Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Monk's Uncle's Key and not the Monkey's Uncle

5 adventurers -- a half-orc rogue brute, a halfling female rogue, a large human barbarian, an elvan wizard, and a half-elf druid.

"My uncle, a fellow monk, has gone missing.  He was hired to identify an artifact found by a group of local miners.  If you could find out what has happened I can offer a generous reward.  Most imprtantly, my uncle has a key of great importance to our monastery.  If you can find it, it is important.  You will know my uncle Traylon by his short round stature, his balding head, and the bright sun embroidered on his robes."

The group of beginners (level 3) found their way into the mine entrance, an old cave.  Unfortunately it was in use by a group of wolves that attacked the group.  The group overcame them quickly before the wolves injured their party.

A few steps down the corridor found a storage room.  The barbarian, Rondo, rushed in without hesitation and found large stones falling from the ceiling clobbering his noggin.  A couple of potions put him right as the half-orc rogue, lovingly called "The Bat", braced the ceiling.  A locked chest proved too much challenge for The Bat, but Sinda, the wizard recovered a wooden sword from the room.

The group pulled together and started through the next room towards a large metal mine lift, only to be ambushed by a rust monster.  The barbarian, not knowing the creature, struck it with his great sword, which quickly dropped to rust.  All the group fled into the lift, except for the druid.  The attacking rust monster struck the lift, dropping the part some 40 feet to a lower level.  The druid joined them, climbing down the wall.

Below they found a flooded room with several dead bodies.  The half-orc and wizard attempted to cross the river but were swept up by the current.  Two ogres appeared from nowhere ready to fish the party out of the water for supper.  Fighting killed the rust monster, buts ogres fight their way.  The barbarian swims the river, pulling the other two too close to one of the ogres.  The half-orc is attacked, but the wizard finds the body of uncle with key and gear and a golden staff.

Unfortunately, the adventure stops here, as the players disband.

Still the DM dreams the ending.  The party slowly fights off the ogres with the help of the barbarian using a wooden sword provided by the wizard.  Once the smoke clears, the group reassembles and the wizard examines the staff.  "Press 3" the inscription says and she does, plucking at the 3 gems on the staff.  A dragon appears, green and acidic, and in a bad mood.  The party begins fleeing, but 2 drop before they reach the lift tunnel.  2 more drop on the climb to the top.  The remaining barbarian crawls his way out of the dungeon with no loot, no key, no uncle, and barely alive to tell the tale of the wizard who was smart but not wise.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pathfinder and Herolab

So we're making the transition to Pathfinder.  To make things easier, I decided to invest in Herolab for Pathfinder.  With secondary licenses, I was able to make it available on multiple computers so the girls can work on their own character sheets without having to dig through tons of books.  Here are my first impressions of Herolab:


  • Always being updated
  • Extensive content
  • Thorough.  For example, it is easy to generate companion animals
  • D20 integration in Pathfinder so I don't have to leave everything old behind
  • Nice looking character sheets
  • Lots of options for including / excluding extra content (like the Advanced Players Guide)
  • Out of the box, it didn't set the starting gold properly for the level.   I had to look it up.
  • The portrait view cuts off the picture even though the character sheet doesn't.
  • The dossier thing looks like it makes me print everything separately (spell description separate from character sheet).  Not really my preference.  Would rather print everything at once.
  • No real easy way to preconfigure all the options I needed across multiple machines.  Would be great if it would use the internet to synchronize.
  • I don't like the update page.  It doesn't seem to make it obvious what needs updated.
One qualifier I should add is that I am just getting started with Herolab.  I haven't read the manual fully yet, so this review may change as I get to know Herolab better.

