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The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

All discussions regarding Board, Card, and RPG Gaming, including industry discussion, that don't belong in one of the other gaming forums.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Skinypupy » Mon Mar 25, 2019 6:01 pm

I finally broke down and bought my first D&D Players Handbook, GM Guide, and Monster Manual over the weekend. They arrive tomorrow from Amazon. I'm irrationally excited to dive into these books...this order has been 30 years coming.

I've always been fascinated by D&D. When I was a kid, I would often sneak out my friend's older brother's monster manual and spend hours and hours poring over it, even though I had no idea what any of it actually meant. Unfortunately, I never had any friends who played when I was younger, so I was never able to give it a try.

My only actual tabletop experience is dabbling with a co-worker's D&D group for 14'ish months a decade ago. We had varying degrees of success, mainly because the core group had been playing together for 20 years and were all ultra min/max'ers and rule nazis. Combine that with some short tempers, and most nights ended up with table flipping and dice being chucked at the GM's head.

So while that ended up not being particularly a particularly fun experience overall, it did make me interested enough to want to learn how to get my own kids into it. Little B 10.0 is finally at the age where she can start to wrap her head around it, so I'm going to get familiar with the rules and try to figure out some way that we can do some adventuring together.

Wish me luck. :)
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Mon Mar 25, 2019 7:20 pm

Grab thee the Starter Set. Not only is it cheap, it includes one of the best adventures for learning DMing and for teaching others to play.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by hentzau » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:53 pm

Blackhawk wrote:Grab thee the Starter Set. Not only is it cheap, it includes one of the best adventures for learning DMing and for teaching others to play.
This. So much this.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Skinypupy » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:26 am

Blackhawk wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 7:20 pm
Grab thee the Starter Set. Not only is it cheap, it includes one of the best adventures for learning DMing and for teaching others to play.
This, I assume?

I adapted Dungeon yet again (the twins ask to play it daily) and ran some basic combat scenarios last night. We looked up the monster on the Dungeon card in the manual, assigned the kids a weapon/AC/etc., and played out a few rounds. It was basic attacks and no special skills, just to give them a general idea of how combat works.

One of the twins got bored and wandered off, and the other was really liking it until the Drider cut off his head (then he stomped away). Thankfully, daughter was literally doing victory laps around the house when she got two crits to beat a vampire.

It was fun. :)
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by hentzau » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:37 am

Skinypupy wrote:
Blackhawk wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 7:20 pm
Grab thee the Starter Set. Not only is it cheap, it includes one of the best adventures for learning DMing and for teaching others to play.
This, I assume?

I adapted Dungeon yet again (the twins ask to play it daily) and ran some basic combat scenarios last night. We looked up the monster on the Dungeon card in the manual, assigned the kids a weapon/AC/etc., and played out a few rounds. It was basic attacks and no special skills, just to give them a general idea of how combat works.

One of the twins got bored and wandered off, and the other was really liking it until the Drider cut off his head (then he stomped away). Thankfully, daughter was literally doing victory laps around the house when she got two crits to beat a vampire.

It was fun. :)
Well, that’s an overpriced version with a bunch of extra dice included. The starter set comes with one set of dice, and really shouldn’t cost you more than $20. You can get the start set on amazon for $16.50. You can find it at Target and Barnes and Nobel and probably Walmart (although I never go there.)



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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Skinypupy » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:53 am

Thanks, found it on Target's website for $16.50 as well. Will pick one up today.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Redfive » Tue Mar 26, 2019 12:36 pm

Welcome to the fun!

Feel free to reach out for any tips you might need. I'm not an expert but I've been running a campaign as a DM for about 16 months now and played for years in the 90s.

Lost Mines of Phandelver is a good one, as has been said multiple times up thread and in the past.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Skinypupy » Wed Mar 27, 2019 9:45 am

I picked up the starter set and started reading through the module last night. Realizing how much prep I'll have to put into this is a bit daunting, but that's ok. It'll be fun.

Noob question though. There's only the two of us, me and GIrl 10.0. Unfortunately, we don't have anyone else to play with us except the Wonder Twins 5.10 (not an option). I know it would be awkward, but I was planning on playing a PC as well as GM'ing, so she wasn't trying to run it alone. With this being both of our first times (her playing, me GM'ing), I was going to adjust all the encounters downward in difficulty to let her actually have some success and make things a bit less complex. She's never really done any sort of role playing before, so just wrapping her head around the concept is going to take a little coaxing. I figure that if I'm "adventuring" along with her, I can sort of guide the process. I'm less worried about it being some sort of significant challenge, and more interested in her getting the feel for how everything works, how to play a character, how to creatively solve problems, etc. Is there a recommended way to adjust modules for difficult and/or number of players, or is it mostly just winging it?

