Archive for DM

Fallcrest Follies, Session Two

Posted in Dungeons and Dragons, Game Notes with tags , , , , , , on April 17, 2010 by Angry Johnny

“Did you know he could do that?” Valgarma asked as Adam transformed back to his usual self from the human-shaped swarm of bees he had been moments before.  Adam just looked back at the others with a blank face from the other side of the portcullis and pulled the lever.  The portcullis ratcheted back up.

“Well, we can get through now, but that one got away.  If there are others, they’ll certainly know we’re here now.  Wonder why they haven’t come to get us?” Aeogar mused.

Phelan skipped forward to peer down the dim hallway and watched the shadows flicker from the torches in their wall sconces.  “I think maybe I’ll go on ahead; scout the area.”  With that, she trotted down the hall, somehow blending into the dancing shadows.

Our first session behind us, we started the second by discussing the first.  The players determined that they could have done a lot of things better and set about planning how best to approach situations in the future.  The first major change that they made was deciding to let the stealthy character check things out before charging into a new area.  Good plan.

Phelan described the room she had seen to the others:  “It’s a long room with a bunch of stone coffins in it.  There’s some suits of armor in these wall niches and an altar at the far end.  Three kobolds with spears are at the end by the altar along with the one who ran off before, the one with the sling.  And I think they’re waiting for us.”

“Well, let’s go get them then,” said Aeogar.

“Maybe we can get this over with soon?” asked Ivy.  “It smells musty down here and it’s dark and I kind of want to go home.”

Phelan led the way down a short staircase to the tomb.  The party could hear the kobolds chattering and hissing in their lizard-like voices.  Aeogar crossed the threshold into the chamber and was met with a resounding splat!  A glue pot, hurled by the kobold slinger, had struck immediately at his feet.

“Cursed geckos!” he shouted as he struggled to get his feet unstuck from the floor.

Unfortunately for my players, they didn’t read the blog post I made about kobolds closely enough.  If they had, they might have been prepared for the numerous traps in this room.  Poor Korwen couldn’t catch a break.  First Aeogar got hit with a glue pot and was immobilized on his first turn, then he became the first to discover the dart traps and was immobilized on his second turn.  At that point, the players decided to start looking for more traps and discovered them all easily enough.  Once they knew what floor tiles to avoid, they made fairly short work of the kobolds in this room (though the kobolds did make it a little tricky by running around a lot).

And Darci had a lot of fun in this encounter, experimenting with “hiding in shadows”.  She discovered that she can do an incredible amount of damage to foes that don’t know she’s there, or have somebody flanking them.  I made it fairly easy for her, so she’d enjoy it, but I plan to up the difficulty on her in the future, to make it a little more challenging.

As the group regained their breath after the battle, Phelan and Valgarma decided to check out the raised platform in the northwest quadrant of the room, where the altar was placed.  The altar was crudely built, with prayers written in Draconic scratched onto its surface and a crude drawing of a five-headed dragon.

“Hey, I think this is an altar to Tiamat,” said Valgarma, referencing the evil dragon god.  “Do you suppose there’s a priest around somewhere?” she asked with a smirk.

“Look what I found!”  Phelan pulled a few items out of a rough nook cut into the back of the stone altar.  “There’s a ratty old pouch with, like, sixty gold coins in.  And these weird little eyeglasses.”

Ivy came over to look at the spoils.  “This must be some kind of offering to their fell god.”

“Let Ivy hold the loot and let’s move on,” said Aeogar.  Phelan looked at him questioningly.  “It’s safest with her,” he added, looking pointedly at Phe and Val.  Phelan handed the goods to Ivy and stuck her tongue out at Aeogar, then scampered off down the hallway ahead to scout.

The next encounter was supposed to be really cool.  There was this whole setup where the kobolds were playing a game with a rock on a rope tied to the ceiling and they would then hurl it at the PCs as they entered a certain area (if you’ve read the Dungeon Master’s Guide, you know what I’m talking about.  But Phe killed the minion that was holding it on the very first round, so the rock just fell free and never got used against the players at all.  It kind of bummed me out, but it showed that Darci has really figured out the whole “sneak attack” thing.

