Browsing the archives for the Tabletop category

Campaign Ideas: Shipwrecked

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Games, RPGs, Tabletop

Basic introductory campaign idea designed to introduce players to the setting, establish the group without relying on “You all show up at a tavern” tropes.

Types: Semi-Travelogue, Fish out of Water

Scene 1: Fight scene. This scene establishes a villain/antagonist for the characters by immediately pitting them up against the antagonist and/or some of his henchmen. Premise for this fight is that the antagonist is trying to retrieve X, where X is an item or components of an item.

Scene 2: Flashback to the initial party meeting, which is on a ship. Each character has been hired by the Captain, and their mission to deliver X to [some location or NPC] is explained.

Scene 3: A storm strikes, and the ship is under attack by [pirates / mercenaries / unknown]. A battle ensues and the ship is wrecked.

Scene 4: The characters wake up on the shores of [some location on the same landmass where they were headed]. The majority of the crew seems to be lost and only the PCs are fit for travel, so they head on to finish their mission.

-After roughly another scene or two, the PCs should be ‘caught up’ in narrative time with Scene 1, after which they continue onward in ‘real time.’
-Subsequent scenes introduce the characters to the setting [mood/themes] and set up different factions of antagonists / allies. Since all characters are from a different location, play up customs and other elements that may seem strange to the PCs (and also to the players).
-By the end of the mission the PCs should have forged a bond with at least one faction, which will offer them some sort of ongoing relationship at the end of the initial scenario and possibly serve as the basis for further scenarios.

Selling My P&P Account

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Games, Personal, RPGs, Tabletop

Currently I’m involved in a pretty mediocre pen and paper D&D game run by one of our group hangers-on, the guy who shows up every few weeks unannounced and doesn’t even bother to try and contact anyone if he’s coming or if he’s not coming. It’s not great, but, still, someone stepping in as DM keeps pressure off of me as I’m still too busy to do serious DM prep. In our first session it was decided one of our other players, whose character is a Paladin, was going to be the prince of a country. Everyone else would just be hangers on.

This is a pretty typical newbie DM mistake, but it doesn’t stop there … The first NPC we encountered was a ghost of a woman (we don’t know who) who gave our Paladin Prince a rather serious magical item. At the time we were all equipped with 7,500gp worth of equipment, and the first thing that happens is the Prince gets an amulet worth 36,000gp, at sixth level no less.

Our next session has us going to a mausoleum in the city. The Prince is selected to under a series of trials while the rest of us sit on our thumbs. Then after he defeated a giant skeleton he was rewarding with a dancing holy avenger flaming burst sword of brokenness +5. And, yes, that is not rules legal. He was also given an artifact-level amulet that basically makes him immune to death.

The session after that one we were attacked by a Cleric in the forest who was wandering around with his retinue of skeletons and death knights (Encounter table entry #3 — I kept pressing him to throw Nazi Zombie Bugbears at us, but I guess he thought they were too difficult of an encounter for us.) So we defeat this group of undead, and then slay an bronze dragon (ECL 17. Party average level: 8.) At this point we all decided to just give all the equipment, including a suit of armor with DR 15/good to the Paladin. As a friend said, we’re just going to twink his Paladin out with epic gear and sell his account.

I thought this was a pretty funny idea, and I bet’d actually be something you could make [some] money off of. I mean, in a world where someone sells a pixel on a webpage, or sells stuff on eBay by claiming it’s “haunted” a precreated Pencil & Paper D&D character sheet is downright utilitarian. One of these days I’ll get around to trying this out.


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Games, RPGs, Tabletop


Yesterday I was talking to one of my Pen and Paper gaming friends and he, for whatever reason, loaded up the Wizards of the Coast website. When he did, he was greeted with a little countdown to 4DVENTURE, which we immediately guessed was an announcement for 4th Edition.

I’m not entirely sure yet, but there are a few articles so far claiming that Wizards is coming out with 4th Edition next year. Although I’ve been expecting 4th Edition for awhile, I’m kind of surprised at how this announcement is being done. I’d actually expect to hear about playtesting accounts or design goals from the designers before we get a deadline for release.

I already outlined what’d make me buy the new system, but after looking over Star Wars Saga Edition a few weeks ago, I don’t think it’s going to live up to my expectations. Well, either way, we both agreed that we’d probably be sticking with 3.5 for some time to come (or move to something homebrew / true20 / etc.).

