Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Your bullshit 4e monster of the week

Wights. When you absolutely only want your group to have a single encounter in a day, accept no substitutes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Making players cry without actually harming them or verbally abusing them

Last night I ran the conclusion of a dungeon in my bi-weekly (every other week, not twice weekly) Chessenta campaign. There were a total of three opponent factions in the final battle, some cultists, a blue dragon, and a brass dragon. The blue and the brass dragon were tangling atop a pile of treasure, crushing the treasure each time they moved or missed with an attack. After that was resolved, I had a list of randomly generated treasure that was being crossed out as the dragons fought and stumbled around.

It was pretty awesome. One of the players ran in and grabbed the dragon in order to forcibly remove him from the room to stop the treasure from getting entirely destroyed, and when the dragon eventually got back in the room, the party rushed him to at least stop him from moving.

The fight featured some neat monsters that were fun and challenging, but not frustrating. Proving once again that ongoing damage is a good mechanic.

Overall it was a fun session that ended up being more lucrative for the party based on the party's tactics and actions, a fine thing if you ask me. We also learned that dragons HATE blowguns.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Invokers are weird

Invokers are weird. They are controllers, they wear chain, and they make divine covenants with the gods.

They are sort of like that priest you thought about playing a long time ago that was a battle priest and didn't use weapons. Even stranger, they are sort of either midfielders or long-rangers, depending on which side you pick. If you pick single target damage and control, they are long range. If you pick lots of ae with horrible side effects, you mid-field it. Also, you get summons, maybe two at every daily spell level. You can also be a pseudo healer, but not really at all. Though you will sometimes let people spend surges and dole out hit points.

Some of the really weird stuff? There are entirely power lines that are dedicated to you dazing yourself. It's pretty bizarre and, at first blush, it looks kind of overwhelming because it's almost entirely utility and finesse.

That being said, I like what I have played of it thus far. It's a pretty nutty class with some nice tricks to whip out.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I will finish that chart, honest. I've just been completely slammed, and have next to no free time. Ugh.

Last night, we played our first game of Paragon tier DnD. It can be summed up easily by the following phrase, "What just happened?". The entire session was a total and complete surprise. Paragon tier looks innocuous enough, at first glance. Your stats increase by one, you get a feat, you pick a Paragon Path and gain some abilities, and any scaling feats increase. It's a lot of little things that add up to one big thing, your party can now completely explode with awesome.

Everyone gets an extra encounter power, which is sort of scary by itself. This encounter power is going to be very attractive and have some real flash to it, as well. These powers are going to really emphasize your class roll in a way that hasn't quite been seen previously. Sure, it depends on the path you take, but count on your power being impressive. Some examples, a defender power that lets you permanently mark another creature until the end of combat, and it does decent damage. Not amazing damage, but solid damage. A controller power that let's you remove a target from the board until it successfully saves. Striker powers get additional damage kickers and start targetting multiple targets.

Not to mention the passive scaling. Leaders become gnarly. Their healing ability, long overdue for some love by this point, increases and becomes awesome again. Strikers get an additional damage kicker. Defenders...stay the same really. Controllers get some bonuses. Some feats scale, but not others. Hitpoints increase, some damage increases, some defenses increase. It's really amazing how these little changes all start to add up.

Now, the worst part about all of this is your action point action becomes utterly explosive. Every Paragon Path lets you do something else when you action point. The worst of these lets you take another action afterwards. The best just do something like passive resistances until the end of your next turn, or every enemy within X takes damage. Those are great for the person running the game, which is why I am terming them the best here. The extra actions let you really devastate an opponent. As an example, last night, as an assaulting swordmage, I made an immediate reaction and hit, raising my defenses by two, and my to hit by two. My turn went, I used a daily and targetted two creatures with attacks. I action pointed, made my attack, missed, but because I action pointed, I got a melee basic attack after that resolved. That's five attacks I got to make that round. That's pretty awful to resolve for anyone running the game. I was just one player, so this was happening all around the table as this was checked out last night.

The practical knowledge gained is hard to decipher at first, but I wrote about the converse of this not too long ago talking about the NPC level gap when you get to eight or ninth level. This is directly the opposite. All of a sudden monsters need to change and the encounters have to change as we catch up and slightly surpass them. I was expecting a little bit of this, but not quite the dramatic shift that we saw last night.

