Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day – Dungeon Master’s Guide 2

Don’t forget that this Saturday is the latest Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day, to celebrate the release of the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2. As usual, I will be at Imagine Games to run the festivities.

This game day is a little different – it’s not just an adventure to play. It’s an adventure to build. Here’s how it works:

The support package has a rough outline, monster selection, and battle map for the scenario. The participants break into two groups, each putting together a two-encounter adventure over the course of an hour. After that, the leader of each group runs the adventure for the other group. And fun, presumably, is had by all.

How many participants do I need to do the whole schtick? I’d say at least seven, with at least one of those being willing to DM. That would give each group one DM and three players (with me participating), which should be good enough. There’s enough material to run with up to 12 participants – each group having five players and one DM.

And there are freebies. Each participant is going to get the mini of the character he or she played, as well as the character sheet (and these are some nice-looking character sheets). The DM is going to get a set of the monster minis used in the game and the battle map.

What happens if we don’t get enough participants to run it this way? We’ll figure something out. If one of the participants wants to try DMing, I’ll be more than happy to walk them through the adventure creation part and let them run the adventure. Otherwise, I’ll have an adventure that I’ve put together from the material Wizards have sent out, and I’ll run that for up to five players. Depending on time and demand, I may even run it twice. Or two different ones.

Either way, it looks like it should be a fun day of gaming. I look forward to seeing some of you folks there.

Worldwide D&D Game Day – Dungeon Master’s Guide 2

From the WotC site:

Show Them Real Adventure!

Bring your friends and join in the fun as we celebrate the release of Dungeon Master’s Guide 2, packed with new options for your Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition game.

In the spirit of Dungeon Mastering, we’re giving you the opportunity to create and show off your very own adventure! Work as a team to build encounters using the materials provided. After your team has finished, play another team’s adventure or DM the one your team created. We provide you with everything you need — maps, miniatures, monster stats, and how-to instructions. Just bring your imagination, a pencil or pen, and some dice!

Just for playing, you’ll take home the pregenerated character sheet and a miniature of the character you played. If you DM the game, you’ll take home a poster map of the encounter areas and a pack of monster miniatures used in the adventure.

This is a very special activity that has never before been a part of Worldwide D&D Game Day! But don’t worry if you just want to play; you can participate in as much or as little of the adventure-building activity as you want. Nothing, however, beats the satisfaction of hearing another team howl in terror as they fight the foes and traps you placed for them!

A Passage Into Mystery is a special team-created 6th-level adventure that uses tiles from DU3 Caves of Carnage and monsters from the Monster Manual: Legendary Evils miniatures expansion. Come out on September 19 and be a part of the adventure!

On September 19, I will be running this event at Imagine Games and Hobbies here in Winnipeg. Because of the way this event seems to be set up, I’m looking to start at 1:00 with the adventure building part, and hopefully get to the playing part by 3:00.

So, come 0n down and play. It’ll be fun.

World Wide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day – Monster Manual 2 – Postmortem

Last Saturday, I ran the World Wide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day adventure Into the Silver Caves at Imagine Games here in Winnipeg as part of the launch for the Monster Manual 2. We had a really nice turnout – I had two full tables of five players each to run. Unfortunately, because of some delays, neither group made it all the way through the adventure.

That said, each group made it through the first two encounters, which means they got to fight the rust monsters* and deal with the escaping kobold wyrmpriest**. We didn’t get to do the extended skill challenge that made up the third encounter, and I’ve got mixed feelings about that***. The final battle, while it looked interesting, didn’t really introduce all that much new stuff, so I’m fine with having missed it.

Despite the delays and the unfinished adventures, each group got in about two-and-a-quarter to two-and-a-half hours of play, which is not too shabby. And everyone seemed to have fun. And one player even managed to find a very lucky d20 in the communal pile we were using, which he bought immediately after the game.

So, thanks to everyone who came out to play with me. I hope you had as much fun as I did. And it was nice to meet a couple of folks who read the blog.

