Thursday, June 8, 2023

Moving On...

 So, my D&D 5e experiment has blown up the lab in a puff of green smoke leaving my face blackened like Wile E. Coyote after a failed roadrunner Acme trap.  

The Wizards can just go stroke their wands. They've destroyed the brand for all time as far as I'm concerned. Their game is pretty shitty. Period. There are plenty of better FRPG games that play better than the cursed Wizards can ever hope to produce.

No worries. Nothing was lost except for some time, precious time. 

What was gained was a better understanding of what I might like in a Fantasy RPG.


The simpler the better.  

Boil the game down into just it's most basic elements.

That has lead me to Tiny Dungeon and EZD6.

Even Swords & Wizardry, once thought by me to be as close to my perfect game, no longer cuts it.

I don't want rules. I don't want confusion. I don't want to have to think about it much. I just want to play with my friends, tell a good story and have a good time, and roll some dice.

So, I lose those funny dice in favor of just a couple of D6s. I'm totally fine with that at this point. 

Character generation?  5 minutes, tops.  We all know we develop our characters more in game than on paper, right? RIGHT??

So, I'm taking EZD6 and sprinkling in a pinch of Tiny Dungeon - mostly for character advancement, and we're off to the races once again.

More mayhem to come...

Thursday, March 23, 2023

More Thoughts on 5e and D&D

Real life has again stepped into the path of our gaming sessions which have stalled - but I'm kind of ok with that.

You see, as an old-school DM running 5e for the first time, I have to say that this is the least fun I've had running a disastrous two sessions in 1993.  

5e D&D is just not that fun to run. There are so many layers of rules buried in books that are filled with fluff and padding. The game gets bogged down in that minutia even if you are trying to avoid it. That's not to say that there aren't good ideas, there are, but the current game, D&D is broken and no fun.

The (super)heroes are too powerful. The game is no longer about resource management as characters 'reset' after a rest and pretty much everyone can see in the dark. There is no thrill, suspense, danger, death. And that has always been the game for me.  

I feel with the original D&D game and with old school clones, there are many 'gaps' in the rules that you either fill in or don't. It gave the game a lightness and allowed you to tweak as you saw fit or not at all.  You see that with all the retro clone rules that have come out over the years. They're all essentially the same, just house-ruled slightly. And that is where the game becomes the game. 

5e, on the other hand, is over bloated with rules that you have to wade through and weed out. It's all spelled out for you in the minuscule of details that it inhibits that freedom of imagination.  Instead of thinking "there's no rule for this, i'll make a ruling or make something up", you find in 5e that there IS or probably is a rule about something and you have to know it, look it up, or if you wing it, you have to retcon it later and explain to you players next session. It's a very subtle thing but I think it gets to the core as to what makes this game work for me and what doesn't.

It's subtleties as well. Those minor elements, from the crude or black and white artwork, rule presentation, the emotion behind the intent of those 'old school' rules creates a certain atmosphere that carries into gameplay on a subconscious level. D&D does not have that anymore for me. The artwork is not inspiring. Faerun is not inspiring. The rules are not inspiring. Dungeons & Dragons is no longer inspiring.

Furthermore, and I've mentioned this before, D&D 5e is ridiculously complex for noobs to RPGs to play.  Even stripped down somewhat, D&D is no longer a gateway game. Sure, in pop culture it may appear to be, but in reality, it's not.  I wish I had started my players with Swords and Wizardry or Tiny Dungeons. I think all of us would have had a much better time.

Dungeons and Dragons is a brand. Even more obvious with the whole OGL fiasco that has recently played out publicly.  I do not care about the brand. I am not brand loyal. I care about the game and I am game loyal.  The game is Swords & Wizardry. The game is Labyrinth Lord. The game is BFRPG. The game is Tiny Dungeon.  The game is Shadowdark.

The 5e and the OGL fiasco has showed me, and maybe all of us, that the brand, as owned by hasbro, is forever tarnished and rotten and is really no longer needed. It was probably true when they ousted Lord Garry Gygax way back when. 

