Dec 31, 2008


From me, to all of you...Have a happy and safe years end celebration, or not. I plan on playing WoW with my wife : )

Happy happy obligatory holiday greeting dispensed, now for the good stuff.

I have found new life in the gaming part of my brain. Creating monsters and skill challenges has been very enjoyable, and as such, I plan to continue them. My goal (F*CK resolutions, they are so...last century) is to develop and post a single full encounter, critter, or skill challenge each week.

I have found 4E to be very much a "Nodal" approach wherein the players transition from one set piece encounter to another. What it allows, is a seamless narrative flowing from one encounter - in a swamp, say. To another in a wooded glen without the "everyone count their footsteps, and tell me how much weight you are carrying" crap. I find this approach to be more Diablo II than WoW (except for instaces I suppose).

I have an interesting idea for a quicksand skill challenge.
Another regarding arbitration during a miners vs. teamsters dispute.

Sneaking into a castle holding 200+ bandits.

As to encounters, my crown jewel as of now, is a fight between a lvl.4 party and two ochre jellies at a majestic forest waterfall. Hell, I even figured out how to get Shadar-Kai involved!
So if you like reading my ramblings, there is a lot more to come. If you don't, well you probably aren't reading this anyway : )

And now, just because I can...

Dec 29, 2008

"We're gonna need an bigger boat" an aquatic skill challenge. Part II

I hope you all enjoyed the ultimate fishing trip I posted last week. Here I just wanted to post the promised monster catfish, but include a shout out to oneother blogger who was involved with the collaborative effort over at The Core Mechanic and Mad Brew Labs . It was none other than the Gamefiend from over @ at-will! Sorry I missed you!

I have yet to upgrade to the newer monster maker 3.3, no particular reason, just lazy :)

Just promise me, dear readers, that next time someone harps at you about how 4E or D&D in general is too hack and slash...they should try fishin!

Dec 24, 2008

"We're gonna need an bigger boat" an aquatic skill challenge.

Inspired by the rampant coolness of the Mad Brew Labs / Core Mechanic series on skill challenges, I brainstormed one up for an upcoming encounter. Please let me know what you think of it : )


The fishermen of Whisker Lake beseech you! A monster fish from the lake’s black depths has come, and is eating all of the fish! Old Jack Lefty has made a heavy line to hook the beast with, but none of the fishermen will go back into the water. “Please, we are humble folk without the courage to face such a monster, will you help us?” they beg. Your reasons are your own, but your group decides to help…fish the monster out.

…"We're gonna need a bigger boat"…

Even the most pathetic of creatures become dangerous when they are the size of a draft horse. Catching this monster will be no easy task.

Complexity: 5 (12 successes before 6 failures)

Encounter Level: PC Level+3

Goal: Kill the Fleshwarped Whiskerfish by either exhausting it with a line and chase, or enter the water to do battle with it.

Power Use: Players can expend powers to get bonuses to a skill check. When expending powers, have the players describe how the power is being used. For each power used, the following bonuses are gained:

At-Will: +0 to skill check
Encounter/Utility: +3 to skill check.
Daily: +5 to skill check.

Skills Used: Acrobatics, Athletics, Arcana, Endurance, Insight, Nature.

Acrobatics –(Hard DC) - Half of the challenge will be staying in the boat! Each time a character fails a check, he must make an acrobatics check.

Success indicates that the character has kept his balance.
Failure indicates that the character has fallen into the lake (see “No Swimming” below). Checks made falling into or getting out of the lake do not count toward the challenge goals.

Arcana – (Hard DC) – You recognize that the nature of this beast has been altered in some fundamental way. By focusing your arcane energies, you are able to identify weaknesses that can be exploited.

Success on this check bestows a +4 bonus on any other check made during
this encounter. This check may be made more than once, with the DC increasing by
2 for each successive check, as the beast only has a finite number of weaknesses.
Failure indicates that the character has no ideas that are helpful to the encounter. This
check may not be re-attempted.

Athletics - (Moderate DC) – While reeling this monster in, SOMEONE has to man the oars! Not to mention pulling folks out of the lake. This is an opposed check, that may only be made at 1 on initiative. If player's total is higher than whiskerfishes vs. Ref attack, the attack fails.

Success indicates that you have been able to keep the boat from being jerked or rocked
excessively. Additionally, it may be used to pull a character out of the lake – checks
made to pull a character out of the lake do not count towards the challenge goals.
Failure - Oops! someone randomly falls into the lake.

Endurance – (Moderate DC) – Fighting the fatigue in your muscles, you continue to draw in the slack on your line. The beast appears to be tiring!

Success indicates you have been able to pull in some of the line, weakening the fish, and
bringing you closer to delivering a killing blow to the monster. The fish takes 10 points of damage, as the hook digs deeper into it's flesh.
Failure indicates that the beast has pulled some slack back, undoing your progress.
The character making the check loses one healing surge.

Insight – (Moderate DC) – Your observation of this creature leads you to believe that despite it’s size and grotesque appearance, it is still a primitive creature. Using the bait buckets, you can influence it’s movements to a degree.

Success indicates that you can keep the monster from attempting violent action, and
rocking the boat. The DC increases by 2 for each successive check, as the
beast becomes full.
Failure indicates that you error in your bait placement, erratically moving the boat, causing you to fall into the lake.

Nature – (Moderate DC) – Same as Insight (see insight – above).

SPECIAL – Every round, at initiative 1, the beast struggles and thrashes, making a +5 vs. Ref attack on all those in the boat. (if the beast is in melee, this is a free action) A hit causes the character to fall into the water (See “NO SWIMMING” below)

Success: You drive the beast until exhausted, then deliver a killing blow to it, ending the threat to the fishermen and their livelihood.

Failure: If the party fails, the boat is smashed in half, and they are spilled into the water to do battle with the creature.

NOTE: The beast nay be attacked from the boat. A -4 penalty applies to the rolls due to being in a dinghy.

NO SWIMMING – See “Aquatic Combat” DMG Pg.45 “Athletics” PHB Pg.182

If a character falls into the water, he immediately becomes a target for the monster fish. The player will effectively be fighting the beast solo (or with others fallen in), as it will never surface, and the water is too murky for the other players to see.

The other circumstance would be the failure of the check, with the whole party fighting this monster.

It is a more powerful foe underwater, and will take full advantage of that fact, attacking from below to foil opportunity attacks, and using it’s superior movement skills to respond to actual threats.

NOTE: I made an image of the new stat block, but blogger is misbehaving, and won't allow me to post it. It's coming, honest - It is a Lvl.5 Solo Soldier.

Condition: Swallowed

- The Whiskerfish may only swallow two medium sized targets at any one time. If, at any time it has two medium sized targets inside it's stomach, it will attempt to flee to the dark, cool waters of the lake bottom, effectively dooming the characters.

