Friday, December 12, 2014

The Hammers of August

The Hammers Of August

A Time Travel Scenario for the TimeWatch RPG
(Which ships to kickstarter backers in the future)

Berlin, 1933, August.
Hitler and his Nazi's are presenting the Summer Olympics.

At TimeWatch Headquarters a massive anomaly has been detected.
Someone managed to kill Hitler and change the course of
history with major negative consequences resulting in a 
global nuclear war in 1960.

Your team of Time Agents has to fix the problem before your
timeline is wiped from existence.

Your only clue, a newspaper from the day after stating that the
culprits were the German Gold and Silver medalists in the Hammer Throw

Find out why the Time Agents assigned to prevent such 
events failed, and swing the timeline back onto course.

(Any resemblance to any real or imagined time travel rpg scenarios is purely a manifestation of random time distortion and should be treated as deja vu. TimeWatch by Pelgrane Press will indeed ship to KickStarter backers in the future. And no, I am not writing this scenario. I have something else planned. Mwahahahahahaha!)

There you go Stu, something a bit different than I bet you were expecting.

Monday, December 8, 2014


In response to Stu Rat's comment to the Something Wicked post.


The Role-Playing Game

The year is 1870 and your hearty band of railroad workers
is facing their toughest challenge yet. You've braved the 
elements, the freezing cold, the scorching heat, wind, rain,
storms. You've survived landslides, cave-ins, and accidents
of all kinds. But nothing prepared you for the horror you
now face. You and your crew are fighting for your very
jobs against the nightmare that is mechanization!
The mighty steam hammer has come to take yer jerbs!

In JOHN HENRY! - The Role-Playing Game players take
on the roles of railroad workers with special talents and
skills, working together to beat back the tides of progress.

Classes include Steel Drivers - the class of JOHN HENRY himself!
Montebancs, Thieves, Prospectors, Cooks, and others.

So pick up your copy today and SWING THE HAMMER.

Stu, your comment had me howling. Great response I could not resist posting about. Sorry to say, nope this wasn't what the clue is about, but keep going! If it helps me come up with more fun to write posts, all-the-better!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Something Wicked Cool This Way Comes

I have officially commissioned something special for me and my gaming group. Completion of the work and delivery will resolve with the unveiling toward the mid to later part of January 2015. I won't spill the beans yet, however I will drop some clues along the way.

Here is the first clue:    SWING THE HAMMER

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

This cover from an issue of Dragon Magazine illustrates the tradition of carving the turkey. Do not try this method at home.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Catching up a bit

Had I the inclination I would have had plenty of posts recently, alas, I lacked the motivation.

Here is a quick bit of what has been happening:

The Yearly Horror Game - CaptCorajus ran his annual Cthulhuesque horror game. This year it used the character creation method from Dread (the questionnaire) and resulted in some very 'colorful' characters. I plan to post more about it including posting the characters and some pictures soon. Just be warned, the players, myself included, are some seriously twisted individuals when it comes to creating characters.

The Sunday D&D campaign run by CaptCorajus - We completed the transition from C&C to D&D5E and the characters have managed to get into some serious trouble while traveling the wilds. That includes battling alligators, shambling mounds, a tyrannosaurus rex, some Yuan-ti and their cultists, and bunches of biting insects. The party has been split up due to our halfling willingly teleporting away with the Yuan-ti sorceress while carrying an artifact the Yuan-ti need to resurrect the evil god Set. The other three members are now inside the temple above where the body of set resides, battling and sneaking our way through while trying to locate the halfling so we can force her to leave (and bring the artifact) thus disrupting the Yuan-ti plans. We have not yet found our errant halfling rogue, however the remaining three members of the 5th level party have achieved some amazing things.

The gimped cleric, handicapped wizard, and certifiably insane fighter managed to take down a CR17 Death Knight without casualties. The wizard has never been able to get the 3rd level spells that a 5th level wizard should get, the cleric transitioned from C&C and lost physical combat capabilities and healing capabilities, but did gain some kick-ass spells, however being in a temple over the buried body of an evil god left the cleric unwilling to continue casting spells due to the very nasty negative side effects. That left the fighter as the only one in full combat shape.

Oh, and without a doubt, Magic Missile is the single best combat spell in D&D5E. It doesn't miss, moving it to higher slots pumps the damage, and it wrecks concentration somewhat reliably.

After this latest session, the party should now be 6th level (we netted at least 20,000 xp for three members), and the wizard will still not have 3rd level spells . . .

Note: we know the halfling went willingly since only willing creatures/people can be teleported, and we also know the Yuan-ti sorceress is at least a 13th level caster since the lower level teleport circle takes a full minute to cast and the teleport took only a single round. It is amazing the meta-game knowledge one can glean during play.  :)

And now some pictures.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

New Magic Item - Ring of Spell: Snoring

The cavern was pitch black. Even the orcs couldn't see where they were going and had slowed to a shambling hoard of complainers. If he could lead them to the chasm perhaps enough would fall in that he could make a hasty exit.

Embuk fished around in his pouch for one particular magic ring, the one sure to fool the orcs into an ill advised charge over the edge. "Ah, there it is." he thought, putting on the sandstone ring carved with moons and stars. "This should give the savages a target."

From across the darkness, deeper into the cavern and well out over the chasm edge, emanated loud snoring, obviously from the soon-to-be victim that had angered the tribe's shaman. It took nothing to get the desired result as a baker's dozen of the brutes rushed blindly to their deaths, over the edge and 70 feet below. The orc shaman would have to wait for any retribution. The snoring stopped and Embuk put the ring away.

Lighting his lantern, Embuk made his way out of the cavern, wary of possible guards and maybe the shaman himself.

