Saturday, May 29, 2010

Toma Tinbottom, Dwarf Swordsman

I'm going to take a quick side-path here and blog about an online OD&D campaign I'm getting ready to participate in.  Don't worry folks, the blog isn't going down a different path, it's still a blog about 4th edition, Dungeons and Dragons.  However, I'm excited about this campaign as I get to play alongside some of my favorite RPG bloggers.

Run by popular blogger, @newbiedm,  who decided one day on Twitter to crack open the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, the campaign is set in Mystara and features two dwarfs, a cleric, a wizard, a thief, and an elf. 

Since @SarahDarkmagic decided to blog about her character, Cassidy, Priestess of Apollo, I thought I'd let you guys in on my character:  Toma Tinbottom, Dwarf Swordsman.

I've played OD&D before, (back in the dim past), so I admit I didn't put as much thought into my character as Sarah did.  But since the dice rolled up a dwarf, I decided to kick him old school and bring out as many "dwarf tropes" as I could.

Tinbottom comes from a small clan known as the Allobottoms (think "alloybottoms").  They're not nearly as well off as the Goldbottoms, Silverbottoms, or even the Bronzebottoms, but they do better than the Orebottoms or Coalbottoms.

Tinbottom's father was highly skilled in the art of metal plating, and used his skill to give all kinds of objects a shiny sheen.  However, his father also had a rather heavy gambling debt.  One day, a local knight came calling for a silver plated sword (to hunt down some local werewolves), and Tinbottom (the elder) took the commission.  However, Tinbottom couldn't afford the silver, and instead, plated the knight's sword with tin.  The knight, pleased at the shiny appearance of his new sword, rode off, paying Tinbottom handsomely.

The knight was never heard from again.

Tinbottom was sure the knight came to a foul end at the claws of werewolves, but it could never be proven.  Disgraced and ashamed of his actions, Tinbottom's father gave up his trade and retired in fear (he quakes visibly when hearing the howl of a wolf) and obscurity.  Toma took another path.

Toma, also ashamed of his father's actions, gave up wanting to follow in his father's footsteps (as most dwarfs are want to do).  Instead, Toma decided to make use of his years of experience hanging around weaponry, and became a reasonably skilled swordsman.  While he has a decent enough heart, he's not afraid to wade in and do a dirty job.  He's not afraid to ask, "Does it need killin'?"  If the answer "Yes" is convincing enough, the sword comes out and the wet work begins.

Toma attacks these "dirty jobs" with a gusto.  He figures that every time he makes someone's life a little easier, he has in some way made up for the disgrace of his father. 

While Tinbottom would some day like to return to his mountain home and erase the deeds of his father, for now, he's content to wander the world a bit and see how best he can make his fortune.

Hopefully, he'll have plenty of opportunity to do that.

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Official "Edition War" Weigh In

This is one of those opinion/philosophy pieces, so if you've come to the blog looking for some crunch today, you might be disappointed.

However, ever diligent to try and provide something that passes for entertainment for my readers, I wanted to weigh in on the topic of what the gamer blogosphere likes to call, "The Edition Wars".

Edition wars have been around for a long time.  They're not specific to the gaming hobby, but almost always result when a beloved brand or product goes through changes.  Essentially, it boils down to one person not liking those changes and another person totally loving everything new that has just come out.  Everyone else falls on the continuum in between.

For Dungeons & Dragons®, though, the edition wars really heated up with the release of the 4th edition of the game.  Many things changed in the way the game was played (I'm not going over the details here, see just about every other gaming blog in existence for details on that), and it pissed a lot of people off.  Just as others (probably me included), loved the new rules and have embraced them.  A third group were those somewhere in between.

The arguments about which game is best can get heated, because these issues can be near and dear to our hearts.  I'm okay with that, but I've lived too long to get upset because someone doesn't like the way I choose to play a game.  Conversely, I don't get upset when you tell me that you want to play "X" either. 

In order to avoid all the potential vitriol surrounding the edition wars, I developed a gaming philosophy related to Dungeons & Dragons.  I've been playing the game for some 30 years, and have played every edition (and have acted as a Dungeon Master in all but one edition).  I make no claims to the title of "Expert".  I don't consider myself one.  "Experienced" or "Well Traveled" are probably better. 

So here's my Dungeons & Dragons philosophy:  I role-play like it's 1st edition, built worlds like it's 2nd edition, manage my game table like it's 3rd edition, and I use the rules for the 4th edition.

Simple as that.  Just in case that's not clear, though, here's a more detailed explanation.

1) "Role-play like it's 1st Edition".  Everyone goes on and on about how the 1st edition and/or OD&D were the best for role-playing.  Gygaz & Arneson wrote such an encyclopedic and esoteric set of rules that there were plenty of gaps on how certain things had to be played out.  What are you left with doing?  Well, role-playing, of course.  It was the only real way to fill in the gaps.  So when you play 4th edition.  Role-play like your playing 1st edition.

