Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wishlist - Token Storage Pages

Okay, D&D accessory manufacturers - this is something I would like to see made.

Now that WOTC is pushing tokens instead of miniatures, I would like companies to think a bit more about storage solutions. I've seen lots of homemade ideas such as using medicine containers and craft organizers. I've got some tubes I bought at a craft store that work pretty well, but I'd rather have a solution that lets me find the token I want faster.

What I really want is storage sheets. The sheets shown below were made by Ultra Pro, and were designed for pogs.


I don't think they make them any more, now that pogs are out of fashion. I'd love to use something like them sized to store D&D tokens. I don't like using the ones designed for pogs, because pogs are a lot bigger than D&D tokens. If I put D&D tokens in these sheets, it looks like this:

They fit, but they slide out if you turn it upside down. Plus it's a lot of wasted space, with only 20 pockets per page. They could easily fit twice that many if they made a product specifically designed for D&D tokens. I also looked into coin storage, since D&D tokens are about coin-sized. There are also similar products out there for coin collecting, but they're designed for coins that are already in square cardboard protectors, so we're back to only having 20 per page again.  I've also heard people suggest sheets designed to hold 35mm slides.  Again, 20 per page.  Both are good ideas, they just aren't optimal.

I don't expect the world to revolve around me or my desires, but maybe I'm not the only one out there who wants this. I'm hoping that some company like Ultra Pro or BCW starts making them.  If you agree, and you think you could use a similar product, please let these companies know there's a demand for this product.  In the meantime, if anyone out there finds some sheets more like what I'm looking for, let me know.

Update:  I've found a solution that works for me.  See this post.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Zombie Dice

Zombie Dice

I'm in a mixed marriage. My wife likes card games, but I prefer dice games. Like many married couples, usually we compromise by doing whatever she wants to do. But luckily I've been able to find a few dice games lately that she enjoys too. Recently we picked up a set of Zombie Dice, by Steve Jackson Games. In the package, you get a cardboard dice cup/tube, 13 six-sided dice, and a page of instructions. Each die has sides showing brains, shotgun blasts, and footprints. The dice come in green, yellow, and red, indicating the difficulty of getting a good roll on that die.

The Rules:
This game can easily be taught while playing, and within minutes everyone at the table is an expert.

The first player shakes the tube and pulls out three dice. Since some dice are more favorable than others, they're not allowed to look at the dice until they've pulled them out. The player then rolls the three dice. They're hoping to get as many brains as possible, without getting shotgun blasts. Brains represent victims the player ate, blasts represent victims that fought back, and footsteps are victims that are getting away.

After the roll, they put any blasts to the right, brains to the left, and feet in the center. The player then decides if they want to keep the score they have, or risk rolling more dice for a higher score. If they decide to end their turn, they write down the number of brains they've collected so far, put all the dice back in the cup, and hand it to the next player. If they decide to keep going, they take any footstep dice they have, and take enough more dice from the tube to make three dice. Then they roll those three dice, and the process keeps going.  If they collect three or more shotgun blasts on their turn, their turn is over and they lose any brains they've collected that round (but they still keep the points from previous rounds). So the strategy revolves around deciding whether it's worth risking another roll and losing the brains they've collected so far this round.

The winner is the player who collects 13 points first.

Example of Gameplay:
On your first turn, you roll three dice. You get one shotgun blast, one set of footprints, and one brain.

At this point, you could play it safe and end your turn, writing down the 1 point for the brain. But you're not worried about it, and a single point isn't much to lose, so you roll again. You grab the footsteps and two more dice out of the tube. This time you get another shotgun blast, and two more brains.

Not bad! You have three points now, but you're only one blast away from losing those points. So you choose end your turn, and write down three points on the score sheet. You put all your dice back in the cup and hand it to the next player. The other players take their turns, and it comes back around to you. This time your first roll is one blast and two brains.

That's a good start! You consider ending your turn now, so you can keep the two brains. But you're feeling lucky, so you grab three more dice out of the cup and roll again.

Oh no! You've collected three blasts, so you lose all the brains you've collected this turn. You still get to keep the three points you got on your first turn, though.

