Saturday, April 10, 2010

Necessary Evil - Session 3 - Playing Through

The team climbs from the wreckage of the alien shuttle as the drones and K'Tharians close in around them. The alien robot gleams under the lights as the V'Sori scientist realizes he may need to take drastic action.

The alien scientist pulls out some kind of rod and begins doing things on his computer. Concerned, Nissa closes in to try and beguile him. Seeing that she's not close enough, Night Terror shoots him and he staggers, but doesn't drop. In the meantime, MegaStrike and Nightblade, freed of their bad luck, are rapidly thinning the alien minions.

The scientist really puts up a struggle, staying on his feet even when Night Terror shoots him a second time and resisting Nissa's mind control as well. Annoyed, she ends up grabbing the activation rod from his hand to prevent him from touching the giant robot with it, as the team assumes that's how it's turned on. In the end, the battered, frustrated scientist succumbs to a punch from MegaStrike and crumples to the ground.

The sound of alarms is heard in the distance...

Using the anti-grav clamp that the V'Sori were using, the villains move the robot to a small flatbed truck and cover it with tarp (vehicle theft not being something they are concerned with). They contact Dr. Destruction and arrange to meet him at the warehouse.

After some negotiations between MegaStrike and the Doctor, they drive the truck onto a waiting shuttle and depart the scene.

Nissa keeps the alien rod, though she doesn't mention it to anyone else. She's just kind of that way.

The adventure ends with the team back at the penthouse having drinks and relaxing after striking a blow at the aliens and avoiding major injury among themselves. All in all, a solid day's work.

GM Notes:

- This one was fairly short as we were all tired at the end of the week and spent a lot of time discussing all kinds of other things. Movies, schedules, and a potential 4th edition D&D game.

- The players did really well with getting the bot out of there. It was very professional, no panic, no paralyzing indecision.

- I was glad to get it wrapped up and give out their first XP's. I wasn't sure this was a great choice for their first run but it worked out well and everyone had a chance to shine.

- The relationship with Dr. Destruction is already interesting and I am sure it will develop in even more unexpected ways.

Schedule Pains

Well scheduling has been tough for a while and has interfered with all of our games.

February has a birthday, Valentine's Day, and an anniversary

March has a birthday, spring break, and another birthday

April had Easter so far.

So it's been a hectic last few months of weekends. Hopefully things will settle down now and we can get on more of a roll.

I did manage to work in the wrap up to the last mission in Necessary Evil - I will post that later.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

4th Edition Campaign Idea #3 -Return to Phlan

This is a somewhat smaller scale campaign idea than the other two, and really only applies to Heroic levels. At this point I almost see that as a benefit and this is probably the one most likely to get played in the next few months.

I LOVED Pool of Radiance when it came out in 1989. I spent a huge amount of time playing it on my Commodore 64 as did my friends. It centered around a ruined city in the Forgotten Realms that was being slowly reclaimed by the inhabitants. Players made up a party and worked through the different sections of the city clearing out the monsters which were all conveniently level appropriate with the weaker ones nearer to the civillized section and the stronger ones deeper in the ruins. There were also side trips outside the city to a huge graveyard, a lizardman lair, and a mad wizard's pyramid. The computer game was awesome for the time and it came with a great little background book that really captured the favor of the area. TSR also published a 1st ed module version of this campaign titled Ruins of Adventure. It should have been the Realms version of Keep on the Borderlands but it failed badly and has largely been forgotten. Except by me.

So to start a new campaign of D&D I like to have a safe base area, some dungeons close at hand, some options for local countryside wandering, and some political or religious things going on to give the more roleplay oriented types something to do between dungeon crawls. This adventure fits that perfectly. Plus many of the adventures in the ruins involve more than just a frontal assault - many are centered around sneaking into something or talking your way past guards and many areas have some kind of guardians that can be reasoned with so there is more here than just carnage. There is plenty of violence though, and every kind of monster from kobolds to hill giants and dragons, lots of the D&D staples. Re reading the module made me realize it has a lot of good ideas just some poor presentation and limited monster stats - perfect for a conversion to another edition.,particularly this edition if its proponents are to be believed.

