Friday, February 29, 2008

Wait...Is The Eladrin's Name Kurt Wagner?

We're getting all sorts of interesting information from the ongoing D&D Experience out in Virginia, but here's something that stopped me in my tracks.

As you can see, Eladrin can apparently teleport 25 feet once per encounter. As a racial ability.

I've looked at that damn link like five times now, and am still at a loss.

Man, I would break the hell out of an Eladrin rogue.

To review: Elves (at least these (Non-Wood) Elves), whatever name you want to give them, High Elves, Eladrin) can now teleport. I can only surmise, somewhere back in that family tree, Nightcrawler and Arwen got it on.

Another XRP Package!

Expeditious Retreat Press has sent another set of entrants. Yesterday, I received:

-Big Trouble In Little Oaktown (A Nevermore True20 module)

-1 on 1 Adventures #9: Legacy of Darkness

-Lava Rules! Fire & Brimstone

Lava Rules is a free download, by the way.

I've not had a chance to look over Oaktown yet, but Legacy of Darkness looks like an excellent short adventure for 1-on-1 play. I like it as much as any of the other 1-on-1 series I've seen this year.

What was really shiny in this group, though, was Lava Rules, which I felt was the best explanation I've seen on exactly how lava mechanics should work. It's been hailed by no less an august personage as Gygax, not to mention Peter Adkison, Ed Greenwood, and Robin D. Laws. Hey, its free. Check it out. I'll wait.






Thursday, February 28, 2008

D&D 4e Quickstart Rules

Courtesy of ENWorld. Posted without further comment:

(EDIT: Now available as a download (zip) off the Wizards website)


1. Character roles are more clearly defined.
Everyone who’s played D&D knows that there are roles for each character – some characters “tank”, some characters are “artillery”, etc. 4th Edition defines those roles into four types – controller, defender, leader, and striker. Controllers (like wizards) deal with large amounts of enemies at once, favoring offense over defense. Defenders (like fighters and paladins) are the front-line characters that have great defensive abilities and good melee offense. Leaders (like clerics and warlords) are good at aiding other members of the party by healing, inspiring, or protecting them. Strikers (like rangers, rogues, and warlocks) deal large amounts of damage to single targets at one time and quickly move about the battlefield. Most adventuring parties consist of at least one character of each of the roles.

2. Powers give you more combat options.
Clerics chant prayers, wizards incant spells, and fighters attempt exploits. These are all examples of powers – your suite of combat options. Three power sources – arcane, divine, and martial – are presented in the Player’s Handbook. Each character class draws abilities from one of these power sources: clerics and paladins use divine powers (prayers), warlocks and wizards use arcane powers (spells), and fighters, rangers, rogues, and warlords use martial powers (exploits).

You get a number of powers based on your character’s level. Powers can be used at-will, once per encounter, or once per day depending on the power.

TIP: Use your at-will powers instead of using basic attacks. They’ll frequently do more than just a modest amount of damage to one enemy.

3. Attacker rolls against a static defense.
In 4th Edition, you have 4 defense values – Armor Class, Fortitude, Reflex, and Will. The attacker chooses an attack, rolls 1d20, adds the attack bonus, and calls out the result against the appropriate defense. The defenses are all static numbers, just like Armor Class was in 3rd Edition. Attack actions involve a “to hit” roll against any and all targets, so a power that targets all enemies within 1 square requires a separate attack roll against each enemy affected.

TIP: If you make an attack against multiple targets, you don’t roll damage for each target – just roll that once. It’s best when you attack multiple targets to roll damage first, and then roll your attacks.

4. Standard, move, and minor actions.
Each time it’s your turn, you get one standard, one move, and one minor action. Standard actions are usually attacks, move actions are usually used to move, and minor actions are little things like drawing a weapon or opening a door. You can always exchange a standard action for a move action or minor action, or a move action for a minor action. There are also free actions, which take almost no time or effort, such as dropping a held item or talking. You can take free actions during your turn or anyone else’s turn, and as many as you like (within reason).

There’s another category of actions called triggered actions – these include opportunity actions (like opportunity attacks) and immediate actions (like a readied action). Your DM can tell you more about those should you need them.

