We started _Waterdeep: Dragon Heist_ on Saturday with Ian DMing. As is traditional, the party started in a tavern, The Yawning Portal, one famous in Waterdeep mostly, I guess, because it has a big hole like a well in the middle of it that leads down to a dungeon beneath the city, the Undermountain. We were all there sitting around a big table to watching a celebratory send-off for a party of brave adventurers going down into the portal.
We all introduce our characters since this was the first session.
Mine is Ludo Travers, a quarter-orc rogue from the city itself he likes the finer things in life and is in love with an equestrian named Annaliese. He's uncomfortable about being kind of ugly cuz he's partial orc.
We also had Marfaen Grimm, a human woman, who had some kind of tragic child story and is now somehow cursed by spirits. That's Eric playing some kind of non-standard class called a Malefactor.
Bimpnottin "Nottie" Sniggleboom (a.k.a. Pimpbutton Snuggleboom) is a gnome who loves children, blowing things up, and working in a toy store. She is also a bard who plays the ocarina. She was very enthusiastic.
The half-elf monk, Fawzi Greynore, had come to the city searching for the fulfillment she could not get at the monastery where she had been living and studying.
And finally, a halfling druid, Ellai Rickzer, who was also from the city and had lots of siblings.
After introductions we watched the party go down into the portal. Not long after, a commotion started nearby as a bald headed dude with eyes tattooed on his head started a fist fight with a half-orc woman. He was backed up by four other guys. Ludo recognized his contact Yagra, so he leapt in to assist, stabbing the bald man once.
A fight began. Ludo ended up stabbing one of the other brawlers, critically hitting, and killing him. Nottie cast a spell, some kind of thunderwave, that shot forward hurting both Ludo (ouch!) and some of the other brawlers, knocking at least one over, and killing another (or maybe the same one). Others in the party held back and observed. After another round a loud animal-like noise erupted out of the pit in the middle of the room and a large troll crawled out, holding a detached human arm wearing the same clothes as one of the adventurers that just went down the hole. Attached to the troll were a few stirges along for the ride.
This new arrival caused true chaos to erupt as much of the clientele fled the scene. This also caused more of the party to become engaged in the combat. The druid cast entangle which sprang up weedy growth around the troll and a few of the brawlers helpfully holding them in place for a time, giving everyone else the advantage of location and movement.
I forget all the order of what happened but one of the stirges killed one of the brawlers, and the remaining one ran away. The unlucky party member ran outside to get the attention of the city watch, who merely observed until the troll was dead, then arrested Yagra and her bald-headed opponent, who was pretty badly hurt by that point. Durnan, the proprietor of the tavern and a former adventurer, leapt from behind the bar with a greatsword and engaged the troll, doing significant damage to it, aided by a number of party members, mostly using missile weapons like thrown daggers. The final blow was struck by the gnome critically hitting with a thrown dagger, getting the troll in the eye and taking him down.
So we ended up killing two guys pretty quickly despite having a conversation before play about how doing that in the city was a bad idea because you'd get arrested. Thankfully the troll's arrival seems to have wiped away that issue, as we could just blame the troll and stirges.
Durnan thanked us for the assist, and back in our seats we were approached by a flamboyant man named Volo. Most everyone knows Volo because is famous for writing travel guides (over the years the publishers of D&D have published a few books with titles that begin "Volo's Guide to..."). He hired us to find his missing friend Floon. Volo and Floon had been drinking (and gambling) at The Skewered Dragon the other night and since then Floon has not been seen. Volo provided little in the way of leads or clues, but he's paid us 10gp each up front with 100gp each when the job is done, and it never hurts to help a famous guy who writes books.
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We have our game today, with Ian taking over DMing the 5e D&D adventure Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. I'm excited to take a break from DMing and play some, and to put all my online character sheet updates to use. I'll probably right up a recap tomorrow.
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Been working on one of my personal coding projects, an online (but it works offline) character sheet for D&D 5th edition. I've been using it for a while now (the repository has been there for more than 3 years), and since we are going to be playing that edition again soon, I thought I'd update it and improve some issues I've had using it.
