Thursday, November 1, 2012, 11:45 PM
If realism really was in D&DIntroduction
Personally I play D&D to have good, clean fun with my fellow players. Even as a DM, I consider it less as a requirement and more as a venue for my creative juices. Now one of the things I really don't
get about this hobby is that some people really
insist on how "realistic" non-magical stuff would be, and how much mundane-ness should be in their games. I'm not exactly playing for sport, and I'm not going about the hobby as if I was one of the poor guys in Saw
wherein my life depended on it. so from my point of view, "dissonance" doesn't really exist in my gaming point of view. If someone goes "I have the power to fool your guys into coming at me and then time my attacks to hit all of them automatically once they're in range", I just check their power and then if it's good to go, I say go. No matter how "unrealistic" or "magical" that effect may be.
The entire world is magical to me, and if in real life truth is stranger than fiction, who am I to say that a skilled warrior has so much skill in fighting that he's able to manipulate his enemies in ways that I the DM hadn't anticipated? Stranger things have happened in real life after all.
With that said, I wonder, how would I build the game if there was a heavy dose of "realism"? Primary Attributes
First off, the basics, stuff that everyone has:
Physical stats: Physique, Endurance, Agility, Dexterity
Mental stats: Learning Capacity, Understanding, Awareness, Willpower
- Physique determines how much you can carry, how taut you can string a bow, and how well you can perform with regards to invoking bursts of physical strength.
- Endurance determines how long you can last under stress and the likelihood of surviving injuries, poisons, illnesses and the like, and determines how much sustained physical strength you can output.
- Agility is a physical ability pertaining to reaction time and mobility, and determines your ability to react to danger.
- Dexterity pertains to delicate hand-eye coordination
- Learning Capacity pertains to how well you can learn about things, usually in the academic aspect
- Understanding (or wisdom) pertains to how well you can apply learned knowledge both formally and informally
- Awareness pertains to your ability to point out oddities in a situation
- Willpower pertains to your ability to exercise your will over others and yourself
Basically splitting Dexterity and Wisdom into two stats each, because not everyone with fast reflexes have great hand-eye coordination (some people are just really jumpy), and not everyone who is perceptive would have great common sense or understanding.Secondary Attributes
These are keyed off your primary attributes:
- Mobility: directly related to agility and awareness, as it determines how well you avoid attacks
- Formula is 1d20 + Agility modifier + Awareness modifier
- Defense: directly related to the type of armor you're wearing
- The better protected you are, the more damage the armor can absorb
- Formula is Armor type + Endurance modifier
- Saving Throws: depends on what particular effect you're trying to resist
- Physique counters attempts against physique-related actions (opposed physique rolls)
- Endurance attempts to shrug off anything related to physical injuries, illness and death
- Agility is already mentioned
- Willpower is used against actions that attempt to overpower the mind
- Hit points: keeps track of how many wounds your character can take
- maxHP = Endurance score + level
- Attacks: related to agility, physique and awareness, because you need to know where to hit, direct your attack at the right place, and hit hard enough to take out the enemy
- Formula is 1d20 + Strength modifier + Agility modifier + Awareness modifier
- Damage: the severity of wounds that a weapon can inflict
- Formula is Weapon damage + Strength + Agility + Awareness
- Movement speed: your combined Physique and Endurance determines the number of feet your first six seconds of movement would be in any stressful situation, but for each round after the first six seconds, you must make an Endurance check to keep using Physique. Failure increases the DC of the Endurance check and lowers the benefit of your Physique first by half, then by four, then finally you can't benefit from Physique. When you no longer benefit from Physique, the next failure lowers the benefit of your Endurance score by half, then start taking damage equal to the number of failures you're making from that point on, possibly dying from fatigue instantly if you continue to run
- You can roll Willpower instead of Endurance when Endurance score to movement speed is halved, with a natural 20 temporarily granting you your entire Endurance score to speed, but once you reach your destination, if the number of failures you're accumulated equals or is greater than your Endurance score, you die.
Combat is resolved as follows:
- Roll your attack vs. enemy's mobility
- If your attack roll is equal to or greater than the enemy's mobility, you can deal damage to the target
- Amount of damage target gets equals your damage - his defense
- If the difference between your attack roll and his mobility roll is equal to the damage you roll, you cause either internal or external bleeding, among other complications; at the very least, he'll be taking ongoing damage equal to half the damage you dealt him (stacks each time)
- If the attack is a natural 20, you kill him instantly
- If the attack is a natural 1, you open yourself to an attack, losing your Awareness bonus to mobility
Anyone who studied arcane lore can cast magic, since it's all about a bunch of movement and words put together to produce a magical effect. However
, due to the complexity of magic, he needs to spend hours memorizing spells that take only seconds to cast, and once he casts those spells the spells leave his mind. Memorizing the same spell many times does not change the fact that when the spell leave, it leaves.
Monday, July 16, 2012, 12:10 AM
Warning: wall of text to follow.
