Spinning ideas in my mind #DnD #RPG

I have an unplanned hiatus in my gaming. My Deadlands game took what is now a 2 session break. The boys D&D game is on indefinite leave. And my Pathfinder is about to resume after the normal 4 weeks but it feels like longer because we had 2 sessions close to each other. That has left my mind free to ponder ideas. That is when I am at my most dangerous.

I pondered the idea of getting James and me into a new table top game. With the new rule set for Warmachine, I looked at that. That is a very well developed world. With its own RPG. I have always liked the miniatures, and from what I have seen it looks like a good game. I even checked out one of the fiction books from the setting from the library, to get a better idea of the feel of the world. And decided that it was not for me. I have never been much into the Steampunk genre in general, and doing further research I determined that this game and world setting rely very strongly on that genre.

Then Wizards came out with their latest Plane Shift setting. This time in the Magic the Gathering Plane of Innistrad. I confess to not knowing a lot about that setting so I went ahead and downloaded the free file. And after reading through it I realized that it is very much in the Gothic world setting. I think that is a cool setting. And I am intrigued by the idea of running a D&D game in that kind of setting. Even cooler is how much this setting relies on the ideas of a Church and machinations within that. Plus it leaves the traditional fantasy tropes of Elves, Dwarfs etc. behind. Sadly, the boys are simply not nearly sophisticated enough to run a game like this. Which is okay, I can leave this one in my back pocket in case I ever get to run a D&D game for more mature players.

The thing about the reboot of the boys campaign is that I am determined to avoid any long term arcs for now. Keep it a simple monster of the week kind of journey through the wilderness. Which limits my planning for now beyond the next adventure.

That all leaves me a little creatively frustrated at the moment. I am pondering setting up a Roll20 game. One of the boys wants to run a game on that setup, and I will have to see how it goes before I look deeper at it. I am conflicted by the idea of role playing online. As an introvert, I embrace the idea of not leaving home. But as the parent of 3 kids, I find the idea of trying to carve out physical space and time to role play from home difficult at best.

I will figure it all out, it is summer, with everyone taking vacations etc. I at least have confirmation that I will be playing Pathfinder on Sunday so I have a fix on the near horizon.

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First game down, fun was had by all #DnD #MtG #Zendikar #RPG

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The first session of the new campaign went quite well. The boys had a good time and paid attention and did well with their new characters. The introductory adventure I had was a good, balanced scenario for them. We are all looking forward to more adventures on Zendikar.

I admit that I was a little concerned. Thursday one of the boys messaged me to graciously tell me that he was bowing out of the campaign and D&D for a while now. I understood and he made it clear that it was not just my games, he had been in others, and none of them had ever really spiked his interest. Which I understood and accepted, because role playing is not for everyone. I was a little concerned that with his departure the other two would bow out as well, leaving me to figure out a solo game for Jimmy. That was not the case, the other two still wanted to play so the game was on.

I kept things simple for now. Not a lot of character background needed for any of the characters. Heck, I even let them skip the arduous process of coming up with names. And I just threw them together with some background so I could also skip the introduction process.

I ran them through a small, simple set of caverns. Where they fought some pretty tough monsters. For once they actually have a monster that they fear (Umber Hulks, man they are brutal.) They all had a chance to use their abilities and powers and everyone had a chance to shine.

I am looking forward to running them through some new stuff each week. Freed from the constraints of a complex campaign arc. I can just plan on variations of the monster of the week, only a little more sophisticated.

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Having them use the Magic Land Cards for Sorcery Points and Spell Slots worked quite well. One player said he really liked how it made it easier for him to keep track of what spells he had cast and had not cast. It also gave me a more visual way of tracking how depleted their resources were, which was an unexpected benefit.

Above is a sample of what the sorcerer used in two encounters. The plains were his Sorcery points. He used Swamps for Third level spell slots, Forests for Second level slots, and Mountains were First level spell slots. Now I know what sort of resources I can pull from them.

