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Hey Sweet Thang – Tales from the Table

Posted by Joseph Little on Oct 24, 2013 in Related, RPG, Tales From The Table

More than a decade ago I thought I might be able to get a module or two published for DnD. I set to craft an idea for an adventure which would involve several fights with a single massive green dragon and a fanatical band of lizardmen worshipers. Basically the dragon invaded a remote, forested section of a kingdom and built a massive dam out of a large section of the forest. The dam filled a section of the forest basin creating a large lake. Changes to an ecology are never fully predictable and the new lake submerged a mile or so of trade route that lead directly to the capital of the kingdom. At the same time, much of the remaining forest became flooded. Many trees rotted and the soil degraded creating a modest sized swamp. A band of lizardmen swam down river to look for a location for a new camp and came upon the new lake and swamp. A new tribe was formed and the lizardmen later made contact with the green dragon. After the dragon accepted the lizardmen and offered them protection, the lizardmen began to worship the dragon. Over time the loss of the trade route came to the attention of the king who ordered some people to investigate. Said people never returned after having found new homes in the belly of the dragon. More people were sent to investigate and the dragon filled its belly once again on the best knights and advisers the kingdom had to offer. Well trained knights were costly to train and in short supply, so the king set out a call for adventurers, because adventurers were plentiful, generally got things done, and were paid on completion of the task. Additionally adventurers were cheap since they were often never returned and did not leave the kingdom with widows and children to support.

I thought that was a pretty good back story. I created a multiple level lair out of non-traditional materials inside of a dam complete with sections that were flooded, some that were safe, and some that were filled with poisonous gasses. I was going to be able to force the players to think of alternative ways of approaching the damn and dragon as well as the consequences of both. I was going to create an entire tribe of lizardmen, a race I had always enjoyed but never before considered using to such an extent. I had lizardmen clerics, lizardmen warriors, and lizardmen monks lining up within my brain chanting and stomping to be released onto the page. Muahahhahahahah.

I asked a few of my friends if they would be willing to create some characters and playtest some encounters with me. I wanted to start with the big kahuna, the green dragon that caused the whole adventure to begin with. The players didn’t want to just drop into a battle with the dragon and insisted / begged that we start more traditionally. They wanted to role play and not just run through some rote dice rolling exercises. Like any player whipped DM, I gave in and started the players in the not yet named capital of the not yet named kingdom, of a not yet named king. The players wanted their characters to go to court. So as potential saviors of the king’s gold, their characters were invited to court to discuss their roles and payment with the king’s advisers and perhaps the king himself. Upon arriving at court, two of the players immediately begin to search for courtesans, looking for some upper class action. Everyone wanted to talk at once which is never helpful so I got everyone to shut up so that I could address each one at a time. I should have known something was up, but I had grand dreams and pushed those pesky thoughts away.

Once everyone was calm I started with the player to my left. We will call him JT. JT’s character went from group to group introducing himself and looking for potential pockets to pick. The character was a thief so I reasoned that at least he was doing his part and playing his character. The player to my furthest right was player 3 and would be last in my clockwise rotation. Player 3 was being very quiet and patient, but I could also tell that he seemed quite eager. His eyes were wide and his legs bounced under the table with anticipation. I noted this and moved on to my second player. We will call him J^2. J^2′s character immediately began to search out the ladies and make a general mess of showing off his muscles and lack of intellect. Yes, J^2′s character was a warrior of the simplest order. I wanted to get on with the show so I stroked the player’s ego and the ladies swarmed all around the warrior regaling in his tales. Now, player 3 was, if possible, more excited. The closer his turn came, the even more excited he became. His barely contained eagerness was a little unnerving, and I all the while I was working with player 2, I kept having to remind myself that it was player 2′s turn. I mean, I love it when a player is engaged, but there’s a difference between engaged and looking like a dog being very patient but also very, very excited while waiting for you to throw a ball so it could pounce. Once again I REALLY should have realized something was up, but I wasn’t focused on that. I was focused on getting to some combat action! I wanted to take notes on different ways the players might encounter the dragon and how the battles might progress. Sadly, we did not got that far that night.

