October 06, 2011

Campaign Report - The Price of Freedom - 06

After rescuing a group of people captured by slavers in the stony barrens east of Tyr, the party returned to the City-State to bring them to safety. The group, then, decided they needed to finish the first job they accepted from House Ghadir of Tyr to deliver a small cargo to their representatives in Urik and went their way to the Caravan Gate. That is when they realized they were being followed by about eight bandits from the Toothcutter's gang.

The group was not worried with this and just kept walking to the gate. That's was their mistake. The gang knew the streets very well and surrounded the party. Their leader, a mul, said the adventurers were putting their noses where they shouldn't and attacked. Since the characters were surrounded the fight was pretty rough, and the bard/shaman was almost killed and left behind. The group managed to kill the gang leader and a good number of thugs, but more were coming and they were already seriously wounded.

September 22, 2011

Campaign Report - The Price of Freedom - 05

The party had just arrived to the Caravan Gate of Tyr and the ex-templar in the group, Abbadon (Ranger) spotted among the Templars scouring the people entering an old rival, Cubda. She was a merciless templar who, many believe, have murdered, bribed, robbed and done everything she could to climb higher on the hierarchy of Tyrin templars. The ranger, then, decided he was going to hide among the people they were rescuing in a attempt to hide from Cubda.

When their time to be inspected came, Cubda thought they were trying to get in Tyr with slaves, since there were a lot of people cramped inside a small wagon and was about to threaten the group and ask for a bribe when she saw Abbadon inside the wagon and realised that he would be a slave then. She was happy with that and just asked the group to treat him badly. They were all relieved.

September 09, 2011

Homemade Monsters - Scorpions and Bats

I am currently running a campaign in Athas (Dark Sun world) and I sometimes want the adventurers to face some specific monsters that would fit the situation. And, to my surprise, even with three Monster Manuals, two Monster Vaults, and other books with monsters, I don't find everything that I need.

Usually I just make some minor adjustments and re-skinning of some monster and that fits just well into the game. But other times I have to mix and design new abilities and attacks that I imagine the creature having. And that is the case of the monster and NPCs I will post on these articles I shall name "Homemade Monsters".

The first two creatures I will be presenting are the "Giant Desert Scorpion" and the "Blood Bat Swarm". They were both made for an adventure I ran on my Dark Sun campaign.

September 07, 2011

Campaign Report - The Price of Freedom - 04

The dark sun of Athas was set, and the chill of the night winds were sharp as blades. The group of adventurers had to chose between trying to cross the stony barrens with twenty or so ex-slaves that were wounded and terrified or to find shelter for the night and help the fragile to recover. They decided it was best to wait the morning to venture out of the ruined temple.

Errich, the halfling monk, made an improvised tomb for his fallen companion, Thalai, the half-giant barbarian. And went inside the temple with the rest of the group. The ritual that Szur performed had damage the structure of the temple and some of its parts were in risk of collapsing, but the ranger, ex-templar, managed to identify a safe passage and room for them to spend the night.

At this point the group decided to split and do different things. Eben, the battlemind, Arbitria, the shaman bard, and Abbadon, the ranger, decided to look further into the temple to make sure nothing would attack them during the night, while Errich, the monk and an ex-slave named Rain, a shifter ranger, stayed back to take care of the ex-slaves, treating their wounds and raising their spirit.

August 28, 2011

Chatacter Names - Some Thoughts

A few weeks ago a read an article on Big Ball of No Fun about PC naming. It was about why a player get to choose his character name if they, themselves, could not choose their own names. No one gets to choose his own name, why should the player's choose their character names? Although this does make a lot of sense, the characters are their creation, and as creators, they choose the creature's name.

But let's think about it a little more. Actors play characters in ways that they are creators themselves and they do not get to pick their character's names. They create a unique way the character act, talk and express themselves but are still stuck with the name someone else gave them. Does that make their experience less valuable? I do not think so.

Why am I saying this, you ask. Am I against the the player's choosing their character's names? Well, yes and no. Let me explain what I mean with this.