Next World Wide Game Day looks to be in September. Get ready.



*Wow, the fear these instill, not in the characters, but in the players! “It’s gonna eat my stuff!”

**The second group managed to bring her down, but it was just one character facing the harpy while the others were tied up with orcs and drakes, so he let the harpy escape with the book. What the hell am I talking about? Well, obviously you haven’t played the adventure.

***After using them extensively in play, I am shying away from the formalized skill challenges, and leaning more toward using a more free-form structure for them. That said, it’s nice to see something like that make it into an official demo adventure.

Monster Manual 2 and World Wide Game Day

First, a quick update about the World Wide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day this Saturday, May 23, at Imagine Games. As mentioned previously, we were too late to get the official support package for the day. However, we were able to get the adventure and maps needed to run the game, and I’ve got just about all the correct official minis, as well. What we don’t have are the official giveaways, so we’ll be making do with some unofficial ones.

If you’re in Winnipeg, and want to come play with some of the new monsters, we start at 12:30 pm at the store. If there’s enough interest, there will be a second session at 3:30 pm. If not, then not.

I look forward to seeing folks there.

And now, about the Monster Manual 2.

It’s a good book. It’s got some very nice additions to the monsters, along with some that I think they could have skipped. Of course, with a monster book like this, that’s always going to be the case, and my idea of a good inclusion is probably someone else’s idea of a waste of space.

A couple of specific thoughts:

  • Rust monsters. I hate ’em. Always have, always will. Yet, according to the official WotC site, they are fan favourites*. This incarnation is a little more lenient on character gear, but still are really just a “screw you” monster. There is a nice little catch to them, though, that might actually go some way towards addressing some of the magic item economy imbalances** – if you let a rust monster eat a magic item and then kill it and cut it open, you can reclaim the full value of that item in residuum. So now I envision places in Sigil and the City of Brass where you can take an unwanted magic item and have them feed it to a rust monster for you, kill the rust monster, and give you back full value, less the cost of the rust monster and a commission.
  • Demons and devils. These are always popular categories, and every monster book seems to have a heaping helping of new flavours. Sure, they’re useful monsters to throw at parties that are in areas that have few options for other creatures***, but that’s something that can be ameliorated by spending fewer pages on demons and devils and more pages on other monsters. I think we could do with less.
  • Angels and archons and elementals. We’ve got a solid base of these, now, which was needed. Let’s not fall into the same trap as with the demons and devils.
  • Metallic dragons. Welcome back, fellas! And my, aren’t you all bad-ass now?
  • Humans and Eladrin. More stat blocks for variations of both. Very welcome.
  • Half-Elves and Devas and Goliaths and Half-Orcs. Nice to have a few stat blocks for them.
  • Elves and Dwarves and Tieflings and Dragonborn and Halflings. Nothing new. I am sad.
  • Gnomes. I don’t like gnomes. Though my players hate them more than I do, so I still use them sometimes.
  • Formorians. Yay! I like these!
  • Firbolgs. Interesting take on them. I like it.
  • Beholders and Mind Flayers. Four new types of beholder, nothing new for the mindflayer. Huh.
  • Barghests. This version is very nice.
  • Gnolls. The new flavours make me happy.
  • Shadar-kai. Now extending up into the mid-Paragon tier.
  • Myconids. Now at least they don’t look like they should be dancing in a Disney movie.

Those are the things that really stand out to me. Anyway, as I said, a good book. Wizards is really keeping the production values high, and turning out some solid material for 4E.

I am pleased.


*What is wrong with people?
**Reclaiming residuum from a magic item through the disenchant ritual nets you 20% of the market value of the item in residuum. Enchanting a magic item costs 100% of the market value in residuum (or other components). Thus, it takes recycling five of an item to get enough materials to create an identical item. Also, selling magic items nets you 20% of the market value. So the question becomes, who makes such items, and how can they afford to sell them?
***”All the desert monsters suck. I’m just gonna throw a couple vrocks at the party.”

