Mike's Autojournal 2010-06-13

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DM Tip Twitter Archive: May 2010

Below is an archive of all of the Sly Flourish DM Tip Twitter posts for April 2010. Get daily DM tips at http://twitter.com/slyflourish!

#dnd tip: Model your fantasy towns and cities after the economics of real medieval castles and cities. amzn.to/bOAkTA

#did tip: It only takes a power or two to turn a vanilla orc into an orc paladin. Pick interesting at-wills and encounter powers for flavor.

#dnd tip: What makes your villain think they’re actually a good guy? What good do they believe they are doing?

#dnd tip: Write short stories in email showing your players the unseen worldly and NPC reactions of their actions.

#dnd tip: Scale environmental effect damage by 5 damage per tier. An epic pool of lava should do 15 damage when someone steps in it.

#dnd tip: When making an NPC or villain, sit back, close your eyes, and imagine what he or she is seeing and feeling.

#dnd tip: Write and keep a checklist of the things you need to put together a night’s game. Check it two days before your game.

May 24, 2010 @ 11 AM#dnd tip: Give some off-camera background stories in email to give your players a wider view of their story.
Actual time sent: May 24, 2010 @ 11 AM

#dnd tip: Use psionic powers from PHB3 as monster abilities to recreate the psionic abilities of old-school D&D monsters.

#dnd tip: Dig into your Lovecraft to pick up strange and interesting ways to describe the Far Realm: amzn.to/9KPhoT

#dnd tip: Don’t be afraid to modify a monster to fit your party’s experience level. Avoid making epic beasts too easy though.

#dnd tip: Save the ink and use a computer or tablet to display DDI adventures. The ink cost alone makes an adventure about $10.

#dnd tip: avoid the “destiny” plot motivator. It’s no fun to think you have no control over the outcome.

#dnd tip: Get the required components for your next game done early so you have time for your creative juices to flow into it.

#dnd tip: For a more dangerous beholder, don’t count the eyestalk aura as an attack when determining mark penalties.

#dnd tip: Have players roll skill checks off of their turn to discover bits of information during a battle and keep them involved.

#dnd tip: Have a ballroom battle? Use a crashing chandelier as an encounter power: level+3 vs reflex; medium limited damage and knock prone.

#dnd tip: Defending an area can make for a fun multi-battle encounter. Give the PCs a chance to build up their defenses.

#dnd tip: Playing Eberron? Give your PCs a choice of being mercenaries, investigators, or artifact hunters.

#dnd tip: Try using the detective-show crime investigative trope as a campaign path.

#dnd tip: Use random #dndenc encounter alterations in your own home game.

#dnd tip: If you’re having trouble getting people excited about skill challenges, try using them during combat to change the encounter.

#dnd tip: Want to beef up your powerful solo? Turn all of its actions into minor actions to give them more powerful attacks per round.

#dnd tip: take a red marker and mark anything in your books that’s been errata’d in the updates.

#dnd tip: Start your adventures with a bit of action. Too much storytelling and skill challenging up front might put people to sleep.

Awesome article with tips for upgrading #dnd solos by @chrisSSims: bit.ly/d5KAoE Thanks Chris!

#dnd tip: Keep your D&D Dungeon Tiles (bit.ly/bmD3oY) in separate ziploc bags so you can pull from each set independently.

#dnd tip: The huge Chain Golem makes a great mini for Codricuhn, the Blood Storm: bit.ly/9yyV5Q

#dnd tip: Watch out for solos more than 2 levels higher than the party. They’re going to be a slogfest unless you prepare for it.

Absolutely awesome article on powering up #dnd solos by friend @gamefiend: bit.ly/9JvKy0

From @SarahDarkmagic: excellent and free Dungeon Delves. bit.ly/cbgFCB #dnd

Bilfaaz, Young White Dragon. tweetphoto.com/20416247 /via @gamefiend

@gamefiend I like how your uber-solos have minions that share the defenses of the main – much easier to run at the table that way.

.@gamefiend I used a 4-minion-spawning Elite boss last night. He could transfer damage to a minion 1/rnd. Worked great!

.@ChrisSSims I ran the Worm of Ages for my group. They passed an in-battle skill challenge that let them ride it around Death’s Reach.

My group found Orcus’s secret twitter account: @princeofundeath. Now they get the inside scoop as they head to the Kingdom of the Ghouls!

