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Barney’s Adventures: The Bloodstone July 24, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, Barney's Adventures, DM, Narrative.
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Raids

The basic story was that the town they live in had recently been plagued by a series of attacks and thefts, culminating in the theft of a powerful stone from the mayor’s manor. The mayor was furious to no end and desperate to get back his stone. He offered this ragtag group of adventurers 400gp each to retrieve the dark red stone for him, paying 100 up front and the remaining 300 when the bloodstone (as he called it) was returned. He was very hesitant to give any information about the stone–what it was, where it was from, what it could do, why it was so valuable–other than to say that they must not touch it with their bare flesh. He was adamant that they not do this, warning them repeatedly.

They set off down the trail leading away from town to the West, looking for some caves that are rumored to be infested with some goblins (the mayor was confident that these goblins were behind the theft). As they travel along, Barney spots a flash of white through the dense section of forest to their South. He grows curious and decides–against the advice of Elfomoto (elf ranger)–to check it out. Both he, Clarence (Barney’s hired slave/caddy), and Carlsberg (human rogue) head into the forest, while Elfomoto tarries at the edge, debating whether or not it is worth it to go in after them. Right as they approach a clearing in the woods where they can see four wolves, both Barney and Carlsberg step onto dried twigs that snap loudly enough to draw the attention of the wolves. The wolves immediately move to attack.

Elfomoto hears the commotion and begins to make his way into the woods, while the others begin to battle. With one of the wolves being so obviously bigger than the others, Barney focuses his attacks on it (Dire Wolf). He casts Cloud of Daggers on the wolf, but it does not do as much damage as he had hoped it would (it missed, only doing half damage). The battle wages on with a bit of a stalemate for the first  round, with no one landing anything more than a minor blow against their adversary. Clarence decides to attempt a climb up the nearest tree, where he could both hide and hurl a rock down at the wolf attacking his master. He gets about 6 ft. up the tree when he slips and falls down, spraining his ankle. He spends the rest of the battle rolling around behind the tree, whimpering and nursing his pain.

Carlsberg grows frustrated with the slow, back and forth nature of the battle, and–having just seen Clarence attempt to use the trees to his advantage–decides that he would spice things up by attempting to climb up a nearby tree, flip off of it (over the nearest wolf minion), fling a dagger down into the neck of the wolf while in mid-air, and land behind it. Things begin well as he leaps up, grabbing the branch just over his head, and swings himself up and over the wolf, doing an incredibly graceful gymnastic-style flip (natural 20). As he flips over the wolf, he grabs a dagger and flings it down at the wolf’s neck, missing it by a good foot or two (rolled a 2), and then attempts to land directly on the wolf. Again, he misses the wolf by a good foot or two (rolling a 1), and takes some damage as he tumbles to the ground and ends prone.

Elfomoto arrives and begins his horrific destruction of the dire wolf, landing blow after blow of heavy damage. Very soon he has sliced both deep into the wolf’s flank and landed a terrible blow to the tender shoulder/neck area of the wolf’s left front limb. The wolf also continues to take small amounts of damage from the cloud of daggers. Barney dispatches the wolf minion closest to him by first dousing him with ale (Beer Splash – Minor Action that I made for Barney, given that his implement is a mug of ale) and casting Scorching Blast, which absolutely lit up the poor creature in a fiery ball of flames.

Down on the ground now, Carlsberg fends off an attack by the same wolf that he attempted to kill/mount, and then slashes his dagger across the throat of the wolf, immediately spilling its blood all over himself and ending the minion’s life. He debates taking the time right then to capture some of the wolf’s fresh blood in a vial for later experimentation (he loves his alchemy), but in the end decides that killing the last remaining wolf first is more important. He spends his move to stand up. The dire wolf makes an attack on Elfomoto, but as it does it puts too much pressure on its front left limb, stumbling down to the ground (rolled a 1). Elfomoto wastes no time in taking advantage of this situation, dealing massive damage with each of his blades against his now prone foe.

Barney hurls a small splash of acid at the obviously dying dire wolf, and between the acid and on-going cloud of dagger damage, the wolf does not make it long enough to attack again.

The party used a tremendous amount of resources (encounter/daily powers) during the fight, so they rest for the night before deciding to continue West toward the cave.

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Barney’s Adventures July 22, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, Barney's Adventures, DM, One Shot.
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This afternoon I received another text from my step-brother saying that he was in town and wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons again. I was more than happy to oblige the man. He came over along with two of my friends (one had played the 3.5e Basic Set module with me last summer when I was first trying my hand at DMing, the other has been my friend for a LONG time but had never expressed any interest in a game like D&D).

