Friday, November 20

This is the new game



Events have happened, and there have been developments.

The original plan I had of taking some time off from Dungeon Mastering so that I could design a new campaign and just enjoy playing for a while.. ran smack bang into night shift work and a sudden absence of gaming that left me high and dry.
To go from two games a week to none, well that is the Dungeons and Dragons version of going Cold Turkey complete with shakes and night sweats, a sense of desperation, sadness and loss.

Then it turned out that my new work place had a few old time and current role players, who were interested in getting into a regular weekly game.
And the beauty of D&D is, it only takes a few folks to get the dice rolling.

So, the new Sigil campaign was presented as an option, and the guys were pleased.. seems that none of them were keen on running a game themselves, and were happy enough that someone else wanted to do it, the fact I was prepared was just a bonus.

While the first evening was a matter of bringing the guys up to speed on the new edition, the strength of 4th ed shone through, in that they were playing the game within an hour or so, and three game sessions later, they only need clarification every two or three turns, and are navigating their character sheets with some confidence.

As the D.M. it has fallen to me to explain the rules and correct the errors, to settle arguments and provide the Non player characters with the Jamaican accents and so forth.. but every now and then, I am reminded suddenly and delightfully, that this is an entirely new group of players.. who do things very differently than the old group of players.

First, they use Intimidate to great effect.. they have run into a group of Bugbears no less than four times during the game so far, and on every occasion, they managed to scare the Bugbears into backing off.
This would never have happened with the old group, who seem to see a 'worth this much experience points when you kill it' sign over the head of anything they meet which is not a friendly local merchant or the king, or any member of the king's immediate family.

Second, they do shocking things, like luring some traveling traders into an ambush, murdering them in cold blood while beating the crap out of the trader's body guards, and then stealing all of the trader's loot.. simply because they could, and it seemed the easiest method of achieving their goals at the time.

Oh yes, and when I said 'this campaign will work better if we just ignore alignment as much as possible', they took this to mean 'Feel free to be a happy go lucky sociopath with an eye for the ladies and a no nonsense approach to self serving larceny'.

But that is just fine!
These players use flanking tactics, they don't metagame with tactical discussions during combat, they don't blame me personally when they fail to hit a high armor class defense, and they work far better at their roles in the team simply because they have precious little experience with the older versions of Dungeons and Dragons, they were not biased coming into the game and have not had to jump the hurdle.. a hurdle I had not fully realized was there until now.
These players are not new 4th edition players, they are Modern D&D players.
For them, 4th edition is Dungeons and Dragons.
And I am liking this immensely.

Saturday, October 10

Fear yon maddening cluck!


The hideous Warp Chicken was created in response to the label that my players gave to some Ethereal Filchers that were a little underpowered and therefore viciously mocked..
Let us see who is laughing now!
I really wanted to see how a self raising minion would do against the group, but it is going to have to wait a while.
In the meantime, the planning for the Sigil Campaign is pretty much complete, I have the tables, I have the NPCs, I have the setting firmly envisaged... I have taken the traditional D&D cosmology and married it to the new 4th edition cosmology and it seems to work pretty smoothly.. and instead of hampering any sort of dimension spanning ideas I have had, the new system has made it even more possible to really blow my players away with how fantastic the game can be.
Now I just have to wait... and make up new creatures in my spare time.

Wednesday, September 30

The power of Tables!


Kittens, that's how I roll.

I am a big fan of random roll tables, I make them for fun.. an odd hobby, I admit. I have finished stage one (or table one, really) for the Sigil Campaign.. random planar plot hooks.
Here are a couple of random examples..

23: A hive of formians, including their queen, has moved into Undersigil. The PCs are to find out what the formians want and, if possible, how to make them go away.

75: A rival guild has attempted to steal Guild secrets and property, time for some payback on the perpetrators.

Next up is a table of random planar locations, to supplement and flesh out table one.. so, the formian have mught have originated from one of these random locations...

62: The sixth heaven of Celestia

26: The mountain of shattered bone, on the dust vortex plains of the astral sea.

The possibilities, while not mathematically endless, are pretty vast.. and with my tendency to add lib, they are effectively a bottomless bag of random missions and exotic locations.

Exactly what this campaign is all about.

