Archive for April 2010

Running Keep on the Shadowfell, Part 1

Like many people my first real exposure to 4th Edition was via H1: Keep on the Shadowfell, which along with leaked pdf workproofs, was intended to showcase 4th Edition before it officially came out. On a purely technical level it succeeded in doing that: you get quick-start rules, some pre-fabbed PCs, and (ir)relevant(?) monster stats. To me, it had a somewhat disjointed and vague story, bat-shit random encounter composition/terrible encounter design, and incredibly artificial dungeon layout. Its a testament to my group that they were willing to put our Age of Worms campaign on hold long enough to see it through to the end.


Now I find myself with a Sunday group. I played in one of their games, they wanted to see how I'd do things, and is desperation I turned to my library of published modules. To be fair, Keep on the Shadowfell is bad, but not irredeemable. I mean, it gives you a sturdy-if-cliche plot of death cults and kobolds to work with, and there are more than a few attempts to re-purpose the adventure into something...interesting. All I had to do was make some changes, right?


Okay...a lot of changes, especially given that the party I've been dealt is three drow and a warforged. I'm sure there's a joke in there, and I just hope it doesn't involve a tavern.


Or S&M.


I'm going to talk about the adventure as the group tackles it, talking about what I like, dont like, what I changed, and how it all went down.


The adventure officially starts out with the party getting ambush, and I kept it in because I like having the players rolling dice as soon as possible once the session starts. This encounter is okay. Aside from having to shuffle starting positions so that the kobolds are legally hiding, its good for new players trying to learn the ropes or for players wanting to try out new races/classes. The only real thing you might consider changing is throwing in a pit trap or something since kobolds are supposed to have some kind of affinity for traps.


After that encounter its just a hop, skip, and jump away to Winterhaven, which serves to highlight another issue I have with this module: pacing. After just one encounter, the party immediately arrives at the home-base. Really? Thats it? On one hand I was tempted to add in another combat encounter, simply because I felt that by itself this encounter is really fucking pointless, but on the other hand I'm not a fan of unrelated XP grinding. What I did do was have the party run into a ransacked wagon train. I like to show and not just tell if I can help it, and by showing them what the kobolds are capable of it might help drive home the severity of the problem. Also? I was kinda hoping they would try and track the kobolds back to their lair themselves and tackle it before going to Winterhaven and picking up the quest. At any rate, it did give them a logical starting point.


Since the entire party consisted of drow, I had some undead and an ogre ghoul assault Winterhaven about the same time the party arrived. The idea was for the players to assist the soldiers in driving them off and engage in a skill challenge to try and earn some modicum of trust so that they could try and advance the plot. It was frankly the best I could come up with on the spot, as I didnt want to completely bypass Winterhaven altogether despite how flat and two-dimensional it is. In hindsight having them arrive on the surface and be captured by kobolds and/or cultists might have been the better option...oh well, live and learn.


Its at this point that the adventure kind of lets you choose your own direction, depending on who you talk to. You can try and take on the kobolds at their source, go to a burial site, or hit up Shadowfell Keep.


If you choose to go after the kobolds, you basically repeat the first encounter and then immediately end up at the lair afterwards. Boring. I instead changed it around to a skill challenge representing the party tracking the kobolds (since the soldiers didnt know exactly where they were), and had it setup so that if the party fucked up that they'd get ambushed, but if they succeeded they could get a surprise round and some XP. I completely scapped the second ambush and entirely redid it in a forest setting with more skirmishers and ranged mobs than a collection of dragonshields, which dont make a lot of sense for the scout-hunter types.


I felt that a change of terrain and introduction of terrain powers made things a lot more interesting. As it was the first encounter of the day, I pulled back the XP budget a bit so that I could gradually ramp up the difficulty in the next few encounters.


A2: Kobold Lair, Outside
For the lair I allowed everyone to Stealth if they felt like it, which wasnt with all the trees and waterfall. I intended for this to be a fairly difficult battle in two waves, so wanted to make it easy for them to get a surprise round in as well as figure out whats-where so that they could plan an attack. I changed up a lot of shit in both lair encounters: I had a wyrmpriest working on a magic item in the magic circle, had a pair of dragonshields guarding the entrance, had a few minions mucking about the bone pile and eating some carcasses, and finally had a slinger on top of the waterfall as a sentry.