Classes: Anything goes. I'll pick up the Realms guides for 4th and however they've worked them into the Realms works for me.

Races: Same thing here - there's a book that explains all this so no extra effort for me.

The Gods - again, there's a whole book for this so that's what I will use.

Environment - it's a single large ruined city on the coast of the Moonsea and some of the surrounding features. Perfect - I don't have to build or convert a continent, just a one-page map.

Adventures - This is a fixed mission in some ways - reclaim the city! - but it's not a railroad, it's more of a sandbox. There's a big map and the players can approach it however they want. If your 2nd level band wanders into the hill giant lair then a lot of bad stuff is going to happen. Add in some factional differences on the town council and everyone should be able to find some interesting things to do.

Phlan and the Moonsea was the first area of the Reams I was exposed to and I really liked it. I have run almost no D&D in the Realms, spending most of my time there as a player as my friend ran the Realms like I run Greyhawk. But things change, so maybe it's time I tried it.

Note on the 100 year jump: I know the 4th edition realms is set 100 years after the old realms stuff but I don't think it matters. Phlan was ruined once and now it's ruined again sometime during that 100 year gap. My players didn't play through this module then (other than the computer game) so they have no investment in the original situation. Heck, maybe Tyranthraxus survived last time and has returned to finish what he started 100 years ago - either way it doesn't matter and doesn't cause any continuity problems with my game.

Expanding and improving this adventure should occupy my campaign through the Heroic levels and set them up as well known heroes around the Moonsea and major players in Phlan itself. At that point we could decide to continue, switch to something else, or start a new 4th edition game using the lessons learned here to improve the next one, maybe one of my other campaign ideas. Whichever way I think this is the best for a DM & players new to 4th edition and it's probably the way I will go.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

4th Edition Campaign Idea #2 - The Classical Campaign

My 2nd idea carries over from something I did for an Arcana Evolved campaign I ran a few years ago (side note - I love Arcana Evolved - it's one of the best things to come out of the OGL). I decided not to use the default campaign world for that game and campaign, instead transporting it to a Mediterranean Ancient Greece campaign. I loved it, as did half of my players, while the other half hated it, so it died after about 4 sessions. But I think it could work with 4th edition.

So the first thing to change would be the gods - dumping the stock D&D gods and replacing them with the classic Greek deities.

Equipment could be handled differently with the whole bronze/iron thing but I don't think that will really be necessary as bronze could be treated as normal equipment while iron could be superior or masterwork equipment. Plus I don't want to have to worry about fiddly things like breaking on a 1 and such.

Races - well Fantasy Greece still needs to be mostly human. Elves & Eladrin can live in the woods, gnomes in the hills, dwarves in the mountains, halflings in some valleys. Half-Orcs could be from anywhere (I can see an Orcish empire in the area of Turkey or thereabouts). Dragonborn might be from an island nation out in the Atlantic (Atlantis was run by lizards!). Goliaths and Shifters and Devas could also be from just about anywhere. Minotaurs would be from Crete of course.

Classes - anything goes here, I see no need to rule out anything. The psionic power source might be limited to Egyptian characters, I think that would be interesting to have it foreign and exotic to the mainland campaign area. Primal powers would be limited to non-urban characters but that's not a huge obstacle as pastoral Greece has a lot going on. Thracians might be a good source for this too as I see them coming across as barbarians in a lot of ways.

Environment - The main campaign area would be a fantasy version of Greece with several city states separated by dangerous wilderness and the ruthless competition between them. Gods favor different cities over others, various monsters ravage the countryside, and armies occasionally march forth to enforce one cities will over another. I see this as a post-golden age Greece where legendary kingdoms and heroes have all fallen leading to a new dark age, which fits well with 4th editions points of light setting.

Adventures - These could cover some basic routine dungeoneering to begin with then spread out across the Mediterranean. Northern Eurpoe would be the home of Drow and Giants, Africa could have dinosaurs, and gates to other planes could be found in out of the way places. The Norse gods could come into play at some point, and so could the Egyptian pantheon although I might make them a little different.

