Dungeons & Dragons

[D&D Curse of Strahd] Death House Play Impressions

Just yesterday I joined the local Adventurer’s League launch of the Curse of Strahd for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition by running the Death House adventure for a team of Level 1 Heroes.

As a first-time Adventurer’s League GM I had a slight case of the nerves working myself up for it. Then again as an experienced World of Darkness GM I do have some experience running horror so that evened it out.

That said, it was a LONG game, as the scenario involved checking out everything in a house and the dungeon below it, and as an investigative / exorcism scenario, there  were long periods of poking sticks at things to see if anything happens punctuated by vicious, vicious combat.

In any case, here are my impressions of the game (SPOILERS AHOY!):

SLOW BURN – The scenario starts off in a slow pace, with a lot of investigation. Some of the more combat-heavy players might get bored here, but with the right mindset, it will be easier to get into the feel of the game. It does get a tad long though, but I do like how the creepiness gets more and more overt as they explore more of the house.

JUMP SCARES – Some of the fights made sense, but there were a few that were uncalled for or seemed to just be there for the sake of it. This is purely subjective though, as I felt that the Animated Armor was okay, but that damned broom was weird.

TOO MANY GHOSTS – I understand that this is a horror scenario, but nothing sucks the fun out of an encounter than fighting more than one thing that Resists all your damage. The Spectre was a terrifying encounter that left one of the party dead in one hit, and it could Resist pretty much anything the party threw at it.

SHAMBLING MOUND – I’m not sure if the Shambling Mound was meant to be a combat encounter because the moment it appeared, the party just up and ran away from it. Thankfully they could all outpace it.

KILLER HOUSE – The last part of the module involved a mad dash out of the house. It was harrowing and made for a hilarious last nailbiter as the players prayed for high rolls.

THOUGHTS

Death House is a big scenario crammed into a tiny space. Play it in a quiet location, take your time, and let your players take in the ambience. While there’s no taking away the tactical thinking when you’re working with D&D, it does a commendable job in relaying horror tropes to help with transitioning the players to understand the nature of Ravenloft as being fundamentally bleaker than in the Forgotten Realms.

[D&D 5e] Nosfecatu’s Monster Monday: Magwayen

Fellow Philippine Blogger Nosfecatu has been working on putting together D&D 5e compatible write ups for Philippine Myth Inspired monsters on his blog! His first entry is a strong start, talking about Magwayen, the Ferrywoman of the Dead.

Aubrey Miles as Magwayen, from GMA TV Network’s “Amaya”

I feel that it’s a great addition to any Fantasy RPG to throw your players off from the usual fantasy tropes and into something different for a change. After all, in twisting things you get to revive the sense of wonder of your setting.

Head on over to Nosfecatu and check it out! http://nosfecatu.blogspot.kr/2015/03/monster-monday-magwayen.html

[D&D 5e Actual Play] Finder’s Keepers Part 1

Hey everyone. It’s been a very long time since I’ve done an Actual Play report thread, but given that we’re doing a test drive of the newly released Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, I figured I might as well start again just to get back into form.

Finder’s Keepers is very different from my usual campaigns in the sense that I really didn’t come up with a pitch for this. It was one of those games where the players jumped in with both feet to make characters, and I’m left to come up with a plot from what comes out of this process.

Thankfully the 5e character creation, with it’s Background traits makes it very easy to build adventures around the hooks in every character. I took one look at the characters I got, and I already knew what to push.

Let’s have a quick look over our characters:

Princess Allyna Cormyth (played by Silver Countess) is an impulsive 16-year old half-elven sorceress born into a respectable royal family of elves. Her mother was the second wife of the patriarch, and was a former adventuress in her own right.

When a mysterious masked man beguiled his way into one of the royal family’s parties and magically coerced her father into wagering away a precious family heirloom, Aleena set off that very same night to track down the charlatan and retrieve the artifact. She didn’t bother telling anyone in person, of course, as that would just give the fiend an even bigger head start, so she figured that a note left on her bedside table would suffice.

Vinran Thorngage (played by Hikkikomori) is an optimistic, if imposing looking halfling druid. His swarthy and muscular form betrayed his former life as a sailor and now dedicates his life to the pursuit of travel in hopes of safeguarding the balance between civilization and nature. Along the way he’s also picked up a peculiar habit of taking souveniers of his journeys, often without asking permission from the original owner.

Akta (played by Hystrix) is a Tiefling bard with a chip on her shoulder. An aspiring performer with a deep and abiding love for drink, her work is often a scathing rebuke against the follies of those in power, making her quite the rabble-rouser in many cities. Aside from looking for fame in all the wrong places, she also wants to retrieve her lute, which had been stolen from her by a rival.

As you can tell, theft seems to be a common thread for the team, so I figure I can pull on more than a few strings to get them involved one way or another.

And so with that let’s get started, shall we?

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[D&D 5E] First Impressions: Character Creation

Last weekend, my gaming group didn’t have a full set of players to continue the Exalted campaign we had running, so we decided to try and give the new edition of D&D a spin.

It was one of those times when I didn’t have a campaign concept ready in mind, and hence no pitch to guide the players, but I figure it wouldn’t be so bad if they just made pretty much whatever they felt like. As long as they conform to the singular condition being that the player characters had to be Good characters.

The character creation process was quick and painless. I wasn’t certain if it was due to familiarity, as all the players had passing knowledge of D&D character creation from experiences they’ve had with 3.X and 4e, but it was quick, and fun.