The XP budget was higher, to be sure, but then they were assaulting a kobold lair. The waterfall muted a lot of the noise, and I gave them a few rounds before one of the kobolds went inside to warn the rest. They could also call for help, and I gave it a flat 50:50 chance that they would be heard. If an alarm was raised, then on subsequent rounds more enemies would arrive until I ran out of shit from the second lair encounter. The players were very likely to have surprise and planning on their side, but I didnt want to overwhelm them. To their credit they handled things very well, and no alarm was raised.


A3: Kobold Lair, Inside
As written, this encounter is fucking brutal. Its well over double the recommended XP budget before factoring any escapees from A2, and includes a level 3 elite that deals bonus damage and regens while bloodied. Couple this with the fact that some groups might not think to wait for their rest period to refresh encounters and heal, and you have an encounter that can very easily result in a TPK.


Really, most of this can be changed by rearranging and removing some of the mobs. First, I reduced the overall count to a more manageable level (partially to account for the four-man group). I then moved them all away from the entrance, putting clusters in what I perceived to be "living quarters". There was only a pair of kobolds at the entrance as an early warning system, and then on subsequent rounds had additional kobolds show up as reinforcements and give the party a chance to deal with smaller threats that gradually scaled up.


The biggest change, by far, was Irontooth. I decided that with a decidedly kobold theme that having their leader end up being a goblin was pretty fucking stupid. I redesigned him as a level 3 soldier, based on a kobold dragonshield but with a breath weapon (lightning damage and pull effect) instead of dragonshield tactics. I figured this way he could be better introduced to the battle in a logical manner without brutally slaughtering the entire party (I'd heard that TPKs against this fucker were exceedingly common).






That was the plan, anyway. They ended up wiping out most of the kobolds really quickly, so I swapped Irontooth out at the last second for a young white dragon. Also, I wanted to scare the shit out of them. It worked. The dragon was dispatched and they returned to Winterhaven to wrap up the kobold quest as well as giving them a Reputation bonus (moving from, "we're only trusting you for the plot," to, "vehement distrust").


A4. Burial Site
The next plan on the agenda is for the group to either check out the burial site or head to Shadowfell Keep. I'm anticipating the burial site first, and am going to change it up quite a bit. Like, no gnomes. Or halflings. Or any other fucking random humanoid, for that matter: its all humans. The relic is going to be some sort of bone, likely a skull or somesuch. It just makes more sense to have something like that associated with a Shadowfell ritual instead of a mirror. Perhaps a petrified heart? Anything but an ass-random mirror. I'm also going to have it grant necrotic resistance or a hit point-draining ability. Make it worth their while! The final encounter composition that I have is the following:

  • 1 human cult fanatic (level 3 brute)
  • 1 human necromancer (level 2 controller)
  • 4 human rabble (level 2 minion)
  • 2 grave drakes (level 3 soldier)

XP Total: 699 (out of a "balanced" 500)
Treasure: +1 bone talisman (neck slot, +1 to Fort, Ref, and Will, resist 5 necrotic), bracers of mighty striking, skull mask, 4 25 gp gems (onxy), gentle repose ritual scroll, 50 gp of Arcana ritual components, 10 gp.

The grave drakes aren't present when the encounter starts, but are summoned by the human necromancer a round or two into the combat encounter. This will make things a bit easier at the start, before the encounter gets kicked up a notch. Also? Gonna totally put in necrotic ground patches (only half hit points recovered from healing surges).

The other problem with this encounter is that its really the only one in a string. Once the party is done they can basically go back to Winterhaven and rest up again, especially since there isnt a time crunch on the evil ritual that Kalarel is performing, or whatever.

So...as the combat wraps up, all the magic being thrown about will cause a dragon skeleton to animate. This will just be a reskinned young white dragon, nothing too fancy.


Where the dragon crops up, I'mm make the area difficult terrain from all the bone fragments and loose earth. When it gets bloodied part of its body will shatter, causing its wings to break off and make spots of difficult and damaging ground (5 necrotic damage when entered). So on the plus side, it loses its Fly speed, but makes it harder to maneuver about. The last thing to work on is adding in some terrain powers to the encounter.

