Thursday, September 29, 2011

30 DODND Day 14: Favourite NPC

         His name was Deceito, and I hated him.  Yes, the clue was in the name, but I just heard Desuto and thought nothing of it.  He was supposedly an old school friend of my wizard Kuraileon.  His favourite 4th ed. ritual?  Explosive Runes.  He managed to get me with that spell a good 3 or 4 times within a single session.  He infuriated me, but I managed to get the ritual out of him, which was useful.  But he provided a lot of fun for the party.
            I think the most interesting thing about Deceito was that he wasn’t a villain, nor was he an ally.  He was just a random prankster who had decided to make my life a pain.  It’s difficult to know how to handle an NPC like that.  Villains are to be punished, but old friends who are just having a laugh by repeatedly using Explosive Runes on you?  What’s the protocol?  It was just fun to have a character who had really very little to do with any plot or side quest.  He was just a pain.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

30 DODND Day 13: Favourite Trap/Puzzle

           Easy.  The Labyrinth of Madness, or whatever its official title was, which featured in a recent campaign in a D&D mod that my friend Rich created.  It was a subtly terrifying, harrowing experience that my character at the time, a deaf Aasimar cleric, found deeply troubling.
            After passing through the many strange halls of ancient gods, and battling across the altar room, we rescued the damsel in distress and tried to find the exit by following some steps down behind the altar into a series of narrow passageways.  We were confronted with a giant stone face, looking sternly at us.  Written above it in a language I barely managed to translate was the phrase “Wear my crown to win your freedom;” or something like that.  Confused, we continued on.  There was a side room filled with coffins, chains, and a treasure chest, but that’s really a separate puzzle from this and proved far more difficult than it needed to be.  Anyway, we walked through numerous passages, exploring the small complex we had discovered.  There were occasional traps, so we moved slowly with regular spot checks, but the only other thing of note that we found were a few more mad words in a dead language and a sealed room.  When we broke it open, we found an angel which had been trapped there for years.  Locked in a room for so long, it had gone completely mad.  There were long gouges in the walls where it had scratched at them with its fingers.  Though it had once been a being of good, it was now so twisted from insanity that it attacked us.  My part-celestial cleric prayed through the entire encounter and did not attack, unwilling to strike such a creature.  It was tough, but everyone managed.
            Anyway, that was about when we found out the real trick of the maze.  As we kept wandering, we suddenly began to realize that we’d seen some passages before.  As players, we could see that as we stepped off the map in one direction, we would enter it from the other side.  The maze was looped.  We could run through the tunnels forever and only ever find the same few corridors.  That was when we suddenly became a little worried about this place.  What really completed the freaking out was when we found the stairs down, which we gratefully took to find ourselves at the start of the maze, coming in the entrance.  The stone face was now twisted in maniacal laughter.  We were well and truly trapped.
            A few of the party turned and went back up the stairs, using classic puzzle logic.  They wound up instead in a small room with a few corpses of people who had been trapped there for sometime.  As they inspected the room, the trapdoor shut and vanished, leaving them sealed in an extra-dimensional place, potentially for eternity.  We got them out later, just by going up the stairs ourselves and holding the door open, but it was a very dangerous little side room in theory.  I studied the writing above the face again, however I found that by staring at the face for so long, strange thoughts entered my mind.  Essentially, the face drove me mad.  I cackled and rolled around the floor in laughter.  One of the others was caught by this until someone put a cloak over the face.
            The trick, of course, was that while I was mad, I knew the way out.  Once the party got me thinking about the exit, I ran up the stairs, which suddenly continued onwards.  The maze broke, the face became enraged, weeping blood which rapidly filled the labyrinth.  The party fortunately decided to follow the mad, running cleric and we all escaped.  The beauty of the labyrinth was in the details I think.  We knew from the start there was something about insanity, and there were clues that suggested that the longer you stayed in the maze, the more inevitably insanity became.  This wasn’t an issue until the maze was revealed to be looped in all directions.  When we walked down those stairs to find the face laughing at us, everyone got really freaked out.  It was awesome.  Best trap ever!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

