December 21, 2011

Running the Gauntlet

Hello fellow dungeoneers and dungeon masters! Guest blogger Sean O'Connor reporting for nerdery. Your host blogger, Casey Steven Ross, asked me to do a write-up of my insights and experience designing the latest session of my home game. Mr. Ross has the pleasure (misfortune?) of being one of my players, he's seen me fumble a few times and experienced some gems of times in my home game. He specifically asked me to write about the last game because of the fun that I was able to squeeze out of it, and the major departure it took from our normal campaign. I'll give you a small amount of background before I get into the nitty gritty. Half of my group consists of a few "hardcore" players. I use the term with the utmost respect. These are a steady stable of guys I know I can rely on to let me try crazy stuff and will tackle what I throw at them head on with reckless abandon. The other half of my group are slightly less into it. I don't mean to say they are bad players, they just don't put as much focus on it and stand further on the outskirts of full immersion in the system. The group is a good mix, we all get along very well, and generally have a good time. The dichotomy of the group often has me in the mindset of trying to super balance my encounters and make sure I've got something for everyone. This leads me into the meat of this post, what became of our last session, and how I've now completely uprooted my DMing style and philosophy for, hopefully, the better.

**I would like to preface the rest of this article with one disclaimer. I in no way claim that anything I'm doing is by any means the best way to handle dice chucking for every person. This is simply what worked for me and allowed me to push through a DMing barrier with which I was faced. If this process and insights help you, HOORAY!**

December 20, 2011

Exploring the Lich-Queen's Beloved, Part 01

This is the first part of a series of posts I will be doing that provides commentary and guidance on running my 4E D&D conversion of the 3E adventure "The Lich-Queen's Beloved", found here.

I've also added quite a few embellishments from the Fourthcore Alphabet into the mix, but have not made those parts too public so as not to be posting huge pieces of a paid-for text.

If you're a player in this game, please stop reading now so I can surprise you at the table!

December 19, 2011

Add Mystery in Your Dungeon

Just the other day I had the great pleasure of playing in a game of D&D, as a player, and having an amazingly fun time. If you're the kind of person who spends their free time looking through the internet to read obscure D&D blogs like DMG 42, then you're probably like me and don't often get the opportunity to be on that side of the screen. So, you understand well what an opportunity it was just for me to be in that seat. The campaign I'm in is set in Dark Sun and we're almost out of Heroic Tier. I've only been involved with the group for a short while, I'm really just filling in for a missing player that had to be out of town for a few months, so I don't know a lot of the background or story details. Although, honestly, I don't very much care to know the story details.

One of the other players, surprisingly not myself, had privately mentioned to the Dungeon Master that they would appreciate a little more challenge. A little more Fourthcore, if you will. The player, Matt, has quite a mastery of the 4E system, he's a "min/maxer" type with a reputation for simply annihilating standard issue combat encounters with ease. It's quite something to watch, really. He goes by Bohrdumb on the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch Play-by-Posts and the WotC boards, for those who care. Thankfully, our Dungeon Master happily obliged. This is something that shouldn't just be glanced past. It takes a little bit of guts to do something like this, from both the player and Dungeon Master. Both are making the game more stressful, more thoughtful, and less reliant on easily obtained DDi adventures. Things go out on a limb, things go past the prescribed ways to setup combat encounters. Of course, this is done because things also get fun!

November 15, 2011

The Lich-Queen's Beloved

This autumn has been a series of wrap-ups and finale's for me and my campaigns. Immediately on the heels of the 4E Modern campaign's conclusion, my group and I jump back to our long-running 4E D&D campaign, now just breaking into epic tier, and conclude the long-standing stories there by wrapping up all the loose ends over the course of a Level or two.

When it was published, I was inspired by Rodney Thompson's "Adapting the Lich-Queen's Beloved" article on DDi. The article goes to describe the author's experiences converting a treasure of an adventure from a (slightly) older edition to 4E and the benefits thereof. The experiences described felt very Fourthcore to me, very much in line with the kinds of adventures I like to run and play in. If you haven't already, please go check it out, as well as the link to the original 3rd Edition adventure. After reading it, I did, however, find myself a little disappointed in the lack of full stat blocks and enough details to really run the adventure in the 4E milieu. I imagine Rodney did what most of us do; print out what you got and wing it! That is a fantastic methods, which often leads to a lot of improv and creativity, but that's not what I wanted.

So when thinking about things and reading the original Lich-Queen's Beloved (LQB), it struck me as a perfect basis of design for creating the capstone to wrap up my D&D campaign. Hence, I have developed a fully written up 4E D&D conversion to LQB, taking many cues from Fourthcore in general and the Fourthcore Armory specifically, going so far as to develop Rumor Cards for my players.

[4E Modern] Middle East Adventure

Retired general, Moshe Dyan

My 4E Modern campaign is coming to its natural close, having been planned out to be a short romp of only 3 Levels. To finish, I decided to convert one of my favorite DDi adventures to the Modern system and aesthetic, Rob Schwalb's Bark at the Moon. To get a better understanding of the 4E Modern adventure, please go check out the original D&D adventure here.

Some highlights:
* An NPC Henchmen, whom my group thought looked like (and thus became) Rebecca Black
* Modern era terrain hazards, such as landmines, machine gun nests, and barbed wire
* Two new Modern era afflictions, Radiation Sickness and Roid Rage, mechanically akin to diseases
* Nuclear weaponry
* Magical assault rifles
* Dude with an eye patch
* A threat to plunge the Middle East into war, just before peace has finally been reached

WARNING: This conversion to Bark at the Moon is a farcical and irreverent look at Israeli-Palestinian relations. It is a touchy subject of which I am no expert. If you feel at all strongly about Middle East issues, just go ahead and please, do not read this adventure and get pissed off.