August 22, 2011

Getting Out of the Dungeon

I love Dungeons & Dragons. It is definitely my favorite RPG (both in terms of mechanics and settings). But I still like to play other games, other RPGs.

Last Saturday I went to a RPG event here in my city called "Sai da Masmorra" (which could be translated as Get Out of the Dungeon). The goal of the encounter is to promote games that are not well known, or at least, games that people don't play anymore as often as they used to. Basically, as far as I understood, anything other than D&D 4e, D&D 3.X and basically anything using the d20 system badge (although there many d20 games largely unknown). Even though I think some people there don't know D&D 4th, which makes it a unknown game to them, I have no problems with that, I have my ongoing D&D group and I went there to play other stuff anyway.

August 17, 2011

Campaign Report - The Price of Freedom - 03

After chasing two slavers into the ancient temple, the adventures found out that it still had some working traps. They managed to avoid them but the shaman's spirit companion wasn't so lucky.

The group was still hearing sounds of people talking loudly ahead and decided to go forward instead of checking the door on the right side of the room they were in. The corridor ahead was in total darkness so the battlemind and the shaman picked up a torch each and started moving.

They soon reached a small room with four pillars in the center and saw what seemed to be a corpse on the far side of the room behind a pillar. The battlemind decided to look a little closer and saw that the man behind the pillar was still alive, but paralyzed, his eyes still moving and looking at them with terror. At this moment giant scorpions plunged at the group. The battle was fierce, the scorpions had a venom that could immobilize and deal ongoing poison damage, and once bloodied they would deal acid damage to every creature adjacent to them. It was a fun combat. One of the largest scorpions ran away into a passage to the right when his companion and all of his hatchlings were killed.

August 14, 2011

Custom Made Character Sheets for my Dark Sun Campaign

Ok, this is more of a "show off" post than an actual helpful or insightful post. But you can probably take something good out of this, like how is it nice to invest some time into making good things to give to your players to make them more interested in your game and wanting to come back for more.

And that's not everything. On our first two sessions we were using the usual character builder sheets, and although it's complete and have everything they need to play, it's like five freaking pages long. So the player's (who are not all veteran 4th edition players) had to turn pages all around to search for things they needed to see, and the sheets had a lot of information they did not need or did not need at their level. So I decided to make one that would be smaller (just one sheet printed on both sides) with everything they needed. I made it look good too and have a Athasian feel but still look clean. They LOVED IT.

August 06, 2011

I Have a Confession - I Killed a PC

It happened on our last session. The party was facing a boss, a defiler who had just finished a ritual to transform him in some kind of demon draconish sorcerer, and they were winning by just a little (two of six were down and making death saves).

The boss was with just 30 hit points when he decided to make the run. He managed to escape through the door and run through a corridor leading further in the dungeon. When he ran out, the party didn't chase him, they choose to stay together and heal the dying and the poor child used in the ritual (they had to pass through a skill challenge to save the child's life). I should have said the majority of the party, the barbarian decided to run after him and end this once and for all.

The defiler seeing the barbarian chasing him, alone, turned back and fired his necrotic bolts at him. The barbarian dropped and the boss ran away. At that point the group was in the middle of the skill challenge to save the child's life, trying to remove all the necrotic and demonic energy around the kid. They did heard the cry of the barbarian when he was hit and fell, but they had to choose, they would either run to save their companion or the child. They trusted the barbarian would not fail 3 death saves too quick and would be able to save him after the kid, but they were unlucky.

The child was saved (although it cost the infection of a demonic force inside one of the characters), but the barbarian died, he failed 3 saves in a row, he was dead. I killed a character, and it wasn't that difficult as people say it is in 4th edition.

At that time I felt like I had won something, I was kinda in the villain mode, so I was excited he managed to escape and take someone out. But a few minutes later I was worried, I just killed one of my player's character. Is he upset? Will he be willing to make another one? Or will he be hating this game now?

July 27, 2011

Campaign Report - The Price of Freedom - 02

After recovering from the battle against the bloodsucking plant and the Id Fiend, the party studied the map they found with Volkur and found out they could follow two different paths to get to the slaver's hideout. The first was longer, but the path was easier to follow, it went through flat sand wastes and dried river courses. The second was shorter, but it would pass through canyons and stony barrens, making it hard on the party's vigor.

