Archive for March, 2013

Sentinels of the Multiverse Campaign II: The Cataclysm

Posted in Board and Card Games on March 25, 2013 by Carl

A little while back I mentioned my first Sentinels of the Multiverse campaign, The Liberation, and how I was toying with putting together a new one in the wake of the release of Shattered Timelines.

Well I’ve finished the second campaign, The Cataclysm, and it’s a monster. It includes every single hero, villain, environment (except for Ruins of Atlantis) and promo card released to date in a sprawling alternate reality-hopping tale that takes the Sentinels from the distant past to the ends of time and back again.

This time I’ve designed it for play by three or four players, as well as solo.

You can see the whole shebang here. And if you think reading it is hard work, just imagine playing it all!


The Devil’s Riddle: Session 23

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on March 24, 2013 by Carl

Unfurling a length of rope from his backpack Rufus helps Lisandra down to tend to the wounded Fyn. The rogue glows briefly with the light of her healing magic and his eyes flutter open. “By the Light” he groans. “that hurt!”

Lisandra stands with some difficulty; even from above Rufus can tell she is utterly drained. Casting magic is draining, and she has been called upon many times today.

The Channeler peers into the face of each of the captives in turn and her shoulders slump when she looks at the dead man. “The bookseller” she says quietly. “He’ll be sharing no secrets with us I fear.”

One by one they scramble up the rope and out of the holding pit. The first captive to reach the platform is wild-eyed with fear. “Oh Light, we’ve got to get out of here!” he whimpers. Cayleb glances about nervously. “Why, were you left here as bait for us? Is this a trap, is that what yer tellin’ me? We risked our necks for your scrawny hides just to get nabbed doin’ it?” He fingers his crossbow trigger, face dark with fear and anger.

The rescued villager shakes his head vigorously. “I don’ know nothin’ about no bait. But those things, those grinning, unholy things, they want us, see? They said they was goin’ to leave us in that hole, let our fear build up an’ up, an’ then when we was proper terrified,  they’d be back… back to harvest us! Oh Blessed Light, I tell you true, I ain’t never been more scared in all my days! We’ve got to get out of here before they get back!”

Rufus helps Lisandra up onto the platform. “I’ve got to say, I agree” the Blademaster grunts. Fyn is in no fit shape to fight, Lisandra is at the end of her strength and Tomas can barely stand. We get out of here. Now.”

He leads the way, keeping a careful eye out for signs of pursuit. Somewhat to his surprise, there are none. They reach the catacombs without incident, and then from there the smugglers tunnels back to the Devil’s Riddle. As he pushes open the hidden door in the back of the fake wine vat he mutters “I don’t like this. It’s too easy, almost as if…”

The group creep into the darkened wine cellar. By Rufus’ reckoning it is perhaps ten o’clock; the inn above them should be packed and rowdy at this time of night. Instead there is nothing but utter silence.

Games night, Friday 22nd March

Posted in Uncategorized on March 21, 2013 by Carl

I”m good to host again this week. Based on the feedback on Microlite we won’t be playing that.

Does anyone else have a game they’d like to run?

I have plenty of board games we can play instead if not.

Oh, and who can make it?

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 22

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on March 18, 2013 by Carl

Idril is the first to react. With surprising speed for one so old she scuttles forward and with a twist of her hand sends a vivid cone of swirling colours into the pit. Of the two skeletons caught in the colour spray one seems entirely unaffected. The other seems to be fascinated however, dropping its sword and raising skeletal limbs to try and touch the dancing patterns of light. Then its bones begin to fall one by one as it collapses in on itself.

Rufus shoots at the other skeleton but the arrow clatters harmlessly through its ribcage. The undead creature turns empty eye sockets upward, then resumes its advance on the hapless Fyn. Cayleb’s crossbow bolt shatters a bony jaw but does nothing to stop the creature.

Lisandra steps to the edge of the ledge, fury in her eyes. “Foul darkspawn! Flee before the Light!” She points her staff and a blinding flash of pure white light strikes one of the skeletons. It turns and tries to flee, finger-bones scrabbling in futile panic at the smooth stone walls.

Still the remaining skeletons continue their inexorable advance. With a bellow of rage Tomas takes a flying leap from the platform to land with a sharp grunt of pain twenty feet below amidst his foes. Swinging wildly the big man decapitates one enemy, but the others keep coming.

