Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Archetype - The Duelist

Art by Wayne Reynolds
The swashbuckler is one of my favorite fantasy archetypes. I've talked about how much I've loved the concept before and I was excited to see one of the "hybrid" classes Paizo was working on for the Advanced Class Guide would be a buckler of swash.

However, after reading the playtest version of the class and dissecting it thoroughly, I found it really lacking. Not wanting to give up on the concept, I decided to toy around with a few different methods for creating this kind of character.

This archetype is one of those attempts. It is an amalgamation of a handful of abilities from the Duelist prestige class, some from the Free Hand Fighter archetype, and a couple others thrown in for good measure. Feel free to use it in your own games. This is still the alpha version of the archetype and I'd love to get some feedback on it.

The duelist is an archetype for the fighter class. Unlike other fighters who utilize heavy armor and brute force, the duelist relies more on skill and speed to take down her enemies.

Class Skills: Duelists receive Acrobatics (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Perform (Cha), and Sleight of Hand (Dex) as class skills. Furthermore, they also receive 4 skill points + their Intelligence modifier each level instead of the fighter's 2 skill points + Intelligence modifier each level.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Duelists are not proficient with medium armor, heavy armor, or shields (except the buckler).

Duelist Manuevers (Ex): At 2nd level, a duelist gains a +1 bonus to all disarm and trip checks. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels after 2nd. This ability replaces a standard fighter's bravery.

Duelist's Grace (Ex): At 3rd level, a duelist gains a +1 dodge bonus to AC and CMD. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels after 3rd. Whenever a duelist is flat-footed or would otherwise lose her Dexterity bonus to AC, she would lose this bonus as well. She also loses this bonus when wearing medium or heavy armor and carrying a medium or heavy load. This ability replaces a standard fighter's armor training 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Finesse Training (Ex): At 5th level, a duelist gains a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls when wielding a weapon belonging to the "light blade" weapon group (click here). This bonus increases by 1 for every six levels after 5th. This ability replaces a standard fighter's weapon training 1 and 4.

Enhanced Mobility (Ex): At 9th level, a duelist gains an additional +4 bonus to AC against attacks of opportunity caused when she moves out of a threatened square. This ability replaces a standard fighter's weapon training 2.

Acrobatic Charge (Ex): At 13th level, a duelist gains the ability to charge in situations where others cannot. She may charge over difficult terrain that normally slows movement. Depending on the circumstance, she may still need to make appropriate checks to successfully move over the terrain. This ability replaces a standard fighter's weapon training 3.

Reversal (Ex): At 19th level, a duelist can make a disarm combat maneuver against a creature she threatens as an immediate action when she is the target of a melee attack from another creature. If successful, the attack changes to target the target of the duelist's maneuver instead of the duelist herself. This ability replaces the standard fighter's armor mastery.

Crippling Critical (Ex): At 20th level, when a duelist confirms a critical hit using a weapon from the "light blades" weapon group, she can apply one of the following penalties in addition to the damage dealt: reduce all of the target's speeds by 10 feet (minimum 5 feet), 1d4 points of Strength or Dexterity damage, -4 penalty on all saving throws, -4 penalty to AC, or 2d6 points of bleed damage. These penalties last for 1 minute, except for ability damage, which must be healed normally, and bleed damage, which continues until the target receives magic healing or a DC 15 Heal skill check. This ability replaces the standard fighter's weapon mastery.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Happy ((Belated)) Birthday Dungeons & Dragons!

Like someone at one point in time once said, "Better late than never." Dungeons & Dragons turned 40 yesterday, on the 26th of January. Nearly ten years ago, I was introduced to the hobby through the 3.5 edition of the game and RPGs have been a constant in my life ever since. They helped me come out of my shell as a person and gave me an outlet to express my creativity with my closest friends.

If it wasn't for Dungeons & Dragons, I might be an entirely different person today. Hell, I might not be friends with certain people if I had never started playing Dungeons & Dragons and I would have never started Dungeons Deep & Caverns Old.