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Spent too much time yesterday (don't I always say that), playing Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition, a port of an old pre-Dragon Age Bioware game (from 2006) to PS4. The graphics are blocky and the UI is clunky, yet I find myself engaged by it. The gameplay is very faithful to D&D 3rd edition rules, which can be a bit cumbersome for a video game. I can see in a lot of it where Bioware changed and improved from it to Dragon Age: Origins, simplifying a lot of the rule and character cruft and adding to the NPCs and party member interactions.
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Another blustery rainy December day. Playing the Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order again now I figured out how to advance. Had a big breakfast thanks to Ian, sat a bit (trying to do 10 minutes day), and then played some more of the game. Now it's this, sitting on the couch with Buddy, and then maybe a movie or maybe just reading more of one of my books. My box of stuff from the Old School Essentials Kickstarter showed up today, just in time, as I've been thinking about trying a D&D game with my work colleagues again. We tried... 2 years ago, I think, but had trouble getting enough people to show up regularly. We've hired a lot more people and more of them seem to play or have played in the past. I think the Old School Essentials rules will be a good set to use, as they are pretty basic, and with the nice layout I can send people a few page spreads and they can have all the reference material they need to play. Would just need to figure out a setting or a bunch of adventures to use.
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Sunday we had our in person session. I continued running _The Cursed Chateau_ which [we started back in October](/entries/2019-10-27-09:01), uses the "we'll make up the characters as we go" method, which isn't turning out too bad, except in the first combat everyone basically had to figure out a number of attributes, so it probably would have been faster to decide some of those all at once in the beginning anyway. I guess it really wasn't much of a time saver. Maybe if we had at least just rolled attributes before starting.
The party had just entered the chateau and moved into a covered walkway at the back of the middle wing of the house. Three armchairs and two armoires animate and attack and that combat took way too long for how unimportant it was. There were some good ideas from the players, though, like sitting on the chairs and riding them like bucking broncos, or pushing over the armoires into an oil puddle on the floor and lighting it up. After awhile I not so subtle suggested that running away is always an option (this group has never really done that), so they moved out of the walkway, which causes the furniture to stop attacking.
The actress PC spied into the kitchen and saw the two servants in there, but did not enter. The party went up the stairs (it was a literal toss-up to decide on going up or down). In the library they met one of the insubstantial maids, and the dashing lord swashbuckler PC at least helped her in tidying up the place a bit. The maid was also questioned a bit, and the party did learn that the master bedroom is in the west wing of the house (they were in the east wing). They also learned that the master has other books in the study, after searching for anything of interest in this room. Someone thought to look for a family bible, which seemed like a logical thing, so I left them find that and discover how the current lord's parents had died when he was very young.
Crossing over to the southern wing, lookig for a way to the west they found the winter dining room, wherein one of the footmen was found. He offered to show them somewhere, but instead they convinced him the staff in the kitchen needed his attention. The next room to the west was a gallery overlooking the main dining hall. A dessicated corpse stood in front of a stained glass window. The dragoon captain looked at the window and managed to pass a save against its (unknown to them) magic (which was disappointing as the results could be pretty hilarious). The nun used her sling to break the window.
At a dead end for getting west, the party went back downstairs and tried the room below the winter dining room, this time a servant's quarters of some kind, empty of any inhabitant at the time. The next room over was the pantry, wherein one of the other maids, this was looking very ghoulish and crazy, was looking for... something... the party directed her one direction, she went the other.
The combat took up too much of the time. The random table you roll on when the party enters each room is... often pointless. Little things that have no significance, don't add much to the atmosphere, and have no real interaction to them. At least once it actually came up with one of the servants (all the other cases were ones where the servant was in a specific room x% of the time). But in all cases the servants disposition and interaction was pretty clear, which goes against the adventure's instructions about how the servants disposition should be randomly decided with a reaction roll. Maybe I was just finding specific ones that contradicted that.
We decided after we stopped playing that Ian is going to take over DMing next. He's going to run us through one of the 5e adventures (the one that takes place in Waterdeep). He had started running that for a different group (including me) earlier in the year, but we never got very far. So I'll get a break from the DMing for a bit, though maybe I will instead try again to start up a game for some of my work colleagues, as we have a lot of people who have or do play rpgs.
