Friday, July 29, 2011

Dawn of Worlds

So to start my new home campaign I’ve decided to try out Dawn of Worlds. For those of you who don’t know, Dawn of Worlds is a fantasy-based world generator game. The game was designed by Legends, a group of rouge game designers from I know very little about the designers but I’ve heard rumors that they are working on a new version of the game but the original version that released in 2005 is free for download. Feel free to visit their website and download the pdf of Dawn of Worlds at your leisure. In the Game, the group leader draws up a blank map of a world. Then each player in turn order begins to add to the world to create a unique setting for whatever game you may be playing. The game is not rooted in any one system of role-play. In fact, any fantasy game from D&D, World of Darkness, and the Dresden Files could combine this game to its set-up.

I think this game is amazing. It allows my players and I to equally participate in the development of our own fantasy world. Players can feed off each other’s ideas and react to changes in the environment to create a rich history of a fantasy epic perfectly tailored to our desires. My hope is that my experience with Dawn of Worlds will inspire you, the reader, to at least check it out, browse over it, and maybe give it a whirl.

For my first session we were missing a few players sadly but I felt like we had to get the ball rolling. Even though this was my first time running/playing Dawn of Worlds and I knew that it was going to take a long time to play. The game is divided into 3 ages; Creation, Population, and Civilization. So I tried to time it out so that we could finish at least one age per session. At a rate of one session per week, then world creation should be done by week 3 and we could start playing D&D in our custom world by week 4. Sence we had our first session this week, I want to share with ya’ll how our world is turning out to be so far. During game play, we each decided to take on the role of a deity of our own design. I had no idea what kind of god I would turn out to be but it is really interesting to see the dynamics that build between the players and the world itself.

The Briefest History of Astra

Years 0-5,000 of the 1st Age

The World of Astra was founded by Four gods of Creation. Rekoligo (Josh) the gatherer, he preferred to be inspired by creation and manipulate and make it beautiful and grand. Far-Mor (HumorousEndeavors) the Never Sleeping Frost god, he forges mountains and breaths a cold wind that covers the land in Ice. Dra (Ryan) the Dragon god, he erupts volcanoes and covers the land in flame while his dragons roam the skies of Astra unchallenged. Khauzdul (Scott Farspell) the Dwarf god, he raised the highest mountains and forged the strongest of races, his burly Dwarves who seek honor in a hard day’s labor.

Years 0-1000

In the first millennia of the first age, Far-Mor began to raise mountains in the north and covered the land with his Frost Winds creating the Frost Lands. Rekoligo took the Frost Winds and created Hiber, an angelic being who embodies the Season of Winter. The others slumbered.

Years 1000-2000

In the 2nd millennia, Far-Mor Raised the High Top Mountains and continued to spread his Frost Winds. Dra began on an island in the far East by creating the Fire Dragons, a race of dragons whose bodies are engulfed in flame. He also created a massive volcano that would rival the High Top Mountains in size. But Khauzdul raised the largest single mountain ever seen in the middle of the Frost Lands, the Dawn Forge Mountain. While Rekoligo sent his servant Hiber to visit the Fire Dragons, which he befriended them and brought some back to the Frost Lands where the cold doused their flames, turning them into Stone Dragons

Years 2000-3000

In the 3rd Millenia, Far-Mor created the frozen lake of Rym between the High Tops and the Dawn Forge, in honor his kinship with Khauzdul. Dra covered his island of Dragons in fire and called it the Burning Lands. While, Rekoligo created the beautiful Hiber-Mor Forest on the northern coast of the frost lands. And Khauzdul created the Dwarves and placed them in the Dawn Forge Mountains.

Years 3000-4000

By the 4th Millenia, Rekoligo built the great Vaerym City for the Dwarves of the Dawn Forge Mountains and commanded Hider to anoint the Stone Dragons as the guardians of the Frost Lands. Far-Mor Continued to spread the Frost Winds across the land. While Khauzdul raised the Hiber Rift mountain range to protect his Dwarves, Dra created the Elm of Ages, a giant tree which emanates life extending magic.

Years 4000-5000

The 5th age begins with Rekoligo’s Great Forest which sprang up around the Elm of Ages. He also created Willow the tree Ent, guardian of the Great Forest. Far-Mor created a son from rock and ice which he named Roc-Mor the stone giant. Dra continued to scotch the Burning Lands and add to the Great Forest, while Khauldul fell back into slumber.

