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Author Archives: Vinni the Troll

Dungeon Crawling: The Adventurers League

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Dungeons and Dragons is a social game. Sure, you can play video games based on the source material that is solely single player, but at its core it’s meant to be enjoyed with friends. Sadly there are those among us who have no friends to play with. What do they do? First off, I suggest checking out our previous article on just that question (LINK).

So you’ve decided to find an Adventurers League game to join. I’m not sure of its reach, but I suggest signing up on Warhorn You can use it to find what local game shops are hosting AL games. With it, you can sign up and grab a seat at a level appropriate table and be on you way.

But is it worth it? Is the AL enjoyable?

Yes…and no.

There are pros and cons to everything. As a player the AL can scratch that need to play. You’ll find monsters to kill, puzzles to solve, and treasure to loot. All within a time constraint. That’s the problem.

In a home game we gather for a few hours, do the dungeon thing, talk to NPCs, and all the other fun stuff. If we run out of time, well there’s always next week. Not so with the AL. Each adventure is a published module available for purchase from the DM’s guild website. It has a listed average level, and the amount of time it should take to complete it. That’s all they allow for, because there are rewards for playing based on the length of the planned adventure. No one likes to go over because you’ve passed the limit and aren’t earning more Downtime or Renown. Downtime is a special type of currency that allows you to purchase goods from your Faction, or to skip a level and catch up to the other players that have hit the next tier. Renown are marks of honor that give you rank and privileges within your chosen faction.

Still sound like a fun time? Cool. Now you show up and either grab a pre-generated character or create one prior to the event using the AL rules. You must use the point buy system, no rolling for gold (choose from the equipment offered by your class and background), and you’re limited to the Players Handbook plus one other book. That means no taking a race from Volo’s Guide and a subclass from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. It’s only slightly limiting, but it can be a downer when you realize your cool idea isn’t legal.

The good news is you meet new people and have a chance to make new friends. It’s also pretty much a guarantee that your local shop has the AL scheduled on the regular, no matter who shows up. As long as at least three players show up in addition to the DM, the game will be good to go. Every session is its own self-contained one-off, so there’s no need for continuity. Sure there might be a series of adventures that follow an arc, but each one is an individual run.

That’s what it’s like to play in the League, but what about running a game?

Well being a DM in the League is interesting. Each location usually has one person in charge of organizing the events and he/she will let you know what’s being run, if they have a copy of it, or if you need to purchase a copy for yourself. The DM’s Guild is a website PDF store full of official adventurers and fan made ones. In addition that is were you find the current season’s Dungeon Master pack. This is a listing of the achievements and rewards you will unlock for running games.

Yup, you earn experience, gold, and treasure for running AL games. You can hold onto them, keeping track of each one on a log sheet, and dole that out to your characters leveling them up while you run the games. Even downloading the packet, filling out the achievement card, and sharing it on social media will net you rewards. There’s also usually a fair number of DMs around so you’ll eventually get to play said characters.

Eventually.

In the meantime you’re prepping a prewritten adventure with probably less than a weeks notice. If you have a desire to take on multiple roles, to learn the lore of the latest product that Wizards of the Coast is selling, or to enforce your power over a table of strangers…than being an AL DM might be for you.

I have fun with it, more as a player though. I have a regular group, and life gets in the way, so to fill the hole I started playing in the Adventurers League. Then PAX Unplugged happened to be nearby and I decided to take a crack at being a League DM. An organization called The Role Initiative was looking for volunteer DMs on Facebook. I signed up, then asked my local AL if I could join them in DMing. They were more than happy to add me to their ranks, and in fact had been considering asking me anyway. I ended up having a lot of fun at the convention, and from time to time still DM at my local store.

So if you’re not getting enough D&D, if your regular group has become less than regular, or if you’re new in town and looking to make friends give the Adventurers League a try.

 

 

Dungeon Crawling: Warlocks

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Three months ago, I had surgery on my dominant hand.

Do you realize how much of a limiter that is? How difficult it was to do basic functions? How impossible it was…to roll dice?!

