Day 21: Favorite Dragon (color/type)

Episode 7 

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First off I can say that I wish I had put more dragons into my campaigns. Secondly, I can say that this episode of Brave New Dungeon contains the live play of our adventurers battling a dragon! It seems as though there is a stigma against using dragons in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Well not exactly a stigma against it, but everyone expects there to be dragons so it’s almost a disappointment when there is a dragon- like “oh my, how original, a dragon in Dungeons & Dragons.” I’m pretty sure dragons are the coolest part about D&D though.  Which brings me back to my original feeling- that I wish I had put more dragons in my campaigns. I did put a dragon in the campaign I am running now, and I did have a nice (if not too brief) story surrounding the arrival of the dragon and the lives that its arrival affected. But it wasn’t enough. I would like to build a long story about a dragon, or even a group of dragons, but of course the fear is that it’s going to seem overdone or redundant. I mean really- who plays Dungeons & Dragons to actually fight Dragons!

tiamat

The thing about a dragon is the power, the ultimate predator, top of the food chain, el numero uno.  Why wouldn’t you want to play a dragon? And as the DM I can play as many dragons as I like. While each color/type has its own stereotypes, its own pigeonholes, the minutiae is what makes the dragon unique. Much like playing a dwarf; which everyone assumes to be a short, stout, bearded, heavily armored, slightly grumpy, axe-wielding, antagonistic, charge into the fray fighter with an Irish or possibly Scottish accent. According to its color a dragon’s character and background are a given.  But that’s what makes them so fun to play.  Switch things up and you’ve got yourself a story.
smaugOf course the red dragon is the quintessential dragon. There is little doubt that in the fantasy realm, a fire-breathing dragon is king of beasts. Smaug pretty much set the bar for what is the be all end all of Dragonhood. While a red dragon could possibly fit into almost any scenario, some of the other dragons seem limited in how they might be inserted into a campaign. It would be very odd to see a white dragon in a desert, but not impossible. In fact, putting a white dragon in a desert certainly demands that there be a good reason behind it, and therefore you have your story. How did she get there? Why is she staying? and how come your adventurers are seeking her out? Of course in my current campaign I stuck with the stereotypes and put my white dragon in a frozen cave with patches of ice all around.  But I may just have come up with a hook for a one-shot adventure.  
My favorite dragon, or probably more to the point, the one that interests me the most is the blue dragon. A dragon’s breath weapon is its signature, and no matter what it is and how it manifests itself, the breath weapon is the truly fantastic element of the dragon’s being. There is something astounding about the image of an electric being, blasting thunderous bolts of lightning into the air, burning the atmosphere and spinning billions of electrons into a frenzy.
Blue_Dragon_by_Tarjcia
BND007 – chasing the dragon (live play starts around 13:13)

Hello Dragon

Episode 6 begins with the party at the entrance to what they believe to be a dragon’s lair. They’re anxious and nervous, wondering just how one should approach a dragon. It is a good question and one that needs to be asked. How would you approach a dragon? Skryt

Also, the party had recently reached level 2 and I talk a bit about what that means.

 

BND006 – hello dragon(live play starts around 12:50)

Day 15: Favorite Monster(Undead)

Day 15: Favorite Monster (Undead)

