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23
Apr

One Page Dungeon Contest 2014

   Posted by: Stephen Hilderbrand   in 1-page dungeon, Competition, The Tomb of Athganazar

The April 30th deadline for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2014 is rapidly approaching! This fantastic “competition” is a great excuse to dust off an old adventure you’re run and distill it to its essence. You can find out lots more about what one pagers are all about, including the submission rules and guidelines on their site in case you want to share your one-page creations with the (role playing) world.

The site is also a fine repository of fantastic ideas for adventures if you’re running one in the near future.  Nothing quite like being prepared for a game you’re running…

I have put together a one-page version of an adventure we ran at a few Houston gaming conventions in 2013, The Tomb of Athganazar and just submitted it. Regardless of how it fares, the joy is in the making!

Aura faint transmutation; CL 5th
Slot none – hand held; Price 8,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.

Description

This small coil of fine silk rope is light and easy to handle. When users speak a magic word and uncoil it, however, they will discover that it it long enough for any use, no matter how much rope is needed. For example, the small coil can be lowered all the way down to the bottom of a 300 foot deep chasm, or used to tie a tightrope across a eighty foot gap between two rooftops, and the rope is exactly long enough for the task at hand.

Construction and Cost

Craft Wondrous Item, rope trick; Cost 4,000 gp.

While travelling on the road, the players encounter “Finkald’s (‘Fin-kald) Freebooters”, a small army composed of rowdy dwarven mercenary veterans. They are fresh from a string of victories in the lands to the west, and are on a quest to find the fabulous lost dwarven stronghold of Kargoth. Finkald claims to have a map of to Kargoth, also known as “The Invisible Fortress”, but will show it to none, saying he has committed it to memory. His secret, which he will never admit, is that he recently learned that his victories in the east had led to his being singled out for assassination by the wild priest-hunters of the elven lands they had been raiding.

Upon meeting the party, Finkald will size them up, silently appraising their wealth, asking which way the roads lead, if they know anything of Kargoth, and who the players are and where they are headed. While the king talks the dwarves will fall out of order to begin drinking from a keg on a wagon and eating deer jerky off of a haunch. Some will gather to hear the conversation.

Unless the players flee or offer to join Finkald on his journey to Kargoth, he will ask them if they can help the army with any spare provisions they may have – “You see how hungry my Freebooters are – full bellies keep them happy!”. If the players seem wealthy and relatively weak, he might ask for gold or, particularly, any gems or jewelry they players are wearing. If the players refuse to give him what he asks for, he raises his voice and makes threats, “What’s to stop us from taking it, and everything else you have!?” Unless the players pay his price or run away, they try to take the players’ valuables by force.

ENCOUNTER – low to medium level

Fainkald – dwarven ranger 6

Seargents – 3 x dwarven fighter 4

Freebooters – 20 x dwarven fighter 1

2
Mar

Elder Scrolls Online Beta and Online Fantasy Games

   Posted by: Adam A Thompson   in Editorial, Review, Video Games

I had the opportunity to play in Bethesda Softwork’s beta test of Elder Scrolls Online this weekend and, frequent crashes of the client aside, I liked the game quite a bit. The user interface was so good, in fact, that it started me thinking about all the other online fantasy games I play. So in this post I’ll start of with my impressions from Elder Scrolls Online and move on to compare and contrast with World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Dragons Online, and Minecraft.

Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online follows confidently in the footsteps of Skyrim, Oblivion, and Morrowind. The familiar world of Tamirel is good looking and well rendered. The small island I ended up stuck on was large enough to get lost on several times, so the sense of being in a large world in the game is present. The quests and NPC reactions were well voice-acted and easy to navigate, thanks to the game’s very good quest, map, and inventory interfaces. So to end the introductions, here is Sagulot.

Most of these screenshots were in the game’s low graphics mode, by the way. It looked nicer in the high mode the client started in by default, but my computer, trustworthy as it is, isn’t exactly cutting-edge. I had also heard that the client liked to crash. So I tried the minimum graphics mode, which played smoothly, and then switched it up to low, which was also very smooth. When I switched to the medium video settings, the quality of the detail improved dramatically, but it also slowed down a bit. It was still playable – I could quest and fight successfully, but it wasn’t quite a fluid as it was on the low setting. I didn’t try any settings higher than that. I know the limits of my old frugally home built desktop. Here’s a shot of it with the medium settings.

