Thursday, December 8, 2016

We're Not in Parcher's Anymore... (Apocalyptic Dispatches from Parcher's Pt. 3)

Not gonna lie, this is my inspiration for the look of the Beast...

Last session ended with Parcher dying from a nasty 'pede bite, so technically, the PCs aren't in Parcher's Hardhold anymore (Still going to use the Parcher's tag though, so that these dispatches are linked together). I wanted to shake things up as we started our fourth session and saw on my quakes threat countdown that we were due for another seismic event, plus I wanted to force the question right away and up front for Man, whether he'd become the hard holder or not. The easy way to do this, seemed to be another set of Love Letters, so I whipped up a fresh batch. (Reminder to my players not to peek).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

'Pedes, Pup & Pump-can (Apocalyptic Dispatches from Parcher's Pt. 2)

Hopefully these man-sized millipedes will haunt my player's dreams...

Got in our third session of Apocalypse-World. Not quite as action-packed as the last, but I did some poking, prodding and prep for what's to come (if you're playing the drinking game, take a double for my overuse of alliteration...).

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Corpse Chewer - Or a semi-improv, low prep 13th Age One shot you could run too

After the election my wife asked me to run a combat heavy one shot RPG as a distraction, I've been burnt out a little on 5e D&D lately, so I decided to run 13th Age instead.

I like 13th Age for this kind of adventure/monster fighting combat heavy game because...

  • It's basically D&D. I mean, it's not official Wizards of the Coast branded D&D(TM) but it's got a unified d20 mechanic like recent D&D, the classic classes, races and a lot of the feel.
  • It's good at what it does and focuses on that. It's not the game I'd run if I wanted to run a social intrigue game (probably, right now, V20 Vampire the Dark Ages would win) or the game I'd run if I wanted a gritty game where the PCs struggled to survive (for now, that would probably be Shadow of the Demon Lord) but for a combat heavy game where PCs will have cool stuff to do during combat and you want a high fantasy feel it's an excellent choice. 
  • 13th Age PCs are surprisingly simple(ish). For the game I just used some pre-made 4th level characters (and recommend you do too) and they all fit onto a single page without needing a magnifying glass to read the type. Even if players make their own PCs, they really only need their class write up at hand to play and won't need to flip between multiple sections of the core book the way any of the spellcasting classes in 5e D&D do (and remember that 5 of the 12 classes of 5e have spellcasting and gain or can gain spells, though that Totem Barbarian who gets two spells as rituals won't need the book as much as the wizard, but still...)
  • Icon Relationships, Backgrounds and One Unique Things encourage player investment, even for one shot characters.
    • A few memorable one unique things from when I ran this...
      • Renowned as a 'fuck-up'.
      • Attracts random cats when she sings.
      • Half of his face looks like a corpse.
So, without further ado, here is Corpse Chewer, a semi-improv, low prep 13th Age One shot. It's semi-improv because I'm providing the skeletal sketch of the plot arc and combat encounters but you can improvise the description of the dungeon and environs itself and some of the flavor bits can be tailored to the icon relationships the players pick.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bringing a Hand Grenade to a Tire Iron Fight (Apocalyptic Dispatches from Parcher's Pt. 1)

First, a reminder, please consider supporting my 2016 Extra Life campaign. It's not often that I get to put my nerdy hobbies to the cause of good, so donations do mean a lot to me. Thanks!