Overall I think Herolab is going to make our Pathfinder experience a lot more fun and give the players a lot more opportunity to explore what characters they can make.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Break

I think every gaming group sooner or later takes a vacation.  We've taken a bit of a break lately as spring has come around and the warm weather has drawn us outside.  Still, with rainy weekends ahead, we are getting ready for more gaming.  Some things underway:

  • I bought 3 ogre miniatures that I'll be painting over the next month or so.
  • I passed along this article to the players for review.  I have a feeling some dragon culture is going to be arising in the next part of the campaign and delves.
  • I am brainstorming some new ideas for game play.  I think giving the PCs some new options could be a key part of the next series of dungeon runs.
  • Still looking over Pathfinder to decide how and when to incorporate it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rays of All Sorts

Heard from the PC Gallery:
"Ray of Frost"
"Ray of Enfeeblement"
"Ray of Exhaustion"
"Ray of magical snack items"
"Can I cast it on myself?"
"Poof -- you're a twinkie."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

4E or not to 4E

So yesterday I had the conversation with the girls and my wife.

"So D&D 3.5 is getting old and the world is moving on so we need to figure out what direction we're going to go.  We can either switch to 4, which is what we've been watching them play on D&D robot chicken..."

"I really don't like the cards and I don't want to have to learn a whole new system."

"... or we can switch to Pathfinder, which an extension to 3.5 that fixes some of the problems."

I also mentioned that some of the races were changing in 4E.  S, who plays Coco the gnome, was not amused.

I also mentioned that Pathfinder adds some new classes and such.

I also mentioned that we can get Hero Labs for Pathfinder.

The troops were sold on Pathfinder.  So as soon as we can assemble the necessary materials, I guess we're switching over to Pathfinder.

-DM Dad

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Box of Knowledge

I have a hard time keeping track of spells and abilities and special items.

So the other day in an office supply store I picked up and index card box and a bunch of graph paper 4x6 index cards, along with some index tabs.

Now I am having all the players give me a list of their special abilities, spells, and special items.  Each one gets written on a card.  Now when I need to remember how something works, it is at my fingertips without trying to wrestle through books and indices during the game.

The City Beneath the Earth Part 3

So our fearless adventurers start again down their path.

The group first must cross a 20 foot wide, 20 foot deep rivine with a slippery board to walk across.  Jerry jumps and the rest balance on the board using a rope tied across for balance.

They emerge into the next cavern to find a group of duegar, 6 to be exact.

The rogue has smartened up and learned about flanking.  She works with everyone to start flanking opponents so she can backstab.  The crew waylays the duegar group.  Only the ranger seems to have issues with the dice being kind.

The final building seems the logical location for the forge, especially since there is a water wheel on the side of the building with a drow chained to it -- the drow is walking like a hamster in a wheel to run something.

The rogue, Dahlia, tries the door.  It is unlocked.  She activates her dagger, which allows her to teleport inside invisibly and make one backstab before becoming visible.  She finds a very large duegar pounding on a forge.  She gets the first hit, but then all heck breaks loose and her teammates come charging in.

The group easily takes out the duegar smith, unfortunately, because I fogort he had three heal potions.
"Bad DM"  *Smacks self in head*

The group finds some magical weapons, a big pile of gold used to run the forge, and, of course, the forge.

The ward is afixed to the forge and everyone waits.

The forge teleports out, but not before a massive wave of magical energy erupts causing the cavern to start to collapse.

The group of adventurers makes a run for it.  Each room finds them making reflex throws to avoid falling cavern damage.  The obstacles on the way in (cable car across the river that fell, plank across the rivine) still remain, but do not hold up the group this time.

Happily the group exits with their lives, their loots, and a bit of anger for the dwarf that set them up.

They speak briefly with the dwarf about the cavern collapsing, but the paladin doesn't let them be anything more than unpleasant.

And with that delve, the party now has some characters at level 7.

-DM Dad

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The City Beneath the Earth Part 2

So our adventure starts off with the bard and ranger in one cramped cavern, and the remaining three (paladin, rogue, barbarian) in a slightly larger cavern, separated by the occurrences during a river crossing.

I let the bard and ranger play ahead where they run into a larger group of duegar, outnumbered more than 2 to 1.  The gnome bard is easily grabbed up and put in manacles.  The ranger starts to fight but decides not to take her chances.  They disappear off the board.

