Random Dungeons & Confused Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons has tables for almost everything, including dungeons.

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One feature in the new Dungeons & Dragons is the random dungeon generator tables, and it works. It works so well that I have spent a weekend just rolling random dungeons, one of which is located in a cloud and created by a beholder, and another is an old temple created by yuan-ti but later abandoned by them for some strange reason. I could stop here but no, I want to roll more dungeons! More monsters! And more deadly traps!

How does it work?

There is a table for nearly everything but lets start with who created the dungeon. Knowing the creator gives you a basis for dungeon features and so on. There are other defining features as well that you can roll for: is it a cult or made by evil barbarian human? Is it a stronghold, a lair or a death trap? You can define its history as well and flavour it with stories: Why has the yuan-ti abandoned their temple? What kind of disaster happened that the lich was ultimately destroyed? Why the beholder built his stronghold up in the clouds?

So many questions but these can be thought upon and answered later. Now it is time to roll our dungeon!

Random Dungeon

Random Dungeon

First we need to know where the dungeon is located. There are two tables for it: if you roll oo from the die you can then roll on the exotic location table. This dungeon that I am making is found under graveyard. It is created by a cult that worships neutral deity and obviously it is a tomb. However, they found something in the tomb while building it that caused their destruction and the tomb has been free for other monsters to dwell in.

I then continued with throwing the starting area, and then passages, chambers, more passages and chambers, some stairs here and there, trapped doors and so on. In the end I got a tomb that has seven levels in it with plenty of rooms. Next I’ll roll the purpose for each chamber, in what condition they are and what content is in them. If there are traps I’ll roll them randomly as well and hope that with random tricks I get the one that changes characters sex when she touches a certain object in the room.

At some point I gave up. The dungeon got too big and sprawling that it would’ve needed plenty of time to roll the dice and a lot of paper for drawing a map for all the floors. I got quite far with it though so I left it to wait for another day (and threw it in a trash can). I decided to pick up the idea for old temple that was abandoned by yuan-ti, and build from there. This one I planned to have only four floors, with fourth having two parts: temple’s tomb and a cave. I used this dungeon at Ropecon this year and there I realised it was quite big, even with just four floors. It took six hours for the players to get near the halfway of the dungeon before we stopped and left it there.

And then…

Rolling a random dungeon is quite an easy way to create something different, and it doesn’t have to be just what the dice tells you – I would change and decide if things fit in the place or not. Quite often I would re-roll or use the roll for something different. These tables provide a very interesting tool that is very useful and I do recommend to use it if you have a hard time thinking about the layout for adventure site, for example a temple or a ruined castle. Only you should limit the size of the dungeon with number of levels or rooms, because the tables are made to keep the dungeon growing, and there will be no end of it until you run out of paper.

Please Die: Pathfinder

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is made by Paizo. It is mostly a high fantasy game with different settings and multiple class options. It is based on Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition rules due to Open Game License.

Diversified monotony

Pathfinder was first play-tested in 2008 by thousands of gamers. As it is an evolution of D&D 3.5, there are many similarities between the games. It has its good and bad sides, from having many options to diversify your character to watering it down. It seems to me that in Pathfinder it is encouraged to create a single class character and possibly with just one to three levels of another class, rather than creating more diverse characters, which is actually quite weaker option in the end. Alternately you might add prestige class on top of another class and forget the main class you started with.

I once created arcane trickster character who had no chance in fights at all, even though I enjoy that aspect partly in role-playing games. When other characters needed about 10 or less from the 20-sided dice to be able to hit the boss, mine would have required 20 from it to even have a chance to hit the boss as she had only +10 bonus to hit and boss had AC 30+. I got really annoyed and cursed, and I noticed that it is damn difficult to take into consideration all characters in the party if there are one or two munchkins and the rest have mind to create more diverse characters.

Or should I say Mathfinder?

