Archive for the ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Category

Garage treasure trove

Sunday, 17 April, 2016

The basement of my apartment block contains individual lock-up garages for every apartment. They’re fenced off with wire cyclone fencing so you can see inside, but are secure enough that people store things in there.

I was walking past a row of neighbours’ garages, and inside one I spotted a big stack of books. Not paperbacks, but large format hardcovers. The pile was split into two, sitting on shelves of a portable storage thingy. The combined vertical height fo the stack of books was about a metre or so. Curiosity being the better part of valour, I went closer for a peek to see what they were.

They were Dungeons & Dragons rule books! Second and Third edition rules, splatbooks, settings, and so on. Must have been 50 or more titles. Wow. I had no idea one of my neighbours was a gamer. Pretty cool.

Awesomely average

Thursday, 15 January, 2015

I am starting up a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign using the new 5th edition rules. I’m going to run a group of friends through the first published adventure for the new rules – Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

Accordingly, the players need to generate 1st level characters. I’ve decided to use the random method of stat generation, which is rolling 4d6 and adding the best 3 dice together to form six ability scores, followed by the player assigning them to the ability scores any way they want. As a fallback, if the whims of Fate hand a player horrid bad luck and a hand of awful scores, they can choose to take the default score set listed in the book (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) instead of the rolls. I still kind of like the slight uncertainty of randomness, but this method at least removes the chance of being stuck with an unfun set of scores.

Anyway, today several of the players rolled their stats. Mostly they were a decent spread of scores. But one player managed to roll: 12, 12, 12, 11, 12, 12.

Now, adventurers are above average individuals, and the best 3 of 4d6 method is designed to generate above average scores. Average is nominally the result of a straight 3d6, which has an average score of 10.5. So five 12s and an 11 is actually above average in every single ability score.

While the player was lamenting his luck and trying to decide whether or not to fall back to the default score set, another player came up with the following backstory:

You come from a small village. While growing up, you realised that you were naturally better at everything than anyone else in your village! You were stronger, faster, more athletic, healthier, smarter, wiser, and everyone loved you. Any task you tried your hand at, you quickly mastered and could outperform your teacher. So, you decided you were made to be… an adventurer!

And so you left your little village and went out into the world to seek your fortune. You are supremely confident in your skills. After all, you can fight, you can cast spells, you can sneak and pick pockets, you can do healing – all better than anyone in your home village! So when you joined an adventuring band, you decided that any task that came up was your responsibility. Need someone to sneak around and scout the enemy – you! Be in the front row to protect the weaker fighters – you! Parley with hostile humanoids – you! You are keen and bright-eyed, and eager to volunteer for any and every job the adventuring group needs!

We all ended up laughing so much that I think the player is probably going to keep his very slightly above average scores, and turn it into a roleplaying windfall.

Ravenloft: Sessions 2 and 3

Saturday, 16 November, 2013

291/365: Ravenloft session 2Last night we played the third session of our Ravenloft adventure using the classic 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules that the adventure was written for. I intended to update after the second session as well, but I’ll now have to combine them here.

When we left our brave band, they had just sustained serious injuries from an encounter with 4 baby dragons, in the entrance hall of Castle Ravenloft. They decided to beat a retreat to recover and returned to the village of Barovia, in the valley below the castle. They spent the night keeping watch shifts in the Burgomaster’s house. A pack of wolves attacked around midnight, clawing at the walls and doors of the house, but the heroes fought them off. Rested in the morning, Olaf used his healing spells to effect a partial recovery of everyone to near full strength. They set out again to the castle with Ireena.

This time they made better progress, exploring several of the upper floors of the castle. They encountered a few other creatures to battle, but emerged victorious with few injuries. In a decrepit dining room they found the dried remains of a wedding cake, with the figure of the groom missing from next to the bride. In another room was a painting of a woman who looked exactly like Ireena, but the painting was obviously centuries old. They found a holy medallion of platinum, and then came across a partially crazed accountant, held prisoner by Count Strahd for as long as he could remember. With some careful negotiation, they persuaded him to reveal the location of Strahd’s treasure hoard, in exchange for part of the treasure and freeing him from the castle. The heroes loaded up with treasure and returned to the village again before dark.