Finally, it was player 3′s turn. Our exchange went something like this:

Me: OK Chris. What does your wizard do?

Chris: J^s’s talking to some ladies?

Me: Yeah, his player is. They seem to be interested in his adventuring tales.

Chris: I’m there too right?

Me: Sure.

Chris: I go up to the prettiest one and tap her on the shoulder.

Me: OK. She turns to look …

Chris immediately cuts me off and in his best Tim Meadows Ladies Man lispy voice: Hey sweet thang, can I buy you a fish sandwich?

The room burst out into laughter.

We never did recover that night. We eventually got to fight the dragon a couple times. I decided the lizardmen had access to some of the dragon’s healing treasures and healed it between bouts, which really annoyed the players. No one wanted to restart the whole thing to try the encounters again. The magic was gone. I may not have ever scripted a module, but I have set up some incredible punchlines even if I didn’t know they were coming.

Good times.

( If you don’t get the reference above, you can see a sample of The Ladies Man working his mojo here … The Ladies’ Man).

© 2013, Joseph Little. All rights reserved.

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Dice Boxes

Posted by Joseph Little on Oct 14, 2013 in Dice, Related

Several years ago I was playing in a DnD game set, in part, on the High Seas. My character was a barbarian named Siresh Al’Shefi who, despite being kept in a box and used as a weapon of first resort during boarding parties, ended up being quite a philosophical character.

The Bloody Cutlass Dice Tray

The Bloody Cutlass Dice Tray

After securing his own ship through (SURPRISE) very violent means, he set on a world of adventure on the newly dubbed Bloody Cutlass. He wasn’t the captain of The Bloody Cutlass though, because … you know … barbarian and all, but I imagined Siresh was kinda like Sindbad a la The Incredible Hulk. Or maybe it was the other way around. Regardless, we players played in a living room on various sofas and recliners. There was not much in the way of a nice flat surface for dice rolling so I created my first Dice Tray. I found the tray in a dollar store, painted it red and drew and painted a bloody cutlass in black in the center of the tray. I then gave the whole thing a nice coat of lacquer to help keep the surface intact. The tray has lasted all these many years, but it has seen better days and is thus largely retired.

Unfinished Box

Unfinished Box

Unfinished Box Interior

Unfinished Box Interior

Fast forward to recently. I have wanted to make a new holder for my dice, but I just have not had any inspiration. Well I hadn’t had any until a friend of mine started posting her Steampunk creations on Facebook and Etsy. Within a week, I found a really nice plain pine box at Michael’s that would work nicely.

Finished First Box

Finished First Box

Finished First Box, Opened

Finished First Box, Opened

I bought some stain, sand paper, felt, and craft glue. After staining my first box, I glued in some green felt, and my first dice box was finished. I liked it, but I noticed that I made several little mistakes. First I didn’t have a very sharp blade to cut the felt which caused me to make some noticeable marks in the wood that I had to fix. Moreover, the felt still looks a bit ragged. So I set upon work on my second box.

For my second box, I purchased some different colored felt, a black (teak) stain, and some polyurethane. I also purchased some brushes (instead of using rags for the stain), a better cutting blade, and on a whim some wood for dividers inside of the box. I think my staining was better with this box, but my skill with the polyurethane was not very good. My sandpaper block was getting dirty and I didn’t have any additional to use. With the wood I purchased, I trimmed it down to a height that would sit within the box and trimmed the lengths to create four zones in the box. My idea was to have a large dice rolling area, a smaller area to hold unused dice, an even smaller area to hold a single miniature, and a long thin area to hold pens and pencils.

Second Dice Box Interior

Second Dice Box Interior

Second Dice Box Closed

Second Dice Box Closed

Neither of the end results were perfect, but I like both. I didn’t felt the top and bottom of the box on the second box like I did the first, but I did add felt to the bottom of the box which protects whatever the box sits on. I may go back and felt the bottom of the first box. The felt on the inside of the box provides a nice smooth, level, and quiet surface to roll dice. Additionally, both boxes allow the user to transport their dice, with the second box having a nice space for pencils and other gaming gear. I do not think the pencil or miniature areas are quite large enough. Additionally the wood used to divide the areas up was a pretty low grade wood, and I did not cut the wood with precision.

