Aug 032009

“It’s during long pauses such as these that we often grow philosophical and ponder the deeper questions of gaming…

Just where did that tiger keep those 20 silver pieces?”
~GM Hold music (

Lately I have noticed the discussion crop up on a variety of message boards over ‘Is Dungeons and Dragons really all about killing things and taking their stuff?”  The discussion invariably then delves into people saying “Yes, but it can be about a whole lot more” or “Well X edition was a whole lot more about killing things and taking their stuff than Y edition” or the people who stick up and say “Yes, that IS what it is all about.”  Yet one of the things I always notice about the discussion is that while gamers spend a great amount of time arguing how DnD can be so much more than killing things and taking their stuff or lambasting their least favorite edition while supporting their favorite no one stops to ask: is it OK that the game could fundamentally be centered on killing things and taking their stuff?

Everyone pussyfoots around it, like it is some dirty little secret that didn’t make millions of dollars for the video game industry.  But, despite me being a White Wolf loving, story-based, hang-the-rules sort of roleplayer, I’m going to tell you straight: there is nothing wrong with the concept of a game being founded on ‘kill things, take their stuff.’

Now before you rush out and go have a Mountain Dew rampage on how plebian I am, let me explain.  Let us, for a second; break down the basic structure of the “Kill Things, Take Stuff” plot.  In my mind it has 4 stages:

Problem (There are monsters)
Action (The PCs go find the monsters – usually in the form of a ‘dungeon crawl’)
Resolution (The PCs kill the monsters)
Reward (The PCs get stuff from killing monsters)

The Problem -> Action -> Resolution -> Reward structure is a primer for a successful RPG story.  It is one of the most basic, tried and true plotlines of DnD – or any other game.  It can be as simple as shown about or it can be far more sophisticated:

Problem (Innocent children have been disappearing from the PCs hometown, and last night the mangled corpse of a child was found in a dark alleyway)
Action (The PCs start a careful detective-style investigation into the shady elements of this city)
Resolution (After many clues and some random encounters the PCs decide that one of the respected politicians of the town is actually a corrupt wizard who is responsible for this atrocity, so they confront him)
Reward (Defeating their foe, the PCs find and release the surviving children.  The Lord of the city gives them a generous reward – or conversely they loot the dead wizard and take his stuff 😉 )

Either way and everything in between, the structure gives players what they crave: the chance to take actions that bring about solutions and give them rewards so they can go solve bigger and badder problems.  To reiterate: players want resolution and reward.  They put the work into solving the problems the DM presents them with, and in order to make the game gratifying to them, they want rewards for taking that action.  While setting up a problem is easy for most any DM, working the game through to a conclusion is more difficult.  Dungeons and Dragons sets up an almost fail-safe game structure where getting rid of obstacles (killing monsters, defeating traps, ect ect) grants reward and leads to a conclusion.  At the end, the DM can tally up all of the treasure and XP and reward his or her players.

I’m going to argue that the creators of the original DnD intimately understood what made the game fun, and that resolution and reward were an integral part of the enjoyment of the game.  That is why by-the-book you get treasure for slaying monsters and why the game seems set up to kill things and take stuff: it provides inherent rewards.  I will go so far to say that the DMG should be required reading for anyone who wants to lead any game system, because beyond the rules specific to whatever edition of DnD you play, the book is filled with a wealth of information on how to structure a basic game plot.  Don’t scoff at the seemingly simple examples.  Because it is far more gratifying and fun to play in a campaign with a very simple plot that keeps you engaged, active and rewarded than playing in an interminably complex plot where you just keep running in circles never reaching a conclusion because you’re either not smart enough to figure out the clues or the DM just hasn’t figured out the end yet.  (I see the latter happen most frequently in White Wolf STs, but that is the subject for a different rant.)

The DMG urges new DMs to start simple and if they and their players want to, they can refine the subtlety and complexity of their plots, as they understand the game and how it is played.  Or don’t – if your players get their jollies by mashing monsters and saving villages from orc hordes, let them!  Follow the basic rules of resolution and reward; and no matter whether your game is about complex political scheming or killing things and taking their stuff, you will be surrounded by a group of your friends who are all having fun and enjoying the game.