After considering each one, they decided to go through the shorter but harder path. They felt they had no time to waste and they needed to be quick. Guided by Arbitria (Druid) and Abbadon (Ranger) they followed the path until the spotted two individuals on the path ahead, a half-giant carrying a huge obsidian great sword, and a halfling carrying a spear with a very roguish appearance. The group tryied to hide and observe the couple, but Eben (Battlemind) did not manage to stay silently.

This lead to a fierce discussing about who was who, and what do each group wanted, and where they were heading. In the end, both realized they were after the same guys (The slaver Szur) and they decided to join forces to go after them.

July 24, 2011

Homemade Character Sheet - Alpha Version

Hello fellow delvers. I've pondering about making a character sheet to use on my own games and I finally made one. It's not perfect, I know, but it's my first version, alpha version let's say. My next step will be making power cards to go with this sheet.

I am currently running a Dark Sun game every other Sunday, and I have a good number of inexperience players at the table (I am quite rusty myself, rediscovering rules every session), so I still plan on making custom sheets for them, simpler than this one, similar to the one that WotC gives away with the D&D Encounters and events. When I get those done, I will post them here also.

For now, this is the character sheet I made. If anyone has any suggestions to add, please comment! If you have any character sheet you consider the best, say where I can get it so I can get some inspiration!

July 10, 2011

DM Aid - Combat Tracking Sheet

Last sunday I ran my first D&D game in the last two and a half years (many things lead me to focus on other things in my life for that time, but now I am back). So I was kinda of rusty in remembering some details, although I've read rules all over again, and a lot of source books.

One problems I saw me running at over and over was remembering the conditions affecting my players. I would say he was knocked prone and explain what was that in game terms but on his turn he would just act normally. I did not keep track of who was prone, who as dazed, I was hoping the player's themselves would. My mistake. So I was browsing through my stuff when I found an old combat tracking sheet I used few years I go and decided it was time to bring it back.

I redesigned it, including some new entries and took out others. I don't know if this will he it's final version, I will have to try it out on our next session, next sunday, to see if I need to add something more.

I made two versions, one colored with a parchment background and one just black and white.

July 06, 2011

Campaign Report - The Price of Freedom - 01

Last sunday, july 3rd, we gathered for our first game session. We've met before to discuss what kind of campaign we wanted, but this would be our first time actually playing. The group is composed of 7 people, me as the DM and 6 friends. For the first time I can recall my group has an equal number of female and male members.

This first session only 4 out of the 6 players showed up (one was traveling and the other was sick). The characters created were the following: Eben, a male battlemind mul, that after helping the rebellion to free Tyr of Kalak decided to set higher objectives and spread the good wherever he would go; Arbitria, a female half-elf Sentinel Druid, that, despite her relationship with the spirits of Athas, is more interested in taking advantage over those spirits to achieve her goals;  Abbadon, a male human Scout Ranger, a former Templar of Tyr that abandoned his post during the rebellion and now lives as a head-hunter and mercenary; and Althea, a female eladrin seeker, who lost her home to the defilers of Athas and now roam the world in search for vengeance and a meaning to survive. The party formed because of the circumstances in Tyr and the need to get resources to survive in the chaotic states of affair in the city.

June 26, 2011

Props and Handouts - NPC Cards

I have been thinking about making some handouts that many people could use just filling some PDF forms to enhance the game, like NPC cards to give to the players so they know who they have met; Quest cards, so the players have a more clearer reminder of their objectives; Reward cards, and so on.

On this first post of this subject I will be posting NPC cards that I have made that can be used by anyone. All that is needed to do is filling the forms on the file and printing it. Ideally you will want to print 4 of these cards in a sheet of paper (you need to adjust the print dialog for that).

June 15, 2011

Campaign Report - The Game We Want to Play

This is going to be a new series of articles on this blog. I will write about the campaign I will be DMing to my friends now that I am back to my home town. It has been 3 years since I last played D&D or any other tabletop RPG so I am kinda rusty.