- A swallowed character may cut his way out with a total of 20hp damage to the whiskerfish. Small edged weapons only.

- Additionally, an acrobatics or Athletics check (DC 20) will also cause the whiskerfish to vomit the character out.

- The damage done to the swallowed character is crushing and acid.

Dec 22, 2008

Healing surges...the currency of heroism?

I had an interesting conversation yesterday during one of our scheduled D&D games. It revolved around several key points on 4E character mechanics. Namely, how the healing surge mechanic allows a party to be effective without a dedicated healer class.

The conversation was relevant, because the current party in our 4E game has eschewed both paladin and cleric for a trio of strikers instead. The warlord can help with that in combat healing, but only twice per encounter...did I mention I killed his ass?

Anyway, it was brought up that without a character dedicated to helping you "trigger" your surges, you are left with few options (potions, other people trying to make heal checks while in combat) to use more than 1 or two of these per encounter. With most characters holding 5-8 of these, it seems an awful waste to let this resource go serially untapped. Healing surges always felt more like action points to me, well, kinda like action points. Since this is a "Narrative" type of game now (Depending on who you ask) giving the players control over said narrative should be a good thing right? I think so.

As such, we decided we were going to try something different. Starting at the next session, we will be modifying the rules slightly to allow a character to use his healing surges (I think I like HEROIC surges better, to be perfectly honest) to assist in other ways. In addition to the standard healing usage;

1 surge - immediately re-roll a failed save vs. status or ongoing damage.
- recharge a used encounter power.
2 surge - immediately negate any ongoing status or effect (that is save based).
- recharge a daily power.

These cover the bases I am exploring right now, and eventually a master "cheat sheet" will be created as we work our way through the ins and outs of this. While this immediately brings to mind shadows of the "15 minute adventuring day" I think as a concept it is worth exploring, as the ability to recharge your biggest boom-booms during a knock-down-drag-out with that solo brute would help avert the whole "mountain of HP" problem. Suddenly those surges are worth more than a level appropriate healing potion, and become a carefully husbanded resource.

Also, undead get scarier...much scarier, especially the soul-suckers.

Other possible uses?
- 1 surge to negate critical hit.
- 1 surge to automatically succeed (par) on a skill check.
- 2 surges, automatically succeed on attack roll (yes, even with dailies and encounters...for now).

A finite resource? How about the option of getting a surge back in lieu of bonus damage for a critical hit? Milestone reward? The sky's the limit.

Does anybody else do something similar to this? Any other cool 4E houserules out there? Anyone see a flaw here I have missed? Think I suck, and need to vent? Bring it on!

Lastly, since I am sick and feeling too lazy to post again this week...


Dec 17, 2008

My 4E game.

The 4E game I am currently running, has been an absolute blast to play so far. That said, I thought I would share some observations from a DM's POV as to what worked and what didn't.

If you have been reading this Blog for long, you may remember that I had pondered writing an adventure path / campaign, and self-publishing it. It has been tenatively titled "ASSAULT ON THE LIGHTLESS DEPTHS" and was a 4E reboot (of sorts) of one of my all time favorite 2E boxed sets Night Below.

As I am new to 4E, I decided to make it a slightly longer term project, and playtest it as I wrote it. Unfortunately, my game only runs every third weekend...yeah, it's been rough.

Anyhoo, with three sessions down, the party has finally reached 2nd level! We have:
  1. An unnamed Water Genasi Warlord (I call him big blue)
  2. Meeshan, a Dragonborn Fighter
  3. Ned, a Shasar-Kai Warlock - Multiclass Wizard
  4. Two warforged Rangers, Cyhper and Cyther. One is ranged, other is two weapon.

Eventually we will have one more player, but she is one of those who holds an irrational hatred for 4E because a messageboard told her it was lame. She'll come around : )

So the setup:

The party, is a group of the Runeborne. (Thank you Justin Alexander @ the alexandrian for the idea.) These are folks marked for a place within the prophecies that have, and continued to shape this land. Being stronger, faster, and just plain better than everyone else, they naturally rose to prominence as leaders and villains extreme.

After a boatload of wars fought by the Runeborne - thinking that they alone knew how to fix the worlds ills, the people insisted upon the creation of a guild to "watch over" them. Thus was born the Guild of Runes.

The guild of Runes exists to maintain political neutrality within it's ranks. It does so, by keeping its members from congregating in large numbers. IT does this by assigning it's members to explore, map, plunder, guard, and fight for it's patrons.

Long story short, the party is a disparate group of Runeborne, on assignment to the Merchant's guild. Their job is to protect a seasonal caravan headed up into the remote northern vales that make up the fringes of civilization. Not exactly glorious work, but what do you expect for a 1st level character?

We opened up with a goblin ambush. Two CR3 waves of goblins, a mix of cutters and warriors, led by a lvl.3 Elite warrior. The party rocked their socks, and then some.

OBSERVATION 1 - Watch out for those damn strikers, they really change the flow of combat.

After winning the fight, they noticed that the goblins had oddly stained bluish green feet, hands, and mouths. Also, they were emaciated and acted like desperate animals. No treasure is found, and even the gypsies following the caravan wouldn't touch the crap they called gear.

As evening falls, the caravan reaches the relative safety of a roadside inn called THE WINDING ROAD. The innkeep, Priam, welcomes them before offering up a fireside tale about the colorful history of Hogger's Vale. The party learns that:

  1. Priam's Father was a retired war hero, who died two summers back from a goring at the tusks of a monster hog living near Whsker Lake.
  2. The valley was settled by an alliance of Men and Dwarves near 400 years ago.
  3. 50 years ago, a great necromancer laid claim to the vale, and set about building an army. Eventually, another army led by the Dawnbringers advent. co. came and did battle with his forces for months. Apparently nobody survived the final battle, on either side.
  4. Wagon traffic has slowed to a crawl in the last month or two, there should be at least 5 a day hauling Iron ore and finished craft out of the valley.
  5. The Valleys protectors Jerrol and Karl the rangers, are a week late on their rounds.

After a lengthy bit of role-playing and exposition, Priam excuses himself to get some rest. As the party begins hunkering down for the night, Howls sound from all directions in the distance, and a panicked pounding echoes up from the common room.

First to investigate are the rangers. They identify the sounds as belonging to hunting dogs or wolves of some kind. Opening the door, an older man in tattered purple rags falls the ground in front of them. "Please! Help me! They mustn't take me back! They want the stone!" HE then promptly passes out.

Hot on his heels, are a pack of 5 gray wolves, led by a dire wolf. The party (all awake by now) close and bar the door, and begin upending tables to make a defensive position. With not a moment to spare, the doors come crashing down, and a wolf the size of a cow comes through the door.

OBSERVATION 2 - While the Dire wolf was always the center of battle, it wasn't the TPK I was afraid it would be. The designers aren't kidding when they say that favorable circumstances and good planning could let a party take down a beast 4-8 levels above the group.

