Preview: Bog Oak Dice from The Root Dice

The nice fellows over at The Root Dice sent me a pair of dice to preview for their kickstarter. I was very excited to receive them and the moment the package came to my desk, I had to tear them open right then and there.

IMG_20140707_124109_403

Unwrapped like delicious candy!

 

These dice are sexy. Pictures don’t do them justice. This set is made from 5,000 year old bog oak.

“Our Bog Oak was born at the end of the last ice age. Huge oak forests throughout Europe flooded, and the trees died standing and fell into the muck. The swampy conditions have not only preserved these trees, but have turned the wood a deep black color. The bog oak we use is 5,000 years old.”

They’re not kidding about the color. Its not even a “dark brown”, but a deep true black, nicely varnished so that they’re not too glossy. The numbers are unglossed so they show up by contrast. Everyone I showed my dice to assumed the dice were stained/painted black. When I explained they were naturally that deep true black, its surprising because you don’t expect a shade so pure to occur naturally.

Not enhanced, the bog oak dice are naturally this smooth, pure black color.

Not enhanced, the bog oak dice are naturally this smooth, pure black color.

They roll nicely and they’re not as heavy as they look. They’re not so light as to feel insubstantial, but not any heavier than a set of plastic d6s. They roll with a soft bounce and the corners aren’t sharp enough, nor are the dice heavy enough, to damage tabletops. I feel free to use them on any surface safely.

Altogether these are possibly the coolest dice I have ever owned and they’ve gotten nothing but positive reactions from everyone I’ve shown them to. The Root Dice guys have a fairly straight-forward no-nonsense Kickstarter going with 9 days left on the clock and slots still open for their Founders Edition set. I recommend checking them out if you love cool and unique dice.

 

 

 

Codename: Morningstar

Bp31QBBIEAAk3BlYou know what is really exciting about this D&D Codename:Morningstar stuff?

1. We heard absolutely nothing about it beforehand. No drawn-out weeks of hinting and clue dropping. Remember previous digital projects WotC announced early? How long did we wait? How well did they come out? How many turned out anything like what they started as? Its a nice change to see something announced that actually surprises me.

2. Trapdoor has clearly already done enough work to get something into early beta testing and they’re playtesting it right now at Origins! Why does this matter? See above. Shit got done here, clearly. They might be a small company I’ve never heard of, but so far it seems like they have their head on right for developing stuff. Yeah, its not finished, but already they’re one-up on previous failed projects.

3. WotC has fine-tuned their alpha playtesters into a well-oiled machine (more or less) and its all already in place ready to playtest digital tools. Why am I bringing this up? WotC shouldn’t (and probably won’t) reinvent the wheel. They already have this carefully built network of playtesters. They already know the ins and outs of 5e. They’ve already signed NDAs and will happily sign them again. These are the people that are going to get invites to playtest new digital tools besides the individuals that make it to conventions.

Then there’s the news that on launch it will support browser, Android, and iOS? Very encouraging.

D&D Adventure League

28680Hoard of Dragon Queen_LGYesterday we all saw the announcement from Wizards regarding the D&D Adventure League, which was very interesting.  As my husband and I manage the Organized Play at our FLGS, any new developments in the Organized Play program affect us deeply. After reading it, I’ll admit I was a little excited. The indication of something akin to a “living campaign” with material for higher level play is very encouraging. Encounters sees a lot of turn-over in its players. Partly because players naturally bond and move on to form their own home groups, but also partly because Encounters perpetually cycles players through the first levels of play, which gets dull after a while. Players crave more challenging games.

The owner of my FLGS forwarded this link to me:
ICv2 – ‘D&D’ Adventurers League Launches with New Edition

The previous link about D&D Adventure League is a lot of fluff, but this link has some interesting insights to be gleaned.

“The redesigned kits support up to 20 players and four Dungeon Masters, and will include gameplay aids and new components like certificates for special items or awards, table tents, blank character sheets, and more. The adventure portion will be available as a complimentary PDF from Wizards.”

This is great. Traditionally 1 kit = 2 tables. That’s fine for most stores, but my FLGS’ Wednesday Encounters last night hosted 5 tables of 7 people each! We received 2 packets from WotC this season, but thankfully now all my DMs can have their own PDF of the module instead of sharing a hardcopy.

Additionally, if a single packet now supports 4 tables, that means smaller stores, which would normally get a single packet worth 2 tables, will be able to more easily encourage a third or fourth table if they so wish.

“D&D Expeditions play is intended for higher-level character play, either for experienced players or those that have completed the D&D Encounters portion of OP (…) Stores are encouraged to use these kits to support local convention events, and contact Wizards’ retail support team if they require more than one kit.”