Generally, if I have only one shotgun blast, I'll keep rolling. If I have two blasts, I end my turn. But I'm also more likely to end my turn if I've collected more than five brains, since I don't want to risk losing them. But the colors are also a big factor.

The colors of the dice indicate difficulty. Red dice have the most shotgun blasts, while green dice have the most brains. Most of the time, this doesn't do much for gameplay other than make you go "Oh, crap" when you pull three red ones out. However, knowing how many red dice are left in the cup can help you decide whether to end your turn. If you're a couple of rolls into your turn, and all you see in front of you is greens and yellows, then you know you're due for some red dice. You might want to quit while you're ahead.

We played this with a group of four, and we all loved it. The game is very simple, and only takes about 30 seconds to learn. It plays pretty quickly, so you can pull it out when you've got a few minutes to kill. It's not very expensive, and it's a lot of fun. I highly recommend this game.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

ToEE: Investigating the Moathouse

Game Date: 3/19/2011
DM: Rusty

The Party (Level 1):
Jerry (Companion Character subbing for Nick): Human Cleric
Kossack (Cliff): Minotaur Fighter
Kryla Bloodfang (Matt): Dragonborn Cosmic Sorcerer
Pixie (Leigha): Gnome Wizard
Razz of the Three Moons (Jesse): Githzerai Swordmage

Pre-Game Thoughts:
I've only been playing D&D regularly since 4e came out.  As such, I've missed out on a lot of the classic old modules, such as The Temple of Elemental Evil, The Tomb of Horrors, and so on.  It turns out that at least one other member of our group has missed them as well.  We also have a player or two who has played them, but not in 4e.  So now we're starting a campaign designed to let us try out these the classic modules.  Since there is no official release of ToEE for 4e yet, our DM is having to convert the classic module.  We expect ToEE to carry us through several levels, but once we're through it, we're hopefully going to jump into some other popular modules as well.

I had already played a little bit of The Village of Hommlet (the ToEE intro module), just enough to know to avoid the frogs.  I'll try not to take advantage of my OOC knowledge, but my class is more likely to stay in the back anyway.  I can't wait to see someone else get swallowed for a change.

Here's another example of my penchant for overdoing things. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I memorized a bunch of dirty limericks when I was playing Aria, just in case it came up (it never did). Well, this week I've been taking a crash course in fortune telling in preparation for Kryla. Luckily I'm married to a former 1-900 psychic. I've got various methods in mind for minor divinations.  If Kryla is to get an ambiguous psychic vibe about something, I'll roll my Smiley Face Die to see if she gets a bad feeling about this.  I've also got dice for things like forecasting the weather, choosing directions, and predicting what creatures we'll face in the next room.  But if I happen to do a full-on reading, I'm going to use Astrodice.  I've even made up a cheatsheet so the readings can go a little faster. 

Kryla's in-character method: "Kryla reaches into her bag and pulls out a rolled-up piece of cloth and a small bag. She unrolls the cloth on the table. It is a black square of velvet-like material, with several concentric white circles painted on it. From the bag she pours a few multi-colored stones into her hand. She tosses them up into the air, so that they all land on the cloth. Kryla studies closely where the stones landed, and interprets the patterns using methods known only to her. After a couple of minutes, she gives you her answer."  ...not that I've given this a lot of thought or anything.  Of course, I'll probably never use any of this.  But at least I'm prepared.

The Session:
Since Jerry the Human Cleric is the only member of our group to be of a common race, and he's fairly charismatic to boot, we've decided that he's the face of our group.  But Jerry's player is going to miss a few of the early sessions, so we're currently running him as a companion character.  Our story began in the town of Narwell, where Jerry convinced us to check out an old temple.  We traveled to Hommlet, where we asked a few questions around town.  A few people mentioned a nearby moathouse, so we decided it would be fun to go check it out.

On the way there, we stopped to sleep for the night.  During Razz's watch, we were attacked by a frog the size of a volkswagen.  It immediately went for the sleeping minotaur, and Kossack soon found himself in the belly of a frog.  (Which is one of the top 10 worst ways to wake up, really.)  Kossack fought free while the rest of us attacked the frog.  The minotaur enjoyed his freedom only briefly, however, as the frog soon swallowed him a second time and jumped back into the lake.  We hit the frog with a few ranged spells until Kossack once again freed himself.  The frog then fled, probably figuring this steak wasn't worth the trouble.

