Experience at Queen City Conquest

Pardon my absence, I was out of time enjoying the blue sky on an island. The weekend following my return to Canada the Queen City Conquest convention happened. A friend and I drove there early in the morning from Canada to Buffalo to play a whole day of D&D. Three sessions throughout the day and the earliest one started at 8am and the last one at 7pm. This shows you the dedication we have for this game.

The convention did not only host D&D games but activities ranging from board games to retro video games with unique vendors. The venue itself was pretty decent with enough space for the crowd and the food options were limitless. A block further was a street with all kind of food so you really did not have to buy expensive convention food.

The DMs were phenomenal and ran through the Adventurer’s league module perfectly. This would be my second Epic and my only feedback is about the Epic. I myself was scheduled to DM at the first Epic but gave my spot to someone else. Reading the small part I had to do was already overwhelming so I do understand what most DM had to go through as well as the organizers of the convention. The Epic was great don’t get me wrong but it could have been better and more prepared for the night. It was a late session which for some reason is always the Epic’s time slot and I understand most of the organizers, players and DMs would be tired by then but the running all over the place to get the game going at the last minute could have been avoided.

The Epic usually goes more than 4 hours with new players and starting late does not help with the time constrain. This would be my only “opportunity for next time” feedback and other than that I had a blast.

Overall we got to meet all kind of people, played amazing D&D with amazing DMs, spend the whole day in Buffalo and driving home proved more challenging than we expected on 2-3 hours sleep but we had an awesome time and look forward to attending it in the future. I would give it a solid 8 out of 10.

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The Weapons of Vox Machina

I am going to put a spoiler alert on this article as it does go into what happened in the last episode of Critical Roles. I just want to talk about their weapons!

First of all I like the concept of weapon being strong not overpowered but strong and as a balance to its strength the user will have to suffer a bit. For example in Critical Role, Grog had the craving edge, very powerful but alas we don’t know what it did to him. Let’s just assume it was really bad. That weapon was fantastic though after a number of hit it would evolve and deal even more damage! Usually as the fight goes on characters tend to get weaker due to the usage of spells both defensive and aggressive. Similarly Percy’s old pistol harbored a dark entity that would control his intention from time to time. My point is those weapons are great and add some depth to the game but you also must be able to role-play it. Unfortunately those weapon are only temporary, if you all are like me you would like to keep it and deal with consequences later but eventually another weapon will come along and replace it or your friends might take it and send it to another dimension, you don’t know. I feel that those kind of weapon should be more frequent in the module as a double edge sword to include some depth to the characters.

Currently we are at the point where 3 vestiges were found by the members of Vox Machina not including the Vax’s armor and the newest one being the bow for Vex. After listening to its ability it seems that she would have to switch from the bow of Sky Sentinel for it’s 3 arrow ability and back to the vestiges. The ability of the new found bow is good but can no way beat the 3 arrows for 1 attack. If you saw the last episode you noticed that Grog and Scanlan tried to upgrade their weapon, unfortunately very unsuccessful. This made me think what should you do to upgrade an already powerful weapon. Matt Mercer probably told them it could upgraded but this is as far as he went. It would be logical for the prerequisite to match the background of the weapon. Maybe Grog’s gauntlet will upgrade after he kills a number of foes with his fist instead of axe. I had a weapon like that during my first D&D game and it was an improvised weapon (a table leg). That table leg upgraded once when I reached level 9, that was the prerequisite. I was told too that it was not its final form! Unfortunately it was turned to stone with its owner and we will leave it at that. I feel those kind of weapon would last longer than the double edge weapons but they would start out weak and depending on the user, how long would it take for it to upgrade.

So far my favorite vestige is Scalan due to the fact that it can mess the enemy and it did play an important role in taking down Kevdak. What is your favorite vestiges so far?

