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Month

October 2013

The Daily D4

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Today is a very special installment of the Daily D4, complete with two treats.

King of Tokyo Halloween Expansion

In honor of Halloween I thought we could discuss something that is a perfect choice for any tabletop on this holiday. King of Tokyo pits giant monsters, robots, and aliens against one another in a pitched battle to become the ruler of Tokyo. The game incorporates dice rolls to determine which combatant emerges victorious from each battle. Decks of cards are also brought into play to enhance, or debilitate, the creatures at key moments. It’s a fairly straight forward game devoted to smashing up a city and seeing if a giant gorilla can in fact defeat and robot the size of a skyscraper. A few expansions have been released, but the most Halloween expansion is my favorite by far.

The expansion comes with two Halloween themed monsters, the jack-o-lantern headed Pumpkin Jack and Boogey Woogey, a terrifying mass of shadows. There’s also a set of six orange and black dice as well as a set of costume cards that enhance the monster at your command. If you’re too old to trick or treat and you’d like to take a break from zombies, vampires, and ax wielding maniacs I suggest King of Tokyo with the Halloween expansion.

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Zombie Dice

Zombie dice is a simple dice rolling game that can be explained in seconds and played in a matter of minutes. In this game the players take on the role of a hoard of zombies, each of whom are trying to be the first to devour thirteen brains.The game comes with a number of six sided dice colored green, yellow, or red. Each of the dice are marked with foot prints, brains, or shotgun blasts. Rolling a foot print means one of your victims has fled, rolling a brain means you scored a brain, and rolling a shotgun means your zombie has been fired upon. Three shots to the head kill your zombie ending your turn and costing you all of those delicious brains. Zombie dice might sound simple, but there is a definite strategy element to it. The players must pull their dice randomly and the various colors indicate the amount of danger involved in rolling them. Green dice are the safest and have little risk, yellow represent a moderate amount of danger, while red are very likely to end up killing of an unwary zombie. Knowing when to stop rolling can determine who takes home the most brains, but that said sometimes taking a greater risk has its rewards.

Simple, fun, and easy to learn Zombie Dice is a perfect game to play when you’re looking for something that is sure to entertain without devouring your whole evening.

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The Daily D4

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I rolled a one today, and I felt a might surge of shame.

Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk

One of the 3.5 Edition books I recently acquired was Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, and I thought it would be a good adventure to use to try and run this edition of Dungeons and Dragons for the first time. The adventure takes place in the city of Greyhawk, which is the setting that Gary Gygax created back when he helped create Dungeons and Dragons. It’s the perfect place to get to know a new edition, and I’ve decided to run it as play-by post. Normally I don’t like published adventures much, but this one is very open ended and leaves a great deal of room for customization. It should be a lot of fun and an interesting experience.

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The Daily D4

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I only rolled a 2 today, sorry guys.

Acquisitions Incorporated Podcasts

Back in 2009 right before I started playing roleplaying games I listened to the Acquisitions Incorporated podcasts for the first time, because they were so entertaining I was able to overcome my introverted nature and join a gaming group. If you’ve never rolled a D20, or if you’ve got a friend who you’re trying to convert into an elf wizard, they’re a great way to start out. Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade, who plays Jim Darkmagic III of the New Hampshire Darkmagics, was completely new to playing Dungeons and Dragons so he’s sort of the newbie everyman throughout the first series of podcasts. The first adventure also features Penny Arcade’s writer Jerry Holkins as Omin Dram, cleric and CEO of Acquisitions Incorporated as well as Binwin Bronzebottom a dwarf fighter played by Scott Kurtz of PVP. Their campaigns are run by one of the most talented dungeon masters of all time, the man who carries vorpal dice in a bag of holding, the great Chris Perkins himself.

Throughout their adventures Acquisitions Incorporated takes on a few interns to help fill out their ranks. Wil Wheaton joins the group later on playing an eladrin invoker whose name is unpronounceable to all beings not native to the Feywild. We call him Alf. More recently they’ve inducted Patrick Rothfuss into their ranks, the famed fantasy author plays Viari a swashbuckling thief who can sing as well as Kvothe…alright maybe not that well but he’s still really good.

They have faced down the dreaded Keep on the Shadowfell, rescued a friend from the bowels of hell itself, and slain more monsters than Van Helsing. The podcasts are largely humorous, but the players are all very talented and you’ll find yourself caring about the characters and their stories while laughing.

These podcasts made me laugh during some of the most awful days of my life and I think they can help other people in the same way the helped me.