So, happy birthday Dungeons & Dragons. Thanks for helping me become the person I am today and showing me a whole new word of magic and wonder. Sorry, I had to get cheesy there for a second.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy Birthday Robert E. Howard

((Picture from Unknown Source))
108 years ago today, the pulp writer Robert E. Howard was born in the town of Peaster, Texas. While most recognize him as the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Howard was more than a sword & sorcery author. He dabbled in hard boiled detective stories, weird horror, historical fiction, boxing, westerns, pirates, and even poetry. Howard was also one of Weird Tales "Big Three", with the other two being H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. 

Howard is easily one of my favorite writers. Whenever I write an adventure for a fantasy campaign, I want it to have that same feeling of excitement and adventure that a Conan story had. I think I might pop in my copy of Conan the Barbarian or pull down one of the short story collections I own and read a story in his honor. 

Question Time: What is your favorite Robert E. Howard story?  

Lessons Learned From Dungeons & Dragons

An article entitled "All I Needed to Know About Life I Learned From 'Dungeons & Dragons'" was posted at the Salon on Monday. The piece lays out fourteen lessons the author (Ethan Gilsdorf) has learned from playing roleplaying games and its rather charming in its sincerity. Feeling somewhat inspired, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the major lessons I've learned while playing roleplaying games that also affect my life away from the table.

#1. Teamwork is Very Important
When playing Dungeons & Dragons, the party must work as a team to complete a given quest. While each character has their areas of expertise and might take the lead at certain intervals, they can't finish the adventure alone. In real life, working together instead competing against each other makes things a lot easier. Don't be afraid to ask for help and realize that working as a team can be beneficial to everyone. 

#2. Learning How to Handle Unexpected Situations
When running Dungeons & Dragons, your players will most likely do something you weren't expecting. Instead of freaking out, just take a deep breath and quickly figure out the best way to handle the unexpected action or turn. If the players decide to just kill the doppelganger disguised as the king instead of revealing his true identity, figure out how to work that into the story and make their choice have consequence and meaning. In real life, be ready to adapt when a situation goes down a different path. 

#3. Each Problem Has Multiple Solutions
When I first started playing roleplaying games, I thought the only point of the game was to kill stuff and take their treasure. However, as I've grown up, I realize that is only one element of the game and you could handle any problem in a multitude of ways. Instead of killing the bandits, you could try talking to them and maybe find a nonviolent way of handling the situation, or you could run away and lead the bandits into an ambush with the local militia so they can be captured & legally punished. More often than not, there is more than just one solution to a problem. 

#4. Change the Rules
While playing a roleplaying game, you will occasionally run into a rule that hinders the group's enjoyment of the game. However, the great thing about pen & paper games is that you can always change or ignore that rule. You don't have to abide by it just because its in the rulebook. In real life, don't be afraid to break society's rules as long as you aren't doing something illegal or hurting someone else. 

#5. Have Fun
This is probably the most important lesson I've learned from playing roleplaying games. It doesn't matter what kind of game you are playing or what rules you are using. As long as you and your group are having a good time, you're doing it right. Life is too short to worry about what people think about you the entire time. As long as you're enjoying yourself and not hurting others, you should be fine. 

Question Time: What are some of the lessons you've learned from playing roleplaying games? 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Three Games I'd Love to Play/Run

Every gamer has a list of titles they'd love to play or run one day. Since one of my New Year's resolutions was to play/run more games this year other than Pathfinder, I found myself thinking about some of the games I'd like to play the most and might get a chance to do so at some point in 2014.

#1. Numenera
Such a beautiful looking cove
Numenera is a science fantasy roleplaying game designed by Monte Cook. While I didn't donate to the Kickstarter (I was incredibly broke at the time), I've been following the development of this game pretty much from the beginning because I love science fantasy and I wanted to see what Cook would do with it. Thankfully, he didn't disappoint and the game looks like it'd be a lot of fun. Now, I just have to sell my players on the concept...

