Saturday, February 4, 2012, 10:43 AM
The role and functionality of the Cleric (and by association, any class that works healing) is being discussed by Bruce Cordell over here.
I'd like to share a few thoughts that I feel are important in regards to how D&D Next addresses healing, and the play of the characters sitting at the table.
1) "It's my character and I'll play if I want to, play if I want to ..."
You're my best friend in the whole world, and we're so close we can almost read each others' minds. However, if you tell me HOW to play my character one more time I'm punching you inna face!
This usually becomes a problem when someone is playing an alignment-restricted class like a paladin. However, this same attitude pervades over into the healing roles because players are unintentionally selfish - it is an expectation that you are there specifically to keep their bacon from becoming extra-crispy. Unfortunately, this is a player-side issue and not necessarily a Player's Guide issue. I secretly wish however that the DMG came with a folding yardstick and instructions so that any time a player at starts spouting dictates on how another player's character should be played, the DM could unfold it and smack him or her. I would hope that, when we're sitting at the game table, you'd be willing to let me play the character I want to play, not the character you want me to play. After all, I'm giving you the same courtesy. That being said, let's take a look at some other options that should take the edge off of this and grant more cleric-option freedoms.
2) "Bless, Cure Light, Cure Light, Cure Moderate."
The role of the cleric should be seen less from its perceived heals-only functionality and be given a larger tactical role that focuses on the realm of indirect damage management, both positive and negative. So, rather than focusing on direct healing and forcing the cleric into that role, the cleric should have basic tools that either provide damage mitigation (temp HP, bonuses to ally defenses, penalties to enemy attacks) or prevent damage through redirection (ie Confuse the enemy, control its mind, empathic absorbtion of the hits, etc). The strength of these abilities, in magnitude and frequency of use would of course scale with experience. Minor heals as we see now could remain a function of Channeling Divinity, leaving the realm of spellcasting to some serious awesomeness that could protect, heal, damage, change the rules of the encounter, etc., Finally the BIG heals could actually be cast after combat as divine ritual, saving the player from having to deal with loss of surges. In other words, during the fight, the cleric not only focuses on keeping you on your feet, he's actually helping the encounter go faster. AFTER combat, when everyone has a chance to breathe, the cleric lights some candles, mumbles some words, and your wounds close.
3) "I am the beginning, and I am the end ..."
While the gods may not be directly present in the world, they DO have specific plans, goals and directions for us "down here" that helps support their divine agenda "up there." Returning a form of domains to the game should be adding a layer of 'awesome' to a cleric's repetoire but I'd like to see them change the way they're presented. It should not just be the opening up to specific spell access, but as a layer of effects added to regular attacks. Different effects added to standard actions will allow the cleric the opportunity to express divine will through interesting effects, depending on how that divine will wishes to express itself. Let's take a look at our favorite light bulb, Pelor. As the sun god, we see him express himself in three ways (warning, this is a Pelor rewrite, not going back to 3.5 Good, Sun, etc): Radiant Life, Radiant Wrath and Radiant Illumination. Radiant Life would include expressing himself through healing and protection. Radiant Wrath would see him executing his divine will through force. Radiant Illumination would be his ability to provide calm and clarity in times of great need. As a cleric of Pelor, you would be well-versed in the differences between Pelor the Healer, Pelor the Divine Sword, and Pelor the Comforter, and would have the opportunity to provide one of these three expressions through the layering of effects. I demonstrate this below (in 4E parlance, sorry - I haven't seen D&D Next yet) with a simple attack, and then see how we can layer on those expressions:
You feel the blessing of your god, suffucing you with power ....
At-Will ♦ Divine, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Wisdom vs AC
Hit: 1[W] + Wisdom modifier damage
Effect: You or one ally adjacent to the target gains a bonus to all defenses equal to your CON modifier until the end of your next turn.
Divine ...Optional): You may exchange Blessed Strike's default effect with one from one of your god's Divine Expressions. Add any listed keywords to the damage type of this attack.