New Magic Item - Ring of Spell: Snoring

The ring is imbued with one spell only, Snoring, which creates a loud snoring sound that lasts up to two minutes or until cancelled by the wearer. The sound can be created up to 120 feet from the wearer. An hour or more after use it can again be cast.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Monsters: The Horologe, Clockwork Devils, and Corrupted Modrons

Schedules are inherently Lawful. They may be malleable, changeable, or in some aspects vary, but inevitably they pin people down to behaving in predictable manners. Unless that schedule happens to be the one for the date and time of the game session, in which case the one highly attributable law is that no mater how far in advance a game session is planned and agreed to by everyone, those commitments don't mean squat.

Why doesn't the game schedule matter? Because more powerful devils (schedules) take precedence. Be it a family emergency or event (excusable), or work (uhm yeah, we're going to need you to come in on Saturday), or a spouse declaring that you can't go to the game (you know who you are).There is almost always a greater devil pulling the strings.

In game terms perhaps we can affix blame to a greater devil known as The Horologe.

This greater devil is assigned to diplomatic duty outside of the Hells, specifically, to Mechanus, home of the most regimented of beings, the Modrons.

Originally assigned as part of a diplomatic mission requested by Primus in a attempt to bargain safe(r) passage through the Hells for the Modrons great march every cycle, and to balance the diplomatic mission of good, The Horologe has found the position comfortable if a tad frustrating.

Corrupting Modrons is not as simple as it seems when the concepts of evil and good are equally valid and invalid to their ethos and function. Of the Modrons presently serving the local needs of Hell's diplomatic mission, less than two dozen may actually have become corrupt and truly evil, though how could anyone, even the Horologe be certain.

The Horologe decided to expand reach outside of Mechanus and into the material plane. This required new servant devils whose purpose is to corrupt through the pressure of ever tighter schedules and deadlines, and tempting victims to cheat, lie, and commit other offences in order to make deadlines or appear to have met goals. This also works on other souls by convincing them to bully their subordinates, through time pressure, creating a domino effect of corruption.

The Horologe
Unique (undergoing promotion to arch-devil)
HD 18, HP 99
Saves as F18
AEC page 115 - standard arch/greater devil abilities
Only harmed by magic weapons
Timestop 1/day
Slow 3/day
Haste 3/day
Chance to gate in 1d6 Pentadrones (Modrons) or 1d6 Clockwork Devils (65% chance of success for either). Flip a coin or choose.

The Horologe is a 9' tall humanoid devil with brass mechanical clockworkings intermixed with the organic majority of its body. The right arm appears to be mostly mechanical. The left eye is replaced with an ornate time piece. A whirring and clicking sound always accompanies The Horologe.

In addition to spell and melee damage, 3/day The Horologe can release a scalding burst of steam in a 30' radius centered upon itself. All creatures not immune or resistant to fire/heat damage take 9d6 damage (half if save). The cloud of steam also provides half cover for everything within it until the end of The Horologe's next round.

The Horologe attacks twice per round with the right arm as a +3 weapon of wounding. Damage: 1d8+5 and 1 additional damage per round (per wound from this weapon) until healed.

If The Horolge feels seriously threatened the order of events will be: Time Stop - move to include as many enemies as possible and use the steam burst, move to include others left out and repeat, then teleport without error to safety.

Clockwork Devil
Lesser Devil
HD 5, HP 33
Haste 1/day
Slow 1/day
Save as F5
Attacks: 2 claws  1d6 each, or 1 weapon with bonus +2 to hit and damage (non-magical).

Clockwork Devils are human sized mechanical appearing lesser devils with whirring gears, and pistons, and various types of timepieces for a head in their natural form. They are able to assume a human appearance when attempting to fulfill their purpose of corruption through time pressure.

Corrupted Modrons:
Corrupted Modrons will have a physical trait that may clue PCs in on their unusual nature. Maybe small horns, or red eyes, or their choice of weapon, etc. They also have a feature common to devils (DM's choice).

Note: Any artist out there feel like tackling the art for The Horologe and Clockwork Devils? I can't pay a lot, but I am willing to pay. No art for Modrons since those are WotC property to my knowledge.

Friday, October 10, 2014

No Date/Time Yet For Part 2

We have not yet set a date and time to continue with the rest of the adventure.

Part of this is because half the group that did make it to part 1 are unavailable until late November or early December. The other part is because I want to repair some of my house during the gap so sessions can again be run at home thus taking advantage of Dwarven Forge and other nifty props.

Rest assured that when a date and time is confirmed it will end up posted here, if only to see it need to be rescheduled at least once.  ;)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Have Fun Storming The Beach and Abbey!

The adventure went very well. Only 4 players managed to make it to the game, however that may have been for the better since it upped the tension, and allowed the party to level at the end of the session.

Here is a round-up of the adventure so far:

The party landed on the beach during some unpleasant weather. Shortly after gearing up they fought a battle against three overlapping waves of skeletons, eleven total, that emerged from some very large dunes and one from off shore that took a crewman.

During the battle Morokian the paladin was dropped to zero hit points and stabilized by Captain Eliza the ranger (played by a newcomer to role-playing and Dungeons and Dragons who as it turns out proved to be a natural and seemed like a long-time veteran very quickly). She had the difficult choice of trying to rescue a member of her ship's crew or saving the paladin. It was a no-win scenario, kind of a Kobayoshi-Maru test. Her decision cost the life of her crewman, but saved the party from a possible TPK. (Total Party Kill).

The party wizard, Travarian, was having some very bizarre luck with his spells, hitting easily, and doing very little damage, of the one and two point variety. Meanwhile the halfling barbarian Endzque was getting clawed, cut, and beaten pretty badly while having trouble hitting until things looked pretty dire and then things started going his way.

The party camped on the beach to heal up overnight and only had one minor disturbance. In the early dawn hours during Travarian's watch some goats were cavorting back in the treeline. He observed them for a few minutes and then went back to meditating.

