Tuesday, December 29, 2015

State of the Blog and Games / Battlerager Blues

I can't recommend the DesignsByMiranda Etsy shop enough; I got several XMAS gifts for friends from it and they were shipped promptly and high quality and now I'm wishing I'd gotten more for myself.

I did a great job keeping this blog up to date, from this last August (2015) up through November, averaging a little over 9 posts a month. Then the dreaded Holiday season descended from the (mostly) snowless skies and games were postponed and rescheduled due to illness and the holiday business and I didn't keep up my blog posts.

Here's the state of my games in the order that it occurs to me this afternoon.

  • My Shattered World 5e-ish campaign continues apace, just let the PCs hit 5th level and plan on accelerating the plot now. Managed to make use of this swank Dyson hand themed dungeon, but not this other one... (yet). Eventually I'll get back and update my campaign log.
  • Back in early November I began running Out of The Abyss. We're 2ish sessions in, in that we did a character creation session plus short "test" dungeon for the players to get a feel for their PCs, then did about an hour and a half of play in a second session before it was cut short due to illness and finally a short-ish session on 12/20 to finish up Chapter One. So most of the PCs have escaped into the Underdark (one player was only at the character creation session so far, so her PC will be somewhere in the Underdark) with weapons, armor and rope they captured from the Drow, but without food or water. Expect at least one blog post on OOTA (which is how I've decided to abbreviate Out of the Abyss) next week when I sit down and share all the game aids I've found to use and share a few of my own that I've made.
  • Our Antagonist Relations Actual Play: A Red & Pleasant Land Podcast should be returning the first week of January, as the players face off against that Pudding. Maybe someday the Ginger Giant and I will do an Antagonist Relations podcast that isn't an actual play again, but right now time constraints on the Thursday evening's we're free and the joy of the actual play makes that hard as we end up spending most of the two hours playing and then don't get to just sitting around shooting the shit.
  • Thomas' 2nd Edition Al-Qadim Church continues to be quite enjoyable to play and I really ought to write a full post on it. Someday soon I'll have a chance to get my thoughts down right after playing, but running OOTA on 1st and 3rd Sundays has made that a little tougher.
  • Speaking of Thomas, since he is back in the (semi) frozen wastes of MN, we decided that instead of our traditional New Year's D&D we'd each run a session of D&D, using the same maps and tying our two sessions together, because we are overly ambitious. So on New Year's Day, Thomas will run a group of Dwarves through the dungeon of Dortherdoreft and then on January 3rd, I'll run a group of Drow though the very same dungeon. We'll be re-using some of the same elements and we're hoping to write up the adventures once we've run them. 
  • Also due to the aforementioned over-ambition, I'm toying with a bunch of new ideas to put up on the blog for 2016, but I probably will keep that all to myself since I should be continuing all the things I've started like GM Commentaries, Campaign Summary Updates, Gussying Up 5e Monsters and such before I do wacky things like creating custom 5e campaign settings with new (sub)races, class builds and what-not. Though since Thomas has started putting up more stuff for 5th edition Planescape conversions, I know that I'll have at least a few things in that vein coming soon
Since I needed to come up with a 5th level Dwarf PC for the first session of Dortherdoreft I took a closer look at the Battlerager Path as introduced in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (SCAG) hoping it would combine my love of Dwarves and Barbarians but instead it was... disappointing... to say the least, but instead of continuing to pepper Thomas with my problems with the build, I'm going to cover them here and then propose some fixes. Warning, I'm really harsh on the build as presented in the books, because in my opinion, it's awful. Way more awful than the Ranger or other by the book 5th edition classes/sub-classes that have gotten a lot of crap. And it hurts me, because Dwarf+Barbarian should be AWESOME and instead it is so sub-optimal that it isn't even worth playing as a joke. And I should know because I made a bunch of jokey less than optimal 5th edition PCs recently...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thought of the Day... #2 - Is it worth being a bit of a "Jerk" about Alignment?

This meme is a total lie, P. Bubs is totally not Lawful Good by any stretch of the imagination... 

Listening to a recent Play on Target podcast on Character Behavior and Alignment while in the car and trying to move between a dozen reports at work and started thinking again about Alignment.

I have a pretty tortured history with Alignment and Morality in D&D and other Fantasy Heartbreakers, which is told partially through my previous (and often snarky, fair warning) posts on Alignment, as well as two of my character's from the Ginger Giant's games, the often equally hated (by other PCs, at least) Sid and Uwain.

What I'm thinking about now, is how much I should push players to play Alignment/Morality. In my Shattered World game, I made the decision to leave Alignment off, figuring that the Icons and NPCs would be able to enforce any moral issues I decide to make an issue of.

Now, I'm gearing up to start running Out of the Abyss with my Sunday group, and I'm wondering how much I should enforce their alignment. Do I just have them choose a few Ideals from the D&D 5e Backgrounds? Do I try and write up something like the Dungeon World Alignments, which seems like time I could spend on doing other prep for Out of the Abyss (which is incredibly prep heavy for a DM already) or for my two other ongoing games or for my upcoming Dread one shot. Or I could try and steal the Noble, Fear and Rage Passions from Unknown Armies? Do I just admit that of my playing group it seems like I'm the only one who feels like Alignment is an important part of the game and let my players choose various Good or Neutral alignments as they wish without trying to enforce "alignment" morality and keeping my mouth shut when "good" characters decide to be cruel or dishonest because they think they can get away with it?

