Showing posts with label 5e. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 5e. Show all posts

Monday, August 26, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Idea

Today's topic is Idea.

Ideas come from a lot of different places.  For example, this weekend's big idea came from my desire to do something big.


I am wrapping up my first big D&D 5 campaign, The Order of the Platinum Dragon, which will end in the Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits, but instead of using the "Steampunk" spider ship, I am going with the fan-created adventure Skein Of The Death Mother by John A. Turcotte.

My idea is to do something really special.

I have 5 2ft x 2ft pieces of a shitty particle-board.  I have tubing, I have some LED lights. I have a ton of plastic spiders and a few broken mini-figures. I will get some spider-webs from the Halloween store, some gaming paper, some paint.  I bet there are some maps I can print too.

I am going to build some giant "geomorphs".

The plan is not really to replicate the map above but to get the feel of it.  I am likely to make rooms close to 13, 21 and 26 above, but also do some of the clusters of smaller rooms too.

I have 5  boards, so I figure I can "geomorph" them enough to build something really cool and flexible.

It should not take me too long, unless I get loss in the details, but it should still be fun.

Friday, August 23, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Surprise

Today's topic is Surprise.

What is the most surprising thing you ever witnessed in a game?  I have to say it was a game my older son ran for my youngest son and the sheep.


It was so surprising because of how crazy it all was and how much noise we heard coming from the basement.

So it goes like this.  The party was supposed to get to the next town to get to a job.  The job was what the adventure was supposed to be about. Simple right?  So they all decide to take a short cut through a field and stay off the main road.  They ask what is in the field.  My oldest, not having planned this bit out (because why should he) rolled and said "Sheep".

The players freaked out.  They all wanted to have sheep as pets or animal companions.  So they spent a long time chasing sheep, trying to charm them or casting any spells they could think of.  By this time some of the players got tired of chasing sheep so they started killing them. Next thing the players they started try and raise the sheep from the dead, others wanted to bring them back as zombies.  Then the characters started attacking each other, the zombie sheep started to attack the characters.  By the end of the night, some four hours later, the sheep were all dead, the countryside was on fire, and at least three characters (out of six) were dead.

There was so much yelling and laughing and shouting.  We were laughing our asses off upstairs.

Every kid downstairs had to tell us their version of the story.

I know I am not doing the story any justice here. But it was so damn funny to hear them tell it.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: The Lost City of Gaxmoor 5E

This one is easy to back.

The Lost City of Gaxmoor 5E


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/the-lost-city-of-gaxmoor-5e?ref=theotherside

From the Kickstarter Page:

The Lost City of Gaxmoor 5E is a sandbox adventure we are converting to the 5th Edition of the world's most popular role playing game. Designed for characters that range from 1st to 10th level. It is the brain child of and written by Ernie and Luke Gygax, the sons of the legendary co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons Gary Gygax. If this campaign is successful, The Lost City of Gaxmoor 5E will be released in a Full Color, 128+ page book that includes a fold out map of the city that retails for $39.99.
I will admit I don't know the history behind Gaxmoor save that Ernie and Luke created it and it was one of the few times Gary was a player.  This, added to the long friendship between Gary and the Chenault brothers, gives this much more than a whiff of credibility.  This is the closest to something from the Old Master himself.

There is a lot going on in this Kickstarter.  Not sure what level I will pledge yet, but I know I will!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Mystery

Today's topic is Mystery.

I think everyone loves a good mystery, especially in their RPGs.

Building a true sense of mystery though requires work and the subtle use of clues, hints, rumors, and innuendos.   I have found, more times than not, the best way to it is to involve the players right away.


Not in the way of getting them all to pitch in in some shared Game Mastering role.  That certainly works for some games, but not all.  No by this I mean take their speculations and let them run away with them. 

Here are some examples.

In my Come Endless Darkness 5e campaign, I am spreading te greater mystery over three different campaigns.  No one set of characters or players has the full picture.  At least not until I get them (or what's left of them) in a room once they reach 18th level or so.  The mystery right now is so vague as to not even be there. Yet.  Some of the players in the Order of the Platinum Dragon game are beginning to suspect.  Maybe some of the characters in the Second Campaign are as well.  But I know no one in the Into the Nentir Vale suspect the larger mystery.

Of course, each campaign has its own mysteries.
For the Order of the Platinum Dragon, it has been "what has happened to the Sun?" and then "who killed all the Sun Gods?"  And now it is, or soon will be, "there is no way Lolth could do this on her own!"
For the Second Campaign, the mystery has been "why are all these 'gods' of the lizard and scally folk rising up?"  A little less tangible, but it is getting them there.
And finally in Into the Nentir Vale it has been simply, "We know Orcus is rising as a power, but why?"

Clues in each one will add to the other.  Overly complicated?  Maybe.  Fun?  Definitely.

In fact, this is where my players came into it.  Originally I saw the Second Campaign's big mover and shaker to be the Mind Flayers.  THEY were going to be the ones behind the scenes.  BUT as the game went on and it became more distinct from the Order of the Platinum Dragon game and more and more lizardfolk, nagas and Yuan-ti showed up the players began to weave this huge conspiracy theory around them.   IT was so compelling and, really, so out there, that I had to reward them by altering my own plans to fit more of their elements.

I am NOT giving them everything, but I am giving them enough that their own enthusiasm is sending down a trail.  The ending will remain the same, the mystery still comes to the same conclusion, but now we go about it on a different path.

Other little tidbits that keep coming up.  On our "crazy board" above we still have listed "Where is Cynder".  Cynder was an elven elemental fire wizard that just stopped going with the group. We totally forgot about her, well at least I did.  Even though she was only one session of the Order of the Platinum Dragon, she will show up later in Into the Nentir Vale and maybe the Second Campaign.
There is something to her, I just don't know what yet!

