Dominion: Free online version, and my top 10 MOST favorite cards!

A while ago, I talked about the awesome web site that lets you play Dominion for free online ( and the 10 cards I least liked to use. I should point out that this online version does not yet have the Dark Ages expansion, so I’m only talking about cards released before that expansion.

Today I’ll mention my 10 most favorite cards to play with, the ones that make me giddy whenever they show up in the tableau. I get sad if my opponent vetoes one of these.

10. Grand Market. I love the way this card’s presence changes the incentives of the game. Now, you’re doing everything you can to get non-Copper income, because Grand Market is that good. Once you have a couple, they make it easier to get more. And kudos to you for finding alternate ways of getting them (Remodeling a 4-cost card, for instance). And of course, it’s a lot of fun to play, powering you through your deck with more money and more buys. (The original Market gets an honorable mention here.)

9. Platinum. Playing with big money is cool; simple as that.

8. Spice Merchant. Get rid of Coppers and get a fantastic choice of things to do; what’s not to love? I especially love games where you find yourself trashing Silvers or even Golds near the end of the game in the hope of drawing the awesome cards that you need. I’ll never buy more than one, but it’s just about my favorite opening hand purchase.

7. Steward. I love versatility. Steward is great for getting rid of your Estates and Coppers early in the game or getting you an extra $2 when you need it most. If you have enough extra actions, the card drawing can be potent, too. Interesting choices equals fun.

6. Peddler. With Grand Market / Market showing up earlier on this list, you can understand why I like Peddler. If you’ve played a bunch of cards and you have an extra buy, you get a free Peddler! And if you have a few Peddlers in the deck, it becomes even easier to get more. The fact that it nominally costs $8 also means that you can do cool things with Peddler and Remodel or Apprentice.

5. Alchemist. No, this isn’t here just because of Chaos & Alchemy. I just like the card. This is the one Potion card that I really enjoy (with University getting an honorable mention). There’s something satisfying about lining up your next hand as being five Alchemists, knowing that you’ll basically get to start with a ten-card hand. It can be a little annoying to be on the receiving end of this, admittedly, but that’s lessened with the online version of the game.

4. Bishop. I like cards that let me get Estates out of my deck, especially if they reward me for doing so. I also like that Bishop can be used late in the game to turn expensive cards into points. Again, interesting choices equals fun. And this one even lets your opponent make an interesting choice, too!

3. King’s Court. There was a time when this card just annoyed me because my opponents would do ridiculous things with it and take super-long turns. Then I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. Doing ridiculous things is fun. I wouldn’t want every game to involve King’s Court, but I’m glad the card is out there to use from time to time.

2. Expand. Remodel gets an honorable mention here. Improving your deck is an early “aha” moment for most Dominion players, and Expand is a great way to do it. I also like that it goes from upgrading your money and Estates early in the game to changing your Markets into Provinces late in the game; this can make for some come-from-behind victory stories, which I always love.

1. City. I could put any of the Village variants in this spot (original Village, Mining Village, Worker’s Village, Farming Village, Walled Village, Border Village, even Native Village), but I have a weird thing for City. It starts off as an overpriced original Village, but then it gets really good… and then it gets ridiculous and ends the game. I’ll often find myself buying a City even if I know it’s not the “best” choice, just because the potential to draw eleventy zillion cards with tons of money and buys at the end of the game is so tempting. And it’s still a Village variant, which means you get to do more cool stuff on your turn.

So there you have it – my 10 most favorite Dominion cards. What are your favorites?

– Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

Dominion: Free online program, and my top 10 LEAST favorite cards

A few months ago, my brother pointed out an amazing web site where you can play Dominion online for free. It’s at If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend checking it out.

For those who haven’t played it, Dominion is a deck-building game by Donald X. Vaccarino that was first released in 2008 and that won the 2009 Spiel des Jahres (the German Game of the Year prize – the big prize in the board game world). Each player starts with an identical deck of 10 cards and spends their turns buying new cards, making their deck better and filled with more victory points. The player with the most victory points in their deck at the end of the game wins.

Dominion card image by Wim de Grom of BoardGameGeek

One of the major pains in the butt about playing Dominion is the constant reshuffling. At the end of each turn, you discard your hand and all of the cards you’ve played and draw five cards. If your deck doesn’t have enough cards to draw, you shuffle your discard pile to become your new deck. Since you start with 10 cards, you can see that you’ll start shuffling after your second turn, and it’s possible to have to shuffle every turn depending on the way you develop your deck.

