After the Dragon War: Shratalanda

Shratalanda was a mystery to the people of Cimmeria. No one knew how old Shratalanda was at the end of the Dragon War. She had emerged from nowhere to orchestrate the rebellion against the dragons’ rule. She was part of no community and had no family. Many suspected she was a god, one of the Fates, sent to walk the Earth and ensure that the proper events occurred. Others thought her simply an elf with the natural talent needed for psionic magic. Continue reading

After the Dragon War: The Dungeons

The Heroes of the Dragon War pooled their resources to erect defenses around the Orbs of Dragonkind. They decided that five of the Orbs would be defended in the same location by a nearly impassable obstacle. The other five Orbs would be hidden separately within dungeons that the Heroes would build and protect. Continue reading

Blackrock Mountain Announcement

Been a while since I’ve made a post because I’ve been quite sick. The flu is a terrible thing!

I’ve been wanting to make a post about Hearthstone’s new adventure expansion, Blackrock Mountain. Now that I’m no longer as concerned about dying I can write the post! Woohoo!

The adventure is based off a famous WoW raid once again that I know almost nothing about.

Looking at whats been released so far on the official website and trailer I can tell that the expansion has dragons, fire, and dwarves in it.

I LOVE dragons, so this is gonna be a killer set for me.

Moving on to a selection of the previewed cards though!

First up is the previewed Legendary, Rend Blackhand.

Rend_Blackhand

Only useful in a very very specific situation. You have to have him and a dragon in your hand and your opponent has to have a Legendary on their board that is worth killing. Otherwise it’s basically a weak Core Hound and no one plays that because it’s bad.

Next is the Hungry Dragon.

Hungry_Dragon

 

I’m pleased by this new addition to the dragon forces in the game. It’s strong, but not overwhelmingly strong. Did I mention that it’s a DRAGON?!?

Then we have the Dark Iron Skulker.

Dark_Iron_Skulker

Pretty obviously intended as an anti-aggro card for Rogues. Rogues already have a few tools for this with Fan of Knives and their hero power. This card is even better because its basically a Consecration stapled to a 3 mana cost minion body for only 5 mana. You’re getting 2 mana of oomph for free if the Skulker damages all of your opponent’s minions. I think this one will see a lot of play.

And the best for last! Axe Flinger!

Axe_Flinger

Super useful alongside Bouncing Blade, the GVG Warrior spell that deals 1 damage to a random minion and then another random minion until a minion dies. And the best thing about the Axe Flinger is that it immediately inspired me to make this video!

Blackrock Mountain is scheduled to come out sometime in April. Hopefully we’ll get to see a few more cards before then!

-GoCorral

Darkest Dungeon

I’m going to talk about the latest video game sensation! Not League of Legends! Not Hearthstone! That’s right! You guessed it! The Darkest Dungeon.

2015-02-13_00001
I… I… I can’t read.

Darkest Dungeon is an indie game funded through Kickstarter.

In the game a wealthy socialite turns to the Cthuluian mysteries for entertainment and he unlocks horror beneath his mansion. The evil spreads until the entire countryside is corrupted by monsters, cultists, and brigands.

2015-02-13_00002
Beware! This game uses fancy words like antediluvian and tenebrous!

The player controls various groups of adventurers hired by the caretaker of the mansion to rid it of the abominations that inhabit it.

The game is a fairly typical turn-based RPG. Positioning of your party members is also important, but there’s nothing new there.

The new mechanic in Darkest Dungeon is the stress bar.

If you’ve read the short stories by HP Lovecraft that inspired this game, then you’re familiar with how the characters go insane when exposed to otherworldy horrors. Well, the same thing happens to the adventurers you control in Darkest Dungeon.

Getting hit really hard by monsters drives your party crazy. When the monsters do creepy things your party goes crazy. When the torchlight starts burning low your party goes crazy.