Another hook I was going to use was the Ranger Elmo from T1.  He was going to show up in the Abyss when the Order got there (at Gen Con), but the players never really engaged with the guy.  HOWEVER they did engage a lot with this random elf woman that had been following them since the A Series.    They again decided she had to be important even if originally each of those encounters were with different elves.  My players decided she was the same person each time and figured she knew something.  A few quick jots in my notebook and Evelyn, the Princess Escalla was born!  She was an Elven Ranger/Enchanter and was key to the Elven resistance movement in the Underdark.

It has been a glorious set of mysteries and neither the characters nor the players have figured out the ultimate mystery.  That Tharizdûn, through Asmodeus, is manipulating the demons to get what he wants; his resurrection and freedom from his cage.

It's going to be great.



Sunday, August 4, 2019

Back from Gen Con!

I just got back from Gen Con 2019!

Took the whole family and we had a great time.  In fact, it was one of the best Gen Cons in recent memory.  We played a lot of D&D 5 and Call of Cthulhu 7th ed.  I got in a game of Blue Rose and a public playtest of Cthulhu Tech 2.0.





More details later. Tired and needing some Chicago style pizza.  Indy is great, but their pizza sucks.

Friday, August 2, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Unique

Today's topic is Unique.

I have to say I have had a lot of very interesting and fun RPG related experiences.  But for my money my favorite unique experience was the night after a freak storm we played Castle Amber by candlelight.




It was about five years ago and we had just converted our 1st Ed AD&D game we had started at Gen Con that year to the brand new 5e.  We had a freak storm and we had lost power for several days. 

We spent the day cooking everything from our freezer and sharing the food with all our neighbors who were doing the same (the retired actuary down the street gave us steaks for my wife's homegrown tomatoes and he STILL thinks he got the better deal). 

My wife and kids still talk about that adventure.  In fact, this was the start of our Come Endless Darkness campaign.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Demonic Trolls

Gearing up for the big finale of the Order of the Platinum Dragon game this week.  Five-six years, spread out, has now come down to the big confrontation between the forces of Good and the forces of Chaos.  This weekend the Order will face off against Lolth.

I have been planning this one for years.  Knowing full well the history of how Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits was written and produced and knowing while it can be epic in scope, it often falls a little flat.  Well, I have worked that out a bit and even have adapted several other adventures such as Skein of the Death Mother and the original version of Queen of Lies.

But there are still somethings in the Q1 module that needs to be changed.  One, oft mentioned bit, is that the characters get to the Abyss and they are assaulted by trolls and gnolls.  Wait. Trolls? Gnolls?  These creatures seem a little too mundane for the ultra weirdness that is the Abyss.
Now one hand gnolls have evolved since the late 70s, early 80s to become more and more demonically influenced.   So these I can keep, just maybe turn up the evil a bit.  But Trolls?  Like Tom, Bert, and William from the Hobbit?  No that can't be right.

But if I go with Demonic Trolls, now there is something else.



We know two things.  1. Trolls regenerate after they are damaged.  2. The Abyss corrupts the life found in it to adapt to the environment in twisted ways.  That last one is from the 4th Ed version of the Demonomicon.    So what happens when you put these together?  Demon Trolls.  And if they are in the Demonweb?  Demonic Spider Trolls.

Here are Demonic Trolls for the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules, my current "Basic" of choice these days.

TROLL, DEMONIC
AC: 2
HD: 12d8
Move: 45
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite or weapon
Damage: 1d6 (claw) x2/ 2d6 (bite) or weapon
Special: Bite save vs. Poison 2d6 (half with save)
XP: 2,300
Alignment: CE
Treasure: None
Abilities: +3 Strength, +2 Dexterity,  -4 Charisma
Climb Surfaces +25%, Hear Noise +15%, Read Languages -10%, Read Scrolls -10%, Use Wand -15%

Regenerates 1d6+6 hp at the start of it's turn.

And for D&D 5e.

Demonic Troll
Large Fiend, chaotic evil

Armor Class 17 (natural armor)
Hit Points 108 (12d10 + 48)
Speed 45 ft., climb 45 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
22 (+6)     18 (+4)     18 (+4)     8 (-1)     10 (0)     4 (-3)    

Skills Perception +6, Stealth +9
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 15
Languages Abyssal, Undercommon
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)


TRAITS

Keen Smell: The demonic troll has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.

Regeneration: The demoic troll regains 15 Hit Points at the start of its turn. If the demonic troll takes acid or fire damage, this trait doesn't function at the start of the demonic troll's next turn. The demonic troll dies only if it starts its turn with 0 Hit Points and doesn't Regenerate.

Spider Climb. The demonic troll can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The demonic troll makes two attacks, either with it's claws or bite.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 9 (1d6+6) slashing damage.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 6) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) poison damage.

Trolls may also use a melee or improvised weapon.

Description

Demonic trolls are the result of trolls becoming captured or lost in the Abyss. Their natural regenerative powers combined with the Abyss' computing influences create true monsters.  Their intellect is lowered as they become deranged with blood lust, but their strength and speed become truly monstrous.

They will often adopt demonic features such as horns, wings, a forked tail, or any number of thousands of possible mutations.  Often they pick up traits of whatever abyssal plane they are on.  Trolls in the Demonweb, for example, will have spider-like features.  Trolls in the layers of Juiblex will have ooze like features and seem to melt and reform as the attack.