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Oddly it almost immediately made me think of a D&D setting: a bunch of small islands between two larger ones, wherein the sea is primarily a passage between two large political entities (empires, kingdoms, whatever). So the islands are criss-crossed by civilizations but mostly unexplored or left alone excepting small ports or bases. Natives who are of neither entity with an animistic religion. And... what if those small craggy islands also house entrances to a vast system of caves that link the islands from beneath the sea. And just like that, I'm excited about a D&D campaign that I will probably never play or would get bored of before a session or two passes.
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So, before I forget it all, here's a rundown from our game yesterday.
Low Fantasy Gaming one-shot
- Toadvine (my character), half-skorn (beastman) scribe specializing in animal lore with a crossbow and a scroll of sleep. (An uncharacteristically super smart but very weak beastman.)
- Rohanna, a former shield maiden cultist, some kind of northern viking-like race worshipping a goddess, with a big shield, a battle-ax, some healing magic, and a desire to make her goddess happy by dancing and saying appropriate things. (Cultist is the ruleset's cleric.)
- Arlen, a dwarf monk with a desire to vote for everything and fast feet who likes to talk to cats. (My impression is the monk is basically the classic D&D unarmed fighting monk.)
- Dak, a human monk with a staff and a good length of rope.
We decided the monks knew each other from the monastery in Crow's Keep the city we started in. Rohanna and Toadvine met on the way to the city (both being from elsewhere), and Toadvine and Arlen met because they were both talking to the same cat.
The party was hired by the captain of the Hunter's Guild, Jaspar Hammond, to take supplies and head west into the Forest of Drellnor to ascertain if a party of 12 hunter's sent in search of "Big Beak" a giant owlbear were still alive and bring some kind of proof either way. If we wanted to return with Big Beak's head there'd be even more money in it for us.
The first day on the trail we heard an awful, moist chewing sound coming from ahead. The 2 monks scouted ahead (being skilled in Stealth) to discover a bear carcass being eaten by some kind of centipede creature. We circumnavigated that clearing and continued on, eventually noticing a man-made structure ahead. Once again the monks scouted ahead finding a small farmstead with a human who looked a lot like a hunter standing guard at the dilapitated gate.
Arlen revealed himself and talked to the man, explaining our mission. He let us into the yard. We met 6 men, all from the Hunting Guild. Toadvine, found all their names in his list of the hunter's we were trying to find. They told us about going to Big Beak's lair (a cave), getting surprised and that 6 of their comrades were killed by the owlbear. All that were left were men (and one wonders if that was a coincidence). We have supplies for the hunters and it is late, so they offer to let us stay.
The hunters say they are going back first thing in the morning to the owlbear's lair. Their plan seems to be "go at dawn, attack it." That makes us suspicious. Toadvine suggests getting in trees and just shooting at the thing from a distance. (Do owlbear's climb trees? We think it'd be too big.) The hunter leader seems uninterested in making plans. Like he just wants to run in.
Rohanna and Toadvine are both very suspicious. We try to get the leader to tell us what the hell is going on and what he is not telling us. He demures. The hunter's go into the one building to make dinner. The party investigates the other buildings. An empty chicken coop, a smoke house (recently used, containing some vittles), a house with a hole in the roof being used as sleeping space by the hunters. (For some reason we do not dig around in their belongings looking for clues. At this point it just seemed like maybe something had gone wrong and they were embarrassed or... they were just bad at hunting owlbears...)
We end up having dinner with the hunters, talking to them a bit. Rohanna charms one of the fellas, and he seems kind of freaked out about his colleagues' deaths, saying he didn't really see it. She convinces one or two of them to dance. Toadvine questions hunters about owlbear information and convinces two of them that owlbears get scared if you bark at them like dogs (this was either a morale booster or a cruel joke, I'm not sure which).
Arlen notices another room (down a hallway... never did figure out if there were other rooms, implied by the presence of a hallway), that has been used for dressing meat (maybe those little white chef hat looking things that you see on the legs of roasted turkeys in old cartoons). In the corner is a satchel, inside of which is a weird knife, two-pronged, made of cold iron (good for fighting demons and undead) and a black gem in it. Arlen being a dwarf obsessed with valuables decides "finder's keepers" and pockets it.
