Tag4e

Visit To Another Tribe

I tried Living Forgotten Realms today. It was pretty fun, actually. Short-form explanation: you write up a D&D character, and you sign up for an event — there are two public regular nights here in the Boston area, and each night so far has had at least two modules — and you go down and play with whoever else signed up and the DM, and at the end of the night you and the DM record your progression and then you can do it again the next week, or two weeks from now, or at a con. Whatever.

Pros: no pressure at all. You play when you wanna. Tired of the wizard? Swap to the fighter. Nice casual environment. Meet new people. All the modules are Wizards-approved.

Cons: Not super-heavy on the roleplay. Meet new people. All the modules are Wizards-approved.

I wouldn’t want it as my sole gaming outlet, maybe, but I had a good time and I expect I’ll do more. We had a great GM, who did an excellent job of keeping things moving and who knew the rules well. He handled skill challenges nicely; when we needed a push on appropriate skills, we used ’em, and he was fair about arbitrating other skills we could use.

I got stepped on once or twice when I busted out a bit of clerical roleplay and someone else wanted to make the roll due to a higher bonus, but c’est la vie. From an in character perspective, I think Alesk (oooh, a character sheet) did the talking on those occasions no matter who made the roll, so nyah.

The module was solid. I was wondering how these get built for random groups. Simple setup: “you all got notes requesting your presence at a meeting,” and we all went and met each other, and there was no angst about whether or not we were going to work together. I think the rogues got to show their sinister sides and my cleric got to be all holy and we acknowledged imperfect compatibility without letting it get in the way. Probably not the greatest start for an ongoing campaign, but for six people scheduled to work together for a few days? Worked fine.

The GM framed competently. He wasn’t shy about asking for skill rolls and providing hints, both out of combat and in combat. I think the modules encourage that as well, but the little touches like allowing us to roll Arcana to intuit that Sleep wasn’t going to work on the statue trap was good; saved people from feeling silly for using their big powers poorly. And nudging us gently towards the right places as we progressed towards the crypt was nice too. I didn’t feel railroaded into a specific way of handling a certain pack of guards, but I do feel like we were offered some possible smart ideas. None of which we took! And we still got past ’em.

I pretty much liked the table. I spent a few minutes pre-game chatting about the irksomeness of trying to get Zul’Aman bear mounts with the one couple, and one guy brought his kid along for some D&D exposure, and everyone was cool with that and super-helpful to the kid. Definitely varying degrees of game expertise, but I’m not gonna judge when I kept forgetting my bonuses to hit.

Also I got a +1 Holy Symbol of Life. And I suspect there’s a shortage of healers. So I gotta play again…

World's Longest Dungeon

The moral equivalent of running World’s Largest Dungeon for 4e, at present, would be to just run the module series. WotC is gonna put out three modules for each tier; H1 and H2 are the first two for the Heroic tier, and when H3 comes out that’ll get a campaign to level 11. There’ll then be P1, P2, and P3; followed by E1, E2, and E3. These are all announced.

Each module comes with play maps. I mean, come on.

Making Pogs

This isn’t my technique; I’m stealing it from John Harper’s posts on Story Games. But it’s cool.

What you do is this. Buy the following items:

  • Mod Podge. This is the glue and the finishing surface. The gloss version is working for me but you may want matte.
  • Bag of circular cut outs. “Cut outs” is craft jargon for “little piece of wood.” You want the 1″ diameter version.
  • 1″ paper punch. That one is cool because it’s easy to see what you’re punching — other models are top-down, so you have to contort a bit.
  • Little dinky foam brushes. For the Mod Podge. I hear you can use cotton swabs for this too, but I’m a geek, so I like specific tools.

You can get all this stuff at a craft store locally, which is faster than Amazon, plus no shipping charges.

OK. Now print out some pretty pictures on (preferably) your color printer. Use Photoshop or Gimp or Preview or MS Paint or whatever to resize the graphics down to around 1″ big. Save paper; print a bunch of them on one sheet. They’re 1″ big, so you have plenty of room. Copy and paste for multiple kobolds. I’m thinking I’m going to add initials to my kobolds to distinguish the soldiers from the minons and so on. You don’t need to use cardstock or anything.

Punch out the circles with the paper punch. This is way satisfying.

Splortch some Mod Podge on the surface of a cut out. Use a brush so your fingers don’t get sticky. You can use a fair bit — it doesn’t seem to need to be a thin layer. Medium, maybe. Splortch splortch. Stick the paper circle to the cut out; smooth it out so there are no bubbles. Splortch.

Wait a few minutes for it to dry. You’re supposed to wait like an hour or so, I guess. I get impatient. I also sort of bend the edge of the paper down to match the bevel of the cut out.

Splortch some more Mod Podge on top of the paper. Use the foam brush to smooth and thin it out. It’s gonna seal the paper in, make it less delicate, and in theory make it look like the paper and cutout are one. Mod Podge seems to be really prone to textures; the foam brush appears to be key here to keep it smooth and, you know, glossy.

Let it dry more.

If you’re very ambitious, print out duplicate pictures with a red tinge to them, and stick those to the other side of the cut out so you can flip it over when it’s bloodied. This seems like a lot of work for something you could do with a red poker chip, though.

N.B.: real crafts people call this decoupage. When you go to the crafts store, you’re gonna see a bunch of wooden boxes and random objects next to the cut outs (which is a good way to find the cut outs, actually). Those are for the same purpose. I find myself tempted to do a decoupage box for dice and such like, with a lot of Larry Elmore art glued on.

Weekend Entertainment Pursuits, Part III

I also played some D&D 4e. Tom runs a nifty game, plus it’s always fun playing with new peeps. Rock on, teenage love triangle, rock on. I’m trying to decide if my Felix is crushing on Geoff. It seems likely.

That link there is a good description of the game and I agree with all of the points made therein. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a remarkably movement-oriented system. Most of our fights were in clear space, and by the end of the game I was just moving thirty feet every turn, because I wanted to tag enemies with my Curse and you can only do that to the closest enemy. The one fight where my back was to a wall, that made me sad. Playing a Warlock is like playing a GEV with a howitzer bolted to the top in Ogre. Zip zip zip. BOOM. I very much regret the failure of my 5d8+1d6+6 bomb single-turn attack sequence.

It feels like D&D. Lots more powers, and much more to do, but it’s a d20 and you roll it and you hit things and do damage and move six squares and take attacks of opportunity and flank. The changes just sort of supercharge it in an alarmingly Hong Kong actiony sort of a way. Also, there are still weird little side cases that make you go “hm, not sure how that should work. Please send lawyers, runs, and FAQs.”

Cian, who I mentioned in comments a few posts back on the LJ side, was a cleric with a side business in being an archer. I spent a lot of feats and points on that, because I was expecting to get very bored if I was just a healer. I knew I’d run out of spells and I wanted to be effective in other ways.

If I was using 4e for him, I wouldn’t need to screw with any of that. He’d have a lance of pure holy light zapping out of his fingertips on demand, a million times a day. There is nothing bad about this. I like that I don’t have to spend feats to avoid boredom.

It is lacking in out of combat skills, albeit not to the degree that detractors claim. Also I don’t know if I like skill challenges. We did one and it felt a touch artificial. The old ad hoc system that Jeffwik or someone described based on an early leak, where you did whatever you wanted and rolls just applied? That seems better. I think Tom was running ours sort of like that, but since we were not RP-focused we were a bit slow to get into that mindset.

That, however, was my only beef. I have already created a spreadsheet to assist me in choosing 1d6+3 rolled against Will vs. 1d10+4 rolled against Reflex. It is a good system for the crunchy side of me, and it is simple enough to be fun for the non-crunchy side of me.

4e Character Sheet

After too much time spent poring through forums for D&D 4e character sheets, I wound up with this one, which worked out great in play. The form-fillable version, by some new Adobe magic, allows you to save your filled out sheet. Handy.

The landscape one found here is also very nice — much more compact — but not form-fillable. Plus I really liked the power card holder on the previous one. Yeah, I assembled it. Rubber cement and scissors and all. It’s handy.

Oh, yeah. Five hour one shot, four combats, a smidge of RP. We were focused on system. It’s a quick little combat system. It feels like D&D to me; you’re rolling a 20 sider and doing damage. Certainly PCs are way more sturdy early on. Still and all, rolling d20s, rolling damage, all that fun stuff.

Combat was really mobile. Lots of shifting and hitting and movement. I kinda wanna play Sunless Citadel in 4e to compare and contrast. Maybe I’ll go write up Cian now.

Wizards' GSL and Restraint of Trade

This is the bit where yet another uninformed non-lawyer spouts off. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Wizards has released a license for third parties who want to publish 4e compatible work. It’s much more restrictive than the analogous license for 3e, which is Wizard’s right. One of the interesting sections is section 6, reproduced in full down below, but which in short says that once you publish a work using the new license, you cannot publish an OGL version of that work or of any works in the same product line.

I.e., Green Ronin has this popular and successful Freeport product line. They’ve published a generic book that describes Freeport, and they plan to publish system-specific books for a number of systems which contain stats and mechanics. So far they’ve done three of those; one for Savage Worlds, one for True20, and one for D20. The latter two are OGL products.

If Green Ronin wanted to do a 4e system book for Freeport, they could. But they’d have to stop publishing the True20 and D20 system books. And they’re not allowed, by the terms of the license, to go back and republish those even if they stop publishing the 4e book.

Ooof.

Now the uninformed question: does this constitute restraint of trade? (Oh, god, linking to Wikipedia in relation to legal questions. I’m going to hell. WINAL, as they say.) I note that Wikipedia claims that restraint of trade is generally applied to post-employment clauses in employment contracts and conditions on sale of business. The former is why it’s hard to enforce non-competes in California employment contracts, for example.

So probably not; but it’s an interesting question. My instinct is that Wizards would argue that the clause acts to protect their interest in their logo and brand — another clause sets standards of quality for licensed material, and allowing a third party to publish material in the same product line which does not fall under those quality standards perhaps risks brand dilution.

But yeah, not a lawyer.

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I'm Not Gonna Run This

But I did just shell out $4 for a PDF of Against The Giants so I could convert it to 4e.

Edit: the tournament characters included in the back of the book are named Gleep Wurp the Eyebiter, Cloyer Bulse the Magsman, Roaky Swerked, Frush O’Suggill, Fonkin Hoddypeak, Flerd Trantle, Redmod Dumple, Faffle Dwe’o-mercraeft, and Beek Gwenders of Croodle. So there’s my money’s worth.

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