jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

I've been watching the "Heroes of Awesome" play D&D. In this episode, they're camping out in the forest and are being circled by wolves.

Click here if you can't see the speciesist title card.

In previous episodes, the players (a guy, a girl, and two women) completely lacked agency or the ability to advance the plot in any way, save by kissing up to or accepting missions from NPC authority figures. And rolling a d20 over and over again until their roll doesn't suck. In this episode, we're apparently finding out that wolves like to eat elven and human adventurers who are encircling a campfire.

As soon as they realized the threat they were facing, the Chaotic-Neutral-ish Rogue asked if she ought to climb a tree. Everyone was like "NO" even though this is, of course, the most sensible thing to do.

Also, just as a minor nitpick, literally everyone at the table forgot that Eladrin don't sleep, and are aware of their surroundings during "trance." Which became relevant when the people on night watch started rolling Perception.

Can the wolves possibly survive their encounter with heavily-armed adventurers?! Maybe we'll keep watching and let you all know. >_>; I have to say, though, these campaign videos are really making me appreciate Fate and Dungeon World.

EDIT

We actually DMed an encounter with wolves, once, in D&D 4e, the same system these people are using. A Revenant (sapient zombie) player character woke up from death to find one chewing on her foot.

The wolves freaked out when the "carrion" fought back. Then she and another player character (who happened to show up just then) started dealing damage to them and doing flashy spellcasting-type stuff, and they bolted back into the woods.

No one was killed on either side (although one of the people involved was already dead).

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Our sleep schedule's starting to recover, though, and we're getting used to the idea of living in a remote high-tech wilderness.

So, here's what we're working on:

  • [community profile] capsulerp. Seriously you guys. Also the Time Fridge campaign.

  • Selling all our old D&D 4e stuff, because in hindsight it's very fiddly and technical and there is no one who has time for that.

  • Brainstorming an 18+ RPG that uses Dungeon World's rules, to help players explore sexual interests in a safe environment. I think I'll call it "Dungeon World."

We haven't forgotten about the Hate Plus fanfic, but having to actually play through the game again has been stressful. -_-

Probably the highlight of last week was watching Mari from Geek Remix stream a pacifist run of Undertale. It is the best RPG. On the down side, we cried for like a half hour straight afterwards, and I can't tell if that was a bad thing or a good thing. Maybe we ought to cry more instead of repressing all our anxieties. >_>; This is a thing, right? It's okay for girls to do this, right?

Anyway, I hope Yule all survive the tinselbombs and blinding lights of the War on Christmas season. Take care, everyone ~

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

We're still trying to do this Fate Core RP, but we're feeling like we're in a little over our head.

Insecure foxraptor is insecure )

tl;dr We're doing our best but we're afraid of messing up, and this is making us avoidant of working on RPG things.

However! We've kept to our schedule so far, and as of right now, we've contacted both [personal profile] redsixwing and [personal profile] sablin27 about the last details that need to be clarified on their character sheets. If we can get that sorted out, we are going to write the first public RP post this weekend.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Back when the first editions of Dungeons and Dragons saw print, the writers had to explain to players from the 70's and 80's that this wasn't a game like Chutes and Ladders that you were trying to "win." In fact, the game could continue indefinitely, with a new adventure for your character in every session.

Having said that, players through the years have tried to achieve their own personal win states for whatever roleplaying game they were in. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for how to win most of the roleplaying games we have personal (or substantial second-hand) experience with!

(These suggestions are not completely serious, but they aren't completely UN-serious, either.)



Babylon 5: Level up enough times that a single PPG shot won't kill you.

Call of Cthulhu: Don't die or go insane this session.

D&D / AD&D 1.0: Figure out how the heck to play Dungeons and Dragons.

D&D / AD&D 2.0: Cause your DM to pull their hair out, burn all their RPG books, and join a convent. Alternately, if you're the DM: Kill all the players. Not the characters, the players.

D&D 3.0 / 3.5: Get to level 6, so you can finally go into a "prestige" class and play the character you wanted to.