The group of three plays forward and find a larger cavernous room with a pit.  The pit contains their missing comrades and 3 drow, and is guarded by spiders.

The rogue, thinking quickly, presses the magical gem on her dagger and transports invisible to right behind a spider.  A backstab and a round later, the spider is dead.

Leno, the paladin, and Jerry, the barbarian, run to take out the other spiders.  Jerry triggers a pit trap that collapses into the larger pit, but misses getting pulled in.

The drow observe at first and then, realizing the attempted escape by the newly captured slaves of their slavers, attack the unarmed ranger and gnome bard in the pit.  The rogue comes to the aid of the bard as she climbs out of the pit.  The ranger gets taken out by a pair of drow.  The barbarian and paladin finish off the spiders.  Jerry is distracted by a chest where he finds the missing equipment.  Leno lends support with her crossbow.

Finally Jerry jumps into the pit and starts hacking away on the two drow.

With 1 member down, 2 nearly dead, and the others hurting, the group finally emerges victorious.  Badly beaten and low on supplies (Why do they never buy potions?), they leave the caves to rest and return another day.

--DM Dad

The City beneath the Earth Part 1

Briff Stonehammer meets with adventurer's in a tavern to ask them to perform a task for him.  The town he previously lived in was swallowed by the earth.  In this town, a magical forge existed that was used to make magical weapons to fight against the Duegar.  Briff has recently located the entrance to a cavern which he believes leads underground to the town.  Unfortunately, a wyvern has taken the entry cavern as a home, so he needs a group to go in, get past the wyvern, and investigate.  If the forge is found, Briff provides a ward to place on it that will teleport the 1000lb piece back to the surface.  The adventurers are offered 10,000 gp if the forge is found and returned.  The adventurer's may also keep anything they find.  Briff hints that since the forge runs on gold, they may find both gold and magic weapons.

The group now consists of:
*Lino, half-eld paladin, played by P.
*Dahlia, human rogue, played by K.
*Jerry, human barbarian, played by V.
*Annah, half-elf ranger, played by C.
Coco, gnome bard, played by S.

The group wanders into the cavern and surprises the wyvern huddled in the refuse of slaughtered cattle in a large blood-spattered cavern.  Near the back of the cavern, the remnants of a building stand, with a roof sticking out perhaps 2 or 3 feet off the ground.

The adventurers make quick work of the wyvern who is gone in a mere two rounds.

Jerry quickly charges over the ground and onto the roof, ignoring calls for Dhalia to check it out first.

A crack and a crash later finds Jerry fallen through the roof into a rock enclosed pit in the base of the house.  The group taunts him thoroughly for not listening and then throws him a rope.

Over the roof, the party finds another cavern with a perfectly preserved house at the other end.  Checking as they go, they make a couple of rounds of movement when up pops a Xorn.  From their knowledge, the party knows that Xorn, which closely resembles a clawed, armored, three-legged plant stand with a ravenous mouth on top, is an earth dweller that can smell the jewels they carry in packs and attached to weapons and mugs.  If he is hungry, he will be wanting to eat them.

The group attacks and the xorn responds.  Lino rolls a critical and is able to kill the xorn with a single stabbing blow after her teammates have weakened it.

The part proceeds cautiously through the unlocked doors of the next building.  They find a brew pub complete with tables, chairs, and small bar, and three large 8 feet high kegs built into the back wall.  The search through the cobwebs and find nothing.  Jerry pulls out a mug and flips open a tap, only to unleach a flood of skunked ale into the room.  The door clicks locked behind them, leaving their ranger standing outside with a bewildered look on her face.

The party is going to act fast.  They have only a few rounds before the room will be filled and only a couple of rounds before the rather short gnome will be treading water.  Lino acts quickly and opens another spigot, disabling the trap, unlocking the door for Annah, and reveal a tunnel further into the cavern.

Careful checking by Dahlia reveal to traps and the tunnels leads them to an underground river perhaps 40 feet below their ledge.  A cable car rides on a rope over the river that stretched from a post on their ledge to a ledge below.

