Tag Archives: D&D

D&D 5e Basic Rules First Thoughts

The “free version” of the new fifth edition D&D rules are out – 110 pages of pdf, available at Wizards of the Coast.

My initial reaction is that I like it.  Background: I’ve played D&D from the original BECMI “Red Box” Basic through 1e AD&D, 2e, 3e, 3.5e, hated 4e, play Pathfinder. (Plus many other games of course).

Things I think it does right:

1. As a free PDF, it will really help draw in new/casual players. Game stores can have a couple copies laying around. You can forward a copy to a friend who has expressed interest in the game. It’s not as nice for future in-play as the free hyperlinked SRD approach of Pathfinder, but it’ll be very accessible to new players.

2. The three pillars of adventure are listed as exploration, social interaction, and combat.  They list combat last and try hard in this PDF at least to not give it primary billing, which may result in less pure hack and slash than in the future. The Combat section itself is only 9 pages! (Obviously there’s rules affecting combat everywhere else, but that was nice.)

3. Clear call-outs to GM discretion.  GM describes, you say what you want to do, GM narrates the results. That gives me hope that we won’t see the return of the rules that cater to the over-legalistic players, which leads us to…

4. Light rules.  Now, we’ll see how much of this is because of the short format and how much they’ll run over this once the PHB is out, but this is pleasingly not all legalistic and rules heavy.  There’s already people fretting over the “Rules of Hidden Club” as they have in past editions, even though the Basic rules say clearly “you know, GM discretion whether you can sneak up on someone, man.”  The spell descriptions take a couple steps back towards being sane in length, with type, casting time, range, components, and duration being the only “required fields.” I’ve written before on the relative sizes and bloat across the editions – using the Knock spell, this one is 132 words, shorter than 3.5e’s 206 words but longer than BECMI’s 122. Replacing 100 bonuses with advantage/disadvantage – seems fun, we’ll see how it works out (I imagine smart min-maxers will find a way to have enough advantage that it’ll always cancel out any disadvantage).

5. Inclusivity.  They totally even one-up Paizo on this, by openly saying in the Sex section “You don’t need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon’s image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character’s sexual orientation is yours to decide.” It’s just a short statement saying “Yes, you all can play too, and play characters like that if you want.” If backed up with art and more diverse characters in stories, then maybe we’ll get more women, people of color, people of differing sexualities, etc. into gaming, which I think is fine and dandy.

6. Hits the high points that made D&D such a classic in the first place.  It doesn’t try to sell “some new thing we made up just for this edition” like Dragonborn, it is the big 4 classes and big 4 races. Not sure of the need for the subraces, especially the dwarven ones (“the hillbillies and the mountainbillies are fighting again,” said no one ever), but perhaps that’s more included just to show that it’s possible.

The negatives:

1. The art. First of all, there’s not any.  It’s not that we’re “entitled” to it and sure, “it’s free what do you expect” – but this is being put out to try to be a thread to draw people into the game, and it would benefit from a freaking cover with a picture on it. We all know that blog posts, articles, etc. of all descriptions convert readers a lot more when there’s media in them. Same goes for when you forward a PDF to an RPG-curious friend. Second of all, the one piece is in the back and it’s from the Basic set cover; I’ve seen some of the other cover art online. What’s with the art style, it all looks like you’re viewing it through static? It’s not like the pop-off-the-shelf Elmore stylized colors of the 1980s, and it looks like every other damn fantasy cover out there.  I think they’d be better served going a little more of a modern direction on it, some anime influence, at least some more vivid colors and lines.

2. They jacked with the PDF so you can’t cut and paste out of it.  Really, Wizards? That just makes me *want* to pull it up an Acrobat and fix that little problem and re-disseminate it.  I had to retype in even the small quotes in this review. Weak. [Edit: Apparently you can cut and paste out of the "printer friendly" version. Thanks waxeagle.]

But other than that, I like where they’re going with it.  If only there will be restraint such that the rules stay light (more content is fine – having more classes is great, having more rules for everyone to keep in mind and follow isn’t) then I’ll be tempted to use it because I am so tired of spending hours rules-wrangling on Pathfinder.