To his horror he realises his desperate gambit has failed; the skeletons do not focus upon him, but simply move to attack their nearest living foe. One cuts down a screaming captive as the next swings at the prone form of Fyn. Heedless of his own safety Tomas lunges wildly to intercept the sword blow with his axe, saving the unconscious rogue from near-certain death.

His brave act leaves him wide open to the attack of another skeletal foe; the blade cuts a wickedly deep gash across the big man’s back. Only sheer force of will keeps him on his feet.

Idril unleashes another cone of scintillating colour, but the skeletons seem resistant to her mind magics.

Rufus, dropping to one knee to take more careful aim, fires again and this time his arrow hits his target squarely; a skull shatters and the undead creature topples over. Cayleb is less accurate, narrowly missing one of the captives.

Lisandra, her righteous fury growing,  unleashes another searing blast of light. This time the skeleton she hits is reduced to fine black ash.

Tomas spins and severs the final skeleton’s spine; the creature collapses in a heap of bones. He makes short work of the light-panicked skeleton, then turns to check upon his fallen companion, his own agony ignored.

“He is still alive!” he calls up. “But he’s badly hurt, Lisandra. He needs your magics quickly.”

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 21

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on March 17, 2013 by Carl

As the wind blasts through the doorway Fyn springs back, hurling a dagger as he does so.  “Keep away from it!” he cries. “The wind around that thing will take you off your feet!”

“I’ll take my chances” Tomas growls as he strides forward, greataxe raised. Though the wind howls around him the big man stands firm, bringing his axe down with a force the near slices the walking cyclone in two. Standing in the doorway he is able to block the entrance, preventing his foe from advancing.

“The creature has no true mind for me to influence” mutters Idril, backing away.

“Save your spells old woman” Rufus grunts as he unslings his bow and lets fly. “We have this.” The creature seems to collapse inward upon the arrow wound, swirling into an ever-smaller vortex until it vanishes altogether with a faint pop.

Fyn searches the room beyond but finds nothing of any interest. If there ever was anything here the wind creature has long since wiped the place clean. At Rufus’ signal he moves to the the door to his right and after listening carefully he opens it and peers into the room beyond. It is deserted save for a low well at the center of the room.

Stone stairs lead upwards into the darkness to Fyn’s left, and after taking a moment to listen for for possible dangers the rogue creeps up them.

As he reaches the top he hears something and freezes; what was that? In the darkness ahead, somewhere below him he thinks he hears a muffled sob. He gestures for the others to follow and as the area is illuminated by Lisandra’s staff he spots the source of the sound.

He stands on a raised platform in one corner of a square room. Some twenty feet below, shackled in heavy iron manacles, sit the bedraggled captives from the inn. They are peering up, trying to shield their eyes from the sudden light. They seem to be sitting on a scattered heap of bones and rotting corpses.

Fyn turns back to his companions in delight. “I’ve found them! They’re alive!” he calls as he takes a step forward.

“Fyn! Wait!” cries Rufus, but it is too late. Fyn seems to blink out of existence. Then, a fraction of a moment later he reappears up near the ceiling beyond the platform. With a despairing wail he plummets a full thirty feet to the bone-strewn ground below. He lands with a sickening crack, and does not move again.

But worse is to come. The bones around the rogue begin to rattle, stir and knit together. Six skeletal warriors rise from amongs the chained and panicked captives, each bearing a wicked rusted blade!

Sentinels of the Multiverse, Campaign Mode

Posted in Board and Card Games on March 16, 2013 by Carl

Probably my favourite solo and multi-player game of the moment (and of the last 12 months) is the superhero card game Sentinels of the Multiverse.

I’ve just received my copy of the Shattered Timelines expansion for Sentinels, along with a whole pile of Kickstarter extras, and I’m itching to give it a whirl and get familiar with the new heroes, villains and environments.

One of the things I love about the game is the sense of narrative it creates; you really feel you are playing through a comic book story line. That adds immensely to the sense of immersion, and appeals to the RPG player in me.

What Sentinels doesn’t have is a wider story context beyond the narrative of the battle. Why are the heroes fighting this villain in this location? What led up to the confrontation, and what are the consequences of success or failure? As an RPG player those are important questions to me.

