Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Neverwinter Nights 2 Platinum on sale: $9.99


You get the original NWN2, plus Mask of the Betrayer and Storm of Zehir.  You do not get Mysteries of Westgate, which is a shame.  But that's another $9.99 at the Atari store.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Got my old gaming PC running again

I've been playing NWN1 on my laptop, which works ok except that it invariably freezes after about 45 minutes of play.  I'm not sure why.  Might be  heat thing.  Or it might be Windows XP emulation thing.

So, I finally figured out how to get my old gaming rig (purchased to run NWN2) running in the family room.  It's  surprisingly accessible and non-disruptive to family life, though the fan is still loud as all hell.  It's running NWN1 flawlessly, with sound via some wireless headphones I bought a while back.  It's really great--I forgot how much difference a full-sized monitor makes.

Now if only I could find my nwn2 disks....but they seem to have gone AWOL.  I have no idea where they might be.  Would be fun to fire it up and see what people in the modding community did with it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Scanning Tokens for use in MapTool

The first adventure my group is likely to have upon arriving in Fallcrest is an encounter with the River Rats of the Lower Quays.  I have this all designed in Masterplan, but I'm building it in MapTool so I can run it with my group online.

Tonight's job: Scan in my Threats to the Nentir Vale tokens.  This was a pretty quick job.  I scanned at 300 dpi, and then applied a blur filter in Gimp to get rid of the pixelation that seems to come with scans of printed materials like this.

Just add heroes!
The result is very nice (the blur just undoes some needless sharpening that the scanner seems to add), and very easy to copy over into TokenTool!  Now that I have it ready, I can create tokens in MapTool quickly for anything in this second Monster Vault.  The result, when coupled with an export from Masterplan's fabulous tile-based map editor, is an awfully darn good looking encounter (right).

I need to playtest a few possible ways to model the Market Green Grifter's "play dead" power.  I could actually kill her in MapTool, but at this point I'm leaning toward just making her go unconscious for a round so that I don't break anything.  That way, MapTool should properly handle area spell damage and such that might affect her...  and heroes can still attack her if they can beat the insight check.  We'll see what I come up with.

As a side note, I absolutely adore Monster Vault: Threats to Nentir Vale.  Monster Vault was fine, but the availability of a specific setting allows this one to be far more specific and far more interesting.  The monsters are varied and each has interesting aspects to it: both stat blocks and story.  The villains are terrific.  And best of all, for those not playing in Nentir Vale, it's all pretty easy to plop the content down in anyone's home campaign setting.  Highly recommended!

Friday, December 2, 2011

DnD with kids: use of maptool

I haven't been very active of late.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, over Thanksgiving, I played a lot of DnD with "my group," which includes my daughter, sister-in-law, and her two children.  We had a great time, but learned a few things in the process:

1. It's virtually impossible to play more than one encounter at a time with 5- and 6-year olds.  And even then, if the encounter goes over 45 minutes, they're pretty much hopeless.

2. The math isn't a horrible barrier for 5- and 6-year olds.  But with the focus on die rolling and math, the roleplaying immersion is easily lost, because it takes everything they have to make it work.  This goes for me too--since I'm keeping track of the girls' HP in addition to the monsters, I'm involved in every move, and it's easy to forget to do things like roleplay the villain and have him taunt the players.

3. A level 5 encounter is waay too much for my party of level 1 players.  If you've played Twisted Halls, you know the final encounter: three level 3 soldier skeletons, 1 hulking zombie, and 1 necromancer.  The necromancer doesn't even get involved until one of the undead perish.  Even so, the party was pretty overmatched, with our slayer going down in the second round, and damage dealing far outstripping the healing abilities of the party.  And that's even with Smite Undead dispatching the zombie down the hallway for several rounds (pushed 6, can only move 4 squares).

I ended up having to fudge rolls like crazy to keep the party afloat.  Even so, everyone was bloodied by the end, and everyone had spent ther healing spells and second wind.

4. Not playing often makes me feel frantic to play whenever we do have a chance to play.  We ended up playing several times per day for three days in a row, which I think we starting to get old for everyone at the end of the day.


I don't have a solution for #3, aside from more slowing increasing the difficulty level than I had been doing.  But I may have a tentative solution to #1 and #2: Maptool.

Maptool is a package that allows you to conduct DnD games (or most other games) online.  This is why I looked at it in the first place, as half of the group lives two hours away and we only get together every few months.

Thanks to the impressive work of other Maptool users and developers, however, there are frameworks available for download that allow for varied levels of integration of 4e rules directly into the software.  Some essentially are designed to just help you keep track of each PC and NPC's stats, and leave it to the DM to impose damage, conditions, etc, as appropriate.  Others are more in depth and allow you to automate many aspects of DnD combat.

MapTool + Rumble + Masterplan is amazing.
The one I've been setting up is Rumble's 4e Framework, version 5.  While its character management isn't as nice as some other frameworks, (it only tracks weapons and implements, doesn't calculate AC or defenses, etc), it is pretty easy to use this framework to automate most aspects of combat:  attack/damage rolls, damage dealt, resistances, condition imposition and expiration, etc.  In fact, the only thing it doesn't do automatically are a) forced movement (the DM still has to move the monster), b) delayed condition changes, like sleep spells causing unconsciousness on the first failed saving throw, and c) prompting a player to make a saving throw off of its turn in response to a cleric power (though you can include text reminders to prompt a DM to do each of those events).  Everything else, for the most part, is done pretty easily with zero knowledge of scripting.

It does take some time to learn how the framework operates, and to get the characters and monsters into the software.  But when you do, the result is something that almost resembles a video game!  I think this will work very well for my group.  Going back to the problems above:

1) This should speed up combat dramatically.  What was once a minute long sequence of rolling, adding bonuses (kids take a while to do this), announcing the attack number, rolling damage, adding again, announcing the damage number is now three clicks: once to select your attack power, once to target, once to hit "ok" (assuming no modifiers are needed like CA, but even that's just another click away).  The faster the combat, the more focused everyone will be at the "table."

2) Less math.  There still will be some, and I'd like them to be aware of it.  They'll see the numbers, and we'll talk about damage modifiers now and then.  But at the same time, they'll have more fun if they can focus on the roleplaying, rather than just adding attack modifiers to dice rolls.  It also frees me up a lot.  I won't have to try to remember every status effect (even with colored hair band markers, that's hard to do) and everything else going on, which will make it easier for me to roleplay as well.

3) While this doesn't directly solve the problem of encounter difficulty catching me off guard, it will allow me to playtest challenging encounters on my own really easily.  I want to do the occasional level+3 encounter, but I want it to be possible!  With Rumble's framework all set up, DnD plays like a video game!

That said, I will have a hard time fudging attack/damage rolls using the software, so I'll have to have a back-up intervention scenario should I achieve a TPK...

