Category Archives: DriveThruRPG

Weekly Update: Week of 19-25 Jun 16

Item:  Curse of Strahd developments

“I am not staring into the Abyss [SPOILER]; I Am The Abyss!” – Strahd von Zarcovish

The main reason getting back into my grove is prep work in my two Curse of Strahd tables, especially the Friday Table.  I had to take my time in dealing with Castle Ravenloft itself, because I changed a lot of the stuff in there:  Moved some brides around, altered some rooms, and added in “The Herd,” the group of thirty something maidens in uniform that Strahd feeds on so he won’t be a complete monster in the gameplay.

Had to.  I revealed the main villain of the group:  Tatyanna.  In my version of Curse of Strahd, the backstory is different:  An enemy of Strahd killed Sergi, kidnapped Tatyanna, and prompted Strahd to become a vampire.  For a yet unknown reason, Tatyanna returns as a Vampire to exact revenge on her brother in law. (A mini spoiler:  She’s convinced that Strahd is the cause of her husband’s death.) Now those who read the cannon version of Ravenloft know that Tatyanna would never willingly be turned.  Someone did this to her.  Who?  Stay Tuned.

Item:  The PC tables.

By now you realized that I’ve dropped streaming the Sunday table on technical issues.  An AMD A8 with an on-board GPU can only do so much, even with Infiniscene.  Somehow I knew that Tabletop Simulator was pushing it.

Which is sad because of my character there, Justin (using the new Engineer Class I made,) is in a quandary:  One of his teammates, Ildar (Yes, the infamous full of hot air preaching paladin of Lathander) is being possessed by this avenging spirit, who takes over his body and compels him to kill bad guys even after they’ve been subdued.  In my book, that’s a warning flag of Nietzschian territories: “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” Justin feats that this will happen to Ildar, and I roleplay it with palpable dread:  I see Justin putting a crossbow bolt to Ildar’s head because of this, and he almost did just that while Ildar’s player, Spacehampzter Boo, was away.

That’s my thoughts on people who are Lawful Good, or even just Lawful Stupid who tends to be a Knight Templar.  I see the 9-part Alignment Table with wraparound borders, and it’s possible for a LG character to take things too far and end up in the opposite side, to either Lawful Evil or—gods help us—Chaotic Evil.

This is something my version of Strahd knows too well.  Because he has seen firsthand how this dynamic happens, and caused what should’ve been good men to do stuff that will disgust even him. And nothing has this abyss staring back at them than the Knight Templar characters.  Sunday Table!Justin might be a bit young to learn that you should stop Knight Templars from becoming the evil they’re fighting, even if kinslaying is required to do it.  (Remember, folks, Jamie Lannister did a good thing by killing the Mad King, even if he did get cursed because of it.)  I just hope he doesn’t have to pull the trigger himself.

As for the Saturday Table, we’re just about at the end of the Lost Mine Campaign, and Densil wanted oh so much to get a TPK a couple weeks back.  He stocked his Wave Echo Cave with upgraded zombies inspired from the video game Dying Light.  He put about four dozen of these transforming light-phobic assholes in the dungeon and we managed to get just about all of them gunning for us.

Until Claire saved our bacon by wrecking Denzil’s plans.  Her character was a 10th Level Cleric who has her Divine Intervention feature active, and rolled exactly on the number she needed to get her wish granted.  The looming TPK (with the poor death of my dear Drunken Panda) turned into a curb stomp.

Denzil now knows how I feel.  I never could resist schadenfreude.  Especially when I have an even worse inspiration for my own zombies in Curse of Strahd.

By now everyone’s now at 14th level, which might call for something of a Stable rule.  It’s a feature swimming through my head where you have all of your PCs together and they pool all the gold, magic items, and what have you.  New PCs enter this stable and can pick a magic item that another character acquired to give the new Level 1 a bit more survivability.  I still need to work on that mechanic, but I’ll have a place for that:

Item:  Æthercoil Magazine

The success I got from my documents form DriveThruRPG, however meager that it is, is encouraging me to continue contributing to that site.  However, I have a bunch of smaller items that won’t fill a PDF large enough for me to warrant a submission, even if I add illustrations.  Also, I needed to keep progress toward my ultimate goal of making the Æthercoil Campaign Book.

