Archive for January, 2012

4e Extreme – Multiple Epic Solos

January 17, 2012 4 comments

Dispater, courtesy of Troll and Toad

Last night was the last session of my reign as DM for the Scales of War adventure path. We’re rotating every module, which let’s everyone play and not succumb to DM burnout. Epic DMing is certainly a challenge as PCs are so powerful it can be difficult to even threaten them, let alone get close to killing them.

We were approaching the final battle of my module. The four PCs were 26th level and were galavanting all over Bahamut’s temple, clearing out the infestation of devils and trying to find a way to resurrect the slain god. Fairly epic stuff. The party steam-rolled several encounters, but made the mistake of not taking a short rest before they stumbled upon Dispater, one of the Arch-Devils of the nine hells. They cleverly sealed him back in Bahamut’s Vault, but he warned them he would be back.

The party proceeded to the bridge of Al-Sihal, where the the Archangel Zachariel was guarding the entrance to heaven from the mithral dragon Dakranad who wanted to assume Bahamut’s old throne and end the struggle with Tiamat. The PCs were guarding Amyria, a deva who was essentially Bahamut’s horcrux. They needed to defeat the dragon and take the lifespark Dakranad took from Moradin’s forge, and send Amyria into the great beyond with lifespark in hand. OK! Now we’re epic!

The battle was going pretty well for the PCs, as epic party’s tend to ruin solos without much trouble, when guess who showed up to snatch Amyria and take the divine throne for himself? Dispater! Bookending the party between two solos (three really, but Zachariel was neutral as long as you stayed away from him) on a bridge made for an awesome encounter. Had I pressed the issue and had Zachariel jump in, the party would have been in real trouble, but as it was the encounter was awesome enough. Not only that, the party used Zachariel as they slid their enemies close enough that he attacked them. At one point he banished Dispater to a pocket dimension of an acid rain-soaked island. Awesome stuff!

In the end, the party was victorious, and Bahamut was resurrected. Now I get to put my PC hat back on, and try a 27th level warlord! He’s healing two PCs per inspiring word at healing surge + 6d6! The next DM in rotation advised us that we’re going to need it!

If you’re looking to challenge an Epic party, throw the XP budget out the window. See what they *can’t* survive. I haven’t found anything yet. Two solos makes for a fun night!

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

SCARAB Review… Chaotic Good

January 16, 2012 1 comment

Watch out for dragon attacks at the aptly named FLGS Heroes and Dragons

The Skyland Games crew made our way to Columbia, South Carolina for the 2nd Annual South Carolina Area Roleplayers and Boardgamers convention. The Con ran from Friday to Monday, but we elected to just go down for the day and play a little Pathfinder Society. Of course, by a little, I mean playing two scenarios which ran from approximately 1pm-1am.

Before we made it to the event, we wanted to stop and check out one of Columbia’s Friendly Local Gaming Stores, Heroes and Dragons. Some of the guys had met the owner at Fanaticon in May, and it sounded like a pretty cool store. We had a great time perusing aisle after aisle of awesome stuff: comics, toys both new and retro, gaming books, board games, used paperback books, a huge gaming space with lots of terrain, and of course, one massive dragon. It’s safe to say we were all really impressed with the store, not only for its size, but also its scope. If you are anywhere near Columbia, its worth a bit of a pilgrimage. Once we were done checking out the store, it was time to head to SCARAB.

I should note, that of the 4-man crew, I was the one with the least Con experience. I went to something in DC with my mom when I was about 13, but that hardly counts. As Cons go, the other guys assured me that this one was a bit on the small side. That being said, all the staff we interacted with during registration and between games were really helpful and welcoming, and it was easy to navigate and get to where you wanted to be. It was held at the Scottish Rite Convention Center, which sounds like it might be a huge venue, but turned out to be about the size of a large church.

