So I spent the day at my local comic & games store, Warp 1 in Edmonton. T'was a good time as I got to sit down and paint my first Malifaux minis with others, give some tips to the new hobbysists and watched a few games of Warmachine/Hordes take place. It's really rewarding to see people now showing up at the store to play mini war games as well as paint or assemble their minis. We've played RPG's and CCG's at the store all along but the mini war gaming aspect was something really lacking in the area. I remember bugging Kris, the games manager to special order stuff for me then later on, stock miniatures for Warmachine/Hordes while I was bugging my friends to start playing Warmachine with me and now he himself has recently started playing and has tackled the hobby aspect too. It's a big deal because he was very very guarded against the hobby side of things.
The close ups are the Judge and Death Marshals that I painted this afternoon for my Guild crew.
Yes, it's been forever since I've posted anything on this blog but in my defense, I've been really busy at work, went on holidays last week and playing instead of writing. Knowing that bloggers like Christian over at Destination Unknown makes lunch/dinner for the good folk at his game table. I wanted to get into that hanging out while eating side of things. Now I'm not talking about snack and liquor runs before sessions. I wanted proper meals. My group at this point does not prepare dinner but once everyone gets to the place of gaming, we leave in my van and go have supper. It's been really good especially with one of our players being new to the group and we really get to know each other outside of the game environment. A huge perk is that the games run a lot smoother. Less emphasis on snacks being an interference while playing, we seem less distracted and long drawn out rabbit trailed stories show up less and less as I believe we get a lot of the need of personal chit chat done at the dinner table. Oh and no in the middle of a lull spot where someone goes "Who wants to order pizza?" and then you lose 20 minutes to figuring out what toppings you want, looking for phone numbers and gathering cash for whoever's chipping in.
I understand that my gaming habits require prep time. Prepping for my D&D campaign, doing the art and making the tokens and minis, assembling miniatures for my army, painting them when I get around to it. And gaming days/nights require 3-8 hour blocks of time tied to an average of 6-9 times that I game a month. So as the title says, how do you do it all? My gaming involves D&D and Warmachine/Hordes with Malifaux and Mouse Guard on the horizon. I don't have children to watch or a second job but am finding it hard to balance time and scheduling with some of my other interests and responsibilities. Thank God I don't play video games.
So awhile back I got a friend request on Facebook. Cute girl, so why not? We did have mutual contacts and the extent of our communication was usually just random funny comments on each others status updates. Well I sent her a message asking her why she added me onto her Facebook list. She replied with "To network of course". We messaged back and forth for a bit and it led to her asking if I would be interested in submitting something to them as they are looking for new a new artist for a project and that she was an editor for a comic book publisher. When I said that I was interested, she sent another editor a link to some work of mine and he got back to her that afternoon saying that she should try me out for a book that she'd be working on next. If the Editor in Chief likes it, he'll get in touch with me about page rates and scheduling.
So I'll be getting some PDF files to see the character designs and a script. And then it's down to doing some quality work and hoping that it blows their minds away. Not counting my chicks before the eggs hatch but it's so exciting to have this opportunity arise as it's been over five years since I've sent out a submission package. And to have one where I have someone on their crew already vouching for me is pretty sweet!
So this evening I decided to follow up on some sites for the tabletop skirmish games that I've been collecting minis from. I word it this way because it's been a long time since I've played with my little metal soldiers. My Winter Elves and Dragonspawn are calling from the closet.
Well, when I went to the Sodapop Miniatures site, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were developing a new line of miniatures that look like a cross between chibi anime characters and the sprites from Maple Story. Super Dungeon Explore! While I have no interest at the moment in the game that's under development, the minis definitely have my attention. Hopefully they don't take too long before going into production as my attention will just veer off to something else. But look at them! THEY'RE SO CUTE!
Do you play monsters as they're written straight out of a Monster Manual or Bestiary? I don't know what it is but since I started DMing, I never really liked using anything that was in print as is aside from you know...Kobold Minion, Kenku Warrior, etc. And if I used a stat block straight from a published monster that would be of relevance, it was always reskinned to look like something else. This comes from my inability to leave things alone but later on, I really liked how it made metagaming harder for other players who also DM or just happen to own all of the books. I also understand their powers and abilities a bit more as I had to actively take part in selecting what would be kept, ditched and added.
Oh and if you haven't seen "How To Train Your Dragon", you should do something about it. ^_^
So there's been a bunch of "top 15 games that have influenced or inspired me" blog posts floating around lately. Well here's my list based on what first comes to mind when I think of the word "game" that doesn't involve me chasing a ball around or running.
1. Dragon Strike 2. Chess 3. Space Hulk 4. Necromunda 5. Warhammer 40,000 6. Warmachine/Hordes 7. Gloom 8. Cutthroat Caverns 9. Street Fighter II 10. Yoshi's Island 11. Need For Speed Underground 12. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 13. Dungeons & Dragons 14. Yetisberg 15. Poker
My good friend Matt had his birthday party on Saturday and when we were outside smoking cigars, a few of us began chatting up D&D. I realized that though each campaign were sharing a bunch of the same players from the pool, there were six or more different campaigns represented there.
A lot of these offshoots are the result of players wanting to take a shot at DMing and one player is part of a group that cycles through a different DM every session in some sort of rotation. I had seen the videos below just before I started DMing as I was looking for tips on the subject and am now wondering, among your local circles, are DM's/GM's such a rarity and are so many people that reluctant to take up the position when all you really want to do is play D&D?
I love DMing more than being a PC in most cases. Why? Because every turn feels like it's still partially my turn. How about you?
With the release of the D&D Essentials Red Box/Starter Set, I've been noticing quite a bit of nostalgia mentioned on blogs, forums, Youtube videos, at my local gaming store, etc. A lot of "I remember back when I was ___ years old or in college.......etc...etc". And then in many cases after that, go on to mention their disappointment in the contents of the new red box. But honestly though, until you got to the point where you realized that it was a big marketing thing on WOTC part and the that you might've find the product to be kind of "meh", wasn't it a great feeling as all of those memories came back to you when you first got into D&D? Maybe it was a simpler or happier time that you wanted to reach back for. Who knows but the feeling whenever people talk about seeing that red box and the memories associated with it usually had smiles attached to them.
I didn't have the luxury of growing up playing D&D. I did play the Dragon Strike board game and buy a Dungeons & Dragons set from a toy store but never played with the contents in it. It was the one with the black box and a red dragon on it. I seem to recall a name like Zamzer Tam in the adventure. In fact, aside from Dragon Strike, my real D&D exposure would come in the form of 4E last year. So it'll probably be awhile before I get to really go nostalgic on the subject of D&D.
But I do have a nostalgic story of my own that just took place recently. About a month ago, I went into the Antique Mall here in Edmonton and stumbled across some sealed packs of 1992 X-Men trading cards. Yep, I bought them all...19 packs I believe and a bunch of the '93 set too. That Sunday afternoon as I was ripping open packs, I honestly felt like I was 10 years old again. Except now as an adult, I had a whole whack of packs to open at once whereas as a child I was rarely opening more than 2 packs at a time. From there I later on went onto Ebay, bought the rest of the set along with four other Marvel & X-Men trading card sets.
Well my package arrived yesterday and after I had put all of my cards into those protective 9 card binder page sleeves, I went back to flip through my newly filled binders to admire my new old treasures.
When I rifled through the the '92 X-Men set I got a bit misty eyed. Why? I remembered seeing a base set for sale in a comic book store in Malaysia a week before my family moved to Canada and not be allowed to get it because my mom felt it was a big waste of money. In retrospect I completely see her perspective now because they were specially imported there (at least at the time as you couldn't buy trading cards in 7-Eleven and comic book stores really were a specialty store) and quite expensive in relation to other things locally.