This beast was joined the next round by 5 smaller grey wolves. These worked well against the party. The only thing better than the heavy use of knockdown in 4E is the relaxation of the rules allowing you to stand as a minor action with no AoO. After a spirited fight, ANOTHER pack of wolves busts in!

OBSERVATION 3 - I have so far found that successive wave attacks work very well in terms of challenging a party with lower level critters and minions. In this particular case, it was two successive CR4 encounters. The party took some hits, but was able to prevent any serious casualties.

After disposing of the wolves, the party gets a short rest, as they tally up the damage. The old man is malnourished (heal check) and covered with bruises. His rags (insight) appear to have once been fine satin wizards robes. Unfortunately, he is in a deep torpor (a coma), and will be answering no questions anytime soon.

A few short minutes later, there are sounds of combat outside! Goblins are attacking the wagons and their crews over at the stable! The Fighter immediately charges into the fray with her greataxe, Warlord and Rangers in tow. The party is immediately suspicious of some arcane chanting coming from out of sight behind a wagon, but cannot get through the crowd to identify it. After carving up the goblins, and one more dire wolf, the party is in dire peril. With no cleric or Paladin to help, they have already used their second winds, and are low on hp again.

The warlord does a fine job, leading from the front, when he is felled by a goblin axe. Time stops fr a moment, as the chanting reaches it's crescendo! And the bodies of the fallen teamsters rise up again as 4 skeletons join the fray, led by their summoner - a goblin hexer!

The despair in the room is palpable, as the skeletons advance towards the warlock and bow ranger. Only the intervention of the inkeeper (crammed into his dad's full plate) is able to slow them enough to allow these two to reach the relative safety of the roof.

As the skeltons continue to harass and annoy, the hexer and the bow ranger enter a shoot me / shoot you contest (ranger wins!). Finally, the tide of battle turns, and the party is victorious...only to find that their leader, big blue, had bled out and died during the last part of the fight.

So there you have it. My first three sessions in a nutshell. This group has always been a little light on the role-playing, so the tight tactical combat worked VERY well for them. To them, combat is combat, role-playing is what you do when NOT trying to gut someone : )

No skill challenges yet. I am trying to incorporate them into my encounter matrix. About every 4th or fifth encounter should be IMO, a skill challenge.

OBSERVATION 4 - Combat isn't any faster at all. In fact, it felt like it took a little longer than in 3E. However, the rounds themselves went by about 3-4 times faster, averaging 45 seconds per character, unless there was research involved. For the first time in years, the DS's stayed closed, and the knitting was left undone. If you fall asleep during 4E combat, you are a narcoleptic : )

One of the players later found a strange stone with an unknown rune seemingly etched into it's smooth surface. It radiates incredibly strong universal magic, but defies identification (oh, to be 1st level, lol!). The character has kept it quiet : )

OBSERVATION 5 - With the RP rules trimmed back, the biggest issue I am finding, is that some folks have a hard time actually DOING it without the rules telling them how. I am fairly sure we will see a lot of development on that side as new material is printed up. They are, in the meantime, getting more comfortable with the "wide open" experience so far, it just takes getting used to.

So there it is. The first wobbly steps of my 4E campaign. The players love it, and there is already talk of one of the other games (3.5 age of worms) converting to 4E as well.

My intent is to contnue posting the exploits of these "intrepid entrepeneurs" as they buble about, and eventually save the world. One of them (Jeremey, I mean you!) has been invited to contribute here as well. I plan to continue a once or twice a week posting schedule at least through the holidays, we'll see how ambitious I feel next year!

Anyways, back to the topic. My take on combat was that successive waves of CR appropriate (N +/- 2) seems to work out better than using a single higher level challenge. This is definitely the case in any battle involving lots of minions or low level squishies. Not so much with elites or brutes. As a design rule, I have been reducing the HP by 10-20% of the suggested value, in order to shorten the battles a wee bit. Brutes are the worst ones to adjudicate, as the HP are central to their schtick.

Anyone else try this? We trash games a level 8 encounter for a lvl.3 party, and it was a wipe. Close, but not quite. Until next time, good gaming folks!

Dec 11, 2008

Is there any room left for the Yugoloths?

After writing about an oft-passed on part of D&D that appeals to me, I was reminded of another one that is even more relevant. The Yugoloths.

Remember them? Everyone's favorite NE blood war mercenaries? My question is; in a game world where concepts such as the flavors of neutrality have been cast off, will we ever again see the penultimate mercenaries?

You know, the fence-sitters who care less for domination and supremacy, as a tenable balance wherein they, and only they will be able to profit?

This, of course brings about another issue. Alignment in general. I have not fully adopted 4E's alignment mechanics, because I see the old school 9 point alignment tree as more than just a confusing source of spell descriptors. This is because evil, good, and yes, even neutrality are more nuanced than Super good, good, doesn't care, evil, and super evil. Remember LN? The bane of any character of chaotic origin?

Back on topic, these nuances were most pronounced in the outer planes. The actual physical embodiments of the virtues and vices of each particular path. LN? Cold, uncaring logic. CN? Cocksure independence. In fact, I would have been happy if WotC had finally grown some fuzzy ones and ruled that only a character of animal intelligence (or any beast that meets said criteria) should even have it as an option.

Now as to how this played out in terms of the Yugoloths? Tanar'ri are the more numerous of the fiendish ken. They suffered mightily due to their disorganization, but always had numbers to fall back upon - keeping their enemies at bay.

The Baatezu had the organization to run a tight military machine, but suffered greatly due to an extremely top heavy structure. The old BLOOD WAR boxed set had a wonderful gem about how all one has to do to stop a Baatezu campaign dead in it's tracks, was to kill the general, and watch as the offensive falls apart.

The Yugoloths? Different story altogether. They represented pure evil given purpose. Not that silly mad beast evil. Or the endless lines of bureaucracy evil. No, they were pure self serving evil, freed from the bonds of working with or against the "rules".

IMO, they have always been the more dangerous foe, as they had no qualms about using their enemies (or working with/for) whenever necessary. They have no rabid bestial impulse control issues, no anal to the extreme organizational issues, nada.

Simply put, they were the conduit that the "good guys" used (to good effect) to keep the blood war constantly boiling, lest one side win and turn their red rimmed eyes upward.

So what say you all? Is there anyplace left in 4E for the poor, misunderstood Yugoloths? Tell me what YOU think.

Dec 9, 2008

The Far Plane needs more love.

One of the 3.5 supplements I had hoped to see was a folio detailing the Far Plane. Nothing says "evil beyond comprehension" like an entire universe of constanly morphic flesh older than the universe, that is always hungry...

Hopefully, 4E will be adressing this issue in their release schedule. Until then, what do you get, when you cross a foolish conjurer with a barely understood aberrant ritual? A Mind Ripper!

