Tweetup Tour – Day One – Glasgow

So, the first day of the Tweetup Tour was in Glasgow, a 6 hour express coach journey from Leeds. It meant an early’ish start from Otley in order to get to Leeds and then hang about in Leeds waiting. The coach ride itself can be divided into 2 sections – the up and down, tight corners of the coach going from Leeds to the M6 via country roads, and then the smooth quick progress up the M6 to Glasgow. As someone who gets travel sick, the first part of that journey was not fun!

My coach got in on time, and as this wasn’t my first time in Glasgow, I had a good idea where I was going. I got to the venue and found it to be a dark cavernous mass of stairs and walkways, with a crazily hot interior atmosphere… Even with big blower fans, there was little impact on the air. I met up with 5 out of the 7 players, and we got some food – I was in scotland so it would have been rude not to have Haggis Neeps and Tatties… Of the 5 players, I knew Chris from previous tweetups, Tamsyn vaguely through twitter, and Ryan vaguely through twitter.

Tamsyn can actually be blamed for the whole Tweetup On tour thing. When my eyesight took a turn for the worse and it was clear I wouldn’t be able to do the Hadrians Wall walk, I tweeted to see if anyone was interested in me coming up for a game. Tamsyn was one of the first to reply, suggesting I go up to Glasgow and run D&D Next for her group. I love Glasgow, and if i’d not been asked to go up there, who knows, I might have just knocked the idea on its head.

With all the groups I visited I gave them multiple options – D&D Next, D&D 4 – with the 3d lair assault, D&D 4e – backstabbing Kalarels Revenge goodness, Star Wars Edge of the Empire… they asked for Next, and I did warn them that D&D Next would require something homebrew since all the Next adventures I had were due to be sold by WotC in the coming months. I opted to run something on the Isle of Dread, a simple exploration to find the ruins of Thanaclan. My original plan was to have them explore Farshore and choose from a variety of guides – each would come with a specific encounter – a hydra, a kraken etc Unfortunately, work got in the way, and these guides just didn’t get written. The adventure I planned had them going from Farshore in the opposite way to other adventurers, climbing a waterfall, trekking through the jungle, being attacked by a t-rex, finding the sacrificial caves beneath the volcano, finding the ruins of Thanaclan, and exploring the caverns beneath those ruins…

Mike Mearls has made a big fuss about the 3 pillars in D&D Next and how an adventure should have exploration, interaction and combat. We gamed for 3 hours and we did manage to fit all 3 pillars in, though I’m beginning to think that Next has a massive issue with exploration… The stuck to the original adventure plan I had, though when it  became clear we were running out of time, I threw an extra combat rather than have them fully explore the caverns.

We had 2 combats – the first started with a surprise attack from the T-Rex, chomping down on the guide. I used the Allosaurus stats from the public packet, and the encounter was over quickly thanks to divine ‘powers’ adding serious damage to the attacks. The second fight was with 16 troglodytes, a leader, and 3 pet giant lizards. I’d not printed the troglodytes page, so just used lizardmen stats. This combat was slow, but not particularly deadly.

On the whole, I think the group liked D&D Next. There were conflicting opinions around the table as to whether healing allowed too much hp regain, and that fights seem swingy they are either quick or drawn out. From my side of the DM’s screen (not that I used one), I think theres a major issue in Next where you can burn seriously powerful resources while exploring without worry, because you know you are going to be resting… A combat represent 5 or so minutes of intensive activity and use a quarter of your resource, but while exploring you might take 6 hours to hack through a forest without any loss of resources. That, from my point of view is seriously imbalanced.

We left the encounter on a cliffhanger, they’d found the ruins of thanaclan, and mapped the route which is what they were being paid to do, but they’d also sent the shapechanged druid ahead to see what was in the caverns below… deep guano deposits, but with tracks in them…

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The Tweetup Tour is over…

And it was good…

What started out as a desire to game and to spread the UK D&D Tweetup ‘name’ on a free week from work, (I was originally meant to be doing the Hadrians Wall Trail walk) quickly became a firm set of plans and from there, lots of printing and packing.