PELOR - Divine Expressions
Effect: You or one ally adjacent to you or your target gains your CON modifier in temporary hit points.
Effect: You or one of your allies adjacent to your target gains combat advantage against that target until the end of your next turn.
Effect: Your target is blinded (save ends).
These same concepts could be carried over to role playing. For example, there may be powers or rituals that are specific to Pelor, skills advantages that a cleric of Pelor could grant during a skills check, etc. which we'll take a look at in my next post!
Until then, thanks for reading and have a great game!
Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 9:34 AM
My idea of the PERFECT D&D Next release/character generation options (a conceptual discussion).
Initial Caveat: The purpose of this discussion does not include, nor is it concerned with, how it relates to personal disposable income. I know several gamers who cannot afford even the basic entry level into the game, regardless of edition. While I cherish them and have compassion for their situation, I do not feel it is WotC's responsibility (or even within it's capabilities) to resolve the issues of personal economics. For transportation, some of us drive this year's model of car, some of us buy used, some of us take the bus, and some of us use the good old fashioned size 10 all-season radial retread tenny pump (shoes). Also, while I call this my idea of the perfect D&D Next release, you'll notice it doesn't include anything about dogs, prison, mama, rain, trains, etc.
1) The stated modularity goal provides opportunity for increasing levels of complexity.
Notice in all three examples listed below, the core Fighter action is to attack with a sword. However, the ramifications of that attack changes in accordance with the level of depth that is introduced through each product level. Understand that these represent options given during gameplay, and do not require players to 'step up' through the levels. In other words, you don't NEED to start with the 'Red Box', it's only an option.
a) 'Red Box' Gamma World-like 'random character build'
I've been messing with Gamma World [GW] lately and one of the things I really love about this product is how quick it is to get into game. Random elements like character generation and power cards provide rapid creation, elimination of 'build angst' (spending hours optimizing), and is easy for one person to guide four others from only one book. Concepts that can be pretty meaty (for example, Skills: In GW they're explained rapidly in 4 pages, but in the 4th Edition Rules Compendium [4eRC] it takes 40+ pages to discuss them in depth) are only lightly touched to provide familiarity. Players are rapidly introduced to the game, their characters are fun and flavorful, and for those who are extremely casual players, this is all they will ever need to have fun!
This is the "I swing my sword" style of character.
b) Essentials-like 'limited choice' character build
The term 'limited choice' does not mean 'limited play value'. Class growth and powers are presented in a linear fashion with limited options during the leveling process. Rather, those options serve as carrots during character development. This particular example of character growth is shown throughout most of D&D's entire edition cycle, starting all the way back at the beginning. Every paladin gets X feature at this character level. Every wizard gains X spell level at this character level, and so on. Depth of material is covered in its robustness, as per the previous skills example. This level provides solid gameplay that appeals to the 'average gamer', and allows them to create characters with depth but doesn't require a long character process.
This is the "I am going to brace myself and 'Defend the Line', swinging my bastard sword" style of character.
c) Players Handbook-like 'sky's the limit' build
This particular build style is what 4E started with, and is also echoed in the multiclassing options held in 3.0/3.5. All previous character development options (random and limited-choice) should be able to be built from this option base directly! In other words, a player should be able to build characters during this process, through options available, that are directly identical to characters built during previous options, and yet, are also allowed to forgo the specific character design path and go their own route (ie, every level I choose from a set of options), even if that isn't the most optimum choices available. This option allows those who want to get "way down into the meat" to do so, and create characters that fully meet their personal expectations. Unfortunately, this format will not be easy to support due to the length of time it would take to prepare, print and release product. A 'happy medium' could be to have only the classic base four classes given this treatment in the core book (Fighter, Mage, Rogue, Cleric), with other classes handled at a later time (as per the Complete Fighters Handbook, or the Martial Powers book.)
This is the "I swing my bastard sword while stepping backwards, attempting to Lure my opponent away from his fellows through cautious Footwork" style of character.