You can listen to the majority of the Acquistions Incorporated podcasts here on the Wizards of the Coast website: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/podcasts.aspx

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Dungeon!

A while ago when I reviewed Of Mice and Men I mentioned how much I love the classic game Dungeon! It was originally created by David Megarry in 1972 to give Dave Arneson a break and a chance to play with the rest of the group once in a while. The game proved to be quite popular as it provides the feel of a simple dungeon crawl while allowing the party to enjoy something a bit more lighthearted than an ordinary campaign. Players choose from a number of heroic classes including the Warrior, Elf, Dwarf, Wizard, Paladin, Thief, and others depending on which edition you’re playing.

The game board consists of a number of hallways and chambers occupied by monsters guarding wondrous treasures. You win by collecting a set amount of treasure and returning to the central chamber before any of the other players can do so. As you work you r way deeper and deeper into the dungeon the rewards become great, but the monsters become increasingly deadly.

 

If you’re curious about the game it’s available at most gaming stores for $20.00 right now.

I chose this version of the box art because it is the one I bought when I was a kid and I still have it to this day.

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The Daily D4

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I rolled yet another three today, I’m starting to think the D4 is trying to tell me something.

 

Emerald Rose

It’s a rare a group of musicians who can perform songs about why you shouldn’t split the party, or how wonderful life can be when you have chocolate frog. Emerald Rose is such a band. Jade introduced me to their music a few years ago and I keep coming back to two of their songs which remain favorites of mine to this day. “Never Split the Party” details the disastrous events the befall a party after they divide their forces during a dungeon crawl. “Life’s OK I’ve Got a Chocolate Frog” is a lighthearted romp through the world of Harry Potter. I sing it to myself when I’m feeling down and it never fails to help me raise my spirits.

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Pirates of the Spanish Main

Pirates are cool. In Pirates of the Spanish Main you get to play as a pirate which makes it a wonderful game. Jade GMed a campaign using this system a while ago and it was fantastic. I made a Treasure Hound, got possessed by a vengeful ghost, beat up a member of the Spanish Inquisition, fought a giant crab, and then I bought a monkey. There’s an extensive collection of colorful NPCs who fit perfectly, and detailed maps of a variety of locations included in the book that make running a campaign pretty straightforward. The rules for naval combat are straight forward and provide an exciting mechanic for players to use as they try to avoid being blown to bits.

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Forbidden Island

Cooperative board games are especially fun because the players are competing against the game itself rather than one another. Possibly one of the greatest cooperative games of all time is Forbidden Island. In this game players must race to collect ancient relics scattered around a mysterious island before it sinks to the bottom of the sea. Each player will randomly choose a character card them gives him or her a special ability. For example the Navigator card allows a player to swim through parts of the island that have already sunk rather than being forced to go around them, this can be a pretty handy ability later in the game.

The island is assembled randomly so it’s laid out differently each time, so there’s an enormous amount of replay value. You can adjust the degree of difficulty based on the number of players and their overall level of experience. It’s an exciting game that you’ll find yourself enjoying even if you and your friends sink to the bottom of the sea before making a daring helicopter escape.

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Pelor’s Torch

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A while ago when I started running Dungeons and Dragons for a group of teenagers at my local library I wanted to come up with some interesting lore for Madthorn Forest and West Briar. I love nursery rhymes and fairy tales because they’re an interesting piece of every culture so I tried to come up with one that would work in my setting. Since West Briar is mostly populated by humans, and many of them are farmers, I thought that something to honor the god Pelor might be a good fit. I also love myths and stories that explain natural phenomenon so I decided to write something about the sun.

“Pelor’s Torch, burning bright,
Warm our days and chase the night,
By your light we till the soil,
By your leave we rest from toil,
When your embers hang above our heads,
Let them conduct us to our beds.”

The Daily D4

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I actually had to cancel my Dungeons and Dragons game today because I wasn’t feeling up to it, when I woke up from my Nyquil induced coma I rolled a three.

Dungeon Command

Miniatures are fascinating. Even if someone has never made a saving throw, cursed the regenerative abilities of trolls, or been engulfed by a gelatinous ooze they may feel compelled to pick up a mini and proclaim its virtues. That’s one of the things that makes Dungeon Command so wonderful. It’s a Wizards of the Coast product that has produced five distinct sets thus far. Heroes of of Cormyr, Sting of Lolth, Tyranny of Goblins, Curse of Undeath, and Blood of Gruumsh are each filled with 36 pre-painted miniatures that make great additions to any collection.

