Khans of Tarkir Sealed Pool

I play a fair bit of Magic: the Gathering in addition to my board-gaming and role-playing. This evening, I competed (I used the term very loosely) in a Khans of Tarkir Sealed Daily event.

My card pool was… underwhelming.

Have a look:

It’s not that the pool doesn’t have bombs – it certainly does, especially with Crater’s Claws and Duneblast.

The trouble is that the creature base is pretty much non-existent.

I ended up building a Abzan deck: White-Black-Green.

I got wrecked in the two matches I played by Riverwheel Aerialists – 4/5 fliers – which none of my creatures could kill. I went 1-2 then 0-2 then dropped. The one game I won I was able to surprise my opponent with Master of Pearls, but all in all, it was disappointing. If anyone has ideas as to a good deck you could make from this pool, let me know!

Posted in Board Games, Magic | Leave a comment

Upcoming Saturday gaming sessions

My Saturday gaming is likely to remain fairly similar to how it has been the last few years, except I’m probably going to drop the late-evening AD&D/Cthulhu/Whatever role-playing for some board-gaming – at least in the early part of the year.

I’m not entirely sure which weeks we’ll miss over Christmas, but at present the schedule looks something like this:

Saturday 20th December – D&D Expeditions – DDEX1-6 The Scroll Thief

Saturday 27th December – Board gaming

Saturday 3rd January – D&D Expeditions – DDEX1-7 Drums in the Marsh

Saturday 10th January – Board gaming

Saturday 17th January – D&D Expeditions – DDEX1-8 Tales Trees Tell

Saturday 24th January – Board gaming (if people aren’t away)

Saturday 31st January – D&D Expeditions – DDEX1-9 Outlaws of the Iron Route

Saturday 7th February – Board gaming

Saturday 14th February – D&D Expeditions – DDEX1-10 Tyranny in Phlan (levels 5-10)

Saturday 21st February – Board gaming

That brings us to Sat 28th, which is one day before DDEX1-11 becomes legal for store play…

Posted in Board Games, D&D | 2 Comments

Role-playing Games I’ve played

RPG Geek is currently having a little micro-badge awarding thread based on a rather interesting topic: How many RPGs have you played or run?

In the thirty-odd years I’ve been playing RPGs, I’ve not amassed a list that is extremely long; I’d normally categorize myself as a D&D specialist, although there are certainly periods when I’ve played other RPGs.

The lists I created for the thread were based on some assumptions that may seem odd. A game is listed if it’s in the RPG Geek database. They generally treat different editions as different games if there are major changes between the editions, thus “Call of Cthulhu” has three entries: one for the original edition, one for the second through sixth editions, where the rules were basically the same, and a new entry for the seventh edition. (I’ve now run the seventh edition twice, and it’s a really good version, although one of the adventures wasn’t that great).

These lists are ordered as the games are ranked in the RPG Geek database – mostly. There are a few entries that are out of order. I may also be forgetting a game or two. I’m almost certain I am, actually.

Although the thread has every game you have DMed also counts as one you’ve played, these lists make the distinction between playing and DMing.

There are a number of RPGs that I own and haven’t gotten to play. They aren’t on these lists, although perhaps I should make another list…

Games I’ve DMed

  1. Call of Cthulhu 2e-6e
  2. D&D 5E
  3. Pathfinder
  4. Paranoia 2E
  5. Paranoia Mongoose
  6. Star Wars WEG 2E
  7. Traveller Classic
  8. Star Wars WEG 1E
  9. AD&D 1E
  10. Basic D&D
  11. 13th Age
  12. D&D original
  13. Amber Diceless RP
  14. AD&D 2E
  15. D&D 3.5E
  16. Gamma World (4E D&D)
  17. Werewolf: the Apocalypse
  18. James Bond 007
  19. Middle Earth RPG (1E)
  20. GURPS 2E
  21. Hackmaster 4E
  22. Marvel Super Heroes
  23. Stargate SG-1
  24. D&D 3E
  25. Gamma World 1E
  26. D&D 4E
  27. Teenagers from Outer Space
  28. Serenity RPG
  29. Gamma World (2E)
  30. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  31. Doctor Who RPG (FASA)
  32. Fighting Fantasy
  33. Super Squadron
  34. Universe
  35. Star Wars d20
  36. Aria, Canticle of the Monomyth
  37. Dragon Warriors
  38. Lords of Gossamer and Shadow
  39. Call of Cthulhu 7E