Hence my starting a periodical for DriveThruRPG, Æthercoil Magazine.  This will house all of my smaller additions, such as Character Races, Archetypes, feats and spells, background, and others.  It’ll also be where I start writing on the Æthercoil setting with background essays, sample adventures, and even stories set in that world.  I’m working on the first one now with both text and document design.

I’m even planning on buying a really good Photoshop plugin for the occasion.  A friend of mine in DeviantART suggested Lazy Nezumi Pro, a plugin that helps people do line art on the computer.  I downloaded the trial to work on an illustration for this magazine and I have to say, this is going to be $35 well spent.

One of my biggest problems I have with my artwork is the inking.  I tend to ink in a Ligne Claire style, using a uniform line width.  Problem is, I normally use felt pens because they’re more natural.  I also have a heavy hand, which results in rather suboptimal inking.  I wanted to ink using the computer, but as you might expect, getting the inked lines right on a computer can be a pain.

Enter Lazy Nezumi Pro, which makes drawing smooth lines considerably easier, it even has a restraint system that does straight lines, circles, perspective work, and several others that is an improvement on the Quick Shapes feature on Draw Plus.  (It can also work with Serif Draw Plus with its Hooking function which I had to experiment with.  Bonus.) I’m definitely going to be using this plugin; it’ll make my artwork better.

Tubthumping

I get knocked downBut I get up again. You’re never going to keep me down” — Chumbawamba – Tubthumping

That lyric tends to be the story of my life at times, such as this week.  I got so much stuff come my way this week back at my apartment that I didn’t get the chance to plan any of my sessions, so I had to call them off.  Especially the Friday one for good reason:  The Friday group is about to enter Castle Ravenloft, and I have to prepare the entire location with all of my changes involved.  This is something I’d want to get right and couldn’t do that this week.  I can do it the next one.

At least the people playing are understanding.  Disappointed, but understanding.  They know I’ll be back this coming week.

As the graphic says: Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight.

Item:  DriveThruRPG Update

Pay What You Want seems to be the best way to go for me as far as support.  As I said every now and then, nothing encourages me than someone handing me a cup of coffee, a Kickstart, or any other small item.  Sure, I’d love to pay a bill or two from this, but if I just get enough for a Starbucks run, it’s a big confidence boost for me.  It’s why I have a dust-encrusted tip jar on this blog in the first place.  Hero’s Hideout also gives me a little credit every week I DM, which I can buy something form the cooler.  Much appreciated.

And now I’m getting some love from DriveThruRPG.  Over $10 US so far.  It’s not much, but it’s better than what I got form DeviantART, and I can never thank those who donated enough.

By now you know of the Homesteading Mechanic I’m using for one of my homemade mechanics.  Last week, I also released a couple classes into my DriveThruRPG account as well:  My take on the Artificer Class called the Engineer (a stand-alone variant of the Wizard Class that focuses on magic items, borrowing some features from other existing Artificier classes and compiling it into an easy to understand option) and the Jester, a hybrid Rogue-Bard class for the class clown in the party.  Both have already been well received, and will have some revisions and additions in the future.

The success I’ve been getting will keep me making stuff for DriveThruRPG.  I’m already making plans for a periodical publication for the site. I have several player options that are too small for one item, as well as some essays on my campaign creation in my campaigns, both official and homemade.  I might even toss in some short story, artwork, and maybe even have some comic pages thrown in there.  If I can, I’ll have this catch-all publication put into DriveThruRPG, but if there’s any other developments I’ll let you know.

There’s also plans for a Dungeon Master’s Guild publication as well:  By far my most favorite campaign is Curse of Strahd, especially with the response I get form my tweaks for it.  As the campaign progresses, I’ll be making a document listing the changes for this alternate storyline for the campaign.  I’ll fill you in on the progress as I go.

