Saturday, May 19, 2012

Unlimited Adventures - Limited Commitment

I should have my second weekly Google+ Hangout using the Tabletop Forge app game up and running in about two to three weeks.  This is the one where I run a system / setting for 2 to 3 weekly sessions, break for a week or two, and then come back with something different.  Story Arcs, if you will.  That is why I'm using the banner Unlimited Adventures - Limited Commitment.  Commit for 2 to 3 weeks, get to play a system / setting that interests you - maybe get a taste for the system's character advancement, combat, setting flavor, whatever -  and you're done.  For now...

Nothing keeps me (or another GM - I know of one or two others that may be interested in running games under this Unlimited Adventures - Limited Commitment method) from picking the storyline up later.  Heck, nothing prevents it from spinning off on it's own as a regular game.  The idea is this, we all own / want / have read / are interested in tons of games that we never get a chance to play - this is an attempt to fill part of that need.

I would make the following suggestions (which I hope to follow myself) for the games that would be run during these sessions:

1 - The game should be free to download OR have a free Quick Start available (for the players to have access to the basic rules) OR should be simple enough to run without the players having access to the rules.  Google+ Hangouts are damn close to a table top session in the living room, but since you can't pass the rulebook around in a Hangout, players should have access to (at the very least) a simplified version of the rules.

2 - If the game isn't free to own (as talked about in point 1 above), try to make sure your players already have access to copies of the rules.  Put it in the recruiting post.  They will thank your for it, and you will thank them.

3 - Pre-generated Characters are appropriate for most games run in this manner.  They are available in most Quick Starts.  It isn't a big deal if people choose the same character, especially if there aren't enough pregens to go around.  Oh, and let them rename them.  That is the first part of "owning" a character - the name.  Other character generation methods are usable, but it is suggested it gets handled before the first session.  Otherwise you are spending a good chunk of your 2 to 3 sessions building characters.

4 - Old School Gaming, Retro Clones and all the like are welcome under the Unlimited Adventures - Limited Commitment banner - I know I'd like to run / play in a Dungeon Crawl Classics game among others - Flailsnails is not in effect unless the DM states it before hand.  Other games are also more than welcome - Savage Worlds, Hollow Earth Expedition,  Solomon Kane, Traveller, Legend, etc, etc, etc ;)

Alright, that's pretty much it, at least for now.  Folks that are uncomfortable committing to a long term campaign have a chance to test the waters, folks interested in different game systems get to take them out for a test drive and everyone has a good time.  That's the most important part - the good time.

I will be putting a survey up here and on Google+ to get an idea of the games folks might like to play under the Unlimited Adventures - Limited Commitment banner.  Expect it in a day or so.  Anyone looking to join me in getting some games up and running, feel free to leave a comment here or email me at trubluniteATgmailDOTcom.

Remember:  More Games is More Gooder!  ;)

Games From the Basement - Cyberpunk 2020

I always like the idea of playing in a cyberpunk themed game.  Somewhere I have GURPS Cybertech(>) filed away, shadow run always seemed very cyberpunk to me, and obviously a game with the title Cyberpunk 2020 is going to be cyberpunkish.

Did I ever play it?  Nope

I always had a much more varied taste in RPGs than the rest of my gaming group did.  There are lots of games that I bought because I thought they would be cool to play.  This was one of them.

Teenagers From Outer Space I could understand them not wanting to play... Cyberpunk I thought would have hooked them in.  Ah well.

At least we had Rifts ;)

Edit -Forgot the Trivia Questions ;)

For those that want to play the AD&D 2e Trivia Game (rules are listed here), this post's questions are as follows:

Question 1 - For 3 points - Must a PC always undergo training before advancing to the next level? (please give a brief explanation of your answer)

Question 2 - For 4 points - Which type of halfling dwells in the mountains?

Question 3 - for 6 points - What are the four nonmagical ways of  detecting an invisible creature or character?

Good Luck :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Chris Perkins Posted Some Excellent Maps at the WotC Site

I was going to have the Grumpy Dwarf look at the Latest Rule of Three but there really isn't anything there worth talking about, let alone riffing on, so Grumpy will sit this one out.

That being said, there actually is a truly worthwhile post by Chris Perkins up at the WotC site, at least if you use battle maps for your gaming.  Heck, even if you don't, there are some decent dungeon maps that are screaming to be fleshed out with some Old School love.

Look at the above map.  I won't be able to flesh this out in time for tomorrow's game, but by the following session, this will be somewhere in the sandbox.

Make sure you download the linked file and not just the thumbnails on the screen.  Yes, I did that.

For those that want to play the AD&D 2e Trivia Game (rules are listed here), this post's questions are as follows:

Question 1 - for 2 points - True or False?  All spells permit a saving throw.

Question 2 - for 3 points - Who can be dual-classed characters?
                                        a) Only nonhuman races
                                        b) Only humans
                                        c) Members of any race
                                        d) Only NPCs

Question 3 - for 4 points - A warrior is busy battling some goblins hand-to-hand.  What must Farij the Priest do to cast a cure light wounds spell on his warrior friend?

Let's Play the AD&D 2nd Edition Trivia Game!

We used to play the shit out of this game back in the early 90's.  We never used anything but the trivia cards.  Speed and accuracy in your answers is what mattered.  So I'm going to run a game for fabulous prizes using the AD&D 2e Trivia Game!  Alright, maybe not fabulous, but they should be fairly nice in any case.

Prizes are One (1) $10 gift certificate to RPGNow for the point leader at the end of the game.

Additionally, there will be some PDFs of the Toys For the Sandbox series to give out randomly to all those that enter.  How many?  At least 5, maybe 10.

You entries for a random prize equals your points earned.  So if you have 11 points, you have 11 entries.  The winner of the gift certificate is not eligible for a random prize.

How to play:

I'm going to post questions from the Trivia Game at the end of this post (and at the end of other random posts) until the end of the month.  That means the game ends at the end of the day, May 31st, 2012.

I may post anywhere from 1 to 4 questions.

Each question has a base point value of 1 to 4 (the number will accompany the question)

Points are awarded as follows.

Each wrong answer before the right answer for that question is given - 1 point, maximum 4 points per set of questions.

First right answer per question - base point value (if you correctly answer all questions, you get full point value) - Note, If I got the question wrong when I read it, it's worth an extra point above and beyond if you get it right!

Each right answer that was previously answered correctly, 1 point per question, so long as one question remains to be answered correctly

Wrong or Right answers after all questions have been answered correctly - 1 point for each entrant for the comment in question (not 1 point per question)

Deleted comments will be treated as wrong answers and scored appropriately

One entry per person per set of questions.  First post for the entrant is the one that counts.

When I close a comment thread to additional entries, no more points can be earned from that set of questions

Let the Games Begin!

Question 1 - 2 Points -  If a fighter wants the best Armor Class rating, which of the following should he wear?

a - plate mail and shield
b - full plate armor
c - bronze plate mail and shield
d - banded mail and shield

Question 2 - 3 Points - Which has a longer range, a light crossbow or a longbow?

Question 3 - 5 Points (+1 Bonus)  How is a greater pegasus created?

Those are the questions - now get cracking!

Four Years Later and WotC Still Doesn't Have a Viable VTT

I've really been having a blast using the Tabletop Forge app in Google+ Hangouts to facilitate by online ACKS Campaign. With the D&D Next "Open" playtest kicking off next week, it got me thinking about the Virtual Table Top that WotC promised at the release of D&D 4e.

