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 Post subject: D&D 4E Dark Sun UPDATE: New Maps :)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:45 pm 
Edit: All maps and assets can be downloaded here:

http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/various.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/sandraiders.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/marauders.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/bloodsand.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/veiled.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/misc.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/Rocks.zip

Hello fellow hobbyists,

after playing around a bit with maptools and creating some content for a planned Shadowrun campaign, I kinda lost interest and wasn't sure how to balance the characters in a combat-centric scenario.

However, I realized that an old project of mine that was never started in earnest could see the light of day by using maptools! D&D 4E Dark Sun, using Rumble's excellent Slim framework. I tested out the other 4E frameworks but my needs are very specific as I am using maptools solely with face2face sessions for art presentation, world map display/traveling, and most importantly combat resolution. For the combat itself I pretty much only need to keep track of HPs and conditions as well as keeping an overview of monster powers and stats. Thus, the Slim Framework is the best choice with it's character sheet option and ease of use, although it took some time to work out some quirks.

So far I made 4 player characters and the Monster tokens for all three encounters from the Sand Raiders sample campaign. Today, I finished the map for the first encounter. In hindsight, I'd say the dunes are a bit too prominent, but what the heck. At least all shadows are pointing in the right direction! (The wonders of Photoshop ;) )

I hope I will be able to write more about my ongoing experience.

Image


Last edited by Cherno on Sun Jun 28, 2015 11:48 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun using Rumble's Slim Framework
PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 1:22 pm 
Took some time today to redo the dunes with some nifty Photoshop magic.

Image

Image

Next goal is to assemble assets for a desert-themed dungeon (egyptian tomb style) for the third encounter.


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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun using Rumble's Slim Framework
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:09 pm 
Moar work done :)

1. The third encounter for the introductory adventure "Sand Raiders". Good thing Wizards made their dungeon tiles available as part of their Dungeon Mapper program (although at low resolution. I colored it all yellowish so it feels more like a desert dungeon or egyptian tomb.

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2. Bare Bones character sheets that have all the required information to conduct a session. These are specifically made for new players and have only the minimum number of information etc. on them. They are meant to go with a proper character sheet, possibly on a laptop (I recommend the excellent excel (derrr) Character Sheet).

Size is A5 / Half a U.S. Letter.

The inspiration to make these came when I stumbled upon paul's "4E Character Sheet on a business card"... card.

With these, the power cards and a few dice you have everything you need to play as a player :)

If anyone is interested in the sheet or psd files without background, send me a PM or eMail to chernoskill (at) gmx (dot) net.

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3. Power Cards, using Magic Set Editor and a highly modified version of Tirian's style (buried somewhere in this thread, good luck browsing through it ;) ).

I also made custom backside cards images from a scanned copy of one of the official WotC power cards I found online.

What's left is to print the power cards, put em in sleeves, laminate the character sheets, wait for my dice order to arrive, and then set up a game :)


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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun using Rumble's Slim Framework
PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:23 am 
Nice :)


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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun using Rumble's Slim Framework
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:18 am 
Today, I created a small prison with 3 quick combat encounters that serves as a meeting place for all characters; 2 will storm teh prison and two will be jailed inside.

I also went back and created info tokens for all my maps. Very handy for room descriptions or to note DCs for spotting traps etc.

Friday, we will play it, I hope all goes well :)

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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun using Rumble's Slim Framework
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:26 pm 
I made new character sheets, this time vertical ones that have more space to write, are easier to read due to larger font, and most importantly they have a backside for all non-combat-related information.

I already laminated one and wrote all stats on it with a water-solutible pen. Looks really good.

