Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 7:53 AM
Why isn‚Äôt there a new D&D TV show?
It seems like a great time. The glut of bad syndicated fantasy shows of the late ‚Äė90s is long over and CG just keeps making digital monsters and sets easier. Post-Lord of the Ring and Harry Potter, the fantasy genre has some new respect in the public eye.
D&D also has some of the retro appeal of the old D&D cartoon from the ‚Äė80s, like Transformers and G.I.Joe. A new or related show could cash-in on those memories and create a new generation of fans.
The show could take one of three forms:
The first is the straight fantasy in a fantastic world, much like the last Sy-Fy movie. This is probably a little too generic as it doesn‚Äôt have a ‚Äúhook‚ÄĚ to differentiate it from other fantasy. ¬†A straight in-world show would be better as a Dragonlance show or a Forgotten Realms anthology series.
The second variant is one we‚Äôve seen before with the cartoon. People from the real world get pulled into the fantasy world and have to survive. It‚Äôs a solid idea but needs something to make it more than just a live action version of the old TV show. It also quickly devolves into an Endless Quest show where the group has their newest weekly opportunity to get home but you know ahead of time they‚Äôll fail because success is reserved for the final episode.
The third form is the twin reality, where the fantasy is portrayed as just that, and we see both the real world and the game being played. Both Gamers movies did this very well and could work as a proof-of-concept. It also allows some highlighting of the game mechanics and dispelling of stereotypes and misconceptions of the game. This is the easiest as it allows for real-world sets and costumes (and halves potential FX). It also makes it easier for new viewers and new people to the game.
There could even be some blurring of the genres, with the gameworld being real and as the gamers play they empower the fantasy heroes as the DM channels the events occurring. Some of the story would be both sides realizing the other as the game takes on a life of its own.
Of course, after the disaster that was the D&D studio movie and other examples of Geek TV (Kindred: the Embraced) we should probably feel lucky it‚Äôs not happening.¬†
Saturday, October 10, 2009, 12:25 AM
I'm a little disappointed by how backward Wizards of the Coast seems with their digital initiatives.
Now, don't get me wrong, I think the new website is pretty. And once I figure out where everything is I'm sure I'll like it. And what little I‚Äôve seen of D&D Insider seems solid.
But it's hardly innovative.
The character builder is NICE, but I've seen that idea before. Not just with HeroForge, or the demo of the DM Tools that came with my 3.0 Player's Handbook. I‚Äôm talking about my 2e AD&D Core Rules CD-Rom that acted as character manager and builder with a mapper and other fun programs along for the ride.
And while I'm sure the monster builder is equally ‚ÄúNICE‚ÄĚ, there have been plenty of free ones that came out earlier.
WotC's whole market plan still seems very '90s.
I'll start with the minis, which did made the giant leap forward by not being entirely random, and instead switched to an 80% random design. Why random? Well, because people buy more packs looking for that much-wanted rare.
Random minis worked great at first. I bought a giant amount of boosters while looking for uber-Rares and building-up my mini army. But now I don't need more commons, and especially don't need more orcs or gnolls or goblins. I only want the Rares and monsters that have not been done before. All the rest are eBay trash. This is doubly true for the aforementioned orcs/gnolls/goblins as the new Commons look so very inferior to the older ones, especially with the newer thick-n-shiny paint. So I buy a couple of the new packs to test my luck then buy singles.
The justification for WotC not selling singles or themed packs was that gaming stores would have trouble stocking them. This is a lovely bit of pre-Amazon.com thinking.
WotC doesn't need your FLGS for minis. They *could* sell single minis directly like Paizo or any number of online retailers could. They could open the DDM vaults and print a best-of line taking pre-orders to pay for the initial costs. And collect 100% of the profit.
Likewise, random minis to encourage multiple purchases are wasted when the buyers can just buy the single on the secondary market. Now that the minis are only selling to RPGers instead of role-players and miniature wargamers, the price of many Rares has dropped. As I write this I have a newly opened eBay packaged of Rares and select minis needed for my game later this month which would have cost me (plus tax) at my FLGS if I had two perfect pulls but cost me from eBay.
