Friday, August 19, 2011, 10:59 AM
Some players have developed a skill for focusing on keywords in descriptive texts to aid them in an adventure. It seems only appropriate for a DM to use this meta-skill to his or her own advantage, not to punish the players but to provide an additional challenge and hopefully more enjoyment to the game. A DM could alternatively, make the descriptive text completely erroneous to the upcoming encounter.
What follows are different types of approaches to descriptive text, starting with the erroneous text and building on that to a point where the DM has reflected on how the descriptive text can be manipulated to provide additional challenges to the players.
“The cave is filled with a large pool of water with tunnel entrances twenty feet off the floor circling the cave. Water cascades out of these tunnels like miniature waterfalls. There is not so much water that an adventurous person could not explore those tunnels.”
Actual encounter: When an adventurer disturbs any part of the cave wall, a spider-swarm appears in that spot and immediately attacks any creature within reach. Nothing in the text suggests such a thing will happen voiding the possibility of the player inferring any proper course of action. Some players will not care: some players will be perturbed.
Dead Give-Away Text:
“The cave is filled with a large pool of water with tunnel entrances twenty feet off the floor circling the cave. Water cascades out of these tunnels like miniature waterfalls. There is not so much water that an adventurous person could not explore those tunnels after climbing the walls adorned with web-covered bodies.”
An inspection of the bodies reveals the individuals look as if they had just begun to climb the walls when they were suddenly traumatized, webbed and desiccated. The resulting proper course of action is to reach the tunnels by some means other than climbing the walls or, if necessary, disturb the wall while having readied actions and climb the wall safely afterwards.
“Past the light shielding of cobwebs, the cave is filled with a large pool of water with tunnel entrances twenty feet off the floor circling the cave. The pool of water has a black sheen from all the tiny water spiders swimming on its surface. Water cascades out of the tunnels like miniature waterfalls. The cave ceiling is thick with cobwebs and the careful attention of medium-size spiders watching everything that happens below. They seem to be waiting patiently. There is not so much cascading water that an adventurous person could not explore those tunnels after climbing the walls. The walls that are adorned with the web covered and desiccated bodies of past adventurers and even a few medium-sized spiders.”
The players might want to inspect the bodies on the wall, more likely they will want to avoid this room altogether, because the threat seems recognizable but not necessarily from what direction. Is it the tiny spiders swimming on the pool or the medium-size spiders on the ceiling? What is up with the desiccated medium-size spiders on the wall? Has anyone encountered cannibal spiders before? Does that suggest the tiny spiders are the greater threat? Why are the dead only visible on the walls? Do the medium-size spiders attack adventurers and the tiny-size spiders attack other spiders? Can we use that to our advantage? Should we just kill everything? Who knows how to communicate with spiders? How large is the cave; how many fireballs will it take to cover it?
The idea behind blending text is to suggest so many questions that the vital question to ask is lost in a wealth of information. Blending text means to irritate the players to such a degree they do not think things through entirely, make an assumption and then make a mistake. For example, after becoming frustrated, the adventurers use area effect spells killing the tiny- and medium-sized spiders, which are not a threat, not worth any experience and are only part of the descriptive text. The adventurers then proceed as if the threat no longer exists, disturbing the walls and triggering the swarm of spiders.
Blending text also means to minimize perturbing a player after the fact. Once the surprise happens, it should be immediately recognizable to the player that the DM did provide the vital information. Even so, some players will still be perturbed and upset that the DM “concocted” a situation that no person would have figured out. The player might also be perturbed that although they might not have figured it out, their 20 wisdom or 20 intelligent or +15 dungeoneering or +15 nature adventurer should have had some means of influencing the initial assessment.
“Past the light shielding of cobwebs, the cave is filled with a large pool of water with tunnel entrances twenty feet off the floor circling the cave. The pool of water has a black sheen in the center, away from the walls, from all the tiny water spiders swimming on its surface. Water cascades out of the tunnels like miniature waterfalls. The cave ceiling, directly above and only above the black sheen, is thick with cobwebs and the careful attention of medium-size spiders watching everything that happens below. They seem to be waiting patiently. There is not so much cascading water that an adventurous person could not explore those tunnels after climbing the walls. The walls that are adorned with the web covered and desiccated bodies of past adventurers and even a few medium-sized spiders.”
Directed text is nothing more than blending text with a couple of additional hints for the naturally talented and/or knowledgeable adventurer. One suggestion is to have both the blended text and the directed text prepared. Share the blended text first. When a player makes an appropriate skill check and/or suggests his naturally talented adventurer might have additional information share the directed text. The two texts are almost identical and many players will think the DM is only again sharing the blended text and will stop paying attention. More than likely, someone in the group will pick-up on the minor differences between the two texts.
Directed text is about the follow through. Personally, I am always disappointed with myself for creating a situation that presses players into needing to have additional information and when they make their appropriate checks I have nothing prepared and end up giving everything away. Saying something like, "All the spiders are staying away from the walls."
Now this is exactly the same information that is delivered by the directed text but the two styles are completely different. In one, the players get it thrown right in their faces. "Ah this is important, this is key." In the other, the players have to think things through just a little bit more. In one, the challenge is over. In the other, the challenge has a potential of continuing.
Now, if your players are not particularly adept at focusing on keywords in the descriptive text, then none of this matters. It only means to allow the DM to provide new challenges to players who might otherwise become bored with the adventure, always knowing exactly what to do after hearing the descriptive texts. Of course, if your players only enjoy the game because they know exactly what to do, then you had better just avoid this altogether. Even if that is the case, you at least will have learned something about your players.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011, 3:32 PM
It is possible to run a 4E combat without the use of hit points for either the characters or monsters, by utilizing the 4E skill challenge system. This will alter the game. You will simplify the combat but also allow the DM to be more cinematic in the storytelling. You will undoubtedly come across situations that will require you to make use of house rules.
The first thing you will have to decide is the use of at-will powers. Characters have more than one at-will power and since each power has an unlimited capacity in the number of times it can be used, players will min-max one at-will power and disregard the rest. Further, players will eventually drift toward the Essential character builds because those builds already simplify the combat and begin the min-max approach to the at-will powers. None of this should necessarily be a concern if the DM is already considering using this skills challenge approach in order to emphasize the cinematic storytelling over the tactical maneuvering in combat.