The adventure is formatted in my own 4E Modern style, so you'll see creatures' attacks listed as flat, static values instead of a modifier to a die roll. I also abbreviate some attacks and don't write out completely in full the "Hit:" line etc., on most attacks. If you've been following 4E for any length of time, this should all appear sensible and easy to read, but I wanted to throw a note out there explaining that, while I do know how the official stat blocks are supposed to be constructed, I have chosen not to for brevity on the printout.

This adventure is suitable for 3rd Level Agents.

Download the adventure here!

November 12, 2011

[4E Modern] My campaign, summarized

Recently, I have run across the sad, and all-too-common, news that one of my players in my regular gaming group would have to leave us for real-life pursuits of quests and defeating of personal demons. While it is always sad to see someone have to leave, the silver lining is that it opened up a seat at the table for one of my friends who's been itching to get in on our action. To help welcome the new guy, also Steven, I asked the other players to write up a short introduction about their 4E Modern character and what they've done. The idea here being to give Steven an idea of what the party was like, and the tone of the campaign; so that he could mold a fun character for himself to play that meshed well with the group on multiple levels.

I have to say, my guys are just absolutely great. I've decided to share the best of the emails, below, to illustrate the hilarity, hijinks, and total fun nonsense that happens at our 4E Modern games. Seriously, all this ridiculous stuff actually went down in our game, and it was fun, and easy to run for the Dungeon Master. So much of this didn't make any sense, and was totally over the top, but none of that stuff mattered. Point of my post: here is an example of why you shouldn't ever get worried about the story in your roleplaying games making absolute sense. Pond-shallow plot lines are absolutely perfect. "We want to kill the Overlord because he is bad." and "Let's kill the Goblins and take their stuff" are classics for a reason.

November 4, 2011

Up On A Soapbox - Apathy

Apathy runs rampant in my generation, and especially among gamers. It sickens me.
How often do you talk with someone and they describe their feelings as "meh"? A lot, right? Meh is worse than a negative feeling. Meh is boring, and boring is the absolute last thing I want creeping into my game. I'm going to guess that I'm not alone in this regard. This  kind of non-comittal attitude permeates far too much in our dealings, and intrudes far too rudely into the RPG world.

October 29, 2011

Gamma World StarCraft at GenCon!

The very first thing I got to do at GenCon (after checking into my pimping hotel) was bust out my StarCraft Gamma World variant and play my Gammacore adventure, The Prisoner. It was a blast! Jon, Dave, and all the Canooks were consummate dungeoneers and a pleasure to play with. I look forward to the chance to hang out with them again! Listed below are a few pics I managed to snap when we were chucking the dice, with commentary.

D&D Open Tournament - post game pictures

I was scrubbing through my hard drive and found a bunch of the pictures I took at this past year's GenCon D&D Open Tournament. Here they are, annotated for your reading pleasure.

Do you not know about the D&D Open? Read about it here. It inspired me to put together FTDM.

October 19, 2011

FTDM Madness!

An explosion of new Fourthcore Team Deathmatch news this week:

+ Due to the overwhelming number of requests, another live action Baltimore Fourthcore Team Deathmatch is scheduled for Saturday January 14th 2012, 12:00pm noon. Send me an email if you'd like to reserve a spot!

+ Fourthcore Team Deathmatch is growing bigger and more popular than ever! Dungeoneers across the globe are dying to get in on the action. To adequately handle the magnitude of this new way to play D&D, and to help out our fourthcore crusaders who can't make a live game, I've started up .

The blog will be the sole source point of contact for FTDM news and events from now on. DMG 42 will continue to host the FTDM pages that are already here, but will eventually begin to simply redirect visitors to the new blog. DMG 42 will continue to offer my usual brand of creative rule-bending and rule-creating D&D. My hope is this split will also serve visitors' interests better as everyone can now easily find or sort out the FTDM stuff from the rest of what I'm up to in the D&D world.

October 16, 2011

4E Modern: Swastikopter Confrontation

For the finale of our group's first 4E Modern Assignment, the Agents confronted the Nazi occult superweapon, The Swastikopter. For the last few sessions, they had overheard talk about this dreaded vehicle from their enemies, and knew that it and its pilots were scheduled to rendesvous with the traitor and known Reich-collaborator, Michelle Obama. Determined to take this thing down, the Agents decided to use the element of surprise and make an attack.

The combat itself took place on the rooftop of the Peterson Hotel, soaring 10 stories above the busy downtown Taipei streets.

At the appointed time, The Swastikopter appeared and an Agent pulled the bound and gagged prisoner out to the rooftop. After a little back-and-forth bantering with the pilots, the shit hit the fan and initiative was rolled. One Agents teleported into the copter via ninja magic, while another leapt off the building to grab onto the knotted rope intended for Michelle, while the last three Agents stayed on the rooftop. The Swastikopter itself had two pilots, as well as an Occult Scribe and Tesla Death Machine onboard (stats below). The fighting was brutal. In the end, the Agents won the day solely by using some very creative and unorthodox tactics; for example, one Agent climbed onto the underside of the Swastikopter, unscrewed the warhead from a stinger missile, and then lobbed it through the smashed winshield into the cockpit.

During the fighting, Michelle snuck off to meet with a would-be-rescuer. A brilliantly executed chase scene then ensued as the Agents hunted her down and smashed her fleeing BMW 7 Series. A grand conclusion to an exciting first Assignment!

The following stat blocks are written in the 4E Modern format, which places the burden of rolling all d20's on the player.

October 1, 2011

Baltimore Fourthcore Team Deathmatch - Two Weeks Away!

