Tuesday, August 30, 2005

in a class of his own

recently ask zenstar received this mail:

"Dear Zenstar

I am soon to be joining a D&D 3rd Ed (or 3.5 actually, I think)
campaign, and they are desperately in need of healers, or so I hear. I
don't, however, want to just play a pansy vanilla cleric character, I
would like to play something with a little more splash and style. I
have been toying with the idea of either a Paladin (not Black Guard,
at least for the moment) or a Druid of some form, but I am not
entirely sure of the various ins and outs of these classes, or other
classes that may be available. Do you have any suggestions, or perhaps
a comparison of the pros and cons of the various healer classes?

Yours without any disharge whatsoever

well synkronos "pansy" vanilla is the world's most favourite flavour in the world, but i can understand the desire for a "strawberry" or "rum and raisin" class.
the party you're joining claims to be in desperate need of a healer, but do thay need a traditional spell-casting healer? prehaps you could be the sort of healer that creeps into clerics' houses late at night and redistributes the healing potions (for the greater good of course) to the party.
or prehaps the "pre-emptive strike" healer: a large fighter who does the beatdown jig on everything before a party memeber gets hit. prevention (they say) is better than cure. and i challenge you to find a "prevent light wounds" spell.
these choices may be a little too "bubblegum" for your taste so we'll now look at more traditional flavours.

your standard cleric (or vanilla) makes a good basis for a healer, but if you want to really get something out of it you need to add something (i suggest peanuts and hot chocolate sauce). have a look at playing a cleric of death who takes a bunch of cause wounds spells. you can always "spont" to cure wounds as needed or simply zap the pesky thief with a cause light when you catch him trying to steal your gems.
alternatively you can take a cleric of war. this usually allows you access to all sorts of pointy weapons that clerics don't usually get to play with. a nice side option with this particular mix may be a few levels of barbarian.
think of it: a nomadic, fur wearing behemoth with a giant axe across his back, a black helmet with faceplate covering most of his face, chanting over a fallen comrade. the chant translating to roughly: "i'm gonna get the bastard that did this to you... and don't worry, i'm keeping your finger safely with me until i learn ressurect in a few levels time... ad nauseum."
now thats vanilla with nuts... 2 big nuts and an axe shaped spoon all covered with strawberry sauce.

another interesting spice to the vanilla is to take a few levels of wizard or scorceror into the mix and cast a little healing and a little more traditional magic, later going into the prestigue class (theuge i think its called).
that gives you healing capabilities and fireballs.
every good spellcaster knows that the 'balls are the best. the hotter the better!
you could mix this up a little by replacing vanilla cleric with a more kinda "fruits of the forest" druid. you'll lack a little of the healing but you do get animal companions who make excellent furry shields in a crisis. also, if you run out of food, you can coax small animals closer to the BBQ (ie... fireball distance).
this particular mix is fruity yet nutty with a dark twist of chocolate sauce.

then there's the paladin mix. a plain paladin is kinda boring. you do get a spiffy horse, but its usually smarter than you are by the time you hit 3rd level.
you can prestige over into black gaurd, but the other characters tend to kill you for being an evil bastard if you do (plus they know you're worth a lot of xp).
to liven things up with a paladin, take enough levels to get a little healing and then start switching to bard. everyone loves a singing knight. imagine the ballards you could sing while riding along in your plate and tights.
that's just pure fruit.

as for comparing the pros and cons: it all depends on your taste. clerics are pure healing but kinda bland unless you add something. druids can't heal as well but do mix nicely to produce strong flavours. paladins don't do much in the way of healing and need lots of work to get somthing out of them. and bards are just fruity.

my sugestion is, no matter what class you take, make sure the other characters know that you're the source of healing. if you can't actually heal then fake it. steal potions of healing and claim that you brewed them the last time you stopped for camp. once you've convinced the rest of the party that you're the source, then you've become indispencable!
remind them when the new magic armour is found that if you die then there's no more healing... "what's that? an amulet of natural armour +3? you know i almost got hit in the last fight and forgot that cure major wounds spell that saved bob's life..."
pretty soon you'll be rolling in the good stuff no matter what flavour you are.
this could be a little more difficult to pull off with an overly fruity character though as characters will begin pointing out how the ring of deflection +4 clashes with your amulet of natural armour +3 and no self respecting bard/paladin would be seen dead in that particular magic, +5, ensamble of elvish chain...

