Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Classic D&D, Weapons.

Bat in the Attic - Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:03
My friend Chris over on Clash of Spear on Shield talks about Sling damage versus Large creature. Particularly how sling damage increases versus large damage and how he finds issues with that idea.

Which leads to a wider question of the consequences of the different options for modelling weapons, injury, and armor class in various editions of classic DnD.

Recap
In Chainmail man to man combat the odds of an opponent be killed was found on a chart cross indexing weapon versus a specific type of armor. You roll that number or higher on 2d6 and the target was killed.

This element was not in the original release of the 3 LBB (Little Brown Books) but worked it way in with the release of Greyhawk. There it was presented as a weapon versus AC chart. Using the chart would result in a modifier (or not) to your to-hit roll if you were using that weapon versus that armor.

The chart is derived from the man to man chart in Chainmail. Basically that was a 8 or better to hit was a +0 modifer and the rest were calculated from there. Although Gygax tweaked the number as it doesn't quite line up with the man-to-man chart.

Greyhawk also saw the introduction of variable weapon damage where each weapon used a different dice and/or modifier. Along with a different set of damage for large creatures.

Finally in ADnD we see weapon length, weapon space requirement, and weapon speed factors. Weapon length explicitly defined how far an opponent can be attacked, and weapon space defines how small of a space a weapon can be used effectively. Weapon Speed factors only came into play if initiative was tied and could result in multiple attack for the wielder of the weapon.

The State of the Mechanics
Not all of these mechanics found their way into people's campaigns. Either back then or today. Of these varying weapon damage is the one that is most commonly used. A different set of damage versus large creatures is not found as often. Weapon Length is sometimes a factor especially if the weapon is clearly a polearm meant to be used in the 2nd rank or further back. Weapon space requirements is also run on an ad-hoc basis.

Weapon versus AC may be a little less popular than Weapon Speed Factor but not by much. Both are are generally not used. Weapon vs AC involves yet another chart lookup, and Weapon Speed Factor was part of a initiative system so poorly understood that there are two separate interpretations and  multiple page documents to attempt to explain them.

My Take
So when it comes to my Majestic Fantasy Rules, my reasoning was a follows. The core of combat is the to hit roll versus Armor Class. It bundles actual contact with overcoming the armor into a single roll and an essential part of how classic editions work.

I think varying weapon damage is the way to go. Injury is caused by force. Force is determined by mass time acceleration. Different weapons have different masses and are designed differently to channel that mass into force. So varying the damage dice for different weapon is a good way to model this without getting overly complex.

Because damage is a result of force, which equal mass time acceleration, it doesn't make sense to me to vary damage for large creature. Instead a more straight forward method to give them more hit point or hit dice to represent their increased mass. Luckily classic DnD is consistent with this with the various giant versions of creatures so I don't have to do any work in this regard.

As for weapon speed I prefer individual initiative where everybody rolls 1d6 plus bonuses. High roll has the option of acting first. The classic weapon speed mechanic has little relevance for me as it tied tightly to the ADnD initiative system.

While I think that Weapons versus AC is one chart too many, I think the concept is sound. Different weapons are designed differently and some are more effective than other against certain types of armor. Despite the abstract nature of classic edition combat, it at level that I think a light touch would be add something to combat.

 I opted to handle this by noting any special bonuses in the description of the weapon. For example maces gets +1 to hit versus opponents wearing chainmail or gelatinous creatures like ochre jellies or black puddings.

This method allowed to add other interesting attributes to weapons with a similar light touch. For example an axe can be used to pin a weapon if the opponent fails their saving throw. Something I learned from reading how axe were used throughout history. Typically this is followed up by a blow from the shield or a takedown after grappling with the opponent.

You can read my take with the either of the following two free downloads.

The Majestic Fantasy Basic Rules
The Majestic Fantasy Equipment Rules
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Save or Die! Podcast #154

Zenopus Archives - Fri, 07/19/2019 - 13:43


I recently had the pleasure of returning as a guest on the podcast Save or Die!, this time with DMs Carl, Courtney and Chrispy, and it is now available for listening:
Save or Die! Adventure 154 - Holmes Basic
"The three hosts are together again in the latest Save Or Die! where we talk Holmes Basic with our guest the Arch Zenopus himself Zach of the Zenopus Archives. A SOD favorite gets reexplored as we take a deep dive into what makes Holmes Basic such an endearing part of D&D history."Also, don't miss the Actual Play of the dungeon run by Carl, the first part of which is at the end of the episode (I'm not part of this).

