Category Archives: Games

CyberNoir: Agendas and Principles

Some people think you should start with these first for your hack.  Here’s what I’ve been kicking around for CyberNoir.  Most of these are just reskins of the Apocalypse World stuff, with the exception of calling out Being Generous with Information, and some drilldown into what this setting is.

Agendas

 

Embody the cybernoir nature of the world.

Keep your world authentic to your cybernoir sensibilities. Portray a plausible and internally-consistent world, and your players will take it seriously.

 

Embroil the characters in a web of crime and intrigue.

Set up the Crime Web, get the characters hooked into it, and watch as they attempt to unravel the whole thing.

 

Play to find out what happens.

Your job is not to craft a masterful story arc. It is to set up the situation, wind up the PCs, and watch them go to work. When you allow the unexpected to happen, you get truly exciting play.

 

Principles

 

Always say what honesty demands.

Honesty, and the rules, demand you show fidelity to the rules, to the results of the players rolls, that you stay true to the principles, and be open, honest, and fair in your interactions with the players.

 

Be Generous with Information.

This is a mystery game. The players can’t solve the mysteries without clues. So you should be giving, even overly so with information. You have the advantage of knowing all the answers. Mysteries are meant to be solved, and secrets are meant to be revealed.

 

Think Cyber.

Consider your specific Shocks and other examples of futurism. Whenever you introduce a setting element, think of ways to emphasize the fact that the characters are living in the future. Exaggerate aspects and current trends, especially those you view as negative.

 

Think Noir.

Play up the dark aspects of the world, the corruption, the moral ambiguity, and confusion.

 

Everyone is Expendable.

Don’t protect your NPCs. They are not there to provide physical challenge to the PCs, but rather moral challenge.

 

Everyone is Human.

Any NPC you introduce, give them a name, a motive, and think a little bit about life through their lies. What do they want? How do they fit into things?

 

Collaborate With Your Players.

Allow, or prompt the players to provide setting input. This way, you’ll all feel ownership of the setting, and your players will feed you ideas you never would have thought of.

 

Take What They Give You and Run With It.

Once the players give you input, take it, expand upon it, and make it your own. Turn up the Cyber and the Noir.

 

Be a Fan of the Players and their Characters.

We’re all here to have fun, right? The players are not your adversaries, and neither are their characters. Look for what makes those characters awesome and embrace it. Give them a chance to shine, and don’t try to grind them down.

 

Think About the Big Picture.

Keep your Crime Web map in hand. Between sessions, or whenever you have a spare moment, take a look at it, and consider how events onscreen affect those actors offscreen.

 

Zoom in on the Little Details.

Take moments here or there to showcase the little details. Sometimes this can draw attention to a useful clue, but often it’s just to show off the setting and characterization.

 

Sometimes, Delegate the Big Decisions

To play to find out what happens, you need to give up some of the big decisions. Let your NPCs make them in character. Put them on your player’s hands. You can even roll for it.

 

Address yourself to the characters, not the players.

Keep the players rooted in the fiction, and the players immersed in their characters.

 

Play by the rules, think in the fiction.

When you make a move, make it about the fictional content of the move. Never say a name of a move you’re using, instead say what happens. It should seem seamless to the players. This goes for players too- when they use moves, think in the fiction- what’s going on?

 

Draw Maps Like Crazy.

Maps. Draw them.

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Good News For People Who Like Publishing News

Good news everyone!  My games are now available through both Lulu and Drivethrurpg.  You can check out my Drivethrurpg profile right here.

Games I Played in 2012

I’m likely forgetting a game or two that was played at a Con or as a one-shot (I can’t find any list of what I played at Gencon and Forge Midwest).

Apocalypse World: Got to play for the first time at Walking Eye Con, at Gencon, and Abram’s game. Finished up the Waterworld campaign at the start of the year, and started a campaign (still running) at the end of the year. A good year for Apocalypse World!

Beacon of Hope: Played a playtest session of this, ran by Shari.

Burning Empires: Played in Sabe’s Game Turbine Malvernus game.

Danger Patrol: Shari ran this at Walking Eye Con.

Dogs in the Vineyard:  Ran a game of this for Tim, Shari, Sabe, and Misha.

Dragons at Dawn Hack: Ran a short game for the Game Turbine, and a session at Chicago Games Day.

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Played in a few sessions ran by Doc. Ran a few sessions for the Game Turbine.

Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition: Currently running my Godstorm game. Played in Sabe’s Hallowdwell campaign. Ran a girls-only Dungeons & Dragons & Disney game.

Dungeon World: Kevin ran a game at Walking Eye Con. Played in a game at Gencon. Currently playing in a game run by Sabe.

Durance:  Played this as a one-shot with the Game Turbiners.

Feng Shui: Played this at Chicago Games day.

Fiasco: Played a few games.

Final Girl:  Played this!

Fourthbreaker: Did a few playtests of this, ran by Abram and Sabe.

Lady Blackbird: Ran this at Plattecon.

Left Coast: Ron facilitated this for me at Forge Midwest.

Legends of the Wulin: Did character creation for a Game Turbine game started by Sabe. I’m still going to count this one, since it’s just getting going.

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Ran a few sessions.

Mispent Youth: Played a session of this at Chicago Games Day!

Monsterhearts: Ran a game for the Game Turbine. Also one shot at Walking Eye Con, Chicago Games Day, and for Mik and Kai at New Years.

Mountain Witch: Tim Kleinert ran this for me at Forge Midwest!

One Last Night: Played a session of this with Tim, Brendan, and Sabe.

Samurai World: Brennan Taylor ran a Day of Thunder Samurai World game at Gencon, which was completely awesome. I played Mirumoto Hitomi and ended up Empress.

Savage Worlds: Ran two different sessions at two different Chicago Games Days.

Shelter in Place: I played this at Walking Eye Con. It probably doesn’t really count as an RPG, but I played it

Stars Without Number: Played in a few sessions ran by Doc.

Unnamed Casino Game Continuing Playtest: Continued to play. Abram ran a session, and it went well.

Edit:  Thanks to Tim for pointing out Dogs in the Vineyard and Durance.  And The Final Girl.

The Genius of Apocalypse World Part II: Character Creation is Fun

Why is character creation in Apocalypse World so enjoyable? When I started up a recent AW campaign, one of the players said they could just make characters and have a great time with it. Now I’m the type of person who likes making characters, but I agree, there’s something that makes character creation jump out at people. And that’s the Playbooks.

A Playbook in Apocalypse World is like a Class, but really so much more. What’s the difference?

In a game like Dungeons and Dragons, which is explicitly class based, or White Wolf (where your different splats are effectively classes), your class tells you what you can do, and what play options you get. Often your Class intersects with another gameplay option, to allow for character differentiation (in D&D it’s mostly Race-Class combos, in something like WoD its usually your skill choices.)

In Apocalypse World, your playbook is more than that. In addition to including a mechanical role, if often implies a narrative role. (The Hardholder is in charge, the Battlebabe causes trouble, the Angel provides support). So the mental footprint of the playbook is larger than a class. This is accomplished with the flavor of the name and look lists, and the inspiration provided by the quotation. Picking a playbook gets you into a mindset to act as that playbook.

More importantly, all the character creation rules are in your playbook printout. It’s everyone’s own little character creation menu, oozing with fun options, that they don’t need to flip through or pass around the table. This is key. Think of how many games where you have to pass the book around and flip through to find different things- in a recent game, we had stats, occupations, class abilities, and equipment. Crunchier games might have feats/special powers, skills, magic spells, and all sorts of thtings to look up. With only one or two books, this can get quite cumbersome.

Finally, one of the precepts for the GM of Apocalypse World is Ask Questions like crazy. Character creation has built-in setting and situation creation baked into it. Assigning Hx values will introduce both relationships between the characters, and a backdrop for those relationships.

For example, in my recent game, the Driver assigned a high Hx to the Brainer, because he had to trust the Brainer at one point with driving his car when things went to hell. I asked where that was and what happened, and the town of White Church was born.

Asking questions like ‘where did you get that,’ ‘why did that happen,’ ‘who do you work for,’ and others put world creation on the shoulders of the players. Part of this takes the initiative of the MC to work, but many of the playbooks have wonderfully strange and evocative bits in them that scream at the players to figure out how they came to pass.

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Rebuilding D&D Boardgames: Monsters, Bosses, and Heroes

Monsters:

The difficulty in building a monster deck is the tradeoff between variety and challenge. More of the same monster means more challenge, but less variety. More monsters in the deck also means the need for more minis.

