jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)

So today, we lugged a laptop bag full of 4e rulebooks to D&D Encounters, only to find out that -- despite what the store's website said -- they were playing D&D Next instead.

But, it wasn't too bad. The dood who had the Weapon of Divine Something two seasons ago was DMing for us, and when we showed up there was only one other player at the table. So it ended up being two Wizards against a four-hour adventure ... and neither of us brought any healing potions.

Impressions of D&D Next

In a word, "swingy." In two words, "very swingy."

Random chance seems to play a bigger role in D&D Next than in any previous edition of the game. You roll a d20 (20-sided die) for most actions like always, but in 3.5e and 4e, the difference between a trained skill (one your character's ostensibly good at) and an untrained skill is +4 or +5. In Next, it's +1 at first level, and the 6th-level Wizards we started with had a "Proficiency bonus" of +2.

You get a "Background" at 1st level, which trains you in three skills and gives you some unique bonus, like the Charlatan's false identity. Feats, you don't get until 4th level, and then you get either a feat or an ability score bonus. You also don't add your spell level to saving throws, so our Evoker was throwing out Fireballs that did 6d6 damage and had a whopping DC 14 save for half.

Basically, it's hard to optimize for big numbers in Next, and every single roll seems to be about a 50/50 chance of success. Which is part of why we chose to play an Illusionist.

Meet the Party

We played Tara Foxtail, a sinewy anthro Asian dragon in a yukata, with her sleeping snake familiar draped over her shoulders. (We used a Pathfinder medusa miniature for her, and it worked very well!) We also gave her some traditional weapons and implements, like throwing needles, a war fan, brushes for painting and calligraphy, and a big ornate Yuna style mage staff.

The other player at the table played Octavia, a half-elf scholar and evoker. Where our magic focused on stealth and illusion, hers was largely about blasting the Hell out of things. And as it turned out, we both got to do our respective things in this session.

Close the Stargate, save the world

The people we were working with were trying to stop the Red Wizards of Thay (this was in the Forgotten Realms, BTW) from basically opening a Stargate and pouring their troops in and taking over the Sword Coast. Apparently, this was a continuation of the previous season's storyline, which we were absent for.

Anyway, this Stargate ran on two things: Elemental orbs in themed caverns, and the blood of innocents. We and two other strike teams (i.e., the players at the other tables) were going to be teleported into these caverns and grab the orbs, then escape into the main chamber where we'd all try to take down the Stargate and disrupt the ritual sacrifices.

My character got badly injured (but not eaten) by a grue in the first, air/cold/lightning themed cavern that we were beamed into, so we decided to play it safe from then on. We cast Aura of Invisibility on the party, such as it was, and approached the room where the load-bearing MacGuffin was.

Planning the heist

The elemental orb was at the centre of a huge ice cavern, with two air elementals in between us and it. The plan we came up with was to carefully walk together around the inside wall a bit, then use an illusion cantrip to distract the elementals with the sounds of fighting from the passageway we'd come in through.

That didn't hold them for long, though, and about halfway to the orb they turned around and came back inside. (They're really fast.) So we cast Major Image and projected a whole squad of ninjas, tossing the orb between them and ... doing ninja stuff, I don't know. >_>;

We ran up, our snake gulped down the orb, and then we ran back. A squad of mooks teleported in as soon as the orb got pulled out, but we were still invisible and the imaginary ninjas looked like they had the orb, so that distracted them all long enough for us to run like Hell back to the starting zone and jump out before it collapsed around us.

Killing people and breaking things

We jumped through a portal in that room and ended up in a big cavern where the Stargate was set up. There were a ton of Thayan soldiers and mages and stuff, some of them getting ready to do the sacrifices, plus a lich doing some ritual to try to open the portal. Of course, we were still invisible, so they all turned and went for the other strike teams on the other side of the room. :D

(This part was supposed to be played out with all the tables together, I think, but they decided not to do that. Even though it would've been epic.)

We and Octavia snuck up on one of the tables where they were polishing their ritual knives (or something), while the four mooks who'd gotten distracted by ninjas got blasted out of the portal behind us and landed on their faces. And it was about the time I ran up and Colour Sprayed the daylights out of one of the ritualists, and Octavia started chain-casting Fireballs on the gate, that the lich was like "YOU FOOLS! AFTER THEM!"

My breath weapon torched most of the mooks, and I then held them and the other ritualist off with my limited blasty spells while Octavia continued chain-casting. At one point a devil that somebody summoned tried to get us to remove a sword that was stuck in its chest, and promised that it would destroy the gate or something, but I don't think either of us cared. Octavia gave the sword a nasty twist when the devil got too close to her, and it disappeared in a puff of fire and smoke and screamed imprecations at her and her descendants or something.

Octavia's third fireball finally took the gate down, and she used her Circlet of Telepathy to contact HQ and get them to tele us out of there. Unfortunately, the gatesplosion messed up the teleport, and I think it sent us to Thay, on the other side of the gate, instead ...

... which might explain why this season is called "Dead in Thay."

Tune in next week for the next session! Hopefully.

jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)

The game store we played D&D Encounters at is feeling a little less welcoming lately. The owners are friendly, and went to a pride parade in New York and used to give us rides home so we didn't have to walk back for an hour and a half. But they've also got Chick-Fil-A as one of their sponsors for an upcoming fundraiser event.

We wrote them to just mention how we weren't sure we'd feel comfortable being reminded of what it was like, seeing the crowds in front of that restaurant on "show the gays you hate them day 2012" before going to play D&D at their store. But they kind of blew us off in several long-winded paragraphs.

