Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Poll Results & New Poll

Are you playing your favorite edition of D&D?

  10 (34%)

Close - a clone
  8 (27%)

No, I'm playing a different edition
  2 (6%)

Not playing D&D right now
  9 (31%)

It seems the vast majority of you are playing either your favorite edition of D&D, or a clone of it.  Good for you!  Judging by the previous poll, that’s a whole lot of AD&D being played!!

The new poll asks this: Have you ever given your players in game gifts for the holidays?  If so, what?

Monday, November 29, 2010

4e Innovations - the good and the bad

Flynn asked “What are your three most favorite game mechanic innovations from 4E, and why? Also, what are your three least favorite game mechanic innovations from 4E, and why?”

I've been stewing over this post for, well, about a month now!   Part of the problem I've been having writing it, is that I've again been working on my megadungeon, and haven't been working with 4e very much.  However, I have thought about it, and here's what I've come up with.

My favorite innovations for 4e would have to be the balance they've achieved.  Granted, I've only got the first round of releases, so I don't have any experience with PHBII or III or MMII or III.  I know there was some cleanup that was needed from the first round, and the FAQ came out really quickly, but still, the level of progression from 1-30 is pretty even across all the classes.  In previous editions, and 3.x especially there was little reason not to play a spellcasting class.  Batman wizards, clericzillas, and druids were the go to classes for power gamers.  A lot of that was taken away with 4e, and I like that.

I also really enjoy the way that monsters are designed to work in mixed groups, and how different monsters have different roles to play in encounters.  I personally always enjoyed mixing up the opponents my players faced, as it made for a more interesting time for everyone.  4e makes that the official way to do things.

The 3rd mechanical innovation that I really like is the chart on page 42 of the DMG.  Ok, yes, I know they revised it, but with the PHB and that page you can run a D&D game.

My least favorite mechanical aspects of 4e are the skill challenge, the necessity of picking certain feats, and standard array ability scores.

Skill challenges seem like a really neat way to handle a variety of situations, but the presentation is awkward, and I didn't enjoy trying to run it with my players.  I do feel that with a good example, I might be willing to change my mind on this.

Feats - this 3.x holdover is a neat way to customize your character, make it a little different from the standard.  Unfortunately, there are a few feats with such clear mechanical advantage that they are automatically taken. 

Ability scores are random in every edition, except this one.  The degree of randomness changes, but there is always a chance that you'll roll a whole bunch of 1s or a bunch of 6s.  I kinda miss that, though I think that having the option of taking a standard array isn't a bad one, but only as an alternate option.  Give my my d6's!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dynamic Shield

Rathgar pulled the strange shield from the slain serpent man's arm.  The colors of it's face were shifting from blue to yellow-green in a very fluid motion.

"Are you sure you want to be taking that?"  Nimble asked.  "You don't know where it's been."

"It's unusual, but I don't think it's evil."  Allianora chimed in.

"It may be cursed." Feris added helpfully. 

"Well, I need a shield." Rathgar stated.  "My last one got eaten by that owlbear."

Nimble looked skeptical.

"Tell you what.  Until we can get a good look at the thing, I'll use one of these wooden ones.  And if it does end up being cursed I'll just hang it over the mantle.  Does that sound fair to everyone?"

The Dynamic Shield is a round metal shield enchanted with protective magics.  The face of the shield shows a constantly changing flow of colors.  It usually is a somewhat slow movement, but during combat, especially combat involving spells and other magical effects, the surface is in a constant state of agitation.  In addition this visual show, the Dynamic Shield serves as a magical shield +2, that also provides a +4 to the last type of saving throw it's owner had to make.

For example, if Rathgar had to make a saving throw versus spells last round, he would get a +4 to his saving throw vs spells until he has to make a different saving throw.  If he then has to make a saving throw vs Dragons Breath, he'll get no bonus this round, but from next round on the bonus will shift to Dragons Breath.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dark Jelly

"Feris, pass the rolls over here" Rathgar calls over the sound of the bards playing in the corner.

"Oh, excellent" Nimble says with his mouth full as the rolls pass in front of him.  He snags 3 before passing the basket around.

"Isn't this a bit much?" Allianora asks her feast companions.

"What do you mean?" Nimble replies.

"Look around" She gestures around the empty room. "You bought out the entire tavern for the night.  We're feasting, and drinking, and you even hired musicians!  You made everyone who was already here leave!"

"And?" Rathgar asks. "It's our gold!"

"I feel bad about not sharing it."

Nimble spreads jelly on his rolls, and takes a big bite before Feris takes the jar.  "So... go give a donation to the temple, this is our celebration."

"Isn't it more fun to share it?"

"Not really" Feris says, bread crumbs spilling from his mouth.  "In fact, you aren't making this much fun either."

