.

Normally I try to avoid pointing (with exceptions) directly to these things and focusing instead on counter commentary, with the idea that it is better to discuss ideas than to ridicule people. Today, I take a different tack.

I received an email from a good friend of mine pointing out how negative people are getting about both grognards and 5e lately. Here's the text of emails from my friend about the issues I'll point to and ridicule:

Apparently there was a twitter firestorm accusing D&D Next of trying to pander to the OSR by the inclusion of electrum pieces and 10 foot poles in the equipment list. The chief "twit" told people to play Pathfinder instead (which someone pointed out also included electrum pieces and 10 foot poles.)
Why are so many gamers assholes?

I then pointed him to a rant on Tenkars Tavern that just had me shaking my head at the abject stupidity with which bile was vomited forth by a commenter. My friend then summed up a bunch of my thoughts in a polite fashion compared to what was running through my thoughts after reading Biting Halfling's ridiculous rant.

I generally read and enjoy Tenkar's Tavern, but early into his D&D Next / Mike Mearls rant fest I stopped reading those posts. His point of view is clear (he is never going to like any "new" version of D&D), but his comments showed again and again that he would willfully ignore any reference to late 3e and 4e and pretend that Mearls was making stuff up instead of reacting to some players real concerns and experiences.

It is obvious that Biting Halfling has a similar axe to grind. That the D&D Next playtest had 4 innovations (his words not mine) should be a cause of celebration, , not censure. How many innovations do most games have in final form?

You know, I don't care if people like D&D Next or not. Play it or don't. But if bloggers want to continue to just gripe and whine due to ideological hatred of WotC, I'll just ignore them.

Fortunately there were enough people with functioning brains and some sense among the commenters over there that I didn't feel the need to dive into the muck at that time.

Now is the time.

To Biting Halfling, and the 10 foot pole/electrum piece twit

Dude, Really?! Seriously, get some help. Therapists can do some good if you're willing to work on your issues.

I dislike some of the system ideas in the various editions, but as I've noted on the blog a couple of times, I play what entertains me and let others play what entertains them.

Think about that for a while and then have a big helping of Wil Weaton advice. "Don't be a dick."

. . .
General note: Normally it is considered impolitic to call out another blogger or blog, but in this case I am making the exception because it is only fair to provide readers with access to the available info so they can make up their own minds. I took a couple of days to make the decision and did not do so lightly.

We among the OSR blogging sphere need to stop acting like spoiled brats and put on our grown-up pants. Most of us are older, and we should act more mature. This kind of thing does nothing to help our cause and only serves to make us look bad when we are trying to win over WotC or other game publishers to produce things we would like to see. This is why we can't have nice things. People like you, Bitey, make it difficult for any of us to be taken the least bit serious.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Whiney Gamer Syndrome

How the hell did D&D fall into the situation it has been in for a couple decades now where many participants are averse to risk of character death?

It has gotten so bad that recent editions are full of things to keep the characters safe, protecting them more and more from the long scythe of Death. Buckets of starting hitpoints, deep negative hit point allowences before death can lay actual claim, death saves (I'm guilty of this one), easier and more readily available healing including the famous wand of healing (which as I recall was prevelant in 3e), healing sugres, and now in the playtest docs for D&D Next, a renamed form of surges along with full hit point recovery after a long rest. Add in the nerfing of level draining, and a few other tid bits, and you have Dungeons and Wussies.

I blame Dungeon Masters.

You heard me right, Dungeon Masters. Plot intensive games where characters are tied so tightly to a plotline that their death in play could wreck an entire campaign are the fault of Dungeon Masters. Setting the campaign plots up to require characters to survive till the end of the campaign and not leaving an "out" in the over-arching story has lead to the creation of more and more safety nets for PCs.

This need for protecting the plot by decreasing the risk of PC death through ever increasing safety net rules has accumulated into many people thinking that is what D&D is supposed to play like. They are suffering from Whiney Gamer Syndrome.

There is a cure. DMs have to stop creating plotlines so important in and of themselves that the death of a character ruins everything. Learn to leave plots open and flexible. Give up on detailed prophesies. Instead make them so vague players will only be able to verify what it means after everything is complete. Stop rail-roading. You can always return to sandbox style play and relieve your weary head of the worry that your precious plot will murder the campaign. And stop coddling the players and their characters. There is a cure.