I really wouldn't say that I go out of my way to powergame my swordmage. I've made a conscious effort to make him a good defender after we had a pseudo defender leave the game, because he moved. I took feats that increase my defenses, allowed me to wear better armor, and I will be taking another feat to let me mark more targets. It's nothing awful, but all of a sudden, I'm damn near impossible to hit, unless we start fighting much tougher opponents.

One of the things not really expressed well in texts is that encounters NEED to increase when the players reach paragon tier. The information is there, it's just not obvious. If I haven't been scouring the books lately to find obscure corner cases for games I run, I wouldn't know that minions are now 5:1 instead of 4:1 for each encounter. I wouldn't know that you need an extra monster per encounter now. It's weird, but it does make sense. Experience totals become more of a way to judge encounters than by levels now. It does make sense scaling wise, but it becomes tougher to run. You have to vary your encounters up more monster type wise, and your level ranges are going to go from -2 to +3 on monster in each fight. It does make the fights more varied and unique, but it's a massive style shift in running.

These awkward transitions are something the game could definitely handle better.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I love random treasure generation

I love generating treasure. The possibilities that appear before you are endless. The random nature of the treasure is a surprise and a pleasure when you are generating it, and you know that the PCs are going to be surprised when they see it. Sure, sometimes it's nice to have nicely itemized rewards as well, and it's nice to have bazaars that the players can visit and purchase items. Other times, it's a nice reminder that the PCs are part of a larger world and the items are for people that are obviously not them.

So how do I do it? I made up some charts that I have been using after playing around with various methods.

First, determine how many items you want, or just roll a die to figure out how much you want.

d6 - type of treasure
1-4. Equipment
5. Rituals
6. Alchemy

d20 - type of equipment
1. Armor
2. Weapons
3. Augments
4. Implements
5. Reagents
6. Arm Slot
7. Feet Slot
8. Hand Slot
9. Head Slot
10. Rings
11. Waist Slot
12. Wonderous Items
13. Item Sets
14. Mount Slot
15. Familiar Slot
16. Companion Slot
17. Alchemical Items
18. Consumables
19. Intelligent Items (If you don't want to use these as random treasure, re-roll here instead)
20. Artifacts (If you don't want to use these as random treasure, re-roll here instead)

Level of Item
For players level 1-8 roll a d8 (1-8 level items)
For players level 9-18 roll a d12 (8-19 level items)
For players level 19-30 roll a d12 (19-30 level items)

You can obviously increase this if you wish, but it's a decent guideline based on levels.
Ok, you have determined the item type and the item level. That makes it pretty easy to narrow down choices now. For some things, less so though!

d6 -Armor type
1. Cloth
2. Leather
3. Hide
4. Chain
5. Scale
6. Plate

For armor, you can then determine subtypes if you want, githweave, finemail, warplate whatever if you want to, but the stuff is leveled, so you should feel comfortable subbing that in based on levels if you want. If the item type can match a level of that object (finemail at level 6 for example) roll a d6, 1-5 is normal, 6 is the special type.

d6 - Weapon Quality
1-2. Simple
3-5. Military
6. Superior

Superior Quality Weapons
1. Bastard Sword
2. Blowgun
3. Bola
4. Craghammer
5. Cutting Wheel
6. Double Axe
7. Double Flail
8. Double Scimitar
9. Double Sword
10. Drow Long Knife
11. Execution Axe
12. Fullblade
13. Garrote
14. Greatbow
15. Greatspear
16. Katar
17. Kukri
18. Mordenkrad
19. Net
20. Parrying Dagger
21. Shuriken
22. Spiked Chain
23. Spiked Shield
24. Superior Crossbow
25. Talenta Boomerang
26. Talenta Sharrash
27. Talenta Tangat
28. Tratnyr
29. Triple Headed Flail
30. Urgosh
31. Waraxe
32. Whip
33. Xen'drik Boomerang
34. Zulaat
35. Rapier
36. Reroll
That's a lot of superior weapons. The easiest way to do it is to break them into groups of six. 1-6, 7-12, 13-18, 19-24, 25-30, 31-36. Roll a d6 to determine what group you get, and then roll another d6 to determine weapon type.

