Even though I’m a comics fan myself and could have found plenty to do without it, the main reason I wanted to get to Comic Con was to play D&D. Here were the different parts of Dungeons & Dragons at NYCC.
BEYOND THE DOOR
This was the featured “special” adventure for the con. 18th level, but incorrectly advertised as 15th (which meant I ended up scrapping the Dwarven Ranger I brought in favor of a pre-gen Battlerager Fighter). Both Matt and I were looking forward to trying out some Paragon-level badasses.
The adventure’s setup was very interesting. First thing we had to tell why we owed a favor to the trickster god Zagyg, whom had sent us in search of a lost wand. Answers in our group varied between “I wanted eternal life (and he cursed me with leprosy)” to “I used to be a dude.” Then we were given a list of information we knew about the wand, and the cast of characters that had gone to the same place. The setting for the adventure- and it only used one map for the entire thing- was a chamber within the Elemental Chaos. Upon entering the front door, we realized we had been thrown back in time to the beginning of the universe. From there, the mission wasn’t just recover the McGuffin- instead, figure out how to escape.
A while was spent figuring out the core puzzles that allowed us to shift between time periods and find the other creatures who had been there. From the backstory, we knew of four main encounters that could happen: a Cambion, a Slaad war band, a Death Priest and his entourage, and a Beholder.
The first encounter we did was the Death Priest, who came with a Death Knight and a pack of easily-dispatched Abyssal Ghoul minions. Many of us were still learning how to play our character, but the fight went along pretty snappily.
The second fight we decided to jump to the guy who had the wand we were seeking. Two half-elves claiming to be bounty hunters lead us in to a chamber, then revealed themselves as Raksashas and attacked. The fight consisted of the two Raksashas, a Fire Archon, a Helmed Horror, and a Cambion. It was one hell of a fight, and took a long time. The Helmed Horror’s high defenses and regeneration stymied us for a long time, especially when we failed to roll above a 9 for a significant part of the combat. The initial part was fun, especially in the “oh crap there’s more monsters that look scary” portion and using various zones and maneuvers to get us into shape. By the end, however, it had turned into classic grind: everybody was using the same attack and just trying to hit.
By the time that combat is over, several of us had to go do other things (the event had started late too), so we called it after that by explaining that we had already solved the puzzle and were able to trace the steps we’d take to escape, so we were victorious. (My fighter, with an Int of 9, still didn’t understand that the bounty hunters had been fake).
I know I would have been a lot happier with my character had I generated him myself. As it was, I didn’t have Martial Power on me, so I didn’t know what all my feats did, and still to this day am confused about how the Battlerager Vigor works. Additionally, I discovered something that will probably annoy me about playing at paragon levels: not the powers (those were very easy to manage), but all the situational benefits granted by feats and constant magic item bonuses. Maybe someday the character builder will be robust to calculate all that (it still trips up on some paragon benefits, for one) and will give separate boxes for “attacking with combat advantage” and “opportunity attack” and such. Hopefully by the time I get to Paragon, I will have a good grasp on everything my character can do, but I envision this being tricky for one-shots.
D&D PRODUCT PANEL
Unfortunately, I had forgotten this event was going to happen, and showed up late. Stephen Schubert, Chris Perkins, and Chris Tulach hosted this smallish event (less than 20 people) that was mostly Q&A with the audience. Afterward I talked to them for a bit, though no formal interview. Nothing said during the Q&A was particularly surprising, but here was what I took away from it all:
- New D&D Minis will have colored stat cards that correspond to solo, elite, standard, and minion.
- Monster Manual 2: Demogorgon and monsters around him (like with Orcus in MM1) will be in it. The rust monster will also be in it, and they showed off the new rust monster miniature. Digester will probably not be in it, even though they finally found someone in the audience who was a fan of the digester. They also said that some classic monsters were specifically withheld from MM1 to appear later: frost giants, metallic dragons, etc. The book will also contain some variants of existing monsters, but variants that are worth having book space (ones that you can’t just adjust yourself). There will be new goblins with a different feel, for instance. Fungus creatures are back in MM2 as well, including Myconoids with a hive-mind colony feel.
- Draconomicon 2: Speaking of metallic dragons, they’ll appear here. The book will contain advice on using metallic dragon as antagonists: not just evil ones, but ones that are good but have plans that are antagonistic to the party. There will also be discussions of each of their personalities and how it can work into a DM’s story- the example given was the mercenary nature of Iron dragons. Stephen Schubert also said later that the metallics are going to be slightly mechanically different than their chromatic cousins.
- Another discussion sprung out of some other monsters in MM2. Devas are creatures who are reborn over and over again to widen their experiences, but sometimes they get corrupted and that carries through (and are primarily the ones in MM2 that you’d fight), and this all ties into small tidbits hinted at earlier with Raksashas. They talked about how they don’t want there to be too much story to each monster: if the players never see it (and learn it via Lore checks), then there’s not much of a point having it there. Likewise, if there’s too much story, then a DM has a much harder time incorporating the monster into his game.
