A player character turns to the dark side

I had an interesting session in the online D&D 4th Edition game I was running this evening. This is my main online campaign of the War of the Burning Sky that I’ve been running using MapTool and Skype most Friday nights since last July. It’s a great group of people, and tonight we had the whole group – the original five players plus the two new players we added over time when some of the original folks were unavailable.

The interesting part of the session was about a character who really didn’t get to do much during the session tonight. Fudrick the Gnome started off the campaign as a Shaman, but it became clear to Fudrick’s player at some point that Fudrick was really a darker character. So, when we hit someplace around level 9 and were reshuffling the lineup of players, I offered everyone the chance to significantly change their characters if they wished, and Fudrick decided to become a dark pact Warlock.

This was fine. Fudrick wasn’t evil exactly, but perhaps a bit more ethically flexible than the rest of the party. Hilarity ensued when the two new characters in the campaign were both lawful good and had to put up with Fudrick.

Fast forward to our previous session. The party was in a big city and had an audience with the king, after which they were taunted by the ambassador from their enemy country. Fudrick decided that he wanted to try to infiltrate the embassy from this enemy country, Ragesia, so he paid them a visit. No one was home when he first knocked, but he came back later, alone, and was invited inside.

He convinced the Ragesian ambassador that he wanted to switch sides, and so the ambassador had him go through some dark initiation rituals involving blood and chanting and so on (I think I did a pretty good job of improvising that part). He was welcomed into the fold and went to bed in the embassy.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party was attacked in their inn during the night by non-Ragesians and were more or less forced to flee the city. They made a rescue mission first, though – go get Fudrick. Some awesome stealth on the part of the naturally sneaky tiefling and naturally not-so-sneaky minotaur led the two of them to Fudrick’s room. They woke Fudrick up and got his stuff and started heading downstairs… whereupon Fudrick flubbed a Stealth check badly.

The three of them heard the bad guys stirring upstairs and decided to run. But then Fudrick decided to try a bluff – he wanted the bad guys to think he was on their side and chasing off intruders, so he yelled out that there were intruders in the house and took a shot at the tiefling and minotaur, intentionally missing – but bluffing well enough that the tiefling and minotaur (and the bad guys) believed he was really trying to kill them. They left, and the party left the city, with Fudrick in the welcoming arms of the bad guys. He’s an NPC now.

To be clear, I’m not punishing Fudrick’s player or anything like that. I talked to him between sessions to see how he wanted things to go, and he basically wanted to go with the flow. It was his decision during this session to bluff the bad guys into thinking he was still with them, having his allies run away. And he’s not necessarily a lost cause, either – after all, he’s ostensibly a double agent. But there’s that ritual and oath that he underwent…

In the end, Fudrick’s player will be creating another character to join the party, and Fudrick has the potential to become an interesting villain (with his alter ego provided by an accidental typo from another player, FUDKIRC). I didn’t expect the campaign to go in quite this direction, but I’m completely fine with it.

Have you had any experiences with PCs joining the bad guys? How did you handle it when it came up?

Add a new player, and the adventure moves on

As I mentioned in my last post, we recently bade farewell to one of the five players who had been in our online War of the Burning Sky campaign since its inception last summer. The player behind Thorfin the dwarven fighter was moving to a time zone that would make it impossible for him to continue with the group, so we needed to find a new addition.

I advertised the open spot here on the blog and over on EN World (where the group originally started). I quickly had one player express interest from the EN World post. He asked about the campaign and the rest of the party, and he soon created a new human fighter, Dorian, complete with a back story that would fit into the game world. He was the first to respond and therefore would have first crack at joining our group. We had to take the next Friday off as I was traveling for work, but we agreed that Dorian could join up for our game last night.

In the mean time, I was contacted by three other people. One was not a good fit, and the other two are on the “waiting list” effectively.