Later, we decide to bunk in the chicken coop. We investigate the knife and discuss our suspicions. Rohanna decides to take a watch shift outside (the other shifts being taken by hunters), and the rest of the party keeps their own watch inside the coop (still being suspicious these hunter's might decide to kill us in our sleep).
During Rohanna's watch (coincidence?) she identifies a humanoid with an unusual gait outside the stead (pause as DM walks, dragging one feet behind him across the room and back). The humanoid is circling around the yard. Rohanna warns... Arlen (I think?) who was on watch inside, and the rest of the party awakens.
Rohanna and Arlen head out of the yard to follow the traces of the humanoid, while Toadvine and Dak stay in the yard. Toadvine readies his crossbow. The humanoid comes into the yard and slips into the smokehouse. We block him in, and Arlen and Rohanna go in.
It's... an injured hunter!?!? He's scared. He appears to be stealing meat. He is suspicous of the two-pronged knife, and he's scared of the other hunters. Having expected something bad, we all quickly agree to follow him out of the yard and talk further away.
In the forest he explains his side of the story, which somehow involves the leader of the hunting party deciding to kill half the party with the weird knife and take their hearts for some nefarious purpose. Despite otherwise being suspicious of everyone we all just agree this guy seems to be truthful. Rohanna heals the guy, Farek(?), with her magic so he can walk better and we all head as quickly as possible back towards the city (unclear at this point whether we actually had our supplies with us or left them back at the coop).
As we walk most of us hear the sound of a large creature swiftly approaching. We ready weapons and a very large owlbear ("Big Beak" obv.) rushes in to attack. There is fighting, there is wounding, there is the danger the owlbear will owlbear-hug and completely crush someone.
Dak (I kept wanting it to be Dax like in Deep Space Nine) saves the day on that accord, by using his rope to lasso the owlbear's one paw/arm. He runs around a tree to keep the thing in place. With only one arm to use, the owlbear is slightly less dangerous to the melee combatants: Arlen and Rohanna. Toadvine keeps a distance using his crossbow to shoot (effectively), and Farek shoots his bow (not very effectively, as I recall). After a few rounds, Rohanna also attempts to rope the owlbear's other paw/arm. She manages to lasso it but fights against its massive strength unable to pin it. Eventually the owlbear is killed by a crossbow bolt to its femoral artery. It falls. We take the head (our proof) and continue rushing back to the city.
The Hunter's Guild captain takes Farek's and our story as truth and sends out a large party to find the remaining hunter's. We split our 600gp reward and go party, sleep, repeat.
Eric is running a bunch of one-shots for us using different games he wanted to try (and then had us vote on). This was the first of the bunch. Personally, I wasn't impressed with the rule system Low Fantasy Gaming, it's pretty much B/X D&D with a bunch of rules hacks of different sorts added on, none of which are too exciting or novel. It changes "Wisdom" to "Willpower" and adds "Perception" to the ability scores, to no great advantage (other than giving an excuse to have people make lots of perception rolls). It uses a roll-under ability score mechanic which is unofficial in most old D&D rulesets but a broadly used mechanic regardless. It adds skills, but they only give you a +1 to your relevant ability (for purposes of roll-under) and there isn't really a "unskilled" penalty, so on a d20 roll having the skill is mechanically not very helpful. Role-playing-wise the skills do add color to the PCs, but my character, for instance, had 7 skills, which is more color than I needed to go on.
Classes do have special abilities, more like 3rd edition, I guess, but if you are into lots of special abilities you must as well just play 5th edition. It adds a bunch of commonly used things like luck and reroll polls and formal rest rules and some kind of injury rule (that didn't come up so I'm not clear on what it is) but none of it is particularly different than anything other games use or that you can just easily house rule.
For me, at least, I'd just as happily play B/X (or lately, Old School Essentials the clone with the best design for play) if I want a lighter rules game and 5e if I want something with lots of bells and whistles.
I got the feeling Eric was more interested in the implied setting of "low fantasy" with less magic, more dangerous magic use, etc. But that too could just be put to use for really any other rule set. Even in 5e, the Adventures in Middle-Earth books from Cubicle 7 provide a variety of interesting class options that are not so "everyone gets spells" as normal 5e.