All that crazy is measured by the stress bar which goes from 0-100. 0 is fine, 100 is insane.

There’s other cool stuff too. Every class gets special attacks and you can name all your characters, like Snoop Dog in that picture down there.

WHACK! Take that!
WHACK! Take that!

In between adventures your party can rest and recuperate from all that craziness. There’s plenty of buildings to upgrade in the little town you stay in and the gold you bring back can be spent to improve your adventurers’ abilities for future dungeon raids.

2015-02-13_00003
It was a dark and deluvian night.

And best of all, the adventurers talk throughout the whole game. Here’s your boss, the caretaker, describing one of his favorite places to visit in town.

2015-02-13_00004
Caretaker’s getting jiggy with it.

I like to gauge entertainment on a ratio of hours of entertainment to money spent ratio. Movies are $10 to 2 hour ratio. Darkest Dungeon is $20 to… probably about 100 hours? That makes it 25 times as much entertainment value as a movie! Not necessarily as much fun packed into two hours, but over time it’ll appreciate into something you can really enjoy.

Check it out on Steam now!

-GoCorral

My D&D Campaign: Cimmeria

I gave a brief description of my D&D campaign world previously, but have written nothing on it since.

I got involved in the Gurutama posts and I felt that writing about two different D&D worlds might get confusing.

The result is that there’s very little on the blog about what I actually do in my biggest hobby and that frankly seems a little stupid.

There are other reasons why I avoided describing my current D&D sessions besides the confusion between Cimmeria, the campaign world I use now, and Gurutama, the campaign world I’m building.

First, I’m not always the DM for my group. Sometimes my best friend DMs a campaign based in the Aegean where the other players and I oppose an evil conspiracy.

Should I be writing about those sessions here as well? Bringing a third campaign world in? Its already a little difficult for some of the other players to keep track of what’s happening in each campaign. I can’t imagine what it would be like for people who aren’t playing and taking notes on this stuff like we are.

Second, there is an immense amount of existing information for Cimmeria that makes it a little difficult to describe the sessions to a newcomer.

For example, there is an NPC called Astyanax in Cimmeria. He is a prominent member of the Alliance opposing the evil guys.

I say Astyanax and the players all know what I’m talking about because they’ve interacted with him in the past and with his father, Hector.

There’s a mythical parallel to Astyanax as well. The mythical Hector was the greatest hero of Troy who died defending his city. After Troy was conquered, the Greeks killed the mythical Astyanax.

The Hector in my campaign died just like his namesake, but Astyanax lived on. He is now the greatest defender of his city in his father’s place. He might end up dying like his father did as well.

So imagine that level of explanation for not only the people, but the places and objects in my campaign. Everything has a history and I try to DM in a way that makes that history relevant.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to write stuff here about Cimmeria, but I’ve got explain in a way that anybody can understand the topic.

Not really different than how anything should be written when you think about it.

-Mister Ed

The Other Room in D&D

D&D is typically played with everyone in the same room or on the same video call if you’re my group.

The DM plays out the action and all the other players interact with each other and the DM.

Sometimes a change is needed.

What if one PC scouts ahead and the DM doesn’t want the other players to share the information that PC gets?

You could trust the players to only act on information their characters would know, but its difficult to rely on that. It’s easy for the DM and the players to forget where the line between character knowledge and their own knowledge is.

The problem is easily solved by restricting such knowledge.

When a player scouts the next room in a dungeon without the others the DM will take him into the other room with his character sheet and dice.

The player then explores the room on his own.

If there’s a monster in there, he has to fight it on his own. He can still call for help to the others, but they won’t necessarily hear him.

If there’s treasure in the other room, the PC could claim it for himself and not tell the others what he found. Golden chalice? Sweet! Since the PC found it on his own, he doesn’t need to share.

At the end of this week’s session I took one of my players into the other room (separate video call).

His PC hadn’t gone into another room, but instead was taking a vacation separate from the other PCs.