The players did an excellent job against a greater number of foes than they had faced preciously, too.  I think they are just about ready for me to take off the training wheels.  Which is good, because they are heading into the jaws of the true threat, and should make it as far as The Big Boss on the next session.  Stay tuned…

Fallcrest Follies, Session One

Posted in Dungeons and Dragons, Game Notes with tags , , , , , , on April 6, 2010 by Angry Johnny

I’ve been meaning to write up my group’s first two sessions for a while now, but I’m only now getting around to it.  To anyone who has been waiting, I apologize.  I’ll be writing about the players and things that happen at the table in italics and using normal font for in-game stuff, to make it easy to see what’s going on.  If you have trouble keeping who is who straight, refer to this post.  This is going to be a serious wall of text and my players may notice the historical record changing slightly.  They are hereby asked to ignore this in the interest of poetic license.

We got a very late start to our first session.  Korwen’s younger brother had been in town visiting that weekend, so Korwen and Cavatica arrived quite late (Korwen’s brother apparently left later than expected).  So Hilary, Darci, Kureigu, and I sat around and got to know one another and vaguely discussed the game.  Mostly, we just chatted and played with my dog, Tito.  We also took the time to create a character for Darci, since she’d never played before and needed some assistance.  Hilary and Kureigu had already made characters, so we expected to only have to make Korwen’s and Cavatica’s when they arrived.  As luck would have it, though, Korwen’s brother is an avid player of 4E D&D himself, so he helped them make characters ahead of time.  When they showed up, we were late getting started, but were able to get started right away.  Good fortune on our first session.

“I’m sure you are all aware of the troubles the region has been having with bandits of late,” said Lord Warden Faren Markelhay, looking around at the small assemblage.  “Just this past week, an important caravan from Winterhaven was ransacked by a band of kobolds just West of town.  Unfortunately, there was some very expensive cargo on that caravan.”

“That’s right!” bellowed Fallcrest’s famed armorer, Teldorthan Ironhews.  Teldorthan was getting on in years, but currently looked as though he were much younger, anger bringing several shades of color to his normally pale skin.  “The goliath tribes of the Cairngorn Hills had got me a Green Dragon hide and I was t’make a masterpiece of armor out of it!  Them weaselly little reptile hooligans done took my hide and I want it back!  Why, if I were a younger dwarf-”

The Lord Warden raised a hand to cut him off.  He then gestured to the wizened and green-robed sage, who sat on a divan, intently studying a small, black feather.  “Upon consulting with Nimozaran, here, we have decided to send a small band of specialists to deal with the problem, rather than mustering a full militia force.  He tells me it’s ‘written’ or something.  Anyway, it will cost a great deal less and we still have the option of mustering a larger force, should the initial team fail.”  He paused to let the sage elaborate, but Nimozaran seemed not to be paying attention at all.  Lord Markelhay continued: “Anyway, Nimozaran specifically requested the five of you to undertake this task.  He has every confidence in you.”

“Why have you selected us?”, piped in the dwarf, Aeogar.  “I’m not even from this town.  And the rest don’t look much like fighters to me.”

Nimozaran looked vaguely up from his feather.  “So it is written.  In the signs.”

“Yes, well,” the Lord Warden continued, “each of you is skilled in their own way.  Aeogar, you are obviously well-versed in fighting, but there may be other difficulties.  Valgarma, the bard, is very learned for her young age, and has powerful influence over others; Ivy has been training in the divine healing arts under Brother Grundelmar; Adam has great knowledge over things natural; and even the Phelan has certain… skills… that might prove useful.”  The halfling smirked at his obvious discomfort.  “The idea here is to send in a group that can compliment each other, to increase the chances of success.”

A quiet voice shyly peeped from the rear: “Can we go back a bit?  What do you mean by ‘should the initial team fail’?”, asked the young cleric, Ivy.

“Well, um…  not return.”  Lord Markelhay looked slightly uncomfortable.  “But don’t you worry about that, young miss.  Nimozaran seems to think that you’ll all be fine.  And he’s older and wiser than any other you’ll likely meet.  So, you’ll all agree?”

It’s probably strange to start new gamers out with an extended role-playing session.  I was concerned about frightening off my new players with a lot of funny voices and improvisation.  So I didn’t.  Most of what happened during that exchange was me giving them enough background info to get started and then railroading them into “the plot”.

