Friday, December 17, 2010, 1:07 PM
Here we are in the final days of December—and just added to the calendar is a little Gamma World holiday bonus we put together. From the introduction:
Gamma Terra is a strange place—on that, I believe, we can all agree. In the past, laser-eyed reindeer and a maniacal, robotic Santa have been perpetrated on unsuspecting gamers (by no less than James M. Ward himself). In the spirit of Gamma World and holiday frivolity, we venture to the great northern wastes of Canada, ay?, where you can find a certain workshop—and duly invade it.
We explored Rankin Bass’s Island of Misfit Toys several years ago as a D&D-themed encounter. This time, we decided that a Gamma World approach—and a factory of misfit Omega Tech—fit the theme even better.
It’s the holidays, and it’s Gamma World, so have fun with the following—we hope you enjoy it!
Players in the Seattle area know that Mike Robles ran his own version of a Gamma World scenario at Epic Game Day, an event that took place December 11 up in Everett, WA. Here’s hoping there’s another Epic Game Day soon, but in the meantime, they’ve posted pictures of the event (along with the crews from Seattle Geekly and Zaxy.com).
Around the blogosphere, I’d also like to point out (if you haven’t yet read them)—Five Reasons to Love Gamma World, over on Sly Flourish. On Critical Hits, there’s Vanir’s A Very Gamma Christmas. And at Dungeon’sMaster.com, there’s Christmas with the Gamer—Ameron’s roleplaying tale based on holiday events.
And while it ‘s not exactly related to the holidays, boing boing compiled their 11 Strangest Questions from Sage Advice.
Finally, for anyone looking to do a little last-minute shopping, GaleForce Nine has the following specials going on through December: Game Maps and Dungeon Master’s Expansion Sets.
Friday, December 10, 2010, 9:24 AM
Fairly recently, Penny Arcade dipped back into our collectively vernacular to make a power word, kill joke. Which got me thinking—where are today’s power word spells?
Let’s take a look at the original spell. From the Player’s Handbook, the spellcaster uttered the fateful word (I always wondered what that actually “word” was), and one or more creatures in range were slain. That was it. No saving throw. Further: “You utter a single word of power that instantly kills one creature of your choice, whether the creature can hear the word or not. Any creature that currently has 101 or more hit points is unaffected by power word kill.”
Let’s put aside power word, kill for a moment. For today’s game, it seems obvious how various conditions (dazed, stunned, etc.) would work perfectly with power words. Power word stun, blind, and kill were the original three, but we could expand them to include dazed, deafened, immobilized, slowed, stunned, unconscious, weakened…
The question then is how to best express a modern power word. The following presents a number of options. Since a power that simply applies a condition (save ends) seems fairly bland, I also experimented with scaling powers based on the spellcaster’s tier.
Power Word, Blind
Encounter * Arcane
Standard Action Ranged 5 (heroic)/10 (paragon)/20 (epic)
Target: One creature
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: At heroic tier: Target is blinded (save ends).
At paragon tier: Target is blinded (requires 2 consecutive successful saves to end).
At epic tier: Target is blinded (requires 3 consecutive successful saves to end).
Hit: At heroic tier: Target is blinded (requires 2 saves to end; do not have to be consecutive).
At paragon tier: Target is blinded (requires 2 consecutive successful saves or 3 saves total to end).
At epic tier: Target is blinded (requires 3 consecutive successful saves or 4 saves total to end).
You might also experiment with scaling penalties made on those saving throws (creatures save at -1 at heroic tier, -2 at paragon, etc.).
Old School Power Words
There’s a good reason why the above method works better than a more old school approach, that of power words affecting creatures according to the number of hit points they currently have (not their starting value), for example such that:
At heroic tier: 50 hit points
At paragon tier: 75 hit points
At epic tier: 100 hit points
The problem? Although the above mechanically recalls the original power words, it asks the player to somehow guess a monster’s current hit points. I’ve seen DMs to keep visible the amount of damage that’s been done to a creature (I do this myself). I’ve never seen a DM keep visible a creature’s starting hit points and subtract damage from there. So if the player doesn’t know how many hit points a creature has left, he’d effectively need to guess the right time to cast a power word. Guess wrong (the creature has too many hit points left), and you’ve just wasted a spell.
