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The material on this site is owned by Samuel Penn, and any queries should be directed there. Most of the material on this site is licensed under CC-BY-SA. You can view my profile on Google+.

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Roleplaying and Wargaming

Glendale is an old website about gaming written by Samuel Penn. It may contain other things as well, but it's mostly related to gaming in some way. By gaming, I mean the tabletop variety - roleplaying games, wargames and sometimes boardgames. I play computer games, but I don't talk about them much (unless I'm writing them). Since some of the content here dates back to 1996 (when the address was on my bifrost domain at Demon), it can vary greatly in style.

Most of the content on here is entirely original. Some of it is based on material published by other people - e.g., game content for published RPGs or Wargames.

Campaigns Roleplaying Wargaming


Roll20 Video

Sometime after we finished our D&D 3.5 campaign last year, Roll20 switched the engine it was using for WebRTC. Apparently this caused lots of problems for everyone, but I was hoping that these issues would be resolved by the time we started our new campaign.

It appears that I was being too optimistic, and we were unable to get more than three people working over Roll20's video chat (and the forum thread discussing the issues are still going strong). So we tried using Hangouts external to Roll20, but one person was unable to connect to this (not sure why, since Hangouts has always 'just worked' for me, on several different platforms).

In the end we tried, and this just worked without anyone needing to sign in and register. The only hiccup was one person with a delayed audio, which was rectified after a disconnect/reconnect.

So we've now disabled video/audio chat in Roll20, and are planning on using for future sessions. We still use Roll20 for text chat, and of course all the dice rolling, character sheets and mapping (at which it still excels), but the video chat seems to be unusable for us at the moment.

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· 08 Jan 2017 · Samuel Penn

Fortress of the Stone Giants

This week we finished our last session of the fourth Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder adventure, Fortress of the Stone Giants. This one seemed to take longer than any of the others, though part of that may have been due to several missed sessions which stretched things out.

As with all the adventures in the series (so far), it's very railroaded in its assumptions about how players will tackle it, but has some options to take some very wrong turns. Right near the start, there's a possibility to leap into the fifth adventure, which the group very nearly did (which would have possibly lead to a very quick TPK). Actually, that possibility is also at the start of the first adventure, where it suggests laying some clues to a hidden location (something I avoided doing, since I figured there was a high probability of them following up on them, and thereby ending the campaign very quickly).

For the final storming of Jorgenfist, there are multiple routes in, but it pretty much assumes they'll go in the front door. Going in the back door avoids plot clues, and more importantly avoids a large chunk of XP which means the PCs are lower level than they 'should' be by the time they meet the big bad. Fortunately for them they decided at the end of a fight that they were too badly beaten to continue, and fled out. Which gave me an opportunity to bring the plot to them and encourage them to explore a bit more first before leaping right to the end.

Having said all that, they did reasonably well. I've actually switched to using the medium XP progression for the adventure path (it recommends fast XP progression), which has given me the opportunity to add in some side quests and flesh out a few things. Despite the extra quests, they were still lower level at the end than they 'should' have been. They've finished the adventure at level 12, when it's recommended that they should be close to level 14.

From an adventure balance perspective, this was probably a good thing. It seems to me that the adventure is either a bit on the easy side, or my group is very well optimised. It may be a bit of both. The group's fighter can easily dish out over 100 hitpoints of damage a round, and the second front line character is almost unhittable (as well as also dishing out respectable damage). Few opponents last more than a round, so it's rare for the group to take lots of damage.

I have also allowing the use of Hero Points, and they did burn through quite a few of those (at least twice to avoid character death when fighting more magic orientated foes), so possibly it's not entirely one sided. Though Hero Points remove the threat of death to some extent, they're a limited resource that can't be easily recovered (gain one per level, to a maximum of 3, and you need to burn 2 to avoid death), so I'm reasonably happy with their use. For a railroaded adventure path like this, they're working well since they keep the campaign moving. I probably wouldn't use them quite so much in a more sandboxed game.

All in all, I think it went well, and players seem to be enjoying themselves (at least they say they are). The lower than expected character levels is making things more of an interesting challenge without making it too hard, and means I have the option of slotting in something between the end of this adventure and the beginning of the next one.

We're going to switch to a game of 7th Sea next, so I'll probably run the fifth adventure, Sins of the Saviours sometime later next year.

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Vault of the Drow

We have finally come to the end of the D&D 3.5 campaign I started over two and a half years ago. Starting at 3rd level, initially just as a short adventure to try out the online tabletop idea, it's seen the party climb up to around 28th level, giving the Epic level rules a try out. In the final battle against the servants of the Spider Queen, nobody died (though a couple came close).