Once the sun was up, we approached the moathouse.  Unfortunately our DM's map had gotten a bit torn up, but that kind of gave it character.  We each made it across the drawbridge, and found no baddies waiting for us as we entered the building.  We first explored a small tower room, which we saw was full of spiderwebs.  Razz spotted an ivory box across the room, and immediately headed for it.  He then was attacked by giant spider, which critted its opening attack, nearly killing the Gith.  The rest of us headed in there and helped him kill the spider.  Once it was dead, Razz grabbed the box that had caused him this much trouble.  He opened the box and...

...it was empty.  Oh well, the box itself is still worth something.  Now that this room was clear, we crossed the courtyard and headed for a large set of stairs.  As we reached the top of the stairs, we were attacked by a large number of bandits.  Kossack and Razz were hit by the opening salvo of crossbow bolts.  Razz was once again hit by a crit during the surprise round.

A few rounds into combat, a rage drake came running down the hall and joined the battle.  Pixie made good use of her multiple-target powers to take out the minions, and Kryla's Blazing Starfall kept a few enemies from advancing.  We're using those crit/fumble cards again, which meant that every 20 or 1 had some extra effects.  A poorly rolled attempt at Sacred Flame made Jerry deaf, and a later fumble by Pixie meant she lost her use of that At-Will power.  Both effects lasted until our next extended rest.

Critical Hit Deck (Gamemastery)  Game Mastery Critical Fumble Deck

Eventually the bandits were dead, and we were down to the Rage Drake.  It spent a few rounds immobilized, so Pixie took that opportunity to place a zone of fire around it so it would take damage each round.  When it could finally move again, Krlya finished it off with her Dragon Breath.  She critted on the attack roll, and the effect card gave the Drake vulnerable 5 acid.  It's almost a pity that killed it, as Kryla would have been doing some major damage to it with her Acid Orb At-Will.

After the battle, we explored the moathouse some more.  Razz found a room full of bats, but he quickly shut the door.  We saw a giant snake, but we let it be for the moment.  While some of us were exploring the rooms, Kossack heard some footsteps, but didn't see anyone.  We found a room with some stairs leading down, but the stairs were covered with rats.  Razz was dangerously low on healing surges, so we decided to clear out any more dangers so we could take an extended rest.  We knew the bats and the rats would stay in their respective rooms, so we went after the snake.

Razz approached the snake, then immediately dropped dead for unknown reasons.  Jerry tended to Razz while the rest of us attacked the snake.  Pulling aside Razz's armor, Jerry found a giant bloodsucking tick attached to the Swordmage's chest.  The tick was treated as a room hazard, and the DM had rolled max damage, which had been exactly enough to drop Razz in one hit.  Jerry got Razz back on his feet, but the Gith spent most of the battle cowering in the corner, with no surges left and 1 hit point. This was not a good day for the Swordmage.

Once the snake was dead, we picked the safest-looking room and blocked the door.  During our extended rest, Pixie heard a noise from the roof.  She woke up Kryla, but the Dragonborn didn't hear anything.  Once we were all rested and refreshed, we headed for the rat-infested stairwell.  We used some area effect spells to clear out the rats, then went down the stairs.  At the bottom of the stairs, some slime fell on us.

We shook off the slime and looked around the room.  We were expecting a little basement, that we could clear out and be done with the moathouse.  Nope.  It looks like quite a bit of exploration ahead for us, so we decided it would be a good time to end the session.

The first time I played the Village of Hommlet, we were using the 4e DM Rewards module.  However, that's not the version we're using now.  Since Rusty has had to convert the Temple of Elemental Evil to 4e himself, he went ahead and converted this part of it as well.  I was actually surprised at how similar it was; most of the time I wouldn't have been able to tell it wasn't the published 4e version.  This bodes well for future sessions.  If we can just start rolling a little better, we should do well.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Beholder? I Hardly Know Her!

D&D Miniatures: Beholder Collector's Set
WOTC Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Beholder Collector's Set
A while back I made a mega-post showing off all my D&D miniatures, and a follow-up focusing on my Star Wars minis.  I'll admit it's a bit nuts to be so into it, since they're just WOTC's pre-painted stuff. It's not like I'm showing off my creative paint jobs or anything.  I just enjoy collecting things, and taking pictures of my collection.

