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?