Links for Further Reading on Topics Discussed on the Show:

The Warlock D&D Rules

Holmes Manuscript Part 3: "Elves Muse Decide"

Holmes Manuscript Part 16, covering attacks per round in combat

Holmes Manuscript Part 10, section on Magic Missile

Holmes Manuscript Part 17, section on The Parry

Article on origins of the Ochre Jelly and Blob

Summary of Tolkien References in the Blue Book

Holmes Manuscript Part 19: "If One Wanted to Use a Red Dragon..."

Holmes Manuscript Part 46: "Zenopus Built a Tower": intro to the Sample Dungeon

Zenopus Dungeon Factions, including the Thaumaturgist

Article in a New Cthulhu Zine, Bayt Al Azif issue #1

The Tower of Zenopus in Ghosts of Saltmarsh


Earlier Save or Die episodes that may be of interest:

Side Adventure 20: NTRPGCon Wrap Up 6/14/19 --- at 17:30 Carl talks about how I guested as his version of Zenopus in his Sat night Discos & Dragons game

Side Adventure 16: Favorite Boxed Set 1/7/19 --- at 8:50 Carl talks about Holmes Basic and mentions this site

Side Adventure 14: House Rules! with guest Chris Holmes 10/6/18

Episode 124: Save vs. Zenopus 7/17/16 --- my previous occasion as guest

Adventure 136: Michael Thomas on Journeymanne Rules 5/16/17

Side Adventure 12: J. Eric Holmes Seminar NTRPGCon 8/14/16 --- Audio recording of a  panel with Chris Holmes, Allan Grohe & myself 

Episode 122: Save vs. Chris Holmes 5/11/16

Episode 117: Save vs. Blueholme 11/16/15 --- guest Michael Thomas

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Omniverse: Incumbents are from Earth, Sivanas are from Venus

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 07/19/2019 - 11:00

In September of 1936, all across America aircraft beginning dropping flyers proclaiming a new candidate for the highest office in the land. At the urging of her father, Beautia Sivana was running for President. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana planned to stage a coup once his daughter was in office. Hers was the most massive, multi-media, write-in campaign this country has ever seen. Her beautiful visage graced the covers of magazines and full page newspaper ads. Her captivating voice could be heard on radio addresses. Women were cool to her candidacy, but men were enthralled. Most men. Boy reporter, Billy Batson, wasn’t fooled one bit. His alter ego, Captain Marvel foiled the Sivanas’ plot and returned mad scientist and would-be president to Venus*, where Beautia would have to content herself with being Empress.

Ultimately, Beautia didn’t share her father’s devotion to evil and in fact pursued a career in social work upon her return to Earth, according to some accounts.

*Or what Sivana said was Venus. It is difficult to square the real planet with its depiction in this record.

Shooting fish in an OSR barrel - Some Guidelines In the Table Top Hobby & the OSR

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 07/19/2019 - 03:14
One of the things that I really miss about the world without the internet was the scale of TSR back in the classic days. If you were lucky enough to find a Dragon magazine at the local street level then it was a gateway to world that someone in small town New England America at eight or nine didn't know anything about. Gary Gygax is someone that I knew only in passing  & having talked with at Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'Playing With The OSR' Using & Abusing OSR Systems & Adventures For Campaign Use

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 18:40
Alright so I've been getting a bit of heat about the fact that the last blog post used classic original Dungeons & Dragons & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books with both Godbound & Stars Without Number.  Many of the main line OSR retroclone systems will work with the Sine Nomine Publishing lines of games. Why?!None of that really matters by comparison to say Godbound or Stars Without Number. Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'Mi Go & Mythologies' More Old School & OSR Campaign Workshop

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 14:52
We've had some pop up thunderstorms & 'what not' weather here so I've been down under the weather today. But my mind's been churning over & over about this Godbound rpg  campaign. I've been writing in the back of my mind between work jobs. One of the primary foes that I had for my early games were the Mi Go. Specifically, the Mi Go of the early original  Dragon Magazine #12 (Feb 1978) which Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Spelljammer: Dead Stars & Outer Monstrosites

