Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to my other reason for this blog, D&D

WoTC ( Wizard's of the Coast ) for those of you not into p&p RPGs, has unveiled their new forum/blog/wiki/everything else website here I linked from there to here, hoping to find some new readers and to keep my thoughts centralized.

What I have seen so far over there is:
They have kept the old forums together - Good thing
They have added blogs for every one of their users - Probably a good thing as once the newness dies down the serious bloggers will keep bubbling to the top.
They have added a wiki - Probably good, will depend on an active community which it seems they have.
They have added Groups - Seems like something useful, I think I will try and use it for my current gaming group.

It seems like a worthwhile though un-necessary change. Previously Wizards had a forum system and this will still be the core of their site. There will probably be some community stars that will rise to the top and provide insight, information and materials of worth in their blogs and groups, but the most important information will still be found in the forums.

Hopefully I'll have more to say once I've had a better chance to look around the new site.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Surviving in a new world...

The Fallen Earth NDA has been lifted, this means I can make some comments on the game I was beta testing.

Fallen earth is a standard quest/xp grind MMO with an interesting story to be discovered as you adventure. It is set in the Southwestern United States following the downfall of society.

Your attributes are raised by 1 point when you level and can be increased as you wish with attribute points. Your attributes are used to calculate the max lvl of your skills, in addition you can use APs to raised the max level. The only way you can raise the actual value of your skills is through use. So if you want to get good at cooking it's time to start putting together some of that grilled tainted goat and get your skill up. The crafting areas you get are: Armorcraft, Ballistics, Cooking, Geology, Medicine, Mutagenics, Nature, Science and Weaponry.

The equipment and abilities you can use are limited by the amount of skill you have in a particular area. For example, a light crossbow is not usable until your skill in rifle has exceeded 21, the mutation "patch 2" is not available until your alpha mutation skill is over 15, etc. If you have ever played Asheron's call you will get the idea, its a skill based system, and I expect that it will have issues with minmaxing just like Asheron's call. I did not get a character very far into the game, so I can't comment on how much of a problem it is with the game in it's current state.

What I did see was very interesting. You gain xp for completing missions, killing monsters, gathering resources and crafting items. The game is very crafter friendly, it seems like you could probably level up completely by gathering and crafting, though some defensive skills might be handy when that mutated chicken is guarding the old barrels you want to look through. Crafting takes time in the game, from 2 minutes for small things to 15 minutes for more complicated things like a gun. I believe some of the higher level items took even longer, I seem to recall someone saying that crafting an item took 6 hours. The nice thing is that your character can be crafting items while you are not logged in, as long as you have something in your crafting queue when you log out you can get something done while you're sleeping. Another nice thing about the crafting system is that nearly anything in the game is craftable, chances are the clothes you're wearing and the ammo you're using will all be made by you or your clanmate crafter. I saw some items drop from human mobs, but by that time I was already wearing something better that I crafted myself. I felt like I was a survivor taking what I could scrounge up and making use of it. I really liked what was done with the gathering/crafting system.

My highest level character was 9th lvl. I know it doesn't sound like much but that was a decent amount of play time, not the first 9 levels in 60 minutes or less you get from WoW. I think I probably took about 20 hours of play time to reach that level. Luckily there is quite a bit to do in that level range, the newbie town you start in can easily get you through the first 5 levels and after that you will be visiting many other scattered town and enclaves. You have a chance to "train" a horse by crafting it before you get to 5th level, with a horse the long distances that really help make this game immersive. Early on you are also started down a quest path to gather parts for an ATV to get you zipping around the post-apocolyptic waste.

I still haven't decided if I liked the game enough to buy it and subscribe, I can't decide if it's really ready for release yet.

I know I didn't cover everything about the game, it really is quite extensive. I will keep posting thoughts as I have them and I will answer any questions people might have.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How should I improve my descriptive vocabulary?

Ok, I'm trying to improve my DMing. I want to be able to come up with descriptive words at the right time that convey the right feelings for the areas my players are in. In an effort to add these words to my vocabulary I have spent some time searching for words, hopefully in list format so that I have many to choose from. I am not sure what words I will need though, I have started with a couple and have provided those below, but what other words should I find synonyms for? Where do other DMs find their words and inspiration?

