30 August, 2010

Well, this Friday we had 5 players and a DM, so good to go. Bevis is leaving us and this was his last week playing, so it was nice to finish on a high note – we have completed module 1.

I have finally made some progress remembering the character names. Morgan’s witch is Morgana, Brett’s ranger is Rainor, my Rogue/Wizard is “Switch”. Andrew’s cavalier is some german-sounding thing, and Bevis’ paladin … a complete blank. I’ll get there.


Exciting news! We have found this “Stag Lord” villain and defeated him!

Last I wrote, we had dispatched that enormous boar that was being a problem for the locals. We were killing time, really, waiting for our purchases to arrive at Oleg’s. Since there was a bounty on the board head and we had been exploring for a week or so, we decided to head back, collect the bounty and our purchases.

Our gear had arrived – mine was a second-hand wand of Mage Armour (I use it all the time, and I can only memorise a few spells at a time) and a couple of scrolls which I transcribed into my book. The reward for the boar head was some magical arrows enchanted to kill animals [bane animal]. These would turn out to be pivotal, so thank Desna we decided to deal with that boar.

We idled a couple of days – I wrote a few more scrolls – and then we decided that there was really nothing for it but to deal with this “Stag Lord” head on. Our ex-bandit sergeant gave us excellent directions to his fort. We decided to pose as commoners with a wagon on the way in hopes of being attacked so we could get today’s password. It worked nicely. We were attacked and killed all but one of them, who Morgana blinded (permanently I think). A nasty spell – frankly, I think there is a little moral ambiguity there [Morgan’s characters always turn out to be a little, well, CE]. Anyway, we promised him that the blindness was temporary and we’d cure it in exchange for information, which think we are not able to do. Anyway, he told us a password (which we never used, in the end) and that was that.

We saw the fort from a way off. It is, well, a fort. Log palisade, stone walls, on a hill overlooking a lake whose name escapes me. The sort of thing you’d expect. We noticed that the guards at the back were quite lax, so we thought we’d head in the back way. Rainor and I would sneak in, “gakk” the guards, then hoist the rest of the party over the wall.

It went – well really about as badly as it could possibly go. Heading over the ground to the back wall, the only warning we got was an uncanny feeling, and then these zombies came up out of the ground and attacked us – nicely explaining the laxity of the guards. I stabbed one of them but got mobbed and was knocked unconscious for a moment [-3. Had to use a hero point to stabilize.]. The rest of the party were watching from a ways off and they abandoned stealth and ran in to help. There was a fight – the zombies actually started pulling us underground. I was barely able to do anything – fumbling around for one of my potions of healing, while the guards at the fort jeered us and shot some arrows. Eventually I managed to quaff a potion and get up. I used my trusty Colour Spray spell, but these things were mindless and it had no effect whatsoever. We got out, eventually, away from the dead things, but we had been discovered and so we decided to just go the frontal assault in the morning.

We prepped. We decided that the simplest way to deal with things was to enlarge our two fighters and have them lift us over the palisade. I opted to use a potion of invisibility – those zombies gave me a scare and I think I’ve learned my lesson about not fighting hand-to-hand. Anyway. There was some arrow fire and the fighters decided simply to shoulder-charge the gate. It worked: after a couple of moments the thing burst open and we were in.

I slipped inside. Really, I felt pretty useless – I’m dividing my attention between magic and other things, and it’s not working out very well. If I attacked anyone then my invisibility would cease, but there was nothing for it: I cast a shield spell on top of the mage armour and then used my wand of grease on a couple of archers up on the wall. And it did nothing. There was this fighter inside who it seems was a paladin of Erastil who had not kept his tithes up, or something. He and our paladin had a little exchange, and he joined our side – his medallion thingy changed from being a dull lead colour to all shiny. Divine magic is like that.

Anyway. The Stag Lord himself was watching the combat from the upper floor of the fort and firing some sort of arrows that made this enormous screaming noise – rather unsettling (a magical fear effect, I believe). Then he dashed off out of sight. I moved around to see what he was up to and he was headed to some lever in the wall. I decided this was probably a bad thing, so I greased the lever. But it was no use: he got it open after a few moments.