4) We get to play outside of family gatherings.  By playing online, we can be less frantic about getting our gaming in when everyone gets together.  This should make family events less about DnD than this past Thanksgiving was.  I know I'll like that, because it'll let me care a lot less about whether we get to play when people get together.

Anyway, I'll have more on MapTool (and Masterplan, which I'm also using and loving) in the future.  But if you haven't checked it out, you should really do so.  I'm looking forward to giving it a whirl with actual players....once I get my monsters and maps all set up for our adventure! :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Going without the DDI Character Builder

A little over a month ago, I spontaneously decided to subscribe to DnD Insider for a month to see what I was missing.  I was generally pretty happy with what I got for my money.  Dungeon magazine, in particular, as full of great ideas, and the monster editor was a fabulous resource as I started working on my first adventure.

Probably the most essential application on there, however, was the Character Builder.  While I enjoy the process of character building, as a new player I'm prone to making errors (e.g. I just discovered a few nights ago that shields give you a bonus to both AC and Dex).  Furthermore, the product that the character builder creates is very nice; the character sheets were far easier to use for my new/young players, and the power cards were terrific.  Furthermore, I loved how easy it was to roll up a character, paruse the various feats and powers, etc.  It reminded me a lot of the Neverwinter Nights character creation engine, in fact.

The problem with DDI is that it's expensive.  My wife is already bothered enough by my return to overt geekery over the past few months.  Spending $70/year on a subscription to DDI isn't something that is going to be an easy sell in my household.

So instead, as my subscription lapsed a week or so ago, I began looking around to see what else I could use to manage my characters.  After a fair bit of trial and error, here's what I came up with.

The Character Sheet

I wanted something that would do some of the basic, repetitive calculations for me.  The logical thing to do, therefore, was to build something in my old standby, Excel.  After spending about 15 minutes working on it, however, and realizing how much work it would take to get it formatted prettily, I decided to look around and see what people had already done. :)

There are some very complicated spreadsheets out there that try to essentially replicate the Character Builder in terms of scope (e.g. this one).  I wanted something more flexible, though, so that I could work up the characters myself and only rely on the sheet to do basic things like add my +1/2 level every time I leveled up.

I found this one by Rohin Joyce, which I just adore.  It does all the basic calculations for you, but leaves a lot of room for customization.  At this point, I'm using it with only small modifications to create my characters.  But then, I'm pulling data from it to create a kid-friendly character sheet that I put together myself.  Here's the result:
This represents my attempt to create a noob/kid friendly character sheet that, when used with power cards, has most of the stuff they will need to operate their characters.  It is very slimmed down.  You get defenses at the top left.  You get your basic attacks and whatnot right below that.  You get hit points right below that. The top-right has initiative, speed, and your passive senses.  And the bottom-right has all the skills and attribute modifiers (borrowing from the Essentials character sheets, I'm nesting the skills within the attributes). Importantly, as these are kids, there's a huge portrait area that can hold whatever picture my player wants (as long as I can find it on Google image search).

Obviously, I left out a lot of stuff.  I didn't even give them their attribute scores, for example--just the modifiers.  But as Mike Shea has pointed out (somewhere, sorry, I don't have a link), all that really matters is the modifier anyway!  Omitting attribute scores just saves newbie confusion.  I'm also omitting deities (which won't play a big role in my game, at least for now), action point trackers (I use tokens), feats, etc.  All of that stuff is on the other character sheet, which can be printed out and stapled beneath this one.

With the exception of the notes part, and the graphic, which will need to change for each character where it pulls its info, it's entirely automated.  Fill out Rohin's character sheet and all of this populates.  It's just more approachable for my players to use this in the game.  If someone is interested, I'll post it.  Just let me know.

What About the Power Cards?

A nice excel-based character sheet is great, but I really became infatuated with the power cards that the Character Builder generates.  My players responded very well to them in our last session, so I wanted to make sure that I still have something workable.  I originally planned to just make them in excel, but I ran across this thread about using a Magic the Gathering card editor, with an all-text template, as an alternative.  Here is a screenshot of the result:

I absolutely adore these.  I'm able to make cards that are bigger, cleaner, and easier to use than what the character builder generates.  Even cooler, I can use it to generate treasure cards in advance that I can hand to players as they uncover magic items.  Here's what I'm handing out over the rest of the Twisted Halls:

How cool is that?

What have you done to work around the DDI Character Builder?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Essentials Magic Item List

I'm relying on the treasure tables in the Dungeon Master's Kit to distribute treasure in an appropriate way within my compaign.  Thanks to R.M. Walker's Automated Treasure Finder spreadsheet, this is pretty easy--though I had to edit his spreadsheet to include a means of adjusting for party size.

The one stumbling block to this process has been finding appropriate magic items.  The DM Kit tables will tell you to give an item of a specific level and rarity value (common, uncommon, etc).  I'm currently running with only the Dungeon Master's Kit and Heroes of the Fallen Lands, and as a result I have a limited supply of magic items at my fingertips.  This can make it hard to find, for example, a level 6 uncommon item, especially if I'm trying to get something for a particular player.  And the process is made all the harder by the fact that I haven't found a good index of the magic items in these books.  So, I decided to make one.

As I acquire other sources (I'd really like to get Mordenkainen's...), I will no doubt add to this spreadsheet.  But for now, this is what I have.  I'm posting it here in case someone else can use the info.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Today, we defeated the Frog Wizard

After a bit of time off, we resumed playing rpgKids and defeated the Frog Wizard! Huzzah!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Damage by 3d6

I'm kind of a sucker for these things. My favorite part of this one is guy drumming with a dagger, but some of the lyrics are fun.  "Once again his armor class is not enough to save his ass!"

Hell, yeah!
Hat tip to critical hits link round-up from last week.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

D & D Doodle Index (and Love)

Edit: I discovered tonight (11/15) that the author below has removed a substantial number of his old posts.  Whether that has something to do with this post, or is just a coincidence, I don't know.  If I offended or otherwise freaked you out, Brandon, I do apologize.  I just really enjoyed your stuff.

One of the fun things about being so late on the scene with DnD 4e is that I get to discover wonderous things that people have probably known about for a long time.  One of those is the work of Brandon Kruse at DnD Doodle.  His masterpiece reimagining of Fallcrest is to the right, and has been widely circulated, often without credit.  I myself first found it at an Obsidian Portal website.

The thing that's so exciting about Brandon's work, aside from its obvious brilliance, is his cartoony style.  Since I'm largely running my campaign for a group of little kids, I want to try to keep things a bit lighter than a lot of campaigns probably do.  As such, the stock DnD art isn't always ideal.  Kruse's area maps invoke excitement and fantasy, while his character sketches have a whimsy and humor that I think the kids will find very approachable.  For this reason, I've largely abandoned my plan to get my players into the Forgotten Realms as soon as humanly possible.  The Nentir Vale will work great, mostly because I get to use this art!