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:00
Art from the Oldstyle Tales Press editionAs we understand the word," said the old Doctor. "Though, mind you, there may be a third factor. But, in my heart, I believe that it is a matter of chemistry; Conditions and a suitable medium; but given the Conditions, the Brute is so almighty that it will seize upon anything through which to manifest itself. It is a Force generated by Conditions; but nevertheless this does not bring us one iota nearer to its explanation, any more than to the explanation of Electricity or Fire. They are, all three, of the Outer Forces—Monsters of the Void.... - William Hope Hodgson, "The Derelict"
I've been thinking about a Spelljammer recently that keeps the basic concept but utterly jettisons the feel or flavor. Spelljammer has never felt me to be about exploration, rather the vessels flying through spaces seem a means to an end. There's nothing wrong with that, but plenty of science fiction literature paints space as a place for confronting the unknown. This is really a perfect fit for Spelljammer where its pre-modern, "magical" spacecraft put the stars within reach but not the science to understand any of it. Not that there is necessarily science as we know it to understand, in any case.
I think I would look to the horror/adventure stories of William Hope Hodgson, specifically his nautical yarns like The Boats of the Glen Carrig, "The Voice in the Night," "A Tropical Horror," and "Demons of the Sea." A little pseudo-science borrowed from his Carnacki stories could only help.
The characters are competent space-hands, perhaps mildly colorful rogues like Howard's Wild Bill Clanton or just working stiffs like the crew of the Nostromo in Alien, not bold explorers or science fantasy swashbucklers. Their jobs involving them going through places that are not (usually) inhabited by hostile species of space orcs or the like, but are instead fundamentally almost wild, always strange. Weird danger can rear it's head at any time, and your vessel is just another ship that disappeared in the Void.
Weird phenomena should be encountered as frequently as monsters, I think. Monsters, when they do show up should be unfamilar, and probably not seen enough to become mundane.
Beyond the stories of Hodgson and Alien, other potential sources of inspiration could be the comic series Outer Darkness, the science fiction stories of Clark Ashton Smith, Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, and of course, Moby Dick

Juggers coming! Juggers coming!

Two Hour Wargames - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 22:51
Just got Qwik back from the editor. Look for some final Bat Reps and the game to be released sometime next week. And then there's After the Horsemen End Times, but that's another story.  
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Don't Even Fix A Price - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Actual Play Session Report II

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 15:33
Further bits from last night's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game with DM Steve.We began the exploration of the inner workings of the sink hole with our two thieves repelling into the void with a pair of expensive silk & spiderweb ropes we had picked up back in the capital. They had short swords & mini wrist cross bows in the ready. We didn't have long to wait till we heard Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Spreading Word

Hack & Slash - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 14:39
Megadungeon #4 is coming, in about a week.

But there's something that needs to be done first.

The exciting part is discovering new worlds and spaces. How do I do that? Well, last time I sold some advertisements for things. And that was nice, and it got the word out about some great things to people who might not have ever considered them before.

But what I really want is the interesting feeling of looking through the ads in the back of old Dragon magazines.The pages with all the weird cool stuff.

So, look. I'm "Selling" advertising space. It's 20$ for a half page, 40$ for a full A5 page.
Except, if you don't have the money, and you have a project, you should go ahead and send me an ad.

It's more important to get the word out about a cool thing then it is to restrict access to letting people know about cool stuff.

It doesn't even have to be visual—if you have a small blurb about a product or your company, one that hundreds of buyers who are getting a 5e/basic megadungeon would be interested in do not let this opportunity go away.

Advertisements, questions and comments as well as advertisement payments (on paypal) can be sent to campbell at oook dot cz. The "deadline" for getting me your stuff or reserving a slot is Friday—let me know by then. But you'll actually have a bit longer to get it together.

Hack & Slash FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Highfell

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 11:17
By Greg Gillespie Self-published Labyrinth Lord Levels 1-

Local villagers call for aid! An eerie green light appeared atop the Dwimmerhorn Mountain. The light came from HighFell – the ruins of an ancient wizard school. The infernal blaze grew until a great explosion rocked the mountain. Like a massive floating island, HighFell pulled away from the mountaintop and now slowly drfits across The Great Salt Reach. What happened to HighFell? Why does it float errily across the landscape? Are you brave (or foolish) enough to explore the ruins of HighFell: The drifting Dungeon?

This 248 page “lost valley” adventure location details twenty wizard towers, ten dungeons, and a small overland region in about 120 pages. Lots of interactivity and a mix of every element that D&D contains are surrounded by text that is just a step beyond minimalism. It’s good.

