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So, this month for the Sea of Stars RPG design journal I am doing monsters. Seemed like a good theme for October, yes? And I was challenged to make over goblins so they were not just sword fodder but something more fey.

So, here they are, what do you think?
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Go and read about one of your city's best, Knight-Commander Daleron Stormbrand.
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I have been running a monthly, in store, D&D 4e game using the Delve Night adventures provided by Wizards of the Coast. So, I have a little more play under my belt and I have been reading bits and pieces of the new 4e books.

Today, I was looking at the new Arcane Power book, which is new options for wizards and other, well, what used to be spellcasters. Various impressions:

-Art, the cover is terrible and much of the interior art is reused from various 3.x books (which just strikes me as cheap), not that it is bad art, but I have seen it before.
-New Powers, pages (and pages and pages, roughly 2/3rds of book) of new powers which just leave me cold. Which is odd, as I like to look through spell and magic item descriptions. But page after page of carefully blocked out, narrowly defined powers, I find very wearing.
-Vague Nods to Roleplaying, there is a little discussion of how somethings (like a Warlock's curse) might look to the characters but most it is just mechanics and more mechanics. My favorite example of this is there is a feat that can only be taken by dwarves with the beautifully evocative name of "Rune-Scribed Soul", know what it is? Neither do I, as it is only described in mechanical terms! Not a single word of descriptive text or how it might define a character outside of bonuses to dice. Such a waste.

In other words, it fully confirms my existing opinion of 4e.
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OK, I have been reading pieces of D&D 4E for a few weeks, have run a few games with pre-gen characters and adventures, and, last night, actually got to play with a character I made (actually, I wrote out [livejournal.com profile] coffeebadass' character too).

The game was fun, [livejournal.com profile] forvrin runs a good game. We fought lizard men, had to escape cannibalistic halflings and their smokehouse trap, and fought a witch-doctor and his salt encrusted mummies on the edge of a cliff. Very pulp and much fun. But [livejournal.com profile] forvrin's games are always fun.

Things, I like:

Everybody having things to in combat, our party's wizard never was in a position where he could not use a spell. Now, it should be everyone gets to do cool things all the time in combat. For short combats, yes, it worked that way. In the longer combats, it had the standard, "I hit him" problem of D&D (except now it is, "I use power/ability/spell X") as you use up the limited use powers quickly. This might be less so for high level characters who have more ability choices but maybe not. The upper level enemies have absurd numbers of HPs.

Skill Challenges, in concept anyway, though the one we dealt with (escaping the halflings' smoke house) did not run as smoothly as it could have. I would put most of that down to us being new to the system.

Characters skills/abilities are more important than magic items, abilities scale up in power with character "tier" and they can work with a minimum of magic items. This seems like a good thing.

Things I am not sold on:

Charter Flexibility, I suspect (fear?) that most of the classes have a handful of effective playable builds, especially at low level, and you are going to see them all the time. The class roles and build are very defined. Now, yes, in theory, there are 2 x 8 x 4 x 4 (256) different ability combinations (before feats) for a starting Warlord, what I was playing. In actually, the choices are much fewer if you wish to actually be effective, as you have to play to the abilities that key off of your stats and a Warlord needs three good stats (Strength, Intelligence, Charisma) to get the best use (in some cases any use) out of their class abilities. In 3E building a well rounded character penalized your effectiveness, but usually only a little as every stat gave you a continuing useful bonus, if my Warlord is an example, trying to build a well rounded character in 4E will weaken them in play considerably.

All races being "equal" and the removal of Level Adjustments, while not a perfect system, the LA system worked. I could have a 1st level half-dragon accompany a 4th level party and still be effective and interesting. It just seems that some sorts of races will now be off-limits for play unless a similar mechanism is added.

And the one thing that are almost a deal breaker for me:

Game Balance Economics, this was sort of implict in 3E, but is entirely locked in in 4E. Everything is priced according to its game utility, plate armor cost twice (yes, twice) as much as leather armor for example. And the one that make me want to scream, the cost to buy a magic item is exactly equal to the cost to make it. Every time I think about this, it drives me crazy. It is impossible to rest a "realistic" world on this economy and a world cannot exist without economics.

All of these opinions are subject to revision as I learn the system better, but that last one is going to be hard to overcome.
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Sevany

Born the runt of her clutch and with a most unfortunate coloration. Not expected to survive, Sevany has always had to fight for what was hers. From food, to recognition, even for her education. She learned by observation, by sneaking in to classes and training sessions, by
following the others from a distance.

As soon as she was able, she took what she needed to become an adventurer. Her goal is simple, restore the Dragonborn Empire with herself as its Empress.