I am truly growing to love these random, very loosely planned, one-shot adventures that my little bro requests. I never have much time to plan them, and therefore they are never taken too seriously. It helps me to set aside the perfectionist in me and just relax so we all can have a good time. Plus, I am learning so much each time we play about what is fun (and what is not) for the players.

My friend, who had played a year ago, is much more into character creation and the role-playing aspect of the game–he would gladly take a penalty to a roll if it is due to a decision that his character would make in that situation. He came over with the idea in his head (remember, his knowledge of character creation in regards to mechanics–as well as the mechanics of gameplay–is minimal at best) of a sneaky guy that is not physically strong at all, but is very quick and agile. His character would use throwing daggers as his main weapon, but for up close melee combat, a form of a handaxe (he actually did not want a handaxe, but that was the closest we could find for what he was trying to describe) would be his weapon of choice. He wanted this character to be a potions master, who relied heavily on potions to augment and make up for his weaknesses. In my limited experience, what he was looking for was some mix between a rogue and an artificer. For the sake of time, we quick-drew up a rogue that would use throwing daggers and be a trickster build. As his melee weapon I used the kukri (that almost looks like a handaxe in a weird way, no?).

My other friend played a dual-blade wielding elf ranger. He was more than happy to just use one of the many many pregen characters that I had rolled up when I found DDI’s character creator freeware version thingie. The only thing he said when we first started to play was that he wanted an archer-style character (he was afraid of the up close combat to some degree I believe), but as soon as the first battle started, he abandoned the ranged style of combat and got up in the mix of things. So… go figure.

I’ll give a narrative summary of what happened later.

Eberron Continues July 21, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 3.5e, Eberron, Narrative, PC.
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Searching for Failan

After arriving in the destroyed kingdom of Cyre, which is now generally the Mournlands, and purchasing some gear and better weapons, we secure lodging in a small hotel/inn just outside of Blood Market. Then, we move on to the task of finding an information trafficker named Failan–Lady Eladrin’s note told us to seek him out. The owner of the tavern, a large and unpleasant bugbear, suggests that we head to the arena to find him. We ask directions to the arena, which he gives after a mocking laugh: “Listen for the crowd.”

Exiting the inn, it becomes obvious why he would have thought it unnecessary to spell it out for us; the arena is massive and the crowds are pumped for whatever form of entertainment they are about to get. As we approach we see huge stands on the outside of the arena where many many creatures of various races are being sold as slaves. The party briefly discusses how they might help but quickly decide that the task is more than they can take on and they need to stay on target to find the schema for Lady Eladrin. They pay to enter the arena–a small and easily frightened goblin is running the ticket counter/entrance. Rurick starts getting ideas about fighting in the gladiatorial arena (for the adventurers have now discovered that is what it is), but we quickly decide against this when, after asking the goblin where to find Failan, we learn that Failan is not at the arena today but is back in Blood Market. We intimidate the goblin into giving us our money back and head that way.

Entering the market, we spy another human–a rare sight in these goblinoid-infested lands–and make our way to him. He looks like a formidable opponent but is pleasant in his speech. He ask him where to find Failan, and he says that he just left the Red Hand Inn, where he saw Failan nursing a mug of ale. He also describes the wormy, balding man for us so we can recognize him. He declines our invitation/request to take us there and accompany us afterward, so we move on without him.

Failan is easily spotted once we enter the Red Hand, and Rurick immediately heads off to purchase ale. This causes Ana to grow angry at Rurick’s constant need for insobriety, but this turns out to be a great idea, because Failan is incredibly cold to us as we try to spark up conversation. It isn’t until Rurick comes back with some ale that Failan begins to talk and open up. Failan in a word: apathetic. This guy just does not seem to care about anything besides getting money with which to stay drunk. We hire him to drive us–we learn that he is also in that business–to the mines where Lady Eladrin believes some information can be found that will lead us to the location of the schema. He says he’ll pick us up in front of our hotel in the morning, which slightly unsettles the women in the party who are wondering how he knows where we are staying. His answer is to simply smile creepily and say, “I know lots of things.”