#2. Monsterhearts
Looks more like a YA Romance novel than a RPG
When I first heard of Monsterhearts, I was incredibly weary due to the creator mentioning Twilight in the video on the Kickstarter page. However, when I learned that Monsterhearts was using the same system from Apocalypse World and Dungeon World, I found myself intrigued enough to check it out. After reading through it, I really want to play or run this. As with Numenera, I just have to sell my group on the concept. 

#3. Torchbearer
Back to the beautiful looking covers
Like Numenera, I've been following the development of Torchbearer from the beginning. I love Mouse Guard and what it did to Burning Wheel's engine. Even thought Torchbearer is a little more complex than Mouse Guard, I don't mind the additional crunch and I love the feel of the game. This one would probably be an easier sell to my group due to the genre. 

Question Time: What games do you really want to play/run?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge: Sign Up Now!

For those of you who are interested, you can now sign up for the Dungeons & Dragons 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge being organized by Stelios V. Perdios over at d20 Dark Ages. 

This should be fun. Just hope I can keep up. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Monstrous Magic Items

Image From Clash of the Titans (1981).
Magic items are easily one of my favorite elements in D&D/Pathfinder. Who doesn't love finding some ancient artifact that allows them to do something cool, like turn invisible or control a dragon? Last year, I talked about how a GM could take the more "generic" magic items and make them more interesting and unique.

However, we're going to focus on a different idea for more unique magic items: monstrous magic items. 

Monstrous magic items are certain monster parts that possess supernatural abilities that players can utilize. A great example of a monstrous magic item is medusa's head from Greek mythology. Even though it's no longer attached to her body, the head still possesses the ability to petrify individuals. 

When designing a monstrous magic item, study the monster you will be using and figure out what part you will be working with and what power that part will possess. Continuing with the medusa's head example, its pretty easy to say that her head would allow the player to use the creature's petrifying gaze ability (turn to stone permanently, 30 feet, Fortitude DC 16 negates), as a standard action (or once per day, whichever you prefer). 

You should also consider how difficult it will be for the characters to obtain the part when determine its supernatural properties. For example, let's say you decide that the scales of a red dragon can grant a character a resistance to fire-based attacks and spells, with the size of the scale determining how much resistance is granted. So, players who might want a scale with a better resistance factor will have to hunt down bigger and stronger red dragons to obtain those scales. 

Finally, you might also add a "gross" factor to the monstrous magic items since you are basically using a most likely dead creature's body part. For example, let's say you allow players to drink a troll's blood, it working like a potion of cure light wounds. However, you might require them to make a Fortitude save while doing it. Success allows the player to receive the healing effect, but failure causes them to regurgitate the blood before the effect can work. This also has the side-effect of limiting the use of troll's blood in this way because its not as reliable as a potion of cure light wounds, but gives the player's an option when they are desperate and don't have a potion available to them. 

Monstrous magic items can add an interesting element to your game and help make more unique magic items, which is always a good thing in my book. Due to all the monsters at a GM's disposal, the possibilities are endless.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fantasy Art Thursday: "Thornkeep" by Wayne Reynolds

Click HERE to go to Wayne Reynolds' Website
Wayne Reynolds seems to be one of those artists who people either love or hate. While I admit he's not a flawless artist (especially when it comes to anatomy and proportion), I enjoy his "dungeonpunk" aesthetic and the man can draw a great action scene. 

This piece, which acts as the cover illustration to the Pathfinder Online supplement "Thornkeep", is a great representation of a grim, lawless frontier town. The dirty streets are illuminated solely by dingy lanterns and the dim lights seeping out of the buildings' windows. Mischievous goblins with crude blades lurk in the shadows, waiting to strike a hooded thief who's stealing the coin purse of a hapless adventurer. 