I'm using Masterplan now to write my post-Twisted Halls adventure, and one feature I really like is the ability to broadcast maps to the players via a separate monitor attached to my laptop.  I'm planning to use this ability, and/or some powerpoint slides that do the same thing, to send a lot of Kruse's images to the screen.  My players will be able to see the town, the buildings they will visit, and even characters via this interface.  It should be a lot of fun.

As such, I've decided to do a quick index of Brandon's work here in this post.  I'm doing this mostly for myself, but if someone out there finds this useful, rock on.

Along the King's Road
Cave Drawing
Dwarftown (his version of Hammerfast)
Dwarftown - Top Floor
Dwarftown Underground
A Generic Town
Goblin/Bandit Camp
The Lonely Tower
Nentir winding way out of vale
The Restwell Keep on the Chaos Scar
River RoadRoad to fallcrest - Similar to below scene, but more of a map
A road through the wilderness (DM + Player)
Rushbottle and Camp Ozborg (south of Vale)
Thunderspire and surrounding areas
Winterhaven DM Map

Another road to Fallcrest
Fallcrest in Flames
On the road to Fallcrest/Moon Hills
Winter Ruins
The Rainy City
South of Nentir Vale
Wintery farmland...or blockade

Blue Moon Alehouse
The Lucky Gnome
Nentir Inn
Nentir Inn Second Floor
Nentir Inn First Floor
Raven Roost
Tower of Waiting, Nentir Inn, Blue Moon Alehouse

Named Characters
Princeling Ardjuna
Serim Selduzar, Orest Naerumar, High Priestess Dirina Mornbrow, Par Winomer of the Blue Moon, and Lord Walden Faren Markelhay
Grundelmar, Lannar Thistleton, Lady Allande Markelhay, Sergeant Thurmina
Sergeant Gerdrand, Lord Amos Kamroth, A River Rat, Wisara Osterman of Silver Unicorn, Kelson of Lucky Gnome
Irena Swiftwater, Nimozaran the Green, Tobolar Quickfoot, Teldorthan Ironhews
Raven Roost Roster
Gragnok, dragonborne paladin

Random Characters
Random People
Owlbears and Orcs
Owlbears and other misc
Mostly guns, but a few fantasy, including goblin king
Wizards, lizardmen, wolves
Wizards and barbarians
Adventurers and a Kobold
A noble, robber, knight
Kids, or hobbits, plus dark rider
Goblin Golfers
Randoms, w/ briest, witch, devils
Skeletons with Turbins
Gnoll Archer
Mehrat Sorcer and other creatures
Merchant on road

Monday, October 24, 2011

Custom Solo Creature: The Giant Crocodile

I'm putting together a level 2 adventure for when my band of four adventurers finish up the Twisted Halls.  I'm largely going to stick to the stock materials in the Monster Vault (I think), but I wanted a non-dragon solo monster for this adventure.  So, I put together my first custom solo creature.

Set up: the adventurers are entering an actively used mine.  As a minor (miner? haha) quest, the mine foreman asks them to try to figure out what happened to one of his miners.  The adventurers walk through the mines and come upon a "break room."  The room is a part of a cave that ends in a pristine underground river with good drinking water.  The room includes bed rolls, a campfire, stools, a make-shift picnic table, etc.  Miners often use this room to eat, sleep, etc.

Adventurers will notice that there is an abandoned pick-axe near the shore.  As they approach the shore, a gigantic crocodile leaps from the water.  If you've seen Crocodile Dundee, you might remember a similar scene involving a water bottle.  If the crocodile makes a stealth check against the characters' passive perception, it gets a surprise attack round to open combat.  Here's the monster:
As you can see, it's the crocodile from the DM kit, lowered to level 2, solo-ified, and then granted some special features from the Id Fiend (lv 1 solo from Dark Sun) and a fledgeling dragon.  I also increased damage to be comparable to that of a dragon.  I think it'll be a fun monster to face, though I may need to playtest it before I throw it at them in case it's too powerful.

When they defeat the monster, adventurers may cut open his gut to find a treasure parcel, which includes a locket bearing the lost miner's name. Returning the locket completes the quest.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

First Impressions: rpgKids

As I've been getting into DnD the last few months, my older daughter has been showing some interest as well. As I've discussed before, she is playing a knight in our family game with my niece and nephew, but she needs a lot of help to make it work.

Because we may go months in between sessions (rest of family lives a few hours away), I've been toying with playing a solo game with my daughter on the side. It was with that thought in mind that I happened again upon NewbieDM's rpgKids, a simplified game inspired by 4e dnd that is appropriate for a little kid.

I ponied up $5 for the original package plus his just released expansion pack. The rules are pretty simple, but there's decent depth to them. There are four classes (equivalent to ranger, fighter, wizard, and cleric), each with their own style of attacks and a unique set of skills. But regardless of your class, all combat ultimately comes down to competing dice rolls: the hero rolls a d12 against the monster's d12, and if the hero gets a higher roll, he hits the monster. There are a few roll modifiers, and you can complicate it as much or as little as you wish.

For example, I opted to add opportunity attacks and shifting to the game.  This was easy to do, makes the game a bit more tactical, and will be good training for her when we go back to the bigger kid table with true dnd. I also opted to give the fighter-type class more "hitpoints," which I think are appropriate to help balance him against the other powerful classes.  Coupled with opportunity attacks, this makes the fighter class an acceptable defender.

It took my 5-year old about 1 full round to pick up the core combat mechanics. By the end if the second round, she was pretty much independently playing her turns, which is great. That's not really possible in dnd right now. And she really enjoyed herself. She didn't want to stop when it was bedtime. She was into the story, loved defeating ghosts in our first encounter, and really enjoyed the artwork that comes with the manual.  She even got creative using her skills--as a ranger-type, she had the ability to track a foe into the woods, and she did a good job of coming up with that use of the ability herself.

I had a blast too.  Hopefully this will be a regular activity in our house!  I highly recommend dropping $5 for rpgKids if you're looking for a fun, creative activity to do with your little kids.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dexter's Laboratory: Monsters and Mazes!

Via @TheAngryDM comes this brilliance from the archives of Dexter's Laboratory:

Dexter's Laboratory - D & DD

Vezi mai multe video din animatie

Monday, October 17, 2011

App Review: RPG Roller v.2.1 by Moondog Software

At its most simple: tap the button to roll
whatever combination of dice you desire.
When I bought my first round of DnD materials, I bought three sets of dice.  At the time, I expected that I'd be playing along with two other people, so this would cover us.  Since that time, our adventuring party has grown to a total of five people (myself included), which means we're a bit short on dice.  With that in mind, and in hopes of saving a little bit of time, I looked on iTunes for a dice rolling application.  This is the one I settled on: RPG Roller by Moondog Software.