of course you can always mix these suggestions up according to your personal tastes (and what you can convince the dm to let you get away with).
i hope this helps you choose just the right blend of creamy smooth classes to create that delicious character that'll have your mouth watering everytime you play. (prehaps you could get some sort of bib?)

uncle zenstar

Friday, August 26, 2005

monkey spanking 101

another question begging answers came shuttling into my inbox.
here's the question:

"Dear Uncle Zenstar

Long time GM, first time question...asker...thingy. I have a problem
with my players. They keep going on complete tangents to the carefully
prepared storyline I have so lovingly created, turning a 2 session
story into 5 sessions of in-character masturbation. Damn it, they`re
not following the script! They`re my monkeys and they must dance when
I say so! Dance Monkeys! Dance! What sage advice can you give me for
when the party moves in the opposite direction of the plot?


ps: Discharge. *snigger*"

dear acidic baby:
discharge *snigger* yeah...

firstly i think i can see a major route to your problem... monkeys!
monkeys make decidedly poor players sometimes. you may wish to invest in an organ grinder to keep them happy and dancing. possible bribes with bananas may get them doing what you want, but beware their faeces flinging antics...
sometimes you just have to spank them to keep them in line. most people find that after a good spanking things seem to be a lot better.
besides, i'm sure monkeys like being spanked. when i searched in google for "monkey spanking" there were many pages praising the advantages and urging others to do it.

of course you may be having problems with a regular human group too.
there are a couple of schools of thought over the subject of wayward players. the first group believes in gently guiding players without curbing their free will. the second group eats the pizza and chips, drinks the cokes and beers, and swears at the players until their ears bleed and they give in to your demands.

to keep the players headed in the right direction you could do lots of work and create a real world where people can go do whatever they want, and try gently bribe the characters to do what you want with whispered promises of goal completion and rewards...
or you could force them onto your track and speed up the train so that if they try to deviate from the course *SMASH* dead character... "make a new one that'll listen next time, and stop flinging faeces!"

if they want to rush off on a tangent, put a massive obstacle in their way ("great cthuhlu is gaurding the entrance to the shop... are you sure you want to buy a refreshing carbonated beverage before going into the dungeon?")

if they don't take the hint, kill one of the characters to leave a message ("bob takes a step off the beaten track when suddenly the script police jump out from behind a bush and gently suggest you turn around and head into the dungeon by beating you in the face with their truncheon. take 500 points of damage, create a new, more obidient character, and put down that handfull of faeces!").

if after this they still don't take they hint then you're going to have to start killing players ("i shot him in the face because he went the wrong way. his character will become an npc. which way did you say you were going again?").
this is obviously a drastic approach as cleaning the living room of all that blood is going to be difficult. if you play in someone else's house, however, it becomes far less of a problem (especially if you just shot the owner).

i detect another slight problem in your question:
they turn a 2 session adventure into 5 sessions of in-character masturbation?
what system are you playing exactly?
obviously the characters are sexually frustrated. set an adventure in a brothel and they should be sorted for an adventure or two more. alternatively start every session from a brothel ("the new HQ smells of fish!").
if they still continue to masturbate then attack them with skilled, yet evil surgeons.
snip snip and they no longer feel the urge once the relevant bits are gone (you may need something to hold the female characters down as the snip snip for them is a little more intricate... alternatively kill them in the attack and then only allow pre-snipped characters as replacements).
if this doesn't suit you then try this one: if any character masturbates in game, their player has to masturbate the gm.
this may not stop the in-game masturbation, or keep them on track, but you'll care a lot less about those problems.

finally, make sure that the players bring snacks, drinks, and cigarrettes. if they're going to waste your time you might as well get something for it.
alternatively charge them an hourly rate for gm'ing them. you'll be amazed how quickly they'll get back on track when they realise that their shopping spree tangent just cost them 100 real world monies!

hopefully that'll help you reign in your perverted, faeces throwing, dancing primate, roleplaying group.
if not try using electroshock therapy (with a mainsplug, a length of flex, and a smile).

