Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dragonborn for Microlite74

The dragonborn, as a player character race, is typically looked upon with scorn throughout the OSR. It's not a traditional fantasy race and has little if any precedent in the literature the game derives its roots from. I remember my first exposure to a "dragon-man" PC race was in the "Council of Wyrms" campaign setting, which included an optional half-dragon PC race. I own the box set but never had the chance to run it (though that may be a future M74 conversion, who knows), but even reading through it I found the half-dragon concept to be a bit silly and contrived, even in the midst of a campaign setting where players could literally play as dragons.

Regardless of all that, Type-IV D&D includes, in its first Player's Handbook, the Dragonborn as a PC race. The history of the implied setting is filled with references to an ancient Dragonborn Empire called Arkhosia. Even the venerable Forgotten Realms campaign setting managed to find a way to write these Dragonborn into its most recent iteration.

I'm not a huge fan of the Dragonborn by any stretch of the imagination, but my kids think they're awesome. Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon board games each came with a Dragonborn hero to play, so I have a couple miniatures, one wizard and one fighter.

Aside from their draconic appearance, their iconic ability is a breath weapon of some sort. Type IV D&D offers the following options: acid, cold, fire, lightning and poison. This must be selected at character creation and cannot be changed.

I want to avoid any of the once-per-encounter silliness that is part-and-parcel of the Type-IV experience. The way to do this well with Microlite seems to lie with the spending of hit points to use such an ability. I would have to equate this ability to at least a second-level wizard spell.

Dragonborn get +2 to STR. Experience base modifier of +7. Special Abilities: at character generation, choose fire, ice, or lightning as your breath weapon. Fire can strike up to four creatures in a small group within 30 feet for 1d8+level fire damage. Ice can strike up to four creatures within 15 feet of you for 1d8+level cold damage. Lightning can strike up to four creatures in a straight line from you within 30 feet, for 1d8+level lightning damage. Use of this ability requires a ranged attack roll vs AC and costs 3 Hit Points. Dragonborn also recieve a +4 bonus to saving throws against damage/attacks that are similar to their breath weapon type.

Eladrin for Microlite74

Eladrin, as introduced in Type IV D&D, are elves with stronger ties to the Feywild than "normal" elves. They are more akin to the "High Elves" typical in fantasy literature, while Type IV's Elf race falls more towards the "Wood Elves" or something of that nature.

What sets Eladrin apart in Type IV is their "Fey Step" ability, which is basically a short-range teleportation ability. This is fairly easy to port to Microlite, and I present my mod below.

Eladrin get +1 to DEX and +1 to CHA. Experience Base modifier of +7. Special Abilities: Can use elf-made magic armor and magic weapons even as a magic-user or illusionist. Note secret/hidden doors (D20+Mind bonus; DC 12 if carefully checking, DC 16 if just passing through); spend 2 HP to teleport instantly to a location you can see within 50 feet; speak languages of elves and other fey creatures.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Kids' Campaign: Werebear Tracking

Kids' Campaign: Night Below Begins

This past Thursday, the wife and I took the minions out to my in-laws' for a night of D&D, their first full session exploring in Haranshire. They met a few of the local personalities: Tauster the Wizard, Garyld and Kuiper the Rangers, and Oleanne the Druid. Also, Tauster's missing apprentice, Jenna, is generally who the party is searching for.

Basically, this session, they went out to Kuiper's farm, to meet up with him and attempt to track down Jenna, the missing apprentice wizard. They met Kuiper, and soon after met Oleanne the Druid, who hadn't seen Jenna but was more worried about a certain werebear.

They tracked the werebear for a while, and made camp for the night. They were attacked by orcs, and dealt with ten of them inside of four rounds, including charming one whom they later interrogated.

I kind of decided on the fly that since our heroes are mostly level three at this point, there's no real big reason to adventure around Haranshire just to level up. If they decide to solve some of the problems around town, good on them, but I gave them the Underdark hook when they questioned the charmed orc, hook line and sinker, revealing that there is a passage that goes "below" and that "dark dwarves" come up to take the people they've been kidnapping.

So that doesn't bode well for the poor wizard's apprentice Jenna.

Oh, and they found the werebear and our clever young wizard subdued it very quickly with a well-placed "web" spell. Next they'll go back into town and more than likely make plans to assault the orcs. All-in-all, a very good night.

I continue to be impressed with how easily Microlite works with AD&D. The AC conversion is a snap, and everything else just works. It's pretty awesome.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kids' Campaign: Decisions, Decisions...

The Kids' Campaign continues apace. We gathered on the Thursday before Christmas at my in-laws' for early Christmas presents, bread-baking, dinner, and managed to sneak a little time in for some D&D.

When last we left them, they were about to have dinner with Valthrun, the town wizard. He had promised my son's character, Mike the Wizard, that he would teach him some new spells if he proved himself. Defeating Kalarel was proof enough, and Valthrun taught the young wizard a number of new spells, including a couple of second-level spells that the newly third-level wizard could use.

I also made up a small stack of cards that had different rumors and quests. Each player drew one, so they had plenty of different options to go investigate. A few of the rumors would lead directly to specific old-school adventure modules, particularly Keep on the Borderlands, Palace of the Silver Princess, and Night Below (without saying as much, of course!). The others were tied to places that were fleshed out recently by WotC in their Nentir Vale supplement and Dragon e-magazine.

You can download the quest cards here if you want. It's a PDF file, nine cards on a single sheet of 8.5x11 paper. I print them on cardstock so they're easier to handle, and if you cut them out, they fit perfectly in a regular-size plastic playing card sleeve.

They chose the Night Below route.

I would have liked to run the older modules, but I have always wanted a chance to run Night Below. It's huge and sprawling and requires a lot more than mindless hack n slash to succeed or even survive. There is a lot going on in it and I'm looking forward to all the homework I'll have to do to get it right.

On Christmas evening, they started on their way. Haranshire lay on the other side of the Cairngorn Peaks from Winterhaven, which meant they had to cross the mountains somehow. I gave them the choice of three paths. A northern route, rumored to be home to trolls and other big nasties; a southern route, guarded by an orc tribe who demanded hefty tribute of anyone passing through; and a possible third way underneath the mountains, if they wanted to search for it.

They chose the northern pass. They bought horses and other supplies and headed out. Most of the days were uneventful, until the third day as they neared the top of the pass, when they encountered two trolls fighting each other. The ever-regenerating trolls had been bashing each other's skulls in for god-knows-how-long, and the party managed (barely) to avoid notice and left the trolls to their rumbling.

They had one night-time encounter with a few giant spiders, but a well-placed sleep spell knocked them out easily.

And after six mostly uneventful days of travel, they arrived in Haranshire. They found the old wizard Tauster, who was quite distraught over his missing apprentice, Jenna. They spent the night in town and headed up the river to meet Kuiper, one of the local rangers, and that's where we left off.

We'll be heading out to my in-laws' this evening for the next session.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

First Impressions of Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

I have the greatest wife in the world. As proof, I offer exhibit Z: she got us the newest Legend of Zelda game, Skyward Sword, for Christmas. That's right, while everyone else is obsessing over this "Skyrim" stuff, I'm going old-school and working my way through yet another amazing Legend of Zelda experience. We've been taking turns playing it. I've only gotten through the first dungeon so far, but I humble offer up my first impressions of the game.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first.

Argh, why the hell isn't Link left-handed? Like every other Link? Ever! The motion-control wii-mote interface is pretty cool, really. Link swings his sword the way you swing your wii-mote. It works really well. The nunchuck accessory serves as your shield. However, Link in this game is right-handed, and there is no option to make him left-handed. As a lefty, who naturally holds the wii-mote in my left hand and the nunchuck in my right, this makes for a clumsy experience. The sword-swings just don't seem to work the way they ought to if I'm holding the devices in the wrong hands. So I have been forced to play right-handed, as weird as it feels. A couple thoughts on this. First of all, they really should have included some kind of option for playing the game using the Classic Controller. It could have been done if they really wanted to. And they should have given the player the option to be right or left handed. As every other lefty knows, we are part of a persecuted minority. Everything around us is designed for the majority of people in the world who are right-handed. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons I identified so much with Link in these games is that he, like me, is left-handed. Having a lefty Link is a big reason I prefer the Gamecube version of Twilight Princess over the Wii version (if you don't know, go here).

Now that I'm done bitching, on to the good stuff.

First of all, Nintendo stole my "Islands in the Sky" campaign setting. It's okay, Nintendo, I won't sue. Yet. Flying around on your giant bird is pretty fun, and the controls work really well. In fact, all the controls in the game work work pretty darn well (if you're right-handed). There are a lot of different places to explore, and a lot of areas to work through down on the "surface", where the dungeons are.

The sword-and-shield-play aspect of the game is particularly fun, and is a pretty big departure from previous Zelda titles in terms of gameplay. The direction in which you attack with your sword, and the timing of a shield-bash, are quite often key to defeating monsters. Monsters carrying swords will parry your blows. Other monsters have weak spots that must be attacked in a certain direction.

This game includes a companion for Link, this time in the form of Fi, the guardian spirit of the Goddess Sword, which Link pulls from a stone early in the game. Fi is very much a Data or Spock-like character, constantly deducing logical conclusions based on evidence as you uncover it in-game (although, really only the obvious things, she doesn't really help you with the puzzles, thank goodness).

So far, it's a very solid addition to the Legend of Zelda franchise. Like I said, I have yet to get very far, but I'll be slowly working my way through it over the next month or three.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Old-School IOS App?

I want some Old-School D&D apps for my iPhone. Is that so wrong? I do a lot of blog postings and other assorted D&D-type work on my iPhone, because, well, it just works well for me.

Reading most PDFs, however, does not work very well. It's not awful, and I'm sure it's a lot nicer on an iPad or Kindle Fire, but I've got this little smart phone.