The countdown is on to the first-ever local Fourthcore Team Deathmatch!

As you read this, dungeoneers from across the East Coast are readying their dice and preparing their most devastating combat maneuvers!

Join in the fun and register now, while you still can!

A new wrinkle of complexity and strategy has just recently been added. Following the set piece opening round of E1M4: Astral Ambush, the semi-final and finalist rounds of play will feature maps as determined by the DMG 42 readers, as indicated on the newly created poll to the right.

Take but a moment to decide the ultimate fate of your fellow man!

The second highest voted map will be played on the semi-final round, and the most voted map will be held in a place of honor as the hallowed location where ultimate victory shall be decided. Voting ends at midnight Thursday October 13th.

Submissions are now being taken for new Fourthcore Team Deathmatch maps!

Design the most brutal deathmatch map and paint the walls red with the blood of the innocent! Send your map, as well as any associated image files, terrain powers, custom magic items, etc. here.
Worthy submissions will be playtested and added to the roster of available FTDM maps.

A big thanks to Games & Stuff for hosting the coming onslaught.

September 30, 2011

Flowcharts for Gardmore Abbey, SND-01, C1

A handy tool for both designing, reading, and running an adventure is a simple, diagrammatic flowchart. The flowchart shows the main encounter locations, meaning all major skill challenges as well as any potential combat encounters, linked together to show all the possible paths that the dungeoneers can take. A diagram that is very simplistic is easy to run and prepare for, but can run the risk of feeling like a railroad. Likewise, an overly complicated flowchart can give the dungeoneers plenty of freedom, but makes the Dungeon Master's job more difficult. The flowchart informs the adventure's author just how much complexity they are putting into the adventure and guides the Dungoen Master with an easy to follow reference for where their dungeoneers are headed to next.

Just for kicks, I put together these images showing the flow diagrams for Madness at Gardmore Abbey, SND-01: Revenge of the Iron Lich, and C1: Crucible of the Gods. The most interesting thing I found out of this little exercise is that it clearly illustrates just how much complexity and nuance is put into the two Fourthcore adventures, which represent only one gaming session each.

September 28, 2011

The Sundering of the Earth - A Fourthcore Adventure

The Sundering
Long ago in a forgotten age, I had entered the PAX East 2011 Dungeon Master's Challenge. My notes for that adventure can be found here. Afterward, I immediately set forth to "upgrade" the adventure to something approaching the Fourthcore moniker, dubbed The Sundering of the Earth. Like most pieces of work, the author was never satisfied with it and it languished in the unknown obscurity of my hard drive awaiting just one more playtest that simply never happened. After much cajoling by my faithful readers whom would enjoy seeing more of the fruits of my labor and some more detail to my PAX adventure, I have acquiesced and hesitantly published what I have. Like everything on DMG 42, I have posted it in the hopes that it helps the Dungeon Masters of the world have a better game at their own table. I dare you to NOT find something within the adventure that does not inspire one of the adventures at your home game!

September 23, 2011

Rule #7: The skill challenge goes on as long as it has to.

Fight Club (1999)
The 7th Rule of Skill Challenges is the same as that of Fight Club: it goes on as long as it has to. I'm talking specifically about the Complexity of a skill challenge, the number of successes that it takes to win.

Many of you are doing your skill challenges wrong. Bad fun wrong. This can be easily felt at the game table as a wooden, forced experience during skill challenges. Internet trolls and the haters on forums love to bash 4E's skill challenge system because of this feeling of artificial construction that so often rears its ugly head.

The subject of improving skill challenges has been gone over extensively the last few years. There's a lot of great information and advice out there, and that should certainly be taken in. The Trump/Fold mechanic of Fourthcore (as shown in adventures S1: RotIL and C1: CotG) springs to mind as a great addition to any skill challenge. This post, however, aims to change a more fundamental aspect of how skill challenges should be presented and run at the table.

September 16, 2011

4E Modern - Rules Tweaks and New Tokens

Here are a few rules tweaks the the 4E Modern System created as a result of my ongoing mini-campaign using them. RPGs, by their very nature, are a communal activity ad one that lends itself to be constantly evolving and changing to suit the needs and desires of its players. As such, the 4E Modern rules will be continually changed to suit what the needs that my group has developed.

Gain the following:
* Tuck and Tumble: You reduce all falling and Fall Out damage by 1d10.
Adrenaline Rush (Daredevil Novice Power) is, in fact, an At-Will power.

 * Create Profile: Once per encounter during a rest, you may determine one of the following about one creature that you are investigating: size, level, role, defenses, immunities, resistances, weaknesses, or allegiances.
 * Inquisitive’s Eyes: Once per encounter during a short rest, you may cast your senses back through time to observe a snapshot of your current location as it was up to a number of hours ago no greater than your Insight check result. You can observe the scene as if you were there, although you cannot affect anything.

With a high enough Wealth Roll, an Agent may purchase multiple, lower cost Omega Tech items. An Agent may purchase one additional Omega Tech item for an added Cost of +3. For example, on a Wealth Roll of 4, an Agent may buy two Fragmentation Grenades (Cost 1) instead of just one.

Agents receive +2 to damage rolls when wielding similar weapons in each hand as (opposed to +3 to damage rolls).

The Origins PDF has been updated as well to reflect the changes: 4E Modern Origins.

Also, here are a few new images for making 4E Modern tokens. They're all things that I've been putting together specifically as my home game needs them. We've found that it's somewhat difficult to quickly differentiate friend from foe on the battlemap, so I've redone the tokens used for the Agents to have a green border around them instead of a silver border.

September 15, 2011

Baltimore Fourthcore Team Deathmatch - Next Month!

The Baltimore FTDM starts up in t-minus 30 days, don't miss your chance! Register now to reserve your place by emailing me here.