On the other hand, I never read so much about DMing and creating a nice campaign and interesting adventures, so I do not feel so unprepared. One of the things I read about (in the Dungeon Master Guide 2) was Colaborative Campaign creation. So I decided to give it a first try with my group.

May 14, 2011

Monstrous Plots - Orcs

In the first Mounstrous Plots post we talked a little bit about kobolds and presented some situations involving those creatures to help create adventures. Now it's time we take a look at one of the most iconic monsters of every fantasy setting, the orcs.

Orcs are usually portrayed as savage, brutish and cruel humanoids with a taste for destruction. They tend to be primitive savages who value strength above all things. They survive on raiding other humanoids and other orc tribes, and they relish for violence. But not all orcs have to be this way.

Some scenarios describe orcs as a primitive folks with shamanistic traditions and a brutish but honorous code of conduct. Those orcs still value strength, but together with wisdom, elders, spirits and honor. Sometimes, orcs are presented as mindless berserkers and other times as highly militaristic warriors. They can be as varied as humans, but some common traits usually appear in all characterizations, their barbaric traditions and value of strength.

Following there are a few situation ideas to get adventures started. They were also based on the situations I talked about in the article I wrote about adventure building. They were also based on varied concepts about orcs that appear in fantasy such as orc's horde, their rivalry with dwarves, the wars they have between their tribes, their sense of honor.

April 19, 2011

Adventure Building (Part III): Cast

On the previous post I wrote a few things about elements of an adventure such as Plot and Location. Today we will talk a bit about the Cast of an adventure, another main element of any interesting story.

The player's characters are obviously the main characters of the adventure, but any story needs its supporting cast and, of course, a antagonist. About the antagonist, every cool adventure needs a villain, a character the players hate and want to defeat it, that makes the adventure goes forward.

April 09, 2011

Adventure Building (Part II): Location

On our last post we talked about the elements of a good adventure. Three of those I consider the main elements, which are the plot, the location and the cast. We already talked about the plot and suggested a few themes and some questions for you to think about on each one. Today we will talk about the location element.

The location element is where the adventure takes place, where the main acts of the story happen, where the final epic battle get fought. Those places have a significant influence on the adventure, and can make the story much more interesting and alive. It's one thing to battle kobolds on a bare dungeon room, but it's entirely different to battle them in an ancient temple dedicated to Tiamat built beneath an dragonborn's city ruin. The possibilities and images that come to your mind on the second scene are almost endless compared to the first one.

When you think about the place where the events will unfold you have to ask yourself what is different about that place that makes it special? Is there something that makes that particular location different from the others? Is there something magical, fantastic, terrible there? Those kind of questions help you think about where the adventure takes place. Sometimes the location can even be the adventure it self, like when the party needs to escape a dangerous maze-like dungeon. So when you plan your adventure, try to give the location a personality, interesting characteristics and an unique story. This will help you bring the story to life.

March 26, 2011

Adventure Building (Part I): Plot

I am about to DM an adventure for some people that never played D&D before. So I wanted to create a small, fast and exciting adventure so they would be hooked into D&D for now on. But how can I do that? By creating an adventure that makes them believe in it, an adventure they could not forget easily, an adventure with compelling elements.

So, what are those elements? Well there are numerous elements in an adventure, but the most important are the plot, the location, and the cast. Those three are the main elements that are the core of the adventure and define everything else like encounters, skill challenges, puzzles, atmosphere and others.

In order to make a memorable adventure, those elements should be worked very well by the Dungeon Master. Because of that I decided to make a helping sheet to make me think about those important elements. This post we will look at the plot element.

March 20, 2011

Monstrous Plots - Kobolds

This post is the first one of a series I am going to make about adventures plots involving creatures from Dungeons and Dragons. It will work something like this: I will choose a creature from the D&D universe and try to write a few adventures plots that include them either as enemies, allies, patrons or whatever trying to vary as much as I can. Also, in those plots, I will try to put the creatures in different situations, trying to avoid the cliché ones they are used associated with, but I can’t promise I will be successful in doing that all the time.

