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June 2014

The Daily D4

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Today’s Daily D4 was suggested by Jade and the it struck me as odd that we haven’t talked about the topic already.

GM Screens

If you look at a picture of an ongoing RPG or walk in and spot one going on at a table in a friendly local gaming store you’ll probably see one of the participants hidden behind a barrier known as a GM screen. Some of them are even made to work with specific games in some cases providing quick reference charts that can be used to ease the pressure for immediate rulings on the GM. There are a few schools of thought on whether or not using a GM screen is beneficial to your campaign. Some GMs find them to be cumbersome and think that the barrier between them and the players is detrimental to the game, others find them to be a helpful tool and use the free space to keep their notes, minis, and dice out of sight. Personally I can see both side of the argument. Whenever I’m running a game with new players, or one where I’m planning to use a lot of minis I like using my screen for two reasons. It has a nice visual impact that draws the eye and it allows me to keep my plans secret if I have a specific mini that I want to spring on the party.

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The Daily D4

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Anyone who isn’t overly fond of bugs might want to skip today’s Daily D4.

Spiders

Did you squirm in you seat when the acromantulas chased Harry and Ron through the forbidden forest in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? Did you suddenly feel the need to head for the lobby to refill your popcorn when Frodo entered Shelob’s lair in The Return of the King? When Bilbo Baggins faced the spiders of Mirkwood Forest did you grimace at the thought of having to fight giant spiders? Arachnids appear in nearly every bestiary for fantasy RPGS to date, and they’ve definitely earned their place. They’re highly adaptable predators with a wide variety of tactics, they can be found in almost every environment on the planet, and plenty of players are certain to find them creepy. In any discussion about spiders in RPGs the goddess Lolth and her drow minions are certainly worth mentioning. Employing enormous spiders like hunting dogs they patrol the caverns of the Underdark filling them with their webs as they carry out Lolth’s wishes. So if encountering a pack of giant spiders under the command of drow doesn’t make you reconsider a visit to the Underdark I don’t know what will.

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Taozin

So your Star Wars campaign has been going on for a few months and you’ve already used some of the most recognizable creatures from the Star Wars universe. If you’re looking for something challenging that might also prove to be a nasty surprise for any force uses in your party I’d suggest an encounter with a taozin. The first time I heard about the taozin I was reading Darth Maul Shadow Hunter, and the thought of an enormous insect lurking in the depths beneath Coruscant is just terrifying. These giant insects are natives of the moon of Va’art were thought to be extinct for many years until one was discovered by a young padawan being pursued by a Sith Lord. So what makes these things so frightening? Well for a starter they’re enormous and they can expel silken webbing to capture their prey. Their shells are also highly resistant to lightsabers and due to they able to mask their presence making themselves appear invisible in the force.

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Thri-Kreen

This race of tribal insect-like people make their home on Athas and they’re one of the most unique races from any campaign setting. These nomadic hunters are more at home in the deserts that make up most of their world than the other races they encounter. They make their own weapons out of their solidified venom and live among their own kind preferring a life in the wilds to one surrounded by the walls that shelter others not of their tribes. Some consider them little more than brutal savages acting on pure instinct, but that is a mistake. Like all insects their society is highly ordered and they will defend what is theirs fiercely if they must. Strangely many of the Thri-Kreen exhibit psionic abilities which they use effectively in their hunts. With an average lifespan of less than thirty years the Thri-Kreen are a short lived race, but the make the most of the time they have.

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The Daily D4

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Marvel Dice Masters

Right after I started playing Heroclix again I started hearing about another games being produced by Wizkids that utilizes elements from the Marvel universe as well, only it uses dice and cards in place of plastic miniatures. I was curious so I watched a couple of unboxing videos and tutorials online just to try and wrap my head around the game, but it never managed to hold my interest. However after today I think I’ve been forced to revise my opinion. While I was visiting my friendly local gaming store I watched two players engaging in a game, and as I happened to know both of them they were happy to explain some of the rules as they played. Now please keep in mind, I haven’t looked into the rules too deeply and I’ve never played it so my understanding of the mechanics is extremely limited. I did however learn that Nick Fury allows you to play Avengers at no additional cost, which sounds terrifying even when you don’t fully grasp all of the rules. So why am I talking about a game that I can’t give a detailed account of? Well I think of the Daily D4 as a place to run through ideas and topics that are at the forefront of my mind, and this definitely falls into that category. I feel a bit bad for dismissing the game for so long and I’m definitely planning on giving it a try to see how I actually feel about it. If you’re interested I think the best thing to do is find some friends who actually play it, then just sit and watch them play for a bit. There’s something about this game that just doesn’t seem to translate well any other way and it really does need the enthusiasm of players to sell itself.

