Sunday, August 15, 2010, 12:19 PM
It's been a while since I posted here, but I've got some a couple of news tidbits to pass along.
The Lost City
First of all, I'm heading up an adventure project for Open Design tentatively called The Lost City. It's going to be a 4th edition sandbox adventure anthology by myself and some other folks who get involved in the project. I'd give you a list of who the other authors are going to be, but I don't know yet. And why don't I know? Because this is a patronage project, meaning that people sign up, paying up front to fund the book. Once the commission is met (and it hasn't been yet, so you can still sign up for the intro price and get in on the ground floor hint hint), the project moves forward. Every patron gets access to the forums, can contribute to the discussion (or not; many people lurk), and gets copies of all the playtest documents. Senior patrons pay more, but get more benefits, including the chance to submit proposals at certain points in the project; the best of these proposals get chosen to be in the project, and the patron gets hired to write the text for it.
My role includes some writing, but also development and oversight. Take a look at the announcement and the project's page on Kobold Quarterly.
The other big change came on the blogging front. Like fellow ex-WotC colleague Chris Sims, I've started blogging at Critical Hits, the geek news and reviews site. My column's called Minor Quests, and you'll currently find my Comic-Con 2010 recap and a discussion about why The Lost City is a cool project.
I'll have more D&D-focused posts coming, including an extension of the 4E Success or Failure series I started at my old blog.
I've been more active on Twitter lately, where I'm @loganbonner.
Thursday, February 11, 2010, 5:48 PM
[I'm cross-posting this article from my blog at loganbonner.blogspot.com/ ]
This is the first in what will no doubt be a sporadic series about some of the new concepts in 4th Edition. It will judge which aspects succeeded and failed, and rate how close the mechanic came to its goals and how beneficial it is to the game experience.
This is all my opinion, and your tastes or experiences might give you a higher or lower opinion of whatever I'm talking about. There's also a wide span between the great examples of each mechanic and the weakest, so I'll often qualify my opinion when I'm talking about the potential versus the reality. My first topic: Epic Destinies
I'm covering this first partially because I want to talk about paragon paths soon, and I plan to call back to some of the things I'll say here. The two have similar goals: They aim to enhance the feel and themes of each tier and provide more character differentiation.
Let's see what worked and what didn't.
- Epic Feel: Both the mechanical magnitude and story text of (well-designed) epic destinies get across the idea that epic tier is really different. The average destiny includes a way to cheat death, a burly power, and a way to flat-out break the rules. Often, they also increase one or more of your stats. All these go beyond the scope of most ordinary powers, which lets them truly feel epic. The emphasis on story also gives destinies an extra kick. Since a destiny needs a way to tie into a destiny quest, the designer has to think about how a destiny will fit into the story and who it will appeal to. It's good for different RPG widgets to point designers in the right direction via their format. It can be easy for a designer to create new stuff without really solid story foundation, but destinies have a way of pointing the designer in a creative direction. To be fair, there are some bad destinies out there, usually because they've been designed with the scope of a paragon path instead of the scope of an epic destiny.
- Big Impact with Few Additions: An epic destiny gives a minimum of four benefits over 10 levels, but each of these features and power have a strong impact. Because it's focused, a destiny requires each of its bits to work harder. It also helps that the designer has permission to go a little crazy with a destiny.
- Broad Acquisition Possibilities: A PC can take an epic destiny after aspiring toward it for many levels or through an in-game event. I'll dub these "aspirational" paths and "organic" paths. It's likely a wizard will look forward to Archamage for his entire career (an aspirational destiny), but a character might become a demigod either after a lifetime of religious devotion or by chance after completing a quest to help a deity.
- The Starting Batch: The biggest weakness of epic destinies has more to do with which ones appear than the format or concept of destinies. When the game came out, there were only four: One only a wizard could take (which is rare for destinies, and hardly ever a good idea), one that severely limited who could take it by requiring Dex and Cha of 21, one which was open to everybody, and one that was for people who don't want epic destinies. Demigod—a damn good concept, to be sure—had a disproportionate influence and prominence. The fact that it let you increase two ability scores meant that later destinies had to give a similar benefit to have a chance. This was an unintended consequence, but it's a real limitation.
- No Attack Power: I'm split on whether I should include this, but some destinies really feel like they should have attack powers. It's not universal, but a limitation is a limitation.
- Hard to Design: Yes, the format points designers toward the goal destinies try to achieve. Still, the requirement for a big, interesting concept and for breaking the rules can be daunting. The designer has to find the balance between "too good for powers or feats" and "too good to be in the game at all anywhere." I think this difficulty is a good thing overall, but that doesn't make them any less frustrating to work on.
- Most People Won't Get Them: This isn't really a weakness, but it's unfortunate that most people won't get to a high enough level to enjoy the benefits of taking a destiny.
- Hard Transition: Destinies suggest how the PC might fulfill a destiny quest, making the transition at the end of the campaign more smooth and interesting. Unfortunately, on the other end, the 21st-level end, there's not a similar transition. Everybody in a group flipping the destiny switch at the same time (since most groups will level together) doesn't really allow for a satisfying conclusion to the story arcs that lead to each character assuming his or her destiny. It might be more interesting if destinies kicked in at level 21 plus or minus 2, with each character getting a little more face time for this big moment.
