Dec 19, 2014

Game Session: When Kobolds Fly! (Part 2)

After the last session, Duncan and Ataraxia found themselves in an empty cave, having cleared out the bat swarm that lived here. In a small make-shift cell, they found a young human male, who had been gagged and his hands and fingers tightly bound.

After freeing the thankful young man, he said that his name was Embreth, that he was a young apprentice wizard, and had been taken prisoner recently by the kobolds while in route to Saltmarsh (he was on the same road carriage that Erik Frause was on). In addition to the kobolds here, the leaders of the tribe were actually a nasty hobgoblin called Crookneck, and a few other hobgoblins who served as his lieutenants. Embreth also mentions that two other humans he had been traveling with were somewhere else in the cavern. Embreth was isolated as Crookneck clearly discerned that the young man was a mage. Though Crookneck took the mage's spell book, and most of his spell components, Embreth still had enough components to cast a few of his lesser spells.

After arming Embreth with a small dagger--it was the only weapon they had on hand the young mage could use--the three set out to explore the rest of the cavern. Down one twisting and turning hallway, they found another room where the bats in the area nested, and beyond they found, not another jail cell, but the living quarters, such that it was, for the kobolds of the tribe. While the kobolds outnumbered their hobgoblin leaders, they had no loyalty for Crookneck or his ilk. Since the party was willing to leave the rest of these kobolds alone, including the women and children of the tribe, the kobolds were willing to stay out the heroe's way.

Down another corridor, the party was able to sneak up on a hobgoblin guard. The guard was half asleep at his post and they were quickly able to subdue the hobgoblin before he could alert anyone. From the hobgoblin, Embreth took a spear that he could wield instead of the small dagger.

With surprise, the party burst into the room to find two more hobgoblin and a lone gnome. The gnome is chained to a heavy chair near a set of work benches. One of the benches displays all manner of chemicals, oils, and liquids, while the other table shows small mechanical devices in various stages of build.

After fighting and defeating the hobgoblins, the party was able to talk to the gnome. It seems the gnome, who's "human" name is Sparks, was captured by the kobolds months ago. He was a member of the Mt. Nevermind gnome's Guild of Fences and Defences. He would have been killed, but Crookneck saw the gnome's plans for various inventions in his journals and spared the tinkerer so long as he created useful devices for the tribe.

Sparks also told the party that there were a few other humans still alive in the caverns, based on talk he overheard from the guards. Embreth was able to scrounge through the supplies in the room for the spell components necessary for the few spells he could still recall. Equipped, the party headed back into the hallway, to explore further into the caverns.

Down the main hallway of these caverns, they came across a pair of hobgoblins who've set up a defensive position. After hearing some of the commotion nearby (the party wasn't as stealthy as they'd hoped to be), some of Crookneck's top guards started investigating and after finding the mage missing, they knew something was amiss.

The hobgoblins launched a few volleys of arrows at the party before retreating. Embreth was able to hit one of the guards with the spear he had been carrying. The guard was wounded, but made it back to their fall back position behind a nearby door. The party pursued, and after listening, knew that their were just a few hobgoblins in the next room.

With a coordinated attack, the party burst into the room, which was better decorated than any other place in the caverns. Inside there was one wounded guard, as well as his unharmed partner. Also in the room, giving orders was clearly the tribe leader, the one others referred to Crookneck. With everyone in clear view, Embreth cast one of his spells. Soon missiles of magical force flew unerringly toward the various targets wounding each of the hobgoblins.

After than, Ataraxia rushed in pummel the wounded guard while Duncan went after the other guard. Crookneck was just out of reach, but he soon rushed in to gang up on the cleric. In short order, Duncan, Ataraxia, Embreth, and even Sparks defeated the leader of the tribe and his personal guard.