The user interface, overall, was the most impressive part of the experience, showing the type of polish in a game that, in my opinion, sets Bethesda Softworks up there as rightly-honored veterans in the video game industry. For example – the spell and special-ability hotkeys are Q, 1, 2, 3, 4, and R on the keyboard, conveniently close to the WASD movement keys. The open-doors-and-loot-chests-and-talk-to-people button, the E key, is your “accept” or “equip” key when you’re in most dialouge windows. And the ALT key is “cancel” when you want to get out of any sub-screen. Overall it makes playing the game vastly easier and is the type of attention to detail that I really appreciate in a game. If you zoom out of the first-person point of view that is the default, it moves up over your character’s right shoulder and looks down at an angle, so that you can still see things that are right in front of you. All together it helps with the immersiveness of the game.

Little touches like the lockpicking mini-game and the various disguises you can use during quests make the cloak and dagger elements fun in a way great games like Mass Effect 2 have used.Here is Sagulot, disguised as a servant.

Also, the client crashed a lot. This is the only reason I took a half star off of my tentative rating. And some of the quests or items were buggy – there was a chest that I could not open until I restarted the client. I didn’t mind too much, except for having to re-enter my password every time. I know some of my friends got frustrated and went back to playing Final Fantasy Online or Faster Than Light, but my thinking is that I’m getting to play this game for free, before they have released it, as part of a stress test of their servers. They are croudsourcing an important part of their quality assurance process, and I think it’s a good deal for them and for us, so I can put up with having to restart the client over and over. And there were a couple of instances of something not loading right, but nothing that I wasn’t able to overcome with a restart of the client.

The stories I played through were good. I particularly enjoyed the escape-from-the-underworld tutorial sequence, which played fast and got you right into the game. The quest and conversation sequences were direct and nicely to-the-point, and every one that I navigated was appropriately voice acted. There were good dramatic moments throughout the quests, and even some funny asides. The world is the wonderfully gritty, brutal fantasy-medieval world those who have played previous games in the Elder Scrolls series have come to know.

In terms of the pvp-free multiplayer, outdoor areas and many areas in the game’s dungeons are common areas, where other online players are there with you. In the online beta this turned the dungeons into perpetual bloodbaths where the goblins spawned as fast as the marauding players could slay them. Return to town, repair your equipment, sell your spoils, and set off on a new quest. And the landscape is dotted with quests, making wandering off into the wilderness a rewarding experience, even on the small island where I played.

Smoothly interspersed here and there are areas where your player is alone with some non-player characters to present a dramatic scene. The game seemed to have a way of keeping the in-game quest scenes private to each player, which was nice and helped with the verisimilitude of the heroic fantasy. Nothing to make a quest you just completed seem mundane like seeing forty other players being celebrated with the same quip. So, overall, I enjoyed the story elements, which were well executed, and look forward to seeing what other adventures like ahead.

Character statistics, skills, powers and spells appeared to work much like in previous Elder Scrolls games. In general, the skills you use the most advance without intruding on the hack-and-slash “first person sword-and-sorcery” thrill ride (FPS&S – to coin a phrase?). You can pick special powers, called “feats” that let you pierce your foe’s armor, or increase your defenses, and it appears most classes get access to some magic spells. I was happy to see the inclusion of their soul magic system, and look forward to making some magic enchantments, which appear to be transferable between items. My orc character’s class was Dragonknight I believe, and within a day of playing I had a flaming chain spell that pulled enemies to me, a sword swing that stunned my foes, and an iron cuirass and shield. It was awesome.

Overall, I give Elder Scrolls Online a tentative 3 1/2 stars. If the client crash issues are the few quest hiccups are fixed, I expect to play this excellent-looking addition to the series with my friends quite a bit when it comes out. But for now, Elder Scrolls Online, I bid you a good night.