My other thought was to just create my own super basic campaign (i.e. arrive in a town, have NPC's guide us to a dungeon, fight some basic mobs, gain some treasure, level up, fin) that strips out most of the complexity for a very core experience. Maybe there's some sort of resource already out there with that sort of pre-created module, I don't know.

Any thoughts from all the vets here are appreciated.

EDIT: Some googling led me to this, which I think will be a MUCH better starter quest for us.
EDIT 2: Apologies for cluttering up this thread with these basic questions. If it would be better to start another thread ("D&D for complete noobs"), I'm happy to do so.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Redfive » Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:33 am

You can certainly run a character with her. The choice is up to you (as the DM this is always the answer), but typically you would run them as an NPC (non player character) rather than take the time to set up a character sheet, starting equipment, etc.

DMs run NPCs with parties all the time.

That linked adventure looks good, especially for little ones that are learning the mechanics of the game. I think if it were me and I was teaching my kids I would run the adventure in your link. This way BOTH of you can take the time to learn mechanics, especially for combat, before you dive into The Lost Mines. Practice makes perfect and the more you *do* things the easier it will become and you can move on to something else.

As far as setting up an NPC, I'm sure there are many guides online and almost certainly in the DM's guide as well.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:35 am

Ok, I have a few things.

1. Bring an NPC, but make sure that she's making the calls. Keep the spotlight on her, never your character. Make a character to balance her's. D&D 'roles' aren't really a thing anymore, but you do want someone who can take hits, someone who can dish out the hurt, and someone who can heal the injuries (this doesn't need to be a cleric - paladins, bards, clerics, some warlocks, some sorcerers, druids, and any human human who takes the Magic Initiate feat can heal. Tip: Healing Word is your friend. It doesn't do a ton, but it can be cast in combat as a bonus action, meaning you don't have to waste a round to heal someone.

2. Boost the PC. Low levels are fragile. There are a couple of ways to do this. First, use point buy and give them a few extra points (say, 30 instead of 27.) Second, the rules say you get your full hit die worth of hit points at level 1, then roll afterwards. Instead, give them max rolls up until level 3, then guarantee half afterwards (at level 4, if you get a d8 hit die and roll 1-4, 4.) If you want to go to extremes, give characters their level 2 hit dice at level 1 (they get two hit dice worth of HP at level1, but none at level 2.)

3. Give her a companion. this is a fantastic rules supplement that I've used in two campaigns, and I've been a player in a campaign with it in use. It treats companions (say a bannerman, a squire, a pet baby griffon, whatever) almost like an item. Instead of a second character sheet, the companion is assigned to a player. That player gets a card that lists, most of the time, one extra ability plus a few health boxes. Say you have a man-at-arms companion. He isn't on the board. There's no extra miniature. But when the player he's assigned to attacks, they get an extra d4 damage (representing the extra attacker), and a blow aimed at the character may be taken by the companion instead. It's a simple and elegant way to handle hirelings, cohorts of troops, or whole gangs of escape prisoners working with the party without bogging the game down.

4. Rebalance the encounters. Skip the math. Kobold Fight Club is your friend.

Ok, now, don't do all of it. You'll create a monster. Instead, pick-and-choose. Personally, I'd add a GMPC, do the full hit points per die through level three (or maybe four), and maybe the companion system. Then tweak the encounters slightly in advance with KFC. If you don't want to buy the companion system, then increase the point buy.

Some other quick tips for those without accessories. None of these are mandatory to play. If you want these things, go, here are some quick options to get you started without a ton of cost.

1. Search for the names of the maps ("cragmaw hideout map") on Google Images. Every official adventure has had stacks of player-made maps that are more attractive than the ones that are in the book. They're free. You can set them up on a laptop, spare computer, or print them out if you like.

2. Miniatures. Everyone knows I've got a miniatures problem. And yet getting enough miniatures right off the bat is an expensive proposition. There are a couple of cheap options, though. The first is Pathfinder Pawns. They're created for a different games, but it's a D&D spinoff game so most of the same creatures are represented. The Bestiary Box plus maybe a set of characters would be plenty to get playing. The other alternative is printable paper miniatures. Just do a search.

3. A surface for playing. There are several options. Gaming Paper is the cheapest (that's the brand name), and if you have a cheap Wal-Mart poster frame (or just a sheet of plexiglass), you can put it in there on top of the table and use dry-erase markers on it forever. As a side benefit, you can put pre-printed maps or paper poster maps in the poster frame to make it work with dry erase. Second option would be an easel pad with a 1" grid from an office supply store. Basically a poster sized graph paper pad. You can draw maps in advance and toss them after they're used. Another option (likely the best, and not much more than the others) would be a Chessex Battle Mat and a set of wet erase markers (wet erase, never dry erase for this.) It'll last you a lifetime. I still have the one I was using in high school.

