Monday, July 31, 2017

D&D 5e | S1E3 | That time everyone became a deputy.

Ambushed on their way to Phandalin by the Cragmaw Tribe. One of these ambushers turned out to be a fairly nice goblin named Twix, who decided to join forces with The Loot and Dagger Mercenary Company. Thanks to Trix the party safely navigated their way to Cragmaw Cave, where they killed the cave’s leader, Khlarg. During the murder process they also found out their friend Gundren has been taken to a castle, of which the whereabouts are unknown. We find them now on the road with Sidhar Hallwinter, whom they recently rescued from the cave and he’s about to shed some narrative light while also posing more questions.
Season 1 uses the D&D 5e Ruleset created by Wizards of the Coast and uses the Lost Mines of Phandelver module as framework to help tell the story.  
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Sunday, July 23, 2017

D&D 5e | S1E2 | Release the Flood!

When last we left our heroes…
Introductions were made. Viktor Sinclair, a bored royal longing to generally do good in the world and Grit Toughnstuff, a roughish gnome with a checkered past, formed the Loot and Dagger Mercenary Company.
Their first job, thanks to family friend of merchant, Gundren Rockseeker, was to protect supplies meant for the rough and tumble town of Phandalin. Along the way they were inevitably ambushed by golbins! Grit fought valiantly as Viktor made a new friend, Twix. With the fight won our heroes, including Twix, enter Cragmaw cave to find answers to a burning question, what happened to their friend Gundren?
Season 1 is played on the D&D 5e Ruleset created by Wizards of the Coast and uses the Lost Mines of Phandelver module as framework to help tell the story.  
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Sunday, July 16, 2017

D&D 5e | S1E1 | Introductions and the Inevitable Ambush

The path of our epic adventure starts on the road to a small rough and tumble town called Phandalin. We follow the humble beginnings of Lord Viktor Sinclair, a bored royal gentleman cleric of Mistport who prays to no god in particular and Grit Toughnstuff, a roguish gnome with a checkered past and an attraction to danger. Along for the ride is Dunkthor Anderson, Grit's thugish personal assistant and Franklin DeVeraux, Viktor's long time friend and royal bodyguard. Together they form The Loot and Dagger Mercenary Company and set out across the Sword Coast in search of fame, fortune, and the opportunity to generally do good.
Gundren Rockseeker, friend of Mistport royalty, has asked The Loot and Dagger Mecenary Company to bring a wagon full of supplies to Phandalin, a place of potential wealth, mystery, and danger. Just so happens there are rumors of bandits and goblin raiders along the trail and our heroes are about to demonstrate just how deep Loot and Dagger's blade can cut when ungentlemanly ambushers stand in the way. 
Season 1 is played on the D&D 5e Ruleset created by Wizards of the Coast and uses the Lost Mines of Phandelver module as framework to help tell the story.  
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Friday, July 14, 2017

Get Ready! 

On 7/16/2017 we begin the long epic journey through the world of D&D 5e. The aim here is taking a few characters from 1st thru 15th level thanks to a merging of two modules released by Wizards of the Coast, and tell their grand story. Also we wanted to laugh and vanquish evil, so if you're into that you should just keep reading.

First we'll explore: The Lost Mines of Phandelver 

Then it's deep underground to fight demons and scary spiders in Out of the Abyss

We hope you enjoy the ride and don't forget to like us, criticize us, and subscribe.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Campaign Retrospect. Numenera | What I learned or failed to learn

As of episode 15 we said goodbye to the world of Numenera. At least for now. (Dun dun DUN!) Truthfully I have zero plans to go back this year but everyone had enough fun to warrant at least a one-shot, who knows.

So... goodbye tentacles, goodbye strange and never ending loot tables full of living pills and single use boss killing fur covered bombs. As with all goodbyes, the moment of reflection is upon us.

Why did we choose Numenera?