Unfortunately, I had to tell my fellow DMs in the Adventurers League that I would be unable to run games, let alone play until my hand was more capable. After a month, I returned to work which is mostly typing. I also began looking again for more AL games.

Recently Crymson asked ever so sweetly, “WHERE ARE MY D&D ARTICLES?”

Okay, perhaps she didn’t type it in all caps, but that’s how I (t)roll.

So, I’m back. After another 4-hour speed run at a local shop (have I mentioned that AL games really don’t emphasize Role-Playing?) I figured it was high time I started pumping out words for the RWOG again. So here I spew…

Warlocks

With previous editions of D&D, I was all over the melee board: Fighters, Barbarians, Twin-weapon wielding Rangers, Rogues, Paladins, and on and on. I avoided squishy casters. I relished getting right up in a monster’s face and dishing out loads of damage.

5th edition’s Warlock, however, has to be my favorite class now. Sure, most people see it and think, “Oh, he’s gonna spam Eldritch Blast. How boring.” I must say it is. Just a little. But it’s the other features of the class that are the exciting bits. What type of patron? What type of pact? What invocations? The ability to customize so much within one simple class structure had me addicted at first Hex.

Initially, in the Player’s Handbook, there were only three Patrons to choose from: The Fey, The Fiend, and The Great Old Ones. In our home-brew game, I chose to roll up a GOOlock. At least, that’s what the internet calls it when you sign a deal with some Cthulu-esque elder thing that falls into the Great Old One category.

For the price of admission, you get to talk to anyone with a language, that you can see, mentally. You also get access to other spells along the Crowd Control spectrum as you level, and the sub-class capstone at level 14 lets you create a Thrall from anything you defeat. Creepy and fun. I started as an Ex-Pirate from the alternate Sailor background and away we went.

That campaign fell apart. Meh. No harm. I love creating new characters as I’ve stated in other articles.

More home-brews elicited no more Warlocks because I wanted to try something different. Then I joined up with the AL to see what it was about and to play with a buddy of mine I don’t see too often anymore. For that, I created another ex-pirate Warlock, however this one had signed his soul away to a fiend.

Dropping Hex-ed foes yields temporary hit points, and the spells available included all manner of fire and blasty and commandy type stuff.  Mad Dog with his unnecessary eye-patch (explaining his low Intelligence and Dexterity), and fiendish polearm has become a rather tanky melee grunt. He still throws the occasional Eldritch Blast but it’s only filler as he closes in to hack-and-slash.

His progression has slowed due to my surgery and foray into actually being a Dungeon Master for the AL. Now that I’m back with a mini-dice tower to assist my crippled rolling techniques, I blew off the dust with a new Warlock from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: The Celestial Warlock.

Izzy the Healer is an off-healer. His patron, some benign entity that has gifted him some daily healing dice and clerical spells to supplement his Warlock blasty-ness, chose to rescue him from the battlefield and send him forth as a Combat Medic adventurer. Shield and tome, with enough different attack cantrips to fit any situation he may run across. His last foray into the field had him working as the only healer amidst a team of level ones. His Guidance spell was put to great use as we snuck into a fancy dress masquerade to force a confession from our target… after some pretty trying party games.

Waiting in the wings, as well, is Chenzo, a crossbow specialist that has been taken under wing as a Hexblade; or should that be Hexbow? He’s fit and ready for Tier 2 gaming (that’s levels 5 to 10) in the AL, but circumstances have yet to pass that would bring him to another table. His hand crossbow is magical, bonded as his pact weapon, and can be used as a focus for his magic. It also relies solely on his Charisma stat for combat. He hits because he looks good doing it? *shrug* Works for me.

I still don’t really like the time constraint that the AL seems to enforce upon DMs and players, but I like the game and love Warlocks, so I’ll put up with it.

Top 10: D&D Characters I’ve Played

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When I make a character for Dungeons & Dragons they need to have the perfect name. If I’m not happy with the name, I won’t play the character. As such over the 30 plus years that I’ve played the game, my hall of champions has a relatively small number of characters. These are my top ten favorite D&D characters.