uncle zenstar

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

unholy discharge

mmm... nothing like a fresh chicken springroll before answering questions.
last night (while avoiding roleplaying) we got into a discussion about:

in the dungeons and dragons game (3rd ed or 3.5):
what happened to the anti-paladin? why do paladins have to be good if they are meant to be champions of a religion then surely there should be champions of evil religions?
also: what's up with casting touch attacks in combat. do they provoke attacks of opportunity? are they any good for an anti-paladin as he gets cause wounds in place of cure wounds.
also: which is better cure wounds or cause wounds?
a rag tag bunch of jenga playing misfits

well rag tag misfits, lets deal with the first part first:
d&d is meant to be epic heroes crusading across the land in search of adventures and treasure and general goodness.
note: heroes and goodness.
while i agree that anti-paladins should exist, d&d is aimed at playing the good guys, hence the appearance of the prestige class "black guard."
the black guard are basically anti-paladins but you need to meet some requirements before you can play them. they do allow some interesting play possibilities as you get extra bonuses for being a "fallen" paladin.
if being nasty and playing the evil side takes your fancy (as opposed to playing a lawful-good character who randomly slaughters innocent dungeon denziens and steals their treasure... "look out! here come the good guys... hide the children and leave the good silverware out. maybe they'll take the treasure and go without searching too much and we'll survive this time. i really don't want to go through another ressurection...") then you should take a look at the book of vile darkness.
this is a supplement made just for the evil in you.
that being said: rules are made to be broken. if you're really into playing an antipaladin then you'll have no problem using underhanded means to convince your dm to alter the paladin character to represent an antipaladin. bribe him, threaten him, throw a tantrum, curse his dice, swear at him until his ears bleed. eventually he'll give in.

now for the second part: touch attacks and casting in combat!
normally unarmed attacks provoke an attack of opportunity. basically, if you attack a man wielding a sword, he's just going to block your punch with his blade and you'll be called "stumpy" or "lefty" for the rest of the campaign. this is what the attack of opportunity represents. monks get off light as they know martial arts (and presumably punch their fists into burning coals and whatnot during training. helpful tip: shaolin barbaques are not fun)
touch attacks (with spells) are different however. firstly you cast a spell which builds a charge in the hand. holding for as long as neccesary, the spell is "discharged" when the attack is made. obviously this discharge is deadly and the opponent is not thinking "he can't punch through my plate mail."
he's thinking "omfg! he's going to discharge all over me!" and is trying to get away from you.
no self respecting hero is going to willingly let someone discharge all over him in public.
imagine the following scene:
the dust of a hard-fought battle is dying down along with the ork and goblins that have been liberally slain. the heroes step out of the dust checking their wounds and making sure everyone is ok, when the barbarian steps out looking a little dazed and stunned.
"what's wrong grunk?" they ask him.
"t-t-the o-ork sh-sh-shaman..." grunk stutters.
"erm.. grunk," the rogue (thief) whispers from the shadows, "you have a little something on your arms... and chest."
grunk begins to sob: "i feel so violated." sob sob sob.
"what happened grunk?" the party enquires.
"the shaman discharged all over me... i need a shower... waaaaaahhhh!"
unless your alignment is "dodgy-exhibitionist" you're not going to want to be grunk. in fact if your alignment is dodgy-exhibitionist what are you doing wearing all that armour? the only armour allowed to that alignment are the following 2 items: a leather thong and a pair of nipplecaps (tassled or untassled). in spite of all the fantasy artwork you may have come across, this armour provides almost no protection at all. ie: +0 AC.
in fact most adventurers simply aren't dodgy-exhibitionist as they like to cover themselves up. those who don't cover often die quickly (full of holes). the only classes that don't mind this limitation are the wizard and the sorcerer, but who wants to see that? you hardly ever see a "fit" wizard or sorcerer, and when you do they are well covered to prevent the barbarian from drooling over them and grabbing their ass in the heat of battle *nudge nudge, wink wink*

attacking someone with a "discharge" "touch" attack works as follows: cast the spell. if an opponent is close by then cast defensively. this means that you need to make an additional concentration roll but does prevent attacks of opportunity from being made against you. (if you don't do this you may find it difficult trying to make a touch attack while bleeding to death). this uses up a standard action leaving you with a move action for the round (unless you have something funky giving you extra actions).
next round (or whenever you are in place to attack an enemy. you can hold yourself off indefinitely) you can make your touch attack and the spell discharges, taking effect. generally speaking you should get your opponent flanked so that you can come up from behind and discharge all over his back.