Until recently, WotC always dealt through three middlemen: the publisher, the distributor and the store. Now, for the first time, WotC takes your money directly: for DDI! (Okay, through Digital River, but that's probably a nominal fee.) They could easily segue that into selling their own books and their own minis. Paizo does it and seems to be doing just fine, and they don‚Äôt have the world‚Äôs most powerful toy company behind them to help with arranging a shipping/ distribution contract.
‚ÄúBut wait,‚ÄĚ you say, ‚ÄúWotC likes to support your FLGS and doesn't want to shut them down.‚ÄĚ That's an excellent point, but this will NOT affect your local game stores one bit. People who buy online already buy online. It only affects amazon.com. Plus, relying on themselves for online sales means they can avoid the premature shipping of books that seems to be regularly occurring through other sellers.
Your FLGS already means something different to WotC. Through the increasingly powerful and relevant RPGA, your FLGS is suddenly more valuable as a physical space. Its purpose as a retail establishment is less important than its ability to host five to seven gamers at a table.
Wise store owners are adapting to this and making their space more conducive to gaming: many open sockets for laptops, wi-fi, drinks and snacks, etc. By charging for drinks, internet, and becoming more of a coffee shop (like most big box bookstores already have) they‚Äôre making-up for the lost book revenue. Charging a small table fee also often works. for four-hours of entertainment is 1/10th the cost of a movie night. ¬†
Instead WotC is almost backing away from the digital. Their shiny new pdf magazines are not taking advantage of the new format (no bookmarks or hyperlink Table of Contents). While tying new content in with the Compendium is a bad idea (see the Psion article), it would work great with other articles that just need to reference a power or feat. I‚Äôve seen some blogs use this excellently (quick link to Square Fireballs as the off-the-top-of-my-head example).
Meanwhile, the official digital copies of the books have been vanished for half a year with no sign of replacement. But even these were poorly managed, being just as expensive as the hard copies (or, if you ordered your books online, more expensive than the physical copies).
While the D&D team was quick to embrace Facebook with a small application, they haven‚Äôt raced to embrace other technology. DDI is still exclusively Windows and apparently defaults to Internet Explorer even if you prefer Chrome or Firefox or Safari.
And despite the glut of smartphone applications ‚Äď especially for the iPhone ‚Äď there is no D&D related aps at the iStore! (Or at least not official ones.) A diceroller just seems so logical, as would a simplified version of the character builder (something just to manage your character in-game).
Even the newly redesigned website and community is just doing much of what Gleemax was planned to do a full two years ago.
It‚Äôs just funny that a company centred on a game played with imagination can be so un-innovative. While the game itself is bursting with creativity, everything else seems to be lumbering around slow and reactively, responding to changes like a sleepy dragon.¬†
Thursday, October 8, 2009, 12:48 PM
Very few of my campaigns have been entirely serious. While my current campaign is fairly straight in-world, the players themselves often descend into fits of laughter, jokes, and Monty Python quotation.
But most of my early campaigns in High School were seldom as serious. The world itself was a strange and comedic place with the High King Bob and his enchanted tankard of ale that could kill a man with a single blow. The various mishmash of houserules and semi-serious tables and netbooks added much intention and unintentional comedy to my games.
The most infamous was an infamous netbook of, er, carnal activities which provided a wealth of bizarre information including STDs. (which came-up more than once. Curse those orc prostitutes!)
The above netbook's most infamous addition was the table for call-shots to the... bag of holding as the most recent cartoon labeled it. The most dramatic effect of which was, on a percentile roll of 100, instant death! And, somehow, those twin 0s seemed to come-up a disproportionate number of times. One of my favorite reoccurring villains died directly as the result of a lucky nut-shot.
The Complete Netbook of Alcohol was also a favorite with a comprehensive list of alcohol and lengthy rules on inebriation. With every subsequent edition, I'm always mildly disappointed by the lack of actual alcohol or drug-use rules (with a shout-out exception to the Book of Vile Darkness).