If for some reason, you as DM do not want the characters to focus on just one of their at-will powers you will have to devise a house rule. For example, all at-will powers of the same type (melee or range) a player must utilize before that player can utilize again any at-will power of that same type, which the player has already utilized more than any other at-will power of that same type. Players, however, will simply minimize the number of at-will powers of a single type altogether. Fred (first level) only has a basic melee at-will power, which is at +10. The players are simply following the course already set: simple combat in exchange for cinematic storytelling.
As a side note: one can look at the current 4E combat system as an attempt to create a formulaic approach to cinematic storytelling in the tactics of the characters. The formula spells out the cinematography in the individual power descriptions, although much more limited, and can be at times ignored by both the players and the DM, depending upon their preference. The skills challenge approach puts the burden of cinematography back on the shoulders of the DM, which will not be to everyone’s liking. However, a DM who likes to tell stories and players not comfortable describing their character’s actions might find the skill challenge approach more to their liking.
Assuming the players simplify their character builds and drift toward the Essentials, the problem of magic missile will become apparent. It is an automatic success and an at-will power, a veritable machine-gun in a sword fight. The higher percentage of the party members who can cast magic missile makes the party that much more unstoppable. A party of one who happens to be a magic-missile throwing character will automatically defeat every skill challenge.
In order to avoid that scenario we suggest the DM limit magic missile and any other like power to counting as a success but only in regards of having the advantage characteristic of removing a failure, counting as one of the available advantages in the skill challenge. Magic missile does not count as a success for the overall number of required successes: a player can only utilize magic missile if the skill challenge grants at least one advantage: and, magic missile takes up one of the slots available for advantages. Magic missile still retains its usefulness but does not overpower the skills challenge approach.
Establishing the target DC is simple and does not deviate from how a DM establishes the target DC of a normal skill challenge (as written in the Rules Compendium).
Example: You have four first-level characters in the party. Turn to page 285 and multiply the number of characters by the number cross-referenced by their level in the column “XP per character”. That number is 100. 100 x 4 = 400. "400" is the XP limit on a standard encounter for four first-level characters. Turn to page 294. Starting from the top left corner in row 1 of the “Level” column go across and then down until you reach the first appearance of 400. “400” appears in the first row under the column “Complexity 4”. The first row tells you the level of the skill challenge and the column where you found the number tells you the complexity of the skill challenge (Level 1: Complexity 4). Turn to page 159. Find the complexity on the table to determine the total number of successes required, the breakdown of successes between moderate and hard, and the number of slots available for advantages (10 successes, 4 advantages, 7 moderate and 3 hard). Turn to page 126. Find the level of the skill challenge and determine the target DC for both the moderate success and hard success (moderate DC 12, hard DC 19). You now have all the necessary information to run a standard encounter combat. The party needs ten successes before three failures. The party needs seven successes at DC 12 and three successes at DC 19. The party has slots for four advantages. You can find a list of sample advantages on page 160. (Make what you will of the advantage talking about an easy success: we have no opinion on it.)
For easier encounters follow the same procedure but assume the characters are one or two levels lower. For harder encounters follow the same procedure but assume the characters are two to four levels higher. Personally, we suggest one level lower for easier encounters and two levels higher for harder encounters.
We had the character builder create a half-orc slayer at 30th level to compare the bonus to hit to the moderate and hard DC target numbers at thirtieth level. The character had a +38 to hit against a moderate DC 32 and hard DC 42. An elf illusionist at thirtieth level had a +27 to hit. It seems plausible that the skills challenge approach will work through all the levels. Considering your personal preference and that of your players, you might want to put an automatic level adjustment (up or down) on the characters for the purposes of encounter designs. Presumably, your adventures are not all combat and skill challenges actually requiring the use of skills will be necessary. Otherwise, expect a party of slayers who know nothing outside of swinging the sword.
Both the slayer and illusionist had +6 items boosting their attacks that would otherwise be +32 for the slayer and +21 for the illusionist. If every character in the party is +32, then you might want to do a level adjustment upwards. If every character in the party is +21, then you might want to do a level adjustment downwards. (Note: A single level adjustment will not alter, up or down, the target DC by more than a point. Our preference is to have a difference of eight between the attack bonus and the target DC. A target DC 32 needs an average attack bonus between the party members of +24. The slayer and illusionist with their items have an average of +32 eight points higher than 24. We would simply adjust the respective moderate and hard DC target numbers by those eight points to a DC 40 moderate and DC 50 hard. Problem solved for our preference.)
Without hit points, how do you determine if a character dies? We suggest whenever a player rolls a “1” on a d20 the player immediately rolls again. If the second roll is not at least a moderate success, then the character is unconscious for the encounter but another player can bring back the unconscious character through healing. If the character is unconscious, then the controlling player immediately makes a third roll and if the third roll fails to make an easy success the character is unconscious and dying. The character cannot be healed until the character has failed at least two death saving throws or has stabilized by succeeding at a death saving throw. Lastly, it is always the discretion of the DM to coup de grace an unconscious character.
The benefit of the skills challenge approach is that you are free to use your imagination and there is nothing for the DM to track other than what the players roll and the description of the encounter. Monsters do not roll to hit. Monsters do not do damage. Monsters can do whatever they wish. Pick up a character and throw the character across the room into the wall. Let the monsters break the characters’ bones, gash their flesh, burn and mutilate them. There is nothing preventing you from describing a combat with hordes of undead and/or with an ancient red dragon against your first level characters. Describe as many grizzly deaths and kills as you like because you can just keep pouring in more monsters until the party succeeds at the combat skill challenge. The characters can take the abuse no matter how badly you describe it.
One final thought, since the number of total required successes is never more than 12 and you can never have more than three failures, the more characters in the party the quicker the combat will be over, either through accumulated successes or failures. The party size does increase the target DC for successes. A party of twelve characters might not even allow every person to participate in the combat. If this problem occurs, then you might have to resort to a house rule such as increasing the number of total required successes and/or increase the limit of acceptable failures.
Thursday, June 16, 2011, 8:41 AM
In an attempt to avoid playing Cthulhu like Dungeons & Dragons, I sat down and tried to determine what was the essential difference between the two games. My conclusion was that D&D is an attempt to build self-identity and Cthulhu is an attempt to destroy it.
The particular line to focus on comes from the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game by Monte Cook and John Tynes on page 203. "Once you truly understand that humanity is a dead end, the only way out is to stop being human".