The party then began exploring the island, making note that the bodies of the two crewmen that had been ambushed and slain in the trees while tying up the dingies, were nowhere to be seen.

Getting their bearings the party heads toward the spot of the old town and discovers the sight of an old mass grave that had been dug up sometime in the recent past. A short distance away they heard voices.

They investigated and discovered two odd individuals that turned out to be crew members of the pirate ship Magnar. Scram, the ship's cook and his pet chicken Lucy, and Filthy, a tall thin man with a monkey familiar named Sniffles. The conversation was full of obfuscation and dodging of questions by both groups. Eventually they parted company, each side distrustful of the other.

The party chose to follow Scram and Filthy at a distance and eventually were ambushed by three other Magnar crew, which allowed Scram and Filthy to escape in the short term. The party quickly dispatched two ambushers and captured the third.

A very convincing bit of intimidation by the wizard quickly convinced the captive to spill what she knew about the happenings on the island. The pirates arrived to "convince" the cultists to give them a greater cut of money for the goods the pirates had "recovered" being fenced through the cult. A disagreement broke out with both sides taking casualties. The pirates burned down the abbey to try and finish off the cultists, but did not get them all. Captain Sarg Hellfist left a small party behind to search the ruins of the town for something, a map of the abbey perhaps.

Party follows her to old town area where pirates have been digging near remnants of building foundations. While searching the town ruins the captive answers questions explaining that the new graves they spotted near the pirate campsite were the bodies of some of the previous expedition. She doesn't know what happened to the rest.

Nothing turns up during a two hour search, however a familiar looking monkey comes out of the woods holding a piece of paper. They read the note from Filthy and Scram asking for safe passage off the island and to safer shores. Requests for safe escape from the island become a recurring theme during the session as their captive makes the same request and later so does another individual encountered.

The captive pirate agrees to show them another way up to the abbey so they don't have to take the main road. The off-road way involves climbing about 150' of cliff giving Morokian pause when he considers his lack of dexterity and his chain mail armor. He eventually overcomes his objections after the others make it up and as a team, pull him up tied into a rope harness. The captive then parts company and climbs back down the rope.

Watching a few people gathering food among the large garden crops beside the abbey, the team plans to assault these few hoping to stifle any alarm so they can enter the abbey unnoticed. The plan consists of Endzque sneaking closer to the workers in the field and seeing if they are alone. Then he would fire at one of them and get the attention of the others, hoping to draw all of them out to confront him while his companions wait in ambush. The plan starts to go wrong and then another amazing critical hit bow shot by Eliza prevents the alarm from being raised.

The newcomer's sharp-shooter ranger was rolling critical hits often during the session.

The party then snuck into the abbey down a long, steep flight of stairs. They followed the sound of voices and managed to catch two unarmored cult acolytes and a well armored guard unprepared. That fight was over quickly, but before they could do much more, two other groups came to the area.

Ogmund, the chief of the cult guards, two more of his guardsmen, another acolyte, and another mysterious person had come for a meeting, only to discover the bloody corpses. (Yes, even chaotic cults sometimes have their bureaucratic moments). The party was soon discovered and combat began while the acolyte ran for help.

Things had the potential to go badly, however Morokian held position against Ogmund while Travarian and Eliza blasted away with spells and arrows. Endzque, who had already wounded Ogmund, remained back in the room fighting guards and cultists, and trying to encourage the mysterious pale countenanced individual to enter the room.

The mysterious figure would not come into the room, preferring to remain in the shadowy hallway and ask for help escaping the island. For some reason, even creepy looking types seem to want to get away from the island.

As Ogmund's allies began to drop, including the two acolytes who arrived as re-enforcements, he tried to retreat to the stairs. Travarian had the last word, firing off a Magic Missile spell, slaying Ogmund, sending him tumbling noisily down a flight of stairs.

The Mysterious individual had vanished back into the darkness and this is where we stopped the session.

The characters earned more than enough XP to achieve second level (381.5 each). Once we determine a good date and time to continue, we will get on with plundering the abbey.

Everyone had a good time and we look forward to continuing the adventure.

Originally the adventure was to be run in two parts. The first was to include the exploration of the island, discovery of the fate of the first expedition, a number of encounters to both generate XP and give a solid sense of the strangeness and danger of the island. The second would be the approach and assault on the abbey. Real Life(TM) stepped in and scuttled that plan so it came down to a greatly abbreviated single session which we almost completed.

Morokian's player realized he would be having more fun running a rogue than a Paladin so he is creating the replacement character between sessions. We will figure out how to make the switch when the time comes. (I already have some ideas.)

For the next session which will be more location based and less sandbox, I plan to build the entire abbey location using my Dwarven Forge collection. If this opportunity does present itself, there will be pictures to include in the blog post.

Something else you may find of interest: go to YouTube and search for Retro Roleplaying or Captcorajus to check out the content my friend has on his channel. He is working on a review of the 5th edition Monster Manual which may be posted soon.

Friday, September 26, 2014

On The Eve Of Battle

Tomorrow is the day of battle.

Tonight and early tomorrow I will gather my implements of mayhem and set forth to the site of play. I will perform setup and await arrival of the 6 players whose characters face certain death, er, I mean nasty business, on the island.

The adventure is based loosely on the plot from the adventure Island of the Abbey from Dungeon Magazine issue 34.
The cover says it all, well for the red-shirts among them.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Counting Down to Go Time

In six days I will again be behind the screen.

I have an adventure cooked up to throw at some players, two of which have never played D&D on the table-top before. The adventure is based on the general premise of an old Dungeon Magazine adventure involving an island, some ruins, some pirates, cultists of an evil entity or god, and of course the search for treasure.