Castle Ravenloft: 30 Monster Cards

3x Wolf (melee, 1 xp)

3x Zombie (melee, 1 xp)

3x Rat Swarm (melee aoe, 1 xp)

3x Kobold Skirmisher (ranged, 1 xp)

3x Blazing Skeleton (ranged aoe, 2 xp)

3x Spider (melee, debuff, 2xp)

3x Ghoul (melee, debuff, 2xp)

3x Skeleton (melee, 2 xp)

3x Gargoyle (melee aoe, 3 xp)

3x Wraith (melee, 3 xp)

Average xp value: 1.8. Total different monsters: 10

 

Wrath of Ashardalon: 30 monster cards

3x Snake (debuff, 1 xp)

3x Cultist (melee, defuff, 1 xp)

3x Kobold Dragonshield (melee, reinforce, 1 xp)

3x Orc Archer (ranged, 1 xp)

3x Cavebear (melee aoe, 2xp)-

3x Duergar Guard (melee, reinforce, 2 xp)

3x Grell (melee debuff, 2 xp)

3x Orc Smasher (melee, 2 xp)

3x Legion Devils (melee aoe, 3xp)

3x Gibbering Mouthers (ranged aoe debuff, 3 xp)

Average Xp Value: 1.8. Total different monsters: 10

 

Legend of Drizzt: 26 monster cards, plus 4 events

3x Goblin Archers (ranged, 1 xp)

3x Goblin Cutter (melee, 1 xp)

3x Hunting Drake (melee, 1 xp)

3x Hypnotic Spirit (melee aoe, 1 xp)

3x Drow Duelist (melee, 2 xp)

3x Spider Swarm (melee aoe, debuff, 2 xp)

3x Water Elemental (melee aoe, 2 xp)

1x Drow Wizard (ranged aoe, 3 xp)

1x Goblin Champion (melee, 3 xp)

2x Feral Troll (melee, 4 xp)

1x Dinin Do’Urden, Drider (melee, 4 xp)

Average xp Value: 1.85 Total Different Monsters: 11

2x Stalagmite

2x Hunting Party

I like the Legend of Drizzt mix best; it has a variety of multiple and unique monsters.

My solution is a deck that is mostly 2 copies of a card. Double monster flips won’t come up as often, but they still will occur, and it allows for a decent mix of monsters. Now to figure out the most interesting monsters.

1 xp monsters:

All of the main sets have 3x each of four different monsters. I instead pick 2x of 6.

 

My picks: Hypnotic Spirit, Rat Swarm, Wolf, Kobold Dragonshield, Hunting Drake, and Orc Archer.. (It’s a tough call between that and Kobold Skirmisher for the ranged minion slot.)

Next, the level 2s. Again, I go with 2x of 6.

Cavebear, Water Elemental, Blazing Skeleton, Duergar Guard, Grell, Spide

The level 2 decisions are tougher. Spider Swarm is a fun aoe, but there’s already 3 others.

Tough Guys:

I tend to like all the threes.

I go with: Gargoyle x2, Wraith x2, Gibbering Mouther x2, Drow Wizard x1, Feral Troll x2, Dinin Do’Urden x1

I also add both Hunting Parties.  Mwah ha ha!

My monster deck is 36 cards. 34 of those are monsters with an average xp value of just over 2. Also, 2 of the monster flips will be double monsters. Good hunting!

Boss Monsters

There are 22 different Boss Monsters. Some have very large figs, and there’s not quite enough room for all of them. Some of them are also rather boring. Most of the bosses are also double sided, so if you include one, there’s (mostly) no reason not to include the one on the other side.

Ravenloft:

Count Strahd, level 6, Awesome

Gravestorm, Level 6, Awesome

 

Young Vampire, Interesting, Semi-Weak

Zombie Dragon, Interesting

 

Flesh Golem, Interesting

Klak, interesting but weak

 

Werewolf, weak

Howling Hag, interesting, dependent on crypt tiles.

 

Ashardalon, level 6, Awesome

Gauth, level 6, interesting

 

Rage Drake, interesting but fiddly

 

Otyugh, okay

Margrath, meh

 

Kraash, okay

Meerak, weak

 

Shimmergloom, Tough!

Yvonnel Banere, okay

 

Methil, Interesting

Artemis, mostly boring

 

Balor, meh (and really big)

Jarlaxle, interesting

 

Yochol, interesting.

 

So the best ones are:

Strahd/Gravesorm

Young Vampire/Zombie Dragon

Ashardalon/Gauth

Shimmergloom/Yvonnel

Yochol.

