Dragon 395 - A Little Help from Your Friends

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DnDi_Large.pngDragon 395
A Little Help from Your Friends

By Matt Sernett

Larger-than-life heroes deserve to have larger-than-life friends in their backgrounds.

Talk about this Article here.

182_grifnar.jpg
this was a total waste of space
"Your character can have friends."

Amazing! Why has it taken ~35 years before someone could articulate this concept in such an essential way?

OH WAIT. It's OBVIOUS... and this advice is generic to any RPG, much less applicable to what is supposedly the best FRPG system on Earth. 

How this article could have been betteruseful in any way:

Henchmen. Rules for Henchmen/hirelings. Make 'em like Summons (Uncommon? Feats?). Or disposable minions (consumable?). Depends on the resources invested/how you get them.  Want that 1977 feel? Hench it up.

Rules on having other characters play your friend rather than the DM... maybe something like troupe-style play? Or maybe even how you could play both your primary character and the friend.

Sorry to be so negative, but.... I dunno; maybe I've been around enough that stuff like this is obvious and has been talked about for DECADES. There is nothing groundbreaking (or even specific to 4e) here. Not what I am looking for in Dragon.

EDIT: Ok, I do think the art is OK. Deva lady letting her hair down is OK. Deva hussar armor? Never cared for it. At least this one is showing emotion.
D&DNext: HTFU Edition
Actually, I find that most players...even the ones that try hard to have a good background...tend to miss the friends angle. We usually talk a lot about the character's family and possibly lovers (which could be friends, but only a small subset of them) and sometimes their enemies. I rarely see friends get involved in backgrounds, though.

Yes, it isn't a mechanical article, but I found it somewhat helpful. Could it have been an editorial instead maybe? Yeah, but not everything a player needs to know can be summed up in mechanical toys. Inspiring them to make better, more believable characters is just as important in my opinion. I understand the sentiment of not wanting all fluff articles, but it's a little tiring to watch the forums blow up over it *every* time an article doesn't have mechanics.

That said, are we getting a content calendar or not? It'd be easier for us all to wait for articles we wanted to see if we knew they were coming.
D&D rules were never meant to exist without the presence of a DM. RAW is a lie.
Love the Art
Forum signature? Quick think of something witty ... ... ...
Actually, I find that most players...even the ones that try hard to have a good background...tend to miss the friends angle. We usually talk a lot about the character's family and possibly lovers (which could be friends, but only a small subset of them) and sometimes their enemies. I rarely see friends get involved in backgrounds, though.

Yes, it isn't a mechanical article, but I found it somewhat helpful. Could it have been an editorial instead maybe? Yeah, but not everything a player needs to know can be summed up in mechanical toys. Inspiring them to make better, more believable characters is just as important in my opinion. I understand the sentiment of not wanting all fluff articles, but it's a little tiring to watch the forums blow up over it *every* time an article doesn't have mechanics.

That said, are we getting a content calendar or not? It'd be easier for us all to wait for articles we wanted to see if we knew they were coming.

I agree completely with Black Egg.  Also, that is a nice piece of artwork.

As far as the calendar goes, the list of articles coming out this week went up late yesterday.  It would have been up earlier, but the person responsible for it was caught in the bad weather out west.  You can find the list here: community.wizards.com/wotc_bart/blog/201...
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These sorts of articles will always be controversial, because many readers will find it to be basic common sense - but it can be good to have articles like this for new players. Even ones this simplistic, I suppose, have their place - but readers don't want to see this article taking the spot of something that could be genuinely useful, especially after seeing a month like December, where player content was so thin.

I'd almost recommend just making these sorts of 'generic gaming advice' as free articles posted on the site. Or file them as 'Ampersand' articles, or whatever. The people they are most useful for are the new gamers who often aren't the ones subscribing to DDI. So putting them out there for the public would give more reason for others to explore the D&D website, without taking up space in the magazines for more functional articles.
The people they are most useful for are the new gamers who often aren't the ones subscribing to DDI.


