Night of the Zombie King Trailer

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

The makers of Gold recently released the trailer for Night of the Zombie King. Looks good and I love that last line!

XD&D Chapter 1: Abilities

Posted by Professor Obscure





XD&D tagWhile working on my redesign of Dungeons and Dragons I’ve come to many revelations. The most important seems to be that if I change one thing, it ripples through the whole rules set and can result in major changes elsewhere, and there will be MAJOR changes made purposefully also. So while I explain these changes one chapter at a time, and get your feedback, keep in mind that there are other changes coming down the road that will be impacted by the early changes and vice versa.


The six core ability scores have remained a part of Dungeons and Dragons since its creation. Nothing gets me more pumped about character creation than getting out those 3d6 (or 4d6 I guess) and rolling up my core abilities. What those numbers mean has changed greatly over the years, as have the they are generated. I grew up believing that rolling three six-sided dice to generate a number from 3-18 was the normal way of doing it, and only a generous dm or a more heroic edition of D&D allowed for the more common 4d6-drop the lowest way of doing things. After doing some research I discovered that 3d6 has not been the norm since 1977. The only official D&D products that advocate the basic 3d6 roll is original Dungeons and Dragons (OD&D) and the old “red box” basic rules. In 1st Edition AD&D 3d6 isn’t even a listed option! This blew my mind when I first read it.


There has always been a lot of discussion about first level characters and whether they should be a cut above the rest or just common men who rise to greatness. I personally find the common man beginnings more compelling. Many first level characters I’ve seen start off as the sons of great lords or destined for some great purpose. I almost never see a character who is the son of a farmer who scrapes together his few belongings and sells it all to become an adventurer. This ‘born a hero’ mentality is a result in part of the 4d6 attributes. If a player rolls really, really well on 3d6 I think then they really have ‘earned’ the tag ‘born a hero’


I think when an 18 Dexterity for a rogue is not exceptional but expected, there is a problem. I think with all of the bonuses and modifiers that are part of 3.x already, starting with average and potentially below average ability scores will make those few times you do get a high ability score seem all the more extraordinary and will go a long way to balancing some of the old of control numbers common in 3.x.



Generating Ability Scores:

Option 1: Roll 3d6 six times. Place scores as desired.

Option 2: Roll 3d6 seven times. Drop the lowest score. Place as desired.

Option 3: Roll 3d6 six times. Reroll the lowest score using 4d6. Place as desired.


How the scores are generated isn’t the only problem with the modern ability score. Back in First Edition and even more so in Second Edition there was this elegant relationship between the ability score and the roll of a d20. I knew right away what a 13 strength meant. It meant I needed to roll under a 13 on a d20 when I wanted to do strength-related tasks. Non-weapon proficiencies in Second Edition reinforced this even more. In modern editions of the game the ability score only tells you what your ability modifier is, and even then a 13 strength is just as good as a 12. The only place you actual ability SCORE seems to matter is telling you how high a level spell you can cast, and how much weight you can carry.


Now I really applaud the idea of the ability modifier. I think it makes things go much faster and much more simply, but I think something was really lost in robbing the ability score of any meaning. Certainly in Forth Edition the 3-18 ability score seems purely ornamental since you don’t even roll any dice to arrive at it. Why not just assign ability modifiers instead of ability scores?


Ability modifiers really are the core mechanic to d20 RPGs and I think if I tried to change them (their actual values) I might just as well write my on game from scratch, so I’m not going to fool with those. I will make every effort in later chapters to have the actual ability score play a role in calculations (skills, spells, etc), and I do feel comfortable making this up front change:


Table 1-1B Bonus Spells

Ability

Score

0

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

5th

6th

7th

8th

9th

1-9

Cannot cast spells tied to this ability score.