Simple Weapons
1. Club
2. Crossbow
3. Dagger
4. Greatclub
5. Hand Crossbow
6. Javelin
7. Mace
8. Morningstar
9. Quarterstaff
10. Repeating Crossbow
11. Scythe
12. Sickle
13. Sling
14. Spear
15. Spiked Gauntlet

Still a lot, but not as many. Break them into groups of 5 and roll a d6 with group 1 (1-5) being 1-2, group 2 (6-10) being 3-4, and group 3 (11-15) being 5-6. Then roll a d6, rerolling any 6 you roll.

Military Weapons
1. Battle Axe
2. Battlefist
3. Broadsword
4. Falchion
5. Flail
6. Glaive
7. Greataxe
8. Greatsword
9. Halberd
10. Handaxe
11. Heavy Flail
12. Heavy War Pick
13. Khopesh
14. Light War Pick
15. Longbow
16. Longspear
17. Longsword
18. Scimitar
19. Scourge
20. Short Sword
21. Shortbow
22. Throwing Hammer
23. Trident
24. War Pick
25. War Hammer

Again, we have a multiple of five. Easy enough. Once again use a d6 to determine the item groups. If you roll a 6, just reroll. Group 1 is 1-5, group 2 is 6-10, group 3 is 11-15, group 4 is 16-20 and group 5 is 21-25.

Ok, so now you have your basic weapon types and your level ranges for items. I am going to do a huge thing here and list the effects as well, by level and weapon type.

One-Handed Non-Hammers
d4 - Level 1:
1. Magic Weapon +1
2. Challenge-Seeking +1
3. Reroll
4. Reroll

d20 - Level 2:
1. Aftershock +1
2. Armblade +1
3. Bloodclaw +1
4. Defensive +1
5. Farbond +1
6. Flesh Seeker +1
7. Gambler's Weapon +1
8. Goblin Totem +1
9. Guardian's Call +1
10. Harmonic Songblade +1
11. Mage Weapon +1
12. Manifester Weapon +1
13. Parrying Weapon +1
14. Pinning Weapon +1
15. Psychokinetic Weapon +1
16. Quicksilver Blade +1
17. Reproachful Weapon +1
18. Supremely Vicious Weapon +1
19. Vicious Weapon +1
20. Weapon of Shared Wrath +1

Level 3
1. Aegis Blade +1
2. Anathema Weapon +1
3. Aura Killer Weapon +1
4. Byeshk Weapon +1
5. Duelist's Weapon +1
6. Foe Maker Weapon +1
7. Frost Weapon +1
8. Great Hunger +1
9. Harsh Songblade +1
10. Inescapable Weapon +1
11. Inspiring Weapon +1
12. Ki Weapon +1
13. Luckblade +1
14. Pact Blade +1
15. Paired Weapon +1
16. Quick Weapon +1
17. Reckless Weapon +1
18. Scalebane Weapon +1
19. Strongheart Weapon +1
20. Subtle Weapon +1
21. Thundering Weapon +1
22. Vanguard Weapon +1
23. Warsoul Weapon +1
24. Gutting Weapon +1
25. Infectious Flame Weapon +1

Again, break this into groups of five. There will be five. Roll a d6 to determine the group then a d6 for the effect, re-roll any result of six.

Level 4
1. Acidic Weapon +1
2. Communal Weapon +1
3. Deathstalker Weapon +1
4. Dislocation Weapon +1
5. Echoing Songblade +1
6. Intensifying Weapon +1
7. Master's Blade +1
8. Maw of the Guardian +1
9. Medic's Weapon +1
10. Oathblade +1
11. Opportunistic Weapon +1
12. Stormbiter Weapon +1
13. Vigilant Blade +1
14. Weapon of Oaths Fulfilled +1
15. Wounding Weapon +1

Again, three groups of five, with re-rolling on a six.