The bosses are packed pretty tight at this space, so there’s no room for any more large enemies, which eliminates a couple of options. I want to keep some more space in for weaker bosses that can be encountered with hordes of enemies. I add Methil/Artemis, Kraash and Meerak, and just Klak (no room for a Flesh Golem),

Player Characters

To cut down on setup time, storage space, and such, I’m cutting down the number of characters. With the three sets, there’s a massive choice of characters- 18 of them. I’m limiting the characters to one per class. However, they get to use the powers of the unused characters of that class. Will this make things more interesting? Probably. Will it increase set up time? Maybe. Needs playtesting.

Fighters:

Vistra, Arjhan, Bruenor Battlehammer

Arjhan’s Dragon Breath and Defender are probably the most fun. Vistra’s are useful but not terribly assertive. Bruenor is a bit too funky. Arjhan wins.

Wizards:

Immeril, Heskan

Immeril’s Lore is more useful than Heskan’s Mage Hand, hands down. Heskan’s dragonbreath is cool, but Fey Step is also very useful. Immeril wins.

Rouges:

Kat, Regis, Tarak

Regis has a strong ability (too-strong?) but he suffers from his at-will limitations. The question is: which is cooler: Kat’s Sneak Attack, or Tarak’s Furious Assault. Sneak Attack, bitches. Kat’s trap disarming is icing on the cake.

Clerics:

Thorgrim, Quinn

Quinn’s Saving Grace is much more interesting than Thorgrim’s Aid, and giving Quinn Thorgrim’s at-wills will make him more of a force to be reckoned with. Quinn breaks our streak of all Ravenloft characters.

Rangers:

Allisa, Drizzt

Let’s face it, Drizzt is way overpowered. (His Expert Combatant is also poorly worded, which might possibly allow him to do 2 non-combat actions.) Allisa’s Scout kills him and takes his stuff, and while she’s at it, she get’s Cattie-Brie’s powers too.

Problematic:

Cattiebrie

Artemis

Wulfgar

Athrogate

Jarlaxe Baenrae

Keyleth

 

These are all characters that are a class unto themselves. As mentioned before, CattieBrie gets the axe.

I’m going to try giving the Barbarian powers (many of which deal with being tough and healing) to Keyleth, the Paladin. Her ability is somewhat weak, but she now has an even better selection of powers to choose from. Also the cards are both light blue.

Jarlaxle and Artemis both have interesting powers. Together it’s a decent mix. I like Jarlaxle’s focus on items better, so he get’s Artemis’s powers.

Finally, there’s Athrogate, Battlerager. He just gets the cut, leaving us with 7 heroes, a decent mix.

 

 

Rebuilding D&D Boardgames: Dungeon Tiles

So the first thing I notice, upon laying all the tiles out, is that Castle Ravenloft has by far the most tiles. Once you filter out the Dire Chambers, Wrath of Ashardalon has the least, and Legend of Drizzt is somewhere in the middle.

 

Futhermore, in looking at these tiles, there’s a couple of things to keep in mind: tiles with rules, percentages of black/white arrows, having a mix of facings, and whether or not to keep scenario-specific (“named” tiles).

 

Castle Ravenloft:

40 Tiles

 

18 White Arrows

22 Black Arrows

 

0 Tiles with Mechanical Effect

20 Named Tiles (including 8 Crypts and the 4 Crypt corners. The 8 Crypts have 10 Coffin spaces amongst them.)

 

Tile Orientation:

4 Right Turns (10%)

4 Left Turns (10%)

6 4-ways (15 %)

7 Forward (18%)
6 T-Junction (left/right) (15%)

6 Left T-Junction (left/forward) (15%)

7 Right T-Junction (right/forward) (18%)

 

There doesn’t seem to be any balance particularly of white/black within different kinds of tiles. The more open tiles tend of have more Black Arrows, since they are more likely to be Crypts.

 

Wrath of Ashardalon:

24 Tiles

 

10 White Arrows

14 Black Arrows

 

8 Tiles with Doors (Note that the Vault has a door)

3 Tiles with Mechanical Effect (2 Long Hallways, 1 Tunnel Exit)

1 Named Tile (Vault, which we have special house rules for, making it another Mechanical Tile.)

 

(Note that I’m not counting the Dire/Horrid Chamber entryies or rooms in here, as they are scenario specific tiles.)