September 13, 2011

4E Modern - Session #1 (09/11/2011) Recap & Game Master Notes

I normally don't try and advocate game recaps too much. When I read a recap on another blog I tend to find it boring and trite. However, I have been directly asked to relate my campaign's development, and like my olden days of college radio, it's hard for me to resist a request. If nothing else, these recaps will provide me with a means of communicating some of the implied ideas I have about Modern campaigns, as well as the less than clearly described rules, and subsequent rules tweaks.

Also, stats for evil Nazi Warlocks.

September 8, 2011

4E Modern Assignment: Workshop of the Mad Alchemist


Many gamers out there have the desire and passion to make the leap from playing a typical medieval fantasy Dungeons & Dragons game to that of a Modern-era RPG, but hesitate to do so for lack of available adventures and lack of good direction on how a Modern game should be designed. I'm here to lend a hand with those two unmet needs, drawing on my previous experiences with d20 Modern and my ongoing experiences with 4E Modern.

If you haven't done so already, make sure to check out the articles on WotC's official d20 Modern site here; including short adventures, plot hooks, and helpful tips from the creators.

My first adventure (called Assignments in the Modern parlance) will be an easy conversion of a well put together two-page delve done by Benoit at Roving Band of Misfits. Go look at it here!

September 7, 2011

Fourthcore Weaknesses

Nosferatu (1922)
One of the ideals of Fourthcore is to provide dangerous, exciting, and rewarding adventures. Challenges are designed to benefit those whom are creative and quick-witted, and to punish those who are lazy and disinterested. You can't sit at the table on coast by on auto-pilot while playing a Fourthcore adventure. One tool with which we can use to help create this scenario is Weaknesses.

Weaknesses are a purely detrimental Trait applied to a villain, usually a high-level and/or Solo creature. Weaknesses represent the frailties, flaws, and cracks of humanity that break through a villain's hard exterior. Creatures may only have one Focus per type of Weakness (see below), and a Dungeon Master must foster a means for the dungeoneers to be able to research and discover these Weaknesses.

The mechanics presented here are written specifically for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, however the basic framework can be easily applied to any roleplaying game with a high degree of combat.

September 4, 2011

4E Modern - Experts

During my Modern campaigns, I've consistently run into a category of player I like to refer to as an Expert. Experts can take a variety of forms, and have both positive and negative impacts to be wary of. A shrewd Game Master would be wise to look for the signs of The Expert(s) in her group, identify what type of Expert is at work, and use that information to enhance the campaign.

A common problem that plagues many Modern campaigns is the too-strict adherance to the functionality and practicality of the real world. It's very easy to fall into this trap, playing in a Modern campaign by its very nature leads to all sorts of implied assumpptions that only seem reasonable at the time. However, the Game Master must always be careful not to let too much of reality into her campaign. Why? Because reality sucks.

September 1, 2011

4E Modern: Vehicles & Chase Scenes

rendering of what Baltimore will look like in about 24 hours

Most of my readers are probably blissfully unaware; but now, right now, downtown Baltimore has been transformed into a Grand Prix race track. Yes, I'm serious! It is then only fitting that I delve into the last major piece of 4E Modern: Vehicles & Chase Scenes.

August 31, 2011

4E Modern - Tokens

Part of the trouble of switching from a typical medieval fantasy, D&D-style roleplaying game into one set in the modern era is the lack of physical props supporting your games. It's notoriously difficult (although not impossible) to find good, cheap modern-era minis. To help this, I've put together a ton of images for quick tokens. These are a collection of pictures from the original d20 Modern, as well as from Hollywood action movies and TV such as A-Team and G.I. Jane. Also, Wolfenstein. Print these bad boys out and glue them to the back of a 1" washer: instant token!

August 30, 2011

Baltimore Fourthcore Team Deathmatch - 10/15/2011

Introduction & Rules + Maps + Frequently Asked Questions

Attention dungeoneers!
Prepare yourselves for the coming onslaught!

Following in the unstoppable wake of national success at GenCon 2011, the D&D Fourthcore Team Deathmatch is arriving in the Baltimore-area for the first-ever local FTDM event. At high noon on Saturday October 15th, your collective faces will be melted by the sheer wall of awesome and Dungeons & Dragons nerdity! The most exciting and talked-about GenCon event of the year will landing at my friendly local game store, Games & Stuff (7476 Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard, Glen Burnie, MD 21061).

It is simply the most brutal D&D experience ever devised!

For those of you unaware, the D&D Fourthcore Team Deathmatch is a face-to-face competitive ladder tournament using the 4th Edition D&D ruleset. Full details on rules can be found at the links at the top of the post.

Players will be let in on a first-come, first-serve basis (with a maximum of 32 players), however full teams of four dungeoneers may register by emailing me (here) their Team Name and members' names to reserve their spot. The tournament will consist of an Entry Round debuting E1M4: Astral Ambush, followed by a Semi-Final Round of E1M1: Slaughterhouse, and a Final Round of E1M3: Tomb of the Iron Lich.

Please spread the word to all the dungeoneers you know, and godspeed you to victory!

4E Modern - Wealth and Omega Tech

image from

Whew! I've had quite a rollercoaster ride on both the home front and the work front these last 24 hours. Regardless! It is time to get back into the action, both guns blazing, and deliver some epic Modern adventure. 

Cue James Bond music!

August 29, 2011

4E Modern Delay

For those of you eagerly awaiting the next installment of my 4E Modern series; be patient! I'm swamped at work and can't write up the description of the post and all the appropriate Behind the Scenes kind of notes. If I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do this right.

Everything should be back on track by tomorrow with 1). Wealth & Omega Tech, 2). Vehicles, and 3). Chase Scenes & Roads.

