Oct 1, 2014

A bag of holding full of usefull links for Dungeons and Dragons 5e

It seems it's been a while since Dungeons and Dragons 5e came out, which means it's a good time to round up some links you may or may not be aware of.

Basic Rules

Your first and most important link is here:
  • http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/basicrules?x=dnd/basicrules
Here you can get the latest version of the free Basic rules. Don't know what the Basic rules are? Basic is a free PDF which contains a subset of the rules from the 5e PHB. There's all the core rules need to create characters, advance those characters all the way up to 20th level, and everything you need for roleplaying and combat.

So then, what's the difference between Basic and the PHB? The PHB has more--more race options, more class options, more spells, and finally PHB is the only place for the optional feat system, and rules on multiclassing.

It represents a great way to let anyone try D&D for no money down, as you can use the Basic rules to create a dwarf fighter, or human rogue, or even an elven wizard, complete with iconic spells like magic missile and fireball.

Also on the basic rules page is another free PDF, the Basic DMG. This is a brief subset of what may eventually appear in the still-to-be-released DMG book. It also includes a bunch of monsters, a few magic items, and rules on building encounters. Again, enough for you to get started running your own adventures.

Horde of the Dragon Queen Supplement

Another useful link is this one:
  • https://dnd.wizards.com/products/tabletop-games/rpg-products/hoard-dragon-queen
This is a free supplement to the first 5e adventure, Horde of the Dragon Queen. If you're running this adventure, then the supplement is a no-brainer.

Even if you're a DM not running the adventure, you might still want to pick this up as there are some magic items detailed, along with some monsters and spells, that can be useful for anyone creating their own adventures.

Adventures League

  • https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/events/adventurers-league-resources
If you're interested in any of the D&D in-store/convention options for playing, you'll want to check out this page. There are a number of links, including a free player's guide PDF on how to create characters and background on the five factions you have to choose from for your character. Note, there is some DM info in this guide, regardless of the name on the file. Also, this page has links for, log sheets (important for recording the details of your characters adventures, and the treasures they've earned), character sheets, and the Twitter, Facebook, and G+ pages they're active on.

Monster Manual

  • http://dnd.wizards.com/products/tabletop-games/rpg-products/monster-manual
This page is only useful right now if you have the new Monster Manual, and are interested in building encounters for your own games, as the only file on this page is a free chart breaking down monster by CR.

The upcoming DMG is supposed to have monster breakdowns by CR, as well as environment, in case you need a low level aquatic monster to plague your players!

Encounter Building Video (may not be SFW)

This next link arose when AngryDM was trying to figure out how exactly the Encounter Buiding rules as presented in the Basic DMG (and presumable the forthcoming DMG) actually work. While they may seem familiar to folks comfortable with previous editions, they are not, and if you're not careful, you can end up building encounters that are way out of balance, usually against your players.

If you have any questions about encounter building, check out this video, it should answer all your questions:
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RReMb3s4Zao %E2%80%A6 

5e Encounter Calculator

If you still need some help with encounter building, or just don't have the time to do all the math by hand (and why would you), here's an excel spreadsheet that will do the number crunching for you:
  • http://runagame.blogspot.com/2014/08/bonus-post.html

Rules Clarification

Here a like to what looks like a living document attempting to gather and track all the rules questions and answers that have been asked and answered since the release of 5e. Not only is it worth the read, but I've bookmarked it so I can come back again and again. You might want to do the same.
  • http://community.wizards.com/sites/mtgcommunity/files/%E2%87%B2%20Rules%20Clarification%20%28Sage%20Advise%29%20v1%20%5Bseptember%202014%5D_0.pdf

Actual bag of holding

And if all that's not enough, here's an actual bag of holding for all your new 5e materials
  • http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/aaa5/

Sep 25, 2014

Coming Soon! 3D Gaming Terrain from Upworks

If you're a fan of miniatures, and terrain, especially 3D terrain like Dwarven Forge, you should go check out the Upworks site now and get ready for their initial Kickstarter, starting Tues noon, Central time.

Upworks is the latest project from Jeff Martin, the man behind True Dungeon, and the former president of Dwarven Forge. The site doesn't have a lot of information up yet, just some teaser pictures, but Upworks look to "build" on the quality and modularity of the Dwarven Forge concept by also allowing for vertical, multilevel displays, like a large castle, with walls, towers and roofs.

Considering the success of the two Dwarven Forge kickstarters that Jeff helmed, I'm expecting an exciting offering, and plenty of stretch goals and add-ons... and here I thought my gaming budget was safe for a little while!

