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Monthly Archives: January 2012

D&D Next Announcement – My Reaction

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you are a gamer, or you at least know what I mean by that term.  If not, by gamer, I mean one who plays RPGs, or Role-Playing Games, specifically those of the tabletop, pencil-and-paper variety such as Dungeons & Dragons.

Earlier this week, Wizards of the Coast announced that it has been “developing the next iteration of D&D.”  They are not calling it “5th Edition,” at least not yet.  For now, its codename seems to be D&D Next.  That’s probably a marketing and/or public relations decision, and a wise one at that.  I’ve been around for the last 4 (arguably 5) edition changes, and it’s never pretty.  In fact, the fracturing fan base is what Wizards seems to be addressing directly with this “iteration.”

D&D Starter Set - Wizards of the Coast

There have been scads of reports from various sources, but I take most of it as rumor at best.  Even so, there seems to be a consensus on a few things.  Here are some of them, along with my reactions to each.

  • Wizards of the Coast will have an open playtest of the rules during development.  This is huge.  While this is nothing new in the RPG industry, this is a huge turnaround from Wizards’ (and TSR’s prior to them) methods before.  This was a request (to be polite) from fans since at least the announcement of the 4th edition, and a source of complaints from its initial release, right on up through every new supplement.  I am encouraged by this news, because it shows they are listening.
  • D&D Next will be modular in design, so you can use whatever sets of rules you like, and ignore those you do not.  I’m not sure I buy into this idea.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept of “use what you like, throw out what you don’t like.”  I’ve liked this concept since the Original Dungeons & Dragons game.  But that’s just the thing: this is an idea that’s always been an official part of the game.  This is nothing new.  Perhaps the difference will be more precisely defined sets of rules, how they interact with other rules, and how they change the game experience as a whole?  Still, it seems odd that they make such a big point of it now.
  • D&D Next will be compatible with prior editions, which will now be supported again.  I’m skeptical about this one.  There are fundamental differences between each of the editions that make it a challenge to use them together without some major modifications.  E.g., the difference in power level between a 1st edition magic-user and a 4th edition wizard are huge.  The same goes for a 2nd and 4th edition dragon.  Or the planar cosmologies of the different settings throughout the editions.  My concern here is that Wizards does not have the staff to support every edition of D&D.  I hope they are not biting off more than they can chew.
  • Wizards will continue to support 4th edition fully during the development process of D&D Next.  This is great.  I am glad that they intend to give support to their current product.  I believe them, and take them at their word.  However, I’m not sure the customers will want to continue to purchase something they perceive to have an expiration date.  Now, the argument will be that the current products will be compatible with D&D Next, so there’s no need to worry.  Still, I’m not convinced that customers will agree.

I hope this doesn’t come across as pessimistic, because that’s not my intent.  In fact, I am eager to see how this unfolds.  I have signed up for the playtest, and encourage you to do the same.  Dungeons & Dragons is the progenitor of this hobby of mine, and it will continue to set the standard.  And I am excited to help make that happen.

Part of making that happen is that Wizards has asked for wish lists for D&D Next.  On Twitter, they have established the #DNDNext hashtag for just such a purpose.  I plan to use it in the months ahead.  For now, though, look to a future post for my immediate wish-list ideas.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 14 January 2012 in Gaming

 

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Collaborative Or Competitive Games: My Preference

Another fine question from Reverb Gamers:

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #12: Do prefer collaborative or competitive games? What do you think that says about you?

Monopoly Board - From Hasbro

For me, I reckon it depends on the game itself.  Have you ever tried to play Monopoly collaboratively?  It turns out that it doesn’t really work too well.  The same goes with Risk.  Now, I’m not too keen on either of those games, although not because of their competitive nature.  But, that demonstrates my point: some games are inherently competitive, and cannot be played cooperatively without modifying them in some way.  In cases like that, I have no problem with them, and will play them and enjoy them if I enjoy the rules of the game.

Dungeons & Dragons - From TSR/WotC

But, this blog isn’t about board games, is it?  It’s about role-playing games.  When it comes to my RPGs, I heavily favor a collaborative playing style.  Dungeons and Dragons, in every edition, encourages teamwork.  Without a doubt, it can be played competitively, and I have done so in the past.  But, I’ve usually left the table feeling unfulfilled.  Sure, I’ve had fun playing that way, but I’ve enjoyed it more often and to a greater magnitude when playing with the other players, or, as a GM, when the players work together.