4. Dice. You have a set from the starter set. You may already have some of your own. If you need more, one cheap option (and a classic) is the Chessex Pound of Dice. If you only need a few, consider letting her pick out a set that appeals to her (especially if you have a local gaming store she can pick out a set from.) Having a personal set of their 'very own' is a great way to get kids into the game.

5. Don't ask for D&D advice if you don't want be inundated with tons of D&D advice.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:41 am

Oh, and here at the two best sets of GM how-to videos. These are excellent.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... cbxM43vkom

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... 8MaV7ELLCP_
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Skinypupy » Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:00 am

Thanks, lots for me to look into. Mrs. Skinypupy is gone at a dance competition Friday night and all day Saturday, so I'm hoping we can kick things off this weekend. Now that I have a more "basic" module, I may actually try to get the Wonder Twins involved. They do love rolling dice.

I bought a pack of 5 dice sets off Amazon and gave one to each kid. I don't think I've ever seen them as excited to get something from dad. :lol: Leaves me with two extra sets, plus the one that came in the starter set, so I think I'm good there. Probably need to pick up a GM screen at some point, but we'll see how this first session goes first.

I have a battle map (url= one[/url]) arriving tomorrow. That will get us started at least. Still deciding whether to just draw on it directly, or get some plexiglass to put over it.

Between the Legend of Drizzt and ToEE board games, we've actually got quite a few miniatures. They may not be exact representations of the monsters we'll be fighting, but will be serviceable. She really loves moving them around the board, so I think doing so on a larger scale will be fun.
Blackhawk wrote:
Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:35 am
5. Don't ask for D&D advice if you don't want be inundated with tons of D&D advice.
I love it, this is all hugely helpful.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:27 am

Awesome!

I will toss in a few tips about GM screens, then. Things have changed a lot over the years. Personally, since I roll in the open, use my laptop for notes (with OneNote for almost everything - best tip I ever got), combined with 5etools for rules look-ups, I don't use a regular GM screen anymore. I use a CD case screen to stage miniatures behind, but that's it.

When I do need a screen, I strongly recommend using a landscape screen instead of a portrait screen, especially if playing with kids. The GM is the performer in this show, and if the GM is completely hidden behind a screen, the players can't see your mannerisms and such. What I personally use is the World's Greatest Screen. It comes in landscape. It's designed so that you print your own sheets of tables and slide them in. There are slots on the player's side, too, which I use for basic reminders - like a list of actions in a turn. There are downloadable sets of tables that others have made that are far superior to the commercial screens, which tend to waste a lot of real estate on stuff you'll never use (you don't need a quick look-up of how many experience points are needed for level 13.) The big appeal (for me) is that I can use one screen for every system just by swapping out the printed papers. With that, it's a real bargain.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:30 am

Also, with kids, make sure you warn them that character death is a thing, and that while you'll never do it on purpose, it can happen. Honestly, I've seen the first encounter in Lost Mines result in a goblin one-shotting a character, as in one-shot, fully dead.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Zarathud » Wed Mar 27, 2019 6:08 pm

I just bought a World's Greatest Screen for D&D so I don't have to swap out my Paranoia notes from the Pathfinder Screen. Both are good, but the Greatest is Trapper Keeper thick.

My daughter (11) has decided she wants to be a dragonborn sorcerer on the chance it'll help her make friends with the monsters and, eventually, get her own dragon. Daddy's little min-maxer decided the monsters must just be "poorly led." Her sister wants to be a Yo-Kai ghost or not play at all.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by IceBear » Wed Mar 27, 2019 8:01 pm

I have one of the ones where you can put in your own inserts so it works for all my games

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Wed Mar 27, 2019 8:29 pm

I actually have two of them. The first one started splitting after just a couple of months. I wrote Hammerdog (the company behind the screens) and sent a picture. Turns out it was part of a flawed batch. They sent a replacement and let me keep the first one. It actually split right down the middle, so I have one four-wide screen and two two-wide screens.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Skinypupy » Sat Mar 30, 2019 10:31 pm

So, we had our first attempt this afternoon, and it went pretty well. I decided to give it a shot with all three kids (Little B 10.0 and Wonder Twins 5.10), as opposed to my original plan of just playing with B and me as a PC. So we ended up with Zadie and Walkamole the human fighters (twins), and Brazith the cleric (Bryn).