As for World of Warcraft,Dungeons & Dragons Online, and Minecraft, tonight the candle burns low, so I will return to the subject in an upcoming post.

thanks, and happy gaming,

Adam A. Thompson

5
Feb

Alizarin Zamyatin

   Posted by: Stephen Hilderbrand   in Character, Review

Created a gnome bard for an upcoming 3.5 adventure run by an old friend in Baltimore that I’ll be participating in over Roll20. Downloaded the most recent release of PCGen to help in the creation process. Looks like they’ve added some new features to the app, including more complete coverage of Pathfinder, as well as icons to denote inventory locations. The app still retains its usefulness, making it quick and easy to create characters. Here’s an export of the resulting character in plain text.

Name: Alizarin Zamyatin
Race: Gnome
Player: Steve
Classes: Bard1
Hit Points: 7
Experience: 0 / 1000
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Vision: Low-Light
Speed: Walk 20 ft.
Languages: Common, Gnome
Stat Score Mod
STR 7 (-2)
DEX 18 (+4)
CON 13 (+1)
INT 13 (+1)
WIS 12 (+1)
CHA 15 (+2)
-------------------------- Skills --------------------------
Skill Total Rnk Stat Msc
Appraise 2 1.0 1 0
Balance 5 1.0 4 0
Bluff 5 3.0 2 0
Climb -2 0.0 -2 0
Concentration 3 2.0 1 0
Craft (Alchemy) 1 0.0 1 0
Craft (Untrained) 1 0.0 1 0
Diplomacy 5 3.0 2 0
Disguise 2 0.0 2 0
Escape Artist 6 2.0 4 0
Forgery 1 0.0 1 0
Gather Information 4 2.0 2 0
Heal 1 0.0 1 0
Hide 8 0.0 4 4
Intimidate 2 0.0 2 0
Jump -8 0.0 -2 -6
Knowledge (History) 2 1.0 1 0
Listen 4 1.0 1 2
Move Silently 7 3.0 4 0
Perform (Untrained) 2 0.0 2 0
Ride 4 0.0 4 0
Search 1 0.0 1 0
Sense Motive 1 0.0 1 0
Sleight of Hand 8 4.0 4 0
Spellcraft 4 3.0 1 0
Spot 1 0.0 1 0
Survival 1 0.0 1 0
Swim -2 0.0 -2 0
Tumble 6 2.0 4 0
Use Rope 4 0.0 4 0

-------------------------- Feats ---------------------------
Dodge
Armor Proficiency (Light)
When you wear a type of armor with which you are proficient, the armor check penalty for that armor applies only to Balance, Climb, Escape Artist, Hide, Jump, Move Silently, Pick Pocket, and Tumble checks.

Shield Proficiency
You can use a shield and take only the standard penalties.

Simple Weapon Proficiency
-------------------- Special Abilities ---------------------

------------------------ Templates -------------------------
Base Race Type, Base Race Type ~ Humanoid, RaceSubtype ~ Augmented Humanoid
-------------------------- Combat --------------------------
Total / Touch / Flat Footed
AC: 17 / 15 / 13
Initiative: +4
BAB: +0
Melee tohit: -1
Ranged tohit: +5
Fortitude: +1
Reflex: +6
Will: +3
Unarmed attack:
to hit: -1
damage: 1d2-2
critical: 20/x2
Dagger (Small):
to hit: -7
damage: 1d3-2
critical: 19-20/x2
Dagger (Small/Thrown):
to hit: +5
damage: 1d3
critical: 19-20/x2
range: 10 ft.
Sling (Small):
to hit: -5
damage: 1d3-2
critical: 20/x2
range: 50 ft.
--------------------- Special Abilities --------------------

------------------------- Equipment ------------------------
Name QTY LBS
Leather Cap 1 0lbs
Wireframe Spectacles and 2 Lenses 1 0lbs Special: (Eye Lenses)
Zamyatin Family Medallion (Heirloom) 1 0lbs
Dagger (Small) 2 1lbs
Leather Gloves 1 0lbs
Leather (Small) 1 7lbs
Leather Belt 1 0lbs
Outfit (Entertainer's/Small) 1 1lbs
Padded Shoes 1 0lbs
Bedroll (Small) 1 1lbs Special: (Bedroll (Small))
Bullets (Sling/10) (Small) 1 2lbs
Chalk (1 piece) 2 0lbs
Coin (Electrum) 1 0lbs Special: (Coin (Copper))
Jeweler's Hammer 1 0lbs
Musical Instrument (Flute) (Small) 1 0lbs
Sling (Small) (0 lbs.)
Pouch (Belt) (Small) (0.125 lbs.)
Sack (Small) (0.125 lbs.)
Total weight carried:
Current load: Light
Encumbrance
Light: 17
Medium: 35
Heavy: 52
--------------------------- Magic --------------------------