And in the end, getting together with friends and having fun is what Dungeons and Dragons is really about, no?

Jul 242009

So 4th edition D&D has been out for a while, there’s a steady stream of books out for it, its received quite a bit of acclaim and popularity, and the inevitable question has risen a few times: Why am I not playing it ?

So to address these in a manner that illuminates my playstyle and preferences, something that any gamer could do well thinking about occasionally, here are the reasons I have chosen not to play D&D 4, after giving it a few tests after it came out.

Unlike a lot of people I am not viewing this in comparison to 3.5 (which I hate like the plague) or AD&D or the classic D&D games. I evaluated it in comparison to other fantasy games on my bookshelf, some old (Runequest), some classics with recent editions (GURPS, Warhammer) and some bleeding edge (Burning Wheel, Heroquest, Reign)

1: Classes.

I realize picking on D&D for having character classes is a bit unfair, but it is the nature of the beast. I dont mind having a template that gives me direction when I create the character, but as the game goes on, I want to be free to develop my character in the direction I choose, rather than a pre-determined set of options.

2: Levels

This is the bigger pet peeve. As a player, I find level based advancement absolutely choking. I despise having to wait another 3 sessions to advance my character, as it prevents me from reacting organically to what happens in the game. Whats worse is that a level structure means there is only a finite amount of chances to make those changes. I can endure character classes if they are done in an open and entertaining fashion, but level based play is a killer for me these days

3: Character focus

I am lately finding myself wanting games that put the character to the forefront, their beliefs, their wants, their goals and desires. And to have mechanics that back that up. Burning Wheel, FATE and Heroquest are all good examples of this. D&D has traditionally never done this and the 4th edition is no exception.

There are two views of mechanics and roleplaying. One view is that the mechanics should stay away from the roleplaying, while the other is that the mechanics should support or encourage the roleplaying. D&D falls in the former school for sure. As does a few other games I enjoy, including my beloved Runequest, so its not inherently a killer in itself, but its a factor.

To me, it is completely uninteresting whether your character can swing a sword, hit 2 enemies in one blow and then leap 3 squares. What is interesting is that he has a burning passion for avenging his father, and that passion compels him in the game.

4: Simulation

Rules should simulate reality or setting to a certain extent. With 4th edition, D&D has really moved to the end of the Game axis of the game-simulation graph. This obviously resonates with a lot of people, but it makes the mechanics appear arbitrary and uninsteresting to me. Simulation does not have to entail realism. A superhero game is highly simulationist for example, as is Bunnies&Burrows.

5: Handling time

I was shocked to discover how long 4th edition combats take. I had chalked this up to our inexperience when testing it, but reports from friends and various actual play reports online confirmed that the game is indeed designed to have all combats last around a 1 to 1.5 hour time frame.

I only get to game face-to-face 2-3 times a month, due to work and family constraints, so I can’t in good conscience devote that much time to every single battle we have, unless its an epic conclusion. Rolemaster and GURPS both move faster than this, at an equivalent number of combatants, and with similar amounts of record keeping, and they are both renowned as “crunchy” systems.

6: Cost

I have a reasonable hobby budget, but I prefer spending that on miniatures. There are very few roleplaying games I invest a lot of money in. D&D has a basic start up cost exceeding 100 dollars, simply for the 3 core books to play. If I want a setting to play in, thats another 35 dollars, and this still only gives me a handful of character classes.

Throw in another 35 dollars when we get tired of what was in the players handbook (and an active group will cycle through the 8 or so character classes pretty quickly). This is more than I’ve spent on most of my wargaming armies, and I can’t justify spending that amount of money on a game that I will only play occasionally, at most.

WOTC has set an extremely high cost of entry for their game, which boggles my mind. For the same cost, I can obtain the core books for 3-4 other games, and have a far wider variety of material to play with.

So those 6 reasons comprise my main reasons for passing on this game. I bought 2 of the books, I tested it, I came to realize that it will not fill any lack in what I am looking for in a roleplaying game, and I passed the books on to a friend who will find far more benefit, value and enjoyment in them, than I ever will.

