Moultery goodness

28 July 2017 19:40
makovette: (Default)
[personal profile] makovette
I've had the pleasure of not only immensely enjoying [personal profile] moultery's inspired writing and lovingly drawn Albion Fuzz and Bohemials web comic for many years, but I've also had the great honor of meeting the gentleman in person. Hopefully his chiropractor was able to help him recover from the wide open throttle Tesla P100D in Ludicrous mode test drive at the Fremont Tesla factory we took 2 summers ago. :)

Note to Moultery: There's now a Ludicrous Mode+ mode for us to play with next time you're out this way, I'm sure your chiropractor will appreciate the repeat business :P

Anywho, over the past 15 years or so we've been exchanging pithy comments and wisdom between ourselves, it never occurred to me to ask him for a commission or other works - he's an accomplished musician, thespian and all around pan-creative soul. Well that's changed, but first you simply MUST check this out before reading below the cut:

Just Click this NAOW =:-)

Here there be Motorcycles and Wolves. )

So much artful goodness here! :) Many thanks again to Moultery for many years of inspirational art and creative goodness, artist like him make the world a far better place place every day.

CYa!
Mako
the_gneech: (Default)
[personal profile] the_gneech
Pictured: An Easy-to-Moderate Encounter
Pictured: An Easy-to-Moderate Encounter

One issue I've encountered with the Storm King's Thunder game is power inflation. It was already an issue during the Keep On the Borderlands phase, but it has reached new heights. We've got a party of six fifth-level characters, who are off-and-on supported by a (CR 7) stone giant NPC, plus any other NPCs who happen to be along for the ride (Lord Alden and Harold, in the current scenario, are both effectively CR 1).

This is a party that punches well above its weight. My best guess, based on running the "encounter difficulty by XP budget" math, is that they are roughly on-par with a 10th level "typical" party. The problem with that, however, is that CR 10+ creatures have abilities and defenses that lower-level characters, even these powerhouses, might not have the resources to overcome.

But then again, they might. D&D has never done "boss fights" well, and that's still true of 5E. Put this party in a big empty room with a behir (CR 11), and my money would still be on the party unless the behir had access to lair or legendary actions. [personal profile] laurie_robey would probably get swallowed whole at least once, tho.

(In some ways, this is a feature, not a bug. If you put a giant boss at the bottom of a dungeon, where the PCs have had to fight their way to get to it and are down on resources, the fact that the boss is gimped by the party's number advantage is a hidden way to make the fight winnable while still feeling epic.)

The current thought on encounter design for D&D is that in any given encounter you should have at least three monsters against a regular party, plus one monster for each party member beyond four. So against a party of six, at least five monsters. Against a party of nine(!), at least eight monsters.

This is rapidly becoming a very crowded 30' x 50' dungeon room. ¬.¬

The good news is, 5E is so much faster than the past three editions that there's not that much overhead from having all these mass combats. "These two attack Rina. These four attack Togar. The ones attacking Rina need 10 or better, the ones attacking Togar need 16 or better." (Dice clatter.) The DMG has a chart for mob attacks that boils even that down to "If they need a 15, every fourth monster hits," but we have not (yet) had a fight so large that I felt it was worth looking it up.

Just taking the average damage from each mook attack, something I was dubious of at first, really makes this go even smoother. "You're hit twice, take ten points of damage." Easy peasy. The +/- 3 points of damage either way from rolling dice every time is not missed, although I still roll the damage individually for monster criticals, adding just that touch of spice roughly once or twice per game session.

The other issue, though, is 5E's strange fixation on not having monsters over CR 3 if at all possible. In the last session, Sheala took out a dozen enemies with a single fireball because they couldn't survive half damage even if they made their saves. You can start stacking your monster ranks with reskinned knights, veterans, gladiators, and bandit captains to buff them up a bit, or create 3.5-style "mob" versions of lower level foes, and there are some third party supplements for the purpose. But the players might rightfully wonder why the orcs last week couldn't withstand a fireball and the ones this week can, unless you introduce a story element of Bigger, Badder Orcs (say, a new strain bred by an evil wizard wearing shimmering rainbow robes).

There is an upside to having a party that can take a licking and keep on ticking– I can just put whatever I want and makes sense into the scenario and not be worried that they can't handle it. But the real problem is things that should be dangerous becoming trivial. The "svartjaw" in the last session was a reskinned wyvern, a CR 6 brute, and they just melted it like butter before a blowtorch. Players love and want to win, but if they don't feel like they had to at least work for it a little, it feels cheap, and will become boring fast.