Coco checks out the cable car with her engineering skills and reckons that it will only hold 2 or 3 of them, but they will have to get across the river quickly or the car will fall.

Jerry and Coco start across first with Jerry pulling.  Failures on strength checks slow their progress and send them falling into the river.  Jerry swims to the shore of their destination.  Coco gets swept downstream but finds a second cavern opening that she can reach.

Lino attempts to climb on the rope down, but falls and swims to shore where the barbarian sits.  Dhalia and Annah both jump in and swim.  Annah drifts downstream too far and ends up with Coco.  Dahlia joins the barbarian and paladin.

And so ends our first part of the quest for the Magical Forge of Stonehammer.

I tried using a soundboard tonight, but found it too hard to get to the various sounds on my netbook screen.  A matrix of buttons would have been a lot easier.  Instead, I'll probably just use background music.

--Dm Dad

Friday, March 5, 2010

Latest Minis

I feel like I am really starting to improve, both in my mini painting and in my mini photography.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Weekly Campaign: The Night of Severe Dragging

The campaign totally dragged tonight.  The adventure starts out at the entrance to Innsbruck.  The PCs just wander around, talking to people, not taking any new jobs, not really getting anywhere.  After multiple NPCs drain my voice and distribute clues, the party finally get underway to the local fort.

The fort comes with immediate excitement.  A set of caravans come rolling in on the Fort, bandits chasing them.  But suddenly things turn strange.  The bandits and escorts peel off the wagon and it crashes through the fort, setting it on fire.  It was all a trick.

The local troops are busy fighting the fire, so the adventurers are left to fight off an equal-matched set of bandits. The new group consisting of a human barbarian, a gnome bard, the previous ranger, rogue, and paladin, have to fight a group of 3 archers, a bad-ass cleric, and two sword fighters.  Hitpoints are falling on the table.

Finally just before bedtime, the PCs prevail and the last sword fighter surrenders, nearly dead.

So the question for the day -- how do I keep long bored wanderings through the city out of the campaign?

My thoughts thus far:

  • Shorten the connection between information and the missions to avoid wandering.
  • Railroad a bit more.
  • Focus on weekly dungeon delves with a loose theme tying them together.
  • Try to get my wife to no longer be the group leader.  The kids need to role play more so they don't get bored.
  • Lose the big city.  Focus on small villages.
  • Stop trying to write a video game style campaign.  (Too many years of playing Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights)
-DM Dad

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Fighting of Large Groups: Expected Damage

A battle with too many monsters and PCs can be tough.  A couple of weeks ago I had an encounter where a group of 5 PCs and a companion animal were caught in a cemetery with around 30 undead.  How am I supposed to keep track of 30 monsters?

So here is a proposed solution that I am calling "Expected Damage".

Simple formulas:  

Probability of Hit = (20-(AC of target - attack of attacker))/20  (Minimum is always 1/20, maximum is always 19/20)

Expected damage = Probability of Hit * Half Maximum Damage

So now, given a defender and an attacker, I can estimate the amount of damage the defender will take per round.

(Note that this formula does not take into account criticals.  The min and max values take into account miss on natural 1, hit on natural 20)

Back to the scenario -- 30 undead of the same class.  Given a PC AC, I can estimate the amount of damage they get per round and ignore having to run individual hits from each undead.


PC AC: 14
Monster Attack: +3
Damage: 1d6

Expected Damage Per Round: 9/20*3 = 1.35

If the PC is surrounded by 3 attackers, they take 3 * 1.35 = 4 damage.

I would also use this formula if battling two large groups of monsters or NPCs against each other.  This might be good in a scenario where PCs are caught in a large battle, either directly or in crossfire.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

New DM Screen

I just haven't found a good DM screen for 3.5e.  I also haven't found a good way to transport minis outside of an old box.  Happily, an item came up on Kid's Woot the other day that helped fix this problem.

The PlayMobile Knights Castle Take Along is the perfect foundation for a DM case / DM screen.

The inside of the castle has lots of nooks and crannies for holding minis and supplies.

