Fourthcore Is Dying. Save Ends?

The last couple of days have been quite interesting to me. I never read a Fourthcore adventure until this weekend, and never ran or played in a Fouthcore adventure until two nights ago. I had every intention of writing a blog post about the experience (cribbed from a massive email with feedback I sent to the designer of the adventure), but then I learned that the very same creator pulled the plug on Fourthcore mere hours after I sent feedback. I do not think I caused Fourthcore to die, but I hope the 3,500 words reacting to only 25% of the module was not the straw that broke the camel’s back! There were aspects of the Fourthcore experience that I thoroughly enjoyed, and other aspects that I felt needed some tweaking. But overall, I thought it was a great addition for DMs to play with and learn from.

So I am equal parts sad and confused by the creative team behind Fourthcore moving on to other endeavors. I do not fully understand why the creators of Fourthcore are ending the project. I’m certainly curious, but I realize it’s no business of my own what someone else does with his or her time. I understand the creator is going to be on a future episode of the DM Roundtable Podcast, so I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about the decision and all that went into it. I do not begrudge anyone the decision to step away from something that is causing too much stress in their life, whether that is a job, relationship or hobby. For example, I left a job just over three years ago because it was poor for my physical and mental well-being. But the incident leaves me with questions, and I realize that I need help to find those answers.

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Game Night Blog Carnival: Jenga

Welcome to the new Game Night Blog Carnival!  This is a recurring feature Roving Band of Misfits is running once each month with numerous roleplaying game blogs.  Visit their site for more information about the blog carnival initiative. The previous entry into the series can be found here discussing Wise and Otherwise.

This month, I present some additional mechanics to spice up a game that is enjoyable enough already – Jenga. Jenga is played with 54 wooden blocks. Each block is three times as long as it is wide. To set up the game, the included loading tray in the Jenga box is used to stack the initial tower which has 18 levels of three blocks placed adjacent to each other along their long side and perpendicular to the previous level (so, for example, if the blocks in the first level lie lengthwise north-south, the second level blocks will lie east-west).

Create houserules to enhance Jenga experience.

Once the tower is built, the person who built the tower moves first. Moving in Jenga consists of taking one and only one block from any level (except the one below the incomplete top level) of the tower, and placing it on the topmost level in order to complete it. Only one hand at a time may be used to remove a block; either hand can be used, but only one hand may be in contact with the tower at a time. Blocks may be bumped to find a loose block that will not disturb the rest of the tower. Any block that is moved out of place may be left out of place if it is determined that it will knock the tower over if it is removed. The turn ends when the next person to move touches the tower or after ten seconds, whichever occurs first.

The game ends when the tower falls in even a minor way—in other words, any piece falls from the tower, other than the piece being knocked out to move to the top. The loser is the person who made the tower fall (i.e., whose turn it was when the tower fell).

So far, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But below I will present alternative rules and mechanics to take an ordinary session of Jenga and make it a game-night extravaganza!

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Ego Check: Mike Shea of Sly Flourish

Before starting The Id DM, I spent many months reading articles from other gaming websites, and one of my most frequent stops was to Sly Flourish. When I started this blog, I had very modest expectations for how it would develop over time. I have been pleasantly surprised at every turn, and most recently had the great opportunity to interview the creator of Sly Flourish, Mike Shea. Mike was kind enough to devote a good chunk of time discussing a host of issues related to D&D 4th Edition.

In an extended back-and-forth dialogue, we discuss the evolution of D&D from 3rd to 4th Edition as well as the evolution of 4th Edition since it was released. We focus the conversation on topics such as monster design, combat speed and Epic Tier campaigns. Finally, he discusses the relationship between Wizards of the Coast and the thriving online community of devoted D&D gamers. So get comfortable, relax, take your shoes off and enjoy the latest installment of Ego Check with Mike Shea.

For the readers not already familiar with your work, can you introduce yourself and discuss how you were introduced to roleplaying games?

I’ll keep this short because it’s the part I skip when I read everyone else’s interviews. I’m a web technologist living in Washington DC with my wife, a fellow gamer, and our dog. I’m originally from Chicago and one of my little bits of fame comes from my father, Robert J. Shea, who wrote the cult science fiction novel Illuminatus.

I got started playing D&D with 2nd Edition when I was in high school. This switched to 3.5 after I moved to Washington DC. I started 4e when Keep of the Shadowfell came out, before the sourcebooks were even released, and I fell in love with it. 4e’s simplification of base mechanics mixed with a modular power system is, in my opinion, a great evolution in the mechanics of the game. I also love how much easier it is to build and customize monsters.

I started Sly Flourish because I wanted to do more than just run a game. I wanted to get involved in the community, carve a clear niche for myself, and provide a service that could help people become great 4th edition DMs.

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Many Thanks

My homebrew campaign in the World of Cydonia reached an epic finale this month and as the players crossed into the Paragon Tier, I told them, “Now I start to get a bit more mean.”

But before that meanness takes over, I wanted to post a quick note to thank every reader of my articles since I started the blog back in March. It has been quite enjoyable to share my thoughts about playing D&D 4th Edition and receiving feedback. The early positive responses spurred me on to keep writing, and I look forward to generating further content.

I wish to thank Stuffer Shack for honoring me with their RPG Site of the Month Award for June 2011. I had the pleasure of contributing articles on the subject of cheating and a detailed background on a major NPC in my campaign to their site. Their site features many great products that we have already incorporated into our games.

