Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Midweek Chainmail: Succubi

I know this has very little to do with chainmail, but my rituals post is still not ready. I did find some great images of Succubi while looking for some warlock motivational posters. Without further ado, enjoy.

The power of seduction
I really like this first picture because she looks like she actually has some magical powers of seduction, not that she needs them.
Evil? Who me?
Another very nice picture. I really like the innocent look she has, as if to say no I am not really evil. 
Dark Beauty
I think this one is actually my favorite. I really like how her demonic qualities are downplayed. She could almost just be a human who made some bad (or great!) choices. The wings are very understated and her attire is actually quite modest for a succubus. I think I may use this picture either for a villain with some depth, or for a character portrait. Either way I really like this picture. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always "Yes, and...?"

1. The last picture comes from this website and was made by *aditya777

Monday, January 30, 2012

Secret Warlock: Motivation

This reminds me a bit of my WoW Warlock, speaking of which you may see some succubi in an upcoming Saturday Chainmail. But the lesson for a D and D Warlock is there as well. To put it another way don't upset the demonic pixies.
Sure I'll sing one more song just please don't eat me!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Coming Attractions

Coming up this week I am hoping to have a little more time than I did last week. I have three or four posts started that I would like to finish and get up here. I have a good start on a post on rituals, I am still thinking about a post on skills, especially after today's seminar at D and D XP. I have a few more thoughts to share on DnDnext as well.

Hint: If the person to your left is a
 hatter you might be at the wrong party. 
For Secret Warlock I am hoping to finish the origin story of Aramil at least and perhaps share Aramil's encounter with an icy room of doom and the epic party I immediately regretted wishing for. I may also have some thoughts on making sure you have an understanding of how the world actually works.

For my Weekly Homebrew I am going to keep working on fleshing out Bristle in preparation for running it again this Saturday. If I get the chance I may share completed stats for the fingerbone of St. Cuthbert but I will at least give a character sketch for another npc, perhaps the mayor this time.

As always if you have ideas for articles or requests for homebrew items, post in the comments or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes and...?"

D and D Class Design Seminar Special: Rarity

Ok maybe a little Magic in D & D is ok
I am working on a post for tomorrow about the use of rituals past, future and especially, present, but I am also following the D and D XP Seminar on class design and I feel the need to respond to one of the bits they just released and a reaction I saw from @deadorcs on twitter. I want to be very clear that I am not accusing Wizards of the Coast from turning D and D into Magic the Gathering. I am also still kind of excited about D and D next, but I was very concerned when they said that they were considering making some classes common, some uncommon, and some rare. I know Wizards isn't trying to magicify... magictate... magic... they aren't turning Dungeons and Dragons into Magic the Gathering. I think the wording is perhaps just unfortunate.

What really bothered me though was a reaction I saw on Twitter. More on this later.  At first I wasn't pleased with the idea. Both because of the inevitable comparison to Magic, and because broadly I think the idea might be a good one in general, it is not something I want to see coded into the game. The idea actually fits much better as a module perhaps even one associated with campaign settings. That is I think it would be ok to have Wizards in Forgotten Realms be common, while sorcerers are uncommon and warlocks are rare. What I don't want is that idea coded into the core.

No, you can't play a warlock in my game Scott.
As a DM I wouldn't mind the book giving me some ideas for how to detail class rarity, but maybe I want Wizards to be rare and warlocks to be a dime a dozen.  As a player I want to be able to play the character I want to play without undue hassle. So when @deadorcs suggested that in his campaign he was going to want a truly awesome backstory if one of his players wanted to play a rare class. I have no problem limiting myself for a theme game, such as this one. But one of the things I liked about 4e was that everything was core. I hated when I bought a book to play the cool new class, that my DM would say no we are limiting things to core.

It really bothered me Wizards introduced magic item rarity into the game with Essentials. If magic items are a player resource, which they had been from the beginning of 4e then they should stay a player resource. If you want them to be a DM resource that's fine, but the rest of the game needs to support that. I happen to like having them as a player resource, again because so many times I "needed" a magic item which my DM wouldn't let me have. On the other hand,  I have enjoyed the mystery of discovering cool new magic items that comes along with them being a DM resource. My main concern is that if anything in the game is a player resource it should be class. Let's keep the core big and inclusive so I don't have to work harder than the swing a sword fighter just to get to the table. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes and...?"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Saturday Chaimail: No Comments just Cheescake

I am exhausted so I'm not going to add any comments or any exciting chainmail accessories. I'm just going to post some pictures I found that I think are cool to look at. 
I lied maybe a few comments

This looks very uncomfortable

I like this because she is curvy

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I am nearing the halfway point on my 14 days of work in a row. I am hoping that hings will lighten up a bit next week to give me some time to work on some content. It bothers me that I have started so many projects and haven't been able to finish them, but I know I'll get there. Until then enjoy this motivational poster about hit points.
Not just an abstraction anymore

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Weekly Homebrew: A long day

I have another really long day today, and had a long day yesterday. I am hoping to have some actual content this week, but I've only got two paragraphs actually written so far. I am very glad to be working again though. I'l give you a taste of what I had in store for the my Weekly Homebrew post.

Father Stephen and the Fingerbone of St. Cuthbert:
A bit of inspiration for Father Stephen
Father Stephen is the village priest. He is in charge of a small chapel. In my game it is simply dedicated to God since it is an Arthurian game. However any good deity would work. Bahamut or Pelor would make especially fine choices for this. Father Stephen is a devout worshiper and genuinely cares about his flock. He would work well as a patron of a divine PC. In my game he also has an assistant the players haven't met so that I can provide them a companion character if they need one or to give them a tie to the world if they decide to create a new PC who uses the Divine Power source.

Father Stephen is a ritual caster and can provide a blessing to the PC's which could include a small mechanical benefit. As an example in my game the players suspected they were going to be fighting fey creatures so I allowed Father Stephen to bless them with a +1 to attack rolls and damage rolls against fey creatures until their next extended rest. I was planning a tough encounter and the bonus certainly aided them, even if it wasn't the difference between life and death.

