Friday, January 9, 2015

40K Friday: Eldar Update - Guardians, Fast Attack, Heavy Support

Ah, 2nd Edition's subtle packaging
With the arrival of the Wraithknight and a new Wraithlord I had some serious thinking to do. Once again I found myself questioning whether to continue my old never-fully-completed Eldar paint scheme or go with a traditional Iyanden paint job, splitting my Eldar forces into multiple armies. I've agonized over this before here and here and I need to get to a final decision before any more paint hit the models. I thought about it more, re-examined what I had and what I wanted to do with it and decided to keep the old aqua and pink scheme for the new stuff too. Part of it is to give me options for guardians, warlocks, and jetbikes that I already have, but most of it is to keep my guys clearly "my" guys and the off-the-shelf paint scheme just is not as interesting to me. I may pick up some Iyanden-painted units down the road as a shared ally force for me and Apprentice Blaster, but it's not a high priority.

Besides all the wraith stuff outlined last time I also figured out that I have roughly 20 guardians so with some renewed painting efforts I should have the option to field the guardians as 10 + 10 with support weapons in each, or 20 with support weapons. I don't have to use them - I still like my "Non-Guardians" army idea - but I do at least have the option if I need to make an Eldar gunline for some reason.

Fast Attack is an area I am lacking and one that would help with my currently all-footdar army.

  • I sorted through things and figured out I have 5 jetbikes - how did I miss that? So I picked up a 6th jetbike (that's him up at the top) to give me the 3+3 or 6 in one option to compliment the ghost warriors. 
  • I also have a pair of Vypers and although they are not highly regarded I am thinking about picking up a 3rd to make the full set since they are 3 to a slot. That makes me more jet-ish than Apprentice Blaster's Saim-Hann force. Now to decide how to arm them ... 
  • I want options here so I found some inexpensive Swooping Hawks too. I expect they will see quite a bit of use.
For Heavy Support I now have the wraithknight, some wraithlords, two dark reaper squads, and the Iyanden Falcon (there's a good ship name). Long term a a second wraithknight is probably in the cards but not right now - I want to play this army some first. I'd like to add a Fire Prism too at some point but that's another long-term goal. For now I just need to paint them up. I have the wraithseer kit for one of the wraithlords so I will probably use that one as my warlord under the Iyanden army rules. So for now Heavies will be Wraithknight + Wraithlord and either a second Wraithlord or a squad of Reapers.

Now this is not an optimized force for the current online meta of 40K, but as they say "you go to war with the army you have". I'm going to get these guys built and painted and add a few more things I consider critical. Top of the list is a couple of additional wraithguard squads and a couple of wave serpents for them to ride in. That will liven things up considerably. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wrath of the Righteous - Session 3: Duels in the Dark

We begin at the entrance to the village of Neathholm, deep beneath the city of Kenabres, on the border of the Worldwound. Our heroes (all 1st level) are:
  • Relyn Steelguard, young Paladin of Iomedae, (longsword and shield)
  • Graidin Cratchet, aspiring Wizard (hand of the apprentice staff-tossing)
  • Arken, newly minted Cavalier of the Order of the Lion, in service to Queen Galfrey of Mendev (longsword and shield)
  • Jaren, Dragon Sorcerer (claws)
  • The Cleric with No Name of Erastil (spell and bow)
(Red was busy so Jaren peels off in the village and doesn't take an active role in this session but we added a new character, a cleric of Erastil, played by one of my longtime players, Dave.)

Lann leads the party past the guards to meet Chief Sull, leader of the mongrelmen village. A nice bit of roleplaying follows where the party actually treats an NPC with some respect - that's a relatively rare event here. The conversation covers a little history, a little current events, speculation on the reason for the cave-ins and the demon attack, and some personal details. The chief is impressed enough to offer the aid of the mongrelmen in the defense or retaking of the city. They are descendants of the first crusaders and they feel that they have a duty to assist. This should be good news if the group can ever get back to the surface.