One thought I have is to reward players who play close to the alignment they put on their sheet by giving them a mechanical boost against Madness, which will be a huge part of Out of the Abyss, but I also need to read the Madness section of the 5e DMG again and decide how by the book I want to go with Madness or how much I want to change for ease of play and/or avoid the Malkavian problem of people playing insanity as "wacky". But then, if we don't define alignments well, it becomes more of a case of "are you playing that alignment the way Zack imagines it?"

In any case, the podcast has it in my mind again, that I really do wish I could have each PC commit to a moral code they would hold to, more like Vampire morality paths than D&D's alignments, but I know that is utterly unfeasible to try and pry that out of most players.

Further complicating things, in Al-Qadim Church, I'm playing an Evil priestess of a Chaotic Evil goddess, Ragarra, and I find myself thinking that I need to work with Thomas to come up with a good well-written code of ethics to abide by. Last session there was a moment where one of the other players went with a very "traditional" D&D Heroic Good impulse to risk his PC and the party save a fairly helpless NPC and my PC argued against it and almost ordered him not to, as if the NPC was weak enough to die, then that was that and he should be left to die in the river or re-captured and murdered by gnolls. Now, my problem is when I play non-good characters, I tend to think a lot more about what code of ethics/behavior they actually hold to, which I haven't really done yet with Thema.

Anyway, this has gotten way long for what was supposed to be a quick "Thought of the Day" but y'all can consider it as an open thread to discuss Alignment with me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

True Ingredients/"Masticating is Awesome" - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 4 - GM Commentary

First, go listen to Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast - Pudding Party Part 1 as that is the session that I'll be commenting on. A Red and Pleasant Land is abbreviated as aR&PL below. Also, spoilers for the podcast, though I'll hide any spoilers for the players about upcoming sessions.

Comments are in roughly chronological order as I listen to the podcast for the umpteenth time...

I decided to switch the intro song to the Legendary Pink Dots "Crumbs on the Carpet" and embrace fully the food theme...

Dinner whispers, "come and get it", poses on a plate
We shot it twice with anesthetic, still it bites the waiters
Till they're bleeding in the loo
So goddamned hot it burns their shoes
We lick them clean, we eat 'em too
Still there's room enough for more masala,
enchilladas, monkey brains and donkey doo
More masala, enchilladas, monkey brains and donkey doo
We'd eat the wall if it could walk and we could sink our forks in
We are what we eat
We are many-sided
Just you name it, sure we've tried it
Why hide it
(More masala, enchilladas, monkey brains and donkey doo)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Pudding Party Part 1 - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 4

Here is the fourth installment of our Actual Play of A Red & Pleasant Land utilizing the World of Dungeons 1979 rules set and Planarch Codex options. The Stonestrike Sisters and Ochen set off to fetch a pudding for the Witch, Thomasina, meeting new "friends" and discovering truths about all the delicious foods they've been eating.

Pudding Party Part 1 - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 4

And here is the Green and Pleasant Map I'm using, from Dyson's Dodecahedron

Sunday, November 8, 2015

True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates - Notes and Loot

Here for your edification are the notes I ran my planned Extra Life session, The True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates off of...

Thanks again to everyone who donated to my Extra Life page and all of the players, as well as James and the Ginger Giant for organizing the event.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Running True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates - Extra Life

Watch along as I provide twitter updates on running my "True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates" session for our D&D Extra Life event, I'm only running this 1 three hour session, but I'll be playing in three more for a total of 12 straight hours of D&D before I get up to attend Sun-AD&D Al Qadim Church.

Play starts at: Noon CST Saturday 11/7
For ages bold or insane adventurers have sought the True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates, clearing out or perishing in its many impostors, starving on mountain tops where it was falsely rumored to be... They went seeking the secret of the Stairway to the Stars, to use for good or ill and for the many treasures, artifacts and mysteries that surely must be buried with a being as powerful as the dread and infamous Sid. Now you've been hearing it whispered by sages and lunatics that the Lich Whipple constructed his lair above the True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates, and you would consider them mad to think so, except for the map you hold in your hands. Dare you descend below the Lich's lair to discover the secrets of the True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates? Will you be the first to plumb its dark depths in ages or will you find those who have come before waiting?
This session is for 4-5 PCs and is an improvised Death Trap Dungeon, in the style of White Plume Mountain and Tomb of Horrors.

More Stuff!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Courage of my Convictions - Death Trap Dungeon Speech

Go ahead, stick your arm in there, you know you want to...

So, earlier today I was reminded of my extended Killer GM Syndrome Rant... 