You can follow Upworks on twtitter at @upworksgames, check out their site at: http://upworks.com/

Sep 23, 2014

The Lego / D&D Project: Part 1

After my talk at GenCon, I've become more and more interested in the idea of using Lego in table top games, and this new ongoing feature will spotlight some simple, easy ways you can add bricks to your adventures.

Before I jump into my first idea, I want to address the obvious question "why?", what does Lego add to my games that I don't already have?

I would respond with a counter question. What does Dwarven Forge and Hirst Arts add to your game? What do minis, tokens, and battle maps add to your game? In all cases, I see those tools adding greater immersion in your game, and facilitating a clear understanding of what exactly is going on.

When you set down a battle mat of a forest clearing, your players are not going to mistake that for a dungeon dwelling. And when you lay down a trio of mountain trolls, players are not going to mistake them for lizard men.

Lego can do the same thing, but with one other key benefit, they are customizable and reusable. What I use one session can be torn down and reconfigured into something else withing the same session. The chairs and tables in the local tavern can be broken up for the debris in a dungeon room, or built up to be the pillars and throne for a great king.

For my first example, I wanted to highlight something icon, simple, and not too expensive that you can make out of Lego for your next game.

Tables and Chairs

Let's start with chairs. One of the nice things about chairs is they can be really, really easy to build.

At it's most basic, a chair is just two bricks, a 2x3 and a 1x2 (bricks are typically described by the configuration of studs on the top surface).


This simple design gives us something you can quickly build and deploy, allowing you and the players to see the setup of a room in an instant.

But we can do more with the chairs to dress them up.

From changing them to stools


To something that looks more like a chair


To a fancy throne

(via Surduk Vergl MOC page)

And once your players start seeing more and more details on the battle map, the more creative they will start getting, like smashing chairs to create difficult terrain in an area, or turning over tables for quick and easy cover. The options are endless...

Next time, we'll look at some tables and benches.

Sep 18, 2014

D&D Kre-O Figures: Wave 2

I was recently thinking about Lego and Dungeons and Dragons (maybe because of my recent GenCon speech) and remembered that there were supposed to be more waves of the figures from Kre-O.

After a little Google-fu, I came across a few images of the figures, as shown below.

There are definitely a few interesting things I see.

Pros

  • The lizardman (back row, left) look interesting (if maybe a bit too much like the Star Trek Gorn). I'll certainly try to pick up a few of these.
  • There appears to be a drow (back row, left of center) with a new hair piece and crossbow.
  • Back middle figure is some kind of succubus, with some unique looking wings. We'll have to see how they stack up to the Brickwarriors wings or Lego wings.
  • Back row, far right, looks to be a wizard/cleric. I like the neck guard and hair piece.
  • The mummy figure (front row, left) is a new figure for the line and is wielding a new weapon.
  • The ghost figure looks great, and it appears he has a spider accessory at his feet. It's possible the spider glows. Definitely want 2+ of this figure

Cons

  • The tiefling still has the same awful horn piece. Dear Kre-O, please come up with something better for wave three, or just give up on tieflings.
  • Where are the other classic D&D races, like elf (non-Drow thank you), dwarf, and gnome? And what about classic, monsters like goblins and kobolds. I would buy up bunches of those for my game. 
  • Maybe in the future we can start seeing more of the depth of the D&D monster and character catalog, instead of just the same humans and orcs, with a few extras. Granted, there aren't as many human orc figs as the first series, but we're still missing out on the classics.
Overall, I'm a lot more impressed with wave 2 than I was with the first wave. Now, we (probably) just have to wait till Jan to start seeing these in stores.

Sep 16, 2014

Female Friendly

If you haven't already heard, Sean K Reynolds has a blog post talking about Female-Friendly Campaigns, with some do's and don't's.

It's something I think every GM and player should read and try to take to heart. 

I'm pretty sure that each and every one of us has at some point in our lives felt excluded or out of place in a social situation. At the heart of most RPGs is a group of folks working together, as a team, to overcome a great obstacle. Why wouldn't we try to be that same way in our real lives, especially when dealing with people interested in the same cooperative games we love and enjoy?

I hope you'll spend a few minutes reading this important post here (http://seankreynolds.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/gamer-talk-a-female-friendly-campaign/)

Sep 11, 2014

DIY Miniature - Spinal Ooze

A friend of mine (the same one who did this wonderful custom terrain video) recently entered a scratch-build mini contest on http://dmscraft.proboards.com and won. Since dmscraft requires registration, he's allowed me to repost his winning entry here...