The online version of the game handles all of this for you, which is fantastic. It also will match you up against opponents and let you have some say over the cards that will be available, or let it be totally random.

It also has a leaderboard, which is what has made the game addictive for me. The game uses a system similar to chess ratings or Magic: The Gathering ratings, but these are translated into levels. The highest levels are around 50. I’ve made it up to level 20 at my highest point, which is absurd; I do not think I’m really that good at Dominion.

Anyway, having played over 500 games of Dominion online, I thought I’d share my list of the 10 cards I least enjoy having on the table. These are the cards that I’m most likely to veto when they come up in a veto-mode game. I’ll point out that while some of these are Attack cards, implying that I prefer to play solitaire games (not really the case), a common thread is that I tend to hate cards that slow the game down. The beauty of the online game is that it’s quick – usually 15 minutes or less for a two-player game. Slowing it down makes me sad.

1. Possession. This card costs 6 plus a potion, so it’s not entering the game early. Still, when it does show up it’s just annoying. Possession lets you take your opponent’s next turn (after which your opponent does still get a turn). While it does keep you from entirely wrecking their deck, it still is frustrating to have to watch while your opponent controls your deck and you do nothing. I’ll always veto this above every other card.

2. Ambassador. At first, I had no problem with this card. It lets you get rid of two lousy cards from your hand and even give one of them to your opponent. I like cards that let you get bad stuff out of your deck. But the fact that you give the bad stuff to your opponent means that, often times, the decks don’t get better. You just keep passing the crap back and forth, which makes the game drag.

3. Ghost Ship. Getting Ghost Ship locked feels miserable. Your opponent makes you put two cards back on top of your deck every turn, and you never draw out of it. The game isn’t over yet, but you can’t make any progress. Blech.

4. Embargo. Not an attack, but a very weird card. You pick a pile of cards and make it less attractive for everyone to buy them. I’ve seen it played annoyingly, and I’ve seen it be completely ignored. I’d just as soon remove it from the game.

5. Sea Hag. I don’t mind Curses as part of game, but the Sea Hag is a pure Curse machine. She doesn’t draw you cards like the Witch or give you interesting choices like Torturer; she just gives you a Curse. And once the Curses are gone (fun fact: You’re only supposed to include 10 Curses in a two-player game) she’s dead weight in your deck. Blech again.

6. Saboteur. I almost don’t need to include this one on the list because it seems to be so reviled that most players shy away from it. Nevertheless, having your best cards trashed and replaced with something worse is not a fun experience. It’s also depressing to have a card that costs 5 to get but that’s a pure attack; it doesn’t help your own game at all, instead just hurting your opponent.

7. Duke. This is a card that’s not an attack in any way, but that still annoys me. I guess it’s because I’m used to the standard game of racing to collect Provinces (or Colonies when they’re around), and the Duke encourages you to go in a different direction – load up on Duchies and then Dukes. This means that you’ll have a greater number of Victory cards in your deck, which clogs it up and makes it feel less fun to play, even though the strategy can be quite effective.

8. Goons. I partly include this one because, like the Duke, it encourages a totally different win condition: Goon points. If Goons are on the table, you’ll ideally want to build a deck that lets you make multiple buys, preferably with multiple Goons in play. Buying a Copper for 3 victory points is a strange experience. The fact that it makes your opponent discard down to 3 cards is actually more interesting than annoying, somehow. I kind of wish this were two separate cards, one granting Goon points and one that makes your opponent discard to 3. The extra 2 money could go either way (although I guess it would just be Militia if it went with the discard… okay, I’m off track now).

9. Vineyard/Silk Road/Gardens: These are similar to the Duke, but they feel different to me somehow (and yes, I’m cheating by including three cards in one slot; it’s my list, so I can do that). I guess it’s because I’ve seen Duke be really good, but I’ve never seen anyone win on the back of these cards (okay, occasionally Gardens).

10. Navigator. I include this as a placeholder for cards that I completely ignore because they’re just not good enough. While there are rare occasions that cards like this can be useful, I typically ignore Navigator, Scout, Chancellor, Adventurer, Apothecary, Counting House, Coppersmith, etc.

Coming soon: My list of top 10 most favorite cards!