…As the door to the summoning chamber shatters into splinters, a purple glow emanates from within. The hair on the back of your neck is attempting to flee with all due haste as you peer around the shattered door frame. Within the room (that was once a well appointed summoning chamber) sits a large…blob? Your confusion is compounded by the powerful smell of fresh cinnamon. It appears to be a 10’ diameter mound of semi-transparent, bluish goo. As it shudders and settles, you see floating within, there appears to be miscellaneous bit and pieces of flotsam…a second glance shows them to be brains! Or pieces of them at least. As you watch, several larger pieces merge together with a flash of purple energy…

…This poor creature is frightened! An alien being trapped in an alien world! It was brought here by HER! If you stop her ritual, it can go home! It only wants to return home! As you move to enter the room and assist it, Jelena screams, “It’s a trick! Don’t let it touch you!” You scoff, but when you turn back to the thing, it has indeed gathered itself together, and formed wickedly barbed tentacles! The errant floating bits have now mostly congealed into a solid mass, that is slowly forming crackling lines of arcing violet energy towards it’s appendages. “It’s a MindRipper! If it gets loose, it will kill everyone in the valley!” Comes Jelena’s desperate and exhausted cry. Her ritual binding circle has nearly faded completely from sight. She gives you an exhausted look, “I cannot hold it any longer, send it back to the void it came from!” At that, she collapses, and the last vestiges of control over this beast slip free...

Yeah, I know. I write like an illiterate orangutan, but that's okay - I never claimed to be a novelist : )

This little beastie will be coming up in three or four sessions, as the party explores the Masterson Estate, and discovers that the descendants of the Archmagus Dennil Masterson have delved rather deeply into things that should concern only those whom have an affinity to tentacles and too many eyeballs.

God I love the Far rife with possibilities!

Dec 3, 2008

A little late, but a little fixed as well.

My thanks to Graham and Rev. Mike for pointing out various flaws and errors on my part. Let it be known that Irespond just as well to constructive criticisms, as I do to random floggings : )

Here are the corrected three, and a couple of skeletal Dinosaurs from an upcoming part of the game, enjoy!

And the Skeletal pets of an ancient slain necromancer...
...It seems that you have been trudging through this godsforsaken field of shattered bones and blasted earth for weeks! The point man calls that he has found something, and calls you over to the lip of an enormous crater!
Terraced every 10 squares (lol!) or so, your dungeoneering experience tells you it is a dig site. What they would be digging for in this blasted wasteland is anyones guess...
...After much trial and tribulation, the party reaches the bottom of the crater. Bones. That is what Shkrem was unearthing here. The bones of giant beasts untouched by the sky since the elves first came down from their trees. Dismissing the thoughts as irrelevant, you scan the area - and are rewarded! The spars you need to activate the bone wheel are still sitting in a neat pile next to the rusted framework of a lathe...
...One second you are looking upon the spars, the next, Chaos! Fearsome beasts of all sizes, similar only in excess of claw and fang burst forth from the very earth below and beside! They seem to be led by an enormous monster of bone and teeth, as tall as Taran's tower it stands...the ichor of it's past victims still dripping down from within it's gleaming ribcage...

These are a bit rough still. I am undecided as to exactly how I want this battle to flow - other than having the Players run away screaming, that is. As always, any thoughts, ideas, and insults welcome - but as to the insults, I give as good as I get : )

Nov 26, 2008

A non-update by virtue update!


Be safe.
Have fun.
Kill no-one
Eat Turkey (or Tofurkey if you are so inclined)
Game well

Talk to y'all in December!

Nov 20, 2008

How a SWEET Science fiction Quotable fueled my Fantasy game.

I am a huge sucker for quotes. Whether they be from famous historical figures or my favorite TV show. In this case, it is my current favorite TV show - Battlestar Galactica.

Fellow fans will be familiar with the "in-betweener" TV movie "Razor" that came out earlier this year. I had to watch it twice, as the constant presence of Stephanie Jacobsen and Katee Sackoff scrambled my brains something fierce : )

I wont bore you with a long recap, keeping it short and sweet. At the end of the show, a mortally(?) wounded Kendra Shaw stays behind on a Cylon baseship to manually detonate a nuclear bomb. It's an atonement thing. As she is lugging the bomb, she is directed to the core of the ship - and to the waiting hybrid controller. This creature is an amalgam of flesh and machinery that controls the entire baseship.

Throughout the show, it is hinted several times that the hybrids have oracular abilities that they subconsciously manifest from time to time. This one has something to say that just makes the hair on the back of my neck tingle:

...Soon there will be four, glorious in awakening. Struggling with the knowledge of their true selves. The pain of revelation bringing new clarity. And in the midst of their confusion, he will find her, enemies brought together by impossible longing, enemies now joined as one. The way forward, at once unthinkable, yet inevitable. And the fifth, still in the shadow, will claw toward the light, hungering for redemption, that will only come in the howl of terrible suffering. I can see them all. The seven, now six, self-described machines who believe themselves without sin. But in time, it is sin that will consume them. They will know emnity, bitterness, the wrenching agony of the one splintering into the many. And then they will join the promised land, gathered on the wings of the angel - - not an end, but a beginning.

As my own existence comes to a close, only to begin anew in ways uncertain

All this has happened before and will happen again. Again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again...

At this point, Kendra utters a one liner, and detonates the nuke.

With a tiny little bit of word substitution, this is going to be used to transition my current game out of a generic fantasy world, into the default D&D setting (feywild, shadowfell, elemental chaos, etc..).

Why kill yourself trying to make something "original" when a well placed copy/paste will do? As long as it isn't overdone, and is done in good taste, the sky is the limit!

And that's how I am going to fracking integrate a major plot element from a science fiction TV show into my D&D game. So say we all!

Nov 18, 2008

Grapeshot! Grapeshot for everyone! Or, a Pathfinder RPG Beta review of sorts.

Update: One of my fellow bloggers and sometime commenters has also spoken. While his opinion differs, I request that my three readers refrain from throwing old cabbages at him, or me for that matter.

What I really want to talk about is Pathfinder. Yup, Paizo's little bun in the oven. In interests of full disclosure, I will toss out there that I own two hard copies of the beta playtest, as well as a copy of Chronicles, and a few scattered parts of two different adventure paths. I purchased these with my own money, and have the sore couch-back to prove it.

Firstly, having been an R&D/QA manager for a small company in northern California, I can sympathize with Paizo's position. Our company went out of business due to the patent holder for our most lucrative line of scaffolding gave us 3 months notice that he was selling the patent to one of our competitors. Why does this matter? Read on.

This matters, IMO because my job for the next 3 months became corporate espionage. I was paid to go to work, just to scour the web for other products that could fit into our manufacturing base.

To translate; I was tasked with finding someone else's good idea, stealing it, redesigning it slightly to avoid trademark/copyright/patent infringement, then shopping it to our manufacturers. Ironically, I also ended up training the guy who replaced me for $6 an hour less to boot. Sound familiar?

