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Month

May 2014

The Daily D4

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Dungeon Roll

Dungeon Roll captures the essence of your basic dungeon crawl within a small package that looks suspiciously like a mimic. Players take turns rolling dice to assemble parties of heroes who venture into the maw of darkness in search of treasure and experience points. While that player tries to earn the most experience and find the most valuable bits of treasure another takes on the roll of the Dungeon Lord, who throws obstacles into their path. Players may continue moving deeper and deeper into the dungeon in an effort to earn a greater amount of experience, however should their party fall somewhere in the dark below the earth they will lose all that they might have won. After three rounds the player who has earned the greatest amount of experience points is declared the winner. In some ways this game reminds of zombie dice, especially with the risk of losing the points you need to win versus not risking enough and failing to earn the required points with as much speed as bolder players might. It makes a perfect addition to a collection and it seems like the perfect thing to play while you’re waiting for a late player to turn up or as a vaccine against the gold fever that sometimes infects adventurers.

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Shaman Heroclix

Since someone was nice enough to buy me a Shaman of my very own, completing my collection of Alpha Flight Heroclix, I thought I’d sing his praises here on the Daily D4. So what makes Shaman so great? First and foremost is his trait “No Flight” Spell which strips all other figures on the board of the ability to fly until Shaman is KO’d. On the right map and against an unwary opponent that can be a devastating blow. His special power Medicine Bag of the Void, which conjures a standard light object into an adjacent square and grants allies the ability to use super strength to pick it up is also quite fun. For example if he’s playing alongside of Sasquatch and the good doctor has yet to transform his less hairy counterpart could pick up the object and use it to dissuade an approaching enemy. His special ability to use barrier, and prevent it from being target by a character with one or more action points may even allow you to bottleneck your opponent rather effectively if they aren’t patient. Aside from that he’s a very nice support piece with a slew of standard powers including: sidestep, telekinesis, penetrating/psychic blast, super senses, regeneration, perplex, support, and shape change. The fact that he has the mystic team ability, meaning that whenever he is damaged the attacker takes a click of damage as well, certainly doesn’t hurt his chances of contributing to your victory. As long as you’re able to avoid having him face off toe to toe with the Hulk or War Machine he should be able to give Alpha Flight or any other team a great deal of help.

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Pizza Dice

How many times has your gaming group devoted more time to discussing which toppings to get on their pizza than the dragon threatening to set fire to them and the caravan their guarding. Well those days are over! With a pair of your very own pizza dice choosing toppings is as easy as rolling a pair of D6. Each side is marked with a different topping allowing for numerous combinations, hopefully none of which include anchovies. For a regular gaming group I think they’re well worth the investment of three dollars.

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Rodians

When the most famous member of your species greatest achievement is being shot by Han Solo you don’t get too much attention, but the Rodians of the Star Wars universe are an interesting species all the same. However they do suffer from being one of the most inhuman looking intelligent races of that players can choose from in most cases. In Star Wars Saga they gain a +2 bonus to their dexterity score making them highly agile and reflecting their excellent reflexes. That said they also take a -2 to their wisdom and their charisma, they’re often an adversarial species and they aren’t known for their ability to work together. They also have low-light vision, the ability to reroll any perception check once, and bonus if they are given the Survival skill. Playing a Rodian as a Scout is a perfect fit and it takes advantage of their natural talents, they also lend themselves well to the role of a bounty hunter when the time comes for choosing prestige class.

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The Daily D4

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Today I felt like taking a bit of time to discuss a few of the templates that are used during the character creation process in the Dresden Files RPG. Unlike the character classes you’ve probably used in other game systems templates don’t determine every mechanical aspect of your character. They do determine what Musts, your character must possess and detail what role that particular template fills within the Dresdenverse. For today’s dose of the Daily D4 I thought we’d focus on the magic users of the Dresden Files, after all Harry is the main character.

Minor Talent

Minor Talents are the least powerful magic users of the Dresdenverse, and they’re also the ones that pure mortals are most likely to bump into. They have just enough magical prowess to get themselves into trouble, which is all too often the last thing that they’ll do. Minor talents are usually ignorant of the true nature of magic, but find themselves blessed or cursed with supernatural talents that are sometimes difficult to ignore. If they’re lucky a minor talent will remain ignorant of their powers and live a long boring life, but their abilities and their ignorance often makes them a tempting target for more powerful predators. Kim Delanery, an acquaintance of Harry Dresden’s who you may recall from Fool Moon was likely a minor talent as are most of the members of the Paranet. Minor talents must take a supernatural power worth 1 or possibly 2 points of refresh and their high concept aspect should reflect their not quite human nature.