5000 years of History in one 3 hour session. I had a ton of fun and I can’t wait to play again next week. I’m curious to see how some of the elements in our game will translate to D&D but so far the themes of Astra has not strayed too far from traditional fantasy. The best part about the creation process isn’t the creation itself but the story that develops. The gods, creatures and even the land begins to take on personalities of their own and I found myself being inspired by the other players as the game progressed. My only criticisms are that it does take a long time to play and some rules are still a little vague. I was hoping we would be done with the first age this week but it is going to take at least one more 3 hour session.

Next Week we will start in the year 5000.

Until next time, keep playing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Call of the Dream

So Devan (Scotty Farspell) wrote his own one-shot adventure!!!

It's called Call of the Dream and is loosely (or heavily) based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Devan is a big fan of the Necronomicon and the narrative of Lovecraft's design definitely comes through in the adventure. It is based off of D&D4E (cause that's how we roll), but Devan also made a little tweak to the rules to help capture the feelings of insanity that comes with the world of darkness that Lovecraft details.

We are planning to put together a PDF of the adventure with all the information required to run it.

To test it out, Devan ran through the adventure with a small group of people (me included!) and that playtest is available here to check out! Enjoy!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gold, Frankincense and Murder Rap-up

So it has been exactly a month sence we posted the latest Episode of Gold, Frankincense and Murder. Sadly the summer is coming to a close and it is time to bury the hatchet on the Red Box adventure.

Overall, I liked the Twisting Halls adventure. It had everything you need for a good game from Dragons, magical puzzles, treasure, and a little bit of mystery. I would recommend the Red Box as the perfect starting game for someone who is new to the game, but experienced players might think that this adventure is generic because that is what it is. It is a generic dungeon crawl, perfected for rookies but a little bland for a pro.

I will miss the Red Box but I'm excited for our next adventure.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Whose Been Invited To the Party

Who here doesn’t like beating shit up? Heck it’s one of the main reasons we play D&D, so we can act out our fantasies of revenge and dish out our own brand of justice. But sometimes that desire can get in the way of a fun game.

The striker role in 4e is probably the most popular role in the game and understandably so. Everyone likes being the party bad ass, the one who can really throw down when push comes to shove. But this can sometimes lead to problems because no matter how tough of an assassin, rogue, or barbarian you are if you can’t stay up you can’t fight. It won’t matter how many healing surges you have if you can’t expend them to stay in the fight. It’ll never matter how much sneak attack damage you can do if you can’t get combat advantage to use it.

And what about when you just absolutely need to hit an enemy and could use the extra buffs? This is why there are leader characters. Leaders characters are probably the most unappealing characters at first glance. I mean just take a look at how many rogue, paladin, and warrior players there are in World of Warcraft and then and then compare that to how many priests and healer players there are. Why everyone hates playing the healer I will never know but it really confuses me. If my past and present gaming experience in D&D/4e are anything what yours are like then you will be aware that usually people have to be forced or coerced into playing healers. More on that latter though.

What use is a striker against large groups of enemies? Even if it’s just a group of minions if you’re a striker you can easily be overtaken in just a few rounds. Since strikers usually focus on a single enemy at a time (the Barbarians charging, the Avengers Oath of Enmity, the Rogues Sneak Attack) they can be easily defeated if they find themselves surrounded or singled out. This is where the Controller role comes in. With their large bursts and blasts that can not only deal out the AOE damage but also help in keeping enemies busy and off the Strikers back.

And how about Defenders? Strikers tend to have the lowest AC, the defense that the majority of attacks target, which means they are very easily hit and can go down with only a few well rolled strikes. Paladin’s are a Strikers best friend. Not only because they mark the shit out everyone taking all the agro, but because they allow the strikers to sneak around back and get combat advantage or to single out an enemy and focus on it entirely without having to worry about his guards jumping into the fray.