Innate Spells
Dancing Lights (Evocation) - 1 per day
Saves: None
DC:
Casting: 1 standard action
Duration: 1 minute [D]
Range: Medium (110 ft.)
Components: V, S
SR: No
Effect: Creates torches or other lights.
Target: Up to four lights, all within a 10-ft.-radius area
Ghost Sound (Illusion) - 1 per day
Saves: Will disbelief (if interacted with)
DC: 12
Casting: 1 standard action
Duration: 1 rounds [D]
Range: Close (25 ft.)
Components: V, S, M
SR: No
Effect: Figment sounds.
Target: Illusory sounds
Prestidigitation (Universal) - 1 per day
Saves: See text
DC: 12
Casting: 1 standard action
Duration: 1 hour
Range: 10 ft.
Components: V, S
SR: No
Effect: Performs minor tricks.
Target: See text
() - per day
Saves:
DC:
Casting:
Duration:
Range:
Components:
SR:
Effect:
Target:

Bard Spells

Level 0
Detect Magic (Divination)
Saves: None DC: Casting: 1 standard action
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minutes [D] Range: 60 ft. Components: V, S
SR: No Effect: Detects spells and magic items within 60 ft. Target: Cone-shaped emanation
DESC: Detects spells and magic items within 60 ft.
Lullaby (Enchantment)
Saves: Will negates DC: 12 Casting: 1 standard action
Duration: Concentration + 1 rounds [D] Range: Medium (110 ft.) Components: V, S
SR: Yes Effect: Makes subject drowsy; -5 on Spot and Listen checks, -2 on Will saves against sleep. Target: Living creatures within a 10-ft.-radius burst
DESC: Makes subject drowsy; -5 on Spot and Listen checks, -2 on Will saves against sleep.
Mage Hand (Transmutation)
Saves: None DC: Casting: 1 standard action
Duration: Concentration Range: Close (25 ft.) Components: V, S
SR: No Effect: 5-pound telekinesis. Target: One nonmagical, unattended object weighing up to 5 lb.
DESC: 5-pound telekinesis.
Message (Transmutation)
Saves: None DC: Casting: 1 standard action
Duration: 10 minutes Range: Medium (110 ft.) Components: V, S, F
SR: No Effect: Whispered conversation at distance. Target: 1 creatures
DESC: Whispered conversation at distance.

------------------------ Description -----------------------
Height: 3' 5" Weight: 45 lbs. Gender: Male
Eyes: Violet Hair: Greenish, with golden highlights, Skin: Olive
Dominant Hand: Ambidextrous Quirks: Often speaks in half rhyme and near riddles.

28
Jan

Skelephant

   Posted by: Stephen Hilderbrand   in 3.5 / Pathfinder, Creature

Imagine the damage a stampede of frightened undead elephants fleeing the cleric disciple of a powerful god can do.

Skelephants are skeletal dire elephants, gargantuan beasts that wander aimlessly through the plans and steppes in search of prey.  With wild, stony, empty eyesockets that swallow the light, they clear forests under the moonlight.

Gargantuan Undead Animal
Hit Dice: 24d8+200 (310 hp)
Initiative: +0
Speed: 30 ft.
AC: 10 (-4 size, +4 natural), touch 6, flat-footed 10
Base Attack/Grapple: +17/+44
Attack: Slam +28 melee and 2 stamps +23 melee, or gore +30 melee
Full Attack: Slam +28 melee and 2 stamps +23 melee, or gore +30 melee
Damage: Slam 2d8+15, stamp 2d8+7, gore 4d6+22
Space: 20 ft./10 ft.
Special Qualities: Undead senses
Special Attacks: Trample 4d6+24
Saves: Fort +20, Ref +11, Will +20
Abilities: Str 44, Dex 11, Con -, Int 2, Wis 15, Cha 7
Skills: Listen +19, Spot +15
Feats: Alertness; Endurance; Improved Bull Rush; Iron Will; Power Attack; Skill Focus (listen); Weapon Focus (gore)
Climate/Terrain: Nocturnal in plains and steppes
Organization: Solitary or herd (6-30)
Challenge Rating: 12
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 25-32 HD (Gargantuan); 33-47 HD (Colossal)

