4e tagged posts

One-Hour Review: Heroes of the Feywild

Heroes of the Feywild

You may have noticed from previous posts, but Patrick and I have been especially looking forward to the release of Heroes of the Feywild this month. I’m a big fan of “faerie tales gone wrong” (or right, if you’ve ever read the original Brothers Grimm) and I’ve gotten into everything from Hellboy and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell to the Grimm RPG and Changeling (The Dreaming and The Lost near-equally). If you want a really twisted faerie tale classic, though, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are wild inspiration for campaign writing.

All that said, I’m a little worried before opening this book that things will seem campy and half-formed. I’ve been impressed with most of the excerpts (check out the link above for the collection), surprised by the mechanics of the pixie, inspired by the new build for the witch, and generally pushed towards an optimistic viewpoint. There’s farce, to be sure, but there’s still enough threat intimated in the excerpts to convince me I can still drive characters insane down the long road past the Catepillar’s mushroom, within sight of Hurtfew Abbey, and winding up at the Goblin Market for an ambush. Looking at pictures of pixies and feathered dragons it may all seem like Woodstock with longswords, but I’m willing to bet there’s solid substance in here… Which is why I but it early!

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D&D Video Games Update: More D&D Video Games!

Sadly, Tom’s heartfelt plea from a few weeks ago has fallen on deaf ears: D&D video games continue to march along.

In the latest development, the tie-in for the new Neverwinter campaign setting for D&D (focusing on the eponymous Forgotten Realms city, itself the setting for a few well-known video games) had been delayed for some time. A casual Facebook game, Heroes of Neverwinter, was snagged just before release by a lawsuit between Wizards of the Coast and Atari that started back in 2009. It looks like the dispute has been settled in court, so you can look forward to your News Feeds being filled with your gamer friends’ Heroes of Neverwinter posts: “Patrick just found a baby umber hulk in Dungeonville!”

I’m not really sold on Heroes of Neverwinter. I don’t play Facebook games, and I don’t usually care much for Forgotten Realms anyway. Dice Monkey, though, posted a positive review of HoN recently, including a link to the beta.

The other D&D game in development, some kind of PC title also set in Neverwinter. It was also going to come out this year, but it looks like, in all the fray, that game is going back to the drawing board. Will it be the elusive D&D video game that finally restores Tom’s faith in the concept of such a thing? Probably not, but we’ll have to wait and see. (Tom’s note: hell no).

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Monsters & Madness: The (DM) of Unknown Kadath

College of the Dark by Steve Ellis

Having seen things from the players’ perspective, it’s time now to consider the game of Monsters & Madness from the hidden side of the screen. The DM is in charge of atmosphere and story during a campaign and it may seem like a hard task to create a sense of horror over Funyuns and soda cans. There are tricks of the trade that can help: lowering the lights a little, putting on some eerie tracks by Mahler or Black Sabbath, and having a side room for secret conversations with players can all help create an air of mystery and paranoia. These are not for every DM, though, and I think we can go a bit deeper.

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Monsters & Madness: (Mechanics) From Beyond

Eladrin Nethermancer by Mark Winter

So far in this series, I’ve outlined the cosmology of the setting and how the various races fit into that picture. I’ve been concentrating on very definitive aspects of this game because the concept was so large: a merger of Dungeons & Dragons and H.P. Lovecraft, two giants in the fantasy genre. I think that I’ve cemented the relationship between the two well and I have a strong concept of how it all fits together, including writing up some location descriptions to place some of Lovecraft’s infamous locales into a multi-plane setting which can be explored and which feels coherent.

I won’t pretend that world-building and description aren’t my favorite part of roleplaying. I’ve been the DM in my gaming groups more often than not and my biggest struggle in this position is to reign myself back and keep from getting too complex. My NPCs have histories and inter-relationships so that any tug on the web of the plot causes vibrations through the whole thing. Luckily I have a group right now that loves that sort of thing. For this setting, though, I need to think about the mechanical side of things as well as the fluff. It’s not enough to paint big pictures of Great Old Ones and foul cities of dark ritual and human sacrifice. This needs to feel like a different setting as much as Dark Sun does.

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Monsters & Madness: City of the Great Race(s), part 2

H. P. is my Homeboy

Continuing from the last post, I’m working on integrating traditional D&D races into Monsters & Madness. I don’t want them to be unrecognizably weird and in fact I’d like to have everything that can be found in core Dungeons & Dragons available in this game in some form. There are still woodland villages of elves and deep dwarven fortresses, they are just filled with paranoia and shrines to black gods. You know, small changes.