The next morning, as the party is loading into the obviously magical cart (there were no horses and the wheels were basically partway in the ground; they didn’t roll, instead they seemed to slide in the ground), a couple of bad-looking bugbears come turning around the corner of the building, screaming at Failan that he owes them money. They run toward the cart and Failan yells for us all to get in. Rurick had already entered the cart, so he climbs up on top of it in preparation to leap into the fray if needed. Lia takes a shot at the onrushing brutes. Fetalus also jumps into the cart (it is safer in there for a little guy like him and provides him better cover to cast spells on these attackers). The battle is over sooner than the party could have anticipated, when Wolfie bites and trips one, Lia deals out a few terrible blows with arrows, Ana slams a few magic pebbles into the foes, and Rurick leaps from the cart into a bugbear and begins a good old-fashioned pummeling. Some silver is looted from the bugbears and the party heads off.

The Mines

The mines are in an area that was decimated on the Day of Mourning and is now covered in a strange sheet of glass. Ruins dot the landscape, providing cover for the party while they spy out the area. A campfire is spotted a ways off, so Lia (easily our highest stealth check) sneaks over to learn what she may. She sees skeletons that appear to be standing guard and Emerald Claw soldiers talking relaxedly. She overhears them discussing their search efforts and lack of success, and Lia returns to the party to tell us what she has learned. We decide that the Emerald Claw has taken an interest in finding the schema and that we must find it before they do; we begin to search the ruins.

We are far enough away from the campfire to not worry about the guards hearing/seeing us, but we are careful to avoid being seen anyway. We move closer and closer in toward the campsite as our search of the outer edges yields no fruit. At one point, Rurick looks up in time to see two dwarves covered in a fairly smooth sheet of glass, carrying debris through the forest. It is the same glass layer that is over the ground and ruins. Unfortunately, the glass-covered dwarves also spot Rurick and rush toward him. He has time to position himself in the small of the entrance to a section of ruins (between two crumbled walls that are no more than a couple of feet high). Rurick takes some damage from the dwarves (who, now that they are closer, we realize are zombies), but slows down their rush, while the rest of the party tries to pepper them with arrows, stones, and spells. The glass covering staves off much of the damage from our attacks, until eventually we damage the glass enough to shatter it. One of the dwarves begins to amble over the wall toward us three that, up until now, have been held safely inside. This opens up attacks of opportunity and we take good advantage of the situation to destroy it, and then focus on the remaining zombie. We are all terrified that the guards will have heard the noise, but no help ever came to the zombies and all remains quiet.

We begin again to move closer and eventually see a large building (similarly covered in glass)–and are about to head in–when we hear two zombies scraping along the ground. They are obviously about to leave the building through the very door that we are about to go in, so we sprint around the corner of the building and hide. The zombies do not spot us and move about their business.

We enter the building and see…

(continued next time, because both of our wives were getting sleepy and not caring about the game anymore and frankly this post is already plenty long as it is)

Re-Thinking The Solo Campaign July 20, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Solo Game.
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I am taking a break from trying to rush into more solo play with my wife. The reason is two-fold: I don’t want to overwhelm her with too much D&D (we are supposed to play the Eberron campaign again this weekend) and I want to get more experience running battle sequences in order to speed up the process (by having a greater familiarity with the rules/system).

I will mention the sources of these ideas later on, but it struck me that I need to give Ela a greater chance of developing as a character. My wife has stated that she is not all that interested in roleplaying, so I am trying to be careful about how much focus I put on that aspect of the game…at least how blatantly I bring those aspects in. My hope is to design encounters that allow her to gain a greater familiarity with what her character can do. I also want to create a lesser reliability on NPCs and especially DMPCs, and so I took some great advice from the Wizard’s forums and decided to redraw up her character (using the Character Creator–using the free version, because I do not have a membership to DDI). This turned out to be a GREAT move. First of all, I was able to tailor the character more to what I feel she wants (as I said before, she expressed a lack of interest in drawing up her own character, so I did this so she wouldn’t have to). I also upped her ability stats to make her a far more epic character (not epic tier; I’m speaking of the story here, folks).

Last night I showed her the new character sheet for Ela Brightvale. I was surprised at the level of interest she showed in checking out all of the new stats, skills, and powers. She was very impressed with the sleek look of her character sheet (my wife loves interior and graphic design–it should have hit me sooner that aesthetics are going to be HUGE for her). She also took the time to read through her new powers and what not. That made me extraordinarily happy.

I also spent some time redesigning the character’s backstory and world. This will require a little ret-conning, but she was fine with that. The village of Brightvale originally was a town filled with humans, halflings, half-elves, eladrin, etc. This no longer the scenario. She nowlives in an exclusively Eladrin community and Tira Duskmeadow (the previously half-elf warlock) is now Eladrin also. I redrew up that character, making her powerful but not as powerful as Ela so as not to steal her glory. I left in the bit about the tiefling community that also resides in the Vale, but I made the relationship between these two communities much less stable. This also meant ret-conning the two characters that came to the rescue at the end of the 2nd encounter. They were both Eladrin in the story now, sent by Ela’s father.