There are apps for searching the Type-IV D&D Compendium, and for the Pathfinder and D&D 3.5 System Reference Documents. While these do have certain, limited uses for me, what I really would like to see (and would happily pay, say, ten bucks or so for) is OSRIC, or Swords & Wizardry, or LotFP, or any other of the other retroclones, in an easily accessible, searchable app. Specifically, Monsters, Spells, Magic Items and such.

A constantly updating compilation of the countless numerous random charts that get published on all these old-school blogs would be easily worth another ten bucks.

Maybe this niche is too small, but it seems to me if its good enough for the modern publications of the game, surely there is enough DIY know-how floating around in the OSR to put together a few decent apps that we can use. Anyone up to the task? Or is there an app out there I'm missing?

Note: I wrote this article last night and then, like magic, found an app called Old-School DM. Its main function is combat tracker, dice roller, and monster manual. It's being regularly updated. I've yet to use it at the table, but once I do I'll have a proper review up here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays! And Kids' Campaign: Wrapping up The Keep on the Shadowfell

I hope everyone had a great holiday, filled with plenty of gaming goodness, be it gifts or time at the table. I got a healthy serving of both. My oldest daughter saved up chore money from her grandparents to get me the Citadel Miniatures laptop Paint Station, which was one of those things I always lust after at the Fantasy Shop but would never shell out the cash for. My other daughter got me three new Reaper minis to paint. My in-laws got me a pair of Darth Vader boxers, which came in an excellent Darth Vader-shaped tin, which now houses all my gaming dice and has me itching to run some kind of Star Wars game with the kids. I know there was a Microlite20 Star Wars mod... Anyways, the in-laws also gave me a gift certificate to the Fantasy Shop as well, which, I have since learned, can be used at their up-coming bi-annual Used Gaming Auction. Hopefully, somebody will be auctioning off a lot or three of some old-school D&D materials.

A week ago, the wife and I took the minions out to their grandparents, and we wrapped up the Keep on the Shadowfell adventure. They were close to the end and had just the final two encounters to go. 

I was a little worried, going in, about how the kids would handle the grisly and frightening nature of the endgame of this dungeon. Giant pools of blood, evil dude trying to open a portal to the Shadowfell, undead beasties galore... But they were troopers. Well, except the youngest one. He's six and is normally pretty resolute in understanding it's just a game, but for some reason the possibility of his elf fighter (who he has renamed twice) getting sucked into the Shadowfell was more than he could bear. 

So he went with Mom to get McDonalds for lunch. 

Anyway, first was the cathedral above the room with the portal. There was a cleric conducting a ritual of some sort on the altar at the far end, a few cultists helping with all the evil chanting, and a couple of big bodyguard types to deal with, and the kids made short work of all of them, although not without taking a few lumps. The wizard was still flying around thanks to the potion he had imbibed the previous encounter. Once they cleared out the cultists, they investigated the pit in the middle of the cathedral, where more weird chanting could be heard. Also, thick streams of blood were running from the altar into the pit, and there were no other doors. A torch was tossed down the pit, with vials of oil attached to it, but it was snuffed out in a larger pool of blood below. So, with grappling hooks and rope, they descended the pit into the room below. 

The still-flying wizard went first. 

Kalarel was not surprised, and he blasted the wizard, who failed his saving throw and lost his flying enchantment, and fell into the pool of blood. Skeletons hacked into him quickly and he was out. 

The rest of the team followed quickly. The undead monsters in the room consisted of a half-dozen skeletons, a wraith the the power to raise 1d4 of those skeletons on its turn, a big zombified drake, and Kalarel, the villain himself. 

Oh, and there was the Thing in the Portal, which chose a hero at random every turn to pull towards it a few squares. 

With the wizard falling in the first round, this fight was an instant nail-biter. The cleric went down soon after as well. I even adopted a house-rule (on the fly) that an unconscious character who gets a crit on their fortitude save (to avoid more body-point damage) could pop up with 1 hit point. This happened twice, once with the cleric and once with the wizard, and both were quickly dropped again. 

Did I mention the wraith kept bringing the skeletons back? 

In the end, it was a good thing the youngest boy's elf fighter was weilding Aecris, Sir Keegan's sword, as its bonus vs undead really wound up carrying the day (even if the boy wasn't there to make his own rolls). 

This was one of those battles with a ridiculous amount of critical hits. A natural 20 was rolled just about every round. The intensity of the combat was great. I think I've grokked the Microlite system pretty well at this point; I scribbled the monster stats on an index cards moments before the battle ensued. 

This session further solidified Microlite as my go-to D&D game from here on out. Now, to prepare for the next session! They've gone back to Winterfell, healed their fallen comrades, and are about to have dinner with the old town hedge wizard. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tieflings for Microlite74

One of things that immediately came up when doing character generation with kids for the new Castle Ravenloft/Microlite74 mini-campaign was their desire to play as Tieflings and Dragonborn. It's my fault for introducing them to D&D via Fourth Edition, but that's okay. 

I haven't tackled Dragonborn yet, but I think I got the Tiefling right. I went to the D&D 4E and Pathfinder rules for inspiration, and settled upon the following adaptation for Microlite74 Extended Edition. 

Tieflings get +1 to Dexterity and +1 to Charisma. Experience Base modifier of +5. Tieflings can see in darkness half as well as in light. Tiefligs may spend 1 HP to add 1d4 fire damage to any attack. This must be declared and spent before the attack roll is made. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Microlite74/Castle Ravenloft Mash-Up Progress

In my last post I identified a number of things I wanted to accomplish to make the M74 Castle Ravenloft game run more smoothly. These were:

Random Event Chart in lieu of drawing Castle Ravenloft "Encounter" cards.
New chart for "What's in the Newly Explored Tile".
New Random Monster Chart including stats and possible treasure.
A chart for determining traps on a tile, separate from the Random Event Chart.

I present my progress below.

Random Dungeon Event Chart (my first D30 table! I don't even own a D30, sacrilege I know, but I've totally got an app for that...)

D30 Dungeon Events Table

Using the “Countdown Dice” mechanic: DM has a dWhatever that starts on a 1. Player rolls same size dice. If player’s roll is greater, nothing happens, and DM’s countdown die increases by 1 for the next player’s turn, who will also roll same size die. If a player’s roll is equal to or less than the number of the DM’s countdown die, roll on this chart. (Note: some of this flavor text I took right off the Encounter cards from the board game, so I apologize to WotC for any copyright infringement)
1. Crippling Miasma: a horrid stench of decay fills the air. Each Hero’s speed is reduced by 1. Fortitude save ends.
2. Howl of the Wolf: from somewhere deeper in the crypts, a wolf howls. 1 monster makes an immediate attack.
3. Choking Fog: acrid, yellow smoke fills the crypt, causing you to choke and cough. Reflex save to hold breath or take 1d6 damage.
4. Gray Ooze: a puddle of gray ooze forms at your feet and attacks! Plus 6, 1d6 dmg, Poisoned (Fortitude save ends).
5. Reinforcements: 1d4 monsters arrive from the nearest unexplored edge and attack!
6. Howling Ghost: a shrieking banshee emerges from the shadows; its howl causes you to recoil in agony. 1d6 dmg to all heroes on tile (Presence save halves)
7. Treasure Chest: you find an ancient chest with a rusty lock.
8. Hands of the Dead: several crawling claws attack all the heroes on the tile. Plus 6, 1d4 dmg and Slowed (Presence save ends)
9. Bat Swarm: a horde of bats fills the chambers for 1d6 rounds. All heroes must make Reflex saves to attack.
10. Blood Frenzy: All monsters make an attack.
11. Strahd’s Minions: Strahd appears and teleports hero to a far-away tile. Add two monsters to the destination tile.
12. Adventurer’s Past: a ghost of a long-dead adventurer appears. Presence save or run towards closest unexplored edge and explore.
13: Strahd Attacks: Strahd appears out of the shadows and tosses a fireball at you! Plus 6, 1d8 dmg, Reflex save halves. Strahd disappears into the darkness.
14. Prowling Spirits: Cold, spectral hands grasp at you. Reflex save or lose an item.
15: King Tomescu’s Portal: You stumble into an unseen portal, and disappear until your next turn, when you reappear elsewhere on the board. While gone, you are attacked three times at plus 6 1d6 dmg.
16. Strahd’s Hunger: Strahd appears! His gaze overwhelms you. Will save or 1d6 dmg.
17. Deadly Shadows: voices in the darkness whisper corrupting lies about your friends. Will save or attack the closest one!
18. Strahd’s Whispers: Strahd’s voice compels you to attack your closest friend if you fail a Will save.
19. Corner of Your Eye: You investigate something moving in the darkness.  Explore the closest unexplored edge. You have initiative against any monster you find there. You also gain 1d6 HP.
20. Haunted Mists: Undead monsters gain plus 2 to hit and to damage for 1d6 turns.
21. Spider Webs: hundreds of tiny spiders drop a web on you from above! Reflex save or Immobilized (Fort save ends)
22. Green Slime: a blob falls from the ceiling and attacks every hero on the tile. Plus 6 1d6 dmg, and then slithers through a crack in the floor.
23: Cackling Skull: a phantasmal skull floats through the crypts, laughing hideously. Presence or Will save to avoid being Dazed (Will save ends)
24: Mists of Terror: a whispered chant echoes through the crypts, and a white mist flows past you. Reflex save or be Immobilized in terror (Presence save ends)
25: Overwhelming Terror: shrieks and howls can be heard somewhere in the crypts. Presence save or run three tiles towards the entrance.
26. Patrina Velikovna: The ghostly image of an elf maiden appears before you. She smiles for a moment, before unleashing a blood-curdling shriek. Shriek plus 7, 1d6 dmg, all monsters move closer to the heroes.
27.The Ghost of Prince Aurel: a ghost appears in the corridor ahead of you; its ghastly features freeze you in terror. Presence save or Immobilized (Will save ends).
28. Music of the Damned: the haunting sounds of an organ fill the tombs, chilling you to the bone. All monsters gain plus 2 to hit and to damage for 1d6 rounds.
29. Blood Fog: a dark red fog rolls through the area, filling monsters and heroes alike with a bloodlust. All attack rolls of 18 or higher result in critical hits.
30. Summoning Circle: a misstep disturbs a strange magic rune, and a monster materializes next to you!