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

OnlineDM Mailbag #2: MapTool versus Fantasy Grounds

Welcome back to the exceedingly irregular OnlineDM Mailbag series! My first mailbag column came back in November 2011, and now in July 2012 I’m finally getting around to the second. I’d love to do more of these, so if you have a question you’d like me to answer on the blog, please send it to me at

Tobold writes:

Hi Michael!

I was looking into virtual tables for D&D 4th edition, not necessarily
to run a multiplayer game on, but for preparing my “real table”
campaign by playtesting combat encounters. I know you are a big
MapTools fan, but I’ve also seen several people claiming Fantasy
Grounds 2 was good. Did you ever try Fantasy Grounds 2? Do you have an
educated opinion of which program is better, MapTools or Fantasy
Grounds 2?

OnlineDM answers:

I do know that Fantasy Grounds 2 is quite popular, and from the people I’ve spoken to about it I believe that it’s a great tool. I haven’t personally used it, though, despite the research I’ve done into it.

My conclusion is that Fantasy Grounds is the “pretty” version of MapTool. The 3D dice rolling is very popular. The user interface is designed to look like you’re sitting at an actual wooden table. There are the equivalent of MapTool frameworks built for lots of games, including 4e.

However, I come down firmly on the side of MapTool for my own games. The biggest reason, frankly, is that it’s free. If you want to buy a Fantasy Grounds license that will let you run an unlimited number of games for anyone who wants to play, it’s going to cost you $150. For MapTool – nada. That’s a big deal to me; not that I can’t afford the $150, but MapTool does everything that FG2 does, so why would I pay for FG2?

I love the full customizability of MapTool. I can use it in a very bare-bones way, or I can go nuts with programming the fanciest stuff I can imagine. FG2 allows for this kind of development, too, but again, why pay for it?

Basically, I haven’t seen anything from FG2 that has ever tempted me to pay for it when MapTool is free. If MapTool had failings that FG2 addressed, I’d definitely give FG2 a shot. But it doesn’t have those failings, at least not in my games. I’m totally happy with MapTool and see no reason to pay to switch.

So, just to be clear, I think that Fantasy Grounds is a cool program, and I’m sure that lots of people will find it to be worthwhile. But for me, since I’m already very comfortable with MapTool, I wouldn’t want to pay the kind of money it would cost to use FG2 in the way I use MapTool (letting an unlimited number of people play in games that I host without having to pay a cent).

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

Lords of Waterdeep, and a break to build MapTool macros

I don’t usually go multiple weeks without a post here on Online Dungeon Master, so I thought I’d give my loyal fans an update.

I’ve been traveling for work a lot in the past  couple of weeks, which certainly interferes with blogging time. However, I HAVE been using the time for D&D stuff – specifically MapTool work. You may recall that I had built and shared some macros for quickly creating monster powers a few weeks ago. Well, I’ve been working on the same thing for PC powers in D&D 4e. It’s been tremendously time consuming to build the macros, but actually using them has been fast! (Aside from bug killing, that is.)

Three of the players in my long-running Friday night War of the Burning Sky campaign created new characters for last week’s game (one new player, two existing players switching to new characters), so I had the chance to put my new PC power creation macros through their paces. I’m pleased to say that they worked like a charm! No problems at all so far, and the ability to recharge a power with a button click has been awesome.

The next step is to add a character sheet frame, similar to what I’ve done for Marvel Heroic RPG. I’d love for my D&D players to be able to scroll through their powers in a custom frame rather than the buttons in the Selection window. I could include the rules text of the powers in a small font, links to recharge powers individually, some nice-looking tables for organization purposes, and so on. But for now I still have a little tweaking to do on the PC power creation, though I hope to start sharing pieces of it soon. It’s a complicated family of macros, and I have not yet figured out how to break it into blog-post-sized chunks.

I haven’t run Madness at Gardmore Abbey in the past few weeks, which is a bit of a bummer. I finally have that whole campaign prepped in MapTool, so I’m ready to go at a moment’s notice! But the timing hasn’t worked out with my players.

I was going to try to revive my ZEITGEIST campaign for today’s gaming session, but two players had to bow out at the last moment. The day wasn’t a total loss, though, since the rest of us used the time to play three games of Lords of Waterdeep!

I’ve played a total of five games of Lords of Waterdeep now, and I absolutely love it even though I haven’t won yet. LoW feels like a streamlined fantasy setting of Agricola, another game that I absolutely love. We haven’t discovered a “dominant strategy” yet, which is a good thing. I love the design of the box itself – there’s a great insert to organize all of the pieces. The rulebook is excellent, too – very clear, with a handy summary of the rules on the back cover. It’s tons of fun, and everyone who has played it so far has loved it. I highly recommend Lords of Waterdeep.