Some Great Reads

I have been feasting on some great advice by excellent DMs on the subject of running a solo campaign. One that has been an invaluable resource is Oakspar77777‘s massive thread over at Wizards (he uses 3.5 from all that I can tell). Another great source has been CHGOWIZ’s Old Guy RPG blog. He is not using 4e for his campaign (he uses some mishmash of Microlite and D&D), but it has helped to see how he keeps it interesting for his wife, as well as her creativity in many scenarios. The other source that I have turned to a lot has nothing to do with solo campaigns but everything to do with learning how to DM: NewbieDM. He is actually using 4e, so that has been nice, plus he has great ideas for keeping the game affordable, but looking good. The last one I will mention is a collection of posts on ENWorld by some obviously intelligent DMs. Go check all of these guys out.

Prison Break July 14, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, One Shot.
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Yesterday my younger step-brother and his friend were driving into town and would only be here for a couple of nights. They wanted to play a quick game of D&D while they were here (my brother had only played it that one time a few weeks ago and his friend hadn’t played since he was in 8th grade), so I scrambled to throw something together for them. With so little time, I forewent any semblance of backstory or whatever and just went with the idea that they were already captured and in a goblin prison. This game would be a prison break. My brother played his drunken human wizard again (we had to briefly update it to 4e rules, because I am more familiar with the idea of a quick setup game in 4e than 3.5e), named Barney (most definitely inspired by the similarly drunken Simpsons’ character of the same name). His friend made a drow ranger (two-blade melee) named McGee (with “Poopy” usually tossed in there for some reason). Also in their cell were twin weakling human prisoners named Wickam and Stickam, and a tifeling rogue named both Gary Waddell (a local news reporter) and Bordeaux. I initially called him Gary Waddell as a joke, and then told them his real name was Bordeaux. It was too late; they had already latched onto Gary and so, despite my best efforts to call him Bordeaux, he became Gary Waddell (I myself calling him that by the end of the game).

As luck would have it, Bordeaux successfully breaks free from his bonds and cuts the other prisoners loose to start off the game. None of them have any weapons or gear, but they are able to break one of the chains from the wall to wield against their jailor. They wait until meal time, when the goblin (minion) opens the door to toss in their meal. They fail their stealth/concealment checks, but are able to drag him inside while the door is closed. After killing him, they now have the key to their cell, his short sword, a chain, and a couple of copper pieces. However, Barney is pretty ineffective without his mug of ale (Barney’s orb implement), but I was impressed by his creative little idea to use the goblin’s head as an orb-like channel for his powers, so I allow him to use it as his focus (with a penalty of course). Cutting off the goblin’s head sparks the idea to dismember the poor little creature and hand out his limbs as weapons for the other prisoners to use.

They begin their escape, heading down the hall to the closest door. They are very crudely armed now and looking for their gear and normal weapons, so they lay a carefully constructed plan to call out to the goblins inside of the room to come help move one of the dead prisoner’s bodies (Barney took Goblin as a language). They quickly dispatch the two minions inside and gain a couple of daggers along the way, which helps them greatly in the next encounter against two more goblin minions and a skirmisher. I hadn’t planned for their creativity in gaining weapons (like the skull implement replacing the mug and the limb/clubs), so they were breezing through the minions more quickly than I anticipated. Oh well, I am learning.

Things seem to even out more once they get to the skirmisher. Both Wickam and Stickam get slaughtered by the three goblins, and Bordeaux also takes a beating (he goes down to 3 hp and has to withdraw from battle to recover, leaving Barney and McGee to take on the remaining two goblins alone). During this encounter, Barney goes on a long and frustrating run of terrible rolls, so after a few fruitless turns, he gets a little creative with his minor action spell: Mage Hand. He decides to cast it against the goblin skirmisher aiming directly at his crotch. I see no problem with this use of Mage Hand (it says it can lift up to 20 lbs., and come on…no goblin is THAT hung), so Barney spends the next few rounds relying on his Mage Hand Nut Squeeze (I have him roll the d4 for damage with it). His rolling continues to suck for a few more rounds, but this at least allows him to do a little damage each turn, so he is happy. To be honest… I think he was happier with this move than any magic missile or spell he cast the rest of the game. After defeating the skirmisher and minion, they find a large iron key on a chain around his neck and discover all of their weapons/stash behind one of the doors in the room. Behind the other door, they find Barney’s hireling, chained naked to the wall (this was the creepy nephew of the tavern owner/shop keeper that Barney hired to be his “caddy” for his ale-barrel cart in the last 3.5e game I ran for him–his first game ever).

