Friday, September 19, 2014

5E Basic Monsters

I looked at the free DM's guide for 5th Edition. Which is just a monster book.

168 creatures listed. 95 are Beasts. 19 are Humanoids. 18 are Monstrosities.8 Undead, 6 Giants, 5 Elementals. Minimal Aberrations, Celestials, Constructs, Dragons, Fey, Fiends, Oozes, and Plants.
Lots of animals. Lots of giant animals. Lots of both versions of animals. Giant frogs AND toads. Goats and giant goats. Baboons, apes, and giant apes. Black, brown, and polar bears. Killer and reef sharks, and killer whales.
Thank Crom we have stats for a cats, crabs, and weasels.
Bubears are pretty brutal. +1 damage die and +2d6 sneak attack. The extra damage die feature was called "Brute" and I thought that might be a thing, but no other monster has it.
A goblin's Nimble Escape ability is cool (disengage or hide as a bonus action). They fight sneaky.
Goblin total gear--leather, shield, scimitar, and short bow. That's a well outfitted sneaky grog.
Gnolls can make a half move and bite after dropping a target. Dropping a PC doesn't happen that often, and you don't always want to cheapen that moment with a "gotcha" monster ability.
Lizardfolk attack twice. And can hold their breath 15 minutes.
Ogres...don't do anything special.
Orcs get a bonus move action towards a hostile target. So orcs are super fast now.
Tigers and panthers do more damage with bite than claw. Sabre-tooth tigers do more damage with their claw than bite. WTF? Also, pounce is: if you move and claw, then you might knock them prone and if you do then you bite. Way less complicated than 3E big cats.
Trolls regenerate 10hp/round but not if they took fire/acid damage that round.
"Damage Immunities: bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons that aren’t silvered" ...that isn't very easy to read.
Creatures I'm glad to see in a basic list: blood hawk, deer, death dog, flying snake, yeti
The Spectator seems like a cool low-level beholder.
I'm guessing monster stats aren't necessarily a flat-line average for a race but the stats you'd expect from a warrior. For example, the Hobgoblin has a +1 mod in Str, Dex, and Con; and the human Bandit has good Dex and Con. This is different from the 3E model of baseline stats for generic creatures, and also different from the 4E model of the ability scores having nothing to do with anything at all so why are they there.
I'm amused that town guards are more powerful (more HD at least) than a 1st-level character.

Overall, not impressed. Like most of what I've seen from 5E, its stripped down 3E with a few nods to nostalgia, a very select picking of ideas from 4E, and one or two small innovations. I did not get any sense of wonder at flipping through this like I did from 3E or 4E. Granted, its just the small free package, not the core Monster Manual. But my red box monster list was smaller than this and way more interesting.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

RPG A Day: late and all at once

14th - Best Convention Purchase
I won a Pathfinder book for winning a D&D Trivia contest, does that count?
15th - Favourite Convention Game
I've never played an official convention game. I'd like to, but at most cons the cool games are full before I have a chance to plan.
16th - Game you wish you owned
Owning one of the older Basic D&D boxed sets would be cool. There was a game called Lost Souls I read about when I was young that I never found...OH, HAI INTERNET:
17th - Funniest Game you’ve played
The single funniest session I ever had was running a Werewolf game (the PCs were a were-naga and a were-dino, but that's not relevant). I improved some random NPC, a drunk farmer complaining about his goats, and the way it played out had us all crying laughing. I've found the unexpected humor always works better than the forced stuff.
That being said, Gamma World using the 4E system was a lot of fun. It was the only game where I tried to "out-silly" the players, like having two sasquatches (a rocket surgeon and a brain scientist) in a crashed spaceship with John Carpenter's the Thing on board.
18th - Favourite Game System
I've played D&D the most, but lately I've been loving Dungeon World. I feel like I'm just out of reach of really running it the best way, but I've been pushing my friends to play it whenever I can.
19th - Favourite Published Adventure
Ravenloft. I have the 2E House of Strahd version and also bought the 1E pdf last October before we ran Castle Ravensmash (heavy drinking was involved). Its really a solid dungeon with lots of character. It helps that I have a deep love for the "haunted castle" idea.
20th - Will still play in 20 years time…
Some type of D&D.
21st - Favourite Licensed RPG
Slaine. I never even ran it as written, but I stole a bunch of ideas for my 4E Celtic game, which was one of the best campaigns I ever did.
22nd - Best Secondhand RPG Purchase
I bought my friend's old copy of Heroquest. Not an RPG really, but its hella-fun.
23rd - Coolest looking RPG product / book
Its sad that nothing immediately comes to mind. The art in Freak Legion was pretty weird.
24th - Most Complicated RPG Owned
I think I still have a copy of 2E Shadowrun. Loved the setting, couldn't grok the rules.
25th - Favourite RPG no one else wants to play
4E D&D. I still like a lot of the elements of it.
26th - Coolest character sheet
I made one once :)
27th - Game You’d like to see a new / improved edition of…
I don't want to buy a new game anytime soon, I've got too many to play already. That said, a stripped down version of D&D 4E that allowed me to use some of the books I already have would be great.
28th - Scariest Game you’ve played
Honestly the only time I've ever been scared in a game was in a D&D game when we went into the faerie realm. I read lots of folklore, I knew to be scared.
29th - Most memorable encounter
As a player, I still remember the time Eodrid finally took out the evil wizard that had been terrorizing the town. With his custom spell Prismatic Arrow.
30th - Rarest RPG Owned
31st - Favourite RPG of all time
Dungeons and Dragons.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


D&D got me interested in history at a young age, and I love running quasi-historical campaigns. I say quasi-historical because I like including lots of folklore, and I'm not trying to run something 100% historically accurate, because that's too much to keep track of and nobody would really care anyway.

