Monday, July 12, 2010, 8:09 AM
After fighting off a small group of Kruthik and escape the clutches of two sneaky Chokers, the brave warriors continued further down the pit...
...where, after descending a few levels, the rogue jumped right down into a giant spider-web. All of the commotion alerted several baddies nearby to their presence. Soon, the rogue was being stalked by a hungry Deathjump Spider, our goliath was fighting off two Stirges, and the rest of the party was squaring off against an Adult Kruthik.
Not too long after the battle began, it was suddenly but temporarily stopped as everybody's attention was turned further down the pit as a giant Fire Bat came swooping up, slashing at a few of the party members.
It was a long and tough battle, but eventually, they emerged victorious.
We tried a few things this time to keep the action going. The first and most obvious was I wasn't going to let the players take too long to make their move. I'd give a firm but friendly, "C'mon, dude, what's it gonna be?" or something like that. That helped. Also, with the help of one of the players, we ironed out the details of a few abilities. This also helped. The encounter seemed to go much faster as a result.
At the bottom of the pit, they found an open cave and a small pond which was flowing off down a cave tunnel, where there seemed to be some sort of light source. The characters will level up (which we're doing ourselves before we meet again) and then go check it out.
What they'll find is part of an ancient Minotaur city. And yet, while all of the Minotaurs died years ago as the result of a vicious civil war, there are flames on the lamp posts. Someone is in there.
Inside, they'll find their long-lost warlock (returned from Africa). After rejoining, they'll face off against some very nasty-looking foes.
For this next map (which I haven't quite finished yet; so no pictures), I wanted to try and base it off a real prison layout. I'd say it's pretty authentic, though incredibly simplified. It looks cool. I joined the Cartographer's Guild the other day to talk about it. Another great community!
Thanks for reading! Until next time...
Monday, June 28, 2010, 12:14 PM
As I mentioned in my previous post, the party decided to descend into the pit. I also mentioned that I wanted to do something a bit different. This would be my own creation; I enjoyed going through "Coppernight's Salvation," but I wanted to try something on my own. I made a few changes to the construction of the Pit kind of on-the-fly, but I like how it turned out.
I made a Flickr account for these D&D pictures. So here's a link to the first construction picture. Then you can go right from there. Click here.
As you can see, the design of the pit was pretty simplistic. It was pretty cheap, too--I used balsa wood for a lot of it. That also meant it was easily breakable. I accidentally snapped one of the arms while attaching the dungeon tile sheet. But a little duct tape and another application of black spray paint fixed that.
All of my players really liked the design. Some of their reactions to seeing it for the first time were great. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but it's about 4 feet high. So in order to see our characters, we separated the table we were playing on, and lowered the Pit between the two sections. Then, when they went down far enough, we brought it back up. Thankfully, nothing was broken. And they really liked playing on it.
They fought some Kruthik hatchlings, youths and one adult. Then some Chokers showed up and I managed to snag a few slackers that were on a higher platform. I couldn't have timed that better. Some players were scrambling to get back up there and help, while others were still busy with the Kruthiks. They eventually emerged victorious, and the night was over.
After spending so much time on something like this, I told them that we'd be using it again. And so they have another half of the Pit to traverse. This time they'll run into some Stirges, a Fire Bat, a Deathjump Spider, and maybe another Choker.
The 6th member of the party, the Warlock Erathmus, who left after the first encounter because he went to Africa for a few weeks, has yet to rejoin the party. But after the second half of the Pit, they'll run into him again. I cleared it with him to use my story idea. So I'm excited about starting that.
One of the players started a simple blog just for us to use. It has been awesome! Almost all of the players have posted their bios. Other characters have even posted small narrations of their reactions to the small bird that came to them at the beginning of our campaign. It's been great. It didn't take me long to realize that I can take their bios and incorporate some of these things into our games. For example, one of the character's mother was killed by a giant spider. Well... I didn't plan on this happening, but he'll see a giant spider in our next game! But now I know to milk that a little bit. Hopefully he'll remember his own character's story enough to see what's happening, hehe...
I posted a "Brief History of the Nentir Valley," which I came up with by adding onto and changing a few things from the DM Guide. Next I'll draw a simple map for them to reference--I might even make them buy it! Hehe.
So that's it. Our next game night will be the sometime during the first week of July. I'll post the results here. Thanks for reading!
Saturday, June 12, 2010, 9:48 AM
Last Sunday, we all met to finish "Coppernight's Salvation."
The group was rolling much better this time around. That's not to say there were some total failures, but it wasn't as rampant. Leonardo, the dragonborn monk, once rolled a natural 1 on an attack, and after immediately using a re-roll ability, did a 180 with a natural 20. Quite epic.
