RPG Module Review: The Great Egg Scramble

Module NameThe Great Egg Scramble

AuthorsDylan Teal

System/Character Level – DND 5E/4 Level 5’s (I ran it with two level 7’s though)

Price – Pay what you want, $2 suggested. ( I had 2$ worth of fun running it, so I bought it afterward.)

I was going to write this post later, and play Minecraft instead, but because I was talked into playing modded Minecraft, my instance is still launching. Seriously, why does this require apparently recompiling my entire game each time I want to launch a mod pack? It’s insane.

So, DND Module Review time! Today I’m gonna talk about a fairly fun adventure I ran last week for two the folks in one of my DND groups, when one person was just dead sick, and one couldn’t make it.

Woo! So, where to start. I actually had a lot of fun running this, and I think folks had fun playing it. It’s a fairly straightforward adventure, with a few encounters, and some custom enemies. It has maps, which is, as always, appreciated. They’re not super beautiful by any means, but they are functional, and the fact that they’re actually included means it won’t be too hard to remake them in whatever software you prefer if you decide they aren’t up to your standards.

While overall I like the module, there were a few places that it did feel a bit weaker/less fleshed out. The first place is the Spring Festival itself. Despite it being a semi-large part of the story, there isn’t much detail in what is actually being sold, whose present, other little bits of flavor. The closest we get is a brief description in the intro, and a few lines about how the party can find most mundane goods they might want, but no magic items, and how they won’t be able to find a horse/cart. And that’s more or less the whole thing.

Second place is the second NPC the players encounter, Lupin. While Lupin is fairly central to the module in terms of driving it forward, the module mostly only contains info about what Lupin knows, and what might happen if the players are able to persuade him to talk. For the Townsmaster Lepus however, we get a full set of information, info about his personality, and also a few other little things that help roleplaying him. I personally would have liked to see Lupin get the same treatment, especially since he’s arguably the main roleplaying set piece of the adventure. (The bandits end up threatening you/fighting you, Townsmaster Lepus is generally pretty helpful. Lupin is really the only one where players really can either sway him to their side, or totally fail to do so. )

Outside of these two places however, I generally felt I had enough to work with in terms of tone and flavor for the adventure.

Here’s what I would do differently if I ran the module again:

  1. Flesh out the festival in advance. Create one or two stalls to visit, selling knick knacks and trinkets. At the same time, make it very clear that the NPC’s in town won’t be willing to part with their carts. (My players got hung up looking for a cart in town when a better way is to try to make a deal with Lupin.)
  2. Decide on Lupin’s personality beforehand, and force the players to lead the negotiations. In my game, I sorta decided that Lupin was a bit pissy with the bandits, and had him take the lead in negotiating with the players. I think for more experienced players, having to really talk him into a deal would be more fun, and reinforce his grumpy sort of personality.

Afterthought:

One small part of the module I’m not thrilled about is the killer rabbit at the end. I think this part fits in best if you run the adventure as a one-shot, and want to just kill some of the party members at the end as a joke. Otherwise, it’s not fantastic, because the party will have done about 4 four encounters by this point. (The Bandits, The Dire Hares, The Return Journey, and the Bad Egg.) Throwing the rabbit at them WILL kill someone especially because the rabbit’s decapitation means that any player it brings down to zero hit points gets their head popped off like a marshmallow.

Until the next time I think of something worth posting, cya, and stay safe folks.

Updated: 4/25/2020 – This article linked to the wrong module/author on the DMG. We confused it with the similarly named module, “The Great Egg Hunt.” The module that was played/reviewed/purchased was in fact, The Great Egg Scramble. The article has been updated to reflect this information.

Single Player “Cheating”

The game I’ve been playing the most recently is the new Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I’ll be writing a bit more about it later, but something interesting came up in it recently, so that’s what this post will be about.