So... last month I started a new Apocalypse-World Campaign, taking the second edition rules out for a test drive, and got to run a second session this last Saturday. For this particular campaign, I went in blind, not having any ideas what I'd run until the players chose playbooks and created their PCs, and so I ended up having the following to toy with (a note, Parcher is the Hardholder NPC I created once it was clear there wasn't a Hardholder PC to run the joint):

  • Pinky - The Chopper
    • A woman with a busted face, wiry body and kind eyes. Wearing combat biker wear and a grotesque prosthetic leg with lots of straps, buckles and a complicated harness.
    • Has 2 harm gang medium savage mobile 1-armor, vulnerable to breakdown. Notable gang members: Winkle, Goldy, Stinky, Gary (the new Guy), Larry, Harry and Barry. Gang can call her Half-Pint, but no one else can.
    • Left Man bleeding and did nothing.
    • Has a side-car for Thirteen to ride in.
    • Just coming back to Parcher's Hardhold on day 130.
  • Ming - The Driver
    • An older Asian woman with a fine-boned face, sad eyes and a slim and frail body. Wearing an immaculate windbreaker suit. Also has a comfortable, hand-built, prosthetic leg with a complicated harness.
    • Has a Buggy that is fast, pristine, luxe and cramped.
    • Has been with Firefly for days on the road.
    • Also just coming to Parcher's Hardhold.
  • Man - The Gunlugger
    • Concealed gender, battered old armor, a dull face, sad eyes and a stringy body.
    • Carries a silenced sniper rifle, a shotgun and a shit-ton of knives.
    • Got Ming out of some serious shit and used to ride with Pinky's gang until they abandoned him in Parcher's Hardhold. Now serves as Parcher's enforcer and sometimes bodyguard.
  • Firefly - The Battlebabe
    • A woman with a girlish face, merciless eyes and a slim body, clad in display wear with high boots.
    • Wields a long-bladed sword staff.
    • Does odd jobs for Parcher, as well as Twice, who runs a club in the hardhold.
    • Has fought shoulder to shoulder with Man. Trusts all the PCs but Pinky, who she thinks she can take in a fight.
  • Thirteen - The Child-Thing
    • A girl with a pretty face, wise eyes and a child's body, clad in scrounge wear.
    • Always hiding from the Wolves of the Maelstrom, perversions of birth, who look like beasts under their disguises but they have empty holes for eyes and they only howl when their nature is revealed.
    • She has a radio that speaks only to her, and her den is a crooked, labyrinthine set of interconnected tunnels and boltways with ways into basically everyone's spaces, even if they've taken pains to close them off.
    • She thinks Ming and Man might be Wolves of the Maelstrom.
Fair warning... plenty of foul language below the cut...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Deathgrind D&D Preview - Extra Life 2016

Way back in June, I had the idea of Deathgrind D&D, after playing hours of Dungeon Robber, and thought it would work well for a birthday D&D game. Well... my birthday came and went and I didn't run Deathgrind D&D, but in the last few weeks I've buckled down and gotten it written out to a point where I can run it for Extra Life 2016. So, without further ado, here is a re-written pitch and rules and what-not...

But actually, before that, please consider donating to my Extra Life. Thanks for your support!

Semi-Competi-Comic-Death Grind D&D

5th Edition D&D at a frantic and farcical pace, a less than serious game where the stakes are low, but also high, and investment in your PC is low until they start surviving—A celebration of the absurdity of rolling dice and marking sheets of paper. Bring a roster of 1st level characters or choose from the many pre-made options to toss into the abattoir, or just watch and giggle and try to get a bingo. 

Compete for awards like “Fastest PC Death”, “Most Humorous Monster Kill” and “Most Natural 1’s by a Player” as we throw PC after PC into the death machine of a whimsical mega-dungeon, complete with room names like “The Deadly Catacombs of Cursed Mesmerizing Lights” and “The Forgotten Harem of Ghostly Mildewed Ladies”. 

Players will tag in and out as they come and go, or as their PCs die and new PCs enter the dungeon. Fun will be emphasized over plot, rules or continuity of any kind as we drink. Spectators and players not currently playing will be able to participate in Death Grind D&D Bingo.

Each PC will get a “DOOOM!,” like “Goblin Bait: Goblinoids attack you if they are able” and a “Glimmer” (as in glimmer of hope) like “Bone-Breaker: Once per encounter you can declare an attack against an Undead to be a Critical Hit, before or after the roll is made” and loot (magical and not) will be plentiful. 

