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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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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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RPG Collection (Partial)

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Submitted for your perusal, I give you my entry for Day 2 of Speak Out With Your Geek Out.

A big part of what defines my Geek is my love of RPGs.  You might expect this from a blog called Elf Steaks & Halfling Bacon.  But, to me at least, Geek is more than just collection – it is obsession.  It is not enough to have the most common books, you must have all.  It is not enough to have what you need, you must have what you might need.  No, scratch that – if you see an RPG book that you know you will never, ever play, but you like the artwork, or you heard a friend talk about it once, or maybe you like the designer or the dice mechanics, then you must have it.  And, come hell or high water, you must never, under any circumstances, rid yourself of any book, ever!!!

The picture you see is not my entire collection.  What you see is only the top half of those two bookcases.  And not all of my RPGs are in these two bookcases, either.  (N.B. I admit, there are some non-RPG books here.  Sue me.)  Now, I know that my collection is not the largest by any means.  But I do know that my non-geek friends don’t understand my need to buy, read and keep all of these books.  Other than obsession, I can’t really explain it.

So, to me, part of Geek is the need to collect, and never lose.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 in Gaming, Personal

 

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My Very First Game, Or – How To Chase Away A New Player

Allow me to reminisce – about my very first experience with Dungeons & Dragons –

1st Edition Dungeon & Dragons Player's Handbook

It was 1981, the summer between Fifth and Sixth Grade.  I was a mere lad, ten years of age.  I was at a friend’s house, and he wanted me to see this game his older brother was running.  “Don’t you mean ‘playing,'” I asked.  “No, running.  My other brother, two neighbors and I are playing it,” he replied.  “Huh?  What’s it called?” “Dungeons and Dragons – it’s a game where we explore caves, castles and dungeons, fight monsters and get the treasure afterwards.”  My interest piqued, I asked, “So, what do you do, wear armor and swing swords?”  “Well, only if you’re a ‘fighter.’  And it doesn’t have to be a sword – it can be a mace, or a club, or a glaive-”  “A what,” I interrupted. “Uh, I’m not sure – oh, and magic-users can’t wear armor.” “Magic-users?!?” “Yeah, you know, like wizards who can cast spells like fireball, magic missile, invisibility-” he explained.  Once again, I interrupted, “Cool! I want to play a wizard!  Can I?”  “Let’s talk to my brother.”

They didn’t let me play that day – something about it not being realistic to meet their characters while they were in a dungeon.  Still, I watched, fascinated with what was unfolding in front of me.  There were these funny dark orange sheets where the players had written their characters’ stats, items and spells, funny dice (“Why would anyone need anything other than the regular cube?” “d6 – it’s called a d6.”), funny-sounding enemies like “orc,” “ghast,” “stirge,” and “gelatinous cube,” and a whole bunch of paper sheets with numbers written and scratched off (“That’s my hit points, and the DM has the same for the monsters.”).

So, the adventure ended that evening, and I would “roll up my characters” during the week before the next session on Wednesday night.  “Why will I have two characters? Why not just one?” “Well, just in case one of them dies, you won’t be left out,” explained my friend’s brother.  That settled, I quickly pored through this black-covered Player’s Handbook with a gem-eyed demon statue on the cover.  I went directly to the Magic-User section, and rolled…

Three “regular” dice (“3d6, they’re called 3d6,” I reminded myself), write the total in the blocks, top-to-bottom.  At the end, in the second field labelled with the letter “I,” I had written the number 7.  “OK, so I want him to be my wizard.” “Sorry, he’s too dumb,” he laughed.  “He can’t be a magic-user!  Ha-ha!”  OK, that was a setback, I guess.  Still, I forged ahead and made this one a barbarian.  I still had one more chance, with my second character.  Rolling the 3d6 and writing in the first number, I then nervously picked up the dice and shook them, willing a high-enough number to come forth.  Roll-roll-roll, pause.  Roll-roll-roll, pause again.  Then, one more time for good luck, roll-roll-roll, and DROP…!

Magic-User Sheet

Magic-User / Illusionist Character Sheet

4. 6. And 5.  Wait a minute…, “Fifteen!  Fifteen!  I have my Magic-User!” The rest of the rolls didn’t matter to me – I had my magic-user.  That was all that mattered.  So, I finished up with making my barbarian, then turned my attention to the magic-user.  I picked the spells that my friend and his brother suggested, bought equipment for the both of them, and took the sheets home to familiarize myself with them before Wednesday.