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The Daily D4

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Today’s Daily D4 is all related to things I saw or bought while I was out running errands with Jade. It makes for an odd assortment of items, but I think it’s one that you’ll all find interesting.

Iron Patriot Heroclix

I picked up another one of the Heroclix from the Iron Man 3 set today, and as always I let Jade choose because she usually manages to pick something pretty spectacular. Her streak continues. One of the three that she picked turned out to be the seasonally appropriate Iron Patriot, and I’ve got to say this figure is pretty tough. For 200 points he has a starting movement of 12, a starting attack value of 11, a starting defensive value of 17, and a starting damage value of 4. He has indomitable and a range of 8 allowing him to pour on the attacks and avoid being brought to a standstill to avoid pushing damage. Now for a guy walking around with a mini-gun on his shoulder you’re probably wondering what kind of attack powers he has aren’t you? Well Wizkids didn’t disappoint with this one. Penetrating psychic blast, super strength, and steal energy give him a nice blend of attacks that can bypass defense, increase his damage output, or allow him to recover. I really like his movement powers as well, I feel like Rhodes wouldn’t be the sort of character to just stand around. Running shot, charge, and flurry make for some interesting options and they match up quite well with his attack powers. His defensive powers switch from invulnerability paired with combat reflexes to toughness, so he has a pretty good ability to soak up damage for most of his dial. His damage output is pretty staggering, in fact it remains at a steady for throughout most of his dial, he deals 3 damage on two clicks but that’s still impressive in my book. As for support powers he sports outwit, perplex, shape change, and regeneration making for a nice blend. However he clearly isn’t meant to serve as a back end support piece with his combat values. He has a trait called Bodyguard which allows a single ally with the Ruler, Celebrity, or Politician keyword to use super senses when they’re adjacent to him, and on a roll of 3-4 the damage is dealt to Iron Patriot instead. I’d team him with some low point piece with the proper keyword who can take advantage of that trait and have the pair of them tear into whatever crosses their path.

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Marauders of the Dune Sea

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Caravans are under attack by monstrous creatures and nefarious bandits lurking in the wastelands along a well traveled road, and it falls to a ragtag band of heroes to recover one of the lost caravans. That’s more or less how Marauders of the Dune Sea begins and it finds the characters in the city of Tyr, the only great city in all of Athas not currently under the rule of one of the powerful sorcerer-kings. How long Tyr can remain free is a matter of heated public debate, but the rumors of an ancient ruin that’s been discovered in the desert somewhere outside of Tyr has drawn far too much attention to the already troubled city. For GMs looking to try their hand at a Dark Sun campaign Marauders of the Dune Sea is a great launching platform as it introduces many of the central themes of the setting. The module’s creator Bruce Cordell captures the intrigue of the cities of Athas and the sorcerer-kings, the brutality of the harsh environment, the mystery of what lies buried beneath the shifting sands, and the wonder of a world with only a handful of civilized places left. You’ll also find a very nice double-sided map inside depicting a bazar of Tyr on side and desert map on the other, both of which can be used for other campaigns if you’re of a mind to do so. Since it’s intended for a party of 2nd level characters it could serve as a starting campaign with a bit of tweaking, or you could level your party up a bit with a brief introduction.

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The Daily D4

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Pirates of the Spanish Main Card Game

Pirates of the Spanish Main has elements of a lot of other fun games that I think will make it a favorite for a wide variety of players. Two to four players take on the roles of some of the most salty seadogs to ever sail the Spanish Main, and do everything in their power to increase the fame of each of their captains. At the end of the game the player with the most fame is declared the winner. There’s definitely a strategy aspect as you’re shifting around the ships with movement cards and trying to take advantage of the adventure card that will be put into effect that round. There’s also something of a bluffing game going on as players try to guess which of the players are playing as each of the pirates. If they guess accurately the players claims half of the fame from the pirate’s card giving them a big boost. To avoid losing fame you’ll have to be careful in showing too much favoritism for any one of the pirate. The adventure cards themselves are filled with ghost ships, maelstroms, volcanoes, daring ship to ship battles, and other exciting events to alter the fortunes of the pirate crews. Pirates of the Spanish Main is a great game and it’s easy to learn how to play.

