Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Common Courtesy

When I was younger I used to get pretty miffed when people would commit to a game I was running, and then at the last moment bail. Sometimes it was cause to cancel, and sometimes it wasn't. But it was always disruptive in some way, shape or form.

We've all run games where we're NPCing a PC. It's no fun. Not for the DM (extra work), and not for the players (missing a comrade who might pull their bacon out of the fire). Either way, it's always better having the entire compliment of gamers at the table. Plus, heck, it's just a lot more fun having the whole gang there. After all, it is a social game, right?

As I grew older it became more and more difficult to schedule a game. People end up having commitments....that's reality. I get it. But there was an interim period there where people were approaching the game in a "sophomoric" manner while engaged in a more grown-up schedule. In other words, they'd often "forget" to call, or just plain old not show up. In high-school and college this was, while not commonplace, understandable. But as time moved ever onward, and we all had lives outside of gaming, it became a hassle.

Fast forward to today. Here we are, many of us are "grown up" with lives of our own. Some have families. Many have jobs and responsibilities. Those days of just not calling or showing up late (or not at all) w/out a word of warning, are plain ol not acceptable. Scheduling games is just not an easy thing anymore. But if you leave a whole gaggle of adults out to dry w/out any excuse or advanced warning, you're not making any friends.

How many chances should a person get before this becomes a hassle that is left by the wayside of life? My initial response is two. I would say, that if a person completely messes up twice and inconveniences a group of people to the extent that they're sitting around for hours twiddling their thumbs (and making calls to a turned-off cell phone), something needs to change.

If you haven't guessed yet, our DM bailed on us last night. This has NEVER happened to me. I know, odd. But seriously, in 30+ years of gaming, I've never had a DM just not show up w/ no word of warning. So we sat around last night chatting for about an hour and a half, then gathered up our things, walked outside to our cars, and drove away into the night.

With a simple phone call we all would have been mollified.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Playing some 4E (v.1)

Played a game of 4E D&D last night...Well, "played" is a rather rough translation of what I did. Mostly, I just fumbled around with my character trying to finish him up and then struggled to figure him out.

The learning curve for 4E is a steep one when it comes to all of the crazy interconnected relationships between powers, feats and skills. Especially when you create a 12th level character and try to play them out of the gate. Not to mention that the character that I played is still in the beta stage for the most part: The Assassin. There's a lot of discovery going on at this stage in the game. At least there is for me.

While that sounds like it's a rather harsh critique of the system, I rather think that it's a statement about my lack of preparedness. I generally utilize the character builder, and rely upon the software to tell me all available options. Well, the assassin hasn't been uploaded yet to the character builder, so it was the old process of doing everything by hand. But since I don't have all the books and resources, it was mainly an exercise in trying to gather all the information available from all the wide-spread resources.

Complex and in-depth character building is something that a lot of people really like; they dig fiddling with the little things. Getting the numbers just right, finding the proper items, feats and powers to maximize their impact upon the game.

Me? Not so much.

Don't get me wrong, I dig getting excited while building a character. I love imagining the persona as you're rolling up the attributes and picturing the PC in your mind as you lovingly fill out the character sheet. But the process for 4E is just too bloody long. There are far too many sources for me to keep track of. Sure I could've strictly gone right out of the PHB and probably been a happy camper. And now, upon reflection, maybe I should have.

But at 12th level, with all those shiny new items and options available, why (as a conscientious American consumer) not go for the gew gaws? I did. And I paid the price. I had so many papers, powers and cards laying on the table in front of me that I was bewildered 99% of the play time. Which frankly, was a shame.

That's the downside of 4E for me. Just a lot of stuff that's very tightly integrated into how the game plays, that you really need to pay attention to. It's just very character-centric.

Here's the cool thing though, we're just starting up Mike Mearl's revisiting of the seminal Against the Giants series. This is the 4E version...and I'll tell you what, I'm absolutely jonesed about this. I LOVED the Giant series by Gary Gygax...some of the best memories I have of Dungeons and Dragons are playing through that entire series in high school. There's a steep expectation of what we're getting into because of that experience.

I can tell you this, I love my character. Sure it's not old school in any sense of the word. But he's cool: 'The Shrike of Ur' is his name. He's what they call Shadar-Kai, which is a fancy name for some race that's been living in the shadow plane. Pale, drawn out and colorless, he over compensates by being a brash and out spoken braggart. Oh, he's also an assassin. Which is cool.

Again, yeah, this isn't the usual stuff that I get into. I really do like this character though. I just need to figure him out. He's very complex and has a bunch of options open to him in any given situation. I'm not super keen on all that, but the idea of the character is just plain ol fun...

<----------------------- SPOILER ALERT ------------------------>

If you are ever thinking about playing in the WotC module Revenge of the Giants, then don't read any further.

To the module: It's early yet. More specifically, we've just been sent on our "mission" by some kind of mage who's interested in an old city called Argent. (sp?) Our first encounter was with some kind of lion-headed giant who was beset upon by some earth and fire elementals, all lead by another type of elemental(ish) humanoid-type guy. Our group whooped up on them. But, it took us quite a long time to do it. The battle lasted for nearly 2.5 hours and took up the vast majority of the night. At this pace we'll be done by 2013. Kidding.

Seriously though, while I think there are some cool little set pieces here, my first impression is that it's very heavily scripted. "Group A" is hired. They leave for city on map. Travel and "stumble" into encounter. Wherein they are introduced to creature with means to get to city and an "invitation to heroes" to aid in defense of said city. (What happened to the first mission: Finding city and looting it for mage?)

Seem a little hoakey to you? Jury's still out on this one. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Our DM is a very proactive type, and I have full confidence that he'll fix those glaring "railroad" issues, as they pop up.