What's In the Newly Explored Tile? 1d12 (Dungeon Events produced from this chart do NOT reset the DM's countdown die)
1. Nothing
2. Nothing
3. Monster
4. Monster
5. Monster
6. Monster and Dungeon Event
7. 2 Monsters 
8. 2 Monsters
9. 2 Monsters
10. 2 Monsters and Dungeon Event
11. 3 Monsters
12. Treasure
Every tile has a 1-in-6 chance of being trapped. 

Hey, there's a trap on that tile! What is it? Roll a d8!
1. Circle of Death: All Undead gain 1d6 HP when triggered. 
2. Alarm: 1d6 new monsters appear each round for 1d6 rounds or until the Alarm is deactivated. 
3. Net: A huge net falls on all heroes in the tile (+6, Slowed on a hit, Reflex save ends). 
4. Poison Darts: +4, Poisoned on a hit, Fort save ends)
5. Crossbow Turret: Bolts fire out of holes in the far wall, +7, 1d6 dmg
6. Fire Trap: Jets of fire from walls and ceiling, +8, 1d8 dmg
7. Teleport Glyph: Reflex save or teleport to random/dangerous spot in dungeon. 
8. Spear Gauntlet spiking up out of the floor: +6, 1d8 dmg

Hey, you killed a monster! I bet it dropped some treasure. What did it have in its little horde? 
This is a series of charts. First roll 2d6 here:
2. White: Weapons
3. Red: Potions
4. Green: Rings n Stuff
5. Fortune
6. Gold
7. Gold
8. Gold
9. Fortune
10. Green: Rings n Stuff
11. Red: Potions
12. Black: Magic

You found Gold! Roll 2d10 to see how many pieces of gold you found!
2. 100
3. 75
4. 60
5. 50
6. 40
8. 25
9. 20
10. 15
11. 10
12. 15
13. 20
14. 25
15. 30
16. 40
17. 50
18. 60
19. 75
20. 100

How Fortunate! You've gotten a Fortune of some sort. Roll a d10. 
1. Breath of Life: Regain 1d8 HP
2. Shake it Off: Choose a hero and end any one condition that a Save could end
3. Intimidate: Move a monster up to 2 squares away
4. Burst of Speed: Move up to your speed
5. Heroic Stand: Gain +2 to hit and to damage for the next 1d6 turns
6. Run!: Gain +2 to speed for 1d6 rounds
7. Guided Strikes: All heroes gain +2 to hit until your next turn
8. Harrowed Experience: Gain 1 Experience Point
9. Action Surge: Make an extra move or attack right now!
10. Moment’s Respite: The DM sets his Dungeon Event Die back to 1. 

Looks like you found a magical ring or something. Roll 2d10. 
2. Ring of Wisdom: +2 to Will saves
3. Ring of Courage: +2 to Presence saves
4. Ring of Toughness: +2 to Fortitude saves
5. Ring of Quickness: +2 to Reflex saves
6. Ring of Accuracy: +1 to ranged attacks
7. Boots of Striding: +1 to Speed
8. Polymorph Wand: Choose a monster within 10 squares. Roll for a new monster and replace the old one if it fails its saving throw. Wand has 1d6 charges
9. Amulet of Protection: Gain +1 bonus to all saving throws
10. Lucky Charm: Reroll any die roll, and discard
11. Lucky Charm: Reroll any die roll, and discard
12. Gauntlets of Ogre Power: +2 to damage with melee weapons
13. Blessed Shield: +1 to AC
14. Wand of Teleportation: Teleport any monster on your tile up to 3 tiles away. 1d6 charges
15. Bracers of Defense: +1 to AC
16. Ring of Shooting Stars: +5 to hit, 1d6+3 dmg, range 10
17. Ring of Wisdom: +2 to Will saves
18. Ring of Courage: +2 to Presence saves
19. Ring of Toughness: +2 to Fortitude saves
20. Ring of Quickness: +2 to Reflex saves

Ooooh, it's a potion! Roll 2d8. 
2. Dragon’s Breath Elixir: Attack each monster on your tile at +6, for 1d8 dmg
3. Potion of Animal Control: Control a single animal for 1d6 turns
4. Potion of Undead Control: Control 1d6 undead for 1d6 turns
5. Potion of Invisibility: Lasts 1d6 turns, or until you make an attack
6.Potion of Strength: +1d4 dmg on melee attacks for 1d6 turns
7. Potion of Healing: Regain d8 HP
8. Antidote: End a Poisoned condition
9. Potion of Speed: Move twice your speed for 1d4 turns. 
10. Potion of Recovery: End any one condition that a Save could end
11. Potion of Extra-Healing: Regain 2d8 HP
12. Holy Water: A vial of Holy Water does 1d6 damage against undead. 
13. Potion of Animal Control: Control a single animal for 1d6 turns
14. Potion of Fire Resistance: Lasts for 1d6 turns
15. Potion of Undead Control: Control 1d6 undead for 1d6 turns
16. Dragon’s Breath Elixir: Attack each monster on your tile at +6, for 1d8 dmg

Cool, some magical item, roll 2d6
2. Crystal Ball: Explore any unexplored edge from anywhere on the board.
3. Wand of Magic Missiles: 3d6 charges, 1d6 damage each. 
4. Glyph of Warding: Place the glyph on any tile. The first monster to enter that tile takes 2d8 damage.
5.Wand of Fireballs: 2d6 charges; 2d6 dmg to everyone on a single tile, save halves
6. Staff of the Elements: +2 to damage with spells
7. Thieves’ Tools: +4 to thievery checks
8. Wand of Magic Missiles: 3d6 charges, 1d6 damage each. 
9. Thunderstrike Staff: Cast lightning bolt at will (+4 to hit; range 10; 1d10 dmg)
10. Wand of Frost: 2d6 charges; freeze a creature in place, save ends
11. Necklace of Fireballs: Attack each monster on a tile within 5 squares. Ranged attack +3, 2d8 damage. 1d6 fireballs on the necklace
12. Tome of Experience: Gain a level between quests. 

A magic weapon? Awesome! Roll 2d6!
2. Holy Avenger: Longsword +2, +5 vs Undead
3. Vorpal Sword: +2 to hit and to damage, Critical damage on a natural 18 or higher
4. Elven Shortbow +1 (+3 if wielded by an elf)
5. Blessed Mace +1 (+3 if wielded by a cleric)
6. Longsword +1
7. Morningstar +1
8. Hoopak (Staff w/sling at top) +1 (+3 if wielded by a halfing)
9. Dwarven Battleaxe +1 (+3 if wielded by a dwarf)
10. Vampiric Dagger +1 (regain 1d6 HP on a critical hit)
11. Dragontooth Spear +2 (+5 to hit and damage vs Dragons)
12. Vengeful Battleaxe +2 to hit (+4 if target has hurt you)

As far as the monsters are concerned, I have gone through and made stats for all the monsters I plan to use in the game, and will be printing out cards from Magic Set Editor. I think I've accomplished my goals and then some. We'll be playtesting, hopefully, later this week. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Microlite74/Castle Ravenloft Mash-Up, First Playtest

Castle Ravenloft/Microlite 74 MashUp

So last night I ran the minions through a playtest of the Castle Ravenloft board game, using mostly Microlite74 rules. Due to a dead battery in the family minivan that needed to be removed and recharged at the auto parts store, I didn't have quite as much time to prepare as I would have liked, so I wound up winging a lot more of it than I would have liked.

Everybody still had a blast though. They're at the age that (mostly) mindless hack n slash is a lot of fun, and I gave them that in spades. The basic scenario was that they are all residents of Barovia. A werewolf recently attacked the town and they followed it into the crypts below Castle Ravenloft, and set about exploring these crypts to find it and slay it.

We went around the table, with each hero taking a turn to move and take an action of some sort. I had a d12 set to count upwards, ticking up on every player's turn. On their turn, I had the player roll their own d12. Rolling at or below the number on my set d12 resulted in drawing an "Encounter" card.

I used the Castle Ravenloft "Encounter" deck right out of the box, and this is something I will change for the future. Quite simply, many of the encounters don't translate very well between the board game and Microlite, so I will be going through them all and making a randomized list for next time, instead of drawing cards.

Every time they explored into a new tile, I had them roll a d10 and I consulted the following list.

When exploring a new tile:
1 Nothing
2 Nothing
3 Nothing
4 Draw Encounter
5 Monster
6 Monster
7 Draw Encounter
8 2 Monsters
9 2 Monsters
10 3 Monsters!

This worked fairly well, although I will probably change a roll of 3 from "Nothing" to "Monster". There were a couple moments when it seemed they were almost overwhelmed by numerous monsters on the board. This happened when they split up and started exploring without communicating with each other or having any kind of plan.

Monsters were determined according to a random list. 2d20, with each result getting crossed off after it was rolled and the rest of the list moving closer to the middle. This was, I believe, too many. Next time I will trim down the list (although most monsters appeared 2 or 3 times), and have full stats printed on the list. My lack of prep time meant I was running it using the list I had typed out on my phone, which was not ideal.

This brings up another point which I was foolish to overlook: I constructed the list from what minis I had, mostly from the Castle Ravenloft board game, and a few others. Unfortunately, not all of these monsters appear in the Microlite74 monster list. So I had to wing a lot of that, and I think the monsters could have been a lot more interesting than what they wound up being. Grells and Gibbering Mouthers, for example, do not have a counterpart in the M74 monster list.

