4e tagged posts

One-Hour Review: Dungeon Survival Handbook

I don’t know if you were aware but 2012 is the year for Rise of the Underdark. This might be a surprise to one or two of you out there, despite the not-so-subtle, full-page advertisements at the end of any Dragon and Dungeon article over the past few months, but there you have it. To be honest, it’s not really making my calendar most of the time.

I’m not a big drow fan and setting most of my campaigns in Eberron means the drow don’t care about the Underdark that much anyways (and that the Underdark is rather different when we do visit).

The only product I’ve been really keen on looking at as the Underdark rises is the Dungeon Survival Handbook, which has been changing names left and right but continuously putting out cool new content. Now that I’ve gotten a hold of Into the Unknown, let’s take a look at what the first hour has to offer.

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Making a Hunger Games Tabletop Part 2: Mechanically Speaking

With all the buzz around the upcoming Hunger Games movie, it seems like a good time to see how surprisingly easy it is to make a roleplaying experience based on the popular novel. In the first part, we looked at three distinct elements of the Hunger Games: dystopia, survival, and death matches and talked about how you could integrate those features into your own game.

In Part 2, we’re going to discuss specific mechanics that could be adapted from different tabletop gaming systems to help round out the experience. These are not the be all and end all for mechanics, but rather starting points for adaptation or as inspiration for you to create your own.

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Making a Hunger Games Tabletop Part 1: A Taste of Hunger Games

Readers will probably remember our earlier Double Feature posts where we combined movie-watching and roleplaying in a delicious stew of basement-compatible fun. With all the buzz around the upcoming Hunger Games movie, it seems like a good time to bring this idea back up.

It’s surprisingly easy to make a roleplaying experience around your favorite movies and even more interesting to bring elements of those movies into your existing game. You’ll notice a distinct theme in our commentary, forcing your players into choices with consequences. If you want to ramp up the difficulty, tension and drama of your game, this is a great way to do it.

This is more of a discussion of how to integrate different aspects of the Hunger Games into your own game, and not merely ways to re-skin 4e or another system to be the Hunger Games. If you want specific help on which mechanics from different gaming systems are most helpful, check out Part 2.

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One-Hour Review: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos

Heroes of the Elemental Chaos

Having psyched myself up for the new Heroes of the Elemental Chaos sourcebook, I decided to swing by and see if my Friendly Local Gaming Store had it. To my immense delight they did, and they’re in the process of re-modeling to start running D&D Encounters and Friday Night Magic. Those are topics for another day. For now, I’m excited to crack this book open and see what oozes out. How’s that for a weird image?

In this sourcebook, I’m hoping to see a few things. I want the ability to include some elemental flavor and crunch in any character I make, regardless of class or race (obviously some will be easier than others), and I want to get some inspirations on running adventures dealing with the Elemental Chaos that don’t play on tired themes: namely “let’s go to the Abyss and kill stuff!” and “in this fortress of the Lord of [element type here], there are hideous creatures composed of [element type here].” Based on Heroes of Shadow and Heroes of the Feywild, I think I have a good chance of getting my wishes. Here goes!

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Previews for Heroes of the Elemental Chaos

With all the news about D&D Next, it’s easy to forget that there are still exciting 4e products in the works over at Wizards of the Coast. The next one I’m really excited about is Heroes of the Elemental Chaos, the flavorful successor to the Heroes of Shadow and Heroes of the Feywild books, due out at the end of the month. More than just a splat book of powers and character themes, these Heroes of… books are more like mini-campaign-guides and a great way to resurrect old settings like Planescape and Ravenloft. We’re told to expect more from these sorts of atmosphere-heavy settings but they’re still seen as not economical enough for them to re-release in earnest (a point I’m not touching with a standard 10-foot pole).

Anyways, onto the book itself! From the previews released recently, this is not a niche book and it looks chock-full of stuff for gaming groups wanting to run campaigns centered on the Elemental Chaos. Some interesting options have been shown both for some planewalking fun and for those who want a paragon-to-epic-level jaunt through the savage halls of djinns and tanar’ri.

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The Latest on D&D 5e

Penny Arcade - The Way Forward

There are two new sources of information that we can all dissect with a microscope: Rule of Three and Legends and Lore. Wizards is eager to show everyone that this is going to be a new and bright era for D&D and not a closed-room creation. Rodney Thompson in Rule of Three stressed the input of players for the development of 5e, something that I think all players are concerned with. “Sure they say they want to hear from players but they’ve probably already written most of it.” According to the article, though, “[i]t is no exaggeration when I write that your opinion and feedback is one of the most important parts of the process. One of the central goals of the next iteration of D&D is to provide a game that does what you (the players and DMs) want it to do, and in order for us to meet that goal, we need to know from you directly what you want it to do.”