You remember. WotC released some mocked up, 3d styled images of their non-existant (at the time) VTT that included a dice image stolen directly from the Fantasy Grounds VTT. Smiteworks even hit WotC with a C&D over that back in June of '08.

Fast forward to November of 2010, and WotC opened the beta testing of their VTT to select members of their digital subscription. From what I recall, it looked nothing like the original mockup that was presented over 2 years prior.

Now we are 4 years after the announcement of the WotC Virtual Table Top and it still isnt done yet. It was announced with the release of D&D 4e, and the open play test of D&D 5e starts next week and we still don't have it.

It's a shame.

Not that I'm complaining. Tabletop Forge fills most of my needs, and it hasn't taken 4 years to get to that point.

Maybe WotC should crowdsource the design of their VTT just like they are doing with D&D Next. ;)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Grumpy Dwarf Chews The Chat - Mike Mearls D&D Next Chat Session (Part 2)

link to part 1 of the chat, with Grumpyisms ;)

Mearls: Next!

Jeremy Crawford:
My favorite new condition is intoxicated. ;)  (isn't it for most dwarves? ;)11:32
Comment From Mike 
How are we going to provide feedback on the open playtest?
Mearls: We'll have a series of surveys we're sending out  OMFG!  Enough with the fuckin' surveys!  Have you read the surveys at the WotC site Mike? 

Do you take potty breaks during your D&D Sessions?  YES ? NO?  

Should D&D sessions be shorted to eliminate the need for potty breaks?  YES?  NO?  MAY I FUCK A TURNIP?

I also think that we might have a dedicated forum on the site for discussion, but I think Trevor might now more about that. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for us to capture feedback, while also reaching as wide an audience as possible.  (wide audience = open playtest w/o NDA or sign up requirements)
Mearls: BTW, the surveys are being put together by the folks at WotC who do that for a living (shit!  that means the same asses that write them at the end of every post on the WotC site... sigh).

Mearls: Next!

Comment From The Mormegil 
I know your top one priority is making the game feel like D&D, but those of us who do not notice any distinctive feel in D&D (which may also be true of those hoping to find a D&D feel in the game) and would like to help too may need a direction for their efforts. What are you looking for in this playtest? What do you expect from it?

Jeremy Crawford: We also want to know whether the game is enjoyable for you, whether the rules make sense, and whether is evokes a swords-and-sorcery feel. (has D&D really been a Swords & Sorcery game by default?)

Mearls: There are two ways to look at it.

if you're a long-time D&D fan, the playtest should feel like you're coming home again. (long time 4e?  3e?  old school?  can you really accomplish that with such divergent expectations?) We want the rules to be easy to use, rulings simple to make, and the game to move at a good pace. All while feeling like D&D at its heart.  (how about feeling like D&D in its Soul?)
if you don't have a particular attachment to D&D or its specific feel, then the game should be fun to play, interesting to run, and an overall good fantasy RPG.

Our biggest goal is making sure that the core rules are easy to understand, easy to use, and fully functional.  (that should apply to any set of RPG rules)

Mearls: Next!

Comment From Tara 
What were some of the major changes from the last few days?  (did you all catch this in the first part of the chat?  major fucking changes the week before putting the play test in the public's hands!  that does not bode well)

Jeremy Crawford:

Mearls: Hmmm... is there anything we haven't changed in the past few days?

Jeremy Crawford:
One of my favorite changes from this week is adding more flavorful effects to some of the cantrips.

Mearls: I did a review of our weapon table, and I think the spear was the one weapon I didn't comment on. Probably the biggest things are rogue schemes (no idea what this is - must have missed something when i read the rogue write up) and cleric domains.

Jeremy Crawford:
Yeah, the rogue has really come into focus this week. (just in time for the playtest)
Mearls: Yes, cantrips that you use to attack are basically utility cantrips that have a way you can use them against creatures. The ignite cantrip lets you start fires, whether its lighting a torch or a goblin's butt. (of course, because as we know, every D&D game session needs fire and torture - and burning the goblin's ass covers both)
Mearls: Next!

Comment From Kamikaze Midget 
Can you tell us about anything you guys have discovered in focusing the game on the entire adventure, rather than on the individual encounter? (hasn't the focus usually been the entire adventure, or did that change with 4e?  wait, 4e has Encounters as an RPGA event.  never mind)

Jeremy Crawford:
The poor goblin and his butt.

Mearls: The biggest thing is making it OK for one character to own a particularly encounter. If the wizard casts sleep and KOs a group of six kobolds, that's OK. In the next encounter, the rogue might sneak up on the kobold shaman and gank him, or the fighter blocks a doorway and takes down a wave of attackers. Same goes for characters with good social abilities, and so on.  (wow.  you mean characters don't have to be balanced by the encounter, but but the adventure as a whole?  that's novel.  yes, i'm being sarcastic, as this is nothing new)

Mearls: It also means for a much faster game - characters contribute in each encounter, but we can let someone shine without feeling that everyone must have at least 4 or 5 turns to do their thing. (4e, they are talking to you kid!)

Jeremy Crawford: There is a tremendous amount of world texture that we can include when there isn't pressure to make everything count in every single combat encounter (my god but 4e must be a tedious fucking game). We can include character options that speak to social situations, exploration, traveling on the high seas, hopping into other planes of existence, and so on, without segregating those options into little buckets. (okay - I'll take your word for this jerry)

Mearls: It also means that "unbalanced" options are more viable. For instance, in one adventure the characters fought a gang of hobgoblins. One of the hobgobs was a beast master who used a whip and a prod to drive a pair of giant scorpions forward. The rogue sniped the beast master, so the scorpions turned around and had their revenge on the tribe. (but a wizard casting glitterspray and grease to take out the evil cleric is overpowered?  overpowered or just a bit of prejudice against spell casters?  which is it Mr Iron Heroes?)

Mearls: It ended the fight pretty quickly, but it made for a fun adventure. The characters ended up luring the scorpions into a room with a window, locking them in there while the rogue climbed out. (sounds like a little DM Fiat in use there.  not complaining, just remarking)
Mearls: Next!

Comment From Brian 
How do you plan on handling the discrepancy between the 4e-style spells for wizards/sorcerors (Powers) vs the older-style spells (A lot of very unique and varied spells)? Would both styles of play get along nicely in a game?

Jeremy Crawford:
Yes, they get along together very nicely. :) (glad you think so jerry)

Mearls: We have some potentially interesting ideas for the warlock vs. sorcerer vs. the wizard. I can't say much, but when you have two or three classes using arcane magic, you have room to maneuver. In 3e the warlock was sort of 4e-like, as was the binder. I think we can make room for both in a way that makes those classes unique and fun. (whatever... the real question is which method is used with the core class?)
Mearls: The great thing about classes is that you can have a spell slot system, a spell point system, and a power system all in the same game. (just so long as it's not in the same class)

Mearls: Next!

Comment From Somnambulant gamer 
Everyone's incredibly excited about this initial offering, do we know what kind of timeframe we're looking at for materials to generate new characters and a chance to see more of the core classes that will be released?

Jeremy Crawford:
Even in the playtest spells, you will see elements from classic spells and elements from powers.

Mearls: Let me check our schedule. It's on a white board on the other side of my desk... AFK

Jeremy Crawford: We plan to roll out character-customization options this summer.  (this will be the point where we do more than just kick the tires - this will be the true test drive)

Mearls: OK, if things go smoothly you'll have that stuff before the end of the summer. Keep in mind that feedback is a part of this, and it's all contingent on how much we need to change based on round 1.