In the room they found some valuable treasures, including several bags of coins of all types, a handful of precious gems, and a few rare and valuable books. Mostly importantly, among the other books, Embreth was able to find his personal spell book. From Crookneck, Duncan was able to retrieve the leaders enchanted long sword, and a set of keys, for what, the cleric did not yet know.

On the other side of the room, was another door, but instead of leading to another hallway, this was a dark and narrow stairwell down, deeper into the bowels of the earth. Heading down, with sunrod close at hand, the party soon found themselves in the makeshift dungeon. In here, they were able to find the two remaining prisoners, shackled to the walls. One of the keys Duncan retrieved from Crookneck undid the locks. The young men were in fact Oswald and Hubert Fastralli, as Erik Frause has mentioned traveling with on the the road carriage. After freeing the young men and tending to their wounds, all minor, everyone made their way out of the caverns.

Behind the Scenes: As you may have guessed, Embreth was supposed to be a new ongoing character in the campaign. Unfortunately, shortly after these sessions, the person playing him he had to drop out of the game.

Dec 5, 2014

Building D&D 5e Encounters

With the lack of D&D 5e modules currently out on the market, I find myself running more older edition modules, and convert the creatures up to the latest version.

Two new websites I've recently come across help greatly with the problems and issues that come out of conversions.

First, why the new Monster Manual is a great resource of your 5e game, and chock full of all the classic monsters you could be looking for, not everything from past editions is in the book (nor could it be, without ending up looking like the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary.

So if you're older edition module calls for a creature not yet stated in 5e terms, or you have your eye set on a particular monster from an old favorite book, what can you do?

With that in mind, I offer the following web page:

http://brentnewhall.com/games/1e5e.html

Here, the author has set up a nifty little utility for converting 1e and 3e monsters into their 5e equivalents. Fill out a few fields and you get a easy to copy and past stat block in 5e terms. Note, the conversion guidelines are unofficial, and you may need to do a little tweaking, but this is a great start.

Secondly, now that you have your 5e monsters, you should probably re-check your encounters, just to make sure you didn't accidentally create a deadly encounter when it should have been easy. As we know from The Angry DM's youtube video about 5e encounters, they can be a little more tricky than previous editions.

Thankfully, we have a great website, Kobold Fight Club where you can define the number and level of your PCs, then build out an encounter. The result is a calculation for the experience points for the encounter, and the adjusted XP for determining the lethality of the encounter.

http://kobold.club/fight/#/encounter-builder

The site also allows you to search for monsters from a number of sources (D&D Basic, MM, etc) and filter by various criteria, such as CR range, monster type, and environment.

Not only do I use this for checking converted encounters, but also for brainstorming original encounters as well. The site also allows you to save encounters for later reference.

Whether you're running older modules, or original content, these two sites can greatly speed up your prep time. Hope you find them as useful as I do.

Nov 20, 2014

The Lego / D&D Project: Part 2

Last post we looked at some simple Lego ideas for chairs. As a companion to that posting, let's look at the next logical piece of gaming scenery -- the table.

A table can be just as simple as a chair, all you really need is some size brick and a slightly larger plate (or tile).

You can make small tables using just 1x1 bricks and 2x2 plates, and thankfully these pieces come in almost every possible color you could want, but I find this structure is usually top heavy and doesn't stand up well to the casual dings a gaming table can take during a game session.



If you really need a small table like this, consider using a Scala Base brick, as the "feet" on the bottom of the piece provide a bit more stability.

But more common tables are 4x4, 4x6, or 4x8. And with these, you have some options for the table base, either just a simple brick (like a 2x2 or 2x4 underneath the tabletop, or 1x1 bricks for legs, 1x1 round bricks, archs, or even stacking 1x1 round plates for effect.



Leg options for tables

Like we did with the chairs in the last post, you can use tiles to make the tables look less lego-y. In this case, you can use 1x4 tiles to make the top look smooth.



And for longer tabels, you may want to consider benches, instead of chairs. As you can see, benches are much easier to build than chairs.