Meanwhile, Gerwin is running his Warhammer 40K : Dark Heresy game at the moment, and I am quite enjoying it. The game system is D100 based, fast, efficient and quite hair raising.. If ever there was a game system that illustrates quite clearly "Never get into a gun fight at close range with no cover".. this is it.
Gerwin, although fairly fresh to running a game, is a long time player and is doing a great job in his new role at the table.

Thursday, August 6

The Future of the Friday Game

Well, it is getting to be time for a break from DMing the Friday night games, and while I have vowed to the guys that we are going to see their characters through to "god botherer" level.. around level 30.. after that, I am handing the game over to Robert to run a Star Wars campaign for five months, and after that, Gerwin will be running a Warhammer RPG for a few months, both of these systems and settings I am mad keen to try out.
Iain has said that once his Salushen campaign is completed, I can start my new campaign in the Tuesday night slot, with him taking it back when Gerwin's game is done and me shifting DMing duties back to good old Friday Night.

It gives me plenty of time to plan my new game.

Basically, the game centers on the city of Sigil (aka, City of Doors, The Cage).
Sigil is a unique, exotic location, a domain created and controlled by a mysterious entity known as The Lady of Pain.. she is the only real authority there, though there are many factions who would have you think otherwise.
Sigil is a city habitat that is connected to every other plane via doorways, gates and portals, all of which require keys.. and all the keys are different.
Because it connects so many different places, it is a truely diverse population that dwells there, and in the midst of them all are the player characters.

The characters are all members and new recruits to a mercenary group which has it's roots way back to when the Gith broke free of the Mind Flayers, in fact, the group is still mostly composed of Githzerai with an impressive mix of races comprizing the rest of the group.
Known simply as The Insiders, the group takes a wide range of jobs and sends members out on training runs to hone their skills.

What this translates into, is that during the game, the characters, who start at level 5 and can choose from a much wider selection of races than they normally would, are given selections of missions that they can do for set payment, or they can follow up on leads and go off on their own adventures.. as long as they maintain their obligations to The Insiders (after all, they get a lot of perks from being a part of the group, such as better prices on goods, regular work, the protection of their peers, etc).

Unlike my previous campaign, the focus is not the prime material plane (and the Forgotten Realms setting).. it is mainly about the wider cosmos, the politics of the various Factions at work in Sigil and beyond, and their own personal stories.
Because they will always have Sigil as a reliable home base, there is more scope for them to set up shop and background for themselves there.. who are they, what is their story?
Do they have family?
What do they want out of life?

Anyway.. I have started planning for it already (obviously) and already I am starting to create handy charts and tables for myself, to make the campaign a bit smoother and free flowing.

Here is a simple example...

Random Damage Type Table (for traps, spell effects, chaotic bursts, etc)
Roll D20
1-2 = Arcane
3-4 = Thunder
5-6 = Poison
7-8 = Force
9-10 = Acid
11-12 = Fire
13-14 = Cold
15-16 = Lightning
17-18 = Radiant
19 = Necrotic
20 = Psychic

I also have a nice map of Sigil, and plenty of ideas for how the Githzerai in The Insiders differ from their more jedi-like cousins.
For a start, they have what sounds like a Jamaican accent... why?
I dunno, it just seems to fit.

Sunday, July 19

Settling into a good stride


It had been two weeks since I had last run the Friday night game, Sam had filled in last week, setting up a story arc where the player characters had a mission to go get the heart of a black slaad in order to for the wizard Lan to complete a ritual to retrieve the soul of former team mate, Cobalt Greymind.. from what he said and the feedback from the rest of the group, he did a great job.
Returning to Silverymoon for a few days of R&R and shopping, the players decided to put some long term goals into motion, so Gyrax Starscream the Genasi warrior thought that buying a plot of land in the city and building a place where all the Genasi could live and feel at home would be great.. it so happened that there was lots of cheap land, due to the spell plague demolishing some of the magical libraries and institutions, and the lingering magical contamination left the land drastically reduced in demand (and value).. he has purchased a large chunk of city property for the paltry sum of 80,000 gold, and contracted a local Earth Genasi artisan and elementalist to construct the land and building complex for 250,000 gold.
Of course, it is a golden opportunity for me to make this the seed of a couple of adventures.

The Ranger/Rogue, Arno, has decided that he wants to build an Ophanage for the city rascals, to get them off the streets and teach them some skills.. he has, interestingly, heavily involved the local dominant church and it's impressive militia of Paladins, who are only too happy to have so many young minds and souls to guide to a lifetime of rightious service.