Here is how it is being presented to the players:

You have been hired by the Mariner's Guild along with some ship captains and wealthy merchants to go to Gull Cliff Island. They plan to build a new lighthouse atop the highest point of the island, and hired you to clear the island of hazards and find out why the old abbey on the island caught fire three weeks ago. They also asked that you try to locate the first expedition that should have returned a week ago.

The religious figures among you were also asked by an elderly priest of Phaulkon (a lesser sea god) to recover from the abbey an ancient tome, a holy book titled 'Integumentary of Spirit'. You have been given a key with markings he indicates will help you locate the correct location of the text, though he warns it likely is guarded or trapped. He promises to reward you with what he can and that the church will also reward you for recovering this important tome.

Among your party is a sea captain with her own goal on the island. She possesses part of an old captains log with a partial map, and journal entry alluding to treasure and a scrimshaw whale tooth of above average size that is the means to find a greater treasure on another island.

 - - - It is morning as you make landfall on the southern tip of the island, but you wouldn't know it due to the heavy storm clouds overhead, the driving rain, and the choppy sea. Two ships crewmen drag lines beyond the tall sand dunes to tie up the three dingies your party arrived in, while a third unloads your supplies at the shoreline. As you don your armor and weapons you hear screams from beyond the dunes . . .

. . . Roll For Initiative! - - -

Being most likely a one-shot or at best a mini-campaign, I want to throw them right into the action so that the newcomers get some immediate excitement and they all get a sense of danger and wonder about the island. The story will progress from there.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Thief Lord's reputation is Intact.

In the C&C campaign that has now converted to a D&D 5e campaign, the party were in the Thief Lord's Vault to recover the Eye of Set and anything valuable they could manage to carry.

In the party's lust for loot, they ignored the obvious indication of a trap and went right to the looting stage. Hundreds of thousands of coins, thousands of gems, magic items scattered about, it was a cornucopia of treasure and a slush fund with the potential to hire or bribe almost everyone in the city and have plenty left over. So the party waded in, feet sinking into and sliding among the coins and baubles.

At the far end of the chamber was a mirror looking object that held no reflections. That was to be both the party's downfall and salvation.

The dwarf cleric was using detect magic and his gem of true seeing (which he had mounted into an eye patch) to locate the magic items. Pilfering of the goods had begun in earnest when the trap finally sprung.

A loud KA-THUNK sound accompanied by shaking and rumbling signaled the sealing of the entrance door and the start of the entire vault tilting toward the end where the weird mirror sat. Footing quickly became an issue with everyone slipping, sliding, some falling down, and all being moved along by the landslide of treasure. The dwarf (player made some excellent rolls) managed to stay atop the treasure and rode it like a surfer while gathering magic items along the way. The rest of the party tried to keep from being buried and crushed by the coins and other valuables. It rapidly became obvious, risk jumping into the mirror portal (treasure had begun pouring through it) or being crushed beneath tons of treasure.

Everyone chose to make the leap of faith that the portal was not a death sentence.

Moments later, bruised, battered, and piled up with a mound of treasure that came through the portal with them (we estimated about a third of the Thief Lord's ill gotten gains came through with our characters) the party felt noticeably different. (out with the C&C, in with the D&D)

- we swapped out the character sheets from C&C for the D&D character sheets we had prepared ahead of the session.

The room the characters occupied was damp, vines and roots protruded from the walls and ceiling, the air was thick with humidity and hot. The place also had a swampy, fishy odor. Well, this much was certain, the party was not anywhere near Karameikos anymore, but if they could bag up the best stuff from this pile of loot and find civilization, they would be set!

Oh, right, Set . . . the party still possessed the Eye of Set which was still obviously evil. That loose end is still hanging out there to be tied up eventually.

Where were they? That question was on every one's mind, but not for long as they were rudely interrupted in their bagging of wealth by a number of Kua-Toa warriors and some of their lesser priests. Good for the party they controlled a choke point and the pace of the fight that followed.

The three Monitors (lightning casting lesser priests) and more than half of the warriors were killed and the remainder ran away. The characters went back to looting and then began trying to find a way out of the structure they were within.

After some skulking about and convincing the dwarf they could always come back for the treasure they couldn't currently haul out with them, they encountered three more priests hauling a big soggy mud ball of branches, vines leaves, and other unidentifiable organic matter. Setting upon these Kua-Toa, the party slew two immediately, but not before they blasted the ball of doom with lightning activating the hibernating Shambling Mound.

Now the fight got interesting.

It lasted 3, maybe 4 rounds during which the two fighters, the crossbow sneak attacking rogue, and the elf wizard took the shambling mound to task and the dwarf cleric focused his ranged wrath on the remaining priest. The 136 hit point shambler failed to harm anyone and was destroyed by what can only be described as a hail of utter destruction from the 5th level D&D 5e characters. The Monitor surrendered and despite lacking any clearly comprehensible means of communication was convinced the best option was to show us the exit.

- 5e characters, even from 1st level are brutally capable combatants, getting to 5th level it is amazing the damage they can dish out. The rogue was doing the most damage thanks to being able to use sneak attack at range every round. When the rogue critical hits with a sneak attack the damage is incredible. The wizard only had cantrips available otherwise my guess would be that the combat would not have gotten much beyond the first round or barely into the second round instead of 3 or 4 rounds.

All said and done, the party was shown out without further problems and the Kua-Toa even brought up 6 more bags of loot to coax them to go away.

The party located a structure to use for shelter and prepared to get a long rest. That is where things left off.

The DM is a huge fan of Mystara and associated D&D worlds and after the session we determined the party had been ported into the Hollow World.

And that is why the Thief Lord always maintains his reputation for enemies disappearing permanently. It might take a while, but our group wants to change that equation when possible.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Transitioning from Castles & Crusades to D&D 5E

The Sunday C&C game in which I participate is about to convert over to D&D 5E. I noticed some interesting differences in the character between the two systems.