======
I entered a contest for building a miniature from scratch, and actually won, haha! Contestants had one month to build the mini, and the rules stipulated that entries must include a tutorial. Since this was the first mini contest, there was no specific theme.

Here's my entry:

SPINAL OOZE

This guy is based off one of my favorite World of Warcraft monsters, Blizzard's version of the Black Ooze:

I loved how they had a skull, spine and debris stuck in them and could bite. In my version, they collect a couple of spines and connect them together to extend their reach, like a support structure. This explains why the skull is so far from the ribcage in the photos below. Ok, let's get to it...

Started with the inner portion of a dollar store hair curler:


See the spikey bits? That's what we need. We cut one row out:


We take that row of spikes and hold it over a flame for a second to soften it, then bend into desired shape:


We paint that off-white/bone. We grab a skull from our box of Wargames Factory Skeletal Warriors.
I forgot to take a photo, but as you can see below, there's a bit of spine on the back of the skull. I cut that out with a razor so our new spine can mate better with the back of the skull, behind the jawbone.


Next, we alter a torso. In the photo below, you can see I removed the lower spine, then cut a channel between the shoulder blades to house our new hair-curler spine. The torso on the right is unaltered, for comparison.


Glue it on, paint it up:


Starting to look pretty creepy :)


Glue the mini on the base:


I had some dollar store beads that came with these stupid key charms I thought I'd never use:


Got to looking at them and realized they actually magnify things! They're tiny lenses, which is more evident when you cut them apart:


I had planned on putting the small ones in as slime bubbles, but then thought it'd be cool if you could see the spine inside the slime, like looking in a porthole. I hot glued 2 of the big ones as large bubbles, one on each side, but not lined up with each other.
I then added the small lenses and pre-made globs of hot glue to build up the body of the slime. Also stuck 2 shards of toothpick into his back.


Ran hot glue up his neck on both sides. Here you can see the magnification effect in the large bubble. (sort of... sorry, phone pic)


Front view so far:


Next, I prepainted a mini sword and stuck it in his back:


Painted the black slime. I slowly built up layer after layer of black wash around the bones and bubbles. I wanted the bubbles to fade from clear in the center to black at the edges.


Here you can see the tail end of his spine showing through one of the big bubbles:


These final shots are after applying a high-gloss clear varnish to the slime. Also put a little on the base around him, to create a "snail trail". I also switched to my real camera, lol.

Cheers! :)

Sep 4, 2014

GenCon 2015: The Review

Another GenCon is over, and so it's time for me to do a little recap of how this year was the best year yet (and it was).

Day Zero (Wed)

First off, I had planned to do daily updates of my experiences at the con, but that didn't happen. I ended up with either too many late night games, or too many early morning events to find the time. Maybe next year I'll at least be better about live tweeting during various events. Anyway...

I got into Indy on the Wednesday before the con, around early afternoon. The drive in (shared by me and one of my oldest friends from Philly) was nice, but once again we missed a crucial turn off onto the downtown roads and had to take a slight shortcut. The problem seems to be with my GPS not being up to date with the current traffic pattern of the area. I mention this only because this is the third year in a row that we drove to Indy, and this was the third time in a row that we missed the same exit. Sadly, a large part of the reason for wanting to go back again next year is to conquer that road.

Once we settled in to our room (which meant just dropping off bags) we picked up our badges and event tickets. I was impressed with how quickly the line at moved, and barely put any dent into the book I was reading on my iPhone Kindle app (GoT, book 3, BTW). I looked over my events and found that in my envelop slip I had someone else's events in addition to my own! I promptly turned in the other person's tickets (in exchange for some good karma and all that) and headed over to Scotty's Brewhouse.

Scotty's does a GenCon themed menu every year. Last year I tried going over there but the two hour wait was more than I was willing to put in for "Goblin Ears". This year it was early enough that we were quickly seated. After having a beer sampler and the Sandpoint Devil (chicken sandwich), we collected our souvenir dice and headed out.

I'm a sucker for souvenir this and that, and so is my close family, because on the way back to the hotel, I had to stopped off at the Hard Rock and pick up this year's GenCon pin for my mother in law. This year's pin, quiet frankly, was a lot nicer than last year's offering, and I can officially say I started my holiday shopping in August!