Regeneration
The regeneration powers of the demonic troll are horrifying.  If the troll looses a limb it can hold the limb to the wound to reattach it.  Or it can pick up any severed limb and that will re-attach as well.  Left over severed limbs will regrow into new trolls, altered by the environment.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

D&D Essentials Kit: Unboxing and Review

Today I want to spend some time with the new D&D Essentials Kit.  I had held off buying this when it first came out.  It was only available at Target stores and it is designed to get people up and going in the D&D 5 game that does not have prior experience with D&D.  That is not me. Plus buying one means that someone new might not get a copy.  But I kept hearing really good things about it and the sales I have heard are really good.  So I opted to pick up a copy now.

Since I prefer to buy my game materials from my favorite local game store, I will pick up another one when they are released to games stores in September.  I am likely going to donate that copy to my kid's local high school gaming club.  It will be well recieved I am sure.

So for $25 what does the Essentials Kit have and what can you do with it?  According to the back of the box we have:
  • 64 Page Rulebook
  • Dragon of Icespire Peak Adventure
  • Double-sided poster map
  • DM's screen
  • 6 blank character sheets
  • 11 polyhedral dice
  • 81 cards describing magic-items, NPC and conditions
  • Access codes for D&D Beyond


Opening up the box we see:


The adventure has a familiar feel of all the D&D 5 books.


Cards.



The map of the Sword Coast.


The DM's screen.  It is similar to the DM's screen sold separately, but this is made of thinner material.


Character sheets. These are thicker paper than photocopier paper.


The rulebook covers nearly everything characters will need for levels 1 to 6.



And dice. 1d4, 4d6s, 1d8, 1d10, 1d%, 1d12 and 2d20s.

The Essentials Kit covers a bunch of material and it is a fantastic introduction to the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition game.  The rules are clear, cover all the necessary topics and items.

The Essentials Kit is designed to work with the Starter Kit, but in truth I felt the Essentials can stand on it's own.


Certainly together they make for a complete game.  The Starter Set has more monsters and another adventure. 

I think that there was a missed opportunity here to call these the Basic and Expert sets.



The easy comparison here is to the various Basic Sets we have gotten over the years for D&D.



One of the complaints of the Starter Set was the lack of character creation rules. There were some other complaints that I felt were overblown. But let's look at this new box and ask the basic question "can I run a D&D game with just this box?"

The answer is yes, of course you can.  But are the elements here? Certainly.
I went through my Holmes and Moldvay Basic sets (Metzer is similar enough to Moldvay for this) and picked out rules sections to see what they have and how the Essentials compares.

This is what I came up with:

Item/Rule/Topic D&D 5e Essentials Holmes Basic Moldvay Basic
Character Creation Yes Yes Yes
Ability Generation 4d6, drop lowest or array 3d6 3d6
Character Races Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human
Character Classes Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Thief Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Thief
and Race-as-class
Levels 1 to 6 1 to 3 1 to 3
Spells Yes (Bard, Cleric & Wizard) Yes (Cleric & Magic-user) Yes (Cleric & Magic-user)
Equipment Yes Yes Yes
Combat Yes Yes Yes
Monsters Yes, in included adventure Yes Yes
Magic Items Yes Yes Yes
DM's Section Yes, in included adventure Yes Yes
Running Adventures Yes Yes Yes
Sample Adventure No (but includes a full adventure) Yes Yes
Full Adventure Dragon of Icespire Peak B1 Search of the Unknown B2 Keep on the Borderlands
Character Sheets Yes No No* (but a page you can copy)
Dice Yes (11) No (Chits) Yes (6)

All three sets align well in terms of what you have.  You can start a character, choose one of four races and one of five classes and take them from 1st to 6th level with this box. And with this box there are already blank character sheets.

Like the boxes of old, save for my Holmes set made during the Great Dice Drought, all have dice.  All have included adventures and all have character creation rules.
Will Dragon of Icespire Peak go down in history like Keep on the Borderlands?  No. But it is still a very fine adventure.

The weak point of this boxed set as a complete game are the lack of a huge variety of Monsters.  Holmes featured 58 monsters.  Moldvay had over 70, more with variants and sub-types. Essentials has 33.  Still, a good amount and all three sets cover the same ones.  I don't see this as an issue since monsters can be downloaded from the SRD or the online Basic Game.  The Starter Kit also has Monsters as well.

So. The new Essentials Kit is a great starting place for people wanting to learn D&D 5 and have never played D&D before.  It is also good for anyone new to D&D 5 but has played other games in the past; though I would direct those folks to the Player's Handbook.

At 25 bucks the entry price is low enough for a casual gamer. 

The woman at the register at Target asked me if the game was for me or my kids.  I admitted it was for me, but my kids play.  She was telling me how popular the set has been and it was flying off the shelves.  I told her I knew, since this was the fourth Target I had been at in the Chicago'burbs looking for it.  She said her son had asked for it and she got it for him.  Now he and all his friends play at her house.  Cheaper than a video game and she knew where they were and what they were doing to whole time.

I think. No. I KNOW that Wizards of the Coast did the right thing putting this in Target stores.  If this gets the word out more about our hobby, then fantastic.

My next plan is to do some sample characters.  I have a new Bard, Cleric or Druid, and a Fighter I want to try out using just this box and do the same characters with the new Pathfinder.  Could be fun to see which character creation process "feels" the best.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Happy Anniversary!

No regular post today, it's my 24th Wedding Anniversary!
24 years ago I stood on a beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and I said "I Do" to my best friend.
It's been a wonderful ride so far.  Two houses, two kids, 8 different jobs, and 21 season of gardens (missing one due to a move and no gardens when we lived in an apartment).  I wouldn't change a thing.

