log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 4E Running player commentary on PCat's 4E Campaign - Heroic tier (finished)

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Maybe not rules correct, but this is how I've always played it too, treating everyone else as "blind" in re: the invisible person. Makes it a lot easier to get off those stealth checks.
Done. We'll use this as a house rule.

Both problems last game were pretty much my responsibility:

- During a character sheet transition between levels, Strontium's divinatory orb from the ghoul chapel had fallen off his character sheet. Since Strontium is played by KidCthulhu, my wife, I'm typically the one who updates the sheets. I felt a little silly when the group was hunting for the Riverlimbs and I had to say "I think there's something that should be on your sheet and isn't." That's better than the alternative, though.

- Well, hell. Of course the ritual used by Lord Tomberlin, which destroyed all paper in the house, would affect the PCs' ritual books. I wish I'd thought of that first, though. My intent hadn't been to screw them over with something they couldn't foresee.

Some other comments:

- The house rule "describe your attack to gain +1 accuracy" has been a massive success. Not everyone uses it every round, but enough people do to make it really fun. Gilran and Bramble in particular are adding vibrant detail I hadn't been picturing.. and Caldwell's description of his new healing utility is inspired.

I've been giving the expertise feat for free, usually reducing the monsters' defenses by 1. At Paragon level, when I would normally reduce defenses by 2 to simulate how the expertise feat scales, I'll probably be just reducing them 1 and letting the description/accuracy bonus pick up the slack. Unless.. hmm. I could leave defenses alone and just give a +2 bonus to hit on a well-described attack. The math works out the same, I have to do less work, and there's a bigger incentive to think cinematically. Worth considering.

- When the group was forcing Lord Tomberlin's confession and telling his story to the townsfolk, their diplomacy score was through the room. 35, I think? As Elizabeth Bathory could tell you, that sort of a story gathers momentum.

Now, only three more sessions to Paragon Tier. Time to up my game.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Blood Jester

First Post
...I could leave defenses alone and just give a +2 bonus to hit on a well-described attack. The math works out the same, I have to do less work, and there's a bigger incentive to think cinematically. Worth considering...

Or you could just give us all the Expertise feat for free, simplifying math and keeping the numbers more static, which is easier on everyone.

Or do you really want want me getting more "cinematic" when Magnus finds himself unclothed? :angel:
 

KidCthulhu

First Post
- During a character sheet transition between levels, Strontium's divinatory orb from the ghoul chapel had fallen off his character sheet. Since Strontium is played by KidCthulhu, my wife, I'm typically the one who updates the sheets.

And I say once again, "Thank you, honey". Not to start an 4e flame, but I don't care for the system much, and the fact that you're willing to take the character updating off my hands goes a long way to making me happy to keep playing it.

That, and well, I'd run in a Spawn of Fashawn game if you ran it. Maybe not a whole campaign, mind you, but certainly a game.
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
So, what do you do if a PC used to be a tyrant? What do you do if a different PC helped an assassin? And if both these thigns happened in backstory, how do you stop your players from killing you?

Since there were no new fights in tonight's game (although there were a lot of off-color jokes -- and in not entirely unrelated news, I'm renaming the major God of Exploration something other than "Bress"), so... wait, where was I? Oh, right. Because there were no fights, I thought it might be worth talking about plot development and pacing in an ongoing campaign.

