Tuesday, December 23, 2014


The bloggers version with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, on the 'net and in the house, Not a blogger was posting, motionless their mouse
The FRPG musings were posted on blogspot with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas would be reading there
The characters were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of treasure hoards danced in their heads
And mamma with her handbook, and I with my map, Had just nodded off for a short gamer's nap
When from the game room there arose such a clatter, I fell from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away down the stairs I tumbled with fright, Tore open the door and threw on the lights.
The rays from tree lights on the hexgrid below Gave an erie lustre of magic to objects that glow,
When, what to my bloodshot eyes should appear, But miniatures, a sleigh, and eight pewter reindeer
With a little old driver, so red and waist thick, I knew it was painted to look like St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles on hastes spells they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name; "Now, Bigby! now, Evard! now, Rary and Tenser! On, Heward! on Tasha! on, Drawmij and Nystul!
To the top of the castle! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As wizards, who at fifth level take the spell fly, those figures they flew just missing my eye.
So up to the Mantel-top the miniature reindeer they flew, the tiny sleigh full of games, and St. Nicholas too. And then, in a twinkling, I heard as they stood, prancing and pawing of metal on wood.
As I drew up my hand, and was uttering a sound, off the mantel St. Nicholas enlarged with a bound. He was dressed in fake fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes looked tarnished with faux ashes and soot
A bundle of boxes fell on the floor with his growth, like at Gencon, a marketer just opening his booth.
His red eyes -- how they twinkled! it was really quite scary!
His lips were bright red, more like blood than a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a shortbow, his beard braided dwarf like was as white as the snow
In his teeth was a pipe the color of bones, the smoke it encircled his head like ioun stones
He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook, when he laughed like gelatinous cube jelly.
He was chubby and plump, who though him an elf? He is more like a first edition gnome, I thought to myself
A wink of his eye, and my reactions had trailed, I was immobile, my save it had failed
He spoke not a word, but went straight to my snacks, and stuffed his mouth full and mumbled, 'relax'.
And laying his finger aside of his nose, getting quite small, up the mantel he rose
He sprang to his sleigh, said 'teleport' to his team, and vanished all like they were a dream.
But I heard him exclaim, from the ether out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, back to posting 'morrow night."

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!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

5E Lost Mine of Phandelver: 4th game night

Our  4th game night of this module, and we have managed to have a session about every week to ten days.  Just enough to remember what happened on the previous outing.  So far it remains fun and relatively quick paced, though sometimes the players wanted to discuss to death what we should do next which does at times slow us done.  Role playing my character as described in the pregens, the Halfling Rogue, I have no use for plans anyway so easily agree to any plan and do whatever I want when we actually encounter difficulty.  It does sometimes create humorous party tension.

We take a long rest in town.  While on my watch I hear a woman scream in the distance.  I decide my Rogue would only care if it was his aunt in danger.  Since it does not sound like a halfling woman, I do not bother to wake the party.  I tell them they needed the rest.

We managed to get a surprise round on a group of 5 opponents.  Between the Surprise round, and those of us who rolled high initiative for the first round, we took out three and wounded one more before they even got to act.  The DM gave us advantage on the surprise round, and I believe that to be a mistake.  I will take it up with him next session and find out if that is supposed to be that way.

Once again, we had a character go down to 0 hit points.  This is not unexpected except we have had exactly one character each session go to 0 hit points.  I figured it would be my rogue this time, but it was not - the Noble fighter went down.  That puts him in the lead in the party for being dropped.  Maybe we should have a contest.

Again we have an NPC encounter who gives us a 'quest'.  It really does make this module seem like a video game.  Maybe I am just old school in that regard and this is what has come to be expected.  Granted, this module is supposed to be accessible to beginners, but it seems we do not have to work very hard to get leads which take us elsewhere.

