Monday, December 26, 2011

House Rules - Spell Slots

Over at Third Edition House Rules there was a post recently about recalling spells, and I made a comment about my own house spell slots rule.  Rather than respond in the comments section, I am posting a bit of info about my house rule here.

The idea is we turn spell casters into spontaneous casters.  This was mainly to address two issues in our game.  First - to eliminate the time spent in our game selecting spells to take.  We don't get to play often enough and I didn't want to consume any more time for player preparation when ever there was spell recharging.  Second - to have all those interesting spells that infrequently or never get chosen because unless you have very specific information, you just have to choose certain mainstay spells to be successful.  For example, if a low level wizard has to choose between Sleep and Animate Rope, just how often is the latter going to be selected?

I won't post the entire house rule, but I'll summarize bits of it.  There remain requirements for resting, a quiet environment, preparation time and high enough ability level to cast the spell.  Wizards still require a book.  

A spell slot is the capacity to cast any single spell of that level the spell caster bound during the preparation ritual.  The number of spell slots is basically the same as the number of spells a caster can memorize according to the RAW.  A spell caster always has the option to consume a higher-level spell slot with a lower-level spell.  So, for example, a Wizard prepares a spell slot and binds spells from her book in ritual preparation for consuming that slot when a spell of the appropriate level is cast.  Or simply put, one first level spell slot allows you to cast one first level spell.

We also allow more frequent replenishment than RAW, so there are some recent casting limits to prevent taking advantage of the ability to get spells more often.  Unless a spell is permanent, instantaneous or has duration of a full day or greater, spells that a wizard has cast that are still in effect impact her available spell slots. A spell slot is connected to such spells, and if replenished immediately ends or dismisses the active spell upon the completion of the spell slot replenishment ritual. A wizard can choose not to replenish one or more individual spell slots, and therefore keep those spells in effect.

So, in practice, what effect does this have on our game?  If does have the desired effect of reducing in game spell selection time, and it has had the desired effect of enabling more frequent use of what would be otherwise less popular spells.  It does give spell casters a boost in power, and we have given other classes a few house rule changes to share the love.  Using this house rule it is also wise not to make too many Wizard spells available too quickly.  As an experience DM, I find that bumping the challenge rating to address this power increase is not any more difficult than managing challenge ratings given a party's overall capability, size, kind of magic wielded, etc.

As always with house rules, your mileage may vary.  The dice never lie.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  I hope you can enjoy it with friends and family.  Thank you all for reading, commenting, and fellow bloggers for their interesting musings.  Best to you all.

Here is a link to an old post of mine, a small attempt at humor.  The Night Before Christmas, D&D blogger style.

And of course, a classic Christmas read - Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus.

May Santa be good to you and fill your stocking full of exquisite game goodies.

Friday, December 23, 2011

NY Times Review of Islay Single Malts

There is a nice short review of Islay Single Match Scotch Whisky brands over at the NY Times
The article makes some interesting observations and facts about the seaside Islay.  This might be useful to you if you are looking for a last minute gift for a 'peat' lover, or are a wanna be peat lover.

I have had the Lagavulin 16 and Bowmore 12 on the top ten list and enjoyed both.  Laphroaig tops the list for value, and appears twice, but I have not had those distills.  I have had the Laphroaig Quarter Cask, and wouldn't recommend it for peat noobs, but it is a must try for peat lovers.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Victorian Shadows update

We concluded my 'one-nighter' Victorian Shadows adventure after two nights, the second of which was a long night.  I must say the fact it took two nights is mostly my fault.  It had been a while since the group had played the game/characters and for the first outing a throw a mystery at them.  The mystery was full of clues as to who abducted good Dr. Talbot and why.  Lots of reasons to suspect everybody in the story, with every character having some flaws and suspicious behaviors. 

When I build a mystery adventure I use a matrix to layout who knows what.  It helps me make sure every NPC has some significant role, it helps me make sure that critical clues are available in multiple places (to avoid a critical clue going unfound), and during play it is a handy reference guide when the players are interacting with NPCs.  It was a significant aid during this adventure.

Perhaps my favorite moments involved a couple of players struggling to determine the significance of the sack of fresh potatoes hidden under the housekeepers bed.  The poor old woman was harvesting what was left of potato crops planted years ago and abandoned, and selling them on the side for a few coin.  They revealed her to Dr. Talbot's son, believing this had something to do with the disappearance of his father.  Sobbing, she confessed to stealing the potatoes and begged for forgiveness and her job.  The son sarcastically applauded the team for solving the great potato crime while his father was still missing.  The look on my players faces was priceless.  When you plant red herrings in an adventure you can only hope they turn out so well.

The entire first evening of play was role playing.  The choices the players made did not take them into any violent conflict.  Regardless of that, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves even though they left the first night quite baffled.

In the end, the party did not quite figure out the mystery but did manage to save Dr. Talbot and prevent the object of the bad guys desires, the notebook of the famous geologist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu, from falling into their hands.  The finale involved encounters with shadow creatures including six legged wolves, a big foot like monster, and some small bipedal dog creatures and their shark mouthed, four eyed dog companions.  The party fought back with guns (the weapons include a percussion cap 44 caliber six shot revolver, a Spencer carbine, and some other small bore pistols), knives, a crossbow, and some daring and questionable use of dynamite tossed by our resident mad chemist.  So all ended well, even though Dr. Talbot has a bit of restoration work to perform on Alcott Manor.

It was a fun time, and I'll likely be running some more Victorian Shadows soon.  Only this time the adventures will be less complicated and more likely to finish in a night. (ha!) 

Turns out this is my 100th blog post.  Although I am not prolific, this has also been fun, and I thank readers for stopping by and continue to welcome your comments.

The dice never lie.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Marques de Caceres Crianza 2007

With our pot roast dinner tonight I opened a bottle of Marques de Caceres Crianza 2007.  This has long been a go to table wine for me for 'ordinary' meat and potatoes type of food.  This Spanish wine is from the famed Rioja region, which produces many fine Tempranillo blends.  The Crianza designation tells you it has been aged in oak.  The 'black' Tempranillo grape is a staple in Spain, especially the Rioja region.  For some people, a bottle like this defines Spanish wine - red Tempranillo from Rioja.  Although there are many other fine wines in Spain, I find it hard to argue with the classic status of such a wine.

I don't find the nose particularly strong in this bottle.  It is a medium bodied red, with some tannic structure and more acidity.  I taste dark cherry, a bit of mocha, and maybe some hints of spiciness.  This label has produce consistent results over the years so I am rarely concern about picking up a bottle.  There is nothing flashy here, this is a solid, reliable, tasty table wine which can stand up to a nice piece of meat.  A little more rustic and interesting than a typical Merlot.  It seems to benefit from a little breathing so pouring the first glass early is not a bad idea.  If you can't wait, drink away, but you might find the second glass more tasty.  (which is often the case even if not entirely true - go figure)

So in summary, nice reliable table wine worth buying at a price point of about $15, even better if on sale.  Sometimes the Rioja designation drives the price up a few more dollars, which is unfortunate.  Wait for the sale, you'll enjoy it more.

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