Brief game summary so that the rest of the post makes sense (no spoilers, just compressed for space):
[sblock]
  • PCs escape from the burning mansion of a Croghan lord who also makes hideous flesh golems.
  • PCs execute said lord as a traitor.
  • Local citizens send for an imperial authority who has a nearby estate.
  • The Imperial Magister of the Northern Reach, an eladrin wizard who has an estate nearby, arrives and takes charge of the situation. He requests that the PCs join him in Capria to have their story recorded in front of an inquisitor.
  • PCs teleport thousands of miles to the heart of civilization.
  • Bramble is the party's quith (aka wilden) shaman. PCs learn that the person that Bramble's military unit escorted to Capria was Oak, possibly the most accomplished assassin alive. Bramble warns the Magister that said assassin is no longer exiled to Faerie, and was surely brought to Capria for some dastardly purpose.
  • In fact, there's apparently a rash of unexpected and apparently unconnected deaths occurring lately. Many funerals. Related?
  • Stron is the party's warforged wizard, who lost his memory after spending hundreds of years buried in a swamp. With the Imperial intelligence service already suspecting that he is one and the same as the legendary Inquisitor Zacris, Eye of the Crown, Stron sees a statue of Zacris standing atop a platform of bodies -- and oh yeah, they're the same person. The Inquisitors want Stron back, but his Grey Guard oaths apparently supersede his former position. Much kerfuffle.
  • Hey, apparently Inquisitor Zacris had a tower! Wonder what's inside?
  • The party stays at the Pillar of Swords, one of the five nicest inns in Capria, free of charge. There are baths and fluffy towels.
  • On a mission, while crossing a bridge, Bramble is attacked by the Enlightened (kenku assassins) who have apparently learned of her presence in the city.
[/sblock]
We're now two games from Paragon tier. That means that some character backstory that's been around since game start needs to attract some attention. Both Strontium and Bramble saw some major development of their backstory tonight, and other players will see some interesting things in the next few games as well. I think that's important. I've been sitting on all this great backstory, and part of me says "You can't let Stron know he used to command entire armies! What if he wants to do so again?" But the only possible answer to that is "Hell yes, that'd be fascinating."

The reemergence of Zacris after centuries is a massive stone thrown into the already turbulent pond of imperial politics. The fact that Stron isn't an evil conqueror like Zacris apparently was, and that joining the Grey Guard forgives you of all past crimes, is a fascinating (and unanticipated) mechanic for getting Strontium off the hook if he just wants to stay with his adventuring party in the Grey Guard. Meanwhile, some people in Capria will decry this and try to use or recruit him, and some will applaud him -- but his very presence changes the status quo, even if he does nothing. He's a new piece on the board of Caprian politics. What sort of piece remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, I knew it was time that Bramble understood what it was that got her enlisted in the Guard. Her crack squad helped an exiled assassin reenter the world, under orders, then got sent into an ambush from which she was the only survivor. She was sent thousands of miles away before she could talk to anyone and an assassination contract (from a group that only kills people when doing so improves the world!) was taken out for her. Now she has told other people - very important other people - that the assassin is out there. That's going to change the world as well.

So, it was a game of plot developments, and I think that's going to continue for a bit. Paragon play should feel different than the heroic tier. More is at stake. Let's see how I end of doing in making that happen.

...unless my players keep making boob and dick jokes, that is.

I think this sort of plot expansion is important in a long-running game. If you want your players to have agency in the world, you need to take what they've given you in their backstory and make it important and worthwhile. That means leaving plot undefined to start and building it as the game progresses, using stuff from the players to establish your bad guys and good guys. Because it's important to their backstory they'll want to follow up on it, and because you've built story and adventures around it their doing so will push your game forward. It's a fun combination.

One final note. I'm so, so glad I made the Grey Guard politically neutral and inviolable by normal law. It means that they can move relatively freely in any political upheaval, and they're given much more respect than itinerant strangers normally would be. I like how that makes the campaign feel.
 
Last edited:

KidCthulhu

First Post
...unless my players keep making boob and dick jokes, that is.

Dude, you are the one who filled the city with nothing but towers and dome shaped buildings. We've just faced a particularly nasty set of enemies, we're pumped full of adrenaline and low on sleep and you tell us this? What do you expect?
 

WizarDru

Adventurer
PirateCat said:
...unless my players keep making boob and dick jokes, that is.

Wait....you mean you can get your players to STOP?!?

Dude, you are the one who filled the city with nothing but towers and dome shaped buildings. We've just faced a particularly nasty set of enemies, we're pumped full of adrenaline and low on sleep and you tell us this? What do you expect?

Good thing he didn't mention the taint of evil that's fallen over the city. Oy.
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
Over the past several years I've tried to have Piratecat on a fairly regular regimen of gaming with me, such that he could develop a quick and seamless method of dealing with an incessant stream of dick and boob jokes.

Alas, it seems that he still has much to learn.
 


Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Thanks!

Okay, the God Bress is officially renamed Caprios, as he's the first emperor ascended and the founder of Capria. His divinity lives on in the current emperor. This name change has now led my players to joke, "wow, look at the caprios on her!", but a few head slaps solved that quickly enough.

This was the second game in a row with no combat. Is that a record for us? We had quasi-combat - a fast-paced skill challenge that Sagiro will talk about, where the group had a running battle to keep Bramble safe from several thousand irate and murderous pigeons - and they declined to engage in a second fight against a huge battle-ready warforged. They're taking the tricksy problem-solving route instead. Next game we'll see how far it gets them.

