Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Download the new "Delving Deeper" retro-clone for FREE!!!

I thought I would share some cool OSR news. The Delving Deeper retro-clone, which emulates the original "White Box" ruleset, is available to download for free! Check it out!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Check out the RPGTable Online!!!

I play D&D both face-to-face and online. I wanted to share a little bit of news about the RPGTable, which is the platform I use for online gaming. This was the second "VT" that Wizards tried to develop. They recently cancelled their involvement in it, and the company that designed it for them sort of reclaimed it.

The reason I bring it up today is that it has several features that should interest 4e players. You can import your Character Builder PC files straight into it. This works for PCs from the old offline builder as well. This obviously makes it user friendly for players, even if you no longer have a DDI account.

Most recently (like a week ago), the RPGTable guys were able to procure all of the data for 4e monsters. Like thousands and thousands of monsters. They are giving away level 1 and 2 monsters free, and the rest of the monsters are very reasonably priced. You can purchase them all at once, or break them into tiers.

They also have the 4e tile sets for sale. They give you the Essentials Wilderness and Dungeon sets free.

The table is free to use. You have to buy a subscription to be able to share adventures with others and to unlock other functionality. But if you just want to show up and play or run a game, you can do it for free.

What is awesome about it is that even if they shut down the 4e tools, you have access to the monsters, and you can still use your old characters. So for gamers such as myself that aren't about to shelve 4e, the RPGTable can help keep it alive. I have been using it for a couple of years now, playing with gamers all over the world. I would love for you to check it out. I actually will be running a Level 1 demo tonight. Slots are already open. All you have to do is register, import a PC, and get playing.

The table is here. The forums are here. The old WOTC VT forums are here. My online retro-gaming group is here. If anyone has any questions about it, let me know! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Frothsof Halloween!

Hello all. Today I wanted to put together a little grab bag of some Halloween related RPG goodies for you.

Around this time of year, it seems most DMs make an effort to run something Halloween or horror themed. I am no exception. This year, instead of running something of my own, I actually ran (and will again be running) Death Frost Doom, a Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure. LotFP is a retro-clone, and most of the adventures have kind of a bleak, gory vibe, with the chances of PC survival being very slim. This makes these adventures ideal for one-shots, and perfectly suited for a Halloween game. I ran a conversion of this for 4e, and I am doing a B/X version over the weekend. I encourage DMs to check it out. There is basically no combat; it is very heavy on exploration and atmosphere, so it is easy to convert to any game system. I think the PDF was 5 bucks, and well worth it. Anyway, the poor 4e party I ran through it got TPK'ed, but because it happened in such an unusual, unexpected way, they still enjoyed it. That is about the highest praise you can really give a module; that it was fun even though the party was completely wiped out.

Here are some links I wanted to share to some blogs and sites that have some cool Halloween and horror content for RPGs:

Check out Age of Ravens series on the History of Horror RPGs! That post contains the links to the rest of this excellent series. Now, I own many of these games, but there are several that even I had never heard of. Now is the time of the year to track some of these down and give them some love.

One of the most, if not THE most prolific Horror RPG blogger's work is found at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque. He has compiled a lot of his impressive material into two free PDFs. Part one is here, and part two is here.

I know that there are many out there that focus solely on D&D as their game of choice, but even if you are not a Call of Cthulhu junkie like myself, there are several free adventures and the like on the Yog-Sothoth website. If you are kind of "stuck" and cannot decide on something to run for your players this Samhain, try converting the material, or just pilfer some ideas from it.

Finally, if you are looking to add a little Ravenloft to your Halloween game, or if you are working with Zombies and other undead this year, check my 4e Forever treatment of Strahd, and my Zombie Flavor Table.

Running a game this year? If you can share any gory details, leave a post! Have a gruesome Halloween!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dragon 416 is Compiled! Plus Froth Does Strahd!

Quick post to say that Dragon 416 is out, and they have gone back to compiling the issues. All I can say is thanks for that! It is good to see Strahd get some 4e love, although the poor guy didn't get a stat block. I guess I will have to make him one in honor! I decided to use the 4e Forever stat block if you are wondering what the heck you are looking at.

