Like normal, I’m stealing slightly from something that I’ve been watching. Into the Badlands. The world has “ended” after something happened and there’s this Badlands split up and ruled by barons in the show, but that’s not what I care about. What we’re caring about…
Tag: Wizards of the Coast
We were back at it again last night with the third session of Tower of the Gods. Previously, our “heroes” Barrai, Bokken, and Thrain had gone through the test of the Tower with Steve as their fourth, unfortunately, Steve didn’t make it. Upon exiting the…
So, I got back into running some Dungeons and Dragons last night on Zoom. Three/four player game that I’ve named Tower of the Gods. I think I previously did a Friday Night D&D explaining the concept, but I’m going to do that here again and write up recap episodes.
But first, let’s meet the characters, we have Barrai a Tiefling, Thrain a Hill Dwarf, and Bokken a War Forged. You’ll notice that there are no classes tied to them, that’s because I decided, we’re starting at level 0. They are all just average characters to slightly above average with 10’s across the board for their stats, plus racial bonuses, that’s because of the Tower of the Gods.
So, what is a Tower of The Gods? It was a magical tower that appeared about 200 years ago. Bigger than a city block and going up into the clouds, no one knows how tall it is. Monsters spilled out of it devastating the lands around it. The nations put up a quick defense after the initial shock and devastation. But the number of monsters seemed unlimited, eventually, as morale was getting low, a group of soldiers at one of the Towers took the fight to the Tower itself and found an entrance. When they came out, they had stemmed some of the flow of the monsters but also came out stronger with new abilities (aka D&D Classes). Once the news spread of this more people went into all the Towers and while most perished, those who came out came out stronger and had slowed the flow of the monsters.
Now, the monsters still show up, but there are guards at every tower to deal with the small monster incursions. But, of course, a tower that is powerful enough to give people new skills, that’s something that every nation wants and they want several of them if they can. So the nations fought over the tower until a shaky truce was made. Now, there are schools that not only train you to be ready for the Towers but instruct you in the new skills you have when you leave. It’s a honor to be sent into the Towers and not an honor that every can afford or could survive.
Thrain, Bokken, and Barrai are three of a new group of trainees going into the Towers who have come to them through different paths.
This is where the game basically kicked off, with those three waiting their turn to go into the tower to see if they’d survive and come out the other side with new found skills. When they went in, they were given a riddle and a chance to equip themselves, grabbing a few weapons, they ventured further into the magical tower which took them to many different areas.
There was a jungle room where the floor was poisonous and they had to swing from branch to branch on vines towards one of the exits, but if they fell, it might mean their death.
There was a room with a moat, all they had to do was get across it and they’d be able to go through one of two doors. But there was a sea serpent swimming in the moat, and it wasn’t something they could jump across. Using some quick thinking, they grabbed vines from the other room and were able, using their fourth test taker, a jacked halfling named Steve (the players named him not me), and the War Forged tossed Steve up to the ceiling where he was able to grab onto a hook and tie a vine to it. They had some troubles swinging across, but eventually did, but Steve notices there was a trapdoor, a third door, at the bottom of the moat.
That led them to a room with a bunch of floating tiles. They quickly discerned that they could move them around and use them to get to another door way. Unfortunately, having a jacked halfling and a dwarf trying to get past each other on a 3×3 foot tile didn’t work and Steve fell to his death.
This led them into a room that was basically pitch black. When they stepped into the room, shadow creatures started attacking them. They made a break for it but both Bokken and Barrai were knocked down by the creatures. Thrain had to drag them into the next room where they were revived.
In this room, it was something pretty different. There was just an old lady drinking tea and she offered them some tea. Bokken, rolling low, sniffed the tea, thought it smelled good, so he drank some of it as did the other two. This opened their eyes and they saw that the old lady was a monster in disguise, but the monster didn’t make a move to attack them. Finding out that the next room was the last room, they bid the lady/monster farewell and continued on their way.
In the final room they were given 6 different goblets that they could drink from. Once the drank from them it allowed them to see an exit from the tower. However, the old lady had told them that which one they drank from could make a difference on how they walked out of the tower. They each picked and drank and walked out of the doors that appeared to them as:
Thrain the Hill Dwarf Warlock
Barrai the Tiefling Bard
Bokken the War Forged Fighter
And that’s where the first session ended. We’ll probably be adding a fourth player at some point in time, so we’ll have to see who is added to the party.
What do you think of the game thus far?
Just some DM notes on this. I set it up so that the doors were different colors, I didn’t delve into it too deeply if it was tied to the elements or what, but that’s what the players took away from it.
All the rooms were generally planned, but how many they had to go through and what order they went through them in was kind of up to how the game went. I just picked two rooms, one for each door and then repeated the process for each room after that. They were moving through them pretty fast, so we ended going through more than I’d thought so we could go for a little, plus I needed a way to kill of Steve.
So, that lends itself to another question, why Steve? Again, I didn’t name him, but I always wanted someone with them in the tower for at least a little bit of it. That would allow me to show them bits of the tower if they missed it. But it would also give me someone who I could kill, show off some of the deadliness of the tower, and also that if you die in the tower, you’ll be forgotten in the real world.
What will come next for them? Probably getting them recruited into a school and let them play around with their powers.
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I’ve talked about a lot of games that are about that epic adventure for a small group of characters. Birthright is about epic things, but not on that smaller level. Birthright is about great leaders going to battle against other nations, probably with other world ending events happening as well.