It didn't help that so many monsters from 1e and 2e were so outright silly. Many of them just lent a comedic atmosphere to the game. Not just the flumph but the piercer or the mimic or even the rust monster. Unless presented right, even owlbears are comedy gold.
¬†The sheer freedom D&D lent its players also added to the zaniness, as we were limited only by our imaginations. This was well before the time if Grand Theft Auto so the novelty of our RPG sandbox only fueled our wackiness.
¬†I think it was when Christopher Reeve started making extremely black humor appearances in our game that I decided to tone back the silliness for more straight storytelling.
Reminiscing for this blog, I suddenly miss some of those games. I might have to try a wacky/zany adventure sometime, probably around April First. If Halloween can work so well as the time of one-shot horror adventures, that period can work for one-shot beer 'n' pretzel games.¬†
Wednesday, October 7, 2009, 12:48 PM
There's nothing like a good ol' dungeon crawl. Except each and every other dungeon crawl.
As long as there have been PCs kickin' in doors there have been semi-linear dungeons for them to jaunt through. My first adventure was a dungeon crawl. And, now that I think of it, my first twenty adventures were essentially dungeon crawls.
Sometimes a nice old-fashioned dungeon crawl works. They're a simple microcosm of a story with rooms being scenes and doors being choices. If you take your story-outline and make that a physical map you've just designed a dungeon.
But most of the time now, I like my dungeons to have a twist: a unique quirk beyond just the usual underground semi-natural tunnels.
For a Forgotten Realms campaign I had the ‚Äúdungeon‚ÄĚ be three overlapping layers of the city, with the heroes starting in the new sewers and breaking-through into the forgotten catacombs beneath before venturing into a deeper buried city that was partially caved-in and completely covered in dripped-down sediment. The standard dungeon hallways were the former city streets and the chambers were small single-room buildings. The players had to navigate partially flooded chambers and slick floors while searching the timeless ruins.
Another unusual dungeon I've done twice is a fallen tower, with the PCs walking on the walls and having to climb-up to reach doors. I've tried it a couple times and it's an interesting experience but requires extra-careful description. The second time I had the tower halfway down a cliff, so windows suddenly became deadly pits. I also drew a floor plan of the tower both for the toppled view and the righted view with a 3D angled map for much-needed perspective.
I've also attempted vertical dungeons more than once. One attempt was a giant chasm inhabited by giant spiders, ettercaps, and the like. It was spanned by web-bridges and required the PCs climbing between levels and swinging or balancing across the gap or slowly crawling along the wall.
Another attempt was an aquatic tower with giant shafts for swimmers to move freely up and down. Stairs are a space-consuming luxury for merefolk, as would railings on balconies. To replicate this mid-combat, I simply tipped all the minis onto their sides and pretended the map was up-and-down / left-and-right and required swim checks for any movement and had players continually drift in one direction if they failed (down). In a 4e game I'd spice this up with currents that moved in various direction sliding those caught within.
It might be interesting to do the same dungeon in dry land, with this giant tower that must be scaled upward and lots of pits and shafts to be avoided.
But the strangest dungeon I ever attempted was an early 3.0 experiment when I had no time to prepare before the game. I was directed to a random dungeon site and printed one off. It designed a map and populated it with monsters from the SRD.
Some of the encounters were underpowered and some were overpowered and some made no sense. It was a fun test of improvisation as I explained how things worked and why things those monsters were there. It got especially crazy when a small 5‚Äôx15‚Äô room was populated by a dragon turtle. How was that there? Sudden the dungeon was the lair of a mad wizard who experimented with teleportation and the room became a portal to an ocean. The next room became a floating island as an arrowhawk attacked.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 1:32 PM
Deciding whether or not to add magic item shops to your campaign is a big decision. It determines if magical items will be just another item to be bought, sold, and bartered or treasure to be won and discovered.
Yet that is grossly oversimplifying the matter.