More to come as I keep running. Part 2 should be up at the end of next week.
April 29, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Raggamoffyn

Raggamoffyn concept. This thing is too fucking stupid for words, but I figure I can use it for a joke monster despite April almost being over. Click for larger image!


April 25, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

The Deck of Many Things

I've never had the misfortune chance to use a deck of many things on either side of the screen, though I have to say that as a DM its something that falls into the category of, "Very likely to break your game: do NOT fucking use." I'm a fan of a more or less balanced game and in a more or less balanced game TDoMT was a *ahem* wild card(s).

For example, every past version of the deck had the potential to grant you wishes, usually 1-4 of them. Wishes in past editions were a pretty big fucking deal, being a level 9 spell and permanently draining you of 5,000 experience points just to cast it. In 2nd Ediiton and prior it was also up to the DM to fuck with your wording, while in 3rd Edition they finally gave some benchmark requests that couldnt screw you over (you could ask for more, but that also invited trouble). There was also the chance to gain or lose 10,000 XP, lose all of your shit (forever), gain/lose ability score points, instantly die (or fight Death), or be imprisoned, underground, in stasis, in a random location.


Talk about a needle buried somewhere along a goddamned coastline.

This is the kind of shit that I would never allow in my games. Its gambling cranked up to 11, where players can become bloated with power or forever be crippled and have to roll up something new. Some of its relatively tame, like getting a magic weapon or having a level 4 fighter show up and, I dunno, die. Just when did they think DMs were going to lob this at the players? I suppose its easier doing it at low-levels and getting it out of the system where its easier to draw new characters into the plot. There's just too much going on that can easily damage any game that gives two shits about consistency or the narrative to make the risk or rewards worth it. Fuck, according to the Alumni article it was pulled from 2nd Edition because it was seriously damaging campaigns and being abused.


Gee, I wonder how? Was it the free castles or instant death?

The new deck is a paragon-tier artifact that sorcerers with the chaos spell source can use as an implement, prevents you from being dominated (EVAR!), can force an enemy to re-roll something once per encounter, and once per day letting you roll a d20 and use that result to replace yours or someone else's roll in a given encounter. Okay...thats all actually pretty fucking cool. Its thematic and doesnt break the game/you. It being a +5 tome seems a bit much, but I can live with that. The real problem is its other daily power that lets you draw a card. 

Sigh.

At any given time you can draw a card. You resolve its effect, and then the deck vanishes. The higher your concordance rating, the more likely it is that you can draw multiple cards and pick one. If its lower, you still get to draw more cards, but have to choose a shitty one if you draw it. I like this more since it allows you to stack the odds in your favor before making a draw. Some of the card effects have obviously changed, almost always for the better. The Knight is actually useful, calling a companion character of your level -1 as opposed to a level 4 useless motherfucker, while the Sun gives you any level 21 wondrous item of your choice instead of just a weapon. The cards that give you free loot are easy to deal with since you can just deduct treasure parcels, so the party wont be running around with 200,000+ gp over the expected budget.

Of course, some of the game-breaking cards are still around... The Void and Donjon both essentially remove you from play, forcing you to go find your body or mind or whatever and free it. This triggers a major quest, and the sidebar recommends letting the player make a new character during the rescue attempt. Thats all well and good...if the party doesnt have any more pressing concerns, I suppose. Death/Skull doesnt force you to fight Death one-on-one and permanently kill you if you fail, instead throwing you into an undead mosh-pit where everyone can participate. Really its kind of like a free encounter.

I'd be a bit more willing to give this deck a shot assuming we ever get a solid campaign up to paragon tier (and I would only drop it in around level 15 since its a +5 artifact). The fact that players can get on its good side to get multiple draws is the only reason, since its still loaded with some fucked up effects. Use at your own risk.
April 24, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Three-Dragon Ante Review

Me: Oooh, the Three-Dragon Ante expansion/stand-alone thingy is out!

Everyone Else: What the fuck is Three-Dragon Ante?

Three-Dragon Ante is one of a few attempts by WotC to invent card games that can be played independently of Dungeons & Dragons while at the same time being games that could feasibly exist in that world. In other words, its a stand-alone card game that can also theoretically be used as a role-playing game prop if the party goes to a bar and everyone's kosher with kicking back and actually running through a game instead of just rolling some dice to get results. So, how does it work?