#ff wotc #dnd folks: @wizards_dnd @mikemearls @aquelajames @gregbilsland @wotc_rodney @brucecordell @brianrjames @christulach @SRMacFarland

#ff #dnd bloggers: @newbiedm @sarahdarkmagic @chrisSSims @gamefiend @chattydm @davethegame @squach @mikesdndblog @matt_james_rpg @Milambus

Building out a Worldbreaker: bit.ly/c8Vqw8

RT @countingku: @ChrisSSims I think the cooperative worldbuilding and party creation in the DMG2 is something that everyone should read, …

RT @JaredvonHindman: There is an Art Crash looming on the horizon. You were warned. From 4 years back: www.headinjurytheater.co

RT @criticalhits: D&D Monster Man makes noises for all the monsters in the Monster Manual is.gd/ctCXC

RT @krisstraub: New D&D podcast about Dark Sun tinyurl.com/33zj4j6 – DM is @tychobrahe played by @pvponline, @cwgabriel, @krisstraub

RT @newbiedm: Neat handout fonts for #dnd www.thehutt.de/tolkien/fonts.html

Awesome airship battle skill challenge by the venerable @davethegame bit.ly/abHoGN #dnd

@Mittop Heroic lava might be hot mud. Epic lava would be molten iron.

RT @4eBlogs: Wizards.com – Dungeons & Dragons: Penny Arcade/PvP Ep1 goo.gl/fb/tdNHj #dnd

Like these tips? Consider using these links to purchase theMonster Manual 2, orDungeon Masters Guide 2 or use this link topurchase anything from Amazon.com.

Three Tips to Prepare for the Monster Manual 3

Back in mid-May I had the opportunity to ask Greg Bilsland some questions about the Monster Manual 3. You can find the full text of that interview over at my Critical hits article: Monster Manual 3 Interview with Greg Bilsland.

Today we’re going to look at three things you can do to get yourself prepared for the coming of the Monster Manual 3 and use some of the techniques in the new book to modify the monsters of the older book.

Let’s jump right in.

1. Add 30 to 40% more damage for certain creatures.

According to Greg, monsters in the Monster Manual 3 have significantly higher damage output than previous monsters, up to 30 to 40% more damage in some cases. As I’ve noted before, monster damage output at paragon and epic tiers often seems too low to really threaten a powerful player character.

With some quick math, we can increase the damage of older monsters at the paragon and epic tier. The easiest way to do this is to add 5 damage at paragon and 10 damage at the epic tier to the damage output of high-damage creatures. You’ll have to decide which of the creatures in your game would do well with the higher damage output. Lurkers, skirmishers, and any elites or solos would be good choices.

When we have the MM3 in hand, we’ll have a better idea how to scale damage for older monsters.

2. Prepare a Far Realm campaign.

Greg states that many of the monsters in the Monster Manual 3 have a connection to the Far Realm. One powerful creature, Allabar, Opener of the Way, can act as the final boss to a high-level Far Realm campaign. Begin planning now and you can add many of the Far Realm creatures from MM3 into your own game.

3. Get Used to the New Stat Block.

The new stat block has a much more logical format for running monsters at the table. Get used to the new format and begin using it for your own games. Here is an example of the new monster stat block formatted in HTML and CSS by Cynical Octopus at the Tarrasqueous blog.

Initiative +9

Senses Perception +10

HP 256; Bloodied 128

AC 27; Fortitude 24; Reflex 26; Will 25

Saving Throws +2

Speed 6

Action Points 1

Static Field Aura 2

Squares in the aura cost enemies one additional square of movement to enter.

Quarterstaff At-Will

+18 vs AC; 1d10 + 6 damage.

Magic Missile Barrage (arcane, force) At-Will

+17 vs Reflex; 2d8 + 6 force damage and the target is pushed 1 square.

Entangling Force (arcane, force) Recharge 3 4 5 6

Area burst 1; +17 vs Reflex; 3d10 + 6 force damage, and the target is slowed and cannot shift or teleport until the end of Samsons next turn.

Quickened Repelling Sphere (arcane, force) Recharge 5 6

Close burst 3; +17 vs Fortitude; 1d10 + 6 force damage, and the target is pushed to a space outside the burst.