Even in the most well-designed campaign there is going to be an item that the PCs want that there just has not been an opportunity to work into the design or parcel system. It might be the two-weapon warrior (tempest fighter or suicide ranger) who needs that extra magic weapon. Or that versatile rogue who wants a magical shuriken and dagger. Or that paladin who needs a passable weapon and holy symbol.¬†
So they take their hard-earned gold and venture into town and decide to buy the item instead of waiting for it to appear.
So how does one present what is literally a store that sells magical item?
Well, that depends on the tone of your campaign.
An Eberron campaign would probably be a little more matter-of-fact about the magical store. Mundane magical stores would be more common and selling things for whomever could afford them. Some would be common general stores with magical nicknacks, the equivalent of the newest mechanical gizmo or exotic do-dad. Others would be upscale boutiques for the upper class to frequent with expensive ‚Äď and effective ‚Äď security measures. Some might have a mail-order or made-to-order business where the crafter can make custom magic for the right price.
The latter works even for more standard fantasy games. Instead of a store there might be a solitary wizard with ritual know-how or a secretive mage guild that acts as a magical suppler. The Dreaming Apothacary from the Ptolus campaign setting/book describes the latter nicely. Instead of a store that just happens to have what the PCs want, it made specifically for them.
I'm personally fond of the magical curio shop. The equivalent of strange antique stores you see in larger cities that are tucked away in overlooked side-streets and alleys and have all manner of oddness. The PCs happen upon this shop and have a chance of purchasing some unique items or magical items with a past. I tend to rely on memories of some crowded antique stores mixed with a dash of trinket/ souvenir shops in Chinatown (they often have a great esoteric vive). I also found a gaming store in Geneva that also had the same crowded and unique feeling (and had a surprising selection of Ral Partha minis).
¬†For an older campaign (I believe it was set in the Realms) I also invented something I imaginatively dubbed The Store. It was an infinitely large pocket-dimension that was just a store manned by a merchant of indeterminate race and age. You could access it though any door if you knew the right location (the entrances shifted) and knock. It was a little like the white room in The Matrix where Neo and Trinity armed themselves, only full of everything, and the merchant didn't deal in cash. I took elements of Goblin/ Faerie markets and had him traffic in souls, emotions, memories, and the like. One NPC traded his mortality for a magical weapon (a high price he found out after forty years of being sealed alive).
Faerie or eladrin markets themselves would be a good way to have a magic shop that wasn't just a store selling magic. Having to venture into the Feywild just to make a few purchases would be a little awkward.
Of course, even if your PCs can just buy magic in the nation's capital, that doesn't mean they should just be able to buy items from all tiers. Paragon and Epic items shouldn't be lining the shelves of just any mundane city. The City of Brass in the Elemental Chaos makes a good market city for higher levels. Sigil also makes a good place to purchase more powerful items. At the epic tier there can be Astral Domains that serve as market places, and there might be exotic ports that service Astral Skiffs and deal in the most powerful of magics. There might be black market merchants in Abyssal cities or vendors with shoppes in an infernal settlement deal in the Nine Hells.¬†
Monday, October 5, 2009, 3:07 PM
I've been a Dungeon Master for almost as long as I've been playing. I played twice before I broke-out my DM screen and have probably clocked three times as many hours as monsters than I have as a PC. But I started a good eight years before Robin published his laws, so I made a few mistakes (read: a few horrible, unforgivable, ninth-circle worthy betrayals of mistakes).
The biggest mistake has always been related to sticking to my plots. As a writer-at-heart (like 95% of all DMs) I have a story I want to tell, and the campaign is merely an outlet. What they players want has sometimes been a hurdle or impediment to my grand and glorious epic.
Sometimes, no matter what the PCs did, it had no impact on the story. As a result my players responded with grander and bolder acts of defiance in brazen attempts to derail the plot. Regardless of how many times they sold state secrets, supported the evil count, stole from the royal treasury, or gang-raped the princess the King still called on them to save the kingdom.