Power Word, Kill
And here we come to the nuclear option. Of course you might create a modern power word, kill spell so that on a successful hit, the target dies (or perhaps gains the dying condition—a quite different approach for monsters, providing them death saves but which prevents your end villain from getting instantly killed; on a successive save, they return to their bloodied value).
Clearly there are problems with power word, kill. It doesn’t effectively scale (either the target is dead or he isn’t, unless you try and employ death saves). It also puts your best creatures in jeopardy of instant death, which ruins any grand climatic battle you might have planned for your narrative.
A solution to power word, kill then may have more to do with the economy of powers. No DM would want their player to always have access to such a game-altering power. It might, however, work quite well as a different kind of consumable: a one-off scroll.
So, how would you design a power word spell?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 3:02 PM
After posting my list of favorite towns in December's In The Works, folks pointed out some notable omissions. Several mentioned Fallcrest—not just as a default setting for the game, but also the backdrop for the D&D comic book. There was also Solace, for those who enjoy Otik’s spiced potatoes (did the man ever cook anything else?). Other favorites include Stormreach, Shadowdale—and Lankhmar.
Nevermind about the game, Lankhmar makes a fantastic setting for anyone interested in urban adventure. Every third time I’m in a used bookstore, I buy a Fritz Leiber paperback thinking that it’s a Fafhard and the Gray Mouser book I haven’t read yet.... and then get back home and realize I already own at least one copy. Sometimes two. I’ve always loved his thieves guilds, and the prose style used to summarize each story in the table of contents.
I also wanted to point out, that we showed off just a small preview from Heroes of Shadow. In advance of the book, we’ll also be showcasing some of the concept and finished art—which, frankly, I’m thrilled to be able to do for Heroes of Shadow as well as other books moving forward. It’s quite fascinating to see the progression of art, from the art order (instructions to the artist), to sketch, to finished piece. You can find a lot more about our art process on Senior Art Director Jon Schindehette’s ArtOrder blog.
Friday, December 3, 2010, 10:24 AM
I wanted to chime in with some news, reviews, and announcements from around the D&D website. We’ve been publishing this material as website articles, but I’d like to experiment with moving some of this material over the community blogs as well.
IDW: Dungeons & Dragons Comic
Just sharing the love, for the first issue of the comic! More reviews have been posted, and they’ve been fairly glowing:
I’m also glad to announce a couple of interviews in the works. The first is with Jennifer Shiman—which is a name you’re familiar with, if you’re familiar with 30-Seconds Bunnies Theater (and if you’re not, you really, really should be). As Jennifer announced on her site, she’s been working on a project for D&D, which we’re also excited to present later this month.
The second interview is with author Lev Grossman (not Les Grossman—although, that would be a heck of an interview as well). Lev Grossman penned The Magicians, The New York Times bestselling novel about a dispossessed young man entering the world of wizards and magic. I think of it like Holden Caulfield enrolling at Hogwarts—it’s a stunningly good book, and filled with more than a few overt D&D references.
Contests and Quizzes
Well, our Ravenloft contest wrapped up, with all entries currently being judged—largely by myself and Peter Lee. Thanks to everyone who contributed, and spent the time and effort to make some incredible well thought-out scenarios. Winners are set to be announced December 10. In the meantime, the Gift Guide Sweepstakes is underway, with your chance to win every item in the guide. And folks, that’s a lot of items.
We also have our Monster Quiz live on the site. Based on its success, we’re working on the next quiz now, this time with the ability to share your scores on Facebook—because what good’s a high score if you can’t brag about it?
Apple Cup weekend here in Washington State. Meanwhile, I’ll be rooting for the BCS rankings to send Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010, 11:59 AM
These days, it’s probably easier to ask who hasn’t been watching The Walking Dead. One thing that’s always troubled me about the genre: if the zombies eat people—heck, that’s all they shamble around for, is to east people—then I assume they eat them completely. I mean, down to the bone. And beyond.
So where are all the new zombies coming from? You would think that they’d completely consume potential new recruits, right? And yet every zombie-pocalypse seems predicated on the thought of zombies taking over by continuing to convert the living.
Thursday, November 11, 2010, 11:57 AM
I missed this piece of fiction until now (thanks to Delta’s D&D Hotspot for the link). It caught my eye for two good reasons: first, it’s titled “The Dungeon Master” and concerns D&D; second, it was published in The New Yorker.