I ran a Celtic game based heavily off the Slaine comics and their vision of prehistoric Britain. At one point the group time-travelled to sub-Roman Wales and joined Arthur and some of his knights (notably not Lancelot, who was a later invention) against Mordred, even killing the traitor themselves. I looked up a lot of Welsh mythology, including the oldest Arthur legends. They have been added to so much over the years that the original legends are vastly different.

Anyway, I recently remembered the Russian storm god Perun and decided to look him up. Turns out he's THE good god of the mythology. He takes the form of an eagle and sits on an oak that connects the whole world. He wields thunder and lightning as weapons, and is the lord of sky and war. He's like Zeus and Thor in one god. In the roots of the above oak tree is Volos, a horned serpentine being who gnaws at the tree and is frequently put in his place by Perun. He is also the god of the underworld, wealth, magic, and music. So he's Hades and Loki, not all evil but associated with a lot of dark things. I thought that was a great simple mythology for a game world.

The idea took root. I'd love to play a setting that was more Russian/Slavic influenced than the typical Western European-style medieval world. I tend to go towards Britain-style fantasy, but that always leads me to a more primitive Celtic world. That's just where my mental rails go. There's lots of cool medieval weirdness that's associated with a later time period, and I could mix that with a Slavic setting and keep the pagan bits, because that area converted fairly late, around the 8th-11th century. That's also when the viking were ravaging Europe, including parts of Russia (the name actually comes from the word "Rus", used to describe the foreign pirates--they became the ruling class).

Koschei the Deathless, warrior lich
So here's broad strokes: Russian and Eastern European legends, dark forests and mountains, vampires and werewolves, a christian-style church that's mostly popular with the nobility, peasants who pay lip service to the church while still honoring the old ways openly, any elements of medieval life and folklore I can shoehorn in. I'm not even sure about system, I'd love to do more Dungeon World but its got so much flavor built into the classes that sometimes it doesn't fit a setting. I'm a little over D&D on the other hand, and people tend to bring their system assumptions with them.

I spoke recently that a setting needs to be compelling. It has to draw the characters into adventure. I'm thinking using 13th Age's icons as inspiration, and coming up with several powerful characters that can influence the setting. The Midgard setting from Kobold Press has articles on icons for that setting, including the Baba Yaga. I'll use that for some inspiration. 

Baba Yaga, making a skull lantern
Influences--Hellboy, Dracula, Slavic mythology, Vampire (Tzimisce, Nosferatu), Werewolf (Silver Fangs, Shadow Lords), Midgard setting, Ravenloft setting (Barovia, Vistani), Hemlock grove, Codex Slavorum (not out yet!), Stravinsky

Characters/Monsters--Baba Yaga, vampires, werewolves, gypsies, Koschei the deathless, firebird, zmey (dragon), domovoi (house spirit), likho (bad luck goblin), vodyanoy and rusalka (mermen and women)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Overthinking & Observations

Random thoughts:

There are lots of things I don't like about D&D, but its still my favorite game.

I go with generic too often, I should go for specific, stylized, or even silly. Reading more will help with this. My next cleric NPC is going to be like one of the priests in Cornwell's Agincourt book--a rude soldier who praises god while demeaning his enemies, who lazily makes the sign of the cross while drinking ale.

I need ideas I get excited about, so I get excited while running the game, so the game is more fun and energetic.

A panel I saw at Dragon Con got me excited about world building. One thing I took away was that cause and effect is the biggest contributor to making the world seem realistic and alive. One thing from reading some good historical fiction lately is that its all the interactions between people that make the world interesting. Again, I tend to go for a generic feel sometimes, but a viking chief that stands out is more compelling than trying to represent an accurate depiction of a typical viking chief.

That word COMPELLING. Setting should be. NPCs should be. Adventures should be.

Another panel about the Cthulhu Mythos and gaming reminded me to put more weird shit in my games. I flipped through Monte Cook's Chaositech book, the Wyrm stuff from Werewolf: the Apocalypse would work too.

By the way, Lovecraft was a huge racist. Visionary horror/sci-fi author, but a horrible man in that regard.

I saw Monte Cook twice, was able to speak to him briefly too. I was a big Monte Cook fanboy during 3E, I played Arcana Evolved and Call of Cthulhu d20, and I've tried running Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil twice (I think I need to strip it down to play it--I like the Celtic twist I had for it a while back).

I also saw Tracy Hickman, who's most known for Dragonlance but also helped write I6: Castle Ravenloft, my favorite adventure of ever. Also met Kenneth Hite, who wrote the Qelong adventure I'd still like to run (and also helped write Call of Cthulhu d20).

I went to the D&D Trivia event at Dragon Con, and ended up winning. I feel super nerdy for accomplishing this, and then I feel bad for being ashamed of my geekiness.

I went to an Irish pub with my wife during the Con and ended up sitting next to two other guys who had also just come from the world building panel. We talked about D&D games over beers and food, that was a cool experience.

Speaking of my wife, we make a good barbarian couple.