August 28, 2011

4E Modern – Talents

Talents can take the form of secret and high-grade military training (Spec Op), magical spells (Occult), or psychic powers (Psi). Talents relate specifically to the training or unique experiences your character has had in his or her life.

Talents replace Gamma World Alpha Mutations, but are always chosen by the player and are permanent benefits and powers. Overcharge options have been noticeably removed.

The Talents have been designed as a mix of straight conversions from Gamma World (psi), replications of D&D spells and rituals (occult), and permanent benefits harkening back to many of the common tricks and tactics of d20 Modern feats.

August 27, 2011

4E Modern – Mundane Equipment

Heroes in the modern world typically have access to a wealth of readily available goods and services that are unavailable to their medieval fantasy and post apocalyptic counterparts. Instead of random rolls on a the ancient junk table, Heroes in 4E Modern are able to take the maximum result (1d4+1) or the mundane items roll, and shop for what items they wish, in addition to picking out mundane armor and weaponry. In a modern industrialized world, characters can choose to buy literally anything they need for their current assignment. Anything prohibitively expensive (such as a car), or restricted by military licensing (such as a grenade), however, must be bought with a Wealth Roll. Wealth Rolls will be covered in a later post and are related to Omega Tech. Ammunition, gas, food, travelling expenses, etc. are not tracked and are assumed to be bought and taken care of “off-screen”, unless it is significant to the story.


Gamma World provides a great framework with which to base weapons off of. For a modern game, however, I thought a lot could be gained by providing more granularity here, although keeping far far clear of the kind of pointless detail that d20 Modern, and to a much greater extent Weapons Locker, provided. I split up each generalized category of basic weapon into three different components. I then fiddled around with the proficiency bonuses and damage types to give a bit of range and interesting choices to make for the players involved. Lastly, I chose different ‘Ammo’ effects based on the ammo rules, which really opened up a lot of possibilities and variance amongst the weapons, while at the same time satisfying the immersive aspects of having weapons act as the would in real life (or at least Hollywood). For example, assault rifles tend to have area burst ammo effects, in line with the autofire option of d20 Modern; whereas shotguns attack in a close blast.

You’ll notice many staple armaments, fragmentation grenades for example, are noticeably missing. They will be covered later as I have moved consumable items into the Omega Tech category.

August 26, 2011

4e Modern – Origins

Rewriting Gamma World Origins was conceptually the easiest part of this project for me, the generic class system of d20 Modern meshes pretty well with the Gamma World framework, however it required quite a bit of effort just due to sheer volume. Doing the final layout with the original artwork was pretty rewarding for me, as seeing all those old images brought back some nostalgia for me from the last decade.

For those of you not in the know, Origins represent your core background, training, and party role and fill in the same function as classes do in 4th Edition D&D. 4E Modern Origins function identically to Gamma World Origins, except that all Origins are chosen by the player. Each player chooses two different Origins for their character, gaining the benefits of both. Some Origins, such as "Gunslinger", imply a specific skill-set whereas other Origins, such as "Fast", imply only a generic descriptor and leave all the details up to you.

4E Modern Origins do not provide a bonus to any skills or overcharge. Skills in 4E Modern are identical to those in Gamma World, however, each character simply chooses any three skills to receive a +4 bonus in. Overcharge has been removed from 4E Modern Omega Tech.

August 25, 2011

4E Modern – Basic Rules Changes

To facilitate the style of game I want to play, I've incorporated a number of changes into the base Gamma World system. As with any kind of House Rule, care has been taken such that rules are not added in unnecessarily. Each new House Rule adds its own bit of complexity, coming in with a certain amount of negative impact to the game just by being there, by being a potential source of confusion and one more link in the chain that could break and send the whole system crashing.

August 24, 2011

4E Modern – A Sorbet (Introduction)

In elite culinary circles, a sorbet is often used in between courses of a meal to cleanse the palate of any lingering flavors. Sorbet is so often used because of its sweetness, its tartness, its lack of being a substantial meal. It is a brief, mindless indulgence. The tongue is cleared and ready for a fresh start of the next course’s flavors. When indulging in a certain dish, say a fatty duck or a salty soup, one’s senses can become accustomed and dulled by the relentless assault of that courses flavor, muddying the waters of subsequent courses. When one enjoys a high quality meal, it is not mere sustenance that one is seeking. It is to experience all of the subtle sensory nuances that can be had, to enjoy the food to its fullest extent.

So, too, are our role-playing games; namely Dungeons & Dragons. My thinking about D&D has become quite saturated and a little stale. My creativity has been sapped, and I’m burned out. The chaos surrounding GenCon certainly didn't help. It happens to everyone eventually, really. To help cleanse my palate, I chose a game both dear to my heart, and also containing the same visceral qualities as a delicious sorbet. I chose d20 Modern, produced by WotC back in ’02. Being very familiar with the rules, and not content with a great many of its minutia, I chose to create a Modern day, action-adventure role playing game built on the 4th Edition/Gamma World chassis. All this, in the end, I do to make my D&D game that much better when I inevitably return to it. I'll have a fresh palate, ready to savor the new tastes coming in.

Behold, the fruits of my labor! My most verbose blog post to date.

August 18, 2011

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch - E1M4

I am proud to present the latest map to be added to the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch roster, to be debuted at the upcoming Baltimore-area FTDM Tournament on October 15th, 2011:


tiles from Brian Rollins (

August 13, 2011

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch: Sights & Sounds

During GenCon, I was able to interview the top four FTDM teams. Some interviews were prior to the event, some immediately after.

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch Interview - Team Critzkrieg!

The first minute and a half or so has pretty low volume. My apologies. We had some technical difficulties.

