Wednesday, September 12, 2012, 4:46 PM
Jotted down a few more thoughts regarding the ongoing playtest. Thus far the game is going verynicely. I'm most pleased that this iteration of the mechanics are not fighting me as I design and run the playtest campaign.
Check it out at my Cubicle of Solitude
Thursday, August 16, 2012, 2:44 PM
I had 10 eager playtesters for my weekly D&D Next playtest over at Mage's Realm
in Sacramento. After a productive session of character generation (where everyone ended up very happy with and excited about their new adventurer), I posted my thoughts over at my Cubicle of Solitude
Friday, June 22, 2012, 11:10 AM
Almost a month into the playtest at my Friendly Local Game Store
. I've posted some observations from last night at the Cubicle of Solitude
Friday, June 15, 2012, 4:21 PM
After the Playtesters ran into a small horde of Undead in our recent playtest, we started taking a long hard look at the clerics. My impressions can be found over at my Cubicle of Solitude
Thursday, June 7, 2012, 11:40 AM
I've posted ome of my observations in light of running the playtest this past week. You can find all the Playtesty-goodness over at the Cubicle of Solitude
Monday, May 28, 2012, 9:05 PM
I've had the playtest docs since Thursday, and I've read them enough now to start forming my initial opinions. I've jotted them all down in a post to my blog over at the Cubicle of Solitude.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 6:00 PM
I've posted more exposition on my new setting over at the Cubicle of Solitude
. Trying to develop a feel for the Great Guilds similar to Cyberpunk Megacorporations or even the near-modern Global Multinationals.
Thursday, May 17, 2012, 12:02 PM
I've been working on a big Fantasy City setting for a couple of years now. And I've nearly finished the city map yesterday. You can find that particular map at my website The Cubicle of Solitude
Why yes.. that was a shameless plug. Thank you for noticing!
Monday, April 23, 2012, 2:09 PM
When I was a younger gamer, still green behind the ears and starry-eyed with the wonder and magic found in dungeons printed in blue ink on a faded blue grid, my favorite class was the Paladin. They fired all of my early tales and stories about Knights in Shining Armor, Virtue overcoming Villainy, and realms of High Chivalry.
Of course any old Fighter could armor herself in shining Plate Mail, and ride a Heavy Warhorse into battle streaming pinions bearing the crest of her Liege. I owned several old supplements with "alternative classes" most of which included some variation of the Knight (Indeed, most simply called the class "Knight"). But Paladins. They were special, rare, and difficult to play. The stat requirements alone were almost prohibitive, and the chracter had to be Lawful Good, and not just pay lip-service to that ethos, but to follow the ways of Law and Goodness very strictly. Paladins even advanced pitifully slowly. Only the Barbarians of the Unearthed Arcana supplement progressed more slowly. Most of the treasure Paladins earned were donated to religious orders or charitable causes. Paladins couldn't even stock up on Magic Items. Playing a Paladin felt like being a part of an elite order. Only a few could live up to the harsh demands of the Paladin's calling.
As my experience with D&D grew, I discovered through Polyhedron and Dragon Magazine, ways to play "different" Paladins. The class didn't change, the ability score requirements remained the same, as did the demands of behaviour. Paladins presented to me here were culturally different. Barbarian Paladins in furs and hides without the polished sophistication of "civilized" courts and tourneys. Desert Paladins in silk and steel serving Justice among nomadic tribes with swords curved like flames. Even Samurai Paladins sworn to a holy cause higher than any Shogun or Emperor.
I admit I don't miss the endless arguements and debates over what "Lawful Good" meant to the Paladin. Whether or not my Paladin would ever associate with the party's thief, or worse the assassin posing as a thief. Defending accusations of not living up to my Paladin's Lawful Good code for not immediately killing any PC who for whatever reason "pinged" Evil on my ever-scrutinizing "Detect Evil"ability. Paladins had crippling flaws to say the least, and for many gamers, myself included, some of these flaws were benignly overlooked in practical game play. There are many, many Paladins in the Rogues' Gallery of PCs I have met who was gifted their 17 Charisma, rather than letting the dice doom them to a fate of being a particularly devout Fighter, or martially minded Cleric.
Third and Fourth edition did fine jobs of addressing these flaws. Charisma became the base stat for many of the Paladin's special abilities. Paladins were no longer restricted to being humans. The "charitible donation" obligation became a player's role playing decision rather than a rules demand. Even the Alignment Requirement was chipped away, then ultimately removed with Fourth Edition.
I think that step went a little too far though. By making Paladins more accessible and dare I say simpler to play, D&D has stripped the Paladin of much of what made it special. Paladin is a core class now. Fourth Edition defined it as a "Divine Defender". No more special than the Martial Defender role of the Fighter, or the Divine Leader role of the Cleric. Paladin, has become a true Core Class in this regard.