What does that say about me?  Perhaps that I like working with people more than against them?  Maybe that I’m just a friendly guy?  Or maybe, just maybe, I get tired of making my friends cry when I beat them.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 14 January 2012 in Gaming, Personal

 

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The Adventures I LIke

Today, we have another question from Reverb Gamers:

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #14: What kinds of adventures do you enjoy most? Dungeon crawls, mysteries, freeform roleplaying, or something else? What do you think that says about you?

I can honestly say that I can’t pick any one type of adventure, because there are different times that I enjoy different activities.

Dungeon crawls are the first kind of adventure that I ever played.  I think that’s true of a majority of role-playing gamers, especially if one’s first game were Dungeons and Dragons.  At that time, that’s all I ever played, ran or created.  They are very simple, especially for a teenage boy whose players are other teenage boys.

Paladin - From 3.5 Edition D&D PHB

Mysteries came next in my gaming life.  They were pretty much from published modules.  Personally, I didn’t care too much for them.  They always seemed to be written with one and only one way to solve the mystery, and woe to those who fail to find it.  Even now, I don’t really like mysteries, but that’s just a personal preference.

Roleplaying is one of my favorite facets of RPGs.  After all, that’s what RP stands for, right?  But, I find that it’s not really an end in and of itself, but something to do while pursuing other game-related goals.  I don’t really separate it from the other styles of gaming.

When it comes down to it, I find that I can (and do) enjoy gaming if I find the objective to be worthy.  Save the town, rescue the orphans, squash the Big Bad Evil Guy’s Big Bad Evil Plan are the kind of goals I want in my adventures.  If that is the case, I will find a way to enjoy it, especially if the players (and GM, if I’m also a player) have the same motivation.

Bottom line: I want to play the hero.  If I have that, then the rest will fall into place.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 14 January 2012 in Gaming

 

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Cross-Gender Role Playing

Another question from Reverb Gamers:

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #9: Have you ever played a character of the opposite sex. Why or why not? If yes, how did the other players react?

I have played several female characters in my Dungeons & Dragons games throughout the years.  It has always been because the character introduced herself to me that way.  I know, if you are not a tabletop, pencil-and-paper role-playing gamer, you probably won’t understand that.  If you are a writer or other creative type, then you probably can relate.  The character comes forth in my mind, and makes herself known, sometimes in small steps, other times nearly-complete.  Either way, it is I who get to know the character, rather than tell her who she is.

Typically, other players didn’t think anything of the cross-gender role-playing.  They’d just accept it and move forward.  There were times, however, where it caused some consternation.

One time was while I was running a game at a friend’s house.  His friends joined us, and started laughing when my NPC, a female druid named Daphne, was introduced to the party.  Granted, this was a table of young teenage boys, so immaturity was rampant.

She took it in stride at first.  While annoyed, she let it pass, hoping the group would settle down as the adventure got underway.  However, the sexual comments, both implied and specific, kept coming.  She got angrier at each one, and warned the party that she was not to be trifled with.  The first battle showed her to be a capable combatant and spellcaster.  Thinking she finally earned their respect, she relaxed a little.

But, it was short-lived.  Another joke was made at her expense, and she issued an ultimatum, “These jokes will stop!  One more, and the prankster will be taught a lesson!”  They became quiet, honestly afraid of what may happen, but she could tell they would push her one more time… but only one more time.

As expected, a joke came again.  She turned to the person, and angrily whispered, “That is it.  Joke about seeing me without clothes, do you?  Oh,no – you will SEE NO MORE!

She cast a Blindness spell on the fool.  “Make a save vs. spells,” I told him.  “What?  Are you serious,” he asked.  “Oh, yes.  Daphne is pissed, and she warned you.  Now, roll,” I answered.

He rolled.  He failed.  “Your sight fades into grey, then black.  You see nothing, and stumble around, afraid that you will never see the sun again.”  “WHAT?  But, why did she do that?!?”

“I warned you, dolt,” Daphne said.  “Perhaps now you will learn respect for women.”