They visited the priest in the old church, who identified the platinum holy symbol as a missing relic of good from the distant past of Castle Ravenloft. They helped the villagers fortify the town in preparation for any attack in the night. Again the Burgomaster’s house was assaulted by wolves, accompanied by bats, and a distant sound like laughter echoing through the night. But they held out, and returned to the castle again at dawn.

Exploring the upper floors further, they found Getruda, the missing daughter of the distraught Mary in the village, and Ireena immediately took her back to the village, while the heroes explored a bit more. They began climbing levels up the towers and emerged into a room with three black cats, which attacked them. After dispatching these, they found the adjoining room contained a table full of mystical and alchemical ingredients. Then in the next room they were assaulted by a coven of evil witches! This fight took some time, with the witches casting spells to hamper the heroes, but eventually they prevailed. Looking around the room after the fight revealed a spellbook on a table.

Up to this point, the players had been careful to search everything for traps and detect evil with Volrak’s paladin ability, almost to the point of paranoia. Someone had commented on the fact that they went through this checking for traps and evil routine everywhere, and Puegom’s player said, “of course, as soon as we don’t do it, that’s when the thing will be trapped.” So, upon spying a spellbook owned by a coven of dark witches in a vampire’s castle, what’s the first thing Puegom does? Picks it up without checking for traps or evil. He took 3d10 damage, reducing him to -5 hit points and unconsciousness. The others immediately forced a couple of healing potions down his throat, to stave off death.

319/365: Ravenloft 3And that was the end of session 2. Session 3 picked up with the heroes in a bit of a pickle – Puegom their wizard barely conscious on just 3 hit points. They debated whether to retreat from the castle or explore a bit more first, as they had some time left before nightfall. They decided to keep Puegom away from anything dangerous and press on for a while. They also burnt the spellbook while Puegom was too delirious to protest.

They continued up the towers, pushed by Madam Eva’s fortune reading that said that “the object of their quest” was in a place of dizzying heights. They reached the rain-exposed roof of one tower and faced a railing-less bridge across to the adjacent tower. They tied a rope to Westhorn and had him walk across the bridge first as he was the lightest. He failed a Dex roll and fell over on the wet stone, but fortunately didn’t fall. After tying the rope off, everyone else made it across.

This tower proved a bit dangerous, shaking and rumbling as if in an earthquake, and swinging at them with wall-mounted halberds! (This precipitated a discussion on the pronunciation of “halberd” when I announced what they were facing, as I said it with a silent “l”, which everyone else thought was weird, but were not confident enough to contradict me on. This morning I got an email from a player who had checked and found that every source he could find says the “l” is not silent.) With some dexterity rolls to avoid falling down the shaft in the middle of the tower, they managed to break the halberds and destroy the beating heart of the tower, which silenced it.

Making their way to the top of the tower they encountered Count Strahd himself! A great battle ensued, in which the heroes inflicted quite a bit of damage, including Puegom using his wand of lightning, before Strahd turned to mist and fled. After this fight, they explored a little more, finding a long spiral staircase descending deep into the ground below the castle, where they had not been yet. They decided to save this for another day and returned to the village before sunset.

This time, in the Burgomaster’s house, Leaf and Volrak heard a knock at the door around midnight. Leaf asked who it was, and a voice answered “Let me in.” Leaf tried to open the door, but Volrak grappled and stopped him, yelling to wake the others. Leaf had to be tied up to stop him opening the door, while the others shot at wolves outside and the voice vanished with a peal of laughter into the night.

In the morning, half a dozen young men of the village came to join them on their next trip to the castle. Testing their experience, Henri decided to tell them to stay behind and do the important job of guarding the village instead. And so they set out again accompanied by only Ireena. This time they explored more of the ground floor, finding the ancient chapel of Ravenloft, in which Volrak discovered the lost Avinex Regales, the silver holy symbol of his quest. He used it to heal Puegom back to full strength, over Puegom’s protests about being touched with it. Everyone thought it was amusing that Puegom was so keen to pick up an evil spellbook without checking for danger, but wouldn’t let an obviously good holy symbol near him.