- Less Connected to Your Theme: Your playstyle might determine whether you think this is good or bad, but it's hard to find a destiny that ties into a specific or narrow character theme. A winter wizard can take cold powers and a cold-based paragon path, but have a hard time finding a winter-themed epic destiny to continue the trend all the way through.
Though I think epic destinies achieve their goal, there are some less-than-stellar ones out there. Factoring the execution in, I'm going to give epic destinies a grade of:
Friday, November 20, 2009, 8:41 AM
I mentioned I'd be doing this poll when I posted a similar one about chromatic dragons. Which of the new metallic dragons from Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons really jumps out at you?
You'll notice I left off the brass and bronze since they were in the basic five metallics in previous editions. Also, you could argue that the adamantine and iron (from Monster Manual 2) should count as new metallics as well. I didn't put any of these in, since I'm not really looking for information about them, but here's a poll for those guys to fight it out:
Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 9:29 AM
We just got office copies of a book I spent a lot of time with. For Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons, I have credits for additional design, development, and lead editing!
Normally, I'm a designer. I wasn't assigned to do any design on this book at the outset, though. Unfortunately, we had a round of layoffs while this book was in process, and Dave Noonan was one of the casualties. (*Pours some Mountain Dew on the ground for his homie*) Dave was, like me, a big fan of collaboration in the design process. So we had talked about what he was doing in his sections of the book, and I had a pretty good idea where he was headed. In the post-layoff scramble, I took on finishing up some lair sections and the Bahamut entry Dave had been working on (and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting).
Sometimes we have people work on different teams to get a feel for the responsibilities and outlook of other folks in the department. That's how I was put on the dev team for Draco: Metallic. I worked primarily on sections that I didn't do any design work on. This book was in pretty good shape, so we didn't have to tear the text apart too much. The lairs were the interesting part. We had two with very similar themes, one that was interesting enough that we wanted it to be longer, and one that didn't have quite enough twists to be as long as it was. So we switched some stuff around and Stephen Radney-MacFarland created a replacement lair.
I started work at WotC as an editor. As another consequence of the layoffs, my job became more a designer/editor. This was actually my first book as lead editor, after I'd switched to design! Most of the editors on this book didn't have a lot of experience editing D&D products. Fortunately, they did great work anyway! I'm especially impressed how savvy they were about editing mechanics. The last step in the process was working with Kim Mohan to tidy up the book and make it fit. It's a big relief to have the book in hand. Now I'm sure I won't have to do any more work on it!
Thursday, September 17, 2009, 1:24 PM
I'm curious what people think of the new chromatic dragons that appeared in Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons. (Sure, they were based on existing dragons, but they got promoted!) Did any of the dragons strike you as particularly interesting? Which ones have you used in your game? You can expect a similar poll when Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons hits!
Thursday, September 10, 2009, 11:06 AM
For no good reason, I put together a thematic playlist with one song for each of the 4E gods. The songs were chosen just for the names, and the actually lyrics don't have to fit the deity in question. I also just used stuff that was in my library, so there could very well be songs that fit better that I just don't have. Some of them are kind of a stretch. I tried to avoid using any artist more than once, but didn't quite make it!
Can you figure out which track corresponds to each god? If you have any ideas for a similar list, create your own thematic playlist tagged "D&D playlist!" EDIT: I added links. They might contain the naughty words, so don't click if you can't handle it or if your parents wouldn't approve.
"Back to the Sea" by The Thermals
"Changes" by David Bowie
"Chains" by The Beatles
"Cities" by Talking Heads
"Crawl Through the Darkness" by The Von Bondies
"Dead Man Walking" by Tom Waits
"Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell" by The Flaming Lips
"Goody Two Shoes" by Adam Ant
"Greed" by Fugazi
"Hate & War" by The Clash
"I Wanna Destroy You" by The Soft Boys (I actually have a different version, but I don't want to put the band's name on this page!)
"Killer Queen" by Queen
"Knowledge" by Operation Ivy
"Mountain Battles" by The Breeders
"Power of Moonlite" by Tiger Army
"Spider" by They Might Be Giants
"Stormy Weather" by Pixies
"The Light Pours Out of Me" by Magazine
"The Prettiest Star" by David Bowie
"Uptempo Venomous Poison" by The Hives
Friday, August 14, 2009, 8:04 PM
After much compulsive loading and reloading, I caught all the Ennies results from their twitter page. WotC came out with 6 gold and 4 silver awards. The two projects I worked most heavily on (King of the Trollhaunt Warrens and DU1 Dungeon Tiles) only got silver, so clearly I need to improve.
Gold: Fan's Choice for Best Publisher (WotC), Product of the Year (4E PH), Best Game (D&D 4E), Best Monster/Adversary (4E Monster Manual), Best Aid or Accessory (D&D Insider), Best Rules (4E PH)
Silver: Best Supplement (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Best Adventure (P1: King of the Trollhaunt Warrens), Best Miniatures Product (Dungeon Tiles DU1: Halls of the Giant King), Best Cartography (Star Wars: Scum and Villainy)
Thursday, August 13, 2009, 3:59 PM
Much of RPG R&D is out of the office at the moment, hopefully making a big splash at GenCon. In the meantime, I'm working on the INSERT CAMPAIGN SETTING NAME HERE books. Bill's going to announce the campaign setting tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to all the fan reactions!
Music: Finishing off the Radio Free Hommlett podcast about Arcane Power.