Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The D&D Family Tree

I saw this over at Playing D&D w Porn Stars and thought it deserved a re-post. It is credited to another RPG blogger named Jason McCartan. Shockingly (to my wallet), I own a lot of what is here, but I still saw a TON of stuff I had never heard of...that I now have to buy. Check it out if you dare!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Meet the Poisonous Tree Frog

Happy Friday. Today I thought I would share another 4e Forever monster. This time its the Poisonous Tree Frog. I am still working on the fluff, so it is just the stats for now. This little guy uses his absurdly long tongue to pull creatures adjacent and into his highly poisonous secretions. This is a very fun monster to DM; use a large encounter area and spread these guys out so you can pull PCs all over the place. Hope you like it!

The Poisonous Tree Frog

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Little Friday Trap Action

Hello. A very short post today just to show you a few more examples of the traps from my upcoming zine. I posted some ideas a bit ago about it. The basic idea is that traps don't scale; the same trap can threaten PCs of all levels. Instead of traps rolling to hit PCs, the PCs roll saving throws. The damage expressions stay constant regardless of tier, so you don't need 30 different pit traps. I hope you like them!

Hallucinatory Gas
“Get them off me!”, he screamed. “They are crawling all over me!”
-Detect: Perception to notice small vents in walls.
-Disable: Thievery
-Trigger: A creature enters a trapped square, triggering the gas.
-Effect: Each creature that breathes within a given area must roll a saving throw. A creature trained in
Endurance gets a +2 bonus to the roll. On a failed save, each creature is slid adjacent to their nearest ally, making an At-Will attack of the DMs choice against them as a Free Action.

Magnet Trap
The next thing I knew, I was hurtling towards the center of the room. I smashed into the
the pillar, cracking a rib.

-Detect: Typically the magnetized object will be in plain sight.
-Disable: The magnet must be destroyed by repeated blows or avoided.
-Trigger: A creature wearing metallic armor enters a space within 10 squares (50 feet) of the magnet.
-Effect: The creature must make a saving throw. A creature trained in Acrobatics gains a +2 bonus to the roll. On a failed save, the creature is pulled rapidly towards the magnet, crashing into it for 20 damage. A creature can move at half-speed away from the magnet, but must make a saving throw at the end of each of its turns or be pulled back again.

Acid Spray
My nostrils were burning..then I realized my arm was missing. I screamed...
-Detect: Nature to identify smell from a distance; Perception to notice jets.
-Disable: Thievery
-Trigger: A creature enters a trapped square, triggering the jets.
-Effect: Each creature within a given area must make a saving throw. On a failed save, a creature drops to its bloodied value and permanently loses a limb. Roll 1d4 (1-2=Arm, 3-4=Leg).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In Search of Strongholds, Part 2: In Which Froth Creates a Lot of Work for Himself

Hello all. Recently I started a new blog series on my attempts to develop a "Stronghold" system for 4e. In the first installment, I basically laid out the challenges one faces when trying to do this. First, 4e PCs have never been as reliant on Retainers as they were in old editions. Second, high-level play assumptions have changed, and castle-building is not the one-size-fits-all endgame it used to be. Lastly, the 4e economy is wonky.

We made a little progress with some of this. I have the framework of a usable Henchman and Hireling system in place, and, as noted in the first installment, we can completely revamp the 4e economy with the help of Inherent Bonuses. Still, we need a game plan in order to go about the design in a coherent way. So here it is:

1. Revamping the economy means looking at how PCs acquire wealth. Since we are taking PCs off of the ever-increasing wealth-by-level treadmill, we need a new model. It seems obvious to me that new Treasure Tables are the way to go, including new Treasure Type Tables for monsters to ensure an old-school vibe.

2. The creation of a Stronghold needs to be a viable goal in 4th edition play. It needs to make sense regardless of the campaign setting or PC level. We will look at different ways to approach the idea, whether you are in an ultra-low-magic desert wasteland, or are plane-hopping on the Spelljammer.

3. We need mechanics. Lots and lots of mechanics. In keeping with established precedent, the bare bones of a Stronghold system will involve the following: rules for the identification and employment of the necessary Hirelings, the selection and clearing of a site, the construction and maintenance of the structure itself, details on how potential populations might then be attracted to the area, and finally, the regulation and management of the newly established "barony".

So, I have created a lot of work for myself. But at least I know what needs to be done, which puts me in better shape than I am half the time. I also have a working title for my system: Baronies and Barbicans. Yes, I am an uber-nerd.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me: Celebrating One Year of Frothsof 4E

This month marks the one year anniversary of this blog. I just want to drop a quick post and say thank you to all of the readers that have stopped by. When I started this blog, I just wanted to add my voice to thousands of other gamers who shared their ideas and thoughts about this wonderful hobby. The funny thing about a blog is, it forces you to write. So I am personally glad I started it, otherwise I do not think I would have ever shared my ideas, and I certainly wouldn't have started work on a fanzine.