I have more ideas, though I am probably going to stick to honing my skills and slowly gathering other resources to produce a better product. I really think creating an inlay would be really exciting, but I just do not have the tools for that level of detail (yet). Additionally, I would eventually like to start building my own boxes instead of buying pre-made ones, but again I do not (yet) have the tools (or skills) for that level of work. I do not have any desire currently to sell these, I just enjoy making them, but eventually I am going to start running out of space.

© 2013, Joseph Little. All rights reserved.

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Cards Against Humanity Review

Posted by Joseph Little on Sep 23, 2013 in Related

Cards Against Humanity (CAH) is a non-collectible card game by publisher, Cards Against Humanity LLC. The recommended age is seventeen and up, and I suggest this remain the case as the subject matter is often quite “blue”. The suggested number of players is four to twenty or more, and honestly in my experience the more the merrier. Finally the box suggests a game will last thirty to ninety minutes. I’ve never been involved in a game that didn’t go on (delightfully) for hours. Generally my friends and I exhaust all the cards in the deck with people often joining and rarely leaving a game in progress.

CAH is a party game consisting of two decks, white and black. The white deck contains cards that represent people, places, things, actions, and sometimes concepts. For example, three cards in the first expansion’s white deck include: “The ooze”, “Mom”, and “Deflowering the princess”. The first white card I saw had an object that I will not willingly post on this site, but rest assured I greatly hope I pull the card during a game. After reading that last sentence, when my friends find out what that card actually is they are going to laugh out loud. The black deck is typically a phrase with a blank which should be filled with a word from the white deck. For instance, one black deck card I have in front of me reads, “My plan for world domination begins with _____”. Now substitute your favorite white card from before in that blank, and you start to get an idea of what the game is like.

Additional types of black cards include questions such as, “What is the gift that keeps on giving?” Again, imagine all of my example white cards from before being presented for this black card. Which would you pick? Other black cards require two or even three white cards to fulfill. In these cases the groups of cards are maintained and the groups are shuffled in a manner that keeps them together yet separate. We generally do a Three-Card-Monty style “shuffle”. My favorite card is the haiku. Each player plays three cards which form a “haiku” of sorts. Typically most players will not be able to form an actual haiku of 5-7-5 syllables, but the idea is to present three cards that forms your poetry. Using the example cards again, maybe your haiku would be:

Mom.
Deflowering the princess.
The ooze.

See? That’s not exactly a kid friendly haiku, and yet it is also a pretty tame example.

Game play is simple. Each player gets 10 white cards for his or her hand. The active player is called the Card Czar and starts his or her turn by drawing a random black card. The Card Czar calls out what is on the black card and the other players each choose a white card to complete the thought.  The white cards are shuffled and revealed. The Card Czar chooses his or her favorite, and the person who submitted that card is awarded the black card as a prize. Play then passes to the next player who then becomes the new Card Czar. After several rounds of everyone being the Card Czar, everyone counts his or her black cards and the person with the most wins.

The game currently has a base set and three expansions. Additionally, CAH has recently announced a new accessory, the Bigger Black Box, an empty black box that will hold all of your CAH cards. Then they tell you the box isn’t exactly empty as it comes with some new cards of its own too.

Cards Against Humanity is a simple concept that generates a metric ton of laughs. While playing, you will learn which of your friends are horrible, horrible people and which are worse, but in the best way. Winning really isn’t the point of the game for my friends and I. Generally if you play, you are already a winner.

JoeGamer Rating? 15 out of 20. This will be a hit with most monsters, erh players, but it might not be right for some. Luckily damage to my wallet isn’t that bad since the price is very reasonable. Please sir, can I have another?

© 2013, Joseph Little. All rights reserved.

