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Archive for December, 2011

4e Skill Fumble – House Rule

December 30, 2011 4 comments

We’ve been having so much fun with iCrit and iFumble, we were talking last session about fumble results for 4e skills. I suppose you could have a critical success, and in fact, my epic 4e Thief gained two successes in a skill challenge when I rolled a 20 on one, but really fumbles are more fun. At least for the GM.

Now before I raise the ire of all hardcore 4e players out there, I know that according to the Rules As Written, in a skill check a 1 is not necessarily a failure and a 20 is not a guaranteed success (though usually they qualify as failures or successes if the challenge is even moderately level appropriate), but put your books away. This is house rule time. As a bonus its presented in a massive table. What is D&D without house rules and massive tables?

A few of the obvious skills have failure conditions written in the rules already. Fail an acrobatics/athletics climb check, you fall. But what if you fell really awkwardly, or what if you fell on your head? What about massive failures at diplomacy or intimidate? I present the Skyland Games 4e Skill Fumble Table. Not only does it address consequences for failure, it has degrees of failure based on how far away from the DC the skill check landed.

It also addresses the somewhat irritating mechanic (to me anyway) that a ranger can fail a nature check, and due to the luck of the dice, a paladin could pass it. This will make someone think twice about using a skill they have no business attempting. It could certainly heighten the tension at the table during a skill challenge. There are few truly tense skill challenges I can remember from the many 4e adventures I’ve been on.

Check it out, and let us know what you think if you end up using it: SkillFumble1

— Edit: An astute reader pointed out I am terrible at mathematical symbols. This I freely admit. Updated the PDF to remove obfuscation. —

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Categories: 4e, Adventure, DnD, Lore, RPGs, Tips Tags: , , ,

4e Party – Old School Mod Style

December 29, 2011 9 comments

Last night the pirates campaign got under way again, with my 4e conversion of B4 – The Lost City. I did my best to keep the spirit of the original, but since our party is made up of pirates at sea, the top of the temple was just above the water, rather than above the dunes. Unlike a lot of the more recent 4e mods in the Scales of War adventure path and certainly the Living Forgotten Realms mods, this was a much more traditional dungeon crawl. Originally published in 1982, the majority of adventures at that time were crawls.

It was refreshing for me, after playing a lot 4e over the past few years, to recapture some of the old school feel. Some might think that it would be difficult to challenge the party given the mechanics of healing surges and the relative power of 2nd level 4e character as compared to the power of a 2nd level 1e character. I countered this in a few ways.

First off, all the monsters they faced had 4e stat blocks. Several of them had already been restated and were waiting for me in the compendium, or monster vault. Others I needed to find a suitable substitute, but even that wasn’t tough. For instance, in one room the party encounters an enormous beehive with foot-long bees. While there aren’t any 4e giant bee stats, there are giant ant stats. Change their climb speed to a fly speed, stat-up an encounter-power sting, and viola: 4e Giant Bee.

The second way I compensated for 4e mechanics was to limit the short rests they could take. The basis for this adventure is that they are almost out of supplies and need to find food and fresh water to replenish the ships stores. I gave them a little food and one waterskin between them, that I told them would be good for two short rests until they could find more food and water. While most of the encounters were just a few creatures, each battle drained there precious resources, and made them actively look for ways to get food and water, which led to some awesome role-play opportunities. (Player: Can we eat bees? Me: You can try.)

A third aspect that was really fun to see again was the party checking pretty much any door they came across for traps. The mod did a great job of setting this up by leaving scattered bodies of previous explorers who had set off traps ahead of the party. Also, the first room they encountered one of the party fell through the floor to a chamber with several fire beetles. While the rest of the party descended to assist their comrade, the wizard sat back and hurled a spell or two whenever it was advantageous, only going in to the room after freezing the last beetle to a wall with a ray of frost.

Playing an old school mod also got the players in an old school frame of mind. Early on, one of the characters gathered up some old, sludgy oil that could be used as smoky flasks of oil. When the party encountered the giant bees, he had the brilliant idea of using the smoke from the burning oil to make the bees docile. When is the last time a 4e character in your game, scrounged up some material and used it to avoid a fight? Brilliant.

The pirates have managed to scrape together a little water, and they took the time to cook and send back some giant lizard they had freshly slain. To keep the crew fed, they’ll have to journey deeper into the underwater structure. The party found a stairway down, but wisely chose to explore the rest of the floor they were on before charging off into the unknown. It was a great session and I’m really looking forward to next week!