All I know is that my 5e experiment is over. I'm packing up that material and hiding it in the deepest part of the dungeon, forever lost to dim stretches of time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

5e Session VII: Wave Echo Cave

Aurora Boree Alice - Human Cleric
Chuck Norris - Elf Ranger
Purina - Half-elf Druid
Your Majesty - Human Wizard 

With Gundren safe and his map in hand, the party accompanied the dwarf to the entrance of the lost Wave Echo Cave.  There, they met Gundren's two brothers, Nondro and Bluto having just broke through the opening into the lost cave.  

With the brothers guarding the entrance, the party, along with Gundren, entered the Wave Echo Cave.  

Finding a cavern filled with the skeletal remains of a battle between dwarves and orcs, the party was besieged by a swarm of Stirges which sucked the party's  blood to their fill until defeated. 

Heading into a northern passage, they came upon a door.  Hearing nothing Chuck Norris opened the door and disturbed three ghouls sucking on dried bones. Chuck Norris closed the door and the party prepared to ambush the Ghouls as they burst through the door.  Under their biting attack, Purina transformed into a bear, extinguished the torch and knocking Chuck Norris and Aurora to the ground. As the ghouls continued their attack, Aurora cast a light spell and the party continued to battle the ghouls with Chuck Norris splitting them in two and the bear ripping them apart.

After the battle, Your Majesty questioned Gundren about what they were doing here. Gundren said that the cave hasn’t  been explored in hundreds of years and appears to be infested with vermin.  Gundren offered a 10% share of the profits produced by the cave but Your Majesty wanted 20% for each party member. Gundren laughed it off and said at best he could offer 15% to the party as a whole.  Your Majesty was insistent and wanted the larger share for each party member. Chuck Norris started to agree discussed with Your Majesty taking the caves for themselves and killing the dwarf.

Fearing for his life, the dwarf ran off.

Aurora and the bear became angry with their companions and ran off after the dwarf in the hopes to make amends.

When they made it back to the entrance, they heard a commotion in the cave. Chuck Norris climbed to the edge and peered into the cave to see one of the dwarves dead on the ground, the other brother captive by two Red Brands, Gundren in battle with Two Red Brands and the mysterious Glasstaff!

Chuck Norris flipped himself into the cave and fired an arrow at Glasstaff, wounding him. The wizard immediately, casts a spell on the elf and paralyzes him in place. The Bear and Aurora climb up the cave cliff to confront Glasstaff and his Red Brands while Your Majesty attempt to follow.

The Red Brands kill Gundren and began hacking into the Bear.  Aurora and the now free Chuck Norris, battle Glasstaff. Aurora mortally wounds the wizard and he tires to surrender but Chuck Norris finishes him off with an arrow to the face.

The Bear and Aurora defeat the remaining Red Brands who surrender.

(it's about time something fun actually happened in the game!)

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

5e Session VI: Cragmaw Castle

Aurora Boree Alice - Human Cleric
Chuck Norris - Elf Ranger
Purina - Half-elf Druid
Your Majesty - Human Wizard

At Agatha's lair, Chuck Norris and Purina engage with the spectral banshee. She offers to direct them to Cragmaw Castle if they promise too find an heirloom neckless that King Grol had stolen from her. They agree and Agatha discloses where in Nevewinter Woods they can find the Goblin castle.

Traveling for a few days they enter Neverwinter Woods and find the trail to a ruined castle. Chuck Norris explores around the perimeter and finds a trail that appears to lead to a wall. Upon closer inspection he finds that the 'wall' is just a piece of canvas painted to look like the castle.  They found a safe way inside!

Gathering the party together into the castle, they begin to explore the darkness. Purina leads them to a small hallway and a closed door. Hearing voices on the other side in a heated discussion, they burst in and find King Grol and a dark drow elf in discussion over the body of Gundren Rockseaker the Dwarf!

A fierce battle ensues, with King Grol and the Drow along with his pet wolf Fang and two Hobgoblin bodyguards that appear.

 With King Grol defeated, the wounded Drow magically changes into a bear and run out the castle without her prize.

With the Goblin King and his guards defeated, the party rescues the dwarf, secure the map too Wave Echo Cave and find Agatha's heirloom neckless which they return to her.