4e Forever, the fanzine I have been working on, is a labor of love. At first, I wanted to do pretty much the whole first issue myself, in order to set the tone. I have been lucky to have some contributors helping make it better, with cartography, images, and even a guest article being added to the mix. The first issue features a lot of optional rules, fluff, and two full length high-level 4e adventures, both in sandbox style. I am very proud of how it is shaping up, but there is still work left to be done. I refuse to pressure any of my contributors, because they are providing stuff for free. I also expanded one of the adventures; it added a ton of work, but it will be worth it. So, I will just have it done when it is done. In the meantime, I have tried to give a lot of previews on the blog and will continue to do so.

I have slowly but steadily built some decent traffic. For this I want to thank Sersa V at 4thcore for letting me be a part of the 4thcore hub for a while. I am also thankful to for including me in their excellent list. I also am a member of the RPG Blog Alliance. I recommend checking all of them out.

I thought I would share what were my most popular posts this year. #1 without question was the 4e Forever playtest. This was really just an opportunity for me to offer some simple rules modifications and monsters. The idea was to test my Henchman and Hireling system, as well as the new monster stat block I worked on. I also wanted to get a feel for the difficulty level. I would say it was a success; I was able to make some tweaks based on feedback, and I feel good about where things are at now. I look forward to you seeing the finished product soon.

#2 was my Henchman and Hireling article. This made me very happy, because I love my rules for this. I hope you have given them a try, if only for a one-shot. In my current 4e campaign, the players have gotten really creative with using them not only in combat, but also outside combat. It has been a ton of fun.

#3 was one of my design articles on the "Hybrid Stat Block", my concept of making the 4e monster stats more reflective of classic editions. Interestingly, it was the No. Appearing article. This dealt with my ideas on using variable totals of monsters encountered, much like the old days. You end up generating a possible range of difficulty levels, and it makes for more unpredictability in combat encounters. This crosses over with a lot of other concepts, such as eliminating specialized monster roles, standardizing hit points, and so forth.

Finally, coming in at #4 was one of my first articles, a very short little piece about a new monster type, the Savage. The basic idea is that these are Elites that are powerful enough to be run as Solos; the lower hit points balances out their increased offensive capabilities. This makes for quicker, swingier combat, something a lot of readers responded positively to.

I want to say again how thankful I am for every reader that has ever popped by, even if you hated my ideas. I love being able to have an avenue to share my thoughts on D&D. So thanks again, and I look forward to another fun year!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In Search Of Strongholds, Part 1: In Which Froth Is Sold On Inherent Bonuses

Howdy everyone. As you may or may not be aware, I am always looking for ways to tweak 4e by adding classic edition mechanics and flavor. Over the last few weeks I have been starting to put together some ideas for "Stronghold" rules for 4e. I love Stronghold rules. Love them. Love them, love them, love them. They are one of my favorite things about D&D as a matter of fact. Sadly, up until this point the concept hasn't worked so well with 4e. This has been for a number of reasons.

For one, although 4e PCs have roles within the party, 4e PCs are far less reliant on Henchmen, Hirelings, Toadies, etc than in previous editions. There are some classic dungeons that I simply would never enter without some Meatshields. In 4e, that is almost unthinkable; there is a whole generation of new DnDers that won't even know what you are talking about. I have put some new Henchman and Hireling rules out there to try and get a bit of this flavor back in the game (the full text and treatment will be in the mag, and this has been one of my most popular posts). Anyways, Retainers are a critical component of maintaining a Stronghold. It seems the lack of good Retainer rules in 4e helped keep Stronghold rules from developing.
Secondly, the career trajectory of 4e PCs usually doesn't resemble that of classic PCs. Many of the old worlds were assumed to be more or less quasi-medieval; building castles and armies were reasonable endgames for PCs. This changed a lot over the years, and with 4e, high level PCs are typically expected to be plane-hopping and saving the universe, rather than dealing with mundane barony taxation. So the assumptions of high level play have changed.

Lastly, the default economy of 4e doesn't support Stronghold rules. In "vanilla" 4e, the amount of money PCs find scales with their level, the reason for this being the need to purchase magic items to keep pace with expected enhancement bonuses. So you run into a lot of issues. If a player has to choose between keeping his basic numbers up to stay effective, or a little tower to call his own, you cannot fault him for buying an item. I mean, the game is telling him to. You also have issues when you try to assign a cost for building a Stronghold. The cost might be completely prohibitive until a certain level...but soon after that level, it becomes too cheap and insignificant. This is where I struggled the most when trying to come up with ideas. It seemed the only way to remedy the situation was by completely revamping the 4e economy. How could this be accomplished? As long as players need items to keep pace with the system, they will always need increasing amounts of cash. That is when the answer hit me-inherent bonuses.

I have resisted inherent bonuses in the past. Maybe that's not entirely accurate. I have resisted forcing a specific magic item philosophy into my work. I have changed my opinion. I am now going to recommend inherent bonuses as the default. Why? Well, its not to screw with builds that rely on certain items. Hopefully DMs will still let PCs quest for items that they really want. The reason is that I have a lot of ideas that simply don't work if I use 4e's default system. Using inherent bonuses means PCs no longer have to make a certain amount of money per level. Since they cannot buy items, there is no need for treasure to constantly inflate. I mean, how many Adventurer's Kits do you really need? So, since I am no longer bound to a certain amount of gold per level, I can set prices for Stronghold construction that stay constant over all levels. So it is never cheap to build one, but once you hit a certain level, it is also not impossible.