D&D 4.0: Win or survive every combat encounter, until you best the final boss fight and beat the game at level 30.

D&D 5.0: Survive D&D 2.0 dungeons, using a D&D 4.0 character, until you acquire one magic item from the D&D 3.5 rulebooks. (This may take several years.)

D20 Modern: Get to level 4, so you can finally go into an "advanced" class and play the character you wanted to.

FATE Core: Insert your own win condition here (then invoke it as an Aspect during play).

Pathfinder: Convince the GM to let you play the character you want to play.

Pathfinder Society: Buy enough Pathfinder stuff, and kiss up to enough Venture-Captains, to get the boon (and the books) that you need to start over from level 1 as the character you actually wanted to play to begin with.

Traveler: Don't die during character creation.



Special bonus for those who've been subject to it

FATAL: Cast FATAL.*




* Although really, the only way to win is not to play.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Apologies for being away from Dreamwidth so much! We got put on a new medication that lowers your blood pressure, and it's made our limbs feel like lead and made us feel a lot weaker and tired-er. Worse, it was supposed to keep our PTSD nightmares from coming back but it hasn't ... so we're going to ask if we can be taken off of it.

(We also experimented with switching from coffee to tea for a little while, and that basically put us out like a tranquilizer.)

Besides that ... when we announced our intentions to set programming aside earlier, we felt really depressed afterwards. Same with when we talked about switching from D&D 4e to Pathfinder. These are things that we really like and care about, and the fact that we're having problems with them doesn't mean that we have to quit working on them.

We're going to experiment with ways to make 4e work better online. Also, we've been taking more programming classes. We don't have much to show for them yet, but everything we learn is exciting, when we're able to set aside the time and the energy to continue learning.

Sometimes we miss writing stories. Right now gaming is scratching that itch for us, especially tabletop gaming and the amount of creativity that goes into that. But every now and then, we feel like something precious has been lost, when we think about the stories we used to tell and the way we used to do so.

I don't think we can ever recapture the way that things were, but maybe telling stories can continue to be a part of our life going forward.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Thinking about my attempts at roleplaying online, and the work that I've had to do for them, and whether or not I enjoyed that work.

With D&D 4e

  • Basic rule explanation: NONE

The basic rules are online, in a free PDF. Its explanation is very concise. In about 10 pages it goes over which dice you roll for what, and all the rules you need to know for combat and movement. Another few pages explain skills in detail. The rest of it is DM advice or premade characters.

  • Character creation: A LOT

4e characters are basically "plug and play." There's an enormous array of options, but very few of them are actually bad, and the newer Essentials classes especially make things easier by giving more comprehensive packages of abilities.

The problem? Almost none of the character creation material, except for the "Class Compendium" remakes, is available online for free. The rest of it is scattered through sourcebooks and Dragon Magazine articles, none of which it is easy to link to. Most people seem to use the Character Builder online, and/or the D&D Compendium ... both of which require a paid subscription. Without those online tools, you're screwed, unless you want to a) email PDFs to your friends and b) write up your own power cards.

This last part took us an enormous amount of effort to do in [community profile] nentir_vale, even compared to what it would have cost to write up the power cards in person. Theoretically, though, once this part is done I don't have to redo it; I can just copy the templates I've already made to introduce new powers.

  • Game preparation: A FAIR BIT

D&D 4e rules make it easy to put together an ostensibly "balanced" encounter, meaning one that won't murder the player characters. I'm personally not used to having to balance tactical wargame considerations on the one hand, though, and roleplaying concerns on the other. Like, the D&D Encounters games I went to were basically half listening to the DM exposit, and half killing mindless foes that won't back down.

I feel like I have pulled it off fairly well before. The encounter I'm most proud of featured a pair of wolves as antagonists, and I tried to roleplay them as actual people instead of as mindless combatants. They were surprised at the carrion (a revenant PC) that fought back, and extremely wary when another player character showed up. The PCs, in turn, didn't see their goal as "inflict enough damage to reduce them to 0 HP," but were trying to drive the wolves off.