This is an application designed for efficient play at a game table.  It does not try to recreate "the experience of rolling dice."  Instead, it is a customizable random number generator.  The most straightforward way to use the application is to use the Quick Buttons tab (right), which allows you to roll any combination of dice you could imagine (you sweep your finger to access bigger dice--d10's, d12's, d20's, and d100's).  Simply tap the button you want and your roll appears as a huge number in the middle of the screen.  If you blink/forget, it also shows the most recent roll in the upper right-hand corner.  You can also access your roll history via the tab at the bottom.

Players can add customizable
buttons for each attack and damage
Perhaps more exciting is the Hot Buttons tab, which allows you to customize buttons to your specific needs. For my DMing session this weekend, I just made a page with the dice rolls I'd need for the adventure: 1d20, 1d4, 1d6, 2d6, 3d6, 1d8, 2d8, 3d8, etc.  This way, I didn't have to sweep back and forth between the "big dice" and "small dice" pages.  It also let me add a bit more space in between clusters of buttons, which helps me avoid pushing the wrong button.

But if you desired, you could do what is shown to the right and create buttons for each attack and damage roll.  You can edit the formula to include any modifiers you desire.  For example, a Fledgling White Dragon's bite does 1d12+6 damage.  This can be programmed into a button.  When you push it, it will give you a number between 7 and 18.  It's neat.

For DMing, I prefer to just add in the modifiers myself, as the setup time to customize buttons for every single monster is a bit too much for my taste.  But a player might find it worthwhile to program all of his/her rolls into the device, since there are fewer combinations.  This could be especially helpful for younger players who are a bit slower with the math.  You can use color codes to help you find buttons on the screen too, which is neat.

There are other nice little features.  For example, you can go into the More tab and select "chart" and see a random distribution histogram for whatever roll you most recently submitted, along with summary statistics.  Beyond tickling my stat-nerd fancy, I can see this being handy when explaining the difference between a 1d12 and a 2d6 weapon.  There's also an option to prevent the iPhone screen from shutting down when the app is running, which is very nice when DMing so there's never a delay when I need to roll.  You also can customize the sounds.  If you like, the app can make a noise that sounds like dice rolling whenever you roll.  I prefer a simple "click" sound to play along with the button press, and it does this as well.

I have two minor complaints.  First, the buttons are a little small.  Since I'm usually standing when DMing, I'd prefer to have the option to have buttons twice the height shown here so that I'd have a bigger target.  That said, I've yet to actually hit the wrong button as far as I know, so it's not a big deal.

Second, the input syntax for multiple dice rolls threw me for a small loop.  I tried to input a dragon breath damage role of "2d8+4."  This should give a range of results between 6 and 20 (2d8 give you 2 to 16, then you add four).  The software, however, will give you results between 10 and 24.  It's adding four to both dice.  I had to contact the author to figure it out; to get it to work properly, you have to input "2d8 + 4" (note the spaces; this apparently is designed to help minimize the use of parentheses on complicated rolls, though I'm guessing it causes a fair bit of confusion by end users).  Once you do it that way, it works great.

All in all, though, this is a terrific little app.  It's faster and quicker than rolling actual dice, and it frees up my physical dice for my players to use.  And it's free!  While there is unquestionably an aesthetic value in rolling the actual dice on the table, there are situations (like mine) in which you need an alternative.  If you're in one of those situations and have an iPhone, I highly recommend RPG Roller.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Playing D&D with little kids

Dice for various games, especially for rolepla...Image via WikipediaOver this weekend, my group had our second D&D session...and probably the first one that really began to resemble anything close to real D&D (here's our first).  We're starting off with the Twisted Halls adventure that comes with the Red Box set.  We finished off an opening battle that the heroes began last time, did a skill challenge involving a conversation with a dragon, and ended with a rout of a couple of dire rats and some goblins.

Our group consists of my sister-in-law (Kathra), her son (8; Mindartis), her daughter (6; Keiio), and my daughter (5; Aiyot).  We're all basically beginners, but my sister-in-law has some limited rpg experience.  Her son's totally into it, and is largely the reason that we're playing (aside from my new-found D&D craze).  But I've been surprised at how interested the girls have been, and how able they are to participate.  I'm only a few sessions in as of yet, but here are some things that have worked (or not worked work) with younger kids.

The Story is the Draw

This is probably true of any type of DMing, but the story is a big draw with the kids.  It doesn't take much with the kids, though.  My DMing skills are pretty lousy right now, but I was able to revamp the opening to Twisted Halls so that they could all play as a party right away.  A few memorable characters, and a simple "go fetch" quest later, and they were on board.

Playing with kids obviously is going to impact what kind of story I can tell.  There was a fantastic monster/story piece by the Id DM at This is My Game, for example, involving a tragic female villain who was driven to evil when a priest executed her lover (also a girl).  Beyond the lesbian issue (which I honestly think would be a non-issue at our gaming table), the description of someone's love being taken from them and killed is far too much for the kind of game I can run with these kids.  I'm going to instead try to focus on adventures that are pretty light-hearted.  I mentioned a while back that Snickersnack! could be a fantastic little module, and I'm currently trying to put together something inspired by it in Masterplan.

Keep it simple: little kids should play fighters

Mindartis is playing a mage, and is doing ok...though he's been far too reliant on magic missile thus far because it always hits.  He did lead the last fight off using his encounter spell (Charm of Misplaced Wrath), though, and dispatched a trio of foes with a single freezing burst later in the fight.  I think he's going to be ok.

The girls, however, I have playing a pair of fighters.  Aiyot is playing a Dwarven knight, while Keiio is playing a Dwarven slayer.  There are several advantages to this.  First, the idea of being the two strongest and toughest members of the party appealed to the girls, simply due to their age.  The idea that Keiio has to protect her mom and her big brother seems to thrill her.  Second, as fighters, they can primarily focus on combat and can leave roleplaying to the older folks (for now).

And third, they're super simple to play.  As a level 1 slayer, Keiio has two choices with each attack: do extra damage when you attack, or move up to three spaces after the attack.  Because Mobile Blade still incurs opportunity attacks (as I read the power), it's almost always going to be better to just get the extra damage. Similarly, for a level 1 knight that my daughter is playing, she decides between attacking two enemies with one attack (cleave) and slowing one enemy (defend the line).  With her defender aura/battle guardian combo, most of the time cleave will be the attack of choice whenever there's a pair of foes near her.

Beyond those choices, the only other things to keep in mind for them is their power attack encounter power, plus the use of action points.  I'm just going to prompt them about that for now, at least until they start trying to use them on their own.  Furthermore, I'm keeping track of their hit points and such behind the screen so they don't have to wrestle with that math, and I keep the character builder stats cards behind my screen so I can keep track of their key attributes.  The girls just move their characters, pick who to attack, and roll their dice.  It worked pretty well.

Keep it simple: skill challenges are hard for the kiddos to grasp

We ran our first real skill challenge today in the conversation with the fledgling White Dragon of the Twisted Halls.  It didn't go very well.  First, I think conversations make for pretty lousy skill challenges, especially when it's complex enough that eight successes are required.  That's a ton.  Halfway through, I was pretty much out of new information to tell them and was having a hard time coming up with excuses to keep putting off letting them win.  I ultimately caved early (though they're getting 1/2 XP because of this).

