January 27, 2011

4E Naval Combat (StarCraft Vessels)

Protoss Carrier                                                    Level 9 Attack Vessel
Size 4                                                                           1,600 XP

HP 200
Speed 4
Offense 25            Defense 17
Feint 17                 Damage 4d10+28

January 26, 2011

4E Naval Combat (Paragon/Epic Tier Viessels)

Arkhosian Battlecruiser            Level 18 Attack Vessel
Size 4                                                                           8,000 XP
HP 500
Speed 5
Offense  17                           Defense 32
Feint       17                           Damage 8d12+76

January 25, 2011

4E Naval Combat (Heroic Tier Vessels)

Stingray                                                Level 6 Attack Vessel
Size 2                                                                              500 XP
This submersible craft doesn't have much space for cargo, but it's swift and agile. While underwater, the stingray cannot fire its weapons and cannot be targeted by the shipboard weapons of enemy surface vessels. This class of vessel is often used for espionage and deep sea exploration.
HP 100
Speed 8
Offense 15            Defense 23
Feint 15                 Damage 2d8+12

January 24, 2011

4E Naval Combat (The System)

Enemy naval vessels are adding to combat encounters much the same way as creatures, each contributing their designated XP to the encounter total. Enemy ships, obviously, are only appropriate in encounters where they can threaten and interact with ships under the command or protection of the PCs. Non-Combat vessels are ships that do not possess any weapons that are dangerous to other ships, but often represent support craft, transports, civilian vessels, and other targets of opportunity.

Vessels in combat are considered to be continually moving under their respective propulsion systems, and do not require a specific action to control. Ships positions relative to each other are not physically represented, but are instead assumed to be moving about on the battlefield at some distance to each other.

January 22, 2011

4E Naval Combat (Intro)

This past summer, I had the pleasure of trying out a local Maryland tactical game, BATTLESTATIONS!  The game depicts a generic setting space combat; with a fluid flow from ship-to-ship combat (laser cannons, torpedoes, stellar objects, evasive maneuvers) to hand-to-hand combat (boarding parties wrestling control over ships, sabotaging weapon systems, racing to repair a derelict vessel). One scale directly affects the other, and makes for a really satisfying replica of the military scifi genre. It was really a blast.

As a side note, I felt that the editing and execution of the game's rulebooks were absolutely terrible. These ugly, mostly cosmetic problems were covering a beuatiful piece of design. A tragedy, really.

After playing, I thought about how much I'd really like to port that experience over to enhance my usual roleplaying games. I'm not very familiar with that many scifi RPGs, so maybe there's one out there that already does a good job of this and I'm just reinventing the wheel. BATTLESTATIONS! makes little attempt to add any real roleplaying elements into the game, and that's fine. The game has characters with names and stats, an experience point system, etc. but that is clearly not the focus here. The focus of BATTLESTATIONS! is on spaceship combat, with a little RP injected to keep things fresh. I wanted a roleplaying game, with an occasional naval combat element to spice things up.

Naturally, I start at the draiwng board that is the 4E D&D engine. I took a look at a very popular campaign done by Chris Perkins, Iomandra, and stole liberally. My own home campiagn ended up as a mix between Iomandra and Star Wars - a watery world dotted with tiny islands, with an oppressive, globe-spanning Dragonborn Empire repressing the peace-loving citizens and the start of a new rebellion, led by a motley troupe of unlikely heroes.