 

Tile Orientation

2 Right Turns (8%)

2 Left Turns (8%)

2 Dead Ends (8%)

3 4-Ways (12%)

6 Forward (25%)

3 T-Junction (12%)

3 Left T (12%)

3 Right T (12%)

 

Note that many of the more open tiles have doors on them, making them actually more restrictive in play, and adding elements of risk.

 

Legend of Drizzt

32 Tiles

 

16 White Arrows

16 Black Arrows

Interestingly, Legend of Drizzt is the only set with an even arrow makeup; all the other ones have more black than white.

 

A Whopping 13 Tiles with Mechanical Effect (4 Narrow Passages, 1 Secret Cave, and 8 Volcanic Vents)

7 Named Tiles

 

Tile Orientation

3 Right Turns (9%)

3 Left Turns (9%)

7 Forward (22%)

1 Dead End (3%)

6 4-Way (18%)

6 T-Junction (18%)

3 Left-T (9%)

3 Right-T (9%)

 

TOTAL NUMBERS

96 Tiles

 

9 Right Turns

9 Left Turns

20 Forward

3 Dead Ends

15 4-Way

15 T-Junction

12 Left T

13 Right T

 

BUILDING THE NEW DECK

 

First I take all the tiles with mechanical effect and see what it looks like. That includes all the Doors, Vents, Secret Exits, Caves, and the Vault.

 

This is 25 Tiles, 10 of which have white arrows, 15 of which have Black. I want about 32 tiles, so I want 6 more white and 1 more black. These are the orientations of the tiles so far:

 

2 Right Turns

3 Left Turns

7 Forward

3 Dead Ends

2 4-Ways

2 T Junction

3 Left T

3 Right T

 

So I want 1 Righty, and lots more 4 ways and basic T Junctions. The other numbers look pretty good.

I pick the following tiles, all named: King’s Crypt, Strahd’s Crypt, 2x Dwarven Statue, the Broken Door, the Drow Glyph, and the Rotting Nook.

 

Along with those I pack the Dire Chamber tiles, the start tile from Castle Ravenloft, and the Rocky Lair/Ancient Throne/Surface Hollow in case I decide I want them.

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Rebuilding D&D Adventure Board Games: Encounters

Part II!

 

Castle Ravenloft: 45 Treasure Cards

20 Treasures (12 consumable), 25 Fortunes/Blessings

 

Wrath of Ashardalon: 33 treasure cards

All 33 Treasures, (17 consumable)

 

Legend of Drizzt: 36 treasure cards

20 Treasures (17 consumable), 16 Fortunes

 

The sets have different degrees of relying on Fortunes- Castle Ravenloft relies on them the most, with about 55% of the cards being fortunes. Wrath of Ashardalon has none. Legend of Drizzt has 44%. I’m going to go for a 45 card deck, with this same ratio, which would mean 20 fortune cards.

 

Note that out of the 73 treasures, fully 76% are consumable (including the rechargeable ones from Drizzt). I’m not so keen on this, so we’ll see as the cards get dealt out.

 

For Fortunes, I picked only the best ones, because it sucks to draw one that isn’t useful.

 

Action Surge, Battlefield Promotion, Bolster x3, Brief Rest x2, Burst of Speed, Camp, Daze, Eagle Eyes, Guilded Strikes (Blessing), Intimidating Bellow, Lucky Find, Moment’s Respite x2, Quick Strike, Rejuvenating Onslaught (Blessing), Secret Tunnel, Run! (Blessing)

 

For the 25 Treasures, I decided to go with a more even split on consumable/nonconsumable items. For weapons, I chose the fun ones that people tend to like, got rid of some of the more powerful items (Throwing Shield, Blessed Shield, Bracers of Blinding Strikes), and overly complicated ones (Flying Carpet). So 11 keepers, 14 one-shots.

 

Amulet of Protection, Cat’s Eye Headband, Crossbow of Speed, Dragontooth Pick, Dwarven Hammer, Gauntlets of Ogre Power, Holy Avenger, Necklace of Speed, Ring of Accuracy, Thieves’ Tools, Vorpal Sword.

 

When it comes to one shots, my group tends to really hate the use instead of an attack powers, so I used only the best of those. I regretted not having more space for basic items like healing potions and Scrimshaw Charms- this might be a tweak to later versions of the deck.

 

Box of Caltrops, Dragon’s Breath Elixir, Potion of Healing, Potion of Recovery, Potion of Speed, Pearl of Power, Scrimshaw Charm x2, Scroll of Monster Control, Scroll of Teleportation, Tunnel Map, Wand of Lightning Bolts, Wand of Polymorph, Wand of Teleportation

Dragons & Disney Session II: What Do We Know About Faeries?

