Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Year in Review: My Five Favorite Posts of 2014

Today is New Year's Eve, meaning another year has come and gone. Nearly two years ago I created Dungeons Deep & Caverns Old as a way for me to express myself and have some fun. While I've had some rough spots here and there, I think I've achieved that goal.

Although I'm looking for to the new year and seeing this blog grow more and more, I thought it would be fun to take a moment to look back on 2014 and some of the posts I made over the past twelve months. These are my five favorite posts of the year. They're not ranked in any particular order, they're just the posts I enjoyed writing the most and I felt deserved pointing out.

This November post is the newest post to be included on this list, but I felt like it deserved mention because I truly believe the message I was espousing here. While I have some serious problems and quibbles with Shadowrun 5th Edition's rules, I've managed to have fun running it due to my love of the setting and my decision to just go with the flow and ignore any of the minutiae that would normally cause the game to come to a screeching hault so we could look something up. It's a lesson I'll remember whenever I'm running another crunchy system in the future. 

Generally, I enjoy writing posts that take a look at some of the sacred cows of Dungeons & Dragons and similar games, arguing for or against them. I wrote a few of those this year, but I feel like my favorite has to be this piece about why I defend the decision to give the paladin an alignment restriction. Although I've recently lightened up on my stance on this topic slightly, feeling like paladins with a restriction of "any good" wouldn't be so bad, I still enjoyed writing this piece and felt like it belonged on this list. 

Anyone who knows me knows my utter disappointment with Paizo's Advanced Class Guide. I personally feel like it's the worse book Paizo has published, both in the rules and editing department, and I feel like the "hybrid classes" were either completely pointless and unnecessary (like the Arcanist or the Hunter), or poorly executed or hampered by the odd biases of Pathfinder's design team (like the Swashbuckler). This post details my attempt at reworking one of the classes, and I feel like I did a good job. This was also my first attempt at designing a class, so I have fond memories of it for that reason alone. 

This is one of the older posts on the list, having appeared on the blog back in February. Within the post, I discuss the sub-genre of "Dark Fantasy", how much I love it, and why many people seem to misunderstand it and let it devolve into a "grimdark" nightmare. The reason why I decided to include it here is because I believe it's one of my better post and it espouses ideas I feel more people read and remember when attempting to create dark fantasy stories or campaigns. 

Okay, I'm cheating somewhat here. This isn't one post, but a series of five posts detailing my unfortunately short Heroes of Sandpoint campaign. These were my first attempt at recapping my gaming sessions, and I feel like I did a decent job of that. While they were easily the hardest posts to write, since trying to make session notes entertaining to read is rather difficult, but I have a fondness fobr them and they bring back good memories. If I had to pick one, I probably would go with Strange Happenings at the Old Light, feeling like it was the best written and most entertaining to read. 

I'm truly excited for 2015. I already have some post topics lined up for the new year, and I have big plans for the blog itself. Hopefully some of those plans will come to fruition. I hope everyone has a good New Year's, and I'll see you all on Friday. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Tinkering With Party Games

Sometimes, I like to tinker with my board & card games. Occasionally, I do it to fix a rule I feel ruins my ability to have fun with the game. However, I mostly do this to see what the game would be like if you switched something out or swapped one theme for another. I find party & social games are the easiest to do this with.

Since this is the holiday season and I figure people will be playing a lot of games this Wednesday night, I thought I'd post two of my favorites. I'm sure I'm not the first person to come up with these, but I thought I'd post them anyway. Have fun with them, and feel free to post your own experimentation with the subject in the comments below. 

Do you play Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity a lot? So much so that you've seen a lot of the card combinations and want to liven things up a little? Try mixing the two together! You can either replace the black cards in Cards Against Humanity with the green cards from Apples to Apples, or you can switch out CAH's white cards with A2A's red cards. You might be surprised how well the two work together. Especially if you own the Apples to Apples Party Box 

Like The Resistance, but want to see what the game might be like with a different theme? Maybe one a little reminiscent of John Carpenter's The Thing? Try this variant I've been toying around with. When dealing out loyalty cards, only include one traitor into the initial allotment. This traitor is a shapeshifting alien that possesses the ability to assimilate and corrupt other players. 