For all of you who are pissed at WotC for the horrid abortion that was the GSL, look no further than Paizo publishing. Hell, look no further than some of the awful third party products that assisted in the death spiral of 3.5. While some good products have come out of the mix, there have also been some that have made me ashamed to share the hobby. No naming names - you know who YOU are! Can you really blame WotC for wanting an airtight licensing agreement this time? While it was good to (some of) us, it must have been tough being the guy who championed it - now that it is being used as the proverbial broomstick of hindsight (emphasis on the HIND). Kinda like giving the neighbor's wife a handgun for Christmas, and having her shoot YOU with it eh?

So their generosity to the gaming world has come back to haunt them...As PFRPG has a fairly dedicated group of soon-to-be grognards (I wonder if they realize that!), and a messageboard that is mostly empty of 4E players. See, they all left when they got tired of being trash talked on their own boards...Ironic considering how "good" the moderation for the playtesting boards is.

Pathfinder is the result of the exact same process my soon to be unemployed ass went through. They found a product they were knowlegable with (d20 SRD), that was free, rewrote enough of it to be eligible for copyright and trademarking, and repackaged it for sale to folks who just can't live another day without gaming like it's 1998. And the end result is that you will now spend a bunch of money repurchasing a "re-imagined" version of the same one you already have been playing for 8 years - only now with a bunch of "fixes" playtested by a bunch of the samer folks responisble for breaking the damned game in the first place! The added incentive of a credit for their mostly schlock ideas has inspired a true nerd frenzy of stupidity. Don't believe me, go look for yourself!

This just...bothers me. It just feels dishonest to me. If I were to take ANY other product, change a few names, add new artwork, and re-sell it as my own product, would I be a genius? Or a douchebag? Evidently it depends on A. The product to be thefted & B. Whether I can get all the other thieves out there to back me up.

Anyway, as to the product itself. It's a reprinting of the same core books you have already likely bought twice now. The d20 SRD has been reformatted, with some flashy new formats, and new art from their herd of stock artists. We have the vaunted "Re-Envisioning" of the venerable(?) 3rd edition of D&D. Seeing the horrid monster that 3E has become, IT is a little like trying to use plastic surgery and high fashion to make grandma look like a totally fuckable 20-something again.

In that aspect, they have mixed success. They have re-tooled the classes in numerous ways, by making them different enough to be "new" and yet more complicated - yay. So now I not only have to re-learn all of the core stuff that is still MADDENINGLY similar to 3.5, yet juuuuust different enough to be a new beast. Great. Let's keep save or die because sometimes the DM just wants to say FUCK YOU to his players, right? After all, why should they have any fun? Then we have the big fundamental changes...Where they just polled the community to find out what they liked about 4E, then cherry-picked it in.

  1. Consolidated skills...check
  2. At will powers for spellcasters...check
  3. More HP at first level...check
  4. New takes on old classes/races...check

Considering how much hostility there is on their boards toward 4E in general, I am surprised that they integrated so many "controversial" and "Edgy" parts of it. Well, I guess that even if the baby is deformed, at least the incest part was fun :/

There are more, but I am getting ready for lunch - and I'm not your damned researcher. I came, I saw, and I went home halfway through the feature. It was too reminiscent of any Friday the 13th movie from vol.3 to about 8 or so. Same old crap, repackaged for a NEW and TRENDY audience that will hopefully forget for a few minutes that it actually IS the same pile of crap, because OMG! IT HAS MONTE COOK INVOLVED!!! Seriously, the only thing missing is a lengthy introduction about how "Uncle Gary" would have preferred it this way. I just ended up feeling like I slept on the couch for two nights for no good reason. At least 75% of the changes made are simply the integration of houserules WE have all spent years developing to offset the various problems I have seen at every table I have had the privilege of playing at since 1992.

Now...all is not woe and despair. If you are one of those oddballs that will never leave the comforting womb of 3rd edition, there are some goodies there. The whole Polymorph / shapechange thing has been fixed. The classes have been "balanced" a little better between themselves (No 4E and they have made significant changes to the classes themselves (though you'd be a fool to play a non spellcaster for the long haul - JUST LIKE BEFORE!!!). The feats have been reworked, with several being tossed completely. The wording of many spells have been repaired. I will refrain from pointing out how another newer RPG has already done all of this...oops!

So is this the future of gaming? Where game design comes down to who has the best cut/paste skills? Every time I chat with my friends who play PFRPG like it is the personal hobby game of jesus his-fucking-self, I can't help but remember growing up in the midwest, and driving by the their horse drawn buggys. Kind of a sad feeling.

So that's it. My thoughts about an overhyped product scavenged from the d20 SRD, in a blatant abuse of everything WotC was attempting when they pushed the OGL out into the world in the first place. If that's your bag, then you will find many more hours of fun still to be had rattling 3E's bones. If not, then try something else. d20 is not the end all game some tout it to be.

Comments? Insults? Random anger and bile? I don't moderate, or delete comments. This is my opinion, and you are welcome to disagree : ) Last thing, here are some silly pictures...look at them before you comment.

Nov 17, 2008

Critters Fixed...and a few more besides.

So...I made a few changes to the last set of NPC's and monsters, and have added a few more members of the 20 Silvers Gang. Please steal them, and use in good health : )

Thanks to Gregor and Graham for helping me to see the forest for the trees. As always, feedback is appreciated.

My goal for the future is to begin posting some of the encounters and their surrounding areas, and summarizing the playtest when it happens. I have also located two other gamer geeks to make occasional contributions. I make no promises as to a posting schedule. I figure weekly is good, with corrections and updates squeaked in between. Working for the man in a recession involves being VISIBLY busy, even when there is scarce work to be found /sigh.

I hope you are all in good positions to weather out this crap storm the Merchant god has chosen to bestow us with...among other global and local disasters : )

So here they are. The first three are reposted with some minor corrections and/or changes. Those below them are three more members of the 20 Silvers gang. A band of thugs that the party will be tangling with. The encounters will be pretty basic Boss/Minion battles, and I am looking to work a litlle heavier with terrains. Enjoy.

Nov 13, 2008

Some getting used to...NPC's designed with Monster Rules.

So I've been losing an absolute TON of time creating monsters. LOTS of monsters. Minions...NPC' name it.

It took some thinking, but I have decided that in this particular campaign, the PC's will be nearly unique specimens. Later on there will be others with actual PC classes attached, but for now, I want them to feel special...not JUST another group of farm raised jackasses and guild castoffs.

As such, I have been custom creating most of the major NPC's to this point using Asmor's monster maker 3.1 Iknow, I know, I crowed about it before, but that's only because it is deserved praise - Asmor! My hat be tipped to you sir!