In a nutshell, each player takes turns pitching money into a stakes pile, and playing cards in order to build "flights", which are sets of 3+ cards before tallying up some points to determine who wins the stakes. The game ends when one or more poor bastards are all out of loot. I played a few games of TDA "back in the day" when it first came out, with ho-hum results because we were playing-while-learning, so it took longer and pissed everyone off because we didnt know what the fuck was going on, exactly. Anyway, I think it would be great for players/groups that enjoy card games such as poker or rummy.

Now, for a more in-depth look at the rules. I'm doing this so that if you do decide to pick it up, you'll have a better handle on how it works from the get-go.

Cards
First, lets talk about the cards. Cards have names, strength scores, types, and powers. Names just tell you the name of the card, and dont really do anything else. Strength scores range from 1-13. 1 sucks ass, 13 is the most badass. As for types, all cards are dragons with the exception of mortals and the dragon god card. Powers are special effects that trigger in two circumstances: when it is the first card played during a round, or when it is played after a card that has a Strength equal to or less. For example, if a player throws down a card with a Strength of 5, and then directly after you drop something with a Strength of 5 or higher, the power triggers.

During your turn you play cards into your flight, which are used to determine the winner of a gambit. You can play special flights if your cards have the same color or strength values after playing the third card.

If you only have one card in your hand at the start of your turn, you have to buy cards. If at the start of any turn you have none, you also gotta buy them. You do this by drawing a card, forking over cash equal to that card's strength, and then drawing cards until you have four. You cant have more than ten cards, and if something tells you to draw cards, stop at ten no matter what. Once the deck runs out of cards, shuffle the discard pile and make a new one.

Make sense? Okay, on to gameplay.

Setup
Players start out with six cards and gold in their stash equal to ten times the number of players. So if there are three players, you all get 30 gold. If there are five, you get 50.

Ante
Each player plays a card from their hand face down. This is the ante card. Once everyone plays one, you reveal them at the same time: place gold equal to the highest strength value into the stakes pile, and whoever played the card with the highest strength--not counting ties--is the leader (I'll get to that in a bit). Ante cards remain in the center of the table until the end of the gambit (again, I'll get to that). Finally, some cards have powers that trigger when they are used as ante cards, and as soon as they are removed from ante their power immediately stops.

Rounds
During a round, each player plays a card face up, starting with the leader and proceeding clockwise around the table until each player gets one card down. Cards played face up are referred to as flights. Once everyone has played a card, the player who played the card with the highest strength--not counting ties--becomes the new leader. Play proceeds like this until everyone has three cards in play. Dont forget to check to see if a card's power triggers (see the above paragraph on cards).

Gambits
Three rounds equals a gambit. You total up the power of all your cards and determine who has the highest strength. If two players tie for strongest, you play another round until only one player has the highest total. This is really the only time that ties are not ignored. The winner of a gambit gets all the gold in the stakes, and all of the cards in the flight and ante pile are discarded. At the end of any gambit, if a player has no gold in their stash, or is in debt, the game ends. If at any time there isnt any gold in the stakes, the gambit ends and you resolve it immediately.

Anywho, thats basically it. Hopefully its not too complicated and at least serves as a primer for the game.
April 21, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

The Mind's Eye Opened

This is one of the best articles on Dungeon I've seen in a long time. Its divided into three parts, providing advice on injecting psionic elements into your game and an entire psionic monster theme so that you can swap out powers on existing monsters to represent being fucked with by psionics and/or the Far Realm. It works out well even if you dont like psionics, as most games will still use aberrants and the monster theme is pretty damned extensive.

The first part focuses on various ways to introduce psionic stuff into your game, from running a one-shot to see how your players like it to saying fuck-all to continuity and allowing immediate retraining of MC powers. Personally, I would probably have players retrain feats or let them pick up "psionic talents". Talents are just a flavor-word for boons, and using legendary boons is an excellent way to give characters access to psionic powers without being too overt, and can easily be threaded into the narrative by writing it off as exposure to reality warping energies. Kind of like mutations, just psionic instead of radioactive. There are five featured in the article, with a broad level range and encounter item power built into each that can only be used with un-augmented at-will attacks.

The lion's share of the article, however, is the Far Realm Mutant Theme. It works off of rules presented in DMG2, which does a good job of allowing you to reflavor monsters somewhat without making entire monsters from scratch that are just other monsters with a twist. There are eleven individual powers, divided into attack and utility powers.