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Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Review

Posted by Joseph Little on Sep 6, 2013 in Card Games, Pathfinder, RPG

Premise

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is a non-collectible card game that condenses the role playing game (RPG) experience into a series of short card games. Players chose one of several characters, all of which are based on Paizo’s iconic characters for the Pathfinder campaign setting. Each character is represented by three cards, one token, one basic character card, and a card for advanced skills and abilities the character may eventually earn. The goal of the game is for the characters to hunt, trap, and defeat the scenario’s villain. Success provides the characters with greater access to equipment, spells, blessings, and abilities. From game to game, players advance their characters. Death in a game is permanent and the player’s next character has to start over again.

There is a small set of cards for the actual adventure and several cards for the various locations the characters might encounter. The remainder of the cards is divided into “Banes” and “Boons”. Banes represent cards that are challenges for the characters. These include the villains, barriers, henchmen and monsters.  Boons are cards that potentially help the characters if they can be acquired. These include different types of equipment, allies, spells, blessings, and loot.

Characters hunt for the villain by moving from location to location and exploring. After thirty turns the game is over. If the players haven’t won by then, they lose the game. The game has some basic mechanics supported and enhanced by the cards. Banes mostly work similar to all other Banes, and Boons mostly work similar to all other Boons. Characters get one free explore per turn and might be able to get a second explore through a power or card effect. Character decks are comprised of Boons that give some benefit to specific actions. Oh and by the way, getting an effect from a card generally requires you to remove it from the draw deck in some manner. Many cards have a Recharge effect that allows the card to be added to the bottom of the draw deck, retaining use for later in the game. This is important because If a player cannot draw enough cards when required, their character dies.

Characters generally have access to powers that allow Recharging of certain types of cards when used. For instance, the warriors might be able to recharge weapon cards used and spell casters might be able to recharge spells. Exploring exposes characters to new Boons and Banes. If an encountered card is a Bane it must be overcome or it may result in damage which equates to discarding cards. If an encountered card is a Boon it might be acquired and added to the player’s hand. Eventually the characters encounter either a henchman or the villain. Defeating henchmen closes out the location to the villain. Defeating the villain causes it to flee if possible to an open location. If it is not possible for the villain to flee because all of the other locations are closed, the players win.

Initial Impressions

Upon opening the box I was slightly underwhelmed. The box was huge and beautifully decorated, but when I opened it, I found that it was almost completely empty except for a plastic insert that will eventually keep my massive assortment of cards well organized, four thick decks of cards shrink wrapped, and a thin, wide box with the Burnt Offerings Adventure Path. I didn’t say that I was disappointed, just underwhelmed. The contents of the box left it about eighty percent empty. Once we opened the shrink wrapped packs and separated the various card types in the manner prescribed by the rule book, the box felt fuller. We purchased the Character Add-On pack as well, and as suggested, combined those cards with those of the base set which helped the fill the box even more.

We started building our first game while reading the rule book. We decided to run the basic set adventure to begin and kept the Burt Offerings Adventure Path box closed. The rule book walked us through the creation of our first characters and set up of our first game. Overall I say this process was fairly straight forward and simple. We each built our character deck by adding a certain number of certain card types based upon our characters’ classes. Spell casters got more spells. Fighters got more weapons and armors. I started with a Monk which got no weapons, armor, or spells but got a large number of items, allies, and blessings. My wife started with a Ranger which got a more diverse set of Boons, but fewer of each. I really liked this design characteristic as it seemed logical and allowed us to exercise our creativity. When building our starting character decks however, we were limited to cards with Basic card type only. Again the mechanic seemed logical since a first level character usually starts with little more than the clothes on his or her back. What was not readily obvious was which cards were basic and which were not. There was a list of attributes on the left side of the card and Basic was one of the possible traits. For one with slowly fading vision such as I, it was often difficult to distinguish BASIC from ELITE especially in 8 point font. Don’t laugh. It would have been nice to have the BASIC keyword bold, in a different color, or maybe if it included a symbol of some type that would be readily visible while we flipped through the cards. It was a small thing, but it was something.

Another small negative I noticed was the card thickness. The cards were pretty thin which made sorting through the cards a little more difficult. The cards felt like they might bend at any moment. I found myself counting and recounting the decks I built over and over as I was unsure if cards had stuck together or not.