I am not going to try and type the character sheet in, but Sevany is a Dragonborn Warlord. Short (5'4") with pink scales and limitless ambition.

I am playing her tonight and will let you all know how it goes.
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Today was Worldwide D&D Game Day, the fourth year I think, and with the release of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons yesterday it was insanely busy. We had more people in today than we have had for all previous game days combined. We ran the Game Day adventure five times (and I ran two of those) each one for five people. Beyond that we had several onlookers and visitors. Busy, busy, busy.

Yesterday, when 4E released, was Tyche's Games best single day ever.

Still have not read the new books through far enough to really feel that I fully understand the new system. But expect a review soon.
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So, three of our Wednesday night game group ([livejournal.com profile] forvrin, [livejournal.com profile] nemloen and [livejournal.com profile] coffeebadass) and I got together to try some 4th Edition D&D using the Keep on the Shadowfell adventure and quick-start rules.

The player side quick-start rules pretty much focus exclusively on the new tactical combat system and the quick-start characters are devoid of roleplaying suggestions, backgrounds and barely have a physical description. The adventure itself has some nice subplot ideas and characters to interact with but no real bridge between the player characters and the setting.

Our adventure was a bit unbalanced in that we only had 3 PCs in an adventure balanced for 5 (and that the Paladin could not hit anything in the first battle and only had slightly better luck in the later two). Tactical options for the characters are much expanded, especially for wizards who get a bunch of reusable magical attacks. It plays fairly well, with some quirks that will seem less with play but only some much can be told from fixed pre-gen characters and a few basic combats.

But it seems to have potential. Even more curious about what the actual rules will look like, especially character generation.
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For our Wens night game we have been playing more L5R. We have survived one mass battle and are currently acting as diplomats for our Scorpion Lord. We picked up a new character, a dissipated Crane duelist who is only one step away from becoming a ronin and who promptly nicknamed my character -Moshi Tai, Priestess of Amaterasu- "The Shrew" which delighted me as that is exactly what I was aiming for for she is self-righteous, a zealous worshiper of Amaterasu with very high standards, and all around stiff necked. And fun to play.

This week, as I have access to a copy of Keep on the Shadowfall, we are going to give the quick start rules of D&D 4th Ed a spin and see what flies off.

In the Friday night D&D game, the quest to become the new Heralds of Death continues.

Our monk, and prime mover, Pratechyk acquired the first item, the Scales! Which were torn from the still beating heart of a demon-god that was using the scale as a lattice to rebuild itself. They had fought their way through the demon-gods servants, the Soul Catcher, with the help of several rebel souls and delved into the all too fleshy tunnels under the cult's temple.

The Scales were reshaped into two bowls for go stones. When he judges people, one bowl fills with white stones for good deeds and the other with black stones for misdeeds. Which he got to use, a lot, as the lost spirits flocked to him for judgment.

Now they are moving to seek the second item, the Sickle, which has lead them into the Realm of Battle. So far, they have defeated a guardian in a singing contest(!), made their way through the field of unending battles (without fighting) and defeated two Patchwork Men, who harvested new parts for their bodies from the fallen. Now they have arrived at the hills overlooking the Forge City where it appears the Sickle is kept.
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This idea came to me several years ago when I was running my Hellenic-themed D&D campaign and it led into me running a short-lived Far Cathay/Magic China campaign. Roleplaying race building information behind cut )
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Unfortunately, we did not get to play any D&D on Friday night. Instead we had pizza at a new place (Fernando's?) where the food was good, almost excellent, but the service was not so hot. Still, tasty pizza and we will probably eat there again.

Then we went home and watched Pathfinder for our bad movie night (which we were going to have on Sunday, but [livejournal.com profile] forvrin had to work then). Details here )

Now, as to where we are in the D&D campaign. Currently, the characters are in the shadowy realm between life and where souls go after death, the realm of the recently dead and the lost souls. The player characters are questing to become the new Heralds of Death. This requires them to acquire the four symbols of the previous heralds:

A flute, a lantern, a set of scales and a sickle

Death has given them a compass, formed from one of the links of the chains that bind him to his throne, which will guide each character to his associated item. They decided to search for the scales firsts. Right now they are in a ruined city with various pockets of lost souls wandering in it. At the center of the ruined city, where the characters have not yet arrived is a massive ruined temple where dark rites to a dead god are performed in an attempt to resurrect its dark power.

In the city, Spiritcatchers roams the streets looking for lost souls to drag off to sacrifice. The characters fought one of them, who escaped leaving one character pinned to the cobblestones by a harpoon and another cutting her way out of a net.

What things do you think would be cool to find in the land of the dead? Suggestions always welcome.

January 2015

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