For instance, I know there's a number of words for a mausoleum:
boneyardcharnelcharnel house
churchyardcity of the deadcrypt
marbleownmemorial parkmortuary
potter's fieldresting placesepulcher
tombvaultfunerary grounds
God's Acreboot hillcatacomb

I have looked up words for castle but what else should I be looking for?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Anything New?

Haven't posted in a bit.

Reason 1 - We skipped a week of gaming, our host had something come up so we did not have a place to play and we would have been short of our 3/4 quorum.

Reason 2 - Other than not having a game session to talk about, I haven't had much else I wanted to talk about.

So I have decided to ramble a bit before I continue preparing for another session of D&D this week.

Regarding D&D
I have started using more and more a program called Masterplan. This is an application specifically designed for 4th edition, though with the extensibility that is supposed to be built into the app, I suppose it could be adapted for any game system.

Masterplan is designed around libraries, which are collections of objects. These include monsters, map tiles, templates, traps and skill challenges. Each object has its own editor, specifically designed to capture the information that is important for the object you are creating. The only object that doesn't have an editor is the map tiles, instead these are imported images of the WoTC Dungeon Tile products. You can find these images elsewhere on the net, or I suppose you could scan them yourself if you own the tiles like I do. The image in my previous post is a screen capture of a map I made using the tiles, though I planned the dungeon out with my tiles beforehand so that I knew I wasn't using duplicates.

The main work area of Masterplan is the Workspace. In here we can create plot points and join them together in decision tree format. I have used it to this point just to organize my thoughts and prepare for the near future, it would probably make more sense to break down each mini adventure into plot points and keep them seperate. I'm still trying to decide how this will work best for me. I'll try and give some more feedback regarding my experiences as time goes by, but in the meantime, go check it out for yourself at

Monday, August 3, 2009

A simple dungeon

This is the map of the last dungeon my players have run through. As I mentioned earlier this is the first time in 4th edition that I had to put together some encounters and map out some dungeons. In earlier editions of the game there was less need to make an encounter challenging via character mobility. In most cases you had a fighter type standing in front of the rest of the players, creating a "log jam" at a doorway allowing the less armored members to pew pew at the baddies while he held them off being healed by his cleric.

In 4th edition they have emphasized the mobility of the characters and their opponents. Most if not all player classes have abilities that allow them to move opposing monsters as do some of the monsters. The players could just turtle up in a hallway if they wished, though as I'm writing this I suppose a little discouragement by an "area effect" attack could have ended that, though their warlock tries to do this as well by bunching the monsters and dropping his one AE attack on them .

I referred to this dungeon in my previous post. The first area where the players grouped up in the entrance stairway and tried to reduce the amount of attacks they took at any one time is in the upper right hand side of the map. Then they went down the stairs and fought a demon and some gnolls in the lower tomb area. This was where the new player dumped the oil filled brazier. In the upper left side of that room you see a trap door that leads down into some natural caves.

The players decided to go down into the caves, the warlock being all pessimistic and assuming he was going to fall when attempting to climb down, suggested they go down prior to their short rest after combat so that he could recover from the fall. The players used a rope that was spiked into the tunnel wall, As fate would have it the warlock did fall as foretold with a roll of a 1, the other characters made it down successfully. Before the characters started their rest, which I would have interrupted with a gnoll attack, they found some of the gnolls around a corner and a fight ensued.

I had designed this fight as two encounter fight, shortly before they would finish off the first encounter I was going to have one of the monsters call out that they were being attacked. I also hoped the fight was going to be a bit more mobile, I had made the area fairly huge and I had put various ways for the combatants to move around and flank. I had also included some Shadar-Kai, these shadowy humanoids have short teleport movement power that added some chaos to the fight. In the end the characters prevailed ( as they should ) and we ended it there. I have yet to find out if they thought the encounter was interesting and if they felt challenged.

For any D&D 4th edition players that may wander by, here are the two encounters that they ran into in the last room:
6 - Gnoll Raiders ( a minion variety that I created )
1 - Evistro AKA "Carnage Demon"
2 - Gnoll Huntmasters

The second encounter in the caverns was:
1 - Shadar Kai Witch
1 - Shador Kai Gloomblade
6 - Gnoll Raiders ( a minion variety that I created )