Thursday, May 16, 2013, 2:13 PM
I'd just like to let people know that "Buckets of Dice 2013" will be taking place over Queen's Birthday weekend. The details are below,
Registration closes on Friday the 24th of May 2013.
Cost: 5-20 dollars depending on the number of days attending.
Location: Otakaro Building, College of Education, University of Canterbury, Christchurch
When: 1st to the 3rd of June 2013www.saga.org.nz/buckets-2013
I can't find anything more on the event, so if someone from Christchurch has more information please let me know.
Monday, May 6, 2013, 1:28 PM
DM Minion 4E is a software programme that I have been using for about 4 months. DM Minion does everything that a dungeon master could hope for when running adventures for D&D 4E. It is one of the most useful software packages I have ever used and rivals dungeons and dragons insider. D&D Insider is wonderful and I use most of its applications from the character builder to the monster builder, but it doesn't do everything I need. I've been using: paper, pencil, dice, adventure module books, DM screen and reference books to run my games in the past; it's a juggling act. Now don't get to excited it's not free, I had to pay $8 New Zealand dollars for the android version. The windows and mac versions appear to be free. Goat Head Software has developed DM Minion for: iphone, ipad, android, windows and mac.
DM Minion allows you to manage and organize many elements in an adventure: build encounters, monsters stat-blocks, player character details, track combat and campsite resting. It has a simple clear format and the control layout is easy to use. Using the monster database requires signing up for a free account with Goat Head Software, and monsters can be downloaded onto the portable device and even saved locally if internet access is not available during a game session. There are nine function tabs: adventure, notes, players, monsters, encounters, battle, camp, options, tools.
The adventure tab allows for the story name to be created, saved, loaded and deleted. Documentation can be attached to the adventure. Multiple adventures can be made and saved. Adventures can be uploaded to a Drop-box or downloaded provided a Drop-box account is set-up. The notes tab can be used to write adventure summaries: backgrounds, hooks, NPC details, etc. Notes can be edited or deleted. The players tab can be used to manually enter any character details, edit them later and delete characters that are no-longer needed. PC's can be downloaded from a Drop-box and existing characters can be transferred from one adventure to another.
The monster tab is used to create custom monsters, edit them or even clone a monster. All the monsters you can find on D&D insider are included in a database so you can download pre-generated monsters. Traps can be created and edited to be inserted into encounters later. If a monster has already been downloaded into an existing adventure it can be transferred to the current adventure. There is a Drop-box button for downloading monster files.
The encounter building tab has a place to write the title of the combat encounter. Multiple encounters can be created and saved. It took me about 2-5 minutes to build an encounter from scratch. Monsters can be added from the monsters loaded into the adventure. There are sections for treasure and encounter notes, like: monster tactics, setup, scene descriptions and terrain details. Encounters can be edited at anytime and run when ready.
The battle tab first sets the players initiative on a sliding scale. Monster initiative is automatically rolled. Notes can be viewed at anytime and new monsters can be added during a battle if the dungeon master desires. The character and monster defenses, hit points, healing surges and action points are all tracked. As monsters come up in the initiative order, power information is listed in detail with quick attack and damage rolling buttons. Encounter and Dailey powers can be marked as expended. Recharge powers are rolled automatically and inform the DM when they are ready to be used again. Damage and conditions can be applied to monsters and characters with any sort of duration. Monsters can be set to make auto save rolls and any action can be taken during rounds. The software developer has thought of everything.
The player characters campsite tab lets the dungeon master apply healing, damage, milestones, short rests, extended rests and add temporary hit points. The options tab has a number of useful monster labeling and initiative setting functions. Lastly the toolbox tab has a dice roller, calculator and custom condition builder. I can't say anything more about the package other than it's fantastic. Give it a try and prove me wrong that it's not worth investing your time and money.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 11:56 PM
If you wanted a skill challenge involving the characters travelling down an underground magma river, you are in the right place. I ran this multi-level skill challenge for my players recently over two sessions. It was the only way forward to stop a devil by the name of Daryl Van Horn from draining fairies and pixies of their magic. Personally I'd change or chop out anything that the players find boring. I made two small origami paper boats and put the players miniature in the boats and place everything on a battle map of a magma river. That turned out to be very helpful for the players and me. If you want to know how to make the boats, check out the youtube video below,
I also allowed utility and attack powers to be used by players, and any other equipment or ideas they came up with. I hope someone finds a use for the skill challenge, it went pretty well for me.
The cavern before you stops at an underground river of red hot magma. Two iron boats with rock encrusted paddles are sitting on the shore line. The heated molten rock river winds away into the darkness. A devils head is mounted to the bow of the boat, each boat has a rudder and a set of long metal paddles.
The PC’s have been directed to travel down the river of magma to Daryl Van Horn’s lair. They must traverse the river successfully to reach the devils fortress of darkness and fire. A also had the devil head talk or insult the PC's if they failled skill checks, they even tryed to get information out of the animated head.