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D&D 5e: What Do We Know So Far?

Now that we’ve all succeeded on our save vs. shocking news, let’s examine today’s Big Announcement and study what we know. We’ll learn a lot more in the coming days and weeks, but let’s make a first stop of many and roll Perception to see if there’s any hints at what to expect. Until the playtest phase rolls around (and we’ve been assured it will), we’ll have to make do with gossip and terrible, wonderful speculation.

The future of D&D?

First off, we don’t even know what it’s going to be called. The Internet has erupted in 5th Edition fever, but if you look at the WotC press releases, they carefully call it the next iteration of D&D, or the future of the game, or the new rules. The closest you might find to an “official” name so far is “D&D Next.” Press who visited WotC in December learned the code name used by WotC R&D for the rules document, but have been asked not to reveal it. (It begins with an “I,” though. 4th Edition was codenamed Orcus during development, so maybe Iggwilv? Ioun? Imix? Io? My money’s on Iuz.)

In fact, Mike Mearls pretty much put it down when he said “Most people will think of this as the fifth edition of D&D. In many ways, though, we want this to be a version of the game that embraces the entirety of D&D’s history, one that all D&D fans can turn to and use. I think that the actual naming of the game will come down to how the play-tests go and how people react to it. I’d love to just call it Dungeons & Dragons and leave the edition numbering behind” (CNN).

A sigh of relief can be followed by a *huh?* of confusion at the news that Mearls hopes “to create a system that allows players to use much of their existing content, regardless of the edition” (The Escapist). Whatever that means, he seems to be saying that the game will accommodate content from throughout D&D history, at least in part. But how? What does it mean? A magic formula for turning 2e monsters into 5e statblocks? Unlikely. An extremely stripped-down ruleset that doesn’t use most of the rules trappings that each edition of D&D has employed? Undesirable. A pipe dream that cannot be followed through upon? Unknowable.

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The End is Nigh! Reroll Your Sins!

5th Edition Announcement

Well, there has been plenty of speculation about a new edition of D&D since the gameplay polls began to appear in Legends and Lore articles. Here at Castles & Cooks, we’ve been commenting for awhile about the phenomenon and it’s becoming increasingly clear that these polls are quite pointed and probably point to an impending shake-up in the world of D&D. Last week when the expected Legends and Lore article didn’t show up on Monday, Patrick and I talked about what it could mean and whether we should be expecting something like the 3.5e revamp or a completely new edition. I told Patrick to brace himself because it was sure to be a new edition, that Essentials patched some things up but that it had so much blowback from the community they might as well make a new edition if they were going to do anything.

I should have taken my own advice.

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One-Hour Review: Book of Vile Darkness

Book of Vile Darkness

The Book of Vile Darkness through the editions has been many things. At its best, it is a strong source of inspiration for DMs who want to include some frightening elements into their campaigns. It can also be an inspiration to players who want to have their characters be a little darker or who would rather play an evil party and scour the land rather than save it. While the Dungeons & Dragons line rarely achieves the depths of depravity that gaming lines like White Wolf’s Vampire games or Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu, it is every bit as dark as the epic Midnight setting. The various Books of Vile Darkness have been a must-have for anyone hoping to strike terror into the normally cavalier D&D player’s heart. At the same time, the Book of Vile Darkness has historically also been an excuse to run depraved characters without consequence or thought to roleplaying. There are excellent examples of evil campaigns out there but in my experience they easily get out of control.

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Penny Arcade, Monte Cook, and the Good Old Days

The Good Old Days by viba

Poking around the internet this morning (don’t tell my boss) I found two different references to other systems than the current (fourth) edition of D&D. They’re from some different sources but they are interesting takes on the state of the game. First, Tycho Brahe of Penny Arcade published a little more about trying to revamp a 4e game that’s been on a year-long hiatus. After a few webcomics talking about the need to break the stereotype of “hiatus = campaign death” and talking some tough talk about using two DMs to scare the PCs into splitting their own party, he revealed their secret weapon: giving up and playing Pathfinder. Call me a pessimist, but this seems like a cheap way out. There’s a certain Robin-Hood-esque panache to turning over your Wizards of the Coast books and grabbing a semi-independent set of rules, but is this really being a solid DM or is it giving up because you can’t hack it?

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