Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Midweek Chainmail: Non Pointless Armor

I found this picture and thought it was gorgeous. I know it's not exactly what you are used to here, but then what is? Happy Hump day followers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Secret Warlock: Motivation

The campaign that I am playing in as a secret warlock was put on hold for this week. Since I don't have a review to do I would like to share another motivational poster. This one ties in to the Aggro Control poster I shared a couple of weeks ago. It's always important to remember that I don't have to outrun the T-Rex. I just have to outrun my demonic minion.
A zombie army also works in a pinch

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Coming Attractions

In addition to not having a day off this week,I am also recovering from a stomach bug. I am going to keep this short. I may not have much content again this week. Some ideas for articles I have had include a discussion of what "Epic" is and how to get it at the table, some ideas for a more"metal" D and D and of course some of the ideas I've mentioned before but haven't had the time to explore as yet. As always if you have any ideas for articles, or just want to see something talked about go ahead and leave a comment below or you can find me on Facebook or Twitter. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always "Yes, and...?"

Another Late Night

I just got back from another late night of gaming. This time we played Arkham Horror which turned out to be a lot of fun and surprisingly we won. I don't play board games very often so it was a nice change of pace. I have had some interesting ideas for article which I will share with you tomorrow until then enjoy this picture of Lovecraftia.
Please don't eat me

Friday, February 24, 2012

Saturday Chainmail: Star Wars

I have seen a lot of complaints about the portrayal of women in D and D and since I post chainmail bikinis every Saturday I thought I should make some sort of response. I give you Princess Leia Organa Solo a very strong female lead. 
"Into the Garbage Shoot Flyboys"
A princess rescue does not have to be sexist
I have not rescued a prince before in D and D and I think if I did I would end up with a lot of Monty Python references at my table. However, the last time I rescued a Princess she basically took over as soon as we let her out of the cell and she ended the session as an Empress ruling in her own right. I know the trope has been overdone, but it doesn't have to be sexist. 
"Because I am holding a thermal detonator!"
Sometimes a princess is captured because she intends to be
Luke's plan may have been insane, but Princess Leia was right where she needed to be when she was needed. 
"He doesn't know it but I am so going to choke him to death"
Sometimes you can tell what someone is thinking
Now since you have been good here is your cheesecake. I know there is a lot of misogyny in D and D and the world, but sometimes being a princess is not only ok, it's awesome. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes, and...?"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Party Optimization Part two: Mechanics

We talked about creating a party that has similar goals and perhaps even an overarching theme such as all arcane characters in part one. Now we’re going to talk about making mechanical choices that will create a synergistic party. Once you have agreed on a party theme, or at least gotten some ideas how the characters could be connected, the next step is actually creating a party. When creating a party you want to look at how all the pieces fit together, instead of simply making individual characters on their own. Remember the goal here is to make a party that runs like a well oiled machine. Occasionally a party will work well together from happenstance. Additionally, if the characters and players all have similar goals a party can run smoothly as well. However, a party built together with a theme, with short term and long term goals, and with an eye towards working as a unit, can run sensationally well.

The first step to making a mechanically optimized party is to pick a theme. Your theme should include some basic story ideas, how the characters will interact and what the party will be good at. No one character can be good at everything and the same is true of adventuring parties. While you can certainly have a party that does a bit of everything, having a more focused party is going to shine brighter. You certainly want to cover your bases in party creation to make sure you don’t have any glaring holes. For example a party that is functionally blind or socially illiterate. The main thing is to come up with some sort of concept for your party such as our party always wants to go first, or our party never wants to miss. Of course you will never be able to fully reach those goals, but if you have them you can make informed choices to come close to reaching them.

There is some inherent synergy in choosing classes that share a power source. For example, arcane characters tend to have some great controller options across the board, divine characters tend to have a touch of leader in them, most martial characters have good basic attacks and warlords can give out basic attacks like candy. This is nice because the game rewards you for making a party with a theme. I’ve never been in a party of all arcane characters, but I imagine it would be fun frustrating all the monsters into oblivion.

Yeah it's kinda like that
Playing a group of characters that share a race has less inherent synergy. Still there are some options that can be synergistic, and even more options that can work well together on a basic level. A team of all Devas could work well, especially for a group of divine characters. The bonuses like up, and Devas make excellent Divine characters thematically. You will get a lot of mileage out of Memory of 1,000 lifetimes and the Deva’s resistances are a nice bonus. Some feats are particularly useful for a group of Devas. These include Radiant Power, Battle Intuition and Auspicious Lineage in the heroic tier. Shared Memories is an excellent feat, but is for Warlords only. One interesting tactic could be an entire party of multiclass Warlords. The multiclass Warlord feats out of Martial Power 2 are all excellent choices for this. The party would get a ton of benefits when anyone used an action point and the party’s memory power would become a poll available for all to use whenever needed.

If you never want to miss a party of all elves could be interesting. Elven bonuses would work well for a primal themed adventuring party if you wanted to go the hippy tree hugger route. There are plenty of good feats for Elven characters, but nothing terribly game changing. One interesting idea is to make a party which includes at least one Elf, at least one Eladrin, and at least one Drow to make use of Caelynnvala'sBoons.

No Beast will escape my tiny pixie wrath
Almost any race could work to build a themed adventuring party around. Some races have more support than others, but as long as the party tries to work together your party of pixie beast slayers should do quite well. The character optimization race guide wiki is an excellent resource if you are looking to make an optimized party of all one race. Another excellent place to look is this post on Dungeon's Master.

Here are some other thoughts you should keep in mind when building an optimized party. Your leader is a resource for more than just healing. Healing is an important aspect of any leader, but there is more to being a good leader than healing. There is an excellent guide to leaders here. The guide lists several aspects of being a good leader, and all of the leader classes excel at some aspects but not others. Keeping the other classes needs in mind while building your leader is a key to successful party optimization. Several classes, most notably the Blackguard, gain bonuses from having temporary hit points. Having a leader that gives out temps is great for those classes. A class like a barbarian that likes wielding big damage, low accuracy weapons would love a leader that helps with accuracy such as a tactical warlord.  On the other side very accurate characters like Avengers and Rangers would love a damage boosting leader like a Panther Shaman. The Panther Shaman works especially well with a Ranger because the damage roll bonus would apply to both Twin Strikes ramping up the damage even more.

Healing surges are a party resource. You are only as resilient as your weakest link. If you want to keep going after others have fallen you should start to think of healing surges as a party resource. There are a couple of really good ways to extend the party’s day by passing around surges. The Paladin can give out some healing by using Lay on Hands. Clerics, Shamans and Artificers have some good options for surgeless healing. Artificers in particular are good at this because their encounter heals can be replenished by any party member’s surges. If none of those options work well in your group you should make sure that someone has access to the Comrade’s Succor Ritual. It is a first level ritual and well worth the price.

Then the Jaguar ate his face! True story. 
Guild and Tribal feats are your friend. If you can get the whole party on board the guild and tribal feats are well worth the investment. The feats all give a solid benefit for taking them, and the benefits are improved for each other party member that takes them. If you have a good theme in mind the feats can help solidify it.

I hope you find some of these ideas helpful when you are building your next party. Even if you don’t want to make a totally optimized party, thinking about a theme for your party and making some choices together can lead to a richer gaming experience. In the future I would like to post a complete party that uses these ideas including some basic backgrounds and connections between the characters. If you have made a party cooperatively or just have some ideas for how it might work, please leave a comment below. Until next time remember don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always, “Yes, and…?”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weekly Homebrew: Syrantharax

As promised Syrantharax an Epic tier Solo Monster. I have divided him up into two parts.

The first part of the encounter he is polymorphed into human form. It would be interesting to have him be another type of humanoid for example elf, and then you could just give him Elven Accuracy or whatever other racial power you wanted him to emulate. You will want to start the encounter off with Tides of Despair so he has the aura available throughout the encounter. Once Syrantharax is bloodied he should transform into Dragon form.

Once there you should allow the players to attempt to dispel the aura either with dispel magic or some creative skill use. Hopefully by switching forms in the midst of combat Syrantharax will remain interesting throughout the entire encounter. However he should not fight to the death so if it gets to be a grind, simply have him start to try to negotiate with the players. If they seem averse to negotiation you can have him fly away to fight another day or simply surrender and beg for mercy if you don't want to bring him back later.

I hope you find a use for Syrantharax. If you have any thoughts on design or want to report how he worked in play feel free to leave a comment, or find me on Facebook or Twitter. Until next time remember, don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes, and...?"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Midweek Chainmail: Motivation

I love this poster. I enjoy creating interesting magic items whether I am playing or DMing. I'm not sure I would actually use this in the game though. It kind of reminds me of this comic. Happy Hump day, and enjoy! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Secret Warlock: Breaking the World

So we started the session chained to the top of a demon temple. Not exactly how I wanted to begin my day, but the good news is that when the sun set it would all be over. By over of course I mean we would be turned inside out to begin our 1,000 years of torture. Now as a winter fey I am a fan of torture. A good torture is a wonderful way to start the week. But I really like having my insides on the inside.

Your entrails will be your extrails
It can be fun to have a game with a countdown. Nothing motivates you like the certainty of having your insides become your outsides. We needed to find a way off the roof quickly. Of course I tried teleporting and there was some sort of arcane energy blocking us in. After poking around a bit the Psionicist found a catch in the arcane energy. She sent some focused thought at the catch and broke the world.

I’m not entirely sure what happened. All I know is that we faded to black and I woke up standing in a beautiful green field. My friends were all there, but they kept talking about the horrible things they were seeing like a pit full of Demons. Have you ever seen the first episode of Deep Space Nine? It was kind of like that. I had been having kind of a rough day so when a devil showed up and started threatening to eat us I said, “Why don’t you come over here and say that.” I was a little surprised when he did so I bugs bunny kissed him.

I spent the rest of the evening unleashing the fury of winter on the devils, while the rest of the party tried to figure a way out of the situation we were in. It turns out we were still locked on the top of the temple and the world we were in was some kind of arcane construct. I’m still not sure why I saw it as a green field, but it makes a good story.

I am not sure how we are going to escape, and I know we need to get back soon or we might have nothing but dead giants waiting for us, but I didn’t care. It was fun to just unleash the fury for an evening and let the rest of the group worry about the consequences. I’m sure I’ll be back to worrying about things soon. Until next time remember, don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always, “Yes, and…?”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Coming Attractions

Perhaps this smiling monkey will distract you from the lack of content
To be honest not a lot new here this week. I'm hoping to get a couple of my bigger projects done and posted. I am really looking forward to the post on party optimization, but it has turned into an awful lot of work. I'm still working on an Epic level Solo for Weekly Hombrew. I have been told that an aura that dazes isn't a good idea. If you have some thoughts on it please post in the comments below. I don't have any huge plans for Secret Warlock this week, so if nothing hits me I might put the post about my other warlock there. Before I leave I wanted to give a shout out to the Angry DM. Even though he doesn't agree with me, he has taken the time to yell at me when I disagree with him on twitter. I appreciate the response even if it is angry rantings. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes, and...?"

Saturday, February 18, 2012

King Arthur's World

I'm telling you Arthur you can't allow Tieflings in your realm
I just finished running the second session of my Virtual Table game King Arthur's World. I have had quite a bit of fun with it. Even though we've had a hard time getting a player base I think the core group has started to settle and I think they have had fun too. It's been a little weird for me because I have had to "encourage" some of the players to play things that are more in line with my vision of the world. Could a Dragonborn Paladin fit in King Arthur's World, perhaps, but after talking to the player he made an Elven Ranger that fits much better.

It has been difficult for me because I have been busy and most of the players, have been last minute adds. So, we don't really have a cohesive party, and I haven't been able to get the buy in I need to run such a theme game. So far I have been able to steer players away from choices I don't like, but if I need to I'll just get real creative so I can fit their character in.

On a different note I've got another six day work week coming up. I still have part two of my party optimization article in the works and as soon as I get it finished I will post it. Other than that look for more shorter posts and lot's of pictures. I will make an effort to get a monster posted for Weekly Homebrew this week. Other than that enjoy what's left of the weekend. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes, and...?"

Friday, February 17, 2012

Saturday Chainmail: Couples

Welcome to the next edition of your Weekend Chainmail. Today I would like to show some pictures of couples. I suppose it is a bit sad that in these the woman is much more scantily clad, but I don't really want to see men scantily clad.
A couple with red capes
I think the couple dressed up this way for a con. You can actually see the badges they are wearing. It looks like they are having a good time. I love their headgear. 
Chainmail Bikini tops
Again this couple looks like they are having a great time. It makes you wonder what they were doing right before they took the picture. 
We'll be back
I'll leave you with this classic couple, Conan and Red Sonja. Enjoy. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes, and...?"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Playing "Real Life"

I just watched this video created by Enworld about a group of people in a D and D style world trying out a new game called Real Life created by Sorcerers of the South Coast. I really like the concept and have thought about doing something similar in my games maybe doing a D and D and D20 modern crossover. Anyway I hope you enjoy it. If you do be sure to check out their website, and Youtube channel

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oh so late

I just got finished trying out a new Pathfinder game. I am still solidly in the 4e camp, but I did have a lot of fun sitting around the table with my friends. Sorry, but it looks like Weekly Homebrew is going to miss another week. I did get started on a monster that has an aura that dazes and deals ongoing damage, but I haven't gotten it all worked out yet. I'll hopefully have something worked out for next week. Until next time remember, don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes and...?"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Midweek Chainmail: Motivation

Happy Hump day followers. Here is another great reason it's wonderful living the life of a pirate

Monday, February 13, 2012

Secret Warlock: Rules behind the World

In retrospect I really should have known better

I’d like to revisit the encounter with the Gaood, or evil tattooed fairies for this week’s post. I really enjoyed this encounter. I have made this character to be a Lord of the Winter Fey, so any time I get to incorporate that aspect of my character I really feel rewarded for bringing it to the table. The last time I was that excited I used the fact that I was a Lord of Winter to show an icy room who was boss. One of the best things about my DM for this game is she actually uses the background and personality information I give her in the game. I’m very happy with this because so often my DM’s have asked for background and then ignored it. I know I am guilty of this myself on occasion. I think using your characters’ hard work is better reward than any amount of mechanical bonus, not that I would mind a mechanical benefit. One more thought on this and then I’m moving on. I think all the 4e haters who say it’s all about combat and just a tabletop MMO should play with my DM. It might change their minds a bit.

I said I enjoyed the encounter, and I did, because I got to put on my Winter Fey Emissary hat and try to negotiate with the Evil Tatooed Fairies.  When we first ran into them they claimed to just be after some fun, and not to know who the Gaood were. Some of the other players believed them, or appeared to, but I had a feeling they knew more than they were letting on. In fact, I became convinced they were the Gaood in disguise. I enjoyed trying to convince the fairies to aid us, and I really enjoyed showcasing my supposed knowledge of the fey. All of this brings me to the part of the encounter that was frustrating, and to the point of today’s article.

The Wizard I wanted to be before
I have become a huge fan of Jim Butcher. I started reading the Dresden Files because of the SciFi Channel show. I loved the show, and I love the books it was based on. If you haven’t read them or seen the show you should check them both out. Harry Dresden is the Wizard I want to be now. I don’t want to spoil the series, but there is a pretty large focus on Fey creatures, particularly the Winter Court as the books go on. A lot of Aramil is inspired by the Dresden Files, and my understanding of how the world works is based a lot on how the world of the Dresden Files works. To a large degree I am playing Aramil as if he were a Winter Court Lord in the Dresden Files, and my expectations of how the world works is based on that assumption. The problem was I don’t think my DM was working from the same set of assumptions.

When I talk about the rules behind the world I don’t mean whether you are playing 3e or 4e or DnDnext. I am talking about the basics of how the world works. For example do the laws of contagion and similarity apply, or is there some other basis for magic? Does knowing someone’s true name give you power over them? Finally, most important for my character, how do the rules of hospitality apply when dealing with evil tattooed fairies. As I said my understanding of fey creatures is inspired by Harry Dresden with a pinch of Shakespeare for good measure.

Fuego! Evil Fairies!
 I am sure part of the problem stemmed from the fact that they weren’t actually fairies, but I was very disappointed when they acted in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I took pains to make an agreement with them that left little wiggle room, and I insisted that they declare us guests which in my mind would have given us some measure of protection. Even though they were not fairies I was very surprised that they would betray a guest, particularly one highly placed in the Winter Court. So when they started making my friends dance while I played the dirge, and when they turned my dirge into a disco I called down the wrath of winter on them. I was very upset and I am planning on getting sweet, sweet revenge on them in the next session, but the entire situation could have been avoided if I had a discussion with the DM regarding my expectations for how the world works, before I acted on them.

Whether you are a player or a DM I encourage you to examine your assumptions. Go ahead and have a discussion about some of the basics. Having a deeper understanding of the rules behind the world can help your immersion, and lead to a richer game experience. I imagine we would be fighting Evil tattooed pixies tonight no matter what I had done, but I would feel less a fool if I hadn’t made such a thing of them making us guests since it didn’t really seem to matter. Until next time remember don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always, “Yes and…?”

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Coming Attractions

Stop in the name of Love Before I eat your heart!
It looks like another exciting here at Prone Ooze. First I have part two of my Party Optimization Article. I hope you enjoy part one, which can be found here. For Secret Warlock I am going to do a post on the importance of understanding the rules behind the world. For Weekly Homebrew I am working on an Epic Level Solo. The plan for it is to either cap the paragon tier or be a threat early in the epic tier. Other articles I am thinking about include a detailed post on backgrounds and motivations, a look at how women are portrayed in D and D versus how they are portrayed generally, and some ideas for hooking evil characters inspired by Malvan, my other warlock. If you have a request for a homebrew monster or an article please post in the comments or find me on twitter or facebook. I do have a poll for the future of my Weekly Homebrew column. Thanks to the two readers who voted. Everyone else please vote for what you would like to see. Until next time remember, don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes, and...?"

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I don't always run out of spells, but when I do I still have my BOOMSTICK!
This week has been a whirlwind. I had 4 12 hour days in a row and then an 8 hour day on Friday. On top of that I spent the whole week fighting with the hotel internet in the mountains. I did get one Ravenloft game in and that was pretty fun. I have spent most of today in bed watching reruns of How I met your Mother. I have some exciting stuff planned for next week which I will tell you about tomorrow. Today I wanted to leave you with a question. What's your motivation? I don't mean what motivates you. I mean when you are planning a game as a DM what inspires you, what do you use to drive the game? If you are a player, what makes your character tick? If you haven't thought about it before maybe you should. I'd love to hear your motivations, and before you leave please vote in my Weekly Homebrew poll. Until net time remember, don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes and...?"

Friday, February 10, 2012

Saturday Chainmail: The Jacket

I love looking for pictures for Saturday Chainmail. I am a little sad occasionally because I want to keep this strictly PG-13, and I find a lot of wonderful pictures that are R or higher. However, I have found a lot of really neat things while looking as well.
Like this Jacket!
I am pretty sure this isn't actually made of chainmail, but I would love a sports coat that looked like this. I  found it here, and I just had to share. 
Mantle Front
I really love the design of this chainmail mantle front. I'm not really sure, but I think the graphic in the center is a cat and the ones on the side are trees. My favorite part  though, is the trim. Be sure to check out this website for some other projects from this artist
Curvy girls are lovely.
Finally another picture of a curvy lady wearing chainmail. The pose does look a bit uncomfortable, but I love the outfit. Until next time remember, don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes and...?"

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Party Optimization Part One of Two: Theme and Story

Much has been written on the subject character optimization. I know Charop is a touchy subject, with bad feelings on both sides of the issue. For every person who simply wants to play a fun and effective character there is a pun pun waiting in the wings, and for every person who simply wants to play a concept and doesn’t really care much about the mechanics there is a person who plays a character who is CN and has a 3 cha just to be a douche. Sadly many times people in the opposing camps can’t see there is a middle ground. It is perfectly ok to want a character that is confident and effective in combat and out of it. It is also perfectly fine to play a character that has a personality and a backstory and doesn’t care what magic item or feat they are picking up next. I have done both, sometimes even on the same character.

Much can be accomplished by working together
I’ve actually gone pretty far afield here. I was saying that a lot has been written about optimizing an individual character. However, D and D is a social game, a cooperative game. You would think that some thought would be given to creating a whole party that works well together. Instead almost all of what you see is geared towards making a single character do well completely apart from any of the rest of the party. I have found this to be true in most of the research I have done, as well as at most of my game sessions. I have seen a very few synergestic parties, such as the radiant mafia, but they are rare. In addition most of the times I have tried to get my fellow players interested in even bare bones party creation I have been met with apathy if not outright derision. While 4e has done much to make party synergy possible, it has also done much to make it unnecessary.

With the self healing available to all characters and the general heartiness of most 4e characters, a case can be made that no attempts need to be made to organize your party, let alone optimize it. It is certainly possible to play 4e and be successful with a thrown together party of all rogues. However, just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or would even work well. I can’t tell you how tired I am of hearing, “You don’t need to have a leader in 4e” whenever I ask my friends to sit and make a party with me. I tend to be more focused on the mechanics and I will address the mechanics in part two. For now it is just as important to have a party that will work together for story purposes.

The Thief is behind me isn't he?
If you have played D and D for any amount of time you have seen an example of a party that does not work well together. The most egregious examples can be attributed to individual characters. Some of these include the thief who insists on stealing from the party, the cleric who refuses to heal the necromancer, (A cleric who refuses to heal anyone is the subject of another post), or the Paladin who has to be sent for a sandwich anytime the party needs to actually do something. While some of this is just general douchery, much of it could have been avoided by simply discussing a party concept before the game started.

Even if you haven’t played with an asshat paladin or a steal everything that isn’t nailed down thief you have probably experienced a party that didn’t gel together for whatever reason. Having a party concept or theme would be most useful in story driven or roleplay heavy games because part of what moves the game forward is interactions between the players. Some of my favorite moments as a DM have been listening to the players talk to each other in character. It’s great because it gives me a chance to sit back and just enjoy the game for a while instead of constantly working to keep the game going. However, even in dungeon of the week style games having at least a little idea of how the party will work together can be very enriching. I have a couple of suggestions for building a party that has a theme, or at least some connections, which I think will greatly aid your games. You may still run into an asshat Paladin on occasion, but at least you will know about it before hand. Heck maybe you could make a whole party of them.
And I will execute great vengeance upon them
with furious rebukes; and they shall know
 that I am the LORD, when
I shall lay my vengeance upon them.

I have two suggestions that really are most important. I cannot stress how much each of them is the most important thing you need to do when making a party. In fact I am struggling to decide which is more important, because they are both that important. First, talk to your DM. It is very likely that your DM has some ideas about the campaign theme, and what types of characters will be appropriate. Additionally half of DMing is hooking characters and if you give the DM hooks that will not only work for your character, but for the entire party he will thank you.

Second, talk to the other players. Really all of my tips and suggestions boil down to having some effective communication before the game starts. If you are the type of player who likes to create a character and go and forget about the rest of the party, be open to some communication about the party. On the other hand if you are the kind of player who enjoys planning out party concepts, be sure you are willing to listen to what the other players want to play. If your concept of a party doesn’t include arcane magic and one of the other players always plays a wizard, at least be open to changing the concept. If you are the DM encourage your players to talk about a concept, or give them some options for a concept. Maybe you could even have a session dedicated to party creation. The rest of the ideas require having a discussion about what the party is going to be, and how to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Party of Wizards for the win
One way to tie the group together is by playing characters that all use the same power source. One of the greatest advances 4e made was making it possible to have a balanced party based around a single power source. Before 4e you had few options for healing that did not include the cleric, and if you wanted big flashy spells you picked the wizard. 3e had a few options, such as the bard, but the bard excelled at being the fifth man, and was a lot less good at being whatever fourth man he was trying to be. If you wanted to play a party full of mages, which is an interesting idea, you had to hope your DM crafted adventures just for you or you had to be very careful while playing until you were high enough level to break the game with your spells. Even then you still had no really good way to heal. Now in 4e it is possible to play a group of people from a single church or mage school or tribe without straining credulity.

Another idea is to have the characters all be the same race. One of the best campaigns I have played in used the Revenant race to keep us all tied together thematically while also giving us a great deal of freedom to be individuals. The story was that thousands of years ago we had each been great hero’s who were returning to save the world from some great danger. Unfortunately, the gods of evil tainted our return, bringing us back as undead and with only a fraction of our former power. Other races would work as well for creating a themed party, but I really like Revenants for versatility.

Another great idea for a themed party is to have all of the characters work for the same organization. If most of the players share a power source or a race, but a few want to branch out into something else, this would actually be the best option. It is easy to imagine a single human working for the Elven army. Of course some outliers wouldn’t make as much sense. Again doing some of the legwork in creating the game should make your DM happy, but always double check to make sure there isn’t a specific organization the DM would think especially appropriate.

It is entirely possible that you won’t be able to come up with theme or concept that works for all the players. There are even times when it isn’t appropriate to have a party theme. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when creating characters for a party that doesn’t have a theme. I contend that even if you don’t want to have a theme you do need to have some connections between the party members. I suggest that you form a connection of some kind with two other party members when making your backgrounds. If all the players do this it will create a web of connections which will make it easier to motivate the party as a whole, and will also give the party a reason to overcome the petty squabbles that often come with the adventuring life.

Just as bad as the
Asshat Paladin
Only smellier
Additionally when you are making a character you should find out what the other player’s dealbreakers are. I know of several people who hate undead and will not play with them under any circumstances. If that is the case you probably already have enough asshats at the table, don’t play an asshat Necromancer. If you have any dealbreakers you should also let the other players know.

Hopefully you can get the players at your table interested in having a pregame conversation about party theme and interconnections. I urge you to give it a try at your games and see if it doesn’t improve the relationships, not only between the characters but between the players as well. I will delve deeper into the mechanics of an optimized party sometime next week. Until next time remember, don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always, “Yes, and…?”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Weekly Homebrew: Player run town WIP

A friend of mine is working on a system for a player run town. I think it is an awesome idea and would love to try something like this out in my game. I ran a short lived epic game using something like this, but I never really detailed it much. Anyway You can find it here, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes and...?"

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Midweek Chainmail: Dark Elves

Here are some very nice pictures of Dark Elves, also known as Drow, for your midweek Chainmail. 
Dark Elf Dragon Rider
I love this picture. The dragon looks very ferocious and you can barely make out the skulls it is wearing as a necklace. This lady would make an excellent Villain. 
Dark Elf Arachanomancer
Here is another good picture to inspire a villain. Have I mentioned before how much I hate spiders. 
Dark Elf Moon Warrior
Finally a picture to inspire a player. This lady would make a wonderful fighter or rogue. She would do especially well as a Ranger because of the dual short swords. I still wouldn't want to run into her on a dark moonlit night... ok maybe I would. Happy hump day and until next time remember, don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes, and...?"

Monday, February 6, 2012

Secret Warlock

As much as I wish it were an affair with a
Succubus was not in my backstory

I have recently started giving my characters background stories again. This can be a very rewarding activity particularly if you have a DM who pays attention to, and uses your backstory. Even if your DM completely ignores it though having a backstory can help you to get into the mindset of your character. Unfortunately because I haven’t been in a long running campaign for so long I have gotten out of the habit. It has been hard work getting back into it and an offhand comment to the DM while crafting Aramil’s backstory leads directly to the point of this post.

After we had recovered our crew and passed the Daughters of Sora Kell’s test, we went to confront them and also to actually open negotiations between them and our kingdom which is what we were there for. We were only able to speak with one of them.  I enjoyed the opportunity to play a little bit angry since they had kidnapped our crew. The Daughter we were able to speak to told us that she would be willing to negotiate with us, but only if we proved that our kingdom would be a valuable ally. Needless to say we were all a little irritated that we were going to be put through another test, but we had no real options.

We asked what we could do to prove our worth to the Daughters. She informed us that some of her subjects, two clans of giants, were fighting and also had somehow released a terrible plague that was ravaging themselves and was about to spread to the rest of the country. She wanted us to stop the plague, and make peace among the warring giant clans. Having little choice we agreed.

All that was left was a forest fire
It took some time, but we tracked down the creator of the plague. It turns out that he had been killed by the leader of the rival clan. After bringing him back to life we discovered that he had designed the plague to only target the rival clan, and he wasn’t sure why it was spreading. Unfotunately we had the leader of the other clan on our airship, and before we could find out more they tried to kill each other and us in the process. They almost took down our airship, but in the end we threw both of them over the side. I imagine that will have consequences later, but for now we were able to find what we needed to stop the plague. We needed the fantasy of a Gaood. Sadly, we had no idea what a Gaood was let alone how to get the fantasy of one.

I may come back to this, but to make a long story short we tracked down the Gaood to a continent on the other side of the world. We were able to get transported there by some Archons who had been tasked with guarding the secret of the plague. We were able to convince them to help us when we told them we were trying to stop the plague that the giants had released.

When we arrived we were accosted by a group of pixies with evil looking tattoos who claimed all they wanted to do was play. We tried to convince them to help us find the Gaood so we could stop the plague that was ravaging our land. They said several times that they didn’t know who the Gaood were and insisted on wanting to party. It was at this point that the DM reminded me that when I was telling her about my background I had mentioned wanting to have a party as one of my characters goals. I was not at all pleased with this turn of events. We needed to get to the Gaood and we certainly didn’t have time to have a party while the world was burning.

I wasn't fooled by you either Yoda. 
It turned out that the pixies actually were the Gaood which was not a large surprise to me. Because I had an idea that they wouldn’t help us if we didn’t give in to their request for play I agreed to sing them one song on the condition that they named us guests. In a future post I will probably talk about the idea of being sure you understand the rules behind the world before you count on them. However, what is important right now is that they, to my mind at least betrayed us as guests by enchanting most of us to make us dance while I sang. After some time trying to convince them to let us go and trying to break free of the enchantment I realized how important it is to be careful what I wish for, because I got it.

I had to leave the game right after we rolled initiative, but I am very excited to see how we are going to get out of this one. Hopefully we will find some way to get their fantasy so we can save the giants and open relations with Droamm and the Daughter’s of Sora Kell. Until next time remember, don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always, “Yes and…?”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Coming Attractions

I suppose as long as I'm here I
can play Benedick for you
I have had a really good week. I had my first day off in two weeks, which I used to get some content loaded on my blog, and also a guest post on A Single Step. I also watched a hilarious rendition of Much Ado About Nothing staring David Tennant and Catherine Tate. I am going out of town for a couple of days so I am going to schedule a few posts in case my hotel doesn't have free wifi. I am going to try to stick to the schedule I am outlining here, but I may end up with some more filler. I promise I will get some content up at the end of the week if I don't get any before then.

For Secret Warlock I am still working on the short story, but I don't think I'l get it finished in time so I am planning on posting about Evil Pixies, being careful what you wish for, and the importance of the rules behind the world.
Ok I'd like play the level three Executive.

For Weekly Homebrew I will try to get some more posted about the village of Bristle. This is the most likely to be cut, but I have found a system for a player run town that is in outline form right now I may post some stuff about it as well.

For the rest of the week I am planning an article dealing with the idea of creating a party that works well together mechanically and thematically. I still want to do something about skills, and I will likely have a few thoughts on DnDnext as we keep hearing more about it. As always if you have ideas for articles or would like to see something here please post in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook. Until next time remember, don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes and...?"

Rituals in D and D: The gift of Now


There is a saying from Kung Fu Panda which explains why the time we live in is called the present. I really like it, and I was reminded of it when I started writing this post about rituals. I’d like to take a look at what I liked about spellcasters in earlier editions and how that plays into ritual use and I’d also like to talk about some things DnDnext that I have heard in the twitter rumor mill. But rather than focus on the past or the future I would like to live in the now and enjoy the gift of the present, even if that means I need to rewrap it a bit.

I have always been attracted to spellcasters. Since I started playing I have played mostly spellcasters. Occasionally I played against type, even going so far as to play a character who was afraid of magic. What really attracted me to spellcasters was their versatility. I always enjoyed having a magical answer to situations. Whether it was asking The Powers That Be for answers to life’s big questions or flying over canyons, I liked my wizards to be able to do awesome magical things.

It was a bummer having to choose between something like Levitate which could be very useful and a Fireball which was almost always useful. To alleviate this problem I always tried to find a way to make my non combat spells useful even in combat. For example what would happen if I levitated an orc and then let it drop? Why it would fall and get hurt that’s what. That’s one of the things I miss most about the older editions.

No door can stop me for I am the master of Knock!
I think its ok for spells to be used in ways that aren’t immediately obvious. That was part of the fun of playing a spellcaster. When you were up against the wall and the red dragon had just eaten the paladin and the rogue was just knocked down from the breath weapon you know you only have one chance to save the day. What do you do you when you look at your spellbook and you have just one magic missile left in your combat spell section? You polymorph the dragon into a rat, which then explodes and leaves rat/dragon guts all over a disgusted looking Paladin.

In 3e and 4e you can’t do things like that. The spells and there effects started to become more clearly spelled out and you couldn’t use them as creatively anymore. The trade off in 4e is that you don’t have to fire a crossbow five minutes into the day, you will always have something magical and awesome to do, which is nice. The problem is that you lose out on some of the non combat awesomeness as well. A plus five bonus to your next diplomacy check is more specific than you make friends with the target, but it’s not nearly as much fun, unless you make it be so. To be fair I have had a couple of experiences lately where I have been able to bring a little bit of the creative spellcasting back into D and D and it made my day when the DM’s let me do it. In fact, one of the things that excites me about DnDnext is that they seem to be bringing back some of the creativity and exploration to the game.

Yes! I have completed my summon Lassie
ritual. Now we can save Timmy!
Where 4e really shines in this regard is the often overlooked ritual system. By divorcing the combat spells from the non combat spells 4e made it possible to be effective and magical in combat and still have interesting magical things to do outside of combat. The problem is that because of some of the costs inherent in the system it often gets completely ignored. Many classes get ritual casting for free, and some other type of benefit when using them. Other classes however have to pay a feat to have access. A problem here is that some classes that really need access to rituals to do their jobs like the warlord don’t get ritual casting for free. In fact it’s pretty common now to have no ritual casters in the party at all. It is certainly possible to play that way, but you are really missing out if you do.

There are a couple of must have rituals. First, unless you have an artificer in your party you really need the Comrade’s Succor ritual. I recommend cure disease and the other healing magic related rituals. You never know when you are going to need to bring someone back from the dead or get rid of a horrible curse. The Linked Portal and other similar rituals are good for helping you get where you need to go. Another favorite at low levels is the Eye of Alarm ritual. You never have to be surprised from sleep again if you make good use of this ritual.

The major problem for me with ritual casting is the material cost associated with casting them. Not only do you have to pay to get the rituals, but you also have to pay to cast them. On top of this they usually have a significantly long cast time. It’s not that you are really giving anything up. The cost of casting low level rituals is usually negligible especially compared to magic items of similar levels. The problem is that I have never really enjoyed the logistics resource management in D and D. I hate tracking ammunition, and I despised tracking spell components. So, often I don’t use a ritual even when it would be perfect to use it. Even worse sometimes I even forgot to use rituals I could have used for free because I forget about them among all the other options I have on my sheet they kind of get lost.

I have had a couple of ideas for making ritual casting a part of your game. First if you are really concerned about the costs, see if you can use the inherent bonuses system. If you distance the expected math of the game from magic items it frees you to spend your gold on other things. You could also keep a list of your rituals handy. One of my friends actually has copies of his rituals in a folder he keeps with his characters. Another thought I have had is asking for, or handing out rituals or ritual components as treasure. If you have some ideas how to use rituals in your game or want to recommend some must have rituals of your own feel free to post them in the comments below. Until next time remember, don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always, “Yes and…?” 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Saturday Chainmail: Necklaces

I was looking for some accessories to round out an elegant chainmail outfit. I have found a few pieces of jewelry that would go well with any piece ranging from a lovely dress to the more traditional bikini. First is this piece from pkjewelry4u.
Nice Copper Neclace
They do have several better pieces, but I could not get a picture to link here, so I encourage you to check them out.
Chainmail Necklace with Chalcedony
I really love this piece. I especially like the icy blue chalcedony pieces. I found this necklace here on Katherine Ware's Jewelry Blog.
I love redheads!
My final picture today is of Michelle! at the Arizona Renfest a couple of years ago. I love the way the necklace draws attention to her large... tracks of land. Honestly, I like the whole outfit. I tend to shy away from leather most of the time, but she really pulls it off. I think I like the skull button on her bag most of all. Until next time remember, don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes, and...?"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Time for (Edition) War, A Time for Peace (I Swear it's not too Late)

This post is a response to Bruce Cordell's blog post A Time to Heal on the DnD Next playtest group. You should take the time to read it if you haven't and vote on the poll. If you haven't yet and you are at all interested in DnD next you should bookmark that page and make your voice heard. For those of you expecting Weekly Homebrew I am going to try to get an article out at the normal time, but I really wanted to respond to Cordell's article.

I did pick up the t-shirt though
If you follow my blog you know that although I am definitely not an Edition Warrior (tm), I do have some concerns about the direction DnD next is going. If all you play are home games with your friends who all have similar playstales perhaps my concerns sound overblown to you. But imagine this, you go to your FLGS, a con, or even the D and D Virtual Table all set to play some 4e DnD. When you arrive the DM says I'm sorry I'm running Basic D and D I hope you can adjust. If you are a 1e Veteran the scenario also works in reverse just imagine your DM started running 4e one day without letting you know.

But you say DnD next is big enough for everyone. You can play your 4e Wizard with my 1e Fighter all at the same table. Well first I am not entirely convinced that will be the case. I certainly hope it is the case. I have no problem with someone else playing a Vancian Wizard, but I have no interest in it. I have talked a lot more about this subject here, but even if I can bring my character to the table, there is another problem which Cordell's article pointed out that I hadn't even considered. That problem is the Cure Selfish Wounds Cleric.

What do you mean all I know how to do is one sword swing?
I am a big fan of party optimization. I think D and D works best when you have a well rounded party both mechanically and for story purposes. At the very least you should try to have some connections between your characters so they have some reasons to work together and you should at least think about how they will work together in combat. I tend to weigh in on the side of game versus simulation, even though I really enjoy the shared storytelling aspect. I may be in the minority, but I believe that the game will run better if you have a balanced and well planned party.

Because of this I think it's very important to know what you are getting into for party composition. I know not everyone agrees with me, but it's how I prefer to roll. I like to have an idea what the others are playing so I can either pick something that will make us totally awesome, like a lazylord for a group with lot's of good basic attacks. Or conversely, I can fill in some roles to keep us at least at the baseline. That's one reason I really like the Berserker. I can provide some baseline defense while also bringing the pain to those who oppose me.

I am Delzoun you will FEAR ME!
The problem with bringing back some of the older edition stereotypes is that we left them behind for a reason. Some things can be fun to have at the table even if I don't like them. I suppose a Vancian wizard would probably fall under this, although I really don't want to have to rest after one round because my friend cast his one spell for the day. What I really don't want to deal with at the table is a cleric who doesn't heal or lead in any other way. I think a destruction cleric trope is fine, but if you are going to have a cleric there needs to at least be some baseline that they operate at for healing and whatever else leading means to you. I really like how this was handled in 4e all leaders have a baseline healing that is cheap and easy. I don't want to see a return of CoDzilla.

When I play D and D I want to show up at the table and have an idea what experience I am going to have. I want to be able to talk to my DM and the other players before the game and show up knowing whether I am going to play something like 4e, something like 1e or something like GURPS. I may enjoy playing all those games, but if I show up to play 4e and I am handed GURPS I will be disappointed. Furthermore if I am told to expect a cleric and I find Delzoun god of destruction sitting across from me I'll be disappointed as well. Not because I want Brian to play a cleric, but because I would have brought the cleric if I had known Brian was going to play Delzoun. As always your mileage may vary. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes and...?"