Not as exotic as a fancy golden chalice in the other room of a dungeon, but it was still something we felt should be separate.

The other PCs wouldn’t know what happened there unless they are told. Additionally, watching it probably would’ve been boring for them and disruptive for the player whose PC was there.

That’s all for tonight!

-Mister Ed

Mapping Methods

Room 2 of the Lich Shade dungeon drawn using graph paper with notes on it.
Room 2 of the Lich Shade dungeon drawn using graph paper with notes on it.

There a lot of different styles of DMing in D&D and other roleplaying games.

You can wing it and come to each session with very little prepared.

You can come up with the adventure for each session in the week before.

You can also do what I do, make up the entire campaign before starting it.

Between each session I have almost no creative work to do for D&D. My campaign has been running for close to three years now and I’ve only had to design one adventure out of about a dozen since then.

It’s nice. I don’t need to spend extra time on the game for me and my friends to have a lot of fun.

I have started to run into a few issues though.

When I wrote the campaign I imagined my group would still manage to meet in person.

That proved to be horribly wrong. We have in person sessions about once a year now.

When I drew all my maps they looked like the one pictured above. I’d make them on a piece of yellow-green graph paper.

When they reached a room I’d draw with a wet-erase marker on a battle mat I brought to each session.

When the players defeated the monsters in one room I’d erase and draw the next room.

Dry erasing was easy, but creating good maps in our current system is a little difficult.

My group now plays over the internet using an internet browser program called Roll20.

Roll20 is really great. It has everything a tabletop has. You can even turn on a feature to see your dice roll across the table.

However, I can’t just grab a pen and draw on my monitor as easily as I draw on the battle mat used previously.

I suppose I could do that if I was used to creating digital images, but I’m not.

Instead I’ve taken to making lame looking maps or using a cool mapping software piece called GridMapper.

The second room of the Lich Shade dungeon made using GridMapper.
The second room of the Lich Shade dungeon made using GridMapper.

GridMapper is extremely simple. You pretty much just click to change stuff.

I can easily build maps in GridMapper. They don’t look amazing because it doesn’t come with preset images like trees and stuff, but they’re functional just like my dry erase mat.

GridMapper has one issue, it has a maximum image size. Easy to get around though, I just make two images and glue them together for really big rooms.

I’m slowly converting all my old pencil maps into GridMapper maps for Roll20 now.

That’s it for now!

-Mister Ed

My Campaign World

20140310-161157.jpg

That’s a map of my campaign world which is physically based in a completely altered landscape north of the Caspian Sea.

Keeping with the theme of D&D Mondays, here is an introduction into the decisions I made while designing the campaign world that my players currently use.

The initial impetus for creating my campaign world came from the gods that are present in the D&D manuals. D&D has a few of its own pantheons and none of them make a great deal of sense to me when compared to real polytheistic religions.

Real religions have gods with relationships between each other. They are often members of the same family with a well known family tree. Stories and personalities exist for each of the gods.

D&D has no such relationships. Each god appears to be its own religion, making the pantheon of gods somewhat irrelevant. There is no well established mythology, and the bare facts that do exist will change based on which edition of D&D is played.

I much prefer the Greek pantheon. They were all related. They had stories about them. I understood why they did things. Best of all, everyone already knows about them! It’s actually required in USA schools to learn about them.

The problem with using the Greek gods in a D&D campaign is all the stuff associated with Greece in the myths. I didn’t want to switch to a real setting, only more realistic gods. So I changed the location of the gods.

Within my world, after the Trojan War, the gods realized that the Greeks couldn’t really handle the gods fighting over them. The gods moved west to the area around the Northern Caspian Sea and created new races to play with.

Elves, dwarves, halflings, and orcs were made for the gods to mess around with along with monsters and more humans. The new races were given far more magical power, so they could survive the gods’ attentions.