now if you're playing a fighter character (like an antipaladin) then you should have a good base attack bonus. touch attacks ignore armour as you're only interested in your opponent's flexibility when discharging in their direction, not what clothes they may be wearing...
with a good base attack bonus you should easily be able to overcome an opponent with your touch attack. a strong, strapping, bear of a fighter (*rowr*) should easily be able to hold someone down while he discharges all over them.

this brings us to the closing question: which is better, cause or cure.
well this completely depends on the character. antipalidins prefer to break living things and fix dead things so they like cause wounds spells.
paladins prefer flowers and bunnies and stabbing the undead through their cold, unbeating hearts (or wherever really), and so they prefer cure wounds spells.
speaking on a tactical level: if you kill it before it wounds you then you don't need the cure wounds spell. this does leed to a more aggressive play style and may cause endless calamity to befall your party as they continually end up in deadly barroom brawls and dance-offs that you drag them into.
of course you don't care about their health though: you're evil as evil can be.
hint: make sure the rest of the party is at least lawfull so that they keep party coherency and don't just stab your ass and leave you to die on the dancefloor because they couldn't be bothered to save you from another dance-off gone wrong.
hint hint: if the rest of the party is good you may not want to let them know you're evil/ an anti-paladin. they tend to frown on this. try painting your armour silver or white, wear a flower in your hair, claim that it's a "special" postion of vitamins you're drinking which just happens to look like blood, and try (try very hard) not to blurt out things like "hail my dark master" or "death to all the enemies of the dark" or "hey you.. we can only settle this with a dance-off!"

i hope this endarkens you and sheds some dark on the subject.
uncle zenstar

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

vito's question answered

finally... a real question.
vito asks:

Dear Zenstar,
Vittoro Castalani here, my friends call me Vito. I'm an all round great guy and snappy dresser, but that doesn't seem to help me one little bit. I think the members of my party are hiding things from me. I don;t know what to do, how do I get them to trust me? I've been perfectly open and honest so far, what more can I do?

firstly i must say that i can see your dm is a brilliant, fantastic, wonderful guy and is running the best game in the universe for you *cough*i rock*cough*.
now on to answering your question:

well vito. obviously you are a fine upstanding member of your community. a sensible sicilian and a "family" man (if you know what i mean).
you should remember the old family sayings: "a man in a good tracksuit can do no wrong." and "let the gold shine through... let the chains hang out."
if you suspect that the other party members are hiding things from you then you're going to have to find out what it is. i mean no-one, but no-one hides things from the family.
you have to listen to your inner don and let him dictate your course of action.
ask yourself: "what would the don order me to do in this situation?"
you may need a chainsaw.

you have a few options at this point.
you can hang around watching them from the shadows and try figure out what they're doing.
you can find out if they have any debts that you can buy. holding someone's marks and leaning on them has similar effects to holding them by the short and curlies and pulling: they'll do what you want pretty damn quickly.
you can find a stool pigeon and pay them off to spill the beans.
you can grab someone and beat them with an iron bar until they talk.
wait until they fall asleep and leave a horse's head in their bed. (i don't know why this would work, but gangsters love this sort of thing and it does get some results... just not always the results you want)
if they're hiding something its probably illegal or valuable. either way it falls under your domain and you need to deal with it.

maybe you can get them to trust you more if you treat them to a nice plate of cabonara and meatballs, with a nice wine on the side... preferably somewhere intimate... somwhere where if you click your fingers a bunch of muscle arrives to make sure dinner is fine.
be completely honest with them. tell them that you think that they don't trust you. tell them you think they are hiding things from you. tell them that this hurts you. tell them that when you're hurt other people get hurt (if you know what i mean).
make sure you have your best tracksuit on at the time. people love a large guy in a tracksuit. put on the special gold chains.

if the situation doesn't allow this or if you would rather take an alternate route: find the guy who's most likely to be compliant and bribe him. if its good enough for the police its good enough for other party members.

thats about all the help i can give you, other than to remember the old saying:
"vinny, vito, vick." often pronounced: "vini, vidi, vici."
vinny's the driver, vito's the lookout, vick is the muscle.

good luck my friend
uncle zenstar

ps: i'll get the rest of the money to you by friday... i promise... tell the don i'm sorry for the late payment but i got a sure thing going on the bulls to win.

mail me more questions people.... or i'm just gonna have to make them up.

