Posts Tagged ‘playtest’

holiday cheer around the gaming table

holiday cheer around the gaming table

2013 rang in the new year with a first for our gaming group – we played a short-to-medium length modern zombie horror survival game using the New World of Darkness role playing game. By late spring however, the clarion call of the worlds most favorite role playing game became too insistent to ignore, and we returned to dungeons and dragons for a series of playtest games that usually ended up with rolling up new characters and starting over every couple of months.

Zombie Horror Survival Game – When the Lights Went out in Kansas City

Modern Zombie Apocalypse Survival Campaign kicking off 2013
Walking with the Dead – The Cast of Characters
Game Night Jan 11 – Nightmare at Hill Manor, a Prelude to the Nocturne
Game Night Jan 18th – Zombie Apocalypse on the Broadway Bridge
Pixel-bitching the Real World – or how not to use “Now” as the game setting
Game night Feb 1 – Surviving the night of the zombie apocalypse
Game night Feb 8th – Shopping for the zombie Apocalypse
Game night Feb 15th – World of Darkness, Worlds of Fun
Game night March 8 – Cruising the zombie apocalypse in my Escalade
Game Night Irish 2013 – Shelter from the Zombie Apocalypse

…and that is where the zombie survival game ended. There may have been one more event that went unrecordeed, and indeed a pact was made that night to never speak again of what transpired in that dungeon beneath the church. The fate of the survivors remains unknown. Next, we playtested the new version of the next edition of dungeons and dragons, using 10th level characters I created based off the players best charaacters from campaigns past.

A Rogue’s Gallery of D&D Next Characters
Game Night D&D Playtest – The Mud Sorcerer’s Tomb

…then we started a new campaign as first level characters. This is a mega dungeon crawl.

Game Night April 12th – Playtesting D&D 5 Zero Level Rules for a new campaign.
Game Night April 19 – Playtestsing DnD5 and the Ruined Fortress of the Evil Overlord
Game Night April 27 – DnD 5e and the Ruined Fortress of the Evil Overlord
Game night May 3 – DnD5e playtest Ruined Fortress of the Evil Overlord
Game Night May 9th – Captured in the Fell Tower
Game Night May 31st – Playtesting D&D 5e and the Ruined Fortress – The Flaming Whats?

A long summer of hazy gaming passed, and I am not sure exactly what happened in the interim. More dungeon crawling? Not sure but it was probably hilarious and occasionally drunken, with plenty of missed Friday nights sprinkled in. Nonetheless, summer came to an end and we began anewwith a seemingly random series of games:

Dnd Playtest Oct 11 – Dicepaws
Game Night Halloween ’13 – Playtesting D&D with Dwarven forge Game Tiles
Game Night Nov 15 – Dungeon Nirvana
Game Night Nov 22 — Dungeon delving and demigod destroying
Game night November 30 – High Noon on Ant Hill Redux

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High Noon on Ant Hill

High Noon on Ant Hill

One of the first adventures I wrote for 4th edition, while still testing out the game, and before taking the plunge with a new campaign, was the “delve” High Noon on Ant Hill. It is a 3-5 encounter mini adventure with a very straight-forward premise. Enter the ant hill of the giant ants and kill the queen. It was played twice, once with a group of middle schoolers, who only made it through the first encounter, and once with the permanent members of the game group, who were slaughtered during the final encounter. It was a great little adventure, known and reviled for its difficulty, and I decided to dust it off for our Thanksgiving game bash. It was a ton of fun.

The adventure was updated to 5th edition rules on the fly, and other changes were made to help the game “flow” and also because I wanted to build the whole dungeon before-hand using my collection of Dwarven forge game tiles. The delve was incorporated into the dungeon the party has been exploring, and for simplicity sake, there was no resting and no turning back while we played. I let the players know that if they made it through the whole adventure, they would gain a level at the end. This seemed to keep them moving forward without too much complaining. Sadly no photo was taken of the delve during play, but it consisted of four encounter areas.

