o0o A Race! Wilderlands AP

As we left off, our intrepid heroes (?) were planning to make haste to the caves by Bugbear Falls and head off the party that had set off to exterminate the "monsters" inhabiting them.

Sadly, they were unable to do that, as an attack by a rogue group of Iomedan knights as soon as they headed out the city gates and multiple random encounters plagued their journey.

The knight attack was unexpected, and ended with one of the 9 attacking getting away, but also gave the party a hint at a heretofore unknown adversary, one Lord Laeryndaal and an organization called The Black Lotus, which no one had heard of before.

After that, a destructive encounter with mysterious, hulking warriors carrying Javelins of Lightning, and a few other brushes with fate, including a tussle with a dire boar, slowed them to the point of not being able to catch their quarry before reaching the canyon where the caves are located.

When we left off, the group was staring up at the various cave entrances, looking for any sign of the young man and his party.


I'd like to apologize for how short and somewhat dull this report is, but honestly, I don't think my six siders wanted the players to succeed. It seemed like I couldn't NOT roll an encounter for the group, and I know that's probably frustrating for everyone, but I did try to make them interesting, at least.

In the area that the group is in, there's a 1 in 6 chance of encounter every hour. I realize this is pretty heavy, but I kept with it, and it seems sometimes to swamp the pacing of the game.

I've been thinking about putting together an encounter table of my own, and adjusting the chance of encounters, but I keep putting it off. I think I need to get on that. I also want to touch on some of the other topics I mentioned I would cover here, like magic item bloat, etc., and how I plan to tackle that in the campaign.


The Arkham of the Neitherworld

For reasons unknown even to me, I've made it a goal to read every post by those on Jeff's blogroll.
This is not something that can be accomplished in a day, but I've made it (going from oldest to most recently updated) back to Neitherworld Stories, a great blog by Stuart, a friend of Jeff's, which I had caught up on a couple of years back, then had forgotten about.

Stuart's posts are usually relevant to my own gaming, so it is a treat revisiting his blog, even if it apparently is dead. (Maybe my reading through will prompt him to post again? It's seemed to happen with other blogs on the list.)

The reason I bring Neitherworld Stories up today, though, is this post, which I think is great inspiration for a fantasy or supers game, or some mix of the genres.

You see, I've been thinking alot about supers gaming recently and even originally was gonna run a quick stint on my birthday using Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game, but I guess we're hitting up a Magic tournament instead.

I don't really have a group to scratch the supers itch with, since my current group is involved in 2 different D&D games, but I've been thinking about drumming something up to remedy that!

A Slight Revision to New Wilderlands Characters

Recently, I posted about new characters and starting levels in my Wilderlands campaign.

I wasn't completely satisfied with the scaling of levels that I put forth at the end of that post, so I'm replacing that here with the following:

In the event that a player makes a new character, that character will begin play at the base experience total for their old character's level minus five, or 1/3rd the level of the highest level character in the party, whichever is higher.

I think this cleaves both to what I want from the game as far as power level and character development and keeps new characters relevant to the action.


Go Go Teamwork!

Tonight was pretty cool, and even though we didn't make it far, due to backtracking and such, I felt like we accomplished a fair amount of dungeoneering.

After a miraculously uneventful night stayed in what we hoped was a secure room in the crypt itself, and some much needed rest and recuperation, Chymond, Kedereckt, and our drow ally (I still need to ask Angela her character's name. I know she's told me, and I swore I've used it in game, but I can never remember it when I write these posts) headed back into the corridors of the tomb, still searching for the heart of the undead plague that has been threatening the Dwarves.

David wasn't able to join us early on, but we still managed to search a few rooms and avoid a couple of traps along the way, mostly by sheer luck...methinks Kedereckt may have lied to us about his ability to bypass such obstacles.

Amazingly, we were able to avoid combat until right after David was able to show up and Oth threw a Sound Lance against a door that had given us a little bit of trouble. Knocking one side off its hinges revealed a room teeming with more Zombie Wyverns...five of them, to be exact, which gave us less trouble than any fight before due to what I feel was a tighter manifestation of teamwork and good tactics than we have previously displayed.

After this, however, we continued to move through chambers and halls that pretty much doubled back onto areas we had already explored, and Taylor called it somewhat early since Angela has to be at work in the morning.

I had previously spoken about how I wasn't feeling like my character was adding anything to the party at all, and that I was thinking of asking Taylor if I could possibly retire him and create a new one. After talking about it a little the other day, then again some tonight before the game, I decided to give it a few more sessions, continuing to tweak my spell list and possibly even how I play my character. I still don't know how I feel about him, but I absolutely had fun tonight. Maybe a few changes would be all it would take for me to be happier with him.

At any rate, I'm actually feeling eager to continue exploring the dungeon.


New Characters in Non-Scaled Campaigns

I've not encountered any other usage of the terms "set" and "scaled" when dealing with roleplaying games (Except the scaled minions of Set!), but what I mean in this context is set and scaled encounters. The former being a trope of sandbox play in which Area X has Y encounters no matter when you show up there, which could mean that your 10th level party is running amok in the Caves of Chaos, whereas in the latter instance, your party could encounter advanced goblins (perhaps with character levels) or new denizens entirely, which would challenge your party at their level.