Registration was in the center lobby, which included several computers so players could register digitally for games via warhorn. RPGs were in the auditorium at several round tables that were on “stage.” The stage wasn’t raised, and was actually rather roomy and accommodated about 18-20 tables, not all of which were occupied at any one time when we were there. The lighting was a bit distracting in that it was red, blue, and yellow stage lights which tended to cast some weird multicolored shadows, but all and all, not bad. The other half of the event was in the cantina, which was about the size of a large cafeteria. They had various gaming vendors around the outside edge, and another 20-25 round tables in the middle. There was a snack bar that sold drinks and pizza and cookies to hungry gamers, and a pretty large selection of board games that anyone could borrow for an impromptu game.

We were told that the Warhammer guys had moved to the hotel were the majority of the con-attendees were staying, so we missed a bit of the action, but I think its safe to say we saw the majority. I saw just about everybody I had played Pathfinder Society games with in Asheville in attendance. It made for a cool community vibe.

Our Pathfinder sessions were scheduled for 1pm-5pm, and 6pm-10pm. Here is were a bit of the Chaos began. The tables were kind of labelled with number tents, and some had signs on them of what game was going on there, and if they were looking for players. As near as I could tell, these signs were for decoration only. We couldn’t find our table, or even our GM despite showing up early and making an earnest attempt to do just that. At about two minutes to 1pm Scott just yelled out the GM’s name until he responded. The GM led us to a table, at which we learned our characters were not of the appropriate level for the module we signed up for. No level tier was mentioned in the module description on warhorn. While some mods included this very helpful bit of infomation, ours did not. To his credit, the GM rolled with the punches and produced a level appropriate mod from last season.

Our table consisted of six players. Four from Skyland Games, one from Asheville whom I had played with at a previous society event, and one walk-up new to Pathfinder, but not RPGs. The module had a bit of a detective motif, in which we had to gather enough evidence to prove that a public official was involved in the slave trade. It was clear this GM really enjoyed the investigation aspect, and let us wander around and try to discover things with little guidance or coaching. This led to splitting the party, which led to at one point, 3 separate scenes going on at the same time, which led to a lot of downtime for some of table, which led to the first combat not happening until about 4pm. This was a bit frustrating for me as a player. I’m all for roleplaying a scene or two, but once he realized how much time had gone by, he had 3 or 4 combats to do in an hour. This was of course, impossible, and led to a lot of truncating of the actual plot of the mod while we each fiddle-farted around in scenes that had little to no bearing on the story. I really admired the GMs skills of improvisation and letting us go do whatever. In a home game it would have been absolutely brilliant. Unfortunately at a Con, since we had a time constraint, we missed out on some serious plot points and he had to hand-wave some of the bigger scenes and encounters. Of course, we ran over 5pm and nearly went all the way to 6pm by the time chronicle sheets were filled out. I wish I could say I enjoyed it more, but I’ve now read the mod and realized what we missed out on, and am more upset than I was at the time.

The next session was the convention special Blood Under Absalom. This is a special event module that requires multiple tables run it at the same time, with one overseer GM to coordinate events happening at the same time for all tables. We had 3 tables of 6 and one table of 7 playing it simultaneously. This solved the pacing problem of the previous session by keeping all the GMs on task and moving through the different scenes. The difference was like night and day. The first scene was a bar brawl that was led at such a break-neck speed it was crazy. We talked about it on the ride home and agreed it was some of the fastest combat any of us had ever been a part of. Not only that, but you could hear the same frantic pace at the tables around you, making it feel like you were actually in a bustling tavern! WAY COOL! Despite our new GMs rapid fire pace, this mod had way too many scenes to be completed in a four hour time slot. The sad thing was, there were a few that seemed trivial or unnecessary to the flow of the story and took up precious minutes. The climax was pretty awesome, as it required all the PCs at the table to continuously roll until they got a natural twenty. This represented touching the hem of the robe of a master monk. Our table was the first to complete the task, and cheered out in victory! It was a really cool atmosphere and was something you couldn’t replicate in a basement with a few friends.

All and all it was good, but a little chaotic, and bound to grow. Maybe next year we’ll stay for a few days and play more games!