Originally set in the Hestmark Highlands of the World of Greyhawk setting, and initially going up against the machinations of the Scarlet Brotherhood, it ended with a delve into the underdark, as I ran everyone through a somewhat high level version of D1-3 (the classic 1st edition AD&D adventures going up against the Drow). These are some of the earliest adventures I ever bought (I also have G1-3, and Q1, but I ran people through G1-3 shortly after 3rd edition first came out), so it was good to finally make use of them. I have tried two aborted campaigns using them before, but previously nobody ever got past D1.

I've decided definitely against continuing the campaign into Q1 (Queen of the Spiderweb Pits). Though it might be interesting, I'm sort of burned out from coming up with challenges for a party of Epic level adventurers that doesn't simply TPK them.

Things I learnt: Epic rules are broken. The Book of Exalted Deeds is really broken (but at least I've now got to use all the books I bought 15 years ago and never used). Letting players buy whatever equipment they have money for is also something I'd like to avoid in the future. Since the game started as a simple dungeon bash where I didn't want to worry about what happened in downtime, there were a number of well optimised characters that could be very difficult to touch without bringing in encounters designed to exploit their weaknesses (which, from a realism point of view I don't like doing too often).

Having said that, it wasn't a cake walk for the party, and there were plenty of deaths (which became a very temporary thing once the cleric gained access to True Resurrection) as well as close calls, but they all managed to avoid any TPKs.

Roll20 worked very well as a virtual tabletop platform, though it was heavy on the macro programming and API scripting (something myself and several other players had no problem with, since we've done this sort of thing as our day jobs). For the less technically interested, it was a pain. However, we started long before Roll20 had support for character sheets, which abstracts away the need for a lot of this, so hopefully our next game will we somewhat easier to manage when we're able to take advantage of all the new features.

In terms of a next game, I'm planning on starting a low level Pathfinder game set in the city of Magnimar. I intend this one to be a lot less dungeon bashing, with more focus on the implications of what people are doing, with a bit more politics and social complications than the D&D game had. Since I prefer Pathfinder to any of the D&D versions, this was probably also the last game of D&D I'll run (though I did think that back in the early '90s when I converted by 2nd Edition game to something else).

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· 02 Sep 2016 · Samuel Penn

Shrine of the Kuo-Toa

Our Epic take on the classic D&D modules D1-3/Q1 continues, and some weeks ago we finished D2 - Shrine of the Kuo-Toa. Since a dungeon crawl doesn't really suit Epic level play, this adventure didn't play out at all like it was originally designed, and instead became a diplomacy mission to gain the aid of the Kuo-Toa against the Drow.

As it happens, the Kuo-Toa have an artifact that will help in a fight against Lolth, and the PCs managed to secure this after defeating a Drow Matriarch who was causing problems for these Kuo-Toa.

The map is something I drew/traced over a year ago, before I realised that such a map really wasn't going to be suitable by the time the PCs reached this area.

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Beyond the Warrens

The first part of the Underdark portion of my D&D 3.5 Roll20 campaign has been completed, with the party well out of D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth and rapidly approaching D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa. To mark this occasion, I've uploaded some of the maps that I've used recently to the campaign page.

Since the party has now reached 25th level, we're beginning (some might say we started a long time ago) to push the limits of the D&D game system. The Epic rules make normal adventuring really difficult, and given that the campaign was based around simple dungeon bashes this is making things hard. Whilst it may be suited to taking on single large creatures of high CR, the imbalance becomes very obvious when the adventure is in a small Drow settlement where even making a few NPCs level 20 doesn't make a lot of sense.

Part of the problem has probably also come down to the easy availability of magic items. A long time ago (about 2 years and about 20 levels or so) I decided that this was just going to be a simple sequence of dungeon bashes to try out playing in Roll20, and all downtime was abstracted to the point where any magic item could be purchased as long as the PC had the cash, and the item was within the GP limit of the town they were based out of. This does allow PCs to build highly optimised characters.

At this point I've decided to try and bring things to a close relatively quickly. We still have D2 and D3 to complete, as well as Q1 (which will probably be better suited for Epic play), but I'm not going to stretch it out any further than I have to.

However, it has given me an opportunity to finally use many of the books I bought but never used for d20, and I'm even using adventures I bought back in the early '80s for 1st edition and using them for the first (and probably last) time.

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· 10 Apr 2016 · Samuel Penn
index.txt · Last modified: 2014/02/16 15:20 by sam