Tuesday, April 29, 2008

House RULES!

First game with the new crew was really fun last night. Thought I'd share some of the house rules I used in the game that went over really well with everybody.

Divine Blastering
Since its inception, turning undead has been too damn complicated, both for the player and DM. Roll on this table to determine your turning power, then roll on this other table to determine how many HD you can turn, and then, worst of all, roll to see how long the creature runs away from the party.

DnD isn’t about a bunch of jerks trying to chase down a freaked-out skeleton, its about kicking ass against evil and, on rare occasion, taking down a few names. That said I use the alternative turning rules, such that when the cleric turns an undead he does 1d6/level energy damage to any undead in line of sight within 30 feet (they get a will save for half). Turn resistance for undead becomes damage reduction, easy peasy. Devin used this to great effect in our high-level Ravenloft campaign.

Purchasing Magic Junk
As I like to use the Jamis Buck’s Dungeon/NPC/Treasure/Monster generators when planning my games, the treasure and monsters are mostly random that I’ll be doling out (I figure out why there's a wyvern guarding a Hat of Intellect in room 6b after the fact, if I have time). So if the party monk specifically wants those +4 flaming burst nunchucks from the DMG he’s probably going to need to save up for them. So I don’t hinder the player on needing to find a big city to purchase highly magic items or whatever anymore. If the player has the gold for a magic item they really want, and they’re in-between adventures, they can remove the gold from their character sheet and put the magic item on there, and then give us all a sweet-ass story about how they came upon the flaming nunchucks (and how they lost all that gold – the two stories don’t have to be related).

Dungeon Levels
I'm old-school when it comes to dungeon levels. Level 2 is twice as dangerous as level 1. Level 3 is twice as dangerous as level 2. So when the players find a staircase going down it means they better be ready to up their game (and get more XP). Last night's game ended at the top of the first staircase down.

Critical Blitz
Here’s one of my newest and favorite changes to the rules. Instead of the critical-threat/critical-hit deal, all weapons only crit on a 20, and when a weapon crits I have the players roll a D20, and look up the result on my homemade crit chart, which gives me the mechanical effect that occurs. Then I think up a reason for these mechanics to occur and give them a description of what happens and what it means. This way even if they roll the same two crits in a row, they won’t necessarily be gaining a bonus for the same reason. This also applies to critical misses, which are much more fun for me to describe. Note that if a certain weapon’s main benefit is a much better crit chance (like 18-20 for rapiers and bladed gauntlets) then I’d probably just let them use a higher multiplier when they crit (double becomes triple, etc).

Here’s the charts I used last night (chart changes on my whim and when I get bored):

Critical Hit!
Double Damage
4 Double Damage + enemy is dazed next round
5 Double Damage + -4 to random attribute of opponent
6 Double Damage + +2 to random attribute of player for 1 day or until critical miss is rolled
7 To the Hilt! – Triple Damage and weapon is stuck in enemy, causing 1d4 dmg/round (but you have to let go of it)
8-9 Double Damage + Extra immediate attack (not necessarily on same opponent)
10 Double Damage + Player gains +2 to all saves for 10 rounds
11 Double Damage + gruesome display causes Fear DC 10+dmg to enemies within line of sight
12 Double Damage + player gains 1d6 hit points/level of opponent (as the spell “aid”)
13 Maximum Normal damage + opponent falls prone
14 Double Damage + player gains +4 to AC
15 Double Damage + player gains regeneration 3 hp/round for 10 rounds
16-17 Maximum Normal Damage + Next attack auto-hits on anything but a 1
18 Double Damage + Gain monsters XP value times 2
19 Maximum Double Damage + Opponent is sickened (-4 to everything)
20 Decapitating Strike! – 10d10 damage + Str/Dex bonus x 2