Each player will get a chance to bring back a PC as a Zombie or a Ghost for a small donation in support of the Extra-Life campaign and other fun rewards will be offered for donations as well.

Full Deathgrind D&D pitch and rules

Additional samples...

    • Mage Slayer
      • You have an unreasonable hatred of Spellcasters and are unable to target any other creatures or take any action aside from making an attack whose target includes at least one enemy Spellcaster unless you use a bonus action to focus. This affiliction does not cause you to have any enmity towards PC Spellcasters. Gain 1 XP for surviving any encounter where this Dooom! comes into play.
    • Afraid of the Dark
      • You are afraid of the Dark and suffer from the Frightened condition in any encounter where you can see an area of Darkness larger than a 5' square until you make a DC 12 WIS saving throw or until the Darkness has been illuminated. Gain 1 XP for surviving any encounter where this Dooom! comes into play.
    • Thin-Skinned
      • You are vulnerable (take 2x damage) from Slashing damage. Gain 1 XP for surviving any encounter where this Dooom! comes into play.
  • Glimmers
    • Gear Smasher
      • Once per encounter you can declare an attack against a Construct to be a Critical Hit, before or after the roll is made.
    • Ghost Flub
      • Once an encounter you can declare any attack made by an Undead that targets or includes you as a target as a Critical Miss.
    • Blessed Entropy
      • Once an encounter you tell the DM that any single non-construct, non-trap inanimate object breaks. You can suggest how this happens, but the final call is the DM's, but as long as the object is not a trap or a construct it will break by the start of your next turn.
  • Luck Deck
    • You are turned into a Gelatinous Cube
    • Your armor become a suit of Plate Mail
    • You are under the "Reduce" effect of an Enlarge/Reduce spell for the remainder of the combat.
  • Room Names
    • The Fiery Maze of Crystal Bone Hands
    • The Green and Purple Pit of Souls Inscrutable
    • The Deadly Prison of Ancient Copper Eyes
  • Awards
    • Fastest PC Death
    • Most Humorous Monster Kill
    • Most Natural 1's by a Player
    • Most Natural 20's by a Player
    • Most Dead PCs
    • Most XP earned by a Player
    • PC with most Encounters Survived
    • PC with the most Loot

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Party Time - Voltron as Inspiration and other recent Party Building & Character Creation

Or how can a GM trick his players into forming a party that is both this
 and occasionally this...

Thomas insisted that I give the new Netflix reboot of Voltron, Voltron: Legendary Defender, a try, and I'm incredibly glad I did. I have very few memories of the Voltron TV series that aired on American TV in the 80s. I'm certain I saw re-runs in syndication and I had the Voltron figure that combined all 5 lions, though I lost the sword and paladin figures before I started elementary school. Which is to say, I knew Voltron, but didn't have many definite and concrete memories and went into Voltron: Legendary Defender with only hazy memories of what came before.

Now, I won't try to claim that V:LD is high art or ground-breaking for a 'kids show' in the way that I might for Adventure Time, Steven Universe or Over the Garden Wall, but I did find it enjoyable and I'm looking forward to the second season. There's a slow bit in the middle of the series with some rock people and a friend remarked to me that there's a lot of it that revolves around them not being able to or wanting to form Voltron, but what I keep going back too as I think about the show is how it could be an excellent model for a D&D style adventuring party.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Meat is Meat - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 7

Once again we descended into the lair of the Ginger Giant and recorded the continuing adventures of the Stonestrike sisters plus retinue. Murdered and mutilated mirror doubles, more bores of boars and an unexpected death in "Meat is Meat - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 7"

Plus, remember the glimpse of the map I provided last time?

Here is James' attempt at mapping the northwest corner before it drove him mad....

Friday, September 2, 2016

Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 6 - GM Commentary + Bonus Antagonist Relations Commentary

First, go listen to Because They're Suckers - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 6 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 Mome-rath... a boar that's a... bore...