The band came upon the ruins of an ancient manor house, the detritus of the Nerath Empire, fallen these hundred years or more.  They had tracked the kobolds here, though they really needn’t have bothered.  Everyone who knew the area was aware of these ruins and the presence of kobolds within.  Though little of the manor remained, it was known locally as “Kobold Hall”.  The tracks were fresh, but there were no signs of activity.  Obviously, the kobolds were keeping out of sight.

“Look here!”, Phelan called out.  “What’s our sullen beekeeper found?”

Adam looked up from the rotting cellar door that he’d been poking with a stick.  “Cellar,” he said.

“Talkative, ain’t he?”, the pretty bard Val joked.  “I’d guess that the kobolds are probably holed up down there.  I’ve read that they like tunnels and dark, dank places.  That’s likely to be as dank a place as we’ll find around here.”

“Well, then!  What are we waiting for?”  And with that, the stony-faced dwarf Aeogar heaved open the cellar door and plodded down into the darkness.

Again, I didn’t trouble the gang too much with using skills and such to find the entrance to the kobolds’ lair.  I described the scene in general terms and let them ask questions.  They found the cellar door easily enough, but then seemed uncertain how to proceed.  Cavatica seemed bent on using diplomacy to overcome any and all situations, Darci and Hilary seemed at a loss, and Kureigu looked like he was waiting for the new players to act.  So I asked them flat out: “Do you want to go down there?”  Korwen was the first to speak up, so I sent his character in first.  Luckily, it fits with “the character” to be so brash, so it was a happy accident.

To be honest, I was kind of hoping they’d be more “strategic” about the whole thing, scouting and working out “marching order” and such.  But Kureigu has reminded me that these are new players who won’t have the kind of experience to do things like that just yet, and it actually fits the story to have them disorganized at first.  Technically, the characters have never worked together, so it’s right that things should be a bit unruly at the beginning.

Aeogar tromped into a room that was mostly adequately lit by torches set into wall sconces.  The dominating feature of the room was a large pit filled with decaying garbage and wet sludge.  At the far side of the room, a lone kobold stood in front of an alcove, idly spinning a loaded sling.

“Intruders!”  the kobold screeched.  As if they had been waiting, two more reptilian humanoids armed with makeshift spears charged out of the alcove and headed straight for the dwarf, still too stunned to move.  A third spear-wielder rushed in from a side hallway while the first two surrounded the hapless dwarf.  In their seal, however, they lacked aim, and their spears missed the mark.  The first kobold spun his sling and launched a projectile at the dwarf.  It missed, but splatted on the wall behind him, leaving a sticky trail of glue to drip down the wall beside him.  Yet another kobold hurled yet another glue pot from the side hallway, but also missed.  The little kobold pulled a lever and a portcullis came crashing down, cutting off the hallway.

The players were all new to combat.  Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun, but we had to pause occasionally to explain certain concepts (combat advantage, opportunity attacks, etc.).  Since we were running so far behind schedule, I gave them the brief version of these explanations.  We would have to go over them again in greater detail on our second session (but that’s a different post).  All told, the players figured out initiative, attacks using their powers, and the basics of combat pretty quickly.  I’m lucky that 4E is so simple, and that most of my players are versed in at least computer RPGs.  I admit, I fudged a little to give them some time to feel mighty before I start throwing more complicated rules and concepts at them, but I got the feeling they didn’t really need it.  Sadly, I did not keep a record of who did what when, so I cannot give a play-by-play review.  Maybe in the future…

Once they defeated all the kobolds but the one down the corridor behind the portcullis, they searched the room and bodies like veteran players would (they found almost nothing of value but the remaining glue pots).  Then they easily defeated the challenge of the portcullis.  There are numerous solutions I can think of: the dwarf could have used his great strength to lift the gate and had the halfling slip under, they could have prodded at the lever with the kobolds’ spears, or something even more complex.  In the end, though, the druid simply transformed into a swarm of bees and squeezed through (that’s his “beast form”).  So thus ended our first session.  Everybody had fun, we did some very introductory role-playing, and we kicked some ass.