The tavernkeeper stood nervously by the kitchen doorway, thinking about the platinum coins he took to add the jar of jelly to the adventurer's feast.

Dark Jelly

Originally the creation of a dark cult, this chaos infused food was made to bring disorder and confusion among  the forces of Law and Order.  Those who taste this sweet jelly must make a saving throw of be compelled to share the jelly among their closest companions.  As they eat, their alignments will shift to chaos, becoming more selfish and suspicious of those around them.  The effects will last for 24 hours, after which the victims will have to live with all that they said and did during that dark day.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What does it take to change your world?

My game world, as I’ve mentioned before, is very heavily based in the forests and hills of England, Germany, and New England.  In much the same way that most of the planets that SG-1 visits looks like the Pacific Northwest, my world looks like temperate forests.  Does my world have jungles and deserts and badlands?  Absolutely!  Does anything ever happen there?  Probably, but I’ve never worried about it. 

In my PbP game, one of the characters is playing a rather savage elf from the jungle.  Suddenly, my Megadungeon (the game’s setting) moved from under the ruins of a hillside castle, to under the ruins of a jungle temple.  Just as suddenly, I'm exploring a part of my world that I hadn't ever visited.

All because of one choice, a choice I wouldn't have made, a choice that I didn't make, my world has changed.  I'm now forced to confront something that I hadn't before.  My world has literally changed because of this one choice. 

Now I'm considering that my megadungeon may distort space, and that entrances thousands of miles apart may all connect to the same dungeon... I may need multiple first levels...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Poll - are you playing your favorite edition?

I am both really tired and really busy, so a real post will be coming later.  For now, I have added a new poll question, a followup to my last one.  Are you playing your favorite edition of Dungeons and Dragons?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grim Travelers of the Red Dawn

Recently I was playing around with Meatshields! Classic Fantasy Hireling Generator and on the first click I generated an interesting collection of characters. They seemed ready made to drop into a low level game, and their background seemed to write itself, with a little help from Bruce Cockburn.

Brother Lartag leads this band of pilgrims to bring the light of the Red Dawn to the masses. He is a brooding figure in his brown and scarlet robes, skinny and bald, with dark circles around his eyes. He is quick to anger, and even quicker to launch into a dawnfire and brimstone sermon. He is protected by 2 elves – Dalis and Kerlon who he freed from enslavement. They have pledged themselves to him (but not his god) for 5 years. Dalis, a failed magic user, had his teeth and tongue removed to prevent him from using his magic to cause trouble.

Drogos and Gargar, deserters from a local duke’s forces, were Brother Lartag’s first converts. Drogos was a member of the Dukes crossbow corp. Gargar was a cook, and is slow of thought. Both were drawn to the message of redemption though the fire of the Red Dawn.

Gillo is a streetwise thug, but in spite of all he’s seen, he can’t tell a convincing lie. Lerdo, his younger scrawnier brother worked as a stable boy before being found with the innkeeper’s youngest daughter and a sizable skimming of the contents of the cashbox. Gillo is a whole hearted convert to the teachings of Brother Lartag, while Lerdo is merely biding his time till the Brother accumulates enough gold to make it worth stealing.

When encountered, Brother Lartag will be in the lead, flanked closely by the elves. Drogos and Gillo will cover the rear, and Lerdo and Gargar will be carrying the bulk of the group’s supplies. If combat begins Lerdo and Gargar will drop back and Gillo will counterattack anyone who closes with Brother Lartag. Otherwise, the Grim Travelers will pepper their opponents with missile fire.

Those more receptive to a little sermonizing may find rough but generally friendly company.

The chart from Meatshields didn't format well for posting here, so I put it, and a copy of this post onto a PDF for download.

Grim Travellers Download

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ozan Class Insertion Transport

“Oh man!” Said a pained male voice over the com.

“What?” came a bored reply.

“Doesn’t that give you a headache?”

“Doesn’t what give me a headache?”

“That thrumming!”

“What thrumming?”

“Dude, the big ship behind you?  The one we’re guarding till the commander gets back?”

“What about it?”

“The antigrav.  It thrums.”

“… I don’t hear anything”

“You don’t hear it because it’s subsonic.  You feel it.”

“… I don’t feel anything either.  Are you sure you’re ok?”

“No!  I have a headache!”

“Maybe you should stop yelling then.”

“You know what?  Fine.  Never mind.”  

Originally designed as a military transport ship, it has since fallen out of favor (and production) and is now most often encountered with paramilitary security forces and mercenary groups.  Ozan’s are designed to deliver small units of troops with light vehicles dirtside as quickly as possible.  Most often they carry four 5 man light combat vehicles, although other secondary vehicles have been observed ranging from a gang of bikes to a heavy tank.   

Ozan’s were designed without landing struts, as it was presumed that they would be too vulnerable to remain in one spot planetside for long. Instead it relies upon a strong antigravity drive which keeps it above ground. 

