Monday, July 28, 2014

Dark Lanterns: Xorn Scorn

We're playing Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil again for the first time in a couple of weeks and I never recapped the last session.

The big fight against the Earth Temple wasn't a huge challenge but wasn't a cakewalk either. One of the side tunnels before the temple had a group of centipedes that were labeled as the pets of one of the evil clerics. The party ninja tried luring the bugs to fight the temple, but I figured since they were pets of the temple they wouldn't attack, but they didn't add much to the challenge of the fight either. It didn't really become an issue, but here's another weird thing about 3rd Edition. The ninja player's reasoning on luring the bugs out was "they're Vermin, they can't be controlled", and when they didn't attack the bad guys another player said "he must be a Vermin Lord." 3rd edition is incredibly Simulationist. Everything has an internal logic, and while that can be cool at times, at other times it can derail a DM's idea. The NPC cleric didn't have a prestige class to control Vermin (which is a game term for the Type of monster, not a generic word), I just decided he wouldn't be attacked by his own pets.

The only thing that kept the fight interesting was that the players split up to take down different threats instead of piling up on one at a time. One cleric went down right away, but the second troglodyte cleric was incredibly buffed up by magic and was tougher to take down, and the chain fighter was having trouble fighting a Xorn that did lots of damage.

After the head cleric and most of the trog cultists were killed the Xorn disappeared. The group decided to sleep in the temple and I wasted too much time checking if the Xorn could coup de grace a sleeping PC. I need to just start playing looser and faster, and hope the playstyle works. One of the weeks when we couldn't get everyone together we played a Dungeon World one shot using a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure. I felt like we got a lot more play in that one session, even with creating 3 "0-level" characters per player. I need to crib more playstyle stuff from Dungeon World.

Another thing is I need to modify the adventure a bit to be more challenging. I was loathe to change much because this was a flagship adventure for the release of 3rd Edition, but I'm playing with three optimizers and they're plowing through some of these encounters. I don't think the Earth Temple was designed with an Enlarged chain fighter in mind. More ranged combat and some thought to tactics will help, I think.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dark Lanterns: you CAN keep a bad trog down

We've been playing the 3E Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil adventure for a few weeks now. So far the group has uncovered cultists of the Elder Elemental Eye (Tharizdun) around Hommlet, and found the Temple of All-Consumption in the northern mountains. All the PCs are agents of the Dark Lanterns, the espionage branch of kingdom of Breland. Everyone is stealthy and has a licence to kill.

We met at a player's house this time instead of my place because I didn't feel like cleaning a bunch of stuff and kicking my wife out of the front room for the evening. Everyone was a little late but we started fairly quickly. I decided to bring just the bare minimum of books needed, and I took the time to go through my minis and counters for everything that might come up for the whole adventure. I just dumped everything out of my stormtrooper lunch box onto my carry bag and was able to grab what I needed fairly easily as it came up.

The group had made their second attack on the main gate last week, where they finished off the reanimated guards from the first attack and the troglodyte cleric who commanded them. They decided to head North in the caves, towards the Earth temple. This part of the temple is a series of mines and caves in the rim of a volcano that blew its top a long time ago.

The goblin assassin scouted ahead as usual, but failed to get a death attack on a large troglodyte wielding the Sword of Earth. The trog called a cleric and an earth elemental from an adjoining cave while the assassin PC went down another hallway, eventually luring some trog mooks to join the fight. The spiked chain ranger dominated the battlefield like he always does, tripping everything within his Enlarged reach.

The fight reminded me of one of my 3E pet peeves--the sheer number of modifiers and attention to petty details. I liked how 4E had combat advantage, and multiple conditions didn't make it stack. Sure, its more "realistic" that being prone AND flanked makes you that much easier to hit, but on the other hand we have a 10' tall elf with a 20' spiked chain in a 10' wide hallway where he can attack anybody with no penalty. Sure, that's realistic.

Also, at one point I had the earth elemental try to push the chain fighter back to give his allies some time to get up, and it was a mess of multiple checks, "does he have the +4 from the correct feat?" (because gods forbid the monster wasn't built properly), and debating whether he would provoke an Attack of Opportunity from a different combatant...all so the elemental could spend his whole turn pushing someone 5 feet and not dealing damage! In 4E it would have been Damage + push one square and move on.

I'm trying not to let all this get on my nerves too much, but its obviously bothering me a little bit. Part of it is just that I feel like I have no control as DM because every detail of combat has a specific, overly complicated rule and everyone knows the rules inside and out. I can't just make a judgement call and keep things moving quickly, and it becomes draining.

We were still able to do more than just one big fight, as a manticore was dispatched fairly easily by the ranger who just joined the group. An earth mephit was likewise quickly taken out, and we wrapped the game up there. I've been having allergy issues, and I didn't want to try to push on through the sinus headache that was building at the end of the night.