There were two big encounters to complete, both of which had some of Coppernight's alchemist's fire traps. They set these into motion with a very dramatic, "NOW, COPPERNIGHT!" And, luck being in their favor both times, both traps went off rather quickly, destroying the minions that were positioned in front of each trap. This was great because they enjoyed seeing lots of enemies killed in one huge blast. However, they didn't know they were minions, and therefore, haven't had any experience against them yet. I'll change this soon enough...
They really enjoyed sneaking around before each encounter. So I let them get away with a little more than the duergar theurge's passive perception would allow. But when it started to get a little slow, it was time for battle.
The duergar scouts were really giving them trouble with their ability to disappear into the shadows. That is, until our elf cleric used one of his light sticks from his adventurer's kit. Uxichyrath (the theurge) had a poison blast attack that I enjoyed using. And, for some flavor, I made it a... well... a magical belch. They responded with laughs from the idea, but cringes from the power of the attack. They definitely feared his indigestion...
There was a stream pouring into a pit that separated Uxichyrath from the party. The monk crossed easily enough (perhaps a little too soon--he was almost killed!), and the rest of the party soon followed. They fought well against the remaining monsters and emerged victoriously.
I awarded them some gold that could be split evenly. Plus a few Potions of Healing. Then they found a magical dagger and warhammer, which they dolled out to the appropriate party member. I know items like that can cause some unrest; so I'm going to try and work it so that everybody receives an empowering item like that. Maybe not a weapon, but something that gives them an extra edge.
They were hugely intrigued by the pit that Uxichyrath was investigating. He thought the water to be enchanted, which definitely piqued their interest. So they decided to descend into the pit.
I've been thinking about my game, myself as a DM, and the party, and I've found things that seem to interest them over others. For instance, whenever I use overly-violent descriptions of when they kill an enemy, they respond positively. They also enjoy searching for little details and treasures. They're not huge into roleplaying, but will try it out every now and then.
In terms of my role as a DM, I've been reading a lot of blogs and posts. One of my favorites so far has been this site:
His stuff is very helpful. His article on "Explaining Failures" is great. The idea of a character failing an attack or challenge not because of their own stupidity or clumsiness but because of another, unforeseen element is simple, but brilliant. Instead of them not being able to climb up a brick wall, the bricks crumble in their hands. I think this will help with my party. With only three encounters under their belt, they're still learning their characters. I don't think they've gotten to the point yet where, if they fail an action, they might think, "My character sucks." So that short article is something that I'll definitely use for the rest of my time as a DM. Brilliant.
As far as descending into the pit, I think I'm going to rip off Mike from Penny-Arcade. I'm sure he ripped off someone himself, but I guess that's how things go around. Anyway, he had a free-fall level that he built using four or five tiers. I'm considering doing the same thing. They would start their descent, then some baddies would show up. So they'd be balancing ability checks with battle. I'd like to throw in some extra rules, too--like, if a PC descends down a level right next to an enemy, they get a +2 to attack rolls. Something like that.
Below and Beyond
Erathmus, our warlock, is still out of action (being in Uganda, and all). He missed the last half of Coppernight's Salvation. He just decided that he was going to leave after the first encounter and check out some other adventures. Sort of lame, but... whatever. I'm going to clear it with him when he returns to the country, but here's my grand plan to unite the party with Erathmus, while at the same time introducing an arc-villain.
As the party descends into the pit, they are first merely climbing down into a cave. As they reach the bottom, they find themselves face-to-face with an underground keep, deep within the earth. Inside, they'll crawl through some traps only to find a caged and emaciated Erathmus, who's hooked up to some sort of device that seems to be draining his power. They'll rescue him, which will attract some attention, and then they'll see who's behind all of this. And I have no idea who this will be yet. But definitely a B.A. (not a Baby Animal). Anyway, that's kind of my idea.
In designing the big bad guy, I'd also like to get his over-arching plan. This will also require a better idea of the overworld. I don't want to go too in-depth (in case, for instance, they decide to ignore all of that stuff), but I want NPCs' actions to make sense.
I need to hurry up and pick some monsters for the pit and this dungeon, because I'd like to order some minis. A few of them have ordered minis for their characters, which is great.
And that's it. Our next session will be the pit, which I think is not this coming Monday, but the next. I'll update then. Thanks for reading!
Wednesday, June 2, 2010, 1:22 PM
As it turns out, D&D is super-fun. Who'da thunk it?
The first session was great. To nobody's surprise, we were a little late getting started. But it allowed us to settle in, chat it up for a bit, and relax before getting into the game.