Categories: 4e, Adventure, DnD, Lore, Pirates, RPGs, Tips Tags: , ,

Gnollhunt – Expert DM Competition

December 28, 2011 Comments off

Skyland Games submitted an entry to the most recent WotC Expert DM Competition with the appropriate theme of ‘Create a Holiday.’ Steve, who you may remember for his 4e Christmas Carol, came up with Gnollhunt. He did an awesome job detailing all the particulars for the holiday and provided some awesome hooks for incorporating it into your next adventure in Faerun, or where ever your party ventures.

Unfortunately the deadline for submissions was Dec. 23rd, but you can check out past competitions and participate in future ones on the WotC Community Expert Dungeon Master Competition Group (XDMC). You’ll find a host of resources for both novice and expert DMs on their community page. Check out the archive for a quick run down of previous competitions.

On another note, the Skyland Games crew is ready to set sail on the 2nd chapter of their pirate adventures. We’ve had to postpone it a number of weeks due to extenuating circumstances, but tonight, we sail! I will be DMing my recent 4e conversion of B4 – The Lost City. Rather than being under the dunes, this forgotten temple is underwater. I tried to maintain as many of the original elements of the old adventure, and for the most part, found it pretty easy. It may not be so easy on the PCs. We’ll see after tonight.

RPG SuperStar 5 – Round 1 – Wondrous Item

December 27, 2011 Comments off

While this isn’t brand new news as entries have been accepted since December 6th, the deadline for submissions to Paizo’s RPG Superstar 2012 is fast approaching. The first round is to submit a new Wondrous Item, such as a bag of holding, a portable hole, or a rod of wonder, but you know, new and different. Scanning the list of wondrous items on Scry, designing a new and original item is a pretty daunting prospect. Not only does it have to be new and different, its got to be cool enough to vote for.

Once the judges have narrowed down all the applicants to a list of 32 submissions, authors of those items are tasked with creating an original organization within Golarion. The public will then vote for their favorites, and the top 16 will be charged with creating a new monster with stat block. The top 8 will then design an encounter map, and the top 4 will submit a Pathfinder adventure proposal. The grand prize is a paid commission for a 32-page Pathfinder adventure to be printed by Paizo. The 3 runner-ups get a paid commission to write a 16-page Pathfinder Society module.

Skyland Games will definitely be participating in this year’s event. From what I understand the competition is fierce, and it’s doubtful we will even get in the round of 32, but if you don’t play, you don’t win! We’re looking forward to seeing what the other participants cook up, and can’t wait to see the brackets progress down to the final winners.

Submissions are due by January 6th. Give it a try! If we don’t get in, maybe we’ll be voting for your entry!

RPG Magazines – Essential or Outdated?

December 26, 2011 5 comments

I knew of Dragon and Dungeon magazines when I was growing up, but didn’t own any issues and didn’t subscribe. The dad of our regular DM had a subscription, and I remember thumbing through an issue or two, but mostly we were too busy playing nintendo to be bothered. When I came back to D&D in 2008, Dragon and Dungeon had gone digital. I had just missed all the gnashing of teeth about the transition, and never had a proper example of the old magazine to feel a sense of loss that so many did when they transitioned to their digital format. At the time, I was only playing 4e, so at the end of the month I was thrilled when they compiled all the articles into a PDF and I had a digital magazine full of new character options and adventures, not to mention great art and maps!

I was really upset when they stopped compiling the issues at the end of the month, and further enraged when the amount of content started to drop off at an alarming rate. I voiced my displeasure in the forums and cancelled my subscription. Most of the articles that I have any interest in reading from Wizards of the Coast are now free, so I don’t regret my decision.

I’ve been doing some research on the roots of D&D and role-playing games in general. After asking around, I discovered some of my gaming buddies had digital versions of the old Dragon magazines. Digitally paging through these issues was like finding an old bookshelf in a library filled with forgotten lore. As a fascinating side activity, I googled the companies in the ads, and a surprising number still exist. Reading the old articles, it was surprising to me how little has actually changed when it came to what gamers were arguing about, and the controversies of the day. Some of the letters were seeking clarification on rules for a particular spell, or how something should be resolved given a conflict between two rules. Others felt that PCs were becoming too powerful, and dragons were getting stomped without being a big enough threat to the party. (Power-creep, anyone?) It was really surprising how similar the conversations were in the old issues as compared to what people are discussing on blogs and twitter today. Are we all just rehashing the past? Has everything worth being said on the subject of RPGs already been written? While a lot of the issues are similar, the evolution of game mechanics, trends, and advances in the hobby make a really entertaining read.

The thing I liked most about the old magazines was that they were filled with interesting games from other companies and ideas from all over the gaming spectrum. The old ads were amazing, and some of the products I had purchased when I was a kid, not ever seeing how they were marketed to the gaming population as a whole. I was hooked. I’ve poured through issue after issue, including early articles from industry giants. Its been really informative, and hugely inspiring.