Mearls: Next!

Jeremy Crawford: And we'll roll out other classes bit by bit. Since our focus is on collecting feedback, we are not going to release too much at once. We want to make sure each part of the game gets the love it deserves.

Comment From Andrew 
Can you comment on adventure pacing versus the wonder of magic? In 3e, PCs were often required to rest after the cleric/wizard were out of spells, regardless of the state of the rest of the party. In 4e, everyone can keep going until out of surges, but there was less "magical pizazz" across the classes -- a sword being a magic missile being a druid's claw.

Jeremy Crawford: We have been striving to connect pacing to concrete things in the game world: magical resources, such as spells; hit points; and various options that might rely on a character expending some of his or her vitality.  (point system code word?)
Mearls: That's a great question. We want magical to feel magical yet rooted in the world. The cantrip thing ties into this. Cantrips aren't specifically made to blast people, but a cantrip you use to create a small amount of acid as part of an alchemy experiment can also be a useful weapon. Spells should feel magical and maybe even mysterious in some way.  (this sounds intrguing.  i like it.  see, i'm not a total fucking grump)
Mearls: For instance, going back to cantrips, we specifically didn't want to just make a spell that was the same as a crossbow but it did fire damage. That sells magic short, IMO.

Mearls: Next!

Comment From Somnambulant gamer 
You mentioned all casters have at-will spell "options" now. Are these class features, or tied into the themes or backgrounds?

Jeremy Crawford: Both!  (huh?)
Jeremy Crawford: The cleric and the wizard get them, and some backgrounds and themes offer them.

Mearls: Yes, both. At-will spells come with classes. Rogues and fighters can opt into that if they want (wait, all classes can get "at will magic powers?  isn't this 4 e in just a new package?). I'd also like to at some point offer an option for a non-at-will magic game, but we received overwhelming feedback in favor of at-will magic. That feedback was largely edition independent. (largely independent of any edition prior to 3e perhaps? so mike, this is the game that will bring back the old school players, cause i dont see it)
Mearls: Next!

Comment From Preston 
What races will be in the play test? Do you see race or culture as being a driving force behind a characters mechanics?

Jeremy Crawford: Yeah, when playing a spellcaster, many people like to feel like a spellcaster all the time and not have to resort to a crossbow--or a dart! (huh?  oh, this is an answer to the previous question)
Jeremy Crawford: The classic four will be in the playtest: dwarf, elf, halfling, and human. (gnomes always get the short stick)

Mearls: Halfling, human, dwarf, and elf. We're actually doing a mix of race and culture with our approach. A high elf and a wood elf share some innately elf things, but also get some things distinct to their specific culture.  (again, no complaints with this approach)

Jeremy Crawford: Right out of the gate, you'll see the high elf, for instance.

Mearls: Next!

Comment From HustontheTodd 
What I love about 4e is the ease with which I can throw an encounter together. What can I expect from dndnext to make adventure building fun?

Jeremy Crawford: While Mike answers that, I'll say something else about race. A thing I love about our current approach is that you don't just pick your race, such as dwarf. You also pick what kind of dwarf you are.  (Hill, Mountain, Dueger?)

Mearls: 4e provides the standard we're using for DM tools and adventure building. My goal is to do a mix of basic D&D - which was fairly step-by-step - combined with 4e's approach, though focusing more on the adventure as a whole rather than encounters. We also know that DM experience plays a big role in how people approach adventure and campaign design, so we want to offer a lot of options including "roll lots of dice and randomly determine everything" to "do whatever you want."  (i'm not really sure what to make of this - mark this as a wait and see)

Mearls: Next!

Comment From RupertDnD 
Are Fighters getting cool stuff too, like powers or maneuvers?

Jeremy Crawford:
The fighter gets to carry my wizard's tea! (now that's fucking funny!)

Mearls: Right now, we're keeping the fighter fairly basic but giving you those options in feats. (wait, i thought you could only get feats in a kit - or whatever the hell they call them in 5e) However, the fighter does get a couple unique mechanics to make him different. This is definitely an area where we're looking at feedback, but so far people seemed more concerned with getting at-will magic that in making manuevers something all fighters automatically get.  (more about the at-will magic... sigh)
Mearls: And to be clear, right now if you spend a feat for maneuvers you're getting a whole suite of options to use, not just one thing. (so, it's not just kits then)

Mearls: Also, I don't think the first pregen fighter has maneuvers to start with.  (psych!!!)
Mearls: Next!

Jeremy Crawford: We're committed to giving fighter players interesting tactical options, but we also want to make it possible to play the simple basher. Feedback is usually split on wanting both types of fighter.

Comment From Jozh 
Prestige Classes/Paragon Paths? In or out?

Mearls: We're not sure yet. One of our next big tasks is to look at high level play and how things might evolve beyond class. If we do paths or prestige classes, we want to make sure that they fit into the overall Next system in an organic way, We don't want to just bolt them in.  (they just finished the 1st level pretest characters between last week and this week - i'd be afraid if they were thinking high level,as low levelisn't even set in sand yet)11:59
Mearls: OK, one more question then I have a lunch meeting.

Comment From EdofDoom 
Are there any obvious tanking mechanics in the new edition? Something that guarentees a wizard in the back doesn't get ganged up on by people running past the fighter?  (Ah, obligatory MMORPG question)
Jeremy Crawford: Our initial high-level playtests were a hoot and included elements similar to paragon paths / prestige classes, but we're still exploring options.

Jeremy Crawford: There are definitely ways for one character to protect another. We have a whole theme dedicated to the concept, in fact, but you won't see a tank per se in the first batch of five characters.  (and depending on the feedback, that theme may be invalidated.  please call back later)

Mearls: There are two things. First, creatures grant cover. So, cowering behind people is a good idea. (now that's heroic gameplay for ya!) That said, the basic option for that rests in a theme right now. My feeling on tanks is that it's best if a player wants to do that, rather than saying an entire swatch of characters are assigned that when a player might want to be a fighter to be good in combat.

I'd rather it be clear that a player has taken a theme to do that and is getting into it because that's what the player enjoys doing in D&D.
Mearls: Thanks for the questions, everyone. This was a lot of fun. I've asked Trevor to capture the questions we couldn't get to so we can cover them before the playtest launches.  (they sure as hell wont be answering any of mine)12:02
Jeremy Crawford:
Yes, thank you, everyone!
Trevor: Alright, that wraps things up for the Q&A! Thanks everyone for all the great questions. We weren't able to get to them all, but as Mike mentioned, we will be trying to answer as many as we can in future articles and conversations.

Closing the Circle on Some Lapsed Gamers

In two days I'll be running the third session of my ACKS campaign. I know it's hitting the right buttons as I'm able to visualize the encounters in my mind's eye just like I would with a good book. And like a good book, the characters seem alive and constantly surprise me. The blessing of a good group of role players at my virtual table.

I find it interesting and exciting that members of my old face to face RPG group have been following the relevant postings on this blog.

The group itself switched to MMORPGs like Everquest, DDO, Warhammer and Star Wars as the years past, and even has added a pair of Texans and a Washingtonian to what is now a multilayered gaming group. One thing in common? Everyone cut their teeth on D&D.

I think I might be able to drag them away from the latest Star Wars MMORPG one friday night and show them the fine wonders of gaming via Google+ or one of the other fine VTTs out there.

I just know that for me, Everquest and the rest just don't hold a candle to true role playing.