For a bit of context, I would consider Animal Crossing to be a fairly casual game. It has a huge amount of customization and content, and things to do, but it’s much more of a simulation game then anything. The game on the whole is fairly non-punishing. Your town will never get hit by a tornado. You will never get robbed. No one will steal your identity and use it to take out fake credit cards in your name, etc.

So when I say casual, what I mean is more or less the following: The game will not punish you for failing to learn its mechanics, and it also has no real win condition. If you are enjoying playing Animal Crossing, you are winning. You are having fun. It’s more akin to a toy/lego set. You can’t lose at LEGO’s. You can put something together wrong, or different, but you can then just take it apart and start over, and there’s no real punishment for it, except in terms of time investment, and again, as long as you have fun, it’s fine.

So…. can you cheat in Animal Crossing? Well, maybe. It depends on how you interpret “cheating” in a primarily single player game where you can’t lose in a traditional manner.

See, there are two main gates in Animal Crossing to interacting with new content. They are in-game time, and in-game money. Money in Animal Crossing is earned by selling things, and there are more and less efficient ways to get it. Time however, is tied to your game system time. And when I say in-game time, I don’t mean “Oh, wait a week, wait a day”. Some things don’t show up except during certain months. Some things don’t show up except during various seasons. So, if you’re willing to change your the time on your system, you can more or less warp around and massively speed things up, manipulate the prices of in-game items, and perform other such tricks.

For me, that feels like cheating. Right? For me, if you’re willing manipulate the games parameters to that extent, then you might as well just cheat. But when I reached out to some friends, I heard a few different things.

One friend told me they didn’t consider anything cheating in a single player game, and that for multiplayer, it really only counted as cheating if it everyone involved didn’t agree to it. Another said that as long as it was in the unmodified game, it was fine. So, for them, time travel is fine because it doesn’t involve actually hacking the game, just making changes to the settings of the hardware you play it.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion I had was with a friend who actually makes games. For him, whether or not something was cheating was heavily dependent on the intention of the game designers, and the intended role that something was supposed to play as a mechanic. He didn’t consider it to be cheating in Animal Crossing to time travel, as long as you didn’t go back in time, because, well, it doesn’t make sense to go backwards in time narratively, but forwards is fine.

I think the big takeaway for me is that what people consider cheating is a lot more varied then I had expected, even in digital games where you would expect the automatic enforcement of the rules to be automated. But I’m also surprised by how different the reasoning behind those standards were.

Woof! Long post. Less theory, more games for the next one, and stay safe out there folks.

Murder at Moonveil Manor

An RPG Module Review

Module NameMurder At Moonveil Manor

AuthorsVall SyreneMogman Dubloon (Links go to other stuff they’ve made.)

System/Character Level – DND 5E/4-6

Price – Pay What You Want

I was trying to figure out what to write about when a little voice told me “Why not write about one of the modules you played/ran somewhat recently?” I replied “Great idea little voice” and then the voice told me I should maybe disconnect from the voice chat for the moment and work on the blog post. So! Here we are, Murder At Moonveil Manor, a 5E module for characters level 4-6, though I think that if the players were all level 4, you’d want at least 4 people in the party to avoid a TPK. Some of the combat encounters can be a bit brutal. Also, I’m going abbreviate the title to MMM because typing the whole thing out is pretty long.

So, MMM is a neat mostly self contained encounter that can probably be slotted in almost anywhere you might want to put it. As a player, I played through it as part of a Curse of Strahd campaign, where our DM just slotted into the middle/end of the game, in a way that felt mostly like a breather. As a DM, I ran it as a one shot over two sessions when one of our players couldn’t make it for the weekly game, and gave all of them characters that were very different from their normal ones. There were a few reasons for this. 1. It let me play the monsters as brutally as possible. I’ve run into a problem with RPG games where I find them hard to really “teach” some of the more crunchy/mathy mechanics of combat in a good way, because I can’t just kill the players until they learn. Except in a one shot like this, in this situation I can TOTALLY go for the total party kill. And 2. It forced them to play characters that role-wise were very different from their characters, and I think that let me role play them/act them out a bit more.

