Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Quick Word on D&D Essentials

I picked up the new "red box" the other day and have been looking at pictures of some of the upcoming releases in the "Essentials" line, and I think they've finally figured out how to deal with one of the biggest barriers to entry since the introduction of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons: miniatures.

Prior to 3rd, miniatures were an option, and I don't think I ever used them in a game. With 3rd they were a requirement due to the changes in the combat rules, and remained so in 4th. The game always mentioned the idea of using tokens or something else if you didn't have miniatures, but marketing considerations always made them emphasize the miniatures you could get from the D&D collectible miniatures game, and prevented them from providing a more affordable alternative. Now that that game is dead, they're finally free to offer a serious alternative for new players.

The "red box" includes a sheet of full color circular tokens representing both monsters and heroes. It also includes a two-sided full color map. From pictures, I can see that the upcoming DM's kit includes at least three more counter sheets, and a couple more maps. Then the Monster Vault includes ten sheets of counters, presumably with multiples for every monster in the "vault", as well as at least one more map. Add in the new Dungeon Tiles Master Sets that they plan on actually keeping in print, and people new to the game will be able to acquire a sizable collection of full color counters and maps for a reasonable price.

That's a big deal.

Monday, August 16, 2010

All Good Things...

A couple of posts ago I discussed Liz' Dogs in the Vineyard campaign, and how much I was enjoying it. What I didn't mention was that for a variety of reasons, Liz was considering ending it early. Unfortunately, she has decided to do so.

We had one final session to wrap up the events of the town of Angel's Rest, but it looks like that will be it for the campaign.

For any who might be interested, the dogs confronted the midwife who was suspected of performing abortions (again, a reminder that the morality of DitV is very different from that of my own, see my previous posts on the game for more details on the setting if you are unfamiliar with it). She admitted to her crimes, was unrepentant, and was thus sentenced to the usual punishment for murderers by the dogs.

The end result was that the midwife was gunned down in the middle of town by the dogs as she attempted to flee her execution. My character ended up providing the coup de grace to put her out of her misery after giving her a chance to speak a few final words.

While the dogs felt completely justified in the actions they took, my character did take some fallout which allowed me to give him a new d4 attribute: "so much blood". If the campaign were to continue I could use this as a seed of doubt to possibly cause him to question his actions.

I suspect that if I get the opportunity to play in another Dogs campaign that I will play a variation of this same character, as I find the potential for such a character quite interesting over an extended period of play.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Dresden Files: Northwest Arkansas

We had our setting and character generation session for our Magpie Night Dresden Files game about a week ago. We have a lot of interest in this game, so we're doing things a bit different. Instead of our usual one shot, we're doing two adventures for Dresden Files. Our regular Magpie Night attendees (Josh, Liz and Jonathan in this case) will be playing in both sessions, while the four other people who expressed interest are going to play in one session each, two in each session.

I wasn't sure if this was going to be completely necessary, but after our first session with all seven players and me, I'm glad we decided to do it this way. We got most of the stuff done that we needed to do, but it took longer than I expected, and we had to take a couple of minor short cuts. I was also so busy managing things that I really didn't get a good grasp on anyone's character, which is a big deal for a GM in a Fate game, since pretty much everything revolves around the characters.

I think there should be fewer problems with only five players instead of seven, and I'm looking forward to putting together the adventure once everyone posts their finalized characters to the thread on the NWARPG Forums.

As to the game itself, the overall process of setting creation seems a lot more involved than in Diaspora. There's no random element to give you a starting point. Fortunately, we'd already decided we were going to set it here in Northwest Arkansas, so I did a little research into legends of the area. Having spent about two thirds of my life in the area didn't hurt either.

Some of the players came to the table with ideas as well, so we had a decent starting point. If this hadn't been the case, then I don't think we'd have gotten very far. As it was, getting this all down into three overall themes and threats, plus nine locations and twelve aspects and faces to represent all of the above still took some time. We're still short an aspect or two, but most of the work got done.

At this point we'd already used more than half the time I'd expected the entire process to take, and we still needed to make characters.

Most of the players had a better idea of what they wanted to see from their characters than they did from the setting, and that helped things somewhat. A couple had no concept or only a partial concept, and that slowed things down a bit, but not too much. I couldn't complain about it either, because I'd made a point about not being too committed to character concepts in case the communal setting ended up not supporting a concept, or suggesting a better one.

We did end up having at least one concept changed by the setting and the contributions of the other players, and the one player that didn't come to the table with a concept was able to develop one largely from some elements of the setting. In fact, his ended up being the only PC that is also a "face" in the setting.

Another item of interest that came out of our session included our decision to go for the "submerged" power level, which is the highest starting level, and equivalent to Harry Dresden in the first book in the series. I had wondered whether this area would justify such a high powered group, but the threats and themes we ended up creating developed a supernatural presence for the area that is quite strong.

For example, in the Dresden books there's a bar that is considered neutral ground among the supernatural. We established an entire town that is neutral ground, complete with a ruling council made up of representatives from all the supernatural factions, including those currently at war with each other outside the town.

Now I just need to get everyone to turn in their finished characters so I can create the first adventure.