Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘DnDnext’

Evangeline-Lilly-The-Hobbi

Its old news that Evangeline Lilly plays an elf warrior in the second Hobbit (The Desolation of Smaug) movie, but photos of her started renewed discussion between side A (excited about adding some stronger female roles to the story) and side B (Tolkien traditionalists) over on RPG.net

I’m actually for adding a bit to the story, and I think there’s plenty of room to focus more on the elf characters (when you have three movies). Not sure how I feel about the romance angle to it all, though. evangeline_lilly_as_elf_warrior_tauriel

Best part – reading up on the argument led to a rather amusing threads on what the heck Bilbo Baggins actually did for a living, and Tolkien inspired rap (Lord of the Rymes).

While Hollywood continues put out movies with women archers I’ve been putting off writing about DnDNext. Summary is that I’m looking forward to getting my copy of Ghosts of Dragonspear at Gencon in a few months. In the meantime Mike Mearls has been pontificating about dragonborns, the elemental planes and going all Moorcock in the next update. I’m not all that excited about dragonborns but the rest sounds promising. The latest playtest update came out Friday with new adventures, spell updates, and half-elf, the half-orc, and the gnome races.

Speaking of DnD here is a reminder that you only have about a day to support Jeff Dee’s latest effort recreating classic DnD art (including the cover of Isle of Dread):

isle_of_dread

In other Kickstarter news the Cthulhu Wars Kickstarter campaign is here. Play cult factions trying to awaken your own elder god in this gorgeous looking strategic board game from the designer of the original Cthulhu RPG which is already gnashing through funding levels like a malevolent entity hibernating within an underwater city in the South Pacific.

cthulhu_wars_2

Its pricey, and due to popularity you probably already missed the first come early supporter slots, but it looks amazing.

Finally, Disney’s slew of acquisitions has opened the door for various franchise mashups and at least one is coming to screen this summer that I (and my kids) can hardly wait for:

Phineas_and_Ferb_avengers

Happy Wanderings!

Read Full Post »

Lyric the Lying Gymnast

 “Friendship and coin: oil and water.” – Lyric the Lying Gymnast

Oil is common staple and rogues commonly carry a bit for lubricating locks. Although this kind isn’t suitable for burning, it’s fine for making a smooth surface slippery, especially when enemies are chasing you down a staircase. Grease or soap can also be used to slick up a stair, although it takes a lot more time to set a stair with soap.

CR 2: Slippery Stair:

  • Location trigger
  • No reset
  • Search DC 20
  • Reflex save DC 20
  • Multiple Targets
  • Attack +10 melee – 2d4 damage on stairs, and also falls prone.

“Cunning leads to knavery. ‘Tis a quick step from one to the other, and a slippery one.” – Lyric

A single piece of string or cord, or even a long shoelace, is all that’s needed for a simple lasso trap. A small loop is good for tripping and delaying a human sized opponent (works even better against animals and beasts), and because of the magic of the slipknot a victim’s own inertia and struggling works to your favor, tightening the knot.

Slipknot How To

Using the slip you create a loop as large or as small as you need (from foot sized for those moving quickly through brambles, larger for pursuers crawling through small places). Loop the rope and secure the end to something solid, then pin apart the loop using branches or tacks or some other means to leave it wide open for someone to stumble through.

CR 2: Tripping Lasso:

  • Location trigger
  • Manual reset
  • Search DC 23
  • Disable Device DC 10
  • Attack +10 melee – 1d4 damage (2d4 if moving quickly) and also falls prone.

“Men don’t trip on mountains, but they’ll trip on wire stretched across a hallway.” – Lyric

Lasso From Cloth

Lasso From Cloth

A Tripping Net is a small fiber or metal net (usually 1×2 feet or so) lined with tiny hooks designed to snag flesh and cloth. It’s a

mechanical floor trap that that will catch boots and flay about the legs. Its purpose is to slow movement, and possibly trip someone up, but not severely damage or hold. It can be fashioned by the crafty using wire or small fishhooks and appropriate fibers (DC 20). Its small enough to be folded into something wallet sized and, If prepped correctly with, say, greased paper in between folds to keep the hooks from snagging each other (DC 15) it can be set for a quick release and dropped in front of pursuers.