Next time the game of choice is Colonial Gothic which so far I understand is Call of Cthulhu in colonial America using only d12s.
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We had our sort of monthly game yesterday, and I started running The Cursed Chateau. We tried no character generation ahead of time (though some people did have non-rule-based concepts for their characters). The book offers no clues onto what level characters should be, but I found an indication online for the previous edition, so I decided everyone could be 4th to 6th level. As sometimes (especially lately) happens, we ended up getting very off track having other discussions about our lives. The adventure itself only got through the opening hedge maze and then into the first room of the chateau, at which point they still had met none of the house's inhabitants. The random events table in the book, so far provided little of interest, especially since much of it is irrelevant in the hedge maze. We'll try continuing next session and hope things get a little more interesting in the adventure. Sometimes I think we'd be better off just playing board games, as then we could probably both play and talk without the talk becoming a distraction to the play. The important part for us is the social aspect, so maybe that'd be a better way to go. Though that would cut off our 1 virtual player (who did not make it yesterday), as they would not be able to play a board game with us virtually. I guess I've just learned to go with the flow of getting distracted and talking about other things. It's not like I was prepping all month making maps and creating NPCs and such. I basically just reread the adventure and printed out a couple reference sheets.
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I used The Price of Evil and a deck of cards to start working up a haunted house. It seems ok, though I am concerned that there isn't much to do in the haunted house. A lot of it seems very reliant on my being creative about using the creature that haunts the house, and there's not a ton of guidance on that. There are also aspects of the house generation system that are underexplained or just plain missing. The schematic of the house you fill in with card flips has rooms of various colors, but I can't seem to find anything explaining what those colors mean. Also the way the rooms connect to each other is really abstract and not exactly clear. There are some horizontal (always horizontal) lines between some rooms and some rooms have a "D" in them that seems to indicate a door. But the "D" is always just at the bottom of the room's square. Looking at it now I guess the doors are always used to move vertically on the map and the lines to move horizontally. Maybe the lines are hallways? But that wouldn't negate the use of doors. Maybe they are all just "connections" and it's a limitation of the whatever very simple way the maps were drawn. I'll keep working at it and hope I come up with something that at least turns out to be fun.
I downloaded this DM's Guide Masque of the Worms one-shot that is Edgar Allan Poe themed, but it seemed far too simple, and without much to do other than a few fights and a couple social encounters. Maybe (as usual) my conception of how far we can get in one session is ridiculous, but it seemed like not enough content.
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It's a dreary rainy day now, and I think I'll do a little work on the adventure for next week. I'm going to try generating a haunted house with Zzarchov Kowalksi's The Price of Evil. It's a generator using playing card draws to create a haunted house. The PCs are hired as a kind of cleanup crew so that it can be resold at a higher price (which motivates them to not just burn the whole thing down). It's like HGTV's Haunted House Flippers or something. I think that will appeal to everyone if I can generate something that seems fun and playable.
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███ ran his sort of weekly summer evening D&D game last with me and a bunch of his colleagues. I'm still getting used to playing with a bunch of people I don't really know, and the mix of new players and guys who run games themselves can be interesting. I think there is a certain dynamic where the newer guys are ceding to the guys they know are experienced. I've been trying to not be too forward, but I'm also feeling like when the experienced guys are there, I'm not getting very far in having a voice.
In last night's game we got a hold of a letter about a meeting between a sage we tracked last session and some knight. We've stumbled onto a multi-part artifact type quest with 9 magic tomes that have 9 magic item keys that together can apparently teach you how to raise a dracolich. As we start to gather them, we are also questioning the wisdom of such, since that also seems to be the goal of anyone who might want to put the item to evil use (make a dracolich). Maybe us gathering all the keys is a bad idea and we should focus on destroying the items. We did try a bit of that without success. We probably need a better magical destruction solution, assuming
███ would let us find one.
Anyway, the sage we had tracked had been possessed by some... undead guy... who is apparently trying to get all the tomes/keys. But we ended up getting the key he had and even then opening the tome it went with (I was against that idea, but we voted and I lost). The letter we found indicated this sage was going to take the stuff he got to meet with this "Knight of the 9th Order". We decided to make the meeting instead, travelled to another town, and met the contact in a seedy bar. He took us all along to where the knight and her cohorts were camped out.