When we first moved to Canada, me and my dad would walk almost everyday to a convenience store near the house we were guests in for our first three weeks in Edmonton before my folks bought our home. There he would always give me some cash and I would always split it up so that I could play some Street Fighter II and try to get two packs of trading cards. I'd usually buy a pack of Marvel Universe Series 3 because there were 10 cards to a pack and one pack of X-Men (the set that I liked better but kinda felt ripped off that there were only six cards in there). These cards along with Street Fighter II would be part of my experience in the move to Canada. Where everything else had changed around me, I still had my mom, dad and sister and I guess the X-Men were there to tag along.
My dad would end up passing away when I was in high school. But yeah, I really realized that with the purchase of that one particular set of cards, I was finally able to see it all together after 18 years and it would be my memory capsule of the summer of '92 when there were still the four of us. I really think that as my dad was watching me play Street Fighter II or walking with me back to the house as I expressed my excitement of pulling out a Wolverine, Psylocke or Gambit card, etc, the back of his head was playing the checklist of things that he had to do while in this transtion.
I was in a sombre mood but they were still great memories to revisit. The scary part for me however is; I do not remember the sound of his voice anymore.
Now to make it relevant to gaming. I think what I love so much about good gaming sessions when it comes to playing at the table, is that a lot of memories are made. Sure if you play a lot of RPGs, it might become a big blur but you cannot deny the experience. One of my best friends played RPGs in after-school care and I recall him on multiple occassions talking about the amazing game of the Heavy Gear RPG that they had in the back of the bus during a band trip. While I was never there, the enthusiasm in his voice made me happy as I tried to picture a 5th grade version of him sitting in a circle on the floor playing Marvel Superheroes or whatever. Even in my one year of playing D&D that I have under my belt, I've got quite a lot of strong memories as fragments of various sessions come together. Cool plot hooks, stupid jokes, drunken DMing (that I remember) or the genuine fear that your character might die and you're already planning in the back of your head what new character you're going to make next and then come out on top and the table errupts into cheering. They're thoughts that I cherish. I don't know what it is, but I find that you bond with people a bit differently when it comes to roleplaying games and I am so glad that I never gave into the BS that one shouldn't be "playing games" as an adult and that having an imagination is a bad thing.
I look forward to the day when I might be sorting through boxes, or be at a used book and find a Players Handbook or something and just be flooded with all the good times I've had playing 4E or whatever system and the people I've met along the way. Hopefully I'd still be in touch with a good chunk of them.
What're some of your fondest memories from gaming?
The next day, Thor Frostfang the Shifter Ranger easily sneaks into the boxcar well before the precious cargo is placed in it. Vincent, arriving on his appointed time is warned that he will need to make his break for the boxcar a quick one as the diversion is triggered. A loud ruckus starts as the sounds of two confronting workers fill the air, followed by a cheering crowd as a scrap takes place. Vincent makes it on board with Puppy while Korgath tries to use his influence as a Cleric of Helmuth to sanction this as a match, to have bets placed as an offering to Helmuth. Vincent, hears this from within the train begins speaking as Helmuth but upon looking at Puppy, just begins talking about how great he is and his worthiness of offerings in the form of sandwiches.
However Korgath's attempts at getting most of the rail yard workers to go to The Warped One to place bets or make an offering fails and he is tossed onto the train by a terribly disguised Ulfr. Steam bellows and the train begins its trek south. Inside of box car 15, Thor looks in to check the reinforced cage. In it, the sleeping or better said, sedated wyrmling lies. Vincent begins to use his newly purchased alchemic fire and the pig iron, to weld supports on both sets of doors on the train. He is determined to make sure that no one gets to the wyrmling until it reaches its destination. Even if it means he (or Thor) can't get out.
Sadly, Paper Legends has wrapped up. I know that the session notes have things stuck at 3.1 and for the sake of tying up loose ends, I will summarize what has happened in the 6 sessions that we played. Conflicting schedules were my biggest peeve and at no point did we have all seven of us at once. I began getting burnt out of D&D too with my other gaming commitments at the time. I will not be bothering with breaking things down neatly but the just of the story will be conveyed. I will be launching a new campaign in the near future where we'll be trying to play every two weeks but in more manageable chunks of about 3 hours per session. Wrapping up between midnight and 3:30 in the morning no longer appeal to me. The new campaign will still be tied in with Paper Legends and I'll have a new opportunity to make new paper minis in a new art style and with a different construction to handle status effect markers.
I was on Youtube watching Chris Perkins DM the staff of Robot Chicken and another one of the Penny Arcade crew. I'm just wondering how interested people would actually be to listen to a recording of gaming sessions? Particularly when it's not of people who are established in the industry or have some sort of "celebrity" status. We read through session recaps on other's blogs all the time but if it's an audio file running, would it still have an appeal? When reading we can read as much or as little as we want, skimming here and there, etc. Just something that's been on my mind for a few days and I don't think I'd be interested in uploading hours of videos onto Youtube.
Last Monday night marked my last session in a weekly D&D 4E campaign that I was playing in. Weekly sessions combined with it being on Monday nights were taking a toll on me. Instead of just bailing, I wanted to finish Heroic Tier and the story arc before claiming back my Monday evenings for myself. My character Memphis Green had died the week prior and while I wanted him to go down heroically, I was hoping it'd be against the big bad that we were introduced to in the very first session. For my newly created character, I came up with Huggles X. A quick improvised burial was arranged for Memphis Green in the same place that he fell. He's laid on an arrangement of rocks and wrapped in the blankets from his adventurer's kit and then set ablaze. Just as his remains burn and the elven shape collapses, Skull notices Huggles getting a lot heavier while sitting on her shoulder. The little dragon hops off and primal energy begins to emanate from the ground and vines begin wrapping around Huggles forming a larger humanoid shape. The dragon familiar's face is the last thing to get enveloped and the transformation completes with what look like black and green eerie descent chitinous plates. He then bends down and picks up Memphis' old hat, places it on his head and pulls the brim down. For this character, I stated him up as a Dragonborn Ardent. Why? Tiny was sick so our healer would be missing, so that responsibility would fall upon me. Not to mention that going from five players to three would make things a little harder. Yes, having heals is a good thing.
We charge through the great doors into the room where Babagya waits for us. Fully ready, fully prepared and she begins summoning her Zombie Turtle minions. She's is wrapped in a veil of darkness and gets into our Paladin's head a few times. She literally crawls into his head, causing harm to him and denying the rest of us the option of hurting her as we'd be forced to club on our Paladin unless he himself forces her out of his mind. Aside from her veil of darkness, the ability to summon minions and attacks that cause status effects, she wasn't a very "strong" character. When the last blow connects with her, she cackles and laughs that she was the last of the Colossi which prevented a dead god from coming back. She had to be killed by those of pure intent (though I question that as we were trouble makers whenever we were left in cities). The big kicker that really got me was there that there was no apocalypse themed magic book that her death cult were after. She orchestrated the theft in the great library that would hire us to retrieve it so that we would kill off the colossi and in the end, her. When she draws her last breath, the ground shakes with the floors splitting open and spilling out grey and pink flesh. Lando had the fireball, Indiana Jones had the boulder, we got brains growing. Our characters hop onto thier flying broomsticks and attempt to GTFO! A great skill check took place where we came up with fantastic ways to navigate through the halls of the dungeon and outrun the brains and the swarms of goblins running for dear life. Alas, we failed the skill challenge and all turns black. When Skull and Triptych awake, they find themselves just in rags on a Drow airship. Their equipment are gone, Huggles X, Bruce Fitzyu, Brooke and the Chicken Hut are nowhere to be seen. When they look over the deck of the ship, they see that they are part of a massive fleet of airships, carrying away a huge land mass containing most of the city of Sternum. In the background, a massive skeleton with muscles slowing growing upon it as the dead god slowly comes back to life. Skull and Triptych sail away into the Astral Sea. It was a blast and an awesome ending to Heroic Tier. I felt saddened that I would not be continuing in this adventure as I could not commit to the schedule. It really felt like watching the ending of a good tv series for me.