  • Grasping tentacle is a given. The monster can grab a target and each turn they remain grabbed they take automatic damage. It deals no damage by itself, but there's a penalty to escape attempts. Very nice.
  • Secret face causes a monster to peel apart when bloodied, pushing enemies back and causing them to grant combat advantage. The idea is similar in effect to all those latest Resident Evil games, when after you riddle a zombie with a shit-ton of bullets, causing a bunch of crazy shit to bust out of it and make your day a lot worse. I endorse this idea.
  • Unpredictable mind causes a kind of psychic backlash whenever you hit it with something that deals psychic damage. In past editions I would fucking HATE this, so I'm really happy that psychic damage isnt relegated to just disciplines: it gives it a nice, wide blanket effect on classes.

Great article if you like psionic or aberrant shit. If you like both, then hey, bonus.
April 16, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Eyes in the Forest Review

I'm a fan of a few Chaos Scar adventures, preferring the entertaining, compact experience over that of the larger adventure modules which all too often seem like the author is trying to pack two levels worth of shit where it doesnt want to fit. I think Wizards really has something here with the whole five-ish adventure encounter model, which is something that could be easily brought to their modules simply by finding ways to break shit up with logical and narrative rest stops along the way.

Eyes in the Forest is as compact as you can get, being nothing more than an overly elaborate random encounter with an elaborate setup: the party finds a horse, a skill challenge might occur if the DM wants to pad events with more dice rolling, and the horse invariably leads them into danger. Not on purpose mind you, but on principle. This is the D&D universe and random encounters can happen en route to the fucking bar (and sometimes, they include drunk gelatinous cubes).

Thats the gist of it. One encounter with lots of goblins in a tiny ruin, and it for some reason eats up four pages of digital real estate. The layout map uses dungeon tiles which is nice, but it kind of looks like a scrambled sprite map since tree lines terminate in bizarre ways. All in all the encounter itself is okay, I just dont see why it demanded four pages. Also, dont call it a "Chaos Scar Adventure". Its not. Its a random encounter that can literally exist anywhere.
April 10, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Shazbot's Review of Clash of the Titans





For many of us Dungeons & Dragons fans, the 1981 film Clash of the Titans is a seminal work that has inspired our games for years, even with such glaring warts as the cheesy dialogue, stiff looking Ray Harryhausen animation and stupid clockwork owl, the original film remains a classic of our childhood...a grand adventure filled with magic and wonder.

Now imagine my glee when I first saw the fucking eyeball meltingly awesome trailer for the remake, which showed us fleeting glimpses of giant scorpions, rampaging harpies, a truly epic looking Kraken and a sleek, deadly Medusa. As soon as the tantalizing trailer came to a close, and my shuddering nerdgasm subsided, I immediately resolved myself to see this movie the very day it came out.

Well the much anticipated day has come and gone, and I have to say that the Louis Leterrier directed Clash of the Titans remake, with it’s epic vistas, heart wrenching drama, amazing effects and pulse pounding battles of mythic proportions will be fueling my D&D games for years to come...

Which is exactly what I would be saying, if the movie itself didn’t actually suck rancid, lint encrusted hobo balls.

Seriously, the movie just sucked...and it didn’t just suck like the animated Dragonlance movie sucked...Clash of the Titans sucked like getting ass raped by a gang of enraged, syphilitic gorillas...while watching the animated Dragonlance movie.

Clash of the Titans was just plain bad. It was out of sheer willpower and a very tenuous sense of courtesy for our fellow theatergoers that kept me and Antioch from loudly berating the entire movie all the way through. As it stood, we had to make do with gesturing wildly with confused and exasperated expressions or vigorously face-palming at every stupid development the film crammed into our poor, poor eye sockets. Mostly we just wanted it to end so we could go home and bawl our eyes out in tubs filled with scalding hot water while scrubbing our skin raw with steel Brillo pads.

I could go on about the anemic plot, nonsensical character arcs, underwhelming and muddy action sequences, the director’s terrible sense of pacing and the staggering number of ass pull story resolutions...but it’s nothing that you haven’t already heard or read in virtually every other review of this movie, so in lieu of the tradition critique, I present to you, Clash of the Titans: The Abridged Version, starring yours truly! Bon appetit, mother fuckers!