When we got nearby, our ranger scouted out the location. I charmed our contact. I wanted to pay him to go back. That way he wouldn't announce us and probably cause trouble since there were 6 PC weirdos rather than 1 human sage guy. But the other player was like we should talk to them. I should have made my point better (that one of us could talk and the rest could hide). Of course the knights seemed pretty sketchy, wanting to free some imprisoned blue dragon (who sounded crazy dangerous), and then, when we didn't want to go along with that, demanded we hand over the key we had (the one they knew we had). We stopped for the night as it seemed like we were about to get in a fight and it was late.
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We've been playing for more than 6 years now, though since we play approximately monthly, that only comes out to less than 70 sessions. My shifting desires for play also means we're now on our fourth campaign. After a early old school D&D game that I was completely making up, we tried a 5e D&D from one of the campaign books (well actually two since we started one and it sucked then switched to another), and then I tried another old school game set in the world of Dragon Age, and now we're playing Stars Without Number. In the end, I kind of wish I'd stuck with the first game, in retrospect I think it was my favorite cause it just... went where it was going. I started out with a map of Earthsea (I think I was rereading that at the time), picked an island to focus on, made a sort of map, and then a town and a city. I used the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh as a starter and then went from there. I hadn't run a game in forever, so it was a lot of me figuring out what I was doing, and I think in that respect I ended up being dissatisfied with my failures. I don't even remember why I ended up ending that campaign exactly, I think I wanted to spend less time prepping. With hindsight I think I was overprepping and hadn't learned enough about making use of tools to prep less, improvise more, and surprise myself more during the game.
Our second campaign started with the 5e dragon cult adventure on which I had read good reviews, unfortunately they were people I later learned to not trust for their taste in adventures. That quickly turned boring as I realized how inflexible the adventure was, so I worked up a way to migrate the game into the Curse of Strahd adventure, which I had read better reviews of. That went better, and we did end up getting to the end of that one (though I played Strahd too easy in their final fight, just to get it over with). Strahd was a lot less prep for me and was fun, but it also felt very limiting, particularly in regards to the PCs. They were pretty disconnected from any of the events. I also find 5e's rules too involved, especially when it comes to combat. Sometimes a single combat would take up most of a session with everyone using all their special abilities and the monsters having crazy amounts of hit points.
Our last campaign started as a good idea to make use of an already created world that I was familiar with as a base for a campaign. I thought that with a world I didn't have to create and one I knew really well it would save me time and effort. Unfortunately, the players (with one exception) didn't know the world, which made it feel like I had to do too much explaining to them. I placed the campaign in an area of the Dragon Age map that was otherwise unexplained, made a map and thought up a bunch of plot ideas and locations. Why did I end up wanting to give up on it? Maybe I'm just too restless to keep a campaign going. I always get all these ideas but then the follow through on them becomes tedious.
This new campaign (today will be session three, though much of session one was character creation) is science fiction and based around the central idea that the PCs wake up and have lost their memory. My hope is that it is a concept I can take to some endpoint without it taking years and years. To that point I need to make myself actively push the threads of that idea to the foreground, not draw out the mystery, the clues need to appear early and frequently. We'll see how that goes.
As usually the game starts in a couple hours and I'm still not sure if I prepped enough. It usually ends up that I prepped too much, but I still always have the fear I will be caught off guard and... what? My friends will laugh at me? Stop playing? Think less of me? Seems unlikely.
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Played D&D with
███ and some of his colleagues, finishing up an adventure we started 2 weeks ago. It's 5e and I'm playing a Tortle Warlock, so kind of a magic using ninja turtle. Not my usual type of character choice, but everyone else is playing all these non-humans (drow, dwarf, gnome, dragonborn). One thing I like about the warlock class is I don't end up having to remember how a ton of different spells work. I have a pretty limited choice at once which I prefer. Last time in ███'s game I was playing a cleric and I had so many spells I had to keep reading the descriptions to remember the point of a lot of them. One thing I don't like about rules sets with too many characters features is you end up spending a lot of time staring at your character sheet looking for answers. But I guess everyone else seems to enjoy all the buzzes and whistles.
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