I’m going to be out of town on vacation starting next weekend, so I hope to get another post or two up before I go. But if not, don’t expect to see anything from me until late April.

-Michael the OnlineDM

Madness at Gardmore Abbey – MapTool campaign file

At long last, I have finished putting together my complete MapTool campaign file for the Madness at Gardmore Abbey adventure. Huzzah! You can download it right here.

I’m pretty sure this is the largest MapTool campaign file I’ve built to date (around 33 MB), and I’m quite happy with it. It has all of the maps, all of the monsters, all of the Deck of Many Things tokens, all of the traps. I’ve got a template token for PCs and a template token for monsters.

The campaign file consists of eight maps with encounters from the adventure, plus a ninth map that’s a holding pen for NPCs, the Deck tokens and some background stuff for the campaign (library token, templates). The maps are labeled according to the encounter numbers that are included on the map. For instance, the map named 01-04 Village has the encounter maps that take place in the outer part of Gardmore Village (Encounter 1: Main Gate; Encounter 3: Double Talk; Encounter 4: Ruined Garrison; plus the overland map of the abbey and the map of Winterhaven).

Because of the number of maps that are in this adventure, I’ve included Wolph42’s Bag of Tricks macros – specifically the Teleport Pads. To use these, you’ll need to click the “Back of Tricks Macros” button in the Campaign pane and then the Initialize Pads button. Once you’ve done that, you can drag tokens around the various maps by dragging them to the teleport pad corresponding to the map where you want them to go. The 01-04 Village map has the portals to every other map.

I hope that folks find this campaign file to be useful. I know that I’ve had a lot of fun with Madness at Gardmore Abbey so far, and I’m looking forward to running the rest of the adventure!

– Michael the OnlineDM

Madness at Gardmore Abbey: Session Five

Past sessions: Session OneSession TwoSession Three, Session Four

After a six-week break, I was finally able to gather again via MapTool with my wife, her brother, and his wife for our continuing adventure in Gardmore Abbey. At this point I pretty much have the entire adventure prepared in MapTool (still a few wrinkles to work on before it’s done, though), so I’m ready for unexpected twists.


The party’s current quest is to help Sir Oakley, paladin of Bahamut and scion of Gardmore Abbey, to recover three relics he needs in order to purify the main Temple of Bahamut in the abbey. Sora the dragonbornn swordmage, Homer the elf hunter and Stasi the half-elf warpriest are currently with Sir Oakley in the catacombs beneath the abbey.

At the end of the last session, they had finished a difficult battle against undead monstrosities and had found a magic fountain of Bahamut that granted some necrotic resistance. Some of them were talking about an extended rest, but they really weren’t ready for that yet (not enough adventuring). As they stood by the Font of Divine Health discussing their plans, they heard some footsteps from the stairs leading up to the Temple.

Homer crept over to the nearby door and tried to peer through the keyhole (sure, let’s say there’s a keyhole). His perception roll was terrible, though, so he could only tell that there were some humanoid-shaped creatures (more than two), that they were talking (but he couldn’t make out the language, let alone what they were saying) and that they were carrying a light source (but he couldn’t tell what it was). He decided to head around to the Memorial Chamber to spy from there, but he wasn’t very stealthy about it. As he got into the Memorial Chamber, he heard footsteps hurrying back up the stairs and saw the light around the corner getting dimmer.

The rest of the party came over to join Homer and they decided not to pursue the other people.

Though I didn’t tell them this, they had just had their first encounter with the rival adventuring party. I was supposed to have made it so that the Altar of Glory had already been cleared out by the other party when our heroes arrived, but I forgot. So instead I decided to have them come down, find the Altar of Glory already cleared by our heroes, and then skedaddle when the heroes detected them. It worked out really well.

After this, the group pressed on to a large chamber in which they could hear something heavy dragging along the floor in the darkness.

Encounter 27: Great Hall

Vadin Cartwright

Since they weren’t particularly stealthy in entering this chamber, Vadin Cartwright called out in a cold voice, “Ah, we have visitors. Get them, friends!” This was the first Villain encounter, where a bad guy was drawing cards from the Deck of Many Things. Vadin drew the Knight, which gave him a flanking buddy. I ruled that he could use a move action to move the Knight, who would otherwise have been useless since Vadin was so far from the action.