So this fine sunny Sunday was spent predominantly indoors. Totally worth it. I got to try out the game Paranoia and had a real blast. Each player controls a Troubleshooter who is a clone with an assigned classification (but also part of a secret society organization) that is sent about the setting of Alpha Complex to find trouble and shoot it in order to preserve the perfect society that The Computer has created. The game is over the top, loaded with the screw your neighbor factor as you try to carry out your assigned functions, secret agenda, sabotage and flush out the other players to expose their acts treason to The Computer. Teamed up with booze, newly purchased toy guns, quesedillas, cigars and sushi afterwards, I'd say it was a Sunday well spent. If you're interested in playing a tongue and cheek humor rpg, definitely give this game a try.
In games that I took part in, there were times that we got bonus XP for doing something amazing with our characters. It was always fun to be able to jot down some extra XP at the end of the night. If the bonus XP was a small amount, it really never amounted to anything aside from one guy having a bigger number than the other. I began to find it really redundant because most groups will generally have the consensus to keep the party at the same level. So aside from maybe a guy leveling up one session before the others, in my eyes, I found it quite pointless.
What I've adopted is a token bonus. Instead of you getting 50 more XP, I'll toss you a penny at my table. It's good for a +D3 to your roll if you miss and needed that extra boost to try and succeed. Players feel good when they get a token and they get to see the benefit of it right away but still not be guaranteed a success. In my case, I only make the tokens good for the night so that they're not hoarding these things up for a "boss" fight.
What I really like about it is that it coaxes my players to come up with some amazing role playing or narratives in hopes that I award them a token. And I don't always do it.
I had mentioned previously that I had introduced a Power Meter/"Limit Breaker" mechanic into Paper Legends. It really was a double edged sword. The plus side is it keeps players paying attention when things are turning into a grind as they're anticipating when they can unleash a Daily Power with all of the perks going off. The down side, it creates one more thing to track in an already mechanic heavy game (especially if you have a bunch of effects floating like saving throws, buffs, penalties, on-going damage, etc.)
The nine circles on the upper right corner represent 1's. Each circle on the colored strips on the left represent 10's.
30+ points allows you to use Daily Encounter Powers
60+ points gives you a +1 to hit bonus when using the Daily Power
120+ points allows you to spend a healing surge and gain 1/2 surge value in hit points.
200 points automatically grants you max dice rolls for damage or healing bonuses, etc. Acquiring points caps at 200.
*The bonuses stack as you clear different levels. The Power Meter resets to Zero the instant a Daily Power is used in an encounter. The damage or healing from the Daily Power do not contribute points to the Power Meter.
Players gain points for dealing damage, taking damage, and by healing. So basically when their action actively effects HP, they accumulate points. Examples: *Thor does a Twin Strike with his bow and does 7 and 9 points of damage to his two targets. Thor gains 16 points. *Bellows receives 20 points of damage from an enemy attack. He gains 20 points. *An area of effect attack via blast or burst do accumulate. If your blast hits 4 targets and you roll, 12, 20, 14, 9 for damage, you gain 55 points on the Power Meter. *Damage is still rolled for minions. It's not your fault that they're too weak to feel the full effects of the face beating. *A healer will gain the value of hit points recovered by his/her healing power. Even if done to multiple allies. The recipient of the healing do not gain points. *Popping a Second Wind does gain points for the Power Meter. *Taking ongoing damage does gain points to the victim. *Making an attack that does ongoing damage does not give points as the player is not actively causing the damage anymore.
Why did I introduce this mechanic into my game? It felt like something fun to do. I wanted to play D&D like a video game in a sense and a Power Meter seemed fitting. It also takes away some power gaming elements and brings a new element of strategy to the party. No first rounds where everyone unloads their Daily Powers and it also makes it harder to use Daily Powers on back to back turns by the same player.
My biggest joy from this mechanic was the anticipation of the players to wrack up all of those points in order to get all of the bonuses along with getting all emotional when they agonize over whether they should use the Daily Power that turn vs holding back as they're not far from gaining another bonus. The players had fun and it helps deter the grind feeling in the late game as they're still actively ticking away on their cards and waiting for that glorious turn when all the bonuses go off with an already more powerful than normal attack. They really make Daily Powers seem even more special and it's really something when they get to 200 points and then fudge on the roll.
Is this mechanic for everyone? Nope. Is it perfect? Nope. But my friends around the table had fun with it and that's what counts. It would also have to be scaled in Paragon and Epic Tiers.
So yesterday marked the end of my level 10 Elf Seeker. I had expressed to the DM that I would not be hanging around in this campaign once Heroic Tier was done. Monday night gaming till midnight was just taking a toll on me on Tuesday mornings and at the moment, 4E doesn't have my attention like it did before. Just a case of my mind needing to take a break from it and go do other things.
Kris our DM was itching to kill a PC, so I'm sure that he enjoyed this. Memphis has a thing about riding large monsters and blasting them in the back of the head at point blank with his blunderbuss (we just used the rules for a long bow) with magical insects as ammunition. In the beginning, I found the Seeker to be such a "crappy" controller especially when you compare him to say...a Wizard. I found his powers too situational before all the bells and whistles could go off. Don't get me wrong, when they work, they're terrifying. But they require more finesse.
I've always had a beef with 4E locking up with players not moving around enough when I DM (it's amazing how stupid characters all of a sudden became tactical geniuses). So even though Memphis' attacks are ranged, I played him as a compulsive in your face type warrior who would run all over the place as long as space permitted. If I double move and shift as a minor, it's possible for Memphis to clear 17 squares in one turn when moving closer to an enemy. As I mentioned earlier, I originally found him difficult to use properly as a controller. So instead of being the one to clear minions, I ended up trying to do my "controlling" by engaging the big guy on the battle field and trying to take him out of the equation for a few turns while the rest of the party mopped up the other baddies. Once that was taken care of, the rest of the group would rally around whatever it was that Memphis was riding on (and in most cases he was also half dead by this point) and beat face.
So how did Memphis go? Well, on our dungeon crawl searching for Babagya, we ended up in a tomb where some Zombies rose up along with an Undead Firebat. In the back stood a T-rex made of vines. Seeing as the Zombies and the Firebat had found their fun with the other PC's, Memphis sprints across the hall, and climbs up onto it's back and begins blasting away at this thing. Completely separated from the party, he eventually go down from the poison in the Vine-a-saurus' vine attacks. Having been so attached to Memphis' character, Holly's/Skull's dragon familiar was played up to be freaking out when Memphis finally fell limp.
For fun, I grabbed some Treant minis and dropped them on the table to represent the Primal spirits reacting to his death. The party was in very bad shape between auras, ongoing damage and status effects. Heals had run dry along with a Paladin who had no surges left. To keep me amused (and to give the rest of the group a better chance), towards the end, Kris had me rolling damage on Memphis' turn in the initiative. This representing the primal energies still being hostile towards the creature as magical insects from Lola the blunderbuss were crawling out of it to gnaw on the thing, along with Jiminy Cricket stabbing at it with his umbrella. Fittingly, it was the damaged rolled for the biting swarm that finally took down the Vine-a-Saur.
Memphis will rest in peace and for my last session in this campaign that will take place next week, I'm going to either make a Dragonborn or Thri-Keen. The Dragonborn will represent Huggles the familiar basically Digi-volving and using Memphis' old gear or the Thri-Keen will be Jiminy Cricket being fully fleshed out to avenge Memphis' death. I just want to finally see Babagya go down. Boss battle time!
Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been busy. Work, sketching, playing games, going out and to be honest, the drive just hasn't really been there as of late to blog.
What I do want to talk about is, the shift of my view on D&D 4E. I started my venture into tabletop RPGs with 4E. From what I saw skimming through books and hearing about in the previous editions - mostly 3.5 and Pathfinder references - the aspect that I didn't like were the blandness of encounters for non magic users as 90% of the time, it seemed like their only option was "I swing at him with my sword, axe, etc". This is the double edged sword. While mechanically it's boring, the responsibility of keeping one's imagination going is left to the DM and player.