Down a couple of members, but now armed with their real weapons, the party decides to move onward down the tunnel to find their way out. McGee decides to cart along Wickam’s body (he got the idea to use Wickam as a meat shield when opening a door), and so, after hearing some slow shuffling behind the next door they come to, they decide to douse Wickam’s body (minus his legs) with ale and light him on fire before they open the door. After the door is opened and they see two zombies and a skeleton, they grab Wickam by the legs and launch his flaming corpse at the nearest zombie (minion). That effectively takes the zombie out, leaving only a skeleton minion and a zombie skirmisher (the lvl 3 imp was still hovering invisibly). The party rushes in to take out the two visible monsters and imediately destroys the skeleton minion. The imp surprises them all, appearing from nowhere to score a wicked hit on the nearest foe: Bordeaux. He then flees to the end of the room, where is able to go invisible on his next turn while Barney and McGee finish off the last zombie (skirmisher). With the imp invisible, the heroes all use their turns to ready actions, with the exception of Barney who tries to throw a mug of ale as a way to see if it splashes off of the invisible imp–thus telling them where it is. His throw misses the imp and tells them only where he is not. The imp appears right next to Barney (opposite direction) and scores a hit, but is then immediately barraged by attacks from the nearby McGee and Bordeaux. He is weakened considerably. Barney’s hireling has the honor and distinction of claiming the kill in the end though, as he swings the short sword and chain that McGee gave him, after they freed him and got their weapons back. The sword deals enough damage that the awkward swing of the chain is not even needed.

They escape the prison, having earned back their gear, as well as some treasure, additional weapons, and XP. Good game.

I’ll be posting som things that I learned later, because this is already plenty long as it is.

Eberron Begins July 10, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 3.5e, Eberron, Narrative, PC.
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The adventure began with the boat carrying the dwarf fighter, Rurick D’Kandaran, and the elf druid, Anastrianna (Ana) Lorian, pulling out of port. Fetalus and Lia come sprinting to the boat, arriving just in time to board and leave behind whatever it was they fled. Once they board, things calm down, but Fetalus seems almost suspiciously intent on purchasing a wand of healing. He asks a couple of patrons on the boat about getting a wand and eventually gets in touch with a wandmaker who can help him out (for the right price of course). Lia begins her bartering with the wandmaker, finding some success, but not coming to a price that pleases her. Nearby, Rurick and Ana sit and overhear the conversation/bartering taking place, eventually joining in. Some introductions ensue, followed by a more secretive conversation (having left the wandmaker behind momentarily) in a more private section of the boat.

Eventually these four adventurers come to terms with a tentative agreement to work together–Rurick can help purchase the wand and provide some funds to Fetalus and Lia. They head back to the wandmaker, talk him into lowering his price, and head off to find the captain to ask for a larger and more private cabin to share (where they can discuss what they are getting themselves into, and who is backing them). The Captain does not allow them better conditions (I can’t remember why, but he did not seem too pleasant a fellow).

That night Rurick takes Prince Phillip to get plastered. Not too long after, the heroes wake up and hear noises from the deck. They run out to find skeletons attacking and begin to fight back. The drunken Rurick makes it difficult however, as he places himself directly in the doorway, where he ineffectively tries to kill skeletons (his lack of sobriety gives him plenty of penalties to limit his ability to be useful). He is also making it harder for the rest of the party to make their attacks, because they have to be careful while they are shooting arrows and casting spells with him in the doorway. At least Phillip was safely in the room. Ana however was the only hero out on the deck, and was getting surrounded by skeletons. Things were not looking good, but then the Captain and some of the sailors showed up to help out. Many lost their lives, but all of the skeletons eventually were killed.

After a few days they arrive in port and go searching for supplies. Lia shows herself to be a shrewd trader once again, after failing to seduce the first blacksmith she comes across; she had much more success with the second.

Eberron Campaign July 10, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 3.5e, Eberron, PC.
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As I mentioned, my wife and I began playing a game with some friends of ours. I am not DMing this game, and it has been so helpful to see a game run by someone experienced with the game and DMing (as well as incredibly fun to play–it is my first time not DMing). The campaign is set in Eberron and we are using 3.5 rules.