Beyond the general Encounters info, this part is intriguing. I’m going to be interested in seeing how often these “Expeditions” are released. I can’t help but think that for areas that don’t have a lot convention events, stores will be able to run these as Game Day events or perhaps routinely, much like  the old Lair Assault program, for more dedicated players (but with more roleplaying).

The ICv2 link doesn’t mention D&D Epics at all, but Wizards says those will be the big convention events.

Our first D&D Epics adventure will take place at Gen Con Indy this year. Entitled Corruption in Kryptgarden, it will be a massive, multi-table event that will shape the Tyranny of Dragons story and bring renown to those that experience it.

Wish I could be there for it!

 

Recommendation Level Up!

Some of the positive effects D&D can have outside the game store or away from the table is measured in the skills we gain from a game that is complex enough to require social, math, and reading skills, not to mention creativity and problem solving. One of our volunteer DMs for Encounters at our FLGS (Guardian Games) requested a letter of recommendation for his volunteer hours so he could use it qualify for a certain program he was trying to get into. I mentioned it on twitter and gladly obliged. I wanted to shared it here because it was pretty special to be able to help that DM use his D&D experience for an application. Edited for privacy: letter-of-rec

Bring Your Own Brush – Miniature Painting

It occurred to me that I should post on here about my miniature painting.

I don’t want my blog to become all about mini painting, but it is an aspect of D&D and something I enjoy immensely.

First a little background. In 2012 the owner of my local game store (Guardian Games!) received some demo materials – some paint and a couple of brushes and some color guides. She offered to let me use them, then dug out a couple of old Warhammer figures to let me paint. My first figures weren’t primed, and they were painted with a very limited selection of colors. Surprisingly, I think they turned out all right for someone who had never painted a miniature:

In the following months I discovered I really enjoyed painting. Despite bad eyes, shakey hands, and many a cramped wrist, I started getting pretty decent at it.

So I plan to post here occasionally about whatever I’m working on currently, like this samurai that I’m painting for a friend (Rich Ellis!)…

samurai_mini_wipor this goliath warrior with a greatsword for one of my players…

goliath

… or any of the many other miniatures I have in progress!

Edit: A quick mention… I paint every Thursday Friday night at 6:00pm at Guardian Games, so if you’re in Portland, drop by and try your hand at mini painting!

Legacy of the Crystal Shard Tracking Sheets

The new season of the Legacy of the Crystal Shard is ready to launch. If you’re coordinating for your local game store, you’ve probably already received your packet of materials for the season. This season, much like the last, provided a custom d20 and a full color player handout map.LotCS-dice

During the Murder in Baldur’s Gate season, I noticed less than a fourth of the players were interested in their maps. On the first day maps were handed out to players I found many players left their maps behind on the table. I collected them back up so they wouldn’t be wasted, but I resolved to do something about it the following season.

While examining the old maps, I realized the back sides were completely blank and I knew I could make use of that! In the early seasons of Encounters, tracking sheets were made for players to keep track of objectives, experience points, treasure, and game notes.  I could print player trackers on the backs of the maps and players would have more incentive to keep them.

The old trackers were not very conservative with space, and they tracked all kinds of things that wouldn’t necessarily apply now. Plus, our store runs a mix of Next and D&D 4e tables, so I needed a single tracker useful for any table. With that in mind, I created a new, simplified tracker. Then I did a test print on the back of a Baldur’s Gate map.

Legacy of the Crystal Shard Tracker

It worked!
Well, sort of… The coated paper printed very well, but the heat of the laser printer made the paper curl intensely. I had to immediately flatten the paper. If you decide to print on the back of your maps, make sure to watch and flatten any curling before the paper cools if you’re using a laser printer. I suspect inkjets won’t have the curling issue, but the glossy coat may cause inkjet printing to smear the lovely maps as they slide out and stack up. Between the two, I’d rather deal with curling.

I’ve shared the tracker I created at the link below. If you’re a player or a store Encounters Coordinator, you can print it on the back of your maps, or on regular paper.

Legacy of the Crystal Shard – Player Tracking Sheet

When Old and New Collide

In a tower, in a prosperous trade city, an archmage desires a guardian and an assistant. Familiars are useful but fragile things. He knows of golems but they are unintelligent, inflexible things. He wants a finer creation. He studies, researches, and experiments. He crafts a better golem body – strong and dexterous – and armors it with finely forged steel. Finally, he begins the invocations to animate the construct – but he goes a step further and imbues it with the tiniest shred of his own soul to give it life.

“If this works I will create more,” the mage swears quietly to himself as he waits.

The construct’s eyes flicker to life, and it moves. Limbs bend and twist. Its legs fold and shift. Turning, it rises to its feet and stands over the mage, looking down at him with glowing blue fire in its eyes.

“What is your name?” the mage asks keenly, waiting to hear how this new creation responds without any other prompting.

The construct’s eyes flicker with surprise and it considers this question. Finally, it answers.