Item:  My first product review:

Limitless Encounters: Haunted Locals

As you would guess, I’m looking for ways to fluff up my Curse of Strahd campaigns, and have been diving into the DM’s Guild for ways to throw all these curves to my players.  While looking for such inspiration, I was invited by Limitless Adventures to review one of their publications.  I chose Haunted Locales for my interest.

The document, as common throughout their site contains about ten premade encounters for various locations, like a cemetery, crypt, haunted house, or some other related place.  All of them can get plugged into your Curse of Strahd campaign with little to no set-up, although someone like me can further tweak them to make them just right.  The bigger feature here is the ‘Further Adventure’ hooks that take the encounter here and offer suggestions on any future scenes.  Example:  There was a ghost who couldn’t make his last will and testament in time.  The PC can aid the ghost in making this last will, after which the ghost can move on to the afterlife.  He leaves behind the written will and…did the ghost will anything to the party?

I can pan through this document and only think of possibilities for my campaigns.  That is something I’m looking for in something I can use.

The only thing I can take away from is the format of the Monster Stats.  I understand using simple formatted text to create stat blocks that are printer friendly, but it could use some improvements, such as larger fonts for subheaders {“Features”, “Actions”} the inclusion of horizontal lines to break up the sections, and returning the attributes with the rest of the text.  I can see how the writers try to make better use of space by moving the attributes to a corner of the block, but the location didn’t make for a better readable block.  For me, formatting it similar to a Monster Manual block is better on the eyes.

I use Statblock5E for my Monster Stats, which produces a very readable copy to export into my documents.  It’s easy on the printer, in spite being in color, and if you know some basic CSS you can easily make a monochrome version.  (I might do that sometime if nobody else beats me to it.)  If I need to scrape the barrel, I have a form in Microsoft Word for my character sheets which I can use for Monster Stat Date if need be.

Of course, that’s just my two bits, but if Limitless Encounters is looking for places to improve, I would suggest improving their stat blocks, everything else is a rich source of inspiration for me to use.

Back from mourning.

I found out something very important about myself as an autistic.  I don’t mourn like normal.  I don’t cry when I mourn, especially for someone I loved, like my Grandmother (who passed away last week.) I was happier that I knew this woman than sad to see her gone.  She and her Husband are the reason why I can say that I, in spite of the school system that fucked me up when I’m in school and then put a wedge between me and my parents afterward, had a decent childhood.  She had a big house in the suburbs that was quiet, peaceful, and had room for lots of adventures.  Had plenty of places to play around in, a lot of trips to various locations—including three trips to Disney World—and had Sunday dinner every week after church.  All kids should’ve had one of these grandparents to keep them from being too dark.

I do, however, sleep when I mourn.  All fucking day.  For three days straight, maybe more.  I sleep like the dead; these vary same grandparents came to me in a dream and said, “Go back, you need to go to the restroom and eat something!”  Oy!  Sometimes Autism is a blessing and a curse, am I right?  Not to mention the source of some pretty decent comedy.

But now that she’s gone to be with Grampa, let’s get back to the business, shall we.

As I’ve reported earlier, the Homesteading Mechanic has been released at DriveThruRPG.  I even had what I call success out of it:  I got enough earnings for a cup of coffee, thank you very much to those who believed that I deserve money for this.  While it does have some room for improvement and it can be complex to some, I did manage to get it readable, and even got a reference to Pathfinder’s Kingdom Building Ruleset to further develop the mechanic.

The next two offerings are in the works as I’m typing this, which start on my various class and race options that will eventually become part of Æthercoil.  I have my answer to the Artificer class, the Engineer, past its second draft and is about to be illustrated when something came up that made me pull an all-nighter.

I’ve been working with additional material for my Curse of Strahd campaigns, one of which I’ll be reviewing this weekend.  One of them included a crazy individual that Strahd considers his Court Jester.  Now I have worked with many Jester PCs in my time with 5E, and really enjoyed the Jester background in the playtest.  I wanted to make a Jester class that I felt fits my style and after (1) looking at various options of Rogue and Bard, and (2) have the necessity to make this crazy individual into an actual Jester, I had the need to make a hybrid class combining Bard and Rogue and flavored it up with a colorful motley.  The Jester class is in its second draft and will be illustrated like the Engineer.  Both classes will be legal for my campaigns and eventually be a part of Æthercoil.

