Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Lost Mine of Phandelver: Adventurers Assemble!

It begins.

Calling on old friends (some of whom I haven't rolled dice with since the early half of 4e) to answer the call for adventure, we set about crafting a party of young and eager adventurers. Yep, we started up our new D&D campaign last night. 

Originally designed as a Skype-only campaign, it quickly became a split between live at the table and Skype (not my preferred Google Hangouts but I never expect people to create accounts for anything and Skype is what they know). Dangnabbit if one of the players insisted on driving to my house every two weeks. While I normally dislike playing with this split, DMing is totally different - they have to stop talking and listen to me. So with one player live on stage and the others reporting from outlets across Ottawa, we rolled characters and killed goblins. 

And it was good. 

We have Ulthgar the dwarf cleric of Moradin, a stern and grizzled acolyte who dreams of rising to the ranks of power within his order. A dwarf of his word, he sees the signs left by the gods and those left by the wicked as guidance in how he will best serve his beliefs. 

Kazzarak is a half-elf barbarian from the frigid lands of Icewind Dale. Quick to step into danger and eager to right wrongs, his path lead him to Neverwinter in search of glory and riches in the dungeons of the Underdark and the battlefields of Faerun. 

Paiden, a human fighter, is the quiet member of the group but don't let his silence challenge your opinion of him. What he lacks in social skills he more than makes up for in a keen eye and quick reflexes, lashing out with his shield to protect those under his watch. 

Finally, we come to Rennik, a lightfoot halfling rogue whose early years spent at sea have now brought him to the shores of Neverwinter looking for work. Ever eager to return to the rolling waves of the ocean, he displays incredible deftness skulking about the forests and cities of the mainland. Perhaps there is more to this fellow than meets the eye.

After assembling their characters (using a mixture of players with the new PHB and those with only the Basic PDF), we went through a very basic introduction of how everyone came to know each other and was hired on by Gundren Rockseeker to deliver simple mining goods to Phandalin. Of course, they fought goblins and did a fine job of it too (only 4 points of damage was taken, thanks to the quick reaction of Paiden sparing Kazzarak the horrors of an arrow in the back). I won't go into any extended details of this prologue but things are already looking very promising. The group is quite eager to get started and I had a chance to go through my initial hiccups with any new system (even if it is something familiar like D&D). In two weeks, shit gets real.

If the news of a new edition of D&D (or you're just finding out that D&D is still alive and well), check out their website

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Players Handbook Revealed!

I am the Warden!!

Oh, yes, I'm actually that excited about the "return" of D&D that I brought back the classic intro to every blog post. Not that the excitement ever went away, but I've felt out of touch with it these past three years as my interests turned to more independent, modern and assassination-y things. While I enjoyed playing both 3rd and 4th editions for a time (and currently play in a weekly Pathfinder game on Fantasy Grounds), my gradual time-out was a combination of player, DM and publisher exhaustion. I had run my course with them and simply felt the need to move on to other games. Mostly working on my own, mind you. 

Now that D&D has relaunched the brand with a much cleaner and refined edition brought about by a couple of years of excellent marketing and public development - and a whole new attitude towards the game - the new Player's Handbook arrived by way of courier yesterday and I fucking love everything about it so far. To keep things simple and avoid clogging my day (and yours) with a never-ending post about it, here's a simple point-form list of what I love going into my first 5e session tonight. (Just a hint, that's how much I've embraced the new edition - I emailed a bunch of old players from the precious 4e group and strung together a new group.) 

  • It truly has undertones of the previous editions. Aside from the heavy influence of 3e mechanics, there are some carry-overs in approach from 4e (mostly with monsters and adventure design) and the complete separation of miniatures feels very AD&D to me. Add to that how the cover and binding of the new PHB has undertones of the original AD&D PHB - red/orange colour scheme with a black bar running down the spine. Maybe it's just me, but it definitely feels like they borrowed elements from all editions in the visual design as well. 
  • This edition's core feels incredibly simple to learn and play. While all games have this premise in practise, most of the big ones fall victim to their own gluttony and start to overload it with minute details and conditions. 5e feels simpler. (I say "feels" because I've yet to run anything myself and have only played the early playtest editions, so this is all based on initial read-throughs.) As an older dude with less time on his hands than the glory days, not getting bogged down with specifics, stacks of DCs and exceptions for every little detail is HUGE. This one's perhaps the biggest reason why I'm jumping back into the fray and is part of a promise I made to myself getting back into D&D. Stick with the core material and published adventures. Save my time and energy for the table, not the time required beforehand. Not needing to review 25+ pages of rules content before every game helps. 
  • It's familiar yet refreshingly new. As mentioned above, much of the mechanics and character options feel very 3e with some new touches that make a significant different in my opinion. For example, the paladin's Divine Sense ability is nothing extreme or overly powerful but gives the class a whole new outlook and roleplaying opportunity. That's why many of the original class and racial features continue to work in this new edition but with more simplicity. An opportunity attack is just a reaction, everyone gets them and you only get one reaction per round. Done! Little alterations can make all the difference. 
The true test comes tonight (and possibly in two weeks, seeing as tonight is really just character creation with the hopes of starting off the adventure, Lost Mines of Phandelver, from the Starter Set). Will these opinions hold up the Court of Gameplay? Let's find out.