I plan to introduce some environmental effects from their overusing spells of a certain kind of Mana, but want to run one more session first. My idea is that there will be a couple of effects tied to each color. And when a certain number of spell slots of that color are used then one of those effects will trigger. It could be something as beneficial as a healing surge where every living creature gets some hit points. Or it could be neutral like all the vegetation grows really fast for a time. Or it could be bad like a blight hits the area.I have some ideas, but I want to document one more session to get a real feeling for what they are using.

It was a good session. I would like to see another player join in. But, for now, the smaller group should work fine. I am looking forward to seeing how this campaign develops.

Following the K.I.S.S. principle for adventure #DnD #MtG #Zendikar #RPG

At one time I had grand plans for the boys campaign. I envisioned a complex, sophisticated storyline. They would have to contend with multiple enemies, and sort out who the real bad guys were. At the same time, their characters would be growing up and developing. It would be cool and fun. Then the reality of it all hit me. I was still dealing with teenagers. It took me a while to figure this all out, but I did. And now I will return to the principle I should have been sticking to all along: Keep It Simple Stupid.

The personality quirks that I like so much in the Players Handbook? Yeah, not so much. I will still use them for the purposes of giving the characters skills, but no reason to focus on things like traits and ideals.

Character creation? I am keeping it simple. I basically created templates for their classes and printed out the sheets for them. They can just plug in their stats, pick a few skills, basic equipment, spells, and weapons and call it good. I do not want to bog them down in anything more complex than that.

Adventure creation? I just went to Donjon.com, generated a simple dungeon, doctored it up and populated it with my desired creatures. I even took a piece of advice I saw on TheAngryGM.com. I picked out 3 monsters from the Monster Manual and only used them in the dungeon, just in different numbers and in different layouts.

My goal here is to not overthink this. Focus more on the gameplay and having fun with that. Not worry so much about the background and plot. I will even make use of the tools I have at my disposal in the Magic cards to help the players and myself.

There may come a time when Jimmy and one or more of his buddies are ready for a more complex game. When I can create a plot with a lot of moving parts and mystery and expect them to dig into it and really think about everything that they are doing. But that time is not now. Now is the time to K.I.S.S. and just play. And if feels like a group of murder hobos, then so be it. If they show signs of getting bored with that I can always add a little more. Stay tuned for reports and future updates.

Brainstorming some novel uses #DnD #MtG #Zendikar #RPG

This week I have the first session for the boys in the Zendikar setting. I am excited to run a different style of game. Something that will work better for the boys. Closer to the Explore, Kill, and Loot, style of play that they are best suited for at this point. One thing I want to also use is some of the cards from Magic. I have been brainstorming on that.

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My first idea is a simple matter of bookkeeping. I will issue some land cards to the party Sorcerer to use for tracking his sorcery points. That seems pretty simple to me. He can decide what color he wants to use and stick with that.

While writing this I had another idea. Every member of the party is a spell caster of some kind. A Ranger, Paladin, Cleric and Sorcerer. One of the things that 5th Edition allows you to do is to use spell slots of different levels when casting spells. Like “I am going to cast Cure Wounds at 4th level”. This allows the players to get bigger effects from their spells. Which is a really cool effect of this edition that I want to encourage the boys to make more use of. But the problem is tracking the spell slots from those levels to make sure that they are not using slots that have already been used. My bright idea is that each caster can decide what color they want to assign to each level of spells. And then they get the lands for each spell slot at that level. Then when they cast a spell or use a spell effect they can use flip over that card to signify that it is used.

This can also be used when they have a concentration effect in play. The card for their spell slot remains in front of them, and if they use another concentration spell then that one goes away. That way they do not forget that they lose that spell effect if they cast another spell.

I think that using the cards in this way will do two things. First, it will help them as far as tracking things in the game and prevent any mistakes. Second, I hope that it gets them more in the mode of thinking about the game, and things like resource management. I can also hope that it might get them more into the right frame of mind for enjoying the game.

I will take some pictures and share them during play and in my game report. Let everyone know how it worked (or did not work.)

Using what I gave them #DnD #Zendikar #Warcraft #RPG

I took the boys to see Warcraft the movie for a number of reasons. I thought it would be a fun movie (I was right.) I thought it would be nice to give them more of a frame of reference when it came to playing the game. But there was an unexpected benefit that I intend to use a lot.