“The Dungeon Master” makes an interesting read (with not safe for work language), although I remain torn on its depiction—on the one hand, should I be outraged that this is how the game’s still presented? D&D as cheap cultural shorthand for social outcasts?
Or rather, is playing with and confronting these old stereotypes the whole point? It is a very self-aware piece; the author, Sam Lipsyte, goes so far as to reference those “old stories” about the perceived evils of the game. From the details, I have to believe Mr. Lipsyte has rolled a d20 or two in his day. Plus, there’s even a second group—a positive, school-sponsored group—one in which the protagonist, perhaps ironically, cannot fit into.
So, a story about D&D? Or a story about a group of troubled kids who just happen to play D&D?
What are your thoughts on the piece?
Thursday, November 4, 2010, 9:39 AM
I’ve been covering knights lately on the website—the fighter knight from Heroes of the Fallen Lands, the paladin cavalier from Forgotten Kingdoms, plus the history of knights in the game, over in D&D Alumni. Add to that, listening to the Stuff You Should Know podcast: How Knights Work. One of my favorite bits from one of my favorite podcasts involved the various types of squires: the squire of the pantry, of the wine cellar, of the table (whose job meant carving each dinners’ roast beef)…. All of which got me to thinking about squires in the game along with the old school concept of henchmen and hirelings.
From medieval history, the game’s own past, and of course Nodwick—there’s a clear design space that presents itself. Arcane familiars already exist in the game. I’d classify the following as martial familiars—otherwise known as followers.
Examples of followers might include the page, squire, linkboy, porter, valet, forager; or expert hireling, such as the armorer, jeweler, weaponsmith, spy, or alchemist.
As a design experiment, followers function as arcane familiars, but with slight alterations. Like familiars, followers are faithful to their master. They have two modes: passive and active. In passive mode, the follower is trailing somewhere behind you and cannot be targeted or attacked. In this mode, they are simply not involved in the adventure. In active mode, the follower appears in a square adjacent to you (or the closest he can get to a legal, safe square), and you can move it around (just as a familiar).
Like a familiar, a follower can be targeted and attacked in active mode. Unlike a familiar, a follower that’s killed does not reappear after your next short or extended rest. They are killed. To replace one, you must return to the nearest populated area, where you automatically attract a new follower. However, the benefit is that you may attract any kind of follower you wish (if your porter was slain, for example, you may opt for a valet instead), and if you have the proper feat (you may not opt for an expert hireling if you do not have that feat).
In addition, while familiars are treated as minions, followers are hardier. They start with 1 hit point, but you may spend a healing surge to provide them with this additional value of hit points. In addition, a follower may be healed through appropriate powers or items.
Any martial class, Cha 12
You gain a follower
Any martial class, Martial Follower, Cha 15
You gain a second follower, which may be an expert hireling
Cult of Followers
Any martial class, Dedicated Followers, Cha 18
You gain a third follower, which may be an expert hireling
Warriors with an excess of armor and gear require the services of a linkboy, a young lad or landless worker, to share their burden of encumbrance.
You gain a +2 bonus to Endurance checks.
You can carry—without suffering their weight—up to 3 extra weapons, an extra suit of armor, and week of rations, to be held by the porter.
You gain an extra use of a daily magic item power, if it comes from an item the porter is carrying and which you then keep equipped until your next extended rest.
Armorer Follower (Expert Hireling)
Expert craftsmen, often journeymen dwarves, these followers serve to keep their master’s armor in the utmost condition.
Your skill check penalty for wearing heavy armor is reduced by 1.
Your armor receives a +5 bonus against a rust monster’s devour metal attacks.
You receive a +1 bonus to AC, until you are bloodied; your armor must then be repaired during your next extended rest.
What other potential benefits might followers provide? With a forager, you may always have access to fresh water and food (at least within this plane of existence). A provisioner might have a percentage chance of carrying whatever mundane item (lamp oil, piece of chalk, a lock) is needed (and which characters often forget to list on their sheet). Alchemists may brew potions up to a certain level, provided they are given the cost in materials. Jewelers may add a bonus to the value of gems and jewelry found, either with their expert refinements or their network of contacts. A groomsman may take charge of the cavalier’s horse, so that he always has it when needed, and not worry about it when it’s not convenient (a paladin/cavalier and his warhorse has always been one of my gripes).
