Friday, January 30, 2009

Hero Lab is Very Cool

I have owned Hero Lab for awhile, but I never noticed that it did HTML outptut until today. I needed to whip up a quick Ranger NPC for my 3.5 D&D campaign and so ten minutes later had I had the following:

Male Human Ranger 3
CG Medium Humanoid
Init +2; Listen +4, Spot +6
Languages Common, Goblin, Elven

AC 14, touch 12, flat-footed 12
(+2 Dex, +2 armor)
hp 16 (3d8)
Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +1

Speed 30ft.
Melee weapon Unarmed Strike +5 (1d3+2) and
Longsword +6 (1d8+2)
Ranged weapon Longbow +5 (1d8)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Base Atk +3; Grp +5
Combat Gear Unarmed Strike, Longsword, Longbow, Leather
Ranger Spells Prepared (CL 3, +5 melee touch, +5 ranged touch):

Abilities Str 15 Dex 14 Con 11 Int 14 Wis 11 Cha 13
SQ Track, Wild Empathy (Ex), Endurance, Favored Enemy: Humanoids (Goblinoid) (+2 bonus) (Ex), Combat Reflexes
Feats Armor Proficiency (Light), Shield Proficiency, Simple Weapon Proficiency - All, Martial Weapon Proficiency - All, Track, Endurance, Animal Affinity, Weapon Focus - Longsword, Two-weapon Fighting, Combat Reflexes
Skills Climb +6, Handle Animal +9, Heal +4, Hide +8, Listen +4, Move Silently +8, Ride +10, Search +6, Spot +6, Survival +6, Swim +6

Track You can track opponents.
Wild Empathy (Ex) Improve the atttitude of an animal, as if using Diplomacy.
Endurance +4 to a variety of skill checks. Sleep in L/M armor with no fatigue.
Favored Enemy: Humanoids (Goblinoid) (+2 bonus) (Ex)
Combat Reflexes You can make extra attacks of opportunity.

Very, very cool...

Religions and Not Just Gods

While preparing for my series on Campaign Building I have been doing a lot of thinking about the poor job that I have done in the past with building 'realistic' religions for my campaigns. I have read some good things about The Book of the Righteous from Green Ronin and I am thinking about picking it up. Has anyone else had experience with it? Comments are welcome!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Character Builder Success - Finally!!

After deleting every file that even sounded like DDI or Wizards of the Coast on my hard drive, I was finally able to get the full version of Character Builder downloaded and installed. However, I am still a little irritated by the whole affair. If it had not been for the kind people that posted their own workarounds on the WotC forums, I might have just quit in disgust.

The whole process was a real pain and I consider myself pretty darn computer savvy. What do you think the 'average' user would have done? I don't think this bodes well for future electronic releases from WotC, but I'll just have to wait and see...

A Couple of HARP Questions Answered

I got a couple of comments about my HARP post yesterday and so I thought that I would post my answers here...

Tony Reyes said...
I've been looking into HARP for the past few weeks. Testimonials of the rules set's value make me really interested in buying the book. I have a question, how would you compare it to Rolemaster Express ( which I know HARP is a simplification of)?

I can't speak for the designer (Tim Dugger), but I think of HARP as a reimagining of Rolemaster, rather than just a simplification. I own Rolemaster Express too and it is more of a straight cutdown version of the full Rolemaster.

Stargazer said...
Thanks for giving us that NPC writeup. Can you tell us how long it took you to create that NPC? One of Rolemaster's problems was that it took the better half of a day to create NPCs.IMHO HARP is a good alternative for D&D but it's much overlooked by the roleplaying community. I have to admit that even I played it only a couple of times.

I agree that creating NPCs for Rolemaster was a pain. The process is not as hard with HARP, but I think that I actually used an auto-calculating spreadsheet that I got in the downloads section of the HARP website to create this one and that eased the process even more.

Thanks for all your comments about the HARP post! Maybe I will put up some more NPCs or even a short adventure or two. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

HARP: A Good Game System

I stumbled across posts today about the HARP game system on the RPG Blog II and Stargazer's World. HARP just happens to be my favorite 'non-D&D' game system. It is light, fun and the free version is remarkably complete. In that spirit, here is an NPC for the system that I wrote up some time ago. Enjoy...

Hagetha – Human Hedge Wizard Level 4
Hits: 43 PP: 69 Init: +6 DB: +0 BMR: 8

St: 30 -6 Sd: 65 +3
Co: 45 +0 Qu: 50 +0
Ag: 55 +1 Re: 70 +6
In: 70 +6 Pr: 65 +3

Weapon Skills: Quarterstaff (2) +5
Armor: None

Key Skill: Endurance (3) +18, Foraging/Survival (2) +22, Healing (6) +42, Herbcraft (7) +47, Lore (Region) (3) + 27

Universal Sphere: Minor Healing (6) +39

Cleric Sphere: Calm (4) +29, Dreams (6) +39, Neutralize Poison (7) +44

Description: Hagetha is a human female who appears to be in her mid-fifties. Her face is weathered and brown from years of sun and wind. Her eyes are green and bright. Her gray hair falls well past her shoulders and she keeps it pulled into a neat pony tail. She is usually dressed in somber shades of green and brown, and she often goes out wearing a vest and breeches, a fashion usually only worn by men of the hamlet.

Background: Hagetha lives outside of the hamlet proper, but residents often visit her to trade for herbs or to ask for help treating some malady or injury. She is a loner and she can come across as a bit of a curmudgeon, but she is willing to offer assistance even to strangers if they approach her in an open and friendly manner.

Plot Hooks: Hagetha can certainly be useful if an adventurer is wounded or poisoned since she is the only real source of healing in the hamlet. She is also a good source of information about the area around the hamlet since she has rambled far and wide in her search for herbs and medicinal plants.

Character Builder Woes Continue

My problems with Character Builder continue. I still cannot get the darn thing to update correctly to the full version and it looks like I am not alone. I came across THIS thread on the WotC discussion forums and it looks like lots of other people are in the same boat. At least I have Hero Lab for my 3.5 game...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Rant: Why I am Cancelling My Subscription to D&D Insider

I am cancelling my subscription to D&D Insider. Why? Well, the final straw for me was my experience today trying to update to the full version of the Character Builder. I downloaded, installed, uninstalled, reinstalled and I STILL cannot get the darn thing to update or to create characters over 3rd level. I'm just fed up. Once they get the darn thing working right (and the Game Table working) I might subscribe again. But for the time being - I AM DONE!! Arrghh...

EDIT: I tried to be a good boy and go through the WotC Help system to report my problem. I followed the link, input my credentials and the following popped up:

A technical error has occurred. Please close your browser and try again

Just great...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Real Life Rears Its Ugly Head

I apologize to you dear readers but the next installment of my World Building series will be delayed until at least Wednesday. I am in a bit of a project crunch at work (pray to the gods of COBOL for me) and I have not had time to thoroughly polish the post. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Part Three: Decision, Decisions

Before we get down to the nuts and bolts of drawing maps, we need to make some high-level decisions about our new campaign setting. I am going to provide them without much background comment, but I will explore that further in future posts.

Campaign Setting: The East March
Geography/Climate: Similar to Bavaria/Southeastern Germany

For the campaign’s initial home base, I plan to map out an area of approximately 2500 square miles (50 miles X 50 miles) around a settlement that I am calling Ostburgh. You will note the ‘Germanic’ influence already and this is intentional. I always find it easier and more comfortable to lean a little on the real world, especially when it comes to subjects like names. Pure fantasy names always sound a little contrived to me. I don’t intend to go overboard with it, however, and I won’t try to follow any actual German language rules for naming or whatever.

Of course, there are lots of other decisions to make. I haven’t touched on religion, political structure, prevalence and location of non-human settlements and lots more. For now, here are some ideas that I have been knocking around:

  • There was a broad-reaching empire that ended some 500 years ago because of a great catastrophe.
  • Political structure is a ‘fantasy light’ version of feudalism with possible manorial system.
  • The East March is a border region between civilized lands and the frontier.
  • No more than a dozen major deities. One or two prominently worshipped in the region.
  • Pockets of all major demihuman races in the region, including dwarves, elves, halflings and gnomes.
  • That’s about it for now. The next post should go up on Monday, January 26th. At that time we will make some more decisions about our new campaign setting and prepare to draw a regional map. I would love to hear some feedback from you the reader about this series! Comment with your likes/dislikes, what you would like to see, etc.

    Monday, January 19, 2009

    Part Two: Gathering Your Resources

    Before we start making some intitial decisions about our campaign world, I thought that I would mention some of the resources that I will be using for ideas and inspiration. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list. It's just a rundown of some books that I actually own and enjoy.

    The 2nd Edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide is infamously not very helpful when it comes to campaign building, but the Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide by Paul Jaquays and William W. Conners has lots of useful advice and tidbits. I also like A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe for its healthy dose of real medieval flavor. In a similar vein is Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies.

    Of course, you can't ignore the numerous resource on the internet. Wikipedia is not 100% authoritative on every subject, but it's at least useful for a 'snapshot' of most topics. For instance, I used it to research the term 'margrave' in preparation for this campaign series. Another neat resource is S. John Ross's Medieval Demographics Made Easy. It's a really cool way to 'realistically' determine campaign world details like the number of guards in a city.

    The next post in the series should go up on Friday, January 23rd. In that one we will start making some hard choices about weighty topics like religions and forms of government. Stay tuned for more campaign goodness!

    Friday, January 16, 2009

    Part One: Begin from the Beginning

    An obvious first question about campaign building is where do you start? The two basic approaches are the 'top-down' approach, where you start by determining major details like the number of countries and the types of deities, and the 'bottom up' approach where you start by statting up a number of encounters or maybe populating a small dungeon. Many gamers start both approaches by doing something most every gamer loves to do - drawing maps.

    With the top-down approach, you draw a map of your entire world and include major details like the names of major cities and the locations of mountain ranges and forests. Of course, the time and effort involved in such an approach is pretty daunting. It can also be a little tough to create a satisfying map if you have little artistic talent and/or knowledge of geography. On top of that, you can spend a lot of time creating details that are never even 'seen' by the PCs.

    The opposite is the bottom-up approach. Map a dungeon, drop in some monsters and turn the PCs loose. Details like the nature of the terrain around the dungeon or the location of nearby towns are made up as needed. The big drawback to this approach is that you usually end up with a patchwork 'unrealistic' world. It's also a real hassle to continuously try to 'keep ahead' of the players as they explore the world around them.

    An approach that compromises between top-down and bottom-up is to map out a hamlet or small village and a nearby dungeon. You fill in enough details to keep the PCs occupied for several sessions of play and then expand from there. Classic 1st Edition AD&D ‘village and dungeon’ modules include T1: The Village of Hommlet and N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God. This is the approach that I will be taking with this series. I think it is the best choice for the novice Dungeon Master. The amount of work is not terribly daunting and we should be able create enough material to keep the players busy for some time.

    In our next installment, we will try and answer a few initial questions about the campaign world. After that we will get down to the nuts and bolts of drawing the maps for and populating our little village and dungeon.

    New Series: Stay Tuned

    Sorry for the delay in starting the new series on World Building.  I was traveling yesterday.  I will get Part One up later today.  Stay tuned...

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009

    New Series: World Building for Beginners

    Creating a campaign world is one of the most daunting tasks for a new Dungeon Master. In the series that follows, I will endeavor to build a detailed campaign setting from scratch. Following are some of the ground rules for the project:
    • Rules set is core 2nd Edition D&D - I realize that 2E is the red-headed stepchild of D&D, but that's what I'm going with for a variety of reasons. I may consider including suggestions for adapting it to other rules sets in the future...
    • 'Sandbox World' - I'm not trying to create an epic Story Path. This will be no metaplot or major world-changing events planned, etc.
    • Generic with personality - I want the setting to appeal to a wide variety of tastes and play styles.
    • Useful stuff included! - I will be including detailed NPCs, fleshed out encounters and actual mapped dungeons. This is a project with an eye toward usability and not just theory.

    As the project goes forward, I plan to include lots of notes and suggestions to help other DMs create their own worlds. If you have suggestions or input please comment! This is not a truly collaborative project, but all feedback is appreciated.

    Stay tuned tomorrow for Part One: Begin from the Beginning.

    Saturday, January 10, 2009

    Some Initial Thoughts About the Warden

    Wizards of the Coast has put up a preview of the Warden class from the upcoming Player's Handbook 2. As has become the norm with previous previews it covers levels 1-3 of the class progression.  The Warden is a primal defender and sort of reminds me of a barbarian/druid.

    The class's list of powers are interesting.  The powers do a good job of representing the 'wrath of nature' aspect of the class.  I couldn't help but chuckle at Nature's Abundance though.  It creates a 'zone of plants' that provides cover.  I can just see the mighty Warden hero summoning forth a patch of sunflowers to hide behind...

    Other class powers are a little worrisome though.  Powers like Warden's Grasp, combined with the Warden's ability to mark each adjacent enemy might make bookkeeping tasks a bit of pain for the DM.  I really hope that WotC keeps these sorts of powers to a minimum.  Keeping up with the effects of multiple marks from Multiple PCs on multiple enemies is not my idea of fun.

    Wednesday, January 07, 2009

    Books You Can Use: A World Lit Only by Fire

    I am always on the lookout for books that I can use to mine for ideas that I can use in my roleplaying games. I stumbled across Willaim Manchester's A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age while I browsing the bookstore and (since I had a Christmas gift card to burn) I picked it up.

    Now, I realize that the book and its author have gotten flamed pretty badly by some historians and reviewers and I am not vouching for its historical accuracy. However, I am DEFINITELY going to use some its descriptions of what life was like in the Middle Ages for my next 4th Edition D&D campaign. Some of the ideas and details that I plan to gleefully use (read that as rip off!) include.

    - A land that is heavily forested with only small pockets of open area for fields and towns.
    - An illiterate peasantry that never travels far from home and is always one bad harvest away from famine.
    - A population that is spread out in lots of little villages that contain only a hundred people or so.
    - etc.

    So, check the book out and see for yourself. It may not be the best history of the medieval period, but it is definitely an enjoyable read and filled with ideas that you can mine for your own campaigns. I reccomend it!

    Friday, January 02, 2009

    Building Dungeons on the Cheap

    If you play 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, you will need some kind of tactical grid for your miniatures or counters. Official Dungeon Tiles from Wizards of the Coast are one option, but they can start to get expensive if you buy multiple sets to try and get a variety of terrain. An alternative is to purchase and download tiles in PDF. They are relatively cheap and you can print as many as you need. The set pictured is Dragon Tiles: Dungeon Set 1 that I purchased from DriveThruRPG. It has a nice selection of generic tiles and includes a few extras like pits and doors.

    You can use the tiles that you print out as is or you can mount them if you want a more durable tile. I like to use foamcore. It's cheap and easy to cut. The only real tools that you will need are a straight edge of some kind and a razor/x-acto type knife (be careful!) I cut on a special cutting mat, but you can lay down layers of thick cardboard if you don't have a mat. Just make sure not to ruin Mom's dining room table! I am not an expert at the process, but even my tiles look pretty decent:

    One other thing that you can do to touch up you tiles is to edge them with a black marker. I think it really makes the tiles look more finished. Finally, if your tiles slide around too much on the tabletop, you can stick toothpicks in the foamcore and push the tiles together. It's easy to remove the toothpicks when you are done playing.

    So, consider printing your own tiles if you want a cheap way to build those dungeons in 2009!