Plates (2x6 and two 1x2)

Plates (two 1x2) and Tiles (two 1x8)


Also, if you visit the Citizen Brick website, you can get printed 1x4 and 1x6 tiles that look like wooden boards.
Note: Citizen Brick is a third party company, so while their products look like Lego, and are 100% compatible, they are not official Lego product (not that this should matter for our purposes here).
Next time, we'll look at some really simple ways to dress up our tables.

Oct 30, 2014

Dungeonscape Undone

Seems tis the season for projects to go belly up. Last week the UpWorks KS was shutdown, with a note saying that it would probably never be revived. 

This week is word that Dungeonscape, the Dungeons and Dragons 5e online toolset from Trapdoor Technologies, was cancelled by Wizards of the Coast, and that the existing beta would be shut down shortly. Dungeonscape, originally announced as Project Morningstar, seemed to be on track for a 2014, or early 2015 release, and while they only had a character creator available for the beta, the application had received high praise from those who used it. Prior to this announcement, there was no indication that the project was in any jeopardy of being released. 
This marks yet another failure of Wizards to release software in a timely manner for their table top games going all the way back to second edition. Second edition software, released manny years after the hardback edition of the rules, was plagued with content bugs and included a stripped down Campaign Mapper program, instead of the more popular (at the time) Campaign Cartographer. 
Third edition included a Character Creator that was supposed to preview a full featured character creator/campaign manager tool. Several years later, e-Tools was released, eventually moving from one development company to another, and never having the all the features originally promised. 
For Fourth Edition, once again the originally promised feature set never arrived. It took years before a virtual tabletop was available as well as web based (and therefore Mac usable) tools. 
Dungeonscape was shaping up to be the first time D&D tabletop software was going to ready in a timely manner, with a full feature set, and be web and tablet ready out of the gate. Sadly, with today's announcement, fifth edition is shaping up to be just like previous editions (but not in a good way).

Oct 24, 2014

Monsters!

Monsters are the life blood of any good Dungeons and Dragons game. How many past stories do you tell that hing on encountering the imposing dragon or the horrific lich?

There are plenty of Monster Manuals and Bestiaries available for you to choose from, but every so often you may want something original.

For new monster inspiration, I often look to Animal Planet and other nature channels and websites. Recently, I can across a web channel Earth Unplugged and a great video about Bizarre Animals.

Check this out if you want some ideas for easily tweaking animals for your next adventure.

Some of my favorites include the pig-nose turtle (possibly a companion to an underwater ranger, the pig-noose granting some bonus to perception), the thorny devil (lizard with thorny/sharp hide) and the blue dragon (sea slug).

For the blue dragon, I envision a monstrous land based slug with tentacles (which naturally include grapple capabilities) and maybe an ability where if it is hit with poison, not only is it immune, but then it's next attack includes poison damage.

Check out the video here.

Oct 17, 2014

Upworks KS - Cancelled

I'm sad to report that the Upworks KS that launched a few weeks ago has been cancelled by the project creators, citing personal reasons.

Not only has the KS been cancelled, but the company has already sold the Upworks domain (and moved over to Upworksgames.com), in an attempt to recover some of their costs of the project so far. From the updates on the KS page, it doesn't look like Upworks will be starting up anytime soon.

In the meantime, the Miniature Building Authority KS is still in full swing, and close to quadrupling their funding goal, with 4 more days to go. If you're looking for some castle pieces for your game, this might be worth checking out.

Oct 16, 2014

D&D - Back in the day

I saw a recent post of an article about Dungeons and Dragons from 1985. It includes all the typical D&D-hysteria, and quotes from all the usual suspects, like Patricia Pulling and Thomas Radecki.

What I found surprising about the article was the fact that at least some nod was paid to journalistic balance, in the form of positive comments about D&D from The Association for Gifted-Creative Children, Steven Spielberg, and Dr. Joyce Brothers.