The first encounter is the hill. Originally, it was a large conical hill with a dead tree at its top. The tree was hollow and acted as a doorway into the anthill. In this rendition, I mixed it up. They entered a large chamber. The ants had dug up a twenty foot trench and used the dirt to create a hill against the back wall of the chamber. They stood the trunk of dead tree at the top of the pile, and the hollow led through a passageway to the door in the back wall of the room. Hidden in the branches of the dead tree were a pair of giant flying ant drones. They were tough.

The ants had a high armor class and high hit points, and they had a fly by attack that let them make an attack in the middle of a move without provoking an attack. This worked until the party forced them to attack at the limit of their 8 squares, so they ended their round next to a party member. When the ants became bloodied, they could shatter their crystalline wings in a burst attack of crystal shards.

The ants were killed, and in the process the wizard’s ferret familiar was reduced to one hit point. Rather than having a wounded ferret on his hands, the wizard snapped its spine so it would reform fully healed in thirty minutes. The little ferret let out an agonizing squeal as it perished at its owners hands. The squeal echoed down the hallways and nearly a mile away, a giant lizard heard the sound of breakfast being served. Before exiting the chamber through the bole of the tree, they found a dead elf concealed by his cloak of elvenkind. The rogue snapped it up.

They came to a hallway, and heard a scratching sound ahead. They were not surprised by the carrion crawler ambush, and everyone was waiting for it when it sprang out of the wall. But they were not expecting the giant lizard coming at them from the direction they just came. The lizard attacked the wizard and while the rest of the prty fought the carrion crawler, the wizard fought the lizard. He scared the lizard so bad with his imitation of a female lizard in mating season, that the monster leaped up into the wizards arms, yet still tried to swallow his head. The paladin finally slew the carrion crawler and turned to stab the lizard. The wizard wept at the lizard’s passing, having become very close to it in such a short emotion filled encounter. From the lair of the carrion crawler, they found a pair of potions. One was a potion of invisibility, the other was unknown.

The third encounter area was a long chamber with the center dug up for farming. Various fungi were being tended by ten giant worker ants, and guarded by 2 warrior ants. Additionally, one new worker ant appeared from the far door each round until the characters moved into the final room. This battle was quick and decisive, as the worker ants only had one hit point apiece (yay minions!) In the fungi field they found an abandoned battle axe +1, which was made of weightless iron, and had a quirk that it was the only magic weapon carryable at ta time. The paladin took up the axe, but traded it with the fightress at the end of the adventure.

The party entered the final chamber where they had to fight the queen ant and her pair of drone cows, each of which was covered in corrosive slime and could pump out a worker ant or make a pincer attack. Meanwhile the queen flitted about making pincer attacks. The wizard was struck by a critical hit and knocked unconscious. The fightress attacked a cow and her weapons were corroded by the acidic slime. She went down the next round, and it was up to the kinder assassin and the dragonborn paladin to bring it to a conclusion, which they did. Beside the magical component they were looking for, they were rewarded with 500 gold pieces, a magic suit of banded +1 and a wand of magic missiles with 10 charges.

And they made it to third level. Good game.

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thedm2Join me if you will good travelers as I recount a tale of how a group of random homicidal maniacs fell together one day into a large hole in the ground. Once down there, this group of murder-hoboes teamed up to embark on a voyage to escape, and to destroy the divine pantheon of their world’s creation along the way. Oops!

The wizard had in his possession a magic recipe for the creation of an unknown magic item. The scroll was blank, and only when a spell component was near would a line appear with the needed ingredient. As the party was arguing and picking each others pockets in some obscure hall in an unknown stretch of dungeon, Jambunathon felt a warming sensation in his breast. No it was not his heart growing three times larger, it was the first line of the recipe filling in on the scroll in his vest pocket.

a hall

a hall

Dwarven False Gold appeared, a type of ore mined by dwarves and renowned for its use in magic. Ahead they saw a set of iridescent glowing, multi-faceted eyes at the end of the hall. A carrion crawler and giant soldier ant were locked in mortal combat. The ants eyes were glowing with particles of dwarven false gold. The adventurers quickly slew both insects, and they discovered that the ant carried 1/150th of the amount of the stuff they needed.