I admit that I probably came in very underprepared, but they didn't know the difference. I set up the most basic of basic scenarios. We started in the town of Gooberville, where the mayor Mo Stuffins asked them to help him clear out a goblin camp that had been terrorizing the down. After deciding on a party leader (which about came to blows), they headed up a road up to an intersection, then went right to a goblin camp. I set up a couple small distractions along the way:

- A talking snapping turtle named Myrtle was guarding a strange, large gold piece by the side of the road. The kids immediately wanted to attack, but Myrtle successfully begged for his life. He said he'd give them the gold piece if they brought him some food, which required a check to find a hidden door into a cave behind him, and another check to find the mushrooms in the cave. It took a little coaxing, but they managed both pretty well.
- There was an overturned cart at the intersection that required a couple checks to find and dislodge a +1 sword. Walkamole was the only sword user, so he was pretty stoked to get it.

After some deliberation on the merits of a stealth approach in full armor, they decided to simply storm into the goblin camp. The first couple rounds went their way, but they ended up leaving two of the four goblins alive with one HP. I then rolled two consecutive 19's followed by a 20 for the goblin attacks, which changed the tide in a hurry. The kids panicked a bit, but after I reminded Bryn that she could heal, they were able to squeak through. I surprised them a little by having one of the wounded goblins run to the corner of the camp and let a wolf out of a cage, but they actually dealt with that pretty well.

Once the goblins were down, the boss (an insane "berzerker" goblin that was chained up in a tent) broke free and charged them. They all thought dad's role playing of that was hilarious, btw. :) The +1 sword came in very handy here, and they made far shorter work of the boss than I was expecting. Walkamole found a hidden stash of guacamole in the tent (what crazed goblins live on, apparently) and was nice enough to share some with Myrtle on his way back to town, where they were hailed as the conquering heroes.

All that It took about an hour, which was just about right. They were pretty much done after the goblin camp battle, and Bryn making her check to find a sack of coins when Wonder Twin A didn't nearly ended in tears. They all said it was fun, and the littles spent the rest of the night asking me when they could do it again. I suppose that's a win.

I didn't realize just how damn much there is to know and keep track of as a DM. Gave me a whole new appreciation for the guy who DM'd the campaign I played years ago. I'm realizing now that he was really good.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Sat Mar 30, 2019 11:53 pm

Skinypupy wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2019 10:31 pm


I didn't realize just how damn much there is to know and keep track of as a DM.
Pro tip: It is 1/4 knowing it, 1/4 knowing the tropes for the genre, and 1/2 using the others to make everything else up on the fly. Here's the big secret to DMing: Good DMs screw up all the time. The players just never know it, as the DM goes with it and works it in. Forgot to have the reinforcements show up to the encounter? Forgot to trigger that trap? Forgot to introduce an important NPC in town? Happens all the time, and the players never know the difference. They don't see what's behind the curtain, just the light show out front, and if the lights are the wrong color, they just assume that's the way it was supposed to be.

tl;dr - Good DMs are just good at faking it.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Smoove_B » Sun Mar 31, 2019 12:00 am

All true. The other big thing (in my experience) is offloading. I think a DM is a facilitator. DMs that are control freaks and don't allow for player contributions or reward creativity or don't let the players collaboratively develop the narrative end up working so much harder than those that can give the players some creative freedom. I know that might not be possible with a bunch of 10 year olds, but I always view my role as someone that is constantly trying to figure out how, not just saying yes or no to whatever the players want or propose. YMMV.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Sun Mar 31, 2019 12:06 am

I have changed whole plotlines when players decided that they knew what was going on and spent an hour figuring out what the complex plot really was. They were totally wrong, but were so satisfied with what they'd 'discovered' that I just went with it. Kind of like when players put a ton of effort into a plan for an ambush that, according to how things are written, would never work. The enemies are supposed to take the other trail, for instance. Let them have the ambush. If they put that much effort into it, it means that they think it is a cool thing to experience. Let them have that! Reward that kind of engagement and the players will keep offering it.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Skinypupy » Sun Mar 31, 2019 11:29 am

I’m finding that the toughest part of GMing for 5 year olds is finding age appropriate descriptions for combat actions. I can’t exactly say “you slice off the orcs head and it rolls across the room into a dusty corner” or “the goblin explodes in a shower of guts and viscera” when they roll a 20. And I can only say “you bop the monster over the head and he falls down” so many times before they start to roll their eyes.