Torul is a half-orc fighter decked out in plate armor and shield, wielding a longsword (+2 flame-tongue). 

He is pretty bad-ass in C&C, and that translated to being pretty bad-ass in D&D, as well it should.

His AC managed to remain high (higher than many adult dragons based on the info from Hoard of the Dragon Queen). His attack roll lost a single point with the longsword, but more with the dagger (formerly a dirk), and the light crossbow.

He now has 2 and sometimes 3 attacks if he uses his available action surge. His damage potential with a single sword hit is slightly better (Feat: Savage Attacker). His damage lost a point on the switch from dirk to dagger (1d4+1 to 1d4), but can benefit from the same thing his sword does with occasional extra damage. His crossbow now does more damage. He also crits on 19 or 20.

He used to be 1 AC better out of armor, now he has that 1 extra AC in armor. He went from a 23 AC (25 vs evil) in C&C to 24 AC (26 vs evil) in D&D. This could easily change once we see how magic items work. 

Torul has a Ring of Protection +2, an Ioun Stone of Protection +1, and an Amulet of Protection from Evil. My suspicion is that stacking will somehow be discouraged and that the amulet will likely function as giving disadvantage to evil attackers, which frankly would make Torul even more bad-ass against evil. No idea how the ring and stone will be affected.

What does all of this mean? Mostly that the conversion was easy and relatively painless.

Where does that leave the party tomorrow? Trying to escape from the Thief Lord's Vault with what they believe is the Eye of Set, and expecting a whole crap-ton of enemies to be waiting including some top notch assassins, since the party have a high price on their heads.

The DM loves his set of original Tact-Tiles and was a backer of the recent Kickstarter so he will have more of them sometime soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Red Pen Has A Re-Think

After having the chance to play a session of 5th edition, I am beginning to think that some of what I viewed as negative or optional might just be fine in the context of game play.

While I still think the healing to full hit-points after a full rest is too much, I can definitely see how the other healing methods work well to aid the flow of the game. In fact, the hit-dice mechanic makes for a good representation of fatigue, and other issues, when after a few days of hard adventuring a character could easily find healing up getting more and more difficult when fewer hit dice are returning after long rests.

The ability score increases still urk me, and until the Monster Manual and maybe the DM's Guide are in hand, I won't know if those can be removed or even need to be excised. In the Basic game, ability score bumps are all there are while in the PHB you can choose either a boost in abilities or a feat.

The magic system in 5e is a thing of beauty. Sure, I think the unlimited ammo combat cantrips are somewhat over-powered, and that meant boosting first level spells to a crazy level of damage production (Magic Missile does 3d4+3 damage, split into three 1d4+1 missiles), the flexible use of spells in higher spell slots is awesome. A wizard or other spell caster can take a low level spell and use a higher level slot to cast it making what would have been a minor spell into a more capable/powerful tool.

For example: The Command spell in the hands of a higher level caster is capable of affecting an entire adventuring party because in higher slots it affects more people instead of just a single target. Think of the party bursting into the lair of the evil high priest who simply Commands them to surrender. No longer does one person obey while the rest of the party eviscerates EHP, now they all might fall under the spell and be captured. No more interrupting a well prepared soliloquy, you pesky adventurers are going to have to listen to the grand standing of the big bad boss monster.

The Sleep spell likewise has become more useful. Sure, at lower level it can only do so much, but cast from higher level slots, and based on target hit points, it can be used against the big bad once the monster has been beat down a bit. Got a Paladin or other uber-goody in the party that wants to bring the villain to justice instead of just executing the miscreant on sight? Sleep is now your means of keeping intra-party politics calm.

There is one disappointment I have about the re-writing of spells. As someone that likes to use Enlarge-Reduce spells to break lintels so they crash down on enemies, the re-write rules that out by limiting the enlarge portion of the spell to only fit the area, not expand beyond. At least I can still use the Reduce portion to shrink a door out of its frame.

I've been a fan of the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic since it was introduced in the first play-test packet. No more having to remember a host of fiddly modifiers. Simple and elegant, and it keeps things moving.

My next campaign is going to use 5e so that it gets a proper vetting from the DM side of the screen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

5E Starter Set - Play session

Recently five of us sat down to try out the 5th edition starter set using the pregenerated characters. There were four players and we ended up not having the rogue along with us. We would have benefited greatly from that fifth party member.

The characters were:
Cleric - Thundren Rockseeker, cousin to the plot hook Gundren Rockseeker.
Archer Fighter - (COUGH) whose name was both unpronounceable and unspellable.
Wizard - Therondai.
Fighter - Ozren van Corlinn

We started on the road at the first ambush point where 4 rather stupid goblins (the DM declared them to be morons mainly to get the slaughter on quickly) fired crossbows at the party wounding Ozren and Thundren. Mop-up was very fast. Spells from Therondai the wizard and Thundren the cleric combined one after another to explode the closest goblin with incredible damage (a spell crit happened). The second goblin's head became the world's first golf ball when Ozren's axe sent it flying. (13 damage). The third suffered minor spell damage and tried to flee only to get skewered by an arrow from COUGH. The fourth and final goblin became the firing range for more massive spell damage as 3 Magic Missiles from the wizard rained on his tiny noggin blowin' him up real good.

At this point everyone is thinking, wow, 1st level characters are powerful!

The party located a trail to follow in hopes of recovering the kidnapped hostages. Along the trail COUGH stepped into a snare trap and swung upside down for a bit. Further along the trail Ozren, while lecturing COUGH about being wary and more careful, triggered the pit trap and barely avoided falling in.

We eventually came to a cave entrance from which issued a steady stream of water. Two morons nearby compleately failed to notice the clanking menace approaching so we prepared our ranged attacks to be followed by spells if we failed to kill them on first shots. Fortunately we slew with javelin and arrow.