The player’s eyes started tearing up.  “What the heck can I do now?!?  I’m blind!  He was my favorite character!”  He grabbed his dice and character sheet and left.  He didn’t wait around long enough for me to tell him that the spell would end when Daphne willed it.

I felt a little guilty, personally, about it.  I never saw them again, other than my friend.  I remember him saying that his friend had torn his character sheet up when he got home and threw it away in anger.  Maybe, though, he learned a little lesson about treating women properly.

One can always hope.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 10 January 2012 in Gaming

 

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Of My Favorite Characters – Turg-Hath

Reverb Gamers asks:

Describe your all-time favorite character to play. What was it about him/her/it that you enjoyed so much?

Wow – where can I begin?  I have so many “favorite character(s)” that I can’t possibly choose one.  In fact, I may have a follow-up post or six to this.

Let me focus this post on one character that sticks out in my mind: Turg-Hath.  At the time, we were playing 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, using the Player’s Option: Spells & Magic book.  Andy, our DM, allowed me to use The Complete Book of Humanoids for this character.

Turg-Hath was a goblin shaman who could see and speak with the spirits of the dead.  His life began in a goblin tribe, of course.  From his earliest childhood, he was always an outsider.  The superstitious goblins feared his “visions of the dead,” and, in typical goblin fashion, chose to bully and ostracize him.  The goblin chieftain, however, saw the value in Turg-Hath’s spirit-sight, and protected him just enough to keep him alive.  Then, one vision so angered the chieftain that he banished Turg-Hath from the tribe’s lands.  The fact that the goblin word for “banish” is the same as “narrowly escape death by the enraged chieftain’s spear” never came up in his future conversations.

He managed to avoid his kinsmen’s hunting party for the next two weeks until they finally lost interest and returned home.  Starving and afraid for his life, Turg-Hath wandered for another month.  The spirits around him changed.  No longer did he see only menacing goblinoids, orcs, and giants.  Now, he saw other races that had been mostly unfamiliar to him: humans, halflings, and elves.  The strange humanoid spirits were no less disdainful toward the goblin, but they were not as threatening.  Indeed, some directed him toward a human settlement.

Turg-Hath wandered onto the property of Prescott, a respected elder of the town.  Moved with pity, Prescott took him in and nursed him back to health.  Turg-Hath was confused by the old man’s kindness, for he had never known anyone to show compassion to him.  Intrigued, and out of a sense of indebtedness, he accepted Prescott’s offer to remain with him as his servant.  From Prescott Turg-Hath learned the common tongue, human customs, the ways of “civilized peoples,” and, eventually, the concept of friendship.

Prescott’s standing in the village earned Turg-Hath a modicum of respect, but not acceptance.  Other than Prescott, the humans kept him at arm’s length.  The mayor came to see Turg-Hath as a good soul, and began trusting his advice.

Prescott, unfortunately, fell ill.  Turg-Hath remained at his friend’s side, and used the power of the spirits to ease his pain during his final days.  However, as all mortals do, Prescott lost the battle, and died.  In his grief, Turg-Hath noticed something odd: Prescott was still with him.  Intuition had led Turg-Hath to bind Prescott as his very first spirit guide.

Days turned into weeks, which in turn became a couple of seasons.  While Turg-Hath knew he had a place to live, he was aware that he did not have a home.  The humans never welcomed him into their village, and with Prescott’s death, were becoming more cold toward him.

At the start of the campaign, he was a representative of the mayor of the small human village in which he lived.  The rest of the party came to the village, and were hired by the mayor, who sent his representative with them.  At first, they were not very accepting of him either, especially the female human ranger who just happened to have “goblinoids” as her favored enemy.

What fate will befall Turg-Hath?  Will his new companions ever get past the suspicion that the mayor placed his burden on their backs?  Will he ever find a place where he truly belongs?

And you, dear readers… do you wish to hear more of Turg-Hath’s story?

 
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Posted by on Friday, 6 January 2012 in Gaming

 

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Why I Game

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #2: What is it about gaming that you enjoy the most? Why do you game? Is it the adrenaline rush, the social aspect, or something else? (Courtesy of Atlas Games. Visit us at www.atlas-games.com)

This question, posed on Reverb Gamers’ Facebook page, has a complex answer, as far as my impetus for gaming – complex enough that to answer it fully would require more than a blog.  Nonetheless, here is the abridged answer.