The day finally arrived.  I rode my bike to their house, excited that I was finally going to cast some spells!  I sat at the table and listened to the DM about how we were exploring the ruins of some wizard’s tower.  I let the other players direct the actions of the party, as far as going down the stairs, turning left, listening at the door.  The fact is, I don’t remember anything too clearly before this point.

My barbarian bashed in a door, surprising some orcs in the room.  He charged them, the rest of the party following suit.  It was my magic-user’s turn, and he unleashed a mighty MAGIC MISSILE!  That was it!  I had finally done it!  I had cast a spell, by golly!  “OK, roll the d4, Mark.” “That’s the pyramid, right?” “Yes.”  “Wait, how do I know what number it rolled?” (Later, I would learn that everyone asks that question the first time they roll a d4.) Roll-roll-roll: 2.  “Two – is that good?”  The other players snickered.  “Oh, I guess not.”  OK, so it wasn’t the battle-deciding action I wanted.  No problem, there’s always next battle, right?

So, the rest of the battle consisted of my magic-user trying unsuccessfully to stab the orcs with his dagger, while my barbarian did some decent damage with his two-handed sword.  Afterwards, we went down a hallway, and came to a door.  “What do you do, Mark?” “Huh, why me?” “Because your barbarian is in front.” “Oh.  OK, um, listen at the door, I guess?” “You can’t – you’re not a thief?” “Huh?”(1st Ed. only allowed a thief to “Hear Noise.”) “OK, I guess I open the door.”

And open the door he did – to a room with pools of different colored liquids!  “Oh, this is a potion room,” one of the other players asked. “Yes,” answered the DM, “but you can’t tell what they are unless you taste them.”  Ooooo – magical experimentation! But, from which pool to drink?  “There is a blue pool, a red pool, a green pool, an orange pool, a black pool, and a yellow pool.”

“I’ll try the red pool,” said one player. The DM exclaimed, “You feel stronger! It’s a potion of strength!”

“I’ll try the blue pool,” said another. “You start flying! It’s a potion of flying,” said the DM.

“How about the yellow,” asked a third.  “It’s a potion of invisibility!”

“What about you, Mark?  Are you going to try one of them?”  Five sets of eyes turned toward me.  I had no idea which one to try.  “Well, OK.  What one should I drink?”  “That’s up to you,” the DM said.  “Let him pick one,” he told the other players.  “Uh, OK, then… I’ll try the… green one?”  Snickers from the players, then the DM quickly asked, “Which one?  Which character drinks the green pool?”  “Well, my magic-user – he’s the one who knows about potions, I guess?”

DEAD! You’re magic-user is DEAD! Ha-ha-ha!!!” The rest of the players all laughed as well, while I’m left feeling like a fool.  “What? Why?!?” My friend explained, “Green slime – it was green slime, right?”  The DM answered, “Yeah – and Mark’s magic-user drinks it, screams, and melts as his insides are eaten away!”  The next few minutes are like hell as they all comically reenact my magic-user’s death, as if I should have known better.  “Geez, you could have said something to me,” I said to my friend.  “I couldn’t – that’s the way D&D works.  Unless you say that you ask for help, we can’t say anything.”

“WTF?!?” I thought to myself (OK, 10-year-old me would have thought “What the heck?!?”)  I don’t remember the rest of the evening’s activities.  I think I rolled when and what they told me to roll, wrote a few things down, then rode my bike home.  I do remember thinking that I was robbed – I wanted, more than anything, to have a character who could cast spells, but, because of some stupid, unnecessary rule that I didn’t even know about, I wouldn’t be able to do that.

The Red Box

Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set

I felt that my first time playing Dungeons & Dragons was a disaster.  I considered quitting the group altogether.  Doing that probably meant leaving D&D, because no-one else who I knew  played it.  Regardless, I decided to go back and continue to play as my barbarian.  I even got him up to 5th or 6th level, I think, before the Christmas holiday.  I’m glad I did, because I saw the potential in this game.  Unfortunately, I never got to play a magic-user again…

That is until the Christmas break, when I bought the Red Box… but that’s the subject of another post.

How about you?  Was your first foray into role-playing games as bad as, or even worse than mine?  Good or bad, has it shaped the rest of your gaming experience as a player or a GM?  Let me know in the comments below.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 21 July 2011 in Gaming

 

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