My immediate response to this topic was – ZOMBIES! and I felt very confident about it, but then the vampire came into my mind, and next I thought of mummies, then skeletons then the lich and wraiths and ghouls and ghosts, so I was almost instantaneously thrown into a state of confusion. What is my favorite undead monster? The premise of this whole exercise assumes we are talking within the realm of D&D RPG land (there aren’t any rules really… I’m sure I would’ve been penalized and disqualified on Day 1 if there were). But like deities, the undead contestants for favorite goes beyond my experience within the tabletop realm. There are a number of undead creatures in the Monster Manuals that are almost exclusive to D&D, but I don’t think any of them even sniffed my top 10 (I’m looking at you Atropals, Bodaks and Rot Harbingers). Zombie-Apocalypse
Unlike dragons, my conception of the undead is impossible to separate from their “real world” origins. It is impossible to think of vampires without evoking a litany of references starting with Bram Stoker or even more so, Bela Lugosi, and David Bowie for that matter.  Vampires belong to the world, not D&D, and Zombies, with a rash of pop culture outbreaks in the past decade have clawed and grappled their way into the hive mind (and yes I know there are zombie movies predating 2004, but they have never received the mainstream popularity they currently enjoy). harryhausen skeletonsAnd to once again praise the
great Ray Harryhausen, my image of animated skeletons will never go beyond what I saw in Jason & the Argonauts. While my recollection of dragons is much wider than what is presented in the multiple tomes of D&D, their traits, characteristics and even their appearance in my mind’s eye borrow mostly from what I’ve read therein.  
Wight AD&DSo according to the rules (that I just made up) I can’t choose zombies or vampires as my favorite D&D monster/undead.  So where does that leave me? Well there are a couple of undead monsters outlined in the Monster Manual that could be thought of as more advanced Zombies. Ghouls, Ghasts and Wights walk a very fine line- is it a zombie that is just a bit more of a bad ass, or is it its own thing? While certainly I’ve come across Ghouls and Wights in other literature, my first real introduction to them was through D&D. But the “zombies” of the 28 Days Later movie franchise and the book/movie I am Legend could quite possibly be thought of as advanced Zombies, I don’t think anyone is going to adopt the term Ghoul or Ghast to describe them. Ghouls and Ghasts evoke a non-corporeal being in my mind though there is nothing in the rulebooks that states them as such. Then there are the level draining Wights of AD&D, always to be feared, stealing your hard fought xp for their own maniacal means. And they have snuck their way into pop culture in the most recent rage of fantasy fiction- GRRMartin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.
While all of these examples are staples in any D&D campaign, there is a king of the Gary Gygax undead pantheon, and my choice for favorite (as far as this whole 30 Day Challenge thing goes)- the Lich. If you are at all unfamiliar with Module S1: Tomb of Horrors, please Google now.
Acererak

Running Up That Hill

Episode 5 rejoins the party as they’re making their way up the mountainside to confront what they believe to be either a very large drake or very small dragon. As the GM, I am confronted with the scenario of how to handle a set of circumstances that is neither friendly banter with amiable NPCs or “roll initiative” combat encounter- that’s right, I’m blind-sided by a Skills Challenge. Only it turns out that it isn’t a skills challenge after all, because at this point I am only vaguely aware of what a skills challenge is and how it is run. Apparently, in the Dungeon Masters Guide there is a whole section on how to design and run a skills challenge. I have since looked this over but in the meantime I have slowly evolved (or more precisely, revolved) my own guidelines on how to run a skills challenge- some of it (the good part) stolen from the great Rodrigo of Critical Hit and some of it (the inconsistent, problematic part) from my own imagination. In 4e, the DM Guide suggests making a list of primary and secondary skills that the characters might use, and “try to define categories of actions the characters might take.” In my brain, this equals trouble.  I will instantaneously outline how the scenario will unfold and which skills are necessary to “win” the challenge. This is not what I want to do. I prefer to establish a goal and then let the players get there by any means necessary, the important aspect is for them to develop the story through their own choices and imagination.

I was trying to remember if there were a similar mechanic in 2nd edition, and I dug up this little nugget out of the Wilderness Survival Guide:Wilderness Guide Non Weapon Prof

 

which in turn, led me to the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide with a whole ‘nother set of skills and modifiers and slots. There’s the Adventuring Proficiencies:

Adventuring Proficiencies

 

And the Craftsmen Proficiencies:

Craftsmen Proficiencies

 

And there are tables within tables of Weapon making charts and on and on and on. It definitely made for interesting reading, but I don’t ever remember implementing any of it into a game.

I’ve had a look at the Skills system that’s being proposed for D&D Next and it looks similar but different from what we have now in 4e.  I’m actually really into the skills challenges and hope to incorporate them into my campaign more frequently.  More will be revealed.