"But wait" you say, "DMs can't be the only ones at fault?"

You're right. TSR and WotC bear some of the blame. By failing to provide solid DM advice in the DMGs on how to avoid these pitfalls when crafting campaigns, they bear some responsibility for the spreading plague of Whiney Gamer Syndrome.

WotC has an opportunity with the upcoming edition to begin vaccinating the D&D community against this scourge. Take the buckets o'hit points away from starting characters. Get rid of the Everyone is healed fully after a single long rest. Let undead be as nasty as they should be. These things have to be adjusted in the core set of rules. Sure leave some soft options available as modular options, but get back the focus of it being a game with challenges to overcome. Players should have to make some hard decisions and there should be plenty of risk, otherwise you can phone it in or send out an email every week telling the players their xp and treasure without actually playing the game.

So Wizards, are you up for making 5e the edition it should be?

To quote a friend of mine "it wouldn't be called an adventure if it didn't involve risks".

Sunday, May 27, 2012

More 5e playtest document skimming and thoughts

I've now begun to read through the How To Play document and skim the DM Guidelines document. Again, note, these comments are given without having actually played. Also it will help to have your copy of the playtest documents handy to comprehend some of these notes.

One thing reading through the Dm and How to Play docs did was clarify the Rounds vs Turns thing a slight bit. Yes, there is some mixed use, but the intent to use rounds instead of turns as the combat time period has been made clear.

Something that really sticks out to me favorably is how they are handling the Conditions. The clear way these are described and the mechanics work is well done thanks to how the Advantage/Disadvantage rule functions.

Ethereal appears to be taking the place of non-corporeal.

Invisible still leaves me wondering a bit about the DC to detect and locate the invisible character or creature, but I am not anywhere near as skepticle as I was during the rumors and leaks phase of things. It appears to be an opposed roll from the reading.

Frightened is good. Fear has always been tough one to cope with for a player and sometimes inconvenient for a DM. This version simplifies it greatly.

Intoxicated is one I want to see in actual play. I'm not in favor of the "buckets o'hit points" so I'm inclined to think a lower die type of damage resistance might work better for what I see as D&D feel. A d6 seems high. This also might be abusable. Testing required.

The Death and Dying rules are geared toward the "bucket o'hit points" style characters, but they should work fine, especially for more story intense games.

Under the Heading "Healing" the rule listed is almost identical to a house rule my campaign has been using for a year. The only difference is my rule has characters healing from 1 hit point and the Next version is healing from 0 hit points.

Hit Dice and rests. This doesn't stike me as having a D&D feel just from reading it. It seems to be too far into the risk averse category of play which takes the tension and anticipation away from the game. Without risk there isn't much reason to plan or prepare, or be concerned with failure. The planning, prep, and concern is a big part of D&D for me.

Under Equipment and Money, it looks as if the rumor of going to the silver standard might have been just a rumor. The gold piece standard remains intact.

The way armor and Dexterity modifiers works seems broken. While someone without good dex will benefit most from heavy armor, having a good dex makes it a better deal to go with the higher end of the light armor. You have the advantage of lower weight, better mobility, lower cost, and in many instances better total AC compared to people in medium and heavy armor. This definitely needs work.

The inability to lose a spell when clobbered by something while casting doesn't appeal. Doesn't feel like D&D to me. Again, another risk averse, "I don't wanna lose" mentality. It would appeal more if the character had to make a check to avoid losing the spell instead of never losing the spell. Give it some drama.

I won't go into the equipment list yet since there really isn't much of interest, and there's not much I want to discuss yet on spells with this minor exception: Turn Undead is being tested as a spell instead of an ability. (Have not read character sheets yet.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Beginning to examine the playtest documents for 5e

I have finally been able to download the playtest documents from the WotC site. It will be a little before I get a chance to play and see how things really function, but I do want to start by skimming the stuff and mentioning things that stick out just on a quick read.

I'll do a section at a time and will not be copying anything from the document so having your own copy may greatly enhance your understanding of what my comments mean.