2) The evergreen 'Red Box' releases either with, or slightly earlier than, the 'Core Books.'
First off, lets accept that the term 'evergreen' only applies to the edition currently in print. I certainly don't expect WotC to continue to print the Essentials line during the lifecycle of D&D Next. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, but it's providing product that is no longer developmentally supported. Cute for nostalgia, but isn't directly supporting the current line.
The scheduled release could actually be pre-Gen Con, perhaps three or four months. The advantages of this, is that it rewards early adapters and brand-loyal players by giving them product early, and it allows the same to enter Gen Con 'pre-loaded' with the rules and cuts down introduction-time at the convention. These players serve as unofficial ambassadors to WotC, spreading the word and training others instead of relegating that as a primary task to staff and volunteer DMS.
The 'Red Box' itself is designed, as it always has been, as an initial entry to the game/hobby, and is carried via mass market. This product should be on game store, book store, and retail store shelves as early into the line's lifecycle as possible.
By itself, the 'Red Box' product line should be able to stand alone with litle to no direct support. Support for it should be equally shared in importance with the rest of the D&D Next line: for example, a combined map/token/adventure pack that can be used with the product and share shelf space with it. The map and token packs are what you're selling, the small included adventure is incentive. The adventure should be basic enough that the 'Red Box'-only DM can use it but includes guidelines and directions on how to use further product to increase gaming opportunities. These products would not see an aggressive release schedule by themselves, but would work to tie into whatever specific product focus WotC is doing at the time (such as the upcoming product focus on the Drow, with setting and card product support.)
3) The release respects the player base while confidently stating "You're going to like what you see."
I am hoping Wizards of the Coast learned some good lessons in the way they handled their last release, because I put a majority blame for the the 3.5/4E Edition war squarely on their shoulders. The over-aggressive '4E makes 3.5 into trash, and therefore if you like 3.5 then you must be trash' approach probably is the source of most contention. Once this attitude was expressed, it was easy to see insult in patronizing videos like "Zee game remains zee same!" or the Red Dragon taking a crap on the grognard/trolls. I'm hoping, and elements like open playtesting help support this, that Wizards instead adopts the confident but respectful style of advertising like the Mens Warehouse (minus the creepy 'that dude never blinks!' aspect.)
4) WotC releases their 'death clutch' on their product.
When it comes to digital products, I don't believe WotC can handle the load. I could be wrong with this, but I don't recall that they've been able to meet/maintain ANY of their goals during 4E's lifecycle, and perhaps it's time to separate digital product completely from the main department. I think it's horrid egg on their face that, after four years of product life we still can't provide easy-to-use DM tools, the virtual table is only now coming to life, and the character builder took way too much time. Even the magazines go through surges, starting with a horrible mishandling at the beginning, and even now are continuing to have problems.
Also, we can go 'round and 'round about the best way to digitally release product, and I really don't think there's a definitive answer that meets all contingiencies. That being said, I want to see the product "unshackled." For a game that's supposed to be played in homes, libraries, game stores, conventions, etc., it is extremely counter-productive that all digital support requires an active internet connection. For myself, I would be perfectly happy for digital product that requires an app purchase, and then the product itself is only available through, and only functions with, that item-specific app. At the very least, for the magazine product. If it needs to be re-downloaded at a later time in order to address corrections that are grievous enough to require them, so be it. But it's one complete issue in only one download that I can take it with me for times when I don't have access to the internet.
Chris Pramas had a brilliant blog discussion about not wanting his product line to be tied to WotC's development cycle, and there are plenty of examples, pro and con, that can be expressed about the OSL/GSL. After 4E, I'm not entirely certain there needs to be massive third party support, but I'd definitely like to see some sort of reputable "second party" support system that can handle product that WotC doesn't want to/have time to handle. I consider it like the Forge World relationship to Games Workshop. Forge World provides options under direct GW oversight for those that 'need moar!' and yet the main line stands strong without. WotC's had some good business partners and some bad ones. I'd like to assume somewhere in their past they can find a production house like they had with Paizo, who would be able to faithfully handle licensed side products and allow WotC to focus on core development products.