And now you're thinking, Zack you hypocritical asshole, you're the one who ran Grim World a few weeks ago, who posted a thought about jackasses making traps have consequences when they are disarmed, who is designing a Death Trap Dungeon as his part of the mega-dungeon to run for Extra Life (go donate if you haven't) and just posted a Facebook event for a Dread game where you included in the description "Fair warning, I'm hoping that this will be intense and nightmarish..." and linked to the Scott Walker/SUNN O))) song "Herod 2014" as the thematic inspiration which has been described thusly in the Quietus...

Take 'Herod 2014' for example, which is ostensibly about a mother hiding her firstborn from the king's terrible edict:
"She's hidden her babies away
"Their soft gummy smiles
won't be gilding the menu.
"The deer fly, the sand fly
the tsetse can't find them.
"The goon from the Stasi
is left far behind them.
She's hidden her babies away.

The potential to further explore Herod's slaughter of the first born is ignored, thankfully, in favour of a different kind of horror, one that is hard won and slow to reveal itself. And one that is explored with an efflorescence of vivid imagery:
"She's hidden her babies away
"And why bring them out
with no shelter on offer.
"The nurseries and creches
are heaving with lush lice.
"Bubonic, blue-blankets,
run ragged with church mice.
"The Havana has died
in the clam-shell ashtray.
"She's hidden her babies away."

And by the time we get to the 'punchline' - his vision is revealed as a retreat away from reality. A retreat away from sanity. A retreat away from existence itself. This horror is pure shock not schlock and Lovecraftian in its intensity:
"A R-e-a-c-h-i-n-g L-o-n-g A-r-m-e-d
vet ape
feeling hard
for a breech birth.
"I gaze up at the night,
at the asterisk's blazing,
"till they straighten,
and like tiny spines,
fall to earth.
"I bite down on this,
as I dance
and I pray.
"She's hidden her babies away."

And yeah, that's all true... I can't really deny that, what I can do is set expectations, as I think I tried to outline in my rant. So when I ran Grim World, I told my players that Death was a strong possibility, and that I wanted to see a PC die because I wanted to see just how Grim World made PC death cool. And the PC death that occurred in Grim World was cool, didn't happen because of me even, when the players figured out the ritual to stop Chaugnar required a human sacrifice, the Templar volunteered and through his Death Move became an unstoppable murder machine bent on stopping Chaugnar at any cost, which though it made it hard for me to build a challenging encounter with the Templar basically getting a critical hit on every roll, it was awesome and tied into the "Be a fan of the players’ characters" principle.
Similarly, for Dread, I'll do my standard Dread spiel on part of the fun being giving into the tension, intensity and horror of the game and that death is an expected part of the second half of the game. So then, consider what follows a rehearsal of my Death Trap Dungeon speech that I'll give on Saturday.

Thought of the Day... #1 - Traps with consequences for Disarming

Here is a "Though of the Day" that's completely unrelated to any Death Trap Dungeons I'm currently designing (I swear), but wouldn't a clever/evil/spiteful creator of a dungeon make traps that have secondary traps that are only triggered when they're disarmed?

Like, if the flame nozzle trap is disarmed, part of disarming it releases Rust Monsters digestive juices ruining the specific thief's tools being used?

I really like this idea because it makes use of a couple good Dungeon World moves:

  • Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities (The thief gets to find and disarm a trap, like a badass)
  • Use up their resources (Even bypassing the trap has a consequence)
  • Offer an opportunity, with or without cost (If the thief realizes that disarming the flame nozzles might mean not disarming a trap later in the dungeon, will the thief/party decide that they're going to try and figure out the timing and dash through instead of disarming the trap?)
Traps are one of the things I struggle most with in Dungeon World, so this realization, while it might not fit every trap, does give me an option for when PCs are deep in a dungeon designed by an insane and powerful spell-caster or his followers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Ice King Cometh - Massive Mammoths and Wrothful Winter Wolves - Gussying Up D&D 5e Monsters #4

So as of 11/4 I've raised $235 for Extra Life. Thanks to any of my blog readers who've donated, and if you haven't yet, there's still time. Due to crazy promises I made on my Facebook page, I'll be wearing the above-pictured, crazy hot Ice King costume when Christy and I play Fiona and the Ice King during the 6pm-9pm slot. Due to additional crazy promises, I'll be wearing the ridiculous blond wig Christy got for her Fiona costume while I play Alice from 3pm-6pm. Further more, I made a promise to find an Alice appropriate dress to wear if I hit $250 by 4pm CST Friday 11/6/15, so if that motivates you, go donate.

If you're a blog reader and you've donated, there's still time to claim a reward (and or to donate and claim a reward).

Given the character commitments I've already made, here are the rewards still available.

  • Force me to play a wacky character off my list of Characters Too Ridiculous to play if I can (the DMs get veto power on PCs, so the intensely wacky characters might require a bit of finagling on my part but I'll try my damnedest or trick one of the other DMs into running a 5 minute mini-session or something) - DEADLINE 6AM CST Friday 11/6/15
  • Record a video of myself speaking in character, in an accent determined by donors during play. Those of you who listen to the actual play podcast or who game with me in real life know how mortifyingly bad my accents/voices usually are. DEADLINE 11AM CST Saturday 11/7/15
  • Pick out dialogue from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass (the books only, not any movies or other adaptations please.) that I have to utter in character as Alice. DEADLINE 6AM CST Saturday 11/7/15
So comment or email me antagonist.relations(at)gmail(dot)com if you want to claim a reward.

