Getting Your D&D Fix Online

I have only played D&D once in the past 7 weeks, and so I often look for similar activities to sustain me through the drought (I’ve been watching Game of Thrones and playing Mass Effect). So it was good timing for me when I was contacted by a PR firm promoting the new D&D video game: Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale. Normally I wouldn’t sell out, but in addition to being promised a review copy, I’m being given a code for a free PC version to give away to one of my readers. This seems like a good enough deal to give them some space here. I had the opportunity to play an early build of the game at PAX East. It’s pretty much your standard 3rd-person dungeon crawler, built on top of the 4e rules. It’s the spiritual successor of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, and if you enjoyed that or Diablo or any game where you get to hack things up, break barrels, and collect treasure, you’ll probably enjoy this too.

If you are interested in a free copy, leave a comment below before 5pm Eastern Daylight Time, Monday May 30th. I’ll randomly select one unique commenter via MATLAB program to send it to. I’m a little fuzzy on the details of the promotion, so if it’s a physical product, I’m only going to send it to someone in the US.

Below is their official release copy. It’s available now for PC and XBLA, and should be out next week on PS3. You can play multi-player locally or online, so hopefully I can go questing with some of you in the near future.

Official Release Statement:

The original epitome of geekdom is taking another step in its storied pop culture history as the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms, is brought to life for gamers and enthusiasts across the world by Atari.

 The new Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale is a “hack and slash” action role playing game set in the deep mythology of the Forgotten Realms, is the first ever Dungeons & Dragons video game rooted in the 4th edition rules for consoles.  Players are summoned by a mysterious mage and given the duty of defending their homeland as Rezlus, an evil Zhentarim Cleric looks to bring the power of the Black Lord Bane onto Daggerdale and the rest of Daggerfalls. Restore order to Nentir Vale by unlocking the secrets of the Mines of Tethyamar, defeating the evil within the treacherous Tower of the Void, leading to the final confrontation with Rezlus himself.Players can take on the role of the melee expert Human Fighter, the quick and nimble Elven Rogue, the master of the arcane arts Halfling Wizard, and the powerful divine Dwarven Cleric.  Gamers use intuitive pick-up-and-play combat combined with a wide assortment of weapons, feats and powers to defeat a wide range of deadly enemies.

Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale carries a suggested PC retail price of $14.99 and is available on XBLA for 1200 MS Points.

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[Your Advice] No Game? Problem.

My group missed its game tonight, bringing down our average this summer to less than 1 game per 3 weeks. I would love to keep gaming week after week but real life keeps getting in the way. My younger self believed that we could keep the gang together by getting together for a game, movie, or have a guest DM.

The problem we’ve had with the guest DM situation is that it takes time to prep a game. I’ve had a backup adventure in the back of my head for a few months. Unfortunately it’s not fleshed out enough to deliver on a few days notice. It also doesn’t want to fit into one night of gaming, making hard to do it for a one-shot. Even if I ran an encounter straight out of a module, it still takes time to read through the adventure, and pick out maps, minis, tokens, etc. In additions I like to prep monster cards and take some notes to let the game go smoothly. Even if someone was able to run a game completely off-the-cuff, if we’re down one or two players, it’s tough to run any adventure. And if we’re down our hosts then there are logistical and cleaning issues in the way of getting together elsewhere.

And if we wanted to punt on the game and just get together, we have to fight inertia and being tired after a whole day of work…

What do you do to keep going and keep momentum up? If your game gets canceled how do you spend your free evening? For myself, I’m blogging and reading some Robert Jordan, but somehow it’s not scratching that itch tonight…

It’s ENnie time again

The ENnies are the annual fan awards for tabletop role-playing game, awarded each year at Gen Con. There are categories for art, writing, products, podcasts, blogs, minis, etc. The awards were originally given out by the EN World site in 2001, and they have been expanding and gaining presitge each year since then. If you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming you are a RPG fan. This means you’re eligible to go vote now for your favorites. They use a runoff voting system, so you can rank your choices in each category.

Even if you don’t want to vote, you should check out the nominees. They represent the best in this year’s RPG offerings, and I can’t find a bad product or publisher in the bunch. Even the honorable mentions are worth checking out. You have until July 25 to vote.

Most of the nominees are based on the new systems that came out last year. Have any you played them (Shadowrun, Rogue Trader, Pathfinder, etc), and what do you think?

