Deny It All You Want, But . . .

In fact, these guys probably play World of Warcraft too.

Actually, I’d call these guys “wannabe jocks,” but the point remains the same. Kudos go to the guy wearing the Redskins’ apparel. Hail to the Redskins!

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Hit Point Charts for Council of Spiders

For those of you running the Council of Spiders adventure for the latest season of D&D Encounters, I’d like to provide you with a game aid I like to use when DMing: D&D Encounters Council of Spiders HP Charts. These charts provide an easy-to-use format for tracking hit points and recording whether encounter powers have been used without requiring you to mark up your adventure book. If you’ve seen my 4th edition stat blocks for the gods of the Egyptian and Central American pantheons, this will be familiar to you.  Each creature has an entry that provides the creature name; the creature’s defenses; the mini being used to represent the creature; check boxes to record whether they’ve used their recharge, encounter, or daily powers; and their hit points, accompanied by columns to track damage.

First, I have some general comments for you. If the number of players varies at your table, you’ll  likely be adding or removing certain NPCs from the encounter. Those characters have their hit points provided in bold, italicized fonts to indicate they’re optional characters. Also, a recharge power is indicated by the American trademark symbol followed by a number (if applicable). Thus, the power Ricochet Shot, recharge  , appears as Ricochet Shot®5.

I generally use charts for minions only when the creatures have encounter or recharge powers; however, I’ve included them for all encounters in case you wanted them.

I’ve also included the DC charts that I stole from Sly Flourish. (Click that link. He has a lot to offer the D&D gamer.) I use them often enough that it’s useful to have them on hand on the same sheet of paper as the encounter charts. They’re in the footer of every page.

Finally, you’ll note the copyright notice at the bottom. I can’t help it. I’m an attorney focusing my practice on intellectual property law (and real estate law). I have to include it. Note that there’s also permission to use this for personal use. Basically, all that concerns me is the idea that someone might sell my work product. I doubt that’s a problem, and unless it’s your intent to do so, you won’t have any complaints from me. Don’t make money off of my work, and we have no issues between us.

As a final note, I’ll mention that, as I become more familiar with the adventure, I might add some notes to the pages that help remind me of key elements of the encounter that are easily forgotten or hard to reference quickly when buried in the adventure booklet’s write up. (For an example from last season, I had an italicized, underlined sentence that spelled out the schedule by which teams of skeletons animated as the combat progressed.) Feel free to come back here to see if I’ve updated the document or if you have any such suggestions.

In any case, I hope you find these useful. I’ve provided specific notes for each encounter. Mild spoilers follow.

Encounter 1

As mentioned above, the minion chart might not be useful here. If not, just ignore it.

Encounter 2

It seems strange to eliminate the Ambusher from this encounter if only 4 players are present, but technically he’s the appropriate one to eliminate. Again, the minion chart might not be useful here.

Encounters 3, 4, and 5

No notes.

Encounter 6

This is not likely to break out into combat, so stat blocks aren’t provided in the adventure package. I created stat blocks and placed them here so you wouldn’t have to bounce back and forth between encounters.

Encounter 7

The encounter is level 4, so but there’s only 1 level 4 character on the board: the Drow Acolyte. If you have 6 players, add another Drow Acolyte. Simple enough. Because of the importance of that character, though, removing her isn’t the best option if you have only 4 players. You’re obviously free to do so, but I chose to design the encounter blocks to eliminate 2 of the Drow Templars. YMMV.

Again, the minion chart might not be useful here.

Encounter 8

It makes absolutely no sense to eliminate Valan Jaelre from this encounter, though I guess it makes sense to add another character of his type. Nevertheless, to keep it simple, and to keep the spotlight on Valan as unique, I treated the Hex Knights as the NPCs that should be added or removed from the encounter to adjust for the number of players. They are also of level 4.

You’ll note that the recharge symbol for Valan’s Webbed Miasma power doesn’t have a number after it. That’s because it doesn’t recharge on a die roll. You’ll just have to reference the stat block or remember that it recharges when he’s first bloodied.