There’s this Land of Wizards on this mountaintop. A bunch of wizard towers, buildings, etc. The wizards generally move on/out and the one day the wizardland rips off the top of the mountain and starts floating through the sky over a little region. When it reaches a certain boundary it teleports back to the far side of the region and drifts over it again. That was awhile ago, now the top of the mountain still floats across the sky, but the plateau is mostly ruins … except for all those wizard towers sticking up …

Got it? Big regional map. Over it a small “lost valley” floats. Your party gets it ass to mars and loots all of the wizard school remains they can. Most of the wizard towers are level 1-3, with some 3-5 and 5-7 thrown in. They tend to have about twenty or so rooms on several basic levels above ground. About half the wizard towers have dungeons under them with about sixty or so rooms. And then the plateau has wandering monsters in its 300’ wide hex-full-of-rando-ruins-in-between-the-wizard-towers. And sometimes instead of teleports to the “upwind” side of the regional map, when it reaches the “downwind” side it will instead teleport in to an elemental plane or a demi-plane for a day or so, mixing up the rando encounters with some of THOSE inhabitants. 

Interactivity is high. These being wizard towers, etc there is a lot of shit to fuck with. Force fields, constructs, levels, and buttons. A corpse on the ground, wiggling a bit? Wonder what’s going on there? And I fucking LOVE IT when the party is presented with things to wonder about, even something as simple as a wiggling corpse on the ground. Things to do beyond hacking! Some light factions with some agendas, especially as higher-level play is reached. Challenges here go up to level 9 or so, I’d guess? 

The overland map is full of landmarks, things to see in the distance to draw your eye towards travel there. There’s a little illustration book with an illustration of each wizards tower WHICH I FUCKING LOVE! Greg usually has some new mechanic/feature for his dungeons. In this one its a bunch of Wizard Hats and and a system for looting books and spell components, with an extensive table of book titles provided to add detail. He’s got a little section covering all of the various ways folks can get up to the floating plateau, from potions, to spells, to mounts, to teleport, etc. This anticipates a need of the DM and takes care of it … providing them the information they need during play. Exactly what a designer should be doing. 

Who’s a jerkfaced jerk? That’s right! Me! And now let the bloodletting and wailing begin!

The hooks and rumors section are mostly perfunctory to get the party TO the region to see the floating place. It doesn’t feel integrated at all, and while a homebase town is provided it, again, doesn’t feel integrated in to the adventure. Sure, there are some ties between the town and plateau, but other data, that the party is likely to want to search for an find answers to, is not really present. The main content is the plateau and the towers/dungeons. 

Cross-references are few and far between and there’s not really a way for the party to NOT get in to trouble with the higher-level towers early on. The lower level ones are generally visible and near the edge, but you could walk in to something dangerous. Which is ok, but putting the level ranges on the Wizard reference sheet would have helped the DM guide the players a bit by dropping hints rather than hiding the level ranges in the main body of text. I just penciled mine in on the map, which does what I need it to do.

Rooms descriptions are a hair above minimal. “The hallway is empty with the exception of some

rubble debris and leaves blown in from outside.” Ok, blowing leaves. I can work with that a little. Another room says “Two partially-destroyed beds and a wooden box sit against the eastern wall. There is nothing of value.” The rooms are easy to scan and run because of this, but also come across as more than slightly generic. Giving each room a title like “Destroyed Bedroom” or “Once opulent bedroom” or something may have helped with this. Further, I noted a lot of “this room was”, “this room has” and so on in the adventure text. It’s like there’s no context assumed. Yeah, it’s a room. This just pads out the text and I think I recognize, in my own writing a weakness in this sort of description. A kind of passivity in the text.

It makes repeated but infrequent references to both Barrowmaze and Arachia for certain monsters and/or rules, so be aware of that. It’s not really anything important that can’t be handwaved though.

Random tables. Weird ass sky-lost-valley adventuring site. Hexes. Towers. Dungeons. Interactivity. Terseness. Some social. Rival parties. Elemental planes. A homebase. New magic items (to go with the boatload of generic book ones) and new monsters. This adventure takes just about every element D&D has that makes it good and exercises it a bit. Better bring a lot of food, torches and hench with you when you make it up top to the plateau … you probably gonna be there a bit and need to manage your resources …

If I were running this I’d make some generous printouts. One for the new monsters. One for the wanderers and demi-plane stuff. Print out the “plateau wind drift” paragraph and attach it to my chart. I don’t see a lot of need to make notes or highlight text, but rather print out stuff already there for “situational” references. I’ll happily add this to my dungeonland campaign, and pay the cash for the PDF. My biggest complaint is that I’d prefer just two-three more words per description, for some evocativeness. This is a great example of how the D&D elements work together to create emergent play in a non-linear fashion. 