Then the conversation turns to what lies between the party and their return. The nearest path to the surface is blocked by a tribe of hostile mongrelmen who have turned to evil and who have been consorting with demon cultists. Things go well enough in the discussion that the chief offers the party some healing potions and his trusty enchanted morning star from his fighting days to help the heroes clear a path through the fallen mongrels. While the party clears out the miscreants, his warriors will spread the word to the other tribes so they will be ready when the call comes. At the end of the discussion everyone shakes hands and retires to prepare for the next day.

Rested up, the party moves out, intending to wipe out the pocket of evil that lies ahead and finally -finally! - return to Kenabres. Deciding for once to scout ahead carefully, the wizard drinks an invisibility potion, moves up and casts Sleep on the two-man guard station that he has discovered. One guard drops but the other resists. Graiden is out of ideas and so calls for help and the Paladin charges in, hurdling the barricade and striking out at the remaining guard. The Cavalier is right behind him and manages to finish the mongrelman off.

The rest of the group (including NPC's Anevia the gimpy, Aravshnial the blinded, and Horgus the unpleasant) shuffles forward and while debating how to proceed Relyn the Paladin detects evil through the door, senses it, and kicks it in.

This is some kind of common room and while there is a fire pit and some bedrolls there are only two unfortunate mongrel-traitors in the room and they are clearly overmatched but they open a door and let in a large pinkish cave lizard that makes things interesting. Soon enough all 3 are down (with the help of a summoned Celestial Wolf). There are several doors in the room and the party decides to check the one to the north.

This time the Cavalier charges in but it quickly becomes apparent that the opposition knows what they are doing this time. The inhabitants of the room are a pair of armored humans, a male and a female, wielding glaives and using some actual tactics. The girl maneuvers Arken away from the door while the male steps in and blocks the doorway behind him, holding off the rest of the team. A vicious two-part battle takes shape as Arken attempts to duel his opponent (who is clearly a little better than he is) while the Paladin and Cleric attempt to fight their way in to aid him. Graiden manages to summon a Dire Rat into the room but it does little to change the circumstances of the fight.

Finally, Arken tires and the female bashes him with the butt of her glaive, dropping him to the floor. Before she can do him any further harm though, her companion goes down with a gurgling cry as  the Cleric cuts him down and the Paladin rushes in, shoving her away from Arken's unconscious form. Already battered form her duel with the Cavalier, she is in no shape to fight fresh opponents and is quickly slain.

The rest of the party moves in and checks out the room (some kind of trophy room decorated in dead animals) and get Arken back on his feet - he is more than ready to continue their crusade.

DM Notes:

 I said it before:
The NPC's the party is saddled with at the beginning are a mixed bag. It's good to have living, breathing setting hooks right there in the adventure and it's very disaster-movie-esque having a random group of strangers thrown together after a catastrophe but it's cumbersome for me as a DM to have three extra party members to manage regardless of their impairments. If this was happening later in the campaign it might be less of an issue but having it right at the beginning with higher level NPC's running alongside 1st level characters it's an odd mix of baggage and advantage and just more stuff in general to keep up with. I think one character would have been enough to convey the info with less overhead but we are past that now. For the moment they are sort of "pokeball" NPC's - they stay back out of combat until it's over then come in and impart useful information if they have anything relevant to the current area. 
...and my feelings haven't really changed. It's still not how I would handle it but I'm going with the flow.

There were really two main parts to this session:

First, the interactions at the village, mainly with the chief. This was fun and while it didn't take a whole lot of actual time it felt "right", like the kind of thing a band of good-aligned adventurers on a quest would do. I am amazed at how easily my players fall into the flow of this adventure - that's been a very iffy thing with published adventures I have run in the past but this one seems to be right on their wavelength and it's working really well.

