Saturday, December 22, 2012

Early Observations: Pathfinder vs DnD

Now that I have four full sessions of Pathfinder play under my belt I feel fully qualified to offer wildly speculative opinions as I relate my Pathfinder experience to my 25 yeas of experience in playing various versions of DnD. I realize there is an aspect of "Version Wars" that still floats about the RPG world in regards to which game version players think is the best. There is a segment of the general RPG population that like and prefer DnD4E, there is a solid and growing Pathfinder contingent, and there remains a flourishing "Old School RPG" (OSR) camp that prefer their pre-DnD3.0 versions of the game as well.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Catacombs of Wrath (12/07/2012)

Scott had to call in sick this evening so Corky invited Brent to come join us and play Stike for the evening. Brent fit right in with the group and had a good time. Due to scheduling conflicts and the upcoming holidays we will likely not be able to meet again this year, but we are targeting Friday, January 4th as our next session.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Mystery Deepens (11/30/2012)

We had a successful kick-off to our Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords adventure during our first session two  weeks ago and everyone was fired up and ready to continue on tonight. It was likely that the  characters would reach Level 2 tonight also and each of the players had an updated character sheet stuck away just for this occasion. Four of our five participants have purchased the Herolab character builder software at this point and have found the pay version to be much more complete than the free demo  version - as one might expect.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Welcome to Sandpoint - The Adventure Begins (11/16/2012)

Two weeks ago our new Friday night group met for the first time and had an introduction to Pathfinder and practice game night. This week we commenced the Rise of the Runelords adventure path. The players had prepared their characters using the free demo Herolab software, prepped for the adventure by reviewing the Rise of the Runelords Players Guide, and the DM had prepared several maps and put together a collection of character pawns and miniatures and was ready to introduce the world of Golarion to the new adventurers, so off we went.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

More Pathfinder Prep Work

After our introduction to Pathfinder and to new friends this past Friday night I have received several instances of positive feedback from those involved. I was afraid that playing a game that we only had a basic level of familiarity with and doing so with people we were meeting for the first time might be a little rocky, but I thought things went well and was glad to hear the others did as well. We are still sorting out our schedule – we will not meet this week but will meet again next Friday (11/16), and we will figure out our end of year plans from there.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pathfinder - Practice Night

Our new Friday night game group has decided to give Pathfinder a shot. Because some of us have not played DnD3.* or Pathfinder, plus some have not played in quite a while, it was decided that we would start this off by having the players work their way through the practice adventure that came with the Pathfinder Beginner Box. This gave everyone a chance to ramp up their familiarity with Pathfinder but also gave us as a group the opportunity to sit down and meet each other as well.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

We Are Ready to Start (Project Plan - Part 2)

Our first Pathfinder game night will be this Friday. The players know when and where and I hope everyone is looking forward to this as much as I am. We will be walking through the sample adventure that came with the Beginner Box and will be using the pre-gen characters from the same Beginner Box. This will give each of us a chance to adjust to the non-DnD-4E rule set and to each other as well. The maps are made, the miniatures and pawns are gathered, we have a couple of Core Rulebooks at our disposal, I purchased a DM screen, and I think we're ready to go - so let's play.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pathfinder - Project Plan (Part 1)

As I mentioned in my last post some of our Sunday Night crew is looking to start a Friday Night game as well and after some discussion we have decided to play Pathfinder instead of DnD 4E. None of us has played Pathfinder before, but we do have extensive DnD 2E experience plus one of the players has played DnD 3.5, and who are we kidding, Pathfinder is really just non-4E-DnD under a different name, so we will be fine. At least two of us have the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, I have the Pathfinder Beginner Box and a copy of Pathfinder Bestiary 1, plus we have enough miniatures and what not that we should be ready to go.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Back to the Anvil

It has been several months since my last post but my itch has returned so let's get back to it. The reasons are many - I've got a million excuses of course - but the most substantial of the excuses are a new job and both of the kids moving on with their lives and leaving my wife and I behind with an otherwise empty house. We love them both and wish nothing but the best for them - and eagerly wait to see them again.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wizards News

I wanted to include several announcements and links in here this post will cover a couple of different areas. First of all the June DDI update was released last week. There wasn't a lot of new material to include, and the usual smattering of bug fixes was always interesting to peruse, so I guess overall there really wasn't much to report here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

