Monday, January 31, 2011

This Past Week-end's Gaming shot to Hell

I swear, trying to keep an ongoing campaign going with continuity and momentum these days seems to be an impossibility. Over half my players had to cancel for various reasons this past Sunday for our 4E game. We try to play the game every two weeks and the past two week-ends, including this last Sunday's game had to be cancelled due to poor attendence. Needless to say I was disappointed. Two players showed up hoping another would show, but he never did, so we just spent that time chatting about gaming for about an hour and then they left.

You can't run a 4E game with just 2 players. 3 is do-able but not easy. I was rushing around the last minute trying to whip up a small side adventure, but when the 3rd player never showed, I just decided not to bother. I think in this case, playing a game like OD&D or AD&D where you can hire hirelings and meat-shie...err henchmen to round out a small party can keep a game going regardless who shows up. The 4E approach is that all the PC's are powerful enough that they don't need hirelings, but if there's less than 4 PC's you'll have trouble. And 4E is involved enough that trying to play more than one PC per player is not viable. I think this is where the older editions have an advantage of it's less complex rules design that playing more than one PC or playing hirelings/henchmen is easier to do.

All this has got me thinking about the difficulties in trying to run a continuous campaign in modern times. It may be fine if you're a teen-ager with little responsibilities, but much harder for those of us in our 30's to 40's.

I think what I need to do is not bother with a continuous plot-line that requires all the players to be involved. As evidenced by a few players who have miseed several games, they quickly forget what is going on. I think what I need to do is focus on adventures that take one game session to start and finish. Make the adventures episodic in nature with no links to any other adventure, that way if a player misses a game, they don't miss out on any information that is plot-related. Adventures will be site-based relatively close to their home-base so by the time the adventure ends, they are all back in town. This will help with continuity issues trying to explain why so-and-so's PC isn't around if they end the session in the wilderness or near the dungeon and we have to come up with a reason why their character is no longer there.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Inn of the Welcome Wench-day!

All the serving wenches in my version of Hommlet's infamous Inn look like this.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Arrived Today from Ebay

I again have The Village of Hommlet module in my possession. I got it off Ebay for around $14.00, including shipping. I used to own this module plus a ton of others, such as the original monochrome cover G-series, D-series, S-series and others. There came a time in my gaming life, around the early 1990's where level-based systems just weren't doing it for me anymore and I threw out alot of my AD&D stuff, thinking I would never play this game again. Boy, was I really stupid. I can only plead temporary insanity.

In my recent posts about using the really nice full color Moathouse map I found online for my 4E game, I found something interesting. I compared the color map against the map in the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (refereed to as RtTOEE hereafter) module for 3rd Edition, as I have a PDF copy of it. I did own the module for RtTOEE, but I lent it to a friend and I haven't seen it in years. The map in RtTOEE is the same layout as in Village of Hommlet. I noticed a few differences between the maps of the dungeon level. It made me wonder why would one go to all the trouble to make a nice, detailed color map of the Moathouse dungeon level and not stick to the original layout from the Village of Hommlet module?

I could understand not wanting to map out the ghoul warren tunnels and having it be collapsed on the color map is just fine. But some of the passages and rooms are very different. Just seems odd to me. Anyway, I had a need to want the original module just for purity's sake and for my small collection of D&D nostalgia.

Below are images of the color map and the Village of Hommlet map for comparison.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mong, Denizen of Xhuul

Just for kicks, I wanted to see the results of rolling up a Mutant Human using the rules in the back of the Mutant Future book. If I were to use this system for mutant character generation for Xhuul, I wanted to give it a test.

Stats are rolled 3d6 in order:

Mong, Mutant Human, Travelling Merchant of Xhuul
STR: 9
INT: 6
DEX: 9
CON: 11
WILL: 14* (bonus from Increased Willpower already added)
CHA: 11 (CHA 14 from Intellectual Affinity when selling goods)

HP: 6
AC: 6

Beneficial Mutations
Class 3 Mutation (Physical): Dermal Poison Slime (Class 1 Poison)
Class 2 Mutation (Mental): Increased Willpower (+3 to Willpower)*
Class 2 Mutation (Mental): Intellectual Affinity (Bartering: +3 CHA when selling objects. Any object sold yields a x4 profit provided the buyer can afford the price. +10% to tech rolls)
Class 1 Mutation (Physical): Ultraviolet Vision
Class 1 Mutation (Physical): Night Vision
Class 1 Mutation (Physical): Prehensile Tail

Drawback Mutations
Class 3 Drawback (Physical): Vision Impairment (-2 to hit in combat)
Class 1 Drawback (Physical): Simiian Deformity

