Sunday, December 7, 2014

You kids get off my hex grid!

Ok, so maybe that does not resonate like You kids get off my lawn!  Again, the same article by a guest
poster over at Gnome Stew triggered this gnotion.

I have dice older than half of the people in the game I am in.  These twenties are long since retired.  The edges are so badly chipped and worn they do not roll true, and without corners take a while to stop rolling.  These are the dice where you used crayons to fill in the spaces so you could read the numbers.

Ah, the memories.

Much has changed in gaming.  We had no electronic support (my only computer at the time was a TRS Color 80), and had no body to learn from via message boards, and we did not know any other gamers.  We were blissfully alone and blazing our own trail.  I do not believe our fun suffered at all from it.  Our only connection to the outside gaming world was via Dragon Magazine.

I am not making any comment about where gaming is now as being bad or unfun - just different.  It is fun watching these 'youngsters' learn the role play ropes and make the same mistakes we used to make.  Heck, we still make the same mistakes we used to make.

Ultimately, we are still a bunch of folks sitting around a table, adventuring, rolling dice, conquering challenges, and laughing hysterically.  I am glad these kids invited me to their game, even though it is not a hex grid.

I have pretty new dice with nice sharp edges and they seem to roll true enough for us.  Sometimes I take out my old dice just to look at them and hold them in my hand.

The dice never lie.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Time for gaming?

An article by a guest poster over at Gnome Stew triggered this bit of a rant.  There is no connection between these sites except maybe for our fondness for gnomes maybe.  If you have not read anything over there, I suggest you check it out.

The article was mostly about getting back into gaming, and how to make gaming recruits that stick.  The author did make one point which triggered this rant.

We don't find time for gaming, we make time for gaming.

Insert what ever else you are passionate about in place of gaming if you prefer.  If you wait to find time for the things which are important, then you are letting life pass you by.  Make time for what is important, find time for things which are not.  Simple.

You have said it.  I have said it.  We have heard it over and over again.  I can't find the time for...

So - if gaming is your passion and you are not playing because you cannot find time for it, something is broken.  No excuses, get out there and make time for what is important.

The dice never lie.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Goose Island Oktoberfest

I know the Goose Island folks have been around a while, but they seem to be making a splash in the North East recently, and well, I just had to try some out.  Here we go with the Oktoberfest.

First off, I like there brand - "We don't need to be the only beer you drink, we just want to be the best beer you drink."  That resonates with me.

The label announces it as a traditional Marzen, IBU rating 17, 6.4% ABV.  It pours out slightly opaque coppery colored with a nice foamy head which dissipates fairly quickly to a thin lacing.  Seems very much a classic Octoberfest style beer.  I get some caramel/toffee kind of aroma.

There is a sweet butterscotch and toffee taste to it, with a little bit of stickiness in the mouth.  I generally do not like 'sweet' drinks but this seems nicely balanced with just enough bitterness to know you are drinking a beer, but having lots of roasted/toasted malt flavor.  Maybe a little honey flavor too.  A medium body beer, not something you would want on a hot day but this would go lovely with Germain comfort food.  The moderate carbonation is not overwhelming, and the after taste leaves your mouth watering a bit.

Very much in balance but featuring the toffee and roasted malt flavors.  The label also calls our dried apricot, which I can taste a little but is not strong for me.  It does not have the depth of flavor of a very expensive craft beer, but definitely is a nice autumn beer and it stands out at its price point.  If given the choice between a Sam's October and this, I would choose this.

Thumbs up!  Cheers.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

D&D 5E: unlearning old ways and more rulings not rules

Last post I mentioned how we were less than spectacular in our last two encounters.  Well it turns out that further led to us being overrun by the rest of the current inhabitants who were not pleased we broke into their stronghold.  The entire evening was combat and searching post combat (kill things & take their stuff).  A number of interesting rule related questions came up.

I noticed another player counting diagonal squares in the 1-2 method we used to use in our 3.5E game.  Turns out we never asked the DM how he wanted to run tactical grid movement.  Half of us were doing 1-2 diagonals and the other half were not.  Oops.  DM ruling - no extra cost for diagonals.