The other couple had already played to 2nd level when we joined, so we rolled up lvl 2 characters to accompany them. There was already a dwarf fighter and an elf druid, so my wife made an elf ranger and I made a human sorcerer. When we rolled up characters, I was not having much luck with the dice, so my character ended up being a rather small, sixteen-year-old weakling. I hadn’t seen the rule in the corebooks that says you can re-roll if none of your stats are above a 13, so that is exactly where my character is; no stat is above a 13. I haven’t decided if I want to do anything about that, yet. The metagamer in me wants a more powerful character, but the role-player in me wants the challenge of being severely limited (although if 10 means common/average, then my human sorcerer is still above average in most categories and not below average in any). Another option could be to say that his stats go up more rapidly than the other characters because he is still so young–a sort of puberty bonus as it were. That is the option I find myself leaning toward the most, but I will need to talk to the DM and see how he feels about it.

My wife’s ranger is named Lia, and my young sorcerer is named Fetalus (it just seemed fitting). He chose a toad as his familiar–a toad he named Prince Phillip. I will write more about what happens in this campaign (both story wise and what I learn) as we go along, so look forward to meeting the dashing, daring, just-a-little-too-ordinary Fetalus.

The Solo Game Begins July 6, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Solo Game.
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What Happened

Encounter 1 – The game started out under the premise that Ela and her best friend Tira were heading out to the woods to take her father some lunch. The two girls headed down the path, until they heard some voices floating over a small patch of trees alongside the road. They weren’t able to hear much, but the word “treasure” came through clearly enough to instill a desire to investigate further. Sneaking through the trees, they found a group of 4 gobling minions and 1 goblin runner huddled around a fire in a small clearing, laughing and bragging about their recent exploits of robbery, as well as the gold and gems that they had collected. Unfortunately, the goblins became alerted to the girls’ presence when Tira accidentally snapped a twig. Tira then panicked and immediately attacked, shooting the nearest gobling with a little blast of Infernal Wrath. The goblins retaliated, but the girls quickly gained the upperhand. As soon as their leader was killed, the last two remaining goblings fled; one was killed by Ela and the other was caught/grabbed by Tira. The girls successfully intimidated the gobling into telling them where their cave of treasure was and then, despite his cooperation, Ela suggested that they kill him immediately after he spilled the beans. She changed her mind in the end though, deciding to drag Yubnub (they discovered his name during the conversation) along as their guide.

Encounter 2 – They went to the cave, where they met a gobling minion sentry. He spotted their prisoner Yubnub and immediately grew hostile, both toward the girls and Yubnub whom he labelled a traitor. While some verbal sparring was taking place, a hidden gobling minion archer shot at Yubnub, barely missing him. Battle swiftly ensued and, while the girls were distracted/busy, Yubnub made a break for it. The two sentries were quickly killed, but right before the last one died, he cried out to warn his brothers in the cave. The girls hardly stepped inside, when they were faced by 5 more gobling minions. Things went well for Ela and Tira until a goblin sharpshooter showed up. The tides began to turn and the girls began to panic. Then, another goblin runner entered the cave behind the girls, flanking and helping to cause some serious damage. Tira soon fell unconscious and Ela, who was already bloodied, was left to fend for herself and her dying compainion alone. It looked terribly bleak for her, until some help showed up in the form of Corrin Reedson (lvl 1 halfling paladin) and Skamos Redmoon (lvl 1 tiefling wizard). They helped Ela beat the remaining goblins (but not before Skamos also fell unconscious), and provided some much needed healing.

Epilogue – Once the girls were safe, these two men explained their incredibly fortunate arrival; Ela’s father had grown worried when Ela didn’t show up with his lunch and sent them to make sure that she was fine. En route to her place, a gobling minion (Yubnub) came bolting out of the woods, obviously afraid and fleeing for his life. They grabbed him, found out what was going on and sprinted there to find her. The party of four found the treasure (gold and a few gems), and Ela found a dirty, worn, but obviously well-made cloak.

What I Learned

– I am aware that Ela’s father is a hunter and thus should not need someone to bring him lunch. However, it wasn’t until after I’d already said it that I became consciously aware of this fact. Since my wife did not seem to notice or care, I let it go.

– Hearing checks have become Perception checks. Luckily, me not knowing that did not adversely affect the game, because they rolled the (low–DC 5) Hearing check.

– Having an NPC is DANGEROUS. It is too tempting to railroad the game through an NPC. Tira took way too large a role in the development of what happened, and often times was the one who would pass her checks while Ela failed (my wife’s rolling for the first hour was abyssmal), which was understandably a little frustrating for her.