Equipment: Studded Leather armor, Longsword, Shortbow, 20 arrows, quiver, dagger, Pack Snail, backpack, bedroll, 50' rope, grapple-hook, 8 flasks of oil, 8 torches, 2 saddle-bags, 4 waterskins, 10 days of trail rations, flint& steel. 25 gold pieces

Mong is an odd fellow, cursed with the lumbering form of simian appearance. His long dragging arms and short legs, make him appear as some kind of primitive human. He has a prehensile tail that is furless. He is a very determined individual and was gifted with an ability to barter for goods and turn a decent profit. This ability has made him a wandering merchant, travelling from town to town with his Pack Snail bearing the brunt of his trade goods.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Getting Back to Xhuul

I need to invest some time to get the blog back on track to it's namesake, the Xhuul setting. My time has been divided between running my 4E game and trying out the new MMO DC Universe Online. A friend of mine gave me a 10-day trial code. It's a fun game and I'm liking the Gotham City gameplay missions. Of course none of this is conducive to creating more content for Xhuul.

I want to read the section in the back of the Mutant Future rulebook,(called Mutants and Mazes)that has rules for using it with Labyrinth Lord. Specifically on the use of their magic system. Hopefully it can save me some time on my creation of the Xhuulian Sorcery magic system. We'll see.

To help spark some inspiration, I purchased a few books by Clark Ashton Smith from Barnes and Noble, which arrived today. One is "The Klarkash-ton Cycle", CAS's Cthulthu Mythos fiction. The other is another anthology of stories called "The Return of the Sorcerer".

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's Wench-day!

A new irregular feature to the blog is Wench-day (Wednesday). Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

WotC: Plastic Minis to be Discontinued

I'm sure as soon as Christian over at Destination Unknown reads this, he is either going to scream or run out and buy more minis before they become scarce, or maybe both. Just joking Christian. ;)

It was announced that Wizards will no longer be making plastic minis. This is a bit disappointing. Apparently the plastic minis did not meet "internal goals". Is that to be translated as "did not make sufficient profit"? Knowing how WotC has been acting lately, I'm sure it didn't mean "quality standards". Some of the minis were better than others in design and painting quality. Rest assured, the chinese factory workers can rest their eyes now from trying to dab the paint on those tiny minis.

Anyway, below is a repost of the text from the official announcement:

D&D RPG Product Release Updates
Despite the best laid plans, sometimes we make changes to the D&D product release schedule. Usually this happens well before we’ve communicated our plans, but sometimes we must make changes to schedules that have already been announced. That happens to be the case we have here.

We have made the decision to depart from prepainted plastic miniatures sets. Lords of Madness stands as the final release under that model. We will continue to release special collector’s sets (such as the Beholder Collector’s Set we released last fall), as well as make use of plastic figures in other product offerings. Check out the Wrath of Ashardalon board game next month for the latest example of this. Moving forward, we will continue to explore more options for players to represent characters and monsters on the tabletop, including Monster Vault and other D&D products that feature monster and character tokens.

The Heroes of Shadow product, originally scheduled for March and presented in digest-sized, paperback format, is moving to April to accommodate a change to hardcover format. Additionally, three D&D RPG products have been removed from the 2011 release schedule—Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and Hero Builder’s Handbook. While this means fewer books, we plan to deliver just as much great content for players this year through other formats, including board games, accessories, and digital offerings. I’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest releases each month as we go along.

Finally, I wanted to let you know that we’re making a change to the way we handle D&D Insider content. Subscriber data informs us that the vast majority of you consume our articles individually, when they are posted, as opposed to downloading the monthly compilations. So, starting this month, we’re just providing the articles. There won’t be any more monthly downloadable compilations. This is not a reduction in content, just a clarification of presentation and putting the emphasis where the majority of you are using it. Corrections and updates to articles which used to appear only in the compilations will now be made to the individual articles a few weeks after the original posting.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Disaster Narrowly Avoided

You know the old excuse "The dog ate my homework?" Well in this case, my dog almost ate my Moathouse maps. I came home from work the other day to find the maps on the dining room floor. My dog, an Australian Shepherd, has a tendency from time to time to pull things off the dining room table or from counter-tops in his boredom. Fortunately, he didn't chew on the maps. So now when I leave for work in the morning, I put the maps on my bed and close the door to my room.