I'll see if I can return a few lapsed gamers into the fold ;)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Grumpy Dwarf Chews The Chat - Mike Mearls D&D Next Chat Session (Part 1)

This is a long chat to chew.  I may have to break this into two separate parts.  Lets see how much actual meat there is as I chew the fat ;)

Original chat is here

Trevor: I've just opened the chat so people should be making their way in now. Once we're about to start, I'll do another couple announcements.

Trevor: Hah! You're all awesome with your questions, but we haven't started quite yet. You can keep them coming in, just know that we'll be starting this party in about five to ten minutes.

Trevor: For a few of you asking about a transcript - yes, the contents of this chat will be available on the site after we're done.

Mearls: Hello world. (Hello Nurse!)

Trevor: There's Mike Mearls, one of the stars of the show!

Mearls: Jeremy Crawford will be a little late. We just finished up a meeting on the playtest packet.

Trevor: You want to regale us with any playtest tidbits while we wait for him, Mike?

Mearls: Hmmm... let's see. I've been DMing mostly, and the rules have changed a lot over the past few days (this is a very scary statement.  if they've changed a lot over the last few days, we can probably roll back that 20% complete number they were throwing around the other week). Probably the funniest thing was guest starring as a librarian in a playtest game at DDXP. (k, color me clueless on this remark) Also, I got to test the DR (damage resistance?  difficulty rating?  dead rat rules?) rules when the players had to cut open a dead wererat's stomach to find a gem it had swallowed. That was not how I expected to test those rules.

Mearls: Trevor, you can go ahead with questions. Jeremy will be here shortly, and I can defer to him as needed.

Trevor: Alright, lets get the intro blurb in there and get started then.

Trevor: Welcome everyone to the Q&A for the next iteration of D&D and the upcoming playtest! I'm Trevor Kidd, Community Manager for Wizards and D&D and I'll be facilitating the chat. Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford from the D&D design and development teams will be fielding Your questions.

Jeremy Crawford: Hello, everyone!

Trevor: This is a moderated chat, which means every comment or question you make is seen on our end of things, but you won't see it until we publish it to the room for Mike and/or Jeremy to talk about. With all that said, let me get out of the way and let Mike and Jeremy introduce themselves and say a few words. After that, we'll start fielding your questions!

Trevor: And there we have Jeremy!

Trevor: Alright - I'll leave the floor to you two. When you're done with introductions let me know and I'll get on to the questions.

Mearls: I'm Mike Mearls and I'm the senior manager for the D&D team. My job is to oversee the development of the game and make sure all the teams work together.

Jeremy Crawford: And I'm Jeremy Crawford, head of editing and development for D&D products. (well, at least we know who Jeremy is now)

Mearls: I also pitch in as needed to get work done. For instance, my other open window has the rules text for rituals, though those won't be in the initial playtest. (because 1st level characters wouldn't be casting rituals.  at least, i hope they wont)
Jeremy Crawford: I do enjoy trying to get Mike to work as a writer still. :)

Mearls: I think we're ready for questions.

Trevor: To cover a lot of very basic questions out there, can you remind us when the playtest starts and give us a little information about what people can expect from this first playtest packet?

Mearls: The playtests starts on the 24th. That's next Thursday. Which is much sooner than it seems. Much, much sooner.  (yep, assuming there isnt an NDA on this playtest, it should make for some very interesting discussion)
Jeremy Crawford: Here's what to expect in the packet . . .

Jeremy Crawford: Five pregenerated characters (all right - first thing of note - they are blanacing for parties of 5 - if you have 6 or more players in your group and you want to playtest, you'll need to double up)
Jeremy Crawford: The Caves of Chaos adventure (that's the same that was run at D&D Experience - it was in all of the ENWorld photos posted - well, some of the photos - sigh - whatever)
Jeremy Crawford: A bestiary to accompany the adventure (this could be cool - will be interesting to see the fluff / crunch ratio)

Jeremy Crawford: And rules of play, both for players and DMs

Mearls: We're doing two clerics to test the range of the domain/deity system.

Jeremy Crawford: One of the clerics is more of an armor-and-mace fellow, and the other is more of a mystic (i would expect the mystic to be more squishy - it will be interesting to see how they can balance the two)
Jeremy Crawford: The five characters will feature the background and theme system that we've alluded to in the past few months.  (break out those AD&D 2e Complete Handbooks if you want a preview ;)
Mearls: Next question!  (why do I hear Frau Blucker's voice? ;)
Trevor: Another very popular set of questions from many in the room: Who can play in the playtest, and how are we going to distribute the playtest information to people?

Jeremy Crawford: We hope everyone will play! (we also hope everyone will PAY when the time comes...)

Mearls: The playtest is open to anyone who signs up, and the information will be available digitally. As part of signing up, there will be an online playtest agreement (is this an NDA?  my googlefu is weak, and i can find no info on an online playtest agreement for Dungeon Command) similar to the one we used for Dungeon Command last year.

Mearls: Next question!

Comment From monstermanual
What level of complexity will we see in the first wave playtest PCs, and what options will we have to adjust them to our taste?

Jeremy Crawford: There will be a range of complexity, from a relatively straightforward fighter to a class wizard. (k, this is the first "true" bullshit answer.  this question was asking about complexity within the classes - the 0e feel playing with the 3e feel playing with the 4e feel.  Jeremy, your answer fails)

Jeremy Crawford: By "class" I mean "classic". :)

Mearls: Character customization will come in a bit later. To start with, we're focusing on the core system. (as originally presented, the most important part of the D&D Next system was the ability to adjust the complexity of the character classes to play "your edition" to some extent.  I thought that was "the core".  Guess not.  Now I know why my question asking if they were backing off the idea of evoking different editions in the core system was never presented - well, that and i asked one question as Erik Tenkar and one as The Grumpy Dwarf.  I probably should have used D&DNext4Ever as my handle ;)
Jeremy Crawford: We will roll out adjustment options in the next few months. For now, we'd like people to play with the pregens.

Comment From OngoingDamage
How different will the 5/24 playtest materials be from what we saw at PAX East? Did any of the PAX East playtest feedback get incorporated into the current version?

Jeremy Crawford: There will be many differences, both in the core mechanics and in the characters. 

Mearls: Yes, we incorporated that feedback. The playtest will look fairly different in terms of characters. Mostly, things will look a little simpler for DMs. The classes, themes, and backgrounds are a little better organized, and we've done some work in figuring out what parts of a character sit where. (themes and backgrounds sound redundant, but maybe that's just me)
Comment From shamsael
How much can we expect the rules to change from the start of public playtesting to final release? To put it differently, how much of the system at this point is set in stone and how much is free to be tweaked or rewritten at this point?

Mearls: Probably the biggest change is in the mechanic for advantage and disadvantage. We've also have done a lot to the cleric, fleshing out domains and making those a bigger part of the class that changes a lot of stuff. (we've seen mike's thoughts on the cleric - he may as well be a eunuch if mike gets his way - unless the domains add back more than enough o make up for the snipping that make already planned for the poor schmucks).

Jeremy Crawford: An example change: Spellcasters all have at-will spell options now. (yeah, that works for all editions prior to 4e - NOT!)

Mearls: Nothing is set in stone. Since we're starting simple, we can make huge changes without massively reworking tons of text. We're taking it slowly precisely because we expect to release rules, incorporate feedback, than use that to drive the next wave of material.  (game design by the opinion of the masses.)