I don't know if this has any of your wheels turning, but I have three words for you: "Random Treasure Tables". How about two more words: "Treasure Types". Yes, I can bring back random treasure, treasure types for monsters, taxes, long-term Retainer pay rates-everything. I can bring it all back. And do you know the best part? I don't have to really do much work at all. Since the weird self-inflating 4e economy is no longer needed, I can just go back to old prices. Old item lists. Old treasure tables. Old Stronghold prices. I will have to do a few tweaks of course to make it my own, but I honestly think in the end that it won't be all that different from OD&D. Almost word for word.

So yeah. I never thought I would say it, but I freaking love inherent bonuses.

Part 2 on this series coming soon! As always, I would love to hear thoughts or ideas!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

4e Forever Preview: Taking on Traps


My upcoming 4e Forever fanzine uses the following rules for traps. A trap has a trigger and an effect. A trap's triggered effect always behaves as an Opportunity Action unless otherwise noted. Most triggered traps do not make attack rolls; instead, a PC is usually required to make a saving throw to avoid a trap's effects. It is (hopefully) more dramatic and exciting for the player to roll to save, rather than watch the DM roll to attack.  

PCs trained in applicable Skills might be given small bonuses to their saving throws. Since 4e saving throws stay the same regardless of a PC's level, a single trap can now threaten PCs over multiple tiers of play. In addition, trap damage no longer scales. The damage simply is what it is. Traps are not assigned levels, and, as the traps typically do not attack, they no longer require constantly increasing attack bonuses that have historically lead to “trap bloat”.

For example, while a falling stone block is lethal to low-level PCs, it can still pack a wallop against high-level PCs. A falling block trap does 50 points of damage. This will flat-out crush a 1st Level character, and still dent the hell out of an Epic suit of armor. PCs that are trained in Acrobatics might get a small bonus to their save, representing an increased chance to dodge the block.

The relative damage totals for different traps are assigned based on a rough comparison of their deadliness. So while a scything blade might do less damage than a falling two-ton block, a strong poison gas might just kill you outright, regardless of your hit points or armor.

Traps are presented in simple terms, with a brief description of the trap and what it does, along with a trigger and effect. The size of a trapped area, or the number of trapped squares, is left for to the DM to decide unless otherwise noted. Specific Skill(s) that can be used to detect or disable traps are provided at the beginning of a trap's listing. The DCs to detect and/or disable traps are always the Hard DCs of a PCs level. This is the only way in which traps “scale”. In game terms, this is kind of required based on the way 4e is built, but in terms of flavor, I think it is well-supported as well. As PCs gain levels, they are in increasingly dangerous situations, facing more formidable foes. Maybe if a 25th Level PC went back to the first little dungeon he ever cleared, the DCs would be lower; however,  the pitiful treasure would not even be worth taking. Similarly, if some 2nd Level scrubs were unlucky enough to happen upon an Arch-Lich's tower...lets just say they would be dead before they crossed the threshold.


Sample Trap

Falling Block Trap
Stepping onto the floor released a massive stone block from overhead, crushing the Elf.
-Detect: Dungeoneering
-Disable: Dungeoneering or Thievery
-Trigger: A creature enters a trapped square.
-Effect: The creature must roll a saving throw. Creatures trained in Acrobatics receive a +2 bonus to the roll, representing an increased chance to dodge. On a failed save the creature takes 50 damage.

I hope you like these ideas! Many more traps will be provided in my upcoming fanzine!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Encouraging Ritual Use in 4e

Howdy. Readers of my blog might have noticed me bring up Rituals from time to time, usually to opine the lack of Ritual usage in the games I run. Now, I am definitely generalizing; I have seen them get used a bit here and there, but overall I feel they are an untapped resource in many 4e games. I think there are many reasons for this, and we will talk about some of them as we go. So, let's explore Rituals and different ways to encourage their use.

I guess the first question that should be answered is "Why?". Why bother in the first place? For some campaigns or gaming groups, it might not be something you even want to do. And that is completely fine. But if you do want to encourage Ritual use, pinpointing the "why" will help you answer the question "How?". My personal opinion varies depending on the game I am running. I might want to encourage their use in order to add flavor to a setting. Perhaps I want to add unpredictability to the game. Maybe I have an entire plot or setting that is dependant on their usage. Maybe I want to give players more options for out-of-combat play. Think about your own campaign, or the campaign you want to run, and think about why you might want Rituals to get more use.

Ok, so lets look at how to encourage Ritual use. Probably the first thing that pops into the mind is to make them affordable and available. But this is a double edged sword. If you just give them away like candy, and there is no real cost involved, you still may end up finding they never get used. I have had this happen myself. I have given out Rituals and Ritual scrolls in treasure parcels, I have given out residuum and Ritual components alongside gold; in short, I have put them out there. They still didn't use them.

This brings up an interesting point: some players just don't care about them, and nothing you can do will make them use them. And that is fine; god knows we do not want to railroad someone into anything. That said, I think that some players will respond to these ideas, so it is at least worth a try if you want more Ritual use in your game.