They fought some zombie-like creatures with rotting bodies, whose limbs came off when cut and then continued to attack on their own! And then they descended into the dungeons below the castle, encountering various fell creatures and a room that looked suspiciously like a complex trap of some sort, but which didn’t do anything dangerous after they removed two of the doors into the room completely from their hinges. They came across an insane servant who insisted they return to their rooms and shouldn’t be down here where the kitchens are. They explored the kitchen and wine cellar and then decided to check the next level down…

And here is where we stopped for the evening. Session 4 is to be scheduled… probably after Christmas.

Catch up update

Wednesday, 13 November, 2013

So yeah, I’ve been neglecting the blog lately.

Since the last spate of updates I’ve visited Brookvale Public School again, this time to talk to the kids there about volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate tectonics. It was another very fun day, with lots of interested kids absorbing what I showed them and asking some interesting questions.

I’ve also run the second session of Ravenloft, which I’d planned to post about soon after it happened, but now the third session is scheduled for this Friday, so I think I’ll just wait and combine the two into one big post.

Ravenloft: Session 1

Saturday, 31 August, 2013

242/365 Dungeons & Dragons: RavenloftLast night we began the long-planned classic original Ravenloft adventure for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st ed). (This post contains some spoilers for the adventure, but if you comment, please do not add spoilers for anything my players have not seen yet!)

To recap and expand on the characters mentioned in the previous post, the party consisted of:

  • Westhorn, a dwarven fighter. A blacksmith’s son, he was press-ganged into a local human warlord’s service, there falling in with the similarly unwilling Puegom to plan and execute an escape. From their the pair journeyed to a city to seek their fortunes, and met up with the others of their current group.
  • Volrak, a human paladin. A child of the barbaric mountain tribes, he left in distaste at their petty feuding and worked as a sword-for-hire before finding his calling in the paladin order. He seeks the Avinex Regales, a powerful icon of Good, lost centuries ago somewhere in the current region.
  • Leaf, a half-elven ranger. Found abandoned by his parents, presumably because of his half-blood heritage, Leaf was raised by the elves. He seeks his parents, and has developed a strong sense of responsibility for children in need of help.
  • Henri leMarche, a dwarven thief. A bombastic dwarf with a penchant for regaling all within hearing range with Munchhausen-esque stories of his past exploits as a Titan, a cursed frog familiar of the famous bog-witch who ascended to godhood, and various other.
  • Puegom, a gnomish magic-user. Fled from his home village after an embarrassing situation which won’t be dwelt on, he book-learned a few minor spells before being captured by the same warlord as Westhorn. After their escape he apprenticed to a wizard in the city, before departing to join the adventuring party with Westhorn.
  • Olaf Northling, a human cleric of Njordr, god of the sea. A skilled fisherman, he turned to the spiritual life after becoming fascinated by his village priest’s stories of Njordr. He left his home with youthful wanderlust and fell in with the present band, but is starting to feel his age and yearns to return home and settle down.

The adventure began in a tavern in a small town they were passing through, with the delivery of a mysterious letter by a gypsy. Answering the call for help in the letter, they journeyed along the Svalich Road to the bleak town of Barovia, which is surrounded by an unearthly fog. They spent a couple of days getting their bearings in the town and meeting various people, including Ismark and Ireena, the son and adopted daughter respectively of the Burgomaster, dead some two weeks.

Everyone else in the village was too scared to help Ismark bury his father, so our heroes assisted with a burial of the decaying body. They also paid a visit to Mary, a distraught woman pining for her teenage daughter, who went missing a week ago. They assisted the priest of the shattered church to reinforce and strengthen the church building – help needed because, as they discovered on their first night, wolves habitually entered the village at night and attempted to gain entry into any building not suitably fortified. Ismark and Ireena spoke of other horrors – missing villagers returning as walking corpses to terrorise the living. Ireena was also suffering a wound, an unnatural bleeding from her neck, visited upon her during a night some days ago, despite her sleeping in a barred room with boarded up window. She spoke in hushed tones of the “Devil” looming over the village, a Devil known by the name of “vampyr”.

The heroes determined that the probable cause of all this misery lay hidden in the dark castle looming over the village from the thousand-foot high cliffs to the north-west. They set out early the next morning, with Ireena, who was determined to accompany them and proudly showed off her sword skills. Taking the road, they reached a fork, and chose the path leading to a gypsy camp by the river. Here they encountered the cackling mad Madam Eva in her colourful tent, who seemed to know more about the heroes than she should have. She read their fortune with the cards, telling of both great evil in the castle, and also icons of hope that may help to defeat the “Devil”.