Pros: Good people, pretty good venue, big Asheville Pathfinder crew!

Cons: Organization and signage could be improved, including level tiers in the description of all mods on warhorn so players know what to sign up for.

SCARAB – South Carolina Area Roleplayers and Boardgamers

January 13, 2012 Comments off

It’s finally here! The SCARAB convention begins at 3pm today. Most of the Skyland Games crew will be heading down Saturday for the day to play some Pathfinder Society games. I would encourage any gamers in the NC/SC/GA area who have some free time this holiday weekend to head to Columbia and see what it’s all about!

The convention runs from Jan. 13 through Jan.16. 4-day passes are $60 at the door, day-passes are $20. There is a “Kids Track” for gamers 8 to 14 years old, and a ton of games to play. If you run a pick-up game, stop by the registration desk, fill out some paper work, and you can qualify for a $1/hr rebate on your registration price.

There appears to be a large number of vendors and participants, and games of every type. We’ll have a full review of Saturday’s action on monday.

Categories: 4e, Board, Card, Dice, DnD, News, Paizo, Pathfinder, RPGs, Society

Pushing 4e to the limit! No Minions! No Mercy!

January 12, 2012 4 comments

Last night continued our 4e conversion of B4 – Lost City for our pirate campaign. Last night’s session was a lot more tough on the party than the first session. If you play 4e for any length of time, you probably meta-game a bit when it comes to minions. I’m certainly guilty in that regard. If the DM drops 10 or 12 minis on the map, and several of them are the same type of creature, its a good chance you’re going to start popping some one-hit-point wonders.

Want to see a little fear on a 4e player’s face? Drop a bunch of minis on the map, and watch for their reactions when none of them pop.

The party encountered their first faction of the adventure, and interestingly opened up two doors at the same time. In one was 5 members of the gang, the other had 5 members of the same gang and an obvious leader. Since neither the party or the gangs attacked, they parlayed a bit. Needless to say, negotiations failed.

The ensuing battle was pretty tense, but I find that 4e characters are a lot more resilient than the suggested XP budget of the Dungeon Master’s guide. This party is particularly tough, in that they have both an artificer, and a warlord. The party eventually defeated the opposition, but it could have gone against them if the battle hadn’t taken place in such close quarters. Its important to note, they didn’t kill every last one of them, but defeated their leader and more than half the men. The last four standing, surrendered.

To their credit, the party pushed on through several encounters without taking an extended rest. By the end of the night, the defender was out of healing surges and down to 4 hit points. I don’t think I can remember any 4e game in years of playing when the defender actually ran out of surges.

While we all wait to see what comes of 5e, why not push 4e’s limits? You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

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

Advanced Players Guide – Paizo provides the 5e roadmap #dndnext

January 11, 2012 4 comments

A lot of the 5e #dndnext buzz centers around the community playtest and modular aspects of the next edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Paizo has provided a pretty clear roadmap for Wizards to follow on both counts. The Pathfinder Alpha and Beta tests provided invaluable guidance in creating a game a lot of people have enjoyed. Paizo has created a Core Rulebook which contains everything you need to play for 20 levels of several classes and races, including Spells, Combat, Gear, and GM sections among others. On top of that, they’ve expanded the game with optional books like the Gamemastery Guide, Ultimate Magic, Ultimate Combat, and the Advanced Players Guide.

While adding optional books to augment the core game is hardly a new concept, Paizo has done well with their offerings; especially with the Advanced Players Guide. This book introduces six new 20-level classes, variations on bonuses and features of existing races and classes, and a host of new feats and equipment that provides a lot of value.

In our recent Beginner Box game, our Alchemist (a class presented in the Advanced Players Guide) decided since he was throwing bombs he would buy earplugs for 3 copper. This lead to a pretty funny moment in which the Paladin tried to tell him something in character. He said, “What?” and threw his bomb anyway, missed, and caught all his allies in the explosion. Worth every copper.