Second was the invasion of the evil mongrelman outpost. They blew through the first 4-5 rooms in the place and once again the contrast in speed of combat with 4E is pretty strong. I like my 4E but there is no question that we are getting more done in a session with this game than with that one. 

They had been having a fairly easy time of it but the last fight with the two cultists was more challenging. I played them with a little more tactical finesse because a) they are classed opponents with two levels, trained fighters as opposed to mutant-man grunts and b) the noise of the previous fight certainly gave them a warning and time to prepare. So they did.

This was not a really long session but it was a lot of fun and got us that much closer to seeing daylight again. Hopefully the next session will get us across that particular goal line and set up the rest of "The Worldwound Incursion".

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wrath of the Righteous - Session 2: The Dwarf in the Dark

We begin in a long-lost shrine of Torag, deep beneath the city of Kenabres, on the border of the Worldwound. Our heroes (all 1st level) are:
  • Relyn Steelguard, young Paladin of Iomedae, (longsword and shield)
  • Graidin Cratchet, aspiring Wizard (hand of the apprentice staff-tossing)
  • Arken, newly minted Cavalier of the Order of the Lion, in service to Queen Galfrey of Mendev (longsword and shield)
  • Jaren, Dragon Sorcerer (claws)
After cleansing the shrine the party is fully healed and feeling ready to continue their climb to the surface. They spend some time talking to the other party members and learn a little bit more about them. 
  • Aravashnial seems to have come to grips with his blindness and has warmed up to the party as well. he offers to use his magic as best he can given his current state. 
  • Anevia too is more talkative and is now armed with a bow so she can aid in battle even if her leg keeps her from charging in.  
  • Horgus Gwerm is still scowling about the whole situation and is only interested in getting to the surface as quickly as possible. He does not appear to have any skill in combat or with magic and is depending on the party to get him out, which seems to chafe him even more.
After moving ahead for a time they come to a sizable cavern. Within, the heroes notice the walls are carved with depictions of armored figures dating back to the first crusade. Then they are ambushed by a a pair of flying tentacle monsters. Jaren is engulfed and drops after a brief struggle while Relyn and Arken attempt to cut the things apart. Graidin uses some minor magics and also finds his staff quite useful. In short order the beasties are slashed to ribbons and the group takes 5 to revive the beaten spellcaster.

The only way out leads to an adjacent cave, also large, where the glowing remains of a campfire can be seen. from the entrance. What is not seen is the levitating dwarf who opens up with a color spray as the team enters the cavern which floors most of the party. Arken remains conscious and charges in, using his dragon scale (see below) to levitate up and engage the dwarf. Anevia fires a few bow shots from the entrance but has a hard time connecting. In desperation, Aravashnial summons a celestial dire bat and sics it on the dwarf as well. Even though he is levitatedblurred, and mage armored, Millorn the insane dwarf wizard is not going to last long against that kind of firepower (longsword CHOP! celestial dire bat SMITE!) and he soon falls to the ground, extremely dead. After reviving the rest of the party and searching the camp (spellbook!) they press on.

Leaving the dwarf-cave the passage begins climbing - finally! Time and distance pass and the group eventually comes to another cave with what appears to be a collapsed tower in the middle. Near it, two humanoids are pulling a third from the rubble. Somewhat to my surprise the party approaches cautiously and tries to communicate with them! After a quick conversation in broken common the fighters are helping to pull a battered humanoid from the wreckage and making some new friends. 

The beings are tough to look at, being a mix of various creature types. The leader, introducing himself as "Lann" appears to be a mix of elf, goat, and lizard and the other two are equally exotic. As they bandage up Crel (the injured humanoid) the mongrel people share that they have a village nearby. The new ruin was a watchtower located here because one of the passages leads to their village. It collapsed in the earthquake and they are concerned that their village may have suffered also and they wish to return to it as soon as possible. If the party wants to travel with them they would appreciate the help and would happily share food. Our heroes agree to this plan.

