Monday, July 4, 2011

Vornheim Type IV

With apologies to Zak
"Dad?" the Boy asked me as we were driving to Sonic.  "Remember when you said Labyrinth Lord was like going home for you?  You wanted to go back home, and you did?"

"Yes," I nodded, remembering that and several blog entries that I had written revolving around the concept.

"I've been thinking," the Boy started.

Uh oh.

"You know, I started with Fourth Edition, and that's my home," he looked at me.  "I want to go home."

Oh crap.  Done in by my own figure of speech. 


The Boy has put up with my OSR shenanigans for half a year now.  He followed me down Nostalgia Lane and even gave Jim Ward and Frank Mentzer a run for their money.  He has more than earned the right to play what he wants.

"Okay, okay, I get it," I chuckled.  "Let's play some 4e."

But how?  I thought about the various RPGA and Encounters stuff from WOTC - but that style of play epitomizes the worst of what 4e has to offer.  I looked at several gaming groups - but so many of them are switching to Pathfinder these days.  I thought I had someone to DM - but come to find out he'd much rather play.  So looks like I'm going to have to bite the bullet and RUN 4E AGAIN.

After meditating on the subject for some time, I think I can deal with it.  But this time it's going to be different.  I'm going Old School.  Screw balanced encounters.  To hell with the fully portioned level appropriate treasure parcels.  And skill challenges?  Those were lame anyway.  They get tossed out on the side of the road.  I'll keep the mechanics that the boy likes, but I'm not doing boring or stupid crap to 'complete the harmonic 4E balance in flux.' 

And I'm going to run Vornheim.

I read Vornheim during my vacation and was amazed.  Zak's really got something great here.  I'd say award-winning.  My initial thought was to use it verbatim - but I'm rethinking that.  I think  I'll teleport Vornheim to a post-apocalyptic Earth half a million years in the future - Dying Earth-ish.  I don't like cold, so rather than frigid, I'll put it on the the Texas Coast.  That ought to do the trick.  A few tweaks here and there and I'll be done.

That still leaves all of the battle mats and minis.  I got a box load of little monster pogs with the Monster Vault.  I'd like to use them, but I guess that the players are going to want to use their minis.  The Boy certainly will.  And fighting a cardboard pog with a gloriously painted metal mini might seem a bit lame.  Oh well, something to think about.

If anyone has any thoughts on making 4e palatable - without changing the basic mechanics - let me know.  The Boy's birthday is coming up, and I'd like to have it all ironed out before then. :)

- Ark


  1. I feel great sadness for you.

    But help if we can, yes?

    Without knowing right off the bat what you have already done adventure-wise or extras it makes it a bit tough.

    But I will say this: 4e is done. Word is come GenCon there should be an announcement.

    Minis now are a Pathfinder thing and most 4e releases have been canceled.

    On the other hand I can turn you onto 545 pages worth of free campaign / source material to scavenge if that would help. All from Wizards.

    You can make your own tokens by downloading a little software tool that takes an image file and lets you create one, save and print it I think even compiles them on a single sheet for you. Use the images out at WotC for Minis for that. Plus they have tons of maps.

    Then there is a ton of free Pathfinder stuff to hack and RPGnow has a great free section with 4e stuff.

    Don't know if any of this would be of use to you but just say the word and I will hit you with some linkage.

    I hate 4e man. But the world sucks to much not to help a kid out with getting home :)

  2. It a surprise to me that people now think of Vornheim as a -setting- For me it was just sort of What I Do When The Girls Stay Home Instead of Go To The Dungeon. I never imagined I'd run a whole campaign with them never leaving the area.

    But then: that might be easier with 4e--sinc ethe fights take so long you chew thru less story per session.

    Oh--and thanks!

  3. Here's a few links that will be helpful, I think:

    It will make your combats faster and more "oldschool", without really changing anything vitally 4E.

    Oh, and a couple more things:
    WotC have been letting treasure parcels go the way of the dinosaur, too. Also, skill challenges were fixed since their initial appearance, and many people have tried to make them better, try giving them a chance anyway.

    Have a good game!

  4. Play using the Essentials rules. It feels a lot more like regular D&D than the original 4e rules do.

  5. Hehe, you certainly got owned, Ark. I know squat about 4E, so all I can do is wish you the best of luck.

    Oh, as for irony, the captcha says, "expect."

  6. Half the monster hit points listed in the official stat block. It makes combat go way faster. Instead of letting the clerics and other leaders use their basic twice-per-encounter healing, make it twice per day. Most leader types have plenty of other powers beyond the base 2x per encounter heal that allow other players to use healing surges anyway.
    Your healer will still be able to heal, but it makes combat much more lethal and "Old School" if they have to agonise over when to use it. Especially since it now means that just because character A can use up to fifteen healing surges per day, it becomes less likely that he'll get fifteen opportunities to do so.

  7. @ADD - Yes, sad, but there it is. :) I have a bookshelf full of 4e stuff, so content is not the issue. The challenge is making the game less sucktacular. Do you really think 4e will be killed at GenCon? It seems to me that it's the only card that WOTC is holding these days, and they are not ready to move forward. But that is just my idle speculation. :)

    @christian - Dude, drop me a line sometime. Email is on the About Me thingy. I'll miss your blog. Peace.

    @Zak - I can see a campaign based only in Vornheim, but maybe that is because I ran campaigns in Lankhmar many long years ago. The old D&D Lankmar needed a fair amount of prep - which is why I'm quite happy with your book. It gets me to the meat much more quickly. And I agree with your point about 4e.

    @Gregor - Excellent links! Thanks!

    @Mike - I agree - I think Essentials is the way to go. Less ERRATA, anyway. :)

    @Harald - Yeah, I was PWNED and stuff. Big time.

    @Brian - I ran with half point monsters a while back, but it was ultimately unsatisfying. I think what I should have done is halved the PCs hit points as well. :) Much more exciting!

    - Ark

  8. Check this guy's 4E hack out. I don't have any personal experience with it, but it sounds cool for someone trying to make 4E better:

  9. @Aplus - Actually, I've been play-testing George's Legends and Labyrinths. A very cool game, I must say. But it doesn't feed the Boy's need for 4e. I wish it did. :)

    - Ark