I’m happy to say, though, that it looks like Dorian the human fighter will work out just fine. We got together yesterday evening for our usual game, with three of the four pre-existing characters plus Dorian. I sent the party on a bit of a side quest, just in case things didn’t work out – I didn’t want things to be too plot-heavy if the character who had joined wouldn’t be there in the future.

We did start with some role-playing. The party was invited to try out for an acting troupe. One was flat-out rejected. One was accepted for a small role. One made it onto the stage crew. And an NPC that had been traveling with the party for a little while won a spot in a lead role (she’ll be leaving the party now).

After the audition, the group was contacted by an NPC who had previously traveled with the party. She had taken up with a half-elf woman who was trying to smooth over religious strife among various groups of refugees by starting a pan-theistic temple. The written adventure lays out a skill challenge to talk to the various religious groups to get them to agree to put aside their differences, and we still may run that (though this is a group of non-religious PCs – no divine characters – so I’m guessing we’ll skip it). However, the adventure doesn’t talk about a physical temple building, so I saw an opportunity for a side quest.

The PCs were asked to rid this forgotten temple of the undead monsters who had taken up refuge there. Straightforward battle premise – destroy the undead. I used a map I found online (I was in a hurry) and populated it with a variety of monsters. One monster I chose was the ghast – a monster the party had fought many levels ago, and I was delighted to see them remember the beast with dread.

Since this would be a two-combat day, I ramped up the challenge level, and I think I hit it just about right. The first fight left one PC unconscious at one point and everybody bloodied. The second was less brutal but more fun (the skeleton lord they fought was surprisingly fun to play).

So, it looks like our table is full once more – huzzah! Now I just have to figure out how to handle the fact that the leader in the party wants to switch to playing a striker…

Meet the Monster Vault solo

I’m writing this post at the urging of two of the players in my Friday night online game in the War of the Burning Sky campaign. That’s unusual – I’ve never had someone tell me, “I can’t wait to see what you write on your blog about this!” but that’s exactly what happened this evening.

Well, I hate to disappoint my players – and I loved the solo I used from the Monster Vault tonight, so I thought I’d share my thoughts.

Lots of people have written elsewhere that solo monsters from the Monster Vault are vicious and exciting, and I have to say that I agree. My players had a run-in with a slightly modified Young Blue Dragon – a level 6 solo artillery creature. Since my party consisted of four level 8 characters, I nudged the dragon up toward level 7 (raising the defenses and attacks by a point or two, as I saw appropriate). I left its hit points alone, though. Also, since the encounter with the dragon was taking place in a semi-submerged temple, I gave it a swim speed equal to its fly speed.

I also threw two Stormlizards (level 9 brutes) into the mix. The encounter began with the party seeing the Stormlizards coming out of a hole in the temple floor. The dragon was sleeping farther down in the hole, and I intentionally gave it an initiative at the bottom of the first round. The Stormlizards emerged, the PCs set up their strategy and positioning for fighting them…

And then the dragon emerged.

This was the first solo my party has faced, and they’re at level 8 now. I wanted this to be special, and it was. The things that I especially loved about this monster were:

  • It gets an instinctive action at 10 plus its initiative roll, which lets it move its speed and make an area burst 2 attack. If it’s dazed or stunned and can’t make that attack, it instead shakes off the condition.
  • Both its breath weapon and its at-will lightning burst (area burst 2) deal lots of damage on a hit and half damage on a miss. They also target reflex, which was a scary surprise for my AC-heavy defenders.
  • When it becomes bloodied, it becomes scarier. It recharges and uses its breath weapon, and it develops an aura that deals lightning damage to anyone who ends their turn in the aura. Nasty.

The fight would have been easier if the dwarf fighter in the party would have been able to get to the dragon and mark it earlier, but he was stuck dealing with the Stormlizards. This initially left just our warlock and our shaman to face the dragon, and they were quickly bloodied.

