Monthly Archives: September 2009

The Living World

In lieu of all the interest from people at DragonFest and Gamers Club meetings about the upcoming game, I’ve opted to try a different approach to the game. I’m going to take a page from the Living Forgotten Realms campaign through the RPGA, and run it with a “Living” feeling to it. It won’t be a traditional “living” game, just because the logistics are just not there right now. I’ve got the world more or less fleshed out, and what I’ll be doing is writing a set of modules taking place at different points with different goals. Some may be traditional dungeon crawls looking for a magic item to help the besieged forces of the living beings to fighting a battle at the mountain pass against the undead hordes, to exploring the island of Godshead to find out if there’s anything there that can help, to infiltrating the Empire as members of the Inquisition and taking the fight to the Undying King. There won’t be any real cohesion at this poitn and I’ll be creating sets of pregens for each adventure, which will take place at different levels. This allows me to run games when I have the interest and the time and keep the time of each adventure down to a reasonable time so I can get to work and let everyone else enjoy the rest of game night.

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Podcasts

In the past I’ve brought up a few of the podcasts that I have subscriptions to. Since I’ve been listening to a few others lately, I figured I would spread the love and let the rest of you know what I’ve been listening to along with the short description, in the hopes that you’ll find something you like in this list.

The Order 66 Podcastwww.d20radio.com

This is the flagship podcast on the d20 Radio Network, and is dedicated, to borrow the phrase from GM Chris, the power, the passion, and the glory that is Star Wars Saga Edition Roleplaying. GM Chris and GM Dave bring you a (usually) weekly podcast that is entertaining, thoughtful, and very well put together. They are a cast that truly knows they stand on the shoulders of their fans and will bend over backwards for them, something that is very cool to see. They have been casting for just under two years and have a pretty impressive backlog of episodes, including notable guest appearances from game designers Rodney Thompson, Sterling Hershey, Gary Astleford, and Vader’s Secret Apprentice himself, Sam Witwer. The casts usually average out to about an hour in length, but never seem to last long enough.

Radio Free Hommlet www.d20radio.com
Radio Free Hommlet was the first sister cast on the d20 Radio Network and is dedicated to Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition. DMs Tim, Kate, Jackson, and David take you through the new edition of the game and let you know all the things you think you should know from the previous editions, only to find out just how wrong you were. DM David has an interesting segment that he does every so often called “World-Building Affirmations” that has actually been the seed idea for a possible podcast from yours truly.

Game On! www.d20radio.com
This cast is all about good, not always quite so clean fun. Brian and Andy talk about all things gaming, a large focus on board games, but taking detours into miniatures, card games, and roleplaying games. They have a very easy, very obvious chemistry, and it’s very clear that they love what they are doing on the cast. It’s so clear, that you can’t help but laugh along with them whenever they make a cheap joke (so make sure you’re listening somewhere you won’t get odd looks… unless you’re into that sort of thing).

City of Doors www.d20radio.com
This is a new podcast on the d20 Radio Network, sponsored by Reaper Miniatures. Bryan and Justin focus on the fluff of roleplaying games, such as character creation at a troupe level, building interesting worlds, and making combat encounters and skill challenges interesting (as well as making failure more than just failing… and sometimes character death).

The Irish and Celtic Music Podcast www.celticmusicpodcast.com
Produced by Marc Gunn of the Brobdingnagian Bards, this cast was started in 2005 after he started the Celtic Music MP3s Magazine, and offers about an hours worth of Irish and Celtic music of all genres from all parts of the world. I’ve only just started listening to this one and have found myself making less and less progress as I spend more and more of my time rewinding a podcast to listen to a song again and again (the latest being “Crazy Like Everybody” by an Australian group named Brother). For $20 a year you can also get access to an online directory of free and legal Celtic Music downloads known as “Song Henge.” I’ve discovered so many new bands, and my wallet may soon hate the man, but my ears will be loving him for years to come as I buy some of these albums off CD Baby. This is definitely worth checking out if you like Celtic Music of any kind. He plays it all, traditional, folk, rock, even bluegrass and some other experimental fusions.