My Big Bads always had an escape route, which my PCs soon learned and anticipated. They readied actions and had their best blocking spells prepared yet, more often than not, they badguys managed to slip through the impassable barriers or dash away with the invulnerable support of Grey Boxed Text.
Yet, despite this, I never want to be the bad guy. I've always had a hard time settling PC disputes and tried to make everyone happy. But, as the referee, sometimes you have to take a side or come down hard on an abuse. Sometimes you need to take-away the player's toy or discipline unproductive behaviour.
Related to the first point, I've also had a tendency to make my players play the character I want them to play. This goes hand-in-hand with forcing them into the world/campaign I want. I never asked if the players wanted to be sucked into a dark Ravenloft campaign or explore whatever new world or idea struck my fancy. And if I referenced it and they said they hated it, I often ignored them to do what I wanted. Looking back, I was more than a little selfish.
My players seldom wanted to be the good and noble heroes, yet I always forced them into that role. Instead of feeding off their strengths and desires I pushed them to a role unsuited to them.
My biggest sin was probably not taking feedback. If I would have asked I might have been told all of the above. IF I had listened. It's not easy to take criticism, and harder to invite it, and even harder to make changed based on it.
I doubt very much I'm a perfect Dungeon Master now. I think I'm currently overcompensating for my past mistakes and need to find a balance between my old self and my current self.
Friday, October 2, 2009, 2:35 PM
One of my favourite ideas for a brief campaign is superhero PCs. I don‚Äôt mean standard comic book superheroes, but fantasy PCs who happen to be superheroes. Such as a champion with his magical sword that leaps over the tall buildings of the fantasy metropolis chasing down a masked necromancer villain. Or a grim cowled rogue righting wrongs from the shadows.
Really, there are very few differences between standard D&D and the superhero genre. The team protagonists who possess skills and powers beyond the average man venture into their evil adversary‚Äôs lair overcoming diabolical deathtraps and waves of thematic minions before confronting their archenemy. If you replace the warehouse in Gotham with a dungeon, and the minions with kobolds instead of clowns, and turn the adversary into a twisted court jester suddenly you have a D&D game instead of token issue of Batman.
A superhero/fantasy game was an idea I toyed with during 3.5 and managed to successfully execute a couple times, through higher-level play. 3.5 proved excellent at adapting itself to tweaking through a combination of Prestige Classes and Level Adjustment and creative use of magic items.
A 4e version of my 3e campaign should work well, although PCs would be more restricted into a single class. The new rogue/ranger would update one of the characters masterfully and allow it to be a more effective presence in combat.
Because of ideas like this I lament the restrictions of the GSL and its prohibition of redefining terms and greatly re-working the game. The system is robust enough to handle a d20 modern variant or, say, a revamped Mutants & Masterminds but it will not happen under the current licence.
The actual system of 4e is surprisingly easy to tweak for this purpose.
Utility powers make a great vehicle for unusual powers such as great strength and lifting heavy objects without directly impacting combat. Mobility related powers such as ones granting flight or quick movement would also work nicely.
Roles are problematic, as there are few defenders/ leaders in comic books. Most superheroes are able to stand alone and fight. The Fantastic Four is a clear exception with the Thing being a perfect example of a defender, the Invisible Woman as a passable leader, Mr. Fantastic as the controller, and the Human Torch as a striker. It‚Äôs not perfect (the Torch would do his share of control) and there‚Äôs no way to translate them into existing classes (although a warlock/sorcerer hybrid might work well for the Johnny and the Thing is *kinda* an always-on warden).
This is easy enough to explain and overlook. Even superhero RPGs tend to have bricks and blasters. For a 4e campaign I might stick to roles but dump power sources and classes, and instead have players pick a class‚Äôs class features (or hybrid class features) but unlock every power of that role. So a defender could pick-out fighter or warden or swordmage powers.
Or the campaign could be done without changing the actual game and just playing the system straight, but with just a fluff/ tone change. The addition of secret identities and costumes and flamboyant characters is really what makes the campaign.