The lever opened a wall in the lower floor, and a huge (and hungry and angry) bear came out. Our new paladin friend ran at it sort of to protect me, which was sweet of him I suppose, and this bear opened him up a treat. However, Rainor and I both had these arrows of animal slaying, and we both scored hits. The bear went down and it’s just as well.

Meanwhile, all sorts of things had been going on. Our regular paladin had fallen (just around the corner), and I told the new paladin so – kind of as a test. He rushed in to help, and I decided to head upstairs. My spells weren’t doing anything, but I have my bow. The fort is a semi-ruin, most of the upstairs floor is missing, which was good – it meant I could keep my distance and shoot. I’d get shot at, of course, but I was swaddled in protective spells. Well: I shot terribly [rolled a 5, a 3, and a 5] and accomplished nothing. The rest of the party had dealt with everyone on the ground (I think at least one of them was permanently blinded) and began to come upstairs. As they did, this other person broke cover and attacked – I think he might have been one of the other bounties on those wanted posters. I forget what happened, he got away for the moment and disappeared or something.

Anyway, most of the minions got killed and finally we were dealing with just the Stag Lord and his offsider. They retreated down into a ruined room and we all piled on. The two of them had one of our party flanked at one point, which would have been bad news, but I stunned one of them with a colour spray and he dropped his rapier and I got it (a nice weapon – I might use it). After a moment or two, these final two were dead, and suddenly everything was quiet, save for a lone “Gakk!” sound from the archery tower as Morgana dealt with the final bandit.

Anyway. What to do now? We can’t just leave this fort vacant – some other bandits will grab it. It’s ruined, but fixable, so perhaps we should base ourselves here for a while. More immediately, the ground outside is infested with undead and needs to be cleansed. Our paladin and his new friend might be able to help there, and there’s that temple that we fixed up – maybe some priests might care to take up residence now that we have dealt with the worst of the banditry, and they can deal with the dead things.

Arguably I’ve fulfilled my obligations here, but I don’t know that they’d be happy to see me back home just yet, so I will continue on with these for a while. I’d like to be more useful, though. Speaking of which, could you possibly be a dear and have Arithel do me one of those hunter’s cloaks? You know his are the best, and I can afford one now. I can arrange to send trader’s credits, I think. I’ll have to check.

Your sister in exile

Well, not finished yet – we have the undead, and possibly a basement in this fort. Dave has asked us to keep our character sheets as they are for the moment so there’s a hint. I’m not happy with Selrynn, but it’s possible she’ll come good once I start prestiging her as an Arcane Trickster at 7th level. I just don’t know how to play a Rogue, I suspect, so I should stick with it. What shall I level up for 4th level? Rogue or Wizard? Probably Wizard – keep things in sync.

And farewell Bevis, may your eyrie receive you at journey’s end and all that. Safe travels.

Proving Grounds – “Requiem” (Matt)

25 August, 2010

This week’s game did not proceed, owing to most of the players being too soft to turn up. Still, it meant I finally got around to building my striker – a “Brutal Scoundrel” half-orc rogue named Scrag.

Scrag is not a nice man, and has for many years now made a living killing things. Monsters? Yeah, sure. And also people. But he is unaligned and so does have a few standards: no use of indiscriminate methods – arson, poisoning the wells – that sort of thing. No kids. No civilians.

Of course, “civilian”is interpreted narrowly. Man carrying a club to protect himself and family: civilian. Man carrying club because someone is paying him to do it: Not a civilian. Honest businessman: civilian. Honest businessman who borrows money from the mob and thinks he doesn’t have to pay it back: not a civilian. Member of the aristocracy, anyone with voting rights in the chamber of commerce, anyone rich enough to have bodyguards: not a civilian either.

Mechanically, Scrag is simply a striker who does melee damage. Since we know we are going to hell (or something like it), he has equipped himself with a +6 radiant dagger – a 30th level item. He is wearing Counterstrike leather armour +6 (30th level), and Boots of Telepotation (28th level). The rest of his items (up to the value of a single 29th level item) are get-out-of-trouble-free buffs, movement stuff, and general buffs: armbands of power, trickster’s mask, couple of potions.

I bought a blesing from Sehanie – the Mark of the Dark Moon: “If a creature cannot see you, you take half damage (etc)”. Combine this with the Hide in Plain Sight encounter power: “you must be hidden to use this power – you go invisible and stay invisible untl you leave your current space. No other action that you perform makes you visible.”