Don is very tempted by the lure of the new Psion class, and I am certainly not discouraging him from giving it a whirl.. as I said to him "Hey man, I am all about trying out the new stuff!".
However, he is quite fond of his Warden and wants to stick with it.
I like Wardens, they are quite a challenge for a DM, and having another player who has a multiclass Shaman/Druid? Yes, very challenging indeed!

Anyway, things could not stay calm and peacefull for long, and pretty soon, evil was afoot.
Looking through the Forgotten Realms guide, I saw that it was time to change the season to Spring, so I invented the Blossum Festival and had the elves of the city (along with many drunken revellers) march in a magical parade out to the White Lotus Academy (which is far more impressive in my campaign than the little compound seen in Dragon magazine), playing flutes and harps and singing elven song enchantments that caused the wilderness around them to burst into bloom.
As they got to the academy, the expected welcoming display of pyrotechnics and symbolic rain of white lotus blossums, failed to eventuate.. in fact, the academy was forboding and silent.
Something was wrong!
And of course, it was up to the players to investigate.

Approaching the walls of the academy, they spotted some Flameskulls floating along the crenelated tops, some 30 feet in the air, and decided to try getting some answers from them.. this did not go so well, with the Skulls basically telling the snivelling mortals that they were not to try and enter or bad things would ensue.
Meanwhile, the Ro- uh.. the Ranger decided to scale the wall, sneak a look into the academy and find out what other ways in there were..
He did see that there was a circit patrol of Rock Elementals, who were marching through a series of magical circles which made odd noises.. rising in pitch until an elemental passed through, which seemed to reset the tone, which started to rise again.
The players immediately realised that delaying the Elementals would set off some sort of effect from the circles, and gave me filty looks of respect for my cunning deviousness.

The Ranger Arno decided on a more direct approach, and cut the heavy rope which supported the drawbridge style main gate, unwittingly dropping it right on top of the Dwarven warden.. Don took it with good humor, of course, but I thought it was hilarious.
Another case of "When good stealth goes wrong".

The players charged in, the Skulls took up good positions from 30 ft up, and battle was done.. unfortunately, the skulls had no idea there was a deadly ranger on a level with them up on top of the wall, but, they gave the players a good fight before they met their doom.

Next, the players raced across the open ground beyond the gateway, and managed to scale a magical rope to an open landing up a wall before more Flameskulls or the patrolling Elementals arrived.. it was a close call with the defender Gyrax however, who just managed to avoid getting into a fight with the elemental.

I managed to build a bit of urgency and tension in the game by telling the players at each stage, how many rounds they had before the next lot of bad guys would arrive, and I kept this up the entire way through the game, so they were going from encounter to encounter, but only slipped out of round by round action a couple of times the entire way through the adventure.
At first, it was Avoid the Elemental Patrol, then it was Get inside before the Flameskulls Arrive, followed by, Something is Crawling up out of The Pit of Shadows... you get the idea.

A lot happened in this game, but for the players, it was like one big skirmish and race to rescue to hostages.. exactly what I had in mind.

Inside the complex, they investigates a few hexagonal rooms.. one had a Pit, the other had a Summoning circle. and there was a hallway that looked like an obvious trap.. each doorway was activated by a password, and the main door into the complex was trapped with a lighting bolt that hit anyone who touched it.. tricky when trying to keep the thing closed from the inside as Flameskulls try to get in.

What followed was an amusing pot shot battle with undead who were crawling up the pit shaft out of a portal to the Shadowfell down below.. which at one point, the Shaman/Druid fell into..
There was also the arrival of a summoner bad guy and his two undead goons, who put up quite a fight, but in the end, the players managed to win the day and rescue a bunch of hostage wizards, escaping magically back to Silverymoon.

But, they still have no idea who or what has taken over the Academy, other than an idea that it started at the abandoned Halls of Necromancy.

We shall see how things evolve next week...