I had a few simple terrain features in this encounter as well. I hand-waved the difficult terrain for the waist-deep water in the chamber – I didn’t want everyone moving at half speed throughout the battle. I included an altar that PCs could climb on for an attack bonus. I also had the dragon’s chamber include a magic fountain, which had long since stopped running, that contained two doses of magic water that would fully restore HP and shake off any negative conditions. My PCs used up both doses during the battle (and ironically didn’t get attacked again after that).

This was probably the most challenging fight my party has faced in eight full levels of play, and I think we all enjoyed it. The dragon fought hard – he was out to kill the PCs – but the heroes fought back harder. Winning was in doubt right until the end, and the party definitely considered fleeing. Victory was hard-earned and sweet.

In short, I really like my experiences with Monster Vault solos so far.

Post Script – farewell Thorfin!

This was the last session for the player who runs Thorfin, our dwarf fighter. He’s taking a job on the other side of the world that’s going to make it impossible for his schedule to line up with the rest of the gang for gaming, and we’re all sad to see him go. I tried to send him out in a blaze of glory by killing Thorfin off tonight, but the heroes wouldn’t be denied. Thorfin lives to fight another day, just in case our friend returns in the future.

And on that note, we now have an opening for one more player in our Friday night MapTool game in War of the Burning Sky. We could really use another defender. If you’re interested in joining the game, drop me a line at onlinedungeonmaster@gmail.com, or leave a comment below.

Finishing the Fire Forest (maps included)

Last night, my weekly online D&D 4e party finished the Fire Forest adventure, which is the second adventure in the War of the Burning Sky Series.  We only had four of the five players (sorry you couldn’t make it, Jaks!) but we played on for the climactic final encounters.


I haven’t written about each week of this adventure as I had the previous one, so I thought it would be good to recap our experiences.  The Fire Forest starts off with a couple of encounters with creatures of the forest that have been affected by the everlasting flames.  Amusingly, the very first encounter has two different fiery creatures fighting one another… with no way to hurt each other!  All of their attacks deal fire damage, and they’re immune to fire.  Oops.  Anyway, these encounters are good for giving the party a flavor of the Fire Forest, but that’s about all.

A devil, hired by the empire that is chasing the party, pops up a few times to harass and taunt the players before disappearing.  He ended up be an interesting little NPC to play with, but the party did finally get a shot to finish him off (I gave him a 50/50 shot of fighting for one more round or teleporting away – the dice said that he chose to fight, and die).The party met a dragonborn sorcerer who was researching the forest fire and attempting a ritual to put out the fire in a dryad’s grove.  The party went into some caverns to collect some mushrooms and flint that the sorcerer needed for the ritual and ended up fighting some fungus creatures.  They also found some treasures here, including a magical badge on the body of an eladrin knight.  There was a book that was discovered and discarded by the none-too-intellectual shaman in the party (I was amused by this later when we talked about it out of character).  The party helped the sorcerer put out the burning grove, though he was swallowed by the earth and surrounded by more fungus creatures that the adventurers went down to fight off.  This was a combined combat encounter and skill challenge, and I think it went pretty well.

Leaving the sorcerer to recuperate from his wounds, the party continued deeper into the forest and was contacted by a creature calling itself Indomitability, asking the party to silence some singing elves at a lake whose song was keeping him trapped in the forest.  The party agreed to help the creature (sort of).

Next up was a bridge crossing a wide river, with a tower in the middle of the bridge.  A magical mace trap made it hard to get into the tower, but the PCs found a way and discovered some background information about the forest in a journal, plus some mysterious seeds.

Map of the stone bridge with the tower - gridded

Gridless version of the stone bridge with tower map


On the far side of the bridge lay a ruined elf village, crawling with more fiery forest creatures.  This was another forgettable battle that, in retrospect, I probably should have skipped over.  The village did reveal some flavorful little treasures, such as a necklace of ivory leaves that would let the wearer understand and speak Elvish – but only Elvish.  Cute.