I think I have my head straight about my Rogue's Cunning Action and the Disengage, Dash & Hide options.  I used them pretty effectively in the combat, and it did not take me long to call out my turn- I was pretty quick in rattling off my attack, move and bonus action.  In several cases I was in 5' hall combat and was able to shoot through cover and dash in and out effectively.  Not sure how realistic it is, but it seems to work in the game.    ... and yes I know it is a fantasy game so I am not hung up on realism or simulationism but more concerned with verisimilitude.

We scored some pretty good treasure, which lead to a short discussion about what do you do with all your gold in 5E.  We will see how that turns out as we have not focused much on costs of living, partly because we have only been in Phandalin for a few days, and partly because that is like accounting and who wants to do accounting in D&D?

That is it for now.  The dice never lie.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Remembering Jack Bruce

I learned to today that Jack Bruce has passed away.  It was reported in the main news media and on his official web site.

Jack will be primarily remember for being one third of what was arguably the greatest power trio rock band ever, Cream.  As a bass player myself I was heavily influenced by this man.  Though while in Cream he was often overshadowed by Eric Claption, Jack's contributions are undenyable.

I was not old enough to have seen Cream live, but I did manage to see Jack on tour with one of his 'Friends' groups.  It was 1980 and I saw Jack Bruce and Friends at the Main Act in Lynne Massachusetts.  Friends on this tour were Billy CobhamClem ClempsonDavid Sancious.  I remember arriving early and getting a table (imagine that, a table to see these legends!) dead center a dozen feet from where the band would play.  And did they ever play.

As we waited we watched the roadies set up Cobhams drums.  I remember being amazed at this huge mound of percussion being arrayed on stage and every cymbal imaginable around the set, each gleaming brand new.

We were treated to a raucus spectable and some amazing music.  These four played songs from Cream, some Cobham jazz/fusion numbers, Humble Pie from Clemons, and E Street band songs from Sancious.  I was mezmorized watching Jack Bruce not so much play his bass, but attack it with fury and passion, and drive the music frenzy.  Sweating profusely, he pranced and played, sang and hollered, and if he was the pied piper I would have followed him anywhere.

So thanks Jack, for that one night, and for all the joy I get listening to Cream recordings and other recordings I have of yours over the years.  Rest in peace for a job well done.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

5E Lost Mine of Phandelver: our 3rd game night

This continues my thoughts and experiences with 5th Edition D&D started here.

We are right on track with having a character drop to 0 hit points each session.  He got to roll one death saving throw before my character was able to get to him with a potion.  Each of the three sessions it has been a different character.  Since my character has not gone to 0 hit points yet, this statistics would imply I have a 50% chance next session of going to 0 hit points.  Heh.

We setup an ambush, and performed it horribly.  Amazing that a bunch of experienced players would botch
an ambush, but we did.  We did manage to win the encounter, so we did not play it as bad as we could, but there was definitely a number of mis-steps.  A spell was cast from 'cover' which basically alerted the enemy there was something going on and then people just pored out of the hiding spot before the enemy reached the optimum and agreed spot.  I think this was a combination of not being familiar with the rules and no plan survives contact with the enemy.  There is no confusion about getting a surprise round of actions.

A player fell victim to a minor trap and was 'surprised' there was no saving throw.  Even though this player cut his teeth on 1E, the last 15 years was spent playing 3.5E and typically getting saving throw.  The damage was minor so I think this was a good reminder that if you do something risky (stupid) you will probably just pay and not get a lucky saving throw.

During this adventure it feels like whenever we talk to an NPC for information, we also get another clue/quest to follow.  Now, I know it is not every time, but it is happening alot.  I don't know whether this feels like a sand box, with lots of choices, or a video game where only NPCs who have another quest for us appear in the story.  We'll see how this develops further.

I personally had some confusion about the Disengage action.  Reading it again, it is quite simple, but at the table I thought the action gave me a sort of disengage/dash combo - which really makes no sense and would make dash superfluous.  Nothing wrong with the way it is written up in the rules, just me not fulling grokking it yet.