5E's much-touted Bounded Accuracy is meant to address this very issue, but when you pile on a huge party like this, you flip the script. Suddenly the carefully-balanced math and action economy that is supposed to allow monsters to remain a threat across wider levels, is exactly what enables the party to just stomp all over everything.

There is also the Monty Haul problem, where the party's ability to take on outsized challenges leads to them racking up high level treasure and XP, which in turn enables them to level up even faster in a geometric spiral. Dividing the encounter XP by six, seven, or nine as appropriate helps here, and I have complete control over how much wealth the party has access to simply by decided what's out there, but it is still something I need to watch.

(As a side note, I do love that 5E is built on the assumption of class/race abilities only, decoupling magic items from character progression. I have always looked askance at "numerical progression" items from the first time I saw a +1 sword in my Moldvay Boxed Set with chits instead of dice. My completely perfect world would mostly leave out treasure too– when did you ever see Frodo and Sam count gold pieces? But I fear that would force a little too much of my own preferred playstyle onto the rest of the group, and certainly "local duke offers 500 gp for bandit slaying" is a handy wrench in the narrative toolbox.)

None of these challenges are insurmountable, and compared to the "I hate my life!" slog of prepping higher-level 3.x/PF these are perfectly-acceptable problems to have. They're just things I'm noticing about how the current game is going. Every campaign is different!

-The Gneech

Geekery for Updaters

27 July 2017 19:44
makovette: (Default)
[personal profile] makovette
To help update your PC which rarely if ever will get hardware driver updates from Microsoft, you Windows 10 folks should hit this up and run it occasionally:

https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/support/detect.html

CYa!
Mako
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
[personal profile] stardreamer
The following was originally posted by Daniel on Slacktivist, and is being reproduced here by permission.

* * *


North America

The North American country of the United States of America (USA) was shocked yesterday by the announcement by the President, Donald Trump, a colorful and outspoken reality television star and business-tycoon manqué, that he would strip the right to serve in the nation's armed services from its transgender citizens.

The country, sandwiched between Canada and Mexico and famous as the birthplace of KerPlunk, has for many years been under the influence of a religious sect opposed to modern science, preferring its own superstitious interpretations of gender and sexuality and the military to facts. Among their beliefs is the conviction that electricity, a gift from their God, can be used to permanently alter the sexuality of individuals subject to ritual shocks. While Trump is not himself a member of this sect, many of his supporters and cabinet are - the Vice President, Mike Pence, believes that electrocution and denial of civil rights can "cure" people of their sexual and/or gender identity, for instance, and has been known to conduct rituals seeking to influence the behaviors of his people and indeed entire nations through supernatural means. He is also reported to believe his own "sexual magic" is so strong that to be left alone with a woman he is not married to would lead to inevitable intercourse. Experts speculate this is because in the culture of the sect his silver hair is seen as a sign of divine favor. It is hard to think that in the twenty-first century such beliefs could exist, but this country - still dealing with the consequences of a bitter and bloody civil war and struggling to shed the influence of more than a century of colonialism - is steeped in such superstition.

The President, who has a history of vocal support for wars and the people that fight them - amongst whose numbers he has never been included due to a debilitating recurrent foot complaint - is thought to have made this decision to pander to this sect to receive funding for his own passion project, a great wall separating his increasingly isolated country from Mexico. Though he promised to make the Mexican government pay for it, this was seen in Mexico City as merely bombastic boasting and was met with diplomatic derision. It has now become clear that this was an accurate assessment, and Trump has gone cap in hand to sectarian members of the governing Republican Party to beg for funds for his grandiose white elephant.

While it is characteristic of the regime, which rose to power on a wave of populist resentment and tribal grievance, to not know how policies announced by their President will be effected, it appears not to be troubling his inner circle; in the so-called "White House", or presidential residence, where Trump himself is seen as something like a demi-god, his name cast in enormous gold letters on various sacred sites across the country is deemed to be a powerful influencer of the spirits of wealth and "class" - a peculiar concept something akin to the more familiar machismo though coupled with a deep seated anti-intellectualism and contempt for internal monologue. Indeed, it is thought that simply by saying things Trump is able to make them physically real, and the less proof his followers demand the greater they consider themselves blessed by him.

What is also not clear at this moment is how it will effect the members of the armed services who are currently serving and who are transgender. As there appears to be a reliance on the metaphysical abilities of Trump to alter reality with 140 characters at a time - an extension of the sect's peculiar faith in the power of electricity - and nothing more, it is not certain if the people targeted by his declaration will be fired, or forced back into the closet, or subject to other and worse discrimination. What is certain though is that through his influence and the influence of his cult, the President will have sent a message that the god a significant proportion of the people believe in wants them to discriminate against their fellow citizens.