Entering the cave with the dwarf and elf alternating scouting duties (they were the only ones with dark vision) we were rudely shouted at by some wolves chained in a side cave. Throwing them a dead goblin to eat, quieted them down and we went past them along the stream.

Further into the cave we discovered a rope and plank bridge crossing above the stream. COUGH with the help of a rope managed to climb up onto the bridge and get attacked immediately by goblins we failed to notice. Meanwhile deeper in, another goblin released water from the dam causing it to rush down toward the party.

Thundren and Therondai retreated to the wolf room to get above the rushing flow and Ozren braced himself hoping to maintain footing so he could follow COUGH onto the bridge.

Back in the wolf room a goblin arrived to release the wolves from their chains only to become moron bar-b-que when a quick thinking Therondai unleashed Burning Hands. You think wet dogs stink? Try severely singed wolf fur! Another round or two and the wolves were all dead, right along with the goblin that set them loose.

Meanwhile at the bridge COUGH was handed his backside and dropped by some goblins in the side passage. Ozren managed to pull himself onto the bridge and began separating goblins into smaller pieces. Eventually the party regrouped and COUGH was stabilized and healed.

With all members of the party now on the bridge, the group moved into a tunnel opposite the one the goblins that mugged COUGH had come from.

That's when the party got careless and walked into what could easily have been a TPK had it not been for a not so moronic goblin having need of someone to go kill a bugbear that was making itself worthy of a good killin'.

Three party members were down, chained to the cave wall leaving the cleric to negotiate for the entire partys' lives. He agree that if he could rest for a day and say his prayers that he would take on the bugbear by himself. And so it was.

Clerics apparently have some serious combat spells now because not only did Thundren manage to take out the bugbear, he also slew the pet wolf he had not been expecting to be there.

The party was freed, given back their property, minus their money (call it the hotel bill) and sent on their way.

That is where we left off.

I'm happy to report that despite making some minor goofs with using the new rules, the game plays very quick, and feels very much the way I like D&D to feel. Everyone agreed we want to play more when schedules permit and to continue with the pre-gen characters until we complete the adventure from the Starter Set.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

5E Basic - The Red Pen Takes A Break

I think that aside from figuring out how to adjust the Ability score increases out of the monsters if they are included in monster stats, that any other thing I feel should be optional will be easy to separate from Basic without negatively impacting the core math of the game.

With that out of the way, I really like what the folks at WotC have done with Fifth Edition.

I had some concern about all classes having an identical increase in combat value, however I have been reading a lot of reviews and some people willing to dig deeper into the system pointed out how much more powerful a fighter gets in melee combat through class capabilities than the other classes. The classes really do break out nicely into their own respective niche.

While I have not had a chance to run or play yet, just a read through the magic/spells has me anticipating the fun of experienced players trying to relearn how a few things work in order to churn out some seriously cool uses for spells and spell combinations.

That's all for the moment. After a long day of work . . .

Sunday, July 6, 2014

5E D&D - The Red Pen Diary Continues.

Healing in 5E has gone way overboard into redundancy.

1. At one point in the rules it mentions that characters get all lost hit-points back after a long rest (at least 8 hours), along with half of the spent healing hit-dice.

2. During a short rest characters can roll hit-dice to recover hit-points, potentially returning to full.

3. There is a healing kit available in the equipment that has 10 uses and can help restore hit-points.

4. Clerics can use a number of spells to heal characters, including some at-range.

5. There are healing potions and likely other magic items for healing.

6. Some classes even have their own healing capabilities. The fighter has an increasing number of Second-Winds that allow a die to be rolled to heal some hit-points (up to 10 + CON modifier) and this ability recharges between short or long rests. And at 18th level the fighter even gains a minor form of regeneration.

I see no real issue with numbers 3, 4, and 5. Numbers 1, 2, and 6, should have been options, not Basic game inclusions.

Getting back to the Ability score increases. Some classes have more levels at which they are able to do this than others. Once we see the monsters we should be able to determine if this is baked into the core system math and then we need to determine how to remove it. It should not be core, it should be optional since something like this is much easier to add than subtract from the system.

I like the playability of 5E, but I keep finding stuff that should not be part of a basic game.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

5E D&D Basic - The Red Pen Comes Out

Well, I was somewhat wrong about Basic D&D being a clean basic game.

It does indeed have at its core the power mongering ridiculous Ability score bumps both at character creation and at levels 5 additional points during level gains.

Humans get +1 to all stats at the start and all characters appear to get +2 to a single Ability every 4 levels.
The maximum for an Ability score is capped at 20,what good is that when many of a character's Ability scores could get to 20. There may be some differences for the non-human races once I take the time to examine things further

The experience table is designed for very rapid level gain. The potential exists to go through 24 hours of play and have characters go from 1st level into the very high levels.

There may be more things I would change or eliminate from this Not-Basic, Basic game, but I won't know until I have time to read the entire thing a couple times through.

Mearls, you got some splainin' t'do . . .

Monday, June 30, 2014

Odds and Ends

Looks like the 5E Starter Set characters are built using options from the PHB. 

The Basic game will not be complete till close to the end of the year, but that is ok since it should still be playable somewhat when it becomes available for download on July 3rd.

Monsters have different types of hit dice. Some have D10, some have D8, and I suspect other dice come into play. 

Here's something you might find amusing: 101 Spells Not Worth Memorizing

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Eyes Have It!

Today WotC unveiled a few of the monsters that will be in the starter set. These included the Nothic, the Ogre, and the Ochre Jelly.
Guess which one this is.

I'm quite pleased by the simplicity of the monster stat blocks.  They have been kept neat, tidy, and give the info needed in an easy to read format, which is great when running a combat. The format reminds me of the 4e stat blocks which is one thing I did like about that edition.

Go take a peek at the info over at EN World.