DnDNext Playtest Play Observations (Updated)

Our Sunday Night DnD group took an opportunity to run through the DnDNext Playtest material this past weekend. We had two players missing this week, one being our current DM, so with a player available for each of the Pre-Gen characters and myself to DM we wandered into the Caves of Chaos. I am not going to provide a blow-by-blow description of the action as I have done in the past, but rather wanted to walk through our comments, thoughts, and questions as gathered from the game play this evening.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Welcome to the Caves of Chaos

Different countries, different races or tribes, all with with different languages, and even cultures as old as the ages all have made reference to the caves. The actual words or the titles applied to this location may be different, but their intent was all the same. This particular corner of the world, this little hell’s half acre, was a foul and odious place, a blight on the land around it and on the planet on which it resided.

Friday, June 8, 2012

We'll Be Playtesting

Over the past few weeks almost every DnD related blog has some sort of opinion on the DnDNext playtest package and/or some amount of feedback based on their play results. There are always naysayers of course, but the opinions do seem to be generally positive. The thing to remember is that this is a very early version of the game with a lot more yet to come, so chances are that the one thing you would like to see is probably still forthcoming. I don't like having character sheets without the spells detailed on them ... I get it ... it's not really a playtest issue. Patience - all you can really do is to playtest what you've got and provide feedback on that.

Monday, May 28, 2012

DnDNext Details (Updated)

This week's Legends and Lore by Mike Mearls at does a really nice job of walking through the different pre-generated characters that come with the playtest package. Each of the characters gets a spotlight put on it and some of the newly tweaked mechanics gets a brief explanation as well. I also think this is a hint from the designers, essentially saying "these are the things we are really looking for feedback on."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

DnDNext Playtest - First Impressions

I was able to get my copy of the DnDNext playtest material several days ago but because of circumstances just hadn't had the chance to sit down and read through the material until tonight. That circumstance was that my youngest had his high school graduation this weekend and with relatives in and out and what not it was kind of hectic around here. Things finally calmed down a little late this afternoon and I finally got a chance to read through the provided material, so I wanted to post a few first impressions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

DnDNext Update

The first set of official public playtest rules for DnDNext (or DnD 5E) are scheduled to be released on May 24, 2012 (sign up is here). There has certainly been a lot of nonspecific talk about what is in the works and I am certainly curious after all of this non-detailed discussion as to what the details really are. In that regard I am definitely looking forward to it. I expect to see a lot of on-line conversation as those who were seeing this for the first time finally get to catch up with those who were previously NDA'd from talking about it. This should be a very interesting summer in the DnD world.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May DDI Update Released

The May update of the DDI tools was pushed out today (read here). There was the usual smattering of new data and bug fixes, but unless you were looking for a specific bug to be resolved I'm not sure there was much there. The new session of DnD Encounters started tonight with their character building session (game play will start next week), so it was certainly just in time for that.

Recapping Three TPK's During DnD Encounters

Over the past few months I participated in three different TPK’s during the recent season of DnD Encounters, The Elder Elemental Eye at The Gaming Goat in Elgin IL. Never having been a part of any TPK in 25+ years of playing this was initially a bit of a shock. I had initially wrote it off to a combination of both good and bad luck, a little bit of  "c'mon it’s just a game," and then throw in some "let’s just pick it up next week and play on from there." After all there has always a risk of a death in any adventure encounter, and – as I said before – it’s just a game. But after two additional TPK’s during the ensuing weeks of the season … well, somethin' ain’t right. As is my wont afterwards I spent considerable time thinking about what happened, what was it that that I could have done different, and ultimately, what did I learn from the experience.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

DnD Encounters - Session 11 (05/09/2012)

This week at The Gaming Goat marked the end of the current season of DnD Encounters, The Elder Elemental Eye. Initially we looked to be short a few players this night so we pushed the two tables together and got ready to roll as one group, only to have a few more show up at the last moment. We decided to go as one large group of eight, including myself, Nate, Zach, Steve, Bobby, Andrew, Tim (welcome back), and Don, with DM Jack doing the honors.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

DnD Encounters - Session 10 (05/02/2012)

The DnD Encounters group this week at The Gaming Goat featured seven players and two DM's, making for either one large table or two smaller tables. We decided to go with two tables, our table included Bobby, Andrew and myself with Clyde the DM. Uh-oh - two wizards and a fighter ... where's my MASH Unit in the form of a cleric? This doesn't bode well.