I was particularly impressed by how streamlined everything was. There was much less mechanical speedbumps involved, less tallying of skill points and less time sorting through Feats. People put together a race, a class and a background, and they were happy.

Now, I have to take a moment to write that my players aren’t exactly fans of earlier editions. Some felt it was too restrictive, while others felt that the mechanics were too complicated to be fun. I didn’t hear any complaints during 5e character creation, and I certainly hope that that’s a sign that the rest of the game will be equally easy to run.

Already I can see a few signs that the streamlining is there. From the elegant Advantage / Disadvantage rules to the Inspiration mechanic and the simple implementation of damage resistance, the design team has certainly taken steps to trim off all the fat and leave nothing but the fun.

This weekend I’m planning a small adventure for my players, and I’ll finally get a taste of how the new edition runs as a GM. Hopefully this positive review isn’t limited to a first impression, and 5E will wow me on the table when I run it as well.

And I’m back!

I’ve returned from my business trip to Singapore last Saturday night, but with a few social obligations and my Wedding Anniversary yesterday I’m only really beginning to settle in to the old routine just now. Apologies for those left waiting for the rest of the Let’s Study series for The Strange, but I’ll get back to that shortly once I have all my ducks in a row.

In other good news, I was able to get a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook courtesy of my brother, who flew in from Australia on vacation. He was able to find a copy there and bought it a week before he was heading home. This means I’ll be able to get a review or a Let’s Study series on 5e very soon.

Well, that’s it for this momentary personal post. I just need to get my bearings and I should be able to continue my series on The Strange.

[D&D Basic] Sample Wuxia Character: Xiang Kairan

Hey there, I know everyone’s talking about D&D right now, but I figure it would still be worth trying out the character creation system for a bit to see how well it works in the new edition.

Today we’re putting together a character with a Wuxia theme using the D&D Basic rules for the heck of it. I figure that it should be easy enough to put Xian Kairan into a party for D&D basic so consider this an experiment for that.

Now then, let’s get started.

Capture

1. Choose a Race

Being a Wuxia game, I’m sticking to all humans for now.

This grants Xiang Kairan the following Traits:

Ability Scores: All +1
Size: medium
Speed: 30ft

Nothing too surprising here, but admittedly getting a +1 boost to all the stats is a nice touch.

2. Choose a Class

For this example, we’re going with Xiang Kairan to be a Fighter. Much in the traditional Wuxia fashion, he’s an up and coming swordsman with exceptional potential.

As a Fighter, he gets access to the following:

HIT POINTS
Hit Points: 10+CON modifier

PROFICIENCIES:
Armor: All Armor, shields
Weapons: Simple, Martial
Tools: none

Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Skills: Acrobatics, Athletics

EQUIPMENT:
For free equipment I’ll start him off with the basics: Leather, longbow and 20 arrows.

FIGHTING STYLE:
Dueling

CLASS FEATURES:
Second Wind

3. Determine Ability Scores

I’m opting for the standard Ability Score Spread for this example, giving me the following to work with (15,14,13,12,10,08)

I’m seeing Kairan to be the speedy sort, so I’ll distribute the scoreS and add the +1 from the Human race bonus:

STR 11 (+0)
DEX 16 (+3)
CON 13 (+1)
INT 14 (+2)
WIS 09 (-1)
CHA 14 (+2)

This reflects the fact that Kairan is quick, and bright as well as reasonably charismatic. His big problem is that he’s rather naive, fitting for the hot-blooded Wuxia hero stereotype.

4. Determine Traits

Alignment: Chaotic Good, Kairan’s quick to do what he feels is the right thing in any situation.

Personality Traits:

Hot-Blooded Hero – Kairan is far too eager to prove himself as a hero, and is often too naive to usually think a little more deeply about what he’s being asked to do.

Not from around here – Kairan’s a Xia, a wandering knight-errant from far away Kara-Tur. He’s a far way from his home and doesn’t quite understand how things work in terms of societal norms.

Ideals:

The Warrior’s Code of the Wuxia – Kairan holds himself to the highest standards of heroism of the Xia in hopes that his deeds will also be immortalized in legend.

Bonds:

His Sister, Xiang Ming – Taken away by a foreign sorcerer years ago, Kairan travelled out of Kara-Tur in hopes of getting her back.

Flaws:

Terrified of Necromancy – In his native land, Necromancy is considered to be the most terrifying act of hubris. Kairan will fight when threatened by undead, but it will take a lot of convincing to make him willingly desecrate a tomb.

Backgrounds: Folk Hero

Skill Proficiencies: Animal Handling, Survival
Tool Proficiencies: One type of artisan’s tools, vehicles (land)
Equipment: Artisan’s tools, a shovel, a set of common clothes, a belt pouch with 10gp.

Feature: Rustic Hospitality

5. Purchase Equipment

Given that he’s already gotten leather armor, and a bow, I’m handing Kairan a Rapier to go with his weapon to simulate the scholar’s sword of his native land. The Finesse property of the weapon means that he may choose to use his Strength or Dexterity modifier for his attack and damage rolls.

IMPRESSIONS:

Overall, character creation (for a Fighter) at least seems pretty straightforward. There’s the usual stuff that is present across 3rd and 4th editions (the ones I’m familiar with) while adding a new structure for hanging plot hooks on in a more defined fashion with the traits. I’m pretty amused by how this turned out, and wouldn’t mind playing Kairan in a game at all, and I hope that the background I’ve provided will make him an interesting addition to any game.

 

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