Guild Wars Game Modding

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Games, Guild Wars, Tabletop

Apparently, some clever people managed to figure out how to mod their own Guild Wars datafiles. Although this is somewhat old news, as things like the hoax Terror Shield item demonstrated it could be done in 2005, there seems to be a newfound popularity for editing your own game data files of late. There’s a 30-some-odd page thread on GuildWarsGuru about it, and in roughly half a month several interesting User Interface mods have become available, not to mention innumerable other minor changes (like changing the textures on existing items).

A couple of minor examples:


This image above shows a user modification to the “Critical Hit” effect. A bit cartoonish and over the top, but you’ll always know when you critical.

Below we have a series of images showing alterations to the “wings” effect caused by certain Paragon skills. Normally these wings are gold, but people have modified the texture to display new colorations.



And then there’s the full User Interface reskins, like the one below.


Although it’s just texture replacement, some people have done some interesting things, such as add area-of-effect spell range indicators to the compass (seen above) or add indicators on the health bar for when you drop below major intervals (75%, 50%, 25%, etc).

Of course, for me, the major feature that makes me interested is the ability to reskin the “fog” on unexplored areas of the world map. I haven’t been playing Guild Wars all that much recently, but I would like to get the Cartographer titles eventually, and if I could reskin the fog with a red color (this has already been done) then it should be fairly simple to find unexplored areas of the map to attain 100% map completion.

Then the question becomes, do I want to mess with my Guild Wars files? And do I trust the people doing this sort of thing?

Another thing to mull over.

Giving up the d20

Games, RPGs, Tabletop

I’ve been pondering starting up a campaign for D&D again, and last week I ran the idea of a Guild Wars based campaign past my group and they gave the thumbs up to the idea — Now I just need to decide if I actually want to run a Guild Wars campaign, and what that would mean for the setting.

That’s not exactly what I wanted to talk about though. I’ve been mulling over running D&D with different dice systems — I’m kind of disillusioned with the d20, most notably because my dice have used up all their 20s long ago and nothing short of dipping them in the sacrificial blood of Polyhedro, the God of Dice, would be able to fix their consistently poor rolling.

I’ve been considering a couple of replacement systems:

  • 3d6. This is outlined in Unearthed Arcana (or is it Arcana Unearthed?), or available through the d20 SRD as a variant rolling method. This system’s got a couple of benefits. (1.) Everyone has plenty of d6s. (2.) A nice bell curve to decrease the chance that any one homicidal die will end up having your character fail at an easy task. (3.) All of the work behind figuring out this system has been worked out already.
  • 4d6. My main reasons for considering a 4d6 system are pretty superficial: 4d6 preserves the 20 point spread range of a traditional d20. You’ve also got an even larger bell curve, but I think at the point of 4d6 that might become as much of a liability as it would be a benefit: The dice are a constant source of amusement and twists and turns in RPGs … Too much averageness might reduce the importance of that. Not to mention I’d need to sit down and figure out the probabilities involved in 4d6 and figure out how that would affect weapons.
  • 2d10. This is a pretty obvious one, and though it’s not a full 20 point spread, it’s close. 2d10 was the first system I thought of when considering whether or not to run with an alternative rolling system. It has a curve, but it’s not as steep as either 3d6 or 4d6, and the probabilities are pretty intuitive as well, which is always a benefit to on-the-fly risk assessment.

I decided to go with a 2d10 system. It’s always a toss up to see how these things are going to work out, but a system that’s pretty quick to figure out on the fly, which has a bell curve but not a particularly steep one seems pretty ideal. On a purely visceral level, rolling 2d10 feels better to me than rolling 1d20, but it’s not like playing a game of Yahtzee with 4d6.

The major issue that needs to be resolved with 2d10 is weapon threat ranges. Although there’s room for improvement with d20’s weapons, for the most part I just to keep things simple. Things will look like so:

  • 20-20 -> 19-20, 18.H (Coin toss on 18s, heads threatens).
  • 19-20 -> 17-20
  • 18-20 -> 16-20
  • 17-20 -> 15-20

And so on. At some point I’d probably be compelled to cut the progression for large threat ranges down, but in terms of mechanical power a lot of the high threat range weapons are substandard anyway, so it doesn’t bother me all that much to give them a bit of a boost.

I think I might start outlining the sort of house rules I’m looking to go with…

Update: Redhammer the Old over at the Fear the Boot forums has this neat graphic illustrating 2d10 vs. 1d20…


D&D Shakeups

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Games, RPGs, Tabletop

I made a follow up post last week about some thoughts on D&D 4th Edition. Though 4th Edition is still speculative at this point, there have been a bunch of developments of late in the D&D world that lend credence to the idea that maybe, sometime, possibly in the near future, a 4th Edition will be released. Indefinite enough? I hope so.

So what do I mean by shakeups?