To address this issue I put together a set of Sentinels Campaign rules, creating a large story arc that would allow me to have every hero, villain and environment be included in a lengthy sequence of battles with a story tying them all together. You can see the full rules over on Board Game Geek. The full series of session reports (14 battles in total) are also posted on the Geek.

Why mention this now? Because with Shattered Timelines finally in my hands I’m starting to feel the urge to write a follow-up campaign. As we left things at the end of the last campaign the heroes had prevented Gloomweaver from escaping his extra-dimensional prison and had so saved the universe from eternal enslavement and horror. But there was a high cost; Grand Warlord Voss had steamrollered one of my hero groups along the way, and his full-scale invasion of earth was still underway. And one of the heroes, Unity, had lost her life in that battle.

Obviously Voss needs to be taken down, but that’s only the start. With the new heroes, villains and environments along with the all the variant timeline versions of existing heroes,the stage is now set for a new epic saga. A tale of fracturing timelines, alternate realities and a battle to save the Multiverse.

Wish me luck 🙂

Session Report: Microlite Caves of Chaos

Posted in Session Reports: Other on March 16, 2013 by Carl

I was keen to try out the Microlite rules with the gaming group this evening. Sean, Charlie, Richard and myself as Dm were present. It ended up a bit of a mash-up between D&D Next and Microlite StefanStyle. Here’s the rulebook the players were given.

Microlite Players Handbook

1d20+ Highest of DEX/ MIND bonus

Saving Throws
Fortitude:  Survival + STR
Reflex: Physical + DEX
Will: Highest of MIND/ CHA bonus +level  

Advantage/ Disadvantage
If you are ruled to have Advantage you roll 2d20 and take the highest. If you are ruled to have Disadvantage you roll 2d20 and take the lowest.

Actions in combat
Each person can do one action per round:
Move – up to 30 ft. Moving more than 5 ft when in melee provokes a free attack
Charge  – move in a straight line, then attack with Advantage, but foes have Advantage on you until your turn again.
Defend – Foes attack with Disadvantage
Grab – Roll to hit (counts as a light weapon) do no damage then roll Physical vs Physical, if you win the target is grabbed. You must have a hand free to grab.
Knock Prone – Roll to hit with Disadvantage, no damage, success knocks target prone. Standing up takes an action. Anyone attacking a prone target in melee gains Advantage.
Disarm – Roll to hit with Disadvantage, do no damage then roll Subterfuge vs Survival, if you win you get their weapon in your square (or if you have a hand free you catch it)
Sneak – Roll subterfuge+ a stat that fits the circumstance vs MIND+Survival. If you win you are hidden and have Advantage on your next attack. There must be something completely blocking the vision between you and the target.
Other – Improvise, describe your action if you make a description that is awesome your DM will give you a bonus.

The party went hunting orc, the Threeleg clan to be precise. Upon entering the cavern they discovered a number of severed heads in alcoves, but failed to spot that one of them was actually that of a live orc lookout. They made short work of  three orcs in a guard room, then got ambushed by four more, alerted by the lookout,  as they explored another corridor.

Morrin was cut down, but kept from death by his brother Rufus. Between Barda, Rufus and Sabriel these orcs didn’t last long, with one falling so Sabriel’s sleep spell. This one they dragged to the fireplace in the banqueting hall, and woke him by setting his head on fire.

The resulting screams alerted the entire compound, and within moments twelve more orcs were rushing into the chamber. This was surely too great a challenge for the party.

… or not. Rufus filled the whole chamber with smoke, the party retreated to a safe distance to pick off any orcs who made it out, leaving Barda along in the blinding smoke to slice and dice. Although it took almost all their resources the party triumphed.

Battered and bleeding they then retreated to rest up. When they returned they found the Threeleg complex deserted. Some careful investigation revealed a secret door from the Threeleg leader’s room to some sort of meeting room between the clans, which in turn led to a second complex, that of the Whitetooth clan. And further investigation revealed that all the remaining orcs were now guarding the Whitetooth cave entrance, hunkered behind barricades. With their backs to the party.