Enter the Kobold. I had downloaded a free issue of Kobold while it was still available, and decided it wasn’t for me. At the time I was only playing 4e, so I didn’t feel a lot of the content was applicable to me. After reading the old issues of Dragon and Dungeon and realizing what space KQ aimed to fill, I have developed a new appreciation for it. As I have grown in both depth and breadth of games I play, and experience as a Game Master and player, Kobold Quarterly captures the old feel of the Dragon and Dungeon magazines. If you only play one game, you may not find it as valuable as if you are a RPG fan in general. However, if you frequently GM homebrew games and are running out of inspiration, seek out the Kobold. Its full of interesting ecology articles that detail iconic foes, thorough interviews with fascinating figures in the gaming industry, and has ads that actually may appeal to you. Normally I just flip right past ads in magazines, but the majority of the ads in KQ are for products I’m actually interested in, and probably wouldn’t have stumbled across otherwise. I’m ready to subscribe.

Coin of the Realm – Physical Currency for RPGs

December 23, 2011 2 comments

Most often money in a role-playing game is nothing more than another number on the character sheet. Going shopping in town? Just deduct the price of your purchases from the number you have written on your sheet. Splitting the treasure of a defeated goblin-king? Just add your share to the number you currently have.

Props can be a great way to increase player immersion in a game session. Maps, letters, sometimes puzzles that the party can physically examine can add a whole new level of intrigue to a plot. Maybe coins could do the same.

That surly barkeep nods his head towards a dimly lit corner of the tavern, where a lone cloaked figure waits at a small table; the light from the single candle glinting off a neglected tankard. The party approaches the mysterious stranger. “I’ve got a job for you.” WHAM! The DM drops a belt pouch full of coins from behind the screen on to the middle of the gaming table. Which character picks it up? Do you count it right in front of this guy? How will he react if you reach for it before hearing his proposal?

There aren’t too many options out there for fake coins. Some of the best I’ve found are Campaign Coins out of Australia. They look absolutely amazing, and fairly reasonably priced given that they are real metal. My only reservation about them is that they have denominations on them. I don’t know about you, but whenever my character spends 5 silver pieces, I imagine him exchanging 5 coins, not a coin with a 5 on it.

A promising contender is a kickstarter going on now called Realm Coins. They offer bags and even small treasure chests to hold the coins for which you pledge. Their designs look stunning and are more in line with how I always imagined fantasy coins would look.

If you’re looking for a less expensive route you could always go plastic. Educational coins, used to teach kids how to count money are certainly an economical way to go. I don’t think the thunk of plastic hitting the table would have the same effect as real steel, but having a character flipping a coin out of his purse at the GM to represent tipping a stable boy could be cool. The only trouble with these is they represent American currency, which as an American, breaks the fantasy aspect a bit for me. If you aren’t familiar with American coins, it may work better for you.

Have you used physical currency in your campaigns? Let us know in the comments below!

Scry – Pathfinder and DnD 3.5 System Reference Document Database App

December 22, 2011 7 comments

I’ve been on a bit of a Pathfinder kick recently, which I won’t apologize for because the game is awesome! After enjoying Paizo’s apps for their Crit and Fumble decks, I decided to dig a little deeper into the app store and see what other digital awesomeness I could bring to the table.

Enter Purple Ghost Software, and their app, Scry. Scry gives you two full System Reference Document databases that can be accessed offline. You can choose between D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder, and suddenly you have a ton of information right at your fingertips. Game Masters take note, this does include monster stat blocks, so if you don’t trust your players not to peek, you may want to discourage its use at the table by players. It can be incredibly helpful for looking up spells, feats, traits, and magic item effects.

Another nice feature is that many of the categories are broken down into sub-categories. “Items” for instance, is broken down into Armor, Artifact, Cursed, Ring, Rod, Staff, Weapon, and Wondrous Item listings. Once you get down to your chosen sub-category, the list is searchable, and features the common iOS alphabet column down the right side for quick browsing by letter.

It also lets you bookmark pages which can be helpful to both GMs and players alike. As a player, you can bookmark all the spells, feats, traits, and equipment your character has for quick and easy reference. A GM could bookmark the creatures the party will encounter for that particular session, or bookmark spells a particular create can cast. Very nice work with this app!

Scry is available on the App Store in both free (iAd-supported) and $4.99 (no ads) versions. There is a very similar app available on the android platform called PFRPG RD, which has free and paid versions as well. From what I’ve read, the free version may have less in the database than the paid version, but I don’t have personal experience with either. Android users, help us out in the comments below!

Categories: News, Pathfinder, Reviews, RPGs Tags: , , , ,