Craft: Ozan Class Insertion Transport
Type: Medium freighter
Scale: Starfighter
Length: 70 meters
Skill: Space transports: armored transport
Crew: 6 + 3 gunners
Crew Skill: Varies
Passengers: 20 (troops)
Cargo Capacity: 30,000 metric tons
Consumables: 3 months
Cost: 240,000 (new), 110,000 (used)
Hyperdrive Multiplier: x2
Hyperdrive Backup: x12
Nav Computer: Yes
Space: 4
Atmosphere: 280; 800 km/h
Hull: 5D
Shields: 1D
Passive: 10/0D
Scan: 25/1D
Search: 40/2D
Focus: 2/3D
3 Laser Cannons
Fire Arc: Turret
Skill: Starship gunnery
Fire Control: 2D
Space Range: 1-3/12/25
Atmosphere Range: 100-300/1.2/2.5 km
Damage: 4D

It helps if you read the dialog as the guys from Red vs Blue.  Simmons and Griff or Church and Tucker.  Either or. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Your favorite edition - AD&D!

Well this wasn't the distribution curve I expected to see!  

4E                           2 (5%)
3.x                          5 (14%)
2nd                         4 (11%)
AD&D                  11 (31%)
BECMI/RC            4 (11%)
B/X                        5 (14%)
OD&D                   2 (5%)
Other                      2 (5%)

Not much love for OD&D or 4e.  More love than I expected for 3.x, but I am really shocked by the love for AD&D.  I never played AD&D, since when I left the Rules Cyclopedia it was off to 2nd edition.  I did read a fair amount of 1st edition back in the early 90's, but I never played it.  I wonder why the love?  Is it the Gygaxian prose?  The charts?  The art?  I'm also curious about the two "Other Edition" answers. One of the answers was the Holmes edition of basic, but I have no idea what the other one was. 

This poll actually raises more questions for me than it answered.  How many of you are playing their favorite edition? Why do you read my blog if I'm not writing for your edition?  What is the average air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Nimble crept softly among the shelves.  A dizzying array of items filled them, all marked and labeled but in no language or order that he could determine. 

A soft clicking caused him to freeze.  The moonlight coming in through the small high windows was barely enough to see by, but Nimble turned slowly to look in the direction of the noise.  Seeing nothing, he closed his eyes and listened closely.  Multiple clicks, more like a ticking, faint, but coming closer, and from above – the top shelf most likely. 

Still too dark to see anything, Nimble drew the dirk from his belt, and waited.  After what felt like an hour, but was more likely just minute or two, Nimble spotted a spider leg, and then another walking along the top shelf.  The ticking was still soft, but much clearer now, and definitely coming from the spider.  When it finally was visible, Nimble could see its distinctive black eight legged form.  What caught his eye was the gleam of copper above its head.

The spider continued along the top of the shelf, until it was near Nimble’s location.  It paused and seemed to look down at Nimble, but made no other move.  The ticking continued. 

Eventually Nimble had to breathe, and his position shifted slightly to relive an impending cramp.   The spider reared back, the ticking sped up, and it leapt at Nimble’s head. 

Instinct and training fought for a fraction of a second, and in the end neither won.  Nimble ducked and jabbed with his dirk.  The spider missed his head, but landed on his back, avoiding the dirk completely.  Reacting as only one who has a spider on them can, Nimble used his free hand to swat the creature off of him, and jabbed down onto it with his blade, in the process knocking several boxes, jars, and cages onto the floor with a crash. 

Arthrotomita are a fusion of magitech with various arthropods.  They are able to understand and follow simple commands, and are used for a variety of purposes.  When creating an Arthrotomita, the maker must decide what purpose it will serve. 

Defense: These Arthrotomita will be equipped with various attack powers, usually poison for those interested in a lethal option, and webbing for those interested in live capture.

Scouting: Arthrotomita designed for scouting will often have enhanced movement capabilities, and the ability to record limited visual data, which they can then replay using a minor illusionary magic.    

Communication: Sometimes you have to get a message delivered ASAP, and a grasshopper is less likely to be spotted than a horse and rider!

Arthrotomita base statistics are as follows:
Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 1 hit (S)
Move: 60' (20')
Attacks: none
Damage: none
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Normal Man
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: none
Intelligence: 3
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 2

They can be upgraded with no more than 3 of the following abilities
Armor I: AC 7
Armor II: AC 5
Improved Movement I: 90’ (30’)
Improved Movement II: 120’ (40’)
Flying Movement I: 30’ (10’)
Flying Movement II: 60’ (20’)
Flying Movement III: 90’ (30’)
Attack: Poison
Attack: Web (per spell)
Attack: 1d4 damage
Once the method of construction of an Arthrotomita is known, the base cost for creating on is 2,000gp, which gives the base creature 1 pick from the upgrade list, as chosen by the creator.  Each additional upgrade costs an additional 2,000gp, which means fully upgraded Arthrotomita cost 6,000gp each! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


There is very little information to come by for this creature.  Everyone we’ve sent to study it inevitably gets so caught up in working on it, that they never report back. 