What I’m trying to get at here is that Dungeons and Dragons is a game that is designed to be played with these four roles in each party. The game is not designed to be played by a party of all Strikers or all Defenders or what have you. If you do so you “break” the game. A party with four or five rogues will die within a few encounters and only by the DM making vast, huge breaks in the games core structure will it ever work. I know that it sounds as if I’m being hard on people who want to play as strikers but I’m not. All I’m simply trying to get across is that not everyone can play a striker and why not try branching out? Try playing a Cleric or Warlord or maybe a Wizard or Paladin, give another role a try and you might be surprised that you like it better, but no matter what you do, make sure to let the D20’s roll like milk and honey.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Short Rest: Home Work

I made this for an art class. this poster was Inspired by Art-Nouveau. I might use this poster to advertise future events.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Widow of the Walk

So I may be a bit late on this since the Shadowfell box set came out a bit ago, but I've still been reading through the book, which is best described as theWeem and theAngryDM put it as a great "bathroom read." The blend of  new monster stats and unbelievable fluff is full of ideas for adventure hooks and just great concepts to get the creative juices running. Just working my way through the chapters of the book, I could see the potential campaign arcs and concepts just flowing out. Phenomenal material.

But the big thing that caught my eye was a particular creature highlighted in the back of the book. There is a host of really cool factions and different monsters and power players to include in any game setting, but the very last entry was something special to me.

The Widow of the Walk is described as a matriarch of a mercantile family who moved against the local leadership. In the battle of the noble families, all of her children were killed and when she died her spirit was condemned to walk the city looking for her lost children. Now the crunch behind this creature is truly impressive. She is a SOLO of almost epic level and she doesn't have a single ability that is a direct attack power. She doesn't even have an ability that costs a standard action! When I started reading it over, I was taken aback and really just not too interested in this monster that doesn't attack. But then I saw what she could do and just how impressive it was.

First off, the Widow is a ghost so she has some insubstantial effects that is good, but she also has a minor action ability that basically demands the target ends their turn next to her or take auto damage (and pretty substantial damage). Essentially, Mother demands you come home. Creepy! Then her abilities are all triggered. If an enemy ends their turn within 5 squares of her, she dominates them and specifically convinces them they are one of her dead children. She has tactics and bonuses for the specific children coming into play, but for the rest of the encounter she just sits back and lets the party tear themselves apart. It is all constructed in such a way that it protects the Widow from the Solo problems that have come up in monster design before. This is such a fascinating concept, a monster that doesn't directly attack the party, but really takes them under her wing and drives them mad. This was a really good way to simulate the possession concept and creates a really difficult encounter, no matter the location. I was totally challenged by the concept behind this because it makes a lot of narrative sense, but isn't something incredibly intuitive in the way I plan. So kudos to the developers and my party had better beware because this unconventional Solo changed the way I think about how monsters function.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Short Rest: Mind Games