The three creatures revealed are all Challenge 2 and 450xp. I am still baffled by what the 5e challenge ratings represent, though it won't be long before we all find out. Basic D&D will be free to download as soon as July 3rd. (just character creation, the other bits will be added as books are released)

Getting back to the Nothic . . . The flavor text in the description states that they were once wizards that "unlocked magical knowledge they could not fathom".  They also can learn knowledge from people they directly observe, even hidden knowledge. They also possess True Sight, so no fooling them with invisibility or illusions. Nothics are also above average intelligence, they easily could use their wits to smartly stalk and study intruders. I can really picture a Lich having a couple of these as "eyes" within or near the lair.

EDIT: I noticed something about all three of these monsters. Their to-hit in combat is equal to 1st level characters. The Ogre has +6 which is derived from its strength modifier of +4 and the proficiency modifier of +2. Both the Nothic and Ochre Jelly have strength modifiers of +2 and proficiency of +2 for +4 to hit.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Forgotten Gods

In the course of world building the decision for what, if any, gods to include in the design. Do you use the ones from a published setting? A mix from multiple sources? Do you create your own?

I have done a mix of all three, though the ones I enjoy are the ones created whole-cloth by myself or in collaboration with players. One such deity whose name is indeed long forgotten (did it begin with Ch?), represented the domains of Vice and Humility.

Vice and Humility may sound like an odd combination, however the common mantra spoken by 'experienced' members of the faith is "a person must fall before learning to pick one's self up", which seems to briefly sum up the idea.

Devoted adherents are typically those who have drank, gambled, and/or whored their way to their personal and financial downfall. A good many end up spending at least some time at the church monastery performing humbling labors, wearing garments of hand mended sack cloth, and eating the most basic of foods. Some remain, having found either the need for the security blanket of the monastery, or having heard the calling to aid the newly fallen or to tend to the 'fall' of those not yet at the bottom.

Those tending to the fall perform their duties visiting places of ill-repute and observing the patrons, looking for those nearing their point of breaking. While watching for these seekers, the brothers and sisters gather donations, offered to them without prodding by those trying to curry favor from the deity, hoping not to fall.

In cities that have not embraced the deity, Humble Elders, pose as homeless and misfortunate, never asking for money or food, though often receiving both from the generous or those who know who these faithful serve and seeking favor. While performing this mission, the Humble Elders watch and listen for the opportunity to quietly minister to the fallen and soon to fall, eventually gathering enough new faithful to begin a monastery.

The core tenets of the faith neither condemn or condone vices, merely acknowledging the role vices serve in enlightening the populous. There is a branch of the church which the orthodox refer to as the debased, filled with hubris. The debased have begun to involve themselves in the operation of taverns, gambling houses, and brothels, with the potential to garner great wealth, and sometimes leading them into conflict with criminal syndicates, and the authorities. Those who leave the church or have become debased, may fall again, and would be welcomed again as newly fallen.

The typical fallen or faithful is a human male, though females, and other races are not immune to vice or the need to find humility.

Different monasteries may have different holy symbols if any at all. The deity has no specific weapon and adherents forced into conflict use whatever comes to hand. Some may be considered proficient with an item they used in a profession if it is available, like a blacksmith with a hammer. No specific colors are associated with the deity, though brown, gray, and other motley are the most common.

The deity is often depicted in a ragged cloak with hood pulled up, face in shadow.

Monday, June 23, 2014

5E Character Sheet Part 2

Today the character sheet for the Cleric from the Starter Set was unveiled.

Some big differences between the Cleric and Fighter.

WHOA! Hold the phone! At 4th level the Cleric gets a Constitution boost to 18! I think I might create a Dwarf Cleric with a 3 CON to start so my other stats can be huge, and then try to survive till waking up as uber-dwarf at 4th level. So much for limiting power creep. (It looks like it might be Dwarf related.) The dwarf already starts with Dwarven Toughness which gives a bonus hitpoint each level.

The Cleric is also wearing chain mail, and happens to have a shield. His AC is 18 vs the Fighter's AC of 17. I thought their -1 DEX mod was factored into AC, but that doesn't appear to be the case, and now it looks like chain mail might be AC +6 instead of +7.

Here's something interesting - this cleric cannot turn undead until second level. The skeletons and zombies are applauding that decision. Now they can be scary again. Sadly each undead has to save against the turning instead of a determination of how many are affected by a single roll. That will make a battle against large numbers take more time. Now they're scaring the DM.

Alternately, the cleric can heal people within 30 feet for small amounts.

These uses of Channel Divinity are not both usable in the same time frame so there is a choice to be made, do I turn the undead or heal my buddies by a couple points. This can only be used again after a short or long rest. (Since the Fighter can heal himself this means more possible healing for everyone else.)

I find challenge ratings annoying, and this character sheet mentions them when it talks about 5th level clerics being able to destroy undead.

Again, much of the oddball stuff has to be optional.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What to do with all those skills?

Back during the 3.0/3.5E days I was trying to figure out how to get my adventure design juices going, and one sure way to do that is to find a challenge to write toward.

While staring at a character sheet of one of the campaigns' PCs it dawned on me that there were a lot of skills that rarely make it into adventures in any meaningful way. Sure they might get used during play, but they are an afterthought when designing challenges and features of an adventure. This seems to be true not just of my own work, but of published adventures as well.

Here I have to admit that while I did come up with an idea to try, I haven't actually done anything with the idea. The big reason is that I have done very little adventure writing over the last decade, a fact I am actually sad to realize. So what is this idea you ask (or not)?

If your game uses a list of skills, get random on yourself. Roll dice to give you a handful of skills that you have to feature in your adventure at some point. Focus a story element around the skill in some prominent way.

Sure, you could get the usual suspects, however over the course of several adventures you are bound to get skills to design for that will challenge your creativity.

For example: Animal Handling. Could this require a sort of cattle drive? Why would that be important?