Spoiler Alert!

Long, long ago, the Gods of Mount Olympus overthrew the Titan’s and thus began the reign of Zeus, father of both gods and man...but man eventually grew uppity and began to revolt.

ZEUS: What? Arbitrary goat sacrifices are down by 20% this month? How am I going to get by without dead goats???

HADES: That’s not all! I heard the humans talking and they totally called you a glitter faggot!

ZEUS: Glitter faggot? What the??? Glowy chrome plated armor is the look this season! Uppity humans!

HADES: Yeah...we should totally teach those dicks a lesson! Why don’t you let me unleash a bunch of monsters to fuck their shit up!

ZEUS: There is...something to what you say. Very well, then.

HADES: Excellent! Mwahahahaha...umm..I mean I’m really not planning anything underhanded...honest!

Meanwhile, in some quiet, unassuming village out in the middle of Bumblefuck, Nowhere...

SHAZBOT: Hey mom and dad!

SHAZ’S FOLKS: Son we have something to tell you...you’re adopted. Oh but we don’t love you any less...at least not by a wide margin or anything.

SHAZBOT: Adopted? Oh no! My entire life has been a lie!

HADES: Mwahahahaha! Tremble mortals...before the almighty power of the Gods!

SHAZ’S FOLKS: Agh! The fire...it burns! *dies*

SHAZBOT: Noooooo! I’m down to my last cigarette...and also...vengeance!

And so our hero, heart heavy with grief and irritable from nicotine fits, makes his way to the market place...

SHAZBOT: Okay...so I’ve got a large slushy and I need a pack of Camel’s.

SHOPKEEPER RAHJNEESH: Say...you’re a demigod, aren’t you?

SHAZBOT: I’ma what now?

SHOPKEEPER RAHJNEESH: A demigod! Yeah...Zeus got it on with your momma and you are the result of that union...half man and half god! So...you know...go save us from the wrath of the gods!

SHAZBOT: But...but...I’m just a simple tech industry worker...what can I do? Expository self doubt! Besides, what about Heracles? Or Gilgamesh? Or Jesus?

SHOPKEEPER RAHJNEESH: They’ve got other shit going on. It’s all up to you!

SHAZBOT: You’re right! Who cares if the gods are immortal supermen who hurl lightning bolts at-will? I’m going to go slap them around like asthmatic schoolgirls! And I’ll do it as a man!

SHOPKEEPER RAHJNEESH: Umm...you might want to look into the whole half god angle more.

SHAZBOT: No, no...I’ve got this!

ANTIOCH: Hey dude...’sup.

SHAZBOT: ‘Sup. I’m going to go defy the gods.

ANTIOCH: Bitchin. It just so happens that I have an army of cannon fodder who believe in you unconditionally.

ARMY: Yeah! Robble! Robble!

SHAZBOT: Really? That’s handy.

ANTIOCH: I know, right! Let’s go on a quest!

And so our heroes set out on their epic journey, with the fate of all mankind resting on their shoulders. Or at least Greece...all the other pantheistic religions seemed to be doing fine.

ANTIOCH: So, Shazbot...ever handled a sword before?

SHAZBOT: Yeah...like ten minutes ago...when I was in the bushes...and it was awesome!

ANTIOCH: *facepalm* No...not that sword. I mean a real one.

SHAZBOT: Oh...then no.

ANTIOCH: Okay....here’s a quick lesson. Now you see this end...the part that’s not sharp...you want to hold it by this end.

SHAZBOT: Ow!

ANTIOCH: No...the part that’s not sharp, I said!

SHAZBOT: Oh...I see. ‘Kay got it.

ANTIOCH: Okay...now this pointy bit...you want to stick this into the bad guy rather then sticking yourself...kind of like when you eat food with a fork.

SHAZBOT: Okay...pointy end goes into the other guy...got it.

ANTIOCH: Congratulations. Here’s your black belt.

SHAZBOT: Wow! That was totally easy! Why doesn’t everyone just become an acrobatic martial arts expert?

And on our heroes travel, through overly extensive panoramic scenery shots...

SHAZBOT: Hey, look at this! I found a gun! It was just laying here.

ANTIOCH: Wow...a Chekhov .45 caliber...that could really come in handy at some later point.