Monsters acted after the hero who discovered them. This I would change to a die roll to see if the monster wins initiative, which could be as simple as an "evens or odds" roll (or even a quick paper-rock-scissors against the player!). I also tried to keep track of which monsters appeared on which player's turn, and have them act in that initiative order. In the future, they'll be acting when the turn order comes around the table to me.


We'll make a complete switch and do it as a group thing. That might make a lot more sense. Actually... Yes. We'll get rid of the round-the-table turn thing and force them all to work together and decide what to do as a team.

Another thing I'll add is more treasure. I didn't give out very much, mostly because they didn't fight many monsters that would really necessarily drop treasure. Granted, the kids never asked to search any of the monsters for treasure either, but... it'll be more fun if they do find more treasure.

All in all, the kids had a good time. One of the best things you can do for kids when playing D&D is have them roll lots of dice, even if they don't really do anything on their turn, and this system did that, which kept them engaged and focused. I definitely have a nice big list of things to do now, which I'll be posting up here as I accomplish them. Once I have a nice tight package, I'll put it all together in a PDF.

To Do:
Random Event Chart in lieu of drawing CR "Encounter" cards.
New list for "What's in the Newly Explored Tile".
New random monster chart. This must include monster stats and possible treasure.
Chart for determining if a tile has a trap in it, and what kind of trap (this should be separate from the Random Event Chart).

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Minions are Getting Restless

The minions are really excited and pumped to play Castle Ravenloft using the Microlite rules. And by really excited, I mean it was all they were talking about after I asked them about it. Furthermore, the two oldest children, as chance would have it, each have a friend spending the night tonight, and those friends will undoubtedly want to play. 

So much for taking my time and preparing. Here's to winging it! 

My plan is to have children start rolling their new 1st level characters as soon as I get home. They all already know what they want to be: a tiefling thief, a half-elf druid, a human cleric, and an elf fighter. The elf paladin is subject to a dozen mind-changes over the course of the day, but at the moment, elf paladin it is. The other visiting children will play fighters of some sort, as they have never played any type of D&D before. 

I did have one thought concerning the Encounter cards. In the Rules as Written for the board game, an Encounter card is drawn whenever a new tile is placed that has a black triangle, or when a player does not explore a new tile on their turn. My gut instinct is to tone this down for the Microlite rules, and make it more random. So, I will have a special D12 set aside. On the first player's turn, it will be set to 1, and I will roll another D12. If I roll a 1, an Encounter card will be drawn. Otherwise, no Encounter card. On the next player's turn, the special D12 turns up to 2, and I roll. On a 1 or a 2, we draw an Encounter card. And so on and so forth. Whenever an Encounter card is drawn, the special D12 goes back to 1. We'll see how it goes. I can always make the dice smaller. 

I'm still going to have to adjudicate the card drawn on the fly. There's not really any way around that at this point. But no matter what, it'll still be good D&D fun. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thoughts on Running Castle Ravenloft with Microlite74

So, the kids have been itching to play Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon. This has generally been an exercise in frustration, as the two youngest are six and eight years old, and they don't quite grasp the strategic elements of which powers to use. Generally, its a lot of the same difficulties I ran into running 4E with them. 

However, as my recent blog posts attest, they have been very much enjoying playing with the Microlite rules, so my brain naturally started cooking up ideas for how to play the CR/WoA games with Microlite rules. 

There are some parts of the board games that will be easy to convert. Building the dungeon as they go, for instance, is a no-brainer. The monster AI as written on the cards won't be necessary, as I'll be the DM. 

I really like the Monster Deck mechanic, but I don't particularly want to make up a ton of new cards with M74 monster stats (though I started just such a project in Magic Set Editor). I'm thinking instead of a random wandering monster chart to possibly roll on whenever they explore a new tile. I'm thinking a 2dWhatever chart, with the weaker monsters in the middle (at the height of the bell curve) and the stronger monsters on the ends. Monsters would get crossed off as they are encountered, with the rest of the chart moving up or down closer to the middle, so the dungeon randomly gets more dangerous the deeper they get. 

I think that's a good start. Next up, we've got the Encounter Deck, which comprises traps and other events that alter play (moody music playing somewhere, drawing a wandering monster, chamber fills with blood mist, a ghost comes through, an earthquake rattles everything, etc). I'm going to need to take a bit to actually look through the cards again, but my gut feeling is that I may be able to use the cards as written, perhaps changing instances of "1 damage" to "1d6 damage". 

There are four "Conditions" that appear in the board games that were ported over from 4E. These appear often on the "Encounter" cards, so I will need a standard way to adjudicate these. They are: Slowed, Immobilized, Dazed and Poisoned. M74 has four saving throws: Fortitude, Reflex, Will, and Presence. I don't think, however, that it would be a good idea to match each saving throw to a particular condition. Rather, it would be on a case-by-case basis, and then I would have to record each instance so that precedents can be maintained. 

Anyways, I'll be taking a closer look at everything in the box this evening and should have some better ideas on how to make it work. Since we seem to have an extra night a week to play in addition to our now regularly scheduled game with their grandfather, I may just have them roll up new characters for a Castle Ravenloft mini-campaign. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kids' Campaign: Keep on the Shadowfell, Microlite Style

So last night we continued the kids' game, along with my father-in-law. They are getting close to the end of the dungeon. It was decided at the beginning of this session they would rest for the night, which they did in the secret treasure room they had found in the previous session. Hit points restored, they went back to the last place they had explored to, which was a hallway with two closed doors, one going right and one left. They opened the left door first, and found a remarkably clean dungeon hallway. Past the door on the right was a large room with a huge statue of a knight. They chose to go down the clean hallway first, where they eventually encountered a gelatinous cube, which they fought and killed. In that area was also the sarcophagi of the family of Sir Keegan, the last lord of Shadowfell Keep. They found the burial items of the Keegan family hidden in the crypt, which the cleric convinced the rest of the party to leave (a toy wooden sword, a doll, a broom, and an amulet). 

Next they went into the room with the huge statue. I opted to make that the only trap in the room, instead of the three different traps listed in the module. The thief spotted the access panel on the back of the statue after it attacked the first time. They gave the thief a drink of the invisibility potion, which enabled her to cross the room and not trigger the statue's attack, and she climbed up the back of it and spent some time disabling it. 

Then, still invisible, she went and opened the door on the other side of the room! She discovered all the undead inside, and ran back around to the end of the room. Attracted to the light of the torches and lanterns the team was carrying, a whole mess of undead lurched forward attack. 

This fight got pretty interesting. A mix of skeletons, zombies, and ghouls were in the room. The ghouls' paralyzing bite almost had the whole party down at one point, with three out of five failing their saving throws (I allow the players a saving throw each turn to overcome the paralysis). 

And then the flesh golem lumbered up the stairs. Its first attack critted for 12, knocking the elf fighter down to 2 HP in a single blow! She ran away quickly but the other elf, weilding Aecris, Sir Keegan's old sword, stepped in and fought bravely. The wizard was flying around thanks to a potion of flight he'd drunk, and was shooting flaming magic missiles at the monster (I let him pay an extra HP to cast the spell to add a +1 to damage and add an basic elemental type to it). A couple oil flasks kept the fire damage rolling, which kept the flesh golem slowed (and only making one slam attack at +12 to hit per round instead of two!). The fire was probably the difference between victory and TPK. 

It's a pretty interesting experience DMing for your kids. On one hand, you want to challenge them and facilitate a thrilling adventure. On the other hand, you don't want to arbitrarily kill off a kid's character. But the dice are fickle! I have been rolling them all right out in the open, including monsters' hit dice (which I don't roll until the monster is actually attacked). There's no fudging anything. The kids would be able to tell if I was, anyway. 

All in all, a good session. They healed up and are about to enter the room with the Rift. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

D100 CharGen Bogeys

One of my favorite parts of CharGen in the Dragonquest game I used to be a part of, way back in the day, was rolling for bogeys. This was usually the last step in CharGen before spending your starting experience points. You never knew what boons or banes you might roll for your character.

With this in mind, I present the following D100 table for use with Microlite74. Humans roll twice, all other races roll once. Some of these may require a little work on the part of the DM and/or Player to fit in.