After another encounter went poorly, though, to the point where one of my players left soon afterwards, I lost most of my confidence in my ability to create interesting 4e encounters.

  • Running the game: A FAIR BIT

My workflow for running a 4e game consists of setting up the map and its tokens, then taking pictures which my phone automatically uploads to OneDrive, where I can rotate and share them with minimal effort. The circular cardboard tokens included in the post-Essentials D&D 4e boxed sets work very well for this, because you can see them most clearly from directly above, whereas if I were using miniatures I'd have to balance making them look good with making the map itself legible.

When there are questions and time-consuming discussions, they tend to be around players not knowing which of their powers to use in a given situation. I've tried to mitigate this by writing little "strategy guides" for each of my players, and I also try to allow players to do things not explicitly spelled out in their powers; those aren't the only options they have, just the ones which are always available.

In Pathfinder

  • Basic rule explanation: A FAIR BIT

The online Pathfinder Reference Document does an extremely poor job of explaining to new players how to play the game. Which makes sense, I guess, from the perspective of people trying to sell a product, but the Core Rulebook is basically a printout of its section of the PRD.

The only Pathfinder RPG product explicitly aimed at beginners is the Beginner Box set, and it's a) not available for free online, and b) verbose and poorly laid out. So it's not really an option here.

On the plus side, the basic Pathfinder rules are simple. On the down side, they have a lot of edge cases and confusing inconsistencies. I will never forget the look on the face of the girl across the table, when she was told that she doesn't roll to attack with her Sorcerer's spell; her target rolls to dodge it. Which is the opposite of how it works for people who attack using physical weapons, and for everyone in 4e.

  • Character creation: A FAIR BIT

All the Pathfinder rules and options are available online for me to link to. I don't have to write up power cards or anything. The downside is that a lot of the options suck, and are basically "traps" for those who don't know any better.

Just this Friday, the guy next to me playing a Druid in Pathfinder Society got all excited when he realized he could convert any of his prepared spells into a Summon Nature's Ally spell. Then he found out it'd take his entire turn to cast, and the snake that he summoned would last only one round.

  • Game preparation: A LOT

The biggest challenge, in preparing to GM Pathfinder, is making encounters that will challenge but not kill the player characters. Its "Challenge Rating" system doesn't do a whole lot to help, because there are special rules and edge cases that can make it basically impossible for the PCs to defeat a particular foe, and unlucky die rolls can screw PCs over a lot worse than in D&D 4e.

Pathfinder GMs have to do a lot of non-obvious things to get around this. For instance, the designers of the adventure we played this last Friday had to give us a way to beat the boss demon's Damage Reduction. Also, since Pathfinder lacks a Skill Challenge mechanic, several parts of the adventure just consisted of "you spend X hours doing " and then seeing a result, instead of the players collaborating around the table and finding ways to use their skills to solve noncombat problems.

  • Running a game: A FAIR BIT

Not using a map, for online play, in some ways reduces the amount of work needed. Since Pathfinder also relies a lot on positioning, though, I've often ended up having to redescribe the setting each time a player's turn comes up, or having to correct someone about who was where.

Beyond that, the simple fact that the PCs are fragile means I have to be much more careful about how I approach them. In some ways I find this fun; there's a temptation, in DMing 4e, to throw lots of tough mobs at the players just because they can handle it. Whereas in Pathfinder everyone's much more inclined to resolve encounters through roleplay, instead of trusting their fate to the dice.

The winner?

I honestly don't know. I think I like 4e much better, and enjoy the work it requires more. I'm just not feeling confident about my ability to DM it right now.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

After spending hours and hours and hours photographing the board, editing PDF character sheets, and writing up power lists on [community profile] nentir_vale, I can conclusively state the following:

D&D 4e was not meant to be played online, unless you have a D&D Insider subscription and use the online tools. Especially the virtual tabletop, which doesn't exist.

Pathfinder's much easier to GM online, partly because combat does not last all day or require a game board, and partly because all the stuff that you need you can link to directly online.

