* Five Pages, Thirty Stat Blocks v.2
After running a campaign through all three tiers of play, I realized how much bite monsters lose over time. This veers far and away from Page 42 and heads into the realm of madness. Provides a more consistent threat to the player characters as they progress in level — without the use of fancy powers or Save-or-Suck effects.
* Five Pages, Thirty Stat Blocks v.1
In five pages of readable-size text, this document details stat blocks for completely nondescript creatures to use against your typical adventuring party. They have no encounter powers, no dailies, no utility powers, and indeed, nothing except what might vaguely be interpreted as ranged and/or melee basic attacks.
* Static Damage Table
If you want to play by yourself, Fourth Edition is one of the best editions of D&D to do just that — and here’s something to help you on your way. Statistics for creatures of every level from 1st to 30th, with pre-determined initiative, defense, health, damage, and so forth. One thing you’ll need to do is “roll for defense,” which means using 1d20 in place of using a base of 10 for all of your defense scores.
Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition
I played Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons for a long time, and I resisted the move to Fourth Edition for a couple years. I’d followed its development but saw no reason to commit to a new rules system when none of my friends were playing — I’ll admit that I was intrigued by the system, I was merely unmotivated to learn it.
Order of the Raven
My webcomic Rumors of War launched in 2010, and around the same time I joined a local D&D group that was only just getting into Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. I took the opportunity to learn the system, since I had all but avoided it since its launch.
While the characters in the campaign they were playing were new, the group had been playing since at least Second Edition, and had a good feel for gaming together. We picked up several new players along the way and actually built up a decent, consistent gaming group. It had only taken me three and a half years to find one.
When it looked like fatigue was taking its toll on our game master, I offered to run an adventure in the paragon tier, and the following January (almost two years ago), I ran the first part of my original adventure, Escape From White Cliff. You can read about it on this very blog – the design, development, and play reports.
That summer I took a break from tabletop gaming for the wedding, and didn’t rejoin the group until some time after the campaign had concluded.
Essentials and Encounters
I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say the entire Dungeons & Dragons community saw Essentials coming, and I don’t think it’s ever managed to shake the stigma of being “Four Point Five,” reflecting the rules update of the previous edition.
Again, I was resistant to adopting any of the new material, primarily because it looked to be a hacked version of the standard Fourth Edition rules. The new character classes had at best half the content of the original classes, and some of them appeared deceptively terrible, classes like the Cavalier, Sentinel, and Vampire.
Essentials heralded a few good things though – namely the Encounters program.
When I heard about D&D Encounters, I was interested. A friend of mine got me an ‘in’ as a game master at the FLGS. I acquainted myself with the players who were regulars, and at the end of the Encounters season, approached a couple of them with a campaign. We played at the store until scheduling conflicts interfered.
In Praise of Stone
I liked the D&D Encounters well enough, it just seemed like “too little, too late” at the point it was introduced. I’ll tell you this — it worked. If a handful of new players get their start through the program, and even one gaming group gets organized per store, the whole thing becomes worth it. For us, it was a springboard to a regular group.
“Praise of Stone” started in May 2012 and concluded in April 2013. It takes place in roughly the same setting I developed for Rumors of War. After a lengthy discussion of expectations with the players, I wrote a “Campaign Standard,” and we had one of the more organized character creation sessions I’ve led.
Our group had a little turnover in players in the middle, but our core group remained consistent throughout the entire campaign. Once we hit paragon tier, I noticed some disturbing trends in the group’s attitude toward NPCs that I knew would not enable them to survive the entirety of the paragon and epic tiers.
About halfway through the paragon tier, and despite combined efforts from myself and a few of the players, some interventions and hard lessons, I concluded the party wouldn’t survive epic tier. Rather than ending abruptly, I sped up level advancement so we could see where the party’s actions would lead. And it was glorious.
Basking in the Afterglow
It’s been almost a month since the end of the campaign, and I feel ambivalent. Proud obviously, it was the first campaign I’d ever taken from the start all the way to the finish. Though we sped things up in the end, there were prolonged periods with little advancement at both the beginning and in the middle.
But now I’m not sure how I feel about starting anew. I’ve been doing a lot of creative work recently — designing character classes, analyzing play experience to run a better campaign in the future — but I don’t want to spoil the feeling of success.