Tuesday, August 26, 2014

D&Daughter #5: Shadow of the King

So yes, the dollhousing continued, with the declaration of chopping down a tree. So I prompt her to roll a strength check for it - bang - a 2!

So there's an excuse for combat to begin (well, the 'suggestion' of it was adopted...)! My notes have 'Can I do the actions?' listed - I think she started moving the remaining goblins over. Initially I think I proposed that the goblins, being half way across the map, would bust out their short bows since they couldn't reach us in melee. I get a fairly firm no to that (OMG, doesn't she realise she should say 'yes, and...'? LoL! I'm joking - there's a ton of yes going on here already. It's okay for a no to be mixed amongst it). So the lead one is coming in with his scimitar and the furthest one is firing his bow. Neither doing terribly well at it. And yes, when randomly determining who it'll shoot at, we have flagrant 'I hope it's you' comments! Ah, there's that classic D&D - together yet hoping some other party member gets burned first!

And oooh yeah, ray of frost crit on that goblin archer! Now you're a lawn ornament! Well, till you defrost!

I think this time she waited behind me, and I blasted both of them with ray of frost in the end while she did not draw their attention by firing. I guess you try out different approaches sometimes.

Having defeated them, I think there was some more interaction with Metal the dog, as he is to come with us. And with that the village map is done - it promptly gets flipped over to the half castle map on the other side. I think this double map came from  a D&D 4e dungeon masters kit, late in 4e's cycle.

Apparently this castle needs villagers! So she gets to placing them in some of the barracks.

But it is at this point that Cobra King makes his first appearance! This starts out as her liking some snakemen figures I have...fine, I'll go look up what it is...yeah, it's a Yuan-ti figure, scimitar held high! Proper cobra hood on the figure.

Not actually having any stats for such a creature, I decide if it comes to it, I'll use a Redbrand ruffian (I think that's the name) from Phandelver's monster section, reskinned as Cobra King. Mostly because Redbrand ruffians are freakin' dangerous, being a 100XP monster that has two attacks! At this point in our career, that's kingly!

Cobra King takes up one of the towers of the castle, while we scuttle in the other way. I'm not quite sure she understands how castle walls work (when viewed directly from above, as they are on a battle mat) as we sort of walk through the walls to get towards the villagers. But it just doesn't seem that interesting to make a fuss about - D&D monsters are pretty well built to work just by themselves. The specifics of the castle don't need to be enforced to have any eventual battle with CK to be fun (in a 'I'm dying, I'm dying!' way!). Possibly if the monsters weren't so self contained I'd enforce it - but I don't think it'd make up for what just having a well designed system and monster has to begin with.

So, we make it to the villagers and she's roleplaying them, that they have no food to survive and don't have any armour. Eventually we go to another room, again on the opposite side of the map to CK, and gather food and bring it to them - in what is more dollhouse action rather than rolling dice or anything. Whatever, why not just let pure freeform be the mode to get the villagers some food, when it's flowing nicely already and she's having fun (and again, it's not going to spoil any encounter latter).

And it was there that we finished up another section. I think I must have said something about having a battle, because although play here ended in us scuttling around like frightened mice in the shadow of Cobra King without fighting stuff, things went crazy next session!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

D&Daughter #4: Zombie in the Dollhouse?

And then we got a healing potion. No, we got two healing potions.

I don't know how I feel about assigning ourselves healing potions. They cost 50 gold by the book. I can't see any real middle ground alternative. I'm considering to just pay for them retroactively - save up the gold and 'spend' it, which is to say to lose it, afterward.

Anyway, my notes read 'fake pvp' here, as daughter gets a bit frisky in terms of batting my figure across the tile with her figure. I say 'Hey!' and then ask, does she want to run a battle between them? Even a fake one where we wont keep the results (ie, HP loss)? No, apparently!

Anyway, also apparently a set of stairs lead out of the dungeon up to the surface into the village map I have. We climb up in someones back room. And there are several goblins all through the town! They are stealing the crops from the villagers - which are pictured on the map as well as the homes.

But we really need a rest! Or so my notes said - I guess we both had HP damage by then and I was probably out of spells. So lets just sleep in this house we climbed into! Sure, why not? But what do the goblins do during the eight hours? 'Oh, nothing - they're full and they just sleep'. Okay, then.