For this installation of Gussying Up D&D 5e Monsters, I've chosen the Mammoth and Winter Wolf, not because they're especially terrible monsters, they're actually pretty okay as written, but more because I realized it's been over a month since I've gussied up any monsters and the current heat wave has me dreaming of sub-zero temperatures and Wintry Arctic Adventures...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Grim World + Love Letters & Extra Life Thanks

Last Saturday I ran Grim World as a "pre-Halloween" one-shot game, which was a lot of fun and a few caveats. I'll provide a review below, but my biggest caveat was I put out a large invitation to 10+ players, thinking, as I often do, that I'd be lucky to get the four players I'd need to run... Instead, and much to my surprise, I ended up with 8 players (and 7 PCs, since there was some question if the 8th player would be able to attend so he shared a playbook with his GF) and as I always do when I run really large groups of players, I felt like I didn't do the best job of giving each PC a shot in the spotlight and let things get a little more chaotic and bogged down than I liked. But that's all on me and not on the players.

Speaking of, thanks to the incredible generosity of the players, Christy and I managed to raise $135 for Extra Life between the two of us.  I'm now over 75% to my goal (as of 10/28/2015) and if any of the players from the Grim World game want to go back and retroactively ask for any of the rewards I was offering, you certainly can. If you are a regular reader of the blog and haven't pitched in any support for the Extra Life campaign yet, we're nearing the end, with a little over two weeks left, so I hope you'll consider a donation, even if it's just $5.

Click here to skip the Grim World Review and go straight to my further thoughts on Love Letters...

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Planarch Codex - Living Job Board Table

Obligatory Extra Life reminder... please go and support my Extra Life campaign, if you haven't already. There's still plenty of rewards that could be earned.

Doing the minimal prep work that I do for Planarch Codex, I noticed that the jobs I'd rolled up for my band of Freebooters had gotten a little less random... Lots of work for criminals, cults and merchants, lots of deliveries... Now, I could just have players re-roll when they get those results on the table, but instead I've whipped up a slightly modified Job Table, keeping the things that haven't come up (or come up as often) and adding in some new options. I'll probably return to this as needed to update, change up options as I run Planarch Codex more and more. Find a printer friendly, non-blog version here.

Who is the Patron or Target?

[1-2] Urban Denizens

1 – gang
2 – road warden
3 – guild
4 – library
5 – temple
6 – wizard

[3-4] Strangers

1 – diplomat
2 – freebooter
3 – lawyer
4 – militarist
5 – pilgrim
6 – refugee

[5-6] Weirdos

1 – alien god
2 – diabolist
3 – immortal
4 – outlaw
5 – philosopher
6 – spirit

[1-4] Patron
[5-6] Target

What type of job is it?

1 – acquisition
2 – espionage
3 – exploration
4 – killing
5 – protection
6 – investigation

Where is the target? - Roll on normal table

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

100th Post! - 2 Possible Extra Life PCs...

It's my 100th post on the blog, so here are 2 PCs that I might inflict on DMs in Extra Life, if they'll let me... Though it'll be easier to do if people donate... wink wink...and then I can blame popular demand...

Prince Dartor

Prince Dartor (need to update the sheet to reflect his Princeliness). Bask in his majestic nobility, marvel at his potential to do 36 points of damage per round with only Blowgun darts... Or to disarm a foe from 100ft with only a blowgun dart.


Based on the Really Good Dog class from Goblin Punch. Laddie is a Really Good Dog with a couple levels of fighter.

I'll post more of these as I start to get donations.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Extra Life Supporter Rewards + Scattered GM Prep Thoughts + Recent Reading

First, an appeal for dedicated readers of the blog to make a donation to Extra Life. As you've all no doubt gotten tired of reading, I will be playing as part of a 24 hour charity Extra Life event with the proceeds going to Children's Miracle Network on with most of those 24 hours falling on Saturday 11/7/2015. I've actually donated $25 myself, just not to my own profile. I run this blog without asking for any donations or support, mostly out of my own obsessive need to bloviate about RPGs, and while I do have ads at the bottom so far this year they've netted me less than a dollar. Each time I put up a post, I see that it usually gets 10-15 views within 24 hours, so even if only five of your donate $5 we'll double the donation I've already made. It's for a good cause so please donate, even if it's just a dollar or two.