Anyways, It has been forever since I got serious about keeping this musty cavern up to date. For my readers, I apologize. While I can promise nothing resembling a regular update schedule, I CAN keep feeding tidbits to you peeps, free of charge or obligation. Please steal these stat blocks and let me know if there is anything "wrong" with them - I would consider it more than fair recompense : )

And now, some STAT BLOCKS!
First, we have an exiled noble. A real hit with the farmer's daughters and unofficial ruler of Hogger's Vale! The one, the only...
Next up, we have the result of too much aberrant magical seepage welling up into the depths of a perfecly good lake full of Cat-er, Whiskerfish! That's right! MAN EATING CATFISH!
Lastly, a hot tempered elementalist who has taken to a life of crime in a tiny redneck city. A powerful wizard? NO! Just a 5 trick speedbump with a cool orb!
Please enjoy, and make any modifications needed, as I may have inadvertantly slipped in a 3.5 reference here or there. Until next time...EXCELSIOR!

Nov 5, 2008


As my contibution to the current RPG carnival, hosted at the dice bag;
I want to share a small piece from a game that was close to my heart.

A little background...For almost 6 years, I ran a sci-fantasy d20 game in the Dragonstar universe. It treated religion as a generic thing, with the offical imperial church worshipping the 5 "good" and 5 "evil" facets of the common deities, as a solution to there being 25,000 or so different gods throughtout the empire. These were archetypes of the typical; the father, mother, warrior, judge,merchant - opposed by the reaper, destroyer, trickster, and I cannot immediately recall the rest.

In the games chronology, a new religion had popped up, and it's it was so insidious, the empire had banned it, and actively persecuted it's members. The religion? The Dualist Heresy.

Dualists believed that the 12 facets were simply masks that the creator and the adversary hid behind to further their own unknowable goals. We never had one in the party, but I used several heretic NPC's to keep the storyline rolling along. They often found common cause with the insurrectionists, and terrorism was quite commonplace.

How does this relate to YOU? Well, let's see here. In ANY game one could allow dualist cults to be found. Good or evil people who are simply...different. Mechanically, the only difference (3E) was that you could take ANY domains you wanted that were not in opposition to your alignment, as well as one bonus domain (for a total of 3). While this sounds overpowered, it wasn't in practice, as the persecution and role-playing angles made it a difficult character to play. Add the lack of any "official" church support, and being actively hunted by inquisitors on BOTH sides of the aisle, and things were often...interesting.

I agree there is a bit of a parallel between the heretics and the early days of christianity. Pagan pantheons of nature gods vs. Monotheistic belief - blah, blah, blah. Take it or leave it.

One other little tidbit, Dualists had a feat available (homebrew) of course, that should they survive to see 5th level, allowed them to channel positive OR negative energy...

In exchange for this colossal cosmic power, we have the drawbacks. Must have N as part of your alignment. (small neg.)

Must be recruited, and recruit in turn. (small neg.)

Actively sought out and "re-educated". This was usually a death sentence, as public executions are all the rage during the Red Tyrant's reign. (big neg.)

Fluff heavy, crunch light, what more could anyone want?

Oct 29, 2008

4E makes monster creation fun again! - Revised

Good morning all! And HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

This is an edited repost, as Thanks to Graham of I have made some minor adjustments to Shkrem and his minions. Enjoy!

I am finding that the more I use Asmor's monster maker 3.1, the more I enjoy making monsters! While simplistic on the surface, the new system makes modifying and hybridizing critters so easy, I suspect I may be missing something :-)
Here is another encounter core that I am polishing up on, a dread necromancer was brought low by a group of adventurers. They hounded him from one end of this valley to the next, until the final battle at a secluded box canyon known as the tar pits. While Shkrem the unclean was slain, he took the heroes who did him in to the grave as well. Later, when he arose as a wraith-ish creature, he bound the spirits of the heroes that slew him for an eternity of torment.
Now the party has the opportunity to put him down for good. And collect some sweet treasure sunk down in the tar pits. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Shkrem the unclean, and his bound spirit band!
Still trying to find an optimal resolution and such, but that is but a minor concern. Next up is to begin mapping encounter areas. I like the concept of having an "interactive" combat environment, ala terrain and such, most of it seems a bit contrived. We shall see if I can pull it off. Until next time, Game on!

Oct 23, 2008

Picture this...

...The party wends it's way throught the ancient dwarven citadel. Each step taking them deeper into the massive city. Ahead, in the distance, a dome of once white marble glows with an unnatural bluish fire. With each step forward, the air cools a fraction more - the cold of the grave. The weight of the curse hanging upon this once mighty place palpable to all...

...From the shadows, alleyways, and windows all around can be seen red glowing eyes...watching, and waiting. Long past feeling such trifles as the bone chilling cold and stale air... The party ascends a great stone stair at the base of the Thane's seat. The steps, and all the palace are coated in over an inch of blackish rime frost...

...Standing at the entrance to the throne room, a pair of enormous stone dwarves. The party pauses, unsure of what to do, when the statues slowly come to life, moving about, and pushing open the massive bronze doors...

...Within, seated on his once grand throne, sits what was once High Thane Kraelor Blackstone. Once regal and proud, he is now a twisted thing. Ice blue eyes glowing slightly, set within snow white flesh. Beardless, he sits tall in his black plate armor - Blackheart, his ancestral greataxe sits across his armored lap...

...Shadows abound in this unholy place, red eyes and sounds of movement betray the presence of many others in the courtiers boxes. The smell of death is faint, but definite...

...Tightening his gip on Blackheart, The once mighty king rises - the creak of dry old joints merging with the clatter of armor plates shifting about. "I am Lord Kraelor Blackstone...Why do you defile my city with your warmth?"...There is a sussuration of movement from the darkened galleries all around. "I assume you are here to deliver some kind of justice?" At that last word, a clatter erupts from the darkness to his left. A diffuse white glow illuminates what was once a shrine to Moradin, now merely a shattered anvil, whose hammer has apparently fallen to the ground...

..."Long have I been imprisoned here...trapped by my own blood, left to rot with my kin while my brother takes the blackstone name and barters it for trinkets and trollops. He left me here to die, did he tell you that? He fled in the night, and brought the mountain down on the gates. We that were left, were too sickened by the plague to dig our way out..." His eyes dim momentarily, as a single black tear slowly travels down his cheek. "Tell him we lived for a tenday, if you can call it living. WE ATE THE FLESH OF THE DEAD!" He roars. The susurrations pick up in volume...the words "feed" and "life" can now be heard, almost a chant...

..."No matter, now that the seals have been broken, I will tell him myself. Once I have feasted upon his life, I will pass on for Moradin's judgement, aye, to spit in his beard if I must. I only need to pass your foolish band to do so..." With that, he begins to slowly stalk forward, his axe at the ready - from all around there is nothing but hissing and dark promises...

Please allow me to introduce, LORD KRAELOR BLACKSTONE

His toadies will be mostly dwarven ghouls, and wights. The terrain will be slick with ice (1/2 move), and it should be good times for all! What say you?