So basically, making Rituals available and cheap is not enough to encourage their use. In fact, it could have an adverse effect. If they are too available, they might lose some of their uniqueness, or become hard to track or remember. You also could lose out on some good role play and adventuring if you make them too easy to use. You also could lose control of your game if they are just unlimited with no restrictions. You might want that, you might not, but we should at least know how to maintain control if need be. So lets hold that thought and go back to the drawing board.

                                                  Checks and Balances
In order to encourage Ritual use while maintaining control of your game, you need to use checks and balances. We can look to the classics to get ideas on how to handle this. Take the Gygax masterpiece "Isle of the Ape". Many spells do not work on the island. In classic Gygaxian "dick mode", he suggests that you do not let your players know about this ahead of time, setting them up for some potentially hellish situations, such as having a spell fizzle just as a Gigantic Ape's foot is about to come down on your head. Settings such as Ravenloft provided laundry lists of spell changes; some didn't work at all, while others had different effects while in the Demiplanes of Dread. This is inspiring to me; in fact, in my own 4e campaign, I use this sort of idea as a plot hook: the party has several Rituals that used to work hundreds of years ago, but no longer do.

What this means is that you should think about your campaign setting and go ahead and define the limits of your PCs power. It is not railroading to say "If my players can just plane shift off of the island, the entire game crumbles, so screw that". See Gygax above. It isn't railroading to simply ensure there is an actual playable game. That said, you might want to play in a game world where PCs do nothing but plane jump. That actually sounds really cool. To each their own. The fact remains that it is a good idea to have an idea of any limits you need to place on PC power in order to maintain your setting's integrity. There are many extremely powerful Rituals. Which leads to the next point.

Acquiring Rituals
You need to make some decisions on Ritual availability. If Rituals can simply be bought and sold in "Magic Shoppes", you need to think about whether you want to impose limits. Maybe Rituals of certain levels are not sold, or maybe you provide players with a list of available Rituals. You will want to keep an eye on it, just so you know what you are dealing with.

If you do not allow magic items to typically be bought and sold, you need to find other ways to get them to players. This can be a fun, creative area. If the party ends up in a secret library, maybe they find a warding ritual; if they defeat a Lich, they might find some with Necromantic themes.You can suit the Ritual's flavor to the scenario. For example, in my 4e game the party was exploring a crypt. They found evidence of grim Rituals having been cast; there was a basin of blood and a pentagram drawn on the floor. They found a few flavorful Rituals in the chamber, such as Undead Servitor, that fit with the scenario. I think that this kind of synergy with the Rituals found and the circumstances in which they are uncovered helps encourage their use, simply by making them more interesting. I go into more detail on using Rituals as plot hooks later in this article.

Another way to control Ritual availability is to tend towards Ritual scrolls rather than Ritual books. This allows PCs that cannot otherwise cast Rituals to be able to use them, and you can be a bit looser with the balance if you know a Ritual can only be used once. This is especially true of some powerful healing Rituals. You do not want to lose the ability to challenge your players or to drain their resources. Otherwise the game becomes too easy, and nobody has fun.

To summarize, if you do not allow Rituals to be bought or sold, you always have control over what goes into your game. Otherwise, use a bit of caution, depending on what you want from your game. "But Froth, it sounds more like you are restricting Rituals than encouraging their use". Bear with me.

Ease of Use
One crucial aspect of encouraging Ritual use is to make them easy to use. I do not recommend taking away the casting time; that's one of the interesting pieces. Players absolutely should have to find a spot or moment that allows them the time and space to complete a Ritual. Still, there are some things you could do to make them easier to use. One thing is simple: write down the formula. Not every player has copies of the books, and not every player feels like getting on the Compendium between sessions to copy it down. If you maybe hand out a little Ritual card, it makes it cooler, and players will be more likely to retain the info, or remember they have the Ritual in the first place. As I mentioned above, giving out Ritual scrolls ensures that more than just the Ritual Casters can use them. Other alternatives include giving out the Ritual Caster feat for free if the party does not have a member that can use them; this feat makes for a flavorful reward. Or you could include one free use of a Ritual with the cost of purchase. This prevents it from feeling like you are getting "double dipped" (getting charged to buy the Ritual, AND to use it).

Presenting Rituals
There is a little overlap with some of these topics, but next I want to talk about how to present Rituals to your players. I think this influences how they will view them, and in turn can encourage or discourage their use. If you just say, "Here you find 300 sp and a Wizard's Curtain Ritual", you haven't really captured anyone's imagination. ALWAYS read a Ritual to a party when they find one. This is where you can go ahead and get their wheels turning, because they are not necessarily going to go home and read up on it themselves. Taking the time to write the Ritual down on a little card also adds a nice touch, and keeps it fresh in their minds. Finally, the context in which they acquire the Ritual is an important part of its presentation. I have covered some of that topic above, and it also leads to my next point.