Mearls: Next question!

Comment From John Sussenberger
Will we be able to run play tests in public locations, such as a game store or convention?

Jeremy Crawford: Addressing the previous question: The only things we won't budge on are the things set in D&D's stone, such as using the d20 or that the game contains wizards. :)

Mearls: I believe we're working on that option now. Right now, for the playtest each person taking part should sign up. We're working on something right now that will allow cons and stores to run stuff. (if you have to sign up, and can't play without signing up, you are obviously signing away something.  whether it is the right to talk about aspect of the game, or your right to any ideas you give back to them in feedback, you are signing something away.  i'm interested more in the agreement than the rules at this point)

Mearls: Next!

Comment From Gerardo
Hi, thanks for making this live chat. (hey, I know who asked this!  how did an actual question get past the screener? ;) I've been following the character class design post and I'm intrigued to know how you measure balance. How do you know a class is balanced or not? Some number or value attached to powers that you add up and say OK it's good, or is it more a gut feeling based on the designers experience and playtest feedback?

Jeremy Crawford: It's a mix of math, playtest feedback, and a dash of intuition.  (Voodoo, Tarot Cards and some tea leaves)11:21
Mearls: It's a combination of the two. D&D covers so much ground, that we can balance stuff based on combat without actually balancing anything for a specific campaign. We're looking at each area of the game - combat, exploration, interaction - and making sure that characters can contribute in each area. It's maybe 50/50 art and science.  (and 100% bullshit.  good question, pretty worthless answer)
Mearls: Feedback will be the biggest, important factor for us.

Mearls: next question

Comment From The Mormegil
Can you tell us more about movement and positioning in D&D Next? What will it look like?What about attacks of opportunity? What are your thoughts about interrupts and other out-of-turn actions?

Jeremy Crawford: That's a Russian nesting doll of questions!

Jeremy Crawford: Mike and I are conferring . . . (dude, did we even get to this in the rules yet?)11:24
Jeremy Crawford: Our desks are next to each other, so we're chatting at the same time.

Jeremy Crawford: The simple stuff first: Attacks of opportunity are not in this playtest, but the system does have rules that point to the peril of making ranged attacks in melee, for instance. (what does ranged attacks have to do with attacks of opportunity?)

Mearls: Ha! Jeremy will love this question. I'm really not a fan of giving people extra turns in addition to their own turn. I think it really slows the game down. For movement and positioning, the goal is to focus more on terrain and interesting things to move to and around, rather than flanking and such.  (interesting things to move to and around?  what the hell is he talking about?)

There are off-turn actions in the game, but the philosophy now is to have them eat into your turn or have something you have to set up (sounds like a blast mike - please, tell us more). For instance, instead of everyone automatically getting opportunity attacks, a character might need to take a feat or choose an ability that basically says, "If you make a melee attack on your turn, you get one opportunity attack for the next round." (but wouldn't you have a normal attack on the next round anyway?  basically, you can retreat in most circumstances without any risk now.  hell, i was giving AOO to players and monsters when I ran AD&D 1e and 2e.  is it really that unbalancing if both sides get it?  as for increasing the length of combat, i just don't see it.  roll a fucking d20 and if you hit roll damage - what is that?  30 to 60 seconds?)

A rogue might have this - you can move away from an enemy that moves next to you, but you lose your move on your next turn. (which means the enemy moves next to you next turn and you can do nothing?  or you can still attack, but you cant move.  seems more trouble than it is worth)
Comment From Arbanax 
Can I ask how Monsters will be handled in terms of stat blocks and information, the off table help and fluff and the at table crunch?

Jeremy Crawford: In this playtest, you'll see shortened stat blocks in the adventure, and then full stat blocks in the bestiary.  (that's they way it should be.  i can think of a new OSR styled publishing company that should follow this)

Jeremy Crawford: The bestiary includes both mechanical information and lore.  (okay, this actually sounds pretty cool)11:27
Jeremy Crawford: What you'll see is just a starting point. We expect the stat block format and the lore information to evolve quite a bit in response to playtesting.

Jeremy Crawford: Next question!

Comment From Jools 
I'd love to know what your thoughts are on conditions in 5e. Something spoilery would be nice!

Jeremy Crawford:
We've been discussing conditions quite a bit lately. They're certainly in the game. I'll be revising them this afternoon, in fact. (now that's a non-answer)

Jeremy Crawford: We're fans of conditions that make sense both as game mechanics and as something in the world. Prone, for example, is a useful game concept, and it matches what's going in the story. You're knocked on your butt! (i thought most conditions matched something in the real world, or did 4e change that?)
Mearls: We're trying to keep the list of conditions slim and make it apply to things that are obvious changes in the world. For instance, right now invisible and ethereal are on the list of conditions. We also added intoxicated. Basically, what are things that when they happen to you have a clear effect on how you interact with the world?

here's another thing - with stuff like paralyzed, we're dealing more in describing what happens rather than trying to make everything mechanical. So paralyzed says that you can' t move your limbs. Spellcasting specifies that you need to move your arms to cast a spell. Thus, a paralyzed creature can't cast spells.

The idea is that we give the DM clear mechanics, but also make it clear what's happening in the world so the DM can make any judgment calls as needed. (I like the idea of DM judgement calls.  Lots of 4e players will not like this idea.  As I've seen little OSR / Old School sensibility in 5e so far, this is mildly reassuring)

Alright, that the end of part 1 - i'll get to part 2 tomorrow.  there's just so much this Grumpy Dwarf can stomach at one time!

Showing a Little More Sand in the Campaign

I suspect that my players will wrap up the current adventure this Saturday. They've already accomplished much of the current scenario and have indicated a desire to move up the game's start time - as 4 hrs of gaming was a hard place to stop last week. The next session will last as long as it needs to last I suspect.

So, afterwards, it will be time to lift the curtain, so to speak, and allow my players to explore more than just the initial surroundings of their starting town.

Initially, my plan was to use Christian's HEX 000 Series as is, but I think it will serve my purposes better to break the hexes up and use them where I need them. Christian's decision to draw the series to a close with the 7th installment made it an easier decision to make, as I want an opportunity to use all of the quirky stuff he's included so far. Breaking them up will allow me to do so.

I've been going through the Toys For the Sandbox series to see which ones fit my view of the setting I'm using.

To some extent I feel a bit like the painter Bob Ross - "Maybe some pacifist Kobolds live over here. Time to use some Magic White." Not that I have pacifist kobolds planned for any of the hexes. Really. Cross my heart.

I'd like to say AD&D 2e's Deck of Encounters rounds things out, and it will definitely find use, but I need more.

Megadungeons? Check

Mini-Dungeons? Check

Some Tombs? Check

Rumors and seeds? Planting in progress.

Still, I'm always open to more resources. Because more is better, and even stuff I don't use immediately or directly still gets to bounce around my head (Tome of Adventure, I'm talking to you!)

So, any indispensable resources for a nice sandbox styled campaign I might be missing?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mini Review - Toys For the Sandbox - The Abandoned Mine (OSR Generic)

I'm simply amazed that The Abandoned Mine is the 19th release in the Toys For the Sandbox release.  There's a few reasons for that amazement.  Let me count the ways:

I'm amazed that the series has hit 19 issues, as I've missed the last few between The Grumpy Dwarf riffing on D&D 5e and my own preparations for my recently kicked off ACKS campaign.