In yesterday’s session, we had poked eyes, charlie horses, slaps, and even a massive bum pinch (the horror!) for a critical hit. It definitely takes some creative thinking. :lol:
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Smoove_B » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:31 pm

Been enjoying The Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master this week. It's an updated version of the original and was a KS project that delivered a few months ago. I didn't know about at all and picked up my copy via Amazon. Anyway, it's not for novice DMs and while the focus is on a D&D style game, the tips and strategies aren't so specific that they couldn't be used for other systems. The tone is very lite and I find myself agreeing with the author's suggestions and observations. I've run PnP games at both extremes (insanely prepared vs fast and loose) and I think on the whole there's been a better return on investment for games and campaigns where I've done minimal preparation. This book codifies some of my recollections and puts together a basic system to really minimize the amount of time you'd spend developing things that the players would never know about (but that you originally thought would be helpful).

As someone getting ready to resume playing an AD&D campaign, I've found this to be quite helpful. My biggest objection over the last 15+ years to starting up with PnP RPGs again has been the amount of time I've traditionally spent in getting ready to game for 3-5 hours at a clip. I'm pretty confident now I can not only do a better job of preparing but dramatically cut down on the time needed as well.

Sharing for those that might find it interesting.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:48 pm

Nice! I read the first one. I didn't know that they'd put out an update.

I'll take this opportunity to point to the books by Phil Vecchione and Unframed.

All are fantastic.

A couple of other classics: Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering and Hamlet's Hit Points by the same author. Robin Laws knows his stuff.

Also, three worthy Kobold guides. All the Kobold guides I've read have been fantastic.

Plots & Campaigns

World Building

Gamemastering
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Sat Apr 06, 2019 12:32 pm

Well, I put my foot into it.

I have a couple of friends from out of town. They were down last week for a board gaming day, and they decided to try to make it down once per month for board gaming, or possibly RPGs. One of them, and experienced GM, offered to run a Pathfinder mini-campaign that he said would last about three sessions. Since it is a brief thing, and because character creation in Pathfinder can be complicated, we decided to use pregenerated characters. I was going to play a bard, as we needed to be able to handle some social encounters.

I was talking to him via text the other day about my son's character (a bloodrager - think barbarian sorcerer.) At the end of the conversation, he, as a joke, sent a gif of a dancing unicorn. I replied, "Is that my character? I'm a Sparklebard?!?" It's a typical smart-ass me response. It got a laugh. We went on with our lives.

Today he sent me my character.

I'm a Sparklebard.

A unitaur (unicorn centaur) sparklebard.

I still haven't lived down the time I played in a convention game that was a Warhammer 40k/My Little Pony crossover. I'll never live this down!
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Zenn7 » Mon Apr 08, 2019 12:30 am

Blackhawk wrote:
Sat Apr 06, 2019 12:32 pm
Well, I put my foot into it.

I have a couple of friends from out of town. They were down last week for a board gaming day, and they decided to try to make it down once per month for board gaming, or possibly RPGs. One of them, and experienced GM, offered to run a Pathfinder mini-campaign that he said would last about three sessions. Since it is a brief thing, and because character creation in Pathfinder can be complicated, we decided to use pregenerated characters. I was going to play a bard, as we needed to be able to handle some social encounters.

I was talking to him via text the other day about my son's character (a bloodrager - think barbarian sorcerer.) At the end of the conversation, he, as a joke, sent a gif of a dancing unicorn. I replied, "Is that my character? I'm a Sparklebard?!?" It's a typical smart-ass me response. It got a laugh. We went on with our lives.

Today he sent me my character.

I'm a Sparklebard.

A unitaur (unicorn centaur) sparklebard.

I still haven't lived down the time I played in a convention game that was a Warhammer 40k/My Little Pony crossover. I'll never live this down!
I trust your musical instrument proficiencies include the horn.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Mon Apr 08, 2019 1:55 am

Toot.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Redfive » Fri Apr 12, 2019 10:51 am

Tonight is the climactic session in my Out of the Abyss sub campaign.

The specifics have changed a little for the needs of my campaign but I'll spoiler the details for anyone not wanting to know what happens at the end of that module.
Spoiler:
Demon lords have invaded the Underdark and ultimately it will be up to the party (with help) to see an end to it.

Over the last few months of real time the party has been traveling between numerous settlements dealing with all manner of denizens to include duergar, svirfneblin (deep gnomes), myconids, derro, and especially drow while they investigate why the king of the dwarves, and ultimately most of the cities in the Underdark, have been overcome with various levels of madness.

After significant research and a temporary alliance with a renegade drow arch mage a plan has been put in place to summon all of the demon lords in one spot to instigate a battle royale of sorts. In our campaign that spot is in the heart of Menzoberranzan.