In addition to his responsibilities as a chaplain, Father Stephen also guards a powerful relic, the Fingerbone of St. Cuthbert. The Fingerbone of St. Cuthbert is all that remains (or is it?) of a powerful paladin who was later sainted. So far the only mechanical benefit I have shown the players of the fingerbone is it's ability to somehow negate Fey Magic. I'm not exactly sure how I want to describe it in game terms, but the players had found some coins that were being used as scry sensors by a powerful fey creature and the fingerbone was able to destroy the link the fey had to the coins. One thing I am considering is to allow a PC who is carrying the fingerbone to use a holy Smite as an encounter power as a Cavalier of their level. I think Cadwr my friend's questing knight would enjoy a touch of the Divine in his character.

As I get more of the fingerbone detailed I will share it here. I am looking at trying the Power 2ool that the robed guy uses, to flesh it out. I am still planning to provide more details for the banking clan as well as fulling fleshing out Bristle, but those will have to wait for another week. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always "Yes and?..."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mid week Chainmail

I got called in to work tomorrow. So, now instead of tomorrow, my next day off is a week from Saturday. It looks like my blog for the next bit will be a lot of smaller posts. I will try to get some real content up soon. Until then I leave you with some chainmail motivation.
Happy Hump Day followers!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Secret Warlock

Another picture of Aramil the Secret Warlock
Hello again. I am about to go to bed because I have had a very long day at work. I am working on a backstory for Aramil, and I discovered something intriguing about his past along the way. As soon as I get it finished I will post it here, but it looks like it's going to be a longer one and I want to make sure I get it right. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always "Yes, and...?"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Coming Attractions

I will defeat you yet room!
It's time once again to take a look at the upcoming week. Tomorrow in Secret Warlock we'll look at a really fun encounter where Aramil was able to master an icy room. I may also talk about the role of email and PbP in the future of gaming. In Weekly Homebrew I am going to talk a little about a campaign I just started on the VT. I ended up with 4 brand new players and one veteran, so I'll talk a little about that as well as give some details of the village of Bristle. I am working on articles about skills in 4e and another about rituals, but I'm not exactly sure how they are going to pan out. Finally I have some very exciting news if you follow A Single Step. I am going to do a special Steampunk Sunday: D and D article for them in the near future. That's all the coming attractions this week, as always if you have an idea for an article or would like to request some homebrew material feel free to leave a comment. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always "Yes, and...?"

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I owe I owe so off to work I go

I wanted to update you that I am now a member of the gainfully employed. I start work at 6 am on Monday. I am hopeful that this will not affect my posting schedule, but you may see some shorter posts occasionally. For now please enjoy this picture.
And then I will slit your gizzard!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Saturday Chainmail: Bags

A long time ago I had acquired a chain-mail dice bag. It was actually really well made and I had a lot of fun bringing out my bag and seeing the envy on the other players faces. Unfortunately I lost it in one move or another. I haven't been able to replace it yet, but I have found some really neat bags to share with you.
A really neat addition to a period outfit
I found this particular bag on Think Geek. They have a good selection of other toys and are worth checking out.
For the really dedicated gamer
Perhaps a dice bag isn't enough for you. Perhaps you would like to make chain-mail an even larger part of your gaming repertoire. If so then the chain mail messenger bag is for you. Available here, this bag is perfect for carrying your books or other gaming accessories.

Chainmail Kiss
I leave you with this picture. I love the way the flowing white robes drape over the lady's leg. I am not sure if the warrior is real, from the way the lady looks it appears he may be a spirit. If I were to guess I would say he is a fey spirit of the Wild Hunt who has captured this beautiful lady's heart. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always "Yes and...?"

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Modularity in D and D

I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. I am actually tentatively excited about the next D and D. I’m not ready to give up on 4e, but I think there is plenty of time to finish it out with a bang. If anything the idea of another edition coming gives me the motivation to get back in and finish some of my games, Primordial Threat I am looking at you. I am also playing in three excellent paragon tier games and I hope that there is enough time to bring them to their logical end. Whether that is level twenty, thirty or some other place remains to be seen.

I do have some real concerns about the modular nature of the next D and D. I was very excited when I read this about the goals for the new edition. It really speaks to one of my main concerns about the modular nature of the game. I am concerned that when I step up to the table to play D and D I’ll find something else instead. Maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. I do kind of agree with the Dungeon Bastard’s take on the Edition Wars. On the other hand there are some things from old editions that I am not excited to have to deal with again. It’s not to say they aren’t problems with 4e either, but I like the basic assumptions 4e makes about the game.

Feats? Check. Skills? Check. Magic Missile all day? Check.-- Red Mage
I like Swords!--Fighter
Stabbity goodness-- Black Mage
So when the author said that I could play my character with lots of skills and feats and powers and my friend can play his character who likes to hit things with his sword at the same table, it made me very excited. It does sound a bit impossible, but if they can pull it off I would love to see it. Maybe there could be a day when I can play D and D with my wife again. Who knows, stranger things have happened.

I read a blog post this week about some history of the game and what the author would like to see in the upcoming new edition. I really wish I could find it, but one thing the author talked about was in older editions the dm had more power and it was ok. I’ve actually played D and D since second edition and my first dm did have a lot of power. In fact he even leveled our characters for us. It was awesome he told great stories we still talk about to this day. I don’t think my wife will forget when Lady Lark suddenly became a cleric after the god of the moon showed up to save us one time to many. It’s funny now that I think about it I don’t really have any awesome memories about my characters. I think there might be a blog post in there somewhere. In any case I think if a dm tried a trick like that today I would have a fit.
I'm a what now?

I think the reason I trusted the dm to take that level of control was that he was a good friend. Besides, part of me was just excited to be playing. I’m not saying we didn’t have some issues, but I wouldn’t let a dm level up my character today. I have had too many problems with DM’s with god complexes. I’ve actually talked about some of my bad dm experiences in my post about pirates. Part of the problem is that I have moved a couple of times and I’ve lost touch with friends so in order to play I’ve had to find pick-up games and play with strangers. I won’t say it’s been all bad. I have certainly found my share of good times and good DMs. Even more I have found some good friends as well. It’s not the same though I just don’t trust a stranger to tell a good story and run with it. I want to go in with some guidelines so we can start a shared experience.