Set-up: To travel the river of lava, the group will have to work together to paddle the boats down the river to the fortress and brave the dangers on their way. Each boat will hold 3-4 people.
Props: Use a couple of paper boats and a wiggly section of red lines to represent the river on a battle map. Stones or polystyrene can be used as rock formations. Cotton balls make good ash clouds and a few character miniature. You might even want a couple of large fire elemental miniatures.
Complexity: This whole skill challenge is made up of 5 separate complexity 1 skill challenges. Each skill challenge requires 4 successes before 2 failures. All skill checks are group checks. Group checks must have half the party succeed on each stage to be successful.
Primary Skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Dungeoneering, Endurance, Nature and Perception.
Secondary Skills: Anything that seems to make sense, give a +2 bonus to the next primary skill check.
(1) Stage One: Lava River Earthquake
Experience Points: 600.
Complexity: The skill challenge requires 4 successes before 2 failures. At least one Acrobatics and Endurance skill check must be made by each character.
The heat of the lava river is so intense that the characters find it hard to bear. A series of earthquakes shake the boats as the characters paddle down the river. The boat gets knocked around by the quake and might flip over. Rocks and debris drop from the cavern ceiling.
Failure: The party’s boats are hit by too many falling rocks and get beached on a rock shore line with a hole in it. The group must make emergency repairs for about half a day and losses a healing surge or there surge value, due to the heat from the lava river cavern. Failure by 5 or more by a character means they get hurt by falling rocks or lava heat and they take 1d10 damage.
Success: The party guides their boats down the lava river, avoiding the falling rocks from the earthquake and the hot steam coming off the lava.
(2) Stage Two: Lava Geysers
Experience Points: 600.
Complexity: The skill challenge requires 4 successes before 2 failures. At least one Acrobatics or Athletics and Endurance skill check must be made by each character.
The earthquakes stop and the boats enter a lava geyser field. Jets of flame and fire shoot out of the river of lava. Lava geysers spray the characters with sheets of molten rock that try to burn their flesh. On occasions lava bombs shoot out of the geysers and travel high into the air before falling down toward the boats.
Failure: The party is sprayed with lava from the geysers or a hit by a lava bomb that explodes. The characters loss a healing surge or there surge value, due to the molten lava burning their skin. Failure by 5 or more by a character means they get hurt by falling lava bombs and lava spray, they take 1d10 damage.
Success: The party navigates past the lava geysers and continue down the river.
(3) Stage Three: Toxic Ash Cloud
Experience Points: 600.
Complexity: The skill challenge requires 4 successes before 2 failures. At least one Endurance and Perception skill check must be made by each character.
Once the characters get through the lava geyser field they come to a black and grey cloud. The lava geysers have released toxic and poisonous gases, along with thick ash that has nowhere to go. The ash cloud conceals the correct path of the river and the boat could easily crash into sharp rocks or the wall of the cavern. The ash is so thick that it also affects the characters ability to breath. Toxic gases can also cause PC’s to fall unconscious.
Failure: The party is suffocated with toxic ash and loss their way in the cloud. The characters loss a healing surge or there surge value, due to the poison gases from the ash cloud. It takes many hours to find their way down the river. Failure by 5 or more by a character means they inhale ash and they take 1d10 damage.
Success: The party guesses the best way through the ash cloud and cover their mouth and nose long enough to keep the toxic ash out of their lungs.
(4) Stage Four: Fire Elemental
Experience Points: 600.
Complexity: The skill challenge requires 4 successes before 2 failures. At least one Athletics or Acrobatics and an Endurance skill check must be made by each character. An Arcana skill check of DC 21 will know that the creature is a Fire elemental, and best not fought in a lava river.
A monstrous fire elemental rises out of the lava and attacks the characters boat. The elemental will try to flip or toss the boat about. It might splash the characters with burning lava. Grabbing, breathing fire and striking characters in the boat are things the fire elemental will eventually try.
Failure: The party is splashed by lava, struck by the elementals fists and has fire breathed on them. The group escapes the elemental, but are worse for wear, and so is the boat. Everyone losses 2 healing surges or twice their surge value in hit points. Failure by 5 or more by a character means they are battered more than anyone else and take 1d10 damage.
Success: The party escapes the elemental with no real consequences.
Note: Please note that the players might prefer a combat encounter rather than a skill challenge for the Fire Elemental. See the monster manual on page 104 for details on the Fire-lasher. The group can face between 1 and 5 elementals at the DM’s discretion. I ran this section as a combat encounter.
(5) Stage Five: Lava River Rapids
Experience Points: 600.
Complexity: The skill challenge requires 4 successes before 2 failures. At least one Athletics, Acrobatics and an Endurance skill check must be made by each character.