5. Healing gets an overhaul.
Hit points still measure your ability to stay in the fight, but healing’s no longer just the burden of one character anymore. Each character has a certain number of healing surges. Once during each encounter, you can take a standard action called a second wind; this gives you a certain amount of hit points back equal to your healing surge value and gives you a +2 bonus to all your defenses until the start of your next turn. You then tick off one of your healing surges for the day. Some powers (like some cleric prayers) will also heal you your healing surge value, and you’ll tick off your healing surges for them as well. When you run out of healing surges, you’ll want to take an extended rest.

If you’re outside of combat, you can take a short rest and tick off the healing surges you need to heal up damage.

TIP: If you’ve been knocked down a few hit points and can’t decide what to do when it’s your turn, taking a second wind action is a good idea.

6. Short and extended rests.
Resting’s now divided into two groups – short and extended. A short rest lasts 5 minutes, and is a long enough time for you to regain your encounter powers and use healing surges to heal up. An extended rest is akin to “camping” and lasts 6 hours. After an extended rest, you’re fully healed, you have a full compliment of healing surges, you have your daily powers back, and you reset your action points to 1.

TIP: It’s good to take an extended rest when some members in the group are down to about 1 healing surge remaining, or everyone has used all their daily powers.

7. Attack!
Attacks are divided up into a few different types. Melee attacks are those you make usually when you’re adjacent to your target. Ranged attacks can be made at any distance up to the maximum range of the attack; however, if you take a ranged attack next to an enemy you provoke an opportunity attack against you. Close attacks affect an area starting with squares adjacent to you; these attacks don’t provoke an opportunity attack. Area attacks usually affect an area at range; these attacks do provoke opportunity attacks.

Most of the time when you take an attack, you’ll use one of your powers. However, there are some times when you’ll use a basic attack – just a regular old swing of the sword or shot from the bow. These attacks are less powerful than using powers, but they can get the job done. You’ll use a basic attack when you’re charging, making opportunity attacks, or when you use certain powers.

8. Action points give you an extra action.
You begin each adventure with 1 action point, and you can get another one for every 2 encounters that you complete (called a milestone). You can spend 1 action point per encounter to take one extra action on your turn. It can be a standard, move, or minor action.

When you take an extended rest, your action points reset back to 1.

TIP: Make sure to spend action points at least once every other encounter (as often as you earn them), since you can only spend one per encounter.

9. Movement is quick and easy.
Each character has a speed listed in squares. One 1-inch square equals one five-foot square in the game world. When you take a move action, you can move up to the indicated number of squares. Moving from one square to another, even diagonally, costs 1 square of speed. Sometimes terrain will slow you down, costing you more than 1 square of speed – this is called difficult terrain.

Moving away from an enemy adjacent from you usually provokes an opportunity attack. However, you can also use a move action to shift; this lets you move one square without suffering an opportunity attack from adjacent enemies.

TIP: If you need to get somewhere fast, you can run as a move action. This gives you +2 speed for your move, but you grant any attackers combat advantage until the beginning of your next turn.

10. Saving throws are straightforward.
Sometimes your character will be hit by an ongoing effect, like taking poison damage or being immobilized. When this happens you’ll usually get to make a saving throw to remove the effect at the end of your turn. Saving throws are simple – just roll 1d20. If you roll a 10 or higher, you’ll end the effect. If you roll a 9 or lower, the effect will usually continue until you have to make another saving throw at the end of your next turn.

Some characters have bonuses that can be applied to certain types of saving throws, and some powers grant modifications to saving throws as well.

11. Durations are easy to manage.
Most effects that have durations (usually imparting a condition on the target) last either until the target makes a saving throw to ward it off, or until the end of the next turn of the attacker that caused the nasty effect. A few effects have durations that last through the entire encounter. No more tracking rounds to determine when your effect ends!

12. Reach (usually) isn’t as threatening.
Reach (possessed by some monsters and weapons) is only “active” on the attacker’s turn. Otherwise, attackers with reach function just like those without reach. This is usually most relevant when determining the area a character or monster threatens.

TIP: Watch out for the few creatures with threatening reach – they can threaten more than just squares adjacent to them.