CR 3: Tripping Net:

  • Location trigger
  • Manual Reset
  • Search DC 23
  • Disable Device DC 15
  • Attack +15 melee touch – 2d4 and prone. Movement halved until net is removed

Read Full Post »

“…its 2013, and you just bought a print magazine.”

So begins the launch of Gygax magazine and the relaunch of TSR. I finally received my fedex’ed mag and sat down by the fireplace this weekend for an old-school page flipping magazine experience.Gygax Magazine

And the crew has really delivered on that. They’ve captured and faithfully reproduced the experience from the font, tone, look, and even feel of the pages. There is plenty of nostalgia captured, and the read is a wish-fantasy of time-travel fulfilled back to when, as the writers claim, things were simpler. Back to a time when imagination filled our hours instead of computers or touchpads or what’s online.

I loved the whole experience and will certainly continue to purchase issues. Highlights for me include:

  • Cory Doctorow’s DMing for your toddler was an article I can relate to being the parent of a four year old. It was great how the rules he presented were “kinetic” since I think one of the major detriments of our hobby is that it is quite sedentary, and also how the hobby can be used to teach basic math and other skills. I pulled an unstated point from the read of how imagination and story creation matters more than mechanics with children, and how simple rules can suffice for endless entertainment.
  • I loved Tim Kask’s pontifications on why it’s still all about the story.
  • It wouldn’t be old-school without Lenard Lakofka (aka Leomund) presenting a new table charting something or other and a collection of random thoughts. The brief synopsis of what he’s been doing (and struggling with) was a nice touch. His take on damage versus to hit was great crunch, although the modern game designer in me is now questioning why we need different rolls for damage and hit anyways.
  • The setting presented (Gnatdamp) was high quality and well written with plenty of strong material for visualizing the locale and great hooks built in for adventuring. I can easily see myself using this in an existing or new campaign.
  • Wolfgang Baur’s Kobold popping up again (as he says of kobolds they pop up where they aren’t necaessarily expected).
  • And of course the comics – What’s new with Phil and Dixie and was especially fun and The Order of the Stick pleasantly broke down that 4th wall. The comics were worth the price of admission.

There was some disappGygax Magazine Unboxingointment. I was expecting Jeff Dee art in all its glory instead of the small, poorly printed frame that looked like a V&V Madcap (is that the right name? My memory fails me) cutting room floor piece.

Also, Although Gnatdamp was great and the Kobold’s Cavern contained useful material for campaigning, most of the magazine was devoted to discourse on the hobby as a subject, not necessarily useful things a gamer could use in daily play. A third of the articles were about the state of the hobby, and although these were great reads and perhaps necessary to place the magazine’s context in today’s world, and I don’t want them to disappear entirely, I look forward to seeing more material one can use in campaigns.

I’m sensing overall an anti-technological tone. That perhaps video games and an online, conected world are a waste of time and responsible for destroying imaginative play (or at least DnD’s market share). I’ve said before that this tone may be off-putting to a younger generation necessary for the hobby’s survival.

The final disappointment is that the mag is only available quarterly. If only the market would support this as monthly, but for now the new TSR has gained at least one subscriber.

gary gygax

Read Full Post »

Any doubts to there being an old school tabletop renaissance should have been quashed this week, first with WOTC’s re-release of the DnD back-catalog, and then with the unboxing of the new Gygax Magazine. Disclaimer – I’m an old-school fanatic myself and I’m typing this while waiting in front of my mailbox patiently awaiting the first issue of Gygax magazine like a crushing schoolgirl. Yes, I know its Sunday.

gygax-magazine-banner

And from what was unveiled during the live unboxing yesterday Gygax magazine truly is old school. Editorial is owned by Tim Kask, the original editor of Dragon magazine, and much of the art (corralled by Jim Wampler) is commissioned from old-school talent like Jeff Dee and Rich Burlew (order of the stick). The magazine is a venture from Luke & Ernie Gygax (Gary Gygax’s sons) – although not all of the Gygax’s are behind this latest use of the Gygax name.

From the glimpses of the online unveiling the magazine has that old school feel. The layout and font are copied from the original Dragon magazine format, and some of the topical areas are carried over. Instead of Dragon’s Leomunds Tiny Hut there is a Leomunds Secure Shelter, for instance. There’s an ecology article (the banshee, possibly a tribute to Susie the Banshee who is their public relations person)  and there’s the familiar running comics at the end of the mag: Phil Foglio’s What’s New With Phil and Dixie, Jim Wampler’s Marvin the Mage, and Rich Burlew’s Order of the Stick.

