Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Roleplaying campaigns.

Over on Hack and Slash, +Courtney Campbell  talks about Campaign Crashes. Over on Google Plus +Alex Schroeder mention two posts I wrote touching on the subject.

The Majestic Wilderlands as a Persistent Campaign
Running a Long Term Campaign in Fantasy Earth.

As some of you know I been running the Majestic Wilderlands for a long time. Over thirty years in fact. The earliest scraps of paper I have date to 1981. However I have not run a campaign for 30 years. The longest I managed was about 3 or 4 years in the mid 90s with my friend +Tim Shorts and +Dwayne Gillingham. Instead I just get the same setting with a different group or different setting. Using the result of previous campaigns as a background for later campaigns.

This all got started because I was the referee who let people trash his setting. Knock over a City-State? Found a Kingdom? No problem! It won't be easy and there will be challenging adventure but if you pull it off, I am not going to get bent out of shape and blue blot you. And believe or not, referees doing this was a problem back in my day.   Some just couldn't stand the idea of anybody messing with their precious settings.

I was the type of sci-fi/fantasy fan who not only loved reading Lord of the Rings but the appendices as well. I got a lot of enjoyment of letting players "trash" my campaign because they stuff they had to do wound looking like our group own version of those appendices after it was all said and done.

Then I discovered that my games became even more popular when made the result of the previous campaigns as part of the backstory. At first it was no more than "Hey Rob is that kingdom I founded still around?" Then got refined from there. It got to the point where I ran whole campaigns that the only purpose was to define some aspect of the setting everybody was interested in.

When you let people "trash" your setting the natural way of doing this to run your campaign as a sandbox. I couldn't predict what the players would be interested in so I learned to run the Majestic Wilderlands as a pen & paper virtual reality.

The consequences of this bears directly on the issue that +Courtney Campbell brings up. In his post he mention this study commissioned by Wizards of the Coast on the habits of tabletop roleplaying.  It mentions that the average length of a campaign is 8 sessions for newcomers and rising to 12 session for people with experience at tabletop roleplaying.

In my opinion it so short because the referee running these game rely too much on plot. Tabletop roleplaying is a leisure activity. To played on a regular basis, the group needs to find it not just fun but interesting as well. When you base a campaign around a plot, you are literally rolling the dice on whether the plot is interesting or not. If it is not well... that campaign will probably not reach even the average of 8 to 12 session.

Campaigns based around a specific plot also have an Achilles Heel in that when the plot is resolved, then what? Perhaps a new plot is devised in which case that has to be interesting for the campaign to continue.

I want to be clear that campaign based on plots are not wrong. In fact when a referee comes up a good plot it can make for a hell of a ride like any good story. A campaign based around a plot also has the advantage of being accessible to newcomers by providing a structure around which a campaign is based. Plots based campaigns are also better for large groups where you have a referee with eight or more players.

+Courtney Campbell has a lot of good ideas in his post, in the end the campaign's lifespan hinges on whether the plot is interesting or not.

Are their alternatives? Sure, the sandbox campaign. Because the sandbox campaign is about what the players want to do at every step it is far more likely to engage what I call the Soap Opera Effect. The desire of the group to play one more session of a campaign to see what happens. Sure it can happen with Plot based campaigns but is far more likely with a sandbox as in general the players are doing something they want at a given moment.

However Sandbox campaign have downsides as well. Since you run them like a pen & paper virtual reality there a lot of pressure of referee to come up with details on the fly. Sometime the the players do something stupid and the consequences changes the direction of the campaign into something unpleasant. At other times the initial context or situation at the start of the campaign proves to be uninteresting to the players.  What seems like a good idea at character creation doesn't really work out in play.

In short Sandbox Campaign have advantages but also complications as well. But if you avoid the pitfalls it is my opinion that a good Sandbox campaign will run far longer than a plot based campaign.

However they don't run forever, at some point they end. How they do crash? to use a phrase from Hack & Slash.

In my experience the most common reasons that sandbox campaigns end are.

  • The initial context/situation proves to be uninteresting.
  • Real life circumstances change preventing the campaign from being run.
  • The referee or players fuck up and things are not same afterwards.
  • When the characters are established. .