There are alternate approaches you may wish to consider with followers:
- You may wish to treat them exactly as familiars: they always have but 1 hit point, but if they’re destroyed, they reappear after a short or extended rest (the Nodwick or Kenny approach).
- If you’re playing a knight or cavalier, all of your followers may be squires but with different titles (a linkboy may simply be a squire of the torch).
- Finally, you may wish to reward worthy followers for extensive service: squires may progress from being a mere follower to a companion character (from the DMG2) and join the party as a provisional member; others may retire and become NPC farmers, with whom the party can always visit as needed for lodging, information, or just a welcome respite.
My question to you is, what other followers might there be? What benefits might they provide? For paragon and epic tiers, what sort of monstrous or planar followers might you attract? A kobold lackey? A warforged trapmaster? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions, either here or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, October 15, 2010, 2:37 PM
Last D&D Alumni, I wrote about knights in D&D, and examined their old codes of conduct—from the real world and the game itself—and ended by asking for examples from your campaigns that you wished to share. Here are a few...
Kevrock wrote in with some foundational approaches:
First, as you mentioned in the article, a character's race, class, alignment, and deity will have different effects on what code they follow. This code can be expressed another way: its the adventurer's "core values". If we take the US military, for example: the US Navy's core values are Courage, Honor, Commitment; the US Air Force's core values are Integrity, Service, Excellence. Using that style, one could advise player's to write down 3 words that summarize your character's code and use that as the basis for their behavior. For instance, a dragonborn paladin of Bahamut may choose Strength, Justice, and Defense. In some ways, the core values would be similar to the deities domains from Divine Power.
Second, another way to look at a Knight's Code is to organize them into a hierarchy of allegiance. This would reflect the character's commitment to protecting different ideals. For example, a dwarf paladin of Moradin may say his code tells him to first protect his clan, second protect the dwarvish way of life, and third protect the greater good. Where as a human cleric of Erathis way say her code tells him to first protect the greater good, second protect humanoid civilizations, and third protect her party members. In this way, the player can use it to determine their character's action in conflicting situation: the dwarf paladin above would choose to save his injured brother before a helpless stranger.
Andrew wrote in with a specific Code of the Warlock Knights of Vaasa:
- Honor and obey the Voice of Telos and his representatives above your station. Demand obedience and respect from those below you.
- Demonstrate diligence, vigor and inventiveness in carrying out the tasks assigned you by your superiors.
- War is a sacred enterprise and must be prosecuted with courage, deviousness, and ruthlessness.
- The path to glory lies through conquest.
- Honor and revere Telos above all others.
- Mercy and compassion are weaknesses. Be assiduous in your observation of your peers and superiors, pull down the weak lest they spread their weakness to others.
- Conquest is holy to Telos, conquer in his name.
And Mark wrote in with the following:
May the light of Evander show us the right, that we may strive unceasingly to be ever like him in all ways that our imperfect forms may allow us. And in this time let it be written that Antonius of Oakhurst, through the mercy and wisdom of Evander the constant and unswerving, was given a vision that he might set down the path that all those must follow who wish to call themselves Knights Paladin.
Benevolence characterizes the true goodness of the mind, the unbiased kindness and altruism. It converts thought and regard for the welfare of other people, and finds expression in sympathy and kindly gentleness and compassion, with charitableness and love even for those that the world deems undeserving. The Paladin must never walk the middle path, if ever he is given the choice between that which is good and that which is better he must choose as Evander would. The Paladin must strive in every way to be the paragon of rectitude, he must not partake in dishonorable endeavors and must make himself the visage of a saint, challenging evil in all forms and never allowing the right to falter through inaction.
Mercy is of greatest importance for it will guide the church and the faithful when the right becomes unclear. Without restraint there is no justice and the Paladin must always pursue death as the last avenue for this is pleasing to Evander and shows that his children love others as he loves them, never seeing those who do not see the light of Evander as inferior or undeserving.
Courage characterizes the ability to confront fear in the face of pain, danger, uncertainty, intimidation, and death. Fear is essential to courage for without it courage cannot exist. The Paladin must fear and be fearful, for to know love is to know fear and the need to protect that which is loved. A Paladin without fear is without out love and this is not the way of Evander. Courage is the strength that is needed to stand as a light in the shadow, to undo the wicked and punish the maleficent, to show restraint and mercy to those that would slay you that you might act as a beacon, illuminating the dissonance of the holy and profane.