Focused Practitioner

Focused Practitioners put all of their eggs in one basket magically speaking. Unlike minor talents focused practitioners are not to be underestimated. With their specialized magic many of them are capable of achieving feats that more powerful or more highly trained individuals could never hope to. Pyromancers, hydromancers, geomancers, aeromancers, photomancers, kinetomancers, and ectomancers are just a few examples of the types of focused practitioners that a player could create. Mortimer Lindquist, an ectomancer who reluctantly offers his services to Dresden occasionally, is probably one of the most well known characters from the series who would be considered an focused practitioner.

Their Musts include a high concept that reflects that reflects their abilities, such as Extreme Sports Kinetomancer or Firefighting Hydromancer. Additionally a focused practitioner must choose the powers ritual, channeling, or both. You might also consider having your character equipped with a version of the sight geared to their specialty.

Sorcerer

I’ve always imagined sorcerers as the magical street fighters of the Dresdenverse, they have as much raw power to throw around as many wizards do but they lack the training that a true wizard of the White Council receives. While sorcerers aren’t necessarily evil many of them find themselves on the wrong end of a Warden’s sword thanks to their lack of training. Much like minor talents sorcerers are mostly self taught so very few of them know anything about the White Council, the Wardens, or the Laws of Magic. Victor Sells from Storm Front was a natural talent with no small amount of power that Harry Dresden encountered early in his career. Playing a sorcerer is an ideal way to take on the role of outsider without sacrificing power.

Wizard

True wizards are rare and that’s probably for the best, if there were too many of them running around there probably wouldn’t be a building left standing before too long. To be considered a wizard one most command a certain amount of control and power the go far beyond anything any minor talent could hope to achieve. All those who show promise are also placed under the tutelage of a proper wizard who will instruct them in proper magical conduct and technique for years before they will be recognized as a wizard in their own right by the White Council. Wizards have several unique traits: the Sight, an extended lifespan that allows them to recover from wounds that would never fully heal in a normal human, and they can command a broader spectrum of magic than almost any other living being. You’ll also get to choose three types of magic and branches with them which your wizard will specialize in and craft magical focuses like staves and wands. The biggest downside to playing a wizard is the fact that they begin with almost no refresh, unlike other less powerful templates. Harry Dresden, the Wardens, and the members of the White Council are just a few examples of wizards from the books.

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Pick my Clix

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There’s a constructed event coming up at my friendly local gaming store, and rather than just choosing a team on my own I thought it’d be more fun if I offered all of our readers and listeners a chance to choose one for me. So cast your ballot for the team that strikes your fancy and I’ll try to use them in battle to the best of my ability. After the event I’ll post a detailed report so you all know how it turned out. You’ll find detailed lists of all of the teams and the poll below, some teams are a slightly higher build total than others and all but one have the theme team bonus so there fairly even. I look forward to seeing what you’ll choose.

Alpha Flight
(Consisting of Snowbird, Aurora, Northstar, Puck, Sasquatch, and Guardian. Sadly I don’t have a Shaman and there aren’t enough points to squeeze him in anyway.)

Agents of Shield
(Consisting of Captain America and Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, the Living Mummy, War Machine, and a single S.H.I.E.L.D agent.)

The Avengers
(I decided to ban all of the Avengers I’ve already used in previous events so this incarnation includes Captain America, Doctor Druid, Tigra, and Vision)

The Initiative
(Consisting of Mirage, Constrictor, Prodigy, Speedball, Spidergirl, and Armadillo)

The X-Men
(Consisting of Wolverine, Colossus, Beast, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Dazzler)

The Midnight Sons
(Consisting of Blade, Daimon Hellstrom, Johnny Blaze, Morbius, and Hannibal King)

The Masters of Evil
(Consisting of Absorbing Man and Titania, Bulldozer, Piledriver, and Thunderball)

The Thuderbolts
(Consisting of Luke Cage, Venom, Man Thing, and Blizzard)

The Heroes for Hire
(Consisting of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Humbug, Colleen Wing, Paladin, and Shroud)

The Daily D4

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Arkhosian Siege Tower

Today the young adventurers of Madthorn Forest worked together with the townspeople of West Briar to break the siege that threatened to strangle to secluded village. The backbone of the draconian army was an Arkhosian Siege Tower that had been unearthed from a ruined settlement in the swamps to the east. I found the stats for this interesting little device in The Threats of the Nentir Vale a while ago and I’ve been dying to use it ever since then. It’s an imposing structure wrought from metal and fashioned in the likeness of a dragon’s head, the tower is even capable of expelling a fiery blast in an area 1 burst up to 20 squares! The Arkhosian Empire is a fascinating aspect of 4th Edition and since we happen to have a dragonborn warlord in our party it seemed like a perfect time to put it back into use.

