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Tale of the Mage’s Ghost

Tale of the Mage’s Ghost

Trollclaw Ford is where the road between Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate crosses the river called Winding Water. Winding Water cuts through canyons above and below the ford, so it is the only place to cross the river for over one hundred miles above and below. The only problem is that this ford is in a wilderness known as The Trollclaws, because the jumble is home to an extraordinary number of trolls.

About fifteen years ago, a band of adventurers calling themselves the The High Helms decided to secure the ford. An abandoned manor already existed on a bluff overlooking the ford. The High Helms built a fortified wall around the manor, and added a tower. The High Helms secured the ford for over three years. Trade increased between Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate.

Then the assault started.

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Tutorial: Skull Fountain

I’ve always been fascinated with modeling and dioramas. I’m starting to get interested in building settings for my D&D games. Here’s a cool simple fountain you can build.

DND Crafts

A little fountain has many uses: the party may benefit from the healing powers of an ancient god or needs to stop the endless flow of blood part of an evil sacrificial ritual. Oh, and it’s easy and quick to craft.

fountain_4

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Posted by on October 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Splitting the Party

DMs Block Episode 111: Let’s Split Up the Gang mentioned what I see as one of the major differences between AD&D in the 1980s and D&D 5E today.

To be brutally honest, the D&D world back in the day was much more lethal. All of us DMs back then tended to follow Gygax’s lead of setting up an adventure and letting the dice roll how they may. Most DM die rolls were in secret, and if a DM got caught fudging rolls in favor of the party, that DM hung his head in shame at being a softy.

Today, the emphasis is even more on role playing and building a story in a cooperative world between the DM and players. And I think this is a good thing.

This is very evident in this podcast’s topic of ‘splitting the party’. Splitting the party was a huge no-no in AD&D. DM Mitch (or Ian, I can’t remember) pointed out that back in the day, if a party split up and went into a room with monsters, the now reduced party faced the full monster roster in the room. If the room was written to contain 16 orcs and 3 ogres, and the thief and a fighter split off from the rest of the group of eight players, they now had to face the full 16 orcs and 3 ogres by themselves. And this is how the ‘never split the party’ philosophy was born.

Today, a DM would be expected to scale the encounter back to take into account the reduced number entering the room. A DM might scale that encounter back to a handful of orcs and one ogre. It seems like DMs today are expected to make things up on the fly even more than they were back in the ‘80s.

There are many valid reasons to want to split the party, and DMs Mitch and Ian over at the DMs Block have a great episode here looking at those reasons to split the party.

In one way, I think this is an awesome advance in the way the game is played. It does make a lot more work for the DM, but I think it pays off in the long run and gets even more buy-in from the players.

And I don’t have to feel bad as often over a TPK.

If you missed the link above, here’s another way to get to that podcast episode…

DMs Block Episode 111: Splitting the Party

 

 

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D20: Advantage as Caution

This sounds like a pretty cool idea! I think we will playtest it in our group.

System sans Setting

The mechanic of rolling 2d20 instead of one is very helpful in both the newest edition of D&D (where it’s used for Advantage and Disadvantage), and for other games that use an uncurved die for a single roll. By rolling 2d20 (or even more), you’re essentially adding a curve to a roll whose results would otherwise be linear. Particularly if you read the dice independently, you’ve made the results much more similar to a dice pool or iterated series of rolls. This serves to reduce swinginess, by further reducing the chance of fluke successes or failures (I suspect most players are more likely to try rolls on their high skills when given the option than their low ones, so are going to have a roll swing into a failure on a high skill more often than it swings into a success on a low skill).

Ultimately, there are a decent…

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Posted by on May 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

The New Kid in Town

We played our first D&D game in about three weeks last Wednesday night. The Pub hasn’t been updated in that long, either. Last Wednesday’s game didn’t really give me any material for a post either, but I do have thoughts on a D&D creature that I believe has been underutilized.

Hobgoblins.

I’ve only seen hobgoblins used a few times in D&D campaigns. It seems to me that they are always played as tougher orcs. That might have been the case in AD&D. I don’t know how hobgoblins were handled in D&D 2E, 3E or 4E, but in 5E, hobgoblins have some great traits that can make them particularly brutal. In particular, I like the Martial Advantage of hobgoblins.

Hobgoblins use Martial Advantage to inflict extra damage when they hit a target and an ally is within 5 feet. Hobgoblins inflict this extra damage because they are disciplined soldiers who stay in close support of one another. The extra damage is a way to reflect the mass effect of a disciplined hobgoblin unit.

The question is—how should this play out on the tabletop? Read the rest of this entry »

 

Levelling Up

Last Wednesday was Josh’s Icewind Dale campaign. My wizard is not far from 4th level. This brings us to a difference between AD&D and 5E.

At 4th level, my wizard gets more hit points and another 2nd level spell, just like in AD&D. However, in 5E, players can also increase Read the rest of this entry »

 

When Time Runs Out

Sometimes you just run out of time in a game session.

