Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Dungeon Master: The Art of the One-shot

One-shots have many differences compared to long campaigns. These differences can make for unique challenges but also for unique experiences. The unique constraints often lead to different approaches out of pure necessity, but also new challenges. I can't possibly go over every challenge that could come up, but I hope to go over some of the most important ones. It also let's me put my thoughts down in a coherent way, which is always a plus. You don't realize some things until you try to write them down, after all.

Ideal Length

This kind of thing often comes down to person preference. However I find that 4 hours tends to work best for me. It gives a good amount of time to work with, and is still feasible amount of time for guests. Admittedly it gets kind of close to being too long for a lot of people, but that's roughly where you'd want it I think. A length of time as long as possible but still not inconvenient for your players. 2 hours can work too, but it's a very different skill. You need to be extremely precise and prepared for those kinds of situations and may need to push things along at times to keep them moving at the desired pace. Some groups can spent that long in an inn talking about the last adventure so it really is a challenge. However, it can also be a great experience because there is no filler or anything unnecessary. It's the condensed best things you could come up with.

What I Want

Typically when planning a one-shot, there are a few things I want. I want at least one major and iconic role-play situation. It's the kind of thing that right after, days later, perhaps even years later, they will talk about fondly. I also want to include some kind of combat encounter. People typically like their combat encounters so I usually feel that I want to have at least one. This way the decision of what character they chose means something. Otherwise, players who enjoy the combat aspect will tend to feel like I wasted their time forcing them to pick between a barbarian and a fighter.

I also find I get the best results if there is something else happening in the encounter. It could be the whole place collapsing on their heads, it could be someone trying to escape with something important, it could be an attempt to buy time while a baddie opens a portal to hell. It could also be something unique about the combat encounter itself, such as a creature capable of hiding in shadows or fog that uses hit and run tactics. Again, what I found best here is if there is some problem they need to solve. Everything I mentioned previously, put another way, is just a problem I'm presenting the players beyond “kill everyone”.

Pre-Generated Characters

Pre-generated characters can be a massive boon in these kinds of situations. It can be a lot to ask someone to create a character for a 2 hour session. This is especially true if the person never played a tabletop game before and you want to introduce them. In these cases you could whip one up yourself quickly a head of time after asking your players what kind of character they'd like to play.

It can also be a surprisingly good change to not come up with your own character. It's a great way to break a rut and it's also very safe. If it turns out you don't feel like you have a lot to work with the character you chose, you may never use them at the end of the session anyway. At the best case scenario though, you could find yourself enjoying a very different experience. Of course, a pre-gen character still leaves a lot of room for a player to make the character their own. You are given a starting point but where you take the character is up to you. It's the being pushed out of your comfort zone that can lead to great new experiences, though I must also preface this thought with the admission that it doesn't always work out. However, it can still be that all important seed. Different seeds can grow to different results.

Having this kind of power is also interesting from the perspective of a Dungeon Master. It further lets you have an element of control over the session and can be an opportunity to say something about the world. Limiting abilities and classes does the same, but it's a different mechanism. I would never advocate preventing players from making their own characters when they want to. It pays off massively from the perspective of player engagement. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you need pre-generated characters because your players won't have the time to create a character from scratch before the session, want the challenge or whatever other reason, it's a valid option. Some players don't mind the challenge either. They may in fact welcome a new character they never would've played had they had that control. If you have these players, there is nothing wrong with giving them what they want.

The Setup

Setup time is a big enough problem in long campaigns. Since we have even less time to work with, having things run like a well oiled machine is even more important. 10 minutes out of 4 hours may not feel like a long time during play to wait, but the number of things you could have done with those 10 minutes is surprising. It's also one of the easiest things to trim down while not drastically changing the adventure itself. Overrunning the time limit is very common.