My primary concern with this post isn't the actual encounters themselves, but the level at which to start new characters in my game. I've mentioned before that I'm trying to cleave to "old school" ways when possible, and alot of what isn't informed by blogs and various readings of old rule books comes from my personal beginnings into the hobby. All my DMs made us start at 1st with new characters when our old one died or was irrevocably lost or we retired one in favor of another, cooler concept.

This wasn't anything to us, and in fact, we always felt that the DMs that started people out at higher level either were doing "crazy" stuff in their game, or we felt like we had to bring our game face, because we were getting into some shit. That feeling has been almost killed by the Adventure Path and the scaled encounters therein.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm fully aware that my preferred rules set brought about the dominance of the Adventure Path, and in fact...I have no true problem with them as a form of gaming. I just ran a campaign using one, myself, and it was one of the most fun runs I've had in my gaming history, but I digress.

The thing I really want to address here, and a cohesive point to all my rambling is this: Recently, Angela lost a character. She was upset at this, apparently...and it was made worse by my stating that she would have to start her new character at level 1.

Is the call unfair? I don't think so, but that's not to say I don't understand why someone would be iffy or upset about it.

The key factor in it not being a problem is because, as mentioned before, my world is set. Everything stays static until the PCs explore the area, so even if the party averages 5th level, they might still walk into a place overrun with 1st level encounters. This is an even easier transition because of how the experience chart scales, giving lower level characters a chance to "catch up" eventually. Starting at first level also promotes character growth through an extended progression, instead of trying to shoehorn who should be a fully developed character (someone with experience under their belt) into the campaign.

On the flip side, you're first level...danger is more dangerous, as it were. One or two hits might have you down for the count, you might not be able to make a necessary save, etc. The only other problem inherent in my Wilderlands game is that we use the Slow experience progression, so sure...it takes a bit to gain the xp to level, but that doesn't truly affect the power scale, since everyone else is, too.

I do believe that intelligent and cautious play can keep any level of character alive, but I can understand feeling left in the dust, hence I've decided that any player losing a character will make a new character at the level of thier old character - 5, or barring 5 levels....should any other player have a character of 6 level, the new character will enter at level 2, 11th for level 3, and so on (whichever method is better.) That's a big gap, yes...but not one that cannot be recovered from with the scaled xp progression.

This is a loose ruling. We'll see how it goes. Any thoughts from my players would be welcome!

There And Back Again, A Story of Dungeonfail

So, there we were...having completed our forays into the cultist's temple deep in the Dwarven delves, and returned awaiting reward (?) and our next commands from the liege of the place.

When we finally were able to meet with him, he practically sent us right back from whence we came, deep into the earth, this time to address the problem of undead creeping up from a long-buried tomb.

We geared up, retooled our spell lists, and headed down to the crypt, where we were met with an engraving that Angela's Warlock's Comprehend Languages was able to decipher, naming the place the tomb of a human(?!), whose name I can't recall at the moment.

Gaining entry took a short bit of time, but soon we were navigating the paths of the first true dungeon we've delved in this campaign.

And then it all fell apart.

Kedereckt was doing pretty well, leading us slowly through the place, intent on keeping us from the dangers of pitfalls and other traps...and then he was hit twice by 2 Zombie Minotaurs that had escaped notice by virtue of position. 50ish points of damage do not do a 7th level Rogue good, and he dropped, followed quickly by Oth Ixen and Chymond, leaving our Drow companion to stand against the one standing Minotombie.

She escaped, but healed Oth enough for him to act before heading out. He came to me and healed me enough to get up, then we finished the fight, and pressed on after some healing.

This led us, eventually to a room with 3 Wyvern Zombies, which pretty much everyone ran from except Chymond, who bottlenecked the door and attempted to let the others retreat, since I couldn't exit and close the door the turn prior to them getting to me.

We eventually defeated those monstrosities, thanks in major part to Oth's casting of Explosive Cascade, in addition to some well-placed Flame Bursts, or whatever the Reserve Feat thing is called.

Having healed up yet again, we ended the night trying to decide whether to rest or press on.

My thoughts:
Dungeoneering isn't the best profession for our characters, really. This is a generalist line of reason, but honestly, I just don't see it going well for us. Apparently, we either lack cohesion or we've just built our characters the exact opposite of what a dungeon delver should be.

Part of this, in my case, is that I'm not happy with my character. I don't know what I would do to change my character to "fix" my feelings of uselessness, but the first thing would be channeling positive energy. When I made the character, I felt like he had a solid foundation to build on: A young Dwarf seeking to carve a realm for himself, who wasn't afraid to use any means to do so (money, mind-affecting magics, undead as tireless labor/soldiers.) The game style has shifted from free-range to Go to Questgiver->Get Quest->Complete Quest->Get Reward, and I'm perfectly fine with that kind of play...but not with this character. I even went the "party buff" route with my spells, and only 1 seemed to fit the circumstances all night (Legion's Shield of Faith,) but my domain spells are useless (as they are all Enchantments,) as is my Command/Rebuke Undead, since the monsters are all too high of hit die. I feel useless to my party, which is a horrible feeling for a Cleric.