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Yu-Gi-Oh Heroclix Unboxing

I snagged a couple of Yu-Gi-Oh Heroclix while I was out today, and I figured I’d record quick unboxing for people who are curious about the set. I’m extremely pleased with what I managed to pull from the trio.

The Daily D4

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Basic D&D

Wizards of the Coast has made a decision that I would never have expected, but it’s also the sort of thing I think we need to see more of. With the release dates for D&D Next written on many a calendar they’ve also announced the release of what’s being called Basic D&D. Similar to the D&D Rules Cyclopedia this is a free PDF that provides everything players will need in order to create and play with characters of certain classes and up to a certain level. The included classes are the cleric, wizard, fighter, and rogue and they can be advanced up to level 20 using D&D Basic. This is the perfect way to get people who are interested in the game to give it a try without asking them to lay down any cash! It is worth noting that after the release of the new D&D Starter Set D&D Basic will receive a few additions including: additional monsters, magical items, DM rules for running a game, and rules for different campaign environments. In all honesty I’d probably wait for the updated version to be finalized before downloading it, as that seems like it’s going to have a lot more information.

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That DnD Podcast

My friend Chris has started recording a podcast of his own, it’s a live play D&D 4th Edition podcast which he GMs. At the moment the podcast episodes feature the creation of the characters who will be taking part in the campaign, so it’s a bit like that song “Getting to Know You” from The King and I. Only instead of a teacher and some little kids there’s a DM and a changeling barbarian, an Eladrin who can’t choose a career path, and a gnome warlock. Chris is a very talented tabletop player and I know his podcast is going to go well, hopefully a few of our readers will check it out.

Blog: http://thatdndpodcast.wordpress.com/

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Lego X-Men Mansion

I spotted this amazing Lego version of the X-Men’s mansion on Twitter earlier today and my first though, aside from worrying over how many hours it’d take to build, was that this would be an amazing tool to employ in a tabletop game. If you’re playing out a sort of dungeon crawl through the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters short of building one yourself I don’t think you’ll find anything better than this. It has everything from the Danger Room to Beast’s laboratory and there are so many character figures included it is unbelievable.

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Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey… Stuff

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The Doctor makes time travel seem like such an easy thing. All you have to do is jump into the Tardis, press a few buttons, and before you can say allons-y you’re having tea with Queen Elizabeth and saving Shakespeare from a coven of actual witches. He’s hardly the only one jumping from one era to the next though. Wizards armed with enchanted hourglasses, the crews of advanced starships, deloreans, mad scientists, cyborg assassins, superheroes capable of traveling at incredible speeds, metahumans, and gods all seem to think that the timeline is their personal playground. Employing time travel in a role playing game can be a unique challenge though, and it’s certainly one that is worthy of discussion.

Before jumping into a discussion on how to employ time travel in a game I think it’s important to talk about the first time traveler. In many ways the origins of the idea can be traced back to H.G. Wells’ aptly titled book The Time Machine, in which an English scientist living in Victorian England known throughout the book as the Time Traveler invents a device that allows him to travel through time. During his travels into the future he encounters the child-like Eloi who enjoy leisurely lives in the crumbling ruins of the old world, and the savage Morlocks who lurk underground working to maintain machinery that keeps the Eloi so comfortable and devouring them in the darkness. The Time Traveler returns to his own era and relates what he’d seen to his dinner guests, only to use the time machine to vanish once more. The Time Machine has captured the imaginations of countless people over the years and inspired countless adaptations, retellings, and new ideas. It also frames the pillars of any such story perfectly those being a means of travel, a discovery, a threat, and a realization. The means of travel is exactly what it sounds like, a method for moving through space. The discovery is something the party uncovers in the future and there can be more than one. The threat could something like the Morlocks lurking in wait or it could be something else entirely such as authorities charged with arresting time travelers for their own safety. Lastly the revelation is the big reveal when the party uncovers what makes the time period their in kick.

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This is one version of the time machine that H.G. Wells dreamt of, but there have been several different interpretations over the years.