The basilisk was the first problem. Sir Oakley, Sora and Stasi were clustered together, ripe for the basislisk’s venomous gaze. Some vampire minions soon closed to melee and started grabbing PCs left and right. Homer did his traditional chicken impression, staying out of the room and shooting from the hallway. Vadin Cartwright himself waited until the end of the second round to make his move, coming in with a terrifying howl that stunned the three melee characters.

Since stunned can be such an un-fun condition, I house rule it a little differently at my table:

OnlineDM’s house rule for stunned: A character who is stunned is dazed and cannot attack.

I’ve experimented in the past with saying that a stunned character can’t take standard actions, but if someone wants to make a heal check or take second wind or total defense as their entire turn, I’m fine with that.

In this case, Stasi used her one action to grant Sir Oakley a saving throw and then made her own saving throw at the end of her turn, so the team was back in the game quickly. Vadin was a tough opponent to hit; I ended up lowering his AC from 26 to 24 (de-soldierifying him) just because I saw that this encounter could get grindy otherwise. I also left the Snaketongue Vampire out of the fight since we had only three PCs plus Oakley (who is a full participant in combat).

Vadin drew the Donjon card when he was down to two-thirds of his starting hit points. The villain effect on this card gives adjacent enemies a -2 penalty to attack rolls, which is exactly the kind of ability I hate. Anything that results in missed attacks slows the game down. So, I changed it to an aura that gave enemies vulnerable 2 to all damage. When the Sun card was drawn later, I had the same problem; as written, it gives the villain concealment, which would be another -2 to hit. I switched this to a fiery halo that dealt 5 fire damage to the first PC to hit Vadin in melee (which, combined with the vulnerability, was painful and fun).

During the battle, Homer eventually dashed over to the niche in the wall where Vadin was keeping a vial of a strange red liquid. This vial was glowing, and Homer couldn’t resist picking it up and taunting Vadin with it. This definitely got Vadin’s attention, which was a good thing since Oakley was unconscious and on two failed death saves and Stasi the healer had just joined him on the ground. My brother in law asked if Homer could still shoot his bow while holding the stopperless vial, and I said sure. He carefully lined up his shot and critically hit Vadin! But some of the goop in the vial crept out and onto his bow hand; that’s some bad news right there.

Once Vadin had turned his attention to Homer, Sora was able to perform first aid on Sir Oakley, letting him spend his second wind, and he then healed Stasi. With all four characters back in action, they were able to take Vadin down. Oakley had no surges left; Sora had two, I believe. It was an exhausting series of fights for the party, but they had acquired three more cards from the Deck of Many Things from Vadin. They also found a magic sword and some money in a compartment in the room. The sword is called Moonbane and is an ancestral item from the Markelhay family that currently rules Fallcrest. I decided to make it a +3 sword since it would otherwise be pretty unexciting (as written, it’s +2). Sora was happy to wield it. This also switches her from a broadsword to a longsword, so she should hit more often now.

The group then spent the rest of their day holed up in the secret chamber in the catacombs, with Stasi tending to Homer. The red liquid had left Homer infected with unpleasant boils up his left arm, and he lost a healing surge. Stasi’s healing skill wasn’t very useful for Homer, but at least he didn’t get any worse. After an extended rest in the chamber, Homer woke up feeling better (a good endurance check), and the disease was cured – although he carries the scars still.

Red goop diaries

Next question: What to do about the red liquid? Vadin had raved about Tharizdun, the Chained God, and the substance definitely seemed evil. Homer and Stasi decided to pour some holy water from the Font of Divine Health in the next room into the vial to see what would happen. What happened was that the water started bubbling over, and Homer threw the vial against the far wall. The red goo seemed to have emerged mostly unscathed, and it started creeping up the wall. Sora scooped it up in a bottle that previously held a healing potion, and stoppered the thing shut.

After some discussion, the group decided to tie the bottle to a rock, unstopper it and drop it in the fountain. The font started frothing over and turning a bit pinkish for a minute or two before calming down. The magical energy from the fountain has dissipated, but the overwhelming evil of the red stuff doesn’t feel strong any more.

From here, the adventurers explored the easternmost chamber of this floor They opened a door to reveal – a curtain of dragon scales obscuring the next room! But beyond that lay more sarcophagi – and undead monsters.