10

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

11

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

12

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

13

1

14

1

15

1

1

16

2

1

17

2

1

1

18

2

2

1

19

2

2

1

1

20

3

2

2

1

21

3

2

2

1

1

22

3

3

2

2

1

23

3

3

2

2

1

1

24

3

3

3

2

2

1

25

4

3

3

2

2

1

1

26

4

3

3

3

2

1

1

27

4

4

3

3

2

1

1

1

28

4

4

3

3

3

2

1

1

29

4

4

4

3

3

2

1

1

1

30

4

4

4

3

3

2

2

1

1

31+

5

4

4

4

3

2

2

1

1

1


This chart favors lower level spell rewards for high ability scores rather than improved access to higher level spells. There are a lot of changes coming to magic in general and how spells are cast. I think more opportunities to cast spells (especially if they are harder to pull off) is a good thing, rather than more access to higher level spells which by their natures are problematic.


This still does not go very far to improve the nature of ability modifiers. When a 19 strength is IDENTICAL in almost every way to an 18 strength, there is a problem. Perhaps a mechanic like:



Moment of Glory: When a character possesses an odd-numbered ability score, once per game session that character can use that ability as if it were one point higher for one round, effectively giving that character a +1 glory bonus in that ability for one round.


I’m not sold on this idea. If skills will be using the raw ability score and spell checks as well, there is still going to be favoritism for the even-numbered score. I welcome any ideas that would balance this out this problem without breaking the game as it stands too much. One of my back seat goals is to not have to rewrite every monster in the monster manual.


Other changes to this chapter will depend greatly on what future chapters (like skills) look like, but its safe to say that if a character’s charisma modifies his ability to use diplomacy it will continue to modify diplomacy, but maybe not in the same way. At every opportunity I’ll be trying to use the raw ability score rather than the modifier. Hopefully I’ll be bringing meaning back to the ability score so that a player with a character who has a 15 wisdom knows exactly what that means.

Mr. Labyrinthian Goes to GenCon - Part 2: Of Gravestones and the Vampire Strahd

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I live in New England, Connecticut to be exact.  Let me tell you something about CT... it is far as hell from Indianapolis. Despite already knowing this we all agreed to get into two automobiles and drive there.  Originally we were all going to pile into the Professor's van, but due to mechanical difficulties we were forced to take two alternate vehicles.

The ride seemed like it would be just fine... for the first six hours.  The rest of the drive really sucked.  We left at 6pm Wednesday and didn't arrive until around around nine or ten AM on Thursday.  I don't actually know which as I was in an exhausted stupor while we were checking into our hotel.  One thing I do remember though the haze of exhaustion, the number of gamers we saw on our way in and at our hotel as we were checking in.  I just remember turing to Bear and pointing out how Gamers stick out like a sore thumb.  I mean think about it, 99 times out of 100 you can spot them a mile away.

So we checked in, moved out stuff in, and did our thing.  Revil, the Professor, and Moox all went right away to the convention.  Professor and Moox had entered a HeroClix tournament and Revil had gotten screwed out of his badge by the USPS (A tip we learned on our first GenCon experience, people.  Pay to have your badge FedExed to you because GENCON WILL NOT SEND YOU A NEW BADGE OR REFUND THE MONEY TO YOU IF THE US POSTAL SERVICE LOSES IT.)  and had to go and get a new one.  Only Revil had gotten any sleep on the way there so Moox and Professor were forging on exhausted.  Myself, Bear, and Trip all went to sleep to try and get as much rest as possible before our first event. 

We got up around 2:30 showered and headed over to the convention.  As this was my first trip to GenCon I did a lot of research including looking for parking lots ahead of time.  A lot of people said parking was a nightmare, but it wasn't a problem at all for us.  We parked in the same 24 hour lot every day for $10.  Good price, not a bad walk, and no chance of our car getting stuck overnight.

