Tag Archives: D&D

Reavers of Harkenwold

As the sidebar indicates, I’m currently in the process of running Reavers of Harkenwold (from the 4E Essentials Dungeons Master’s Kit) for a group of six (that hovers around four to five per session due to real life).

I’m running it because 1) I wanted to play some 4E and nobody else was running it and 2) I wanted to see how running a game based on a module would work.  My previous 4E effort felt like it required more active preparation than I really have bandwidth to perform said active preparation, and module does all the work, right?

Also, I’m functionally a new GM.  I’ve stabbed at running games infrequently over the years, but nothing truly extended.  It’s something I want to do, partly because it’s something I want to do and partly because there are games I want to play and if I don’t run ’em nobody will.  The only way to go from being an inexperienced, poor GM is practice.  (Well, maybe not the only way, but you take my meaning.)

Reavers is wrapping up, approaching its climax.  I have some thoughts on the game.

People who think 4E is not deadly are NUTS.  I’m running a published scenario, one that is judged to be “good.”  Without ever intending to, I kill a player almost every game.

I don’t go out of my way to make fights difficult. Encounters always have “Tactics” sections; I never get to them. I fumble around, pushing NPCs across the grid and rolling dice for them and making quiet “derp” noises.  And, in doing so, I’m butchering PCs left and right like I hate my goddamn players, heaping their mangled corpses like firewood by the dungeon entrance.

That “Death Saving Throw” thing neckbeards like to complain about?  :shudder: According to Untimately (though I don’t think he realizes it), that sucker makes 4E more deadly than AD&D, 3E, and a heap of retroclones. In most of these games, you have a range between -X and 0 in which you’re down but not dead.  4E has the the same… but with a timer: fail three Death Saving Throws and you’re gone. On average, it should take 7 DSTs (I think?) to kill a character.  At my table, with my players and with their dice, it runs more towards the 4-5.

Heck, I even had one character go from “standing” to “greasy, scorched stain on the cavern wall” in a single hit, with damage that blew past zero and then moved on to negative bloodied.

Worse: because encounters in 4E are intended to be difficult, having a PC drop at the wrong moment makes everything harder for everyone still standing… and makes it that much more likely that someone is about to go down.

Of six starting characters (and a dog) , two of them might see the end of the module.  (Not the dog.)

We decided, from the beginning, that we were going to let the dice do their thing, but I don’t actually want my games to be quite as deadly as this 4E game has been.  I’d like the threat of character death to be real and present, but I’d like to have players have the chance to get a little invested in their characters before their ripped apart by bullywugs.

Fights, fights, fights. Nobody will argue that 4E module design leaves something to be desired.  They focus on encounters and not much else (which, frankly, isn’t terribly different from the OSR modules I’ve read, but still).  Since I’m approaching the module from a “save me time” perspective, this inevitably meant that the game was about getting from Fight 1 to Fight 2 to Fight 3… lamentable.

This is as much my fault as the module’s though.  I’m confident that, if I were running something where I had more room to improvise, less direction about fight this then that then this other thing, and room for my players to become attached to their characters, I’d have been more satisfied with the game.

The Module saved me time? I’m not sure it did.  Yes, it saved me from having to plan out encounters (:cough:), but I had to review half the dang module before every session to make sure I (relatively unsuccessfully) kept the details and facts about what was going down straight.

Where I improvised and inserted details that worked well (“The Iron Circle are a bunch of anti-demihuman racists!”) were, inevitably, contradicted by the module (“Except for all the Tieflings and Dragonborn running around the final fortress!”), which made (at least a bit) more work for me.

I like 4E.  A lot.  I don’t think there’s any game out there that does combat as tactical and interesting as it does.  (That I like it is a good thing; the shelf full of 4E books proves I’m invested in the system.)  As I spent the bulk of my free time fiddling with miniatures, I very much value systems that use them.  I don’t think the problems I’ve had with this game are endemic to 4E, either.

I do think that the module experiment has run its course, though.  Hopefully we’ll wrap things up with the next session (and, the way things are going, it likely will, with a TPK :/ ) so I can move on to the next thing.


As I might’ve mentioned, I’ve been ramping up on the OSR thing.  There’s some interesting stuff going on there, and I’m a sucker for random tables (and, now, drop tables).

That means that my Google Reader account’s bloated the heck up with a ton of OSR blogs (looks like my RPG folder’s got 60+ feeds in it at the moment).  That’s where the thinking’s going on, right?  And, unlike any other RPG phenomena, it really seems to be driven by individuals rocking out on blogs.

Related: I suggest that @SlyFlourish’s definition of “Grognard” is off; there’s nothing wrong with liking old stuff. The transition from “fan of something old” to “grognard” happens when someone hates something new, because it is new and they like something old.

Nobody has to like 4E. As with “Tastes great!” vs. “Less filling!” or Breaking Bad vs. Mad Men: different strokes for different folks.  It’s cool; whatevs!

What drives me up a dang wall, though, is uninformed bitching about it. You don’t have to like it, but if you’re going to complain about it… please don’t be talking out of your ass when you do it. Comparing 4E to an MMO, for example, flags you as someone who just doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

And that’s the problem I’m running into with OSR blogs: these are folks who keep getting derailed from talking about things they love by a need to complain about things they believe they hate. (I say “believe they hate” because, if they’re demonstrably ignorant about something, can they really hate it? Or just their imperfect understanding of it?)