Tonight the ritual will kick off and all of the demons will be summoned to the drow city with the expectation that they will immediately fight each other. Once only one remains the party hopes to confront it and banish it back to the Abyss!

I'm going about this a little differently (but still one of the suggested ways in the module): since there has been so much build up about this 'final battle' rather than take the time to describe the fight while the party spectates I'm going to give each one of them their own demon lord to control. They will have full access to the demon's powers with the only restriction being that they cannot retreat from the battle. At some point during the fight (at my choosing) I will enter the fray as Demogorgon ensuring (I hope) that he is the last one standing and the one the party must confront.

I'm really looking forward to it and the players have no idea that each is going to get to run a demon lord tonight so this should be good stuff!

I threw together a cheesy (on purpose) promo poster for the fight:
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Fri Apr 12, 2019 11:03 am

My group just started OotA, and I get to be a player for a change.

The only real downside to the slow release schedule with each release an 'event' is that all of the big reveals are well-known by the time these things hit the table.

As an aside, there was originally intended to be a semi-sequel to OotA.
Spoiler:
As the demons are trying to invade the world by force through the Underdark, the devils are trying to invade the surface through guile and intrigue to war with the demons for dominion over the Prime Material plane. The adventure was going to cover those events during the same timeline as OotA.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Redfive » Fri Apr 12, 2019 11:16 am

That's cool.

I never really intended for this to be such a major part of my campaign. My overall theme (which has honest to God, nothing to do with The Song of Ice and Fire--I started thinking about this back in the 90s) is an impending invasion from across the sea of a fallen civilization that has been entirely converted to undead.

This was pure seat of the pants DM'ing. On a whim I had decided that the dwarves of the land were all being 'recalled' to The Citadel of Mourning (the only place they call home in my campaign). I didn't know why but it seemed intriguing to me so I thought the players would like it. They did and decided to investigate so they eventually found themselves trying to meet the king. One of the party members is a dwarf and one of two surviving members of his devastated clan so he would be an 'in' with the king. The time for the session came and I literally had no idea what I was going to do when they met the king so I decided to make him 'unavailable.' They were allowed to see only the steward, which had the effect of deepening the intrigue.

This got the party really interested so I had to come up with a reason behind the dwarven recall and the disappearance of the king which made me think of the Underdark / drow and which in turn led to Out of the Abyss.

It has been fun and a nice 'half time' from the main events of the campaign while the party leveled up (the highest three players will hit 15 tonight) to face the real fight.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by hentzau » Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:33 am

Ok,I'm going to try and not make this too long, and I'm going to spoiler some stuff if you don't want to get spoiled for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, specifically the summer season. But I'm looking for some advice on how you, as a player, would feel about the ending of this, and if you think I need to change the ending.

Spoilers commencing:
Spoiler:
The players have been working for about 6 months now on Dragon Heist. I chose the Summer session because I thought it had the most interesting adversary...a noble couple that has entered into a pact with Asmodeus to restore their family to power, but in return they have to sacrifice the souls of their children when the turn 9 years old. From the adventure itself:
Victoro and Ammalia Cassalanter struck a deal with Asmodeus, Lord of the Nine Hells. Three years ago, they traded away the souls of their children to escape financial ruin. The soul of their eldest son, Osvaldo, was taken immediately. What was left behind was transformed into a chain devil, which the Cassalanters confined to their attic. Their two youngest children, Terenzio and Elzerina, are doomed to lose their souls when they turn nine years old a mere ten days after Founders’ Day, a midsummer festival that celebrates Waterdeep’s founding.

After the deal was struck, the Cassalanters enjoyed a miraculous comeback. Their banking and money-lending business thrived while their competition suffered. The disappearance of their eldest son (and heir apparent) earned them sympathy. Their philanthropic endeavors bought them legitimacy and new friends. They became the envy of Waterdavian nobility in short order. Seemingly blessed, the Cassalanters attracted new followers to their cult of devil worship, which was Asmodeus’s plan all along.

Reneging on a contract with Asmodeus is a luxury no mortal can afford, but there is a way for Lord and Lady Cassalanter to save the souls of Terenzio and Elzerina. A clause in the contract allows them to preserve their remaining (and future) children’s lives by instead paying “one shy of a million gold coins, and the sacrifice of one shy of one hundred unfortunate souls.” The Cassalanters have most of the coin they need, but they require the gold from the Vault of Dragons to buy their children’s salvation without bankrupting themselves.