Sunday, March 27, 2011, 10:43 AM
I don't understand Edition Wars.
I mean, I don't mind voicing my concerns and viewpoints, but I don't understand why it has to become a 'you vs. me' situation. Why can't we simply discuss our likes and dislikes and appreciate each other's stance? I mean, in the end, if you think 3.5 was the pinnacle of the D&D experience, then you have nothing but my support, and I will HAPPILY play 3.5 at your table! After all, I'm really here for your friendship (and your Cheetos) in the first place. I just hope that, when you come to play at my table and I pull out 4E that you also show the same courtesy, even if it isn't your game of choice.
So, when it comes to Essentials vs. PHB (or whatever we're calling it) style builds, I feel the same way. At my table I will happily welcome both.
For me, Essentials feels more like going backwards than going forwards, making the link between the 3.5 'flavor' of the game and that of 4E a little bit softer, not so alienating. While I want my fighter to have been trained in the technique of the Dragon Fangs, I don't mind someone who wants to take a Battle Stance and throw modified basic attacks around. Because of this, I *love* Essentials. I am not going to play those classes as my defaults, but I am going to encourage them when we want to wax nostalgic about 'yesterday', and perhaps run a game that is more in tune with how we played back in the late 70s and early 80s. In fact, I'd like to ramp up a campaign that is Essentials-specific. For me, its all about how to have fun given what you have.
That being said, I'd like to repost here my current feelings about D&D as I'd posted on the 4E General board this morning:
Just finished a "mammoth" session of 4E gaming (about 7 hours). Players said it was one of the best adventures I'd ever pulled out, everyone was quite pleased. I spent maybe three hours in prep, something I never could have done in previous editions. Using the DMG I planned my 'encounter map' (okay, I want a skill challenge here, a hard fight here, a standard fight here, and another hard fight here.) I then glanced through my books and found some monsters I wanted to throw in, and used the Monster Builder to make them level-appropriate (oooh! Crystal spiders sound cool, OH! And a white widow. Hmmm ... yes, let me add some swarms - perfect!). Snuck over to Open Grave to 'cheat' and grab an encounter in there (undead, don'cha know) and insert it into my mix. Once again to the DMG to assign treasure and work out XP points in advance. Back to the Monster Builder to print out all my monsters in advance and pre-roll initiatives. Quick, easy, and allowed me to work out my motivations, etc.
Dear Wizards of the Coast -
I know there have been some fussings going on amongst the community. Regardless of their merit, I just want you to know that in the nearly four decades of role playing I have been involved with (I started in winter 1978), this version of D&D has been my absolute favorite. It continues to be easy to prepare, easy to play, and makes having fun at the gaming table so much more accessible. Thank you so much for all your hard work! I've been an Insider subscriber since Day One, and I continue to be so now!
Saturday, March 19, 2011, 3:55 PM
ELDRITCH DOWNS ADVENTURING COMPANY
4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons at-home Campaign
12 March 2011
Pelius, Half-Elven Bard
Mel, female Half-Orc Barbarian
Exelstiarre, male Human Wizard
This is the first time in several months we've gotten a chance to play. We started the session inside an Aztec-style temple/ziggurat dedicated to some sort of sun diety. The characters have been led here by an NPC named Allister Kreebs, a sort of fat, balding, bookish sort of individual that had hired the party to help him beat a different adventuring company to a sacred relic. He had gotten the party lost, so they decided to investigate this ziggurat instead of going to where they'd intended to.
First encounter of the session was a skill challenge. Inside a room filled with traps, the characters had to discover the meaning behind the carvings on the walls and use them to activate the doorway systems. Unfortunately, they failed the skill challenge, so four animated dog-like statues came to life and gnawed on them a bit! After that they were able to complete the door trigger and adventure deeper into the temple ziggurat.