Killian: When I was first introduced to D&D by my friend Matt M. he had a character named Killer Kroc. At the time I wasn’t fully aware of the Batman villain, but I liked the alliteration. Years later I had adapted the name into Killian Krocerian. He was a fighter/rogue type and his escapades were the stuff of great hyperbole and much exaggeration. He was my first hero and still holds a place of honor in my imagination to this day.

Farak: The next great warrior in my list is a dwarven buzz saw. Farak The Axe was a twin axe warrior that could wade through a stable of zombies in the time it took a paladin to kill one. True story. His greatest tale involves falling 40 feet through a wooden staircase while avoiding a wyvern. He eventually would climb those same stairs again to take on the beast bare-handed, and save his friend Veirden.

Veirden: Which brings me to my next hero. At the time I was in a small gaming group and I was playing both Farak and Veirden, the mad Halfling. Veirden was a rogue who had been rescued from a POW camp by Farak. The two were inseparable. I played this rogue with a complete disregard for his own safety, often drawing twin daggers and charging head first into battle alongside Farak.

Friar Chuck: Tired of all my warriors and rogues I decided I would try my hand with a cleric. Friar Chuck was part of a team, his sister Aliana was a bard, but the two of them would never see a table top together. They were merely an idea. Still, as time went on and I found myself in need of an NPC cleric, Friar Chuck resurfaced.  While running a Steampunk D&D game set loosely in Philadelphia my players ran across a street-corner preacher handing out pamphlets for Pelor. “Have you felt the Strength of Pelor? Have you seen the Light of Pelor?” all in a bored monotone voice. The party’s rogue latched onto Chucks boredom and convinced him to abandon his post and take up a life of adventure.

 

Zephyr: Zeph was a half-orc monk, all speed and strength. He specialized in in crossing the battlefield, avoiding the meat-shields, and focusing on the casters in the back ranks. When he snatched an orb of storm control from a vile wizard and smashed it, Zephyr earned the title Stormbreaker.  I was never sure what monastery he came from, but he was a favorite at the table. The greatest terrain plans laid by our DM were of little to no hindrance to Brother Zephyr.

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Gar: Ebberon was an awesome campaign setting. I especially loved the Warforged race; living constructs with no names except those given to them by their comrades. Gar was found by a dwarf in an old bear cave, and given his barbarian nature the dwarf named him after the dwarf word for bear. He was a great tank, eventually multi-classing with fighter. Unfortunately he met his inside the belly of a dire shark. His quest for warforged mods (centaur legs, wings) was not meant to be.

Ahrazul: Possibly my favorite character from 4th edition was this Dragonborn Paladin of Bahamut. Ahrazul was always the center of attention in combat, lest the enemies suffer his divine smite for ignoring him. The problem was he was also very hard to hit, even harder to kill. Not so much a problem for me, but it sure was annoying for the DM. My love of creating new characters won out and I convinced the DM to orchestrate a glorious end to Ahrazul .

Rusty: With 5th edition I wanted to go back to my roots, so I settled on the idea of a dwarf. Russik “Rusty” Ironheart was the grandson of Farak the Axe. Unlike grandpa, Rusty liked ranged weapons. Wielding a heavy crossbow and a hand crossbow sidearm I pictured him as sort of a door-breaker dwarf swat officer. Spells, Weapons, and Tactics. All fighter, and delving into the Eldritch Knight sub-class it still is my favorite fighter sub-class from 5th edition.

Mad Dog: The Adventurer’s League had finally caught my attention. I was stuck with this idea in my head of a fighter wielding a staff or polearm much like Darth Maul. To get the wicked feel of it I would multi-class him into warlock.  With his devil sight, darkness, and polearm mastery he’s proven quite effective as a melee striker. A former pirate who sold his soul to save his own butt seems to be my go-to background for warlocks.

Qui’noa: Finally we have Qui’noa. A tortle monk, assisted by the spirits of his ancestors. This barbarian-monk is his own traveling bar brawl. It’s not an uncommon combo with the release of the Tortle race, but at least I haven’t named him after a renaissance artist. The ancestral ghosts make him a sticky tank, and his shell makes him a hard choice for the enemies to target.

