Saturday, September 28, 2013

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 28: Character you will never play again

A character in 4th edition.  I've played and ran a few times, one game in particular went from level 1-30 and after that I simply have no more desire to play another character again.  This goes back to the problem I have with the edition where an overwhelming sense of sameness, a lack of mechanical differentiation between classes and significant distinction between archetypes.  The degree of separation between a class or even an archetype was so minimal that after playing one striker I had no desire to play another striker.  Instead playing two completely different archetypes I soon realized that I was running in the same hamster wheel.  So while I appreciate the art direction, Death & Dying mechanics and some of the interesting ploys they had given monsters I'm afraid I have no desire to play a character in that edition again.

Friday, September 27, 2013

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 28: Future Characters

A designer at heart I don't think of playing a new character so to speak but in the future but whenever I see a new class or game system I am excited to give the class or archetype a try.  Rather than try to find a class to fit my concept I prefer to find a class and build a character concept around it.  Playing a new class is getting a chance to try another creative expression the designer advocated in their system and playing it is the best way to appreciate the strengths and flaws in their design.  It is also the best way to learn to improve upon your own design.  So I'll list a few classes that have piqued my interest but I have not gotten around to playing because nearly all my time is spent behind the screen.

OSR Retroclone
Labyrinth Lord AEC

Monk, just the simple fact that the monk can be quite capable with a melee weapon as he can be with his fists is very appealing to me.  As an avid lover of kungfu flicks I've never actually played a martial-artist but this particular rendition of the Monk would be where I start.  Out of all the editions this is my favorite version of the monk.

Of course the next OSR game I run will likely include Dyson's d12 Subclasses

Thursday, September 26, 2013

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 26: Favorite Non-Magic Item

The best 10GP I ever spent.
A small steel mirror.  What better way to detect vampires, peek around corners unnoticed and appear entirely dapper?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 25: Favorite Magical Item

Cloak of Displacement
Taken from one of the coolest of monsters the Displacer Cloak provides the same bonus this monstrous feline receives.  Your image is projected a few feet in another direction.  In game mechanics terms it usually equates to a 20/50% miss chance either via Percentiles or some nebulous dodge bonus.  I'm not a super big fan of that so I say let's spruce it up a bit.  The way I"ve always interpreted it is that you're image is projected a few feet in another direction and that you yourself are essentially invisible.  I've heard other interpretations which treat it similar to Mirror Image but we'll stick with the first for now.  Naturally anyone taking a wide swing will likely hit both you and your image, however a thrusting weapon is pretty much guaranteed to miss you.  Most 1-handed non-thrusting weapons do not move in wide sweeping arcs often without leaving one vulnerable so we can throw those in the miss category as well.  Until the foe figures out the illusion you are only hit by two-handed slashing &/or Impact weapons.  For those unfamiliar I've categorized all weapon types as either Impact, Thrusting or Slashing (The rules for these damage types as well as the rules for Wounds have changed drastically since then, I'll be putting that to paper soon).  Impact includes Maces, Hammers and even Axes.

As an avowed lover of Scarves the Displacer Cloak would make for a wonderful life saving red-scarf as well.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 24 Favorite Energ--Really?

I'm beginning to regret not looking at all the days before accepting this challenge.

R&D Update

Dev Diary:
Got plenty of playtesting done today.  Got a lot of experience working with Surprise Rounds, Flat-footed and Flanking and plenty of me forgetting attack bonuses for different weapons, a rather essential change from the last revision.  Fixed plenty of little nuances in game language that otherwise I would not have predicted without running head first into them during playtesting.  The biggest triumph has been a recent overhaul of the weapon type system which is speeding up combat and removing a few hard to remember effects which, while realistic, impeded the flow of play.  I'm satisfied with their more streamlined counterparts although more tweaking may be necessary.

I'm sincerely glad I've taken the modular approach and many layers of complexity can be removed without harm.  Running a few NPC's in addition to the hordes of enemies the player's face is a daunting challenge.  I get the impression that if you have only character to worry about the amount of depth is not overwhelming but we'll see with further play testing.  At the moment the game is very robust before taking on Class features or any sort of character customization.  It's shaping up to be something greater than I imagined.

Still further refinement and pruning is necessary, back to the old grindstone.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dark Souls: Spells and Atunement

This is where Dark Souls presents a very elegant solution to the 5 minute work day while still preserving the feel of Vancian magic.  Spells are attuned to slots, some spells are quite powerful and require 2 slots which is consistent with the description set by Mazirian and Turjan.  The number of slots you can hold is dictated by your attunement stat, a stat that exists purely for more slots and thus more chances to cast spells, it is a replacement for MP that its predecessor and a number of other games have used.  It should be noted that attunement slots can be used for any combination of sorceries (arcane), miracles (divine), or pyromancy (once more fire is given its own special place in the game). 