Mar 282009


Dungeons & Dragons has long been a game about exploring new places and fighting dangerous monsters. Usually these adventures are set either in an established campaign setting or a home brew world devised by the dungeon master. This variant outlines a method in which both the players and the dungeon master can create a world together, creating a new method for world creation.

Basic Rules

This method of world creation is quite simple; the dungeon master and the characters each take turns naming facts about the world, its geography, its people, its customs, and its legends. Both the dungeon master and the players are encouraged to think creatively and to place locations and legends that they’re interested in exploring and examining. This is a simple process that has only a few basic rules.

  • Everything Exists: Any information found in the core rules supplements exists in the world in some fashion. No participant in this process can state a fact or legend that invalidates a choice found in the rules books. The dungeon master and the players should be able to select any rules option in the books in this campaign setting.
  • The Basic Premise is True: The basic premise of dungeons & dragons is still intact in this world. Tieflings once hailed from Bael Turath, all of the core deities exist in some fashion, and adventurers still explore dark dungeons and buy magical treasures. While individual facts about the common legends might change, the basic premise cannot be altered with stated facts (though legends can offer different options).
  • No Contradictions: Once a participant in the world building process states a fact or legend, nothing can contradict this statement. If a player states that the village of Green Hills exists in the Flowering Valley another player cannot then state that the village doesn’t exist. Once someone states a fact it becomes just that: a fact. You can, however, append additional information to a stated fact. In the above example a player could state that the village of Green Hills is linked to the Feywild and that it only actually appears during the daytime, disappearing at night.
  • Beware the Monkey’s Paw: While this is a cooperative world, the GM does hold ultimate power over the setting, mostly in order to ensure that the game is actually a challenge. If you state that the town well holds powerful magical items the DM can alter this fact to ensure that 1st level characters don’t start off with holy avengers. Be careful what you wish for, as the DM can alter facts if they’re clearly placed only to give an unfair advantage to the players.
  • Be Cooperative: This is a group exercise and as such try not to rain on someone else’s parade. Work with everyone else at the table to make an enjoyable setting. If someone raises a big objection to one of your facts ask them why they object and consider meeting them halfway. While you have ultimate power on your turn you can and should talk to the other players if there’s some question about your fact or legend.

Building the World

Filling in the map is an easy and enjoyable process. Simply gather your group together, grab a piece of paper, and place a dot somewhere near the middle of the paper. This is the starting village where the characters will begin their adventuring career. You can name it now or leave the name as the first stated fact of the world building process. Then elect one player as the scribe (this is usually the GM). The scribe writes down all the stated facts so that there’s a written record of the world.

There are two smaller parts to the entire world building process. The first part is the phase, which is a broad category of the world building process. The phase determines what kinds of facts and legends each player can state during each round. Each round every player can name one fact or legend for that phase. Most phases consist of two to five rounds before the next phase begins.

Each round every player gets a chance to name a fact or legend appropriate to the phase subject. These statements can either be a simple word or phrase that other players can elaborate on or a one or two sentence statement. Players can make two types of statements.

A fact is something that is completely true (so long as it follows the general rules above). Examples of a fact would be the location of some terrain feature, a general truth about a race, or the name of a place or culture.

A legend is like a fact, save that the details of it can change to fit the story or the needs of the world. Legends can also simply be keywords, adventure ideas, or common beliefs of the world. Unlike facts, legends can be changed by the GM in secret to surprise the players. Examples of legends would be a story that a dungeon exists in the Sunlight Plains, that dragons cannot see people who wear their own color or that when a wizard casts a spell his eyes glow.

The Phases

While there are no hard and fast rules for how many phases are used before play begins or for how many rounds each phase contains, the general outline below will produce a vibrant and adequately detailed region suitable for adventuring.

Phase One: World Myths [2-3 Rounds]
World myths are almost universally legends rather than facts. World Myths tend to include legends about how each race was created, vast world spanning legends, and facts that everyone should know. This phase is intended to get everyone thinking about the broad theme of the world.

Phase Two: The Races [2-4 Rounds]
This phase can contain both facts and legends about equally. This phase allows the players to detail the races and how they might deviate from the core books. This phase is most useful for players who want to come from a unique culture or for players who want to ensure that a race is either common or uncommon.