Which eventually leads into some of my goals.  I wanted to have some playtest material that shows what I’m going for in my campaign world, maybe a series of smaller publications where I put the basics behind Æthercoil and my thoughts behind making them, which will lead up to the first Campaign Setting Book.  Eventually, I hope to produce a magazine like series in between larger campaign books.  Meanwhile, I might have an opportunity for a Dungeon Master’s Guild project as well:  So far my take on Curse of Strahd has been so well perceived thus far that I might make a document describing my twist on this remade classic and create an add-on document to the module.  It’ll change major parts of the campaign, but for those who want something different from the classic, I’m sure people will like what I had in store in my One Note.  (Provided that I get the party to take it to the end, of course.)

Homesteading Mechanic is Live!

Version 1.0 of the Homesteading Mechanic has been approved by DriveThruRPG and is available here:  https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/183861 /5E-Homesteading-Mechanic .

I’ve made some adjustments in the menus to incorporate the material I’m offering there.

Everything for now will be Pay What You Want.  You don’t have to pay for them, but I will appreaciate an occasional cup of coffee for my efforts 🙂

This is long overdue, isn’t it?

At least I had a good excuse for this lapse:  My grandmother passed away.

I’m both sad and happy for her.  She had a full live, was ill in her last days, and she had a loving husband to go to in the next life.  She had a kind and gentle soul too; I’m less sad about having her gone, but happy that I knew her.

Needless to say that I canceled all of my sessions for this upcoming weekend for obvious reasons.  But that also means that I can catch up.

Curse of Strahd

The online table didn’t get much progress, although they did get through the Church in Barovia:  Louis (Denzil’s character, who I had to nerf) had enough empathy for vampires to have Doru join the party, but then again, I did have Ireena be an expert in blood donation with a canister of donated blood waiting for occasions like this.

The Encounters table, however, had more fun.  They gotten past the Old Bonegrinder chapter already, on the way to the Wizard of Wines.  But that’s not the wild part.

On the way to the first of the three artifacts from the Fortune Reading…

Stat Block:  http://imgur.com/RSWZrUg

Ever since I’ve seen the stat block related for this crazy song, I wanted to have Actual Cannibal Shia Labeouf pop up somewhere in my Curse of Strahd campaign as an elite mook, someone who keeps reappearing.  It didn’t prove much hilarious in the Friday stream, but oooh, it was epic on Wednesdays.  When he appeared, everyone roared in laugher.  Especially our new Munckin in the group, Sal (Who’s been playing a Chaotic Evil Dragonborn these last two weeks) who even offered him a fresh set of clothes (I had Shia in a loincloth) in the midst of being Ganked on.

At least with Strahd, he’ll just troll your ass, especially when you try to out-evil him.  That same Sal wanted to burn the Windmill down (and eventually did) with the two children inside.  Strahd just walked up behind him and whispered in his ear, “Do you really want to do that?”

Strahd makes Chaotic Apeshit characters into zombies in his sleep.

Shia will just be a oneshot in the Friday Table, but I’ve got another creature in store who will constantly annoy the players, where like Encounters!Shia, will level up with each encounter.

Sunday:  Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Recap:  http://steamcommunity.com/groups/tod5e/discussions/0/412449508294176046/

This session will prove problematic for Justin, especially with the planned off week for me.  In the May 29th session, the party met up with what remained of Claire’s character after Claire quitted with his Drama Storm.  The poor cleric has fallen into the clutches of the Cult of the Dragon and was brutally brainwashed and tortured to adopt a bunch of kobolds as her children.  A very telling lesson not to Rage Quit in this fashion too often.

But that’s not the part that caused Justin problems.  It was Ildar that has the boy Engineer worried:  After the end of the encounter, Ildar became possessed by some vengeful spirit who demanded Claire’s head on a spit.  Part of the rest of the party tried to restrain the annoying Paladin, including a dwarf that took a hit from Ildar, but it was to no avail.  In the end, Ildar explained—or rather mentally justified—his actions claiming that Claire’s character was too far gone into darkness and was beyond redemption.