The first thing you have to consider about using time travel in a campaign is who is using it and why does it matter? Does your party consist of a group of adventurous time travelers like the Doctor and his companions? If that’s the case than why are they drifting through the time stream? Are they explorers? Adventurers? Bored tourists from the future looking for a cheap thrill in the past? If that’s the case than I’d suggest adopting a very Whovian approach to their adventures, try not to focus on paradoxes and disruptions to the timeline. Instead allow your players to revel in the novelty of standing shoulder to shoulder with noteworthy notable figures and in witnessing history as it happens. You can also slip in a few unexpected surprises to keep things interesting. Transform Mary Queen of Scots in Mary Queen of robots and have her launch an invasion of steampunk robots to claim the throne of England. I’d advise keeping things lighthearted and try no to worry about the timeline too much. On the other hand if your party is being sent back into the past to correct some tampering that has altered the history, or to change an event to undo an apocalyptic event than they’ll definitely want to weigh every decision carefully. War stories are the exception to this rule as they force the characters to take up arms in a major conflict and work to ensure the outcome occurs as it did in history. The players still need to feel as though what they’re doing matters and it should, let them influence events and if an importantĀ figure should happen to be caught in the crossfire so be it.

The second question is how are the characters moving through time? Whether they’re doing it with a magic spell or a time machine there needs to be a clearly defined method of travel. It could be something exceedingly rare and difficult to use, or it could be commonplace in the era when it was created. Whether there’s only one time machine in the world or a hundred there should be a finite number and some protocol in place to get your hands on one. If the time travel occurred as the result of an accident then of course recreating the events that caused that accident to return might proved very difficult. One thing I’d advise against doing is dumping your characters in the past or the future without any idea of how they got there or what to do upon their arrival.

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During their third year at Hogwarts Harry Potter and Hermione Granger illegally employed a time turner to save the lives of the wanted Azkaban escape Sirius Black and the condemned hippogriff Buckbeak.

The third thing you should decided upon early in your campaign is the legality of time travel, and who is charged with enforcing those laws. What are these laws, how strict art they, and how are they enforced. The reason these things need to be established from the onset of your campaign is to avoid misleading your party. If there aren’t any laws associated with time travel in your campaign that’s fine, but if there are everyone needs to be made aware of them. You should also carefully consider whose enforcing these laws and how mange to accomplish such a daunting task.

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Time travel occurs so often in the Star Trek universe that Starfleet has established the Bureau of Temporal Investigations. Two of their investigators can be seen here questioning Benjamin Sisko aboard Deep Space 9 after a foray into the past.

Characters like The Flash, Rip Hunter, Booster Gold, The Legion of Superheroes, Superman, Chronos, Kang the Conqueror, Cable, Bishop, Hope Summers, the X-Men, and many more all demonstrate that with the right equipment or circumstances time travel is a relatively stable science in comic books. They usually adopt a clear cause and effect relationship that is easy enough to understand. For example if Wolverine travels back in time to save Professor Xavier’s life than events that occurred following his death will be altered. The snag is knowing what other alterations to the timeline will occur as a result of this change. Perhaps rather than giving up his dream of mutant supremacy and helping the X-Men protect a world that hates and fears them after following the death of Professor Xavier, Magneto continues his efforts to ensure the survival of his species. Unforeseen alterations to the timeline and the threats of the past could play a major role in any campaign taking place in a superhero campaign, whether you’re playing Mutants and Masterminds or the Marvel Heroic RPG. The method of time travel is also pretty uniform throughout comics, more often than not there’s a time machine of some sort rather than an individual with the power to move through time of its own accord. The Flash has his cosmic treadmill which he’s used on numerous occasions to travel back in time and counteract some disastrous event unfolding in the past. I think time travel works best for superhero campaigns when such devices are employed, and when there’s a clear reason that the characters are displaced in time. For ideas on how to run a superhero campaign employing time travel you might want to take a look at X-Men: Days of Future Past, Age of Ultron, or Booster Gold.

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Rip Hunter’s Time Sphere once had an unfortunate collision with the Cosmic Treadmill while both were in use. That probably took a bit of explaining and I’m sure the insurance claims were interesting to say the least.

