Monday, August 17, 2009

No D&D This Week

Sadly I was unable to run my usual game of D&D this week due to some health problems I've been facing. Ironically this game is exactly the sort of cheering up I need to fight this thing off, but alas my energy levels were just too low.

On the up side, I managed to score a copy of the new Pathfinder RPG this weekend, which we'll be converting to starting next week. Overall I'm very pleased with this thick tome. They've made some adjustments that I think my players will be very pleased with. Now for me comes the excitement of re-learning all the little bits and pieces that make up the game. Updated feats, skills, character generation, it's a lot to swallow in one week. Hopefully my players will forgive a little more book-flipping than usual as we adjust things.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Monster Challenge!

I challenge you to come up with stats for this:

The dreaded Dice Golem! Use any system you like. Write up a brief description to go with the stats and post it on your blog or in the comments here. Have fun!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday D&D Round 4: Suck Electric Doom, Fools!

Last night's D&D session was a rockin' good time filled with surprises. Surprise 1: my chicken didn't cook all the way, very embarrassing! This time we had Dilly, Rachael, Tom, Lori, and Jeff, along with two NPC kobold slaves. Full house!

After debating things for a bit, the party decided that there must be some way to cure Lori in the dungeon, so back they went. You may remember that Lori was kissed by a vargouille last time. This means that in 4d6 hours, her hair falls out, her ears becomes wings, and her head tears away from her body and flies away! Already her hair has begun to drop, so the clock is ticking. They remembered that one of the kobolds they interrogated had mentioned another group of adventures having recently been captured, so they set out to find them, thinking that they might have a cleric in their ranks of a high enough level to cast the needed Cure Disease.

The first fight of the night was a real shock (ha! ha. ahem) with two Shocker Lizards holed up in a steamy fountain. When I read the adventure I didn't really pay them much attention, thinking that they would be nothing more than a minor nuisance. Boy was I wrong! Three rounds of combat later and the lizards had unleashed enough electric doom to slay both kobold slaves AND Jeff's familiar! I can honestly say that I have never seen a familiar die before, as weak as they are they always seem to make their saves, but not this time. Poor Jeff lost some XP and has to wait a year and a day before he can summon up a new friend. Ouch! As if that wasn't bad enough, Jeff got kicked into the negatives by the lizards' blast as well. A truly brutal encounter! Regardless, the party quickly dispatched the foes and headed deeper into the old Dwarven structure.

A bit later, after successfully avoiding a nasty (but totally obvious) trap, they came upon a secret chamber populated by a ghostly dwarf, who hyp-motized all but Jeff with its insane mumbling. Jeff's sorcerer, last man standing, blasted the punk with a Disrupt Undead spell, and for damage he rolled on the 30 sider (using Jeff Rient's once-per-game 30 sider rule). It was a tense moment as the die flitted about the table, and when it rested on 29 they let out a fierce yell as the dwarven ghost was blasted into infinity in one fell swoop. Sometimes it can be disappointing to see a tough enemy clocked out in a single hit, but when the party is doomed and that 30 pulls them outta the fire I can't help but be excited as well.

Soon enough the party stumbled upon a large group of kobolds discussing the shortcomings of their king. These guys were totally ready to switch sides, if only they had gotten a chance to speak before their rabble-rousing leader was sliced to bloody ribbons. Act first, ask questions never is the motto of this group it seems. As soon as their leader was slain, the other kobolds turned and ran. Tom did manage to get a single kobold to join them from the group that fled, a warrior named Lurka who had had enough of the king's whacky plans and was ready to lay down some beatings against his old pals. Dilly taunted the poor creature relentlessly, nearly resulting in a fight, but the others managed to cool things down enough to proceed to the next chamber just in time for another massive battle.