I could give you a laundry list of things I want in the next iteration of D and D. Things like powers and being able to do something magical as a wizard more than one time per day.  I was thinking of doing just that, lists of modules that I wouldn’t play without, and when the Angry DM said he was excited about limiting them I was all set to write a post about not limiting my D and D. But, I realized what I really want in DnDnext or whatever it ends up being called is not a list of fiddly bits or rules. What I really want are the baseline expectations that make for a good 4e game.

Home wrecker and Game killer.
So here is what I would like in DnDnext, at least for today, tomorrow I might change my mind. I want page 42. That is I would like an easy way to adjudicate things the rules don’t cover and have it spelled out clearly that it’s ok to make calls. I am ok with a bit of Rule 0 thrown in as well. I want the information imperative continued. I want to be able to know the information I need to make good tactical decisions. I think the bloodied condition was one of the best additions to the game. It gives me an idea where to have my friends attack if I am playing a warlord. I think adding some mechanical bits to the condition make it better than just having it be half hp. Some of my favorite monsters get more deadly when they are bloodied. But the one thing I really want in DnD next is Yes and… I have had too many DMs shut me down with a no.

 I think the best example was the encounter that killed D and D for my wife. We were doing an investigative adventure and we ran into dead end after dead end. My Paladin was about ready to start knocking random heads together and my wife asked if the family whose disappearance we were investigating had a maid servant. The DM said no shutting down yet another avenue to adventure.

The worst part that when my wife explained that a well to do family would have had a maid servant it devolved into an argument about medieval politics and actually ended up killing the whole game. I know I have fallen into the trap as a DM myself because it requires a great deal of thinking on your feet to run with what the players give you. If you follow it yes and can vastly improve your game, which is why I am glad it is a baseline expectation of 4e and hope that it continues to be in DnDnext as well. Until next time remember don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always “Yes and…?”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Weekly Homebrew: Balasar

This edition of Weekly Homebrew will focus on Balasar a warehouse manager for the banking clan I introduced a couple of weeks ago. I am still working on a name for the clan so if anyone has some good ideas please feel free to let me know. Balasar manages the warehouse that Seamus would report to so if the players are tracking down the stolen item it could lead them back to there. If however the party overcame Seamus and kept the item they could try to track down whoever sent Seamus and the trail could lead them here as well.

Balasar, created on the Monster Builder from the Wizards of the Coast website, is an Elite Soldier. Balasar would be a good for challenge a party of 8th level Characters. Coupled with some other Dragonborn, or perhaps some humans he would make a good end of adventure “boss.” I do have an idea for making Balasar into an end of tier boss which I will get into near the end of the post.

Balasar has some features that make him a really good a soldier. First he has a Defender Aura. I have already talked about the benefits of a Defender Aura in my post about Defenders. His best feature is the ability to knock prone any enemy who provokes an opportunity attack or who ignores his aura. This makes him extremely hard to get away from. His signature attack is a finishing move which can recharge. It does a lot of damage against a bloodied enemy and also gives his allies a hefty bonus until the end of his next turn.

As he is written Balasar makes a pretty good end of adventure boss monster. You could make an arc where the players find an item, have an encounter with Seamus then either lose the item or become curious about why he attacked them. After that you could design a skill challenge to track down the clan which would lead the players to Balasar’s Warehouse. The Warehouse would make an excellent site based adventure, or you could round the skill challenge out with a few combats to make it play more like an event based adventure. Either way an encounter with Balasar should be a good climactic end to the adventure for 7th or 8th level players.

However if you wanted to make Balasar more of a tier ending threat, you could foreshadow him a bit by having him appear at the warehouse and leave the characters being attacked by the other dragon born. After some time away and a good deal of investigating the party could track him down again. Then after another long fight, once he is bloodied or even dying, have him transform into a dragon. I would recommend an adult Orium Dragon, but others could be appropriate as well. Depending on how the fight has gone you could allow the players to recharge an Encounter power or perhaps spend some healing surges, but I would not allow the use of a short rest. If the party is in truly dire straits you might even allow them to regain all encounter powers or one daily.

I hope you find Balasar as interesting as I have. If you end up using him or Seamus I would love to hear about it. Taken together Balasar and Seamus make a good introduction to the clan at the heroic tier. Going forward be sure to keep in mind that the clan is a world spanning operation and has many resources to use against the characters. If you wanted to use the clan as more of a patron of the characters you could use Balasar as a test to the characters worthiness in much the same way. Until next time remember don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always “Yes, and…?”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sexuality in D and D: The Spoony Bard

Who's Scruffy Looking?

I just saw an article about a study that says having sexual intercourse one to two times a week can boost your immune system. I have also noticed that when I am playing a character with any personality I tend to be edgy, occasionally even inappropriate. I’m not entirely sure why that’s so, but I think it may have something to do with really liking the scoundrel as an archetype.

 I won’t speak for everyone’s experience, but most of my games have had at least some degree of sexuality involved in them. If they had movie ratings they would tend to PG-13, but I have had occasional moments of R or even NC-17. It is an important aspect of the game, but can make people very uncomfortable. Additionally, it can be very difficult to do well. It can easily distract from the game if it is overdone. On the other hand when used correctly sexuality can add another dimension to the game making it feel more like a real world. If it is done well it can be a fun addition to the game, as long as everyone is on board.

The first thing you need to keep in mind when thinking about adding an element of sexuality to your game is the other players. D and D is a family game. Obviously you want to be careful about bringing in PG material in your game if you have kids in your game.

Even beyond the obvious many people might be made uncomfortable by any amount of sexuality in the game. There are many good reasons for this. If someone is uncomfortable with it at the table then you need to respect their wishes. D and D is a cooperative game, and generally you are playing with friends. I submit the first rule of D and D is Wheaton’s law.