How about Profession Sailor? Does the party have the task of stealing a ship from port and getting away with it? Would they have to be competent enough to convince onlookers they are the real crew?

Maybe the first two fit together somehow and they not only have to drive the cattle or whatever it is, they need to steal the ship to get the critters across a sea or down river. Are these things both for the same client or different clients?

Once I get back to writing adventures this is what I plan to experiment with.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fifth Edition Character Sheet

Having viewed the 5E character sheet over at EN World, I am slightly concerned. It is from the starter set, but nothing tells me whether the character info is basic or using options from the PHB. I sincerely hope this sheet shows use of optional rules in all of these areas.

Stuff that sticks out to me as questionable or negative:

Endless Second Winds as long as the fighter takes a complete short or long rest before using it again. If it were limited to a couple times a day and had the note that it requires someone to bandage your wounds, then it would be closer to the method I like.

Humans appear to start with Plus 1 to all Ability Scores. This means that other races that should stand out in some particular way are instead inferior in all but one measure. For example, Elves which are reputed to be graceful, agile, etc, are only a match for humans in that category instead of being renowned for these things.

An Ability score increase of +2 every 4 levels in one Ability. I disliked the plus 1 every 4 levels from the introduction of it in earlier editions and now it is plus 2. Why do crazy things like this when you're trying to make use of bounded accuracy?  It seems to me to be another version of power creep.

The XP table appears whacked. Maybe this is just one done for the sake of the starter set adventure so that it quickly gives people new to D&D a rapid taste of different levels. If not, then a fighter needing only 300 xp means to me that either the monsters and treasure are worth very little xp, or the game may go through multiple levels in a single 4 hour session. Also, the progression changes so that it becomes quicker to go from 4th to 5th than the character would if the math followed the pattern set in the first few levels. Using this xp table, I wonder if it is possible to play from level 1 to level 20 in a single day of play.

Action surges and bonus actions. Wow, someone suddenly became Quicksilver.

Under the fighter's proficiencies it lists some armor and weapons, and playing cards. Did they mean gambling with cards or cards used as weapons? Is the character now both Quicksilver and Bullseye combined?

If those and some other items are part of the basic game then I'll have some serious editing and house ruling to do.

The meh stuff:

Saving throws based on Ability scores (modifier plus proficiency bonus for two of them, modifier alone for the rest. I'm only slightly annoyed with this since it means reworking my rules for Wizards Identifying items instead of using a spell.

Chainmail seems to have a base armor value of plus 7. That is different from the plus 5 in recent editions. It also appears to mean an escalation in defense. Characters have always been able to get outrageous armor classes with a little finagling so why boost the base values? This one is more a curiosity than a concern.

On the positive side:

Maximum hit points for the character's hit die type, plus the character's CON modifier at first level. My groups have done that from way back in 1E.

The character sheet design is excellent. It is easy to find things like the modifiers and skills, something some players have a heck of a time with in the Castles and Crusades campaign I play in. Even with redesigned sheets, two of the players can't seem to locate things quickly enough. Part of the blame lays squarely on those players for not paying attention. Hopefully a sheet designed like the 5E sheet will even help them find most of the important stuff.

The Proficiency Bonus doesn't increase until 5th level, and this bodes well for bounded accuracy.

The more I look at the sheet, the more it seems that there have to be a bunch of optional rules at work here. If not then WotC have failed the test of trying to be all inclusive.

I'm certainly not opposed to creating house rules or including some of the optional rules, so having a cleaner basic game would be an excellent starting point. Hopefully we'll know more details in the coming weeks, and the basic game will be downloadable for free in July.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Project Morningstar - The 5E online tools

At Origins, Wizards revealed the online tool set for 5th edition D&D.

Called Project Morningstar for now, it appears to be quite well along in development, nearly ready for the release of the new game. Unlike the debacle of the 4E tools, this thing looks like WotC learned some important lessons. At no time do I recall hearing a promise for a grand set of online tools well before such a thing was in hand.

I'll spare repeating a lot of the details here since there is a pretty detailed batch of information and pictures over at ENWorld where I learned about it.

From the info and pictures it can obviously be used on various tablets so the old issue of Silverlight enabled only computers has been pushed into the dustbin.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gygax Magazine issue #4 - follow-up and brief review

Gygax Magazine issue 4 in hard copy is at least another month away. Apparently they ran into difficulties with printing and had to change printing companies. However, they did release the pdf copies to subscribers.

Having gone through some, but not all of issue 4, I can honestly say I will be renewing my subscription. This issue contains plenty of useful material.

Men and Monsters of Polynesia provides plenty of critters to populate encounters should you decide to have your PCs island hop their way to X1 - Isle of Dread.

Jinn takes a pretty decent look at the various types of genie and their hierarchy.

The Necromancer's Cookbook introduces a source for unusual enhanced skeletons and zombies to spice up the lower ranks of the undead. Since I already do things like this occasionally I welcomed seeing the thoughts of another DM.

Having played some Top Secret back in my early rpg days, it was good to see a Merle M. Rasmussen written adventure for that game system.

Leonard Lakofka gets granular with ranged weapon modifiers in his Leomunds Secure Shelter article.

Other articles I need to take time to read include Randomize Your Realm which looks promising for flavoring the economics and other attributes of the campaign world; Adventuring Without the Magic; Psionics Without the Points, which makes psionics another branch of spellcaster; an article by Ed Greenwood; Melee Masters; and the comics.

This one has me interested in reading everything in it, unlike the previous three issues. Issue 3 saw improvement over 1 & 2, and #4 seems to have hit the mark for me.

Almost forgot to mention the awesome cover by Den Beauvais, who way back in issues 83, 86, 89, and again later in issue 118, gave us 4 other chess themed covers. So here is the cover to Gygax Magazine #4:
And the others: