Thursday, July 10, 2014

Forest Foes

A group of ten furious twig blights arrived in the mail today. They are eager to hit the table. I have never used twig blights as a DM, but I have smashed my fair share as a player during the 3.5 days.

     The forest the PCs will explore is home to a degenerate group of trappers. I still need to work out the details, but they all possess criminal backgrounds and are quite wasteful and cruel. The forest's more benevolent inhabitants will seek the party's aid in driving them off. To add an incentive, the trappers will each have a bounty on their heads. I prefer that the party brings 'em back alive, but the dice can get crazy.

     A few of the forest's inhabitants. These critters, along with a stray goat, an owl and a raven are capable of speech and will ask the party to help. They would help themselves, but they are down in numbers as the hunters have already killed all of the forests' wolves and bears and, well, wolves and bears really are the varsity when it comes to the furry fighting team.

     Page nine of my notebook. I still have to map the part of the forest above the stream, but all those words got in the way. I listed a gp value for each standing stone in case Tim S. wants to cart them off. I bet Ivy would like to have a few for the front yard. They are a real attention getter! 

     On page ten the PCs face a run or die screaming encounter. I figure it's good to get this sort of thing out of the way early, to let the group know that you will ace their PCs if they do not run on occasion. Later, the PCs can return when they have a Fireball and nuke those woody little freaks!

     Okay, fun's over. Gotta go practice piano. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Notebook Grows

I re-sketched the map I posted the other day so that I could have it in my notebook for handy reference. When/if the PCs get home, they will need a place to hang their helmets.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Killer Stick Men and Rulings Not Rules

I decided to ax the spider encounter from the first two pages. I just want to focus on the twig blights. As I worked on the investigation-side of this encounter, I was able to reflect a wonderful design approach to 5e. It's something you old schoolers are already familiar with - ruling on the fly with a framework instead of explicit rules.

     "The combination of the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic and the Proficiency Bonus mechanic make adjudicating all sorts of situations really easy. A huge amount of situations boil down to the following simple steps:

1) How difficult is it? Set the DC accordingly.

2) What ability is most relevant? Use that ability for the check.

3) Is this something the character should be "good at" (based on class and background)? If so, add Proficiency Bonus to the check.

4) Are there extenuating circumstances that help or hinder things? If so, apply Advantage or Disadvantage.

      It's all very simple and intuitive (with the possible exception of setting the DC in the first place - but I'm expecting the DMG will have lots of advice for that)."
     -Blacky the Blackball at

     When possible I am throwing out the idea that certain artifacts and creatures (alive or dead) can be taken back to Baldur's Gate and sold. Who doesn't want a 2' tall killer stick man for a pet?

     Tiny pieces of plastic are freaking expensive, but I plan on the Twig Blights being a frequent and awful threat to the PCs as they make their way through the forest. The elven queen does not like strangers!

     If I have the time I would love to build a model of the dilapidated old house, but that may be pushing things a bit far.

     People on the Googles, blogs and forums are losing their marbles over two contributors to D&D. Oy vey. Enjoy some Innocence Mission instead and be happy.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Scribble Scribble (page 1 & 2)

I don't know how much thought I put into campaigns back in the day. I think I may have been guided by a general theme, but that was about it. Since then I think I developed the "bad" habit of over-thinking everything. For 5e, I decided to keep it nice and simple. All I have so far is: talking animals, killer plants, awful insects, the entire campaign setting is set in this forest and, and...I dunno. Perhaps this is the elven queen's realm I hinted at in the Loviatar hex crawl. Basically, I just want to sit down and start rolling dice.

     I forgot how long it takes to write out my game notes by hand, but I find it very therapeutic. I am very much looking forward to playing 5e. I have done some test combats and it plays very old school. I think I will play this game a lot!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Don't Go in the Basement

While watching the Tour de France, I sketched a simple, two-story home that may serve as a base of operations for the PCs. The cellar has a secret door which leads down to the city's expansive sewer system. My idea is that the PCs are new residents of the house and will not be aware of secret door's existence.

     The housekeeper knows, but she keeps her mouth shut as she's heard stories of the Things that are down there. The last things she wants are PCs opening the secret door and letting God knows what in. Who wants to get eaten by a sewer monster while polishing the wood floors?

     In other news, I axed my Google+ account. Can't take the smell.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Morning Coffee Map

Someone feels that they have been wronged, so they travel to a hidden shrine to pray to a deity of vengeance. Being capricious, the deity may exact vengeance on behalf of the petitioner. Then again, he may inflict the desired punishment on the person who has been been wronged instead of the wrong-doer. The deity likes to remind people that revenge is a dangerous, unpredictable beast.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Life on River Street - Part I (draft)

11" x 17" pen and ink map of the city
When play begins, the intrepid explorers will begin making lives for themselves in Baldur's Gate. While Waterdeep may be considered the jewel of the Sword Coast, Baldur's Gate has a splendor all its own. Baldur's Gate will serve as a base of operations for the campaign, which will be fueled by D&D 5e. Due to its often chaotic and dangerous nature, the city will also be the site of many thrilling encounters.

This map needs to be redone.
     Initially play will focus on the neighborhood at the intersection of River Street and Whitaker Way. Players will be given the opportunity to assume control of different residences and businesses. The idea is to provide the PCs with a tie to the world in which they live. As they explore their immediate surroundings, context for the campaign will be developed and relationships among the characters will be forged. In some cases, information about a character's family and background will be revealed.

     The pages that follow will describe each keyed area of the neighborhood map. NPCs, encounters, maps, rumors, adventure seeds and building descriptions should provide all the information necessary for a successful campaign launch.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hope Springs Eternal

There's new D&D tomorrow and I'm slated to begin a campaign at the end of the month. Time to start scribblin' and drawin'. I am so pleased that the Sword Coast is the starting point for the new story line. I love adventuring in urban locales like Waterdeep and Baldur's Gate. Can't wait to rock the dice!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mail Call

Today I received the most radical booklet from Matt Jackson. It is hand-bound, the corners are trimmed, as are the pages, and the paper quality is simply stunning. As you flip through it, you feel the time and effort that went into its production.

     Matt is gracious with his praise in the introduction, but it is really he who has become the inspiration. Anyone who follows his work can attest to the steady progression of his mapping skills. In "A Collection of Presentations, Cartographical in Nature", we are treated to many examples of his artwork and creative text. I cannot wait to read it tomorrow while I am waiting for the night sky to explode.

     Well done, Mr. Jackson! Stellar work!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mail Call

First up is a nifty single-sheet zine from Matt Jackson. Titled "10' Pole" it presents the city of Bethmoora, which is perched on the edge a titanic pit called Ghorl Nigral - or - The Black Pit. A significant portion of Bethmoora's economy is derived from servicing (and perhaps taxing?) adventuring parties who are lowered into the pit via an elevator. I really look forward to seeing future issues.

     Next, an awesome micro-adventure arrived from Tim Shorts. It's printed in color, laminated and has on overall effective graphic design. The adventure would be a lot of fun to run as it features a red herring and something of a moral quandary for PCs with a conscience. A GM armed with several of these cards would never be at a loss for some last minute adventuring.

     I also received a nifty chess zine, but Master Cylinder fell asleep on it so I can't show it to you. It weirds me out when his eye is half open and lolling about.