Cast of Caricatures

Posted in Dungeons and Dragons, Game Notes with tags , , , , , , on April 1, 2010 by Angry Johnny

Hello again, faithful readers!  I took a short break from writing to lay around and mope, but I have returned with several new ideas for things about which I can write.  Before I do, though, I wanted to direct you to a blog post that I think is worth reading.  I don’t always agree with the author, faustusnotes, but I know a good article when I see one.  I recommend you go read it (when you’re done reading this one).

Now, I would like to write a bit about the first two sessions I have had with my new group.  But in order to do that properly, I feel, I must first introduce my players and their characters.  That way, you can refer back to this article if you ever get confused about who is who.  I’ll introduce them alphabetically, by their characters’ names.

Adam Bald-Wind, Human Swarm Druid – Leave it to my best friend, Kureigu, to create the most complicated and strange character in our roster, then give him the name that comes first alphabetically.  Adam is a man who had his entire village/tribe/clan destroyed by as-yet-indeterminate-monstrous-race raiders when he was in his early teens.  He is the lone survivor, who then fled to Fallcrest and became a beekeeper.  He is quiet, anti-social, and a bit odd, preferring the company of bees to people.  And he likes to suddenly become a 170 lb swarm of bees periodically (I’m sure this character will only get weirder with time).

Kureigu is a very good friend of mine who never fails to assist when I require clarity (or anything else, for that matter).  He played role-playing games when he was younger and has returned to try out 4th Edition D&D at my request.

Aeogar, Dwarf Stone Warden – Aeogar is played by my friend from work, Korwen, who is a RPG veteran and all-around pro gamer, but new to 4E D&D.

Aeogar is our resident tank.  Gruff and burly, he tends to charge to the front lines of any battle, calling forth the power of the stony earth itself to bolster his defenses and crush his enemies.  Aeogar came to Fallcrest on a sort of walkabout, striking out from the dwarven lands to the East to seek his fortune and destiny.

Ivy, Human Cleric of Pelor – My girlfriend, Hilary, is playing this character that I designed for her.  Hilary has never played RPGs and does not consider herself a gamer.  She doesn’t even play board or card games, though she does enjoy the occasional casual PC game (like Peggle or Bookworm).

Her character, Ivy, is the second orphan of our bunch.  Orphaned at a young age, she was raised by the good people at the various temples of Fallcrest.  In return she worked for them as a youth and became an acolyte of Pelor recently when a dwarven priest from Hammerfast came to revitalize Pelor’s long-abandoned temple in Fallcrest.  Ivy is quiet, shy, and hesitant, mostly concerned with bringing everyone home alive (though her dwarf patron hopes that she will embrace adventure and rid the world of evil, as he did in his youth).

Phelan TreValen, Halfling Rogue – Known as Phe to her friends, our diminutive bad-girl hails from the “bad” part of Fallcrest, Lowtown.  She spent a lot of her youth running with the gangs at the docks, learning dubious skills and developing a self-sufficient attitude.

Phe is being played by a former work colleague, Darci.  Darci has played computer RPGs and MMOs, but has never played a table-top RPG.

Valgarma, Human Bard – Last but not least, the resident bard is being played by Korwen’s girlfriend, Cavatica.  Like Darci, Cavatica is also a veteran of the MMO scene, but has never played a pen-and-paper RPG.

Her character, Valgarma, was a child of privilege.  Born of a family of wealthy landowners, she was sent to the finest finishing schools, where she learned a great deal about history, music, and art.  However, she was rebellious and flightly by nature, so she would often sneak away to the poorer quarters to dabble in life’s baser pleasures and made quite a few friends in the shadows.  Recently, her parents discovered her transgressions and she was banished from their presence.  Unfazed, she has joined up with our party to see the world and have a little fun.

So that’s our adventuring party.  Later, when I write up adventure notes, I will be sure to provide a link back to this post.  Also, I imagine that I will be making periodic edits to these character backgrounds as my players continue to flesh them out (and inform me where I got something wrong).  Hope you enjoyed reading this, and stay tuned for my notes on our first session!