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The Daily D4

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Weird Wars: Rome

This is a supplemental book for the RPG Savage Worlds that provides an interesting new take on the expansion of the ancient empire of Rome. As legionaries battling on the frontier the players will face the foes of their empire as well as darker more inhuman threats. I love the idea of playing out a scenario that finds a group of legionaries in Gaul on the lookout for savage warriors, only to come face to face with mudmen or some other supernatural creature. This is a supplemental book so you’ll need to have the core Savage Worlds book in order to play it, however it does provide some new material.

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Robot Chicken Dungeons and Dragons

Back in 2010 the writers of Robot Chicken sat down with Chris Perkins to play a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, it remains one of my favorite games to this day. The newly acquainted adventurers embarked on a quest into Undermountain beneath the city of Waterdeep to recover the shield of the orc slayer, one of the legendary sentinel shields. These three shields had been lost for some time, but a halfling eager to reclaim one learned that the shield of had been entombed with the dwarf who’d wielded it in life. Ranrock, Bluebell, Steel Diamond, Jaundice the Mauve, and Kai Nuq Sin faced many perils in their quest. If you’re in the mood for a few hours of entertaining diversion and an adventure fraught with traps, foul creatures of darkness, and a fun quest it’s definitely worth taking a look at this.

The Daily D4

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Today I thought we’d take a minute to discuss three of the board games that have been inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, while they’re not quite the same as running a D&D campaign they’re still fun in their own way and I think they’re worth a look. All three of the games we’ll be looking at today were produced by Wizards of the Coast, and they’re all for one to five players. Whenever I see a game that can be played solo I take a special interest as it’s sometimes not possible to get a group of friends together, so it’s nice to have something that I can play by myself from time to time.

Castle Ravenloft

The first in the series takes us to one of the most recognizable D&D settings of all time, the terrifying Castle Ravenloft where the vampire Strahd von Zarovich holds court. Players will have to face the monsters and traps that occupy the castle before coming face to face with the vampire lord himself for a final showdown. Castle Ravenloft was the first premiere of the new adventure system used in all three of the D&D board games and it won the Origins award. There’s something to be said for opening with a strong lead, and referring back to one of the most famous D&D campaigns of all time was definitely a good way to garner some interest in the new games. You and your friends will play at various scenarios included in the scenario book, meaning that no two games need to be identical as you can keep trying out different scenarios until you’ve completed them all. The game contents include: 40 unpainted plastic miniatures, 13 sheets of interlocking cardstock dungeon tiles, decks of encounter and treasure cards, a rulebook, a scenario book, and a 20-sided die. Aside from the heroic characters and a few of the more powerful monsters there are multiples of all of the miniatures, meaning that you’ll always have the minis you need on hand for any given encounter. The players will get to choose from five different heroes: a Dragonborn Fighter, Human Rogue, Dwarf Cleric, Eladrin Wizard, and Human Ranger. Each of these heroes have unique traits and abilities to help them on their quest. It’s probably worth noting that the miniature for the Dragonborn Fighter was the only new figure to be produced for Castle Ravenloft, the rest being recast from previous molds.

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Wrath of Ashardalon

The second of the series features a monstrous red dragon as the central threat and finds our heroes wandering in a twisting labyrinth underneath of a mountain. Ashardalon was pulled from adventures in 3rd Edition and as far as dragons go they don’t come much more dangerous than the reds, whose powerful abilities are usually paired with short tempers and an ego as big as a mountain. As with Castle Ravenloft the scenario book allows for players to enjoy different scenarios each time that they play through the game, allowing for enormous replay value. The game contents include: 42 unpainted plastic miniatures, 13 sheets of interlocking cardstock dungeon tiles, decks of encounter and treasure cards, a rulebook, a scenario book, and a 20-sided die. All of the miniatures included in Wrath of Ashardalon are different from those found in Castle Ravenloft. The selection of heroes is also unique this time players can choose from : A Dragonborn Wizard, Half-Orc Rogue, Elf Paladin, Human Cleric, and Dwarf Fighter. Out of all of the games Wrath of Ashardalon is the only one that actually features a dragon as the primary adversary, and it also seems to have the feel of a classic dungeon crawl making it something I’m sure many players would enjoy.