Monte Cooke's system was chosen for the podcast to showcase first because, honestly, we didn't know how the pieces were going to fall or how the mics were going to record. When you know you're going to screw up and stumble, at least do it with a weird system barely anyone knows about so you limit the exposure right? I also have a love of the setting, a deep love, and one that I feel really must be explored further. Possibly outside the radius of the general public and whist donning cosplay armor and a bag of skittles.

I found that the beauty of the system is in its simplicity, it stumbles well with you and at times aiding off the cuff storytelling with explanations like "ANCIENT SCIENCE WAS MAGICAL AND UNFATHOMABLY COMPLEX! NOW HOP IN THAT TELEPORTER AND STOP ASKING WHY YOUR GENDER CHANGED!" Once the players have thoroughly set fire to and destroyed this railroad sandbox, the one you call your story, this systems allows us to quickly recover by floating adrift off the top of our imaginations. I would say if it's one regret I had it's not letting the weird completely out. As Numenera stories goes we didn't really explore the deeply strange or overly alien majestic landscapes, believing that "we'd get there eventually."

A sentiment I think we all go through.

We learned a lot, I certainly did as a DM.

I'm not a new story teller\dungeon master\coordinator of murder hobos, but we learn from every campaign and session. Editing your work, as I've done with the podcast, also has a way of really displaying where you could've described more or which emotions you should've played on. It's been huge for me. Out in the wilds of my normal gaming group I'd learned to work a the table, shush the rules mongers, and let the role players play. Your aim is always achieving a feeling that could be identified as positive when the players leave your table.

You need them coming back, like addicts, because you thirst for that narrative.

With this podcast, Numenera in general,  I really wanted to work on my preparation, you know, actually know the names and motivations of the villains my characters have vowed to their deities to chase through time and space to murder for the good existence? Both the Nightmare Switch and Vortex modules, provided by the Numenera folks for a small cost, were literally the first modules I'd read through and ran for anyone. The content and stack blocks they provided were good enough though I was still found myself unprepared for the amount of work needed by a DM even with printed modules.

The major take away from his compagin Numenera?

* More combat, it's okay to fight
* Combat has to walk the thin line between deadly and heroic.
* Negative roles should have equally fun consequences as positive roles
* Story is more important than mechanics. Re-enforcing this is tricky but necessary.
* Cheat Sheets and roll tables are an absolute must. MUST.

It's brave new world, these modules, at least for me and the luster hasn't worn off as we're currently diving into the sea of D&D content. What do you think? Think it with your fingers in comment boxes.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Numenera | S2E8 | Enter the Vortex and it's pretty hot.

This is the end for Pierce Ringer and Harrold Green! The conclusion of two seasons spent in Numenera. Telling both the Nightmare Switch and Vortex stories, and we will finally see where this all ends up. Its been a wild ride but this episode is meant to ask the question, what would your one wish be in thier situation?
We're using a heavily modified verison of Monte Cook's "Vortex" module.
Season 2's rule system: Numenera
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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Published Campaigns vs the Home-brewed

There is something of a dividing line among dungeon masters, especially in my backyard, where storytelling is furiously guarded. Published vs Home Grown. I feel it's best for the podcast, and my inner emotional struggle, if I describe the stance we've taken.

Let's meet the fighters.

On one side of the playground is the Home-Brewed adventure, I imagine this is the artsy hipster kid whose an outcast even among other artsy hipster kids, by design, and watched a youtube video right before the fight so he now claims to be a Kung Fu expert. These campaigns are highly sought after, ripe with the complete unknown, extreme difficulty swings, gaping plot holes, loose notes stored in trapper keepers made for adults, and NPC names born from pop culture/friends/whatever is around the room. Some DMs are better than others with this, but the illusion must be made that this world is fully flushed out, living and breathing, able to be explored, and ready to be saved from utter destruction.

This is my default mode when getting a "game" together.

