Back to basics? Monday, May 30 2011 

As I write this I am running my hot water in a locked bathroom to make a faux sauna. I am less than twelve hours from weighing in. Not for a fight or a wrestling match but for a weight loss contest at work. During the last twenty weeks I’ve lost twenty pounds and could stand to lose probably twenty more. I feel really good about my weight loss this period. All I did was add in daily exercise and making healthier choices with my food and beverage choices. As of last weigh in I had a 1.2 % advantage over my closest competition.

Why am I trying to cut weight like a fighter because of weigh ins? I guess it’s the competitive animal in me. I want to know that if I lose it’s because I got beat, not because I left any “weight” on the table so to speak. This attitude served me well while playing sports and all manner of competitive games.

This conversation was helped spawned by the 4e at will chat from Friday night.
What do I mean with back to basics? I recently started looking at Pathfinder and 3.x and remembered all the cool combat maneuvers we use to have. Now in 4e all we have is at wills and a melee basic attack mainly used for opportunity actions. Which we rarely see use of nowadays or at least in my campaign and various sessions of Encounters.  With the essentials release we see martial characters stripped of combat options now. All they can do is swing a sword with no cool additional effects. The encounter and daily powers represented a cool martial maneuver. Now I know wizards is going to say you can still sunder, disarms, trip as given by the discretion of the DM. Well how about you just give us rules for these options and make it simple for everyone

What if initially we did not get at-wills and were left with encounters, dailies, utilities. And not only melee basic attacks but the old combat manuevers much like pathfinder? I am sure every little mage fan boy just cried a little. Let everyone perform the maneuvers and such and if you want to have a better disarm take feats to allow such a thing. Or just leave the at wills as is and give actual possibility to manuevers for all.

I do understand the streamlined design of 4e and I do like it. Maybe giving back some complexity to the game will help with the audience you lost and are losing with the new direction. A little faith should be put into your customers in how smart they can be. There is no reason not to give out “advanced” options for us players who want it. Games use to have the simple rules and then added in advanced features to enhance it. No reason not to do the same thing here.

I have about five minutes left in this sauna so I will give a short review of The Hangover 2. The short answer is if you liked the first then you will like the second. And if you hated the first then ignore this because it’s more of the same. It will throw in your typical Thailand and Bangkok jokes so be prepared. Leave your brain at home and have a good time

Vampire theme & Assault Tuesday, May 24 2011 

I was planning on writing yesterday but putting my arm in a sling does not help one type. My goal was to give a first shot at a vampire theme for 4e. Then I began reading the uproar about lair assault. Seeing this reminded me about uproars in the miniature world and so I figured I would drop my two cents.

Let’s start with a fun subject first. I think just about anyone who saw heroes of shadow was a little disappointed with the shade and vampire. Sure the class is okay but for those of us who played WoD or even any other edition of D&D it seemed more Twilight then Stoker. The designers have said they built things like they did for layers of creation. So when we got what we got I wondered immediately why not use themes? I understand they did not want to let the newbie come straight in and play vampire without needing extra knowledge of the game. Which is understandable to try to hit the niche vampire r KeWl crowd. Hooray for Wotc, now how about a bone for your advanced players?

I’m not really going too far with my creation of this as I think they got the basics right. This will probably need to be playtested to make the best result.

Vampire template:

The bad

Lose half your surges. Patterning this after the only 2 surges the regular vampire has.

Gain Vulnerability to Radiant 5

If you end your turn in direct sunlight and lack a protective covering  you take 5 radiant damage (plus additional damage from your radiant vulnerability) from the sunlight, and you are weakened (save ends). If you drop below 1 hit point from this damage, you are instantly destroyed.
 

Gain

You are an undead creature.  No need to eat, breathe, sleep.  But still must rest to gain healing surges, dailies, etc.
You have darkvision.
When you are bloodied gain regeneration at your highest stat attribute.  (Going back to the different types of vampires.  This probably should be based on Charisma aka Willpower)

I do not know how to do make the cool encounter power stuff and I am sure someone can tell me how to do it very easily.  So bear with this.