The initial context/situation proves to be uninteresting
This is the most common reason if a sandbox campaign ends before a half-dozen sessions. You can see this in actual play posts from the mid 2000s when the idea of sandbox campaigns was being popularized by the team behind the Wilderlands Boxed Set, including myself. We left the impression that a typical sandbox campaign started with the players on a blank map expected to explore their surroundings. Well many people tried this and found it confusing and ultimately boring. Their choices had as little meaning as in a classic plot railroad as they might as well been throwing darts at a map.

Real life circumstances change preventing the campaign from being run
This is pretty obvious. As a leisure activity tabletop roleplaying down on the list of things one needs to do. The longer a campaign runs the more chances of this happening.

The referee or players fuck up and things are not same afterwards
Basically the campaign has a "Jump the Shark" moment. Things are not the same afterwards. The Blue Demon incident is a example of where I made a poor decision. As it turned out, +Tim Shorts wanted to continue a few month later turning it into one of greatest campaigns I ran. Demonstrating it is possible to recover from such a moment.

When the characters are established. 
This is the positive outcome of a sandbox campaign. Just like in real life there are times in the sandbox campaign where events and circumstances are such that the characters are established. The campaign could be stopped and the characters seamlessly merges into the background life of the setting.

My two most recent sandbox campaigns ended this way. The first one with some of the players joining the Council of the largest city in the setting, Viridstan combined with the others having important position and owning several pieces of real estate. The second one with everybody participating in the construction of a Inn. The campaign ended with the Inn built and safely opened for business.

Another notable example is the campaign that I ran with Tim and Dwayne. Tim played a blacksmith, Dwyane an agent of the Overlord's secret police the Black Lotus. The campaign started with a mission to figure out what a rebellious duke was up to. It ultimately ended with them discovering that the duke was building early gunpowder weapons, cannons, for use as siege weapons. Along with the arrest of the duke and aborting the rebellion. After the denouement the Tim and Dwayne came to the conclusion that their characters have achieved enough of their goals that there was no real reason for adventuring. So we ended the campaign and moved onto a new one with new characters, same setting tho.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Majestic Wilderlands Print Bundle for two sawbucks.

RPGNow/DriveThruRPG has enabled publishers to make print bundles of their products. I took advantage of this to create a Majestic Wilderlands Print Bundle for $20 well actually $19.99 due to a convincing article on why you use .99 cents in your price.

Plus the new features allowed me to bundle in the PDFs for free. I feel strongly that a person should only have to buy the content once. However until now the limitations of the sites that I use get in the way of reliably offering that option.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

DMG 5e preview, NPC traits

Over on The ID DM a couple of pages from the upcoming 5e Dungeon Master Guide got previewed. The two pages concerned the rolling of NPC traits and personalities. Being a big fan of NBOS's Inspiration Pad Pro, I coded up the tables as a IPT file. For good measure I threw in IPT files for Paizo's Gamemastery Guide NPC tables and the ADnD 1st edition NPC tables. Here are 5 results of the 5e tables.

Personal Talent: Great at solving puzzles
Mannerism: Whispers
Interaction Traits: Honest
Bonds: Loyal to a benefactor, patron, or employer
Flaws and Secret: Secret crime or misdeed

Good: Respect Evil: Greed
Lawful: Responsibility Chaotic: Freedom
Neutral: Neutrality Other: Redemption

Personal Talent: Expert Juggler
Mannerism: Particularly low or high voice
Interaction Traits: Honest
Bonds: Dedicated to fulfilling a person life goal.
Flaws and Secret: Secret crime or misdeed

Good: Life Evil: Retribution
Lawful: Community Chaotic: Change
Neutral: People Other: Self-knowledge

Personal Talent: Paints beautifully
Mannerism: Enunciates overly clearly
Interaction Traits: Ponderous
Bonds: Captivated by a romantic interest
Flaws and Secret: Overpowering greed

Good: Charity Evil: Slaughter
Lawful: Community Chaotic: Whimsy
Neutral: Moderation Other: Redemption

