Friday, February 22, 2019

Swords & Wizardry

GameDoc has set up a Swords & Wizardry game set in the Grand Duchy!  It's time for some Old School Renaissance?!  Count us in, but be warned.  Wizards with INT 9 are not just allowed, but perfectly feasible.

Adventures in the Known World Campaign
*Updated 1/30/2018*

A party of adventurers find themselves on a caravan in the northern part of Karameikos.  All of them drawn for different reasons to the area, they are all traveling to the Keep on the merciless Borderlands.  The way is treacherous, and they all know the dangers of this wild area.

Georg Weakstone and his elven companion Kay are caravan guards working for passage to the Keep.  Joining them are Zomzatom of Specularum and his apprentice, wizards traveling with the caravan for their own inscrutable reasons.  Lastly, the lawful cleric Cleo walks the route to the Keep...presumably to bring wisdom to the foolish.

  • Cleo (Cleric)
  • Skjal Beut (Halfling Fighter)
  • Forchen Winstar (Halfling Cleric)
  • Zomzatom (Wizard)
  • Georg Weakstone (Fighter)
  • Kay (Elven Wizard)

Session Log I

One day during the long caravan north, something finally happened.  Danger reared it's ugly head but one day's journey from the Keep, lending credence to the stories about monsters near the Borderlands.  A makeshift blockade had been made by fallen trees, obviously cut.  Yet our adventurers are wary, and are ready for a goblin attack.

The ambuscade falls flat, though for a moment the goblins get the better of some foolish caravan guards.  As Georg and Ser Bertram fight off the goblin thrust, another group approaches from the opposite direction - led by a hobgoblin warrior.  Zomzatom charms the hapless hobgoblin and accuses the goblin henchfolk of trying to steal his milk money.  The group cleans up the goblins on the other side as Zomzatom convinces the hobgoblin he and his men should raid the road near Specularum if he really wants more than milk money.

During the night, a terror hit the camp during Kay's watch.  A basilisk wandered into camp and caused much havoc, killing one caravan guard and nearly killing Kay herself.  Cleo interceded and the power of her goddess revived Kay in time for an escape while Georg and Ser Bertram manage to slay the beast.

The next day, the group arrives in town.  After a quick assessment on the situation and some drinks in the tavern, a profitable venture presents itself.  It seems goblin attacks are increasing, and patrols required to deal with them are sparse.  Zomzatom points out that cleaning goblins off the road is treating the symptom rather than the sickness.  Soon after, plans are made to speak with who ever has the authority to hire adventurers.

Session Log II

Forchen Winstar and his companion Skjal Beut travel along the trail to the keep, looking for adventure.  A day's journey from the keep it finds them.  Bandits accost their caravan, and nearly kill Skjal after threatening to take the halflings into slavery.  A fight breaks out and the halflings fight for their lives, killing many of their attackers.

Once they are at the keep, they meet Zomzatom and Cleo over drinks in the inn.  The next morning, the halflings join the duo over breakfast, and they are told about the opportunity for coin if they have the courage to fight goblins in the dark.  Charging into a goblin's nest, knee deep in goblin vomit and slop. 

The party makes their way to the constabulary.  After Zomzatom again points out how wrong they are doing it and negotiates a draconian bounty for ears, the party is left with a few clear directives.  Kill all the savage humanoids, kill everyone else if you have to.  Except the lizardmen, who are neutral.  Ears is the name, and gold is the game.  Just as well.  Lizardmen don't have ears.

The party is approached by a prospective client, who has lost a courier.  Apparently, he was to journey to the nearby swamp and entreat with the lizardmen, whom are neutral.  The client (sort of) incriminates a cleric in the keep's temple to have something to do with it, so the party visits the temple.

Apparently, the cleric had connections with the lizardfolk.  The courier was expected to return in the morning, but did not.  Nearest lead:  talk to the lizardfolk, who are (allegedly) neutral.

The party then made plans to check with the rangers for leads on probable bandit camps and goblin warrens.  They intended to wait near the gates for a patrol to return.  In the meantime, they explore the keep and get to know the inhabitants.

What will become of our intrepid adventurers as they begin to explore this keep and the borderlands?

Find out soon...

Sunday, February 17, 2019

X-Wing: Cloak of the Sith Round 2 Commences!

Cloak of the Sith Challonge!