What is in Justin’s Mind:  He doesn’t think that Ildar with his Avenging Spirit is any better than what happened to Claire.  This will no doubt cause a rift in an already rocky relationship.  If Justin ever goes off like that again, Justin will attack him.  No Questions.

Before that, though, Justin will have to go to the mountaintop to figure out what to do, the other Dawnbringers will have to know what is happening, and especially what Justin feels about this. I wanted him to go to the temple to seek counsel, (And woe to Ildar if he ever interferes.  Don’t piss off the nice ones) but events of this week ruled it out.

By the way, you might have noticed a change in class for Justin:

DriveThruRPG Update

By now I’ve submitted my first playtest offering, the Homestead Mechanic, to DriveThruRPG, for approval.  However, during this time, I’ve already gotten through the first draft of my second offering, and it concerns Justin’s Class.

While I’ve seen a lot of Artificer classes out there, I wanted to have something that is easier to use and follow along, using the three core rulebooks (Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide) as a foundation and allow the players to branch out from there.  Also, this is a class I want to use for Æthercoil, which will have a different take on Artificer.

Hence the Engineer class, a homemade class which is a variant of the Wizard, instead of an Archetype like Wizards of the Coast’s version, and doesn’t involve much material outside of the core books.  It’s a version of Wizard who focuses on building items, infusing existing material with magic, have many different projects to choose from for their own Archetypes, and most of all be easy to pick up and use unlike some other homemade Artificer classes.

The Engineer class is already in its second draft, and I’ll also change Justin’s character to use this new class for both the Sunday table and in Living Parnast.  I’ll give a link for it once it’s in DriveThruRPG as a presentable document.

Updates for 22 May 16

Item:  Exit DM’s Guild; Enter DriveThruRPG

The biggest hurdle in my content creation is where to legally put it.  At first I thought having my beta stuff be in the DM’s Guild, while the original content, such as Æthercoil, be in another OneBookShelf site, like DriveThruRPG.  After talking with some people in charge of Wizards of the Coast, that’s impossible under the current guidelines:  Material in the DM’s Guild can’t be in a later DriveThruRPG document, and I doubt that modules set in the Forgotten Realms, or any other WotC-branded realm, won’t fit anywhere other than the DM’s Guild.

Hence my quandary, which I need to bypass, and here’s how I’ll do it.  I’ll be publishing all of my content in DriveThruRPG, starting with my first content, a homesteading system.  All of my material, both beta and official, will be published there, which is allowable because the majority of my material are setting-agnostic.

The main problem would be Living Parnast, which is my beta setting which is still set in the Forgotten Realms.  I’ll be still using this setting, but will only release it non-commercially on my web site.  In time, I’ll convert Living Parnast into the Æthercoil setting.

This plan will no doubt clear with all Terms of Services and keep me in the clear, so I can progress with the main business of working on content.   And doing recaps.

Item:  Hoard of the Dragon Queen

I haven’t had the chance to give an update on last Sunday’s session, since it was one of the slower sessions, and the recording got shredded.  As did this week’s version.  Apparently Tabletop Simulator and Infiniscene isn’t being very co-operative with each other at this time, probably by how more resources intensive Tabletop Simulator is.  (This is why I prefer Roll20, which is easier on the processors, at least mine.  You want me to get a better computer, I’ll be releasing my homebrews on DriveThruRPG on Pay What You Want.)  However, for those who want a more thorough recap than what I’m currently doing, the other players have compiled a log on Steam that will bring you up to speed.  I hope to have things go better tonight.

This Sunday had some more progression.  At the start—after some more shopping—the party reconnected with Leosin Erlanthar in Elturel and met Ontharr Frume of the Order of the Gauntlet, who talked more about the Cult’s convoy up the Sword Coast and the need for people to observe them.  Which is right up Justin’s alley since he’s more versed in reconnaissance than combat.  There was still some time before the convoy gathers in Baldur’s Gate, however, there was some side quests to deal with.  Such as gathering some Iron and Copper ingots that got stolen from a wagon heading to town.  The remainder of that session dealt with retrieving the metals.