This is $35 at DriveThru. That’s for the PDF. There’s no preview and Greg explains why in the DriveThru description. But, still, a link to another preview in the DriveThru description would have been nice. $35 is a bit much for a PDF blind buy. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/277804/HighFell-The-Drifting-Dungeon?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Don't Even Fix A Price - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Actual Play Session Report

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 06:52
Tonight I took a break from being behind the screen to take a break & get into playing within my friend DM Steve's rotating Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game in Litchfield,Ct. So once again I dusted off my Hyperborean warlock character Mojin Wormus. This would be my fifth or so game in this campaign.I met the rest of the party down on the docks around Butcher's Bay & we Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Dreadstar Omnibus

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 01:06

I backed the 3 volume Dreadstar Omnibus Kickstarter from Ominous Press, and the digital versions dropped yesterday. They look great and include some material that I haven't seen before.

Though the Kickstarter is over, you can still pre-order the books.

[BLOG] Noise or Signal? Further Thoughts on Creativity and Randomness

Beyond Fomalhaut - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 20:51
Art by Virginia Frances Sterrett
Creativity aid, not creativity replacement? We have been there before, and it is a slogan uniquely suited to describe a family of products designed to help GMs develop their own adventures. Random generators have been used to jog our imagination and come up with interesting new combinations ever since Ready Ref Sheets and the Dungeon Master’s Guide appendices; while random tables fell out of fashion between the mid-80s and the early 2000s, they have experienced a revival and they are going as strong as ever. Procedural generation is heavily featured outside tabletop RPGs, permeating the worlds of computer games from Elite to Minecraft(not to mention the deep, dark well of roguelikes).
Randomness, of course, produces no innate meaning, and leaves us to project our own onto it. A dungeon room with a “fire throne”, an “ogre taskmaster” and a “magic warhammer” is a hodgepodge of disparate elements; it takes human imagination to connect the dots and turn the random gibberish into something meaningful. (Perhaps the fire throne is a torture implement, the ogre is a jailer, and he has stolen an imprisoned dwarf’s weapon? Or we are in the hall of the fire giant king, the ogre is his underling, and he is guarding the king’s symbol of power?) Just like modules are a framework to run an actual adventure, random tables serve as the framework for the GM’s imagination. And just like modules, the eventual results should bear the personal mark of the GM, and, ultimately, the whole game group. This is how we co-create, and this is how the whole can be more than the sum of disparate parts.
If it is all so subjective and variable, can you actually review a collection of random tables? Can you actuallytell a good table from a bad one? I have used a lot of random tables over the years, and have found that some have proven consistently useful, while others are barely ever touched. There are qualities which make certain tables more suitable to provoke the imagination. It has to do with the entries’ imaginative power – their capability to evoke images which can be spun into fantasy adventures.
To work their magic, we have to trust the tables enough to follow them somewhere. But they must take us someplace special – imaginary places of wonder and menace. A table that does not push us out of our current frame of mind is not a good creativity aid, because we are already there. D&D has a common language – of oak doors, dark corridors, pit traps, wizards and goblins and maybe beholders – which is intimately familiar even to people who do not play D&D. They are “tropes” (a horrid word embodied in that most horrid product of internerd autism, TVTropes). Good tables take us beyond the basics – it is still the same language, but a richer, deeper, more varied layer of it.
Art by Edward Coley Burne-JonesSome of the imaginative power of random tables lies in the strength of individual idea kernels, but just as much hinges on the combination and juxtaposition of elements which fit together in ways which are not altogether comfortable. Creative tension – the shock of unexpected combinations and the images they create – is what takes the mind beyond the limits of routine thought patterns. Yet there is a limit to oddity, where it ceases to be meaningful. Square birds in purple sauce? These elements don’t fit into a coherent hole. There has to be a “bridging” moment where the pieces shift together, and create something new. “Serpents” and “gates” are both powerful images in their own right, laden with symbolic significance – but a serpent-gate? That is surely something more. A “serpent gate mirror”? Now we are getting there. However, we are also getting more specific, which may limit our options, and reduce us to obvious paths where potent images are diluted back to cliché.  Results open to interpretation are better than static and immutable ones. This lies at the heart of the “oracular” power of tables – they tell the truth, but the truth they tell is different from perspective to perspective. This is a tricky balance to achieve – specific enough to be powerful, general enough to fit many different situations – and just vague enough. Dreams are the classic go-to example (and indeed, the Surrealists had already discovered this, including the use of random generation to combine dream-images). The best tables can be reused again and again, because their results have a universal character. This does not mean generic. The “Ruins & Relics” table from Ready Ref Sheets, the random wilderness encounter charts in the Dungeon Masters Guide, or the very first “Locations (Overview)” table in the Tome of Adventure Design all have a strong personality them that influences their results. Indeed, “Ruins & Relics” is as core to the identity of the Wilderlands as the DMG charts to “the AD&D campaign”, and the ToAD table to Mythmere’s vision of “weird fantasy” as the key to the rediscovery of old-school gaming. These tables are foundational.
And finally, there is randomness. A totally random generator is just the noise of a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters. It may produce something good – but it won’t. A random generator whose results can be predicted, or which does not produce novelty, is superfluous: everyone possesses the ideas it produces by default. And there is a third, subtle distinction: while a kaleidoscope always produces something different, it always produces the same thing – a kaleidoscopic image. It is a powerful tool, but limited.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