To keep this RPG related I got a commission from one of my Featured Artist, Ben Honeycutt, to do a portrait of my wife's and mine D&D 5 characters.  Or, more closely, us cosplaying as our characters. ;)



These are our characters Johan IV (Paladin) and Lana (Fighter)



These were based on our minis and our engagement photo from 1995.




Friday, July 12, 2019

Willow & Tara: 5e Modern variant

My Facebook friend Ron McNiel has been playing around with a 5e inspired modern game variant and he decided to do his own reboot of Buffy.  It looks pretty fun, to be honest, and you can see all his details here.  Looks like he is using this as a test run for his next campaign so looking forward to hearing what he does.


In the meantime here are his versions of Willow & Tara for his game, complete with new casting.

Tara Maclay, played by Violett Beane

Click for larger

Ron: I present you Tara Maclay (Violett Beane) - is a shy, quiet, and nervous person. She often finds her self stuttering when she speaks, especially when Willow is around. Not much is known about Tara, because she is afraid to open up to others because of her verbally abusive father and brother. She harbors a secret, a secret her father drilled into her, something about a family curse that was bestowed on the women of her family that would manifest on their 20th birthday. She began to believe her father about the curse, because her mom became ill. She has a small rebellious streak that she indulges from time to time, such as lying to her father and staying out all night. Being relatively new to Sunnydale High, having recently moved to Sunnydale (for the best care for her mother), she doesn't have much friends, until Willow introduces herself, which would spark something deep down inside of her.


Willow Rosenberg, played by Emily Rudd

Click for larger

Ron: I present Willow Danielle Rosenberg (Emily Rudd) – is a consistently sweet, trusting, gentle, intelligent, and caring person. She is a somewhat naive, painfully shy nerd who has a hopeless crush on her best friend Xander. She is very friendly and understanding, though she is not afraid to be tough. While still having a easily nervous nature. She is incredibly loyal and supportive to her friends, especially Buffy and Xander as she almost never openly criticizes their decisions with hostility even when she disagreed, a factor in her understanding nature. She normally does not display fits of extreme anger toward those who done her wrong, even if they were her close friends, retaining a calm and receptive demeanor, never forgetting. She is often speaks in strange speeches and phrases, something she shares with her best friend Buffy, which could often confuse those around her who aren’t used to it. She is greatly emotional and prone to senseless babble when nervous (which is another similarity to Buffy). She is also very determined to get things done when she feels they are important. It is sometimes hard for people to change her mind, a sign of this being her "Resolve Face." She does not hold grudges against people. In fact, she is usually one of the first to forgive people for their mistakes, even if large ones, being incredibly forgiving. Another notable trait of hers is her remarkable ability to put aside grudges and personal feelings to get an important task done which she has done on numerous occasions. She doesn’t often let personal feelings cloud her judgment either, making her very responsible and level-headed. One of her amazing gifts is with computers and cracking codes. She also seems to be the only one out of the Scooby Gang that actually enjoys going to school and doing homework as well as tutoring, much to the confusion of Buffy and Xander.


This looks great!  He has done the other characters, but these are my favorites.

You can see my own "reboot" of the series here:

Monday, July 1, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Mystical Companions (5e)

Over the weekend I was thinking about my Magic School game and what I want to add to it.  One thing became instantly obvious to me was I needed to have familiars. Nearly every 5e game I have run the players have wanted pets, animal companions and familiars.   Thankfully for me, I already own the perfect book.


The Troll Lord's Mystical Companions is the update to their fantastic Book of Familiars.   It comes in two flavors, A Castles & Crusades version, and a D&D 5th Edition version.   I have both in digital and PDF formats, but today I am going to focus solely on the 5th Edition version.  Yes, they are in fact different enough that two separate reviews are really needed.

I was always going to use this book in my Magic School games, whether that game used an Old-School ruleset (like Castles & Crusades or BECMI D&D) or (now) D&D 5th Edition.  I think that highly of it.

Mystical Companions for 5th Edition Role Playing
208 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. PDF and Hardcover.
For this review, I am reading primarily from the digital PDF version, but it applies to the hardcover as well.  I purchased both the 5e and C&C versions at Gary Con and received my PDFs via Kickstarter.
Spend any time reading my blog or reviews and one thing is obvious. I love my spellcasters and familiars.  I have often felt the rules for familiars are quite under-developed in many games and familiars, or animal companions of any sort, are often an under-utilized or a forgotten aspect of the game and lives of the characters.
So far every 5th Edition game I have run the players have wanted an animal companion of some sort.  While the rules in the game are fine enough, there is plenty of room for improvement.  Thankfully, the Troll Lords believe the same thing.
I have mentioned that this book is an update and replacement to their Book of Familiars, it is, and it is more than that.

A quick look over the table of contents reveals that we are getting an animal companion for every class.  I feel that this appropriate and looking forward to reading the details.
Now before I go on I do want to point out that unlike some third-party books this one is NOT "plug and play".  You must make plans to add these animal companions from the start.  In one game I tried to tack on these rules in an on-going game and ran into some issues.  In another game, I used this from the start and everything went much more smoothly.  I guess think about it as getting a real-life pet.  You are going to do a little work and thought beforehand.  Once I did this THEN adding these to an ongoing game was much easier.  This is NOT like adding a new spell or magic item to your game, this is a new, but highly compatible sub-system.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Here the purpose of the book is laid out and how the authors made certain decisions on how to incorporate this new material into the game.  There is a section here that bares repeating since I have heard this complaint online.
A WORD OF EXPLANATION: This book requires that you have access to the three core rulebooks for the 5th edition rules, or at very least to the Basic Rules document that is freely available online. Throughout this book, we have used the terms ‘CK,’ and “Castle Keeper” to indicate the game master or person running the game, and ‘player character’ or ‘PC’ to refer to the characters created for the game. In addition, when you see terms like, “Game Master’s Guide” or “5th Edition Monster Tome,” these refer to the Core Rulebooks for the 5th Edition fantasy rules set.
So if you see "CK" or "Castle Keeper" in this book, it's not shoddy editing, but a design choice.  Hey, they like CK better than GM.  And since they can't say DM then CK is just as good as anything else.
There are rules to what an OGL publisher can and can't say, so I can't fault them here.