As I said before, you can get the recap of this link, and if you want me to stream more Tabletop Simulator episodes, I’m going to need a better machine for that.

Item:  Curse of Strahd

Friday’s Table: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfI8UtlSauM

The party has arrived into Barovia Village, and has discovered the main starting twist.  Since the table is streamed, I can tell you it here:  Instead of the standard being Ireena being the one bitten by Strahd, it is his boyfriend, a local Jock.  On top of that it wasn’t Strahd who bit him, but someone else.  The main goal is to find out who’s trying to out-Devil Strahd Von Zarcovish!  Of course, the best way to solve this case is to get an audience with the Count.  The best way to do that is for the Party to undergo the Fortunes of Ravenloft.

Before they do so, however, they need to bury Ireena’s adopted father and former Burgomaster.  After which, they plan to make a beeline toward Tser Pool, where Madam Eva is, and then to a place that nobody would expect a ‘run as written’ version of Curse of Strahd to be a safe space:  Castle Ravenloft.

I don’t run Curse of Strahd as written, however.  It can’t be any more telling then how I portray the Dread Lord.  During this table, I did hint at Strahd and Irenna being an item in the past, before she became the Burgomaster.   (“He made the mistake of confusing me for Tatyanna when we first met.  He didn’t realize it until after he bit me, and promptly apologized.  Demon or not, he has class.”)

During her time with Strahd, she found out as much as she could about him, his castle, and vampires.  She compiled everything into a book that is part Vampires 101, and Anne Rice style Romantic Vampire story.  I think I can show it in this blog now.

Item:  Lost Mine of Phandelver

Saturday Stream:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4N5MkO_rvI (This video might not be ready at the time I’m posting this.  Please be patient.)

While there was some progression, this session was when the player I’m screwing around with gets to screw back.

Me and Denzil are going some friendly competition; a matching of witch between a Power Player and a Creative Player.  This was counter to what happened the week before, where I took Denzil’s vampire character and de-vampired him!  Talk about your uber nerf!

Well, the Power Gamer on Friday is the Dungeon Master on Saturday, and he pretty much took it out on my poor Pandaren PC.  Linka got her clocked cleaned by a couple monks who were courteous enough to let her live.  One thing about Denzil, he appreciates me being a good sport.

The rest of my involvement in the campaign dealt with rescuing Gundren Rockseeker and having him tell the party of Wave Echo Cave, which is where the climatic chapter of Lost Mine takes place.  After which the party retired to Phandalin where Linka finds out is the sole ownership of Tresendar Manor.  I could see her staying here and setting up her own brewery here.  If, however, she isn’t helping out with a tinkerer building an OSR version of the Iron Man suit and causing successive explosions!

The latter parts of this session deals with another case of two Power Gamers butting heads.  Not only that, it was Denzil and Claire!  We all know the dramas those two had during my Princes of the Apocalypse stream, right?  But this time it ended on a happy note.  What Claire wanted was a boon for her character, and wanted to be tested by Eilistraee in the process.  She lost once before I clocked in this session, and her character became a Drider.  She tried it again and at first I continued streaming against my better judgement, but Denzil relented, and decided that Eilistraee was merely testing her instead of curb stomping her.  (Something poor Linka knows too well.)  She got restored with her devotions switched from Lolth to her daughter, and she got a sentient sword in the process.  Ahhhh, a rare happy ending to the session, and a Drama Storm averted.

That’s something I’m planning on with my Friday Curse of Strahd session.  Claire wanted her character to have a similar test, but Barovia doesn’t have the same connections to any Deities as Faerun has.  I can’t tell you any details right now, but if there’s anyone who’s going to be testing anyone in Barovia, it’s going to be Strahd himself administering the test.  Fsk Lolth!  Hell, Fsk the Lady of Fsking Pain.  You’re in Strahd’s Realm, beeaatch!  Want to see those two go at it?  Two virtual demigods who can give you fates worse than death and stuff you into demiplanes for eternity?!

I didn’t think so.