– I was a little surprised by Ela’s cold-hearted decision to murder Yubnub after they got what they needed from him. We didn’t bother choosing alignment when we started, so she certainly was free to let her actions decide her alignment. I was pleased to see my wife play her character in a way I would not expect from her in real life. Maybe she likes role playing a little more than she realizes… I hope I hope I hope.

– I planned the first encounter to be for just Ela and Tira, but for them to get in over their heads in the second encounter, heading off to a goblin infested cave on their own. My hope was that when the other two NPCs showed up there would be a feeling of relief and vulnerability. However, I learned that it does not matter whether or not that sort of Deus Ex Machina was planned before the game even began; it will feel like an impromptu decision by the DM to save the PCs from destruction. This is a problem; nobody likes a pity save.

– I am going to have to be patient in terms of getting my wife invested in her character and campaign. If she is not predisposed to the role-playing aspect of the game, then I can’t expect her to care about Ela or any NPC the first time we sit down to play.

Questions

1.¬† I am under the impression that the way to create an encounter is to take the level of the party, then multiply the number of members in said party by the standard monster value for that party’s level. Thus, for the first encounter I had two lvl 1 characters, so I used one lvl 1 skirmisher (which I valued at 100 XP, based off of other lvl 1 skirmishers that I found online) and four lvl 1 minions (obviously valued at 25 XP each) for a total of 200 XP. The second encounter featured seven lvl 1 minions (175 xp), one lvl 1 skirmisher (100 XP), and one lvl 2 artillery (125 XP) for a total of 400 XP. I staggered the offensive though, so that at first Ela and Tira were just fighting the minions. The 100 and 125 XP foes came in a few rounds later, right before the two additional PC/NPC characters showed up (the artillery had two rounds and the skirmisher had one round before the help showed up). Am I understanding encounter creation correctly?

– A subqueston is that it seems like almost every blog that I’ve read on the subject of DMing states that leveling up should happen every 13 encounters (on average). With my current understanding of 4e, it seems like leveling up would happen every 10 encounters (on average), because it is designed to give each member of a party 100 XP for each encounter. I do understand that as DM I have leeway in how I want to do this. I am just new to this so any help that you can give would be awesome.

2. In a solo game, how do you avoid the scenario where the PC takes one turn and then waits ten turns for all of the monsters and the NPC(s) take theirs? After our first game, my wife and I decided that she would roll for Tira (my NPC) and pretty much control the other two NPCs that showed up late. I would maintain control over Tira’s actions (simply as a way to provide help if needed), but the only aspect of control I would exhibit over the other two NPCs (Corrin and Skamos) would be in what they speak/say. This is both because the whole in-character roleplaying/talking is not her favorite part of the game, so this will help them feel like they are a part of the game. I have tossed the idea around of limiting how many monsters can take a turn each round so that it doesn’t take as long to get back to her turn, but I just really don’t like that idea for the sake of realism. Any ideas?

To End

I had a great time playing with my wife, but toward the end it hit me that she had way too much downtime while she was waiting for all of my turns to go by. My goal for next time is to keep her involved in the action more, either by limiting the number of monsters that she faces in any given encounter or to give her more control over the characters that accompany her. The latter is how we will start, and we will see how it goes from there.

Thanks for reading and any advice you want to throw my way.

Sources

As I said, I don’t have the 4e core rulebooks. What I used then was: the D&D Experience Quick Play Rules and pre-generated characters (found here at Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition blog), two maps from The Keep on the Shadowfell (as well as its quick rules guide), the 4e DM’s Screen (this was a life saver), some Miniatures (with their accompanying stat cards), and the internet.

Monsters used:

Lvl 1 Minion – Gobling

Lvl 1 Skirmisher – Goblin Runner (from Against the Giants)

Lvl 2 Artillery – Goblin Sharpshooter (MM pg. 137, from Dungeon Delves – Dangerous Delves)

Setting Up The Solo Game July 6, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Solo Game.
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I was practicing running through the next encounter for the 3.5 Basic Game (so I’d be more familiar with it when I finally did run it with my little group), setting up my maps and miniatures, etc., when my wife walked in and asked what I was doing. I briefly explained and she surprised me by asking if I wanted her to play. I almost said, “No,” because I was so shocked. She has been a great sport in playing along with me and seems to have enjoyed herself in the process, but she has certainly never sought it out. Needless to say, I was excited.

