Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How Much is "By the Book"

Last week, I read the description of an NPC's death straight from the module. It was the first time I had read anything straight from the book in quite some time, and it was noticeable. I probably should have just summarized it from memory instead of disrupting the "flow" of the game. In any case, someone asked later on in the session how long I had been running a published adventure. The answer to that question is complicated. In some ways, we have all along... but not exactly. I have drawn upon ideas from various modules, but there have been very few sessions that have been "by the book." Here's a quick rundown:

  • I started the campaign with a published adventure from Dungeon Magazine, Within the Circle. For the most part, I ran this as written, except I gave Jern more background and made Belig a bugbear.
  • I used the dungeon levels from Beneath the Twisted Tower, but I took out all the gibberling nonsense and stuck to monsters that I actually liked.
  • I used a modified version of the main map from Perils of the Underdark, the second book from the Night Below adventure/campaign. 
  • I borrowed a great deal from Book Three: The Adventure, part of the Menzoberranzan boxed set.
  • Everything else has been drawn from the actions/backgrounds of the PCs, or entirely my own design... or hinting at material from a module that just hasn't come up yet.
Of course, it is rare that I run a module as-is, so even if my players found all of these modules ahead of time, I doubt they would have too much of an advantage. Most of them are from 2nd edition so I have had to update the stats to Pathfinder, but that's not where my customization stops. These are some of the changes I make on a regular basis:
  • At times, I found it easier to switch a monster to something else entirely rather than update the stats to Pathfinder.
  • I like using miniatures, and I will often switch a monster if I don't have a mini to represent it well.
  • I create my own battle maps using a combination of Dungeon Tiles and Pathfinder Map Packs. Occasionally, I use one of the larger flip mats. Regardless of what I use for a particular encounter, they almost never match the maps in the module.
  • Pretty much anytime I see a monster with an underpowered feat (Deceitful, for example), I swap it for something that helps keep them alive longer in combat... especially since we have a certain dwarf barbarian that likes to charge everything.
  • I typically go into optimization mode with "boss" monsters and redo them entirely. When I run the big baddies straight from the book, I am usually disappointed in how challenging they are to the players.
  • I've been dropping some clues about a major villain whose plans are in the works, but I'm pretty sure I've been vague enough that none of my players have put all the pieces together thus far. 
And that, I think, should give a little more insight into how much of our campaign has been "by the book."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Underdark Campaign Log #16

We join our heroes this week on their way to Mantol-Derith, employed as caravan guards by the drow merchant Hadrogh Prohl.

More of Jake's artwork here.
  • Blue, Human Fighter (Jake) 
  • Rurik, Dwarf Barbarian (Stetson) 
  • Mercy, Half-Orc Ranger (Jammie)
  • Temerith, Tiefling Wizard (Andrew)
  • Himo, Drow Fighter/Cleric (James)
  • Rasa, Nagaji Cleric (Rurik's Cohort)
  • Beltin, Aasimar Summoner (Temerith's Cohort)
Not long after their encounter with an illithid and its illithid grafted servants, the group met with a drow noble named Dwillisith Millithor. They traded pack mules for pack lizards, and the noble teleported away. Hadrogh and his guards, including a drow named Himo who had come with Dwillisith, continued onward to Mantol-Derith, while goblin slaves led the pack mules back to the surface.

Six sided dice represented pack lizards. A few d12's
were placed under floating drow nobles as a reminder
that they were above the fray.
They traveled several days through the wilds of the Underdark without disruption, but were then ambushed while traveling through the bottom of a chasm. Four drow warriors assaulted the front of the caravan, while a pair of drow nobles hovered overhead raining spells down on the group. All four drow warriors perished, as did one of the nobles, but the other disappeared into a maze of Underdark tunnels. 

When they finally arrived at Mantol-Derith a few days later, Hadrogh tied up the pack lizards and lied down for a nap. Meanwhile, most of the group scattered about the cavern either to drink or to make contacts among the merchants. Mercy and Himo stayed behind, however, and were there when someone dropped a globe of magical darkness over Hadrogh and everything else in a twenty foot radius. The rest of the group came running when they saw the supernatural darkness, but arrived too late to help. When the darkness faded, they looked down on Hadrogh's lifeless body... a black bladed dagger sticking out of his good eye and his body turned to stone.

Some poking around in Mantol-Derith led to a drow vendor who suggested they travel to Menzoberranzan to get the best price for their goods in the Black Claw Market. However, the group had no interest in traveling to the drow city, so they spent some time selling the goods for what they could get in Mantol-Derith and headed back toward the surface. Before leaving, though, they took the time to take care of a few important details...
  • They cast detect magic on Hadrogh's goods and located a flute hidden inside one of the casks of wine. It had snake symbols carved into it and radiated strong magic. 
  • They chipped the petrified bag of holding off of Hadrogh's statue with the intention of returning it to normal later and retrieving its contents.
Next time we'll see if they can survive the long journey back to the surface... or if they can find an earth node and teleport back to the old dwarf's cabin. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Khans of Tarkir Spoilers

As excited as I may be about playing Garruk, Apex Predator, we're starting to see spoilers of the set that will be released this fall: Khans of Tarkir.

Here's the basic set info from Wizards:

Set NameKhans of Tarkir
BlockSet 1 of 3 in the Khans of Tarkir block
Number of Cards269
Prerelease EventsSeptember 20-21, 2014
Release DateSeptember 26, 2014
Launch WeekendSeptember 26-28, 2014
Game DayOctober 18-19, 2014
Magic Online Prerelease EventsOctober 3-6, 2014
Magic Online Release DateOctober 6, 2014
Magic Online Release EventsOctober 6-22, 2014
Pro Tour Khans of TarkirOctober 10–12, 2014
Pro Tour Khans of TarkirLocationHonolulu, Hawaii, USA
Pro Tour Khans of TarkirFormatsSwiss:
  • Standard
  • Khans of Tarkir Draft
Top 8:
  • Standard
Official Three-Letter CodeKTK
Twitter Hashtag#MTGKTK
Initial Concept and Game DesignMark Rosewater (lead)
Mark L. Gottlieb
Zac Hill
Adam Lee
Shawn Main
Billy Moreno
and Ken Nagle
Final Game Design and DevelopmentErik Lauer (lead)
Doug Beyer
David Humpherys
Tom LaPille
Shawn Main
and Adam Prosak
with contributions from Matt Tabak
LanguagesEnglish, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
Available inBooster Packs, Intro Packs*, Event Deck*, Fat Pack*
(* - Not available in all languages)
Since that info arrived back in May, we've gotten a few more gems of information... but the Comic Con Magic Panel revealed quite a bit yesterday. Here's a summary:

If that isn't enough info for you, check out www.mtgsalvation.com for the most up-to-date spoilers out there.
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