Friday, May 30, 2008

Penny Arcade and PVP play D&D

Okay, this freakin' rocks. I just downloaded the ((download link)) first segment of an all-day D&D game played by the two guys from Penny Arcade (scroll down), a guy from PVPOnline and Chris Perkins from Dungeons & Dragons R&D.

Holy crap is it funny.

"Did you choose a name?"

"Yeah, I'm Jim Darkmagic."

"Wha--? No. What? Why don't you just call yourself Trent Awesome-Laser."



"Yeah, I'm from the New Hampshire line of Darkmagics."

These guys fuckin' slay me. It's damn funny. I'm 12 minutes in right now, and the game is getting going with Chris Perkins telling them about D&D stuff at a high level (hit points, and such).

If you can't access the link to download, just register. Dragon (which the podcasts are a subset of) and Dungeon, the two publications, require the registration (which is free).

7 more days til 4th edition release!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Day After 'Keep on the Shadowfell'

Last night was my first session with the new gaming group, and our first run through 4th edition D&D rules using the pre-rules release module, "Keep on the Shadowfell." The guys were all nice and, after BBQ sausages and chatting for a bit, we divvied up the character sheets and dug into the game.

Due to the fact the characters were pre-made, there was some question as to why and how some of the abilities were arrived at, but we played what we had. Within 5 minutes, we were ambushed by kobolds and found out that they weren't the same as the 3.5 edition cannon-fodder kobolds. Seems most critters have racial abilities, and kobolds are Shifty... they can 'shift' (move 5') as a free action. That meant they could come up, hit us, then move back. Then, when we went for 'em, they'd shift back again (using the free action) and we couldn't come in range. Enormous pain in the ass, given we were mostly close-range fighters.

Powers were pretty complementary. The Warlord and Paladin had group-enabling powers, most of which were activated with an attack. Paladin's was a once-a-day power that did 3d8+5 damage to a single target and allowed any one ally within 5 squares (25') to use a healing surge.

Healing surges are a handy new addition. Everyone has X healing surges per day. Only one can be used in combat. That's called a second wind. A healing surge gives you back 1/4 your health. While a second wind can only be taken once per combat, lots of abilities courtesy of the Warlord, Cleric or Paladin can allow someone to take a healing surge in addition to a second wind already taken.

Anyhoo... at the end of the night, we had a TPK... a total party kill. I've never been in a gaming group that's been wiped out, certainly not in the first game. The final encounter, however, was a bit overkill. Not enough minions (a great new 'fodder' feature for select baddies') and too many decent-strength kobolds. We also couldn't have outrun them, anyway. They could move farther each round than we could.

Overall, the rules are decent and work well. Game flow is vastly improved and there's a lot less of the "crap, I'm out of abilities - guess we have to camp" situations. After an encounter, a group can pause for a few minutes, use up healing surges to heal and regain once-an-encounter power. This allows for a lot more get-up-and-go and keeps things moving.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

4e Cometh

I've been a gamer for a long time; about 15 years. I started with AD&D 2e (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition) back in grade 8, courtesy of James D. and a few others. We'd gather in the library over our 40-minute lunch time and smack a few orcs, then head back to class. (I think we were the ones responsible for the library's subsequent "no students at lunch time" policy.)

For me, it's rarely been about the game or game system. It's been very social. Over the years, I've been lucky enough to meet some exceptional people through gaming. Even years later, I'm very good friends with most of those, especially the first group, from Kingston. (I can proudly claim to have taught Pascal's daughter how to pick up and throw dice with her toes, and no one will forget Angela's trembling fear of Pascal's pink d20... or the smoked-meat watermelon...)

So... now, 4 years after 3.5 edition arrived, 4th edition (4e) is two weeks away. Normally, I'd be in the "dammit - now I have to buy a whole new set of books and supplements" crowd. However, I haven't been a huge fan of 3e or 3.5e. The basics were alright, but nothing scaled with the game's progression. That was my overriding issue (as Pascal and Adrian know full well from my numerous rants).

Enter 4th edition. The changes are, frankly, pretty startling. They've done a lot of cleaning up, simplifying (without dumbing-down) and finally the characters will scale properly.

The first glimmer of hope came in the form of Star Wars Saga edition, a gaming system owned by Wizards of the Coast who also own D&D. They use the same core d20 system. When I saw the changes to SW, I was really happy with them and could only hope for much of the same for D&D.

Well... turns out it's even better. The classes are, as I predicted, designated for certain roles: leader, defender, striker and controller. The core races and core classes are also different. While there are still humans, dwarves, halflings, elves and half-elves, there are now dragonborn, tieflings and eladrin. Bye-bye, gnomes!

The core classes still include: Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, Rogue, Ranger and Wizard, but now include Warlock and Warlord. Each has a role to play, and each has a tonne of flexible options based around a core strength or concept.

The big change is Powers. Feats and such still exist, but class abilities have been more or less replaced by Powers that fall into three categories: at-will, encounter and daily powers. These are pretty self-explanatory. They change everything, and most powers have secondary effects that either aid the group at large (excellent) or impedes the baddies. The entire design philosophy seems to be one of creating complementary roles. Finally.

The issue of scale has been fixed by allowing damage, skill bonus, defense and attack bonus to advance as the character does. In D&D 3.0 and 3.5, only certain skill bonuses advanced, and attack power was the only constant advancement bonus.

Anyhoo... it's quite exciting and I'm very much looking forward to it. Next Friday, I'm playing "Keep on the Shadowfell", a 4e pre-release module with quick-play rules and pre-made characters. I've found a new gaming group and the DM seems awesome. I'm still with the Star Wars gang but we haven't actually played a game yet. I think we're supposed to kick off Star Wars on June 7th. Regardless, found a guy who already has a group who was looking for one more for D&D 4th edition. Yay! So we'll see how that is.

Unrelated to D&D, Age of Conan: Hybrorian Adventures is out tomorrow (pre-order early release, anyway). I guess we'll see how that is. It's a MMO-style online game, like WoW, but a whole lot grittier and darker. Here's hoping...