Monday, August 22, 2005

the 12 steps to becoming a wino

the mailbox has been overflowing with questions
(i got 1 and it wasn't even a question)
so in true schpatdope style we're going to turn it into a question and answer it.
the mail:
"later will leave quastion when sobert!" -schpat
obviously he's asking how to introduce a drinking habit to the party and how to get away with it when your gm is in a bad mood.
thanks for the question schpat.

drinking and roleplaying can mix like vodka and orange or like stroh rum and anything else. (ie: it can be good or bad). to make sure things go down smooth, never take stroh rum to a game.

generally if you can convince your gm to let you play a wino character then feel free to bring beers to roleplaying (skip straight to step 5).
if he won't let you play a wino then you'll have to do a little roleplaying (yeah... hard work, i know but it has to be done).
step 1: get your character severely injured or frightened by something (like yog soth-oth). if you survive your encounter then tell your dm your character is taking solace in a bottle of whiskey (to calm his nerves).
if he dissallows access to whiskey move onto step 2. otherwise go to step 3 (this is just like a choose your own adventure thing or something)
step 2: start acting like brad pitt from 12 monkeys: crazy as a loon. get more and more crazy, leading the party into more and more trouble, disrupting the gm's carefully laid plans until he/she allows you access to the whiskey to keep your character subdued or until he kills you off. if you're killed off ask to play a wino. once you have access to the whiskey go to step 3.
step 3: make sure to point out how your character is becoming more and more dependent on the whiskey and is drinking often... at every chance you can get. if the other players seem to be getting upset, use a whiskey bottle as a molotov cocktail to bail them out of a fight and they'll soon see the advantages of permanently having a bottle around. after a couple of sessions of this move on to step 4.
step 4: announce the fact that you believe your character has become an alchoholic, take an "addiction" flaw to show everyone that you're roleplaying (and to prevent excess suspicion) and move onto step 5 in the next session.
step 5: arrive at the gaming session slightly toasted. when you get asked why you smell like cheap wine reply: "i'm just getting into character." (make sure to slur as little as possible). once the other players are used to your toasted state move on to step 6.
step 6: arrive at the game with alchohol. drink excessivley. roleplay drunk. be careful not to vomit on the tac-map or the gm or the player who owns the house you're roleplaying at. a rainbow-yawn mistake will have you kicked out of the game and you'll have to do your drinking alone at home. (and we all know that drinking alone at home makes you an alchoholic so you need to have access to your rolplaying/ drinking group to prevent this from happening) go to step 7.
step 7: steps 7 - 12 are all quite simple and interchangable. drink... lots... rinse and repeat (especially if you vurp on yourself).

if your gm gets upset with you because you're being a drunken lout/ spilled beer on his maps, then there is only one possible remedy: give your gm a beer. you'll be surprised how much calmer and more forgiving he/she will get and probably won't even withhold xp for smudging his carefully designed dungeon when you attempted to "drown" the ork with a "flood of mead."
in fact, if you give your gm a few beers he'll probably join in and if you bring some harder alchohols he may not even remember it was you in the morning.
if other partymembers start complaining then you're going to have to appease them with a beer. in fact its to your advantage to get at least one other player completely drunk (especially if they're cute and of your sexual persuasion when you're drunk). if someone else at the game is drunk then your gm will have to divide the blame amongst you. the more people drunk, the less you get blamed. the more drunk the gm, the less likely he/she will blame anyone.
basically: if you bring drinks to the game, you're going to have to bring enough for everyone.
i hope this answers your question. happy drinking.
uncle zenstar.
mail your quastions to askzenstar@gmail.com (or leave a comment).

coming soon: an answer to viito's question

Friday, August 19, 2005

welcome welcome welcome

welcome to ask zenstar
i've been roleplaying, wargaming, and gaming in general for a long time now and am willing to help those with problems.
need help interacting with the party? ("the fighter keeps picking on me")
having love problems? ("i had sex with a werewolf and fear that my child will come out furry")
need advice on spell selection? ("fireball... always fireball!)
can't decide what gun to take on the run?
what squad should you field for max damage?
well just ask me and i'll give you my opinion on the matter.

email questions to askzenstar@gmail.com