Moving out with their new friends the party makes good time. As they approach the village though a new problem arises: the tremors have split the passage ahead with a chasm. The mongrel-people know this is the most direct route home and are desperate to find a way across. Undaunted, our heroes work out a solution involving crossbows, a lot of rope, and the magical levitation scale that works for everyone, even the injured members of the party. Taking their time, everyone is moved safely across and then the group makes their final approach to the village.

(In Session 1 the party found some silver scales, fallen from the silver dragon who was slain during the attack on the city. Each of them has some minor magical effect. One of them is "levitate", which came in handy during this part of the adventure.) 

Lines of the session: 
"Perception? Ok - nat 20! ... So that's a 21 total"

(A few minutes later)

"Diplomacy? OK - nat 20! ... So that's a 19 total"

DM Notes: 

The NPC's the party is saddled with at the beginning are a mixed bag. It's good to have living, breathing setting hooks right there in the adventure and it's very disaster-movie-esque having a random group of strangers thrown together after a catastrophe but it's cumbersome for me as a DM to have three extra party members to manage regardless of their impairments. If this was happening later in the campaign it might be less of an issue but having it right at the beginning with higher level NPC's running alongside 1st level characters it's an odd mix of baggage and advantage and just more stuff in general to keep up with. I think one character would have been enough to convey the info with less overhead but we are past that now. For the moment they are sort of "pokeball" NPC's - they stay back out of combat until it's over then come in and impart useful information if they have anything relevant to the current area. 

The darkmantle fight was fun. I haven't really seen them in 4E but they were an early "signature" monster of 3E so it's nice to see them again. Steve knew what they were but the boys had no idea and were worried about the flying octopus monsters, particularly after one took down the sorcerer. This fight gave us the opportunity to re-familiarize ourselves with the concentration rules and the dying rules so it was very educational.

Millorn - this was a fairly swingy fight. Color Spray is nasty but after that he doesn't have a lot of attack options other than that old wizard staple "light crossbow". This is one place where having the NPC's along did help as it gave the players with downed characters something to do. Firing into melee is still challenging but it's better than nothing. The NPC wizard is blinded which is pretty impairing but he is a summoner so many of his spells do not have a target. I ruled he could summon a creature right next to himself but not at range. The combination of "half of party down during the surprise round" and "target out of melee reach" caused them to hit the panic button and yell at Aravashnial to summon "the biggest thing he can" - which he did, which led to the inevitable harsh-voiced Batman impressions all around the table.

Mongrelmen - In any other universe they would be "mutants" but here they are "mongrelmen". I was glad to see these guys show up to as I have not seen them used in many adventures since their debut in "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" a long time ago. This is the perfect place for them and they make for fine low-level allies and enemies that are not overly familiar to the players. The adventure sort of assumes that eventually the party makes friends with the mongrelmen, either here or at the village though it is not strictly required. I was fairly sure we would have a "misunderstanding" here at first but I underestimated my players - they are playing knights after all! Chivalrous behavior came to the fore and made for a much better session than plowing through a few more monsters.

In 4E crossing the chasm would have been a skill challenge with relevant skills already determined. Here it was far more free-form and I let the players come up with their own solution. It was a solid one, with contingencies for failed climb checks and a lot of good work. I was very happy with the way this went. 

In fact, this was a really good session with a nice mix of combat, poking around, and interaction with NPC's. My players exceeded my expectations and we got a lot done. One of the "first time all over again" experiences I am having with Pathfinder is that combat moves quite quickly. This is the lowest level of the game but the point stands. It allows us to run through quite a bit "more" in each session and that's been really nice. We probably spent more time on crossing the chasm than we did on any single combat this session and I like that.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wrath of the Righteous - Session 1: Down in the Dark

Note: There are spoilers below. There are always spoilers in my summaries but since this is a new adventure series, not an old one or a homebrew I thought I ought to specifically mention this.