Reynolds does a great job at showing the dark side of Thornkeep with this illustration, giving the individual who picked up this supplement a good idea what to expect from this frontier settlement. Who wouldn't want to run a campaign with their very own wretched hive of scum & villainy (sorry, I had to say it) and this picture shows that Thornkeep might be a good place to use for that. 

Question Time: What is your favorite Wayne Reynolds' piece? Why do you like it? 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Three Bad Game Master Traits I Hate

What did you expect from GM Grumpy Cat?
Be glad he didn't eat your beloved dice as well.
Almost everyone at one point or another has played with a GM who, for the lack of a more eloquent word, sucked Tarrasque dick. While I've been pretty lucky in my gaming career where most of the GM's I've played with have been pretty good, there are a handful who've left a few mental scars.

Thankfully, those experiences have thought me what not to do as a GM and made my realize a few problematic GM traits to look out for in the future. While there are definitely more than three bad traits a GM can possess, these are the ones that personally annoy me as a player. Your mileage may vary.

1. The Adversarial Game Master
Now, let me make one thing clear: there is a different between tough GMs and adversarial GMs. I consider myself a tough GM because I like to make sure my players are actually challenged and character death is always a possibility at my table. However, I also care about the shared story being told and the enjoyment of my players. 

On the other hand, the adversarial GM only cares about "winning" and will do whatever it takes to "beat" the party. They will throw challenges at them that are so astronomically overpowered the players have no possible way to overcome it (besides not playing the game, of course). They could care less if the players are having a good time. All that matters is they are winning the game and showing those players whose boss. 

2. The Nepotist Game Master
Occasionally, you might run into a GM who likes to play favorites. Maybe their best friend, sibling, or significant other is also in the group and they do everything to make sure this one person is happy to the determent of the rest of the group. Whenever their character tries anything, they always succeed. When the group finds some treasure, their character always gets the best items and the most gold. During combat or RP situations, the GM only pays attention to their character and cares about what they're doing. 

Look, I get that you want to make your friend, family member, or significant other happy, I really do. However, they usually aren't the only person playing the game and you shouldn't ignore them or make them suffer so you can appease this one person. 

3. The Unprepared Game Master
First, let me explain what I mean when I say the "Unprepared Game Master". I am not talking about GMs who utilize a more improv style to running a game or GMs who only rarely come to the game unprepared because they had to deal with some life problems or the like. I'm talking about the GM who constantly shows up to the game with very little to absolutely nothing prepared, don't even truly understand the game system they are using, and could care less about it. 

They could care less that the game is suffering because they are constantly coming to the game without even an idea about what they want to do and lack even the most basic understand of the rules they are using. They just make stuff up on the fly without any thought about how that stuff might affect the game and how its played. They are just too lazy to put any real effort into the game. 

Question Time: What GM traits do you particularly hate? Why do you dislike them? Leave your answers in the comments below. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Random Musings: Magic: The Gathering Sets as Campaign Settings?

M:TG Logo
I have a love/hate relationship with Magic: The Gathering. While I find the game fun to play and the enjoy the strategic elements of building a deck, I've never been a big fan of tournament play and I hate having to keep up with all these different sets and the rules that change and are introduced within them (yes, I understand how strange that statement is since I love roleplaying games and they do the same thing. Humans can be illogical sometimes).

However, there is one specific element about Magic: The Gathering that I've always loved and believe could be utilized for roleplaying games: the background fluff the creators attach to the different sets.

Almost every set of new cards presents a new "plane of existence" that embodies the set's overall theme. For example, the current Theros set is based of Geek mythology, so the plane of existence is based on Greek culture and legends. You can find a lot of the information for each plane of existence on Wikipedia or the Planeswalker's Guide articles on Wizards of the Coast's website.

Since there is a lot of information out there for these planes, I believe you could easily adapt them into campaign settings for a Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder game. Since most of these sets possess creatures and concepts that already exist in both games (like elves and certain classes), conversion shouldn't be all that difficult. Also, the unique nature of some of the planes could lead to some interesting campaigns. For example, I'd love to run a game in Theros, or the Gothic horror inspired plane of Innistad, or the artificial world of Mirrodin.