Critical Miss!
Complete Meltdown! - Character is tripped, falls on his weapon (takes normal damage), and bursts into flames (1d6 dmg/round, anything combustible explodes).
2-3 Cold streak – Character takes -2 to all attacks for 1 day or until a natural 20 is rolled
4 Freak Hit – Character hits ally instead of opponent
5-6 Banana Peel – Character trips and falls prone
7 Stop hitting yourself! – Character hits himself instead of opponent
8 Groin pull – Character pulls a muscle, -2 to any Str-related activites for 1 day or until a natural 20 is rolled
9 Concussion – Character gets hit in the head, forcing a DC 15 Fort save or be dazed for 1d4 rounds
10-11 Stinger – Character gets a stinger in their primary hand and has to change weapon hands. -4 to attacks unless Ambidextrous.
12 Sickened – Character is sickened for 1 day or until natural 20 is rolled
13-14 Disarmed – Weapon falls 1d4 squares (1d6) 1: behind player, 2-3 left, 4-5 right, 6 forward.
15 Stunned – Character is stunned for 1 round
16 Cursed! – Character takes -4 to all actions for next 1d10 rounds or until natural 20 is rolled
17-18 Weapon breaks (if nonmagical) or if magical is damaged (-1 to hit/dmg) until repaired
19 Hole in pocket – Character suddenly realizes he lost 1d00 gold pieces somewhere along the way. He also misses his attack.
20 Armor damaged – Nonmagical shield breaks (Magical at -1). If no shield then armor is damaged at -2 until repaired.

I of course embellish any critical effects appropriately. Last night we only had one sling bullet accidentally shot into the back of a paladin's head and one case of the everpresent dungeon peril: the dreaded banana peel. I was sad some of the crazier ones didn't come up, but there's plenty of time for that. Anybody got any good ideas for critical effects I can switch out? Game on!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's a Bright Shiny Day

Maura Kay was born to our friends Cullen and Jodi today! I don't think she was officially due for a week or so, but she weighed in at 8 lbs. Happy Birthday Maura and Congrats to Cullen and Jodi!
And by the way, great job on the beautiful name. As soon as I get a picture, I'll post it;)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

New Group!

Last week I was bemoaning the fact to my lady that all my buds who enjoy searching for treasure and vanquishing eldritch evil lived so far away from Madison, when the other day at work I saw a dude I didn't know (outside of IT) sneak-reading the Order of the Stick on his computer.

This, of course, led me to drop some hints that I knew about his "hobbies" and that he was a "dice roller." I was promptly invited to check out the game he runs down at the FLGS on Monday nights. I hemmed and hawwed to Dr. Girlfriend about going, because every time I've ever seen a game run at a game store it contains some of the most portulent and immature 30-somethings that ever lived. But this guy seemed alright so I went and sat in on a combat.

Everybody there was pretty cool (all 6 of them), and all of them were very new to the game (like, 3.0 or later --> late adopters), so I shared with them some of the traits of games I like to run. The DM happened to be really wanting to play and was wrapping up his campaign in the next couple weeks, so after hearing my ideas they asked me to DM! After more hemming and hawing with the good doctor back home I agreed to run a new campaign, starting April 28th, for six folks I barely know.
I gave a pitch for the campaign based on a an old-school playing style I wanted to try out after reading some stuff at the Gameblog, with particular attention paid to this paragraph:

"One good place to put this principle in play is at character generation. Even a guy like me, who like robots and lasers in his D&D, occasionally gets on this funk where I consider trimming down the character build options to achieve some sort of artsy-fartsy effect. You know the drill. "I want to do something Arthurian, so no Asian-flavored classes in this campaign." or "This is going to be all Conan-y with the swords & the sorcery, so no demi-humans in this campaign." Although I truly, deeply understand the profound artistic reasons for such an approach, let me simply say: fuck that shit. We're talking about D&D here. If you can't fold themes and motifs into a game starring an elf ninja, a halfling bard, and two ill-tempered gnome wizards then you should be writing bad fan fiction, not running actual games for real players. Just please don't post your stories anywhere on the net where I might see them." -Jeff's Gameblog.