Player after being a DM

What I would like to cover today is the small things that you pick up when you DM and you go back to being a player. Everybody DMs differently: even though the module is pretty straight forward everybody adds or remove stuff from it. That is to say, to a certain extent. Here are some things I found after 2 weeks of DMing and going back to the player’s seat.

As mentioned before, I did DM 2 of the “official module” during the time our current DM was on vacation. It was a very enlightening experience and I also learnt that you should not take your DM for granted. The amount of preparation that goes into each session differs with each DM but most would agree that it would be almost equal to how long the session would go for.

Well now that I am back into the player’s seat I picked up a few things that I would have done differently. Granted that once you are in the DM seat you have a million things going through your head so it is easy to forget here and there. I realized that the DM was giving us a lot of freebies for example wanting to search the room, or trying to do an insight on a person. Now I don’t know about you, but if something is just simple I would probably ask for a roll of over 10 for an easy inquiry and 15 up for a harder one. From my perspective rolling dice runs the game, it gives the game a bit of randomness and not like a computer game where you head to a corner and search to find a hidden item.

Another example is in battle, one of our party member killed a black dragon in a couple of swing. We weren’t sure if that was right or not but the fight was nonetheless anti-climatic. Now that I know of the increase in difficulties maybe that encounter should have gone up a notch. It just does not feel right for 1 person to kill an adult black dragon or our character might just be over powered.

We are at the point where battles are too easy, we breeze through them without losing any health. Most of our enemies do die from a fireball or a couple of bolts to their chests. Where it does become exciting is from the environment effects.  For example, you have 2 rounds to get out of the house before it explodes, etc.

The other aspect of DMing that I is impressed with is the voices.  Different NPCs have different voices and kudos to the DMs that are able to remember which voice is for which NPC. Even the fact that they can do voices is impressive. I myself tried that but it did not go too well so I defaulted to my regular voices with a few tone changes.

I talked to DMs and when I asked them how they deal with situation where they never really prepared. Their answer is guide the players without them knowing. As the DM, you can always redirect the player at your own pace. As a player I am able to see that now, the way how the DM will redirect us from a side quest back to the main story seamlessly.

In short, being a new DM did make me realize that no DM is perfect and that practice will eventually help you improvise more.  It’s definitely not an easy job, but I feel that it’s something every player should try to do at least once.  It’s made me appreciate the game a lot more than I already do, especially when you take into account the amount of prep work people put in.  Heck, if homework was this interesting, I would’ve put a lot more time into it than I did back when I was younger.  It really adds a different perspective on an already pretty amazing game.

Second Time DM – Part 2

Back to where we left off last time. I had a week to figure out a way to describe how the next encounter will go. A word of advise, if you are running this module and have little experience under your belt, make sure you prepare for the ‘Chase’ encounter. With the amount of details and actions going on in this encounter you will very likely forget some key aspect like I did.

Last time we left off the party caught up with the fleeing caravan consisting of three wagons. The intention of the party was to find out what was in those wagons that could justify so much violence and lies. As soon as the party get a view of the trail of dust, a guard at the top of the last wagon yelled and this is when we rolled for initiative.

To be honest I did not prepare as I should have for this encounter because the first 10 minutes of it was a total mess. You have different actions being in the ‘Chase’ and the two key ones are ‘Move Ahead’ and ‘Fall Behind’. Those new actions pretty much dictate how your vehicle/horses will move during the encounter. The rest of the actions were mostly for me as a DM to try to use against the party. To avoid the mistake I made ensure you follow the ‘Move Ahead’ condition. The condition is if a player ‘Move Ahead’ they need to make a roll to ensure they can keep pace or they will ‘Fall Behind’ after their action, this happens at the end of their turn. The target roll increases after the 5th round.