Image Image


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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun using Rumble's Slim Framework
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 6:03 am 
Here's a picture of the character Sheets and a deck of Power Cards. The Fantasy Flight card sleeves are ideal because the come in green, red, black and blue so there's a color for At-Will, Encounter, Daily and Misc powers/feats, and the cards themselves need no backside, plus it's possible to just write on the sleeves. Win! :)

Stats have been written onto the sheets with a permanent pen, but with a cleaning tissue or some other agent it can be erased easily. Non-Permanent doesn't work as well because while it's easier to clean, it scrubs off easily and gets messed up from normal handling due to naturally slightly sweaty hands.

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Today, my Dark-Sun-themed chessex dice came, very nice. I bought 7 sets so everyone has enough.

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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun using Rumble's Slim Framework
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:36 am 
Yesterday was the big day and after having dinner with my two buddies we all played D&D 4E for the first time.

I manged to set up the techical infrastructure in time so everything was ready just when we were finished eating. It took a few moments to get a connectgion via WLAN between the two laptops used, and another few until maptools found the server, but in the end it all somehow worked. There were some hiccups during the 8-hour-long session (we played till 5 in the morning :shock: ) because my notebook is pretty old and slow and sometime froze for a few minutes, but it never crashed, so the program Maptools itself is reasonably stable.

After two hours, just as when we wanted to start the second adventure, the server wasn't able to load the next map, no matter what, it always said "caching 8/9" or something like that while loading, but it never finished. I suspected a too large mapsize to be the case, so I tried to copy the campaign file to the server to check if it could at least load it as master, itself, but for some reason the campaign file was the only one from my maptools files that couldn't be copied. either this was because of some weird sharing properties or because it was being used on the server, either way we got it to work by closing the server AND sharing it for all network users, and after that all worked flawlessly.

Another issue I had was that error messages kept popping at one point when playing the prison encounter, I think it had something to do with the VBL doors. It was irritating but since I could just close them as soon as they appeared it didn't affect the game itself.

So in the end, I think it all worked better than expected and I was suprised that we were able to finish all I had planned for the night with just a little bit of downtime due to technical difficulties.

Long story short, here are some pictures with annotations.

Power Cards and Character sheets, all laminated / put into sleeves



Me as DM left, gaming buddy checking out his power cards on the right

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The big TV to which the client laptop was feeding it's image

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We played through a short encounter I designed from scratch, the Mul Fighter and Human Wizard had been captured by slavers and marched through the desert, when a fierce sandstortm struck and everyone became disoriented. When the all was silent again, they were the only ones around, so they grabbed to leftover gear scattered about and cut their bonds. they soon came upon a desert prison where they slew some guards and the guard captain, and freed to prisoners who were also captured by the slavers. Now each player had two characters to play, and they left the compound and reached Altaruk to start the Dark Sun Campaign Setting introductory adventure "Sand Raiders" which they barely survived (well, the Dwarf Warpriest got killed by a swarm of Silt Runners, but the leader of House Wavir promised to see if there's anyone around that could perform a ritual to bring him back from the dead.).

Some Screencaps from my DM laptop:

First Sand Raiders encounter, Not the info tokens on the escarpments which provide info about skill checks to climb them, and the two blast/burst templates which were moveable by players should the Wizard wish to cast Freezing Coud, Burning Hands or similar. the red and green info tokens are for start and end encounter descriptions. The yellow cross provides tactics information. The red X to the left under the Silt Runner means that this enemy is not used in this scenario becaue I had to downgrade the encounters as there were only 4 heroes and not 5 as in the original campaign encounter.
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Last Sandraiders encounter a.k.a. "The Big Fight". Things got pretty messy here after the Silt Runner Inciter cast some nasty spells. Not the freezing cloud template near the entrance which damaged quite a few Runners. The red 3x3 template is the Psionix blast from the Inciter and created difficult terrain. the big Ssurran picture that's halfway visible in the top left corner can be made visible and dragged to the play area should a character succeed in a nature test to find out more about this creature. The Info token in the middle provides the room description straight from the campaign and can just be read out loud easily without having to look into the book.
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Late in the fight, the Dwarf is dying after being surrounded by three enemies.
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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun UPDATE: First Session Report
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:24 am 
Some general information on how I planned my campaign.