I have never played an MMORPG before. My incline to 4E probably comes from the tabletop wargaming side of things. Now while I do enjoy roleplaying, I realize that the majority of the time, my experience with 4e is that of a narative encounter. And that's cool. 4E does combat really really well. Unfortunately, when I look at the mechanics that they tried to sum up for other things like skill challenges, it generally seems very very clumsy. Once again, it comes down to the story telling abilities of those at the table and imagination along with our own little house rulings in hopes to veer off from what seems sluggish to us game mechanics.
So with that being said, I've been drawing more and more inspiration from video games for Paper Legends. I intend to make it feel like a game. My players know this and have been gung ho about it. I've implemented a power meter that gets racked up as players dish out and take damage. Hand out RP bonus power ups in the form of coins and sometimes crazy stuff happens that doesn't quite make sense but we can do it because it's a GAME. While it can be a cop out for reasoning, it definitely gets the imagination flowing.
So far it's been great and with this particular group it works. All but one of them have played or are playing MMORPG's, tabletop wargames and/or Magic: The Gathering. We come together to collectively play out a story of Die Hard in a fantasy-ish setting.
I'm writing this post because awhile back I felt a bit frustrated with trying to get more story elements into our games and trying to coax a bit more of it out of my players. I got over this after talking with one of my players while going to McDonald's when I realize that I should be playing 4E to its strength and accept that most of our players were not natural actors or storytellers. I'm hoping to play to their quirks and if I put the right hooks out there, maybe they'll pressure me to come up with more plot twists.
I do want heavier roleplaying opportunities to come up and I'll let that grow on its own or I'll search for it in other systems like Mouse Guard or Cartoon Action Hour.
A month and a half has passed since the Firebugs dealt with Thalos Calgaron. With no real assignments aside from trivial little surveillance jobs, the group spreads out doing their own thing. Thor Frostfang continues to win in Fireman Tim's arena generating much buzz and keeping the gravy train flowing. Vincent Moren, pleads with Ayana and she agrees to turn the deceased Puppy's into a Zombie Kobold. Ulfr trains with the Rangers to expand on his tracking skills. "Dave" and Bellows work with R&D on prototype equipment along with Bellows receiving new arms to replace the set that Vincent dismantled. Korgath builds his congregation to Helmuth, god of gambling and "other good things" in the arena and establishes him as the patron deity to many of the fighters.
Fireman Tim assembles the team for a new assignment. A wyrmling was recently sold in a secret auction to a wealthy individual and the Firebugs have been hired to be the insurance policy. Not comfortable with the standard security that might be on the train and wanting to keep things low key, the Firebugs will have to sneak on board the train unknown to all including the train's crew. With no more information than the time of departure, the cargo and that the carriage which the precious cargo will be transported in is modified with special shock absorbers, the Firebugs are left to figure out how to handle the rest on their own. The group heads to the train yard to survey the area. With being so caught up in the pit fights, Thor decides to take his time and enjoy himself with his new lady friends that he met at a local bar and inn. After the "festivities", he sneaks himself onto the specified box car and after getting bored, he heads back to the hotel. He knows his way in and will return tomorrow well before departure time.
Ulfr's does the old "sneak on board as a worker" routine. He wanders in casually, checking out the shift schedules for the next day and steals the largest set of railroad work attire that poorly covers his Goliath frame.
Vincent Moren purchases pig iron and alchemic fire before making his way to the rail yard's office building by which he buys his way onto the train by bribing an employee to sneak him on board. With plans taking shape, the Firebugs wait for tomorrow's departure.
I'm so far behind on session notes or little snippets of bright ideas due to fiscal year end with work. In July, there was only one day in that month that I did not stop into the office. But I'm on salary so no literal overtime pay. I'm just going to take some Fridays and Mondays off here and there to make long weekends and not eat into the vacation pay. So between that, being tired and playing games, it hasn't left much time dedicated to blogging. I'm hoping to remedy this soon. So I'll be putting things up this week.
Happy gaming! You'll get your fix of Kok'ed Dice soon. I promise. Serious. I'm on a horse.
So last night, only two of us out of six PCs ended up at the DM's place. Two gave notices that they had family functions ahead of time. One made a last minute cancelation 15 minutes before we were suppose to start and one didn't show up. Our DM wanted to try and scale down the encounters and still play but we came to the conclussion that the effort has been put down to play a proper session. So let's wait to play a proper session with the intended amount of people. We ended our last session entering a new city so we decided to plot out what kind of trouble we could get into. We played around with some random event generator tables and tweaked it a bit to the three of our likings and flavour to fit what our characters would be up to. After the initial disappointment that we wouldn't be "playing", the night still ended on a positive note. Skull (Holly's character) has now lit a portion of the city on fire and Memphis (my character) is on the down low as the watch are looking for him after he was conned into a shady business venture. Details are still being penned out and we were also rewarded cool magic items which I'm still coming up with some back story for it. What started out as a bummer still proved to be a fun couple of hours and we even got to do a little bit of trouble shooting for a cool mechanic that I am planning to implement for Paper Legends. To tell you the truth, I think that our next session will have a much richer story than what was originally planned as Holly and myself got to pull our characters from first to third person perspectives and partake in the actual shaping of the setting outside of actually playing it. Hopefully that little extra bit of depth and connection that two of the PCs have will bleed over to the rest of the party. Now to see how it actually plays out. Happy gaming even when not actually gaming.
I think that having companions in D&D run properly as an actual skill to do well. They can bring enhancing mechanics, liabilities for the party and possible flavour to the game. I personally feel that they really need to be played with character along with some hints of backstory and cues that lead to development. I've seen equipment with more personality in some cases. My premier experience was from the first ever campaign that I got to play in. Our Wizard had a Falcon Familiar that he would use to channel his powers through. Outside of encounters, this thing rarely ever showed up and aside from when it was mentioned that he was using the falcon to cast _____, it wasn't much more to me than a tiny based mini that sometimes sat on the battlemat grid. Nothing against the player of the Wizard as he's a really great guy but was just not taking advantage of the roleplaying possibilities that this bird could have brought to the table. The next one that I would have the pleasure of "meeting" had absolutely no game mechanics whatsoever. In that same first campaign set in Eberron, the Dwarf Warden went into the slums of Sharn and hired an Orc hanging around some street corner. This Orc would become his minstrel hired for more than two shinies and the DM even came up with some basic songs that he would sing. On many occassions when Volstag the Mighty (Dwarf Warden) was doing something or our DM was describing what Gorsh (the stupid Orc) was up to, I would catch myself singing his songs at the table. He added a ton of flavour to our sessions and prior to my leaving that campaign, I was even thinking about taking on the role of Gorsh as my Changeling Rogue was now staying in a kingdom posing as the recent secretly murdered king. Mechanic wise, Gorsh had nothing in terms of rules and was never presented on the board even though in most cases he was assumed to be in the room when fights broke out. The shortest lived companion I would see came from the first Session of Paper Legends. Ulfr was originally created as a Beastmaster Ranger. The rules behind how the beast companion worked in tandem with the Ranger proved way too limiting and frustrating for Ross that all the coolness factor behind having a panther following you around town was lost. Ross ended up letting the cat die in the middle of the session and retooled his Ranger's fighting style. The only thing that would've saved this panther would've been character attachment. Or maybe not. I've seen a couple more show up but they were in store games with players coming and going that they meant absolutely nothing to me. Here's my current favourite example of a tag-along. In the first session of Paper Legends, Kris's character, Vincent Moren decided to keep the Kobold that they had interrogated as a pet and named him Puppy. I had this Kobold killed later that night and it drove the character into a frenzy. For the third session, Kris had requested that Puppy's body be reanimated and I agreed to have an NPC do a ritual making him into a Zombie Kobold. Puppy has proven to be amazing story telling element in and out of combat situations to where this Zombie has more flavour than many PCs. Very funny (or sad), especially when you consider he doesn't speak or really do much of anything aside from follow Vincent around and make sandwhiches. I myself might have as much attachment to Puppy as Kris does as we're always talking about different ways to justify Puppy's preservation from you know...decomposing, etc and how we'd like him to evolve. When interacting with NPCs, they're always trying to figure out what's up with "that smelly thing". Puppy makes for great conversation starters within the world of Paper Legends, prepares sandwhiches (we've actually house ruled a Daily Power out of this) and allows Vincent to shows his "tender" side as he is a very OCD and self-centered character until Puppy is put into danger. Now for our newest Familiar. In the campaign that I'm playing called "On The Bones Of Dead God aka Heavy Metal D&D", which is DMed by Kris that plays as Vincent in my setting, our Sorceress recently acquired a Dragon Familiar. This to be named tiny Dragon is the half-brother of our Drow Sorceress. Her mother, the Queen of Spine is married to a Black Dragon after having her previous husband assassinated. Don't ask me if this little guy was hatched or birthed and we met him as he snuck up on our party following Matilda (who prefers to be called Skull) in order to protect her. Holly has played it up that Skull is repulsed by the little guy (mostly due to the concept of a Drow and Dragon breeding)and my character, Memphis Green(a gun toting Elf Seeker) has been interacting with her Dragon Familiar more than she has. Kris roleplays on behalf of the little guy (thank God as I do not want to see Holly talking to herself when trying to be both characters)and I hope that during this campaign, even though the Familiar makes Holly's Sorceress more badass, he will actually be more attached to my Seeker. In summary after a long ramble of my experiences and using many brackets, I just want to say that these tag-alongs in an RPG can be so much more than "items" to your PCs. They are characters just waiting to be explored, especially when you realize that they're going thru hell and high water with your party.