The first thing I did with her was to ask her the following questions (which I completely stole from Oakspar77777, only tweaking my explanation of each to her slightly):

1. Game play/Mechanics: Role vs. Roll Playing – What aspect of the game does she enjoy more? I was surprised to learn that her favorite part is rolling and fighting. She does not care hardly at all for the back story or character development. That is good to know (although that is my favorite part, so it will probably cause for some interesting situations along the way).

2. Mechanics: Power – Did she want her character to be incredibly (and perhaps unrealistically) powerful or did she want to feel the challenge and be required to use her creativity/brains more to solve problems? She chose high power.

3. Setting: Fantasy – Did she want the world to be High, Mid, or Low Fantasy (see Oakspar77777’s examples of each)? She chose Mid.

4. Setting: Magic – Did she want the use of magic and magical items to be commonplace, extremely rare or somewhere in between? She chose in-between.

5. Setting: Tone – Did she want a darker or lighter feel to the adventure/world? Again she chose in-between.

6. Action/Setting Description – How graphic or censored did she want the game to be? She chose a PG Rating.

Asking these questions opened my eyes to what she finds enjoyable in the game, and sparked a few followup questions. Very quickly I learned that her least favorite part of playing was creating a character. This seemed so odd to me because that aspect of roleplaying is my favorite part. Ah well… So we used the Quickstart 4e rules and characters to just jump on into the game without having to drag her through the things she doesn’t like. My wife chose to play the Eladrin Ranger (originally named Riardon Brightvale), but changed her name to Ela. I quickly added some backstory elements to help make her being a ranger logical–her father is a woodsman/hunter (where she learned her tracking and woodland skills) and her mother was abducted before she was old enough to know her (thus explaining why she’d have so much time to run around the forest and become so independent/self-sufficient. It also helps to explain any potential racial enemy aspect to the game; we’d just choose the race that abducted her mother as her racial enemy). I also decided to name the town in which she was starting Brightvale, claiming that it was founded by an ancestor of hers. The town was described to her as a very small fontier town that has Eladrin, humans, half-elves, and halflings, but no dwarves. Also, there is a community of tieflings nearby that enjoys a fairly friendly relationship with Brightvale, although there are plenty of people in Brightvale that distrust the tieflings and desire not to deal with them. The last bit of back story I gave her was that her best friend is a half-elf warlock named Tira Duskmeadow (another 4e Quickstart character).

That pretty much sums up the game setup. I didn’t have much time to develop things, and, as I said, I am new to both DMing and especially 4e. The best we could do was just move forward and hope for the best.

Some Background July 4, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in Uncategorized.
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I am new to the world of Dungeons and Dragons. I have owned the 3.5 core rulebooks since 2004, but I never played a game until last year (February 2008). I will tell that tale at some future point, but let us just say that it was not a great introduction to the game.

However, I persevered and eventually talked some friends (who had also never played the game before), my brother, and my wife to give it a try with me. I bought the 3.5 Basic Game and ran the first 3 or 4 encounters of the included adventure. We all had a great time, despite my lack of experience in DMing, and I was excited to play more. Unfortunately, life got too busy for all of us and then my brother moved out of state, so eventually the game died off. The last time we played was toward the end of last summer (July/August 2008).

This past month, my wife and I went and played with a couple that we became friends with (and then later discovered also played D&D), and their friend ran the game. This also was a 3.5 game. We all had tremendous fun and it got me itching to play more. We will hopefully be returning to play again within the next couple of weeks, and I am really looking forward to it.

This past weekend I had some family come into town, so I ran the next encounter of the Basic Game with my wife, brother and his incredibly bright six-year-old son, and my younger step-brother (who was now the only one of us who had never played before). Again, it was awesome. I felt much more comfortable DMing after having seen someone else do it while I played.

So here we now are. Last night I ran my first solo game with my wife. It didn’t go as great as I would have hoped (as many who have tried to run a solo game have probably already learned), because you have to make quite a few adjustments to the style and it needs to be extremely tailored to what the player (my wife) wants. Also, I sort of threw it all together using some 4e resources that I purchased/downloaded. I had never played nor tried 4e before so we both had a learning curve. Adding to that, I don’t have any of the core rule books for Fourth Edition so…I had to wing quite a bit of it. I still enjoyed it though.

This blog will mainly focus on the lessons that I am learning while I DM. I will talk about choices I make (both wise and poor) while we play and how they work out. As time permits, I will also talk about the story and character of my wife. Occasionally I will add in details of other games that I run or play in, also. My purposes are somewhat selfish in this; I wanted a place to focus my thoughts during the learning process. I promise to do my best to keep it interesting and entertaining as well. With that said… Welcome to elopingcamel’s Learning How to DM!