Hall or Nothing Productions Ltd: March 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

D&D Adventure System Index - NinjaDorg's Stuff So Far..

I'm posting this in response to a few requests in case anyone else was wondering too - it might not all be of interest to you but I've posted it here anyway for the sake of unity so you can pick and choose what you want (or ignore it all completely):


NinjaDorg's Heroes 1st Batch


Geeklist of unofficial user-created Adventures

Geeklist of unofficial user-created Heroes


Event Deck for Castle Ravenloft

Event Deck for Wrath of Ashardalon

Castle Ravenloft Chamber Cards

Castle Ravenloft Treasure Items price list

Kobold Wars Adventure for Castle Ravenloft+Wrath of Ashardalon


Castle Ravenloft Scoring Rules - by Peter Lee

The Calling of the Grey Hag


Levelling chart for campaign rules in D&D Adventure System

Castle Ravenloft Villain and Power card-back templates

Castle Ravenloft Hero Power card templates

Blank Hero Card for Castle Ravenloft

Scenario Template

Editable PSD for Adventures "Kobold Wars" Template


Wrath of Ashardalon arrived – solo questing underway

NinjaDorg’s ramblings on the solo aspects of Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon

Wrath of Ash campaign play – our first run of Against the Clans!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Defenders of the Realm - Royal Blessings Official Variant by Richard Launius

NinjaDorg’s ramblings on the solo aspects of Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon

Here's the original article first published on the awesome solo nexus which you can visit here....


Quick overview of the system

The Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System consists of the board games Wrath of Ashardalon and Castle Ravenloft (and also Legend of Drizzt, which is coming in October), which are basically the same game but with different themes: Dragons and Orcs for Wrath, Vampires and Undead for Ravenloft.  Both games are hack and slash dungeon crawlers based loosely on their original D&D modules that build a random dungeon for you to explore by drawing room tiles, random monsters - and random treasures when you defeat them - and dangerous encounters.  Today I’ll be focusing on Wrath of Ashardalon.

It’s Dungeons & Dragons stripped down to a very light version with no Dungeon Master and it clocks in at about an hour per Adventure, unlike some other Dungeon Crawlers around today (ahem, Descent, ahem).  You can also string adventures together to create ongoing campaigns keeping the same hero/es as you go.  It’s entirely cooperative, although you could choose to compete for most kills/treasures/experience/whatever, so you’ll either be adventuring with your hero mates or going it alone.

You choose a party of archetypal heroes (wizard, fighter, cleric, rogue or paladin) or a single hero, select their powers and set out to achieve an objective defined by the particular scenario you choose.  There are about 12 adventures in each game, but with tons of support from both Wizards of the Coast (who have already released 6 bonus quests just for Castle Ravenloft) and the online community.  I developed an ongoing geeklist of adventures created by BoardGameGeek users and there are already 29 new user-created quests in the database, which can be found here:

What are the design qualities/mechanics/components of WoA that make it worth the purchase for a SOLO player?

Solo play is clearly a major design consideration for WoA.  Although there is only one Adventure listed as for ‘One Hero (A Solo Experience)’ and the others are listed as ‘2-5 heroes’ there is nothing stopping you from running 2-5 heroes yourself.  Personally, when playing solo I prefer to use just one hero as it’s easier to immerse yourself in the game and you don’t have to keep track of too many working parts.  Luckily all the adventures scale well to the number of heroes because you basically draw one monster and/or encounter per hero each turn.  So it’s straightforward enough to just take one solo hero through all the adventures.  It can be quite tricky too – the adventure book even recommends trying a solo hero “for the ultimate challenge”!

The game has a nifty mechanic called Healing Surges.  Basically, if your hero is knocked down to 0HP by monsters or traps you can spend a Healing Surge to get back on your feet and carry on again.  In the standard game you get 2 Healing Surges, 1 if you want a difficult challenge, or 3 if you want to take it easy.  There are in fact 5 Surge tokens included with the game, so if you’re playing solo it’s nice to be able to use them like inserting coins into an arcade machine and then record your results after each adventure to see if you can use less Healing Surges next time.