Ok. Stealth has been completely errataed due to the PHB being ambiguous. The rules seem to be:

At the end of a move action, you do stealth vs passive perception (reduces the amount of die rolling). You need to have superior cover or total concelament or be outside the enemy’s line of sight. An enemy can also make an active perception check to try to see you as a minor action (errata).

Once you are hidden, you can stay hidden with partial cover or concealment. You cannot use another creature as cover.

If you take an action that causes you not to remain hidden, you retain the benefits of being hidden until you resolve the action. You cannot become hidden as part of that same action.

Ok, so if you break cover, then at the end of the move action you are no longer hidden. You can’t make a stealth check as part of that move, although you can always take another move and do so.

Now: Scrag’s use of stealth is changed by various at-will powers.

First: Fleeting Ghost. “Effect: You can move your speed and make a Stealth check. You do not take the normal penalty from movement on this check.”. This seems to indicated that you can make a stealth check without having to end your move in a square that provides cover/concealment, and also seems to indicate that you can do so even if you break cover as part of that move. It’s a power, not a regular move. This … reading of the power seems altogether broken, I think I’ll ask Wizards.

Next: Shadow Stride. “Effect: You must be hidden to use this power. You can move your speed and must end your movement in a space where you can remain hidden. Then make a Stealth check with no penalty for moving. If the check succeeds, you remain hidden during the movement, even if you have no cover or concealment during it.”

Now … that seems to contradict “you retain the benefits of being hidden until you resolve the action”. Doesn’t that mean that you ordinarily remain hidden?

Anyway. This next one’s a doozy: Chameleon “Trigger: You are hidden and lose cover or concealment against an enemy. Effect: Make a Stealth check. You remain hidden from the triggering enemy if your check beats its passive Perception check. Until the end of your next turn, you can remain hidden without needing any cover or concealment.”

So it seems that you can hide, sneak right up next to an enemy, and stay hidden for so long as you can beet its passive perception. Gravy!

But I do need to ask Wizards about Fleeting Ghost.


18 August, 2010

My turn to DM this week. We opted to skip a couple of levels and to the level 6 delve with level 5 characters. I sent the players this to prep them:


Delve on Monday. A serpent cult has been harassing a nearby town. The PCs have gone into the swamp to root out the evil.

Players, please prepare 5th level characters with the character generator. Equip your characters with one 4th, one 5th, and one 6th-level item. You may, of course, choose a lower level item. Take whatever mundane equipment you think makes sense. Finally, give yourself 840gp and purchase anything else you wish.

The players prepared an all-dwarf party, for teh lulz.

As with all the delves, the mini-adventure was three encounters.

  1. Melee with 3 fighters and minions. Difficult terrain.
  2. Two constrictor snakes and two flame snakes
  3. It doesn’t matter, owing to the TPK in #2.

Yes, TPK. The party was underpowered, but crucially lacked any will or reflex attacks. The Constrictor snakes had AC and Fort of 25, and the party had trouble hitting them. They also did a punishing amount of damage, and my dice were hot: I hadn’t used these particular dice for a while and they had a whole backlog of 16s and 18s they needed to clear. When it became plain that the party was not going to make it, I did not scale back the encounter – primarily because one of our players (not that I would mention Jamie’s name or anything) was visibly wilting by 9:30.

As a DM, my main faults on the night were first: I dozed off in a chair waiting for people to arrive, and didn’t let them know where I was, so there was a bit of sitting at the table waiting for the DM to show up.

More importantly, I assigned individual initiative for each opponent in the first combat. This was a mistake and slowed down the start of play: there’s no point assigning individual initiative to 7 opponents when there are 4 PCs. Furthermore, as always I get flustered when there’s too much happenning. I should have divided them up into two groups of two minions and a fighter, and the final fighter by himself operating the door lever.

At the end of the night, I suggested that I should do a “Proving Ground” and swap out my next delve with someone who wants to DM but is not ready to write an adventure.

Looking forward to Matt’s “Requiem” game. Havent played a striker before, so a 30th-level monk should be … interesting.

Guild of the Golden Scorpion

18 August, 2010

I was off last week with family, so this account skips a week of play.