Games I’ve played

  1. Call of Cthulhu 2e-6e
  2. Fiasco
  3. Savage Worlds
  4. D&D 5E
  5. Pathfinder
  6. Marvel Heroic RPG
  7. Star Wars WEG 2E
  8. Paranoia 1E
  9. Runequest 2E
  10. Star Wars WEG 1E
  11. Vampire: the Masquerade
  12. AD&D 1E
  13. Basic D&D
  14. 13th Age
  15. Cyberpunk 2020
  16. Mutants and Masterminds 2E
  17. Amber Diceless RP
  18. AD&D 2E
  19. D&D 3.5E
  20. Shadowrun 2E
  21. Stormbringer 1E
  22. Star Wars SAGA
  23. James Bond 007
  24. Middle Earth RPG (1E)
  25. GURPS 2E
  26. Toon
  27. Marvel Super Heroes
  28. D&D 3E
  29. Shadowrun 1E
  30. D&D 4E
  31. Teenagers from Outer Space
  32. Mechwarrior 2E
  33. Star Wars (d20 Revised)
  34. Top Secret 1E
  35. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  36. Lace and Steel
  37. Fighting Fantasy
  38. The Wheel of Time (d20)
  39. Star Wars (d20)
  40. Robotech (Original Palladium)
  41. Rifts
  42. Hunter Planet
  43. Iron Heroes
  44. Dragon Warriors
  45. Savage Worlds


Posted in Life, RPGs | Leave a comment

Hoard of the Dragon Queen, session 15

We did a reconfiguration of the tables this session to account for players who have dropped out. There is one fewer table now; our numbers are generally stable around 30 players each week, which seems more sustainable into the future. My own table is nominally at six players, although Lewis couldn’t make this session so we only had five players this session.

My table is the furthest advanced of any at our store and, this session, we progressed into Episode 7. (The other tables are spread between Episodes 5 and 6).

This episode is unusual. The characters entered the portal at Castle Naerytar and emerged near a hunting lodge in an unidentified forest in the mountains – not in the black dragon lair, which they greatly feared would be the case!

They cautiously approached the lodge, but there were no cultists on guard and so they were able to enter it unobserved. The guard post was unattended, but the party’s entrance wasn’t completely unobserved: Gargoyles watched the main hall! The gargoyles weren’t attacking visitors who weren’t holding bared steel, however, so the party could pass undisturbed.

In fact, the ground floor had no cultists, only a few servants who were busy in a noisy kitchen. The group observed the kitchen without drawing attention to themselves, and chose to bypass it. Instead they ended up in a parlour, where their curiosity triggered an attack by a helmed horror, one of the more iconic magical constructs of the Forgotten Realms. It was a bit challenging to face, but the group were too far from the cultists on the upper level to raise any alarm. Another parlour held various trophies; my players were about to leave when Josh started looking in the mouths of the stuffed heads on the walls. No, they didn’t attack him – instead he found treasure: a pair of potions of healing. He was very pleased with his find.

The group headed upstairs, where they discovered a number of bedchambers. Most were empty, but the last was the bedchamber of the head cultist. They immediately investigated a chest near the foot of the bed, only to find it locked. The group is completely without the services of a knock spell (something that Jesse, who is playing a bard, is realising would make things a lot easier). They also don’t have a rogue, but they do have one player who is proficient with thieves’ tools – he rolled really well and the group were able to take the items from the chest, including a set of magical chain armour. (I don’t know if anyone is using it, though!)

The next room they explored turned out to be a barracks; one sleeping guard there was roused by their entry and called out an alarm. It was at that point that Talis the White, leader of the cultists in the lodge, confronted them.

Talis did not immediately attack, and what could have been a dangerous combat turned into a negotiation session (a parlay, if you will). Talis saw the party as useful tools for improving his position in the cult and causing great embarrassment (and perhaps worse) for Rezmir, her superior. Luckily for Talis, the group were more than happy to sow discord in the cult, especially if it meant stopping the Greenest shipment from reaching the Hoard the cultists had been accumulating.

Talis was able to give the players directions to the great flying castle that the cultists would be using to transport the treasure, along with passwords and a banner to aid them in their infiltration. The party happily accepted, assuring Talis that they’d cause a lot of trouble for Rezmir. Talis then entertained them in the lodge before they left on the next morning for the village of Parnest, and the flying castle there!