If you can, have the rooms ready to go if you are using tiles. It always amazes me how much time this ends up saving over the course of a session. For a massive mega dungeon this isn't always possible, especially when using 3D dungeon tiles. However, you probably aren't going to be running a massive mega dungeon in 4 hours. If you can't get all of the rooms ready ahead of time, get as many as you can and have the remaining rooms planned out. With fewer rooms it's easier to remember, and you'd want to have notes ready as well. This goes for more than just the arrangement of tiles. You'll want to have well organized notes ready if you are like me. It speeds things up, helps me immensely, and at such a smaller scale tends to be easily manageable. The less amount of time looking at rules, the better.

The Ending

The ending is very important for a one-shot. You aren't building to something in the future like you can do in a normal campaign. This is where all the build up throughout the adventure was leading. It's now or never. Now, I'm not saying that you should always give your players exactly what they want. Most of the time you probably should come close, but ironically giving your players exactly what they want may not be what your players want. Making it just slightly different enough to have a bit of a surprise often works well from my experience. It's the idea of giving your players what they want even if it's not the specifics they would have told you. Again though, you'll need to know your players. The ending doesn't necessarily always need to be completely satisfying from a writing and character perspective. It needs to make sense, be shaped by your players through their actions, and bring satisfaction to your players. What would satisfy the player's character and what would satisfy the player do not necessarily align. Some character's players even create characters that they want to be unsatisfied and lead to tragic results.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Dungeon Master: Multi-Visit Dungeon

Dungeon design can be a tricky thing. There about as many ways to design a dungeon as there are Dungeon Masters to design them. Still, there are general goals and ideas a Dungeon Master has when creating a dungeon that help guide the design. One is between a single visit and multi-visit dungeon. It makes sense that a dungeon meant to be visited once would be different than a dungeon that is meant to be probed multiple times and explored over time. As a result, I hope to write a little bit about multi-visit dungeons.

Unintentionally Switching

Over the course of a game, it's not out of the realm of possibility that things won't go to plan. A group that is particularly lucky, clever, or both can go through dungeon meant to be explored over multiple visits. Likewise, a dungeon meant for a single visit can be surprisingly difficult to overcome and force a strategic retreat. This time I'll be focusing on the design step of the dungeon. However, similar considerations can be used to turn a dungeon originally meant to be explored in one go into a multi-visit dungeon. In this case, there's not too much that can be done outside of adding secret passages, and adding new residents as well as a purpose to return. Still, similar ideas can be applied. What we are doing in this case is building on top of an existing dungeon to form a multi-visit dungeon after the fact. This new dungeon can then be examined and treated in much the same way as a multi-visit dungeon. It just wasn't the intention from the start.

Types of Obstacles

Typically the obstacles in a dungeon are creatures or something else. The key difference here is that creatures can reorganize after taking casualties as well as call for backup. A 354 year old trap, however, often stays disabled until a character re-activates it. This isn't a cut and dry rule though. Some traps can be disabled for some amount of time after being overcome. Typically, however, once it's overcome it can be overcome in the same way again. This means that if players remember what the dungeon was like, it'll be easier to go further into it next time. From a design perspective it's probably better to think about it as obstacles that will change (creatures, maybe a particularly complex trap) and those that will remain the same (spike pit, dart trap, riddle door, etc.).

Infinitely Impenetrable

When dealing with creatures or other kinds of obstacles that reset, you want to avoid getting into a situation where your players are forever stuck at the same level of the dungeon. Even if it's not really infinitely, each foray into the dungeon should feel a bit different. It could be because different creatures moved in (I seem to recall this being quite common), or because the distribution of forces was changed in response to the previous attack. The most obvious way to do this is by letting your players get through the first part of the dungeon more easily. Above all, you don't want a copy past of the previous layout but with some of the inner group redistributed. This makes going through the same area a chore.

Rough Estimate

I tend to like to do estimates of how long it would take to go through the dungeon and how far they'd go through. These estimates are useful so I know roughly how long it'll take and to try to keep a dungeon from overstaying its welcome. However, it shouldn't be an actual outline of how things should go. I use it merely as an estimation tool.Things will probably go different than you expected but you should still know what you were hoping to achieve when designing a dungeon.