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 23 Least Favorite Monster

The Mummy is a classic horror monster.  Yet he is my least used monster in D&D.  I never find the Mummy to be particularly frightening in any way shape or form.  He's a slow moving fellow that you simply, well, outrun-or outwalk.  Now the recent Mummy movies starring Brendan Fraser were pretty good at making the Mummy a believable enemy but for the most part as a PC I simply can't find the idea of a group of mummys threatening.
Sure Mummy Rot is pretty lousy but, just don't get hit.  Just, walk around the barely ambulating set-piece.  I suppose the concept of the Mummy requires a location that allows him to tirelessly chase you down, with his near invulnerability to weapons.  The idea of being chased by a creature that can not be hurt is pretty frightening but I find the Mummy in D&D terms to be severely underwhelming in this regard.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 22: Favorite Monster Overall

My favorite monster is certainly a lesser known one.  As you may have guessed from previous entries regarding my bird-brained exploits in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by mutant birdmen I happen to enjoy crazy bird men.  The Aarakocra were right at the start of the AD&D monster manual and that is where they first caught my eye.  It's a wonder they are even in there, if you look at their ecology they try to avoid all human contact.  They are recluse and rarely leaving their hunting grounds.  That is what makes them perfect for any adventure, deep in the mountains where the PC's are lost, beaten battered and broken when they wander into a new civilization.  Formerly unknown to the world these creatures will allow them to nurse their wounds, perhaps even guide them through the treacherous passes.  Who knows, perhaps the PCs can help them with their Dragon problem as of late.

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 21 Favorite Dragon

Ever since I went wandering through the various Monster Manuals and Compendiums I always found the idea of Gem Dragons very intriguing.  They were alien, inscrutable and barely similar at all to their chromatic counterparts.  Most of all they were neutral, neither interfering goodies like the metallics or ruin-everything chromatics.  That's what I like in a Dragon, ancient, hard to grasp, does not deign to intercede but anyone that interferes in their domain will receive harsh punishment.  I'm not too keen on the Psionics angle, or that all Dragons are spellcasters for that matter but I can roll with it.  In fact, Dragon's mind stomping lesser races works out pretty well for a campaign that involves Giant Lizards sitting on thrones.
Sapphire Dragon by Brass Dragon

As many of my early campaigns involves wandering around the underdark and kicking the butt of numerous drow I rather admired the Sapphire Dragon.  They made their lair underground and had an extreme aversion towards the underdark denizens, even waging war on any that entered their domain.  As a young lad who read his fair share of DragonLance I decided that were I to ever partner up with a Dragon in my crusade against the never-ending onslaught of white haired spider kissers, it would be a Sapphire Dragon.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

30 Days of D&D Challenge: Catchup Day 15-20

 Lots of monster categories and favorites to go through.  The lack of Giant or Golem category is fairly disappointing as both of these iconic D&D monsters have plenty of variations to argue over.   Since I have another wedding this weekend I'll be posting Day 20 a day early as well.

Previous entries can be found here:

30 Days of D&D Challenge: Catchup Day 11-14

Ho boy have I fallen behind.  Turns out a transition between careers takes up quite a bit of time and September it seems is a month full of weddings.  Well, no time to tarry let's see how many days we can get through.

Day 11  Favorite Adventure You Have Ran
If we're talking stand alone module then look no further than my player's ongoing expeditions in the Temple of Elemental Evil.

If we're talking a single adventure not meant to be the focus of the campaign I can think of one in particular from Issue 108 of Paizo's Dungeon.  "30 Feet of Demonic Danger: Take on the Iron Satyr"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

30 Days of D&D Challenge: Day 10

Can be found here:

The Man Who Ate a Phoenix

In short, when I put the player in a situation after we returned from hiatus, the best solution he had was to sacrifice himself on the alter he was currently being sacrificed on.  Last minute flipping the bird payed off in stunning dividends and left me scrambling on how to handle this unexpected turn of events.  In the short term it decimated the fire cultist population and sent the leader hiding in his hole.  In the long term it meant the Earth Temple was going to seize this opportunity to wipe out fire for good.  Also in the short term, the PC's had some vengeful fire salamanders to deal with.