Here the other sub-systems are described.
Advantages.  Advantages are Feats. They are gained the same way and used, mostly, in the same way.  The difference in wording here (at least for me) helps differentiate the "feats" from this book from all the other feats you can get in the Core rules or other publishers.  In play, this has been a boon since I know immediately that an Advantage on a sheet means something from this book and not another book on my shelf. 
Paths. Time has been kind to Troll Lords here.  When this book first came out in 2017 not a lot of 3P publishers were doing paths yet and there was some confusion about what these were.  Now everyone has a new path (read: sub-class, kit, path, option) for the 12 core classes.   These CAN slot right into a game like anything else from any 3PP.
Tricks. Things your animal companion can do.
Rituals. How you can get your animal companion.  I mean there has to be some magic right?
New Familiars and Animals.  Kinda what it says on the tin to be honest.

Animal Companion vs. Familiar.  While rules in the book cover book and treat them somewhat interchangeably an Animal Companion is more like a loyal pet or friend.  A Familiar is a creature summoned to work with the PC.  Animal Companions are free willed, familiars are not.

Chapter 1 also covers the basics of familiars. A point. A familiar/Animal companion "character" sheet would be GREAT here, but there isn't one.  Ah well, can have everything I guess.

The list of Advantages (again, these are just like Feats) are presented.  There are more here and some might complain about giving up a Feat or Ability advancement for a Familiar, but these are all quite balanced in my experience.  You give up one "power" (feat, advancement) for another.   Quite implicit in 5th Edition's design really.  Not only that it is actually quite elegant once you use it.

The best part about this?  You can take the Summon Familiar Advantage/Feat multiple times (Wizards get it for free at first level) so you can have multiple familiars.  I don't do multiple familiars often, but when I do, I really want to do it.  Though my son runs a game with this book and he describes the group of PCs and their companions as a "traveling zoo".   One girl even has a sheep as an animal companion.  Why? No idea. But this book supports it.

Another great piece of advice from Chapter 1 bears repeating (coping) here.
Give yourself a visual reminder of your familiar’s presence. Write “REMEMBER THE FAMILIAR” to a Post-It note and stick it to the table in front of you. Or make it a point to buy and use a miniature for your familiar.
Good advice. I am a fan of the Wardlings minis from WizKids.


or getting a custom mini with a familiar from Hero Forge.


Chapters 2 through 13 all work in a similar fashion.
Each core class is covered with attention given to special Animal Companions, Familiars or Mounts as appropriate.  Different animals are discussed and a new Path is given that focuses on having an animal companion.

For example, the Barbarian (the last class you might think needs a familiar) has the Nature Fetish Path and the Horseman Path (Dothraki anyone?) The Barbarian chapter is quite good really in that it really shows that animals really do need to be a bigger part of a barbarians' (and all characters) lives.   Reading this chapter has made me want to play a barbarian for the first time EVER since they became an option to me in 1985-1986 or so.  No content just to talk about familiars and paths, the barbarian chapter also covers special mounts.

The other chapters are as equally robust.  There are sections on the Paladin's mount and Ranger's companions but also familiars for rogues and clerics and others that you might not think need animal companions.  I particularly like the Rogue's path, the Shadow Pact.  How's that work?  Well, Rogues can take creatures of shadow as familiars!  Tell me that is not cool.

As expected the familiars of the Sorcerer, Warlock and Wizard are ALL very, very different from each other and really reflect what the classes do now.  Back in the 3e days Wizards and Sorcerer wre 100% interchangeable in terms of role.  The differences were largely fluff.  Since 4e this is less true and now in 5e they are very different sorts of classes.  In 4e Sorcerers and Warlocks filled similar roles.  Again in 5e they are very different. This book reflects the new 5e differences.
Naturally there can be overlap.  The chapter on Wizards talks about how the Wizard rituals can be used by sorcerers for example. 

Appendix A: Familiars and Companions. This covers the familiars and "normal" animals in 5e Stat blocks.
Appendix B: New Monsters. New monsters.
Appendix C: New Spells. New spells, as expected.
Likewise, Appendix D: New Magic Items and Artifacts.

Appendix E though is something different.  This covers Dragon Riders.  While many of the same rules are used here as for familiars this takes them to a new place and should be considered optional.
This is the Appendix/Chapter that my son grabbed this book from me for, BUT he opted not use their Dragon Riders but kept the book anyway for everything else.

A Dragon Rider is a Path that can be added to any class, but some have more use for it than others.  If the idea of PC Dragon Riders concerns you, then keep in mind it is being sold as "optional".  And also Dragon Riders of some form or another have been around since the dawn of the game.  If it is something you want, then there is plenty here for you to use.
If I ever ran a Magic School game with this then Dragon Riders would be included.

We end with a robust index and the OGL section.

A note about art. There is not as much in this book as other Troll Lord books, but what is here is from the fabulous Peter Bradley and Jason Walton, who also gives us the cover art.

Your results may vary, but this book has quickly gone from a neat oddity to one of our must-have books for my 5e games. My son uses it in the games he has run so much that I have not seen the book in months since it is now in with all of his books.

Do you need this book?  I say yes, but only if you are adding animals of any sort to your game, be they pets, familiars, mounts, companions or all the way up to Dragon Riders.
This is one of my 3PP books for 5e. One of the best really.

