Saturday, April 30, 2011

The mind wanders...

I love D&D, but oh how my mind wanders for other games.

My mind is going to wander a bit in this post so be warned. It could be a bit messy.

I know my home group would love to continue D&D or even have me run Star Wars again. Man! Star Wars would be the bomb to run, really it would. The catch, they do not sell it any more, oh I have all the books but I want to run something in the store.

One of those one shots to get the players to see there is more than just corn in Indiana kind of thing you know?

Why am I thinking of other things? Because last night I watched Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Episode 3. (it was very cool by the way... Universal Century is the best Gundam ever) This got me thinking about running a game called Mekton which had me thinking about the game Jovian Chronicles which originally used the Mekton II system and then switched to its own in house RPG system called Silhouette.

I have run it using both those systems plus the Mekton Zeta rules and to this day outside of my Star Wars games or my sandbox Paladium system Fantasy Drama game which destroyed friendships, this was the best game and probably the most fun I had as a game master. Seriously.

This picture did me in when I first saw it. Now granted it is from the W.E. (White Edition) book line following the Green Edition (which used the Mekton II rules) but the artwork sold me even more than the Green Edition manga look, plus it brought even more of a Gundam look with the ship designs looking better than just the block looking things from the original edition.

I ran a few different campaigns for different gaming groups, what I think was the best game happened with my group I currently call my home group. It ran for about 15 sessions and they were intense, and fun and really took the concept of anime gaming to a new level. During this time I was heavily influenced by Gundam Victory that I had gotten all the episodes of on VHS (yeah yeah I am dating myself)

I had all the soundtracks and I lived and breathed that show. Next to Zeta Gundam I think this takes the cake for the most secondary character deaths in a Gundam show that matters. (Ask me sometime I will tell you which Gundam shows matter and which don't)

Not only was a huge into Victory Gundam but I had the Model Graphix Gundam Sentinel books in my possession and that also influenced my exo-armor of the week upgrades I did in my game with the Prometheus Tetra which one of the guys did a mini for that I had seen at Gencon one year and I ran with it as the design I would use even before they made on in the Jovian Chronicles adventure book Chaos Principle.

Note: I still call that book cool but it got panned heavily and led to many changes in how Dream Pod 9 did books after that. If you think WotC makes knee jerk reactions, I think DP9 did not know how to handle Jovian at all following that.

All that being said it has me wanting to run a mecha campaign again.

Today the party was a group.

So our youngest player apologized for his actions that started the derailment of the adventure last week.  It happens, I am sure he feels better after doing so, the other members accepted the apology and we were right into the action.

Adventure Spoilers for The Slaying Stone

Quick recap, they are playing the adventure The Slaying Stone. I am adapting it to an overall plot that will have lasting effects across the Nentier Vale in my campaign. Last week after the missteps of our adventurers they managed to get into the town and began the search for the Slaying Stone. They went to the Library and managed to make an enemy there, but they did not find the stone.
They did turn up that a possible dragon had mad a mess in the worn out library but they soon forget that lesson. They enter the old temple and discover a noble named Kiris who is being hunted by a goblin named Triflik who shows up and a fight begins. The cleric in the group does not care for Kiris after his true form is revealed and when the fight is over they have a nice shiny new magical dagger.

From there they head to the old stables. They fight a pack of wolves and the Goblin from the library shows back up to tell them they have overdue books and attacks them but soon runs when the wolves get beaten and screams curses at them as he flees.

From there they realize they need to head to the Hot Springs where they parlay with the Dragon and they are tested to see how worthy they are. At this point in the adventure it is down to just three of them, the Cleric, Mage and Paladin as the Bard, Ranger and Druid were either not there today or had to leave early. I suddenly realized I had some unaligned players in my presence and this could spell some doom for them if they were not careful.

Luckily they were in awe of the Brass Dragon while still being able to flatter the Dragon and finally be allowed to take the slaying stone to get destroyed. Currently the Mage is controlling (is he?) the slaying stone. They are now trying to get the stone out of the town and back to the tower where it will be destroyed. Though one warning... the Dragon mentioned the man in red again.

So there were some real differences in the group today. Most notably was Throm's player, he went from having to be begged for healing to offering it up right away after the Paladin was hurt. They all planned out the tactics they wanted to use before hand things moved pretty smoothly.

Throm's player just impressed me a lot, this is not a praise a player piece because of last weeks fiasco. I could take the blame for some of that by simply not stopping it when I clearly could have. I am honestly impressed with the progression today of his abilities.