They aren't?  Why do you think that?
Actually, I find that most players...even the ones that try hard to have a good background...tend to miss the friends angle. We usually talk a lot about the character's family and possibly lovers (which could be friends, but only a small subset of them) and sometimes their enemies. I rarely see friends get involved in backgrounds, though.

Yes, it isn't a mechanical article, but I found it somewhat helpful. Could it have been an editorial instead maybe? Yeah, but not everything a player needs to know can be summed up in mechanical toys. Inspiring them to make better, more believable characters is just as important in my opinion. I understand the sentiment of not wanting all fluff articles, but it's a little tiring to watch the forums blow up over it *every* time an article doesn't have mechanics.

That said, are we getting a content calendar or not? It'd be easier for us all to wait for articles we wanted to see if we knew they were coming.



+1

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.

Another "how to roleplay" article.

I'm not missing my red box yet.
The people they are most useful for are the new gamers who often aren't the ones subscribing to DDI.


They aren't?  Why do you think that?



I would guess that the majority of DDI subscribers are those most heavily invested in the game. I'm sure there are still plenty of new players or casual players who do have DDI accounts, but I think they are less of a presence than the more hardcore players. I mean, I did have a Dragon subscription as a kid, and I imagine that is still the case for many kids now - but I think there are many more kids, new players, and casual gamers, etc, who might occasionally check the D&D website, but don't have an actual subscription to DDI.
I think I will refrain from quoting Black_Egg, if only because it have already been done twice now but really agree with his post and I enjoyed the article immensely, personally I think it sets a nice standard for what a pure fluff article can look like.

i dont demand crunch from every article but even judging this one purely on fluff it comes up short compared to other recent crunchless articles. far far short. which is surprising to me bc i like sernetts work. this was just pointless though, and i am dumbfounded people will post like this was something special. this forum continues to amaze me

I don't think it's a bad article.  I find it almost more useful for DMs though as the most I got from it was some inspriation for adventure hooks.  NPC friends would be a great way to get your players in trouble, and a way I have not explored much myself.

No, I think the main problem is the timing of the article, after a long content break, and being the first new article of the new year after the two editorials. They really should have opened it up with a crunch bang before something like this.  This was like a ketchup packet when most of us are hungry for the burger.  Once I have my main course then I will be happy to have some condiments along side.

I honestly don't have a problem with this article at all. It was an interesting enough read and I have the understanding that not every article will appeal to every subscriber.

I actually think these types of articles were missing in the past few years of online Dragon and despite some specific issues I may have with one or two of these "how to" style articles that have been cropping up of late (okay maybe only the one), I do think they have a place in the mag and I appreciate that they're there.
The editorial... I mean, 'article', was totally useless to me.

I don't say that to be mean-- some posters clearly liked it. But for my 2 cents, this was arguably the most useless Dragon article I've ever read. It had absolutely nothing for me.

"What is the sort of thing that I do care about is a failure to seriously evaluate what does and doesn't work in favor of a sort of cargo cult posturing. And yes, it's painful to read design notes columns that are all just "So D&D 3.5 sort of had these problems. We know people have some issues with them. What a puzzler! But we think we have a solution in the form of X", where X is sort of a half-baked version of an idea that 4e executed perfectly well and which worked fine." - Lesp

I would guess that the majority of DDI subscribers are those most heavily invested in the game.


Whereas I would think most subscribers are people in a regular D&D game, and want access to the Compendium, Character Builder and Monster Builder (and of course the magazines).  I imagine that cuts across all spectrums of experience. 

I think there are many more kids, new players, and casual gamers, etc, who might occasionally check the D&D website, but don't have an actual subscription to DDI.


Sure, but the question is not who doesn't have a DDi subscription, but who does.  I think anybody who wants regular access to the tools might get one. 

Still, it would be interesting if WotC had any data on that.
This one held nothing at all that interested me.  Seems I filled out a survey a while ago stating that this stuff was no good for me or my group, but I guess my team lost the survey.
I would guess that the majority of DDI subscribers are those most heavily invested in the game.


Whereas I would think most subscribers are people in a regular D&D game, and want access to the Compendium, Character Builder and Monster Builder (and of course the magazines).  I imagine that cuts across all spectrums of experience. 