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

RPG Assumptions - A Tale of Two (Powered by the) Apocalypse Games - With Bonus Adventure Fronts!

Last month I ran two games, both Powered by the Apocalypse, in the first, a game of Viking World, I feel like the game ran aground a bit on some player assumptions so for the second, a game of Adventures on Dungeon Planet, I was upfront about the assumptions of the game and as a consequence it went much more smoothly. But the whole thing has had me thinking more about the assumptions that players and game masters bring to games.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Additional Podcastery

Once again I descended into the Lair of the Ginger Giant to cast some pods.

First we have the 6th Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast: Because They're Suckers where the party, with a new Were-frog companion, descended into the dungeon below the Mirror Reflecting.

Second, we have a long and rambling actual, old-school Antagonist Relations Podcast, Roll a CON Save, where we talked about some of the shortcomings of 5e D&D and how we address them, games we want to run and I did some more convincing of Ben of the glory that will be Death Grind D&D before the three beers and late night caught up to me and we ran out of steam. We're going to try and be more focused on these in the future, and cover topics instead of (who am I kidding, in addition to) rambling on and on, so if you have a topic you'd like us to cover, reach out and let us know.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pudding Crisis/Plate Fort - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 5 - GM Commentary

First, go listen to Gary the Pudding: Pudding Party Part 2 - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 5 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...


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lessons from al-Qadim Church: 2nd Edition D&D in the time of 5th

Thomas runs a 2nd Edition D&D game set in al-Qadim over Roll20 most Sundays, that we've taken to refering to as 'Church', originally as a bit of a joke about our scheduling, since for most of the players it's a 9am-1pm time slot. But thinking about it, it is a time of fellowship and reflection, with parables I can apply to my (gaming) life.

I've been playing Thema, a lawful evil moralist priest of Ragarra, dedicated to bringing the 'old' Gods of Ragarra, Shajar et al back to prominence and eventually casting out the Enlightened religion in the Ruined Kingdoms area where the campaign is set. So far we've cleared goblins out a monastery, cleared over a hundred gnolls out of a canyon of caverns, killed a vampire by releasing it out of a bottle into the tropical high noon sun and escaped from a trio of giants who wanted to keep us captive to pose for their topiary sculpting, among other things. We've played most Sunday mornings since September 2015, with over 20 sessions and put in nearly 100 days in game and every week it's well worth getting up early on Sunday, even if I was up late the night before, to sign on and play.

But up above I joked about parables, so what have I learned from playing 2nd Edition D&D when we're now three and half more editions on? And what do I want to steal from 2e for my own games?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

OotA v. CoS Cagematch + Out of the Abyss Fixes & Resources

If you recall, I've previously discussed some of my personal struggles running Out of the Abyss, which you can find here in "I've Got the (Out of the) Abyss Blues" (SPOILERS GALORE), so this will be a post focused more on the positives and negatives of Out of the Abyss, with some comparisons to Curse of Strahd (warning, I've not run any of CoS so I'm admittedly less familiar with it) and then some fixes and resources for running OotA that I've made and many more that I've found.

Spoilers abound below, so don't read if you're playing or want to play Out of the Abyss or Curse of Strahd.

Last updated 06/27/2016

Gary the Pudding: Pudding Party Part 2 - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 5

Here is the fifth 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 on their first quest to fetch ingredients for their "friend" Thomasina the Pie Witch, make a new "friend" Gary the Pudding.

(link to podcast below tweets from the game)

Antagonist Relations Podcast - Episode 19 - Gary The Pudding  (Numbering is different because the Ginger Giant numbers from total AR podcasts and I only have been counting Actual Play. As always, any complaints can be addressed to him and any compliments to me ;-P)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thought of the Day: Boneless Wizards - Skaggar's Skeleton Scouting

So this is more a thought that came up during my Wednesday night Shattered World D&D game, I modded an Iron and Stone golem slightly, twinned them together as the same red/green that I did the Ruby Dragon the players had previously fought and decided that the Red (Iron) golem would become Green (Stone) when the players did enough damage and vice versa.