  • Healing when not pushed into it.
  • Taking a frontline approach to the fights (instead of hiding) after he saw how powerful he was with his combined attack. Both he and his Bear did about 36 damage to one Goblin. Enough to kill it outright.
  • Roleplaying. This is a big one, he usually is like. "come on guys lets get to the next encounters." today it was go with the flow and even participate in the roleplaying. Something I am impressed with in a 10 year old, I think we were doing that at his age but I am not quite sure but still an improvement over previous sessions.
    Truth be told, from him coming from Encounters where the roleplaying is watered down, the step up from that to a full blown campaign lets him and the rest shine a bit. Instead of 90 minutes of pure fighting they now get a few encounters in with some roleplaying sprinkled in.
  • taking suggestions and using them. This is at the group as a whole, they are not telling each other what to do so that the individual shines. It is a group effort.
Next week will see hopefully two more encounters and a bit of roleplaying before we take a week off because of a Memoir '44 tourney at the store. They have the slaying stone and a soul is needed to off set the cost.

Who is the man in the red armor? 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Raven lets this one live... for now.

The Raven Queen almost claimed another soul in her fight with Orcus and the other forces of Chaos this past Saturday in my weekly 4e Campaign at Fair Game. This was a tough one to run; the adventure got derailed really quick, with the player’s decisions forcing the flow of the game in a direction I had not anticipated. In my game I am blending some published material with homebrew ideas thrown in for the overall metaplot of the campaign

Normally when I run a game I do everything on the fly out and out of my head but this time I wanted it to be a bit different.

The youngest hero in the group is our Druid, who we shall call Throm. As with every Saturday, he shows up excited to play, what 10 year old would not be? He wants his character first thing, (I keep his so he does not lose it) next he wants a mini and then wants his Bear mini (he is playing a Sentinel in the game), something he has been psyched to play since he saw another player with an animal companion. I think there is this misconception on his part that the bear is all powerful and capable of doing a great many things.

Originally I had not wanted him to play a healer and a class with a companion because of his lack of knowing the rules, which I am fine with; it is my experience with him in D&D encounters and knowing that his playing the healer had me worried. He does not like to heal anyone but himself that had me worried. That worry has been justified as he calls for heals instead of healing himself, and wants his bear to do extraordinary things which are mostly flights of fancy but I have to keep saying no. Again not a problem there, I cannot speak for the group though.

The adventure I am running is "The Slaying Stone" and I started it last week, I had not expected Throm's player to show up today because I was told he would not be able to make it, so I had kind of half prepared for him not to be there. I knew one player was leaving the game after today (So sorry to see ya go) and I was getting a friend of the Bard in the group to join and they would be arriving late to the game. So lots of things going on and I wanted it to go out with a bang for our Rogue who was moving to Pittsburgh.

The party was overlooking the town of Kiris Dahn as they argued about the plan on how best to get into the town of Goblins and Kobold's. Throm's player kept saying things about just fighting and the "no's" kept being thrown out there. When it was learned he could speak Goblin they chose to include him in the plan but Throm had ideas of his own and that had him getting close to listen to a group of Goblins who had left the town on a scouting missing.

The more the party said no to him the louder he got, which finally made me say "Fine you go.” Now mind you the looks from the other three at the table made me laugh on the inside. (Really guys I laughed hard) Like I said after the game he has to learn that splitting the party is never good unless it fits the adventure, and at this slice of time it did not work for the adventure.

He makes it down the hill along the road and hides in a bush where the goblins do not see him, except for his Summoned Bear. The lead Goblin says "Look there! Dinner." and Throm pulls out his short bow and fires at the lead goblin. His shot goes wide and six goblins  (not one of them is a minion by the way), gang up on him and knock him unconscious just as the rest of the party makes it down the hill to see him fall.

The Paladin gets a hit in on one of the goblins and then the Mage lines up a scorching burst and along with hitting some of the goblins, kills our Druid. The poor kid got mad, and rightly so, I would have as well. As DM I could have stopped it but I am a let the dice fall where they may and in the end it is about having fun and not me telling them “NO” all the time, like letting Throm's player go out and get attacked, I let the Mage attack. I just did not expect to hear him say that if he survives this his guy was going to kill the mage (that is the influence of a kid on Wed night encounters)

When he started saying he might as well go home, I asked him if he wanted to leave, (awkward moment there) He put his hands to his face and put his head on the table. OK TIMEOUT... my intention was not to have him die or let him cry nor did I want him to do it at the table in front of the rest of the players. I needed to turn this into a learning experience for him. I took him around the corner and I asked him a few questions.

Q: Do you know what just happened in there?
A: I was burned to death
Q: No before that.
A: I was attacked by the Goblins
Q: Why were you attacked?
A: Because I ran off by myself.

Bingo. I wanted him to know there were consequences when doing things like that. NEVER SPLIT THE PARTY. I tried teaching them that in encounters when I was playing and just it never stuck, I think now after this experience it has. I told him that his character would still be alive after the combat, I was using my judgment as the DM to do this but after this there would be no more of it, of course I could always do it again especially if it is a mechanical thing that kills him off. I wonder how things went at home later that day. Will his Mom want to talk with me at the store on Wednesday night? Will he have an even greater aversion to getting hit in combat? Time will tell.