Monday, July 6

All the bells and whistles

After a very lack luster game on one Friday, and some feedback from the players, I finally managed to pull together a great many of the things I have learned about the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and the results were quite good.
We were one player short on the night, and as that player happened to be the one who quite often had to work the next morning, we were suddenly free to play as long as the game required.
This ended up being a game which ran from 7.30pm to around 4.30am.. I still can't believe we did that at our ripe old ages..
The game featured a hasty mission into the mysterious chambers beneath the Dwarven city of Sundabar.. ostensibly on a rescue mission for the dwarven king, who's son was off looking for a cure for the deathless plague which the city is suffering from.
The players got their gear together, found an entrance to the city beneath the Cathedral of Moradin, and soon found themselves facing some of the unexpected elements I had thrown together for the evening.
First off, a puzzle.. quite an odd riddle was asked of them by a bunch of ancient guardians..
'What is family, what is face, what is pride of the dwarven race?'
It stumped them.
The answer was 'beard'.
They then got into a scrap with the guardians, but quickly discovered that they were way more powerfull than their opponents, so they finished them all off very quickly, and were in a good mood..
Innovation number one for the evening.. I gave them hordes of mooks to obliterate.
Next up, they had some doors to get through, and decided they would leave them propped open, thus avoiding any need for levers and such later on, though at the time, they had no idea what a great idea they had just had.
Innovation number two.. let players foil your evil schemes.
Next, they discovered that there were demons in the premises, and once more, they were pretty punu examples of their wretched kind.. The wizard of the group managed to do a devastating attack, literally pasting the demons in mid air, resulting in a slick rain of demon goo from above as they figured a way across some odd rooms full of narrow paths, sickening drops into dark waters below and some chains hanging from the roof (some real, some illusionary).
I totally expected the players to just use their flying carpet to get across, but they didn't, they prefered to do it the old fashioned way, just because it was more fun to use their skills.
What followed were more rooms and more fun, somewhat underpowered fights with creatures that were interesting, but not much of a challenge.. it did allow the players to all have fun with their abilities and resulted in quite a few laughs.
For instance, we all refer to Dimensional Marauders as "Warp Chickens" now.
The final encounter started when I would normally be winding the game up with a 'to be continued'.. but we decided to play on.
It featured the following..
An already open portal wall to the Abyss, which periodically spat our more demons.
A Yochlol demon who seemed to be in charge.
A glowing magical crystal hovering above a round shaft in the middle of the room, the crystal being the obvious source of power for the rift into the Abyss. (and yes, we made lots of Dark Crystal jokes)
There were two big Neldrazu demons, a bunch of Rupture demons (which lasted to the very end of the encounter, much to my surprise) and a small army of Dretchs.
The Dwarven King's son was there, manacled to the wall, and the manacles were a trap version I had included in a couple of places on the complex before the players got to this room, so they would know how to deal wth them before the fight started.
During the fight, they had some Gnaw demons show up, as well as some Bloodseep demons.
In the end, it was a combination of defeating the boss monster and destroying the crystal that closed the portal and ended the fight, and by that time, we were all completely frazzed.. Thank goodness for my method of keeping track of monster hit points and conditions on printed copies of their monster manual entries, otherwise that combat would have been a real mess.
But, the players absolutely loved it!
They greatly enjoyed fighting creatures that could not hope to match them, and they really liked the combinations of odd enviroments, terrain hurdles that were mildly challenging, but mostly just interesting to imagine.. and creatures that were pesky, not particularly deadly.
The final fight was great because at the start, there was an actual horde of bad guys.. they were facing ten Dretches, four Ruptures, two Neldrazu and a shape shifting Yochlol.. that is fairly intimidating.. but they charged in anyway.
They were heroic, they were epic, it was a clear case of good guys vs bad guys, and they got to rescue a prince!
What's not to like about that?

I consider it one of my best ever game nights.

Saturday, June 6

plan B

Well, the new monster manual does indeed include the Spriggan.. thank frak I did not write an ecology article for that race!
What I am going to do is create an entirely new one.
I tested out these guys in a Play by Post game a few years ago and I have a real soft spot for them (akin to my abiding love of Kobolds).
They are an alpine race of people with the body of a goat and the upper torso of a humanoid, with goat ears and horns, but a face a bit like a gnome. They do wear clothes and tend to decorate their horns, travel widely and have a great sense of adventure. The Dwarfs like them because they can be hard workers and canny traders or merchants, plus they are really good miners when they set themselves to it, though it is not really in their nature to mine without a fair bit of encouragement.
Bray are not a very exciting monster race, but I think they make a great player character race.
The Centaur is cool, but they are just too damn big! Minotaurs are too monstrous and Satyrs are lumped with the whole Greek mythology thing.. and the whole sex crazed drunkard stereotype.