D&D 5e looks like it'll be closer to Pathfinder, but its "Basic D&D" rules are a gods-damned PDF, and are far from comprehensive.

If we ever get up the energy to do another online RPG campaign, it will probably be Pathfinder.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

An adaptation of the Vile Scholar theme from the Book of Vile Darkness, with inspiration for powers and abilities taken from a variety of other existing themes.




Called of Cthulhu

"Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!"

There are things mortals were not meant to know. And you dream about them every night! Because a funny-looking green guy with an octopus for a head keeps showing up in your dreams and telling you them, in a language that sounds like the slapping of cold, briny tentacles.

Maybe he tells you to go to a sunken city, filled with the chants of fish-people and cultists. Maybe he says humanoids are delicious, and you really should find out yourself. Who knows! The people you tell about your dreams tend to go mad, and not in the fun way, either.

Starting Feature

The language and mindset of squamous, otherworldly horrors no longer seem otherworldly or horrifying to you. And when you describe your dreams to other people, it does unpleasant things to their minds and bodies.

Benefit: You are fluent in Deep Speech. In addition, you gain a +2 bonus to Dungeoneering checks, and to Bluff checks, Diplomacy checks, and Intimidate checks made while interacting with Aberrant creatures. You also gain the call of Cthulhu power.

Call of Cthulhu -- Called of Cthulhu Attack

The nightmares brought to mind by your utterings drive your opponent into a screaming, panicked frenzy.
Encounter * Fear, Implement, Shadow
Standard Action
Ranged 5
Target: One creature that can hear you
Attack: Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma vs. Fortitude, Reflex, and Will. You make a single attack roll and use it against each defense.
Hit (Fortitude): The target falls prone.
Hit (Reflex): You push the target up to its speed.
Hit (Will): The target grants combat advantage until the end of your next turn.

Additional Features

Level 5 Feature

Your memories of the sunken city make underground ruins seem safe and cozy to you. Slimy Underdark dwellers show up in your dreams often, and you know their names as well as their powers.

Benefit: When you make a Dungeoneering check, you can roll twice and use either result.

Level 10 Feature

Most people would have nervous breakdowns if they were to suddenly sprout tentacles. Fortunately, yours are helpful and friendly, and they go away when you don't need them.

Benefit: Once per round, you can retrieve or store an item as a free action instead of a minor action. You can also use one of your tentacles to hold an item (like a lantern), to open doors, or to do things that don't require fine manipulation, but you cannot make attacks or roll skill checks using it.

Optional Powers

Level 2 Utility Power

If you want to visit that sunken city from your dreams, it might help to bring your friends along ... and to be able to breathe underwater. Fortunately, you've got that covered. Just make sure to tell them first, or they might be caught by surprise!

Deep One Transformation -- Called of Cthulhu Utility 2

Your skin becomes slimy and scaly, and cold, pulsating gill slits appear on your neck. Everyone nearby is affected as well, and the unprepared are REALLY affected.
Daily * Shadow, Implement, Stance
Minor Action
Close burst 1
Target: Every creature in the burst
Attack: Highest mental ability score vs. Fortitude
Hit: 1d6 + Highest mental ability modifier damage, and the target takes ongoing 5 damage as long as it's not underwater (save ends).
Special: Allies in the burst do not take damage from this power. Instead, they assume the deep one stance. Until the stance ends, they can breathe underwater and have cold resist 5, but are unable to breathe air. You may choose to assume this stance as well.

Level 6 Utility Power

You understand the geometry of madness well enough to plunge into the depths of your dreams, and interact with the nightmares therein. Sometimes they tell you something useful, but other times their answers leave you shaken, and you wake up in a cold sweat.

Dreams of Madness - Called of Cthulhu Utility 6

You ask questions of one of your nightmares, and hope that you can withstand the answers.
Daily * Shadow
Standard Action
Personal
Requirement: You must use this power during an extended rest.
Effect: You may ask up to three questions of Cthulhu or another Far Realm aberration. For each question, make a check with a bonus of 5 + one-half your level + your highest ability modifier, against a DC your DM secretly sets.
On a successful check, the nightmare gives a useful (or at least harmless) answer, which you remember when you wake up. If the check fails, you instead lose a healing surge, which is deducted from your total when you wake up the next day.