Personal Talent: Expert carpenter
Mannerism: Slurs words, lisps, or stutters
Interaction Traits: Irritable
Bonds: Protective of a valuable possession
Flaws and Secret: Foolhardy bravery

Good: Charity Evil: Might
Lawful: Responsibility Chaotic: No limits
Neutral: Knowledge Other: Glory

Personal Talent: Expert carpenter
Mannerism: Use flowery speech or long words
Interaction Traits: Suspicious
Bonds: Protective of a sentimental keepsake
Flaws and Secret: Overpowering greed

Good: Self-sacrifice Evil: Greed
Lawful: Honor Chaotic: Change
Neutral: Knowledge Other: Self-knowledge

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Handling Passive Skills in 5e and other rulings.

After the game +Joshua Macy and got to talking about 5e rules. In general my approach to go with the book unless it doesn't make sense as if you were really there. With magic and other fantastic elements the object to be consist both from session to session but also with the expectation of how powerful the element should. For example a first level spell should feel like a first level spell. If it feels like a fifth level spell then likely it grants too generous of a benefit.

After the game Joshua and I talked about the Web spell. Particularly when to make the Dexterity Saving throw to see if you are restrained.

First the section in question
Each creature that starts its turn in the webs or that enters them during its turn must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is restrained as long as it remains in the webs or until it breaks free. 
A creature restrained by the webs can use its action to make a Strength check against your spell save DC. If it succeeds, it is no longer restrained.
The discussion was over what does enters them during its turn really mean. Does it means only went you first enter the spell's area of effect? In which case making your dexterity saving throw means you freely can move throughout the web until the beginning of your next turn. At which time if you are still in the web you need to make another save. Or does it mean for each step, 5 foot, etc) you make in the web you make a dexterity saving throw. And if it is the latter is that make it too powerful for a second level spell?

My personal opinion and the way I been refereeing it is that you make the saving throw for each 5 foot step you make unless it takes you outside of the web. I can see how the wording could lead people into thinking it gives a free pass for one round of combat. But in my view that goes against what you would be seeing if you are there. The character is in the midst of sticky webs. Unless he talking step to a clear area he running into the same problem with every steps as if he was first stepping in the first place.

Also downside of failure is beign restrained. Which amounts to you not being able to move and all your attacks being at an disadvantage. While this sucks for the character it doesn't leave him out of options or the means to defend himself. This along with everything else makes web seem like a useful 2nd level sleep but it not a game over for combat.

When I compare it to the classic DnD version of web I am very comfortable with 5e web working this way.

Then Joshua pointed out that Mike Mearls had a AMA session on Reddit. That it contained a clarification of how passive skills worked.
Any skill can be used passively - it's up the DM to apply that as needed. For perception checks, you passive result is always in effect. If you could see something with a DC 10 check and your passive is 11, you see it without rolling. Keep in mind, though, that a DM might rule otherwise. Passive checks are a tool that groups can use to speed up the game or move past die results that slow things down or lead to a grind.
This some great stuff! Despite my years of experience with GURPS and other skill based system I was confused about the distinction between passive and active use of the skill. After reading this, I now have a way that will work for me.

If you are in combat, in a situation where the result of failure is significant, or you only get one shot at completing the task, then you roll as normal your ability or skill versus the DC.

However if you do have the time and there no other pressure or circumstance then you make a roll but the lowest you can roll is your passive score. And if you passive score is higher than the DC you automatically succeed. If you fail you can repeat the attempt but realize that each attempt takes about a turn (10 minutes) so you will be racking up wandering monster checks and any other consequence spending a lot of time in a particular area.

I realize this isn't quite what Mearls said but I used elements of this for the ability system I use when running with my Majestic Wilderlands supplement. In fact along with the advantage/disadvantage I might adopt this as the default regardless whether I run MW or 5e.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Attention all ye potential 5e App Developers

Dungeonscape has gone down as Wizards of the Coast terminated their licensing agreement. I got in both Web and Android beta. The app for a beta sucked. It wasn't buggy but rather so bare of content and utility it was like wow this has a long way to go.  With the work that Fantasy Grounds, Roll20, and all the unofficial aides on Enworld had done, there is no real excuse for the state of affairs for Dungeonscape. All they had done was a basic character sheet with a lot (but not all) of the PHB data behind. But all you could is fill it out. No printing or exporting was there yet.