From Sunday To Wednesday, I traveled on bus and coaches for around 30 hours, about 2 hours in cars and spent another 5 hours or so sat around in bus stations waiting, I gamed in 4 cities, and went through another 2. I played 4 different games, using 3 different systems, I gamed with 21 players, only 5 of which I didn’t already know through the tweetups, and had 1 player totally new to RPGs… From the sense of spreading the Tweetup name, 16 new players, several of whom have already said they are aiming to come to #UKT5, the tour was a great success.

But for me, the real indicator that it was a success is that I want to do it again. Glasgows and Leicesters games ended on a vague cliffhanger, and while I can resolve the Leicester game online, another trip up to glasgow is necessary… The Stoke group was ace, and have already asked me to come back and run more for them, and York is close enough that I can go and game with them whenever.

So what didn’t work?

Sunday/Glasgow – Oh my god it was hot, and the venue we were using was crazily warm, and dimly lit… I also didn’t have enough choice in pre-gens – i’d taken my leftovers from Vault of the Dracolich, and the choice was very halfling focused… The hotel this night was pretty shocking as well.

Monday/Stoke – Other than the terrain getting beaten to hell, and the hotel losing my reservation, no major issues.

Tuesday/Leicester – I didn’t have time to plan this game, but Star Wars copes well with that. Main issue here is that Leicester bus/coach station sucks!

Wednesday/York – We were loud, it was warm, and Daisy struggled towards the end of the game ;(

Support a good cause – Rule 32 Cafe

Rule 32 Cafe is an idea, one that I think is brilliant in concept, and well worth supporting. A bunch of geeks from Worcester want to turn an old 1920’s cinema in the heart of the town centre into a gaming store and organised play venue. It’s certainly a venue we’d look at using for a tweetup.

For more details, check out their indiegogo fundraising campaign here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rule32cafe-the-ultimate-geek-events-venue

Building the 3D Lair Assault

It all started with Google+… I’d got a bunch of pre-cast Hirst Arts tiles and bricks from various sites around the country. The quality of them were shocking, badly cast, full of bubbles. I did the best I could with them, and made up the sample rooms Hirst Arts show on their site. I put some minis in them and they looked cool, well worth the effort of cleaning the bricks up, gluing and painting them. I posted pictures of these onto G+ and Mike Mearls saw them. We discussed the buildings and how I’d love to make the upcoming Lair Assault in them if it was feasible.

A couple of days later, a pdf of the adventure arrived in mailbox. The map was custom, and awesome. And more importantly, totally doable in the hirst arts stuff. I had a handful of tiles left over, so I built a couple of the rooms to test the size of them…

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What was the Drowathon

In 2012, with D&D Next announced, and a public playtest imminent, Wizards of the Coast announced a year long product schedule, the Rise of the Underdark – a drow themed set of 4e sourcebooks and supplements, minis, and adventures in the Encounters and Lair Assault program.

It started with the Sun Never Rises, a level 1 dungeon crawl through an ancient temple, written by Shawn Merwin. Like many of his adventures, this featured fully detailed pre-gens, as well as multiple ways to avoid combat and progress through the rooms.

Using the relationship we’ve built with WotC, we decided to support the launch of the product schedule with a tweetup event, the Drowathon!, We ran 4 tables of the adventure, and 2 of them were built in 3d…

For more details on how we supported the event, check out our (now defunct) promotional blog here: http://ukdnddrowathon.wordpress.com/

UKT4, the tweetup that wasn’t…

Last year, I met with the tweetup team, and we hashed out ideas for UKT4. The concept was for a multiple table race across the jungles of the Isle of Dread, culminating in a massive battle against the kopru and Demogorgon…

We set to work on preview adventures that would be run locally before the main event. We started thinking of ways to deal with the massive battle… The freebie that was planned for the event was a home made Isle of Dread gazetteer, a 32 or so page booklet detailing the island and providing 4e material for it.

And then real life got in the way…

We all got buys, our jobs taking up all our time, and at the same time, WotC released an updated Isle of Dread as part of the D&D Next public packets, and product support for 4e was withdrawn.

And so the concept of UKT4/UKX1 (x1 was the original product code for the Isle of Dread…) was dropped, and UKt4 was a normal tweetup a few months later.

I’d love to revisit this idea, and might do when D&D Next is officialy put on sale. In the meantime, why not enjoy the teaser trailer we made for the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_I4ifhpC2I

And the 4e version of the fan gazetteer, which, as you can tell, quickly out grew its original intentions: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/11072793/TheIsleOfDread.pdf