We were hit from two directions by opponents.  The wizard chose to place a flaming sphere in one of the doorways to hold them off while we focused on the other attackers.  Questions came up: is the sphere solid, what kind of cover does it provide, can creatures run through the sphere, does it do damage if they do?  On the spot DM ruling - no ruling on solid, provides half cover, creatures moving through the sphere itself would take damage, and we'll sort this out between games.

Due to the party not really working together here, we end up with a fighter surrounded by enemies in a nearby room.  We previously learned the hard way about having two or more hobgoblins next to one of our folks.  The wizard planned to rush in and blast away with burning hands but before his turn a hobgoblin places himself in the opening apparently foiling that plan.  Or so the DM thinks.  My rogue has an inspiration coin and this is a great time to use it.  I draw a dagger and throw - advantage roll gives me not only the hit I needed but a critical hit, which with sneak attack is enough to take him down.  The wizard executes his plan, which takes down enough opponents so the fighter survives and takes out the rest.

Feeling like we were about to be overrun (feeling was correct), we prepared to flee.  Fortunately, the team did think about holding a door closed against oncoming onslaught.  Sadly, the weaker of our two fighters who was already hurt and our wizard decided to take on the task.  Well, to make a long story short, they were overrun.  An opponent (no spoiler since we are playing Lost Mine of Phandelver) appears in the doorway and on shots the wizard, the DM says they used stealth to get to the spot which is how it got advantage.  We shake our heads on that one, unless we did not understand the terrain we did not see how that was likely.

Now the hurt fighter was surrounded and contemplating using disengage to move away when I asked if he considered using dodge.  Dodge?  Seems like he never understood this action was available and in the first time in about six sessions someone on our team took the dodge action.  So he decided dodge it is, and stayed in place to avoid opportunity attacks until (presumably) the rest of the party came to rescue him.  Man of faith this fighter must be.

My rogue comes around the corner and sees the new mess we are in.  When I last saw my group things were not so grim.  That is what I get for going into another room to get some treasure.  I decide to use my invisibility potion and figure I will wait for a chance to feed a healing potion to the wizard when the bad guys are focused elsewhere.  I move into position.  Our cleric remote cures the wizard, who feeling desperate pulls out a fireball scroll, makes his roll, rolls statistically improbably damage and toasts all the bad guys leaving only the most powerful one left standing.  Sadly for me, being invisible, the wizard does not know I am there and I enjoy a good toasting too.

Now we questions, what happens when an invisible character goes to zero hit points?  Look at the spell and it requires concentration.  I had not even considered that, and had not even considered a potion might require concentration from a non-spell casting.  DM ruling, I become visible.  Which turns out to be convenient for me because other wise they could not find me to fix me up.

But now this really begs the question: are potion spell concentration requirements the same as casting a spell?  And would that mean you could only have one potion active at a time which requires concentration?

Stay tuned - the dice never lie.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On D&D 5E encounter variability

Some like to know how 'swingy' an edition of D&D can be.  That is to say, how encounters can swing back and forth in terms of who has the edge do to aspects of variability.

Last session our party of five 3rd level characters absolutely destroyed a group of four apparently normal orcs.  We played it well, gained surprise, never lost tempo, and took them apart with hardly a scratch to the party.

Later that game night, we encountered a pair of hobgoblins.  We misread the terrain, lost potential surprise, got ourselves tangled up in a narrow passage and one of the fighters nearly went to zero hit points before we put down the hobs.

I would rate it as satisfyingly 'swingy'.  I know that is not very objective, but I like the fact that good play has significant results and of course the reverse.

Funny moment after the hobgoblin battle: one of the fighters removes a bar from a door and opens it.  The resulting roar from the room has the fighter scurrying away from the door across the room to prepare for combat.  The rest of the players stare open mouthed at the fighter's player until someone finally says, "Why didn't you just close the door?"

The dice never lie.