Near the village was a shrine in the shape of a willow tree, with a ghast and some skeletons living around it.  After fighting off the ghast, the party met an eladrin spirit in the shrine and finally was able to put together more of the back story of the Fire Forest.  This led them to head down the river toward the village of the seela (the magical winged elves of the forest).  It was on this journey that they encountered and finished off the devil.  They also found one of the winged elves back at the bridge, being attacked by some of the other elves.  Curiouser and curiouser.

Tiljann, the seela

At the seela village, the party did some investigating and learned about the main dryad of the forest, Timbre, who had walled herself off in her grove.  They also learned of the lake nymph, Gwenvere, who had transformed into a hag and had stolen a relic of the elf hero who had been Timbre’s love.  The party found the hag and recovered the relic, which they used to get close to the dryad.  A skill challenge with the dryad ensued, which the party succeeded on, and she agreed to help them.

Gwenvere, the lake hag

Timbre, the Fire Forest dryad

This brought us to the final session, wherein the party needed to head to the bottom of a lake to fight the creature Indomitability, trapped in the form of a flaming stag.  They rowed out in two boats and were beset by aquatic ogres. The ogres succeeded in sinking one boat, but the party was able to get back to shore.

After a short rest on shore, three of the party members piled into one boat, one swam, and one walked along the lake bed with the help of some magic boots.  The boot-wearer was the one to draw the sword out of fiery stag, which allowed Indomitability to be fought.  The interesting thing here is that the boot-wearer is a hybrid swordmage-wizard and followed up drawing the sword with casting a Web to try to immobilize the beast on the lake bed.  Unfortunately, the party’s fighter was also caught in the Web.


Indomitability tossed the fighter deeper into the web and then used a power that would leave the fighter dominated if he failed a saving throw- which he did.  The fighter failed, I believe, six saves in a row to continually be dominated, all while the battle was moving toward shore and the fighter was left with nothing interesting to do, even against his allies.  I felt bad about the way that turned out.

Once the stag got to shore, it started trampling all over the place, leaving fire in its wake.  It took a lot of opportunity attacks but dealt a lot of damage in the process, killing some of the seela.  I felt good about the range of the battle – it wasn’t held all in one little area.  I also used some of the Monster Vault dragon rules for Indomitability, giving him an extra attack at 10+his initiative roll and making it easier for him to shake off conditions that would leave him helpless.  Those made him much more interesting as a solo.

In the end, the fighter in the party did shake off the domination and got to the battle just in time to deal the killing blow.  That was quite satisfying for all concerned!

Now the party is finally able to leave the Fire Forest and continue on its quest southward, toward the town of Seaquen.  I believe we’ve now played either 14 or 15 sessions together.  I’m so happy with this online game – I’ve got a great group of players.

Map – Collapsing Bridge

I’ve realized that people seem to love maps.  And I suppose that makes sense.  Those of us who play D&D online, for instance, love being able to pick up a map and load it into our game and go.

I tend to draw most of my maps myself in MapTool.  Now, I’m no great artist, but MapTool makes it pretty easy to draw simple maps that look pretty good.  Given that the online D&D community seems to love maps, it only makes sense that I should start sharing these on my blog.

Today, I’ll share a map from the War of the Burning Sky’s second adventure, the Fire Forest.  This particular map is of a collapsing bridge.  The party encounters this bridge over a deep gorge (60 feet deep) with the remains of the wagon at the bottom of the gorge.  Flaming brush surrounds the area off the road, and more flaming brush lines the bottom of the canyon.  A section of the bridge has crumbled away.

I’ve included both a no-grid and a square grid version of the map.  Which version is more useful for you?  Should I also include a PDF from PosteRazor that would let you print out and tape together the map for use at a physical table?

Please let me know if you want me to keep posting maps – I’ve got lots of them!