Also presented in this book are traits, which have sometimes been described as “half-feats.” They are very similar to “background benefits” in 4e. These are used in society play, and generally provide a minimal skill or stat bonus, but can add a little flavor to your character through basic, racial, campaign, regional, or religious traits.

If you’re new to Pathfinder, the Core Rules might be enough to chew on for awhile. When you’re ready to expand your game, the Advanced Players Guide is a solid choice.

Pros: New classes, New options for Core races and classes, lots of cool equipment

Cons: Not a lot of Golarion-specific information

5e #dndnext

January 10, 2012 9 comments

It’s rare that gaming makes the NY Times, but when it does, it’s usually something big.

“On Monday, Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro subsidiary, announced that a new edition is under development, the first overhaul of the rules since the contentious fourth edition was released in 2008,” reports the New York Times.

Well, we all might have seen this coming, and gamer-kind is reacting as we might expect:  rage, excitement, disgust, and anticipation.  Speculation of a new edition had increased in recent months with the rehiring of Monte Cook back in September. Months of speculation have proved prescient, and now gamers of the old school everywhere hold their breath to see if the system they know and love can make its saving throw to survive another edition.

Wizards has announced they will heavily seek player input in regard to the construction of the new edition.  This process is partially responsible for the success of Paizo’s extensive playtesting and player input driven Alpha and Beta testing of the Pathfinder RPG, and can’t hurt the new edition that is eventually released.

It’s going to be an interesting time, that much is for certain.  We’d like to hear your comments about the new edition and predictions for changes proposed for the next incarnation of D&D.

Categories: 5e, DnD, News, RPGs

GameMastery Guide – Review

January 9, 2012 2 comments

The GameMastery Guide from Paizo is a surprisingly versatile book. At first, I had a bit of buyer’s remorse in that the massive Core Rulebook has a fairly extensive GM section in it. Not just the chapter labeled Gamemastering, but the subsequent chapters about environments, NPC creation, and some would argue magic items are mainly geared towards the GM. Those chapters alone would be about a 180 page book themselves. At first glance through the GM Guide, it looked like Paizo just expounded upon the chapters already in the Core Rules. So why create a separate book?

This book goes in-depth on all of the GM topics in the Core book, but it also has a lot of general RPG advice that could be applicable to pretty much any fantasy role-playing game. For GMs who love rolling percentile dice for random results, this book is perfect for you. For those GMs not looking for that degree of chance in their games, it provides a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration, as well as tips and advice to avoid common pitfalls and run a great game.

There is a surprising lack of Pathfinder-specific information in here. I would have thought Paizo would dedicate a few chapters to Golarion and the Pathfinder pantheon, but those topics are covered in other publications I have yet to pick up. This is somewhat of an advantage to this book in my opinion, as I run multiple systems, but can pour through the tables in here for inspiration for any of them. The chapters they could have dedicated to Golarion are instead about creating your own world, and building exciting encounters in locales as familiar as dungeons or taverns, and as far-reaching as the planes and space. The worksheets at the back are an excellent resource for campaign, setting, and NPC planning. Also included is a “Basic Rules Cheat Sheet” that is really valuable for new players. Frankly I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t included in the Beginner Box. These are available as a free download on the product page.

It has interesting appendices that expand on the classic AD&D appendix N, in that it provides suggested reading, but also suggested movies and music to get you in the gaming frame of mind. Also there is a page of “Words all GMs should know.”

Pros: Excellent resource for curing GM writer’s block, awesome table for random NPC, item, and setting generation, applicable to just about any fantasy RPG

Cons: Not a lot of system-specific details, price is a bit steep

Own it? Love it? Hate it? Let us know in the comments below!

Pathfinder Core Rulebook – Review

January 6, 2012 3 comments

The great part about the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is that it is nearly comprehensive. Of course, the bad part about the Core Rulebook is that its nearly comprehensive.