If the group gets past the fire elemental, the lava river picks up speed and flows into a set of rapids. The lava rapids try to smash the boats into rocks and flip the boat over. At this point the boats have been in the river so long that they start to melt, including the paddles. At the end of the rapids is a massive lava fall that will finish the party if they are careful, a wharf sits at the top of the falls that they can hitch their boats too.
Failure: The party’s boats are knocked against rocks and the boats start filling with lava. The group losses a healing surge or there surge value, due to lava burns and collisions. Failure by 5 or more by a character means they get hurt by rock collisions or lava burns and they take 1d10 damage. The DM can also apply extreme failure, if the group doesn’t succeed on any skill check and have the boat drop off the lava falls and kill the characters.
Success: The party guides their boats down the lava rapids, avoiding the rocks and lava falls. They hitch the boat to wharf and continue to Daryl Van Horns lair.
Acrobatics (DC 21): You balance the boat by shifting position as the earthquake rocks the boat or rapds throw the boat about. Dodge lava spray from falling rocks, avoid flame jets, slip away from lava bombs. Maybe duck overhanging rocks, somersault over fire elemental blows or perform a backward flip to avoid getting thrown out of the boat. PC’s can throw spare paddles to a comrade who has lost their paddle to the lava river. Characters can also catch paddles thrown to them by another hero. You can also slip clear of fire elemental grabs.
Athletics (DC 20): You paddle harder and avoid falling rocks, ash clouds, lava bombs, flame jets, lava geyser spray and an fire elementals trying to tip the boat over. It’s possible to steer the boat with the rudder away from the lava falls and through the lava river rapids, etc. You can leap clear of dangers from the lava river as long as you stay on the boat. Holding on tight to stop being thrown out of the boat or grab a comrade that is about to fall out of the boat.
Dungeoneering (DC 19) or Nature (DC 24): You warn people that the lava river might have the following: lava geysers, heat vents, lava spray, rapids and earthquakes. Rock falls are a possibility if there is an earthquake. If someone spots the dark cloud of ash you warn people to cover their nose and mouth as the cloud is likely made up of toxic gases and ash. The lava river may have many branches so it’s important which branch to take the largest branch is more likely the safest. You figure out the best route down the lava river. It is even possible that creatures live and hunt in the lava river and they are best avoided.
Endurance (DC 23): Endure the extreme heat from the lava rivers heat. Hold your breath in the toxic ash cloud. You paddle at high speed to avoid the dangers for about 10 minutes. The spray from lava geysers burns your flesh, but you fight back the pain. You get thrown about the boat going down the lava river rapids, but manage to hold your breakfast down. The fire breath from the fire elemental is intense, but you find enough air in your lungs to stay alive. The elementals blows threaten to knock you senseless but you stay conscious. Rocks fall on your head but you are tough and shake them off.
Perception (DC 20): You spot rocks falling from the roof and warn the group so they can get out of the way. The heat from the lava river is so hot you can see the heat waves rising, so you keep your hands inside the boat. You spot the following before it can surprises you and warn the party: jets of flame, lava spray from geysers, a creature rising out of the lava river, lava river rapids and lava falls. A lava bomb shoots up into the air and you watch its path downward so you can avoid it. A black cloud ahead of the boat appears, it looks very hazardous to you.
Thursday, April 4, 2013, 12:37 PM
How well does the D&D 4e engine work with other role-play genres? There has been a lot of talk from wizards of the coast that 4e makes running a game easy. I got the chance to test 4e in a sci-fi world, during Christmas. For some time my youngest brother asked me to run a War-hammer 40,000 role-play adventure, so he got his wish. Now the War-hammer 40k universe already has a rule system for role-playing so I purchased a copy of Dark Heresy. After reading the Dark Heresy rules, I realized what a mistake I had made; it was a heavily coded FATE system in reality and it would take too long to learn. If I wanted to play FATE why bother with Dark Heresy, so I looked at the FATE system, but there was to much work to complete in a short period of time. In the end I just thought “I’ll use 4e”, my brother and the group know the rules, that should work. What I discovered was rather amazing. The 4e engine with Dungeons and Dragons Insider makes building and converting to another genre pretty easy. Here’s why and how to use 4e with another genre.
First of all if you really want to make things easy for yourself, buy a subscription to D&D insider, it is money well spent. I had a truck load of pre-printed D&D maps and my vinyl re-writable battle map, so that was sorted. I just happen to have bucket loads of 40k and Star Wars miniatures to populate the maps and game, left over from my wargaming past. The Dark Heresy book had one adventure that needed converting, but everything was there that I needed. My next problem was changing the skill tests in the 'Illumination' adventure to skill check DC’s with the skill list 4e offered me, that wasn’t hard with the help of the Dungeon Masters Guide. NPC’s from the Dark Heresy book needed to be converted to 4e, but with ‘Adventure Tools’ and the very handy online monster builder, I had that wrapped up in a few hours. My last problem, building characters for a Sci-fi universe from a fantasy template, that’s not so easy.