I have other, minor gripes...primarily, the Zombie Minotaurs hiding like they did seemed a bit too prepared for mindless undead, I assume Taylor didn't think of this...we did make alot of noise, but I feel like, being mindless, they would have just been lined up at the doorway ready to bull rush or overrun as soon as they could see us.

Also, the flow of turns...combat interactions...and questioning of the DM round out my irks.

I still haven't brought up my stuff about Chymond with Taylor....I need to do something to keep myself interested in the campaign, even if it takes creating a new character or changing the one i have completely.


What A Wreck! Wilderlands on Friday

No, the Wilderlands game didn't go poorly, I didn't mean that kind of wreck!
Taylor and I both work in transportation for a local clinic specializing in special needs children, and Friday his van was rear-ended. Everyone on board is ok, but I couldn't fault the guy for not wanting to run his usual Friday game, so we picked up Pathfinder. The session was made far more groovy by the (hopefully permanent?) addition of Steve's girlfriend, Michelle.

Everything seemed to get off to a slow start, but after some final notes and final adds and corrections to character sheets, we dropped into a somewhat sloppy first part of the session.

At this point, the party was outside the temple, having defeated the Khumats and Lizardfolk, but taking a toll, themselves. Chas had already decided that he favored returning to Bugbear Falls, having the insight to know that this temple was more than he felt ready for. Union and Gexzrit gathered Seyji's remains, tossed his body into a bag no bigger than a normal potato sack (!), and headed on their way after having bid the group goodbye and explaining that this was primarily's Seyji's quest, and they had no more need or heart to venture into the temple.

With this, and conversations held before, both Borash and Jadazh conferred with their hirelings, and subsequently renewed agreements, before also ceding the assualt. Only the Gnolls, who had planned the expedition in the first place, remained, and they bid the group farewell with full understanding and gratitude.

The (relatively uneventful) trip back to the Falls is where I felt the game got sloppy. I was having a hard time concentrating at this point because I was tired, and was having trouble adjudicating the trip, interactions with those characters, introduction for Michelle/her character into the game world/setting, Angela's initial motivations with her character. The pacing was falling flat, then the Stone Giants attacked Bugbear Falls....

No one was injured in the fight, and indeed, Chas, Borash, Jadazh and their companions watched the Giants pelt the city and its walls with boulders from afar, on their approach to the keep. The girls' characters were both inside the city, but were prudent enough to remain inside during the attack, and thus suffered no damage.

This little game of Giant skeeball ended when I announced that the keep's defenders were manning the wall emplacements and began firing back with catapults. 3 consecutive hits from the siege engines was enough to dissuade the attackers, and they made their way west. The party waited out their departure, then approached the keep when the coast was well clear.

Once the party made it inside, the game began to heat up. Chas immediately met with the local sage, an elf named Elohmir (Carl's last character's mom), and began discussing the temple, various things sighted in the area, and the cave with the false doorway carved, which Elohmir said was possibly a Fey Gate.

While Chas was off sharing information, Borash settled at the White Cliff (the local tavern) to celebrate the good battle that was the assault on the Lizardfolk and Khumats, and tossed plenty of coin to keep all the patrons drowned in the cheap stuff all night. A stranger at a nearby table, a youth of no more than 16, matched Borash's coin, and then began spouting off some abrasive things about Viridistan and its natives, even cursing the craftsmanship of an obviously magical blade he and his companions had recovered when the cleared the rest of the kobolds from the caves nearby.

Borash had a short exchange with the lad, then went back to his own companions and began to drink heartily, at which time Chas returned and heard the bile being spouted by the kid and his companions and went to their table, sitting down and beginning a conversation filled with veiled threats on either side, ending in one of the women in the group pulling a dagger on Chas, and he leaving their table with another threat.

During the exchange of human supremist garbage being spewed and the threatening language from Chas and the young boy, who seemed to be the leader of his group, Jadazh had been negotiating more help for the group, having talked to both Skayza and Gabrielle, both of whom had come to the tavern for their own reasons. As he talked with the women, he also sized up the boy and his party (using a variant Sense Motive use) to see how things would go if it all got heated.

The night went on, and everyone eventually retired, Skayza to the smithy, where she lives/works, Gabrielle to the chapel of Iomedae, and the rest to a few apartments provided by the Castellan in compensation for not being able to meet with them when they arrived.

The night went uneventful, and in the morning the party arrived to meet with Castellan Dal Lago, to turn in the kobold horns they had acquired weeks prior. Lago had much interest in their tales of adventure, and showed great patience when the conversation took turns that did not include him. He suggested that the party find if there are dragons about, but had little else to add, other than offering to sell them a charter for an adventuring company (required for groups numbering over 20 individuals) and a warning that he would not brook acts that brought the wrath of monsters to his door.

With a little bit of coin, and knowledge that the young man met in the White Cliff and his band were going back to the caves to eradicate the non-human threats (some of which are allies to the party,) we left off with the group deciding their next course of action, as well as pondering the presence of a mysterious blur that their hirelings had mentioned seemed to be waiting for them, or at least watching.