I want to read these folks because, when they’re talking about something they love: they’re interesting and informative.  I come away with new ideas and perspectives; at the very least about what the game was like. When they sidetrack themselves, not only does it sidetrack me (because someone’s wrong on the internet), but their peevish ignorance undercuts their authority.

On Warpstone Pile, I try very hard to be positive. There’s a lot of miniature hobby stuff out there that I don’t like / kinda hate (Warmachine, the current state of 40K, comp systems for Fantasy), but bitching about it isn’t going to change anything except possibly alienate a reader. Going off about how little I care for Colossals isn’t going to motivate anyone to look at my painted toy soldiers. (I don’t always succeed, but I very much actively avoid negativity there.)

I probably shouldn’t let it bug me that much… it’s hardly a new phenomena, and there are better places to vent about it. But, as my RSS reader’s filling up with this stuff (particularly with the D&D 5E stuff rattling around lately), it’s starting to get unbearable.

tl;dr – Positivity good! Negativity (particularly uninformed negativity) bad!

Painting Progress(?) – 20120207

Progress painting the Empire has been slow.  Despite taking a week off from work for a much-needed staycation (and even spending a morning camped out at GW Fair Oaks to force myself to focus on painting), I’ve somehow managed to remain too busy to paint.  And, when I’m not too busy, I’m running into the “bit off more than I could chew” wall that grinds progress to a halt.

It’s madness to think I’d originally considered tackling these bastards in batches of 15.  10, as with Skaven and Astartes, is too big of a batch for me.  When I finally wrap these guys up, I’ll go back to doing batches of 6-7, which seems to be my sweet spot between “as many as possible” and “quick accomplishment fix.”
These guys are close.  I need to do metallics (obviously), then red items, then base them and I’m done.  It’s totally doable.  I just need to do it.  Shut up and paint, bro!
Partly because the next session’s coming up and partly because I need to feel like I’ve accomplished something, I knocked out my D&D character.  He’s not done-done: he still needs some Dullcote before I can claim that, but that’s all.
He’ll get better lightbox pictures after that.  I’m happy enough with him.  He’s basically a Free Company dude (as uninspiring as those guys might be on the table, I love the minis) with a Greatsword head and a Swordsman shield.  The dog is from Warlord’s Unleash Hell; bases are from Dragonforge’s Sanctuary line.
Beyond that, I seem to still have a ton of assembly hobby work that needs doing: I need to assemble another Mortar, have to convert up a second Arch Lector of Manann, I’ve got a bunch of metal squares from Wargames Accessories that need filing down (so my Greatswords have heft), and, as soon as they show up, I’ll have to glue together some movement trays from Litko
(One final note: I need to give a huge shout out to Back 2 Base-ix: since placing my as-yet unreceived order with Litko, I’ve placed and received two orders from Back 2 Base-ix… and they’re shipping from Australia.  They’re amazing: I definitely plan to continue ordering from them.)

Rort, the Tomeripper

In the D&D microgame I’m running, we had a goblin NPC survive a couple of encounters through overwhelming cowardice.  Between his recurring role and his indirect ability to help me handwave some encounters to keep things moving, it was decided that he needed a mini.

Warhammer Gobbos are pretty different from D&D goblins, but whatevs.  I had this guy left over from some Games Day.

He did get a handswap: his left hand came with a great big goofy Night Goblin, bat-winged staff that was too over-the-top.  Besides, Rort (the goblin’s name) has this whole ripping magic books up thing, so I gave him a Plague Monk’s arm instead.

His powers come via the destruction of magic tomes… that’s what the burning text is supposed to convey.

To say that I’m happy with how he came out is an extreme understatement.  I can totally pick out a few things that could have come together better… but still.  Man, I think he looks sharp.  Especially the flesh.

Bill‘s timing is impeccable: I caught his e-mail about a Malifaux event in January while I was working on this.  I’ve had all the Gremlins assembled and based for a long while… so pinging me with motivation to paint them just as I’m feeling ultra-confident about being able to paint them.

So, those are what’s next in the queue.

Did want to call out the base: he’s based the same way I’ve done the Gremlins.  It’s a Trench Board base from Dragonforge; they were the closest I could find to something swampy.  Painted the dirt green & brown and hit it with some water effects and ended up with this:

Painting Progress – 20090615

I’ve assembled so many minis over the past two weeks, I’ve honestly lost track of what I’ve done. I’ve picked up a few things, which hasn’t helped. At this point (now that my Corsair Arbalesters have come in), all I’ve got left are 12x Corsair Arbalesters and 16x Corsairs. That’s it!

Painting’s been slow going, however. I’ve made slow progress on a company of Haradrim, mostly a combination of life keeping me busy and it just being harder to paint 8 guys instead of 4.
On the bright side, I did paint up a mini for my D&D character (though for a game that’s ending in 0-2 sessions): Vladimir Thunderjunk, Dwarven Fighter.

I’m very happy with the tone of the armor, which was a mix of Chainmail, Black and P3 Coal Black. It’s got a nice, dark green/blue color to it. The base is a little uninspired, but it’ll do. There’s a magnet beneath the thin, flat rock in front of him: not sure if I’ll ever want or need to magnetize a status marker or anything, but I figure it can’t hurt to plan ahead.