Archive for the ‘Discussions’ Category

First off, it has been a  while since I last blogged, mostly due to school and a job, so I apologize for the absence. Good news is I should be graduating this month with my Psychology Degree! YAY Go me!

Anyway, this isn’t a post for or against the age old trick/dilemma of splitting an adventuring party. This is merely an observation from a 4E standpoint. To set the scenario, I’ll start with the fact I’m currently running the Scales of War campaign, published by dragon magazine. It’s a campaign which takes the characters from level 1-30, and my current group (new players aside) have been playing since level 1. We are currently level 12 and running through the Module “The Bitter Glass”.

Now, I’m not an inflexible DM by any means, and I usually let the dice fall where they fall since I believe D&D is not just a story but a game as well. There are winners, and sometimes losers. I’m not a 90’s child where little Johnny gets a consolidation prize because “everybody is a winner”. If the PC’s mess up, they could lose their character. (more…)


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This post has been a while in coming since it took about three weeks for things to play out.

The moral of this post, is surrender is usually a forgotten option for PC’s. They don’t usually like the idea that they get beat, but that’s part of the game. Everything doesn’t always go your way, and a good DM can help turn a down moment into story element and not just a punishment more than what it needs to be. For me I’ve seen parties refuse to surrender when given the option and it results in a TPK. I’ve seen parties surrender and escape, and have a great side story wrapped up in it. But with 4E it’s been difficult to see how capture would play out or even if could play out via a published module. But upon reading the adventure the Mottled Tower, I was amazed to see that not only was there a chance, but if not played well a TPK could be a result as well.

Well, it finally happened, we almost had a total party kill (TPK) in a fourth edition (non Fourthcore) campaign. As I had hinted to before hitting paragon tier and the drastic increase in the cost of Raise Dead will make the potential of 4E lethality a bit more closer to possible since PC’s will be loath to cough up the 50k to bring back a Paragon hero.

For those of you not aware, I’ve been running the Scales of War saga published by Dragon Magazine which was designed to take the PC’s from level 1-30. Being set in the Forgotten Realms this saga is a follow up to the old Red Hand of Doom module and in my opinion is done very well.

Surrender FTW!

In our latest episode, The Mottled Tower, the PC’s found themselves in pursuit of the main villainous figure they have identified in the big conspiracy thus far. Having encountered him several time before they knew their opponent was tough. On their approach to his lair, they made a mistake by trying to camp out right outside the bad guys lair, which was the subject of a previous post. However once we continued the next week, one player was not able to make the session, which undoubtedly hurt them.

The party chose to assault our villains tower which basically leads up to a triple/quadruple fight with very little chance for a rest. This is done intentionally by the module. I read this several times to estimate the viability of this challenge, and in my judgement, this task would be difficult, yet not impossible to win.

The party is first pitted against some mobs, in a room with a rising pool of lava as they attempt to reach a portal in the room. The best solution of course is to avoid the mobs, and move quickly to the portal. Naturally the PC’s will try to engage the mobs before the realization of the situation sinks in. Unfortunately for my party one PC misjudged the speed at which the Lava rises and was caught in the lava and burned to death. (more…)

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One thing which is in scarce use in 4E is wandering monsters. It is one of those random things older editions brought to the table in spades. Sometimes rolling random monsters was a pain, and sometimes it was fun. It all depended on the frequency and the chance in my opinion. I never liked rolling a bunch of times for a small chance. I always preferred to roll fewer times with a higher chance. But along with those odds, came the possibility that the party could be overwhelmed. Well, that was just part of the game in the old days. Today, 4E has largely gotten rid of random monsters, in favor of its encounters. Which works out well for the most part. Sometimes skill challenges will have combative results, and some modules include an extra encounter if the PC’s need some XP, or are getting off track.

This brings me to the Short Rest x2 scenario. One of my players, (who will undoubtedly read this) posed the question to myself and the group as to why they don’t take two short rests back to back in order to allow the cleric and warlord to use their healing/inspiring word powers, so that they get more bang for their buck healing wise. Good question actually, since getting more bang for the buck is generally what the party strives for. However I know full well this is not how the game is “intended” to be played. As we discussed I pointed out that the downside of a Short Rest is that you can literally do “NOTHING”. You sit, burn healing surges, chit chat, and that’s it. You don’t loot, search, research, use powers, or cast spells. You are basically sitting down, having a drink and catching your breath, with some possible talk. This takes 5 minutes.


So when a combat is over, 5 minutes goes to sitting on yer butt. Searching, looting, using powers etc. is in addition to this time. So I mentioned that what I feel the purpose of the short rest is an effort by the game to get the party moving along without RANDOM ENCOUNTERS. Now I’ve run all sorts of modules over my stint as DM, and this 4E mechanic of short resting is right about where I’d say, if you take it, and move on, you won’t have to worry about random encounters. It makes it simple for me as a DM, and frankly it works well. However, when a party decided to circumvent this safety, well they begin to play with fire. (more…)

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So, I play in one 4E group and I DM another 4E group. Only two other players are in both groups, and over the course of the last year or so there’s always been references to previous D&D editions. Come to find out, only one other person had played first edition D&D in some form. So I decided to put together a night of BASIC D&D, old school, the way it was pretty much originally played.