The little Kobold and the Firebugs have an akward little stare down. After a moment, the Kobold cautiously approaches them and makes his way towards the Shardmind. When within arm's reach, he studies "Dave" out of fascination by the translucent build. Noticing that no one has raised a hand or their voice, the Kobold grabs "Dave's" hand and drags him to the tunnel that he was peeking from. The entire crew follows them into a cavern, complete with rocky spires and small hoard of valuables. A little further in lay a Green Dragon, fully shackled, badly wounded with his wings mangled beyond recognition. The Kobold approaches the creature with full reverence. He is Maugen, originally from the Forest of Maine. He had come to the Millwoods Forest with the remnants of his Dragonborn and Kobold subjects after being defeated and exiled by other Dragons from his homeland. Maugen continued to explain that he came here to regroup and rebuild but in his weakened state, Thalos Calgarron, his second in command rallied the other Dragonborn around him to overthrow Maugen while keeping the truth known to the Kobolds who simply thought Maugen was in the cave recovering. Through a ritual, Calgarron was able to tie his life source with that of Maugen. This explains to the party how he was able to take such a beating and that everytime they struck Calgarron, Maugen also suffered from the blow. Bellows continues his suspision but the rest of the party, particularly Korgath and "Dave" feel pity for the Dragon and offer aid to bring him back to health. Korgath insists that he be allowed to start the healing process and Maugen snaps back with the request for death. Upon further coaxing, Maugen says that if he were not in such pethatic circumstances, he would be picking his teeth with their bones by this time with absolutely no remorse. With that answer, the Firebugs look among their ranks to figure out who will do the honors. Ulfr steps up to the wounded Dragon, lifts a row of scales on Maugen's chest and thrusts his longsword straight into the beast's heart. The party refrains from taking much of the treasure in the lair as they know that OOPS will have to catalog and redistribute the valuables to their rightful owners. The heroes part way with the Kobold make their way back to Old Strathcona after Vincent recovers the body of Puppy. After returning to The Warped One, Fireman Tim is nowhere to be seen around his office. They make way further down into the second basement arena to find Fireman Tim organizing bets on the bleachers. In the ring, Thor Frostfang. Not recalled to aid another unit in a scouting operation but to be the main event. *End Session 2*
Last night was a neat session, we had a rather long encounter (about three hours) but it didn't turn into a painful grind and after we ended the gaming for the night, I began talking with my players about wanting to give them more of the reigns to lead Paper Legends more and more into a sandbox for them to explore. I even put the PCs on a train and had the tank engine blow up with the thing stopping before their destination to literally say "Hey, we're screwing with the railroading and to really make this OUR game". We talked a bit about where I'd like things to go and really have their input. And I even had them crash not too far from a town so that I could be forced into practicing something that I need to grow in; lots of possible NPCs for the party to interact with and for them to be memorable. Thanks Christian, your post blatantly pointed it out to me that it was an area that I needed growth in.
It was also really cool to talk to one of the players outside of the session about a neat plot twist I have in mind, and he himself blatantly said that it'd be okay to kill his character if that's what it takes to make this happen and that he really appreciated that I had discussed this possible plot turn with him to get his feedback. The funny thing is... I never said that his character would have to die for this event to take place.
RPGs have been so rewarding and fun for me. I really wish that it wasn't tagged with the "negative" side of nerd/geek stereotypes as it is such an amazing form of group entertainment. It's also pretty amazing to see one of my old classmates who has very little exposure to geek culture, play out his character. Josh is new to the whole gaming thing, and while he is relatively quiet at the table, when the cogs turn and he describes what he wants Thor Frostfang, his Ranger to do, it usually ends up sounding like something I would love to see in a movie. Many times it puts me on my toes as to how I will have to figure out how to house rule it so that he can do the amazing things that he wants to do. I am so blessed to be able to throw dice down with these guys!
Our heroes make their way through the dark passage of the cave. Kobold guards try to hinder their progress but to no vail. The Firebugs make quick work out of them. At the end of the tunnel, the caverns open up to room and residing at the end of that room, a large armored Dragonborn stands impressed at their progress and equally as pleased to be able to engage in combat. He introduces himself as Thalos Calgaron, servant to Maugen of The Forests of Maine, then turns his back to the party and begins to strut down another tunnel. The party pursues and when Calgarron turns around to face them, a bright flash stuns them all. When the Firebugs regain their sight, they are surrounded by a tempest. "Dave" hears the same heartbeat that he heard in the museum and their footing,on a floating stone platform with edges that constantly shift. Calgarron draws his blade and they engage in combat. If his fullblade wasn't enough the Firebugs also have to contend with Calgarron's voice in their heads murmuring threats to them. Whenever focus is lost, they are flung across the platform. Eventually Bellows is thrown beyond the edge. Expecting to meet his certain demise, Bellows finds himself drifting afloat in the tempest and somewhat invigorated while in it. Amidst the whirlwind, reaction times are a split second quicker and the Firebugs attempt to battle Calgarron from within the storm while trying to keep him planted on the platform. This of course is much harder due to the constant psychic assaults that throw them around like rag dolls. The fight is bloody and intense with everyone being dealt serious blows aside from "Dave" who is able to keep his distance. When things seem lost, they are able to pull together their strength for one last coordinated strike causing that same flash that brought them to the tempest. Disoriented, the group find themselves back in the cave with a catatonic Calgarron laying on the ground. "Dave" extends his hand across the Dragonborn's face and crushes his brain with a force attack. With business being taken care of, the Firebugs turn their attention to the Kobold peeking at them from the doorway across the cavern room.
Just wanted to say that I am truly grateful for the the friends that I've made over the last couple of years who play the games that I love and I would actually hang out with outside of game sessions and events run at the local friendly comics & games store. It's awesome to finally have friends that game and I can geek out with as oppose to just having gamer "friends". It's sunny outside, take advantage of the barbecue and frisbee weather. I really should put up some session notes...