After 10 minutes of messy fighting the tracking of the NPC became easier as one of the party member did have a skill that would push people off their horses. For the sake of my sanity I decided to leave whoever falls off the horse out of the encounter even though the rule states that they could catch up if they have or find a horse. Then came a great idea from one of the party member because the movement was getting confusing and messy, he drew at each 20ft interval a marker and each time you ‘Move Ahead’ you would go towards to next marker. The same thing would apply when someone ‘Fall Behind’ but up to a threshold which is the end of the map and as per the newly created rule, this is as far back as you could get. Which was a good thing because one of the party member was rolling very poorly that night.

The party consists of a Paladin whose power is to communicate with animal. I should have picked that up from the first time I DMed when he made the monkey talk. Well during this encounter he tried to charm all the horses and now every action would require a roll from the drivers to see if their animal handling was better than his charm. In the end only 2 out of 3 wagons’ horses were charmed. The battle went on to round 7 before they were able to subdue the 3rd wagon’s driver with the help of the bandit chief. Once the driver was dead, the Paladin ordered the horses to stop on the side of the road which they did without any resistance. As per the criteria from the module, the other wagons stopped in order to protect the stranded one and using the same initiative we went into regular combat.

At this point the party heard muffled scream coming from the stopped wagon and proceeded to take care of the guards quickly and swiftly. Once the last guard fell they searched the corpse and found the key to the wagon from the guard leader, which would only make sense. Unfortunately they rolled too low to find the secret compartment in the sword hilt but I gave it to them at the end. In the wagons they discover a total of 8 prisoners and also found out from one of the guard who was knocked unconscious that the prisoners were to be sold to a couple of Duergars a few hours down the road.

What the party did next was smart, they took the Red Plume uniforms and dressed the human members of the party. The goal is to fool the Duergars into performing the transaction and to hopefully get a surprise round on them. After a short rest, the party heard noise coming from an incoming caravan and coming out from the darkness were 2 Duergars and 2 Death Wolves. The Duergars became suspicious and asked about the whereabout of the Red Plume leader but before they had to the time to finish, the party jumped on them. We rolled for initiative. As an informed decision I granted them a surprise round on the Duergars but not on the Death Wolves. They managed to kill the Duergars before the surprise round was over and then switfly got rid of the wolves.

The last encounter was a bit short, I should have upped the difficulty but nonetherless the fight itself was very entertaining. I hope that you enjoyed my insight on the DMing part of the module and hopefully prepare new DMs to run this module.

Second Time DM – Part 1

This past Monday I have DM’ed an D&D Adventurer’s League module called the ‘Bane of the Tradeways’. Here is my quick feedback on it for new DMs that would like to run this module. This module even though is said to be 4 hours is actually shorter. I ran this module with no change in the encounter difficulties and we did it in around 2 and a half hour. This module requires a lot of reading and eventually you as a DM will only end up using a third of what you read.

This module provides the players with 3 options in the beginning and depending on what the original decision is, you will most likely follow one stream of events. I actually did some preparation for this module but nothing would have prepared me for what would happen in the actual game session.

As we are starting the module I tell the party of their purposes here as most of them are from a faction and it would only make sense. The introduction went by very quickly and we started with the quest. The introduction is after passing the town of Hillsfar, the party witness a fight between what appears to be bandits and the Red Plume, guards of Hillsfar. At this point both side called out for the party to help them and the story will move towards which side the party decide to help.

There were three options provided:
A. Help the bandits
B. Help the Red Plume
C. Do nothing

Well my party decided to throw a curved ball at me and decided to go with option D, prevent both side from attacking each other to figure out who is right and who is wrong. The party intention was to join neither side but still threatened both side by casting ‘Spike Growth’ on the battlefield. Now I had to make my decision, either I drop the battle and we go into blaming the other side or going with the bandit’s motive and stop the Red Plume cargo at any cost. I went with the latter and decided to ignore the ‘Spike Growth’ and keep fighting.

There was a lot of people on the battlefield and it was hard to keep track of them all. This battle was more geared toward what the party would do rather than the actual combat. So I summed up all the health and did a general role which resulted to the bandit winning the fight. Partly because the Red Plume went first, they took damage closing up to the bandits. The party decided to intervene and knock unconscious every body close to them, it did not matter which side they were on. This caused a lot of confusion from both side and eventually they managed to capture a guard as they were fleeing.