In D&D, adventurers take on more and more difficult tasks and in doing so increase their own powers, skills, etc. There is an affirmation in the D&D game that the adventurers can make a difference, can change the world, can destroy evil if they choose to do so. Cthulhu has similarities in that investigators take on more difficult challenges and can gain more knowledge and/or powers. The difference between the games lies in that investigators are suppose to become more aware of their own insignificance to the broader scope. Investigators, unlike adventurers, do not grow proportionally to the broader scope of things happening around them.
Yes, the adventurer and the investigator might have to defeat their equivalent 20th level monsters, but the significance of their particular monsters are entirely different. For the adventurer, the 20th level monster is the heart of the adventurer's difficulties. For the investigator, the 20th level monster is less significant to them than was the 1st level monster when they knew nothing about the Mythos.
A potential problem with Cthulhu is finding an appropriate means of relaying that insignificance to the players. When you set equivalent level D&D and Cthulhu adventures beside each other, there is a strong chance they will look essentially the same: level-equivalent monsters, mystery, betrayals, spells, skills, NPC interactions, etc. The similarity is even more so if the D&D adventure has a theme of horror and the aberrant.
The conclusion I made is that to effectively relay such insignificance, the Cthulhu adventure has to be designed to influence the player's mind-set over the story of his or her investigator. One benefit, of course, is that designing adventures that way automatically puts the investigator-characters at a lower level of significance than the adventurer-characters of D&D. I'm not going to mention any drawbacks.
My first attempt at applying this game theory is to systematically destroy everything about the investigator, starting at the fringes and working inward, starting from 1st level to 20th level. 1. Expectations 2. Physics/Mathematics 3. Fellow human beings 4. Natural Sciences 5. Friends 6. History of Civilization 7. Family members 8. Government 9. Loved Ones 10. Courts/Police 11. Senses 12. Religion 13. Logic 14. Family (as institution) 15. Emotions 16. History of Family 17. Fatih/Beliefs 18. History of Investigator 19. Willpower 20. Profession
Each level has its own theme of destruction starting with destroying expectations until a final culmination of the whole concept of being an investigator is destroyed. Further, as each concept is destroyed it never comes back in later adventures and therefore cannot be relied upon or utilized [implementation entirely dependent on the talent of the GM], forcing the player to adjust his or her mind-set about how to accomplish the task at hand. By 20th level, assuming investigators live that long and players can adapt to such a degree, there is nothing left of what a player would normally utilize in directing his or her character through an adventure.
Presuming the theory is correct and the implementation works. What should result is that players who have progressed through multiple levels with their investigators handle the new adventure differently from a player who is just joining the group. The new player, uncorrupted by the earlier adventures, ought to be puzzled by the more experienced player's unwillingness to do certain things, even though there has been every indication that is what ought to be done. The experienced players will try to explain the situation by saying such things as "you don't know our GM well enough". The truth of the matter, however, is that an entire group of new players could probably finish the adventure doing everything the wrong way and it's not so much the GM being different as the experienced player's mind-set has changed when playing Cthulhu. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a level limit associated with each player that was well below 20th level.
Once you truly understand that investigating is a dead end, the only way out is to stop investigating.
It's a meta-game approach because when you lay the Cthulhu adventure next to the D&D adventure the similarities still exist. It's only when you look between the lines of the Cthulhu adventure, like the examination period of a Cthulhu artifact, that the forbidden knowledge is revealed.
Thursday, June 16, 2011, 6:21 AM
We wanted to know whether the VT had enough wiggle room to use for other games. It does when it comes to making characters, and most likely for monsters as well, although it hasn't been investigated for monster creation.
When making Call of Cthulhu characters two tabs became important: details and powers. (Link to photo to be inserted later.) The tab labeled 'other' was a possibility but we prefered the 'power' tab because it allowed for categorization and pull down menus. One power we called 'skills' and then we went on and listed every skill for the character with the appropriate modifier to the die roll under that power. We also created the powers: .38 caliber, knife, and sanity. In the empty descriptive space of sanity we wrote the maximum and current sanity levels of the character with the assumption that the player could then easily edit and rewrite the curent sanity as necessary, but all the data on sanity could be found in one location.
In the 'details' tab we listed feats, equipment, defense/offense options, etc. In short everything that required a die roll was put in the 'powers' and everthing else was put in the 'details'. Since we're using the WotC d20 system Call of Cthulhu, we were able to utilize the spaces for saving throws, AC, etc. Games that are entirely different from D&D however can simply and effectively stick to the 'details' and 'power' tabs. The only kink we discovered is that when making a character you must choose a token and there is not a generic non-descriptive token for characters as there are for the monsters. So, at some point our Professor of Archaelogy might be represented by a Wild Elf Druid, but I've seen bottle caps, erasers, goblins, and a variety of other tokens do the same thing in a bind.
This experiment did throw one of our players into a worried-state. Brief note on that player; he's our best DM who is a storyteller and roleplayer rather than a tactical minded power player. As such, he doesn't DM D&D but always gives a shot at playing it so long as enough time has elapsed and a significant change has taken place that might improve the experience. The VT currently is our latest argument that a significant change has taken place (it helps that he doesn't have to drive 2 hours to try this time) and we haven't had a full blown attempt at playing the game in a couple months. The speed of character creation with the online Character Builder also helps, he's made seven characters in the past two days. Mostly, we think this is from the additional options available for character building online then we had in our gaming library.
Having said that, the idea of playing Cthulhu with the D&D virtual table gave him pause to worry. He understands D&D is more of a tactical game than Cthulhu and was willing to try D&D with the VT because of that consideration. Hence, why would you play Cthulhu, which is not a tactical game, on the VT? Our thinking was the VT provides an opportunity to game around a table without the normally large requirements of time associated with gaming. Past approach: 1 day alloted every month to play multiple games to make the necessary long travel times worth the effort. Suggested approach: 4 hours alloted every other week to play one RPG with face-to-face meetings reserved for games requiring cards and/or specialized pieces. Some board games, like chess, could be played on the VT with a little ingenuity.
To that end, an argument was made to belay his worries about how Cthulhu would be approached, Unfortunately, in an effort to minimize suspicions about unnecessary mapping and tactical play in Cthulhu the argument focused on the use of 4E skill challenges in structuring the beginning, middle, and end of a Cthulhu adventure. The mention of D&D skill challenges, however, was a horrible mistake and though the argument might have minimized his tactical concerns, the argument raised other concerns.