This was all-in-all a great session. Plenty of roleplay and hooks thrown out left and right for the party. Steve helped me out alot in the session when Jadazh struck up conversation with Skayza and Gabrielle. I had been formulating a way to get them both involved in what is going on with the party (though, it really isn't necessary...I'm not enforcing grouping,) but this gives me time to think more on the happenings around them.

Current Cast of Characters
Chas DeLong, Male Human Fighter 5 - David B.
Jadazh Gr'tea, Male Human Duskblade 5 - Steve C.
Borash, Male Half-Orc Cleric of Gorum 4 - Taylor
Gabrielle Dianthe, Female Aasimar Paladin of Iomedae 1 - Angela

Skayza, Female Half-Orc Fighter 1 - Michelle
3 x Human Warrior 1 - Steve C. controlled
3 x Orc Warrior 1 - Taylor controlled
5 x Human Aristocrat 1 - Angela controlled


It's Been A Super Day

Been thinking alot about superheroes today, most notably this guy...

I'm not really sure why Big Blue is where my mind went when the subject came to mind, but I pretty much kept with the thoughts and eventually it led me to thoughts on gaming.

No surprise there, really...but then it dawned on me that DC is the more ideal model in how to handle supers in gaming than Marvel, even if I like the latter better.

I know somewhere in the 3 LBBs of D&D, "superhero" is mentioned, and while that originally meant someone of higher level, using Arneson's model...it made me think about what it would be like if a superhero (or team, even) made an entrance into a fantasy campaign. Even given somewhat powerful abilities, would they still be overshadowed by some practitioners of magic?

Like most of my posts, this is just a brain dump. I really don't have anywhere I'm going with this, but it's something that intrigues me, as does super powers in the real world and even in a high-tech sci-fi (space opera?)

More to think about, at any rate.

Also, this picture REALLY got my thoughts churning...

Not so sure why it's so evocative to me, but anything that spurs imagination is a good thing!

A Reminder to Myself

This post is mostly just acting as a Post-It so I can remember some stuff about Taylor's campaign, which I won't be able to attend later because I'll be rolling out of town with mom.

First, since I've missed some stuff here lately, I need to full appraisal of where we are and why we're there. The basics are known to me, but I want something a bit more solid to work with, as I try to fit my character's goals into everything we've done.

I play Chymond Veg, The Bronze Vassal. An extreme loyalist to the sovereignty of Lord Cain Gamble, the presiding noble where I have made my home. At the same time, I am trying to gain power over a dominion of my own, and hope for that to come to fruition more quickly as a result of wealth and power gained through the course of adventuring.

I need to consult with Taylor about this. I want my goals (and indeed the goals of the other players, if any) to fit into the campaign structure which our DM envisions. I don't want to create a disruptive or abortive course of action if it would upset the flow...basically, I don't want to be the Halfling Outrider that was brought to The World's Largest Dungeon.

I need to reevaluate my spell list in this game.

I also want Chymond to discuss with the other characters (and I with their players) what their goals, and our goals as an adventuring group are.

This is normal stuff, true...but I always want to do the stuff in game and end up either forgetting, or not having time in-game to do this.

When I sat down to write this, there was more I had in mind to jot down, but it's since left me.
I'm sure it'll come to me later.


In Which I Balk at Another's Point...

Still reading through Wayne Rossi's great, but sadly not currently active, blog Semper Initiativus Unum, and I came across the following quotes from this post:

...[sic] The hidden-map game is not just one mode of play in D&D....
...characters have well defined movement rates, there are rules about the rate of exploration, opening doors, listening at doors, setting off traps, finding secret doors, running into wandering monsters. There are a number of internal timers built into the game, including the time needed to search, various upkeep items (rations, torches etc), the break every 6th turn, and of course random encounters...
...Later games branded as Dungeons & Dragons didn't have this; they subsumed the hidden-map game into a larger "game system."

...this simple set of mechanics was at the center of a very light game engine. Other systems were developed for things like fighting monsters, determining treasure, casting magic spells and so forth - but in the early days of gaming these were not front and center. This is sharply differentiated from 3rd and 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. 3rd edition was not about exploring the hidden map to find what was on it (and whether you'd survive), as much as it was a character-building game in which the DM provided combat-based "challenges" to the carefully crafted PCs...

Now, I do realize I chopped the hell out of his post, but read the thing...I certainly didn't take it out of context.

I have no desire to call Mr. Rossi out on his opinions, or to flare up another battle in the long-fought "Edition Wars." but I do think there is quite a bit of disinformation in what was said regarding the newer editions of D&D. Take mind that I don't care to defend 4th Edition, but what I have to say on the matter is perhaps just as relevant to that system as it is to 3.x/Pathfinder.

In the above paraphrasing, Mr. Rossi seems to imply that only the older editions had elements that promoted exploration and the "bookkeeping" aspects of the game, such as how long light sources last, etc.

While yes, I understand that the point made in his post is that he feels the focus of the games have changed, as far as design is concerned...exploration, in Wayne's eyes, has been put on the back burner in favor of an encapsulating system that downplays the exploration aspect of the game, which in most old school gamer's minds is the key principle of the game, and brought to the fore more detailed combat rules, and so forth.