Second, skill challenges are very abstract things.  The idea of a "religion check" is hard enough to grasp.  Having to come up with some reason that you're doing a religion check in order to convince a dragon not to eat you is very challenging for an 8-year old, much less a 5-6 year old.  As a result, I had to do a lot of prompting, and it felt as though I basically just led them through the encounter (this is probably also part of the reason I ran out of useful directions to go in the conversation...but again, 8 required successes!?  That's crazy!).

Therefore, I think, in the future, I'm just going to focus on using skills outside of formal skill challenges.  I'll try to include opportunities for all sorts of checks as they explore their environs, but I'm probably going to avoid true skill challenges for the time being.  ... unless a really good idea comes to me, of course.

Reign in the violence.

D&D's a violent game.  That's part of the fun.  But when you're playing with kids, I think you have to be careful about how much violence you allow into the game.  I'm following two main guidelines.

1) No "people" enemies.  The closest I'm going to get are foes that used to be human/dwarven/elven, but have undergone an irreversible corruption of some sort.  For example, Maraleth, the chief baddie of the Twisted Halls, is supposed to be a human.  Because he's a necromancer, I'm going to claim that he's been distorted by necrotic magic such that half of his body is already in skeletal form.

In most cases, though, I'll just reskin.  A fight against four town guards in an earlier encounter will be instead conducted against four hobgoblins.  Same stats, different appearance.  If we do Reavers of Harkenwold later on (which comes with the DM Kit), I'll probably reskin the Iron Circle to be orcs rather than humans.

2) Death descriptions are muted.  I'm going primarily for mild cartoon violence, probably not even to Bugs Bunny levels.  Natural monsters fall on their faces, sometimes after spinning in a circle with little birds above them, and then just never move again.  Foes from other planes, like an Imp, will probably just vanish with a pop when they die rather than falling to some gruesome fate.  If I could get away from the term "bloodied" I would, but it's too entrenched in the vocabulary of D&D and I couldn't shake it.  I do think I can get away with gratuitous violence against undead and constructs, though, so there we'll see arms, legs, and heads go flying in those cases.

Avoid player character death

This might be controversial, because D&D people love their character death.  But I can tell you right now that my five-year old will not be able to handle it if her character dies at some point a month or two from now.  She's already very proud of her, and will probably have a breakdown if something terrible ever happens to her.  That would be the opposite of fun, and we're playing to have fun.

So, here are the house rules on death:
1) Players who drop to 0 hit points are too hurt to rise again, but are not actually "dying."
2) They make saves vs death per the rules to avoid falling unconscious.  Skills like first aid work to prevent people from falling unconscious rather than dying.
3) If characters take negative bloodied damage, they fall unconscious (instead of dying).
4) Players who fall unconscious (failed 3 death saves, or negative bloodied damage) do wake up at the end of the encounter, but they do so at 1 hp and with zero available healing surges and thus must go for an extended rest.

Therefore, falling unconscious is something to avoid as much as possible, but it's not permanent.

In the event of a Total Party Kill, one of two things will happen.  If the monsters are not killing for food, and are not particularly intelligent (e.g. some goblins or some kobolds), they will probably just assume that the adventurers are dead and dump them outside of their lair with some garbage.  They'll then wake up and sneak away with their tales between their legs.

If that's not a believable scenario--say they're all devoured by a Bulette or something--I'm going to have to go with a god intervention/resurrection scenario.  Since I don't have something planned for that right now, I'm probably going to have to make it a godfather thing delivered by an angel: "My [unnamed] lord is doing this thing for you now, but will require your services in the future.  What say you?"  If nothing else, it'll make for a good plot hook later on.

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts on playing DnD with little kids.  Anyone else out their tried it?  Suggestions?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Last Will and Testament of James Darkmagic I

I spent my evening watching the Penny Arcade guys play D&D 4e alongside Wil Wheaton (yes, that one) and the guy behind the PvP comic tonight. It's about 65% jokes and screwing around--and it's very funny--but interspersed in all that, Chris Perkins told a fun little tale full of memorable characters. I'll never get those hours back, but it was fun to watch and it scratched my D&D itch for the evening. Perkins is an extremely good DM. I'd like to watch him run a more traditional game sometime.

I get to DM my little family/kids game next weekend, and I'm really looking forward to it. The party has changed a bit, and should allow for a fun adventure through the Twisted Halls... More on that later....

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Savant of Aielund Saga on NWN Podcast

This afternoon on my drive home I got a chance to listen to Savant on the Neverwinter Nights Podcast talking about his modules as well as his book.  It was sort of a shame that the interviewers weren't really aware of his work, as Savant is one of the most accomplished module builders for NWN1, right up there with Adam Miller, Kevin Chan, and Stefan Gagne, and Alazander (to name a few).  That said, there is no one doing more for the NWN community right now than the podcast guys, so it's hard to get too upset at that. :)

In all, I enjoyed the interview tremendously.  Savant seems like a very nice guy, and I'm thrilled for him that he has a book out now.  I went ahead and purchased it via kindle (using the iphone app...small screen, but I'll eventually upgrade to a ipad...I think), and will give it a read as time permits.  If nothing else, it's a very modest donation for the time and joy that Savant has given me as I've played through his modules.  :)

Speaking of books, I checked and saw that Alazander's book is still in progress (with an update as of Sept 21st).  Any other book authors out there from the NWN community that I'm forgetting?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Module Review: The Aielund Saga I - Nature Abhors a Vacuum

I'll never get tired of that castle.
It's been a while since I've posted, but the reason is that I've been playing Aielund 1.  It's a pretty long module compared to the others I've been playing, and is plenty challenging.  And my play time has been reduced to a few nights per week these past weeks because of the demands of my teaching load.

In any case, I finally finished it tonight.  It was a thrill.  Here are my comments.
My vote: 9.5 - Excellent, Recommended to Anyone
My character: lv 1 dwarf fighter, reached level 8 by the end of the module.
I voted on this module, under a different name (Brandiles), back in April 2005.  I just finished playing through a second time, which allowed me to experience all of the new updates to the module.  These include the fantastic tilesets that debuted with Darkness over Daggerford, as well as a bunch of new touches and features.  It's been long enough that I remembered very little of the module, so I felt like I was able to experience it all again for the first time.
Wasn't expecting to find you guys down here...