His response to us having mentioned skill challenges and Cthulhu in the same sentence: "SPLUT! My brain just exploded."
Thursday, June 2, 2011, 9:19 PM
Foggy Bog is going to try something new when it comes to role-playing games. We're going to let the players read, take notes, and make personal copies of all the information normally held "DMs Eyes Only" sacrosanctly secret.
Part of the reason is that the player's invest a lot of time and emotion into their characters, while the DM is methodically efficient at being brutally vicious. One 'guideline' the DM likes to ignore is the level appropriateness of monsters for the total party level. In fact, a couple months ago, he wrote a blog citing an encounter (he and only he ran through with his own 1st level characters) where a low level party was without the use of any automatic hit spell capable of getting a slightly better than 50-50 chance of defeating a 19th level minion.
When the idea of letting the players in on the secret first appeared, the DM merely smiled knowing there was no way it was going to happen. So, we had to come up with an argument that our particular DM would accept.
"You see, role-playing is about telling a story of heroes. It's the same concept of telling stories about heroes that you see in the movies. The heroes are given impossible odds of winning against villains that appear on the surface to be infinitely more capable than the heroes themselves. For us, we provide the heroes and you provide the villains, which you are quite good at we admit. The only difference between the movies and your sessions are that in the movies the heroes almost always win, while in your sessions the heroes almost always die."
"And your point being?" asked the DM, smiling.
"It's not that we don't enjoy the personal challenge of finding ways to beat you. It's because we are missing an entire different level of the game, a level higher than the mere mechanics, higher even than the role-playing and character development. We're missing the essence. When it comes to movies, everyone knows the hero is 99% likely to win. People don't watch movies to see if the hero is going to win and they don't watch movies to see how the character develops. All that is important but not as important as..."
And then we were stuck for an answer. We didn't really know why we went to the movies other than to momentarily escape from our own realities and that argument wasn't going to fly with the DM if we wanted him to open his secret files. We needed an answer and quick.
"People watch movies to see the losers (the obviously inferior heroes to the villain mastermind) win. We don't want heroes that are obvious heroes, because we want heroes that remind us of ourselves to give us the emotional courage to go on with our own lives against our own difficulties knowing that we too can succeed. It's not that you as DM aren't doing what your suppose to be doing. We need villains that are superior to the heroes, otherwise our heroes won't be losers. And it's not that we aren't doing what we're suppose to be doing, we send our inferior characters into the battle against all odds of winning. It's just that, the point is the heroes need to win."
"Do you want me to fudge my rolls?"
"No, of course not. Where's the fun in that. We want the script so that we make the right decisions when the time comes. When one of our characters die, we want you to yell cut, just as if you were shooting a scene. And then we go back and take another take. We know the script so we stay on script. We act out the scenes and we let the dice fall where they may. We might have to have mutliple takes on some of the combat scenes, but it's all there. Further we still have our own character development. What do you think?"
"You want to role-play actors making a movie that follows a script of a D&D adventure and you want me to hand over 'the script' to you prior to the session."
"Yeah, that's right. Except everything in the game has to be directly stated in the script, things can't be implied. There can't be any surprises."
"What about mysteries, character twists, betrayals by npcs?"
"D&D isn't a game about mysteries, besides everything is a skill challenge. Just because we know where the hidden treasure is doesn't mean we necessarily get to it without first succeeding at a skill challenge. As far as that other stuff, just don't write anything out that isn't necessary for the adventure at hand. Besides there has always been a degree of metaplaying in every session."
"Well, I don't know, but if you want to try it. I guess that's what we'll do."
"Yeah, sure. Besides, I have some ideas for rules about a role-playing game about movie actors. There's a whole bunch of possibilities and challenges the actors would have to overcome to keep their careers on track. Oh... don't worry about your D&D characters though, you'll just have to replace the actor who doesn't get the part with some other actor. The D&D character is safe, unless of course the producers downgrade him to a supporting role and can't afford to hire the actor necessary to play him. You know how it goes."
The DM sat there smiling at me. I'm actually not sure whether we (as players) came out on top or not.
Thursday, June 2, 2011, 1:37 PM
Links: The Virtual Table Photo. The Unspoken Tower.
Some thinking on the resource that you might or might not find of use.
I went to "The Unspoken Tower" adventure and began to think about how to organize the adventure on the virtual table taking into account that someday someone else might run the adventure and the adventure's particular quirks. "The Unspoken Tower" is designed to account for anywhere between 1 and 8 player-characters and it begins the Zenobaal Campaign for Foggy Bog.
The following is a rewritten version of the original blog post.
The main objective was to put the entire adventure on one map in such a fashion that a person with no knowledge of the adventure could, with little prepartion, DM the adventure.
The original idea was to have arrows on the map helping to direct the DM's attention to the next map. On second consideration, it was decided that the use of arrows not only wasted space but gave the impression that there was no other option but to follow the arrows. Instead of arrows, it was decided a flowchart map in the upper left hand corner of the map would be better. Less space would be needed to accomplish the same thing and all the connections between the different maps could be made visible.
In the flowchart mapnotes were added providing the title of the corresponding encounter. Three mapnotes were highlighted in yellow. These are the three skill challenges in the adventure and do not have corresponding maps. The skill challenges are run off of the journal notes alone. The idea is for the DM to consult the flowchart, find the encounter title and then match the encounter title with either a map and journal notes or just the journal notes in the case of skill challenges.
One of the peculiarities of the adventure is that it is designed to accomodate 1-8 players. The journal notes explain to the DM how many of which monsters are to be used given the number of players. The maximum number of every type of monster is already placed on each map. The DM needs to remove or ignore the monsters that are not in play. Removing the monsters will probably result in less confusion for the DM while actually running the combat.
Placing an entire adventure on one map, with monsters for up to eight players for every combat encounter utilizes a lot of the limited space available. In the original mapping six of the seven combat encounters used placeable elements. This was cut down to only two and three of the seven maps were reduced in size in order to stay within the space limits. (We went back and did the mapping over, avoiding unnecessary drawing and erasing. We were able to get far more on there, everything we wished, without exceeding the space limits. Efficient Mapping Photo)
While creating the maps, we discovered that erasing lines ate up space as much as drawing lines. We would suggest drawing out your maps on scrap paper prior to drawing them out on the virtual table. Make changes on the scrap paer and do not move to the virtual table until you are confident there will be no more changes. The mapping space on the virtual table is 75x75. We assume had we followed our own advice it would have been possible to use placeable elements in one or two more encounters.