I keep imagining a Bray in combat, and can just see them rising up on their hind legs, in that classic head butting posture, only they are about to swing a sword with great force, or smack something across the chops with a wicked right cross!
The nimble grace of goats is well known, as is their hardiness and ability to eat pretty much anything.. also, they are gregarious and intelligent critters, who enjoy company.
So.. this is my next writing (and art) project.

The Bray!

Wednesday, May 27

Play by Post underway

The PDF is complete and I have created a play by post game at www.playbyweb.com called Dragonhammer.
So far, I have three players and they have killed five elves, scared the hell out of an innocent halfling and are on their way to the nearest town to save them from the Xeno scum.. weather they want to be saved or not.
The combat system seems to be working fine in the play by post (PbP) format, I have included an area map that reveals as they travel through it, and used a tactical combat map, in five foot squares, for the round by round combat.. when the players wanted to move, they stated they wanted to move up one, right three, for instance, and I altered the map for each new round.

So far so good, no complaints, a few bits of info on using guns and such, but I think the rule book is doing it's job well.
The Dragonhammer PDF may be viewed for free at http://www.youpublish.com/files/19356/Dragonhammer-Second-Edition

Next writing project should already be underway.. but I am currently obsessed with knitting scarves.. I will make a start tomorrow.
The theme is Underground ecology in the Feywild, and is intended to be published by Wizards of the Coast.

Sunday, May 10

Work continues

Well, I have finished the basic character building rules and a selection of equipment for them, and the next part is to give them feats and powers for when they level up. Play testing the Space Marines went very well, and a couple of alterations were made for how we handle firing automatic weapons in the 4th edition D&D rules.
The gaming group has agreed that the last Friday of each month is a good time to play some Warhammer 4th ed D&D (maybe it would be easier to call it 'Dragonhammer'?).. I downloaded the PDF file of the game rules onto the www.youpublish.com web site, the image above is the cover picture I used.
Actual D&D writing is crawling along.. at the moment I am still thinking about fungus ecologies in the Feydark.

Thursday, April 23

For the Emperor!


OK, so I have completed the rough basics of the Warhammer 40K conversion, here is the starting template for the Space Marine characters. We start with the raw Initiate stats, then add a template, such as Commander, Tactical Marine, Assault Marine or Devastator.
Then the player rolls a background for the marine, and it's ready to go.

Space Marine Initiate
(Starting Template)
Level 6 Brute
Medium Natural Humanoid
Initiative +5 Senses : Perception +7; Low Light
Hit Points 88; Bloodied 44 Healing Surge 22 Surges per Mission 11
AC 12 without Armor, 23 with Power Armor Fortitude 20, Reflex 17, Will 16
Immune to Injested Toxins, Resist 5 Poison or Entropic, Resist 2 Cold or Heat.
Speed 6
Action Points: 1
Attacks and Powers.
Assault (Rifle Butt)
(standard; at-will)
+9 vs AC; 1d6 + 5 damage
Gain a special +2 Skirmish bonus to melee attack rolls when adjacent to only one enemy.

Bolt Rifle, Single Shot (standard; at-will)
Ranged 20; +5 vs AC; 1d12 (brutal 2) damage
The Bolt Rifle holds 12 rounds in a clip, reloading is a minor action. The rifle may be fired at an adjacent target but is -4 to the attack roll (it does not provoke an attack as a ranged weapon while doing so). Otherwise the range is 20/40.

Bolt Rifle, Burst Fire (standard; at-will)
Ranged 20; +9 vs AC; 2d12 (brutal 2) damage
Firing a burst at a single target requires 5 rounds from the clip and is less accurate, but more deadly.

Bolter Rifle, Auto Fire (standard; at-will)
Area burst 1 within 20; +5 vs Reflex; 1d12 (brutal 2) damage
Autofire targets an area and all creatures in it. It requires 10 rounds from the clip.

Zeal (Only while bloodied)
Gain +1 to all attack rolls.

For the Emperor! (Encounter Power)
End any ongoing damage, make a save vs any ongoing effects, become immune to knockback and fear effects until the end of your next round, and gain 10 temperory Hit Points.

Skills: Athletics 15, Endurance 16, Arcana 8, History 8
Str 20 (+8) Dex 15 (+5) Wis 12 (+4)
Con 18 (+7) Int 10 (+3) Cha 10 (+3)

Equipment: Power Armor, Bolter Rifle.

I'm going to finish typing this all up tomorrow and print it out for the Friday nighters to check out.