The First Game

Like most first games of anything, our first game took a lot longer than it should have and had a few mistakes. My wife played Harsk, the Dwarven Ranger specialized in ranged attacks while I played Sajan, the Human Monk who specialized in attacking with his fists. We played the Perils of the Lost Cost adventure and the Brigandoom! scenario. Basically I read the rules and then tried to explain the game to my wife shortly thereafter. I did a fair job. During the game there was much looking up things which caused the scenario to screech to a halt several times for several minutes at a time. Mistakes were made. One mistake I know we made for instance was that the scenario stated that any time a monster’s power caused a player to Recharge a card, the player should draw a card after doing so. We never did. I doubt that the mistake caused much of a difference in the outcome, but it was easy to miss and we did.

Since there were only two of us we played with 4 locations. My character was loaded up on Blessings which among other things could be discarded the Blessing to explore a second time. I explored often but quickly found my deck very thin which limited my late game. We found the villain early, which was good for us since we got to use the rules for him escaping. We were unsure if at the end of one player’s turn, if the other player is supposed to also draw back up to his or her hand size as well or not. (We didn’t). We stumbled over when to use the skills and powers, and then when we knew what to do, we often forgot to do it. Eventually we cornered the villain and won the game with a dozen or more turns to spare. Either the initial scenario was intentionally designed to be easier than others (which I was inclined to believe), or we did something wrong. Regardless, despite all the fumbling we had fun. The game took two plus hours, we were exhausted at the end, but we had fun.

The Second Game

Our second game went much faster. The lessons we learned from our first game as well as our assumptions about the rules propelled us along nicely, and we only had to pause to find a reference to one rule, Evade. I couldn’t find the rule quickly enough for my tastes so I simply banished my Holy Water and the Ancient Skeleton too. My final gripe with the game was that the rules were not the easiest to use for quick reference. I found myself wanting a glossary of terms and left wanting. Overall the rule set was good for leading a new player along to setup his or her first game, but fell apart around the second half.  If I can find a decent rules FAQ, I’ll forgive everything.

Again we finished the second game with plenty of time to spare. We still made a few mistakes, and we forgot to do a few things. Overall however, our play was much smoother. I felt like our next scenario will run even more smoothly which is good because it looked like it was going to be difficult. One thing I found that I liked to do was to set up the next game ahead of time. I knew that our next game will just be the wife and I again, so I went ahead and shuffled all the cards and dealt each of the locations. I then shuffled each deck, stacked them, and set them in one of the larger dividers in the box. I would have felt uncomfortable doing this if I expected the number of players to be different.

Conclusion

For my gaming friends with a little extra cash, I suggest this game. It is a little bit costly as the point of entry is around sixty dollars ($60), and that does not include the Character Add On Deck. The game is fun, has a lot of replay potential. I expect many gaming groups will keep a copy of this aside just for those times when too many people can’t make the game that night that they can’t play their regular RPG, but would like to do something. I can’t wait to try the game solo as well as with a group of four to six players.

JoeGamer Rating? 18 out of 20. It’s a solid hit! Roll for damage to my wallet.

© 2013, Joseph Little. All rights reserved.

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The Hanged Man

Posted by Joseph Little on Feb 3, 2013 in 3E DnD, RPG

Below is a monster that I “created” for a 3.5 Edition DnD game that I ran in a custom campaign. The characters encountered the Hanged Man after approaching a ruined tower. They approached from the outside of the tower and could easily see the motionless form that hung inside the tower. The obviously dead creature hung from a noose tied to a ring in the partially collapsed ceiling of the tower. Familiar with my occasionally mildly fiendish tactics, they detected for undead and were not surprised when the Hanged Man glowed like a bar of highly enriched uranium. Initiative was rolled and everyone knew IT WAS ON!

The Hanged Man dropped from his roost. His shamble toward the party was made significantly more disturbing by his horrendous broken neck and lolling bloated head. The party cleric cast a spell to make all but one of the party who was furthest away from the shambling monster invisible to the Hanged Man. This seemed like a good plan up until the point that the undead creature used the twenty feet of rope hanging around its neck as a lash, and entangled the visible character.