We had more fighting in 5 foot corridor experience.  It is clear we need some more practice to optimize our performance with the new rules.  Split your move around actions, different attacks of opportunity, and still sorting out the power of cunning action feels like we are leaving opportunities on the table.  I am committed to get better at this.

 Pacing remains good.  We had two combats, an additional encounter where we talked through it rather than fight, some role playing, and three extensive conversations with NPCs in about a 4 hour session.

At first the ability to make ranged attacks through other creatures as cover seems somehow off.  I have been comtemplating some sort of house rules about how many cover creatures and how much cover plus the chance to hit the creatures who are providing cover.  So far I have come to the conclusion that is much effort for little gain and will leave things be.

The potential for 'abuse' of the fighter's second wind ability has me thinking about potential house rules for limiting it to addressing damage taken in the most recent encounter and must be done during or right after the encounter.  However, it does cause more accounting.  Perhaps the harm for abuse, essentially letting the fighter use more short rests and completely avoid spending hit dice is not so bad.  Since I am not the DM in this module, I will be quiet about it and watch it in play.  It may or may not get a rule in games I DM.

That is all for now.  The dice never lie.

Friday, October 10, 2014

5E Lost Mine of Phandelver: our 2nd game night

This continues my thoughts and experiences with 5th Edition D&D started here.

Pacing seems good.  We played for about 3 1/2 hours which included role play of party bickering, several NPC discussions, some searching and three combats.  I feel like it will go even quicker once we are more comfortable with the rules, maybe even a couple of sessions from now.  Between the two sessions we have had around 6-7 combats and I really like the balance of simplicity and flexibility of the Action, Move, Bonus Action economy.   There was some delay as we bought some goods because we only have one copy of the rule set to share.  I will have to print out the basic rule set from the PDF so we can speed that part up a bit.

From WotC
As a Rogue I have not yet used my Cunning Action, but I can already see I will have to make good choices on how to spend my bonus action.  I managed to purchase some darts on the first night and I have been using my bonus action to throw one whenever I could squeeze it in between other actions.  I mean why not maximize my output?  Now I will have to choose between that, and using the Dash, Disengage or Hide.  Just enough choices to be interesting but not so many as to bog down in indecision.

When we leveled up, it was a quick and easy affair.  For my rogue it was hit points, hit die, and get the Cunning Action feature.  I am thinking Cunning Action is going to be huge and great fun.  One of the fighters assumed he was going to have to do all kinds of math to level up (as he was accustomed to 3E).  Learning he was not, I don't know if he was disappointed or relieved.  He seemed to be satisfied to get Action Surge.

I had an inspiration coin, which is how our DM is giving out inspiration, and had intended to use it against the bug bear who had nearly surprised us.  However, a couple of well rolled hits by the cleric and fighters negated the need for my rogue to attack the bug bear.  At that time I felt perhaps I was holding onto the inspiration too long.  After all, I cannot earn another one until I use this one up.

Hmmm.... maybe some spoilers in this paragraph:  It turns out I rather enjoyed the chance to use it back
in town.  I had been keeping a low profile so as not to be notice by Red Brands until I wanted to be noticed.  Our group left the inn and ran into a pack of four of them in the street who demanded we hand over our 'stuff' and get out of town.  My character hissed out from under his hooded cloak, "Get out of our way or die!" and furtively drew two darts.  The DM took the opportunity to have that Red Brand recognize me, "You have a lot of nerve to show you face around here."  To which I responded, "You won't be telling anyone." and threw the darts.  I did manage to critical with one of them and next round use my inspiration to shoot my bow with advantage at the same guy and take him down.  I liked how the rule mechanic allowed and encouraged me to use it in a way that tied to the role playing.