Monday, September 9, 2013

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 9: Favorite Character You Haven't Played

Day 8: Favorite Character You Have Played
Day 7: Favorite Edition
Day 6: Favorite Deity

When I was growing up I'd spent a lot of summers at my Aunt and Uncles house and a lot of time breaking in the Sega Genesis they picked up at a yard sale.  One of the games in the library was Phantasy Star III, Generations of Doom.  I've often hear it is the most hated of classic Phantasy Star games but I'm always been baffled as to why.  As a kid I loved it, playing the originally three today I still love it.  Nothing quite beats an opening where you the young prince has his bride to be stolen by a racist dragon.  The kidnapping mirrors history as you go on a quest to save her, find love and unravel the true story of your ancestors and lastly get married.  When you finally do, you play as your kids, and then their kids.  Generations of Doom.

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 8: Favorite Character You Have Played

The first character that comes to mind I'll be saving for the ninth day because I love that character but was not able to play him to his full potential.  So instead I'm going to talk about my bird-brained, intimidating, half-crazed, mana-spewing Kenku Tobias Fanuilh.

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 7: Favorite Edition

This is certainly a tough one, I started off with OD&D but missed most of the fun bits, races as class especially.  I spent most of my youth playing AD&D and has a fun romp of campaigns but I felt the rules were rather restrictive, although I was one player that didn't mind tithing.

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 6: Favorite Deity


D&D has done its fair share of poaching from mythologies all over the world.  My original Paladin was a servant of Torm, who in turn is a servant of Tyr.  I never thought much of Tyr back then but I greatly enjoy the legend now.  Courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, at one stage the gods decided to shackle the Fenris wolf (Fenrir), but the beast broke every chain they put upon him. Eventually they had the dwarves make them a magical ribbon called Gleipnir. It appeared to be only a silken ribbon but was made of six wondrous ingredients: the sound of a cat's footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, bear's sinews (meaning nerves, sensibility), fish's breath and bird's spittle. The creation of Gleipnir is said to be the reason why none of the above exist.  Fenrir sensed the gods' deceit and refused to be bound with it unless one of them put his hand in the wolf's mouth.
Tyr, known for his great wisdom and courage, agreed, and the other gods bound the wolf. After Fenrir had been bound by the gods, he struggled to try to break the rope. Fenrir could not break the ribbon and enraged, bit Tyr's right hand off. When the gods saw that Fenrir was bound they all rejoiced, except Tyr. Fenrir will remain bound until the day of Ragnarök. As a result of this deed, Tyr is called the "Leavings of the Wolf"; which is to be understood as a poetic kenning for glory. After a heartbreaking battle (of Ragnarök) Fenrir swallowed Odin the All-father, whole.
 A man willing to make sacrifices, a bold man whose strength is only superior to Thor and his son Magni.  Tyr is a mighty god who does not garner much spotlight.  It's a shame, his (Norse) origin is a lot more compelling than Ilmaters.  As for his D&D Origins, a man struck blind for questioning the Ur-God is a great lesson in Hubris, and his hand is conveniently bitten by a fancy wolf.  My last character before I was pulled into a newer edition was a reflavored Ruby Knight Vindicator dedicated to sentencing the Guilty.  Nothing quite like taking Dogma to an extreme.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 5: Favorite Dice

Day 1 Can be found here.
Day 2 Favorite Playable Race
Day 3 Favorite Playable Class

Day 4 Favorite Gameworld

My original set of dice will always hold the nostalgic edge.

Below are my favorite d8's on account of their peculiar shape as well as my favorite d6, given to me by a friend long, long ago in a campaign far away.

I have a dear friend's wedding this weekend so days 6-8 will likely be posted on Sunday.

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 4: Favorite Gameworld

Day 1 Can be found here.
Day 2 Favorite Playable Race

Day 3 Favorite Playable Class

Assuming we are discounting home-brewed settings then I will rely on the limited experience I have with published campaign settings. Dark Sun has always held a special appeal to me, very Science Fiction with my favorite dose of combat: gladiatorial.  My experienc is extremely limited so I am hesitant to call it a favorite.    Likewise with Greyhawk, while I adore the modules I've never felt an interconnecting atmosphere within it and a gameworld is more merely the content of its dungeons, as magnificent as they may be.  Dragonlance is a great setting for reading but I've never felt the need to play in it.

I've played a lot in the Forgotten Realms of Faerun and I've read quite a bit of pulp on it.  That said while the Baldur's Gate series does a fantastic job at making a memorable setting I've had nothing but trouble running it and playing in it.  I'm afraid it is a setting that is simply too fleshed out, there is little room to go without tripping over something already existent.

That said there is one particular exception to that, the frigid northern wastes.  The Iceland Dales.  Always holding a warm place in my heart (and an art style I adore) it brings about a yearning for exploration whenever I see the vast tracks of territory, mostly empty and full of frigid death.  Where the enemies hunt you in pack or break through the ice and chase you down.  The Frontier is my true calling.