Now within the green dome that surrounds the hill, the party splits into two groups. "Dave" and Bellows taking the high ground on slope of the hill while the other three travel along its base. After a bit of trekking, Bellows spots what looks like a humanoid shape curled up in the fetal position near the bottom of the hill. Signaling to the others, the troops on the ground carefully move towards it. Bellows attempts to meet with the rest of the party by gracefully leaping from tree to tree. The reality is far from graceful as he meets the ground prematurely on multiple occasions. The figure turns out to be a wounded Dryad. No one understands her but she soon realizes that the party means no ill will towards her and she reciprocates to Korgath who has taken lead by changing her form to resemble a leafy Dwarven woman. "Dave" uses his powers to try and communicate with her and gets images of herself and four other Dryads entering the dome, followed by flashes of them fighting Dragonborn, her sisters dying, something about "fighting in his mind" which absolutely terrifies her and the area of the hill where a cave entrance lies. Her breathing heavies and she refuses any attempt from Korgath to heal her. Feeling helpless, Korgath and the group do the only thing that she allows by providing an affirming presence as her life fades away. After the Dryad's passing, the Firebugs make their way to the cave. Bellows and Ulfr advance in the shelter of the tree tops. The sounds of laughter emanate from the cave entrance to reveal Dragonborn laughing at the amusing dance of a small Kobold. Among them, three Spitting Drakes. After almost giving their position away a few times as they advanced and putting the drakes on alert, Vincent decides to wander up to the group of Dragonborn as casually as possible in a way more suitable for a person walking into a diner to ask for directions. His attempts at diplomacy and humor do not charm the Dragonborn and his efforts are met with axes. The Kobold runs off into the cave and our heroes go into battle once again. Bellows and Ulfr bring pain down from the trees and aside from Vincent soaking up quite a lot of damage, the Firebugs actually have a much easier time with these three Dragonborn and their Drakes than they did with the Kobolds at the camp site earlier. Victory is theirs. Now what? Well, they can always walk into the cave... Guess what? They will.
While the rest of the group sleeps, Bellows and "Dave" stay on watch among the branches of two trees. Bellows then senses something moving along the rune filled path. Determined to to figure out if this could be a threat, he stealthily leaps from tree to tree. On the edge of the clearing he sees a shadowy Dragonborn figure walking towards and then entering a stone archway that connects to an eerie green dome that separates a hill from the rest of the forest. The same green energy fills the arch and flares like a bug zapper when Bellows tries to touch it with his hand. Knowing that "Dave" would be more familiar such a thing, Bellows returns to the camp site to retrieve his Shardmind ally. Returning to the arch, "Dave" carefully inspects it's Arcane ties along with the stonework. He notices green magic stones encrusted on the inside of the arch and four runes on each side of the arch with their identical rune counterpart on the other side of the archway. As he examines the green glow closely, he receives a quick kick to the behind from Bellows. Unlike its response to Bellows, "Dave" is able to wade through the barrier though he does feel it weaken him. Bellows runs back to camp to wake the rest of the group up, figuring that they've had enough sleep for the night. When Bellows returns back to the gate with the rest of the crew, it responds to them the exact same way that it did to the Warforged. A big zap and they are repelled from the green energy field. They begin trying to figure out the runes on the gate and get it to its narrowest point but still with no fortune for them to be able to walk through the archway. When "Dave" crosses through the gate, he notices that the space between his legs is completely void of the energy field when it's at it narrow point. Half of the crew goes through by crawling under "Dave" and when it comes to the Goliath, "Dave" breaks his humanoid form and completely wraps himself around Ulfr allowing them passage through the gate.
So my friend Kris organized a player vs player tournament using the Dungeons & Dragons rules to cater to a straight beat 'em up format. I got to create the battle maps that the confrontations would be duked out on, drawing a lot of inspiration from paintball fields. Some kinks were spotted that will be changed for the next event and the goal is to have this be a monthly thing at the store. I really hope that people will show up regularly to have pick up games at the store and team practices before tourneys.
A great night with fun had by all and prizes to be won.
So yesterday was my birthday. I spent the evening playing D&D at my friend's place. Good times! One of the player's took her pants off. But that was cuz it was really warm, not because it was my birthday.
The Firebugs wake up from a well earned rest. The sun shining bright and the group in good spirits. The sound of an engine roars from the sky. Upon looking up, Korgath makes out an eye shape beginning to eclipse part of the sun. He notices a small shape separate from the the larger one. As it gets larger, Korgath notices it spiraling and spinning towards them. Upon landing it strikes the cane stance. Surprisingly graceful considering that it's made out of metal. Before them stands a mechanical construct man. Steam vents from his arms and legs and he walks towards the party. He tells them that he is called Bellows and was sent by Fireman Tim. In fact, he projects an image of Fireman Tim which conveys the message, wishes them luck and recalls Thor Frostfang back to base. Bellows also passes over a magical stone which allows the party to stay in communication with each other should they spit up. They dub it: The Walkie Talkie Rocky. Thor reluctantly leaves the party to tend to whatever Fireman Tim needs him to do. The remaining Firebugs along with their new ally, Bellows continue along the rune trailed path. Bellows eventually breaks off from the party and runs parallel along the trail with conceilment should anything possibly dangerous show up. Eventually the smell of smoke is picked up in the air. Bellows lets the rest of the party know this and they make their way towards it with Bellows leaping from tree to tree. Coming to another small clearing not far from the rune trail, the Firebugs see a camp site. Two tents and recently put out fire pit. Upon closer examination, they also notice that next to one tent lays a chain leash and collar. Vincent moves from concealment and up to the closest tent. He pulls out one of the peg spikes. A corner of the tent collapses and a squeak is given off. A sleepy Kobold steps out of the tent but he is quickly disposed off. Hearing the ruckus, a Kobold steps out of the other tent. Before he can be silenced, he lets out a loud warning bellow before being taken down. Bellows searches the first tent finding some Gold and an amulet which he holds onto. The second tent provides them with nothing outside of some scraps of food and blankets. More Kobolds show up to see the Firebugs in their camp site. Battle commences with Korgath, Ulfr and Vincent taking the bulk of the swarm. "Dave" sits in relative safety sending out psionic blasts when targets make themselves available and Designation Bellows takes the other bunch using the trees themselves as an equalizer to the numbers. Leaping up on branches, and dropping from them to plant graceful but deadly kicks only to head back up when things get too crowded again. A second wave of Kobolds return, this time with fully armored members and they quickly asses Vincent as the most direct threat and coordinate their efforts to bring him down. A projectile flies through the air and lands on "Dave's". When he looks up, a red Spitting Drake stares right back at him. Behind the Drake, another Kobold wearing a skull for a mask pops into the scene. He starts to chant an incantation and at its completion, green rays emanate from him and all the Kobolds in the area seem like they got a boost when the energy settles. As Kobolds start to drop, Vincent goes down a few times. Ulfr breaks from the pack to aid "Dave" who has been the primary prey of the Spitting Drake and Kobold Wyrmpriest. Bellows separates the Drake and Wyrmpriest from "Dave" and the rest of the team regroups around them to bring on the pain. The Drake is the last to go down and the party uses their camp site for accommodations as they mend their wounds.
My introduction to tabletop gaming comes from wargames. That Warhammer 40k 2nd Edition starter set sparked something that would change me. I've always been a visual person. Drew a lot as a kid, my dad got me into model kits for a bit. When I got in table top wargames, my models got a heck of a lot more expensive and I was painting miniatures. Fast forward many years and a long hiatus from the hobby and I got back into minis via the Privateer Press route.
When I started playing D&D 4E, the DM had minis, I built some sweet terrain tiles out of insulation foam and painted up a bunch of the minis that would be used for our PCs. When I started my own campaign, I drew up the paper minis or token pieces in a neat art style. I love things to be "pretty".
Well, last Monday in my friend Kris's D&D campaign, the minis were left at the store that he works at so we had to improvise. Bottle caps, glass beads, coins and laundry tokens and a deck box would represent us and our opposition on the battle mat. Pretty? Not at all. Did we have fun that night? Absofrickinlutely!
Aside from having to double check what represented what on a somewhat regular basis, the components were there. It was a great excercise in letting the bells and whistles go and setting my imagination loose.
Now I'm not saying that I'd intensionally want to play in this manner again any time soon, but it's great to know that as long as there's a good story, a good group to play with and some rum handy, you can keep on playing and have a blast. Yes, I'm aware that a lot of people actually don't use any minis at all in previous editions of D&D along with other RPGs.