The first creature to appear in our Monstrous Plots series is the Kobold. Kobolds are small reptilian creatures usually known to be cowards and cruel murderers at the same time. They live in barrows with mazelike tunnels filled with deadly traps they make to avoid intruders to find them and prisoners to flee. Know to be a race of surprisingly excellent miners, Kobolds are fond of gems and shinning objects, which some says that they received that from their dragons ancestors. Kobolds revere dragons as if they were gods, although most of these “gods” ignore them or simply eat them. Many towns have ignored kobolds for too long considering them just as an occasional annoyance to one day see their community overrun by these creatures, even being known by their cowardice kobolds can be surprisingly bold if they have a proper reason.

Enough with the chitty chat, right? Let’s check those plots I talked about!

March 15, 2011

Pterrans Character's Options

Reviewing the design I made for the pterran race for D&D 4e, I realised that there was space for quite a few feats that would make the race more interesting to play and would give some story elements for a character.

In addition I decided to create a paragon path for pterran characters. This paragon path would reflect the premise that the pterrans prophets are seeing that the race will play an important role on the events that are about to occur in the Tyr Region. Even if you don’t have a pterran character in your group this could be an nice adventure seed where the heroes have to help a pterran adventurer to fulfill his destiny.

At the bottom, you can find a PDF with all the information on this post and a little something extra. Check it out.

March 10, 2011

Pterrans of the Hinterlands

As I said before, I never played Dark Sun before the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. I just knew about the campaign settings through pictures and few friends that actually played it. But since I read the Dark Sun Campaign Setting book for D&D 4th I became fascinated with the setting. I read both the original campaign setting and the expanded one. I also read a couple of supplements, and I am planning on reading all of them as soon as I can.

One of the things that I missed about the newest edition of the Dark Sun setting was a particular character race which has a strong connection with the setting in my opinion. The pterrans are a race of spiritual people with strong ties to the spirits of Athas. They are reptilian humanoids that revere the Earth Mother and follow paths to protect the world and the living creatures. Just recently they have made contact with the people from the Tyr Region, and they believe they will have an important role in future events regarding the destiny of Athas.

The following adaptation was made based in diverse sources including official and unofficial materials about the Pterrans. Feel free to give any suggestions and ideas to make this adaptation better. You can download a PDF version at the end of the post.

March 05, 2011

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate...

I never really had a chance to play with psionic classes over the last editions of Dungeons and Dragons. Mainly because I didn’t have the supplements that presented psionics and because I’ve always heard the rules were complicated and psionic powers were unbalanced.

In fact, I did bought the Expanded Psionics Handbook for 3.5 but by the time I got it fourth edition was released in a couple of months. I read it, I liked it, but I never played with psionic classes until recently.

With the release of the Player’s Handbook 3, Psionic Power was introduced to D&D fourth edition. Not that there weren’t psionic monsters and effects, but this book presented psionic classes, four of them. The Psion, classic psionicist who developed his powers through hard study and discipline; the Battlemind, which powers were honed with a combination of physical and mind training in battle; the Monk, who is the embodiment of the perfect balance between mind and body through hard discipline and martial arts; and, one of the most interesting classes in my opinion, the Ardent.

The Ardent is a psionicist that developed his psionic powers through emotions. He feels the mood around him and can absorb it to empower himself or he can do just the opposite. He can spread the feelings he has to those around him. Some Ardents are disciplined and keep their emotions very tightly controlled not to be overwhelmed by them. Others embrace them freely and let them have control of their actions. This class really reminds me of characters of a movie I really like. If you said Jedis, you’re right.

March 03, 2011

Colaborative Campaign Building

I read the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 a couple of weeks ago and realized something about my campaigns. I always made them thinking about myself, what I wanted it to be like, who I wanted the players to fight against, where I wanted to adventures to happen and so forth. By doing this I may have created good adventures, but with the help of my players I could have built greater ones that would relate to them more easily and they would remember it for years.

The book suggests that you should get input from your players about what they want in the campaign. What kind of campaign they you like to play? What enemies they want to face? Do they prefer combat encounters or interaction encounters?