I have not been keeping this journal as up-to-date as I should, and the events of more than a few days ago are not worth detailing. Suffice to say: we have a commission to enter a certain ruin and retrieve some books. Accompanying us are a brace of dwarves, one being the engineer from Passage who, despite events, had become much inspired to take up the adventuring life. They had been to this ruin before and will recognise these books.

The ruin is open to the sky. Entering it, we were assailed by skeletons – one or two ordinary ones (how strange, to call an animated skeleton “ordinary”!) and ones filled with fire, which they would collect into a ball of flame and hurl. There was also a skeletal hound which radiated an aura of palpable evil. The fight was difficult, but none of us fell. We could only hope, however, that the foes further in would not be more difficult.

Such was not to be the case.

Jamie quickly nerfed this encounter, or else we would have had fatalities. Each pillar was supposed to be close blast 3. Instead, he had one blast which only hit the area between the pillars.

Towards the back of the structure was a room with four pillars. When we advanced towards it, it fired a blast of fire at us doing considerable harm. But this was not the greatest peril, for the area was inhabited by a spirit which possessed one of us and compelled him to stand in the middle of the four pillars. For some reason, the blasts from that point on did not target outside the inner area, and without that compulsion we could simply have ignored the area altogether. As it was, some of us tried to attack the spirit, which we could do when the person it possessed managed to free themselves of it’s malign influence, some of us attempted to deal with the pillars.

It transpired that the pillars were not magical, but mechanical. Still, none of us knows much of such things saving our wizard. She dealt with the pillars, while those of us not at battle inside the square assisted as best we could. The spirit, defeated, seemed to flee to a stone throne positioned at the end of the chamber, and I and another tore it apart in an attempt to find some sort of lever to deactivate the pillars.

Eventually, when our wizard had our wizard disabled two of the three functioning pillars (the fourth was rubble), we found behind the throne was a body, a corpse never given its proper last rites. We decided that no doubt the spirit that haunted this place was tied here somehow byt this body, and so we opted to cremate it. The spirit departed, and some of us maintain that they saw it ascend. But I believe it not – if indeed it lured others here to die in the trap that slew it, then that was an evil thing to do.

In any case, the last pillar disabled, we took stock. In the corner of the room lies a trapdoor, and our quest takes us below. Tomorrow. We will set up camp at some little distance and face whatever dangers lie below freshly rested and prepared.


18 August, 2010

It’s been a busy week or so. We have been exploring the area, as doing this is part of our mission here and also because we don’t feel quite up to dealing with this “Stag Lord” person. There’s also the fact that there are other bounties to collect, now that the Kobolds are pacified.

We recovered some sort of idol thingy in the mite lair and intended to trade it with the kobolds for Hilda’s (?) wedding ring. We arranged a meeting. we had a couple of days and did some exploring, uncovering a cache of loot and a very nice spellbook.

At the meeting the chief, who we had met before, was there and also a shaman/priest thingy. Negotiations were off to a tricky start – the shaman spoke common, but the chief did not – so it was all at cross purposes. Our paladin was very sure that the shaman was “a bad egg”, as he put it. And pandemonium broke out when we dragged out the idol – both the chief and the shaman insisting we give it to them, while all the other kobolds cowered.

Well, we went with the paladin’s feelings on the matter and gave the idol to the chief, who immediately smashed it. A fight broke out, of course, and since we had made our decision we decided not to hold back – stacks on the shaman. He went invisible and tried to sneak away, but the paladin could sense roughly where he was. We all attacked – including the chief – and killed him. The chief cut his head off and displayed it to much rejoicing from the other kobolds. “There shall be trade, there shall be peace!”, he declared, which was very gratifying. Wise, too, because we would certainly have had to wipe them out otherwise. Not an idiot, that chief.

Turns out that most of the bad will between the kobolds and the humans was down to the shaman. And: it turns out he was an arcane caster, a wizard! His spellbook holds a few spells beyond my ability to cast – cause fear, illusions, the sort of thing you’d rely on to cow a kobold tribe. I transcribed Major Image and Minor image, and some others – a very nice find. My spellbook is not full yet, but it’s beginning to look respectable. I’m not studying magic as much as I should – spending too much time working out what to do with this dagger. But I’ll get there, even if the greater magics remain beyond me.

The kobolds were very, very grateful and showered loot on us. We took a delgation back to Oleg’s to normalize relations, and they’ll sort out a trade language eventually.

