Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Phlegethon, a new monster for Swords & Wizardry

My first attempt at creating a new monster for my home campaign. I've included statistics for using this beast in Swords & Wizardry, but it could easily be ported to Dungeons & Dragons or any other fantasy RPG.

Presenting the Phlegethon, a half minotaur/half gorgon monster.

Phlegethons are an unholy union of a Minotaur and a Gorgon. First created by Baphomet, they were seen as a failure in eyes of the demonic lord of Minotaurs due to their supremely lawful nature. He cast them out of his realm and forbid any of his children to associate with them. The Phlegethons eventually found a new home in overseeing the centuars who guard the boiling hot river of blood known as the Flegetonte as it flows through the Abyss and Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells. The Phlegethons and their centaurs keep the tormented souls submersed in the boiling hot blood as punishment for the evil deeds they committed in life. Phlegethons are often summoned by powerful wizards to use as guardians, as their bellicose nature is only offset by their strict adherence to law & order. The boiling hot blood from the river Flegetonte courses throughout the body of each Phlegethon. They frequently spew forth the blood during battle, as the vile liquid bursts into white hot flames when exposed to air of the Prime Material plane.

HD: 10
AC: 2 (18)
Attacks: Head Butt (2d4), 1 Kick (1d6), 1 Weapon (1d8), Breath weapon (Flaming Blood - 2d8)
Move: 12
Save: 7
CL/XP: 12/2000

Feel free to use this monster in your own games or campaign, but not to republish without permission.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The whole really is just the sum of the parts

Real life has had me swamped as of late, but during all of my "busyness" I've been giving more thought to what Dungeons & Dragons distills down to for most gamers.  In this post I want to share some thoughts about how we approach the various parts of a character sheet & how we use them.

My Wednesday night game is currently filled with players who are all but new to the game, so I'm having a lot of fun experimenting with them as we build their characters & our campaign. Character creation has been expanded from a one time task during the first gaming session to something that builds over successive sessions. For my group, ability scores were rolled in the second session, hit points were established during the third session and tonight during the fourth session the players will be presented with a challenge that will help them determine the alignment of their characters.

One of my players had concerns about this approach, in that he was used to the AD&D method of character creation. He asked how complex our character sheets might become, and I told him the answer to that question was up to the group. He was a bit puzzled by this, so I explained that I want their character sheets to be composed of features that they will not only use during an adventure but have a working knowledge of. I want to avoid the paradigm of having a player roll for an ability that is written on their sheet & never used. I also want them to have a working understanding of what those abilities are before they are determined, whether it be by die roll or by player choice. Most importantly, I want them to fully understand each part of that character sheet as being a building block that helps make their character into who they are, rather than the character being seen as a whole entity first then broken down later.

By dissecting the various components of a Dungeons & Dragons character, I'm hoping the players will have a better understanding of what their characters are composed of. In every edition of D&D, there have always been parts of the character sheet that see more use than others. One of the challenges of earlier editions was to take those lesser used parts and find ways to creatively use them throughout adventures. I hope to not only help recreate that in my game, but to recreate it in a new way that breaks down what many consider to be a "sacred cow" of the game - Character creation first, adventuring second.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mechanics, Settings and Campaign Worlds

The mechanics supporting story question by Monte Cook has got my mind swimming with ideas today. As an example, Dungeons & Dragons originally had mechanics tied to race & class. We've since moved to a model that also adds culture/society into the mix, as seen in recent game supplements like the Neverwinter Campaign Setting.

Having these present in the core game make a default setting/world almost a necessity. Where do you like to draw the line in your game? Do you like having mechanics reflect the world in which the adventure takes place? Or is it enough to tie mechanics to race & class?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

AD&D Returns (Sort of)

This morning it was quite nice to wake up & see this bit of D&D news:

Wizards of the Coast is reprinting the AD&D core sourcebooks to help benefit the Gygax Memorial Fund.  Content should be the same, but the books will have new cover art. (No images of the cover art yet, hopefully soon.)

The books will be limited editions & released through hobby stores just like Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium.

This is a great move by Wizards, and something tells me that its not going to be the last one they make in getting material out from the older editions of D&D.