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 3: Favorite Playable Class

Day 1 Can be found here.
Day 2 Favorite Playable Race
Day 4 Favorite Game World
Day 5 Favorite Dice

Paladin by H-Minus

As a kid he grew up with all manner of Arthurian Romances and its fair share of derivatives the Knight in Shining Armor archetype always appealed to me so it's no wonder that I always gravitated towards the Paladin.  My first Paladin was in AD&D, he was my third character period and I was ecstatic with my dice rolls because I was actually able to play a Paladin (my first two characters were not legible due to the 17 Cha requirement) and this bad boy was also my first character to roll an 18 (92!) in Strength.  Without a doubt the best I've ever done with 3d6 in order.  Of course I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into being a wee lad at the time.  Saving throws and healing myself were great, the experience requirements were awful though.  When my Paladin joined a larger campaign by the time I hit 10th level everyone else was 13 (multiclass) to 16.  Still without the mighty spells I wasn't quite the low man on the totem pole.  I was assassinated, resurrected (as I played another character), returned with a half finished holy avenger, plunged it into the deep heart of an elder black dragon and drew forth a blade bathed in holy white flames.

Then later, I fell.  I became akin unto a god, unintentionally of course, I drew my own worshipers and displeased my God.  My lack of humility did me in, and my blade shattered.  I soldiered on as a powerless fighter, I fulfilled my noble role without the blessing of a god and when it came time I defeated an anti-paladin as my companions routed his army.  With the black blade of his unholy avenger I forged a new blade of yin and yang to symbolize the new path I was on.

I had forgotten the scope of that campaign.  It was what got me hooked on D&D to begin with.

Paladin: Heroes of Might and Magic

My favorite rendition of the Paladin is in Third edition.  I can't speak much for pathfinder as I have limited experience but I do like the changes they've brought to the table filling the 18 or so dead levels.  Mostly though I like how the formula for Lay-On-Hands was altered as it gave my low level self the chance to spread the healing around.  No longer did I have to make a difficult roleplaying choice between spending my once a day healing on a bystander or saving the life of an ally.  The saving throw bonuses, lower spell casting access (although I still found the spells to be superfluous), and the smiting really added quite an arsenal to the Holy Knight.  Still that smiting lead to the my first encounter with the dreaded 'Lawful Stupid", I'm glad I never behaved in such a way but I understand the trepidation people place on the Paladin and his code after encountering one of those straightjacket stick-in-the-muds.

Monday, September 2, 2013

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 2

Day 2 Favorite Playable Race:
Day 1 Can be found here
Weretiger by koutanagamori

I've played Humans most of my career, I recall a fellow player she played the  Avariel (Winged Elf) race before which always seemed neat although the claustrophobia was annoying.  My personal favorite race was when I was recreating an D&D Ranger with a Tiger companion for a Third edition game.  I was using an article on the Wizards site written by Sean K. Reynolds entitled Savage Progressions.  The series of articles dealt with taking a High Level Adjustment / Hit Dice Race and breaking down it's abilities on a level by level basis.  So I was able to create a Level 1 Character for a 4th level campaign, and start as a WereTiger right off the bat.

Save Progressions: Lich and Weretiger Template Classes

30 Days of D&D Challenge Day 1

A new month, a new challenger approaches.  The originator of this challenge over at the "Polar Bear Dreams and Stranger Things" has proposed that for the new month we answer thirty questions, some quick, some not so quick about our experiences and favorites in D&D.  Sounds like a great idea!  Especially for someone who could use a good kick into gear and get back to blogging more often.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dark Souls: Recovery and Exploration

One thing I particularly enjoy about Dark & Demon's Souls is that they are under no obligation to explain how being impaled only lowers your HP by so much.  The characters are already dead, either as phantoms, hollow zombies or soulless bodies so physical punishment and pain are negligible.  That said I particularly like how Dark Souls handled healing and ditched the clumsy method in Demon's Souls.

Demon's Souls allowed you to heal by eating various kinds of lunar grass, each restoring a larger swath of HP.  Grazing took a very long time so doing so in combat could easily leave you open for some prime-time-skewering.  Grass was often hard to find early on but in some levels where delicious moon grass was overflowing you got to the point where your character could be permanently stocked and at full HP whenever he finishes a skirmish.  Sound familiar?  Sounds like a Wand of Cure Light Wounds (CLW) with plentiful charges to me.  The 4th edition of the worlds most popular roleplaying game decided to get around this by giving out personal healing surges (which also set a cap on how many potions one could quaff) and an extended rest that fully healed everyone.  In addition it introduced a milestone system that encouraged you to press on rather than full healing after every fight creating a 5 minute adventuring day.  Rife with flaws it did try to address the problem.  Dark Souls does this one better.  Allow me to explain.