This weekend, my gaming group will be back at my place on Sunday to continue where they left off. They didn't find the secret door in the northeast room that leads down to the small 10' x 10' room on the dungeon level. This small room has a secret door on the west and east walls that serves as an annex between the two sections of the dungeon level. They did find the small stairs leading down, but most likely they are going to leave and rest overnight somewhere in the swamp to get back their healing surges and Daily powers. The swamp is a dangerous place, so I will have to prepare for random overnight encounters. And this will give the Witch that lives in the Moathouse more than enough time to set up traps and defenses. What the party doesn't know is that the Witch is actually a Bog Hag that can shapechange into a beautiful female of human, elf, half-elf or eladrin race. I hope to use this ability to have the Hag gain their trust and then spring a suprise on the party or use it as a means for her escape.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Moathouse 4E game

So, this past Thursday, my game group's 4th Edition characters journeyed to the infamous Moathouse which I was finally able to print out for my newly revived D&D 4th edition campaign. I covered the map with some large pieces of black construction paper to keep those areas they had not seen or explored out of sight. As the players moved their minis into new areas, the pieces were moved and rearranged. I really dig all the cool details on the map and I think it helps immerse the players into the game.

In my game, the Moathouse is a ruin which lies within a swampy region known as the Witchlight Fens which is part of the default setting in 4th Edition's Nentir Vale. The characters found out that a witch lives there who seems to be organizing several local humanoids into attacking the civilized regions of the Vale. Also, she is responsible for hiring an assassin that murdered a mentor of one of the PC's. Some characters have uncovered the 'cult of Elemental Eye' and another character a 'cult of the Elder Elemental Eye'. They are unsure if these are related, but they do believe it has something to do with the worship of elemental entities. Since the new cosmology in 4th Edition has combined the separate elemental planes into one Elemental Chaos (with the Abyss in it's center), now more than ever, the concept of Elemental Evil seems to fit. I wonder if the designers of 4th Edition did this on purpose with this in mind?

I was inspired to borrow from a RPGA adventure written by Mike Mearls called "Return to the Moathouse" for the first encounter. The first encounter at the gate and bridge to the Moathouse were guarded by 4 Giant Frogs in the moat's mucky water. These frogs were trained by local Bullywugs that live in the area, allied to the cult, to attack any not wearing the black tunics bearing the flaming eye symbol of the cult. There were two 2 Burning Skeletons in the tower that climbed the steps to the top of the tower after 2 rounds when hearing the battle with the frogs. The flaming skeletons rained down orbs of fire at the characters, and it was decided that someone needed to get into the tower to deal with them. The Paladin and the Cleric managed to get into the courtyard and into the tower, however this drew the attention of a magical construct known as an Arcane Ballista in the moathouse's courtyard which promptly attacked by firing bolts of lightning at them. The Paladin and the Cleric took a hit from a Ballista and ascended the tower. The Cleric used his power to Turn Undead and both Blazing skeletons fled off the tower, falling the 20 feet into the moat below and shattered into bones and ash. The Ballista meanwhile began firing into the tower, which was not very sturdy, hoping to bring it crashing down with the characters inside it. The Paladin and the Cleric made a mad dash outside the moathouse. The group was already battered from fighting the frogs and skeletons so they retreated to rest. The Arcane Ballista took several parting shots at them from the shattered gate until they were out of range. The Ballista returned to the courtyard.

The characters decided they did not want to deal with the Arcane Ballista, so they returned this time and crossed the moat to the other ruined wall and tower to the east of the courtyard. They clambered up the pile of stones and rubble and into a ruined room. They failed to notice anything unusual about the water on the floor, until it was too late and it formed up into a Water Elemental and attacked. It flowed past several characters and blasted a few at the rear with a blast of water that sent many tumbling down the rubble. It then flowed back into the room and engulfed the Paladin in it's watery body and carried him along down the hallway that exited the room. The characters gave chase, a few had to struggle back up the rubble into the moathouse. The Paladin was slowing drowning in the body of the Water elemental, so it was dire that he be freed. The elemental fled into the main hall of the moathouse, carrying the Paladin with it. The main hall was occupied with Bullywugs. One of the Bullywug guards saw the characters down the hall and shouted a warning and battle had begun. It was fortunate for the Paladin, that the Wizard was able to cast a spell that affected the elemental by forcibly moving it without carrying the Paladin, who dropped to the floor, wet and gasping for air. The battle with the Bullywugs did not last as long as the one witht the Frogs and the Burning Skeletons, but the Arcane Ballista did make its reappearance, rolling up the steps to the main hall and firing lighting bolts through the door. Soon, all the Bullywugs were dead and the Arcane Ballista was smashed to pieces.

The characters searched the moathouse, finding mostly smashed furnishings and debris from some battle long ago that occurred here. Even though the witch lived here, it must not have been in the upper part of the ruins. They did find a set of stairs going downward....

The game will be continued, and I'm glad it ended when it did, for I did not have enough time to work on the dungeon level. It was a perfectly timed stopping point for the game.