Heroes gather in the crusader city of Kenabres on the edge of the Worldwound. The annual festival of Armasse draws in scholars and warriors from all over the region. Among them are four of special note:
  • Relyn Steelguard, young Paladin of Iomedae
  • Graidin Cratchet, aspiring Wizard
  • Arken, newly minted Cavalier of the Order of the Lion, in service to Queen Galfrey of Mendev
  • No-Name, Dragon Sorcerer
After gathering in Clydwell Plaza at noon for the opening ceremonies for the festival the characters find themselves awakening in darkness, battered and covered in dust. Their memories gradually return as they begin to  collect themselves. As the festival was about to begin, there was an explosion, then a mighty flame and lightning wrapped Balor swooped in as the silver dragon Terendelev threw off her human shape and blasted out of the crowd to meet it. Things went badly from there, as more demons appeared, some of massive size, smashing buildings aside. As the crowd scattered, the dragon was taking the worst of it, but still managed to magically break our heroes fall as the square collapsed. While the darkness closed in, the last sight for the plummeting crusaders was the demon warlord hoisting the severed head of the dragon for all to see.

Now, awakened, battered, and worried about might be going on above them our heroes discover that most of the people around them are dead, though a few have survived. One, a female human scout has a broken leg. Another, an elven mage was blinded by a demonic slash. A third human male seems to be physically undamaged but has a rather unfriendly attitude and is anxious to find his way home. The group pokes around the rubble, splints her leg, finds her a crutch, and bandages the wizard's gashed eyes. They also decide to travel together to find a way back up to the city.

Exploring the caverns beneath the city is a slow business, and there are signs of the upheaval everywhere, but they do make progress. Though some vermin is dispatched and Relyn suffers a venemous snakebite, there is no sign of civilization until the party discovers a small shrine to Torag. The shrine turns out to have one "inhabitant" - the skeletal remains of its builder and priest who is now an undead creature! The foul thing is destroyed quickly and the party tries to set things right, even though none of them follow Torag. That night they dream about the shrine, and the life of the sole dwarf who chose the spot, built it, and worshipped in it alone for decades until despair and madness turned him from his path. The next day the heroes take their time restoring it to a proper state before moving on.

DM notes: This was the first part of "The Worldwound Incursion" and it kicks things off with an "en media res" style introduction. Knowing that 1st level PC's are not really up for a frontline role in a demon invasion, they get dropped into the mysterious caves beneath the city and have to find their way up into the  light again. It's not really a railroad as it happens before the game starts, and that makes the difference for me.

The NPC's in the adventure stayed mostly in the background as my players are old school and don't have a ton of use for them. They did arm the limping female with a bow so she could keep a lookout, and there was some conversation but their focus is on getting out, not making lifelong friends and I'm not going to force anything on them. I present what's there, the players act as they see fit.

This adventures does not have the usual kobolds or goblins as low level opponents. It starts out with mostly vermin type monsters and that's what they fought. Combat in PF goes quickly at low levels so I won't go into round by round details - no PC's or NPC's died. The poisonous snake gave us a chance to refresh on PF's poison rules but the Paladin survived without too much drama. Staying overnight in the shrine also let us review the healing rules - to some dismay. We'll just have to see how that holds up.

Production-wise I'm running this one with Hero Lab for character building  then Combat Manager for running the fights. As we started the first fight I realized that I didn't have a file for one PC as he had made his character in PC Gen. No problem - I whipped him up in HL in maybe 5 minutes and threw him right in too. It's a different kind of prep work but it's still less hassle than printing out my monster stats and notes. Also: No DM Screen, all open rolls. It didn't make a huge difference in this session but it might down the road.