February 19, 2011

Magic Items in Athas - Part II

Altough the Fixed Enhancement Bonus rule evens out the problems that could happen in a low magic items setting, such as Dark Sun, the characters should still have the opportunity to find them. First, because they are still useful, since the progression on the bonus table is slow. Another reason is that such items have special proprieties, such as special powers it gives to its owner. But, possibly, the most important reason to give magic items to the heroes is that the players really long for them. They expect to be rewarded for all the time and effort they put in their characters.
At the same page where the Dark Sun Campaign Setting recommends the use of the Fixed Enhancement Bonus rules, it also suggests a reduction on the number of magic items awarded. It suggests you should remove parcel 1 and 4 (which are the least and most powerful magic items) of the treasure given per level. This way, at each level, the party would receive about 2 magic items. The book also says you could replace one of them for a Boon or something nonphysical but with magic effects once in a while.
But for some people even then there would be too many magic items for Athas. For others it’s too few treasure to give to their players. An option, which I have been designing, is to give fantastic items suited to the world of Dark Sun that have magic proprieties similar to magic items, but that are not traditional magic items as we know it. They could be handed out in the place of the removed parcels or even as the remaining parcels to reflect how rare magic items on Athas are.

February 15, 2011

Magic Items in Athas - Part I

Athas is a world that is as desolate, post-apocalyptic and savage as it is awe-inspiring, savagely beautiful and fantastic. Deserts dominate the landscape, with a few places where one can find vegetation. The oceans have long been dried out and water is more valuable than gold. But the world wasn’t always like this. Athas had vast forests, wide rivers e great oceans, but something changed the world. Arcane magic devastated the planet. Civilizations, entire races and grand forests were wiped from the maps by Defilers during the Cleansing Wars. Preservers were hunt down and were almost eliminated. Athas is what it is today because of the corrupting power of defiling magic.
Because of that, arcane magic is not seen fondly by the majority of the people in Athas. In some places arcanists are still being hunted, whether they are Defilers or Preservers. The only ones who can use arcane powers without fearing repression of the masses are the Sorcerer-Kings and their Templars.
All of this has a consequence; magic items are scarce on Athas. Whether it is because the numbers of arcanists are very reduced or live hidden in fear, or because the Sorcerer-Kings have collected all the magic items they could put their hands on, or simply because the knowledge necessary to be able to make them is long lost, these objects are even rarer in Athas than in any other D&D campaign setting.
But this brings up a problem. The rules of D&D were designed considering classical fantasy settings where the heroes would acquire a variety of magic items through their adventures. The monsters are also built on this assumption, so higher level monsters are designed to be faced against magic wielding adventurers. What happens with Dark Sun heroes when they need to face such challenges?

February 10, 2011

Back to the GAME!

Finally! After two years away from Dungeon and Dragons, I am back to the game!
I began playing D&D on the first edition when it was released in Brazil in a boxed set by Grow. I had about nine years old and didn’t understand all the rules, but I played it anyways, for years. By the time I was 11 or so I bought the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books translated in Portuguese (my English was even worse than it is now). I thought the game to some friends and played it as soon as I could. We could make and Elf Fighter, a Dwarf Cleric, we could do a lot of things it wasn’t possible in the first edition. It was a blast. But the Portuguese edition didn’t have all the supplements the original version did.
When the third edition came out I could read the English books without any problem. Wow, how much improvement! The game offered almost infinite possibilities for characters and surprisingly the rules were simpler! It was a great edition, even with the whole confusion of the 3.5 update and new books (the rules were really improved), but somewhere in the way the game became too confusing, too many supplements and variable rules. Handling high level characters was a hard work (trying not to say it was a pain).
In 2008 WotC released the fourth edition of the game. It was similar to the third edition in the aspect of liberty and open possibilities but it went further. The game is now simpler, more balanced, easier to run and it offers possibilities that the previous editions did not offer. In the past the wizard of the group would be useful for just a few seconds while he would cast his only spell for the day. The fighter of the group can do a lot of other things besides just swing his sword at the monsters. The concept of Skill Challenges made all character contribute to the success of the group in encounters with or without combat.