Encounter 26: Dragonslayers’ Tomb

A couple of ghasts emerged from the darkness, followed by a wraith surrounded by swirling winds (a vortex wraith). The curtain of dragon scales blocked Homer’s shot into the room, so Sora yanked it to the ground. The vortex wraith started off being dazed thanks to Homer’s disruptive shot, so I ruled that its aura wasn’t working at first. Once it started up, though, its automatic damage and pulling of PCs toward the wraith had a major effect on the battle. Fortunately Stasi and Sir Oakley were doing their best to keep dealing radiant damage, and Sora’s Moonbane sword was ignoring the wraith’s insubstantiality.

Meanwhile, a regular non-vortex wraith had phased through a wall to come after Homer in the hallway. He pulled out the Sun card and managed to activate it to give himself some concealment, but the wraith’s invisibility every time it got hit made it a tough fight.

Things only got worse when a second vortex wraith joined the battle in the third round. Sir Oakley finished off the first one, which promptly exploded, sending the party flying all over the place. The one remaining vortex wraith focused on Sora, bringing the dragonborn to the ground briefly before she was rescued by Stasi and the wraith was at last destroyed.

Once all of the monsters were dealt with, the explorers discovered one of the relics Sir Oakley had been seeking – the Bowl of Io’s Blood. Huzzah! A great victory was shared by all.

I’m still having a ton of fun with this adventure. Ad-libbing the reaction of the red goo to the holy water was lots of fun, and I plan to have Homer’s scars from the disease come into play in the future. The mystery of the other people investigating the catacombs has worked out beautifully. And with five cards in their possession, the group is much more interested in and aware of the Deck of Many Things and its power. Now that I have almost everything prepped in MapTool, I’m ready for whatever they want to do next.

– Michael the OnlineDM

Marvel Heroic RPG MapTool framework – minor update

Just a quick post to let anyone who’s using my Marvel Heroic RPG framework know that you’ll probably want to re-download it. @SenatorChatty discovered that my Build Character macro totally left off the part where it’s supposed to ask you to pick specialties for your hero! Oops.

It’s fixed now. Thanks Christopher!

Earlier post on this topic – click here.

– Michael the OnlineDM

Marvel Heroic RPG – MapTool Framework – Second Draft

The blog post about my first draft can be found here. You can download the new framework right here!

Over the weekend, I had some time to improve my MapTool framework for the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game. @MattHawke provided the key assistance: He showed me how to use custom frames to create a very, very useful character sheet.

Frames in MapTool include the Selection frame (which holds the buttons with various macros for each token), the Chat frame (which shows the output of the chat window and macros), and the Campaign frame (which holds macros common to everyone in the campaign). You can also create your own frame to hold whatever you want.

The syntax for doing this is surprisingly simple: You just use the frame roll option, followed by the name you want to give this new frame (held inside quotation marks inside parentheses). You then fill up your new frame, largely using HTML. Since I wanted to create a frame called DataFile (the Marvel RPG name for a character sheet), I used the following code:

[frame("DataFile") : {

From there, I used a bunch of HTML to fill the frame:

 <title>[r:getProperty("Name", MyToken)] ([r: getProperty("RealName", MyToken)])</title>

The other awesome MapTool function that @MattHawke showed me is the macroLink function. This lets you create a link to a macro within your HTML frame. The macroLink function lets you provide the linked text, the function that’s linked to, and the people to whom the output of the function should be displayed.

This allowed me to make the DataFile frame into the entire character interface. My goal is to make it so that players will never have to use the Selection window except at the very beginning of the session, to open the DataFile frame. After that, all of the stuff they can do can be done via links in the Data File itself.

I also decided it would make my life easier if I created a library token to hold all of the macros, and then simply call those macros from the Data File.

I know that other MapTool frameworks already do a lot of cool stuff with custom frames; I never really understood them until now. This is a much better way to use a character sheet, rather than looking at the pop-up window that MapTool uses by default. I’d love to re-work my D&D 4e framework to take advantage of this, but man, that would be a lot of work at this point! For now, the Marvel RPG fans are the ones who will benefit.

Please check out this updated framework. It’s light-years better than what I started with in the first draft. Feedback is invited!

– Note that you’ll need to set your stack size in MapTool to at least 4 in order for this framework to work properly. I personally set mine to 10. This is an option in the pop-up window that opens when MapTool first starts. The default stack size of 2 doesn’t cut it.