The strengths of this module are numerous.  Combat is engaging, challenging, but feasible--especially if you pay attention to your usable items.  The story is well delivered, though is a bit railroaded at the beginning before opening up considerably.  The ending is more or less on rails too, but the story compels this and it seems natural.  The characters, and especially the henchmen, are real delights, with well-defined personalities that add flavor throughout the module.  And the module's final chapter really cranks up the intensity, and ends in a dramatic final encounter against a principle enemy that was staged well and was gratifying.
In the end, any critiques I can offer are pretty minor.  I wish I somehow had more opportunity to learn about the main villain in this module, because named foes are pretty rare in this module and it seemed as though he was interesting (though I vaguely remember him coming up again later in the series).  I also wish there was a bit more choice in the early goings.  In particular, it seemed like there should have been an option to circle around the town once you gain access to the exterior.  I understand the design reasons for it, but I don't think this was well articulated.
Overall, it's just an excellent module, and is a tremendous kickoff for the series.  I'm looking forward to rediscovering the next one!

Some other screenies after the jump:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Playing: Aielund Saga

I opted to start playing through the Aielund Saga again. The plan, I think, will be to walk through Saleron's Gambit, The Prophet, and Aielund more or less simultaneously, switching off at the end of each chapter of each series.

I never finished Aielund, though I played through at least the first several chapters and enjoyed it. Going back, I've been surprised to see it's been given a major facelift. Many of the areas have been reworked to include placeables from Darkness over Daggerford, and it fits beautifully.

Furthermore, I'm really enjoying how well it plays. My first two sessions were pretty linear, but as I ended tonight the sidequests were piling on fast! I'm not really sure what I'll do next. It's lots of fun, as many involve new areas to explore.

I'm also playing a fighter. I often look down on fighters, but there's no denying that it's fun to play the badass tank now and then. I love that he gets so many feats--makes me feel free to explore several weapon types (bastard swords!), feats I rarely take, etc. He's pretty smart, but unlike many of my characters, he (a dwarf) has a penalty to his charisma, so he misses many of his persuade checks. Somehow, that makes it all the more fun.

Anyway, more later. Time for play has been more rare since the semester started, so I cherish these rare chances..

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Review: Heart of the South I - Kaer Mulden

What is her deal?
My Vote: 8 (Fair, solid yet unremarkable...but with a lot of potential)
My character: lv. 1 fighter, did not reach level 2 by end.

I'm a sucker for anything Planescape.  Or even planescapeish.  This module, while not set in the planes or the City of Doors, and while never referencing the Lady of Pain, does a great job in the early goings of evoking the feel of Planescape: Torment.  Flaws and all, P:T is still among the better games I've ever played, and from a story and atmosphere standpoint is second to none.  You begin this module with absolutely nothing, and all the equipment and supplies you find throughout the adventure are below the quality of what you typically start with as a NWN1 character.  There are quirky characters who seem to want nothing more than to manipulate you for their own sick larks, there is poverty, and there is a feeling of desperation in this module that is difficult to experience.

Unfortunately, beyond the atmosphere, the execution is poor.  The story is very open ended, which is fine.  But it does lead to one feeling rather lost at times, and while exploring randomly I happened upon a key event in the module that lead to what would be the next chapter.  Combat is extremely difficult, and pretty frequent, so I have no idea why it's rated as combat light in the description.  My fighter was hopelessly outclassed, and I ended up using a spoiler to figure out how to get a henchman to proceed in the module.  Even then, I ended up dying frequently.  In desperation, I started respawning...and discovered that there is no penalty for it.  So, I ended up respawning every other encounter until I finally finished the thing.  It was ridiculous.  I think a dex-oriented fighter type might do ok here (?), but otherwise I'd recommend starting around level 3 or so.

It felt like the author had a very clear vision for the world he wanted to create.  But when it came to the actual module, it just didn't come together.  The story is mostly non-existent, combat is way over the top, and you never have the slightest clue as to what is going on.  I enjoyed some aspects of this module, but I can't give it a solid recommendation.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

First pen & paper session tonight

I tried my hand at DMing tonight. I've spent the last week+ prepping for this, but somehow when the time came I felt pretty unprepared. I had my tokens all separated in baggies per encounter, pre-rolled monster initiative, notecards to hang on the screen for the turn order, etc. But when it was time to play, I couldnt find anything, I couldn't remember how certain powers worked, found myself rushing through monster turns, etc.

One thing I'm finding is that it's hard to run a PC--even one that's effectively a henchman--and DM at the same time. I wanted to have a third party member, and I like the character...and they badly need the cleric. But it's hard to use him effectively while simultaneously focusing on the monsters. With more practice I might do better, but if he dies it will be tempting to not replace him.

That all said, I had a lot of fun tonight. My nephew really enjoyed it, so hopefully we can continue this for quite a while during our visits.

In other news, I'm completely stumped on what to do next in Forbidden City. I left the author a note, but I'm about ready to hang it up and move on. I'm already probably 10 hours deep into this mod, and I feel like I've pretty much done the interesting stuff. I would like to get back to The Prophet series, but I'd also like to just play as a killing machine fighter for a mod or so. We'll see if anything strikes my fancy on the vault tomorrow.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting to know pen & paper

My 4e starter kit arrived Thursday, and I've spent the last two nights reading through the solo adventure and the mechanics of the DM guide. It's been fun. I do like how you build a character through the narrative, and how it walks you through your character sheet. I just made a dwarven fighter, and he seems pretty effective--though I'd gladly exchange his greatsword for an sword/shield combo. This is not an option with the starter set.

I was surprised how many hp and such a first level character has (29 for my dwarf). I had read that level 1 is similar to level 5 of older dnd, and that seems about right. The monsters are pretty effective too, though. A goblin minion has a 15 AC, a +6 hit modifier, and does pretty significant damage.

After creating my fighter, I'm itching to work though Heroes and figure out how to roll up a character from scratch so I have more freedom and choice. Maybe later this weekend. I will probably make a cleric, rogue, and wizard using the starter set just to learn the rules of those classes, as they are nicely spelled out in the solo adventure.

The adventure that comes with the starter set seems fun. I will probably need to modify it, though. Counting my henchman, our crew will include three PC's--all novice players--and I'm worried that an adventure written for four PC's will be too hard. Fortunately, it looks like I will usually just need to pull out one npc per encounter to balance it for 3. Should be ok.

Mechanics of the encounters are fun. I see the reason for the power cards, because powers can become hard to track for a beginner like me. It looks like the standard (non-essentials) character sheets are designed to work better without cards, but I can see printing them for my players even after they have moved past the starter sets. Probably depends on how much time I have. I may be making monster tokens in that free time...

Anyway, I'm having fun. The dnd stuff has distracted me from Forbidden City, which is my current NWN mod that I'm playing. It's fun, but almost too open ended. At this point I'm just trying to find one last (I hope) boss to finish off the module, SP I'm scouring the city. I'm pretty ready to be done, so I hope I find it soon...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Learning to DM via Pen and Paper blogs

Dungeons and Dragons!Image by Chorazin via FlickrAs I mentioned a few days ago, I'm thinking of starting a small campaign with my nephew and maybe a few other family members.  As I've waited for my 4/e stuff to arrive (darn you super saver shipping!), I've taken to reading a few pen and paper blogs.  Here are a few of my early favorites:

This blog chronicles a DM's early attempts (starting about three years ago) to start playing a DM.  This post includes a host of very helpful advice and information.  I'm particularly excited about his made-at-home tokens and status markers.