In a statement today the organization Democracy Within Borders responded:

"It is tempting to look on this benighted and atavistic society governed by an exotic death cult, determined to harm its own people in celebration of their idol, a man cast in gold whom they revere as both its product and its source, with the prurient interest we use for other ex-colonial nations, as a setting for our horror films and travel writing. We should not. The majority of the citizens do not belong to the tribe of their leaders, a fact reflected in the election, in which his opponent received a higher number of votes than he did, that secured the Presidency for Trump."


The peculiar formulation of democracy in the country - a reaction to the government of its former colonizers - means that now in power Trump has called for the arrest and imprisonment of his opponent, for crimes he cannot name nor explain. It is not clear if this is the result of a taboo or géis, or of his paranoia that the legal system of the country might do its job correctly. It appears he believes millions of phantoms cast votes for his opponent, though without being able to ensure her victory. The statement continued:

"It is hoped that the two advanced nations bordering the USA will intervene to try and help those harmed by this decision. In this day and age a nation proclaiming itself great cannot treat its citizens in this way based on crude self-interest and superstition."


* * *

Three Things

24 July 2017 22:13
the_gneech: (Default)
[personal profile] the_gneech
Did a lot of fretting today and agonizing over the status of the Sky Pirates book. No conclusions. The answer I want is "one of the agents I sent it to wanted it," but that didn't happen, so I have to figure out what the next step really should be.

Three Good Things for Today


  • Got the basic poses finished for Blacktigr's commission

  • Finished the "Windswept Sandbox Full of Giants" recap posts

  • Had some Ben & Jerry's

  • Bonus Good Thing: Had some nice kitty cuddles.


Three Goals for Tomorrow


  • Finish Blacktigr commish

  • Pencils for SJ page 12

  • Work on "By Elves Abandoned"/"Fortress of Tears" setting


Gnite world, and have an awesome tomorrow.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)
[personal profile] the_gneech
Harold of Acholt worries about his father, the Thane
Harold of Acholt worries about his father, the Thane

When you prep for the players to zig, they always zag. Continuing from part six...

We're finally caught up to the most recent game session! With game world firmly built out and chock-a-block with adventure hooks and sidequests, a firm campaign direction ("Escort Xerlo to the Eye of the All-Father"), and brain-eating enthusiasm infinitely better than the floundering avoidance I started with, I was excited for the characters to head into Rohan Hestelland. It was a four-day hike from Tyvalich to Hierandal, the capital of the realm, which was summarized in a paragraph because it mostly consisted of staring at grass for hours on end.

The first order of business on arriving in Hierandal was looking up Piotr Zymorven to ask him about his father's sword. They found him in a tavern... )

Well my dear readers, reskinned wyverns are still CR 6. A party of six 5th-level PCs and their CR 7 stone giant ally piledrived Svartjaw so fast that Lord Alden and his son didn't even get a chance to draw their swords. Lord Alden was quite upset by this apparent anticlimax to what he had expected to be an epic last hunt that would be sung of by the bards and so on... until Rina pointed out that the tracks they'd been following had a very distinctive tread missing three toes on one foot– and that the monster they had killed did not.

Svartjaw, it seemed, was not the only one of his kind.

Furthermore, examination of the bear revealed that like the displacer beasts in the previous session, Svartjaw was also wearing a collar with a token on it, in this case an emblem of Nerull the Reaper, a dark god of death and murder from eastern lands. There was still hunting to be done before dawn. The session ended with Lord Alden giving the order to mount up to continue the hunt, darkness and the forest be damned.

And with that, the campaign summary is up to date! The next session will begin with the PCs attempting to find Svartjaw's lair and confront the source of its evil. Will Lord Alden survive his last hunt? Time alone can tell.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)
[personal profile] the_gneech
The Grand, Unified Map of Gneech's Campaign World

Then, the world changed. Continuing from part five...

I was going to finish the recaps with the discussion of last weekend's session here, but I got to talking about the map (as one does) and realized the last recap would have to wait for one more post.

Once I realized that Storm King's Thunder was a "build your own campaign" framework and not a straightforward adventure module and embraced it, that meant that I had to build out the world in order to make room for it all. I went through the module from front to back and placed every location important to the campaign somewhere, and then set myself to the task of filling in as much of the blank space around that as possible.

I discovered that the Silver Coast was waaaaay too small... )

It took several days and the project pretty much ate my brain the whole time, but now that it's done I'm really happy with the result. This is a game world that I can see going pretty well forever, with enough detail and history to feel "lived in" while still having plenty of room for expansion as needed (I tried to leave myself lots of open spots). It's not suitable for publication or any such thing– it's got chunks of Greyhawk, chunks of Faerûn, bits of Lovecraft's Dreamlands, and of course the Middle-earth nations of Rohan, Arnor, and Angmar with the serial numbers shaved off. But it is a cool place for me and six friends to visit every Saturday night.