13. A trio of “c” rules you might want to know.
  • Combat Advantage – This gives you a +2 bonus to attack rolls when you’re flanking, or when the target is under one of a number of conditions (dazed, surprised, etc.).
  • Cover – If an enemy has cover, you get a -2 penalty to attack rolls against it. Your allies don’t provide cover, but enemies do. There’s also no penalty for making ranged attacks into melee.
  • Charging – This is a standard action. Move up to your speed, and make a basic attack. You get a +1 bonus on the attack roll. You have to move at least 2 squares from your starting position, and you must charge to the nearest square from which you can attack your target. You can’t charge if the nearest square is occupied, but you can charge over difficult terrain (it just costs you extra movement).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Free Tunnels & Trolls!

If you've spent any time around any RPG message board out there, one game mentioned now and then in regards to its mechanics or attitude is Tunnels & Trolls. While I won't try to dead-sell you on the game right off (as it isn't for everyone and that isn't my place), I will point you towards RPGNow, which has just put up a "lite version" of the Tunnels & Trolls rules (that may well be an oxymoron) for free.

RPGSiters and those who picked up RPG Pundit's Forward...To Adventure! game also might be interested on how Tunnels & Trolls combat may have inspired some of the rules in FTA!.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Free Knights of The Dinner Table Comic

Kenzer & Company is currently giving away Knights of the Dinner Table #132 in pdf form. I currently don't have a subscription to KoDT, but do pick up the issues as I get them at my Friendly Local Gaming Store. Much as I love the comic, I also enjoy the gaming source material that appears after the comic--its one of the few printed periodicals with that sort of material still out there. The material can be hit and miss, but I'd say it definitely is more on the "plus" than "minus" side of things. Other folks might like the various review sections, but I'll leave that up to you.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Snapshot Of A Gaming Community

This is sort of a pet project I've been working on for a while. Over here, in my little slice of Indy suburbia, we have several little gaming groups and sub-communities that I'm in contact with. It's been a pain in the ass to do so, but over the last 2 months or so, I've managed to get 34 survey responses completed and compiled. This is extremely unscientific, the questions are just sort of stuff I was curious about, but I think the results are interesting (to me, anyway). What follows are the results of those surveys and responses. Please, understand I'm not promoting any movement, taking any position, or saying any game sucks by doing this (well, except Cyborg Commando, but that's a given). I've tried to be as upfront and stated possible influences where I suspect them:

Top 10, Area Games

Voters were asked to list their 10 favorite RPGs, with a first-place vote worth 10 points, a 10th-place vote worth 1 point. (1st-place votes are in parantheses).

1) D&D 3.0/3.5 (9)
2) Rifts* (9)
3) Spycraft (4)
4) Savage Worlds (Deadlands) (4)
5) AD&D 2e (3)
6) Paranoia (1)
7) Rolemaster FRP* (1)
8) Hollow Earth Expedition
9) AD&D 1e (2)
T-10) Palladium Fantasy (1)
T-10) Castles & Crusades

*-I have recently run games using these systems. It is also worth noting several 3.x D&D games are running, and another Rifts game is being formed. D&D beat Rifts by two points, and Hollow Earth Expedition finished 1 point ahead of AD&D 1e. Burning Wheel actually garnered 6 points from a few different gamers, which made it the highest "indie" finisher (someone besides me must run it around here).

I also want to note our local store does not stock any White Wolf titles, which definitely could help explain their absence in the results--all the WW lines finished no higher than 14th (Vampire).

Do you ever check out or visit tabletop RPG message boards/communities online?

More Than Once A Week: 2 (5.8%)
Around Once A Week: 2 (5.8%)
Occasionally (Less Than Once A Week): 2 (5.8%)
I Have Before, But Almost Never Do: 8 (23.5%)
Never: 20 (58.7%)

Have You Heard Of "Indie" RPGs (Such as Dogs In The Vineyard, The Shadow of Yesterday, Sorceror, etc.)

Yes 3 (8.9%)
No 31 (91.1%)

I also directed as many as I could to the "What Type of Gamer Are You?" ( quiz. I received 23 responses back. The respondents, broken down by top result on the quiz, were as follows:

Storyteller 7 (20.5%)
Character Player 6 (17.6%)
Tactician 4 (11.7%)
Weekend Warrior 2 (5.8%)
Power Gamer 2 (5.8%)
Casual Gamer 1 (2.9%)
Specialist 1 (2.9%)

What Attracts You Most To A Game?

How It Inspires Me/Gets Me Excited About Playing 15 (44.1%)
Affordability 6 (17.6%)
Production Values 4 (Good Art, Layout) (11.7%)
Familiarity 6 (17.6%)
Other 3 (8.8%)

What Is Your Age?