Monday, November 10, 2014

After another 5E adventure night.

The adventure continues.  I am not going to recount everything that occurs, just highlight what I think are interesting learnings or experiences.

Nobody went to zero hit points this session, breaking our trend.  We all made successful saves against Mr. Nothic, which was just luck.  Beyond fighting Nothic and removing the skeletons, most of the session was role playing, sorting out treasure, hiring a pack bearer, and being a general nuisance. I have not hired a pack bearer in years! It was oddly satisfying.  I wonder how long he will last?

Do combats go faster?  A long time player said the following when it came around to his turn again, "Is it my turn already?"

Some confusion about the jumping rule which was quickly answered.  I like knowing how far I can jump without rolling.  Since no one has tried to jump farther than they can without rolling yet, I do not know the mechanism for resolving it.  I expect a simple DC vs. Athletic check.

Question came up about our wizard knowing another cantrip from the captured spell book.  I think this was a DM error, including the dead wizards cantrips in the spell book.  I wonder if a wizard can unlearn a cantrip and replace it with a new one if decides one of his original ones is not as useful as he thought it would be.  The basic rules seem silent on the matter, and unless it is covered by the PHB or DMG this seems like a DM call/house rule.

I am still wondering about the fighter's second wind ability.  The flavor of being able to have second winds all day by just sitting around having short rests seems off to me.  My gut reaction is to say they can only use the ability to shrug off damage taken in the most recent encounter during or at the end of the encounter.  Otherwise it seems to circumvent the spending hit dice mechanic.  Not a deal breaker for me, but I will continue to ponder it as we play.  Since I am not the DM, in this game it is not my call anyway.

The only other rule which continues to trouble me so far is shooting through apparently unlimited creatures to hit an enemy with only the cost of half cover.  I know this falls under the category of DM ruling, but I would lean towards a table standard of some amount of creatures (say two) gives half cover, additional creatures (say three more) give 3/4 cover, and after that it is full cover.  Perhaps even this is too lenient.  Another one to ponder.

We are reaching the point where we have more treasure than we can spend on small items, but not enough to buy more expensive items.  I am hoping the surfeit of gold will lead to role playing opportunities not simple hunts for magic items.

So far the general consensus is people are liking this edition.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I have been bested by a fortune cookie

Chinese food, or at least what passes as Chinese feed here in New England, is a staple for eating out or 'take out' or 'take away' depending on from where you call home.  As ubiquitous as the faux Chinese cuisine is, so too is the fortune cookie.

Some just read and laugh at the pithy Confucius like sayings, others prefer to read them aloud with the suffix "in bed".  To me a bit of Chinese sounding advice is not a fortune.  To open an orange flavored cookie and read, "Wisdom comes from experience", is disappointing.  It may be wise, but it is no fortune.  "You will win the lottery" or "A dark stranger awaits outside" is a fortune.

So there I was, finished with my meal and ready to heap scorn upon my not-fortune cookie.  I carefully opened the plastic wrapper, which is strange since I am going to crush the cooking anyway to get at the paper inside.  I guess I am just obsessive like that.  Good news, the cookie is not stale and I can eat it.  So I pop half the cookie in my mouth and read what I expect to be my not-fortune, followed by shaking my head and clever witticisms of scorn.

Instead I laugh.  I laugh hard.  Hard enough that I am not able to read it immediately and pass it to my wife to read.

It says, "You will be successful someday."

Not only has this simple sentence taken me aback but it has disarmed my scorn by providing a real fortune. Further more, the clever bastards have in the guise of saying something clearly positive cut me off at the knees.  One simple sentence, and I can visualize the Asian gentleman smiling every so slightly at me, has devalued my accomplishments as a parent who has successfully raised four children, my achievements of thirty years as a business professional, my contributions to local civic organizations, my short stint as a musician in my younger days, you name it - they have all been stripped away by this good natured, I have faith in you, do not give up now, little piece of fortune.

Touche master fortune writer, for tonight you have bested me.  But be wary, for someday I will be successful and then, watch out!
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