I admit that WOTC's minis are the fast food of miniatures. They're cheaply made and sometimes badly painted. But for some reason, I love them. I guess I just care more about quantity than quality. It really is the fastest way to build your collection. I have no desire to start painting my own minis, so I have to pick up pre-painted stuff. And I like the durability of plastic/rubber over metal; I can throw a bunch in a bag and don't have to worry about them grinding into each other.

So I was very disappointed a couple of months ago, when WOTC announced they were ending their minis line. From now on, it looks like they'll be concentrating on tokens, and only producing minis for specific special sets.  Now, I'm not against tokens. They're cheaper and easier to store. I think it would be great if all future modules came with a sheet of tokens representing all the monsters in that adventure. But in my opinion, tokens just don't have the personality of miniatures. I will miss them, but I have a pretty good collection to keep me busy.

Now a Sidetrack: I have a thing for eyeballs. I don't know what it is, but I just like them. Whenever I would design a monster as a kid, I would always make sure to give it lots of eyes. The first time I saw a beholder, it was in the cheesy 80s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon. If I remember correctly, they defeated it by making it look at a flower (in other words, they showed "beauty to the eye of the beholder"). Yeah... not in my campaign, TYVM. But while the cartoon might not have been the scariest possible introduction to the creature, it still instantly became one of my favorite monsters.

So even though it was hard to justify the price, I had to grab the Beholder Collector's Set before it disappears or skyrockets in price. I already had two Beholder minis, the basic Beholder ( from the Deathknell line) and the Beholder Ultimate Tyrant (from Legendary Evils). So this set brings my total Beholder count up to 6, which is probably more than I'll ever need. Yeah, like "need" has ever been a factor in this collection.

The set comes with four minis: Eye of Frost, Ghost Beholder, Eye of Shadow, and Eye Tyrant.   Each one is a repaint of an older Beholder mini.  It also includes a 4e stat card for each mini, and it all comes in a beautiful box.  (This box is much bolder than my older beholder holder.)

Box Closed

Box Open

Eye of Frost
Eye of Frost (repaint of Dungeon of Dread "Eye of Flame") I love the sculpt, and I think the paint job is pretty. It's the only one of the four with the "armored" style skin, which isn't really my preference, but it suits this mini. To me, normal skin looks weird in an icy environment - generally I think of ice creatures as either being covered in fur or having thick scales. And a hairy beholder would just look silly. I personally think this looks better as an Eye of Frost than it did as the Eye of Flame. If I ever do an ice-themed dungeon, this guy will be the boss.

Ghost Beholder
Ghost Beholder (repaint of Unhallowed "Beholder Lich") I like the translucent blue plastic; it really makes it ghostly. But in a way it also makes it look cheap. It's a decent sculpt, perfect for the ghost theme. This will make the perfect boss for an undead dungeon someday. Granted, if it's in the same campaign as the ice dungeon above, my players will think I'm nuts for beholders.

Eye of Shadow

Eye of Shadow (repaint of Deathknell "Beholder") Every time I read that, I just see "eye shadow", which female beholders must have to buy in gallons. This is my least favorite of the four. Once again, the translucence makes it look cheap, and in this case it almost looks like it's made of candy. Still, an invisibility-themed beholder could have some nice uses in a campaign. Wasn't there a story where the leader of the Thieves Guild turned out to be a beholder? If I ever do a shadow-themed dungeon... yada yada yada.

Eye Tyrant
Eye Tyrant (repaint of Dangerous Delves "Eye Tyrant")  This one is the least changed from the original mini.  Unless I'm missing something, this is pretty much the original Eye Tyrant mini with a slightly different tint.  Of the four in the set, this one is the most normal looking (for a beholder). Which is a good thing, IMO.  This set really needed a normal beholder in it, since the other three have such specific themes. I know I'd be a bit miffed if I'd payed for this set and didn't even get a beholder I could use for everyday beholder needs. And who doesn't have everyday beholder needs? For most buyers, this one will probably get more use than the other three. It's a decent enough sculpt. The expression's a little neutral, though. While the other three beholders look angry, the Eye Tyrant just looks kind of annoyed, maybe even a little bored.