I think we have a fundamental difference in playing styles that's causing me some frustration, but I think I can get over it. I need to prep more to keep things moving faster on my end, and that will also help me challenge the PCs more. Right now everything's been a cake walk. Really, the "toughest" part of any of the fights has been hitting the NPCs, as trog clerics in full plate have ridiculous armor classes.

The big Earth Temple fight is coming up soon, that should be interesting.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Original Content

I'm doing something called "Originality Day" on Facebook to promote original content, so I thought I'd finally share the Underdark mini-game I put together. A local brewery, Intuition Ale Works, had a release party for their Underdark beer, which happens to be fantastic, and I thought it would be a good excuse to do some old-school style D&D. I also wanted it to be as easy as possible for people to jump in, so I made a character sheet with all the info you needed to play except for spells. Its 7th-level characters, and I ran them through Monte Cook's The Queen of Lies adventure.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What's up?

I've been doing lots of thinking about gaming lately, but not much actual gaming.

I did run an old-school inspired one-shot for the Underdark beer release party, that went well. I was able to fit almost everything you needed to know for 4 classes and several races on a one-sided character sheet. I'll share that soon.

I'm playing in a Pathfinder one-shot coming up this weekend. I like some of the Pathfinder changes from 3E, but there's also just so many damn fiddly-bits. Its nice that my necromancer can frighten people a few times a day by touch, but how often is that going to come up? Its cool flavor, but with a lot of extra rules around it. After the streamlined abilities of 4E and the hand-waving of Dungeon World, it just grates on me a little. I'm sure I'll still have fun playing Maximus the Black, seventh son of a seventh son.

Eventually I'll get my Eberron version of Qelong game going. More about that later.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quick and dirty RPG rule

Quick idea for an RPG, embracing the idea of play at the table being more important than a character build.

You’re really good at one thing, pretty good at one or two more things, and bad at one thing. That’s your stats.

There could be a list of Strengths and Weaknesses to choose from, but original ideas should be encouraged. Your stat shouldn’t be so broad that its useful for everything, or so specialized that its useless. The bonus would depend on what system you want to base it on. For d20, maybe +5/+2/-2 to rolls. For Dungeon World style (2d6), it would be +2/+1/-1. When the DM thinks a die roll is necessary to determine something, roll. If your strength or weakness comes into play, add the modifier.

For example, Ryu the ninja is really sneaky, and pretty good with daggers and acrobatics, but is small. Valgard the berserker is great at raging, and pretty good at hunting and leading warriors, but has a dangerous short temper. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013


From the Eldritch Wizardry excerpt on the WotC website:

"This book also represents a new trend in the fine art of Dungeon Mastering. As originally conceived, D&D was limited in scope only by the imagination and devotion of Dungeon Masters everywhere. The supplements have fulfilled the need for fresh ideas and additional stimulation. But somewhere along the line, D&D lost some of its flavor, and began to become predictable. This came about as a result of the proliferation of rule sets; while this was great for us as a company, it was tough on the DM. When all the players had all of the rules in front of them, it became next to impossible to beguile them into danger or mischief."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge: Day 18-22

Day 18-Favorite Monster (Immortal/Outsider)

Devils, although I don't use them enough. I find the Devil/Demon dichotomy a little strange. I think the medieval idea of hell covers both types, but D&D loves its metaphysical organization so we have Lawful and Chaotic ultimate evil. I guess I just always wanted to use a pit fiend but don't get high level very often. I should fix that.

Day 19-Favorite Monster (Elemental/Plant)

Your basic elementals are pretty cool. They're the only thing in the AD&D Monster Manual that goes into detail about summoning, so they're the template for summoned monsters. And way cooler than a celestial dire badger.

Day 20-Favorite Monster (Humanoid/Natural/Fey)

Broad category. High elves, or 4E Eladrin. Because I can use them as a template for Sidhee, Tuatha de Danaan, Alfs, whatever mythological fae race I'm into. And the pupil-less eyes is just like elves in The Broken Sword. 

Honorable mention to Displacer Beasts, because they're badass.

Day 21-Favorite Dragon Color/Type

Green Dragons. Classic dragon color, and they're sneaky. Mythological dragons are usually serpentine and poisonous, so they're similar to that. And I seem to have a bunch of random green dragon minis, so I'd like to put a family in a campaign and have every mini be a different member.

Day 22-Favorite Monster Overall

Its not D&D, but something I've stated up a few times: the Nuckelavee. Scottish water fae/demon. Its like a centaur that's been burned by nightmare acid. Skinless, with blood and black ooze dripping everywhere. Flippers on its feet, long gangly arms with huge claws. An oversized head that rolls around because its neck can't support it, and a huge eye that burns and poisons everything. (Some versions say its basic form is a horse with a half human body coming out the middle of its back, but I prefer the centaur-like version.)