Setting also requires some work as most superhero campaigns would be centered on a major city. I used Ptolus for mine (damn, I love that book) but Eberron would work just as well. Sharn is a great Metropolis / Manhattan and Korth would make a great Gotham / Bronx. That's one thing the setting really lacks. It's a pulp world yet there's no Shadow or Doc Savage or Solomon Kane.
Rewards have always been a problem to this type of campaign. Iron Man doesn‚Äôt change out his boots for a new set he loots off Titanium Man and Captain America sticks to his one shield. Thankfully, the alternate rewards from DMG2 are perfect for this and players can just have their equipment upgraded regularly.
Someday I‚Äôll try this again and masked heroes with flowing capes and shining armour with launch spells and swords at the likes of the evil Necromaster or the foul Man-Dragon.
Thursday, October 1, 2009, 5:44 PM
I imagine the developers will begin their preliminary work on 5th Edition any month now. It‚Äôs a scary thought.
It takes a few years to finish an edition, and they‚Äôve started the next edition faster and faster. 3e came out in 2000 and 3.5 quickly followed three-years later, with work on 4e starting in 2005 to release in 2008.
4e still has some life left, but they‚Äôll run-out of pre-established dragons and power sources and planes sometime in 2011 or 2012. While I‚Äôm sure they can start the experimental and concept testing books then, but we can probably expect 5e sometime in 2013 or 2014. With three years of development we can expect them to start initial planning as soon as next year. My personal guess is a 2011 start with 2014 being a solid release date, it being the 40th anniversary of D&D and all.
So what would 5e look like?
Much of 4e is going through and fixing the ‚Äúflaws‚ÄĚ of 3e, so that‚Äôs a good starting block.
One of the obvious problems is races. The +2/-2 of stats in earlier editions lead people to discount race/class combinations, so 4e instead has +2 to two stats. However, all this has done is shift people‚Äôs perspective so if a race doesn‚Äôt boost a primary stat that race/class combination is less preferred. 5e races might just have powers or non-stat based bonuses so all races are equally good at all classes.
Powers are also a problem. 4e makes every class a sorcerer with dozens of spells, so suddenly every new class has spells that need to be balanced against every other class‚Äô spells and abilities. There are always going to be optimal and sub-optimal choices and thinking of new and different spells that still do roughly the same thing is draining. That‚Äôs time that could be spent elsewhere.
I also imagine that now the basics of the power sources have been established they might work harder to make them more integral to how classes work and make them more than just a thematic base to loosely design powers around. With six-years of playing 4e to base classes on, they might have different power recharge mechanics for each class or power source.
How powers and attacks work will also likely change. There‚Äôs a well-read blog post about how 5e will likely eliminate missing. I doubt missing will be entirely eliminated, but I can see a greater emphasis on powers/abilities that always do something. There might also be a glancing blow/ partial block mechanic where you do a minimal amount of damage on a lesser hit and you only miss on a ‚Äú1‚ÄĚ.
The common theory is the game will have a greater reliance on computers, but I very much doubt this. An appeal of the game is its offline nature. And I hope WotC will have learned their lesson from the DDI release fiasco and simply focus on upgrading the existing tools rather than risk digital integration which might delay the game‚Äôs playability until the software was finished.
If anything, 5e might have a renewed paper focus.
This might change if 4e‚Äôs digital initiatives end-up a success on the long-term and the team rebounds from the glacial pace of release new software release. Widespread digital applications could revolutionise the game such as iPhone/ Smartphone applications (dice rollers, character sheets/managers, etc). Considering DDI does not even accommodate Macs this would be the denizen of fans and hobbyists (if the GSL allowed software).
Although, personally, I‚Äôd like to see 5e take a step-back away from the game-trumps-reality vibe and the miniature-combat attitude and move to more of a reality simulator and customizable sandbox game. A modular D&D where you can opt for the heroic fantasy style or just as easily go for grim-and-gritty.¬†
Wednesday, September 30, 2009, 12:39 PM
I have mixed feelings about how traps are portrayed in the latest edition.