Truth flows from empathy and understanding others, which requires understanding one's own moral core above all things. The Paladin must never lie in any circumstance or manner, neither self-interest nor beguilement of the wicked is acceptable for the wicked would seek to do the same and for this reason the Paladin must sacrifice this avenue, striking it from his conduct for the sake of showing dissonance. The Paladin must act from the heart and the Paladin’s heart knows only truth.
Dissonance is the rift that separates the dark from the light and from it flows all virtue. Only through dissonance do we recognize the value of the light over darkness as we recognize the immortal consequences of each act. In this regard the Paladin must endeavor in all things to show the dissonance of light and dark and in all things make himself dissonant from wickedness that he might shine brightly, guiding the lost toward the mercy and love that is Evander.
Antonius of Oakhurst
Saturday, August 7, 2010, 2:08 PM
Bill Slavicsek (R&D Director for D&D, and author of the Mark of Nerath) led the following seminar at this year’s Gen Con Indy. For those you could not attend, we wanted to offer the information presented. Bill opened with a look at what’s available now, as well as what’s coming soon—for much of this information, we’ll direct your attention to our product catalog… with one key addition.
November 2010: The Beholders Collectors Set
Ed Greenwood’s Elminster Must Die: out now!
R.A. Salvatore’s Gauntlgrym: coming soon, on 10/5/2010.
Plus, the Gates of Madness: From the darkness of a ruined universe comes the source of a new evil … a 5-Part Prelude Novella, featured in:
- Part 1: Forgotten Realms, The Ghost King by R.A. Salvatore (July 2010)
- Part 2: Dungeons & Dragons, The Mark of Nerath by Bill Slavicsek (August)
- Part 3: Dark Sun, City Under the Sand by Jeff Marriotte (October)
- Part 4: Forgotten Realms, Whisper of Venom by Richard Lee Byers (November)
- Part 5: Eberron, Lady Ruin by Tim Waggoner (December)
Then in 2011, comes The Abyssal Plague: a worlds-spanning event, featured in:
- Dungeons & Dragons: Temple of Yellow Skulls (March 2011)
- Forgotten Realms: Sword of the Gods (April 2011)
- Dark Sun: Under the Crimson Sun (June 2011)
- Dungeons & Dragons: Oath of Vigilance (August 2011)
1st Quarter 2011 Releases
- Gazetteer: The Nentir Vale
- D&D Fortune Cards
- Player’s Options: Heroes of Shadow
- Deluxe Dungeon Master’s Screen
2nd Quarter 2011 Releases
- Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium
- Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond
- Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale
- Conquest of Nerath Board Game
3rd Quarter 2011 Releases
- Player’s Handbook: Champions of the Heroic Tier
- Neverwinter Campaign Guide
- Hero Builder’s Handbook
- Madness of Gardmore Abbey
4th Quarter 2011 Releases
Friday, August 6, 2010, 1:19 PM
Here we are, making our way through the second day of Indianapolis. Starting off with a seminar on the D&D Encounters program, there was quite a bit of information to share--perhaps the biggest of note was the announcement of Season 3, set in the Nentir Vale and titled Keep on the Borderlands! Also mentioned was that it would be a longer season, and penned by Chris Sims. For those in need, pre-generated characters would continue to be provided, but there would be means for players to create and bring their own as well.
Then, Season 4 kicks off on Feb. 9, lasting 13 weeks.
Season 5 starts May 11, also lasting 13 weeks.
The D&D Game Days were also mentioned through 2010: Dark Sun on Aug 21; the D&D Starter Set (Red Box), with an adventure that continues the one featured in the set itself; and Gamma World, which will include an element of character creation, since characters will be so unlike those in Dungeons & Dragons.
On the note of Gamma World, Greg Bilsland is looking to record a podcast episode of game play in the coming weeks. And Trevor Kidd is soon to release a video unboxing of the Castle Ravenloft board game.
Also spent some of the afternoon in the Sagamore Ballroom, amazed at all of the games taking place (of all editions welcomed), including Mike Mearls running a session from the new starter set for the winners of the Never Split the Party contest -- awesome guys I had the pleasure to have dinner with the night before! Sounds like the their hotel room is a bit swanky than my digs, but I won't complain.
Time to get ready for dinner and the ENnies!