Day One (Thur)

The next day, or the first actual day of GenCon was filled with a bunch of various D&D games. I started off the day at 9am playing the classic first edition modules D1-D2. I hadn't played 1e in many years, and had forgotten much of the obscure bits of that edition, while some parts, like THAC0, seem destined to never be forgotten.

I had a blast playing this old module. No, it's not perfect, and there are things that might not be inline with modern roleplaying design (like death without save), but there seemed to be something poetically perfect about playing a classic Gygax module at GenCon at the start of the con.

I followed that up later in the day by running one of the new 5e modules at the con. After last year's impromptu D&D 5e game I ran, I was determined to sign up for a few slots this year.

I was assigned Defiance in Phlan, the short one hour delve that ran every hour on the hour during most of the con. Since this module was so short, there wasn't more to do than set up the basic premise and get right in to the action. This was a great way for folks to quickly try the game without the full commitment of a 4 hour module, and if they liked it, there was also the option to come back and replay the adventure as there were five different one hour scenarios to choose from.

What I enjoyed most about running the module was the various people. Everyone from brand new players, to older 1e vets looking to try the new game, to hardcore folks determined to get through all five parts of the module, everyone crossed my table at some point over the weekend. I hope they had as much fun as I had.

Later that night I was back at the D&D 5e tables, but this time as a player, trying to unravel the Secrets of Sokol Keep. I enjoyed the module, and the chance to show off my new 5e character, Brandon Cash (a gambler and reluctant hero, a combination of a pair of old TV western characters. Feel free to make your guesses in the comments below). I did pretty poorly in the first combat, but redeemed myself at the end delivering several decisive blows to drop weakened enemies left and right.

And with that, so ended my first day

Day Two (Fri)

The second day of the con was very different than the first. One of the things I try to do each year, is find something outside the normal. It's usually just playing a new game, or going to an unusual seminar. This year, I went full tilt and actually hosted my own seminar.

My talk was about inventive ways to use Lego in your D&D games, along with a Powerpoint presentation with a lot of picture examples and even some free samples from my new best friends at Brickwarriors (http://www.brickwarriors.com/).

The talk was a lot of work, but a lot of fun pulling it all together. I'm especially grateful for the dozen people that actually showed up. As I've said before, there's some much to see/do at GenCon, you have to pick and choose how to spend your time. I hope the folks who showed up felt that the time was well spent.

After that, it was my turn to listen in on a seminar. I went to the Caves 2.0 seminar where Scott Rice-Snow (Chairperson of the Department of Geological Sciences and Professor of Geological Sciences at Ball State University) talked about real world cave systems and how they differ from what we typically see in RPG scenarios. It was a wonderful talk, and now I'm very interested in doing more research that I can leverage in my own games.

I later spent a good deal of time in dealer's room looking over this and that and making a few purchases, like finding a 5e PHB for $35, and a few new Pathfinder RPG decks (Tide of Battle looks very interesting, especially if I can easily adapt to 5e).

At the end of the day I ended up playing what I thought was an All Flesh Must Be Eaten game, but was only loosely based on that system. It was a zombie game, but it was more improve and humor than what I was expecting. I was really impressed with how a single DM was able to handle a room of about 50 people and juggle all the various actions going on at each table.

Day Three (Saturday)

Saturday marked another D&D day. I started the day running Defiance in Phlan and ended the day as a player for the Epic adventure Corruption in Kryptgarden.

If you haven't heard these Epic adventures are only to be played at big cons and are multi-table events, where the actions at one table can positively, or negatively, impact what's going on at your table. It was the first time I've ever played such an event, and it seems they still need to work some kinks out of the concept--a DM has to prep for three different scenarios, while only 1 of the 3 will be run at the table. Players choose which path at the beginning of the event. Also, the sound system wasn't the best it could be, so it was hard for my table (which as about as far away from the main stage as it could be while still being in the D&D section of Hall D) to hear the updates that were going on.

And that wrapped up my last full day.

Day Four (Sunday)

Sunday was the last day of the con, also known as The Long Drive Home. After checking out of the hotel, and packing up the car, my buddy and me hit the dealers room one last time. I was looking for some last day deals, and the only one I found was for a product I had pre-ordered, so I felt a bit chump-ish seeing it now $10 less. Oh well. After picking up a few items here and there, like something for the wife and kid, and 1/2 off an old 4e module (I picked up up mostly for the battle mat, I'm a sucker for those things), we were off, once again on the open road.

The trip back was nice, and after a stop off at a local Stake and Shake, for one last "feels like GenCon meal", we were out of town... hopeful to return next year.