“I should like to be called Mohr, I think.”

The mage smiles, amused.

“Welcome, Mohr. I look forward to getting to know you.”

As D&D Next continues to ramp up, I’m reminded of what happens when two editions collide in the context of a home campaign. Specifically, how we as DMs deal with the change of materials and how it affects the canon of our homebrew settings. Thinking about the changes from 4th Edition to D&D Next reminded me how a new element joined my campaign while another element gracefully bowed out during the edition transition from 3rd Edition to 4th.

I began my homebrew setting, Solista, in early D&D 3rd Edition, easily transitioned into 3.5 Edition, and finally transferred happily into 4th Edition. Most new 4e races fit right into my world, or else had very easy explanations to squeeze them in with the rest. Genasi? No problem. Tieflings? No problem. Changlings? No problem. Warforged No prob- w-wait, what!?

Warforged seemed pretty cool to me as a player and as a DM. I never thought of them like robots, instead I had mythological Galatea-living-statue type inspirations. Regardless, warforged simply hadn’t existed in my setting previously. I didn’t want to ban the race, so I embraced their existence in my setting. I added them to a city the players had never visited, and established their numbers were few, but enough that my players could choose to play one.

In 3.5 Edition I had crafted, playtested, and perfected to my personal satisfaction, a custom homebrew race. They held an important place in my world’s history and lore. Unfortunately, 4th Edition had no room for them – mechanically they just didn’t work out at all. After much playtesting and pulling of my hair, I eventually accepted the fact they would not be a good fit for 4th Edition rules. While I could just change them to monster stats, it didn’t feel right. So I embraced another change and took things to their next logical conclusion: the homebrew race had to go.

Over the course of a few plot arcs, I established that the race, called gryfalkyrie, packed up and moved out without so much as an explanation or a farewell. They left behind their cities and their villages. I used this to spark controversy and war. Kingdoms that conflicted with the gryfalkyrie now surged in to claim their lands. They disputed over new borders, treasure hunters looted the empty cities, and preservationists protested potential destruction of the nearby natural wilderness. A new organized was formed to protect the forests – the Wardens – which became a basis for an entire campaign in of itself. This and so many other things evolved from my setting just from dropping a single homebrew race.

D&D Next may or may not bring new things to my campaign setting, but it may very well remove some things. I don’t need to make that a bad thing though – it can mold and shape a new age in my campaign, which is good. Nothing should stay the same way for too long.

The Eternal Dragonborn

A while back I wrote a funerary verse for the death of a dragonborn NPC in my home game. Recent urging from a friend encouraged me to post it here.

In my world, dragonborn souls, their animus, reincarnate in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. Since all dragonborn are united in this fate – no one goes to a heaven or hell – they have a very strong sense of community. It became important to me to show how the dragonborn felt about death as merely a temporary state for the soul to transition through.

They also worship all three dragon gods equally – Tiamat representing a natural force of wrath and strength with which to defend themselves and their homes, Bahamut is good and justice to keep them on the right path, and Io is (neutral) fairness and knowledge to give them the means to improve themselves and know what is true in the world.

The Keeper refers to the Keeper of Names, the dragonborn that keeps the names of the dead and tracks which dragonborn souls have been reincarnated.

This soul sets free to rise above the fray,
The Keeper takes your name and lays your path.
Remember no sorrow, tempt not to stray,
Be strong for us, fierce as Tiamat’s wrath.

And this soul, set free to wander, abides
Cold and wise as a star in the night skies.
Return to us adrift on ageless tides
As true as the light in Bahamut’s eyes.

Now this soul is free from sorrow and pain
To promise our fate in rebirth and death,
From shadows renewed with life and breath,
Eternal as Io, we rise again.

Judge Not

Something I make a constant effort to do is keeping an open perspective of how other people play Roleplaying Games. I frequently witness other groups playing, or I read discussions online. As my group plays in public and I too post in online discussions, I’ve also been subject to others observing and commenting on how I play. It is a constant reminder that we all play differently.

Roleplaying isn’t about telling people how they should experience their own game. It transcends settings, editions, even entire systems.

We are rightfully entitled think the specific way we play our game is so awesome. Clearly we’re having so much fun, so it should be helpful to share how we enjoy the best about how we play, right?

But sometimes we get on the wrong path. We try to find a way to tell someone else if they’re roleplaying the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way, but we really can’t.

Its not because there’s a formula for the perfect roleplaying, it’s because we can’t play in anyone else’s shoes except our own. Our experience is entirely subjective to our own preference. We find a perfect balance for ourselves, but we’re still not the other person. The method he or she enjoys: they will swear by it, just like we will swear by ours.

Advice is helpful. Judgement is not. Challenge yourself to play a game differently if you desire, but never judge how someone else enjoys their game.