Home Brewed Gaming Scientist
My home brewed worlds are always about 1/4 thought out and the rest of the time I'm just wanting to run the story-line and world of Big Trouble in Little China. Often this leaves me scrambling to straighten out the story\backgrounds\cities just as the players are busy thoroughly dissecting them. It's a stressful delightful, and often I'm saying, "YES OF COURSE THAT WAS THERE THE ENTIRE TIME!" The other end of this spectrum is a friend of mine who carves up his game worlds through a long research process and seems to know the name of every mountain, blade of grass, peasant and lich rotating around however many moons he'd plucked from his impressively thriving imagination. You can live in his game world because he did, he packed his bags and had forgotten about us mere mortals for months on end as he played god in some empty dimension. He works, I imagine without sleep, first breathing life into the characters, then immediately issuing these characters shovels and surgical gloves, sending them off to construct every grain of sand and soul gem until the project is complete.

Accountants of Storytelling
On the other side of the playground fight? The good looking popular bully accountant, cracking his knuckles, readying his solar powered calculator and aligning the roll tables just right until his prophecy is fulfilled. Yeah he's the published campaigns.  His carefully thought out adventures were play tested to the point of dullness, stories that make too much sense, and entire chapters devoted to Gods and Politics. If Gods and Politics are your thing then that's cool bro, I'm going to write something up on this one day, but here it's a point that swings whatever way you want it to. There's also art, glorious portraits and maps all just falling like feathers from nerdy heaven. I have embarrassing little exposure to published adventures, have spent zero time with DMs running them. They'd always seemed like evil beings with well kept beards and wore howling wolf shirts with purpose.

I judge no more, for I rank among them now.

I've gotten phone calls from friends who'd joined a newly realized role-playing circle/band/convent and expressed lament over the DM taking them through a "by the books" world. You get the sense that you're truly talking someone off the ledge, or back on the ledge, depending on your stance and perception of the ledge's structural integrity. Your hope, as I've come to find, is that perhaps you get the best of both worlds. A published book can be an excellent source to frame up your story telling style and keep it on track. An experienced DM still rolls with the punches but those punches are a little easier when most of the hard work is already fleshed out. Your fear is that you have a DM who strictly enforces the world and events leaving you feeling powerless over the outcome. Horror stories are made from DMs using all the mechanics of foraging, lunar cycles, worship rituals, and spell components.

Loot and Dagger is built off of published adventuring and yet the story train consistently jumps the track almost immediately after leaving the station. It is without fail and the train is completely unashamed of it's transition to an all terrain vehicle, with all the gusto hollering of redneck dude bros. This is every game, not just ours, this is every game in the history of gaming. Unless you're playing with a bunch of historical reenactment junkies obsessed with  "authenticity".

Of course now I want to play with a bunch of fantasy historical reenactment junkies.

Just once.

Once is all I'll need. (Note: I bet you can find them steampunk LARPing)

Gaming groups are like packs of wild rock bands. They get together, drink heavily and roam the storytelling landscape from dining rooms, to living rooms, to skype, all depending on availability. They attach to ideas, morals, storytelling flavors with a pack like mentality and pace themselves accordingly. Likely your group is one or the other, I've found it's rare to have both.

But my end of the debate is to use what players will both accept and excite them, something that challenges them comfortably and prepare to extract caution with sweeping changes.

As for the podcast? I'm planning a series of homebrewed "non moduled" one shot games to satisfy that need for, "and now for something you can't find anywhere" experience. But the flagship show will be a campaign straight from the books, and why? Because, honestly, I'm having fun trying something new in front of the microphone and the players will always do their part to rip the railroad to pieces, and I maniacally let them. The players and the DM's imagination, at the end of the day, make the story what it is and not the book.

What are your thoughts?

<3 - James Stiver

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hello Strangers!

As you're well aware, because you're skilled in such affairs, is officially alive and a new episode has been released.


Released indeed, much like the kraken or (the) hounds, or whatever deems such things necessary. Next week the last episode taking place in the world of Numenera will drop, then we'll proceed to drive the proverbial bus off cliff and into D&D 5e.

Hope you enjoy the ride as much as I enjoy the reckless driving.