Posts Tagged With: 4e

Modules I’d like to run…

So, at this point I have run the party through two “introductory modules” – Scourge of the Howling Horde and then Keep on the Borderlands and I pretty much set up a clear lead in to Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde. But I’ve been looking at the rest of the stuff sitting on my shelf and deciding what I’d like to run as well – understanding that there is usually some extra adventure in and around linking the modules up in a reasonable manner.

No brainers:

  • The Slaver Modules (A1-A4, though A4 is never a certainty)
  • Ravenloft (I6, and possibly the sequel, House of Gryphon Hill, I10)
  • Castle Amber (X2)
  • In Search of the Unknown (B1)
  • Castle of the Silver Princess (B3)
  • The Giant Modules – though tweaked for my world (G1-G3)
  • The Secret of Bone Hill (L1) and Assassins Knot (L2)
  • Tomb of Horrors (S1) and Return to the Tomb of Horrors (the Boxed set)
  • White Plume Mountain (S2)
  • Lost Caverns of Tsojancth (S4)
  • Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (WG4)
  • The Ruins of Undermountain(Both I & II)
  • The Ruins of Myth Drannor
  • The Ghost Tower of Inverness (C2)

If I can figure out how to:

  • The Desert of Desolation series (I3-15)
  • Isle of Dread (X1)
  • Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan (C1)
  • The Witchblade Trilogy (by Privateer Press)
  • Death’s Reach (E1 for 4E)
  • Keep on the Shadowfell (H1 for 4E)
  • Hellgate Keep
  • The Wyrmskull Throne

I also have a pile of Kenzer and Company modules that look like they’d be fun, and I keep eyeballing the Pathfinder modules as well because they look like they could be mined for a great fun also. I kind of make a habit of picking modules for the cheap if I find them at used bookstores or the like – rarely do I not findsomethinguseful in them… Similarly I have a handful of the “official” 3E and 3.5E monules that clearly look like they’d be a gas to play – even if they are balanced a bit funky at times.

Now, I might be able to pull a couple of these off via members of the group having to split off and “solo adventure” (which may in fact mean that the group actually gets to create new characters to go and help the “solo” adventurer in their quest) – Frater Gregor is a rather excellent example of this given that he’s a disgraced paladin at the moment. He’s certainly going to need to go and do something to regain his status – and something like B3 would be perfect. Similarly, the rogues and the mages might decide that plundering the Tomb of Horrors would be worth the effort while the Society of Light folks decide that this is not even worth discussing.

That is actually the major problem that is developing for the party, the group has two real power groups that have significantly different goals in life – the very good Society of Light folks and the rather mercenary Rogues. Everybody still gets along, but there has been the odd bit of tension here and there – and Frater Nikolai is certainly very, very focused on “doing good”. He’s also a noble, so the whole idea of “making money” is a bit beneath him in many ways, he doesn’t begrudge the others that desire (it’s only natural of course) but his concerns aren’t quite so tawdry…



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Points of Light, Points of Darkness…

I just realized something, as I was pondering the “Points of Light” concept that was the “focus” of 4E campaign design – I’m not sure how much campaign design ever really played into 4E based on what I read, but I’ll give them the idea at least. The concept is a rather old one, and is certainly a trope in many ways, the focus of the action is that there are pockets of civilization (the points of light) within vast seas of surrounding wilderness and savagery (the darkness). As a note, most modern day occult campaigns (or even historical occult/horror games like Call of Cthulhu) work off the opposite conceit, that there are Points of Darkness (Innsmouth, the Succubus Club, etc) that exist with the vast light of modern civilization.

This really does make an excellent basis for a open-ended hexcrawl, where the players start out in one point of light and then travel via exploration to the next point of light – or even in the endgame create their own point of light (pretty much the assumption in much of the OSR rulesets). But it doesn’t work so well in a game like mine, where at one point in the distant past it most certainly was a hexcrawl in some ways. It was a big world, much of it was undeveloped, and the players and I could just make stuff up as was needed.

Jump forward 32 years and the world is pretty well-developed. Now, I’ve certainly created and maintained areas that are hexcrawlish – but the wilderness is dangerous and it really isn’t that suitable for low-level types. I don’t think that Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, or Sir Richard Burton were 1st level characters…

So what the hell do you do?

One of the problems with Points of Darkness is that they have to be either very secretive or very powerful or both in order to survive in a world full of light. I think that this is what makes some of those classic modules work well – T1 The Village of Hommlet, U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God, and even something like A1, Slavepits of the Undercity were all about hidden threats within civilized lands, the characters know that there is a “problem” but it’s true extent isn’t understood and the characters must uncover it in order to be successful. These were, in all seriousness, much more like a good Call of Cthulhu scenario than a “dungeon crawl”.

In modules like L1 The Secret of Bone Hill there was a bit more of a Point of Darkness vibe, the same with modules S1 Tomb of Horrors, S2 White Plume Mountain, and s4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojanth (along with it’s companion WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun). The characters know that there is a “bad spot” and specifically go out to deal with it, often in a very dungeon-crawl-like manner. Now, in the A-Series and the U-Series the characters are drawn further out into the “Sea of Darkness” and away from the safety of the “Point of Light” – but it certainly isn’t a hexcrawl in any way shape or form and it is all predicated on the success of the initial investigation and adventure.