Here's the party:
- Fred-dan (played by Richard)- Goliath Paladin
- Admiral Phillipe Casanova, AKA "Glenn" (played by Kevin)- Tiefling Rogue
- Erathmus (played by Zack)- Deva Warlock
- Todd Gruenwald (played by Scott)- Elf Cleric
- Leonardo Bene (played by Adam)- Dragonborn Monk
- Charles (played by Brad)- Human Bard
Quite an interesting bunch. A few fun facts:
- Fred-dan is 10 years old. He's also as tall as Goliaths get. So he's a super big, magically powerful baby. Richard's yet to work out how this came about...
- "Glenn" was played by the LEGO character of Voldemort in our first game. He ordered an official D&D mini last week. Should be here soon.
- Erathmus had that awesome story about the god and nebula and all that. Very cool.
- Todd is... very flamboyant.
- Adam got the inspiration for Leonardo from the movie "Kung Fu Panda." Leonardo was trained by a Sifu Po.
- Charles plays blues slide guitar (actually, not really, but Brad does).
And I'm the DM. Well, we had another friend join us. Our friend Geoff moved out to the other side of the country about a year ago. When we told him we were going to start a D&D campaign, his response was, "Oh, sure! Do all the stuff I wanna do AFTER I move!" So Richard brought a music stand next to the table, set it as high as it would go, turned it flat, put his laptop and webcam on top, and we Skyped Geoff in for the session. I was afraid this might be a bad distraction, but he was great. Being a graphic designer, he set up his digital pad instead of his webcam. So he would draw a hilarious sketch of something that happened, or write a funny comment. If "geek" had a certain wavelength frequency, and someone were to invent a device to show only those frequencies, I'm pretty sure Richard's house would've been visible from the Moon.
I set it up so that all of the characters met at the entrance of the cave, and left it hanging... hoping that someone might jump in with some roleplaying. They were pretty slow to it; so I moved on. A patch of dirt opened up and a piece of parchment surfaced. Coppernight had sent them a map of his mine to help them navigate. Then I laid the map I drew on the table. "Ooooh... ahhhh..."
When they entered the mine, they saw the two duergar guards torturing someone. And instead of immediately jumping into battle, they kept trying to talk to them. And so I, as a duergar, would just hurl insults and threats at them until they decided to fight. Hehe. Obviously, I wasn't prepared for some sort of Diplomacy challenge... weirdos...
Once the fighting started, it wasn't exactly smooth sailing for them. They were rolling TERRIBLY. I mean... Constant 2's, 3's, 4's. It was awful. I had a crit on my first round. And another one later. So for the first couple of rounds, there was a lot of missed attacks. Also, Leonardo, the monk, would flip around the map, but after rolling a 4 for the landing, would fall on his butt. And Geoff would respond with a funny drawing. They started rolling better after a while, and picked up on how they're character's best function. "The party starts casting magic; suddenly the encounter is easy," wrote Geoff.
Ultimately, the encounter was slow, but still really fun. I was prepared for the whole dungeon, and they only did the first encounter and the skill challenge. After a while, everybody started to get into the roleplaying. There was some conversation between PCs, and PCs and NPCs. It was great.
I made a D&D playlist in iTunes and hooked my iPod up to some speakers. It's mostly video game soundtracks--"Chrono Cross," "Shadow of the Colossus," "Shadows of the Empire," some Final Fantasy, etc. Mostly the dark tunes. Or battle themes. Sometimes the characters would make a big hit and it would coincide perfectly with the music. Everybody would look up and smile and say, "This is awesome!"
All in all, I think everybody had a great time. We're all excited to get back to it again. Which will be this Sunday.
Time for pictures!
Here's all of the characters in the midst of combat (AKA, getting pwned):
Here's the whole table. I've got my stuff behind the DM's screen on the lower left, and you can see some of the power cards all laid out. The Character Builder is awesome.
Pre-gaming... Tasty candy!
And finally, here's how I was keeping up with the monsters and battles. I had initiative over on the right, with any other notes, and then monster skills, HP, and other stuff on the left. This worked out OK. I've come up with a MUCH better way of doing it for next time. I made a Word document with some handy tables for PCs and monsters. I'll take a picture of that for next time.
And that's it! Thanks for reading!
Saturday, May 29, 2010, 6:29 PM
I'm new to the D&D forum/community. Actually, I'm new to D&D in general. I think I first heard about D&D when I was in the 4th grade. But at that point, I was confusing it with Hero's Quest, which I had only seen and never played. Later in life, it was the "D&D" song from Stephen Lynch.
Being an avid Penny-Arcade reader, I really enjoyed the occasional updates Gabe would post about his D&D games, which I thought were incredibly imaginative and sounded really fun. Then I found the videos of the Robot Chicken guys playing with Chris Perkins. "OK," I said to myself. "I've gotta get a game started. This looks too fun!" After showing the videos to two of my friends--with some gentle convincing--they agreed to try it. The response from our friends was overwhelmingly positive. I think we all wanted a new hobby...