Overall it was a good session, the players got along alright, and the mechanics were not a problem. We're all looking forward to the next session and there is a chance one more player joins in - who is already being pressured to bring in a cleric, for for it's thematic appropriateness and for the healing. Session 2 is this coming weekend so I'll post about it next week.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Wrath of the Righteous - Pre-Campaign Warmup

This is a little bit of a cheat as it's a re-post of an entry from September of 2013. I thought it made sense though - if I'm going to recap the whole campaign this month I might as well start at the beginning. As of today we've had 22 sessions of the campaign and I expect we will have one or two more this month. I write these up mainly for myself and my players, but I share them on the off chance someone else will get some entertainment or inspiration out of them. See the end of this post for my comments after running for more than a year.

In case it might help someone else here's what I've been doing to get ready for the WoR campaign.

Rules Stuff - it has to be addressed so I tackled it first:

  • Ability Scores: Pathfinder has several options for generating ability scores. As much as I like rolling the dice for this I thought we would try the new-school approach and make this another set of "interesting choices". I went with 20 points, which in PF terms is "High Fantasy". It gives good but not godlike scores, typically 16/15/13/12/10/8 or 17/14/12/12/10/8, slightly lower if someone wants to get rid of that 8, or more peaky if someone wants a full 18 before racial bonuses.
  • Races: Core Book, standard D&D races. There are a lot of options for swapping out racial abilities in the Advanced Players Guide and I would probably let someone take them if they were interested but it didn't come up.
  • Classes: Core Book + Advanced Players Guide. I included the APG mainly to bring in the Cavalier, which fits the theme of the adventure almost as well as the Paladin. I'm not a fan of all of the classes in this book, but I don't have to play any of them so it's not a real problem. When we get to the prestige class levels I'll probably add some more books to this list.
  • Traits: An optional Pathfinder thing that ties into one's background, I kept them optional. Most of them took at least one and a little more flavor doesn't hurt.
As far as the rules in general I don't have enough experience with these rules to feel the need to change anything yet. I'm not going to try and solve problems that haven't come up, so we're going as-is for now. The only potential wrinkle I can see is that non-magical healing is almost as slow as in 3E and I find the whole "we'll just spend another day resting up to heal" to be a real momentum-killer in the middle of a time-sensitive adventure and throwing extra random encounters at the party to get them moving again is risky at the low levels. I'm going to ride it out for now and try not to make assumptions based on the older edition's rough spots.


I am deliberately choosing to run this campaign using Hero Lab/PC Gen + Pathfinder Combat Manager instead of my usual on-paper approach. I've played around with it on some superhero games but not really used it for D&D. This changes some of the session prep work as most of the monster stats are already available, but I have to "build" the NPCs to use them. This is actually a positive as it means I am much more familiar with their capabilities after rebuilding them as it seems to stick better for me than just reading it off the page. It also means I can see what kind of shape my PC's are in during a fight and what resources they have expended too. So far I am enjoying it a lot.

Also, I'm not using a screen for this one. I always use a screen - except for ICONS - and have for years. This time it's rolling in the open, let the dice fall etc etc. I'm not big on fudging anyway, and with most of the monster stats on the laptop screen there's not much to conceal. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Prepping a Published  Adventure:

I read it once all the way through before doing anything else for the campaign This initial read-thru is really just to see what it's about - I read it about like I would read a book. Does it look like fun? Does it make sense? Is there any stupid sh*t  or things my players are going to hate in it?

Most of the things my players hate boil down to "forced railroading", stuff like the trap or fight that automatically knocks everyone out, etc. Most of the stupid sh*t boils down to a plot pivot or a writer being overly cute. I'm sure most of you know what I mean.

This adventure had no real problems. It begins with a somewhat forced situation and is fairly linear but then pretty quickly widens out into a sandbox set in a ruined city before focusing back down to a major confrontation with evil. I'm willing to accept a narrow beginning to kick off a new 1st level campaign and I like that it eases up soon after. The structure is good, the events taking place are interesting, and it does feel like there is a point to it all in my opinion.

A week later I read through the first half again from a "what are my players going to be doing" perspective. I look at how much plot and how much freedom the players will have. I look at traps and monsters to see what's in the mix, stats,  and how they might work together. I look over the maps and see how everything connects, sequences of  and if I understand the layout of each dungeon or wilderness area or city. 