The monsters and villains are controlled by a clever AI system that negates the need for an evil player and suits solo play perfectly.  On each monster card there are a list of tactics – you simply read down the list until a tactic applies, usually they’ll move towards you or try and hit you with a ranged or melee attack.  But some of them are a little more cunning and might run off and try and get reinforcements, for example.  There are also NPCs in the game who operate the same way – you read down their tactics to see what they get up to, some might fight the nearest monster, or run for the nearest exit, or hide behind your heroes, one particularly troublesome young lad actually runs off exploring the dungeon and discovering more monsters if you don’t keep him in check!  It’s cool how these little personalities emerge from a couple of sentences of tactics on each card, and it helps you to believe that these creatures have a mind of their own, even if no one is actually there physically controlling them for you.

With 40+minis (and a couple of biggies – the red dragon is mahoosive!) in the box and 40+ dungeon tiles the price tag would be worth these pretty bits alone.  The fact that it also contains an infinitely re-playable, simplistic and fast-moving dungeon crawling system is a gigantic strawberry on top of the icing on the cake.  And for those D&D 4E role-players out there this much stuff in one box must be a godsend: orcs, kobolds, bears, snakes, cultists and more.  My gang used to role-play tons when we were kids but we never have the time anymore as adults with families and jobs and stuff.  So this game makes a great quick fix to fill that void, and hits all the major points without getting bogged down in too much story-telling (although it is capable of building interesting narratives) or heavy mechanics.  I always resented rolling tons of dice in Descent: Journeys In The Dark and having to count endless pips and check powers and skills and weapons and everything else, in WOA you simply roll 1d20 and apply the results.  Simples.

You can play each of the adventures as a stand-alone quest each time and try different combinations of heroes and powers, and you’ll get a different experience every time because of the random tile/monster/treasure/encounter draws.  But for me the campaign rules edge Wrath of Ashardalon just above its predecessor Castle Ravenloft, because there’s nothing cooler than taking your hero from strength to strength between adventures, gathering gold and treasure, and watching them grow tough enough to try and take on the big red dragon himself....

How open is the game to personal customization?

This game is all about customisation, in fact it begs for it.  The actual Adventures included each have individual scenario-specific rules that are all jigsaw pieces of a bigger picture, of what you can achieve if you combine them all together.  You won’t want to mix them all up at first because the game gradually introduces you to each concept one at a time, but eventually you’ll be building your own scenarios and looking at ways to utilise everything at once and add in your own stuff too.

For example, one quest has you navigate a path through a series of Doors that can be Trapped (causing damage), Locked (causing you to look for another route or waste time trying to open them) or Unlocked.  After you’ve played this through a couple of times, there’s no reason you can’t include Doors in every Adventure you play from now on.

There are also Chambers, which are much bigger rooms that you encounter at the end of certain dungeons which house the final boss or goal of that dungeon.  You can draw the Chamber randomly from the 14 Chamber cards included, or you can easily design your own for an endless variety of quest objectives.

The monster/NPC tactics mentioned above also make it incredibly easy to design and include your own mods suitable to whatever minis you already own.  If you sleeve your cards you can just slip a bit of paper in front of the existing monsters with your own scribbled concoctions and bring into play all sorts of combinations of bad guys or villagers or whoever you feel like meeting and/or beating the crap out of.  There are tons of fanmade monsters on the ‘Geek and some people have even developed entire Artscow monster decks to replace the existing official versions.  You can check out Ignazio Corrao’s custom Monster deck here:

The heroes themselves are also easy to create and play-test, and I’ve put together a geeklist of the existing fanmade heroes built by the community which can be found here:

As you can see, pretty much every aspect of this game is easily customisable.  It’s a very elegant and effortless system that can be built upon or added to very easily.  For example, I prefer the campaign style of play, so along with some other BGGers we came up with story events that affect your hero/es between adventures, similar to those from Warhammer Quest.  These help string multiple adventures together and provide a bit more depth to the whole experience.  You can see the results of our efforts here:

Finally, for a fairly broad session report on how the game actually plays out as a solo experience you can check out my blog entry on the experience here:

I hope this clears up some questions you might have about the game, I tried to avoid a classic review style and just stick to the topics outlined, but if you have any other queries just comment below or hit me up at the blog.