After reading up on a couple of threads on the WotC, particularly with regards to "Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizards", I think I'm beginning to see the bigger problem. And the problem isn't just how "fighters lack options", "fighters can improvise", "wizards are overpowered", or what not. The problem is a cultural issue that spans the entirety of D&D's 38+ years.
To explain: According to one post
by AbdulAlhazred, the original design of D&D is effectively as follows: magic is a VERY
lonely and heavily restricted path to take, improvisation is the norm, and the intent was that the warriors took center stage, with casters as effectively support and heavily lacking the stats and the means to improvise as well as the non-casters.
Then other editions came into the picture, and with each itineration (starting with 2E), less emphasis was given to improvisation and greater emphasis was given to codification. With a greater variety on spells, combined with the implementation of "kits" -- which helped inspire creativity in some ways, yet at the same time it restricted creativity in other ways -- this resulted in a culture very different from 0D&D's "non-casters are awesome because they're not restricted like the casters are", a culture that effectively says "non-casters suck because they don't have anything codified like the casters do".
The height of the problem can be seen in 3E and 3.5E, wherein you had all the power from 2E but without the restrictions, where the non-casters were by the rules required
to take a skill in order to be able to even do or attempt something. Arguably, the numbers game had it worst in the 3.x series for the very same thing that pro-3.x players herald as the system's strength: you can build any character as long as you have the numbers for it
(the appropriate skills, the right level, the right classes mix, the right equipment, the right spells, etc.).
This was a recipe for disaster for 4E.Originally designed with the intent of being a different tabletop roleplaying game altogether
, Project Orcus I was effectively raped three times. First, some of its elements were mined and placed in Tome of Battle, instead of left as part of the new TRPG's design. Second, a design decision by Mike Mearls supposedly attempting equal parity between casters and non-casters -- when in fact it was made because 4E effectively wasn't 3.5E enough -- resulted in the viewed "sameness" and "lack of improvisation" certainly mistakenly perceived in 4E, due to the sameness of ability format. Finally, because the majority of player base was effectively the 3.5E base with the mindset associated with the said edition, the fact that Project Orcus I's unconventional approaches (including the return to "kill the wizard godhood from the roots" approach of 0D&D) and
poor marketing of Wizards of the Coast, it's a wonder that D&D 4E is anywhere near 2nd place in the TRPG market today.
[ Personally, I feel that 4E's design is pretty good: it was an attempt to unify both the 0D&D style of improvisational play with 3E style of codified play, by providing both concrete and abstract forms of play. However, the damage that everything post-1E did to the original design and intent of the sytem is here to stay, as there will always be players who would always want everything codified, and there will always be players who would want their wizards to be versatile and powerful at the same time. ]
Now we have D&D Next. Mike Mearl's attempt to again unite the various editions. And here are a few things I've noted:
1. D&D Next tries
to do the very same thing 4E did, but without his erroneous design decision to place everything in power/spell format, and with emphasis on designer-established fluff/mechanics (as done prior to 4E) instead of designer-established mechanics + fluff-as-determined-by-players. The problem here is that the attempt to do so has resulted in a completely 180 degree turn in terms of who can do what: with spells being open-ended and apparently intentionally usable for improvisational use, and the release of one caster character that has 100% full access to the same improvisational abilities of the most iconic non-caster character: the fighter
. The fact that the Thief/Rogue became Mr. Skills Man -- which was supposed to be the fighter's non-combat shtick -- does not
help the situation for the non-caster group.
2. D&D Next is currently a design mess. I'm not saying that because it doesn't have element X or "balance" or what not. I'm saying that because although the objective is to create a "D&D that unites all editions
", that is a very, very
vague way of dealing with the issue. The fluff-centric spells, the almost absent difference between weapons and armor, the various attempts as "balance" similar to how 4E attained it (but without the stigma generated with the universally applied AEDU power system), and the way everything's laid out. It's certainly trying to attempt something
, but I'm not sure exactly what it is.
3. A bit of emphasis on #2, while they have apparently clear views on how to tone down the wizard, dealing with the cleric, paladin, and especially
the fighter has them releasing statements that are either considered vague ("maybe" statements so to speak) or are topics of debate with no real point of agreement.
Personally I feel that Mike Mearl's attachment to 3.5E in particular, combined with Monte Cook's legacy of being pro-system mastery [with the large number of "trap choices" found in 3.x] probably damages any attempt at D&D Next more than anything, but that's just me.
- - - - - -
I'm aware that my perception on the matter -- especially regarding D&D Next -- is colored by the fact that I started playing D&D 4E. However, I feel that because D&D Next aims at connecting to the roots of all editions, identifying the design intent, common roots and
common design elements of all
editions is important, and the recognition that, no matter how much anyone would want everyone to be on the same boat and playing the same edition, that it wll never really happen in the long run, because there will always be aspects of each edition that will never pull through as core, and people won't be happy because of it. So all you can do is compromise.
Hence, the modularity gig, regardless if there's actually a module to be released or not.