30 DODND Day 12: Favourite Dungeon Type/Location

Ah the problems of flanking when you can't get past

I’ve always been partial to the classic dungeon style of an underground complex full of kobolds/goblins.  I feel that these dungeons usually contain a good mix of every kind of challenge.  There can be traps, fights, ambushes, all kinds of skill challenges, secret passages, lighting issues, and all manner of different ways to harass the party.  Sometimes in a forest, or some other dungeon locations, you cannot have all of these elements in the same dungeon. 
My favourite part of the complex, though, is the challenges it presents to tactics.  You have narrow passages for confined fighting, which is always tricky, though it often can give the advantage to the party.  You have small rooms, cluttered rooms, big rooms, rooms with strange architecture, with such a variety which just doesn’t make sense in other locations.  Having to fight in different conditions, on difficult terrain, is really good for inspiring tactics.  Parties so often start an encounter saying sticking together is the best plan, but inevitably within three rounds everyone is in a different corner of the room and the wizard is surrounded.  A dungeon crawl through a narrow cave complex or a crypt can force the party to learn or die.  Sometimes, the party doesn’t learn fast enough, and I’m fine with that.  Give a party an open playing field though, and despite being outnumbered, I find that too often they have too much rope to play with, and they’ll come up with something complicated to win easily.  Keep them on their toes, and then even a group of kobolds can be a challenge, as so many parties have found out too late.
Such joy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

30 DODND Day 11: Favourite Adventure that You Have Run

I’m sorry; I simply cannot answer this one with a D&D campaign.  By far the most entertaining adventure I have ever run was the Pokemon RPG – The Kanto Chronicles.  This has probably been evident due to the number of posts I’ve written about it so far.  It was done with a homebrew system made by a friend of mine, based loosely on Final Fantasy.  I took the party through an adventure taking place 700 years before the events of Blue and Red Version.  It is the only campaign I’ve ever completed, which is really good to have done (we finished about two weeks ago), and had one of the most complex storylines I have ever created.  I’m really quite proud of it.  One of the most impressive elements of the campaign though has to have been the players.  Those guys created a fantastic party, tearing themselves apart through assassination, running two separate groups thoroughly confusing and manipulating every major power to serve their own ends, and ultimately reuniting at the last possible moment to my complete surprise to save the world in a totally shocking and creative manner.  Oh, and then they killed one of them, all together.  It was a delight to run.
            Technically, I guess this is the adventure not the campaign that was my favourite, so I need to be more specific.  My favourite adventure within the campaign, therefore, would have to be the final adventure from The Kanto Chronicles: The Savage Day, where the two parties ran to the Psychic Gym to face the final battle.  It was, as I said, truly surprising in so many ways.  Dramatic, full of twists, and a fitting climax to a year-long campaign.  I loved it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

30 DODND Day 10: Craziest thing that’s happened that you saw

The craziest thing that I have ever seen (craziest, not dumbest), had to be the adventure which featured the very first Flashhammer characters.  Sir Tancred and Sir Indarion of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Flashhammer joined the party – a pair of brash and foolhardy gentlemen ready to take on adventure head-on wherever it may be.  The party leader was not the... strongest of characters, and didn’t really lead so much as meander.  And so it began.

The party had to invade a fortress built into the side of a mountain, where the wall of the fort literally met the edge of the mountainside.  I had provided them with information about less-guarded back entrance through a mine.  It had a few enemies and was stuffed with loot, and made a nice and straightforward adventure.  The Flashhammers objected to this course of action, as it involved striking an enemy from behind.  They suggested instead attacking the fortress head on.  When this was decided to be suicidal, they instead thought of climbing up the side of the mountain, and then using Feather Fall to float into the fortress onto unsuspecting enemies.  The plan was foolproof, at least, that’s what the knight in full plate thought about climbing up a mountain and then jumping off.  The party leader, to the astonishment of all (including the players playing the Flashhammers, who thought it was a ridiculous idea really) agreed.

What followed can only be described as insanity, with the climbers being spotted, falling relatively gracefully onto the wall, and then hacking their way through dozens of bugbears.  At the end of the battle, most of the party had only a few hit points left, and the situation had looked pretty grim.  When I discovered that I had forgotten a few of the bugbears, I decided that they never existed.  They won that battle, but they used the craziest possible plan to achieve it.  Parachuting off of a mountain whilst being shot full of arrows is one of the most unique methods of entry to battle I’ve ever seen.

They never found the secret doors in the mine where the treasure was.