 It's a pretty nifty set, but it's debatable whether it's worth paying $30 for four minis.  Still, speaking as a Beholder fan, it's a welcome addition to my collection.

All My Beholder Minis

Original Beholder Mini (Not in Beholder Collector's Set)

Separated at Birth?

Beholder Ultimate Tyrant (Not in Beholder Collector's Set)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Character - Kryla Bloodfang

This is my current character in the Temple of Elemental Evil campaign.

Krylanna "Kryla" Bloodfang


Sorcerer (Cosmic)








Although she comes from a long line of proud dragonborn warriors, Kryla Bloodfang was different right from the start. Even her egg was marked with unusual patterns resembling planets and stars. While others in her family trained to be soldiers, Kryla had a natural talent for spellcasting. Her family never understood her fascination with astrology and magic, and Kryla left her home early so she could pursue her interests without being pressured to join the militia. Her parents sent her brother, Rhogar, to find her and bring her home. She's run into him a few times since then, but he hasn't been able to convince her to return home. (Nor does he really want to, as Rhogar is enjoying his travels as well.) Kryla believes she is destined for something great, but has no idea what. She now wanders from town to town, hoping to find her life's purpose.

Personality, Mannerisms, and Appearance:
Kryla is outgoing and enjoys the extra attention that her species often receives from other races. She loves studying the behaviors of other peoples, and will sometimes say or do shocking things just to see the reaction. Whether for the greater good or just for fun, she often attempts to manipulate people through kind words or intimidation.

She has gold scales and red eyes. She is thin for a Dragonborn, but tall, and usually stands out in a crowd. In order to turn even more heads, Kryla enjoys wearing garish clothing, in a large array of bright clashing colors. She often passes the time by singing ancient songs of her race. She also likes to dabble in fortune-telling, but her predictions aren't usually any more accurate than random guessing. It is her own divinations that led her to believe that she has an important future ahead of her.

Even though Kryla rejected her clan's predilection for close combat, she still embraces their attitude towards honor. She is highly motivated to do the right thing, and has no problem risking her life to help others. Her self-foretold destiny enhances her courage - she doesn't believe it is her fate to die until she has accomplished something historic. Even with this possible delusion, she's still rational enough not to tempt fate by doing something outright stupid. After all, fate can always pick a new hero if it needs to.

While Kryla has done some research on magic, as a sorcerer her abilities are more innate than learned. She's a "learn by doing" type of caster, always ready to experiment even if the situation is risky. Because she is an acid-spitter (as is the rest of the Bloodfang clan), she has a special interest in acid-based spells.

Creating this character:
Kryla was one of the characters I played in LFR. I only got to play her for a few sessions before I stopped attending LFR. But I really enjoyed the Dragonborn Cosmic Sorcerer build, so I decided to import her into our new campaign.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Artifact Hunters: The End Of The Road

Game Date: 3/12/2011
DM: Nick

The Party (Level 6):

Anna Bella (Leigha) - Halfling Monk
Marek the Silver (Rusty) - Dragonborn Paladin
Morigan McBane (Jesse) - Human Artificer
Talindra Seryth (Matt) - Razorclaw Shifter Avenger

The Session:
Our last session left off with us deciding not to kill the harmless children and elders of the Tiamat cult.  Since we didn't slaughter any helpless people (as much as we wanted to), the DM gave us some extra XP.  Plus they gave us some advance warning about the spawn of Tiamat, elsewhere in the caverns.  So the moral of the story, kids, is don't be a douche.

After getting a full night's rest, we set out to find the Tiamat spawn.  The spawn turned out to be a Blackspawn Doomweb Spider, which could have been a formidable opponent had the dice fallen a bit differently.  As it was, the fight only lasted a few rounds.  Tal used her Sequestering Strike to teleport it into a more strategic position.  It tried to flee across a river of acid, but Anna Bella flew after it.  Morigan and Anna critted on the final two hits of the battle, doing some massive damage.

After the battle, Anna found an illusory wall, hiding some treasure.  We also discovered a waterfall leading to an underwater tunnel, which Anna explored and found even more treasure.  Finding nothing else of value in this dead end, we retreated to an earlier point in the mines.