My day job is developing vertical market applications for the metal cutting industry. Specifically for cutting table designed to cut flat pieces of metal with various tools. Just this week I wrapped a project that involved cutting 1/4 inch stainless steel with nothing more than water and crushed gemstones (garnet). I been doing this since the mid 80s and full time since 89. So I know something about what it takes to develop an application.

One thing I do when our company develops a new machine is look at how other companies handle the new cutting process in software. I lay them out and assess their pros and cons.

The folks behind Dungeonscape did not this. It was obvious from their user interface as it was something I never seen before in a RPG application. Not even the ones that are currently found on Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Folk, if you are doing a RPG application do everybody a favor and look at what out there. If you think they suck, politely say so and explain at least why you think your "novel" idea is so much better.

For me the gold standard of system specific RPG applications is the Crawler Companion for the Dungeon Crawl Classics. It is both a utility and a reference. One neat trick that should be standard for all RPG utility is the choice to let the app roll for you or for you to do the rolling with real dice and look up the result using the number you rolled. This feature is really outstanding and turns what could have been an intrusion at the table to a useful tool no matter what your stance is on computers.

Other really useful application I found (in no particular order) are

Fantasy Grounds
The Keep
Inspiration Pad Pro
Campaign Cartographer
DM Genie

Currently the three I use the most often are The Keep, Inspiration Pad Pro, and Roll20. There is a ton more out there but I haven't had the opportunity to use them yet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

From the other side of the Screen

+Tim Shorts commented on his three favorite campaigns. I was involved in all three/four for of them.

3. Arthurian Mixed with the Crusades
In the early 90s Tim started what I call in my mind fits like a glove campaigns. In one of these campaign he would make a character for you to play. What took this to the next level is that he is really good at guessing not only what people would be interested in playing but what they are capable of playing. Note this campaign was played using GURPS 3rd Edition

In this campaign I played Sir Claudius Hawk a charismatic Roman knight. Which was ironic because in real life I am not a smooth operator by any means. But this character I quickly got a handle on and playing him was a lot of fun.

What made Hawk memorable is that during the first half of the campaign, I was undoubtedly the "good guy". I made friends easily and the things I did were the right things for the right reasons. This frustrated my friend Dave to no end. He played a Knight Templar, his character was harsh, fanatical, dictatorial, and unpopular. And his plans almost never worked and mine nearly always did. The only reason Dave's Templar didn't buy the farm in the first few sessions because his ally and fellow Templar, played by his wife, Robin, was highly competent and was able to mitigate the worse of his failures.

The midpoint of the campaign was shaping up to be a confrontation between myself and a leading Templar Vander Gothridge, Yeah now you know that Tim's publishing company's name from one of his favorite NPCs. It built over multiple sessions and then ... well ... Sir Hawk made a very bad decision. A very bad decision indeed. I decided that situation warranted the assassination of  Gothridge. I set it up all up, it went to hell, and the assassination attempt failed. And funny thing is that neither did myself or allies were caught or suffered any immediate or long term consequences.

Except for one tiny important little detail. That it totally violated my Code of Honor and everything that I was fighting for.  And because this was Arthur stuff and not Game of Thrones stuff this meant Hawk gained some major bad karma.

And to make this even more memorable is that Tim, as the referee, didn't do a damn thing. From that moment on Sir Hawk life was a struggle, my plans kept falling apart, my dice rolls started to suck, Dave's Templar's plan started to succeed. In the end it worked out as Hawk was truly repentant of his actions. However the last half of the game was very challenging to say the list.

2. Torrin the Red Hand 
I played Ambrose, the priest of Mitra. This was also a GURPS 3rd edition campaign.  None of the stuff I want to try out with the character  was doable because the campaign was revealed to be a survivalist campaign in a demon haunted world in the first session. Once I wrapped my head around the unexpected direction, I had fun poking around the world. I was basically support for Torrin the Red Hand.

