Play by Comment Game?

The PIP-Boy 3000, displaying the player's skil...Image via WikipediaBetween a busy schedule and our game night getting canceled several weeks in a row, I haven't had the time or the motivation to write much about gaming lately.  Once again, what little time I've had for games has been blown on Fallout 3 because I just can't seem to get all of the guys together at the same time.  But computer RPGs like Fallout 3 are only a temporary fix. I always get irritated with the lack of complete freedom and start looking for online options.

In my most recent searches, I stumbled upon a blog called Play-By-Comment and I think it would be really interesting to replicate this obviously successful formula for online gaming.  They've been going since 2006, a lot longer than most play-by-post games that fizzle within the first few weeks or months.

Even though our group has barely gamed any recently, we seem to be drifting back towards D&D, so giving Rifts a go for a comment-based game sounds fun considering how rules-light the comment game style appears to be. The old Palladium clunker can take a back seat while the awesome setting comes to the forefront.

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Eric's Campaign

"Hoorah!" for being on the other side of the DM's screen!

Last week, with less than an hour of prep time, my brother Eric concocted an interesting story.  We began by visiting the tavern, looking for wenches (couldn't help a few Dead Alewives references), hearing rumors about a nearby town with whom trade had recently ceased under mysterious circumstances, and asking for work.  Unfortunately, before we ever actually found any work or were able to follow up on that rumor, a man with an arrow in his back burst into the room and mumbled something about skeletons before his undead pursuers followed him into the room and a call for initiative was made.

After destroying the skeletons, we tracked them back to their lair expecting to find a fledgling necromancer.  Instead, after beating up some more skeletons, we found a ghostly mage claiming that he was being controlled by a greater power.  He disappeared before we could ask too many questions, so we descended deeper into the caves, eventually finding a room with a sarcophagus.  We assume that the mage's body is in there, but we don't know yet because the sarcophagus room was heavily guarded and we had to stop play as soon as we defeated the guardians.

All in all, I started out thinking the story was going to be super-cliche, but considering the amount of prep time I didn't really expect much more.  Fortunately, the twist kept things interesting.  Considering my brother's inexperience as a DM, I have to give him two thumbs up for a last minute virgin DM game night.

If you're reading this, thanks for a great game, bro.  Hope we were easy enough on you for your first time!
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The Trouble I Got Myself Into Using Character Builder

Well, for all the griping I've done about the trouble I've had getting Character Builder to work on my laptop, it does work on my desktop so I used it this week to generate my character sheet for my brother's campaign.  I was really happy with the character, a dwarf warlock.  There is one thing about the Character Builder that didn't occur to me until our first fight.  First, let me show you the sheet:

Notice anything glaringly wrong about this character?

DM (Eric): What's your AC?

Me: Eleven........... ELEVEN?!?!?!

I think my jaw dropped to the floor.  Because Character Builder makes the process so easy, I've got a feeling oversights like this will be common at our table.  If I had been doing the calculations myself, I would have surely taken note of this.  Unfortunately, in my haste, I didn't notice how lopsided my ability scores were (well, actually I did notice, but I wanted a high wisdom for cleric multiclassing and forgot how much of an impact Dex/Int has on AC for lightly armored characters).  Not only that, but I clicked "Auto-Pick" for equipment and wasn't even wearing armor when we entered that creepy "breeding ground for undead" cave.

With that said, I did manage so survive the first adventure even with an 11 AC, thanks to some good rolls and the temporary HP from Dark One's Blessing and Armor of Agathys. 

Next time, I'll go into a little more detail about my brother's new campaign.  He didn't have time to prepare, so he threw everything together while we were rolling up characters (which, like I said, is insanely quick with Character Builder) and pulled off a great first session.

Revamping the 1e Sample Dungeon (Part I)

I have decided that, because my Shadow's Apex campaign is looking to be a varied assortment of adventures and locations from varied sources, I might as well begin the campaign with this old favorite:

Recognize it?  Its the sample dungeon map in the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide, of course, and while the map itself isn't anything particularly special, I have fond memories of reading through this section over and over again as a kid between the time of my first D&D experience (when I was about 6, with my dad), and the next time I got to play (in middle school).  For me, using this map has quite a few advantages.
  1. Because I read these few pages so many times, it shouldn't take long for me to re-familiarize myself with the contents of the dungeon
  2. Because this bad boy is so old, none of my players will recognize it.
  3. The whole dungeon wasn't detailed, so I can keep everything exactly the same and still get creative with the rest. 
Side Note: As I write this, I keep thinking I've seen this done before either on a website or in Dungeon Magazine, but I'm going to pretend that never happened and continue anyway.