Keep in mind that this was a face2face seesion, so some things of course won't apply to internet play.

First of all, the technical setup.

One client laptop is connected to a big TV, and has a wireless mouse so players can comfortably control their characters from wherever they are sitting. For the next session, I will also buy a small bluetooth keyboard so I don't have to stand up and go to the laptop everytime I have to change maps (The client laptop showed maptools at fullscreen the whole time).

By all means do NOT think that everything will just work right away. First, you have to install the program on the client pc, and then create a networking connection between client and server, and THEN you have to make the maptools client find the maptool server game. Having someone with networking experience helps a lot. Be prepared to spend one hour or more on any issues that may appear.

The DM laptool just sat on my lap the whole time with a small mouse connected to it so I didn't have to use the touchpad. It was a little weird looking directly at the laptop screen in front of my while the players where following the action on the big screen to the right of me, but I found out that it isn't a big deal and soon I got the hang of it.

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Secondly, scenario/session/campaign design.

If this is the first time your players will use a Virtual TableTop program, make sure that you show all the power Maptools has as soon as possible so the players will be awed and thus motivated to play. The very first scenario begun with the characters standing outside a door with a small window in it. Now the players can get to know how skill checks work because they have to roll a Stealth check to see if they can open the window without anyone behind it noticing. Just make it a nearly impossible to fail check. Then, the window opens... What, there's actual line-of-sight tracking, and even fog of war? Woohoo!
This was pretty much the actual reaction of my players when they saw this:
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Bottom line: If there is a cool thing to to a see, show it and/or let them do it! Use the great drop-in functions available for Maptools!

As noted above, the players started with one character each and fought their first two combat encounters with them. Then they freed the other two characters, so after getting to know their initial ones with all powers and stats and the basic game rules, they were ready to take care of two characters each. All those powers can be overwhelming, so make sure to feed it all bit-by-bit.

The prison scenario was made very easy on purpose: Enemies had about 12 HP which is very low; They were not there to provide a real challenge, but rather to serve as means to teach combat basics. Think of videogames like Diablo or whatever: The first level will invariably be filled with enemies that have no real chance of hurting your seriously and mostly drop on one or two hits. When the players reached the Sand Raiders encounters, they were stuned to find out how dangerous combat can really be.

Thirdly, presenting the game world.

My players never played D&D and only one of them had played some Shadowrun about 15 years ago. No one had any clue what Dark Sun was all about. However, a roleplaying game, even if it's just a hack-and-slash-fest, has to have some framework, a world where the action takes place. Athas is different from your standard fantasy setting, with many aspects peculiar to this campaign setting. As a primer, I made a 10-minutes-PowerPoint presentation outlining the important things to know about Dark Sun: Races, Culture, Environment, defiling Magic etc., of course with big pictures on each slide: People love looking at pictures, and people hate reading text! Some basic oral and visual presentation knowledge helps a lot. At first, your players might feel like they're at university or in an office meeting, but if you give the right visual stimulation they will soon be glued to the screen and take interest in the game world.

Fourth, physical components.

Me and my buddies, we mostly play Ameritrash boardgames: Arkham Horror, Gears of War, Descent, Last Night On Earth, Nexus Ops etc. What I love about these kinds of boardgames is that they have great art and beautiful physical components: Finely detailed miniatures, big sturdy game boards, health tokens, little dollar bills for keeping track of money... that sort of stuff. Having a pile of little dollar bills in front of you is far more engaging than writing "$50" on a scrap of paper.
For every gaming project I prepare, I try to make it as board-gamey as possible when it comes to physical components. For Dark Sun, there was the additional issue of it being potentially overwhelming with all the stats and powers, at least for someone with no prior role-playing gaming experience. So what is needed are only the most neccessary things a players needs to know about his character. I made small character sheets with a nice portrait on it so a player knows immediately who is in front of him, and only the most important stats on it. I could have just used a black-and-white sheet, but seriously, which one looks better?
The combat cards make up the second half of each character: Players are accustomed to using cards from other games, and the easy color-coding green-red-black for At-will, encounter and daily powers is also easy to remember.
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The overall goal is to not make players shy away from the game because there's just too much information on the table in front of them. KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid!
The chessex fire sprinkle dice were specially bought for this game because their color scheme fits in perfectly with the orange-yellow, black Dark Sun theme (that is also prevalent on the character sheets!) so everything gaming-related on the table looks as if it came from the same box.