Take the remaining traitor cards and place them at the center of the table. During the phase where everyone closes their eyes, the Alien replaces a number of players' cards with the traitor cards, "assimilating" them. Once this is finished, everyone moves the card in front of them a little (as you would in One Night Ultimate Werewolf), and each player takes one final look at their cards. The game plays out as normal, using the same rules as The Resistance. However, to get the most out of this variant, the players should really embrace the horror of the situation, sowing paranoia throughout the game. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Holidays From Dungeons Deep & Caverns Old!

Hello everyone! I have a quick announcement to make. Due to this week being the week of Christmas, I'm going to take a very short break from the blog to honor the season and allow me to relax just a little. However, I didn't want to just disappear without saying anything. So, I just want to say Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to everyone who reads this blog. I hope you have a good time with your friends & family, play some awesome games, and enjoy the season. Take care, and I'll see you all next week.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pathfinder Musings: Card-Based Initiative

Occasionally, I like to experiment with different interpretations of familiar rules. Usually, I do this to see if an alternate method might be better than the official rule. However, I sometimes just mess with the rules to see what will happen. 

This is one of those times.

While the initiative system presented within the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook works fine, I wanted to see what an alternate initiative system might look like, one loosely based off the initiative system found in Savage Worlds. Feel free to use it in your games. Just remember this is mostly an experiment and hasn't been tested yet. 

This variant requires the use of a regular deck of playing cards with the Jokers removed. At the beginning of combat, each player is dealt a number of cards equal to 1 + the player's Initiative modifier. For the time being, ignore the positive or negative elements of the modifier. This means a character with a -2 Initiative modifier would receive three cards, even though the character possesses a negative modifier. 

Once the cards are dealt, the players with positive modifiers keep the one with the highest value while players with negative modifiers keep the one with the lowest value. For the purposes of this variant, aces are treated as a result of one. The player with the highest value card goes first, with each player following them in order of descending value. Players who receive cards that possess the same value act in order of the suit of the cards (Spades > Hearts > Diamonds > Clubs). 

For those wishing to include the Jokers, use the following additional rule. Players who are dealt a Joker ignore the other cards, keeping it no matter what. The player with the Joker decides where they fall in the Initiative order. If two players were dealt Jokers, the player with the colored Joker chooses first. Game Masters looking to shake up combat can deal out new cards each round, gathering the old cards and re-shuffling the deck. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Monster: Krampus

Large Monstrosity, Chaotic Evil

Armor Class 14 (Natural Armor)
Hit Points 76 (9d10+27)
Speed 40 ft.

STR 18 (+4), DEX 11 (+0), CON 16 (+3), INT 10 (+0), WIS 16 (+3), CHA 9 (-1)

Skills Perception +7, Religion +4, Stealth +4
Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 17
Languages Abyssal, Common
Challenge 3 (700 XP)

Krampus' Sack. Once per round, the Krampus can attempt to force a creature within 5 ft. of him into the magical sack strapped to his back. The creature must be at least Medium sized or smaller for this to work. The Krampus' target must make an opposed Strength check, with failure resulting in them being forced into the bag and receives the restrained condition. Every round thereafter, the creature can attempt a DC 14 Strength check to escape the bag.

Reckless. At the start of his turn, the Krampus can gain advantage on all melee weapon attack rolls it makes during that turn, but attack rolls made against it also have advantage until the start of his next turn.

Birch Bundle. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8+4) bludgeoning damage.

Gore. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8+4) piercing damage.

Alignment Insight. The Krampus targets one creature it can see within 30 ft. of it. The target must make a Charisma (Deception) check against the Krampus' Wisdom (Insight) check. If the krampus wins, it magically learns whether the creature is Good, Neutral, or Evil.

The creature known as the "Krampus" is a fiendish beast who supposedly kidnaps bad children, using incredibly gruesome methods to punish them. Although many believe the Krampus to simply be a dark fairy tale told to children to frighten them into behaving, a handful of individuals who inhabit the more rural areas of the world have sworn they've witnessed the creature stuffing a naughty child into the sack perched upon its back, carrying the poor soul off into a nearby forest.

Although the Krampus is evil and sadistic, the creature does have a strange sense of morality and will only purposefully harm those he deems "naughty". Some even believe the Krampus can be reasoned with and you can make deals with him to save one of the children he has kidnapped, trading on punishment for another. However, these stories have not been verified.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tricking Out Your Board Games

You would have to be crazy to prefer blocks over these.
Don't you hate it when a really great board game happens to be packaged with some truly lackluster components? While I love Lords of Waterdeep and Pandemic, I hate that both games utilize boring, colored cubes instead of something more interesting or thematic. Sometimes, the little things DO matter, especially when you're trying to invoke theme with something. 

Thankfully, options exist for tricking out board games to make them much cooler and maybe even a little unique. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term "tricking out", I'll do my best to define it. People who are "tricking out" something are adding additional or replacement elements to make the product cooler or more visually pleasing to them. They might also want to personalize the product, making their copy of said product more unique. Usually this term is used when talking about customizing cars, but you can do it for your board games too, and there are some cool products you can pick up to make the job easier. 

The Broken Token, for example, offers some pretty cool products for customizing your board games. Looking for a good replacement for those stupid cubes in Lords of Waterdeep? Pick up their awesome DnDeeples. When you need to get some Fighters for that frustrating mandatory quest you need to complete, you can now grab pieces that actually look like warriors. Also, you get a hundred of them for about $25. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. 

Another company offering some pretty cool products for tricking out your games is LITKO. Love Pandemic, but hate the virus cubes and boring pawns? Well, LITKO offers some cool virus tokens and upgraded player pawns. While purchasing both products will cost you roughly $55 ($40 for the tokens & $15 for the pawns), I believe the price is worth it.

However, you don't have to purchase specialized bits & pieces to customize your game. For example, you can purchase a pack of petri dishes to store your recently acquired Pandemic virus tokens for about $10, you can pick up some cool miniatures to replace the crappy cardboard monster tokens in Betrayal at House on the Hill, or some cool fake coins to use for Settlers of Catan's welfare variant. 

I hope this post inspires some people to customize & trick out their board games, making them more awesome. I can highly recommend The Broken Token & LITKO for professionally made additions and they have so much cool stuff. Also, keep your eyes open for other cool stuff that you can use with your board games to add theme or make the experience better. We customize so much of our products. Why not do the same with our board games? 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Do You Wanna Build a Planet?

Now that I have you singing an imaginary parody of "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?", I want to bring something really cool to your attention.

Through a link post on Go Make Me a Sandwich (which is a cool blog you should check out), I found this pretty awesome program that allows you to randomly generate your very own planet!

I think you would have to be truly dead inside to not find this awesome. Who wouldn't want to make their own planet out of oddly shaped hexagons? Boring people, that's who.

Now, if you excuse me, I'm going to go back to humming Frozen songs. Don't judge me.

Pathfinder Musing: Magical Exhaustion

Who doesn't love playing a spellcaster in Pathfinder? You're wielding powers that can alter reality. What's not cool about that? Well, running out of spell slots is the answer to that question. Because Pathfinder uses the more traditional Vancian spell system, spellcasters will occasionally run out of spell slots and not be able to cast their more powerful spells until they take an 8 hour rest. 

With that annoyance in mind, I've been toying with ways to allow spellcasters to continue casting spells after they've run out of spell slots. The idea I finally came up with is a pretty simple one: magical exhaustion. 

Spell slots within the rules represent the character's spellcasting limits, how far they can safely push themselves without tiring themselves out. Why not take that idea a little further? What if characters could continue casting spells after they've run out of slots, but at the cost of hurting themselves? How would that work mechanically? Well, I have two different possibilities. 

The first is a little more complicated. Once a spellcaster runs out of spell slots, they can attempt to cast additional spells at the cost of possibly exhausting themselves further. After casting each additional spell, the character must make a Fortitude save with a DC equal to 10 + the spell's level. If they succeed this save, nothing happens. However, if they fail, the spellcaster becomes fatigued. If they fail again, they become exhausted. If they fail a third time, they drop unconscious. 

The second method is much easier and is inspired by the kineticist's burn mechanic. Once a spellcaster runs out of spell slots, they can continue casting spells by taking nonlethal damage. The amount of nonlethal damage the character takes is equal to the spell's level. That's it. 

I personally like the simplicity of the second method, but like the limitations placed on the number of times you can cast said spells created by the first method. However, these are simply ideas and I don't know how they'll actually work at the table. Feel free to use them in your games if you want.

Which method do you prefer?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

5e Musings: 0-Level Characters

Although I haven't played it as much as I would like, I absolutely love Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC). I love the tone, the craziness, and how lethal the game is. Part of the charm of DCC is the character funnel, where each player randomly generates four 0-level characters which they run through a funnel. Most of the characters will meet a grisly fate, but one or maybe two will manage to escape the dungeon alive and possess enough experience to reach 1st level in one of the seven classes.

Because I find this element of DCC so entertaining, part of me wants to work a similar method for character creation into 5e. These rules are a rough attempt at doing that. I haven't playtested them yet, and probably won't be able to for awhile seeing as the next game on my GMing docket is a Fate Accelerated game. However, I thought I'd go ahead and post them here so others might give them a try. Feel free to use them in your games and give me some feedback. 

Using this method, characters begin with no class level. Instead, they start as simple individuals who have just started down the path of the adventurer. When creating a 0-level character, use the following rules:
  • Generate your ability scores using one of the methods listed in the D&D Basic Rules PDF or the Player's Handbook
  • Select one of the races listed in the D&D Basic Rules or the Player's Handbook
  • Select one of the backgrounds listed in the D&D Basic Rules or the Player's Handbook
  • Start with 4 hit points, modified by your Constitution modifier. 
  • Start with a +1 proficiency bonus, training in the skills associated with your background & race, and any weapons associated with your race. 
  • Automatically proficient with daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, & light crossbows. 
  • Start with the equipment associated with your background and any other equipment you can purchase with the gold given to you by your background. 
Once you've gained 100 XP, you obtain 1st level in a class of your choice, gaining the benefits of that class. Your proficiency bonuses becomes +2 and you receive a number of additional hit points based on your selected class' hit die (+2 for d6, +4 for d8, +6 for d10, & +8 for d12). 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Initial Impressions of Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser

The first teaser trailer for J. J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released. I first saw it while visiting my FLGS when one of the owners had it playing on the TV that sits one one of the many shelves behind the counter and I've seen it several times since then. I thought I'd give my initial impressions and what I hope to see in the theaters next December. 

While this is just a quick teaser, I can already say I'm way more optimistic about Episode VII than I ever was about Episodes I, II, or III. Mostly because George Lucas isn't directing or writing it. However, the effects also seem to be more in line with the original trilogy than the prequels, possessing that lived-in quality that the sleek CGI of the prequels desperately lacked. The film also seems to be visually interesting, which is a plus. However, I'm still curious about the story and the characters. I hope they're just as interesting. 

Finally, I want to address the elephant standing in the desert: the black storm trooper. When I saw the teaser, I knew the racist geeks would be furious and I wasn't disappointed. Personally, I'm glad we're moving away from the "all storm troopers are clones of the same guy" crap. However, if you need an explanation, just assume the Empire recruited some extra manpower to strengthen their troops after the death of the Emperor and Darth Vader or decided to vary the stock of their clones. 

Anyway, what did you think of the teaser? Are you excited, or are you more cautious? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.