SHAZBOT: Yee-ah...but I don’t want to use such an obviously advantageous and serendipitously placed boon. I’m going to do this as a man!

ANTIOCH: Uh...huh.

And on our heroes travel...and on and on and on...like Lord of the Rings, only without all that stupid, effort intensive quality.

CALIBOS: You! Shazbot! You’re my step son and I hate your guts! Now I’m gonna kill the shit out of you!

SHAZBOT: Yeah? Well I’ve got all these guys with spears n’ shit!

CALIBOS: So? I’ve got hulk strength and I bleed giant scorpions.

ANTIOCH: Really? Then why don’t you just put on a Bauhaus record and cut yourself like some depressive, attention mongering emo teenager until you have an army large enough to take over the entire world?

CALIBOS: What? Oh...because there’s another guy around here who bleeds giant wasps.

SHAZBOT: Giant wasps versus giant scorpions? That would make a way better movie!

CALIBOS: Enough talk...now you die!

ARMY: Argh! We’re being ripped to shreds by giant CGI scorpions! Robble!

SHAZBOT: *sip* Mmm...good slushy.

ARMY: Oh god! The venom burns! And those stingers are massive! Do something Shazbot! Robble!

SHAZBOT: Hold on...I’m making a playlist on my Ipod. *sip*

ARMY: Robble! We’ll follow you to the ends of the earth, Shazbot! *dies*

DJINN: Ooh-num-shabai...ooh-num-shabai!

ANTIOCH: Look! Wooden Ewok tree genies! We’re...saved?

And even with their ranks thinned by random monster encounters, our heroes trek onward...

IO: Shazbot! You must continue forth...only you can defy the will of the gods! Also, I brought that cajun flavored trail mix you like...

SHAZBOT: Who are you??? How do you know so much about me?

IO: I used to be your babysitter...you probably don’t remember though because you were really young and you took a lot of naps. But I’ve been following all of your Facebook updates. Even the Farmville ones.

SHAZBOT: Oh. Creepy.

CALIBOS: *Stabbing Io* Ha! Fuck you!

SHAZBOT: Noooo! Io! You’ve aways been there for me *sob* you’re just such an important part of my life and there’s so much unresolved sexual tension! You can’t die!

FACEBOOK: Io has changed her status to “dead.”

SHAZBOT: Nooooo! *sob* I’ll kill you Calibos!

CALIBOS: Argh! I’ve been overcome by your inexplicably well developed fighting talents! Wait...before I go...you must...survive...thwart the gods.

SHAZBOT: Wait...didn’t you spend half the movie trying to impede my every effort to do that very thing?

CALIBOS: I’ve... *koff koff* I’ve always...loved you best!

SHAZBOT: *sniff* Rest well..old friend. Come on, guys...let’s see this through to the end...I know that the road has been hard...and we’ve lost a lot of our brothers along the way...but we are men...with hearts forged in the fires of adversity...we can do this...for what other choice do we have?

ANTIOCH: Ummm...who are you talking to? You managed to get everyone who put their faith in you killed. Besides, how are you gonna get to the ambiguous endpoint?

SHAZBOT: Look! It’s that pegasus I was nice to once! It must be here to give me a ride for some reason!

ANTIOCH: What the? I swear...it’s like you shit pure golden luck wherever you go.

SHAZBOT: Come on pegasus! Let’s save the day!

PEGASUS: *whinny*

Meanwhile, high on the peaks of Mount Olympus...

HADES: So...uh Zeus...

ZEUS: Hold on...godammit! Why does the server always lag during guild raids? What do you want???

HADES: Yeah...we’re kinda on a time table here...so...fucking up humanity? Yes? No?

ZEUS: What? Yes yes...release the Kraken.

HADES: Sweet. This is gonna be so tits!

And the quest continues...even still. The theater manager will be on hand after the show to apologize personally.

SHAZBOT: I see it! The Kraken! God that fucker’s big!

KRAKEN: BLARGLAGARG!

INNOCENT BYSTANDERS: EEK! All this carnage is devastating and expensive looking!

SHAZBOT: Oh no you don’t, Kraken! Check this out! It’s a photo of Amy Winehouse!

KRAKEN: What? Oh jesus! That snaggle toothed bitch is fucking hideous! And now I’m a statue.