This week we had a couple of players away, so we decided to explore some hexes on the overland map.

There were a couple of bounties – one for a particularly large boar, and one for the capture of some sort of fabulous beast – which would probably be somewhere near a river in woodland. So we systematically searched the woods to the southwest of Oleg’s , particularly around the rivers, and eventually found what was unmistakably a pig run.

We set some traps and retreated to some distance away. Our witch girl left her familiar in a tree as a sentry. That afternoon, we were alerted – the boar had come home and was not at all happy about the traps, which had done very, very little but upset him. We approached the lair, but the fight was over very quickly. Our halberdieer set his spear and the boar charged, impaling itself, and then the paladin rode by and lanced it. It was quite quick and humane.

Still looking or that worm thing or whatever it is. I’ll post this when we return to Oleg’s.

Your sister-in exile,

The cobbler’s tale

12 August, 2010

There once was a prosperous town on the fertile banks of an abundant river. It was full of people plying various trades. Over the years, the people had found barter inconvenient and they had arrived at a brilliant plan. The various tradesmen would issue IOUs, and these IOUs became tradeable. Thus, one might buy a pound of fresh fish with an IOU good for a haircut and shave by the barber. This system worked well, mostly.

The Cobbler’s Tale

The Cobbler was a far-sighted and prudent Man. He worried, although not to excess, about how he should live when he became too old to cobble, or about what would happen should he fall ill. Then one Day, he invented a cunning Plan: he would save his IOUs! Every Week, he would write an IOU to the Value of nine percent of his Turnover for the Week, of which he kept meticulous Track. These IOUs he would put into a Lockbox hidden under his Home.

As he aged, he decided that at his Threescore and Ten he would hang up his Tools and work no more. The great Day came, and he celebrated with Friends and Family. Some of them were concerned, and thought that this Notion of “Retirement” was foolish. How would he live? But the old Cobbler tapped his Nose and smiled.

After the party, the Cobbler opened his Lockbox and counted the IOUs with Contentment and Happiness. These would sustain him for many Years, well into his Old Age if husbanded wisely.

Now then: what do you suppose happened to the cobbler, the very first time he attempted to buy bread with one of his oh-so-carefully hoarded IOUs?

The Inkeeper and the Smith

The Inkeeper had much the same Plan as the Cobbler. However, he had a large Family and his Sons maintained the family Business as he moved on into his Dotage. They loved the Old Man and gladly kept him, happily redeeming his old IOUs. In Truth, it was no Burden to do so, for his Habits were modest and frugal. The Inkeeper would always boast about how he had wisely provided for his Old Age, by saving his IOUs. His Sons would merely smile.

Happier he, than the Smith. The Smith was a coarse Man who beat his Children and their dear Mother. His sons devised a cunning Plan, for the Smith had always issued IOUs good for “a complete Shoeing”. His sons decided that these IOUs were only good for a complete Shoeing of one Hoof, and suddenly the Smith found that his Savings were only worth a Quarter of what he had saved. Thrown out of home, he died of Hypothermia one Winter, mumbling that Inflation had eaten into the value of his Savings.

Now then: what value had the IOUs of the Smith and the Innkeep?

The Milliner

The Milliner lived extravagantly, well beyond his Means. He loved fine Clothes and expensive Food in excess. But he had invented a brilliant Plan. He would issue IOUs for “the fitting of an Hat” of more than the Value of the Things he purchased, but these IOUs were marked as being redeemable at some point in the Future.

Of course, the Future always comes around eventually. Sometimes the Milliner would redeem the Value of the IOUs presented to him. At other times, he would offer another IOU worth even more, redeemable later on. People would often accept these, for the Milliner had a fine Family, greater even than the Innkeep’s, and they were confident that the Certificates were good.

Eventually the Milliner died of Gout (a nasty way to go) and his IOUs began to come due. His sons were in a Quandary, for they lived every bit as extravagantly as their father, and by much the same Means. They could not simply refuse to redeem their father’s Certificates – who would accept theirs if they did? And so eventually they struck a Bargain with their most important Creditors, whereby the IOUs would be forgiven in exchange for a share of the Value of the House in which they lived.

Now then: where do you suppose the Milliner’s grandchildren lived? Who do you suppose they worked for? And do you suppose that his other creditors ever got their hats?