Go reserve your copies now!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Status Update

Thought it might be worthwhile to post something about what I'm up to these days in the gaming universe.

I'm playing in 2 weekly games, 1 online & 1 face to face. Sunday nights I am a player in an OSRIC game. I play via Skype with Sersa Victory from Save Versus Death as DM, Stephen Chast from Hunter's Haven & Jonathan Green as players.

I also DM every Wednesday in a homebrew game of my own design, using the Swords & Wizardry Whitebox rules in conjunction with D&D Fourth Edition. I have 4 players in this group that consists of my wife & 3 local friends.

I do have both Twitter and Facebook accounts that I use infrequently. I prefer Twitter for gaming related discussion, but just recently I decided to take a short hiatus from social networking in order to refocus my life & its priorities.

Lastly, I do want to clarify that even though this blog is still very new, I do plan on improving things a bit in the next few weeks. There's also a slight chance that I might move to a website of my own design. If I do, I'll be sure to let you know when that will be happening & where it will be.

What are you up to these days, gaming-wise?

Legends, Lore & Crystal Balls

Monte Cook has a new Legends & Lore column up at the official Dungeons & Dragons website today. It shares more information about what he's been working on with the next iteration of D&D, as well as some insight into the goals of this new project. Its well worth your time to read, so take time to check it out when you can.

I won't comment much on the article, as I feel it stands well enough on its own to not merit my thoughts. The one comment I will give is that these goals, as lofty as they may be, do fall in line with my previous thoughts on what this new edition will be like. It remains to be seen exactly how they will reach these goals, but for now I'm quite pleased with what I'm hearing & am looking forward to the playtest rules that we should see in the near future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reinventing the DnD Wheel

I've been reading as well as participating in the talk about the next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons ever since it was announced yesterday. Most of my discussions took place on Twitter, but I did speak a bit in other venues.

It seems that most gamers have the idea that this "DnDNext" will be an evolution of the current 4th edition rules (4e). Take away what wasn't working in 4e, add in some fixes as well as enhancements and adjust it so that DnD gamers of all generations will like it.

Maybe that's what Wizards will do. Then again, maybe not.

Let's play "What if" for a minute. What if Wizards' goal wasn't to come up with a system like I just described? What if Wizards wanted not to evolve 4e, but rather make something completely new and different? What if their goal was to make sort of "Universal DnD"? One that any DnD gamer could play with their existing material. One that would allow you to play White Plume Mountain immediatley after a rousing romp through the Keep on the Shadowfell. Best of all, what if you could do that without having to change rules systems or modify the adventure.

Think about that for a minute.

It wouldn't be a case of 4e gamers worrying what they will lose and/or gain in this next edition. It would allow 0e/1e gamers to jump right in without having to sacrifice the freedom they love from the older systems. 2e, 3e, 3.5e. Whatever "e" is your preferred system, this new game would allow you to play it & participate in any new supplements or add-ons that Wizards might produce.

What got me thinking about this is the consistent mantra that this really isn't a new "version" of DnD. The word being used is "iteration", which means they want to repeat what they've already done to obtain a given result. Mike Mearls made this statement:

"We hope to create a system that allows players to use much of their existing content, regardless of the edition."

And Bruce Cordell posted this on his blog:

"We intend that these rules connect with all previous versions, and indeed, the players of those games."

Both of those statements speak volumes about how this isn't going to be just another edition of DnD.

A lot of gamers have also asked "Why would they do this?". Many people think its to increase sales and I agree to an extent. They are a company who produces a product and if consumers aren't buying that product then their company might cease to exist one day. However, I don't think that's the only goal here. I think the DnD team is going after something that they've hinted at for months now but most of us didn't fully understand what it meant - Unification of the fanbase.  They want all gamers to be able to enjoy DnD, regardless of what type of rules they prefer or what version of DnD is/was their favorite.

How will or could they do this? Don't ask me. I'm a chemist, not a game designer. However, I will say that if I'm right on this & this is what Wizards intends on doing, then gaming as we know it might change in ways we haven't even begun to dream of.