In the Warcraft movie apparently there is a race called the Fell. They are apparently an evil race that goes from planet to planet killing and eating everything that is alive. Slowly sapping up all the energy on a planet before moving on. A little more reading on the subject actually reveals that this is actually a race of demons. But the important thing is this: they suck the life from everything and destroy life on a planet. That is the takeaway I need.

Because in the world of Zendikar, there is something similar, the Eldrazi. The Eldrazi are huge monstrous creatures that wander from plane to plane, killing and destroying everything in their path. They were imprisoned on Zendikar by Planeswalkers who could not kill them. And then they broke free and began destroying everything.

The main Eldrazi are apparently satiated at the moment, and gathering enough strength to leave Zendikar and begin to rampage onto other planes. But they have numerous minions out there that are simply implements of destruction. These are out there, causing trouble, and destroying what they can.

This is all important for my campaign. Because this means that I have an overwhelming evil force for the players to contend with. And a constant source of struggle. Which means I should never be at a loss for opponents for the party.

To bring this back to the movie. I can now use all of this to provide a frame of reference. When I need to explain to the boys the idea behind the Eldrazi, and how they are constantly destroying all living things, I can refer back to specific scenes in the movie. That will be extremely helpful to me and them.

And this makes me more hopeful about this new campaign. One of the hardest things to when running a campaign is to get the players to buy into your vision. With more experienced players this is a little easier. But with new players, especially young people, it is not as simple. I cannot just say it is a set of ruins. They need more information.

On the other hand, that does make it easier for me to surprise them with different monsters. There is less of a chance of describing a creature to them and having them say: ‘oh that is monster X, who is resistant to slashing weapons, but vulnerable to bludgeoning, but resists fire spells.’ So I will count my blessings on that front. Especially going into a new sandbox where I can tinker so much with the monsters anyway.

 

I did not plan it, but it happened so on to #Zendikar! #DND #RPG #MtG

When I planned out the game for Saturday I thought it was actually doable. That the boys were capable of surviving it. I did not plan a TPK. I did realize that I had made it difficult. I did warn the boys beforehand that it was tough, and if they were not smart then bad things could happen.

It started out well for the boys. They fell into a desert cavern. But the fall was not terrible. And the poor giant constrictor snakes who were waiting were almost a trivial concern. I kind of felt sorry for the snakes with how quickly the party took care of them.

They found and followed what was the quickest way out of the cavern. I threw some wandering monsters at them just to see if it could slow them down. But it did not even dent them. In fact, they were almost out of the cavern entirely before their problem began.

Because it was at that point that they split up. Which is every GM’s favorite moment, when the party says: ‘let’s split up’. Because when the 2 members of the party walked into the Dragon’s den it was so much easier on the dragon. And it became even easier when one of those went invisible and decided that he did not want to fight the dragon at all. Which meant the dragon was able to handle things piecemeal.

Plus they were in the dragon’s lair which meant I got to play with the fun toys of 5th Ed lair actions. So a Young Dragon quickly became very very deadly. I had warned the boys, without going into detail, about fighting dragons in their lair. Instead of backing off, and making some smart decisions, they went at the dragon bit by bit. So it was very easy for the dragon to spread things out, breath weapon, physical attacks and did not have to split his attacks at all.

Even with all of that they had taken down more than 50% of the dragon’s hit points before they fell prey to the lightning breath. I told them that if they had gone in all together, and worked together, they could have defeated the dragon. I do not think that I gave them an impossible task, nor was it an inevitable TPK. Instead, it was a learning experience (hopefully.)

But they are all dead now. Which meant that later in the evening we spent some time working on their new characters. What is funny is that they are almost all back to playing the characters they played in our first campaign. A Paladin, Ranger, Sorcerer and Cleric. Depending on a few of their choices they could end up with a very light footed, stealthy party.

I am pretty excited for the potential this group will have. I took the time to model some of the basic recommended choices for each of their characters. I will give it to them as templates to then customize as they see fit. Simple things, like spell choices. It should help everyone out.