SHAZBOT: Huzzah! The day is saved!

HADES: Not so fast mortal! You’ve played right into my hands...now my hypno-weather-doomsday device will enslave/destroy/skull fuck humanity and then I will be the fairest one of all!

SHAZBOT: *BANG!* Oh! Shit! Sorry...safety on this gun that astute readers might remember from an earlier portion of the story must have been off!

HADES: Ack! Bullets??? Those are like kryptonite to gods! Curses! Foiled again!

SHAZBOT: Well...that was anti-climatic.

ZEUS: Congratulations, son! Mankind has prevailed and since I’m such a gracious loser I now see the error of my ways.

SHAZBOT: Yes! And I did it as a man!

ZEUS: Well...no you didn’t. I practically handed you the means to my own defeat on a goddamn silver platter. I figured you needed a check in the “win” column to boost your confidence.

SHAZBOT: *sniff* I love you, dad!

ZEUS: I love you too, son! Let’s come back and do a sequel! It’ll be like a father/son buddy cop movie...with manticores...and this time it’ll be personal!

SHAZBOT: Well...I am contractually obligated...

ANTIOCH: *huff huff* Hey everyone...I just got done walking here at roughly the same pace that Shazbot was flying on a winged horse, somehow. What did I miss?

ZEUS AND SHAZ: Oh, Antioch! Lol!

ANTIOCH: Bweh-heh! I’m wacky!

Huh? Sorry...dozed off for a moment there. Oh...it’s over? Fucking finally! I’d love to say that this was just a silly parody that doesn’t reflect the actual movie...but the real Clash of the Titans made about as much sense. I’m not fucking kidding. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a stiff drink and a shower. The end.
April 08, 2010
Posted by Shazbot

Lot of DDI Updates

I've been extremely busy with moving, work, and school. Things should smooth out within the week, but until then I'm going to call out a few DDI articles that I actually give a fuck about (meaning almost anything but Forgotten Realms articles).

First up is Underhanded and Overconfident, an article on playing scoundrel types. Its roughly equal parts fluff and crunch, giving some advice on playing a scoundrel without pissing off the rest of the party: dont fight fair, take lots of risks, be charming (or pretend to be), and if you must be a dick at least do the right thing in the end.

There are only three feats, two of which give kickers to using Bluff as a feint, either by granting the combat advantage mod to all allies or giving you a flat bonus to the check and some extra Sneak Attack damage to boot. The other, Building Camaraderie, gives you a cumulative Diplomacy bonus each time you successfully pull it off in the same encounter.

The article wraps up with a pair of paragon paths. The phantasmagoric scoundrel requires that you are trained in Arcana and either Bluff or Thievery, and emphasizes the use of illusion magic. It mostly seems to be geared towards wizards, which makes sense since the orb of deception implement mastery is also linked to Charisma.

The silver-tongued scoundrel, on the other hand, is for artful dodger rogues. You can grant allies bonuses to Bluff or Diplomacy by successfully using them, use either skill in place of an init bonus, the level 12 utility lets you roll twice and take the better result, and the action point kicker and attacks you get all cause the target to grant combat advantage to you (making it incredibly easy to get Sneak Attack damage whenever you damned well please).

I'm sure a lot of people are going to be pissed that the Winning Races article is on, of all things, changelings. Even in Eberron we never saw many of these guys, so its kind of strange to see it getting the spotlight before a multitude of others. Its not even a crunch-heavy article, focusing on one of several changlings archetypes, the becomer. Unlike most changlings, becomers choose a single identity as another race and stick with it. They dont let anyone know the truth, even close friends or loved ones.

Most of the article is devoted to discovering your character's reasons for doing so,  and it includes a list of common races to choose from with reasons why you might pick that race. There're several backgrounds, but only one feat that gives you a bonus language and skill bonus to a skill that that race gets a bonus on. Very cool.

Last on the list is Class Acts: Warlocks. This issue adds a bunch of Charisma-based spells for infernal pact warlocks, including a new at-will that you can swap out for hellish rebuke. While there is only a single encounter attack for each level, its a step in the right direction for tieflings who can get more out of Charisma and still reap the benefits of the very thematic infernal pact. As a tiefling fan, I endorse this move. There are also a pair of new item properties for rods and leather/hide armor. Nothing too fancy, but a nice gesture.

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