All I know is that when he started to say things like they needed to work together and that he learned his lesson I think he had learned something. He did have some funny comments later in the game about running for his second life and things like that. I did not let him have his animal companion bear back for the remainder of the session as a sort of penalty for bringing him back to life.

His character thinks his deity, Melora has saved him. To my players reading this, and much like I told him, Character Knowledge and Player Knowledge are two separate things. Just know this, the Raven Queen does not give a soul back without asking for something in return and it might not be a favor or quest, it might be a soul.

I know that when I was 12 I did not deal with the death of my first real and successful character named T'larn. I took it bad and I was a few years older than him. I looked back on that incident and used that experience for how I dealt with this situation.

How did you handle your first character death experience, and if you have not yet, can you handle it?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

My DM Kits: A look inside

So a while back I posted about my DM Kit and a small look at what was inside.

There have been some upgrades and demotions such as my Fortune Cards. Since I am not a player anymore at the store I have regulated this to my duffel bag-O-stuff. This gave me more room for more mini's both PC and NPC and Monsters.

This "kit" is always evolving but some of the core stays the same. Namely the books, I just wish the Heroes of Shadow book was in the essentials format because it would find its place in here. I do not know what I would boot to make it fit but it would probably be the DM Kit since I do not really use it while gaming.

Also in the kit is my Rook Card Holder (I miss that company at Gencon, they had the iconic big black bag people bought stuff from them and got this bag they walked the con with) and of course my trusty bag of dice, it is NOT a Crown Royal bag but it is a nice soft bag. Not one of those tough fabrics you would not want to use as a blanket much less a pillow case.

List of Books and items inside
I shared a link for creating a Character Deck already but one of the things I always liked but could never just pull the cash out to make that purchase at Gencon was the Alea Tools Magnetic Markers.

When I first saw these they were just a novelty item that I thought was cool but had no real use for me. One year my friend Neal and I were sitting in the RAM down at Gencon Indy and a few of the guys were talking about them and had some of the new proto-types for the now current versions of these.

It still was not enough for me to make that decision I mean they were going to release a new version soon so I would wait right? Well the following year I made my purchase and I have used them in both Star Wars Saga Edition and D&D 4th Edition.

They work wonders for me keeping track of Defender Aura's, mark's for the various classes and conditions such as my favorite Bloodied (my players might not like that condition but it keeps them on their toes) if you are looking for that cool add on just the red counters work well.

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    Kobold Hall

    The ruined hall known now as Kobold Hall is now vacant after it's long run as the home to various clans of Kobold's.

    My Saturday afternoon group at Fair Game in Downers Grove, IL completed this sample adventure today out of the original 4th Edition Dungeon Masters Guide, to a resounding success. I currently have a group of six players which will parse down to five when our resident rouge moves to Pittsburgh in a few weeks. He will be missed.

    I have hinted at the future for them, gave them a warning of the main villain (yes, the man in Red Armor) and have started them off on a modified version of the Slaying Stone. All of my players except for two come from Wednesday Night Encounters so I have come to expect certain things out of them, three of those four are in my actual group while the fourth is at what we call the kid table, (Which is not a bad thing it just happens to have all the kids under 14 there plus a few of the parents)

    One our first session a few weeks ago we managed to get 3 encounters and a lot of roleplaying done in 5 hours. I was impressed. The second week we got in one encounter in 3 hours and I find that unacceptable. This week in 4 hours we got in 2 encounters with a tiny amount of roleplaying. Now the first encounter was a level 3 white dragon so yeah it will take a while but the second encounter was with the wolves in the beginning of Slaying Stone and that was resolved very quickly when the Bard forced a wolf into the raging river and he was swept away.

    So I have six players, the first week I had four players, does that mean it gets slower with the more players you add? In some respects yes, but not with this group, we have a healer problem that will get worked out in the next session, I am going to make it work and get the slow parts ironed out. We have gone fast in the past we will go fast again soon.

    I am going to add in a few more house rules into the game to speed things up on my end.

    • All Burst and Blast spells will only have one damage roll, if a spell crits one of the targets that is max damage and you still roll the rest (naturally). I just had this pointed out that it is naturally this way, duh! I do not know why it would have been any different.
    • Inherent Bonus': All character will start with them.
    • Mage Spell Book: During Exploration I will allow on the fly spell changes as long as he has the spell on his sheet it is there to use. This is mostly because of those Skill swap spells. It just makes some sense to me and is not a game breaker.
     I am going to be needing a new rogue to join the party soon, I really do not want to give them a companion character but it might turn out that way soon. The Players Option: Book of Shadow book is in my hands and one player already is using some of it in the campaign. Rob if you are reading this there will be some fun things to explore for you, especially now that I have your background written up.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    A card for any game!