I knew that building characters with the online tools was the way to go, but not everything would transfer from fantasy to sci-fi without alterations. The first thing is that classes don’t really fit the 40k world, but with the ‘Hybrid’ option, that turned out to be very simple to solve. Space Marines were a combination of Fighter, Paladin, Battle-mind, Psion and Warlord, but any combination could be used. Acolytes followed the same principle, just with less armour. Equipment was a problem, but with a DM created table of alternatives, this could be hand written onto the character sheet. Fantasy weapons didn’t really match the 40k world and there was no way to edit the entries on the character builder. In the end I created a table that listed fantasy weapons and matched them to the scifi eqivalent. Players could hand write the real name of the weapon onto the character sheet.
I managed to get everything prepared in two weeks and ran the game over three weeks. It proved to be very easy to prepare and run the game, even if it was viewed as too dark by the players. A few people didn't think that the game duplicated the feeling of playing an awesome powerful space marine, but the adventure was not set up for veterian marines and the players used level one characters. When I had finished, I realized just how easy 4e made running a homebrewed rpg adventure. That's not to say I wouldn't prefer the ability to edit the entries on the online character builder or a super simple rule system. I have to agree with wizards of the coast and all the people that claimed that 4e makes a DM's job easy. Now I'd love to see how the D&D 4e rule system performed with a Starwars roleplaying adventure. Maybe that will be an option next Christmas.
Now it's your turn to test the D&D 4e system!
You can check out some of the games photos in the link below.
Thursday, March 21, 2013, 10:46 PM
Why is the traditional hero not played in Dungeons and Dragons very often? As a dungeon master have you asked the question, “Why don’t my players role-play a traditional hero rather than the anti-hero”? As a player how often have you role-played a traditional hero, who sacrifices themselves for the greater good? This is a question that both player and dungeon master need to fully understand. I’ll make it clear now that I think that anti-hero’s are more suitable for roleplaying games, like Dungeons and Dragons. I’m not saying that all players will not choose to play the traditional heroes, but it’s rare in my opinion. I was talking with some D&D friends the other day and it was pretty clear, the traditional hero was falling out of favour.
One of the fundamental concepts of D&D is that it’s an adventure experience for a group of hero’s that work together, towards a common goal. The characters played in the adventure need to be able to work together, but they don’t necessarily follow the traditional hero format. I’m a dungeon master and player, who’s been involved in: 3.5e, 4e, Bulldogs, Star Wars saga and Pathfinder. There is one traditional hero in my current group out of seven players, the rest are anti-heroes. I rarely see the traditional hero played in D&D compared to the anti-hero, why? Let’s have a look at the reasons.
The traditional hero has developed mainly from demigods born with special abilities described in greek mythology, this is reflected in roleplaying games giving characters: powers, feats, talents and skills beyond the normal villager. The circumstances that lead to the traditional heroes birth or creation are unusual, and this can all get presented in Dungeons and Dragons by players, but that’s often where the link between D&D and traditional heroes stop. This sort of traditional hero displays courage and a willingness for self sacrifice that benefits the greater good of the world, often leading to death. And here’s the problem with the traditional Hero, players are punished for character death, it’s viewed as failure to be punished not rewarded. A heroic character death or attempting to die heroically is usually not rewarded by DM’s, it’s left to a player being satisfied with playing that sort of character as an personal reward. It might as well, be no reward.
Running the traditional hero means as a player sitting and waiting for a chance to re-join the game when your character dies and it will because that’s what happens to the traditional hero more than the anti-hero. I've experienced the frustration of waiting for a chance to join back in when I've played traditional heroes, what about yourself? It’s not really a situation any player wants to find themselves in, so why risk it by playing the traditional hero, maybe because you have to try it atleast once. With a new character built the player is ready to go but how long did it take to make? Modern D&D character creation is long and complex, another reason not to play self sacrificing heroes. It takes me about 30 minutes to build a Pathfinder or D&D character at first level, longer if it's a higher level. If DM’s don’t try to reward players for running a self-sacrificing character, you will see few traditional heroes at the table. This includes the player who tried to run a heroic character, but ended with a fizzle when the lowly kobold got a critical hit.
The traditional hero has never been the staple character, even going right back to Gary Gygax, characters died so quickly they were really just cannon fodder and it was more about doing what every you could to keep them alive. But given that character creation was quicker and simpler, you were more likely to see a traditional hero at the table. Treasure hunting is a strong focus in D&D, what can the PC find and use for their own personal gain, greed is not a traditional hero virtue and yet it's key to D&D. Even early versions of D&D based character experience off the amount of gold they aquired. In a modern world the traditional hero has become less popular and is viewed by a growing number of people as cliché. The gangster, drug dealer and criminal are now the new heroes. The anti-hero is the new modern popular focus and more players want to role-play this sort of character, it’s also what seems to work best for D&D from the very beginning of its conception.
