Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7:06 PM
Level one is a battleground of sorts for competing visions of what DnD should be. Are characters epic right off the bus? Do they need to kill many rats first? Do you get a taste of mighty power latent in their implements? Do you discern areas of improvement for basic skills to be enhanced?
My group recently staged our first battle encounter, and everything went smoothly enough. Some things are easy to explain: defenses, attack rolls, daily powers, etc. But the at-will powers are more difficult to grasp intuitively, and I suspect it has something to do with the above-mentioned quandary.
Our party has a ranger and a warden, and they could not be more different at first level. And I am not talking about the whole striker vs. defender thing. I am talking about the imagination.
Our ranger has two at-will powers: twin strike and nimble strike.
Our warden has two at-will powers as well as two "features: warden's fury and grasp, strength of stone and earth shield strike.
The essential problem is not that the warden is somehow more powerful than the ranger (he is not.) It is that the line between primal power and martial power is pretty stinking difficult to role play. Whereas the ranger can begin to think of the road ahead as one of acquiring skills and talents, the warden is already imbued with magical properties that end at precisely the same place as the ranger's: the tip of a weapon making contact with an enemy.
What am I saying? I am not sure yet. In meta-gaming terms, I think I am saying this: if the melee/ranged basic attack is the place where both the ranger and the warden meet the enemy, why are their skills presented in such different tracks? What does "primal" say that "martial" does not?
In role-playing terms, I think I am saying that level one makes clear that it might make more sense to see "primal" or "psionic" power builds emerge from more basic classes that build in specific directions. Maybe a warden is first a fighter who draws some benefit from unusually high wisdom scores, but then blossoms at about the same time a strength-based fighter is finished slaying a few rats.
I suppose what I am really saying is, "Would it be so bad if all of us began at about the same place at level-one? Wouldn't it be easier for a group to learn to play together in this manner?" Just a thought...
Friday, January 20, 2012, 11:10 AM
Except it's more like afternoon, but whatever. Today is the day for our trial run. Four plus a DM, with three committed players and one who is just interested. I am not going to give an "after-action" report, because I doubt any of you care. But I am going to outline what worked, what needed fine-tuning, and the failures and successes of a group of newbs. If you're in to that kind of thing, stay tuned.
Our party consists of a half-elf cleric who focuses on healing and an elven ranger, along with two of the following (we'll make the call tonight)
> a dwarven warden
> a human paladin
> an eldarin wizard
> a halfling rogue
At least one of the defenders will be necessary, with the wizard or rogue filling out the final slot.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012, 1:25 PM
So, as I take my first steps in putting a game together, I am contemplating which of my lucky friends should receive the coveted invitations. No, really, I am trying to come up with some kind of personality template so I can determine who might be willing to join me. Here is what I have so far:
- interested enough to commit to showing up often enough
Seems clear and self-explanatory
- needs to have some concept of what DnD is
Because, really, when was the last time you tried to explain it to an adult? I have no idea where to begin.
- something resembling emotional maturity
This seems to be the tough part. You think adults have this, but we have all had bad experiences with "that guy" even when playing something like Settlers of Catan. Try to tell him that his level-2 wizard cannot conjure a dragon out of a reflecting pool and he is gonna ruin your evening with his passive-aggressive pouting. Not cool.
- somebody I already want to hang out with more
This is my own rule. Sorry, LGS, I am sure you are all great once I get to know you, but I am also certain you have your own basements already staked out. Cheers.
Two people I know have played any d20, ever. Hope that's enough.
My wife wants to play, so no sausage-fest. Thank god.
What am I missing? Suggestions on this end would be much more appreciated than a snarky comment later about why you think two of my party won't return any of my calls.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 1:43 PM
I could not care less. While it seems (nearly) everyone on these blogs and forums is pontificating about why 4e died or how 5e will/will not exceed it, those of us who recently arrived here simply yawn. While it may seem counter-intuitive that newcomers would be the ones with a sense of history, it nevertheless appears to be the case.
A history of DnD as I see it (with all reasonable disclaimers attached):
D&D: Kinda like Rolling Stones concerts, more people claim to have been "big" into it than actual sales would support.
AD&D: New, improved (in ways). Ball keeps rolling.
D&D2e: More improvements (in some ways)
D&D3e: More improvements (in yet other ways)
D&D4e: Still more improvements (in a few more ways)
Are there differences? Sure. Is it possible one edition sucks more than the other ones? Probably. Can anyone agree which it is? Probably the one the individual in question played the least (unless they burned out on it).
Does an announcement of 5e make me more interested? Nope. It seems to me that most of the basic concepts that attract me to the game will still be in there somewhere. I might have to "adjust" a few things, but that is in the spirit of the game anyway, right?
Do I now expect to pick up whatever else I need to run 4e on the cheap and secondhand? Yep. Awesome. Just like I won't buy an iPhone for another 3-5 years, I do not mind being a step behind everyone else. Cheaper that way, and the bugs are worked out before I even arrive.
Monday, January 9, 2012, 11:29 AM
With the motivations stated above in my first post, I must now consider what I am expecting out of DnD. From my brief glances at the various forums, I can ascertain that there are two perceived struggles for the "soul" of DnD. First, longtime gamers want what they want from the game (whatever that may be). Second, parent companies want their brands to be profitable. While it seems that the two struggles can in fact be resolved in a single stroke of genius, this is probably not the case. Even if every long-time tabletop gamer contributed, I imagine the sales of Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age and WoW will crush DnD's rulebooks, miniatures, resources, etc.
I don't have anything to contribute to that dialogue, because I know nothing about either the market or the community of long-time gamers.
But I do know what I want:
I want a game that is simple to play but eventually pays enough dividends from knowledge of the mechanics that I stay sharp. I want that because I want the game mechanics themselves to get out of the way. I want to interact with the people around the table, and I want those interactions to be more important than dice rolls. What is the fun of a critical hit if you don't know the people at the table?
This is where tabletop DnD can fill a niche that MMOs cannot: nobody cares about their MMO partners. They paid their subsciption fee, now they want their content. It is best to get out of their way. They are accidental relationships (often in a single-serving :-). I am turning away from those games because I no longer have the time or inclination.
Tabletop, on the other hand, can be truly cooperative because it begins with a mutual decision (to make time and sit down together) rather than an individual decision (to pay a fee and then look for company). When you sit down to DnD, you do not need to be lured in to a cooperative experience. You have already decided to buy in.
Whatever DnD 4 is, or 5 will be, if it provides this much, the product has been successful. Profitable? Perhaps only modestly.
Sunday, January 8, 2012, 11:40 PM
For years I have enjoyed DnD from a safe distance: keeping it under the hood of Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, etc. Recently I have decided to dive headlong into the world of "pen and paper" (which no one uses anymore) DnD due to circumstances in my life the marketing geniuses at WotC could never have anticipated... I am a father.
I have children, so now I must play Dungeons and Dragons.
It's not what you think. They are 18 months. They love to eat dice and still cannot roll them with any accuracy. I am not going to play with them (yet).
What I mean is that the solipsistic world of the PC game is a time sink I can no longer afford. I have to maximize every minute of my day to keep myself happy and surrounded by friends. I cannot sit at my PC for hours, but I can sit at a table with close friends that I want to spend time with.
In other words, DnD is my excuse to invest time with good friends and my wife. If I can just convince them such an endeavor is worth it to my fellow 30+ y/o parents...
This blog will chronicle my attempts. May it guide the reader into understanding of the newbs who show up at their next session, and may it inform the reader what this interesting subculture looks like to a dad who wants good kids along with good friends.