I wanted to at least start out as the DM, because I've been drawing maps and monsters and planes and spaceships since I was a kid. I enjoy creating and thinking up cool scenarios and stories. One of my friends recruited his older and younger brother, plus the guitar player from our band. My other friend recruited one of our old friends from high school (we're all mid-20s). So that brings us to a party of six plus one DM.
First thing I did was buy the core books and start pouring through them (I'm almost finished). I also got this Insider account, which has been hugely helpful. We met two Sundays ago to start the character creation process. During the week, we'd keep in touch with e-mails. I'd encourage them to come up with some background story for their character, the name of the party, or how they came together (or if they even have yet). Some of the party names were... well, to be honest, pretty hilarious...
Meanwhile, I'm pouring through the dungeons posted on the D&D website. I finally decided to go with "Coppernight's Salvation," which seemed short but interesting. Not too much for a new DM to deal with, but enough to keep a large party occupied and happy. A good mix of encounters and ability checks with some roleplaying. I bought a large pad of 1x1 squares, some colored pens, and, of course, some polyhedral dice. Some of the players have chipped in with other core books, dice, and even miniatures.
Here's the map I created:
I had to alter it just a tad to fit it on the pad, but I think it turned out really well. I'm quite proud of it. It's pretty obvious that I ripped off Chris Perkin's map-making from the Robot Chicken videos. But, hey, who better than learn from than the pros? ;-)
We're starting tomorrow, and I couldn't be more excited. One of the players e-mailed his character's background story, and it was the most epic thing I've ever read. Basically, an unnamed, morally good god fell in love with a nebula that was being influenced by a dark creature of unknown origins. The nebula required a pure mortal in order to give itself to the god. The god kidnapped a human, but right after sacrificing the human to the dark creature, was convicted by his selfishness and tried to rescue him. All of them were sucked into the dark creature, which was not prepared to take on so much raw energy, and burst apart. His character is the result. And all of this from the player that I was expecting the least amount of character detail from! Some of us met at a local coffee house last night to hang out, and we were talking about how excited we all were.
I've been pouring over the core books, trying to prepare myself as best as possible. I'm feeling pretty confident, but I also know these guys well enough to know that they'll cut me some slack if something stumps me. In fact, I've already told them that they might have to help me with keeping up with some of the rules. I've read some guides that have suggested the DM not try to control everything, but I don't see it that way. I don't want to CONTROL the game, but I want to let the players just play, and that's it.
Since none of them came up with a story of how all of their characters met, I decided that this will be how they meet... And so I sent out this e-mail earlier today:
While traveling through the wilderness surrounding the town of Fallcrest, each of you are approached by a small bird, which lands right in front of you. It seems to be looking right up at you. After a few seconds, it starts to quickly hop up and down on a patch of dirt. Soon you realize that its footprints are forming letters, then words, then sentences...
"I don't have much time... My name is Kavalar Coppernight. I own a mine not too far from Fallcrest. We're under attack. I'm not sure by who or what. My guards are no match for them... What's left of my work force and I will attempt to hide. I implore you, please come to our rescue. I wish I could tell you more. This bird will lead you to my mine. I'm sending out five others like it. Please, hurry... I don't have much time..."
When you finish reading, you look at the bird. It starts flapping its wings and takes off. You follow...
I got the idea of the bird writing the letter in the dirt from the book "Dinotopia," which I read as a kid (AKA: looked at the pictures over and over until I was older and finally read it). I don't have too much of a plan in terms of the "campaign" as a whole or the "world" that this is taking place in. Frankly, I'd rather leave it open and borrow and create as needed.
Also, the day after tomorrow, one of our players is leaving for Uganda for a few weeks. So he'll miss a session or two, depending on how often the rest of us play. I spent some time trying to come up with a reason to account for this. Instead of just having him go off on another adventure, or go back to rest after an "injury," or even have him do the shadow observer thingy, I decided that he's gonna "pull a Gandalf." At the end of the encounter, as the final boss is defeated, he'll throw out a giant chain, gripping this PC. Then, in his final breath, he'll plunge down this giant pit, dragging the PC with him. However, unlike the Fellowship, which was basically like, "...Later!" to Gandalf, these guys will venture further into the mine and into the depths below to find their teammate. Or, at least... hopefully... yeah...
I am very excited. And I thought it would be fun to write about what happens on here... if people are interested. I'm not explicitly asking for advice, but if anybody would like to offer some, I'll gladly take it. I'll update again sometime tomorrow evening or Monday with the results of tomorrow afternoon. If you made it this far, thanks for reading!