Since this is only from a quick read and not from play experience it lacks some perspective playing would provide. With that in mind I intend to come back to blog about how it plays if/when I get the chance to give it a thorough going over with the dice.

Here then is the notes I made while skimming the Bestiary included in the playtest materials.

From Bestiary
Creature saves – instead of giving them ability scores, how about a single save score which can be modified according to individual creature through varied situations at the DMs desire.
Same with their skills, just assign a score and don’t complicate things by making it derived from stats.
Monsters shouldn’t be treated like characters.
How do you identify the creature’s level? I see no sign of level or hit dice in the stat blocks.
Calling rounds turns is confusing for players used to turns being 10 minutes. It also is not D&D-like, except for those only exposed to 4e.
Bushwhack seems somewhat overpowered. Is it single use or if the creature remains hidden (does invisible count for this?) does it continue to get the bonus?
The DC for centipede poison saves seems too easy to avoid.
Creatures with spells should not be treated as PCs with regard to flexibility in slot. This creates too much for the DM to remember.  Set it and forget it so the DM has one less decision in play and can instead make such decisions ahead of play time and not have to read the unnecessary text during the encounter.
Cunning Tactics also seems somewhat overpowered when it comes to extra damage. Having allies being able use advantage already increases the likelihood of extra damage without that option. Combine Cunning Tactics with Dirty Tricks and you have a recipe for large amounts of damage. Low level characters should not have deep buckets of hit points to begin with and their traditional low level enemies should not be a danger just based on damage potential.
The Corrosion ability listed with the Gray Ooze sounds nifty. The concern is that this may add another element to keep track of which can be forgotten or overlooked.
Pestilence under Dire Rat doesn’t model disease well, instead making it just give extra damage on an attack. Not d&d-like.
Under Stirge, the Attach ability includes an extra die roll to avoid attaching. If it hits it should attach and not eat up extra time with the roll.
Blood Drain under Stirge is problematic by forcing the tracking of a condition and being deadlier that traditional Stirges.  If 3 Stirges attach it is instant death.
Troll regeneration is the same as 4e. It is workable, and may be good due to simplicity, but doesn’t feel much like the traditional troll.
The Wight’s Enervation is interesting. Instead of having to recalculate everything after losing levels or having to keep a folder with earlier character sheets, it nicely avoids this issue by using temporary maximum hit point status. Unfortunately having all ill effects go away after a full/long rest weakens the fear that these undead should generate and takes away the need to make important and tense decisions the older versions resulted in for characters and players. Give some real permanence back to the loss while having clerical means to fix the problem and the fear comes back without the book-keeping issues for losing levels.
Need more details about how long after death a zombie victim rises as a zombie. This is a flavorful addition to an old standard bringing them a little more in line with pop culture in a way that doesn’t take away from them being a D&D staple.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My problem with 5e

The open playtest started today, but many people (me included) are unable to download the materials. So I can't comment on anything in the playtest materials. Sheesh!

Come on WotC, you could have done much better than this with the downloads. You had options. Beef up broadband capacity, or do it a less expensive way such as quietly opening it up in waves throughout the week to cut down on the server load you had to know you were going to get hit with when launching the playtest.

Looks like I'll have to wait until they can fix the issue before diving into the pros and cons of early Next.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flushed And Gone Swirlin' - Level Drain

Level draining undead and magic is a topic of no little controversy in the game. It is easy to see the side of many people whose characters have been on the receiving end of this type of attack or the DMs whose campaign was torpedoed by their own bad guys. It was Monday night's session of the weekly game that got me thinking on this topic after my dwarf - Ollimarus - lost a level to a wight while exploring a temple.

Ollimarus had just squeaked over the XP threshold from 4th to 5th level at the start of the session. This was actually a good thing. Instead of being close to 6th level and ending up back at the half-way point in 4th level, he doesn't have as much of a deficit to make up to get back to where he was. Also, he is still almost as effective. His saves remained the same, and the 1 point of thaco and 7 hitpoints, while important, are not as critical as they could have been.

Sadly we expect more level drainers to be inside this temple. Good thing we have two clerics. Too bad they lack the levels to cast Restore.