BND005 – you got mad skillz bro (live play starts around 13:30)

Day 8: Favorite Character You’ve Played

Day 8: Favorite Character You’ve Played

My play experience is not as extensive as most and I’ve only really played a handful of characters (I’ve spent most of my gametime on the other side of the GM screen). But I do have a couple of favorites- I know, a couple of favorites is not choosing a favorite, it’s a cop out really, but if I chose just one then this post would be even shorter than it’s already going to be.

First off, I’d have to choose my very first character, the one I took all the way up to level crazy. I was a youngster and my friend and I played fast and loose with the rules. I think my character ended up being a 20 something level dwarf Ranger/18th or 19th level Druid, and my friend was an elf Fighter /Magic-user of similar levels. His character’s name was Legolas and I was . . . Brian Boru (bet you thought I was going to say something else).  We would switch off being DM/player and hand out massive loot and xp, I think we also set a world record for the most Crits rolled in a 2 year period.

dwarf_ranger
My next favorite character would have to be Thelonius the Monk. The one thing I remember distinctly about 2nd Edition rules was the Monk class ability that at a certain level they could fall any distance as long as they were within something like 30 feet of a wall.  I never made it to that level but man when I did I was going to be jumping off of everything I could find!
I half-what remember playing a Druid named Maximillian, but about all I remember is that I drew a very cool picture of him (that I copied from a picture of Bishop, the time-traveling x-man).
Now, in 4e, I have had next to no experience as a player. I have sat in on two sessions; once as a Rune Priest and the other as a Battlemind.  I very much dug both characters and hope to play them again. I have also rolled up a young Halfling cleric for Next that I also hope to play someday.

Fekbet, friend. . . ?

Fekbet

Episode 4 wraps up the exploration of the kobold caves. This episode is the final hour of our group’s second play session, and it opened my eyes to the wide, wide world that the adventurer’s were wandering through. Involuntarily, NPC’s stories began to fill my brainspace and populate the surrounding mountains, forests, hills and dales. I had a rough idea of perhaps two or three “problem” areas in the kingdom that the PC’s might want to investigate, but it was at the end of this session that the story (the lives of the people living in the kingdom) really took over. One of the most appealing aspects of D&D, if not the most appealing, is character creation. When I get a chance to be on the other side of the DM screen I relish the opportunity to piece together a being. As a player I invest a lot more of myself into the character, it really becomes a means of expression. As the GM, I can allow myself to engage in an NPC for a little bit, but I’ve found that if I really put a lot of myself into the NPC I begin to overwhelm the story-telling aspect of the game. I want the character to be interesting and intricate, but I don’t want my attachment to the NPC to overshadow the actions of the player characters.  In this episode we get to meet the Kobold Wild Mage- Fekbet.

BND004 – Fekbet, friend…? (gameplay starts around 11:10)

Day 6: Favorite Deity

Day 6: Favorite Deity

Deities_&_DemigodsThis one is all about nostalgia for me, the AD&D book Deities & Demi-Gods was my favorite to peruse repetitively; and it was just recently that I got my hands on another copy.  The Greek Mythos was the go-to chapter for good times, by the time I got into D&D I had already become very familiar with Mt. Olympus and the many heroes of that particular mythology.  I had immersed myself in the legends and seen all the Ray Harryhausen films multiple times. In fact, in third grade, a group of us would often pretend to be the gods of Olympus and cast lightning bolts and tridents across the playground.
By the time I found D&D I had been introduced to the Norse mythology and the Arthurian legends, but everything else was brand new to me. I pored over these supreme beings imaging their power and how they influenced the world and those who served them. The demons and devils Lolthsections in the Monster Manual were also heavily trafficked- something to do with the absolute power these creatures seemed to possess was enthralling.  Even though my friends and I were notorious for making the unthinkable and the impossible happen within our games, we never deemed ourselves worthy enough to march on Olympus, or raid the Happy Hunting Grounds, or explore Valhalla- we did slay Lolth quite readily though, in the Queen of the Demonweb Pits.
To try and choose a favorite would be very difficult, at this point my favorite thing to do is to create deities and outline their desmenses. But in accordance with my preternatural attraction to the natural, I have always been drawn to those deities that champion life, living life, and nature. Early on I favored Artemis and Demeter; and I also felt a strong attraction to the Egyptian god Ptah; the gods of the dwarfs and halflings were also of interest, Sheelah Peryroyl in particular. But if I absolutely had to choose just one then I’d have to go with my childhood friend the God of the Sea- Posiedon.poseidon