Continuing to the castle, the heroes entered the courtyard across a decrepit drawbridge, and then into the keep building within, which looked bright and inviting. They made it through three rooms of the entry halls and into a dining room where they caught sight of their adversary, playing a pipe organ. He invited them to dine and drink, but then vanished – an illusion! The candles blew out and the doors all slammed shut! Racing back out to check their escape route, they were ambushed by the 4 small dragon statues in the entry hall, turned to real dragons! After a hard fought battle they defeated the tiny dragons, but sustained some considerable wounds. They are now considering their position… to be continued next session.

Some game mechanical notes: Firstly, the card reading sequence is presented in the module with normal playing cards, but I did a mapping to Tarot cards and ran it with the players actually shuffling and dealing out Tarot cards. It made it a lot more atmospheric, especially with the cackling Madam Eva interpreting the omens on the cards.

Secondly, even baby dragons are a nasty, nasty challenge, especially for the opening combat of an adventure! Despite having only a small number of hit points, they have an insanely good armour class, make attack rolls as 9 hit dice monsters, and do an enormous amount of damage. So they were very hard to hit, while hitting back effectively for devastating damage. I begin to wonder if setting the character levels at the very top end of the suggested range for the adventure will be enough!

The next session is yet to be scheduled – it will probably be at least a few weeks away. Given how tricky it is to get us all together on the same day, I’m cautiously hoping to complete the adventure by Christmas.

Ravenloft approaching

Thursday, 15 August, 2013

The characters have been created, I’ve reread the module, and the date has been set. My friends venture into Ravenloft on Friday 30 August. The stalwart band includes:

  • Westhorn, a dwarven fighter.
  • Volrak, a human paladin.
  • Leaf (or maybe it was Leif), a half-elven ranger.
  • Henri leMarche, a dwarven thief.
  • Puegom, a gnomish magic-user.
  • (to be named), a human cleric.

Although we’re playing 1st Edition AD&D, I’m basically ignoring the racial class limitations (thus Puegom). I’m currently in the process of working out what magic items they all own, the assumption being they are a seasoned band of adventurers who have already shared some exploits together.

I’m really looking forward to this. I haven’t run D&D for… well, since 1st Edition was the current edition!


Tuesday, 23 July, 2013

I’ve been wanting to run some more roleplaying for some time, and finally managed to herd the group of cats that are my work friends into the same evening. It’s a few weeks away still, but now I can really start planning. The game will be Dungeons & Dragons, 1st edition, and the adventure will be the original classic I6: Ravenloft.

Oh yes. It will be fun.

Stuff I do

Thursday, 30 May, 2013

I tend to have quite a few projects going all the time. I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to list them all in a note-taking program. I was somewhat surprised with how long the list turned out to be. So I thought I’d share, so you have some idea of what sort of stuff I do in my “spare” time.