Honestly, I feel that the minis aspect and grid have turn D&D for many into a combat board game. Not hating on those who are perfectly satisfied with it but I do hope that those who are pretty immersed in D&D do try to experience more possible aspects of the game to just enrich their experiences or use it to enforce why they like what already they do about it. It's always what's natural but I think it'd also be great for people who can be boxed into a label of watcher, narrator, actor, slayer, etc to intensionally try and be something else for at least one session. Who knows what different sides of you could be unlocked.
Trees. Trees. More trees. The Firebugs arrive at the edge of the Millwoods Forest. After a bit of surveying, Thor notices a clearing of tree south from them. "Dave" telepathically tells the captured Kobold, now named Puppy, to lead them in. After refusing, Vincent uses the universal language of roughhandling and he leads them to the area that Thor had originally suggested. The party walks through the semi cleared path and once again magic is in the air. Our heroes notice that the forest stays away from the cleared path. Insects do not fly beyond the trees into the clearing. Engraved in the ground are runes that appear to be Draconic. They deduce that this is what's keeping back the forest. Vincent then urinates on a rune. The rest of the group gets onto the balls of their feet expecting something bad to happen. Fortunately for them, all they get is a light show as the rune starts to glow and eminate a droning sound. A few moments later it returns to normal. Puppy being amused by this also urinates on a rune and the same effect. They make their way further down the path and everyone begins to sense that they're being watch. It is clear that something is speaking directly to their minds the thoughts of "LEAVE!"..."TURN BACK!"..."YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!". Being dilligent and brave little troopers, our heroes press on. Metallic creaking noises sound from the left of them moving parallel with them from within the trees. When they stop walking the sound stops resuming again when they move. Thor and Ulfr break from the party to find out who the stalker only to have it pick up the pace and begin a retreat. The metallic steps stop in a small clearing. As the two move up readying their weapons. The floor gives out from under Ulfr revealing a pit trap but are no match for his reflexes as he back steps before allowing the law of gravity to be applied to him. From the bushes two metallic canine constructs spring for the attack and the heat is on. Back on the path, the remaining Firebugs hear the sound of steel on steel and they rush off to aid their team mates. The two Rangers use their mastery of sword and bow into effect. Thor finding it very rewarding to place arrows through the gaps in their rib cages to cause gear grinding. Vincent. Korgath. "Dave". Puppy. The rest of the crew join the fray. A third construct appears baiting the new combatants and spears shoot up straight from the ground. Much to their fortune, no one is hurt from the trap. In a puff of smoke a Gnome appears. His eyes widen and he goes straight for the Kobold and slits his throat. "Puppyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!" Vincent screams and then kicks one of the homunculi aside and lets his sword lead him towards the Gnome who had just murdered his pet. The short statured creature turns disappears again before letting Vincent share a taste of his blade. Noticing that the Gnome went straight for the Kobold and wasn't on the path. Thor lowers his bow and clumsily tries to explain why they are here in the forest. The Gnome's head pokes out from behind a tree. Being much more diplomatic, Korgath takes over and announces that they are here trying to find the lizard types here to catch them and take back what they have stolen. The Gnome points at the dead Kobold and glares back at Korgath. He explains that the Kobold was a prisoner leading them to its lair. Accepting his case, the Gnome steps out from behind the tree, snaps his fingers and the remaining two Iron Defenders sit down. He reveals himself to the party as Vespa, one of the guardians of the forest and that these dragonfolk have invaded their land and killed many of the protecting Dryads. The intruders come from Maine, retreating execution from a civil conflict that has taken place. Among them, a multitude of Kobolds, a few Dragonborn soldiers who are led by their champion; Thalos Calgaron and an injured dragon named Maugen. They have set up shop in the Millwoods Forest, trying to rebuild his hoard as he mends. Vespa creates a magical barrier to keep the party safe for the night, offers them a healing potion and heads off with his two bodyguards. The Firebugs set up camp and rest for the night. Vincent tries to put the choke chain back on "Dave".
The Firebugs spend the bulk of the day in the Royal Museum. Looking for any suspicious folk, particular items that would prove of importance, and survey any areas that would prove to be ideal break in points or suited for a clean get away. The trip was beginning to seem like a waste of time until "Dave" notices a strange magic presence near two entrances by the loading areas. The Firebugs hide out in the museum waiting for it to close for the day. Night comes and surprisingly guards are nowhere to be seen. The group takes various positions to spring a surprise attack should anyone come through the two doors which "Dave" had identied. Everyone plays the part of patient hunter but Vincent who starts tampering with a glass display cabinet. A pointless task, but from his position, a clean running path to both doors should anyone use them. Hours go by and just before people wish they were at home sleeping, "Dave" senses magic pulsing in the room disrupting the flow in what feels/sounds like a heartbeat. The beat gets louder and louder and at its climax, a small portal opens up and a retinue of Kobolds step through the arcane doorway. Kobolds scuttle from their entrance only to get a short way in to find Vincent ready for action. The combat kicks into gear and all of the Firebugs do what they're suppose to do in a violent confrontation. All but Ulfr, who has extreme difficulties with one particular Kobold's agility. A Kobold breaks through the line that Vincent and Korgath had set up and opens one of the doors. More Kobolds pour in, a few of which are fully armoured and much more precise in their attacks. Some Kobolds make it to displays, smash the glass and begin looting what they can fit in their arms. "Dave" senses the heartbeat in the winds of magic again, and shortly after that the portal returns. One of the surviving armoured Kobolds jumps through along with a Kobold carrying treasure. Vincent pursues but is not sucked into the magic gate. He does catch a hazy glimpse of a cave on the other side. One Kobold is apprehended. Using the chain that he received from Fireman Tim, Vincent ties the helpless Kobold to the mouth of a statue for questioning. The Kobold doesn't speak common, the party doesn't speak Draconic but "Dave" is telepathic. He is eventually able to process the Kobold's thought noise to "want more" and saw images of a forest and could make out the phrase "go east". The Millwoods Forest is one of the largest wooded areas east of their current location and the party agrees that it is the best place to go next. Since "Dave" didn't want the job title of pet, Vincent fills that spot with the captured Kobold.
The colored facings on the cards would determine the teams in the fight. The sides would consist of Korgath, Vincent and Thor facing off against "Dave", and Ulfr. They were all given an opportunity to bet on the fight as well.
*I inserted this "Encounter" for the sole purpose of letting the PCs get a taste of what their teammates powers were and for Josh to get the feel of the combat mechanics as he's never played a table top RPG in his life*
Thor would start things off by letting loose a barrage of arrows at Ulfr who tried to would flank them from the covered side. Unfortunately this would leave "Dave" the Psion alone and vulnerable. Though very much to the liking of Vincent and Korgath. "Dave" would be knocked senseless before losing his psychic bond that held his humanoid shape together. Following a clean swipe from Vincent, "Dave" or Penguin as Vincent would prefer him called would crumble into a pile of crystal rubble revealing the choke chain that was confiscated. Eventually the now alone Ulfr would be overwhelmed by the three Firebugs and fall unconscious. After the bout, the Firebugs were told to head to their OOPS issued apartments to rest up and return in the morning in hopes that Fireman Tim will have won a bid for their first assignment.
The party made their way to their apartments to sleep and mend. The restless Vincent and "Dave" who doesn't sleep anyway, worked together to make a massive arcane refrigerator. Little did "Dave" know that Vincent's intentions was to make this a home for his claimed "pet", Penguin (aka "Dave"). After some struggling throughout the night, "Dave" is able to keep himself out of the cold kennel.
The next morning below The Warped One, the Firebugs find a very pleased Fireman Tim counting gold and various currencies. Ayanna lets the team know that he has a gambling problem and organizes fights on a very regular basis. Being a fair man, Fireman Tim gives each of the Firebugs a cut from the pot.
To keep with the theme of the dragon skulls that line his office wall, Fireman Tim reveals to them that the mission that they are about to embark on consists of various jewels and treasures being reported stolen from nobles in Edmonton by humanoid draconics. Seeing as the Royal Museum is receiving a new expo, intelligence believes that this would be the best place to get the thieves and find out where the other valuables have been taken to.
