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.)

Taking a tip, I am challenging myself #DnD #RPG #CriticalRole

I did not watch last night’s entire episode, I only made it to the break for Critical Role. But there was one moment that really stood out. I will describe it as best I can without going into the details. At one moment the party was able to get an NPC to identify their magic items. And one of them found out that one of his items had an ability they didn’t even know about. And then figured out that this ability was something that only recently ‘awakened’ due to changes in the character. The thing about all of this, and what it means to me is that I am challenging myself with the new campaign for the boys.

I had already decided that I would give each of the party members a unique magic item to start with since they are starting at 7th level. The other night, as Jimmy was beginning to work on his character he asked me if his character could have a certain weapon. The more that I thought about that the cooler it became in my mind. Bearing in mind that this takes place in the world of Zendikar. One of the races unique to the setting is the Kor, and the members of that race are known to spend their time in the mountains and the flying mountains of that setting. The Kor grow up in the mountains, and are all great climbers, are almost like Spiderman. So I came up with this:

Chain of the Kor

This is a length of rope that is actually made of some unknown metallic material. At one end there is a short handle ending in a very sharp spear tip. On the other end is a heavy ball of some hard substance. It is impossible to see how the rope joins to the items on either end.

The rope is normally 10 feet in length. But at a command it can grow in length up to 60 feet. The spear tip can ably be driven into almost any material and will hold very well, allowing the rope to be used for climbing over a number of distances and surfaces.

The spear end is a +1 piercing weapon. It can be thrown up to 30 feet accurately and then retrieved in the same round as a bonus action.

The ball end acts as a flail in combat. It adds an additional +2 to the bludgeoning damage, and counts as a magical weapon.

The Chain can be wielded by a person with the two weapon fighting style and allow them two different attacks. The spear cannot be thrown and retrieved in this situation.

This is the challenge I am taking on with this campaign. Except for the most mundane of magic items, like scrolls and potions, the magic items that the players will find and use will be special in this campaign. Which matches the setting where the players are going out to locate and retrieve ancient items in deserted ruins.

Which I think fits in the spirit of 5th Edition D&D. Where treasure items are not something that people produce. There is not so much an economy of enchanters out there producing items for adventurers. The world of Zendikar is far too much of a world of wilderness and unsettled life for that kind of economy to arise. So if you want a new item you have to go out and hope to find it.

I am excited by this. It should be interesting.

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.

 

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.