This was quite a short session, but as the final episode of the adventure looks like it will be massive, I was happy to pause things here. The group had engaged in very little combat, but they’d gained the aid of Talis the White and they’d find that invaluable. I’ll be interested to discover how other groups approached this episode. Did you fight your way through? Or did you negotiate?


Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Session Report, Tyranny of Dragons | Leave a comment

Adventure Review: The Kingdom of Karak

The Kingdom of Karak is the latest 5E release of Mithgarthr Entertainment. (Their previous adventure was The Mines of Valdhum, reviewed here). This product is a combination sourcebook and adventure, containing an overview of the world, details on new monsters and spells, and a short adventure.

The world’s background is relatively basic, with hints of potential adventures. Interestingly, the five gods this book describes are all ascended heroes. Each god’s clerics have one or two quirks that distinguish them from the standard, primarily in the types of weapons they can use. I note that there are no goddesses worshipped in Karak, as all the heroes were men!

The timeline is problematic – especially as it uses “Age of Mithgarthr” as its convention, later noting that in 936 AM, “: An official treaty known as the Mithgarthr Charter was drawn up as an official agreement between the two kingdoms. It was this document that gave Mithgarthr its name.” Most dating conventions would use this as 1 AM! Other details are frustratingly terse. “Morkar is revealed as having become a servant of Tchort, and starts his machinations to take over the realm of Mithgarthr.” Revealed by who?

The book also describes shamans and chaos magic, a system purely for the DM’s use for enhancing the leaders of humanoid tribes. I have one or two quibbles with the mechanics (in particular, the rust spell has a very odd method of determining how the item resists the spell), but I very much like the potentially self-destructive flaws in the magic. Each spell cast carries with it the chance that the user is destroyed in a burst of chaos magic. It would be a dreadful system if intended for players, but gives a lot of entertainment as a monster-only mechanic.

One new monster is detailed, the Ratten. As you might gather from their name, they’re a race of humanoid rats. Three stat-blocks are given: the basic form, the warrior and the shaman. There are a few oddities with the stat-blocks (for instance, the hit dice of a monster are not given but only their average hit points), and it’s very hard to judge if the shaman’s Challenge Rating is accurate. My impression is it may be a little high, given the low power of most Chaos Magic, but the Ratten as a whole seem quite useable.

A short gazetteer of the important towns and villages in Karak follows. Unfortunately, the land around them isn’t described. The biggest problem with this section is a lack of interesting details: no intrigues, power struggle or threats.

The adventure in the book is quite short, basically just an 8-room dungeon for low-level characters. The party need to recover a set of magical thieves’ tools before minions of a dark power do so. The dungeon has a number of goblins and other monsters, with one or two chances for role-playing. There’s a ring of regeneration potentially available to the players here, which makes the treasure much better than the general assumptions used in 5E. One particular monster, the water moccasin, has an extremely high-damage poison bite which is at odds with its low XP total, although its hit points are quite low. The chance it has of killing one or two unwary characters? Quite high!

Ultimately, there’s nothing particularly special about the adventure or the product. The world isn’t described in enough detail to be really inspiring, and the adventure is terribly basic. I can see how there are details presented here that might become more relevant one day in a future product, but taken on their own, they’re not interesting enough. The layout is good, but that’s not enough to save The Kingdom of Karak from being a distinctly poor product.

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Review | 1 Comment

Comic Review: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #3

“Hamster justice cannot be ignored, ugly man!”

Yes, it’s time for the latest instalment of the Legends of Baldur’s Gate series, in which we get to see the upper half lives in Baldur’s Gate. Did I say “half”? I meant tenth, or less.

Of course, Minsc doesn’t need an invitation to get into a ball, although his explanation to the usher as to why he’s there doesn’t prove that enlightening for the poor man. Delina does get something of an education, though…

Once again, Max Dunbar’s artwork is superb, drawing both characters and architecture in beautiful detail. John-Paul Bove proves especially able with his colours this issue, as the picture below shows.

Story-wise, things are particularly action-centric this issue. I was disappointed to see that the much-awaited reunion between Minsc and Coran is immediately interrupted by a fight and chase that lasts the rest of the issue, although the dialogue remains amusing throughout. (We even get one of Minsc’s catchcries: “Squeaky wheel gets the kick!” which should please all old-time players of the Baldur’s Gate videogame.)

It’s a shame that we don’t have more issues (as of yet, I don’t know if it’s progressing past 5 issues). The characters are characterised well in the limited space available, but this issue has a lot of action which takes precedence over other significant interactions. This is a limitation of the form, which Jim Zub has done his best with: it’s an exciting adventure, but I want it to be more!