World Wide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day – Monster Manual 2

Saturday, May 23, is the next World Wide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day, this one celebrating the release of the Monster Manual 2. Once again, I will be running games at Imagine Games and Hobbies here in Winnipeg, starting at 12:30, and continuing pretty much until closing time. I’m scheduling one session starting at 12:30, and another at 3:30, if there’s still people wanting to play.

But there’s a catch.

Due to… stuff, we’re not sure if the support package from Wizards of the Coast is going to make it to us in time.

What does that mean to you, the gaming public? Well, what it means is that I’m going to download the character sheets from the site above, take the basic idea of the adventure that they’ve released, and use the Monster Manual 2 (when it arrives on May 19) to create my own scenario.

Now, we’ll still have some free stuff for people who come down to play, and we’ll still have an adventure using brand new monsters, but they won’t be the official ones.

But doesn’t that make it feel tantalizingly illicit and tempting?

C’mon down. Play with me.

Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day – Player’s Handbook 2

Just got word from Pedro and Wendy over at Imagine Games that we’re a go for March 21st for the next Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day – Player’s Handbook 2. I’ll be there running sessions in the demo at 12:30, 3:00, and 5:30, as long as people show up to play. For the curious, here’s the text from the Wizards of the Coast promo:

Ready an Action to Play on March 21st!

Prepare yourself (and your friends) to join D&D fans all around the world on March 21st for Worldwide D&D Game Day: Player’s Handbook 2. Everything you need to play will be on-hand, so it’s a great chance for new players, as well as veterans, to band together and find some adventure.

Come try out the new races (such as the gnome) and the new classes (like the invoker and barbarian) while you battle wicked fiends and thwart dark plots. No matter if you’re new to the game or a 4th Edition veteran; we’ll have everything you need to embark on an all-new adventure.

One Dark Night in Weeping Briar – A stormy night, an empty town, and a small girl that holds the key to thestrange disappearances. An adventure for 5 pregenerated 11th-level characters. The characters are:

  • Ilvarra, drow avenger
  • Markaria, tiefling invoker
  • Roswyn, gnome bard
  • Squeaks, warforged barbarian
  • Balasar, dragonborn paladin (uses material from the upcoming Divine Power product)


So, if you’re in Winnipeg and interested in trying out the new material from the PHB2, or you’re curious about 4th Edition or roleplaying games in general, come on down and play.

It’ll be fun.

Battlestar Galactica Demo

Whoops! I forgot to mention that I will be running a demo of the Battlestar Galactica Board Game by Fanatasy Flight Games on Saturday, January 10, at Imagine Games. Demo starts at 1:00, and will run about 2 hours. If there’s enough interest, I will run a second demo after the first (around 3:00). If you’re interested, come on down and help save the human race from the cylon menace! Or help save the cylon race from the human menace! Either way!


[[EDIT: Changed the date of the demo to avoid conflict with a Flames of War tournament at Imagine Games.]]

Building a Demo

Okay, if you’ve read my blog in the past couple of weeks, you probably know that I’m running a couple of D&D 4E demos at Imagine Games on November 29 and December 13. If you’re in Winnipeg and want to try out the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, come on down and play. Games start at 1:00 p.m. There’s limited seating, so show up early if you want to guarantee a spot.

Anyway, I’m working this week on putting together the demo, and figured that I’d talk about the method I use. It’s the method I’ve used in other demos in the past, and it works fairly well, so I’m not changing it this time around. Here’s how I go about building a demo.

There are four things you need to put together in order to have a solid demo:

  • Venue
  • Adventure
  • Characters
  • Play Aids


For me, venue is the easies thing. I run my demos at Imagine Games, the local game and hobby store run by my friends, Pedro and Wendy. How do I set up the venue? I say to Pedro, “Hey. Want me to run a demo on Saturday?” Easy.