Maps are critical. For a dungeon, maps show the connections between encounters and pretty much define the choices available to the players at any given time. Maps are also where sandbox adventures tend to fail, whether it's a printing error, a disconnect between the key and the map, or a simple lack of clarity. If I look at two maps and can't tell how Map A connects to Map B (where are the stairs to the next level? Where is this building on the city map? Where is this monster lair on the overland map?) then it's a problem, and it happens more than it should.This adventure looks good so far.

Monsters are important but are easier to replace or fix than almost anything else. I think I have spent 57% of the last 3 years of game time running kobolds. From Basic to 4E I have run kobolds. If this adventure featured kobolds I was probably going to swap them out. Fortunately this was not a problem. There are also plenty of notes about how different enemies in certain areas will cooperate, or not, and why, and that's how it should be.

One somewhat different aspect is that there are some NPC's that go along with the PC's for the early part of the adventure. They are higher level, but each is handicapped in some way so as not to overpower the party. they are capable enough to not just be helpless victims, but their individual problems keep it under control. The whole point is that the PC's relationships with the NPC's as it develops during the early adventure can open up some good and bad things down the road. It's interesting, but I' m glad it's limited and not assumed to be continuing all the way through the thing.

The only thing I didn't really like - and that's probably the wrong word - was that there is a heavy focus on one or two NPC's gender and orientation. I don't care about it on the surface, but instead of "like" let's say I think it's overkill and largely a waste of space for an NPC in a D&D game. Current gender is relevant, sure. The fact that it used to be different doesn't seem relevant at all as I can't see that coming up in a convrsation with strangers (the PC's) in the middle of a fight with monsters. Orientation, well, frankly that doesn't come up much in my games and I can't see a campaign that focuses on a desperate, heroic crusade to stop a demon invasion having a whole lot of time for worrying about that anyway. Sure, go ahead and note that these two female NPC's are married (and faithful), fine, but I don't know that I need a full page or more of text describing the entire history of their relationship. It's not a huge problem but it seemed like an odd sidetrack for an otherwise tightly written adventure.

Anyway, this one is a good one and I don't really see a need to change anything. Sure, I may retcon some relationships between certain PC's and NPC's as they are encountered, but the maps are solid, the monsters are not the usual fare, the plot stuff makes sense, the sandbox part is handled well, and the NPC's are well done. I don't mind a little railroading to kick a new campaign off "en media res", especially with a new mix of players and a new system to worry about. 

If I was changing something I typically use post-it notes on the relevant pages or I just rewrite the entire section in my notes and note that down in the book. I haven't needed to here yet but we'll see what develops in play.

Finally, a day or two before the first game I went through the entire adventure and made sure the monsters were all available in my tool of choice (Combat Manager) and if they were not (such as some of the monsters with class levels) then I built them in the tool. It's a little work but it's fun and makes things a lot easier during the game. The same goes for the friendly NPC's too - if it has stats it goes into the machine.

That might seem like a fair amount of work but it doesn't feel like it - and if it does then that's a warning sign. For me knowing an adventure inside and out is the key to a successful run. Writing your own means you are automatically familiar with it. The published stuff has a lot of advantages but this is not one of them - you have to make it your own on some level. Reading it, making some notes, putting some stuff into a program - this is what works for me. I'll let you know how it plays out.

Notes as of January 2015: 

Rules-wise I'm pretty comfortable with Pathfinder now. I'm not particularly worried about any classes or races. Healing has not been an issue because they have enough magical healing, and enough time between most of the big encounters that it has not been a problem.

Adventure-wise I still think they made some odd choices as to how to spend a limited page count but it didn't slow me down. I have de-emphasized the NPC's quite a bit, especially in the second part of the campaign where some of them accompany a PC-led army into the Worldwound itself. There is enough action with my 4-6 player characters that I don't need manufactured NPC drama to make it "better". I've ignored most of the sub-plots and just played them straight for the most part. The campaign is epic enough without a lot of side story time.