At one point my lovely wife decided to cast Banishment and the golem failed its saving throw, despite having advantage from the golem magic resistance feature. Instead of just having the one golem which wouldn't let me use my color swap and twin golem nonsense, I decided on the fly instead to have the Banishment do 50 points of damage and cost both golems a turn as the Green golem then crawled out of the Red golem's mouth. That way when they were damaged on the next turn, I got to do my color swap nonsense and while the players may not have realized it, they still managed to do both damage to the golems and prevent some damage to themselves as the golems were unable to attack for a turn.

But, that led to a great digression as the image of the one golem crawling out of the other's mouth caused my players to wonder if there was a spell that would let a Necromancer have his skeleton leave his body to scout while his body was left somewhere safe as a pile of flesh.

I thought that Thomas might have a spell similar to this in his excellent "Necromancy After the Godswar" packet, available on the DMsGuild, but he doesn't. So here is a not at all playtested or balanced spell to do just that.

Skaggar's Skeleton Scouting

3rd-level necromancy

Casting Time: 1 minute
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (a human tooth and a bit of grease)
Duration: 4 hours

You cause your skeleton to leave your body, climbing out of your mouth, at the cost of one hit die. For the remainder of the duration, you can move your skeleton independently of your body, which remains where you left it as an immobile pile of flesh. Your skeleton has the hit points, stats and senses of a skeleton, but you are able to cast spells or take any other action your DM sees as reasonable. As a skeleton your voice is whispery and dry. As an action you can move your perspective back to your body and use your normal senses. When the duration ends or at any point during the duration when you use a bonus action, your skeleton returns to your body, though the process takes a full turn before you can stand or take any other action. If your skeleton is reduced to 0 hit points or fewer before the duration ends you take any excess damage carries over to your normal body and your skeleton is returned to your body, requiring the full extra turn before you can take actions just as if the duration ended or you used a bonus action to end the spell.

During the duration of the spell your body is unable to move, speak or take any other actions. A generous DM may allow you simple communication by blinking your eyes. A successful Dispel Magic spell against your skeleton or body can end the spell.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level you can choose to either extend the duration by 4 hours or use the stats of a minotaur skeleton, using the extra magic to cause your bones to grow and strengthen. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher you extend both the duration by 4 hours and use the stats of a minotaur skeleton.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I've Got the (Out of the) Abyss Blues

As I put on twitter recently...

Now, partly this was being down 3 players and having a 4th arriving late (out of a group of 7) but partly it's due to a dissatisfaction with the Out of the Abyss campaign. Especially now that I've got Curse of Strahd to compare it to I can see it's short comings (not that CoS doesn't have it's own shortcomings).

Spoilers below the break, so anyone who might play Out of the Abyss or anyone who is playing Out of the Abyss will want to break off reading here (yes, this means you Bob). If you're not going to play, have played, are running or thinking of running, continue below to read my big problem with OotA and what I plan to do about it. Then in a few days, I'll post some more thoughts on issues with OotA and CoS and fixes I've created or found.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Shattered World - Ruby Visions - partial Manlorette recap

As I confessed in my last State of the Blog post, I wasn't certain how to proceed with my Shattered World D&D game, we'd nearly reached the climax of the campaign, but with the scheduling issues it began to feel less and less climactic.