Level 5
1. Chainreach Weapon +1
2. Fey Strike Weapon +1
3. Flaming Weapon +1
4. Flensing Weapon +1
5. Lifedrinker Weapon +1
6. Necroshard Weapon +1
7. Poisoned Weapon +1
8. Runic Weapon +1
9. Thieving Weapon +1
10. Thoughtspike Weapon +1
11. Vengeful Weapon +1
12. Weapon of Great Opportunity +1
13. Learning Weapon +1

Break them into groups of five. Roll a d6 to determine the grouping, a result of 1-2 for 1-5, a result of 3-4 for 6-10, and a result of 5-6 for 11-13. For the last group, assign each item two numbers then roll.

Level 6 - as level one with the following, all bonuses increase to +2
3. Dynamic Weapon +2
4. Sacrificial Weapon +2

Level 7 - as level two with the following changes, all bonuses increase to +2
1-16. Roll on the level 2 chart for item type
17. Devilblind Weapon +2
18. Retribution Weapon +2
19. Spiderkissed Weapon+2
20. Transference Weapon +2

Level 8 - as level three with the following changes, all bonuses increase to +2
1-11. Roll on the level 3 chart for item type
12- 20. Roll on the below Chart
1. Adamantine Weapon +2
2. Assassin's Weapon +2
3. Bronzewood Weapon +2
4. Cloaked Weapon +2
5. Cold Iron Weapon +2
6. Cunning Weapon +2
7. Dread Weapon +2
8. Flanking Weapon +2
9. Force Weapon +2
10. Graceful Weapon +2
11. Guardian's Brand +2
12. Mithrendain Steel +2
13. Mordant Weapon +2
14. Performer's Blade +2
15. Rubicant Blade +2
16. Tyrant's Weapon +2
17. Victory Flash Weapon +2
18. Waterbane Weapon +2
19. Writhing Vine Weapon +2
20. Re-roll

Level 9 - as level 4 with the following changes, all bonuses increase to +2
1-12. Roll on the level 4 chart
13-20. Roll a d10 on the chart below.

1. Demonbane Weapon +2
2. Demonslayer Weapon +2
3. Dragonslayer Weapon +2
4. Feyslaughter Weapon +2
5. Elementalbane Weapon +2
6. Lucky Halfling's Weapon +2
7. Shapechanger's Sorrow +2
8. Singing Weapon +2
9. Vampiric Weapon +2
10. Wolfen Weapon +2

Level 10 - add the following to the level 5 chart, increase bonuses to +2
roll a d20
13. Blackshroud +2
14. Footpad's Friend +2
15. Guarding Weapon +2
16. Lightning Weapon +2
17. Righteous Weapon +2
18. Vitality Drinking +2
19. Wraithblade +2
20. Re-roll

I will finish the rest later, but this is a good start to get you going! Tomorrow will have levels 11-30 for weapons, hammers, armor and whatever else I get through.

Friday, July 2, 2010


"This isn't designed for you"

That phrase is said a lot in the MMO world right now. It's an interesting thing to consider. We've reached a point in MMO design where accessibility, time, and performance are clashing in a completely new fashion. In most MMO models that feature a PvE endgame which revolves around raiding, you have the following model.
Originally, everything was a competition. The players separated themselves into the above tiers. The striation and social structure is set by many factors. Most of which are time, accessibility and accountability.

Yes, accountability. People had to be accountable for their actions originally in MMOs. The leveling curve was steep and starting over just really wasn't something you wanted to consider. You couldn't just pay and swap servers. You couldn't rename yourself. Nothing was instanced, so you interacted with people on a continuous basis. I am not advocating a non-instanced fully Surviving the Game style of game. I do miss this level of accountability though in some games.

Time was a huge obstacle. You had to be available at a moment's notice if you wanted to be bleeding edge. It was a commitment. There was no playing 30 minutes a day or just twice a week. You had to put in the time. Almost unhealthily so. If you couldn't commit like this, then you were in a different strata.

Accessibility was not a game model until recently. The model didn't support multiple people being at the top at a time. By definition if you were not at the top, you couldn't access everything. There was a lot of other content with different difficulties and different rewards available, but if one guild was on top besides the one you were in, you couldn't do it. Now, games over time have tried to fix this. Instances have become common place. This prevents that single guild on top model in theory.