I’ve got the 5th and as of this posting, the most recent printing of the Core Rules. It’s a massive book weighing in at 576 pages, and details almost everything you need for years of fun adventure in Paizo’s Pathfinder. I first took a look at Pathfinder a few years ago, but as someone who never played 3rd edition or 3.5, it was a lot of rules and mechanics to absorb. Recently, Paizo has remedied this situation with the Beginner Box, which will likely prove to be the introduction for a lot of folks who are new to the system.

The Core book works great as a reference book for the entire system and makes it fairly easy to find what you need, as you need it. The drawback of this comprehensive approach is that it makes it difficult to learn the system, due to the amount of information presented. It is in effect, a players handbook and a dungeon master’s guide combined in one mega-volume. I wonder if it isn’t more wise to separate the two. It would also likely reduce the price for players who just want to own their part of the rules. As it stands now the MSRP for the Core Rulebook is $49.99.

All and all it’s absolutely essential if you want to get in to the Pathfinder system. If you know and have experience with the 3.5 edition rules, maybe it won’t be as hard a transition. If you’re coming from 4e or are new to RPGs, I would recommend the Beginner Box to ease your way in to the mechanics.

Pros: Lots of info, plenty of options for both players and GMs

Cons: Huge, hard to digest at first

Reviews of the Advanced Players Guide and the Gamemastery Guide will be up next week!

Categories: Books, Paizo, Pathfinder, Reviews, RPGs Tags: ,

A Box of Instant Awesome

January 5, 2012 8 comments

I mentioned yesterday that it can be tough to think up a new wondrous item. It turns out Paizo has created a wondrous item you can get your hands on, the box of instant awesome! The Pathfinder Beginner Box does not disappoint. I was admittedly a little nervous about running the adventure included for some veteran Pathfinder and 3.5 players, but the Skyland Games verdict is unanimous: Buy this box now!

I know this is hardly a revelation as the box has been out for months and has been lauded by several sources, but I felt we needed to add our voice to the chorus singing praise. Belying the name of the box itself, it can prove to be hours of fun for both veteran and beginner gamers. Its presentation is brilliant in that you can use the pre-gens and the GM can read the adventure as you go for almost immediate game play.

We took a slightly different approach. Since we are gearing up for some Pathfinder Society play down at SCARAB, the guys decided to try out some custom builds as a testing ground for their society characters. Due to illness we were down a few members, so the party consisted of a war dog-riding halfling paladin, a dwarven blunderbuss-toting gunslinger, and a pyromaniacal gnome alchemist. Hilarity ensued.

I won’t spoil the intro adventure for those of you who haven’t played it, but it uses a lot of classic elements of old delves. The guys had a blast exploring the very well done flip-mat provided with the box. In the end, they were a bit over-matched and didn’t survive the final encounter.

The overall presentation is top notch, and while I can’t look at it with eyes of someone new to gaming, when I got my hands on it I was new to Pathfinder and found it a really easy transition from 4e. I looked at Pathfinder years ago, but was intimidated by the massive 576 page tome of the core rules. I found that once I got a taste, I wanted more. A lot more. I can’t imagine I’m alone in that regard, and hope this box provides the gateway for a lot of people to get in to tabletop RPGs. Loaded with Amazon giftcards from christmas, I ordered the core rules, advanced players guide, and the gamemastery guide. I’ll be reviewing those in later posts.

The Beginner Box is worth every penny for both veterans and newbies alike! If you’ve got someone in your life whom you would like to introduce to RPGs, this is the best product out there.

Trouble with Invention – RPG Superstar 2012

January 4, 2012 3 comments

“Everything that can be invented has already been invented” may be one of the more famous misqoutes of all time, but the sentiment certainly seems appropriate when trying to come up with a brand new wondrous item. Paizo’s RPG SuperStar first challenge is to design a wondrous item. Looking at the lists available on the PRD it doesn’t look too bad, until you start thinking of ideas and then finding them already listed.

Its not to say that people aren’t coming up with new and awesome items everyday, but as time goes on, that list is going to get longer. Check out the previous contests for an idea of what makes the cut. Good luck to everyone who is entering! The deadline for submissions to the open call is January 6th, 2012.