The top is great for holding extra dice.  (I use spare bulk dice for hitpoint counters for monsters.)

The tower tops are a great place to store PC minis and, during the game, a great place to roll dice to keep them from going everywhere.

Of course, the missing piece are the tables for the DM, which I'll add later.  I'll drop a post when I get that done.

-DM Dad

The Five Room Dungeon Delve: The Vault of the Wiglord

The girls want more hack 'n' slash.  There was also some mumbling about switching characters.  So, to give them what they wanted, I ran a Friday night dungeon delve based on the 18 volume collection of 5 room dungeons found here:

 The group had the usual rogue, ranger, and paladin.  The cleric was replace by a quirky little gnome bard played by S.  The not-so-smart fighter was replaced by a very stupid half-orc barbarian played by V.

No computer tonight.  I drew the map on a battle grid as we went.  I had 3 sheets of paper describing the 5 rooms on which I had scribbled all the monster stats.  Part of tonight's goal was also to show the players a method that they could DM by in the hopes that I might get to play some day.

The first room they found a green dragon (very small).  This freaked them out a bit, since all previous encounters with dragons had either killed PCs or had been a conversation as part of a larger campaign.  The acid breath weapon quickly got them serious.  They all hacked and slashed as best they could until the dragon dropped -- final blow from the rogue!?!

The dragon's hoard wasn't massive but pleased the PCs.

Jerry Flameblade, the half-orc, quickly got the memorable line "Boom! Boom!" going through the fight.  Later this became a question ("Boom-boom?") for him to ask if he could hit stuff.  Great character play.

"Go get 'em Jer-ry"

The second room was a riddle room.  Standing around and trying to solve a riddle is always anticlimactic in a dungeon delve, so I added a little haste by adding a golem to the room.  A couple of slams from the golem and the group was motivated.  The paladin finally yelled out the riddle's answer and the golem went back to resting position and a magic secret door opened.

Room 3 was my personal favorite.  The party snuck down a winding passage into a long hall of a room with a porticullis at the other end of it.  The door slams shut behind them.  They don't all see the lurking cube of acidic jello known as a gelatinous cube. The paladin and bard find themselves quickly engulfed and paralyzed while the other 3 slowly hack away at it.

The porticullis presents a bit of a problem with a magical auto-re-arming trap.  After it is set off a couple of times, drenching the adventurers in fire, Jerry whacks it with his great sword and kills the lock, letting them move into a room with a sarcophagus.

There is much debate, especially from the paladin, about opening the sarcophagus, since it is a tomb.  The need to find the 5th room persists and they open it to be surprised by a few rats.  The climb down a secret ladder into the room below.

In the room, they find a gauth, little brother to the beholder, guarding the treasure.  The gauth, a floating one-eyed head with eye stalks that shoot magic spells is a scary opponent.  Between getting blasted, paralyzed, and stunned, the adventurers slowly are able to approach the monster and hack it until dead.  Again the rogue deals the final blow (two in one night!?!).

The treasure is filled with good artifacts and riches and a couple of hundred wigs, which the paladin finds most amusing.  I wonder how many of the crew will appear in the next adventure wearing wigs.

Overall the delve was a great success.  The rogue finally figured out how to check for traps.  The players got to hack some serious solitary monsters (before they were usually attacking groups of minor monsters).  I got to try out an old fashion dungeon delve with my new DM "screen", that I'll introduce in another post.

-DM Dad

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday Night Dragon's Tear Campaign

So we moved our D&D night up to Tuesday since there is much preparation on Wednesday night planned for Thursday's birthday festivities.

The one thing I am learning to count on as a DM is not to count on things 'going as planned'.

Tonight the crew investigated some ruins where there were rumored to be orcs.

The ruins opened by means of solving a dwarvan riddle which described the 4 elements (earth, wind, water, fire)  in a specific order, giving the order to press the runes on a plate.  The riddle took a while to solve, and was complicated by the fact that we had watched "The Fifth Element" the night before.  They were blowing at and setting fire to the runes trying to get the dungeon open.