My favorite by far is Heroes of Cormyr which includes elves, dwarves, and a collection of assorted heroes. Gathering a decent assortment of heroic figures for your party to use can be costly and time consuming, but with this product you’re almost certain to find something to suit your player’s needs with a single purchase. The rest of the sets are filled with monstrous figures so their usefulness depends on what sort of campaign you’re running. For example I don’t own Sting of Lolth because I don’t use drow in most of my campaigns.

Aside from a fantastic set of miniatures which can be used in any game of Dungeons and Dragons, Dungeon Command includes an entirely separate game where armies clash over great dungeons and battlefields. If you’ve ever played the Star Wars Miniatures Game, Heroclix, or any other similar game you’ve probably played something a great deal like Dungeon Command. Players assembled their armies and the use cards also included in each of the sets to enhance their figures abilities even further.

It could be said that Dungeon Command is one of the innovations being used to help bridge the gap between 4th Edition and Dungeons and Dragons Next, but that isn’t really a fair statement. Some people have expressed displeasure with the fact that a few of the figures used in Dungeon Command were released in previous sets but that didn’t bother me in the least.

At a cost of $39.99 per set there is a considerable investment to be made in each Dungeon Command set, but weighed against the prospect of buying random boosters or single figures it could end up saving you money.

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Critical Failures

I’ve participated in dozens of play-by-post games over the years and enjoyed the experience immensely. There are many forums which allow players to join in on this sort of game, but my favorite by far is Critical Failures hosted by the Penny Arcade web comic. This was the first forum I ever ran a pbp on, it was a game of Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Edition in case you were curious. Play-by-post campaigns are a great way to find a game if you’re looking for something that is being played constantly regardless of distance or scheduling conflicts.

The reason I mention Critical Failures is that the community on this forum is welcoming, informative, and kind to new players. Games are readily available, and if you don’t see something you’re interested in immediately it’s often just around the corner. They even host a yearly secret Santa for their members which is something I’ve never found anywhere else.

If you’re looking to try out pbp, or you just want to read through some fantastic games I strongly recommend taking a look at Critical Failures.

 

Five Star Chef

There is a lot of repetition in tabletop games these days, and that’s necessarily a bad thing. Creative people will always find a new way to present something we’ve seen before, and old stories can be made to look brand new by a good storyteller. The fact that it is the only game of it’s type I’ve ever seen may be one of the reasons that it is so exciting, in addition the simple truth that it is a wonderful game. Five Star Chef is a independently produced game where players create their own chefs who then compete against one another using a series of dice rolls. The game was created by SUPERSUGA over at the Critical Failures forum I just mentioned.

I love Iron Chef, Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, and films like Jiro Dreams of Sushi so this idea fascinated me instantly. There’s something amazing about watching talented chefs prepare food. They’re a bit like wizards assembling the components of a spell. My favorite part of the game is creating your chef, which isn’t a surprise as I love character creation, especially when the system is as creative as this one. You choose your chef’s preparation skills which include their oven skill, their ingredient skill, their school of cooking, and finally their signature touch.

If you’re looking for something completely new to bring to the table, or if you’re in culinary school you should really give Five Star Chefs a try.

Rules: https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1nHpbfRh9XfA-glE9RUKmLzhVhhZMYBKGTkTKPhbxvPQ

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The Daily D4

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I only managed to roll a measly two today, it looks like I’m finally getting some ordinary rolls.

 

Aspects

For those of you who have yet to play any version of the FATE system you’re probably wondering what aspects are. Aspects are integral elements of your character which define something about them, and are used as a game mechanic. For example if you’re playing Harry Dresden and you’ve taken the aspect “Chivalry Isn’t Dead!” there are a couple of ways it can come into play during the story. Aspects are either compelled by the GM who will try to use them to their advantage, or invoked by the player who will try and use it to help them out in a time of need.

Lets say a young woman arrives in Harry’s office and starts to cry about how someone has been stalking her and no one will help. By his nature Harry is a suspicious guy, and he’s not given to accepting things at face value, but the GM could compel his aspect to get Harry to take on the case. As a reward the player would receive a fate point which has a number of very useful attributes. On the other hand if Harry finds himself forced to attend a formal dinner as Lara Raith’s date and the player wants to make a good impression he could invoke this aspect. By spending a fate point the player could invoke and give himself a bonus to a roll to win Lara over. Lets say in this case he pulls out her chair for her, smiling his very best “I will not set this building on fire tonight” smile. Lara takes the bait and Harry gets an appreciative nod, it’s not the information he needs to get out of Lara but it’s a start.

Using aspects requires a bit of creativity but when it’s done well it’s very interesting.

