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.

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...