Link

D&D Basic Rules Are Out

If you didn’t know, the free D&D Basic rules are out today and can be downloaded from Wizards’ site.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Eighteenth Session

Eighteenth Session (9 page pdf) – “Capture of the Black Bunyip” – The crew of the Araska finds out that Morgan Baumann has set an ambush for them. “What’s the plan?” “Let’s get ‘em!” It’s touch and go and many a gold Infamy Point coin is spent. Who leaves the crew on this very special episode of Reavers on the Seas of Fate?

All right, we’re back on board the Teeth of Araska and they’ve finally located who they came here to find, Captain Baumann, and gotten rid of pesky Flying Azlanti Death-Ray Lenses that stood in their way.

Most of the guys have read various naval fiction so I like throwing in some realism; they had to get started by towing the ship with the ship’s boats out of the cove. The Black Bunyip has laid a trap, as well, which in classic adventurer fashion they deliberately run right into!

Lacking any other options, Sindawe declares, “We’ll ram and kill them all in hand to  hand!” The pirates cheer, because that’s the way they roll.

The fight is brutal but in hand until a rogue dispel magic removes Samaritha’s domination of Daphne the sorceress. She snatches up the fallen Gareb’s dragon staff (he found it some damn place, it’s worth a fortune) and turns into a blue dragon and turns on the Araskans.

They manage to fell Baumann and drive off the dragon for now, at the cost of many Infamy Points. Sindawe cuts off her thumbs, an idea he got from when they found the thumbless Mase Venjum in the Araska’s brig originally.

JJ [the disturbingly anatomically correct sea-homunculus] approaches the officers and says, “Hey, hey. You know why thumbless people can’t  betray you?”

A concerned Sindawe replies, “No. Why?”

JJ hunches over and talks in a stage whisper, “Hey, do you know who’s going to betray  the captain?” He looks around conspiratorially and says, “This guy!” He begins poking his own chest, but keeps his thumbs hidden indicating that they have been cut off. The conspirator is crestfallen to realize that he can’t identify himself as “this guy.” This amuses the command staff greatly.

Those that survive, level! Ooh, level 7!  They all writhed in glee. (Remember we started in 2009, so it’s a little more than a level a year.)

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Seventeenth Session

Seventeenth Session (11 page pdf) – “Kill All Vampires!” – The vampire crypt keeps the pirates occupied for a while, and finally they finish up at the Sun Temple Colony and set out to hunt down Morgan Baumann.

The PCs are trying for a by-the-numbers disposal of staked vampires and retrieval of loads of loot, but Lil being enchanted nearly puts a huge wrinkle in that; they recover very quickly though.

But luck catches up with them on one of the five crypts; those find/remove traps rolls are always just waiting for you to fail them. They escape the crypt as it fills up with water and a stone slab seals it off…  Oh, but that’s not good enough, time to go back in!  That’s when the going gets rough.

Tommy leaps the stone slab with Sindawe and Serpent close behind. All of them clear the chamber before the slab closes the way. It grinds shut and the sound of water filling the crypt can be heard through the stone.

Wogan says, “I have a Chime of Opening and Water Breathing. Let’s get you guys back in the game!”

Serpent comments that most of the Azlanti race’s enemies were water breathers.

Tommy announces, “That’s fiendish… they trap their enemies down below to starve but give them the water necessary to survive.” They cooperatively spin a tale of some hapless skum caught by the trap, perfectly comfortable but slowly dying. Good times.

They stake the last vampire but overnight Tommy and Lil are a little distracted while on guard duty and some blood ooze thing I found in some book recovers it. Once they get down there again he’s alive, which really, really freaked them out. But then all those God-touched cultists they’re dragging around with them got real lucky (five, hits, two crits) and laid 35d8 damage worth of searing light on the guy!

After that, it’s all done but the partying. They got a metric ton of loot out of it too, so they were happy, and then they traded a lot of it for cool Azlanti magitech doodads (including a walk-in freezer for the ship).

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Sixteenth Session

Sixteenth Session (10 page pdf) – “Lair of the Vampire” – It’s back to Rana Mor to retrieve Lavender Lil from the clutches of the vampiress. I leave it up to the players how much sex and violence there will be.  Hint: Lots!