The other characters tried desperately but miserably to cut the rope that seemed to entangle with their ally the more that he struggled to escape. This was incredibly amusing to everyone but that player. OK. It was incredibly amusing to me. Three rounds later the PC was pinned by the Hanged Man’s rope and was about to get some Mummy Love (aka Mummy Rot). Finally the other players stopped trying to cut the entangling rope and dropped out of invisibility to kill the Hanged Man.

The monster isn’t really much more than a typical Mummy with one special ability that played into the monster’s overall mystique. The idea of this half rotted shambling form with a wretched broken neck and lolling head just begged for me to play it once it had crawled out of the well of my imagination. All in all I was pleased with the encounter.

The Hanged Man

Size/Type: Medium Undead
Hit Dice: 8d12+3 (55 hp)
Initiative: +0
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares)
Armor Class: 20 (+10 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 20
Base Attack/Grapple: +4/+11
Attack: Slam +11 melee (1d6+10 plus mummy rot)
Full Attack: Slam +11 melee (1d6+10 plus mummy rot)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Despair, mummy rot
Special Qualities: Damage reduction 5/-, darkvision 60 ft., undead traits, vulnerability to fire
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +8
Abilities: Str 24, Dex 10, Con Ø, Int 6, Wis 14, Cha 15
Skills: Hide +7, Listen +8, Move Silently +7, Spot +8
Feats: Alertness, Great Fortitude, Toughness
Environment: Any
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 6
Treasure: Standard
Alignment: Usually lawful evil
Advancement: 9-16 HD (Medium); 17-24 HD (Large)
Level Adjustment:

The Hanging Man is a typical Mummy with one exceptional difference: the Hanging Man’s noose is also a lash that the Hanging man can use as a whip with a 20′ range. In addition to using the lash as the whip, the Hanging Man can also use the lash to grapple and pin as noted below. Cutting less than ten feet off the length of the lash only reduces the range of attacks from it. Cutting more than ten feet of the lash destroys it as a weapon.

Mummies are preserved corpses animated through the auspices of dark desert gods best forgotten.

Most mummies are 5 to 6 feet tall and weigh about 120 pounds.

Mummies can speak Common, but seldom bother to do so.

Lash(Su)

The Hanging Man may lash out with the free end of his noose possibly entangling the person hit. If a character is hit with the Hanging Man’s lash, the Hanging Man and the target must make opposed grapple checks. If the Hanging Man wins, the target is considered grappled but with the Lash and not the Hanging Man who may in subsequent rounds use his Slam attach against the target as if attacking into a grapple.

Lash Pin(Su)

Anyone failing 3 successive grapple checks with the Hanging Man’s Lash is considered pinned.

Despair(Su)

At the mere sight of a mummy, the viewer must succeed on a DC 17 Will save or be paralyzed with fear for 1d4 rounds. Whether or not the save is successful, that creature cannot be affected again by the same mummy’s despair ability for 24 hours. The save DC is Charisma-based.

Mummy Rot (Su)

Supernatural disease-slam, Fortitude DC 16, incubation period 1 minute; damage 1d6 Con and 1d6 Cha. The save DC is Charisma-based. Unlike normal diseases, mummy rot continues until the victim reaches Constitution 0 (and dies) or is cured as described below.

Mummy rot is a powerful curse, not a natural disease. A character attempting to cast any conjuration (healing) spell on a creature afflicted with mummy rot must succeed on a DC 20 caster level check, or the spell has no effect on the afflicted character.

To eliminate mummy rot, the curse must first be broken with break enchantment or remove curse (requiring a DC 20 caster level check for either spell), after which a caster level check is no longer necessary to cast healing spells on the victim, and the mummy rot can be magically cured as any normal disease.

An afflicted creature who dies of mummy rot shrivels away into sand and dust that blow always into nothing at the first wind.

The Hanged Man was created using the Open Gaming License, a copy of which can be found here: OGL.

The Hanged Man is available freely under the OGL, though I’d like it if you linked back to this post.

© 2013, Joseph Little. All rights reserved.

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