February 23, 2012

The Three Pillars of Fourthcore

Recently, the idea of describing Dungeons & Dragons by three generalized spheres of play, three pillars if you will, has come into popular usage; those three pillars being roleplaying, exploration, and combat. I think it’s a nice way to organize the game and a good tool to have and think about when designing a dungeon and/or adventure.

Here’s a prediction of mine, or perhaps a mild suggestion to Wizards of the Coast: If the three pillars concept describes the core values of any Dungeons & Dragons game, the very basics that are going on here, then those ought to be the three most core, most basic, most necessary releases for D&D Next. Yes, I’m talking about the PHB, DMG, and MM.

Furthermore, I believe that any successful Fourthcore dungeon must be tested against three additional pillars: strategy, tactics, and luck. Whether you are designing a Fourthcore dungeon or preparing to delve into one, you must ask yourself if you are prepared to conquer these three additional foci.

February 22, 2012

Revenge of the Iron Lich: Alternate Spells

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To commemorate the 1 year anniversary of Revenge of the Iron Lich, here is an alternate spell list for the Iron Lich and its closest advisers, the Congregation of Lich Necromancers. These are designed as power swaps, meant to replace the indicated spells from the original Revenge of Lich with alternatives that present the dungeoneers with new challenges and increase the replayability and unpredictability of the original adventure. Many of the spells' effects were chosen to mimic the overall effects of the original design, but in a new and interesting way.

February 21, 2012

CSR in the media

In case you haven't seen these (and I'd be surprised if you read this blog and haven't), I've been out and about in the wild at a couple of locations:

February 16, 2012

Exploring the Lich-Queen's Beloved, Part 4

This post continues to document the journey through The Palace of Whispers, as started here. This post will actually be recapping two week's worth of play (again). Have at thee!


February 15, 2012

Magic Item: The Iron Codex

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Here's an old magic item I created for a now-defunt 4E D&D campaign. The campaign itself fell apart a little due to some of the players moving away, but then had a sort of rebirth in the form of my current campaign, the one that has the Lich-Queen's Beloved finale.

The item itself was a bit of a collaboration between myself, as Dungeon Master, and Jon Paul the Pontiff, as player. A huge amount of inspiration came from this early and expertly written DDi article from Dragon 372.

The dungeon where this item was found was the lost Temple of Bane, the last remnants of godly worship in the oppressive, Primordial-thrall empire of Arkhosia. The temple itself could be accessed only via a bridge made of a 1000 ft. long steel blade upon which the forces of morality (angels and demons) waged a constant war of unending bloodshed. Inside, the dungeoneers faced several non-combative trials, puzzles if you will, based on some commonplace Game Theory stuff, such as The Prisoner's Dilemma; albeit refluffed to fit into a medieval fantasy world. I find that kind of thing particularly interesting.

The item itself follows a similar pattern to how I had been handling magic items for awhile. The item was overtly too powerful, but had a substantial drawback. This formed a temptation of using the item's very impressive powers, but risking the potentially disastrous consequences of its severe drawbacks. You see this sort of dynamic in play in traditional mythology and folklore, as there are few magic items in those tales that do not come with a price. In actual play, it's added a special spark of wonder and mystery to these rarely found artifacts.

You'll probably notice, too, that the item doesn't have a type (weapon, implement, wondrous item, etc.) or any enhancement bonuses. That's because I don't believe in them. Those definitions are unnecessary and overly restrictive. I suppose you could say that all the magic items in the campaign are wondrous items. Any chump can pick up this supremely sacred magic item and use it, although it benefits some more than others. The campaign had inherent enhancement bonuses from the start, negating the need for any +1 this or +2 that. I just create magic items that fit the story. There's no need to worry about which dungeoneer can use the item or which dungeoneer is lacking in items or anything like that. My creativity refuses to be bound in such a way!

February 8, 2012

Unfinished Alchemy

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Here is a minor puzzle/reward scenario I developed a few years back, not too long after Adventurer's Vault was released, so .. Spring 2009? when I ran this, the dungeoneers were sneaking about and exploring the dungeons and towers of a castle occupied by their enemies, the Arkhosian Empire. During their delvings, they stumbled upon an unattended alchemy lab.

This rooms is cluttered with glass vials and old tables. On one of the tables is a potion of resistance at the final stages of completion. A character trained in Arcana or Nature examining the nearly complete potion knows that it requires one final ingredient to complete.

Magic Item: The Tome of Abithriax

Here's an old magic item I'm dragging out from under the stairs in the basement, metaphorically. The Tome of Abithriax was a boon I gave to the dungeoneers whom last attempted (and failed) to stop Karax in The H1: Keep on the Shadowfell; given to them by their helpful adviser, Douven Stahl. It's a neat little item that encourages more ritual casting and has an appropriately themed dangerous power that tempts its bearer with a faustian this-for-that proposition. The little bit of backstory attached to it also was intended to set up some long-term foreshadowing into a possible delve through H3: Pyramid of Shadows by associating the item with the dreaded Kravakos.