New Print Company, New Lower Prices ?!

Two Hour Wargames - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 19:05


Yep, just closed a deal to use a new print company that will lower my cost, so passing the savings on to you guys. Includes PDF pricing as well.

Check it out
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Having To Go Further A Field With Dragon Issue #94 For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:21
Further & further down the rabbit hole I go with looking into both Stars Without Number Revised & Godbound. These two games have led me into a series of campaign notes that I made back in the 90's. Those notes pointed back to a little known resource from Dragon magazine issue #94. Not only does this issue have a gorgeous cover by Clyde Caldwell  but there are few important articles in this Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D&D 5e Essential Kit.

Bat in the Attic - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 14:35

What it is?
A boxed set available only at Target for starting out with DnD 5th edition. Includes rules, aides, and an adventure.

The Details
The rules are far more complete than the DnD Starter Kit. They describe five character classes Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard up to 6th level. An addition are rules for sidekicks which clearly not only play the role of traditional hireling but also as additional adventuring companions for smaller groups. The rules go into how to level sidekicks. There are three categories of sidekicks; Experts, Spellcasters, and Warriors.

The aides include a doubled sided poster maps of the Sword Coast around Neverwinter on one side and the village of Phandelver on the other. A set of cards that are mostly magic items but also include initiative tracking, condition tracking, sidekicks, and quests. There is a referee screen, and six character sheets.

The adventure, Dragon of Icespire Peak, takes place in and around Phandelver much like the Lost Mine adventure in the starter kit. In general it is a set one session quests combined with tables to determine where the adventure's antagonist, Cryovain, a young white dragon, is at when the party travels.

The quest structure comes off a bit like a video game however it also a structured sandbox. It start off with two quests available on the "job" board in Phandelver and then goes from there. The quest, the town descriptions, and the random tables governing the dragon all point the party to a confrontation with the Cyrovain and the conclusion of the overall adventure.

Honestly for something that trying to get a novice going, this adventure is well down for a potential sandbox adventure. If the referee doesn't get it right away the quest structure will keep things going in a way that fun and feels like progress is being made. For referees that want to branch out there is enough in adventure and the boxed set to do so.

I will say that most of the adventure location are fairly fleshed out. Many are  complete small dungeons or adventures.

Yeah but I am not a novice
While a bit pricey as an expansion, this in conjunction with the Lost Mines adventure found in the Starter set makes for a very nice campaign. With two primary antagonist and a wealth of locations to explore nobody is going to feel railroaded or hemmed with the combination.

And the digital
DnD Beyond is the official digital platform for D&D fifth edition. There is a lot not to like about the business model as it could "go away" at any time because all their content is hosted on their server. Thus when they go away, the content will go away.

But the app and website make looking up stuff convenient on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Very convenient as I been finding out.  Enough so that there may some merit of doing something similar with the various retro-clones of the OSR.

The DnD Essential Kit comes with two codes. The first allows you to buy the 5e PHB on DnD Beyond at half price, the second gives you the Dragon of Icespire Peak for free.

In playing around with this, I learned that you can add the DnD 5e basic rules to your app or account for free. With the Dragon of Icespire Peak adventure you get a substantial peak of how the functionality of DnD Beyond works.