If you don’t have such a handy venue available, you may have to scramble a little. Having said that, most game stores are generally pretty open to having someone come in and run a demo – it’s free advertising for them, it generates some traffic, and it helps build the hobby. You may have to convince the manager that you’re the kind of person he or she wants to run a demo, so remember to be friendly and polite.

If you don’t have a local store available or willing to support you in this, check out the local libraries and community centres. They often have function rooms that you can use, sometimes free, sometimes for a nominal fee.

Wherever you wind up running your demo, keep in mind that, unless it’s your own personal venue, you’re a guest there. Find out what rules your host has, and make sure everyone follows them. That makes it more likely that you’ll get to come back. Remember: friendly and polite.


Once you’ve got your space, you’ve got to figure out what you’re going to run. This is going to involve a number of factors you need to consider; it’s not like putting together the adventure for your regular group. You have to keep in mind:

  • Time. How much time have you got to run? If you’ve got a whole afternoon, you can put together a much longer adventure than if you have a two-hour slot. This may be set by the venue, or it may be set by the number of participants you’re expecting.
  • Participants. How many people are you going to have at the demo? If you want to limit the number of seats, you have to make sure that people know that seating is limited. Be realistic about your ability to manage the group size, and keep in mind that more players means the adventure will take longer to run, because it will take longer to cycle through each of them. If you’ve got a large number of people interested, but a game that works best with smaller numbers, consider running multiple shorter slots instead of one longer one. Run two two-hour sessions instead of one four-hour session. You don’t need a new adventure for this; just repeat.
  • Purpose. What are you trying to accomplish with your demo? If you’re trying to attract new players, you will want to run something simple and basic. If you’re trying to showcase a new release, you’ll want to make sure you use two or three of the coolest things from that release in the adventure. If you’re trying to appeal to more accomplished gamers, you need to run something a little less straightforward. Figure out what your primary goal is, and keep it in mind.

So, I’m going to have all afternoon for my demo. It’s D&D 4E, which is tailored for 5 players out of the box, but it’s pretty easy to adjust up and down on the fly, especially if I prepare the adventure knowing I might have to do that. Turn out for some demos at Imagine has been overwhelming, and for other demos it’s been underwhelming, so I think I’m going to build two two-hour adventures that can be crammed together into a larger four-hour adventure. That gives me the flexibility to stop after two hours if there’s another group of people who want in, or if two hours is all a group wants to play, while letting me stretch out the session to four hours if I only get one group of folks who want to play all afternoon.

I’m aiming the game at people who are new to 4E, if not D&D or RPGs in general, so I want something with a basic format to it, but a couple of twists along the way. Specifically for 4E, I want to show off the way character powers work, how interesting the monsters are, and skill challenges. I’ve previously done demo adventures based around a goblin raid on a caravan; I think I’ll start with that premise and see where it leads me.

Now, you don’t have to build an adventure. Using a published one is fine, and lots of companies even provide demo adventures in their products or on their websites. In fact, I still have the Into the Shadowhaunt demo kit Wizards sent out for the launch of 4E. Why am I building an adventure? Couple of reasons. For one thing, I find it pretty easy and quick to do in 4E. For another, most of the other adventures have a little too much exposure for my taste – I want to offer something fresh to the participants, and not have someone who has, for example, read the Kobold Hall adventure in the DMG bored because that’s the adventure I’m running.


 You need pregenerated characters for a demo. The time needed to create characters with the participants as part of the demo is just too great – it’ll overshadow the actual adventure. The only time to have character generation as part of the demo is either a multi-session continuing demo (I used to do a four-session Learn Dungeons & Dragons demo, and character creation was the entire first session) or if the character creation system something important to the actual play of the game and you want to show it off (games like Spirit of the Century, Dogs in the Vineyard, and 3:16, for example).

Keep the complexity of the characters in synch with your primary audience. If this is an intro game, keep them simple. If you’re trying to show off a new feature from a supplement, make sure it’s highlighted.