D100 Random ChaeGen Bogeys

1. Strong +1 STR
2. Agile +1 DEX
3. Clever +1 MIND
4. Attractive +1 CHA
5. Mighty +2 STR
6. Acrobat +2 DEX
7. Brilliant +2 MIND
8. Charming +2 CHA
9. Weapon Training: +1 to hit with a certain weapon.
10. Armor Training: gain proficiency with any armor, or +1 to AC if already proficient.
11. Toughness: +5 HP
12. Resilient: +1 Fortitude saves
13. Quick Reflexes: +1 Reflex saves
14. Strong-willed: +1 Will saves
15. +1 Presence saves
16. Elven blood: gain elvish ability to note secret/hidden doors
17. Dwarven heritage: note slanting passages, traps, shiftings walls, and new construction in underground settings.
18. Darkvision: can seen in darkness as if it were twilight.
19. Linguist: learn any additional language
20. Animal Master: you have a special affinity with animals and have a trained, non-magical animal companion of some sort (dog, cat, snake, ferret, bird, etc)
21. Gladiator: you have spent some time in the fighting arenas. Gain +1 to hit with a particular melee weapon, and you crit with that weapon on a natural 19 or 20.
22. Mariner: you were a sailor for some time. You are knowledgable about sailing and life on the sea and gain a +1 to hit with a net.
23. Merchant: you come from a family of merchants, and have a natural skill at determining the actual price of gems and other treasure.
24. Nobility: you have family in high places. You start out with 5X starting gold, but you must pay 25% extra for everything you buy, to get the finest quality. You gain favorable reactions from other nobles, and have knowledge of proper etiquette.
25. Outlaw: you are wanted by the authorities somewhere for a crime, whether you committed it or not.
26. Peasant Hero: you saved your village from a terrible fate.
27. Pirate: arr matey
28. Pugilist: you are quite skilled at fighting with your bare hands, and use 1d6 for damage when fighting unarmed.
29. Rider: you have a fast horse, with which you share a close bond.
30. Scholar: you are educated and have a thirst for knowledge of all sorts. +1 MIND
31. Sharpshooter: you are an amazing shot with a bow. Gain proficiency with the bow if you don't already have it, and gain an additional +3 to hit.
32. Swashbuckler: +1 to hit with light blades (rapiers, sabres, etc) and +1 to AC when wearing light or no armor
33. Blaster: you gain the Arcane Blast ability.
34. Alertness: you gain a bonus to surprise rolls.
35. Ambidexterous: you can use either hand equally well.
36. Artistic: you are quite skilled in some artform, be it painting, drawing, music, sculpture, or something else.
37. Meteorologist: you have a natural sense for and understanding of the weather, and can tell when it's about to change or if it is unnatural.
38. Double-jointed: you are quite adept at getting out of bonds and restraints.
39. Internal Compass: when outside, you always know which way is north.
40. Keen eyesight: you can see better than most, perceiving details at a greater distance and spotting hidden objects nearby.
41. Keen hearing: you have excellent hearing, particularly when listening through dungeon doors.
42. The Nose: you have a particularly sensitive sense of smell.
43. Light Sleeper: you wake up at the slightest noise.
44. Obscure knowledge: you are the local trivia buff and repository of esoteric information.
45. Photographic Memory
46. Allergies: you get quite sneezy, or break out in hives, etc, when the weather changes or at other inopportune moments.
47. Bad tempered: doesn't handle insults, real or imagined, very well.
48. Clumsy.
49. Colorblind.
50. Compulsively honest.
51. Compulsive liar.
52. Deep sleeper.
53. Greedy.
54. Kleptomaniac: save vs Will or attempt to steal something shiny.
55. Minor Phobia
56. Major Phobia
57. Powerful Enemy
58. Favored Enemy: gain a bonus when fighting against a certain monster.
59. Stealthy: you always seem to move quietly.
60. Less sleep: you need only 4 hours of sleep to gain the full benefits of an extended rest.
61. Lucky shot! Ignore distance modifiers for ranged weapons.
62. +1 to hit with bows
63. +1 to hit with crossbows
64. Speed-loader: you can fire a crossbow and reload it in the same round.
65. +1 to hit with a sword
66. +1 to hit with an axe
67. +1 to hit with a mace, hammer or morningstar
68. +1 to hit with a flail
69. +1 to damage with a specific weapon
70. Hit Point Bonus: every time you level, add one to your HP roll.
71. Experience Bonus: -2 to your Experience Base
72. Claustrophobia. Penalty in confined spaces (like dungeons)
73. Hit Point Bonus: use the next larger size die for determining HP when you level.
74. Healing Surge: once per day, as long as you have not lost any body points, you may recover one quarter of your total hit points.
75. Action Point: once per day, you may take an extra action in a combat round.
76. Immune to disease.
77. Immune to poison.
78. Natural climber.
79. You can speak with animals, as the spell.
80. You understand the language of magic and can cast spells from scrolls.
81. Once per day and not during combat, you can heal someone else for up to a quarter of their total hit points.
82. Once per day, you can detect magic, as the spell.
83. You are on a mission from God.
84. Wizard's Apprentice: you spent some time as an apprentice to an old wizard, and can use the Minor Magic wizard ability.
85. People really like you: you can Charm Person once per day, as the spell.
86. You can Hypnotize someone once per day, as the spell.
87. Heartbroken.
88. Family Ties: you are married and have children.
89. Family Ties: your sibling(s) always seem to be getting themselves in trouble, and you have to bail them out.
90. You were born under a bad sign.
91. Your birth was considered a good omen.
92. Some group believes you are the Chosen One.
93. You spent some time brainwashed by a dark cult.
94. You are the last survivor of your clan.
95. You are searching for the six-fingered man, who killed your father.
96. You were raised by wolves.
97. You were raised by orcs (or some other monstrous humanoid).
98. You are a part of some divine prophecy.
99. You have several sizeable debts to pay off.
100. Roll twice more.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Microlite74 Kids' Campaign Gets a New Player!

This past Sunday was another day spent playing Microlite74 with the kids! This time we were joined by my father-in-law, a long-time gamer himself. We rolled him up a dwarf cleric to round out the team, and having him at the table was a big help, both in terms of keeping the kids focused on the action at hand, and in teaching them what kinds of details to ask about and tactics to use. 

As I've said before, I am running the kids through WotC's Keep on the Shadowfell, the infamous first published module for Type IV D&D, and adapting it on the fly for the Microlite system. It has continued to work out surprisingly well. Before we started playing today, they had rescued Douven Stahl from the old dragon burial ground, explored much of the first level of the Keep, and made their way down to the second level, but retreated after the fight with the hobgoblins' pet giant spider went sour. 

Today, they went back to town, got healed up, got a new party member, took out Ninaren and the undead in the graveyard, finished exploring the first level of the dungeon (which included the battle with skeleton warriors in the crypt and the confrontation with the skeletal remains of Sir Keegan, the last Lord of the Keep, AND finding the secret armory and solving the riddle to get the magic armor) and finished off the rest of the hobgoblins in the second level, aided by clever use of a couple charm person spells by the group's wizard. 

All told, in the time we had, had we been playing Type IV, they would have made it to Sir Keegan, and that's about it (if we made it that far!). 

I have made a couple changes to the way we use the magic system, which is only for the kids' game and not something I would do if gaming with adults, and that is to change the cost of casting magic spells. In the rules-as-written, first level spells drain a magic-user or cleric of 3 hit points when cast. While I understand the intent of the rule, to more closely emulate the original edition's restrictions on spells per day for magic users, the result, at least for my eight-year-old son, has been to refrain from using any spells out of fear of losing too many hit points. So I've knocked them down to make each spell's cost in HP equal to its level, which definitely resulted in the boy being more willing to experiment with the spells he had in the game. He learned the hard way that "Charm Person" doesn't work on the undead, but didn't feel cheated by it because he hadn't spent too much in casting it anyways. 

I also allowed the cleric to heal 1d8 hit points using Cure Light Wounds, as opposed to the 1d2 body points called for in the rules-as-written. I've been going to my AD&D Player's Handbook for spells as much as possible, and the two systems are working together quite well. 

All in all, I'm very happy with it and see Microlite74 as my go-to D&D game for the foreseeable future. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Play-By-Blog Review at

Some of my players over at the Ruins of Empire are also fellow bloggers. Joe Nelson, a writer at, has a post up today about his experiences playing in my play-by-blog game. Read it here

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

M74 Kid's Campaign update

Happy Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and all that other bullshit to everyone who might celebrate those days. I celebrated Thanksgiving by driving some seven hundred miles (round trip) to see some family I haven't seen in a few years, and it was all good. The minions had a great time with their cousins, the food was AMAZING (thank you, great-grandma!), and a good time was had by all. Except for the two-year-old, who never wants to be in a carseat that long ever again. 

We celebrated Black Friday by playing D&D (Microlite74 style) pretty much all day. Shopping is overrated anyway. The minions are very much enjoying the new system, even though they miss things like Healing Surges and Action Points. I am (on the fly) adapting WotC's Keep on the Shadowfell to the Microlite system, and it's working out amazingly well. This only confirms my suspicion that it is, in fact, an old-school style dungeon crawl that they tried to fit into the 4E system framework. In my experience, it doesn't work with 4E, unless you want to spend months crawling through it. I don't. At the rate my kids are going, we have another three or four sessions, at the most, depending on how it goes, of course. 

I haven't been terribly strict on enforcing exactly how they are doing things like "searching for traps" or "looking for treasure"; just the simple fact that they are thinking to do such things is enough to say "okay, here's what you've found." I figure I'll start teaching them the nuances of all that as they continue to play. Really all that matters is they are having fun, and so am I, and they all continue to learn the game. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Inspiration: Innistrad

Yesterday I picked up some cards from the new Magic: The Gathering expansion, Innistrad, in the form of the $40 "Fat Pack". The box included nine booster packs from the Innistrad set, 75 basic land cards, a 51-page "Player's Guide" booklet (which includes a complete picture listing of every card in the set), a "Getting Started" rules foldout, and two foldable cardstock Innistrad-themed deck boxes. Oh, and a countdown d20 life counter. For the price, the box is a deal just for the cards you get.

Of course, this being a D&D-focused blog, I'm going to look more at what this particular set of M:tG cards can bring to your table from an RPG standpoint. The first observation I have to make is that there is a very, very heavy Ravenloft-inspired theme with this set. The expansion is crawling with vampires and werewolves, and they're not the "sparkles in sunlight" type either. Hell, "Strahd" is in the name, so WotC is clearly paying homage to their pen and paper roots with this set. The art throughout is fantastic, which is to be expected from M:tG at this point.

These cards just ooze inspiration for any Ravenloft-themed campaign. Check 'em out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Teach Your Kids to Game Week!

I got an email the other day from about Teach Your Kids to Game Week. I'm not sure if it's this week or next or whatever, but I figured I'd share my most recent experience. I've written about this before, as I was teaching my three oldest the ins and outs of Type IV D&D. We made it through a few sessions, enough to level them up to 2, before the chaos of having a large family intervened. I have since become enamored of the newest edition of Microlite, and decided to convert the kids game to that system. 

They didn't want to lose all their stuff, or make new characters, so I had them roll stats (4d6 drop the lowest) and did the rest of the chargen myself for them. All in all, using Microsoft Word, I was able to put all their characters together in as much time as it took me to do their Type IV characters in WotC's online Character Builder. I was also able to create a new character for the youngest boy (age 6) so he wouldn't be left out of the fun. It was a piece of cake to modify the magic items they already had from 4E to work in the Microlite74 system. 

