• Category Archives D&D
  • D&D in the Classroom

    One of the things I love is introducing games to new players. I was a Heroclix Judge, I ran VS System demos, I was a Press Ganger for Privateer Press, not just because I loved the games, but also because it’s so incredibly rewarding to introduce nascent nerds to a new hobby, to welcome them into a whole new world of experiences and good hobby times. This is part of why I’m so chuffed to see what Paris Conte’s been up to with the GenU GAMER program back in the old country, and why I was so excited to learn that one of my friend’s wives actually ran a Dungeons and Dragons group for students at her school.

    Dungeons & Dragons can be so much more than just a bunch of people sitting around a table. It can help break down social and mental boundaries as players use roleplaying to explore not only the worlds of the game itself, but also to test personal expression and interaction. There’s a reason counselors often use roleplay excercises to help people work through some of the barriers they’re facing.

    So when I was asked to paint some custom Heroforge models for some of the players in the school group, I was excited not only because, well, painting is good times, and painting for friends can be even better times, but also because these models were actually tied to a French Language assignment.

    Each of the kids was tasked with describing their character in French. The description couldn’t be as basic as “My dude is a dwarf fighter” either, the descriptions included a glimpse of the personalities and backgrounds of the characters, which will only in turn enrich their D&D experience as they put their characters on the table with a better understanding of who the characters themselves are.

    NB: The varnish frosted the models to a degree that wasn’t noticeable until I took the photos – darn you, brighter desk light! – but I put a correcting coat on after I took the pics.

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  • Dungeons and Lasers: The Driud Was Right!

    It’s a fun day when a Kickstarter delivers, isn’t it? Friday afternoon a box appeared at the maw of the Gdaycave, and I was chuffed to find a bunch of floors and walls and stuff from Archon Studio‘s Dungeons & Lasers Kickstarter. This was one of the more fun campaigns I’ve supported, with the updates coming from “Roblin the Goblin”, a devious little trickster in service to Lord Bubo, master of the dungeon. The Kickstarter delivered clip-together components to create a three dimensional dungeon for tabletop roleplaying games, though I confess part of the motivation for me was having a selection of great terrain to use for taking pics of models.

    The stretch goals included some great fantasy and sci-fi components to bring the rooms to life, which will also make for some great scatter terrain or base details for models. Some of the sci-fi elements will be great for my Marvel: Crisis Protocol models, and we’ll see if any find homes on Warcaster models, or perhaps I’ll finally get some 40K assembled.

    The real treasure in the Kickstarter, though, is the Animal Companions Pack – “The Druid Was Right!”.

    A smattering of species, most with both a fantasy and a sci-fi variant, and a few mimics for good measure. Friday night was subsumed in short order by the clipping of components from sprues, and the heady aroma of plastic cement. Now I get to show you the adorable fruits of my labors.

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  • Return to Icewind Dale

    While the world at large is slowly opening up again, the Gdaycave is still on lockdown as we take precautions to prevent pandemic spread and to safeguard those we love and the more vulnerable members of our community. Tabletop miniature gaming and board gaming is a fond memory, but thanks to the wonders of the interwebs I’ve had a lot of fun playing D&D with some friends, introducing them to the wonderful world of Ravenloft. As the only actual gaming I’ve been able to enjoy for months now, I’m sure you can imagine my excitement to hear that the next adventure being released is a return to one of the most famous settings in D&D History: Icewind Dale.

    Throughout my long and storied D&D career I’ve stormed Castle Greyhawk, sweated under the Dark Sun, enjoyed a brew at the Inn of the Last Home. I’ve spotted the Spelljammer, dodged the Red Wizards of Thay, and played in many custom settings. I didn’t have any Oriental Adventures, and Al-Qadim remains a mystery, but as a blossoming nerd in the late 80’s and early 90’s, you can bet your bippy I read R.A.Salvatore’s original Icewind Dale trilogy – The Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver and The Halfling’s Gem. Drizzt, Wulgar and Bruenor are among the most famous fictional characters in D&D Lore, and it all started in a frozen region in the North of Faerun.

    Now, 32 years after Salvatore first set the icy chill in our bones, it’s time to go back.

    In Icewind Dale, adventure is a dish best served cold.

    Beneath the unyielding night sky, you stand before a towering glacier and recite an ancient rhyme, causing a crack to form in the great wall of ice. Beyond this yawning fissure, the Caves of Hunger await. And past this icy dungeon is a secret so old and terrifying that few dare speak of it. The mad wizards of the Arcane Brotherhood long to possess that which the god of winter’s wrath has so coldly preserved—as do you! What fantastic secrets and treasures are entombed in the sunless heart of the glacier, and what will their discovery mean for the denizens of Icewind Dale? Can you save Ten-Towns from the Frostmaiden’s everlasting night?