Lavender_Lil_Bikini_Edition_by_Ruloc

Well, good thing I didn’t toss that Dungeon after they left Rana Mor, because they go right back.  I tried something new this time, which was to have the group vote on how much difficulty, complexity, ultraviolence, and eroticism they wanted in this session.  Go read the details of that in my previous post about Agile Session Ratings then come back here. Those were the values from this session, so I was trying for, on a 1-5 scale, Difficulty 3; Complexity 2; Ultraviolence 4; Eroticism 3.

The first part, briefing the crew before they left, was funny.  Sindawe wanted to get Big Mike to look out for the remaining elf woman captive. So he goes up to him and starts in on an oblique approach, with “Do you love your mother, Mike?” He gets convinced that Sindawe is threatening to kill his mother for some bizarre reason and eventually others have to intervene to calm a blubbering Mike so he can be given his orders and they can move on.

They take some Tear-possessed cultists into Rana Mor with them, which ends up being quite helpful. They have another fight in that darn dart room (third one!), this time with the vampire tiger, who doesn’t care about CON-draining darts as much as all the people do! It has all kinds of AC and defenses but not a lot of hit points, so a bunch of Burning Hands from the cultists do it in after it downs Sindawe. Then it’s time to fight a vampire stripper cleric!

Here’s Saeng Ki’s character sheet for your use! She’s under the influence of the Enemy’s Heart spell she cut out the elf captive’s heart to power.

When she hits the PCs with a negative energy burst, it caused this exchange:

Sindawe is surprised that the negative energy affects him and demands, “I’m evil! This shouldn’t hurt me! What use is there in being evil if negative energy can hurt you?”

Serpent replies, “You never have to say you’re sorry!”

Quite so.  Finally they recover Lil.  In the retrospective, I hit the Difficulty and Complexity dead on, but not enough gore and not near enough sex.  I tried to give some hooks early in the session with the “Kahina and JJ” thing and Little Mike trying to seduce some colonists, but the PCs were like “Uh huh on to the dungeon” and they weren’t in a mood to talk to Saeng Ki, so I couldn’t deliver on that count.  Maybe next time!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Fifteenth Session

Fifteenth Session (9 page pdf) – “Civil War, Part 2″ – We cover the mass combat that happened in the background last time.  The New World Order is put into place. And Lil is kidnapped by the vampire stripper!

Last time, we worried mainly about the PC on named NPC action.  This time, we resolve the mass combat between the pirate crew and cultists. The players run the crew and the major crew NPCs without having to be distracted about what their characters are up to.

It is hard fought.  Tommy gets a flame-slug inserted down his throat but refuses to give in, and takes a large amount of burning damage before he can expel it. Finally we reach the round in which the priest and Shining Child died and all the cultists (their parasites all have a telepathic link) bail and head back to the village.

But then comes the real wrinkle – Samaritha is panicked after nearly dying and reveals to Wogan that she is pregnant with Serpent’s child! Turns out their honeymoon tryst on Wedding Rock back in Nal-Kashel (Season Two, Session 24) overcame both the fact that Serpent is (mostly) human and Samaritha’s a disguised serpentfolk, and that serpentfolk are sterile in this age! She demands that he keep it secret, though.  Draaaaa-ma!!!

It’s always dramatically appropriate to do major personal unveils at the same time of major climaxes of violence.

And it gets worse – they return to the ship and Saeng Ki has kidnapped Lavender Lil and one of the two elf woman captives (the other was hidden in the hold). She knew they weren’t going to bring her the Flame of Guidance and wanted to give them some motivation. Sindawe wants to just kill her vampire tiger she left behind as a “message” and guide but Tommy won’t have any of it, knowing that Saeng Ki might kill (or worse) Lil if provoked… Sindawe continues down the path of “but vampire strippers are crazier than a bag of rabid goblins we should just leave” but finally relents and starts planning a rescue mission.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Fourteenth Session

Fourteenth Session (9 page pdf) – “Civil War” – The crew sponsors a coup of the cultist leadership and organizes a battle with most factions of the island mobilized against each other. Meanwhile they plan to kill the village priest and get the Lens control item.  They can handle two CR 12′s and some trash mobs right?