The wizard wanted to experiment with his spells so he ran right up to the Red Cloaks and cast Thunder Wave.  They were tougher than he thought, and although he did some damage and knocked one down they quickly brought him to zero hit points.  I don't think that is the scenario where that spell shines, and certainly seemed foolish to me but hey - chaotic folks gotta experiment.

The wizard did not even need to roll a death saving throw as the cleric had him back up with channel divinity that he split between the wizard and a beleaguered fighter.  So each night of play we have had one character go to zero hit points, or about once every three encounters.  No one has been close to dying yet but that may be in part because we are being a bit cautious.  We will see.

So far, the group concensus = fun.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Barad joins a D&D 5th Edition game

Cover Art from Wizards of the Coast
My son and his friends wanted to run the D&D Starter Set game and needed some players.  In need of a game I recruited a couple of my friends and off we go to Phandalin.

I do not intend to give away the module, but inevitably there will be spoilers.  I'll try to minimize them, and certainly not give away key facts.  You have been warned.

Mostly I will talk about random impressions and how we enjoy or do not enjoy the 5th Edition rules.  It seems funny to call it 5th Edition as Wizards spent so much time calling it 'Next'.  However it seems appropriate to me to call it 5th Edition because it gives perspective, not accuracy.

My view is colored by my FRPG gaming experiences.  As noted elsewhere on this blog, and in my profile, I have mostly played D&D.  The games with which I have the most experience are:

  • Holmes basis RAW
  • AD&D/1E RAW and house ruled
  • D&D 3E RAW, D&D 3.5 RAW and house ruled
  • D&D 4E RAW
  • D20 Modern/Past
We gather and introductions are done. Two of us know everyone.  Six people around the table, half under 30, half over 55.  It will be interesting.  Characters are handed out.  Three of us gave preferences for a particular class and with no objections we got those characters.  The remaining two players choose from the fighters.  I had requested the rogue, without having read the character sheet.  I have interest in exercising the rogue character because to me it gives the fastest and best view into the game for me to be able to DM a game later on.

Some of us have read the basic rules PDF, so we review some of the changes we feel will be most helpful to reduce confusion and player disappointment.  If I am remembering them correctly the main discussions were around:

  • Advantage/Disadvantage
  • No flanking
  • Change in Attacks of Opportunity
  • Action economy - Move, Action, Bonus Action
  • Moving before and after attacks
  • Hit points and healing
  • Saving throws and skills
Character sheets were briefly read and off we went.  There was no complicated "you meet in a tavern" awkwardness, we started in the caravan to Phandalin - our connection only that we all knew the Dwarf NPC somehow.  How we knew him was up to us, mostly.  I was fairly pleased with the pre-generated character sheet.  It was not hard to find most information with the exception of equipment was not quick to find items, and the inclusion and focus on Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds & Flaws made jumping into character quick and easy.

Half of the group was playing D&D before the other half was born, and we were quite comfortable with role playing on the fly so the in character discussions started right from the beginning.  Referring back to the traits etc was helpful, but did not eliminate the need for the detailed back ground on the back of the sheet.

Combats were quick, easy and fun.  I still have to remind myself when my rogue gets advantage vs when I get sneak attack, but that is more edition confusion than rule complication.  I definitely recommend people have two sets of dice to keep the rolling moving quickly.  Two twenties to deal with Advantage/Disadvantage, and two damage dice to deal with critical hits.  I found with all the action going on at the table, if I picked up the damage die to re roll for the additional critical damage quickly forgot the original roll.  Of course that memory challenge could be age related....

Goblins from Wizards of the Coast
I agree with what I have read elsewhere regarding monsters being more challenging.  Our encounter with goblins was very dangerous and could have gone badly for our little group of would be heroes.  One of our fighters went down to zero in the first two rounds and was clearly in danger of perishing.  Quick action by the rest of the group got him back in the game and we managed to handle the encounter.