– Michael the Online Dungeon Master

Marvel Heroic RPG – MapTool framework – First draft

Among the big, exciting news in the world of role-playing games this past month was the release of the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game from Margaret Weis Productions. Cam Banks (@boymonster on Twitter) was the design lead, and by all accounts he and his team had done a fantastic job with the game.

I’m not a comic book guy myself, so I wasn’t really planning to do anything with the game. However, I was asked by a couple of folks on Twitter (@MattHawke and @SenatorChatty) if I would be willing to put together a Marvel RPG framework in MapTool so that they and others could play the game online.

Hmm, intriguing! This is the closest I’ve come so far to doing “commission work” in role playing games (although I’m not getting paid or anything like that).

One stumbling block was that I did not own the PDF for this exciting new game. Now, it was only $12.99 on Drive Through RPG at the moment (now marked down to $9.74 for DM’s Day through March 7), but still. If I wasn’t going to play the game myself, I didn’t really want to have to pay money to do commission work.

Inspiration struck, though: Why not ask the game’s creator if he’d like me to put this together as a service to the online Marvel RPG community, and in exchange he could provide me with a copy of the PDF. Brilliant! Cam, being the awesome guy that he is, agreed.

And thus, the OnlineDM framework for the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game was born. You can download it right here.

How does it work?

I’m calling this particular version 0.11. It’s not at all polished yet, but it does work. Some instructions:

– The framework was created in version 1.3.b86 of MapTool, but it should work in any later version, too.

– There are three tokens: One for a hero (which can also be used for villains), one for The Watcher, and one for the Scene.

– The Hero token has all kinds of properties that will pop-up on a mouse-over; the Watcher and Scene are more limited, naturally.

– To build a Hero token, click the Build Character macro on the token itself and enter the various characteristics

– To build a dice pool, either click the Build Dice Pool macro or click the individual add/remove dice buttons

– To roll the dice pool or clear it, click the button labeled as such

– There are buttons to add and remove plot points from tokens (or from selected tokens if the Watcher wants to award them from the campaign panel)

– There are also buttons to set Stress, Trauma, Assets and Complications

Click to enlarge to see the framework's features in action

Room for improvement

Admittedly, this is not very pretty yet, and there are things I’d definitely like to tweak.

– Following a suggestion from @MattHawke, I’d like to use a custom frame instead of the pop-up character sheet to hold all of these properties. It really needs more formatting.

– In the dice pool building macro, I’d like to have drop-downs to pick the actual Distinctions and Powers and so on, rather than just typing in a number of dice

– And I’m sure that play-testing will reveal lots of things that need improvement!

Still, this version should be functional for play. All you really need are the dice pool and doom pool macros.

So, try out the new game and try out my framework – and let me know what suggestions you have for improvements!

– Note that you’ll need to set your stack size in MapTool to at least 4 in order for this framework to work properly. I personally set mine to 10. This is an option in the pop-up window that opens when MapTool first starts. The default stack size of 2 doesn’t cut it.

– Michael the OnlineDM

Dragons and tentacles and flying sleds – oh my!

I don’t write about my long-running Friday night War of the Burning Sky online game nearly enough. It’s time to correct that.

Spoilers ahead for EN World’s War of the Burning Sky campaign – specifically, the end of Adventure Six.

This past Friday night, I gathered via MapTool and Skype with my group for our regular D&D game. The party was at 18th level, and they found themselves high up  in a castle with a raging firestorm above it (which they had held back with a magic item). The top level of this castle contained a rift to a fiery plane. They were here in search of a powerful magical torch.

“Katy, bar the door!”

During the last session, the party had fought a legion of fiery undead soldiers and explored the rest of the top level of this castle, which was reachable only via a hydraulic lift. As this session began, they had finished most of their exploration, when they heard the lift start to rise. The wizard/swordmage decided to cast Arcane Lock on the elevator door. It takes 10 minutes to cast. Uh oh!

So, I began by asking everyone what they were doing while the wizard/swordmage was casting her ritual. Some were standing guard near her, while others were loading treasure and people into this magical flying sled they had discovered. At this point, a little halfling NPC who had seemed rather dumb for the whole adventure popped into the room through a wall and started animating a dragon skeleton. And wouldn’t you know it, the whole “dumb little halfling” look was an illusion; the creature revealed itself to be a tentacled monster called Deception (a trillith).

Let’s roll initiative!

The fight began with most of the party in or near the cart in the room with the Dark Pyre, while a couple of them were through the banquet hall and down the hallway leading to the elevator doors. The animated dragon and the tentacle monster rather neatly cut the party in half.