I significantly changed the geography around the North Caspian. I didn’t have any reason to do this beyond creative freedom. The name of my campaign world and the area north of the Caspian is called Cimmeria. This is actually what the ancient Greeks called it, so why not keep the name?

The current year in my campaign world is 396BC. The characters wouldn’t actually call it that, but for the sake of unambiguity, we’re using the Christian year system.

I simplified the month system. Every year lasts 360 days and every month lasts 30 days. The full moon is always on the 30th and the 1st of every month and the new moon is always on the 15th and 16th of every month. There are no weeks, instead there are “tendays.” This is just to make it simpler for me, so I don’t have to keep track of months, weeks, and moons. Also, yes, this is the way the world actually works in my campaign. The year is literally 360 days instead of just being measured that way.

Other pantheons do exist in my campaign (Persian, Egyptian, Indian, Norse), but don’t appear very often. Other cultures also exist outside of the ones in Cimmeria, but these other cultures are rarely featured in the sessions of the campaign.

The world is flat and the sun god’s chariot goes around the Earth every day. The other side of the world is inhabited by scary monsters and Atlas, who holds up the world. The planes (those other dimension things) are laid like pancakes on or around the earth. The typical image of Hell below and Heaven above fits very well.

Most of the cities in Cimmeria are city-states, but there are two exceptions. the Xorian Empire and the Aractrash Kingdom. The Xorian Empire has been expanding over the last hundred years. The Aractrash Kingdom has several cities within the Aractrashan Jungle. The jungle was united under one king around one hundred years ago.

That’s all the basic information of my campaign world. More to come later!

-Mister Ed

Warlight

My friends and I have been playing this online game called Warlight a lot lately.

Warlight is a lot like Risk, but it allows for almost every custom rule that Risk has ever had and more. The basic rules of the game are the same as Risk though, so if you’ve played Risk you will understand how Warlight works.

Warlight is played through your web browser at this site, on a tablet or smart phone with an app, or through Google Hangouts with an app.

You can play Warlight with your friends, with other random users on the internet, or with computer opponents.

The coolest thing about Warlight is all the different maps on the site. The traditional Risk Earth map exists among many others. There are larger maps of Earth, smaller ones of specific countries and regions, maps of established fantasy worlds (Westeros is a favorite of mine), and tons of other fantasy maps.

Warlight has so many awesome maps because it allows anyone to submit a map to play on the website. There’s tutorials on how to do it along with a free software program to design the maps in.

My friends and I latched onto the idea and I created a Warlight map version of one of our D&D campaign worlds. We’ve enjoyed playtesting it a lot and will release it soon. The map is called Gurutama. If any of you readers end up trying Warlight, maybe you’ll end up playing on my map once its released!

That’s all for tonight!

-Mister Ed

A Short D&D Glossary

A photo of the glossary page in the 4th edition D&D Monster Manual
A photo of the glossary page in the 4th edition D&D Monster Manual

There’s a few words that get tossed around a lot in D&D. I often forget that other people don’t know the specific D&D meanings of those words, so I thought I’d provide a short glossary of terms today.

The first word that I realized others might not know was teleport. None of the auto-spellcheckers I have used ever recognize teleport as a correctly spelled word  (And now I’ve confirmed that WordPress’s spellchecker doesn’t catch it either). Teleport is a word that means to instantly appear somewhere else. The transporter in Star Trek and apparating in Harry Potter are essentially both teleporting. The act of teleporting is called teleportation.

Campaign: A series of adventures that the players undertake, often with an underlying theme. My players are in a campaign where they fight a vampiric empire. The campaign before that was an attempt to prevent the establishment of the vampiric empire (they failed in the end). Prior to that they were fighting an evil death wizard (or necromancer since this is the blog post to teach you these words).

Campaign World: The main fantasy world in which a campaign takes place. My campaign world is based off Greek and Roman mythology and takes place in a place far to the east that the Greeks called Cimmeria.