no comment

Explorers, Actors, and Fighters

In D&D, much like in real life we see people fall into different categories based on their personality or the personality that they wish to display through their character. In real life these can vary from being an introvert, extrovert, jock, class clown and so on but in D&D there are three basic school of gameplay that players fall into. Often players can fall in between these three types or mesh the different styles of game play together, but for this post I want to talk about the main three.
Like I said, we see players fall into three different types of playing style: Explorers, Actors, and Fighters. No one style of gameplay is “correct” or better than the others. All have their perks and their drawbacks and I bet that you have noticed them even if you aren’t aware of it. Now I’m not here to try and suggest that anyone should change his or her style of gameplay. All of these styles work and are perfectly fine. If you prefer one type of gameplay and that one type works for you then great! That’s awesome, but sometimes the different playing styles can cause rifts and discord between players. Sometimes one person’s style of playing will irritate or bore another persons style of playing and this can be just as deadly for a party as a mind flayer or beholder or Michael Bay. I have seen many games derailed and players quit showing up to sessions not because of things that have occurred in the story, but because of how certain players have handled the story and because of conflicts in gaming style with other players. I want to bring a little light to this subject so that the next time you encounter a player who perhaps enjoys playing differently than you, that you can understand why they play the way they do and maybe then it won’t be such a problem. Maybe you could be the person playing this way and maybe you could tone your style back just a little bit so as to create a better environment for your party. Everyone plays differently and those different styles of gameplay should be respected, and vice versa players should be aware of their gaming style and should take notice when their way of playing might be affecting the party, halting gameplay, or causing a drawback with the other players.
First I want to outline the three different styles of gameplay and I want to pretext this with the following: I have absolutely no authority over this matter other than the fact that I have played D&D for a long time and I’ve seen these occurrences come up time and time again. These stereotypes of play style may be completely alien to you and maybe your party functions fine. But it still is a good idea to familiarize yourself with these types of playing style so that if you ever come across them you know how to react to them.
First we have players who like to investigate, poke around and get a good feeling/idea of the world that they are in. These guys would obviously be explorers. Explorers like to understand things. They like to go around to the different towns and cities and learn how the world operates. They often will be the person who wants to subdue their enemy rather than kill it so they can query as to it's motivation(s). They also will want to get a sense of the land and learn the lore and belief system(s) behind the NPCs who populate it. Explorer characters I’ve found often enjoy playing the widest variety of characters out of the three different types. While fighter players obviously gravitate towards striker/defender classes, explorers like to play a plethora of classes. I also feel that every player, no matter what style has a little bit of explorer in them. I also would like to add that explorer players die the most often. This is a lot more true is past edition than it is in 4e, but in my experiences explorer characters die a lot simply due to the fact that they can become careless and are so willing to tinker and sniff around that they will often get caught in traps that can easily result in their death.
Next we have the actors. Players who really take pleasure in getting into their character’s mindset, seeing the world from their point of view / life experiences and acting according to them rather than their own. These kinds of players are the ones who most likely have a shit ton of backstory written up before they start any campaign. They often want people to really grasp what they see in their head when they look at their character and sometimes can do this to a fault.
Why is this Dragonborn a Cleric? How come this Revenant serves Melora? What made this Elf become a Barbarian? How come this Gnome worships Modarin? These are the things that the actors like to think of and explore throughout gameplay. Actors tend to stray away from striker and defender classes though that doesn’t mean they won’t play as one. The many actor players that I have played with enjoy playing as either leaders or controllers.
Lastly we come to the fighters. Fighter type players like combat pure and simple. They like rolling lots of dice as often as they can and doing damage. That’s about it. Almost everything they do with their character will revolve solely around combat. Feats, paragon paths, how they spend their money, everything is centered on combat. These players, and I’m not trying to point fingers here, but I feel they are the main reasons old school D&D nerds have such a hard time with 4e. Most people playing 4e will be aware that 4e has been called “Dungeons and Dragons for WoW players,” and in my personal opinion fighter style players are the reason for that phrase. Fighters also tend to (in my experience) participate the least outside of combat. The second you get to roll initiative they are all up on it like a bee in a bonnet, but the moment you are done looting the bodies they check out.
I have a friend; let’s call him Russell. Russell is a hardcore fighter style player. He can’t stand not doing damage. When we are playing and Russell isn’t rolling lots of dice all the time he might as well not even be there. He doesn’t talk, he doesn’t help when interacting with NPC’s he doesn’t do much of anything. The only thing that he will talk about outside of encounters are his powers. He loves to talk about his powers. He likes to talk about how awesome they are and how much damage they can do. Russell annoys me if you can’t tell. As a friend I love the guy, but playing D&D with him is hard cause the party is basically down a player whether he is there or not. Fighters obviously play almost exclusively as strikers though some like to play as defenders.
It may sound like I’m being harsh on these topics but really there is no way getting around them. Most players just operate one of these three ways*. We have to be respectful however of the different ways people like to play D&D. In 4e, more than any other edition we see the different styles of playing clearly defined like never before so we should all be respectful of how others like to play. HOWEVER players also need to be aware of their own playing style and judge themselves accordingly. Explorer characters can really grind sessions to a halt with their constant perception checks and crazy attention to detail. They like to read into things and sometime do it so much that they miss the point. This creates conflict with fighter style players who like sessions to be a little more fast paced, which isn’t a bad thing. Actor style players mostly annoy both fighter and explorers simply because they can go over the top and just make everyone else feel as if they aren’t playing true to their character when in reality actors just take it too far. Fighters… well I already outlined those guys so yeah.
Just stop and think. Are you talking too much to NPC’s for no reason? Are you not participating enough outside of combat? Is your backstory and character overshadowing the rest of the party? Simply be attentive and take notice to the way you play and if everyone at the table does this and everyone makes sure that they aren’t overstepping their roles then the d20’s will flow like milk and honey.
*There are a few other style of gameplay but they are mostly just variations of the main three styles.
Side Note: Dear Russell, if you somehow figure out that I’m talking about you please don’t punch me in the face. I love playing with you and you are an awesome guy. You just like dice a little too much.
**Also I didn’t mention metagamers in here because those guys suck.