Now, keep in mind that most of the party was entirely out of healing surges at this point, with no significant daily powers left. Their goal was escdape: Use the magical flying sled to burst through a window-wall in the Dark Pyre room and fly to safety, all before whatever ba guys were in the elevator made it to the top.

Our brave dwarf fighter threw himself at the dragon to try to keep it at bay to give the cut-off characters a chance to get to the sled. Unfortunately, the tentacle monster phased through some walls and started dominating the swordmage.

I used the house-ruled version of Dominated in this game that I’ve been playing with for a few weeks (with great results in my opinion:

OnlineDM’s Domination

  • When a character becomes dominated (save ends), it immediately takes an at-will action of the dominator’s choice (including a charge, a move, dropping to the ground – or of course an at-will attack power).
  • The character is dazed. On its turn, it gets to take one action of its own choice, just as with a normal daze.
  • Whenever the character fails its end-of-turn saving throw against the domination, it immediate takes an at-will action of the dominator’s choice.
  • If the domination is not “save ends”, then the dominated character immediately takes the at-will action and then is just dazed until the domination wears off.
This way, the dominated character still gets to do some good stuff on their own turn, but they’re also potentially wrecking their allies at the same time (which, you know, is fun). It worked out really well, in my opinion.

“I teleport out the window!”

Anyway, after some near-blinding of the bad guys, the party made its way to the cart, with the dragon and Deception hot on their heels. The dragon’s breath weapon then tried to dominate a whole bunch of folks, including our genasi pyromancer. As a free action, he used a power that would remove him from play and let him reappear within 10 squares at the beginning of his turn – still dominated. He reappeared OUTSIDE the big window that the sled was going to smash through; this left him 100 feet off the ground, above an invading, hostile army.

He used his one action (since he was dazed, thanks to my domination) to swap in Feather Fall, which saved him from death, but put him on the giant bear skull sculpture above the castle entrance. Some of the army members were eladrin, who teleported up onto the skull with him. The pyromancer quickly surrendered, realizing he was in a bad spot.

Meanwhile, back up in the castle, the party expended tremendous effort to get the warlock’s hell hound pet out of the clutches of the tentacled Deception and into the sled. The swordmage/wizard Thunderwaved the monsters away and the dwarf rushed out of the cart, hauled the hound onto his shoulders (burning himself in the process) and rushed back in.

Our warlock hit the gas on the magical flying sled and smashed through the window-wall. Whee!

Someone asked, “Hey, does smashing through the wall cause rubble to fall down on the eladrin who’ve captured our pyromancer?”

Excellent idea! The rubble hit the pyromancer as well, and the sled spiraled down to a stop next to the captive. Some fast talking by the swordmage convinced the eladrin to hand over the badly-wounded genasi.

“Not without my wyvern!”

Only one problem remained: The party had left the dwarf’s wyvern mount tied up outside the castle when they came in, and poor Wendy was now trapped in a cage by the army. I decided this army was cruel, so I had a half-orc deal a killing blow to the wyvern, right in plain sight.

The PCs asked if they could fly the sled so that it would smash into the half-orc – oh heck yes! The evil soldier went flying off the edge of the cliff on which the castle was situated, plummeting to his death 1,000 feet below.


With the dragon in pursuit, it seemed clear that it was time to take off and fly away… but our fighter couldn’t just leave his poor mount’s corpse to the evil invaders, so he grabbed onto the cage.

“Where did that thing come from?”

No problem! But now the sled was flying at half speed, and the dragon was gaining on them. To make matters worse, it turned out that the tentacle monster had used a power when the sled was back in the castle that let him invisibly teleport into their midst on the sled, leaving an illusory duplicate of himself behind. And now that the sled was flying away with a huge cage full of wyvern body dangling behind it, a bunch of tentacles came out of nowhere and started grabbing the party.

Our swordmage decided to turn once again to Thunderwave, shoving the tentacled beast out of the sled – but oh crap, that thing can fly!

There was only one thing to do, with the tentacled Deception bearing down and the dragon coming on from a distance: Our fighter tossed the wyvern cage at Deception, sending the thing plummeting to its doom.

No longer weighed down by the cage, the sled was able to fly away (with our warlock keeping her pet outside of the sled itself so that it didn’t burn the whole party to death), seeking safety, an extended rest, and a level up to 19.

Whew! Have I mentioned that my players are awesome? Thanks everyone!

-Michael the OnlineDM