Celtic Myth Podshow www.celticmythpodshow.com
Gary and Ruth bring the ancient Celtic myths to life through semi-dramatizations, giving us the myths the way they were meant to be told. They started with the Irish Book of Invasions and once they finished that group of stories, they moved on to some of the individual stories. They also plan on covering the myths and legends of Wales, Britain, and the other Celtic countries, including the Arthurian tales. They also do specials for each of the major holidays in the “wheel of the year” (Beltane, Samhain, the Solstices and Equinoxes, Yule, and Lughnasadh). It’s an incredibly immersive experience and I am planning on giving the ones I’ve already listened to again when I’m not at work so I can concentrate fully on the experience.

Druidcast www.druidry.org
This podcast is put out by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (or OBOD) and covers many things about modern Druidry, which I have found simply fascinating. There are clips from talks at various OBOD events including the role of the male deity in Druidry to interviews with the current head of the Order about the life of the founder to samples from the Order’s audio course, all interspersed with Celtic music and poetry. This is definitely worth a listen if you’re on the path or have ever been curious about just what it’s all about.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s the ones I’ve been listening to a lot lately.

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A World At Their Fingertips

After a short drafting session, I have a preliminary map of the game world for the 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons game. It is a large, single continent with a small island off of the northeast coast. The Empire of Bassidia sits in the middle of the continent, their reach and influence stretching out over almost the whole continent. I decided that by making the last few stretches of free land separated from each other by ocean travel or through the Empire itself, I would make the plight of humanity all the more dire. A mountain range runs across the northern part of the land, underneath a major isthmus dividing the top part of the continent after a great event years ago known as “the wounding.” Two small passes in the mountain ranges on the extreme edges of the two peninsulas formed by the isthmus mark the only thing between the undead hordes of the Bassidian Empire and the holdings of free men on the peninsulas.

The island of Godshead sits a few miles off the coast of the northeastern peninsula. Still not much is known about this island to this day. Only a few formal expeditions have been sent, and those back when living beings still ruled the Empire. None of those expeditions ever returned. A few brave (or foolhardy, the line seems to blur a lot around that point) explorers have gone there to see if they could find something to help them in their fight against the Undying King, but no one has seen, or heard back from any of them.

A small peninsula on the eastern part of the continent holds another small group of the living, and marks the the home of the Radiant Church. The small pass is protected by the strongly fortified Radiant Towers on either side of the land bridge.

The last bastion of humanity sits on the southwest, past what is known as the Forest of the Primeval, which sits mostly inside the lands of the Empire, but were never quite tamed while living beings still held the throne. Now, who knows what breed of monster and undead make the forest their home?

The only river on the continent has it’s source, now a few miles underwater. It used to sit high in the mountains, which thanks to the active volcano in the middle, were a great source of natural hot springs. Now the river flows from the southern point of the isthmus. It runs in a southeasterly direction, through the Forest of the Primeval, and out into the sea off the eastern coast of the bottom peninsula. A natural tributary branches off about midway through the river’s run, flowing into the sea off the southern coast of the continent. A man-made tributary runs off the main river a few miles before it spills out into the eastern seafront. This tributary leads to a man-made lake, dubbed the Well of Humanity, which is one of the only sources of fresh water that is traded at great risk to between the humans. So far the undead have contented themselves with attacking the ships carrying the water supplies instead of damming up the river, wanting to wipe humanity out by direct means.

That is a basic description of the major geological and geographical features of the land.

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A Belated Congratulations

I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I just wanted to give a shout out and a big congratulations to Chris and Dave over at the Order 66 Podcast on their win at the ENnies. They took the silver ENnie in the “Best Podcast” category, and they well and truly deserved it.

I would have gotten this post out sooner, but since I never listen to the Order 66 Podcast, I didn’t hear about this news until now.

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Dungeons and Dragons Online

I just thought I would do the community a service and mention to those of you who may not know (though the target audience of this material probably already does), that Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited, recently went live with unlimited free play. This is the same game that was released by in 2006 through Turbine, now with free account options.