Experience: 575 (Standard Encounter)
Second encounter took place in an old ritualistic cleansing room that the priesthood would use to before entering before the holy area. Crumbling stone pillars (for shoving onto monsters) and vine-like roots (for swinging on) filled around the room. Unfortunately, over the years the room was invaded by rot and decay. In here were some Mycanoids (Rotpriest and two guards), a green slime, and 4 skumm (see below).
Experience: 851 (Hard - 2 Levels)
Treasure: Crystaline Statue (250gp), 2 Potions of Healing, 300gp
The final encounter took place in a room dedicated to some sort of ancient royalty. A raised dias held a feathered cloak, golden helm, and an ancient halberd. Also in the room were three statues, one of a jaguar, one of a stone humanoid, and one of a Quetzyl.
It was in this room that Allister Kreebs revealed his true intentions. He captured the party within a magical circle, gathered the goods, and managed to escape before taking any sort of serious damage. The party was left to face three stone avatars, dedicated to ancient dieties.
Experience: 1,050 (Hard, 4 levels)
Treasure: Three magic items, Level 5 each
As the party recovered, Exelstiarre prepared a Linked Portal from scroll (8th level, the DM used a little "DM fiat" to get them back home). Unfortunately, Mel accidentally distorted the outer circle, sending them into the future/alternate reality! They took in the arrival area, a badly worn and destroyed remnant of their own home area--they are now in Dark Sun!!
Experience: 650 - Minor Quest - Explore the Ziggurat
TOTAL EXPERIENCE: 3,126 Total
1,042 per player
Current XP Total: 4,792 per player
Saturday, March 19, 2011, 10:30 AM
I'm not a forums lurker. Much. My opinion is I can either spend time PLAYING the game, or spend time TALKING about playing the game. I'm a playah (add bling and snazzy dress here.) The importance about this is that I catch things after the fact and not so clearly stated. Things most other posters have already debated to death I am just now going 'WTF??' over.
So, it appears that 4E has made a major thematic change in its materials and how often they are to be published.
First off, it looks like they'll be pushing the Essentials line as the de facto base rules from here forward. In other words, they won't be producing materials via PHB, but in accordance with the new Essentials format.
Secondly, they will be releasing less material. I may never see PHB 4 because of the change in format and release methodology.
While both of these make me a little sad, I have to be honest that I've got more material now than I can play. I've got all the D&D released materials except the Demonomicon (sorry guys - I don't get too religious in my gaming, but when it comes to demons I need to draw the line - I love Jesus and would like to honor him), and have played just a few characters.
So right now, if they never produce another PHB in the style of the first three, I'm fine. I have tons of content. If they produce more Essentials stuff, I'm fine. I like the flavor/feel behind the line and I don't give a darned if it is 4.0, 4.5 or whatever. It is simply another source of gaming deliciousness at my table and I'm happy to see it out there.
So what am I trying to say?
Simply this. WotC does what they think is in the best interests of the line. I think they also listen to us, because I feel the Essentials line is an answer to 4E critics. Whatever course they take, I feel good. I have my goodies. I'm gaming and having fun. In the end, however it turns out, I feel positive about the future of D&D.
It's a GREAT time to be a gamer, and to be gaming!
Saturday, March 19, 2011, 2:53 AM
When 4th Edition was first out, one of the more prevailant comments about it was that it no longer felt like Dungeons and Dragons. The changes to classes and powers made the game feel different than what we'd come to expect. For example, fighters had a long list of effects that were named in the same manner as wizard spells, and therefore some folks interpreted them as spells as well.
I feel that Essentials goes back to recapture that feeling of old-school D&D. A fighter's main combat activity comes back to the basic attack, with options branching off from there (stances, etc.) I was really delighted to see this, because I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1979, with most of my experience being in 1st and 2nd Editions.