It also taught me a lot about world-building in general, which is valuable for creating original works. I will probably use a very similar process to build out Calypsitania and the Fortress of Tears world for writing novels in next.

Next time, part seven, in which we finally catch up to the campaign!

-The Gneech
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[personal profile] the_gneech
This Round's On Lem, from the Pathfinder Wiki
This Round's on Lem, from the Pathfinder Wiki


He spews lightning. He crashes into everything he gets near and knocks trees over onto himself. And yet he's still kinda adorable. Continuing from part four...

The first town on the road north was Tyvalich, a major trading town at the mouth of a pass up into the richest silver mountains in the world. Before they got there, however, the party was confronted by Felgolos, the Flying Misfortune, a young-ish adult bronze dragon who came swooping in, blasted a line of lightning between the party and the road, and proclaimed that he was the protector of the north and they would go no further. And then had to duck from the lightning-blasted tree that almost fell on his head.

Seeing Xerlo in their company had apparently... )

They headed back to town to collect their reward, stopping briefly to aid and comfort the same band of Calladganger hunters they had met before, who had been tracking a herd of aurochs through the mountains and gotten the snot pounded out of them by a bunch of hill giants. Still convinced that Nikki is some kind of nature spirit, they turned down his offer of "eagle" (actually bloodhawk) meat, because eagles were sacred to them and this was obviously some kind of spiritual test Nikki was putting them through to make sure they followed the old ways or some such. Nikki informed them that there was a nicely large, vacant Calladganger-style homestead in a box canyon just a ways up the mountain that they could safely camp and recuperate in, as long as they didn't mind the smell of burning dead monster. Their leader promised they would ritually sanctify the house and that anyone who settled there would be named the People of the Squirrel in gratitude for this beneficence.

"Right. You do that."

(For the record, the Calladganger leader is not whimsically eccentric, even if I do refer to him as "Kronk." He's a perfectly normal big dumb amiable lug.)

After a night of rest, it was time for the four day hike to Hierandal, which will come in part five.

-The Gneech

They're All Over Planet Blue

20 July 2017 00:51
frith: Light pink cartoon pony with dark pink mane (FIM Pinkie sly)
[personal profile] frith
The poneighs, that is. They're on your piano, reading your books.

Grainbee2017

In this town, bereft of any eye-catching architecture or sculpture, there is this one piano in front of the library. Outside, studded with books. Inspired! Take a picture! Pianos outdoors is a thing.

It's the Ponies Around the World event time again. I was going to take a few ponies to work, to pose with a dinosaur, but, I was le tired. Just as well, llama guy popped up just after lunch with 23 bales of hay. Hay yes! I packed my loft to the rafters. Then I went to town.

So there you have it, there are still My Little Pony fans in Canterda and at least one in Grainbee, Kickbuck. Notice, we speak Fancy in Kickbuck. Oh la la! C'est magnifique!
the_gneech: (Default)
[personal profile] the_gneech
Drow Assassin by thatDMan
Drow Assassin by thatDMan


You knew a prophecy had to show up eventually. Continuing from part three...

Upon arriving back in town, the party headed for Lord-Protector Shendrel's offices only to find an unruly mob of farmers complaining about Xerlo, the stone giant, who apparently defended an outlying farm from attack by throwing the farmer's silo at a bunch of hill giants who were stealing all the livestock they could get ahold of while chanting "Food for Guh! Food for Guh!" They said they'd have a talk to him.

While they were in town, [personal profile] inkblitz headed off to the Golden Compass Society for Exploration, Acquisition, and Monster Dispatch (a.k.a. the Adventurers Guild), while Sirfox headed for the Brotherhood of the Spider (a.k.a. the Thieves Guild). [profile] jamesbarrett went off to the temple and the garrison to boost morale, aid the refugees of the volcano still clogging up the town, and presumably chop wood or something paladiney like that.

Investigation at the Adventurers Guild revealed... )

They were not expecting the dragon attack that comes in part five...

-The Gneech

PS: Quit creeping on that drow, guildmaster! Don't you know that's Obsidian's mother?

(no subject)

18 July 2017 20:27
threemeninaboat: (Default)
[personal profile] threemeninaboat
I got asked more than once today about how somebody gets 17 contact lenses stuck in their eye.

I'm betting they were Acuvue Dalies, the crappiest of all the lenses. They fold, shatter, and get lost really easily in there. I stopped wearing them because I couldn't find all the tiny pieces in my eyeball and that's my job.

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