If, however, you decide to subscribe (I’m looking at tossing some money at them myself), you get access to 10 character slots per realm (instead of the 2 slots on a free account), and you gain access to the Warforged race and the Monk class, which you have to unlock through “Turbine Points” which you get by doing various quests in the game that earn you favor with the various Houses of Eberron. There is also the Drow race and the Favored Soul class which even paid subscribers have to purchase through their turbine points.

I decided to download the client and give it a shot and was pleasantly surprised. The game runs very nicely, and there were no “kill 10 of this monster and come back to me” quests for the first few hours of gameplay. I was quickly thrown into the defense of Korthos Island from a group of Sahuagin and their cult of human followers, the tutorial area ending with the climactic climb up Misery’s Peak to destroy an artifact through which a Mindflayer was controlling a White Dragon and therefore, the rest of the island

The game still holds up a few years after it’s initial release, looking fairly graphically impressive. Characters are fully rendered, and there isn’t the “cartoony” approach that they seem to have taken with WoW (of which I have seen many players coming over to just “check it out” lately).

Leveling is very interesting. As in the tabletop, you have 20 levels you can advance through. However, each of these levels is broken down into 4 “ranks.” At each rank you receive an “Action Point” (which, as a side note, were a mechanic introduced by Eberron creator Keith Baker specifically for this setting. These action points can then be spent to augment y0ur class and racial abilities, such as allowing Dwarves to do more damage with axes or more damage against goblinoids, or giving Paladins extra uses of Smite Evil or Lay on Hands, or even some activated abilities such as granting bonuses to Defenses, Attacks, or Saves for 20 seconds. You gain access to more of these as you level up, and the beautiful thing about them is, that if you decide you don’t want to keep something, you can reset your abilities once every so often for a small fee (as in your characters gold pieces, not your charge card). Once you have progressed through all four ranks, you can level up to the next level, either advancing in the same class or multiclassing to diversify your character.

Grouping is fairly simple, and makes certain quests much easier (and is essentially the spirit of the game anyway), allowing for a maximum party size of 6. However, even if you don’t have a group of friends online at the time, you can always buy a hireling from one of the vendors in town to help you through a dungeon, giving you a fighter or barbarian to help with combat if your a physically weaker class, a cleric to help you with healing if you’re lacking it, or a wizard to provide arcane support if you’re lacking it.

To make a long story short, definitely give this game a chance if you’re even remotely interested. It’s a fun play experience and a wonderful way to get into MMOs. I have never played one before, and all this has done is gotten me truly excited for the forthcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO coming out later next year.

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The “Rebel Rabble Rouser”

After listening to the latest episode of the Order 66 podcast in which they discussed the Charlatan Prestige Class, I was struck with a build option using the Charlatan and Officer Prestige classes, which I have affectionately entitled, the “Rebel Rabble Rouser.”

Camaasi Noble 1/Soldier 6/Charlatan 3/Officer 10
Background Enslaved; Force 8
Init +16; Senses Perception +14
Defenses Ref 33 (flat-footed 32), Fort 35, Will 40
hp 164; Thresh 35
Speed 6 squares
Ranged +19 bothan blaster rifle (2d8+10) or
Ranged +19 bothan blaster rifle (4d8+10 stun)
Ranged +19 stun grenade (4d6+10 stun)
Base Atk +18; Grp +18
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle)
Special Actions Blaster Barrage, Castigate, Commanding Presence, Coordinated Attack, Coordinated Barrage, Cunning Distraction, Damaging Deception, Indomitable, Memory Sharing, Pacifism, Recall, Recruit Enemy
Str 11, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 18, Cha 18
Special Qualities Command Cover +5, Score, Share Talent (Indomitable)
Talents Armored Defense, Bolstered Numbers, Castigate, Cunning Distraction, Damaging Deception, Heroic Sacrifice, Indomitable, Recruit Enemy, Stay in the Fight, Team Recruiting
Feats Armor Proficiency (light, medium), Blaster Barrage, Brink of Death, Coordinated Attack, Coordinated Barrage, Grand Army of the Republic Training, Recall, Skill Focus (Deception, Persuasion), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Deception +24, Gather Information +19, Initiative +16, Knowledge (galactic lore) +16, Knowledge (tactics) +16, Persuasion +24, Treat Injury +19
Equipment battle armor (+8 armor, +2 equipment), bothan blaster rifle, 3 stun grenades