My demo is aimed at people new to 4E, so I’m going to go with first-level characters, and I’m going to use options only from the core rule books. I was planning on doing up a set of characters with the DDI Character Builder beta, but there are some issues with it on Vista that are still being resolved, so instead I think I’m just going to use the characters from Keep on the Shadowfell.

Play Aids

This last bit is kind of weird. You wouldn’t think so, but having the right play aids can do more for your demo than pretty much anything else. If you choose wrong, things slow down, participants get frustrated and bored, and you can wind up with a great adventure that no one actually enjoys.

The key I’ve found to play aids is to think about them in two flavours. One is something that makes the game flow easier, and one is something that makes the game more cool. And never forget that the aids need to help you, too; not just the players.

So, for making the game flow easier, the two big things are character sheets and the adventure text. Make sure both are readable, both are easy to understand, and both have all the details they need. Do the math ahead of time when you can, so that players don’t need to figure out their bonuses every time they roll the dice, and you don’t have to fumble around with the monsters the same way. If you are going to have multiple versions of some parts of the adventure, like adjusting encounters for different numbers of players, do the work ahead of time so it doesn’t bog you down at the table. You’re going to be busy enough running and teaching the game without trying to rebuild encounters on the hoof.

Also, if you have any quick rules handouts, bring them along. Wizards did a great two-page sheet for the D&D Experience this past spring that I’m going to print out, for example. Make sure you have a copy for each of your players.

Here’s a little tip about printed material: if they’re going to be used by multiple groups, make them sturdy. Either print them out on cardstock, or spring for some clear page protectors and a box of dry erase markers. It’ll save you time and heartache between groups.

Aside from the printed materials, make sure you’ve got enough dice and writing implements for everyone. Don’t expect your audience to bring what they need – anticipate what’s needed, and provide it.

As for play aids that make the game more cool, you can go as nuts as you have time for, here. At a minimum, I’m going to be bringing a miniature suitable for each PC, and suitable minis for the monsters. I’m also going to lay out the encounters using my Dungeon Tiles, possibly with a home-made battlemap for the final encounter that I put together in Dundjinni. That, plus my DM Screen and combat tracker pad – both of which fall into both categories of play aids.

Put everything – adventure, characters, play aids – together into something you can carry easily. Check it all, and make sure you haven’t forgot anything. Specifically, make sure you haven’t forgot your dice; trust me when I say that it can happen, and it sucks.

That’s the way I put together a demo. Of course, building a demo and running a demo are two different things. Next post I’ll talk about how I run the demos.

Dungeons & Dragons Insider – So Far, So Good

Before I get rolling in my assessment of DDI, I want to remind folks in Winnipeg that I will be running D&D 4E demos at Imagine Games on Saturday, November 29, and Saturday, December 13. Games will start at 1:00. Sessions are limited to 6 players, so get there early if you want to guarantee a seat at the table. I’ll provide minis, pregenerated characters, and dice, so all you need to bring is yourself.

There. End plug. Let’s talk about Dungeons & Dragons Insider.

I, like a lot of people, was a little bit leery of the new digital initiative over at Wizards. The idea of having to shell out a subscription fee for electronic access to more D&D content struck me, initially, as pretty distasteful.

When I thought about it for a bit, though, I decided it wasn’t that bad. I was already shelling out 20 bucks a month buying Dungeon and Dragon magazines from the local game shop. Spending that on electronic versions was a bit much, but when you tack on the extras, it started to look a little more reasonable. Of course, this was before any pricing was announced. Currently, if you subscribe for a year, you get the two magazines at $4.95 a month, which is pretty decent.

Now, the price is going to go up as more and more tools come online for the system. I’m okay with that, as long as the tools they build are useful and functional, and the price stays in step with what I feel they’re worth.

Anyway, I subscribed.

I’m not totally sold on the whole thing, though; I think they’re off to a pretty good start, but I’m withholding final judgement. Here’s my thinking on the various components so far.