  • Webcomics
    • Irregular Webcomic! – I did this as a daily comic strip from 2002-2011. I’m no longer making daily comics, but am rerunning strips with additional writer commentary.
    • Darths & Droids – This strip started in 2007, and is ongoing, three times a week. I write it with a group of friends at work. We usually spend one lunchtime a week writing new strips and reviewing upcoming ones just before they are published.
    • mezzacotta – This is a combination webcomic and irregular blog of odd stuff. The comic actually needs no writing or maintenance, so it’s just the occasional blog post here.
    • Square Root of Minus Garfield – A Garfield parody webcomic, started in 2008, updating daily. Most of the strips are submitted by readers – my role is mostly selecting submissions to publish and adding them to the database.
    • Lightning Made of Owls – An original comic which readers contribute strips for. Started in 2008, updated three times a week for a long time but now subsisting on a trickle of submissions.
    • Comments on a Postcard – A “high concept” webcomic, again generated by reader submissions. Started in 2008, updated daily.
    • There are also two old webcomics which have petered out, so I’m not counting them as active projects.
  • Learning
    • Drumming – I’ve been taking weekly drumming lessons at Big Music since April last year.
    • Forming a band – With the friends from work who write Darths & Droids. We’ve only had a couple of practice sessions, but we plan more.
    • Italian – Learning on Duolingo.
  • Writing
    • Irregular Webcomic! essays – Since the daily new comics ended, I’ve been writing a weekly essay about some topic, often scientific, which appears on Sunday’s update instead of a rerun strip.
    • Travel diaries – Whenever I take a trip, I keep a daily travel diary. I stick them on my website when I get home.
    • Secret project – I have a secret writing project I’ve started and hope to finish some day.
  • Creative
    • Photography – I love taking photos. I take them on trips. I take walks and short drives around where I live to visit places just to take photos. I get up an hour before sunrise to go to the beach and photograph the sunrise. I post some of my photos on Flickr.
    • 365 Days Photography – This is a specific photography project. I’m aiming to take a photo every day during 2013. There’s a special set on Flickr for these.
    • Travel photo books – After an overseas trip, I like to assemble some of the best photos into a print-on-demand book, to give a copy to family members and keep a nice printed copy myself.
    • Puzzle solving – My work friends and I enter the annual MUMS and SUMS puzzle competitions. Our team is the CiSRA Puzzlers, and we have won a few prizes, including first place in MUMS in 2007.
    • Puzzle creating – My work friends and I run the annual CiSRA Puzzle Competition. We create our puzzles in our own time and test solve them during lunchtimes at work.
    • Sketching – I occasionally doodle and sketch things using Paper by 53 on my iPad.
  • Gaming
    • Roleplaying games – I haven’t actually run one for a while, but I always have roleplaying campaigns and adventures bubbling away in the back of my mind. I plan to run my friends through Tomb of Horrors (on the understanding that many characters will die and we shouldn’t treat it too seriously). I also plan to run a campaign based in the giant city of Ravnica, borrowed from Magic: The Gathering.
    • Magic: The Gathering booster drafts – My friends and I play semi-regular Magic booster draft tournaments, using the latest sets published by Wizards of the Coast. We also have a stash of old unopened booster packs going as far back as the original Ravnica block, which we occasionally mix and match to create weird hybrid draft formats. We do this sometimes during lunch breaks, and sometimes on Friday evenings.
    • Magic: The Gathering cube drafts – We create custom cubes for drafting Magic as well. So far, most of my playing group have created a cube which we have used. We’ve done powerful cubes full of high-powered cards, and quirky cubes, such as the off-colour cube (cards whose abilities violate the modern colour pie).
    • Magic: The Gathering invented sets – Not satisfied with what Wizards prints, we create our own entire sets and draft those. We’ve done a total of six different invented sets (from memory, it may be one or two more), and at least one of us is always working on another entire new set.
    • Board games – Sometimes we play board games at lunch. Favourites change over time, but have included Settlers of Catan, Formula De, Modern Art, Ra, Citadels, Poison, Tigris & Euphrates, Power Grid, Dominion, Blokus, Ingenious, Puerto Rico, Goa, Alhambra, Seven Wonders, Notre Dame. (I won’t link them all, look them up on BoardGameGeek.)
    • Invent board games – Not content with existing board games, we invent our own. Some are actually card games. Collectively we’ve invented something like a dozen games.
  • Physical activities
    • Walking project – I share this project with my wife. We have a map of North Sydney Council, in which we we live. We are in the process of walking the full length of every street and every walking track in the council area. We began two years ago, and might complete it this year. (The rule is: for a walk to count, we must do it together, and start and end the walk at our home – no car or public transport allowed.)
    • Stretching – Every weekday I do a short series of stretching exercises to strengthen my lower back muscles and keep my limbs flexible.
    • Swimming – From about October to April I swim. Usually 1200 metres, three times a week.
    • Tennis – I play tennis once a week. Well, up until a few months ago when my opponent had an injury. We should start again soon.

To close this post, I’d just like to say one thing. If your reaction to my list is to think, “Man, you have too much spare time,” then you are wrong. Please read this essay I wrote about creativity and spare time. I don’t think I can say it any better than that here. :-)

Caves of Chaos maps

Tuesday, 7 February, 2012

Caves of ChaosDid you ever play or run dungeon module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands? Check out these gorgeous reimagined maps of the Caves of Chaos, by Weem.

The D&D nerd and the cartography nerd within me are both squeeing with glee.