Gygax_magazine_stack

Despite the old school focus there is a lot of new school talent in the first issue. Kobold Quarterly is now defunct, but Wolfgang Baur appears to edit a regular area of the mag called Kobold Cavern. Cory Doctorow has an article focused on bringing in young gamers (DMing for your Toddler) and there’s an article titled DnD Past, Now and Next  by Michael Tresca.

Although the team talked about being focused on the hobby both as it was and the community that it is today, I worry about some of the commentary and attitude being off-putting for newer generations. There’s a complete lack of video or electronic gaming focus, and there did seem to be a prevailing attitude that the whole thing is a waste of time (except for virtual tabletops). On one hand it’s incredibly refreshing to get it straight (“Tim don’t do twitter – Tim has a dumb phone”), but time will see if the magazine will really appeal to the newer generations so vital to the hobby’s survival.

Despite some cross promotion shenanigans (Roll20 was announced as the official Gygax Magazine online thingee, promotional product prizes, all of the magazine advertisers brought up during discussion) the group does seem invested in the community. They are not coming out with a new system (saying plenty of that is going around already) but instead want to focus on content. There will be no reviews, or letters to the editors, which they say belong on the web now instead of in a physical magazine. Instead the focus is feature articles and game related content.

Some other key points made during the event:

  • Its a quarterly publication
  • Digital versions will be made available on Feb 7th
  • They are still working on submission guidelines (next 10-12 days)
  • Focused on material for current, existing game systems (DnD and all sorts of variants including pathfinder)
  • Looks like a new setting and new adventures in that setting
  • Will not be focusing on reviews unless it’s timely (reading between the commentary it seemed to be “unless we can get an exclusive”)
  • Missing from issue one but promised for later: more focus on board games, historical miniatures, Call of Cthulhu, and Chainmail naval rules
  • Only 5000 for the first original print run (hints of this run being collectible)
  • If all goes well, issue two will be in your local hobby store

The best part of the live event, though, was the online commentary and live responses:

  • Sorry, I cast darkness on Jim & Tim – Ryan Thompson (when the live video dropped)
  • Any plans to let JJ Abrams direct? – Eric Reiter
  • Sound Interesting So Any Info On The Xbox 720 or PS4? – Elijah Ramos
  • Could i get Ernie to throw up a peace sign, for the ladies. – Ollie Haldon
  • …There are a plethora of advertisers… – Luke Gygax
    +500xp for using the word Plethora – Lloyd Metcalf
    Of course he used the word ‘plethora’, he’s a Gygax. – Michael Mornard
  • Has Wil Wheaton got his Gygax mag copy yet? – Lloyd Metcalf
    I Don’t know what Wil Wheaton’s got in his hands. – Tim Kask

More when I get the actual issue. Grognard was able to attend the live event and has some nice photos. Oh, and you can watch the recorded event and order the magazine here. I think Gary himself would be pleased.

gygax_FUTURAMA_Gary_gygax_simpsons

Read Full Post »

So the latest DnDNext playtest is out, and it’s all about Magic Items – There are revamped versions of classic items and artifacts (vorpal sword, rod of lordly might, necklace of firebolts, etc) and the playtest has new magic item rules, and there is also a re-balancing of adventures to be more in-line with the latest round of rules.

Mearls talks about magic items and the design in the latest Legends and Lore. Key Objectives

  • Magic should not feel mundane or dull
  • Should be Interesting to discover
    Classic from the original Dungeon Masters Guide

Have to agree that the game’s progression has really killed the joy out of magic items. First came the floods of item supplements that created overwhelming item variety, and instilled a need for Monty Haul like games (is that term even used anymore)? As the variety grows, so to must the cannon that can support the variety, and over time magic items become commonplace.

The Second thing is the overabundance of super-hero like powers that have shifted to classes (especially 4th ed). When your class has a hundred cool magic like abilities available to it, magic items lose their luster.

The new playtest addresses the first, but not the second. Here are the main ideas:

  • The system no longer assumes that characters pick up items along the way (assuming every 5th level fighter has a +2 weapon, for example)
  • Unless you decide your campaign works otherwise, magic items are, by and large, so rare that no market exists for them (common scrolls and parchments may be acquired from special NPCs)
  • Attunement is now a mechanic that represents magic items and the wielder bonding, and needs to be used to activate some of a magic item’s potential
  • Secrets are now a mechanic (used for curses or special abilities that an item has that only come out in specific circumstances)
  • Players can wear items as it makes sense (you can wear more than one necklace, or a magic headband and a magic hat, but not two pairs of magic boots).