I really like the guys I play with. I really like the DM. I really WANT to like the adventure. We'll see what happens. Either way though, I'm going to have fun.

I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cross Game Ideas

A buddy of mine was showing me the new art for the upcoming Magic the Gathering card game release, Zendikar. I don't play Magic anymore, while it's a LOT of fun, it's awfully addicting and therefore ends up becoming increasingly expensive. In other words I don't follow the game very closely anymore.

I'm sure that many of you know that Magic releases all have "themes"...Well, this theme is "Adventure", or so I understand. Pretty neat eh? As you can imagine, the art must support the theme, and this art is no exception. Also, the art for Magic the Gathering has been quite evocative over the years. But this art especially, seemed to evoke the feel of adventure. And that's what Dungeons and Dragons is all about.

Here's the link to the original article:

But I'm also posting a few pictures that I believe encompass the theme especially well.

Deep in the Labyrinth...the party stumbles upon what they believe to be a well.

The Druids of this particular valley have sculpted the land over aeons.

Treacherous terrain.


The map says that entrance can be gained through this....door?

Adventuring past vertical...with a few obstacles.

*All images are property of Wizards of the Coast.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labyrinth Lord Recap

Isabella - 3rd level human female fighter
Ember - 3rd level female 1/2 elven cleric
Safira - 3rd level female elf

Doran 1/2 hand
The Krieger brothers (triplets)

We start with our heroes deep below the ruined monastery of St. Gyxag of Bochnoi. They have passed through the black door, descended a spiral stairway and emerged into a large natural cavern. Standing in the center of this cavern is a stone statue.

The faint sound of water falling accompanies the pitter patter of scattering possums as they approach the statue for closer inspection. Quite obviously a representation of St. Gyxag, even down to the smallest detail of the missing end of his right index finger, the group searches for clues. Eventually Ember places the finger bone at the tip of the statue's missing finger, which summons the ghost of St. Gyxag.

The statue rotates from the spot, and opens upon a cavity beneath that reveals that the Sword of Truth lies below the statue, but the Red Book is missing. St. Gyxag's ghost points towards where the book might be found, admitting that a very short man stole it. And after some further questioning, he also tells them that there is indeed another way out, and that it also lies in roughly the same direction.

Taking their leave, the party ventures into the caves in search of the Red Book. Safira leads that way, carefully probing the floor for traps while the others bring up the rear with light and weapons at the ready.

As the elf rounds a corner she spies two halflings standing in a four way intersection. They begin to twirl their slings and tell the group to head out and mind their own business. Isabella claims that they're here to see the halfling's leader.

They perk up a bit and ask if they're here to trade. "Sure", says the girls. Telling the party to wait right where they are, the halflings take off in separate directions.

Not trusting them one bit, the party circles up and keeps a vigilant look out. Eventually a lilting, musical voice addresses the party from the darkened southern corridor and asks what they might have for trade. Not wanting to tip their hand the girls start out small...And ask that they speaker show himself. "No thank you."

It's evident to the speaker that these adventurers aren't willing to part with much in trade, so threats are resorted to. A deal is given: Lie your gear down in the center of the room and you may leave.

In answer Fura tosses a burning torch into the darkened tunnel from whence the voice is issuing...But it reveals nothing. A tittering laugh issues from directly above the party's heads. Ember then casts detect magic and sees a glowing purple area directly above them. She tries to tell Safira where this lies so that the elf can utilize her charm.

DM NOTE: I ruled that Safira could cast a charm if she knew roughly where the target was. I gave the leprechaun a +4 to his save. This, on top of his natural 80% resistance anyway! Well Hambly rolled a 7 and missed his MR roll as well. we have a charmed leprechaun.

Safira cast her charm and soon a small little man with disheveled green clothes, a stove-pipe hat and black buckled shoes appears in the air above their heads... A deal is soon reached and he scuttles out of site to retrieve the book. But the adventurers are not alone.

Out of the darkness, beyond the light of the torches, approaching quietly are the rest of Hambly's gang...10 halflings of the criminal element, bent on destruction and pillage. They approach, taunting, and calling out for the party to drop their gear and escape. But they've heard this line, and aren't falling for it this time either.

The halflings come out slings swinging. Of the 6 stones, 3 strike true, and unfortunately one of the Krieger's is taken down with a shot between the eyes. Another Krieger brother is also hit as well as Isabella. But as the halflings close in, Isabella takes her wrath out and drops one immediately. Which in turn causes two others to trip up upon themselves.

Safira sees an opening and fires off her web spell, catching 7...The remaining 3 aren't interested any longer, and flee into the darkness.

Mere moments later Hambly returns with the book. He doesn't seem overly surprised that his gang took advantage of the situation and neither does he seem to think that the party's reaction was over the top. He continues on with the bartering.

A few moments later, minus one magical bone club, a tiger's eye, feldspar and a fifth of whiskey, the group now finally has both artifacts. And during this period they hear that Hambly was intending to trade to book to Ylfrit for a position in her court. Again, the Unseelie court comes into the picture.

Before leaving though, Hamby tells the party that indeed yes, the ghost did not deceive, there is a second way out of the caverns. Either travel up the enchanted falls, but only after slaying the guardian, OR travel through the troglodyte warrens and escape via the swamp. Both dangerous, but they seem to be the only routes available, unless of course they want to go back up the stairs and confront an enraged priest and a were-rat.

...Unfortunately this is where we ended it. It was late, and the girls had to get to bed. Everyone had fun and we'll certainly try and continue it as soon as possible. But, as always, real life takes precedence.

Until next time, Ciao.