If you do donate because of this blog, let me know and if I can generate $50 of donations from the blog I will let supporters demand that I do wacky (but not game ruining) things during the game sessions that I play and/or run. Here are some options:

  • Force me to play a wacky character off my list of Characters Too Ridiculous to play if I can (the DMs get veto power on PCs, so the intensely wacky characters might require a bit of finagling on my part but I'll try my damnedest or trick one of the other DMs into running a 5 minute mini-session or something or have them show up in a session I run as an NPC)
  • Record a video of myself speaking in character, in an accent determined by donors during play. Those of you who listen to the actual play podcast or who game with me in real life know how mortifyingly bad my accents/voices usually are.
  • Determine my PCs for sessions. I've got one character I definitely want to play (spoiler, it's Alice), but I'm hoping to play in at least 3 of the 3 hour sessions and I've already got 18 potential PCs made, well, 14 if you count the 5 versions of Alice I've made as a single PC.
  • Pick out dialogue from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass (the books only, not any movies or other adaptations please.) that I have to utter in character as Alice.
I'm also waiting on more details about the location and scheduling, but I may be able to do things like live-blog sessions I play in, and if the schedule works out right, I'm hoping to run one of the 7 versions I've drafted up of the True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates which will be largely improvised and which, if I receive donations, I could allow sponsors to make decisions about what happens in the Tomb, perhaps even in real time through one of the many social media platforms available. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Shady Hobo Moth and Witch Pies - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 3 - GM Commentary

First, go listen to Antagonist Relations Podcast - Episode 17 "I have my finger in many sinister pies!" as that is the session that I'll be commenting on. A Red and Pleasant Land is abbreviated as aR&PL below. Also, spoilers for the podcast, though I'll hide any spoilers for the players about upcoming sessions.

Comments are in roughly chronological order as I listen to the podcast for the umpteenth time...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fiddly Bits - Old and New

An early illustration of a Medieval Elephant Drop?

Fiddly bits have been on my mind lately.Between running my Shattered World 5e-ish D&D game (as discussed here), running World of Dungeons 1979 with Planarch Codex for my non-D&D games and playing in Thomas' Church of Al-Qadim Sun-AD&D 2e game, I've been noticing more and more about the fiddly bits that make play more difficult, are easy to sweep aside when needed, easy to create and add in or just weird little things that make the game more enjoyable or at least more interesting. Then on this last Saturday I ran a last-minute-ish Birthday D&D game for a friend that brought a lot of the fiddliness into focus for me.

Friday, October 2, 2015

"I have my fingers in many sinister pies!" - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 3

Listen to episode three of our Actual Play of A Red & Pleasant Land utilizing the World of Dungeons 1979 rules set and Planarch Codex options. Pies, Witches, Accusations of Trollop'ry, Stolen Voices, Nearly Deadly Skeletons, this podcast has all of those things.

"I have my fingers in many sinister pies!" - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 3 

Also, please support our Extra Life drive!

You can also find our event/team donation page here and my personal donation page on the top right corner of THIS VERY BLOG (or here if you're too lazy to scroll elsewhere or use RSS or mobile). If you're a regular reader, please consider making a donation, even if it's only a few dollars. It goes to a good cause and the sooner I start getting a few donations, the less I'll need to spam my blog with pitches over the next month.

Extra Life - PCs I'll never be allowed to play - Recent Reading

The planning for the Ginger Giant's Extra Life event continues apace, and you can read and hear all 'bout it on his blog. 

You can also find our event/team donation page here and my personal donation page on the top right corner of THIS VERY BLOG (or here if you're too lazy to scroll elsewhere or use RSS or mobile). If you're a regular reader, please consider making a donation, even if it's only a few dollars. It goes to a good cause and the sooner I start getting a few donations, the less I'll need to spam my blog with pitches over the next month.

Ben had been making a few noises about not wanting me to play so ridiculous a character that I took over the game, so of course that was A GAUNTLET THROWN DOWN, and I had to come up with characters so ridiculous I'd never be allowed to play them in the event. Originally I had thought I could do a hundred but that was overly ambitious, so instead below are 23, two of which I originally pitched in my first Extra Life post.

Also below is some of my Recent Reading with a few thoughts.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Extra Life - Thoughts on Not Running D&D 5e - Exquisite Corpse Megadungeon Pt. 1

James and the Ginger Giant have decided to organize an Extra Life event, where players game in support of a worthy cause. They're going to try and get enough DMs to run 24 hours of games and do some live streaming and other media. I'll share more information on how to support them as I get it and it looks like I'm probably going to be a player (hopefully for as much of the event as I can). I was invited to GM but decided to pass as they're going to try to run a single epic storyline set in Ben's homebrew D&D campaign the Known World. Since I'm not in any of the 5th edition groups playing in the setting I don't feel comfortable running the setting and since my own D&D 5th edition game is largely not a 5th edition game (more on that below) and Ben's is also not quite "by the book" I'm not up on what house rules his groups are using. Plus, I don't get to be a player as much anymore outside of AD&D Church and the odd Wonder Plunder Dungeon World game.

So, expect more information when I know more on how to support our adventuring for charity. I'd love to allow people to donate certain amounts to make me play wacky/against type characters like a Horserer , a series of Jameses (obvi Fighters with the Champion archetype who don't use weapons but instead just throw themselves on enemies attempting to grapple them (For those playing the Antagonist Relations Drinking Game at home take a shot for "Zack does a bad LSP impression"), or something else, but since it's in an established campaign, I'm not sure how wacky/goofy I'll be allowed to be, so folk might just have to be content with forcing me to suffer the indignity of playing a Bard or a Fighter with the Eldritch Knight martial archetype. All in all, I'm hoping I can play 12+ hours of D&D and I'm really looking forward to being a part of it.