First – more planning! They negotiate with the Fertile Families and go get the crazy hermit and his killbot (turns out he’s the priest’s disenfranchised brother) into the fray.

They start the battle by luring the death ray away; as it returns Wogan casts a Lunar Veil spell that Saeng Ki gave them in the Rain Tiger, which I let work like a solar eclipse. The mass combat was a big barrel of pain, especially as whenever a cultist was defeated, a firey blob came out of them to join the fight itself. Olibrax the priest was high level, and he brought out his ace in the hole, left here deliberately to guard the Flame control – a Shining Child.

Shining Child

Shining Child

Remember our heroes are still sixth level. But it doesn’t have time for a symbol of insanity and a scintillating pattern would mainly mess up all the various mook troops around, so it scorching rays the heck out of them, nearly killing Samaritha. Every round is a whole load of pain for them. But they pull it out with an alley-oop – Serpent kills the priest and Sindawe passes the Flame control headgear to Xiola, and then Wogan drops the eclipse and Xiola burns the Shining Child to death with the Flame of Guidance! That reminded me of the anime Bastard! where the hero burns fire so hot that it fries an efreet… The Flame actually does half fire and half plasma damage so even flame critters get burned!

Efreet the Fire Elemental from Bastard!

Efreet the Fire Elemental

There’s still a bunch of cultists, but this is enough to call for surrender… Next time!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Thirteenth Session

Thirteenth Session (8 page pdf) – “Dreams of Conquest” – The crew and Xiola hatch a plan to get control of the Celestial Lens.  They get the outcast colony on board and create a battle plan that doesn’t involve them all getting wiped out.

The PCs return to the rebel colony and, as usual, anytime all the PCs are gone I do some rolling to see what happened in the meantime – in this case, one death, one marriage, some loot, and a recruit. And a lead on finding the Black Bunyip!

The group does what they do best, which is gathering intel and synthesizing an attack plan out of it. They will wait till a day where the control doodad for the Flame of Guidance, aka the Flying Azlanti Death Ray Lens, is in the less secure hands of the cultist colony instead of the “near infinite CR” third island which is a blasted fiery hellscape. They convince the Fertile Families of the Sun Temple group and the rebel colonists to help to various degrees. All session is spent on the battle planning and prep – but they know the better they plan, the better it will go – next time!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Twelfth Session

Twelfth Session (11 page pdf) – “Tower of the Vampire Queen” – Collecting their reward from a crazy evil vampire stripper takes a while. Then, they decide it’s time to clean up Lefty’s act at a most inopportune time.

OK, this is where the whole “don’t trust the vampire stripper” thing really started to make this drag a bit, but I rolled with it. In the module, it really was just a matter of going down into a room, messing with some trapped sarcophagi, and coming away with scads of loot. But they distrusted her so much that they wouldn’t go down there.  “Bring it to us!” they demanded. It eventually comes to blows, but the vampiress’ vampire tiger totally owns Serpent and so she manages to force a detente. The players are all talking depressed like “oh we lose we’re minions now” while she’s like “come get your treasure you crazy blood-sacks.” Finally they take it, including the spell-storing gem the Rain Tiger, and depart Rana Mor.

Then mistrust hits a second time. Lefty is on watch and tells Sindawe something’s coming.  I guess he thought it was a trick since Lefty’s still flame-slug-possessed, so he sleeper holds him and the group ends up fighting his flame slug. This wouldn’t have been so bad if Lefty hadn’t been telling the truth, because they’re all otherwise engaged when the gibbering flaming guys show up again (those possessed by Tears of Nuu’rugal sometimes mutate till they’re kinda flaming gibbering mouthers on legs over time). I had anticipated a tough fight where they finally defeat the guys they ran from a couple sessions ago, but since they were in disarray already from fighting Lefty and his flame-slug it was going poorly for them – Wogan spent an Infamy Point to collapse the ruins on them rather than fight it out.

