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Showing posts from 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 h…

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 updatedExtensive contentThorough.  For example, it is easy to generate companion animalsD20 integration in Pathfinder so I don't have to leave everything old behindNice looking character sheetsLots of options for including / excluding extra content (like the Advanced Players Guide) Negative 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…

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.

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

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 …

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 f…

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,…

Latest Minis

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

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 dea…

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 Dam…

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 larg…

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 f…

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.

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.…

Some Software of Interest

I've been digging through software and have pulled a few useful pieces out for use so far:
AUTORealm -- map makingFreeMind -- mind mapping software, good for organizing people, places, etc in a campaignRedBlade -- character generationBox of Flumph -- kingdom generator, also available on Redblade siteJamis Buck's D&D NPC Generator -- Download link not available (please let me know if you have it), an online NPC generator is hereEncounter Level and XP Calculator OpenOffice Spreadsheet -- found on this pageGoogleDocs / 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…

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 …


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 guara…

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 t…

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