The way I'm seeing it though, there's something both right and wrong in the current approach: the "simple fighter" approach does herald to a time when there were only three classes. I can certainly acknowledge that fact. However
, with the warrior class eventually distributed to a larger variety of classes, and the introduction of the Warblade in 3.5E's Tome of Battle (which arguably is the template that the 4E core Fighter was at least partially based on), it is now simply unacceptable to simply throw back the D&D Next Fighter into the simple template, especially for those who prefer the 3.5E Warblade and the 4E Fighter/Weaponmaster.
There are a variety of possible solutions proposed on the forums, but I think the main problem is still that each person trying to contribute to the situation is looking at it through his or her own experience with his or her preferred edition. Personally I think 4E -- and in some ways Star Wars: Saga Edition -- had one idea going that might
be an appropriate enough compromise: have only a very small sized core "class", with a variety of "subclasses" that each represents what could be considered a subtype of the given class. So we have the 0D&D's three core classes -- warrior, caster, healer -- and the subclasses of each core class as either an alternative build type, or as a prestige class.
For example, the warrior class could have the
* Fighter subclass, specializing in maneuvers, techniques and a martial way of dealing with situations (not too far from the Warblade and 4E Fighter)
* Barbarian subclass, specializing in damage and a simple, straightforward fighting style (not too far off from the original Barbarian and "simple" fighter/warrior)
* Ranger subclass, specializing in tracking and a specific fighting style that's simple, yet flexible (typically dual wielding specialist or with an animal companion)
* Rogue subclass, sacrificing straightforward fighting for a more improvisational approach to combat (the "dirty warrior" sort of character)
* Paladin subclass, which is more than just a "divine-flavored warrior", but effectively a partial healer who can divinely intervene as plot suggests
* Bladesinger subclass, which is effectively a warrior who can cast arcane spells, which is effectively a different way of doing things
In any case, improvisation should be simplified, encouraged and established as a great thing, as it is the very heart of not just D&D but TRPGs in general. DM-side tables that help guide DMs on how to handle improvisation, combined with stuff like constantly saying yes to all but the most ridiculous of improvisations -- even when a roll "fails", whatever the player says his character does should happen, just add complications because they failed their roll -- should be found in the books and actively used to educated DMs so that improvisation would be considered a good thing, and an adequate enough reason as to why casters and their spells aren't better than non-casters.
Then the caster class could have the
* Wizard subclass, which is a spellbook-centric class that has very little room for improvisation and toe-stepping during combat
(and is primarily designed as an offense support class) but has the option to transform those spells into world-shaping abilities outside of combat (with the right DC) without having to use a theme to do so.
* Sorcerer subclass, which is basically artillery+, as it would be the class that can literally destroys stuff using magic, but still has very little room for improvisation and toe-stepping during combat. Even when equipped with the same spells as the Wizard, the Sorcerer should still be able to be the more visible and obvious threat in terms of area-wide destructive capability... and even then, the warrior class should always be able to trump the Sorcerer class not only in the long run, but also in the immediate aspects as well.
* Warlock subclass, which is a bit of an in-between of Sorcerer and Wizard, but utilizing pacts in both flavor and mechanics, allowing a bit more improvisation through requests to the entity he or she made a pact with, but with an exchange as deemed fit by the DM.
In any case, the caster class should be heavily monitored and restricted especially in combat, because magic in general is effectively deus ex machina
. Since not all DMs can be restrictive in this regard, especially when you are looking at the post-0E crowd who insist on "rules as written" instead of "rulings, not rules", this is where the designers have to be blatantly shouting out two things:
* that the DM has the final word on all
* that magic is to be very limited
So spell design and spellcasting should keep "balance" in mind, in the sense that spellcasters can be awesome in the "I can do stuff with magic that no other mortal can achieve" but at a price, and that price being the fact that they have so little to work with, and it's so hard to work at it.
The healer class could have the
* Bard subclass, which is the most flexible of classes, able to heal, cast spells, sing inspiring songs or shout orders across the battlefield. Unlike pre-4E itinerations however, I'd suggest that instead of nerfing the bard to near-uselessness, just allow the Bard's PC to choose how he specializes and utilizes that flexibility. Will he be a battle commander that shouts orders across the battlefield? Will he be sort of a traveling minstrel, singing songs and being a sort of universal diplomat? Will he be able to be a partial cleric? Or will he be a jack of all trades, master of none? Regardless of what path chosen, each and every pick should be both fun and
useful, none of that "trap choices" that can be found post-2E.
* Cleric subclass, which is primarily a healer but has the option to be a bit closer to the rogue subclass in terms of fighting capability. Mostly into divine intervention and rituals, the cleric should be far less warrior (let the Paladins carry that ability) and more divine prophet.
* Druid subclass, which is effectively a primal version of the cleric, that in some ways is a bit bardic in approach but still cannot match a full warrior in battle.