Don't you wish this blog post was rated R?
The best thing to do is to have a discussion with the other players about general table etiquette. It’s always good to set good expectations for things at the table. Once you have set some expectations about general table etiquette you should discuss whether any amount of sexuality is allowed, and if so how much. In many games some degree of innuendo would be appropriate, say a PG or PG-13 rating. Like I said I enjoy at least a little bit of innuendo in my games.

If you do allow sexuality in your games there are a lot of complex issues that you may deal with.  Often it is better to simply hand wave some of the complicated issues away. There are times when it might be interesting to roll with some of the issues. One of the best games I was in had one of the PC’s get pregnant. It was really funny, because though she had a bit of a reputation for some reason, she was actually a virgin. My friend ran with the story and it turned out to be an excellent diversion. She even turned the story into an excellent fictional account for a creative writing class.

Oh my god he is doing what to inspire courage?
If you are interested in adding a bit of sexuality to your games there is an excellent resource for you. The Book of Erotic Fantasy has an excellent discussion of the ideas as well as some wonderful resource material for the game. Though it is written for 3rd Edition D and D much of the material is useful for any game that features adult content. I will say that one time I played a Spoony Bard who had training in perform sexual techniques. If you aren’t aware in 3rd Edition many of the Bard’s features keyed off being trained in perception. I will give you a minute to get the image of my Bard Inspiring Courage with that skill out of your head.

D and D is supposed to be about fun. It’s a time for you to get together with your friends and take a break from the real world grind for a few hours. As long as you are careful not to upset anyone at the table adding a little spice to your game can be a wonderful thing. If you have any Spoony Bard stories feel free to leave a comment or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. Until next time remember don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always “Yes and…?”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Secret Warlock: An Introduction

For the past few weeks I have been playing in a really fun campaign called Flight of the Dragon. The campaign is run by the same DM who ran the excellent pirate game I played in a couple of weeks ago. The campaign is set in Eberron on floating continent of the DM’s design. The characters are an elite fighting group in the country’s flying battalion. Unfortunately, I missed the beginning of the game so I am not precisely sure how the game started.

White Dragon
From what I understand, there had been an unseasonably long and cold winter. The party had been tasked with figuring out what had caused the winter. It turned out to have been caused by a powerful Dragon. Somehow the party procured some of the dragon’s eggs. Then when the eggs were stolen tracked down the thieves and got them back.

I joined the party when they were trying to open diplomatic relations with the country of Droam. The Droamites had kidnapped the crew of our airship and we had recovered them. Apparently this was some sort of a test. They wanted to see how we handled the stress. We recovered the crew and went to confront the Droamite leader one of the sister’s of Sora Kell.

Aranis the Spoony Bard
Before I continue with my first appearance in the story I would like to tell you about my character.  My character is Aranis an Eladrin Warlock who is also a Noble Eladrin a Bralaini of winter. I took several powers that reflect my connection to the Winter Court including something that leaves a blizzard behind me whenever I teleport. When I made the character I had no idea winter was going to play such a prominent role in the game, but I am glad it worked out that way. I am thinking about having my patron have sent me to deal with the dragon because the dragon took on some of the prerogatives of winter.

When the DM described the game to me she explained that it was a game of secrets. I ran with the idea. Long ago in second edition I played with a lady who was playing a rogue who didn’t want to be known as a thief. She carried a mandolin and told people everywhere she went that she was a bard. I decided to do something similar and play a secret warlock. I am a multiclass bard, and I have told everyone I am a bard. I’m not sure how long the ruse will last or what the consequences will be, but I am excited to find out.

If you follow me on Twitter I have already made a few posts with the hashtag secretwarlock and spoonybard. For the most part these refer to this character. I am very much enjoying the game and I look forward to sharing it with you. Until next time remember don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always “Yes,and…?” 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Coming Attractions

I have had a bit of a hard time coming up with content for my daily post schedule. It doesn't help that my first inclination is to write a Master's Thesis on each topic so I usually wind up writing like mad in the last few hours before I post. I have decided to add some structure to the blog which will hopefully make it easier to provide content.

Coming Attractions:I am going to start each  workweek with a Coming Attractions post. It is here that I will preview what is coming throughout the week or possibly even farther in the future. If you have something you would like me to look into here would be a great place to talk about it.

Secret Warlock: Starting this Tuesday I am going to chronicle the adventures of Aranis my spoony Bard, who is actually a Warlock in disguise. I am not sure if it will be fictional from my characters persepctive or more of an overview from my perspective. In fact I may occasionally do both.

Weekly Homebrew: On Thursdays I will post custom created monsters and other homebrew materials. This week I am going to continue with my idea for a Banking clan of Dragons.

Saturday Chainmail: Of course I will continue posting weekend chainmail updates.

I am going to keep the other days free for articles or other things I feel the need to write about. I am currently thinking about an article about sexuality in D and D, an article about balancing work, family and gaming and finally an article about what I have learned in my year of Virtual Table gaming. If you have ideas for articles or things you would like me to review feel free to comment below or find me on Facebook  or Twitter. Until next time remember, don't let your DM tell you no. It's always "Yes, and...?"

Saturday, January 14, 2012

One Threat to Rule Them All

This is a Dungeons and Dragons blog. It may occasionally be a gaming blog, a teaching blog or even a family blog. One thing I never intended it to be is a political blog. It has been my experience that real world politics and D and D mix very badly.

And what about me?
It is especially tough for me because my view on politics is so often the opposite of the rest of the people at the table. However, even if my views were similar, it would still be an issue because people have very strong feelings about their politics. The only topics more likely to cause problems at the gaming table are religion, which edition is the best, and whether Kirk is better than Picard. I tend to be in the live and let live camp on most of those arguments, but I can understand why people get worked up about them.

There is nothing wrong with in-game politics in D and D. In fact, some of the best games I have played in have been very politically heavy. However, real world politics, whatever form they take, don’t mix well with D and D. The last thing you want at the gaming table is to have your adventuring buddies, the people with you in the foxhole as it were, arguing with you about who they support in the next election. You never want to worry that the fighter is going to let a bad guy through to you, or that “friendly fire” might be a little friendlier from the mage. The worst part is that even small disagreements can kill games and friendships.