Vampire Bite : Melee 1  Hit: Attribute vs AC if you have someone grabbed you autohit.  Dmg: 1d4 + gain a surge

This allows the whole stealing from party members to heal up to full.

Also, if you have more surges then your max lose surges and go to full hit points.

Utility powers: Just follow the progression from the vampire class

Next time I will tackle the shade. He is dear to my heart and I was disappointed with what I got from Heroes of Shadow. So, instead of complaining I will do something proactive and build my own version.

Now on to this whole lair assault thing that has people all in an uproar. It’s honestly just the flip side to the Encounters program. It’s there for people who want something a bit more then the whole level one to three intro adventure. Basically they want to give some of the challenges they have done at conventions and give them to the LGS’s to run and drive some sales and give extra exposure to the game. Not a thing wrong with that and it might be fun for a change of pace.  I know our own LGS has dropped the whole essentials only for Encounters because those of us who prefer martial characters think just swinging a sword is boring :).
If you don’t like it the idea then ignore it and do not play in it. Very simple don’t be negative especially when you have not even tried it. The program was not made for people like you. This is like how in miniatures such as Warmachine/Hordes you had tournaments and leagues. The leagues are balanced for people who want to try new things and can play tons of games. They are not for the hardcore tournament guys. Were tournaments are there for the players who get tactics and know there way around the game. Two programs that outreach to two totally different consumers of the said game. If one hobby can do it why can not another do the same thing without all the teeth gnashing?

I get that tactics appeal to some people and not all.  Why I personally come from a miniatures war gaming background as well as card game professional I also like the role playing side as well.   I’ve also played at conventions from 1e up to 3e and guess what there was no role play for the most part.  Why, oh because of a TIME CONSTRAINT!  If you want to roleplay do not go to Encounters, Lair Assault, or Living Forgotten Realms, or the new Pathfinder program.  Why because time will stop that from happening.  Do not get me wrong and think I do not role play at all.  My home groups will tell you sometimes I get carried away with it.  And one DM who will remain nameless gives me looks to keep me line with my bard.

So in the end play what you like and have fun!

It’s been a while Sunday, May 22 2011 

Like the title said it has been a long time since I have posted anything to this blog.  The real world has  back  over much of my life.  Fortunately the big project at work has been taken care of and now I can get back to other things that I enjoy more.  After  losing both my main machine and backup I lost a lot of work.  However, the only way to get back to it is just that start writing again.  So, this is my initial run of starting my writing back up.

My personal game has reached its one year anniversary.  I’m pretty happy with how its all turned out.  We will be approaching paragon tier very soon.  A couple of players have figured out their paths so that is going to help with the path of the campaign.  The next place I believe they will go is the Underdark or to the Shadowfell which I am fortunate Gloomwrought came out.

I finished up running the Encounters season of March of the Phantom Brigade.  It went really well for the most part.  I unfortunately had 4 TPKs for the season, which no other DM has done on now at the store.  The players seemed to be okay with that has they began to use better tactics throughout.   I will say that running 8 players in 4e just sucks as a DM.  It might be just as bad a player with that much time between turns.   Plus its hard to scale the encounter on the fly just right sometimes especially with all the insubstantial running around.

We got tired of the essentials characters so we will be playing anything goes for Evard’s.  The first couple of weeks have been interesting.  Hopefully they will continue this path and we will not see the frustration we saw with the insubstantial last season.  This has given me an opportunity to play around with the themes that WOTC has released recently.   So far I’ve only tried the Order of the adept for the extra aoe.  I’ll definitly will try more over the time.  I’m not so sure of the long term additions themes will bring and may not know for a while. 

 Upcoming posts will  give my theme for vampire and shade which is what I think all of us wanted to see.    

You may follow me at Saintdave22 on twitter.