After more exploration, we discovered a hidden crack in the cavern wall.  We went through it and found a tunnel leading to the final encounter of the campaign.  In a room filled with sparkly geodes, the armor we sought hung suspended in the center of the beautiful rock formations.  It was guarded by several Kruthiks.  We knew that the story was coming to a close, so we didn't hold back.  We exhausted our dailies and our action points.  We used area affect spells and burst attacks.  Marek challenged almost everything in the room, so the rest of us took very little damage.  The DM kept making low attack rolls, and by the end only Marek was bloodied (and even him just barely).  We finally killed the last kruthik, and claimed our prize.

After the battle, we freed the magic armor, and found a way to teleport back to town.  Our quest now over, we finally got some well-earned rest.

Obsidian Portal Entry

Next week we will either be playing part two of my Itropa module, or we will have the first session of Rusty's Temple of Elemental Evil campaign.  It mostly depends on who is able to make it to the session.

Total XP: 6950
Individual xp: 1737
Current PC XP: 9547 (still level 6)
Total GP: 8282
Individual GP: 2070
Other Stuff:
Armor of Feril Bilikin
Instant Campsite (nobody)
Jar of Steam (nobody)
Skull Mask (nobody)
Headband of Perception (Tal)
Luckbender Gloves (Ana Bella)
+1 Sunblade Longsword (Gavail)
+2 Dwarven Thrower Hammer (Marek)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Artifact Hunters: Dungeons and Dragonborn

Game Date: 3/5/2011
DM: Nick

The Party (Level 6):

Anna Bella (Leigha) - Halfling Monk
Marek the Silver (Rusty) - Dragonborn Paladin
Morigan McBane (Jesse) - Human Artificer
Talindra Seryth (Matt) - Razorclaw Shifter Avenger

The Session:
Last session we entered some caves, and rested after killing a room full of bugs.  Once we were ready to fight again, we cleared the rubble separating us from the next room.  We found ourselves overlooking a 30-foot drop, at the bottom of which waited four Rage Drakes.  There was also particularly annoying Portal Drake.  He managed to split our party right from the start, by teleporting Marek into the midst of the Rage Drakes.  But Marek wasn't worried; he's a walking bag of hit points.

Once three of the Rage Drakes were down, Marek intimidated the fourth one.  Marek is now the proud owner of a Rage Drake mount, something he'd been wanting since the beginning of the campaign.  He probably won't get a chance to ride it before the end of the campaign, but it's still cool to see a wish fulfilled.  For now, we left the Drake in its den, so it could heal up.

We explored the caverns a bit longer, until we came to a split.  We took the right fork, because we could hear some voices speaking an ancient Draconic dialect.  We fought two black-scaled Dragonborn warriors.  Once we took them out, we fought two more Dragonborn warriors, along with their boss, a Dragonborn Acid Adept.  He had the very powerful ability to create walls of acid.

Once he was defeated, we explored a bit further, and met an elderly Dragonborn who seemed very sad about the deaths of his kin.  He wasn't a threat to us, but Morigan killed him anyway.  We turned a corner in the cave tunnels, and came across their nesting area.  There were about a dozen Dragonborn in there, tending to the eggs.  Nothing in the room could have been considered a threat - all that were left were the children, elderly, and caregivers. 

At this point, we had a bit of a debate.  These Dragonborn were harmless, sure, but they were also raising the next generation of Tiamat-worshippers.  Ever bloodthirsty, Morigan pushed for exterminating the lot.  Meanwhile Marek turned his back on the room, wanting no part of the upcoming slaughter.  Tal was conflicted... she has dedicated her life to destroying Bane-worshippers, and Tiamat is Bane's ally.  But she really wasn't sure if her god would want her to commit mass murder.

In the end, we let them live.  They gave us some valuable information regarding the item we seek, and hinted at the dangers we will soon face.  We decided to rest in one of their tents.  We could still decide to kill them next session, but for now we're taking the peaceful road.

Obsidian Portal Entry

Total Xp: 3,000
750 each

Current PC XP: 8560

410 gp
Amulet of Physical Resolve +1 (Marek)
Deep-Pocket Cloak +2 (Morigan)