Roving Band of Misfits
This seems like a fun, general D&D 4/e blog.  They have a very good podcast as well that I'm now subscribing to.  I much prefer it over some of the other offerings I've tried.  They do some fun crafts, like this cheap beholder miniature.  I'm also really diggin' their Two Page Mini Delves series (I'm linking to the second in the series, which is fairly new).  Since my "campaign" will invariably need to involve the use of very small dungeons and such, these are perfect...and have a nice flourish of creativity that keeps them from being a simple hackfest.

Sly Flourish
This is a site that is specifically dedicated to providing tips for DM's.  He is hawking his books via the site, but his content is very good and very helpful.  I was very happy to find his "Start Here" link, which lists many of his more helpful posts.  His 4/e buyer's guide very helpfully turned out to recommend exactly what I've already purchased, so that was reassuring...and it helped me realize that I will want to get that monster vault at some point, along with some tilesets.  I may buy at least one of the books on his site, as the freely available stuff seems very good.

Dungeons Unlimited
This is a newer site, but it's neat.  Basically, the guy is posting some of his many dungeons that he has created.  They're absolutely lovely, and should be printable for later use should I decide to use them.  I would love to get a hold of the mapping software he uses, though apparently it is no longer downloadable.

That's what I've found so far.  Any others I should be watching closely?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Reviewer's Remorse

Back in the day, I wrote eleven official vault reviews for NWN1 (you can find them in my sidebar).  I ran across one of them today while searching for planescape modules.  It's for FK The Shadow Relic, a bridge module between SoU and HotU, and I wrote the review in summer 2006.

The review is a pretty mixed bag.  It highlights some of the successes of the module.  I still vaguely remember some of its amazing visuals, and a have a huge slant towards planescape stuff.  But it also frustrated the hells out of me at times, and that definitely comes across in the review.

The module at this point has 8 votes.  I just cast the 8th.  I hadn't wanted to vote earlier because I felt like I had already had my say.  It was just the 4th vote the module had received since my review.

Now, the module had been out a year when I reviewed it and had only received four votes.  Clearly it wasn't marketed particularly well, and its vote/download total is abysmal.  And a glance through the comments indicates that it was frustrating to a lot of players.  But there's no way this module shouldn't at least have the 10 votes it needs by now to appear on the top 10 list.

One of the main reasons I got involved in the reviewer's guild was so that I could bring exposure to underappreciated/overlooked modules.  I had at least one success with that: my review of Tiberius's Saleron's Gambit 3 did play at least a small role in getting his modules the attention they deserved.  But the counter to this is a module like this one.  I liked it and tried to hype it, but ultimately the author and his module may have lost an opportunity for more success because of the review.

I think I was largely fair.  But I still feel a sense of regret at the whole affair.  Blah.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: Celestial Chronicles, Part I

My vote: 8.5 (Good, qualified recommendation)
Character: included lv. 6 human rogue
It all begins with what you find in this rock.

This is an interesting little module.  It tells the story of a young archaeologist who lives in an ultra-oppressive regime.  While archaeologists aren't exactly known for their rebellious nature in most settings, here, historic knowledge is repressed and guarded by the regime.  This can place a archaeologists in a precarious spot if they "dig too deep."  In this tale, our protagonist uncovers an amazing artifact...but just as she does so, things go horribly wrong.

The story and setting are interesting, and has loads of potential.  I wasn't as excited about the execution of the module.  Most of this adventure takes the form of a linear escape run, where you battle your way through a series of (fairly repetitive) encounters as you flee.  Combat is frequent, but not very challenging.  There is a significant part of this module that uses an entirely different setting, which is a cool twist and I won't spoil it (though I will say it had a certain Ressikan feel to it--if you must know, look it up!).  But even there, you end up traveling on a long, linear path, battling repetitive encounters once again.  There are absolutely some cool moments in this module in which you, as the player, really don't know what is going on (in a good way), and a few characters that are interesting and could be developed a great deal.  The custom music is nice, as are some of the scripted cutscenes.  But overall, I kind of felt a bit lukewarm toward the mod.  I would love to see a more well developed module in the future, however, because the ideas behind the story are terrific.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Planning a 4/e adventure

So I've ordered my DnD stuff and look forward to its arrival next week. And I've gotten parental approval from the nephew's mom, who also was interested in playing. So we're on track for a fun party-of-three adventure (I'll play a third party member, largely as a henchman). My wife is thus far completely uninterested, but that means she can watch our kids during the games. :)

I'm going to start with the Starter Set adventures, as that will help them roll up a first character and learn the most basic game mechanics. It will also give us a basic adventure to help me learn the ropes of a DM. After that, however, I'm getting interested in designing my own adventure.

Or an adaptation of an adventure. While I have an old module idea that I eventually would love to try in pen and paper, it would be fairly involved and perhaps too mature for an 8-year old. So I'm thinking that our first several adventures might be adaptations of NWN modules. Snickersnack!, which I just finished the other night, could be a great opening module, assuming I can recreate the humor of the kobolds (and find a more level-appropriate quest reward). It's simple, short, and fun. And Cave of Songs is another that might translate very well: powerful ideas, but very little required long dialog and a lot of stuff that could be cut or embellished as needed.

I'm getting ahead of myself a bit here--they may try this and hate it--but this should be fun. DMing will no doubt require preparation, but I'd guess the hours requirement is at least an order of magnitude lower than creating an effective NWN module.

Now if only my books would arrive quickly. I'm looking forward to learning the 4th edition rules. I'll roll up one each of a fighter, rogue, wizard, and cleric, so I can choose a character to complement my players' choices.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: Prophet Prologue - It Cannot Be Denied

My vote: 9 (Very good, deserves a look)
Character: Halfling 4Rog/2Ran from Cave of Songs, did not advance a level.

Halfling Village!
It almost feels wrong to vote on this module, as it's very much just meant to be the opening act in a larger saga.  You begin the module in the Hopping Hobgoblin Inn after waking from a disturbing and vivid dream in which a halfling village is slaughtered.  As you head downstairs, you meet a young halfling adventurer, who is alarmed to hear you describing his own village just a few miles from the inn.  The two of you rush there to find out whether this dream of yours is a premonition...or just a dream.

The story is good here, with good pacing and execution, and it sets up the next chapter in the saga very well (though naturally there's little sense of closure at the end of this one).  It is a very short adventure, and as such it is very linear.  There was at least one interesting side-quest of sorts that I happened upon involving a fallen druid.  What little combat there is seemed appropriate for the setting, and was never too challenging for my duo of halflings in the game.  I did very much enjoy the halfling henchman's character, and look forward to seeing him develop in future modules.  In the end, it's a fun but short module to play, and leaves you wanting a lot more by the end.  And that's exactly what it's meant to do!