Now, since I was an immediate adapter of 4th Edition and simply went with the changes, I am now in love with the "standard" characters. I've really come to appreciate how they've added new mechanics to the system (ie Rune Priest) and yet still manage to keep the same powers options.
What Essentials has brought to my game table is an option to go back and regain that "old school" D&D feel, and yet play it with what I think are the much more improved 4th Edition rules. I have cleaner game mechanics, but that old D&D style characters and it's inspiring me to pull out my old modules and do some conversion work! Suddenly, the opportunity to revisit The Village of Hommlet (thank you, DM Rewards!!) is much more exciting.
In the end, what it comes down to are OPTIONS. My current group is more than happy with the PHB style characters. We enjoy what I consider to be a deeper complexity to gameplay, and this is the style you'll expect to see most of the time on my table. However, for some one-offs, where the Paladin has to be lawful good and the druid is a healer, Essentials provides more opportunities!
It's a great time to be gaming!
Thursday, April 29, 2010, 3:11 PM
Our D&D Encounters Program is going well. I've had the opportunity to introduce seven new people to the game, which is really well considering the small area of Sierra Vista.
Our host, Pyrimid Games and Comics really goes all-out to make us feel welcome, and it's always a pleasure to game in the store.
The Encounters program is probably one of the best ideas for D&D ever. We all have busy lives that only get busier. Spending an hour or two to play just one encounter and yet still have that episodic feel of storytelling is a great idea, and really helps with the "DM's Itch" that I have. I hope the players have had as good of a time as I'v e had running it.
My favorite adventure was this weeks'. The ability to completely lash out with that solo monster was amazing fun - the party took some severe hurts and it was great! So far they've kind of been waltzing through with that sort of "there's nothing in here that can really hurt us" mentality. Bamm - half the party bloodied on the opening shot! The audible moans as I made every ... singe ... recharge roll ... was also priceless (I do all my DM rolls in the open.) Still, through some rigorous laying of hands and healing words the party succeeded! I'm thinking I'm really going to let them have it next week, however ...
Sunday, October 25, 2009, 12:51 AM
I'm not exactly sure where the idea to run Dwarfapalooza came from, but somewhere in the mix of our games someone spouted off how we should all play dwarves. It just snowballed from there.
"The Last-Chancers", heavily influenced in name and theme from Games Workshop's The Last-Chancers, are a group of dishonored or death-crazy dwarves that are seeking a glorious death in order to redeem lost honor and attempt to regain admittance into Moradin's hallowed halls. Again, some of these concepts are heavily borrowed (if not outright stole) from Games Workshop, but we can't help it. Those old grumblers have done so much to help paint the dwarven mindset for me that I can't help but see slayers and a grudge pony.
So, with grudge pony in tow, along with a wagon dedicated specifically for ale, the Colonel, Ulrich, Tug and "the Lass" all trudged off to reclaim a lost dwarven horde. The overall mood of the game was set when the DM asked everyone what we planned to do concerning a lone guard up on the walls of the hold, the usually lost and confused Colonel picked up his crossbow, wet the sight for good luck, and fired off a crit! He then promptly commanded a charge in the wrong direction!
I lost count, but I know for a fact that I dropped 4 crits that game myself, with ample natural 20s being served up all around! It was an exciting game that turned nasty when all the dwarves, seeing that their buddies may die before them, started spouting "Not before me!" and slung heals fast and furious! We're still laughing over that one!
Part Two - "Rock me Asmodeus" commences tomorrow. Goblins with a devilish pact, fungoids, stirges, crazed slaves, succubi, and one fat son-of-a... of a devil-empowered goblin all await down in the mines ...
"The Colonel" - ancient Dwarven Warlord (Roight! Golly good!)
"Ulrich" - disgraced Dwarven Fighter (Lieuftenant!)
"Tug" - Pacifistic cleric of Pelor (lowest bidder and all that, what?)
"The Lass" - crazed Dwarven Psion (I say Ulrich, is that lad's beard within regulations?)