Random Musings on a day off Monday, Feb 21 2011 

My wife is at the dentist and I’ve done my morning routine of knee exercises so I have time to put into the blog.  The problem is what to write about?  So, instead of having a topic I decided just to throw things that were coming to mind.

First, Dragon Age 2 will give us a demo tomorrow, 2-22.  This should give us a little bit of satisfaction while we starve for the real thing that comes out in March.  After playing the first rather recently I’m very excited to continue my time in the Dragon Age universe.

Second, I came across the new trailer for Game of Thrones on HBO, found here .  This looks to be coming along well.  Now if Martin would get off his duff and finish the books and not pull a Jordan on us.  I’m very excited to see the world come to life on-screen.  I wonder if Vegas has a prop bet on him finishing his book before he dies or not.

Finally, I’m looking forward to the Conquest of Nerath Boardgame.  This is supposed to played much like Risk from the information we have.  I would like to know more about it before I preorder it.  I mean $50 for a board game is nice chunk of change and would like to see a little bit more of the pieces or gameplay before plunking it down.  However, if I wait the preorder price goes up to $75 which might be hard pill to swallow if its not a good game.  So if anyone runs across something about it please toss it my way.

I have encounters to run in a few days and feel that I might be killing my players this week.  TPK because people refuse to use tactics are justified in this setting.  I’m not fudging dice rolls to make people feel good.  If these people want to do the extreme hard-core delves they need to learn now what to do because I’m pretty sure these will be WAY harder.

Encounters and Home games Thursday, Feb 17 2011 

I have been running encounters for the March of the Phantom brigade.  The first session we had 8 players and unfortunately we had no way to get a second table going.  So, off we go with 7 stirges and 8 pcs.  Unfortunately for the pcs they could not hit a thing.  The stirges dropped each of the pc’s at least once and in case of the warlock three separate times.

Week two we actually got to split up the groups a bit.  The goblins I used went to town on pc’s who charged out of place and let themselves get surrounded.  2 pc deaths and almost TPK if the wizard had not critted on his daily fire fountain spell.  Heroic moment there you go!  Now, I did have all the least experienced players at my table.  Including the duo that played defenders who ran away from the dragon and refused to take a hit that killed a cleric. 

I’m sort of torn on what to do here.  Now, do I keep up the tough love and as they continuously play poorly?  Or do I baby them and have the monsters do stupid things instead of playing them correctly?  I think not killing them is doing a disservice as they have had one full season to learn the game and still doing the same things.

The other front I’ve been invited to a home game.  I’ve decided to go outside my comfort zone of rogues and wizards and try a defender.   I’m not totally sure what to play here.  I’m drawn to the paladin as it is a polar opposite of the rogue this group knows me for.  Unfortunately I am not able to find something I want to try.  Maybe I should wait and see how the rest of the party shakes out before I try and pigeonhole the type of paladin.  I’m drawn to sword and board but unsure if that’s the best to go with.

Things to do Monday, Jan 31 2011 

I know most people do resolutions and such at the start of a year.  I’ve finally been able to sit down and think what I want/need to do this year.  Of course the wife and friends will always add and subtract from things we need to do.  I’m sure many of your lists will reflect mine or maybe you will have an idea for me or something will jog for you to try.

  1.  Write more
  2.  Run D&D 4e with my friends and keep it fun
  3.  Take my turn as DM of Essentials
  4.  Lose weight
  5.  Sell off miniatures and games not using
  6. Attend a gaming convention
  7. Read more

These are mainly simple goals but with the hustle and bustle of life sometimes we forget things we wanted to do and just lose sight.  One reason gym memberships swell in January and their use declines significantly by March.  I’ve already started writing more as I need to write if I ever want to finish the book I started writing.  Now I have no delusions that it will make me a best selling author but I just want to finish it.  Sort of like training for a marathon and running it. 