All in all, we managed to play for about two hours. A lot of that was spent with the kids joking around about everything. I am running them through the old 4E adventure "Keep on the Shadowfell", which is a straightforward enough adventure and features a large, rather old-school type of dungeon to explore (old-school enough that it is pretty much a total failure as a Type IV D&D module!). They haven't gotten to the Keep yet, but they will soon enough. 

I'm not sure if I really have any good advice for gaming with kids, though. Try to do as much of the chargen yourself as is possible. Use a simple system; the 4E power cards can induce a rather debilitating type of analysis paralysis in certain kids, and combat can really drag in that system. Kids are naturally old-school gamers, believe it or not. They want to try anything, and they need that kind of freedom. The "yes, but..." DMing style is absolutely crucial in this type of game. Encourage them to be descriptive, and they will go all-out. At least, mine did, but they are always trying to one-up each other. 

Gaming with kids can be very rewarding. I know I had a blast playing with them, and I know they all enjoyed themselves (even when it seemed they weren't; nobody likes to miss their attack roll!). So, if you have kids, game excellently with them! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

More Play-By-Blog Goodness!

It seems we may be on to something with this play-by-blog thing. I know people have been doing play-by-email and play-by-forum-post games for quite a while, so the concept is not exactly new. Another play-by-blog game has come to my attention, called Top Secret Overseer: the Extraordinary Case Files of Group 17. It's a Weird War II game using the Savage Worlds system. It's brand spanking new but so far seems well-written and well-organized.

And that, I think, is what really makes this play-by-blog thing click. Having a place that is just for one game, with all the information just a clickety-click away, is clutch. I hope to see some more play-by-blog games pop up. Hopefully, this will be more than just a fad. From what I've seen, the format attracts well-written, literate individuals. I certainly have high hopes for the story-telling possibilities inherent in the format, even if they're only fully experienced by the participating individuals.

Collective story-telling for the twenty-first century, I suppose. The entire global village can participate, together. This has to be a good thing.

So, I know there are dungeon masters and game masters out there, reading this, whose regular games have fallen apart, who are itching to run a game and create a story. It takes a fair bit of work on the computer to get it all set up, but if you're willing to stick with it, go for it.

And let me know, because I want to check it out.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Play-By-Blog First Impressions

I've been neglecting this blog a bit because I've been focusing most of my D&D energy on my play-by-blog game at So far, the game seems to be going well. The PCs are getting to know Fallcrest at the time of the Summer Festival. We've yet to make a single roll apart from character generation, but so far so good. We have a solid, well-rounded crew with a ranger, fighter, cleric, magic-user and thief. My players are all quite literate and have been writing very well. 

I am definitely looking forward to putting the Microlite74 system through its paces, as far as combat and such is concerned. The time for that is rapidly approaching, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it will play out. 

The play-by-blog format is definitely slow-moving. I'm okay with that, actually. It's radically different than running a game at the table, but I've found it gives everyone involved time to make smart, informed decisions and craft well-written posts. Character development is good, and so far, all the characters are interesting and have some depth to them, in spite of being mere level-1 mooks. 

All in all, I think the play-by-blog experiment will work pretty well. I'm looking forward to our exploration of the Nentir Vale, and I think, so far, I've dropped enough plot hooks in front of our PCs to keep us busy for a while. There are numerous threats out there, and plenty of history to reveal. 

My life is just too crazy busy, with the kids and work and my beautifully pregnant wife, to be able to run a regular table-top game. This Microlite play-by-blog experiment is scratching the gaming itch quite well for me. Many thanks to my players and anyone reading along. 

On a side note, 4E content will be slow in coming. Aside from my weekly Encounters game, I'm pretty much done with 4th Edition D&D. I will continue to mine my 4E resources for inspiration for The Ruins of Empire, but I won't be running any more 4E games. My kids' game will be rolling up new characters for Microlite soon, and that's probably the direction this blog will be taking. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cross-Edition Pollination

Cross-Edition Pollination

So, as I've mentioned before, I'm starting a Microlite74 campaign on my new blog, Microlite74 is a very old-school type of system, emphasizing the exploration and do-anything feel of the original D&D editions, while utilizing a very streamlined and basic rendition of the D20 SRD. 

However, I'm setting this campaign in the out-of-the-box 4th Edition setting of the Nentir Vale (heavily tweaked, of course, to keep any players with access to 4e material on their toes), and using the 4E pantheon of gods and (if we ever get to it) the 4E planar landscape as well. I may even tweak some of my 4E modules to run in the Microlite system. 

I've seen numerous folks out there in the blogosphere updating old modules to the new systems. WotC did the Tomb of Horrors, and I've seen Temple of Elemental Evil for 4E gameplay reports as well. I was even tinkering about with Night Below and pondered giving Dragonlance a whirl. 

But my question is, anyone out there going the other way like this, and applying the new fluff and stuff to the old-school type game? I really have enjoyed a lot of the fluff, sidebar-type material that WotC has produced for 4E, the mechanics of the system have just been wearing me down. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Ruins of Empire

I have started a new blog for the purposes of running my play-by-blog Microlite74 campaign, and you can find it here.

It's still pretty bare-bones, but I'll be adding a lot more to it over the next few days.

That is all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Microlite74, Sully's Houserules

Microlite74 Extended Edition, Sully's Houserules 

The following Houserules will be in effect for my upcoming Microlite74 Play-By-Blog game, which is still recruiting players. If you are interested in joining this game, email me at sully33 at gmail dawt com. 

Races: all the races offered seem pretty well true to the source material. One thing, however, immediately jumped out at me, and that was Gnomes getting a +1 to both Strength and Dexterity. Dexterity I agree with, as they are a small and nimble people, but Strength just doesn't make a lick of sense to me, so we'll change that to a +1 to the Mind attribute instead. 

I may also cook up a few of the 4E races, such as Tieflings and Dragonborn, down the line. 

Classes: all the classes are solid, but I will only be allowing the "Standard" classes to start (Fighter, Ranger, Paladin, Thief, Cleric, Druid, Magic-User, Illusionist), while the "Optional" classes (Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Monk, Mystic, Sorcerer and Warlord) will have to be "unlocked" through the course of player exploration in the campaign. 

Alignment: The Microlite74 alignment system is pretty vague: Light, Dark, or Neutral. I prefer more colorful terms to express a characters alignment, such as "Neutral Hedonistic" or "Chaotic Ugly". Alignment is really more just guidelines for role-playing anyway. Any magic item that has alignment requirements will be adjudicated on the fly based on an individual character's history in the campaign to date. 

Virtues and Vices: I think this is a nice little role-playing tool to go along with alignment. I crossed out the line containing "Determined" and "Hidebound" and then numbered the chart down from 1-20 so it could easily be rolled on with a D20 for randomness, if desired. 

The different Battle Stances just won't get used, except for "Full Defense", which will be an option as an action in combat. It grants a bonus to Armor Class in exchange for not attacking that round. 

Special Combat Situations: the only thing that jumped off the page as ripe for abuse here is the "Knockout Blow", which as written allows a character to make an attack that stuns the target for a number of rounds equal to how much the AC was beaten by (and more for Thieves!). This is something that I think should be included in with Combat Tricks and Stunts, so that's where it will go. Alternatively, I'm the kind of DM that will allow players to knockout an opponent instead of killing them outright when HP are dropped to zero (except in the case of a critical hit). 

Next up we'll tackle the Microlite74 Companion, as there are some optional rules there that I would like to include in our game. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Microlite74 Play-By-Blog anyone?

As I mentioned before, last week I think, my gaming time lately has been pretty slim. That bugs me. This hectic life leaves precious little time to gather around the table, even with my kids! I'm really itching to run something and stretch my creative muscles back out. I've been pondering getting into a Constantcon game, but I just don't have the three to five hour block of time to do so, and nevermind that my crappy old desktop would undoubtedly fail me, even if I tried. 

I really want to take Microlite74 Extended for a test run. I really dig how MilwaukeeJoe is running his game of Grind4e using a blog interface, with players describing their actions in the comments. For more details on how exactly that works, go here

That being said, consider this a call for player applications. This will be a player-driven, hex-crawl, sandbox type of game. While the standard fantasy races described in Microlite74 Extended will all be available for PCs, the setting will be low-magic, and with the same basic "Points of Light" idea that 4th Edition D&D espouses. I'll be using converted AD&D2E monsters and magic items, along with plenty of homebrewed goodness. I have no overarching grand plot. The landscape will be liberally sprinkled with plenty of adventure sites, of which the players will hear plenty of rumours about. I will utilize multitudinous random tables to determine a lot of things as the game progresses. This will NOT be all nice and balanced like 4E, nor will it focus excessively on that tactical combat side of things. 

Email me at sully33 at gmail dawt com if you are interested in playing! I will start up a new blog specifically for this game if there is enough interest.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I want to be a dragon!

Or, at least, have one out there with my namesake! Over at Tenkar's Tavern, one of my favorite blogs, he has a poll up to determine the name of his "Nameless Dragon" he uses in his videocasts. One of the names in the lead is Sully! Hey, that's my name!

So, all you slavering marauders of this Pack of Gnolls, go vote for Sully over at Tenkar's Tavern!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Monte Redeems Himself

D&D Insider: Legends and Lore
(linked article does not require a DDI subcription)

Monte Cook struck out in his first at-bat with his new gig writing the Legends and Lore column for Wizards of the Coast. His ideas about how Perception should work were basically the same as the system already in play in 4E, and his column seemed to betray that he didn't really have a grasp on the system in question. 

Today, though, in his second article, he hit a home run. He turned the spotlight on magic items, and made a point that's been a primary grognardian criticism of 3rd and 4th Edition D&D since the beginning: magic items have lost their magical feel, and it's because they are no longer a reward but have become an expected part of character advancement, and, indeed, a requirement to maintain PC power levels as they advance through the game. 