Inebriated

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(Sung to the tune of Reading Rainbow)

Bartender, I’m the guy

I can drink ‘til the tavern’s dry

Fill my cup

Then it’s bottoms up

Inebriated

 

I will drink anywhere

In a Duergar cave,

Or a Tiefling rave,

Inebriated

 

I will drink anything

Like a Goblin wine,

Called the Sweat Bovine

Inebriated

(Inebriated)

 

Inebriated!

(Inebriated)

(Inebriated)

Top 10 Favorite Table Games

I love RPGs, gathering around a table and getting lost in fantasy with my friends. Sometimes though I just want a beer and pretzels type of game. Deal out the cards, lay out the tiles, and have fun. In no particular order (because I’m lazy) here are my favorite tabletop games:

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Munchkin – This card game is a simplified dungeon crawl with a stack of doors, and a stack of loot. Each person starts out as a 1st level human with no class, and that’s just the first joke of the game. The weapons are all tongue in cheek, the artwork comical, and the gameplay is fast and funny. The basic game is fantasy based, but there are any number of official sets for whatever your fandom might be. The best news is they can all work together making for some strange combinations.

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Betrayal at House on the Hill – Betrayal was the first random map game I ever really got into. You and your friends play a group of (fools) entering a haunted house. The map is laid out randomly from the foyer as you explore and find omens that will eventually reveal that one of you is a traitor. Or not. The main game has 50 possible reveals, and they’ve recently released an expansion for it, Widow’s Walk.

Abduction – Now this random map game is a simple deck of cards with cardboard cutout minis. You have been abducted by aliens and have to be the first one to escape. The layout of the ship can be chaotic, and with certain cards played, it can actually change at the last second snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. I call dibs on the cow mini.

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Zombies!!! – I thought zombies were cool before they were cool, so when I saw this board game where you and your friends all played survivors trying to escape a town overrun with zombies. I was in. Starting with the center of town you deal out random tiles trying to find the helicopter pad and escape, or be the first to rack up a zombie kill count of 25. The game comes with 100 rubber zombies, so I also found it useful for the survival horror RPG I was running. There are several add-ons to date (8 I think) that make the map more complex adding a shopping mall, a military base, a college campus, a prison etc.

Zombies!!! 4 – The 3rd expansion for this game can really be called a stand-alone. Whereas the first game takes place in a city , this setting is a haunted forest accessible by a bridge out of the main city. The point here is to collect the pages of the Necronomicon and perform the ritual. This version also comes with 100 rubber zombie dogs to “hound” you throughout the forest.

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Red Dragon Inn – Dungeon crawls are fun, but what happens after the quest when the party is loaded down with gold? They drink and gamble it away. This game, with its four stand-alones and several individual add-ons has you choosing a character and using their personal deck to out drink their fellows, or win all their gold. If you pass out or go broke, you’re out of the game. Each character has their own strength and weaknesses. If you choose to imbibe some adult beverages of your own, drink responsibly.

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Epic PvP: Fantasy – This is a one on one deck battling game. Your race is chosen at random, as is your class making for some interesting combos. They’ve also come out with a companion game Epic PVP: Magic that can be combined with the original or played separately. My only wish is that it was designed for more than 2 players.

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Cards Against Humanity – How bad are your friends? How badly do you want to know? Play this game once and you’ll find out. The only drawback I found was after multiple games you start to get shocked less by the combos. Buying more cards, or finding new players is a must to extend the replay ability of this one.

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Chrononauts – Time travel is cool. A series or cards are laid out depicting the timeline of our natural history with alternate versions of key events on the reverse of the cards. Each player is given a secret goal that must achieve in order to win the game. By traveling up and down the timeline and playing cards to switch events they can create the future they know in order to win the game.

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Flux – You win by playing cards to empty your hand, but every card you play changes the rules. I’ve seen versions for just about every fandom (Chtulu, Monty Python, Batman as examples). It’s a funny game that’s easy to pick up and play.