Verdict on Microlite

Whilst it was a joy to prep (30 mins for all characters, no time at all for DMing prep), the system didn’t go down too well. The main issues raised were:

  • Losing HP to cast spells was felt to be overly punitive on the mage, making her even more squishy. The same is perhaps even more true for a front-line cleric. A possible alternative mechanic was suggested:
    • Mages and clerics have a Mana pool equal to their base HP. Casting uses up this pool.
    • Altering the spell (enlarge, Extend etc) costs HP not mana
    • A mage can cast a spell from a higher level than normally permitted. This costs both mana AND HP.
  • It was felt that there wasn’t enough variety. No cleave for the fighter, no twin shots for the ranger. For this group of players, with lots of experience of versatility in their RPGs, the rules felt TOO simple.
  • Two-handed weapon damage felt overpowered
  • The classic six D&D attributes were missed.
  • Only one action per turn made things feel too static. A Move action and a Standards action are much preferred.

More work is needed to find a system that ticks the simplicity box, but which is versatile enough to keep gameplay interesting. There still seems to be some mileage in a D&D Next/ Microlite mashup, but it probably needs to be far more weighted to the D&D Next side. The Microlite skills system was well liked, so we may be able to use that, and we might trial the magic system outlined above.

There was one success for me last night. I trialed a new initiative-tracking system, and was extremely pleased with the results. As you can see below,  it’s not the most hi-tech of solutions, but it works better than any other initiative system I’ve used to date.

WP_20130316_002 WP_20130316_003

Games Night: Friday 15th March

Posted in General on March 14, 2013 by Carl

I am in the mood for some old school, back to basics “smack the bad guy over the head with a dirty great big mace” dungeon crawling. To that end I propose we pick up the Caves of Chaos where we left off (Jo, if you can make it there is ZERO backstory, it’s just find monster, kill, take it’s stuff.

I also propose that we trial Microlite for this session; it’s incredibly simple and quick, with no setup or conversion time required. As Stefan has mentioned, it’s a lot like the really basic D&D Next rules we used in the very first session at SRaOCon.

On the subject of Stefan, he is banned from this session due to him getting the new Sentinels expansion before me. Unless he wants to come along of course, in which case he isn’t.

Who’s in?





The Devil’s Riddle: Session 20 (annotated)

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on March 12, 2013 by Carl

Further to the last post I’ll be pulling back the curtain in this session to show how I end up with the narrative. First things first; do I have any character interaction I want to cover before I set out? As it happens, I do.

As they ready themselves to leave Rufus turns to Lisandra and says quietly “I mean no disrespect, but from here on in allow me to take lead in matters martial. I am trained in combat and tactics, and we will need to use every advantage we have if we are to come out of this place alive.” The channeller offers a curt nod in reply.

My heroes are ready to delve further into the dungeon in search of the captives. Which way do they go? Well, I’ve seen the dungeon, having downloaded it from Google and uploaded it into Roll20, so it’s not fair for me to decide. There are two routes from the room, a rough tunnel or a cut-stone passage to a door. Which one to take? I’ll use a Yes/ No question to the Emulator, with Probability set at 50/50:

Q: Do they go via the door? NO

Rather than ask the Emulator if they take the other passage (which risks the answer “No”, leaving my party incapable of moving forward) I assume that in the case of this 50/50 question the answer above indicates they take the northern passage.

That leads to my next question? Is the new chamber they enter occupied? I’d say it’s Very Unlikely. The Emulator agrees.

Q: Is chamber occupied? NO

No encounters here. That just leaves me with some description, and a screengrab from Roll20;

Rufus gestures to Fyn to take the lead and the young man steps carefully into a roughly cut passageway. Lisandra’s light reveals that the passage opens out into what looks like a small natural cavern with an ink-black pool in one corner.

There are two secret doors leading out of the chamber; are they hidden from this side? Looking at the way the rooms are set up it seems Unlikely to me.

Q: Are the doors hidden from this side? NO

Which way to go? That’s a 50/50.

Q: North? NO

Two passageways lead from the chamber to crude wooden doors. Fyn glances questioningly at Lisandra, who nods to Rufus. The blademaster points to the door to the right, then cups his ear. Fyn nods in turn, creeps forward, and places an ear to the door.

So is there anything for Fyn to hear? Let’s ask the Emulator. As I have no idea of the answer this one is a 50/50.