 
I know, I know…lotsa players really have no concept of this phenomenon. You start a game session, and you play it through to completion. Three hours…eight hours…fourteen hours…whatever it takes, you play until you are done. College students might be able to do this. Unemployed gamers might be able to do this. High school players might be able to get away with this on weekends, or if they have very permissive parents.

 
That’s not how it works for many of us. High schools players usually have curfews. Players with jobs need to get enough sleep to get up for work in the morning. Married players need to make sure they are giving enough time to their spouses and families. This is just respect for other people in our lives, and for the responsibilities of life.

 
So what do you do when you run out of time in a session? How do you make sure you don’t run out of time?

 
First, time management should be the primary responsibility of the game master. The players need to be sure they let the GM know if they have a hard deadline by which they need to quit playing, but the GM controls the pace of the game, and the GM knows what she has in store for the players. The players do not know these things. Therefore, the good GM will keep an eye on the clock and respect his player’s time constraints.

 
When the GM knows how much time she has, the good GM will be able to control the pace of the game. Keep the game on track. Limit distracting table talk. I know that players want to tell war stories about past glories, and things they do in my game might remind them of “that time when…”, but try to keep your current game moving forward.

 
Keep an eye on the clock as the game progresses. Know where you are, and what you still need to accomplish in this session. Sometimes I might modify on the fly what I have the players doing. I might not throw that second wave of hobgoblins on the table. I might decide that a minor side quest would be more distracting right now then useful, so postpone it for later.

 
A good DM is also going to spot good stopping points along the way. Sometimes right before a big combat that I know is going to take longer than the time we have, I will call the game early. At first, some players groaned about this, but they have seen that his usually works out for the best.

 
Sometimes you are in the middle of fast and furious action, and the time deadline is there. The temptation will be to blow through that time deadline and just press on. I would advise you to weigh that decision carefully. Deciding to push on through might have very significant unintended consequences later.

 
For instance, in my regular group, I have one high school student with a 9:00 curfew. This player has pretty strict parents who would not be understanding of blown curfews. I understand parents setting curfews. When I was heaviest into gaming, in high school in the early ‘80s, my parents always set a curfew. They were also firm believers in corporal punishment. When they said to be home at 9:00, they did not mean 9:01. And they meant 9:00 by their clock, which was always roughly five minutes fast. It was always safest to make sure I was home fifteen minutes early. I won’t get into what happened to me if I was late. I’ll just say that there were consequences.

 
I don’t think my player would face such serious consequences as I did, but he would have some consequences nonetheless. They might not want him to come back to the game at all. That would suck. A short sighted decision to blow a curfew could result in his not gaming at all—at least, not playing in my Wednesday night game. Everybody with responsibilities face similar consequences. A significant other might be looking forward to one of your gamers getting home for some together time at the end of the evening. What’s going to happen when that player comes home hours late? What if one of your players plays later than planned, and then sleeps through his alarm the next morning and is late to work? When I supervised a CCC crew, the biggest problem I had with gamers on the crew was when they would have an all-night session before a work day and then be pretty useless at work because they were so tired. As a boss, and especially as a gamer, I did not take pity on game-induced fatigue and made sure there were consequences. They learned how to game and be responsible to their jobs.

 
So as a DM, you need to be able to spot good stopping places, even in the middle of fast and furious action. Be aware that some spots are better than others. Be creative in picking those spots.

 
For instance, in high school one of our favorite RPGs was a World War 2 themed game called Behind Enemy Lines. I was running a game based upon the old Rat Patrol TV show. The players were a recon squad in North Africa. They had two jeeps with pedestal mounted machine guns. In one game, they got caught open in the desert by a flight of German Stuka dive bombers…and we were running up against my curfew. I went ahead and started the battle. The planes made a couple of strafing runs first. The jeep drivers started evasive maneuvers, flooring it and spinning madly through the sand, throwing up big old sand rooster tails. The gunners held on and returned fire on the Stukas. I had one eye on my watch the whole time. Finally, the Stukas made their bomb runs. The first drop was a clean miss. The second drop was a near miss on the lead jeep—and I was out of time. The bomb exploded just yards away from the jeep, the jeep tipped over, the two guys started spilling out—and ‘To Be Continued’ flashed across the screen.

 
This is called a cliffhanger ending, and I love them. They are especially effective for keeping motivation high to get back to the game. Nobody is going to want to miss that session!

 
I had to do this in the last session of my Wednesday night game. The party has been looking for the cousin of one of the party members. The cousin had been captured by goblins. The party finally found the old abandoned castle in which the cousin is being held. They managed to find a back door entrance, and they made it to the room in which the cousin is held. In the room were a drow and a bugbear. The party surprised the drow and bugbear, and battle was on. The drow was the focal point for the party’s attentions, and she got hit pretty hard in the surprise round. She drew a dagger and dropped to the cousin lying unconscious in a corner. It looks like she’s going to try to off the helpless cousin. The bugbear is battling the other half of the party. Another surprise is about to spring on the party.

 
And then we were at my player’s hard curfew.

 
“To Be Continued…” Heh, heh, heh.

 

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