Rituals as Plot Devices
One way to encourage or even guarantee Ritual usage is to include it in a plot hook or adventure. Many DMs can probably brainstorm a hundred ideas from this. An example might be something like the party needs to find the skull of a certain priest and perform a Last Sight Vision Ritual in order to get some crucial bit of information. Or the party and pretty much everyone else in the campaign world regularly use portal Rituals as means of transport. Or the only way to access some tiny room or area is through an animal host, so the party must all use Share Husk Rituals and be turned into mice!

You can literally just sit down and read through Ritual descriptions and come up with all kinds of cool ideas for your game. Sometimes when you just give out random Rituals, or let players choose their own on a shopping trip, you don't end up with much other than boring healing rituals, or Rituals that might never fit your storyline or world.

Alternative Ritual Components 
You might find it a little boring and stale to just use standard components for Rituals. By this I mean a player just trading in some gold somewhere for the components. Try developing a plot hook around acquiring odd Ritual components. Like for the example above, where the players need to find a certain priests skull to do the Last Sight Vision Ritual. Perhaps the components for that include hard-to-find items, such as the eyes of a newt. What this does is shift Rituals away from a standard money drainer, and adds a flourish of flavor. The currency for Ritual use becomes adventuring, rather than gp.

Final Thoughts
I hope this post is somewhat coherent and not too rambly. After you analyze it all, it's easy to see that the methods for encouraging Ritual use will vary between DMs and from campaign to campaign. It is hard to generalize about...but I will try to summarize.

After you decide how you want Rituals to fit into your world, you can facilitate their usage through their acquisition process, presentation, and the ease with which players can use them. Utilize plot hooks, props, flavorful descriptions, and alternative component costs as ways to encourage players to use Rituals. Resist just giving away the farm, because it not only doesn't work, it isn't flavorful and lacks creativity.

That said, I'd love to hear any thoughts and ideas from readers! Leave a post!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I Am Jealous As Hell Of My Newbie Players

This weekend I will be DMing a B/X game for several new or almost-new players. They will be walking that well-worn path that so many gamers have trod before them: the road to Hommlett. I will be using my battered, taped-together copy of The Temple of Elemental Evil, and popping out the Ol' Greyhawk Box. Killer stuff, I know. As killer as it gets, really. But that isn't the part that makes me jealous.

The part that makes me jealous is that I cannot really see D&D through fresh eyes any more. I am hopelessly jaded. I wish I could do it all over again.

Take the PC creation method we used. We rolled 3d6, in order. No bonuses, no putting the stats where you want, just straight up 3d6 down the line. Nobody bitched; nobody whined; nobody said "I only have a 6 Dexterity". They simply didn't know any better, and if they did, they didn't care. They played whichever classes matched up best with their rolls. They didn't care if someone else rolled higher.

I gave them some mundane gear, such as rope, a backpack, and a waterskin. Their eyes lit up as they added these precious items to their character sheets. "Rope! We have rope!" "Fresh water!" Haha, well, I am exaggerating a titch there, but you get the point. Every piece of equipment they had felt significant to them.

I have to say that I am very excited to get into role play with these players. Experienced players can sometimes (not always) phone it in. Inexperienced players are sort of always on edge; they have no idea what to expect. Well, except for danger. They definitely expect danger. So you see a bit of caution and care in their actions. They don't trust anybody; they listen intently to what NPCs say. They ask questions. They are into it.

So that is why I am jealous. I can't turn back the clock, and try as I might, I cannot perfectly recapture those old feelings. The closest I can get is running games for new players, living vicariously, letting some of the old magic rub off. It will have to do.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Maniacal Giant Vulture Friday!

Hello again. I thought I would share a new beastie from my upcoming zine, the Giant Vulture.

The Giant Vulture has been a hoot in playtesting. These scavengers circle overhead, dive-bomb the weakest member(s) of the party, repeatedly peck them, then fly away out of melee reach. As the ongoing damage builds, they enter into a frenzied state of blood lust.

Though these have been challenging monsters for some groups, they have fairly weak Morale scores; if one of them is killed the others likely flee...and then patiently wait, hoping that there will be a carcass or two lying around when they return.

The full "fluff" will appear in the finished magazine. I hope you enjoy it!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tips for Simplified 4e Monster Creation

Hello all. This post compiles several ideas that I have shared over the last year regarding monster creation for 4e. Using these methods has made designing monsters a far more pleasurable experience for me, so I thought I would combine the basic ideas into a single post in the hope that it helps others.

You only need a few pieces of paper to make monsters for all levels of 4e play. You need the updated DMG monster errata (page 7 of this document).  You need a copy of the updated DCs; you can get this in the Rules Compendium, DM Kit, or free here. You need a list of experience point values broken down for monster type and level, which you can find in the DMG, DM Kit, RC, etc. Finally, you will want to use a few tables and formulas from this blog that are easy to memorize, or can be jotted down on a sheet of paper.

Start with a monster level in mind. Lets just make it simple and say we are making a Level 3 monster. Most 4e DMs can probably put together a monsters defenses and attack bonuses without looking, but if you need to, use the DMG errata. Ignore specialized roles, and go with the basics. AC is level+14 (17); NADs are 12+level (15). Attack bonus vs AC is level+5 (+8), vs NADs is level+3 (+6). Damage expressions are right there on the sheet, but hold off for a second.