Phase Three: Local Geography [3-5 Rounds]
In this phase the players begin to fill in the blank map with details about the local geography. Everyone takes turns drawing in terrain features such as mountain ranges, rivers, plains, and other such things. Players can either leave the places unnamed or given them a name that might suggest further facts.

Phase Four: The Village [2-4 Rounds]
In this phase the players begin to name facts and legends about the starting village. These can include the absence or presence of services or people, the local religion, the general feeling of the town, and other such things. This phase can be expanded if the players expect to spend a great deal of time there.

Phase Five: Local Threats & Factions [1-3 Rounds]
Once the world has been filled with a few terrain features and a local village, the players now need to place a few threats and monsters in the area. Threats are generally found in the surrounding terrain while factions are generally reserved for the starting village or for neighboring nations. Players can be quite vague here, leaving a lot of wiggle room for the GM to plan adventure around.

Phase Six: Local Legends [1-3 Rounds]
This phase is entirely limited to legends, not facts. Players should start listing common legends about places, people, and races. These are intended to give the DM ideas for story seeds and adventures, so the more evocative and vague you are the better.

Phase Seven: The World Beyond [2-4 Rounds]
During this phase the players all take turns filling out facts and details about the large world. This can be where the roads lead to, neighboring towns or villages, facts about the local nation, or even the presence of another continent. This is intended to provide locations for further adventures once the local area has been explored.

Phase Eight: Final Details [3-8 Rounds]
This final phase is intended for a catch-all where players can name a few last details about the world. No subject for facts or legends is forbidden and this phase is generally used to flesh out existing facts a bit further.

Bringing it All Together

Once all of the phases have been brought together, the DM should compile all of the information into one easy to read format. This is now the beginning of the campaign world. As play begins the DM and the players can further define the facts during play. Should the characters find themselves lost for something to do they can simple start naming more facts that the DM can use to create further adventures.

When the players finally progress beyond their home region you can go through this process once again to create a new region ripe for exploration. Simply start at phase three for the new area, keeping in mind that previous facts cannot be invalidated. In this way you create the world a little bit at a time.

Final Word

This process is far from the final word on cooperative world building, and indeed it is not even that unique. These are simply my suggestions for the process and you should change them to better suit your own group and play style. Above all remember that building the world should be fun for everyone.

Jan 202009

Twofold Adept

I walk the twofold path, balancing and blending many skills into one harmonious and deadly whole.

Prerequisite: Novice Power, Acolyte Power, Adept Power

You have decided to walk the twofold path, focusing not just one your primary class but on your multiclass as well. You have better learned how to use the abilities of your multiclass and have even unlocked the secret of combining the powers of both your classes into one furious assault. You understand better than most that true power comes from versatility.

Twofold Adept Features

Twofold Action (11th level): You can expend an action point to regain the use of a single power you selected with the Novice Power feat instead of taking an extra action.
Twofold Training (11th level): You know one additional at-will power that must be selected from the list of at-will powers available to the class you multiclassed into. In addition, when you retrain the Novice Power, Acolyte Power, and Adept power feats you may choose to replace up to two of your class powers instead of only one.
Twofold Harmony (16th level): You may now use the benefit granted by your class-specific multiclass feat twice as often as normal. For example, a character with the Initiate of the Faith class feature could use the cleric’s healing word power twice per day instead of once per day.

Twofold Adept Powers

Twofold Attack Twofold Adept Attack 11
You unleashed one of your most basic attacks and then follow it up with an unexpected second attack.
Encounter * Multiclass
Standard Action         Personal
Effect: You can use two at-will attack powers as a free action, one of which must be from the class you multiclassed into. You may shift up to your speed as a free action either before or after you use your first at-will attack power.

Twofold Inspiration Twofold Adept Utility 12
With a cleansing breath and a moment of focus you achieve perfect insight into both of your paths of study, unlocking hidden talents.
Daily * Multiclass, Stance
Minor Action         Personal
Effect: You gain all of the class features of your second class.
Special: When you gain this power you make any choice that a member of the class you multiclassed into would make regarding class features, such as a fighter selecting either one-handed or two-handed weapons for the Fighter Weapon Talent class feature. These choices remain throughout your character’s life and may not be changed later.