I'm also amazed that Quinn Conklin can keep on coming up with new and interesting locations and events, let alone 6 hooks or possibilities and 3 twists for each one.  That's one hell of a lot of creative juice.  Do each of the 18 combinations work for me?  No, but each release has had several possible combinations that got my mind going in many different directions on how to flesh them out.  This issue is no exception.

I'm also amazed that we've now reached the point where it's 10 pages of brain storming goodness.  The first release was a mere 4 pages.

The backstory of the Abandoned Mine is excellent, as is the main hook.  Uncovering an ancient evil and the various possible effects set up most of the hooks.  In theory, you could even use more than one hook to set this up and really reinforce the backstory that is given.

I already know where this is being placed in my sandbox.  I'll be changing the type of valuable being mined to fit my setting, but that is mere window dressing.  There is a lot of "meat and potatoes" to be found in The Abandoned Mine, and I think I can squeeze at least two uses other than the main one.  I really love the options available.

NPCs are nicely detailed, even more so than usual, as the extra page count allows for the extra detail.  A Rumor Table and an Encounter Table round out the current release.  Wait, I forgot the section on items.  Nice.  Cursed.  Different.

All is not prefect.  I like the map, and as it is a mine map, it is shown vertically, which is a nice change.  Regretfully, due to the needs to fit the map properly on the page (I'm guessing but I'm pretty sure none the less), the map is 90 degrees off kilter.  I can't turn my monitor 90 degrees, so I'll need to print this one out. I was probably going to do so when using this in game anyway ;)

Also, the price has increased to $1.99.  It's still an excellent value for the investment and the extra page length is definitely put to good use.

Edit:  Did I mention it comes in both print friendly and regular versions in the same package?  Course not! I forgot since it's new.  Oh, and very handy.

Another Edit:  It also comes with a coupon for a free copy of Toys For the Sandbox #5 - The Secret Library (I failed to pay attention as I already have #5)

From the blurb:

Toys for the Sandbox is not a module, it is not a campaign setting, instead it is a framework for GMs to use to reinforce their own imaginations. Sometimes players zig when you expect them to zag, other times they take your plot point into a back alley and leave it penniless and bleeding. Each week we present a new location with a map and some flavor text. In addition we add 4 NPCs with a bit of history and a few simple thoughts on how to stat them for whatever game you are playing. There are also 6 plot hooks each with 3 ways to twist them. Added to that there is usually a table or two filled with rumors and encounters.

This week we delve into an abandoned mine that used to be owned by a pair of second generation adventurers. We have awakened evil, strange singing, blood cults, and more precious stones then you will know what to do with. Come to the Abandoned Mines for the treasure, stay for the Dragon God.

Mike Mearls Live Chat 1100 - 1200 PDT May 16 (Tomorrow)

Yep, Mike Mearls and Some Other Guy are going to be having a chat about D&D Next and the upcoming play test tomorrow, May 16 from 1100 am to 1200 pm in a chat format with moderated questions.

Now, as the hours are such that most folks gainfully employed are working, I suspect the Q&A isn't so much intended to elicit true questions about the direction of the game, but more likely it will turn into a sort of posted FAQ for the play test after the fact.

Do I think that most of the questions will be from "ringers"?  Yes.  Or at the very least, the only questions that will make it through moderation will be "ringer" type questions.  But hey, I'm working during the chat, so I'll never get to ask MY questions:

Are you no longer attempting to design a game that can evoke the play styles of all the D&D Editions prior to D&D Next?

Since when are a first level and a second level Magic User spell considered "high level"?

Is "The Lazer Cleric" the reason you redesigned the cleric to be damn near useless?  Wouldn't it have been easier to just design the rules to prevent a "Lazer Cleric" repeat instead of nerfing the entire class?

What is your real issue with Turn Undead?

Why did Monte REALLY leave?

and of course:  Mike, who do you have in the 2012 WotC Christmas Termination Pool?

What are your questions? ;)

Is DnD 5e Retreating From Its Goal of Encompassing All Editions Feel in One Set of Rules?

I'm still a bit confused by Mike Mearls' latest article about Wizards in 5e.

I thought the plan was to have a Vancian styled wizard with minor at will powers like a bolt of force (so the wizard isn't useless when his memorized spells are spend - L&L Column from 2/27). Or maybe if he has a different specialty, he might instead get something like Tenser's Floating Disk as an at will.

Now it seems like the at will powers are being bumped up, and the vancian styled spells are getting throttled back.

It and of itself, not a big deal. It's a new edition, I expect change. However, it doesn't fit the initially stated goal of one system allowing for play of the different editions, at least in feel.

I'll make an uniformed guess that the release of the public beta play test rules for D&D 5e at the end of this month will also indicate a change of direction for 5e.

There will be less of an emphasis of trying to squeeze nearly 40 years of previous D&D gameplay experience and expectations into one core rule set. It's an impossible goal if you ask me, and one that has been holding the design team back.

Not that I expect 5e to be a game I will want to play. I've seen very little in Mike's articles that describe a game that fills my desires.

That being said, I have little desire to play Pathfinder (although I would play PF Basic Box in a second - it is really good) but it is the most successful game out there right now.

I am most likely not the audience that WotC needs to target for a successful 5e. Now the question becomes - can they actually design a successful 5e?

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Grumpy Dwarf Remarks on Mike Mearls' Attempt to Balance the Wizard in 5e

 Mike's doing it again.  Fixing problems that don't exists, or maybe do exist, but not to the extent that he believes.  Still, game designers must tilt windmills at times, and Mike is good at such.  Let's look at his latest, shall we?

You can read the original here.

Over the past few weeks, I've talked about the design goals for the core classes in D&D (yep, and each article has moved away from the initial design goals that were stated for D&D Doppleganger, the game that is all editions, all the time). This week, it's the wizard's turn. I'm going to do something a little different, though. The wizard's design goals are different from the other three classes (so, was it a useless poll that made the wizard the last to be looked at, or the fact that he's being treated different than the other three core classes?). The issue we see with this class isn't that it needs clarity on what it does. After all, it's fairly obvious that wizards cast arcane spells. The challenge lies in making sure that wizards don't grow too powerful as they level (this seems like an argument on par with that of Lazer Clerics.  Is it a problem with the class, or a problem with the game, or not a  problem at all?) In many campaigns, a caster can use the right combination of spells and magic items to become more powerful than the rest of the group combined. Needless to say, that's not a situation that most DMs or players enjoy (I think they doth protest too much, but we shall see.)

First of all, the concept of caster dominance is something that we must approach carefully. Many gaming groups simply don't see the problem (wow!  i'll give Mike credit for this statement). For instance, I've played in groups where the wizard took some of the most popular spells—fireball, lightning bolt, magic missile—and the character never stood out as overly powerful. Sure the wizard could blast a bunch of monsters, but he or she needed the rest of the party to keep him around. (yes, because the wizzie is all offense and little or no defense.  he goes "squish!" really easy)

Second, caster dominance shows up at high levels. In my experience, it comes to the fore when a caster has enough spells to unleash powerful combinations. For instance, I remember turning what was supposed to be a deadly fight in 3E against an iron golem into a cakewalk simply by throwing grease and glitterdust (okay, this is a bizarre pair of spells to use as an example - grease is a level 1 spell, glitterdust is a level 2 spell - so a 3rd level Wizard is high level?  Can you blind a Golem?  It has to fail 2 saves for this uber effect to take effect to happen.  Two rounds of casting.  This is over powered how?) at the thing. I've seen similar things happen in 4E. The first spell creates a zone that creatures can't escape, the second one creates another zone that damages or shuts down creatures trapped within the zone. (again, two saves need to be failed for this to happen.  each creature gets two saves.  this is not automatic.  Mike, enjoying the windmill yet?)