The basic idea behind this build is to take full advantage of the other skill the Charlatan must be trained in, but doesn’t have as much use for mechanically in his abilities: Persuasion. I chose Camaasi because of that species’ ability to reroll keeping the better result. Castigate and Commanding Presence are a great start for this build in order to lower enemies’ Will Defenses and make your Deceptions and Persuasions all the more likely to happen. Damaging Deception is a wonderful precursor to the Team Recruiting ability, making it all the more likely that your ally is going to drop that guy and you’ll be able to bring him over to your side. The rest of the Rebel Recruiter talent tree is just too much fun to pass up for this character, so that fills out the rest of his Officer talents. As for feat choices, Brink of Death seems like it’s written for the Camaasi player. Coordinated Attack, Coordinated Barrage, and Blaster Barrage all allow him to take a leader role in the party, and allow the other characters to hit better (and with Damaging Deception, harder as well). Grand Army of the Republic Training makes sure he won’t fall victim to the same tricks he uses himself, and Recall is just an underused feat. Skill Focus Deception, and Skill Focus: Persuasion should be fairly self explanatory. He also has the option of using his Pacifism ability during the encounter to further reduce enemies’ Defenses.

Now you have a build that can talk their way out of encounters multiple ways, and make sure that if they do get into trouble, they can quickly turn the odds against their enemies through aiding allies and recruiting fallen foes.

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Shadows of Bassidia

Well, since I realized the other day that it’s been weeks since I got off my butt and made a blog post, I decided that I should probably get back on it.

A while back, I decided that in order to properly write and create classes and powers for Chrono d20, I would need to finally run a 4th Edition game in order to try and get my head around some of the math. So, I decided that, at least this semester, possibly next, I would be running a 4th Edition game for a few hours each Tuesday or Wednesday. Despite that fact that this is going to be a test bed campaign, I really also wanted it to be interesting, so my mind began working to come up with an interesting campaign hook.

I finally settled on tweaking the idea of the “holy inquisition,’ which I think everyone is familiar with: a powerful Empire has a small, highly militaristic and oftentimes highly religious group in place in order to root out potential enemies to their power and keep the rest of the society in line. Emperor Palpatine of Star Wars had the Imperial Inquisitorious and the ISB in place in order to deal with Jedi that survived the Clone Wars as well as to keep the rest of the galaxy in line through fear tactics. Real world examples include groups as diverse as the Spanish Inquisition to the Brownshirts and Blackshirts from the facist regimes of the late thirties and early forties.

I decided to take that idea and twist it slightly. Instead of the inquisition being the bad guys working for the Empire, let’s make them the good guys working against an evil and corrupt Empire? Okay, there’s hook one. Now let’s decide just why this Empire is evil. I could go with the whole corrupt regime ruled by a mad man, but that just doesn’t strike me at this current point. Well, then I started thinking about famous villains in DND history, past or present. One of the major villains that most people (well, those that played back when Ravenloft was still big) is Count Strahd, a vampire lord. I started looking through the Monster Manual and at some of the products available to me, and noticed a good deal of love for the undead, especially with the Open Grave monster compendium in print. That got my brain working.

Interlligent undead ruling over an Empire they took over, using powerful undead beasts and ghosts as soldiers in an army that mortal men just can’t destroy. Living beings are decimated and fractious, living in small, mobile communities outside of the ever expanding area of rule of the ancient Empire of Bassidia that has now become a perversion of what it once was. This undead Empire also gives a likely enemy for an Inquisition, especially one religious nature, working to keep hope alive in the hearts of the remaining living races.

Anyway, that’s the general overview of the campaign setting. I’m looking to fill out some more things here in the next few days.

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