In any case, the healer class should be given more things to do than simply heal, but not in complete ignorance of the warrior class or the caster class. Basically the healer class would be the in-between class between the caster and the warrior, but should not be able to trump the warrior or the caster and instead be its own thing.
With this in mind, you can then sort maneuvers and spells according to class, subclass, and theme and
maintain "balance" between classes, without "sameness"... especially when you introduce different mechanics to each subclass that, when compared to those who perform the same function, is considered balanced (or when compared to a different function, there is no significant overlap).
So if you have Knock vs. regular lockpicking, both the wizard and rogue would roughly perform equally well, and not the auto-unlock craziness that the Wand/Scroll of Knock introduced... although auto-unlock might be allowed as a ritual, should the DM allow it (and certainly not doable within the same time span, so what a normal Knock spell or lock pick might be doable in seconds, an auto-unlock Knock spell might need minutes or hours to achieve). Or something to that degree.
- - - -
tl;dr -> each edition has a different culture that grew from it and is associated with it, and D&D Next is supposed to be a way for Mike Mearls to amend for his mistakes for making 4E too much like 3.xE instead of a unifying edition (like what 3.5E and 4E was supposed to be), but apparently his team isn't even sure as to how to approach the matter -- either that, or they're still sorting through the huge amount of feedback they got from the initial playtest -- hence the whole delay in releasing the second playtest.
An oversimplification of the first half of the post is effectively: a huge amount of deprogramming/reprogramming of gaming groups is in order, especially those who never got to experience the heart of D&D that is improvisation. So more concise guidelines that teach DMs how to effectively improvise is certainly in order.
An oversimplification of the second half of the post is effectively: the designers should set design objectives that allows players to run the game barebones -- just primary attributes, secondary attributes, class features [recognizing spells and maneuvers as class features], weapon(s), armor and a whole lot of non-spell improvisation in particular -- with the options to expand the game as desired. Three classes, each with its own design space and field of experties, and each with its own subclasses, allowing different specializations for different tastes.
Themes should be optional, feats should be optional, special weapon attributes should be optional, special armor attributes should be optional, and basically everything else that complicates the game should be optional. But all optional and core components should still be balanced so that you don't leave your companions out in the cold just because you picked a spell that does far better than what your companions specialized in.
- - - - -
I do believe there was a certain post somewhere in the Internet that claimed to quote Gary Gygax and his apparent dismay in 3E/3.5E because it was no longer D&D. In some ways, I can relate, given how it's the only edition where mechanics and rules as written were placed in far higher regard than DM rulings and improvisation. Although 4E was mechanically different than 3E, in some ways it was an attempt to bridge the gap between 0E's improvisation-centric crowd and 3E's mechanics-centric crowd, being more D&D "in spirit" than in actual mechanics (which obviously didn't please those who preferred their mechanics).
D&D Next is often heralded as a retro-clone, and technically yes it really should be a retro-clone. But it shouldn't be a retro-clone in the sense that you're doing the same thing as in prior editions, but rather the spirit of exploration, the excitement of being able to do so much outside of what is written, the ability to be awesome without the need for codification and "magic", that
is the sort of retro-cloning that we need.
And ideally, I'd suggest that D&D Next should have the spirit of 0E at its core, with book-assisted rulings instead of rules, providing suggestions on how to deal with improvisations -- rather than boxing in improvisations via skills or skill points or backgrounds, let them enhance the non-mechanical portion of the checks -- and keeping stuff rules-light, not rules-wanting. Provide universal mechanics that DMs can base their decisions on, and expand upon.
Then they could please the post-2E "kits" editions with a variety of modules that would allow D&D Next to run as advertised: the game system where you can take your favorite character from your favorite edition, and play next to the guy who is playing his
character from his favorite edition, and play at the same table, under the same DM. Even if you prefer BECMI and the guy next to you played 3E and the DM is running a 4E-ish module with a 2E mindset.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012, 6:57 PM
Several months into the public playtest, and still no sign of any new playtest material. This is both interesting and disturbing, because while they are assuring us that they're fixing stuff and doing major overhauls, Mike Mearls did mention during his Reddit interview
My typical day starts at about 8:30. I get in early to keep up on my email. I usually have a few meetings to plan out products for the coming years and talk about design issues. I also meet one-on-one with the R&D managers once a week and with everyone on the D&D team once a month.
We have playtests every Monday, with a follow-up meeting the next day to talk about what we're seeing.
I usually eat lunch at my desk and keep up on email or play Diablo III.
The day ends at around 6 PM.
On weekends, if I have a few free hours I might write up some ideas for future D&D products or initiatives and then kick those around the office.
(bolded for emphasis)
Seriously? Only two out of the five working days -- and not even the whole two days mind you -- dedicated to D&D development, with the rest of the week having no details on what is done other than "lunch, email or Diablo III"?
Right. Work. *rolls eyes*
While I do realize that game design on a deadline can and will always be very stressing, with the hush-hush on schedule and everyone being pulled on a leash here, it is very difficult to determine how serious the R&D team in general would be at the very least.