Like looking up specific spells, abilities, or classes, I can quickly zero in on a location within the adventure. With the website I can also pull up images of not only the keyed map but also a player version that I can save and use with Roll20, Fantasy Ground, or print out for the table.

For example the map for a mine adventure

DM Map                                             Player Map
Overall I was pleased at the functionality and convenience but it definitely optional. My recommendation is to try the Basic Rules and above adventure if you get the Esstentials Kit and see if it is for you. I opted to get the PHB for half off as I know I would use it. I just got a smartphone and it proving far handier than I thought it would be. This just adds to the functionality of the device.

Wrapping it up.
I consider the Lost Mine of Phandelver one of the best DnD adventures ever made.  The Dragon of Icespire Peak isn't quite up to the level of the Lost Mine however it function very well as an expansion to that adventure.

The Essential Kits does way better on the rules presenting levels 1 to 6 of five different classes in conjunction with the various packaged aides. I would recommend this for anybody starting up with tabletop roleplaying.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Sharpshooters Are the Worst Thing in D&D, but That Speaks Well of Fifth Edition

DM David - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 11:15

What would you think of Dungeons & Dragons feats that gave these benefits?

  • You gain immunity to all melee attacks.

  • Before making a melee attack, you can teleport to within melee attack range of your target, attack, and then teleport back to your original position.

Overpowered? Absolutely. I’m not competing for worst D&D designer. My broken feat designs make a provocative way to show the big advantages of attacking from range.

When you attack from a distance, melee attackers can’t hit you. You can fire past obstacles that hamper movement. You can switch targets without having to move. No wonder melee attackers tend to be barbarians and paladins; no sensible person would opt for such inefficiency and risk.

Ranged attacks suffer drawbacks: Targets can gain cover. If foes move next to you, then your attacks suffer disadvantage and you stop being immune to their melee attacks.

Fortunately for ranged attackers, the game’s two most broken feats dismantle all these disadvantages. With Sharpshooter, you ignore cover. With Crossbow Expert, you can make ranged attacks while within 5 feet of enemies without suffering disadvantage. With these feats, melee attacks no longer endanger you because you inflict such massive damage that by the time a foe reaches you, it’s dead.

D&D’s designers seem to think ranged and melee attacks represent two different, but mostly equal styles, when really, ranged attacks offer massive intrinsic advantages. Why else would the game’s design so often reward ranged attackers with extra benefits that surpass anything melee combatants get?

Exhibit A: Ranged rogues can hide and then pop up to attack from hiding, gaining advantage and a sneak attack. Melee rogues almost never get to attack while hidden, but at least backstabbers can sneak attack without advantage when an ally stands next to a target. If that edge only applied to melee rogues, then the game would offer different but comparable boosts to archers and backstabbers. But archers benefit from adjacent allies too. Remember backstabbing? Now it rates as a strategy for players seeking the roleplaying challenge of playing an inferior character.

Exhibit B: The Sharpshooter feat offers more proof that D&D’s design favors ranged attackers. Compare Sharpshooter to its melee counterpart, Great Weapon Master. Both feats let characters exchange -5 to hit for +10 damage. But rangers and fighters—the classes most likely to take Sharpshooter—can also opt for the Archery fighting style, which grants a +2 bonus to attack rolls with ranged weapons. In practice, sharpshooters gain 10 damage for a mere -3 attack penalty. Great weapon fighters get no such boost to accuracy.

Also, great weapon masters must stand in harm’s way.

Also, great weapon masters usually must move to attack and to switch targets—so inefficient.

Sharpshooter rates as the strongest feat in the game, but the Crossbow Expert feat multiplies the power. Crossbow Expert nullifies the biggest weakness of ranged attackers—the disadvantage of attacking with an adjacent foe. Plus, by using a hand crossbow, the feat allows an additional attack. Sure, a hand crossbow averages a point less damage than, say, a longbow, but when each hit still deals 13-15 points of fixed damage, the damage die is just gravy.

On the occasional critical hit, great weapon masters get an extra attack. Crossbow experts get one every damn turn.

My exhibit C further proves the D&D designers’ brazen favoritism toward ranged attackers. Fifth edition drops the spell Protection from Normal Missiles, a spell that dates to the original little, brown books. The prosecution rests.

What makes sharpshooters the worst thing in D&D?

Before I explain, understand that by labeling sharpshooters as the worst, I’m aiming a backhanded compliment at the strength of the edition. In any other edition of D&D, a feat as overpowered as Sharpshooter would not even rate on a list of the system’s flaws. Old editions suffered cracks at the foundation. Fifth edition suffers from an absurd feat.