Once inside, the rogue rushed ahead and set off a trap.  Everyone was stabbed in a flurry of spears flying down the hallway at them.  Before the rogue can try to ensure that the trap was disabled, here comes the fighter, setting the trap off again, and getting everyone a few more points of damage.

So finally they get down the hall and open the door to the orc room.  The entrance tunnel collapses behind them and so they get to fight off 8 average sized orcs and one really big orc commander.  Most of the orcs go down in a hit.  Each of the PCs earns some much needed karma points (which are accompanied by flying chocolate snacks).  At the end they collect a bunch of items from a chest.

Despite earlier bad things happening when trying to use unidentified items, the fight slips on his new boots.  Little did he know they were the Cursed Boots of Skipping.  So suddenly our manly he-fighter is skipping through the forest back to town to get help in removing them.

Unfortunately, no one tried on the Cursed Gloves of Fumbling or attempted to use the Cursed Scimitar of Annoyance (boy was I going to have fun playing the annoying talking scimitar).

The ranger accidentally left her animal companion at a dungeon and had to waste 2 days travel to go back for her.  *sigh*

The crew does finally happen across S. F., Scoardred Flamedance, a powerful sorcerer responsible for setting undead against graverobbers at the local cemetery.  They learn to the powers available to a level 20 sorcerer as they journey with him to the local large city of Innsbruck.  Along the way they get entrusted with solving a regional problem with bandits and Scoardred leaves them to their adventure.

Post game I had a bit of a follow-up with the PCs, asking the big question of what do you like / don't like?  K, our rogue PC, likes fighting and not much else.  She gets bored easily.  C, who plays the ranger, likes talking to people.  The others seemed to fall in between.  So, now I just need to figure out how to balance between hack'n'slash and role-playing.  *sigh*

I am a little concerned that everyone is not getting completely into their characters.  So to open things up a bit, I am thinking I might hold a Friday night Dungeon Delve and let them try out some new characters.  If they like them, maybe they can swap them out in the campaign, since it is just getting underway.

-DM Dad

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rats: My First Minis

So I used the dip method outline here:

I still need to add the satin finish (they are a bit too shiney).

Robot Chicken D&D and Other Stuff

Our little group has been watching the videos of the Robot Chicken D&D group adventure in D&D 4.

I particularly like the DM commentary.

I was particularly proud of the girls today when we visited our local RPG store.  The girls were able to name off what we were playing, including version.

I am starting the trek into miniature painting.  So far so good.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday Night Gaming Session

So the group of fearless (and somewhat bickering) set of adventurers stock up on supplies in Wayford.  Suppertime takes them to a local pub.  Upon sitting down, a patron finds and insect in his supper and becomes irate.  After a brief angry discussion with the bar maid, she gets upset and walks out.

The paladin is immediately questioning the irate customer.
"Is there a problem?"

The insect in his food is the problem.  They talk to the bartender.  They go outside and fail to find the waitress.  They go back in, and on an unlucky roll, one of the PCs finds an insect in their food.  More discussion.

DM is bored with the party thinking that everything that happens must have some great meaning, especially since I have hundreds of random events that will occur in this campaign.

So off to the magistrate of Wayford.  There are orcs wandering in from the Lurkwood seen near a set of ruins.  There are disturbances at the Wayford cemetery.

The cemetery is only a day's journey out.  The adventures find a locked gate and a mysterious fog that seems to hide undead.  A warning sign is posted, marked with initials.  (Did anyone write down the initials on the sign?)

They pick the lock, go inside --well mostly.  (Why do I always have to remind PCs they can 'take a 20' for tasks that aren't time limited!?!)

Items laying on the ground from the graves.  The rather troublesome and unthinking fighter of the group picks up a shiney jeweled sword, despite warnings from his comrades not to touch anything. (How many times to they need to yell "Don't touch anything!"

The gates lock, leaving the cleric outside of the spiked cemetery gates, and the rest of the party locked inside with a mix of 20 or so zombies and skeletons.