Suggestion: lay off the D3 Mike. That's a grindfest soul-drainer you're playing. It might be boring to do so, but couldn't you and your entire team go through your BECMI to 4E rulebooks and splatbooks, D&D fantasy novels and other references and focus on developing D&D Next, leaving D3 for like 3pm onwards?
Here's another point I have grief over:
Balancing the simple vs. the complex is tricky. The important thing is to keep the math level and make the simple character feel effective, even if the experienced played who takes a few maneuvers and applies them intelligently comes out ahead. We have to allow for skill and experience -otherwise the game gets stale - but I think we can mitigate that if the beginner feels like he has an effective characters and has some obvious, clearly useful things he can do.
This is just... sad. System mastery is apparently a set-in-stone tradition to be honored by Mike Mearls, with the justification that system mastery is what makes the game stay interesting.
This is sad because of the fact that roleplaying games are great because of the roleplaying and stories. Roleplaying games are great not because X has Y and C has D, but because they are storytelling mediums that provide mechanics for group storytelling, regardless if the methodology used for group storytelling is railroad, sandbox or anything and everything in-between.
* As a player, you get to be a psychic, a wizard, a warrior, a champion of your god, a thief, or what not.
* As a DM, you get to create a story to create a world in, a world to create stories in, or both.
Gaming the system rules may be a game unto itself, and in some ways should be recognized as such. However, derogatory terms such as min-maxing, munchkinism and rules lawyering have resulted from this, and taken to its extremes, rules gaming can quickly result in a LOT of friction between players and DMs... from nonsensical character development, to character concept negation.
My suggestion: keep "system mastery" to a minimum, and leave it mostly to the benefits of improvisation.
One of the big things we learned from 4e is that having a robust math system is a big help for the game. While at this stage we're testing more of the feel of the game, that refers more to stuff like how many hits a fighter can take before being dropped, how long it takes to overcome a kobold vs. an ogre, stuff like that.
You can think of that as world lore, as it points out to a more narrative framework for creatures.
Once we have that down, then we'll finish the math to make sure that those narrative truths are also mathematical ones.
That should then yield a fairly fast, easy tool to determine what a level X monster's attacks and so forth should look like.
This, for me, is the saddest part of his reddit interview: summarily the design being "feel first, crunch later".
I guess if we were talking about JUST an artwork, yes you can go visualize stuff and then paint it on your easel later on. However, I believe RPGs are a combination of science and art: yes, there is a scientific methodology to determine how something would be visually pleasing, which is why you have a course called "Fine Arts" (which isn't just "think of how things go and work from there", as various [scientific?] techniques and tons of training in the use of those techniques are also involved). Thus, I feel it is imperative that the game should take the system math into higher priority.
Note that just because I mentioned "math" and "science", doesn't mean that I suggest the exact same implementation as 4E; you simply need proper algorithms so that the infinite complexities of a TRPG can be summarily categorized into their respective places (or basically just sort it out so that you can do anything with your basic building blocks).
For example, monster design could simply focus on key details, like
- Tough or Frail?
- Strong or Weak?
- Nimble or Cumbersome?
- Mystical or Martial?
- Leader or Follower?
- Sharp or dull?
- Simple or complex?
Then have an approximation based on a table that displays how much hit points and damage monsters typically do on average at a given level (in addition to the math used for that table). Then
based on all that, create every possible creature in the game, utilizing other in-game elements such as multi-attacks, multi-turns, spells, conditions and effects.
That way, you have visualization aids (not even numbers) to describe and define each creature, as well as mathematically sound guides in creating them. So simple creatures may have just straightforward attacks, not-so-simple creatures may have cone (breath) attacks or multi-attacks [but not both], not-so-complex creatures may have a combination of breath attacks and multi-attacks, and complex creatures may have an array of spells, breath attacks, multi-target attacks and other stuff... but regardless of what they can pull off, it would still be easy to modify them while keeping them "balanced" so that we avoid rendering levels useless.
Speaking of which, the bigger problem of D&D Next lies in the overall math: the basic assumption is currently that simpler classes just need to do more damage to stay significant. My beef with this is that it still doesn't solve the problem of rewarding the system mastery provided by choosing a complex class, especially if the system provides loopholes and options that result in the complex class rendering the simple class as excess baggage.
The lack of math considerations already shows in the various post-Bounded Accuracy assessments: while the theory that flatter math keeps low level opponents relevant from level 1 to level 20 (or even just level 10) by a simple "THROW MOAR MINIONS!", fact is PCs can and will get abilities that will eventually turn those creatures into cakewalks, especially if PCs do something as simple as wear better armor; Creatures already hitting at 40% can easily be hitting at only 25% later on, resulting in LONG DM turns that consist mostly of missing.