And that’s the session – it was supposed to be “loot some treasure and then have a random encounter” but ended up taking the whole time!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Eleventh Session

Eleventh Session (17 page pdf) – “Rana Mor” – Though they pretend to look down on vampire strippers, the crew still does what this one bids them. They penetrate to the heart of the temple and kill the ancient undead high priest. Now they shall claim their just reward.

Saeng Ki

Saeng Ki

I’m afraid the art for Saeng Ki (this is from the actual adventure in Dungeon) backfired a little in this case.  Normally, “hot chick” can be somewhat inspiring to our all-guy group. But in this case, it was a little too over the top, and they immediately dubbed her “a vampire stripper” and refused to take her seriously on the grounds that both vampires and strippers are Chaotic Evil and that she’d betray them in ways few men have been betrayed by a woman.

So even though she’s offering them a pretty good deal, there’s endless back and forth bickering and negotiation and all for the first part of the session.

Finally they move off at her behest and wander the dungeon.  I put in some Azlanti chariot beetles; I went through all the Pathfinder stuff I had and pulled everything vaguely Azlanti to use on this whole trip.  Then there’s a lively fight in a room full of dart traps with undead monks in a silence zone.  It culminates with a long knock-down-drag-out with the main huecuva priest and his mummies; the PCs retreat initially and lead the mummies into some traps and then retreat more till Saeng Ki herself is helping them… Death or glory!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Tenth Session

Tenth Session (12 page pdf) – “Graveyard of the Masters” – Below the Azlanti graveyard lies a hidden temple to Zura. The crew fights their way through undead clerics around the blood moat until they meet – a skull-faced stripper?

For this set of sessions I reskinned the Rich Baker adventure “Rana Mor” from Dungeon #86, originally set in an Indian jungle, as the Zuran temple. Zura, the Vampire Queen, was an Azlanti deity of vampires and blood and cannibalism and related themes. I wanted a place that was exotic and undeady, so I used this and just added a layer of blood and stuff over the existing symbology. The PCs were fascinated with the moat of blood; they took samples and wondered if they’d get powers from drinking it (“Yeah, probably just the power of hepatitis,” they decided in the end.)

They explore the place and fight a bunch of lively undead guardians, including cleric types that summon things, and it’s some heavy action for a while there in a running battle through the ruined halls.

Finally they meet the priestess Saeng Ki.

Saeng Ki

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Ninth Session

Ninth Session (9 page pdf) – “Torches In The Night” – The crew hangs out with a friendly member of the Sun Temple Colony, but their head priest decides to just burn them all out. Then it’s time to mess with Azlanti quicksilver grave/study aids.

Xiola Chelman

Xiola Chelman

Well, the PCs befriend Xiola Chelman, leader of the Fertile Families from the Sun Temple Colony, and she takes them back there. In usual fashion they don’t exactly make a good first impression…

The old man replies, “The believers and those without sin have nothing to fear. If you behave the night I will put in a good word with the priest.”
Sindawe asks him, “Are there any common rules that we should know about? Or things that we shouldn’t do?”
Serpent adds, “Are there any specific places we shouldn’t pee?” Everyone looks at Serpent with concern.
Wogan helpfully interjects, “Perhaps a complete list is unreasonable.”

 

This is one of those weird cases where the party had a good idea – asking about local rules – but then somehow rather than shutting up and listening for an answer they started explaining and elaborating and getting wrapped around their own axle. This led to a semi-in-character, semi-not discussion about the feasibility of asking about “places not to pee.”

Anyway, they get boarded up in a house and burned to death.  Or at least, that’s the plan, but they break out, taking the drunken Xiola and the flame-goo-possessed Lefty. Once the head priest summons a salamander they skedaddle for the forest. When they were trying to wake up the drunken Xiola and she muttered “Lemme along or I’m gonna kill ya,” that’s an Easter egg quote from a well-known tale of mine having to do with strippers and Jamaica.

They find out that Lefty has indeed been a plant for the cultists, but content themselves with winging him when he tries to flee and tying him up. Then they use a weird Azlanti graveyard/computer thing (actually from Shore to Sea but they never interacted with it there so I moved it here) and discovered that there’s an underground temple to the vampire goddess Zura underneath – and it turns out that Sindawe’s treasure map leads to it, as a Mwangi trail marker he finds that his father left indicates!