It's true that combat, character building and other aspects of the game did come to the front in 3rd edition, but it all stemmed as a natural rules progression from AD&D, in my opinion, and has little to no bearing how the game is actually played. Exploration and survival are still the keys of the game that I play, which I still gladly call Dungeons & Dragons, and I'm not so convinced that treasure and encounter generation weren't as, or even more, prevalent in older editions of the game. After all, the LBBs set forth that treasure was the key to advancement in the game, and that the guardians of said treasure were some of the primary obstacles to adventurers seeking it...even if sneaking past them was preferred.

My group tracks light, encumbrance, rations and water, we still run into random encounters and approach every door as if death itself waits behind it, and we explore the worlds laid out before us. Just because there are adventure paths out there doesn't mean that (even in the course of said path) players will stay on rails just because they play X system.

I guess my whole point is that it's fine to have opinions, and to have preferences, but one shouldn't disseminate misinformation, even if what is stated can be forgiven somewhat by ignorance on the subject at hand. These newer systems, while too crunchy for quite a few gamers out there, still have the ability to support a broad depth of play styles, even those adhering closely or paying homage to the "old school" way of play.

Ritual Spellcasting for Fun and Profit

This post over at Semper Intiativus Unum, while pertaining directly to older versions of D&D, seems to lay down a pretty good skeleton for what I want to accomplish in regards to my last post.

In it, Mr. Rossi puts forth being able to cast certain spells as rituals, which require quite a bit of time to cast, as well as material components of no meager amount.

Taking that skeleton, and the "basics" of the system presented there, let's see where we go with it...

Ritual Casting
Ritual Casting can be performed by any character with the time, resources, and courage to do so. As performing a ritual isn't the same thing as casting a spell, there is the risk of the magics going awry, failing completely, or drawing the attention of some outside force.

  • Casters may cast any eligible spell that they could normally memorize, as a ritual, without memorizing the spell. No list will be given, but obviously, no combat spells may be cast in this manner, and all other spells will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
  • Rituals take 1 minute to cast plus 1 minute per level of the spell being cast. If the spell the ritual is meant to emulate has a casting time of a minute or more, add this to the casting, in addition. Any interruption in the casting disturbs the spell and it cannot be cast again in the same day. (And possibly has mishaps.)
  • Casting a ritual spell requires any given material components listed for the actual spell being emulated, as well as an appropriate offering/sacrifice, that could include blood, living or dead creatures, material possessions, etc. This offering will be decided by the player, and if not sufficient, may result in the ritual failing, or a mishap of some type.
  • Any spell may only be cast as a ritual once per week, and characters may not in any case cast more than 3 ritual spells in one week, or more than one per day. However, if a player should want, they can push these limits, with a greater chance of mishaps and failure with each ritual casting.
  • When casting a ritual, any character able to cast spells must expend a spell slot of a level equal to the spell being emulated in the ritual. Those performing a ritual who are not spellcasters, or who do not have spells of the required level, will be Fatigued for a number of minutes equal to the level of the spell emulated. In all cases, the caster of a ritual will be Dazed for a number of rounds equal to the emulated spell's level upon completion of the ritual.

In all instances, a ritual has a chance of failure. The base chance of success when performing a ritual is 30%, modified by the following:
+2% per character level
+5% if the spell emulated is on your class' spell list
+5% if the character performing the ritual is a caster of any type
+5% if the character performing the ritual is an Oracle, Sorceror, Warlock, or Witch
-15% per ritual cast over the 3/week limit
-15% per ritual cast over the 1/day limit
-25% for each ritual in a week emulating the same spell as a previous one in the week.

If a ritual success roll is failed by 25% or more, a mishap occurs. I don't have anything for this as of yet, but I want them to be colorful (and in some cases, very dangerous,) as the ritual performer is trying to skirt the foundations of magic...which, unless formalized by proper spellcasting is a very chaotic force.

Also, if a ritual is disturbed during casting, roll d% and consult the following table:
1-50: Nothing happens, and the ritual fails. The offering cannot be used again for another ritual.
51-78: The ritual fails and the energies powering the ritual are released with unpredictable results. This is left up to the DM, but defaults to 1d6 damage per level of the emulated spell to the caster and all within 5' per level of the emulated spell.
79-94: The ritual fails, and the caster must roll on the mishap table.
95-98: The ritual is completed, but the results are left to the DM. Roll on the mishap table.
99: The ritual has garnered the attention of some powerful force, be it an ancient evil, a god, or another extraplanar entity.
100: DM's Choice (though it should be exceptional)

Due to the nature of their connections to outside forces beyond normal ken, Oracles, Warlocks, Witches, and Sorcerors all add +5% to the above table and the mishap table.

I like this so far, as it's pretty simple and offers reward with some risk. I'm not sure what I want to do with the mishaps, but perhaps I'll use the Psychic Phenomena/Perils of the Warp tables in Dark Heresy as inspiration, and I'll probably look into the AD&D Tome of Magic's Wild Magic table.

More on that as it comes!

Edited 3/13/11 to change percentages of success and disturbance chart.

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends...

As mentioned in the previous post, tonight we played my Pathfinder Wilderlands game, and the group was debating more about entering the temple/how to approach it.