The ranger's wolf takes early hits but gets healed.  Skeleton archers are nasty.

The rather unthinking fighter has an unfortunate disadvantage of a phobia of skeletons.  He flees to the fence and keeps rolling to try to beat the fear.  He's useless for the encounter.  (I warned them that disadvantages would be used against them!)

The paladin, ranger, and rogue battle the undead and start taking down 1 or 2 a round.  The ranger with bad luck gets pounded and needs continuous heals to stay alive.  The fight goes well.  The PCs are happily fighting undead.

Suddenly a pink flash and all of the killed undead reappear.  RESPAWN.  The undead freeze for a moment which helps, but they keep reappearing.  Finally, the group climbs the fence and risks the injuries.  Lack of climb rolls hitting the target value result in damage by getting skewered by the fence spikes.  The wolf digs under the fence.  The adventurers reemerge outside the cemetery.  All is quiet once again.  Undead -- gone.

The group returns to Wayford and reports their futility to the magistrate.  The magistrate is not amused.

"Hmmm... a pink flash.  That sounds like magic." says the magistrate.

"Well... duhhhhhhhhhhhhh." says the rather unthinking fighter who gets himself kicked out of the magistrate's office, generating the best quote of the night.

And so ends the first encounter of the Dragon's Tear Campaign.

--DM Dad

Friday, February 5, 2010

Some Software of Interest

I've been digging through software and have pulled a few useful pieces out for use so far:
  • AUTORealm -- map making
  • FreeMind -- mind mapping software, good for organizing people, places, etc in a campaign
  • RedBlade -- character generation
  • Box of Flumph -- kingdom generator, also available on Redblade site
  • Jamis Buck's D&D NPC Generator -- Download link not available (please let me know if you have it), an online NPC generator is here
  • Encounter Level and XP Calculator OpenOffice Spreadsheet -- found on this page
  • GoogleDocs / OpenOffice -- spreadsheets
So how do I use these to build a campaign?  Here's my notes:

  • Freemind is great for keeping a hierarchy of notes.  I organize into subnodes for Plot, Adventurers, Groups, Places.  Because you can open/close nodes, it is easy to flip to relevant info during a gaming session and it helps the DM to avoid railroading.  It is especially well suited if you are using a netbook with limited screen space.
    • Under Plot, I make major plot outlines and notes, identifying main and subplots.  Milestones are organized.
    • Under Adventurers I make notes about PCs and their backgrounds.
    • Under Groups, I outline all NPC organizations
    • Under Places, I put in specific locations.  Under each location I typically have a description, encounters (with data), NPC names, Etc.
      • For small places (small village) I might even list all the buildings, NPCs, etc
    • Might add a subnode for creatures to identify stats and which miniaiture to use.
  • RedBlade I use for PC and NPC generation.  It speeds up both creation and leveling.  It doesn't do everything, so I have to keep reminding the players to read the books to get other stuff in there.
  • Box of Flumph / NPC Generator are used as needed to fill in characters / make them up on the fly during the game.
  • AutoREALM I use for making maps.  It can do regional maps for getting from place to place.  It also is good for town maps where you are placing buildings on squares.  It definitely takes some getting used to because the user interface has some quirks, but it is well worth it.  I usually have trouble getting printing just right, so I often print to PDF and save the PDF for future use when players need more copies or we add players.
  • Spreadsheets I use for capturing map data (what are all 47 buildings) and for various tables (mod tables, list of store items and costs, etc)
Another bit of software I am checking out is GoogleWave.  It looks like there are some good public waves discussing running entire campaigns over GoogleWave.

by Dm Dad

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Players

Currently playing Dahlia Jones, a human rogue.
Plays WoW
Knits and crochets during the day, rogue backstabber at night.
Doesn't like doing backgrounds
Tanks or rogues -- no magic users for her

Currently playing Annah Aristotle, a half-elf ranger
Tries to put herself (drama queen) into her character, often resulting in death
Prefers magic and nature stuff