This would be a flavored, not totally by the book campaign but it would definitely take a different tone than regular D&D, at least that's how I would plan on running it. Lots of little differences than a standard medieval game.

Monday, April 5, 2010

4th Edition Campaign Idea #1 - Ancient Greyhawk

I bought the Greyhawk folio in 1981 because I thought the poster maps were cool. Plus it was the official D&D world and I wanted to get in on that. I loved the country descriptions and coats of arms and thought it was a really good product. The later boxed sets were cool too, but they were a lot more and bigger and may have crossed a line somewhere into too much. For me the folio was perfect and all of my 1st and 2nd edition games (and much of 3rd ed as well) were set in Greyhawk.

On to 4th edition: So the new races and the multitude of classes has no sensible way of being shoved into CY500's Greyhawk. There's just no way - we don't need any planetary collisions here. Greyhawk is versatile - heck I ran Fantasy Hero in Greyhawk for a while, and GURPS too. But 4th makes a lot of changes to what is "standard" and they don't mesh well with what was standard for 1st edition - and I want to play a standard, wide-open 4th edition game.

I thought about a timeline jump forward but that still leaves one asking where did these dragonborn things come from? Where did the gods go? Where are my elemental planes? So I went a different direction - literally. I decided to jump a few thousand years backwards.

Now if we go back about 2000 years we can use the Greyhawk maps and some of the "touchstones" - characters and names without having to retcon in a bunch of weirdness with races and gods. These are the early days of Greyhawk, the Time of Legends - Bahamut is a major god and the planes are different and tieflings and dragonborn are everywhere, but it won't always be this way. My idea is that this is the age where many of Oerth's lesser deities and Demigods ascend to power (since that's one of the Epic destinies in 4th). Some of the gods that exist in 4th will be destroyed, some will be changed in the intervening millennia. If some of my players end up as demigods, I will use that when my apprentices get into 1st edition AD&D and start exploring Greyhawk.

Bahamut will sacrifice much of his power to bring order to the universe - separating the elemental planes, and creating the ethereal plane as a barrier around the prime, and summoning the Deva race into the Astral plane to be his servants. Dragonborn will ascend to the planes to serve Bahamut and those that do not will hide in far places or die out. This gives the lawful good divine types a chance to be part of a Divine Plan - their god has goals and is carrying them out. This will make for a nice contrast with most campaigns where the evil gods are the schemers and the good ones have to react.

The Raven Queen may evolve into Wee Jas or she may get sacrificed and become the Negative Elemental Plane while another god may become the source for the Positive plane, or maybe they are already there but hidden.

I may retcon Goliaths as "Half Ogres" - it fits GH better but I haven't read the race entry in the PHB2 yet.

Eladrin will eventually lose some of their powers and become simple elves, but in the time of 4th ed they are still at full strength.

Tieflings will eventually be thinned without the concentration of an empire and will disappear as a separate racial type.

The rest of the races already have homes in GH so need no adjustment or long term consideration. Dwarves will lose their connection to most Arcane magics. Magic itself will become weaker and more difficult to access, meaning it takes a magic-user to tap into what were once rituals anyone could perform.

The idea is to use whatever published adventures are out and I like, with the freedom to place them anywhere in the world. The world should have some familiarity but it is not the "old" Greyhawk. It should accommodate all the 4th edition crazyness and give us some "legends" to incorporate into later versions of GH. I gave some thought to doing my own world but this is pretty much a blank slate on an existing map - and even that I change up. Maybe the Isles of Woe are yet to be sunk? Maybe some of those artifacts in the back of the old DMG are new or in the process of being made?

A note on Vecna: Yeah, he's a god in 4th ed but he's just a legendary figure in 1st ed and trying to become a god in 2nd ed. How to make that work? Well, just because he's a god now doesn't mean he can't fall - this is another plotline to follow with a campaign. The ups and downs of various gods and their followers should be a lot of fun at Epic levels of play.

So in the end, this is my choice for a wide-open campaign for 4th edition. It would be a fair amount of work, but there's not a lot of stuff to rally change from the basic 4th ed game.