As a player I am not the least bothered by losing the newly won level. I dread possibly losing more levels, but I relish the style of play we are engaged in with all the inherent risks to the characters. Ollimarus is my second character in this campaign, the previous one having become fish food.

There are some that argue the way level drain is handled throughout most of the editions doesn't make sense, how can you forget things and lose skills and abilities you already had. I prefer to think of it as the effects of post traumatic stress from an incredibly frightening and damaging attack on the very fabric of the character's essence. It isn't that the victim loses those abilities, skills, etc, it is more that the trauma makes it nearly impossible for the victim to perform at the pre-incident level of competence until enough time and healing has taken place, reflected in having to regain lost experience.

In a sandbox environment and even most story campaigns this can be accounted for easily enough. However in some situations where character survival and ability is tightly tied to advancement of the plot, the standard level drain method has the potential to wreck a game without some means of rapidly compensating for the loss of character functionality.

For story based campaigns I like to tweak level drain to track much closer to how 3rd edition and 3.5e handled it. The character gets -1 to all checks, attack rolls, and saves for each level drained and then rolls a save after the next full rest to see if any of the losses stick. Successful saves restore the lost level, failure means having to find a cleric that can cast restore, or if unable to find one within the time limit, kiss that level goodbye and fix it the old-fashioned way, re-earn the lost XP.

One of the reasons I don't have a big issue with lost levels is that I enjoy letting the dice have a voice in telling the collective story. Some of the more interesting gamer stories I've heard or been party to, were made that interesting because of, not in spite of random outcomes playing a role.

So sure, my character is down a level, his hard won, cherished, shiney new level, and he may lose more in this dungeon, but hey, there's a story to be told and treasure to be gained! Onward!
XP Muncher

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Dice Are A Lie Zazzle Store News

I have set all the prices in my Zazzle store (link to the right under Caves of Chaos) to drop, effective Monday. (Maybe even as soon as Sunday).

Also I am looking for a cartoonist to do some work for me. I have a t-shirt design in mind I'd like to get done.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New Monster - Blighter

I neglected to mention what the Infant Obscenity is capable of gating in to assist it. Well, here they are - Blighters.

The demon gated in over a dozen allies. The Blighters were quickly everywhere. Dundell Brownbones was surrounded by 5 of them with two of them trying to climb all over him, his helmet and shield covered in splotches of necrotic saliva. Luckily they missed his exposed skin.

Wisma had tried to avoid them by climbing into the exposed rafters, but quickly found herself dangling from a beam with two above her, drool forming at the corners of their wretched little mouths at the thought of spitting on her head and stomping her fingers.

A few of them were distracted by a desire to play with some of the younger orphans much to the plague demon's annoyance and our great concern.

Beorn was in great difficulty facing the major demon and dealing with a Blighter gnawing at his ankle. It wasn't any better for the rest of us. Every time we hit the plague demon we were lucky if we avoided the disease bearing bile and puss that splattered everywhere. Now, like Beorn, we had all been bitten by these new enemies and the signs of disease quickly became evident on all of us. 

# Encountered: 2d12 (gated 1/day without failure, by Plague Demon) or 5d10
Alignment: Chaos (evil)
Movement: 120 (40), climb 20
AC: 2
Hit Dice: (1 hit die) special, see below
Attacks: 1 (bite) 1d3 + disease, and special
Save: F5
Morale: 7 (9 in presence of more powerful demon)
Hoard Class: see below
XP: 110

Blighters are the even meaner cousins of Imps. While they will not directly attack infants, toddlers, and young children, preferring to play with them and lure them into patterns of evil behaviour, everyone and everything else is fair game for their torments.

Though Blighters are only 1 hit die creatures they are far more dangerous. As demons they are immune to sleep and charm effects. They save as 5th level fighters, magic weapons are required to hit them, a save vs poison is needed to avoid contracting a disease, and they can spit once a day at +4 to hit to a range of 30 feet. The spittle causes a necrosis to set in causing 1d3 damage immediately and if the target fails a save vs Breath Attack they suffer ongoing damage of 1 point every 10 minutes, preventable by spells such as Remove Curse, Cure Disease, Wish, etc, and Protection from Evil will hedge this out.. Also this can be slowed by use of Neutralize Poison. This spittle also causes rotting in anything it hits. Gradually the object decays/rots. Holy water will neutralize the effect on objects preventing further damage.