First, I'll need to convert the map into Dungeon Tiles and the best program that I've found to do it is Dungeon Tiles Mapper.  As is usual for WotC and their software endeavors, on the official website the program hasn't been updated in FOREVER, so I didn't even have access to cave tiles.  Fortunately, it looks like someone else took over and an updated version of the program is available at Jai's Secret Stash.

After some quick work and deciding that I'd be better off putting this together over the course of several posts, I arrived at this as a starting point:
These are only the first 6 map areas, and my final version will not match the original map exactly anyway.  More of the map and room details will come in the next installment.

I Get to Play? Sweet!

I've mentioned in several posts over the last week or so that a new D&D campaign was brewing, but I never saw this coming.  Someone else in my gaming group has agreed to be the DM.  Despite the fact that the last time I wrote about my brother I was poking fun at him, he has definitely elevated himself to heroic status with his agreement to run the game next week.  I probably shouldn't get too excited.  The last time he mentioned running a campaign, I ended up with this.  Hopefully any work that I do this time won't go to waste.

Potential waste of energy or not, I am excited beyond belief because I honestly can't remember the last time I actually got to play a roleplaying game.  Sure, life behind the screen is awesome, but every once in a while it has to be nice to play the game without all of the pre-game responsibilities.

4th Edition D&D is the system.  The setting?  That hasn't been detailed yet, but I think it is safe to assume that my brother will follow the First Rule of Dungeoncraft (never create more than you must) and stick with just a small town and a dungeon.

The only question is... now that I will/might actually get to play, should I go back to one of the drow I was planning on using last year?  Should I go with a personality-based archetype?  Should I come up with something new?

Decisions, decisions...

When I do decide what I want to play, I'll post the character info and sheet.  Suggestions are more than welcome!

Was Actually Considering D&D Insider, But...

From the very beginning of 4th Edition I have been considering a subscription to D&D Insider, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to do it.  You see, I have a rule about computer games and computer software.  I refuse to pay monthly for ANYTHING.  No MMORPGs, no Norton Antivirus, and no D&D Insider no matter how enticing those tools might be.  I could go on about this for a while, but it isn't the rant I want to focus on today.

A few days ago, I realized that the Character Builder was in open beta.  Awesome!  While I was poking around the site, I also noted that the price was significantly lower than what I thought I had seen advertised earlier.  Sweet!  So I went ahead and downloaded the character builder on my PC.  My goal at this point was to play around with the free beta version until the end of January when the full version (with all 30 levels instead of just 1-3) is scheduled to come out.

Of course, once I decided that this was something I wanted to use, I downloaded it on the laptop I use on game night and this crap pops up:


Soooooo I go back to the WotC website and notice the little note about how the program is messing up on Vista.  My PC is still running on XP.  Great.  I keep reading.  There is hope!  Apparently others have had the same problem so there are already some directions posted about how to make it work.  Unfortunately, even after following those directions to the letter... it still doesn't work for me.  Same problem, same error message.

Maybe I did something wrong.  Maybe its my fault.  I'm just glad I didn't sign up and pay money for this crap.  The program is great.  Having the whole character creation process (including material from multiple books) at your fingertips has got to be convenient.  And the fact that it automatically generates power cards for each character?  Awesome!  I'd kill to use this program for game night... but if I can't run it on my laptop just because I'm running Vista, it is just too inconvenient to bother with.

So I guess this post is a mixture of irritated rant and sigh of relief.  On one hand, I'm more than a little pissed that the program doesn't work on Vista.  On the other, I'm patting myself on the back for not breaking my personal rule of refusing to pay for online gaming.  I am SO glad I didn't sign up impulsively and regret the decision, especially considering that I also read somewhere that as soon as some of the other programs come online the price will likely go up.

Ugh... just... ugh.  I don't know what else to say.
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