Cheers for your time!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Defenders of the Realm - first play session report

Okay, so I’m pretty late to the bandwagon with this one.  But we've had trouble getting Defenders of the Realm in the UK: first it took ages to land on our shores, then it apparently sold out on pre-orders, and shipping from abroad was horrendous.  Then when it did arrive the cost was much higher than we'd anticipated. But we've finally managed to bag a brand new copy and might I just say: thank heavens for that!

We played through our first two games at the weekend - 2 two-player games. First game I was the Ranger and Mmzomba was the much more mobile Paladin.  I picked the Ranger because it’s always been my favourite class (Fellowship of the Ring, aged 12, Strider, nuff said) and the green forestry abilities looked cool.  I also really liked the idea of shooting at adjacent enemies without any comeuppance.  I don’t really blame the Ranger for this but boy, oh boy, did my uppance come.

The Paladin has some fancified skills too, particularly his ability to sit contemplatively on his horse, leaning on an enemy minion’s head with one hand and pontificating about righteous smiting whilst they flail at him uselessly with their short arms; i.e. he takes no damage from remaining in a space with one minion.

The rules were easy to pick up, although we mucked up the taints a little bit in the first game and had to do a bit of real life 'Ctrl+Z'ing after starting an unstoppable taint/overrun chain which clearly shouldn't have happened in the first place...   But, you know, no harm done.

So we gingerly set off, worrying about how many cards we’d need to take a general out, and how quickly the bad guys were spawning as we burned a couple of our cards in moving around a bit further, and hammering on the minions where we could.  Where possible I tried to leap from green space to green space, netting me an extra action and a bonus to attacks, but even against weak-ass orcs I still rolled a shocking number of snake eyes, even for me, and I’m generally a terrible roller.

Nevertheless we got our game on and we managed to beat up on two generals, making exactly the right number of rolls to kill them one after the other.  We rejoiced and took our respective Slayer cards with every intention of showing off our newfound might on the petty minions sprawling across the world.  And then we got absolutely hammered.  Out of seemingly nowhere, the Orcs spawned through their last few minions leaving none left to draw from when another Orc was to be placed.  Eek!  Gorgutt took Monarch City and stuck our heads on spikes.

Second game, Mmzomba was the Sorceress and I took the Wizard and we relished our new skillsets.  The Wizard’s once per turn teleport is amazing, and the choice of burning a card to fireball enemies added a really nice touch.  I almost forgot to use his Wisdom ability to discard Darkness Spreads cards, but we fared much better this time.  The Sorceress is super-hard too, taking on the forms of her enemies; she was jumping into their midst and then slaying the hapless Minions left, right and centre.  At one point the Sorceress had cleared the entire right side of the board, whilst a Dragonkin minion sat at Monarch City quaking in his boots at her approach.  Side-note: After years of balking at the ugly Sorceress from Talisman 2nd edition this particular sorceress is a breath of fresh air!

My Wizard’s teleporting ability allowed me to actually start finishing off quests, which is something we neglected to do entirely in game 1, due to the constant fire-fighting of trying to clear down cursed evil minions.  Before long I had reaped 5 Rewards and towards the end of the game I even bagged myself some nifty Boots of Speed; two extra actions per turn = mega awesome.

Despite some close calls we cleaned up, took down all 4 generals and annihilated their armies en route. Very different feel to both games but really enjoyed it and can't wait to get another session in.

I loved Arkham Horror (epic coop play by the same designer), but I think Defenders really has the edge over it, much cleaner play and a real epic feel to battling the four very different generals. The Darkness Spreads cards deliver the same sort of relentless tension as the Waters Rise cards from Forbidden Island, and presumably the Pandemic equivalent too - only instead of collecting the Treasures (Generals) this time they’re trying to eat you!

The game plays quickly - I’d say one and a half to two hours max for two players but it flies by, turns go at a pace, and you’re also very invested in other players’ turns, which is nice.  Coming from a 2nd edition AD&D background I’m loving the Elmore artwork and the board looks fantastic too, ignore the naysayers, people.

Following the DotR forums was like being teased whilst not having the game.  But watching the game designer, Richard Launius, breathing more life into the game with PnP expansions, answering everyone's questions, building a comprehensive FAQ and describing the thematic reasons behind all his design decisions is just fantastic.  There are a few designers out there who could really do with taking a page out of his book and keeping up with (and repeatedly exceeding the expectations of) their fans.