Twofold Assault Twofold Adept Attack 20
You unleashed a furious assault of attacks, blending both of them into one harmonious flurry of devastating power.
Daily * Multiclass
Standard Action         Personal
Effect: You can use an at-will attack power from your class as a free action and then shift one square. If this attack hits you may then use an at-will attack power from the class you multiclassed into as a free action. You may then repeat this process until you miss or have used a total of five at-will attack powers.

New Keyword

Multiclass: Powers with the multiclass keyword are considered to have the same keywords as the power source of your class and of the class you multiclassed into. For example, any power with the multiclass keyword used by a fighter with the Initiate of the Faith feat would have the martial and divine keywords.

Nov 062008

I’d like to state that I’ve fallen in love with the Dungeon Tiles from Wizards of the Coast.  While the debate about 4th edition rages on, I feel that this little product line has been sorely neglected.  Let me give you a little rundown of the product, shall I?

For your crisp ten dollar bill (they retail at $9.95) you get one package of dungeon tiles.  They come in (I think) 5 sheets of very thick cardstock (I’m talking maybe 1/10th of an inch thick) that’s been laminated with this very durable and water repellent plastic coating.  They smell a bit funky coming out of the box, but I’ve spilled all manner of salsa and soda on these things and they’ve come out just fine.  In other words, they’re more durable than you really need, even for us messy gamers.

Each of the tiles are doubled sided, which adds a lot of value.  The newest set, Streets of Shadow, has the topside with street scenes and the other side as sewers: a very nice touch.  Other sets aren’t quite that opposite, but all give you a lot of versatility.

Quite frankly, for your $10 you get a massively good deal.  You can’t make a massive dungeon complex all at once with one set, but at that price you can afford to get multiples.  My lovely wife actually got me 5 more sets for my birthday, bless her heart.  With my 8 sets I can more or less make a dungeon so huge that it would take up about 3 of my dining room tables.

Visually they’re very nicely done, which is saying something considering how picky I am about my maps (being a professional and all).  They really add a nice dynamic to the game, helping imaginations come alive (at least in our group).  That right there was well worth my Hamilton.

So, to recap: they’re cheap (good), pretty (very good), and versatile (good).  There’s literally no downside here, unless you somehow think they should be free.  Well, they can slide around if you get overly excitable/clumsy and use a lot of the smaller tiles.  But that’s about it.

To give you an idea of just what you can do with these things, I set up a part of the village that my players had to defend from kobolds.  I must have spent a good 30 minutes finding a good setup, all of which was fun.  As you can see, the end result is rather nice.

The one surrounded is Elwyn, my wife's wizard.  Don't worry, she survived.

Don't worry, the wizard managed to escape the kobolds...

Sep 282008

This post is actually in response to a post over at the Tao of D&D (warning, naughty words abound over on that post!).  Within the author makes some good points and then makes a few points that I personally disagree with.  I’m not going to dissect the post or call out quotes; if you’re interested take a read and see what you think yourself.  Instead, I want to offer an opposing viewpoint as to why so many people do enjoy playing heroes in D&D (and other games beside).

I would also like to preface this post with the standard disclaimer that my ideas and words don’t reflect any one true way of playing.  There is no wrong way to play any RPG so long as everyone in the game is having fun and enjoying themselves.  I tend to hammer this point home a lot, but it’s an important one to remember.

To get right to the point, I’ve always greatly enjoyed playing the stalwart defender of innocents and the downtrodden when I bring my dice to the table.  (Yes, I quite like playing Paladins and Superheroes, why do you ask?)  There is something incredibly liberating, fun, and above all hopeful about playing one of the true blue good guys.  Judging by actions and characters of my friends and other gaming groups, I feel that it’s not an uncommon idea, either.  For at least some of us roleplayers, playing the good guy is very much part of the game and part of the fun.

I feel that a big part of the reason is that in this day and age (and in days past, really) there are so many bad things happening in the world that it’s nice to actually help out in a noticable and real (well, pretend real) way.  I feel bad that I can’t help all those people out there suffering by myself, but when I play in our weekly D&D game my character can.