Oct 22, 2008


Greetings, gosh it's been awhile eh? Been plugging away at Assault on the Lightless Depths for what seems like years now. As of last night, I have just shy of 10,000 words (after some brutal editing) and something useful is beginning to emerge.

I include, for your pleasure, a .JPG image of a map that started out as a hand drawn sketch, was scanned as high res, and then battered by my GIMP. That being the free GNU Image Manipulation Program. It's a bit friendlier than photoshop (IMO) and has the advantage of not costing the same as a down payment on my truck.

As this is a public project, please feel free to use this for anything your little heart desires. I plan on beating it some more, and spraypainting its quivering, bruised body with color at some point. Until then: A nifty little B&W map that could fit into ANY fantasy game out there. Enjoy!

Oh! and a funny or two for those so inclined.

Oct 9, 2008

F*** the edition wars. Sometimes you just need to play, Part II

Faustusnotes from, better known as Compromise and Conceit, raised a point I have seen several times throughout my travels. His quote, (relating to my last post).

"The two times I have played 4e have been completely the opposite of that - zero description, zero flow, and books books books. Also indestructible characters and no sense of threat. Also the wizards were really really weak.So maybe you just had a really good adventure, and a DM who didn't care about the rules...?"

says a lot. I'd like to offer my thoughts here. Let's take this one part at a time.

1.)"Zero description, zero flow, and books, books, books." - I am not going to go into "yer doin it wrong". That's as non-constructive as hell. Instead, I will try and relate/describe how my experience worked out.

First, while I do lament the loss of the 500 word flavor text, I am sure most of it (at least for the iconics) is practically internalized for most of you. If I pointed to a bare stat block, and said, "It is 3 1/2 feet tall, green, talks in a squeaky high pitched voice, and is wielding a rusty short sword." What would be your guess? Of course, it's a goblin.

According to said stat block, they have a very limited set of abilities, depending on what type they are. The flavor is just that, flavor. Then again, why not make them blue, with rat noses, and lots of purple pustules? Use the same stat block. Now they are "Booglies" They can even be mixed and matched to keep the adventurers on their toes! I improvised that said minions had a belt pouch full of venomous "snacks" that they could throw (+3 vs. Ref.) for ongoing 3 poison damage (save ends). 3.5 had gotten us all used to being spoon fed EVERYTHING about said critter. This is no longer the case. The fluff and flavor is YOURS now.

As to the flow, this is a subjective thing I think. The flow was only a bit off during the first hour or so. Once the players got used to their character's abilities, it began to pick up FAST! We're talking 1 minute rounds here! Some of your problems are undoubtedly unfamiliarity issues, these will pass. Just follow the rules of fun and cool, and you will not fail.

A BIG help was using the Pre-Gen characters. They had all the 1st level selected powers printed right on the sheet. When they make their own characters, they plan on copy/pasting these: or doing as demonstrated for Magic:TG style flip/tap use. Hence the players only once referenced the PHB.

4E is a much more seat-of-the-pants style of gaming. It REALLY encourages improv within a loose and balanced framework of rules. Making the now brainless Inn patrons rise up during the last part of the fight was completely made up. The zombies as written don't do that. So what? I am the DM and I say they do! The looks on their faces were priceless though, EVERYBODY knows that victims of zombies rise again!

2.)"Indestructible characters and zero threat" - This was most definitely not the case for us. The poor dragonborn Paladin can attest to that! See, the trick is to challenge the party WITHOUT killing them. To do this, I had the main threats (the corruption corpses) and a bunch of piss-ant minions. The CC's are level 4 artillery. They had a nasty ranged attack, and guess what? In melee, they are truly nasty - their aura gives a -5 to attack rolls due to stench! They hid behind the wall of minions and pelted the party with chunks of necrotic flesh! The trick was to keep them shielded by their minions. The monster roles are VERY important if you want to challenge the party. Once you understand how they work, it makes it much easier to design a challenging encounter.

The goblin encounter later had 1 goblin hexer (lvl 5 controller) 4 goblin slyblades?(lvl. 2 lurker) and 12 cutters (minions) in a swamp clearing surrounded by thorny bushes, chanting and dancing around a bonfire. The party snuck up and killed a couple of minions before all hell broke loose. The hexer was actually a wee bit much for them, against a 2nd level party it would have been fine however. I had two party members down before the Cleric (DMNPC) was able to go around and revive them.

My experience is that combat is all or nothing. TPK or victory. Period. Dying in 4E IS hard, but is far from impossible. Remember, without help, you can only use 1 healing surge yourself & a second wind, per encounter. The cleric or Pally can help here, as well as healing checks, but that requires more teamwork - hence incentive based gaming. By using the wave tactics, I was able to work my way through those pesky Dailies and Encounter powers, as well as the healing surges. My new rule of thumb is "if the first encounter was too easy - throw another one at them right at the end." You'll see a little more desperation then.

3.)"The wizards were really, really weak." - Another throwback to the "old" ways of D&D. The wizard is not weak, per se, but re-tasked. See, his job as a CONTROLLER is crowd control. He influences the enemies movement, and causes a lot of AoE damage. Nobody else does that. Make sure that the word choice of "weak" is not just an instinctive reaction to his "colossal cosmic power" being curtailed to a point of balance. This is also a pretty subjective area. Remember that he is currently (IIRC) the only character that gets an extra Daily power, via staff or Orb too.

What it really boils down to is CHANGE. We have been doing it another way for so long, it is REALLY difficult to adjust. Personally, I have been drifting away from D&D for almost a year now. As a 31 year old full-time civil servant with a wife and two kids, a mortgage, and all the associated baggage, I simply didn't have the time to stat up a CR 24 Fiendish Red dragon / Disciple of Ashardalon. Much less it's minions, lair, and horde. 4E has been a god's-send to me. I also hear a lot of folks say that the players love it, but it's no fun to DM.

I hope my rambling helps to spur the creative juices in anyone who is having "issues" with 4E. It may simply not be your cup of tea. That's ok! Anybody else have these issues? Wanna chime in with homebrew solutions? Correct my hideous errors?

F*** the edition wars. Sometimes you just need to play.

I just noticed it has been entirely too long since I last posted. Having been given "someone else's" job at work has had me pretty busy. No excuses! My public demands a post!