Again, the minion chart might not be useful here, especially considering there could easily be no Bone Spiders appearing during the encounter, and even if they do appear, there could easily be no more than one on the board at any one time.

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Internet Scam Alert: Most “Kickstarter” Projects Just Useless Crap (via @theOnion)

Sadly, at times, this is the truth. Kickstarter has a tendency to remove risk from the process of business, and that encourages people to do projects half-assed.

In the end, I suspect Kickstarter will implode. After getting burned enough times, people will contribute only to projects put forth by well-established companies. This might turn out to be just as tragic. First, I’d like to see Kickstarter be used as a way for the new guy with no funds to be given his shot. Unfortunately, there’s no way to distinguish those guys from the people who just don’t want to spend their own money and aren’t really in need of that break, so that’s a pipe dream. Second, it’s unethical for large, well-established companies to take start-up capital from people who aren’t given an ownership interest in the company, and it’s just as unethical for small, well-established companies to do the same unless the backers are given very good value for their contributions. (I won’t call them investments unless an ownership interest is attached.) Unless Kickstarter starts enforcing these rules, this is also a pipe dream.

Kickstarter should start scrutinizing which projects it allows. Until they start, I won’t give them another look.

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Fantasy Flight Games Beta for Star Wars: Edge of the Empire

Last Friday, Fantasy Flight Games announced the availability of the beta test document for their new role-playing game, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. It costs $29.95. Paying to play-test someone’s else materials isn’t my thing — in fact, I find it insulting to ask considering it’s more appropriate that I get paid to do so* — but if you’re willing to do so, go for it. It’s always good to see that what the player base wants is factored into what’s being delivered, and any game published by Fantasy Flight Games is a good candidate for your gaming group.

*Please note that I know it’s not practical for companies to pay the general public to play-test their games. I’m simply saying that play-testing is work, so either handle public play-tests as WotC is doing it (i.e., free PDFs) or keep the play-testing in house.

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Three Thoughts from Last Week’s Game

I’m currently running my 4th edition D&D conversion of the classic AD&D adventure G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King. My players have run through G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief and G2: Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, and assuming everyone’s interested, G3 will lead to conversions of the D1-2-3 and Q1 modules as well. The conversions have been performed using  my Dungeon Crawl system, which makes high paragon and epic level play much faster, but most importantly, the system allows for a more realistic approach to dungeon crawls, wilderness treks, or other DM stories that make the 15-minute adventuring day seem ridiculous in both 3rd edition D&D and 4th edition D&D (and probably others).

There were three things that came up in that game that I thought were worth noting here.

Surprise!

Here’s the set up: The PCs are opening a door. The door makes noise. There’s no way to stealthily enter without the NPCs being aware of their presence. However, there’s no reason for the NPCs to be on guard. They’re busy working in the armory, so the door opening won’t necessarily be alarming. They might not even look over, meaning the PCs could still get the drop on them (i.e., gain surprise).

Under those facts, whether the PCs gain surprise is really a matter of luck, which is always handled with a die roll. So, I reached back into my (fuzzy) memory and recalled that surprise in AD&D was handled with the roll of a d6. I told the players that I wanted a d6 roll, and on a 1 or a 2, they’d gain surprise. Knowing my tendency to roll low, they asked me to roll the d6, so I said, “Fine, but you gain surprise on a 5 or 6, then.” They said they’d accept that, because they knew my rolling curse wasn’t a matter of always rolling low, but rather always rolling poorly. I rolled a 5. The PCs gained surprise.

My memory was indeed flawed. AD&D surprise was determined by rolling opposed d6s. From the DMG,

Surprise is determined by rolling a six-sided die for each party concerned, modifying the result by using the most favorable member of the party concerned, i.e., a ranger, surprised only on a roll of 1, will represent the whole of a group of other character types. Note, however, the effect of dexterity as detailed below. The same holds for mixed types of monsters. Of surprise is indicated for both parties concerned, the party which has lesser surprise subtracts its result from the result of the greater to find the number of segments the latter are inactive. Nonetheless, it is possible for both parties to be surprised equally — with surprise having no effect.