I did not expect that and I did not prepare to answer any questions or reveal the content of the cargo so soon in the game. So the guard being tortured by one of the party member was about to spill the truth when I used my DM power and created an arrow out of thin air which came out of the forest where the Red Plume fled and killed him. I don’t know if I was allowed to do that without rolling for an attack but it seemed very appropriate at that time!

Eventually the party started to converse with the Bandits and discovered that their intention was the same, to find out what was in those armored wagons that it lead to so many deaths and lies. For this mutual goal, the party and the bandits decided to join forces and started to follow the caravan’s trails. I was really happy to have gotten the game back on track as I would have to have brought my improvisation skills to a whole new level in the event that non of the sides were joined.

After 30 minutes of running they saw a trail of dust coming from wagons going at high speed. I read the box text and the chase was on.

This first part of the module was quite a challenge but definitely entertaining.

Part 2

First Time DM – Part 2

Back to the fray! Since last time I have talked a little about my first DMing experience (D&D Adventurers League module, No Foolish Matter) and I will be DMing again this coming week! I will definitely let you know how that goes and hopefully it will be very interesting. Let’s resume where we left off.

After the I made a monkey speak and getting the trainer yelled at for starving his monkeys, they party proceeded towards their next hint that they managed to pull from the trainer. They went to see the Carnival owner, I will call him the Doctor.

The Doctor’s wagon was situated in the far corner of the Carnival guarded by fools. On the way there I threw something to show the party how annoying the fools can be. As part of the module if the players are lost you can throw in random events to guide them along but my group of Paladins knew exactly what they needed to do and I wanted to have some fun.

The fools started out harmless but as they approached the Doctor’s wagon they started showing sign of aggression. At one point before they reached the wagon, all three fools jumped on each adventurer and 1 of them succeeded with the grapple check and was able to snatched the weapons away. At that point before combat was going to erupt but as per the module a security guard jumped in and scared the fools away leaving the stolen weapons behind. Even the guard did not like the fools

Upon reaching the wagon, the fools on guard duty made a line to prevent passage to the party. These fools were not aggressive but very strict on letting no one go through. As the weapons started to be drawn the Doctor suddenly burst out of his wagon and handled the situation, ordering the fools to leave him for now.

After a few role play of the Doctor, which I feel I could have done a better job at being rude, they managed to extract the name of a new attraction, Madame Darkness the fortune teller, as well as the ignorance of the sickness spreading after the Carnival. After leaving the Doctor to his business they headed towards the fortune teller, Madame Darkness and paid the entry fees. They did manage to obtain their next target though through casual conversation, the location of the mirror maze located at the centre of the Carnival.

On the way to the maze they saw at the corner of their eyes an elderly lady acting strangely(I originally forgot that part but was reminded promptly of it). The lady in question was indeed Aelia and she was not acting the same way she did earlier that day. A whole bunch of stuff happened to her from talking to herself to convulsing. One party member decided to see if a disease was the culprit of this strange behavior and in order to investigate he had to touch her… Unfortunately he made the save against madness accumulation when suddenly a few fools and a few rats jumped in and that when we roll for initiative the first time.

I did think of the party being weak but I was totally wrong. What I did not realize is all the players in the party did play D&D for quite some time and took care of this encounter quickly. I did forget a few key points in combat like the ‘Pact Tactics’ and they managed to charm the beasts rendering them useless. After an easy combat and I feel it was too easy so I upped their difficulty level for their next encounter.

When the party reached the maze, the fools hanging around it all of the sudden started walking away from it leaving the doorway . Once inside the team had to choose a sequence of direction to get towards the center room. Although they failed the first few times they managed to get the sequence right and moved on to the center room.