Turning the corner they came upon a group of kobolds, now bolstered by the ones they had just chased off, locked in combat with a badly wounded halfling and two small children. As it turns out, the kobolds had abducted the kids for a sacrifice from the nearby town. Not that the party, mostly evil, seemed to care one bit. No, they were here for the halfling, which for some reason they were sure was a cleric. After a bloody battle, the few remaining kobolds ran for the hills and the halfling was saved. Unfortunately, the party soon learned that this guy was a complete doofus. Cue goofy voice! It turns out he's a bard, and a pretty useless one at that, part of an adventuring party that had been captured while attempting to rescue the captive children. He had, despite his shortcomings, managed to free two of the five children, but the not-so-noble adventurers were pretty non-plused by the whole affair. As the "sweaty, moon-faced halfling" (as described in the adventure) had but 4 hit points and few useful spells remaining, they decided to leave him with the kids in an easily defended room and move on. There was some talk of simply killing him outright, and they even asked how much XP they would get for the dirty deed, but they relented for one reason or another and the game was ended for the night.

Now things are getting really tense. The clock is ticking for Lori, Tom and Jeff are running out of spells, and rest isn't really an option for them with less than 24 hours remaining before heads begin to fly away. Lurka, their new kobold buddy, remembered that the king had some sort of magic dagger that could possibly cure diseases, but its a long way to the king from where they now stand, and their route is packed with enemies. With spells running low and hit points down, things are looking grim for our bloodthirsty heroes. Will they find the magic dagger in time? Will they survive the many fights between them and the king? Will Lurka live long enough to level? Will Rachael get to doom-hug more suckas? Will Jeff eat his char-broiled raven familiar? Tune in next week and find out!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Tonight was possibly THE most kick-ass session of D&D I have ever run. More details tomorrow, but here's a quick rundown:

  • The kobold slaves and Jeff's familiar all got zapped to death by a pair of shocker lizards! Wow, those things can kick out some damage!
  • Lori STILL hasn't found a cure to her disease, and began to lose some hair
  • They picked up a new kobold servant, who turned out to be a total bad-ass
  • I amused everyone with my goofy voices
More in the morning!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Player Knowledge vs. Character Knowledge

The last session of my Sunday night game got me thinking on the subject of player knowledge vs. character knowledge. I don't think I have anything new or groundbreaking to add here, however I would like to share my personal views on the subject and since this is my blog, well why not.

For me, separating what I know from what my character knows has always been a challenge, akin to playing a character with very low Intelligence, or a character with a high Charisma. Yes, I'm smart enough to know this is a trap, but Throgar only has an Intelligence of 5, so he probably doesn't. Should I walk into the trap, fully aware that I enter my doom? I've always had a hard time with such choices, and it lines up with player knowledge vs. character knowledge pretty cleanly I believe. Yes, I've played this adventure already, so I know Lord Count Crustypants is actually a demon, but Throgar really doesn't have any reason to think that, so I guess I should just go along with it. It's a tough situation to find yourself in, and being on the other side of the screen doesn't offer much more clarity to me.

Here's another example: say your players run against a monster that can only be hurt by certain weapons or magic of somesuch. One player knows this, but as his character has never run into this type of creature before, he believes he has no reason to know it and thus doesn't spread the knowledge or even use it himself, wasting attacks that he knows will fail. That just seems silly to me; at what point does player skill come into the equation? Isn't it the function of the DM to come up with new and interesting challenges, rather than the player's function to pretend like old tricks are new again?

Here's another take: Throgar find himself face to face with a voracious troll. Throgar has never battled trolls before, so he shouldn't know to use acid or fire, right? Well hell, Throgar had to have some training to get that 1st level, right? Don't you think that Old Man Throgar Senior would pass on such knowledge? How about Throgar's player, who knows of the weakness of trolls, just reasons it out that somehow he came upon this knowledge, burns the troll, and moves on? As long as it's halfway plausible I don't see a problem with it, and it invites player creativity which gives me warm fuzzies all over.

