Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

UK D&D Tweetup 4

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

For Immediate Release: Tuesday 29th Jan 2013

UK D&D Tweetup 4

The 4th annual UK D&D Tweetup, a D&D 4e mini event will be taking place in Leeds this spring. The event, which is organised mainly by D&D players on Twitter, will give some of the UK’s best dungeon masters and players the chance to get together and play D&D in the historic surroundings of Leeds City Museum.

The event will be held on Saturday 16th March, between 11am and 4pm at Leeds City Museum and will cost £5 to enter which includes a free gift and a strip of raffle tickets which will give you the chance to win some amazing prizes, donated by some well-known and some less well-known companies in the RPG world.
Started in 2010, the UK D&D Tweetups are a not-for-profit set of events run annually, and organised and promoted via Twitter. They are designed to allow the best of the UK D&D scene to meetup, chat about the game they love, and play in games that push the boundaries of what is expected from D&D 4th Edition. The Tweetup events attract a lot of industry support, with raffle prizes donated from household names in the RPG scene like Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Kobold Press, and this year is no different, with big name companies like TSR Inc donating several copies of their new Gygax Magazine to the prize fund, but also support from the unrecognized heroes of the genre that make kick ass products, such as Unknown Tome’s Trial of the Underkeep, Dias Ex Machina Games’ Ultramodern4, and Enhanced4e.

There has always been a mix of homebrew games, and official material from Wizards of the Coast at the tweetups, with the tweetup’s being priviledged to run the first international session of Shawn Merwins’ excellent Karalels Revenge and also the first international public playtest of the earliest iteration of the ‘D&D Next’ rules. In the past,the homebrew games have seen the characters shrunk to the size of mouse and face off against huge cats, had the players attempt to board a flying ship, and fight a blue dragon in his lair surrounded by smoke and flashes of lightning.

This years games see two freelancers for Kobold Press, Rich Green and Paul Baalham take up the mantle of Dungeon Master, with Rich showing of his political and story driven Parsantium campaign setting, and Paul demonstrating Kobold Press’ detailed and unique Midgard campaign setting, using the recently released Midgard Bestiary and Defenders of Midgard player supplement. Tweetup veteran, Symatt returns as a DM for the 4th year running, while organiser Adam Page steps up to run a murder mystery game set on a massive 3’x5′ map.

This year, the tweetups move from their previous location of Mondo Comico in Nottingham, and travel north to Leeds. The events will take place in the conference rooms of the Leeds City Museum, a beautifully restored Grade II listed building located in Leeds city centre on the edge of Millennium Square, a short walk from the train station. A £5 entry fee covers the room hire and insurance, a free gift, and a strip of raffle tickets for the prizes. Additional strips will be £1, with all proceeds going to Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Additional Information

What: The 4th annual D&D mini event, organised by twitter, giving some of the UK’s best DM’s and players a chance to meetup and play.
When: Sat 16th March, 11:00-16:00
Where: Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, Leeds, LS2 8BH
How Much: £5 entry fee, with free gift, and strip of raffle tickets.
Contact: Adam Page, adam@leedsdnd.co.uk, @adampageuk
Signup: http://www.facebook.com/events/477185702319052/
Systems Supported: D&D 4e

Whats Next?

Posted: May 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

So whats next in the claendar of UK events for Rise of the Underdark?

If you’re in Leicester, Nottingham, or St Albans, you’ve got a chance to redeem the reward card from The Sun Never Rises to receive your ruby medallion of lathander and hope that it helpes you survive the Web of The Spider Queen encounters season that starts this wednesday.

And then, on the 9th of June, gamers from around the country will once again descend upon Mondo Comico to attempt to survive and beat the new Lair Assault season, Spider Killer…

Drawing on previous adventures such as Journey the River Sargauth,Undermountain: The Lost Level, and Expedition to Undermountain, our foolish brave adventurers will descend into the depths of Undermountain, the ancient playground of the mad wizard Halaster Blackcloak…

Signup for this event here: http://www.meetup.com/EMRPGG/events/63232992/

Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast asked me to review the Into the Unknown book and provided a review copy. Because I already bought my own copy, the review copy has been donated to a member of the UK community who is currently unemployed.