When it comes to the journal notes, the combat encounter journal notes operate in sequential order 1-7. 1) Flavor text. 2) Segway into combat with potential skill checks. 3) Information for the DM on what monsters will be present according to the party size. 4) Tactics and notes on the terrain. The DM can now focus on the combat without moving further into the journal notes. 5) Treasure and XP according to party size. 6) "The Story So Far" providing part of the backstory and additonal flavor text immediately following the encounter. There is no journal entry explaining the entire backstory to the DM prior to running the adventure. The DM can either choose to read the multiple "The Story So Far" journal entries ahead of time or as they come up as the adventure takes place. 7) Acts as a segway into the next possible encounters with more possible skill checks.
The journal notes for the skill challenges do not operate sequentially. All the information necessary to run the skill challenge is divided between 5 different journal notes to avoid having one long journal note which the DM must scroll up and down through to find the appropriate information. The division of the information does follow the same pattern for each skill challenge. Once the DM knows where to find the information in the first skill challenge he or she will know where to find the information for the remaining skill challenges.
In addition, the journal notes do not reorganize themselves alphabetically or in any other manner. They stay in the order that they are created. Once we understood this, we wrote the journal notes starting with the beginning encounter and finishing with the climax to the adventure. We also wrote all the journal notes of any particular encounter before moving on to the journal notes of any other encounter, to keep the journal notes grouped by encounters.
We thought the best place to put the necessary information on how to utilize the flowchart and journal notes, particularly the differences between the combat encounters and the skill challenges was in the description of the adventure just below the 'launch' button.
The entire mapping is to be made invisible. When the adventure begins the DM highlights the appropriate map to be made visible. When the adventurers conclude the encounter the DM highlights that map and makes it invisible again and then moves on and highlights to make visible the next map.
In the original blog post, we thought to put the monsters into the initiative order when creating the adventure. We decided against this after not finding a way to group the monsters in different initiative orders according to their respective encounters. All the monsters of every encounter would be in one initiative grouping. It only takes a second to put each monster into the initiative but the DM will have to be careful not to overlook any particular monster.
As a side-note. If you look at the photo of the virtual table, then at the far right you will notice a map that has several dark spots. In "The Unspoken Tower" adventure, the party has an option to reach the height of a spire by following a staircase that encircles the spire. The vertical aspect of the encounter and the fact that creepy-crawlers are to attack the party from tunnels along with flying monsters gave us pause in how to map such a thing on a two-dimensional plane. That map is our solution.
The party begins at the lower-left and can follow the angled lines to the right and once reaching the far right move up one line and back to the left. The crawling monsters can move from hole to hole. The adventures also have an option of climbing up from one level to the next, rather than going round and round the spire.
For the flying monsters we decided to add two additional columns to the left of the main map. The first column represents the flying monsters medium range distance to any character on the same level as it. The second column represents the monster's long range distance. The flying monsters move up and down along the spire to remain level with their prey. Two different monsters, with different medium ranges might both in the first column but the distance between each monster and their target is their respective medium ranges.
We hope this might have been some help to you. At the very least, it will remind us what the heck we were thinking when we finally get around to it.
Sunday, May 8, 2011, 10:51 AM
(A firsthand account of the adventures of ‘The Three’ taken down by the Wandering Bard of the Desert as told by Wick their henchman of many years)
Our adventures began in the market place of Ugersreich. I was comfortably well off but had become somewhat dissatisfied with where my life was going. That day I was determined to join up as a henchman for a band of adventurers who would let me, at some measure of safety ensured by my own round shield, mail-shirt, and sword, see more of the world. Leading up to that day I had spent the weeks before selling off all my possessions, which gave me a total of a gold piece and 13 silver. I still had my small cottage, which was now empty except for a bed and a couple of cooking pots and was boarded up for the most part.
As I walked through the market place, I noticed three men together who seemed to be of an adventurous type. One was a tall dark man with curly hair wearing robes; another man was slightly shorter and quite thin even while wearing a mail shirt like myself; and who had a much lighter complexion. The third was a dwarf who looked somewhat haggard but still wore an expression of contempt and disdain for commoners, commoners like myself. I immediately went up to them and introduced my services and myself. They laughed and then offered me five silver pieces to travel with them and agreed to pay me another five silver pieces every so often when it seemed justified.
We began to stroll lazily through the marketplace, but I was much too excited to get on with adventuring for a simple stroll. My eyes darted back and forth looking for an opportunity that might take us out of the city. There were some caravans, the workers of which were loading the wagons and guards standing around, but I thought ‘The Three’ might see that type of work as beneath them. Finally, I noticed a large piece of parchment nailed to a post. I could not read it, not because it was too far away, but because I never had a reason to need to read. It was quite large, posted for all to see, and had lots of scribbling on it.
“Here sirs,” I said to them, “this looks like an opportunity.”
They walked over close to the posting. The tall dark skinned man who introduced himself as Phalin the Magician leaned in the closest to it. “It appears someone at the Red Moon Inn has a problem and is willing to pay for assistance. There is no mention, however, of either the exact details of the problem, nor the pay.”
“Well,” replied the dwarf named Norst, “let’s roll over there.”
“I agree,” said the fairer skinned man whose name I had not yet learned, “if it is no good, perhaps something else at the inn will provide us with gold and entertainment.”
“Very well,” said the Magician, “Wick, you know of this inn?”
“I do. It is on the river and smells of fish, dimly lit with candles and oil lamps. I will lead you to it.” I turned and began a brisk walk to the Red Moon Inn.
Battle at Beastly Manor
When I reached the Red Moon Inn, I held the door open for ‘The Three’. Phalin the Magician and Norst immediately strolled inside, but there was no sign of the third. I went inside to inquire if I should double back and search for him, but immediately saw that he was already present, sitting at a small table playing cards with some other patrons.
“Wicks,” said Phalin, “inquire about a man named Endricks and let him know of our interest in the posting.”
I went up to the bar and asked the man behind it if he knew anyone by the name of Endricks. He did and pointed to a man sitting alone against the wall. I went over to him and said, “Good day sir, I am here to inform you that a posting in the marketplace has roused the interest of a great magician, and two others of equal value.”
“Thank goodness,” replied the man, “I have waited all day for someone to assist me. I can pay six silver pieces a day and cover the cost of most of your expenses.”