But the offer to DM did get me thinking about how my "5th edition D&D" Shattered World game is nearly not and also what I would propose if I were organizing a 24 hour D&D event.
An Exquisite Corpse

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Menacing Manticores and Stinging Scorpions - Gussying Up D&D 5e Monsters #3

I've had Manticores on my mind lately, primarily due to my Planarch Codex pick up game which featured a manticore obsessed wizard tower, a manticore vs. gelatinous cube fight and now an order of wizard experimenters who call themselves the Millenary Order of the Manticore. Head of a man, with three rows of fangs, body of a lion, wings of a dragon (not pictured above), spiked tail that shoots spines like arrows and per legendarily accurate information source, Wikipedia, " It devours its prey whole and leaves no clothes, bones, or possessions of the prey behind." So imagine my (lack) of surprise when the D&D 5e Manticore is completely... uninspiring... How uninspiring is it? So uninspiring that the Giant Scorpion, which is also a CR 3 monster, is more dynamic but also might be overpowered, which is why covering that monster in this post as well.

Standard disclaimers apply and all that nonsense...
I haven't play-tested these at all, so they're entirely theoretical. It's changes I like, so I'll probably make use of them when I use the creatures in 5e and update the posts with any notes or discoveries. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

More than 11 Ways - Recent Reading and Re-reading

So I see that the 11 Ways to be a Better Roleplayer from Look, Robot is going around again. Not that I have any problem with this, it's an excellent post and I actually recommended it back in December of 2014 when I first came across it (and paired it with a companion piece from Gnome Stew on how to help your players if you're a GM) but I've been wondering if anyone sharing the link has been delving deeper into the RPG Advice on Look, Robot because there's plenty of other great stuff there.

So here's five more posts I'll recommend that I went back and re-read or read for the first time after seeing 11 Ways to be a Better Roleplayer make the rounds again.

For Players

And one for the GMs
And across town, the other half of the group are in the invented-on-the-spot schoolgirl pitfighting bar called The Slap And Tackle, and the ex-schoolgirl Barbarian is getting ready to beat up a tamed owlbear in single combat, and we’re formulating the four stages involved in an owlbear duel (Hooting, Circling, Face-Slapping, Arm-Ripping) and the fighter is blind drunk and betting his share of the pirate ship on the owlbear after he fluffed a Gambling check and it’s happening, you know, the whole scene is buzzing and we can smell the owlbear blood and hear the booming hoots and feel the sawdust under our feet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Pudding Recipe Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 2 - GM Commentary

First, go listen to Antagonist Relations Podcast - Episode 15 - Pudding Recipe as that is the session that I'll be commenting on. A Red and Pleasant Land is abbreviated as aR&PL below. Also, spoilers for the podcast, though I'll hide any spoilers for the players about upcoming sessions.

Comments are in roughly chronological order as I listen to the podcast for the umpteenth time...

A Red & Pleasant Land - Increasing the Evocativeness of Table Names

Previously I had lamented that while some of the tables in the book were wonderfully evocative, like Fees & Taxes Demanded by Members of the Pale House" and "Idiotic Voivodja Filibuster Conversation Openers" or even "Intercepted Communiqué" or "Perplexities In the Interior (Common)" others were fairly bland, such as "D100 Events" and "Objects". Here then, is the list of tables found in A Red & Pleasant Land that I took it upon myself to rename. Hopefully my new names are more evocative.

Guest Color
What is the peculiar hue of that Guest?
Guest Purpose
For what Dread Purpose has the Guest come to visit Voivodja
Attributes (D100)
What gruesome attributes distinguish this Guest?
Powers (D100)
What terrible and otherworldly powers does this Guest possess?
Random Encounters
Inhabitants randomly encountered by intruders in the Castle Cachtice
Random Encounters
Members of the Red House and other creatures encountered by interlopers in Castle Poenari
D6 Dueling Injury
Greivous injuries (and one insult) sustained when dueling
D20 Adventure Hook
Hooks to ensnare adventurers as they travel Voivodja
D100 Animal
A hundred entries containing more than one hundred various beasts to populate Voivodja
Various and sundry encounters which can occur in Voivodja's Interiors, Gardens and Forests during both the Day and the Night.
D100 Events
Events which may or many not occur within the confines of Voivodja
Unusual objects which nonetheless are found with some frequency in Voivodja
Relationships Between NPCs
Relationships benign, malign and other between persons and intelligent creatures in Voivodja

Monday, September 14, 2015

Honest Descriptions of PCs Alignments in D&D

Reading Thomas' post about having a GM declare his PC was Chaotic Neutral has me thinking about D&D Alignments again...

Here is a nonsense Alignment Meme, because ALL Alignment Memes are nonsense.