Infernal Wrath (fire) Encounter

Trigger: Samson is hit by an enemy within 10 squares

Effect: The attacker takes 2d6 + 6 fire damage.

I’m very excited for the release of the Monster Manual 3. Hopefully these three tips can get you thinking in the right direction as we await its release. Soon after its release, expect a follow-up article with more tips for using the Monster Manual 3 at your table.

If you liked this article, please consider using these links to purchase the Monster Manual 3, the Player Strategy Guide, or the Player’s Handbook 3. You can also use this link to purchase anything from Amazon. If you’re looking for miniatures to match all of these new monsters, look no further than Troll and Toad, an official Sly Flourish sponsor.

Twitter / mshea

Twitter / SlyFlourish

Mike Shea's shared items in Google Reader

Fear of shipping

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/sethsmainblog/~3/ypPJwdilgbc/fear-of-shipping.html

2010-06-11T10:40:00Z

Shipping is fraught with risk and danger.

Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you're exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power or making a fool of yourself.

It's no wonder we're afraid to ship.

It's not clear you have much choice, though. A life spent curled in a ball, hiding in the corner might seem less risky, but in fact it's certain to lead to ennui and eventually failure.

Since you're going to ship anyway, then, the question is: why bother indulging your fear?

In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he's tired. Everyone is. That's not the point. The point is to run.

Same thing is true for shipping, I think. Everyone is afraid. Where do you put the fear?

Steve Jobs Full Session Video | D8 Conference | AllThingsD

From: http://d8.allthingsd.com/speakers/steve-jobs/full-session-video/

2010-06-10T15:33:48Z

Steve Jobs Full Session Video

D&D Trivia Archive May 2010

From: http://critical-hits.com/2010/06/10/dd-trivia-archive-may-2010/

2010-06-10T10:00:53Z

On Twitter, I give out little tidbits about D&D history as I know it or experienced it. This means I might not always be right, but at least its interesting. You can challenge me on twitter or by email.

Heres the May 2010 D&D trivia archive.



Comic: An Inside Job

From: http://feeds.penny-arcade.com/~r/pa-mainsite/~3/OwATh6qxBvw/

2010-06-09T07:00:00Z

Hourly work vs. linchpin work

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/sethsmainblog/~3/0LW1n6jt1Kc/hourly-work-vs-linchpin-work.html

2010-06-09T11:43:43Z

There's a gulf between hourly work and linchpin work.

You should pay people by the hour when there are available substitutes. When you rely on freelancers you can put a value on their time based on what the market is paying. If there are six podiatrists in town, and all can heal your foot, the going rate is based on their time and effort, not on the lifetime use of your foot.

On the other hand, if there are no short term substitutes, then you don't pay what the market will bear, instead you pay what someone is worth. Big difference.

Consider, for example, someone putting together a series of concerts for which they intend to sell subscriptions or even have the musicians sell tickets.

They could seek out pretty good musicians and imagine that paying them $500 or more per hour is very fair compensation. After all, that's more than a podiatrist gets, and she gives you back the use of your foot.

But when they find a linchpin, someone who will either make it easier for them to sell subscriptions or will bring an audience with them, the question isn't how much time it took for the musician to do her set, the question is what did she bring in terms of value, right? An indispensable person, someone with a rare asset, has few substitutes and an hourly rate makes a lot less sense.

So, if a musician is going to sell 300 subscriptions for you and you earn $200 a subscription from that effort, that person just added $60,000 worth of value. Who cares if it took a minute or a day? What's on the table is who gets what portion of the value added...

I had a college professor who did engineering consulting. A brand new office tower in Boston had a serious problem--there was a brown stain coming through the drywall, (all of the drywall) no matter how much stain killer they used. In a forty story building, if you have to rip out all the drywall, this is a multi-million dollar disaster. They had exhausted all possibilities and were a day away from tearing out everything and taking a loss. They hired Henry in a last-ditch effort to solve the problem. He looked at the walls and said, "I think I can work out a solution, but it will cost you $45,000 if I succeed." They instantly signed on, because if he succeeded, the project would be saved.

Henry asked for a pencil and paper and wrote the name of a common hardware store chemical and handed it to them. "Here, this will work." And then he billed them $45,000. That's quite an hourly wage. It's also quite a bargain.