Similarly, as much-loved as they are, the G-Series and the D-series are neither points of Light or Darkness. The former are simple Special Forces or Navy SEAL search and destroy missions, while the latter is a basically one doozy of a LRRP (Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrols, a Vietnam-era designation) mission that combines recon with assassination. This is likely an artifact of the tournament design of the modules, but it also made for a very simple game. You went in and killed everything, with a minimum of puzzle-solving, or you snuck around and hoped to survive till you reached your target (when you killed everything).

I’ve realized that part of my struggle with B2 has been to reconcile the “Point of Light” style of the module with a campaign world that isn’t very “Point of Light” in nature. I’ve made it work, and even though I’ve just come up with a rather radical and horrifying turn of events for Castle Seraph itself, I need to keep in mind that my world isn’t a OSR hexcrawl and trying to treat it as such is just frustrating for me (and the players I think, mostly because my own frustration with things or inability to quite make things work in my own head comes out in my DMing).



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Reconstructionism v. Romanticism

This is how I think about part of the “Simulationist” debate that rears it’s head now-and-again through the OSR blogosphere…

On the one hand you have Reconstructionism (stolen from Neo-Pagan circles), where the goal is try to simulate and reconstruct, as closely as possible, the “real world” – on an extrapolated real world based on “real principles” and a minimum of handwavium. So, in game terms, this means that games like Harn are very high on the scale. Working your way down from there, in roughly descending adherence to the value of “real world simulation”, you have games like Traveller 2300 then Traveller, Delta Green then Call of cthulhu, Cyberpunk 2020, and Pendragon. In miniatures games this would be the catalog from Ground Zero Games (Dirtside, Star Grunt, Full Thrust). In novels, you could see Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels as being relatively Reconstructionist rather than Romantic, as is George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones novels. The ERB’s John Carter of Mars novels have a strong Reconstructionist tone to them whereas his Tarzan novels are a bit less so and probably swerve into Romanticism – assuming that John Carter isn’t already there.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have Romanticism, where the goal is to create or evoke a fantastic existence rather than simulate reality. In increasing Romanticism in terms of D&D, we have OD&D and 2E (2E did it very badly IMO), then BXCMI and 1E (still relatively low on the scale), then 3E and 3.5, and then 4E at the further end of the scale. But in other games, in ascending order of Romanticism, we have… GURPS or Victoriana, Runequest, Stormbringer/Elric, Rolemaster, Talislanta, and then perhaps something like Exalted. In miniatures games this is the world of Games Workshop. In novels this would be Storm Constantine’s Wreathu novels and probably anything by Ed Greenwood or David Eddings. Discworld is very Romantic…

Neither is better or worse than the other, they’re just different. It’s kind of interesting to note that most of the games I play are pretty Reconstructionist in nature. My “Pulp Cuthulhu” game swings over to Romantic nature because of the house rules – and my 1E game similarly spikes up the Romanticism because of the make-up of the multiverse. So, where a game sits is a combination of the game engine and design, but also the individual game world/campaign.


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RPGs and TT Gaming

That’s “Role-Playing Game” and “Table Top” in case you were wondering…

I’ve been a big gamer for years, 32 or so actually, and I’ve started this blog to talk about that – but it is a bit in media res so just read along and you’ll figure things out as I do…

The Victoriana game is still going strong; everybody is enjoying themselves and I’ve kind of worked out the bugs I see in the conceptual world that the canon setting posits. So, instead of dwarves and not-elves and whatnot constantly coexisting with humanity, I’ve changed the history to say that post 30-Years War, Faerie started to colonize the largely depopulated Europe and that the supernatural races have always existed in and around the corners of the world. Makes for a slightly different feel of the game – plus I’ve restored certain events in history (such as the US Civil War) and come up with explanations for why the Crimean War still seems to be ongoing.

The really big news in RPG-land here at the homestead is that I’ve started exploring 1E again – 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.  I stopped playing (either as DM or player) AD&D some time before my son (who is now a teenager) was born.  I think I basically stopped DMing it around the time of my first marriage and stopped playing at some point in the following 3-4 years.

The thought experiment at the moment is to see how I can frame my campaign world in 1E terms without resorting to the Frankenstein’s monster of official rules and house rules my campaign had become by time I stopped playing AD&D.

There are certainly a handful of house rules to be used, and that was the beauty of 1E – the system was loose enough to allow that and Dragon magazine certainly had a plenty of extra options to allow it.

But instead of adding in extra spell-casting rules from a half-a-dozen extra systems (to my recollection, I was using Rolesmaster, CoC, Runequest, and PRPG in addition to the basic system of AD&D rulebooks), I’m looking at doing things simply with extra character classes from that era of Dragon and White Dwarf (and elsewhere, if deemed valuable). I’m rejecting the abomination that was 2E (I hate “kits”), let alone the significant change that was 3E or 3.5E.

So, there’s a chance that I’ll be using the space here to talk about some of this process as I try to piece together what worked from 15+ years ago and rebuild a new OD&D campaign still set in my long-running campaign setting. At this point, we just passed the 32-year mark for me playing RPGs, so that puts my fantasy setting at 25+ years, with several multi-year sandbox campaigns set within it.

Take care!


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