    We only know a few bits and pieces so far.

    • The campaign will be large enough to level a party from level 1 to 12.
    • NPCs include the Saurial Dragonbait, from Azure Bonds, at least in the intro – A wonderful callback to D&D novel history
    • They’re pre-releasing a series of adventures with novice adventurers playing the part of courier, safeguarding packages aboard the Icebreaker (Here’s a link to the first one)
    • There’s a polar bear with a fishing rod. Playable bear-man race? We’ll find out soon,

    As a DM who’s been introducing new players to D&D, there’s a singular delight in knowing that I may have the opportunity to introduce my players to a corner of Faerun that brought me so much joy back in ye olden times. Of course, I’m still waiting to run a party through White Plume Mountain, so it’s not like I don’t have other things on a checklist of nerding to-do’s, but a return to Icewind Dale would be an amazing thing.


  • D&D: Rolling with your flaws

    This past weekend I tried something new: Running an online game of Dungeons & Dragons. With social distancing being our primary means of combating the spread of COVID-19, many tabletop gamers are finding themselves in the challenging position of having face-to-face gaming opportunities stripped away in the name of social responsibility, and if we want to continue getting our nerd on we need to look into alternative avenues of connecting with our fellow gamers. Thanks to available technology, we’re able to reach out and connect for geek gatherings through platforms like Zoom and Discord, and even older staples like Skype.

    Now, I wear a “World’s Okayest DM” shirt for a reason. I ain’t no Matt Mercer, but under normal circumstances I can run a decent enough game, so I pulled on my big nerd pants after talking with some local pals and agreed to kick tires with two brand new players who’ve never played D&D before, and a third player who hasn’t played since 2nd Edition. Soooo almost two decades ago?

    I gave the players a brief description of what I needed from them in terms of characters so I could start crafting the story, hooked them into a campaign on DnDBeyond, and what happened next was exciting for me as a DM and invigorating for me as a player with a history of RPGs dating back to the 1980’s. The players, with  no real understanding of what makes a “good” PC rules-wise, made characters that just felt interesting to them, warts and all, picked  up their metaphorical swords and shields and stepped into the ring.

    I can’t tell you how refreshingthat is.

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  • GenCon 2019: Critical Role Live

    I’ve been a tabletop gamer since the late 1980’s. I’ve played roleplaying games aplenty. I’ve had characters rise to dizzying heights, I’ve had characters die the most ignominious of deaths. I’ve been mocked and derided for my nerdy passions in years gone by, and while I always knew I was cooler than my high school contemporaries realized, I’m not sure I could have predicted that the wheel would turn to the point where we actively have celebrity roleplayers. This year at GenCon, thanks to Ninja Steve and The Admiral, I was able to partake in one of the most sought after events on the GenCon calendar – the live taping of Critical Role.

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  • Odyssey of the Dragonlords: Interview with James Ohlen and Jesse Sky

    We received an email from our friends at Modiphius to let us know they had an interview to share. Behold, an interview with Odyssey of the Dragonlords ex-Bioware designers James Ohlen and Jesse Sky (Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age: Origins, Baldurs Gate I & II, Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: The Old Republic.)

     

     

    Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

    James Ohlen – I’ve worked in video games for more than two decades and during that time was the lead designer for Baldur’s Gate 1 + 2 and Neverwinter Nights. I’ve also Dungeon Mastered for more than three decades. So I have a great deal of love for Dungeons and Dragons.

    Jesse Sky – I worked at BioWare for 8 years, where I was a lead designer and ultimately the creative director of a few Star Wars: The Old Republic expansions, including Knights of the Fallen Empire. I’ve been building tabletop games and video games as a hobby since I was about 10 years old. One day, I hope to be good at it.

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  • RPG with extra olives: Odyssey of the Dragonlords

    Maybe it’s that I spent several years in high school and university studying Ancient Greece, including the myth and literature of the time, but when I’m chatting with one of the good people at Modiphius and they say “Hey, wanna take a look at what we’re doing with this new setting inspired by Classical Greek mythology and stuff like the Iliad?”, my interest is  piqued. Add to that a stable of writers and creators helmed by BioWare alums James Ohlen and Jesse Sky, and it gets even more interesting.

    As a geek with a long and venerable (or is that sordid?) history of nerdery, I’ve enjoyed RPGs in many settings, from traditional high to low fantasy, sci-fi, dystopia, contemporary, from horror to comedy and most things in between, so it’s always neat to find a setting that offers a different experience. Enter Odyssey of the Dragonlords, currently on Kickstarter and presenting a setting that can be introduced into any existing D&D 5e campaign, or enjoyed on its own.

    We’re going on an adventure!