Ant man vs cat fish - I mean giant warrior ant and carrion crawler locked in combat

Ant man vs cat fish – I mean giant warrior ant and carrion crawler locked in combat

It was decided that the drone mothers, who spawned countless ant warriors, must contain glands full of the dissolved gold, and that they could get the required 2 pounds by extracting it from the source, rather than 149 more sets of ant warriors eyes.

However, when the party decided which hallway to follow at the intersection with the insect incident, they chose the long, dark, narrow passage sloping downwards, rather than the wide hallway with clear ant tracks. Go figure.

This way be monsters... but that way be monsters too.

This way be monsters… but that way be monsters too.

They came to a stair and descended. At the bottom of the stair, the magic users detected and anti-magic field. They entered, and were in a region that was totally dead to magic. There was also no escape, they could not leave the anti-magic shell once in.

But first, there was a strange and unexplained rumbling in the walls...

But first, there was a strange and unexplained rumbling in the walls…

They could hear the sounds of women grunting in what sounded like athletic exertion, and soon discovered its source. A chamber held two naked women, holding hands and fighting desperately with their long nails, gashing and gouging in a mortal fight that upon closer examination had been going on for a long time.

They were the fleshly avatars of the Goddess of Betrayal and of Treachery. They had been imprisoned and could not leave until one was destroyed, but they were equal in power, and though stripped of magic by the anti-magic shell they were trapped within, they could not one overpower the other.

Interestingly, another item appeared on the wizard’s grocery list. One drop divine heart blood. Oh this was going to be good.

The godess of treachery drew the short straw, and she was soon killed. The fightress Jillian knew a moment of divine strength as she beheaded the goddess. She then felt a stabbing pain in her back, as the lights dimmed in her eyes. Betrayed by the Goddess of Betrayal!

This is a creatively re-imagined portrayal of what actually didnt happen.

This is a creatively re-imagined portrayal of what actually didnt happen.

When the goddess was slain, the anti-magic shell dissipated. The Goddess of Treachery regained her powers and grew another set of arms and daggers appeared in each delicate hand.

The wizard survived a slash of her blade as he gathered a drop of divine blood. The paladin saved the fightress by laying on hands, and the goddess recognized she was in danger. In return for letting her escape, she would tell them the location of a magic sword (up the stairs down the hall, turn left, cross the wide hall and continue along to the tee intersection, look for the secret door) and she also granted them a favor if they should ever call on her.

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Fortress of the Evil Overlord level 2

Fortress of the Evil Overlord level 2

Playing d&d has never looked better, thanks to the recent acquisition of Dwarven Forge Game Tiles, Reaper Kickstarter miniatures, Wizards of the Coast and Paizo miniatures, and a great group, I am living my life long dream of near perfect dnd. Now if only the dungeon master were better than the ill-prepared, unkempt fool behind the wheel.

Here is the stack we have to work with.

Here is the stack we have to work with.

We started off with a small ret-con to provide a clean slate. They tumbled down a chute and out the doors of a large antique wardrobe and into a dungeon chamber. Behind them was the solid back of the wardrobe with a keyhole in the center, but they had no key. Before them on the ground lay a corpse and next to it a small pile of charred bones.

messing 'round with dwarven forge game tiles.

messing ’round with dwarven forge game tiles.

The corpse was home to four rot grubs which caused much near-death hilarity as they jumped about tying to bore into flesh and reach the hearts of victims. First one gnome then another was victim to rot grub attacks, but in each case the halfling rogue was able to pluck the grub from its victim before it was too late. Eventually a blast of lightning fromthe dragonborn quelled the rot grub threat so that the wizard could get to the magic scroll he detected.

This didn't happen

This didn’t happen

The scroll was completely blank. What a find! It was a secret wizard recipe for the creation of a magic device. As the correct items were collected they wold appear on the list until all items were gathered at which it could be cast and create the item. Being blank, the wizard Jambunathon had no idea what item it wold create.