Blighters only interest in treasure is to collect toys from children they have tried to corrupt. Once in a while (15% chance) when a Blighter is killed and crumbles to ash, there may be a small toy in the pile that has some monetary value, perhaps inlaid or encrusted with gold or gems.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Monster - Infant Obscenity (Plague Demon)

The bastards had done it. The cultists had summoned a demon before we could stop them. Not just any demon, but a Plague Demon, an Infant Obscenity, right in the middle of an orphanage. The wailing cacophony of cries from the mass of dead and dying infants was nearly impossible to bear, and Noree suffered the worst of it, breaking and running for the exit. For the rest of us the sound made it feel as if we were walking through mud. Beorn's ears began to bleed just as his blade sank deep into the beast.

Several of the children huddled around the edges of the room began showing immediate signs of illness, one even coughed up thick bloody chunks and died on the spot. We had to stop this thing.

Plague Demon - Infant Obscenity

# Encountered: 1
Alignment: Chaos (evil)
Move: 90 (30)
AC: 0
Hit Dice: 13 + 13
Attacks: 2 (fist), see below
Special Attacks & Defenses: see below
Damage: 2d8 + disease
Save: F13
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: XVI in lair only, none otherwise.
XP: 6,000

Truly a horror to behold, one of the major plague demons, the Infant Obscenity appears as a shambling mass of babies in various stages of necrotic decay displaying numerous diseases and infections. The mass of infants cries perpetually and can be heard up to a half mile distant. The primary focus of this demon is to spread disease to infants and to bring about terrible plagues of infant mortality as it wanders.

Three times per day the creature may "wail" as if hundreds of infants cried at one time in horrible anguish. This will affect anyone within 120 feet. Those who save vs Petrify/Paralyze are slowed to half speed as long as they remain within 120 feet of the creature. Those who fail the save must flee in fear for 2d4 rounds.

The demon can be struck by normal weapons since part of its purpose is to spread plague, and injury to it often results in just such an event.

Anyone striking the creature with a melee attack causes gouts of puss, and bile to explode forth, causing all within 30 feet to save vs poison of contract a disease (DMs may wish to roll randomly from a table of their own design or just pick one) which incubates immediately. The victim also becomes a carrier of the disease, spreading it wherever they travel unless treated with Cure Disease followed by Remove Curse.

The creature regenerates 5 hit points per round unless a cleric succeeds at a turn attempt against infernal creatures, preventing further regeneration.

It is immune to sleep, hold, and charm spells. Cold based spells slow the creature, but also improve its AC by 2. Raise Dead cast on the creature slays it outright if it fails a save vs Death.

As with all demons it has the following abilities:
Infravision (90E)
Half damage from cold-based attacks
Half damage from electrical-based attacks
Half damage from fire-based attacks (all)
Half damage from gas-type attacks
Gate (varies in expression, not available to lower order demons)
Telepathy (allows all languages to be understood)
Teleport without error (not available to lower order demons)

Attacks by the Infant Obscenity are by "fist" which is a mass formed of infants. Such hits force a save vs poison. Failure indicates infection by disease.

The Plague Demon can detect invisible creatures within 120 feet on a roll of 1-4 on a d6.

Slaying the demon remands it to its plane of origin for one year and a day.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Red Knife - Legendary Giant Eagle

Red Knife as he is known, was not born an Eagle, but was instead an adventuresome young man. He along with his companions set out to assault the tower of an ogre wizard. Insisting he could best help the party if he were able to fly to the top of the tower with rope, he had the party arcanist polymorph him into a giant eagle. He ascended into the sky and made his way to the window at the tower peak which led to the ogre wizards lab. Sensing an opportunity he flew in and unfortunately encountered their target. Realizing he could not defeat the ogre alone, he chose to escape, but wanted to not have the effort be a complete failure he picked up a magical red-hilted dagger from the wizards table. Unfortunately the polymorph could not be reversed. Red Knife remembers very little of his life as a human.