More after Sagiro comments on the game. I will note, however, that I prepared tactical maps for the coming game using Microsoft Visio. Holy cow, is that fast and easy! I mapped out an 8-level tower in roughly an hour. I should have been using this all along.
 


Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Amazon has the 2007 version for about $100, but it's designed for business and isn't cheap. I've got to think there are good substitutes, though.
 

There are various FOSS programs you could try. I'm not sure which features of Visio made it especially attractive, so I am not sure if these are good alternatives or not, but they're programs I've used.

Open Office Draw - This is the diagramming package for Open Office. It is more equivalent to PowerPoint than to Visio, but is quite capable if what you're after is drawing shapes, lines, fills, etc. Pretty straightforward to use and I think you can import Visio diagrams, at least to some extent.

Inkscape - This is a full featured vector graphics program similar to things like Quark or Adobe Illustrator. A fine program, kind of the equivalent of GIMP to Photoshop for the vector graphics world. Definitely more of a learning curve than something like Draw, but also infinitely more powerful. You can do professional quality maps in this for sure.

I think either one might be a useful free alternative to Visio. Visio has a lot of sophisticated features, but most of them are more oriented to things like software engineering work and such. There are many many other open source drawing programs too BTW. Dia for example. KOffice has one that is similar to Draw. I've done a bunch of overland maps with Inkscape personally. The only caveat I'd give you there is the program is pretty hungry for RAM, 4 gigs is your friend (but thankfully cheap these days). Helps to have a reasonably modern CPU as well, but nowadays even really low-end machines are fine in that department as long as it is something made in the last 3-4 years.
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
Thanks!

Okay, the God Bress is officially renamed Caprios, as he's the first emperor ascended and the founder of Capria. His divinity lives on in the current emperor. This name change has now led my players to joke, "wow, look at the caprios on her!", but a few head slaps solved that quickly enough.

God Bress you too.
 

The_Warlock

First Post
Also worth considering is AutoREALM, an RPG mapping program akin to Campaign Cartographer, which shares many of the joys and failings of the latter as an AutoCAD mapper for role-players.
 

WizarDru

Adventurer
I use Campaign Cartographer, which is enough of an investment in time that I don't use it that often for actual battlemaps.

One time-saver I do use is occasionally visiting the Cartographer's Guild and using some of those choices for my needs.
 



Siuis

Explorer
I
Maybe a prolonged skill challenge, representing sneaking up, assessing the target, and then getting in close enough to deliver the killing blow (which is a normal attack roll with a big bonus). Mess anything up on the way in, and you alert the bad guys. Mess up the assessment, and your attack is just a crit, not a coup. Miss the attack roll, and you're going to just kill him the old fashioned way.
bah! Messed up on the XP screen; finger slip, comment forever ruined. Ah, well.
You could run it as a reverse-skill challenge. By using the PCs skills to throw up roadblocks (infiltrate sanctum, bribe guards, ruin breakfast to throw off his focus) countered by the NPC's own skill training, they could "drain him of surges". Functionally, the PCs set the DC for the challenge, and force the big bad through it. After a week of subtle sabotage and gas-lighting, he should be ripe for the picking-- or as hoppin mad as a froghemoth, If there weren't enough success on the PCs part!

---

PC, both you and Sagiro are an inspiration. I picked up 4e two weeks ago because what I know of the system lends it to "hey, let's strt a D&D game RIGHT NOW!" and then skips the 6 hour character creation splat-book combing- but I thought the cost was depth. I'm seeing more and more that depth is what the rules don't cover. Rather than stopping when there's no more print on the page, though, one must begin to shine via their own merit.

And stea- er, borrow from yo- um, other DMs :angel:
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Siuis, you're exceptionally kind - thanks! My complaints about 4e revolve around excess complexity (particularly surrounding Conditions and Condition tracking), a slightly excessive focus on tactical play and a tough learning curve for players. There's lots I love about it, though, and a lack of depth is definitely not one of the problems I've seen. There's an endless amount of possibility here.