Ha! And he takes this swipe at the system right on the heels of the release of Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium, the finest collection of magic items WotC has given us to date. 

This is a good thing. Monte's clearly been paying attention to the old-school gaming movement. This definitely bodes well for the direction of the game. Word is that a 5th Edition is on its way, and if this is a primary assumption of the system, magic items as actual reward and not mechanical filler in the overglorified name of "balance", then maybe Wizards will strike gold. 

Friday, September 30, 2011



So, I haven't done much in the way of gaming in the past month, except for my weekly D&D Encounters fix. Schedules around this chaotic household have been pretty hectic, between my working loads of overtime, home-schooling the kids, the wife's knee injury, and running kids around to Scouts and sports events, there hasn't been a lot of time at all to continue the 4E D&D game I started with the kids. 

And truth be told, I think I need a simpler system to play with the kids. One thing I discovered while running the game for them is that kids naturally gravitate to the old-school ways, where they are willing to try anything they can imagine, and come up with crazy solutions to the problems placed before them. They don't need to be limited by the power cards in front of them. Nor do I want to constantly have to explain how the rules work for each of their powers. 

I've always lurked around the OSR blogs, and started doing some research into the different systems that emulate the first few editions of D&D. We all know there are several out there (just take a look over at the sidebar at Tenkar's Tavern for a pretty comprehensive list of links). I didn't want an exact copy of an earlier edition- I've got my 2E books if I wanted to play that. I also really like the core mechanic of the D20 system in 3E and 4E. To me, the best improvement they made with 3E was the Ascending Armor Class (eliminating THAC0) and the addition of Non-Armor Defenses to replace those clunky saving throw charts. 

So, after downloading a few free PDFs and perusing rules and blog posts about different systems, I stumbled upon Microlite. There is a new revision of the Microlite ruleset currently under proofreading, and I loved it from the start. Ascending AC, Non-Armor Defenses (with an option to use old-school saving throws instead!), a hit-point draining magic system (something I thought was great from my Dragonquest days), and easy compatibility with all my 2E books (particularly the magic items from the DMG, and the Monstrous Manual). I'll be using the Microlite74 Extended rules, but probably not all of them (things like combat stances won't be used). I really like the 4E nod to hit points fully recovering after a six-hour (Extended) rest, and the Body Points rules for dying are great. The system is still potentially quite lethal, but a single hit won't kill my son's wizard. I may take a deeper look at it and see if I can houserule a few things to include the standard D&D attribute array, as the Extended version of Microlite74 uses only 4 stats. 

The best part is I can still mine all my 4E books for all the fluff (which is a big part of what I really love about 4E) because it will be damn easy to convert to Microlite. I'm looking forward to the final release of Microlite74 and am definitely going to start running it for the minions. They could give a damn what "edition" we're using, they just want to play D&D. And their character sheets will actually fit on one sheet! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

In America, today is a holiday called Labor Day. No, Britain, it's not to celebrate one of your political parties. This day is all about your regular working joe, like me, and all the working joes that camw before. Especially those who died or were seriously injured fighting for their rights. A lot of people don't get it. There are things a lot of us take for granted, like eight-hour work days, overtime, and weekends... people died fighting for these things. It took a long time to get these rights in place in this country, and don't think for a second that they are not constantly under attack. 

Situations like a strike are excellent adventure hooks for D&D-type RPGs, as well. "Guilds" in D&D are generally accepted as part of the political landscape of any major city (though I am sure that most of the time, the only guild players encounter is the ubiquitous "Thieves Guild"). Organized labor has strength in numbers, and can easily shut down commerce in a city for days by going on strike to demand better wages, hours, and benefits. Longshoremen can lock down a dock. Carpenters and masons can halt building construction. There is a balancing act for support from the general population, as workers and their bosses take their messages to the street. Tensions in the city rise. Boiling point. Bloodshed. Someone takes the blame, and the winner takes the spoils.

Anyone out there ever used this type of political scenario in their D&D game? How did it play out?  

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

D&D Encounters Week 4

D&D Encounters, Week 4

This week, we began with our meeting with Lord Neverember, who is basically the current regent of the city of Neverwinter. He is a noble from Waterdeep who has spent most of his fortune rebuilding the ruined city in the aftermath of the Spellplague-induced volacanic eruption. He wishes to hire us to determine the truth behind the "Lost Heir" who has been battling spellplague monsters all over town, rallying support from the public, while wearing the Lost Crown of Neverwinter. He offers us the princely sum of 500 gold each if we can learn the truth, and gives us each a medallion that will enable us to pass beyond the guarded walls of the rebuilt city, and into the rest of still-devestated Neverwinter, where the Lost Heir is believed to be operating from. 

Of course, when we arrive at the gate, we find the soldiers stationed there killed, and we are set upon by the bandits. Only a couple of us were surprised in the first round. We managed to dispatch them all in three rounds. The cleric and the bladesinger wound up bloodied, and a couple magic items were handed out. No one really wanted the headband of perception, and I let the nethermancer and bladesinger roll off for the +1 armor (of their choice!). 

After combat, we discovered among the survivors of the earlier bandit attack the half-elf who had hired the group in the D&D Gameday event "Gates of Neverdeath". Turns out she was the one who delivered the "Lost" Crown of Neverwinter to the Lost Heir. She's in the employ of Lord Neverember, but is a true believer in the Lost Heir, but she doesn't know where he is at the moment and must return to the castle. So we're kind of on our own to find the Lost Heir. My blackguard's plan is to kill the Heir, take the Crown, and claim the throne, but I'm pretty sure that isn't exactly accomodated for in the adventure path. 

I really, really want to like Encounters. I really do. This is my first season participating in it, and I feel like it's missing the mark somehow. It's not the DM, or the other players. The combat encounters themselves, really, are not as engaging as they could be, I think. 4E has so much to offer in terms of tactical options, especially when it comes to how combat encounters are built and presented. So far, it seems to me that the writers have spent a lot more time crafting a railroad to lead us down than creating engaging encounters. They're counting on the political intrigue aspect of the story to carry it all and keep the players interested. That's the problem. Political intrigue is supposed to be pretty roleplay heavy, but with an adventure path like this, player decisions are pretty minimal (ie, nonexistent) in regards to how things play out, plotwise. 

Honestly, I think I'd rather be in a linear dungeon crawl with some crazy combat encounters. Maybe the new Lair Assault is more what I'm looking for as far as organized play is concerned. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Wish for Magic Story Items

This article here is just an excerpt from the upcoming 4E D&D supplement "Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium", and I have to say I'm sold and can't wait to get my hands on it! 

I admit I've been feeling a bit down on 4th Edition lately. I guess it's mostly because I see so much potential in the system and I haven't really been impressed by how it is implemented in official product from Wizards. This excerpt, however, definitely made me take notice, as they are introducing something new that is a pretty big departure from everything so far. 

"Story Items". Not quite artifacts, though one could be, in the old-school sense of the word. Magical, though lacking any bonuses to character stats. The primary function is really to help tell the story. I love it. Finally we're getting some ideas for gameplay outside of the Combat Encounter/Skill Challenge dichotomy! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bar Brawl the fun way!

In my last post I lamented the boring third session of this season of D&D Encounters, as it was a particularly un-fun bar fight. Well, Charisma over at has posted an excellent skill-challenge type of mini system for Barroom Brawls, which is pretty system-neutral. Check it out!

Friday, August 26, 2011

D&D Encounters: Lost Crown of Neverwinter, Sessions 2 and 3

I've been too focused on "real life" things to blog about D&D very much lately, but I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things a little more regularly, now that work has slowed back down to a regular 40 hour week again.

I went back to the Fantasy Shop in St. Charles, MO, for Weeks 2 and 3 of this season of D&D Encounters. Our party for the last two weeks has consisted of the same 6 players and characters, and we have a fairly well-rounded group: Hunter, Thief, Warpriest, Bladesinger, Nethermancer, and my Blackguard.

Week 1 ended with the cliffhanger of the mysterious masked warrior wearing the Lost Crown of Neverwinter joining us in town-square battle against plaguechanged drakes and humans. At the end of the battle, a young plaguechanged white dragon landed in the middle of the square.

During Week 2, we fought the dragon. He was a big solo brute, and knocked us all around pretty well, but we managed to take him down. He did have some interesting effects that were brought to bear against us, such as the spellgplague explosion that occurred when we bloodied him, and his trample-rampage attack that ran us over a few times. The session ended with the Lost Heir of Neverwinter (mystery dude wearing the Crown) casting some kind of petrifaction spell upon the dying dragon, leaving a lovely monument in the middle of the town square, and throngs of onlookers cheering him on as he rode off.  He also gave us each an amulet which we could wear to signify our allegiance to him.

Week 3 picks ten days later. It's been generally assumed that the PCs spent the tenday mucking about town, picking up rumors and trying to learn more about just what's going down in Neverwinter these days. The town is thick with political strife, and different factions are all vying for control. One one hand is Lord Neverember, the current regent, and on the other is this mysterious Lost Heir. We also learn that shop owners and townsfolk are being bullied by the Lost Heir's thugs into pledging allegiance to him. There has also been an increase in attacks by plaguechanged creatures inside the supposedly "warded" safe area of Neverwinter, and every time the Lost Heir shows up to kick ass and take names.

So the PCs meet up at the Beached Leviathan, an inn built out of the hull of a grounded old pirate ship and run by the ship's old captain. He's a Neverember loyalist, but has been bullied lately. While we're in the pub, a group of soldiers shows up with a General in tow, who informs us that she'll be personally delivering us to Lord Neverember for a meeting. Whether we like it or not.

At which point we get attacked by some Lost Heir loyalists.