1st level Characters are definitely more fragile than in 4th edition, but much more sturdy than in 1st & 3rd edition RAW.  So far my opinion is this is a good thing.  Characters in 1st edition could and did die on randomly good rolls; we house ruled additional hit points in our game.  We did similar adjustments in 3rd edition.  Although I have had only one game outing so far (excluding a play test game), my feeling is the starting hit points is about right compared to the monster challenges.  I like the idea of fledgling heroes who need to learn to survive, but not so fragile they would die if locked in a closet with a house cat.  Those long time players will understand the reference.

That is it for now, more soon.  Share your experience in the comments.
The dice never lie.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nacho Punch Hipster Beer

I like craft brews, however I don't think I have tried any of these yet.  Still looking for them at my local pub.

YouTube Video - Hipster Beer

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Motels... thirty years later

My wife and I went to see the Motels (band web page) in August at the Tupelo Music Hall.  The last time we saw the Motels (wikipedia) it was over thirty years ago, and was at the Hampton Beach Casino.  I was looking for something a bit special for my lovely and talented wife on her birthday.  I was hoping to do something which harkened back to when we were dating or just before we got married, as this year was our 30th anniversary.  Our first big date was the Motels concert at the Casino, and around our anniversary I had even looked into seeing if the Motels were still around, to see if they were playing anywhere.  Serendipitous, a few months later there they are right near home.  Sweet.

Flash back a little over thirty years ago.  My wife and I had met and gotten together a few times, but had not had any special big date yet.  Around comes a band I had seen a year or two earlier in a Boston club by the name of the Motels.  They were an LA style new wave band with a notable sound, a crisp delivery, and were led by a very charismatic woman by the name of Martha Davis.  They were coming around again, I got tickets, the show was terrific and we had a memorable first big date.

So, here we are over thirty years later, having our first big date again.  Sort of.  The band is now called Martha Davis and the Motels.  Martha, my wife and I are all thirty years older.  However Martha has a band full of young guys half her age none of which are original.  We enter the venue and sit down.  As we look over the crowd, there are very few people in the room who were not around to see the original Motels thirty years ago, and those who were not look to be the children of those who were.  Not a few people in the room dressed in clothes you might expect new wave fans thirty years to dress... except it does not look like costumes if you get my drift.

The band comes out.  Martha seems a bit out of sorts and flashes a bottle of wine she was carrying under her arm, "Why try to hide it."  The crowd hollars and hoots in approval.  I am not so sure this is a good sign.   We have a treat tonight, the original sax/keyboard player for the incarnation of the Motels with which I was familiar is travelling with the band.  So, we have two legacy Motels members instead of one - promising.

The jump right to it, playing songs from most of the bands early albums.  If I had met Marth on the street I may not have recognized her with the weight of thirty years on her - - but as soon as she started singing there was no question this was The Martha Davis of Motels fame.  Sure, here voice was a little deeper and more scratchy than it was three decades ago, but she still had feeling in her voice and those unique inflections which made those songs unique and compelling.  The new band was pretty good, though the sound mix was not up to the caliber of a band which was once top 40 material.  The sax player was as good as I remembered him, and I was glad he was touring with them.

Random thoughts

  • The band was not as tight as I thought it should have been, Martha seemed nervous at times, and there might have been some dissapointment in her glances at some of the band members at times.
  • Martha has not translated her previous fame to a new generation yet.  Everybody there was there because they knew the Motels of old
  • Most of the crowd was very adoring of Martha.  She could have screwed up royally and they would have still applauded.  She didn't though.
  • If you listen to the words of some of her songs you might think she has some issues.  There are lots of songs about a woman being abused, feeling powerless, striking out, etc.  Given how she behaves on stage, it might be true.
  • There was a big difference on how she looked at her current band, and her old sax player.  The later gets looks like those of an old dear friend.
  • Martha's stage presence was not as charismatic as I remember it from years ago.  
  • I learned later this was the first night of the tour.  It may explain the jitters.