Starting my first in-person campaign

The day has come: I’m about to serve as dungeon master for an ongoing, in-person campaign.  I’ve been running my online campaign through the War of the Burning Sky via MapTool and Skype for nine sessions over the past few months, and it’s gone very well.  I’ve also run one-shot Living Forgotten Realms games in-person at my local store and at TactiCon.

This is different.  This is in-person and ongoing, playing with people I already know (including my wife).  We’ve played two short campaigns with this same group of people.  Nate ran the first one, which took our characters halfway through third level in a largely home-brew campaign inspired by some published stuff.  That one ended when my character died and everyone else just felt like trying new characters and a new person wanted to DM.

The second campaign was run by Bree (Nate’s wife) and consisted of several of the Chaos Scar adventures.  That took our characters from first up to third level as well.  We wrapped that one up this past Saturday, with Bree deciding to step down as DM because of her other time commitments.  I had previously offered to try my hand at running the game if she didn’t have time, and she took me up on the offer.

So, here I am.  I will definitely be using my projector rig and MapTool to run the games.  I love the rig, and I love MapTool.  The next question is, what campaign will I run?

I’m considering running War of the Burning Sky (WotBS) since I’m already familiar with it and I have lots of maps and monsters already built in MapTool (meaning easier prep for me).  The complicating factor there is that this new campaign is going to start with the characters at level 5, and WotBS starts at level 1.  This gives me a few options.

  • Drop them in the middle of the second adventure, when WotBS assumes characters are around level 5, hand-waving the back story
  • Start them at the beginning of WotBS but skip most of the encounters from the first adventure, increasing the difficulty of those encounters that I do run to be fun for fifth-level characters, eventually getting synched up with level and adventure sometime around level 6.
  • Run something else.

I definitely don’t like the first option – dropping them in the middle of the story.  That just feels wrong.  I’m torn between the second and third options.  The second option wouldn’t be too hard.  I already have maps for the encounters I want to run, and I would just have to create new monsters (or level up the ones that I have).  I can do that… but I’m trying to decide how much fun that would be.  I’d really like the in-person campaign to be more free-form than that.

I could run a different published adventure.  More Chaos Scar?  Maybe Scales of War?  Those leave me feeling a little cold, frankly.  Tomb of Horrors is interesting to me, but that’s for higher-level characters (hey, this group will level up eventually…).

If I don’t go with WotBS, I think I’m going full-on homebrew.  I mentioned a few months ago that I discovered a complete adventure I had written (but never run) when I first tried D&D Third Edition a long time ago.  It’s actually pretty well fleshed out with nice maps and everything, and I could probably use it for this game.  I’d have to pick completely different monsters, of course, not just because this is a Fourth Edition game but also because I wrote the adventure for first-level characters.  I can do that, though.  That one adventure would probably last a couple of sessions, which would give me time to start planning ahead.

The more I think about it, the more I’m feeling like the homebrew option will be more fun.  Of course, it will be a lot more work, too!  What do you think?  Go with what I know?  Or go with the treasure from the past?

Simultaneous skill / combat encounter: Burning grove

In the second part of my online party’s recent session (part 1 is here), they attempted to help a dragonborn sorcerer remove the magical fire from a dryad’s grove.  This was mainly a skill challenge, with some combat thrown in.
I decided to use lots of color when drawing the map in MapTool, and I’m happy with how it turned out.  My only minor regret is that I used a lot of objects rather than just drawing on the map (the trees and flames are objects, for instance) and that meant a long load time for my players (about 3 minutes for some of them).  Lesson learned: Don’t overload MapTool with too many objects (unless you don’t mind some loading time for the party, which might not be a big deal).  Also, given the way the encounter played out, I would want to move the dryad and her children from the far left side of the map to a spot that’s a bit closer to the center.