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The Legend of Drizzt

The third and final installment in the series featured the famous Drow outcast Dizzt and several other characters from the Forgotten Realms. It is recommended that single players begin by trying out the scenario Escape from the Underdark, which allows them to act out Dizzt’s flight from the Underdark, but there are several different scenarios for players to enjoy. The halls of the Underdark are filled with all manner of unsavory creatures including the spiders of the Drow, trolls, demons, dragons, duergar, driders, and more. The game contents include: 42 unpainted plastic miniatures, 13 sheets of interlocking cardstock dungeon tiles, decks of encounter and treasure cards, a rulebook, a scenario book, and a 20-sided die. Fans of the Forgotten Realms will be pleased to see that they will be able to choose from a number of recognizable characters plucked from the books. Drizzt is one of the choices but the game also features several of his friends and allies including: Bruenor, Artemis, Cattie-Brie, Athrogate, Wulfgar, Jarlaxle, and Regis. I love the Underdark and I think it makes for a fantastic setting for a game, and this is one that fans of Drizzt are sure to want.

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So there you have it, three unique games with several common features. You can even combine elements from the games pooling dungeons tiles and monsters together allowing for more expansive games with more challenging foes. The array of miniatures included in them makes for a nice addition to the collection of any dungeon master looking to add to his selection, and with a bit of time and effort you could even paint them up quite nicely.

For some time now I’ve been wanting to try one of these games, but the price tags attached have always scared me off or encouraged me to buy something else instead. I’m thinking of trying to play one as the subject of an upcoming podcast, but I’m not sure which would make for the best choice. So I’m giving our readers a chance to voice their opinions, which should I choose? The sprawling dragon filled dungeons of the Wrath of Ashardalon? Or should I set out for the daunting Castle Ravenloft? Perhaps you’d prefer that I try to escape from the Underdark alongside of Drizzt?

The Daily D4

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Sorry guys, I know we’ve been talking about Dungeons and Dragons a lot lately, but with the new edition coming out in just a few weeks it’s been on my mind quite a bit. Don’t worry other games will rise to the forefront of my brain soon enough.

Rod of Seven Parts

I stumbled across this interesting little gem while I was reading through my new copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2. The rode of seven parts is an unimpressive looking segment of black metal that was created during the Dawn War by servants of Bahamut and Moradin. It was forged as a weapon to be used against a particularly powerful primordial known as Miska the Wolf-Spider. When it came into contact with the primordial it was shattered into seven parts and vanished along with her, it has not be reassembled since that terrible battle. The Rod of Seven Parts was the primary focus of a Dungeons and Dragons adventure written by Skip Williams back during 2nd Edition. Leading the party in pursuit of the segments of the rod and pitting them against the agents of Miska and the Wind Dukes of Aaqa who helped to forge it in the first place. Campaigns that can be carried on for a long time like that, while taking part in other adventures at the same time, really appeal to me. You can always throw in a rumor or a whisper about a segment as a reward and it can be exciting to know you’ve taken one step closer to your ultimate goal. The rod itself is a handy magical item but it isn’t so powerful that you need to fear putting it in the hands of your players.

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The Daily D4

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Knights of Badassdom

When his longtime girlfriend breaks up with him (Character’s) friends decide that the best way to cheer him up is getting him to take part in their weekend LARP. Unfortunately they also manage to summon a succubus by mistake, and the infernal seductress begins tearing her way through the assembled LARPers. Peter Dinklage, Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zahn and Summer Glau are the main cast members and each of them managed to convince me that they were nerdy enough to attend an event. The music is fantastic and there are lots of jokes that are sure to get a snort of laughter from your Dungeons and Dragons group.

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Dungeons and Dragons Attack Wing

Given the popularity of tabletop strategy games like Star X-Wing Fighter and Star Trek Attack Wing it’s not surprising to see Wizkids is producing something with similar mechanics, but a fantasy flavor. Some of the contents of the starter set were revealed for the first time at Origins and it looks like they’re going all out with this one. The game will allow players to assemble teams of dragons which will be pitted against one another in breathtaking aerial combat. The starter set includes three dragons but there are going to be additional dragons released it later expansions to the game. Initially players will be able to use either a red, a blue, or a copper dragon. The game will also employ ground troops such as frost giants and elven archers who will clash beneath their winged allies. Aside from the fact that the miniatures are all original sculpts that look pretty fantastic I’m also interested in seeing how the ground troops will be put into play.

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