They went through a few chambers, fled through a storage chamber full of stirges, and eventually opened up a door and surprised a napping ogre and its pet boar. They fought, and the dragon was knocked out by the ogre and its club. when a healing attempt was made, the gnome druid was pounded flat as a pancake, scooped up and eaten in one bite by the ogre and his massive club. Finally the ogre was slain by the fightress Jillian, and the bore soon followed. While looting the ogre corpse, Jillian found a ring of protection +1.

I couldnt stop laughing after the gnome druid was killed in a single blow by massive damage. I rolled max damage, 2d8+4, for 20 points, and the poor gnome only had 10. It filled me with a warm glow to have killed the gnome, like I still had it. I’m sure the player must not have felt so good, but it is not his first fatality and he handles it well. Good times.

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Laying out my stack of tiles for some serious construction.

Laying out my stack of tiles for some serious construction.

For the past two Fridays, we have been using the Dwarven Forge Game Tiles with our miniatures to play d&d. We happened to be going through an urban murder mystery at the time (Murder in Baldur’s Gate) so this took a little modification, but the past two weeks have shown how much awesomeness the Game Tiles can add. I am lucky to have acces to such wonderful paraphernalia for our game, including the Dwarven Forge Game Tiles, Reaper miniatures, and other good stuff picked up over the years. The last two items though, both coming out in the past year, has definitely taken our game to a new level of cool.

It was thanks to the exemplary player, friend, and all around great dude Dave, who made this possible. I was on sabbatical at the time and he stepped up to take part in the Kickstarter for the tiles when I was unable due to a chronically deflated bank account. My players are all great, and constantly work to make up for my own inadequacies. Isn’t that what a good life is all about?

Player built the dungeon, I added appropriate encounters.

Player built the dungeon, I added appropriate encounters.

It looks like this will be quite a challenging dungeon! Fortunately reason prevailed and we went on to play the adventure at hand: Murder in Baldur’s Gate. In this episode the heroes have just defeated the demon who slew the town’s protector, and are beset upon all sides by those whowant to fill the power vacuum left in the good duke’s wake. They get offers from the Silver Spoons, the Flaming Fists, and an attractive lady known as Rihanna. Each group requested a midnight meeting in a tavern known as the Dragoneye. When they arrived, they realized it was a set-up, and were attacked by the Silver Tea Spoon Thugs on one side, and the Pirates of the Flaming Fists on the other. It was their alliance with the owner of the tavern Rihanna herself which allowed them to prevail.

Throw down at Rihanna's

Throw down at Rihanna’s

That was last week. This week for Halloween I wanted to spookify it up, so I took some inspiration from the classic adventure Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and rebuilt the mansion’s first floor. Their goal, was to help out Rihanna, who was a champion of the poor outer district. The fisherman’s wharf area was having many of their children kidnaped – 30 in the past 3 weeks. She feared that even more will be at risk during the next day’s children’s festival, and asked the heroes to find out what was happening. All signs pointed to the crumbling house overlooking the sea at the top of Saltmarsh Lane.

Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

We didn’t get to finish the adventure but it was a ton of fun.There were traps on practically everything, and a few good treasures were found. They also had a run in with a Frankensteinian Flesh Golem. After spoiling for a fight all night, they quickly ran away from the monster. They did save 5 kids before we had to call it a night. Maybe next year!

Jambunathon pummeled

Jambunathon pummeled

Punched up, knocked down, and dragged out of the room by the monk, Jambunathon faced the mighty flesh golem alone. While everyone else wondered what the heck was he thinking?!?! It was fun.

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This is Twinkie Pie.  He is a double alpha male cat that wont let ANYONE touch his paws - except a certain Ginger who can do whatever she wants and he is ok with it.

This is Twinkie Pie. He is a double alpha male cat that wont let ANYONE touch his paws – except a certain Ginger who can do whatever she wants and he is ok with it.