Both of these runs were played on a set of maps that a friend of mine made, which brings me to my first issue with the module. No maps are included. While this isn’t a huge issue at the start, it becomes more of a problem once you move into later parts of the module, especially the combat bits, and if your players ever end up running around the mansion. I’ll talk a bit more about this later.

MMM sets itself up into six chapters, each chapter being more or less a phase. Acts one and two primarily set the scene, having the players arrive at the manor, meet the others at the dinner party, and then eat dinner. Acts three and four involve the murder of one of the guests, and a start of an investigation into what happened. Acts five and six conclude the story, involving the confrontation with the murderer, and the end of the adventure. As far as gameplay elements go, one and two are primarily roleplay, three is skill checks, and four through six are where the combat encounters begin.

While I think this general structure is fine, the biggest issue I have with the module is the following: MMM tries to be too many things at once, and it suffers for it. While the adventure sets itself up as a murder mystery, it’s really more horror themed then anything else. The problem is, these two themes sorta clash with each other.

The general progression of a mystery is something like this.

  1. Introduce the Characters/Setting
  2. Introduce Conflict between characters
  3. Crime Occurs
  4. Investigation
  5. Confront the Perp

And horror goes something like this.

  1. Characters arrive at location.
  2. Some small strange things happen.
  3. Characters attempt to leave/get help, only to discover they are trapped/bridges have been cut, communications severed, etc.
  4. Characters are picked off one by one, until the single remaining survivor escapes/defeats the threat.

The structure of MMM though, is something like this.

  1. Introduce characters and setting.
  2. Introduce Conflict
  3. Small Strange Things Happen
  4. Crime Occurs
  5. Characters(NPC’s) are picked off one by one
  6. Investigation
  7. Confront the Perp

It doesn’t really follow either structure, and the nature of the game means that both times I’ve played it, I’ve never seen the players attempt to leave the house. The Scooby Gang doesn’t book it back to the mystery machine when a horrible monster shows up, and neither do PC’s. If you put a dead body in front of your players after a dinner, they will assume this is a puzzle for them to solve, not a danger to be avoided.

This becomes a problem because the module wants to set up all the guests, so that you have suspects, but it then procedes to kill them off one by one, meaning that the mystery aspect of the game solves itself. It also means that any effort you put into setting up conflict between the guests ends up being fairly moot, because by the time it switches genres, the players don’t have a huge amount of time to investigate either. (The module also doesn’t give any dialogue suggestions for how to really run the interactions between the NPC’s, and frankly having to role play two NPC’s arguing with each other isn’t too much fun for your players. )

Secondly, of the seven NPC’s only four of them ever really feel like reasonable suspects, and two of those characters get killed off real fast, bringing you back down to two characters. I don’t really consider a coin flip an investigation.

So, does the module do horror well then? Well, sorta. Some parts of the module work really well, including the mimic attack, the mini-book mimics, and the fight with the murderer and the heart of the manor. The other parts not so much.

After part four, the rest of the manor activates, and this leads to traps being placed in each of the manor rooms. ( Again, maps would be nice here. ) Most of these traps are not remotely horrific or supernatural, and will either do one of two things.

  1. Kill the PC’s (Not horrific, just a death. It happens.)
  2. Not kill the PC’s (Also not horrific, they lived, why would it be horrifying?)

In addition the activation of ANY these traps more or less immediately gives away the identity of the murderer to any player/character. ( Because frankly, if I saw a set of stairs turn into a razor blade shredder, my assumption would not be “Hmm, it must be someone who doesn’t own the house” )

The conclusion of the module, a fight against the murder and the animated heart of the manor feels much better, and does a good job of hitting more of that horrific tone. The stat blocks for the manor heart itself are also pretty decent, and seem to have been well thought out. I would say that this conclusion/wrap up are overall the strongest parts of the module as written.