I will be running March of the Phantom Brigade at my local store for next season.  I know I DM at home but the other players who could run it have run the past two seasons.  Yes, I lose my chance to stretch out and play but its only fair to take my turn behind the screen.  Next season we might be able to get a new player behind the screen.

Talk about it (Encounters and other things) Thursday, Jan 20 2011 

The second session of the last week Encounter played out last night.  It went almost flawlessly with minimum damage to us and very quick.  We were in and out in under an hour with our party of a mage, a slayer, a hexblade, paladin, and my warpriest (change over from rogue to help out).  Honestly, our mage used their blasts effectively and the catapult finished the house.  This was a great for our table over the last few weeks where the paladin and slayer were refusing to get into melee and causing the team to have several problems.  I really like this last section of Keep of the Borderlands and may take some of the “encounters” and incorporate into my personal game.

Looking at some of the items from WOTC it looks like next seasons Encounters a player starts at level 1 no matter what week they come in.  I understand their thought on this but this could cause some problems with people seeing all these higher level folks and being forced into a level 1 guy.  I know they want to make it easier on new players but lets give them a little credit and the people around to help them figure it out.  I do like that experience will actually be tracked this season but I preferred the free level up.

In September they are also offering a “tournament” level Encounters programs for the hardcore.  I like this but think it might put off the casual player.  Of course its not for them and its okay but I can tell you how many times I’ve heard Friday Night Magic horror stories about over competitive players.  One thing that would be nice is if WOTC put these “hard core” encounters available to everyone so we can take a crack at it by our home players who might have to work on those Encounter days.  I just do not want to see people frustrated that they get steam rolled in the hard core adventure.

As far as on the pop culture scene it looks like we got our villain and actors for the next Batman movie.  I’m happy with Hathaway as Selina Kyle and know she will do fine.  I keep hearing to watch HAVOC for an excellent performance by her.  Now, I just finished Bronson that features Tom Hardy who will be playing Bane.  Bane is one of my favorite villains in the Dark Knights rogues gallery and I remember getting sucked back into the  comic world during the “BREAKING OF THE BAT”.  Now, Hardy can act but I just pictured someone bigger as Bane.  Brock Lesnar is about the right size or even Cain Velasquez would even fill the latin requirement.

For those who read this drop me an idea for some topics you would like to see and I’ll get on it.

Everything old is new again Saturday, Jan 15 2011 

I hae seen many people discussing the different announcements by WOTC on their D&D property.  Maybe it is Hasbro not understanding the RPG model and trying to get the same ROI that MTG has brought them.  When WOTC originally bought D&D we heard all the doom and gloom about how they would ruin it.  We got D&D 3.e and it was in my opinion a good edition.  When 4e came out we heard how everything was going to ruin the game.  And with the announcements of killing the miniature line and the addition of the D&D randomized booster pack cards wil ruin the game.

Honestly the only thing that can ruin your game is yourself or the group your in.  A good GM can make a break a campaign.  A good group that works together will overcome the shortcomings.  Look at all the OD&D groups.  How many people stayed with 3.5?  Pathfinder took hold because it saw the hole left with 3.5 to 4e and fixed them. 

When the Chainmail line came out in early 2002(?) many of us took it up as our side game from 40k and WHFB.  Unfortunately they gave it about a year to take hold and swapped to the plastics.  This made some people happy and some of us not so much.  We enjoyed D&D miniatures that showed classed we were playing in a metal form that we could paint.  The prepainted items that came up just were not for us.  Now D&D minis is gone for good minus the special sets.  I am sure players will find a new outlet for miniatures.  Sure tokens are alright but I think most of us like seeing 3d monster on the grid.