Friday, September 23, 2011

30 DODND Day 9: Favourite Character You Haven’t Played

A reference as unsubtle as the character itself, which is pretty subtle, now that I think about it...
            There have been a lot of awesome characters that I have seen, especially this year:  Uria Lazerface, Sir Tancred Flashhammer, ...any other of the Flashhammer clan, Beri, Janus Hellstalker, amongst others.  To choose just one has been very difficult.  However, ultimately I settled for the character that more than any other has kept us all thoroughly entertained without fail, to the point that I believe this character has been reincarnated in various forms about 6-7 times now.  I can’t describe just one without getting mixed up, so allow me to introduce the (usually) half-orc barbarian, Grog.
            It’s important to remember that 10 is average intelligence.  Being average means that to balance out the number of wizards with intelligence scores in the 20s, mathematically there must be an even larger number of characters out there with 4s and 5s and 6s.  Grog is one such character.  Yes, the dumb half-orc barbarian is a stereotype, but Jason plays him with such simplicity and such a total lack of depth that it is utterly believable.  Grog never has a dark, traumatic past.  He likes hitting things.   And puppies.  Yes, that too is a reference, but who doesn’t like puppies?
            The DM has instituted the ‘Grog roll’ to determine if Grog is smart enough to figure out certain moments, like a sudden plot twist or a complex surprise.  It’s usually around DC 10, but with a penalty to intelligence, that’s a pretty tough roll to make.  This has been instituted in other games as well, if a character is being particularly stupid.  To give you a sense of Grog’s less-than-keen intellect, take a moment on board an airship, where in order to get people up to the top deck, we shouted that there was a fire down below.  People panicked, and Grog failed his Grog roll to figure out what we were doing.  He panicked too, running for the deck and grabbing the nearest person to ask what’s going on.  Fumbling, Grog picked up a chair, held it up to his face and yelled, “What’s going on?!”
The chair’s response was wooden.

Grog of course makes up for his lack of intelligence by being a beast in combat.  There is very little he can’t handle in a fight, and his strength is usually boosted to something extreme, partly because my characters seldom fail to leave the town without a potion of Bull’s Strength.  ‘God Destroying Grog’ is a cleric that was once made, who could buff himself and had some obscene abilities, potentially giving him strength 30 at a very low level.  Jason was very happy with this.
Grog never fails to crack us up in any situation, in any campaign.  His antics are seldom so extreme that they completely wreck the adventure, and we’ve learned to keep a tight leash on him (not literally.  We don’t have the grapple checks).  Sometimes they can be... excessively destructive however, such as the time that he and a group of druid allies took on some guards and an Owlbear.  Having had such a good fight, but with the rest of the party in a nearby house looking for loot, Grog got bored.  We didn’t have any allies left after the next round.  And the moral of the story is: never leave a barbarian with low intelligence, high strength, a short attention span and high testosterone alone with nothing to do.  Unless he’s in the middle of the enemy army.  Then get as far away as you can.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

30 DODND Day 8: Favourite Character You Have Played

        I’ve been slowly posting up pieces of the story of a campaign I played a year or more ago on this blog.  I think the last post I put up was of my wizard, Kuraileon’s spectacular, sunset-framed death by the hands of the city guard.  The character that I brought in after that, though, was by far my favourite character out of any I have ever played.  His name was Robin Talespinner, and he was a Doppleganger Bard.
       The party was all supposed to have known each other before hand, so the DM and I decided that Robin had been late to the meet-up, and had to do some detective work to figure out where they had gone.  Upon learning the sad fate of his old friend, Kuraileon, and the role his fellow party members had had in it, and also knowing that the rest of the party had never found out that he was a shapeshifter, he decided to take revenge.
      He joined the party as his familiar bardic form, as planned, but he also appeared occasionally as Rowena, the travelling dwarven blacksmith.  Robin had been using Rowena to set up a crafting business for a long time, and so he had the skills for it.  Throughout the campaign, he offered the party a good business, crafting items for them regularly.  As it costs less to make items than the standard market price, it meant I could give them a discount and still make a massive profit for myself.  But getting 22,000 gold from the party wasn’t my revenge.  Oh no.
     I bought some robes and a wand and turned into Kuraileon.  I appeared before the party repeatedly at night and terrified them.  I particularly focused on Gotrek, the dwarf most responsible for Kuraileon’s death, and began to use illusions and shapeshifting to convince him that Kuraileon’s ghost was gathering an army of Gotrek’s enemies in the afterlife to wait for his death.  Ultimately, I had him framed for the attempted murder of Robin.  Good times.
     My favourite character therefore is the one that managed to get a semi-psychotic, possibly clan-murdering dwarf to approach the cleric in the party to find out how to apologise to vengeful ghosts.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

30 DODND Day 7: Favourite Edition

Remember when this needed a whole book?

