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...