PAX Unplugged and The Roll Initiative

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Lords, Ladies, Lads, and Lasses – I have recently returned from attending my first convention as an exhibitor. Thia the Bard was gracious enough to provide me some questions to answer about my experience.

How did you find out about The Roll Initiative?

I saw an ad posted by The Roll Initiative on a Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League facebook page looking for volunteer Dungeon Masters for PAX Unplugged. I’ve had experience playing in the AL and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to step up and DM, delving deeper into the league.

What is your favorite thing about TRI?

I like that it’s just starting out and this was the first event they were orchestrating. The entire lead team are also gamers and fans of D&D. I was able to be myself and ended meeting a lot of fun people. I hope I made a few friends along the way.

What are you most excited about for PAX Unplugged this year? 

Since this was an official D&D event, TRI was able to get Fai Chen to attend our RPG slots. (Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire is the D&D Adventures League trading post.) Players in the league can use Fai Chen at conventions to trade magical items they don’t have a use for. I’ve collected a few myself, and honestly that was my biggest goal in attending the convention. 

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That’s our logo!

Did you get to attend any panels?

I was so busy running modules over the weekend I was unable to attend any of the panels. I would have liked to have seen the Critical Role gang.

What advice do you have for newbies headed to events like PAX Unplugged?

Be patient. The role playing game fandom is HUGE and sometimes the organizers underestimate how many wonderful people they’ll need to accommodate. The lines this year were incredible and this was the first year for both PAX Unplugged and for TRI’s RPG tables. Next year I’m sure everyone will have a much better experience.

Do you have any tips for gamers who are looking for a group like TRI?

TRI is growing, I can’t speak officially for them, but follow the link above and check them out. I’m sure they could use more DMs. You can also stay active on social media. Facebook has a lot of fan pages for DMs, players, item trades, and games with open slots. Also, if you find a page, or group you like…share it. Word of mouth is the best way to expand what we like about gaming.

Kon or Die Trying

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No RWOG adventure seems to go off smoothly, and Zenkaikon was no exception. Don’t get me wrong, we actually started off on time, which itself should have been an indication that things would not go well.

The parking structure attached to the hotel was full, so we grabbed a spot on the street and paid the fee at the parking kiosk. Press were offered parking vouchers, so we were not concerned. As we circled the block, we saw other people with Crayola colored hair and we new were heading in the right direction.

Entering the air-conditioned Vine street entrance was a much needed relief. I don’t do heat. Stepping up to pre-registration we found out that Vanri and Thia were still on the list as Crymson’s press associates, but it was no problem for them to switch in Aiks and myself. First obstacle conquered.

It was here we also learned that the people with the vouchers would be back later, and that vouchers did not cover street parking. “Sorry…” I quickly asked Aiks to look into finding a parking structure that would get us reimbursed, but Crymson had already marched off into the crowd.

As we stood to the side of the crowd to test our equipment, we found the shotgun microphone for our camera was dead. Thus began, after much frustration, the quest for a mic that worked. Back into the heat of early afternoon Lancaster we went. As we left the area we spotted an open parking structure and all of us made a mental note to come back to that one.

Best Buy was our first stop. A helpful associate riding a mobility device with a Nintendo flag lead us to an empty display peg. Unfortunately, they were sold out. Cursing her luck, Crymson thanked the clerk for her help and we rushed out to the car to try another location.

Wal-Mart. My hopes were not high, and as we left empty handed again, I took in the sight our regal leader: red dress, black corset, blue hair, and gold crown festooned with gems. Crymson was a people-of-Wal-mart. I suppressed a chuckle as Aiks drove us to one last store.

Radio Shack is going out of business, and with most everything still in stock bearing an 80% off sticker…we were desperate. Sadly no shotgun mics were to be had. Dejected, we headed back to the convention.

Our fearless leader swallowed her frustration and mustered on, working with what we had. The interview with Ellen McClain and her spouse John Patrick Lowrie was incredible, and did boost the morale of our trio. Crymson was ecstatic and took to the tasks ahead of us with a renewed vigor.

Zenkaikon had begun.