As they reach the main room, they quickly saw the prisoners and help free them when suddenly one of the villagers started acting strange. That villager changed into Aelia which cause the real Aelia to run in madness and bash her head into the nearby wall causing 1 point of damage. That was the boss. I upped the difficulty and use lair action but even that the last boss did not last long against them. I messed up the count of enemies and played the boss wrong but that my fault for not preparing enough. In the end the boss attacked one time and due to one of the Paladin abilities he was able to find the shapeshifter amongs the crowd of villagers rather easily. A rather disappointing end but that taught me that you don’t have to be scared upping the difficulty of the battle. As the mirror maze collapse the Carnival was in disarray but was soon calmed by the real Doctor back in charge.

With that this ends my first DMing experience which was quite pleasant and a lot of stuff that happened that I would have never expected. More to come!

First Time DM – Part 1

I just DMed for the first time last Monday and the TL;DR is it was interesting. A word of caution, for those who have not played this campaign, there will be spoilers.

Here is a bit of my experience being a noob DM. I learnt the hard way that you have to prepare, prepare and prepare as much as you can or be very good at improvising. Those are just the basics but let me tell you what happened in my module.

The module I ran was ‘No Foolish Matter‘, a D&D Adventurers league module, it is a pretty short module around 2 hours of game play and the plot is pretty interesting. I read the whole story about 4 times before I felt I was ready. I anticipated players response, players actions and made a time line on who they would be talking to in a certain order for the story to make sense. In hindsight it was not the best preparation that I could have done but you always have 20/20 when looking back.

Before the start of the session I was ok, I was not really nervous but the anticipation of the unknown was exciting.You did not know what would be coming next in term of battle or role-playing and for that specific module role-playing was key. I had answers prepared for several questions that I could expect and different tones for each individual characters.

When we started the session, I told them about the backstory and placed the players into the Inn where they would start they journey. As all of them were in a faction, they knew why they were here. Those players by the way have a lot of D&D experience in their belt.

As we are progressing through the first part of the story I was able to guide them towards the key NPC which would give them an idea of what is happening around here. The talk was pretty straight forward and I was actually able to use some of my pre-generated answers.

My goal was to help the players get the maximum XP possible with the achievements so they talked to a few NPC before going to a stable and resting. Why stable you may ask? Well one of the character trait of the player is being bad at socializing, so I improvised and got them into a stable. Fortunately I was able to keep them at the Inn with a meal and drinks before the Carnival arrived.

At that point in time I was pretty happy on how the story unfolded and minus a few hiccups, we were able to get back on track. Well little did I know that this is where everything was not going to go as plan. My original goal was to get the players to play a few carnival games before proceeding with their investigation but what I did not predict was because their faction asked them to investigate, taking part in the carnival was at the very bottom of their To-Do list. They knew about the disease and went straight for the performing animals. I jumped the gun and started listing a whole bunch of animals, from monkeys to rats. They chose the monkeys and went straight for their tent and actually caught a few monkeys before their show started. What I did not predict and not even with 20 hours of preparation would I have predicted that, one of the players used ‘Speak with Animals’ on one monkey!

In that split second I had to think and try to remember how does a monkey acts or talks? I never studied monkey before! They wanted to find out about the disease but due to the nature of the module, the monkeys knew nothing but they were underfed… That’s what I came up with on the spot and because of this poor decision the trainer got yelled at several times.

There is still some nice nuggets from the session and I will cover them in the next article! Stay tuned!

The Last Man Standing Mode

Alright, we are taking a break from our campaign so the update to the multi-classing of my Blood Hunter will have to wait. Today I want to throw something at you guys and I would like some feedback.

Since our DM will be away for the month of July I opted to get my feet wet with DMing which will happen next Monday, I will let you know how that goes. Anyways I wanted to run a homebrew game for my friends however I received instant feedback against the idea. I will elaborate in just a moment.