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch Interview - Team Nighthawk!

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch Interview - combined Teams Cellar Dwellers and Don't Make This Weird!

Pictures below!

August 5, 2011

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch – E1M3: Secret

By the time this post goes live, I’ll be at GenCon in Indianapolis preparing to get ready for the showdown of champions known as the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch. It’s a little humbling to think of how long this has all been developing and brewing. The Secret Map, especially, as it was the first map I drafted and had the fewest changes from inception to implementation. Also, it’s the one I’m most proud of, the one I expect to wow the crowds the most. I’m really looking forward to springing this out and seeing the astonished faces of all the Fourthcore Fanatics.

July 27, 2011

StarCraft: The Prisoner - Preview #3

Adventure Background
It is a period of darkness and chaos in the galaxy. The Terran Dominion has toppled, the few Protoss tribes still alive struggle to unite themselves, and untamed Zerg hordes roam leaderless throughout the galaxy.
This adventure takes place on the covert Terran Dominion military research station, BR-715. With the complete withdrawal of all Dominion military forces in the area, the station has been left on its own and vulnerable to attack. Recently, the station has been transmitting an automated distress signal and has not returned any directed signals inquiring as to their needs.

July 25, 2011

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch Interview

I was interviewed this past Monday night by the guys at Roving Band of Misfits about my thoughts, intentions, and playtesting experiences on the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch. Enjoy! Comments welcome.

July 21, 2011

GenCon 2011 Schedule

UPDATE: I have two definite delvings of the StarCraft Gammacore adventure, The Prisoner, scheduled for Wednesday at 5pm and Thursday again at 5pm. Email me if you want to get in on that hot scifi action!

Last night I went through and finalized all my GenCon'ing, figuring out how much time I'd really need for everything.

I could have crammed more gaming in there, but at this point in my life, I'm just too old for that shit. The level of activity I've got in here is going to be brutal enough.

Something I'd like to be able to do is organize some games of my StarCraft Gammacore adventure, The Prisoner. I'll have extra character sheets and everything, so I'm sure I can find a way to pull a pickup game, but I'd prefer to have things organized and laid out beforehand as much as possible. I'm free to run this Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons; plus Friday morning before Fourthcore Team Deathmatch.

Did you notice the running and lifting in the mornings? That is because I am a beast! Get in touch with me if you want a running partner.

I'll see you there, chucking 20's.

July 20, 2011

The Prisoner - Preview #2

Research Cards

The 10 research cards represent clues and bits of lore gleaned by the adventurers before arriving at research station BR-715. Five of these research cards are marked as COMPLETE, and the other five are INCOMPLETE. Of the five COMPLETE research cards, four are true. Of the five INCOMPLETE research cards, only one is true. The players are entitled to know this ratio; however, the precise knowledge of which research is true is reserved for you alone.

At the start of the game, the research cards are shuffled face-down. Each player draws one, reads it aloud to the others, then keeps it face-up in front of them for the duration of the adventure. All research cards are relayed “as-is” – the adventurers cannot use skill checks or any outside means to confirm or deny research, not least because it is assumed they have already done so to the best of their ability before embarking. To determine which research is worth heeding, the adventurers must rely on logic, intuition, and their experience in the station.

July 15, 2011

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch: Pre-Tournament Analysis

The Fourthcore Team Deathmatch (FTDM) has been my pet project for a few months now, and I have poured quite a bit of thought and energy into its design and implementation. Originally inspired by a chat with Sersa V, it has taken on a life of its own and promises to be an amazing event. My mind was filled with visions of blood and glory, and I could already hear the screams of both triumphant victory and devastating defeat. With GenCon fast approaching, I wanted to take a little time to explain my motives and reasoning behind many of the decisions made on FTDM.

Mission Statement

I know, how corporate, right?

FTDM has had an unofficial mission statement since Day #1. What this means is that I started the design with a number of goals I wanted to achieve with this event. They were:

+ Create a large event where many Fourthcore Fanatics could gather together and hang out at once; a Fourthcore Community Gathering

+ Use the tools of the internet to help organize and promote such an event

+ Capture the frantic, break-neck-speed feel of 90’s-era first-person deathmatch shooter games, such as DooM, Quake, and Heretic/HeXen; using the 4E D&D system.

July 14, 2011

Great minds think alike ... in space!

Castles & Cooks, another blog devoted to all things D&D, has posted their own StarCraft Gamma World project. The articles go into detail on some of the design decision made behind the numbers, and is a good read. They also focus a lot more on stating out individual monsters, a process I have decided to leave exclusively for my upcoming adventures to showcase.

Most unfortunately for me, Castles & Cooks posted their stuff about a month before I did. They beat me to the punch! Although, clearly I had the ideas rolling around behind the screen of this blog since January of this year when I posted my Starship Combat Rules.

It's very interesting to me to see where we diverged in rules, and where we came to the same conclusions. For example, (as you all will see in The Prisoner) we both set the Hydralisk at about the same level, but we diverged in giving the Marine a specific Origin/Background. My reasoning for not doing this, of course, is due to the ability of any adventurer with an assault rifle to be portrayed as a Marine. creating a whole new Origin/Background just for that seemed unnecessary and not gonzo, bat shit crazy enough.

So a toast to C&C, and here's to hoping to see more StarCraft material!

July 5, 2011

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch: Terrain Pieces

For the last few month, Benoit & Co. at Roving Band of Misfits have been diligently working away at their fantastic cast-stone model terrain to create something truly unique. Behold! Cast-stone terrain pieces for the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch:

Benoit will be running the table where these terrain pieces are setup, and then making them available to the general public afterwards. The plan is to spread out the love and give as many different teams a try on the terrain as possible.