So what am I saying? This American model, where retirement funds are paid for by a nation purchasing its own securities, is transparently ludicrous. A nation’s currency is only ever worth the nation’s assets – more or less.

The price of bread is the amount of money that people want to spend on it, divided by the amount of bread that there is. If all the bakers retire, the price of bread goes up because no-one wants to make it anymore. As the baby-boomers hit 65, either inflation will raise the cost of living, investments will somehow disappear (they were only ever numbers on paper, anyway) or laws will be finagled so that people cannot get at their “savings” until more of the aged cohort are dead. No mater what happens, if people want more bread than the younger cohort can produce, then the bakers will be forced out of retirment one way or another. Bread don’t bake itself.

At the end of the day, if a person is no longer working, someone else must bake their bread for them if they are to eat.

To put it another way – once an entity is the size of a nation, currency is no longer a store of value. It’s a fiction, whose fictitiousness becomes overt once you have a social security “lockbox” than in theory has two trillion dollars in it. You cannot save by holding claims against your own future effort – only by holding claims against someone else’s. When a whole society tries to do it, it won’t work. Retirement “savings” are a chimera, and a society that tries to save it’s own currency for the future will find that the effort is doomed, because currency is only worth what you can buy with it at the time you are trying to spend it.

The Australian system is no different – just a little sneakier. The fact that it’s all done through private returement funds (“superannuation”) doesn’t actually change the situation. It will just alter the mode by which it fails, come the day that it does.

Super is a generational scam. The only thing that makes sense is to discard the broken “superannuation” model and return to the idea that the young and fit should support the old and infirm by way of outright allocations of money – what used to be called social security – and without the middlemen of the financial services industries.

It’ll never happen, of course, any more than my idea that legal costs should be paid for by a medicare-like mechanism (it is as outrageous that the poor go to gaol for want of money as it is that they sicken and die from it). I don’t worry about what the future might be like. I’m pretty certain.

Proving Grounds – Chris

11 August, 2010

This week’s proving grounds was Chris’. The scenario was that someone in our party had gone seriously bad, and had invited us to his lair – bwahaha! We were there to rescue him from teh evil, probably by destroying him in order to save him. We had a balanced level 10 four-player party: paladin, ranger, cleric and warlock.

It was a three-encounter mini-adventure. We arrived in a clearing in a forest, next to a foggy ravine-type thing. Entering the ravine, there were a couple of undead and a trap that gave us a great deal of difficulty because we were short a rogue. Up above the ravine was a building, and some miscellaneous undead-y things. The final room was a brain-in-a-jar (psychic attacks and pushback effects), a swarm that radiated a zone of cold, and a demon thing that went insubstantial and possessed PCs. Tricky.

(I’ve written a fair bit that sounds negative – I hope that it’s understood that I’m trying to draw lessons here, and not just having a go at Chris)

Chris went to a lot of effort to make his proving ground effort feel like an episode in a larger campaign, rather than a stand-alone excuse for a game. In general, this was really great, It did indeed feel like we were in an ongoing campaign, and I did appreciate it. However, he did fall foul of one pitfall that I encountered while running Age of Worms: the players are not there to sit and listen to you read out blocks of colour text. Not unless you are Morgan Freeman. It’s hard, because the background text is part of what you do to write your adventure. When you turn a phrase and are pleased with the result, you want people to read it. But reading it out at the table is no the way to go, unless you are one hell of a storyteller.

And it’s an easy whoopsie to fall afoul of. In “The Library of Last Resort” – a professionally authored adventure, I was expected to read this colour text to my players to set up the adventure. Um … no. Not a good idea. The trick – and it’s not an easy trick to pull off – is show, don’t tell. Handouts are your friend. Perhaps give each payer some info and let them play it out. Use a published campaign setting. Or just mail out the background to the players a few days prior. But do something other than read blocks of text out to your players on game night. They won’t listen. Not if I’m one of ’em, anyway – I tend to switch off (ADD: a blessing and a curse). Put your carefully-crafted background into your blog: that’s what it’s for, or pull a Feist and make your campaign into a book.

    Lessons learned:

  • show, don’t tell. Play, don’t read.
  • Story matters. It is possible to create atmosphere even in a one-off game, and it’s worth it.
  • Don’t ask me how, though. I don’t know either.

