Tag Archives: D&D

Out of the Abyss

It was October, 2015. We started playing Out of the Abyss in our weekly D&D game. On April 5th, 2020, we finally finished it. Granted, we took a 13 month hiatus at the midpoint of the campaign where I traded off DM duties and we played a variety of other games including The Sprawl, Pete’s home brew, and possibly something Mike ran. Nevertheless, we played Out of the Abyss over the course of four and a half years and about 75-80 sessions, from cover to cover.

I didn’t do the greatest job DMing it, nor was I quite up to the task of running such a sandboxy campaign properly. I liked the story; it was very ambitious. I do wish more was explicitly revealed to the characters through the written adventure, as I did not fully portray the extent of corruption and madness that had pervaded the Underdark. Nevertheless, it was relatively enjoyable and reasonable well written .1

There were quite a few memorable moments, but the top one for me was probably the spider drop.

Onwards and upwards. Mike is going to run the Goodman Games rewrite of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks next. After that, who knows. Pete or Brian might want to run something short2, and then I’m planning on running Descent into Avernus.

  1. I will say I did not understand the ordering of the final few chapters. Menzoberranzan was a chapter too early in my opinion, and frankly could have been cut out completely. It’s way to rich of a setting for a chapter to do it proper justice, and by the time it shows up in the adventure, it’s time to fight demon lords, not mess around with Underdark city intrigue. 
  2. Pete should do some edition of Gamma World


Any table top RPG player worth his or her salt has dice, more dice than one would possibly need. I remember buying totally pointless trap and weather dice, like you couldn’t just make a 1d6 die table for weather conditions. Whatever, it’s part of the hobby and it’s harmless fun.

But what the fuck? Why would one need a d12 that tells time… by showing the numbers 1-12 in analog clock form? Wouldn’t a regular d12 be just as good?


Review: Olympus WS-822 Digital Audio Recorder

I recently purchased an Olympus WS-822 Digital Voice Recorder. I decided to write this review up for the device because when I was researching it, I could not find examples where someone actually played audio back from it. At the bottom of this review, I have an audio file that is a side-by-side comparison between it, a Zoom H4N, an iPhone 5s, and an Electro-Voice RE20. I explain the test in more detail at the bottom of this review.

Olympus WS-822
Olympus WS-822 on “The Dymrak Dread” module by John Nephew.

Continue reading Review: Olympus WS-822 Digital Audio Recorder

Keep on the Borderlands and eD&D

Some time ago, over a year ago in fact, I wrote a post about how we were going to start playing some RPGs over teh internets. I’m happy to report that we’ve been playing pretty much every week via Roll20 since January 2013. Most of that time we’ve been playing D&D 3.5, but just recently we moved on and Mike is running a Star Frontiers campaign.

KotB post-mortem

Back in that original post, I wrote:

It’s a pretty shitty adventure in many ways since there’s so little in the way
of a plot actually in the module. Unfortunately, not only due to my lack of
motivation to really make it good, my skills are a wee bit rusty.

So, yeah, that was pretty much spot on. It’s a shitty adventure. You basically hear some rumors about a cave and then you go to the cave and murder all the coexisting monsters that live there in separate cave complexes.

I think it is only a legendary adventure because it’s one of the first many people played. Probably a lot of fun campaigns were launched using the setting as well. It’s suckiness this time around is due in no small part to my shitty DMing. So it goes.

D&D 3.5

It’s a cool system, but it’s just too goddamn complicated, often for no good reason. There is a layer of realism added tactics-wise compared to ‘old school’ D&D, but I don’t really think it’s worth it. After all, most players optimize their characters and/or character play style so that they become pretty one dimensional. Who cares if there are attacks of opportunity if everyone just becomes a statue in order to avoid them. Likewise, characters with sneak attack or skirmish always do the same thing in battle to maximize their special ability. Likewise for most any other character class’s special ability.

I think I’d rather just go back to 1st or 2nd ed., keep most of the ‘options’ rules out of things, and wing it if someone wants to do a special maneuver. So, if Might & Magic ever ships, maybe we’ll play that next. Otherwise it’s vanilla 2nd ed. D&D or something like OSRIC.