All in all, this is a really excellent game.  I’m only sorry it took us so long to get hold of a copy.  Right, I'm off to go hunt some orc/defend some realm/get my arse handed to me by Sapphire again...

Castle Ravenloft Chamber Cards first 11

Castle Ravenloft Chamber Cards

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Castle Ravenloft price list

This is a Suggested Treasure Item price list for Castle Ravenloft fitting into the WoA Campaign Rules:

The Hunt for Strahd - "Assault on Castle Ravenloft" campaign session report

After successfully playing through the mini campaign Adventure 6 from Wrath of Ashardalon “Against the Clans” it became crystal clear how easy it is to integrate those campaign rules into any string of adventures you get with the game, or indeed, with Castle Ravenloft.  Since we hadn’t yet managed to best Strahd I was determined that we’d play through Castle Ravenloft’s Part 1 and Part 2 of the Hunt for Strahd back to back, which appears to be how they were intended to be played anyway, and we’d also use the WoA campaign rules.  The WOTC online scenario Search for the Sunsword leads perfectly into these two adventures – and even instructs you to keep the Sunsword over to Part 1 should you find it, so stick that Adventure at the start as a prologue and there you have another 3-quest campaign using all the official rules.  Ace!

There were four of us and we used the WOA heroes to see how they’d fare in Castle Ravenloft: Quinn the Cleric, Keyleth the Paladin, Tarak the Rogue, and I got lumbered with the scaly Dragon Wizard Heskan.  I am not a fan of this whole dragonborn malarkey as PC races.  And I’m one of the few people who bought the Humanoids Handbook for 2nd edition D&D -  I once took a Kobold PC all the way to level 5 for God’s sake!  But seriously, they should’ve stuck with the classic races imho.  Especially for Ravenloft.  Rar rar rar....  Anyway.

We also took this opportunity to use the Barovia Events deck for between adventures that I’ve been working so hard on producing with the help of some other awesome BGGers!  My group are a funny bunch – I’m the “biggest geek” amongst them (this includes a guy who spent 18 months of his life, 8 hours a day, addicted to World of Warcraft online) because I have the most board games and spend a lot of time modding said games.  So I took a bit of friendly stick about the printed and sleeved Events deck and then we cracked some beers and cracked on.

I spent the quest pretty much sat on the entrance staircase with my wandering wizard eye hunting around the dungeon doing all my legwork whilst the rest of the gang ran around bashing monsters left, right and centre.  Occasionally they’d swing by the stairs and wave as they ran past with something in tow.  At which point I’d playfully roll my eyes, get slowly to my feet and Arc Lightning or Hypnotise whatever it was that was chasing them.

There was concern at the lack of treasure as we were just drawing bags and bags of coins, and when we did get to draw cards they were invariably blessings or fortunes (we’d shuffled together the decks from CR and WOA) but it made purchasing actual treasures at the end of the adventure all the more rewarding.

The Sunsword proved pretty easy to find and everyone was feeling confident by the endgame.  We were a surge down but our Cleric’s first treasure draw was a pearl of power and his Healing Hymn was seeing some serious use.  Before long the Sunsword was held aloft and a cheer went up.  We’d got what we need and left the dungeon.  And tucked into the Events deck!  We drew a card for each hero, which is now officially my preferred method, and variously experienced some pick-pocketing (my magic carpet went missing), the Blood Vine tavern where we picked up some extra goodies, a mysterious crow tailed our Rogue, and finally Ismark led the Cleric to his sister Ireena who joined up with us, which I was excited about despite our Cleric begrudgingly taking her under his wing – he didn’t want to part with the treasure, stingy git.

Refreshing our decks and surges and HP and everything else, we immediately set off on the Hunt for Strahd Part 1.  Ireena mostly just brainlessly followed our Cleric around for the first half, which our cleric was quick to whine about, but eventually she started showing her value when he sprinted off ahead and left her.  At which point she started kicking off with nearby monsters, and due to better rolls than he could manage for his Cleric, she ended up kicking a respectable amount of arse on her own.  So, he went back and forth on rooting for her, because when she started taking damage I pointed out how it would be pretty much fatal for us if she were to be Turned into a young vampire.  Whereupon he took the time to start healing her rather than using her as a human shield...