Original White Book

For those who are hardcore or history buffs, the White Box is actually the first incarnation of D&D, and went through 3 printings (by my last count). In the late 70’s the magenta BASIC D&D box hit the shelves, and this is the version we were going to play.

Basic D&D Box

For the module, I decided to pick a classic module which I owned but had never actually run for any group. Palace of the Silver Princess! It actually can be found in two forms. The Tournament module, and the DM tutorial module which runs the first three rooms of the module like a pick a path book. I owned the latter, so I went with it.

I had 8 players, all level 1, which is fine because Palace of the Silver Princess is designed for 6-10 characters levels 1-3. Which is a big change from 4E module design, and something which caught the players notice.

The first difference players noticed was in rolling up characters. We went “by the book”. Players roll 3D6 for stats, some of my players had NEVER rolled for attributes, having been raised on Point Buy systems. Secondly, stats are rolled straight down the line!!! Meaning your first roll is Strength, second roll is Intelligence, and so forth!!!! You should have seen the looks on their faces.  Fortunately nobody rolled anything horrible, however nobody rolled an 18 either. I think we had one 17 and it was a fighter who rolled it for Con. (more…)

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Earn it to own it!

So my previous post on What to do When PC’s Go Missing got a little notice from the Id DM, who asked me about “choosing a side” and writing a little dueling perspective on XP distribution. So I’ve agreed to take the Capitalistic side and present the pro’s and con’s of Capitalistic XP compared to Communistic XP. (I’m a child of the cold war so don’t hold it against me) Anyway I hope you guys check out the other perspective and please comment on both.

Like I mentioned in my previous blog When PC’s Go Missing, I have been playing recently in a campaign where XP is given equally to all players no matter what you do or don’t do, or whether you show up or are absent.  It’s been over a year in that campaign and likewise I’ve been trying this in my own campaign as well to see how it worked. For the previous 20+ years I’ve been conditioned to only giving/receiving XP for actually participating in the encounter(s) where XP can be earned. The old rule of “you have to be a threat or a target” to get XP is still very much a part of what I learned through the years. “Sitting on the bench does not experience grant.” I’m sure that is something Yoda would say. You get work experience from going to work! Not from going to school.

So after about a year of exposure to Communist XP (as I’ve come to call it), I’ve come to the conclusion that capitalist XP is the better way to go. My reasons are fairly simple in principle, but are actually linked to simple Id like desires. Yet however selfish they may seem, merely just make sense. First and foremost, if you earn the XP, you should get the XP. If you don’t earn it, you shouldn’t get it. That seems pretty basic to anyone whose ever been to school or had a job. (more…)

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Here’s a topic which is touched on from time to time, but until recently I haven’t put much thought into. However it’s a subject which is always a source of debate and opinion. Teh question is, what do you do when a player doesn’t show up to the game? Now I’m talking about kicking him or her out of the group, but more from an experience standpoint, or magic item standpoint. For example, common logic, and even the game rules say that in order to get XP, you have to play through the encounter. Previous editions have clarified that being in an encounter qualifies as either “being a viable target”, or “participating in the encounter” which usually meant combat. In the 20ish years I’ve been DM’ing I’ve always kept players XP separate according to what they earned. That meant, first and foremost, that the player had to show up. Secondly it meant that the player had to be involved in the encounter where the XP was earned. So if Bob, decided to sleep at an inn, and Joe & Sue decided to go through the sewers and ended up fighting large rats, and Bob missed out on the XP.

Where’s Waldo?


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Recently I was asked by my friend, the Id DM, to host a Fourthcore game. He was asked to play test one of the new scenario’s from the fellas over at Save Versus Death, who spearheaded (past tense – see comments) the fourthcore movement. So I polished up the Ultimate Gaming Table, served up the bev’s, J. brought the Pizza, and we gave fourthcore a whirl!

What is fourthcore?(short for Fourth Edition / Hardcore) Simply put its tournament style D&D, mixed with increased lethality. This isn’t to say you are going to die, but it’s to say that messing up has harsh consequences. In my many years of gaming I’ve played tournament modules and DM’d them. They are always a challenge because it seems as everything you do, has some relevance; and the things you don’t do, have some relevance as well. The same can be said for some of the most lethal modules every built by Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve had the pleasure to DM many, such as the Labyrinth of Madness, Tomb of Horrors, & the Dancing Hut of Babba Yagga to name just a few. Each one is a punishing module of tricks, traps, puzzles, and monsters. (more…)

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