Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Long Game: The Iron Tower Part 5

It seems like our adventurers have been in this Iron Tower forever. All of that is about to end, especially as the three have awoken the dragon, the mutated, angry, charging Iron Dragon.
Dallas Kasaboski

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Nightmares of a Dragon: The Iron Tower Part 4

High within the Iron Tower, Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar, continued toward the top. So far, they had seen simple and complicated monstrosity, but what awaited them at the very top?

Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Long Game: The Iron Tower Part 3

Deep within the bowels of the Iron Tower, Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar continue their ascent, searching for the Iron Dragon and discovering its motives. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Long Game: The Iron Tower Part 2

The Long Game returns!

Welcome back! When last we left our adventurers, Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar had settled down by the Iron Tower, a mysterious obelisk in the wilderness of Ferrum. The tower had drawn many a curious eye but, despite its long-standing presence, had never been breached.

After facing some threats around the tower, the three, the Vanguard of the Night, stand above a hole which seems to go under the tower.

Dallas Kasaboski

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Is 5e's Monster Design Still Crappy?

Dominic Matte
Before the 5e Monster Manual came out and all I had to go on was playtest material and previews, I wrote a post talking about how boring and lame 5e's monster design was compared to 4e's. Now that I've had my hands on my Monster Manual for a couple of months, has that opinion changed?

Not really.

In fact, it's taken a major step back in one important area. In at least one playtest, spellcaster stat blocks included quick summaries of their spells so you didn't have to switch to a whole different book just to see the monster's capabilities. Which was good - that's what 4e did, and it made stat blocks entirely self-contained.

Well, too bad, that's gone from the full MM. 

I mean, I guess I can see why they did it - the lich has 27 spells and I assume a 3-page stat block was not something the designers were thrilled about. But at the same time, holy crap twenty-seven spells! You're telling me I have to read twenty-seven spells from different pages of a different book if I want to be prepared to run a lich? What the hell. That's worse than I expected.

On the other hand, more monsters are more interesting than I expected from previews/playtests. Not as interesting as 4e where monsters usually had several unique or tactical abilities, but at least monsters tend to have at least one ability that elevates them above being just a set of numbers.

That said, dragons are a huge disappointment. The five chromatic dragons are literally the exact same stat blocks except for some numbers and breath weapon type. And since they're all so close in challenge ratings, even the number differences are tiny. The legendary actions would have been a great place to add some differences and unique abilities, but those are all the same too.

The book itself is great. The art is fantastic, and there's a lot of interesting flavour text that presents some intriguing ideas to work monsters into a game. But dragons are boring and spellcaster stats suck.

Monday, 3 November 2014

An easy way to create "original" adventures

Dominic Matte
I wrote this as a reply to a reddit post about how to come up with original story ideas for D&D games. I got a little carried away. Thought it would also apply well to this blog, so here we go!

It's been said that there are no original stories.

If you subscribe to this idea - or even if you don't - the easiest way to come up with something that feels original is to take ideas you like and reskin them to fit the D&D world.

Here are four examples off the top of my head:
  • You like Indiana Jones? The PCs are action archaeologists racing to plunder a dragon's tomb before their mercenary rivals sell the loot to the highest bidder.
  • You like heist stories? Have your PCs break into a bank with all kinds of traps and wards and guardians, and give them time to plan and investigate the bank's blueprints and defenses by scouring city records and stealing information from the dwarven architects and archmage that built the place.
  • You like Die Hard? The PCs are visiting an eccentric wizard's tower for a demonstration of a cool new spell when the thieves' guild seizes the building and activates the magical lockdown and safeguards. PCs need to use guerilla tactics to take down the thieves before they complete their objective, while safeguarding the hostages.
  • You like Jurassic Park? The PCs are part of a small private tour of a new monster zoo on an island when something goes wrong and the monsters are set loose. As they try to make it to the ship on the coast, they uncover a conspiracy to sabotage the island for profit.

If that's not good enough, smash two or more ideas together and reskin them to be consistent with each other. Let's mash all four of those previous ideas together:

The party works for a museum that wants to recover a long-lost solid gold holy symbol of the sun god from a long-deceased dragon's hoard. Recently discovered maps place the dragon's lair on an island off the coast. They'll have to move quickly, because their rivals - a dwarf/gnome duo of mercenaries - got to the information first and plans to sell the holy symbol to the highest bidder.

But that's not all. The island has recently been bought and reworked by an eccentric wizard as an arcane zoo, featuring dangerous monsters from across the realm. It's not open to the public yet and security is very high - but there's a private tour for wizards only, and that's an opportunity to sneak in. The name tags for the tour group allow access to the park's teleportation circle network. Turns out that the mercenary duo had the same idea, and are also using the tour group as cover.

The park's security centre should hold all the information the party needs to bypass the wards and find the dragon's lair, but the building is heavily guarded and protected. The PCs will need to slip away from the tour group and find the park's plans in the security centre without being spotted, then decode the arcane script piece by piece as they make their way through the defenses. Once the players access the dragon's lair, they'll have to carefully pick their way through the ancient traps to find the hoard. The dragon was so greedy that the final trap animates its skeleton to protect is loot even after death. This is probably a good area for a confrontation with the mercenary archaeologists - they can either steal the holy symbol and force the party to chase them down, or the party gets the artifact and the mercenaries will hound them the rest of the adventure.

Upon exiting the tomb, all hell has broken loose. The zoo has been sabotaged and the monsters are roaming free; the network of teleportation circles is shut down. A few of the park employees have defected and are in the process of stealing the unique ward spells the wizard wrote to build the park. A group of thieves has taken the tour group and the wizard hostage and is sending out men to try to find a treasure hidden somewhere in the zoo - the artifact of the sun god. And to make things worse, a major storm is brewing.

The party's objective is simple - escape the island with the artifact. But now they have a whole slew of complications in their way: hungry roaming monsters, rogue employees, a coordinated thieves' guild, a rival archaeologist team, and a big storm. They also have two additional opportunities for heroism or loot in the wizard's spellbook and the hostage scenario.

Damn, now I actually want to run this adventure.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Long Game: The Iron Tower Part 1

Hello role-players out there! It occurred to us recently here at D4sign that we neglected to post our last adventure which we played last December. With some opportunities coming up to play more of The Long Game (which you can read about by clicking the link on the right side of the page), we thought it a good idea to bring you, and us, up to date!
Dallas Kasaboski