Gobstones

Technically this isn’t a real game, although they did make some of them as collector’s items several years ago, but I don’t think they ever attached an actual game to those. In the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling there’s a game called gobstones which is remarkably similar to the game of marbles. However in this wizard game when players score a point the gobstones spray a foul smelling liquid into the opposing players face. You’re probably wondering why I decided to include this in the Daily D4 aren’t you? I remember how passionate the kids who played gobstones were in those books, and they never really had much support for their hobby. Hogwarts has a gobstones club and there’s a space set aside for the official gobstones club in the Department of Magical Games and Sports but that’s about it. It always struck me how similar these players were to the kids who choose to play roleplaying games rather than sports. I mean quidditch is fantastic and I’m not knocking it but it isn’t for everyone. As an official Hufflepuff I’d like to salute all of the gobstones players and offer them a rag to wipe their faces with.

Welcome to the Other Sidhe

Wish granting fairy godmothers, mysterious strangers offering dangerous bargains, monstrous beasts, shape-shifters, children with strange powers, well spoken animals, and prank loving fairies along with countless others all appear in many of the stories we learn as children. These stories teach us simple morals that are intended to imbue us with life lessons that we will carry with us for the rest of our days. They also prove how pervasive lore about fairies has become within countless cultures around the world. It’s hardly surprising that with so much source material to draw from fairies have taken a prominent role in tabletop games since its inception.

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Although the precise details about the fey can vary wildly from one version to the next some remain present throughout most of them. All of the fey abhor the touch of iron which can be used to injure, repel, or imprison them. Iron is the kryptonite of all things fairy and it often proves their undoing in the storybooks. Names and words have far greater power over fairies than they do over humans. A fairy’s name can be used to summon them, compel them to carry out someone’s bidding, or bind them to a place. No matter what a fairy must abide by the terms of any bargain that they make, this should make dealing with them safer but it generally has the opposite effect. Since many of these beings live for hundreds of years, if not eternally, they use the passing centuries to perfect the skills of deception and wordplay. Gifts are never free when given by a fairy, anything that they offer you comes with a spider’s web worth of strings attached to it. A hungry traveler who gratefully accepts food and shelter from woodland fairies may found himself bound to their service. There are courts, usually presided over by a king and queen, that act as the governing bodies for the fey. These are some of the most common traits associated with fairies, but there are many more.

In Dungeons and Dragons an expansive realm known as the Feywild is inhabited by elves, gnomes, fairies, unicorns, fomorians, satyrs, and countless other fantastic creatures. Gaining entrance to the Feywild is no simple feat, and those who manage will find that escaping can be even more difficult. Breathtaking forests, idyllic rivers, treetop cities, and other sites unique to the Feywild make it a uniquely beautiful realm. Hunting packs of blink dogs, xenophobic fey, man eating plants, and hideous giants who enslave anyone who crosses their path are just a few of the threats that a visitor might face in an adventure that brings them through the border between dimensions. It’s interesting to note that fairies in this system don’t have a special vulnerability to iron which makes sense. Mechanically speak very few people would be interested in play an elf or a gnome in a game where most of their adversaries will be wielding iron weapons of one sort of another. Since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson were heavily influence by J.R.R. Tolkien’s work and his portrayal of elves also lacked this characteristic that may be another reason it was omitted. The fey do however gain heightened increased physical attributes, an affinity for illusions, and an extended lifespan.

White Wolf’s Changeling: The Lost presents a very different take on the beings from fairy tales. In this universe true fey abduct people then carry them off into their realm, a thorny labyrinth called the hedge. Once they’re trapped with the hedge their minds and bodies are twisted to suit whims of their captors. Some become servants digging networks of tunnels, brewing drinks, and maintaining endless libraries. Others are altered to serve as companions and entertainment. A few even take on bestial characteristics and spend their days in the menageries of the true fey. Of course in folklore changelings are fairy babies who are left in place of human children, these mewling infants make their adoptive parents every waking moment a living nightmare. In Changeling: The Lost the captives are replaced by a creature called a fetch, a duplicate that looks just like them, however fetches sometimes act very differently than their human counterparts. Upon escaping from the hedge a changeling must make the choice as to whether or not they will confront their fetch and reclaim the life that was taken from them. This system presents fairies as sinister kidnappers who regard human beings as little more than playthings that exist only to suite their whims. The really scary thing is that this had a place in the stories that we hear about these creatures.