Take the counter-example, character knowledge vs. player knowledge. The player might not know who the king is, but as the character grew up here he should know, right? In Dungeons and Dragons 3 and 3.5 at least, you have various Knowledge skills that can be used to suss out such info. So if I can roll a 20 sider and figure out that kobolds hate sunlight, why then can't I use that knowledge if I learned it with a different character? To me, it's like asking players to roll to see if they can walk in a straight line.

Now, take my jabbering with a grain of salt; I've never ran for someone who memorized the Monster Manual front-to-back so I couldn't say if such knowledge could go too far, at least not from personal experience. Also, I can see situations where such restraint could serve a useful purpose, in the eductation of new players. Remember my write up of last week's game, where Tom and Lori held back the secret of the ghostly gelationous cube? I appreciated that, because it gave Dilly and Rachael a chance to figure it out for themselves and gain usefull player experience. Yes, in my games, players gain experience as well. Isn't that how it's supposed to be?

If you think its unfair that a player knows monster weaknesses when her character shouldn't, don't ask her to pretend that she doesn't. Instead throw out a monster she's never seen before. If you expect Joe's character with a 3 Intelligence to fall for a trap, don't make it obvious to Joe that it's a trap. If you know someone at the table has played the adventure already, mix it up, change some things to throw them off, keep them guessing! Challenge the players as much as you challenge the characters! I guarantee it'll be much more enjoyable than a lecture on why Throgar should have walked into an ambush or why Saralii shouldn't have known to cast Fireball on the statue to open the door.

Well, my two cents are spent. What about you? What is your take on player knowledge vs. character knowledge?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mutant Future Madness

Last week I had the pleasure of playing in Jeff's Mutant Future game over at Armored Gopher. It's quite a drive for me but well worth it, and I think next week I'll have Lori joining me for some mutant madness.

Prior to this game I hadn't given Mutant Future much of a read-through, not out of lack of interest but rather lack of time, so I was a little worried about my lack of knowledge. Turns out the game is dead simple and Jeff's able Mutant Mastering makes it easy to pick things up. My first character, Jonagar Throgus, was dead within minutes, but in a game where it takes all of 60 seconds to roll up a new character I wasn't too heartbroken. We had a mutant with blindness and light control powers, and two mutant plants, one near-blind with explosive fruit and one with both pheromones that caused hatred and wild obsession! What a wild group! I rolled up Thorny Bill before Jonagar was dead, sensing his impending doom, and ended up with a mutant rose with heat rays and psycho-somatic pain (basically doubling all damage I took, ouch!).

Through some clever planning we were able to make short work of the mutant pigs we set out to slay and decided to retire after our first success, choosing the safer life of merchant and truffle farmers over desert-raiding adventurers. I think Jeff mentioned starting things out a generation later, so I rolled up Thorny Bill Jr., who's armed with a cool assortment of spikey-type powers that fit the name nicely. I'm super psyched about the next game and can't wait to see how long I can survive in the horrible wastes of the desert. I'm also excited to see the kind of characters the others will roll up, as the random mutations can lead to some rather hilarious mixtures of powers and drawbacks.

I have to say one of the things I loved the most about the game is getting to see someone else run a game and learn a little bit to aid my own gaming style. For instance, Jeff rolled up a random encounter which I'm almost positive was just "giant spider", however he did a great job of setting a stage for it rather than just dropping a spider in front of us, a skill I've yet to refine. It honestly never occured to me to do such a thing; usually my random encounters just meant "hey, theres a bear over there" rather than "you find a small cave, and can hear something grumbling about inside". Always a treat to see someone else at work behind the screen and always an opportunity to learn something new!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Back Again!

After a long period of inactivity and the eventual deletion of this blog due to random real life troubles, I have returned yet again to try my hand at this here blogging thing. Hopefully I can muster a bit more effort this time around.