This week we played dnd and it was fun. We are playing the newly released “Murder in Baldurs Gate” as an into into a Heroes of the Lance Dragonlance campaign.

We were walking through town, Baldurs Gate, on a day of celebration when the God of Assassins was finally killed by the Duke who is also the city’s patron and most famous resident. It was a festival day and the heroes (we are calling them that though its accuracy is dubious at best) took pat in games of skill and chance. The bard perfomred an excellent rendition of Arry Pooter.

Much archery was loosed, some excellent jousting was perfromed, with the final round between the dragonborn paladin on her giant sugar-bear mount versus the elf ranger on her Acherai – a four legged flamingo mount. I cant even remember who won, but it was epic. Oh yes, each of them did excellently and won a pair of the duke’s daughter’s scarves. It was due to a wardrobe malfunction that the paladin was thrown by the ranger in the last round.

Finally, the group engaged a group of 7 thugs in a mock battle. This meant attacking to subdue only, which meant some spells and weapons were unavailable, like crossbows and magic missiles for example. The party won, and then the free beer was released to the crowds in giant barrels around the town square. City nobles came up on stage including Fancy Filosi, Jambunathon Boehner, Bitch Baconnel (short for Bitchell), and world famous Duke Bo Robama.

They tried to give some speeches that were topical and cross referenced our own current ongoing struggles with government in a way that inspires dialogue, but the players wanted one of that, they wanted to bust more heads, so I obliged. Crossbowmen opened up on the crowd from second story windows while the thugs from earlier started kill9ing an wounding panicked civilians in a wanton slaughter. Meanwhile Duke Bo Robama was fighting for his life against a crazed old man with a short sword who called himself Darth Yoda.

The battle is crazy and when the old man is killed, the duke explodes and turns into some disgusting monster all tooth and claws. It ends up swallowing the gnome cleric, then the evil wizard who went in after her, before being killed by a combination of attacks from Jillian the highly skilled weapon mistress and the paleolithic tribal duo Male Human Bard and Female Elf Ranger. The kender spent the entirety of all three battles looting corpses as they fell. She also “found” a divan at one point, which aided the heroes in their fight against the thugs.

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dragonlance clanA new campaign kicks off as soon as the latest, greatest, and last public playtest hits the servers. While we have been playing (if you can call it that) a mega-dungeon crawling campaign of my own design, I want to try something new. A dragonlance dalliance.

The Dragonlance saga begins around level 4, so there will need to be an introductory adventure. In this case I have chosen, because it is new and shiny, the newly released adventure Murder in Baldur’s Gate. This adventure is the first new product released by D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast in a long time, and it is playable in any edition of D&D, with specific rules covering editions III, IV, and V. Great concept and I hope they stick with it. The adventure is also the same one being played at Encounters, the weekly public play event semi-sponsored by the publisher. I say semi-sponsored, because dm’s now have to purchase the adventure themselves, rather than receiving it as a reward for their time and effort to provide new and returning players a great fun time week after week.


Furthermore, the adventure is co-written by Ed Greenwood, legendary creator of the Forgotten Realms, and is set in one of the Realms iconic cities. Baldur’s Gate is one of the three major cities in that most popular of Game Worlds, and countless, books, games, and other tie-ins have been based in Baldur’s Gate, including a wildly popular computer game series from the very late 90’s, fittingly titled Baldur’s Gate.

The adventure is a complete mini-campaign setting, and includes a book detailing the city itself. There is a fold-out screen with a beautiful map on one side and pertinent information about the city on the other. This product is truly a sight to behold, and I have high hopes for the adventure, which is a non-linear mystery focusing on exploration, interaction, and problem solving, as well as the usual busting of heads and the emptying of pockets of the recently deceased. The campaign setting also details a Forgotten Realms “re-boot” for the new edition of D&D. I have not completely read up on what exactly the “Sundering” entails, but I hope to find a way to mesh the “Sundering” with the “Cataclysm” of Dragonlance 300 years prior to the start of the campaign which led to the abandonment of the world by the gods. Somehow I will also have to transport the party from the pre-cataclysm normal times of Baldur’s Gate into the post-cataclysm of the Dragonlance saga.