They return to Phandalin with Gundren Rockseaker and the map to Wave Echo Cave!

Friday, January 13, 2023

5e Session V: Into the Wild

Aurora Boree Alice - Human Cleric
Chuck Norris - Elf Ranger
Purina - Half-elf Druid
Your Majesty - Human Wizard

Leaving the Stone Hill Inn before dawn the party set out on the road to the Tribor Trail to seek out Cragmaw Castle. Soon, however, they are accosted by Red Brands and a bugbear captain who have been searching for the party for the murder of their companions.

As the battle rages, the party had gained the upper hand when suddenly, the bugbear standing atop an outcropping of rock is blasted by an icy mist and is frozen solid. A fierce White Dragon swooped down and snatched the frozen bugbear in it's jaws.

The remaining Red Brands run off and Chuck contemplates if he somehow knows this dragon.

Continuing into the wild and having set up camp for the night, the party is awoken by a pack of not so hungry wolves. Chuck tosses some food their way and the wolves pad off into the darkness.

The next day they come across a small band of orcs which are quickly dispatched with Purina in bear form.  Searching the orcs, they found crudely drawn wanted posters of themselves. Someone has put a bounty on their heads!

Continuing down the Tribor Trail they come upon a small town long in ruin. Finding nothing in the town the party continued down a worn trail west of town and into a valley where they came across some horses wandering the fields. Chuck conversed with the horses and discovered they they were part of a ranch that was overrun by orcs. Confirming this with a wandering cow, they head back to the ruined town. Your Majesty suggests they take the trail heading toward the fabled Neverwinter Wood.

As they become enveloped by the woods, they come upon a screen made from the warped branches of trees standing close together, woven into a domelike shelter in the shadows. With caution, Purina casts a spell to search for traps and Aurora casts a spell to detect magic. With none found, Chuck and Purina slowly enter the shelter. Searching the remains of once opulent furnishing, the spectral form of an elf appears. Not wanting to antagonize this ghostly figure, Chuck respectfully tries to gain the whereabouts of Cragmaw Castle.  The ghostly elven figure claims she knows all that happens in the woods but does not give up the location of the castle. Purina and Chuck back out of the shelter and the party decides to go on their way when the ghostly figure drifts out into the open following them...

Sunday, January 1, 2023

5e Session IV: Looking for Clues

Aurora Boree Alice - Human Cleric
Chuck Norris - Elf Ranger
Purina - Half-elf Druid
Your Majesty - Human Wizard

Having barely defeated Klarg, the bugbear leader of the thieving Cragmaw goblins, our party found itself resting and recovering from their wounds in Klarg's lair. It is in this lair that they discovered stolen goods including some weapons and armor - some of which they appropriate for themselves.

While resting, they discover that they were spied upon by a goblin that had wandered upon the carnage but Chuck silently dispatched the sneaking menace.

Continuing their search for the missing the party's employers Gundar and Sildar, they came upon the rest of the goblins who had prepared themselves for these interlopers. However, Purina entangled most of the goblins which made for easy targets for the rest of the party. The vile creatures were quickly dispatched but only Sildar was rescued.  The party discovered that Klarg sent the dwarf and his map of the lost Echo Cave and the fabled Forge of Spells to King Grol, the leader of the Cragmaw tribe in Cragmaw Castle!

Sildar asked the party to escort him to Phandalin and promised to pay them 50 gold for their troubles, but being so late in the day the party headed west to the Wayfarer Inn. There they tried to ask about any knowledge of Cragmaw castle but only found that the Cragmaw tribe has been harassing travelers on the Tribor trail for months.

The next day the party along with Sildar headed out to Phandalin and arrived in the late evening only to find the town dark and windows shuttered. At the Stonehill Inn they learned that the Red Brands had come out looking for the party after they had murdered four of their companions in town and two in the basements of Tresendar Manor.  The Redbrands had harassed the townsfolk looking for clues to the party's whereabouts. A local woodcarver had stood up to the Redbrands after they had leered at his wife and daughter but the ruffians murdered him and now his wife, daughter and son are missing. The innkeeper could not give them any more information on the location of Cragmaw Castle.