The end of the issue brings a revelation that promises the next issue (the penultimate one) should provide a lot of the explanations of what is actually going on, before the story must conclude.

So, I’d really like an announcement that there’ll be more issues of this comic, and hope that even if there aren’t, this series can be brought to a satisfying conclusion. Despite my preference for more space for talking, this is still a tremendously entertaining issue, and one that maintains the high standards of the first two issues.

Posted in Comics, Review, Tyranny of Dragons | 1 Comment

Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Creation

Well, at last the Dungeon Master’s Guide has been released, which allows all of us playing D&D 5E to finally have the full system and start properly evaluating what it is and what it does.

My first impressions of the DMG? Pretty favourable. I’ve been spending a lot of time with the system for creating monsters and – in particular – assigning their Challenge Ratings. It’s a very interesting system. Basically, you work out a defensive CR and an offensive CR, then average them to come up with a final value. The defensive CR is determined by how many hit points a monster has, then modified by its AC, while offensive CR is determined by the average damage it deals over the first three rounds of combat, then modified by the attack bonus/DC of its major attacks. And both offensive and defensive CRs are modified a little by other special abilities.

This system is likely to fall down lot in certain circumstances. Consider a monster with AC 23 and 10 hit points. According to the system, that gives it a defensive CR of about 5 (or possibly 2, depending on how you read the system), but you’re also describing a monster that dies to a simple magic missile spell. Moving too far from the baseline is going to give these weird results. You do have to be very careful of glass cannons (really dangerous offensive monsters that die in a single round) or grind monsters (really weak monsters that take forever to kill), so if you’re creating your first monsters, paying attention to the baselines for any given CR is likely to be useful. (I’m a bit dubious of the guideline that every 2 points of AC over the base given by the CR changes the CR by 1; I expect there’s a more accurate calculation.)

By far the most interesting part of these monster CRs has been how many hit points a monster really needs to survive. It’s a lot. A monster doesn’t even hit the CR 1 on the defensive charts until it reaches 71 hit points.

Historically, that’s a lot of hit points. In the old AD&D, before Constitution modifiers started affecting hit points for monsters, you had to be a 16 Hit Dice creature before you had that many hit points (on average). And 16 Hit Dice monsters were incredibly rare. Ignoring the unique demons, we get Aerial Servant, a few dinosaurs, the largest and oldest dragons, the largest elementals, the storm giant, the iron golem, big hydras, titans, the giant sea turtle(!) and whales.

It’s a bit hard to tell if it’s entirely accurate. The Barlgura in the new MM has only 68 hit points (8d10+24), but a challenge rating of 5, derived primarily from its attacks. Possibly – it does an average of 29 damage per round, which equates to about a CR of 5 or thereabouts. It’s not like the Barlgura has great defenses – AC 15, and only resistant to cold, fire and lightning. Although there are monsters in the MM that follow the values pretty closely (see the Giants, for instance), there are a number that don’t. Which gives people like me, who like analysing the maths behind the system, a number of irritations to work through.

It’s quite possible that the defensive CR is based on how tough it had to be to survive 3 rounds against a standard party of that level, but more research is needed!

Of course, the DMG wasn’t finalised when the CRs for the Monster Manual were being written, so there may be a few things that slipped through the cracks. That said, I’ve got a feeling that the hit point ranges in the DMG are actually pretty good, especially given how much damage player characters can put out each round. The upshot of this is that there are a lot of monsters that will die quicker than you might expect for their CR. It’s be a while I’ve racked up enough hours with the new system to really comment on that.

The highest level game I’m currently running is Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Next session, we’re entering the final episode of that book, although the characters are only 6th level at present. (Yes, there’s one session report I still have to write and post). We’ll start on Rise of Tiamat early in 2015, and I hope to have a retrospective review of Hoard up then as well. I’m also mindful that I’m terribly behind on my “Running Hoard” articles, but a number of other projects have been requiring my attention.

Otherwise, there are a lot of really great, inspirational tables in the new DMG. Including random dungeon tables. And tables to help stock dungeons.

And, of course, it also has the magic items, which make up a significant part of the book. It feels like half the book, although it’s closer to a quarter. The illustrations for the magic items are great.

One thing I still don’t really know is what you do with all the money you accumulate. Build strongholds? Could be.

Anyway, the new Dungeon Master’s Guide looks great. Enjoy!

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Design | Leave a comment