Any approach we take to reducing caster dominance must first start by making sure that gaming groups that don't see it as an issue aren't burdened by complex new rules, arbitrary restrictions, or seemingly pointless new systems (but hey, lets change a core concept of the game - allowing wizard's players, like other classes, to think of new uses of their powers). We don't want addressing caster dominance to have the reverse effect, with groups that didn't see it left unhappy by a host of new or changed mechanics. (and how will you accomplish this Master Mike?)

So, what are we doing? Like many things in game design, it involves both a give and take. This topic in particular will be an important focus in the playtest. The system must not only work on paper, but also it must work well at the gaming table. (well, yeah, if it doesn't work at the gaming table, it doesn't work)

Cantrips as At-Will Magic: We're hoping to keep the concept of cantrips for wizards, and expand it to include some nifty attack and utility spells (can a "nifty" at will attack be all that effective?). Wizards would be able to cast spells at will, much as they do in 4E. We think that making cantrips a bit more powerful, while also making them at-will, will go a long way toward making restrictions on prepared spells more palatable for groups that don't see caster dominance as an issue. (o-kay?  and this allows for "old school play" how exactly?  this doesn't seem to be one of the famous "modules" they've been hyping since the start, talking about modular play.  this is changing the core concept of wizards / mages / magic-users.  well, at least as far as 3x and earlier is concerned.  can't speak knowledgeably for 4e, so i won't)

We also look at at-will magic as a key tool in keeping the adventure moving forward. You can still unleash all your prepared spells in rapid succession, but that doesn't leave you powerless.  (just leaves you much less useful.  unless the prepared spells as the useless ones.  now wouldn't THAT be an interesting twist?)

Keep Spells Under Control: This is an obvious first step, but we need to make sure that spells are of the appropriate power level and that they don't abuse the system in some way. For instance, the 3E grease spell required a DC 10 Balance check to avoid some of its effects. That seems reasonable, until you realize that grease was a 1st-level spell and that a 15th-level NPC cleric might have a total Balance check modifier of –8. We need to make sure that spells don't create an effect that is too powerful or include loopholes that make them overwhelmingly powerful for their level.  (you will not close every loophole, but it is a nice thought.  the grease issues should have been caught in playtesting, but i assume their playest sample was small in the creating of 3e)

Reducing Total Spell Slots: Since wizards now have at-will magic, they need fewer spell slots. The current design places a cap on the total number of spells you can prepare, and it caps the maximum number of spells you can prepare of each level. The reduction of spell slots pushes more reliance on cantrips, and it makes combinations harder to repeat.  (so, the chance for wizard characters to shine, to do something different from the next wizard is going to shrink drastically, as cantrips are now going to be the wizard's core power base?  wow - color me not impressed.)

Spells Don't Automatically Scale: We're thinking that wizard spells scale only if they are prepared with higher-level slots. That would mean that a wizard's spells don't all become more powerful as he or she levels up. The wizard would gain some new, more powerful spells. The wizard would not gain those spells while also making the rest of the spell list more powerful.  (this means we can remove a crapload of spells from the initial list for wizards, as they won't be needed.  which also allows us to keep a tight rein on the wizards power level.  and allow us to playtest the game with less of a chance of innovative players finding a combination that may break the system.  cantrips for the win.  sigh.  this is very far from being anything like any of the previous editions of wizards.  i don't think you can play this wizard as an older edition styled magic-user.   at least we now know they are throwing out much of the idea of modularity, which was an albatross around the neck of the New Edition with it's conflicting goals.  not saying I like the changes, but if this is a sign they are moving away from the One Game To Rule Them All concept, there might be something salvageable)

Spellcasting Is Dangerous: This point ventures into the theoretical, since we still aren't 100% certain how we want to pursue it (so it's just the kind of thing that we want to gather feedback on in the playtest). The current proposal is that a wizard who takes damage has a chance to miscast his or her next spell. (wait?  so, we are removing a bunch of spell slots from the wizards casting ability AND we are thinking about bringing back the idea of spell failure when taking damage.  so, are we going to do the same now for the other classes?  if they take damage, their abilities might fail?  because the other classes - except for the neutered cleric, seem to have been empowered.  shit, i thought the cleric was fucked with until I read today's article) A wizard can always instead choose to do something else or use a cantrip without risk of failure. In addition, a miscast spell is never lost. The wizard can try again next round.

The idea here is to capture the feel of earlier editions, where wizards needed some amount of protection to unleash their most powerful abilities. In play, it means that a wizard has to be careful in a fight, lean on defensive magic, or otherwise stay out of harm's way. (since we removed much of your spell casting ability, just stick with the cantrips we are giving you.  it should be exciting, no?)

Keep Magic Items Under Control: There's a good chance that magic item creation will be a rules module that DMs can opt into. At the very least, items such as scrolls and wands will likely change in the following ways.

Scrolls would require a caster to expend a prepared spell to use them. Thus, scrolls would make wizards more versatile but they do not increase the number of spells they can cast each day. (Yes!  lets remove even more power from the casters!)

Wands would no longer accept just any spell. Instead, we would provide a specific list of spells that can be added to wands. (this makes sense.)  The idea here is to keep things under control so that casting fly on everyone in the party is a real investment by a wizard.  (this makes no sense when paired to the previous sentence - something is missing from the explanation)

Keep Buff Spells Under Control: We want to make sure that spells such as haste and invisibility are useful without making other classes' key abilities redundant. An invisible creature that makes noise or otherwise gives away its location might not get much of a defensive benefit. Instead, an invisible creature is best off if it has a rogue's excellent bonuses to stealth. In this case, invisibility works as a spell that makes a scout or sneaky character much harder to find. It does not become a huge defensive buff. (see, we've cut back on your available spell slots, we won't allow spells to scale and now we are going to remove much of the usefulness of the buff spells.)

Haste might grant extra attacks, but at a penalty that makes the fighter's ability to attack multiple times come out ahead. The cleric in the group fights much better with haste, but she still can't match the fighter's martial skill.  On the other hand, casting haste on a fighter is a great idea. It augments the fighter's already deadly weapon skill.  (keep on neutering those spells)

Spells such as stoneskin, shield, and blur are great for wizards because they make casting less hazardous and help counter the class's low AC and hit points. A wizard might throw such spells on the rest of the party, giving up some of his or her own defensive options to help the rest of the party thrive.  (he might as well, as he has little left to offer the bprty that isnt a cantrip)

Creativity, Not Dominance: Finally, on a personal level, I'd love it if creative use of a spell focused more on improvisation rather than number crunching. A web spell entangles the bandit chief's horse, cutting off his best chance to escape. Grease allows a rogue caught in a giant crab's claw to wriggle free with ease. If we build good, clear descriptions into the spells that bring them to life and combine these descriptions with a robust set of DM tools for improvisation, spells become tools that characters can use in creative ways rather than strictly defined special abilities. Hopefully, reining in some of the mechanical challenges that D&D has faced in the past makes it easier to encourage creative use of spells in a compelling, immersive way  (wait!  this requires DM Fiat to work.  and all the number crunching has already removed much of the spell casting ability of the wizard.  i'm really fucking confused by the current goals for D&D Next.  Is it still modular?  Because all I see here is a dumbing down of the wizard class.  Not simplifying but damn near neutering.)