So basically, the result is that lower level creatures can and will always remain insignificant at higher levels if your only solution to keeping them threatening is "THROW MOAR MINIONS!"However
, the Bounded Accuracy theory *does* have merit: if implemented right, you still could have low level creatures still being significant, although implementing it right means designing the entire system around it... meaning very slow class and character development from 1-20... which I doubt players would like.
Which brings us back to where we started, yes?
My suggestion: keep the overall math tight. 4E isn't perfect -- likely a result of Mr. Mike Mearls trying to push 3.5E design into 4E -- but 4E had significant
progress in keeping the math tight. All you have to do is work from there.
1. Keep everything simple, with enough open-endedness to encourage improvisation, yet at the same time tight enough to avoid confusion
. D&D pre-4E spells and feats were already halfway there, 4E just made things a little too separate and too tight, resulting in "fluff doesn't matter" and thus a LOT of the misconceptions on 4E powers. I suggest that even something as simple as "I attack" should be given additional fluff on the matter, like how some DMs provide fluff on how axes cleave through skulls and what not. But let us avoid the overly excessive prose used in the playtest. PLEASE
2. Class-defining features and other mechanics should stay tight from low level to high level
. When I say "tight", I mean
* mathematically consistent -> scales in accordance to a baseline effective level of sorts, so that regardless if a character is a Witch, a Warlock, or a Fighter, all of them would still be "effective" within the predefined constraints with minimal improvisation if possible
. Perhaps comparing them during a hostile negotiation, a combat simulation, and when dealing with hostile environments and terrain, would be a feasible means of determining their effectiveness in the various "pillars" of a TRPG (combat, exploration, interaction). This includes class features and spells, particularly Vancian spellcasting.
* minimal to no overlap -> if a Rogue is a master lock picker, Wizards shouldn't be master lock pickers simply by virtue of magic. If a Fighter is a master warrior, Clerics shouldn't be master warriors simply by virtue of magic. They can be close, but a non-optimized Fighter should still edge out against a fully optimized Cleric (same with the Wizard-Rogue comparison). Provide those who are more versatile with the option to fill a missing role, but never give them the ability to fill that role so well that the guy meant to fill the role is completely removed in usefulness. [ I'd rather that the Bard be his own thing, with the added bonus of being able to fill more roles due to flexibility being his specialty ]
Seriously, simple does not mean dumb play. It simply means less to track. So characters who have no spells or maneuvers simply get to do other things aside from "I attack", "I make a check", and "I improvise".
Thursday, January 19, 2012, 8:40 PM
This post might feel weird for some, because it has always been one of the DM's tasks to provide maps for the group. And for good reason: maps have always been one of the key elements of an encounter, adventure and campaign, especially when combat is involved. And maps have always been the guide for both players and DMs alike to know who or what is where.
[ Before I continue, let me point this out: I am not referring to just board-based maps, I'm including in the discussion mentally-pictured maps, in the so-called "gridless games". Even if you don't draw a map, the fact that, even if it's just in the mind of the DM, you've pictured how many prison cells are in the section of a prison, and where the guard station is relative to the prison cells, and where in the guard station the guns, rations, and other supplies, and where the PCs are relative to everything else, that's still everything map
ped out in your mind. ]
This post isn't going to tackle map-making tricks like pre-drawing maps, having players have their own maps that they'll track, "fog of war", and other techniques that other DMs have done and posted. No, this isn't "I'll have one player draw my map for me", either. This post is going to do something completely
different: have the players
do the map-drawing. Not other DMs, the *players*.
Heretical? Lazy DMing? Maybe, but hear me out first: Last week, I was in a bit of a pinch. I had quite the mental roadblock in our weekly Eberron campaign, as I was able to make my monsters, and I had a generic idea of what my encounters would look like, but I didn't know how to make those combat encounter maps more engaging and interesting. So, I told the players, "alright, I'm going to let you guys use your imagination on this, this is the situation, what do you see?"
The resulting map was very hilarious, as one player said that because they were on a snowy mountaintop, "it's snowing". Hence, the entire map involved slightly obscured and
difficult terrain, among other unexpected outcomes.
Apparently, this approach isn't really THAT new; in story-games.com/forums/comments.php?Disc...
jhosmer1 describes him allowing his players to contribute minor details on the map, that might be useful during their stay there. The difference is, instead of allowing players to just add dressing to the map that could potentially be useful, I've allowed my players to shape the map according to how they imagine it.
Also, part of the inspiration for this idea could be attributed to the Vignettes style of playing in the Dungeon Master's Guide 2
, where players are assigned characters who they eventually roleplay in ways they want, so instead of telling the story yourself, they tell the story in their manner. In this case however, instead of telling the players what their characters see, the players tell the DM what their characters see.
Now, the first obvious problem with this is that players could abuse this right by placing in things that they know they could use to their advantage. However, this only happens if you let them know of everything
about the map (including monsters, traps and other nasty surprises), and if they generally treat the map as if they're the DM. This can be avoided by making it clear to them that
1. You're only putting on the board what they see and know about.
2. There's a good chance that most of the map that they see, the enemy either sees it, or knows about it.
Now if a player rolls a high enough Perception or Thievery check, I could allow them to put something that the monsters in the map don't know about (but you as the DM know), or find something that normally they wouldn't know about (like a trap or two), but otherwise it's basically as above.