Back when 3rd Edition came out, Wizards of the Coast began farming out some of its material to other companies. The 2nd Edition days had left the D&D brand with a lot of neat settings, stuff like Ravenloft, Planescape, Spelljammer, Dark Sun, and so on. And while most of these settings were unique and interesting in their own ways, there’s obviously no way to support so many niche worlds (or at least, not do so and still turn a profit — generic splatbooks are probably better sellers than campaign-setting specific books)

Ravenloft was initially farmed out to White Wolf, publishing under the Sword & Sorcery brand.* DragonLance was farmed out to Margaret Weis productions. I don’t really understand the Oriental Adventures/Rokugan situation, so I won’t even speculate there. Dark Sun wasn’t supported at all.

*Details of some relationships might be incorrect. I don’t make it a point to care too much about the minutiae of who-is-what-and-how.

So sometime last year, Wizards took back the rights to Ravenloft from White Wolf and published their own “Expedition to Castle Ravenloft” module. Interesting. Wizards has mentioned that they are more interested in publishing adventure modules of late than they were initially. I consider this a good thing — I’m pretty darn sick of splatbooks whose sole purpose is to give powergamers more and more options to obsess over. An adventure, at the very least, gives some context for all of that to exist within. In fact, I think I’d prefer it if prestige classes and the like were only published in adventure modules, to reinforce the idea that Prestige Classes are not just super-classes but things that are earned through deeds or membership with organizations.

Sorry, I started to ramble. Anyway, now we hear news that DragonLance’s contract with Margaret Weis publishing isn’t being renewed.

And then we hear news that Wizards’ contract with Paizo Publishing, the makers of the iconic Dungeon & Dragon magazines, isn’t being renewed either.

What the heck is going on? It’s like Wizards is taking everything back in-house. A lot of people speculate that the reason for this move is in preparation for 4th Edition. Even though I’m betting we’ll see 4th Edition by 2010, at the latest, I’m not convinced these moves are specifically for 4th Edition. Wizards has been coyly mentioning a so-called “Digitial Initiative” (details are sketchy) whereby they presumably intend to create a system for distributing a lot of content online. It sounds kind of intriguing, but I wonder how successful something like that will be. Publishing a ton of content online will be problematic if anyone can copy and paste your content and give it away on their own website, or change the flavor text and pass it off as their own content (thus pretty much eliminating any hope of policing the behavior).

Some interesting notes from ENWorld:

2) The decision was made more than a year ago.

3) Content has not yet been decided.

4) Some Dragon/Dungeon features and columns will continue.

5) Accounts will be user based; payment options without credit cards will be available; content will be “previewable” before purchase.

6) Content will be released in frequent small bursts and then collected together.

7) DRAGON and DUNGEON, as brands, will continue to exist; implication being that this doesn’t replace the magazines, it’s the evolution of them.

8) Hardcopy compilation is a part of the plan.

9) Freelancers will still be used.

The real question I have, which I think will determine the success or failure of Wizards’ new venture, is whether the purpose of cutting off all of these contracts is to try and put the power, so-to-speak, in developing content into the hands of gamers around the world, via the Digital Initiative, or whether the goal is to try and consolidate Wizards’ assets and content and gain immediate control over how players interact with the material that they will be regularly publishing? Because I’m very supportive of the OGL and attempts to bring an Open-Source mentality into gaming, so to speak. But I think any so-called “Digital Initiative” whose purpose is not to explicitly democratize the creation and publication of content is going to fail, as it runs counter to the genius/madness and power of the Internet. The trick is always to harness that in productive ways, not to act like you can treat an online-distributed PDF as a magazine and maintain the same relationship with customers, as if the two are interchangeable. They’re not and never will be.

Battle Report 2: Circle vs. Khador

Games, Tabletop

My Army:

Circle Orboros
Kaya the Wildborne
Warpwolf, Heavy Warbeast x 2
Argus, Light Warbeast x 2
Total Points: ~380

The Butcher of Khardov
Kodiak, Heavy Warjack
Marauder, Heavy Warjack
Battle Mechanik Crew, Unit of 4
Widowmakers, Unit
Manhunter, Solo

Turn 1:
My Activation:

All of my units run up the board 12 to 14 inches. My units end their movement roughly 6″ from a forest where the enemy deployed his advance-deployment units (Widowmakers, Manhunter). The enemy is to my left, and both of my Warpwolves are positioned on my left. Kaya is positioned behind one Warpwolf, using his great size to block line of sight. My Argus are slightly ahead of the rest of the army and on my right side.

