D&D tagged posts

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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PAX East for D&D Players: What Should I Play?

Last week, we posted about Wizards of the Coast schedule for D&D events at PAX East. Aside from gaming sessions there are also a few panels that might interest players from veteran to novice. If this is your first time at PAX, here’s a little more of a breakdown about what to expect at the various events so you can have the best experience possible.

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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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Vancian Magic: Love it or Hate it?

Elminster by Clyde Caldwell

Monte Cook hase revealed that Dungeons &Dragons (D&D) Next would feature Vancian magic, at least in some form. Before we get to our thoughts, here’s a little history on the subject.

The rules for spellcasting in D&D, prior to 4th Edition, said that after a wizard casts a spell, it is erased from his mind and he must wait until the next day to cast it again. This concept comes from the Dying Earth series by  Jack Vance, fantasy author and anagrammed namesake for Vecna the Arch-Lich of the Tomb of Horrors. In these books, as in D&D, a wizard’s brain can only hold so many of the arcane formulas that control magic. Each day, you memorize a limited number of these spells and then forget each one as soon as you’ve cast it.

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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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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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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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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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