We beat Strahd’s bodyguard and chased the Count to his lair as our situation started getting desperate.  We had no surges and our healing was all used up by the time we engaged him.  The battle was furious and the minions kept coming to back him up.  But we focussed all our efforts and Dailies on him and soon enough my lazy wizard staggered off his perch on the entrance stairway tile and rushed in to put lots of fire up the Vampire Lord’s arse.  As our heroes began to fall from their wounds Strahd suddenly burst into a cloud of mist.  We double-checked the Adventure book and sure enough, that was all that was needed to win.  We’d be taking on his more corporeal form in the next adventure.

Again we stepped into the Barovian Event deck and met Madame Eva who rather helpfully pointed out that in the next adventure Strahd would be dwelling in his Crypt.  Which he would’ve been in any case as it turned out!  Our Rogue took up the side-quest to try and bury Old Kolyan.  And after spending our cash on more loot we marched back through pouring rain and an angry swarm of bats into Strahd’s lair for the final showdown...

It started off so well.  We had tooled up, our Cleric was firing off Sacred Flame healing spells left right and centre, and used his Pearl of Power to bring back an early use of Healing Hymn.  Our encounter draws were fairly manageable, with some damage but no horrible cards or traps.  I actually got off the stairs and helped everyone have a look around for the coffins.  We decided to find as many as we could risk before opening the coffins so that if we drew Strahd, he wasn’t going to be chasing us around the whole time and draining us.  Good job we did because the first coffin we opened was Strahd, in Strahd’s Crypt!  We were all over the map at this point so everyone began double-moving to get to the showdown, abandoning the monsters following them.  Ireena got quickly left behind and we watched with amusement as she began nailing straggling Cultists for us (we swapped out the Kobold Skirmishers in CR for the Cultists in WoA as it suits the theme much more), picking them off one by one as we focussed on the vampire lord

As we converged on Mr Von Z our encounter card draws from not exploring took a staggering quality nosedive into ‘Trap City’.  We literally drew 6 traps in a row, one of them we could not place because there were already so many traps.  Rather than disarm them we were keen to fire off our dailies and try and take Strahd out as quickly as possible before he could benefit from draining our blood and regaining his HP.  This proved fatal.  Spear traps, dart traps and crossbow traps all repeatedly peppered our party of put upon PCs.  They looked like pin cushions and began dropping like flies.  Strahd was taking a fair amount of damage too and we came down to being a couple of rolls away from taking him out for good.  But as he nipped between the trap markers to feed off each of us individually the traps and his few remaining minions took their toll.  One by one we fell, and our healing surges burned out.

The Paladin stood up to take one final desperate swing of her sword, and missed.  She looked around at the dead bodies of all her companions (we had literally all been taken out) and dropped her weapon as hopelessness, and Strahd, overcame her.  On the brink of defeat a stunned Strahd rose like a phoenix from the ashes and proved once again that he really does kick some serious arse.  We hadn’t just run out of healing surges, we had all literally died, not one upturned HP token between us (we use the CR HPs so you can flip them to black to show damage).

It was brilliant!  The best adventure yet and the most fun we’ve had playing through Castle Ravenloft or Wrath of Ashardalon.  The Event decks went down a treat and the slow build of the Treasure Tokens rather than Treasure Cards scaled nicely to our progress and the difficulty of the adventures.  Shuffling the Treasure Decks together from CR and WOA provided a nice mix, and created some nail-biting tension when we needed something good but only drew a Fortune or Blessing.  The new heroes mix really well, and the WOA heroes didn’t feel over-powered compared to the CR lot, even though my gut feeling is that they are more powerful on the whole.

It was getting late by now but the guys wanted another bash and a stab at victory before ending the night.  So we played through the Rampaging Golem adventure taking in both Fighters from the two games, the Ranger (who drew gauntlets of ogre power, giving her guaranteed 2 damage per turn with Careful Attack = mega hard) and the Dwarf Cleric.  There was no hope of collecting the items to try and Calm the Golem because everyone wanted to get in there and leather the poor thing.  And with a couple of early Fighter level-ups it didn’t stand a chance.  FWIW I think in future I’ll limit our parties to one of each class because 2 fighters, or God forbid 2 clerics, would be too easy I reckon.

Anyway, can’t wait to get started on the next campaign – as a replacement for RPGs (something our gang was into big time as teenagers) we are absolutely loving these D&D coop games!