What monster is this?

So actually, this is a spectacled bear that has some sort of skin disease.  Poor thing.

But I swear it looks like something out of D&D.  I can't decide what, though.  Maybe a gnoll?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Baldur's Gate NWN2 module continues

In early 2007, I wrote a post about a group that was trying to recreate the original Baldur's Gate in Neverwinter Nights 2.  They had just released a demo, and it did a great job of recapturing the initial short prologue at Candlekeep.

Well, to my amazement, they are still at it, and may actually be getting close.  Some excerpts from their latest posts.

drechner, the project founder and area builder:
Here's a (not) fun fact: I started this project in November of 2006 and expected it to be done in 2008. Needless to say, that was a gross-underestimate of the work involved! Therefore, never trust me; we're like 3D Realms with DNF, except we have no budget and far less people working on it :p
I only kid (sort of), but on a serious note, we're looking to get this project uploaded on the Vault before Skyrim is released (mid-early November). We could get it done before then, though more than likely it'll be several weeks afterwards, but know that this is our goal. If you're looking for a percentage complete for the game, it's probably somewhere around the 80% mark, though it's a bit difficult to estimate as we have chapters 1-4 completely scripted with chapter 5 partly done already. As for the areas, the only items remaining are the return to Candlekeep interiors, a few interior areas in BG city (which Shallina has been patiently awaiting), and Gullyking/Firewine Bridge areas. Most our systems are in and working already as are some of our art assets (we haven't shown the NPCs yet, but we will). 
Shallina, who appears to be the main scripter:
Drew is making the area then he is sending them to me, I am scripting them and making them functionnal, all the items al ready exist, all the important NPC exist as well, but once I am done, I am making a "build" where everything done works together, wich I send back to Drew so he can polish all the visual of the game and things I had to change.
We can say that now we got a first "Beta Build" beceause all scripted area are now linked and working together as a game.
The project isn't anymore different piece of the remake, but a single "big piece" that is working.
We are at a stage where we could start "a full scale test" and not only "focus test" on specifics parts.
It's one of the best moment of the project where it s becomming a "game" that can be fully played and is no more only  "a work in progress".
I am absolutely in awe of the fact that they are still at it. My hat's off to them. Kudos! And I do hope they are able to finish it.

Roll a D6

Absolutely brilliant.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What should I buy for D&D 4th edition?

I'm thinking about running a very small dungeons & dragons pen and paper thing with my nephew, who is 8.  It would absolutely be an excuse for me to play pen and paper DnD more than anything else, but it also might be a fun way to bond with the kid.  Eventually I can see adding more family members should they become interested.  But it might just be a fun thing for us to do when I visit every month or so.  I'd DM and play a henchman character that would complement whatever he chose to play.

I'm trying to figure out what to buy.  I don't get a lot of traffic these days on this site, but if anyone reading this has some experience I'd be glad to have it.  At this point, my current thought is to buy three things:

DnD 4th Edition Starter Set
My understanding is that this wouldn't get us past level 2 or so, and is made obsolete as soon as you have other stuff.  But it comes with dice, which I don't have, and a nice-looking battle map.  Anyway, I'm torn on whether to get this.  The main selling point to me, beyond being inexpensive for what you get, is that it is supposed to be a very good introduction to the core game mechanics.  That might be very helpful when trying to introduce new players to the game.

Dungeon Master's Kit
From what I've read, this kit includes most of what you really need from the Dungeon Master Guides, plus game pieces and grids.  I do sort of wish we could just do completely abstract fights like I usually did in the past, but apparently the new rules system really needs tokens on a game board.

Heroes of the Fallen Lands
Rather than get the player guides, I've been reading that this book makes a good alternative.  It profiles the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, and is completely compatible with the characters that you make using the starter set.  This would easily get us started.  Later I could add Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, which would let us do Druids, Paladins, Rangers, and Warlocks.  But those, I think, are more specialty classes.  The core four classes in the Fallen Lands are really all you need.

Anyway, while I could just get the starter kit at first, I get free shipping if I buy at least one of the other two items.  And being the sort that I am (and having some amazon.com birthday money), I think I'm just going to go for it.  Later, I might like to add the other Heroes book, plus the Monster Vault for more monster options and tokens.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Snickersnack!

My vote: 9.5 (excellent, recommended to anyone)
Character: Human Sorcerer, lv. 1 to lv. 2 in this module.
Kobolds done right.

Snickersnack! is a terrific little module.  You are adventuring in the desert when you come upon a sign advertising the need for an adventurer, and promising great rewards.  What ends up happening, without giving too much away, is that you are working for a tribe of Kobolds on a quest to save one of their kin.  The kobolds are the stars of the module, and are incredibly well-realized.  Each one has a unique name, and most have a specific job or role within the clan.  There are an amazing number of animated sequences, short and long, that make this module delightful and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

What kind of strange contraption is this?
The adventure itself is very short, but is full of great little touches that kept a smile on my face.  Sometimes it was the humor, and sometimes it was just wicked clever-ness.  Also, there are a number of fairly hidden conversations and even at least one quest involving my sorcerer's summoned animal and familiar.  There's not a lot of action (as advertised, it's hack and slash light), but what is there is fine (although not very exciting).

Oldie but a goodie

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review (sort of): Saleron's Gambit I

I replayed Saleron's Gambit I last night. I somehow never finished the series, despite how enthusiastic I was about the first four. Those saved games and my character are no where to be found today, so I'm just replaying through the thing.

Here are my comments that I left on the module page:
Just posting to say I had no trouble playing through this module using NWN 1.68. Had to download the 1.68-compatible CEP 1.52, and then "upgraded" that to CEP 1.53. It's a bit of a runaround, but it works fine.

Also, this was my second time playing through, and the magic is still there. This is such a fun, unique module to play. Somehow, probably because it's so rare to have to do it (I wouldn't want to do it every time), I really enjoyed running around town trying to scrounge up 20 gp so I could buy some gear. Hint: sell your books! And that gear turned out to be studded leather armor and a club! Yikes. When I upgraded to Chain Mail and a Morningstar at the end of the mod I felt positively wealthy...

Beyond that, the townspeople are all very well conceived in that close-minded, small town kind of way. We didn't see a ton of it, but did get to feel something of the depth of the FR setting in some places as well. As before, it's a module recommended to anyone.
One other thing that I didn't note above but wanted to mention...I really liked how Tiberius was able to use the castle interior tileset to such great effect. The second floor of a castle in this module had lost its roof, and using exterior lighting and abundant trees, you really felt like you were up exposed and up in the tree canopy. Kudos.

That said, it's still pretty short, and has little sense of closure (given that it's the first in the series!). I voted 9.5 in 2005, but if I were to vote again, I'd probably drop it down to a 9 or so (very good, deserves a look). But I'm not going to go back and change vote almost six years later. :)