Most players often start at higher levels than level 1. It is usually because you really don’t have shit at the first level, and the good stuff comes after a few levels. The game itself has many options for classes, with feats, modifiers and prestige classes to choose from, and these all add up and multiply the higher your level is. At higher levels there are way too many things to remember from feats to the modifiers and different armour classes that each character and monster has. For example I created a vampire fighter/something who had about 21 feats in total. Trying to remember all of those proved difficult and I didn’t have the heart to browse the book each time I pondered what each feat did, that would have delayed the game a lot.

I personally don’t like it at higher levels. At the start, from level 1 to 10, it is nice and easy, but later there is just too much to remember and to take into consideration. There are also many different players; those who munchkin their characters so much they outrun other players who try to make more diverse characters. Go and try to plan a balanced fight where everyone can do things. It is damn difficult and time consuming, and something I don’t look happily at when planning a game session.

Conclusion

Pathfinder is okay at lower levels and I think I’ll keep on playing and running games that focus only on those levels. The higher you get, the harder it will be for the GM to plan a balanced game where everyone would have equal chance at succeeding in tasks and fights. The one part that I liked in Pathfinder is templates. When planning battles, I used them a lot, and created zombie kraken who had skeleton pirates hiding inside it and ghost captain leading the whole bunch.

 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The game where I spent countless hours just defining how my character will look like and another set of hours thinking what his or her name will be.

Rayna, my dark elf character in Skyrim.

Meet Rayna, dark elf, Nightingale, Archmage, Master Thief and Assassin.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda
Published: 10.11.2011
Review: PC


There has been many tries for me to play the game in full, with that I mean doing almost all the quests and miscellaneous objectives available. There has been a problem with it though as I sometimes end up playing some other game entirely and forget what I had been doing in Skyrim. That in turn results in me starting the game all over again, which is also true for many other games I have played and then left to play something else. Thus I made the decision before summer leave from the university I am studying at that this summer I would finally “finish” it. Now, with the game having over 300 hours played, I am nearing my goal. The list of done quests and misc objectives is longer than the list of available quests — one of which is the main quest-line that needs to be done.

When first looking at the map you can see how big the place is. It doesn’t actually look that way but when you go out there and start exploring, the amount of places you see and the different people you meet and most likely have to kill are immense. I noticed one problem with exploring around the map: once I found myself inside a cave of some sort where I really did not have anything to do apart from looking around and looting it, I got my hands on a quest object but when I finally got the quest to retrieve said item, the quest bugged and the NPC had the option to end it every time you talked to him. You only got the reward once though but that was a bit confusing. Sometimes they worked fine even though I had found the item in question before I actually had the quest itself. Like the Gauldur amulet quest chain: I had found one of the pieces before I went to get the first one where the actual quest directed me to go. After I got all three fragments the next step of the quest didn’t show up until I went to the cave where it was made whole, thus finishing the quest itself and me receiving the amulet itself.

You cannot go that way... because the map doesn't continue further.
You cannot go that way… because the map doesn’t continue further.

There are some clear restrictions in the game, especially when it comes to exploring and trying to find your way somewhere: you can’t cross a mountain without the proper way because the mountainside is too steep to walk over. Then there are areas that are inaccessible until you have the quest that takes you there — which I found a bit annoying when I would like to explore areas without quests as well. One good thing about finding the places before you have a quest that takes you there is that then you can use the fast travel option to get there quickly. That has made doing many quests a lot easier.

Skyrim doesn’t really have an exact class system because no matter what character you make you can just decide what you do with it. Will you wield magic as your weapon or something else entirely? Do you sneak your way around enemies and kill them stealthily or do you just run in wielding a two-hand mace that you smash at your enemies face? There are plenty of possibilities and most styles complement each other. What I did was using stealth, firing arrows from a distance, using illusion spells to aid the sneaking and keeping a light armour on for more quiet approach. This has worked well and later with high sneak skill and the appropriate perks I can one-shot enemies in a row without being detected.

How you play your character will affect what you decide at certain points of the game. You can join Thieves Guild or not, you can kill Astrid and destroy the Dark Brotherhood after that or you can join them, you can choose between joining the Stormcloaks or the Imperials, you can choose to be a vampire lord or stay with the Dawnguard, and so on. This in turn will add some re-playability to the game if you are willing to do things some other way than how you did them previously. One possibility is to keep two separate saves but I prefer doing completely different character, like this Vlad here, for doing things differently.

Vlad, not yet a vampire.
Vlad, not yet a vampire.

In the end the game itself got me hooked up. The introduction takes a while but after that the game itself opens up to you and then you can go and do things as you see fit. The world is for you to explore, so go out there and kill some stuff, because here there be dragons.

 

Say Goodbye and Welcome

Ropecon was early this year. Instead of late July, it took place in May 15 – 17. This was because the place where it has been arranged at for many years will be renovated at the start of June. Due to this and the reason the building will be changed drastically, the convention had to find new place for next year and they started working on that last year already. Now we know that the Ropecon 2016 will be at Messukeskus, Helsinki, and it’s theme is fittingly “chaos and order”.

I went to this year’s Ropecon to run two different games from the usual two (or three) of the same. For Friday I had a Call of Cthulhu -session planned, and for Saturday I had six hours of intense dungeon crawling in D&D Next. Each went well but I was actually quite stunned to find out after arriving to the scene that there had been people waiting for an hour and a half for my CoC-game sign up. It got full in less than an hour and I feel that game was a success, as was the D&D although I miscalculated the amount of time that dungeon needed in order to be finished. Either way, players enjoyed, I enjoyed, and I had lots of fun with both of the games.

Here are the descriptions I had written for both games:

Call of Cthulhu: Black Watch

Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) has received a mayday-message from the cruise ship Black Watch. Cruiser has run aground, it’s leaking and needs immediate assistance. Black Watch’s location is known but after the first message all new attempts reaching the ship has been in vain. CCG has sent a vessel along with Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to investigate the situation. Black Watch is slightly tilted, it’s dark and no one is in sight. CCG and RCN sends a group of five to investigate while a storm is brewing from north. What has happened on the ship? What did they hit? Where’s everybody?

Dungeons & Dragons Next: Secrets of the Serpent Temple

The portal has opened and a new world has been found. Settlers have moved on to find decent places to build new cities and towns. Your caravan has found such place near old and bizarre ruins, and has sent you to investigate them. Through the thick, foggy, forest you find a large, old statue of a strange serpent, and ahead there is a large building. Walking up the stairs and eyeing the serpent-relief doors, you await excitedly to discover the secrets behind them. Only question remains: how long will you survive in unknown territory?

Asphyxious taking part in miniature painting contest.
My entry to the miniature painting contest. Picture © Lauri Maijala, Redemund’s Guild. (Click photo to access their website).

This year I also took part in miniature painting competition but it was clear that there were many that had better chances than me to win. I keep thinking of taking part next year as well but will see with which miniature this time.

I also played some cyberpunk-dystopia game ran by Heikki Marjomaa from HelMet-libraries. The system was his own and I had a lot of fun with it. Setting was extremely interesting and in the end I killed almost everyone, including myself, but at least I got one million credits on the character’s account for that. Only the augmented character survived due to his once-in-a-game ability that made him impervious to all damage.

On Saturday Unreality-choir performed in Ropecon. The place was full of people but I still got a good spot to sit at and watch the show. They sang through many different songs from games to movies to TV-series. All songs worked well in choir and got me slightly emotional as well. I took a few pictures but not too many; I wanted to enjoy the event rather than focus on taking pictures. That is also the reason why I don’t have many other photos from the Con. I spent most of my time on role-playing games, either as GM or as a player.

In the end, this Ropecon was fun. I enjoyed myself and I hope that next year in Messukeskus everything goes well. So, at last we say goodbye to Espoo, and say welcome to Helsinki. See you at Ropecon 2016!

I made a promise to a few players: next year I’ll run some sort of Cthulhu game (no system decided yet) where players play old, retired people. At least I got plenty of time to plan the scenario…

Campaign Setting and the Challenge to Create One

When I have an idea for something, I usually write it down either as a story or mere notes somewhere. Sometimes I find them again and think how well this and that story would look good together, but fitting them in takes a while, especially when any larger novels I have planned to write will never be finished. So when I had in mind to start the Pathfinder-campaign, I didn’t expect it to grow so large and feed from the many ideas I had already on my hands. I believe it is now so massive that the amount of scenarios in it will expand further and there is more to come.

My first try at it went quite badly, as I hadn’t grasped the way one should run a campaign and how the story unfolds that clearly. After Ropecon XX (2013) however, I wanted to retract and the players agreed. Needless to say it was a wise decision and you have been able to read about their travels already on this blog (beginning from here).

Basic Idea

What I wanted to keep from the previous attempt was that the characters required to have a deity because they play an important part in the setting, each bringing a few scenarios to the game that are expected to be played through. Then I added some artefacts, items of very potent magic, which also branch the scenarios further. All that matters is finding the Book that tells where these artefacts are found, if only you could read it. There are seven artefacts in total, including the Book itself, and thus this brings six different ways to go with the campaign itself (six because players have to find the Book first).

The Book

I couldn’t think of a witty name for it, although I might call it just Seer’s Tome, or something along those lines. The Book is most important part of the game itself: it is what starts the Empyrean Saga. Best way to obtain said book is the prologue, which can be used as a way to introduce the characters to each other and immediately have a common goal for the rest of the game. Receiving the Book binds them to its fate and next step is obviously to find the oracle in order to decipher it, as the Book tells to do so. Depending on the artefact chosen the game continues accordingly and one might add several scenarios to it as well. I went with the Gatekeeper’s Staff – an artifact broken into seven pieces, each containing a portion of the power the whole staff has.

The Legend

Amiravna is the name that is frequently encountered in the campaign world. She is the one who had created the artefacts, the Book being the last. Each artefact has a history attached to them, and the Gatekeeper’s Staff played an important part in the Abyss Wars, sealing the nine gates that the reckless use of magic had torn in the material world. After this it was broken, the pieces hidden, and their location revealed in the Book.

World of Vaelor, the Abyss and the Empyrean Realm

Creating a world from the bits and pieces I have was a difficult task. To place everything I had in mind to certain places on the map I had finally created took a while, and still it’s not finished. It is a large map and it only shows the material world of Vaelor. It has two large continents, Elestrian and Loeth, and their lands are divided between different humans, elves, half-elves, dwarves and orcs.

Because the main antagonists in my game are the demons and devils of the Abyss, I had to figure out what their realm would be like. Eventually I decided that it’s on the same level as Vaelor itself, the only connection between them are the portals. The first time the portals were opened ended up in a massive war, and the peace is about to be stirred as the gates are close to opening again.

The Empyrean Realm is for the celestial races and the deities. The legend tells that after having lived centuries upon Vaelor, Amiravna was blessed and she ascended to the Empyrean Realm after finishing her work. Many believe that in death their souls ascend to the Realm and those who were taken there by body and soul have never returned.

Work in Progress

This campaign setting is a work in progress. It is a large task that I have taken in my hands and due to the vastness of it it will take time before it is completed. It is a challenge that I wish to conquer and hopefully, once it is ready, many will enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed creating it. The game itself is currently on hold because I feel like it needs some rework rules-wise and perhaps a change to completely different system than Pathfinder. At higher levels I have difficulties in working out what kind of monsters and challenges I would set against players, some of whom are munchkins and some playing more versatile characters.

To be continued. Maybe.