There are some great ideas in the new system. I like Secrets and the narrative implications of having attunement in the game. I also like the list of minor powers (although some are silly )- abilities like:

Tyrant: When the bearer contemplates or undertakes a benevolent act, the item grows icy cold. Clearly it was created for an evil purpose.

Blisssful: While in possession of the item, the bearer feels fortunate and optimistic about what the future holds. Butterflies and other harmless creatures might frolic in the item’s presence.

Attunement isn’t a new thing, it’s been used by Rolemaster, Runequest, Earthdawn, etc. I like the idea of attunement, but I’m not impressed with the attumenent mechanic, and believe it needs tuning. The way it works now:

  • You are limited to attuning three items (this seems arbitrary to me – and should be based on a stat or skill or class ability – thankfully there is an option to have this based on Charisma)
  • The attunement process requires you to grasp or wear the item and spend 10 minutes concentrating on it.
  • An item cannot be attuned to more than one creature at a time.
  • There is the idea of a Test of Wills for intelligent items to control attunement results

That’s it. For me, there are a few things that need changing:

  • The system seems designed to stop item swapping during a tactical situation – this seems like the wrong motivation – I’d be less concerned about this and more concerned about the objectives (making them interesting to discover)
  • Limiting attuning to three items seems arbitrary to me – and should be based on a stat or skill or class ability – thankfully there is an option to have this based on Charisma
  • There’s no concept of the past thief/rogues ability to use magic items/use device – I think this is a missed opportunity

Finally I’d make attunement a skill or ability (much like Rolemaster or other systems that have used it). The skill/ability would make attunement easier/harder by class, make it a faster or a slower process andiIncrease or decrease the chance of success. It would also allow for spectacular failure (total possession by a magic item, wand of wonder type crazy, that sort of thing)

I’ll be iterating on this while running my next couple of playtests

Read Full Post »

Mike Mearls (senior manager for the D&D research and design team.) has had a few DnDNext playtet updates over the last couple weeks:

It’s come out of the surveys that the Sorcerer and Warlock classes have some issues, and that the Wizard is regressing (as far as satisfaction with the class). What’s interesting is that the team has spent some time playing with different magic mechanics (spell points, etc) but have had trouble bringing the different styles together without creating “sprawling mechanics that could prove problematic in play”

“How could we possibly present multiple spellcasting options for one class without turning the class into a Frankenstein’s monster?”

Wizard vs Sorcerer

Wizard vs Sorcerer

It’s a tough job – like I’ve said before years of adding new rules to the system have created a frankenstein like hodge-podge set of mechanics (here to be known as frankenmechanics)

The answer they’re exploring now is to move the odd mechanics to the world builder/DM’s side, as part of defining the fantasy world. The DM then picks the mechanics he wants to have available for his players.

  • Pro – this does seem to build on their whole modularity idea (having a simple core with packs of rules in mods that DMs can apply based on their needs).
  • Con – this sounds at the surface level like a cop-out, as in here are a slew of rules we’ve added over the years and can’t really reconcile, but I’m sure you DMs will do just fine.

Over the next few playtest releases the new core magic system should be trickling in, results should prove interesting.

Read Full Post »

So I’ve mentioned  before that I’m not sold on the DnDNext’s Sorcerer, and that I was never really onboard with them in 3rd/4thedition. To me

Seoni - Pathfinder's iconic sorceress

Seoni – Pathfinder’s iconic sorceress

they’re simply a subclass or variant of the wizard. We need the wizard, yes, but not a sorcerer (or warlock for that mater, but that’s another conversation).

Having both a wizard and sorcerer as core classes, I think, makes spellcasters and magic too rigidly structured. Having core classes with near identical function (in play) opens up the game to too many rules and tweaks that can exploit balance and cause confusion for players during creation and the DM during play. I’d much rather approach the Sorcerer as a variant or subclass of the Wizard. I still want ways to tweak and optimize and create sorcerous flavor, but still stay true to the Wizard’s roots and core class rules.

So what could this look like in DnDNext?