For our second session of Dragons & Disney, our heroines pressed into the Enchanted Forest, seeking out Sleeping Beauty’s kingdom and information about what might have happened to the princes.

Since Misha, our player for Fionna, was absent with a nasty sickness, we were down to 5 players.  Amelia (Cinderella) was running late, so we started with four players in a forest campsite, stopping for a rest.  Tianna cooks up some delicious forest gumbo, but then they hear growling from the woods: two badgers!  And from the other side come Twig Blights- three minions, and one Twig Blight.  (The Badger is from my Heroic Threats monster list; Twig Blights from Monster Vault: Nentir Vale.)

The princesses had some trouble concentrating their fire, and before long almost everyone was bloodied, friend and foe alike.  Amelia arrived, and Cinderella was placed on the map, pursued by a second twig blight.  With some ranged Warlock attacks and the high damage from Mulan, they were able to take out first the badgers, then the Twig Blights (but not before one turned invisible and retreated into the forest, and then came back with its Blighted Claw).  Tianna used both her encounter and daily to attack multiple targets, but had poor rolls, getting about a 50% hit chance, but still spread the damage around and killed some minions.  Despite having to use most of their healing resources, the princesses were victorious.

While the Twig Blights were destroyed, the thrashing served to break the enchantment on the badgers.  Tinkerbelle realized that as a pixie she could talk to beasts, and the badgers explained that an evil faerie had put an enchantment on the forest, and was in “a stone burrow” somewhere.  The princesses discussed what they knew about faeries and who could be the enemy.

Even with the assistance of the badgers (representing a +2 to skill checks), the princesses failed on the Navigate the Forest skill challenge (Mulan and Rapunzel used Athletics to chop a path, Tinkerbelle and Tianna used Nature to navigate, and Cinderella used Arcana to look for traces of magical energy.  As a result, their enemy got an initiative bonus in the next encounter:

(At one point during the encounter, Tianna was reduced to -9 hit points- 1 hit point away from retirement!)

In a giant forest clearing, they saw a Corrupted Triple Treant.  This encounter was inspired by me buying an incense burner at Wal-Mart, which has some great things for potential minis in their incense section.  The Triple Treant is a large tree with branch arms, three faces, and a ‘Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil” motif.  It looked exactly like a boss monster in a cartoon.

This being their first boss fight, the princesses approached with a mixture of caution and fear.  Mulan and Rapunzel hesitatingly charged, with Cinderella, Tianna, and Tinkerbelle shooting from afar.  Tianna used Witch Bolt, and having hit, was able to sustain each round without having to roll an attack, which was handy.  Mulan got more of a share of bonus attacks as the Treant shifted each turn to get out of her aura so it could use its Ward off Evil.

Shari, playing Tinkerbelle, asked if she could fly up and land in the trees branches.  I said yes.  This provoked an attack of opportunity, which hit, but Mulan got an additional attack as well.

On my next turn, the Treant used its Branch Frenzy attack, which can only be used on an Action Point action, to attack Rapunzel, Mulan, and now Tinkerbelle who had come within range.  The attack knocked Tinkerbelle prone, and reduced her to 1 hit point, and knocked her prone.  Since she was now prone, I asked Shari to make an Acrobatics check to try to stay on the branch.  She failled, and falled 20 feet- taking 18 damage, and bringing her well past negative bloodied.  Tinkerbelle has been reduced to a beaten state and retired.

There was some serious discussion about whether or not to run at this point, but then Cinderellatook her turn: attacking with her encounter power, bloodying the Treant, and then action pointing for Crown of Radiance, which blinded it for a turn.  Another turn allowed the princesses to put down quite a beat down on it, and it was defeated by Eldritch Blast on Cinderella’s next turn.

The princesses then met up with Aurora, Sleeping Beauty (the lazy warlord), who Shari will be playing.  I gave her some information which she shared with the other princesses- everyone in her kingdom has fallen under a sleeping spell, and her prince went off to Maleficient’s castle, but has not returned.  And now, plants are creeping in and overgrowing the place.  An extended rest later, the princesses determined to set out for Maleficient’s castle.

This session was seriously shorter than I had anticipated: 2 and a half hours, everything included.  I still have to adapt to the quickened pace of low level games.  Tim suggests having extra filler encounters I can drop in, but maintaining balance is important that I don’t overwhelm the players, punishing them for swift play.  I will certainly have three encounters for next week, and an exploration section of Maleficent’s castle.