During this exchange, at a point when everyone was analyzing their reasonings for going in, Taylor announced that Borash was going to pray to Gorum to see if an attack on the temple and it's outer guardians (Lizardfolk and Khumat) would be fruitful.

As Borash is played as a combat cleric, I knew that Taylor didn't have any divination spells other than orisons memorized, and also that he didn't have any open spell slots which he could fill on the fly, so I "Said Yes," which in this instance meant that I let him drop a 2nd level spell slot to cast Augury, which gives the caster an insight into the outcome of one event, giving the possible answers of Weal, Woe, Weal and Woe, or no answer at all.

I liked the decision, Taylor was in, and dropped one of Borash's memorized spells, and ended up with the outcome Weal and Woe, and was happy with the result, as it was pretty much as he figured.

I know from experience that Divination spells can seriously start to put a cramp on a campaign, but in this instance, I saw no harm in letting him seek guidance from his deity, and I would definitely be open to more situations that might crop up on the fly like this, where I hand the players a freebie just because.

Now, I don't want it being abused, and the potential is there. Let's say I want to include this in my games as something that can be accomplished with semi-regularity, at the least. How do I approach it mechanically? I made Taylor drop one of Borash's 2nd level spells...should I also knock out a Channel Energy? A number of Channel Energys egual to spell level? It's definitely stuff to think about.

Also, I want something similar to be within reach of all classes, not just clerics. Let's say Steve wants Jadazh to seek the advice of Asmodeus (or, more likely, one of his servants,) how would he go about this? Draw up a contract written in blood stating the terms of use of the information? What if David wants to have Chas seek the secrets to a particular door out in the forest, or insight into the manufacture of the definitive pattern of a plate harness...what then?

The mechanic doesn't need to punish or tax the PCs too much, because I want to keep the effects minor, and who knows, I might never allow it again, or keep it as an on-the-fly thing with no mechanics. I'm just brainstorming at this point.

If anyone has any ideas, feel free to comment.

Trying to Tackle the Temple

And so, after about an hour's more deliberation and Chas taking leave of the party for the sake of survivability, with some harsh words before the parting, the group decided that it was do or die, and pretty much just charged at the Lizardfolk village surrounding the temple.

Since Borash was shouting, the Lizardfolk and Khumats were ready and the outsiders were able to meet the group half-way, while the slower humanoids closed the gap in a couple of rounds.

Combat was pretty fast-paced, with one Khumat being sent back wither it came with a Dismissal from Seyji in round 1, and Jadazh taking out another in the 2nd round with help from the crit charts we use. That left one Khumat and a small horde of 27 Lizardfolk against the PC's band, numbering 21 total.

In the following rounds, both sides saw losses with a few of the hired hands; human, orc, and gnoll alike dying to blows from macahuitls and the vicious bites of the Khumats. Lizardfolk bodies began to pile up, but the attack was relentless, with neither side ceding any ground. In fact, the Lizardfolk fought with what seemed a death wish, even as their numbers lowered.

Though surrounded and taking heavy damage, the lone Khumat was able to drop Etuné, but not kill her, leaving her laying bleeding in the mire until a Lizardfolk took the opportunity to finish her off. Shortly thereafter, Seyji was slain by a devastating bite from the extraplanar beast.

In the end, only the PC group and their hirelings and companions were still standing, hobbling off away from the temple into the swamp to lick wounds and prepare for entering the temple proper, where who knows what menaces lurk...

Current Cast of Characters
Chas DeLong, Male Human Fighter 5 - David B.
Jadazh Gr'tea, Male Human Duskblade 5 - Steve C.
Borash, Male Half-Orc Cleric of Gorum 4 - Taylor
Etune Yamara, Female Halfling Monk 4 - Angela
Seyji Upsul, Male Human Cleric of Tharizdun 9 - NPC Deceased
"Union", Female Human Marshal 5 - NPC
Gexzrit, Male Bugbear Alchemist 4 - NPC
Brakish, Male Gnoll Fighter 1 - NPC
Grahyip, Male Gnoll Fighter 4 - NPC
2 x Gnoll Warrior 1 - David B. controlled
3 x Human Warrior 1 - Steve C. controlled
3 x Orc Warrior 1 - Taylor controlled


Combat Sans Battlemat and Intricacies of Simplification

Yeah! That sounds like the title of someone's thesis or something, but this post won't be as dry as the title suggests...

As stated in the title, I've been running combat without a battlemat in my Wilderlands campaign. I chose to do this for multiple reasons, the least of which being that it eases play for me. Without the map present, I'm able to make quick judgment calls on flanking, difficult terrain, distances, etc..

This makes combat quite a bit faster than it normally would be, since nobody really has to count squares, move their mini, recount for distance to get modifiers to range, and so forth. Any questions can be asked on the fly, and everyone at the table is intelligent enough to make adjustments and ask for more detail, if needed. There is also the fact that I don't have to draw a map, which I think is one of the biggest problems that miniature/tactical combat has when it comes to time.

In our experience so far, there have been only minor hiccups as the players (who are used to battlemats) adjust to having to imagine their combat areas and remember conditions of the field, and not have a quick reference to look at. It's running fairly smoothly and we're able to fit more into our game sessions because of it.

In any case where I can make simplifications, I certainly try, and I've taken to heart the mantra of "Say Yes or roll the dice," that has been prevalent in what used to be the OSR.