Next, we completely ignore characteristic scores and derive the skill and initiative bonuses from the DC list. We look at the moderate and hard DCs of a monster's level; the level 3 moderate and hard DCs are 13 and 21. Subtract 10 from these to get 3 and 11. The monster's trained skill modifier is +11, untrained modifier is +3. Do not add half their level to these. Adjudicate skill use on the fly; for example, if it is a sneaky monster that lives in dark caves, perhaps it is "trained" in Stealth. If the monster is a dexterous, quick type, its initiative mod is +11. If typical, its mod is +3.

Use the 4e Forever unified hit point formula. (Level x 8) +20 is the formula for a Standard monster's hit points. Multiply the total times 2 for Elites and Savages, or times 4 for Solos. Minions of course have one HP. It is super easy to memorize this, and you do not have to fiddle with multiple formulas.

Add the XP total to the monster statistics if you award XP, or if you calculate your encounter difficulty levels from it.

Add Morale and use the Reaction Tables. Trust me, this is going to help a lot of your encounters go from slogs to skirmishes.

The only thing left is the actual power design. We get the updated damage expressions from the same DMG errata page mentioned above. Resist the urge to over-complicate your monsters. Most of the time they will be dead before they can get through some long list of powers. Focus on a single go-to power, possibly one that has multiple-attacks as a single Standard action. If needed, add another ability or two that back up the flavor of the monster, but don't overthink it or overdo it. It is kind of the same thing as designing an entire world before the campaign has even started: unnecessary.

You can likely just make a mental note of any other bits such as Alignment, Languages, Keywords, etc.

And there you have it. Nice and easy 4e monster creation! I will never go back! Once you are comfortable with this, you can make a monster in a matter of seconds. If you liked this post and want to see some ideas on resurrecting your old pre-errata monsters from the MM1, MM2, and other old 4e books, check this out!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Getting Buckwild with Alternative and "Unbalanced" Rewards

I am not obsessed with game balance. There is a very good reason for this. I am the DM. I am the balance. Sure, it helps to have a system that isn't completely bonkers, but at the end of the day, I can easily shift the difficulty wherever I like. As readers of my blog know, I am that apparently rare breed of D&D player that actually likes both classic editions and 4e. There are said to be like five of us in existence. Anyhoo, when I got back into running old school D&D, one of the things that really stood out were the old magic items. No, I am not going to give one of those sermons about how perfect the magic item systems were in the old days, and how 4e ruined everything, because you can go read that crap 24/7 on any given RPG forum yourself. What stood out was just the power level of the items. There are indeed some items which can quickly change the dynamics of the game. In the 1e DMG, Gygax rightly emphasized being careful with powerful items. 4e basically tried to build fail-safes into the system to do this for you.

Recently I ran a Tegel Manor conversion for 4e. It was awesome fun. One of the cool things to discover was just how wacky and off-the-wall the game was sometimes played in the old days. Nearly every room had my players going "What?". There were Dwarves in disguise that were actually Type IV Demons. Preposterous ecology as far as the eye could see. And perhaps most delicious: unbalanced and wacky magic items and rewards. Lots of them.

Now, I preface this by saying that 4e does have some powerful items. For example, many rituals can be used in creative and strange ways, and given total freedom with them, players can indeed warp the game. How dearly I would love for this to happen. Every 4e game I run, I give out rituals. And every 4e game I run, they are rarely if ever used. I have spoken a bit about it before, and there is no one thing to blame for this, but it is a combination of their cost, both real and perceived, as well as a shift in game play in 4e, which is (in my opinion) primarily due to the god-awful, horrendous "adventures" that Wizards put out for it. This is not true for every table mind you, but the published material has consistently reinforced a certain adventure model for 4e, a "fight anything and screw creativity" mentality that would have guaranteed your guts spilled back in the day. Hell, its so bad that all you can do is sympathize when you see play reports like this one at Dungeon's Master, where the players literally don't know how to explore anymore. Kind of chilling. But I digress.

In Tegel Manor, the powerful items and rewards teach a simple lesson. Sometimes what you find is good for you, and sometimes it is very bad for you. And sometimes this is all determined on a completely random basis. So, today I want to show you some example items and rewards from the adventure, along with a tidbit of philosophy to help you use these kind of things in your 4e game.

-Tegel Manor has 100 different paintings hanging on the walls; they are spread out among the 200+ rooms. Each painting is of a former resident. Each painting has a random effect when a PC looks at it. Some are good, some are bad. PCs learn this rather quickly, and then make their own choice as to whether to look at them or not. One player got lucky over and over, and by the time the adventure was done, he had gotten a +2 to raw Constitution, as well as a +1 to Dexterity. Permanently. Now I can feel 4e DMs flinching already as I type that, but is it really that overpowered? No. It feels awesome to the player though. So awesome in fact, that other PCs wanted to look at the paintings too. Sadly, things didn't go so well for some of them. Some lost permanent Charisma points, others were teleported to far-flung reaches of the manor to fend for themselves.  

The lesson: it is fun for items or rewards to have a random element; if the possible benefit appears great enough, PCs will risk it all for it. And when that happens, fun ensues.