Heroism can cover martial acts or moral excellence, as traditional heroes are shining beacons of virtue. It’s tough for an average person to identify with the traditional hero, given their own human flaws, even if they know what the character would act like. Heroes in myth often have close but conflicting relationships with gods, and this is represented in D&D at higher levels, but puts a spot light on their activities which usually results in DM’s presenting harder battles to highlight the character being an enemy of a god. Routinely the traditional hero meets a mysterious death with no burial, something that is translated to D&D when PC’s die in a dungeon and are left by the other characters after being looted. They can look forward to being stripped of possessions and asked to either make a new character or if they are luck raised from the dead with the sale of their gear. Yet another strike against the traditional hero being run by a player.
How wrong could a dungeon master be if they rewarded players for a heroic death or attempt. Would rewarding players for roleplaying a traditional hero, lead to more being played, possibly. Will continuing to punish players for roleplaying a traditional hero result in fewer of these characters, most likely. Is it really unfair to reward people for playing the traditional hero rather than the anti-hero? If the dynamics of D&D game play are not changed, then the anti-hero is going to continue being the staple character at the table. The traditional heroic character is simpler for a person to role-play than the anti heroes and much easier for a dungeon master to manage. But with so much working against the character at the table, it’s just not going to be seen till something changes. The traditional hero is a dying breed.
Sunday, December 23, 2012, 2:39 PM
Dungeons and Dragons FATE RPG
Once upon a time in a far away land there was a band of heroes…
I’ve been planning to write this blog for a while, particularly with the development of Dungeons and Dragons Next. Just to warn you, this blog is not actually about the new D&D. The actual development of D&D Next looks promising, with a long period of open play-testing ahead. A simple core rule system with modular rules that can be added or excluded are all very smart goals to keep D&D tabletop games competing with video games. I would like to point out that a role play game called FATE, not to be confused with the video game, has been around for some time. It does much of what D&D Next is trying to achieve. I’ve talked about this system before in a past blog, but will explain the basics in more detail.
FATE stands for ‘Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment’ and it’s actually been around for about 10 years. The FATE system is an open gaming license product that you can get free online. Evil Hat Productions first put out the FATE system in 2003, it was written by Fred Hicks and Robert Donoghue. The system of play is very different to d20, but you can use props and miniatures if you like, but you don't need them. You will only need one type of dice, a fudge dice or D6. It’s very simple, but can be more complex if people like complexity. The amazing thing about FATE is that the same game table can have people operating with complex or simple characters at the same time. It takes about 20 minutes to build a character and will only require one sheet of paper. It is almost totally customizable for the player and game master. It sounds like the goal of D&D Next, doesn’t it.
There have been a number of books written for fantasy settings, such as: Legends of Anglerre, Spirit of the Century, Awesome Adventures and Strands of Fate. It has reasonable support and most of it is free. FATE won a number of 2003 Indie RPG awards. The player is encouraged to assist the game-master in creating the adventure. It is a character driven system where plot complications are encouraged, whatever makes the game fun for the group playing. The Fate system is in it’s 3rd edition development phase, with much of the new rules available on the internet.
The characters are made up of: skills, stunts, gear, aspects and FATE points. Skills are a little like skills in d20, but they include combat applications. Stunts are like the d20’s feats and talents, but they are limited by the 10 fate points each player gets. A characters gear is his adventuring kit, weapons, armour, spell book and whatever they might carry. Aspects are the most important part of the character and consist of a short description of what makes the character who they are. An example would be Conan having an aspect like, ‘Stronger than an Ox’. Fate points are set at 10 per player, but will be reduced by taking Stunts. Fate points are used to re-roll dice or gain a +2 to a dice test, by calling on an aspect of the character that makes sense in the situation. All skills are assumed to be average as a starting point and players then select from the fate ladder a number of skills the character is better than average at, with limits set by the rules.
There is no real leveling up process, in the form of experience points. Characters advance after a scene is played out, but it feels more like retraining. Character skills, stunts and aspects are often added to after an adventure is played out. The general approach to play is if you want your character to do it you can try with a dice test. There is not the huge variation in dice rolling scores like d20, if your character is good at something you usually do well. At the beginning of each session players get a new pool of fate points, so it’s not an issue if they all get used up from a past session. It requires a game master who can operate in an improvised manner and understands the concept of saying ‘yes’ to player requests. Game masters that can’t improvise will find this system very difficult to adjust too. FATE is so flexible that it can fit any type of game you could ever want, including Dungeons and Dragons.
R. Grant Erswell has condensed the core FATE system into 48 pages and provided 8 pages of rules for running magic in a game. So give it a try, it will cost you nothing. I have provided a link to the files. I’d be interested to know what you think. I currently play in a Bulldogs fate game, pathfinder game and Dungeons and Dragons 4E game.