LEVEL 19 SAVAGE   XP: 4,800
HP: 344 (172)   MOVE: 8”, Fly: 8" in Bat and Gaseous form   INIT: +23   AP: 2
NO. APPEARING: Unique   ENC RNGE: Special   MORALE: 12
AC: 33   FORT: 31   REF: 32   WILL: 32
SENSES: Darkvision; Blindsight 10 in Bat form; Truesight 10 in Gaseous form
-Aura 2: Any enemy that enters the aura takes 10 psychic and necrotic damage. A creature can take this damage more than once per round.
-Immunities: Stun, Dominate, Fear, Polymorph, Charm, Unconscious, Out of Play
-Strahd can take a complete turn both on his Initiative and his Initiative -10.
-Manipulation: (Standard Action; At-Will; Close Burst 1; Each creature in burst); +22 vs WILL; 3d12+10 damage, and Strahd slides the target up to 5 squares to a space adjacent to an ally of the target. The target then must make an At-Will or unused Encounter power of Strahd's choice against the ally as a Free Action. Treat a Manipulation attack as Strahd's MBA.
-Fangs: (Minor Action; At-Will; Once per turn; Melee 1; One attack; One creature); +22 vs FORT; Ongoing 20 necrotic damage (save ends)
-Minor Manipulation: (Free Action; At-Will; Once per turn; Ranged 10; One attack; One creature); +22 vs WILL; 10 psychic damage, and the target is slid up to 5 squares
-Triggered Action: Strahd makes his Manipulation attack as a Free Action when first bloodied.
Once per turn as a Free Action, Strahd can shift into one of three forms: a Swarm of Bats, a Wolf, or a purplish Gas. Strahd automatically reverts to his original form after he makes an attack. In each form, Strahd gains enhanced movement abilities, listed below.
-Swarm of Bats: Strahd does not provoke Opportunity Attacks when moving away from creatures.
-Wolf: Strahd's base movement increases to 14”
-Gaseous: Strahd can teleport 4” as a Move Action.

Monday, October 8, 2012

4e Forever Sneak Peek: Random Flavor Tables

I thought I would drop a quick post today to show off something from the mag. As readers of my blog know, I love random tables. I take the view that random tables hone and sharpen your DMing skills. They have helped me become better at improvisation, and to be much more fearless. I also like how they can really add color and flavor to a setting or location. Sure, you can always write out a few sentences detailing the common monsters in the area, but there is something I like about this same information just being inferred by a Wandering Monster Table. 

Well, in the mag you will find random tables for all kinds of things: Reaction Tables, Wandering Monsters, and the like, as well as something else that I have really enjoyed working on, the Random Flavor Tables. The Random Flavor Tables are pretty much what they sound like; you roll on the tables every few turns, or every hex, or whenever instructed by the text, and the tables provide a little random flavor. Not a major description or anything, just a little "vibe". These things are very fun to design, and they help you brainstorm ideas, and get the creativity flowing as well. A module's text might provide the full description of an area, then prompt you to roll for a little random flavor every now and then as the PCs explore the area. In one of the mag's adventures, I am using them for Random Zombie Flavor, so I thought I would share that table with you. This table also contains major "spoilers" about some mag content.

About the Zombie Flavor Table
If at any point you need some quick Zombie flavor, use this table.

Zombie Flavor Table
-Roll 2d20 for flavor.
2. No eyes
3. One eye dangling
4. No eyes, but another Zombie is on its back, directing and “riding” it
5. Hops on one leg
6. Young child Zombie holding a doll with its head torn off
7. Zombie chews on eyeballs
8. Zombie child holding a slingshot
9. Legless Zombie dragging itself along ground
10. Zombie playing with its exposed, dried entrails
11. Zombie in rotting military outfit
12. Bird flies out of hole in its chest
13. Squirrel crawls out of hole in chest
14. Has no bottom jaw; swollen tongue dangles
15. Neck is broken and head has flopped over its back; walking backwards
16. Zombie in long flowing dress
17. Elf Zombie
18. Zombie is munching on a severed arm
19. Armless Zombie
20. Zombie wearing a fancy wide-brimmed hat
21. Zombie being dragged by a horse
22. Zombies riding in the back of a runaway carriage
23. Halfling Zombie
24. Zombie with flute stuck through the back of its head
25. Eating a dog
26. Eating a cat
27. Dwarf Zombie
28. Lots of bullet holes; large enough that you can see through them
29. Skeletal Zombie; has a small amount of tissue bunched around its neck, otherwise bones
30. Impaled on an oar; as it walks and turns, knocks other Zombies over inadvertently with the oar
31. Child Zombie eating hard candy, which falls through a hole in belly into the street; it picks it up and eats it again
32. Wears a red satin sash
33. Long, white beard
34. Gnome Zombie
35. Spits up black liquid
36. Leaves trail of a brown-white discharge
37. Fumbles with a gun and blows own head off
38. “Reading” a book; holds it upside-down
39. Worms crawl from its eyes and mouth
40. Covered in maggots

Friday, October 5, 2012

4e Spell Research!!!


