Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

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.

Toon time

Monday, 19 August, 2013

As a warm-up for next week’s Ravenloft game, I ran a quick game of Toon at lunch today. I planned to run it later in the week, but one of the players will be away, so I improvised without the rule book. I downloaded a character sheet from the net, printed out some copies, and ran the whole game with no other reference material at all.

The guys created characters:

  • Herman the Merman, who had a trident and a Belief & Goal of “Find the Lost Treasure of Atlantis”.
  • Pattowl Owlhoot, a trench-coated, fedora-wearing owl, obsessed with finding out WHOO-dunnit.
  • Bip, a road runner, who piled all his points into Incredible Speed, Flying, Running, and Teleporting, at the expense of… well every other skill.
  • Zock, a shape-shifting dragonfly armed with a bowling ball.
  • Nugs, a chicken, whose primary goal was “Cross the road”.

The adventure was to run a saloon in an ornery western frontier town, across the road from a rival saloon owned by a huge mustachioed man with a penchant for guns and cannons, and try to make more money than their rival. They ended up destroying his saloon three times, stealing all his liquor, and his dancing girls, and his customers. Actually, they bought all his liquor, using money pilfered from the large moneybags of a filthy rich aristocrat who drove into town in his gold-plated Rolls Royce and decided to slake his thirst in the PCs’ saloon (based on the fact they’d posted a sign on the rival saloon proclaiming it sold poisoned beer).

There was high-stakes gambling, the Lost Treasure of Atlantis was actually found, the chicken crossed the road four times, there were a couple of explosions, there was accordion music and dancing girls, and the filthy rich aristocrat declared the PCs’ saloon so delightful that he offered to buy it from them for 10 million dollars! The dollar signs went ka-ching in their eyes and they accepted… only for the aristocrat to discover all his money had been stolen!

Cue ironic slide flute twang and roll end credits!

It was a great way to spend a lunch hour.

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. :-)

Magic Goldfish Draft

Friday, 24 May, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I participated in a Magic: The Gathering draft tournament with my friends, with a difference. We invented this format called the Goldfish Draft. Your goal is to defeat a “goldfish” (an opponent who does nothing but draw and play a land every turn) using cards drafted from a special cube (set of carefully pre-selected cards). You stack your deck any way you like, and deal as much damage as you can in seven turns. The full rules are here.

Anyway, Andrew is posting a series of daily blog posts about his draft choices in the tournament. I also gave him my draft picks and cumulative pick-by-pick score, which he’s mentioning in his posts. Read Andrew’s first post here, and follow daily on his blog.

Missing the Flavour

Friday, 8 June, 2012

So after spending four weeks offline while overseas, I recently caught up on Magic: The Gathering articles over on Daily MTG. The only regular column articles I really read thoroughly are Mark Rosewater’s Making Magic (an absolutely essential read for anyone even vaguely interested in game design of any sort) and what I still like to think of as Matt Cavotta’s Taste the Magic (despite the lamentable fact that Matt gave up the mantle of author to Doug Beyer way back in 2007, accompanied by a name change of the column to Savor the Flavor; not that I have anything against Beyer – he’s a great writer too – but I miss Cavotta).

My reading of Daily MTG is sporadic at the best of times, but I always like to catch up on those columns. I don’t really care so much for all the other columns about optimising your decks, or what the pro players are doing, or what the tournament scene is like, though I do look at them for the cool art and to get the odd idea about how to play the game a bit better. When it comes to player demographics, I’m more of a Melvin/Vorthos than any of Timmy, Johnny, or Spike. (See here if you have no idea what those names mean. Again, they’re worth understanding if you are at all interested in game design, and not just MTG.)

And so it came as a shock to me when I noticed that the archive of Savor the Flavor ended on the 28th of March this year. Doug wrote a farewell column, stating that he was moving on to other jobs within Wizards of the Coast which didn’t give him time to wrote Savor the Flavor any more, and that Wizards hadn’t been able to come up with a suitable replacement writer for the column.

My first reaction: NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

My second reaction, completely unbidden, about three milliseconds later: “I’ll write it!!!”

Of course, this is (almost) completely impractical. I’d have to be given the job by Wizards of the Coast (hmmm, I could live with that). I’d have to be given privy information on upcoming set design (I guess I could live with that). I’d have to write a weekly column on Magic: The Gathering back-story, world design, mythology, art direction, flavour text, and so on, to a strict deadline (I could definitely live with that). Realistically the main obstacle is that Wizards doesn’t know me from a bucket of slime.

This is not to lament my lack of opportunity, but rather to marvel at the fact that my subconscious put me up for the job without any active thought on my part. Actually thinking about it and analysing the idea, I honestly think I could do the job well, but the inner workings of my brain actually realised that before I even had time to give it serious conscious thought. That’s pretty cool.

But, the coolness of my own mysterious subconscious aside, this is (was) a sad day for me, and for everyone else who loves a bit of flavour in their Magic. I just hope Wizards finds a replacement author for the column sooner rather than later. The wider world of Magic will be the poorer in the meantime for not having a dedicated outlet for giving players detailed access to the world, story, and art design of the game.

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.


Saturday, 3 December, 2011

I guess with the Star Trek episodes done, I should post some other things here.

I donated blood plasma today – I think it’s my 44th donation. I usually do whole blood, but they don’t want my red cells for a few months after I visited South America earlier this year. I took a photo of myself hooked up to the apheresis machine (avoid if photos of needles are not your thing – photo here).

And I ran across this: Legend: an OGL fantasy roleplaying game rule set, available for the next week on a “pay what you want” basis, with all proceeds going to Child’s Play, a charity that uses gaming to make kids stuck in hospital feel a bit better. Cool – it’s always nice seeing people contribute work for a good cause.

Early to rise

Saturday, 9 April, 2011

How's the water this morning?I got up at 4:30 on Friday morning to go out to Curl Curl Beach and take some photos of the sunrise. It’s the nicest time of year to do this, and it will probably be my last chance before leaving for South America. The sunrise wasn’t great, but I got some half decent shots.

It was pitch black when I got to the beach, but there were already some people swimming in the rock pool at the southern end. By the time the sun came up, it was like rush hour – dozens of people in the pool, lots of surfers out, a fisher collecting bait on the rocks, several joggers, an entire fitness class being put through a routine with a trainer, and a guy on the beach doing a painting! It would be so nice to live by the beach and get up before dawn every day!

Friday was also Magic night – we played a 5-player round robin draft of the latest two sets: Scars of Mirrodin and Mirrodin Besieged. Alas, I lost every game! And I thought my deck was pretty good when I was assembling it too. Oh well, my excuse is I was too tired!