Our longest running campaign has been the first X-Wing 1.0 campaign launched on this site, mostly because we do all kinds of stuff and have too many things going on at once but hey.  The final stage has begun, at last!

X-Wing 1.0 Scum Cruiser
You learn pretty quick they are ALL definitely hiding contraband.
By far the biggest winners of the campaign so far are the Deathwind Cartels, a.k.a. Scum & Villainy faction.  So much so, in fact, that the last round of games won't actually change that fact - the Cartel has seriously secured victory throughout the Deathwind Corridor.  All that remains is a few last sorties on both Alliance and Imperial assets as the two withdraw from the theater.

X-Wing 1.0 Rebels
Cornered and alone, the crack Imperial pilots have state-of-the-art fighters...but they are still all alone.
Coming in solid at second, the Rebels could conceivably lose their ranking in the last round if the Imperial blockade is successful at every turn.  Further, the pirates must be dissuaded from destroying any more Alliance assets - assets needed to combat the hated Empire. The Imperials are thus the real threat the rebellion faces moving into Round 2, which is a MUCH shorter timeline to completion.

X-Wing 1.0 TIE Swarm
Getting caught all alone in the drifts of Deathwind Corridor will spell doom for anyone, however.
The lowest of scores so far, the Imperial team has struggled in the Cloak of the Sith.  Though Imperial forces clean up on the ground (where they land) their fleet has been hit hard by the guerilla tactics of both the Rebellion and the pirates.  Yet, there is still a chance to defeat the rebel scum before the area is abandoned to lawlessness and cutthroats.  It will be dicey, but in order to truly advance the Imperials will have to be utterly ruthless.

As Round 2 begins, Alliance and Imperial forces are in full retreat from the Cloak of the Sith.
Pirates are all over, coming out in droves as the larger fleets begin to bleed.  The cartels control the Deathwind Corridor and the Cloak of the Sith...but will the Imperials put an end to the Alliance fleet before it can rally for it's next mission?

Just a few sorties remain!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Dungeon Tiles and What to Do With Them

Dungeon Tile Boxes
Stacks upon stacks upon stacks...
A few years back, we piled up every Dungeon Tiles box we could stomach and decided to hoard them.  Well, let's be honest - it was more than a few years ago.  It's been so long I don't even know which sets are what anymore and just kinda keep them in a few general containers.

It turns out there were a lot more of these Dungeon Tiles map packs than I thought.  I didn't really think too much of them, wielding my trusty Chessex mats as I did, with my hand-drawn dungeon corridors.  I think I have those somewhere, lingering still.

Dungeon Tiles Boxes
You're gonna need more boxes...
Anyway, check out DM David's (no relation) list and gallery of Dungeon Tiles publications.  It will help you track the rest down if you already have a good idea what pieces you have.  I don't really have that luxury, however.

I think it would take more time than I'm willing to invest at this point to go through these boxes and try to find each set that each piece came from.  Members of the old club would grab these up cheap and drop them in the boxes all the time, and that resulted in very little record keeping.  Such were the times in the old and lawless lands of long ago.

Dungeon Tiles City Plaza Setup
Dungeon Tiles Sewer Entrance

I shall catalog that folly.

Dungeon Tiles City Plaza Setup
Dungeon Tiles City & Sewer Setup

These are pretty much all we really need, though.  Basically, we have three huge sets now:  City, Dungeon and Wilderness.  With the reverse sides, we get some sewers and caverns.  All good stuffs.

Dungeon Tiles with Cave
Dungeon Tiles with Cave

Nominally, these are for RPG games.  I think we've used them more for skirmish gaming than anything else.  We've used them for campaigns in Warmachine, Mordheim, Frostgrave, Lord of the Rings and even D&D Miniatures.  It's great for claustrophobic settings, and can even allow from transition from a wider board to the interior just by adding some more model terrain.

Dungeon Tiles Wilderness Setup
"What's up fellas?  You wanna get in here by the fire?  It's cold out, but...oh."
I'm not really a fan of the wilderness tiles, as we have a table and actual terrain for all that.  However, if space / transportation is an issue then these provide the perfect solution for the prepared Master of Dungeons.  It certainly makes it easier to whip out small rpg-style scenarios quickly with a good spread of terrain.