Check out the article yourself here.

For some previous posts about D&D Controversies, check out this list.

Oct 9, 2014

Game Session: When Kobolds Fly! (Part 1)

After the events of the last adventure, Duncan and Ataraxia decided to follow up on the rumors they had previously hear about even more kobold activity in the area.

Traveling northward in the Southern Dargaard Mountains, the duo came across a lone man hanging upside down from a tree calling out for help. The man appeared exhausted and weakened from being out in the elements for days. After being rescued, the old man explained that he was a passenger on a road carriage heading for Saltmarsh.

The man, who identified himself as Erik Frause, was in route to the city on behalf of his employee, Diam uth Wathor. He traveled with several other people, including a young boy, a pair of men he recognized as Oswald and Hubert Fastralli (sons of a wealthy gem merchant from Saltmarsh), and the carriage driver.

When the carriage was attacked, Erik was thrown from the vehicle and beaten by a group of kobolds. They then stripped him and hung him upside down from the tree. Erik was able to see some of the kobolds leading the other humans away on foot. In near delirium, he also saw a pair of kobolds seemingly grab a hold of the sky and begin to fly.

This last statement confused Duncan, and Ataraxia. They tried to get Erik to clarify what he meant, but the herald could not explain better what he had seen, other than noting that shortly afterward he passed out from the beating he had received.

The pair gave the old man some clothing, supplies and directions back to Sandyford, and then set off in the direction of the kobold lair.

After crossing the nearby ravine, the duo found themselves before the cave opening where Erik's instructions lead them. The unlit cave was about thirty feet wide at the opening, but quickly narrowed to a tight five foot opening just 12-15 feet inside. The cave roof, at a mere six feet, just cleared Duncan's head. With Duncan's sunrod, the light cut through the darkness and showed the narrow path quickly opening up into a roughly semi circular room with an exit at the opposite end.

Ataraxia noticed something wasn't right in the room. The monk saw that all the tracks in the room followed the right side only. A little poking around revealed that most of the room was covered in a sticky tar substance topped with a layer of dust for camouflage, and only the path to the right seemed clear. After going around it, the pair found the exit hallway covered in shattered glass, which only would be an issue if they weren't wearing their shoes.

The next room was really just a ledge on both sides of the room, with a huge, gaping natural cavern in the middle. On the ledge near the party, a quartet of kobolds were scrambling to react. Two were drawing weapons to attack while the other two were fumbling with some strange harnesses and tarps.

After defeating the two attackers, the other two drew weapons to attack. Soon they were defeated as well. Duncan and Ataraxia examined the strange harnesses and realized that it was some kind of wing contraption. After looking it over for a few moments, it seemed to match the herald's description. Unfortunately these flying devices were only sized for the small and lighter kobolds, neither the cleric nor the monk were willing to test these devices across  the huge cavern separating them from the rest of the cave system.

Instead the monk climbed down the cavern wall to the floor, about 60 feet below. Once there, Ataraxia was attacked by a bunch of huge rats that lived off the trash and waste here. After fighting off a few of the rodents, the rest ran back to their dark corners.

Ataraxia started climbing up the other side of the cavern when the monk found a rough natural stairway. Soon the monk and Duncan were standing on the far side of the cavern.

After confronting a few more kobolds, who were quickly defeated before raising any alarms, the pair came across a secret room in the middle of the hallway. Going inside, they found the room cold and damp, stale area filled their lungs, and a palpable stench filled their noses as a demonic beast lumbered out of the darkness. The mindless creature attacked Duncan with it's powerful arms, but the cleric and monk soon defeated the otherworldly creature. In the room they found the remains of a long dead black-robed wizard and the summoning circle that failed to contain the creature.

Journeying further into the caverns, the pair entered a room full of bat guano, which was also the lair of a swarm of bats. After chasing them off, they found a crude door at one end of the room and another hallway at the other end.