This last Sunday, I had the satisfaction of running a one-shot 4E game for a small group of friends. On autopilot, in true seat-of-the-pants mode, it ended up being a total out of my ass game. While sounding rather unhygienic, it was a blast!
I decided that I wanted the whole enconter to take advantage of my Tavern flip-mat from HIGHLY reccommend the flip mats, they are GOLD! We started with the party as members of a caravan guard squad, dispatched to the far-flung north to guard a midsummer train as it winds it's way through the dales and valletys of the north.
Stopping at the tavern for an eve's rest, the normally baudy festivities are interrupted by an old man crashing through the door. The heroes investigate, and the old man (in tattered purple robes) gasps, "Don't let them get the stone!" before passing out from his numerous wounds. The wounds appear t be deep scratches and...human bite marks!
No sooner do they discover this, when a low, anguished moan sounds outside - near the stables. It is answered by many more from the darkness. Soon the shambling forms of zombies begin to traipse forward. The patrons immediately freak out, and the doors are closed and barred. Soon the thudding of fists on wood punctuates the sounds of crying and praying inside the tavern.
Sitting around in a tavern with a bunch of scaredy cats is NO FUN! So I smashed down the back door, and allowed the horde to enter. The encounter consisted of 3 consecutive waves of:
1 Corruption corpse
6 zombie rotter minions
Due to bad luck and planning, they soon had all three corruption corpses atacking simultaneously. After a very touch and go fight, the heroes triumphed. MY favorite part? When the bar patrons who had been lunched by the zombies started to twitch before rising as new minions! The party didn't see THAT coming!
The result? MORE STABBY! We went on to do a plain old trash fight with some goblins, so the players could take their training wheels off.
Ironically, this game was this groups first exposure to 4th edition. They LOVED it. Books were only broken out once, to clarify the grappling rules. Everyone had several options to use every round. The power flavors were spot on. These folks used the quick start characters from KotS to circumvent the 1st time character creation blues, and now all are wanting to make their own.
Despite the still lingering criticisms from many 4E opponents, these long time gamers loved it. Squares instead of feet as movement? No problem! Laser cleric? No problem! It was fast paced, and most of all FUN! In fact, it served to remind me of how long it has been since I actually enjoyed DMing. 3rd edition, and to a lesser extent Pathfinder have been slowly driving me away from gaming for a couple of years now. 4E has been a breath of fresh air!
For those of you who are new here, I used to be a card carrying 4E hater. I trolled several messageboards. Spammed a few great blogs, and was finally shown the error of my ways. I can't tell you all how good it was to forget all the stupid edition war crap. Wait a sec, I can, It's GREAT!
So let this little tale be an example/lesson/whatever. The edition wars are bunk. They exist due to a small minority of gamers being angry and wanting the rest of the hobby to agree with them. A surefire cure for it? Sit down. Shut up. And just roll the dice!
Next up: We'll have to find out more about the old man and his mysterious stone.
PS: LOLCats (and hamsters) rule!

Oct 3, 2008

Giggles! Giggles for all!

If your week has been anything like mine, you probably need a little giggle. Try these on for size.

Oct 2, 2008

When a campaign goes right.

I want to share two campaign journals I have been following for some time now. These are both shinig examples of what a game "feels" like when everything is being done "right".

There are MANY others, but my limited free time has made these two in particular, the journals I follow. Excellent game run by the mysterious DungeonGrrrl over at It is a wee bit high in actual sexual content, but not in an over the top fashion. This one is run by a Paizo community member, detailing a campaign through the savage tide AP from Dungeon magazine. It centers around the exploits of a burgeoning Alienist, and her talking severed BarIgura head.

That's all for today, may your dice roll well!

Oct 1, 2008

Superpowers? Who needs superpowers!?

So yesterday I took my own advice, and bought the Houses of the Blooded PDF. While an enjoyable read, I found it to be a LARP game hiding behind the veneer of tabletop RPG.

Let me be clear that this is NOT a bad thing per se. It simply isn't my bag. That said, I saw a mechanic or two that I cannot believe are not used in more games. The best of these, is their action resolution. See when you are "doing your thang" during a combat or somesuch, the game has two beautifully intermeshed "modes".

During normal event resolution, the DM adjucates and describes a success or failure. When you either spend style points (from a daily pool), or wager from your dice pool, the PLAYER describes the success, and may insert "facts" into the game.
Here, I have to generalize a bit, because it started getting awful complicated to this old fool. See, my understanding is that when you take a risk or engage in combat you generate your dice pool using virtues, aspects, and wagers, and such. Then you bust out with a seriously superhuman feat of brilliance (usually).

Now, what does this have to do with superpowers!!!? Let's do a quick and ugly graft onto how this would apply in D&D, either 3.5 or 4E. When you roll an attack or skill check, for every 5 points you exceed the target DC, the player may add a minor story element. These elements follow a small set of very basic rules:
  1. They cannot effect past events, but can affect future outcomes.
  2. At player's option, one condition may be bestowed upon an opponent involved with roll.
  3. DM's story, DM's final approval.

I am going to gut and scab an example together.

To quote from the book:
"One free Effect for beating the risk, plus one bonus effect for each 5 the roll exceeded the DC. He can now use his additional effect for… well, additional effects. Here’s how he uses them.

1 Effect (free for rolling target DC or higher):"I fall short of reaching the other side."
2 Effect: "I land on a balcony." bonus effect for first 5 over DC.
3 Effect: "The balcony opens to a ladies room." 2nd bonus effect for 10 over DC.
4 Effect: "And, she offers me ‘safe passage." 3rd bonus effect for 15 over DC.

Remember, success gives you 1 Effect. That’s free...You get that for free because you beat the target DC. With that one effect, Sam lands successfully on the other rooftop."

NOTE: bold added by me

A lot cooler than simply beating an easy jump DC eh?

What would this mean? Hmmmmm......I've thought about a few different scenarios, all of them involve some pretty cool stuff. How's about this, Fighter is toe-to-toe with a mercenary trying to kill him...He swings - 19! His total attack roll exceeds the target AC by 13. A mighty blow that should be dramatic - don't you think?

  1. 1 effect - hit target, roll damage.
  2. 2 effect - "I smash him through the wall" bonus effect for 5 over target AC.
  3. 3 effect - "He lands, winded, on his back."

he chooses to use the force of his blow to smash the idiot through the thin wall of the tavern. The mercenary starts his turn slid three squares back - through the wall - and is now prone in the street - in a pile of horse manure (I'd give that last bit for free).

What's cool here, is that it makes the DM's job easier (just say yes!), the players are more interactive and paying closer attention to the scenery, and most importantly - the players get to do AWESOME SUPER-POWERED stuff! Add to that, it's edition free!

  1. Let's see, throwing bad guys through the air like toys....check.
  2. An uppercut sending a guardsman through a plate glass window...check.
  3. Picking a lock by tapping it twice and belching at it.......check.
  4. Jumping 60' due to a tailwind.....check.
  5. Stunning a dragon by kicking it in the...lizard? ....check!

While admittedly rough, it seems pretty nifty. Apply it (or a variant thereof) to skill challenges, and you'll never be able to wash all the role-playing off.

I opine that this would make already exceptional characters occasionally superheroic. Game balance? Meh, you've already succeeded by at least 5 on whatever the roll is - you deserve to be great! Now to find some guinea pigs...

Whatcha think guys? Does this have potential in a space opera?