I think I tacked on a stirge in one of the trees during the sleep, just to have something build up from us just napping all over the place.

As I recall, play got a bit 'dollhouse play' at this point - she's tottering over the map, saying she's doing this or doing that (and the goblins and stirge are on the other side of the map), she's eating the vegetables from the garden ("Wait, isn't that stealing the villagers food?" "Ah...it grows back really fast!" "So...the goblins aren't really doing anything super bad, just being pests since the food they stole will grow back soon enough?" "..." . Yes, I include socio-economic forces in relation to morality that make us uncomfortable with our assumptions, when I game!!) and petting the metalic dog. The metalic dog is there because that's the mini I own and I don't really have any other dog figures. It is soon adopted and called 'Metal'. Come to think of it, all head bangers should call their dog Metal, so they can shout that in the park when they are trying to call the animal.

And now the idea is that the dog will chase off the goblins. Granted, I've played AD&D where you'd buy warhounds just to survive level 1, but you were in the fight with them. Also we watched those warhounds die in those AD&D games (yeah, I was DM'ing when the last died - I denied resurrection. To show the horror of war. Then they forgot about it anyway). So I'm not so jiggy on 'well, when there's trouble, we get someone else to solve it'. That sort of play is for Call of Cthulhu. So I signal my reluctance on that one. So she passes on it, but this leads to more doll house play - with a villager figure or two coming in and then she gets a bit bossy about what I'm to do on the map. I have a note reading 'I'm doing the talking', when I pick up one of the NPC's and have him speak rather than her animating both. As I recall I think she relented, but then it was 'well, what are you saying, then!'. It's like playing with a GM that you are thirty years older than - exactly the same emotional base, just lest sophistication in the delivery. BUT, if you're gunna play with other people, you deal with other people rather than expecting a sanitised ideal. That way karma might eventually come and they might put up witht the lumps and warts of your own personality, one day. Not that I did not chide on the bossy bit.

"So, I think maybe a zombie has been attracted by the goblins noise", I attempt, bringing out one from the bottom of the map, having sustained what I can of the dollhouse play until now...

"Nooo, no zombies!"

Zombies are apparently a bit creepy. Though weve faced about three skeletons already.

So, I see I have a passed skill check and I decide to try out that combat wheel idea, placing a red die for it on the map. She even checks me 'Hey, why are you standing next to it!?', as last time she shot an arrow. I say you can use it at range or for a melee attack. My wizard is hitting it with my staff...wait, no, my sword. Wizards can start out with swords these days rather than a stick. I think I hit the AC on it as well, converting the passed skill into 10XP.

I'm thinking now of making some skill check tokens to potentially plonk onto the map, because otherwise I'm just not thinking of things in time during play and so play is gravitating to violence only for XP. And as said previously I want to lean it another way. Violence isn't violence when there is no alternative - it becomes normalised and worse, it then (if you never die) becomes boring (and then the tiresome 'oh, I'm all about the story!' brigade get their claws into the whole affair based on that).

So for this episode, I leave you with the dollhouse play, with the lack of a climax that it usually entails. Next time we might actually engage the goblins and that stirge, but mostly because dollhousing fails when it comes to chopping down a tree and rolling very badly! Till next time, question is fail! :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

D&Daughter #3

So, where were we?

'Have you been writing the story?'

She's spotted me taking notes. In fact I think no matter how stealthy I try to be, never mind if I'm writing down health changes or gear gains, people notice when I write notes?

And of course she means the story that's just happening as we do stuff. We don't have a pre written story/module here or anything. Though we do have some nifty tiles and a ruleset.

Anyway, at this point I needed to rest and I'd forgotten about short rest hit dice spending. You can actually spend them while your unconscious - I'm pretty sure I asked Mearls that and got a reply! But I can't find it right now, so don't trust me on that!

But I'd forgotten, so I need an eight hour rest - and daughter is kinda incredulous at that. Curious - I mean, I suspect she knows to some degree that for us it's not going to be us waiting eight hours in real life. And yet still incredulous?

Anyway, so I say do you think monsters could turn up while were resting? I get an adamant No! Given there's a magic circle on the tile I say perhaps it's a circle of protection, blocking out monsters - but maybe we can only use it the once.

We'd finished play about there. But it left me itching for revenge against a skeleton. When next we played I tried to establish that another skeleton was coming out of the portal we'd fought one from before. But she's all like 'no!'. C'mon, you're supposed to say 'yes, but!' - all the cool kids are doing that and it's the only way to play! No, I didn't say that! Just a bit of satire. Eventually she relented to putting the skeleton in the next tile, which contained a number of stone coffins - so that pretty much made so much sense to me I rolled with it. However, since I'm trying to go for an average encounter (100 XP) but I don't think we can handle an average due to lack of party synergy (ie, only two members), I add a (twig blight reskinned as a) spider next to the skeleton. She protests, and I stay my ground, but then she grabs it and puts it in the webs in the corner of the room. Well actually that does make alot more sense, so now it's further away.

And I propose stealth, since were kind of around the corner and out of sight of it. We fail miserably and then we have that weird 'no, I was here' talk since I said we'd be walking around the corner, having moved my character. But she stays hidden around the edge. Actually reflecting on it now, you just determine if you get a surprise round, then people just do the round so really she should just move her figure as she will after finding she had the round or not.

I have some notes that read 'Oh, skele is forward'? I do not know what this means now. The next line is 'Who fights who?' I do recall as I think I got higher initiative and then she wanted to be all over the skeleton, while I was saying I wanted revenge!! She relents in the end to slay the spider in the corner, which on her turn she hits neatly and minimum damage would kill it. However, after I magic missiled it without laying it low, on it's turn, the skeleton drops me with a roll of six on damage (+2 = 8 damage!). Just enough to drop me to zero! Dammit! Again I am defeated!

There's a thing I'd like to qualify here - disappointment that's within the expected range of the game vs just disappointment with the game (or session, or peoples, even) itself. I think a lot of gamers have real trouble having a seperate notion of them - they can't be both sad at a in game result, but actually happy with the game in general. Any time they are sad, the game is going bad. I suspect it's this 'all about the fun!' cultural backlash against the tyrannical DM's of the mid 80's to mid 90's. Now the tyrant is fun. Everyone must reject any reduction in fun, utterly. It's the one true way - if you're fun is 7 out of 10, you can't accept it going to six or five! No! Reject immediately! Only same or higher! I mean I've heard an account of someone playing Phandelver (with an oversized group), not getting to kill a goblin and...saying D&D 5e was not for them.

Thing was, I was put down to zero hp, and I was dissapointed - but I was not dissapointed in the game! It's possible to feel both!

Anyway. So now the skeleton is on her! And it's hit her while she's missed and the air is filled with tension!

And then it hits her again and...that'd take out the rest of her HP. And because were a two woman party, there's gunna be no one to stabalise us, let alone finish the fight. This would be the end!

And this is where I remember second wind. Buuuut...well, it's not applicable, since you do it on your turn, not when unconscious. So I kind of half describe to her were gunna cheat (yep, I've decided to cheat!) but only half because I know the technical details of that are going to be anti-climactic to understand. Still, it's better than just pretending we played the rules absolutely normally. So we cheat and roll the second wind dice, which gets all her HP back! And I think she still got hit one more time and I rolled a 1 on my stabilise check! That means two fails out of three - so every time she rolls to hit, I'm rolling for my life on my turn! She might get through but I might be dead! Buuut, I make it! Delicious 16's rolled (way more than the 10 needed, thus delicious!). And finally she lays the skeleton low, with her very next turn going towards stabilising me and I think she made it on the first roll!

Few!

And oh yeah, some XP!

Though I'm not going to make a habbit of this ret conning second wind cheat - I'm commiting to reminding about it during play when it's still possible to use it and damage has been taken.

And that's when we short rested and spent hit dice for the first time!

Next time, we just 'luckily' find some healing potions - and teeter on the edge of casual PVP! Plus gratuitous goblin garden thieves!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Incrementing the incrementer

Hmm, don't want to write up my notes (doing enough of that in writing up my book notes). So...I'm working on the last little pieces (of the main gameplay) for a so called idle game. It's one of those painfully edutainmental or whatever you call it ones, as it's about suburban farming and setting up trays of plants (rather than the hard yacka of digging and de weeding soil), going from saving money to selling excess produce.

I'd actually intended it to be shorter, then insisted to myself to include the full money making cycle. I've kept a record of each 20 minute chunk of programming I've done. Though that's just the programming - I've skipped listing times for light debugging (ie, fairly straight forward debugging that doesn't require reprogramming). And I don't include compiling time. AND I don't include testing time. It's a bit of a gyp, but those things are fairly straight forward to me and I can do them like some people can knit without thinking very much - just on a sort of auto matic mode.

That was all in an attempt to budget the project instead of giving more game to the world without any sense of proper recompense to the author, like so many programmers out there do (many of them not needing any extra funding and so like a semi retired person who takes up a job for a hobby that someone else needs to pay rent and food, kinda annoying).

We really need a union. Yeah, I know, blasphemy word to some of you. Even as you've no doubt benefited from strength in numbers from time to time (or alternatively the world is a kind place full of kind bosses and kind government officials who helped you - that's how you got along. Wait, no, you were just that tough you did it. Never relied on any infrastructure at all. Of course)

Monday, August 4, 2014

D&Daughter 5E

So the next time we sat down to play she'd laid out the dungeon tiles again in the same order as before, but I seperated the next tile and added my diary to represent a rickety bridge. She looked at it dubiously along with me saying it was a 15 dex check to get across safely. Well she made it and I didn't!

I have this thing I've added to play but it hasn't really kicked in yet where if you pass a check you record that. Latter you can spend them to attempt to use a target wheel to have a chance at XP, or you can fight animated marionettes (I think I've mentioned them in a previous blog post) to get XP. This is because while combate encounters are fairly discrete and work by themselves, the D&D designers still haven't done that with ability checks. Anyway, we haven't done these things yet, but she records her passing a check dutifully when I inform her.

It's a ten foot drop as I called it so my wizardess takes 1D6 from falling off the bridge, then has to scrabble up the other side to rejoin the fighter.

And were at the next room, which has skeletons chained to the wall in its tile art. She thought we'd have to fight them all in a previous session and me knowing that there being eight of them that's way over what we can handle, I'd suggested they are just chained to the wall skeletons that don't move. Indeed this time I suggested that the dias in the middle of the room was a map. It kind of looks like a map on the tile art (as it has many undulations), though it isn't. And it'd be a skill roll to try and decypher where a hidden stash of treasure is. And it'd be non violent annnnnd she's dubious. No, actually she's 'No it's not!'. And 'It's a portal!' and 'And a skeleton comes out!' (or it may have been 'Sooo what sort of monsters could come out?' she asked, looking around at the figures. I think it was which is what prompted my scaling concern below)

Righteo then! So, I'm guessing that we can take on two skeletons for an average combat. So I put them out and she wants to be at the back so she can shoot her cool long bow which she was attracted to from the begining in some of the starter set art ("I'm like that one *pointing at (a drow, IIRC) archer* but a girl!"). Okay, wizard tank! I decide I atleast have mage armour on, anyway.

I think they get a massive initiative roll and go first. One misses and then the other one murderises me, partly because of the prior damage I'd taken from traps. I crumple to the ground at zero HP. And here, yes, I propose that perhaps one skeleton is the amount we can handle? She does not resist me taking one away.

Afterwards I find it technically is the right XP amount. But the thing is I think a party synergises - and so a party of two is not half as strong as a party of four - it's actually weaker than that. So really two skeletons is too much. Or so I think. I'm not blaming the devs for that - the game is for four players, really and so really were 'doin' it wrong'. ;)

I think a bit of a whiff fight occurs between the skele and the fighter. And it's tense. Whiff is fine when it's like two seconds between each roll and one hit could crumple the hated skele (and one crit or even a good roll could drop the fighter. And at this point I'd forgotten/didn't really know about the fighters second wind healing). And then she lays it low with her long sword (as it had obviously advanced on her and made bow use disadvantagious)

And of course whiffs are even more tense when you're making freakin' stablisation rolls while it's happening! Actually I notice now that if you make three passes (straight 50% chance to pass) then you stabalise yourself, which is nifty, I think! Previously in the play test you were just trying to get your head above water by passing (only a nat 20 would get you out of dying).

So she goes to stabalise me (do either of us own a healers kit? We aught to! They auto stabalise!), just needing 10 or higher on a wisdom check (oh yeah, she's at -1 on that...hurr hurr...fortunately made it anyway!)

So, lets go back so we can rest, hey?

"We can't go back"

What?

"We can't go back"

But can't we just go back through the tunnels and that other portal?

"No, it's gone"

What!?

"And I needed you for this next room.", she says, pointing at the wizardly accoutrements in the next dungeon tile, despondantly.

So what am I gunna do!?

I find I have gotten only a little way through my notes and it's taken quite some typing to get it out, so I will pause at this juncture though play did not. Till next time 'Question is a fail!'! ;)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Some D&D 5e starter set play with my daughter

An account of playing some D&D 5e with my seven year old daughter. Atleast at first level I think D&D has evolved now to cease requiring several combat encounters to wear down the PC's before a combat become frightening and you're at risk of the soft losing option of unconsciousness (as opposed to hard lose condition that is PC death). Now, since part of your HP are stored in hit dice (formerly healing surges in 4e), it means you can have alot of HP for a longer days fighting, but you can loose all your current HP in the fight your in. It's like a classic D&D character has 20 HP while a new edition one has 10 HP and 10 stored in hit dice. The 20 HP character really has no fear of soft losing to a monster. The 10 HP does, thus making every combat an actual game you can lose where the monsters do 1D6+2 or suchlike, whereas the 20 HP character has to be worn down to 10 to be scared of losing. BUT the 10 HP character can call upong their stored HP to continue adventuring latter, like the 20 HP character can. I think it's a pretty clever way of compromising between the two. And in regards to this account it matters alot, because the combats are all discrete and there is no fixed sequence of them for a wear down effect - making 5e a pretty important choice for this game (and given its simpler than 4e (atleast for me), also important for ease of play with a young player)

Indeed I must stress, no actual pre written adventure is involved below, despite me owning the starter set - things were just thrown together as we went. And frankly it turned out to be a classic dungeon in doing so (actually not so classic as in there were no left right choices and empty rooms. Which is probably a plus).

Also play went fairly quick and I did not want to bring down the excitement by taking a long time writing notes - thus my notes became fairly short and with time, cryptic to me. I hope this all reads fairly well!

Anyway, so I own some dungeon tiles from a D&D basic set from way back...in D&D 3.0 days? I bring them out and my daughter swooned over them and laid them out herself. Okay, you go make the dungeon then...

At some point she asks pointedly 'Aren't you playing too?'. So yeah, why aren't I playing as well? I pick the wizardess, since I like her fireball thingie on her figure (though she doesn't start with any fire spells, IIRC) in what is probably a fairly ill thought out party composition moment. But I just went with what I felt like rather than trying to knuckle down every dang choice into some optimisation. But cleric prolly would have been better.

Anyway, so we have two figures on the board and as she moves her figure around the corner I declare there's a pit trap...there *pointing* on that square and that her character risks falling in. So I pick out the Phandelver bit on a pit trap, with a spot check and then a dex check if you fail. I think she spotted it and made great ado about pointing it out and telling me to come on and walk around it. My notes mention a stirge somehow coming in, I think at my behest, and a nat twenty from her for initiative. It lasted not very long! Honestly I thought the first thing she'd fought was a spider, which she (not me) put in the webs of the room herself (I didn't make the monster be there. Though I used twig blight stats for it because a giant spider was too badass for us). Probably we did both, with her slaying them (I think I held my turn at first, since it's more about her...at that moment). She got some XP - and I did too, which I did enjoy getting instead of simply being an observer like GM's generally are. I think we found some treasure in the webs. 3D6 silver each! No, she has no real feel for currency so it's not that amazing a moment. Anyway I really should have written these notes up sooner! I think we played for about twenty minutes and I wrapped it up there, for various reasons of HR management, really.

Next session, further on there is a trap and I succumb to it for something like 2 damage. She gets quite insistent 'C'mon, heal yourself' and I say in this game wizards can't 'Just say you can!' 'Well, I'm saying it's like these rules say it is, and they say a wizard can't'. So I go on with my two damage, which matters latter.

We get into some brick and stone collecting since those are on the map and she's under the influence of minecraft. Which consists of saying we do it, enthusiastically.

We get to a room which has a 4X4 grid of strange symbol tiles on it and suddenly she decides there's a code. It's about now that it become empirically proven I'm not the GM (or atleast, not all the time). I really have no idea as to how to solve her puzzle, as there are no clues and I opine as such. I end up just trying squares one at a time in a brute force method. Eventually I can see a pattern to it that she had in mind and it is solved! I think it opened/she said it opened a portal or something, then. We obligingly hop through.

I have '2 more??', 'Bottles' and 'Be 1! Is 1??' written in my notes. The bottles refers to more imaginary world resource collecting and that we never really had any bottles to collect the water on the dungeon tile - so suddenly the last chest we'd been to had some bottles in it. '2 more' might have refered to the last step of the puzzle, but along with the 'Be 1!' stuff, I have forgotten! Something went down! This is what you end up losing even if you take some notes.

And then there was a skeleton. I called this one into being. I'm beginning to suspect that while there was a kerfuffle on forums about hobgoblins and bugbears having special damage, the skeleton is actually a secret bad ass when it has considerably more HP than a goblin, which gives the same XP. Or maybe it's because I totally forgot about their bludgeoning vulnerability - must bring a club next time!

Anyway, the first seemed fine at she rolls another nat 20 and crits it to shattered pieces! The skeleton does not get to shine on its first appearance...not yet, dear heart! Anyway, more XP! And now were breaking up a table that's pictured on the dungeon tile for materials! And that wrapped up that roughly 25 minute long session.

And so that's the first side of my notes written up. Next time, the rickety bridge, the skeletal terror and a wizardesses unslaked thirst for revenge!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Impromptu D&D 5e games are going well

Basically monsters and traps in the game I've/we've run can be popped in at any moment, so there's been no prepping of the dungeon - just spontaneous 'I think a monster would be over there!' stuff.

Must write up some non violent encounters and suggest them into play, otherwise the violence becomes normalised and then it ceases to be of interest.

I've basically got two methods of dealing with non violent activities - each time you pass a skill check of 15 or higher (and sometimes on 12 or higher) you note down you passed a skill roll.

You can find target wheels or combat training animated mannequins.

With the wheels, if you have a skill point you can cross it off and make an attack against the wheel. If you hit it's AC 15 and do 5 or more damage, you get 10 XP. If you miss, you get nothing. As stated previously on this blog training wheels can be found in various ruins.

With the mannequins these were used for training troops and so can also be found in various ruins. Each is effectively a skeleton. You need five passed checks to animate one into combat. Getting a surprise round is very difficult to achieve: A dex (stealth) check of 20 or higher and they don't spot you and you get the surprise round. Probably only a rogue could manage this). And you need an amount of mannequins that would make for a medium difficulty combat. Remove that number of checks from your sheet. PC's can pool their passed checks for this purpose.

If they knock all party members to zero hp, they cease attacking but they will not stabalise you, so it's likely you'll die. OR if the GM says they do before the combat begins, in the event of everyone being knocked down they will attempt to stabalise you (straight roll vs 15) with their weird fingers but your HP maximum goes down by one until either you donate 500 gold at a temple of a god that favours you, or perhaps it can never be recovered (it's probably the latter, but were not going to make you feel comfortable about this result). The mannequins have, over the years, gone a bit chaotic and rogue, so they tend to attack anyone who is around - it's not really possible to have someone who is 'out of the combat' to just come in and stabalise the party if they all get knocked to zero - the mannequins stay active for some minutes after their opponents are laid low and will attack anyone else who comes into sight. Hopefully they are of the sort that stabalise their former opponents! Generally it's possible to tell which models will or wont do that by looking at them.

The manequins only activate if the players have sufficient skill passes to activate them and decide to do so. Over time the mannequins repair themselves and reform, but this can take some time (weeks or months, even - up to the GM). They grant the same XP an equal number of skeletons would grant.