For sure it’s escapism and little more, but deep down within my heart of heats I feel better for having done the imaginary right thing.  Sure, I can volunteer at homeless shelters, I can give money to charity, I can do a lot of things to help people fairly indirectly.  But the results are never immediate or nearly so impressive as those of my alter ego.  I might volunteer my time help the less fortunate, but Sir Boros the Paladin sure helped all those peasants in that village when he stopped the orc invasion.

And isn’t that why we play games in the first place?  To have fun and do something we can’t normally do in real life, to get away from our worries and troubles for just a little while and smile and laugh with our friends?  For me it’s so much less interesting to play the greedy thief who steals from his friends; I see enough of that on television.  Why would I want to play something like that in a game where I can be anything?

Some folks say that good guys are forced to act good or suffer consequences.  Honestly, I think that holds true for every single motivation in the game.  After all, that’s all doing good work or gaining power or gaining treasure really are; character motivations.  Are my games any less valid or less fun simply because my players happen to be motivated by goodwill and heroism rather than gold and raw power?  My players seem to be having a grand old time, doesn’t seem to me like I’ve done anything wrong.

I also think that playing the hero happens to have a rather fun little benefit.  I’ve been a long time player and fan of City of Heroes, and one thing I’ve noticed in that game as opposed to other games is that people are so helpful.  You’ll get guys to drop really tough and challenging missions to help out a new player who just logged in and is clueless.  I’ve done it plenty of times myself.  I think that part of the reason is that it’s so much fun to share in the discovery of some great new game or world (something I want to talk later with a talk on young kids and RPGs) and help others see just how much fun something you love to play can be.

Yet beyond the shared discovery and joy is the simple concept that if you pretend to be a nice guy, it might just rub off.  I’m surely not Sir Boros, but I’d sure like to get that happy feeling that I get when playing him again.  That happy feeling often comes from helping those (perpetually) hapless peasants with thier troubles.  Perhaps if I, myself, were to help someone out just for the good of it I might get that feeling just a little bit myself.

That’s why I truly like playing good guys and playing with others who like playing good guys.  If you pretend to be the hero long enough, it just might rub off on you.

Sep 242008

Since Runequester started such a nice little topic, I figured that I’d chime in with my own thoughts and opinions.  In some respects I’m almost the polar opposite of him, far prefering mechanics that fit a specific setting or game than generic or universal mechanics.  To me the rules should support and reinforce the genre or game you’re playing, not function as an all-in-one toolkit.  Plus I want to highlight a very important aspect of roleplaying: there is no one true way to enjoy this hobby.

I fully admit that a large part of why I keep returning to D&D is that it is the teat at which I suckled as a fledgling roleplayer.  It’s a lot like Mom’s home cooking – you were raised on it and it’s comforting.  I think that all of us have that one game we first played and love warts and all precisely because its nostalgic.

Yet that’s not the main reason I return to D&D and similar games.  I love crunchy bits and complex mechanics.  For me there is a great and wondeful game within a game in these systems, namely character creation and getting the most out of what you have.  In short, I love to min-max or powergame my characters a bit.  I’m not one to take it to extremes, but generally I’ll come to the table with a very effective character who tends to excell in one or two areas.  And you know what?  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

For me the game mechanics should wholly support the game and genre that you’re playing and they don’t need to make sense outside of that genre.  I’m not going to use a wrench to hammer in a nail.  Why would I use a genric game to run something very specific.  (Again, this is not to say that generic games are bad.  Far from it.  I just happen to prefer games that fit one style of play).

I also really happen to like highly tactical combat and almost treat fights and conflict as games within a game.  When it comes time to break out the longswords and slaughter me some demons, I don’t much care how much sense my attacks make.  All I care about is killing those demons in a fun, cinematic, and awesome way.  Let me cleave through enemies like Conan or burn them all down like Raistlin.  I’m probably the happiest when I have skulls to bash and loot to earn.

For me, and most of my players, we don’t really care that we can only use some certain power once per day.  It doesn’t matter and in the world we’re currently playing in it makes sense enough, so we let it slide and get on with the combat.  But when combat ends we’re just as easily able to slip into roleplaying, becuase for me when you’re talking and negotiating you don’t need a lot of specific rules.  So in a sense we play two games at once, one a talky roleplaying free form sort of deal and the other a highly tactical and complex wargame using miniatures.