The first two maps look absolutely stunning, but I'm even more excited by the Secret Map. It will be revealed around the start of the event, when setup is taking place, and my hope is that is will be a bit of an eye-catcher and a fascinating point of conversation to the onlookers. I want to tell you all about it, but I can't! It will be so much better when revealed if cloaked in secrecy now.

July 1, 2011

StarCraft Gamma World: Introduction & Rules

Intro & Rules * Tokens & Sample Characters * Backgrounds, Equipment, Upgrades * Starships * The Prisoner coming soon!

image from

The Koprulu Sector is a disastrous mess. With the United Earth Directorate and Terran Dominion defeated, the countless Terran factions squabble amongst themselves across dozens of worlds. The Protoss struggle with unification in the face of centuries-old ancient tribal divisions. Rogue hordes of Zerg scour the planets they infest, directionless without the Overmind or Kerrigan to control their appetite for destruction. More disturbing than any of these events are the whispered tales of those whom have come back from the edge of known space. Dark tales of bizarre Protoss/Zerg hybrids and the dreaded return of the ancient Xel’Naga cast a disquieting gloom over the fate of all.

Through the chaos and darkness of the galaxy, a band of heroes emerge. Enhanced by breakthrough technologies and determined to use this time of chaos for the good of their people, these few brave souls venture forth together to stabilize the warring factions, protect the innocent from the horrors of the galaxy, and recover the lost secrets of the Xel'Naga before it is too late.

StarCraft Gamma World is a rules variant to the Gamma World Roleplaying Game (Wizards of the Coast), immersed in the rich storylines and compelling universe of StarCraft (Blizzard Entertainment). Through the rules and handouts presented here, players will be able to explore new tales of wonder and excitement by exploring and building upon the StarCraft universe. Every aspect of the Gamma World rules will be subtly altered, providing a play experience that is fresh and exciting, yet still feels familiar to the roleplaying veterans of Gamma World and Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition.

As a capstone, an adventure will be presented to help launch any newly forming StarCraft Gamma World campaigns. The adventure will utilize the design principles of Fourthcore (Save Versus Death), thrusting the characters into a high-stakes, life-or-death struggle to contain a threat to the entire universe that will test the skills of not only the characters, but the players themselves!

StarCraft Gamma World: Tokens & Sample Characters

Intro & Rules * Tokens & Sample Characters * Backgrounds, Equipment, Upgrades * Starships * The Prisoner coming soon!

Several sheets of custom-made tokens have been created for use in StarCraft Gamma World. The tokens each have a normal and a bloodied side and encompass a wide variety of people, creatures, and sizes found in the StarCraft universe.

StarCraft Gamma World: Backgrounds, Equipment, Upgrades

Intro & Rules * Tokens & Sample Characters * Backgrounds, Equipment, Upgrades * Starships * The Prisoner coming soon!

Backgrounds, advanced equipment, and upgrades (evolutions, and disciplines) represent the primary mechanics in which characters are differentiated and their major combat powers.

Backgrounds present a culmination of talents, baseline equipment, and major attributes that a character has. Backgrounds fall into three categories: genetic, psi, and technological; with the exception of Commander, which falls into no category. Characters in StarCraft Gamma World are above the common soldier; they are the elite of the elite, and a unique product of the recent contact between three space-faring races. As such, StarCraft Gamma World characters have background combinations that are bizarre, innovative, and over-the-top.

Though many backgrounds and other game mechanics describe strange permutations and combinations, all playable characters are considered to be humanoid in basic shape and function.

StarCraft Gamma World: Starships

Starship Combat
Enemy starships are added to combat encounters much the same way as standard creatures, each contributing their designated XP to the encounter total. Enemy starships, obviously, are only appropriate in encounters where they can threaten and interact with starships under the command or protection of the adventurers. 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 inertia, and do not require a specific action to control. Starship 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.

June 18, 2011

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch: Character Sheet Contest!

I'm officially announcing a new contest related to the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch: Character Sheets!

Many D&D enthusiasts have come to me, excited and bubbling over the idea of a D&D team deathmatch. However, they are saddened, as their schedule simply cannot allow them to come to GenCon and participate in the bloodbath. Now, those who cannot be there in person have a way to influence the deathmatch.

At GenCon, a stack of approximately 20 pre-generated character sheets will be available for anyone playing in the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch to use. These characters will be designed by you, the reader, to help your fellow Man in their epic struggle for survival.

I am looking for pre-generated 1st Level character sheets, following the rules stated for the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch. All character sheets must have a custom layout, such as those created for SND-02 PreGens. Any direct, unaltered printings from DDi Character Builder is lazy and unbecoming of a serious 4E player. Optimization, creativity, and ease of use are the three most important criteria.

The author of any character sheet used by any of the players in the final match will receive full scale, color print outs of each of the three maps used in the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch. A small memento, and a way for all of us to say 'thanks'.

When accepted, character sheet will be made available here for preview.

June 14, 2011

Blade of the Feywild Thunderdome

A player in my home campaign was bringing a new character into the group, his previous character having died in the deadly halls of The Iron Lich. He wanted to play an Elven Avenger, out for vengeance against the wretched defilers who had desecrated the resting place of his ancestors via the Garden of Graves in the 4E Tomb of Horrors. As per our campaign House Rules, the player was allowed to start his character with a powerful magic item, however it had to be carefully crafted by both himself and the Dungeon Master. The item needed to be beneficial, but also have drawbacks or hindrances that must be overcome by its user. The player wanted to emphasize the Avenger theme of a duel to the death, and really enjoyed the mechanics behind Adventurers Vault 2’s arcane immurements, the magic “snow globes” that trap people in them. With this in mind, we crafted the Blade of the Feywild Thunderdome. The magic sword whisks the wielder and his opponent away to a secluded battle arena, where they must fight to the death. This suits the Avenger theme perfectly by completely isolating the Avenger’s target. It is also very dangerous, however, as a few bad rolls or crit’ing a Solo or Elite enemy can quickly spell disaster.

