Here’s a post from the Gamers’ Syndicate blog: X-Men Post . It was my attempt to create 4th edition stat blocks for the X-men. I’m not a comic reader, but I like the movies, and I have access to Wikipedia, so they’re probably close to right.
Information has slowly been swirling through or local Washington, DC gaming community, and to a lesser extent, beyond that. The Gamers’ Syndicate has put synDCon on hold and is focusing its efforts instead on something that you can enjoy all year round: A living campaign for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Many 4e players feel that there’s still more to do with 4e, just as 3rd Edition players felt there was more to do with 3e, and we’re seeking to give 4e players that same opportunity that Paizo gave the 3e players with Pathfinder and, more to the point, Pathfinder Society.
For those of you that don’t know what a “living campaign” is, I point you to the Wikipedia entry, because Wikipedia never lies. Actually, “living campaign” is often defined differently by different people. To me, the most important aspect of a living campaign is allowing all of us to meet each other. In other words, it grows the role-playing game community; however, there are other important aspects to it. It allows the players to shape the campaign world even though their playing pre-written adventures. That is, if the majority of players accomplished a task in one adventure, that fact will be tracked by the authors and shape how future adventures are written. What the players do matters, even though they’re sharing the experience with thousands of players worldwide.
The Campaign Setting
Every campaign needs a campaign setting: a world that needs protecting and sometimes saving. Some famous examples of Dungeons & Dragons campaign settings include Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms, Keith Baker’s Eberron, and Gary Gygax’s (everyone bow, right now!) Greyhawk. Our campaign setting hasn’t yet been named, but it’s one of our own design, spearheaded by the devious mind of Erik Nowak (who, if you recall, brought us Rotting Toes). Erik premiered the first two adventures (co-written by Dave Phillips) for this campaign setting at synDCon I and synDCon II. The setting is high fantasy, but not quite that high. Characters will use inherent bonuses so that acquiring magic items won’t be critical, and when they are acquired, they’ll be special.
We’re also introducing a mechanic for tracking a character’s reputation in the kingdom, and have a fairly ambitious plan in the works, but those are topics for later posts.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be running the two introductory adventures at GenCon this year, which serves as a sneak preview of the campaign. However, we’re working on the first four adventures, so we’re on track for an official start not too far in the future. Stay tuned.
This is a guest post from DM extraordinaire, Erik Nowak. I was one of the players in this game and have used Rotting Toes in the last season of D&D Encounters. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
In a recent D&D 4E session set in Neverwinter, the players needed access to the city’s orc-controlled River District. They approached a gate guarded by several bored orc soldiers. Some of the orcs were lightly dozing, while others were gambling, playing a dice game in the dirt. It was to be a simple role-playing exchange: the orcs act tough and demand 10 gold pieces per character to enter their territory – either the heroes paid, or they act tough and refuse and a fight breaks out. Instead it went like this:
“Can I make a check to see what game they are playing?”, one player asked.
[Rolls a skill check; super high result, of course.]
I responded, “Um… sure. It’s called, uh, rotting toes.” That sounded fittingly orcish.
“How is it played? And can we join in?”
“Sure, the orcs are happy to take your gold.”
Then I found myself in a pickle: I needed a dice game! I don’t know any dice games other than craps, and I didn’t want to use that.
So I made one up on the spot.
The first thing I thought of was the old school AD&D method of rolling for ability scores: roll 4d6 and drop the lowest die. I started there and was able to tie it in with the name by thinking that the die-dropping represented a toe rotting away from a diseased foot. Then I made the rest up right there and let the players have a go!
The game has its root in the story of an orc warrior who was suffering from a wasting disease of the foot that resisted magical healing. A shaman of Yurtrus, the orc god of death and disease, told the warrior that his fate was in the hand of Yurtrus alone, and the inscrutable, silent god would do as he pleased, unmovable by deed or prayer. All the other orcs could do was bet on whether or not the warrior’s toes would rot off.
(What happened to the orc, you ask? His toes all rotted off. Then his foot, followed by the rest of the leg. Then he died. Orc tales don’t have happy endings, people.)
Playing the Game
To play rotting toes, you need 4 six-sided dice and a group of several players with coin, one of whom is the Hand of Yurtrus, or “the Hand” (the dice roller). The role of the Hand switches to a new player each round.
The Hand places a bet, typically 1 gold piece. Other players place bets on whether the Hand will lose or win (“rot” or “not”). The Hand has three chances to roll doubles in 2 separate throws of the dice. If 2 throws yield doubles, the Hand wins, and the players who bet on a loss lose their coins, which are distributed evenly amongst the Hand and the players who bet on a win. Otherwise, the Hand loses, and his coins, plus the coins of the players who bet on a win, are evenly distributed amongst the players who bet on a loss.
Order of Play
1) First Throw: The Hand rolls 4 dice, looking for any set of doubles. Regardless of whether or not doubles were rolled, the lowest die is removed from play (a “toe” has “rotted away”), and the Hand rolls again.