2. Slice Handler
I didn't come into this campaign until the very end when I was invited to make a character to accompany Tim's character Slice Handler. This was one of the last ADnD 1st edition campaigns the three of us, Tim, Dwayne and myself, were involved with in the late 80s. At that time Dwayne had a habit of using X5 Temple of Death as the climatic adventure of his campaign. Tim had experienced this several times before and failed to conquered the module. This was my first time. I made a high level magic-user, probably named Thil the Cowled to accompany Slice-Handler.

I don't remember much of the adventure except for the very last encounter. We just defeated the big bad guys when on top of the alter was a major artifact of evil. I think the Hand and Eye of Vecna. Up to that point I was rarely a player. I was one of the guys always refereeing stuff. When I played I generally cooperated with everybody.

Except this time, I thought to myself, I am done with being mister nice guy. I am going to go dark side. So I took possession of the artifact and claimed as my own. Commanding Slice Handler and our hireling to bow to me as their new lord and master. Well Slice Handler was having none of that. And the battle that ensued was epic. Of course Tim infamous d20 'Whimpy' managed to hurt Thil  badly, but my spell hurt him worse especially when he could not roll a saving rolls worth anything.

And then he was done, out of everything and anything. And I had still had spells. I literally cackled after my turn roleplayed something like "Slice, don't bother bowing to me, nothing I am just going to kill you."

I can still see Tim slumping down his chair as despair took hold. Not only he was going to die from my character, yet against Dwayne's Temple of Death bested him. Then I swear his face lite up like a 100 watt light bulb. He stabbed at his sheet and I have this! Dwayne I have this! And Tim shoved his sheet over. Dwayne looked it over and smiled "Yes you do. I remember that and still hanging off your ear."

Now I was trying to figure what the hell was going on when Tim said. "I rip my dagger earring off of my ear and throw it at Thil." Apparently it was a earring in the shape of the dagger that when thrown turned into a full sized dagger. Of course he rolls a natural 20 got to use the critical hit chart he was using. It didn't matter as his normal damage was more than enough to down Thil.

I was irked but not overly so. It was a well played battle and I got to see one of Tim's characters finally beat the Temple of Death.

1. Dragon Rises
This took place in the early 90s using GURPS 3rd Edition. We were all few years beyond college with jobs, spare time, and no family yet. All three of us and our group were hitting our stride as gamers. This was the time period when Tim, Dwayne, and a friend named Wes (I wasn't involved) played a eight man game of Illuminati and fooled the other five players into believing they were chance met strangers. It was well into the late game with two players knocked when one of the remaining three realized that Tim, Dwayne, and Wes were actually old gaming buddies and that they been working together the whole game. They tried to band together but it was too late.

The Dragon Rises campaign was one of the first GURPS campaign where I put everything I been trying to do with sandbox together. It wasn't perfect by any means but just about everything I do now was put into play during the campaign.

It was quite lengthy too in three distinct phases. The first phase centered around Dwayne's character Captain William Endril and his ship. Tim character was Draco-lindus and was the leader of the various mercenary hireling. Pure and simple Endril was a slave raider out of City-State. He would take the ship out, I used Harn's Pilot Almanac for the rules. One memorable incident was that during a slave raid Tim's character's Draco-lindus got beaned by a frying pan wielded by viking housewife.

This raid ended in a bad mistake on my part. Dwayne is a master at game rules and I was having trouble keeping up with his plans. In short they were all succeeding. So in a fit of frustration, I blue bolted him by sending a demon after his ship. There was a in-game explanation in the form of a viking sorcerer they pissed off in-game legitimately but it was just an excuse for an arbitrary decision.

The fair decision would have been for the sorcerer to attack but do in a way that conserves his resources. An attack of lesser demons. When that fails then he would escalated. This would have better because while Endril's raids were hitting hard all he knew that they would be is a bunch of ordinary and lucky raiders. Only after an attack that should have wiped them out didn't would he expended all his resources to bring the big guns. And this would have the benefit of giving the players a chance to respond to the fact now they pissed off somebody with magical powers.