Do I think that Pathfinder, as a whole, is a simpler system-fix than 3.5 was to 3rd? No, but there is quite a bit of streamlining that I can work with to make the actual mechanical elements of gameplay cause as little friction to the flow of the game as possible.

I, admittedly, don't have anything solid to add to that, because right now, I'm learning, too. I'm considering the changes Paizo has made, taking in all the fascinating rules that are out there in the blogosphere, talking with anyone I can about my game, and even looking at non-Pathfinder/3.x games and systems to see what I can use to make my game easier.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want a simpler rules system. If I wanted something simpler, I think I'd be running Labyrinth Lord or Moldvay Basic (since it's what I own...I'm told Mentzer's edit is better, but *shrugs*.) It's nothing like that. I love 3.x, and what Pathfinder has done with it. I like the complexity of rules that it offers, and the customization I can achieve with it. Nobody can convince me of system dominance at this point.

No, what I want is to perhaps tweak what rules I do use to create just a little more transparency. More on this to come, but I have some prep to do right now, as tonight I run my Wilderlands!


Planning the Assault of the Temple...

So, it's been almost a week since the group gathered for the last session, but gather we did on Sunday and the original plan was to tackle the abandoned (by worshipers, at least) temple of Tharizdun.

Sadly, that didn't happen. What did happen was alot of deliberation and planning as to how to tackle the assault. The temple itself sits within a swamp, and the perimeter is crowded by a lizardfolk village. At least two score lizardfolk, at best estimate, live in this village, and they are known to be aided there by 3 khumat (crocodilian outsiders, see the Miniatures Handbook.)

Add to that, the threat of giants that are known to be in the area (and to have traffic in and out of the complex,) and "norkers," which is another word for goblin, according to a traveling companion.

This breeds much caution. Nobody wants to go in unprepared, or without backup plans, etc, but it really bogged the session down, and we didn't accomplish much of anything except debate and planning in the session.

Since David will be out of town on Sunday, Taylor and I swapped days so that everyone could participate in the next session, meaning that (hopefully) something will happen tomorrow night, when the players plan to take the fight to the temple inhabitants!


Celebrating GM's Day

I know that GM's Day, or whatever they want to call it now, takes place on the 4th, the anniversary of Gary Gygax's death, but this year, my game group and I are celebrating it today, the 6th, when (I'm assuming here) my players in the Wilderlands game will finally enter The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, which I shoe-horned into the campaign.

The module was written by Gary and published by TSR just one year after I was born, in 1982, and it looks to be a blast. I personally can't wait to see how my players tackle a classic dungeon (the first TSR or Gygax product any of them have been through,) and I hope we can channel some of the old school feel tonight.

Should be a good game, at any rate, as I always enjoy this campaign.

Organization and Navigation

I took the time last night and this morning to go through and add labels/tags for every post I've written on the blog. I tried to keep them as condensed as possible, using as few keywords as I could. I know this doesn't help as much as detailed tags would, but if you remember the gist of the post, you can then at least narrow it.

I also took the time to remove every instance of spam from the comments.

You can see the tags at the bottom of the left-hand navigation bars, arranged from most popular to least.


AP Taylor's Homebrew

Last night, Taylor ran another session of his homebrew that he's been running for a while now, and I believe at the end of the session, we all leveled. Woo level 7 Cleric!

Due to some misses recently, I'm not entirely sure what has happened up to the point I jumped back in last night, as David hits me with the highlights, and they aren't organized for me in any context in my head...

When we picked up last night, however, we were in a sprawling cavern complex near a campsite, and the rest of the party had dispatched a human tainted with what we surmised was fiendish blood.

We knew a temple had been rediscovered in this area of the caves, and we pressed on, hoping to stop whoever the half-fiend was working with, as it was likely (in our minds) that they had corrupted the temple and were doing who-knows-what kind of dastardly stuff therein!

After quite a bit of searching, we came upon a group that seemed to be either guarding an area or excavating rock, perhaps both. Since I'm not sneaky, they heard us coming and a melee ensued, with David's Kobold Wizard ending it fairly quickly with a Fireball spell, dropped right on top of us and the baddies, which had turned out to be more fiendish men.

Fearing the worst when we started surmising their numbers, we made haste deeper into the tunnels, making it to a maze, which I navigated with Angela marking off any areas where we might need to backtrack, making it eventually to a set of double doors, which we threw open after deciding there was no trap waiting for us.

Inside was a sight that made us all blanch...a huge demon crucified upon the wall with magical pinions (a balor) with many "congregants" in pews facing it, and a cloaked man at an altar before the balor, which has a cauldron catching the blood of the demon.

Here, another fight broke out, us versus the cultists, who were all also fiend-tainted men. We dispatched them fairly quickly, but now we are sat in the chapel, wondering what to do about this demon hung on the wall, his blood, the desecrated temple, and where to go from here in general.

Pretty fun evening, even if I was dead tired at the end (waking up at 5am had taken its toll)

I think we all were at a point that we could level, except David, who has the most xp in the game.
That puts us with David's Kobold Wizard 7, Angela's Drow Warlock 5, Steve's Human Rogue 7, and my Dwarf Cleric 7.