- Like The Plane Below elemental chaos book announced at D&DXP, there will be other adventure setting books not necessarily tied to the planes. An audience member asked specifically if there would be one about the Underdark which was met with a resounding “Yes!” In fact, the way it sounded, this book may already be in development.
- This year, there will be 3 different Worldwide D&D Game Days. One will be in March for PHB2, and focus on those characters. One will be for MM2, and focus on monsters from it. The DMG2 game day in November will be a bit different: instead, teams will create adventures using the tools provided in DMG2, and then they’ll rotate with other teams to run those adventures.
- Someone in the audience expressed concern about where to play these, now that Neutral Ground (the big game store in NYC) was closed down. They talked about the Wizards Play Network, and how any of these events could be run at any public location: libraries, churches, youth groups, etc.
- There was a question about how best to break into the RPG industry, and like we’ve heard before, the answer was Dragon and Dungeon magazines. They specifically said that sending multiple pitches in the same email was a GOOD idea, because that’s fewer emails they have to read, fewer responses they have to send, and the worse they’ll feel about rejecting that many ideas at once. I followed up with Chris Perkins afterward, who gave me some guidelines about what they’re looking for right now. The different epic level series are in the most need for Dragon: articles for Deities & Demigods, Court of Stars, Primordials, etc. have plenty of space for content. Ecologies, class acts, and Bazaar of the Bizarre were all in need as well. The best chance in Dragon is to look at what series they already have, but don’t have much in them so far. Rule variants and such aren’t going to fly. Dungeon is really in need of short adventures that can be dropped into any game (2-3 encounters long). He said a good example was a recent issue that involved a write-up of a monastery that could go anywhere.
- Revenge of the Giants: This will be a mega-adventure in a book, with a poster map insert. It should go from 17-20th level. Someone asked if it would have background rules like Scales of War, and they weren’t sure.
- Mike Mearls is working on a 4e version of Village of Hommlet, which will appear as a DM Rewards adventure.
- The setting book for 2010 will most likely be announced at GenCon.
- They had copies of the power card displays, hero packs, monster packs, and a few random monsters from the next set (including the surprisingly controversial Aboleth).
- Finally, they showed off some printouts of pages from the PHB 2 and graciously allowed me to take pictures of them before they scooped them up: Gnomes pg 1, Gnomes pg 2, Avenger class traits, Avenger class features, Character Options, Barbarian powers pg 1, Barbarian powers pg 2.
We had a train to catch, but couldn’t leave without trying out some of the PHB2 classes that were being used for the event. There were two types of delves: a cityscape, and a sewer, both using the Streets of Shadow dungeon tile set. We ended up in the sewer, in a party with an Elven Wild Sorcerer (me, of course), a Warforged Warden (Matt), Shaman, Barbarian, and Invoker.
I loved the Wild Sorcerer, as expected. My favorite moment was when I fired an encounter power fire attack against an Ice Goblin, rolled a 7 to get a saving throw against being slowed, then used elven accuracy to reroll the attack and turn it into a crit. Aside from the normal crit effects, I also managed to push the goblin back and knock him prone. It was great.
The only class that seemed to have problems pulling its weight was the Shaman, which seemed a bit murky other than doing stuff with its spirit bear. I’d have to see a bit more, but as a “pet” class, I’m far more underwhelmed with it than I was with beastmaster ranger.
All of the PHB2 classes and races were available for play there, as they were at DDXP last weekend. I managed to take a picture of a few of the sheets:
From what I heard, the Barbarian and Avenger were the most popular, but none were completely left out by players. There was more interest in seeing the ones that hadn’t been previewed online too. I played the delve with two players who hadn’t played since 3e, and I thought it was interesting that their impression of the game might now involve them thinking that the old classic classes are gone, replaced with things like Invokers, but didn’t get a chance to follow up and ask.
GAMING AREA AND BOOTH
WotC had a pretty large area to work with, which was good. One side was devoted to Magic (which was running tournaments often, and also had a fair amount of casual play), while the other had the various Delve and other D&D events. There was also a station to try out the character builder and print out characters. When we first arrived before 11, there wasn’t a whole lot of activity, but it picked up throughout the day. The space had two major factors working against it: one, it wasn’t close to the exhibit hall and required multiple escalators to get there, and two, it was down the hall from some of the nosiest events. Hopefully they can work out something better with the con next year to prevent that from happening again.
The booth was mostly the same as their GenCon setup, if slightly smaller. The WotC employees told me that the delves they were running in the booth were getting lots of great responses: lapsed players, new players, and players who hadn’t played 4e at all were stopping in, and that the tables there were filled almost the whole time. They were also selling the Dungeon Delves book early, and the next dungeon tiles set.
I enjoyed the games, and while I can’t see myself wanting to hang out and play delves all weekend, I would have certainly have liked trying out another of the PHB2 classes in the above ground delve, but I still spent half my day playing D&D, and it’s hard to complain about that.