Into The Unknown: Dungeoneers Survival Handbook

Into The Unknown is not the first book in 4e’s history to look at Dungeon Survival. The previous one was written by Bill Slavicsek and Chris Perkins (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dungeon-Survival-Guide-Dungeons-Dragons/dp/0786947306/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top) in the run up to 4e’s launch, and featured no rules materials. Much of that books contents can be found within the new book, expanded and improved.

Into The Unknown contains a mixture of player material and DM’s material, with plenty of rules material backed up by oodles of well written and imaginative background material. This background material surfaces in the character themes section, presenting us with 7 personalities, one for each of the new themes presented in the book, and expanding on their backstory, history, thoughts, and experiences throughout the book. I was dubious about this when it was first announced, but it works really well, and as they suggest in the book, gives you ideas to base your own roleplaying on.

The seven new themes follow the structure of those from Neverwinter and Dragon #399 contain the bulk of the new player material.

* Bloodsworn are adventures who seek to destroy one creature or one species at the expense of all others. Their starting feature is a once per encounter re-roll when you are bloodied. Unlike most themes that give a skill bonus at level 5, bloodsworn strengthens your attacks when you second wind, and instead gives the bonuses at level 10. The background material covers Meliera, an eladrin who once tried to help oppressed drow, but after one murdered her husband, she has vowed to seek out the drow involved and wipe them out.

* Deep Delvers are experts at exploring the Underdark. Gaining bonuses to dungeoneering skills and the ability to re-roll their dungeoneering checks, it’s a great theme for more skill based campaigns rather than combat focused ones. The background for Karl Deepwalker is that him and his caravan guide company were betrayed from within, with Karl only surviving by fleeing deeper into the caverns of the underdark.

* Escaped Thrall’s are the altered, warped individuals captured by aboleths or illithids. A perfect theme for players wanting a psionic theme that isn’t Dark Sun based, you gain an extra power point, and a powerful interrupt against charm and psychic attacks. Its background is of Mord, captured as a child by aboleths, and still under their influence. It’s my favourite theme out of the seven, having probably the most flavour out of all the themes we’ve seen so far.

* The Trapsmith theme does what it says on the tin. It’s a theme thats a long time coming, but I feel its massively flawed. Unlike other themes that use your highest statistic, the Trapsmith is solely based on Intelligence, making it a great theme for mages and artificers, but not many other classes. In addition, at the themes heart it is a single encounter power with minimal damage, even the optional utility powers are weak, being dailies. Its background, of Thorry the Unlucky, a svirfneblin with a knack for dealing with traps is poor… if he is so good, how come he’s managed to lose two fingers to traps?

* Treasure Hunter’s are viewed as selfish money grabbing fools, thrill seekers, mercenaries… Again, its features are better suited to a skill based game. It’s got some of the best optional utility powers in the book and of the themes that have been released. It’s also got a brilliant background for Ella, showing exactly how a warlock pact can be used to form a character.

* I suspect Underdark Envoy will be a popular theme in the upcoming Encounters season, as it gives a reason for surface dwellers to deal with the Underdark and vice versa. Its also got a great Combat Advantage granting starting power. Khiira’s background is not quite what I was expecting, but works well, with her betraying her drow roots to form a relationship with a duergar, and now lives on the run.

* The Underdark Outcast covers a wide range of characters, exiled beings, people lost in the underdark who have survived on their own etc. It’s starting power reflects this, giving characters who move away from the rest of the group a bonus, while its later features cement the characters ability to survive. Korag the Clanless is another good background, a dwarf who disgraced his clan, and was shaved, branded and exiled. He’s got plenty of roleplaying potential.

Next up in player material are the races. Much like Heroes of Shadow, we get some rehashed races and some new ones. The goblin and kobold races have been updated, gaining the essentials idea of a primary and option of secondary stat bonuses, while the kobolds overpowered racial ability has been replaced with a slightly more balanced version. We get a great choice of racial utilities and more importantly, and a massive improvement over the Heroes of Shadow, we get a nice selection of racial feats for these.