We're considering buying our RPG books at Barnes and Noble now, and spending time at a different game store that's more convenient to get to and that one of our (few) local friends goes to. It helps that it's near the bus station. We'd have to stop going to Encounters ... but our apprehension about spending an hour and a half walking back since the buses don't run that late has kind of done that for us already.

jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (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 )

jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)

So the session of D&D Encounters (the official organized play programme) that we attended this evening went pretty well! We played Skye, an Eladrin Mage, inspired by this artwork.

Mini Ari by ErraticRhapsody on deviantART

Skye carried a staff, and wore a fluffy white winter robe over a pink dress, but had a similar "elf mage girl" thing going on. (We'd probably also give her earmuffs.)

What it's like when [personal profile] jewelfox plays 4e

We're glad we decided to play an Eladrin at the last second. Because we were going into a building where a local official was being held hostage, and our brilliant plan was to split up the party into a group sneaking in by the balcony and a group that was going to crash down the front door. We were in the latter group, and when we realized that

  1. the ground floor was empty, and

  2. our DM was insisting it took twelve squares of movement (basically a whole turn) just to go up the stairwell,

we instead ran around the side and used Fey Step to teleport up onto the balcony. Then we spent an Action Point and used one of our illusion mage powers to make it look like the ceiling crashed down on the bad guys' heads, which dazed them for a turn.

It was pretty funny when we got to the "crash the door down" part of the plan, because the Barbarian who was supposed to do that rolled like a 3 on his Strength check and just hurt his shoulder on it. Then he tried the doorknob and it turned out to be unlocked. ^.^;

Meanwhile, upstairs our Goliath Fighter did this "Xena yell" and charged in from the balcony, only to get tripped up on the curtains and land in a tangled heap next to the wererat boss. Natural 1 on the attack roll FTW! Fortunately, most of us had better luck in the rest of the session.

We cast Fountain of Flame before our illusion even dissipated, so while the thugs were still trying to pull themselves out of illusory rubble it suddenly exploded in their faces, as a column of fire shot up to the sky. The wererat ran outside of it and crawled up the Fighter's clothes in rat form (!?), but she grabbed him and stuck him back into the fire, which only affected our enemies. After that, the Deva Cleric played Whack-a-Mole with a silver morningstar, and from that point it was just cleanup.

Trying to follow the plot

We're not really sure what's going on in this season of Encounters! Apparently this evil dood is, like, trying to usurp the post of Speaker for the town of Bryn Shander, as well as the rest of the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale. So after we saved the Speaker of B.S. from the thugs (this is what the DM called her :P ) we raced across to the town hall, where evil dood was doing some speechifying.

The Speaker was all "you won't get away with this" and evil dood was like "yes I will, because I am awesome and can be in all ten towns at once! Somehow! And you'll never stop me! Ha ha!" and then teleported out.

And I was like "Well, he's got my vote! :D "

But then I had Skye roll Arcana to see if she could tell what kind of teleport spell the dood used, and she went o_o and was like "GUYS HE'S WITHIN 100 FEET OF HERE EVERYONE SPREAD OUT AND LOOK FOR HIM!" Unfortunately, we only caught a glimpse of his backside as he was taking off down the road through a crowd. Maybe next time we should station our catgirl sniper across the street on a rooftop or something.

OMG free stuff

They had some spares left over, so we got this nice poster map thing and a flyer for this season of Encounters! These were originally given out at the start of this season.

A photo of a small poster map of the Icewind Dale area, and a flyer for the Legacy of the Crystal Shard season of D&D Encounters, on top of Jewelfox's laptop.
Evil dood is the second one from the left.

On top of that, we still had the "Enchanted Heirloom" card that we won in a drawing the very first time we went to Encounters, which lets us reroll an attack once per session. We also brought our Fortune Cards, which are like an optional CCG deck where you draw a card each turn and can use its (highly conditional) power if you want.

Back in the day we earned several promos and bought like a pack every week, just because they were fun to play with. As it turns out, they stopped using them in Encounters, which is probably because of the backlash they got for adding a collectible card element to the game. >_< But the DM let us use them, because everyone else in the group had character themes and backgrounds and we didn't.

We're considering going back and redoing our character, since they seem to be allowing stuff other than in the Essentials core books. Even Hengeyokai, which are animal shapeshifters with an anthro form.

Why 4e all of a sudden?

Because we love D&D 4th Edition. ^.^;; Not the original so much as the post-Essentials 4e, which we feel has much more distinct class design and better monster statistics. It was also made after Wizards of the Coast realized the recession was cutting into their sales, so the Essentials products offer much better value in some ways; for the price of a hardcover rulebook you would get a huge boxed set, with a book, a published adventure, several sheets of tokens, and a map.

We love having so many things to fiddle with, and we also love how freeform so much of 4e is. Your options in combat are clearly laid out, but 4e doesn't try to put game stats for everything your character can do the way Pathfinder does, and a lot of stuff comes down to roleplayingness. Each skill even has an "Improvising with ____" section, which suggests possible uses for them instead of defining the only allowed ones.

It's easier to make a fun (or furry) character to play in 4e than in Pathfinder, IOO, and it's much easier as a DM to put together a balanced encounter. I don't know how much time we put into balancing, writing, and rewriting stuff for Pathfinder. Maybe we will again later -- we don't hate it or anything -- but the biggest reasons we started playing it instead of 4e were technical problems with DMing 4e online, and our open-source everything obsession. Neither are factors anymore.

We'll keep you posted on how Encounters turns out!

jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
The Cleric in our D&D Encounters party has a weapon with a truncated name. He doesn't remember what its actual name was, and may never find out again!

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~ 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.

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