Thinking they might find more demon creatures, or kobold warriors, Duncan and Ataraxia were surprised to find instead a young man, who looked to be a recent prisoner of the kobold tribe.

Oct 7, 2014

Comic Review: Rat Queens vol 1

As I've written about before, I'm a big fan of fantasy comics, and recently I had a chance to read the first Rat Queens collection: Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery.

First let me state the obvious. This is not a book for young kids. The characters use "rough" language, there are references to drug use, and there might be more graphic violence than you would expect. It's a sword and sorcery comic, so I expect a certain level of violence, and being a comic, I expect it to be graphic. That said, if you think seeing one of the heroes covered in the blood spray of a slain enemy is a bit too much, this might not be the book for you.
  
All that said, I loved this book. It reads like an adapted D&D game in graphic form. The characters get their mission from the town guard as pardon for past minor crimes. This setup feels like the start of a game session, with the town guard serving as the DM and the mission objective seems like just the kind of assignment a low-level party might get. 

Not surprisingly, the mission goes sideways and there's more going on than appears at first glance; again, like a good D&D session.

The book features a great collection of female lead characters, all of whom are empowered, self-sufficient, if a bit flawed, people. Likewise, we're introduced to a number of interesting side characters, like the Four Daves and Sawyer.

While Rat Queens is an ongoing series, this first arc does a good job of setting the stage, introducing the characters, and providing a fun, exciting opening adventure, with just enough loose ends to keep the book going.

I look forward to reading the further adventures of the Rat Queens.

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 2014: 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.

Sep 2, 2014

D&D Minis Gallery

I was lucky to see some of the new D&D minis that have just started coming out at this year's GenCon, but not all of them.

Here's a full gallery, including some ultra rare invisible minis that I didn't even know about.



Here's the link to the page displayed above: http://www.minisgallery.com/dnd/dnd1.htm

Aug 28, 2014

Game Session - Same Game, Different Faces

So, after the finale of the Dragon Island saga, our gaming group had some changes in real life. One of the players was moving out of town, one seemed to be more interested in running a Mage campaign, and so on.

That put me back to the unenviable position of having to rebuild the group. Luckily, I did have one player still around (Mike), and after a couple of months of searching I had one more.

I was hoping to get at least three to restart the game, but rather than keep the two I did have waiting around (and potentially dropping out before I even got started), I decided to start with just two PCs (along with an NPC character I would run as needed).

Even though Mike already had a character in the game (Hunter, a 7th level ranger), I didn't want to start this game at such a high level, so I asked Mike if he would bring in a new 1st level character for the time being. The idea was that when this new party (along with any new players) reached a high enough level, we could have the Mike's new character leave the group to be replaced by Hunter.

Another change I was planning was to move this campaign from Flotsam to a new location. Rather than build a new town from scratch, I decided to drop Saltmarsh into the Dragonlance setting in an area I hadn't previously used. Since I wasn't planning on running the original U series of modules, I opted for the version of Saltmarsh presented in the 3.5 DMG II. All the city needed was a few cosmetic changes, swapping out the default deities for their Dragonlance equivalents, and adding a few details to the city based on a module I was planning to run far in the future and we were all set to start...

Starting the game were the following characters:

Duncan - A cleric of Kiri-Jolith
Ataraxia - A monk of Majere
----------------

Saltmarsh District Map
Our adventure starts in the bustling trade town of Saltmarsh, located on the shore of New Sea in Qwermish. Cole Silverhammer, a dwarven blacksmith, and owner of The Anvil, was in need of some help. It seems Sandyford, one of the villages that supplies Cole with the raw ore he uses to forge his wares, had recently, and without notice or reason, stopped making deliveries.

Worried that something was amiss, Cole sought out the aid of the high ranking clerics of Kiri-Jolith in town.