2) "Build worlds like it's 2nd Edition".  The second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons saw an explosion of different campaign settings and worlds.  Spelljammer, Dark Sun, & Planescape were just a few of the settings that expanded the AD&D universe.  When you're playing 4th edition, think back to those times and create your worlds like they did in the 2nd edition.  Expand your horizons and don't be afraid to break the mold.

3) "Manage your table like it's 3rd Edition."  For this argument, I'm including the 3.5 edition as well.  The 3rd edition of the game saw in increased emphasis on knowing what the battlefield looked like during an encounter.  The use of miniatures was encouraged, and factors such as line of sight, area of effect, and terrain considerations all became pretty important.  4th edition maintains a great deal of that emphasis.  Keep a good battle mat and some inexpensive counters or miniatures at the table and manage like you would in the 3rd edition.

4) "Use the rules for 4th edition".  The rules are tidy, easy to understand and (for the most part) fairly balanced.  While hard core early edition fans will probably out right reject this statement, it's my personal belief this is the tightest set of rules so far.  It makes DMing much easier than previous editions, and I don't waste a lot of my players time with complicated tables or maths.  They're my rules of choice.

Well kids, that's my Edition War weigh in.  Would love to hear your comments, regardless of what edition of Dungeons & Dragons you play. 

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tomb of Horrors - 4e (Areas 1 & 2)

Greetings, Kids!

If you'll remember a few weeks back, I posted my desire to retool the famous (infamous?) module by Mr. Gygax himself, The Tomb of Horrors.

Admittedly, it's a daunting task, because a number of rules changes have occurred since the module was first written.  In addition, Wizards of the Coast is planning on launching their own retooling of this classic.  However, after looking at the blurb for the product, I think they are going to try and treat the adventure as a mini-campaign setting (I have no evidence to support that idea, but that's how I interpreted it). 

I'm not going that route.  Instead, my intent is to try and do the best I can to remain faithful to the module as it was originally written - deadly, confusing, and occasionally unfathomable.

To that end, the first encounter (areas 1 and 2 on the original key) is complete.  You can find that link here:

I'll also post that link into my publications page so you can find it there as well.

Now the hard part.

I'm interested in feedback.  Let me know what you think.  No guarantees I'll agree with your assessment, but I'm interested in making this as cool as possible.  Also, if there's any advice out there on better fonts, templates, or other design elements of the documents themselves, I'd be interested in that as well. 

Also, as the spring and summer continue, I'll be doing 3-D builds of these encounters using Hirstarts blocks, so look forward to that.

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A 4e Vacation - Mammoth Cave Terrain Powers

It's hard to believe that two weeks have already passed since my wife (@FELTit) and I embarked on our journey to the South.  I had some great new experiences and got some great inspiration for DnD.

In this final segment on Terrain Powers, I'll be looking at a selection of powers I came up with while visiting the Underdark.  A place better known in this world as "Mammoth Cave National Park"  Enjoy!

Jarring Stalactite
Single-Use Terrain
With a few careful steps and a well placed shove, you force your enemy to knock its head against the hard surface of a hanging stalactite. The force of the blow breaks the stalactite, dazing your foe.
Standard Action                     Personal 
Requirement: Your enemy must be standing in or adjacent to a square that has the featured terrain.
Check: Strength check (Moderate DC) to shove your opponent into the low hanging stalactite.
Attack: Level +3 vs. Fortitude
Special: This is a single-use terrain power.   Multiple squares featuring this type of terrain may exist.
Hit: 1d10 damage and the target is dazed until the end of its next turn.

Low Ceiling
At-Will Terrain
With a subtle feint, you back your enemy into an area with a low ceiling. Your enemy now finds it difficult to more about freely.
Move Action                     Personal 
Requirement: Your enemy must be standing adjacent to a square that has the featured terrain.
Check: Bluff check (Moderate DC) to trick your opponent into the low ceiling area.
Special: The enemy must be taller than the height of the lower ceiling for this terrain power to be effective.
Effect: The enemy is considered to be in difficult terrain.

Incite Cricket Swarm
Single-Use Terrain
Waving your weapon or light about, you manage to incite a swarm of cave crickets to drop down on your enemy. Your enemy now distracted, you have the advantage.
Standard Action                     Personal 
Requirement: You and your enemy must be standing in or adjacent to a square that has the featured terrain.
Check: Acrobatics check (Easy DC) to startle the crickets into swarming over your opponent.
Special: This is a single-use terrain power. Multiple squares featuring this type of terrain may exist. Once a swarm of cave crickets is activated, they disperse.
Effect: You gain combat advantage against your opponent until the end of your next turn.
Miss: The cave crickets swarm over you. You grant combat advantage to your enemy until the end of your enemy's next turn.

Well, it was a great vacation, but it's time to come back down to reality and home sweet home.  Terrain Powers are an interesting addition to any encounter. As I have further travels, I'll be sure to keep my mind open to any future interesting and useful powers to share.

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.

Oh, and this was a thing that happened.


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A 4e Vacation - Smoky Mountain Terrain Powers

Greetings, Everyone!