Under 14 1 (2.9%)
14-18 5 (14.7%)
18-20 (Post High-School) 10 (29.4%)
21-30 9 (26.4%)
31-39 5 (14.7%)
40+ 4 (11.7%)

What Is Your Reaction To The News Regarding D&D 4th Edition?

Strongly Positive 1 (2.9%)
Somewhat Positive 2 (5.8%)
Neutral 10 (29.4%)
Somewhat Negative 8 (23.5%)
Strongly Negative 13 (38.2%)

(This was pretty close to the response I got from my gaming group as well, minus the "F*** Wizards!" postscripts. Interesting when you consider many of the respondents profess to not really following 4e development, as indicated here--)

How Closely Have You Been Following 4th Edition Updates?

Very Closely 2 (5.8%)
Somewhat Closely 1 (2.9%)
Only A Couple of Times 2 (5.8%)
Not Very Closely 10 (29.4%)
Not Following At All 19 (55.8%)

For Whatever Reasons, Are You Happy With Your Current Gaming Situation?

Very Happy 10 (29.4%)
Somewhat Happy 6 (17.6%)
So-So 6 (17.6%)
Somewhat Unhappy 3 (8.8%)
Very Unhappy 1 (2.9%)
Unhappy, But Only For Time Reasons/Constraints 8 (23.5%)

Just For Fun, With Which Player Stereotype Do You Least Like Playing?

Power Gamer/Munchkin 5 (14.7%)
Attention Whore/Drama Queen 5 (14.7%)
Hack N' Slasher 4 (11.7%)
Metagamer 7 (20.5%)
Cheater/Fudger 11 (32.3%)
Other 2 (5.8%)

So, that's what I found. I'm guessing every little RPG circle has its own faves and dislikes, and goes against the grain or common perception in one area or another. That's just how "we" shake out, I guess.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Indies & ENnies

I was having a back-and-forth email discussion with a good friend today when he brought up the topic of indie games in the ENnies this year. Among the things he asked was which game I thought would be this year's Spirit of the Century. I thought my answer might be of some interest, so I pasted it below:

Well, that's a tough call. There are a lot of great small press products out there--some with the "indie" label, I guess, and some just plain small press. To me, they're all RPGs or gaming supplements, from Blossoms Are Falling to Roma True 20. I think its fantastic right now that we have so many small press publishers cranking out material that competes or even surpasses that of larger gaming companies, but for my purposes here, that is incidental. Forget the label, forget the movement, forget the online following. We deal in RPGs, friend, and that means if the next rules-light pulp hit comes from Evil Hat or CRN or Wizards or Paizo, I'm not gonna care--just that its a damned fine product.

Companies get a reputation for fine products, good production values, or doing something well. With the ENnies, you throw out the records, so to speak. Its a clean slate, and nothing else matters except how it reads, inspires, excites, and plays. Indie, small press, mega-corp--only the product matters. There are no quotas, no token inclusions, period.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Goodman Games Shipment Arrives

I've been busy the last week or so reviewing the submissions that Goodman Games just recently sent out to all the judges. I'm still waiting (as are a few of the judges) on a couple of the products that we didn't get at Gen Con, but for now, products like the monster Castle Whiterock (#51), The Adventure Continues, and DCC #50, Vault of the Iron Overlord.

At first glance: Castle Whiterock is full, and I mean full of product, including plenty of accessories and player handouts. In terms of sheer volume, I think it outdoes City of Brass. But even in this age of the Return of the Big Ole Boxed Set, we know that volume alone doesn't win the day. But Castle Whiterock bears all the marks of a winner. I like how the adventures could be reasonably broken out to stand on their own, or be interspersed gradually through a larger campaign. It looks like this one boxed set could keep a group laying for a long, long time (which, if I guess if you're someone who really wants to hold off on converting to 4th edition, would make this a good pick-up).

Vault of the Iron Overlord is written by Monte Cook, and is a very interesting example of a mechanical dungeon, complete with rotating rings. I think it might get a little confusing if players and/or the GM don't keep on top of it, but it's still pretty well-executed. And the front cover art is by Erol Otus:


Oh, and before finishing, I just wanted to share something that expressed, through the glorious medium of sound, how I'm feeling after Sunday night.