Level 10 Utility Power

The tentacles you sprout are friendly to you and your allies, but they don't care for your enemies much at all.

Squamous Tentacle -- Called of Cthulhu Utility 10

You know how to fight with your cephalopod appendages just as well as with your bony limbs.
Encounter * Shadow
Minor Action
Personal
Effect: Until the end of your next turn, your reach increases by 1, and you gain a +2 power bonus to melee damage rolls.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Just some quick impressions of a D&D book I picked up earlier, for use with an at-home campaign.

The Review

Heroes of the Feywild is what I've heard people call a "Core +1" book. The idea being that you buy the core RPG books (preferably the Essentials ones) to know how to play the game, then you pick up a Core +1 book and now you have a setting and flavour and lore.

HotF has all those in spades. A quick glance suggests that it's mostly a "crunch" book, packed with new races, classes, themes, and so on; the "Welcome to the Feywild" section, which describes the world of Faerie, is barely a dozen pages. But everything in the book is steeped in lore, and it feels more like reading a storybook than a textbook.

Every few pages, a sidebar starts with "Once upon a time" and tells you a story to set the mood. The artwork, including numerous full-page illustrations, is some of the best that I've ever seen. And a lot of the powers and things are whimsical. Like, there are spells to change your opponents into helpless scurrying animals, and bards that are welcome almost anywhere and tell stories with magical effects, and flowers you can bear on your person that keep mischievous fey from trying to trick you.‏

One of the coolest features is the Choose Your Own Adventure at the back of the book, to help you come up with your character's backstory. They even have you roll dice to see how well you did at key points in your storyline, and suggest what happened as a result. You can pick up a skill for your character that their class doesn't normally get, because of their backstory, and it helps draw you into the world.

The Upshot

I thought 4th Edition D&D was just numbers and crunch when I first saw it. But HotF is awesome, and it works because behind the combat engine 4e's actually really loose and freeform. Too bad they're discontinuing the system!

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

This is the character that we've been playing in Encounters. >_>b We finalized the design after reading a bunch of Dragon Magazine articles and pulling the concepts we liked most.

Content note: Fantasy violence.

Just one minute ago, the Aurilite shaman had been presiding over the death by exposure of his counterpart, from the weaker tribe in the valley. But before the bundle of rags in the snow before him had even stopped writhing, the outsiders had charged in like a winter storm, shouting and swinging their weapons. Literally throwing themselves at his warriors, as one towering Goliath picked up a hammer-wielding Dwarf and tossed him into the fray.

For a moment, he thought he saw shimmering wings bear up one of the younger outsiders, and wondered if a higher Power than Auril had somehow sent them to test him.

The next few seconds were a blur. The small, white-robed girl behind the winged warrior vanished like a candle in the wind, only to reappear an instant later much closer to the shaman's allies. Holding out one arm towards them, as a terrific storm surge blasted sparkling snow into their faces, leaving them choking and blinded. One man fell over backward and impaled himself on a tent stake, and the outsiders rushed forward as his allies coughed and sputtered.

The shaman watched from beneath his fur cloak as the girl strode towards him casually, her glassy eyes shining like moonstones. Snow swirled around the crystal orb around her neck as she held it out towards him. "Do you want to live to serve your goddess?" she asked. And though he had more than a foot of height on her, he suddenly felt very small.

"The Frostmaiden will return," he managed to get out, mesmerized by the display.

The girl looked down at the twitching sack of bones at his feet. When she glanced back up, her ears were more pointed, and the hand that held on to her orb had grown claws. "Perhaps," she said, grinning and revealing her fangs. "But where is she NOW?"

Character profile behind cut )

About us

~ Fox | Gem | Rei ~

We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

~ She / her ~

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