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Fifth, some tricks I learned when DMing.

Preparation is everything!!!

There's a door? Put a info token next to it thas has all required information about traps, locked status, and any other information in it's (GM) Notes.
Tip: If you make the info token an object (change to -> object), it doesn't interfere with any actual character tokens, but the information from the Notes can still be easily read if you click on it while on the Token layer. VERY handy.

Have a trap? Same deal: Skill check to spot, Skill check to avoid damage, everything immediately visible.

Players disover a new room? Info token in the middle, just click on it and read the description! Anything happens? Write your "script" in there, too! For example, let's say two creatures will emerge while the players are investigating the room. Just write "[drag creature AB & B into room]" into the room Notes so you remember it!

Enemy drops loot? Write it in his Notes, but also put an info token next to him that also has the loot listed!

All info tokens should of course be invisible to players.

While we're at it, let me describe how I prepared the enemies. I used Rumble's Slim framework which has a nice little character sheet where you can store all required information (well, almost, but the rest can be written into the Notes field). Take the time to type in all the information from the monster stat block, including the powers! Now you just select the monster token, and in you "Selection" window you can see all powers the monster has and how to use them. Things like HP, AC and speed will be displayed in the bottom left when you hover your mouse above the token. For even more information, open the char sheet with F2.

Info tokens can also be used for overall Encounter descriptions; I use two on every map: One that has the "Arrival" information and one that has the "Development"/Leaving information. Put em near the start and mark them in different colors or use different images for each. Another use is for having monster tactis ready. The goal is to have all the important information from an encounter description as presented in a book handy inside Maptools.

On map creation: First of all, I think that maps should look nice. You could draw some black lines on a white background to mark walls and doors, but a visually far more impressive way would be to use one of the many dungeon or overland graphic available on the net. I use Photoshop so it's easy to do whatever kind of map in whatever style I need, but even with dedicated mapmaking programs you can achieve great results. It might take more time, but if your players feel like they are really in a musty old prison than on a chessboard in the middle of Nothing, its totally worth it.
Second, believe it or not but I don't consider myself to be creative at all. I have a hard time creating stuff from scratch; however, I found out that just starting with a map will soon be an automated process. I only need a vague idea of the map and the reason why the characters are there. For example, I knew that it is a prison and that the characters should a) kill some low-level enemies and b) free their comrades. So I had to have at least two rooms: One guard room and one cell room. A third room contained a mini-boss in the form of the guard captain that gave a taste of things to come in regards of enemy toughness and powers. Once I had mapped out some rooms and hallways, the ideas just kept flowing in: Make a small window into the door for players to look through! Put a pit trap here, and see if players can spot it! Let the captain drop the keys to a storeroom! Let the prisoners in their cells grab the guards through the bars if they get too close!

How to actually start an encounters:
Load the map on your GM PC. make sure it's not visible to players. Drag the player tokens to the starting positions (I just cut and paste the tokens from one map to the next), and use "expose - only currently visible" so they don't see more than they should. Now make the map visible for players and load it up on the player(s) PC.

I generally create some commonly used overlays for area effects that I make available to the players (and for myself). Just drag it out of the way when not in use. Maybe Maptools has an easier way to do it, but I haven't found out yet ;)

Creating Social encounters & Towns:

I use a generic background image, like a market scene, to set the mood.