Traps did have some problems in earlier editions. I played far too many RPGA modules where if you didn't have a rogue you were shut-down because there was NO way to bypass the trap without taking a crazy amount of damage. So keeping that problem in mind, 4e's traps are a great improvement as they offer experience and always have alternate ways of disarming them or bypassing them.
I also enjoy the idea of including traps in combat as a deadly form of terrain or a hindering mechanic. It adds a lovely dash of spice to mundane combat.
The DMG2 has some great advice for positioning and planning traps (on page 65) which I would recommend every DM read. I disagree on point #6, which I'll discuss further down.
That said, there are some things that just don't work well with traps.
The first problem is the skill DC problem. Trap DCs are just too low. This is the inherent problem with the skill DCs, or rather the lowered ones. I agree with the reasoning behind the change, as the originals were too high for skill challenges; the high numbers took untrained and unskilled people out of the equation for skill challenges.
However, unskilled and untrained people are seldom going to be the people disarming traps. There are three classes that can be trained in Thievery: artificers, rogues, and warlocks. The new DCs greatly benefit the first and the last because neither is likely to have a high Dexterity: artificers have very high Intelligence while Intelligence is also the warlock kicker stat so Dexterity becomes a dump stat, thus both classes - if trained in Thievery- will likely be going at traps with just the training bonus. The default numbers are passable for this.
Rogues are different. Their primary stat is Dexterity and they will always have an 18 or 20 in it (unless the player is going for a personalized build in which case it might only be a 16, but this is less likely). Starting with a +9 means that even on a "1" they hit a DC 10. It becomes very unlikely for a rogue to fail to disarm a trap, let alone fail by 5 or more (at 2nd level they can only fail a Hard DC trap by 1-4).
To challenge my halfling rogue I need to add higher level traps (generally 2-6 levels higher than the party) but that also greatly increases the damage output of the trap and the experience. It seems wrong to arbitrarily increase a trap‚Äôs DC just because a character is good at what they do and synergizes well; I wouldn‚Äôt increase a monster‚Äôs AC just because the fighter had the best sword and made good feat selections.
For a game that is all about specialization, it seems odd to allow such a big part of the game to be so easily overcome without even trying. Increasing the DCs for traps might penalize parties that rely on an artificer or warlock for trap disabling, but that‚Äôs why there‚Äôs the Skill Focus feat. And I can easily see a feat that allows high-Int characters to use their Intelligence for Thievery instead of Dexterity.
But that's okay, because disarming traps has suddenly become a skill challenge, so they have multiple opportunities to roll that ‚Äú1‚ÄĚ. Ugh. This sometimes works but other times having to spend four rounds disarming a single trap is tedious and much less interesting that using powers to interact with combat. It's a little like being a 3e cleric or fighter, with no option for action. "For my standard I guess I make my Thievery check. DC... 28. Then I just stand there I guess." Except for grinding-long fights it‚Äôs often easier to ignore the trap and just plow through the combat and move out of the room.
I also don't feel 4e traps work well with classic adventure (classic being every adventure with a trap published between 1974 and 2004). Most of those traps violate the DMG2 trap point #6: Traps in Unexpected Places, which argues that while it might be "realistic" and effective to put a trap in a surprising place it slows down gameplay leading to players testing every hallway.
It seems like a shot against ever Gygax module every written, where there are continual surprise and gotcha! traps (I also take umbrage with the "realistic" in quotes because it's dismissive of people wanting to inject realism into their games). I agree that having traps in every hallway (or even every tenth hallway) might be overkill and will slow down the game, but sometimes a nasty surprise keeps players on their toes. And there's nothing wrong with slowing the pace of the game to emphasise the exploration aspects of the game. Removing traps from the hallways seems to be an attempt to speed-up players to the room where they can get onto the next combat encounter. Hallways are more than just places you travel to get to the next fight, sometimes getting there is half the fun.