Good stuff! More to come on this game.

More on Race and the Campaign

Thinking more on my last post, and more specifically about its context in my Wilderlands game, it occurred to me that the more likely reason that the presence of the Gnolls and Lizardfolk is tolerated is because where Bugbear Falls is located is pretty isolated, and the "monstrous" races have goods that the (primarily) human settlements need, as well as the might and intimidation factors to keep things cool when they come to town. Nobody wants to piss off a whole tribe of half-crazed hyena men that are rumored to worship demons, after all.

I think intimidation, and likely ignorance, is a powerful factor here. The human societies might not necessarily know much about their humanoid neighbors, but what they have heard - the stories that arise from twisted cautionary tales, or even second-hand tales of battles - color how they interact with them. So then, it becomes more a matter of fear. That's interesting to me for a couple of reasons...

Primarily because you might then see merchants give better prices to these "monsters" because they're afraid that charging normal prices might offend them, or they might get better quality goods or heartier portions. Tensions might increase, but never erupt toward the Gnolls or whatever race happens to be around, because "Their whole tribe will rise up!" or whatever other fearful reason might be given. This could make citizens hostile toward other citizens or the local government for inaction.

On the flip side, you have this Lizardman who doesn't know why he's getting pretty okay treatment. He might feel the tension...see the body language of the humans and know that they don't really like him around, but then be confused when his cut of pork is half again the size of everyone else's, or his shield seems sturdier. This could even lead to a sense of entitlement, which might then cause fractured relations with the humans once everyone is used to each other and the preferential treatment stops.

I find it all somewhat amusing, as social interactions are something that interest me, anyway. More to think on as I build my game further, at any rate, and more that I can share with anyone keeping up at home.


We Don't Serve Your Kind Around Here...

As we continue further into Taylor's homebrew and my Wilderlands campaign, the thought of monsters as PCs or major NPCs has been on my mind more and more.

While I understand that in many games a monster is a monster is a monster, I also see demographics in some supplements stating that one or two types will also inhabit this or that village, making me also wonder if, perhaps, there isn't a share of acceptance for X type of "monster" in the area.

In Taylor's game, David plays a Kobold character, and we see no problems working our way through polite society with him ever-present. This can be viewed as both player convenience, allowing David to play what he wants, and colors the world view of certain "monsters," hinting that perhaps Kobolds are at least somewhat common in day to day life.

Likewise, the party was given more than a few hard looks, but not much else, when Brakish, a Gnoll warrior that had attached himself to the group went traipsing through the town with the PCs in the Pathfinder game. Gnolls, insofar as I imagine them in my game, as well as Lizardfolk, are known more for neutrality in human affairs than wrecking people's stuff/raiding/whatever.

Will this always be the case in either of the games? Absolutely not. Different places have different overall attitudes. What is cool in Bugbear Falls or Cale may not be cool in the next dale over. Gnolls may have caused a plague or famine, or Kobolds may run away in the night with elf babies. It adds color to the game to have a diversity that mimics real life.

I'm reminded of one of my very first characters, who knowingly risked his life (and lost it) by simply entering a town that had a long history of orc raids. Being a Half-Orc, maybe I should have thought better. I was cornered and beaten to death in that town, shortly after having joined the game. This sounds harsh, but the DM at the time did it properly, by presenting the dangers beforehand. Telling me that his world is brutal and real, and foreshadowing consequence and the harsh laws within.

Intolerance is a real issue, and no doubt one that most groups would like not to handle, but I like to think that my players are adult enough to understand that there will be racism and other forms of intolerance in the campaign world...after all, triumph over adversity is part of the heroics of the game!


Deities in My Wilderlands

I've given a glimpse into the jumble of religions I'm including in my Wilderlands campaign, and it might seem an odd mess, with known fiends as acting gods, Greyhawk deities, etc., but it's coming together organically, and it's much easier to just let them drift in, as I've been doing, than having to keep track of (in some cases) hundreds of established gods.

Like everything else in the campaign, I'm trying to let religion come about organically. My first cues were letting the PCs pick their deities, telling them that religion was open as far as their characters go, and since we were using the Pathfinder core book for character creation, Steve and Taylor went with gods listed in there from Paizo's Golarion campaign setting: Gorum and Asmodeus.

The first two deities in my game were decided then, and Angela followed suit after we started talking about her character, and selected Iomedae, bringing the Golarion gods to 3, 4 with Chris' worshipper of Zon-Kuthon. Paul's athiest, John's animist, and David's self-worshipper rounded out the party.

Through the course of the game, there has been mention of Thor, Baldur, Armadad Bog, and Shang Ta, and the PCs have met clerics of Huan Ti, Tharizdun, and Modron. This keeps divine spellcasting on a smaller scale, and much more "respectable," as you can't always run to a cleric and expect healing, etc. I think it has changed the dynamic of the game slightly that the PCs don't see a caster on every corner. I'm liking sprinkling in religion, and I think more focus can be put on the various practices and ethos when done as I'm doing it.

Again, I'm not patting my own back. There is nothing revolutionary here, just sharing my thoughts on one aspect of my game, how I implement it, and how I feel it helps set the overall tone.