Victoro is in charge of locating the Vault of Dragons and securing the gold within it. Ammalia, for her part, plans to sacrifice ninety-nine souls in one fell swoop by throwing a feast on Founders’ Day featuring poisoned food. Both the souls and the gold must be paid to Asmodeus at the same time. Foiling either one of these schemes spells doom for the Cassalanters’ plot and their youngest children.
What has occurred is that the paladin of the group has become friends with the Cassalanters, and not knowing that they were in pursuit of the gold as well, the Cassalanters have dogged the players constantly in their attempts to get to the gold. But so far, the players have stymied them, and so the Cassalanters are about to lay their cards on the table.

My next session starts with a meeting between the paladin and Lady Cassalanter. My thought is that she would tell him that they need the gold to save their children, and say nothing about the sacrifice of 100 other people. They would work the relationship that the paladin has with the twins, asking, nay, begging for the gold to save the souls of the children.

If the PC's relent, and decide to give the needed gold to the Cassalanters, they would be invited to the Midsummer Feast where the sacrifice of both the gold and the souls. It's at this point that they would become privy to the plan to outright murder 99 innocent people to save the souls of 2 innocent children.

So I'm presenting them with a no-win solution. Save two children that they know, but doom 99 strangers. Or, save as many of the strangers as they can, or doom the two innocent children. I loved that it put the PCs in this conundrum, but as I'm getting closer to the end I'm trying to put myself in their shoes. Is this a good ending to a game? Would they like the moral dilemma that has no real winning solution? Or will they hate it? Putting on your player caps, what about you?
The TL/DR/No Spoilers version: Nearing the end of the campaign, in their moment of triumph, the PCs are presented with two morally repugnant choices that they can't avoid that will cost lives. Is this a good way to end a campaign?
"Women are naturally secretive, and they like to do their own secreting." - Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Tue Apr 16, 2019 2:17 pm

This depends very much on the nature of the players. Some groups would love the dark ending, others would hate and resent that they didn't have any option to win. If you think it would be an issue, you could always do a couple of things:
Spoiler:
First, you could let the PCs discover the true plot in time to scheme. Listen to their scheming and play off of it. Let them make a plan, then devise something that complicates their plan, but lets it work. Obviously, this requires you creating the conclusion on the fly, which is a tough way to GM.

Alternatively, let them in on the plot like the first example, but give the whole thing a linchpin, a point of failure where they PCs can insinuate themselves to foil it, but at great cost. Essentially, give them a third bad option: Save the souls and money, lose the kids. Save the kids, lose the souls and money. Third option is to sacrifice everything themselves to save both. Perhaps something like this, maybe:

The souls of the kids don't just vanish. Asmodeus sends a bill collector - something really, really nasty and dark - after each of the kids. The players would need to know this, and know that the collectors are really tough, possibly beyond their means. They have to seek help of some sort to overcome them, perhaps costing them their coin and their freedom, but in the end they show up with reinforcements and stomp the collectors. The family is dragged off to prison and the kids are taken into protective custody by the temple of Torm.

Or perhaps they have to perform a new heist: Get the kids out before the collectors arrive and into the protection of the temple, at which point the souls of the parents are claimed instead. Perhaps the temple gives them the means to secure the children (a 'soul vessel', or a temporary extradimensional space) so that they'd be there to see the parents dragged off.

In either case, you put it on the PCs to have to choose to sacrifice themselves to save the others.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by hentzau » Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:50 pm

Spoiler:

I've been trying to come up with a way for the PC's to salvage some of this. The human sacrifice is accomplished via a mystical poison that is only in the food of the peasants they are entertaining, so the paladin, if he realizes what is happening, could save...4 of them. A purify food and drink could help out a bunch if they figure it out early. But in the long run, saving those strangers dooms the kids.

I was going to give them clues as to what was about to go down...my daughter is playing a warlock of the Raven Queen, and I loved the idea of as it gets closer to midnight, these flocks of ravens start to gather on the eaves of the buildings, looking down into the courtyard, silently staring down at the gathered peasants.

Also, the players (and the noble party guests, who are all members of the cult of Asmodeus) would only be eating from certain, silver platters, while the peasants are being served from different platters/plates/kegs. Observant players may figure out that the peasants are being poisoned and try and prevent it, or stop the final triggering spell that happens at Midnight.

As far as the players, I could see one that gets pissed about the ending, not being able to come to a good resolution. My son would be nonplussed (he mostly likes the combat), my daughter would be horrified (but it would be memorable for it) and the paladin I think would like the ending a bunch once he got past the initial shock.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Tue Apr 16, 2019 6:12 pm

Spoiler:
It sounds like the best time for them to catch on might be when the food is being poisoned.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Zarathud » Tue Apr 16, 2019 8:22 pm

Spoiler:
Let them nobly choose to trade themselves. While innocence has its merits, perhaps an adventurer would be a bigger prize.