The second problem is that the DM does not have complete control over the map. However, what some might view as a problem, I view as an opportunity: because the players are more engaged in the designing process, it's also a chance to be surprised at what could be possble during an encounter, and allow you to do some pretty interesting twists to the story.
I'm still exploring the whole "player-drawn encounter maps" concept as it stands, so I'm still going to see what are the advantages, disadvantages, and fixes, but so far here's how I've been doing it:
1. Prepare your materials. Expect some heavy refluffing and on-the-fly tweaking on your monsters and traps, if ever the players do something completely unexpected.
2. Give a general description of the map and scenario. For instance, telling the players that they are inside a dungeon, a forest, or some other area. It's very likely that this would jumpstart the group's creativity.
3. Have players each contribute at least one feature of the map, whenever possible. Alternatively, have the players interested in exploring the map contribute primarily to the map-building.
If ever the group lacks ideas on how the map should look like, that's when you fall back to drawing the map's features yourself.
Sunday, April 3, 2011, 5:23 AM
Awhile back in the CharOps forums I asked for opinions regarding how to optimize my LFR-legal (and played) Heal-centric Paladin. Litigation in particular only saw it as a theoretical exercise on maximizing heals, rather than an actual character in play. So I tried putting that theoretical into practice, and here are the things I've learned so far:
1. Superior Will is an absolute must, before getting Pacifist Healer.
These two feats go side-by-side, because as a defender primary you're still required to hit, and getting stunned for an entire round isn't a good thing. Power of Love isn't so bad an alternative, but granting 5 tempHP at-will isn't exactly going to help much, especially in the long run when you *have* to take out opponents.
2. Heal-adins make the leader's life much easier.
2.1 Heal-adins have awesome healing abilities.
2.2 Heal-adins can't effectively replace leaders.
With SO much healing granted by Heal-adins (mine currently grants a minimum of 2d6+43 hit points [+1d6 on one target]), Strikers in particular are very happy that they get HUGE mileage on their healing surges AND there's a reserve source of healing [Lay on Hands] in case they run out of healing surges, and Leaders worry less about healing abilities and more on enabling abilities. The catch is that when she's the primary leader, she doesn't have that much on enabling abilities (aside from Aid Another, Heal checks and Knack for Success), so the party overall is reduced in effectiveness significantly -- no surprise, given the impact of the leader role in a party.
The scary part is the fact that most of her healing is party-oriented -- her only self-heals are Bastion of Health, Lay on Hands, Healer's Word, and Second Wind (maybe Potions of Vitality if I get hold of some) -- so there isn't much she could do to save herself if the enemy decides that her mark punishment mechanic is too powerful to be ignored (12 damage to the enemy + 9 hit points recovered by ally) and starts attacking her relentlessly. In fact, just last night, when two party members were dying, she was about to heal them when one opponent removed her from play (save ends)... real FUBAR moment that one, although fortunately she got to get out of that predicament rather easily.
3. Heal-adin positioning is wierd at best.
Life would've been far easier if I just dropped the 2d6 + CHA of Pacifist Healer and kept with the basic healing of the Paladin, since that's still 1d6+37 with Healer's Gloves, then stayed in the frontline, marking and attacking and being the damage-absorbing defender that I'm supposed to be. And frankly, even with the Pacifist Healer feat, I'm still able to do that. The problem comes when I become the only leader of the party: when I go down, everyone else shortly follows, so I become less a frontline defender, and become more of a middle-row heal-granting leader, with the rest of the group insisting HEAVILY that I stay alive and away from danger.
Not that I can't take care of myself; it's just that my offensive capabilities is heavily neutered by the stun effect of the Pacifist Healer feat. I can't heal while I'm stunned, so I often have to restrain myself from attacking minions or bloodied opponents unless I'm willing to sacrifice the next round for healing now [not too hard a decision really, given my character's personality, but this is just me playing devil's advocate or something to that effect].
Long story short, I need to be in front because I need to defend, but at the same time everyone wants to be in front of me because they want to defend me (unless there's another healer in the group, but still...).
- - - - -
Overall, it's a VERY fun -- albeit complicated -- character to play, both mechanically and role-playing-wise
Monday, March 21, 2011, 4:18 PM
Six intrepid adventurers -- Jeienous, Eliza, Galahad, Kuonu, Gromnar and a warforged ranger (forgot his name, let us call him Experiment 37 for now) -- settled in for the night in a nearby tavern, ready to depart from the Dalelands after saving a town from slavery. As they slept, they all dreamed...
In the dream, they found themselves in a desert, where there was nothing but sand and a sea of silt. While they pondered upon what's happening, they saw a foreboding wall of darkness looming over the horizon, approaching them very quickly. As it approached, Experiment 37 realized that they were being watched by two... things... and as he warned the party, they found themselves flanked by two Dune Golems.