Why You Should Use a Torch

A sunrod [DDI] is only 4gp, lasts 4 hours, lights up 20 squares, and most importantly comes with the Adventurer’s Kit. On the surface this seems like a better deal than a regular torch [DDI]: for 1sp, lasts 1 hour, and dim lights 5 squares. From this seemingly one-sided contest, I’m going to try to convince you to buy torches for your characters!

Arugment 1: Torches are cheaper. To light 20 squares for four hours requires 16 torches, which is less than half the price of a sunrod. Even if you count the double distance for bright light vs dim, 3.2 gp is still less than than the 4 for one sunrod! “But Mike,” you say, “one sunrod weighs 2 pounds whereas 32 torches weighs 32 pounds!”

Maybe that’s true, and maybe that isn’t. What matters is that you should have at least one buff guy that has a 18+ Strength, so what’s an extra 100 pounds of easy-burning lumber to him?

Argument 2: Torches set shit on fire. Sunrods and even fancy everburning torches [DDI] provide light but not heat. Torches are flaming sticks and one useful property of fire is that you can use it to set other things on fire as well. A single torch can turn a dark dungeon into a dangerous inferno for your enemies. Some easy flammables your characters might find flammable: wizards’ desks, tapestries, inn common rooms, and Marty’s House of Torches. Not only can you light stuff on fire, but you can light most creatures on fire too. If you light an opponent on fire, he’ll take ongoing fire damage! Just don’t try it on a Tiefling.

Argument 3: Torches are smoky. In my personal experience, torches tend give off a lot of smoke, and if made from period materials, probably noxious, dark smoke at that. This smoke could draw attention of enemies if you’re trying to sneak around somewhere, but can also be used to your advantage. Natural beasts aren’t likely to want to come near all that smoke. You can also use a few torches to smoke out a room in a dungeon and make the inhabitants come rushing out into your devious trap.

Argument 4: Torches are intimidating. You don’t see angry mobs carrying pitchforks and glow sticks. A flaming torch tells people that you’re on a mission and they better not get in your way. Fire can also have religious or social connotations, and may add an extra destructive flair to a negotiation.

If this doesn’t make you go out and buy a ton of torches for your character, nothing will!

My DM was on the Tome Show

In the recent episode of The Tome Show, my DM (aka Sarah Darkmagic) built a skill challenge for us with the help of Mike from SlyFlourish. Here is her take on episode. I can’t vouch for the whole podcast as this is the first episode I listened to, but it was quite good so I’ve subscribed…. The Tome Show seems focused on DM’ing (the last couple of episodes have been about skill challenges). The discussion was particularly awesome for me and my group as we got to directly benefit from all these DMs collaborating on our adventure.

On the show they built an information-gathering skill challenge, which Tracy enhanced with a random rumor table to get things started. In designing the challenge they came up with several different ways for us to get to an NPC and then get the needed information out of him. What we didn’t realize when playing it out was: since we got a lot of information up front, we sorta combined them all into a single scenario in our minds, which was not the intent, but the DM went with it anyway. The challenge for us as a group is that because we are mostly high-Charisma characters so we usually crawl over each other to make the Diplomacy/Bluff checks. The way the challenge was designed, with multiple stages and avenues of exploration, allowed us to work together and split up the roles, instead of our usual conflict. For example, my character forged a note (Bluff) using advice from the rogue (Insight), and then handed the note off to the bard who gave it to a third party to deliver (Diplomacy).

This illustrates that a well crafted skill challenge and teamwork can get most of the people at a gaming involved. Unfortunately it did not work out well for the swordmage (see comments on the rumor table post). He felt left out of the challenge because we decided on that course of action which did not need his character’s assistance. The lesson learned, I think, is to make sure everyone gets a chance to participate in the challenge and brainstorm as a group on what actions a character can take, in light of the overall plan.

Also in the same episode, Quinn from At Will, discussed running skill challenges. I had the opportunity to play in one of his games, and I’ll be paying it forward next week when I DM for him in a homebrewed Arabian Nights game. I’m going to have a bit more of my DMing forays over the next weeks, but I’m going to try to keep my player focus with those posts. In particular, I followed my own advice and I crafted a backstory adventure for my regular character that I was supposed to run tonight, but I had to cancel because of work 😦

The party as an organization

In most of the campaigns I’ve played in, the PCs wind up forming a loosely-organized organization, regardless of how they come together. Sometimes the PCs are part of a broader organization like The Harpers or Knights of Solamnia, but generally they exist as their own company with a creative name like: 5 Adventurers for Hire, Dewey Killem and Howe, or The Travelling Killburys.