I should also point out that this book is a stretch goal for the Amazing Adventures 5E RPG Kickstarter.  Pledge at the $55 level and you can get a copy of this book.  Which is fantastic if you ask me.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Friendship is Magic Edition

Couple of Kickstarters are ending in the next four days from some friends of mine and I wanted to share.  Both are great and I want to see them both do well.

First up is the sequel to Eric Bloat's wonderful Vigilante City supers game.

SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City RPG 2 Book Quickstarter


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/survive-this-vigilante-city-rpg-2-book-quickstarter?ref=theotherside

Vigilante City is such a great game and I feel bad I have not done more with it. If you are familiar with Dark Places & Demogorgons then you know this system.   This time we get books 3 & 4:  SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City - Superhero Team-Up! and Into The Sewers.

From the Kickstarter:
SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City Book 3: Superhero Team up! Comes with the inclusion of many new classes, goes through the steps of team building while greatly adding to the equipment and vehicles. It shows how to build new superhero headquarters and stock it full of the valuable tech and tools every team needs to be successful. There will be new combat rules to include Team Moves and so much more!

SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City Book 4: Into The Sewers takes you underground to maze of tunnels that travelunderthe Metropolitan of Victory City, into the world of subcultures, gangs, Mutants & Anthropomorphs. Into The Sewers will feel like a new setting and greatly expands upon the already robust Mutant and Anthropomorph classes and powers.
It looks like it will be great!
Did I mention there is an all-star team working on this too?  Well, there is!  Check it out.

Next is Jason Vey's Amazing Adventures.

Amazing Adventures 5E RPG


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/amazing-adventures-5e-rpg?ref=theotherside

I featured Amazing Adventures 5e a while back.  It is also in its last 4 days, so time to get moving.

The book is done, save for the art and layout and I have played it.  It's so much fun.
Since my first post there have been a lot of stretch goals met and more added, and met. The next one is about to be unlocked.

Both games are a lot of fun and worthy of space on your game table.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Magic School: Fast Times at Magic High

A group of dangerous 5th Year students.
I spent some time over the weekend playing the new Wizards Unite and working out some details of my Magic School campaign.

I am still going with the idea of a Magical High School/College, where young wizards go to learn about spell casting.   While I had been playing around with the idea of a Basic-era game, in particular, a BECMI one, my oldest son pointed out that D&D 5e might actually work out better.

For starters, the unified XP table is a big boon.  If I was planning to do cohort classes then having everyone the same level is a good thing. Now I might want to use some "negative" levels to represent their learning, but not many.

In D&D5 you need 300 XP to get to level 2. No complaining about 5e here, the XP scale for characters and monsters are different and there are good design philosophies behind this.

But what if I added a couple of levels before that.
Say to get to level B from level C you need 50 XP.
Then to get to level A from B you need 100 XP.
Then to go to level 1 from level A you need 150 XP.

Similar to the Cavalier in the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.
Heck, I would not even mind making it a little more.  Level 3 requires 900 XP and Level 4 needs 2,700 XP.  So there is a jump.  Sure I could redo the whole thing, but I want this to live in a world where a kid can pick up a sword and soon be a level 1 fighter.

D&D 5 also gives me more spellcasting classes to work with.
In fact, my son worked it out like this:
Bards = Band Kids
Clerics = Religious Kids
Druids = Nature/Hippie/Stoner kids
Sorcerers = Jocks/Privileged kids (since their magic is innate)
Wizards = Science geeks
Warlocks = Goth Kids

Also, all these classes have a full range of spell options from Cantrips to 9th level.  All have more than one spell at 1st level and there is even some cross over between the spells.
For levels C, B, and A (or eventually Freshman, Sophmore, Junior, Senior, Graduate if I can work it out) would learn spellcasting basics and other curricula I have planned.
OR  I just keep it as-is and levels/years are 1 to 5.

Quentin Coldwater: "We are all fucked in our own way, as always."
Eliot Waugh: "Magic doesn't come from talent, it comes from pain."
When I brought this up to my son he reminded me that while a 5th wizard has some power, they are not really powerhouses.  They are less effective than Harry Potter and his friends were in the later books. We discussed some of the monsters that a level 5 wizard could take on solo and with 4 other wizards.  I am pretty happy about what I heard.

So maybe I want to do a Level 0, this the first year in Magic School. You are 13 years old and you know two cantrips.  You get the "Magic School" background with some bonus to your Arcana skill.  So for a five-year curriculum, you graduate at level 4 with the "Graduate of Magic School" feat.

Year (age) Level XP Notes
1 (13) 0 0 Initiate, Magic School Background
2 (14) 1 100 Freshman
3 (15) 2 300 Sophomore
4 (16) 3 900 Junior
5 (17) 4 2,700 Senior, Magic School Graduate Feat

I like this. This works well for my needs. I'll choose different words for "Freshman" etc later.  Maybe take something from the Hermetic Traditions.

Going with 5e though also means I would either have to drop my High Witchcraft idea OR make one for 5e.
But it also means I can use material from the Amazing Adventures 5e book.

Adventures
I guess the big thing about Magic School is what sort of adventures could students have?
Well...lots really!  I mean just grabbing from popular media of the last few years we have Harry Potter, the Magicians, Charmed, pretty much every show on the CW (and formerly the WB), not to mention years of public schooling, college, grad school, teaching for god know how long and developing curricula full time.  Of course, not all of that is going to work here.

I am going to take a cue from the work I did on the Buffy RPG, I'll set up each year/level as a "season" with some adventures as "episodes". There would be a season-long arc with a "big bad" with several "monster of the week" episodes sprinkled about.  My son already came up with one of the "monster of the week" ones, "Ferris Bueller's (Magic School) Day Off".