Continuing on with the other factions I need to take a step back and think about the differences between the Outer Gods and Dreamlords and the Great Old Ones and Primal Elders. Each faction is distinctly different, as I explained a few weeks ago, but there is a slight divide between last post’s dark powers and this post’s. First of all, the Great Old Ones and Primal Elders have vested stakes and strong presences in the Mortal Realm while the Outer Gods and Dreamlords do not. Each of last post’s groups claim some territory in other planes but the Outer Gods and Dreamlords have all of their territory in the greater cosmology. This makes them a little more stand-offish and a little more alien. It’s one thing to have a god-king occupying your city and demanding inconceivably large amounts of tribute, but in some ways this is like a mortal king writ large. The Outer Gods are cosmic beings without distinct form who speak through whispers in dark corners of the planes and the Dreamlords are enigmatic beings at once trapped in and in complete of the Dreamlands where all sleeping minds go. There is no going down to their palace or scheduling an audience even if you would want to. As more distant, estranged masters the Outer Gods and Dreamlords need some more self-sufficient and strange servants. Let’s see what we can find them…

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Monsters & Madness: City of the Great Race(s), Part 1

Cthulhu Cultists

Last time I talked through my design process for setting the stage for Monsters & Madness, my Lovecraftian 4e setting. That entry talked a lot about what was new, the iconic parts of H. P. Lovecraft’s stories and familiar elements from Lovecraftian RPGs like Call of Cthulhu, and how to fit them into the framework and adventure design of Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. That’s all well and good, but what about the familiar parts of 4e itself? Like I said in my original post, I want to be able to bring anything from core D&D to Monsters & Madness with little effort as well as anything from the Cthulhu mythos.

One of the most central concerns is races. There are two main pillars of character creation in D&D (depending on whether or not you utilize the up-and-coming character themes), race and class. In the last post I tied power sources to different dark power factions which should help players establish where their profession lies in the tangled cosmology of a pseudo-Lovecraftian setting. Races can also be established within this cosmology as well, but it’s going to require a facelift for all the races to make them disturbing enough to fit in. I’ll start with all the Player’s Handbook raecs and those from campaign setting sourcebooks. Let’s see just how horrible we can make them…

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First Details from Elemental Hero’s Handbook

Lovers of Avatar: The Last Airbender rejoice! The first description for The Elemental Hero’s Handbook has crept up online, at Borders.com. Here’s what we’ve learned:

Masters of fire and earth. Lords of air and water. This tome is the definitive sourcebook for creating and playing characters with ties to the Elemental Chaos and the primordial beings that dwell there. It shows how the elements can influence heroes of the natural world and presents elemental-themed character options for players.

In addition to discussing elemental power and presenting new character themes with strong story hooks, this book includes three new class builds–the elementalist, the sha’ir, and the shugenja–and new feats and paragon paths designed to tie existing characters more closely to the Elemental Chaos.

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Adventure Review: Scarred for Life

WANTED: For all manner of low-down mischief. Inquire within.

I’m not usually one to run published adventures. Or rather, I am, but I usually can’t help but tweak and edit the damn thing until it’s unrecognizable. Add new encounters here, clean up the stat blocks there, change some lizardfolk into orcs, swap the setting for my home game, and bump the level up a few notches. So, when I find an adventure that looks like it would be fun to run practically as-is, I get excited.

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Monsters & Madness: What the Moon Brings

O R'lyeh

In my original post I discussed a need to strike a balance between enmity and outright hatred. It’s alright to be at odds with another faction but I don’t want to have one group of PCs at another’s throats. I recognize this isn’t quite like the works of H. P. Lovecraft and his fellow writers, which normally focus on one or a group of ordinary people encountering something horrible and recoiling from it. Definite good guys and definite bad guys, just like D&D.

On the other hand, there’s always the secret sorcerer who hides his nature from the investigator at first or the rival cults of Cthulhu and Hastur who are at each others’ throats. There’s precedence, in other words, for the sort of campaign I’m envisioning in Lovecraftian works but there’s not necessarily a reason to stop there.

In this article, I want to flesh out the power structure in the game since that informs party balance and allegiances among the PCs. Ideally I’d like to have a party which is united not because of mutual trust and admiration, as in your average Dungeons & Dragons campaign, but by the lesser of evils when facing the truly horrific enemies that the DM sets in front of them. First, let’s figure out what we’re working with and then some idea of how to proceed might be clear.

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Games From Scratch: Monsters & Madness

Cthulhu by Eike Braselmann

A few weeks ago, Patrick started posting his efforts at creating a StarCraft RPG using Gamma World rules. His posts were great and I, as one of the new playtesters of his system, have definitely appreciated the rewards. It got me thinking, though, about what I’d like to do with a D&D or Gamma World hack. The answer came a few weeks after his posts began while I was listening to a podcast from Yog-Sothoth.com recorded at an ongoing Call of Cthulhu campaign. Listening to the chaotic fun as one of the characters succumbed to madness and proceded to plot against the others and run off with their travel bag of cash, I realized how fun this would be if they had broadswords and fireball spells.

This idle thought quickly took hold and the idea of what I like to call Monsters & Madness took hold. In this version of D&D, things are not always what they seem, the gods are cruel and exacting, and betrayal lurks in every eye, even those of your fellow PCs. This game will start with the Cthulhu mythos and end up in the Points of Light campaign of Dungeons & Dragons 4e. In this game, villages and cities are bastions of safety from marauding monsters and dangerous lands, but the people keeping the monsters out are cultists devoted to evil gods who might kill you anyways if you are not careful. Needless to say, I’m really psyched.

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