To recap briefly, the players a while back had decided to go to the "Sacred" library, and having found and "borrowed" their own elven solid silver flying stealth ship, finally had arrived. They had also learned, in the interim, that a great artifact, The Heart of the World, an enormous ruby that could be used to reshape reality, was kept at the library. Once there, they discovered a magical force field encasing the central Sacred tower, generated by four smaller towers, the Pearl tower, controlled by Blunanda, the Silver tower, controlled by Brontë, a servant of the dwarven wizard Silverhands, the Oak Tower, controlled by Dunsain Joon, a lieutenant of the Elven Princess of Charm and finally the Moon Tower, controlled by followers of Moonbiter. The PCs had run errands for both Dunsain Joon and Brontë, securing the assistance of those two towers in opening the force field long enough for them to secure the Heart of the World. They'd also cleared out the Pearl Tower, vanquishing the marid, sea hags, sharks and Water Monolith (taken from the very excellent Elemental Magic of Zakhara) left by Blunanda and closing off the oceanic portal that had been filling it with water.

So, just one tower left, right? But unfortunately, part of the reason the Oak Tower had been left for last was the player whose PC has the strongest (and only, actually) connection to Moonbiter, has been unable to make it due to a hectic work travel schedule. We were also missing the player of the Cleric of Thor, who seemed to have (at least to me) the strongest vision for what the party might do with the Heart of the World, even if that vision was partly just 'listen to what Thor says' (runner up plan being the swashbuckling rogue's plan to 'steal the Heart of the World').

So, two PCs down, the climax imminent, but forestalled as the players wanted the Moonbiter affiliated monk with them. What to do? Fortunately I thought of an Adventure Time episode I'd seen recently and to the gimmick Thomas had stolen from Curse of Strahd to run my Manlorette D&D game and then I jotted down a few notes and hoped it wouldn't all come off as too much of a Dirty DM Trick.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

State of the Blog and Games Part Two, the Seconding.

So almost six months ago, just after finishing the holiday season, I wrote a state of the blog post. Since then I’ve only written four posts. Two as “Thoughts of the Day” (though they are more substantial than I remembered), one that was a follow up to my first State of the Blog post (or at least the Battlerager part) and one on the tandem games that Thomas and I ran over the New Years. Then, since January 15th… silence and absence have ruled the blog. Now, I’m going to walk out onto (an admittedly broad and sturdy) limb and say that 99% of the three people who read this blog know me in real life, but maybe there is a loyal stray reader who happened upon this blog by chance and has followed my meandering writings, for that semi-plausible reader, here is my excuse: I got married.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Elemental Magic of Zahkara - A somewhat biased review

So fair warning, this is far from unbiased, as I gave development feedback as this was being written, but you should all check out Elemental Magic of Zakhara. Based mostly on 2nd edition Al Qadim sourcebooks, Thomas has done an excellent job bringing the flavor of Zakharan Elemental wizard traditions into 5th Edition. Not only are the five wizard traditions provided more thematically coherent and interesting than most of the core traditions from the Player's Handbook (I'm looking at you Conjurer) but there are options for Elemental Monks, quick options to turn a boring Eldritch Knight into an exciting Inferno and Earthquake Knight with access to the domains of Flame and Sand or make an Arcane Trickster Pirate who gets spells of Wind and Sea.

To say nothing of the fifty plus spells which fill the much needed gap of elementally thematic utility spells (while not neglecting to add interesting and well-done attack spells). And then as if that wasn't enough, there's a write up of how to use the Brotherhood of True Flame as a faction.
Needless to say, but for the last week or so I've been wishing I had a game to play in where I could play a Zakharan wizard, though I can't decide at all whether I'd want to play a Sea Mage Pirate, enjoying blasting enemies with a Cone of Teeth, with it's evocative flavor text of “The spell leaves a bit of water on the ground (and often blood too), and extinguishes candles and other small flames.” or a Wind Mage with a Flying Jambiya and flying Wind Carpets to look forward too. Or a Magician who could combine the best of Wind and Sea, commanding a ship with Ghost(ly) Rigging and drowning opponents with Command Water Spirits. Never mind that other times I'm dreaming of running a Sand Mage, able to put a spell, like Sleep or Charm Person, into a handful of sand to toss onto an adversary and Sand Tools and Sand Blades available at a moments notice.