For all of these reasons I am hesitant to publish my political views. I believe very strongly in them but I respect your right to believe very strongly in yours as well. I also don’t want to alienate anyone in my audience, whether we game together or you just happened to find my blog another way. Unfortunately, something has raised its ugly head that threatens all of us that use the internet. It concerns me enough that I am going to break my rule about politics and D and D and take a stand.

If you have not heard about SOPA, or its Senate cousin PIPA, take the time to follow the links. You may also want to check out what Wikipedia has to say about them. Basically, the MPAA and the RIAA, as well as other media concerns, have tried to find a way to deal with revenue lost from online piracy. Since so many of the sites that promote piracy are not in the US it makes it almost impossible to enforce existing US laws that protect against piracy. Whatever you believe about piracy, IP and the big corporations you want to be careful that the cure isn’t worse than the disease.

There are a lot of arguments about how much impact piracy actually has on revenue. Many supporters of the Creative Commons License actually believe that piracy can be beneficial in some cases. It is true that online piracy does have some impact on revenue even if we can’t agree on how much. Besides, just because it isn’t as bad as the MPAA claims it is doesn’t make piracy right or a good thing. I do think that all media outlets need to change their business model to one more friendly to the online community. Downloading is the future, and if the big corporations don’t find a way to tap into it positively then they will continue to have huge problems.

The major problem the companies are going to run into is that trying to prevent piracy is only going to create a better breed of pirate, not to mention the added bonus of upsetting the person who wants to give you money for your product. I am not saying that they should just give up and let people steal their IP. What I am saying is that they need a better way to market their product than reactionary firewalling.

Now that I have written two pages about politics and piracy let me take a look at what brought me here in the first place. SOPA is another attempt to enforce anti-piracy laws against targets that have found a way to get around current laws. I am not completely sure how it works. I know it has something to do with blocking the DNS, which I think means you couldn’t get to the sites by typing in their domain name. I also think that they can make it impossible to find the sites in search engines like Google.

Now, maybe you think, that’s not bad, these are sites taking money from Americans and keeping American’s from jobs. Well, one problem with this is that you can still get to the sites by going directly to their IP address so dedicated pirates will still be able to continue pirating. Another concern is that, although the law was crafted to target non-American websites, there is nothing in the language that limits it to only targeting them. In fact according to this website the DNS blocking of non American websites has been removed meaning that only American sites can now be targeted. It would seem that this invalidates the entire purpose of these bills. Additionally, the laws give companies broad powers to combat piracy, which may not be necessary. If a company complains about content on your site, for example, a custom designed monster that uses the standard stat block, the government can completely block your entire site. Not only that they can also block sites which host your content. Say if you posted the monster to Facebook, to share it with your friends, it is possible that Facebook could get taken down. And, you would only have five days to respond to the accusations before these draconian measures could be put into place.

In addition to giving companies broad powers to take down sites accused of copyright infringement, SOPA/PIPA continues to criminalize what is essentially a civil matter. You can get charged with a felony for streaming as few as ten movies. Again, I am not suggesting that piracy is good or right, but there are severe consequences for felonies, and I am not sure that the punishment fits the crime.

I have heard that there are far reaching implications of the two bills threatening National Security and even the structure of the internet. I really didn’t understand these arguments, but I encourage you to look into them, particularly if you are more tech savvy than I am.

I think what concerns me the most is the erosion of free speech these laws represent. If I say something on my blog that someone doesn’t like all they have to do is accuse me of stealing their IP and my entire site could be taken down. I may be being alarmist, but I see a future where if I post a negative opinion in my blog post about a company, five days later my site will go dark and maybe even Google, Facebook and Twitter as well because I share things through them.  And when I show I have no offending content, or take down the offending content, it may take months to get my site reinstated. If you don’t think that is possible check this out. Someone claiming to be the original creator of Nyan cat complained about a Youtube video. It took months of work from the actual creator of Nyan cat to get the Youtube video back up. And that was just Youtube self-policing. Imagine what will happen when the government gets involved.

All of this reminds me about what the Catholic Priest said of Nazi Germany. I know it is a logical fallacy to compare everything to Nazism, but I am really scared about where our country is going. I think it is outrageous that an American citizen has to submit to unlawful search and seizure simply to fly on an airplane. I am terrified that an American citizen can be held indefinitely on suspicion of being a terrorist. I am scared shitless that I won’t be able to protest this on a free and open internet. Please, if you disagree with me, have the discussion while we still can. And if you agree with me, do something. Call your congressmen and let them know that you want your Bill of Rights back. Get involved in politics. Don’t just be a hero in D and D, be a hero right here. No one else is going to. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Saturday Chain-mail: Chess

Welcome to another edition of your Weekend Chain-mail. I thought I would take a break from the usual format, and look for some other interesting uses of Chain-mail. I found this.
Chain-mail Chess set
This is lovely set of chain-mail chess pieces. Each of the pieces are distinctive and the workmanship is excellent. I found them on Chain Mail Basic. It took the artist over a year to make all the pieces. But, what would chess pieces be without a board to play them on?
Chess Board and Pieces made from Chain-mail
Among my other gaming interests besides D and D I truly enjoy a game of chess. I would love to have one of these sitting on my coffee table. I will leave you with this. I found this picture on the Ace of Spades Website. I mostly keep real world politics out of my D and D, but if you are interested you should check them out. 
You didn't think I was going to leave you hanging?
Until next time remember, don't let your DM tell you  no. It's always "Yes and...?"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dungeon Therapy

Sometimes it really bothers me when people work out their real life problems in my D and D games. The best example is when we got tpk’d in my wife’s last D and D game going after the evil step grandparents who had kidnapped the young prince (Hint my wife and my parents do not get along). It was not so much my wife working out her angst in the game that bothered me. She is actually a writer and used the game to test ideas for her fiction. So, I knew she had an agenda with the game and for the most part it was awesome, because her stories are awesome. I actually kind of enjoyed having a place in her stories.

No what really bothered me was when I saw myself as the ineffectual prince who couldn’t stand up to his evil parents even to save his young son. I really didn’t like what that said about how my wife felt about me right then. I think the only worse time was when one of her characters who was married to one of mine, ran off with one of my roommate’s characters. When that happened I don’t think I talked to her for a week.

Tell me about your character background
On the other hand playing D and D can be quite cathartic.  Many of the characters I have played have let me work out some issues I was having in real life that I couldn’t work out myself. I think this is true for most of us. What is an insurmountable problem for Joe Gamer is just a speed bump for Malvan the Dark. At least it seems that way to me. Now if I could figure out why angry characters are so appealing to me I might have a whole book instead of just a blog post.

The question is when is it appropriate to work out your problems and when does it distract from the game. I have had some excellent encounters both as a player and a DM where I have put something of myself into the game. In fact I think some of my best encounters have had some skin in the game as it were. I think you have to put something of yourself into every encounter if you want to reach your players, or get the most out of your time playing.

The key thing to remember is that D and D is a social activity. It’s not a therapy session where you are paying to have someone help you with your problems. It is certainly acceptable, and even laudable to work out problems through the game as long as you aren’t ruining the fun for anyone else at the table. In most cases you are playing with friends or at least friendly acquaintances. As long as it isn’t egregious your friends should understand a little bit of dungeon therapy. As I said earlier it can even make the game better in small doses.

I have come pretty far from where I intended with this article. What got me started writing this was a call from my grandmother asking if I was ok. I’ll admit I have been having a bit of a hard time. If you read this you know that I have declared 2011 the Year of Suck. I think a lot of people are glad to be rid of it. However, I have no intention of drinking myself to death and so I was very surprised that she was so worried. I gathered she had seen my post on Facebook from my last blog post and got very worried. She is also one of those people who think Dungeons and Dragons is of the devil and caused people to commit suicide.

Ha ha ha you aren't a wizard now are you?
All of which reminded me of an adventure idea I had a while ago and never did anything with. The idea was to have a Call of Cthuhlu Dungeons and Dragons crossover where they call of Cthulhu charaters are roleplayers who play the dungeons and dragons characters. It’s all a bit meta to be honest. I was going to have something excape from the D and D world to wreck havoc with the call of Cthulhu world. Something that was a minor threat to an Epic level D and D character would be devastating to someone in Call of Cthulhu. The connection of course, beyond the obvious is that I was going to have a side plot where one of the character’s family sues for custody of his kids because he appears to be crazy and “worships Demons.” At the end though, it turns out the family matriarch, in this case filling in for my grandmother, is actually a demon in disguise.

Some monsters are worse than Raptors
I never did anything with it because I think it might have gone too far into dungeon therapy and not been fun for the person who I was torturing. I still like the concept though of peeling back the fourth wall and letting some of the monsters underneath roam free. Until next time remember don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always “Yes and…?”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Drink til I Die a D&D Flash Fiction

As I lie here on the floor I think, “Wait, this isn’t how I die.”

The fire crackles warmly and invitingly as the raucous noise in the common room begins to die down. I begin one of my favorite sets, “The Dwarf Who Never Returned”. My room isn’t free tonight so I use a little of the magic. The crowd begins to sing along and dance. I know I’ll have some good tips tonight.

When I finish my last set a strange old man comes up to me. “Young sir, I enjoyed your songs, but I have no coin,” he says. “I do have something that may interest you, however.”

I look at him quizzically. “What could you possibly have that would interest me old man?” As he starts to walk away, something in his demeanor causes me to follow after him. I follow him out into the night and a strange chill comes over me. “Where are you taking me, old man?” Silence is his only reply.

We walk into the cemetery and I begin to worry. He leads me to a fresh grave and for some reason there is a tankard of ale standing on the dirt. His last words to me before he disappears into a puff of smoke are “It never empties.”

Hours later, I can’t get the cry out of my head. “Drink! Drink! Drink!”

“What is this demon that makes me want to drink?”

I fall down and think, “Wait, this isn’t how I die.”

I was inspired to write this story by this video by the Poxy Boggards. Warning it is not safe for work.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love 5e

Don't worry men they'll take our 4e from our cold dead hands.

I imagine most of you have heard this by now but, just in case you haven’t, a new iteration of Dungeons and Dragons was announced yesterday. Between being stuck in retail land and all the hubbub, I almost didn’t get my Pixie review done on time. My first reaction was to entrench deeply in 4e and get ready for the edition war. Instead, I took a deep breath, looked around and found some things to be encouraged about. I am not a 5hilistine or a 4deventurer, but I can relate to both sides. I very much enjoy and love 4e, warts aside. Despite that, I am tentatively optimistic about the next iteration and I’d like to tell you why.

I, along with many people, am melancholy about the premature death of 4e. I believe 4e had at least a few more years in it. Even though it had a few problems, with the VT finally in open beta and the newly awesome Heroes ofthe Feywild, I truly enjoyed playing it as did many others. However, I understand the importance of publish or perish, and I recognize the desire to bring all the lost children back to D&D. There are people I miss playing with that only play Pathfinder (or 2nd edition or any number of other systems) so I am kind of excited about a system that could bring us all back together. It would particularly exciting if they continue to provide good digital tools so I can keep playing D&D with my friends around the world and maybe reconnect with some lost ones as well. I am excited about the goals for the new iteration at the very least.

I didn't know you had your hand in that too
The main reason I am excited about the next iteration of D&D is that I will get to have a hand in it. One of the main problems with 4e was the lack of open playtesting. I think if Wizard’s had gotten the community involved in 4e it would have been a better game far earlier. Additionally, there would have been far less fracturing and perhaps the edition war could have been completely avoided. Jokes about making the fans do unpaid game design aside, I think a game by the fans and for the fans is the best thing I have ever heard. I am very happy with the level of communication from Wizard’s about the new edition and I look forward to some hardcore playtesting.

As I said, I am far from convinced the new iteration is going to work. I am pleased with the goals of the new iteration, but I am very concerned they won’t be able to actually meet those goals. I really have two large problems with the directions the game is headed. The first is that I find it hard to believe that an Ultimate of D&D will work. There are too many diverse desires among the player base. Just as an example there are many people for whom the D&D does not work without Vancian spellcasting. There are others, myself included, who despise Jack Vance for what he has done to all my wizards. I’m willing to give Wizards the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps there is a way for both of us to play at the same table, but I am skeptical.

My second large concern is the idea of a modular system that seems to be the direction the game is headed. I may do a longer post on my problem with a modular system as it goes on and we get more information. For now my major concern is that I like having a large set of core assumptions to build a game on. I am worried that I will not be able to find a dm willing to run the kind of game I want to play. This can always be a concern, but I like most of the core assumptions of 4e and so if I look for 4e DMs I can at least go in expecting that most of the game will be what I want and the DM and the players can work out for ourselves what things might be different. If the base game is enough of what I like then it might not be a problem so I’m keeping optimistic until more information comes out.

I am not surprised that another iteration of D&D is in the works. I am a little sad about the end of 4e. I have some concerns about the direction the game is headed, but I am glad Wizards handled the announcement the way they did. I hope they really intend to have open playtesting and will listen to the feedback the playtesting generates. Until next time, remember, whatever your edition, don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always “Yes and…?”

Monday, January 9, 2012

If Puck Doth Offend: A Look at the Pixie

Oh why did you do this to me Puck?

I have already done a review of the Berserker. Now I would like to take a look at a race from Heroes of the Feywild. Faeries have a long history in myth and literature.   From the friendly, if mischievous, pixies to the outright evil redcaps, fairies have been tricking people since Julius Caesar set foot on the British Isles. The pixie represents the latest attempt to bring the wee folk into Dungeons and Dragons. If you like the idea of a flying, tricky, wise-talking, tiny hero you need look no farther.

I can't crash every party you know.
The Pixie in D&D 4e is very interesting both from a story perspective and also mechanically. The story behind the pixie, which can be found here if you are a D and D Insider subscriber, is very interesting. The origin of story of the Pixie is, like most origin stories in 4e, somewhat vague. It is equal parts Sleeping Beauty with no Wicked Witch, and Peter Pan. I really like the fluff associated with the Pixie. Apart from the origin story the place Pixies have in the world, keepers of the natural world, lends itself to several character archetypes. There are many good story reasons to play a Pixie. Maybe you want to play a mischievous trickster, perhaps you have always liked fairies like Momantrix, or maybe you just want to play the head of the Pizza Lord’s Guard. Whatever the reason, the story of Pixies in 4e fits well with any of them.

Mechanically there are a lot of good reasons to play a Pixie. Being a Pixie is one of the only ways to gain consistent flight at level one. Of course there are some drawbacks, but nothing character changing unless you want to break the game by flying out of range and dropping arrows on all the monsters. I have to admit that sounds kind of fun, but with no challenge, the game would get boring quickly. If you are confused about how pixie flight works there is a good discussion here.  There is an excellent guide for pixies here as well.

Know when to hold em
Besides low level flight there are several other good mechanical reasons to play a pixie. First the ability bonuses are very appropriate for the type of classes you would likely want to play. Pixies have a bonus to Charisma and either Dexterity or Intelligence. Charisma is great for fast talking your way out of (or into) situations, Intelligence  can help you think your way out, and Dexterity is wonderful for all those times when it is time to run. Your AC Reflex and Will Defenses should be decent, but you will want to stay away from poison because your Fortitude defense may be a bit low.

Second you get a bonus to stealth, arguably one of the best skills in the game. Coupled with a bonus to Dexterity, possible racial invisibility and your small stature you could be one of the stealthiest characters in the game. Your bonus to Nature isn’t really all that special, but it does fit well with the story of the Pixies’ place in the world

One thing about the Pixie that is a bit of a mixed blessing is its size. I have already talked about some of the benefits to the Pixie’s reduced size. Additionally as a tiny creature the Pixie can enter and even end its turn in larger creatures’ squares. There is a feat that makes this even better because you can gain cover from being in the other creature’s square. Some of the drawbacks are somewhat alleviated because unlike other tiny creatures you can wield small weapons and you also have a reach of one which is normal for all other characters. Still there are some size associated penalties and could even be some real role-playing problems for you as well.

I very much enjoyed researching the Pixie for this article. Not only did I learn a few things, but I also got some cool ideas for upcoming characters. I submit Brazilnut the Raven riding Pixie Blackguard for the win. If you have any ideas for a fun Pixie character please feel free to leave them in the comments. Until next time remember don’t let your dm tell you no. It’s always “Yes and…?”

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Go Broncos

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog for the following exclamation. Yes! Go Broncos! Your blog will return tomorrow at the regularly scheduled time with the long awaited review of the Pixie.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Seamus Clan Fixer: A Heroic Tier Threat

I have been kicking around an idea from the Role Playing Public Radio Podcast where Dragons control most of the World’s wealth and decide to take an active role in shaping the economy.  I really like the idea and I have been trying to come up with a way to introduce a Draconic banking clan early in the heroic tier. The eventual goal is to have the clan emerge late in Paragon either as a villainous organization the players can thwart, or as a possible patron depending on how the group reacts. Let me introduce you to Seamus a fixer for the clan.

I made Seamus on the Wizards of theCoast Adventure tools. Using the Monster Builder was actually pretty easy. It was a little more complicated than making a character, but now that I have done it once I think it will be even easier to do it the next time.

Seamus is a low level fixer for the clan. The clan sends him to recover items that have been stolen, or to bring people to the clan who they need to see.  Since Seamus is an Elite Controller he should be used as a mini boss perhaps with some guards accompanying him. He has several abilities to find and retrieve stolen items. Additionally he is able to avoid notice and escape with the stolen item once he has it.

I would use Seamus to introduce the clan to my players by having him come after them for a magic item they had just gotten that they really wanted. Depending on the group they could be culpable for stealing the item, or they could just as easily have taken it from the person who stole it. After Seamus recovers the item the PC’s should be very interested in getting it back. Possibly Seamus leaves the guards behind and the PC’s could interrogate them. In any case it should be fairly easy to get them to try to investigate the strange man who “stole” their magic item. Just make sure not to reveal too much too soon. Until next time remember don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always “Yes and…?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Saturday Chain-mail 2

Welcome to the next edition of your Saturday Chain-mail. I have found several more exquisite pictures to share with you. First is this lovely lady. The chain work is excellent. Take note of the intricate knot-work on her leg set off by the brown fabric. She also has matching chain bracelets. I really enjoy how the green vines contrast with the subtle earth tones of her outfit.
Why Paradise is called a garden
I really like this next poster. Not only is the lady in the poster gorgeous, the outfit is spectacular. I love the shade of blue and it is actually quite tasteful for the genre. Additionally, though the statement is anachronistic, I like the sentiment. My wife is a seamstress and says something similar about her corsets on occasion. 
I'm not sure that is what it is supposed to be used for
I will leave you with this picture of a nice Barbarian couple. Look how happy they are as they get ready to rip people apart. Until next time, remember, don't let your DM tell you no. It's always "Yes and...?"
Yes honey of course you can eat his spleen

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Berserker: A Love Story

Many classes in Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition have the capability of fulfilling multiple roles in the party. Whether it is a fighter built to deal damage with huge weapons or a warlock that can disable an enemy with weird status effects, classes have always been able to cross roles to some degree. Unfortunately, in order to do this, those classes usually give up some capability in their primary role. If you wanted to play a character that could pull off multiple roles you had to hybrid or multiclass. That is, you did until now.

I am NOT compensating for something!
The Berserker, which appears in Heroes of the Feywild, is a subclass of Barbarian. The Berserker is also the first dual role class in 4e D & D. It’s a Martial and Primal Defender and Striker.  Although the Berserker can function as both a Defender and a Striker, its true strength lies in its versatility. Like all Essentials Defenders, the Berserker has a defender aura. It also has a built-in extra damage feature. In many ways, it is similar to hybrid characters because it can’t deal the extra damage at the same time it is trying to defend. The unique thing about the Berserker is that it can switch from Defender to Striker by using the Berserker Fury Class feature.

There is a lot to be excited about with this class. First is the novelty. Being the first of anything is always exciting. The Second exciting thing is being able to be a Defender and a Striker. I have a post explaining Defenders here. I contend that Defender is the most important role, but Striker is probably the sexiest role. Being able to defend while also being able to pull out all stops in the damage department may just be the definition of awesome. The third thing I am excited about with this class is the flavor. I really like the idea of a disciplined warrior who goes into a Hulk Rage and lays waste to things with an axe. I have always liked Barbarians, but the Berserker is actually better because the Barbarian always seems a bit off. The Berserker, on the other hand, really captures the Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde dichotomy. Finally I have loved the Feywild as a concept since the beginning of 4e. The tie between the Berserker and the Feywild is a bit tenuous, but it’s still nice to have a bit of a Fey connection.

Berserker as a Defender
According to this guide there are really three ways to play a Berserker. You can try to play a Martial focused Defender, you can try to play a Primal Striker or you can do what the class does best and try to keep them in some sort of balance. Though balancing each Role is difficult it is also rewarding. Let’s take a look at how well the Berserker does at each Role. 

As a baseline, the Berserker is a solid Defender. They compare well to the other Essentials Defenders. The Knight is a little stickier because of some of the At-will stances, but the Berserker is at least able to hold his own. Its Defender Aura is identical to all the other Essentials classes and works the same. The punishment mechanic, Vengeful Guardian, may even be better because it does Striker level damage.

The Berserker also holds its own in the survivability department. The Berserker can use light armor and shields and with a high enough Dex score they have no problems with AC. They even have a class feature, Poised Defender, which makes you harder to hit as long as your Defender Aura is active. Your will defense can be a bit of a problem, but that is true for most Defenders. The main problem with the Berserker is a problem shared with all the other essentials Defenders. A determined enemy can get away from the Berserker and attack the squishies often with no penalty because the -2 to attacks only functions while in the aura. If you want to play a determined Defender pick up a Theme like Guardian and you will also probably want to MC fighter because fighters are the stickiest Defender.

I'd like to axe you something!
As a Striker the Berserker also does well at the baseline. The Berserker has a solid extra damage feature, Berserker Fury, which turns on when you use a Primal power or you can turn it on as a minor action when you are bloody. Berserker Fury adds extra damage to your Berserker At-will and melee basic attacks. In addition to the extra damage the Primal Encounter and Daily powers tend to be high damage weapon attacks. The main drawback to Berserker Fury is you can’t use your Defender Aura or Vengeful Guardian while you are in Fury. This has the added drawback of turning off Poised Defender making you easier to hit. The real problem is that once you fury there is no way to go back to being a Defender so make sure you are ready to smash-face before you use a Primal power.  If you want to play a full Striker pick up a theme like Mercenary and pick a lot of Barbarian Primal powers.

As a Defender a Berserker is never going to be as good as a single classed fighter and as a Striker it is never going to be as good as an easy button ranger. What the berserker has that they don’t have is versatility. One of the best strategies with a balanced Berserker is to keep everyone from dog piling the main Defender in the early parts of the fight and then picking the right moment to get angry. With so many good options it is hard to be truly in balance so it is probably best to pick either Defending or Striking and focus on it a little more, while not ignoring the other.

I am Jack's raging Barbarian
I like a lot about the Berserker. I really enjoy being able to play a sexy Striker, but not feel like a douche for refusing to play the tank. I also enjoy exploring the Bruce Banner/ Hulk dichotomy inherent in the class. In fact, recently in a Planescape game, I argued philosophy with a dustman, which would have been very out of character for any other type of Barbarian. I then was able to take a Demon from full to dead in one hit because it made me mad. I also like bringing in something a little Fey and mystery without going all out Fey. If there was one thing I would change about the Berserker, I would give some way to switch back to Defender after you Fury. It could cause a real problem, especially if you play a Berserker as the only Defender and a second wave of enemies show up. Still I really enjoy the class and look forward to playing it more.

Until next time, remember, don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always “Yes and…?”