Plane: There are often other worlds connected to the campaign world. These alternate dimensions are called planes. They appear as pools in some of the prequels to the Narnia series. The other worlds could be parallel dimensions or versions of heaven or hell, or anything else you can think of.

Cleric: A cleric is a person who devotes their life to religion. In English we often associate specific words with specific religions. A minister is Christian, a rabbi is Jewish, an iman is Muslim, etc. To avoid that confusion, D&D uses cleric to refer to priests of all gods and religions.

Encounter: A single conflict between the players and an adversary represented by the DM. These conflicts are often violent, but they don’t need to be. A diplomatic negotiation could also be an encounter.

Adventure: A string of encounters that have a unifying villain or objective. Adventures are composed of encounters and campaigns are composed of adventures. Campaigns can also have overarching villains and objectives, but the individual villains in each adventure will often change. You fight the henchmen before you fight the villain (Deatheaters before Voldemort in Harry Potter).

Experience: When the players defeat an encounter their characters are awarded experience points (EXP or XP). These are used to make their character stronger. They’re an important extrinsic reward in the game. A character’s power is defined by how much XP they have. If a character is more powerful then they can take on greater challenges. A hero could start off slaying orcs, gaining more experience til he is slaying giants and dragons.

Level: As characters gain more experience they increase in level. Each level has a set amount of XP required to reach it. Thus power increases in a stepwise fashion. More and more XP is needed for the higher levels. D&D levels typically range from 1-20.

System: D&D is the most well known pen and paper roleplaying game, but its not the only one. Many others exist and most have their own acronyms as well. Generic Universal RolePlaying System (GURPS) favors realism over the fantastical heroism of D&D. Call of Cthulu (CoC) simulates the Lovecraftian horror genre instead of high fantasy. Star Wars is for science fiction and World of Darkness (WoD) is for playing in a world of vampires and werewolves. D&D is the flagship of roleplaying games, but it probably has less than half the overall market share within the business. The rules of D&D and the rules of all its competitors are called roleplaying systems.

Edition: All these roleplaying systems have different editions. D&D is about to release its 5th edition. I believe GURPS is on its 4th now. WoD is on its 2nd edition. My friends and I started off playing 2nd edition D&D and switched to 3.0 and then 3.5 when they came out. We became entrenched in 3.5 and never switched to 4th edition (4E) and are only considering it now. This unwillingness to change leads to what are called edition wars in D&D. Different groups will argue that their system or edition is far superior to any other. It’s a snobbish elitism that exists in any hobby from beer drinking to bird watching.

Class: A character in D&D must pick a class to decide what powers they have access to. Wizards can cast powerful spells, but can’t fight very well. Fighters can swing a sword, but they can’t sneak into buildings. Rogues can sneak around and lie to people convincingly, but they can’t heal wounds. Clerics can heal wounds and cast some of the weaker spells, but not the more powerful ones. The wizard, fighter, rogue, and cleric make up the 4 basic class types in D&D. Each character must be one of these classes or a variation on them. Each level a character has is in one of these classes. A character could have all of their levels in one class or spread them out as much as they like between the many variations on the basic four.

Race: Players pick a race or species when they first create their character. The basic races are human, elf, dwarf, halfling, half-orc, gnome, and half-elf,  but there are many more. Each race gives a character a few small bonuses and penalties along with a set of typical physical features to choose from and a racial history to assist in writing a character’s backstory.

Skills: Characters have a few things they are good at. This could be something like cooking, playing an instrument, climbing, or using magical items. Most if not all roleplaying systems have skills.

Feats: Feats give a character additional options or bonuses beyond what their race, class, and skills give. A character gets one feat every three levels. Feats are unique to D&D. A feat could be something like the ability to create magic items, running for long distances without tiring, or using one weapon much better than any other.

That’s enough for now! With this info you’ll be able to understand my future posts on D&D a little better.

-Mister Ed