Now, I don't have a full on dungeon table (yet) but these tiles fix that wagon pretty good and I'm happy that the old gang decided to invest in them.  We'll be cleaning the Iron Seer's dungeon this season, and air the dank place out.  We'll be looking for various dungeon gubbinz and getting them cataloged, cased and ready for a grand reopening of the place very soon.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Storm King's Thunder Postmortem

Iron Seer Presents: Storm King's Thunder
It's good, overall.  It's not very intense, just long. 
Would not run again without serious modification.
So, about a month ago or so we finished up our first full D&D 5e module, Storm King's Thunder (hereafter referred to as SKT), published by Wizards of the Coast.

Storm King's Thunder: Prepare to Die Edition

This was the longest campaign I've ever taken part in, running (roughly) weekly games for about 15-16 months.  PC's finished at 11th level, but during the course of the game some things became apparent.  So, I've got some points to go over regarding the adventure and how it played out.

The Pros of the New 5e Modules

First of all, I loved SKT.  Let me just get that out there right quick.  Overall, it was a fun experience for everyone, though in reality I don't believe it's designed for five characters - we'll get to that one.

You can't deny that the book itself is gorgeous - but that's standard for WotC.  Overall, the format of the adventure is well laid out and it's easy to find things when you need to refer to them.  I like all the callouts to the standard books, and honestly as a format for writing adventures it's one of the best modules I've ever encountered, much less had the pleasure to run.

Length was commendable.  SKT was one of the largest modules I've ever ran, with a great scope to match it.  There's lots of material in there, but it IS a rather large book.  SKT was no single dungeon module with over one hundred pages fleshing out rooms in a single locale - the adventure literally spans the entirety of the Sword Coast.

Villains and NPC's are nicely fleshed out, with lots of information on most of them.  A little too much on some, but that's another issue.  You won't have a problem where you're unsure of someone's motivation, but are left to wonder if you were supposed to put more into presentation of what turns out to be a minor NPC.

Probably the coolest feature of the module is how the storyline can diverge.  Lots of different paths and options are open to the players, and I daresay a lot could be replayed.  This was probably the idea behind the Adventurer's League style modules of late.  Ultimately though, all paths lead to the same place but how the players go about the modules can really affect the late-stage encounters.

    The Cons of the New 5e Design Philosophy

    First of all, I've already jotted my thoughts on Roll20 in general down.  In short, it would have been a lot better to do this module entirely on the table, rather than the hybrid game we had with various softwares.  The notion is solid, but unless your game is MOSTLY online don't bother with it.  My experience with the paid-for content has only motivated me to not use it anymore.

    A major issue for us was the balance on 5e modules.  There's more to say about this specifically, but I'll save that for another time.  For now, suffice it to say that 5e modules seem to be designed for less than five players.  This caused the encounters as written to be very, very easy in most cases.

    Yes, I could have changed the encounters.  However, if I was going to write my own adventure I would have done that.  We had five players, the recommended amount, and took on the adventure as written - like we always do.

    The difficulty curve has changed.  It's a simple fact that my players had little to no trouble in any combat encounter (save but one).  There was very little suspense on this, and even Death Saves did little to make things more tense.  Very early on, they became convinced of their superiority and were never corrected.

    Vaal in Storm King's Thunder on Roll20
    Almost.  Almost...
    Of course, in this module you can expect lots and lots of help from NPC's.  Some of the encounters wouldn't be hard with the party itself, yet in some cases you can have what amounts to an entire adventure party fighting alongside the main party.  In at least one case, it can be a squadron of Storm Giants.  This really robbed the players of agency and drove home the notion we weren't really playing a game, but a story.

    It's because of those things that the end of the adventure was as anticlimatic as I thought it would be.  There was no chance for Imryth, unless she flees.  There was no suspense, just what amounted to the serving of a warrant and beatdown of everything in her lair.  WEAKEST.  ENDING.  EVER.

    In the end, I was happy the game was over.

    Though I liked SKT, as long as this design philosophy rules over D&D you can bet I won't be running any more 5e WotC modules.  I wanted to run Princes of the Apocalypse, but if this is the state of the game I think I can do better on my own, and my players will definitely appreciate it.

      Sunday, February 3, 2019

      Sulfur Fields Hills

      Sulfur Fields Hills on Zuzzy Sulfur Fields Mat
      The Zuzzy mat's texture really captures my table join bump like no other mat.
      Generally the first thing you want to add to a flat play area is hills, so I did that.  This set of hills comes in (basically) four pieces, but the top sections of each are removable and interchangeable so technically I guess it's six pieces.  Either way, I had to make new hills because I made a new mat and this is what we have now.