And this is the most beautiful thing about our wonderful hobby.  Both my take and Runequester’s take completely valid, fun, and perfectly reasonable.  That’s what really irks me when someone tells me that I’m playing a game wrong or that a certain system “sucks.”  In roleplaying there are no wrong or bad systems, only systems you don’t happen to enjoy or that don’t work for you.  If you’re having fun and the group is having fun then nothing wrong is happening; you’ve succeeded and you have a wonderful game.

If you really want to have fun roleplaying that’s all you need to know.  Pick a system that works for you and don’t let anyone else dare tell you that you’re doing it wrong.  Just because my mind loves the strange abstractions and finding that extra little +1 bonus to my rolls doesn’t mean that my style is innately inferior or superior to anyone elses.  It’s only different.

Aug 172008

After finally getting my new weekend tabletop group together and assembled I found that I had a rather interesting problem.  I had players willing to try several different games and systems, a different beast than my weekday group that’s strongly Dungeons & Dragons oriented.  I was immediately hit with a case of too many options and pitched several ideas.  We originally settled on Shadowrun.

Of course once we started creating characters I immediately wanted to play something else, one of my biggest problems.  So we started creating characters for two other systems.  Something wonderful happened when we started created characters, though.  At first I’d been rather aimless in focus for my Reign game but the characters immediately started generating ideas for a longer running plot.

This discovery was rather wonderful and slightly surprising to me.  Usually my game creation process is very different.  I decide on a game, write out a plot and general framework for the game, then have people make characters to fit.  This was nearly the reverse, as the newly created characters sparked several good ideas and now I have a lot of possibilities going forward.

Which makes me think that this might even be a better process for some games (not all of them, obviously).  But it’s undeniable that characters come with their own plot hooks and motiviations which a GM can use to great effect to give the game focus and a forward direction.

I think in the future I might use a hybrid of this system, creating a basic game concept and framework but leaving a lot of it open so that the characters can dictate more fully what happens.  Which isn’t to say that I don’t do that already, it’s just that generally I had several events that were going to happen that were altered during play to fit the characters.  So why create those if they’ll be altered when I can simply craft events afterwards that are a response to players.

Just a simple observation to get back into the swing of posting here like I’ve always said I would.  More Wednesday.

Mar 312008

Today, while reading through the first few pages of the old 2nd. edition AD&d “The ruins of Undermountain”, and seeing The Yawning Portal Inn mentioned (the everpresent inn run by a retired high level adventurer that was so prominent in the Forgotten Realms), I came to the realization that we didn´t ask ourselves so many questions about gaming back in the day, and that it was both a good and a bad thing. It was good because it meant that we would simply concentrate on the fun side of things, and less on the metagame. Things were that way just because they were that way, and it wasn´t important if it didn´t make much sense, as long as it was fun.

On the flip side, gaming has evolved much thanks to those very same questions. It is undoubtable that RPG´s have become more playable, streamlined and user-friendly with time (using logarithms for Traveller space combat, anybody?), and that they are better because of that. The only question that remains now is: “are RPG´s more fun thanks to that evolution, or not?”. Given that the simplicity of 1st. ed. D&d is still appealing to many people, and how a greater complexity, rules-wise is not always a good thing, it´s not an easy question to answer, and the most likely way to do so is to say “it depends”.

Ultimately, I think that a game is only as fun as the GM and the players make it to be. No amount of good rules can save a bad group, nor can a bad system throw good players off the right track when it comes to having fun… And that is the beauty of our hobby 🙂 .

 Posted by at 3:23 pm
Mar 042008

The news even made CNN and BBC. Gary Gygax, father of the roleplaying game, died today.

I dont it can be adequately be explained how much impact D&D and other roleplaying games has had on my life or the person that I am.

There’s only a small list of people I consider heroes in this hobby. Greg Stafford, Steve Perrin, Greg Stolze.. and Gary Gygax.

If we can see the world of our imagination, its because we stood on the shoulder of a giant.