The Lowly Kobold

Posted in Dungeons and Dragons, Game Notes with tags , , , , , on March 26, 2010 by Angry Johnny
I’d like to have a small presentation on the race known as kobolds and how I plan to handle this race in my game.  Before I do, though, I have to share with everyone that this post at Daddy Grognard’s blog totally blew my mind.  In light of something said in that post, I should note that the statements contained herein are generalizations of the race as a whole (as not every member of a race conforms exactly to a set of proclivities).  Please also note that kobolds are a fairly common race, and most common people will know the basics of what appears below (or can discover it easily by simply asking around).
So, Kobolds…  Kobolds are very small.  They’re about the size of Gnomes, and have an irrational hatred of that particular race.  They are lizard-like humanoids – scaly, reptillian, cold-blooded – that share a distant kinship with dragonkind (and can often be found in the service of dragon masters or other large creatures).  They have opposable thumbs, use tools and weapons, and wear clothing and armor.  Their scales are iguana-like, usually in tones of rust and red-brown.
Kobolds are aggresive, clannish, and xenophobic.  However, they are also craven and cowardly.  A single kobold is unlikely to be a threat, as they will likely flee if threatened.  They gain confidence with numbers, though (and with their fast reproductive rate, there are often plenty to be found).  Kobolds in a group can be quite dangerous, as they have an irritating tendency to swarm if they believe that they have the advantage.  They are also fairly crafty and known for setting traps and utilizing ambush techniques.  Highly territorial, they will fight to defend their homes.
Despite being cold-blooded, kobolds are industrious miners, often found inhabiting tunnels (whether created by themselves or co-opted and expanded upon).  Most kobolds are simply diggers, but there are more prestigious professions in kobold society.  Some examples are:  trapmaker, warrior, wyrmpriest, and sorceror.  While kobolds occasionally waylay travellers through their chosen territory, they will generally ignore those they perceive to be passing through.  Kobolds undertaking banditry or highway robbery are usually in the service of some larger creature(s) that command them to do so.
And thus endeth the treatise on the lowly kobold.  As my players encounter more creatures in the game, I will be posting “common” knowledge – and knowledge that they have researched – about them here.

The (Very) Brief

Posted in Dungeons and Dragons, Game Notes with tags , , , , , on March 22, 2010 by Angry Johnny

Well, we played our first game yesterday.  Everybody showed up (although some were a little late), and it went pretty well.  Mostly, everybody figured out what to do pretty quickly.  I’m guessing that having played computer RPGs and MMOs helped in some cases.  There were, of course, several moments of “wait, can I do this?” and “what does this do again?” – and even a moment where I forgot to figure the continuing damage dealt by our insect druid’s “zone” – but it mostly went pretty smooth.

I was totally impressed with how quickly we were able to resolve combat.  The word on the forums/blogoshpere is that combat is a major time drag, but 5 newb players and a newb DM were able to do an entire combat in about an hour.  That was about the right amount of time for it to seem interesting without taxing anybody’s patience, I thought.  Granted, it was a fairly simple battle, but it rolled along at a good pace.  I imagine once everybody gets familiar with their character sheets and what the characters can do, it will get even faster.

I also think that my players will get into the role-playing spirit as they become more comfortable.  There were glimmers of it in yesterday’s game, like when our bard used “Vicious Mockery” and actually used a “yo mama” (adjusted for D&D flavor) joke while rolling the dice.  So I’m feeling very positive about the whole thing.  I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t approach the first encounter with a little more strategy, but I’m sure they’ll figure that out soon enough (because they’ll die otherwise – hint, hint).

All told, big fun was had by all.  I will write more as time allows.

An Ominous Wind

Posted in Dungeons and Dragons with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2010 by Angry Johnny

I will be running my first campaign as DM in less than 24 hours.  I am scared shitless.  So many anxieties, so little time.  It doesn’t help that the weather is doing a typical late-March bluster outside, wind gusting through the hallway of the apartment complex like a dervish bringing a warning of my impending Doom.

I’m probably just tweaking, though.  If anything, I think I’ve over-prepared.  The problem is, since I have never done this before, how would I know if I’ve missed something critical?  It’s important to me that I do this right – partly because I have serious hang-ups about doing things properly, and partly because I want the players to have fun (or they might not come back).  It’s all very nerve-wracking.

On top of that, I have an irrational fear that no one is going to show up.  If that happens, I’m going to Pluckers and gorging on wings.  Actually, if everything goes smoothly, I think I’m going to go to Pluckers afterward and gorge on wings in celebration.  So either way, I get wings.

I guess at this point, all I can do is trust that I’m prepared and go where the wind takes me.  Wish me luck!