Monday, April 30, 2012

DnDNext Details Anounced (And a Hoax Update)

Now that Wizards has finally provided a firm date (May 24th) for the release of the DnDNext playtest some official details have started to trickle out (here). Mostly the designers at Wizards are trying to set some expectations: the playtest will include a very basic rule set with a minimal set of races and classes, although the playtest material will include pre-generated characters. I am also assuming Wizards will provide some avenue for actually providing the feedback they are looking for.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Special Visitor

I did want to make mention of a recent special event for our Sunday night DnD group (weekly recaps are available at Scott's Raveloft Redux blog). As was mentioned previously one of our members now resides in North Carolina while the rest of us still reside in the western suburbs of Chicago. As it happened Mark was in town this past weekend and was able to join us in person instead of via phone and Leo's gaming table software - woo-hoo! Mark was one of the original members of this group (30+ years ago) so there was definitely a lot of history here. It was nice to see him and his son Chris, if only for one evening.

DnD Encounters - Session 9 (04/25/2012)

This weeks Encounters session at The Gaming Goat was held as scheduled, but alas, without me in attendance. My work schedule required me to work the late shift this week, but I am supposed to be back to mid-shift after this week and - hopefully - should be able to attend the remaining sessions for this iteration of DnD Encounters. In lieu of me providing details of the nights adventure I have included a link to another summary from (Week 9).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Well, How About That!?! (Update: Hoax)

In a bit of surprising news Monte Cook announced he was leaving Wizards of the Coast and would no longer be participating the DnDNext effort. Monte has been in the RPG business for a long time and was actually employed by TSR in the halcyon days of ADnD and DnD3.0. He has been involved in other RPG projects in the years since then including the roll-out of Pathfinder. He was brought back in to the DnD fold to help build that bridge between the previous versions and it's current form, a stated goal of the DnDNext project.

Friday, April 20, 2012

DnD Encounters - Session 8 (04/18/2012)

Another fun night of DnD Encounters at The Gaming Goat, but first a quick word from Wizards. The April update for the DDI tools was released earlier this week (read more here). This release also includes information from this month's new game supplement book, Halls of Undermountain. I've started reading it and at least at first glance it is very well written and I look forward to seeing what else it has to offer.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

DnD Encounters - Session 7 (04/11/2012)

DnD Encounters this week at The Gaming Goat featured only one table again this week. One of our regular DM's was out again and apparently might be for awhile, plus we were missing several of the regular players. We did have newcomer Bobby join us this week to sit in with Don, Zach, Nate, Steve, Dan, and myself, along with DM Clyde. The party had taken out several dwarven defenders in the underground temple last week - could they maintain their winning ways?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Wizards News (Updated X 2)

A few weeks ago I had mentioned that I hadn't heard much DnDNext news, especially concerning this weekends big gaming convention in Boston MA, PAX East, It turns out there will be several DnDNext playtest sessions, but with the same rule set that was used at DDXP at the end of January (here). There was also a scheduled seminar to provide further DnDNext news. Wizards has been keeping their cards held pretty close to their vests in regards to any real DnDNext announcements so I am not expecting a lot of news here, but it would be nice if they were announce a target date for general release of the playtest rules.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

DnD Encounters - Session 6 (04/04/2012)

Last week (spring break in these parts) we had ~12 players, two DM's, and two rockin' tables. This week, due to shift changes and tests, we were down to six players and one DM. No matter, with Clyde as our DM we had another great week of Encounters (i.e., no TPK this week). This week the table had Zach, Zach, Nate, Steve, myself, and newcomer Dave. Dave played a rogue to give the party a little striking ability and our rogue turned out to be a key player for this night.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

DDI Character Builder - Lessons Learned

Sometimes in the evening when I really don't want to read anything and when there is nothing on television worth watching I have semi-regularly accessed the DDI Character Builder (CB) tool and kind of randomly started test building characters just to see what I could come up with. In general this gave me an opportunity to explore some of the different classes and races, pick different combinations, and then see how the powers, feats, and items could be meshed together into a fun, and hopefully useful, character. I still haven't built a Bard or a Druid character that I like yet, but trying is half the fun.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

DnD Encounters - Session 5 (03/28/2012)

This was the week of spring break for many of the local schools and The Gaming Goat was especially busy tonight. There was some sort of Yu-Gi-Oh contest underway for one thing, plus we were lucky enough to have have four additional Encounters players join us tonight. The new players wedged themselves in with the rest of the group, reviewed their pre-gen characters, and off we went. Our table featured myself, Tim, Zach, Tom was missing this week, and sitting in with us were Jacob, Joe and Zach #2. Clyde was DM'ing as always, and we were looking for a pleasant evening of wandering around the Sunset Shrine.

