Initiative Or What? – Archives – Oct/2009

October 31, 2009 by deadorcs

Friday, October 02, 2009

It’s a Dirty, Dirty, World: Part 10

Wow! I can’t believe I did it! I completed an entire project. Yay me!

Seriously, though. This post completes a long series of exploring Heroic level disease for 4E D&D. The series of diseases listed below are my 10th level entries.

I’m going to try and put together all of these diseases into a .pdf that can be downloaded. I’ll probably have to go to a file sharing (legit) site in order to to provide someplace to get it downloaded. I’ve never done that, before; so be patient while I figure out that end of it. Before I publish it though, I’ll go over the text again to make sure I’ve cleared away any editing inconsistencies and spelling errors (although I think I caught all of those).

As always, I welcome any comments. Not sure what I want to tackle next. I want to take a break from diseases (at least for a little bit), and work on something else — traps, maybe. Traps are always good. Well, without further ado, here are your 10th level 4E diseases:

Click HERE for the full disease document.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Virtual Gaming: Reach Out and Crit Someone…

For some time now, I’d been wanting to supplement DMing my sporadic gaming group (The Dead Orcs Society) with participation in someone else’s game as a player. A few years back, I participated with some in-laws and friends in a “”play by email Eberron campaign”. It was interesting, but didn’t really have the feel of a regular role-playing game. Before being abandoned, that game ended up being more of a collaborative story effort, than anything else. Well, knowing that most of these guys weren’t really getting their game on much, either, I suggested looking into playing a virtual game.

Technology has improved in the recent years, and now there were several tools that would enable us to play together, while using only our computers. We decided to give it a shot; and now that we have a couple of gaming sessions under our belts, I thought I’d give the process a review.

We started by looking around for appropriate collaborative tools. After all, if we were going to play table-top D&D online, we’d need to have a shared platform on which to conduct the game. Of course, Wizards of the Coast® hasn’t developed their online tabletop yet, so we went to some sources that have been out there awhile and used them instead.

Before the digital dice can be rolled, you need to first be able to speak to each other. Experience gained from my WoW (World of Warcraft) days had introduced me to products such as TeamSpeak and Ventrilo. These were useful tools, but we wanted to use a product that didn’t require using a PC for a voice server. As a result, we chose Skype. Most of us were familiar with Skype, and it supports multi-user voice chat quite well. Best of all, the program is totally free and none of us would have to host the voice chat on their own computer.

Now that the seven of us could hold a conversation, we needed to decide on a virtual tabletop. Over the past several years, many companies have come out with different types of tools, and these vary in their cost, flexibility, and ease of use. RPG Virtual Tabletop website has a pretty definitive list of the most popular software products currently available. After looking at several, I chose two for closer scrutiny: Fantasy Grounds II and MapTool.

Fantasy Grounds II is a pretty sexy program. One visit to the website, and I was hooked. I downloaded and even purchased a DM package of this software in order to play with it. With it’s clever graphics and unique dice roller (the dice you select actually roll around on the virtual game table), it certainly felt like a professionally built product.

The other virtual tabletop software I looked at was MapTool. This is a java-based tool made by the folks over at RPTools. Not as sexy as Fantasy Grounds II, but it seemed to have a fairly robust set of mapping tools that were easy to use. All of the tools over at RPTools are downloadable for free.

Because we were trying something new, we decided to go with MapTool. Fantasy Grounds II is a great program, but there is an expense involved. It’s nearly $40 for a DM license and half that for a player’s license. In addition, Fantasy Grounds II isn’t rules agnostic. It was originally designed for D&D 3.5 and D20 play. You have to load user created templates in order to play 4E. MapTool, on the other hand, is system agnostic. There is some functionality to support the main gaming systems, but if you’re just using the map, you really don’t have to load anything special.

Well, after two session, MapTool seems to be working out for us okay. We can all successfully load the shared maps; and as long as the internet connection stays up, you’re good to go. Moving around on the map is easy; and since the program is in Java, you don’t have to worry about having a PC or a Mac. Like most virtual collaboration tools, you’ll need broadband access for this to work. Large maps take a great deal of loading time, and it’ll take hours on a dial-up.

The folks over RPTools have done a great job with a product that’s totally free. However, if I might be permitted to kibbutz about a free product, there are a couple of improvements I’d like to see: First, make the macro process easier. The chat/macro functionality is great, but for those users that aren’t comfortable with programming, they’re gonna be left out in the cold. Also, it would be nice to see a few more drawing tools for the mapping portion. Personally, I think MapTool works best when you upload completed maps (it’s particularly good at displaying maps created in Dundjinni). However, for those DMs that like to work on the fly, some more tools would be useful. In addition, the vision and blocking tools are there, but confusing to use. Unless the user is familiar with layers, it won’t be easy to understand. Finally, the whole interface could use a “dumbing-down”. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Currently, non-technical users can get bogged down when trying to figure out how to upload tokens, or log on to a server, etc. Simplifying the interface (while at the same time placing options for advanced users) would be a wonderful improvement.

However, don’t get me wrong. I really do like MapTool; and for a free product, I’m not sure it can be beat. I’m sure we’ll continue to use it for the next few months. Each time we do, it does get easier to use.

Do you have any experience with MapTool? If so, I’d like to hear about it.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

UPDATE: As I was composing this blog post, I came across a virtual tabletop tool called iTabletop. Has anyone out there used this product, trial version or otherwise? I’d love to know!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It’s A Trap! Introducing Epic Security Systems

 Epic Security Systems, or “E.S.S.” was founded over a quarter of a century ago by dwarven mason, Killean Pinbottom. Frustrated with the lack of good work to be found in his chosen profession, Killean began to specialize in the construction of traps and other security structures for both above and below ground habitations.