Frankly, this Encounter could have really been so much more. The setting, a pirate ship repurposed to an Inn, and the event, a bar brawl, has so much potential to be a completely raucous, over-the-top event. Instead, it was a boring trade of dice rolls. The brawlers attacked our group at our table, which meant we were basically stuck in a corner and surrounded. Because no one wanted to risk getting hit with any opportunity attacks, we all pretty much stayed put (except the nethermancer, who shadow-walked his way to a much further corner) and traded blows with the thugs until they were bloodied and we either Intimidated or Diplomatically convinced them to stop fighting. Of course, that took a while because they each had almost 60 hit points!

Now, I understand that the evening was more about learning everything going on in Neverwinter and to give us some insight into the political machinations going on. Which it did a fine job of. But, what could have been a memorable bar brawl wound up being a monotonous event at best.

I would be remiss, of course, if I didn't offer some suggestions on how to make it better.

First, there could have been a mini Skill Challenge involved right before combat commenced. An exchange of words, a rallying of either side's supporters, to see just how big this bar brawl was going to become. That could have offered some great role-playing opportunities.

Second, make the fight more dramatic and completely chaotic (like a real bar brawl). Duh! Once the brawl commences, have a randomized chart to see who could randomly get hit over the head with a chair, or slip on spilled ale, or have another combatant pushed into them, or being grabbed by someone, or someone gets tossed through a window or over the bar or across a table or into the big pile of barrels or hell, even into the fireplace!

Anyways, I'll be back for the rest of the season; I'm not a quitter! But I really think Wizards dropped the ball with this particular encounter.

Friday, August 12, 2011

D&D Encounters Session 1

Okay, time to blow off a little dust here. I've been working a ton of overtime, out in the heat, and that has generally left my brain a mushy mess of exhaustion by the time I get home. This has also left exactly zero time for gaming, along with trying to keep up with all the children's activities. Regardless, posting will continue to be fairly slow for the foreseeable future. 

Anyway, I took part in the new season of D&D Encounters on Wednesday at The Fantasy Shop in St. Charles, MO. They had at least six tables running (and with only 4 packets from WotC, so a couple tables had to improvise with the poster maps). Our table had a good mix; I played a Blackguard, Cecil, and across from me was Freya, a Paladin. We decided that honor trumped divine allegiance (at least so long as the Blackguard refrained from killing an innocent in cold blood!) so we could get along as a team. Next to me were two younger guys (20, 21?), one of whom ordered pizza for the table and made sure to role-play his Nethermancer's every combat action, and the other ran with the new Bladesinger class out of the Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Finally, across the table from them, two guys who were veterans of 3.5 D&D but new to 4E, and rounded out the party with a Hunter Ranger and a Warpriest Cleric. With all roles covered, we began. 

Our DM, Damon, is also the organizer for Encounters, so all the other DMs come to him for questions and such. So, it looks like we'll generally be starting a little later than the other tables. This didn't leave a whole lot of opportunity for role-playing in the merchant square where the encounter took place, but we did at least get to roll to hear a rumor. None of us had a relevant character Theme for the encounter (this is how WotC is writing in role-playing opportunities in this season of Encounters, apparently), however, the luck of the dice gave me a rumor tied to my Theme, the Devil's Pawn. This Theme basically means you've sold your soul to Asmodeus and are left with an anarchy-style A burned into your chest, and gives you a rockin-sweet Encounter power in "Hellfire and Brimstone", which does automatic 5 fire damage to everything within 2 squares of you. It was absolutely perfect for taking out the horde of Plaguechanged minions that popped out of the sewers at the start of the combat session. Regardless, I had a merchant ask if I'd heard about the cults of Asmodeus that were going around branding people, and I replied: "Like this?" and opened my shirt to show him the burning A branded across my chest, which caused him to flee in terror and earned me our session's "Moment of Greatness."

The combat was a pretty straightforward slugfest; the horde minions dropped quickly, and the tougher Plaguechanged drakes piled up on the Paladin, including a critical hit, to drop her pretty hard in a single round. The NPC showed up with a whole lot of FAIL, as he completely missed on the first round when he rode in to "save the day". More minions came out of the sewers and were quickly dispatched by the Nethermancer and the Hunter while the Blackguard, Paladin, Warpriest and NPC (wearing the eponymous Lost Crown of Neverwinter!) polished off the drakes. 

The session ended on a nice little cliffhanger, as a white dragon with Spellplague-blue highlights swooped into the middle of the market. 

All in all, we had a much better night than the table across from us, which suffered a total party and townsfolk kill. Just plain nasty, but the dice fall where they will. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

D&D Worldwide GameDay

Today I partook in my first WotC organized play event in the D&D Worldwide Gameday, at the Fantasy Shop in St. Charles, Missouri. They had three full tables at noon, and everybody seemed to have a lot of fun. My table was a healthy mix of 4E veterans and neophytes, and only one of us showed up with a character ready to go off the DDI Character Builder, which was a Drow Necromancer. The rest of the party consisted of a dwarf warpriest, an elf paladin, a human hunter, a dwarf slayer, and I played a human blackguard.

Overall, it was a nice little introduction to the Neverwinter Campaign Setting, and it was also nice that our characters could continue into the upcoming season of D&D Encounters. Almost everyone at the table this afternoon signed up to show up on Wednesday night, for the same table, so most of our little group will still be together. We didn't have enough time for the zombie horde skill challenge after the second combat scenario, unfortunately, but all our Level 1 characters managed to survive the two battles against undead skeletons and zombies.

It was definitely nice to see a whole batch of new themes released for this. Every player got a random theme card in their grab bag, and I traded mine for the "Devil's Pawn" theme, which fit with my blackguard's story pretty well (once a paladin, corrupted by a deal with a devil to save a family member, now tainted), even if it's not the most "optimised" choice. Actually, the encounter power that comes with the theme, "Hellfire and Brimstone" is pretty sweet, doing automatic 5 fire damage in a burst 2 for the cost of a minor action. I wound up using it in both encounters; in the first, I took out three minion skeletons with it, and in the second, used it to finish off a bloodied undead hound.

Overall, a good day. I'm definitely looking forward to participating in this season of Encounters, and I'll be posting reports after each and every session!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

4E Random Encounters!

One of my current pet D&D 4E projects is coming up with random encounter charts for exploration in the Nentir Vale. As I was flipping through my Monster Vaults and MM3, I was a bit overwhelmed. My first thought was that I was going to have to wind up creating hundreds of different little groups of monsters that would probably never get used. Seemed like an awful lot of work for very little reward, so I didn't get very far in that endeavor. However, I really want to implement a wandering monster/random encounter mechanic for my kids' 4E game.

And then today, I had an epiphany. Over at the Blog of Holding, Paul wrote up the Monster Manual 3 on a Business Card, which very effectively and concisely boils down the math for D&D 4E monsters. Obviously, a lot of monsters have more to them than just hit points, armor class and defenses, and damage, but for quick and dirty encounters without paging through the books, it works like a charm. You really only need one monster in any given encounter that has abilities that inflict status effects or do other cool stuff (any more than that becomes tedious), and it's usually pretty easy to keep the book open to that one monster. So, this occurred to me: use the MM3 on a Business Card for the basis of my random encounters. Kind of like this:

If you roll for a random wilderness encounter, roll 2d10 and add the numbers together, and:
C = # of characters in party
L = avg party level
2 Unique NPC/Monster from this area
3 Unique NPC/Monster from this area
4 Elite Controller +2d6 2-hit minions @ L+1d6
5 3 Soldiers @ L+1d6
6 5 Soldiers @ L-1d6
7 Brute and 2 Artillery @ L+2d4
8 3 Brutes @ L-1d6
9 2 Lurkers @ L+1d6
10 C+2d6 minions @ L+1d6
11 C+1d8 minions @ L-1d4
12 C+1d6 2-hit minions @ L+1d4
13 C+1d4 artillery @ L+1d4
14 Brute and 2 Artillery @ L-1d4
15 Controller, Soldier, 3 Minions, Brute @ L+1d3
16 Solo Soldier @ L+1d6
17 Solo Brute @ L+1d6
18 Solo Skirmisher @ L+1d6
19 Unique NPC/Monster from this area
20 Unique NPC/Monster from another nearby area

You'll notice that I grouped the minion encounters in the middle, so they will be most common. I also used only the "role" name for opponents. This leaves all the description and detail in the DM court, while still having random possibilities. The band of orcs attacking the party could be a bunch of ne'er-do-well punk minions (11) or they could be a bad-ass group of seasoned veteran warriors (15).

This obviously requires a bit more work on the part of the DM to actually make it work. For example, it would probably help to know just what types of different monsters are in the area that the PCs are traveling through. Hell, you could even make a list keyed to another random chart to see which species of monster is attacking. It would also help to have a list of the major unique monsters in the area (any big nasty dragons around? because that's what I would use on a roll of 2 or 20).

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. With a few rolls, you can have an interesting random encounter with whatever local monsters are appropriate. I'm thinking a table for some possible interesting terrain, as well as a type of encounter. What are the monsters and heroes doing? Do they just stumble across each other? Have the monsters been tracking the heroes? Do the monsters have a trap set for whenever wandering heroes come along?

The table above was just an example, but there's no reason you couldn't put specific creatures from the Monster Vaults in there, as well. If you're in the Old Hills in the Nentir Vale, there's no reason that #14 couldn't be a Blackfang Feaster (Threats to the Nentir Vale p.25) and two gnoll spearthrowers (statted up using the MM3 on a Business Card). In fact, using the MM3 on a Business Card, it's pretty easy to level the Blackfang Feaster up or down to taste.

Anyway, I think this will be the start of my template for moving forward with random encounter charts throughout the entirety of the Nentir Vale. I'll probably have the tables figured up a little bit differently for each region, but I think they'll work out okay. And yes, I'll start publishing them here as soon as I get them figured out.