Howdy everyone. As you might have guessed, I am busy at work on the mag, but I wanted to share some ideas that were bouncing around the old noggin over the past couple of days.

Something I like about classic editions is the idea of spell research, not only for existing spells, but also for completely new ones. It lets player have a real effect on the world and their character. I also like the thought of PCs being hard at work even when they are not actively adventuring. A Magic-User reading some flimsy parchment by the firelight, or pining for his study back home, where he has half a dozen magic items partially formulated. This stuff is just fun and flavorful to me.

So, how would this work in 4e? I do not want to make the same mistakes as they did with the rules for item creation. They focused only on mechanics; there is no flavor. There are no thoughts on how to incorporate it into the story. The end result is that the sense of the PC actually working on something is lost. There is no "feel" that the PC made any effort to accomplish anything.

There needs to be a balance. The method needs to cost an appropriate amount of time and money, not produce an overpowered spell, and of course, encourage role play. 

So, today I want to look at some ideas for 4e spell research that I think will be fun to use. Like older editions, I think PCs should be of relatively high level before being allowed to attempt creating a new spell. The DM and the PC will work together through the process; it is not just up to the PC to satisfy a few straight-forward conditions and "Voila! Spell!". Furthermore, the act of creation ideally becomes a part of the PCs story, indeed, part of the campaign's story. So, here are my ideas:

1. A PC must be of 11th level or higher to attempt to research and create a new spell.

2. The player must notify a DM of this intention upon leveling up.

3. The player and DM discuss the spell idea, and whether it should be allowed in the game. It can be a Encounter, Utility, or Daily (no At-Wills or Rituals). Now here is where some advice is in order. A player naturally will want a spell that helps their PC, and the DM should be willing for this to happen. Otherwise there is no point. However, both individuals need to be honest about the power of the spell, and the spell's flavor should ALWAYS reinforce something about the PCs personality, skills, backstory, or what have you. This will hopefully quell a player's urge to simply break the game, and will instead help the spell research become more of an exercise in role play. To further help with this, the new spell will be permanent, and will not be able to be replaced or traded out at higher levels or through retraining. This will ensure that great care and thought goes into the design of the spell.

4. The player must give up a spell in order to gain a new one. Note again that Rituals and At-Wills cannot be "traded" in this way; a player must choose a Daily, Utility, or Encounter power. A player must designate his or her highest level spell of a certain type to be replaced. For example, if a player just hitting 13th level wants to research a new Encounter power, he or she must designate their 13th level Encounter power as the spell to be replaced. They will get to use the power normally until it is replaced.

5. Researching a spell takes an entire level of play. It also costs the same amount as a magic item of the same level. So in our example the player will be paying the equivalent of a level 13 magic item. This can be paid up front, during, or even at the end of the level. A player can also "bank" gold as he or she goes.

6. The player and DM work together to emphasize the flavor and action of the research during the game. This should not feel like a restriction. A DM can just make it a point to ask the player frequently what their character is doing to research the spell. When the PCs take an extended rest, the player might talk about what their PC is reading, or what have you. When they enter a new town, the player might have their PC go check out the library. Maybe a quest derives from it; maybe some NPCs aid in some way. Who knows, let the story decide. It is just flavor, of course, but it is pleasing to me, and I think it will give the "feel" that the PC is at work on something special.When the spell is finally done, it will seem much more bad-ass.

7. When the player hits their next level (14th in our example), the old spell fades away and the new spell is put in its place. Remember that this spell is permanent and cannot be trained away or replaced by another spell.

I suggest that spell research be restricted to Arcane classes. This is really for flavor's sake. That is just my opinion though, if you wanted to re-fluff this or tweak it to be something like a Thief practicing a new move, or a Cleric being slowly "prepared" for some great power by their deity, or whatever, go for it.

I hope you like these ideas! Sometime soon I will post some ideas on item creation! I also am working on some stronghold rules, but that is kind of down the road, as the mag is taking up most of my time!

Do you have any thoughts on spell research? Any memorable experiences with it? Leave a post!