On our walk to the convention we spotted more gamers, easily recognizable as always, also making their march toward the Convention Center.  As I spotted more and more of them I got a strange feeling, but wasn't able to fully understand it as we arrived and all other thoughts were pushed from my mind.  As I've said I've done a lot of research, seen plenty of pictures, and heard a ton of stories about the world's largest gaming convention, but nothing could have prepared me for walking through that door for the first time.  The scale of the thing was overwhelming.  I felt like Harry F-ing Potter walking down Diagon Alley for the first time, totally immersed in something I'd only heard about and wanting to look everywhere at once.  I wanted to stop and look at all the interesting things people were doing, playing, or had on display.  I was so distracted that I kept falling behind the group.

Everywhere I looked were Gamers which brought back that feeling I'd had earlier and made me think about it.  Now I'm not sure if others feel this way, but often I feel like Gamers are people on an island.  Each local gaming group is like an island of Gaming culture in the sea of non gamers that make up the world.  Gamers are often social outcast and the hobby to which we belong is looked at as, at best, very strange.  But seeing all these Gamers, which in the downtown area far outnumbered everyone else, I realized that for once, this strange thing that I do is normal.  Now if you are new to this site then you don't know that I am a huge closet gamer.  I don't talk about gaming, pretend that I don't do it, and it took ten years of dating my (now) wife to tell her that I game weekly.  I love RPGs, I love D&D, but there is something about the stigma that I haven't wanted any part of since I was 11.  Which is why the convention evoked such an odd response from me.  I just couldn't get over the knowledge that I was surrounded by people who not only knew about gaming, but wouldn't think I was weird for doing it.

Once I got over my wonderment we went and found the Professor and Moox at their Heroclix tourney which was still going on when we got there.  Though Moox had drawn Red Hulk and was doing well The Professor had gotten a really crappy draw (His best figure being Peter Parker) and was doing as poorly as one might expect.  He withdrew from the tournament so we could make it to our True Dungeon 101 seminar and Moox hung around and kept playing.

True Dunegon 101 was my first GenCon event, sort of anticlimactic as it was just a seminar to show people what to expect from True Dungeon. Sadly it might have been the best seminar we went to, but I'll explain that later.

We left a few minutes early to make sure we made it to our Thursday night event, one we had all be waiting for, Ravenloft. No, not some campaign setting or redone module, I'm talking about the original I6 Ravenloft. This and True Dungeon were the two events I was really looking forward to. As I've said earlier I think Ravenloft is probably the best D&D adventure ever written. There are a number of reasons, but I won't go into them now. Instead I'll tell you about the amazing time we had.



Mike, the gentlemen who ran us through Ravenloft at GenCon has a website that we looked through beforehand, and even got to pick characters  We bought all the tickets to the event so for the first time ever, our group would all be on the same side of the screen, something I was excited about.  Immedietly upon arriving at the table I knew we were in for a real treat.  Mike had set everything up including props and items like rubber bats to set the mood.  We literally didn't need to bring a thing as he provided everything including markers for the characters and poker chips for spells.  It was readily apparent that Mike has been perfecting this game for quite some time and he has streamlined everything from the rules to the phyiscal materials (Dice, character sheets, etc) help speed up the game and maximize the fun.  Mission accomplished!

 This was my Gravestone trophy I got when my character died.  Everyone one and they were all different.

We got off to something of a rough start as far as actually playing the adventure since Moox showed up late to the event (his Heroclix had run over).  But once play got underway we had an absolute blast. I don't want to ruin anything for those of you who have not played Ravenloft before so I'll try to keep things as spoiler free as possible.  We started off at an Inn outside of Barovia as per the module.  We were drawn in with the classic hook and were off and running.  The DM was an excellent roleplayer and though we were all using pregenerated characters we really started to get into them.  Things were going really well for us until we reached the castle.  We had made allies with the townsfolk, were on good terms with the gypsies, and my Paladin Sir Richard Dragonblood had defeated one of Strahd's principal lackeys in a duel.  But as I said, we had a reversal of fortunes upon arriving at Strahd's castle.  Both My character and Revil's died during the one truly brutal random encounter in the adventure.  It was all down hill from there.  One by one, room by room our resources were widdled down to nothing until everyone was dead.  We loved every minute of it!  Bear was the last one to go.  He out in the blazes of glory destroying Strahd's organ out of pure spite.