-Some of the effects of traps, tricks, paintings, etc in Tegel Manor are strictly "roleplay" rewards and penalties. For example, a trap blows dust in a PCs face, and the PC is now unusually brave for 2d12 turns, or is drunk for 3 hours, or is incredibly itchy for 30 minutes. This kind of stuff was great fun with my group; they bought right into it, and played along. It was probably the hardest we ever laughed in a game session. Silly? Yes. Fun? Yes.  

The lesson: try non-tangible rewards and penalties that do not have a mechanical benefit or downside, but that instead affect a PCs mood, appearance, state of mind, etc. Players come out of their shells a bit and have a good time.

-In one room, a hooded skeleton with a red skull stood menacingly, giving the party a cold stare. It looked like something you would not want to mess with. One player, the Paladin, went and talked to it. Turns out that "Red Skull" just offered him a Wish, then sprouted wings and flew away. The Paladin thought about it, and wished for the ability to teleport. I just made up an Encounter power on the fly and Voila, the player got a cool new teleportation power, all because he risked something to get it.  

There are several lessons here: One, the DM always has control, no matter what. If the player had wished for something that I didn't want in my game, I could easily morph it into whatever I felt comfortable with. Two, reward players that take major risks. Three, don't be afraid to make up rewards on the fly that aren't in the rulebook.

-One room had a very silly item. The room was a gardener's shed, and so there were garden tools and the like, as well as a powder with an odd property. Anything you sprinkle with it turns green. Permanently. Now, this is obviously a very zany item. It is also an item that has no obvious positive or negative effect on the PCs. It just is. Well, long story short, the party Dwarf has a pet bear, so he gave the bear a green mohawk. They still have the rest of the powder. There are lots of possible uses for it, given the right circumstances. Maybe one day they will use it again.  

The lesson: not every item they find has to have an obvious mechanical benefit or penalty. Sometimes its just...weird or unusual. It might never get used, or it might be there at the perfect time. 

I could honestly keep going, but I think my point has been made. Be a confident DM. You have control over your game. You can afford to let yourself go a little bit with alternative, "unbalanced", and frankly silly rewards and penalties; it is fun for the DM and the players.

I would love to hear your experiences with this sort of thing! Leave a post! And have a great weekend!

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!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Trimming the Fat, Part 2: Shooting Skill Challenges in the Face

Today we continue to take a look at certain aspects of 4e that will be left out of my upcoming zine, 4e Forever. I want to say that these are just my opinions. If you like some of the stuff I mention, more power to you. I want everyone to play the way they like, and I am not here to diss anybody's playstyle. That said, I freaking hate Skill Challenges with a passion.

For me, it is really pretty simple. Despite the myriad long-winded defenses of skill challenges that I am sure you have read, and regardless of all the usual tidbits of advice that have been floating around since their inception, it is my opinion that Skill Challenges do irreparable harm to roleplaying. I like roleplaying to be free-form. I hate adding structure to it. I much prefer calling for checks on the fly, letting the PCs actions flow naturally, and having the possible repercussions of their failure come to me organically, rather than devising some pre-plotted outcome based on how many dice rolls a party fails. It was just a bad idea. I can respect that they were trying to add another mechanism to gain experience points outside of combat, but the whole "Three strikes, you're out", "Let's make some lists that extrapolate hypothetical skill checks, then force a few into every adventure", etc, was just a bad idea.

I realize that products like the DMG 2 and the Rules Compendium try to massage this a bit and offer alternatives, but to me that is just back-tracking on a crappy idea; polishing a turd if you will. It is too much, too late. It is kind of like when someone says, as if it is the secret of the universe, "Don't tell them they are in a Skill Challenge." I get two things from that statement. One: Skill Challenges are such a downer that alluding to the fact you are running one hurts your game. Two: you must not have a very high opinion of your players' intelligence, because any fool can tell when you are running one, whether you say so or not. "But it's different at my table." Perhaps it is, and I am happy for you if you like them. Seriously, I am. I just do not use them, and you won't see them in the magazine's adventures.

Now am I saying that PCs having to use some skills during a combat is a bad thing? Of course not. Am I saying that there shouldn't be consequences for failure? Of course not. All I am saying is that in my experience, roleplay works best when it is loose and natural, and there is no solution to Skill Challenges that I have ever read (and I have read hundreds) that works as well as simply not using them.

I hope nobody took offense! As always, I am interested in your thoughts, so leave a post!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Trimming the Fat, Part 1: Death to Sunrods!!!

This is Part 1 of a short series of blog posts about parts of 4e that I am cutting from the game for my 4e Forever mag. First thing to go: sunrods.

Oh, how I hate sunrods. They make Demi-Human vision meaningless. They make imaginative notions of light and shadow evaporate in a 20 square radius. They take a DMs attempts at moody Gothic atmosphere, and bathe them in garish fluorescence. It is as if the designers just decided that darkness was not going to play any role in 4e, unless it is from a PCs perma-invisibility build. A player saying that their character ties a sunrod to his belt is to me the equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. 

I have heard of lots of houserules on sunrods, everything from having them sometimes fail, to having certain structures prevent them from working, and on and on, but I think it best just to go ahead and take them out behind the woodshed and shoot them.