When compared to other character types focused on dealing damage, sharpshooters overshadow other characters. DM Thomas Christy has hosted as many online D&D games for strangers as anyone. He says, “I have actually had players complain in game and out about how it seemed like they did not need to be there.” In a Todd Talks episode, Jen Kretchmer tells about asking a player to rebuild a crossbow expert. “The character was a nightmare of doing way more damage off the top, and no one else could get a hit in.” Pity the poor players who thought playing a hulking barbarian swinging a 2-handed great sword seemed like a recipe for maximum damage. Every turn, they’ll be embarrassed by a pip-squeak who reaps monsters with a toy crossbow.

I don’t aim to slam archers. They make an evocative archetype. And if you want to play an archer, play a sharpshooter. Next week, I’ll explain how to build a good one. I rarely want my players to feel obliged to build weakened characters. Dungeon masters can adapt to make sharpshooters a little less dominant.

By including overpowered feats that erase all the disadvantages of ranged attacks, the D&D design collapses the options for martial characters to two: (1) pick Sharpshooter or (2) pick something plainly weaker. Anything another build can do, a sharpshooter does better. Crossbow Expert enables fighters to gain all the out-sized benefits of Sharpshooter while attacking from melee and sporting enough hit points and armor to serve as a front-line tank.

Sharpshooters deal damage so efficiently that they throw D&D’s encounter math in the trash. Potentially interesting encounters against low-hit-point foes like spellcasters resemble an execution by firing squad. The evil wizard never acts. Unless DMs want every encounter to become a romp, they need to toughen the monsters and adopt tactics that slow ranged attackers. Dungeon masters: Do both.

Toughen the monsters. Before encounters, use your prerogative as a DM to boost the monsters’ hit points. The hit point totals in the creatures’ stat blocks just represents an average. Giving the monsters an increase within the die formula falls within the D&D rules.

Slow ranged attackers. Setting up encounters to slow sharpshooters isn’t about thwarting them. It creates situations more tactically interesting, situations that give other characters more chances to shine.

Start by adding total cover to your encounters, and then play creatures with the good sense to duck between their turns. This hardly counts as high strategy. If you throw a rock at a rat, it runs for cover. Faced with melee and ranged attacks, many foes will stay out of sight and let intruders come into reach. That usually works. By reputation, treasure hunters are bloodthirsty and undisciplined.

Such tactics encourage characters to move to engage. Melee fighters get more to do. They deserve to shine.

Total cover takes just a few columns or stalagmites.

One caution: Newer players can find foes that duck behind total cover frustrating. You may need to dial down the tactic or explain the rules for readying actions.

Start some monsters out of sight—especially the boss.

In the typical D&D battle, all the party’s foes start in plain sight. This makes the strongest monster an easy target for focused fire. Too often the evil mastermind dies before acting, or even before mocking the foolish do-gooders who dare to oppose them. The players never learn of the fiendish plan that will end their pitiful lives. Start that climactic battle with the main foe positioned somewhere the players cannot see. Let the characters spread out to attack the guards and lieutenants, and then have the biggest threat move into view on its turn. In D&D, villains must fight and monologue at the same time.

When some enemies begin out of sight, fights benefit. First, this gives some total cover. Plus, the battle feels more fluid; the situation more uncertain. As characters move into the room, they spot unseen foes. As monsters emerge, the players wonder what other surprises wait.

Battles with movement and cover tend to play to the strengths of melee characters. The monk finally gets to flaunt her speed! That hopeless, sub-optimal backstabber gains places to dash, disengage, and reasons to engage. The paladin can drive foes from hiding. Sure, these sorts of encounters may frustrate and threaten sharpshooters, but that just adds an extra benefit.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth Launch Kit

Cryptozoic - Mon, 07/15/2019 - 23:24

Cryptozoic Entertainment's DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth Launch Kit will be hitting stores starting at the end of July! Fans can reach out to their favorite local retailer to order the Launch Kit from their games distributor now!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Going Down Deep - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Campaign Workshop & White Dwarf Issue Seventy Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:38
"Until about three years ago, the peculiar town of Port Greely was renowned as a prolific exporter of crustaceans. Then the Greely lobstermen severed all ties with outside partners. Subsequent attempts at renegotiation were shunned.More recently, a small group of Fishmongers’ Guild representatives from the City-State of Khromarium has gone missing in Port Greely, and answers have been Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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