When the encounter began, the sorcerer went to the altar in the middle of the grove to begin the ritual.  The players gathered around him, and those with Arcana training attempted to assist.  After a couple of minutes the ritual started to have an effect.  The burning grass died down, and the dryad screamed and started running toward the lake in the lower right corner.  A couple of players went over to assist her and her children, but most stayed near the altar.

Shortly after that, catastrophe struck.  A rift opened near the far left side of the map, separating the children from their now-running mother.  The four big trees surrounding the altar came to life, with vines attacking the players and force barriers going between each pair of trees.  And then the ground directly beneath the altar collapsed, casting the sorcerer down into a cave below.

It was clear to the players that the first priority was rescuing the children – the sorcerer seemed to be unconscious but alive at the bottom of the cave below.  The characters outside the force barriers started to use skills to get to the children and calm them down while those inside started working on the trees.  I was curious to see what they would try, and they ended up using skill checks to try to disable the magic of the angry trees.  Nature and Arcana eventually worked (hard DCs), and a crit on the third tree disabled both it and the fourth one.

Now the whole party was trying to help the children, and they did all right (barely).  Since we were in initiative order, it was a little awkward having the children so far out to the left, since players used their turns double running just to get partway over to them, and then had to do lots of running to get back to the lake.  It was awkward, but I hand-waved some of the distance in the end.

Two of the characters felt like there wasn’t much they could do to help the children, so they started working on rescuing the fallen sorcerer.  One set up pitons and a rope in the ground (good dungeoneering check) and then tied the rope to herself while the other held the rope and lowered her down.  She made it okay, tied the rope to the sorcerer and then moved into hiding (she’s a tiefling warlock who recently multiclassed to rogue).  Unfortunately, as the other character began pulling the sorcerer up, some fungus creatures came out of the darkness and cut the rope.

My favorite part: This is where we ended the session.  I love ending on a cliffhanger. The dryad children have been rescued (though the mother died in the effort), but now the warlock is alone in the lower cave with just the unconscious sorcerer for company and some fungus creatures coming out of the darkness.  I’ve already changed this next encounter up from the published version, and I’m excited to try it out next week!

Fungus and determined fighters

My online party ventured into its ninth session in the War of the Burning Sky campaign last night.  This session involved two skill challenges and really just one combat (though as you’ll see the dedicated fighter in the party tried to stretch that one out).

Deep in an eternally-burning forest, the party comes across a dragonborn sorceror who is studying the magical fire and trying to develop a ritual to put it out.  He asks the adventurers to go to a nearby cave to get reagents for the ritual – mushrooms and flint.

Upon entering the cave, the party is greeted by screeching, howling, screaming noises coming from the small chamber at the bottom left corner of the map.  The fighter nervously tiptoes in and finds that it’s coming from a small hole in a corner.  There’s a gem in the hole, and the fighter breaks a bone off a nearby skeleton and pokes the gem.  Nothing happens.  Eventually the swordmage detects magic and figures out that it’s an Eye of Alarm ritual that’s never been deactivated, so she takes the gem and throws it out of the cave, causing the noise to stop.  Cool roleplaying here.

  • DM Lesson: When there’s a very loud noise, play it up.  Make the characters think about it.  Can they communicate effectively?  Might it temporarily deafen them?

The mushrooms were clearly down in the chamber below, so three members of the party took the downward-sloping bridge at the top of the map while the others just climbed down.  The mushroom and flint hunt was on, and cooperation was the word of the day as the party worked together to try to get the needed reagents.  They noticed a misty tunnel in the upper left corner that seemed to get more active whenever they tried and failed to get the reagents.  The skill challenge ultimately failed, which meant that monsters (fungus creatures) came out of the misty tunnel in a surprise round.