In addition, I’m thankful for becoming listed on 4eBlogs. It has certainly brought more eyes to the site, and that is much appreciated. If you are not following the articles that are routinely posted on 4eBlogs, then you’re missing out on the latest and greatest the online D&D community has to offer. Last, thank you to Roving Band of Misfits for including me in their Game Night Blog Carnival. If you missed my first entry, which describes Dutch Blitz, then check that out. The game is a riot!

I have several articles in the works for the coming weeks, including a couple of longer-form Ego Checks that should be a good read for people. I am always open to feedback, and if you have subjects or ideas you’d like me to discuss, then please leave a comment below. Once again, thank you for cruising around to the site and I hope you can stop by every so often to check out new content. I will keep throwing stuff up here!

Completing Heroic Tier Without Destroying the World

My campaign finally reached its Heroic Tier finale last weekend. If you can indulge me, I’d like to discuss the progression to the final string of battles and the ultimate climax that now has the party moving on to Paragon Tier. Along the way, I’ll cover few house rules that might improve your game and present my creative process, which is certainly fueled by desperation. I realize discussing my campaign at length like this could be boring, but perhaps you can learn from some mistakes I made during the first 10 Levels in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition.

The seeds for the final string of encounters were planted during the first night of the campaign. The party woke up from being unconscious and found themselves in prison at the start of Level 1. An attack from an unknown source on the prison distracted the guards and allowed the party to exit the jail. But along the way, they interacted with another prisoner that begged for freedom. They allowed him to escape; many months later, they learned the NPC they released was a notorious pirate that was plaguing the coast. They were tasked with bringing the pirate, Captain Lockes, to justice.

The pirate plot lasted for several months (we play every other Friday if schedules permit). The party had to find a ship, discover the source of the pirate attacks, and capture Lockes. Instead of establishing a straight line to that goal, I allowed the party to branch off in various directions. As they did this, the base for Captain Lockes and the pirate band took on a life of its own.

I used Campaign Cartographer 3 (CC3) to make the following map of Ernsmaw Island. I asked one of the players in the party to come up with rumors of a pirate island. His Halfling Rogue had a background of working on riverboats and it made sense that he would hear such rumors. I gave the player a few brief prompts and let him run with the rumors, informing him that some would likely be true while others would be false information. He came up with a name that was a bit too long, so I chopped it down to Ernsmaw Island. CC3 is a fun program to use and quite powerful once you learn the controls. I have only scratched the surface of what it is capable of, but I’m happy with the island below.

The mysterious Ernsmaw Island.

The party found the map after patrolling the coast and battling a lesser pirate, Lezoe. I borrowed heavily from the Waves of Fate downloadable delve at Sarah Darkmagic to relieve some of the burden of encounter planning. During the battle with Lezoe, I spent some type crafting (literally) a special healing potion for the group. I used the old Character Builder to modify a potion and created Lezoe’s Rot Gut. The potion allows the PC to spend a healing surge but gain double the surge value; however, the PC suffers a -2 to Reflex and Fortitude until the end of the encounter.

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Ego Check: Lyndsay Peters, Owner of Dragon Chow Dice Bags

I have five sets of dice for gaming, and four of them are currently crammed into a small bag, which is now bursting at the seams. Thankfully, someone else out there has solved the unwieldy dice-bag problem – Lyndsay Peters, Owner of Dragon Chow Dice Bags. Lyndsay was kind enough to spend some time with me for an interview. In the interview, she discusses how she started her business, the origins of her mascot, Chompy, gamer superstitions and why she never stopped playing Dungeons & Dragons 3.5.

Can you please introduce yourself, and discuss how and when you were introduced to gaming?

Well, I’m Lyndsay. I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with my husband and my pet snake Orwell. On Twitter, I’m @GeekyLyndsay and people generally know me because I run Dragon Chow Dice Bags.

Lyndsay Peters & Chompy

I was introduced to gaming around 9 years ago in high school. I joined a circle of nerdy friends and they taught me how to play D&D. It was around the time 3e turned to 3.5e, because I remember that I was the first one to get the 3.5 books. I played a Cleric.

We played d&d off and on, and in the post couple of years I’ve discovered board games. I’m really loving board games now, too. I like how easy it is to introduce my family members to games like Settlers. Next up, I’ll be teaching them Carcassonne.

I’m in a regular d&d 3.5 game on friday nights. I’m a grognard, it’s true.

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Combat Encounter Analysis: Penny Arcade/PvP Podcast Series Enters “The Dungeon”


I recently listened to an episode of the DM Roundtable Podcast and someone – can’t remember who – suggested that if you do not see the type of information you are looking for, don’t complain and go create it. I had not heard the podcast until this past week, but the message therein is what drove me to start this blog. I had been lurking around online reading other blogs and absorbing information, but I felt something was missing. I felt like I had a voice to contribute, and it culminated with my dissatisfaction during the wrangling about combat speed in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition . . . which continues to this day.

Many opinions had been offered and numerous useful suggestions were outlined to speed up play, but I never saw anything approaching scientific data about how combat encounters transpire. Motivated by the notion that other people might be curious about the same information, I started The Id DM and my first post was an analysis of a combat encounter from Season 2 of the Penny Arcade/PvP Podcast series. The post is – by far – the most successful article I have written in the short life of the site. It was always my intention to continue analyzing the podcast series, and I was finally able to return to the project recently.

I had the pleasure of piloting a new method for tracking combat encounters, and I hope to discuss that system in a separate post in the near future. In the meantime, I picked up where I left off in the last analysis and coded the time in the next encounter, The Dungeon, in Season 2 of the Penny Arcade/PvP Podcast Series.  After a brief review of my methodology, I present the results below.

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