So here's I decided to do (and now realize is going to be a bit of work):

Everybody makes three 1st-level characters who all happen to be staying in the same town (in this case it will be the town of Longsaddle, in case any Faerun-ians are out there who care). We will have a big map with encounter locations that we'll flesh out while the game progresses, and the players choose which character they want to play with that night. I plan on having a number of dungeons and short adventures planned for the world and be ready to pull one out at a moment's notice. Also no character in your character "pool" should be more than two levels above any other, as best as you can manage it. So that'll lead to lots of switching characters, and some interesting party mixing (including opportunities for things like all-rogue or all-wizard parties occasionally). This way I can make stuff without even worrying (or caring) what adventurers will be going in there, and drop hints to the particular dungeon's deadliness or particulars in the tavern when they Gather Information ("Don't enter the Temple of the Skull without a powerful priest of Lathander at your side!" or "The Tower of the Serpent contains many traps that kill those foolhardy enough to enter!" etc.), so they can choose who to take before they leave. Also with three characters each if one dies I don't have to care or feel bad (just bring in that player's halfling monk that had been secretly following the party since they left town).

The idea is that the other DM would take over once and a while and I'd play some characters too, and if any of the other players felt like DMing they'd get a shot and both DMs would play while the newbie cut their teeth on the DMG. Each adventure will be self-contained, and there's no overall campaign plot that has to be hammered out before the first adventure (when I tie one in later, it will only be thanks to my DMing genius). But I agreed to DM the first four games at least until the other DM got the gist of what I am trying to do. I went from zero-gaming to maximum overdrive in a matter of days.

Time to put on the pointy hat once again, and tell a group of grown men (and women, actually) that they feel a cold wind blowing from the north...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Baby Booty

Our friends JiveTurkey9000 and Tom Joad are expecting a baby at the end of April, so the Cyberninja and I ventured norte to the home of Leinenkugel's beer for the baby shower and some non-baby-shower-related guy time. Brando and KimboSlice also made the trip up for the festivities.

Jodi's mom's lady friends from the church choir threw her a great shower complete with delicious blueberry egg bake, croissants, and games. I actually won a prize in the game where you have to avoid uttering the word "baby". No problem, people. Jodi's not really the attention-seeking type so sitting there while everyone watched her open the gifts was pretty grueling. I have to say that the kid got some great swag, so it was probably worth it (though she might not agree with me).

From left to right: Jodi's mom Pam, Jodi, baby swag.Jodi's please-get-me-out-of-here face.

Jodi opening gifts......and Jodi with her friend Jody from volleyball and Jody's daughter Lola. Lola served as a mini focus group for the toys for Baby Bright. All toys tested off the charts.

While we were baby showering, the boys went shooting and, of course, the 'ninja came home with a hankering for a new weapon.

That evening we went out to an Italian place.

Our waitress, Mint, was very confused, but the food and company were excellent.

Thanks for a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Wizard's Quest II: This Time its Personal

Paul and his lady came up for my birthday weekend, and we went up to the Dells to once again enter the land of mystery and mayhem: Wizard's Quest!

You may recall that the last time Dr. Girlfriend and I went to the Quadrosphere we did not locate the Earth Wizard, the only wizard to escape our searchings.

Did we find Paradisio, the Magestic Earth Wizard, this time you ask?

Do magic space swords glow with unfathomable power?

Hell yes they do, and hell yes we did. I should also mention that Paul and Cathy found and freed all four Wizards on their own, with no help from Team Cyberninja (we wouldn't have helped even if they'd asked -- you gotta earn it on your own, that hows' we roll in the Technodojo).

Damn crafty wizard seekers. They were known as, of course, Team Paladin.

After getting some grub, we went to an ultra-crappy haunted mansion that I really wanted to check out while we were in the Dells. It was terrible, which is fine by me.

All in all, great Birthday weekend!

I also returned Turok (after beating it) for full retail value (Gamestop's got 30 days no-questions-asked full refund return policy for VIP members, of which I am very P) and picked up Spiderman 3 for 360 to do some web-slingin' and The Witcher for PC. For those of you who have played The Witcher, I highly recommend this video review.

Keep it realsies, ya'll.