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.
So the Players were found, but where to put them? I didn't want to use full fleshed out settings like Eberron or Forgotten Realms solely because they had "rules" in which I would feel like I'd have to try and follow and to be honest, I just didn't want to read up on anything. The world would be set up in a fantasy alternate Edmonton. The names of the regions would be similar and the general geography would be the same. Enough familiarity but still having the freedom to do whatever the heck I wanted with it. On a side note, it was hilarious when the answers that they had received from interrogating an NPC would mean that they should probably to go to a certain place next. One player mentioned how he hated that side of town and then another player said "Hey! I live there...but I do want to move".
The PC's would all be members of OOPS: Onyx Operative Protection Services' newest squad, Unit 23: The Firebugs. Yes yes it's my Black Water knock off that probably came to mind from watching an episode of the new Knight Rider. I really like whole idea of having them be a part of a larger organization as it gives me a regular meeting point to where I can blatantly give them a mission (through an NPC of course). So regardless of how many rabbit trails the party take, a goal or two has been set. Go ahead and build your magical super fridge, dismantle all the shelves in the office and try to make the Psion your pet, but once that's all done, they'll go set up perimeter at the museum. I'll have to really watch and make sure I don't fall into the trap of railroading the whole thing.
The Squad Coordinator. Inspector Gadget had the Commissioner. The Power Rangers had Zordon. Who could the Firebugs get? FIREMAN TIM. Fireman Tim is the Ranger that I play in the Warp 1 store campaign. He is loud, has ADD, likes to climb things, is always smoking his pipe and I like to view him as the dumbest smart person around. Well the Paper Legends Fireman is older, no wiser and has been forced to take up a desk job with OOPS much to his disliking. All but one of our PCs have experienced Fireman Tim prior to Paper Legends. In the store campaign, we've now come up with a rule that if Fireman Tim dies, he will always reincarnate in a compromising and degrading manner simply because he has to live on in order to make it to this point.
So these are the premises laid out for my first campaign. Simple, flexible but with a few key elements that help things make sense and give it flavor for us to give a damn. We all had fun so it's all good. We'll go into story soon.