Some Events

As they leave and return, some things could happen. In my notes I tend to call these things events. They can be a good way to mix things up between visits. New residents, or even the evidence of an adventurer group that got in way over their heads can help add some life and colour to an adventure (and guilt if they died due to traps the party reset before leaving). It tends to be a bit difficult for me to come up with these on the fly so I prefer to brainstorm a head of time. Then I can choose as few or as many as I want to use later.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Dungeon Master: Magic Item Drawbacks Examples

Magic items are an incredibly iconic part of a campaign. Over the course of one, each player character will typically have at least one item that is associated to them. While it isn't always the most useful of items, it can be hard not to think of the item when thinking about the character even years after the end of a campaign. In my experience, one of the things that makes an item memorable is an element of risk. It could be a risk to try and get a more powerful outcome to happen, or it could be the threat of a bad outcome. I'll begin by looking at some properties that can be added to a magic item for this particular purpose.

When Does the Drawback Happen?

In the games I took part in a player typically has to perform a roll similar to a death saving throw when making use of an item like this. If they beat it (roll 10 or higher), everything is fine. If they don't, a drawback occurs. We nicknamed this a “drawback roll” and it only applied to specific magic items. You can of course scale the difficulty as you'd like. Some items may have a very rare chance as low as 1 out of 20. You can also make it specific to the item, however it can get hard to remember a whole slew of different DCs. However, such a problem is easily avoided if magic items are carefully handed out. You can also include a skill or attribute modifier on the roll as you would any other check. The circumstance can also modify things, especially if the item is sentient. The short version is there are a lot of ways to have fun with this idea and I saw these rolls played with a lot.

Format For Properties

I've been trying to mostly keep things system neutral and use D&D 5th edition for examples. For this reason, the first paragraph after italics will be an explanation of the intended draw back. After that, I'll provide a sample implementation for D&D 5th edition. In the case of multiple version, I provide alternates below. Naturally, damage can be adjusted. I won't bother to list those as alternates.

Draining

Your arrow quickly leaves your bow and hits the target square in the chest. He falls over with a twist and lies motionless on the ground. You feel slightly weaker compared to before your shot.

The idea behind this item is that there is a chance to take some damage after an attack. The idea is that there is added risk with such an item. It's usually intended for a weapon, but also works well with a staff or other magical item. The damage taken typically should reflect the strength of the effect caused by the item.

Example Implementation: After an option is chosen, perform the drawback roll. In the event of a failure, roll 1d6 multiplied by the strength of the effect. The damage can be high to make it risky to use or low to allow repeated use by high level characters but also careful use by low-level characters.

Alt 1: Instead of taking damage, the user gains a level of exhaustion.

Alt 2: Instead of taking damage, the user can only take an action or move action until the end of their next turn (can be moved to 1d4 instead for more punishment).

Necromantic

Your arcane power is focused through your staff. Released in the form of a pitch black sphere, it flies ahead and explodes on impact. Shadows, acting like black fire, engulf all that are caught in it's blast.

The idea behind this trait is linked to a magic item I saw in use. The item was a staff that allowed the necromancer that was attuned to it to channel any spell through it. Doing so allowed them to change the type of damage dealt by the spell to necrotic. It also let them try to enhance its power.

Example Implementation: The object has 10 charges. 1-5 can be used at a time. Each charge adds 1d6 damage to the spell channeled through the staff. After an option is chosen, perform the drawback roll. In the event of a failure, the user of the object takes damage equal to the bonus damage.

Distracting

As you try to activate its ability, the snakes engraved on the item seem to come alive!

The idea behind this item is that using it has a chance of failure. This unreliability makes using it a risk. Here is also an alternate version where later actions take a penalty. In game wise it can also be described as a defect in the item itself.

Example Implementation: When attempting to use the object, perform a drawback roll. In the event of a failure, nothing happens.

Alt 1: Enemies have advantage against the user and the character using the item has disadvantage on saves.

Alt 2: The user has disadvantage on checks/attacks and enemies have advantage on saves imposed by the character using the item until the end of their next turn.

Blinding

The item erupts in brilliant bright light and warmth. You still see glowing white even after the warmth subsides.

This drawback was originally belonging to a sword that could erupt in bright like, sort of like a sun blade. However, it also blinded people for some length of time. The user and their allies were also not immune to this effect. There was also another sword but instead it blinded the user when trying to use it's power.

You will need to set a DC for enemies to resist the effect. Typically the user did a drawback roll instead in order to give them a better chance to resist. Characters who knew it was coming could try to cover their eyes.It's up to you if you want the item to affect party members or if the wielder has some level of control as long as they succeeded on their drawback roll. 

Example Implementation: When attempting to use the the property, perform a drawback roll. In the event of a failure, you are blinded until the end of your next turn.

Alt 1: When attempting to use a property, perform a drawback roll. In the event of a failure, you are blinded for 1d4 turns.

Deafening

All sound, ins a single moment, fades away.

The point of this drawback was to decrease perception and increase chances of walking into ambushed but also served to force the user to depend on their party members.

Example Implementation: When attempting to use a property, perform a drawback roll. In the event of a failure, you are deafened for one hour. Think of interesting ways this would effect role-playing. 

Alt 1: You are deafened for 1 turn instead.  

Silencing

A single moment later, you can no longer hear your friend speaking. The chirping of crickets can still be heard in the distance.

Legend has it that it belonged to a thief and a mage hunter over the years. Who it was originally meant for is a mystery lost to time.

Having an easy way to cast silence is a useful thing for anyone who wants to sneak around or fight wizards. However, it can also be a downside to your own in close quarters. This item originally had 2 properties. One was to use silence as normal, or a slightly modified version of the silence spell. The other had a chance to activate it unintentionally as well. This works best on a player who has a conscience and feels bad for making their party spellcasters suffer. Also if they cast spells. The other time I saw it was on a magic staff. Made things rather tough.

Example Implementation: When attempting to use a property, perform a drawback roll. In the event of a failure, silence is cast centred on the item until the end of your next turn.

Shadow Realm

You feel a cold chill run down your spine as the world fades away. Darkness surrounds you from every direction.

The intention of this item was shadow magic. The drawback could also be an advantage in certain situations and the player used it to survive blasts that otherwise would have killed them. In this case, they could never use the property directly.

Example Implementation: When attempting to use the the property, perform a drawback roll. In the event of a failure, they are trapped in a shadow realm until the end of their next turn (similar to a forced ethereal form).

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Dungeon Master: Bad Endings and Outcomes

Players try their best to change the worlds they play in. However, that may not always lead to the results they expect. This is a bit of a difficult topic though. While this makes sense, players don't often like seeing their actions lead to ruin. The question that remains is how do we handle it then? How do we handle bad outcomes and bad endings? This piece is the results of my thoughts on the matter.

Is It A Problem?

The first question that comes up as a result of this line of thinking is whether or not a bad ending is something that is inherently a bad thing. When I say that, I mean an ending where the players don't quite accomplish what they set out to do. They fell short. They may have made great changes that in the long run make all the difference, but it might not feel like enough. Again, like I've said so many times before, I think this will depend heavily on your group. Having a deserved bad ending could very well be what players expect and want. It's the other side of being able to influence the world they are playing in. However, in these situations the actions of players still influence the ending. It's just that the result is far from desirable. On the other hand, some players would prefer that they fell short of their victory instead of actively resulting in a worse situation. What this means can vary greatly as well. It could be that by failing their goal things lead to a bad outcome but they were close to accomplishing it, or it could mean that the outcome, while better than where things started, was less than what they had hoped to achieve.

Earned Outcome

Regardless of the outcome that results, it needs to feel earned. This is quite the nebulous term, just like what a bad ending really is, and what feels earned will depend on your group. In some circumstances and in some groups, a “good ending” may seem too far fetched. They are expecting something bitter sweet. Others might expect that if they do things right and try hard enough, they'll still be able to pull off a perfect ending. It also depends on the kind of campaign you are running. Having an ending that breaks the tone cultivated through the rest of the campaign probably won't feel earned. It's really more of an art than a science like many elements of tabletop gaming.