May 25, 2011

Labyrinth of the Underdark

from the movie Labyrinth (1986)

Many times in D&D, I have tried (or read an adventure that tried) to create a scenario with the dungeoneers trapped in some sort of maze which they must find their way out of. Time and again, however, the adventure idea has fallen on its face. I've had boring, uninspired implementations one after another. I've done timed pan and paper maze puzzles, skill challenges, complex dungeon tile setups; you name it. While helping out on some work on a Project That Shall Not Be Named, I was inspired by the author to create a card-based mini-game to represent the maze that is the namesake of H2: Thunderspire Labyrinth.

May 22, 2011

Encounter: Astral Ambush

Astral Ambush
Encounter Level 18 (2,000 XP each)


Astral Ambush is a complex encounter I ran for my D&D game. The encounter centers around a derelict Arkhosian Destroyer, a prized warship ready for the taking. The ship is a tempting target for the party, bait to lure them on board. Nearby, however, are several environmental hazards and hiding on board the ship is a lurking villain. Astral Ambush uses the Starship Combat rules provided here, however the encounter can easily be altered to be applicable to an open sea environment.

May 19, 2011

Magic Item Black Market

Recently, I was presented with the exciting opportunity to start up a new D&D campaign from scratch. I generally enjoy this aspect of the Dungeon Master’ing experience. I’m an organized, planning-ahead kind of person by nature, and the start of a new campaign gives ample opportunity to put those tendencies to good use.

One of the complaints from this group of players during the last game we had was the overall lack of magic items and loot. During that campaign, I opted to use the inherent enhancement bonus option from DMG2 and use a handful of very special, powerful, almost artifact-like magic items through the entirety of the game world. I also banned the enchant magic item and disenchant magic item rituals, and the related martial practices. This allowed me to keep magic rare and special in the world, to give it a sense of wonder and mystery. My efforts fell on deaf ears, however, as the players preferred to haul away barrels full of loot. They missed the +1 magic longswords, having some sense of nostalgia for their prior adventures in that style. Being the manager of this dog and pony show, I acquiesced to my audience and went back to Rules-As-Written magic item distribution. I would even let the dungeoneers (gasp!) buy magic items.

May 1, 2011

Deathmatch Podcast & Updates

A 4th Edition podcasting blog, A Roving Band of Misfits, has posted a podcast where they start out excitedly talking about the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch. All this support and excitement has gotten me very encouraged! I can't wait! There has also been talk from Benoit's side about some very special treats for some lucky teams in the Deathmatch. More details will be dropped as things progress!

As I write this, we're at 23 31 players signed up! Only 1 ticket remaining! I see this event easily selling out by the end of the week. I thank you all for your love of killing your fellow man.

With that in mind, please make sure to get in touch with me and get your team squared away. I'd hate to have to do all that messy administrative juggling at GenCon, splicing together teams and all, when we could be better spending our time telefragging.

April 30, 2011

Register for the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch!

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch is a go!

Sign up tomorrow, May 1st, when GenCon Events Registration goes live. I look forward to seeing your splattered dungeoneers' gibs cake the walls of the Slaughterhouse.

Don't forget: once you've secured your spot at the table with GenCon, get in touch with me to get squared away in the Competition's Ladder.

April 27, 2011

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch Playtest: How I Killed 40+ PCs in a Single Night

EDIT: If you are anywhere nearby whatsoever, be sure to sign up for the Baltimore Fourthcore Team Deathmatch, held on Saturday October 15th 2011!

This is the one word I can use to describe the experience. I will now relate to you the harrowing, awesome events of last night’s playtest of my latest project, the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch.

April 15, 2011


"Let me tell you how much we have learned to hate you since the birth of your pink-skinned race. If the oceans of the world had the word hate written on every individual drop of water that forms that endless expanse, it would not equal one-billionth of the hate I alone feel for humans at this one single instant."

- High Wyrmlord of the Red Hand

April 14, 2011

Huzzah, WotC!

Wizards of the Coast just spat out a pretty decent article on terrain powers, here, a topic near and dear to my heart. I particularly like the guidelines set forth equating various conditions (dazed, blinded, etc.) with the action economy, modified by tier. That's definitely an area that I feel a lot of newer DM's are hesitant and inexperienced with. The only thing that comes to mind that I would have done differently would be to increase the suggested damage range. I feel like terrain powers work best when they're on the side of a little too powerful. You need a good carrot to get the typical risk-averse, closed-box-thinking player to use them. And if they're not using them, what's the point?

The author is a relative unknown, Mark Monack. He has a Wizard Community Blog called Unearthed Wrecana.

April 9, 2011

I'm just a simple country lawyer who doesn't know much about your fancy technology ...

I just figured out how to make digital Dungeon Tile maps. Seriously, just now. Expect more posts with actually usable encounters/adventures in the near future. Here's what I slapped together for Room A of The Lost Crown of Tesh-Naga.

April 8, 2011

Terrain Powers for a 1-On-1 Duel

from The Karate Kid (1984)

The duel to the death, the 1-on-1 fight, the showdown. These words describe a powerful scenario where a hero must confront and defeat his enemy. Dungeons & Dragons, however, is at its heart a group game, made with the idea of a tactical team of 5 in mind. Must we abandon this epic imagery? This satisfying closure between two rivals so that we can invite the whole team? No, we will split the goddamn party.