I can now begin my planning in earnest for the campaign. Although to call this a campaign is really stretching the definition of the term. I am not planning any major arcs. I will maybe develop some NPC’s for them to interact with. People to give them jobs, buy the stuff they ‘liberate’, and sell them ‘supplies’. That is something I need to get better at anyway so I need the practice. And working from major arcs is not really the boys strength anyway.

So farewell Rosaroca. I had fun with the setting. And if my Deadlands group decides they are ready for some D&D I have kept all my notes so I can start that one up again for adults. For now, it is on to Zendikar and adventure!

 

A little fiction #MtG #Zendikar #DnD

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Gelzfreen peered out from the bushes at the edge of the cliff. The birds had been disturbed by something out there. He was not sure what had done it, he had not heard or sensed anything. He did his best to stay quiet and still. Here in the rainforest one had to be very careful.

He was out here on yet another search. The Falls had proven to be a rich hunting ground for artifacts. Last time he had come out here he had found an ancient scope of far-seeing. That had earned him some welcome shinies and a good sturdy set of climbing hooks, Kor made.

Ah, there was another of the mystic rocks. Old Sage Kazari named them Hedrons. Gelzfreen didn’t care what they were called, what he did know was that you usually found good stuff around them. Especially ones like this, that were part of the earth now. That meant they usually part of a larger structure. Digging out those structures almost always led to really good stuff.

He began to creep quietly out on the ledge to the rock. As he crept ever closer, through the high grass. He almost didn’t see the creature in the high branches of the yeltre tree. But his sense of smell warned him. He stopped, raised his spear, and took aim into the tree. And threw it true, catching the snapping Gnarlid in mid-leap as it sprang from the tree at him.

He leaped upon the creature and stabbed it in the throat. Finishing it off. Well then, if he could just find some trinket in the rocks around the stone this would be a great day indeed. 

One of the cool things about working from the established setting of the Magic plane of Zendikar for the game is that I can pull from a lot of material. I can use images for inspiration like this. And then I can use the creatures from the cards as more source material.

I am definitely looking forward to crafting this adventure. There is so much to work with.

 

Time to praise what has been maligned #MtG

We had the boys over this weekend to play D&D. The game was going very well. We were having a great time. And then we cut the game short as people began arriving at our house for our Memorial Day cookout. Which was disappointing but we made up for it. Because Jimmy decided to break out his Magic cards this weekend.

He and the boys had a good time making up new decks to play with and played a couple of games. My nephew was around most of the weekend. He listened to our game. And then he jumped in when the boys began playing Magic. He was given a large collection for Xmas but had never really had the chance to learn the game, or find out how to make decks.

Jimmy sat down with him and helped him make a deck and ran through a quick game or two. Then he jumped in with the big boys when they had their big game. He was very excited about it and picked up the game pretty quick. The next day the kids and later myself went to another gathering, and they had their cards with them. They enjoyed playing, and Danny got into it as well. And I even joined in to help Danny.

Which meant that I had to dust off my collection when we got home. I also pulled out the small amount of cards that Danny had received as a present for Xmas a few years ago. He was able to use that deck with the other boys and join in with the fun. Even Emily decided that she wanted to learn how to play. So I sat down and ran her through a simple game. And she was able to use one of my pre-made decks to play with the boys. They even managed to talk me into playing one massive game with them.

Which is funny timing. With my having been working on the creation of the campaign setting for D&D in the Zendikar plane from Magic. I have been thinking a lot about Magic recently. When I received the Art of Magic book the other day I was showing it to some co-workers. We talked about the game. With them sharing their negative views of the game.

That is the thing about Magic. I have been playing it off and on since it first came out. I have always enjoyed playing it. It is a great game in my opinion. But the collectible nature of it, the endless additions to the game, has made it hard to be a regular player. Because it becomes an arms race to always keep up with the new sets, and get the newest and greatest cards. That element ruined the game for a lot of people and kept me out of it for a long time.

But, in watching the boys play it, Jimmy having returned to it and the young boys for the first time, I was reminded what a fun game it is. In my view, the game play is a very interesting. If you can avoid the competitive collectors, those who do everything they can to build the best and most lethal decks, I highly recommend it.