As a homebrew – first I’d split up the actual sorcery, that is the spellcasting, with sorcerous/draconic origin. To me they are completely different things.

For DnDNext, sorcery could become a specialty, much like how necromancy in the beta works now, and it you wanted a spellcaster with a sorcerous mechanic (read – use cha for your spell prowess), you would choose that.

Sorcery as a Specialty in DnDNext could look like this:

————————————————–

Magic is now part of your being; an untamed, wild power that surges and roils, constantly on the verge of breaking free. Your spells are not learned from books or granted by pacts or prayers. They come from within you…. (etc.)

Requirement – cast Wizardry spells

Level 1: Sorcerous Magic

The number of spells you can know decreases – At first level, you know two 1st-level spells. Each time you increase in level, you can learn one new spell. When you learn a new spell,  its level must be no higher than your maximum spell level. However, unlike a wizard, you know these spells innately, don’t require a spellbook, and don’t need to prepare them. Instead of using Int for your casting ability, you use Cha instead.

Casting a Spell: Instead of having spells per day, You must spend spell points to cast a sorcerer spell (other than a minor spell). A spell’s level determines the spell’s spell point cost. It costs 1 spell point to cast a 1st level spell, 2 spell points to cast a 2nd level spell, etc. If you don’t have enough spell points available, you cannot cast the spell. Spell points are determined by taking your normal wizards spells per day, halving them, and adding +1 (note: not sure how balanced this is – could use some other similar mechanism). You regain all of your expended willpower points at the end of a long rest. You cannot cast sorcerer spells while wearing armor.

Magical Attacks: When you make a magical attack using a sorcerer spell, you use your Charisma modifier for the attack roll, and add a bonus to that roll based on the Magic Attack column in the Wizard table. Saving Throw DCs: When a spell that you cast calls for a saving throw, the save DC equals 10 + your Charisma modifier. As you gain levels, the DC increases, as noted in the Wizard table.

Level 3

Sorcerous Power: Draconic Resistance

Depending on the source of your sorcerous powers, you gain a natural resistance against certain types of damage. Choose one of the following:

  • Acid
  • Lightning
  • Fire
  • Physical
  • etc

Requirement: You can use this power only as a reaction in response to taking damage. Effect: Before you take the damage, it is reduced by 10. The resistance lasts until the end of your next turn.

————————————————–

The second thing would be to make Sorcerous Origin (and the playtest sample – Draconic Heritage) more of a racial ability. These powers would manifest when you chose Elf: Dragon Heritage, Dwarf: Dragon Heritage or Halfling: Dragon heritage (instead of the other sub-races that are available). Here’s an example of what that MIGHT look like, based on segregating out the existing draconic heritage abilities.

————————————————–

Draconic heritage

Draconic heritage

Besides being a (Dwarf/elf/Halfling) somewhere in your ancestry, the blood of a dragon entered your lineage. Its effects do not manifest in every generation, and they do not always appear as full-fledged powers. But in you, the blood runs true.

Ability Adjustment – +1 to (str for dwarf, cha for elf and con for Halfling)

Dwarf Special ability: Dragon Strength – You channel the ancient strength of the dragon, causing you to deal heavy damage. Effect: The next time you hit a hostile creature with a melee attack during the next minute, that creature takes an extra 2d6 damage.

Elf Special ability: Draconic Physique: After you have spent 3 spell points, your hands become claw-like and your body grows more imposing. Until you complete a long rest, you gain a +2 bonus to the damage rolls of your melee attacks.

Halfling Special Ability: Draconic Toughness – just like the Hill Dwarf’s Dwarven Toughness ability

————————————————–

Conceptually this just makes more sense to me. Sorcery becomes a discipline, something that can be learned, be nurtured.  Sorcerous origin becomes nature, something you are born with.

There are still a few big issues to this approach I haven’t reconciled yet

  • Sorcery still veers too far away from the core class of Wizard, and I want to look at simplifying their basic abilities even further, or at least making the mechanics as similar to Wizard as possible yet still keeping the “feel” of a sorcerer
  • My tweaking pushes Specialties into becoming a little too overbalancing/powerful – with specialties like this one, why would someone choose a specialty like healer or Survivor?
  • There’s no Draconic Heritage Human, because Humans don’t have sub-races (at least not yet, something else I’d change and may write about in a future post).
  • The above examples need to be further balanced (meant as examples, only)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »