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Dec. 9th, 2008

Ah, its been too long. We played D&D Saturday night, and it was quite the session. One of my two long-lost players made it this time, so I didn't use the stats I had made for Broketail, the kobold tempest fighter (at least, not in the way I intended...more on that in a minute). On to the story!

Last time, the party had just finished defeating a group of homunculi guarding a treasure vault in the ruins of Stormwing Keep. As they sorted out the treasure, the party was joined by Krayden (Eladrin Ranger), who had finally awoken from the coma he was in ever since his possession by the Darksbane Crown (thanks to his player being present). They immediately set out to finish the job they started by eliminating Skarash, the warlock who's been rallying the goblins in the region to do his bidding. They finished several encounters with goblins and zombies on the way to Skarash's inner sanctum, ultimately coming to an antechamber guarded by a patrol of Hobgoblins. The party engaged the goblins, but the hobgoblin commander's Tactical Deployment ability meant that the hobbos were able to quickly outmaneuver the PC's leaving Maylor (Dragonborn Warlord) stranded in the hall while the hobgoblin soldiers bottlenecked Krayden, Meika (Human Wizard), and Ariadne (Tiefling Warlock) in the corridor, severely limiting their attack options. Krayden Fey Stepped into the room behind the two hobgoblin archers and took the fight to them, taking some of the pressure off of Maylor, who continued to duel the hobgoblin commander. Unfortunately for Maylor, things were going poorly. He was dropped to negative hit points that round, and was coup de graced the round after. (At this point I gave Maylor's player control of Broketail the kobold, so he would have something to do for the rest of the session.)

The rest of the party narrowly managed to defeat the hobbos after Maylor's fall. Low on healing surges and daily powers, the surviving party members were seriously considering heading back to town to rest, even though Skarash was just on the other side of the door. In a surprise move however, Broketail, enraged by the death of his mentor, Maylor, brazenly charged into the next room with a war cry! At this point I did three things:

1. High-fived Broketail's player for not letting the party wuss out on the boss fight.
2. Handed him the tempest fighter stats that I had made for Broketail, stating that the kobold had finally become the warrior that Maylor always wanted him to be.
3. Told the rest of the party that Broketail's display of reckless heroism had so inspired them that they could sacrifice a healing surge to regain one daily power they had already expended.

Galvanized by these events, the party charged into the next room to find Skarash the Tiefling Heretic standing amidst a circle of red-glowing runes. At his side was an imp, cackling maliciously. Before him stood two vicious hell hounds, burning spittle flying as they snapped and growled at the party. Broketail and Krayden took on the hell hounds as Ariadne and Meika lauched a barrage of spells at Skarash. Eventually Skarash was barely able to stand, and as a last resort, began to siphon off energy from the circle of runes. This impertinence angered his infernal patron, who appeared as a shadowy sillouette before consuming Skarash in a ball of hellfire for his impertinence. Before fading away, the shadowy figure promised the party they would meet again.

I worked with a couple of things from Martial Power this session. One, I tried out the Tempest Fighter build, which was even more fun than I had anticipated. At one point Broketail's acrobatic fighting style prompted one of the other players to exclaim, "you're a freaking jedi man!" I also houseruled a Ranger multiclass feat that allowed Meika to treat her guard drake as an animal companion. The mechanics are great, allowing Meika to command her pet without bogging me down with an extra creature on the board.

That's about it for now. 'Til next time folks.

- Nick

Of Absent Players and Kobold Fighters.

I'm currently working on my online D&D campaign (a much more labor-intensive process, since the Maptool program is not very conducive to improvisation) and trying to keep my "real-life" campaign afloat. It has been over a month since we played, what with Thanksgiving and lots of other stuff getting in the way. I'm trying to get the group together this Saturday, but so far one crucial member of the party is incommunicado. This individual has recently started a new relationship with a non-gamer, one of the first signs of terminal player bailout, but I'm optimistic that he'll stick with us.

As for the other four players, I know that two of them will always show (since one is the hostess and the other is my girfriend), but the other two have had a sketchy attendance record at best. One of those two PC's is dead, and the other is currently in some sort of magical coma (a plot device I was forced to use since he did not show up to play last time). Now, I understand that these two players have lives ourtside of the game table, lives that include jobs, and a baby, and other responsible stuff, but I need to know whether or not I can count on their attendance or whether I should plan my future games for a smaller party. If we play this weekend, and they don't show, I think I'm just going to assume they won't show in the future.

If that's the case, then I find myself with a three-person party and no main tank. That gives me an interesting idea. You see, the party has befriended a kobold named Broketail, an NPC whose biggest contribution so far has been acting as a dungeon guide for the party. Broketail is cowardly, greedy, and sycophantic, but without the malicious streak that most kobolds are notorious for. Maylor has taken this sniveling humanoid under his wing, believing that he can turn him into a true warrior. The idea was that Broketail would take levels in a martial class, probably rogue, and adventure with the party as an NPC. But with no PC tank in the party, I find myself asking, "do we really need another striker in the party?" Unfortunately, as entertaining as I find the idea of a mail-clad, shield bearing kobold tanking it up on the front lines, it just doesn't fit the personality that I've developed for Broketail. My idea for a kobold fighter died before it even got on its feet, but then something awesome happened: I bought Martial Power.

The Tempest Fighter build is just what I needed. It encourages a mobile, "strikery" fighting style using two weapons, and it even encourages fighters to wear light armor. Combined with the Shifty kobold racial ability, it would mean a slippery, agile melee combatant that always seems to be hopping just out of the reach of his enemies. Now that sounds more like a kobold to me. I even have the perfect mini for it: the Flamescorched Kobold. I'll probably multiclass him into rogue, since there's a lot of synergy there. That is, if I wind up using him. The other players could show up after all.

Well, that's enough of my rambling. 'Til next time.

- Nick Laney

Sad News at WOTC

As is well known by now, there were several layoffs at Wizards of the Coast recently, most of whom were well-known and talented faces in the gaming industry. Let me extend my sincerest condolences. D&D has been an important part of my life for a long time now. It has been a great comfort to me when I was sad, and it has been the centerpiece which brings my friends and I together, even though we live in different corners of the country. It has given me many, many fond memories, and all of it was, in part, because of the work of these individuals. Thank you so much for the impact your work has had on my life. I wish you many blessings to come in yours.

- Nick Laney

Nov. 13th, 2008

Last night we played D&D online via RP Tools' Maptool program. I gotta say, it was fun as hell. We started out just giving the program a trial run to see how we liked it, but after the first hour we were just playing D&D and having fun. I played Tor, my on-again-off-again human greatweapon fighter. I like this character. I've played him a grand total of three times, since I'm almost always DM'ing, but he's really effective as a defender, and he can almost keep up with the strikers in damage output. There's nothing quite like rolling 1d12+41 damage on a critical hit at first level.

Next week I take over as DM, and I'm looking forward to using the map tool to do things I couldn't do at a traditional game table. For one thing, I effectively have an infinite battle map, which I plan to take advantage of. I'm also looking forward to starting a full fledged campaign with this group of friends, since we used to have so much fun when we all lived in the same area. Now we can play D&D over the internet. Crazy.

On that note, one of the players wanted her elf rogue to have the ability turn into a cat. Not a big, ferocious, man-eating, African savannah cat, but a common, ordinary housecat. This is very cool. She was even willing to trade her elven racial power for this cat form power. This could be a very cool power in specific situations, and it has limitless potential for rp scenarios. I'm even thinking of some racial feats for her to use in cat form, feats that will allow her to shift through an opponent's space and other cool stuff. I appreciate when a player is willing to take a character in an interesting direction, and I look foward to the adventures of Mier, elven werecat.

- Nick

No Wrath yet...but I still have a new toy.

Last time I said that my next post would contain a review of Wrath of the Lich King. That's because I thought I would be going to the midnight release this very evening, but as it turns out, I'll have to wait until payday. Hey, a guy's gotta eat.

I did, however, play around with the beta of the new character builder from WotC. I gotta say, if this is the shape of things to come, then the subscription will be totally worth it. It's a great program, very intuitive and user-friendly, and very nice looking. There are tons of options for every step of the character building process, including material not found in the core rulebooks. Not once did I feel that I was being pigeonholed into the options the builder gave me; the builder offered all the options of the PHB and more. There is even the option of adding your own homebrew material to a character, options that are not fully available in the beta, but are nonetheless promising. Once the whole process is complete you can print out a character sheet, fully filled out with all your character's information, complete with a set of power cards with all your character's information already calculated.

If I had to find one complaint, it would be the install time. Part of the installation process involves downloading a Microsoft service pack, which can take a while. On the other hand, my install time was relatively short compared to some of the reports I've heard from others, so I suppose it just depends on your connection speed. I also suspect that this is one problem that will be fixed by the time the full version is released. All in all though, an excellent product from WotC. Now if they can just get the other tools ready. I want to use the online game table, damnit! Oh well, If being a gamer has taught me anything, its patience.

So, what've I been up to? Well...

Last week we tried gaming online with Open RPG. It...did not go so well. Some people could not get it to run at all, others found the interface a little less than user-friendly, and even those well-versed in the program found little bugs here and there that interfered with the relatively simple act of gameplay. So we've scrapped that, and are moving on to a much simpler online utility, which basically consists of a shared map with digital dice. Sometime in the near future we'll try a game out on this one.

Meanwhile, I've been working on my other campaign (the one I play in a room with real-life people), and trying my damnedest to get a group together, but two weeks ago I couldn't reach everybody in time, and last week three of the players were busy moving, so its been a while. I'm debating whether or not to try and organize a game this Saturday, since I'll be busy Sunday and will probably want to just hang out with Mary the day before.

Which brings me to my next point: Football. Going to watch the Panthers this Sunday with my friend Scott. Scott is well, passionate about football. Like, a lot. Which is infectious when you're actually at the game with him, so I expect Sunday to be filled with lots of beer and shouting. In a good way.

Finally, I've been playing WoW pretty frequently, getting ready for WotLK. I love in-game events. I like quests and events that actually make me feel like the story of the game is progressing, and that I'm a part of that story. Blizzard has gotten better about adding this kind of content, and WotLK promises to have even more (like the Battle for the Undercity!). In the few days left before the new expansion, there's been this great event in Orgrimmar where the scourge attacks with a squad of abominations while frost wyrms blast everyone with ice from the air. What follows is pretty friggin' epic, with hunters and other ranged characters blasting the frost wyrms out of the sky while the tanks and DPS take it to the abominations. All the while, Thrall himself runs through the battle, rallying the troops and bringing the hammer down (literally) on the Scourge. At the end of the attack is a scripted event wherein Thrall declares war on the Lich King on behalf of the entire Horde. Awesome.

Well, thats about it for me. Hopefully next time I can post my review of Wrath of the Lich King. 'Later.

- Nick Laney

CCF Refuses to Endorse GenCon Donations

Okay, I know I'm a little late in finding out about this, but Its got my blood boiling, and I have to blog it out.

Earlier this year, the charity auction at Gen Con Indy raised over $17,000 to donate to the late Gary Gygax's favorite charity, the Christian Children's Fund. It was initially reported that the CCF refused to accept the money because of the convention's association with Dungeons & Dragons. It was later revealed that GenCon chose to donate to another of Gygax's favorite charities, the Fisher House Foundation, because a CCF representative told them that they would not officially endorse GenCon because of their association with D&D.

So they were willing to take their money, but they weren't willing to recognize GenCon for their generous donation because, as we all know, D&D is a secret recruiting tool for goat-raping satanic cults. What. The. Fuck.

The CCF, of course, quickly backpeddled out of the situation after the deluge of complaints recieved through e-mail. Their official canned response goes a little something like this:

"When Gen Con contacted CCF about its auction, we were pleased to accept donations. However, we couldn’t lend our name for publication because our policies have specific criteria for endorsements. We were unaware that this had caused any problem or concern for Gen Con until we began receiving emails. This decision was in no way intended to be a reflection on Mr. Gygax, gaming enthusiasts or the game Dungeon and Dragons. We have the utmost respect for the gaming community and were touched by the generosity expressed through your auction."

Yeah, you spin that. You spin that real good. I don't care what their PR people say. The fact of the matter is that a representative of an organization whose main goal is supposed to be feeding starving children refused to cooperate with an oranization willing to donate over $17,000 because of their own personal bigotry and ignorance. That is not ok. I'm sure the kids that money would have gone to don't give a good Goddamn about what games the donors play.

At least we had one good thing come of this: one more example of the gaming community refusing to be bullied by ignorant and fearful prejudice. And, of course, the money was donated to a worthwhile charity after all. If you want to know more, you can read about it here.

- Nick

Nov. 5th, 2008

It seems I will soon be running a second D&D campaign, but with a twist. We'll be continuing the game we started a couple of weeks ago at Ryan's house, except we'll be playing over OpenRPG. I must admit I'm a little wary of the idea of playing remotely, but I'm open to new things. So far the party looks like this:

Dwarven Battle Cleric
Human Laser Cleric (possibly multiclass wizard)
Eladrin Orb Wizard
(Half) Orc Barbarian
...and another striker of some sort; I'm expecting a rogue, maybe a ranger.

Tonight we'll be playing a brief game in order to familiarize ourselves with the software, and next week I'll take the reins. I think I'll play a swordmage tonight; I've been wanting to give that a try for some time.

Okay, Warcraft, this time I mean it!

I've decided to finally quit dicking around in Warcraft and make something of my subscription. I mean, I've had the game since like, 2006, I have no excuse not to be at level 70 by now. In the past week I've leveled my warrior up to 40 and my pally up to 20, and I've decided to get them at least a level a week or I'm not doing what I need to be doing with a 15$ a month subscription.

Part of this renewed zeal for WoW is because of the upcoming expansion, but I've also just fallen into the groove lately. My warrior and my pally (and my proficiency at playing both) have finally gotten where I want them to be in terms of sheer effectiveness. Asses are kicked and names are taken on a daily basis. I've also fallen into a groove where I can easily get a level out of four hours of play, so maybe level 55 (and my shiny new WotLK death knight) aren't really that far away. I mean, yes, that's 15 levels and no, I probably won't get there in two weeks, but I'll be close.

Now some of you veteran players out there might be saying, "big deal, so you don't suck anymore, what do you want, a cookie?"

Yes, Goddamnit, I want a cookie! Chocolate chip! With some milk!

Okay, but seriously, I used to suck hard at WoW. Like, embarassingly so. Now I don't, which means one very important thing: the game has never been more fun.

Tonight it'll probably be farming ore in Thousand Needles, if anything. I gotta shop around for some new plate armor after all.

That's all for now. 'Til next time, folks.
- Nick Laney

D&D, Rennaisance Fairs, and Bonfires

I don't know about you guys, but my weekend was fantastic. Mary and I headed out to Charlotte (well, Mooresville, but close enough) to spend the weekend at my friend Ryan's house. On Friday night we made hot wings and other sundry goodies and then settled in for some 4e action. I had never played 4e with two of the people in this group, one guy had never played 4e at all, and another was playing D&D for the first time ever. Suffice to say, it was a learning experience, but they learned pretty fast. Here's the lineup we had:

Eladrin Swordmage
Eladrin Wizard
Human Dark Pact Warlock
Dwarf Cleric
Orc Barbarian

Technically, the barbarian was a half-orc, but I don't have the PHBII yet, so we improvised. I was very pleased to see folks trying out the FR classes, as well as the playtest barbarian. The swordmage met all my expectations for awesomeness, as well as the dark pact. The barbarian was interesting as well. She made a fine addition to the party's front-line damage dealers, and her paltry AC was easily compensated for by her numerous temporary hp boost abilities. She never got to really use any of her rage abilities, but it was a short game, plus she had just been handed the barbarian printout like, an hour beforehand, so who can fault her for not mastering the mechanics? It was a lot of fun, and I managed to provide a positive 4e experience for my friends who were still a little on the fence about the whole thing.

On Saturday we all headed out to the Charlotte Rennaisance Fair, which is always a good time. Nothing like a joust on a crisp autumn day, eh? As usual we took in the Tortuga Twins, who never fail to entertain, and we browsed all the cool stuff I couldn't afford and played games and quaffed our fill of cider. Good friggin' times.

After the fair we came back to Ryan's house and built a bonfire in the backyard, where we roasted hot dogs and smores and chilled out by the fire. Mary and I headed back to Asheville that night, and on Sunday we just chilled at her house. This was a great weekend. Its rare that I get to spend time with my friends out there, but whenever we do get together its just like old times. Anyway, thats about it for me.

'Til next time
-Nick Laney