This got a little bit interesting for me as a DM.  My players have generally mowed down most unmodified battles, so I had taken to upping the difficulty of most combat encounters.  I did that here, too, adding a couple of monsters.  After one round, I realized that this battle was way too tough – players were getting badly bloodied, and the monsters were barely scratched (they can essentially share hit points by shifting damage taken to one another).  I made some modifications on the fly:

  • I intentionally “forgot” to use the regeneration ability that several of the bad guys had
  • I nearly halved all of their hit points

This made for a kind of weird battle in the end.  Initially the monsters were nearly indestructable because of their high HP and their damage splitting ability.  Once I lowered the HP (and decided not to use the regeneration), they all dropped in a hurry.  Clearly my on-the-fly adjustments need some work!  But the players seemed to have fun bashing the mushrooms into oblivion, so all’s well that ends well.

The best part was the end of the battle, when all of the monsters were dead.  Before taking even a short rest, the fighter wanted to explore the misty cave.  Okay, that’s his call.  He walks into total concealment and sees some orbs that appear to be the source of the mist.  He almost stumbles into a pit (heavy mist obscured it) but makes the athletics check to catch himself.  He finds a ledge that he can walk around, and while standing on it gets knocked into the pit by attacks from mushroom creatures that he can’t see.  The swordmage then charges in to help, fails her athletics check and falls into the pit on top of the fighter.

  • DM Lesson: When one character falls on top of another, split the falling damage between the two of them (it seemed like fun).

So we have our two defenders prone at the bottom of a pit, with mushroom creatures on the far side attacking them.  The creatures have made it clear that they simply don’t want any intruders and that retreat is an option.  But no, the defenders start attacking (ineffectually) from the pit.  Our druid came in to help, lowering a rope to the pit-bound PCs, and only very reluctantly did they decide to climb out and rest.

After the short rest… the fighter charged back in!  He was immediately attacked at range by things he couldn’t see, and only when it became clear that the rest of the party was not helping did he finally back out.  Honestly, I see this as great roleplaying – that fighter is stubborn and refuses to back away from a fight!

Another great bit of roleplaying came when our shaman discovered an old book while searching for flint.  He flipped through it a little bit and then discarded it on the ground, since he’s not much of a book kind of guy.  He never mentioned it to the rest of the party, and it was only at the end of the session that we realized the book was still lying on the ground in the mushroom cave.  Heh.  Good thing it’s not too important!

The second skill challenge, involving the ritual to extinguish a dryad’s burning grove, will be covered in the next post.

MapTool macros: Tracking encounter/daily powers

Update 10/7/2010: I’ve written another post that expands and improves on this one.

Update 3/29/2011: I’ve updated the daily properties from D1-D10 to Daily1-Daily15.

Over the past few weeks as I’ve continued running my online campaign through the War of the Burning Sky saga, I’ve made some tweaks to my MapTool framework.  Part of this has been driven by one of my players, who has also been using MapTool in her own game and has had some good ideas for improving the player character tokens.

Specifically, she suggested adding buttons for every character ability, even if it didn’t involve rolling dice, just so the players would remember that those abilities existed.  She also added some notes to her character sheet to remind her of things like her damage resistance and so on.  Good thinking!  I plan to do this for the rest of the PC tokens.

I’ve starting making some other changes as well.  I’ve added a Saving Throw button for each character.  Yes, it’s generally just a d20 roll and we do have buttons for that, but one character has an artifact that gives him a +2 bonus to saving throws, so I figured we might as well have a button that includes any modifiers to saves.

I’ve added a set of buttons for ability checks (Strength check, Dexterity check, etc.).  These don’t come up as often as skill checks, but they do come up enough to make it worthwhile to add macros for them.