The idea is having a game similar to the ‘Hunger Games’ and how that will unfold is basically the players will start at level 3 and choose their fighting style. Some classes will be overpowered and therefore to make it fair all casters type will not be allowed as a character. What is left are melee or range characters such as rogue, ranger or fighter. I am still looking whether or not barbarian would be allowed due to the fact that it might be too overpowered against other level 3s.

Similar to the ‘Hunger Games’ you would start in the middle of the map and the map will be a grid with letters and numbers to identify specific squares. To start the middle will be clear with weapons, the players when reaching this spot will have to roll for perception and if he/she rolls high enough he/she will find their weapon of choice or if they failed the roll they will receive one chosen by the DM. It could be dagger, short sword, bow and arrows, staff etc. They will also receive a bag with ration for 1 day and traps.

Now the traps are interesting as it will be set by handing a paper with the letter and number indicating the square. The traps depending on the kind will either be a radius or a line of 3 squares. The traps that I thought of were
1. Siren Trap – Purpose is to emit a loud noise to indicate when somebody triggers it (Radius 10 ft)
2. Snare Trap – This will restrain a player until they manage to escape (5ft Square)
3. Trip Trap – This one will knock a player prone (Line 15ft)

To set and arm the trap a player will have to write where the trap is set and hand the paper to the DM. The traps also have 1 minute casting time which makes it not efficient in combat.

To prevent meta gaming when moving, the player has to provide the DM of a legitimate goal for their survival, for example I am looking for the closest water source or based on their passive/active perception they can move towards the direction towards where the noise came from. The goal is to be the last man standing. Once I have put more thoughts into this, it might be a good module to run for people who would like to play that kind of game.

The uncompatible part is that D&D is a team game and the ‘Hunger Games’ will defeat this purpose. This ultimately means someone might find the over powered build and kill everyone. To mitigate this the DM can assign a team of 2, instead of being by yourself you would partner with someone and play till the end, the last team wins. Additionally you would want people who do not mind killing people around the table since D&D is rightly so based on player cooperation. There will  be a few who will be unwilling to fight people in the same room.

Well that is that, this is just a seed to plant in your head and see how it develops.

Vanilla Blood Hunter

I have been exploring multi-classing the Blood Hunter class with other compatible classes but for science I went ahead and went pure Blood Hunter for the campaign I am currently playing.

My current build:-
Feat:
Crossbow Expert
SharpShooter
Lucky

Weapon:
Hand Crossbow

Armor:
Studded Leather

Order:
Order of the Profane Soul.

Item:
Slippers of spider climb

 

I am currently playing a campaign with a lot of dragons and having a range Blood Hunter is proving very useful in tough situation. We have fell two white dragons and more to come. My experience playing as vanilla Blood Hunter is that I am not really excited leveling up. The class itself is amazing but as my previous article showed it is very well worth it multi-classing with another class.

I am currently a level 13 Blood Hunter and soon to be multi-classing with Fighter and my role at the moment is the DPS of the group. I carry a few utilities and using them will affect my DPS in the long run. With the Order of the Profane Soul I am able to get some spells from the Warlock class but the usage has a restricted amount of use. some of the spells I took are ‘Misty Step’ ,’Hold Person’ , ‘Fly’ and a few others. Those provides the most utility for my team against dragons and such. Since I am the DPS of the team I need to keep a slot at all time to use ‘Hex’, just in case a dragon swoops in and decide to eat us. That means you have to be very careful when to use your slots.

To be honest I love how the Blood Hunter plays and anticipating a battle is a crucial as it will save you a bonus action in the first round. The reason I am moving to multi-classing is to provide myself with a few more utility skill, mainly ‘Action Surge’ and ‘Second Wind’. I will also be going for level 3 Fighter to give myself some additional utilities.

Playing vanilla is very fun but against dragons and other threats aside from undeads you aren’t using your power to its full potential. There is really no point going to far into the Blood Hunter class. I will give you a first hand experience on how the next few chapters of the campaign goes with the multi-classing.