Enemy Activation:

The Widowmakers fire upon one of my Argus, and the Widowmaker emerges from the forest in a charge towards the same Argus. The Argus is severely wounded though not dead. The rest of the Khador force, the two Warjacks, the Warcaster, and the mechanik unit, position themselves besides the woods, getting into position to attack next turn.

Turn 2:
My Activation:

With the Widowmakers firing at me from the forest (meaning I couldn’t charge them with any of my Warbeasts), and the rest of the Khador battlegroup positioning itself to charge next turn, I decided that I may as well throw myself all-in. Either I’d cause enough damage to disrupt the Khador’s plans or they’d be on me next turn, grinding my rather-fragile forces into the ground.

My first Warpwolf charged one of the Khador warjacks. With a MAT of 6 on the Warpwolf and a defense of 10 on the Khador warjack, hitting is extremely easy. However, with 20 Armor, it’s not easy to deal lots of damage to the Warjacks. No matter — I got in both of my Warpwolf’s claw attacks and then followed up with the throat-ripper chain attack, knocking the enemy warjack down. I then poured a fury or two into an additional attack.

The enemy warjack was crippled but the battle mechaniks might repair it on the next turn — I didn’t want to leave anything left for them to repair. I threw my second Warpwolf at the downed Warjack and reduced it to a hunk of scrap metal. I followed up with a Baying of Chaos animus, attempting to disrupt the battle mechaniks and the widowmakers in the nearby forest. Unfortunately, neither was intimidated — But they should’ve been!

My damaged Argus counterattacked against the Manhunter and, despite his wounds, managed to take down the Manhunter with a combo-bite. My second Argus attempted to use his doppler bark on the Widowmakers, but their formidable cover bonuses defeated the Argus’ poor ranged attack ability.

The only thing I had left to try to deal with the Widowmakers was Kaya. Since she is a Pathfinder, I had her charge right into the midst of the enemy snipers. With her 2″ reach I was able to hit all of them from one position. Four attacks later and the Widowmakers were worm food.

Enemy Activation:

Things were looking pretty grim for Khador at this point. His only remaining units were a single heavy warjack, a unit of mechaniks, and the Butcher of Khardov. Although I wasn’t terribly worried about the situation, I knew that both of my heavy units would be tied up in combat next turn. Would I have enough of an army left standing after the enemy pummeled me to pull out a win?

The Khador warjack moved in on Warpwolf #1. He did a moderate amount of damage, but nothing disabling. I was confident that with another turn my Warpwolf could disable this warjack.

The Butcher was enraged. He used his feat, some kind of buff spell, and generally speaking made himself hellaciously deadly. At something like P+S 20, and thus automatically doing at least 4 damage to a Warpwolf, I was seriously frightened and awed by his melee prowess. He moved up and attacked my Warpwolf #2, doing something like 4+5d6 damage to the Warpwolf, nearly killing it outright.

Turn 3:
My Activation:

It was clear that this turn was going to determine who won or lost the game. Getting the easy stuff out of the way first, I had my Warpwolf #1, who was engaged with the enemy warjack, pummel him into the ground with two attacks and a throat-ripper. Although this didn’t destroy the enemy jack, it was unlikely he’d be a serious threat in the future with one of his arms destroyed.

My Warpwolf #2 used his regeneration twice (rules flub!) to restore a few hitpoints to his disabled life spirals. He then struck back against the Butcher, but mostly only did a few points of damage. The Butcher scoffed at the gigantic warbeast.

Neither Argus was in a position to get to the Butcher, but Kaya, being a Pathfinder, could move directly through the forests to him. Emerging from the woods, she attacked the Butcher from behind … A critical hit! Amazingly enough, I managed to get a critical on my first roll. Kaya’s staff, Splinter, has a knockdown effect on criticals which meant that the Butcher’s high defense would be entirely negated. Thereafter she began pummeling the downed man until he was down for good, though it took all of her fury and her feat as well.

Victory number 2. Surprisingly, considering I was playing an experienced player. I guess he wasn’t ready for the speed and hitting power of my army.

Wizards of the Downtime

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Games, Miscellaneous, Personal, Tabletop, Technology

I noticed a new D&D podcast the other day and it got me thinking about something I mentioned earlier — One of the guys in my D&D group and I have a minor dispute over a minor rule with major consequences. Consequences that differ by about two orders of magnitude.

The last time we got into the dispute I mentioned to him that I’d ask the rules lawyers on the for their opinions on the matter so that we could come to a resolution. However, last time I tried to access the forums they were down for maintenance. Since it came to my mind I decided to browse on over to the Wizards forums and set about resolving the dispute…


Of course.

I have never seen a website that needs as much maintenance, especially hard downtime, as the forums. Ridiculous.