NPC tokens are hidden from view and only are made visible when they actually talk or do something important. The idea is that players will have it easier to follow the action if they actually see a portrait of the character that is talking instead of you just describing his features. I took inspiration from videogames again: Ultima VII and NWN come to mind, where NPC portraits appear when you initiate dialogue.

In my info tokens, I have the scripts for all interactions: A guard at the city gate might ask for an entry fee, and listed next to it are also the Diplomacy or Intimidate checks associated with it.
Two NPCs might be arguing, so just write down what they do and say.
Merchants have tokens as well and you can also just copy an image of their goods list into the map and make it visible to the players when they want the buy something.
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Some things that I still need to work out:

Remembering things like damaging auras. If a character starts or ends his turn next to an enemy with a d.a. he takes damage, but I forget it most of the time.
Keeping track of Marks (Fighter Marks, Hunter's Quarry): Dead tokens don't drop their marks which can get confusing)
Keeping track of enemy powers: This is probably to biggest issue, I don't know if there's an easy way to do it. for now, if a creature uses a power that recharges somehow I have to add generic Reminder marks, and I'm never sure which is which.


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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun UPDATE: New Maps :)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:36 pm 
The last several days were pretty productive and managed to recreate the encounter maps from the Blood Sand Arena and Marauders of the Dune Sea adventure modules.


A caravan cart dragged through the rocky wasteland by two kanks is ambushed by some raiders.

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The elven market in Altaruk.

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The Bloodsand Arena in Altaruk.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun UPDATE: New Maps :)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:43 pm 
Some screenshots from the last session.

The party stumble upon a couple of Baazrags gnawing on a skeleton of an unfortunate desert traveller. Baazrags are pretty fun to fight because they can latch onto their foes and can then use a pretty powerful gnawing attack, and their victims can't get rid of them by shifting because they just move with them as long as their are latched.

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The burial mount at night. Mako the Wizard (totally not ripped from Conan the Barbarian) performs the ancient ritual that will hopefully save the dwarf's soul, but when all is done, the dwarf isn't the only one who has been brought back to life! Before the skeleton warriors rose, the characters had to make a skill challenge to defend the dwarf's body and soul from some evil spirits.

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First combat encounter in the Bloodsand Arena quest. The caravan ist ambushed by some desperate bandits.
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The elven market in Altaruk, where upon arrival Kaldras aka Backstabbing Bastard tries to knock the party unconscious so he and his clan can sell them as slaves. This was a pretty close fight because Kaldras is very dangerous in close combat, and those elf sniper attack sure add up if they all fire at the same target round after round. Thia the elven ranger was knocked unconscious and Keira the human wizard had to flee into a nearby tent to escape the same fate.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun UPDATE: New Maps :)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:29 pm 
I uploaded all the maps I've made so far as PSD files, if anyone is interested, send me a PM and I'll send the download link (about 800 mb total).


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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun UPDATE: New Maps :)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2013 5:54 am 
Just a quick note, I also uploaded all maps as PNGs with seperate map objects so people can build their own maps inside Maptools or other VTTs.

PM or eMail to chernoskill (at) gmx (dot) net for the link


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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun UPDATE: New Maps :)
PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2015 7:30 pm 
Update: I re-uploaded the maps. They are all in 100 DPI resolution. A few maps that weren't part of the archives were added as well (Veiled Threat, Face in the Stone).

PM or eMail to chernoskill (at) gmx (dot) net for the link


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 Post subject: Re: D&D 4E Dark Sun UPDATE: New Maps :)
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2015 11:47 am 
Screw this, I'm ust gonna upload the maps and assets and hope that the traffic doesn't get too high :P

http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/various.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/sandraiders.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/marauders.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/bloodsand.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/veiled.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/misc.zip
http://cherno.cwsurf.de/darksun/Rocks.zip


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