Baldur’s Gate is a big, important fantasy city. So I am going to rip it, whole cloth, out of the Forgotten Realms and plunk it down somewhere in my own campaign world D’Erte. I do this because I have never been a fan of published game worlds, mostly because I do not like worry about breaking ‘canon.’ My games get crazy and I do not like to have to rein them in to keep them within the bounds of a normal published setting.This is also why I generally do not run store-bought adventures. I have no hesitation about building my game out of the components of published works. This campaign will be a testament to that. Really, my own world D’Erte, is purposefully pretty vague so that it is easier to graft build into it whatever I need. There is a fine place for Baldur’s Gate along one of the coasts of D’Erte and it looks like a 300 year cataclysm is about to sweep my game world as well.


After Baldur’s Gate, the real campaign will begin. There are 16 adventures in the original saga, though I think we will somewhere between 9 and 11, the climax of the epic tale. The later adventures contain wargames, campaign guides, alternate time-lines and other weird stuff. Who knows! Dragonlance originally released in the mid 1980’s as a line of adventures with a tie in trilogy of novels. The novels are great reads, I highly recommend them, and they are written by the creators of the Dragonlance game world and adventure saga. Tracy and Laura Hickman and Margaret Weiss have become legends of world and game design themselves, and this is the vehicle which launched their fame.


When I first started playing dungeons and dragons, this is one of the first “campaigns” we played. I was not the DM when I played this series, my good friend Roge was the DM, and he did a bang up job. The memories of those games are faded into the mists of time, but I am excited to replay them, this time from the other side of the screen, not least because it will give me a chance to relive some of those halcyon days of yore.


This campaign will feature characters that the players create. This will cause a bit of trouble during the Saga, due to the intricate, intertwining personalities and backgrounds of the original heroes of the saga. (The game is meant to be played with pre-generated characters, with a very doubtful guideline for creating one’s own,if they feel they must.) In order to combat this I plan on giving the players some background and personality cues that map to specific characters from original storyline. This should help with continuity as well as role playing opportunities.

Considering of role playing opportunities, this campaign is designed to be more “immersive” than past games. Our best gaming experiences have been with campaigns that have lasted for over a year, yet the past couple years have seen nothing but short games. It has been fun, trying out everything from modern zombie apocalypse, to Temple of Elemental Evil with Pathfinder Beginner Box. But at some point I wanted to get back into an epic campaign. Epic stories are one of the reasons I play this game.


So all this epicness and immersion, and role playing will come at a price. My goal is to have as many people in our group as possible commit to renewing our efforts to be here week after week, on time and ready to play. The recent Friday Game Nights have become erratic with wildly varying levels of interest and participation, and this includes me.

Friday Game Nights, however, are too important to see them slide into decline like this. For many of us (me at least) it is the only time to socialize in an otherwise busy, work-filled week. It is a chance to be creative, to flex our imaginations; to interact and try to solve problems in unique ways; to make each other laugh, to entertain and be entertained; and finally we have really great food and drink. Some people go to clubs, some people have dinner parties, some people just crash in front of the monitor. We make up stories and roll dice and have fun in the comfort of my home, and I hope it continues like that forever


That is the course plotted for the next year or so of gaming around my table, starting next Friday night. Starting with character creation using the final playtest packet for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons, we will play the newest published adventure as an introduction to the epic saga of Dragonlance, using the original adventure modules published back in the glorious hey-day of dungeons and dragons, when church pastors were foaming at the mouth over the demon worshipping role players, and Tom Hanks was telling us that make-belive leads to madness.

Dragonlance 6 is my favorite of the set, not least because of the incredibly cool artwork and because of my love of white dragons. (Oops, did I give away too much?) It is also the one I remember most as a 7th grader, when my duelist Alec LeFont met his end on the deck of an ice-runner. Damn you Roge! I had a grappling hook!


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