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