I think D&D Next needs a Prestige Class that captures the essence of the original 1st edition Paladin. The hero who adheres to a strict code. An elite character that has to earn her way into the ranks of this class. I'm not advocating a "Prestige Paladin" in the sense of a character needing to earn their way into abilities that are already presented and geared for Core Classes. I'm talking about a class that operates under a strict code of heroic ideals, and earns proportionately powerful abilities for adherance to that code. The code should be relatively flexible with regards to cultural archetypes. This prestige class should be able to support a wide variety of Players' concepts without tying the class to a single setting or environment. and the power gained should also allow for the character to fall. Just like fallen Paladins can become Blakguards, Antipaladins, or Death Knights.
Friday, March 9, 2012, 11:33 PM
Starting a campaign can be tricky. Even with a long standing group of players, the first actual game can bog down with the disarming question, "Why is this group going to trust each other with their lives on a dangerous quest?"
If that question is not answered sufficiently, and soon, the early campaign can become a struggle as different characters try to pursue different and often incompatable agendas. Compromise is an obvious solution, but there are times when compromise is difficult, if not impossible. Some of us have lived through the cliche' of "the Paladin plays stupid while the Thief breaks the Law" many times in our gaming carreers. That stereotype does illustrate the need to bring all the characters in a campaign towards a common goal from the very beginning. Or in other words, a group of characters needs a Unifying Element to bring them from a random collection of adventurers, to a company of brothers and sisters willing to work for each other, even at personal cost.
This does not presuppose the idea that all characters in a party are selfless heroes. The Unifying Element doesn't need to be a virtuous ideal. It can be base and selfish just as easliy. The important thing to remember is that the Players have to be on board with the Unifying Element. This requires a bit of communication before the game starts between the DM and all of the Players together.
Starting with a campaign goal that everyone in the game has contributed to, agrees upon, and has designed their characters around is one solution to the campaign start. The big benefit is it allows the players to make characters that compliment one another and to iron out necessary compromises before convictions become set in stone. The downside is that it requires a bit of pre-game gaming, sort of a session zero, and there are some groups who, because of scheduling would much rather just start playing. Other players don't worry so much about backstory, finding the exercise tedious.
If group character design isn't practical, players and DM have to be a little more flexible in starting the story. Keep in mind, the goal of a D&D campaign is to develop a series of adventures that entertains everyone involved. To that end, a DM can employ a few storytelling tricks to get things off and running, while offering opportunities in-game to forge the important bonds of party cohesion.
First, there is startig the first adventure in media res. Or "in the middle of things", Star Wars is the most popular example of this technique with A New Hope starting right off with Princess Leia being chased down by Darth Vader's Star Destroyer. Campaigns can start with the words "Roll Initiative" and the characters have to react to the danger, only collecting their wits and wondering about the greater reasons of "why" afterwards. If the campaign starts this way, the DM needs to make this first encounter exciting. Not necessarily hard, or deadly, but exciting. The players need to buy in to the mood the DM is setting and understand that it's them against the adversaries. Afterwards, the DM does need to have all those pesky why answers ready. The exciting encounter only serves its purpose if the characters realize that they have to stick together in order to continue to escape/ survive/ avoid imprisonment.
Second, is the idea of starting the campaign through a Patron. This is a classic way to start a D&D game. Someone of status and means charges or hires the characters to perform a service or quest for them. But unlike a single adventure, the service or quest is larger in scope and can be ongoing. This does give everyone a clear common purpose and a Unifying Element. It does get a little overused though and could be considered cliche' by veteran players. The trick here is to make the goal of the quest achievable without being oversimple or easy. The characters need to have a task that will carry them long enough to forge a bond of cooperation, that will serve to unify them once the mission is wholly complete.
Third is circumstance. Starting a campaign in this matter means the characters are all part of a distinct group. Maybe they crew a pirate ship, or are part of a mercenary brigade, members of the same extended family, they could be slaves trying to escape, or students at a college. The point is that the circumstances that bring them together provides the Unifying Element. The characters have reason to work together because they have this circumstance in common. DMs need to do a little more work in the early campaign, like they would with in media res, to give reason and motive for the group to remain together.
From a storytelling perspective, bear in mind that to each player, their personal character is the protagonist in their campaign narrative. As a DM, therefore the other literary archetypes, Mentors, Shaman, Threshold Guardians, etc.. are best indroduced as NPCs. Keep the story focus on the group as much as possible, especially in the early part of the campaign, design moments for each character to have the spotlight. Get your players invested in their characters, and keep your characters invested in the party.