“Fear not, then because you have not found one someone, but three. I will bring them to you.” I then turned and informed ‘The Three’, all three of them were together again, pointing out Endricks and saying he was willing to pay six silver pieces to just one man and was thrilled to have three. They immediately went over to him and introduced themselves. This is when I learned that the fair-skinned man, who the others had called Scavenger was a noble of House Bs.
I was not privy to everything that was said, but I can tell you what I had learned must have taken place. Endricks informed them that he was the manservant for a noble named Ashenberg who through marriage recently acquired a manor in the backwoods. The manor was some 800 years old. At some point, a previous holder built up fortifications around it. Ashenberg felt something was amiss with his servants and he would pay ‘The Three’ six silver a day to investigate, under the guise of being additional laborers brought in. Endricks would meet them here at the Red Moon Inn the following morning, and all of us would take a wagon of supplies to the manor.
‘The Three’ no longer needed my services for the day and after informing me of their sleeping arrangements, allowed me to go. The next morning I was up early and met each of them separately to see if they needed any provisions. Each of them was confident that nothing would be required and eventually we all met at the Red Moon Inn. The sun was just coming up over the horizon as the wagon we rode exited the gates of Ugersreich.
The trip was uneventful until we came close to the manor. At first Endricks seemed overly nervous and then someone saw beastly eyes staring out from the tree line at us. Then we realized several beastly men were following us and drawing closer. Endricks urged the oxen to move as fast as possible but it seemed unlikely to me that we would reach the manor gatehouse in time. I began moving the crates of supplies around to form a small barricade along the sides. We did get right up to the gatehouse but the guards refused to let us in because the beasts were not far behind us.
I looked for some rope to scale the walls perhaps but there was none. Then I heard Phalin the Magician begin to chant and I looked up. He finished his spell and I saw a dark shimmer streak from his hands to engulf the largest of the beast-like men that were racing toward us. Norst then slung a stone at the approaching enemy while Scavenger, Noble of House Bs, argued with the guards to let us in. They refused but did begin firing crossbow bolts at the horde of beasts about to engulf us. I went back to work at setting up the crates to help protect us. Endricks helped me.
The next time I looked up the horde had surrounded the wagon. Several of the creatures were already dead from ‘The Three’ and the crossbowmen on the walls; but there still were several of them remaining and another horde was beginning to emerge from the tree line. The largest of the beasts that surrounded us, already bruised and battered, was about to climb up and over our small barricade. I grabbed my round shield and with my shoulder behind it slammed the shield into its face. The creature toppled backward and that was the last I saw of it. I then heard Norst cry out, “Blast the wet rocks!” He was fighting ferociously with a weapon in one of his hands while his other hand pressed against his ruptured spleen where a spear had pierced him. Finally, another wave of crossbow bolts killed off the remaining beasts around the wagon and we had a moment of rest. In the distance, we saw the second horde waiver and then retreat into the woods. Only then did the guards open the gatehouse for us to enter into the safety of the manor.
“Check their markings, Wick,” order Phalin the Magician. I jumped off the wagon and looked over the bodies of the dead beasts: they had sigils of a burning sun brandished on their skin.
Once inside, Endricks ordered us to carry the crates into the main building to ensure our guise as mere laborers. First Scavenger, Noble of House Bs, told me to carry his crate; and then Phalin the Magician and Norst did as well. As I stood there with three crates on my back, Endricks explained that he would take us inside to see Lord Ashenberg. Norst stood there stoic but much paler than I had seen him before.
“Perhaps,” I said, “someone should see to the wounds.”
“Quite right, Wick,” replied Phalin. Norst then wandered off for someone to see to his wound while the rest of us went into the main building. I am not privy to everything that happened at first as they instructed me to finish unloading the wagon. When I had unloaded the last of the crates, they instructed me to go talk with the commoners in and about the stables to learn what I could. That was when ‘The Three’ told me about their guise, as mere laborers, and that I should be careful not to give away their real intentions for being at the manor.
In the stables, I talked with three different men. One very ill man was painstakingly trying to clean one of the stalls. I chatted with him while cleaning the stall next to him. When I finished, I went to the other two men who were in better health and were playing cards. From all three of them I learned that for the past two months the beasts would attack the manor once or twice a week and that a strange plague had fallen on the manor. Due to the plague, they had fallen behind on the upkeep of the manor. The last Lord to reside in the manor prior to Ashenberg was a man named Andreas Von Brauer who vanished from his room more than five years ago. Since then, and until Ashenberg’s recent acquirement of the manor through marriage, a man named Piersen oversaw the place. Piersen was a tall old man with a bandage about his head covering his left eye. Thinking there was nothing more of interest to learn from them, I went back to the main building in search of ‘The Three’.
By the time I had returned to the main building, one of the servants informed me that they were serving dinner and rushed me into the dining room, as I was an expected guest of Lord Ashenberg. I took a seat next to Phalin the Magician who was already present. He whispered to me not to eat the veal, Norst and Scavenger, Noble of House Bs, were secretly investigating Ashenberg’s bedroom, and that the manor’s librarian had just excused himself from the table before my arrival.
As we ate our first course, vegetable soup, I could see the worried expression on Phalin. No doubt, he worried about his friends. The servants then brought in two large platters of meat, veal and goose. Phalin casually took the goose meat to eat but avoided touching the veal. I used this opportunity to feign illness, explaining I had just come from the stables, and excused myself from the room. I immediately sought out the master bedroom on the upstairs. I discovered it just as Norst and Scavenger, discovered a secret stairwell leading down behind a bookcase.
“Wick,” said Scavenger, “follow behind us and close this bookcase before you do.”
I entered the stairwell behind them, closed the bookcase and followed them down very far beneath the manor. We came to a narrow tunnel at the bottom of the stairwell. Scavenger kept the lead and told us to stay behind as he went ahead into the darkness. Norst followed his friend slowly at some distance and I followed him very closely. Then Scavenger, Noble of House Bs, was standing in light looking to our left. We could see him talking to someone and then he discreetly motioned his hands to us. I raced forward thinking he was in need of assistance.
As I stepped into the light, I could see the tunnel turned sharply to the left going only a few more feet before opening into a march larger room. There was a man there dressed in robes blocking our path. Scavenger ordered the man to stand aside, but he refused to allow us to pass.