May your adventures be what you always wished they would be and your tales epic.
Sunday, October 14, 2012, 12:41 PM
I built this skill challenge for my War of the Titans Campaign as a follow up to a battle with a Storm Titan. Ranis the Storm Titan has taken his wraith out on the small village of Delwin. Ranis has grown arrogant and has command the township of Delwin to worship him with their blood. He’s also imposed fishing restrictions on the coastal town, which the townsfolk have ignored. The real reason for the Titan’s rage is a war that has been brewing with the other Titan’s. The Titan’s of the sky region have declared war on the earth bound Titan’s. As a way of declaring territorial rights the mortals of the world are being forced to worship the Titan’s and not the God’s.
Read the following paragraph to the players.
The Titans lightning bolts have caused massive amounts of damage to the small village and fires are springing up all over the township. Craters of scorched earth are scattered around the streets. Smoke is billowing out of windows and you can see flames licking a number of structures. Villagers are frantically trying to put out fires and rescue trapped people, but the situation has become wildly out of control.
Note: This skill challenge involves the PCs trying to put out the fires caused in the village of Delwin by the lightning bolts of Ranis the Storm Titan and save the civilians of this fishing community. Houses and building are on fire, with blast craters scattered around the dirt streets. People are trapped in buildings by fire and fallen beams have pinned people down. Some of the villagers are seriously injured by the initial lightning bolt attacks made by the Titan. Barrels of flammable oil explode next to the local Inn.
Setup: For the characters to save the village of Delwin, they need to put out the fires and rescue the people trapped in flaming buildings or bandage the injured. There are two phases to the skill challenge: the raging fires sweeping from building to building and the civilians trapped in burning houses that could be killed. In the first phase the PC’s have to put out the fires starting around the village of Delwin (4 skill checks). In the second phase they must rescue the people trapped in buildings (4 skill checks).
Level: 10 (XP 1500)
Complexity: 3 (requires 8 successes before 4 failures).
Primary Skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Diplomacy, Endurance, Heal, Nature, Perception. Each player must make a primary skill check.
Acrobatics (DC 25): You dash, flip and tumble through falling timbers into a house to rescue a child (phase 2).
Athletics (DC 25): You help carry buckets to the burning houses and throw them onto the fire (phase 1). You lift a heavy timber beam off a woman pinned by it (phase 2). You climb a house and leap onto a burning building to pull an old lady from the second story (phase 2).
Diplomacy (DC 25): You organize the villagers’ efforts to put out the fires by arranging a chain of water bucket carriers (phase 1). You call on the aid of local civilians to help you lift heavy timbers off a pile of rubble trapping an old man (phase 2).
Endurance (DC 25): You run multiple buckets of water from the well to a flame engulfed store and hurl a torrent of water onto the flames putting out the flames (phase 1). You resist smoke inhalation and the heat of a home on fire to pull a young woman from the flames (phase 2).
Heal (DC 25): You find a small boy lying in the street with his mother crying because he has stopped breathing. Your skills in medicine allow you to apply CPR and get his heart started, saving his life (phase 2). Otherwise you can remove a single failure from the second phase.
Nature (DC 25): You know that the wind has shifted to the east and suggest directing efforts to slow the spread of the fires by creating a firebreak (phase 1).
Perception (DC 25): You spot a beginning fire and put it out before it can spread (phase 1). You see a person in danger and warn them before the fire can trap them or the building can collapse (phase 2).
Perception (DC 21): You are the first to spot the village well and direct your party to focus their efforts on drawing water as quickly as possible (phase 1). You can hear people screaming from burning or collapsed structures and tell the party (phase 2). Gain a +2 bonus on the next primary skill check.
Insight (DC 21): You realize that the fires are spreading due to the winds, but you can predict where the fire will spread too (phase 1). Gain a +2 bonus on the next primary skill check.
Intimidate (DC 21): You frighten the villagers into helping the party put out fires and rescue people trapped in buildings (phase 1 and 2). Gain a +2 bonus on the next primary skill check.
Streetwise (DC 21): You know the best way around town and can get the party from one fire to the next more quickly (phase 1). Gain a +2 bonus on the next primary skill check.
Success: If the characters earn 8 successes, before 4 failures, they put out the village fires and save the population.
Failure: If the characters accrue 4 failures, they fail the skill challenge. The Village burns to the ground and/or the village population is wiped out. It’s also possible the population might not all be killed but are scattered and frightened enough by Ranis to leave the village. Each phase of the skill challenge can have different outcomes, if a single phase has 4 failures, that phase is considered failed. Examples, the party puts out the fires but fails to save the villagers. Or the group losses the town to the fire, but gets the villagers out safely.
I hope that someone can find a use for this skill challenge. It's not the most exciting skill challenge I've written, but it does present a significant chance for heroic failure.