  • Dragon Magazine. Dragon’s doing a really good job of providing extra options for characters. That’s been my one reservation (well, my main reservation, anyway) about 4E – it’s early in the product life span, so there’s just not as many options available. Dragon’s helping to ease that concern, and the look at playtest files for things like the Artificer, Barbarian, and Bard classes gives me a better idea of the kind of depth of support and development Wizards has planned. Overall, thumbs way up.
  • Dungeon Magazine. This I’m not as enthusiastic about. The articles are pretty good, but I find that the adventures are a little less than thrilling. Sure, it’s early days yet, but the folks at Wizards just don’t seem to be taking any chances with their adventures. Pretty much everything is a dungeon crawl, with a few encounters on the way to the dungeon crawl, and maybe a few encounters on the way back from the dungeon crawl. While I find the adventures very useful for seeing the way encounters can be put together, and they can be stripmined for new monsters and traps, I just find them very bland. Safe, I guess, in that they are aimed at the very basics of the game. In comparison with what Paizo’s doing in the Pathfinder line, they really come out second best. Most specifically, the Scales of War Adventure Path just doesn’t compare to the Pathfinder Adventure Paths in terms of variety of activity and interesting options. Ah, well, as I say, it’s early days. I’m willing to give them a while to start stretching themselves.
  • D&D Compendium. I haven’t really used this much, though I can see it being useful. It just hasn’t come up so far. I think it’s a good idea in theory, but I really can’t say more about it than that.
  • Encounter Builder. I can see this becoming more useful to me as I learn the game more. Right now, I find it more helpful to page through the books looking for the right mix of monsters, because I don’t know what all of them do, yet. Still, it’s very handy for figuring out the XP budget for each encounter, and telling you whether it’s an easy, average, or hard encounter for your target party. I like it, but haven’t used it extensively.
  • Ability Generator. This is okay, but I’m assuming that it’s going to be superseded by the Character Builder. As a stand-alone thing, I don’t much see the point.
  • Monster Builder. Building monsters in 4E is a lot quicker than in other editions (and I know what I’m talking about: I built 30 3E monsters for the Penumbra Fantasy Bestiary). This little tool makes it even easier. The one catch is that it doesn’t seem to do Elite or Solo monsters, which is disappointing. Having said that, it does all the heavy lifting, math-wise, for normal monsters, and the explanation in the DMG of how to improve them to Elite or Solo is pretty straightforward. It’s good, but not perfect. Also, I’ve yet to be able to get the formatted stat block view to work. Still, it shows great promise.
  • Character Builder. This is currently in closed beta testing, and only goes up to 3rd level. But I have to say that it’s pretty sweet. There are some weird things about it and a glitch or two, but this is a beta, and that’s to be expected. I’m not going to talk about the problems here, because I have every confidence that they’ll be corrected before release (the one-day turnaround time on the Vista x64 issue fix shows how serious they are about fixing things). What I will say is that I’m going to be using this tool to create all the pregen characters for my 4E demos, and it’s going to take me about a quarter of the time of using one of the form-fillable character sheets out there. When this is finalized, it’s going to be worth the price of admission all on its own, I think.
  • Upcoming Features. The three other things they’re talking about adding to the DDI offering are the Character Visualizer, the Dungeon Builder, and the D&D Game Table. I’m not all that interested in the D&D Game Table – my game schedule is full enough, without trying to cram in virtual sessions. The Character Visualizer seems like a neat toy, but I’ve been unimpressed with the quality of the art that I’ve seen in the previews. I’m guessing it will be better in the release, but it’s still not something that really draws me, though I’ll probably spend some time playing with it. The Dungeon Builder seems to be the item that I’d use most, especially if it has the option of printing out battle maps, but I don’t see that on the list of features. We’ll have to wait and see.

So, there it is. In general, I like where DDI is headed, though I have a few reservations. I’d like to see a broader variety of adventures in Dungeon, and I’m anxious for the extra features they’re developing. I’m tentatively sold on it. We’ll have to see how well it lives up to its promise.