Yesterday was my first day back at work, so that means the echoes of our wonderful vacation are going to start to slip away.  Before the images fade completely, I want to cover a few Terrain Powers inspired by Smoky Mountain National Park.
I've never been to any part of the Appalachians, so it was a real treat to see the beautiful scenery.  One of the things that really struck me, though, was that everything was on a slope.  I know that sounds like an obvious observation, but to a flat-lander like me, it was an odd sensation and it stuck with me.  As a result, most of the powers you'll read about below, are only useful on sloping terrain.  

So the next time you're creating an encounter reminiscent of the Smoky Mountains, consider these Terrain Powers:

Invoke Avalanche
Single-Use Terrain
With the directed use of a thunderous power, you provoke an avalanche that sweeps your enemies away.
Standard Action                     Area Blast 5 within 10 squares
Requirement: This terrain power can only be activated by a power using the thunder key word.
Target: Varies based on power used.  You target the slope above your enemies with the thunder power of your choice.
Check: Arcane check (hard DC) to target slope above enemies
Effect: As a standard action you use a power that has the thunder key word to target the slope above your enemies.  As a free action, the slope gives way, tumbling down upon your enemies below.

Attack: Level +3 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d10 + 1/2 level damage.  Target is pushed 3 squares and knocked prone.
Miss: No effect.

Mountaineer's Advantage
At-Will Terrain
With the skill of a seasoned mountaineer, you manuever on the slope to gain the upper hand over your opponent.
Move Action                     Personal
Check: Acrobatics check (moderate DC) to successfully activate the power.
Success: You gain combat advantage against your enemy until the end of your next turn.
Failure: Your enemy gains combat advantage against you until the end of his next turn.

 *Your terrain may or may not include a wooden fence and parking lot.

Shift Stone
Single-Use Terrain
With a quick shove or kick, you dislodge a slab of rock that cascades down onto your enemy.
Standard Action                     Ranged 2
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Special: Your target must be below you.  This is a single use terrain power.  Multiple squares of this type of terrain may be available.
Check: Athletics check (hard DC) to successfully dislodge the stone.
Hit: 2d10 + one half level damage.
Miss: No Effect

I hope you're enjoying these terrain powers.  I'm new at designing these, so I'd appreciate any feedback you'd like to give.  For my final post in this series, we'll look at some terrain powers usable in the Underdark.

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.

Monday, May 03, 2010

A 4e Vacation - Tybee Island & Hilton Head Terrain Powers

Greetings, Everyone!

As you may have noticed from random Tweets and various other activity, I've been away the last week or so on a lovely vacation trip to Savannah, Georgia.  My wife (@FELTit) and I had a great time with friends that met us down there, and we really enjoyed the weather and activities the region had to offer.

While our friends flew down to Savannah to join us there, the wife and I drove our little Kia Rio across the region so that we could see the South (I'd never been).  On the way back, we saw some fantastic scenery including the beach (Hilton Head & Tybee Island), the mountains (Smoky Mountains), and the Underdark (Mammoth Cave).  We took plenty of great pictures, and I've been itching to show some of those off.

However, since this blog tries to be about 4e Dungeons and Dragons, I wanted to link some of the places we've been, to some 4e mechanics I thought would be fun.  The Dungeon Master's Guide II discusses a new encounter feature known as a Terrain Power.  Terrain Powers are usable by any of the combatants in a given encounter area and can be either persistent features or one-shot effects that can be used for heroic action.

For today's post, I want to share with you some Terrain Powers inspired by the sandy beaches of Tybee Island and Hilton Head.  

Sand Blind
At-Will Terrain
You pick up a large handful of beach sand and hurl it at the enemy, temporarily obscuring its vision.
Standard Action                     Ranged 3
Requirement: You must have a free hand in which to grab the sand.
Target: One enemy
Attack: Level +3 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1 point of damage and the target's vision is obscured.
Miss: No Effect
Effect: The target's vision is obscured, which grants you partial cover until the end of the target's next turn.

Jellyfish Lob
Single-Use Terrain
Carefully picking up a stranded jellyfish from the beach, you hurl it at your opponent, hoping it will sting them mercilessly.
At-Will , Poison
Standard Action                     Ranged 3
Requirement: Your main hand must be free to grab the jellyfish.
Target: One enemy
Attack: Level +3 vs. Reflex
Special: This is a single use terrain power. Only one jellyfish per square can be lobbed. It is possible that multiple squares within the encounter area have a usable jellyfish.
Hit: 1d4 points of poison damage + ongoing 1 poison damage (save ends).
Miss: No Effect

Deceptive Sea
At-Will Terrain
Maneuvering into the shallows near the beach, you lure your opponent into getting swept off his feet by a random wave.
At-Will Terrain
Standard Action                     Close wall 1
Requirement: The beach must be experiencing some level of surf in order for this power to be effective.
Check: Bluff check (hard DC) to position yourself to avoid an oncoming wave that will knock over your opponent.
Effect: Your distracted opponent falls prone into the shallow water.
Miss: You misstep, falling prone in the shallow water.

When I re-visit Terrain Powers, I'll look at some powers inspired by the great Smoky Mountains.

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.