But even with my poor judgment I wasn't going be a total dick and go after the characters The target was the ship. So while there was little they could keep the demon from tearing the ship apart, they group was strong enough to beat the creature off after they shipwrecked. To say that Dwayne took it well is an understatement. The campaign ended with Endril going mad and dragging the pieces of his boat back onto shore to try to rebuild it.  Or so I thought.

A couple of weeks later Tim and I were talking and he told me he wanted to play Draco-lindus again. He really liked the character. Due to everybody schedule at the time it would be just a solo campaign for Tim. This portion of the campaign started at the beach at the site of the shipwreck. Most of the crew and troops survived along with two mages that Endril hired. The group had to cross 100 miles of hostile Viking territory before they could reach the frontier of the City-State of the Invincible Overlord.

What followed was an epic worthy of the March of the Ten Thousand. It led to Draco-lindus being betrayed by the two mages but ulimately he was able to reach City-State with a dozen or so survivors out of a force of a 100 or so.  The session after Tim showed up with names for every one of them. The rest of this phase saw Draco-lindus maintain his mercenary company and get involved in the politics of City-State. What ended it was not a hiatus but the return of Dwayne as William Endril.

When Draco-lindus formed his company he hired some new recruits. One of them was a person known as Greymantle. Greymantle worse a mask to conceal his feature. Draco was skeptical but decided to give him a break. Greymantle proved himself and became a trusted member of the group.

Except later it turned out that he was a she. Not just any lady, Greymantle was the adopted daughter of a powerful Duke of City-State. For a time this proved not to be an issue, but then things came to a head. In a move I didn't expect, Draco-lindus decided to kidnap her adopted father while the two were in a parley. Draco-lindus then used the Duke as a hostage in order to gain passage out of City-State territory into civil war torn Viridstan. Also complicating matter was the fact that Draco and Greymantle were falling in love.

It was during the whole Duke as hostage mess that Dwayne returned to the campaign. So along with Draco's mercenary company, Endril also went into exile.

The final phase of the campaign was pretty epic. It involved helping out Robin Hood err Michael Green. Winning a barony, time travelling, travelling to the evil god Set's home plain to free King Arthur err Prince Artos becoming silver dragon riders, and along the way getting married. It ended with Draco-lindus conquering a kingdom in cooperation with the Invincible Overlord of City-State and become a Duke. Oh and Greymantle's father forgave Draco for the whole hostage thing.

Endril prospered as well. While nominally Draco's right hand man. He estabilshed a new port opening up a new trade route from City-State to Viridstan along with a secret spy network to rival the Overlord's Black Lotus, He won the heart of a elf maiden, and became the wealthiest man in City-State. Oh yes he replaced his ship too, on the Overlord's dime. Dwayne made sure that happened as part of the treaty that made Draco a Duke under the Overlord.

So now you heard what happened on the other side of the screen.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The one where I go to Con on the Cob

Late last summer, most of the Monday Night Group ( +Tim Shorts , +Daniel McEntee+Ken H , +Chris C. ) decide to head out a convention in eastern Ohio called Con on the Cob.  I went there last year with Dan but just for Saturday. I had fun and it was nice to see a healthy mix of OSR gaming so I resolved to go for the full weekend.

My past experience with gaming convention is that they are more fun when I run some games. While hotels, have beds, sofas and chairs there is usually only so much you can do with a single activity during the day. Whether it is playing a game, or shopping. I find a mix of activities makes for a better experience. I signed up to run three events, Scourge of the Demon Wolf for 5e, a playtest of Night's Bride Coven for ODnD/Majestic Wilderlands, and the initial playtest of Outpost on the Orclands also for ODnD/MW.

Because I was refereeing, I brought my gaming room errr stuff. Yeah I could run with a lot less but I like to put on a spectacle along with a good game. In theory I could get it down to my tool chest and a portable luggage stroller but the thing is that I have to sort out what I need first. I have everything already packed nice and it just easier to haul it all than to open it all up sort out what I need and later sort it back in.