    A little warning. I go a bit off the cuff here and do a little cussing

    So the Shadowfell boxed set will be coming out in May and WotC posted a pic of the despair deck coming in the box and people started making comments on how D&D was turning into Magic with every release.

    I get real tired of people saying this and you want to know what? They probably have not played Fourth Edition at all, especially when I read comments like

    "4th edition is not a role-playing game... It's a board game with delusions of role-playing. Like the original D&D sprouted from the loins of miniatures gaming, it's almost as if it went full circle but somehow went too far. They should have just put it into a video game since it basically is one without the computer. Hack, slash, hack, slash, here's the plotline progression, hack, slash.

    If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and tastes like a duck, there's a 99.8% chance it's a duck. 4th ed, is not a real role-playing oriented game first and foermost; you really have to work it hard, where the older editions if you had a table map for combat it was bonus. Been playing for almost 30 years now, and it's merely my opinion, so YMMV."

    Sacrilege!! A card for D&D
    I call Shenanigans! I too have been playing for 30 years and I have NOT changed the way I run my games outside of adapting it to the rules system. You are the player fucking Role-play! Do the rules make it so that you can not? In my last post I talked about starting my new campaign at the local store, wanna know what we did for the first hour? Role-played and not a damn die was rolled. How the fuck do you explain that? This person will not be able to because they are stuck in that notion that D&D is a board game.

    Oh my god! It is a board game... I need paper, pencil, dice, maybe a map and some tokens and my imagination! Seriously I know a few people who have even run the game without map and mini/tokens and the game ran fine. Add cards though and people panic. First it is not the edition they like and second it adds something they hate, an element they view as coming from Magic the Gathering. So they go and make a stink about it. You are entitled to that opinion I just am sick of hearing about it. Seriously live with it all your bitching is not going to make it go away. Freedom of speech or no it will not go away until they make 5th edition for you to hate even more.

    I made this comment about the whole card thing.

    So the cards are a visual element to the rules. As a DM if I did not have them I would have to remember somehow that one of my players is suffering its effects, I could write that down and so could the player. In that time though to write it down I could just as easily throw that card at them and be done with it.

    Saying that it is getting to be like Magic is crazy talk when you do not need these cards to play the game, in magic cards are required, DnD it is YOUR choice.

    I will stand by that comment, if is your game run it how you like. If a DM ever told me I could not cut my power cards out (See: Creating a Character Deck) and use them as cards because this is D&D and not a card game I would politely object keep playing. I do not think any DM of 4e would ever tell me that but you never know with some people, it could happen.

    Again it is your game and you do not need to use the despair deck in your game. you could write down all the effects and just tell the players what happens to them and maybe put it on an index card for them but wait a tick!!! If you have the card why not just give it to them so you do not need to keep track of yet one more thing? It is there just for that reason a visual aid and speeds up play while adding another element that can enhance the game, it is not required though.

    Getting off my high horse now, sorry for the profanity laced through this post.

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    The Adventure Begins

    Today marked the beginning of my new campaign I am running at the game store where I help run D&D encounters. I had four players show up today, two are from encounters and two were new.

    The group consists of a Cleric, Mage, Thief and Knight. I let them pick how they knew each other after I read some intro text for the Nentier Vale and town of Fallcrest and they picked some cool ideas for story goals.

    The Cleric is an elf who wished to have been a druid but the path of the divine was his ultimate goal, he is uncomfortable around crowds and dislikes cities and towns. He seeks to rid the world of aberrant creatures. The Mage is a pyromancer who wishes to see the Imperishable Flame and believes he might imbue himself with a spark of its power somehow. The rouge wishes to rekindle the spirit of the nerathi people and set them on the path of rebuilding a new empire. The knight wishes to build up either a new town/city or help reshape an established city.

    I chose the Kobold Hall adventure from the DMG as the start for the campaign as it would help get them into the spirit of the game. In about 4 hours of play we did a lot of roleplaying in Fallcrest as they gathered some information on the Kobold attacks and were given quests to set them about on this adventure. In that time we got in three encounters and a two breaks all in all I think we got a lot accomplished in that time frame since I thought we might only get two encounters complete.

    For the first session I was happy with its pace and I think I can trim some more time out of setup by having my dungeon tiles ready to go. Next week we should see some more players with a one of this weeks players, the mage, missing from the game as he has family coming into town for the weekend. This should be interesting.

    I think if all goes well I will tie this into my Spring Dawning campaign.

    About Me

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    I am Regional Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region for D&D Adventurers League. Worked for Best Buy as a Project Team Specialist were I did store remodels, support Vendor displays and set merchandising standards for the stores in the Chicago market. He also enjoys playing games (PC, Console, Board Games, RPGs and Miniature Skirmish Games), reading, watching movies and listening to music.