Overall, Moonveil Manor isn’t amazing, and it isn’t terrible. It’s all right, and I can imagine it slotting decently into another. I think the strongest parts of MMM are some of the fights, the few bits of flavor the module actually chooses to include, and the fact that it can most likely be slotted into almost any campaign very easily as a sort of one-shot/breather type game.

If I was to run it again, here’s what I would change up.

  1. Maps for each room. The lack of maps hurts, and I used some made by a friend who was the one who ran me through the first time. This is good, but it makes the whole house into one big things, instead of letting players really be in a location, where a lot of the module is based around encountering and exploring these rooms.
  2. Re-skin the traps. Given that they already give away the identity of the murderer, and the a lot of the flavor text is based around the house being this eldritch horror, I’d replace the sand pit with a gnashing mouth, the blunderbuss with whipping spikes, etc.
  3. Give the PC’s a reason to attend the party, other than “You were invited to a party”. I think this would encourage people to be a bit more interested in the house, and perhaps a bit more proactive about trying to solve things/protect the NPC’s.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll post more of these as I play em/run em.

The Tides Have It

I’ve decided to try to see if I can keep this blog updated twice weekly. Woo. That seems like it will be kinda tough, so I’m just gonna quickly talk about a few things about Animal Crossing New Horizons that have been bothering me. These are more or less extremely small nitpicks, and I’d suspect that overall, they’re not really worth thinking about for more then a few minutes, but they’re still interesting to me, so yeah, whatever.

Nitpick #1

You can release fish into areas of water that they didn’t come from.

Okay, so in terms of “Annoyed Complaints” I’d file this one up with there with “Zootopia is unrealistic because animals can’t talk” in terms of how much it actually matters, but the reason this bother me is really straight forward. The game doesn’t let us just kill fish by tossing them onto land to die, or whatnot, we can only release them with the implication that well, they’ll live. Despite this though, nothing stops you from chucking a sea horse into a lake pond, or a trout straight into the ocean. I’m not a fish person, it might even be that those kinds of fish can survive in those areas, but I feel like they prob wouldn’t do so hot. I dunno, really it just bothers me because the game on one hand says “No, you can’t just murder these animals” but on the other hand is like “Yeah, sure, cram that Sea Bass in that tiny lake pond. It’ll be fine!”

Nitpick #2

Going out and chopping down everything on a random mystery island isn’t just possible, the games mechanics almost encourage it.

I find this one “funnier” in the sense that I’m almost never bothered by content in video games.

There’s a subsection of the population that seems to think that Video Games are the Devil, but it seems like people thought the same thing about Rock and Roll, Dungeons and Dragons, reading Catcher In The Rye. I’m more of the opinion that “Shitty people are shitty people” and that if “The Youth” are being corrupted, its more likely that they went looking for it.

Point is, in terms of “Oh dear, the moral panic” I’m almost never bothered by content in games. Murder a dozen people? Sure! Blow up a boat? Why not. Kill your Minecraft villagers over and over again until you get one with the right recipes? Those books won’t make themselves.

The point is, simulated violence almost never bothers me, as does war, blood/gore/etc. It’s very easy to tell that it’s not “real”. However, the idea of just going to random part of a forest/island or something and just clear cutting it cause “Fuck it, it ain’t my home” actually does sorta rub me the wrong way. I feel like I was raised to have a certain respect for nature even digitally, at least as long as said nature isn’t trying to actively murder me. (That’s a different situation, more about Don’t Starve later this week maybe?)

There was an interesting post a while back on Penny Arcade that I can’t find at the moment, but more or less boiled down to the following:

  1. “It’s very hard to see people in games as real people, because eventually you’ll reach a point where they behave weirdly, or bug out, or start saying the same voice line or whatever.”
  2. But the corollary is “It’s a lot easier to make us care about dogs/cats/animals, because it’s not hard to make something that really feels like a dog.” If it wags its tail, run around, barks at stuff, you’ve pretty much nailed it. It’s way easier to make a digital dog that feels “real” then a digital person.
  3. As far as I can tell, this is how I feel about forests and wild places in Animal Crossing. They aren’t real forests, but they are real in the sense of the game, and to the characters of the game. So yeah, clear cutting a pristine bit of nature so I can have an extra axe or two feels bad.