The DMG2 subtly introduces traps that address my middle point (the skill challenge traps) but which also work with my complaint above: minion traps. They're not described and you're not given any advice on creating them, but there is one in the examples.
I introduced minion traps into my game a few months before DMG2 and found they worked well and captured the feel of classic traps. If I were updating older modules such as Tome of Horrors or Temple of Elemental Evil I would rely heavily on minion traps. They slow the PCs down and make them think before just throwing open every door in the ancient dungeon, and they only take the rogue a single round to disarm. And while they do damage it‚Äôs generally not enough to do more than sting, but adds-up over repeated rounds or multiple small traps.¬†
Tuesday, September 29, 2009, 6:20 PM
Five words ending with a question mark, and yet it has so much baggage. It‚Äôs a question that causes a sudden wave of fear and pre-emptive boredom.
But because I can here are a few of my characters and what they taught me about gaming. This list is nowhere near comprehensive, but not every character ends-up being important to you.
My first character had a the standard phonetic hodgepodge name, but I quickly gave him the new moniker of ‚ÄúBlade‚ÄĚ, which I should note predated the movie of the same name. He began as a standard human fighter but quickly ‚Äď and accidently ‚Äď became a paladin. He was married, divorced, tortured, crowned king, deposed, lost his paladinhood, restored his paladinhood, remarried, annulled, sent to hell, and became a father. His adventuring career ended with his becoming a saint.
What I Learned: Despite being well into 2e‚Äôs Lawful Stupid pallys, I quickly discovered how far I could stretch my alignment. After his troubles I decided he would be gruff and bitter, hard and grumpy; he developed an alcohol problem drinking away his pain. He could still be noble and good and heroic while being a drunk.
Named after the knight of myth, he began as the henchman/squire of Blade and became my follow-up character. He was designed to be the anti-Blade being honest, pure and generically lawful stupid.
What I Learned: I quickly learned how bland playing a personality-less Mary Sue was. He had very little motivation to adventure. He taught me the value of a background full of adventure hooks and a motive for going out and questing.
A half-elf thief, Mouse was designed to be a bad-boy after so many paladins. He wasn‚Äôt outright evil but was manipulative and a con artist always looking for a new way to make money. I wanted him to be this flashy daring thief, an acrobatic cat burglar, but more often than not he ended-up scamming merchants and robbing people in alleys. I put a lot of effort into thinking of new and zany scams and cons.
What I Learned: You get out of a character what you put in. I had a lot of fun with Mouse because I put so much energy into giving him things to do. And if you‚Äôre known for playing a particular type of character sometimes it‚Äôs fun to play against type.
My second character in a d20 modern game, he was a drow from the Underdark of New York who became a vampire. He was my first outright evil character, but he started as merely selfish. It quickly became clear ‚Äď especially after blood became the food of choice ‚Äď that he didn‚Äôt care about anyone but himself and his lifestyle. Of all my characters he was the only one I felt‚Ä¶ icky‚Ä¶ playing. He was truly an ugly individual and I committed horrible acts through him.
What I Learned: Be very careful you want to be evil before you chose to make an evil character. And level adjustment is a cra-zee broken mechanic in 3.5, there was no way my vampire drow that that ECL!
A gnome bard I created for a one-shot game that I ended-up playing with for over two years. Despite the negative opinion of pre-4e bards everyone loved playing with her. She was a decent back-up healer and could so a lot of rogue-stuff, but there‚Äôs something about +4 to attack that people enjoyed (the inspirational boost spell and a masterwork horn).
What I Learned: Sometimes the character does what they want. I wrote-up a small background for the character and developed and idea for a personality, but she had her own plans and quickly found her own voice. ¬†
A character I still play in my monthly 3.5 homegame. He‚Äôs a human mage a nobel‚Äôs son and a total tool. I based the character on a mini I had available, and his personality just sprang-out. He was fully formed before the first game and hasn‚Äôt changed much.
What I Learned: Playing a jerk can be crazy-fun and liberating, especially after two-years of an optimist gnome. And while sometimes characters change on you, other times your first idea is the best.¬†