An example. Let's take the skill challenge I set up for this last game. The 10th level party has been teleported to Capria, the heart of civilization. This is the headquarters of The Enlightened, a guild of kenku assassins who (for whatever reason) have a contract out on the party's shaman Bramble. My skill challenge had a couple of goals:

- underscore the unique nature of The Enlightened
- create a tough fight that's unwinnable by normal means, and give the PCs a chance to win or solve it
- get the PCs to see or experience a few of the unique landmarks in this part of the city (some from this brainstorming thread, which my players should not read.)
- encourage the PCs to have a running chase, in which they kept moving and where each round happened in a different location
- make a cinematic, memorable battle/chase
- try to kill Bramble with pigeons

...ah, who am I kidding? That last one was the important one.

So here's the skill challenge. I set the DC high - DC 23, half way between the new "difficult" DC of 21 and the old non-errata one of 25. The group needed 12 (!) successes before 3 failures to succeed.

Attacked by pigeons

Difficult skill challenge: (12 successes before 3 failures.)

Goal: escape or slay the thousands of pigeons trying to rip Bramble to pieces.

Skills: Open to the PCs, but generally any skill that can be used to evade, hide from, confuse or kill pigeons.

Special:
- Using skills and attacks while running gives a +2 bonus, while staying still gives a -4 penalty.
- Attacks (bursts or blasts only) can be used in lieu of skill checks. They must hit a defense of 23 to be successful. A burst or blast gives +1 to another skill roll from that round for every 5 points of dmg it inflicts, or can count as its own success if it is not an at-will.
- Every round, Bramble takes 2d6 damage for every success not yet attained out of 12 (reduced by half if Bramble's own skill check that round is successful). This damage increases to 2d10 per success left if the PCs have 9 or more successes, as the few remaining pigeons fly into a frenzy.
- If other PCs surround Bramble, damage is shared.
- If the skill challenge is failed, there are consequences - but I don't want to share them here, since my players read this.​


I only told the group some of this information: the bonuses for running and the way attacks can be used instead of skill checks. I didn't tell them that they could reduce Bramble's damage by helping shield her, or how much damage she'd be taking and why.

The group started on Conqueror's Bridge in round 1. An awning became a net (and then an impromptu pigeon-bludgeoning club), alchemical items were thrown, fire blasts filled the air, a DR-granting spell was cast, and there were hundreds of dead birds - with thousands more winging in from blocks away, all focusing on Bramble with their hard little black eyes. Remarkably, 5 successes and no failures. Pigeons swarmed the shaman, pecking and tearing for 30-odd points of damage. Never has "coo, coo" sounded so scary.

Because they said they were running, at the end of the round I described how they came off the bridge - thousands of pigeons blackening the air behind them - and had a choice of going left down the Forest of Slaves (an avenue lined with the crucified skeletons of a slave rebellion 15 years back) or right into the Spice Markets. Round 2 took place in the middle of the spice market, with customers screaming and ducking while tarps were ripped, spices thrown and incendiaries set off. Cobalt used an athletics check to shield Bramble with his own body while running, Logan used alchemical fire to ignite the fine dust of thrown spices, Caldwell used a nature check to cause the pigeons to shy away from the smell of their own dead, and Strontium blasted a huge number out of the air with fire scythe. Bramble, being clever, healed herself. Burning pigeons rained down onto the spice market as the group ran for the fortified counting house; the first failed skill check allowed some pigeons to swarm into the building along with the heroes. With 4 more successes (and one failure) under their belt, they finished round 2 inside. Round 3 finished when Cobalt used a thrown dagger to drop a massive chandelier on himself and Bramble, killing the remaining pigeons who had gotten in to the building. He unfortunately said "I'll pay for this!" before he knew it was worth 45,000 GP. The skill challenge ended with 12 successes and 1 failure, and the group took shelter and explained themselves while pigeons slammed against the closed door and windows, sounding like hailstones in winter.

My players should weigh in, but for me the skill challenge/chase/fight was a lot of fun. Even better, it managed to communicate the feel of the city while still keeping the PCs focused on staying alive. And my total design time, start to finish? 5 minutes. I'll argue it's just as easy to do this sort of skill challenge as it is to make one dry, boring and tedious.
 
Last edited:

The Axe

First Post
...
My players should weigh in, but for me the skill challenge/chase/fight was a lot of fun. Even better, it managed to communicate the feel of the city while still keeping the PCs focused on staying alive. And my total design time, start to finish? 5 minutes. I'll argue it's just as easy to do this sort of skill challenge as it is to make one dry, boring and tedious.

(if you have the creativity and exceptional feel for encounters that Piratecat has...)

Very cool!
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top