Surprise is usually expressed as a 2 in 6 chance for all parties concerned . . . . Each 1 of surprise equals 1 segment (6 seconds) of time lost to the surprised party, and during the lost time the surprising party can freely act to escape or attack or whatever . . . .

There’s more, including a table, but that’s the gist of it. Refer to the AD&D DMG for more.

DM Screen

At DDXP a couple of years ago, I was in an official WotC seminar. DDXP is great because the seminars are small but give you access directly to WotC personnel. (Whether this will change now that WotC has pulled out of the Ft. Wayne convention in January remains to be seen.) I mentioned to Chris Perkins that, despite the 4e DM screen being printed in landscape orientation, it’s still too tall. I like having certain information at my finger tips, but even an 8-1/2″ tall screen blocks too much of the battle map. If I can’t see what’s going on, I’d rather ditch the screen and just rely on a player to look up a rule if necessary. The one thing I can’t live without (for 4e D&D) is the DC chart, but as I provided in one of my Protection from Chaos articles, Protection from Chaos, Part IX: For My Conversion of an Adventure, What May I Publish?, I include that in the footer of my adventures.

Bloodied? How Boring

I’ve always used different words to describe a character as bloodied. (For non-4e D&D players, this refers to a character who’s been reduced to half their normal hit points.) For example, mechanical constructs don’t have blood, so it doesn’t make sense to call them “bloodied.” Instead, I call them oily reflecting that oil, not blood, is spewing from their bodies upon taking a certain amount of damage. Not all constructs, however, are “mechanical.” A stone golem is nothing by stone animated by a spirit of some sort, so stone golems get “gravelly.” Here are some of my favorites (YMMV):

Flame creatures steamy (as if doused with water to put out the flames)
Ice creatures watery, wet
Incorporeal creatures (e.g., ghosts) misty
Insects, demons, and devils ichory
Oozes, water creatures low viscosity

As you should always do, I’m just making the game my own. In my case, that means making the game a smart-ass.

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May the Schwartz Be with You Spaceballs

Yesterday, I received an email from Dictionary.com announcing the word of the day to be, “lodestar.” Much to my chagrin, the definition given was:

1. Something that serves as a guide or on which the attention is fixed.
2. A star that shows the way.
3. Polaris.

You see, I had actually misread the word, and I instantly thought of this instead, which is far more interesting.

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Some Perspective on Just How Small We Are

I’ve forwarded this picture every time I’ve received it in a social media stream, and I’ll continue to do so in the future even if you tell me that you’re sick of seeing it. I find this fascinating and decided to post it here to give it some sense of permanency for myself, as well as to further the current discussion surrounding the Curiosity’s landing on Mars.

You aren’t that important. Get over it.

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FASA Star Trek RPG: Yet Another Adventure

A friend had a birthday party yesterday, and although it was a board-game friendly event, I prepared a short, self-authored adventure for a game of FASA Star Trek RPG just in case anyone was interested in playing. The issue never even came up. Instead, I played 7 Wonders (came in a close 2nd my first time playing the game) and Circvs Maximus (my character was killed in a chariot race), but I digress . . . .

A Doomsday Like Any Other

By now any reader of this blog or my Loremaster blog should know that I’ve been revisiting the FASA Star Trek RPG recently, having run it once at TerpCon in College Park, MD. The adventure I ran, Anything but Routine, took place in the Outback area of the FASA Star Trek universe, which is where Federation space borders both Gorn and Romulan space. The Romulans were always my favorite Star Trek villain, and the Gorn were oddly underused. I remember once opining online that one of the later series or movies should revisit the Gorn as velociraptor-like enemies, perhaps representing a subspecies of Gorn. Again, I digress . . . .

For this adventure, I kept the same crew of the Chandley class Frigate, the USS Fife (lifted from the FASA adventure, A Doomsday Like Any Other). It was intended to be only two hours long in light of the fact that it was written for a board-game audience, but it can be fit rather nicely into the story I started with Anything but Routine, either before or after that adventure. In other words, I might have the start of an entire FASA Star Trek RPG campaign.

Now, if I can just find a table of players for it . . . .

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