Cole was well known to the clerics of Kiri-Jolith for supplying low cost weapons and armor to their warriors, and when he came to them asking for help, they were only too willing to assist. The clerics assigned one of their younger, newly confirmed members (Duncan), the task of accompanying Cole to the village of Sandyford. They also arranged for a monk of Majere (Ataraxia) to accompany the group to Sandyford.

It should be noted that the monks and the clerics of Kiri-Jolith often trained together and had formed close alliances in Saltmarsh.

The journey to Sandyford was mostly uneventful. Along the way, the trio did encounter a small group of refugees, not from Sandyford, but from Pinehurst, a town further north. These refugees mentioned that Pinehurst had suffered frequent attacks from local kobold tribes. They knew nothing of the fate of the town of Sandyford, so the trio bid them goodbye. Privately, Duncan and Ataraxia felt they might want to investigate the events in Pinehurst after checking in with the folks in Sandyford.

When they arrived in Sandyford, they found a village ravaged by disease. Many were already dead, and the rest confined to bed with shaking fever sickness. One woman, Mara, while just as sick as the rest of Sandyford, was at least coherent enough to shed some light on the situation.

The shaky fever, as she called it, started over a month ago. At first it was just a few of the men who worked the nearby mine, but it soon spread throughout town as well as the local livestock. Aid was sought from Solanthus, but never arrived.

When the first of the townsfolk to get sick started dying, some tried to flee, while others sought to find answers within the mine where the sickness appeared to start from. These few, the last healthy and able bodied men of town, were never heard form again. Mara begs the party to find the lost husbands, daughters, and sons of Sandyford.

Without delay, Duncan, Ataraxia, and Cole set forth to the mine just a few miles outside of town. They soon found themselves standing before the mine entrance. All around the entrance, tools and some crude weapons seemed scattered around, but no living or dead bodies could be found. A recent snowfall covered any tracks around the mine.

Curious about the missing townsfolk, the party ventured into the mine. Traveling down a descending hallway, the three soon found themselves in a small roughly rectangular room. Chunks of ore were scattered about while two overturned ore carts lay in the center of the room. Under one of the carts was a motionless body. Blood smears covered the walls telling of a fierce battle that took place here recently.

Heading down the westward hallway, they soon found themselves in the old mess hall, along with a half dozen or more kobolds. As fighting quickly broke out, three of their number raced over to the adjoining room, where they barred the door and set up a defensive position. After all the kobolds were defeated, the party searched the mess hall, and the other room, which turned out to be storage room. While they found all manner of food stuffs, from ale to cheese, there was no clue as to the whereabouts of the missing townsfolk.

Heading down the east hallway from the room with the overturned carts, the party soon entered the deep central cavern where the miners worked. Here they encounter more kobolds, but worse still were the zombies lingering down one of the main spurs off the cavern. The party soon encountered the reanimated corpses of several of the townsfolk, along with several undead kobolds as well.

Not sure who, or what, was behind such an abomination, they continued further into the tunnel. In a large chamber they beheld the cause of all the death and suffering that had plagued the quiet village of Sandyford. A lone bozak draconian, clad in the robes of his new god, the Rat King (aka Morgion, the god of disease). Here, the bozak had found a way to infect a stream of water that passed through this cavern, the same water that fed into the town's drinking water.

Grak, as he called himself, seemed to be infected with the same disease that he was inflicting on the town, but had not yet succumbed to its full effect. Even in his weakened state, the cleric of filth put up a good fight against the trio, but soon fell to their combined might.

With the death of the draconian, the magically talisman that was infecting the water supply was rendered inert.

In the following days, some of the townsfolk started getting better, and Duncan was able to send word back to Saltmarsh that clerics of Mishakal, the Healing Hand, would be needed for the very worst cases. Duncan and Ataraxia stayed on in Sandyford till reinforcements arrived. Afterward, the pair headed north to Pinehurst to follow up on the rumors of other kobold activity in the area, while Cole stayed behind to assist the recover of the townsfolk.