Maybe the souls are not lost forever. Let them quest down into Hell to save the children. A fool's mission but a brave one.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:25 pm

And the GM's secret: The players aren't behind the screen. They don't know what went on behind the scenes or what's really going on. As long as it fits established events, you can completely and totally change the plot and the players won't ever know the difference.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Cylus Maxii » Tue Jun 25, 2019 5:51 pm

FWIW - I went ahead and launched my Traveller game with my OG gaming group. Character generation was a couple of weeks again, as was the initial setup. Everybody seems excited. First real game is this coming Sunday.

As a side note - I got tired of waiting to get a real response from the OG and met another group of gamers via a set of old posts in MeetUp. They sounded like they were full when they started a few years back. But there was an email and I dropped them a line to see if they were looking to meet more gamers. They have been really nice so far.

So looks like I may have two gaming groups!
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Smoove_B » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:57 pm

At the start of the year, I started to figure out a way to run a "classic" AD&D campaign and began to review my mountain of books and source materials. Things were progressing nicely, but then the move came along and now I'm just finally getting back to setting that all up. One of the major things I noticed, however, is that my memory of AD&D was heavily corrupted by all the additional material that was available when I started playing (sometime around 1986/7). Updates and errata that came from reading Dragon magazine or buying supplementary materials. My memories of AD&D were actually memories of playing a game that was significantly modified from it's original release. On top of that, I apparently also blended in elements of 2nd edition rules (which to be fair, were present to a degree in the supplementary materials I'd be using).

The reason I bring all this up is because over the weekend I ran into the creator of Adventures Dark and Deep, by BRW Games and it pretty much was mind blowing. In his own words:
Adventures Dark and Deep™ explores the question, what if the designer of the world’s most popular role-playing game had not left TSR in 1985, and had been allowed to continue developing it? Unfortunately, Gary never got the opportunity to publish his next version of the game, but he did leave various hints as to his intentions over the years. Using the 1st Edition rules as a foundation, we’ve taken those hints and built an entire game around them. There are new character classes like the bard, jester, mystic, savant, and mountebank; streamlined combat; new spells and magic items; consolidated and re-worked monsters; and much more besides. All of these publicly-published bits of information about the intended revision to 1st Edition have been taken as inspiration for Adventures Dark and Deep™. And it’s all compatible with most other old-school games, so all your favorite adventures can be run using Adventures Dark and Deep™.
Not surprisingly, I picked up hard copies of the core rules but everything is also available DriveThruRPG as both PDFs and printed copies. I mention this on the off chance he'll be at GenCon (I suspect he might) as I'd never heard of them before. It reads (and looks) very much like a spiritual successor to AD&D and I'm actually thinking of using it instead of my version of AD&D as it more closely resembles what I remember.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Holman » Thu Aug 08, 2019 7:20 pm

It's possible that you don't want to follow Gygax's lead.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by hentzau » Fri Aug 09, 2019 3:36 pm

Forgot to provide an update on the end of my Dragon Heist Campaign...
Spoiler:
Pretty much a good ending all around. Everyone seemed to like the moral dilemma that they had been placed in, but ultimately they decided to work to save the commoners over the children. I added a trigger for the magical poison, in the form of an amulet that Lady Cassalenter wore around her neck. They were tipped off to the human sacrifice by the ravens, and a trace of magic around all of the commoner's food, as well as a note slipped to them to check the master bedroom for a red book. Inside the book was the original contract, written in Infernal (which the Warlock read). The person tipping them off was Lady Gralhund, a member of the cult the players met earlier in the adventure. She and her husband were supposed to find the key to the gold but failed because of the pc's and the Cassalenters in a fit of pique sacrificed Lord Gralhund. Lady Gralhund sought vengeance on the Cassalanters by trying to foil their plans.

Anyway, the whole thing ended in a big fight in a hidden temple to Asmodeus under the villa...the players fairly handily dealt with the evil cultists by some very clever strategizing. They were about to dispatch the Cassalanters when Lady Gralhund stopped them, because her vengeance required them to deal with the loss of the souls of their children. Oh, and the paladin, fearing he was about to be discovered by one of the cultists, punched and knocked out the cultist only to have the cultist's mask slip off and see his father's unconscious face.

So in the end, the PC's ended up with a very nice, thriving business in the form of a tavern, an additional 50,000 GP (their part of the cut of the horde), and a pair of very powerful enemies who will be out for revenge in one form or another.

Now, trying to figure out what to do with them next. I was thinking that maybe the Cassalanters could arrange a one way trip to Barovia for them...
"Women are naturally secretive, and they like to do their own secreting." - Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia

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