“You are ordered to stand aside by a noble of House Bs,” I said, “You will do so or I will have to give you a good thugging.” The man refused so I slammed my shield into his head. He immediately turned and ran off through the room and down another tunnel.
“Quick,” Scavenger said, “don’t let him escape, Wick.” We immediately began to chase after the man and we ran through the room, which gave me a cold chill, and then down the tunnel the man had taken. It ended at a wooden wall that sounded hollow when I banged the hilt of my sword on it. I gave it a good kick thinking I might bust a plank but the entire wall swung open and we found ourselves in the wine cellar of the manor. There was no sign of the fleeing man.
“Quick,” Scavenger said, “go back to the room, Wick.” We returned to the room but Norst was already gone. The room was dark and cold and had a large obelisk of black rock jutting from the center of the floor. At the base of the obelisk, carved into the floor, was the same sigil of a burning sun that the beasts had brandished on themselves. Next to that was a carpet covering something large and flat. I pulled the carpet aside and looked at a painting of dark purple and blue hues of a single eye staring back at me. I felt a moment of stress and unconsciously tried to burn the painting with the torch on the wall. The fire did nothing to the painting, burning away only the frame. I rolled the painting up and stashed it in with my gear not knowing what else to do with it.
“He might have gone down this third tunnel, Wick,” Scavenger, Noble of House Bs, said and led the way in search of Norst.
Stairway to Cultdom
The third tunnel led us to a ladder that took us up and into the manor’s library, coming up out of the floor through a trapdoor normally hidden by a large carpet. Someone had already pushed aside the carpet and left open the trapdoor. Scavenger, Noble of House Bs, and I climbed out of the tunnels and began to search the manor. In the distance, we could hear the battle magic of Phalin the Magician and shouts of war. We rushed forward through the library and galley finding both Norst and Phalin in a defensive stance on the stairwell to the upper levels. Down the hall, I could see a large number of robed men running off. By the looks of it, Phalin had badly scorched the robes of one of them with his magic.
“Scavenger,” Phalin said, “good of you to join us. I believe the librarian, Piersen and several other of the servants are cultists of the dark forces. The innocent are asleep, drugged by the cultists every night so they might worship undisturbed. Norst tells me you and he discovered their shrine in the tunnels below the manor.”
“We did,” Scavenger replied, “one of them ran off at the first signs of a fight.”
“Probably to warn the rest of those stalagmites,” gruffed Norst.
“The librarian, I think,” said Phalin, “he had a bruise on his head before our encounter, which was not there when he left the dinner table”.
“What now, Sirs?” I asked. “Do we chase after them?”
“Why,” replied ‘The Three’, “we know where they are going, back to the source of their power and faith; back to the shrine.”
The Dead Obelisk
‘The Three’ reentered the tunnels through the wine cellar and me with them. We approached the room with the obelisk. Inside the room were a handful of cultists standing beside the obelisk. Norst, Scavenger, and I charged into the room and attacked just as one of the cultists yelled out, “NOW!” Suddenly, from the other tunnels two large swarms of more cultists charged into the room, Piersen and the librarian along with them.
The first to fall was Piersen, his head pierced and exploded by Phalin the Magician’s magic. Scavenger skewered the heart of another cultist and Norst crushed the bones of one cultist after another with a magical dwarven hammer placed in his care by another dwarf at the manor earlier that day while I was investigating at the stables. A weapon Norst swore to return to its rightful place, and indeed would do so during another adventure of ‘The Three’. At one point, I saw Norst flinch guarding the wound he had suffered earlier that day outside the manor’s gatehouse. He quickly recovered and in a single spinning motion, smashed the skulls of no less than four cultists who surrounded him. The cultists kept coming.
Suddenly, a wicked idea dawned on me out of nowhere. I gave myself a brief respite stepping between Norst and Scavenger and pulled out the painting I had stashed earlier. It was evil and I could sense its taint as it had earlier tried to rake at my mind, trying to sweep away everything good and sane in me as if it were nothing more than the muck of a stall in a decrepit stable. I unrolled the painting and held it out with my eyes closed letting the evil cult stare directly into their own blasphemy. In the back of my mind, I could hear Phalin the Magician yell, “NO!” That was the end of the cultists. They fell to the floor, their minds gone completely. A couple of them had enough sense remaining simply to flee in a life-long terror.
Phalin the Magician had shut his eyes immediately once he saw what I was about to do. Norst and Scavenger, Noble of House Bs, were not so lucky and caught glimpses of that eye as they fought the cultists. What affect it had on Norst I cannot say; his stoic nature hid its affects. Scavenger doubled over in agony, stress and fatigue by the ordeal of simply glancing at it. The battle was over and we had not only survived but we had won, so we thought.
As I searched the dead cultists finding an ornate dagger and discovering that Piersen’s right eye was in fact a mouth full of razor sharp teeth, Scavenger, Noble of House Bs chased after the remaining cultists only to discover yet one more threat. The beasts in the woods had gathered and were preparing to assault the manor that very night. There were three vast hordes of them ready to rush forward in one wave after another. The largest of their kind each led the first two hordes and a beast still larger led the third.
“Let them roll,” said Norst as we stood on the battlements, battered and bruised. After that, I learned how to use my sword.
Thursday, January 13, 2011, 4:14 PM
WoTC hires someone(s) to do the following work. Create rough animation for each of the character races, with additional layers for standard equipment for each class. This should not be anything more detailed then a bunch of ovals providing rough dimensions to the characters’ physique. There should be just enough distinction to identify a half-elf from a human or an elf. Tieflings have horns. Bugbears have whatever… Male/female distinctions are probably not a concern at this point.
For equipment, we are not concerned with any distinction beyond the grouping. We can tell a spear from a two-handed sword but not necessarily a trident from a short spear. We can tell leather armor from cloth armor but not one type of leather armor from another type of leather armor.
WoTC will have some very rough sketches the company can use in animation, which can also provide distinctions between what is a melee power and what is a close power, etc. The animation program can then take data about who, what, distance, etc. from the VT.
Allow the user to choose camera angles and do some editing in the animation program, and suddenly we have rough animations of actual adventures (at least of the combats perhaps more) from actual D&D groups. Subscribers can then start telling their adventure stories with links to videos, which would be of more interest.