In addition, it's a mighty fine looking product, one of the best formatted I've seen so far (in my admittedly still limited) perusing of the DM's Guild. With 27 jam packed pages of content, it is more than worth a buck or two, in my humble opinion. You should check it out, give it some feedback, a rating or review (since I've refrained out of propriety) and enjoy.

You can find Thomas' other excellent DM's Guild products here.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Thought of the Day #4 - D&D Initiative Deck

Or rather, shuffle and draw instead.

Thomas asked me about Initiative Tracking apps and in our discussion this morning I had this thought... A quick Google Search shows this might be a distillation or alternative to an existing alternative Initiative systems, but I'll flesh it out here quickly anyway.

Part of the tediousness of rolling initiative is having all the players roll, do the (basic) math of adding DEX and other bonuses and then getting everyone organized to tell their initiative to whoever is tracking it. One thing Thomas wants to try (and I do too, now) is maybe having initiative change each round (or could of rounds) to keep players on their toes and great a more dynamic combat. The roll method makes this difficult and existing initiative apps might have their own drawbacks, so why not...

  • Take 20 blank playing cards for each player and number them from 1+ the PC's initiative modifier to 20+ the PC's initiative modifier with the PC name on them as well.
    • So the Cleric with +0 to DEX would have cards from 1-20, the Rogue with +4 to DEX would have cards from 5-24 and so forth.
    • I had initially proposed 10 cards per deck, which you could still do, but Thomas correctly points out that would inflate the impact of DEX bonuses.
  • Instead of "rolling" players would shuffle and draw their card for initiative.
    • These could be quickly sorted and displayed.
    • The cheap alligator clip photo display stands would work well for this, or just binder clips.
    • This method also lets Barbarians draw two cards when they have advantage on initiative checks.
  • The speed of shuffling, drawing and sorting could possibly allow you to redo initiative each round of the combat.
  • The DM could have their own set of initiative cards for monsters, or could just roll a d20 as normal. I find that getting monster/adversary initiative in the order doesn't take as long.
    • If the DM uses cards, they could pre-roll or draw initiative before the session, to prevent them from having to sort through their decks of cards.
    • I'd use blank playing cards for sturdiness/ease of shuffle, but you could also do flash cards or half-size index cards to get different colors.
The biggest downside I see, is that I just got a swanky Dice Tower with magnetic initiative tracker for XMAS... But... I could have the players use them, keep their cards where they could see and then I could use just the magnetic tracker on my side of the screen for my tracking, then I would cut out the time I spend keeping the set of initiative the players see on their side of the screen...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Thought of the Day #3 - Two Toss Off Campaign Pitches

Two quick campaign pitches that have been on my mind that I'll probably never run in D&D.

  • Megadungeon Siege
    • The PCs are in a city under siege and tasked with clearing out the megadungeon under the city to open a supply line out of the city.
    • Good for a limited series, 6-12 sessions.
  • Bounty Hunters
    • Probably because I saw the Hateful Eight, but I think having the PCs play Bounty Hunters could provide a good frame for a D&D game that runs on an occasional basis with easy to identify goals for each session.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Dortherdoreft: Initial Thoughts and Lessons

Spoiler: the Derro babies in cages totally stole the show...

So, Thomas and I ran our two session, same dungeon, themed New Year's D&D, Dortherdoreft. First he ran a party of all Dwarves through and then 48 hours later I ran a party of all Drow through. We wanted to both have some iconic player character class choices, like Dwarven Cleric and Drow Priestess of Lolth, and also to feature some icon Underdark features. We also decided to try and provide both some challenges for the PCs but also some places where their iconic abilities could shine. Here are my thoughts about how it went and lessons learned, both as player of a Dwarf Battlemaster Fighter and as a GM. We're hoping to tweak and write up the adventure for everyone to take a look at, but for now, here's some initial thoughts. You can find Thomas' thoughts on Dortherdoreft on his blog.

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...