Though the game was scheduled to only last until 1am we ended up playing until 5am, just missing the 12 hour mark.  Mike was a great sport and was willing to see the whole thing through.  The Professor should also be congratulated.  I consider an act of super human gumption and commitment that he stayed up having had no sleep for almost 48 hours.  Moox didn't have what it took and quit about half way though the game and I ended up taking over his character when mine died.

Ravenloft was without a doubt the best game we played at GenCon and probably spoiled us a bit.  Though we didn't defeat Strahd we did get plenty of Ravenloft Gravestones as a conselation prize.  For those of you making the trip out of GenCon next year check the event guide to see if Mike is running his Ravenloft game again.  If he is make it your number one priority to sign up for this game, you probably won't find a better one anywhere at the Con.

From Left to Right: Bear, Revil, The Professor, Trip, and our DM for the night Mike.

Exhausted we returned to our hotel to preapre for the next day... uh, I mean later that day.

Retouched Final Campaign Maps

Posted by Labyrinthian in , , ,


After some great feedback I've gone back and done some alterations to the final versions of my maps for my Caliburn game.  There are four versions; the basic landmass version, the political version, the ethnic version, and the religous version.



Changes range from redoing the forests to changing the labeling for the religion and ethnic maps.

Mr. Labyrinthian Goes to GenCon - Part 1: Look for Our Sign to the North

Posted by Labyrinthian in ,



Ever since I was a little kid I've heard tales of Gen Con.  For years I've wanted to go and dreamed what it would be like, only to be disapointed time after time.  But no longer!  That's right, I have returned safley for my group's pilgramige to Indianapolis where I attended Gen Con for the very first time.

Though this was my first and only Con to this point, one of our members (Moox) had been to a few smaller conventions (like GaryCon) before.  As no one in my group has been to Gen Con before we did a great deal of research and preparation.  We found maps, lists, and articles about attending the Con that all proved useful.  We brushed up on the rules for some systems we haden't played in a while, made our hotel reservations, and of course preregistered for out events. 

The event list was nothing short of daunting at first glance.  Thousands of events to choose from made it very difficult figure out what we wanted to do.  We took time out from out weekly game to go over the event list and see what we wanted to do.  Though I know some people believe in mostly playing with strangers during conventions, we mostly wanted to play with one another.  All of us on one side of the screen was a new experience that we were all intersted in taking advange of. 

Here is a quick recap of my schedule for Gencon

Thursday:
True Dungeon 101
I6: Ravenloft (The Original Adventure that started it all!)

Friday:
The Antagonist
Pimp My Game
True Dungeon

Saturday:
Eureka! Cooking Up Adventure Plots with Gnome Stew
Worldbuilding 101
Castle of the Mad Archmage
Shadows Fall on Absalom

We didn't schedule any events for Sunday as we wanted to leave in the early afternoon and make sure we had some time in the dealer's hall for any final purchases.  Again, these are just the events we had scheduled, obviously we did other things.

The final  preparation that we made was to procure team "uniforms" for Gencon.  We went through one of the many online manufactures for the actual shirt creation, but they were designed by our very own Professor Obsecure. 

Needless to say they are amazing, and they were a huge hit at the Con.  People kept coming up to us and asking us where we got the shirts.  Here is a picture of AngryBear and ManOnFunTrip rocking their shirts.  Trip is the one with the horned Kevlar Helmet. 



The story of why we call ourselves 'The Viking National Guard' is something of a long one, which I'm sure I will relate one day.  For now I'll just explain each of us has a different color logo on the front of our shirts, and a different name and number on the back.  The names were those of various norse gods.  Here what the back looked like...


To show you the amazing detail on the logo designed by the Professor here is what mine looked like...




In part 2 I'll discuss our ride there, my initial impressions of the Convention, and our first night of gaming!