"Off you go!" Fireman Tim shouts as he goes back to counting gold coins.
*I realized that the last post took a lot of words to convey very little of what was actually happening. Do not be surprised if I switch back and forth between note points and paragraphs. These session posts are primarily reference points for myself and the PCs in the campaign* After introducing himself, Fireman Tim makes it very clear to the Firebugs that he has no interest in being a desk jockey squad coordinator. He hates the paper work, the politics, the idea of responsibility and finds that the only perk is finally bring able to smoke his pipe on the job with much less risk of being attacked in the middle of a bowl. The party realizes that all of its members went against the grain while in their previous positions within the Elishevan military. Fireman Tim intends for them to be an extension of himself in seeking justice through chaos. The party also learns that OOPS is not a branch of the Elishevan military but a privately run outfit. Missions are not necessarily assigned to teams but squad coordinators bid for them in most cases.
Many points during the time spent in Fireman Tim's office, Vincent Morin's lack of attention gets the best of him and he tries to dismantle a book shelf only to be reprimanded by Fireman Tim. He then dubs "Dave" as "Penguin" and claims him as his pet while trying to put a collar on him. When "Dave" finally takes the collar and keeps it in his...toga(?), Fireman Tim reaches into his drawer and gives Vincent a large metal choke chain to do with as he pleases. "You don't truly know a man until you've fought him" are the words that come out of Fireman Tim's lips. He extends a small deck of cards and asks the team members to each draw a card. Each card has a blue or green facing. He leads them down another flight of stairs to an even lower basement and beyond the entrance, a pit arena complete with cheering crowd.
Two weeks ago, our heroes were preparing to be shipped out to the Eastern Sands on a Diplomatic Military Mission. All was going as planned, they did what they did best within their respected squads and departments. Until receiving new orders. They were being assigned to a classified outfit Designation: Unit 23 "The Firebugs" under the wing of Onyx Operative Protection Services or OOPS for short. Arriving at the Edmonton Garrison north of the city the five individuals meet each other for the first time as they are shortly after dumped in a carriage and sent to a specialty bookstore called The Warped One where they will meet their Squad Coordinator and be briefed. The Firebugs reach the store to be greeted by Kristoff the Handsome (self proclaimed title). He tries to sell them literature on magic and vegetables and when he does a head count and looks at the make up of the various races and equipment asks them if they are the members of OOPS newest squad. After giving a yes and confirming their identities, Kristoff hunches a bit more and gets out from behind the counter and leads the Firebugs to a room at the back of the store. Stairs lead them to a basement hallway. Hearing their lumbering steps a young half-elf woman pokes her head from the doorway of her office. She introduces herself as Ayanna, welcomes the group and expresses how excited she and the squad coordinator are to see what our heroes can do. Ayanna takes an extreme interest in the Shardmind, a race that she has never seen in her life. After examining him for a bit in a manner that would seem almost like a doctor looking for signs and symptoms in a patient, she kindly asks them to take a seat on the benches and the squad coordinator will see them shortly. An hour passes and the Swordmage keeps himself amused by dismantling one of the bench seats. Hearing the sounds of wood being dropped, Ayanna comes out of her office again to see the team still waiting in the hall. Off she goes to knock on the other door in the hall. "Sir, your new squad is here to see you" she says in the most pleasant way possible. "They are? I wasn't expecting them until Thursday" a gruff voice responds from behind the door. "Sir, it's Friday" Ayanna replies. "..." "Sir?" She asks. *silence* "Sir?!" She asks again. The sound of drawers being opened and closed followed by things being shuffled hastily come from behind the wooden door. "Let them in. Let them in" says the rough voice. Ayanna opens the door for the five new members and dismisses herself back to her office. The room is filled with the smell of a cavendish pipe tobacco. Along one wall, bookshelves but with only a few books actually on the shelves. The floor space directly in front of the shelves is filled with various stacks of books and loose papers. On the opposite wall hang three dragon skulls. One of which is fastened to a large shield and between the eye sockets, two puncture holes. Standing in one corner an old and very ornate and well worn bow and leather quiver filled with a full stock of arrows. Finally, at the front of the room, a large messy rosewood desk where the only sense of order is occupied by a wooden stand with various styles of smoking pipes. The large chair that had its back turned to the door which had a plume of smoke emanating from the top swivels around revealing an older silver bearded man. "Hello, my name is Fireman Tim" he says with a big grin.
So last Wednesday night, I went to my local comic & games store to pick up my books and say hi to the games manager as well as a couple of people who I knew would be playing in the weekly D&D Encounters that Wizards organizes. Due to a lot of people showing up, Kris convinced me to help DM a table. Well a bit later...an emergency came up which forced the owner of the store to leave and have Kris step away from the group that he was DMing in order to watch the rest of the place. When my original group was done I went from that table to the other that had been waiting for a DM for about an hour or so. At this point I felt like it was my duty to make sure that these people have a good time since they've been patiently waiting and to add to the mix, new players were in the fray.
That night, I consciously realized that the effective rule of mirroring is just as effective when DMing as they are in closing sales, building rapport, and well...life in general. Between the two groups I probably had 3 or so different ways of playing manifest. I'm a narrator by nature when I play D&D (to me if there's no narrating or role-playing, I should be playing something like Warhammer). I played my first couple of rounds as I normally would play and then after that if I could get a general idea of what the individual players were like and wanted out of the game, I would cater to their play style. Crack a joke based on their personality and you've got a friend for the rest of the session while getting a positive reaction from the rest of the table. If you're the kind of guy who just looks at stats, bonuses, penalties and status effects, I'll go straight to the meat and potatoes and give you the numbers back and if it hits, I'll tell you if it's good, ask you to roll your damage and off to the next player we go. For the new or shy players that are getting into it, I'll help and do a description of their character's actions for them and how it effects the bad guy and then try to nurse them into it. In the case of 4E with all of the power names, it's easy to get things rolling. They might just read to me the flavor text at first and then you might see them changing it up a bit with their own flare in the next round.
I do have one rule. When you cause a hit against a monster of mine that kills it (not always with minions) I will make you describe how your character delivers that killing blow. And it's extremely rewarding to see the newer or quieter players get out of their shell and have their eyes widen as they tell me how they've slain the monster and fit in as much badassery as possible.
Mirror your players as a DM, and if you do it properly, you'll notice them mirroring you at times too. Great way to see if you're building rapport, especially in a group where you weren't friends prior to sitting down at the table to play with some funny shaped dice.
I find the Initiative Roll to be a double edged sword. Positive side, I find that when a DM says "Okay, everyone roll for initiative" that's the que for go time or the change in music just before you get into the Bos room. On the down side...it can possibly be a big momentum breaker as everyone starts rolling and then you hear: "22!" "15" "I got a 7" "26! Fools!"
"I got a 7" "Hold on hold on I'm still writing. Did anyone roll more than 15?" "I got a 7"
Not usually a big deal but with larger groups with players ranging from all levels of experience as well as attention spans, there are situations where a lot of time has passed from the point of rolling d20's to when the first person does his/her turn.
Another thing that I don't like is when there aren't minis being placed on the table and the folks who dislike skill challenges might lean back and go "Oh great another skill challenge" before anything has even happened.
I'm planning for the next session that I DM to have a bunch of Initiative Rolls done before we actually start playing. Change up the amount of sets of initiatives being rolled vs how many encounters I actually plan to set up that night.
Plan to do four encounters that night? Make them all roll 6 initiative rolls and the encounters will be assigned out of order to how they might play out that session. My goal with this is to start fighting right away or to catch them off guard when a skill challenge is starting. For the latter, it's really a goal of mine to have people who do not like skill challenges be taking part in it before preconceived judgment can take place. It's simply "Thalos raises his eyebrow in a disgusted yet confused manner? You notice his fingers shifting on the edge of his sheath. Adam, what do you do?" And the order of initiative has kicked in, be it combat or skill challenge.