I’ve also decided that it’s time to code up the tracking of encounter and daily powers.  I’d love it if I had an easy way for a character to tell at a glance which powers hadn’t been used yet, but failing that I can at least add logic to let the player know, “Sorry, you’ve already used that power.”  Here’s how I’ve done it:

  • I’ve added properties E1 through E15 for each character (I can add more later if PCs have more than 15 encounter powers).  These have default values of 1.
  • I’ve also added Daily1 through Daily15 for dailies (default of 1) and S1 through S3 (default value of 2) for special twice-per-encounter powers (Healing Word, etc.).
  • Note that you can’t use D1, D2, etc. because MapTool will recognize those as dice rolls (like d6 and d20).
  • In each encounter/daily/special power macro I’ve added a bit of code that looks something like this:

[h, if(E1==0), CODE:
{[assert(1==0,add(“This power has already been expended.”),0)]
};{[h: E1=0]}

That code checks to see if the property for that power has been expended (equal to zero) and if so uses the ASSERT function with a false condition (1==0) to display a message and exit the macro.  If it hasn’t been expended, it sets the property to 0 (or reduces it by 1 in the case of twice-per-encounter powers).  Note that each encounter power uses a different property (E1, E2, etc.).

Finally, I’ve created a Short Rest macro that resets all of the E and S properties back to their default values.  I plan to eventually add a function to the Short Rest macro that lets the player specify how many surges they want to spend and restores that many hit points, but one thing at a time.  I’ll need to add an Extended Rest macro at some point as well, refreshing dailies, healing surges, etc.

What macros am I missing here?  Are there things that I should be adding for my PCs?  I’m feeling pretty good about the direction my campaign is going, and I’m having a great time with it so far!

War of the Burning Sky Session 8

My online group gathered for its eighth session in the War of the Burning Sky campaign yesterday evening.  Eight sessions for a group of strangers spread across the US plus one person in London – that’s pretty impressive.  I honestly expected when I first gathered folks for an online campaign that people would flake out, drop out, not show up, etc.  But my players are flat-out awesome, and I love them.

The session began with the party having recently entered the Fire Forest.  They had easily defeated some fiery bats, and now found themselves faced with a precarious-looking bridge.The bridge had clearly collapsed in one area, with the wreckage of a wagon visible in the canyon 60 feet below.
None of the players had enough Dungeoneering skill to identify the weak points, so Fudrick the gnome shaman started heading across.  He soon learned that if all of the weak points were stepped on and the monsters living beneath the bridge were revealed, it would look like this:

Fudrick’s reflexes weren’t quick enough to jump out of the way of the collapsing stones, and he fell 60 feet, taking 33 damage. His maximum hit points were only 37.  Ouch.

The bat swarms sleeping under the bridge were alerted by this, but I granted everyone in the party a full round of initiative before adding the bats.  Some of the characters started working together to tie two ropes together to lower to poor Fudrick.  Others moved forward to attack.  Jaks, the minotaur druid, used perception to identify two more fragile squares.  However, on the next round when the swarms moved in, Jaks hit with an attack that let him shift – and he shifted right onto one of those weakened squares!  Down he went, falling unconscious.

It looked grim for a while, but the healers in the party got Jaks up on his feet and out of the canyon while the defenders handled the swarms.  It made for a pretty exciting fight!

Next, the party was confronted by a hell hound who dropped a bone at their feet.  The bone had a message saying that they should “leave the case” (a case of military secrets they were trying to get through the forest) and take the bone if they wanted to escape with their lives.  They quickly discovered a loophole – the message didn’t say the plans had to be IN the case!  This let them avoid combat with the hell hound and his fiery wolf friends and also gave them some quest XP to boot – not bad!After that, the party was confronted by the devil who had written the message on the bone.  He wasn’t happy about the empty case and he attacked, but the PCs beat him up easily before he teleported away.

We ended the session after the gang met a dragonborn sorceror who was researching the magic of the fire forest and agreed to help him collect some mushrooms so that he could complete a ritual to quench the fire in a nearby glade with a dryad.  I hadn’t prepared the next encounter area, so we called it a night a little early.

I definitely am enjoying the fire forest adventure in this campaign.  It allows for a lot of branching and meaningful player decisions.  Most of those choices will come later, but there are some even now.  It helps to have such a great group of players!