DnDNext News - There is None

The big NDA'd DnDNext roll-out was two months ago (here). Since then there have been weekly articles on that include survey questions. It's nice to see that Wizards is taking this seriously and is doing their homework, but as far an announcements go, nothing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

DnD Encounters - Session 4 (03/21/2012)

After last week's TPK at The Gaming Goat the our newly reconstituted characters (just add water!) were ready to get the show back on the road. Our dwarven fighter (Zach) was missing this night, but our mage (Roger), ranger (Tim), and dwarven cleric (Tom) were joined by a wandering monk (Don) just in time for the evenings festivities. With our usual DM (Clyde) at the helm the party quickly resumed their search for the Sunset Shrine.

March DDI Tools Update Released (Updated)

Wizards announced the monthly release of the DDI tools were available today (here). You might notice in the announcement that they identified the release as the "February update"instead of the "March update," so that link might be invalidated at some point.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

DnD Encounters - Session 3 (03/14/2012)

This post will be a little different than the other Encounters posts I have done. It needs to be wrapped in black bunting with muted organ music in the background. A tattered group of miscellaneous adventurers all dressed in their sunday-go-to-meeting breastplates and their ceremonial swords all mill about aimlessly and speak in hushed whispers. What could be the cause of this somber occasion?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

DnD Encounters - Session 2 (03/07/2012)

We started off this weeks DnD Encounter session with the same set of table mates (Tim, Tom, Zach, and Roger) and DM (Clyde) as last week. The players worked together very well last week so heading into this week and an encounter we are sure will be tougher than last week it is nice to have players that have worked out some basic tactics already. Well, "tactics" may be to strong a word - basically our two dwarven tanks go up front while the mage and the ranger provide the artillery support from the rear. It worked last week, I hope it works this week as well.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Making Vancian Magic Work in 4E (Updated)

A few weeks ago I pointed to a wikipedia link for a description of "Vancian Magic." This week Monte Cook expanded on the idea of Vancian Magic a little more (here) and included his thoughts on it as it applied to the design process going forward into DnDNext. I have stated my preference for magic user types following a different path than, say, a fighter-type, but I would also prefer to avoid the "15 minute workday" problem prevalent in pre-4E versions where a magic user would expend all their known spells in the first encounter and were then essentially useless until they took a full rest.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

DnD Encounters - Session 1 (02/29/2012)

This season of DnD Encounters - The Elder Elemental Eye - started on Leap Day! I am going to write this one up quickly - that way I can say I was able to post a blog entry on Leap Day as well. No, I suppose I really don't lead an exciting life.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

APBA Baseball Luncheon

I had lunch yesterday with some old friends, and I mean old too. I met several of these gentlemen 30 years ago when I first started at Bell Labs in Naperville IL in 1982. Some of them had started an APBA Baseball draft league the previous year, so when I saw the game first played they were in the middle of their second season. I joined in 1983 and have been associated with the game in some context almost ever since.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

DnD Encounters - Session 0 (02/22/2012)

The DDI Character Builder (CB) tool was updated yesterday (read the release announcement here). The list of bug fixes is always interesting to me. Like last time most of the fixes are for some pretty esoteric stuff, but that means if you do find something incorrect that you really should submit a bug report. I haven't experienced any problems with the new CB, but apparently there are some questions about material that may not have been included from the new DnD book released this week - Heroes of the Elemental Chaos. I must admit the book topic doesn't look that interesting to me, but it does serve as the basis for the upcoming weekly DnD Encounters session - The Elder Elemental Eye.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Books/Authors I Like