Process-wise I think HeroLab + Combat manager is an amazing way to run things. I spend very little time doing "homework" between games. I keep some notes during the game but that's about it. I get to focus on what's happening now in the game and less on numbers and managing the flow of things. I had a long post on the details here if you're interested.

Overall we're having a really good time with it and plan to see it all the way through.

Tomorrow: Session 1 all over again!

Looking Ahead to 2015

Games Ahead

With the new year I'm thinking about changes and how to make things better in the months ahead. The #1 goal is to keep the existing Pathfinder games going to their conclusion. I have goals beyond that though:

  • Hopefully 2015 becomes the year my long-desired regular superhero campaign becomes a real thing. I'm going to throw a few options out to my regulars and see what sticks. 
  • I'd like to play more Savage Worlds, regardless of genre
  • I'd like to keep something regular going with the Apprentices
  • I'd like to tinker with 5th Edition D&D a little more
  • I'd like to play/run something Star Wars
  • I'd like to play/run something Star Trek
  • I'd like to finish our 4th Edition campaign
Now those last three are fairly long shots outside of a one-off event type thing, but I can dream. The first one is really up to my players, and I suspect items 2-3-4 may be intermingled quite a bit. Schedules are a big deal here with one of the Apprentices off to college and one of my regular players getting married sometime this year, the pool is a little smaller now. Beyond these I need to  finish reading FATE core and Ars Magica and I need to catch back up on Shadowrun 5.

Miniatures: I'd also like to make 40K and Bolt Action more regular things.

Boardgames: I'm hoping these become a more regular thing too. Between CCA, Memoir 44, and Space Hulk we have some pretty cool options. 

Things to look forward to:
  • Freedom City for M&M 3E - should be really good
  • The Giantslayer adventure path from Paizo looks like a lot of fun
  • Spirit of 77 - yeah! The final version of this should be great.
  • Star Wars: Armada from FFG looks interesting. Expensive, but interesting.
  • Warhammer 9th Edition - time to re-enter the fray? Have to see when it arrives
  • 40K 7th edition, Year 2 - what will they do once they're updated every codex? It should be interesting.

Future of D&D

There's a poll up on EN World right now asking what we would like to see from WOTC in 2015. The choices are:

  • An Open Gaming License
  • An electronic tools suite
  • A Forgotten Realms setting book
  • Another established setting book
  • A brand new setting
  • Another genre (sci-fi, modern, horror, etc.)
  • A book of new rules
  • A book of new monsters, spells, or gear
  • An adventure path
  • Magazines in print (DRAGON/DUNGEON)
Some kind of open license would be great and I'm sure we will see something later this year. I'm just not positive that it won't be more like the GSL (the failed 4E version of the license) than OGL.

I don't think 5th is crying out for character tools the way Pathfinder or M&M do. The game is just not that complicated. 

I don't need another "all about the Realms" book. Keep it in the adventures. I don't really need a book on another setting either, new or old. I might be interested in some adventure material, but I don;t need another general overview of any of the settings.

Another genre - don't care. There are plenty of rules for other genres out there already.

I don't really need books specifically on new spells, gear, or monsters. Support for specific adventure path type things makes a lot of sense. I'd be fine with a couple of decent adventures a year.

Magazines - I just don't think you're going to see this again. PDF's, maybe, but I don't see WOTC reversing the decisions they made 7 years ago. It's not as if magazines have made some kind of comeback lately. I liked them a lot and bought Dragon for most of 30-something years, but I think their time has passed. 

I will say that in general I think WOTC is doing this right - start slow and build up rather than trying to push a bunch of stuff out in the first few months of a new edition. I'm not as excited about this one as some people but I think it will do well.

There is that, too.