Fans of the Buffy RPG might remember the "Djinn Arc" we were doing, I could adapt that for a later season.  I am also going to steal a page from the Carmilla web series and do a missing student arc for Year 1.  Cause what else says whacky school hijinks like new students being sacrificed to some god/demon/old one?

Also, I am planning to play with the idea of these new classes.
"The Great School of Magic has for the first time in its history opened its doors to spellcasters other than wizards.  While clerics and bards had been welcomed on a limited basis, now the doors are thrown wide to the likes of warlocks, sorcerers, druids, and others."

The old guard is not at all happy about this and the changes to what they see as "the rules".

Am I making fun of grognards and others here that don't like 5e? Yeah. I am.

I need a group of kids/students/faculty to provide antagonism to the new students but I did not want to limit that antagonism to just based on classes (PHB class, not level or class level, wow I use "class" a lot in this.)

Also, I need to come up with a good name for this school.  Though it occurs to me I have written a lot of this material already for different games.  For example, my adventure "Mid-Semester Night's Nightmare" was done with Elizabeth Bathory in mind.  I can easily replace her with Darlessa.  Come to think of it that adventure ALSO dealt with missing students.  Given I wrote that in the mid 2000s I would not be stealing from Carmilla at all. 

There. My Big Bad for Series/Season/Year 1 is Darlessa.

Looking forward to seeing where this takes me.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Amazing Adventures 5e

I have been waiting for this one for a while now. 

Amazing Adventures 5E RPG


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/amazing-adventures-5e-rpg?ref=theotherside

I have been a fan of Amazing Adventures since my good friend Jason Vey told he was writing it one day.  Jason and I met while working for Eden Studios back in the late 90s and the early 2000s.  Since then we have playtested and given advice on each other's games. 

The original Amazing Adventures was two-fisted, high action pulpy goodness using the SIEGE Engine rules that powers the Castles & Crusades RPG.  Over the years and supplements, it has morphed into a more multi-genre system complete with powers and all sorts of magic and psionics.

Amazing Adventures 5e makes this all explicit now and does it using the same d20 system that D&D 5e uses.  Which seems only fair given how much of C&C you can find in D&D5.
Yes, you can still do pulp, but you can also do modern gaming, Victorian and futuristic Sci-Fi.

I have read and played the playtest and it is every bit as awesome as that cover promises it is.

OR use it as an add-on to your D&D 5 rules with some extra classes and work right alongside of the classics.

Seriously this one is a no-brainer.

It has blown past the stretch goals, which is great since you now get "Don't Fear the Ripper" and "The Feast of Black Annis" adventures which are great.   I am just tickled, having played with Jason's home group in the past, to see "Don't Fear the Ripper" get new life as an AA5 adventure.

Lots of great stuff here and you should check it out.



Monday, June 3, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Gargantua Demons

We had tickets to see the new Godzilla: King of Monsters movie this weekend so we made a day of it. Went out and played Pokémon Go as a family and we all caught a Tyranitar in a raid.  We all renamed them after Kaiju, except for my youngest who in his typical fashion named his "Greg".

We saw the movie. It was great fun and everything you want a Godzilla movie to be; giant monsters beating each other up while leveling a city.  Then we went out to have sushi and another round of Pokémon.

Of course, this got me thinking about my Gargantua Demons of my game world.  I thought I should update them for today.

Orcus with a Gargantua

Gargantua

Gargantuan outsider (demon [Calabim]), chaotic evil

  • Armor Class 26 (Natural Armor)
  • Hit Points 656 (32d20+320)
  • Speed 60 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
 30 (+10)   11 (0)   30 (+10)   8 (-1)   8 (-1)   25 (+7) 

  • Vulnerabilities Radiant
  • Damage Immunities fire, poison; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
  • Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned
  • Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 10
  • Languages Abyssal (understand simple commands)
  • Challenge 30 (155,000 XP)

Special Traits


  • Legendary Resistance (3/Day): If the gargantua fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.
  • Magic Resistance: The gargantua has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
  • Siege Monster: The gargantua deals double damage to objects and structures.
  • Actions


    • Multiattack: The gargantua can use its Frightful Presence. It then makes four attacks: one with its bite, two with its claws, and one with its tail. It can use its Swallow instead of its bite.
    • Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +19 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 36 (4d12 + 10) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it is grappled (escape DC 20). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained, and the gargantua can’t bite another target.
    • Claw: Melee Weapon Attack: +19 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 28 (4d8 + 10) slashing damage.
    • Tail: Melee Weapon Attack: +19 to hit, reach 20 ft., one target. Hit: 24 (4d6 + 10) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 20 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.
    • Frightful Presence: Each creature of the gargantua’s choice within 120 feet of it and aware of it must succeed on a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, with disadvantage if the gargantua is within line of sight, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the gargantua’s Frightful Presence for the next 24 hours.
    • Swallow: The gargantua makes one bite attack against a Large or smaller creature it is grappling. If the attack hits, the target takes the bite’s damage, the target is swallowed, and the grapple ends. While swallowed, the creature is blinded and restrained, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the gargantua, and it takes 60 (20d6) acid damage at the start of each of the gargantua’s turns. If the gargantua takes 80 damage or more on a single turn from a creature inside it, the gargantua must succeed on a DC 20 Constitution saving throw at the end of that turn or regurgitate all swallowed creatures, which fall prone in a space within 10 feet of the gargantua. If the gargantua dies, a swallowed creature is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse by using 30 feet of movement, exiting prone.
    • Breath Weapon (Recharge 5–6):  The gargantua exhales fire in a 90-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 25 Dexterity saving throw, taking 82 (15d10) fire and necrotic damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
    • Legendary Actions


      • The gargantuan can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The gargantua regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.
      • Attack: The gargantua makes one claw attack or tail attack. 
      • Move: The gargantua moves up to half its speed.
      • Chomp (Costs 2 Actions): The gargantua makes one bite attack or uses its Swallow.