Monday, October 1, 2012, 12:52 PM
I wrote this skill challenge for my players in the D&D adventure “The Lord of the White Fields”. The 'Ghoul Country' skill challenge was just boring to run over and over again. I hope you as a DM find it useful.
Read the following paragraph slowly and ask the players what they want to do.
The streets of Hampstead are teaming with hordes of flesh eating ghouls, but as you cross the town a dark shadow falls upon you. The bellow from a monstrous winged beast echoes through the fog filled ruins, chilling you to the bone. You can hear a grizzly voice above your heads bark commands. “Find them, kill them. I want the flesh-bags. This world will be mine!”
This skill challenge involves the PCs travelling through the township of Hampstead and avoiding contract with roaming packs of undead ghouls; until a great undead dragon ridden by Darien the Ghoul Lord of Hampstead arrives. Darien’s ghouls have been seeking a group of flesh walkers that have already cut a swathe through their ranks. The Ghoul Lord is drawn to this disruption to his plans and has chosen to get involved.
Note: The zombie dragon is the main threat in this encounter, but doesn’t engage in combat till there is a clearing large enough to fight the group unless they get away. The dragon will swoop down and try and grab characters, breath clouds of black gas that eats through anything, knock buildings over, slap characters with its tail.
Level: 8 (XP 750)
Complexity: 3 (requires 8 successes before 4 failures)
Primary Skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Endurance, Stealth.
Acrobatics (DC 19): You dodge out of the way, as the dragon swoops down and try’s to grab you with its claws or teeth. Drive into the cover of doors ways, building windows, etc.
Athletics (DC 19): You run faster than the Dragon. The PC leaps over barrels, crates and the safety of building corners.
Endurance (DC 19): You maintain a sprinting speed and stay clear of the Dragons reach.
Stealth (DC 19): You find some barrels to hide behind, a building or something that blocks line of sight.
Secondary Skills: Perception, Nature, Insight, Heal, Religion, Arcana, Bluff.
Perception (DC 23): You notice that the Dragon has a rider that can’t track more than one target and suggest creating a distraction to your allies. Gain a +2 bonus on the next primary skill check.
Nature (DC 23): You note that the Dragon can’t see you when it passes overtop, even though it has excellent vision. You know that the dragon’s breath is acidic and suggest scattering to present a harder target to hit. Gain a +2 bonus on the next primary skill check.
Insight (DC 23): You figure out that the Dragon is using flyby attacks and avoid the worst of its acid breath. The rider seems to be having trouble controlling the zombie dragon. Gain a +2 bonus on the next primary skill check.
Bluff (DC 23): You fake your direction of travel and the dragon starts going in the wrong direction to you. You create a distraction, drawing attention off a team mate. Remove one failure.
Heal (DC 23): You bandage an ally’s wounds and keep them out of danger. Remove one failed skill check.
Religion (DC 23): You pray to your god for protection and your call is heard. Gain a +2 bonus on the next primary skill check.
Arcana (DC 23): You identify the dragon as an undead creature of great power, with a weakness to radiant energy and fragile wings, but suggest that you avoid it at all costs. Gain a +2 bonus on the next primary skill check.
Success: If the characters earn 8 successes, before 4 failures, they evade the great Zombie Dragon and Darien. The characters can make their way to whatever destination they choose with no further trouble.
Failure: If the characters accrue 4 failures, they fail the skill challenge. The characters are swapped by ghouls or the Zombie dragon lands to attack them.
Monday, September 3, 2012, 2:06 PM
It's been a while since I had a go at writing an adventure and in this case it's really only an extension of someone else's writing. This mini adventure carries on from the 'Going Ape!' adventure for Dungeons and Dragons 4E, written by John Rossomango. I really like John's adventure and recommend it to other groups. The adventure expands the journey to wrap up the mystery of Cihuatlco.
The link to 'Going Ape' is here,
John leaves a secret passage in the last encounter room so I've had this lead to an underground cavern. In the underground cavern is another pyramid, much like the great pyramid of Giza. I spent a few hours reading about it on the web and used a diagram of it. The underground pyramid is stolen from the ideas presented in the movie 'Alien vs Predator'. As the king can't be resurrected from what John had written and a battle with the ghost of the queen would make no sense, I had few options as a climax or antagonist. The threats that the players discover are the cursed queens of the king, that have become mummies and can be released by destroying them. Aztec pyramids don't usually have mummies in them, but I just ignored that. I've also given the adventure a massive Necrosphinx as a guardian to the kings chamber, this will hopefully be the main event. The Necrosphinx has been taken from gameworkshop imagery and the ideas in the movie 'The Mummy Returns'. If you remember the Scorpion King, the stone Sphinx is meant to have that sort of feel.