I think we are seeing the balance of 4e returning in 5e, under a whole set of new tweaks to a 3e base.  I'm more confused now then at any point in the past about the direction that 5e is going in. 

Level Advancement - Trying to Find the Right Pace

Well, the new ACKS campaign seems to be off to a strong start. Two sessions down, and I think the PCs have a chance to hit level 2 upon completion of the third session.

Assuming they level every third session (we skip one Saturday a month) and assuming the campaign remains vibrant, we could be looking at a game that covers all levels of play in about 12 months.

I have no idea if the leveling will stay at the same rate. As it is, I'n addition to the usual expo for overcoming adversaries and treasure looted, I'm also awarding expo for completing adventures, minor expo for successful proficiency use and a 10% bonus for completing weekly adventure logs at the Obsidian Portal site. All that, and the third session should allow them to hit level 2. It isn't guaranteed.

A level a month of mostly weekly gaming sounds about right to me, I just hope it fits with my players' expectations too.

When it comes to OSR style gaming, what is the rate of advancement in your campaigns?

(I'm avoiding 3x and 4e, as they are their own beasts, especially with the rate of advancement)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Official Adventurer Conqueror King OR DIE! Obsidian Portal Page is Up

Yep, our little Obsidian Portal page is up and running.  Adventurer Conqueror King or Die! is just 2 sessions old, but I'm blessed with highly skilled, entertaining and funny as all hell role-players in my group.  To say I'm blessed is an understatement, as their game play brings out the best in me as a GM.  If this is how the game is going after 2 sessions, I can only imagine the delightful insanity we will be experiencing after 20 ;)

So come, look at the psychotic lizard man gladiator, he who would box his own shadow if it would give him a fight.  See the mage that seems so unlike a mage, yet has knowledge like a sage (and a goblin servant too).  Observe the shadow blade as he single handedly disables a slavers cart (as disabling a slaver would be too easy a maneuver).  Watch as the warrior manages to impale a goblin through the neck in an upright position.  Wait with the rest of us as two others join the ranks (as those following along from home can probably tell, the party lacks any kind of healing... hint).

Yes, join us.  Well, read the exploits.  You can't really join us, as I think my capacity for effective GMing is around 6 players in total.  No worries though, as the wife has given me the blessing to run a second game in a month or so.  Probably not ACKS, but at least you'll have an idea if my table is one you might want to sit at.  In a virtual manner.  As this is via G+ at the moment.  My kitchen table is damn small and only fits 4, but the wife and I like it that way ;)

An OSR Styled Abstract Combat Map For Your Review

Ian Dimitri was kind enough to take me up on my challenge in regards to an OSR styled Abstract Combat Map.  I really do like the resulting "map" Ian came up with, and I may start experimenting with this in my Google+ Hangout (using Tabletop Forge for the VTT) ACKS Campaign.

Shane Magnus also pointed me to one that he had created that was inspired by  3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars, but I think Ian is closer to what I need in an OSR style game.  Thanks for the peek Shane, I appreciate it.  I think yours works better with other system, and I may experiment with it when I run an Savage Worlds or Hollow Earth Expedition game.
Ian explains his suggested use as follows:
In this version you could represent folks sneaking into a position by putting them all the way to the left and those in position to deliver a backstab by putting them in the "Behind" row and to the left of the enemy's position in their area. The enemy area is also arranged from closest to farthest. I would use simple tokens placed next to the characters or enemies to represent things such as "high ground", "in cover", "prone" etc. Very simple. Very usable.
So, thoughts?  Feedback?  Suggestions?  Other Abstract Combat Maps to add to the equation?

ACKS Session 2 Recap - Playing With Tortured Fire

Remember a few months back when I remarked that just about every D&D session has either fire or torture i it, almost invariably introduced by the PCs themselves?  Last night my party managed to introduce both, and in the same scene yet!

Investigating the reports that goblins were accessing the basement under the church in town, the PCs discovered a hole in the wall adjacent to the twins sewer.  They waited in am bust for the return of said goblins, and when they made their entrance the party's mage threw a flask of oil, striking the wall just above the hole the gob's were entering from.  As the gob's lost their footing, he followed it with a well placed lob of a lit torch.  Four gobs were crispy excrement covered corpses, and the fifth (the first through the whole) was alive and captured by the PCs.  Amazingly enough, they did not set the church on fire, but I'm not sure if that was from lack of trying.

After asking (1), one, uno, ein question and not liking the answer, the night blade cut off one of the gob's pinkies.  Literally within minutes, we able to mark both "fire" and "torture" of the list of things for the PCs to do ;)

Ah, the things that PCs do.  Afterwards, they were summoned to meet the mayor, who asked them to travel to the Goblin Halls and do away with the goblins that were reestablishing themselves there as well as poisoning the town's water supply.  After a sizable upfront payment, they agreed, and set forth for the Goblin Halls.

They encountered goblin slavers on the way to the Halls.  The night blade made an amazing surprise attack on the slavers' cart, impaling an arrow into the cart's wooden wheel and causing it to abruptly stop. The fact that he was aiming at a goblin guard and not the wheel is inconsequential to this story, as between the lizard man gladiator with a death wish and the mage with a sleep spell, there were no living goblins left to be concerned about the cart.  The capture red miner within the cage of the cart was released and sent back to town.  We was, needless to say, extremely grateful.

Shorty thereafter the party arrived at the Goblin Halls.  After discussing possibly alternative access points other than the one that had been obviously recently reopened, the party decided to enter within.  In the first room they discovered a bullying incident, with nearly a half dozen goblins beating upon a much smaller than usual goblin.  Before the bully's knew what was happening, bits and pieces of goblin were everywhere.  The mage made an offer to the goblin runt, which equated to "serve me or die".  The offer was quickly accepted.  The runt is as smart as he is small, and he was alb to sketch out a quick map of the Halls for the party, giving them an advantage they lacked prior.

Next they entered the "practice room", where goblin recruits practiced on living (or recently deceased) "dummies", otherwise known as captives.  On captive was still living, and after giving him a healing potion, the warden (who had attempted to investigate these halls a few days earlier) was now an extra sword arm for the party.  Things were certainly looking up.

The temple area was uneventful, except for the the robed figure that instructed the party to sit (in goblin) when they entered.  In the end, the robed figured was an animated skeleton that made no attempt to defend itself against the party's attack, and it was quickly destroyed.  It's destruction did leave them with a message "tell my daughter i love her".  See, now the players get to be messenger men too ;)

Well, maybe not totally uneventful, as they did discover a secret treasure room.  Most of the items inside had rotted over the years, but the gold and river were still in fine shape and ripe for the taking.  Which brought to life to smallish wooden dogs, which were dispatch fairly quickly, but not before giving the gladiator a nice splinter (and the first wound suffered by the party)

Next up were two barracks rooms.  The first held a half dozen sleeping goblins that stood no chance when the gladiator tore through them.  He also tore through most of their belongings.  I guess we will never know if that was a potion or poison.

The party then moved on to a sort of burial room.  While moving coffins in search of goodies, a goblin patrol came across the party.  As the leader put a horn to his lips, the gladiator proceeded to push the horn down said leader's throat.  The survivors tried to flee, but were struck down by the PCs, or in the case of one, pinned through his neck to the floor by a javelin thrown by the party's warrior.

Yep, things are certainly getting a bit more exciting for the party compared to the first session.  We started at 930 pm and ended shortly after 130 am - and i had totally lost track of time.

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