These horrors are destruction incarnate. These demons stand over 50 feet tall and are horrible to behold.  Each one is unique, but all have characteristics in common.  They are typically humanoid in shape but could be covered in scales, leathery skin, fur, chitin, or any combination of these. Their intellect is below that of animals and like all calabim demons, they exist only to destroy.

Powerful Baalor or even Arch Fiends can control them, but it is difficult to do.  Mostly they are sent somewhere where everything must be destroyed or eaten.  Gargantua will even fight and kill other demons.

All gargantua have massive claw and bite attacks in addition to tail, horn or other weapon attacks.  Occasional on a bite attack a victim can be swallowed whole.  Every gargantuan also has a breath weapon attack. Typically fire, but lighting and wind are also common.

Human wizards and warlock have been known to try to summon these creatures but the destruction they cause usually outweigh any perceived benefits they may offer.  The spells to do so are carefully guarded.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Ultramodern5, a 5E universal sci-fi sourcebook

I have really been enjoying my time with D&D 5th Edition.   So when a new game comes out (and this one of two on my radar) using the 5e mechanics, it gets my attention.

Ultramodern5, a 5E universal sci-fi sourcebook


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/diasexmachina/ultramodern5-a-5e-universal-sci-fi-sourcebook?ref=theotherside

This book is an update to their earlier Ultramodern5 book which did rather well.

It looks like it can cover a lot of the same ground that the Modern d20 did from WotC and that is something we are really lacking at the moment.

The new art for this book looks fantastic and I am getting a solid "Savage Worlds" vibe from this in a very good way. Some of the new mechanics might also be worth exploring in a regular 5e game.

So yeah there is a lot here to explore and I am looking forward to seeing more of it.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Dungeons & Dragons Stranger Things Starter Set

There is no doubt that Stanger Things gave D&D a boost.
D&D 5th ed was already doing great and was on its way to being the best selling version of D&D ever before it became a major feature of the highly popular Netflix show Stranger Things.  When Season 1 premiered I had adults my age (who would have been the same ages as the kids in ST at the time) coming to me and asking how they could get a D&D game for their kids.

Well, I wish I had had this boxed set at the time.


The new Dungeons & Dragons Stranger Things Starter Set is making it's way to retailers now.
I picked up a copy on Amazon (to donate to my son's D&D club at High School...yeah they have now) and getting another one from my FLGS.

Truth be told I don't *need* it, but it sure is fantastic!

Done up like everyone's favorite red box D&D this is a starter set for D&D 5th Edition.  And it is PERFECT for anyone that is a fan of the show and wants to learn how to play D&D.
It does have the Wizards of the Coast logo on it, but also the "Hasbro Gaming" logo which is new.  Also since this is being sold not only in game stores and Amazon it is being released to Game Stops (the video game store) and other markets.   Hasbro is serious about backing D&D and I think it is going to be a huge win for them.

The box set includes a basic rule book similar to what we got in the first D&D 5e Starter set.  We also get an adventure "Written by Mike Wheeler", character sheets, a set of dice (mine are exactly like the ones I got in the Starter Set) and two "Demogorgon" minis; one painted the other plain.




Starter Set Rulebook
This book gives all the basics of D&D in 44 concise, full-color pages.  Everything is here to get you started. How to play, the basics of combat and adventuring, a chapter on spell casting and a subset of magic items and monsters.  Pretty much what you expect in a "Basic" set.
Instead of art we get some screen grabs from the ST show.
There are stats for the Demogorgon monster (not the demon).

Hunt for the Thessalhydra
Ok, truth time, I LOVE this. I want more adventures like this.
The sample adventure is done up to like a notebook written by Mike from the show.  Complete with wide ruled notebook paper background and Jr. High style art (only much better).  D&D artist Stan! is behind this one and I could not be happier about that.


The adventure is as old-school as summer 1983. You have a quest, a knight a monster to defeat, a table of rumors. Troglodytes! (art takes it inspiration from the Monster Manual) and random encounters.
The adventure is not ground-breaking, but it is not supposed to be.  BUT it does take place in the "Upside Down", so that is cool. They describe it a bit like the Shadowfell, but no attempt is made to make it part of the larger D&D 5 cosmology and that is perfectly great by me.  There is even a sword from the Upside Down.
And no Refrigerator Aleena in this one, there is a Proud Princess that will aid the characters but they can't even harm her if they try.  She is obviously the Eleven stand in.

Character Sheets
These are all stand-ins for the kids on the show, more or less, We get all the major races; elf, dwarf, human, half-elf, and half-orc. No halfling though. And a good subset of classes; bard, cleric, paladin, ranger, wizard. But no straight up fighter or rogue.  A halfling rogue (or maybe a zoomer!) would have been a nice touch.  No names or genders on the sheets as it should be.

Dice and Demogorgons
The dice a pretty standard, same set I got with the other starter set.  There are only six (as were in old-school sets) so no d%, there is a standard d10 (and d4, d6, d8, d12 and d20).
The Demogorgon minis are the weakest part of this set.  The minis are the right scale but the plastic is really flimsy. The "painted" one only has a little bit of orange on it. These are not the Wiz Kids minis we get at game stores, these are made by Hasbro and appear to be made cheaply so they can make tons of them.

But really, this box hits all the nostalgia boxes AND is still a solid introduction to the D&D 5 game.





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