The one new race we get is the Svirfneblin, a race of deep gnomes. I know the name is a part of classic D&D lore, but come on, can you honestly tell me that everyone round a gaming table is going to be able to pronounce that without it sounding stupid? The svirfneblin are not inherently evil, have a strange speech pattern, and their racial powers are generally earth based. It’s not a particularly exciting race, but conversely it should suit a lot of the essentials classes allowed for the Encounters season.

The last of the players material are the dungeon themed powers, which see’s the return of psionic powers and skill powers from PHB3. While the other Heroes of books have given new powers to fairly specific classes, Into the Unknown turns it on it’s head, offering a random selection of power types to a random collection of classes at a random selection of levels.
It works however, because the powers are collected into categories with added background material to explain their grouping and uses the new layout style with additional flavour text per power. The categories are Fear of the Dark, Secrets of the Deep Guides, Shadow of the Ziggurat, Seekers of the Lost Lore, Thieves Guide of Maelbrathyr, From the Vault of the Drow and Battle Tactics of Cor Talcor. I tend to play at much lower level than most of these powers are given at, so this section is of limited use to me.

While much of the rest of the book is aimed at DM’s, its also got plenty of player related material. From sidebars about why not to use herd animals to check for traps, to advice on what rituals should be used, to looking at different dungeon types. I really like the dungeon types section, I’d never considered that a floating castle dungeon would require similar exploration tactics as an ice palace or a mine.

Dungeon Dwellers is where the player backgrounds from the themes section really begin to shape this book. Each monster is introduced with a quote from one of the seven, and then an explanation of the creatures place in the underdark’s food chain. I felt this section could have been better, a second quote and a brief passage on tactics for dealing with the creature in question would have been nice to see.

Infamous Dungeons is where the majority of the earlier Dungeon Survival Guide resurfaces, with the classic dungeons of D&D lore highlighted, and a background or feat related to characters linked to that dungeon is given. I’d have liked to see Castle Ravenloft’s mention here give the castle a definitive place in Nerath or the Shadowfell, but with D&D Next on the horizon, that was never going to happen…

Dungeoneers Tools highlights a flaw in 4e, that mundane equipment has a minimal impact on the combat side of the game. The tools here, like those in other books, give plenty of flavour and skill bonuses, but how many characters entering the Underdark will really worry about carrying a hacksaw when their 22 strength slayer can smash through anything… The Alchemical items are a nice touch, but suffer the usual problem of these items, their attack bonuses are often 3 or 4 less than your normal attacks.

Masters of the Dungeon is the last chapter, an immense 50+ page section designed for DM’s, covering lots of different aspects of creating an adventure, and it’s advice is solid, whether you’re designing one for the Underdark or a standard adventure. Its such good advice that I’d say this section is essential for any 4e DM, as it show you how you can improve your game with better adventure hooks, skill challenges, and environments suited to the monsters you’ve chosen. The sidebars give an example of how handouts can improve a dungeons backstory, and it show how to link themes into the adventure, which is something that has been lacking given themes are a relatively new addition to the game.

This chapter, also covers special rewards, and its nice to see Power Word Kill and Wish, almost legendary aspects of the game when I started in 1990, see their 4e return, and I admire the way they’ve been incorporated into the game. Dungeon Companions gives us 4 monstrous companions, including the iconic Meepo from 3rd edition. I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting this section, and while its brief (3 pages) its pretty good.

The books ends with 2 appendices. The first, Build Your Own Dungeon, reminds me of the DM’ing advice I first saw in the D&D Rules Cyclopedia regarding drawing it out and detailing it. The second appendix gives us random tables… For some, these might seem out of place, but I love this nod to the past, and I’m hoping that the trend of including some random elements continues into D&D Next.

Whats missing…
With the Heroes of Shadow, I felt the lack of racial feats was a mistake. With Heroes of Feywild, it was the lack of lycanthrope or fey related clerical domains, with Heroes of the Elemental Chaos, i’d have liked to see the genasi reprinted with added racial options… So what’s missing in Into the Unknown?

The Drow… While mentioned lots of time, their is a distinct lack of Drow related goodness. This book would have been a perfect time to print the racial utilities that were featured in Dragon, and add in some new feats or make ones like the Xendrik Weapon Training from Eberron a core feat.

Paragon Paths… Presumably, the new powers are meant to replace these and Epic Destinies, and maybe there’s an assumption that Underdark adventures are only used in the Heroic tier?

Tactics… Monsters are mentioned but no real advice from the seven npc’s on how to deal with these threats is given.

New Monsters… As a DM, I always love new critters to throw at players, and it would have been nice to see some new Grimlock options for example.

NPC’s… Our seven NPC’s are given backgrounds and quotes, but we never actually see their abilities. I’d have tied this into D&DI, with the NPC’s available on the website for use in the Encounters season.

In summary, if you’re a 4e player, this book once again gives you plenty of new material that can be used in the current Encounters season, which is a great benefit. Outside of this season, its usage is much more home campaign focused and may take months of play before its benefits become obvious. For DM’s I’d put this book up there with Neverwinter as being an essential purchase for its advice on how to build better adventures.

The Aftermath

Posted: May 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

As far as I know, the 29 people who came to the drowathon have all got home safely, and several of them went away with lighter wallets and heavier bags…

First of all, I want to say a big thank you to all that came. As i’ve said before, all I do is suggest a date and a venue, and its the crazy wonderful people who listen to me and come that actually make the event what it is. Without people turning up, i’d look like a sad pathetic loner…

Secondly, I’m grateful that Mondo Comcio was willing o host us for free for yet another event. It was great to see the shop full of people having a good time, and it was nice to see people buying stuff. I’m not sure how many Zombie Dice he had left but that seemed to be flying off the shelf.

Thirdly, a huge thanks to Wizards of the Coast, especially to Chris Tulach for opening up the adventure to conventions other than PAX East, and to Shawn Merwin for writing something that was a blast to run.

The 2 tables of 3d terrain were nice, though I’d say that Shane’s was better made and better painted than mine!

Looking at the numbers, 29 is excellent. After a fairly poor turnout at the Kalarels Revenge mini-event at the end of march/start of april, I was really worried that we’d struggle to fill 3 tables. Out of those 29, 14 of you had not been to a tweetup event before, and Ian and Mark are not from our extended circle of friends, so having faces that are new to all of us is an absolutely awesome fact for me.

We didn’t raise much money for charity, and I’ll admit I didn’t push the issue much on my table. The prize for the most drow kill seemed to a nicely contested competition. On my table, we had two players tied with 3 kills (with some definite kill stealing going on), Matt got 4, but the prize went to Wingshun from Shane’s table with 5 kills! The prize for the least drow damage on the other hand, inspired some downright heretical behaviour, and 3 people, Efka, Tilly and James Broadley tied with zero damage inflicted. James even had the underhand tactics of attempting to heal drow… A zombie dice rolloff was chosen as the solution, and Efka proudly won the book.

Lots of Lords of Waterdeep was played, and after a confusing first round, the game rocks, its fast, its fun and its surprisingly easy to play once you understand the ambassador etc.

As always, it’s nice to pop to the Pitcher and Piano for a few drinks, it’s a stunning venue, and it was nice to sit back and hear the other DM’s and players sharing their stories from the day.

So, positives aside… What went wrong…

Primarily for me, it was the fact we only managed to fit 1 game of D&D in on each table, despite having a 2 hour time limit built into the adventure, all four tables over ran, and thus we missed the chance to set a second game of that going for the DM’s or running a different adventure. I was looking forward to a chance to play…

Secondly, Colman missed out on a game… When I’d set off on Friday we only had 28 signups, but we’d gained another during the evening, which put us beyond 4 full tables. I’d kind of expected someone not to turn up and thus we’d be ok, but nope, all of you came… I evither should have set a limit, or made sure I had a 7th character and got him onto my table. Having someone sat out and not involved in the event is embarassing for me and something the team need to plan for.

My third criticism is that I didn’t get chance to chat to you all. Despite arriving around 10ish, most of you were already here, and by the time i’d got everything set up and ready for the DM’s, I missed out on chatting to people like Matt, Rhys, Darrell, James, and all of Shane’s group. A big part of me thinks that maybe I should be more hands off, letting someone else DM that 4th table, and then I could have gone around photographing tables, listening in on the adventures. (Something David gets to do…)

The day was a great success, and I really enjoyed DM’ing for my table, however, we can only improve these events if we know what did and what didn’t work for you.

Sexism in roleplaying is the big topic at the moment, and covers a massive range of factors, from the ratio of male to feamle art shown, to the type of art, to the party roles assigned to certain genders. It is certainly a larger topic than I can wrap my head around, and I’m thankful that there are people in the RPG community who can, and who have the ability to discuss it openly and sensibly.

I was involved in such a debate last night, and it attracted the attention of big names like Wolfgang Baur, Sarah Darkmagic,  Geeky Lyndsay and Trevor Kidd. There were a few points where my comments certainly could have done with more explanation than 140 chars allows, and I felt there were a few comments that were a little too directed (including some made by myself), but on the whole the discussion was honest, valid, and fruitful.

I continued this discuss in private with a few people, and I’m very aware that as one of the core sources of D&D events in the UK, it is the UK D&D Tweetups’ responsibility to support the views of the wider D&D community.

To this end, all events run by or promoted by the Tweetup team will try to adhere to the following:

1. Any pre-gens provided for an event will show a equal representation of male to female characters. If this requires re-writing official pre-gen backgrounds, altering artwork or other such actions, will will engage with the people who have the skills to make this happen. If the pre-gens are built by the Tweetup team, we will ensure that there is a male and female version of each character.

2. We will put in place a confidential feedback system, so that if you have an issue with a DM or player at an event run by the Tweetup team, you can report it and know that it will be acted upon. This could be anything, from what you feel is a bad rules call, to a sexist comment, or worse. The team cannot improve the experience if we don’t know what the problems are.

3. We will pro-actively endorse the female gaming community. We will link to blogs from prominent members regarding this topic in order to ensure that the uk community has a chance to read the various opinions and view in this debate, and to enable them to put forwards their own views on the matter.

While these 3 steps are small and limited in scope, we feel they are steps in the right direction to creating a gaming culture where the female members of the scene, new or old, feel comfortable.

I’m a day late on this news, but May’s “In The Works” column at WotC’s website has this little nugget in the intro:

Web of the Spider Queen begins May 16th. Soon after, you’ll find a related hunt to intercept the drow’s wartime intelligence and learn more of their plans—so keep a watch for it on the Rise of the Underdark hub!

To me, that sounds like WotC are planning to run an Alternate Reality Game (ala Halo’s I Love Bee’s) across their website and centred around the hub. The potential outcome here is great, use IP Tracking to capture each countries success and tailor the follow-up Encounters season accordingly… More realistically, it might give you an advantage on knowing the number of opponents you will face in an upcoming fight, allowing you to plan healing/daily power use.

More players!

Posted: May 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

So, while cleaning up my caravan ready for the trip down to Nottingham next weekend, lots of people came to the website, and 3 players let me know they’d be coming.

First up, after years of trying to get him to come and always conflicting with his hectic life, Darrell from Daventry, aka @BrotherBaldric, has been lured north to join us.

Secondly, Efka and his wife Elaine are joining us ahead of the Chaos City Comics’ Rise of the Underdark event #FirstAssault on the 19th.

Finally, there are a few of the Mondo Comico encounters players who have yet to confirm if they will be joining us for this introduction to the season ahead.

Edit:

And then, just after I posted this, I got another request to join the event, so one of Darrell’s friends is coming with his daughter. Current count, 24, with 5 possibles.

Because of the increase in numbers, it looks like we’ll be adding a fourth table to the mix!