This is a setting where your characters are going to be heading up nations and divinely appointed leaders. You might have to build up your nation and lands, but it has been divinely appointed to you. Birthright is a setting where you are going to play a more political game and where battles might be fought off screen or by giving orders to large armies versus the dice rolling and hacking and slashing and spell slinging that you get in other settings. You have things called domain actions where players hand out decrees and edicts that are month long actions. You could start building a castle, wage a war, or establish a treaty, any of these things that might take a while. Birthright has it built into the game to allow you to take these bigger actions. Even magic can be bigger in Birthright. You cast domain level spells or war combat spells which are going to be for a whole battle than just slinging a fireball. You might give orders to your wizards to cast 100 fireballs and that does something to the enemy troops or things like that. Every aspect of Birthright is going to be focused on this larger level.
In terms of the actual world, I don’t know that the feel of the fantasy in the world changes massively from other settings like Forgotten Realms, it’s still a fantasy setting with standard fantasy trimmings. But it’s going to feel different. This is kind of a setting where you would play Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), you can take on roles as different houses and fight over the greater lands, or be all from the same house, make allies, and grow your influence in hopes of eventually taking the Iron Throne. That compared to a smaller game which can feel more like Lord of the Rings or Wheel of Time where it focuses in so much on the characters that you don’t pay attention to all the political maneuverings.
For some people, that’s going to be the type of game that they really want. I never really got that into Song of Ice and Fire, I prefer that smaller focus of the story, and while Song of Ice and Fire did have the characters is focused on, it was all about the grander political maneuvering. So I’m not sure that this setting would be for me. I think that there would be some interesting aspects to it, but I also have board games that give me more of an army versus army combat focus. Obviously in Birthright and any D&D or RPG setting is going to have more of that role playing feel to it. That part seems obvious, but it would make it a bit more unique, still I’m not sure interesting enough to really fully engage me.
How about you, would you play in this setting? Do you like the idea of a more political game?
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Back into Dungeons and Dragons settings with Dragonlance. This one is probably best known for the D&D books that came out around it, though it is one of the oldest settings for D&D. Dragonlance falls into that more classic fantasy flavor, which makes sense for…
One of the parts of Dungeons and Dragons that people really love is leveling up their characters. You get more cool things that you can do almost every level or new spells you can use or even improved stats so that you can hit harder. To level up, you need to gain experience, but how/when do you gain experience or level up?
In the Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide, there is one primary way that the game is built for you getting experience, and that’s through combat encounters (and encounters of other types), but in combat, each monster has a certain number of experience points that they give you to divide between the party. This is the standard way, then comparing your total experience to that of the level chart, when you hit a certain amount of experience you go up a level.
While this is the classic method, I’m not a huge fan of it. First, it adds to me doing more math as the Dungeon Master when building an encounter and as players then when dividing up and adding in experience. Now, it doesn’t have to be difficult math, but if someone misses a session, does their character still get experience for it? If they don’t, that causes even more of a mess because now characters will not in sync level wise and since the game tends to be more combat focused when you are using encounter/combat based experience, that means that a character might be lagging behind with that. On the other hand, this is the classic way to do it, and for video game players, it’s how almost all RPG’s work there, so it is something that they might enjoy.
My preferred method of leveling up and experience is to actually not track experience and go with something called, event or milestone leveling. When you hit a certain point in your characters story or in the over-arching story, you get to level up. The advantages of this come from leveling up in those moments where the story becomes more epic, you become more epic with it. You also don’t need to track everything and keep count of kills and what was killed, instead it levels you at proper thematic points. The downside is that if there is a point in the game where you are grinding through a dungeon and things aren’t changing, there might not be that character milestone or story event launches you to the next level. Instead you are stuck at a lower level for a while, while you’re waiting to go up and take off into a new ability for your character. That’s something, as a Dungeon Master, when using this method, that you need to be aware of, not to let the levels sit too long and instead focus on creating those epic moments every few sessions.
But, a friend, introduced me to an interesting idea from a video he’d watched on Professor Dungeon Master Youtube Channel. This concept is that you get a few points that you are tracking for experience, if things go really well in a session, you get 3 XP or maybe 4 XP. If things go awry, you get 1 XP, if it’s just okay 2 XP. And when you hit 10 XP, you “level up”. But, instead of just getting the level up, you need to do something in game or in downtime between sessions to get your character leveled up. This could be a little mini quest, such as a paladin destroying a cults temple and building up one to their god, Professor Dungeon Master’s example, or it could be something that is more tied into the main quests of the campaign. So you’re tracking experience, but at a limited level. And then to actually gain that level, you need that epic quest/story moment for your character so that they have a reason to gain new skills.
Now, I think that is an interesting option that I’m going to want to try at some point in time. What’s interesting about it to me is that it gives the players something to track in terms of experience points, they can see how close they are getting to leveling up at the end of a session, but they and I don’t need to do a lot of math and figuring for the game. It’s just adding together single digit numbers until you hit 10, and then you start again. I also like, and this is something that’s bugged me with Dungeons and Dragons leveling, is that you could, theoretically, just because of a random encounter on a travel somewhere level up, and now the Wizard knows more spells, the fighter is better with their sword, and the Druid can change into more animals. So, while it can delay leveling a little bit, I like how a character needs to complete some sort of quest or mission for that character or the story overall. So we’ve talked about a Paladin, but a Druid planting a small grove and getting that started in an area, that could give you a level up, a fighter going and defeating some low life thug on their own to stop them from going after other people, that’s something that would work as well. But I think it gives a chance for players and the DM to be more creative in storytelling, and you can decide how much you want to spend in game on this, but you could also go between sessions as well for leveling up.
If you’re playing, do you have a preferred method? I don’t think that any of them are bad, I just don’t want to do the math, so I haven’t done the more combat focused gaining for experience. Would you try out another method other than your preferred one? Let me know in the comments below.
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