    Odyssey of the Dragonlords introduces players to Thylea, a world set apart from the usual by a nigh-impenetrable ring of storms. Outsiders are rare, as few survive the passage to Thylea, allowing for a very real “Strangers in a Strange Land” feeling for outsiders. The locals have a history dating back to an era where Titans roamed their world, with storied conflicts between the gods themselves and the eponymous Dragonlords, conflict between the so-called civilized races and the fey, and more.

    Now, after 500 years of peace between being eons old and the peoples of the Forgotten Sea, old treaties are fading, old truces all but dust, and Thylea stands on the brink of cataclysmic conflict.

    This is exacerbated by the fact that while in other settings the gods dwell in the heavens and interact with mortals through their priesthoods, in Thylea the powers that be are quite literally manifest. Thylea herself, the great mother who gives her name to the realm, is physically present as an enormous world-tree. Her titan husband, Kentimane, is the direct source of the barrier that shields their world. Pythor, the god of battle, actually sits on the throne as king of Estoria.

    The gods can be literally bumped into walking the streets, and an insult to the gods or breaking of an oath can quite literally result in your being torn apart by harpies. This is a world where mortals live knowing that the divine are among them and that they have a direct impact on their daily existence, for better or for worse. Does it sound like Ancient Greece yet?

    Enter the heroes.

    Whenever you think of Classical Greek literature (if, indeed, you ever do), no-one remembers Sthenelaidas, few remember Patroclus, but Heracles (Hercules), Achilles, Odysseus (Ulysses)…  these are names carved into the cultural heritage. When we sit down to play any roleplaying game – be it Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Gangbusters or who knows what –  the most common collective goal is to create a story that will be told for years to come, to feel like we’re not only part of some grand, epic adventure, but that we have an active hand in making it so. No-one remembers the tale of Bellerophon Goes To The Shoe Store, but Theseus and the Minotaur? Jason and the Argonauts? Heck, Toronto named their CFL team after that last one.

    Odyssey of the Dragonlords directly addresses this with the introduction of Epic Paths. Every player chooses an Epic Path for their character, something that sets them apart from the hoi polloi beyond simply “I’m an adventurer!”. Each character chooses one of six Epic Paths that add depth and definition to their backstories. Sure, you’re a Dragonborn Ranger, but are you a Demi-god? Is your Epic Path defined by dread portents at your birth? Were you held outside of the passage of time and have now returned to a world completely unknown to you?

    Each Epic Path comes with a personal quest, three goals that you strive to achieve, and should you achieve them you will receive an appropriately heroic reward. The Demi-God example, as shown in the free-to-download Players Guide, sets our aforementioned Dragonborn Ranger on a quest to find their missing mortal parent, to forge a heroic weapon, and to defeat a great foe of their divine parent, who has fallen to great depths, proving that even the gods are not infallible.

    I like it.

    What we end up with is a self-contained setting with enough scope for a full campaign that can also be implanted into any existing setting that has an ocean that can hold the Forgotten Sea somewhere within it (sorry, Dark Sun fans). A setting that presents a very atypical divine presence inspired directly by the core of Greek myth, with a selection of new creature encounters to match, and yes, you can play a Centaur or a Satyr (first person to name their faun “Mr Tumnus” gets a stern look). A setting that has a very different feel to the typical fantastic settings you find in fantastic RPGs, while at the same time being incredibly familiar with major elements being rooted in the core of Western storytelling tradition.

    It all lends itself to a project that has the hallmarks of being a damn good time. Odyssey of the Dragonlords is currently up on Kickstarter, and has already funded, with PDF rewards being set to deliver in July, and physical rewards later in the year in September. If you’re looking for something new for 5e, or if you’ve just been enjoying Assassin’ Creed: Odyssey and wish you had a way to get that feeling on the tabletop with your friends, this may be the project for you…

     


  • Dungeons & Doggies: Fey

    In which Gdaybloke painted one of the Dungeons & Doggies models,and spins a little yarn about them.

    Fey

    Fey slipped through the tangle of legs that covered the agora with ease, a wisp neither felt nor heard by the people that went about their business. It was one of the perks of being small. If one of the humans had looked down, they might have seen a flash of light brown and blue, but what Fey lacked in stature, he made up for in speed and nimbleness. A ghost glimpsed out of the corner of the eye, darting under carts and tables before erupting in the open only to vanish into the crowd once more.

    It hasn’t always been this way. Life had certainly been easier before the Good Mother had awoken his senses. Days had been full of lounging in the sun, meaty treats, skritched ears and belly rubs. Now there was danger around every corner, evil to be countered, innocents to defend, and above all the Knowing. Before, Fey had not known. Now, Fey was aware of so much more.