And then we played Cards Against Humanity for an hour.

Bonus Heroic Threat

Heroic Threats is up to $250.  If you haven’t backed it yet, there’s only five days left.  And here’s a special bonus monster, only for people who check out my blog:

(It’s also the boss monster for today’s Dragons & Disney game).

Corrupted Triple Treant

Huge Natural Animate (Plant)

Level 1 Solo Controller

HP 128, Bloodied 64

AC 16, Fortitude 15, Reflex 11, Will 13

Speed 4, Forest Walk

Vulnerable 5 Fire

Resist 5 Poison

 

All Saves +5, AP 2

Standard Actions:

Branch Lash: +6 vs AC, Reach 3, 2d6 + 3 damage.

Branch Frenzy: (The Corrupted Triple Treant must have spent an action point this turn). +4 vs Reflex, Close Burst 3, 2d4 + 4 damage, and target is knocked prone.

 

Minor Actions

 

*Ward against Evil (once per round)

The Corrupted Triple Treant uses one of the following attacks. If bloodied, it uses two attacks. Close Burst 6

Hear No Evil: +4 vs Will. Hit: 1d6 + 3 psychic damage and the target is dazed and deafened until the end of the Triple Treant’s next turn, or until a saving throw is rolled. (recharges when See No Evil is Used)

Speak No Evil: +4 vs Will. Hit: 1d6 + 3 psychic damage, and the target is silenced and cannot speak, and can only use at-will powers and abilities until the end of the Triple Treant’s next turn, or until a saving throw is rolled. (recharges when See Hear No Evil is used)

See No Evil: +4 vs Fortitude. Hit: 1d6 + 3 psychic damage and the target is blinded until the end of the Triple Treant’s next turn, or until a saving throw is rolled. (recharges when Speak No Evil is Used)

STR 18 (+4), DEX 14 (+2), CON 16 (+3), INT 16 (+3), WIS 18 (+4), CHA 14 (+2)

 

Dungeons & Dragons & Disney: Session 1

Today was the first session of my Dungeons & Dragons & Disney game, which came out of the idea, “let’s play D&D where all the characters are Disney princesses.”  The idea was born mostly as an excuse to get a game which my sister-in-law Allie couldn’t back out of, being a big Disney fan who hasn’t been able to game much since having her daughter Emma; now Dad gets a turn to babysit while Mom goes out and rolls the dice.

It’s also an all-girl game: I realised I know quite a few female gamers, some of which I haven’t gamed with in some time.  So I invited all the girls over, kicked Tim upstairs, and we had some Dungeons and Dragons and Disney fun.

First was character creation.  I want to thank everyone who helped me brainstorm ideas for which princess should be which class, especially my friend Shari and the people on rpg.net.  I intentionally did all the level 1 character creation myself: the players involved aren’t particularly system heads.

Allie picked Rapunzel, looking forward to hair kung fu, frying pan action, and singing to people to heal them.  (Monk, multiclass to bard).  Allie was the only player who had not played D&D 4th before, so we did a quick go over of the basic rules, which she picked up very quickly once she had a character sheet in front of her and could see the minis in play.

Amelia picked Cinderella, the Warlock.  Her only qualifier was ‘not a ranger,’ since she played one in Tim’s D&D game, and wanted a slight change of pace- Warlock being a ranged striker is still familiar for her to play, but a little different.  She also talked about not minding switching characters if needed.

Shari is a huge Tinkerbell fan, so of course played Tinkerbell, the artificer and group’s only leader (after offering to let someone else have a chance; I commented that it felt like some of us were trying to out-courteous each other).  Shari is probably the second most experienced person at the table at D&D, so she sat next to Allie and helped out with some of her rules questions.

Misha wanted a big fierce character, so played Fiona from Shrek, a berserker barbarian.  Misha is also no stranger to D&D.

Rebecca had a hard time picking which character to play, but decided that Tianna, the Witch, sounded fun.  A plus is that Tianna has alchemy, which she enjoyed using as her previous character, an artificer.  Rebecca has played D&D 4 before but it has been awhile so she was a little rusty with the rules.

Caroline wanted to play a not-magic character (her last D&D 4 character was a Warlock), so picked Mulan, the knight fighter.  Like Rebecca, she has played D&D 4 but has been out of practice.