Next, enter the Air War Skill Challenge, one of the rare bits of non-editorial work at Critical Hits. Putting all these things together, I came up with a half-decent system of adding a satisfying ship-to-ship combat element to 4E for the traditional naval vessels (in Heroic Tier) and onward to the Astral Seas (in Paragon Tier), and finally did a quick workup of the vessels shown in StarCraft. I'll be posting all my work in the coming week:

Monday - The System

Tuesday - Heroic Tier Vessels

Wednesday - Paragon Tier Vessels

Thursday - StarCraft Vessels (appropriate for my Gamma World version of StarCraft)

January 21, 2011

Arkham Friday: The Feywild

In the canon 4TH Edition literature, authors have often gone to great pains to convince their readers that the Feywild, despite its butterfly-filled nature, is in fact a realm fraught with danger. They mention capricious fey, and Cyclops, and miscellaneous fey beasts. But, really, this is no more dangerous than a trip to any forest in the Points of Light natural world, right? By adding in the following random events, the players and their PC’s are now faced with unpredictable events carrying sometimes devastating results.
Welcome to the Feywild.

THE FEYWILD – Random Event Table (d20)
1              A bored Gnome challenges you to a riddle contest. Make an Intelligence check, Hard DC by Level. On a success, the Gnome leads you to a hidden cache containing gold coins equal to 10 times your Level squared. On a failure, the Gnome casts a cruel spell on you and you start the next combat encounter blinded (save ends).
2              A squat little Fairie joins your party and offers its services as your guide. Roll a d20. On a 9 or less, have a random event in The Abyss. On a roll of 10 or higher, have a random event in The Icy Wastes of Latherna.
3              You find yourself reliving a moment in your past that you have always regretted, only this time everything goes as well as you could ever hope. Gain 1 Healing Surge.
4              At the south gate of Taer Lian Doresh, you are stopped by a red-robed sentry until you can tell three dreams beyond belief. If the Dungeon Master does not approve of your three dreams, roll a Saving Throw. On a success, or if the Dungeon Master does approve of your dreams, you are treated to a tour the golden spires of Taer Lian Doresh and you gain a permanent +1 item bonus to Arcana and History checks. On a failure, your mind is made captive of the evil Fey of the Dream World, and you take a -5 penalty to Will until you reach your next Milestone.
5              A noble herd of centaur bandits descend upon you in a stampede! They attack: + Level + 3 vs. Reflex; on a hit, you take Normal High damage by Level and you lose gold coins equal to 10 times your Level squared.
6              Cresting the hill, you come across a sight that is intended only for you, and it fills your heart with joy. Describe it to the other players. Gain 1 Healing Surge or remove one failed Death Saving Throw. 
7              Hearing a loud flapping noise from above, you press yourself into the shadows of the forest to escape the notice of its green dragon guardian. Make a Stealth check, Moderate DC by Level. On a success, the dragon does not notice you and drops a scroll nearby with a ritual of your choice equal to your Level or lower. On a failure, you are attacked by its breath weapon: + Level + 3 vs. Fortitude; Limited acid damage by Level and you start the next combat encounter with ongoing 5 acid damage per Tier (save ends).
8              You cross the valley of Pnoth, where the purple worms crawl and burrow incessantly. You hear a slithering among the mountains. Make a Stealth check, Moderate DC by Level, to avoid the notice of the horrid beasts. On a failure, you are attacked by the worm’s terrible stinger: + Level + 5 vs. Armor Class; Normal High damage and Normal High poison damage by Level.
9              It's lovely here, and perfect... so perfect you might stay forever. Make an Insight check, Easy DC by Level. On a success, gain 1 Healing Surge. On a failure, you are can never be taken away from this place, and are lost to the Fey forever.
10           The Elven King of Mithrendain would like a souvenir from your “natural” world. Describe what trinket your character gives to the king and make a Diplomacy check, Moderate DC by Level. On a success, the king rewards you for your generosity and presents to you 1 consumable magic item of your choice of equal to your Level or lower. On a failure, the king is angered and proclaims that you are no longer welcomed by the Fey. Take a permanent -5 penalty to all Charisma-based skill checks with creatures with the Fey origin.
11           Maybe you shouldn't have eaten that strangely-colored fruit. Make an Endurance check, Moderate DC by Level, to keep your lunch. On a failure, lose 1d4 Healing Surges.
12           Others' nightmares are not meant to be witnessed, even indirectly. Lose 1d4 Healing Surges from the horrors you have witnessed in the dream city of Taer Lian Doresh.
13           The ground begins to crack open as an invading force from the Underdark begins their assault on the surface world! Make an Athletics check, Moderate DC by Level, to jump to safety. On a failure, you fall into the chasm and take Limited damage by Level. On a critical miss, you are swallowed by the yawning earth and lost in the Feydark forever.
14           The tormented ghosts of lost Cendriane grope and grasp at your flesh as you run through the city in terror. They attack: + Level + 3 vs. Will; Normal High necrotic damage and Normal High psychic damage by Level.
15           The light of the moon seems to bend and twist the night around you into fearsome shapes, which attack your mind: + Level + 3 vs. Will; Normal High psychic damage by Level.
16           The cackling of the Harlequinade, an evil troupe of Gnomish court jesters, echoes in your ears and threatens to drive you mad. It attacks you: + Level + 3 vs. Will (fear); Normal High psychic damage by Level and you grant combat advantage to all attackers. You may make a saving throw at the end of each combat encounter to end this effect.
17           The fey panther claws at you as it appears and reappears from out of thin air. It catches you by surprise and makes an attack: + Level + 7 vs. Armor Class; Normal Moderate damage by Level.
18           The stone gateway protecting the Feywild from the depths of the Underdark is covered in runes that reveal to you one of the deepest secrets of the Fey. If you speak the Elven language, make an Arcana check, Hard DC by Level, to decipher the words. On a success, you gain a Warlock (Fey) Utility spell of your choice to use until you take your next Extended Rest, equal to your Level or lower.
19           Time passes differently in the Feywild, and you've needed to learn a few things to survive. Gain a permanent +1 item bonus to a skill of your choice.
20           While wandering the phosphorescent woods, you are surrounded by mischievous sprites! Make a Bluff check, Moderate DC by Level, to show them a riddle or trick and befriend them. On a success, they take a liking to you and give you a gourd of moon-tree wine, which functions as a potion of your choice of your Level + 3 or lower. On a failure, the sprites close in around you, their teeth gleaming, and attack: + Level + 5 vs. Armor Class; Normal Moderate damage and you start your next combat encounter dazed (save ends).

January 18, 2011

Terrain Power: Chained Beast

Here's another example of progressing a terrain power through the three tiers. From a tiger, to a displacer beast, to a ragng demon; an iconic and dangerous beast is presented where appropriate for the power level of the heroes that face off against it.

This started with my attempt to add some interesting effects to the Chamber of Eyes finale in Thunderspire Labyrinth. In it, the heroes storm the lair of Hobgoblin slavers and end with a climactic duel, which also happens to link some new participants in the battle into the next phase of the plot. In the description of the scene, there are chains pinned to the floor and an angry Dire Wolf pet of the Hobgoblin chief. I felt that these two great tastes would taste together, and so chained down the pet onto the floor, removing it as a standard combatant per se, and creating a dangerous terrain feature that could be exploited by clever thinkers on either side of the DM Screen. I've also included a similar setup for a chained down wild boar, which also appears in Thunderspire Labyrinth.

January 14, 2011

Arham Friday: The Icy Wastes of Latherna

Latherna is overseen closely by the Raven Queen's guardians of Winter, and has close ties with the realm of the Frost Prince in the Feywild. It is a horrid and lonely place where life goes to become numb to the world and die. It's icy plateau's are endless in both size and cruelty.

I based this location on The Plateau of Leng.

January 11, 2011

Terrain Element: Collapsing Wall/Cairn/Cliff Face

Here's a simple terrain power progression from Heroic to Paragon to Epic tiers. I started with a collapsable stone wall in a dungeon or amidst the ruins of an ancient keep. A keep, mayhaps, on the Shadowfell. Afterwards,  I progressed the power to knocking over the burial cairns of the ancient fey, as seen in the latest Tomb of Horrors. Lastly, I let the PCs and their enemies jack up their power to over-the-top limits in Epic tier, with collapsing an entire side of a cliff in an avalanche like fashion.

One of the keys to good terrain power progression, and good progression in general throughout the game, from tier to tier is to alter not only the basic stats; attack bonus, damage expression, skill DC, etc., but to also mess around with status effects, area of effect, and anything else you can do to kick it up a notch, such as changing the area of effect in this collapsing series of terrain powers to a wall at Epic tier.

January 7, 2011

Arkham Friday: Sunderheart

The Shadowrealm holds more secrets than all other planes combined. Its fabric is mystery. Its nature is to disguise. Hidden in the endless gloom of the plane lurk domains of dread—dark realms of tragedy and horror that draw victims down in circles of destruction. Few know of these places, for few ever escape. One such is Sunderheart. Called 'The Funeral City', Sunderheart is a necropolis filled with the mindless dead and watched over by malevolent spirits with god-like powers.

This table also works pretty well with Orcus’ domain of Thanatos, or any really nasty, evil place full of undead. Random Event #14 is my personal favorite. It’s pretty Fourthcore, potentially tricking you into switching your primary stat bonuses to Dex and Con, which would be devastating for a lot of characters out there.

January 6, 2011

Vehicle: Rockcutter

This vehicle is supposed to represent a humongous mining machine, built by those ever-crafty Dwarves. It's got a hirling, chainsaw-like edge that wraps around the thing, 3" thick steel plating, treads, and a bullnose front. Because it is so large and unwieldy (18 squares total), there are restrictions to this device built in to limit the amount of utter devastation the PCs' can cause with it through natural cave chokepoints, etc. Although, please, don't stop them from coming up with really creative solutions to get this mega machine of death out under the open skies.

I've found that a repair cost of 100 gp per Hit Point of damage generally keeps these sorts of things outside of the realm of abuse, and I encourage you to do the same.

January 4, 2011

Magic Item: The Rod of Ruin

I made this magic item while re-running Keep on the Shadowfell for some friends who had never gone forth to that first foray of fourth edition.

I gave this out as a magic item held by the adventure's villain, Karalel. The story went that Karalel was using the powers of his recently found Rod of Ruin to open up the portal to the Shadowfell which lies beneath the ancient, crumbling keep. As such, I wanted this item to be very special and memorable. I wanted it to have really awesome powers, and as an item of evil, I also wanted it to be harmful or corrupting as well.

All of the properties of this magic item scale perfectly well with Level, all the way from 1 to 30. Thus, a magic item of this profound power should never be discarded due to a PC's rising character level. This item will haunt the adventurers for their entire lives.

Lastly, I never assign enhancement bonuses to magic items anymore. I've been using the inherent enhancement bonus system as soon as I wrapped my hands around the Dungeon Master's Guide 2.

During the climactic battle with Karalel, the Rod of Ruin and it's fully disclosed list of abilities was laid out on the table for all to see. An epic struggle formed around grabbing the Rod out from Karalel's grasp, with the PC's trying to turn the table on the contemptuous cultist. I thought this would have been a great opportunity for the sneaky Splug! to shine, skulking in to pickpocket the Rod right from under Karalel's nose; but alas, he was dismissed by the group. They never realized his potential.

In hindsight, I would have loved to have my Arkham Encounter tables on hand for that final encounter. Something that many have complained about in the game is the inconsistancy in how the Shadowfell is portrayed in the D&D canon. In H1, it is inhospitable to the point of deadly to all life; but by the beginning of the E-Series, it's just very gloomy and overcast. Somewhat like Seattle (no offense, WotC). If the PCs could step through that portal and have a few quick encounters in Gloomwrought, that would be a nice sweet spot between being a dangerous locale, but not so deadly that you can never journey there.