    Fey had been in a glorious barking match with a squirrel – who may or may not have known that it was in a barking match – when the Good Mother had opened his eyes and his mind. The Master was not in the home, and there was an unwelcome presence. Fey’s expanding awareness abruptly ended the barking match – the squirrel would get his another time – and there was silence upstairs where there should have been the cooing of the nursemaid and the soft sounds of the infant.

    Darting up the stairs faster than he had ever ran before, Fey charged at the door to the nursery. As he closed, his vision blurred around the edges and fractal lines suddenly appeared, spiraling around a single point near the hinge. Fey’s forepaws thrummed as he lunged at that point, somehow sensing a weakness in the door’s structure. Paws landed with a force that logic – a concept heretofore unkown to Fey – would deem impossible from such a small creature, and the door splintered at the point of impact, twisting away from the frame and breaking into fragments Fey’s form suddenly appeared in the room.

    The tableau before him would have confused a canine mind, but the Good Mother had granted clarity and understanding. The nursemaid lay in a pool of blood and a dark figure stood over the crib. A sound issued from Fey’s throat, wrapped in anger and horror and unpleasantry and the promise of what was to come next.

    “Assassin…”

    The figure had paused as the door had exploded into the room, and its eyes widened as it tried to reconcile human speech issuing from a lapdog. Fey hadn’t paused at all. In an instant he crossed the floor and launched into the assassin’s leg, rewarded with a satisfying crack as the killer’s knee snapped backward. The human dropped the blade it had been holding and cried out, scrabbling back toward the window it had entered through. Fey pressed the attack, leaping the adjacent wall and bounding back into the chest of the assassin, shoving him backward through the window. The killer spun in the air before coming to an abrupt halt on the stone wall below, an audible crack echoing as its spine bent in a way it was never intended. The assassin ceased all movement.

    That first life saved had led Fey away from the life of comfort and into a life of, well, adventure. Fey did not care for the concept of heroism, but be believed in protecting those unable to protect themselves. His companions were all larger than he, heck, they all had opposable thumbs, but the Good Mother had led  him to the monastery all those years ago, and he had learned, and his companions knew that Fey had no master but himself, and that size was not an indicator of potential.

    Finally breaking free from the marketplace throng, Fey darted down the unpaved street toward the Western gate. His companions waited in forest beyond, and his mission had been a success. The Vizier would later regret ignoring the small dog that had been laying in the sun in the garden, while he secretly met with his conspirators…


  • Dungeons and Doggies

    Every once in awhile a kickstarter comes along that, frankly, is just plain silly… but that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome in its own whimsical way. The Baby Bestiaries come to mind, a stunningly beautiful resource for anyone who’s ever wanted to raise an infant Umber Hulk, and then there’s the box that arrived late last week, full of canine characters. Are they simply fun painting projects? Are they going to appear in the biweekly Salty Tales D&D adventures in the Gdaycave? Time will tell…

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  • Salty Tales: Out with the Old, In with the New, then out with the New, and in with the Newer

    Introducing new characters into an existing narrative can be a real bugbear. I’ve commented in the past on Privateer’s smooth handling of new introductions into the Iron Kingdoms – Why yes, this character or faction has existed for years, but they’re only now coming to your attention because… – and I can’t help but tip  my hat to how smoothly the writers can insert a new warcaster or whatnot as if they’d been there all along, generally without needing to rely on tropes or rehashing the same concept. Recently in my D&D Group – Salty Tales – I was challenged with something similar, albeit nowhere on the same scale.

    The Salty Tales crew were originally Skagen, Alastor, Lia and Tarryc – SALT, get it? – but after the events of the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, inserted into Storm King’s Thunder to get the characters to a level where they could advance – Alastor’s player wanted to change his character.  It was also time for Tarryc to be retired from the party, given that he was a DM-run NPC whose purpose was to help guide the party if the players – all pretty much new to D&D – until such time as they no longer needed their hands held. So, being the benevolent Dungeon Master that I am, the stars aligned and a plan was devised.

    Alastor had been bitten by a werejaguar in the shrine and had, unbeknownst to the party at large, contracted lycanthropy. Their first night back in Amphail was a full moon. Skagen and Lia, both elves, rested and then went to explore the town in the wee hours, only to return to inn to the sounds of conflict, a small explosion, and a figure being thrown through an upstairs window, followed by an assailant leaping after it. The defenestrated figure was Tarryc, being heartily disemboweled by a humanoid cat-monster of sorts. The elves intervened and slew the creature, only to see its corpse morph back into the familiar shape of the tiefling Alastor, and poor Tarryc having died of his wounds.

    Side note: The shock and horror on Skagen and Lia’s player’s faces was pretty damn amazing. Alastor’s player was at least partially in the loop and had realized what was attacking Tarryc shortly after it began, but still…

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