      Sulfur Fields Hills
      Ol' styro-cutter and me have been through a lot of foam over the years.  Sometimes I stop and I wonder, exactly how old is that D battery is that runs you?  I guess when you start to corrode I'll bury you.
      It started as these things often do - with some styrofoam bits I had captured here and there.  These are irregular pieces of various consistencies and makes, but that's usually how I roll.  Cut with wire foam cutter to wargames consistency.  No, I don't usually do 'rounded' edge hills because in my experience that's asking for wobbly-model syndrome.

      Maybe one day I should try that, though.

      Vallejo Black Lava and Hand-Made Modern Textured Cement
      Hand Made Modern Textured Cement Finish and Vallejo Black Lava make up the textures we're using.
      I usually cover the foam at this point in PVA glue and allow it to harden, but this time we're trying a different material altogether.  To have these hills match our Zuzzy Sulfur Fields mat, we're going to have to make sure the paint goes on correctly, as it were.  We're going to start with a base of Textured Cement Finish and allow it to dry.  This is probably the most serious product in my arsenal, as it really, really had the smell of paints.  Had to open some windows.

      Sulfur Fields Hills Texture
      It dries in place and hardens the foam, filling in for pva glue.
      Once it's dry, we get an interesting cool texture over the foam.  It has fantastic coverage, and generally behaves like a very thick paint.  It breaks apart as it dries and stretches, leaving cool broken earth-like marks.  It was about this point in the project I decided NOT to use the Vallejo texture, as it would raise the profile up a lot more than this.  I wanted the tops to be flat to accomodate smaller pieces on top of them, so I left it like it was and moved on.

      Sulfur Fields Hills
      Look at all them tasty textures.
      I was working on several projects at once here, and the table started to get a little cluttered.  The next phase would be to paint on an acrylic wash, just like on the Zuzzy mat.  This would be a dark brown, red and black mixed to create an interesting, earthy tone that would blend well into the textures.

      Sulfur Fields Hills Inking
      I use old Pla-Doh containers to mix acrylics.
       When inking, I made certain to get WAAY up under the edges.  This keeps any white from 'peeking' out from behind the facade.  Gotta maintain that illusion.  After that, a light grey drybrush to match the table and matte sealer to guard against minis make these tabletop ready.

      Sulfur Fields Hills
      Section A (2 parts) and Section B.
       Hills are, to me, an essential part of any table.  These aren't that high, but are pretty large in area allowing for a lot of things to be done with the arrangement.  I think the manage to blend into the table fairly well, despite not having the Vallejo black textures.

      Sulfur Fields Hills
      Section C and Section D (2 parts).
       I plan on expanding the table with some more rock formations, but these hills are the basic pieces every table needs.  I found that it looks best if the sulfur flows don't have hills on them but it's actually fine any way.  It doesn't really break your immersion, as it were.

      Sulfur Fields Hills and CAV Razor
      Jade Falcon RZR mech patrols the ridgeline.
       Moon planet achieved!

      Sulfur Fields Hills and CAV Cougar
      Stormhammer CGR mech crouches in a low valley.
      I changed around the formations and stacked them differently in the following pics to show some of the ways it can be set up.

      Sulfur Fields Hills and Jade Falcon
      Jade Falcon scout units storm over the hill.
      For this table, one feature I want to try to strive for across all it's terrain is a claustrophobic one.  More canyon / channel type terrain to really make it difficult for units to maneuver.  It will be a challenging prospect to some commanders.

      Sulfur Fields Hills Enemy Contact
      Enemy Contact!
       My only regret is that it doesn't presently seem like I can get any more of the Textured Cement Finish by Hand Made Modern.  I have no idea where to get it.  It seems to be an exclusive to a certain retailer but they are all out of stock.  I have looked around for a substitute, and I'll probably get the Grey Pumice from Vallejo.  With the inks and drybrush we should be able to achieve a similar color / texture.

      Sulfur Fields Hills Attack Run
      Enemy aircraft making attack run!  Take cover!
      Soon we'll have moonbases and mechs all over this table.  It will also pull duty as various inhospitable planets throughout our games.  All the terrain I'm making for it right now is pretty scale-ambiguous, so it will work for any minis in the scales I use.

      Viva la Moon Patrol!

      Sulfur Fields Hills Battle