Monday, July 14, 2008

First Full 4e Experiance

So one of our player in my regular campaign, the tank, couldn't make it this week so we decided to give 4e a try. I busted out "Keep on the Shadowfell" and gave the newness a test drive. Now I liked 4e a lot just from reading it, and I had done a test run over lunch at work with the rest of the design dept, and been a player in a 4e campaign on Saturday. But either it was too short (one encounter) or mostly RP (not very systemic) so this was the chance to get the real feel of 4e. I rolled up some character based on what the party wanted to play and we got down to it.

I had a blast.

Now I will confess that the most fun I have as a DM is to push the party to the breaking point, get them right up to the brink of what they feel may be a TPK (Total Party Kill) and then watch as they get their act together and get out of trouble by the skin of their teeth. So tonight's session went well from that perspective. It was the vindication of anyone who said 4e was too easy with all the hit points at first level. A player was dropped in three of the four encounters, and the last one they were down to just the wizard left standing. It instilled a real threat of death, and from the lowliest of the Monster Manual's creature, the kobold.

I love those shifty guys. They skitter, they leap, they used their little superpower of a minor action shift to great effect, running all over the battlefield, surrounding the over eager ranger who ran out early on the initiative, they all skittered back after granting the dragonshield a +6 to hit so the poor bloodied soul could wolverine strike them dead. Judging just from this one creature type I'd say that the 4e designers did a great job in giving creatures personality just through their mechanics.

The patry soon learned some hard lessons of the 4e game map; yes you can run all over the place you are far more mobile, but if you don't stay together and coordinate your actions you quickly get surrounded and the beat down happens. But if you do co-ordinate, a shift here, an extra action there, a bonus granted at just the right time and you have set the enemies up the bomb.

I had gone out and bought a bunch of cheap poker chips and a container that had red, green, white, blue, and yellow chips. Invaluable! Red was for bloodied, yellow what a mark, curse or hunter's quarry, green a status effect, while combat advantage, blue an ongoing effect. I'm glad I spent the money or I wouldn't have been able to keep track of all that. My only complaint was that the chips were a little bigger than 1x1 inches so the map was a little crowded. If someone were to release 1x1 status chips I'd spend the money over again for them.

At least at low level the different races and classes were able to really distinguish themselves. The dragonborn made a great fighter with his breath weapon (good for blasting minions) and when he got bloodied (as tanks often do) he strarted hititng harder. The tiefling blast wizard was great with fire, and was hyper aware of when enemies were bloodied as he cruely picked on the hurt enemies. The warlord has some problems at first until he got synced up with the party and got them to move with him and then he was able to shift them into position and pluck out squishy enemies with his longspear. And once the melee ranger stopped leaping into the fray without backup he was able to act like a steathy assassin beating down critical mobs before they could react.

So I liked it, it was fun and cinematic the characters seemed to be powerful but couldn't just mow down their enemies, it required team work. Mobs had a nice synergy in their abilities rather than just having to turn things up to 11 to make them feel a threat.

If only the digital tools weren't non-existant to awful.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Dungeon of Snakes

At the end of tonight's session, "The Campfire of Two Good Skeletons" my son and I sat down and used Jamis Buck's Random Dungeon Generator to create the next adventure. Now normally I would never use this; way too 1st edition. I like my dungeons to have a sense of place and theme. But again, Hoija is played by a five year old. So a dungeon of snakes filled with goblins, wolves, beetles, etc... SURE! A twisty turny dungeon that feels like it was designed around the amount of space on the graph paper? Why not? It's all fresh to him.

So I generated the random dungeon and we both sat down and filled it in with monsters, traps, and treasure. 4e does not have a lot of low level snakes so we chose a high level one for the boss and changed the needlefang drake swarm to be a swarm of snakes. put in some traps and treasures and you've got an adventure. I've put another friend in there for him to find (the elf) and put some magic treasure of his choice (but appropriate level) for him to find.

I am having way too much fun with this.

The Dungeon of Snakes

Dungeon Level: 1

Room #1:

  • Door (west, 1 from north): wooden, simple, stuck, magically reinforced
  • Door (north, 5 from west): wooden, good, stuck
  • Door (south, 2 from west): iron, locked
  • Monsters
    • Goblin Cutters (4)
    • Goblin Warrior (2)
  • Features
    • sack
    • claw marks
    • scorch marks
    • hook
    • platform
    • gong
    • trash (pile)
    • shrine
  • Trap
    • poison needle trap (CR2) (Find/Disable DC 21)
Room #2:
  • Door (east, 2 from north): wooden, simple, stuck
  • Door (west, 2 from north): (secret) down-sliding, magic word trigger, trapped [trap: arrow trap (CR1) (Find/Disable DC 21)]
  • Door (north, 5 from west): wooden, simple, locked
  • Door (north, 1 from west): (secret) side-sliding, magic word trigger
  • Monsters
    • Death Rattle Viper (Boss)
  • Treasure
    • 380 gold coins (380 gp)
    • Snake Key
  • Features
    • equipment (broken)
    • scorch marks
    • flask
    • cage
Room #3:
  • Door (west, 3 from north): wooden, simple, stuck
  • Door (east, 2 from north): wooden, simple, free
  • Monsters
    • Fire Beetle (3)
  • Treasure
    • 168 gold coins (168 gp)
Room #4:
  • Door (east, 3 from north): wooden, good, stuck
  • Features
    • paper
    • pipe (smoking pipe)
    • equipment (usable)
    • equipment (usable)
    • chandelier
    • loose masonry
    • firepit
    • furniture (broken)
  • Hidden Treasure (Search DC 21)
    • +1 sylvan robes
  • Trap
    • Rockslide
    • False floor pit
  • Monster
    • Needlefang Snake (Drake) Swarm (2)
Room #5:
  • Door (north, 2 from west): wooden, good, stuck, trapped [trap: poison needle trap (CR2) (Find/Disable DC 21)]
  • Empty
  • Monster
    • Grey Wolf (3)
Room #6:
  • Door (south, 1 from west): wooden, simple, free
  • Hidden Treasure (Search DC 21)
    • Captured Elf
  • Trap
    • Magic Crossbow turret.
Room #7:
  • Door (west, 5 from north): wooden, strong, locked
  • Monsters
    • Hobgoblin Soldier (2)
  • Treasure
    • 95 gold coins (95 gp)
Room #8:
  • Door (west, 1 from north): (concealed) wooden, simple, stuck, behind rubbish
  • Empty
Room #9:
  • Door (west, 3 from north): wooden, strong, free
  • Trap
    • Spear gauntlet
  • Treasure
    • Magic Shield (+1)
  • Features
    • pouch
    • evil symbol
    • gong
    • mound of rubble
    • weapon rack

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hoija Fullop, Halfling Knight of the Realm

Yes that's right, I taught my five year old son how to play D&D 4th edition. And as reports of other kids playing proved out, he picked it up rather quickly. He totally grokked that he had powers that he could use and the difference between daily, encounter, and at will. He got the concept of using skills to accomplish non-combat goals, and also making character choices to model a type of archetype; he chose diplomacy over intimidate because he wanted to be nice to people and make friends.

Hoija Fullop was a young halfling lad of 10 years who wanted to do good in the land, so he traveled to the King of Manawydan and asked if he could be a knight. The king was unsure about letting a young halfling be a knight, but the young lad was so persuasive (26 diplomacy check) that he gave in and gave him a quest to investigate some strange happenings to the south, farmers were being hurt by monsters and needed someone to protect them. So Hoija traveled to the farmlands to the south, and indeed there was a giant scorpion by one of the farms, trying to attack a man who had taken refuge on a haystack from the beast.

Hoija charged up to the giant bug and dispatched it easily, using his shield to deflect the blows of the giant bug as it tried to grab him, and smiting it with his curved scimitar. The man turned out to be Maelstrom the Wise, a cowardly but friendly wizard (me playing an npc). Maelstrom told him that the vile beast was sent into the land by Clarke the Bad, an evil wizard.

Now this is the point where my son did something different than my normal campaigns, rather than investigating or waiting for the next plot point to appear, he instead grabbed a bunch of the skeleton legos and placed them on the battle mat. "And then the skeletons attack!"

... Ok! We can do it that way too. A bunch of skeletons attack Hoija and Maelstrom. The two of them fight valiantly, but Hoija is getting beaten up pretty bad, mainly because Maelstrom is a bit of a coward and hide far away without using his big blasting spells. But Hoija convinces him to step up and help him and blast all the skeletons back so Hoija can heal (He totally got the concept of healing). And with both of them working together as friends they beat the skeletons. The most powerful of the skeletons though had a dire warning upon his destruction; "Hoija Fullop, Clarke the Bad cannot be stopped, he waits for you in his evil tower protected by the key."

Me: You want to play again?
The Boy: Yes. Next episode will be level two. "The Skeletons at the Campfire."
Me: Ok we'll play that.
The Boy: No! "The Good Skeletons at the Campfire." They're not bad skeletons, they're good.
Me: Ok, that's the adventure we'll have. Now it's bath time, let's wash that face paint off.

I am one proud geek papa.

Interview: The New Dungeon Masters (corrected version)

Gamespy: "So will you have all kinds of customized tiles to show the player they have entered a room?"

: "Well that depends on what you mean by 'show the player they have entered a room' I mean if the DM wants the players to enter the room our gametable doesnt know what kind of room it is, or how big or anything, because what if it is a special room or something, like a wooden room or a stone room, or a magical room, the DM has to be able to use the tools without us saying "No you have to use a stone 3x3 room'. I mean if I wanted the players to know that they entered a room I would just type 'you enter the room' that way they know theyve entered the room without us doing 'visual' adjudication.

Gamespy: "so basically you wrote a chat program for DM's because it was the minimum amount of work possible to soak up money"

WotC: "we actually just made an IRC frontend that says D&D... really its all just IRC"

Gamespy: "I really hate you guys, no, no I really mean it you guys suck"

WotC: "We didn't want to force the DM to.."

Gamespy: "You need to stop talking... like now, and give me you dice, your geek license has been revoked... Ass"

You can read the uncorrected version at Gamespy, full of lots of excuses that will lead to eventual disappointment.

(Special thanks to Evan for writing this as a response to a rant of mine over chat.)