On Distraction by Alain de Botton, City Journal Spring 2010

From: http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_2_snd-concentration.html

2010-06-08T20:43:39Z

On Distraction
Our minds need to go on a diet.

One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.

The obsession with current events is relentless. We are made to feel that at any point, somewhere on the globe, something may occur to sweep away old certaintiessomething that, if we failed to learn about it instantaneously, could leave us wholly unable to comprehend ourselves or our fellows. We are continuously challenged to discover new works of cultureand, in the process, we dont allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds. We leave a movie theater vowing to reconsider our lives in the light of a films values. Yet by the following evening, our experience is well on the way to dissolution, like so much of what once impressed us: the ruins of Ephesus, the view from Mount Sinai, the feelings after finishing Tolstoys Death of Ivan Ilyich.

A student pursuing a degree in the humanities can expect to run through 1,000 books before graduation day. A wealthy family in England in 1250 might have owned three books: a Bible, a collection of prayers, and a life of the saintsthis modestly sized library nevertheless costing as much as a cottage. The painstaking craftsmanship of a pre-Gutenberg Bible was evidence of a society that could not afford to make room for an unlimited range of works but also welcomed restriction as the basis for proper engagement with a set of ideas.

The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.

Alain de Botton is the author of The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work and other books.

News: Dusk

From: http://feeds.penny-arcade.com/~r/pa-mainsite/~3/7Tj9pJ8PveU/

2010-06-07T20:32:05Z

Massive Flow Of Bullshit Continues To Gush From BP Headquarters

From: http://kottke.org/10/06/massive-flow-of-bp-bullshit

2010-06-07T18:51:08Z

The Onion reports:

As the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico entered its eighth week Wednesday, fears continued to grow that the massive flow of bullshit still gushing from the headquarters of oil giant BP could prove catastrophic if nothing is done to contain it. The toxic bullshit, which began to spew from the mouths of BP executives shortly after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April, has completely devastated the Gulf region, delaying cleanup efforts, affecting thousands of jobs, and endangering the lives of all nearby wildlife.

See also BPGlobalPR on Twitter.

Safety is our primary concern. Well, profits, then safety. Oh, no- profits, image, then safety, but still- it's right up there.

This weekend only! Come to bp to top off your tank and we will top off your tummy with some free $10 blackened shrimp! #bpcares

Tags: BP oil

Monster Manual 3 Interview with Greg Bilsland

From: http://critical-hits.com/2010/06/07/monster-manual-3-interview-with-greg-bilsland/

2010-06-07T11:00:59Z

The Monster Manual 3 is due for release in just a few short days. We had the opportunity to ask Greg Bilsland, Wizards of the Coasts designer and lead editor for the Monster Manual 3, five questions related to the release of the MM3.

Lets dive right into the questions.

Critical Hits: With the Monster Manual 2 we saw changes to the design of Solos and Minions. What sort of design changes were behind the MM3?

Greg Bilsland: Monster Manual 3 has some significant changes to monster accuracy and damage. We decided during the development process to look at whether monsters were threatening PCs. We concluded that PCs were, in many cases, killing monsters so fast that the monsters were not challenging the characters. To that effect, we increased monster damage output by about 30-40%.

We also took a look at monster accuracy. We reexamined the various roles and ended up adjusting brute accuracy back to baseline. We felt that this change would enable DMs to use brutes below the PCs level more effectively. Artillery, controller, and soldier accuracy also got a slight adjustment.

CH: What sort of design considerations go into statting out a god or demigod like Lolth?

GB: As solos, monsters like Lolth and Ogremoch are going to represent all the roles, even if their stat blocks define them as a lurker or a soldier. Lolth was especially challenging. A lurker is typically only easy to attack half the time. That makes for a long and frustrating fight against a solo. Part of the solution was to make Lolths powers more lurkerish rather than to give her a lurk mode, like invisibility or total concealment. The other answer was to capitalize on elements of her story. She doesnt discorporate like other deities, and the PCs are in for a surprise when they bloody her.

One of the major design considerations that goes into the 30+ solos is to make the fight climactic and transformative. The fight cant be staticthe monster needs to be affecting the battlefield and forcing the characters to adapt their strategies. We often achieve this effect through auras. Ogremoch, for example, has an aura that causes the entire battlefield to shift and move. I designed a creature named Allabar for Monster Manual 3. Allabar is a climactic boss for a campaign centered around a Far Realm incursion. To try and capture the feeling of fighting a planetary entity, I gave Allabar powers like gravity well, devour body, and unravel essence to capture the climactic and epic feeling of a battle against it.