Sure. Like I said, I'm sure there are all kinds of subscribers. Still, I imagine that the majority of existing DDI readers are on the more experienced end of the spectrum, for whom an article like this is of less use. Feel free to disagree - that's just my take on it.
I'm in the "That was Useless" camp.

I was hoping for an Unearthed Arcana article with rules about "Contacts" or hirelings or something.  Bah.

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

To those that didn't like the article: does an article need specific mechanics in order to be useful to you? If not, what types of non mechanics articles would you prefer? Are there any examples of non mechanics articles you can site that you liked or found useful?

Please understand that I'm not baiting here. I just know that some people with decision making abilities read these forums on occassion and think a discussion along these lines could be useful for them in making a magazine we all enjoy more.

no it doesnt need 'crunch' to be useful. a recent example was schwalbs article about home towns for pcs. it was just fluff but so much more readable and useful than this. i personally like the old articles where there was tons of fluff and crunch (the old longer articles before they changed like a year and a half in and said they were doing shorter articles bc they could see people dled more short articles than long ones)

ah when you go back and read the 1st 4e dragon, what a great mag

To those that didn't like the article: does an article need specific mechanics in order to be useful to you? If not, what types of non mechanics articles would you prefer? Are there any examples of non mechanics articles you can site that you liked or found useful?

As a player, I'm having a hard time coming up with anything.

As a DM, oh yeah!  Gimme settings, small towns, plots.  Gimme Organizations (with names), villians, armies, countries and kingdoms.

But I'll also take monster stat blocks in most of that, and varient rules, and discussions about the art of building a world, and other more mechanical bits.

As a player ... I want flavor to make me come up with a character concept, and crunch to make it possible.  I really want them to usually go together.

An article that was like the Hero-builder's handbook (3e book with random tables for your background/race/class to get you thinking) would be rather rules lite, but still could be decent, if not really what I'd rather have.  Racial background articles can be interesting without much rules, but only if they are very well written and not just padded expansions of the existing racial fluff.  A clan of Dragonborn traveling through Dwarven lands, getting kicked out every few months as they travel?  Maybe you could do something with that that wasn't mechanical and was still interesting... but if you mess up, you've got another "angry halfings" article.

But the best articles are the ones with crunch that's so flavorful you can smell it.  (PotG (even post nerf), Thief of Legend.  The origin stories article....)

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

To those that didn't like the article: does an article need specific mechanics in order to be useful to you? If not, what types of non mechanics articles would you prefer? Are there any examples of non mechanics articles you can site that you liked or found useful?



Not a direct answer, but one reason this article was less useful is that NPCs are typically the domain of the DM. Attaching one to a character can be fun, but also problematic - too many players with 'buddies' can lead to a real mess.

The main thing I'm looking for in non-mechanic articles is inspiration. This could consist of quirky elements around which I can build a character, or which simply enrich an existing one. Example: The odd behaviors of familiars, which help give them instant personality. This could consist of interesting locations, races, backgrounds, etc.

An article like this, which doesn't give any of that, but instead tries to show players how to come up with some background elements on their own... well, it can be valuable. But it isn't really needed by me, and having it focused on such a specific area - one largely the domain of the DM - really undercuts its utility even for those whom it might be aimed at.

This is actually where I find use in this specific article. The NPCs are traditionally the purview of the DM. Even as the consummate DM of my group, I appreciate the idea that the players have more control over world and campaign building. It was frankly something I would have allowed since I started DMing but that hadn't really occurred to me (or I guess anybody else in my group) but it's so simple it would be a lot of fun to do.

So in that regard, the article did do something for my game. It inspired a small but significant shift in my perception of the game that will hopefully lead to a better experience at the table.
Personally I like the Artilce and in my experience most players miss details like this entirely in their character development.
I agree!  I think its a nice twist to let players drive sometimes.  When I've been a player I've had DMs insert NPCs into games as a result of my background materials.  Its fun and its give the player an opportunity to step up and role play a little. 