I've been thinking about doing a post or two (or three) like this for a long time and at this point I'm just tired of thinking about it, so here goes. I always have something I am reading, occasionally something baseball or some kind of computer/technical manual, but more often than not I am reading some sort of DnD-type fantasy story. There are certainly enough of them in print these days and I do enjoy wandering the halls of my local brick and mortar book store where I can peruse the front and back cover, read the blurb, and maybe take a risk and try something that might appeal to me. These are some authors and books I have come across over the past few years that I have taken a chance on and have really enjoyed. Caveat: I don't necessarily know what's good literature but I do know what I like, so buyer beware.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Deities and DDI

I've been thinking about DnDNext and the DDI Character Builder (CB) tool and had started walking through some thoughts about choices in my previous post. I did want to expand that topic a little further but I decided to break it out as a separate post, specifically the use of the choice of a deity as part of the process of building a character. The option to choose a deity is available and the title of your chosen deity will be prominently displayed on the character sheet, but for the most part that is about as far as it goes.

Monday, February 6, 2012

More Choices (Electronic Version)

When 4E was released in 2008 Wizards promised an on-line character builder tool, a monster builder tool, adventure tools, and a video table component. There are still no adventure tools, the video table (VT) is still in beta, and after changing formats and several major overdue upgrades the character builder (CB) and monster tool (MT) are finally in pretty good shape. This was a classic case marketing disaster in the "over promise and under deliver" category.Wizards learned a hard lesson here, so one can understand why they are deliberately obtuse when it comes to providing firm dates for things in the future.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Choices, Choices, Choices

With the announcement and the pending release of the DnDNext playtest several of the blog sites I follow have put down their own wish list of what they would like to see as part of the next iteration of DnD. I've had some thoughts on this as well, but I wanted to think through them a little bit longer, plus I just didn't want to mimic what others had said.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Post DDXP News

The 2012 Dungeons and Dragon Experience (DDXP) ended this past Sunday and as was expected the news coming out of DDXP about DnDNext has spurred a lot of conversation. Besides a long weekend of being able to playtest the new version of the game Wizards held several seminars where the goals and aspirations of the new version were discussed. These sessions included extended Q&A sessions as well, so these sessions weren't just a lecture.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

NDA = Non-Disclosure Agreement

As mentioned previously Dungeons and Dragons Experience (DDXP) is being held this coming weekend in Fort Wayne IN. As the name might imply Wizards puts a lot of emphasis on this convention and this year is no exception. With the recent announcement about the development of the new version of DnD, aka DnD 5E, aka DnDNext, Wizards has targeted DDXP as the place to where the announced playtests will begin. Wizards is also making almost the entire development team available to provide support and to participate in a series of seminars and discussions as well.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wizards to Re-Release DnD 1.0 Books

My intention was to get back to doing a weekly post here, but even though had I posted last night I thought this deserved a mention. This morning Wizards announced (here) that they will be putting out a limited release of the original first edition Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual. The scheduled release date is April 17, 2012, but be warned they do carry a premium price tag - $34.95 per book. A percentage of the money is designated to support the creation of a memorial to Gary Gygax in Lake Geneva WI, although if you prefer you can always donate directly through the Gygax Memorial Fund website.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DnD News

The latest update for the DnD tools was pushed yesterday (announcement here). There isn't much new information to be included in the updated Character Builder (CB) this month, but the list of corrections (here) seemed pretty healthy. Some of these corrections seem pretty esoteric, so if you do come across anything that looks hinky I would say go ahead and submit a bug report as I feel pretty confidant that it will get looked at. I was working up a 15th level Bard a few weeks ago and came across one of the power cards that was obviously missing to-hit and damage information ... but then I neglected to save the character so I didn't forward the problem.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New DnD Version Announced

I made some minor speculation in my previous post about the likelihood of a new version of DnD with the assumption that this would happen at some point in the future. I guess this past Monday would qualify as "some point in the future". Over this past weekend several DnD bloggers had stated that on Monday they would be blogging about a big announcement from Wizards and the twitterverse lit up with speculation as to what the announcement might be. A new computer game? A movie or cartoon TV show? Some announcement concerning the usage of PDF's? Most of the speculation was not around a new release because it just didn't seem like the timing was right.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

DnD: A Retrospective and Some Speculation

I haven't blogged much during the second half of 2011 due to a variety of issues, but I want to try and pick it up again here in 2012. Our Sunday night DnD group is still going strong. Scott had adapted some older Ravenloft modules for 4E usage and we are having a blast. I will blog more about our Sunday night capers in a future post, but in the meantime you can follow our walk through Ravenloft here.