Currently playing Romeo Charter, a human fighter
Likes to hit things, even other PCs and rocks
Get easily annoyed with other players who won't let her hit stuff
Not a good rogue, better at fighter
"Can I wear armor?"
"Yeah-- that would be stealthy.   Chink... chink... chink... you can't see me -- I'm being stealthy.  Chink chink chink"

Currently playing Jan Weatherwind, Elf Cleric
Good at backgrounds
Wild dice roller

DM's wife
Currently playing Lino Theremine, Half-elf Paladin
Likes pretty / hot characters
Usually ends up whacking the PCs that get "out of line", usually the rogue

by The Players: K, C, V, S, P


Some mods we have adopted to date:

  • Karma points are awarded for "good play" especially good problem-solving and good in-character roleplay.  Karma points are good for 1 reroll at any time.  And often I throw snacks to players that earn Karma points -- "Oooh, a karma point and a twinkie."
  • Background points provide a structure for controlling the character backgrounds so they are "realistic".  After all, every player can't be a prince or a king or rich or famous:
    • Background points can buy advantages.
    • Disadvantages can be taken to get more background points.
    • Some advantages or disadvantages have qualifiers:
      • Example: Can be one-eyed but charisma has to be less than 14.
    • I emphasize the fact that disadvantages will be used against players during gameplay.
  • Specialized unique weapons give the players something cool to find along the way:
    • Each weapon has a cool ability.
      • Dagger that transports you to a location, makes you invisible until you strike, and gives you a guaranteed backstab.
    • Each weapon has a severe cost:
      • Can't hear for 24 hours after activating.
All of these have been adapted from other mods that other have written about, but we made them our own.

by DM Dad

Early Experiences

We started out with D&D 3.5e Basic Game and added the Player's Kit.

Some recap of the experiences:

  • Mechanics take a little getting used to.  Practice made perfect.
  • Mechanics get in the way of role playing, but are a necessary evil to get started.
  • Early PC deaths are inevitable, but they teach the importance of NOT doing stupid things as a player that get your character killed.
    • The elvan mage who draws fire from a dragon so the fighter doesn't get hit.
      • "Over here.  Over here"  Elf gets fried by 50 points of lightening damage and is dead.
  • Yelling is a big problem,  We got a stuffed d20 and now only the person with it can talk, unless it is placed on the "conference square".
  • Venue is important.  Playing at the dining room table caused players to be irritable and cranky.  Playing at the living room coffee table let everyone relax and the game went more smoothly.
Some early lessons:

  • Players have a hard time letting go of dead characters.  I made a memorial webpage to serve as a "graveyard" to help record those lost players.
  • Puzzles are great and bring a lot of memorable moments.  A door that only opens by knocking it was a simple puzzle, but had one player "licking the door" to try to get it to open.  Lots of laughs for all.
  • Breaking the "we have to fight" tendency was hard.  I finally put the players in an infinitely regenerating dungeon at the control of an evil sorcerer.  After round and round and round of fighting, the players finally realized the only was to win was not to fight.  Lesson learned.
To date, from my experiences with my high school/college group, I miss having a co-DM.  I used to run the plot and game and mechanics while my co-DM did all the voices and conversations.  I am not as good at voices as I used to be.

by DM Dad

Who is the DM

I've been a gamer since I was young kid.  I loved playing D&D.  I could never afford to buy books and such, so I ended up making up my own role playing systems.  My nieces and nephews that were slightly younger ended up being the players.  Eventually I coded the games into my Commodore 64 and played them myself into it ran out of memory.

High school and college brought a whole new level of gaming.  I gamed with serious gamers and became a serious DM.  One member of our group even was a beta tester for D&D.  I wrote and rewrote rules and systems.  I got into Shadowrun.  I got into Battletech and scaled it into a full multi-planetary war system.

Now, as a thirty-something dad with 4 daughters, I decided it was time to share D&D as both a fun experience and a cool teaching tool.

We started out with the 3.5e starter set, expanded with books and miniatures.  This blog starts as we just are finishing up our first campaign.

by DM Dad