I can't be the only one, right?

Question Time: Would you ever use a Magic: The Gathering plane as a campaign setting? If so, which set would you use? (Ravnica, Theros, Innistad, Mirrodin, Kamigawa, etc.)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Musings About Class Design

Art by Wayne Reynolds
Recently, I've caught the class designing bug. Ever since Paizo released the Advanced Class Guide Playtest and my disappointment with the "hybrid classes", I've had this urge to create some new base classes for Pathfinder, like the Mountebank (a magical con artist) and the Warlock (a warrior who made a pact with a mysterious entity for power). However, as I work on these classes, a thought occurred to me:

Why am I doing this?

Well, the most obvious answer would be that its fun. Sometimes it's just entertaining to take a concept and see if you can make something enjoyable to play out of it. However, that's not the only reason why I'm doing all of this.

I've mentioned before that I believe a class should have a unique role within the game, something that you really can't achieve with an already existing class. The Swashbuckler concept is a good example of this since you can't really make an adequate version of the concept with the existing options. So, sometimes you want to create a class that will allow your players to utilize this role better.

You might also design a new class to represent a new concept within your campaign setting. For example, let's say your campaign setting possesses a lot of steampunk elements. Since there is this abundance of technology, you decide to design a class built around it. Thus, the Artificer or Gadgetteer is born.

Finally, you might design a class to replace an existing one that you find lackluster or downright broken. For example, you could design a class called the Crusader which is similar to the Paladin, but doesn't require you to be Lawful Good. On the other hand, you might design a revised version of the Monk in the hope of making it less wonky and MAD.

In the end, I guess there are a lot of different reasons why someone might design a new class. Hopefully this post ends up being somewhat coherent and doesn't turn out to be random ramblings.

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 Gaming Resolutions

Since I like jumping onto bandwagons (especially a few days late), I thought I'd post a list of my gaming-related resolutions for 2014. Instead of having a long list of specific resolutions that I will most likely fail to accomplish, I thought I'd focus on three broad resolutions that I can actually complete. 

1. Finishing a Gaming Project
For awhile now, I've been toying around with a few gaming projects. However, I've never managed to complete them (or get them into a playable state at least). So, I want to try and finish at least one of them before the end of the year. Most likely, it will be my own class-based fantasy roleplaying game which shares a name with this blog. Hopefully, I can reach this goal. 

2. Becoming More Involved in Pathfinder Society
Back in November, I played in my first session of Pathfinder Society and really enjoyed myself. Because of that, I want to become more involved this year. I plan on playing a few more sessions and maybe even running a few games in the near future. 

3. Play More Games
This will be the easiest resolution to complete. Last year, I took a long hiatus from gaming and the times I did play, I mostly played Pathfinder or some other D&D variant. This year, I want to try and play more often and play a wider variety of games. I really want to give FATE, Shadowrun 5th Edition, Numenera, and a few other games a try. 

Question Time: What are your gaming resolutions for 2014?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy Birthday J. R. R. Tolkien

For some reason, I really want to smoke a pipe right now...
Today marks the 122nd birthday of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, more commonly known as J. R. R. Tolkien. Since my blog's name is based on a line from The Hobbit, I think its pretty obvious that I really respect Prof. Tolkien and his work. Hell, this hobby might be an entirely different beast if The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings didn't exist.

Happy birthday Prof. Tolkien. You left your mark on an entire genre of fiction and created some great works of fiction that still entertain people to this day.

Mutant Orcs

Art by Louis Green
I have a confession to make. I've never been a big fan of orcs.

Personally, I've always preferred goblinoids over the iconic brutes. I feel like the three goblinoid races (bugbears, goblins, & hobgoblins) offer more variety than orcs and hobgoblins can easily fill the same role.

