Wednesday, January 28, 2015

U2 Danger at Dunwater: The Alliteration Continues

Perhaps because U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh turned out to be a TPK, my gang never played its sequel Danger at Dunwater.  Which is to say, I have no firsthand knowledge of how this bad boy plays out.  However, that will not keep me from spoiling the crap out of this thing, so move along if you'd rather avoid that sort of confab.

U2 Danger @ Dunwater picks up where U1 left off, riffing on the presence of lizardmen on the smuggler's ship.  It turns out that the lizardmen [Aside: are lizardmen actually amphibians?] were striking a deal with the smugglers to buy bulk armaments at a discount.  The Saltmartians--concerned that the mud-wallowing lizard-freaks are planning an invasion of their despicable burg--hire/coerce the PCs into running off and dealing with the problem for them. 

Reviews of U2 (the D&D module, not the high altitude spy plane) praise this module for "not being what it appears," which is too bad, because what it appears to be is a lizard-themed dungeon crawl, and who doesn't like hackin' up lizardmen?  But it turns out that you're supposed to be helping the lizardmen, not flaying them alive.  As written though, the party probably isn't gonna figure that out until it's way too late. 

Essentially, this module is supposed to put the PCs in a moral quandary when they find out that the the heavily armed lizardmen they've been slaughtering all evening are not planning on harvesting the gizzards of the good citizens of Saltmarsh.  Yet the only indication that something unusual is up with these slithery goons is the presence of some Mermaids and other assorted aquatic types sipping tea and snarfing seaweed crumpets in their lizardy den. 

Now, if you enter through the front door you'll find this out right away.  But the front door involves swimming, so you're probably not going to opt for that one, preferring one of the land-bound entries.  Which means that by the time you get to Neptune's tea party,  you've already made a stylish belt--with matching boots and luggage--out of the wives, children, and siblings of the lizardude chief and his elite guardsmen. 

Fortunately, the Lizardians aren't too sentimental: they'll forgive and forget as long as the party goes off on a wild crocodile hunt on their behalf. Though, since the PCs are working as independent contractors for the Village of NaClmarsh, they would be entirely within their rights to point out to the Lizardmen that this is not within the scope of their agreement and will first require negotiating for additional services with the town council.  

But what if a group of PCs actually did take the time to figure out what the Lizardudes were up to instead of collecting their spleens first and asking questions later?  Would this module hold up if it was confronted with such thoughtful PCs?  Consider this scenario: 
Party [approaching the front gate of the Lizardarian Lair]: "All right you slimy, fork-tongued bastards, we know you've been stockpiling weapons for a raid on the village of Saltmarsh.  You'd better cut that crap out right now or you're gonna' be in big trouble."

Lizardudes: "Get lost ya' dandruff-ridden landlubbers, we've got a sahuagin invasion to deal with."

Party: "Say who again?"

Lizardudes: "Sahuagins.  Evil, scaly bastards?  Page 84 of the Monster Manual?  Anyway, they've been harassing us for months, moving in on our turf.  We're here negotiating with the Locathah and merdudes to team up against those creeps."
[As confirmation, Merdude chief and Locathah chief pop their heads out, smile, and wave]
Party [taken aback]: "Oh! So you're not hoarding weapons in order to raid Saltmarsh?"

Lizardudes:  "Raid Saltmarsh? Why would we do that?"

Party: "You're certain?  No assaulting the village?  No rending townspeople limb from limb?"

Lizardudes [somewhat miffed]: "Absolutely not."

Party [crestfallen]: "Very well. Sorry for bothering you."
[Party dejectedly turns to leave.  The Lizardudes, their annoyance turned to pity, confer with Merdude and Locathah. After some whispered debate, they turn back to the party.]
Lizardudes:  "Say, you guys wouldn't want to help us, would you?"

And so, unless the Master of Dungeons has U3 The Final Countdown on hand and prepped for play, your big Friday night gaming session is over before the pizza's even arrived. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 Blogification News: 60 Posts, 5th Anniversary Celebration, New Name, and more.

I didn't bother with resolutions for the new year because I was so successful with my 2014 resolutions that I really don't have anything left to achieve for the next 7 years or so.  But there is one matter that I do need to tend to in the new year. In keeping with a pattern of always having a yearly total post-count that is a multiple of 6, for the last two years I've made a very conscious effort to ensure that, come Year's End, my post-count was inline with this trend.  Well, check this out and let me know if you discern another pattern:

Table II.B.3.xi: Post Counts by Year. 
2010: 42
2011: 30 
2012: 60
2013: 42
2014: 30

Yep, it looks like I might have to have to churn out 60 friggin' posts this year!  What that means to you: Expect more content-less filler posts such as this one.

Also: Last summer I streamlined the name of this blog to its current moniker (see above) from the far more cumbersome "Unfrozen Caveman Dice Chucker." Not only was the Unfrozen Caveman bit just too clunky, but it was also decreasingly relevant after having spent the last several years actively engaging the ol' hobby.  Not that it mattered, none of you noticed.  I'm a little hurt.

Also, also: The official 5th anniversary of this blog will be this Saturday, Enero 17.  I trust you all got the invitation to the party and I expect a great showing at the palatial venue we've rented for the to-do.  Did I mention there will be an OPEN BAR?  And ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT PANCAKES? See you there.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Elf Loathing: How to put an end to the elf scourge in D&D

Even though most fantasy literature portrays elves as humorless, superior dullards who would never be invited to any party that a reasonable person would want to attend, in D&D elves are so laden with mechanical advantages (Dex bonus, +1 w/ bow & sword, infravision, stealthiness, magic resistance, secret door-finding ability, etc.) and deprived of significant shortcomings (they're neither overly short nor unappealingly hirsute) that every munchkin gamer signs up for them right out of the chute.  Seriously, unless you want to run a cleric--and such an unlikely possibility is hardly worth mentioning--there's virtually no good reason not to have an elf.

So how do you keep the pointy-eared d-bags off your gaming table?  Here's how I do it:  Inform your players that the following characteristics apply to elves in your gaming world.
  1. Elven names must be at least 7 syllables long. It's impossible to have a badass character with a really long, douchey name.  To make this rule mechanically unpleasant as well, apply a -5% XP penalty to any elf PC who:
      • fails to correct anyone and everyone who mispronounces or abbreviates the elf's name in anyway on every such occurrence.
      • refers to his/her own elf character with any moniker other than its full, actual name--even in table chatter.
      • Such penalties are, of course, cumulative and permanent.
  2. Elves have OCD.  Remember that "Step on a crack and break your mother's back" business from when you were a kid?  Elves take that shit to heart.  An elf who steps on a crack or seam in the dungeon floor must save vs. parallelization* or immediately flee to his homeland to check on his mother's health.
  3. Elves are chaste.  If neither of the above has done the job, you're going to need to hit below the belt; inform the player(s) that, despite all their sexiness, Elven reproductive rites involve a fortnight spent composing love poems and weaving garlands, after which an actual stork flies in and drops off the new elfling, who likely bears a strong resemblance to Odysseus.  No clothing is removed, no groping occurs, the whole affair is rated G.  Indeed, your parents are traditionally on hand for the entire event.  And if that still isn't enough, you're going to have to drop this bomb: 
  4.  Well, some elves are chaste... Female elves can--and frequently do--mate with humans in the traditional, human fashion.**  "Male" elves, however, are not equipped with the right utensils to do the job.  That's right, Legolas = dick-o-less.  Do you really want to play a Ken-doll?
* Auto-correct often comes up with some pretty cool ideas; parallelization is one of them.
** Which explains why half elves were so prominent in AD&D.