This is actually where I find use in this specific article. The NPCs are traditionally the purview of the DM. Even as the consummate DM of my group, I appreciate the idea that the players have more control over world and campaign building. It was frankly something I would have allowed since I started DMing but that hadn't really occurred to me (or I guess anybody else in my group) but it's so simple it would be a lot of fun to do.

So in that regard, the article did do something for my game. It inspired a small but significant shift in my perception of the game that will hopefully lead to a better experience at the table.



The editorial... I mean, 'article', was totally useless to me.

I don't say that to be mean-- some posters clearly liked it. But for my 2 cents, this was arguably the most useless Dragon article I've ever read. It had absolutely nothing for me.




Even morese than the Class Acts:  Runepriest article that wasn't an article about runepriests, but about the rare mid-to-high paragon level items?  That was a pretty useless Dragon article...Dungeon article, maybe not as useless...
I agree!  I think its a nice twist to let players drive sometimes.  When I've been a player I've had DMs insert NPCs into games as a result of my background materials.  Its fun and its give the player an opportunity to step up and role play a little. 



Wow, and to think that we actually have that on the background sheets we use and give to the DM for material to use, and we've been doing it a long time before they put out this article....
Heres the entire article in 2 sentences:

Go to TVTropes character index (link not provided for sanity reasons)
Pick a few as background NPCs.

That's the entire article, and yes, it is complete waste of space.
I usually like fluff, it's like a miniature fantasy novel.
But this was vapid fluff.
It felt like reading the horoscope for an astrological sign that is not mine.
Sad to see my prediction based on the Table of Contents was spot on.  At very least I won't give the author the satisfaction of downloading the PDF to actually look at it. 
The article's OK, but any sins it commits are made up for by the art. I love that picture so much. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy, and that chick is totally my next character.
It's spelled Corellon Larethian, not Correlon, Correllon, Correlllon, Corellion, Correlian or any other way of getting it wrong. I'm a total grognard and I still play 4E.
The picture is pretty great. I wish children gave me swords.

However, I didn't really like the article except for the last part with how to give it to your DM. I thought the suggestions were rather... well... empty. Too much about how the friend acts and less about the relationship between your character and the friend.

I did like the premise of the article though. I have had some massive fun making my contacts in Shadowrun 4e.
A bit disappointing, but the art was good and in the end it will be the magazine as a whole this month - not individual articles that will tell us it's quality.
I found this article pretty worthless for me as a DDI insider, a growing trend. Its common sense. Your character can have friends. Whats next, an article letting people know they can wear hats? Enjoy bacon?

It should be a freebie if anything. It helps new players who probably have little idea how to flesh out a character. I'm in agreement that they arent the hardcore gamer shelling out 10 bucks a month.

To those that didn't like the article: does an article need specific mechanics in order to be useful to you?






If not, what types of non mechanics articles would you prefer?



Give us regional customs, festivals, dishes, slang. Give us monster ecologies... they dont need specific monster stats, sometimes how a creature fits in the world is a good read. This kind of stuff is sorely lacking in 4th edition, and contributes to the boardgame feel the game projects. Its telling that I never settle down to read anything in 4th edition for leisure, or while taking a hot bath. Compared to my library of material for 1st through 3rd, thats pretty sad.


Are there any examples of non mechanics articles you can site that you liked or found useful?



Not since WOTC took over. The more useful fluff heavy articles pretty much always have a bit of crunch in them. I enjoyed the bramble queen write up, but the inclusion of stats would prevent me from listing it as "crunch free". 
I just turned off automatic renewal of my DDI account.  I'm done paying for nothing.
For all the crap WotC got over the PC race writeups we've seen in Dragon, I'd freaking kill to see those show up again.
I can't say that the reviews in this thread are making me miss my red box either.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Ok, you can have friends. No need of an article writeup to tell me so. What's up next ? Dates, and Ex-girlfriends for you know, some romance exist in D&D too. Laughing

I did not personally liked the article. But if some peeps liked it, then it diserves a place within these pages i guess, for Dragon does not only caters to me. So i can live with it.

I have my eyes on you next Dragon....

Plague

 

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Total.
Waste.
Of.
Electrons.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.