There are a few questions to be answered for the players characters. What I do try to achieve is give the king and queens a name. There are not alot of traps in the burial pyramid and only a few encounters. One factor I didn't expect was that my players would disenchant the amulet with the kings life force inside. I assumed the last queen of Cihuatlco, Izel, had fixed her spirit to the crown. So when one of my players disenchants the crown, I had to improvise a roleplay scene with Queen Izel. Izel thanks the characters for removing the threat of king Huemac forever. You might find that players still want to know what happened to all the souls that king Huemac stole or that they want to collapse the pyramid, so I'll leave that up to you. My players enjoyed this, although they skipped most of the battles. I hope you find a use for it.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012, 1:41 PM
Psychic Storm Skill Challenge
I've used this skill challenge with my group, who have just left Dark Sun to sail the astral seas. I've posted it because someone else might find some use for it.
The crew of the Star-jammer shout and yell on the top deck of the ship. All hands are called to their stations as the storm warning bell is rung. A bright purple and crimson wave of electrical energy sweeps toward the ship. Captain Hellyug orders all hands to sails and rigging. “We’ve got ah storm boys, secure all lines and hatches and be quick about it!” yells Hellyug.
See page 29 of ‘The Planes Above’ for details on psychic storms.
Experience: 800 xp
Setup: A Psychic storm of purple energy sweeps the astral clouds, heading for the characters ship. The crew of the ship must outrun the storm's leading edge as it sweeps through space. During the storm the following events might occur:
(1) The captain is injured when a masts boom breaks free; characters could make a Heal check (DC 15) to bandage his wounds or Athletics check to lift the boom off the captain.
(2) The first mate is thrown overboard when the ship rolls hard to port; an Acrobatics and Athletics check can be made to grab the crew member before they are lost overboard or jump over the side grab a rope and swing over to catch them.
(3) Some of the sail rigging breaks, gets tangled or comes loose; make Acrobatics or Athletics skill checks to correct the problem, maybe a perception check to spot the problem before it occurs.
(4) The main mast breaks and falls across the deck hitting four crew members and reducing the vessels speed; make a heal check (DC 15) to provided first aid to injured crew or an Athletics check to lift the mast off people. Acrobatics checks can be made to leap forward and push people out of harm’s way.
(5) A rigging winch spins out of control when the crew looses their grip on it; make an Acrobatics or Athletics check to regain control of the winch.
The Games-master could also add a ripped sail or punctured balloon to the challenge.
Complexity: 4 (requires 10 successes before 5 failures).
Primary Skills: (See page 27 of The Planes Above) Acrobatics, Athletics, Arcana, Nature. Only the primary skill checks count toward a success for this skill challenge.
Acrobatics (DC 20): You swing from ship’s masts and rigging, to secure loose lines. Slide down the sails to help on rigging winches that have spun out of control. Somersault, vault and balance across the ships rigging and Booms to free tangled lines and pulleys.
Athletics (DC 20): You hold stressed or breaking ship pieces in place, like: rigging, booms and masts. Assist on the ship's helm to steering the vessel through the storm.
Arcana (DC 20, Trained only): Focus magical energy into the fuel chamber increasing the vessel's speed or maneuverability. You identify the event as a psychic storm that could rip the ship apart and have evil creatures lurking within the storms core. This skill check can only be used once to gain a success.
Nature (DC 20): You know that storms sweep the astral clouds and can be massive. Escape can only be achieved by outrun the storm's leading edge as it sweeps across the astral sea. This skill check can only be used once to gain a success.
Secondary Skills: Endurance, Heal, History, Perception, Religion. Secondary skill checks provided bonuses or remove a failure, but do not count toward the a success for the challenge.
Endurance (DC 20): You take the full impact of the storms energy by staying on a vital winch on the side of the ship hit hardest by the storm, so that other crew members don’t have too. Gain a bonus +2 on the next skill check the party makes.
Heal (DC 15): You bandage the wounds of an injured crew member. Gain a +1 bonus on the next skill check that the group makes.
History (DC 20): Storms within the Astral Sea are well known to wreck ships, due to the devastating effect they can have. You advise the captain to get clear of the storm front by utilizing all sail area available. Gain a bonus +2 on the next skill check the party makes. This skill check can only be used once.
Perception (DC 20): You spot the storms major eddies before they hit the ship and warn the captain so he can avoid them. Gain a bonus +2 on the next skill check the party makes. This skill check can only be used once.
Religion (DC 20): You know that the storm ahead is likely to have demons, devils or astral beasts that will finish the ship even if the storm doesn’t. You pray to your god for protection so the crew will not be driven mad by fear and the ship is not destroyed. Remove one failed skill check, this can only be used once.
Success: The crew of the ship escape the Psychic storm with minimal damage.
Failure: The ship is pushed through a color veil or is left in the storms core. The storm badly damages the ship, requiring a few days to repair it or could be wrecked. In addition astral creatures attack the crew and ship, such as: Astral Renders and Devils.