Thursday the 16th
Unlike Tim and Ken, I could not take work off for Thursday. It was a two hour drive plus a stop for dinner. I went with Dan and we got there around 7:45 pm. I knew I would be tried so did not bother sign up for any games. Instead I briefly hit the gaming room and met +Roy Snyder who was running the a RPG booth featuring Goodman Games and classic RPG material (ADnD, Champions, etc). We talked shop and hopefully it will lead to my stuff appearing at a few more conventions.

Friday the 17th
The hotel, the Clarion in Hudson OH, has a outstanding breakfast buffet. I ate with the Monday Night Crew and did some looking around in the dealers area until our first game.

DCC RPG: Frozen in Time

This was run by +Eric Daum, an 0 level funnel adventure where we were all members of a stone age tribe living in a Pleistocene world of glaciers and mammoths. I had a cordmaker, weaver, gather, and a hunter. The hunter, Unak,  was probably the groups best fighter at 6 hit points and armed with a spear. Unfortunately he only had a 9 strength. However the most memorable character was Leo Jenks the cordmaker. He was really enthusiastic about everything and continually rushed ahead of everybody. He actually survived relatively intact until eating the wrong mushroom turned him into a Hodar. Unak helped the party by successfully parley with a wounded yeti. Something that proved useful later when Leo Jenks needed to be carried after the mushroom incident.

Eric did an excellent job refereeing. The look on his face midway through the game when he "got" what I was doing with Leo Jenks. Much hilarity then ensued.

Scourge on the Demon Wolf, the 5th edition
If wizards going to put a third party license and if I want to be ready to put a quality adventure, the time to start is now. So I decided to convert Scourge over to 5th edition and give it a shot. The group was excellent consisting of a good mix of gamers. Two ladies, two RPG, novices, some 5e novices. I had them make characters on the spot.

My 5e character creation support material wasn't up to the same standards as Majestic Wilderlands so it took longer than I liked. But the good news I think it can be just as fast as ODnD/Majestic Wilderlands once I have everything made. The biggest improvement will be having all the core classes in this format. I did it for the cleric folks who took that class were able to complete their characters in less time. Also because I had two RPG novices I got some insight one what needs to be explained in the cheat sheets.

The game itself was highly interested because the group took a path through the adventure that haven't been taken before. The typical route through Scourge is

  • Baron gives an assignment
  • The party travels to Kenslas finds the dead tinker.
  • The party may or may not figure out where the bandits are. And that they are using Wolf Costumes.
  • Head to the Village of Kensla.
  • Pieces together what happens and tries to stop the villager from lynching the beggars.
  • Finds the demon summoning circle
  • Heads to the Golden House and talk to the mages.
  • See the guilty apprentice flee and the final confrontation ensues.
This time Kensla didn't factor into it at all. Instead what happened was.
  • Baron gives an assignment
  • The party travels to Kenslas finds the dead tinker.
  • The party figured out where the bandits are and took them out.
  • Found the Wolf Costumes.
  • Finds out that the Bandit fence their goods to the Beggars.
  • Hauled the surviving bandits and the costume back to the Baron.
  • Baron is pleased sends them out to confiscate the Beggar's good and run them off.
  • The party confront the Beggars and expertly tightens the screws on them.
  • The leader of the Beggars decides to come clean and explains the death of his son caused by real Demon Wolf.
  • The party heads out into the Wilderness
  • Finds the demon summoning circle
  • Heads to the Golden House and talk to the mages.
  • See the guilty apprentice flee and the final confrontation ensues.

 I had the fence hook in from the beginning but until this group nobody ever followed up on it. Good thing too otherwise they would have joined the first huntsman in the stock when the killing continued.

My side of the table in the aftermath of the last encounter.

Night's Bride Coven (ODnD/Majestic Wilderlands)
Total bust, which was a bummer as this adventure was the reason I hauled all my Dwarven Forge to the Con. Otherwise I would just packed a box of selected pieces. But it was probably a good thing because I was able to play ...

One thing that +Tim Shorts is good at is running atmospheric adventures. And he makes pregens he tailors them to the players so that it is a snap to roleplay. What makes it more impressive is that he does this with multiple genres and without giving us stereotypes. This time I got Mark Steele a Meadville Police Detective.