Tusk Gore: Skelephants swing their sharp tusks at their prey, skewering them in the pale darkness.
14
Dec

Spell: Subvert Control

   Posted by: Adam A Thompson   in 3.5 / Pathfinder, Spell

Years ago in the pirate kingdoms, the wizard Deganous crafted this spell to use against King Kik’dak of the ice kobolds and his mechanical dragons. Along with Donal of Rockwell the wizard led a force to the ice kobolds’ fortress in the Barrar Mountains. When those that survived the trap-laden gauntlet reached the throne room where Kik’dak waited, Deganous used this magic to turn the kobold’s mechanical dragons on him, whereupon he was torn limb from limb.

Subvert Control

School transmutation; Level sorcerer/wizard 7

CASTING

Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M (a piece of bone and a piece of raw meat)

EFFECT

Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Targets up to 2 HD/level of constructs, no two of which can be more than 30 ft. apart
Duration 1 min./level
Saving Throw Will negates; Spell Resistance yes

DESCRIPTION

This spell alters the magic which powers constructs, which enables you to control them for a short period of time. You command them by voice and they understand you, no matter what language you speak. Even if vocal communication is impossible, the controlled constructs do not attack you. At the end of the spell, the subjects revert to their normal behavior.

Intelligent constructs will remember that you controlled them, and they may seek revenge after the spell’s effects end.

19
Nov

Aberoth

   Posted by: Stephen Hilderbrand   in Online

Welcome the throwback world of Aberoth, a cute little (55K) Javascript client that plugs in to what appears to be a fairly fleshed out world on the backend.  It seems there are mobile clients and even one in Java (people still use Java?).

Hop online and enjoy some amusing times that will at least remind you of your old video game rpg playing days when you had more free time.  If by a 1:million chance you run into me, I’m on there as Omeros.

30
Oct

Shadow Sentinels

   Posted by: Adam A Thompson   in Creature

Those few mariners who have braved the ice isles and their frozen towers will encounter White Eye’s guardians throughout. These pale-eyed living shadows stand as sentinels in the catacombs beneath the towers, and add their victims to the ranks of gray ghouls on the shores.

Shadow Sentinels – CR 8

XP 2,400
N medium undead
Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +6

DEFENSE

AC 17, touch 17, flat-footed 15 (+5 deflection, +1 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 83 (8d8+47)
Fort +7, Ref +5, Will +8
Defensive Abilities incorporeal
Immune undead traits

OFFENSE

Speed fly 30 ft. (perfect)
Melee shadow claws +7 (1d6 and 1d6 strength damage)
Special Attacks draining gaze (DC 19)

STATISTICS

Str —, Dex 12, Con —, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 20
Base Atk +5; CMB +5; CMD 22
Feats Dodge, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Toughness
Skills Fly +9, Knowledge (history) +10, Knowledge (nobility) +10, Perception +18, Sense Motive +10, Stealth +9; Racial Modifiers +8 Perception, +8 Stealth
Languages Common

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Strength Damage (Su)

A shadow’s touch deals 1d6 points of Strength damage to a living creature. This is a negative energy effect. A creature dies if this Strength damage equals or exceeds its actual Strength score.

Draining Gaze (Su)

Those meeting the deathly green eyes of the Shadow Sentinels (range 30ft.) must succeed on a DC 19 Fortitude Save or gain 1 negative level.

Create Spawn (Su)

A humanoid creature killed by a shadow sentinel’s Strength damage or gaze attack becomes a gray ghoul under the control of its killer in 1d4 rounds.

30
Oct

Dungeonrobber

   Posted by: Stephen Hilderbrand   in Online, Review

Last Friday, Johnn Four included a link to this fun little online dungeon generator/game, inspired by (and maybe cloned from) Gygax’s random dungeon tables. Yes, I’m just getting to fun RPG emails from last week nowish.

Screen capture of Dungeon Robber running in a browser. More adventure games should run like this!

Try it out!

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