Together with his colleagues, Loralye “Fergie” Ferguson and Lynk Whistlestop; the three established E.S.S. in order to provide state of the art security systems for established strongholds. Starting small, the three began by designing and building cost effective yet creative defensive structures for area communities. As their reputation for quality work grew, so did their number of clients. Today, E.S.S. employs over one hundred artisans and craftsmen and maintains a year-round working schedule.

Of course, E.S.S. is not without controversy. As designers of often deadly traps, political authorities occasionally view the group with suspicion. Killean Pinbottom recognizes this concern, however, and works hard to ensure that his team is seen as consultants only and not a military threat. Pinbottom also works hard to ensure his neutrality. The clients that hire E.S.S. are varied, and don’t always have their home region’s best interests in mind. E.S.S.’s primary goal is to “Get In, Build Up, Get Out, and Get Paid”. This mercenary attitude has left more than one warlord irritated; but E.S.S.’s considerable talent (and well defended headquarters) keep the group running safe and mostly undisturbed.

As previously mentioned, E.S.S. has been in the business of trap making for over twenty-five years. In that time, they have managed to establish a catalog of their most commonly requested traps. While many of the traps are designed by the three founding partners of the group, most were researched and named after adventurers that either previously defeated or were killed by a trap. Fergie Ferguson is fond of saying, “We don’t necessarily invent the traps, we just make them better.”

The founding members of Epic Security Systems are:

Killean Pinbottom: Dwarven stonemason and construction expert. It is rumored that Pinbottom has the skills to shape living rock, but such rumors have never been proven. Pinbottom’s stone construction and engineering skills are the foundation for E.S.S.’s success.

Loralye “Fergie” Ferguson: Fergie is the groups magical consultant. A successful human mage and scholar in her own right, Fergie can construct elaborate dweomers that can confound and inflict serious damage upon those that stumble into them. As the scholar of the group, Miss Ferguson has one of the most extensive magical libraries in the land.

Lynk Whistlestop: While Lynk has only been with E.S.S. for some fifteen years, he is nonetheless considered a pivotal member of the design team. If something has moving parts, this gnome artificer can probably figure it out, take it apart, and then put it back together so that it explodes.

In the upcoming days and weeks, Initiative or What will be exploring the E.S.S. catalog and sharing their fine traps with its audience. This exclusive access will be permitted for only a limited time, as it’s rumored that the group is hard at work preparing a second volume to their fine collection. For now, E.S.S. will be showing us their Heroic level traps. Watch your step!

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It’s A Trap! E.S.S. Trapbook, Level 1 Traps

This is the first release of the E.S.S. Trap catalog.

E.S.S. welcomes your feedback and hopes that you keep safe and watch your step!

Click HERE for the full traps document.

Killean Pinbottom Comments:

While my primary area of expertise is stone working; I have to admit I’ve always been fascinated with fire. Killean’s Scorching Torches was a design I came up with for one of our groups original strongholds. We had been having trouble with city-paid rogues attempting to infiltrate the facility. The torches are quite inviting, and it gave more than one would-be thief a good singeing.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It’s A Trap! E.S.S. Trapbook, Level 2 Traps

Today, we open Epic Security System’s 2nd chapter of engaging (and dangerous traps).
Click on the link below to get the full sized trapping goodness:
Click HERE for the full traps document.
Lynk Whistlestop comments:

I met Lord Darian some nine years ago. While he wasn’t necessarily a bad fellow, he had an odd tendency to be really annoyed by people interrupting him while he was “in chambers”. I’d been intrigued by teleportation magic for some time, so it was only a matter of a little research (with generous help from Ms. Fergie) before I came up with the door trap I named after the Good Lord Darian.

Until next time…
Game excellently with one another.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It’s A Trap! E.S.S. Trapbook, Level 3 Traps

The trapbook seems to be trapped!
I apologize for this. For some reason, Blogger isn’t allowing me to click through in order to view the image. This could be the browser I’m using (Chrome), so if anyone out there reading this is having a problem clicking on the image to view, please let me know. In the meantime, I’m going to go ahead and post up the Level 3 Traps from the E.S.S. Trapbook.Update: The problem has been fixed. Looks like when I try to post using the Chrome browser, it doesn’t like the image for some reason. I’m really too lazy to try and figure out why that is, so I just switched back to Firefox, so the posting goodness can continue. I apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience! Happy Trapping!
 Click HERE for the full traps document.
Loralye “Fergie” Ferguson Comments:
A old colleague from across the pond introduced me to the wonders of something called, “smoke powder”. Smoke, indeed! The wonderful explosive potential of this substance not only lends itself to weapons, but to traps as well. I normally work with arcane traps, but I can’t resist the appeal of rapidly moving little lead balls. If I can only get this smoke powder substance stable, I might be able to render swordplay obsolete!
Until next time…
Game excellently with one another.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It’s A Trap! E.S.S. Trapbook, Level 4 Traps

 This post sees us continuing with Epic Security System’s famous Trapbook. Today’s focus is on 4th level traps.

Here’s the list:

Click HERE for the full traps document.

Killean Pinbottom Comments:

Yes, I know that the Flame Wall is one of mine, but I really want to tell you about the Beltway Overthruster. You see, the team worked for a kingdom whose citadel stretched for miles along the mountainside. In order to facilitate traveling the long distances, the local engineers designed treadmills that could cart loads of individuals without them having to walk. Later, I adapted the idea for the Overthruster. I think the warning gong is a nice touch, don’t you?

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

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