Adrenaline rush?  Sure, I get them often when I game.  Social aspect?  Absolutely; it’s no coincidence that my players are also my closest friends.  But it’s very much the something else mentioned in the question.

I game to exercise my imagination, to delve into worlds unknown, to live as another person.  Imagination and creativity are a very important aspect in my love of gaming.  I am not a very artistic person, and gaming affords me that creative outlet.  I love creating new worlds, populating them with the people with whom the player characters will interact, learning about these people’s personalities, motives, dreams and desires, uncovering the schemes plotted by them, and so on.  Then, I love seeing my players’ reactions to this world, as well as the peoples’ reactions to the player characters.

I game to exercise my mind.  There is a lot of math involved in most role-playing games.  Picking apart the rules, seeing how they interact, and using them in ways to create the unexpected.  Also beautiful to me is hacking the rules – changing them where I see problems, sanding off the rough edges, or cutting off the warts.  That is fun!

I game to get together with my friends.  We catch up on the happenings in each other’s lives.  We discuss current events.  We share our personal triumphs and tragedies.  And, of course, we game, working together to write the story of our characters and the worlds they inhabit.

Why do I game?  Because of who I am: a gamer.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 4 January 2012 in Gaming, Personal

 

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RPG Moments Of Glory – Our Desperate Attack On The Vampiress

This is a story of a battle.  The battle took place in a 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons campaign.  The party consisted of two player characters: Fred’s paladin, and my wizard; and one non-player character, a cleric.  This was more than a decade ago, so I don’t recall details like our character levels, or the campaign world.  I do believe we were between 6th and 8th level, and were playing in Ravenloft.

Our foe was a vampiress, who had previously charmed the paladin and tricked him into drinking a goblet of her blood.  Time was against him, and he would transform into a vampire under her command the next night with the rise of the full moon.  His only hope was her immediate destruction that evening in her lair.  If we failed, he would forever lose his soul to the darkness.

We knew the location of her lair.  We fought our way through her defenses, and entered her sanctuary.  The lid of her sarcophagus slid to the side, and she emerged.  Words were exchanged, hollow promises made, but we stood firm and attacked, desperate to save our friend.

The battle turned against us from the start.  My wizard’s spells were ineffective against her magic resistance and saving throws.  The cleric’s undead turning was shrugged off with a derisive laugh.  The paladin’s divine powers and sword blows turned aside like a thrown pillow.

The cleric fell first, his faith stronger than his body.  The cursed paladin fell in the same round, valiantly fighting to the end.  In 2nd edition, you could go as low as -10 hit points and still live, and both hung onto life.  That left my wizard as the final party member to stand against her, desperately fighting for his friend.

His spells exhausted, he was brought down to 1 hit point.  He dropped his dagger, ineffective in the battle so far.

“I want to draw my wooden stake,” I told Andy, the DM.

“OK, you draw your stake,” he replied nonchalantly.

“We have called shots, right?”

Skeptically, he raised an eyebrow and answered, “Yeah, but you know there’s a huge penalty for that.”

“I know, but desperate times and all that, right?”

“OK, call it, then, Mark.”

“I charge her, raising the wooden stake in both hands above my head, and aim straight for her heart!”  Andy wasn’t the only one skeptical at that moment.  I was sure a TPK was on the way, and Fred shook his head in resignation.

Andy checked his charts (remember, this WAS 2nd Ed), smirked at me, shrugged, and said, “Well, you don’t really have a chance, Mark.  The only way can succeed is if you roll a natural 20.  Anything less, and she grabs you and crushes you like an insect.”

I took a deep breath, “OK.  I still do it.”

Fred spoke up, “Mark, if you run, you could live, then return with backup.”

“I know, but then you’d be lost, and fighting with her.  I’m not going to let that happen as long as I live.”

Andy said, “OK… roll.”

I screamed at the top of my lungs, “To the grave for your final rest, you unholy whore!

Andy and Fred jumped back a little in surprise.

I stood, shook my d20 in my hand, and nervously let it drop to the table.

It rolled along for a foot.

It swerved to the left.

It spun for a second.

It stopped.

We looked at the die, then each other, then back to the die.

The number looked back at us…

20

 
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Posted by on Monday, 2 January 2012 in Gaming

 

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