2) Second Throw: The Hand rolls 3 dice, again looking for a set of doubles.
If doubles were rolled previously, and doubles are rolled here, the round ends and the Hand wins.
If neither throw yielded a set of doubles, the game ends and the Hand loses.
If doubles were rolled in one of the throws, play continues to a third throw with the lowest die removed from play.
3) Third Throw: The Hand rolls 2 dice, again looking for a set of doubles.
If doubles were rolled previously, and doubles are rolled here, the round ends and the Hand wins.
If a second set of doubles is not rolled, the Hand loses.
Playing Rotting Toes in Your Campaign
To play rotting toes in your D&D game, have a PC take the role of the Hand and place a bet. Allow other PCs to make win or lose bets as well, but these bets are optional.
The Hand then rolls the dice until he wins or loses, as outlined above. For ease of use, I didn’t bother recording the number of actual rotting toes players or how each one of them bet. I simply said that when the Hand won on a 1 gp bet, he gained 2d4 gp to represent the winnings taken from the pot. Anyone betting on the Hand to win gains the same amount. If the Hand loses, any PC who bet on the Hand to lose gains 2d4 gp.
One character in my game – the rogue, of course – asked if he could cheat. I allowed for it, but due to the number of eyes on the dice, it would be difficult to do unless the cheater brought his own weighted dice – which the orcs would never allow! To cheat, the Hand throws the dice and makes a Hard DC Thievery check. On a success, the Hand may change the result of one die thrown. A failed check makes the other players suspicious, and the DC for future checks increases by +2. A second failed check confirms the players’ suspicions, and will get the thrower ejected from the game (at best), or attacked. When playing with orcs, a Hand caught cheating is very likely to be killed immediately.
Additionally, it is a little-known fact that when playing with orcs, winning too many times as the Hand will also arouse suspicions of cheating, whether the winner actually cheated or not. Typically, if a player wins more than 3 times in a row as the Hand, he is given a savage beating – even if there is no evidence at all of cheating – just for being “too lucky” and making a mockery of Yurtrus’ judgment.
I said this on Twitter, and I’ll say it again here. Based on what I’ve seen from the later D&D 4e products, the current season of D&D Encounters, and D&D Next, I feel like all the work I did on the dungeon crawl system was completely validated. (It’s a shame the Living Forgotten Realms living campaign writers didn’t follow suit, as it would have breathed new life into the campaign.) WotC basically took 4e in the direction I took it about a year ahead of time, and after processing the feedback from 4e players, D&D Next is looking like a “dungeon crawl system, second edition.”
Please note that I’m not suggesting they plagiarized my work (though I know they were aware of it), and even if they did, it’s not illegal. I’m simply pointing out that great minds think alike, and apparently I’m a great mind. 🙂
In my post, Three Thoughts From Last Week’s Game, I presented a list of terms I use to substitute for “bloodied” (a term used in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons for a creature who’s been reduced to half their full hit points). It gives the game a bit more flavor. Last night’s game had an addition to the list (care of Luddite Vic) for Aberrations. These are creatures from the Far Realm, which is a plane of existence that’s unimaginably confusing, resulting in insanity relatively quickly for any that visit (and somehow survive that long). The list is updated below.
Oh, and the session was fun. All we got through was two combats, but they’re two of the longest combats in the Hall of the Fire Giant King, and we’re talking high-paragon level. Compared to most 4e D&D games, my Dungeon Crawl System moves very quickly. I wouldn’t want to think about how slow it would have been if I were using the standard system for encounter design.
Until Loremaster.org gets its wiki back up, I’m reposting my stat blocks for the Egyptian gods here. I’ve also reposted my stat blocks for the Central American gods, too. For both pantheons, I’ve based the stat blocks on a combination of ancient legends and their treatment in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Deities & Demigods reference. Accordingly, my treatment might differ with your understanding of the legends associated with the gods. In fact, that might even be the case if I had relied 100% on the ancient legends, as those stories changed dramatically over time. Politics, a changing social dynamic, and the unreliability of oral tradition all caused major changes to those legends. In any case, these stat blocks should work for you, and customizing what I give you is what RPG gaming is all about, so do with them what you will.
Until Loremaster.org gets its wiki back up, I’m reposting my stat blocks for the Central American gods here. I’ve also reposted my stat blocks for the Egyptian gods, too. For both pantheons, I’ve based the stat blocks on a combination of ancient legends and their treatment in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Deities & Demigods reference. Accordingly, my treatment might differ with your understanding of the legends associated with the gods. In fact, that might even be the case if I had relied 100% on the ancient legends, as those stories changed dramatically over time. Politics, a changing social dynamic, and the unreliability of oral tradition all caused major changes to those legends. In any case, these stat blocks should work for you, and customizing what I give you is what RPG gaming is all about, so do with them what you will.