We used to play D&D when we were younger. Then we went away to college. We still played every once in a while, over the summer, or over the random holiday, but not that much. Years later, Protocon occurred. Despite Mike’s mislabeling of the 2011 event, we actually had 4 of them. Most Protocons featured some form of role playing game; one year it was Star Frontiers and for Protocon 4, we played about 3 pages of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

Sometime near the end of 2011, I started playing D&D again with some people I knew in college. It was fun. Then I moved. I realized that finally technology had gotten to the point where we could conceivably run some games virtually. We could all get on Google Hangouts and video chat at the same time. As a bonus, you can share documents and pictures in your session, so I could throw up a map or something and people could draw little icons representing where they were, etc. I talked it over with people and everyone seemed interested.

After moving, life was a bit hectic for all of us. Tom got married and Mike and Joe had just moved too. Things finally settled down after the new year and we scheduled our first session to test out video chatting and to roll up some characters.

Things were a little rough, but promising. I discussed (virtually) with everyone different options I was thinking about for maps:

  • No maps like we used to play in 2nd edition – all in your head.
  • Using a Google sketch document to place a background image and move around
  • Use a program like Maptool.
  • Use a cross between the two above options, like Tabletop Forge.

Everyone seemed to want to avoid the first option for now and try out 3rd edition’s more tactical battle, which requires a map and miniatures. So we tried using a sketch document as a makeshift map. My take on that: It can work, but it’s a pain in the butt. It’d probably work better in a 2nd edition environment to indicate positioning, but with anything that requires more precise locations, like attacks of opportunity, etc., it becomes a bit of a headache. The number one problem is there is no way to lock the background image, so if anyone, player or GM, misses an icon and accidentally targets the map, the map gets dragged. Which is a drag.

We also checked out Tabletop Forge. It worked in the Google Hangouts environment, and provided some extra functionality over a sketch document and wasn’t as involved as a full-blown solution like Maptool. Unfortunately, it was still too early in the development phase to work (in my mind).1

Lastly, we tried Maptool. I had some issues getting the right ports open on my router in the first go, but Brian and Mike really liked the idea of the more sophisticated map. I didn’t exactly relish all the extra preparation that would go into running a game with Maptool, but it was duly noted how much they seemed to like the idea, so I told them I’d investigate it a bit more.

The next day or so, I stumbled upon Roll20. Wow! This was it. A nice clean easy to use interface, the ability to use it within Google Hangouts if you wanted (we don’t yet), and some nifty extra features like visual line of sights, fog of war, and keeping track of some simple stats like hit points. I started loading in maps right away.

That was about a month ago. We’ve actually had 2 or 3 playing sessions, and besides the one where Mike’s computer kept overheating and shutting down, it works surprisingly well. One game has been completed, A Dark and Stormy Knight, which was free from Wizards of the Coast. This past weekend, we just started on The Keep on the Borderlands, by request of Mike. It’s a pretty shitty adventure in many ways since there’s so little in the way of a plot actually in the module. Unfortunately, not only due to my lack of motivation to really make it good, my skills are a wee bit rusty. Hopefully it will turn out okay though. In a future post, after we finish it, I’ll put up some of the extra maps I drew for the game and do a post-mortem.

  1. Shortly after I paid a small amount of money to have access to the newer betas of Tabletop Forge, the developer decided to merge efforts with Roll20. As a result, I get access, for life I think, to the Roll20 subscription features like dynamic lighting and ad-free play. I can say this about these features: If you play at least once a week, it’s totally worth the $5/month subscription. Especially if you can get your players to pitch in. 

White Plume Mountain and DIRT ROAD Movie

I was thinking about running White Plume Mountain</a href> over the winter break. For those you not familiar with it, it is the followup to Tomb of Horror</a href>.

If you are interested give me a shout.

Additionally, I wanted to shoot a short film. Joe and I have been tossing around a couple ideas (I want to shoot on the dirt road personally), but I wanted to put some feelers out as to who was and was not going to be home at Christmas. Ideas for the script will be contingent on whose available.

White Plume Mountain - Front

White Plume Mountain - Back