I have to say, I am not a fan of dungeon tiles. We had a couple of difficulties with them on the night. Chris laid out the whole area up front, and it kind of takes the magic out, you know? If you use tiles, I think that you need to pre-plan what you are doing, and make notes. I imagine that the most efficient way to do this would be to lay out your tiles, label them with post-it notes so you know which one goes where and draw yourself a tile map (or just take a photo), and pick the tiles up and stack ’em in the order that the players are liable to see them.

They do look good, though.

The other issue was that Chris used the tiles he had – always a problem with tiles. So the “ravine” was done with cave tiles. Unfortunately, the tiles

  • Looked like a cave, not a ravine
  • had blacked-out areas that were columns
  • were difficult to interpret in 3-d. It didn’t look like a central depression with higher ground around it

The blacked-out areas were a particular problem, as we interpreted them as what they looked like – cave columns. Odd terrain needs to be described in crunch terms, and it’s fairly efficient. What Chris meant was “The black areas are areas of particularly dense fog. They are difficult terrain and provide concealment.” But it all got a little confused. I blame the tiles, which he had to pick out of the box at the store.

    Lessons learned:

  • Tiles are not a substitute for planning out your map, they are just a different means of drawing it.
  • Describe terrain crunch clearly, in metagame terms, and don’t dwell on it.

The trap. God, the trap. It did necrotic and fire. Disabling it was a skill challenge, but we didn’t get that. So we ran around in circles getting blasted and trying to describe what we were doing.

Unfortunately, 4th-ed is not a freeform storytelling game and it lends itself to metagaming. It’s unavoidable, but not bad in itself – the problem is the abuse of metagame info. But the game is all about understanding that “the black squares provide partial concealment, -2 to hit etc etc” while at the same time playing out the story “Redegar sighted the enemy through the thick pall of unnatural fog: a tricky shot, but his skill was a match for it”. So, the game runs rather more smoothly when the players understand that a skill challenge is a skill challenge: it doesn’t ruin the game if everyone knows this, just so long as that knowledge is downplayed. You know: we pretend. It’s a role-playing game, after all.

Skill challenges are announced with little verbal clues. The issue on the night was the players, or maybe the group. We don’t do skill challenges that much. Chris said “you realise that the pipe is connected to the blasts”, but we didn’t get that he was telling us that we had had a skill-challenge success. When the players are that dense, I suppose the thing to do is to just explicitly say, “Ok, that counts as a success”.

One of us threw a handy corpse over the pipe. Chris was a bit lost, I think, and that’s – well, I don’t know that I would have handled it any better. Dealing with curveballs from the players is what the job is all about.

In retrospect, sitting here with all the time in the world to think about it, the way to go about it would have been to say “ok, the fire from the pipe starts blasting away at the corpse, but you have a moment or two before it does (1d4 rounds before the corpse is burned/rotted away). When one of us said “I’ll stuff a rock into the pipe”, the way to go would be to say “Ok: thievery or dungeoneering” and to count the result as a skill challenge success or failure.

It comes down to experience, for which there is no substitute. The game system can be made to accommodate this sort of thing. And at the end of the day, it’s fair enough that this particular party had awful problems with a trap: we didn’t pack a rogue.

    Lessons learned:

  • players need metagame info to be able to play
  • skill challenges: yeah, ok. A simple check is like a challenge of one, so it’s not a completely new thing.

I don’t think we played especially well. In particular, we didn’t concentrate our fire. We also didn’t coordinate our powers all that well but that was partly down to them being fast-generated characters that we weren’t familiar with.

Chris picked a variety of undead monsters at level that didn’t really seem to have a theme. I feel like he just wanted to try out some stuff. The four monsters in the second encounter seemed like four undead picked kind of at random. Mind you – he did better than I would have at running them: I tend to get overwhelmed by detail, and spazz out. Chris is Mr Cool. The monsters didn’t really work together as a team, I think, which maybe is why we beat them anyway.

The final issue is that we blitzed the final encounter because we knew that the adventure would be three encounters long and we held back our dailies to pop them at the end. In other words: we metagamed in a bad way. Don’t know what’s to be done about that.

    Lessons learned:

  • story is important when picking your monsters
  • minions are good
  • kinda hard to not metagame when it’s a strict format. Meh. Whadayagunnado?