I like ditching them for several reasons. I like resource management, and using torches and lanterns adds an extra layer of this. Torches can burn out fairly quickly, and since 4e Forever uses "turn"-based exploration (more on this another time), those suckers can be going out before you know it. I like Demi-Human vision, or powers that give you unusual vision, to mean something more than just "I don't have to be the one to put a sunrod in my belt". I like being able to design encounters where every PC on the table cannot immediately see a clear-as-day 20 square radius, without having to trick the system with a gas cloud or other convoluted crapola.

Long story short: they take away from one of the greatest aspects of D&D exploration: darkness. Cave-black, impenetrable darkness. And so they have to die.

I am always interested in readers' thoughts! Do you have an opinion on sunrods? Let it fly!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Giant Stag Beetles, Strongholds, and Other Updates

I thought I would drop a couple of minor updates. First I have a new monster for you to check out, the Giant Stag Beetle. The reason I wanted to share this one in particular is that it has some "Memorable Mechanics" in the form of extreme forced movement. Picturing these guys tossing your PCs to and fro makes me happy. You will have to wait on the mag for the fluff.

Speaking of the mag, I have made a lot of progress and I am almost done with my portion of the writing. I still cannot give a set date of release, but I think that before the end of the year is not unreasonable. It has kind of swollen in size, and has two adventures I have written, dozens of new monsters, and lots of other surprises that I will talk about more in coming days.

Please don't forget to check out the first playtest. I have gotten a lot of good feedback, so thank you for that. I have gotten to run a couple of tests of it myself and I am working on scheduling the third. I have already made a lot of tweaks based on feedback, and it has helped tremendously, so again, thank you.

Lastly, I want to hear from any armchair designers like myself that have worked on their own "stronghold" systems for 4e. I am toying with some ideas about acquiring and managing them, doing something almost identical to OD&D, keeping it fairly simple, but with the prices adjusted to 4e levels.

I am interested in any stories you might be able to share about using them in your games. Leave a post!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Let's Play Labyrinth Lord!

Hi, a quick post today just to let people know that I have a Labyrinth Lord (B/X D&D retro-clone) game on the online RPG Table, and I still have a couple of slots open!

If you ever played on the old Wizards VT, basically when they decided to drop it, the company that developed it picked it up. The great news is that it is free to play; the rules are also free to download.

We meet kind of loosely on Fridays at 8 pm EST (GMT-5). Once you have registered above, you can join the game here. Full details on the game, including character creation rules, can be found here at the online retro-game Wizards group.

Anyways, if anybody is interested in checking it out, even for a session, it would be cool! Have a great weekend!

P.S.-Don't forget to check out the 4e Forever playtest if you haven't already!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Memorable Mechanics Part 5: Poison

Hello, hello! Before I get started, I really want to thank readers for the response to the first 4e Forever playtest. That post quickly became my most viewed of all-time, and I have gotten lots of feedback. It is much appreciated! If you haven't checked it out yet, it is free to download, and I would love to hear your "two cents". I had the pleasure of running an online game with some folks and it was a sight to see 20+ PCs and henchmen take on 40 Giant Ants!

I haven't made a post in the "Memorable Mechanics" series in a while, but thought I might share some of my recent ideas regarding Poison in 4e.

In the old days, poisonous creatures were feared and dreaded. In fact, if I was playing, and I knew a creature was poisonous, I would likely yell to the party to run. Why? Well, one bite could mean death. Since that time, the history of poison in D&D has been one slow, gentle retreat from the cruelties of yore. Nowadays, there are only a few points of light in the 4e community and blogosphere that feature anything approaching save or die mechanics.

Now, I do not want to go back to insta-death from poisons, but I do want to bring a healthy fear of poison back to the game. To do that, I first wanted to differentiate between common "poison damage", and capital-letters-run-like-hell Poison. As you know from this blog series, I want to add memorable mechanics to games. Even if it goes badly for your PC, things are a lot easier to take if you died a spectacular or memorable death. I also like 4e conditions a lot; as I have mentioned before, I like the codified nature of them, how they are the same table to table. So, my thought was to come up with a "Poisoned" condition. Something not quite "save or die", but still "run like hell".

As I was thinking about bringing this idea into my 4e Forever project, I realized that if I gave EVERY Giant Snake and Centipede the ability to poison PCs, it would be too much. So I decided to make "poisoning" a daily, perhaps weekly, ability for a creature. Once they have "spent" their poison, it has to have time to build back up. The determination of whether a creature is currently "poisonous" is left to random chance, partly because I am always looking for any excuse to make a random roll. So for example, if a Giant Rattlesnake is encountered, there may be a 2 in 6 chance that it is currently poisonous.

So what is the "Poisoned" condition?

Poisoned (edit): A poisoned creature is weakened, slowed, and grants combat advantage (save ends all). If the creature is not currently bloodied, its hit points also drop to their bloodied value. On each failed saving throw, the creature's hit points drop to zero.

I am really digging this! I hope you like it too! If you have any thoughts, leave a post, and thanks again to everyone for checking out the playtest!