Afterthought:

After thinking about most of this, I realized that it’s more then possible in AC to harvest wood and such without actually cutting down an entire Forest, but I still thought it was fairly interesting that I was more bothered by a game saying “You can cut down all the trees” and the message that it sends to our children. So yeah, time to get children back to playing Call of Duty, Animal Crossing teaches lessons that are far too dangerous about deforestation. Speaking of which, more about Don’t Starve later this week, a game with a VERY different game play loop, but some of the same occurrences.

Sento – Ultimate Arcade Fighter

Holy shit, I want to own this game.

There are a lot of games at a PAX, and honestly, many of them do not click for me. There are things that can be fun when played with other people, but might not transfer to a single player experience, and there are things that just don’t grab me.

I personally don’t really like writing about things that very much, because making things is hard, and going “Hey, you know that thing you poured a decent portion of the finite time, the only truly real and limited thing that is yours on this planet, into? I think it’s trash.” has the all the tact and moral generosity of stomping on a puppy. Most people I know who make things have started by making a lot of very bad things, and then moved on to making better things. I know that for the things I currently make, many of them are either garbage, or “Shows promise, needs improvement” stage of creation.

So yeah, unless you directly ask me for feedback on whether I think something is good or not, anything I say will be more in the “I like it/I don’t like” sphere.

I don’t have to do anything of that shit with Senko fighter, because I mostly just want to play more of it.

Senko is a puzzle matching, fighter game. It’s a board game, which is also kinda weird, and honestly, you could make it into a video game, but I’m not sure if it would actually improve it. Pulling rows of marbles of the board, and dropping them back in to the randomizer is deeply satisfying. (Someone told me “Oh, like Potion Explosion?” but I’ve never played it, so I have no idea if that’s accurate.)

I think the big thing for me though, is that Senko really gets at the heart of what fighting games feel like if you’re good at them. Each turn, you’re making several decisions, all in one simple action. Do I want to attack, or build up for another turn? Am I going to try to trigger my characters feature, or set stuff up? Am I trying to go for a knockout, or just chip you down? Do I need to try to block something big you can set up next turn, and if so, can I even do it?

And the way you decide all of these things is simple, reach down a pull out a bunch of marbles, then do your attack. Different marbles correspond to different attacks, with combos at 1, 3, and 4 chains. There are three colors of marble, and each size chain is a specific attack, except your health is also tied to these marbles to an extent, and if one of your three bars gets knocked down, you can’t use those color marbles, locking out an entire set of attacks, EXCEPT now you can use those marbles you can’t use as part of an even bigger chain of other colors, so now, even though you’re “weaker” it just got much easier to pull off some of those bigger attacks, which is one of the coolest catch up mechanics I’ve ever seen.

I’m sure that as it gets more coverage in the coming months, and Kickstarter launches and whatnot, we’ll get more articles and stuff about it, but I’ll just finish by saying the following:

One thing I feel a lot in video games, but almost never do in board games, is the sense of having MY guy. In Smash Bros, it’s Ike or Ganondorf. In Pokken, it’s Chandalure, and in Pokemon in general, it’s Kyogre, my fat happy blue murder whale. But board games very rarely give me that feeling, even with things like Scythe, and it’s fairly distinct pieces and characters.

The DJ in Sento Fighter already feels like she’s MY dude, nailing the asymmetric options without watering them down so much they become more then just a random starting objective or something. And when this game comes out, I’m looking forward to playing it with friends, and dropping sick, sweet beats, directly onto their exposed, fragile cranium.

Here’s the link to their depressingly empty page, but at least you can sign up for their newsletter about when the Kickstarter is coming. And you should, if you like GOOD THINGS.