Overall, we had a great time.  The tickets were very reasonably prices, and it is small intimate venue.  Even not at the peak of her former dynamic self, Martha is still a talented and entertaining performer.  A dance down memory lane was very welcome, though our memories might be through rose colored glasses or whatever the equivalent is for ears.

If you have never heard the Motels, give them a listen.  It is worth it.

Only the Lonely

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Barad plays in a 3E gestalt character game

I joined a game recently where they are using gestalt characters in a third edition with house rules campaign.  Gestalt character definitions can be found in the Unearthed Arcana book.  There were only two players before I joined the game, so the DM chose to use Gestalt characters.

What is a gestalt character?  For a more robust description, look here at the d20srd site.  Short answer: to
support high-powered campaigns, characters essentially take two classes at every level, choosing the best aspects of each. The process is similar to multi-classing, except that characters gain the full benefits of each class at each level. If the two classes you choose have aspects that overlap (such as Hit Dice, attack progression, saves, and class features common to more than one class), you choose the better aspect. The gestalt character retains all aspects that don’t overlap.

Don't ask me to explain how the name links to the word as used in psychology - I don't get it.

If you are running a game, and have only 2-3 players, this is a way to have them cover more capability.  I think it takes a more experienced player to handle one, and certainly takes a more experienced DM to attempt to setup encounters in some sort of balance.  I think the write up in the Unearthed Arcana is spot on: gestalt characters are more powerful than regular characters but NOT twice as powerful.  You still only get one character's worth of actions per round, and even is you have more hit points due to using best in class, it still is not the amount two separate characters would have.

So, in the attack/capability area, you suddenly have more choice which is very powerful.  However, since the DM is hitting you with a larger challenge things can get swingy.  Our experience so far has been if we play well, and the the opponents hard, we do very well.  If we stumble a bit, if we lose the tempo, or get on the defensive things can go sour very quickly.

Most of 'monsters' are just that, regular monsters.  The DM may use higher challenge ratings, which can be dangerous if we don't have the necessary capability to take them down, or more often just use more monsters.  The DM does occasionally include gestalt opponents, but of course we do not know that until they do something unexpected.

All in all the game is fun.  There have been some awkward moments, but I think the DM has done a pretty good job of keeping the party challenged.  And there are times, gestalt character or not, we should just run away to fight another day.  Alas, that does not always happen, and death has occurred.  Usually happens when people get cocky or bored.  We may be powerful, but we are still just three in the action economy.

So, in summary, gestalt seems to be a viable choice if:

  • the party is 2-3 players
  • players and DM are experienced
  • you do not mind additional swingy-ness in the game
  • you do not get hung up on potential rule collisions and let the DM rule quickly and move on

The party consisted of a Paladin-Sorcerer, Fighter-Rogue, Fighter-Wizard, but the Paladin-Sorcerer perished in the last game. (...know when to run away...).  We'll see what he brings in next.  I find the Fighter-Wizard I am playing to be quite flexible and potent, and I am quite pleased that I always seem to have something useful and dangerous to do.  Have a big bad guy in front of me - go all fighter on him, then be suddenly surrounded by lots of troublesome little cretins - how'd you like that flaming hands.

That's it for now.
The dice never lie.

Friday, April 11, 2014

BBC post - The 1980s D&D panic

Seems like this topic never goes away.  At least some people laugh about it now.


The stigma is still real though.  How many of us admit publicly in most social situations to playing this 'geek' game?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Barad sips some Abita Turbodog

Sometimes I feel like the lonely voice in the crowd when I go the the specialty beer shop.  While others are clamoring for the latest super hopped IPA, or IPA like pale ale I ask my local merchant, "You have anything with a nice malty flavor?"

He takes me around back to the 'cave' and points to the six pack of Abita Turbodog.  I know naught how the name relates to the brew, but he was correct - this is a malty ale.