CH: What was the background and philosophy behind the new stat block?

GB: Basically, it came down to dividing the powers in the way a DM typically runs monsters. A DM only needs to look at certain pieces of a monster at certain times. In the old stat block, it was difficult to know where to look, depending on how many actions the creature could take, when its aura triggered, and when its other powers triggered. The new division makes that subdivision clearer. It also emulates the PC power format, making it easier for players to become DMs.

Interviewers Note: Greg and Andy Collins described in detail the background behind the new monster stat block in the DDI article Revising the Monster Stat Block (Subscription to DDI required).

CH: Are there any new considerations a DM should have in mind when putting together encounters from the MM3?

GB: Monster Manual 3 has a few core conceptions. The first is that it brings back a lot of classic monsters, like the mimic, the banderhobbs, the cloakers, and the derros. The book also has more epic monsters than other books, allowing DMs to more easily structure encounters at those levels. Theres also a psionic theme, so youll see more creatures like mind flayers, thri-kreens, star spawn, and foul spawn. The mix of different creatures makes it a widely applicable book. I think people will get the most out of it if theyre running Far-Realm-centric games, games involving drow or the Cult of Elder Elemental Evil, or if theyre ramping up for high paragon and epic tier.

CH: What is your favorite MM3 monster and why?

GB: I really like Allabar, Opener of the Way, because the monsters entry gives some substance to why star spawn are in the world, and it helps a DM frame a campaign around a conflict against the Far Realm. Catastrophic dragons are my other favorite. I like the charge up and explode mechanic and the ability to pair the dragons (because theyre elites) with other monsters. Theyll go great with all the Cult of Elder Elemental Evil stuff in the book.

CH: What are three tips you have for DMs running games with MM3 monsters?

  1. GB: Read the entire monster entry. Dont gloss over the Lore and Encounters entries. These have lots of hooks for building adventures and encounters. Theyll provide a wealth of inspiration. The new page format emphasizes story and really helps develop the core D&D world. I could definitely see someone sitting down with this book just to learn more about the D&D world.
  2. Check out the stat blocks before the game if possible. A good number of monsters in Monster Manual 3 introduce new and unusual mechanics, like psionic augmentation and the catastrophic dragons exploding mechanic. Some of the monsters are more advanced than those in the previous Monster Manuals, so it will help if you peruse the blocks early.
  3. Check out this book before the characters get to high paragon and epic tier. There are some great hooks for campaign arcs, and it introduces some new epic-level factions. There are some new epic-level humanoids called tulgar and forsaken that have great hooks to pit them against the PCs. Tulgar are corrupted primal spirits that have inhabited humanoid bodies, and forsaken are humanoids descended from fragments of dead gods.

This book has plenty of monsters of all levelsover 300, in fact. Ive been having a blast running them for the past couple of months in my paragon-tier game, and I can guarantee that the new monsters pack a punch.

We want to thank Greg for taking the time to answer our questions. For more tips on how to use the book in your game, check out the Three Tips to Prepare for the Monster Manual 3. The Monster Manual 3 will be released on 15 June 2010. Players beware!



And You Thought Fast Zombies Were The Worst Kind... [COMIC] | Cracked.com

From: http://www.cracked.com/article_18582_and-you-thought-fast-zombies-were-worst-kind...-5Bcomic5D.html

2010-06-07T16:50:37Z

Book Burning

From: http://xkcd.com/750/

2010-06-07T00:00:00Z

Organizing the unorganized

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/sethsmainblog/~3/SojAn5zu8g4/organizing-the-disorganized.html

2010-06-06T09:22:00Z

There may be no bigger opportunity online for bootstrappers than finding people who would benefit from being connected and then connecting them.

Not so they can waste time sending digital love notes back and forth, but so they (and you) can create value for others.

Build a network of experts and make it available for hire.

Build a network of researchers and generate information useful to others.

Build a network of leaders and represent them to advertisers, marketers or recruiters.

Getting people and organizations in sync is the project of our times.

COMDEX was the largest trade show in the world for years, and it generated millions in profits as well as billions in value to the attendees. What happens if you do that in the small? But more efficiently...

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