However, people like to compete. People WANT to separate themselves from the crowd. They want to show they are better than other people. They can't help it. This begins the problems with some of the design shifts that have occurred recently. Instead of that clearly delineated strata you had, you end up with something like looks like this.
Which is pretty odd. This is just people who actually want to experience the raiding content. There is another tier of people that have no interest in raiding at all. Still. Look at that. You have three of the tiers of people that have completed the content. This is pretty cool. Everyone seeing what they have paid for is still a new concept. I don't think it's lost its luster quite yet. However, this does raise problems.

The game design created competition is gone. It's entirely gone. This means that people have to create their own forms of competition. Let me be honest with you here, people are jerks. Giant jerks. If left up to them, they will create competition and barriers to entry that make game defined ones look like nothing. People create arbitrary requirements and then immediately start with the following process:

1) Anything I can't complete is overtuned.
2) Anything I can complete that you can't complete is an amazing fight and perfectly balanced.
3) Anything that I completed before you, but you have completed used to be an accomplishment, but now it's nerfed and weak.
4) Anything you can complete but I can't complete is tuned for people who treat this game as a job and have no life. I'm too busy dating supermodels and being a millionaire to worry about what you think, you fat basement dweller.

People chafe under this non-existent yoke. People want to flaunt their skill, dedication, and elitism. So what happens? You create optionally harder content as a way for people to distinguish themselves. You create challenging situations that change the fights in some fashion, or fights that are only accessible once you have completed all the hardmodes. Once again, limiting your access. It's not a big deal, and the top 5% and the group slightly behind them will say that it's for them and not for you, and you get access to everything now anyway and to stop crying. That's where it starts, not for you.
So what happens? You have a gear differential. Now, I am only talking about the same type of raiding size here. Some games separate the sizes and that creates a player imposed barrier. Well, you raid differently than me, that means you are either a) not as good or b) have no life. This depends on what side you are on. Anyway, this gear differential creates issues. You now have people who have significantly better gear. So, the next dungeon is released. The people in hardmode gear now seethe and whine about being placed back in the normal track with the rest of the people. They blow through content and say it's so easy. They complain that the game is dumbed down. They say that anyone who can't annihilate it is bad. Of course, if you release the hardmodes at the same time, you get more of the above four points.

Then what do you do?

You release more at once. You let people work through what they can work through at some sort of pace. Pacing is very important in games, something that seems to be forgotten in a lot of MMOs. You support competitions in game. You reward the people who do things first or quickly with vanity items that then become unattainable later. This lets people show off their skill and dedication but in no way gives them any sort of game edge. Limited titles, limited mounts, all neat. However, when you remove something, you have to replace it with a lesser reward to still encourage people. Still, it's actually a neat method.

You bring back accountability. Make people care about how they treat people and how they are treated. Yes, name changes and server transfers make you money. Still, there has to be a balance between this and giving people carte blanc to be d-bags.

Support rankings and player competition through in-game mechanics. Make things more friendly and supported by the game. Once it's a game structure, it becomes less mean spirited and more accepted. There are many ways to do that, but that's almost another post entirely.

You limit out of game resources needed to perform. If knowledge is presented in an appropriate fashion in the game, it stops being a barrier to entry or performance. People can learn to excel at the game while playing the game. This is something completely not done currently.

I like that we are in an age of change and experimentation. I don't like the fact that the wrong lessons are seeming to be learned. Strides need to be made. Not striations.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Purple Dragons

Out of all the dragons, and there are an awful lot, purple dragons are the weirdest. They are basically vampires, but they aren't undead.

Dominating gaze? Check
Emo color? Check
Destroyed by sunlight? Check

Their breath weapon even assaults the mind. Really, it deals psychic damage (it also dazes, but we'll ignore that part for purposes of this article). It's bite causes ongoing psychic damage. Everything about this dragon is bizarre. It's a not really dreamscape-nightmare dragon that might also be a vampire but isn't quite. I don't know where they fit necessarily in the scheme of dragon things. I mean, I can get behind a dragon of nightmare. That's pretty rocking. Heck, I've used a shadow dragon recently.

I am just not quite sure what to do with a purple dragon. I think, if I used one, it probably lives in the darkness of the underworks of a city. It probably spreads lies and rumors in people's dreams by whispering up drainpipes and through the walls of their buildings. It probably causes people to go insane and seek out the sewers for the voice of their visions and they bring their possessions with them.

Hey, that actually sounds pretty cool now.