Last night was the third session in my current D&D 3.5 game and man was it a good one! On deck we have Tom the gnomish cleric of Lamashtu, Lori the elven rogue, Dilly the human ranger, Rachael the halfling barbarian, and sometimes Jeff the elven sorcerer (I don't have their character sheets in front of me, otherwise I'd toss out their character names as well). The first thing I should tell you about the group is that they are predominantly evil. This is a first for me, as I usually tend to discourage evil characters, but I figured "what the heck". Let me tell you, they are a salty bunch. In one of the previous sessions they rescued some lumberjacks from a vicious harpy, only to more-or-less rob the poor men for all their hard earned coin!

This week they continued to explore the ruins of a dwarven monastery located near a small lumber town. Having cleared the upper level, they charged headlong down the stairs into the darkness, coming face-to-face with a band of kobolds! The kobolds were a mix of warriors and slaves, and Lori had the bright idea to bribe the slaves into switching sides using a bit of food as bait. Tom threw in some prestidigitation to make the food savory and delicious to sweeten the deal while Rachael and Dilly make short work of the warriors. Lori is now the happy master of two scrawny, cowardly kobold slaves, who take great delight in cheering for her victory and scolding the other party members for not being as heroic, regardless of their actual role in combat. Now I get to make crazy kobold voices all night, so I consider it a victory for all.

The most surprising part of that fight was when Rachael decided to grapple a kobold! No one ever wants to grapple, yet I can't blame her after spending the 50 gold on armor spikes! So there she is, squeezing the life out of this poor kobold warrior, rolling and punching and twisting limbs, all the while the kobold is screaming at his slaves to stop taking food from the pink-skins and help him out. As if that weren't humorous enough, Dilly decided to join in the struggle, and soon the poor kobold found himself repeatedly crushed and kicked and smashed into armor spikes until his life was wrenched from his frail bones as the combined might of a human and a halfling smashed away his meager 4 hit points. Man what a way to go!

One of the encounters in the dungeon is a pretty fun trick: a gelatinous cube with a suit of drarven armor inside, appearing to be some sort of ghost as it floats down the halls. Lori and Tom already knew the gag, either from playing this adventure previously or reading about it here when I last ran it, but they kept their mouths shut so as not to ruin it for the rest. Bravo! Of course it didn't take long for the truth to come out, and only poor Dilly got a taste of the cube's wrath before it was reduced to liquidy pools of goo. Had the group been less cautious it could have turned ugly for them, but they've learned quickly that rushing into a fight isn't always the best course of action.

Later in the evening things took a turn for the worse for our brave adventures, as Lori failed to disarm a vicious trap, setting it off in the process. The trap is designed to lock you in a room and possibly hold you in place while some vargouilles swoop in for the kill. Poor Lori found herself trapped in a small room with two of the fiends, and despite her best efforts she could not defend against their vile kiss. Having failed the saving throw, she now has 24 hours, at most, before her head sprouts wings and flies away! Of course the condition can be cured, but it will require hiring a spellcaster from town, which happens to be a few days away from the dungeon. Now it gets interesting, as the group tries to find a way to reach town before Lori is doomed. It will be interesting to see if they can make it in time, and if not, how they'll deal with a member of their team suddenly becoming a horrible monster overnight. Man I love the suspense of it!

So far I've really been enjoying myself with this game, which I'm trying to run as a mini-sandbox campaign using some premade adventures from Paizo that all take place within the same area. Basically I've gutted the dungeons, which all fit together nicely, and just gave the group enough rumors to take them there without forcing them into the actual plot of the adventures. I tried that, at first, with the mission of saving the town from a horrid plague, but as soon as they heard "plague" they high-tailed it outta town and headed for the hills! Like I said, these guys and gals are a salty bunch, and the plight of a few hundred commoners didn't interest them in the least. Villains, one and all!

Next week: can Lori be saved? Will Dilly have his vengeance on the vermin he hates so much? Will Tom's demon queen bless him with foul nightmares? Will Rachael get to impale more suckers with her spikey hugs of doom? With Jeff be able to make it to the game, and if so, will he come as close to death as he usually does? Tune in the next time and find out!