Now, I almost geared up a new post about Alignments and not being a dick to other players, but instead here's something more lighthearted. Now, D&D is famous/infamous for its nine alignments (except for 4th when it was "simplified" to five which I've marked with * for no reason)

  • Lawful Good*
  • Neutral Good* (as Good? I guess Good from 4e could cover Neutral and Chaotic Good)
  • Chaotic Good
  • Lawful Neutral
  • True Neutral* (as unaligned)
  • Chaotic Neutral
  • Lawful Evil
  • Neutral Evil* (As Evil)
  • Chaotic Evil*
But when I have players actually playing D&D I rarely see these alignments, so here is my proposed list of "Honest" Alignments that reflect actual play in my very snarky and not terribly serious opinion. **(Though serious enough that I did not make Alignment an official part of my current 5e D&D game)

The list of Honest Alignments in no-particular order (or some secret order, who knows?).

  1. Lawful Jerk - aka "Let's not break any laws."
  2. "If the party's fine with it..." aka "If I can just get to the next level on my iPhone game" aka level 5 Facebook browser.
  3. Ruthless Good aka "If I think they're Evil, there's nothing that's too horrible that can be done to them."
  4. Thieving Murder Hobo aka "I search the body!"
  5. Stabbity-stab-stab.
  6. "Who needs diplomacy when you have Acid Arrow?" aka ADD aka Random Asshole aka Chaotic Neutral
  7. "Ignore all the notes I'm passing the DM" aka "If I roll high enough, the PC fighter won't know I'm stealing from them." aka Eventually murdered by the rest of the Party.
  8. Annoying Personality Trait- aka D&D 5e background quirks and flaws
  9. Deranged Lunatic aka "What's wrong if I eat babies?" aka Sid
Additional "Honest" Alignments (more in traditional Alignment order) h/t the Ginger Giant for these and for tolerating my editing of these.
  • Moral Absolutist - For when you want to be a bossy dick wrapped in a meta cloak of doing the right thing, accept no substitute.
  • The Good Guy (or Girl) aka "I want to be like Aragorn" aka "I sort of do the right thing but I don't need to get on a soap box about it"
  • Killing is my Business & Business is GOOD aka the Barbarian - For players who get bored and like to stir things up but also want to pretend to be good.
  • "I'm out for myself, but I'm not going to stab you in the back to do it"
  • "Yes, but how does this affect ME!?" aka the Scout, aka "I'm just going to do my own thing here and if the rest of the party doesn't go along...¯\_(ツ)_/¯"
  • "Well, at least I'm not Evil!" aka "I do what I want"
  • "Might Makes Right" aka "Mostly I can game the rules, so I'm good with rules but I'm really not Good.:
  • "I do what I WANT!" aka "I want to play an evil PC"
  • "Insanity for the sake of Insanity" aka "Why don't you want me to heal you?" aka "It's not my blood"

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Recently Cast Pods - From the Lair of the Ginger Giant

Two new pods have been cast, our second Actual Play of A Red & Pleasant Land, using the World of Dungeons 1979 Planarch Codex hack... Antagonist Relations Actual Play: Pudding Recipe. And a status update podcast where the Ginger Giant and I discuss the games we've run recently and those we'll run in the near future... Antagonist Relations Podcast - Episode 16 - Status Alert

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Improv Dwarf Puzzle and other Scattered Thoughts on my last Shattered World session

I ran my Shattered World D&D 5e game last night and here are my scattered thoughts about it in an order of no particularness (if you're playing the Antagonist Relations drinking game, you know why you should take a drink for that sentence).

  • Took out my gussied-up Wights for a test spin which was complicated slightly by a series of natural 20s on my attack rolls...
    • Back in the 2nd session I gave the PCs a bunch of magic items that 2nd or 3rd level PCs have no business possessing. I told the players then that taking and using the items was a 'devil deal' that they'd pay for in possibly unforeseen ways. 
    • One of the ways I'm realizing that the PCs are paying for this devil deal is that I don't pull many punches with encounters, letting them be fairly brutal and being pretty much okay with PCs going unconscious, often multiple PCs at a time, because I know they have potent magic items that they can fall back on.
  • Disclaimed a bunch of responsibility as I had been planning to do, which worked out pretty well. 
    • The four players in attendance talked over some personal/party goals, they filled in the map and a little to my surprise they decided that they want to go to the Library of Sacred Knowledge and maybe find a fire-breathing dragon on the way to get what they need for a gnome-built dirigible.
    • The two goals I got from the group seem to be
      • Go to the Library for more information about what really happened/what the situation on the ground is now.
      • Find a way to go from the Thalemegos, the gigantic flying ship they're on, to the ground. While the NPC pilot can control speed and direction, he can't control altitude. 
    • Despite being down two players, I don't foresee these goals being too incompatible to the missing PCs and I did purposefully leave the Monastery of the Dark Brew off the map so that the player who wrote it in his PC's backstory gets to place it. (for the Antagonist Relations drinking game, take a drink for "Zack uses both foresee and unforeseen in the same post).
  • After a slow start and some NPC questioning that might have been long over-due for the game, the player's volunteered their PCs for an exploration of a mountain top Dwarven fort.
    • Improving the fort during a short break while players decided on the spells they wanted and made some history (I'm trying to help Thomas bring that phrase into wider usage). I wrote down three things.
      • Wights
      • Dwarven puzzle
      • Barrels
    • In the moment, I remembered a promotional trinket I'd gotten from work, a wooden cube puzzle and figured, why not try using that as a prop instead of just trying to describe a trapped door or world puzzle.
    • I grabbed the puzzle and took it apart and reassembled it multiple times during the combat with the Wights, until I felt confident that I could easily complete it below is the puzzle I ran with.