My thoughts on world and campaign building #DND #RPG #MtG #Zendikar

I have been putting in a lot of thought in recent weeks about taking my D&D game to another campaign setting. Specifically, I am looking at moving the game to the world of Zendikar. The card game Magic the Gathering has multiple planes where they base various sets. And recently Wizards of the Coast came out with an art book on one of these planes called Zendikar. And they followed up with a guide for converting that setting into D&D terms. This brought me to crafting a campaign setting for the boys.

I began this before I got the Art book, so I started this outline to jot down some ideas on the cloud. I want to discuss the ideas and pieces I am taking into my head for constructing this next piece. Because a lot goes into building/constructing a role playing campaign setting.

There are different options when it comes to starting a campaign. You can keep it simple, run a prepared module in a prepared campaign setting. There is nothing wrong with that, you can have lots of fun with this. And it is a good way for people to start their gaming.

Or you can create everything completely on your own. Start with your own world, you can build everything in it from scratch. That can be a lot of work. Some people really like to do things this way. And some create some absolutely fantastic settings. That is great, and the more of this you can do that the better.

In my current campaign, this is what I did. I started very small, with just a small village and the surrounding area. And only began digging deeper when I needed to. It has been pretty cool.

The drawback of this is that you have to find ways to teach other people about your world. It is incumbent upon the GM to describe everything. Which is not always easy. You have to find ways to share your vision. That is hard enough when working with adults, but when working with the boys it has been even harder. Almost too much work.

Despite all that work, it can be very rewarding. When the players get into the setting and really understand what is going on it becomes a lot of fun. Which is why we GM’s do the work. And so it is time to discuss how this works.

I decided to take the time to describe how I set about creating this new Setting for my D&D campaign. What are the necessary elements for building any setting? Where do I start? I have a few ideas on the subject.

In building a role playing world or campaign setting, the place where I start is a map. Pretty much any Game Master is an amateur cartographer at heart. And most players want to know where they are and where they are going. In constructing my current game I began with a simple map.

In this case, I will be building my campaign in a place where maps do not exist. But in reading through the book I do not need maps! It does not have any maps. But the information it contains is more than enough for me to build games without maps. Because there is a lot of information on every geographic location in the world. More than enough for my mind to use in crafting some adventures. And with a little searching I was able to find a rough map, enough to use:

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More importantly, I have information that I can use when I want to share with the boys. With pictures and flavor text available at will for everyone. It will be really cool.

After Geography and maps, the next thing to look at in creating a setting is the races of the world. Thankfully the file provided by Wizards in a free release covers this for me. This is a mildly non-traditional fantasy world. There are Elves, although they are more ‘feral’ elves, not the graceful patrician elves of the worlds of Tolkien. And there are humans in different regions. But there are no Dwarfs, Gnomes, Dragonborn, or Halflings. Instead, there are Merfolk, and the Kor, Goblins and last, Vampires available for the players to use. That is more than enough for the boys to dig their teeth into if they create new characters. And gives me plenty of options for encounters as well.

Then there are monsters. The Plane Shift document gives me a real good start on this. The nice part is that a lot of the monsters in this setting can just be re-skinned from existing monsters. Which will save me time, especially using my app for adventure creation, when the time comes.

There are a lot of monster types and options  for adventure in this setting. Because it is an almost deserted plane. Having gone through at least two near extinction type of events, destroying major civilizations. There are not a lot of settled areas where the monsters will have been cleared out. The entire world is pretty wild territory with a lot of ancient, abandoned ruins and weird terrain that monsters can use to hide in, or live in.

As far as adventure types, this setting has a lot of options. Because it is a wild setting there are any number of different wilderness settings with monster types. With all of the abandoned ruins, there are lots of places to explore. So there will be a lot of exploration. The reason to be here is to spend a lot of time exploring new lands, finding strange new creatures, kill them and loot whatever they stuff they find. Basically, there is plenty of justification to play as murder hoboes.

With most of the areas of ‘civilization’ being few and far between, and no large populations of anything but monsters. There will not be any cases of finding themselves in the middle of multiple warring kingdoms. Having to stop and think about if they should kill a creature. Basically, all of the things that the boys are not overly concerned with.