The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game based on The Dresden Files series written by Jim Butcher also presents an interesting version of fairies. In this universe all of the supernatural creatures from myth and legend reside in a place called the Nevernever that rests on the border of our world. In places where the border between world is weak creatures and people sometimes slip through causing the stories of fantastic beings that we’ve been telling one another for centuries. Courts play a major role in the politics of the Nevernever, and most of the power is divided between either the Summer or Winter Court. Although the members of the Summer Court are more benevolent than their wintry counterparts that doesn’t make them Tinkerbell. The Summer Court represents life, heat, and the power of all things green and growing while the Winter Court represents decay, cold, and the predatory aspects of nature. Wyldfae who are not part of either court also dwell in the Nevernever, including the goblins who are ruled by the Erlking. During times of war all of the wyldfae are forced to choose between the courts. Changelings are also present in the Dresden Files universe, but they’re the offspring of humans and creatures from the Nevernever. Most changelings aren’t aware of their unusual parentage and their inhuman progenitors usually have little interest in them. At some point changelings are forced to choose to become entirely human losing all of their superhuman abilities or become entirely fey.

There is so much material related to this subject I could go on and on about it forever, but I would like to point out a few resources for people who are interested in the topic.

Recommended Reading

Heroes of the Feywild, Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition
The Manual of the Planes, Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition
Your Story, The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game
Our World, The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game
Summer Knight, A Dresden Files novel written by Jim Butcher
Small Favor, A Dresden Files novel written by Jim Butcher
Cold Night, A Dresden Files novel written by Jim Butcher
The Grimms Fairy Tales, by the brothers Grimm
Changeling: The Lost, World of Darkness
The Rites of Spring, World of Darkness
The Equinox Road, World of Darkness
A Field Guide to Irish Fairies, by Bob Curran
Stardust, Neil Gaiman
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare
Fairy Magazine

The Daily D4

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Today I rolled another three, still pretty high but I’m not at the top of my game today.

 

The Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Handbook

I bought a used copy of this book for the first time at a friendly local gaming store two days ago, I’ve been thinking about doing it for some time now but I kept questioning whether or not it was something I really needed. There’s something about owning a version of Dungeons and Dragons that was actually written about Gary Gygax while the original TSR was alive and well that I find very satisfying. Plus I love picking up used copies of books and giving them a good home.

So far I’ve only given the book a cursory glance, but once fact did jump out at me. Reading the entry on bards painted a very different picture compared to the one I’ve always had in my head when I pictured a bard. The entry begins by stating that since bards take on some of the characteristics of fighters and thieves, and add magical abilities to the mix they aren’t allowed by many dungeon masters. A character also has to take at least five levels of experience as a fighter before they can take on any other class attributes, then they gain thief levels, then druid abilities but at that point they are in fact bards under druid tutelage.

It’s a fascinating piece of history that I’m really proud to have in my collection.

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Zombies!

In all honesty I’ve never played Zombies!, in fact I’ve walked past it every time I’ve seen it on a shelf. However someone described it to me recently and the premise fascinated me. There are a ton of cooperative zombie themed games but in this incarnation the players race against one another to be the first to reach a helicopter that will carry them to safety. Sadly there’s only room for one passenger and everyone else will be devoured by zombies. It’s a horrible fate and it lends a desperation to the game that I think would make it much more compelling.

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Heroclix

My roommate in college introduced me to Heroclix, in fact he gave me a couple of his figures and taught me how to play. We spent many evenings playing against one another on our kitchen table before we both lost interest in it and moved onto other games. In Hercolix players compete against one another or a scenario using teams of characters assembled from their collection of figures. There’s a wide variety of figures including Marvel, DC, Pacific Rim, Lord of the Rings, and many many more.

If you’ve never played the game they’ve made a few changes to it recently that I think improve it a great deal. First off the bases have been redesigned into what I’m told is called an Oreo bases. How can you not love something named after an Oreo? They’re much easier to use as you’re required to turn the dial of your figure’s bases to track their damage and abilities. When I started playing this was made even more difficult thanks in part to the recessed bases that tended to get stuck a lot of the time.

All of the figures now include individual cards that explain their abilities, while customizing the text to suite each character. It adds a nice bit of fluff to the mechanics that I deeply appreciate.

The addition of team bases is a brilliant innovation that I think this game was sorely lacking until now. Team bases allow you to link all of your heroic figures on a single dynamic base pooling their powers and making them even more effective. Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man might be enough to tackle most threats but when their joined with the rest of the Avengers I wouldn’t want to find myself in their way.

Lastly the quality of the figures has greatly improved and the prices have dropped considerably from what I’ve seen.

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