Still Leaving Their Mark

I've touched on this idea lightly, but I also feel it needs to be addressed directly. Just because things didn't go as planned doesn't mean that the players didn't leave a mark on the story. In fact, if you are playing a tabletop game and the players didn't leave a mark on the events of the campaign in some way, I'd be very surprised. It's in the nature of collaborative story telling that players will shape events no matter how hard you try to plan things. Even if things lead to disaster it should be the player's disaster. Simply leading to the same disaster probably won't be satisfying.

The Classic Bitter Sweet

The safest approach for a “bad ending” is to aim for a bitter sweet one. The players still influenced events and lead to outcomes, but didn't get everything that they wanted. This involves letting players leave their mark, but also letting them succeed to some extent. It's that combination of failure and success that tends to make this kind of ending palatable and often seeming like the most realistic outcome of events. Not every ending will require this, of course, but when talking about bad endings it's one type that deserves to be mentioned specifically.

The Importance of Consequence

All of this feeds back into the idea of consequences for actions. The players acted. This leads to results. These results lead to the ending. If they have failed, that ending will be a bad one. The specifics and the means by which this chain gets created leaves a lot of freedom, but maintaining this chain in some way is generally a good idea. The next campaign could be trying to clean up the mistakes of their previous characters, or it could be tackling the same campaign knowing their previous faults. There are a lot of things that can happen here. However, the idea that leads us to this point, forces us to thinking about this topic, and makes bad endings a viable way to end a campaign is consequence. And these consequences should be earned and shaped by the players.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

DRAGONLOCK Ultimate: Dungeon Separate Walls Review

Review copy courtesy of Fat Dragon Games.

Pros
  • Variety of wall components provided allow for all kinds of corners and attachments
  • Can be used with the other sets in order to fill holes and define different kinds of areas
  • Easy to print and I had no issues with warping
  • Results in a good fit when used with the Dragon Bite V3 clips
  • Allows for very versatile layouts that would take multiple sets using the previous Fat Dragon method (narrow hallways, wide rooms, etc.) if you commit to the new design
  • Includes instructions complete with images and recommended settings. You don't realize how badly you miss these things until you don't have them

Could Go Either Way
  • Instead of the 1/2 square borders that the other sets had for wall pieces, this set results in no such border when linked to a floor piece. If you didn't like the old system this is great. If you did like that extra border in order to allow space for parts of miniatures that poke outside their base size, you might not like this.
  • Combing this set with the sample set allows you almost every kind of room layout you could ever want. However, when combined with the sample wall you'll have one side that has a 1/2 square border and another that does not. The difference in layout can be useful and allow for more variety, but some would like it more consistent. Personally, I like the extra option.
Cons
  • There are no alternate floor pieces included. One of the big advantage to this kind of system is that you can replace floors without needing to spend filament on brand new walls too. An alternate smooth floor would've just pushed the value over the top (this is a bit of a nitpick)
DRAGONLOCK Seperate Walls
Corner piece made from the pieces included in the set. As you can see, it lacks the 1/2 square outer edge. Still looks nice though.

Introduction

At this point it should come as no surprise that I like terrain and tiles. While I am perfectly capable of playing using theatre of mind, I tend to prefer the precision that tiles give. There is no confusion about where things are when you lay down some awesome looking tiles and miniatures on the table. And with my recent acquisition of a 3D printer as well as look at 3D printable terrain, it should also come as no surprise that I've been itching for some 3D printed terrain. That's where the DRAGONLOCK Ultimate: Dungeon Separate Walls set comes in. In general I think it's a very good set and quite versatile, but let's jump straight into it. My apologies for my less than stellar pictures in advance.

The four non-diagonal wall pieces. I use them to make a corner piece further down.

Printer Settings

Everything here was printed with a 0.4mm nozzle. The door itself was printed at 100 microns but everything else was done at 150. One thing I have to give the sets that Fat Dragon make is that they always have complete instructions complete with images.

What's Included

The set you get here is rather complete. You get a square base, and a triangle base to attach the walls to. The walls themselves are interesting. There is a every size of wall you could want in order to add walls to the perimeter of your tiles. This is done by creating 4 different sizes of walls that can be attached by the DRAGONLOCK system. On top of that, there is a door piece that prints in 3 parts, a 1/2 square edge (though this doesn't help to recreate the old style as a result of geometry and that only one side has a connector slot), and a wall that print in 2 parts. This allows you to switch the tops of the walls and by doing so decide if you want pegs or not. This was a rather nice addition and surprise, though I tend to prefer the single piece variants at this point.

Sounds like a good diversity of pieces, right? There are also diagonal walls included as well, which I think are best seen to be understood. They are a nice additional and I'm glad they are included, though they are more niche in their application.

As mentioned earlier, one of the big advantages of this kind of design is that it easily lets you swap out the design of the floor while using the same walls or vice-versa. As a result, it would have been nice to have one alternate design that would have had a smoother look to the stone. If it had that, it would leave me with few complaints. It was probably unreasonable to expect such a thing, but would've really pushed the value over the edge.

DRAGONLOCK Ultimate: Seperate Walls door
Pretty nice looking door piece, isn't it? Being able to put these where-ever you want is rather useful and I'd say that the ability to do so is one of the most powerful parts of these kinds of sets. It fit together rather nicely.
 

Appearance

If you've seen the sample set, you know what to expect here. It is very much in the same style. One thing I've commented on in the past is that I really like the texture of the terrain that Fat Dragon make. That positive is very much kept here. Don't expect much from the base 2x2 piece though, as it appears to be the same as the one from the sample set. I wouldn't hold it against them as it's convenient and I don't expect them to go to the trouble of making minor changes to it, especially when it already looked good. The wall pieces, however, do seem to be different from the walls used in the other tiles. The layout of the bricks is different and I like the difference compared to the wall pieces from the sample set, though I also have to admit that it could have been closer to one of the sets that I don't have.

I would suggest taking a look at the sample set. While it isn't exactly the same, it gives a very close impression of what you'd be getting. It can also be used with the walls in this set. I'm a big proponent for trying something before buying if you can as it often gives the best impression.

Connections

One of the concerns that I immediately have with these kinds of tiles is the connections. The way the tiles connect together is rather important for any 3D terrain. At the very least you don't want it to shift as players move their minis around the tiles. And naturally, as you have and more connections, things tend to get more wobbly. That's just how things are. One solid piece is more stable than the same sized piece made with connectors. The V3 connectors result in rather close connections and while there is small amount of wobble, the way that the clips wrap around a post inside the tile means that there is very little change of the pieces separating unless you apply significant force to do so. Put another way, while they might wobble a bit they won't detach. The walls don't connect to each other in this design: they instead connect to the base. When places on the table the wobble is far less noticeable as well, though still more than the previous design. To really understand what I mean you really should print out a couple of pieces and try it but I doubt it would bother many people. It's really rather impressively solid. 

Ease of Printing

I found these tiles very easy to print. I had quite a few problems printing other separate wall sets because they would lift and warp. These, however, had no such problems. Not a single one I printed experienced lifting or warping despite how much less surface area they have compared to the old style found in the sample set. Good job Fat Dragon. I'm impressed and like this very much. It wouldn't have been much of an issue if it required a brim, and if you find that you aren't as lucky as me you may want to use one, but it is rather convenient that I didn't need one. It doesn't take very long to remove a brim but it can add up with many models and it's just nice to not need to deal with it.

Designs

The great thing about these walls is that they can be used to enhance designs mainly created by the other tile sets as well as being used on their own. This typically takes the form of thinner alcoves or walling off areas to make smaller but more interesting layouts. You could make similar layouts without the walls, but they would result in larger tile layouts or needing more sets. The versatility gained from this is very nice. I took a look through the other sets and besides the starter sets, I think this would be one of the sets I would naturally gravitate to first. However, you get the most benefit from it if you decide to completely embrace the new style and don't mix it with the previous system. This is less than ideal if you have many of the previous sets. In those cases, you'll find yourself using it to supplement what you already have. It's still useful in this way and allows for improvising if you don't have enough pieces as well as different layouts. It's just not as useful and easy compared to completely embracing the new style. 

DRAGONLOCK Seperate Walls
Corner piece made from the pieces included in the set. As you can see, it lacks the 1/2 square outer edge. Still looks nice though.
DRAGONLOCK Seperate Walls with Classic
What can happen when not carefully mixing the two styles of tiles. It can be avoided but requires planning or completely embracing the new style. Of course, there are use cases where you might want something like this as well. These pieces are linked together using the DRAGONBITE clip.
 

Price

The set costs $8.99 USD here. It's not a bad price due to the versatility I think, but some might like to have more tiles in a set or to wait on sale. As always this is one of the more subjective parts of a review and I hope what I've said so far helps you reads make a choice you are happy with.

Newsletter

I think it's worth mentioning that Fat Dragon have a newsletter, and they give out free 3D models every now and then. The last one was a 3D printable crate. Use this knowledge as you will but I felt it was worth mentioning. It's a good way to keep up to date with their work and see some samples if you are interested. 

DRAGONBITE

In the past, DRAGONLOCK tiles used a different system of locking. I've been informed that they all now use the DRAGONBITE locking system, so they should all be easily compatible with each other from that perspective. Locking system incompatibility can definitely be a concern so it's good to know that you can just pick out the sets you like instead of also doing your homework on what kind of locking system they use.

Summary

It's a good set and allows for many different layouts. When combined with the sample set, it allows for a large number of different layouts to be created. The advantages of separate walls help extend the usefulness of this set and probably makes it the most powerful set Fat Dragon made. It allows you to do in a few pieces what it would previously take multiple sets to do. Long narrow hallways? Easy. Hideaways from 3 walls? Also easy. And if you prefer to make layouts without the 1/2 square gaps found in the normal Fat Dragon tiles but love the appearance, you'll be happy with this set. The best results are felt when completely committing to the new design. However, you can still get a surprising amount of mileage through combing these new walls with other sets. This leaves few reasons to avoid this set, in my opinion, unless you'd prefer the classic design where the wall is incorporated into the tile, you'd prefer a different and more specialized set, or you like a different brand of tiles.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Compilation For New Players and Campaigns

It's the start to a brand new year. What better time to start a campaign? You've never run a campaign before or maybe even played a tabletop session before? That's fine too. You have to start sometime and somewhere. Alright, there isn't a bad time to start a new campaign but it can be quite challenge at first. I really do recommend it though. It's something special, it involves interaction and your imagination is the limit. No need to wait for an expansion or something. You've got a grand adventure waiting next session. I also realized that by now I've written quite a bit on the topic. Some of it is more helpful than others but I thought this would be a good time to compile everything into one spot for those of us who are getting into it for the first time.

Which System?

I'd personally recommend grabbing the basic rules for the current edition of D&D and running with it. There is enough there for different kinds of characters, your Dungeon Master can come up with new feats or abilities to expand things farther, and it's rather nicely streamlined in my opinion while still having complexity. Go get it here (http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/basicrules). You can also get more monsters and everything else in the SRD(http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/systems-reference-document-srd).

First Adventure

Well, it depends what you like. I've been using the adventure Death House as an introduction adventure for a little bit. It's quite a deadly adventure so you might want to adjust it a little bit for a new players. You can also run straight into Curse of Strahd afterwards. It's a bit harder to coherently run it into something else but you can use the event to gain some group's adventure (maybe an adventurer's guild?) which can run into your own campaign. It's just not as clean this way. It's also a pretty good place to steal some elements such as encounters, ideas and maps.

My Own Work

As I mentioned earlier, I've had the chance to write quite a bit of stuff over the years I've been writing for this blog. Those of you who read it, thank you for the attention. I hope you got something out of it. Out of those, I believe the following are probably the most useful to new players:
Don't take them as the law. They are meant to inspire and help you. Also feel free to have a look around. Maybe you'll find something else you'll like.


Small Words of Advice

There are a few things I want to say to those of you who are getting into tabletop role-playing or running campaigns for the first time.
  • Do what's fun for both your players and yourself
  • Know what your players like
  • Remember, the rules are there to assist you. If they hinder you, you can play by ear instead
  • Have a general, very high level idea of what you do and what will happen without player involvement. Then let your players mix it up.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

A Year In Review

A year has already passed. I've tried to do one post every week this year, and while I had to occasionally miss a week here and there, I think I managed to write about a lot of different things this year. Most of it was advice no-one really asked for (hope someone out there found it useful), but I also had the luck to do my fair share of reviews this year. The interesting part about products is that despite liking them, and appreciating them, you sometimes just find yourself not using them after a while. Small, not very obvious things just add up, or you get bored when over time. For this reason I hope to look back at my reviews, and the products I used to highlight those that I feel deserve an end of year shout out. So, let's get into it.

Official Dungeons & Dragons

We had 3 books released this year: Xanathar's Guide to Everything, Tomb of Annihilation, and Tales from the Yawning Portal. They were generally solid. Xanathar's Guide to Everything being very much a supplement book. Tales from the Yawning Portal was for those of us who wanted to see some of the old D&D adventures, which of course made it less tempting if you owned the original unless you wanted an updated version. My favourite of the 3 was Tomb of Annihilation, but I've always been a sucker for adventures that also work as adventure supplements. They give me a lot of material to reuse or steal, a new adventure to run and also a large degree of control, unlike a new Player's Handbook, for example. I can control what comes my players come across, where supplements often are harder to reign in.

3D Printing

The end of the year saw me finally being able to 3D print. And at this point I've had the chance to 3D print a whole slew of tiles, and props. The ones that I've used the most so far are the Rampage System and Dragonlock. The ease of printing for Dragonlock made it a favourite of mine, and the modular nature of rampage also made me like them. I still haven't decided which way I'll go but I've been enjoying them both so far. In terms of props, the Black Scroll Games chests have been my by far most used 3D printed props this year. Even 2D printed maps are made better with props so it isn't much of a surprise to why I ended up using them so often. The ability to switch the inserts as needed was extremely useful during play and made them even more useful.


Modular Inn Tiles

I reviewed this set in December of 2016, but over 2017 I used it quite heavily. Before my foray into 3D printing, I used it whenever I needed an inn battle map. Since starting 3D printing, I still use the tiles extremely often. They are just so much easier to print and provide very good visuals. 3D printed tiles often need to be painted. The Modular Inn tiles can just be printed in colour. Nice and easy. As an aside, I'd recommend printing dungeon tiles using white filament to help reduce or eliminate the need for painting if they are meant to be stone. It'll look slightly worse than a properly painted one but will be more usable than pitch black ones like mine. I also don't have the 3D printable sets that allow you to print buildings, so instead ended up re-purposing tiles meant for underground dungeons. That works fine, but it doesn't have the same level of detail as the specialized tiles and takes far longer to set up than the 2D tiles. In comparison, I could print off some tiles, tape them together, and be ready to roll. I could also quickly just set them up on the table and not need to worry about laying out all the props. I did still use a few props, most commonly chests, but I didn't need to completely fill the room in when going to somewhere else for my session. They were instead highlights. When running sessions in my house and using 3D tiles, I could just set things up ahead of time at the time. No problem. Where it got more difficult is when adding new rooms that also needed plenty of props. Either I'd connect the empty room and needed to add the props, or I'd connect the room with the props which caused them to shift. These issues weren't present with the Modular Inn tiles and allowed many different configurations. They are my favourite of all the sets I reviewed from Black Scroll Games so far.


Next Year

We've got a whole new year ahead of us. We'll get some new Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition stuff, of that I'm sure and I'm definitely curious. Black Scroll Games also had a successful kickstarter for Cities of the Black Scroll, which looks great. What's not to like about enough printable tiles to make yourself a bulletproof vest?