This is where the nightmare began.
After the first round of combat, three tornados landed in the battlefield and began moving this way and that. It wasn't a concern at first, since they were moving away from the group... but after a few rounds, winds violently changed direction and swept away Kuonu and Galahad off their feet and had them tumbling through the area like ragdolls (Galahad -- being Eladrin -- teleported away from one tornado's grasp... only to be swept away by another).
But that wasn't even the scariest part: in the midst of the ensuing chaos, six tentacles burst forth from the ground, trying to grab adjacent creatures (who so happen to be the party members). At first they didn't seem like anything significant -- dying in one hit, they're minions after all -- but it was rather strange that these tentacles kept rising endlessly...
When Experiment 37 ignored the tentacle grappling him, in just one round he found himself sixty feet (12 squares) away from the party and in the sea of silt... being devoured by what could simply be called a gaping mouth.
This was the "oh sh*t" moment of the party: at one corner of the map, they were being pummeled by two dust golems and three hazads. At the opposite corner of the map, they were being tentacle-raped by a silt horror and its never-ending tentacles.
And this was just the first encounter.
After almost six grueling hours of combat -- which stretched the limits of every character in the adventure -- we had to take a midnight snack before continuing on our journey... and what a journey it was. Lost in a dream, baking in the sun -- especially those who were in heavy armor -- and no survival supplies, they subjected themselves to the most intense skill challenge they had so far, with a simple objective: to survive the wasteland they were in.
After two encounters (combat, skill challenge), they found themselves capable of traveling another day due to the supplies they scavenged during the second encounter. They had little rest however, due to the harshness of the environment they were in (only short rest, no extended rest).
The final leg of their journey brought them to a sort of portal lined with shimmering sky-blue crystals, where magic had twisted the world around it, killing off the land and twisting even those maligned creatures that were trying to activate the portal: a human so shockingly twisted by the sun and flawed magic that he was barely recognizable, and eight half-giants (goliaths) whose bodies were almost literally aflame. One of the half-giants spotted the party, and sounded an alarm, and they all attacked. Normally, an easy fight, these adventurers were exhausted and out of dailies, so it took them a significant amount of time before they finished them all off.
A bright light burst forth from the portal...
... and they woke up.
Strange part was, they had their gear on, with sand in them, and a huge crystal worth 2200gp was found in their pockets.
Saturday, September 19, 2009, 10:55 AM
Because I got lost three times on the way to my gaming group's major event (which was in a place I was very unfamiliar with), I wasn't able to join any of the RPGA-sanctioned games there. That was the annoying part -- and I have a feeling I'm going to stay grumpy for a few days because of it -- but that's not what this post is about, and that didn't stop me from having fun with a few other attendees who weren't able to join the RPGA-sanctioned games either.
One of us decided to write their own story, hoping perhaps to make it RPGA-sanctioned and allow us to join in on the activities. A guy new to D&D also seemed to join our lonely group, and so we convinced him to take a defender role (and he decided to make a striker paladin [great job /facepalm]). When the DM-to-be returned, he apparently couldn't think of a great story THAT quickly -- a big "no duh" -- and none of the minis were available, so we ended up with a whiteboard marker, a plastic-covered board, a few character sheets and, as the DM put it, *mimicks Spongebob Squarepants* imaaaginaaaationnn...
Because I apparently was supposed to make a level 1 and not a level 6 character [I thought we were going to go ala-Ultimate Dungeon Delve 2009 because my friends told me to make a level 6 character), it added to the frustration already building inside of me... but then again just the day before, I got some random crazy idea of making a level 1 Bard character named Princess Charisse Charlamagne a.k.a. Princess ChaCha (and yes she was inspired by Akazukin Chacha). So it seemed that my out-of-the-blue character became my main character for this story my DM was setting up.
The story that my DM set was that all PCs were at a table in the corner of the room next to a trash heap and a restroom. It was the only tavern in the village, and it was the only table available at the time, so go figure. As an alternative starting story for Princess ChaCha though, I told the DM that she was flying around in her broom when it went haywire and flung her through the tavern window. So I started my character tending to her wounds and glass shards and all that. He was game with that, so he continued:
All of us were in the only available table because the entire tavern was pretty much reserved by an orcish bachelor's party, complete with a naked orc stripper coming out of a cake. Almost all the PCs were turned off by the sight -- even the dwarf sitting with us wanted to drown the misery the stripper gave to him -- but that wasn't what triggered our roll for initiative; apparently part of the bachelor's party would involve essentially destroying the tavern. What triggered our combat was when the drunken regular of the inn (who so happened to be there) started stabbing orcs next to him
Long story short -- because I'm sleepy -- it's a combat that involved lots of improvised weapon attacks that actually hit (like passed out dwarves, and orcs flails made from real orc), and of all the survivors from the opponent's side, it just HAD to be the stripper...