Sildar reminded the party to meet him at the Townhall in the morning for the escort payment but the Your Majesty was more interested in finding Cragmaw Castle and convinced the party to leave the inn before dawn the next morning...

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Thoughts on 5e

 As an old school player finally giving D&D 5e a solid go I have quite a few opinions.

The Good

I have to say that I really like how D&D has evolved into a solid ruleset that is 5e. The 5e rules pretty much cover just about anything that may come up in the game.  Earlier versions relied upon the DM and players to customize and build upon the somewhat vague rules. This left the game open for tons of home-brewed customizations.  Having had to add quite a bit of customization to my Swords & Wizardy campaign of a few years back, I have to say that I like not having to have to do the heavy lifting on finessing the rules and balance of the game. I was able to do back in the day but I was no expert. It involved quite a bit of time that I no longer have.  I want to sit down and run a game and 5e has all the rules covered.

I also like that 5e has a lot of flexibility on how you might want to play the game. There is a greater emphasis on role-playing make than the good ol' hack-n-slash.  I'm actually having fun as a DM exploring that aspect of the game a bit more. Character backgrounds are a great idea to help players focus on role-playing their character more. I think the races and classes have been well thought out.

The Bad

Getting brand new players into the game is an outrageously heavy lift. For people that have never played RPGs before, all the nuances of the modifiers and rules and if-thens and the level-ups is just way too much to ask of people to enter the game. I'm having that very experience with some new RPGers. I spend the first 20 minutes of a session going over the next layer of rules and ideas and modifiers. Players are slowly getting pieces of it but when the sessions are spaced weeks apart, they don't recall all the various modifiers needed for various situations.  I've had to create quick-starts and notes for them.  It's a long way from notecards.

Session zero. What adults who have never played the game before have the time to sit though a session zero? I don't and I'm the DM. Time is precious for everyone and spending the first three hours going over rules and how to play is not a very friendly entry point for people that want to just get a flavor of the game. Plus, this is the session where you roll up characters? As a group? New players will most likely WTF the game and move on. Sure, pre-gens could help with that but there is still the issue of trying to go over all the minutia of just whats on the character sheet. 

The Ugly

The organization of the Player's Handbook and DM Guide are completely for shit. Faction information is split across multiple books including the starter set rules.  Does WOTC expect you to purchase every single product so you can have all the information to run a Forgotten Realms campaign it's fullest?  Yeah, I don't want to spend a ton of money on this stuff and then have to store it. I'm a quick and dirty player / DM. Give me everything I need where it is expected to be and I'm good to go. Lets face it, there is a shit-ton of fluff and color in the paragraphs of these books to sift through to get to the important information that you need. 

Creating a character is such a bizarre complicated process of back and forth in the PHB that it takes all the fun out of what should be a very fun process. I end up relying on 5e character generators online or at D&D Beyond. As a DM I'm still going to kill off PCs if they do something stupid (or try to anyway) but having a player quickly roll-up a new character during the session is going to be pretty sad. 

This should be all about keeping players in the session having fun, not having to have players and DM look 101 things up per game session.

The adventure books follow that same pattern.  The organization is not for actual gameplay but to casually sit back and read.  Again, as with the PHB and DMG there is way to much flipping back and forth for content that is buried somewhere within the pages. 

Okay, this is going to be an "get off my lawn" moment but the old classic modules were utilitarian.  Printed on cheap paper, you were able to make notes, scratch-out monster HPs, tear out handouts and artwork, encounter charts right up front.  Those modules were made to be used and abused. These new adventure books are designed to sit on your bookshelf and be 'collected'.  To make any of these adventure books even remotely usable, I have to rewrite most of it into accessible notes for the DM. It's sad because I do think that some of these adventures are great fun but the time I have to dedicate to be able to run one of these is not practical for a casual campaign.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a hater of 5e, I do like it as a matter of course. I thought I'd be saving some time and energy with a more polished rule-set than my ol' cobbled together S&W game. 

On a side note, I've also been a player in a 5e campaign and have really enjoyed that quite a bit. But I'm an experienced gamer and didn't have to struggle with the rules too much. 

We have gotten back to our 5e campaign with some noobs and I will be posting a session summary of that shortly.