I felt like I made the right decision starting the game at 1st level- it was easy for Allie to get into the game, with only a handful of powers to worry about, even the relatively complex Full Discipline monk powers.  I suspect Rebecca and Caroline also both benefited from this.  When they last played D&D 4, they entered existing paragon tier games, with characters with large selections of powers, and often seemed to have analysis paralysis.  They seemed more confident with the simpler characters.

There was some difficultly printing out the character sheets; character builder didn’t want to talk to the printer.  But eventually, we got them to print.

When Shari went on her vacation to Disneyworld, she looked far and wide for D&D scale princess minis, but was unable to find any.  She got me a very nice set, however, they’re scaled to about the ‘large’ size, so aren’t really appropriate for this sort of play.  (Maybe they’ll get an excursion to Wonderland and find some Drink Me Potions of Growth at some point.)  However, she recently found a Disney princess play kit at a bookstore, with minis for the ‘core’ princesses at the perfect size.  Shari also has a Tinkerbelle mini, but uses it in another game.

So, we had an actual mini for Cinderalla.  Allie suggested using Aurora’s mini for Rapunzel, since they’re both blond.  Shari used a butterfly for Tinkerbelle.  Caroline picked out a martial artist fig for Mulan, Misha picked out a goliath warrior fig for Fionna, and Rebecca found that the pathfinder Human Druid is a pretty close fit for Tianna.

After a quick description of the situation (all the Princes have been captured, and everyone’s kingdom is falling apart, and all the villains are back), I framed their opening scene: the Princesses teaming up and going to look for information in that wretched hive of scum and villainy, the Snuggly Ducking Tavern.  (Yes, the D&D&D game started in a tavern, but no, the princesses did not all meet there.)  The goons in resident immediately spotted the princesses and yelled ‘get them!’

The Pub Goons were based on a reskin of the Halflings in my kickstarter supplement, Heroic Threats.  I used two Bravos, a skirmisher with an extra attack that can only be used against those granting it combat advantage, two Pickpockets, a lurker with the ability to steal unattended items, but also to attack against Reflex, and 6 Lookouts, an Artillery Minion that can get an extra move once per encounter.  To ease up on the difficulty a little bit, on what would otherwise be a level 2 encounter, I dropped the Second Chance ability from the Pub Goons but kept all other stats.  (As an aside, one thing this session reminds me is that a level +1 encounter is much tougher at low heroic than it is at high-paragon or epic, which is what I’ve been mostly playing recently.)

The princesses kicked down the door, and entered.  The enemy had much better initiative, so the Lookouts were able to plink them with slingstones before scattering.  The two Pickpockets engaged, one hitting with a charge, the other missing with its pickpocket ability.  One of the Bravos engaged and started dealing damage, and the other one had to round the bar to join the fight, which worked in the players’ favor.

Mulan and Fionna got good mileage out of their Heroic Auras, making sure that they were attacked rather than the less armored casters.  Cinderella went out from behind this cover to get better shots, and ended up getting knocked out twice, taking up both of Tinkerbelle’s Curative Infusions and Rapunzel’s daily Majestic Word.  Fionna got bloodied, having positioned herself where the rest of the Lookouts had to ping her, but that only mad her angrier.  (Misha says she enjoys playing strikers the most.)

Some other cool things that happened: we discover that Tinkerbelle swears all the time, but she does it so quietly that no one can hear, battlefield Prestidigitation so Cinderella’s bloodstained dress won’t clash, Tianna spends an action point to get to one of the Tavern’s side exits and smashes a door on a minion- the Athletics check fails, sadly, but the stunt sets her up to take him out the next round.

One of the things I implemented to establish the Disney ‘tone’ was to state that no one ever dies- bad guys who are beaten up are knocked unconscious, and presumably mend their ways, the Princesses themselves cannot die, but instead must ‘retire’ if they would die by the rules, and major villains always fall to their deaths, killed by Fate, not the hand of the Princesses.  So afterwards, there was a skill challenge to get information out of the Pub Goons.  Cinderella used some Thievery to tie up the bartender, and everyone else used a mix of Diplomacy, Bluff, and Intimidate to get information out of the guy.  He revealed that they were working for the “G Men,” two wizards who captured the princes and were going to go after the princesses next, and that apparently roses are the key to their magic.

After wards, I asked them what they wanted to pursue next, and they agreed that they wanted Aurora’s expertise of roses, so the next session will involve the sleeping curse hanging over Aurora’s kingdom.

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