In some of my campaigns we’ve taken the “Party Group” pretty seriously, with the characters drawing up formalized business documents, appointed officers, and had written policies for hiring NPCs. Once or twice another player went to the effort of drafting up a paper charter. That prop was pretty awesome and well appreciated by everyone else at table; I wish I still had it to show you. I’m not suggesting that every group needs a formal corporation, but it is a nice way of bringing the individual characters together into a group that exists for a larger purpose.

In-game, the kind of company will depend on the players personalities. If the group is a bunch of chaotic mercenaries, there may be no agreement beyond mutual distrust and profit. Other characters may be fine with a handshake (a gentleorc’s agreement, if you will) to seal the group together. Particularly lawful characters may want a charter so the roles and rules are well defined, and mistrusting types might also want some kind of formal arrangement. In a party with one sociopath and four do-goody’s, a formal contract is a great way for that one jerk to fleece his compatriots.

Depending on how authentic you want to be, you can have the DM register your character with whatever governmental organization keeps track of those things. This formal organization might get the players guild memberships, voting rights, land ownership, protection from legal actions, but also might make them susceptible to tithes or taxes. NPCs may be willing to work for or help out a more legitimate enterprise than “some dirty dudes with swords”, unless that is the party name.

Out-of-game I don’t recommend drawing up an actual contract between players, but go ahead and have one as a prop to represent the one the characters agreed to. It’s something to keep in a file along with the treasure ledger and party photo.

Here’s a sample contract that I made sound as legalish as I could, based upon what I learned from bad sci-fi, law & order, and my rental agreement. Let me know what you think, and feel free to modify or use it for purposes.

We, the undersigned, do hereby agree to form the Corporation _________________ for the purposes of Adventuring. We agree to kill any form of bad guys and collect their belongings for the furtherance of adventuring activities. We agree to equally divide all treasure based on gold piece value among the undersigned. Other entities acting on the behalf of The Corporation, will be paid a wage summarily based upon their abilities, level, risk, and suggested value in the guidebooks.

Article 1. The aforementioned heirlings shall not get an equal cut of the treasure unless agreed to upon by all members of the undersigned. The party treasurer, as agreed to by unanimous vote, can disburse up to 15% of the party funds at his/her own discretion to pay for healing potions, inn services, bribe guards, or other sundries as needed for the purposes of Adventuring.

Article 2. The acceptance of any Quest requires a unanimous vote among all present party members. In addition, the group cannot consider any morally objectionable Quest unless it is the least objectionable of all options. No entity, material or planar, can usurp the current Quest without a unanimous vote of the board members.

Article 3. No backstabbing. All treasures found must be disclosed and shared with the group, but the individual finder may claim “dibs.” If one member of The Corporation does harm against another, the injured may seek redress in the form of financial compensation by the injurer by appealing the uninvolved member(s) of the party. In the case of insufficient knowledge or members to pass judgment, the injured party may appeal to a Lawful diety or high-level sage.

Article 4. The Corporation exists to provide a cohesive team for going on Adventures, and may not be used by legal authorities to incriminate the remaining members for one asshole’s behavior.

The Party

________________________

________________________

________________________

________________________

________________________

Barding it up around town

I’ve always thought Bards made cool characters in books, but implemented horribly in roleplaying (and most computer) games. The 4e PHB2 introduce a Bard class that doesn’t suck. We’ve had a Bard in my regular game, and he’s been essential to our party’s success. Our bard’s a true hero; he drops a Majestic Word when needed, stores critical hits for use later, and literally dominates the bad guys. The new bard is much better than sword-swinging lute-players of old. Now that Bards have come back in style, I’ve thought about playing one myself sometime. The question that still remains…would it be cool if brought my banjo, mandolin, or guitar to the table and strummed out some spells, or would it be hella annoying?

Beyond my regular group, can I do this at a con game, or should I grow a goatee first? Assuming it’s social acceptable to bring an instrument to a game, is it okay to freestyle or should the reptoire stick to applicable popular music (like Allen Dean Foster’s excellent Spellsinger series)?

All jokes aside, I know some groups have experimented with background or battle music, but has anyone been in a situation where a player is the one making music. Assuming he/she had passable talent, was it a good idea or just distracting?