Teachin’ the Newb

Posted in Dungeons and Dragons, Game Notes with tags , , , , , on March 11, 2010 by Angry Johnny

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  Hectic workdays are making it hard for me to think about what I want to post here.  But I’m going to just drop something in here and see how it goes.

This past Sunday, I had my first unofficial session of D&D.  Basically, my best friend came over to discuss things – he’s very eager to get the game going, I believe – and to help me teach the basics of the game to my girlfriend.  She’s a total newb.

I should qualify that statement.  No one in our planned group has ever played 4E, but half have played previous editions of D&D.  Almost everyone who will be playing has had some experience with computer RPGs or computer MMORPGs.  There is some basic “game mentality” present in just about everyone who is going to be at the table.  Except for my girlfriend, Hilary.

Hilary has not had the background in games that the rest of us have.  She’s played some casual computer games like Peggle and Bookworm, but nothing serious gamers would consider “advanced”.  She doesn’t read fantasy very often, nor sci-fi.  She does like action/adventure, sci-fi, and kung-fu movies – but isn’t the type to daydream about being the main characters.  She doesn’t play card games or board games or hopscotch.  And most importantly, she’s never tried to balance pretending to be an elf with managing mathematics while socializing with friends.

Since I want this experience to be fun for her, teaching her how to play without boring her is a bit of a challenge.

Here’s what we did with our first session:  my friend and I sat down in the kitchen/dining room and talked amongst ourselves for a little while.  We did this to get the “deep nerd” conversations out of the way while she was sitting in the next room over, surfing the internet.  After we had gotten the geek out of our system, we called her in.  She and I had printed up a character sheet for her the night before – I mostly made her character for her – so I decided to start by explaining all the intimidating numbers first.  To make them less intimidating, you see?

We started at the top of the character sheet with the basics.  Character name, level, class, race, etc.  She will be playing a female human cleric.  She had picked the basics previously, but I just filled in height/weight/age and such based on racial averages.  Of course, she decided that I had made her “fat”.  I think she was joking…

WotC has done a pretty good job with their official character sheets (those utilized by the Character Builder software).  Most of the numerics are subscripted with the formula that was used to obtain them.  This made the whole process a lot easier, I think.  After explaining what her Attribute scores were and how we got them and why, we went through each block of related statistics systematically.  It also helped to explain where the modifiers were coming from and why (+1 to Fortitude, Reflex, and Will come from her virtue of being human, for example).  She showed some curiosity about the Feats section and asked why I had chosen what I had chosen (because we hadn’t done much character background stuff yet, I had chosen a couple of feats based on character optimization, rather than role-playing).

Then we got to powers.  I thought it might be easier to show her what they were going to do in-game, so we laid out a battlemat, plopped a couple guitar picks (our “minis”) down, and broke out the dice.  Of course, explaining this requires explaining “actions”, so we gave the run-down.  Each player can do three actions per turn – one standard, one move, and one minor (and these can be traded down, but never up).  Movement is easiest to explain, so we got that one out of the way – in any given turn, a character can move up to her Speed in squares on the battlemat (basically).  Standard and minor are trickier.  Minor is little fiddly things that you can do – drink a potion, draw a weapon, stuff like that.  Minor is usually stuff that is not attacking the enemy.  Standard is more important stuff – using your attack powers, defending or healing a comrade.  She seemed to get all of this, or was practicing her nodding, so we decided to start rolling.

We explained each of her powers to her, and how attack rolls determined a hit/miss based on the defensive score of the attackee (just like the defensive scores on her character sheet).  Then I explained what each unique power did to the enemy and/or her allies, since she’s a cleric.  She made a few rolls of the twenty, scored a few hits, helped out a fictional comrade, and moved around a little.  I think she got it, but I don’t know if it’s fun yet.

We’re going to go over all this again during our first session (about a week and a half from now), with everyone else at the table.  Our first session is going to be making/printing characters, inventing character backgrounds, and then taking everybody through a combat encounter in which most of the learning will occur.  I think having this small session helped me understand how I want to explain this stuff to everybody else.  And I hope it helped Hilary to grasp the basics, which will give her more time for fun at the table.

Anybody out there ever have to give lessons of this sort?  How did you handle it?