I’ve flipped back and forth between 3.5 and 4th edition for quite a while now, and I have to say I’ve settled somewhere in the middle.  They’re both excellent, but I can see the problems with both.
            Some people find 4th edition to be both over-powered when compared the more dangerous world of 3.5.  Now, given that the only character I have ever played which died was in 4th edition, I have to say that this is simply not the case.  4th edition certainly gives characters more power at an earlier level, which I don’t view as a bad thing.  Playing any 1st level character in 3.5 is usually a rather tedious endeavour, particularly for wizards.  Now, everyone always has something to contribute right from the start.  If players aren’t being challenged by the adventure, then that is a problem for the DM to solve, not the system.  There is another complaint that all of this power makes the characters seem less human.  That I can see is a more valid concern.  A first level fighter should not be able to kill that efficiently.  Or should they?  I mean, that’s kind of the point of having a PC class, isn’t it?  A first level fighter isn’t someone who has just picked up a sword and is out to see how much damage they can do with it.  They have already spent years training to get to that level, working out daily and training their swordsmanship techniques, learning special moves taught to them by their trainer.  They may have spent some time in the city guard or whathaveyou, effectively as a minion.  Only now do they feel competent enough to act on their own or in a small group to take on even the smallest band of kobolds.  Still pretty human to me.
          So 4th edition is pretty good, as far as I’m concerned.  But 3.5 isn’t any worse because of this.  What makes 3.5 edition stand out is its complexity and depth.  4th edition was largely created to meet the demand of a simpler system, because of the stereotypical image of the 3.5 game: endless flipping through rulebooks to find just the right rule.  Grapple checks are particularly notorious.
        What 3.5 edition had though, that 4th edition sadly got rid of, was a massive spell list.  Wizards, sorcerers and clerics had an amazing variety of spells they could draw upon, to tool themselves to be incredible in different fields.  You could be an illusionist, a necromancer, all of the things I mentioned on Day 4.  It is simply fantastic.  And yes it takes you ages to look through all the rules that the game has, but only because in the game system you can really do just about anything.
      Overall, I love them both.  If 4th edition had kept the spell list though, it might have edged ahead.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

30 DODND Day 6: Favourite Deity

Well, speaking purely in terms of fantasy pantheons, this one’s a tie between one deity from Faerun and one from Goblins.

            Faerun has a wide range of deities, from the good to the evil and from the lawful to the chaotic.  My favourite, however, comes from the selection of gods who place themselves firmly in the middle of it all – the true neutral god of travelling, Fharlanghn.  This is the god who doesn’t care where you’re going, or why; he just wants you to enjoy the journey.  Luck, Protection, and Travel are his Cleric domains, and I couldn’t think of a better combination.  One of the first characters I ever created (possibly the first) was a wizard who worshipped Fharlanghn.  He had a few battle spells in his book, but mostly he had practical spells, like Leomund’s Secure Shelter and other arcane rituals that just make travelling more pleasant.  I like to think that Forrest Gump would have had a lot of time for Fharlanghn, and I think more characters should try the less battle-hardy approach to D&D.
             In Goblins, however, there is a deity who is far more... practical to call upon.  Forgath, the dwarven cleric in the comic, worships the great and almighty Herbert, more commonly known as the Dungeon Master.  In a game where every random encounter, loot drop, quest, storyline, and NPC is controlled by a single, all-powerful person, it makes sense to make sure that that individual is kept happy and placated with regular prayer, wouldn’t you say?

Friday, September 16, 2011

30 DODND Day 5 - Your Favourite Set of Dice/Individual Die

            I have quite a lot of dice now.  Not as many as some people, but definitely quite a few.  My favourite set though, was one which I came across whilst swinging by a game shop on the way to the train station.  It’s marbled blue and gray, and while it isn’t the highest quality I’ve ever seen, and it’s not my favourite material, I like that I have never seen another set quite like it.  It means that I always know which dice are mine, and I never have to worry about getting them mixed up with others.  They don’t roll in any special way, and I think I do about average with them, but they are particularly special to me, if that makes any sense.