Long before there was an RPG based on The Dresden Files Jim Butcher had already written in a perfectly good reason to explain why Harry Dresden doesn’t jump back in time whenever things don’t go his way. The Laws of Magic, the governing rules which are enforced by the White Council and their sword-wielding Wardens, strictly forbid time travel. Specifically the Sixth Law of Magic which states “Thou Shalt Not Swim Against the Currents of Time.” Even trying to glimpse the future through divination or other magical means is frowned upon. Only the Blackstaff is allowed to violate this or any of the Laws of Magic. However according to some of the learned minds of the Dresdenverse the threat of a paradox is somewhat overstated as time itself seems to work to ensure that events occur the same as they already have. Anyone attempting to alter past events to change the future might very well find themselves thwarted by time itself. The Dresden RPG book Your Story also makes special mention of time travelers and the Sixth Law of Magic discouraging anyone from attempting to make a so-called chronomancer as they would be certain to run afoul of the White Council. That’s good advice for any players looking to play it safe and avoid the animosity of the some of the most powerful spellcasters in the world, but I think a campaign centered around a chronomancer could be very interesting. A group of young characters just coming into their powers find one of their number sentenced to death for violating a law they didn’t even know existed, and they take steps to save them. On the other end of the spectrum perhaps the characters must always ensure no one on the White Council discovers their friend has this power, leading to a lot of deception and misdirection.

For anyone who is curious, yes there is in fact a role playing game based on the adventurers of the Doctor. It’s called Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space and it’s published the UK based company Cubicle 7 Entertainment. The game employs some interesting mechanics to encourage players to adopt a non-violent as the Doctor and his friends are known for outsmarting their adversaries rather than outshooting them.

I hope that this helps other GMs to employ time travel in their own games, and gives them a few ideas for possible campaigns. Try to keep I fun and avoid paralyzing your party for fear of creating a temporal paradox. Let the story unfold and if things don’t turn out for the best just hop back into your time machine and try again.

The Daily D4

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S.W.O.R.D.

Given the popularity of the television show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Marvel cinematic universe I’ve been thinking that a campaign that shares some elements with them might be interesting. However I also don’t want to run a game based on S.H.I.E.L.D. because I feel though that ground has been well trodden in the past, and it might stifle some of the creativity of players. Instead I thought we’d focus on S.W.O.R.D. also known as Sentient World Observation and Response Department, the agency that keeps an eye on the other intelligent races of the Marvel universe and takes action when necessary. Skrulls, the Kree, the Brood, the Shi’Ar Empire, and the myriad of species who look at Earth as a primitive ball of mud are all on S.W.O.R.D.’s watch list. There are some great characters who’ve worked with the agency since it was introduced a few years ago and it seems to share some close ties to the X-Men.

Possible character choices include: Spider-Woman, Syrden,Beast, Abigail Brand, and Lockheed. Those are just characters who’ve actually worked with S.W.O.R.D. though, think about how many characters in Marvel Comics are aliens or have some ties to an alien culture. Ms. Marvel, Nova, the Fantastic Four, Lyja, Captain Marvel, and many are just a few examples of characters who could folded into such a campaign without any difficulty. If players are feeling especially bold though they could always whip up a brand new agent who represents the rank and file of S.W.O.R.D., but if I was playing I’d probably want to make a Skrull character of some sort.

As for an idea for a storyline Henry Gyrich becoming the Co-Director of S.W.O.R.D. and trying to deport all of the aliens on Earth has some possibilities. However I think I’d like to do something involving a possible crossover between S.W.O.R.D. and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

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The Daily D4

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Rust Monster

Dragons, drow, and giants might be more famous but there are few monsters so capable of striking terror in the hearts of an adventurer as the rust monster. These creatures are drawn to metal they’ll corrode it in a matter of seconds turning precious weapons and armor into mounds of scrap. The method they use to accomplish this has varied slightly over the years, until recently they corroded the metal by touching it with their antenna but now they are capable of doing so by biting it. I think I prefer the idea of them using their antenna but that’s just me. They’ve appeared in every edition of Dungeons and Dragons to date and the creature was apparently inspired by a plastic toy Gary Gygax came across. If you’re looking for something classic, fun, and sure to make your party panic a bit try breaking out the rust monster.

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War of Light Heroclix Event

Based on the War of Light event that took place in the DC Comics universe some time ago, the fast approaching beginning of the Heroclix event promises to be an exciting one. The Green Lanterns, Blue Lanterns, Red Lanterns, Sinsetro Corps, Star Sapphires, Indigo Tribe, Black Lanterns, and White Lanterns are all going to make appearances. There will be characters of varying degrees of fame in each of the respective lantern corps including: Sinestro, Hal Jordan, Atrcoitus, Indigo-1, Saint Walker, Agent Orange, Nekron, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and many more are all waiting to join the fray. With so many figures there’s sure to be a few gems in every pack. As with the Fear Itself event the War of Light boosters are only available to those who participate until Wizkids decides to allow retailers to sell them individually.

In case you couldn’t tell I’m really looking forward to the War of Light and I’ve already reserved my spot for the event at my friendly local gaming store. I’ll be doing a write up about my experiences and I’ll probably record some videos to show off the Heroclix I get.

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