Now the real question is how to approach this change? I have a couple of ideas on how I want to do this. There are a couple of options. First, just force the characters in their existing types into the new setting. Second, just start over from scratch in the new setting with new characters. Third, mix those two up, let those who want to keep their characters, and then allow the others the option of changing up.

One idea that this brought to mind was the question of classes in the new setting. I have already discussed the races that are in the new setting. But the first question is what classes will I allow? And what backgrounds will be available? Because those are important considerations for people making characters. And important for me as a GM. Do I want to limit any of these things? In careful consideration of the Zendikar setting the only limitation I can think of is that there are no monks. This setting just does not have the opportunity or reason for any groups to have monasteries where people can do the kind of intense training that monks get.

Another class that I have been thinking of altering was the Sorcerer class. I wrote a post that went into more detail about the ideas I had for that class. But I am still not completely sold on those changes or even making that kind of change.

What sort of adventures do I want to do in this setting? That is one of the big reasons for making this change. Well, the thing about Zendikar is that it is a wild place. It is full of ruins to explore. And a lot of monsters.

That makes it ripe for adventures for the boys. I can build things around a ‘monster of the week’. Even better, I do not have to deal with things like worrying about large cities, or established settlements. And the best part is that I can go with a style where there are no magic shops or at least no one constructing magic items. There may be places where people are selling things that have been found in the ruins. But no one really has the time to sit around and construct elaborate enchanted items. Which means that there is a real incentive to adventure: that is how you get cool stuff.

I hope this post reads well. It has been very helpful to me in organizing my ideas for the game. And I have become very excited about the potential for the game and making the conversion for the boys.

Thinking through some options #DnD #RPG #MtG #Zendikar

In working through my ideas for taking the campaign to Zendikar one of the big concerns is how to adapt magic. Because D&D 5E does not use a magic system at all like the Magic in the card game. I have no problem leaving the existing spell classes like they are and just letting them cast magic as any of the existing D&D classes. That makes things simple for everyone. Except for one class.

Sorcerers are a little problematic in my view. But in this setting, I think that what is called for is a different Sorcerer bloodline. This would be similar to what people have done in creating an Elemental sorcerer bloodline like the one in Pathfinder. Which I think is a good starting point.

The basics of the Sorcerer class would remain the same; like they are with the Dragon blood and Wild magic ones. And then grant abilities at certain levels. Each of the abilities would match up to Color Mana from Magic: Black, Blue, Red, Green, White. I have been trying to think through this, and I think the best source for abilities that line up with the effects of the color magic would be Cleric Domains. For example, I would use the powers of the Life Domain to match up to the White Mana. I would start with additional spells at certain levels:

Sorcerer Level  Spells

1st: Bless, Cure Wounds

3rd: Lesser restoration, Spiritual Weapon

5th: Beacon of Hope, Revivify

7th: Death Ward, Guardian of Faith

9th: Mass Cure Wounds, Raise Dead

These would be spells that the Sorcerer would get at those levels that would not count against the normal Sorcerer spells. As you can see that for certain of these that would grant some spells that a Sorcerer would never have access to. And then there are certain powers to be granted at levels:

1st: Disciple of Life, healing spells work better, gain an additional 2+spell level hit points.

6th: Blessed Healer, the healing spells you cast on others affect you as well. You regain 2+spell level hit points when you cast a healing spell on others.

14th: Divine Strike, Once a turn when you hit a creature with a melee attack you deal additional 1D8 radiant damage.

18th: Supreme Healing, When you roll for healing you instead get the maximum available on the hit dice.

The powers are not overwhelming, but the addition of those spells to the normal Sorcerer spell list is a big bonus on its own. It is not meant to make an overwhelming class choice. And some of the others might be more attractive. Here are the Cleric domains I would use to match up with the different Mana color types.

Black: Death Domain

Blue: Tempest Domain

Green: Nature Domain

Red: Light Domain

What do you all think? Is this a good idea? Should I just leave things alone? Should I not even try to mimic the effects of the card game?