You must have something?

Well, they appear to congregate into loose family clusters, which are prone to violent infighting on a fairly regular basis.  They’re generally fairly intelligent, though degenerate specimens have been found.  And they’ll talk your ears off about whatever it is they’re interested in that particular day. 

But what about treasure?

Oh, they seem to collect it and give it away.

They give it away?

Many of them.  Some expect a trade, and some are better at it than others.  Of course you need to listen to them for a while first, which is where many get sucked in.  Those who become too engrossed by the creatures are eventually transformed into them. 


Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 1** (S)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: Special
Damage: Special
No. Appearing: 4d6 (2d6)
Save As: El
Morale: 11
Treasure Type: O
Intelligence: 12
Alignment: Any
XP Value: 16

Monster Type: Monster (Common).
Blogmonsters (aka Bloggers) are 3’-4’ tall fairies of varying appearance.  Many are squat and hairy; some are thinner and could even be described as attractive.  One feature that tends to be consistent is an overly large mouth.  Both male and female specimens have been observed.

If engaged in physical combat a Blogger will most likely flee.  However, if one gets talking, the listener must save vs spells or become automatically engaged in conversation about the Blogmonsters chosen topic.  For every 2 Blogmonsters engaged in the conversation (which often just goes around in circles) the listener suffers a -1 to the saving throw.  Every evening the Bloggers all settle down and write out their thoughts and opinions of the day’s topic.  The next morning, after a good nights rest the conversation continues right where it left off.  The conversations continue for 1d4 days, at which point the Blogmonsters have reached a point of contention.  There will be a lot of yelling, waving of hands, and a declaration of the end of their cluster forever.  At this point the listeners are allowed a saving throw.  Should they fail their saving throw 3 times, they will be transformed into a Blogmonster themselves. 

A remove curse spell will return a Blogmonster back into its original form, however they will suffer a -2 penalty to all saving throws against Bloggers in the future.   

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Vrachíona - Magical Arm

Sita Hatun Sultana hurried down the street, her cloak pulled tight to ward off the cold and rain.  She knew the storm was coming, yet Feris and Allianora were waiting for her, and she was late.  Her foot splashed down into a puddle, one that hadn’t looked so deep, and cold water chilled her and soaked her legs.

“The Brass Alley is covered” She thought to herself, taking the narrow shortcut along the tinker’s shops.  It was also dark, and she did not see the large man until she was practically on top of him. 

“It’s a dangerous night for one such as you to be about.”  His voice whispered.  His leathery face, long mustache, and dark eyes gave her no hope to avoid the confrontation. 

“I am cold, and wet, and late, and you will let me pass.”  Still, there was no harm in trying. 

“I think not.” He reached toward her, grabbing the jeweled clasp at her neck. 

From beneath the cloak a metallic hand shot out, grabbing the ruffian’s wrist.  He cried out, his face contorting.  His free hand desperately attempted to peal back the silvery fingers. 

“Andreyus, quick!” he said over her shoulder.  She turned in time to see the club swinging down onto the side of her head.   


This magical artifact was designed by and created for Sita Hatun Sultana, who lost her arm while on one of her many adventures.  As she tells it, her arm had become cursed by a dark spirit trapped within a magical tome that she had gone to collect.  Eventually the tome, spirit, and her arm were destroyed.  Zabaan of the Burning Sands crafted a new arm, and imbued it with the fire of the Efreet. 

The arm provides a strength bonus of +2 over the person’s natural strength, to a minimum of 15.  It also provides a +2 bonus to dexterity.  If not using a weapon, the arm can attack for 1d4 points of damage.  

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Poll

There are posts coming!  Several of them are already half written. 

However, until I can finish one, I was wondering what your favorite edition of D&D was?  There is a poll to the right. 

I'm guessing that most people who read my blog will prefer BECMI/RC or 4e.

So go vote, and see if your edition is the favorite of my readers!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A time of growing darkness

November has arrived, and for my Monthly Audience Participation Flynn asked “What are your three most favorite game mechanic innovations from 4E, and why? Also, what are your three least favorite game mechanic innovations from 4E, and why?”

As this was the only suggestion, I’ll happily answer it with a post (just not today)

Tomorrow is Election Day, and I’m serving as an election judge.  This is a nice long 15+ hour day, so don’t expect much from me for the next couple of days as I recover from that and from Halloween. There are some fun things to look forward to however!  

Coming soon:
Steampunk minimonsters and magic items
Thing in a well
A Spider
Altered Realities

I hope everyone had a frightful Halloween!