Now we have these cards that being added to the game.  I doubt my players will pick them up and use.  In Encounters they are your “rent” for playing in the game.  I do not think its a bad idea for LGS to make money off this service.  I know some of the players at the LGS I play at buy their stuff off the internet and do not support the store.  8 cards for $4 is a bit steep though.  The pricepoint should be less since last I remember MTG is 15 cards for 4?  Maybe the cards are of a higher quality?  But I doubt that.  I hope that they have some negatives to them as well but since they are more buff cards I doubt it.  Makes the DM have a monster deck to help even odds out.  So, the best thing is to have your home group talk it out and decide if cards are good for you or to spend on something else.

Now those who play in the RPGA living realms and complain that you have to buy several cards to build correct decks to compete with the power level increase that may happen.  I feel bad for you.  But since there is no roleplay and most of the encounters can only be overcome via combat in those games your probably have to make some investment.  Well your their target for this.  Just talk it out amongs your group to figure things out.  Maybe invest in a box with several people and get cards that work for your build.  Or do not use them at all.

User error Thursday, Sep 9 2010 

I think  with technology as it is today everyone has fallen prey to this. everything to remotes not working because dead batteries to screen savers not coming on because you turn your monitor off before they come on in power settings. We see this in gaming as well. Some of it just happens and some of it is blatant.

The idea is to always play perfectly and make no mistakes. If you can go back and say I made all the correct decisions with the information I had then you can not fault yourself for losing. Playing perfectly means you doing all the right things even those that hinder you when you play. For instance remembering to take damage when you cut for fury, tap a painland, retrieve an encounter power via a feat. No one is perfect and errors will occur but with two or more people there to police inadvertent actions can be caught.

I’ve seen the rising of “simple mistakes” in competitive play recently. Now I do not know if it’s the rise of new players or people trying to play the system. I have seen cases of both recently. The best defense for this is not to allow any take backs in competitive play, no exceptions. I watched a player try this ploy in a tournament recently. They “forgot” to place focus during convenient times. After watching this happen in two different rounds I got wise to the situation. In my game my opponent did not allocate focus on the third turn after being perfect for two turns. I said no after he started moving his second jack to allowing him to add focus. Lots of whining from my opponent about how unfair it was and it ruined his game.  The easy answer is do not ask or give takebacks.

Footbal season is starting today and I’m sure makes lots of guys happy and wives miserable.  I’m just glad its back!

Labor day and D&D Thursday, Sep 2 2010 

I’m taking a nice four day weekend this week for many reasons. The main being it’s time for a nice break from work, get random errands done that are hard to do during the week, and to relax a little. I’ve been teasing third book of the fire and ice series and loving it. So I can take my car to get a checkup and read a book

Encounters this week was fun but very frustrating to me. We had two new guys which is great but lost two of other guys to school. I was lit up by chain immobilized by the gith. Not a pleasant place for a marauding ranger. Also unfortunately burned through all my surges because the new guys did not want to waste encounter powers. It’s fine they are new and it happens. The good news is I did take over 50 damage and revived a dying ally (thank you curious knack). So I am assured to make the magical sixty mark but will be pretty useless the next two encounters with thirteen hit points and no surges. This should pose an interesting challenge

Okay just found out that the immobilization was an encounter power and the dm made a mistake throwing it every round. Well that bites a bit but what can you do ? Everyone makes mistakes I know I have as the game master. Maybe I’ll catch some luck next week.  Heck I use to have affect wrong in 4e for while and unless it hit.  Something I learned from playing encounters actually.

A player of mine bought some gaming paper for me and I plan to bust some of it out this weekend. There are a couple of encounters that wizards did not supply maps for. So let’s use my present right? Everyone has raved about it so it should be excellent for what I need. I bet there is way to print up my own single sheets at home. That would probably work better for the places I am using this week.

Writing this blog has given me the itch to go back to the book I am working on. I need to read it and fix the obvious errors and hopefully get back to the flow. I feel this blog has given me an outlet to get unblocked.

I did a little jaunt on a podcast so those of you wanting to hear my voice take a listen.  I will also plug their podcast which is listed on the side of my blog, ZERO FORTITUDE.  Here is a link and go ahead and give me pointers about my wirting or my radio skills.

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