Pours out with a nice thick head which lasted a couple of minutes. The aromas are not strong to me.  It is a dark brown color with reddish tint.  Very pretty.  Taste - ah the taste; sweet malty goodness with hints of chocolate, toffee, and caramel.  Strong enough in tasted that you might not have more than two in a row unless you were pairing with some food.

I like the brew, but I do not find it outstanding.  Except for the fact it is a malty beverage saving me from a sea of out of balance hoppy concoctions.  So for that, I thank you Abita.

I give it a mild thumbs up.  Go ahead and try it if you are like me and need a break from IPAs masquerading as pale ales.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Captain Blood

Once more I read an old adventure novel.  I have a mild interest in old adventure novels.  I am interested in the historical perspective they sometimes reveal, curious about the ground work they have set for future works, they generally are much shorter than the modern behemoths being published, and if I don't care for them I am not out anything but time because I generally get them on my Kindle.

I read this free Kindle version of the novel (spoilers in the 2nd link).

As far as I can tell the novel appears to be historically based.  I am no expert on the time period, about 1688, but they major events seem to track to real history.  The novel is not so much about the main events of the time period but more about the effect it had on people.  As in most adventure novels I have read from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it does its fair share of thinly veiled social commentary.

Basically Captain Blood, is a hero of high moral standards who is thrown low, and comes back in a dashing style.  What more could you ask for in a pirate adventure?

The writing is not too bad.  However several times the writing style devolves into explaining things instead of telling the story.  That also seems to be quite common in early novels.  One thing I do find interesting is the general reviling of the Spanish throughout the book.  I am not sure if that is historically accurate, or just a bias of the author.

All in all, not a bad short read, with some interesting history.  It most certainly is fertile ground for ideas to be used in an episodic adventure style RPG.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Other observations from 4th Edition

After some additional time playing 4th Edition I offer these more recent observations.

Movement, area spells and the lack of extra cost for diagonal movement really does make the action move faster.  That said, I still don't know if I favor the approach.   When playing the 4th Edition game I just went with it and tried not to think about the discontinuity of the approach.  Last week I played in a 3.5 game and the additional time to calculate movement and spell area effects was noticeable.

WoTC online tools for 4E make character upgrades and decisions faster.  I do not know how you would find all the options in books, and whether the cost of that sized library is worth it.  The options in just the core books are a bit limited and the huge number of options available in the on-line tools is tempting.  The DM has a subscription and we logged in as him to make the updates.

In the last session my Mage character was hit with a strange poison which brought me to zero hit points and kept me unconscious.  It was an usual situation, and the numbers were a bit of an oddity, but the net effect was I was not going to die from the poison but there was no way to trigger a save roll or nor death save until additional damage from another source hit my character.  So I was out for a few rounds with nothing at all to do.  Seeing that, the DM gave me control of a bad guy.  I happily attacked the party until I realized if I used an area power that hit my character it would trigger events which would likely have brought my character back into the battle.  The bad guy wouldn't know that, and I didn't want to take advantage of that in playing the bad guy.  Awkward.

I still find formal skill challenges to be awkward.  In the last session an NPC leads us through the explanation of how we prevent a machine from blowing up.  Unfortunately it ended up being a bunch of rolls rather than role playing.  I would still rather see a DM give players a problem and let them figure it out with their own minds and using rolls as a last resort.

Where has Barad been?

Life got complicated the last several months.  Some family issues and the loss of my job.  Not to worry, it will all work out in the end.

Blogging may continue to be spotty.  My 3.5E group essentially ended a while back and there is no outlook for interest in reforming in the near future.  The 4E Zeitgeist campaign I joined is on hiatus, and it may be a permanent end.  I am having difficulty getting interest from my group who plays in my d20 past Victorian Shadows campaign.  In the mean time I am a guest in my sons 3.5E group and am looking for a local table top D&D group to join.

Until next time, all the best.  The dice never lie.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...