The adventure centered around a haunted house in Saegertown. Tracking down leads and figuring clues so that the other world doesn't leak through any more than it has. One thing Tim does it is make props that looks like they are ripped from actual sources. There was Meadville Tribune article that if I didn't know any better was a real article. And he works local legends into the adventure to be the point that google search has the details on what we were encountering in the adventure.

Unfortunately the game was cut short due to me starting to nod off. It was a long day and I needed to sleep.

Saturday the 18th
Another good breakfast with the crew and we were off to the races. I made the bulk of my purchases at this time. I scored another set of Dwarven Forges Medieval building extra to complement the Medieval building sets I already got. I picked up a monochrome D2 Shrine of the Kuo Toa. I am slowing acquiring all the monochromes modules. Plus three 2nd/3rd edition Champions modules Enemies II, and Enemies the International Files.

DCC RPG, Tower out of Time

This was a good adventure run by Roy Synder. I opted to play a human wizard and of course he had to come with a 5 personality. So I racked my brain to find yet another way of playing a low charisma character that was different then all the others ones I played. I settled on using a loud nasaly voice similar to the bishop in Princess Bride, and expecting people to understand precisely what I am talking about while not supply all the details. I guess I succeeded as Ken really wanted to use his character to kill mine.

The adventure itself was interesting and revolved around some type of organic time capsule with dinosaurs and ape men. I had a big moment at the climatic battle when I color sprayed the big bad guy (and many members of the party). I took some of Dan's Halfling luck, a lot of my own luck, and spell burned all my physical attribute down to 9 and roll a 27 or so. Basically ignited the equivalent of the flash from an atomic bomb. A stray ape man took me down as I rushed in and tried to save Ken's Dwarf. You think his character would have been more grateful.

Outpost on the Orclands (ODnD/Majestic Wilderlands)
This is was my first playtest of a new advetnure I am working on. Where Night Bride's Covern is a traditional dungeon crawl. Outpost is patterned on Scourge of the Demon Wolf. I setup a situation, throw the players into the middle of it and watch the fun begin. Of course the first time I do one of these I have no clue what they will focus on so I had to play a lot of it by ear.

The situation in this case is that the party started hanging out at the court of the local baron looking for a job. A noble's court was the equivalent to a medieval job fair among other things. Well the Baron got a request to send some guards over to the bishop. The party caught his eye and was sent over there. Once at the Bishop they were each paid 100d (sp) to go to Woodford Abbey and fetch the quarterly tithe owed to the Bishop. Woodford was the site of a popular pilgrimage site to St Caelam the Dragonrider. Housing a relic, St Caelam's sword thrust in the middle of a dragon skull.

The adventure featured star-crossed lovers, malevolent faeries, a corrupt abbot, a wrathful knight, a peasant revolt, diabolic warlocks, and of course a whole lot of orcs.

The party did well and really did a good job roleplaying. It was fun to see the goals of the Paladin of Mitra and the chaotic fighter versus those of the Dwarven Cleric of Veritas and the human magic-user, versus of the gnome warrior who was in it for the money.

As for the adventure, now the initial run through is done, I have a baseline on which to flesh out the details. I also have a better grip on how the complications I introduced interact with each other. I also got to use the Dwarven Forge stuff for the final battle with the Orcs along with the new Dwarven Forge medieval buildings. Finally I got to show off the painted yurts that Tim strong armed me into buying at origins.

It was midnight when I was done and Dan had the outstanding suggestion of taking everything to the car rather than hauling it back upstairs.

The final climatic battle against the orcs. Show both the dungeon Dwarven Forge and the some of the Medieval Building set.

Sunday the 19th
I lounged around while Dan learned the new Shadowrun Card game. I also picked up one final DnD 5e miniature booster box and got a Green Hag. I was hoping for one more so I can have a set of three.

On the way back Dan I stopped to eat. We were definitely feeling the effects of the weekend even tho it was early Sunday afternoon. I helped Dan with a game of Settlers of Catan on my iPad which he ultimately won against three computer opponents.