Giant Eagle stats from LL AEC, modifications in red:

No. Enc.: 1 - Unique
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 30E (10E)
Fly: 480E (120E)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 3 (1 claws, bite, magic dagger)
Damage: 1d6/1d4 + 3/2d6
Save: F5
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XI, XXII (no coins)
XP: 350
The grand, giant eagles have a 20ft. wingspan. They nest on
large cliffs or other out of the way rocky areas. Their eyesight is
so finely honed that during the day they are impossible to
surprise. In addition to their normal claw and beak attacks, giant
eagles may use a dive attack that deals 2d6 damage per claw,
with no beak attack possible. They may instead opt to carry
away prey, and can carry up to 200 lbs. at half their normal
movement. When a nest is encountered there is a 60% chance
that there are 1d4 young, otherwise there are a like number of
eggs. Giant eagles are intelligent, and have a kind fondness for
elves and dwarves.
Dagger damage is doubled on a dive attack.
The dagger is +3, of wounding, causing an additional hit point of damage each round for 1d8 rounds or until magical healing by potion or spell is applied, whichever comes first.

Eagle, Giant

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Influences on D&D

The Vorpal blade is perhaps one of the best known of the iconic D&D weapons. The origin for the weapon is from the poem Jabberwocky by Lewis Carol. Mentioned twice in the poem, the blade was used to defeat the Jabberwock, which he beheaded and took the gruesome trophy home to prove his victory over the beast.

What the poem does not explicitly state is that the blade slew the beast by beheading it in combat, merely that the hero took the creature's head home with him after slaying it. Despite this lack of confirmation for a neck severing fetish, that is how has been depicted in the rules of the game from the early days.

Vorpal weapons rank among the many powerful obstacles to the survival of Big Bad Evil Guys during campaigns, and many a longterm campaign plot has had it's head handed to the DM by the lucky stroke from this amazing weapon.

Anyone have a story of how this weapon was used to humorous effect in a game you took part in?


Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872) `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.
"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chess - another hobby of mine.

It was chess club that introduced me to the wargaming group which eventually led to my finding out about D&D.

As it turns out the United States Championship began on Tuesday May 8th featuring 12 of the top players in the country, and today the World Championship gets officially underway between challenger Boris Gelfand and reigning world champ Viswanathan Anand.

For detailed info on both events, and others, follow the link to Chessbase.

It was D&D and a lack of natural chess talent, that led to my switching primary hobbies and staying mostly a board and rp gamer instead of focusing on competetive chess. My rating never broke the lower rankings despite some strength at my peak of play that indicated above average skill. Sadly, inconsistancy and distractions like a certain lovely young woman at a tournament in 1989 sort of did in what may have been my best chance for decent money from playing chess. I did have some memorable tournaments, but lets face it, in D&D we all win.

The Hellraiser of chess I was not.
I still fancy a game of chess from time to time and with a couple very major events happening right now I kind of have the urge to hunt up some opponents. Chess anyone?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The most frightening monster . . .

Beyond a shadow of a doubt one of the most frightening monsters characters can encounter is the lowly Rust Monster. It isn't that it is deadly in and of itself. Heck it could care less about fleshy creatures, unless they have tasty metal with them!

In the weekly game, we recently had the final watch of our rest interrupted by two of these things galumphing into camp trying to devour every last bit of metal we had on us, which was quite a bit, some of it magically enhanced.

We dealt with them the best way we knew how . . . panic! The party thief grabbed a magic shield from one of the two clerics and high-tailed it to the opposite side of camp. The cleric on watch tried to face them down and lost one of the two plusses his armor previously had. My dwarf, suited in his skivvies and bearing his wyvern scale covered shield and an old hand axe interposed between the camp and the critters.

Martin the Ineluctable struck at them with a brace of magic missiles. That worked as it was first blood (technically) and they apparently didn't like the taste of his bitter bolts. The two fled our camp and the cleric with the wounded armor cast light on the tail of one as they dodged out of sight between some boulders.

The party then got our collective butts 200 feet higher up the cliff we camped at the bottom of. Thankfully those bastards don't fly.