Q: Is there anything to hear? YES

This prompts the next question; how noisy is sound? I figure listening at a door is going to be moderately difficult, which is a base DC of 15. But I want to randomise things a bit, so I roll 1d10 with the following scale:

1-2: -20% DC
3-4: -10% DC
5-6: 0%
7-8: +10% DC
9-10: +20% DC

I roll a 1, which gives me a DC of 12. Whatever is in there is quite noisy.

Time for a Listen check. In Microlite20 that means using the Subterfuge skill plus Mind bonus, or +6 for Fyn. Rolling 1d20+6 gives me a result of 13. Fyn hears something! More Emulator questions to find out what.

Q: Is it voices? EXCEPTIONAL NO

That’s an interesting result; I’m going to interpret that as something that sounds like a voice but is not one; howling, but not from any organic creature. This suggests wind, and that helps me determine what is in there; this room contains a trapped and furious air elemental. Now and again the Emulator and my interpretation will determine what is in a room, rather than the random D30 tool.

The next question is whether or not Fyn realises that what he hears is wind rather than a person. I rule that this is a step up in difficulty from hearing anything at all, so DC 17. As Fyn rolled a 13 he doesn’t realise that what he hears is the howling of the wind.

The young man’s eyes widen in surprise. “It sounds like there’s someone behind this door wailing!” he whispers to the others. “Howling like they’re in pain! Could it be the captives being tortured?”

Rufus gestures to Fyn to carefully open the door. The rogue gently eases the door open a crack only to have it torn from his grip. It slams open knocking him back as a howling wind fills the chamber. Dust and debris whip and swirl around the adventurers as, impossibly, a ten foot-tall tornado comes roaring out of the room towards them.

That’s it, I hope the insight into the process was of some interest. As you can see there are few hard and fast rules, I tend to follow instinct most of the time and use random tools to help me when I get stuck. Thanks for reading!

The Devil’s Riddle: The Anatomy Lesson

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on March 11, 2013 by Carl

JF from the Solo Nexus website has asked for a bit more information about the anatomy of my solo campaign sessions. Happy to oblige, JF.

Every session begins with a trip to the GM Emulator to ask a series of questions. These questions and answers dictate what happens to my characters in the scene; sometimes I’ll write narrative as I get the answers, sometimes I’ll ask a series of questions before starting to turn the results into story. Sometimes I’ll eve juggle the order of the questions once I have them all answered if that makes more narrative sense.

My rules of decision-making are as follows;

  • I roleplay my PCs (unless I’m genuinely unsure how they would react, in which case I ask the Emulator.).
  • If my PCs interact with the outside world I’ll tend to use a skill check to determine if they succeed.
  • For everything else, for example story questions, environment issues, NPC actions etc I ask the Emulator.

The GM Emulator






Emulator questions come in two flavours; Yes/No questions (the majority of my questions) and Detail Questions.

Yes/ No Questions are the most commonly asked in this campaign. It’s important to ask questions that steer the story, and not to fish too much for the answers you want. That said each question is assigned a probability based on what I think the likely outcome is which steers things to some extent. If I’m unsure it’s 50/50. There are four possible answers here; Yes, No, Exceptional Yes and Exceptional No. Those last two cause some of the unpredictable story twists that make this campaign such fun to play.

Detail Questions are used far more rarely. These are the “what, why, how, where, who” questions, and interpreting them, whilst often causing bit of head-scratching, can lead to some interesting new story directions. These need to be used sparingly or things can end up a bit too random.

Every now and again the Emulator throws me a curveball, with a Random Event tied to one of the questions that can set the story off in new, unexpected directions.

Other Tools

Microlite20 (Stefan Edition): This light d20 RPG, customised by Stefan, is sufficiently simple to keep play moving along quickly, whilst having enough versatility to handle pretty much anything I throw at it.

D30 DM Companion: If my story takes me into a new unknown location I’ll tend to use this document to roll up an interesting random location. I also use it to populate dungeon encounters. If the GM Emulator determines that the location is occupied with hostiles, traps or both the D30 document randomises those too.

Roll20: I’ve been trialing this tool for dungeon-crawling, and I’ve been pretty happy with it so far. I can use any map I find as my battlemat, my character sheets are all held in one place, and the macros and HP/ mana point trackers speed up combat enormously.

To illustrate the use of the tools mentioned above I’ll annotate the next session post I write.