So, when I started writing my own campaign setting for the Pathfinder RPG, I came very close to not including orcs and just using goblinoids as my go-to savage race. However, I feel like this could be an opportunity to be creative and find an interesting niche for orcs in my fantasy world that would make them unique.

So, here's my idea.

The continent that acts as the focal point of my fantasy world was once controlled by the Allurian Empire. A few centuries ago, the empire was torn apart by a brutal civil war with the imperial states all vying for power.

One kingdom, who was losing the war, became desperate and began to construct a magical weapon which could be their key to winning the Allurian throne. Unfortunately, the weapon mysteriously backfired and the kingdom was destroyed and transformed into a magically-warped wasteland. The arcane radiation slowly mutated the humans who inhabited the kingdom, turning them into ugly, brutish creatures. Due to their now warped minds and the harsh landscape, these creatures became barbaric and adopted a "survival of the fittest" mentality. No longer human, these creatures are now known by a new name: the orcs.

I believe making orcs magically mutated humans adds an interesting, new layer to the classic humanoid race. There's a tragic element to them, since they became these creatures due to their own desperation and meddling with forces they couldn't really control. Also, it gives an explanation for why they can breed with humans and create half-orcs, seeing as they were once humans themselves. Finally, it creates a nice distinction between orcs (which I'd probably play as savage raiders akin to the Reavers from Firefly) and hobgoblins (which I'd probably play as more Tolkien orcs).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy Birthday Dungeons Deep & Caverns Old!

Obligatory "Keep Calm" Meme Inclusion: Check
Exactly one year ago today, I decided to create Dungeons Deep & Caverns Old as an outlet for me to express my ideas about roleplaying games and discuss a hobby that I love with all my heart. Now, I've written 140 posts on a semi-regular basis (with the occasional hiatus here and there due to life and all) and I believe this blog has helped me grow as both a game master and an amateur game designer.

I would like to thank all the readers and commentators. It feels great to know that people are actually reading my ramblings and feel compelled enough to actually leave comments. For the most part, I've loved the discussions that have developed in the comment sections and its been pretty interesting to see all these different perspectives. 

I plan to keep my regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule, and I already have a few ideas and topics I'd like to discuss in the near future. Until then, I thought I'd end this post with a quick look to the past. Here are several of my favorite posts from last year. 
  • Musings on Racial Religions (Part 1 & Part 2): I've always been fascinated by fantasy religions. Its one of the reasons why I love playing clerics so much. So, I had a lot of fun coming up with these alternate belief systems for the other humanoids. I might do a Part 3 sometime in the future, and I might just have a poll to determine what humanoids I use. We'll see. 
  • Heroes of Sandpoint Session Rec
    aps (Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3): Honestly, these were some of the most frustrating posts to write, making sure I remember everything that happened and make sure the posts are actually interesting to read. However, I'd be lying if I said I hated them. I think the frustration actually makes me like them a little bit more weirdly enough. 
  • Dungeon World, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Game (Click Here): This is easily one of my most popular posts, which still kind of baffles me since its just me talking about how much fun I had playing a session of Dungeon World. However, I had fun writing it and I believe its one of my better written posts. 
  • The Problem With Women in Fantasy Art (Click Here): This is a topic that I feel very strongly about, and I enjoyed talking about it. The fact that Dave Gross left a comment on the post didn't hurt either. 
  • Flavorful Features & Flavorful Races (Click Here & Click Here): While these didn't get that much attention, I had fun writing them and still believe you can do a lot of cool things just through flavor alone. However, that's hardly a groundbreaking idea, but it doesn't make the point any less valid. 
  • Five Traits I Look For In Players & Game Masters (Click Here & Click Here): I'm not sure why, but I really like writing advice posts. If I had to pick, I think these two were my favorite to write. 
So, 2013 has come and gone. Hopefully 2014 will be just as eventful. I hope everyone has a good year of gaming. 

Question Time: What was your favorite gaming moment of 2013?