Kobold In Your Face

Episode 3 further develops the party’s delve into the Kobold cave.  Also, I talk a little bit about the current D&D blogger 30 Day Challenge: 30-day-challenge

My D&D career began at the ripe, young age of 11- many, many years ago.  My older sister brought home the blue box edition of the original D&D rules- the set that came with the chits, no dice. I was fascinated with the game and the artwork especially. I soon discovered that a friend of mine at school had also been introduced to the game and we commenced to rape and pillage the rules of the game until we were decked out in all the highest level magic armor, weapons and rings. My D&D career continued like that for a year or two, and by the time I hit high school I had moved on to other things. But I did make a return after high school to 2nd edition and spent some time playing around with those rules. That was my first real campaign, I made up my own world and took a group of friends through some adventures that lasted roughly a year or two.  And now I have returned, who knows? maybe I’m cursed to only play in 2 year increments, but if that is the case then I am planning on making the most of it.

ep003 – Kobold In Your Face (game play starts at about 19:10)

I found this pdf at WotC, the entire article on Kobolds: Creature Incarnations: Kobolds

happy kobold

Day 2: Favorite Playable Race

Thank you to those of whom have been spreading the word about “The 30 Day Challenge”

First off to qualify my choice, I’d have to state that for me (that is to say, in my opinion), there are really only a handful of playable races.
HumansD&D original races
Elves
Dwarfs
Halflings
Gnomes
Half-Elves
and Half-Orcs
I should note here that in my current campaign, I have allowed one of the players to play a Goliath, but I just think of him as a really tall Half-Orc (which I always had trouble admitting as a playable race to begin with).
Trying to choose a favorite playable race opens up the floodgates to the question of how do you create a character? Where do you start? And I think I generally start with the class.  I think the class I choose to play has a lot more to do with who I end up with; and I think the choice of class is- more often than not- subject to the state of mind I am currently inhabiting, or more precisely, that is inhabiting me.  Having recently returned to table-top RPG’s, D&D 4e in particular, the first character I rolled up was a Rune Priest, and having chosen a class- a foggy perception of a background story began to coalesce in my mind. Then, somewhere during the ability scores generation the choice of Human for the race was solidified.  I wanted to play a spiritually inclined rogue-ish type hooligan character; someone who as a child snuck into homes and shops looking for books with secrets of ancient stories and legends. I do enjoy playing a Human because right from the get go the possibilities seem almost limitless. A Human can come from anywhere, can have any kind of background, has no stereo-typical nuances automatically attached to him/her.  But it is exactly that limitation, the pigeonhole, that makes playing the other races so enticing.
A month or two ago, when I downloaded the D&D Next playtest, I looked closely at the Ranger, the Druid and the Cleric. I decided on the Cleric and almost immediately went to the Halfling race. I wanted to play a Cleric who was a worshipper of Nature (I know, Druid, right?) But I also wanted the Halfling to have a really strong desire to be a Ranger. So I thought most people don’t always get to be what they really, really hope to be when they grow up. I thought for sure I was going to be a singer in a punk band all my life. . . So there’s this Halfling that’s got a natural talent for healing people, it’s uncanny really, but he spends most of his time in the forest with the animals, practicing archery.
But if I had to make a choice, I would say Dwarf. Because I’m short and have a beard.dwarf