[Skip this soapbox. Reading is boring: watching is exciting. People like to argue that it takes imagination to read something and it only takes a potato to watch something. Nothing can be further from the truth. People who read are just as likely to be a potato. It takes effort to read something closely. Most people do not put the effort in, nor do they have to put in any more effort than they do watching a show. They sit there and let the words run over them not caring about anything more than getting to the end. A person who reads is just as dumb as a person who does not read.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and 30 frames per second is a lot of information to process. How many people can read 30,000 words per second? Eventually, viewers will learn to process all that information in a ninety-minute movie. Readers will still be on page 90, at maybe three hundred fifty words per page. It is like getting off the autobahn and on to a 1 mph side road. What happened are we still moving? Read my dust, suckers!]
Great, so DDI has some cheap animation that links in with their VT and helps subscribers do something they like to do in a more exciting way, talk about their own adventures and campaigns. DDI provides it free to DDI subscribers. Not all of it, all the cool skins that a person will want to layer on the rough sketches comes at an additional cost. People love buying that stuff. The company will probably sell the skins in packages or sets like the tiles, or trading cards, or miniatures, but maybe not.
I am sure were this to happen I could hold off from buying any skins for at least a year, hmmm… definitely six months. I am imagining a sudden explosion of D&D animations on the web. That ought to be worth the initial investment just for publicity. (Yes it is ironic that this is not a video blog.)
Saturday, January 1, 2011, 9:22 AM
The impetus for this blog began when three events occurred rather quickly one after another: The Unspoken Tower, a blog about Minions by Gargs454, and rereading the suggestions for level limits in the Rules Compendium. Is a DM cruel and malicious to send a 19th level Haunted Armor Animus against a 1st level party of five adventurers?
On one side, we have Bedknobs the Haunted Armor Animus. On the other side, we have five randomly generated 1st level Essential PCs: Heian male Elf Mage, Jen Half-Elf female Sentinel, Ootah female Half-Orc Slayer, Reed male Halfling Scout, and Regdar male Human Knight.
The adventurers are marching down a dungeon corridor. Bedknobs floats out from the shadows in a scary fashion. What happens? Heian steps forward at the first opportunity and casts magic missile. Bedknobs is defeated. All the high defenses in the world mean nothing to that spell of spells. I suggest if you make a party, then include a mage and make sure said mage knows how to cast magic missile.
Okay, but what if the party does not have magic missile. What happens?
Broomsticks, Bedknobs identical twin sister waits just down the hallway. She has learned from her brother’s mistake. She uses her untrained Thievery: stealth (+12) to hide herself in the shadows around a corner in a side passage. Jen and Reed lead the party with their high passive perceptions, followed closely by Ootah. Regdar acts as the rear guard. Heian is second to last. Broomsticks Perception: listen Check 28 hears Jen’s Thievery 14, lets her pass-by; Reed’s Thievery 23, lets him pass-by; and Ootah's Thievery 18, and lets her pass-by. Then Broomsticks steps around the corner and charges Heian in a surprise round.
Surprise Round: Broomsticks hits AC 38, Heian AC 15, for 12-necrotic damage. “Broomsticks” immediately bloodies Hein who has only 24 hit points.
Initiative: Broomsticks 20; Heian 11; Jen 1; Ootah 10; Reed 9; Regdar 19 (Three rolls with highest and lowest removed to give some meager account to randomness; will continue this practice with all rolls.)
“Broomsticks” goes first in combat. She attacks Heian and hits AC 38 for 12-necrotic damage. Heian drops to zero hit points and falls to the ground unconscious. Regdar takes the poised assault stance and moves up on Broomsticks. Regdar hits AC 20 for no damage. Heian makes a death saving throw 12 for no change in his condition. Ootah takes the mobile blade stance, charges “Broomsticks” to a flanking position with Regdar and hits AC 21 for no damage. Reed takes the aspect of dancing stance, moves up on “Broomsticks” and hits AC 14 for no damage. Jen moves adjacent to Heian and Broomsticks and casts Healing Word. Heian regains eight hit points.
“Broomsticks” is furious and attacks Heian striking AC 44 for 12-necrotic damage. Heian drops to the floor unconscious at -4 hit points. Regdar has a plan and drags Heian to a safe distance. Heian makes a death saving throw 12 for no change. Ootah utilizes “aid attack” giving a +2 attack to Regdar. Reed utilizes “aid attack” giving a +2 attack Regdar. Jen utilizes “aid attack” giving a +2 attack to Regdar and casts Knack for Success (minor action) giving an additional +2 attack to Regdar.
“Broomsticks” knows something is up and the threat is going to come from Regdar. She attacks Regdar and hits AC 36 for 12-necrotic damage. Regdar’s allies have given him a +8 attack. Add the flanking position (+2) and he has a +10 attack with his own +10 attack for a total attack +20. Regdar charges ontop of it and is ready to use his Heroic Effort if need be (total +26 attack). A roll of nine or better will hit Broomsticks. Regdar hits AC 36 for 1 point of damage and destroys “Broomsticks”.
Unfortunately, Broomsticks gets the last laugh. She explodes in an Ectoplasmic Burst that strikes each party member for 12-necrotic damage and dazes. Unconscious Reed would have immediately died, the plasma melting through his body like alien blood through steel, had he not been dragged to safety.
So, even without a mage and that spell of spells it is possible with teamwork to hit an incredibly high AC. The suggested level limits in the Rules Compendium seem overly restrictive. Open up the levels and let your players face some unexpected encounters.
Friday, December 24, 2010, 1:34 PM
The title says it all. Think of the fun. You turn the page and the entire scene over both pages comes to life. Adventurers explore a creepy passage. Pull a tab, a monster appears. Spin a wheel with alternating labels of success and failure. Does the monster hit? Spin the wheel. Oh no, a success! Pull a tab and the adventurer drops. Quick! Someone heal our hero. Push the tab and the adventurer is back up.
The adventurers defeat the spider. Do the adventurers unlock the door? Spin the wheel. Failure! Break the door down. Success! Turn the page and enter the next room. D&D pop-up books would be fantastic for fans and kids, especially fans with kids.
Now to sap your enthusiasm, here is one reality. Print is out. Digital is in. Either production costs for a decent product will probably be too high killing the project outright or reducing the quality to the point the product becomes nothing but a short fad and a quick buck.
I want a Christmas Special Edition D&D Tomb of Horrors (and every other imaginable adventure) Pop-up Book! (Umm… they are for my neighbor’s kids.) I suppose they ought to be eco-friendly. Everyone mail their permanently dead, as in never to play again, characters into WotC. That ought to be enough for the first book.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Years