Improvized Dwarf Puzzle with Fire Damage and Wood Prop

  • A smallish room with doors on two opposite walls.
  • In the center of the room is a pedestal with shapes carved into the top.
  • The doors exiting the room (from where the PCs enter) have runes carved into them.
    • PCs with at least a rudimentary understand of Dwarf can make out runes for "Stone" and "Fire" on them
    • Examining the far doors or the pedestal, the PCs can puzzle out that the far doors won't open until the entry doors are shut and something else is done.
  • Once the entry doors are shut the PCs see that the shapes on the pedestal are now free of it and no longer carved into the surface. The PCs quickly figure out that they need to assemble the shapes into a cube to open the far doors as the room begins to become uncomfortable warm.
  • Have the PCs roll initiative at that point. Each round the PCs can move a single piece of the puzzle or make a hard INT check for a clue
    • If you're nice you give all the PCs one free bonus INT check.
    • If you're nice you let PCs leave the room through the entry doors if they decide things get too hot for them (take a shot if you're playing the Antagonist Relations drinking game for that awful pun).
  • The room continues to warm.
    1. The first round the PCs take no damage.
    2. Beginning with the 2nd round, have each PC make an easy CON check at the start of each of their turns. If they fail, have them take 1 pt of Fire damage.
    3. CON save or take 2 pts of fire damage
    4. CON save or 3 pts of fire damage
    5. CON save or 3 pts of fire damage
    6. CON save or 4 pts of fire damage, 1 pt on a successful save
    7. CON save or 4 pts of fire damage, 1 pt on a successful save
    8. CON save or 5 pts of fire damage, 2 pts on a successful save
  • Hopefully the PCs won't need more than 8 rounds, and you can speed things up if you have more players as more players will mean more pieces moved/clues learned in a round.
  • Once the puzzle has been completed, the fire damage stops and the far doors open.
So, what did I learn improvising a puzzle prop during a game session?
  • It was a nice change of pace, and it definitely felt more visceral than a trapped door for a rogue to examine and make a couple of skill checks on disarming.
  • It was a little frustrating for the players, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in small doses, but I'm not going to use them that often.
  • Half-assedly mastering a puzzle while doing something else doesn't prepare you to provide useful clues. Several times I had to take a picture with my cell phone of what the players had done, pause, pull the puzzle behind my DM screen, work out the solution again and then use the photo to put it back the way the PCs had left it so that I could provide a clue. 
  • The second time I did this, I actually photographed the puzzle step by step as I disassembled it, giving me a series of photos of the proper assembly (when I viewed them in reverse order).
  • Next time I find a good puzzle prop, I'll play with it and learn all its secrets outside of the game, though I'll probably take a bunch of pictures to use to help provide clues.
  • Stakes! I'm really glad that I had the ambient fire damage that kept escalating, otherwise the puzzle would have felt really tacky and meaningless. The need to solve the puzzle before the PCs went unconscious from heatstroke provided a sense of tension.
  • Time! I wish I had a timer so I could have given players 15-30 seconds each turn to make their roll for a clue or to move a piece, between my taking the puzzle behind my screen and a few long player turns as players made full use of the metagame advantage of 6 seconds of game time not being 6 seconds of play time the puzzle dragged on a little longer than I wanted (not to blame the players, that was all my fault).
Once they got the puzzle solved and the door opened, the PCs found the supplies, including barrels(!) that they had come seeking and after taking an inventory decided on a long rest, which will have appropriate consequences when we pick up there next session. Overall, a fairly lowkey session, but it gave me a chance to provide some plot-correction and try out a few new things. And now I know to watch out for props that would make good in game puzzles and to master them when my players aren't watching (Those playing the Antagonist Relations drinking game can take a shot for "Zack starts a sentence with And")

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wicked Wights and Knavish Kenku - Gussying Up D&D 5e Monsters #2 - With Bonus Zombies

Only my second Gussying Up 5e Monsters post and I'm already breaking the rules I set for myself, taking a swipe at Kenku, which aren't in the Basic PDFs, but are in the Princes of the Apocalypse Adventure Supplement PDF (those of you playing the Antagonist Relations drinking game can take a swig for "Zack breaks a self-imposed rule). *Update* Thomas also took a crack at the Kenku after he came across them in the 5e game he's playing.

As with the previous entry, some caveats. I haven't play-tested these so they're entirely theoretical. It's changes I like, so I'll probably make use of them when I use the creatures in 5e and update the posts with any notes or discoveries.

What are you waiting for, it's Wight time?! (those of you playing the Antagonist Relations Drinking Game can take a drink for that groanworthy turn of phrase)

Post-Apocalyptic Names

As I'm prepping to run a Godless mini-campaign, I wanted to have a good post-apocalyptic name table to draw from. The Apocalypse World...